Fool's Gold and Hidden Gems of 2016
Every year there are several film duds that leave people wondering just who in their right mind was paid to make such a steaming pile of shit. However, I do not typically have a year like this one. 2016 was a year in which I hit such a long stretch of 'meh' to awful movies that I began to wonder if Hollywood really just didn’t care anymore. Luckily a few of the best films of 2016 broke up the monotony. And, yes, like any list these are entirely our opinion, some of which vastly disagree with sites like Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic so much that I’m sure I’ll receive plenty of poorly written, yet colorfully worded tweets.
BUT every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and for every box of crap that was preceded by much fanfare, there were several marvelous films that were unexpected, and sometimes entirely flew under the radar. Here are the biggest disappointments and their counterparts, the biggest surprises, of the 2016 box office:
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice
I figured I’d ease into this list with something a lot of us can agree on. This movie was Zack Snyder’s gift to the world. The film somehow manages to wind up between the philosophical ramblings of a madman and the jar of piss he gives you once he’s completely lost his mind. The shocking thing? That sentence made sense to people that watched that movie. Zack Snyder was given the chance to pit two of the world's most iconic fictional characters together in a cage match. Sounds exciting, right? Oh man, if you thought that sounded like a win-win situation, you’d be about as disappointed as Johnny Depp's mom. Snyder manages to make the ultimate action film complete with at least four dream sequences, and the most illogical plot since Gary Busey wrote a screenplay. I mean seriously, I’m all for overlooking a couple small plot holes in favor of moving the film along...but my God. If plot holes were pot holes, the interstate would look like Mad Max.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
One of the best characters to come out of 2016.
This movie really came out of left field. New Zealand is known for cranking out films set in Middle Earth, but Hunt for the Wilderpeople really brings the people to the world’s cinematic stage. Taika Waititi is most known known for directing New Zealand gem What We Do in the Shadows and the upcoming third installment in the Thor trilogy. Hunt for the Wilderpeople stars Alan Grant, err, Sam Neill as the unflappable Uncle Hec. His acting is superb and makes the heartstring-tugging throughout the film all the more palpable. Ricky, a hip-hop loving, rough-around-the-edges kid, is sent to live with Uncle Hec and Aunt Gloria. I won’t elaborate too much, but things go off the rails and it turns into a mix between E.T., Rabbit Proof Fence, and Secondhand Lions. It’s an emotionally diverse and captivating masterpiece and deserves to be lauded on every level.
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call aka Ghostbusters (2016)
That’s right! Many of your probably didn’t know that Ghostbusters got a name change when it made the move out of theaters. The only other film I’ve ever heard of doing this was when Edge of Tomorrow got switched to Live. Die. Repeat. Unfortunately the similarities end there between these two films. Ghostbusters was a bad film, there’s no two ways about it. Bad comedy accompanied by this weird feeling throughout the film that these actresses are just pretending to be in a Ghostbusters film rather than actually being in one. The film felt like it wanted to be so cool and prove all the naysayers wrong, but it just couldn’t put all the pieces together. It had a great cast and even some interesting characters, but they never felt like anything special. By the time the finale hits, and the film tries WAY too hard to be cool, I just didn’t care anymore. Thankfully this film bombed, and no it wasn’t because the film starred women instead of men. Almost nobody cared about that. Instead, I think people are just tired of seeing bad films. Hell, I think people are tired of remakes and sequels that nobody asked for. A trend you’ll see if you just take a look at the biggest box office bombs of the year. I’ll dig more into this in a couple of days.
My face as I prayed for deaths sweet release.
I know, I know. I’m going to get a lot of flack for this but I honestly just did not care for this film and think that the majority of critics tend to just give the Coen Brother’s an 'A for effort' every time they pump out a movie. I personally haven’t enjoyed a genuine Coen Brother’s film since Burn After Reading. Ever since they made True Grit, a great film but an uninspired remake, it seems like they’ve just lost their touch. Now, maybe I fell for the marketing, but I really thought this was the Coen Brothers I loved coming back for a good comedy. Nope, I was wrong. For what felt like the next four hours, a series of useless vignettes played upon the screen, all tied together by an enjoyable performance by Josh Brolin. But that was it, I laughed at a couple scenes but those were so far apart I couldn’t help but start wondering if I could rest my head on the stranger beside me. Watching this film felt like such a waste of time, much like how I felt while watching Inside Llewyn Davis. Yeah, I said it. Maybe it’s just me but I liked when the Coen Brothers made characters that I not only cared about, but remember! The Dude, Marge, Chigurh! These are characters that will be remembered forever! The only reason I know Llewyn Davis’ name is because it’s the title of a movie I hated. Maybe, I’m too attached to the Coens of yore, but damn do I miss them.
Eight Days a Week
There are two types of people in this world: people who love the Beatles, and people who say they love the Beatles because saying you don’t love the Beatles is like saying you don’t love America or Jesus or feeling your toes in the sand. I genuinely love the Beatles, but don’t take my word for it…because everyone says that. But do you know who definitely loves the Beatles? Ron Howard and Mark Monroe. Because they directed and wrote, respectively, one of the most sincere and poignant tributes to the band that has ever been, and likely ever will be. The fixation of the film is on the moment they became a global phenomenon and the effect that blowup had on their personal lives and on music as a whole. I could extol the virtues of this documentary til doomsday, but this should be encouragement to watch it, not read about it. Let’s leave the meat and potatoes for the stuff you shouldn’t see.
I wish I had been this drunk during this movie.
“Hey I’ve got a fresh, new, hip-to-the-groove idea that all the cool kids are gonna like! It’s about repressed middle aged women who lash out at the establishment around them, they tell the bitch parents to screw off, they have a party scene where all the other repressed adults get crazy, and at the end they find a happy balance. Oh! And one of them is super weird.” That was (probably) the pitch for Bad Moms. To which the studio exec responded, “Oh, we've made that movie fifteen times already. But, what the hell, let’s do it again! And this time let’s squander our excellent cast and just slow this movie to a crawl.” Now these quotes weren’t necessarily transcribed, or even paraphrased, but that had to have been the conversation, right? Right!? How else could this film have been made? I’ve seen this movie SO many times, with men, women, moms, depressed singles. It’s been done so often in fact, that I was able to guess what was going to happen. Every. Single. Scene. That’s how predictable Bad Moms is. It’s worse than bad, it’s boring and that’s something I can’t forgive.
O.J. Simpson: Made in America
Yeah, that’s right…ESPN made a hidden gem. This biography appeared to be an attempt to cash in on the hype that a certain other production had generated starring a certain actor from a certain hit show in the 90’s. But despite all expectations, this film takes a vastly different direction. Instead of dramatizing what was human about the players of the notorious crime and subsequent trial, ESPN decided to analyze the events. And they dug deep. They examined every flaw, every proof, every motivation, and placed it among the backdrop of race relations in America over a wide span of time. It manages to feel unbiased, un-preachy, and maintain the viewer’s interest and attention throughout. The only thing missing is Ross.
For some reason I thought this film would, despite the title, be more than a one trick pony. Again, I was disappointed. I’m sure an hour and a half dick joke sounds great on paper (well probably not), but they totally went for it! Not only that but they stuck the landing! Well, for the first 10 minutes at least. After that point the film becomes such an uninteresting, and preachy slog that I couldn’t help but wonder what a good version of this would look like. You’re probably thinking, did he just say preachy? In a film called Sausage Party? Yes. Yes I did. Amidst all the jokes and laughter, the film takes the time to preach about the stupidity of religion. Now I can get behind having some sort of commentary on the dangers of blind and unquestioned faith, but the subtlety and intelligence of this message was the title. Now, is part of the blame on me for having high expectations for a film that’s title references dicks? Maybe. But this felt like a half-assed attempt to make an “adult” movie. This film also sucks because they treated the animators like they owned them while making the movie. It makes me sad they were not only treated so poorly, but also that they were forced to make such a boring and uninspired film.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Kubo and friends watch as hopes for a sequel are gone with the wind.
Kubo is one of several films to bomb at the box office this year. This is made even worse by the fact that this is an absolutely phenomenal movie. While Sausage Party mistook immaturity for maturity, Kubo takes maturity and sprints for a touchdown. This is a film about loss, facing your fears, and relationships. It nails these themes without even breaking a sweat or talking down to it's audience. It also manages to feel fresh because of it's anime inspired visuals and action sequences. Kubo should be enjoyed by all audiences, and here's hoping it finds a post-theatrical release following.
Hey! Remember when Bryan Singer was brought back to the X-Men franchise and gave us the amazing Days of Future Past? Well apparently he got abducted by aliens and replaced with a lizard-man doppelganger, because this film cannot be made by the same person. Right? Right!? I mean, it’s a garbage fire from the terrible CG opening moments in Egypt, all the way up to the terrible CG finale in Egypt. It was so bad that it destroyed a largely positive X-Men legacy. I do want to mention that the movie wasn’t all bad. It had a solid very enjoyable 10 minutes of Magneto in the wilderness. It was great and emotional stuff. Heck, I liked the reluctant Mystique struggling to accept her newfound hero status. It sounded great! But that’s where the greatness ended. X-Men: Apocalypse makes interesting characters dull, and when something is on the tip of being great, it’s ruined EVERY TIME. I also can’t understand why this film's CG was some of the worst I’ve seen in years. It looks like it came out in the early days of CG. It all looks so bad you would’ve thought Zack Snyder did the digital effects himself. This film needed two things: a very heavy edit, and the special effects needed more time to cook. If it had, these the film would be competently mediocre, and that’s enough to probably avoid this list.
Edge of Seventeen
If you had told me that a coming-of-age movie was going to be one of my favorite films of 2016, I would have laughed in your face. I don’t particularly find coming-of-age interesting. This is typically a result of the completely unrelatable characters and fantasy scenarios that occur under the guise of a ‘coming-of-age’ film. Edge of Seventeen sidesteps all of these teenage fantasy aspects and gives us a film grounded in reality. The characters are written and performed so perfectly that they are instantly relatable. While watching the film, I felt like everyone would be able to relate at least a few of the characters. It was a refreshing and unexpected experience in a summer filled with box office disappointments. Edge of Seventeen shouldn’t be missed, and it deserves more recognition than it got.
Okay, so I didn’t actually see this. I couldn’t make myself do it. The trailer triggered such a mental gag reflex that I blacked out and missed half of Secret Life of Pets. Thanks for making me pay for a movie twice, Nine Lives.
10 Cloverfield Lane
This poster gives you about as much information as we do.
I’m not elaborating. Watch it. Any further exposition on my part would lessen the things that make this film worth seeing.
“But I thought this was a Worst of 2016 list!”, you say to yourself, angry at me for lying to you. But I didn’t lie! My wife made me see this movie on New Year's Day 2016. Turns out the film was the worst way to start the New Year. How once can write so many unlikable characters is beyond me. I had one character (ONE!) that I enjoyed watching. Joy’s ex-husband was the only reason I could keep my eyes open throughout this film. Everyone else is walking around, pissed off like they had just walked out of Batman V Superman and were told that a sequel was coming out in two years. Like, I get it. You suck and your family sucks. But man, why does everyone feel like a loser, even when they finally get a W. I just wanted Joy’s ex-husband to get his own TV spinoff. I’d watch that. But Joy? I’ve never seen a title be so wrong. Joy is a miserable character, unlikable from beginning to end. The only joy I got while watching this film was when the the credits started to roll. Joy was so unlikable that I saw one of her products yesterday and went on a tirade about how I don’t think I could ever buy a product of hers, because of the film. The film made me illogically dislike the real person, who I'm sure in real life is a bit more interesting than her film counterpart.
This movie is weird. It’s like something that would happen if Shyamalan and Apatow were forced to work together. Colin Farrell’s character David is left by his wife. That alone sounds unpleasant enough. But in the world of this movie, if you are single and alone too long, you become an animal and must retreat to the wild. On the bright side, you get to pick the animal you become. The film is an odyssey wherein David meets a group of rebelliously single people and struggles with the negatives of loneliness, the freedom of single-hood, and the identity crises one may face if bachelorhood could turn them into a crustacean.
2016 was pretty rough for mainstream film in general. More than anything, I hate being bored in the theater. I can forgive a poorly made film, but not a boring one. I watch films to be engaged or, at the very least, entertained in some way. The Fools Gold films made me wish I had taken a nap instead. For every Captain America: Civil War or Hell or High Water, we got just as many bad films. It felt like a lot of crap was pumped out but luckily, for the most part, audiences seem to have wised up and started avoiding inadequate films. People are tired of being burnt by movies and are educating themselves before taking a trip to the cinema. Hopefully this will lead to better films in 2017. Audiences aren’t as forgiving as they used to be, and that’s a good thing. Or perhaps this is the watershed moment that thought-out and sincere smaller budget films will overtake what is increasingly color-by-the-numbers remakes and adaptations. The majority of good films, it seems, have become the least marketed. Gone are the days of underground cult classics and pretentious, independent film screenings. Thanks to the internet, the underdog has become top dog. Perhaps this is overly optimistic, but that’s what the beginning of a new year is made for.