2016 was filled with a plethora of movies ranging from historical dramas to science fiction extravaganzas. As with every year, cineplexes across the country are filled with box office smashes (like Finding Dory and Deadpool) as well as box office duds (Warcraft and Ben-Hur). Regardless of how much or little a movie makes, box office receipts are not the tell-all in the quality of a film; some movies have so much hype they make money even though they are a mediocre movie at best, and some movies go through the theaters unnoticed despite being a fantastic piece of work.
Below are my personal reflections on the best and worse Hollywood had to offer throughout the year of 2016. Feel free to share your thoughts (whether in agreement or disagreement) as we cheer and jeer the cinema of yesteryear.
My Top Films of 2016:
5) The BFG. Steven Spielberg made a classic film with the adaptation of Dahl’s children’s classic. Sadly, the movie failed at the box office. My guess: the movie was made 15 years too late, and the children generation of today do not have the patience to appreciate the style of storytelling BFG had to offer (the pace was a crawl compared to the ADD Secret Life of Pets). Nevertheless, I took my 5 year old to see it, and she sat in the theater, eyes as wide as they could go, and gasped with utter surprise and amazement at the visuals of this fantastic film. Don’t pass this overlooked treasure!
4) Zootopia. Disney has had a bang of a year, financially and artistically. Zootopia was as close to Pixar as any toon has ever been (this film even, in my opinion, surpassed Pixar’s Finding Dory). Littered with puns galore along with a message of misunderstanding and prejudices, Zootopia is a great adventure upon which to embark.
3) Hacksaw Ridge. Mel Gibson may have done some bad things in real life, but when he gets behind the camera, he shines as one of the best directors in the business. Hacksaw Ridge is a phenomenal work, one which I hope gets nods in the Academy Awards in 2017 (picture, director, and actor for Andrew Garfield who gave the performance of a lifetime). Ridge is a film about finding purpose and direction amidst the chaos of life both literally in war and metaphorically in life.
First place is a tie. I don’t think I have ever given a tie before (and I’ve been doing these lists for over 15 years). The tie is between Captain America: Civil War and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Part of me wants to give the edge to the Captain, because I am a super geek of Star Wars, so for any film to match the galaxy far far away really says something about its quality! In Civil War, the airport sequence alone is enough to place the film in the best of action textbooks of all time, while Rogue One shows new artistic directions are not only allowed but appreciated in the Star Wars cinematic universe. I hope 2017 brings us such high quality adventures (anticipating greatly Episode VIII and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2).
WORSE Films of 2016
5) The Boss. Melissa McCarthy can be very funny (see the Heat and Spy), but sometimes she really falls flat (like with Identity Thief). The Boss was far from humorous, and really tried to make unlikeable people be likeably funny, which just doesn’t work. If someone is unlikeable, bad things happening to them is funny (like in Home Alone), but not the other way around. Sure, the film tried to get us to like her, but in the end it was too little too late.
4) Angry Birds the Movie. I like the game, but was totally bored with the movie. You know a comedy failed when there’s a pause for laughter, but no one is laughing, leaving the room with an awkward silence. Randomness for the sake of being random is not the same as being creatively clever. Too many cartoons make this mistake (see Storks, Norm of the North, and other animated failures of 2016).
3) Batman vs Superman. It made a lot of money, but receipts do not equal quality. Where BvS struggled was in regards to the execution. If a story of this nature is going to be great, it has to be like a roller coaster: dark and heavy one moment, light and lighter another, allowing for an emotional climactic catharsis towards the end. BvS was a plateau: it stayed dark and heavy and never allowed for release or relaxation. This results in a climax that is dull and uncathartic. Chris Nolan’s Batman trilogy is a great example of the rollercoaster required for movies.
2) Pride, Prejudice, & Zombies. I love it when new twists and experiments are made with timeless classics. Bride and Prejudice remains one of my favorites from this particular novel. Being a zombie fan (and hoping for a decent sequel for Zombieland), I had high hopes with this adaptation. I was sadly disappointed. It took me three DVD viewing attempts to get to the end, just to discover it wasn’t worth it. This genre mash-up was really a mess-up, and probably destroyed any chances of another (hopefully higher quality) attempt anytime in the near future.
1) Miracles from Heaven. Yes, I am a Christian who enjoys a good faith-based movie (like Hacksaw Ridge). However, usually faith-based films are poorly acted with mediocre writing, and end up being a movie version of a sermon rather than a real story with real adventure. Miracles from Heaven was a story, so I was excited going into the film. What I got was one of the worse movie experiences I have had in years…yes, years. Where was the failure? First came the marketing: the trailers told the entire film. If you have seen the commercial, you have seen the film; yet the movie tries to surprise you unsuccessfully. Second, all of the failures of Batman vs Superman were done to the extreme in this film. Miracles seemed more sadistic than the Passion of the Christ. If you want to watch a child and family suffer for 1.5 hours, just to get relief in the last 2 minutes, then this film is for you. Me, it was not worth the pain.
Granted, I did not see every film which came out. There were other good films which were made (like Deadpool, Hail Caesar!, and the Jungle Book was surprisingly better than expected), and there were other duds (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Deepwater Horizon, and Storks are worth avoiding as well). What were some of your favorites? What were some you would advise avoiding?