Hey everyone, it’s that time of the year again where we look back on the movies of the previous year. I didn’t have enough to do a Top 10 of both Best and Worst, so it’s all being lumped together into one mega-list. So, without further ado, let’s see how we did, starting with the worst and working our way up to the best. There's a lot to talk about, so we won't be getting into spoilers either. Let's begin!
THE WORST: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
I try to give modern comedies a chance, but more often than not they don’t work for me. This movie didn’t work on any level. It wasn’t funny, all the characters were terrible people, and nothing made me care about anything that happened. In addition, plot was so rote and tired that by 5-10 minutes in I’d predicted exactly how the movie would play out, after which it proceeded do exactly what I’d said it would. Just awful.
Gods of Egypt- You had to know this one was going to be near the bottom. Acting all over the place, forgettable score, and CG not even up to par with last-gen game consoles. The plot was silly and all the characters in their garish outfits were either forgettable or cringe worthy to watch. Alright to watch if you’re drinking with friends, perhaps, but a terrible movie overall.
Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice- A film as long and clunky as it’s title, it makes me sad to have this so close to the worst. For quite a while, it was at the bottom. There were a lot of good things in this film, but the things that were bad were too atrocious for those good things to overcome. The three-hour extended edition was a waste of an R-rating and didn’t add much to the overall movie except time. I wanted so much to have this be good, and to do justice (no pun intended) to the characters it portrayed and it didn’t. I’m excited for Wonder Woman, but that’s kind of their last chance for me, and I hope they learn from this one.
Before you grab your pitchforks at the fact I put a Pixar film so close to the bottom, hear me out. We went into this movie excited with fairly high expectations. Finding Nemo is pretty popular in our house and it was pretty cool to be getting a sequel. Except that the sequel was a disappointment. It looks pretty, but the characters are so awful to Dory through the whole film (even Marlin) and none of the new ones have the presence of their predecessors. The plot also goes a little crazy, especially during the finale, but by that time a lot of the kids in the audience were restless. However, the short, Piper, that they ran beforehand was absolutely spectacular and some of the most gorgeous animation I’ve ever seen.
Jason Bourne- I haven’t watched any of the other films in the series, but we got the chance to see this while camping at a drive-in theatre, which was really cool. I ended up taking the kids to bed so I watched 90% of it mostly without sound. It played out to me like a fairly generic action film, okay but nothing to write home about. Tommy Lee Jones was basically playing the same character he always plays, and everyone else seemed to fill their roles well enough. There were two action sequences that looked especially good, but overall it seemed just… fine.
Suicide Squad- This was better than Batman vs. Superman, in that it was actually somewhat enjoyable. It was still obviously two movies that had been chopped and hacked into one, and that led to a tone that was all over the place. A lot of characters didn’t get much development at all, but the ones that did were pretty fun. Jared Leto I found to be a terrible Joker, but Viola Davis was spot-on as Amanda Waller. That pretty much sums it up, real mixed bag.
To be honest, I thought this would end up higher on the list. I had a blast with this movie. Was it better than the original? No, but to think it could be is an absurd notion. As far as modern comedies go, this is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time and I laughed quite a lot. I also really enjoyed the new cast, as well. I liked the subversion of tropes; the Ghostbusters were scientists and didn’t look like supermodels, the ‘hot, ditzy secretary’ was a guy, and everyone looked like they were having a ton of fun. This movie did not deserve the abuse that it got in any way, period. If this was the hill you chose to die on as far as remakes go, there are so many you could have made a better argument for.
The Magnificent Seven- I wasn’t sure what to make of this one based on promotional material. Another remake of a classic film, but with much less reaction to it than the last entry or something like Ben-Hur (which I did not see). This one was a rental that I went into without any real expectations, and it was so much fun. I grew up on movies and books about the Old West, and this was so refreshing. There haven’t been a lot of Westerns lately in our superhero-drenched world, and this reminded me of everything I love about them. It had all the Western tropes and a really solid cast fronted by Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, and a villainous Peter Sarsgaard heavily channeling John Malkovich. I also found Ethan Hawke to be quite a standout as well, but as I said, the whole cast was excellent. Super fun, worth checking out.
Batman: The Killing Joke- This is another controversial pick, I know. Despite the ‘filler’ at the beginning, which I didn’t mind and was actually better the second time around, this was actually a really faithful adaptation to the story once we got to the story. What pushes this up for me is the cast; Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill are Batman and the Joker, they are the voices I read the dialogue in when reading the comics. That and a certain little number from the Joker himself makes this movie so very worth watching. If the ‘filler’ is a problem, fast forward about 28 minutes and you get a great adaptation.
Did I just put Warcraft this high on my list? Yes, yes I did. I’m not the biggest Warcraft player, and I haven’t played a game in the series in years, but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The humans may not have been that interesting, but the Orcs definitely were. You were invested in them, and the motion-capture used for them was superb. The effects overall were gorgeous, I loved the way the magic looked and the way it operated. But the crowning glory was the cinematography. From just shots of various locations to the battle scenes, it looks breathtaking and there are some really unique ways of moving the camera and setting up shots that just blew me away.
X-Men: Apocalypse- I’m not sure what people expected from this one, but I got everything I wanted from it. While it may not be quite as good as the previous entry in the series, it was very much an X-Men movie. This franchise has always had it’s own look and feel different from the MCU and DCEU and I found this fitting in nicely with the it’s predecessors. Yes, it was big and over-the-top, but that’s how they are. Michael Fassbender was obviously the standout, but the rest of the cast was really good too, and I hope we can see some of the newer characters grow more into their roles. I’m also glad that Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse wasn’t quite as over-the-top as he was in the cartoon or just based on the trailers and that he had quieter moments of sinister-ness to balance it.
Doctor Strange- I like how Marvel is pulling out characters lesser-known in the mainstream and making films of them. This movie was a trip, but a really fun one. The visuals in this were insane and the Inception-esque things we saw in the trailers is just the tip of the iceberg. The cast is, as usual, excellent, with some of the best interactions coming between Dr. Strange and Wong the Librarian. It is very much an MCU film (with the unfortunate Marvel villain issues), but set itself apart from the others while also opening up a new avenue of the universe with the mystic arts. Here’s to more of the good doctor in the future!
10 Cloverfield Lane
This was such a tense experience. I walked out of the theatre with my shoulders and neck aching from sitting hunched on the edge of my seat for the entire duration of the film. This was a slow burn for sure, but it was utterly riveting and super claustrophobic. The performances were just fantastic, John Goodman… oh my goodness, give that man all of the awards for this. I know the Cloverfield name might throw some off, but don’t let it make you miss out on an incredible film experience. It’s not an easy experience, but the slow realization of what’s happening and the evolution of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s character was terrifying and so, so satisfying. Go see this one if you haven’t.
Deadpool- Well, they did it. They actually did it. They made Deadpool work. If you like the character, then this movie is for you because it captures the personality and essence to a tee right from the opening credits. There were times I laughed until I was crying, all while the movie turns the genre on its head and draws crude pictures on it like a passed out friend at a party. And unlike the previous R-rated comic movie on this list, this one takes full advantage of it’s rating and is definitely not for kids. A great realization of a character that fixes (and makes fun of) the mistakes made the first time around and makes R-rated comic movies cool again.
Zootopia- I did not expect that the movie I saw this year that was one of the hardest-hitting about real life issues would be a Disney movie about a rabbit police officer. While both hilarious and heartfelt, this one really made you stop and think, and not just about the lush animation. Not to mention there were a couple of references thrown in that made us laugh pretty hard (but would likely fly over the heads of a lot of kids) that we didn’t expect. Showing that you can be smart and entertaining and appeal to both kids and adults, Zootopia is a damn fine movie.
Captain America: Civil War
I never cared much about Cap until they started making movies about him, to be honest. And yet, of all the Marvel characters, the Captain America films are the best overall. A great culmination of the story that Marvel has set in motion so far and opening the way for more down the line with what will probably be a lot of interesting new character dynamics, this one is a must-see for the Marvel/comic movie fan. It tackled real-world implications of superheroes and how both they and the world respond to that, the clash of ideologies that come from different personalities, and what happens when people are pushed to extremes. And it could do all of these things while being fun. Not to mention the introduction of two awesome new characters in Spider-Man and Black Panther.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story- As much as I loved Civil War, it was pretty… safe. Rogue One hit me like a truck; I needed time to reorient myself afterwards and I still found myself thinking about it and consumed by it days later. It was breathtaking to look at, Gareth Edward’s eye for scale and on-the-ground perspective did wonders here, accented by a soundtrack that was both original and evocative of the first trilogy of movies. The acting was excellent as well, with a great diversity of cast that was a welcome sight. Make no mistake, this was a war movie, and you feel that. It also did something no Star Wars film has done before, and culminated in a fine and emotional finish that was hugely affecting. Incredible, a first-day-of-release-buy for me.
MY TOP PICK: Arrival
I went into this film excited for an adaptation of a story that I liked. This movie floored me. It was one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen on film, down to earth but with an almost dreamy quality beside Rogue One’s grittier tone. There is a shot quite close to the beginning that there are literally no words for to describe how beautiful it is. The acting is absolutely stellar, with Amy Adams showing that she deserves far, far better than the tripe she was given in BvS and Jeremy Renner as a snarky fellow scientist with whom she plays off of very well. That was the other thing, the main characters were scientists and with the goal of communication with the aliens. It was a beautiful turnaround, every time it seemed like the film would fall into ‘alien-invasion’ territory, it did what I swear was a deliberate about-face in favor of arguing science and talking rather than guns and explosions. As an adaptation, it was one of the best I’d seen in a very long time and seeing the aliens’ written language on the big screen, looking so much like I thought it should, was beyond incredible. Like 10 Cloverfield Lane, I sat on the edge of my seat, only this time not in tension, but in awe.
So that was my roundup of films for 2016. Obviously, there were some I wanted to get on here but wasn't able to see, and unfortunately that is the way of things. But, with 2017 now underway we’ll be looking ahead and soon I’ll have a list of anticipated movies that are heading our way in this new year. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed and we’ll see you next time!