Thank goodness 2017 is coming to an end – for many reasons, not least of which are its movies. You can see my ten favorites of the year here: https://northshoremovies.wordpress.com/2017/12/28/ten-best-of-2017/
As I've said in previous years, I really can't rate these as the absolute “worst,” because there were undoubtedly films I didn't have to review that were even more horrible. But these were films that either were disasters, misfires, or films that left other critics inexplicably swooning over charms that eluded me. If you watch them, and some you may feel obliged to, don't say you weren't warned.
A GHOST STORY – Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara are a really dull married couple. Then he dies. Then hc comes back under a white sheet. (Really.) Other things happen. She eats a pie. Other people move into the house. Life is either meaningless or meaningful but this movie was one of the most vapid pieces of nonsense I've sat through, and I even gave it a second viewing. This is the sort of movie that gets reviews that make people not trust critics.
THE GREATEST SHOWMAN – The lyricists of the overrated “La La Land” come back to destroy what's left of the musical genre with this bogus life of P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman). The music is not only unmemorable and repetitive, but one comes to dread every song cue. Jackman is a talented song and dance man, but after this and “Les Mis” he may never get another chance on screen.
BLADE RUNNER 2049 – One of the most anticipated science fiction films of the year was an overlong tribute to art direction. An inert Ryan Gosling attempts to solve the mystery of a missing child, but in spite of interesting visuals and occasional invention, it was as empty as the seemingly underpopulated cities. In turns out “Arrival” was the exception to the rule and director Denis Villeneuve (“Sicario,” “Prisoners”) really doesn't know how to tell a story.
MONSTER TRUCK – This may have been the dumbest family film of the year in which a strange creature bonds with a truck and the good guys have to battle bad business types to protect it. Those measuring their age in single digits may be engaged but viewers much older will wonder why they're wasting their time with this.
SPLIT – Hack director M. Night Shyamalan got inexplicably positive reviews in some quarters with this story of a fellow with a split personality (James McAvoy) who kidnaps some teenage girls. The movie made no sense and an attempt to tie it in with an earlier Shyamalan film was laughable. Perhaps McAvoy being game enough to go all out as the different aspects of the character made it worthwhile for some.
PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES – Let this stand for all the unnecessary sequels, reboots, and remakes that came out in 2017. Johnny Depp, a fine actor who could use a reboot to his career, showed up for the paycheck for this pointless sequel that pretended to tie everything up only to end on a note indicating another chapter could be in the works. This was a movie based on an amusement park ride. Do we really need a SIXTH installment?
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES – Dumb, dumb, dumb. The '70s series was a mixture of satire and camp, but the new films were leaden enterprises regardless of the improvement in special effects. Woody Harrelson was utterly wasted as the commandant of a human enclave with enslaved ape labor, and the plot was little more than a bad simian version of “The Great Escape.”
ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ. - If we can't rely on Denzel Washington, what hope is there for a a guaranteed good time at the movies? Playing a lawyer seemingly on the autism spectrum, he plays the title character facing a change from working for a civil rights legend who dies to joining a big city law firm. The plot is absurd, the moral quandaries of the characters are cartoonish, and the result was a complete waste of time. Washington, we can hope, will be back, and this will just be a forgotten footnote to an otherwise stellar career.
DOWNSIZING – Matt Damon may not be so lucky after a year that saw this, “A Great Wall,” and “Suburbicon.” This may be the biggest misfire with Alexander Payne's satire/science fiction comedy about miniaturizing people going all over the place and never really having a focus. Damon plays an everyman who is shrunk to live in an ideal miniature city, only to find that everything isn't so ideal. One of many films this year that left audiences going, “WTF?”
WONDER WHEEL – I used to revere Woody Allen and “Annie Hall” remains my favorite movie, but he should have retired twenty years ago. Turning out a film a year, he's made maybe two good films in that period (“Midnight in Paris,” “Blue Jasmine”). What he doesn't do well at all is drama, with Martin Landau making “Crimes and Mismeanors” and Cate Blanchett saving “Blue Jasmine.” Here he's doing Tennessee Williams set in 1950s Coney Island, and it lands with a thud. Woody, if you need to create, write a book. Your movies are long past their expiration date.