Posts Tagged Best and Worst
As with any other year, 2018 saw a slew of both good and bad films, however, some films that may appear on other critics’s lists may not appear here, either because I didn’t like it as much as them, I didn’t get a chance to see it, or it was a Netflix exclusive, as I can be more selective with my choices. That doesn’t mean I didn’t see plenty of mediocre films that deserve to be part of the worst, however, the scales were a little imbalanced this year. I saw 125 movies, 61 of which scored an A- or higher (which is pretty much in line with past years), while only 10 scored a C+ or below.
As I point out every year, this list is compiled of only movies I saw from January 1 to December 31 (with the exception of Mary Poppins Returns, which I saw in the first week of 2019, but prior to compiling this list). With that said, here are my picks for the best and worst of 2018!
Top 10 Best
Bonus Choice (#11) — Hunter Killer
Gerard Butler has an uneven record when it comes to the quality of his films. He doesn’t necessarily change all that much, keeping macho bravado alive while easing nicely into intellectual depth and suave charm. When he stars in a bad film, it’s more than likely the fault of the director unable to keep his overt scenery chewing in check, or a script that feels like it was written by a ten-year old. This year saw two films that highlighted Butler’s masculinity: Den of Thieves, where his machismo was on full display, and Hunter Killer, which allowed Butler to show off a gritty exterior but remain subdued, allowing director Donovan Marsh to expertly navigate the film through the murky waters of drama and tension. Everyone involved was on point, but Butler was the core that helped keep the peril, and thus the heart-pounding tension, alive.
#10 — Mary Poppins Returns
Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt) returned and was able to fly her way into my top ten list with her no-nonsense magical touch. Blunt couldn’t quite match the same subtle transitions from hard-nosed, no-nonsense nanny to sweet, charming fun-loving whimsy that Julie Andrews delivered to the iconic character, and the songs don’t feel as natural or majestic as the likes of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, but they both came really close, giving the film the spark it needed to draw you in and keep you interested. What makes Mary Poppins Returns truly sing are Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer as Michael and Jane Banks, the children from the original film now all grown. As Michael tries to find a way to save his house from the evil bankers, Mary Poppins drops in to supply her unique brand of support by watching over his three children (Nathanael Salah, Joel Dawson, and Pixie Davies), a brood of smart, likable kids that give the film its true voice.
#9 — Bumblebee
Unlike a lot of people, I’ve liked all of the Transformers films. Much like Star Wars (continue reading), I can overlook the flaws and enjoy the film for what it is — a mind-numbing crash-course in entertaining chaos. Which is also what makes Bumblebee such a refreshing change. Not only does it continue the tradition of large metal robots fighting one another in completely nonsensical situations, but Bumblebee is probably the first Transformers movie that allows itself to have some emotional depth. Hailee Steinfeld does a terrific job as the eighteen-year-old catalyst to showcase the origin story of Bee (before he became a Camero and hunted down Sam Witwicky) and how the Autobots first arrived on Earth.
#8 — Instant Family
Mark Walhberg and Rose Byrne are at their best as a couple who want to enhance their lives by adopting a child. The child they connect with, Lizzy (Isabela Moner), though, comes with a brother (Gustavo Quiroz) and sister (Julianna Gamiz), so the couple have to navigate the rigors of being parents with more than they bargained for. Because the film is partially based on director Sean Anders’s own experience with foster care, the movie works as a sweet family drama that highlights what it takes to foster and adopt a child. Nothing about raising a child is all candy and roses, and that’s shown in how the couple stress over whether they’re doing the right thing. Much like previous films on this list, it also hinges on one performance in particular — Moner, who conveys a natural conflict of emotion between body language and what she says and does. She’s a teenager who wants desperately to be with her biological mother, but needs to provide her siblings with the best life she can. All of it combines to make a film that feels true to itself.
#7 — Deadpool 2
Two years ago, Deadpool landed in the number 5 position on my Best and Worst List. Now he’s back with more swagger, more foul-mouthed antics and more fourth wall-breaking quips. This time, though, he’s bringing along a few extra toys to play with, including Zazie Beetz as Domino, a woman whose superpower is luck, and Josh Brolin as Cable, a man from the future whose mission to kill a young boy (Julian Dennison) is predicated on losing his daughter to that very boy. Anytime you introduce time travel into a film, it can be problematic, but Deadpool 2 gives this aspect enough importance to have fun with it, but not so much that it impairs the overall narrative. The best thing about the film, though, is its ability to subvert all expectations, something a lot of filmmakers have a hard time doing in this age of instant gratification and movie trailers that show way too much in their trailers.
#6 — Game Night
Speaking of trailers revealing too much, comedies have a tendency to give away all of their best jokes in their previews. Luckily, Game Night found a way to provide a lot of great moments in the trailer to peek your interest, but then add in a secondary level of action, dramatic tension and comedic pairings that heightened the jokes and sequences that originally hooked you. There is a lot to like in the film, especially Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams, who pair together perfectly, lending the film a solid foundation that allows everyone else involved (especially Jesse Plemons as a super creepy neighbor) leeway to heighten their personalities without pushing the film off the rails. Add in a solid premise and some very well-crafted action sequences, and you got yourself one incredibly fun night at the movies.
#5 — Ready Player One
Ready Player One is one of those films that many will love for the nostalgia-heavy references, and others will hate for the same reason. It’s pretty obvious which way I fall, even though I am not a huge fan of pushing nostalgia for nostalgia sake. Having Steven Spielberg at the helm adds some extra depth as it traverses through a plethora of mostly eighties pop-culture, providing a reason for the bounty of references. The script does have its flaws (I was just as confused about why Olivia Cooke’s birthmark was so terribly disgusting, as it made her look rather cute, to say the least), but because of the richness of the Oasis and Spielberg’s flair for charming whimsicality, Ready Player One is able to do what it sets out to do — capture the imagination and transport you back to being a kid.
#4 — Black Panther
This was inevitable. Aside from Black Panther being the highest grossing film domestically, it was also a really good film. Did I buy into all the hype the film received as the best movie in the world, ever? No. As you can see, in my opinion, there are three films this year I consider to be better. However, what director Ryan Cooglar was able to accomplish with creating a new technologically-advanced world while adding a political layer that doesn’t overpower the film was a masterful feat. In any other year, this film may have made it higher on the list, yet there were just a few other super heroes (including T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) himself) that did just enough to give Black Panther a run for supreme authority.
#3 — Incredibles 2
One of those superheroes is actually a family. Many might say that Incredibles 2 was all too familiar, as it nearly recycled the plot of the first film with a simple gender swap — instead of Bob/Mr. Incredible (voiced by Craig T. Nelson) hiding his off-the-books work as a superhero, this time, it’s Helen/Elastigirl (Holly Hunter). They wouldn’t be wrong, but one reason I felt this movie deserves its place on this list is Jack-Jack. As Elastigirl heads out to fight crime, Bob must stay home and care for the kids, and along with trying to contend with the emotions of a teenage girl and new math, Jack-Jack is his biggest hurdle after learning of his plethora of powers. The movie is light and fun and director Brad Bird splits up the “team” very successfully to speak to the greater narrative. Through some well-done action sequences and another great round of talented voices, Incredibles 2 gives us a taste of a new character that may be just what the franchise needs to give it vigor should it decide to add a chapter 3 that goes beyond shooting lasers from a babies eyes!
#2 — Avengers: Infinity War
We’re seeing double with this entry. Chadwick Boseman makes it into the top 5 twice as the same character, while Josh Brolin appears as a villain in two top 10 films, the second of which is Thanos, who wants to unleash a universe-wide genocide with the snap of his fingers. Both Thanos and Cable (see Deadpool 2, above) have their reasons for being evil, but there are much higher stakes in regards to Thanos, and as the (almost) entire Marvel Universe comes to together to stop him, we get some great pairings that wouldn’t otherwise be possible or necessary. We all knew pairing Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) with the Guardians of the Galaxy would be cause for some great comedic moments, but it also gives Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and Dr. Strange (Benadict Cumberbatch) the opportunity to build on their personalities to provide one of the stronger team-ups of the year. On the ground, Captain America (Chris Evans) and his band of rebels join forces with T’Challa (Boseman) in Wakanda to protect the final stone from Thanos’s clutches. The film balances its comedic moments, action sequences and dramatic flair with great care, and lends itself to a finale that beautifully sets up what will no doubt be the ultimate of cinematic experiences this upcoming April when Avengers: Endgame arrives.
Another year, another Star Wars making it to #1. Of course I’m biased — Star Wars will forever be ingrained in my blood, and I don’t think I will ever be able to criticize the films in a way that would keep me from loving them. I understand why a lot of people choose to focus on their flaws; in fact, I can pick out plenty of flaws in all of the movies. However, there’s a feeling that the films produce hidden under everything else, and Solo is no exception. Many argue that they didn’t need to see the origin of how Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) met, or how Han pulled off the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But, unlike those critics, I found these moments to be entertaining, especially the Kessel Run. Ron Howard had to pick up the pieces after Phil Lord and Chris Miller apparently bungled the essence of the series, and I believe he did a fine job giving us something we could all enjoy. (I will say, if there was one thing that was completely unnecessary, it was the origin of Han’s last name. If Han had given it to himself, great, but to have it provided to him by the Imperial officer just seemed a little too asinine and off-putting.)
Top 5 Worst
#5 — Assassination Nation
Within the first ten minutes of Assassination Nation, I was about ready to walk out of the theater. The style, the acting, the script — they all felt dirty, unrealistic and sadistic. I held true, though, and slogged my way to the end. Though the acting and the ideas started to become tolerable, and some of what director Sam Levinson was trying to say made sense and felt authentic, no one in the film is likable, coming off as conceited trash that deserve what’s coming to them. In the end, the movie could never get past that first impression, reverting to the lowest-common denominator of violence and political intrigue that didn’t add up to much except sickening exploitation.
#4 — Hotel Artemis
With all of the terrific actors that populate Hotel Artemis, you’d expect a much better film than we actually got. Jodie Foster does nothing but attempt to provide an acting showcase, and Jeff Goldblum, though strong, is unable to convey any sort of character whatsoever. Even Charlie Day does his best impression of Charlie Day and fails. Because the characters are so bland, there’s nothing to connect to as you traverse a simplistic plot overlaying a future that has no setup whatsoever. It’s just a bunch of characters meandering about in a film with no depth and no reason to care. You’re better off seeing Bad Times at the El Royale, a much better film with a cast that actually gives a crap.
I can’t say I was a big fan of the first two Hotel Transylvania films, but at least those films had some substance to them. Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation on the other hand, feels more like Grown-Ups 2 — a chance for Adam Sandler to get together with his famous friends and play for a couple of months with nothing of importance to show for it. The film tries to set up a plot involving Van Helsing (voiced by Jim Gaffigan) and the murder of Drac (Sandler) and his monster friends, but there’s so much fluff and unnecessary scenes surrounding the main story that go absolutely nowhere. Take for example the story of Wayne (Steve Buscemi) and his wife (Molly Shannon) dropping their kids off at daycare so they can spend time on the cruise alone. It’s a z-story that has no purpose; it’s just another thing to amuse the kids and extend the run-time because the rest of the story doesn’t know where to go beyond what could have been a half-hour jaunt on Nickelodeon. In other words, it would have been better to leave the bulk of the characters at home instead of trying to stuff them all into this film and take up time and space that would have better served the core story.
#2 — Hostiles
There’s no denying Christian Bale is a terrific actor; he makes every performance count and always gives 110%, no matter the weaknesses that surround him during production. The problem is, if those weaknesses are too great, no matter of performance will help. That’s the case with Hostiles, which seems to drag on in a slow, steady pace that never allows the film to provide any weight. Despite some terrific performances by all involved, the connections between characters are so bland and disconnected, that it causes the film to feel even more morose than it actually is, leaving behind nothing more than a wasteland of boredom.
#1 — The First Purge
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original The Purge, but at least the film had some semblance of personality, purpose and intrigue. Not The First Purge, which finds itself retreading the same type of bland treachery as the previous two sequels but without a cast of characters or a plot to add any personality. On top of it all, the film spends so much time trying to prove a political point-of-view, making the heroes and villains literally black and white (respectively), what usually masks itself as a voice of reason devolves into nothing more than an hour-and-a-half of biased propaganda.
What do you think? Did I exclude any? Did I add something that never should have made the list? Give me your top ten lists in the comments below.
Most Surprising Death: Nick (Frank Dillane), Fear the Walking Dead
As always, there were plenty of shocking deaths this past season: Klaus and Elijah Mikaelson (The Originals), Charlotte (Lucifer), Clayton (NCIS), Rufus (Timeless), Quentin Lance (Arrow), Roman (Blindspot), Fitz (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Mia (Humans), Alison (The Affair), poor little Ferguson (New Girl), and of course the bloodbath that is The Walking Dead (which has never been shy about killing characters. Corl. CORL!). However, The Walking Dead‘s sister show, Fear the Walking Dead, has always been more hesitant when it came to killing its core players, so it was a real shock to the system when Nick (Frank Dillane) was suddenly shot in the 3rd episode of season 4. Not only was it a complete surprise, but it was so unceremoniously produced. One moment he’s reflecting on the (at the time, possible) death of his mother (Kim Dickens) and then bang. Gone. After surviving so much — walking with walkers; a complete bridge collapse — Nick is shot by a fourteen-year-old girl (Alexa Nisenson) avenging the death of a man who all but brainwashed her. It just goes to show, you never know when your time is up, so always make the most of the time you have.
Sad to See You Go Award: Lucifer (Lucifer, Preacher, Supernatural)
It may be surprising that there were even this many representations of the King of Hell on television, but we lost not one but three Lucifer’s this season, and each one hurt just a little. First in line was Supernatural‘s Lucifer, who was obliterated by Jack (Alexander Calvert). As portrayed by the always awesome Mark Pellegrino, this version was a remarkable character — fun, goofy, sarcastic and menacing all at the same time. Then there was Preacher‘s version of Satan (Jason Douglas), who, after sending out his troops to bring Eugene (Ian Colletti) and Hitler (Noah Taylor) back to where they belong, as well as collect Tulip (Ruth Negga) to help secure Jesse’s (Dominic Cooper) soul, was shot dead at point blank range by the Saint of Killers (Graham McTavish), who then left Hell in the capable hands of Adolf Hitler. Finally, there was the announcement that Lucifer was canceled by FOX, and the thought of not being able to see Tom Ellis’s suave Lucifer hoof it through Los Angeles solving crimes with detective Decker (Lauren German) any longer was sad to say the least. Praise be to the heavens that Lucifer was picked up by Netflix, so at least there’s some saving grace in witnessing the ultimate villain perish multiple times in one year.
Most Promising Career Potential: Harper Grace
She may not have made the top 24 on American Idol, but Harper Grace shouldn’t worry. When she first appeared at her audition, she brought with her a charm that sold me on her original song, “Yard Sale”. What could have been a corny little ditty became a clever tune with just the right touch of heart and whimsy. Her touch at writing was good, but it wasn’t until Hollywood week that she proved her talent wasn’t a fluke, when she sang another original song, “Rest In Peace” — a creative, soulful break-up song that if I had heard it on the radio, I never would have believed it was written by a sixteen year-old ingenue. It wasn’t her time this year, but look for Harper to have a long career, if not as a singer, than as a fantastic writer.
Welcome Back Award: Michael J. Fox, Designated Survivor
Michael J. Fox has made guest appearances on several shows over the last few years, but it never felt like he was truly back in the acting game since first being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. That feeling ended with his terrific, if not brief stint on Designated Survivor. As Ethan West, the special council investigating President Kirkman’s (Kiefer Sutherland) involvement in several circumstances that may have ended his run as President, Fox was a natural fit, attacking those around him with his blunt fervor, yet doing so from a place of integrity. I’m not sure whether Fox will continue on in the series after its recent cancellation and last-hour pick-up by Netflix, but I hope he does because he brought life back to a season that was starting to feel a bit stale and worn.
Most Morbid Game: Worst Case Scenario, This Is Us
In the season 2 finale of This Is Us, Randall and his wife Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) play a game in which they tell each other their worst fears on a topic to get their thoughts out into the open. It’s introduced as they try to cope with Déjà’s (Lyric Ross) seclusion after moving back into the home because her real mother told a court she wanted to give away all of her parental rights. Reasonable way to address your fears, no? We don’t find out how seriously morbid the game can get until Randall teaches Kevin (Justin Hartley) the game as they hunt for a missing Kate (Chrissy Metz) on the day of her wedding. After coming up with a seriously twisted idea in which Kate disappears and Toby dies from a heart-attack because of it, the facial expression on Kevin’s face is priceless. And so are the nervous laughs produced by such a morbid way of thinking. (Admit it; we all do it!)
Most Honest Critic: The auditioner’s dog, American Idol
Let this be a lesson to you: never bring your dog with you to an audition. During American Idol‘s new round of auditions, one of the contestants brought their dog into the room with them. Innocent enough, until the dog started going to the bathroom every time her owner started singing. I’m not sure how much of it was editing and how much of it was real, but the point is, it was hilarious and said everything we needed to know about the poor girl’s audition. It was, well, you fill in the blank.
Worst Special Effects: Ghost Wars
I couldn’t bear to watch more than one episode of Ghost Wars. Not because the acting wasn’t good (some of it was… some of it… meh), or the plot wasn’t somewhat intriguing (perhaps a bit of a rehash of other supernatural shows). No, the reason I couldn’t get past the first episode was the somber tone and the laughable special effects. Don’t get me wrong, some of the corporeal effects were fine, but everything else, including a bus dropping over a cliff into a fiery death made me feel like I was watching something out of the Sharknado playbook as opposed to a serious supernatural drama.
Oddest Big-Boss Battle: Beebo fights Mallus, Legends of Tomorrow
We’ve all come to love the weird and strange things that happen to the Legends of Tomorrow every week, but no one could have expected to see a giant, thirty-foot tall Beebo jump into action against the evil the Legends had been worried about all season long. In the third season finale, the team finally figures out how to fight Mallus (voiced by John Noble) and combine their elemental medals together to become one ultimate life force of joy, which ends up being the toy first introduced in an earlier episode (and also appeared on The Flash!). Watching this gargantuan, fuzzy blue bear fight and ultimately destroy Mallus was not only weird, but oddly fun and glorious, the perfect representation of what this show is — and that its not afraid to go big, no matter how off the wall it might get.
Weirdest Ingredient Choice: MasterChef
The most recent season of MasteChef got off to an interesting start when the contestants’ first mystery box challenge included ingredients representing each participant’s state. Florida got to cook with oranges; Wisconsin, cheese; Iowa, corn; Texas, steak; and California… spot prawns? As the contestants were cooking, one of the chefs was confused at why the California contestant, S.J., was cooking a Louisiana-style dish. I wasn’t. Spot prawns would have been a much better ingredient for someone from Louisiana. But from California? Anyone I know probably would have said avocados, or maybe even wine as the best ingredient to represent California. If they wanted a true Californian dish, that’s what they should have given this contestant. Weird.
Most Satisfying Conclusion: 12 Monkeys
When it was announced that the terrifically mind-bending film 12 Monkeys was going to be turned into a television series, I thought the studio execs had lost their minds. How could they possibly top such a classic piece of science-fiction? Then the show premiered, and all of my fears were laid to rest. The entire cast was a tremendous blend of personalities, matching the intricacies of the original cast while making the characters and the story their own. As the show deepened its mythology, weaving its own intricate story together, it grew more and more intriguing to the point I was disappointed to see it end. Thankfully, the producers took great care to make sure they used the final 11 episodes to perfectly untangle the web they had created. I can’t say I was totally on board with the final addition to the puzzle, but it didn’t matter. The moment James Cole (Aaron Stanford) was reunited with Dr. Cassandra Railly (Amanda Schull) was a terrific way to say farewell to such a perfectly executed series.
And with that, we close out the 2017-2018 television season. Come back next year for more television chaos!
Now that we’ve gotten through some traditional awards (check out Part 1), we begin the awards for specialty categories, starting with ones geared more toward the writing side of things.
Best Twist: The Exorcist
I don’t know about you, but I did not see this coming. Throughout the first five episodes of The Exorcist‘s second season, we got to know a handful of foster kids with individual personalities and troubles. One of those kids, Grace (Amélie Eve) was a shy, agoraphobic little girl afraid to step outside or meet new people. Her safety net was the love for her foster father, Andrew Kim (John Cho), as well as the potato sack she wore over her face to feel protected. At no point would I have ever thought this little girl was a figment of Andrew’s imagination. Perhaps it was the distraction the show gave us by keeping the priests’ story line separate for the first few episodes. As we all wondered when, how and why the two stories would come together, we forgot to notice that no one but Andrew ever actually communicated with Grace. The producers set this reveal up perfectly and makes you wonder… was M. Night Shyamalan somehow involved?
Most Poetic Story Arc: Niska (Emily Berrington), Humans
For three seasons, Niska, one of David Elster’s (Stephen Boxer) original sentient AIs, has been almost completely disconnected from the main story lines. Yeah, her stories occasionally weaved in and out of the overall arcs, but she was always an outsider, someone who wanted to be human, to fit in and be judged not because of what she was, but who she was. So it is very poetic that as Mia’s (Gemma Chan) journey comes to a devastating but necessary close, Niska’s journey has just begun. Once disconnected from everything, Niska has now literally become connected to everything (love those new purple eyes!), and is the key to leading Mattie (Lucy Carless) and her new hybrid offspring (who better be named Mia, or so help me…) into a brave new world.
Biggest Bombshell: The Blacklist
Ever since the first season of the series, producers of The Blacklist were adamant that Raymond Reddington (James Spader) was not Elizabeth Keen’s (Megan Boone) father. So it was a little disheartening to learn last season that, lo and behold, he actually was. There was always the lingering question as to whether Reddington somehow altered the DNA test results, and one big reason for this was the season-long mystery of what was in the duffel bag Reddington was hell bent on keeping secret. In the final moments of the season finale, we finally learned the truth — Reddington is in fact Liz’s father, however, the man we’ve come to know as Raymond Reddington is a complete fraud. It turns out the contents of the duffel bag belong to the real Raymond Reddington, so now the question is, why was he killed? And what reasons did the fake Reddington have to assume his identity? We’ll just have to wait for next season to find out.
Oddest Refocus: Kevin Can Wait
In what has to be the most blatant attempt at recapturing the magic from a previous show without rebooting that particular show, producers on Kevin Can Wait decided to dump female lead Erinn Hayes and hire Leah Remini as a full time member of the cast. How did they handle the situation? By killing Kevin’s wife without ever explaining what happened and then forcing Vanessa (Remini) into Kevin’s family as if she had been part of their lives forever. I never watched King of Queens, and there was a reason for that… I never cared for the chemistry between Kevin James and Remini; and based on this new iteration, I don’t think I ever will. Kevin Can Wait was never the best show on television, nor was it the best comedy — most of it was all rehashed and convoluted — but at least it had a spark that kept me interested. That spark fizzled with the change in focus to Kevin and Vanessa’s relationship and their new business venture. All I can say is, I’m not surprised the show was finally put out of its misery, giving Hayes the last laugh.
Most Heartbreaking Moment: This Is Us
You’d probably expect the most heartbreaking moment of the season to come from a show like This Is Us. But in a season of many heartbreaking moments, one stood out as being the most devastating, and no, it wasn’t Kate (Chrissy Metz) losing the baby. After Kevin (Justin Hartley) is injured on the set of his newest movie (and being triggered back to memories of his dad), he starts spinning out of control, leading to a deep depression where he’s all but drowning his feelings in alcohol. While doing so, he manages to ruin another relationship and have a one-night stand with an old high school friend. When he leaves this drunken fling in the middle of the night, he realizes he’s left the necklace his dad gave him behind and goes back to retrieve it. Cue the most powerful breakdown of the season. Because the woman is so angry with him for leaving, she refuses to give it back, leaving Kevin to hit rock bottom and wallow in her front lawn. Hartley did a terrific job building to this moment throughout the season, and as he sinks ever lower, screaming for someone to help him, you feel the devastation burrowing into your bones and can’t help but want to do just that.
Nice Try Award: Rise
In one of the closing moments of the final episode of Rise, Josh Radnor’s character’s son tells him that, “What you did here was amazing.” In regards to the final episode, this sentiment couldn’t ring truer. The episode that showcased the performance of the controversial play “Spring Awakening” was magnetic, heartbreaking, inspiring and full of passion. It’s a shame the rest of the series was so uninspired. Trying to capture the same dramatic magic of This Is Us, with the grit of Friday Night Lights, Rise came off as pandering to as many different groups as it could think of instead of being honest with itself. If the producers really wanted to make a mark, they would have taken a page from the play it was promoting by breaking the rules of convention. Instead it played it safe, and that is ultimately why it failed to gain the notoriety it so desperately desired.
This season’s most noticeable trend: Bad Military Dramas
With the success of TNT’s The Last Ship and History’s SIX, it was only a matter of time before the networks jumped on the bandwagon to produce their own hit military dramas. This season attempted to ignite that trend with three offerings that all felt basically the same without any clear distinction between them (which is probably why only one of them is returning). NBC kicked things off with The Brave, a contrived series that desperately tried to push a sense of tension, but failed to deliver because of its phony characters and lack of consistent story line (note to showrunners: when you set up an intriguing moment in the last minute of your first episode and then abandon that thread in the second episode with a throwaway line, it’s not a good sign that you’re ready to commit); CBS then brought us Seal Team, a bland attempt at showing us the ins-and-outs of what makes the Navy Seals tick. With drab, boring characters that had weak chemistry puttering about in a monotonous tone, I almost fell asleep waiting for something exciting to happen; and finally the CW tried to ignite a new arm for itself with Valor, a show that screamed CW all over the place, but couldn’t quite find the right balance between military intrigue and the lovers quarrel.
Best Christmas/Homage Episode: Lethal Weapon
I was quite disappointed with Lethal Weapon‘s first season Christmas episode when no one drive a car through Murtaugh’s living room. Well, the show made up for that this year, as producers finally paid homage to the film in some very fun ways. The story beats and circumstances are much different, but you could feel the vibe of that original film throughout the entire episode. Not only does Riggs drive his truck through Murtaugh’s living room, but the episode started with “Jingle Bell Rock” playing over the first scene. We got to see Riggs in a Christmas tree lot, as well as a twist on Riggs jumping off a building that not only moves the character arc forward, but makes fun of both the film and the series up to this point. To finish it off, the show also sent some love to another classic eighties cop series, Beverly Hills Cop, when Murtaugh goes into a strip club that just happens to be playing Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl.” Good job, Lethal Weapon. Let’s hope next year, you wont receive a Chaos award for the wrong reasons.
Weirdest Shout Out: Superstition
There are a lot of shows — mostly spinoffs — that make call-outs to their sister shows to not only give their worlds depth, but remind people about where they came from. Sometimes, call-outs to other shows can go a little meta, as with Supernatural‘s fun shout-out to ex-cast member Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s affinity for a barbed wire bat. What you don’t see very often (if at all) is a call-out to a show that doesn’t have any relationship to that particular show. In Superstition‘s first episode, Mario Van Peebles’ character is about to go out on a hunt for some supernatural being. After his son (Brad James) pulls the car around, Peebles opens the trunk and asks him, “You have an arsenal back here like Sam and Dean?” The reference came so out of left field, I had to rewind to make sure I heard what I heard. As far as I know, no character on the show has any relationship to the hunter brothers, and at no time were they ever connected to Supernatural, so why this reference would randomly pop up is beyond me. Does this signify that the producers of Superstition were hoping one day the worlds would collide, or was it just a lame attempt to associate itself with a much better show that this one tried to mimic to no avail? Based on the first episode, I’m guessing the latter.
Nice Recovery Award: Mr. Robot
After the incredible 1st season of Mr. Robot blew us away with its mystery of who Mr. Robot (Christian Slater) was and his relationship with Elliot (Rami Malek),the show went into a major sophomore slump, wherein I was almost ready to give up on the show. It had lost a lot of its first season edge and didn’t seem to know what it wanted to be anymore. Even the first few episodes of the third season dragged a bit as it tried to clean up its second season mess. But half-way through the season, it finally started to once again find its voice, culminating in one of its best episodes to date. As Elliot tries to stop the Black Army from executing its plan, we follow the action in what appeared to be a single shot during a hectic forty-five minutes that played so well — with great intensity and a pace that never let up — it reaffirmed why so many fans loved Mr. Robot in the first place.
Jump to the final round of awards for the 2017-2018 season, including the most surprising death, the most promising career potential and the most morbid game.
Every year I release my awards for the best of the television season. With the Emmy Awards on Monday, I will be delivering my awards in three parts over the next three days. (See previous Awards – 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013)
These aren’t your typical awards. I do have some traditional awards, but unlike the Emmys, I seek out moments that resonate in some way, whether it be ones that made me cry, made me think or just shocked me to the core. As always, these are based solely on the shows I personally watch, so if you saw a moment you think should have been included, feel free to pitch your greatest moments in the comments.
We start, of course, with some of the more traditional awards, including Best New Series, Best New Character and Best Ensemble. Onward to the Awards
I saw ten more movie in 2017 than I did 2016 (that’s 117 for those who are counting), and the reason I bring that up is because there was one less movie (57 as opposed to 58) that earned a grade at A- or above. (I’ll let you be the judge of what that actually means!) Like all year-end lists of the past, this one will only include films I saw in 2017 (or that came out in 2017, but earned award recognition), which means films like Molly’s Game (which, after seeing it, would have landed in the #4 spot had I seen in two weeks ago), I, Tanya and The Post weren’t considered, but films such as Patriot’s Day (which was officially released in 2016) were. With that said, here is what made going to the movies in 2017 both great and a bit terrible.
Best Cross-Over: Supergirl/TheFlash/Arrow/Legends of Tomorrow
Now this is how a crossover is done. Taking the kernel of an idea, Greg Berlanti and his team developed a four-hour (well, technically three-hour) mega-episode that gave us some incredible new team-ups and fresh interactions between characters that may never talk to one another again. Though the episode of Supergirl can’t really be considered a part of the crossover (since the part that included Barry and Cisco arriving on Earth 38(!) was only part of the last two minutes, and then repeated in The Flash), the other three episodes took the crossover idea to new heights, doing its best to include everyone while building on the mythologies of each individual show. Though it could be argued that the episode of Arrow diverged a little too far out of the crossover aspect, taking too much time inside the “fake” world and not enough time showing the team attempting to get them back, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow shined bright with action, intrigue and enough comic relief to leave you in stitches. With Cisco providing Kara a way to jump back to Earth 1 whenever she needs to, and each major character having gone through some transformation by the end of the event, we could already see what the repercussions of this major battle would take on each series moving forward, setting up not only future major crossover events, but mini one’s as well.
This season’s most noticeable trend: Movie to TV Adaptations
Television adaptations of movies is hardly a new concept. But over the last few years, it seems to have grown into a normal form of inspiration, one that will churn out half a dozen new shows based on movies every year. And just like any idea, for every adaptation that builds upon its source material in a terrific way (12 Monkeys, Bates Motel), there’s one that fails to come even close to living up to its predecessor (Rush Hour, Minority Report). Unfortunately, the trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, what with there being around 35 adaptations currently in the pipeline, even though the statistics continue to hold true. Four new movie adaptations hit the small screen this fall and all three were executed with just the right amount of flair. Lethal Weapon was the leader of the pack, doing what Rush Hour couldn’t — teaming two great actors to build on the mythology set up by Shane Black. It doesn’t try to be the movie; it just borrows the best ideas and runs with them in a funnest, most emotional way it can. Frequency also took this route, using the first half of the film to set up the show, then diverting quite well into it’s own must-see mystery. The Exorcist was at first an adaptation in name only… until they revealed that Geena Davis’s character was actually Regan from the original film, which only added some great dimension to an already scary, riveting show. And on cable, Shooter showed its might by staying true to the essence of the film while providing some good action among the mystery and intrigue. Alas, on the other side of the spectrum we had Taken, a feeble attempt at giving us Brian Mills’s backstory; Training Day, where, aside from the late Bill Paxton, the acting was mediocre at best and the vibe was completely lacking in energy; Uncle Buck, which never found a stable voice; and The Mist, which yes, is also another adaptation of the Stephen King short story, but never manages to find any semblance of the claustrophobia of either the book or the much superior film.
Coming Into Her Own Award: Happy Quinn (Jadyn Wong), Scorpion
Three years ago, when Scorpion first premiered, I commented that Happy Quinn was the worst character of the new year. I’m happy to say that over the last season and a half, Jadyn Wong has finally won me over. The more the show has come into its own, the more each character has found their place on the team, and the chemistry between everyone has become so easy and relaxing. But more to the point, Happy’s story arc involving her false pregnancy, her fake marriage to Walter (Elyes Gabel), and her real marriage to Toby (Eddie Kaye Thomas), though somewhat contrived for drama’s sake, truly took Happy’s character in a new direction, one that helped her evolve into someone I could get behind.
Creepiest New Character: The Tooth Monster (Channel Zero: Candle Cove)
When he first appeared, I wasn’t sure what to make of the this thing. Then you realize the creature is made up of human teeth. And I thought the Candle Cove puppet show that mesmerized (hypnotized) the kids was the creepiest thing on this show. Nope. Then to find out this is how Mike’s (Paul Schneider) twin brother Eddie (Luca Villacis), who Mike killed when they were kids, is able to manifest himself in the real world until he can take over his brother’s body, the whole scenario is just one big weird and bizarre experience.
Characters in need of a spinoff: Castiel (Misha Collins) and Crowley (Mark Sheppard), Supernatural
Supernatural has tried to do the spin-off thing before without success (and will try again soon with their planned Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) spinoff). One reason being, Supernatural stems from the chemistry between Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles), so without them, it’s hard to watch another generic Supernatural copy. However, if there was any characters that could be viably spun-off into their own show, it would be Castiel and Crowley. I know it was only a few short episodes, and the ramifications of the recent season finale would keep it from happening, but their team-up to search for Satan throughout this past season has turned out some of the funniest moments on the show. It would be a hoot to watch them become the new Sam and Dean, and because they are already established favorites in their own right, fans would no doubt tune in to see what crazy, scary and ultimately obnoxious cases they would take on. Heck, I like the idea so much, I made a poster.
Actor who’s better than the show: Barry Watson, Date My Dad
You know an actor is good when they leave a show and the quality sharply declines. For example, when Barry Watson left 7th Heaven, the show became so much soapier, it was immediately apparent he was the glue that help the saccharine in place. After battling — and beating — Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I’ve wanted him to make a great comeback in a show worth his talents. Alas, when Watson returned to television, he’s straddled with a show that’s so over the top and pathetically lazy that you can’t help but feel for him. Whenever he’s on screen, there’s a quiet energy and lightness about him and his surroundings; whenever he’s not, everything feels forced and hits with the thud of an anvil on Wyle E. Coyote. The overall writing and acting isn’t much better, cramming messages down our throats with labored performances and setting up situations even Lifetime wouldn’t touch. Barry Watson deserves so much more.
Best Halloween Episode: Last Man Standing
Holiday episodes can either come off extremely cheesy are become instant classics, especially on a sitcom. Usually, holiday episodes for a long-running show start to get tired (see Roseanne), as all of the best jokes are utilized early in the runs and the writers don’t quite seem to know where to go with them after a time. However, in its sixth season, Tim Allen and his team of writers came up with a Halloween idea that could have went horribly wrong, but was ended up being executed perfectly. As each member of the Baxter family dressed up as someone else in the family, it was clever to see each of the characters portray another in a cool meta sort of way, giving a fresh perspective on the characters while not overdoing the parody.
Most Surprising Death: Heather Pinkney (Jillian Murray), Code Black
Aside from The Walking Dead, most shows refrain from killing off their major characters unless their a sci-fi show where no character death matters because they always bring them back to life (and why Alice’s death, though surprising, isn’t at the top of the list). So it was very surprising to see one of the main doctors on Code Black succumb to a major outbreak at Angels Memorial. In a show like this, you tend to believe that any main character will be miraculously saved by a last minute realization of a cure. But Heather Pinkney became a major casualty when the virus took her before a cure could be found. Completely shocking, yet so in tune with the overall vibe of the show. RIP Dr. Pinkney. You will be missed.
Oddest threesome: Eliot (Hale Appleman), his Fillory wife (Brittany Curran) and a one-night stand, The Magicians
It may not sound odd on paper when Fillory’s newest high King, Eliot has a threesome with both his arranged wife and some new hookup he met when returning back to Breakbill’s. Here’s the rub: Eliot can’t physically leave Fillory now that he’s high king, so his fiendish friend, Margo (Summer Bishil) helps create a doppelgänger for Eliot that can travel back to the real world, one in which Eliot can control, but only when his other body is asleep. So, when he decides to hookup with some random guy at a party at his dorm in the real world, his Fillory wife decides to have some fun at the same time. As Eliot’s consciousness jumps back and forth between bodies, the man enjoys a threesome that the other two participants are unaware of. Yeah. That just happened.
And with that, we close out the 2016-2017 season. Come back next year for more chaotic television awards.
You’ve seen some of the more prominent awards (read Part 1), now let’s move onto some of the specialty awards.
Best Twist: This Is Us
This Is Us spent the summer months advertising a new drama that revolved around four people who happened to share the same birthday. How these characters would be connected, if at all, was still unknown. As the premiered episode progressed, and we grew more invested in each character’s emotional baggage, we learned Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley) were twins and Randall (Sterling K. Brown) was adopted. That in and of itself would probably have been enough to keep you interested for at least a few more episodes as the character’s grew. But it wasn’t until that last five minutes, when a firefighter joins Jack (Milo Ventimiglia), who earlier lost one of his triplets, at the baby viewing window in the hospital saying he brought in an abandoned baby, and then they cut to some random dud hangin’ out in seventies clothes and smoking inside the hospital that everything came into focus with a twist this side of Lost, — Jack and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) are everyone’s parents!! — sealing the deal that this show was going to be must-see TV.
Best Non-Series Finale: Once Upon A Time
In what probably should have been the series finale of Once Upon A Time, everyone got their happily ever after: Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) are happily married, Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas) have a happy family, Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) finally finds happiness with Belle (Emilie De Ravin)…. heck, even the evil queen (Lana Parrilla) gets to run off with Robin (Sean Maguire). The end was also a nice nod to the opening scene of the series when the little girl (Alison Fernandez) who’s been tasked by her father to protect the storybook finds her way to now older Henry’s (Andrew J. West) apartment, claiming to be his daughter and saying his family needs his help. It’s a terrific close to the loop of a fantastical series. But no, even with six main departures, the show will continue with this new story line. Where it goes, how they explain why Belle and Emma aren’t around even though Hook and Rumple are still regulars, I’m not sure. But my guess is, it would have been a much happier ending the show where they started instead of trying to milk some final cash out this waning property.
Best Milestone Episode: Arrow
Arrow‘s 100th episode had a goliath task: not only did it have to appease fans of the series by delivering the right amount of nostalgia and call backs to what made the show so good from the start, but it also had to bring in elements from the super CW-Arrowverse crossover. In writing the episode so that the team members that were all originally from Arrow (including Oliver (Stephen Amell), Thea (Willa Holland), Diggle (David Ramsey), Sara (Caity Lotz) and Ray (Brandon Routh)) were abducted by the Dominators, the team behind Arrow was able to accomplish both quite nicely — although it could be argued that in relation to the crossover, the episode felt more like a distraction. For fans of Arrow, it was great seeing all of the characters from the past in what amounts to Oliver’s own Flashpoint, in which he got to see life as it would have been had he and his father were never shipwrecked. It gave us all enough callbacks to the first few seasons with quick flashes from different characters as they learned they were being manipulated, and moved the show forward at the same time it settled into the crossover and pushed toward the conclusion in Legends of Tomorrow.
Most Insane Producer: Max Landis
If you have ever seen Max Landis in an interview, no explanation is needed for the ideas that seem to generate in the man’s head. With being a co-creator and occasional writer on Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and a producer on Channel Zero: Candle Cove, Max Landis brought the weirdest, creepiest, most bizarre characters to life this season — and it was mesmerizing to watch. He may seem like an odd duck, but his imagination is one magnificent, original hell. I can’t wait to see what genius he has in store for the future.
Most Sentimental Moment: Gibbs (Mark Harmon) hugging Palmer (Brian Dietzen), NCIS
Leroy Jethro Gibbs has never been the sentimental type. Yes he has shown his affection in different ways, such as kissing Abby (Pauley Perrette) on the cheek like a daughter or slapping DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) upside the head like a son, but he’s never shown true, loving affection. This revelation came out during the episode titled, “Keep Going”, which focused on lovable Medical Assistant Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen). When Palmer attempts to talk a kid who just lost his father from jumping off the ledge of a building, insights into how Jimmy sees all of his co-workers, including the harder than nails Gibbs, come to light. Palmer even goes so far as to talk about Gibbs’s wife and child, still a sore subject for Gibbs even after all this time. At one point he mentions that Gibbs has never hugged anyone, even when they sort of expected or needed one. But that’s Gibbs. So what a powerful moment it was when Palmer tries desperately to apologize for some of what he said, and Gibbs in true Gibbs fashion doesn’t say a word; he just pulls Jimmy in for one of the most sentimental hugs on television.
Best Homage: Joe (Jeremy Maguire) Modern Family
In an episode that saw little Joe trying to prove he’s just like his dad, Jay (Ed O’Niell), we also get a very subtle, blink and you miss it homage to another long-running Ed O’Neill sitcom. Sitting on the couch, watching television with his hand in his pants, little Joe just may have some Al Bundy in his blood as well.
Best Cameo Appearance: Lucille, Supernatural
Fans of Supernatural have been clambering for the return of Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s John Winchester ever since his final passing in season 2. Fans got a small taste this season as the actors payed homage to not only the character but the actor this season when a very special guest showed up for a quick scene. Ever since Morgan took the reigns of Negan on The Walking Dead, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padelecki and the producers of Supernatural ribbed Morgan by claiming that Big Daddy Winchester has used Negan’s most prized possession — his barbed-wire-laced bat, Lucille. On episode 15 of season 12, Lucille made her first appearance on the show, where Dean (Ackles) and Sam (Padelecki) come home after a battle carrying the bat. “Dad would have loved this thing,” Dean says. Ah, the metaness of it all. If we can’t have Morgan back on the show, this little wink was a nice surprise.
Too Soon Award: Michael Weatherly, Bull
Michael Weatherly’s departure from the still hit show, NCIS, hit a lot of fans hard. After all, what’s Gibbs without DiNozzo? I understand that actor’s sometimes need to move on. Just like any ordinary job, spending over a dozen years on the same show can become rather stale, and if you’re starting to phone in a performance, it might be best to move on. But to know that Weatherly already had a new show lined up even before the dust could settle on DiNozzo’s story was a little jarring. Had he taken a year off to revitalize his energy, I could see it; jumping right back into a hour-long procedural seems a little excessive, and didn’t allow viewers to properly say goodbye to such a beloved character. Because of this, although his new show was another winner for CBS, it was hard to distinguish Weatherly’s Bull from Weatherly’s DiNozzo, and that may have done more harm to the show than good.
Most Devastating Tribute: Nashville
If the death of Rayna James (Connie Britton) wasn’t enough, Nashville took her mourning to a whole new level. After frenemy Juliet Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) passes her tribute song over to Rayna’s daughter Maddie (Lennon Stella), the young rising star breaks down after seeing pictures of her and her mom on stage. Rayna’s husband Deacon (Charles Esten) and youngest daughter Daphne (Maisy Stella) run to her aid and immediately begin singing the rest of the haunting “Sanctuary” to a standing ovation by the hundreds of fans, relatives and friends in the audience. If you weren’t crying, you have no heart.
Come back tomorrow for the last of the 2017 television awards, including the creepiest character, the most noticeable trend and the oddest threesome. (Check out Part 3)
It’s that time again! The Emmy’s are right around the corner, so herewith are the best of the best of the 2016-2017 television season. Remember, these are NOT picks for who should win the Emmy’s — that show is so biased, I can’t watch! These are awards I give for the best and worst moments of the television season from the shows I actually watch (so no Game of Thrones or Empire moments; sorry). So please, leave your comments and choices in the comments section at your leisure. (For more fun, check out 2015-1016, 2014-2015, 2013-2014 and 2012-2013 awards.) Check out the full list of awards!
For various reasons, my goal for 2016 was to attend less movies, hopefully avoiding the bad in favor of the good. And though I did skip some movies that in years past I probably would have gone to because they were there, the inevitable stinker still crept into my viewing addiction. And at 107 movies, I only saw 3 less than I did in 2015 (though those three would probably have ended up on my worst list). So much for that resolution. But, with 58 movies graded at an A- or above, this year’s crop still managed to be on the higher end in one way or another. So, what were some of the most awe-inspiring (and some of the stinkers) from the past year? Let’s find out.
Best end to a long-gestating story arc: Haven
A few seasons ago, Haven started an arc that a guardsman was going to kill Duke Crocker (Eric Balfour). It was the ignition to a full season, in which Nathan (Lucas Bryant) went undercover to find out who it might be and stop them. The arc led to several other story lines, but in the end, Duke’s mysterious killer was never found and the arc seemingly slipped through the cracks. That is, until the season finale, when Nathan was forced to kill Duke to keep Croatoan (William Shatner) from collecting all of the troubles he’d trapped inside him. It was a fitting end to a long forgotten story arc, proving to fans that the creators of Haven were doing everything they could to wrap every loose end in a nice little bow before signing off for good. Read More Awards