(Editor’s note: Since December is a time for everyone to make year-end best-of lists, we asked our staff to do the same. Next up is everyone’s favorite handsome boy Tom Fuchs with his top ten movies of 2017 that are currently scored as ‘Rotten’ on Rotten Tomatoes!)
An article was recently published by Gizmodo UK where they try to codify which film critics are the most contrarian through data analysis. With respect to their process, I will now show that the correct answer to this question is me, Milwaukee Film’s Tom Fuchs. My evidence? This list of 10 (a list I WHITTLED DOWN, mind you) movies that are currently designated as ‘Rotten’ on Rotten Tomatoes that I would argue are, in fact, good.
1. xXx: Return of Xander Cage
(dir. D.J. Caruso | USA | 2017)
(currently sitting at 45% on Rotten Tomatoes)
I’m not trying to be rude, but this film being considered rotten is ridiculous. Return of Xander Cage (or RoXC, as it will henceforth be known) is an exquisitely stupid action movie – a po-faced MacGruber that somehow manages to be even more of a testament to the wonder and glory of Vin Diesel than the Fast and Furious movies (this film is operating on a ‘whenever Poochie’s not on screen, the other characters should be asking “Where is Poochie?”’ level of devotion to Xander Cage). It takes the positive lessons learned from the Fast and Furious series (a diverse cast engaging in globe-trotting adventures) and then filters that through a layer of action absurdity that was not topped in 2017. This movie begins with a satellite being dropped on Samuel L. Jackson and soccer star Neymar’s heads from outer space, and only gets crazier from there. A motorcycle chase takes to the sea and continues, former NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez is violently ejected from an airplane TWICE, xXx’s special task force includes a DJ whose abilities actually prove integral to their survival. I could go on and on. If you know me personally, I probably already have at some point. I will leave you with this: RoXC features a moment of visualized innuendo that puts the ending of North by Northwest to shame.
2. Monster Trucks
(dir. Chris Wedge | USA | 2017)
(31% on Rotten Tomatoes)
I understand why people chose to pile on Monster Trucks as a cinematic object worthy of derision. It: a) is a movie about monsters who like to live inside of trucks, b) originated as an idea from the four-year -old son of Paramount’s then-producer Adam Goodman, and c) led Viacom to file a $115 million dollar write-down months before its release, citing “a programming impairment charge…related to the expected performance of an unreleased film”. But, bear with me here, *adopts an extremely ESPN 30 for 30 trailer voice* what if I told you Monster Trucks is good? A great supporting performance from Jane Levy, a positive environmentally-based message, and an adorable lead monster (the endlessly meme-d Creech) all support my thesis. I met Creech, and I LIKED IT.
3. A Cure for Wellness
(dir. Gore Verbinski | USA | 2017)
(currently 42% on Rotten Tomatoes)
One of my favorite things that happens sometimes in Hollywood is that directors who have made studios enough money are then allowed to do something like make a $40,000,000 horror remake of The Road to Wellville. Gore Verbinski is low-key one of my favorite Hollywood directors (The Ring, Mouse Hunt, Rango, the action finale of The Lone Ranger), and this movie deserved a better fate than it received. Rough year for Dane DeHaan starring vehicles, unless the metric you measure his success by is placement on my year-end list, in which case it’s been a banner year for Dane DeHaan.
4. The Mummy
(dir. Alex Kurtzman | USA | 2017)
(sitting at a whopping 16% on Rotten Tomatoes)
This Tom Cruise-led, failed attempt at starting a shared Universal Studios monsters “Dark Universe” holds the distinction (perhaps more appropriately called a diSTINKtion) of being the lowest-rated/most-rotten entry on this list. And I understand where those 84 percent of critics are coming from. This movie’s desire to create a functional cinematic universe before they even completed a single film was an act of lunacy/hubris – even if I can vaguely see what they were trying to do (“Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll is like Nick Fury AND the Hulk put together!”). But the film features a fantastic, physically demanding performance from Sofia Boutella (recently seen in Kingsman and Atomic Blonde) as the titular mummy, and features multiple horror/action sequences that I found engaging. Plus, Tom Cruise’s character starts the film out as a dirtbag, and remains a dirtbag throughout! A moment mid-film when Cruise upends the ‘damsel in distress’ trope by abandoning his female co-lead was one of my biggest laughs of 2017.
5. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
(dir. Luc Besson | France | 2017)
(currently resting at 49% on Rotten Tomatoes)
Oh hi, second Dane DeHaan starring vehicle on this list. After trying (and, I realize, probably failing) to convince you that Tom Cruise’s The Mummy is good, I’m going to attempt a far less Herculean task in convincing you that Luc Besson’s sci-fi fantasia is well-worth your time. Visually decadent, and filled with more show-stopping ideas in its brief running time than the rest of 2017’s summer movie season combined, Valerian is a treat from beginning to end, even if the leads aren’t burning up the screen with their chemistry. PLUS IT HAS CLIVE OWEN!
6. Fist Fight
(dir. Richie Keen | USA | 2017)
(26% on Rotten Tomatoes)
I have a simple metric for determining whether or not I consider a comedy successful: did it make me laugh frequently enough to have me consider my time well-spent? This leads to me championing comedies that others dismiss (I’m with you on Daddy’s Home, Sofia Coppola!) as trifles, such as Fist Fight. I would actually argue its near-apocalyptic high school setting serves as a clever indictment of the American education system, and that Charlie Day and Ice Cube are perfectly complementary comedic performers (the film understands better how to use Charlie Day’s manic energy than just about any other film he’s starred in). It is altogether undeserving of its critical bad rap…
7. The House
(dir. Andrew Jay Cohen | USA | 2017)
(a sparkling 17% on Rotten Tomatoes)
…as is The House! No less a source than A.O. Scott describes this film as a “dark, startlingly bloody journey into the bitter, empty, broken heart of the American middle class, a blend of farce and satire built on a foundation of social despair.” Plus, this film finally gives Jason “Heynong Man” Mantzoukas a starring role in a mainstream comedy film, so it automatically gets my unyielding respect.
8. The Greatest Showman
(dir. Michael Gracey | USA | 2017)
(52% on Rotten Tomatoes)
Generally speaking, I am in the bag for musicals, and am always here to provide full-throated support for any film attempting to create one in the modern era. So know that my take may in fact be compromised, but also know that this film features a Hugh Jackman/Zac Efron number as latently erotic as anything 2017 had to offer. Yes, P.T. Barnum purchased a blind slave and toured her across the Northwest as a curiosity. And yes, he also hired hunters to capture a herd of elephants from overseas, pushing any elephants that didn’t survive the brutal return trip overboard. But musicals are built on artifice, and what is more artificial than a musical sanding off the edges from the life and times of a guy whose career was built on lies and flim-flam? It’s like artifice Inception!
9. The Promise
(dir. Terry George | USA | 2016)
(50% on Rotten Tomatoes)
This film, from Hotel Rwanda director Terry George, starring Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, and Shohreh Aghdashloo to name but a few, is defiantly not bad. It is certainly an old-fashioned movie being told in a ‘historical epic’ mode – foregrounding a love triangle in a film about the Armenian genocide could strike some as distasteful – but George does a fine job capturing moments both bucolic and upsetting throughout the film. It also may not be physically possible for Isaac and Bale to turn in a bad performance at this stage of their careers.
10. Saban’s Power Rangers
(dir. Dean Israelite | USA | 2017)
(44% on Rotten Tomatoes)
Power Rangers is right on the threshold of what I can in good conscience consider to be ‘good’. This is an action picture without a single memorable action beat, constantly inundated with CGI (Bryan Cranston may have filmed his performance via Skype, and we would never know), and features what is perhaps the most egregious instance of product placement in cinematic history. That said, the product placement made me laugh, the cast of relative newcomers (including Stranger Things 2’s amazing bully & the actress cast as Jasmine for the upcoming live action Aladdin) have solid chemistry, and the film features ***SPOILER ALERT*** an evil witch getting backhanded deep into outer space by a giant robot. Consider it cinematic Gardetto’s – there’s enough snacks in here worthy of enjoyment that you won’t hold the abundance of pretzels against them.