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Lee’s Top 20 Flicks of 2017!

First and foremost, Happy New Year, everyone!

Wishing you all the very best!

I don’t think anything in my life has crept up on me as quick as 2018 did. And much like it, 2017’s cinematic library. 2017 had to be one of the busiest years of my entire life. No joke! As I type this and try to reflect on the year I had, it’s a little hard to piece things together. However, the good thing is having kept notes on all the films I took in, and my feelings on them, it’s always tricky. Why? Well, because like any year-in-review list, it’s subjective. At the end of the day, it’s personal taste and there’s absolutely nothing anyone (including myself) can do about it when exposed to others. In the end, it’s always fun to come up with and read year-in-reviews. Meant to be posted a couple of days ago, but as I said… It’s been tremendously hectic lately. It’s only January 2nd! Still early enough…. Therefore, I conclude, still EARLY enough for me (as well as others) to lay down their best flicks of 2017!

Here we go!

20. BABY DRIVER – With thrilling action scenes, interesting characters, fantastic story, a killer soundtrack and an exceptional editing that follows the beat of the music as if the music is a character itself, BABY DRIVER is everything the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise (as a whole) isn’t! This joyride delivers a hell of a lot of style and substance, being always smart in the way that it tells its story.

19. SPLIT – M. Night is back, baby. (Finally!) Back with a Sense of Unbreakable material. If you would have told me one of James McAvoy’s best career performance (to date) would have been in an M. Night flick, I would have told you, “Get the fuck outta my face with that bullshit!” SPLIT is B-movie appeal with A-movie execution. It’s a straightforward, psychological thrill-ride of emotions that comes full circle. The flick has its dips, but stands out for its refreshing take on what it’s like to be daring. In a world full of remakes, sequels, and overrated blockbusters, it’s fantastic to have an original film that’s layered and leaves you thinking and talking afterwards. Without doubt McAvoy carries the film, but his costar (Taylor-Joy) adds and allows his multi-psyche performance seesaw brilliantly. Considering its PG-13 rating, the film is harsh, terrifying, and deeply twisted a la Shyamalan. However, balanced with awkward laughs and damn near sympathy as well. It’s a brain-rattling ride of cinematic anxiety.

18. JOHN WICK 2 – Jesus H. Christ of Latter Day Saints this is a sick flick! And when I say “sick,” I mean it’s dope x100. B movie appeal, with A movie execution from start to finish. Explosively fun, sarcastically hilarious, entertainingly loud, and viscerally intriguing would be the best way to describe JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2. It adds more pizzazz to its predecessor. In part not only is it Reeves that allows this now franchise to shine, but a lot of the maniacal magic that flourishes is due to returning director Chad Stahelski, whose got an amazing imagination for telling this particular story. If you enjoy fantastic action-sequences and flawless choreographed fights, CHAPTER 2 presents it on a silver platter with double the chaos. Quite frankly, if you enjoyed the first one, then you will love this one. The pressure John Wick is under in this is so enormous, Reeves exposes it in a way that allows you to live it with him.

 17. LOGAN – Yeah. Yeah. I know. We’ve seen the whole troubled hero storyline before. Quite frankly, it’s gotten a little long in the tooth. BUT… Damn! What a rush! Jackman’s last hurrah as Wolverine was exactly what most DIDN’T expect it would be. The R-rating made it that much more enjoyable. It elevated a harsh story-line touched upon in the past, but never really had the opportunity to blossom the way I think it should have. Darker, heavily emotional, and clearly the most violent of the X-MEN franchise, LOGAN provides redemption by declawing itself from its weaker predecessors. Finales are usually tricky in how they’re executed, but LOGAN was done well, I think. It’ll have its naysayers. And why not? It’s human nature. But that doesn’t take away the fact that this flick stands out a lot. Jackman’s sendoff was quite harsh, but also teases where it can evolve. Overall, it came to a full chaotic, circling close. I, for one, will miss Jackman as Wolverine. Big shoes to fill, but I’m pretty sure it won’t the be the last time we’ll see him. Somehow, someway, this franchise will expose him again.

16. GET OUT – No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I loved it! Off the bat, this isn’t the kind of genre that’s synonymous to the name Jordan Peele. Surprisingly, this might be the start of something spooky. I wouldn’t really call this piece a horror movie. It’s more of a psychological thriller. A good one, if I may say. It’s creepy, suspenseful, atmospheric, and thought-provoking with a twist you kind of catch once the first half is coming to a close. All with a touch of humor. I mean, it is Jordon Peele, so, one cannot expect to see a piece written and directed by him without some laughs. But it’s all done to cut through all the tension this flick generates. And believe me it generates a lot of it! It shines a spotlight on fears black people face in society in such a unique way and exaggerates them for emphasis with harsh tones. It’s a bit of a slow burn at first, but then goes off-the-rails. As a horror debut for Peele, if this does as well financially as it’s doing critically, I think he’s got a new genre to add to his resume. And with good reason seeing as he’s backed by Jason Blum. *Mic drop*

15. AMERICAN ANARCHIST – Directed by Charlie Siskel (Bowling for Columbine, Religulous and Finding Vivian Maier), most of ANARCHIST’s run exposes Siskel digging deep within the complicated mind of a now ripened William Powell. At times morphing from interview to interrogation, Siskel and Powell tend to seesaw off each other as the breakdown towards an apologetic approach from Powell seems to be as far away as back as when he started placing idea to paper. The film is a complexity of youthful rebelliousness and its results. And although it seems to aim at exposing a monster who refuses to take responsibility for his actions, the overall effect is simply another story of an older man reluctantly dancing with his past. It doesn’t make it right, or wrong, just a victim of circumstance – and one that’s caused lives even if he had “nothing” to do with it. The rationale is there, but the results are obvious.

14. COPWATCH – Fitting for modern times, educational, passionate, and full of heart, COPWATCH is a must-see film. It’s one that’ll help you view it from an opposite end. One that isn’t pumped by some ratings-filled corporate news entity, or biased prints. Some will take this film as anti-police or providing sympathy for the “bad guy(s),” but nothing could be further from the truth. Quite frankly, its neutral approach presents those who would be considered trouble-makers more on the side of the law. One that empowers citizens of a great democracy to do what’s right.

13. IT COMES AT NIGHT – Jesus H. Christ of Latter Day Saints this is a freaky flick. Damn! A bit of a slow burn at first considering getting use to the film’s ambiance and characters, but once it starts rolling, it’s a piece full of unforeseen wickedness. Off the bat, what I enjoyed most was how simple and subtle this flick is from start to finish. No hard gore, fancy CGI, explosions, superheroes, or “pretty people” to help carry it. It’s an overall horror that relies heavily on its awesome cast (Edgerton is a beast!) and narrative’s intensity to provide a tight grip on your psyche. It places you within the realm of both families and their gradual build-up of paranoia. In a nutshell, it’s an eerie campfire story that gets under your skin, morphs into a vile spread, and rips your soul apart. #DTA (Don’t Trust Anybody)

12. WONDER WOMAN – It amazes me the one DCEU film WB spent less money and time promoting wasn’t only financially successful, but the best title they’ve released so far. “Girl Power” is an understatement considering how dynamic this film turned out to be, and with much irony the one that saves their comic-book, flick universe. It’s engaging, dramatic, humorous, immersive, and quite an adrenaline rush. Well executed to a point where it’s 100x better than MAN OF STELL and BvS, JUSTICE LEAGUE had big shoes to fill and sadly came up short as well. Loved it! Kudos to Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot as well. I welcome another and glad it’s been green-lit.

11. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – As a whole, the darker and most emotionally intense of the series. Very engaging! From its 1st, through its 3rd, APES is a franchise that’s gotten progressively better. WAR’s triumphant appeal stems from its well-executed narrative and passionate characters. Layered with lots of relatable objectives and struggles for survival, Matt Reeves is one hell of a visionary, taking the film into an abyss of uncontrollable action and a serious adrenaline rush. Storytelling at its finest! Harrelson is a beast and Serkis has, is, and will always be flawless and fierce as Cesar. Loved the twist and as a whole, one the best films I’ve seen this year. Explosively loud, deeply engaging, and visually stunning would be the best way to describe WAR.

10. DUNKIRK – Not sure what’s more intense: Nolan’s incredible vision, or Hans Zimmer’s bone-chilling score? Either way, DUNKIRK is by far the best of the best in terms of cinema-scape this year. A harsh history lesson! It’s loud, rough, engaging, unapologetic, and brutally gorgeous! If it’s at all possible to make any sense, this may be the first film In history to run on very little dialogue and storytelling as it exposes 3 timelines in which the action is its grand attraction. It highjacks your psyche and places you among its vicious action-sequences — AND that’s a major part of the fun!

9. ATOMIC BLONDE – Straight-forward would be the best way to describe this thrill-ride of brute action among a world of espionage. It isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. However, its appeal: Charlize Theron! This woman is something else. Clearly on a level all on her own as she displays the ability to be a female action-star! Although ATOMIC BLONDE is brought to you by those behind the awesome JOHN WICK franchise, to label this piece “Jane Wick” would be a disservice to the unique, vibrant, and vicious performance by Theron. One that shines bright among a dark world of twists and turns. Running alongside a fantastic 80’s soundtrack and amazing fight and/or action sequences, ATOMIC BLONDE’s maniacal plot provides an exhilarating experience.

8. WIND RIVER – When it comes to drama-heavy flicks, there’s usually a lot left to be desired when it comes to tying up loose ends and leaving the audience completely satisfied, but WIND RIVER is the rare occasion that accomplishes all of these aspects. As the Summer movie season drew to a close, the end of August is usually a dumping ground, but you’ll also get the rare gem where they were just unsure of when to release it. Not only is this a light at the end of the tunnel type of piece, but it may just end up being one of the most impressive films to be released all year.

7. DOLORES – Travesty is an understatement for how unfair American history has been to one of its most influential heroes. Here’s the catch: Ironically, too often the quote “Si Se Puede” is thrown around as a humorous/honorable tag-line to encourage and/or empower. But do people really know its origins? Know the blood, sweat, and tears that went into it? Made mainstream back in 2007/2008 by then presidential candidate Barack Obama (in English), the seed for this powerful catch phrase was made by Dolores Huerta (in Spanish) back in the ‘60s. Dynamically powerful and educational, DOLORES takes its audience through the ups and downs of one of the most influential, Latina females the world has ever seen.

6. IT – Hail Pennywise! Never has coulrophobia seemed so… oh, I don’t know… wickedly fun. IT is one hell (pun intended) of a thrill-ride. I, for one, am not a fan of reboots. Never have. But being a fan of the original series, I had to and glad I did. The spin that is put in this film is mind-boggling, intense, and freakishly insane. While it runs on its original narrative, the upgrades are fantastic. Cast is great, and the level of clown chaos is doubled. The angle of chapters also boosts enthusiasm for what can clearly be considered a franchise. I embrace the purity of evil, and welcome some more Pennywise.

5. BLADE RUNNER 2049 – As one of the most anticipated films this year, BLADE RUNNER 2049 clearly will divide its crowd. For starters, you have hardcore, cult fanboys who embrace the 80s original and will look to piece 2049 precisely towards the first one. Then you have those who took the original with stride, embrace this as a connecting piece and move on. Then, you’ll have those who will just go for the sake of salivating at the chance to take in a modern-day Sci-fi. Either way, BLADE RUNNER 2049 will spark conversation based on its execution and overall scope upon humanity and its purpose. It stands on its own and will live within you for a bit.

4. THOR: RAGNAROK – Without any fluff, this was the most enjoyable film (in general) I’ve seen this year. If there is one thing that it does right, is that it leaves your wanting more! From breathtaking visuals, to quirky (yet) witty dialogue, to amazing action-sequences, to fantastic new characters and upgrades on seasoned ones… This is, for me, a top contender as one of MCU’s best stand-alone titles! It’s an overall scope that combines the humor of GUARDIANS and the action scenes from CIVIL WAR, totaling what may be Marvel Studios’ first cosmic, rock-n-roll opera, rumbling with harsh thunder! Kudos, respect, and much love to the team of director Taika Waititi for kicking down the door and presenting his touch on his first and for sure blockbuster, along with the creative minds of writers Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle. Thor finally got to expose what it is to be a badass God of Thunder. The one we’ve had glimpses of in the past, but now get in full, intergalactic throttle!

3. THE DISASTER ARTIST – Say what you want! Think what you want. This is a pretty damn good movie. For a piece about possibly the worst director and film ever made, DISASTER ARTIST comes off as surprisingly smart and funny, mostly be the commitment James Franco put into it. Through re-enacting the B-grade campy behind-the-scenes moments of that cult classic film (THE ROOM), it manages to come off charming with interesting insight upon an auteur’s ego, the narcissistic mindset of an uncompromising ‘maverick’ and the always-frustrating filmmaking process.

2. COCO – Heart-warming, funny, visually delicious, and an incredible homage to Mexican culture! Full of mesmerizing outcomes, COCO is an absolute triumph in more ways than one. The way its mythos is established and presented is wonderful and brings an amazing display that explains death, family, and the importance of traditions to audiences of all flavors. Family-friendly to the core, its narrative is an entertaining and educational charm, the characters are unforgettable, the inclusion of Alebrijes is cosmic, and music…? Wow. Not that this would be considered a musical, but the music is the backbone (no pun) to the entire film. And all this rides on an underlying artistic exposition that fully respects the premises of traditional essence of Dia de los Mertos.

1. THE SHAPE OF WATER – No other way to express it other than I loved it! I enjoyed every dark moment of this film. Unless you can name someone, I can’t think of anyone else who can make monster movies look and sound beautiful. Del Toro’s TSoW is truly a cosmic experience. One that elevates your soul into a gritty realm of believing what’s unbelievable. The film is an artistic salute to unconditional love. It’s not “reinventing the wheel” of taboo attractions (SPLASH or BEAUTY AND THE BEAST), but the narrative’s arc balanced with a mute Sally Hawkins, to an intensely vocal Michael Shannon, and an oddity full of questionable intrigue meshes well. The overall scope of the film is another metaphoric display of fear, confusion, and extreme behavior towards what humanity doesn’t understand.

…And that be that, folks. What’s your list of faves for 2017?

Here’s to another year at the movies! With a lot on deck, 2018 is going to be CRAZY!