Thursday, January 5, 2017

BEST And WORST Movies Of 2016

Hey, it's 2017, so what better time to look backward and make a list of The Best And Worst Movies of 2016!

I saw a whopping forty seven movies (!) in the cineplex in 2016, very few of which were actually worth watching. Out of that number there were a scant two or three that I'd actually consider good, tons of mediocre ones, and several that should immediately be shot into the sun.

Last year when I looked back at the Best And Worst Movies Of 2015, I realized I was far too easy on most of the films I reviewed. I vowed to fix that in 2016, and grade them more appropriately and accurately. Overall I think I did a better job in 2016, but in retrospect there were still a few I graded far too generously. 


I believe a big part of my grading problem is time, as I tend to be easier on a film when it's still fresh in my mind. It's not until weeks, or sometimes months later that a movie's many flaws become apparent and I realize it was actually a steaming pile of crap. I will continue to try and improve in this area in the coming year.

OK, on with the list. Needless to say, this is a list of the movies that I saw last year. I have no doubt there were much better and far worse films out there in 2016. And even more needless to say, the following are my opinions, and are completely subjective. Your mileage may vary.

WORST MOVIE OF 2016
As always, there were so many choices, I barely know where to begin. The cineplex was littered with hundreds of awful, awful films last year, but there were several that stood out from the pack.


Blair Witch
It's a remake! It's a sequel! It's a reboot! It's all three in one! And it still sucked!

The original The Blair Witch Project was a bona fide sensation when it premiered way back in 1999, and kicked off the whole detestable found footage genre. It was an interesting experiment, but unfortunately you can only pull off a trick like that once, as the new film so ably demonstrates.


Blair Witch is big, loud and dumb and lacks any of the subtlety that made the original a hit. Everything's cranked up to eleven here, as it even throws time travel into the mix! Stay out of these woods, and go watch the original again. 

I gave this film a well-deserved D+, and I stand by that grade.

Bad Santa 2
The original film became a raunchy Christmas classic back in 2003. Unfortunately this unwanted and unasked-for sequel is nothing more than a sub-par rehash. The uninspired script lacks the spark that made Bad Santa special, resulting in a movie that wants to be shocking, but comes off as mean-spirited. Worst of all, it's just plain not funny.

It's rare for a movie to make me feel genuine anger, but Bad Santa 2 somehow managed it. I really wanted to hurt this movie, and if it had a face I'd punch it.


I gave the film the D+ it so richly deserved.

Morgan
Another entry in the already crowded "A.I. Goes Horribly Wrong" genre.

Take Ex Machina, strip it of all its themes, substance, intelligence, competence and top notch performances and you'll end up with Morgan. It's the drooling man's sci-fi film.


I gave it a middling C grade, but it deserved a C- or D+ at best.


Incarnate
Start with The Exorcist (or any demonic possession film from the past forty years), cross it with Inception and top it with bits and pieces from a dozen other horror films, and you'll have a good idea what you're in for here.

Incarnate was actually filmed back in 2013 and then shelved for three years, which is ALWAYS a bad sign. There's probably an interesting concept deep within the center of the film, but it's buried under an avalanche of poor writing and worse direction.


I gave it a very appropriate D+.


The Darkness
Sigh… another watered-down, PG-13 suburban "horror" film that's as scary as a basket of kittens. 

Every frame of this film is a carbon copy of PoltergeistThere's a family whose house is plagued by strange happenings, a young child who's the only one who can see or communicate with the spirits, and the family even calls a professional spiritual medium to rid their house of evil! 

The Darkness proves that stealing the plot from a classic film doesn't guarantee yours will be a good one. In fact quite the opposite is true here. I gave it a C-, but it deserved a D.

The Huntsman: Winter's War
Somehow this film is both a prequel AND a sequel to Snow White And The Huntsman. It's like the Godfather 2 of fairy tale movies, except it sucks.

The Huntsman had to retcon much of the original film in order to work, which is always the sign of a subpar sequel. Oddly enough there's no Snow White this time, as her character's awkwardly written out at the beginning, replaced by an Elsa clone to cash in on the phenomenal success of Frozen.

I gave it a much too generous C.


The Boy
An anemic horror film that's a mishmash of many better movies, including the Chucky series, Dead Silence, Magic, The People Under The Stairs, Bad Ronald, Housebound and The House Of The DevilThere's even an abusive boyfriend subplot that's lifted almost shot-for-shot from Sinister 2.

Jesus, is there any movie that The Boy didn't steal from?

For some reason I gave this movie a much too generous C+. This is definitely one of those cases where it took me a while to step back and recognize the film for the turd it was. I should have given it a D+ at best.

The Forest
Here's a great idea– let's take an actual site in Japan known for its shockingly high suicide rate and incorporate it into a mediocre horror film, parading personal tragedy across the screen for the public's entertainment!

My favorite moment in The Forest is when the main character is searching for her IDENTICAL TWIN sister, and shows a photo of her to various people, asking if they've seen her. Um... couldn't she just point at her own face and ask if they've seen anyone who looks like her?

I gave the film a much too high C.

Honorable Mentions:


Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice
When I watch a direct to video film that was made by a tiny studio for next to no money by an unknown director, I kind of expect it to suck. 

Batman V. Superman had none of those problems. It was made by Warner Bros. for frak's sake, cost $250 MILLION* and was helmed by a successful director with a proven track record. Yet despite everything it had going for it, they still managed to screw it up. Badly.


The best I could say about the movie when I wrote my review was that I didn't hate it. High praise indeed! Sadly, that attitude's changed over the past year, as I've had time to process the film. I've grown to actively hate it over the past year, and wish I could somehow un-see it.


I gave it a C+, which feels way too high.


* The official budget is listed at $250 million, but industry insiders insist the cost ballooned to $410 million.

Suicide Squad
It's the same deal as with Batman V. Superman– this movie had a huge budget, the resources of a major studio behind it and a competent director at the helm, so there was absolutely no reason for it to suck. Especially when Marvel Studios have effortlessly pumped out fourteen very good comic book films over the past eight years.

Part of Suicide Squad's problem was studio meddling, as executives panicked over the movie's dark and gritty tone and tried to change it to a quippy, Guardians Of The Galaxy style romp in mid-stream. All this did was result in a muddled, schizophrenic, nonsensical mess of a movie.

I gave it a C, which in retrospect feels a bit high.

AND THE WINNER FOR WORST MOVIE OF 2016:

It was a tough choice, as there were just so, so many contenders. A lot of the movies on the list were low budget horror films, which you kind of expect to be bad. The big budget DC Comic flops were truly awful as well, but they're so bland I don't care enough about them to actively hate them.


Two movies stood out from the pack this year– both were sequels to much better and far more successful films. And unfortunately, both movies sh*t all over the memories and legacies of their predecessors for no good reason, other than to try and make a quick buck.

Therefore in a split decision, I award Worst Movie Of 2016 to both Blair Witch AND Bad Santa 2! Congratulations!

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MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIE OF 2016
Again, it was tough to narrow the choices down to just a few. So many films showed promise early in 2016, only to disappoint audiences nationwide as they limped across the screen and thudded to the ground sacks of sour, damp laundry. I managed to find three that I found particularly disappointing.


Ghostbusters 2016
Who'd have thought the most controversial and divisive movie of 2016 would have been a goddamned Ghostbusters film? Blood was spilled and gigabytes of internet space was wasted on arguments over the new, all female cast, and for what? A horrible comedy about people who hunt ghosts!

For the record I had no problem with the gender of the cast. I just didn't think any of them were the least bit funny. I never expected Ghostbusters 2016 to surpass the original classic, but how the hell could Paul Feig take one of the funniest movies ever made and create a laugh-free version? Talk about disappointing!

I gave it a C, which for once sounds about right.

Independence Day: Resurgence

I get a lot of sh*t for it, but the original Independence Day is one of my favorite movies. I know it's not high art, but it's entertaining, and in the end isn't that a movie's job?

Believe it or not I was actually looking forward to this sequel and seeing all my favorite characters from the original do battle with invading aliens once again. Unfortunately very few of the main cast returned, the plot was a weak retread of the first, and once again we got a sequel that had to retcon the original in order to work. Oy.

To paraphrase the movie poster, they had twenty years to write this sequel, and this was the best they could do?

I gave it a very disappointed C+.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant 
Full disclosure– I've never been a fan of this series. Try as it might, it just doesn't have the same stakes as films like The Hunger Games, in which teens are forced to hunt and kill one another to survive. In Divergent, kids are forced to pick one of five Factions in which to work and live. The horror... the horror...

The Divergent Series couldn't even be bothered to stick with this original premise, which was pretty much abandoned in the second film, as the story quickly devolved into a muddled, plotless sci-fi mess.

I paid to see the first movie, so I figured I might as well sit through the rest of the series to find out how it all ended. Sadly, I'll never know. See, Lionsgate Studios got greedy, and tried the old "Let's Turn The Final Book In The Series Into TWO Films So We Can Sell Twice As Many Tickets" trick that worked so well with Twilight and The Hunger Games.

Unfortunately there was barely enough plot in the final book for ONE film, much less two. Allegiant bombed at the box office, and bombed hard. In fact it was such a stinker that Lionsgate has now canceled production on the final movie of the series, claiming they'll film it as a TV movie of some kind. I guarantee you this will never, ever happen. 

So now I'll never know how the ferkakte story ends! I wasted six hours of my life on this sh*tshow for nothing! F*ck you, Lionsgate!

I gave it a well deserved C-.

AND THE WINNER FOR MOST DISAPPOINTING MOVIE OF 2016:
I briefly considered giving the award to Ghostbusters 2016, since I still don't understand how you can make a humorless film based on a classic comedy. But then I realized that I anticipated the movie would suck, and it delivered on those expectations in spades. Hence, I wasn't disappointed. Saddened, sickened and depressed, yes, but not disappointed.


Ultimately I gave the Most Disappointing Movie award to Independence Day: Resurgence. It ramps up the action and destruction to a ridiculous degree, but somehow can't manage to capture the excitement, goofy fun and heart of the original. The absence of most of the characters from the first film (especially Will Smith) and the substitution of bland brand new ones didn't help either. Congrats!

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BEST MOVIE OF 2015
Sadly, there weren't a lot of contenders for this title.


The Hateful Eight
I know, I know, this actually came on Xmas day of 2015. But I didn't get around to seeing it until January of 2016, so as far as I'm concerned it's from last year.

Like all of Tarantino's works, The Hateful Eight is a slow-burning, talky, big budget grindhouse movie, filled with the director's trademark "protracted takes" and punctuated here and there with short bursts of over the top, violent action. It's also a well-acted character study that draws you in and demands your attention, making you wonder just what'll happen next.

If you're a fan of Tarantino's works you'll find a lot to enjoy here. If you're not enthralled by his films, then this one's not likely to change your mind.


I liked the film but didn't love it, and gave it a B+.

Arrival
A rare treat at the cineplex these days– a well written, thinking man's hard sci-fi film that contains actual ideas and concepts, instead of explosions and CGI disaster porn.

Unfortunately the general public doesn't want to think when they see a movie, and Arrival struggled mightily just to barely break even at the box office (the goddamned Trolls movie actually beat it– badly!).

I liked the movie quite a bit, even though I guessed the big reveal in the third act. I gave it a well deserved A-.

Hacksaw Ridge
One of the best films I saw all year, which I will admit is damning it with faint praise. It's a well written and acted film based on the real life story of a true American hero. Even if you're not a fan of war films, you'll find something to like in this tale of a man who stuck to his principles in the face of overwhelming odds.

I gave it an A-.

Honorable Mention:

Captain America: Civil War
The film that Batman V. Superman SHOULD have been.


I liked the film quite a bit when I saw it in back in May, but something about it just seemed a bit... off to me somehow. I recently watched it again, and was amazed at how much more I liked it this time around. It's a very well written story, as each scene flows effortlessly into the next, with absolutely no filler. It's a film first, and a comic book movie second. Well done, Marvel!

I gave it a B+, but should have given it an A- at least.

AND THE WINNER FOR BEST MOVIE OF 2016:

This was a tough decision. I enjoyed The Hateful Eight, but I'd be OK with never seeing it again the rest of my life. Hacksaw Ridge was the most emotionally satisfying movie I saw, but again, there's not a lot of repeat value there.


That leaves Arrival by default. It's smart and well made, but I have to be honest– I admire the film more than I love it.

So congratulations to Arrival for being the Best Movie I saw in 2016, which sadly, isn't saying all that much. Let's hope there are more contenders in 2017!

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For the record, here are the movies I saw in 2016 (in reverse order, for some reason). If you want to read any reviews you might have missed, you'll have to search for 'em. I ain't got time to add links to forty seven movies!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Incarnate
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
Bad Santa 2
Hacksaw Ridge
Arrival
Doctor Strange
Masterminds
Ouija: Origin Of Evil
Deepwater Horizon

Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children
The Magnificent Seven
Blair Witch
Lights Out
Morgan
Don't Breathe
Sausage Party
Suicide Squad
Star Trek Beyond
Ghostbusters (2016)

The Purge: Election Year
The Legend Of Tarzan
Independence Day: Resurgence
The Shallows
Warcraft
The Conjuring 2
The Nice Guys
X-Men: Apocalypse
The Jungle Book
The Darkness

Captain America: Civil War
The Huntsman: Winter's War
Criminal
Hardcore Henry
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
10 Cloverfield Lane
London Has Fallen
Gods Of Egypt
Deadpool

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies
The Witch
The 5th Wave
The Revenant
The Boy
The Forest
The Hateful Eight

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