This was the first movie of the year that really hit me. The Dragon Lives Again is the epitome of exploitation (specifically "Brucesploitation") with a plot that is all over the place and a cast that cashes in on enough classic movies to make your head spin. Bruce Lee has died and gone to the underworld, where he makes both friend and foe of some of the biggest names in film from Michael Corleone to Dracula to the One-Armed Swordsman to "The Exorcist" to Popeye. Yes, "The Exorcist" (that's what they call him) and Popeye. I could talk about this movie at length, but I will let this little clip speak for itself:
Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Say what you will about Spider-Man reboot after Spider-Man reboot, but I have been on board for them all the way down the line. I even have a tailored Spider-Man shirt that I have worn to every Marvel superhero movie premiere since Sam Raimi's first outing. I have gotten a little big in the gut and can no longer button it up, but I have a couple of very nice Marvel Superheroes t-shirts that enhance the look quite nicely underneath. Spider-Man: Homecoming was a delightful return to Peter Parker's roots with a little modern-day comics mythology mixed in. The MCU needed Spider-Man, and I am glad they got him. I miss Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy, and Homecoming was the perfect palate cleanser for the abysmal handling of Amazing Spider-Man 2. One thing I particularly loved about the plot was that the writers threw a curve ball at long-time fans. We hear a lot of first names and come to assume that they are certain people, but even an encyclopedic knowledge of the Spider-Verse can be a red herring. I was a little put-off to see Miles Morales' best friend Ganke stolen away from Ultimate Spider-Man for this story, but he was a welcome addition. I said it early in the casting stage, but I would have loved to see Michael Keaton play Mysterio. He can play anything to perfection and was great as the Vulture, but a character like Mysterio seemed tailor-made for his personality.
Love & Peace (2015)
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Warning: contains spoilers)
Another instant annual holiday tradition for me. I suspect that I will be watching this and Love & Peace every December for the rest of my years. This is a perfect Christmas horror movie, and I would argue that it is good for the whole family despite the many penises present near the end. No one ever listens to the children in a horror movie, but our story's young hero is not one to leave it at that. He holds within him the true meaning of Christmas: a sense of honor, honesty, generosity and self-sacrifice, but the evil incarnation of Santa Claus in this story is blind to anything short of being good for goodness' sake. I have officially traded in my childhood dream to ride on Falkor from The Neverending Story and would rather hitch a ride on a helicopter net full of frightened Finnish children in burlap sacks.
Colossal (Warning: contains spoilers)
Sector 7 and Train To Busan
I thought I was going to pass up Train To Busan entirely, but I am glad that I changed my mind. A top five favorite for the year, no contest. Zombie movie fatigue has been heavy for several years for me, and I dropped out of the sub-genre almost entirely after The Walking Dead hit its second season on television (around the same time the comics introduced Negan). Train To Busan is another of my top ten favorites of the year, and I am not sure which movie made me ugly cry harder: Train To Busan or Logan. I was a wreck afterward, and this story provides the essence of survival horror.
3 Dev Adam (Three Mighty Men AKA Turkish Captain America and El Santo vs. Spider-Man)
Kong: Skull Island and LoganShamefully far down the list beginning at #62, these are the first two movies I saw in theater for 2017. I still draw a blank trying to remember the last time I went to the theater to see two movies in one day. It had to be in the 1990s at least, but I broke that unknown streak of twenty-some-odd years this year to treat myself to a double feature of Logan and Kong: Skull Island. My nephew skipped out of town on that opening weekend for Kong to visit extended family with his mother, leaving me high and dry on a birthday movie outing that had been postponed for two months already. We were supposed to see some rare Ultraman screenings in January, but everything seemed to fall through for us at the beginning of this year. We did not get to see a movie together in theater this year at all until Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but I was not going to miss my favorite giant ape on the big screen. If I had a gun to my head right now and was forced to choose between Godzilla and Kong, I think a lot of long-time friends and acquaintances would stop speaking to me. I choose Kong. I do not like to choose between them and spend far much more of my time watching Godzilla movies over and over again than Kong movies, but I have a thing for a long list of famous apes in general. Spectreman's Dr. Gori and Karas, Mighty Joe Young, the original King Kong and Son of Kong, and Planet of the Apes are among my all-time favorites, and Koko had a huge impact on me as a kid. This puts Kong in a special category as a beast not far removed from humanity. Godzilla is a force of nature. Kong is a force of emotion, and he is the giant monster originator of the 20th century. Although the final line of Godzilla 2000 states that we can see a little of ourselves in Godzilla, we can see even more of ourselves in Kong. Kong: Skull Island was solid giant monster fun, and I look forward to seeing the direction the new Legendary Monsterverse takes. Mostly, I just hope they pronounce Ghidorah's name right. If you're not saying it like Nick Adams in Monster Zero, then you're wrong.
Logan is easily in my top five movies for 2017. Like the DC movies, I have avoided the X-Men franchise ever since The Last Stand and have only seen Deadpool and the last half-hour of First Class when I caught it on a cable channel. I enjoyed Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, but even he never drew me to see any of the solo Wolverine movies until Logan came along. I have been a huge fan of What If...?, Elseworlds, The End stories, and parallel universe/future stories because they can play around with canon. Logan was the Marvel MAX of superhero movies, and it was long overdue for a comic-based movie to pack this kind of an emotional punch. It was a Marvel superhero version of a gritty samurai tale, specifically Lone Wolf and Cub with the introduction of X-23, and there was a good dose of The Road Warrior mixed in for good measure. It is a shame that the franchise did not risk taking Wolverine in this direction much sooner. I have followed a great many Wolverine stories in the comics over the years, and the biggest mistake that the X-Men movie franchise made was to glamorize him, but a faithful visual depiction of Logan probably would not sell tickets. Hugh Jackman is too good for the role in every sense of the word... until Logan. Logan does not glamorize Logan. Logan is Logan. Finally, Wolverine can be seen as the long-traveled, weathered, and tortured soul he has been, and we see more clearly his struggle with the animal inside.
Cross audiences tend to dismiss some of these movies and bring up the "fatigue" argument, but one point to remember about the superhero sub-genre is that it can be formulaic and non-formulaic at the same time. The presence of superheroes is a backdrop. What we are seeing now with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in a grander fashion, is a rebirth of theatrical serials not unlike the 1940s adventures of Batman and Robin, Captain America, Captain Marvel, and other classics like The Crimson Ghost. The only problem, the real "fatigue" involved, is that this is no longer the 25-cent all-day kiddie matinee and that each new superhero movie is not broken down into 15-minute chunks that always end with an explosion or someone going over a cliff to entice you back to see the next chapter. Imagine being expected to go to a theater in 1949 and to see all 264 minutes of Batman and Robin in one sitting as a complete story. At the same time, I wonder what it might have been like to see the Marvel Cinematic Universe broken down into installments to revive that old theatrical tradition. Theatrical presentations of a few television shows have become a thing, but I would like to imagine having the option of going to a local theater every week to see the next episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. instead of tuning in at home. That volume of material, however, is a large part of the "fatigue" of the superhero movie of today more than anything else, and this is where Logan and Deadpool come in. They break away from the formula in just the right way. It is a shame that the X-Men could not share the same studio with the Avengers, but Logan and Deadpool had the right people involved in the project, making their stories more like a comic series that did its own thing instead of diverting away from a solid story for the company-wide crossover event of the week. It will be interesting to see how the MCU translates this concept in Infinity War.