Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Best and Worst of 2016 So Far

Half of 2016 is in the books, and so far, I'd say that it has been a pretty solid year. Sure, not all of the blockbusters have quite held up to years past, especially last year where we saw the release of Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But it has been an exceptional year for genre and indie films, and there are quite a few that I believe I'll be watching for a very long time. It's gonna be tough for the second half of the year to stack up, and I'm certainly expecting many of these films to be on my end-of-year best list.

But of course, every year has its stinkers, and there have been plenty this year. So let's get these out of the way now, because each one is a disappointment in their own unique way. Without further delay, here are the ten worst films of the year so far.


Yeah, if you had told me at the start of the year that this film would be on this list, I would have called you crazy. Some of the films on this list are much worse than X-Men: Apocalypse, but I don't know if any are quite as disappointing. Coming off the astounding success of X-Men: First Class, Days of Future Past, and even Deadpool, expectations were high for Apocalypse. Unfortunately, the film was a dull mess, with uninspired plotlines, a scattered storyline, and a bland narrative with very little momentum. Michael Fassbender shines as Magneto, but Apocalypse is another near-disaster for the inconsistent X-Men franchise.


Demolition was a strange little movie. It has a great star performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, but at the same time, it is utterly forgettable and tonally inconsistent. I pretty much hated every character in it, and I couldn't relate to their struggles in a movie that is sorta founded on that basic idea of empathy. The movie, written by a rather inexperienced screenwriter, shifts between disturbing and sentimental, a balance that never comes to fruition. In the end, despite everything that Gyllenhaal and director Jean-Marc Vallee throw at the screen, Demolition falls flat.


I don't know why I'm still watching these movies. Hell, I don't even think the filmmakers know why they're making them anymore. Allegiant, the third chapter in the Divergent series, is a totally directionless movie, lacking any sense of flow or any of the narrative movement needed to progress the franchise's story. In the end, the first part of the finale of the Divergent quadrilogy ends up being a very tedious, sterile journey into a universe that nobody really cares about. I'm struggling to even muster any more bad things to say about it.


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is supposedly an improvement on its predecessor, but if I'm being honest, I didn't see a whole lot of that. Just another dumb, shrill, annoying, and poorly put together film with a weak villain, no real story, and a bland visual palette. Out of the Shadows may be more "fun" in the sense of a traditional blockbuster, but director Dave Green's flashes of splashy color don't make this disastrously boring film any better.


I was hanging onto hope for The Angry Birds Movie. I really was. By some miracle, I thought that there was a chance for the filmmakers to surprise us all with an incisive and funny movie that stood toe-to-toe with The LEGO Movie as another cash grab that turned out to be pretty great. Yet in the end, we got a movie that spends most of its time making fun of just how painfully unfunny it is. Frenetic, over-the-top, and utterly pointless, The Angry Birds Movie was a waste of everybody's time and another example of a kids movie playing to the lowest common denominator.


Ride Along sucked. The 2014 "action comedy" succeeded on neither front, despite the talents of Kevin Hart and Ice Cube. The solution for the sequel- let's do the same thing! Yeah, this is pretty much the same movie, just in Miami. And I'll break the news to you- this movie is another big pile of garbage. Unfunny, anticlimatic, and just plain dumb, Ride Along 2 fails to use the comedic abilities of Kevin Hart or the deadpan hilarity of Ice Cube, instead settling for a constant stream of mediocrity. After disappointing box office results, I hope we're done with this franchise.


Perhaps the biggest comedic letdown of the year, many fans were crushed to find that Zoolander 2 was just plain awful. Failing as both a comedy and a movie, this much-delayed sequel to Ben Stiller's 2001 cult classic barely made me laugh, which is pretty much all that this film was setting out to do. The plot is uninspired, the celebrity cameos fall flat, and hell, pretty much everything in this movie falls flat. With funny characters and talented people, I'm still trying to find out where this one went wrong. It's a mystery that will continue to confound me for a while.


Where do I even start with this one? London Has Fallen is offensively idiotic on so many levels. One, it's a terribly made action film. The writing is horrible, the acting is worse, and the effects are often laughable. And beyond that, this xenophobic, borderline racist mess was just a cinematic atrocity. I remember watching this one while slowly realizing that I was witnessing the epitome of dumb action cinema, and not in a good way. Soulless, brainless, and heartless, London Has Fallen is unquestionably trash.


Dirty Grandpa was simply an embarrassment for everyone involved. I seriously just watched it and felt bad. Not only for myself for being in the theater, but for Zac Efron, Robert De Niro, Zoey Deutch, and Aubrey Plaza, and pretty much anybody else who was on screen for this mess. It's just an awful movie, and you really can't get around that fact. It's the kind of movie that automatically thinks that people will laugh if you do a semen gag or say "f**k" a lot. I almost laughed because of how extraordinarily unfunny it was. That takes some skill and some true awfulness.


Okay, I'll have to concede that Dirty Grandpa is probably a bigger stinker than Independence Day: Resurgence. But when we're talking about the worst movie of the year so far, I think that ambition has to come into play. And while the Efron-De Niro comedy is simply meant to be a gross-out star vehicle, Resurgence was actually trying. They had the money, they had the stars, they had the summer marketing, they had everything- and it was a pile of pure excrement. And that's putting it nicely. This barely even feels like a movie. It feels so cold, so inhuman, so disgustingly stupid. I despised Independence Day. Hated every stupid minute of it. Like I said a few weeks ago, it is undoubtedly the worst that blockbuster cinema has had to offer in a long time.

Okay, well, we got that out of the way. Now, let's get onto the good stuff, shall we? Here are my ten favorite films of the year so far.


Going into the year, Zootopia was a buzzy tittle because of the hysterical sloth trailer that debuted in front of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, I don't think anybody was prepared for the surprise success of the latest feature from Disney Animation. Working as part of the new Disney renaissance, Zootopia was both a box office bonanza and a funny, whip-smart crime drama that also dabbled in racial politics. The best kids' movie to blend animation with big city noir since Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Zootopia is an instant animated classic that will be appreciated for generations to come.


The funniest pure comedy of the year so far, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a raucous and constantly hilarious big-screen debut for The Lonely Island. There's just so much to love about this movie, from the dynamite satire of the modern pop landscape to the carefully crafted mockumentary feel. Popstar also has some of the best songs of the year, and I gotta say, I'll be pretty upset if "Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)" and "Incredible Thoughts" aren't up for Oscar consideration at the end of the year. This movie was a big-time box office bomb, but for me, it's The Lonely Island's finest achievement to date.


The Conjuring 2 is one of the best horror films I've seen in a long time. I never thought I'd say that about a sequel, but here we are. I loved James Wan's The Conjuring when it hit theaters back in 2013, and I still hold it as one of the better chillers in recent years. But somehow, Wan tops himself with The Conjuring 2, delivering a carefully crafted flick that is an exercise in sheer terror. Nothing about this film is cheap or obvious. Everything is careful, precise, meticulous. Wan builds the film terrifically, and the performances and characters are exceptional. The Conjuring 2 is brilliant, and quite possibly the best horror sequel of all time.


After the smashing success of the last several movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we all kinda knew that Captain America: Civil War was going to be great. But I don't think we knew just how good it was going to be. While I still do believe that The Winter Soldier is the superior film, Civil War is simply the ultimate Marvel movie in almost every way. After many fans were left disappointed with Avengers: Age of Ultron, Civil War emerged as the movie that the company had been building to for nearly a decade. By mixing the gritty, hard-hitting action of the Captain America trilogy with the cartoony wonder of the Avengers films, Civil War achieves an unparalleled superheroic greatness. It was the first summer blockbuster to debut in May, and so far, it's the absolute best.


Nobody knew that 10 Cloverfield Lane existed at the start of the year, but I think it's safe to say that after that first trailer debuted in January, the movie jumped to the top of everybody's must-see list. And boy, it delivered. Tense, frightening, and utterly unpredictable, 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of the year, one that became even more chilling with the brilliant IMAX sound mix. Director Dan Trachtenberg crafted an incredible thriller, and he's surely a rising directorial rising star to watch, but the stars of the movie undoubtedly steal the show. Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives the best performance of the year so far, and John Goodman is truly terrifying as the menacing Howard. It's a perfect blend of chamber piece and sci-fi action flick, and that brilliant concoction makes 10 Cloverfield Lane one of the year's best films.


The Coen Brothers never fail to deliver, and Hail, Caesar! was no exception. A breathtakingly funny satire of the Hollywood system, the latest from the directors of The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men is a terrific ensemble comedy. With stellar performances from Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johannson, George Clooney, and especially Josh Brolin, the biting and hysterical dialogue of the Coens was brought to vivid life in this tale of the 24 hour odyssey of studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Brolin). Both raucous and thoughtful, Hail, Caesar! combines character study and comical farce for a delightful cinematic treat.


Watching Green Room is like being punched in the face over and over. But believe it or not, I don't mean that in a bad way. Instead, the latest thriller from Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier is purely invigorating and exciting, bringing the audience deeper and deeper into the action despite the rampant viciousness. No movie this year has been more interactive- you hold your breath, bite your fingers, and cover your eyes as the battle royale commences, a fight to the death between punk band The Ain't Rights and a clan of Neo-Nazis. And at the same time, no thriller in 2016 has come close to topping the horrific and astonishing heights of Green Room, a grindhouse flick in the best sense of the word. Not to mention the phenomenal performances by the late Anton Yelchin and X-Men star Patrick Stewart, playing distinctly out of character. Green Room is a roller-coaster ride of adrenaline. There's no other way to put it.


People waited years for a sequel to 1993's Dazed and Confused, and this year, Richard Linklater finally delivered. However, Everybody Wants Some!! is not a direct sequel to that classic high school comedy. Instead, it follows a new set of characters in a Texas college, which gives Linklater the chance to continue his keen observation of American youth. Creating a film that matches up with Dazed was always going to be a tall order, but with his newest film, Linklater proves that he's more than up to the task. With funny, lovable characters, rich and incisive dialogue, and a laid-back vibe, Everybody Wants Some!! emerges as the perfect companion piece to that American classic. It's the best college movie since Animal House and another masterpiece in a string of successes for Linklater.


What happens when you mix together two genius performances by Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, a terrific supporting cast, a 1970's LA setting, and one of the best scripts of the year? Well, you get one of the best films of the year, of course. The Nice Guys was my most anticipated movie of the year and it delivered in every way, shape, and form. There's an endless array of adjectives that I could use to describe this film's greatness, but to avoid repeating myself, I'll just stick to the basics. Essentially, The Nice Guys is a success in nearly every way. The mystery is compelling, the action is great, the humor works at every turn, and the performances are out of this world. In a perfect universe, The Nice Guys would be the biggest hit of the summer.


Sing Street is without question my favorite movie of the year so far. No doubt in my mind about that whatsoever. But will it stay that way for the rest of the year? The odds are pretty high. I'm not sure if we'll see another movie this year that strikes me quite like Sing Street. I haven't loved a movie this much in a very long time. I saw it again yesterday (it received a re-release in my city), and it was every bit as good as I remembered. With this film, John Carney has made a masterful ode to music, to brotherhood, and most of all, to finding the good in every bad situation. It's a tender and sweet love story, a well crafted portrayal of a dark era, and of course, an endlessly lovable musical. I love everything about this movie, and I can't wait to watch it again and again. When I first sat down to see Sing Street, I barely knew a thing about it. Two hours later, it became my favorite movie of the year so far and an instant musical classic.

So that's it! Those are my favorites of the year so far. Come back later for my most anticipated for the rest of the year, as well as several new reviews.

Image Credits: Vox, THR, Yahoo, Variety, Guardian, Telegraph, Forbes, Variety, Telegraph, Guardian. Guardian, EW, Indiewire, Slash Film, THR, Variety, Rolling Stone, MTV, Guardian, YouTube

1 comment:

  1. What a great Top 10 Best list. A handful of those would be my picks as well, and I'm particularly glad to see Sing Street at #1.

    - Zach