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My 2017 at the Movies, Part 2 of 2: The Year’s Least Worst

Last Jedi!

The indefatigable Rey, future head of the New Jedi Order alongside her new best pal Mara Jade. Look, we can dream, okay?

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: In 2017 I made 21 trips to the theater to see films made that same year. In Part 1 we ranked the bottom eleven. And now, the countdown concludes:

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My 2017 at the Movies, Part 1 of 2: The Year’s Least Best

Transformers 5!

Academy Award Winner Sir Anthony Hopkins, exchanging Merchant Ivory dignity for the opportunity to earn zillions spouting toy robot origin gibberish and Witwicky family lineage mythology balderdash.

It’s listing time again! In today’s entertainment consumption sphere, all experiences must be pitted against each other and assigned numeric values that are ultimately arbitrary to anyone except the writer themselves. It’s just this fun thing some of us love doing even though the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

I saw twenty-five films in theaters in 2017, but four were Best Picture nominees officially released in 2016 and therefore disqualified from this list, because I’m an unreasonable stickler about dates. (Ranking those four from Best to Least Best: Fences, Lion, Hidden Figures, and Manchester by the Sea. Of those four, nothing has haunted me throughout 2017 more than the Attack of the 50-Foot Viola Davis.)

Of the remaining 21 contenders that I saw in theaters, we had eight super-hero sequels or continuations, though one of them didn’t reveal that till the final scene; five non-superhero sequels; one reboot; two adaptations of printed works (one already famously done); one non-superhero animated film (possibly an all-time low for me); and four live-action original works. Obviously you’ll note the following list is far from comprehensive in covering 2017’s release slate. This was such a busy year for us that spare time for theater-going was in much shorter supply than usual, to say nothing of the impact that Netflix’s strong TV-series slate has had on my viewing habits. On the bright side, 21 films is a 10% increase over my total for 2016, which wasn’t much of a year.

(For what it’s worth, I decided to set aside most Oscar-potential films until after the official nominations announcement is made on January 23rd. I definitely plan to get around to Get Out soon, and for light kicks maybe Cars 3 if it ever reaches Netflix, where I noticed the other day they now have Pirates of the Caribbean 5 for any die-hard cheapskate Captain Jack Sparrow fans willing to kill 2½ hours to catch up on his antics. Last year I was not one of those.)

In the meantime, here’s what I didn’t miss in theaters in 2017, for better or worst-of-the-worst. Links to past reviews and thoughts are provided for historical reference. And now, on with the bottom half of the countdown:

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Our Christmas Day with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”

Jumanji!

Dwayne Johnson on a motorcycle with a flamethrower. Maybe movies do get better than this, but some days they don’t need to.

No one deserves to be left alone on Christmas, least of all a grandmother. When one of our families canceled their Christmas gathering altogether at the last minute, it left one kindly relative in danger of spending all day alone with her dashed hopes and her TV dinners and a 227 marathon. We knew we had to do something. That’s why for the first time in ages we headed to the theater on Christmas Day — gave her some company, some fresh air, and the treat of an all-new movie. Waiting there for us with two hours’ worth of innocuous, family-bonding fun was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his happy sidekicks in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

In his wrestling days our man Mr. Johnson famously asked his opponents, “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?” He may not get into the ring anymore, but we can still smell what he’s cooking. And if there’s one thing The Rock cooks best these days, it’s popcorn. Lots and lots of popcorn. Movies with The Rock in them are like the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving of cinema. You might groan at what’s on the table, but even if you don’t touch it, someone else will appreciate the love and effort he put into that popcorn, and they’re gonna have some and love it.

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“Lady Bird”: One Last Year in the Nest

Lady Bird!

A rare instance of a Catholic character who doesn’t try winning a film by dismantling the entire church brick by brick. Maybe in the sequel.

Lady Bird could be the name of either a super-hero or a happy animated pet, but in this case this lovely little film’s title has been like a chant among critics who’ve pegged it as a strong contender in the upcoming awards season. Considering how much I enjoyed lead actress Saoirse Ronan in the 2015 Best Picture nominee Brooklyn, I was looking forward to checking this out, and was surprised and delighted when it got a wide release in our area. I appreciated the opportunity to get a head start on my annual Oscars quest and to take a low-key break from this crowded blockbuster season. Contrary to how this year’s MCC reviews have been trending, I do like a broader spectrum of film beyond comics and explosions. Honest! I’ve moaned about it before, and I’ll keep moaning about it till our side of the city finally advances its aesthetics: I’d see more indie films in theaters if we had someplace that played them regularly within twenty miles of home.

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So There’s a Moment in the “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” End Credits

Porg!

Warning: the first five rows of the theater may get Porg’d.

You’ve already seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, right? I don’t plan to delve into heavy spoilers, but don’t be surprised if I mention things not in the trailers. Obviously I won’t list the names of the nine characters who die, the two who turn to the dark side, and the one who debuted in The Star Wars Holiday Special that has now made that travesty officially New Canon.

But I kid! I kid because I’d been excited for this flick ever since they announced TLJ would be helmed by Rian Johnson, the director of Brick and Looper, two films that were very much keepers. Longtime MCC readers may recall I’m not a full-on hardcore unconditional Star Wars fan who super-loves anything automatically that has those two words stamped on it. And yet, ever since the not-bad relaunch of the franchise with The Force Awakens, I find myself looking forward to these new films with increasing curiosity as to where they’ll go, what they’ll change, and how many films it’ll take before we’ll see a new generation of young Star Wars fans who weren’t scarred firsthand by George Lucas’ prequels.

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“Blade Runner 2049” and the Importance of Theatrical Competence

Blade Runner 2049!

All things considered, such a beautiful film made it extremely hard to choose just one moment for our lead photo.

When I was 10 the original Blade Runner was the first R-rated film I ever saw in theaters. Mom had a strict policy against them till I was a teenager, but made the first exception while we were on vacation visiting family who wanted to see it. I’d already read and enjoyed the Marvel Comics adaptation by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson, and did Mom the unspoken favor of asking her to lead me to the bathroom as soon as I knew Joanna Cassidy’s nude scene was coming. It was the least I could do in return for the opportunity to see revolutionary science fiction cinema unfold before my eyes.

Other kids had the first two Star Wars films, neither of which I saw till adulthood. I had Blade Runner. I never needed or expected a sequel. Not every story needs to be a never-ending saga. 35 years later, here we are anyway.

That was the intro I wrote before I saw Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 on its second weekend of release, capturing my trepidation in advance regardless of whether it blew me away or offended me with corporate greed. I’m sad to say that evening was an unpleasant experience.

It wasn’t the movie’s fault. It was Regal Cinemas’.

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