Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 - The Highlights (Tetris_King)

With another year drawing to a close, it is once again time to reflect on what we did and did not like about it. As with last year, a large number of new movies were watched and a good amount of new games were played, resulting in a rather lengthy list I found difficult to trim down. Much like last year, due to the high volume of movies from this year that I actually enjoyed, I have split my top movies of the year between live-action and animation. As per usual, the lists below are presented in no particular order, with links to reviews on the blog where applicable.

Top Live-Action Movies of 2017

After a few missteps while struggling to keep up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it looks like the DC Extended Universe may finally be headed in the right direction. Wonder Woman succeeds where it predecessors failed, providing an enjoyable experience with an overall more light-hearted tone and a hero you actually want to root for. With a sequel set for release in a couple years, hopefully the DCEU can live up to what Wonder Woman has to offer.

Beginning from this movie, the Transformers Live-Action Film Series is set to become its own Cinematic Universe. Having been hyped enough to attend a special early screening, I found myself enjoying the film in spite of its flaws (more on that below). While the movie has a lot of plot in it, the well-placed humor and world-building (including borrowing elements from the “Aligned” continuity) kept my interest throughout. If the upcoming Bumblebee: The Movie, to be directed by Laika alumni Travis Knight, is any good, then the new Cinematic Universe might turn out well in the end.

Another R-rated X-Men movie produced after the success of Deadpool, Logan puts the spotlight on Wolverine once again, this time taking place in a future without mutants as he winds up protecting both an out-of-control Charles Xavier and a small child with mutant powers similar to his own as they make their way to a supposed mutant sanctuary. Logan manages to both tell a well-written mature story and make itself accessible to newcomers, meaning you do not need to have seen any of the previous X-Men movies to follow along. In short, Logan is a mature comic book movie done right, as well as a great movie on its own merits. The black-and-white version, Logan Noir (included with the Blu-ray), is also worth a viewing, since, though telling the same story, it offers a much different experience.

Having enjoyed Hugo, I was intrigued to find out another Brian Selznick book was being adapted, to the point where I bought the book at the signing I was at and read it shortly thereafter. The movie, written by Selznick, is not only a streamlined, faithful adaptation of the book, it also tells a rather engaging story that makes it an enjoyable movie in its own right (though it does drag a little bit in one spot). It doesn’t have the same tone or style as Hugo, however I loved Wonderstruck all the same.

The Thor movies have never been the strongest movies in the MCU for me, and so this newest entry caught me by surprise. Not only is this movie highly entertaining to watch, I would honestly consider it one of the best movies of Phase 3 so far. It breathes new life into the Thor sub-series by not taking itself entirely seriously, with moments of genuine humor found all throughout the movie as well as some new development on the Hulk. Only time will tell if this new take on the God of Thunder will carry over into the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.

Following up on The Force Awakens, this movie picks up where it left off and provides a lot more insight into Rey and Kylo Ren. As with Transformers: The Last Knight, a lot of events transpire in this movie, some of which could arguably have been shortened a little, however I found the story engaging and found myself overall enjoying it. It’s not exactly the best Star Wars movie one could hope for, however it is worth watching, especially if you want to see the late Carrie Fisher play Princess Leia one last time.

Top Animated Movies of 2017

As a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan, I was already looking forward to this movie upon learning details at a Comic-Con panel featuring creator Kazuki Takahashi himself. Taking place after the end of the original manga, the movie introduces a new villain, Aigami, while placing the spotlight on Seto Kaiba and his growing ambitions to defeat the Pharaoh in a Duel. The movie is animated spectacularly and gives some good character development to both Yugi and Kaiba as they head towards their future goals, plus it was actually nice to hear the English voice actors reprise their roles once more. Aigami is also given some good development for a movie-exclusive character, which is more than I can say for Anubis from the Pyramid of Light movie, though even as a Yu-Gi-Oh! fan I couldn’t quite understand how Dimension Dueling, Aigami’s preferred method, worked exactly. Still, the movie is highly entertaining for existing fans of the series and is worth a look.

My interest in this movie came from hearing how successful and highly praised this boy-meets-girl story was in its native Japan, and so I took the chance to view it as part of a limited theatrical run. I could see where the praise was coming from, as I got emotionally invested in both the plot and characters. I don’t want to give anything away, though I would consider Your Name. a must-see anime film.

This movie’s premise is rather interesting, telling the story of someone investigating renowned artist Vincent van Gogh’s final days and getting multiple viewpoints on how his death played out. While the story is very engaging, the main draw is the movie’s animation style, being animated entirely using 65,000+ paintings that emulate van Gogh’s particular painting style to amazing effect. This, combined with imagery and characters inspired by the subjects of van Gogh’s paintings, creates a very immersive world that you’ll want to visit again.

Top Games of 2017

Little Nightmares is a horror game that’s very effective at building up and maintaining an atmosphere throughout. While not the type of horror you can find in Resident Evil 7, this game goes more for the psychological, and the overall design and aesthetic contribute to this expertly well to create a very unnerving experience. With a string of DLC and a comic book currently being rolled out, this is an experience I’d gladly revisit once it’s all been made available.

Puyo Puyo Tetris

In a rather unexpected crossover, the Puyo Puyo and Tetris puzzle game series have come together for the first time, delivering normal Puyo Puyo and Tetris gameplay in addition to a number of other game modes (including a mode that combines the two games together). The music and sound design are also good, as is a surprisingly entertaining story mode featuring Puyo Puyo characters meeting a new set of characters representing Tetris. Though I had more fun with the Tetris segments due to personal skill level, I did find myself getting the hang of Puyo Puyo’s gameplay over time, which helped me get more into the other game modes. This is a great game for puzzle fans, especially for those who enjoy Tetris and/or Puyo Puyo.

Having never played any of the Crash Bandicoot games prior to this collection (unless the cameo in Skylanders: Imaginators counts), I found myself really enjoying it. Though difficult, the three games in this collection have a world and characters that keep you wanting more even in the face of failure, especially in regards to the first installment. With intricately remade graphics, great voice acting and a catchy soundtrack that doesn’t stop, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is the perfect starting point for any new Crash Bandicoot fan.


Before this game was released, I was hyped up by the art direction alone, taking inspiration from 1930’s cartoons and being animated entirely by hand. The game itself has a very strong difficulty curve, however beating a boss to get their Soul Contract is very satisfying and makes you want to go back for more. The visuals capture the 1930’s aesthetic very faithfully, which, along with the gameplay, make the game’s lengthy development cycle worth it. Regardless of whether you're in it for the gameplay, the animation is something that would make me recommend it to those who are fans of this particular style or possibly even animation students looking to study said style.

Top Disappointments of 2017

In spite of my praise for this movie above, I recognize the movie has some issues. Aside from any plot holes (one being Bumblebee’s new ability to Iron Giant himself back together to sell more toys), the movie has an overabundance of story, including a whole Suicide Squad-style sequence that ultimately goes nowhere, and so things could have easily been cut to shorten the run time. There’s also admittedly an overabundance of new characters, most of which don’t even have toys to sell, and the short screen time for many of them makes it a little difficult to care. Regardless, the next two films, one of which centers on Bumblebee, have a chance to rectify where this one went wrong.

After the disappointment of Minions, Illumination had the opportunity to steer the Despicable Me franchise back on track. Unfortunately, while somewhat better than Minions, this movie suffers from an overabundance of sub-plots, leaving not much room for development for either characters or story and lowering my expectations for a teased fourth installment. The only real saving grace of the movie is Trey Parker as the entertaining villain Balthazar Bratt, and even then, his performance alone could not salvage it.

The Sharknado series began as a funny joke, however that joke has probably more than run its course. While it may have been able to sustain itself for 3 movies and pushed it a bit with 4, the fifth annual installment, Global Swarming, fails to really capture the same enjoyment, relying more heavily on B-list cameos, plot contrivances, shoe-horned references and ripping off better movies to keep swimming. Though the ending teases the inevitable Sharknado 6, it seems like it may be time for this shark to finally stop swimming.

Ghost in the Shell (2017)

I’ll admit my experience with Ghost in the Shell lies mainly within the 1995 animated feature and the Stand Alone Complex (SAC) anime series, however I actually enjoyed those unlike this movie. Casting controversies aside, the 2017 movie manages to capture the look of Ghost in the Shell, though I can’t say the same about the feel. It does take some scenes from the 1995 movie almost wholesale to try and ground it within that setting (while also borrowing elements from SAC), however it can’t seem to decide whether it wants to be a remake or tell an original story, overall just falling short of its real potential. If you’re looking to have a good time with Ghost in the Shell, you may as well just stick with the 1995 movie instead.

After Wonder Woman pushed the DCEU in the right direction, Justice League feels more like a step back. Odd villain choice aside, the movie attempts to emulate the MCU’s The Avengers without understanding exactly what made it work so well, establishing a team before many of the individual members rather than the other way around. There is some humor in places and the movie is overall a major step up from Batman v Superman, however that isn’t saying much and it overall wasn’t as fun as the movie it was trying to copy. The upcoming Aquaman movie has some promise to turn things back around, hopefully borrowing more from Wonder Woman rather than this film.

Honorable Mentions

The Hitman’s Bodyguard

Though a bit of a sleeper movie, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is one that I found rather enjoyable. The main draw though is that it co-stars both Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, each essentially playing a version of their most famous characters (Wade Wilson/Deadpool and Nick Fury, respectively); the two of them have surprisingly good chemistry together, their characters being good foils for each other. It’s not likely the two will share a movie like this again (pending company merger notwithstanding), though in any case it’s still worth a viewing.

Another game in the recent 3D platformer revival boom, what attracted me to this particular title was, in addition to the art direction, the ability to manipulate time to solve puzzles. Though it has some shortcomings (including some technical issues), the game is actually pretty enjoyable and I found the approach to puzzle-solving interesting. While not perfect, the game presents enough potential for a follow-up title, though whether the developer will tap into this potential remains to be seen.


While I was once again captivated by the art direction, what interested me was the idea of exploring an island and solving puzzles (though it presents itself in a more linear, story-focused fashion). The puzzles can get a little difficult, however this did not stop me as I wanted to get through it and discover what the island was all about. These puzzles, coupled with a powerful ending (plus one of the best tutorials I have ever seen), make Rime definitely worth a look.

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