Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 Flashback: Movies

Welp. 2016 sucked. It was a year, wasn't it? We lost Alan Rickman, David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Prince, Angus Scrimm, Leonard Cohen, Gene Wilder, Garry Marshall, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, and – way too soon – Anton Yelchin. We found out that not all is well in the state of… pretty much every country on the map. And pop culture seemed to fail to pick up the slack, dooming our depressed selves to cold, comfortless TV and movie screens.

But that’s why we’re here today, for a very special annual tradition: The Popcorn Culture year-end roundup of the best and worst of 2016. Let’s celebrate the triumphs of movies, music, and TV and take joy from giving one last kick in the pants to the dreck we were asked to swallow. It’s all we have left as we tentatively shamble into the vast unknown of 2017.

Um, hooray! Let’s pick that mood right back up, shall we?

[EN: As always, I have only pulled from material that I have personally watched or listened to, so as not to cast judgment on things I know nothing about. If your favorite movie, TV show, etc. doesn’t show up on my list, it probably sucked. But it’s equally likely that I just didn’t get around to seeing it, and you can rectify this gap in my knowledge by pointing me toward it in the comments section. Enjoy!]


The Ten Best Films of 2016

#10 Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Although I certainly didn’t love this sequel as much as the original Neighbors (which, to be fair, I love an indecent amount), it’s a remarkable comedy follow-up that actually organically continues the themes of the first, bringing solid laughs along with some feminist underpinnings.

Read my original review right here.

#9 The Shallows

A harrowing survival movie slash one-woman-one-seagull show slash giant shark horror flick? What could go wrong? Answer: Almost nothing. The Shallows was the popcorn shocker of the summer, and an argument for the continuation of the giant shark genre.

Read my original review right here.

#8 Sing Street

John Carney strikes again, releasing a great piece of musical realism that flew right the hell under the radar. Landing somewhere between Once and Begin Again tonally, Sing Street is a soppy sweet love letter to the Dublin of the 80’s packed with childlike joy and wonder, a gaggle of Spielbergian kids you just want to hug, and a heap of terrific faux New Wave jams.

Full review pending.

#7 Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo has its fair share of flaws, but it’s a sweeping, inviting family adventure that I couldn’t look away from.

Read my original review right here.

#6 Deadpool

Finally, a superhero flick I can get behind. Deadpool is raucous, indelicate, and oh so loveable, even if its humor swings toward the juvenile a bit too often.

Read my original review right here.

#5 Nerve

Every year I plant my flag for an unlikely contender, and for 2016 it’s unquestionably Nerve. An electric teen movie with an almost-not-too-didactic message, it’s a sumptuous cotton candy treat of neon light, slick production design, and smooth integration of modern tech.

Read my original review right here.

#4 Swiss Army Man

The “farting corpse movie” turned out to be one of the sweetest flicks about friendship of the year, packed with ramshackle lust for life, a dark edge, and Daniel Radcliffe giving his single best performance in a pitch-perfect comic role.

Read my original review right here.

#3 Train to Busan

Sometimes a good genre flick is all a movie has to be. There’s nothing particularly fresh in Train to Busan, but it’s a bone-shattering thrill ride of zombie mayhem.

Read my original review right here.

#2 The Nice Guys

I’m sad we had to wait ten years for this after Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but if his next project is anything like this bawdy, hilarious gem, I’d be happy to wait another twenty. The ensemble is sublime, with Ryan Gosling shedding his movie star cool to achieve perfect comedy and Russell Crowe giving his best performance in a decade.

Read my original review right here.

#1 La La Land

This gorgeous throwback musical combines two funny stars and a timeless tale of romance and dreaming big into a dazzlingly emotional, purely cinematic experience that can never be replicated. Beautiful colors, beautiful music, and beautiful people. What more do you need?

Read my original review right here.

The Five Worst Films of 2016

#5 Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?

A remake of a Lifetime thriller as a lesbian vampire movie should have been an ace in the hole for me, but this plotless bore deserves to stay six feet under.

Read my original review right here.

#4 The Purge: Election Year

The action and political allegory are solid, but this script is loaded with more unnecessary racist epithets than Donald Trump’s Twitter page.

Read my original review right here.

#3 The Lobster

I genuinely liked quite a bit about the absurdist dystopia of The Lobster, including some tossed-off tragedy and Colin Farrell’s performance, but it was all too dull and underplayed to be remotely entertaining.

Read my original review right here.

#2 Dirty Grandpa

It’s cheap to take potshots at the fallen Robert De Niro, so I won’t. But Dirty Grandpa is an anticomedy slog that is actually worse for its good jokes, because every genuine laugh is a painful reminder that, if you ever want to experience them again, you’ll have to watch Dirty Grandpa.

Read my original review right here.

#1 The Darkness

The bloodthirsty ghost in this is named “Jenny.” C’mon people, work with me here. And that’s just one symptom of a larger dumbness at work in this generic, unscary, woefully misguided flick.

Read my original review right here.

Best Worst Movie: Wish for Christmas

It’s nothing to sniff at when you discover a new good-bad gem, and the evangelical holiday movie Wish for Christmas is a delightful blend of bonkers high concept and blissful incompetence.

Read my original review right here.

Biggest Surprise: Sing

I’m still flabbergasted that the most reprised song on this soundtrack was The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers,” off Abbey Road. For a movie that pipes in Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift to pander to the kids of two years ago, this is a weirdly subtle and intriguing choice.

Read my original review right here.

Biggest Disappointment: The Boss

The Boss misrepresents The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as a “gory” film, showing clips out of order and making a hash of a horror masterpiece! Also, the movie isn’t great or whatever.

Read my original review right here.

Most Underrated Film: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

didn’t blow me out of the water, but it’s a clever, timely mockumentary that accomplished the impossible: Making me like The Lonely Island.

Read my original review right here.

Most Overrated Film: Manchester by the Sea

While I heartily recognize that Manchester by the Sea is far from the dreary, pretentious snoozefest I was dreading, it’s still not the second coming of the masculine tearjerker.

Read my original review right here.

Best 2015 Film I Missed: Brooklyn

Brooklyn is a lovely, mellow film. It’s a colorful period piece, a funny fish-out-of water drama, and a relaxed romance that proves that Emory Cohen can actually act.

Read my original review right here.

Worst 2015 Film I Missed: Magic Mike XXL

I know this really doesn’t deserve to be my entry, considering I also watched Fantastic Four this year, but Magic Mike XXL was such an abject, frequently hilarious disappointment that I need to give it credit. It’s terrible, but its pure lunacy is still worthwhile. And it honestly comes by this slot for the reason that every one of its strippers keeps his pants on 100 % of the time.

Read my original review right here.

Best Actor: Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!)

I’ve had my eye on Ehrenreich for some time, since he co-starred in 2013’s Beautiful Creatures, but I had no idea he could act like this. In Hail, Caesar! he is a standout in a sea of stars, human and hilarious as a hapless cowboy finding his way in Hollywood.

For my original review of Hail, Caesar!, click here.

Worst Actor: Jesse Eisenberg (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

I like Eisenberg, but his performance as Lex Luthor is cartoonish and exhausting, deflating the overbearing atmosphere of the film, but only to the degree that you can’t take anything seriously.

Read my original review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice right here.

Best Actress: Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters)

McKinnon is by far the best thing about this year’s Ghostbusters reboot. She is pure comic anarchy, unpredictable and hilarious, given free reign in a vast sandbox and milking every last molecule of it.

Read my original review of Ghostbusters right here.

Worst Actress: Olivia Munn (X-Men: Apocalypse)

It takes real (lack of) talent to be giving an obviously bad performance when you have almost no lines and your only requirement is to power pose while Oscar Isaac shouts at people, but by God, Olivia Munn pulls it off!

Read my original review of X-Men: Apocalypse right here.

Best Child Actor: Harvey Scrimshaw (The Witch)

Scrimshaw gave a sublime performance for such a young actor, capturing the terror and ecstasy of a killer possession sequence.

Read my original review of The Witch right here.

Best Child Actress: Angourie Rice (The Nice Guys)

In an archetypical role as a precocious youngster who wants to help solve the mystery, Rice is truly dazzling, giving a performance that demands attention, confidently standing head to head with heavyweights Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe.

Best Cameo: Ant-Man (Captain America: Civil War)

Ant-Man’s appearance signals that the film is ready to not take itself so seriously for a couple minutes, leading to the film’s single best action scene.

Read my original review of Captain America: Civil War right here.

Worst Cameo: Lisa Kudrow (The Girl on the Train)

Don’t get me wrong. I love Lisa Kudrow. But this is just another waste of her in a role that’s onscreen for 30 seconds and gives her no chance to show off her ample talents as a comedic or dramatic actress.

Read my original review of The Girl on the Train right here.

Best Score: Swiss Army Man

I’ve never seen a movie that isn’t a musical in which the score is more integrated with the dialogue. The soaring, triumphant a cappella anthems and dirges are the perfect complements to the film’s handmade, piecemeal construction.

Worst Score: Jackie 

I think I’ll let these excerpts from my original review speak for itself: "atonal shrieking… banshee parade… like having a gallon of syrup upended over your head…"

Read my original review right here.

Best Monster: Myrtu (The Other Side of the Door)

The Other Side of the Door was a forgettable horror attempt, but horror icon Javier Botet’s four-armed death goddess is a triumph of uncanny design.

Read my original review of The Other Side of the Door right here.

Worst Monster: The Monster (The Monster)

I suppose it was nice of the ravenous monster to chill out for half an hour at a time to allow his idiotic victims to regroup, but it sure didn’t make for an exciting film experience.

Read my original review of The Monster right here.

Best CGI Creation: "Piper"

I loved "Piper", the short before Finding Dory, so much that I considered at length whether or not it should be placed at number 1 on my Top 10 list. It’s an adorable, earnest story and a true delight to watch play out onscreen, but it’s also a dazzling triumph of photorealistic computer animation, breathing life into feathers, sand, and water like never before.

Worst CGI Creation: Grand Moff Tarkin (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story)

On our planet-hopping adventure through space, we seem to have made a pit stop at the Uncanny Valley. This ghastly attempt at digitally resurrecting Peter Cushing is more terrifying than any horror flick I’ve seen this year.

Read my original review of Rogue One right here.

Biggest Cry: Baby Dory (Finding Dory)

The mind-melting cuteness of Young Dory’s design is already enough to lubricate the tear ducts, but the ruthless tragedy of her separation from her parents is just too much for me, man.

Read my original review of Finding Dory right here.

Biggest Scream: Border Massacre (Desierto)

I wasn’t a big fan of Desierto, but an early scene of Jeffrey Dean Morgan mowing down a dozen immigrants with his rifle is flatly terrifying in its merciless brutality.

Read my original review of Desierto right here.

Biggest Laugh: Religion Round Table (Hail, Caesar!)

Of the many memorable comic moments scattered throughout this uneven movie, the round table discussion between representatives of each major religion is a triumph of theological wordplay that still puts an unholy stitch in my side.

Best Title: Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?

I don’t care if the movie sucked, but that always has been the craziest, most awesome title cooked up by the English language, and it always will be.

Worst Title: Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates

This title is definitely not as flippant as it thinks it is, and it foreshadows the film’s catastrophic repeated use of the phrase “wedding date” as if that’s a thing that actual human beings say.

Read my original review right here.

Best Line: "This is the best day of my life... Until tomorrow." Everybody Wants Some!!

Although I wasn’t a huge fan of Linklater’s college coming-of-age flick, this line perfectly captures the warm nostalgia he was attempting to harness.

Read my original review of Everybody Wants Some!! right here.

Worst Line: "I put him in a hole and threw away the hole." Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad was an unholy mess of a movie that I liked just enough, but there is no defense for this screechingly bad ten-car pileup of the English language.

Read my original review of Suicide Squad right here.

Best Poster: Green Room

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Green Room, but it still has the perfect poster, an unsubtle but beautifully tinted green affair that captures the anarchist punk tone in perfect motion.

Read my original review of Green Room right here.

Worst Poster: The Conjuring 2

This just isn’t a poster for a suavely terrifying summer horror smash hit. This lazy as hell design looks more like key art for a buried Redbox turd called something like “A Haunting on Exorcism Lane.”

Read my original review of The Conjuring 2 right here.

Best Poster For a Bad Movie: Suicide Squad

This is actually also indicative of the movie itself, in that its bold, poppy colors and design scheme are the best thing about this blasted project.

Worst Poster For a Good Movie: The Shallows

This is more of a complaint about the tagline, even though the poster design is still boring as all get out. But seriously, what an awkwardly worded jumble! And there’s no reason to have the phrase “The Shallows” appear twice within like three inches. Just slap some ellipses on that sucker!

Best Use Of A Song: "Single Ladies" Doctor Strange

Coming as a punchline to the worst joke of Doctor Strange (Strange lists single-name celebrities in a dud attempt to mock the librarian Wong), “Single Ladies” appears at just the right time to combat a bit of the film’s irritating exoticism and prove that there’s more to the humor than that.

Read my original review of Doctor Strange right here.

Worst Use Of A Song: "Try Everything" Zootopia

It’s not film-breaking by any means, but one thing Zootopia patently did not need was Shakira growling out a pop song with manufactured inspirational lyrics. That hook is a dang powerful earworm, though.

Read my original review of Zootopia right here.

Best Song From a Musical: "Get Back Up Again" Trolls

I know this seems like sacrilege when Moana and La La Land both came out this year, but while those soundtracks form a fantastic whole, no one track stands out as a masterpiece. And while “Get Back Up Again” is far from that level of quality, it’s a vigorously catchy bubblegum tune that captures Princess Poppy and Anna Kendrick’s saccharine sweetness in a perfect place, not too overbearing yet relentlessly joyful.

Read my original review of Trolls right here.

Worst Song From a Musical: "The Great Beyond" Sausage Party

Wow, this really is a sacrilegious section, because I’m about to badmouth an Alan Menken song. I love the man, and his music is passable here (he clearly wasn’t trying very hard), but it’s the lyrics that kill this sucker, indicative of Sausage Party’s worst tendency to lean on foul-mouthed cartoon food being a source of humor in and of itself. And let’s not forget the avalanche of weirdly racist depictions of food that build up to a f**king Hitler cameo. No thank you.

Read my original review of Sausage Party right here.

Top Five Pretty Guys

#5 Edgar Ramírez (The Girl on the Train)

I feel like Ramirez is constantly on the verge of breaking into the mainstream, and I hope it happens soon so everybody can respect his beauty.

#4 Ensemble (Everybody Wants Some!!)

For taking some of my favorite onscreen crushes (Ryan Guzman, Glen Powell) and adding a few new ones (Tyler Hoechlin, Blake Jenner), I owe Everybody Wants Some!! a debt of gratitude.

#3 Trevante Rhodes (Moonlight)

Is Trevante Rhodes the buffest man in the world? I see no evidence to the contrary. (The Rock doesn’t count, because I’m fairly certain he’s not a real human being.)

Read my original review of Moonlight right here.

#2 Yoo Gong (Train to Busan)

You wouldn’t think this suit-clad lead would have a body like that, but you’d be wrong. If only the zombies had torn off his shirt at some point, Train to Busan would have been a solid 10/10.

#1 Zac Efron (Dirty Grandpa, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates)

I hate to beat a dead horse, but when the horse has maybe the most perfectly engineered male body in the world, I’ll give it a pass.

Bonus: Brahms (The Boy)

SPOILERS: The adult Brahms (see here) is, I’m ashamed to admit, quite a catch. You know, after a shave and a haircut. And a couple decades of therapy.

Read my original review of The Boy right here.

Top Five Pretty Girls

#5 Adriana Ugarte (Julieta)

Ugarte is one of Almodóvar’s first new muses in a long time, and there’s no questioning why. Just look at her. Stunning, even under that terrible hair.

Read my original review of Julieta right here.

#4 Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond)

I’ve been a fan out Boutella since Kingsman, and I’m glad she got a chance to strut her stuff in Star Trek Beyond, even if she was covered in makeup.

Read my original review of Star Trek Beyond right here.

#3 Carmen Ejogo (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)

Her character may not have been very likeable, but her style more than made up for it. Those lustrous blonde curls are to die for.

Read my original review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them right here.

#2 Janelle Monáe (Moonlight, Hidden Figures)

It’s odd that this entry isn’t in the “music” category, but Monáe is beautiful on whatever path her career takes her down.

#1 Amy Adams (Arrival, Nocturnal Animals, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice)

Girl knows how to work a bold lipstick, what can I say?

Read my original review of Arrival right here and Nocturnal Animals right here.

Bonus: Tilda Swinton (A Bigger Splash, Doctor Strange, Hail, Caesar!)

Tilda Swinton counts as a bonus because 1) I’m fairly certain she’s not from Earth, and 2) she’s not conventionally gorgeous but she’s captivatingly strange in a way that draws the eye like an electromagnet.

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