“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Vern’s Favorite Movies of 2017

I don’t always do a BEST OF list, but as the rancid corpse of 2017 rots on the side of the street it seems like a good time to remind ourselves that good things still exist. I’m not in a ranking mood (I don’t always feel up to figuring out how to measure, say, THE FLORIDA PROJECT against BOYKA) so I’m gonna do some categories and just go through a bunch of the movies I enjoyed this year in hopes of encouraging other people to check them out or share their love for them or the ones that they were passionate about themselves.

Some of these I didn’t write about, and some of them I am working on reviews of (as marked). Most will of course link to my reviews for more in-depth thoughts. But I think you’ll find some surprises and many things not on other peoples’ lists.


BEST INDIE OR ARTHOUSE OR DRAMA TYPE THINGS THAT I SAW

My two favorites in this area I haven’t reviewed yet, but I’m working on it. I loved Greta Gerwig’s coming-of-age teenager movie LADY BIRD, and the harder to describe in a brief phrase THE FLORIDA PROJECT. We’ll discuss these soon.

I want to mention a couple other good ones that I didn’t write up at the time. In THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN, Hailee Steinfeld plays a very smart and troubled high school kid who tells her teacher she’s going to commit suicide. He’s Woody Harrelson, though, so he doesn’t respond the way you’d expect a teacher to. This is another coming-of-age teenager movie but it just feels very smart and true to life in how complicated the characters are, flawed but good people, making mistakes, still worth loving.

I think I never reviewed COLOSSAL because I didn’t know how to write about it without ruining the surprise of the weird premise and the way the characters defy expectations, but it was a pretty good one and you can see why Academy Award winner Anne Hathaway would take that role in what is sort of a giant monster movie (but more of a drama about addiction and toxic relationships).

You saw my thoughts on DETROIT and I want to mention it just to say that Will Poulter oughta be in awards discussions for playing that shitbag racist cop, but if not at least he won’t have to be associated with that character for the rest of his life. And AFTERMATH is not the same level of quality but wouldn’t it be cool if Arnold Schwarzenegger ever got the respect at this time of year? He was good in that, so congratulations to Arnold.

BEST COMEDIES I SAW

I didn’t really see any laugh riot TALLADEGA NIGHTS type movies this year, but there were a few in the general comedy area that I enjoyed. THE BIG SICK is sort of a romantic comedy and it has some big laughs, but it’s mostly the nice story of a guy befriending the parents of a girl he dated while she’s in a coma. There was a ton of hype around this from the comedy and podcasting communities that star/co-writer/true-story-subject Kumail Nanjiani comes out of, and I assumed they were overdoing it a little because their friend made a movie. I was surprised to find that I loved it just as much as they did. Just an excellent crowdpleaser to recommend to anybody.

I was also very fond of the dark comedy INGRID GOES WEST, about a lonely young woman stalking an Instagram star. It’s funny and uncomfortable but much more sympathetic than it sounds. Everybody in it is really good, but Aubrey Plaza in particular shows that she’s capable of much more layered characters than she’s previously been known for.

One that nobody is talking about (because they never saw it) but that I thought was quite good was WILSON, from the director of SKELETON TWINS and the writer of GHOST WORLD, based on another one of his comics stories. Woody Harrelson (the guy from THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN) plays the title character, a lonely, aging loser who learns that an old ex lied when she said she got an abortion. Turns out he has a teenage daughter (Isabella Amara) and he finds her with her adoptive family and unethically befriends her. This is pretty specific to my type of humor, I guess. Wilson is somebody who sits next to strangers on the bus while they’re listening to music and starts talking to them. They take one earbud out and politely respond and soon it sinks in that what they were doing has now been cancelled and they have to sit and listen to this guy for the rest of their trip. I think in illustrated form he’s a real piece of shit, but when inhabited by Harrelson he comes across as more of a lovable asshole who means well. Both approaches work. This was also a good reminder of the greatness of Laura Dern and was almost for sure why she was cast in Twin Peaks and THE LAST JEDI if not JURASSIC PARK.

(Note: I haven’t seen GIRLS TRIP yet.)

MOVIES I THOUGHT WERE MOST UNFAIRLY SHAT UPON


There are so many contenders for this one. I didn’t understand why everybody was so cruel about MONSTER TRUCKS. That was a beautifully ludicrous premise and I enjoyed it. POWER RANGERS I think deserved a little more credit too, since it was better than it needed to be but not so much that we didn’t get to laugh at it a little. KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is also much more fun than its reputation – it’s no MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., but it’s Guy Ritchie humorously applying his trademarks to a sword and sorcery story, it has some impressively crazy scenes (giant elephant attack) and one of the best scores of the year.

I’m tempted to choose THE MUMMY because I still feel the torches and pitchforks were out of proportion on that one and that the reviews were way more about the “Dark Universe” idea than the movie itself. I enjoyed the monsters, some of the humor, the novelty of combining horror with Tom Cruise stunts, and its unquestionable vast superiority to the previous MUMMY series on all possible levels I will not back down on this one guys I am serious. I would’ve been up for the other ones. Oh well.

But I feel stronger about VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS. I can’t deny that its appeal would triple with stronger charisma or chemistry at the center of it but jesus christ if you can’t appreciate all the absurd concepts and goofy action and crazy aliens and robots and space ships and planets and creatures and costumes and dimensions of by far the French comic bookiest movie of all time then I pity you. It’s like two STAR WARSes squeezed into the center of a FIFTH ELEMENT with a BARBARELLA tied around it and then done with AVATAR level effects and in 3D. And that’s not nothing.

And still the winner in this category has got to be Zhang Yimou’s THE GREAT WALL. It’s not the best movie I saw this year, but it’s the most beautiful movie combining CGI monsters and period martial arts. And I’m afraid I’m gonna have to keep defending it forever because people have such a hard-on for shaming Matt Damon that they have to bring it up as a punchline any time they talk about whitewashing, and that fucking enrages me. Whitewashing is a real problem that can’t be solved by snarkily lumping in movies you have no knowledge of. It appalls me that people can pretend to be enlightened while arguing that a great Chinese director can’t do a movie with a white actor if he wants to.

Far from a white savior, Damon plays a representative of the west who has to learn how to be a better person by following Chinese ways (and who helps the Chinese heroine, played by Jing Tian, stop the monsters). At worst it’s Chinese propaganda, at best it’s an international co-production extolling the value of cross-cultural sharing. The former isn’t too big an issue to me in America and the latter I’m all for.

(I did just now find a fair assessment of the movie on Nextshark, “an online magazine focused on covering business, tech, culture with a focus on the Asian youth market,” with a nice click-baity headline: We Saw ‘The Great Wall’ to See Just How Offensive it Was to Asians.)

FAVORITE HORROR MOVIES

GET OUT is great and original and timely, and luckily everybody knows about it. My other two favorites this year were both of the “I thought we were done with new takes on the zombie movie, but then this came along” variety. TRAIN TO BUSAN is the South Korean one about people stuck on a train during a fast-biozombie outbreak. There’s nothing drastically different about its vision of a zombie plague, but there’s a subtle twist in that nobody is ever trying to kill zombies. They just create makeshift armor and gauntlets to try to get past them. And the movie’s real strength is in getting you invested in the characters and their relationships and god damn it I actually had tears at the end and it’s embarrassing but there it is.

The other one is British and it’s THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS. This one really is a totally different take on the genre because the protagonist is a little girl who is a zombie. In this case it’s a weird fungal-infection type of zombie that can be suppressed enough to have human functions, but they turn into hungry ghouls just from smelling flesh. It’s an example of how you can take the basic idea and some of the tropes (people banding together in a post-apocalypse to survive) of this subgenre but still create something that feels very new.

(Some 2017 horror I still want to see: HAPPY DEATH DAY, THE DEVIL’S CANDY, RAW.)

BEST LICENSED INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY FRANCHISE TRADEMARKS

This is almost embarrassing, but pretty much my three favorite movies of the year are all sequels and reboots of famous and worshiped nerd shit. One of them is STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, and I’ve said enough about that one lately. It’s hard to call that my favorite because I don’t know how to mentally separate it from the series as a whole. Like ranking a book of the Bible against your favorite novels. But obviously I loved it.

Another is BLADE RUNNER 2049, and that’s a different situation because it’s a sequel to a movie that I’m not as emotionally attached to as many people are. I have complicated feelings about it, more admiration than love. But this sequel by Denis Villaneuve knocked my socks off. So visually beautiful and emotionally complex, and an unexpected evolution from the world of the 1982 film, full of thought-provoking sci-fi concepts and intriguing characters. Ridley Scott says it was too long but for me it felt shorter than his movie, because I felt so much more involved in the character and the mystery.

The other one is LOGAN, and for most of the year this was my hands down favorite movie. I love that Hugh Jackman’s great run playing Professor Logan Wolverine ends with a movie that’s more Clint Eastwood than X-Men. Jackman is able to bring back what we love about the character but make his performance much more complex, and there’s so much emotion not only in his relationship with the little girl but also having to take care of his dying father figure, Professor X. It’s the super hero movie that doesn’t have the X-Men theme music but does have a cut from Johnny Cash’s American Recordings period. It already rates high in my favorite super hero movies of all time.

And that happened in a good year for the genre. It’s worth noting that the regular Marvel had three very entertaining movies – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2, SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and THOR: RAGNAROK – that veer their ongoing series in a more fun and colorful direction. The DC Comics people weren’t as consistent, but they had WONDER WOMAN.

And maybe this didn’t quite capture my imagination on the level of the JEDI/2049/LOGAN triptych, but I want to give a hat tip to WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (featuring Woody Harrelson from THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN and WILSON). Like its predecessor DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, WAR is a topnotch piece of blockbuster mythmaking utilizing special effects wizardry on an almost miraculous level, but it seems like people didn’t really pay much attention to it and have already forgotten it exists. Not me.

APES. TOGETHER. STRONG.


BEST TRADITIONAL ACTION STORIES


I prize individuality, but I also have great respect for tradition. Some of the best action movies are artfully-executed variations on classic formula. Two of my favorites this year were a fighting circuit movie (BOYKA: UNDISPUTED starring Scott Adkins) and a fighting tournament movie (LADY BLOODFIGHT starring Amy Johnston). Each has a highly proficient martial artist playing a character worth rooting for in a story with great fights and surprisingly effective emotions.

Another VOD/DTV type movie I really enjoyed this year was Jesse V. Johnson’s SAVAGE DOG, also starring Adkins (this time with Marko Zaror, Cung Le and Keith David). It’s made up of many common tropes but it has an odd feel and a weird hero who lives up to the title. I’m tempted to mention something crazy he does in the last fight to back up my argument but it would be morally indefensible to spoil it.

MOST ENVELOPE-PUSHING ACTION

I really loved JOHN WICK CHAPTER 2 and ATOMIC BLONDE, maybe the year’s movies most representative of where American action is headed (or at least I’d like to think so). WICK of course continues the first story, going deeper into its fanciful secret society of elite killers, getting a little more existential and pushing even a little further in its gun fu, vehicle fu, etc. ATOMIC is a complicated spy story, which is not as much my thing, yet I’m even more excited about it because of its seductive stylishness (red and blue lights, essence-of-’80s soundtrack, etc.) combined with a fierce performance by Charlize Theron, taking part in several A+ action sequences (one of them against BLOODSPORT 2-4 star Daniel Bernhardt in front of a screen showing Tarkovsky’s STALKER!) that would stand out for an established action great, let alone an Academy Award winning respectable actress. This 87eleven Action Design team is the most promising development in movies right now as far as I’m concerned. I hope they keep trying to one-up themselves like this (that goes for both the stuntwork and the content of the stories).

HEADSHOT (review coming soon) could maybe fit into the “traditional action stories” category, but it feels like it pushes the brutal action tradition of THE RAID in much the way those last two pushed the JOHN WICK tradition. That these two movements continue and are more visible than any shakycam low-ACR bullshit speaks highly of the state of action.

But THE VILLAINESS (review also coming soon) snatches up this category with ease. Whatever you think of the convoluted story, you’re gonna find the action scene exhilarating, I think. Its combination of choreography, stuntwork and special effects innovation puts it in a class of its own.

NOTE: I have not seen BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL, PARADOX or BAHUBALI 2 yet.

SPECIAL ACTION STAR COMMENDATIONS

MOST PROMISING NEW ACTION STAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Definitely Amy Johnston. If she’s able to have a string of starring vehicles as good as LADY BLOODFIGHT she’ll be one of the top English-language action stars going.

MOST IMPROVED ACTION STAR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gotta say Wu Jing. Or maybe he’s MOST DESERVING OF RE-ASSESSMENT BY ME. Obviously KILL ZONE 2/SPL 2 is my favorite of his, but I really never thought he had something like WOLF WARRIOR II in him either. If he stars and directs his way into being the martial arts version of ’80s Stallone then wow, I never would’ve predicted that.

BEST SUPPORTING BADASS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cung Le. His great henchman roles in SAVAGE DOG and SECURITY really cemented for me how undervalued he is as a screen martial artist and actor. I hope we see much more of him both as heroes and villains. Honorable mention goes to Marko Zaror, also fantastic as a bad guy in SAVAGE DOG.

REIGNING KING OF DTV/VOD ACTION AND THEREFORE ACTION IN GENERAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Scott Adkins.

FAVORITE MOVIE THAT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO COME UP WITH A CATEGORY FOR

I feel the need to mention OKJA since I suspect it would be somewhere on my hypothetical top ten list, but I haven’t seen it on many others. The straight-to-Netflix international co-production from the director of SNOWPIERCER is a monster movie and a dark comedy and it’s got action and it’s horrific but it’s such a weird mix of different ingredients that it doesn’t seem to be defined by any one of them. In my review I called it “a sweet girl-and-her-creature tale like MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO after it has been swallowed by a vicious satire of corporate greed and man’s treatment of animals.” I can guarantee you haven’t seen anything else like it this year.

MOST PURELY BADASS MOVIE

I can’t decide on an official favorite movie this year. It’s either LOGAN or it’s 2049 or it’s LAST JEDI or it’s the one pictured above and described below. There are many qualities in movies that bring me joy, but this is the one that gave me the most powerful infusion of that thing that’s hard to describe that I wish I had more words for because I use “badass” way too often.

Novelist turned BONE TOMAHAWK writer-director S. Craig Zahler takes a leap ahead with his second movie, BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99. This is a slow, quiet, suspenseful crime drama about a guy with a simple code but a tornado of pent up rage and violence that he ultimately unleashes to protect his family from horrific retaliation from a drug gang.

It’s a type of storytelling that makes me excited to watch movies: the kind where nothing is explained outright, it just comes out in little visual storytelling cues and comments. Like, not once does anyone refer to some past violent incident with Bradley (Vince Vaughn), but from the way the towing company staff stands ready for a fight when he gets laid off in the opening scene we know there’s a reason to fear him. We see the answer pretty early on (he beats the shit out of a car!) and then he calmly locks it up inside again – Alfred Hitchcock’s bomb-under-the-table sitting inside his bald head, or oversized fists. It’s the long sustaining of that vibe, along with its payoffs in outstanding fight scenes and innovative bodily mutilations that made me shout in my living room, that make it my maybe-favorite.

* * *

Thank you everybody for another great year here at outlawvern.com. I truly appreciate all the discussion and suggestions and of course the generous financial support on Patreon and elsewhere. You’re all a big part of my life and my viewing and writing. I hope you will try to see some of these if you missed them and recommend other ones that you loved that I didn’t mention. I’ll be especially excited for any suggestions of action movies I didn’t see this year.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 4th, 2018 at 2:54 pm and is filed under Blog Post (short for weblog). You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

73 Responses to “Vern’s Favorite Movies of 2017”

  1. Damn, I really need to make LADY BLOODFIGHT a priority.

  2. The Villainess? I thought the action was okay, but best? No way. The opening segment is one of those “first person shooter” things, and that whole fucking concept should be shot in the head(you can even do it in first person, if you prefer). It is not cool, not exciting, it ALWAYS looks fake and gimmicky and like it’s trying too hard, and, due to it’s very nature, you cannot actually SEE your protagonist so you don’t actually SEE how, or even if, they’re actually doing the jumping, fighting, shooting, or whatever.

    There’s also a bit of shaky cam/quick cutting, which is not a good thing. Sure, it’s not Bourne/Taken level, but the action sequences and choreography are certainly harder to follow than the John Wicks and The Raids for example. The action sequences certainly weren’t as exhilarating as John Wick 2’s, or from what I’ve seen of them, Atomic Blonde’s either. For that matter, I found the action sequences less exciting than those in Logan as well, come to think of it.

  3. The Undefeated Gaul

    January 4th, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    I think this is a 2016 one by now (fuck this year went fast) and I seem to remember you mentioned that you saw it in a random comment, but did you enjoy ELIMINATORS? I guess it wasn’t so exciting as to be mentioned in any end of year lists but for me it felt more like a decent old school Van Damme film than anything else Adkins has done and I enjoyed the hell out of it (def more than SAVAGE DOG for instance). Feels like it deserves a quick Vern review in any case, I’d love to read it.

    Think you got everything covered for 2017 though, can’t think of any action titles you left out.

    Ok, one quick question about WAR OF THE PLANET OF THE APES – didn’t the lack of a final fight bother you? The whole concept of action movie promises I relate back to your reviews, especially to one of THE MECHANIC, I believe? Where Statham meets a champion with a ring to prove he was a champion but then it never culminates in any sort of battle. In WAR OF THE APES, they had a FANTASTIC villain and everything in the film felt like it was primed for a climactic fight between Harrelson’s character and Caesar, and when that didn’t happen, it just broke the film for me. I guess you could say it’s not exactly an action film, but I needed that fight man. The film is incomplete and lacking without it, its a fucking George R.R. Martin move of the most terrible kind but it seems like I am literally the only person alive who feels thats an issue with the film. I loved almost everything else about it.

  4. Shot out to the wonderful second half we got on VOD with the releases of Security, 24 Hours to Live and Beyond Skyline.

    Also, those who saw and liked Security, you’re welcome. I feel like I did one good thing this 2017.

  5. The Undefeated Gaul

    January 4th, 2018 at 4:30 pm

    Btw been meaning to share this story on the GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS 3 thread but since the recent comments thing still isnt working I’ll put it here. I went to Dutch Comic Con last november and attended a Q&A with Spencer Wilding, who played the main villain in HOOLIGANS 3 but also was in the Darth Vader suit in ROGUE ONE, played monsters on GAME OF THRONES, DOCTOR WHO etc. So all the questions he got were Star Wars related, or what was his fav monster he played etc. So I’m not normally the type to draw attention to myself but as the Q&A went on I realized, nobody’s gotta ask him about the stuff that really matters. So eventually I got up and asked him what it was like to fight Scott Adkins and man, I swear he was so happy with that question. He said when he got the script and heard he’d be fighting Adkins he thought it was super cool, and he pressed me for my thoughts on his character Mason, did I think he was badass etc. After that he asked if I was into martial arts and when I said hell yeah, he invited me up on stage to throw some kicks at me. I did and while I’m pretty tall, this guy still towered over me and he did a couple kicks that were just lightning fast, crazy stuff. Needless to say it was a memorable encounter for me and I’m glad I could show him my appreciation for his part in a film that he was obviously proud of, but that he never gets asked about and probably very few people have seen.

  6. Yeah, that’s pretty awesome.

    Shoot, which movie is your avatar btw?

  7. BTW, Vern, I’m curious to see how you like The Devil’s Candy. It turns out I know a lot of people that really didn’t like it. It actually was the rare newer horror movie that actually scared me. That’s super hard to do but they did it. The acting is tremendous in the movie, as well.

    Happy Death Day was another really fun movie. It’s not really a scary horror movie but it kind of reminded me of April Fool’s Day. You know, a slasher that isn’t really about the gore and the kills but done to be kind of fun.

  8. Man, when it’s all laid out like this it seems like this it seems like 2017 was Woody Harrelson’s year. That guy can do anything.

  9. I hope great things for Amy Johnston (LADY BLOODFIGHT). She has the skills and charisma to be the next big female action star.

  10. Thank you, vern.

  11. Any thought on TRAINSPOTTING 2, which I really loved, although obviously it wasn’t on the popculture-defining masterpiece level or part 1, which might be the reason why it failed to make a huge splash and even landed on some worst-of lists (although it was mostly met with positive reactions and considered a worthy sequel by critics and fans, so I can’t really consider it “unfairly shat upon”).

  12. BTW, I caught up on MONSTER TRUCKS and just like I predicted after seeing the trailer for the first time, it is the kind of movie, that I would’ve loved as a kid! As an adult I only really like it, but 10 year old me would’ve worn out the VHS tape. Okay, I have some minor problems (A few very small plotholes, it would be nice to see at least some of the henchmen [and most likely innocent truck drivers who only do their job] at the end crawl out of their car wrecks unharmed and even if Holt McCallany played some truly evil bastard, it fate was surprisingly harsh for a kids movie), but all in all: A good time!

    Fuck you, STRANGER THINGS and Co. This is how you do a real 80s throwback!

  13. Undefeated Gaul, if you ever attend one of those conventions where Star Trek actors show up, ask Marina Sirtis about GREEN STREET HOOLIGANS 2. (Also ask her anything in general. She is the complete opposite of Deanna Troi and truly doesn’t give a fuck who she offends when she opens her mouth. But in a very entertaining way!)

  14. CJ, I think IT would be a strong contender for the 80s throwback throne.

  15. Sternshein- it´s from THE THIRD WAVE, the third movie in the Johan Falk saga, a Swedish action film series.

  16. And let me add, that series is one of my absolute favourites! Sweden has always been a provider of top notch action, and Johan Falk is the king of TV badasserie.

  17. pegsman, I take your word on it, I haven’t seen IT yet. But MONSTER TRUCKS definitely gets a bonus for not even being a period piece or somewhat nostalgic. It’s just one of those special effect filled my-magic-friend-and-me kids movies from back in the days, but made with modern technology. I’m not even sure if they were aiming for that, but it catches the vibe of these movies better than all faux-STAND BY ME GOONIES of today.

  18. Really glad to see Lady Bloodfight getting the love it deserves,

  19. Hey Vern, I know you heard Female Fight Squad wasn’t as good, but I sought it out after seeing Lady Bloodfight, and enjoyed it immensely. Fights were pretty good, and it was nice to see Amy Johnston talking to her movie-Dad, Dolph. I definitely like it more than the most recent MJW, Cops and Robbers, which is sad because it was directed by John Stockwell (Kickboxer: Vengeance), and co-starring Tom (Sniper) Berenger.

  20. Dear Vern,

    It was nice to see you mention Wilson – both in this review and some time back on Twitter. I liked it very much and agree with quite a few of your articulate, concentrated points. Despite the surface-level differences, I’ve felt that Wilson and Carter Chase are kindred spirits (and that the subtle themes of family, the modern world, displacement, decisions and law have many parallels in all three works – your novel, Clowes’ comic and the film). Similiarly, I’ve felt that you and Clowes are comparable artists, and not only because your work changed me as an adolescent and lives with me constantly as an adult. Thanks for giving Wilson a shout out, I feel like him a lot too.

    Did you read “Patience”? Again, it has similarly to Niketown in that it is a hard-boiled, badass, intense, gritty work about the deepest of human emotions, concerns, isolations, purposes and sacrifices.

    I don’t currently have internet access or a “device” of any sort, besides my cassette/radio Walkman (where the tape deck is broken – far beyond “Sprain Your Tape Deck”). So, I haven’t been able to comment in a while.

    For whatever this is worth, I’ve gotten more enjoyment (and enlightenment) from your writing than I have from the majority of movies I’ve seen.

    Happy 2018 to a hero of mine for the past several decades. I’d be a lot worse off had I never stumbled upon your writing. Thanks bud!

    Yours truly,
    ALF
    P.S. One time I made a poster for a “DJ night”, back when those type of things were possible. It was overloaded with miniscule text, and somewhere amongst the scrawl was the phrase “Everyone is invited, from Alan Cumming to Ziggy”, which I thought you’d like. And last year on Christmas I watched Ziggy’s Gift and thought of your work fondly and appreciatively.

    P.P.S. I still hope you will consider reviewing Top Cat Begins, as Top Cat is the best.

    P.P.P.S. Really looking forward to reading Worm on a Hook, whatever it could be.

  21. The wife and I checked out WILSON a week or so ago and I thought it was fantastic as well. Some of it felt a little tough to watch this poor guy at times. Woody Harrelson really knocked it out of the park. He’s one of my favorite actors.

  22. The Death of Stalin was my favourite film of the year. An utterly hilarious, shocking, black-hearted dramedy with Simon Russell Beale delivering a towering performance. I can’t wsit to see it again.

    Special mention to: The Florida Project, Wind River, The Foreigner, Three Billboards.

    Biggest disappointment: The awful Kingsman 2.

  23. Wind River kicked me in the nuts so hard I still can’t pee straight, two months later.

    All 3 of the Apes movies I loved while I watched them, but found very hard to watch a second time. I’m not sure what that means.

  24. Thanks to vern and everybody here for making movies even more fun to watch and turning me on to a lot of great stuff that I probably would have missed. It’s kind of funny that I only stumbled upon this site because I randomly found a book in a used book store called “Yippee Ki Yay Movie Goer” and thought “this looks interesting” (I did buy new copies of your other books vern). I don’t think I would ever have discovered this site otherwise.

    Undefeated Gaul – very cool story. I am planning a move to Ireland this summer so will have to make a trip over to the next dutch comic-con.

    BOYKA was of course the best movie of the year. I hope they keep making sequels every couple of years. I am really looking forward to Accident Man. I really liked the VILLAINESS too.

    LOGAN LUCKY was the biggest disappointment of the year. He came out of retirement for that shit? And Lady Bloodfight definitely did not live up to the hype that you guys gave it.

  25. In no particular order, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some:

    HIGH AND LOW (had seen it before but never on the big screen – like night and day, much more intense and involving)
    THE FLORIDA PROJECT
    KILL ZONE 2
    DUNKIRK
    NIGHT NURSE (pre-code noir; my introduction to Barbara Stanwyck, va va voom! plus Clark Gable in a villain role, so great)
    STALKER
    WONDER WOMAN (not a perfect movie by any means but Gal Gadot was so great and the No Man’s Land sequence was a badass superhero action scene for the ages)
    THE SHAPE OF WATER (I can understand all the critiques voiced on this site but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and crying at the end — of course I wholeheartedly loved PACIFIC RIM too so maybe it’s just me)

  26. Vern, did you catch the third season of FARGO? I know TV isn’t your thing but you seemed to have been on top of that show for at least the first two seasons as I recall. I personally thought the third was the best. More abstract in a few places, but very emotional too.

  27. I saw DUNKIRK last night. Good, solid war movie, but not in my Top-10.

  28. The Undefeated Gaul

    January 6th, 2018 at 3:05 am

    HALLSY – yeah, you should try and make it out to the next Dutch comic con. I’ve only been the one time but it was a good experience and they seem to be very popular as they’re doing two a year now.

  29. The Undefeated Gaul

    January 6th, 2018 at 3:06 am

    David Wenham is a guest on the next one, don’t know how excited that gets you.

  30. Vern – dumb question but why didn’t SECURITY crack the “BEST TRADITIONAL ACTION STORIES” listing?

    CJ Holden – MONSTER TRUCKS could’ve been a Disney film cranked out 40 years ago with Kurt Russell

  31. I’m gonna put my neck out there on LOGAN, which I despised with a passion. Wolverine, in general, is a one-dimensional character, and not a very good cinematic hero. He never really was. The movies (and Hugh Jackman in general) never captured him in a loving, pitch-perfect profile. Jackman certainly looks the part, growls the part, and became ripped enough to portray the character, but aside from the first X-Men movie, I never cared about Wolverine. He always seems to get the main character attention, but why? There are other more interesting X-Men characters that are more than their muscles, claws, and scowls. Wolverine never really cares about anyone but himself, and LOGAN is more of that notion, but amplified because all of the other mutants have inexplicably died. From what? LOGAN never tells us. Logan himself has become a depressing limo driver. Is he an uber driver? What the heck is he? Does he own a business? The movie doesn’t bother with that. It’s annoying and weird. When the little girl shows up, we’re meant to think she’s amazing. I never thought she was amazing. We’re meant to believe that she’s going to fall in love with Logan because he’s her “father.” I never believed the bond they shared, because they don’t bond. Not once in the movie is there a moment where I felt like they really clicked. Her powers weren’t cinematically new to the X-Men universe. She’s like Wolverine, but smaller. Watching a kid kill a bunch of guys can be cool under the right circumstances, but not in this movie. The violence in this movie is abhorrent and sometimes unforgivable. There are scenes where children are murdered and slaughtered. Those scenes are sometimes offset by scenes of children committing murder. The self-defense angle is there, but still: It’s murder. We are also introduced to a nice African American family that harbors Logan, Professor X, and the little girl. It’s basically the one moment where the characters can settle in and take a breather from all the hard “R”-rated violence, and it’s then that Professor X realizes what he’s been missing for most of his life. Logan doesn’t seem to get it, though. Then the whole family is horribly MURDERED for no good reason. Why did the filmmakers seem to think this was okay? Professor X is casually dispatched during this chaos. What a great character, and so well acted by Patrick Stewart. But to have that legacy so tossed aside and concluded with such casual disregard for what that character was built up to become. Didn’t Professor X deserve to die on his own terms? Finally, when Logan dies after doing virtually nothing (he kills a few guys in his blaze of glory: big deal), I felt relief. When the girl called him “daddy,” neither of them deserved the familial bond the audience is supposed to feel that they’ve developed. I knew I’d watched something strong after watching LOGAN. I had a striking, palpable sense of doom afterwards. What a pessimistic, ugly film this was. Logan, as a character, is not a redeeming entity. He hasn’t done anything. After at least a century of living he hasn’t learned much. He’s still the same dour dude, only worse. He hasn’t earned my respect. Jackman had so much time playing this guy, but he chose to grind him to literal dirt by the time he was finished with the role. I hope Jackman never returns to this part. Let Wolverine stay dead. He’s one of the worst cinematic heroes of the modern superhero age.

  32. I’m starting to think of other immortal cinematic heroes. Connor MacLeod from HIGHLANDER. Now there’s a guy who earned his immortality. He was nothing more than a common warrior who wakes up after dying in a battle. He spends hundreds of years culturing himself, surrounding his world with love. He’s sullen, sure, but he has cultivated passions. Logan is blind to passions. Does he understand that there are books to read? Art to appreciate? Movies to watch? Even a freaking vampire who’s lived through the ages has picked up on those things. Maybe we should give Logan another hundred years to open his eyes. But that would mean another too many movies to suffer through.

  33. RRA, not sure about the Kurt Russel/Disney thing, but I can totally see MONSTER TRUCKS as a big budget family movie, with a big Steven Spielberg/George Lucas present on the Drew Struzan poster, with half animatronic/half stop motion creatures, released around the same time as BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED, HARRY & THE HENDERSONS or, uhm…HOWARD THE DUCK.

  34. David: I liked LOGAN more than you did but also had some issues with the way it seemed to be glorifying Wolverine’s self-pitying bullshit. To me, it seemed like the themes of the story were about finding something to live for, not something to die gloriously for. It’s fatalism felt secondhand to me, just an echo of other movies that explicated these themes more earnestly.

    You can find my (much longer) argument here:

    Logan

    (some spoilers here for a great movie that you should just go see regardless of what I say) When the first X-MEN movie came out I thought this new 'Hugh Jackman' guy looked and acted so much like Clint Eastwood that I called it 'The Return of Clint.' 'I’m not sure how this was accomplished exactly,' I wrote at the time. 'Maybe this is a computer generated renderation of a young Clint… Maybe it is Clint under a lot of makeup to make him look more like he did in his Thunderbolt days. Maybe it is a son of Clint’s,

  35. Thanks for another great year of reviews! Of the films already mentioned, Lady Bird and Bladerunner were my favorites. Lady Bird perhaps more so as it wasn’t something I expected to resonate so strongly or to be so funny. It was also great year in the ongoing Twilight Atonement movement: both Good Time and Personal Shopper were excellent and showcased brilliant performances from their stars. Paddington 2 rounds out my top five, most joyous cinema experience this year.

  36. david: I was one of the few who only thought LOGAN was ‘okay’ at the time and people thought I was crazy, especially since I liked the X-series more than most in that I have not turned my back on the earlier ones like many have. After it continued to get praise I felt bad about not liking it as much as others especially because the movie’s existence is mini-miracle (it being a hard-R finale to a highly successful PG series). So re-watched it on home video and yeah my opinion hasn’t really changed, the novelty of seeing a children’s cartoon character violently murder people and cuss wears off pretty quick. I watched the special features and the director makes the whole case for making truly adult and mature movies based on children comic books and I’m like ‘what the fuck?’ Aka he is a typical modern-day comic book fan who mistakes mature ‘content’ for mature themes and uses it as his metaphorical leather jacket to offset his embarrassment of still enjoying children’s comic-strip characters and stories. These guys love WATCHMEN and other Alan Moore stories but don’t acknowledge why they worked in the first place and also ignore that Moore is not embarrassed by his fondness of children comic-strip characters and stories.

    I still like it more than you it seems but I am in complete agreement that it is an ugly movie and I feel it is made even more so that it is the capstone or whatever to a series that preaches and pushes an optimistic attitude in the face of adversity.

  37. I’ve seen LOGAN several times and You People are nuts. This is the superhero movie we need in a trump administration. It’s ugly because the world is fucking ugly, but it still believes in redemption. RIP the tigers.

  38. REIGNING KING OF DTV/VOD ACTION AND THEREFORE ACTION IN GENERAL

    You know, this might be the first year in a full decade where I dispute this statement. It was a good year for DTV action but I can’t in good conscience say that any of its offerings were superior to theatrical action like JOHN WICK 2 or even ATOMIC BLONDE, which I didn’t even love but its action scenes are so much more groundbreaking and ambitious than anything Adkins or Florentine did this year. And that’s not even taking into account international action, which had a slew of phenomenal entries this year that make BOYKA and LADY BLOODFIGHT look quaint. I like those movies a lot but they’re comfort food. They’re not the state of the art anymore.

  39. Majestyk, I don’t disagree. But I think Adkins is reigning king of “action stars.” Keanu is reigning king of occasional transcendent action movies with a bunch of great character actor performances in between. I suppose we could make an argument for Wu Jing this year?

  40. I guess I agree with that. There’s nobody else as committed to being “just” an action star as Adkins, and the sheer volume of his 2017 actionography puts him in a class of his own. It’s more the “AND THEREFORE ACTION IN GENERAL” part that I’m disputing. I don’t think dominating the DTV realm automatically makes you the king of the genre the way it would have in recent years. During the unrelenting horror of the Shakycam Era, DTV action was definitely where the most exciting work in the genre was being done. I don’t think that’s the case anymore now that we’re in the Long Take Era (long may it reign).

  41. “…now that we’re in the Long Take Era (long may it reign)”

    Well until new filmmakers nostalgic for the shaky-cam era come in with their ‘This was clearly the better way of doing action and immersing the audience, I don’t know why we ever stopped not showing the audience what they wanted. I mean I tried watching the train fight in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, the car chase in BULLIT, the entire climax to EIGHT DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER and DRUNKEN MASTER II, and the long-take scenes in TOM YUM GOONG and ATOMIC BLONDE and was bored shitless by all the clear and exciting blocking and tons of planning that went into them. Give me the utterly EPIC warehouse in BATMAN BEGINS or the entirety of QUANTUM OF SOLACE any day of the week over that garbage.’

  42. Usually I advocate the Pendulum Theory when it comes to artistic movements, but I’ve seen no evidence of the action genre ever looking backwards. The means and processes of capturing action are always at the cutting edge of filmmaking. There might be elements and tropes that get brought back in the next round of nostalgia, but they get brought back using the most up-to-date techniques of the day. When the Long Take Era ends, it’ll be replaced by something new. It won’t be a return to an old style.

  43. Vern, this is a great list of films. Happy belated new year and thanks for all your hard work.

    Unfortunately, This was another year of me not contributing as much as I would like, but I have been looking for work* and not in a position to go to movies as much as I would like so I have been playing catch up most of the year. You pretty much touched on all the best films I saw this year, but I noticed you left out Jackie Chan’s THE FOREIGNER. It is not a classic Chan film, but it makes good use of Chan for his age and has some nice action sequences. It is also notable in Jackie’s filmography because it is a humorless serious revenge film without any jokes that plays out like a mash up of a Jack Ryan political thriller and Liam Neeson badass dad revenge film. In addition it is scored by Clifford Martinez and the music is way better than you tradtionaly get in this type of standard action film. Mr. M might even like it.

    *I don’t want to get to personal here but the last few years have been very hard on me personally. My wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor after having a seizure on my birthday, and I lost my job. These events combined with where I am at in life have forced me to do some real soul searching and reevaluate my life and how I went to spend it going forward. With that being said I have been considering launching a website featuring my thoughts on films that would be a platform for my writing and in the future a podcast. However, getting it all off the ground has felt a little overwhelming. I am not sure how it will all pan out, but I am commited to following my passions and figuring out how I can generate income doing something I really care about instead of just working a job I don’t care about as a means to an end so that I can pay the bills. I know that Vern is not the only professional writer around these parts, If wanted to start writing professionally what would you all recommend?

  44. Charles: Start pitching your great ideas to magazines and websites that pay. It’s how I started a career. You can do it!

  45. Thanks David.

  46. I have recently seen T2 Trainspotting and thought a great follow up to an already good (although one would not really like to rewatch it) film.

  47. Majestyk – I would disagree with you on the basis that Scott Adkins could play John Wick but Keanu Reeves could never play Boyka in a million years (to use one example). It might not be anywhere as good but he could still do it and we would all watch it.

    Charles – wishing you all the best with everything. That’s terrible news but stay positive.

  48. Thanks Hallsy, I appreciate the kind words.

    I realize now that my post comes across as pretty tragic but that was not really my intent. My wife had successful brain surgery and is doing much better now. It is something she will have to deal with again at some point down the road but at least for the time being most of the tumor was removed and her day to day quality of life is good. It has been hard, but for the time being we have made it through the hardest part. I wasn’t sharing to court sympathy even if I truly appreciate the kind words and support but to provide context to how my world has been turned upside down, and how being forced to acknowledge my wife’s mortality and how fragile life is has caused me to to do some serious self evaluation. Things have been hard but there are many people out that are much worse off than my wife and I despite the challenges and hardship we have experinced. Life is short and fragile take nothing for granted.

  49. Try and check out “Extraordinary Mission” if you’re able to find it. Luckily it played at the AMC near me earlier this year – every week they play random Chinese films, unfortunately Wolf Warrior II was sold out when I tried to see it there. Anyways, this was the film with the craziest and highest volume of stunts I saw last year. Kinda reminded me of Jackie Chan’s Police story in the insanity of the action.

    Also, fully agree with you on Brawl in Cell Block 99, that kicked unholy amounts of ass, didn’t think Vince Vaughn had it in him.

  50. Any of you guys see BULLET HEAD? It’s a DTV crime thriller with Adrien Brody, John Malkovich, Antonio Banderas, and one of the Culkins that could accurately (if dismissively) be described as “RESERVOIR DOGS meets CUJO” because it’s about some dudes hiding out in a warehouse after a heist and being menaced by a giant fucking attack dog while occasionally telling personal tangentially dog-related anecdotes. I was expecting something weird that didn’t quite hang together but it was oddly one of my best blind buys of recent memory. The acting, characters, and dialogue are all great, the premise is weirder than it sounds, and Brody uses parkour multiple times to play The Floor Is Lava where lava = giant killer dog. It’s sort of a slasher movie with a dog, while also being some kind of allegory about letting go of bad habits. I don’t want to talk it up too much because it’s more of a low key treat than a masterpiece. It’s not really an action movie, though Banderas does get to strut around with a machine gun, so don’t expect much in that regard.

    It was certainly way better than GHOST IN THE SHELL, which I got about 45 minutes into before giving up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many special effects used in service of something so boring. There was something neat every two seconds and something interesting never. BULLET HEAD opens with a long POV flashback from a dog and it’s already way more involving than naked nippleless Scarlett running around shooting dudes.

  51. Welp I’m sold on BULLET HEAD. It came up in some algorithm ‘based on shit you watched’ recommendations but I’m afraid to say I’m no where near as adventurous as I once was. Added to the ‘ol queue.

    Still mixed on my thoughts of GHOST IN THE SHELL. I can’t deny that it is a bit slow-going though and whenever I think of it’s positives it’s entirely related to it’s visuals (cinematography, special effects, etc). Also I keep going back to it’s extremely problematic ending where they tried to sooth over the white-washing concerns (by making it worse accidentally).

  52. Somehow I think the world is better off with BULLET HEAD than GHOST IN THE SHELL.

  53. Majestyk, I have seen the trailer for BULLET HEAD and want to see it. That’s good to hear you enjoyed it. The cast is good and if executed well I bet it is fun.

  54. Majestyk, I am curious have you seen THE FOREIGNER? You and I have discussed your disk like for Jackie Chan over the years, but I think THE FOREIGNER is a Chan film you will enjoy.

  55. My Chan dislike is perhaps a bit overstated. I mean, I own like 20 of his movies so I can’t hate him THAT much. I unequivocally respect his inestimable contributions to action cinema. I just, you know, don’t really care for all the dumb faces he makes or all the hilarious misogyny he gets up to. When he cuts down on that, I like him just fine, but even when he’s at his self-indulgent worst, I can still sit through any of his movies for the action sequences.

    All this to say, you’re probably right. THE FOREIGNER (sadly, not the Lou Gramm biopic I have been dreaming of for so many years) sounds more THE PROTECTOR than RUMBLE IN THE BRONX, which means there’s a much better chance of me liking it without caveat. I will definitely check it out one of these days.

  56. I understand, it is broad comedy and mugging you don’t like. I don’t think there is a single joke in the movie and I can’t stress enough how good the soundtrack is as well.

  57. On another note about THE FOREIGNER, other then being a soild action film it did well at the box office. It was made for around 30 mill and made well over 100 mill globally. I hope the success of this well made, Chinese produced action film crafted for a global audience means they are going to make more. They just don’t make these types of action films in America anymore.

  58. I grudgingly prefer the american cut of THE PROTECTOR over the HK version. But it still is just slightly more enjoyable than thE dumpsterfire that si BATTLECREEK BRAWL

  59. Shoot, it has been so long since I have watched THE PROTECTOR but I can’t remember the difference between the two cuts. I know they removed some nudity from the HK cut.

  60. Chan shot some additional fight scenes with his signature style with an added subplot to support it and the whole thing just dragged on.

  61. Speaking of lucky blind purchases, I bought a digit copy of THE VILLAINESS after seeing the trailer because it was on sale for like $7, and it kicked my expectations in the face, stabbed them multiple times and then threw them out a window.

  62. Oh wow, I almost watched that one and decided to put it off, but if I had known about the killer dog it would’ve been a different story.

  63. The only place it mentions the dog on the DVD cover is in the descriptions of the special features. I assumed it was some generic tax-shelter DTV action shit until I read a review. I don’t know why they hid it. It’s not even like it’s a twist or something. The first shot is from the dog’s POV. It is very clearly a movie about dogs. I figure they did some market research and people just don’t want to think about the fact that their precious fur-babies could rip their fucking throats if they felt like it.

  64. The whole time I was thinking about SEE NO EVIL. It’s basically the same setup: large, non-vocal being is taught violence his whole life and then unleashes it on some poor assholes who wander into his decrepit domain. The main difference is that nobody has any sympathy for Jacob Goodnight.

  65. I swear the trailer I saw for made clear they were being menaced by a dog.

  66. Shoot: I do not deny that we need a solid little thriller rather than a big budget anime adaptation that has ‘issues’. I kinda have to agree with you on the US cut of PROTECTOR is superior. The main thing PROTECTOR has going for it is hearing Jackie say the f-word and seeing things you’d normally wouldn’t see in his movies. Also I am sorry: I just can’t bring myself to hate BATTLE CREEK BRAWL/THE BIG BRAWL. It is horribly inconsistent and the action isn’t great (even worse that it was made at Jackie’s prime) but I like the setting and setup and it has fucking Mako in it. Like your accusations about needing a GITS movie, I will also not choose to die on the hill of BRAWL’s merits.

    Everybody: Also I want to second Charles’ love for THE FOREIGNER. Saw it theatrically and it’s the direction I’d like to see Chan go in more, getting a solid script and hiring a solid director who’ll push Chan in a way that can redefine him in his twilight years. One thing you wont read though is that it’s not really a Chan movie. Yeah he’s the best part and steals the show but it’s actually Brosnan’s movie giving a great performance as an equally sympathetic and total dirtbag politician (as the movie goes on it leans towards dirtbag imo).

  67. I am so pissed off. THE FOREIGNER played like for a week whee I live and then went away. How the fuck are you even gonna keep track of shit if they play so little. And then fucking baby movies liek STAR WARS play for six months? Fuck that shit.

    Anyway, gonna see THREE BILLBOARDS on Monday. At least one movie I can look forward to watching that isn´t completely spoiled by trailer reactions, because guess what? It´s not a Marvel or STAR WARS, so nobody gives a flying fuck. Just like how I want my films.

    Sorry to be so negative, but the cinema over here mostly plays kids movies or superhero films, whether none I am interested in. So when they play a film a decently functioning adult can appreciate I am down for it-

  68. The idea of your dog turning on you is the scariest fucking thing in the world. That scene in SUSPIRIA with the pianist just ruins me.

  69. Agree on THE FOREIGNER’s soundtrack being awesome. Lots of callbacks to Tangerine Dream’s THIEF. And I haven’t seem Brosnan so invested in a performance since the underrated THE MATADOR. Good to see him giving a shit. I suspect he gave it more than his usual smugging because of the Irish politics of his character.

  70. I know I’m awfully late to this party, but if you feel like responding, Vern, that would be awesome. You mentioned the movie Raw in this article, and I could have sworn I later saw a review here, but, if so, I can’t find it now. Did you ever review it, here or elsewhere? Thanks, Vern.

  71. No, I still haven’t seen RAW. I should get on that, right?

  72. You should! I didn’t think it was a classic or anything, but it has more going on than a lot of horror movies do, at least sub-textually. I’d love to read your take on it. I expected something more in the gross-out category, but, even though it had me squirming at least twice (and therefore at least twice more than a lot of other horror movies do), in hindsight it seems kind of tame for the subject matter. Which isn’t to say not good, so much as not what I was expecting. In fact, it’s stayed with me more than a lot of movies do as I age.

    Just wish I could reconcile my (admittedly hazy — and obviously false!) memory of reading your review with the reality that you haven’t seen it. Hope you enjoy it if you ever do track it down.

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