As the year 2016 finally comes to an end it’s time for the film guys (and gals) here at Media Mikes to share our thoughts on the best and worse films that the year had to offer. Since I’ve got the by-line, I’ll go first:
Mike Smith’s Best Films of 2016
1. “Birth of a Nation”
I can’t understand how fickle Hollywood is. It was just a little under a year ago, when the Academy Award nominations were announced, that everyone was up in arms due to the lack of minority representation among the major nominees. When “Birth of a Nation” first opened, it drew raves – including from me – and seemed to be on a collision course with Oscar. Then it was reported that the films co-writer, director and star, Nate Parker, had been accused of rape 20 years ago while in college. I will admit right here that when I did my “Fall Movie Preview” I mentioned the alleged event, even questioning if it will have any effect on the film’s popularity. Obviously the answer is a resounding yes. Sometime ago I read a magazine article about possible Best Picture nominees and the very first line stated that the alleged incident pretty much knocked the film out of the race. Too bad. “Birth of a Nation” is one of the most original and powerful films of this or any year.
2. “Hacksaw Ridge”
Apparently Hollywood found a film that is bulletproof from negative publicity. Directed by everyone’s favorite crazy uncle – you know who he is, the one that really shouldn’t drink and then make phone calls – Mel Gibson, this is the true story of how a soldier can refuse to pick up a weapon but still become a hero.
My father used to tell this joke: A man and his wife have a baby but it’s only a head. Ashamed, the father puts it in a coffee can and puts it on the back porch. 21 years later he picks up the can and takes it with him to the local bar. He orders two beers, drinks one and pours the other into the head’s mouth. Suddenly the head spins around, drops to the floor and begins to grow – arms, legs, body. After a few minutes where once sat a head now stands a beautiful specimen of a man. “Holy shit,” the father exclaims and orders two more beers. He and his son clink glasses and drink. Suddenly the boy falls over, dead. The bartender looks over the bar at the body on the ground and says, “Poor kid. He should have quit while he was ahead!” That is the same advice Anthony Weiner should have taken. Once a growing force in politics, Weiner had to resign his seat in congress after it was discovered that he had texted nude photos of himself to women not his wife. Years later he decides to run for Mayor of New York City. He’s doing well in the polls when – you guessed it – he took that second glass of beer! Caught once again sharing shots of his penis, he withdraws from the race. I just realized that I used the words “growing” and “withdraws” in a story about a guy named Weiner. See what I did there?
4. “Manchester by the Sea”
Normally when I see Casey Affleck on screen I immediately see him in the back of Chuckie’s car in “Goodwill Hunting,” waiting for his lunch and singing out, “I wish I had a double-burger!” He’s always been good in pretty much everything I’ve seen him in since but he NAILS IT with his performance here. With a constant level of sadness just peeking out no matter the situation, he may not be the only Affleck with an Oscar come this February.
Dwayne Johnson sings! That is one of the great surprises in this sure-to-be next animated Disney classic. Great songs, fun performances and a strong female character add up to an amazing night at the movies.
Mike Smith’s Worst Film of 2016
No contest here. Say hello to “The 5th Wave.” Allow me to share some of my review:
“A film only in the sense that it’s being shown in theatres, “The 5th Wave” tells the story about what can happen when you reveal the BIG ending 20 minutes into the film and apparently forget what the words “continuity” and “believable” mean.”
Need I say more? But don’t just take my word for it. Here are some more suggestions from the rest of the gang:
Mike Gencarelli’s Best and Worst of 2016
“A Monster Calls”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“The Neon Demon”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“The Secret Life of Pets”
“The Legend of Tarzan”
Lauren Damon’s Best Films of 2016
1. “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”
Taika Waititi on my list again! This movie managed to be funny, sweet, original and not to mention shot gorgeously. The main boy (Julian Dennison) was so well cast opposite Sam Neill. Also fell in love with Rachel House who then also turned out to be my favorite crazy grandma in Disney’s Moana (not on my list here, but did enjoy.)
2. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
Ho. Lee. Shit. This movie has Death-Star sized balls in the darkness territory and I felt so proud of Disney for actually letting it be that way. I enjoyed it way more than The Force Awakens because it felt so fresh for the franchise. The third act battle was astounding and their usage of Darth Vader put the biggest grin on my face.
3. “Don’t Think Twice”
Mike Birbiglia’s film about a tight-knit improv troupe that’s split when one of its members ascends to an SNL-type show was full of top comedians (Birbiglia, Chris Gethard, Tammy Sagher, Keegan Michael Key, Kate Micucci and Gillian Jacobs make up the group) doing hysterical improv, but more impressively bringing so much heart and smart observation to this very specific scene and age group. It was equal parts hilarious and heart-breaking.
I’m so glad this movie exists. Knowing that Ryan Reynolds fought for years to get a Deadpool movie made that gets the character right and to have it turn out this funny and bad-ass just made my nerd heart happy.
5. “Captain America: Civil War”
The Russo brothers here continue to make me excited for their upcoming work on Avengers: Infinity War because Civil War proved that these guys know how to handle a massive cast. This film arguably had the most baggage (i.e. number of movies in the MCU you should be up to speed with going in) but it never felt that way and they managed to seamlessly introduce both Black Panther and a new Spider-man (who I loved! Great job by Tom Holland). The heroic showdown in the German airport is one of my favorite sequences of the year.
Lauren Damon’s Worst Film of 2016
Most disappointing. I was so incredibly bored, I couldn’t believe it. Muddled action sequences, may-as-well be stock footage of nefarious control rooms, and a backstory that added exactly one sentence of history to the Bourne mythos. Tommy Lee Jones could have been asleep in his role while title character reportedly had only 25 lines of dialogue, just a lazy effort in a franchise I’ve previously loved.
Jeremy Werner’s Best Films of 2016
1. “Swiss Army Man”
Very few movies have the honor or distinction of being wholly unique, but “Swiss Army Man” grabs that honor within minutes of beginning. Surely, it’ll also be the only movie ever that’ll ever explore existentialism through a farting boner corpse.
After a rough 2016, where some of the ugliest sides of people were brought to the forefront, it’s refreshing to see a sharply written animated movie film highlight tolerance and acceptance. This movie will resonate for years and decades.
A poignant sci-fi flick that simply teaches communication is the main ingredient to understanding one another. But on a deeper level, “Arrival” reveals that we’re not alone in the universe, on a galactic and emotional level.
4. “Manchester by the Sea”
Despite all the emotional gut punches that this movie delivers, it’s final moments offer hope, forgiveness, and that well-deserved light at the end of the tunnel for those who’ve had tragedy and depression consume them.
5. “Hell or High Water”
The neo-western feels trapped in an economic hangover, saying more about it’s themes than any of it’s characters. It’s a bank heist movie with realistic grit and a sour message.
6. “O.J.: Made in America”
Despite being nearly eight hours, this documentary never gets boring in it’s unflinching look at racism in America. The trial of the 20th century has never felt more prevalent as police involved shootings and racial tensions are on the rise in America.
Jeremy Werner’s Worst Films of 2016
1. “Nine Lives”
I’d rather eat an uncleaned box of kitty litter than watch this movie again. Actually, no. I wouldn’t. That’s dangerously unhealthy and potentially life-ending. But I think you get the point. This movie is awful, beyond human words can comprehend.
2. “The Divergent Series: Allegiant”
Back in 2014, I made a journalistic plea to moviegoers to not see “Divergent” so I could be spared anymore suffering. Those cries went unheard and two years later I endured another two-hour cinematic abortion.
Many have noted “Passengers” is Stockholm syndrome in space, but I’d like to point out that “Passengers” is also a sign that victim blaming and rampant sexism is still a concern in the future.
Somehow “Warcraft” has a 7/10 on IMDB. Somehow this made back twice it’s budget. Somehow the “Ghostbusters” remake was a box office bomb and has a lower IMDB rating. This world sucks. Let’s go to Mars.
5. “Mother’s Day”
“Mother’s Day” is the film equivalent of a hard slap to the face for hard working moms in the world. Moms deserve a movie that loves and supports them, and doesn’t belittle them, like “Mother’s Day” did.
Loey Lockerby’s Best Films of 2016
1. “Hell or High Water”
A near-perfect blend of family drama, heist movie, absurdist comedy & neo-Western.
Thoughtful, sensitive & beautiful. It tells a long story without dragging it out or pacing it badly. No small feat.
3. “Manchester by the Sea”
I loved every flawed, struggling character. How many tragedies can actually make you feel better by the end?
Tackles serious emotional issues while offering an intelligent sci-fi story & relatable characters. Exactly what this genre does best.
5. “The Witch”
It’s not horror-movie scary, but it’s terrifying in the realistic way it portrays madness & early American religious fanaticism.
Loey says they were spared having to watch anything horrible this past year. You can read Loey’s full reviews here.