2017 was a surprisingly refreshing year for movies, genre related stuff specifically. It broke box office records. Captain Underpants wasn’t just good, it was great. Big budget blockbusters actually looked like money was put to good use. It was a real treat to go to the theater rather than dreading it. Not everything was as great as Captain Underpants (no, really) but it was also a year where some hidden gems got lost among the big box office hits of the year. There’s another discussion we’ll have to have sometime about just how many blockbusters clog up the multiplex nowadays. For now, I thought I’d highlight some of the best genre fare theaters had to offer in 2017. Not all of these are specifically “Best of the Year” but I enjoyed these movies of varying sizes too much to let them be forgotten. If you’re curious about my favorites of 2017, here’s a video celebrating the best of 2017 and I’ll have another post up later this week. Without further adieu, here are a handful of my favorite hidden gems (in no particular order):
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Based off a series of books of the same title, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is just as clever as it is funny. It doesn’t contain the meme-worthy escapades of The Boss Baby but how Captain Underpants functions as a whole is far more impressive than its title would have you assume. If The Boss Baby was a modern Hannah Barbara cartoon with plastique sheen, Captain Underpants is the Looney Tunes parody of a superhero movie. Characters with explosive repertoire guide zany sequences of absurdist comedy and slapstick action. During a few sequences, you can practically hear the Road Runner’s iconic “meep meep” as characters zoom around the screen. Full Review Here
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie’s frenetic mythmaking, excessive glam and pop collides with blockbuster storytelling in grand fashion. Fantasy as heavy metal. A King Arthur… that fucks. Guy Ritchie, known for his quick cut editing, sprawling crime dramedy and bad people doing bad things, isn’t exactly a number one choice to adapt the Excalibur mythos. But what the director is never acclaimed for properly is his use of style as substance to tell the stories. It’s not there just to showcase flashy special effects (though it’s always nice to see a 200 million dollar blockbuster actually put all its money to quality use) but Ritchie truly shines in his ability to display action through character. Striking whites, royal blues and enriched blacks fill the frame that gives it a distinct look unlike any fantasy film we’ve ever seen. Is it messy? Sure. Is it insane? Most definitely. Did I love it? Absolutely. You might too.
Less Jane Wick action spinoff, more focused on espionage and the toll of the relentless meat grinder that was the Cold War. Didn’t expect to make comparisons to Predator of all movies, but it feels straight ripped from that film’s politics of “Ronald Reagan is sentient bullshit.” Oh yeah and it’s one of the most gorgeous movies of the year. David Leitch, one half of the original John Wick duo, took the color-coded stylistic elements of the that film and repurposes them into a colorful thrill ride set to the grooviest blockbuster soundtrack this side of Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2.
Cult of Chucky
One of the weirdest franchises in history, Child’s Play has consistently reinvented itself with each outing and Cult of Chucky is no different. (Diego’s Note: lmao remember when Child’s Play 3 was a slasher version of the first half of Full Metal Jacket?) After his several year stint on what is probably the greatest television series ever made, Hannibal, Don Mancini brought the surreal and psychosexual mindfuck aesthetic to the Child’s Play franchise. I am now convinced every horror franchise needs its Hannibal inspired entry where directors take on the elegant trashy horror production design. I don’t think I’ve ever been so entertained by a direct-to-video sequel in my entire life. Note: It is a sequel that picks up threads to a prior film called Curse of Chucky. I still haven’t seen that entry but I enjoyed this one enough as a standalone outing that I feel comfortable enough recommending it to fans of distinct horror, Hannibal and creepy ass puppetry. Can’t get enough of that Brad Dourif voice.
Happy Death Day
Perhaps the surprise of the year for me. A preppy, pop horror movie that is far more clever than I initially gave it credit for. A pure joy and progressive play on slasher expectations, it’s never subtle as it should be, but as it is creative as it need be. There are straight up direct vocal references to Groundhog Day and a poster for They Live after moments of catharsis; Still, it’s filled with cutesy whimsy shifting from CW style performances (the good, modern incarnation that contain a fucking Archie from Archie Comics) to a whodunnit narrative that arguably needed better act one set up for the designated reveals to have its necessary impact or catharsis, until the finale happens and it all kinda makes it fit better. Undeniably fun and has a charming sense of humor. A delightful slice of horror cheese and star-making lead performance from actress Jessica Rothe. For the love of god keep giving her horror comedies for the foreseeable future. What a treasure.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Luc Besson’s Star Wars but with severe miscasting of actors. Not that I don’t think Dane Dehaan and Cara Delevingne aren’t talented, they’re just not right for Valerian and Laureline. So it’s beneficial that the sheer imagination on display is basically unrestrained, only sputtering when it’s decided to focus on “plot” and “characters” lmao. But even then, the action beats feel more like episodic mini-adventures giving it an almost genuine “epic” feel. Besson’s interest feel dedicated elsewhere as he wants us to bask in all these different worlds. This ends up working in its benefit once we get to the finale and the film’s adventure nature decides to confront the very real epidemic of warfare and the scars it buries into the fabric of our existence. Bonus points for the henchman literally being robotic, mindless vessels of destruction. The worlds and space fantasy on display are worth every penny. Rihanna is a shapeshifting alien that should have been the lead of the film. There’s a transdimensional chase sequence. Fuck yeah, space shit. Y’all slept on this wild ride.
A completely bug-fucking-nuts sequel that is a successor to the first movie I ever watched at a midnight showing. Mind you, I found the first Skyline excruciating in how boring it was with an admittedly a nifty low budget science fiction film concept. Aliens invading earth and taking people with light beams and absorbing them into the sky? Cool. This is a complete revamp of the first film, taking an utterly insane final minutes (google: Skyline ending) and amplifying it to 11, bringing over the cast from The Raid to give a jolt of B movie action. Not to mention some Lovecraft inspired alien designs, Frank Grillo donning his every man action persona and even kaiju style battles. Director Liam O’Donnell has crafted a DTV sequel for the ages and it’ll melt your god damned face off.