The Bock’s Office: Top films of 2017 | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: Top films of 2017

Clockwise from top left, "The Post," "The Shape of Water," "Dunkirk" and "The Big Sick" were among The Bock's Office's Top 10 films of 2017.

Another year at the movies has come and gone with a mixture of massive misfires, small victories and everything else in between. As with any other year, there were a handful of true standouts in 2017, and here's the countdown of some of the most worthy cinematic entries.

  1. "War for the Planet of the Apes"

The futuristic battle between humans and intelligent apes has had many casualties on both sides, and the apes' leader, Caesar (Andy Serkis), only wants to be left in peace.

That is, until a despotic colonel (Woody Harrelson) is personally responsible for slaughtering his family, leaving the grieving chimpanzee no choice but to finally end the fighting, and possibly humanity, once and for all.

The trilogy that rebooted the classic sci-fi saga comes to a grand conclusion with full-blown, winner-take-all stakes as man and beast fight it out for supremacy.

An excellent action movie is made stronger by a narrative that never loses its focus on Caesar and his movement, and the motion-capture performances by Serkis and his fellow ape actors are as good if not better than any flesh and blood people.

  1. "The Big Sick" 

Standup comic Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) lives his life a bit different than his traditional Pakistani parents (Zenobia Shroff, Anupam Kher) expected, subverting their wishes for him to follow through on an arranged marriage while also working a job they don't understand or respect.

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The strife with his family also leads to his relationship with a young woman (Zoe Kazan) falling apart, but when she suffers a serious medical issue requiring an induced coma, he finds himself in an awkward position of getting involved in the situation and meeting her parents (Ray Romano, Holly Hunter) in the worst possible way.

Nanjiani and wife Emily V. Gordon penned this dramedy together loosely based on their courtship and some of its more unusual circumstances, but it doesn't feel like the typical culture clash we've come to expect, instead letting the conflict and the humor flow organically and realistically.

The differences are there but not painfully magnified so much as the tension between Kumail and his eventual in-laws, wonderfully played by Romano and Hunter as a couple that probably shouldn't be together yet clearly love each other.

Just don't ask Ray to explain it, because at best you'll get a bumper sticker platitude.

  1. "Battle of the Sexes"

In the 1970s, Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is the undisputed star of the tennis world and is consistently pushing for women in the sport to demand to be taken seriously. Her cause is threatened not only by the prevailing attitudes of the time but more directly by middle-aged, retired player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), who challenges her to a showdown for the ages to determine if female athletes can stand the test again men.

Stone and Carell are perfection in their respective roles, largely due to the fact that neither is reduced to a stereotype.

Stone captures King's dedication to her sport and to the betterment of conditions for women while also experiencing turmoil in her marriage as she slowly falls in love with her stylist (Andrea Riseborough). Likewise, Carell couldn't be better as the proud chauvinist seeking a career comeback and worldwide attention through a series of publicity stunts that would lead to his eventual downfall.

A back-and-forth style lets us get in each of their heads as sports history is made, making for a timely reminder that it wasn't too long ago that the implication that the fairer sex was inferior was flat-out said.

Just in case you thought talk of gender inequality was a new racket.

  1. "Wind River"

The death of a teenage girl (Kelsey Chow) on Wyoming's Wind River Indian Reservation hits hard for a US Fish and Wildlife agent (Jeremy Renner) who knew her personally.

The jurisdiction falls with the FBI, but a rookie federal agent (Elizabeth Olsen) faces an uphill battle in getting the case solved in a timely manner, forcing the two of them to team up with local lawmen to bring the culprits to justice.

Another chapter in screenwriter Taylor Sheridan's series of neo-Westerns that began with "Sicario" and "Hell or High Water" is utterly chilling in its murder mystery narrative but even more so in its depiction of an expanse of land and its native people that go largely ignored, making it all the easier for predatory interlopers.

  1. "Lady Bird"

High school senior Christine McPherson (Saorise Ronan) is in the process of finding herself and determining what kind of person she will be as she comes up on adulthood. As she experiments with different personalities, friends and boyfriends, her ever-changing mentality tests the patience of her faithful best friend (Beanie Feldstein) and her overworked parents (Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts).
A semi-autobiographical script by writer-director Greta Gerwig could ring true with any teenager searching for an identity, awaiting the freedom of college and experiencing the countless frustrations that come with being young.

Ronan gives a warm, sympathetic performance as the girl in question, who has more to offer than just a peculiar self-given nickname, while Metcalf gives one of her best showings ever as the exasperated mother who is never on the same page.

Catholic school alumni will especially appreciate the struggles she experiences — leave space for the Holy Spirit while dancing, please…

  1. "The Shape of Water"

A mute woman named Elisa (Sally Hawkins) lives a lonely life in 1960s Baltimore, working a graveyard shift cleaning for a secret government science facility.
The arrival of a boisterous military man (Michael Shannon) changes her life forever when he brings with him an amphibious being (Doug Jones) transported from the Amazon. Though terrified at first, Elisa forms a kinship with this creature and looks for a way to break him free from captivity.

Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro brings us his best movie since "Pan's Labyrinth" in this unusual but beautiful, breathtaking romance — a twist on "Creature from the Black Lagoon" — that speaks to all the overlooked people of society with glorious vintage art designs.

Though Hawkins never speaks, her expressions, body language and signing flawlessly communicate her desires to those willing to listen. Naturally, that doesn't include Shannon as the pontificating patriot suspicious of everyone and everything and ready to make sure his quarry ends up under the knife.

And, as tired as he must be playing del Toro's soft-hearted monsters like the Faun and Abe Sapien, Jones adds another grand showing to his résumé as a more gentle Gill Man who makes an elegant dance partner underwater to the sounds of composer Alexandre Desplat.

  1. "Call Me by Your Name"

American teenager Elio (Timothée Chalamet) is spending the summer at his parents' (Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar) Italian country home and isn't happy about giving up his bedroom to his father's latest guest, a graduate student named Oliver (Armie Hammer).

The quiet, withdrawn boy also doesn't get along great at first with the confident, outgoing, worldly fellow, but as time goes on, they begin to form a friendship that starts to become something more.

It would be more difficult to not make rural Italy look beautiful, but director Luca Guadagnino captures all the scenery he can in this coming-of-age tale set in the 1980s based on the novel by André Aciman.

Chalamet gives an emotionally stirring performance as a young man uncertain about his sexuality and drawn to the magnetism of someone older, wonderfully played by Hammer.

Though the subject matter is not for everyone, every element of this film works, from the Sufjan Stevens' music to Sayombhu Mukdeeprom's cinematography to the architecture and vistas that make up its setting.

  1. "The Post"

A rivalry with The New York Times is a driving force for much of The Washington Post's coverage of current events of 1970s America, and the national newspaper finds itself scooped when the Times exposes details about the Vietnam War leaked from classified documents.

Editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) tasks his staff with overtaking the competition, but when the Times is legally halted from further publication of sensitive documents, the race to be first becomes the fight to keeping the country aware of one of the biggest news stories of the decade.

The topic of the Pentagon Papers, a survey detailing American military expectations of Vietnam, was and still is a contentious subject regarding a conflict that was revealed to be unwinnable long before Richard Nixon took office and involving multiple United States presidents and other personnel.

While this tale of crusading journalism could devote more time to getting into the weeds, it's nonetheless a superior depiction of life in the newsroom when the title publication was needed more than ever.

With Steven Spielberg at the helm and Hanks, gruff and passionate, teamed with Meryl Streep as publisher Katharine Graham — put between a rock and a hard place with a difficult story when she's already not taken seriously as a woman who inherited the Post — there's not a false moment in what could be taken as the spiritual prequel to "All the President's Men."

  1. 1. "Darkest Hour" and "Dunkirk"

In "Darkest Hour," 1940 Great Britain is divided on how to approach the war in continental Europe as Nazi forces march ever closer. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's (Ronald Pickup) appeasement of Adolf Hitler is deemed a horrible tactic as Parliament demands he step down from his position. However, the only man who can be considered an adequate uniter of the bickering political parties is Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), whose own military history is less than stellar in the eyes of his critics.

In "Dunkirk," thousands of Allied soldiers have met with disaster in France, with the Germans ambushing them and forcing them into Dunkirk, near Belgium.

As these men fight for their lives and await an evacuation that doesn't appear to be coming, a group of civilian ships moves into action to aid in the rescue.

Though not made as companion pieces, these two films complement each other magnificently in tone and scope, as Joe Wright's "Darkest Hour" shows the stress that went into defending Britain on the home front and Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" gives a harrowing account of courage during crushing defeat.

Between the two of them, they add up to some phenomenal filmmaking, with Oldman's take on quirky, curmudgeonly Churchill unbeatable and a considerable cast at Nolan's disposal showing the many faces that played a part in an astonishing point in the 20th century.

Bloody good, both of you.

The Bock’s Office Bottom 5 of 2017

  1. “mother!”

A young woman (Jennifer Lawrence) lives a tranquil existence with her husband, a writer (Javier Bardem) whose career has stalled. When a mysterious couple (Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer) visits their secluded country home, the strangers’ actions begin to have severe repercussions on their hosts’ home and their relationship.
You can’t fault filmmaker Darren Aronofsky for being ambitious, but when he dreams big, he tends to run amok, and here is no better example with an arthouse concept that shows promise but ultimately fails in an execution that’s an utter assault on the senses.

His brief relationship with Lawrence — who tries her best with a script that no one could make work — may be an indication of the disastrous nature of his work, which functions less like the biblical allegory it purports to be and more like an auteur’s love letter to himself.

  1. “The House”

Suburbanites Scott and Kate (Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler) learn that their college-bound daughter’s (Ryan Simpkins) scholarship is no longer available, putting their plans to pay for her education up in the air. In need of some fast money, they reluctantly agree to set up an underground casino in the home of their gambling addict best friend (Jason Mantzoukas) leading to disastrous results.
With a long list of comedic talents in the supporting cast and two proven laugh-getters as the leads, there’s no excuse for why a movie like this shouldn’t at least make you chuckle, but every attempt at humor goes bust like a blackjack player who requests another card when he’s already showing two 10’s.

Ferrell’s “Daddy’s Home” features may arguably be worse, but at least in those, he’s actually engaged and making an effort, whereas he and Poehler both sleepwalk as parents too dense to even have personalities, and even a parody of the back room scene in Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” doesn’t help.

  1. “CHiPs”

A seasoned but reckless FBI agent (Michael Peña) goes undercover with California Highway Patrol to expose the criminal syndicate of a string of robberies. However, he is quickly partnered with an incompetent rookie (Dax Shepard) whose only skill on the force is on his motorcycle.

In terms of action-packed TV shows remade as comedies, as bad as “Baywatch” proved to be, this is miles ahead in awfulness.

As writer and director, Shepard’s adaptation of the ‘70s staple may as well have been penned by a 14-year-old, pairing a sex-addicted fed with a faded motocross star/pill popper, with fast bikes and explosions aplenty.

If you think the inevitable Erik Estrada cameo makes this more watchable, that’s a negatory, good buddy.

  1. “The Dark Tower”

Troubled preteen Jake (Tom Taylor) learns his disturbing dreams of apocalyptic occurrences are quite real when he accidentally steps into another world that resembles his nightmares.

Allying himself with a gunslinger named Roland (Idris Elba), the two must find a man in black (Matthew McConaughey) with designs on destroying the fabled Dark Tower, which will hearken the destruction of the universe.

Steven King’s far-ranging book series is rendered incomprehensible in this bland take on the multi-genre epic that mixes Western, science-fiction and fantasy sensibilities, none of which are well-captured onscreen.

The only reason anyone could have signed off on this empowerment for the illiterate as a finished film is thinking that its condensed, jumbled story wouldn’t be noticed as long as it fit into a 95-minute runtime.

Unfortunately, judging by a meager box office gain, they weren’t totally wrong.

  1. “The Mummy”

A cavalier military man and part-time adventurer (Tom Cruise) stumbles across an ancient burial site in the Middle East, only to find that the tomb carries a terrible curse from an Egyptian princess (Sofia Boutella) who turned to dark magic in life and remains no less powerful in death.

Riddled with gaudy CGI and minimal scares, a bomb like this would have been bad enough focusing on its title character, but instead it’s hands down horrible as a vehicle that serves only to placate its aging star so he can play the cocky antihero for the umpteenth time.

What’s worse, this marks the start of a franchise called the Dark Universe, reimagining the classic Universal monsters as if today’s Hollywood could do better.

It’s a sad day when “Hotel Transylvania” is actually the lesser of two evils…

The Bock’s Office Top 10 of 2017

  1. “Dunkirk”
  2. “Darkest Hour”
  3. “The Post”
  4. “Call Me by Your Name”
  5. “The Shape of Water”
  6. “Lady Bird”
  7. “Wind River”
  8. “Battle of the Sexes”
  9. “The Big Sick”
  10. “War for the Planet of the Apes”