The Harold & Maudecast's annual Best of the Year List: 2017
Starting with 15...
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Netflix's Mindhunter is a fascinating drama series based on John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker’s true crime book, Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit and follows the careers of agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany). With the aid of a psychologist (Wendy Carr), Ford and Tench delve into the minds of America’s most dangerous killers to look for thought patterns to solve ongoing cases and to create what is now the modern method of profiling for serial killers. While the show is certainly a slow burn, the payoff is worth it. David Fincher returns to the serial killer genre with a series that doesn’t bombard you with gruesome imagery while still managing to create a suspenseful, chilling, and intriguing story.
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A must-see for Game of Thrones fans, Gunpowder, is a three-part HBO miniseries starring, co-created, and co-produced by the King of the North, Jon Snow himself, Kit Harington. The miniseries shows us a glimpse of the life of Harington’s real life ancestor Robert Catesby (Harington). The story follows Catesby's vengeful search for justice on the days leading up to the fifth of November, 1605, known infamously as the failed attempt to overthrow King James I. The super-tight script features a great cast, including Liv Tyler (LOTR films, The Leftovers), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), and Tom Cullen (Knightfall), and is packed to the brim with wrath and violence. Whether you are a history buff, an action fan, or just a Thrones junkie looking to get your Kit Harington fix, this is what you should be bingeing on a cold winter’s afternoon.
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We would be simply remiss in not including this Christopher Nolan epic on our list. Arguably the most cinematically stunning film of the year (without the use of CGI, no less!), Nolan gives us his version of the 1940 battle and evacuation of DUNKIRK through three different lenses: by air, by land, and by sea. The all star British cast includes Tom Hardy (swoon), Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, fresh-faced Fionn Whitehead, and even a weird-but-somehow-works appearance by Harry Styles. While this is without a doubt a war movie, Nolan swaps blood and gore for the heroic story of the civilians who brought their own boats to the beach of DUNKIRK to bring their soldiers to safety as the highlight of this film.
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Hugh Jackman's swan song as Wolverine in LOGAN does not disappoint, starting with its R rating. Fans of the X-Men franchise have longed for the claws to be unleashed in all their bloody destructive glory. Following the success of DEADPOOL studios seem more willing to take a chance on the R, and in this case it really pays off LOGAN delivers the brutal action fans have longed for and much more. The film is black and white, which enhances the bleak, dark mood of the story. LOGAN chronicles a bleak, dark future for mutants where most of the X-Men are gone save Dr. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart ) . Logan (Jackman) has deteriorated in powers and strength but is given one last chance at salvation when a mysterious little girl appears in his life needing his help. Or does she... Make no mistake, this movie is a bit of a downer in terms of happy endings but Jackman's (possibly) career best performance combined with some truly beautiful filmmaking make it well worth the watch. It is without a doubt the best of the X-Men franchise films and a fantastic film in its own right.
Listen to our Review of LOGAN
11. Disney Buys Fox
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Yes, you read that right, in 2017 Disney announced plans to acquire 20th Century Fox for 52.4 billion dollars which includes the 20th Century Fox movie and television studio, all of Fox’s regional sports channels, the cable channels FX and National geographic, and all of their relations and contacts internationally. This deal may have been due in large part to 86 year old Rupert Murdoch’s uncertainty for the future of Fox and his subsequent desire to secure Fox's future success. What better way then sure bet Disney?! Ugh. The purchase holds dangerous potential for reshaping Hollywood, and marks the end of an era for one of the behemith's of Hollywood. The upside is there could be some interesting additions to the Marvel cinema universe...X-Men and Deadpool. Fears of Deadpool becoming Disney-fied have littered social media in the wake of the announcement. Rest assured fans! Disney CEO, Robert Iger said this in a recent interview, “It [Deadpool] clearly has been and will be Marvel branded. But we think there might be an opportunity for a Marvel-R brand for something like Deadpool,”
Promise Bob!? We shall see!
10. Warner Bros. Studio's Horror Made Here - Halloween Event
Photo Credit Sarah Mason
While the reboot of the 1990 clown classic didn’t quite make our list for best of 2017 (though we still gave it Justice, listen to IT Review) we do have to tip our hats to the incredible job that Warner Brothers Studios did in including the recreated Neibolt house in Horror Made Here, a Halloween haunt extravaganza on the Warner Bros Studio backlot in Burbank, California that ran over Halloween weekend 2017. This event was a smaller scale operation in comparison to Universal's Halloween Horror Nights. There were less haunts but that meant less people and less time waiting in line!!! Haunts also included The Conjuring house and A Nightmare on Elm Street including a Virtual Reality experience. There were were a smattering of great food and beer trucks, a make-up demonstration from contestants of SyFy's Face-Off series, and a tour of Warner Bros. backlot which was awesome! Warner Bros. really stepped up, did it smaller but WAY better. The Harold & Maudecast had so much fun (see attached evidence of green screen escapades) which is why it is #10 on the Best of 2017 list. Don’t forget your yellow raincoat and step right in - you’ll float too!
9. The LEGO Batman Movie
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This. Movie. Was. INCREDIBLE. Definitely the best animated film of the year, this was a super fun, well-written, and with a superb cast. Dive into a new, adventure for Bruce Wayne that was kid-friendly in the way the Nolan films weren’t without giving up an adult-appreciated biting humor. The star-studded cast featured Will Arnett as the Caped Crusader himself, Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, Zach Galifianakis as the Joker, and a whole slew of others including Rosario Dawson, Michael Cera, Jenny Slate, Channing Tatum, MARIAH CAREY (!!!), Jonah Hill, Zoe Kravitz, Conan O’Brien, Ellie Kemper, Adam DeVine… need I go on? As a follow-up to the original LEGO Movie, skip LEGO Ninjago, see this.
Listen to our REVIEW OF LEGO BATMAN
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Thrones fans seeking to fill a void may have found their way over to the FX original series, Taboo, a provocative look at the dark, dingy streets of London in the early 1800s. Tom Hardy stars as James Keziah Delaney, a presumed-dead prodigal son returning home after his father's death seeking to rebuild the family shipping empire. Created by Ridley Scott, Tom Hardy and his father, Chips Hardy, this bloody drama confronts betrayal, conspiracy, and even the supernatural. Check it out, and while you’re at it, check out HMC’s podcasts on Taboo in the archives - we love this show!
7. John Wick 2
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We cannot even begin to tell you how excited we were to see Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne reunite on the big screen after fifteen years for another super-stunt filled film! We loved the first John Wick, and the second installment lived up to its hype. The writing is great - surprisingly hilarious at times, actually, but one of the best parts of the entire film is seeing Reeves’ physicality and expertise in stunt performing burst through the screen. This dude does not do anything half-ass. He trains hard and performs his own stunts. His performance as a former assassin brought out of retirement reminds us of Reeves’ himself: the former Matrix star brought back after years into another intense action role, and it is clear that, like his character, Reeves’ physical capabilities have not faded with age. The world-building former stuntman turned direct Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad do is phenomenal. We can't wait for John Wick 3!
Listen to our REVIEW OF JOHN WICK 2
6. The Leftovers Final Season
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The Leftovers for many viewers was a tough one to get into, slow and directionally confusing at first, but if like us, you pushed through, the payoff was one of the greatest in TV history for this show is brilliant. The final season showcased it's master craftmanship in filmmaking to a higher degree than could be imagined. Created by Damon Lindelof (Lost) and Tom Perotta (ELECTION), this story portrays a world which is fascinating, innovative, unimaginable yet at the same time deeply real. Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, and Ann Dowd drive this series with their passionate performances, and deserve so much more recognition during the awards season!!!
Listen to our reviews of The Leftovers Series Finale
5. Taika Waititi
B&W Photo credit insta @taikawaititi. Pineapple Onesies SDCC Photo Credit, Sarah Mason.
This dude. He makes our list as a real human being because of how awesome he is, and for his unsung brilliance up until he helmed one of the year's biggest box office successes, THOR: RAGNAROK. A sort of surprising pick for many fans, Waititi is known for his eclectic style and creative storytelling in films such as 2016's HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE and 2014's WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, but if giving an independent, creative director a shot at a big super hero seems to be a winning formula these days (Patty Jenkins anyone). Taika brings his quirky, unique wit to the Marvel franchise and mixes up one of the most criticized elements, the score. Adding former Devo frontman Mark Mothersbaugh, Taika took a bold chance with a tired blueprint and it works -- one of the best things about the film is the score. Keep this vanguard in the front of your minds. This guy is a creative genius with impeccable fashion game. Can we make pineapple onesies a thing in 2018?
Listen to our reviews of Taika's films, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE & WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
4. Game of Thrones Episode 7.04: “Spoils of War”
Photo credit Sarah Mason
Don’t get us wrong, we freaking LOVE Thrones. Always have, always will. But we simply cannot bring ourselves to put the entire season on our Best of 2017 list, because, to be honest? There were plot holes throughout the season so gaping that Drogon could fly through them, and don’t even get us started on the idiocy that was that “Beyond the Wall” episode. We all know that ravens don’t fly that fast. That being said, it is undeniable that there were some pretty epic moments throughout the season (ahem, Jon Snow’s butt), not the least of which being the cinematically gorgeous, nail biter of a battle between Daenerys, her dragons, the Dothraki, and the Lannister army. Like Wolverine’s claws in Logan, we finally got to see those dragons put to good use, and one of the best parts of the episode, nay, season, was watching the Dothraki ride into battle. We have never seen either the Dothraki or the dragons really fight and this was a game changer. Jaime’s face watching his army get lit up by dragon breath pretty much sums it up. Take a listen to our full review in WE TALK THRONES: SPOILS OF WAR.
3. Harrison Ford at the Blade Runner 2049 Panel SDCC
This one sneaks into the list cause, Harrison Ford y'all. His appearance at SDCC 2017's BLADE RUNNER 2049 panel was our favorite moment of SDCC. When asked by a fan in the audience, in a somehwhat snarky tone, "Are you planning on rebooting all your franchise characters?" He responded,
"You're goddamn right I am"
2. Wonder Woman
This past summer, for the first time since her creation by William Moulton Marston in 1941, the most dominant female character of the superhero genre - Wonder Woman - was given her own feature film, WONDER WOMAN ! Remarkably, it only took 76 years to do so. Just for comparison, Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s “Batman” has had seven feature films produced across 77 years, and Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster’s “Superman” has produced six across 83 years. The project was spearheaded by Patty Jenkins, a decorated director who aspired to create a Wonder Woman feature film her entire life. The role of the badass, compassionate, demigod feminist hero was revitalized by Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who subsequently and quite deservedly became an overnight icon. The film has been celebrated by critics and viewers alike, and with a first weekend box office of 105m dollars became the highest-earning superhero film with a female lead, the highest-earning origin superhero film regardless of the sex of the lead, and the highest-grossing female-directed film of all time. Yes, women!!!
Before we reveal our very top pick of the year, we have to sneak in a few more things we loved, but didn’t quite make it to our Top 15.
Stranger Things The Game
We loved falling in love with the fearless kids of Hawkins Indiana the first time around in the Summer of 2016, and we loved watching their story continue the second time around. We kept this off the big list because of its slow buildup, less bingeable quality, and for that horrible standalone episode where El almost switches to the dark side, “The Lost Sister.” What we did love about the continued Stranger Things franchise, though, was the new Stranger Things Mobile Game, a surprisingly awesome, user-friendly free download. Check it out and take your own trip to the upside down! Check out article Deeper Dive: Stranger Things Season 2 for more thoughts on Season 2 and Listen to The Harold & Maudecast's Review.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss returns to the screen alongside Joseph Fiennes, Alexis Bledel, Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovsk and Leftovers’ Ann Dowd for Hulu’s television adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s bleak dystopian novel of the same name. The actresses in this series of female leads deliver some of the most raw, vulnerable, and powerful performances of the year, delivering a real and harrowing fictitious world.
Arguably The Handmaid's Tale should have made the top 15. It deserved all the awards it won, and more. It navigated the source material while building its own visual universe brilliantly. So why is it only an honorable mention? At the time of The Harold & Maudecast's airing of the annual Best of the Year podcast we had not completed viewing the entire series, regretfully. We stand by our list but look for Season 2 to top the Best of 2018 list most certainly.
After disappointing us with the prequel to ALIEN, PROMETHEUS (2012), we thought the franchise was dead. But you can never count out Ridley Scott who found a way to breath new life into the ALIEN world with ALIEN: COVENANT. Though the film received mixed reviews amongst critics and diehard fans, this sequel to the prequel is action packed and full of reimagined and terrifying Aliens. Michael Fassbender (X-MEN: APOCALYPSE) gives a chilling performance in a dual role as android(s) David/Walter which also reprises his role from PROMETHEUS. Katherine Waterston (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM) proves herself action worthy and there's some fun supporting performances from Danny McBride (Vice Principals), Jussie Smollet (Empire) and Billy Crudup (JUSTICE LEAGUE). A sequel to this film is in the works to be released in 2019. If you missed it, and you're a fan, give it. another look. ALIEN: COVENANT is now streaming. Need more incentive?
Listen to our Review of ALIEN: COVENANT
LIFE, starring Jake Gyllenhaal (PRISONERS), Rebecca Ferguson (MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION) and Ryan Reynolds (DEADPOOL) follows the expedition of a small team of celestial explorers on the cusp of discovering extraterrestrial life on Mars for the first time, but not without consequence. This film was the victim of poor marketing. The overplayed trailers exploited Ryan Reynolds signature snarky DEADPOOL style and positioned him as the film's lead, when actually his part is small. If you give this film a chance you will find that in fact it is a space thriller with a fresh take on the sci-fi/ horror genre. While the story is one that we have seen many versions of before, the space monster that Director Daniel Espinosa (SAFE HOUSE) introduces us to is refreshingly original, and leaves us with a lot of unanticipated jump scares and bloodshed. We highly recommend you check it out, now streaming.
And now, without further ado… Our top pick of 2017....
1. Blade Runner 2049
BLADE RUNNER 2049 was, in our opinion, the best viewing experience of the year in both film and television, for a number of reasons. While Ridley Scott did not return to direct this film, Director Denis Villeneuve (ARRIVAL, SICARIO), embraced the seemingly impossible task of producing a worthy sequel to what is largely considered the greatest sci-fi film ever. Villeneuve's vision paid homage to the 1982 classic yet challenged and expanded on the philosophical themes addressed in the original. Harrison Ford gives a career best, Ryan Gosling stepped effortlessly into the futuristic role and look at Dave Bautista go! He continues to show his range beyond hired strong man into gifted actor. Although the film did not get the box office attention that it should have, we feel that BLADE RUNNER 2049 should be racking up a good handful of Oscar nominees this award season. If you haven’t already, what are you waiting for!?
Listen to our Review of BLADE RUNNER 2049
Most Anticipated 2018 Films
What do you all think about our picks for the year? Agree/disagree? Let us know! And for those of you who are just trying to leave this year behind and move on, here’s each of our most anticipated films for 2018!
Ready Player One
One of the most anticipated book-to-screen adaptations EVER, (in the nerd universe) is Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Ernest Cline’s 2011bestseller, READY PLAYER ONE. There's never been more fan pressure to get it right. But who better to turn the most iconic 80s characters into Virtual Reality heroes than the man who created most of them himself?! The role of would-be hero Wade Watts / Parzival is played by Tye Sheridan, young Cyclops in X-MEN: APOCALYPSE and the upcoming X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX. The cast is made up of prestigious veteran actors including Ben Mendelsohn (THE DARK KNIGHT, ROGUE ONE), Oscar winner Mark Rylance (BRIDGE OF SPIES), TJ Miller (DEADPOOL, Silicon Valley), Simon Pegg (STAR TREK franchise, SHAUN OF THE DEAD) and Olivia Cooke (ME AND EARLY AND THE DYING GIRL). If the footage we saw at Comic Con and the most recent trailers are any indication, READY PLAYER ONE could be one of the best sci-fi films of 2018 and beyond!
Avengers: Infinity War
Teaser footage for the Avengers ultimate mash-up, INFINITY WAR, premiered at Comic Con 2017 and we were pretty excited. The big question will be -- is more, more? When it comes to Avengers. Over the past couple of years Marvel has been racking up films for all of their different superheroes and super-gangs, INFINITY WAR ties all these characters and plot lines together to fight ultimate Marvel foe Thanos (Josh Brolin). Remember this is Part 1 so in true Marvel/Disney fashion we will undoubtedly be left hanging in some capacity. Still, the excitement of seeing the Guardians, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Iron Man and the whole gang together is pretty effin cool.
Listen to The Harold & Maudecast's round up of this list on their Best of 2017 Podcast.