Need a good, nerdy film marathon for year’s end? 2017 resolved with a surprisingly strong preference of beguiling flicks in the Ars pantheon, which we consider a brew of sci-fi, fantasy, documentaries, genre pieces, and tech-specific fare. This year’s peculiarity really only became apparent once we found myself enjoying putting this year-end list together. (Sometimes, these best-of pieces can be slogs. Not for 2017′s films.)
The following picks are not numbered or ranked, but the recommendations get better and better from bottom to top.
Starting with the cheese: xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
It’s tough to believe, but 2017 started with a thrilling, beguiling warn in the form of a new xXx film that was actually equal tools fun and clever. Ars editor-at-large Annalee Newitz and we vociferously concluded that Vin Diesel had presumably incited in his best “himbo” or “male Barbie” opening nonetheless in a film that competence have differently played out like a cheap, foolish entrance in the Chinese-action-snoozer pantheon. From her Jan review:
“Jam-packed with illusory impression actors, full of ridiculously violent fight scenes, and centered on a functionally unfit piece of technology, xXx: Return of Xander Cage is all you need from an movement flick. There’s a skinny scrim of a tract involving an immorality laptop called Pandora’s Box, whose superpowers engage ‘spying on everybody,’ ‘controlling satellites,’ and injecting antagonistic poop emojis into Web sessions. Just teasing about that last bit. This film does not know about Web sessions. But I’m not kidding about how Vin Diesel’s opening as ‘underground blogger’ Xander Cage is goofily badass, and the hijinks of his organisation are equally fun.
“xXx: Return of Xander Cage is a pleasant movement crack with a heart of gold. There’s no complexity. The good guys are apparently going to win. Everybody in the different expel looks prohibited and tough. Characters demonstrate their feelings with lines like ‘that was fucking awesome!’ It’s the ideal weekend diversion for the center of darkest winter.”
Meanwhile, Valerian just barely crosses the threshold for honourable a year-end nod. This gorgeous, silly, wooden-acting detonate by large sci-fi clichés has a reticent beginning, some reticent tools in the middle, and a painfully reticent ending.
And yet! From my Jul review:
“Even with its issues, we still had a blast. we went into my Valerian screening anticipating to get ‘Luc Besson sci-fi,’ with elaborate, beautifully illustrated sequences, tongue-in-cheek schlock, and a weirdly French askance on high-octane cinema. Those expectations were met. we laughed, cheered, and roared both at and with the film. Valerian comes packaged with just enough Fifth Element flavor to make it worth a solid, low-expectations outing to the film theater.
“Valerian plays out like Besson’s thank-you gift to the strange comic series, which he (and many other sci-fi authors and filmmakers) have paid uncredited loyalty to for decades. His trippy, uncompromised prophesy takes adequate chances to make this disproportionate film mount out above other ho-hum sci-fi, and I’ll take aspiration and hulk failures in my popcorn transport over paint-by-numbers movement films any day of the week.”
Before Ars Technica’s expansive, extensive Apollo video series went live, the documentarians behind Mission Control brought together many of the Apollo program’s primary players to speak exhaustively about NASA’s many violent efforts. From Eric Berger’s Apr review:
“The 100-minute documentary is a illusory way to relive the excellence days of America’s space program by the eyes of those sitting behind the consoles, poring over data, and making formidable calls. One of the best aspects of the film is its loyalty to Chris Kraft, the nation’s first moody director, who used his knowledge in moody contrast at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics to detect of, and rise plans for, tracking and determining the moody of booster into outdoor space. Kraft tells some of the story of goal control’s start in his own words, observant that he became scandalous for ‘saying what he thought.’
“The film excels in other ways, at slightest from my viewpoint as a space buff, space writer, and pledge space historian. It puts the spotlight on a organisation of men from varying backgrounds, many of them utterly humble, and then shows the expansion of goal control from a simple operation into the formidable classification that led to human landings on the Moon.”
Listing picture by Disney