And we’ve reached the end of 2017, one of the worst years for movies in recent memory. And although I probably say something to that effect every year, this one is especially full of critical and commercial failures, a notable sense of franchise fatigue, and shockingly few stand out films. Even December is lackluster with most of the real Awards favorites having come out in November (e.g. Call Me By Your Name; Lady Bird; Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri) and even earlier (The Florida Project, Get Out). This month – this year – is so devoid of offerings, that Disney and WB are even re-releasing Beauty and the Beast and Dunkirk (both on December 1) for a final awards push. But as for the last few remaining ‘new’ of 2017?
DECEMBER 1, 2017
THE DISASTER ARTIST v. WONDER WHEEL
The Disaster Artist – James Franco, whose directorial efforts have been generally poor (he got to helm The Sound and the Fury?), takes on one of cinema’s all-time greatest best-worst movies, The Room. Playing delusional dreamer Tommy Wiseau, the mastermind (writer, director, producer, star) behind the cult classic, Franco looks to give it his all in this passion project’s attempt to turn mass audiences onto the earlier, now iconic passion project. And early reviews are giving The Disaster Artist and Franco the resounding accolades that Wiseau craved.
Wonder Wheel – Kate Winslet stars in the latest Woody Allen film. They’re releasing a Woody Allen film? After the past two months? Brave.
DECEMBER 8, 2017
THE SHAPE OF WATER v. JUST GETTING STARTED v. I, TONYA
The Shape of Water – Guillermo del Toro follows up his visually interesting but mostly unexceptional 2015 gothic horror Crimson Peak with The Shape of Water, which is getting his best reviews since his 2006 masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth. Set in Cold War America about government employees who discover a secret experiment, Shape has already received considerable praise, including the Golden Lion (Best Film) at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year. Its remarkable cast includes Michael Shannon, Sally Hawkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Octavia Spencer,
Just Getting Started – Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones are an ex-mob lawyer and ex-FBI agent, respectively, on the run from the mob. Not only does this sound like a bad crime comedy straight out of the 1980s, but it also shows that Freeman can dip lower than Going in Style, also from this year.
I, Tonya – Wolf of Wall Street and Suicide Squad‘s Margot Robbie stars as one of the 1990s most notorious pop culture figures, Tonya Harding, in Craig Gillespie’s darkly comic look at the figure skating championship and subsequent scandal that made her a household name. The film has been getting great reviews, with its performances being highlighted as some of this year’s best.
DECEMBER 15, 2017
STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI v. FERDINAND
Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – And there we go.
Ferdinand – An animated film about a bull who teams with other animals in order to … who cares, it’s Star Wars week.
DECEMBER 22, 2017
JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE v. PITCH PERFECT 3 v. ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD v. DOWNSIZING v. FATHER FIGURES v. THE POST
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – For as much as people like to praise Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, his work outside of the Fast and Furious franchise is really, really poor. His terrible nostalgia franchise reboot Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is situated perfectly between his terrible comedy franchise reboot Baywatch from earlier in 2017 and next April’s sure-to-be-terrible videogame franchise reboot Rampage. Eliminating everything you liked about the first one, Jumanji is no longer about a boy lost in the jungle for decades who brings jungle animals into the real world, instead it’s about teenagers trapped in a video game in adult bodies. So they still keep the man-child element, except in the worst possible way. But there sure are a lot of hacky jokes about each character’s respective body types – The small nerd is the The Rock and big! The tough jock is Kevin Hart and short! The dowdy girl is Karen Gillan and attractive! And the vain girl is Jack Black!
Pitch Perfect 3 – Since the release of the first one in 2012, this series has been a respectable sleeper hit serving as decent alternative programming to its competing blockbusters. This one allegedly brings the franchise to a close … at least until the interconnected Pitchiverse.
All The Money in the World – Now that Hollywood is throwing Kevin Spacey into the memory hole, director Ridley Scott is desperately (and apparently successfully) rushing to reshoot his part in this movie with Christopher Plummer to get it finished in time for its original release date. The rushed production serves two purposes: 1) getting the movie out before the same story (the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III) is covered by Ryan Murphy in the FX series Trust next year and 2) to allow him to end the year on a higher note than the horrendous Alien: Covenant (read my earlier tangent here). Also stars Mark Wahlberg and Michelle Williams.
Downsizing – Alexander Payne’s film about people seeking a new life (and relative increase to their bank account) by shrinking themselves down to microscopic size seems to be a mixed bag. The original trailer, which showcased the universe was a lot more interesting than the second trailer, which presents Downsizing as more a conventional “Save The Unfortunates” hero narrative. Reviews have it as only moderately positive, but let’s hope it turns out better than Damon’s last foray into satire-ish – Suburbicon.
Father Figures – Owen Wilson and Ed Helms stars in a movie that was actually set to be released in January of this year. I have it in my January 2017 preview under its original name, Bastards. And that’s still not the first time the movie has been postponed, which should be a good indicator of its quality. Not to mention how the only time Owen Wilson has success anymore is with heart-warming dramas (Wonder, Marley and Me) and Ed Helms’ cinematic victories seem solely connected to him being the least popular guy of the Hangover crew.
The Post – Steven Spielberg’s latest Perfectly Adequate Drama (a based-on-a-true-story take on the controversy surrounding the publication of the Pentagon Papers and its impact on the Vietnam War) stars Perfectly Adequate Dramatic Stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep. Though it did just win the National Board of Review’s best movie of the year so maybe it’s a cut above Bridge of Spies and Lincoln.
DECEMBER 29, 2017
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN v. MOLLY’S GAME v. PHANTOM THREAD v. IN THE FADE
The Greatest Showman – First time director Michael Gracey presents Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum in a movie you can believe Baz Luhrmann kept saying no to until they finally gave up. Yes, this PG-rated original musical is supposedly Hugh Jackman’s dream project, but nothing about The Greatest Showman looks particularly great. Or as showy as they want it to be. And, like with most movies based in this time period, it’ll probably fall victim to accusations of whitewashing the past and hero-worshiping a guy whose entire gimmick was taking con artistry to previously unforeseen heights.
Molly’s Game – The West Wing/The Social Network‘s Aaron Sorkin writes and directs this true life tale about Molly Bloom, a Olympic-level skier who ran an illegal, high class poker game and fell under federal investigation. As the titular character, the almost always solid Jessica Chastain delves well into Sorkin-ese in what looks to be an intelligent adult crime drama/thriller – one with more flair than American Made. Advanced reviews are strongly positive as well.
Phantom Thread – Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson re-team for the first time since 2007’s There Will Be Blood with this story about a 1950s London dressmaker and his muse. Anderson is one of the best living – and most consistently surprising – filmmakers and praising Daniel Day-Lewis is rote at this point. Definitely a 2017 highlight.
In The Fade – The underrated Diane Kruger won Best Actress in Cannes as a woman whose family was murdered by Neo-Nazis. Despite near universal praise given to Kruger’s performance, early reviews are mixed-negative.
And that’s December. And 2017 for that matter. Will there be the smaller or edgier mass favorite movie like last year’s La La Land or Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant the year before? Maybe The Shape of Water will become a stand out? Could Wonder Woman actually be a Best Picture Contender? Is this where we are?