2015's "The Force Awakens" breathed new life into the "Star Wars" saga. For years the franchise had slowly been undone by ill-received prequels, retouchings, and add-ons that made the once-great property look like a money-grubbing joke. "The Force Awakens" restored heart to the series, balance to the Force, if you will. Fans were excited about the new direction of the franchise and wondered where it would take them next.
NOTE: This movie is playing on less than 1,000 screens in the country, so it might not yet be in your area. But its popularity is growing, so be on the lookout for it in the coming weeks.
2015's "Room" never reached a wide enough audience to justify a review from me, but if it had, I would have absolutely gushed over the performance of then-7-year-old actor Jacob Tremblay. It was the kind of breakout performance that instantly guarantees an actor a lifetime of work in Hollywood. Brie Larson, who played Tremblay's mother in the film, won the Academy Award for Best Actress, and I'd argue that he acted circles around her.
I cannot overemphasize how badly 2017 needed "Coco." After 2016 saw no fewer than four animated films end up on my year-end Top 10 list, this year has been one of the worst in recent memory for animation. I barely have anything nice to say about "The Boss Baby," "Despicable Me 3," "The Lego Batman Movie," or "Smurfs: The Lost Village." Critics treated "The Emoji Movie" like a sign of the apocalypse and "Leap!" was even shoddier.
What can I say about "Justice League" other than that the DC Universe is way too late to the party on this? The film is of course trying to capture the magic of "The Avengers," the unprecedented superhero team-up movie from the Marvel Comics Universe in 2012. DC has wanted to hone in on the "expanded universe" market ever since. The DC people didn't want to look like they were copying Marvel exactly, so they beat them to the punch on the "superheroes falling out" movie ("Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice") and came out with an unanswered "supervillains teaming up" movie ("Suicide Squad").
"Daddy's Home" was one of the worst movies of 2015. I took two hours out of my Christmas Day to cringe through an obnoxious feud between a doting stepdad (Will Ferrell) and an underactive biological father (Mark Wahlberg) over the love of their shared kids. Because that movie had a cushy holiday opening, it made enough money to warrant a sequel. "Daddy's Home 2" is somehow even worse, making me appreciate the few things the original did right that this one lacks. As it stands, this movie is a Madea Halloween away from being the worst movie of 2017.
It's been over two years since we've seen Thor (Chris Hemsworth), which seems like forever in Marvel Cinematic Universe time. He missed the dissolution of The Avengers in "Captain America: Civil War" and the rise of several new superheroes. We missed a lot with him as well. He broke up with his girlfriend and got himself imprisoned by a fire demon. The demon wants to bring about Ragnarok, or the destruction of Thor's home planet of Asgard, which essentially means the end of everything Thor holds dear.
I had never seen any of the "Saw" movies prior to "Jigsaw." The first seven films all came out before I was doing this column regularly, and I had no desire to pump money into a franchise that promoted unapologetic gore. That isn't to say I didn't do my research in preparation for this film. I knew that the action would be based on elaborate traps devised by John "Jigsaw" Kramer (Tobin Bell). I knew that his motivation is to make people who have disregarded human life in the past find new respect for it... if they survive.
Tyler Perry has been writing, directing, producing, and starring in movies about his Madea character for over ten years now. So how is it that this movie is so incompetently made? If this were a first-time filmmaker, I could maybe chalk the film's painfulness up to inexperience or a lack of resources. But as this is Perry's 17th directorial effort, and these movies do well enough that he can easily arrange financing, I don't feel unreasonable in saying that "Boo 2! A Madea Halloween" is simply the work of a hack.
Tree (Jessica Rothe) is having an unhappy birthday. She wakes up in the bed of a stranger named Carter (Israel Broussard). Carter's roommate says something disrespectful. She gets hassled by an environmentalist. She's being stalked by an ex. She lives in a sorority house run by a judgmental bully. She's annoyed by her own roommate (Ruby Modine) and throws the special cupcake she made into the trash. She's late for class, but she's off the hook because she's having an affair with the married professor.