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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 Year-End Recap: Biggest Disappointments & The Worst Films Of The Year


On December 30th, I will be publishing my Top Ten Films of 2016 list over at Why So Blu?. I will post it here at a later date as well. Leading up to the Top Ten, though, I will be posting a number of lists reflecting my thoughts on the many films from this year. The following post features my biggest disappointments of the year, along with what I found to be the worst films of 2016. Disappointments may not necessarily be bad films, but I certainly expected more from them. The worst films selected here are only in reference to what I managed to see (sorry Norm of the North), but I did get the least amount of satisfaction from them. With that in mind, here we go with disappointments and the worst of 2016 (with links to the reviews for each when available).

Biggest Disappointments (Alphabetical):

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice should have been a home run, given the title characters involved. Instead, it's a convoluted mess, made only slightly better by the extended cut that should have been released in the first place. All the style and effort put into this bloated blockbuster certainly shows ambition (DP Larry Fong does amazing work), but that shouldn't have translated into a film that many people have spent the better part of the year debating in terms of actual cinematic quality.

Batman: The Killing Joke proves it really hasn't been a great year for Batman on the big screen. Making a cinematic recreation of a controversial, but popular graphic novel could have proved to be interesting. However, Warner Bros. Animation really dropped the ball here, releasing a lazily animated movie, padded by a poorly handled story involving Batgirl.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk had me curious thanks to Ang Lee's involvement. Despite not being fond of higher frame rate presentations so far, Lee could have showed me something new. It didn't pan out that way and not helping is the fairly familiar and somewhat shallow story being told. Points go to Garrett Hedlund though. He was solid as Sgt. Dime.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is an enigma to me. Tom Cruise works so hard to entertain, yet his effort feels strangely lacking here. This sequel to the surprisingly solid Jack Reacher ended up feeling like a direct-to-TV movie spin-off that happens to have the superstar still playing the title character. With no flavor in the cast, story or action, this is just a bland and forgettable action caper.

Keanu is probably my favorite film on this list, but it was still disappointing in regards to the standards I hold Key & Peele to. Along with frequent collaborator director Peter Atencio, I thought the setup for this action-parody was going to lead to the interesting thematic looks at race, culture and more, just like in the pair's Comedy Central series. The film held back from going anywhere more interesting though, favoring some humorous skit ideas patched together for a feature instead.

Snowden had the potential to be a return to JFK (or at least Nixon) territory for Oliver Stone. With a solid cast and a topic that feels perfect for Stone, one would expect something inspired. Instead, the film merely comes off as another "Wikipedia comes to life" re-telling of Edward Snowden's story. The Citizenfour documentary that only features people talking in a room was more exciting.

Warcraft was a mild disappointment, as I don't hold my hopes high for video game adaptations. That said, with the years leading up to this release and Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) at the helm, I wanted to think this could be the year where one of these adaptations did more than just a passable job for the first time ever. Despite terrific work involving the orc's side of this story, the human element meant another game over.

X-Men: Apocalypse was an incredible disappointment. The various X-Men movies have had their issues over the years, but there have also been major highlights. Despite bringing in one of the best X-Men villains and producing a pretty great cast, most of the actors are either underutilized (all the kids) or seem completely bored (Jennifer Lawrence). The bland production design for a such a big blockbuster doesn't help either. This film is the worst of the "team up" X-Men films and marks a clear sign that Bryan Singer and writer/producer Simon Kinberg really need to put other fresh eyes on this franchise.

The Worst Films of the Year:



Before we get started, here are some films that just managed to miss this list: 

And now:

Ice Age: Collision Course ideally serves as simple entertainment for children, but given how adult-focused the story in the original Ice Age was, this is just a further departure from what the series started as. Of course, that would be fine if it was passable, but the film can't even be saved by Scrat's acorn antics. It was a chore to watch this film in a year featuring many great animated films for all ages.

Ride Along 2 does no favors for those of us that didn't mind the first Ride Along. Ice Cube and Kevin Hart are back, but the charm of Hart's inexperience and desire to prove himself are absent this time around, making his character just plain annoying. Not helping is pretty much anything else in an action-comedy lacking both good action or funny comedy.

Zoolander 2 proved to be the sequel no one really wanted, given its lackluster box office performance. Here's a comedy that came years too late and has nothing to really offer for inspired laughs. Not even the big jolt of energy provided by Will Ferrell late in the film was enough to keep the luster of Blue Steel from fading.

I Saw the Light was booted all the way out of Oscar season last year and into the Spring for a reason. This Hank Williams biopic finds Tom Hiddleston putting all his energy into a film with no desire to cut deep into who the legendary country singer was. The result is a flat and uninviting story that really felt like a slog.

The Brothers Grimsby feels like a film Sacha Baron Cohen needed to get out of their system in an effort to re-group and start putting serious focus on better projects. Somehow Mark Strong also got tied up into this mess. The shock humor is as disgusting as you'd expect from Cohen, but the lack of a real-world element just makes this a series of messed-up gags that didn't humor me.


Free State of Jones is a film that grew more frustrating the more I thought about it. It's the kind of historical war drama that seems to be coming from the right place, only for other realizations to settle in. All of the interesting parts of this story belong to the black characters, but sure enough Matthew McConaughey's character leads the charge in a story where he suffers the least, yet we are supposed to care the most about his plight and be helped by his impassioned speeches/lectures about why racism is so awful. The poor structuring and dull presentation doesn't help either.

The Girl on the Train seemed to be positioned as this year's Gone Girl, but it was a dreadful experience. To its credit, Emily Blunt leads a committed female cast (the men are somewhat fittingly all duds), but that doesn't save this awfully told story. Sometimes you can have fun with an "airport novel" and the implied pulpiness, but the lack of suspense and obvious twists render this film void of entertainment.

The Huntsman: Winter's War is the prequel/sequel that seemed like a bad idea from the start, once the decision was made to remove the previous film's lead character (Kristen Stewart). 'Snow White' wasn't good either, but at least it felt like a fresh approach. This film looks and feels cheaper, despite being  loaded with visual effects. Chris Hemsworth doesn't have enough to work with to carry the film and Charlize Thereon's campiness is regulated to a few minutes of screentime this time around. Additionally, poor Emily Blunt winds up with another entry on this list, as all she does here is pull off the mopiest version of Frozen's Queen Elsa.

London Has Fallen is so bad that it's impressive the film is not the worst of the year. Olympus Has Fallen was not high art, but it was a goofy thriller that balanced its silliness with some redeeming qualities. That balance is shattered in this sequel, which feels like a cable TV movie nightmare loaded with talent. Bad action cliches, murky visuals and a ridiculously high amount of xenophobia all fall under the umbrella of suck that is this film.

Suicide Squad continues the trend of Hollywood doing the bare minimum to hit a target and moving forward with no real changes thanks to box office results seemingly showing that audiences are content with not expecting/wanting more. With all the stories of the film's rushed screenplay, deleted material and trailer editors coming in to replace professional filmmakers thanks to the positive buzz created by a 2-minute trailer, it's a wonder some good is even able to stand out. Still, no matter what effort was put in by the cast and writer/director David Ayer, Suicide Squad is an ugly mess of a film. Rather than being the film that could hopefully save the current DC movie universe, it ended up being the worst thing to come out of it yet. At least BvS had ideas and ambition, this is just a poor video game movie with the stars doing their best mugging (or worse - Jared Leto) for the camera . Suicide Squad was a huge creative disappointment and a waste of effort.

***




Stay tuned for the continuation of the top ten list, in addition to surprises, shout outs and more throughout the week!


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