__Happy New Year! 🙂 And I’m sure many of us can’t wait to turn our backs on 2016! This was quite possibly one of the worst years in recent memory; it was practically a never-ending string of bad news! This was the year that gave us Brexit, and the US presidential election produced the result everyone was dreading. I don’t want to say too much about these political developments, partly because I know they’re highly controversial and partly because I generally don’t care, but the overall impression I got of this year’s political climate was that it marked a triumph for hate, discrimination and intolerance, and a severe blow to basic human decency and any sense of progression.
__Not to mention, this was a year so chock full of celebrity deaths that I saw a post floating around the Internet of people wanting to know what 2016’s problem was! We lost some truly great talents over the last twelve months: Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Prince, Abe Vigoda, Terry Wogan, Anton Yelchin, Maurice White (of Earth, Wind & Fire), Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, Andrew Sachs, Greg Lake, Harper Lee, Richard Adams, George Michael and Carrie Fisher, just to name a few. There was so much death and, like I said before, just general bad news all around us that I’m surprised the whole world didn’t fall into depression!
__But enough about the world at large! 🙂 That’s not my passion, after all; I don’t care that much about current events. I care about movies. And, unfortunately, I have to share in everyone else’s pessimism in that regard, because this was not a good year for me as a film buff. So much of this year’s cinematic output was either mediocre or just plain bad that it just kept beating me down, leaving me wondering a few times if it was all worthwhile. But, thankfully, there were plenty of really good ones as well, so I usually had a happy place to recall and break that dejection. 🙂
__And, before I start listing some specific examples, let me just remind you of the criteria I set for all these year-end lists. I’m only including movies I’ve actually seen; that’s the only way I can form concrete opinions, after all. I don’t count movies that haven’t yet been seen outside of film festivals; they have to have been distributed for the general public to see. And, because international release dates open up a whole new can of worms, I judge strictly by its initial release according to IMDb. So if, like me, you live in the British Isles, you’re not going to see Creed, Room or Spotlight on the best-of list, as they came out in the US in 2015.
__Before that best-of list, however, I have to talk about the movies that made 2016 so unbearable for me. Like I said, when this year’s movies were bad, they were shockingly bad! For the first time since I’ve been making these year-end lists, the worst-of top ten is comprised entirely of movies I rated one star (2/10 or less)! I’m not even kidding; every previous worst-of list has had at least one movie that scraped a 3/10!
__It could potentially have been even worse, though, because I didn’t see every movie that was reportedly bad. Towards the end of the year, I’d seen so many uninspiring movies in quick succession that I finally decided to do what most casual filmgoers would do: just refuse to see something I didn’t want to. I avoided Fifty Shades of Black, for example, and several other comedies that look vexing, like Bad Moms, Keanu and especially Office Christmas Party. Needless to say, there were a fair few sequels this year as well, some of which followed movies I still haven’t seen (namely Alice Through the Looking Glass and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows), while some were adding to movies I didn’t like to begin with (i.e. Allegiant and The Purge: Election Year). Other miscellaneous poorly received movies include The Darkness, The Other Side of the Door, When the Bough Breaks, The Disappointments Room, Max Steel and Shut In. Then there’s Assassin’s Creed, which hasn’t been released yet here in the British Isles.
__And now, with all that aside, let’s finally start talking about the worst of what I did see.
#10 = Gods of Egypt
Not even fifteen minutes in, I’d already deemed this movie to be a train wreck; its ineptitude was leaving me speechless with shock and amazement! The performances are all hammy and stilted, and the CG, from start to finish, just looks awful! Now, I’m not all that familiar with the Ancient Egyptian gods – I’m far more interested in Greek legend myself – but I’m willing to bet this movie bastardises the mythology as much as any given movie based on the Greek myths. In any event, this was actually one of the funnier movies I saw this year, but for all the wrong reasons.
#9 = Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Just as I expected, this movie is just as dull, unappealing and joyless as Man of Steel, and the dialogue is every bit as dry and uninteresting. Every other problem that’s been addressed – the haphazard plot, the mischaracterisation, the stupidity, the overreliance on fanservice – that all comes second as far as I’m concerned. Ironically, Wonder Woman, the addition I was always against, turned out to be the best part. Other than that, this movie is tedious and aggravating. How is it that the animated Batman/Superman movies, particularly the World’s Finest special, actually took their audience more seriously than this supposedly “adult” version?!
#8 = The Boy
This comes to us from the director of The Devil Inside – still the worst movie of 2012 in my opinion – so I very quickly abandoned all hope! It’s about an American nanny who’s shocked to find that the boy of the English family she’s charged with is actually a life-sized doll – a moment that left me just as baffled, wondering why she didn’t leave immediately, as this couple was clearly insane. But of course, as the film progresses, it turns out the doll might be alive. And then a further twist occurs, bringing on a climax that had me howling with laughter!
#7 = Hardcore Henry
This action film’s gimmick is that it plays out entirely in POV, presumably to emulate a video game feel. Well, sometimes what works in one medium doesn’t in another! I don’t usually get motion sickness from POV camera movies, but this one (as well as the brief first-person sequence in Grimsby) made me queasy within five minutes because the camera was moving way too fast! Plus, the action scenes are relentless, following each other nonstop with hardly a second to breathe, which makes the whole thing just plain boring. I seriously underestimated what a frustrating watch this movie would turn out to be.
#6 = Dirty Grandpa
Zac Efron plays an uptight guy who’s tricked into driving his lecherous grandfather to Florida. Honestly, I think the title says it all. If crude, largely sexual humour is your thing, knock yourself out. I personally found it utterly loathsome. The characters are all annoying too, especially Cousin Nick, whom I wanted to shut up within ten seconds, and those stupid corrupt cops. Like so many vulgar comedies, it tries to balance out that rampant coarseness by throwing in some sentimentality as well, and it doesn’t work. It’s yet another sad reminder of just how much Robert De Niro has fallen from grace.
#5 = 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Look, I’m a broken record when it comes to Michael Bay, but I was hopeful that maybe, just maybe, this might be the one good movie he’d surprise me with. Alas, no. This is yet another Michael Bay movie that manages to be both excruciatingly boring and endlessly annoying. So many of my usual complaints with his direction are still present here: the performances are flat, the camera never stands the fuck still, and at two-and-a-half hours, it feels brutally long. It’s far from his worst movie, but it was still a real struggle to get through. When will Michael Bay just go away?!
#4 = The Finest Hours
Chris Pine stars in this account of the 1952 US Coast Guard rescue of the SS Pendleton after it split apart in a storm off the New England coast. I never would have thought a movie about arguably the greatest rescue in the history of the US Coast Guard could be so boring! But lo and behold, its almost nonexistent acting and overall subdued tone make it shockingly, agonisingly so! Seriously, I cannot believe how boring this movie is! It’s astonishing – crippling! Also, I could tell right away that the period setting was CG, and the computer-generated backgrounds look like shit.
#3 = Nine Lives
Kevin Spacey plays a stuffy businessman who finds himself trapped in the body of the family cat. As soon as I heard about this movie, I suspected it was going to be bad, but I could never have expected it to be this bad! It’s as generic a tale of a lesson in humility as it gets. It’s too stupid an idea for adults, and its corporate content is too incomprehensible for kids. But the biggest clincher: the CGI is atrocious! Still, Kevin Spacey’s sarcastic voice-over is fun to listen to, probably because I like to think he’s channelling genuine contempt for the script. 🙂
#2 = Cell
Based on Stephen King’s novel, this is another one that’s so agonisingly boring I can’t hope to adequately convey it. After a promising start, it descends into utter tedium really fast; it’s every zombie apocalypse story you’ve ever seen before. On top of that, it’s incompetent on almost every level: the acting, the direction, the camerawork, the effects – everything. The zombies, or “phoners”, making actual dial tone noises is an idea that just does not work on screen. The only reason I kept watching is because Samuel L. Jackson does have a funny line once in a while. Other than that, this movie was torturous!
And my pick for the #1 worst movie of 2016 is… The 5th Wave
It’s quite a coincidence that both the top two movies on this list are based on books. 🙂 In this case, the source material is Rick Yancey’s novel about four waves of increasingly devastating alien attacks that have left most of the Earth decimated, and Chloë Grace Moretz stars as a girl on the run, desperately trying to help her younger brother. The term “young adult” has now become a dreaded two words in fiction, especially film adaptations (despite the fact that Harry Potter also falls under that banner), and this movie perfectly demonstrates why. It showcases all the worst elements that people associate with the genre: the acting is horrible, the dialogue is awful, the plot is thoroughly predictable every step of the way, and the romance is hackneyed and completely shallow. This year was loaded with depressingly bad movies, but none were as frustrating to watch as this one. I usually don’t complain about movies being predictable or clichéd, but The 5th Wave brought absolutely nothing new to the table, and that’s the main reason it takes the number one spot.
• Bad Neighbours 2 (AKA Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), while not as annoying as the first one, is still an unnecessary sequel that rehashes the original formula.
• Criminal, as well as being a substandard thriller, is just a downright unpleasant movie with no likable characters.
• The Forest is predictable, not scary at all, devoid of any rhyme or reason, and just plain dull.
• Ghostbusters is not as excruciating as I was expecting; it’s just not very good.
• Grimsby (known in the US as The Brothers Grimsby) was the hardest to keep off the list, as it’s another one that’s so obscene it’s unbearable.
• Misconduct is unremarkable, dreary, uninteresting, lifeless and every other synonym in the book for dull.
• Norm of the North, once again, elicited overwhelming indifference from me throughout.
• And Ratchet & Clank (one of four video game movies to come out this year!) boasts a completely unoriginal plot and drab, insipid characters.
__Well, now that the bad movies are out of the way, I can start revelling in the movies that made this very trying year – and my passion for film as a whole – worthwhile! 🙂 My earlier pessimism may have been a tad premature, because there were honestly far more movies this year that I liked than ones I disliked. In fact, I came up with so many runners-up that I was tempted to extend the list to a top twenty. I decided against that idea, though, mainly because I wanted to whittle it down to the ones that really stood out.
__I would have liked to have seen more, but my local cinema didn’t always have the most convenient schedule. As a result, I didn’t get a chance to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Deepwater Horizon (though the fact that I got sick and tired of seeing the trailer all the time certainly didn’t help!), Captain Fantastic, Don’t Breathe or Hush, the new movie from Oculus director Mike Flanagan. Apparently a lot of people enjoyed the Magnificent Seven remake, too. Big awards contenders like Moonlight, Hacksaw Ridge and La La Land haven’t been released in the UK yet, and neither has Shin Godzilla. But, of all the movies I missed out on, by far the one I regret the most is Train to Busan.
__But like I said before, there were a great many movies I did see and very much enjoyed, and now it’s time to pick out the ones that stand head and shoulders above the rest. This is it: my top ten favourite movies of 2016…
#10 = The Edge of Seventeen
I’ve always had a soft spot for coming-of-age dramas, and this is easily one of the best in recent years. Not only is it brilliantly written and acted, but very rarely have I related to a character as much as I did here. Nadine has social anxieties, just like me, and I was an outsider at school and had precious few friends, just like her. So I couldn’t help but relate fully to her struggles, which felt realer to me than just about any other movie in this genre because I could very easily see myself making the same mistakes at her age.
#9 = Arrival
To my delight, this movie actually delivered the fresh new take on first contact that the trailer promised. 🙂 It’s refreshing in that it’s not a typical alien invasion story. It uses language as its tool rather than hostility, and the goal is to prevent war instead of inducing it. The cinematography is top-notch, and all the characters seem very real. There is clearly mistrust, as no one is sure what to expect from the communication attempts, but there’s no stereotypical obstinate higher-up character who just won’t listen. The ending is the main thing I took from it, but I won’t spoil it.
#8 = Allied
I heard this movie described as Hitchcockian when it came out, and that’s exactly what it reminds me of. Its constant uncertainty and intrigue seems right out of a Hitchcock movie; the one I’m thinking of specifically is Suspicion. I love how it keeps you in suspense once Marianne’s status as a suspected spy surfaces (I love alliteration! 🙂 ). It’s suggested that the Secret Service might just be testing Max, which adds to our own suspicions at the same time as his. I know a lot of people didn’t like this movie, but I stick up for it; I really enjoyed it.
#7 = The Nice Guys
Set in 1970s Los Angeles, it follows two mismatched private eyes who investigate a missing girl and the mysterious death of a porn star. Two words: Shane Black. Between this and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, he’s becoming one of my favourite writers. Not only is this movie an excellent showcase of black humour, but its energy comes from two actors who’ve less than impressed me previously: Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. Here, they seem more alive than ever before, and their comedic chemistry is flawless. The whole thing is a perfect blend of humour and drama that I look forward to seeing multiple times.
#6 = Hunt for the Wilderpeople
This is another one that’s endlessly funny; I sat there with a smile on my face the whole way through. It stars Julian Dennison and Sam Neill respectively as a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who flee into the wild New Zealand bush, triggering a national manhunt. It’s a little hard to put this movie’s charm into words; it’s offbeat and its humour is dark at times, but it’s so passionate and cheerful that it’s infectious. But by far the best aspect for me was Sam Neill. He is just on fire with this performance! 🙂 It’s the best I’ve seen from him in years.
#5 = Finding Dory
This was a big surprise for me, as Pixar doesn’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to sequels, Toy Story aside. Not only is it a fantastically fun adventure packed with all the great characters we’d expect from Pixar, but its message is one you don’t see too often: sometimes a little spontaneity is okay. One highlight for me personally was the scene where Dory gets lost in the pipes, which is done so well that you feel her panic in full. It’s a truly delightful sequel that I think is not only as good as the original, but possibly even better.
#4 = Captain America: Civil War
Fuck Batman v Superman: I was far more excited about this movie about superheroes clashing! Like The Winter Soldier before it, the political aspects still lost me at times, but thankfully the politics aren’t as prevalent this time. You can easily understand everyone’s motivation, and both sides of the debate do raise good arguments. While some early action scenes are edited in a manner that’s hard to follow, the massive brawl at the airport is undeniably a highlight. Plus, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man may be the best I’ve ever seen. It’s one of the best superhero crossovers ever, and definitely one of my favourite MCU movies.
#3 = Zootropolis (AKA Zootopia)
Disney really seems to be on a roll lately, having released two animated features within the same year – something that hasn’t happened since 2002 – both of which are really good. 🙂 But this is by far my favourite of the two, not only because the animation and characters are great, but because it tells a legitimately good mystery story: I’ll admit I didn’t see the outcome coming. Its message is not only one of overcoming prejudice, but also of pursuing your dreams – and it even addresses the need to accept the consequences that come with them, and the dangers of saying the wrong thing.
#2 = Kubo and the Two Strings
This latest animated film from Laika is about a young boy named Kubo who must locate a magical suit of armour to defeat a vengeful spirit from his past. I really liked Coraline and ParaNorman, but this is, hands down, my favourite Laika movie so far. The stop-motion animation is absolutely superb; if there was any CG involved, the stop-motion is so flawless that I can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. The overall atmosphere this movie creates is just phenomenal: like a classic fairytale and a timeless myth all in one. Throw in some irresistible characters and you have a true masterpiece.
And my #1 favourite movie of 2016 is… Eye in the Sky
A military operation to use a drone to bomb a group of terrorists in Kenya escalates when a little girl enters the kill zone, triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare. I think of this as Alan Rickman’s The Dark Knight, in that it probably attracted a lot of attention because it was his final role, but the movie itself is still brilliant even without that added intrigue. 🙂 This is one of the most taut, tense thrillers I’ve seen in quite a while – far more engrossing than I was expecting a war movie with political debates to be! The arguments presented about the morality of the situation are truly compelling. What I especially like is how the movie puts you squarely in the mindset of the military personnel – you never get to know the terrorists or even hear what they’re talking about – which adds all the more to the authentic, down-to-earth feel of the proceedings. Plus, Alan Rickman delivers the movie’s final line, and it’s one of my favourite lines ever uttered on screen! May he rest in peace, and I’ll always be glad that he was a part of my absolute favourite movie of 2016.
• Deadpool is gloriously and hilariously sardonic, just like you’d expect.
• Kung Fu Panda 3 is a perfect blend of humour and philosophy that’s, if anything, even better than the original.
• Moana, Disney’s other triumph this year, has a great lead duo, a gripping quest and one hell of a catchy song from Maui.
• Money Monster is a nonstop thrill ride involving economics, a subject matter that could easily have lost me, acted perfectly across the board.
• Nocturnal Animals is a dark, disturbing thriller that kept me intrigued and interested… up until the awful ending.
• Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes a while to get rolling, but the ending is ten different levels of brilliant! 🙂
• Sausage Party surprised everyone with how profound it was, challenging issues like faith and social boundaries.
• And X-Men: Apocalypse manages to make a villain I previously found boring a legitimate threat.
These are some movies I only rated 7/10, but which still managed to stick in my head.
• The Conjuring 2 is another sequel that I think I liked even more than the first one, with its more relatable story and characters.
• Green Room is a quiet but tense and endlessly smart thriller punctuated by moments of shocking violence.
• Lights Out is that rare horror movie these days that’s actually good, thanks to its characters and craft.
• And The Shallows sustains the tension in the main character’s struggle so well that it really is the only good shark movie since Jaws.
__Well, there you have it: my personal high and low points of the time I spent watching movies this year. The bad stuff was overwhelmingly bad, but the good stuff was so numerous I had to throw in two separate runners-up lists.
__In terms of my final salute to 2016, all I can say is I’m not going to miss it! Let’s hope for better times in 2017. I’ll certainly be hoping for an all-around better serving of movies.
__So happy New Year once again, and I’ll see you next time. Take care.