I got out to the movies a lot more in 2016 than I have probably ever in my life, and while I didn’t see as many movies as Watson probably did, I saw plenty. And since I can, here’s my Top Ten list for 2016, and as an added bonus, five bad ones.
You know, just like it says in the title.
Most of these movies were reviewed by me earlier, so you can go back and see what I had to say at the time. In the meantime, keep in mind my ratings system is a work in progress, where a seven is passing (like for my students, 70% or higher is passing), but then I’d have to explain why Batsoup got the same rating as Rogue One. Rogue One was far from perfect, but it was better than Batsoup.
I also didn’t count anything for this list with a 2015 release date, no matter when I saw it. Otherwise, there’d probably be spots for stuff like Room, The Revenant, or Anomalisa. Besides, ask me later and the order will probably change. Here’s Tom’s Top Ten.
Whoa, accidental alliteration.
There’ll be a review for this coming out later this morning, but in the meantime, I’ll just say I was greatly surprised by this one considering all I knew going in was both Watson and Greg were looking to see it and a brief plot description. Based on a true story about a boy who accidentally gets lost hundreds of kilometers from the small village in India where his family lives, Lion features some great performances and smart storytelling for what could have been a simple movie-of-the-week.
Deadpool grew on me as time passed, and it’s the only movie on the list I willingly watching three times. We had some other superhero films ranging from good to Batsoup, but Deadpool was a legitimately great movie. Fun, funny, and meta, it captured the anarchic spirit of the title character even amidst some rather generic superhero plot cliches. As it is, that general tone meant the cliches didn’t bother me all that much, and I actually generally like those cliches.
8. Midnight Special
Why didn’t I review this one? There was a reason I won’t go into, but this was a cool, smart science fiction film about a little boy with weird gifts, and what his father will do to protect him. The boy’s secrets are ultimately beyond explanation, but the end, showing the love of a parent and what a parent will do for his child, made this movie something special.
I remember watching the first trailer for this film back in 2015 and thinking how dumb it looked. Did we need Nick Wilde to explain the concept of talking animals in this day and age? No, we did not. But, surprisingly, the movie wasn’t about talking animals in the conventional sense so much as Disney used talking animals to make a great, fun movie with an anti-racism subtext. That I wasn’t expecting, and I doubt anyone else was either.
6. Green Room
A rock band gets the gig from hell as they find themselves locked in the title location at a white supremacist’s bar in the middle of nowhere. Both the band and the skinheads outside (led by a downright chilling Patrick Stewart) play a game of cat-and-mouse with each other. This was an intelligent thriller/horror film as neither side was populated by idiots and advantages went back and forth for the entire film.
A quiet look into how painful memories can affect the present, Casey Affleck gives a brilliant, if understated, performance as a man forced to return to his old home town to take care of his nephew. Affleck doesn’t want to be there, and for a very good reason.
2016 was a good year for intelligent sci-fi between this and Midnight Special, and a good year for Amy Adams considering she popped up in three different movies even if one of them was Batsoup. The film’s surprise twist works in large part due to audience expectation in how we normally read the tropes of filmmaking, and Arrival finds a way to work around them in a fantastic way. It’s the sort of film you’ll either get or won’t, but I fell clearly on the “get” side.
A movie about two bank robbing brothers could have been a mass of crime movie cliches, but this one wasn’t. Instead, it was as much about what desperate people will do when those in power seem to be taking everything away from them. This is a movie where the setting of an economically depressed part of Texas is as much a character as the brothers themselves, and no one seems to know what to do when the land itself seems to be sliding out from under the feet of too many people. That may be a more timely message for 2016 than many people would want to admit.
A beautifully animated fable about death being a part of life, Kubo and the Two Strings was at the top of my 2016 list until I saw the number one movie on New Year’s Eve. Kubo was just a beautiful movie for all ages.
1. La La Land
Normally, I don’t go much for musicals. I’ll have a review for this later in the week explaining more why, and I was watching this one thinking, “Well, top ten for sure, but where should it go…?” And then I saw the last five minutes or so and knew it was going to be my #1.
But not all the movies were good, so here are five bad ones. They may not be the worst, and they are listed in no particular order, but here are five that are maybe better off forgotten.
I made fun of it enough above that you should know it’s in the bad movie category. At best, it’s half a good Batman movie and a third of a good Superman movie. I’ve spilled enough digital ink on this one already. Moving on…
There’s a lot to like about Passengers, and it should have been a better movie. The problem is the moral crisis of the film distracts the viewer so much that it makes other flaws more noticeable that might have otherwise been ignored. Heated debate over whether or not Chris Pratt is playing a monster ensued here at Gabbing Geek, and while a good debate can be a lot of fun, it isn’t if its due to a movie we ideally would have liked much better if the glaring ethical decision hadn’t been swept under the rug by the end of the film.
I’m not so sure The BFG was so much bad as disappointing. I can forgive a lot, but Steven Spielberg managed to make something uncharacteristic for him, even with his worst movies: it was boring. A good performance by Mark Rylance as the giant helps, just as much as Emily Blunt’s good performance helps the terminally stupid The Girl on the Train, but I’m giving the Big Friendly Giant a spot on the worst list due to the pedigree behind the camera moreso than anything in front of it.
It sure was pretty to look at, and one or two interesting actors phoning it in were about all this video game adaptation had going for it. Far too serious given the source material, the whole movie came across as more of a Lord of the Rings rip off than it probably intended to. And huge numbers in Asia means this could still see a sequel even while a fun movie like the new Ghostbusters does not.
I would have just been content to check this movie off as another mediocre summer flick until the very end when Tarzan does…well, let’s say something…that struck me as way too stupid to get out of the villain’s deathtrap at the end of the movie. My suspension of disbelief can only carry me so far, and this one had a moment when I lost it and it didn’t come back
So, there ya go, my Top Ten list, and five stinkers. Happy New Year, readers.