So after looking at forty other films that were not that good, I’m starting to emerge into the area of films that were quite reasonable, even if not great. Included in this list are some of the biggest releases in 2016, including two comic book films, and the expansion of two of the most popular franchises in cinema history.
Before I start on this list, I’m going to clarify something. There are a few films on this list in particular that I saw twice at the cinema. Some I enjoyed this much more on the second viewing, however, I am basing this position purely on the first viewing of the film as it would otherwise be unfair on the other films in the list.
So, here we go with 60 through to 51.
Cast : George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Julia Roberts, Dominic West and Giancarlo Esposito
Plot : Lee (Clooney) is a very popular TV financial analyst. He turns up one day for work with the plan to interview Walt Calmby (West) following a glitch that cost investors to Calmby’s company $800m, one of Lee’s previous tips, but Walt pulls out. Lee continues with the show as normal.
During his broadcast, Kyle (O’Connell) casually strolls onto set and takes Lee hostage. Kyle blames Lee for losing all of his life’s savings by investing it in Calmby’s company, which was described as a “sure thing”, leaving him completely broke. Whilst they have on-air hostage negotiation, it soon starts to emerge that the glitch might have had humans tampering it with it.
Why in this position? : “Money Monster” reminded me a lot of films in recent years that follow a similar structure, i/e an investigation going on whilst a hostage situation, or something that’s likely to cause mass-injury, is going on. For example, “Unstoppable”, “The Taking of Pelham 123” and other films of that sort of ilk. I liked those films and that is why I decided to give it a go.
There are definitely some interesting aspects to the film, such as the way that O’Connell and Clooney seem to have a natural connection on screen, but the problem is that the majority of the other characters in the film, other than Walt, are pretty replaceable and forgettable.
I did like the film, it was fairly well put together, but towards the end it does get a bit complicated and loses a lot of the tension and I got a bit bored. Don’t get me wrong, if I get the chance to watch it again then I’d probably take it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do so.
Cast : Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance and Lena Headey
Plot : Elizabeth (James) is fed up with her mother (Bennett) constantly trying to force marriage on her daughters, made even trickier by that the world is infested with zombies. One day she meets the rather abrupt and rude Fitzwilliam Darcy (Riley), who admits that he is attracted to her, but she is more attracted to army commander, Mr Wickham (Huston).
Wickham shows Elizabeth that he has found a way to keep zombies civilised, feeding them pigs brains instead of human brains. Elizabeth refuses to elope with Wickham, but she then also rejects a marriage proposal from Darcy due to him separating Bingley (Booth) from her sister. He goes to fight the war on zombies, but soon it becomes evident that Wickham wasn’t all he seemed either.
Why in this position? : If there is one thing I’ll give to films like this, they try to be fun and original, and I must admit that I have never seen another film like this. I won’t claim to know anything at all about “Pride and Prejudice”, so I went into this film pretty blind considering. I won’t claim to have thought it was one of the best films of the year, which I would hope would be evident by the fact it’s at number 59 on this list, but it was certainly better than last year’s “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”.
The acting is fairly decent throughout, especially Sam Riley as I have realised in the few films that I have seen him in that he has a distinct lack of charisma, making him a perfect candidate for a role as a moody and rude guy that is not at ease with his emotions. Jack Huston is also exceptionally charming as Wickham.
Acting and fun aside, this film has a lot of flaws, with one of the bigger ones being that you never genuinely feel that Elizabeth is in any true danger, and most of her sisters are actually completely inconsequential and underdeveloped. I’m not sure if it’s the same in the novel, but it didn’t translate well to film.
Cast : Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell
Plot : Newt (Redmayne) arrives in New York to aid in his research for his book. Within days though he accidentally manages to unleash various creatures in the city, including in front of a non-magical witness called Jacob (Fogler). Porpentina (Waterston), a member of what is effectively the Magic Police, finds out that Jacob knows about the released creature and tries to arrest he and Newt.
She eventually takes them to her apartment, in which Jacob meets Queenie (Sudol), Porpentina’s sister, and they two fall in love. Newt eventually manages to escape through his suitcase and continues his mission to get his creatures back, but that might prove tricky once Porpentina’s bosses find out.
Why in this position? : I’m not going to pretend that I think the “Harry Potter” franchise is good, I really don’t think it is. Out of the eight films I liked maybe three, if that. The problem is that the villains are largely forgotten for the majority of the film in the original eight films, and it is the same in “FBAWTFT”. There are large, very large infact, sections where the antagonist is not referenced at all, a repeat of the previous eight films. The first two Harry Potter films were on TV at the weekend that has just past and the antagonists are only really relevant for the final fifteen minutes of both, and that trend repeats here.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are parts of the film that I did like, and or me the stand out character is Jacob, played fantastically by Dan Fogler. He is the “everyman” character that is very much the audience’s way into this world, and the way that we would probably react and ask questions. If I was to rank the top ten characters of the year, chances are that he would in it. The problem is that he is the only truly engaging character in the film.
Porpentina is a dull character, Seraphina is not developed in the slightest and the less said about the exceptionally boring character of Credence, the better.
Cast : Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne and Jared Leto
Plot : Whilst Superman and Batman are revered as heroes, there are some who think the opposite and realise just how dangerous they can be. Because of this, Amanda Waller (Davis) decides to have a team of anti-heroes to counter the potential issues. However, on early on the mystical Enchantress (Delevingne) turns on them and sets about ending the world herself.
The squad, lead by Rick Flag (Kinnaman), and he makes it clear that the group of anti-heroes are to follow his rule, or they will face the consequences. That is not made that easy though as one of his group, Harley Quinn (Robbie), is being chased by The Joker (Leto), who intends on resuming his abusive relationship with her.
Why in this position? : They might as well have just called this “Deadshot and Harley : The Movie” because no other characters in the squad are given time to develop or become even remotely interesting. Infact, I’d go as far as calling this a female lead comic book movie because let’s face it, Harley Quinn is the main character. She was the main character in the trailer, she’s the only one given any real emotional attachment to another character in the film.
From the trailers you would believe that this is a fun romp and to be fair, there were times when I was actually genuinely enjoying this outing from DC, but it never really felt like anything more than a poor attempt to replicate the anti-hero portrayal of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
The acting is fine, the plot is followable and it’s not an awful film, but it’s not that great either.
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen and Forrest Whittaker
Plot : It’s been nearly twenty years since the Jedi were overthrown at the hands of Anakin Skywalker and seemingly wiped out, and now the Empire rules over the galaxy. They are developing a super weapon that is capable of destroying entire planets, all designed by Galen (Mikkelsen), who does it to protect his daughter, Jyn (Jones).
One day Jyn is rescued from prison, encountering Cassian (Luna) and his droid. They learn that a pilot (Ahmed) has defected from the Empire and has a message that will turn the tide of the war, but he is not trusted by anyone on board.
Meanwhile, an ambitious Empire General (Mendelsohn) is determined to prove his worth, and more ominously, the worth of the super weapon?
Why in this position? : I’m going to get a lot of hate for this one as well.
Whilst I’m not going to claim to be a big Star Wars fan, I do somewhat enjoy them. I do feel they are ridiculously overrated, but last year’s “Force Awakens” was delightful fun, this was not. “Rogue One” just plods along for two hours and yet never feels like it’s going anyway. It feels completely unnatural when they do eventually start battling the empire, and everything feels a bit “deus-ex machina”.
For me the stakes never really feel that big, and I think the reason for this is that you know that in the end they will succeed because it’s a prequel to a film that was released nearly 40 years ago. Any true stakes are taken out of the whole equation, and the only question becomes which character(s) from the rebels are about to die.
The one thing I will give to the film is that Mikkelsen and Mendelsohn are both wonderful in their respective roles, and most of the cast do a good job. There are some great throwbacks to the original trilogy and it does seem to all neatly tie in together, and the CGI (especially incorporating the faces of actors that are either dead, or into old age by now) to look like they did in “A New Hope” was great, but that doesn’t stop it being a good film for me.
Cast : Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Tony Kebbell and Rodrigo Santoro
Plot : Adoptive brothers Judah (Huston) and Messala (Kebbell) love each other but have very different views of the world. Whilst Judah only wants peace, Messala wants to join the Roman Empire eventually succeeding in his mission. He returns several years later but feels betrayed when he finds zealots hiding in Judah’s house, and he casts him out. Judah is then subjected to several years of slaving on a ship.
He is eventually rescued by Sheik Ilderim (Freeman), who soon realises that he is no mere slave, and decides to allow him time and space to regain his strength so that he can go after Messala in the one place where he knows it would hurt him the most, the collessium in front of all of Rome.
Why in this position? : I went in expecting the worst. I’ve never seen the original “Ben Hur” but kept hearing how good it is, so I thought “why not” and gave it a watch one random morning, mainly because Rodrigo Santoro was in it, and he’s awesome.
I’m not going to sit here and lie by saying that I thought this film was good, oh no, far from it, but is it as bad as some made it out to be? No, definitely not. I think the reason for this is that unlike a lot of other films in the lower reaches of my count down, you see where both sides of the argument are coming from, and even though he’s a bit of a dick about things, you understand the antagonist’s point of view.
This is a film that will be completely forgotten by this time next year, and I have no doubts that the original is better, but ultimately it wasn’t the worst way to spend a few hours of my life, but would I ever watch it again? No, probably not.
Cast : Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta, Kim Basinger, Keith David and Jack Kilmer
Plot : Jackson (Crowe) is a fixer that you hire if you need something unsavoury doing, such as beating up someone, and one such job sees him investigate why fellow private detective Holland (Gosling) is snooping around his client, Amelia (Qualley). After Jackson beats up Holland, he himself is attacked by two thugs who try to establish where Amelia is from him.
Holland and Jackson decide to team up after Amelia disappears, and the establish that the reason people are interested in her is that she has been in a home-made journalism/porn movie with a recently deceased porn star, and that there is a chance that it contains important information that would overthrow her mother, Judith (Basinger), a high ranking official in the Department of Justice.
Why in this position? : I seemed to be the only person that I know that didn’t really feel anything for this film. Whilst it’s not awful it just felt like it was just plodding along without any real effort needed in order for the central characters to resolve the case.
Whilst the setting and comedy was decent enough, there was just something missing that meant that whilst I didn’t dislike the film, I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed “The Nice Guys”, and it’s such a shame because I was looking forward to it from the moment that I initially saw the trailer several months prior.
Crowe and Gosling made a great pairing, and given how popular the movie was I can actually picture getting a sequel in several years, but for me it was just a bang-average attempt at making a so called “buddy anti-cop” movie.
53) Dr. Strange
Cast : Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swindon, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams
Plot : Dr. Strange (Cumberbatch) is one of the leading surgeons in the world and it has made him exceedingly arrogant. One day he is driving, all whilst not paying attention. He suddenly veers off of the road, and the accident causes significant damage to his hands, making being a surgeon impossible. He throws his money at all types of experimental surgeries, but all fail. Virtually giving up, Strange hears about a previously paralysed man that was suddenly able to walk after a trip to Nepal. Strange uses the last of his money to travel there.
Whilst there he finds a woman referring to herself as “The Ancient One” (Swinton), who claims to control aspects of reality. Strange refuses to believe her until his thrown through several dimensions. She eventually agrees to train him, however, she fears that he might turn out to be like Kaecilius (Mikkelson), a former student that started following the dark arts, and will stop at nothing to seek eternal life.
Why in this position? : “Dr Strange” is a visually complex film, often confusing when buildings are moving around, but it is largely very well presented, with great visuals. I especially like the make up that has been applied to the ever reliable Mikkelsen, even if in one scene it actually looks like it’s irritating his eyes to the point where he is crying.
The casting for this film is near enough perfect, with Mikkelsen being a great antagonist, and Benedict Cumberbatch proving to be an exceptional comic-book protagonist, but it’s not a perfect film. Whilst Mikkelsen is perfect in the role, especially with a few vaudevillian style jokes, the character itself never really feels like a genuine threat and you’re never convinced he’s going to win. Even if the characterisation is decent enough, and you understand where they are coming from, you can never see him defeating Strange overall, which can’t be said for other Marvel villains.
The only major problem that I really have with “Dr. Strange” is that it is not that original in the sense that it is basically the same storyline at another Marvel film, “Thor”. It’s a film about someone who is overly arrogant because of his ability, but due to his own hubris he is striped of those abilities. It takes him some time to accept his new fate and life, and he learns to be a far more humble person. Whilst the overall plot is different, the spine is very much the same.
Cast : Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Scarlett Estevez and Owen Wilder Vaccaro
Plot : Brad (Ferrell) is a proud step-father to the kids of his new wife, Sara (Cardellini), but one day they receive a message that the actual father of the kids, Dusty (Wahlberg), is coming for a visit and he wants to discuss something with Sara. Brad is excited, but Sara is less than keen.
When he arrives, Brad is overly nice at first, but it quickly turns into a game of one-up-manship between the two, and Dusty reveals that not only does he want his kids back, but he also wants Sara back as well.
Why in this position? : I don’t really do comedies at the cinema or in general. I have a very odd sense of humour and therefore don’t really enjoy a lot of those films that you would consider LOL material, but that being said I did reasonably enjoy “Daddy’s Home”.
I’m not going to sit here and claim it is perfect, infact far from it. There are a lot of issues with it, but it was a fun way to spend 90 or so minutes of my life. The cast are reasonably enjoyable and do a decent job, even Wahlberg, who you would never imagine would be half decent in a role like this, but he pulls it off.
Ultimately it’s not a great film, and I’m never going to claim that it was an excellent film, hence why it’s this relatively far down in the list, but it’s enjoyable enough to say that if it was on TV at some point then I’d probably sit and watch it.
Cast : Jack Blake, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush and Ryan Lee
Plot : Zach (Minnette) moves to a new neighbourhood and quickly becomes attracted to the girl next door, Hannah (Rush). However, every time he tries to interact with her, her father (Black) refuses to accept the situation and bans him from seeing her. One night the father goes out, and Zach’s friend, Champ (Lee), convinces him to break into the house after he thinks he hears Hannah being murdered, but what they instead fine are dozens of manuscripts for the Goosebumps books.
They soon accidentally open one of the books and a giant snow monster comes out, and they soon realise that all of the books contain monsters, and they’re soon all accidentally released. Now Zach, Champ, Hannah and the father, who is revealed to be R.L Stine, the author of all of the original books, and the only way for the nightmare to end is if he writes a fresh manuscript using the original typewriter, but it won’t be that easy with all of the monsters trying to kill them.
Why in this position? : I never really watched “Goosebumps”, nor read the books, when I was a kid so I went into this not really expecting a lot. Infact, I expected very little in general and to be honest, had I not gotten into films for free this year, I’d never have even slightly considered watching it. That being said, it wasn’t that bad.
I’m not going to go on about “Goosebumps” for too long because there’s not really a lot to say. It’s a fun enough movie that is relatively interesting for what it is. For kids I imagine it’s pretty scary, and even though I was 31 at the time I watched it, I reasonably enjoyed it for the most part.
My only issue with it is that it does get a tiny bit repetitive, especially with the character of “Slappy”, but you know what, there are far worse ways to spend 90 or so minutes.