Darke Reviews | Best and Worst of 2017

Tried this last year, seemed to work. Let’s go again – top 6 movies and worst 6 movies. 38 movies reviewed this year 12 make the list.


  • Now this list is strictly based on movies I have watched as part of a First Run experience in theatres.
  • Boycotted Movies don’t get to make the list – so no Kingsman.


Best of 2017

    1. Wonder Woman
      This shouldn’t surprise anyone, not only was Wonder Woman one of the most watchable and re-watchable films of the year. It was a landmark movie as the most profitable movie by a female director (Patty Jenkins) ever, best DCEU movie, best Superhero movie of 2017, 5th best Superhero movie ever (behind the two Avengers movies and two Dark Knight movies), bringing in over $412 million domestic for a total of $821 million world wide. DC nailed it with this one and it shows. They beat Marvel to the punch and proved it could work, despite Marvel CEO’s saying it couldn’t. Wonder Woman lived up to her name and truly was a wonder…and the best movie of 2017.
    2. Blade Runner 2049
      This one didn’t fare as well at the box office bringing in only $91 million (domestic) on its $150 million budget. I truly believe they misjudged the market for this one as much as anything. This is an amazingly well crafted, cerebral, and beautifully shot. It makes number two on my list without question.
    3. Logan
      Just watched this again the other night. It holds up so well. It is unlike every other superhero movie that has come before, well used R-rating aside, it is both heartbreaking and visceral at the same time. None of the others have managed to do what Logan did. It has a few flaws in Act II but still just an amazing movie breaking outside its own genre.
    4. It
      Three viewings in and a fourth today this, the highest grossing horror movie ever, is an amazing adaptation of the material. While I will admit some of the horror is lost over the successive viewings, it holds up and I think it will continue to hold up for years to come. I do worry about the sequel though based on some things I have heard…
    5. Atomic Blonde
      This one beats out John Wick 2. The action is amazing and done in camera. Long tracking shots of fights. Charlize Theron doing much of her own work. The music is incredible. I’ve watched this five times now and still enjoy every minute.
    6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
      Three viewings of this one as well, as promised in the review. It is flawed in a few areas, but is still one of the better films of the year for pure entertainment and structure. It uses its budget well, the actors are all on point.

Special Mention: The Shape of Water – I watched this the other day and did not get a review up. My bad. It would have made the list about this spot, or beat out Star Wars. Yes. It is that good.

Worst of 2017

  1. Geostorm
    I was torn between this and Flatliners, but really this was worse. Its harmless, but it is just bad across the board with few if any redeeming qualities to it.
  2. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
    I am just copying my TL;DR for this one: It is a kinetic, frenetic, frenzied mess of a film with no sense of itself. It isn’t bad enough to be mocked by MST3K or good enough for me to actually hate it. It just is a disappointing film in which the actors I think try but are hampered by a script held together by bailing wire and day old bubblegum; and direction that leaves me wondering what happened to Guy Ritchie.
  3. The Dark Tower
    Originally in my number three spot. I considered this one so bland it left me unfeeling where I felt real anger at Covenant. Its a mess. I might have moved it to number five, but I think King Arthur has some aspects that are ok, but none of this works. None.
  4. Alien: Covenant
    A beautifully shot failure. Every aspect of a solid Alien movie is missed here. Every aspect of Good Sci fi is missed here. Nothing works and it left me angry.
  5. The Mummy
    This was almost the worst movie of the year for me. Its bad in every single capacity. From the first trailer to its final credits roll, it does nothing right. Nothing good. Nothing interesting. Ok it did cast Sofia Boutella, but misusing her so badly is a crime in itself. It absolutely nuked the Dark Universe that they were planning and for that I am thankful if the rest would end up like this. It could be saved, but not with this as a groundwork.

Special Nomination and Worst Movie

Ghost in the Shell

This was in my rollover text on the review of the 1995 film and deserves to be shown in it’s raw form now: Screw this movie in the face with a rusty chainsaw dipped in blow fish poison wielded by someone who has a personal hatred for that face.

As you know when the first casting came out I was against it due to Scarlett Johansson, who is a good actress, being given the role over someone like say Rinko Kikuchi, or any other of the dozens of Asian actresses who should have gotten the part. I have talked about White Washing before on several reviews. I am going to link to the bowl of raisins story again because it still explains it better.

Mostly white people go “I don’t see the problem”.  It has nothing to do with her acting. I am sure her acting is fine. The problem is the part could and should have gone to any number of Asian actresses. You are going to see counter videos of people going to Japan and speaking with Japanese people what they think. They in the clips shown – don’t seem to have a problem. They of course are not looking for representation of themselves in Western media. They aren’t looking for heroes, icon’s, actors, actresses, stars, and the people we look up to here to go “I can be that”. Representation matters.

Fine. Ignore both sides of the theoretical argument of who could have and should have been cast. The weak excuses about why it was done. The spoiler. They literally white washed the character. Literally.

The character in the movie was a Japanese girl named Motoko, who was kidnapped and had her brain implanted into a Caucasian cybernetic body and had her identity stripped from her. 

What the actual…

How..can anyone justify this? Please tell me.  They literally took an Asian and “improved her” and made her white in the process.  It doesn’t matter that most reviewers I have watched said its great visually, but ok otherwise. Just ok.  They literally and figuratively white washed her and have spent the past year defending it.

This movie needs to be burnt to the ground. This is a problem and folks – you need to help stop it. Please stop supporting movies like this.



So that concludes my list – thoughts? Feelings? What are your best and worst of the year?


Darke Reviews | Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)


I only say this as I found out today more than a few people don’t read my reviews as they are afraid of spoilers. Thought it would be worth it to recap that, especially on what has been one of the most anticipated movies of the year. Now as to the movie, I have given my fan girl credentials before so no need to do so again. Let’s get to the meat of this review right away and not waste anymore time with my usual preamble. Not even going to get quippy or referential with the question I ask:

How was the Last Jedi?

The movie was written and directed by Rian Johnson who doesn’t have a lot of credits to his name, but is beloved by the majority of the folks who have seen his previous work; most especially 2005’s high school retelling of a noir mystery film Brick. 2012’s failed film Looper of course gave folks pause, but his vision on that was clear its how the studio muddied the waters that left a far murkier film that should have been better. Of course that brings us to The Last Jedi and Disney, ok Kathleen Kennedy specifically, giving the reins of one of the most profitable franchises ever to a director who is at best 50/50 on his success. Granted this can come from his ability to be directed by the producers effectively so they don’t run into a Gareth Edwards (Rogue One) situation again, yet at the same time it is also trusting a man who its clear has vision and capabilities that exceed many of his peers in the past ten years. What could he do with that opportunity I wonder?

For one he could make a solid Star Wars movie that doesn’t lean too heavily on what has come before. While I am sure there will be people who invariably compare it to Empire Strikes back, and there are similarities in more beats than I like, it doesn’t hit it as close as Force Awakens did to A New Hope. The arc of the movie is wholly original within the Star Wars stories we’ve seen before, and even a majority of other science fiction. He does manage to craft real tension and characters into the story that have purpose, meaning, and weight to them which only adds to your investment into the story. You come to understand why Luke gave the look he did at the end of Episode VII. You get more into the psychology of Rey, Finn, and Poe to a point that they are truly exploring their own arcs and identities and all of it makes sense and shows the characters growing into the people they are meant to be for better or worse along the journey. It is a much smaller story than we are used to as well, and while it does hit the three planet rule most of the other films do, they aren’t the focus or even a true backdrop to appreciate against the overriding pulse of the film – with perhaps the exception of Crait.

Yet, it is far from flawless in its scripting and story. It is bloated with truly unnecessary characters and beats, which hurts when you consider the movie runs just over two and a half hours from crawl to credits end. There’s easily ten to fifteen minutes of unneeded footage in the film that does nothing to add to who the characters are, their arcs, or the arc of the greater ‘verse that is being told. There are too many humorous beats that don’t work or are otherwise just a touch awkward and out of place. It’s not nearly as bad as Thor Ragnarok was in this regard, but it was noticeable. Frequent readers may go something like this now “Jess, you don’t like comedy” and this is true for the most part. The trick here is this piece of feedback, while noticed by me, was commented on by my movie going partner this time and they DO like comedies. A few jokes here and there are good, and there’s more than a few that land just right. The movie did edge into the land of too much comedy and oddly modern dialogue here – but only just a little. There are other flaws beyond this though that detract from the movie if you think about them in the slightest; most of which are flaws in logic and for me a few beats of “why was that needed?”

The actors were all on point though, Daisy Ridley (Rey) continues to impress, Oscar Isaac (Poe) can do no wrong, and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) glowers his conflict well. Carrie Fisher will bring you to tears every time Leia says farewell to another, even if she comes across more Carrie than Leia – but she’s earned that. Mark Hamill (Luke…duh) was a joy and gets to do far more than glare this time.  We need to talk though about John Boyega.  His character isn’t treated as well as he could be, but damnit if this man can’t react so well with his face. I absolutely loved him in Attack the Block and he continues to impress here and show a wider and wider range. I don’t think next years Pacific Rim movie will do him any favors, but I promise you he is going to act and emote his heart out like he did here. Alas; even in casting there are weaknesses. Familiar faces show up and while one may not detract (Laura Dern) another (Benecio Del Toro) did for me. It is great and all to have familiar actors in these roles and I am sure they loved getting to act along side the others and be in a Star Wars film, but some folks just have a certain presence they bring with them which can be detrimental to the production – even if it is *very* minor. You would expect Jack Nicholson to swagger and smarm his way through any performance, Clancy Brown to use his voice and physical presence, and with Del Toro you expect some weird voice affectation and odd body language that just leaves him feeling off. He does that here and it just doesn’t work (for me).

EDIT INSERT HERE: I did not talk about Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico. She is a gift and I owe her an apology for not including her in the review when I first published it a few minutes ago.

From a technicals perspective there’s much like the rest of the movie good and bad to discuss.

Johnson’s camera work with his long time cinematographer collaborator Steve Yedlin (Brick, Looper, Carrie, San Andreas) know how to move the camera for the most sense of scope, scale, and action. There is a good use of wide shots and pans with good angles to let you appreciate what you are seeing, while the close ups really bring you into the characters emotions. The shots on the planet Crait (white and red planet from the trailer) are gorgeous and weighty and I could watch those a few more times happily. There is nothing ill to say about the camera control here, but alas there is in the effects department. I know right? This is an absolute nitpick but there are enough unfinished – just not quite looking right – effects that eject you from the moment. Conversely there are hundreds that are beyond amazing with one in particular that is breath taking. There is an inordinate amount of practical work and puppetry here that brings a tear to the eyes and gives me hope we will see more practical in the future thanks to films like this and Blade Runner 2049.

John Williams Score. Its perfect. Fight me.


The Last Jedi does live up to its hype with me. It is a good movie that verges on the edge of great, but within the pantheon of Star Wars it is truly solid with its dedication to practical effects, characters you care about, and a story you want to see to the end. It does feel a bit long towards the end but nearly everything pays off in a satisfactory way. This review wasn’t going to convince anyone one way or another, but we or at least I write these to praise movies for what they do right and call them on what they could do better. The things this could do better are minor and really could help edge it into one of the great Star Wars films, but even a good Star Wars movie is better than the majority of what we received this year and last combined.

Should you see it?

Why are you asking me? You already plan to. Seriously though its good. I like it a lot. I am a bit overly critical but you can get that way after seeing literally hundreds of movies in a year and as my understanding of film theory grows my critical eye does as well.

Are you going to see it again?

At least once, probably twice.

How about buying it?

Without a second though. Yes.

Can I have a little spoiler? Tell me about Luke or Leia or something.


How about Carrie Fisher – did they do right by her?

She’s our Princess and our General; I and this movie salute her. I understand that there’s enough footage for her to be in Episode IX posthumously, but if this one was all we had. I’d be OK with that too.

Any last thoughts on the movie?

Rian Johnson did a good job. The franchise was in good hands and I am looking forward to see what he does with his new trilogy that is being green lit – that isn’t tied to the Skywalker arc.

Also, I like the Porg still.


May the Force be with you to my Jedi friends and to my Sith may the Force serve you well.