The End of 50 Shades of Grey: A Celebration in GIFs

So I hate the 50 Shades of Grey cinematic universe. Also the books. Also their existence. To be fair, I've never seen a 50 Shades movie but also to be fair I don't think that's important in this case. Content aside, I cannot stand how abysmally cheesy these awful movies look from the trailers alone and moreover, I am very, VERY tired of seeing said trailers every year. They're everywhere, you guys. EVERYWHERE. Every movie I've gone to in 2018, I have seen this trailer. Just about every YouTube video, it seems, plays this trailer as its ad. I can't even tune into my beloved HGTV to check in what sort of crazy renovation the Scott Brothers are undertaking without seeing this trailer. I hate these movies. Hate, Hate, Hate. While being assaulted by this trailer before yet another movie last month, it hit me that this is the final movie of this trilogy and as such, at least until we inevitably get a reboot or a five-years-later-cash-grab sequel, this is the last time we'll ever have to endure the 50 Shades phenomenon. So I tweeted, "Only 29 days until we never have to see another 50 Shades trailer" with the Shawshank GIF shown below. And the next day I tweeted the same thing with a different GIF and one fewer day. And again the next day. And by that point I had a bit on my hands and I'm nothing if not committed to bits, even those that, like this one, aren't particularly clever. So I've carried the countdown through to today, when this cursed movie finally opens; every day a different gif. And in celebration of the end of our longterm waking nightmare, I present to you a celebration in GIFs, recapping the pictures I used to express my emotions over the last 29 days. You're welcome?

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Day 0 - We Did It

Day 0 - We Did It

Brian's Worst Movies of 2017

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I need to say up front that 2017 was a bangin’ year for film. Maybe the box office totals were down and maybe there aren’t many (or any) truly great, transcendent films. But overall, 2017 consistently delivered movies both big and small that were at worst decent and at best very, very good. As such, I think I handed out “failing” grades to fewer films this year than I have in any other year in recent memory. When I sat down to make this list, I had only a dozen movies or so I felt truly deserved mention here, a far cry from years past when at times I think I had more bad films to sort through than good (looking at you, 2016). Some other blockbusters disappointed, some indie movies fell flat but in the grand scheme of things, most of the sins committed by the movies not included here were forgivable (or at least forgettable). That said, you can’t see 80-odd movies in a year without taking in some that are truly awful and so, here we are.

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DISHONORABLE MENTIONS:
Power Rangers (Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Elizabeth Banks)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 44%
In March, I wouldn’t have dreamed there was any possibility of Power Rangers finishing outside the worst 10 of the year but here we are. You did it, 2017! Way to go! I missed the Power Rangers bandwagon by a couple years as a kid so there is no built-in nostalgia for me here. As a result, all I can see is Elizabeth Banks cashing ‘dem checks and a multitude of cheese-laden action scenes that all-too-well resemble the cringe-y-ness of the TV show. Also, I think one of the Power Rangers gets killed by being dropped in water for maybe six seconds? *Shrug*

All Eyez On Me (Demetrius Shipp Jr., Hill Harper)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 17%
I’m no friend of the biopic but I get the need for this treatment regarding Tupac. Even a halfway decent Tupac movie would’ve felt worthwhile, I think. Unfortunately, this isn’t halfway decent or a quarterway decent. It seems like the main goal of director Benny Boom was to find someone who basically looked like Tupac and just let the rest figure itself out. If you’re curious, this is NOT the preferred approach to filmmaking taught in most film schools.

10. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
I imagine the pitch for Valerian went something like, “Did you enjoy The Fifth Element 20 years ago? What if we made it 30 percent worse and replaced Gary Oldman and Bruce Willis for Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne?” French investors heard that dynamite sales pitch and threw TRUCKLOADS of money at Luc Besson who delivered to them exactly what they were promised: an awful, unnecessary “epic” bolted to the ground by brutal acting and Besson’s ADHD-riddled approach to screenwriting. As it turned out, literally no one in the world wanted this movie except for Besson and his investors.

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9. Justice League (Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%
Look, on the one hand, a movie featuring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman (at the height of her power) should never find itself on a “worst of the year” list. That should be impossible. So, that’s not great and once again, Warner Brothers has demonstrated their complete inability to understand the market in which they operate. On the other hand, Justice League is infinitely better than Batman V Superman so…congratulations?

8. The Book of Henry (Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Dean Norris)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 21%
I honestly don’t even know how to describe this movie. There isn’t a single three-minute stretch within Book of Henry where I didn’t find myself looking cock-eyed at the screen, saying, “Wait, what?” to myself. Here’s my best analogy: You know on Friends when Rachel is in charge of the Thanksgiving dessert and she makes a traditional English trifle but the pages are stuck together so she accidentally makes half of an English trifle and half of a meat pie? Book of Henry feels is that Trifle Pie. For 45 minutes, Colin Treverrow was making a little family drama about a genius kid who dies tragically. And then someone slipped in the wrong script and the rest of the movie is an espionage thriller wherein (and you cannot make this up) the dead child, from beyond the grave, walks his very dumb (this is noted VERY HEAVILY) mother through the murder of a neighbor. It’s just as terrible as it sounds but I would definitely watch a 30 for 30 on how in the world this got made if anyone wants to make that film for me, thanks.

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7. Geostorm (Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abby Cornish)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 13%
I legitimately forgot Geostorm came out in 2017 which is fitting considering it’s been in “development” for about a decade. There were some signs as to how bad this movie would be. Number one, Roland Emmerich wouldn’t direct Dean Devlin’s script so Dean did the movie himself. If Roland Emmerich is like, “Nah, this doesn’t sound so good” you should probably cut bait. Number two, Gerard Butler agreed to star. If Gerard Butler believes your movie fits his filmography, you should probably cut bait. Number three, once Gerard Butler was cast, he was surrounded by the most “Bad Disaster Movie” cast ever. If I was TRYING to make a bad Gerard Butler movie (redundant), Jim Sturgess, Abby Cornish, and Andy Garcia would be my first three calls. Also, it should be noted that the titular geostorm doesn’t happen until maybe 90 minutes into the movie. Great calls all around.

6. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Jude Law)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%
Why is it so hard to make a good King Arthur movie? We’ve had motion pictures for something like 120 years and Arthurian legend has leaked its way into every corner of pop culture and yet, still, there isn’t a single Arthur film worth watching that isn’t a cartoon (Sword in the Stone) or a comedy (Monty Python and the Holy Grail). This doesn’t seem too difficult and yet, here we are. Guy Ritchie’s take is muddled and messy in all the wrong ways and doesn’t even have the decency to feel like a Guy Ritchie movie. Instead of the quick-paced action and vaguely quip-y dialogue that make Ritchie movies interesting even when they’re not good, we got this epically stupid and lifeless rendition which hinges ENTIRELY on the presence of a giant snake. Because, as you know, the best part of every Arthurian legend is when the giant snake shows up to be his buddy.

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5. Baywatch (Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 18%
I admit, I had limited expectations for most of the movies on this list. The bar was low and somehow, these properties brought it lower. But Baywatch should have worked. Maybe that sounds crazy but in a post-21 Jump Street world, a movie starring The Rock and Zac Efron playing on the inherent idiocy of the source material should’ve been a blast. Alas, Seth Gordon and his team of writers forgot the most important ingredient in this recipe: humor. If your send-up comedy doesn’t have any inherent comedy, you wind up with something like Baywatch that bombed hard with critics and audiences alike.

4. Mother! (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%
There were worse movies in 2017, to be sure, and in fact, I’ve seen Mother! on far more “Best” lists than “Worst” lists. I have tried to see the virtues of this film and can vaguely wrap my head around a few of the positives the film’s disciples have espoused. But I hate this movie. I hate this movie more than any other I saw this year. I hate this movie so much that I’m risking a rage stroke even writing about it now, four months after my first (and only, with ANY luck) viewing. I hate this movie so much that if I could’ve found a way to list it at number one on this list without giving off the appearance of clickbait, I would have done so. How this movie got anything resembling a wide release is one of the year’s greatest mysteries. Mother! is a steaming pile of self-indulgent nonsense cobbled together into something resembling a Christ allegory but without the slightest hint of subtlety. When deciding whether or not a movie is good, I always ask myself, “Was a baby eaten by an insane mob that shows up out of nowhere at any point in this movie?” And if the answer is yes, then the movie is not good. It is very not good. Congratulations to Darren Aronofsky on creating the first movie to ever answer that question with a resounding, “Yes! Yes, this movie DOES involve a baby getting eaten by an insane mob that shows up out of nowhere!” My heart is now filled with hate once more and I appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

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3. The Emoji Movie (TJ Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 9%
This one has to take the prize for, “Most Unnecessary Movie of the Year.” But that’s kind of expected, you know? Worst case scenario, I should’ve walked out of Emoji saying, “Well that was completely dumb and unnecessary but harmless.” But no! The team behind this one took it a step further to ensure that not only is this movie dumb and unnecessary, it is also unblinkingly cynical and grim. Sure, it ends with a faux-happy little bow but the in the process of getting there, it takes your kids on one of the most depressing, needlessly dark rides imaginable in a throw-away animated movie. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE ALL WANT FROM A MOVIE ABOUT SMILEY FACES!

2. The Circle (Emma Watson, John Boyega, Tom Hanks)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16%
Woo, boy. I read The Circle a few years ago and thought it was an interesting-if-underwhelming book that would make a great movie. I was, uh…I was very wrong. This is one of those movies where I knew probably three minutes in that I was in for something special. The opening scene is cringe-worthy and it is perhaps the best scene of the movie. The script is bad, the pacing is worse, and the bulk of the film depends entirely on Emma Watson who just isn’t up for the challenge. At a certain point, it appears that everyone involved realized they had a stinker on their hands and simply gave up. I can’t blame them.

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1. Transformers: The Last Knight (Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16%
Now, listen, I understand that at this point, no one should have ANY expectations for a Transformers movie beyond “terrible.” Michael Bay has now proven, time and again, that he doesn’t care about anything but explosions and racially insensitive characterizations and thus, we pretty much know what we’re going to get before heading in. Even still, even with an expectation that borders on, “Literally nothing. Literally just, can you make a movie that won’t leave me looking for a hotline to call?” EVEN UNDER THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES, Transformers: The Last Knight is the stuff of Bad Movie Legend. It is a 150-minute assault on the viewer that posits such important questions as, “What if the Transformers killed Hitler?” and, “What if Merlin was a drunk who summoned the Transformers to help King Arthur?” and, “What if we semi-sexualize a 12-year-old girl?” Transformers: The Last Knight is an historically awful movie that is more aggressive in its stupidity than almost any other movie I have ever seen in my life.

Brian's Top 25 Films of 2017 - #11-25

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Despite a weak box office total, I found 2017 to be an excellent year for film overall. The summer movies didn’t deliver as expected, Star Wars wasn’t as well received as we’d all hoped, and there may not have been a singular all-time great movie to hang our collective hats on. But, in terms of the number of high quality films that were (mostly) available to wide audiences throughout the year, I’m not sure we could’ve asked for me. I’ve been writing about film and tracking my grades/reviews since 2004. In that time, I don’t think I’ve ever given out more than four “A+” grades in a single year. I gave out seven in 2017. In addition, there were any number of “A’s” and “A-‘s” this year, unmatched by any year in recent memory. As such, when I sat down to write my Top 10 list, I realized there were far more than 10 films that I really wanted to highlight and talk about (as if I don’t get enough time to do just that on the stupid podcast).

So, I put together a Top 25, which is both a nice, solid number and the clear line of demarcation between the films I absolutely had to talk about and the rest of the pack. Today I present to you, dear readers, numbers 11 through 25, withholding my top 10 for the podcast (recording this weekend). I’ll publish the remainder of this list next week once the podcast episode has had some time to breath. Here we go.

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25. Molly’s Game – Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera
I made a point of holding off on the writing and formation of this list until I had seen Molly’s Game and I’m glad I did. Much like Wind River (see below), this movie is the directorial debut of a noted screenwriter (Aaron Sorkin) and at times, you can see the filmmaker’s novice on display. Chastain, however, is a force to be reckoned with, right at home with Sorkin’s famously fast paced, quip-y dialogue. The sheer magnetism of her persona covers up a multitude of sins and Sorkin’s script does an excellent job of highlighting the right parts of the source material without letting it get bogged down in the more detail than absolutely necessary.

24. Wind River – Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen
Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water, Sicario) has made a name for himself in recent years as one of the best screenwriters in the business. Wind River is his directorial debut and while it doesn’t quite live up to the standard he’s set for his writing, I think it’s quite clear that his future behind the camera is bright. It’s dark and deathly serious but Sheridan adds just enough tension breaks to keep the movie from becoming an unbearable slog. Renner and Olsen are both excellent and the movie sheds light on shadowy subject.

23. Darkest Hour – Gary Oldman, Lily James, Ben Mendelson
The best parts of Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman, fantastic subject matter, Gary Oldman, a strong supporting cast, Gary Oldman, etc.) are top-five-movie-of-the-year good. Watching Oldman manifest himself in the form of Winston Churchill is a sight to behold. This is perhaps THE highlight of a career made up of highlights. I just wish this movie had been directed by almost anyone else. Joe Wright is, frankly, incredibly boring and his sensibilities in shot composition, musical cues, and special effects “splashes” are just as boring. The result is a good movie featuring great performances instead of being great all around.

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22. LEGO Batman – Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson
It’s amazing to me that WB can get animated Batman so incredibly right while also getting live-action Batman so incredibly wrong. The opening sequence in LEGO Batman is a better plot device than anything conceived in Justice League, Suicide Squad, or Batman V Superman. How is that possible?! Arnett is a stellar Batman and re-teaming him with Cera is a stroke of genius. Most of all, though, this version of Batman has a sense of humor about himself, a welcome respite from the current live-action Batman who enjoys branding his victims.

21. American Made – Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright
You likely know this by now but I ride for Cruise all day, every day. No one cares as much as Cruise and in the history of film, I’m not sure you can find an actor who has consistently delivered on the promise of entertainment for as long as Cruise has. American Made is a highly enjoyable flick infused with life by Doug Liman’s little touches of flash throughout. It doesn’t hurt that the subject matter is very interesting and, of course, Cruise is out there doing classic Cruise things. What a fun ride.

20. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black
In a year that didn’t feature a whole lot of surprises for me, this was the outlier. I didn’t think a Jumanji sequel/reboot was necessary and the trailers didn’t do much to assuage my feelings of disinterest. So, suffice it to say, I was shocked by how smart, entertaining, and overall fun this movie turned out to be. This cast is FULLY invested in what should be a complete throw-away action comedy and the setup is far more impressive than I ever would’ve thought imaginable. Jumanji has more life to it than most of its contemporary blockbusters and I must say, I now welcome any and all sequels that are to come in this series. 

19. Brigsby Bear – Kyle Mooney, Greg Kinnear, Mark Hamill
This is by far the weirdest movie on this list. I don’t even know what to compare it to. Napoleon Dynamite with a kidnapping subplot? Brigsby is unique and strange and funny and surprisingly heartfelt. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea but it worked beautifully for me and ultimately became one of the more fun film experiences of the year.

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18. Wonder Woman – Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, David Thewlis
On first viewing, Wonder Woman was one of my five favorite films of the year. On second, third, and fourth viewing, my appreciation waned a bit. Even still, this movie is a massive accomplishment in the post-Nolan DC Cinematic Universe because, after all, I was very willing to rewatch it a second, third, and fourth times instead of swearing upon the life of my dog to never see it again like I did with Batman V Superman, Justice League, and Suicide Squad. To be sure, this is an awesome comic book movie in a year stuffed with great comic book movies. Gadot is magnificent, Pine is an awesome counterpart, and Patty Jenkins proved what a great director can do when Warner Brothers leaves her alone. And it had one of the great action scenes of the year which never hurts.

17. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson
It is difficult to write about Three Billboards without getting bogged down in the backlash against it. For the record, I understand the argument against it but feel those advocating for it are missing the point. I’ll consider it here as a film and nothing more and as a film, it’s quite excellent. Martin McDonagh is a master when it comes to creating dark and grimy characters in dark and grimy settings and in this arena, Three Billboards might be his masterpiece. The cast is utterly brilliant, not just the three mentioned above, all of whom are very likely to receive Oscar nominations (if not wins), but all the way down to the police officer with one line in the film. It’s difficult to watch and downright unpleasant at times (many times?) but McDonagh handles it with as little gratuitousness as possible and for that I am thankful.

16. War for the Planet of the Apes – Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
The concluding chapter of the Apes trilogy, War is the best of the bunch (so, obviously, it made less money than either of its predecessors). Movies about talking monkeys really have no business being this good but Andy Serkis is a genius and his commitment to his character (we’re talking about a CGI ape here) is uncanny. Add in Woody Harrelson and Steve Zahn with a fantastic scene-stealing performance with a plot that actually feels relevant to the current climate, and you’ve got an unbelievably good movie…about a bunch of talking monkeys.

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15. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill
I did not have Star Wars as the most divisive film of the year coming in. Totally caught me by surprise. I went up and down, back and forth with The Last Jedi and eventually just accepted the very good segments of the movie (about 80-85 percent of the movie by my very scientific calculations) and chose to overlook the rougher segments. At the end of the day, I really, truly love what Rian Johnson was trying to do (and I think succeeded in doing) in the macro sense and wish the micro elements had been tightened up. I think he’s put not only this trilogy but also the next set of films (which he will helm) on the right track and in five years, Last Jedi will be far more fondly remembered by fans than it was initially received.

14. Blade Runner 2049 – Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto
I ran the gamut of emotions on this one in the months leading up to its release. On the one hand, I love the property, I love the cast, and I love the director (Denis Villeneuve). On the other, a Blade Runner sequel featuring Harrison Ford risks answering the famous question posed ambiguously by the original and thereby diluting that film. Villeneuve handled this issue beautifully just like the rest of the movie. Gosling is terrific, the movie looks AMAZING, and while the story drifts a bit here and there, overall, it’s a breathtaking film that, I think, will age extremely well (just like the original).

13. A Ghost Story – Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara
I had this in my top 10 for most of the winter and it pained me to drop it out. Ultimately, it lost a place or two because I don’t know that I’ll ever watch it again and it’s a hard one to recommend to a broad audience. For a one-time viewing, however, A Ghost Story is a triumph of filmmaking and a movie that stuck with me for weeks after I saw it. David Lowery is a name you may not recognize now but you will soon, following the critical success of this movie and his previous film, Pete’s Dragon (also fantastic). He’s the type of guy a studio should hand all of the money to and allow him to do whatever he wants. Affleck and Mara are both excellent, expressing more with head nods and mannerisms than most actors can convey with actual dialogue. Touching, beautiful, and, if you’ll forgive the wording, haunting.

12. The Disaster Artist – James Franco, Dave Franco, Allison Brie
As with Three Billboards, for the purpose of this list, I’ll only look at this as a movie and set aside the cultural conversation regarding its star. I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy this movie nearly as much as I did. I expected it to be overly dark and uncomfortable given what I know about The Room and its bizarre leading man, Tommy Wiseau. At almost every opportunity, however, Franco (as writer and director) displayed a shocking lack of cynicism in regard to Tommy. In doing so, The Disaster Artist essentially mocked the product without mocking the man and ultimately made the movie something enjoyable instead of something to get through.

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11. Spider-Man: Homecoming – Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei
I’ve seen Homecoming more times than any other film on this list. My kid LOVES this movie. I love that he loves this movie. I also love that his love for this movie means Spider-Man 3 (which was his favorite Spider-Man movie before Homecoming) has gone unwatched for months, praise the Lord. Marvel truly nailed it with this one, finally giving us a Spider-Man worth investing in long-term. Holland embodies both Peter Parker AND his superhero alter ego (something neither of the previous iterations could do) and has an awful lot of fun in the process. The John Hughes-ian screenplay and direction doesn’t hurt in this regard, either. It is Keaton, however, who gives Homecoming its gravitas and provides the perfect antagonist for Parker/Spidey. I loved this movie, I think it’ll hold up incredibly well moving forward, and I truly can’t wait to return to its universe.