Top Picks of 2017: Mindhunters, Multiple Personalities, and Masters of None!
With 2017 quickly fading from our minds as the new year presents a plethora of fresh films and television shows set to blow us away, I wanted to take the time to drum up some of my top picks for film and TV from last year. Whether it's some of my favorite things I reviewed in 2017 or the things that popped up on my radar later in the year, here's a collection of just a few of the films and shows that had the greatest impact on me last year:
Netflix After Dark - Serial Killers, Time Travel, & Even Stranger Things:
Stranger Things: Season 2 - While I never got around to actually reviewing the second season of the Netflix powerhouse series Stranger Things on the blog, the newest dive into Hawkins, Indiana, and its hidden horrors has been rattling in my brain ever since its more-than-appropriate Halloween release. With the second season not only propelling the 1980s-set cast of characters even closer to the mystery behind Will Byers' (Noah Schnapp) disappearance last season, but also providing a viable arc for Millie Bobby Brown's enigmatic Eleven to explore her mysterious abilities, the second outing for the horror homage series gave audiences yet another highly-bingeable season to devour.
Mindhunter - While Stranger Things might have taken up most of the beginning of the fall season on the small screen for me, another highly-anticipated show to pop up on the streaming service was Mindhunter. Based on the accounts of renowned criminal profiler John Douglas, the newest crime show to catch my attention worked to explore the darker realms of criminal investigation, through the eyes of serial killers themselves. As its semi-biographical premise weaved between detailing the vicious crimes of these killers (based on their monstrous real-life counterparts), and the lives of the people who yearn to understand them, Mindhunter was easily my favorite show of 2017.
Dark - Even as the shadow of Mindhunter still loomed overhead, especially as I dove into the book it was based on soon after finishing it, my thirst for addictive psychological thrillers on the small screen didn't seem to rest as I caught onto yet another highly-bingeable series. While the German-language Netflix series Dark seemed to be a very unconventional choice, especially since I don't speak a word of German, the engrossing tale of missing children and the mysterious force that ties them together ended up being another favorite of mine this year. And who doesn't love traveling through time in German!
Wormwood - A later venture I took into Netflix this year was the six-part docuseries Wormwood. While less supernatural than Dark and Stranger Things, the December release felt more akin to Mindhunter as it delved into the true crime mystery behind an unlucky scientist caught up in a CIA conspiracy like no other. Blending documentary-style interviews with the scientist's troubled son and others with a seething narrative that sprawled from 1953 into present-day, Wormwood ended up becoming a nail-biting dissection of government secrecy and biological warfare, all while trying to uncover the cryptic death of a man who knew too much.
Parks & Rec & Beyond - TV Stars Breaking Loose:
Master of None: Season 2 - While dark Netflix series based in reality like Wormwood and Mindhunter ruled the small screen for most of the end of 2017, the summer presented another favorite of mine in the sophomore season of the comedy series Master of None. With Season 1 of the Netflix hit propelling comic Aziz Ansari beyond his time on NBC's Parks and Recreation into a stellar leading man in his sensational solo debut, Season 2 only furthered my love for the satirical series and Ansari's zany protagonist. Enlisting not only in the beautiful landscapes of Italy, but also in a charming new love interest in Alessandra Mastronardi's Francesca, Master of None remains a great source of social satire and bubbly characters.
Ingrid Goes West - While actress Aubrey Plaza has had a number of starring roles since the end of her run in Parks and Rec, alongside Aziz Ansari, in films like The Little Hours and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, none have perhaps matched her obscure yet nuanced performance in this year's Ingrid Goes West. While the dark comedy from director Matt Spicer, costarring Elizabeth Olsen and O'Shea Jackson Jr., might not have been at the top of my list of films to see this year, I'm quite glad I saw it before the year closed out. With Spicer spinning a wild premise of a social-media-obsessed fan (Plaza) embarking on a trip to Hollywood to stalk a celebrity (Olsen), while a bit unconventional, Ingrid Goes West was a hilarious and poignant portrait of our current social-media-crazed reality.
Superhuman Stand-Outs - Wall-Crawling Debuts & Wonder Women:
Spider-Man: Homecoming - After nearly five live-action films featuring the iconic web-slinging superhero, 2016 finally managed to toss Peter Parker/Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War. With newcomer Tom Holland delivering a stellar debut for the character, even with less than fifteen minutes on-screen, the road to Spidey getting his own film within the realm of Iron Man, Captain America, and others seemed to be more than promising. With 2017 fast-tracking said film, and subsequently tossing in Robert Downey Jr. into the mix, Spider-Man was made anew with Spider-Man: Homecoming. While the newest debut for the character still might not top the likes of 2004's Spider-Man 2, it stands as one of the most exciting Spider-Man films to grace the big screen.
Wonder Woman - While a new Spider-Man film in 2017 seemed inevitable, one of the biggest surprises in the superhero genre last year found itself in Patty Jenkins' sensational take on DC's Wonder Woman. Making for a thrilling big-screen debut for the influential female hero, as well as a spark of hope for DC's cinematic universe, Wonder Woman brought a visual elegance and a gripping tale of humanity worthy of becoming one of the year's best films. Even while 2017 continually built up the highly-anticipated Justice League, director Patty Jenkins and star Gal Gadot easily stole the year.
The LEGO Batman Movie - Even as November's Justice League worked to propel Ben Affleck's Batman to further acclaim as one of the leading stars of the DC Extended Universe, my favorite film of 2017 to feature billionaire Bruce Wayne was without a doubt February's hilarious LEGO Batman Movie. Building off the success of 2014's acclaimed The LEGO Movie, with its many self-referential jokes and bold animation style, Chris McKay's witty follow-up managed to expand the world constructed in the 2014 film, and spin a phenomenally satirical Batman film at the same time. While Affleck might kick ass as the newest, self-serious live-action Dark Knight, Will Arnett kills it as the hero's no-holds-barred comedic counterpart.
Blockbuster Misfires - Stellar Science Fiction & Arthurian Adventures:
Blade Runner 2049 - With 2017 delivering a number of big-budget features with enough promise to make waves across the box-office, one film in particular stood out as one of the year's most intriguing box-office misfires. Even as Arrival directer Denis Villeneuve set out to bring audiences back into the bleak future of Blade Runner, equipped with a stellar cast including Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, the film ultimately fell under its expected box-office earnings to becoming a surprisingly disappointing sci-fi sequel. However, even while the film garnered poor numbers at the box-office, the bold and imaginative sequel did managed to leave a pretty distinct mark on me. With the visuals of the 1982 neo-noir classic bleeding into the sequel, and the performances delivering an effective ounce of humanity, Blade Runner 2049 remains a sleepy hit for me, despite its lackluster earnings.
Ghost in the Shell - Another sleeper hit of 2017 was the live-action reimagining of the Japanese manga Ghost in the Shell. Even as the film fell under similar lackluster earnings like Blade Runner, as well as becoming the subject of a diversity-driven casting controversy, the Scarlett Johansson-led cyber-thriller made for an action-packed feature to kick off the spring season. While not nearly as fine-tuned as the 1995 animated film, nor the manga it's based on, 2017's Ghost in the Shell was effective cyber-crime fodder to fill its two-hour runtime.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword - Going into Guy Richie's King Arthur adaptation, I expected at least two things from the film: seething dialogue flowing from bearded men at break-neck pace, and fast-paced action set to the tune of a swindling score that may or may not include the inklings of an Irish jig. While I got those things and more, Richie's tossed-together assembly of Arthurian legend and blockbuster action didn't hold enough wit and witchcraft to garner a promising box-office debut. Still, while the film isn't nearly as good as other Guy Richie offerings before it, King Arthur offered up full-throttle action and a Jude Law performance just maniacal enough to make it the best Arthurian-focused film of the year (sorry Transformers: The Last Knight).
Horror Highlights - Dancing Clowns & Haunting Hospitals:
It - While Get Out and mother! might remain the most talked-about horror-centric films of 2017, I couldn't leave a film like Andy Muschietti's It off the list of my top picks of the year. While thoughts of the film might spark undesirable memories from the year for me for reasons unrelated to the actual film itself, It was one of the year's most enjoyable horror-turned-coming-of-age films. Spinning a small-town tale that nearly matched Stranger Things in its introduction of a delightful gang of monster-hunting kids, all while making me adore Bill Skarsgard's nuanced performance as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, I loved It from its slow-burning terror to its unrelenting dark humor from its sensational young cast.
Split - While I'm still a bit in the dark on the confirmed connection between this film and M. Night Shyamalan's 2000 film Unbreakable, Split, as a standalone film, made for a surprising reawakening for my interest in the Sixth Sense director's repertoire. While he fell under plenty of scrutiny for both 2010's The Last Airbender and 2013's Will Smith-starrer After Earth, returning to the horror genre may have been the best possible option for M. Night Shyamalan. With the psychological thriller tossing up not only great performances from leading man James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy, but a compelling and claustrophobic premise as well, Split was one of the most lasting horror efforts to stick with me in 2017.
A Cure for Wellness - Another rather fascinating psycho-thriller to come out of 2017 was the Gore Verbinski film A Cure for Wellness. While the film might have quickly become an early bomb at the box-office for the year, something about the film still drew me to the theater. Basking in its lush yet grim visual palette, and its bitterly sardonic leading man in Dane DeHaan, the film ended up being a disturbing yet highly engrossing film I had no trouble devouring. While it might not match other far-better balanced thrillers of the year, a fan of visionary directors and their capabilities behind the camera like me appreciated a film like this among the many superhero blockbusters and stirring dramas of the year.
While there still might be plenty of films, television shows, and other things I surely missed in 2017, these represent just a handful of some of my favorite on-screen debuts I witnessed this year -- and hope to witness again in the new year. With that, what were some of your top picks of 2017? Let me know your favorite films and TV shows in the comments below!