Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and God Hates Geeks.
15. Logan – From my God Hates Geeks review: “Logan is the mercilessly barbaric Wolverine film you have always wanted chock full of blood, gore, and extreme vulgarity even South Park would be proud of. Hugh Jackman’s swan song to the character is beautifully bleak and James Mangold can finally say he did the source material proud (for the most part, anyway).”
14. War for the Planet of the Apes – From my review: “You love these characters, want to spend more time with them, and want to see what the fate will be of this unfortunate world, but the ending to War is so perfect; powerful, gut-wrenching, and flawless that you ponder if further sequels will perhaps tarnish a glorious legacy. War for the Planet of the Apes is the third sequel all franchises should aim to have in their filmography. A film this far along that still packs this gargantuan emotional impact with heartfelt implications and action that is explosively meaningful. These films get better and more satisfying with each entry. War for the Planet of the Apes is one of the most sincere and one of the most human films to experience in theaters this year. Andy Serkis is a monkey god among men.”
13. Thor: Ragnarok – From my review: “Thor: Ragnarok takes a ridiculous amount of pride in being outrageously silly resulting in a different kind of superhero film that alters the landscape (even if it is only a slight alteration to the MCU formula) and has a hell of a lot of fun in doing so. Screenwriters Eric Pearson (Agent Carter), Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost (creators of X-23) and director Taika Waititi have found a way to unleash the inner slapstick colossus usually buried within each and every superhero. Thor: Ragnarok is a spontaneity driven juggernaut that puts the “comic” back in “comical.””
12. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – From my review: “It’s a bold statement to say that The Last Jedi is better than Empire, but personally speaking it is currently my favorite film of the franchise. Rian Johnson has limitless potential when he returns with the trilogy he’s currently developing, but with The Last Jedi he takes the Star Wars franchise in a direction it’s needed to go since Return of the Jedi ended 34 years ago. The film is brilliantly mesmerizing with a dazzling use of color, the action sequences are perhaps the best they’ve ever been, and the comedy in the film made a guy who generally rolls his eyes at everything laugh like a damn fool for two and a half hours straight. The Last Jedi takes you to emotional destinations the other films fail to visit. I said this about Rogue One, but I mean it to an even greater extent now, this is what The Force Awakens should have been and everything the franchise should aim for from here on out. Rian Johnson has revitalized what I considered a stagnant franchise.”
11. Dave Made a Maze – From my review: “Dave Made a Maze is extremely straightforward when it comes to its storyline, but its identifiable execution and unbelievably awesome inventive nature makes Bill Watterson’s debut an adventurous quest with quirky humor that is well-worth diving into a life-threatening cardboard contraption. Dave Made a Maze is one of the most ingenious cinematic journeys worth venturing this year.”
10. Colossal – Nacho Vigalondo’s directorial debut, Timecrimes, is not only a great first film but also a solid time travel film. It’s interesting that ten years later, Vigalondo was capable of doing something different with the giant monster genre. Speaking directly to the inner Godzilla and kaiju fan within me, Colossal revolves around a creative concept and some awesome performances from both Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. Throw the slightest meaning or strong performance in a film combined with giant monsters and human emotions and you pretty much have me for life.
9. mon mon mon Monsters – A Taiwanese horror-comedy directed and co-produced by the multi-talented Giddens Ko. Other than being a filmmaker, Ko has written over 60 books with most being adapted into films and the guy is only 39. Ko came up with mon mon mon Monsters during a very dark and depressing period of his life, which factors into the atmosphere of the film; humans are cold and heartless to a universal degree while you relate more to the monsters in the film who are just trying to survive. Currently undistributed with no release scheduled, mon mon mon Monsters was another highlight from Fantastic Fest. From my unpublished review: “Bullying destroys the world created in mon mon mon Monsters, which seems to say that the simplest act of kindness and selflessness that takes the least amount of effort goes further than anyone could possibly imagine. A monster’s carnage seems to symbolize one’s own narcissism being capable of tearing each and every one of us from the inside out. mon mon mon Monsters concludes with giving into a battle that can’t be won and that the majority of us can’t be saved from ourselves. Giddens Ko has constructed a jewel to the horror genre that brings the ugliest desires of the average human being to life and gives those dark desires a demented playground to lustfully frolic around in before squandering those desires in a murderous, blood-soaked rage. Twisted, memorable, and dishearteningly satisfying, mon mon mon Monsters gobsmacks its audience with the desolate greatness of Giddens Ko.”
8. Wind River – Taylor Sheridan, writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water, takes a stab at directing while unleashing this quiet beast of a film. Wind River has Jeremy Renner’s Cory Lambert reliving the past while he’s chasing the present. The dialogue is sharp, the story fascinating, and the action is intense when it wants to be like a wolf sneaking up on its prey.
7. Jupiter’s Moon – Hungarian writer/director Kornel Mundruczo (White God) tackles immigration in a sci-fi drama that seemed to be mostly hated at Fantastic Fest. After being gunned down while crossing the border between Syria and Hungary, Aryan suddenly has the ability to float in the air. His superhuman abilities result in the film’s most incredible sequences with camera techniques that are absolutely breathtaking. A broken world attempts to pick up the pieces when a miraculous individual gives them hope, Jupiter’s Moon was unlike anything else I saw in 2017.
6. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – After In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, writer and director Martin McDonagh can pretty much do anything and I’ll be there opening weekend. With memorable performances from Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards approaches a serious subject while injecting fantastic on-screen characters, laugh out loud humor, and unbelievable circumstances into a truly outstanding film. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are at their very best here.
5. The Killing of a Sacred Deer – From my review: “Its operatic open heart surgery opening screams from the rooftops that The Killing of a Sacred Deer will be unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. Visually and structurally unnerving with dialogue that has absolutely no filter and sickeningly amusing undertones, The Killing of a Sacred Deer often leaves you speechless with so many feelings that dig deeper than Alicia Silverstone’s unbelievable finger sucking and deep-throating.”
4. Okja – From my review: “Okja is a one of a kind film that is capable of making you feel this wide range of emotions; it’s heartwarming at times, gut-wrenching at others, makes you laugh at its highest points, and has you holding back tears at its darkest moments. Bong Joon-ho’s latest film has shades of My Neighbor Totoro, Pete’s Dragon, and The Iron Giant with a slaughterhouse sequence that will rip the heart from your chest and leave it gushing on the floor. Okja is dark yet lighthearted at the same time. Bong Joon-ho has created something special and incredible that is easily one of the year’s best films.”
3. Blade of the Immortal – I adore Takashi Miike films even if his rape fetish gets a little overbearing at times. Blade of the Immortal is to samurai films what Mad Max: Fury Road is to action/car chase films; it is basically a no-holds barred samurai duel to the death that lasts the entire film with a constant stream of opponents rushing in whenever someone is defeated. Gloriously bloody, fun, and a theatrical crowd-pleaser, Blade of the Immortal will have you craving another 100 films from Takashi Miike.
2. Your Name. – From my review: “Your Name is one of the greatest time traveling stories ever told; animated or otherwise. You discover this undying love for Taki and Mitsuha as they unravel just how much they need one another over the course of the film. Makoto Shinkai has delivered an anime film that is just as alluring (if not slightly more so) as a Studio Ghibli film with a powerful story and marvelous animation that is as lifelike as traditional animation can get. Blissfully psychedelic at times with magnetic chemistry between two characters you become totally and completely invested in, Your Name broke Japanese box office records for a reason. This anime film is unlike any other and is a film so enticing and so fantastic that you have to witness all of its beauty and elegance for yourself.”
1. The Shape of Water – From my God Hates Geeks review: “Everyone has their favorite Guillermo Del Toro film, but on a personal level The Shape of Water speaks to me the most. The film feels like Del Toro at his very best as it juggles heart-wrenching tragedy, sharp-witted humor, and heartwarming brilliance. It is without a doubt my favorite film of 2017 and one of the few films that has ever made me cry; the first in a movie theater. On one hand, it’s sad to hear that Del Toro is taking a year-long sabbatical from directing after the release of this film. But if Del Toro had to step away temporarily, having The Shape of Water be that final curtain to remind us how exquisite our existence is despite our race, color, gender, or species then that’s just as beautiful, tragic, uplifting, and amusing as the film makes you feel over its 123-minute duration. The spectrum of emotion you experience during The Shape of Water is unlike anything else to be released this year. Del Toro has this personal understanding of flawed humans and eccentric creatures resulting in something magical and wondrous.”
© 2018 Chris Sawin