So we’re now properly up and running with the review of the year. So far we’ve featured films that are pretty awful, but now we’re getting to the stage where whilst they weren’t necessarily awful, they certainly weren’t good. They’re still all a marked improvement of what has come so far.
Featuring in this particular list is arguably the most hyped film of the year, several horror films, a world class cast, a sci-fi film that whilst easy to follow was a bit boring, and a film that I get a feeling will get a lot of people angry at it’s inclusion this low down.
Also, please note that on this particular list is the first film (but it won’t be the last) that was actually released at the end of 2015, but I didn’t watch it until the first few days of 2016.
Cast : Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams and Jesse Eisenberg.
Plot : After the battle with Zod (Michael Shannon), Superman (Cavill) left the city devastated, destroying buildings and killing many innocent people, one of whom was an employee and friend of Bruce Wayne (Affleck). Bruce grows an intense hatred for Superman, all whilst the latter is trying to defend his actions to the human race, some of who view of him as a God.
Meanwhile, Lex Luthor (Eisenberg) is plotting to have the two fight each other, and comes up with a very convoluted plan to do so.
Why in this position? : I could literally just save time by using the words (spoiler alert by the way) – “our mothers have the same name, we can be friends now”, but I won’t.
“Batman vs Superman” was one of the earliest superhero films of the year, pitting two of DC Comics’ most well-recognised characters against each other, or at least that was the plan. Realistically they are never really facing each other and the dislike of each other feels forced and unnatural, almost to the point where I can’t bring myself to use the word hate, rather than mild dislike.
Ben Affleck is comfortably the best part of this film and he continues a relatively good recent run in terms of performances in big-screen films, but he is the only real good part about a film that offers very little otherwise. This is mainly down to the bizarre casting choices because Jesse Eisenberg, whilst he does at least seem to be trying to do something different than his usual neurotic performances, is horribly miss-cast as a super-villain.
And finally, I think one of the major issues that this film had was the trailer. The trailer showed you that they end up teaming up to fight a single enemy, and that Wonder Woman appears. Had we not known either of those two facts then the film might have been more entertaining, but knowing these things going in didn’t help.
In year that had quite a large amount of superhero films, this was one of the weaker efforts.
Cast : Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Vanessa Redgrave and Isabella Rossellini
Plot : Joy (Lawrence) is a poor mother of two that lives with near enough her entire family, and ex-husband Tony (Ramirez). One day, whilst celebrating Rudy’s (De Niro) new marriage, Joy cuts her hands quite badly cleaning up a broken glass, and comes up with an idea of a mop that you can pick things up and fully since out, meaning that no-one would have to cut themselves again. She develops the prototype with the money from Rudy’s new wife, Trudy (Rossellini).
She eventually convinces QVC executive Neil Walker (Cooper) to sell the mop live on TV, but soon it becomes a battle with suppliers and various other people as Joy struggles to actually sell her product properly.
Why in this position? : This isn’t the first time we’ve seen some of this cast together, infact it’s the fourth outing for the combination of Lawrence and Cooper, and it’s obvious that all involved are trying to replicate the success of the far superior “Silver Linings Playbook”, which stars the aforementioned two and De Niro.
Don’t get me wrong, the acting is fine and the story moves along at a reasonable pace, but ultimately, it’s a film about a mop. There’s no way to make that sound exciting, and it’s not a particularly engaging film.
This was one of the first films that I saw during the year, and it was one of the least exciting. I’m not necessarily saying that it is a bad film by any stretch, and it was never in danger of being in the bottom ten, but I just didn’t move above ambivalence during the run time, and it’s a movie that I would skip straight by if I saw it advertised on TV.
Cast : Rafe Spall, Dane Hughes, Orla Hill, Teddie-Rose Malleson, Bobby McCulloch, Andrew Scott, Seren Hawkes, Hannah Jayne Thorp and Kelly McDonald
Plot : After much convincing, Mrs Walker (McDonald) is convinced by her four children to take them on holiday to the Lake District. On the train a mysterious man (Spall) enters the carriage and is hiding from a man hunting him (Scott) before escaping. Upon arriving in the Lake District, the kids eventually manage to talk Mrs Walker into letting them set sail for a local island, that despite breaking the window of the houseboat at the man on the train lives in.
They make their way out to the island and witness the name act suspiciously and nickname him Captain Flint, but they soon find that he isn’t the only one who is being hunted as they need to suddenly fight against local kids for the island.
Why in this position? : “Swallows and Amazons” was one of the final films I saw during the year, and it was one of the least inspiring films aimed at kids that I’ve ever seen. Now, I know that some people will look at that and be like “well it’s aimed at kids, not a 32 year old,” but if you stick around these lists long enough you will find two animated films in my top thirty, and one of was in my top ten for ages.
The film just drags, which is remarkable for a film that lasts for a relatively short 96 minutes. This film would have fit in very well at the beginning of the 1990s with other similar adaptions, such as “The Secret Garden”, but it’s just dull.
Whilst Spall and Scott are both decent, even though the latter is a supposed Russian spy, despite a very, very thick British accent, the characterisations and performances of the child actors are just awful, with Bobby McCulloch’s portrayal of Roger reminding me a kid who is excited to get a lead role in the school play, without having the skill to back it up.
All of the character arcs, other than those of Jim and Lazlow (Spall and Scott respectively), are pretty much non-existent, and the relationship between the kids of inconsistent, and that’s putting it nicely.
If you’re going to watch any kids films this year, make this one of the last.
Cast : Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and Jaeden Lieberher
Plot : There is something special about eight year old Alton (Lieberher) and that is why Roy (Shannon) and Lucas (Edgerton) are trying to hide him from a religious cult that believe he has been sent from heaven. He can’t go out during the day, or have sunlight touching him, so the pair only travel at night.
One day they are in a hotel when they are awoken by a seeming Earthquake, but they discover that it is infact Alton as he has bright lights shining out of his eyes. He soon summons a meteor shower to destroy several satellites that are being used by the FBI to track the trio. They go into hiding at the house of Sarah (Dunst), but how long can they hold out from both the religious cult, and the FBI?
Why in this position? : If there is one film that I feel somewhat guilty about having this far down then it is definitely “Midnight Special”. It’s a sci-fi film which is quite easily to follow, has great effects and decent characterisation, but the reason it is this far down is that, putting it nicely, it’s a bit boring.
I spent nearly two hours waiting for it to get exciting, or even remotely interesting, but it wasn’t, and I think this isn’t helped by acting that can best be described as laboured. None of the actors look like they want to be there, and deliver all of their lines with such monotony that it’s hard to keep your attention on the screen.
So you may be wondering why I am feeling guilty, it’s because whilst it’s boring, it’s a well made film. A lot of care and effort has gone into it and it is a very followable film, which can’t be said for a lot of similar films. There wasn’t a single point at which I questioned what was going on, and I understood where each of the characters were coming from, but ultimately that wasn’t enough to keep it in a place where I was another other than slumped in my seat.
76) Hail, Caesar
Cast : Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton
Plot : Eddie (Josh) is a “fixer” at a film lot in the 1950s and is the go-to guy to get this sorted. He is largely unhappy in his role and is contemplating an offer from a rival company. There are two major films being shot on set, one staring the most famous actor in the world, Baird Whitlock (Clooney), and the other is a drama directed by the acclaimed Laurence (Fiennes) and up-and-coming actor Hobie Doyle (Ehrenreich), who finds it difficult to follow instructions.
One day Baird is kidnapped by a group of screenwriters who want to serve communism, and think that someone with his popularity joining their cause would seriously help it. It’s up to Eddie to figure out where he is, and get him back, all whilst having to rely on some of the less than attentive and easily distracted actors that are filming.
Why in this position? : There is one thing that I think that most people who have seen this film will agree on there are a lot of A list names that appear in this film and heavily feature in the trailer, but they are there just to bring people into the screen to watch the film. Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are just a small handful of A listers that are in the film, but barely (maybe five minutes each), and yet they all feature heavily in the trailers and posters.
I went to watch this in mid-evening on opening night and I was the only person in the screen. This surprised me heavily, that despite reading and hearing a lot of negative reviews. I soon saw why as “Hail, Caesar” is a lifeless film with very little interesting aspects to it. The acting is actually great, and no cast member will come off in a negative way in this review, but ultimately what they had to work with was poor, so the more credit to them.
This is one of those films that will be appear on a TV guide on a random Sunday evening in a few years and people would get excited by the words “Coen Brothers”, but be ultimately disappointed as it’s less engaging and fun than some of their better known efforts.
Cast : Elizabeth Reaser, Annalise Basso, Lulu Wilson, Parker Mack and Henry Thomas
Plot : Alice (Reaser) is a con-artist who uses her children to create effects during seances to convince people that their loved ones are talking to each other, but falling into financial difficulties she decides to invest in a ouija board to add extra business. It doesn’t seem to work at first, but then Doris (Wilson) has a play and sees a variety of spirits, one of whom eventually absorbs itself into her.
Doris’ behaviour automatically changes, much to the horror of her older sister Paulina (Basso). She tries to confide in everyone, but no-one believes her as the spirit forces Doris to act normally when others are around. How long can the family survive?
Why in this position? : There is only one reason that I went to watch “Ouija : Origin of Evil” and that is because Chris Stuckmann, a Youtube film reviewer that I trust, said that unlike most horror films there is a very old-school style of making horror films here, and that it is very different to anything else in recent years, basically this year’s “Babadook”. He was wrong.
“Ouija : Origin of Evil” is just your typical, predictable nonsense horror film that offers precisely nothing new to the genre, and everything feels recycled to the point where I wasn’t once surprised during the entire film.
I can’t even motivate myself to talk about it that much. The only thing I’ll say it a positive spin is that acting is pretty decent, and Lulu Wilson was creepy as hell.
Cast : Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello, Alexander DiPersia and Alicia Vela-Bailey
Plot : Rebecca (Palmer) looks after her brother Martin (Bateman) due to her mother’s mental health issues. Every time Rebecca visits her mother, Sophie (Bello), she feels that she is being watched and one night she is awoken by a scrapping noise. She looks over and sees a woman carving into the floor, only for that woman to disappear when the lights are turned off….only to then reappear as soon as they are off.
The woman identifies herself as Diana (Vela-Bailey), an old childhood friend of Sophie’s. It turns out that she was allergic to light and retreated to the shadows, but following her death a spirit started showing up and haunting her. Can the family survive before the spirit of Diana stops mildly haunting and actually starts hurting people?
Why in this position? : Jump scares, jump scares everywhere!
“Lights Out” was a horror film that would cater to the people who enjoy the stupidest kind of horror films, the ones which concentrate so much on jump scares that it fails to develop a good story. The character aren’t particularly interesting and the antagonist just turning out to be part of the mother’s imagination (well, effectively), is just ridiculous.
Much like a few other films that appear in the lower reaches of my rankings this year, it is very forgettable and the only thing that I can really remember about it was that every main character survives, with only a few relatively minor characters dyring, and the central plot is so dull that you don’t really get that interesting as it goes on, even if it does try something different by introducing mental health into the plot.
The only reason it’s above some of the films that I’m lightly-praised a few entries ago is that at least being a horror, it keeps your attention somewhat as you’re constantly on edge waiting for something to happen….but it never does.
Cast : James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid, West Robinson and Valorie Curry
Plot : James’ (McCune) sister disappeared into the woods near Burkittsville in 1994 and he has been beating himself up ever since. After years of wondering “what if”, he eventually convinces his friends go go with him to document the process. The friends travel to the area and talk to locals Talia (Curry) and Lane (Robinson), both of whom claim to know the woods very well.
It doesn’t last long though as when things start getting a bit creepy, Talia and Lane admit that have never been in the woods before, and they are banished when they are found to have the same material in their bag that several haunting dolls were made of the night before. They start to notice that it’s now constantly night, and Lane and Talia soon re-emerge after a few hours, but both claiming that it’s been five days since they last saw them.
Trees start falling down unnaturally, people see things and others disappear, all before James and Lisa (Hernandez) find a random house, a house that the authorities were adamant didn’t exist.
Why in this position? : I’m not going to lie, until the final ten or so minutes this was a candidate for the bottom ten. It is literally the last few minutes that saved it as the acting in the final section from Callie Hernandez is exceptional. This isn’t the first time I’ll be mentioning breathing being used effectively and realistically in a horror film before this whole countdown is over (the other film appears in the top twenty). The fear seems genuine.
I only watched the first “Blair Witch” film just after this after hearing that it is near enough a shot for shot replica of that, but I don’t think that is the case because at least something happens in this film. “The Blair Witch Project” was not even remotely interesting or exciting, and whilst “Blair Witch” isn’t an Oscar winner by any stretch, there some interesting aspects to it at least, such as the time difference.
Don’t go into “Blair Witch” expecting to be on the edge of your seat as the horror is largely predictable, but the final ten or so minutes is as good as any other period of ten minutes in a horror film this year.
Cast : Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrien and TJ Miller
Plot : Wade (Reynolds) is a bit of a lowlife. He has a moral code, but is ultimately nothing more than a criminal. One day he meets Vanessa (Morena) and the pair start to turn each others lives around, that is until Wade is diagnosed with numerous inoperable tumours. Vanessa promises to stay by his side, but Wade wants her to be happy to doesn’t believe it can be with him, so he volunteers for a procedure from Francis (Skrein), who promises him that he will try his best to clear his cancer.
When Wade arrives, it turns out that Francis, going by the name of Ajax, is trying to force mutations on people using a variety of techniques, all so they can be sold with mind-control chips to the highest bidder. His attempts on Wade prove largely fruitless until he starts to suffocate him. This sees Wade transform into a heavily scarred man, but near enough immortal and impervious to pain. Knowing he can’t go back to Vanessa as he is, Wade chases down Ajax in an attempt to look normal again.
Why in this position? : I’m going to get a lot of hate for this.
If I was to compile a list of all of the films that I had seen this year that could be put into the category of “tried too hard to be liked” then it would definitely be this one sitting right at the top. I gave “Deadpool” two chances at the cinema, but I didn’t overly like it on either occasion and the simple reason is that there is no subtlety in its attempts to be likeable. It’s blatantly obvious attempts at a “look at me, look at me” style of comedy is not enjoyable in the slightest.
Ryan Reynolds gives what is a typical Ryan Reynolds performance, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they just said “be yourself”, and that’s nothing against him, but there is virtually no difference between him and the character that it is shocking.
But the one thing that lets this film down, arguably more than anything else, is that out of the all of the comic book films to come out this year, this one has by far the weakest antagonist. “Ajax” is just such a boring, one dimensional bad guy that it’s hard to really want him to lose because he brings precisely fuck all emotion out of you.
Cast : Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang and Daniel Zovatto
Plot : Rocky (Levy), Alex (Minnette) and Money (Zovatto) are three piece of shit friends that break into homes when the people are out, and they set their latest target is Norman (Lang), a blind army veteran. He allegedly has more than $300,000 in his house, and they all think that it will give them a new life.
When they get into the house, Norman hears the noise that they make and it turns out that despite being blind, he is more than capable of handling himself. He quickly kills money and locks all of the other doors from the outside, meaning that they can’t get out. How long can the friends survive?
Why in this position? : This was another film that I was really looking forward to as it looked very unique, but whilst I was watching it I realised that is one fundamental flaw with the whole premise of the film. You follow three people who are then hunted throughout a house that they can’t escape and in most films you would feel sorry for the characters, but the problem with the three “protagonists” (and I use that word extremely loosely in this situation) is that they’re all pieces of shit.
They have willingly broke into the house of a blind man to steal money, they are pieces of shit. Establishing that one of them has a little sister that she wants to give a better life to doesn’t automatically change her into a likeable character, and whilst towards the end of the film you agree that the blind man is going too far, you can’t help but think that it’s just karma throughout the rest of the film. These characters get exactly what they deserved for being pieces of shit.
Stephen Laing is comfortably the best part of this film, and his portrayal of the blind man is not only believeable, but it’s intimidating, but unfortunately he is the only decent actor in this film. Jane Levy is completely forgettable and could be swapped out for any other actress and you wouldn’t notice, whereas Dylan Minnette continues his growing reputation of being an actor that keeps getting roles but never puts in a good performance.
I’m not going to lie, had this not been for Stephen Lang then there is a chance that this would have been in my bottom ten for the year.