Ranking the Harry Potter Movies

This doesn’t really tie in to anything, but I haven’t had much (if any) Harry Potter content on this blog. Thankfully, my next guest writer Elijah Chen is a huge fan and he volunteered (or rather I pleaded with him) to rank the eight films. No, Fantastic Beasts is not included. I have known Elijah for quite a long time; in fact, we still live next to each other back in Ithaca. He may not be the biggest general movie fan, but if there’s one franchise he loves to death, it’s Harry Potter. So enjoy, all you Potterheads!

Before I start, I just want to thank Jeffrey for giving me the IMPOSSIBLE task of ranking the original eight Harry Potter movies. As an avid fan who’s read all seven books a hundred times over, seen all eight movies multiple times, and taken every single quiz on Pottermore (Gryffindor, Ragdoll Cat, silver lime wood with a unicorn hair core at 12 1/4″ and quite bendy), I still found it extremely difficult to rank these eight fantastic films. No matter where each movie falls on the list, the Harry Potter movies will always hold a special place in my heart as well as atop my all-time list. These rankings are based on several factors; I compared the movies and the respective novels to see whether or not the former closely followed the latter. I also looked at the storylines in the event that incorporating more from the novels would’ve been better. Without further ado, here is my list of the Harry Potter movies ranked from worst to best.

8. Order of the Phoenix: Some people will argue that there are worse movies than the fifth installment (mainly the second one); however, if forced to choose, Order of the Phoenix would be the worst installment of the eight. I mainly put this movie last because the fifth book was my absolute favorite. It was the longest and I get that you can’t fit it all into 138 minutes. But there are some parts (*cough* Quidditch *cough*) that I would’ve liked to see as well as some key character development moments like the St. Mungo’s scene where Harry discovers the truth about Neville’s parents. Nevertheless, David Yates told a great story, with the darkness of the film playing perfectly into the plot. However, this movie was still a disappointment considering how much I loved the fifth book.

7. Chamber of Secrets: At 161 minutes, Chamber of Secrets is the longest movie in the series. It’s also the movie that gave us Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, a character I just hated before even watching the movie. It accurately follows the novel, but takes too long doing so. The set design was amazing, but the Chamber of Secrets was nothing like I imagined; it should’ve been so much greater. Ultimately, the sheer length of this movie and the fact that it tried to cram everything from the novel into a nearly three-hour movie makes this one of the worst Harry Potter films.

6. Goblet of Fire: To me, this movie was just about bringing Lord Voldemort back to life. The way it got there was all right at best. There were some great scenes and others that needed some work. The Yule Ball wasn’t overly impressive, but the three tasks were very enjoyable to watch. We also see Harry ask a girl out on his first date (too bad she said no). That part was just cringeworthy; at least they kiss in the next movie. In addition, can I just say that Ron being jealous of Hermione going to the ball with Krum is downright pathetic? It was infuriating to watch Ron complain about her (on top of the fact that Harry and Hermione make a much better couple). While we’re on the topic of couples, the scenes with Hagrid and Madame Maxime were really awkward. Goblet of Fire is definitely a great movie; it just doesn’t stand out as one of the better entries.

5. Deathly Hallows Part 1: Some people didn’t like that the last movie was split into two parts; I rather enjoyed it since this gave me more Harry Potter movies to watch. Unlike other movies that start out slow, the seventh installment came out firing on all cylinders. The opening scene with Ron and Hermione coming to terms with their impending journey is emotionally gripping. The fight between the Order of the Phoenix and the Death Eaters in the sky is awesome. The following scene with Harry and Ginny sharing a look is such an “aww” moment. Even though I think Harry and Hermione should be together, he and Ginny make a cute couple. However, after our three protagonists visit the Ministry of Magic, the movie almost trails off. The scene with Nagini was cool, but there wasn’t much after that. Deathly Hallows Part 1 is a great opening to a two-part finale. It couldn’t have done much more considering how in the novel, the bulk of the action took place in the second half.

4. Sorcerer’s Stone: Considering it had to introduce the whole world of magic to us Muggles, the first installment was quite good. Sure, the visual effects don’t quite hold up, but keep in mind that this came out in 2001. In addition, I feel like Chris Columbus did an OK job at adapting the novel into 152 minutes. There are some problems I have with the movie though. One is the fact that Peeves the Poltergeist is not introduced. It would’ve been great to see him constantly pulling pranks on the students. Furthermore, in the sequence where Harry, Ron, and Hermione are trying to save the Sorcerer’s Stone from Lord Voldemort, Professor Snape’s obstacle is cut out. It doesn’t detract from the greatness of the movie, although it certainly added to the suspense while reading the book. All things considered, Sorcerer’s Stone was a great start to an amazing series.

3. Half-Blood Prince: Was I the only one who got chills at the end when Professor McGonagall pointed her wand at the Dark Mark and, one by one, everyone followed suit? Talk about a powerful scene. Although Half-Blood Prince starts out slow, it steadily improves. I have a tiny problem with the way the movie portrayed Harry and Ginny’s budding romance. The novel did a much better job building that relationship; to me, their kiss in the Room of Requirement felt a bit forced. The music in that scene was great (I’m a sucker for romantic background music during a kissing scene), but David Yates could’ve developed their relationship beyond a couple of scenes. The last sequence starting from Harry and Dumbledore finding the Horcrux to everyone gathering around Dumbledore’s body significantly elevates this movie.

2. Deathly Hallows Part 2: RIP Alan Rickman. You were amazing as Snape throughout the whole series. The role could not have been portrayed by a better actor. Part 2 brings so much action. Picking up right after Harry and company escape from Malfoy Manor, we witness a grave robbery, a funeral, and a fight at Gringotts that ultimately leads to the Battle of Hogwarts. We finally learn the secret of Severus Snape and find out that it was all for love. The scene where Harry and Snape have their moment while the latter is bleeding out was so well-executed that I got a bit teary-eyed watching it. The only reason this movie is not ranked higher lies in the final fight between Voldemort and Harry. As epic as it was, I think it would’ve been much better had it stuck somewhat closer to the novel. In the book, Harry has a whole speech about a special kind of magic which he never really touched upon in the movie. The part about love conquering all did wonders for that scene and gave it something extra rather than just Harry beating Malfoy and earning the Elder Wand. The movie as a whole was excellent and the final Hogwarts battle scene was great; it just needed one last push to carry it over the top.

1. Prisoner of Azkaban: Most people would agree that Prisoner of Azkaban is the best movie in the series. This is the installment that gives us Sirius Black and introduces the Marauder’s Map; after all, who wouldn’t want a map that shows the location of everyone in Hogwarts? Although we don’t get to discover everything from the books (mainly who the Marauders were), it is still a great movie that starts to explore the characters more deeply, which can be seen through the developing romance between Ron and Hermione. Prisoner of Azkaban does amazingly well as a movie that doesn’t rely too heavily on the novel. It still hits the main plot points while further fleshing out our heroes. After the first two movies, which relied heavily on quickly getting to the big fight with Voldemort, Prisoner of Azkaban pleases fans of both the books and films. Hermione punching Malfoy in the face also helped.

“Dragonstone” Review

For the next seven Tuesdays, I will be reviewing every episode in the seventh season for Game of Thrones since, as most of you know, it’s my favorite show ever. Apologies to anyone who’s never seen an episode or hasn’t caught up, but there will potentially be spoilers. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the new season because the wait has lasted longer than usual (so they could accurately film winter) and there are only thirteen episodes before it all ends. The trailers seemingly promised a faster pace and a ton of converging storylines. However, I’m sad to admit that the first episode “Dragonstone” left a lot to be desired. I will always be glad whenever the show comes back, but I expect the premiere to contain more engaging material. Aside from the cold open, nothing particularly stood out, especially the Daenerys ending (again). I understand that we need to set up and reintroduce everyone in the world, but this episode clearly took that concept too far.

I’ll start with some positives though. How awesome was Arya and her mission of vengeance? When the episode first started, I was extremely confused because I thought we were witnessing a flashback of the Red Wedding or something. But the satisfying realization slowly sets in; you know who’s really wearing that face. Then when the entire room dies from poisoning, I nearly jumped up and cheered. Arya delivering the line “Tell them winter came for House Frey” was the cherry on top right before the equally awesome opening theme we all know and love.

The other character I thought was handled well in “Dragonstone” was Sandor Clegane (better known as the Hound). After his surprising return last season, I was interested to see where the show would take him. The change of heart after hanging out with Ian McShane was well-executed and deserved after only perceiving him as a despicable person all those years. It reminded me of Jaime’s arc in Season 3; while it’s tempting to just write off the bad guys as unworthy of redemption, Game of Thrones convinces you that there is still some decency left from unexpected sources. Although the scene was a bit heavy-handed (seriously, who would remember that one random farmer and his daughter from Season 4 if they didn’t bash you over the head with it in the recap?), I’m officially back on board with the Hound and the Brotherhood.

Finally, it was heartwarming to see some fan favorites back after the yearlong wait. Lyanna Mormont once again taking control of a room full of battle-tested soldiers is worthy of a fist pump (although I hope they don’t go back to that well every single episode). Tormund unsuccessfully trying to flirt with Brienne is everything I didn’t know I wanted but now desperately need. The introduction of Jim Broadbent as the Archmaester was equally solid. Like Jonathan Pryce before him, Game of Thrones has nailed the casting of a great character actor in a small but important role. I foresee some great dialogue-heavy scenes between him and Sam.

Sigh…I wish I didn’t have to talk about so many negatives. Again, I want to make it abundantly clear that I am a huge Game of Thrones fan; I don’t want any episode to fail. But I’m also not going to blindly praise something just from prior experience. I have to look at each episode separately and objectively. My first complaint is rather small, but still worth mentioning: in an episode lasting 59 minutes, how do Davos (Liam Cunningham) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) get no lines? Why are you wasting two amazing actors on simple reaction shots? Their input would’ve been greatly valued in respective scenes, but the writers somehow thought that silence would be golden. It makes absolutely no sense, but it’s a small gripe.

I also think the whole Sam storyline could be drastically cut down to make room for others. The rapidly edited sequence of him losing the ability to distinguish between poop and food was entirely unnecessary. Look, I get it; it’s not easy for Sam at the Citadel. You can get that point across with one cycle of toil, but then you should move on to more important things. Even the revelation of a dragonglass mine beneath Dragonstone is nothing new; Stannis said as much a few seasons ago. I will defend Sam more than most people because I recognize his value in the wars to come, but even I can’t justify this lackluster storytelling.

Next up…Ed Sheeran. Unlike some angry fans on the Internet, I knew he was planning to make a cameo, but I definitely didn’t expect it in the first episode. While it’s clearly distracting, at least they didn’t make him the focus of the scene (other than the easily recognizable singing), instead giving two other soldiers the bulk of the dialogue. While I understand that Maisie Williams is a huge fan of Mr. Sheeran, putting him in a crowded gathering rather than a small band of soldiers would probably have been a smarter move. He already looks like he belongs in the Game of Thrones world, but prominently showcasing him won’t go over well. The scene also abruptly ends with laughter after Arya says she’s going to kill Cersei; it’s so jarring that it only reinforces the oddity.

Finally, we arrive at my biggest complaint with “Dragonstone” and that’s the titular location itself. The final scene with Daenerys and company landing on the beach and walking through the deserted castle (don’t know why no one bothered to try and defend it) was painfully anticlimactic. I kept expecting something exciting to happen or another character (Melisandre maybe?) to be waiting for them. But all we get is a leisurely stroll and one throwaway line of “Shall we begin?” Even the absence of dialogue borders on the unbelievable; wouldn’t anyone speak up at some point while walking? I don’t want to believe that Emilia Clarke is a bad actress, but the writers keep putting her in the same scenarios and relying on her stoic facial expressions to convey strength. I sincerely hope that going forward, they realize that viewers actually want to see Daenerys, you know, do something. We waited six seasons for her to finally travel back to Westeros and this is all we get? We can all assume from the end of Season 6 that she safely lands on Dragonstone; let’s just skip to the political machinations, OK?

I can’t reiterate enough how much I love Game of Thrones. But after seeing the near-universal praise the first episode has received (currently 95% on Rotten Tomatoes), I honestly have to disagree with everyone else. It’s still an above-average hour of television, but it doesn’t hold a candle to past season premieres. Who can forget Jaime pushing Bran out the window, Arya and the Hound killing Lannister soldiers in a tavern, or Melisandre revealing her true form, all of which happened in the first episode of a season? The Arya cold open might come close, but it comes at the very beginning as opposed to the end where it rightfully belonged. We still get a bunch of scenes in the middle that don’t live up to the hype that had been building up. There was even a freaking countdown clock before it began! I probably wouldn’t be as frustrated if our expectations hadn’t been set so high prior to the season. From trailers and interviews, it seemed like the showrunners were going to cut out the unnecessary filler and give us exciting scene after exciting scene. But judging from “Dragonstone” alone, I don’t think they followed through on that promise. Maybe once the second episode is released, this will all be a moot point, but for now, I can’t declare that Season 7 started off on the right foot. Sad to say, but that’s why we have Differing Opinions.

Friends

Guest writer #3 is Matt Khor, my most recent roommate and the one who first suggested I watch Friends (thank goodness he did). We served many years together on worship team, so I know he also loves movies and TV (even though, as of this writing, he’s never seen Jurassic Park). Enjoy his thoughts on Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross!

People who know me know that I love Friends. It is both my most recommended and most watched TV show to date, but despite my love for the show, it has always been hard for me to articulate exactly why I enjoy watching it so much – and no, it’s not just because Jennifer Aniston plays Rachel. This is an enigma known to many people: we become attached, enamored even, to things of relative inconsequence like TV shows, movies, or books. Such objects hold our attention so successfully that we can recite lines from them as easily as (and in some cases, more easily than) the required readings from our textbooks or work manuals.

By my own admittance, my love for Friends could be placed into the aforementioned category. I have forgotten whole courses worth of material in lieu of Joey’s correction of “moot point” into “moo point.” There have been days where watching Ross cook without oven mitts or Chandler make gargling noises for the umpteenth time was more important to me than any of my other more useful pursuits. I’ve noticed as I watch these episodes time after time that what I love most about many of them has changed drastically over time. What I first cherished was the witty humor of the writing and the great chemistry between the actors. Over time, however, I’ve grown to notice a new love of the show: not of the content per se, but of the fun that I can have without the risks that accompany real life. With my real-life friends, any number of errant jokes may hurt someone’s feelings and a situation that may be treated with brevity onscreen, such as forced time off work for Ross, can have dire consequences for a real-life friend. With my TV “Friends,” all I have to do is sit back and enjoy the banter – no risk involved because I know it isn’t real and the stories I see will be wrapped up neatly and nicely. In a way, this is what all modern entertainment offers us today: a window to laughter and adrenaline, without any of the troublesome risk or effort on our part.

However, as anyone who has ever loved a TV show knows, the fun must end eventually. The panning shot over Monica’s empty apartment eventually turns up onscreen, and we must come to terms with the end of the world we’ve spent so much time immersing ourselves in. I submit that our reaction should not be to simply dive into that world again, as I have been so guilty of doing. Instead, it’s to realize that even the best fiction is inspired by the world we live in right now. The great feelings we feel when we watch our favorite shows are, in some way or another, drawn from the real-world experiences of writers, directors, and actors. There is no Sherlock without real investigations, no Suite Life without real childhoods, no Friends without real friends. Even the most ridiculous notions of high fantasy and science fiction come from imaginations drawing upon the real world.

The realization of this real-world inspiration should result in not burying ourselves within the facsimile once more, but going out and experiencing the real thing. When someone describes a great experience, the usual response is not to ask for a repetition of the description, but rather a desire to experience for ourselves. Likewise, the TV shows and movies we watch should inspire us to explore the world which inspires the great high fantasy epics, to create and discover the technology of science fiction. We will find that our enjoyment of these passions will grow larger than our enjoyment of shows that inspired them. I can say from personal experience that although my love for Friends is great, it is merely a shadow of the love I have for my own friends.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

What is up with that Inhumans trailer? Who thought giving another show to Scott Buck, the “creative mind” behind Iron Fist, was a good idea? I ask this because Agents of SHIELD has already proven successful at handling Inhumans while simultaneously differentiating them from the other superheroes of this world. Sure, there were a few early bumps in the road, but the first official MCU TV show has found its stride and erased the need for another one that focuses on enhanced individuals. But we’re getting it anyway because Hollywood doesn’t know how to leave well enough alone.

For most basic cable TV shows, I think they traditionally need a few episodes to gain traction. Agents of SHIELD fits that mold because the pilot leaves you wondering, “Why should I care about any of these characters?” You recognize Agent Coulson from The Avengers, but his reintroduction only raises more questions due to his apparent death at the hands of Loki. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long for the team to display some endearing qualities; once we see them put aside their differences to defeat a common enemy in the second episode, we understand why we should care about agents like Melinda May and FitzSimmons (so adorable). I think that any show with a central team needs to do a similar thing to engage the audience; when you put the characters in peril and then show them working together, you feel invested in the outcome rather than just plain bored. Honestly, it’s hard to explain why you latch on to certain TV characters and not others, but the Agents of SHIELD team quickly becomes one of my favorites. Maybe it’s the performances by all involved or their seemingly effortless ability to bounce ideas off each other. Nevertheless, they quickly recover from a rocky beginning.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a long tradition of including post-credits scenes in their movies and it clearly carried over to the television world. However, I think it works more effectively for the latter because you know you’re getting a new episode every week, so you don’t have to wait several months to find out what Nick Fury was talking about. In Agents of SHIELD, there are several jaw-dropping final moments that successfully whet your appetite without making you sit through 10 minutes of credits. The first major surprise has to be supposed good guy Grant Ward revealing his allegiance to HYDRA, killing a high-ranking SHIELD agent, and joining forces with the Clairvoyant (RIP Bill Paxton). From there, the stakes are significantly raised, resulting in some quality television for multiple seasons.

One area where Agents of SHIELD will continue to suffer is the constant references to other MCU properties. I understand that there needs to be some sort of continuity and it’s often used for comedic effect, but it definitely gets annoying knowing we will never see RDJ or Chris Evans actually make an appearance. After introducing the Inhumans and now Ghost Rider (thankfully not played by Nicolas Cage), I think the show can stand on its own without having to rely on stealthy tie-ins to keep viewers engaged. The only exception is the ripple effect from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. With the revelation that HYDRA had secretly operated within SHIELD for decades, the show takes a turn into darker territory that propels an up-to-this-point lackluster story into an action-packed thriller.

The latest fourth season (now available on Netflix) also introduces some important real-world concepts like artificial intelligence. After the disastrous results with Ultron, Agents of SHIELD takes that initial idea and expands on it with AIDA and her quest to take over the Framework. It paints a scary but realistic portrait of technology that incorporates everything from virtual reality to alternate timelines. Not anything we haven’t seen before, but a logical next step for a show whose premise could ultimately end up repetitive. There is also a subtle commentary on the current presidential administration with the presence of a terrorist group hunting down Inhumans simply because they aren’t like us. Movies like The Dark Knight proved that the superhero genre can serve a greater purpose and Agents of SHIELD strives to do the same. I’ve heard some people say they stopped watching after the first few episodes, but if you can manage to get past that, I think you will be rewarded with some actual thought-provoking content.

In summary, Agents of SHIELD is a definite recommend for anyone who professes to be a Marvel fan. It expands the lore of the universe and introduces compelling new characters who may one day cross over into the movie side. It employs the traditional Marvel brand of humor, but it’s not afraid to explore deeper themes when given the opportunity. While it’s certainly cool to see the big superheroes, Agents of SHIELD reminds us that there are still ordinary people on the ground fighting to survive and, in some cases, support those same heroes. I think there is something for everyone here, but you should find out for yourselves.

Ranking the Spider-Man Movies

In honor of Spider-Man Homecoming, the sixth installment starring the third actor, here are the rankings of the previous movies with the teenage (not really) web-slinger. Luckily, there are five of them, which narrowly fits into my criteria for ranking a certain franchise.

  1. Spider-Man 2: Sadly, it’s been a while since I revisited the Tobey Maguire ones, but I’m in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to the best Spider-Man movie. There are flaws though amidst all the awesome fights, like Peter conveniently losing his powers for the sake of plot and the ghost of Norman Osborn conveniently helping Harry discover the Green Goblin suit.
  2. Spider-Man: I should make a list of films that feel magical to me because this would definitely be on it (along with the likes of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark). Its origin story was well-executed and set the standard before everyone started copying the formula. The Danny Elfman score transcends a good superhero score and stands among the best of any genre. Plus, who doesn’t love that wrestling scene and the line “That’s a cute outfit. Did your husband give it to you?”
  3. The Amazing Spider-Man: Begrudgingly, I have to give this spot to Andrew Garfield’s first attempt because it’s at least better than the final two. There aren’t any glaring problems, but it rehashes the origin story and the killing of Uncle Ben (as if we need to see that again). Lizard as the main villain is also very underwhelming as well as the creepy realization that supposed high school student Peter Parker is nearly 30 years old. But I’ll award it a few points for casting Emma Stone.
  4. Spider-Man 3: I laughed so hard when one of the guys from the CinemaSins podcast tried to make an argument for this movie as underrated. There might be some cool moments, but it’s squashed by all the emo dancing and terrible Topher Grace acting. Yet another example of studio interference getting in the way of a good director who was then unable to make a Spider-Man 4 (which, from all the rumors, sounded really interesting).
  5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2: You thought Spider-Man 3 already had too many villains? Prepare for a double dose of mediocrity as Sony presents their weird and terrible versions of Electro, Green Goblin, and Rhino. In hindsight, we shouldn’t be all that surprised when Alex Kurtzman, responsible for many overstuffed movies, is one of THREE screenwriters on this monstrosity. I mean, you know your movie’s going to suck when there are SEVEN different people working on the score! Gwen Stacy’s death is so poorly handled that people have created memes out of it. The only redeeming quality? Since it was so bad, Sony finally gave in and let Marvel handle the next reboot. For all intents and purposes, Tom Holland may finally be the Spider-Man we deserve.

Top 10 Movies of 2017…So Far

We’re at the halfway point, so let’s count down my personal top 10 films of the year so far. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen everything (again), but I’ve made a more concerted effort to go to the theater, so this will certainly be better than the last iteration.

  1. Logan: What a beautiful ending for a character we have had the pleasure of seeing onscreen for the last 17 years. It would not be that outrageous to see Mr. Jackman receive an Oscar nomination when all is said and done; he certainly deserves one after pouring out his heart and soul in this movie.
  2. Get Out: This could easily take the top spot (I just have a special place in my heart for Wolverine) because I believe it’s one of the smartest films ever made and it was directed by someone who starred on a comedy sketch show! There are so many layers to dissect here in a genre that doesn’t usually dare to explore them, making it great for some good old-fashioned discussion among friends. If you missed it somehow, please find a way to correct that. Jordan Peele hit a giant home run and he should be allowed to direct anything he wants now.
  3. Wonder Woman: Can we just stop and appreciate the fact that DC, for all their recent poor decisions, finally took a step back and let a talented director make a great movie? As I’ve said countless times already, hopefully the film’s success both critically and financially paves the way for more female directors to get a shot at the reins of a blockbuster.
  4. John Wick: Chapter 2: Absolutely love the first film and the sequel didn’t disappoint in the slightest. It gets the job done and gives you more glorious action set pieces, but above all…the pencil, man. The freaking pencil was the star of the whole thing.
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Heard a lot of people complain about this one, but I genuinely had fun hanging out with all five characters once again. There’s also some solid supporting turns from both Kurt Russell and Michael Rooker as well as my favorite line in recent memory (alongside “Try me, Beyoncé!”): “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!”
  6. The Lego Batman Movie: The jokes fly fast and loose in this, which simultaneously helps and hurts our animated caped crusader. There’s some comedy gold (like that time with the two boats), but a little more dramatic balance probably wouldn’t have hurt.
  7. Alien: Covenant: Yeah, it’s essentially a retread of the first Alien, but why would anyone argue when the visuals are this good? I probably didn’t bring as much baggage into this one as everyone else since I didn’t see Prometheus, but it provides the sci-fi and horror elements that an Alien film should have. Michael Fassbender is also really good (although that “double entendre” scene can be cut) as is Danny McBride, so don’t give Ridley Scott too much grief.
  8. The Lost City of Z: Saw this one with my mom for free (thanks to a Christmas present from my cousin Isabel) and it was…good? Has a classic feel, but runs too long and doesn’t compensate with enough interesting material. Nevertheless, I will always respect a well-made film.
  9. Cars 3: Yay, we can finally wash the bad taste of the 2nd one out of our mouths! Familiar story to be sure, but I like the spin they put on it (no pun intended). Cristela Alonzo as Cruz Ramirez really brought it and the moment with Lightning McQueen giving her a shot at real racing was another great heartfelt moment from Pixar. It’s no Toy Story 3 by any stretch of the imagination, but I put it on the same level as Monsters University which I also quite enjoyed.
  10. Beauty and the Beast: If you’ll remember, this was high on my list of most anticipated films for the year. I even saw it twice in theaters, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how blatantly Disney was copying itself. It’s gorgeous from a visual standpoint, but then borrows too much from the 1991 animated version and never tries to do anything different (besides add a song here or there). Not as disappointing as one last film I saw, but certainly not game-changing.

I might as well mention that one last film, which would be Kong: Skull Island. My God, what an absolute travesty; I’m so thankful I don’t actually have to include it in the Top 10 list. It would be easy to think that Michael Bay directed this with its poorly written characters and only mildly entertaining action whose sole purpose is to distract you from an incoherent story. I have rightfully skipped all the garbage like Fifty Shades Darker, but Kong: Skull Island is easily the worst film I’ve seen in 2017.

The Rules of the Remake

Just like superhero movies, it seems like remakes of films, classic or otherwise, will never stop. There are some exceptions, but most of the decisions scream of either desperate financial gain or attempts at recapturing nostalgia. Here are some of my personal rules for studios to consider with their remakes.

Under no circumstances should you remake a movie if:

  1. It was already great in the first place. We didn’t need to see another Psycho or Ben-Hur; the originals are well-crafted masterpieces that still hold up decades later. It’s also why I hope directors never lose all semblance of creative thought and decide to remake The Godfather or The Shawshank Redemption. I will admit that there are a few instances where the remake turned out to be just as good if not better than the original though (Ocean’s Eleven, The Departed).
  2. You’re not going to attempt anything different. This is one of the complaints I had with the 2017 live-action version of Beauty and the Beast; while the production design is top-notch and the performances are solid, it essentially boils down to a shot-for-shot remake. I can understand doing the same thing with older Disney films because those were never fully fleshed out, but doing the same thing with an instant classic definitely won’t work.
  3. Your sole purpose is adding color. What, are you “too good” for black-and-white films? Some of the greatest of all time were shot this way: The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, Double Indemnity, Schindler’s List…the list goes on. Not to mention that the popular film noir style made black and white necessary so that shadows could be used in sharp contrast. Just updating it with a paintbrush would elicit loud groans from the audience.
  4. It was made in the last 15 years or so. A long enough period of time needs to pass before we can revisit the idea; that way, we will know for sure if a film truly holds up or not. A recent example is the 2016 German film Toni Erdmann, a critically acclaimed Oscar nominee. But just a few months later, Paramount announced that it had signed Jack Nicholson (widely believed to be retired) and Kristen Wiig for an American remake. Seriously?
  5. You’re just replacing all the actors with women. Listen, I’m all for more female roles in Hollywood, but where’s the originality here? If you go down this path, the inevitable comparisons will only weigh the film down and district from the brilliant women working today. Ghostbusters, Ocean’s Eight, and apparently The Expendables (sorry, The ExpendaBelles) all suffer or will suffer from this stigma, regardless of whether the movies turn out to be good or not. You can put an all-female cast in other properties and reap the benefits; Bridesmaids felt refreshingly original and was a fantastic film.

Now, here are some instances where I think it’s acceptable to remake a movie:

  1. The premise works, but the execution is flawed. I’m using the 2011 film In Time as my primary example. A world where people stop aging at 25 and use time as the universal currency sounds really interesting in theory, but the version starring Justin Timberlake fails to explain or show us the rules of this dystopian future. Too much time is spent on the boring romance between Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, two actors who feel like a product of stunt casting simply based on physical beauty. If someone remade it as a gritty action thriller in the style of the Bourne films, I think we could end up with an intelligent thought-provoking movie.
  2. The original film focused on the wrong elements. Take Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, which most people will agree are absolute garbage. It is widely acknowledged that we don’t care in the slightest about any of the human characters in those movies. So a remake should either take them out completely or actually give them meaningful things to do. I could see George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road) directing the former option or Spielberg the latter. Probably both pipe dreams that will never come to fruition, but that’s the only way I will ever watch another Transformers movie.
  3. Live-action was used instead of animation or vice versa. This might be a very specific example, but I desperately want to see a fully animated version of Super Mario Bros (rather than the 1993 dumpster fire that obviously didn’t understand the game at all). Of course, no one has ever made a beloved video game movie, but I could totally see Disney/Pixar pulling it off if they could work out a deal with Nintendo. The live-action remake of The Jungle Book was also far superior to its animated counterpart because it expanded the story and gave us gorgeous visuals.
  4. A different medium would work better, especially TV. Daredevil immediately jumps to mind as one that absolutely worked better as a Netflix show; you could also make the case for Fargo even though the film was already good (and I’ve heard amazing things about the FX series). There’s even an HBO Watchmen series in development, which I would greatly prefer over the unfocused Zack Snyder movie. Oftentimes, the premise or source material for a movie doesn’t lend itself to a feature-length runtime; you need the format of a TV show to properly explore all facets of the world and its characters.