Tuesday, January 3, 2017

“My Year in Movies – 2016 Edition” – The unnecessary sequel.

In two of my past three year-end reviews, I mentioned that people love to complain about there being too many sequels and remakes. Though there is merit to this complaint, these same people can’t stop flocking to the theaters to watch them, which completely contradicts their whining. And it’s not just with movies, this happens in other societal facets too. People complain about high gas prices, but won’t stop driving SUVs and pick-up trucks. People complain about taxes, but keep playing the lottery and tithing at church. People constantly complain about Congress (polls routinely put Congress’ approval rating in the single digits), yet overwhelmingly re-elect the same people over and over again. Hell, they just did the same thing with the Presidential election – bitching and moaning about corruption and big business in politics, then electing a guy who literally bragged about corrupting politicians (during the primary debates) and also literally being a big business CEO. The only logical conclusion to this behavior is that people love to complain about things they actually like. And that’s why we’re all going to die.

Here are the top 10 grossing movies of 2016, (not including Rogue One, which should have no trouble cracking this list in a couple of weeks, cracking $1 billion, and might end up as the top grossing movie of the year).

Captain America: Civil War
Finding Dory
The Jungle Book
The Secret Life of Pets
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Suicide Squad
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Doctor Strange

That’s two completely new movies, three sequels, one remake, and four franchise additions. And, the two new movies happen to be formulaic cartoons, which get inflated box offices because of all parents taking their children. Actually, now that I’m looking at this list, doesn’t it seem like Hollywood might be run by children and nerds? Anyway, keep going down the list for the full year’s results. With the exception of the random Chinese movie, you have to go all the way to number 31 – Sully – to find a movie that isn’t a franchise/sequel/remake/cartoon. You might point out that standalone franchise movies (like Doctor Strange in the Marvel universe) shouldn’t count and I might agree with you. But, that sequel/remake complaint is always part of a conversation titled “Hollywood has no creativity or originality anymore.” If you want to know my rebuttal to that conversation, check out my 2014 Year in Review, but that’s not the conversation I want to have. I also don’t think there are too many sequels and remakes because there are plenty of those that are very good (like Finding Dory). The conversation I want have is about the sequels and remakes that are completely unnecessary and this year was chalk full of them.

To begin with, sequels to comedies should never happen. This year featured Zoolander 2, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Barbershop: The Next Cut, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Bridget Jones’ Baby, and Bad Santa 2. In full disclosure, I watched none of those movies, and only a total of 5 minutes of Zoolander 2, so maybe I missed the first-ever good comedy sequel. But, I doubt it. The reason those movies should never have been made is for the same reason I didn’t see them – I had no desire to hear the same jokes and premises rehashed for two hours. Judging by the box office returns, neither did you.

Next, we have unnecessary sequels to really good standalone movies. This includes Now You See Me 2, Alice through the Looking Glass, Blair Witch, and Independence Day: Resurgence. These movies ranged from disappointing to dry heaving. These are naked money grabs based on the false notion that there are mobs of people out there wondering “what happened to these characters years later?” Could you imagine if studios decided to try to capitalize on a Shawshank follow-up where we get to see what happens to Red and Andy in Mexico? Don’t you throw up in here – you swallow it like a girl would.

To be fair, it’s very possible to make good sequels to exactly those types of movies, though they are almost universally inferior to the originals and they are almost universally action flicks about cops. Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, Ocean’s Eleven, and Die Hard come to mind (though the second installment of any of those was not necessarily the decent sequel). Cop movies work for the same reason CSI and NCIS routinely lead TV ratings – their procedural nature is perfect for multiple stories featuring the same characters (this is also why franchises like James Bond and those featuring superheroes work).

Then, there are the sequels that studios make out of sheer inertia to initial movies that weren’t good, but made a lot of money. I’m also going to throw in horror, cheap action flicks, and cheap comedies (usually spoofs) because they get sequels for the same reason – easy profit. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ouija, The Mechanic, Madea, Ride Along, and Snow White and the Huntsman all got sequels this year and you probably forgot or didn’t know about any of them. Hopefully, this year changed that thinking a little bit after Turtles and Huntsman both failed at the box office (at best they broke even, which is a failure).

Finally, we have the worst of the bunch – the remakes or reboots. Back in 2012, I created Rules for When Remakes are Okay in my review of The Amazing Spider-Man. 2016 was teeming with remakes that should never have been made – The Jungle Book, Ghostbusters, Pete’s Dragon, Ben-Hur, The Birth of a Nation, and The Magnificent Seven – all of which break at least one of my rules. The easiest ones to bash are Ben-Hur and The Birth of a Nation. The original Ben-Hur won eleven Oscars and The Birth of a Nation was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for its cultural significance. There is no possible way to improve upon those movies (and both remakes were miserable box office performers). Ghostbusters is also an easy target since the original is a comedy classic and the remake was less humorous than 12 Years a Slave. The Jungle Book was a massively successful film in 1967 (as was this year’s remake) and I maintain that the remake was a far inferior story (they ruin the ending) and lacking the charm of the original. The Magnificent Seven is a remake of a remake of Seven Samurai, another film that is considered one of the all-time greats. And, even if it wasn’t, the original Magnificent Seven is a cult classic that is shown on television more often than any movie except The Wizard of Oz. That leaves Pete’s Dragon, which doesn’t actually break any of my rules, but falls under the category “who even asked for this?” Then again, nearly all movies fall under that category, so I’ll give it a pass.

The bad news is that this trend is going to continue into 2017. There are plenty of sequels and franchise entries that won’t surprise anyone. There are also plenty of sequels and remakes/reboots that will make you facepalm and say “seriously?” The good news is that many of those sequels and franchise entries are going to be very good and you’ll forget you were mad. The better news is that none of the remakes are of Oscar winners or classics, though definitely be skeptical of Jumanji and It. The best news of all is that there are plenty of non-remake/sequels/franchise movies for you to choose from as well. You just need to put your money where your mouth is or we’re all going to die.

My Top Five Six
I broke my own record for watching movies this year, topping out at seventy-five movies. Like last year, there were a lot of very good movies this year and it was hard picking the best of the best. Unlike last year, I couldn’t whittle it down to just five, so I gave up trying. Here are my top six movies of 2016.
Deadpool – It’s not my top movie of the year, but it’s my favorite movie of the year. Deadpool exceeded my expectations so awesomely that they broke. Thanks to work travel, I watch Deadpool several times on flights, plus a couple of times at home. Think about that 75 number again.
Captain America: Civil War – Of the three superhero movies featuring superheroes fighting with each other, this is the only one that didn’t crap the bed. In fact, it did the opposite. The battle royale scene alone was worth the price of admission and as if that wasn’t enough, Marvel has gotten so good at movies that they even managed to fix Spider-Man in this film. We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!
Sausage Party – The spiritual cousin of South Park, Sausage Party presents some biting social commentary in the form of foul-mouthed food trying to have sex with other foul-mouthed food. Scratch that, they don’t just try, they succeed. And not just on the sex part.
Arrival – When taking all film components into consideration, Arrival is the best movie of the year. Amy Adams crushes this film and the presentation of the aliens and their language is fantastically realized and incredibly unique. It also doesn’t hurt that I love science fiction, which pushed this flick over top for me.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – It’s been almost a month since I watched it and I’m still nerding out at how nearly perfect this movie was. If CGI Princess Leia hadn’t cameo’d at the end (it’s a word now), I might have put it above Arrival. Still though – just seeing the Death Star actually doing Death Star and an ending that perfectly fits a war movie….aaaaaahhhhhhhh.
The Lobster – This movie is the reason I went to a top 6, having to add it in here at the last minute after a recent viewing. Featuring dry, British wit and a wickedly creative and startlingly random premise, I love every minute of this film. The biggest surprise is that Colin Farrell has a legitimate chance at winning an Oscar after his performance. Yeah – that Colin Farrell.

You Almost Made It
Here’s where you can really tell how much trouble I had deciding my top movies of the year. If you named any of these movies as being in your top movies of the year list, I would just nod at you. As I watch movies throughout the year, I populate all of these categories and several of the movies here were at the top of my list at some point. What ended up being the discriminator was how likely I would be to watch a given movie multiple times. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t watch all of these again, just not as many times as my top 6.
Bad Moms – There’s something to be said about watching movies with a crowd of people and watching movies by yourself. I think comedies should be watched as a group. For this movie, that group should be moms drinking wine. You’ll thank me later.
The Infiltrator – A very tense and well-acted movie that nobody saw because some idiot thought it would be a good idea to release the film in mid-July and barely market it. On a list of movies that people should have watched, this one is near the top.
Sully – This is the movie that Flight wanted to be, even following the same story of a crash investigation and trying to place blame on the pilot. The difference is Sully really happened and makes you care about the pilot. It also will scare the crap out of you if you are a nervous flier.
The Girl on the Train – A great mystery movie that keeps the audience in suspense until the end. Emily Blunt was fantastic and carried this movie. If you thought Gone Girl was good, check this one out because I thought it was better.
War Dogs – I like movies that depict historical events that I know nothing about because it makes me go read about the actual events. This one is definitely one of the more fascinating stories and also manages to pull the curtain back a bit on the military industrial complex. Also, Miles Teller might just be out of the doghouse (pun intended) for this flick.
The Accountant – For a movie with such a boring title, it packs quite a punch. Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick are really good and you definitely won’t be bored watching it. It also proves that Affleck’s good turn as Batman wasn’t a fluke.
Passengers – Wow are people missing the point of this movie. While everyone is focusing on the surface love story and complaining that Chris Pratt’s character’s sin is unforgivable, they are completely ignoring the question that the movie is asking that makes it so fascinating. Besides that, Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence are fantastic, not to mention really easy on the eyes. Yes, science fiction always does better with me than most critics, but this movie didn’t need that bump.
Zootopia – When you have a four-year old, you tend to watch the same movie over and over (and over). The impressive thing is I liked it a lot the first time and didn’t want to kill myself after the 37th viewing. Even now I could still watch it again and enjoy it.

The Squirmers
These movies were very good, but every one of them is tough to watch for one reason another. And, just like the previous category, rewatchability played a big factor in my rankings here. So, they get a separate category so you don’t mistake them for family affair.
The Revenant – Yeah, yeah, I know this movie is technically a 2015 movie, but I didn’t see it until 2016 because that’s when it was released to actual moviegoers (January 8), even the advanced screening (January 5). Why was this one tough to watch? You mean other than Leonardo DiCaprio climbing inside a horse carcass?
Free State of Jones – This one is a tough watch because it should make you very angry about our past and present with regards to racism. But it’s worth watching if only because there is some history there that nobody is ever taught and we really shouldn’t be forgetting these lessons.
The Light Between Oceans – This flick features two miscarriages, a refusal to report a baby found adrift, a refusal to tell the birth mom her child is still alive, and a couple torn apart through a combination of guilt, betrayal, and sacrifice. I don’t want to watch a movie that makes me cry that much more than once.
Denial – Movie number two that should make you very angry. Like Free State of Jones, this one is based on a true story, but is about a dickhole Holocaust denier suing an historian for libel because she called him a dickhole for denying the Holocaust. It also has the added bonus of said dickhole being scarily similar to a certain President-Elect and not in any good ways.

Surprisingly Decent
It’s almost impossible to go into a movie without some sort of expectations. Usually, it’s due to something you saw in a trailer, actors who are in the movie, or the director. In this case, my expectations were all low or guarded expectations going into them and was pleasantly surprised at the end. Some of these were even better than decent.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Does it really surprise you that the first movie I would list here is a Michael Bay movie? The man has made some very entertaining flicks, but he’s also made some of the worst things ever put to film. This is one of the former and has the added bonus of putting some context behind the events that unfolded that night in Libya without coming off as hyperpartisan (in either direction).
Money Monster – I love that this film made fun of the ridiculous financial shows that appear on CNBC and Fox News, including the talking heads that pretend to know anything about investing and the markets. Just don’t be the guy in the movie who lost all his money, then decided to strap a bomb to his chest and take hostages in order to get it back because he took stock advice from an asshat with a buzzer.
Don’t Breathe – This movie would have gone into my squirmers if it had been a little better, due to one scene in particular in the third act (if you haven’t seen it, just know that it involves a turkey baster). As it is, it’s a good enough cabin-in-the-woods, horror flick that will leave keep you on the edge of your seat for most of the film.
The Nice Guys – I was enjoying the crap out of this movie until the epilogue took a giant eraser to the rest of the film. A word of advice – if you decide to check it out, turn it off after the climax wraps up or you’ll be where I am.
Office Christmas Party – Two years in a row now we’ve had hilarious Christmas themed comedies that are the opposite of family holiday flicks. Think Christmas Vacation, but if the whole movie revolved around Uncle Eddie.
Trolls*Everybody! Move your hair and feel united! Oh-whoa-OH!* This is a good time to tell you that I became an official movie critic this year (by joining the Denver Film Critic Society), which means I started receiving screeners in the mail for awards purposes. One of those movies was Trolls and, also because…four-year old. I’m not sick of it yet. *Hair up!*
Captain Fantastic – I’m quite certain you’ve never heard of this movie, but come on – it’s right there in the title. Okay, the title is overselling it, and the story is not about what you think it is. But if you were wondering what happened to Viggo Mortensen, he’s still doing movies. You’re probably still not going to watch it, are you?

Movies for Me
Many of these movies are for you too. A couple of them are even really good and probably belong in the almost made it category. For the other ones, I believe everyone should have guilty pleasure movies. This is how you know I’m not a film snob, even if I am a bonafide film critic now.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – I had to start with this one because it’s the epitome of this category. I do wish they’d stuck to the book a little more because the book was marvelous, but it was still a really fun and silly movie.
10 Cloverfield Lane – Take away the tacked on ending (most of what happens outside the bunker) and this would have ended up higher. I even liked that tacked on ending, but a whole lot of people didn’t and get that. But I’d watch this movie again and so should you.
Doctor Strange – Positives: Benedict Cumberbatch, great visuals, very entertaining. Negatives: cloud monster that eats planets. The cloud monster never works and that’s why this movie is here.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War – Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, fantasy. Moving along…
Allied – There is some Oscar buzz around Allied, but it doesn’t deserve it. I like World War II movies and Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard are great, but this movie was not great, just good. If it had tied its two halves together better, you might be able to talk me into some gold statuettes.
Eye in the Sky – If you ever wanted to know what goes on behind the curtains of the decision of a drone strike on terrorists, this is your movie. While Eye in the Sky is a good title, Red Tape would have been more accurate.
Zero Days – I’m not sure I’ve ever included a documentary in my year-end wraps (or any reviews for that matter), but here you go. This one is about the Stuxnet virus that we (allegedly) used to attack Iran’s nuclear program. This stuff fascinates me and this film gives you some a great look at how our government (and Israel’s, allegedly) behaves. And, if you’re paying attention, you’ll understand why the Iran nuclear deal had to be done (hint: cyberwar).
Anthropoid – If you love war movies about somewhat obscure topics, Anthropoid is the film for you. It covers the only assassination of a high-ranking Nazi in then-occupied Czechoslovakia, as well as the immediate aftermath. Now that you’ve heard of it, you can watch it and thank me after.

Flip a coin on these films. All of these movies were decent, though a couple of them are wildly overrated. None of them spoke to me in any way, but maybe they spoke to you.
The Magnificent Seven – An uninspired remake with a title exaggerating its characters. Not even Chris Pratt could save this flick from being lifeless and forgettable. The title isn’t even all that accurate since Haley Bennett is more magnificent than at least three of the seven and she isn’t one of the seven.
Masterminds – I rated it as slightly better than meh, but for our purposes here, it’s still meh. The stink of Saturday Night Live’s lackluster writing is all over this film (though their Trump skits have been exquisite), not to mention half of its cast is three-fourths of the unfunny Ghostbusters quartet. Let’s move on before I start rethinking that slightly-better-than-meh rating.
InfernoThe Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons were great books and very good films. The main reason for that is they are tight stories. Inferno is not tight, mostly due to a gaping plot hole that, once realized, is as bad as water-allergic-aliens invading Earth (Signs).
Demolition – Rereading my review, I thought it was a solid enough flick, but I had to reread my review because I barely remember anything about it. That’s pretty much the definition of meh.
The Boy – I watched this one for my Movie Fixers podcast and we all agreed that there were many things that needed a fix. But, none of us thought it was a bad movie either, so this seems like the perfect place for it.
Hell or High Water – Maybe I’m missing something because I was not impressed with this film. There isn’t anything wrong with it, but I thought the end was far too convenient. I’m also not a fan of movies where the cops are always a step behind and never catch up at the end.
Hacksaw Ridge – If you wanted to get a feel for how brutal was World War II in the Pacific, look no further than Hacksaw Ridge. Other than that, it’s a not particularly well-written movie about a combat medic who rescues 75 wounded men without ever touching a weapon. Cool story, but it felt far too much like Pearl Harbor and that’s not a compliment.

We’re Really Only in it for the Money
Better known as ‘popcorn flicks,’ these are the movies that are uninspired, big-budget, CGI-heavy blockbusters. All of them were very short on story, incredibly redundant, or based on hugely popular video games that also have no real story. People are starting to recognize some of these films earlier and spending their money elsewhere, but we still have a lot of work to do to get this category down to zero entries.
The Jungle Book – I am definitely in the minority on this one, but I was not impressed with this movie. Yes, the special effects were phenomenal, but the rest of the film was very ho-hum. It lacked charm, the ending was very obviously there to set up sequels (even though the original cartoon ending can just as easily be used for sequels), and the singing was exactly what you’d expect from too old actors who can’t sing. The bare necessities is exactly what this movie delivered (pun intended).
Warcraft – Another video game movie adaptation, another box office bummer. Well, except for the Chinese box office – they watched the crap out this movie. I didn’t hate this movie, but if even I can’t find the fun in a fantasy movie, you know it wasn’t good.
Jason Bourne – The biggest mystery of the Jason Bourne series isn’t “who is Jason Bourne,” it’s “why do the showrunners continue to ignore the source material to use as future stories?” The well is dry guys.
Allegiant – My expectations for the Divergent series is so low that I didn’t think this movie was all that bad. Of course, I can barely remember watching it, which tells you all you need to know.

We Decided We Weren’t Just in it for the Money
These movies are no less money grabs than the films you just read about, but they actually try to provide some decent entertainment for your money. Of course, I missed a ton of the sequels and remakes this year, which probably means this category (and the previous one) could have been much longer.
The Legend of Tarzan – Like with The Jungle Book, I’m in the minority, but this time I’m with those who thought this movie was perfectly fine. If you want to argue that Tarzan is no longer relevant, I’m with you. If you want to point out this movie is a Tarzan sequel and that’s weird, no argument here. If you think that the writers didn’t try very hard to modernize a century-old story, I will disagree with you and remind that you didn’t seem to think that was a problem with the didn’t-try-at-all-to-tell-a-new-story remake of The Jungle Book.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – It’s unfortunate that J.K. Rowling isn’t more creative (she’s the sole writer on this) and caved in to tying this film into Harry Potter too much, but it was a pretty good movie otherwise. Well, except for the Johnny Depp thing. That is inexcusable.
The Angry Birds Movie – This is an example of critics having corks up there asses and their noses too high, with just 43% of critics giving it a thumbs up. What’s weird is the consensus of the movie on Rotten Tomatoes is “The Angry Birds Movie is substantially more entertaining than any film adapted from an app has any right to be.” That alone should mean at least a 51%, right? I get math, but I don’t get why a lot of critics hate fun.
Finding Dory – Count me as one of the skeptics of this movie being anything but redundant and very unnecessary, but it actually managed to be quite good. Chalk it up in the win column for sequels (which is still wildly outnumbered by bad sequels).
Star Trek: Beyond – I have no idea why people thought this movie wasn’t very good because, when asked, their response was it was like an episode from one of the shows. Yeah?....And? That’s a good thing. How is being “too Star Trek” a bad thing?

The Letdowns
The second category where expectations are key. This time around, I had high expectations (foolishly) and walked out of the theater (or away from my DVD player) grumbling. It’s their own damn fault though, mostly by just being plain lazy on some fronts, especially story. You also might notice that three of these movies are heavily talked about in awards conversations, just not mine.
Triple 9 – It looked like it was going to be a high-octane, corrupt cop movie, but that octane was roughly eight. The trailers for this film are why it ended up disappointing – they promised a heist movie and only managed to steal from the audience.
Nocturnal Animals – The second most disappointing film of the year for me, especially after hearing the initial opinions of it. I wouldn’t argue with people applauding the acting, but the story was dull and the structure of the film was amateurish. It seemed to be made specifically for an introductory film class on symbolism and analogy. What a shame.
The Witch – Like last year’s It Follows, the majority of critics wildly overrated this indie horror flick that is not even remotely scary, but is definitely boring. The Witch has the added bonus of its characters all speaking in 17th century Puritan English (is thouest a word?) – the father of the featured family growling all of his words out – so you can’t understand most of what they are saying. But it’s all okay because the end is too stupid for you to even want to understand.
X-Men: Apocalypse – As an X-Men fan, this movie was only a little bit of a letdown because it’s filled with X-Men doing X-Men things. That being said, Apocalypse was just a bad character and nothing like the teaser at the end of Days of Future Past. But it’s definitely not the worst X-Men movie we’ve seen.
Green Room – Another overrated film, though not nearly as much as The Witch. Green Room fails to engender its protagonists with the audience, so when they become the victims trapped in the proverbial cabin in the woods, you only care because the people trying to kill them are neo-nazi shit bags. Think of like this year’s election – you probably only cared that someone didn’t win because that someone was awful.

A Waste of Time
At least ‘The Letdowns’ contained some entertainment quality. These films were all very boring, not the least bit entertaining, and lacked any plot beyond the initial premise. They are the very definition of “two hours of your life you will never get back.”
The Forest – Essentially a knockoff of The Blair Witch Project, but without the groundbreaking marketing campaign or invention of a new film technique (found-footage), The Forest assures you that you’ve wasted your time by RAWR-ing in the final frame.
Central Intelligence – I do not understand people who think Kevin Hart is funny and I do not understand people who go to a movie to see Dwayne Johnson (The Rock). Yet, those people exist and that’s how we keeping getting movies starring one or both of them.
The Finest Hours - $52 million box office on an $80 million budget. It’s a good thing Disney also owns Marvel and Lucasfilm so they can laugh off losses like this. Still though, maybe it wasn’t a great idea to make a movie about a Coast Guard rescue of a fishing boat that took place in 1952. That’s the kind of story your grandpa tells you, not the kind you spend $80 million on.
Love and Friendship – Based on a Jane Austen novel. That’s all you need to know.
Jackie – I’m sure Jackie Kennedy was a fascinating person, but you wouldn’t know it from this film. What I do know is that Natalie Portman managed an uncanny impersonation of Jackie and should probably return Jackie’s soul now that she’s done with it.
Fences – Denzel Washington spends the first two hours of this movie telling stories and complaining to his friend and family. He does this in his backyard and inside his house. I am not making that up, that’s all that happens in this movie until he dies fifteen minutes before the credits roll. Considering how boring this movie is, the play it is based on must be coma-inducing to see in person.
Now You See Me 2 – This movie was a waste of time for the same reasons Ocean’s 12 was a waste of time. It’s a revenge plot by the guy who got ripped off in the previous film. Plus, they couldn’t even get Isla Fisher to come back, so they had to shoehorn in Lizzy Caplan to still have four horseman. But that’s nothing compared to what they did with Morgan Freeman’s character. He goes from minor villain in the first film to head of the magic clan in the second film and we all just threw up in our mouths a little bit. Oh, sorry, Spoiler Alert.
Moana – I think all little kids are preprogrammed to watch movies or TV shows they like dozens of times without stopping and not just because they know how to drive their parents crazy. My son did it with Finding Nemo, Cars, The Incredibles, Frozen and many, many more. He was so utterly bored with Moana that he it took us three days just to get through it once, and when I asked if he liked it, he said “can we watch Trolls again?”

Not the Worst, But You Sure Tried Hard
Like the really good movies this year, I had a really hard time coming up with the worst movies of the year. I tried to find positives in these films and succeeded, but not without getting a headache.
Hail, Caesar! – I realize there is a weird infatuation with the Coen brothers’ movies, but I can still count the movies of theirs I liked on one finger (O Brother, Where Are Thou?). Hail, Caesar! is another example of film geeks making movies for other film geeks and congratulating each other for it. Positive: points for film nerdery.
Suicide Squad – In a normal year, this movie would end up in the letdowns as it is easily the most disappointing movie of the year. But it’s also shitty on most film levels. Terrible story. Terrible villain. Terrible logic used to justify the squad even existing within the DC extended universe (DCEU). Positive: not as shitty as Batman v Superman.
How to be Single – For the love of god, please stop making ensemble romantic comedies. They never, ever work and this one is no exception. Positive: Rebel Wilson tried hard.
Into the Forest – The first screener I’ve ever watched from the comfort of my couch and I regret it. I hate films that have no plot and this is one of those films. Exactly three things happen in a film where the electricity goes out for good (i.e. apocalypse movie) and the rest of the time is spent watching two girls argue about using their last bit of gasoline to listen to music. Positive: Their father dies by chainsaw in an “accident.”
Alice Through the Looking Glass – Why must Disney insist on centering franchises around quirky Johnny Depp characters that are supposed to be secondary characters? Pirates of the Caribbean has been disappointing since after the first film and now they’ve tanked Alice in Wonderland by insisting it’s really all about the Mad Hatter. It isn’t. It’s in the title: Alice. Pay attention. Positive: I like Alice in Wonderland in general and this film wasn’t completely awful.

Pooping on the Silver Screen
And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for – the five worst movies of the year. To be fair, the last two in this list are far worse than anything else I saw this year. And I could easily have put any of the previous five into this category. I just had a harder time thinking of positives for these so I stopped trying.
The 5th Wave – Prior to seeing this film, I was very curious about reading the book. I no longer want to read the book.
London Has Fallen – This movie could have been in my sheer money grab films, but nooooo. They had to invent a scenario that was even less believable than the idiocy presented to us in its predecessor. This also means Gerard Butler is featured in two of the worst movies of the year (Gods of Egypt). Good for you, Gerry.
The Ones Below – It sounded good on paper – a thriller involving the strange neighbors living below a couple expecting their first baby. There was a real Hand that Rocks the Cradle vibe in the description regarding said baby. The film ended up being so un-thrilling that, less than halfway through, I fast-forwarded to the end of the film just to see how it ended. Wish I had just shredded the disk instead.
Gods of Egypt – For $144 million, you’d think at least the special effects would be good, but no. That was just the terrible icing on this shit-cake of a movie. I also think it’s safe to say that Gerard Butler has burned the last sliver of credibility he earned from 300 and P.S. I Love You.
Ghostbusters – Hey, look. The people mainly responsible for Bridesmaids made another piece of shit masquerading as comedic cinema. Except, this time, they took a dump all over a classic comedy rather than just dumping on their own creation. Don’t kid yourself into thinking this movie wasn’t that bad. When the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man is all but tea-bagging the heroes, it’s that bad.

Pooping on the Silver Screen: The Sequel
This is the bonus category for movies that were made as sheer money grabs, but were also terrible movies in general. They are the shitty sequels that keep getting made because you won’t stop watching them. I expanded my top five to a top six, so consider these three of the worst eight movies of the year.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Unlike Suicide Squad, I expected this movie to suck. But, it sucked so much harder than I imagined it could. After the Suicide Squad debacle, I’m terrified of how they’re going to fuck up Wonder Woman.
Zoolander 2 – I tried watching this movie on an international flight and couldn’t make it more than five minutes before switching to anything else. FIVE MINUTES.
Independence Day: Resurgence – It pains me that this movie was made at all. I expected it to be terrible and it was worse than I imagined. If someone shows you a script and that script says “dinosaur-sized alien chases a school bus through the desert,” you call security to show them out of the building.

So, was 2016 better or worse than 2015, as movies go? I’d go with better, but it’s very close. I saw far more really good movies and far fewer really bad movies. A lot of that has to do with me deliberately missing obviously shitty movies, but that’s really my whole point this year. As fun as it is to skewer movies like that in reviews, I don’t want to watch one every week. It also helps when the studios decline to offer advance screenings of those same movies. Independence Day: Resurgence is the perfect example of a movie I absolutely would have watched had they screened it (I ended up watching it on a long flight instead). Lionsgate tends to be responsible for many of the terrible action flicks and sequels and our local screening agency doesn’t screen Lionsgate movies. Suffice it to say, there were plenty of awful movies this year that you were on your own with when deciding if should pay to watch them.

It’s officially 2017 now and I will be watching a number of Oscar-bait movies in the next couple of months, followed by a composite review of them (including some that showed up here). As always, this year I’m hoping that the writers will try a little harder and the main-stream critics will be a little less snobby. I’m hoping Warner Brothers fixes the DCEU because there’s no reason they can’t make good movies (the removal of Zack Snyder at the helm is a step in the right direction). I’m hoping the Alien and Bladerunner sequels aren’t completely garbage, that Dunkirk is much more Saving Private Ryan than Hacksaw Ridge, that the It remake isn’t a waste of time, and that The Dark Tower is at least half as good as the book and worth the years of waiting through persistent rumors. Most of all, I’m hoping for more good science fiction like Arrival, Interstellar, Passengers, and The Martian. I wish we could get more than a couple per year, but just one of those is worth sitting through any ten sequels. If nothing else, Star Wars: Episode VIII is just a year away and that’s a sequel worth waiting for. Unless, of course, we all die first. Happy movie-ing everyone.

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