Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Top 10 and Worst 5 Films of 2014 through 2016

I meant to do this last year, but completely neglected it. When I ran my old podcast, one episode a year, my friends Matt, Jay and I would host our annual best and worst movies of the year episode. We did three installments for films that hit in 2011-2013. The podcast is not around anymore so I have not done it since, but I still have been keeping Word documents on my computer with a list of all the movies I saw each year and constantly update my top 10 and worst 5 rankings of the year. I meant to post the best and worst of 2015 as a blog, but as I said it just slipped past me and I will make up for it now with a triple best and worst list for 2014 through 2016.

I had a whole extra year to catch up on Netflix and VUDU on 2014 and 2015 releases I missed so I have seen about 20% more films than I did than 2016. So hopefully that will excuse any glaring omissions that did not make my rankings. That said, I am still feeling pretty good about my 2016 list and there were only a handful of films that slipped by me that I have not seen yet. Movies linked on the lists will take you to my review of the film if you want to see my expanded thoughts on the film.

One last thing before the lists, I want to give a shoutout to one of my favorite film critics, Scott Sawitz! I have discussed movies, wrestling and a ton more with Scott for well over a decade and have had the pleasure of having him guest host on my aforementioned podcast several times. I have always been a fan of his reviews and weekly column, Monday Morning Critic, over at Inside Pulse. His latest column is his annual top 10 films of the year I always look forward to. Scott has a twist on his rankings this year because he has been putting a ton of work into his weekly YouTube series, Confessions of a Super-Hero, weekly bite-sized episodic viewing all about what super-heroes do in their off-duty downtime. If you have a moment, please check it out! Now, onto the lists!

2014 TOP 10

10) Wild
9) Nightcrawler
8) Gone Girl
7) Equalizer/John Wick
6) Imitation Game
5) Interstellar
4) Guardians of the Galaxy
3) Whiplash
2) Captain America: The Winter Soldier
1) Boyhood

Best Documentary – Life Itself

The two comic book films on the list ranked high with Marvel having a stellar year. Guardians surprised me because the concept just seemed impossible to pull off in live action with an animated tree and talking raccoon, but somehow Marvel did it and it kicked all kinds of ass. Winter Soldier was an awesome modern day follow up to The First Avenger. I seem to be in the minority of people when discussing Interstellar, and while I would rank it a notch or two under other non-Batman Christopher Nolan classics like Inception, I still very much enjoyed it that it made it into the midst of my top 10. Life Itself is an excellent documentary all about Roger Ebert in his final days as it documents his and Gene Siskel’s breakout rise as the go to film critics of the nation.

Wild hit all the right nerves for me on Cheryl Strayed’s arduous journey of self-discovery. Nightcrawler shocked me at the lengths Gyllenhaal went to get the ultimate creep-o look down and his convincing transition from wannabe ripoff artist to the quintessential conman. I was expecting Equalizer to be a by-the-numbers action flick, but Denzel Washington proved me wrong by adding on many layers to it, and it is bizarre how John Wick came out within weeks of it and both were nearly identical plots, but both delivered in their own unique way. John Wick also gets my dubious award for best ever Kevin Nash cameo. Finally, props to Richard Linklater for delivering on his film that was literally 12 years in the making with Boyhood. Linklater is a risk taker with his ambitious projects, and he knocked another one out of the park with Boyhood getting my vote as best film of 2014.

2014 WORST 5

5) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
4) Tekken 2
3) Pro-Wrestling Zombies
2) Amazing Spider-Man 2
1) Transformers: Rise of the Fallen

2014 saw many terrible films, I actually had nearly 10 films as being ‘worst 5-calibur’ material. The TMNT remake had a few bright spots and scene-saving moments from Will Arnett, but he alone could not save a film with so many gut-wrenching jokes and awful retconning of the TMNT lore I grew up with. I actually dug the first Tekken film as a kind of solid nonsense fighting tournament movie that was kind of faithful to the source material ala Mortal Kombat, but the sequel was this awful attempt at a mafia-crime-mystery-drama that failed on all levels. Pro-Wrestling Zombies was a very low budget zombie slashing film starring Matt Hardy, Jim Duggan and Roddy Piper, but with these wrestling legends it was not even enjoyable in an ironic way like most zombie films, and was just flatout bad.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 shocked me because I legitimately enjoyed the reboot, and thought this would be another easy follow up with most of the same cast and crew returning. However, Spider-Man and Electro both cast painful jokes and banter throughout that did not exist in the prior film, and there were countless groan inducing moments. The latest Transformers film outdid the straight-up bad humor and moments throughout the entire wreck of a film. Michael Bay somehow found a way to make it a nearly insurmountable task to get through.

2015 Top 10

10) Southpaw
9) Ant Man
8) The Martian
7) End of the Tour
6) Mad Max: Fury Road
5) Revenant
4) Creed
3) Steve Jobs
2) Spotlight
1) Hateful Eight

Best Documentary – Tie: Electric Boogaloo & Winning: Racing Life of Paul Newman

Yeah, I like my feel good boxing/sports films as Jake Gyllenhaal shined again this year in Southpaw and Creed surpassed my expectations with its contemporary take on the Rocky franchise. While the lighthearted moments from Damon seemed a little forced, I still very much dug his Mars survival story, but not as much I got immersed into Dicaprio’s and Tom Hardy’s intense wilderness survival adventure that is The Revenant. Fury Road marked the first Mad Max movie I saw and the bombastic costumes initially had me raising an eyebrow, but once the heavy metal guitar semi-truck graced the screen in its infinite glory I instantly went on board with the film and never got off.

I recently reviewed Steve Jobs, and if you recall I absolutely loved its use of creative license to tell a nonstop dialogue juggernaut of three big moments in Jobs’ life. Spotlight is the perfect way to tell a slow building mystery film where investigative journalists gradually picked away at their biggest scoop ever. Finally, I am biased towards Quentin Tarantino as I view the man as being one of the absolute best at dialogue in films, and he delivered once again with countless another excellent script and scenes that stole the show in The Hateful Eight. The setting worked perfectly and I was on my toes waiting to see which one of the eight was going to make the first move in a powdered keg filled with characters ready to burst.

2015 Worst 5

5) Fantastic Four
4) Jupiter Ascending
3) Chappie
2) Ted 2
1) Pixels

I was surprised at how bad Jupiter Ascending turned out to be, and did not expect Channing Tatum to be the only decent part of that film. After the dud that was Sucker Punch and now Jupiter Ascending, I am cutting myself off from all future Wachowski-directed films. I am a fan of District 9 and its director Neil Blomkamp and felt burned by his latest film, the insufferable Chappie in numerous ways.

I was anticipating bad things from both Fantastic Four or Pixels, but part of me forced myself to go to see how awful they ultimately were. Fantastic Four was mostly drawn out and dull, and had some very head-scratching moments throughout. I cannot remember the last Adam Sandler film I legitimately liked, does the first half of Funny People count? Any marginal hopes of a semi-decent film were squashed the second Kevin James popped up on screen as the dopey president of the USA. Practically the entire film was bad, but I will at least give it minor props for some pretty good use of the videogame CG in the film.

2016 Top 10

10) Purge: Election Year
9) Deadpool
8) Star Trek: Beyond
7) 13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
6) Captain America: Civil War
5) Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
4) Hacksaw Ridge
3) Sully
2) Fences
1) The Accountant

Best Documentary – ESPN 30 for 30: The ’85 Bears

The last two Purge films have turned into guilty Halloween pleasures like the old Final Destination films. Election Year kept up the same gritty, over-the-top tone and pace as Anarchy Reigns before it. Deadpool surprised me at not being a dud, and far exceeded my expectations with tons of great jokes, dialogue, action and unapologetically aware 4th wall-breaking references throughout. It has been awhile since I got wrapped up in an intense R-rated war film, and 2016 had two of them with 13 Hours and Hacksaw Ridge that both get high recommendations from me. I am a wee bit of a Clint Eastwood fan, but I will give him and Tom Hanks righteous props on how they somehow made Sully’s heroic emergency plane landing into the Hudson River a thrilling feature length film.

Some of you who saw the list are probably baffled at why I rank the controversial Dawn of Justice over the much-loved Civil War, but the two ranked so close together I just might change my answer if you ask me any day of the week. If I am splitting hairs I did not care for the shoehorned Spider-Man extended cameo, and his dialogue has me worried that Homecoming is going to be filled with an equal, if not worse script than Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are sublime in Fences. The small, but mighty cast here delivered powerful performances, with Washington and Davis especially delivering in this dialogue-driven-tour-de-force about hard times for a family making ends meet in the 1950s. I did not know too much going into The Accountant other than it had what appeared to be a gimmick of an assassin with Autism. I could not have been more wrong as there is so much more going on with this film that it entertained me throughout its near two and a half hour runtime. Ben Affleck continues his streak of excellent performances, and I cannot wait to see how his upcoming solo version of The Batman turns out.

Worst 5

2) Suicide Squad
1) Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

I have only seen two movies this year that qualify as “worst 5-caliber.” I could not get into Suicide Squad. The first third of the film played out like an extended trailer scored with worn out songs that I am use to only hearing off trailers. There were several WTF moments throughout, and add in the film felt compromised after audiences griped that Dawn of Justice was not lighthearted enough. DC/Warner Bros. responded by pasting in several post-production groan-worthy zingers that played more to the mainstream, but made me cringe. I am optimistic for the presumable sequel though, because I did dig Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s portrayal of fan favorite, Harley Quinn and I am even interested in what direction they take The Joker next.

Halftime Walk usurped it as my worst film of the year however because of how unlikeable the cast is. About 20% of the film is war flashbacks that I actually liked, but the other 80% is the members of the military squad’s day being honored at a football game, and just being super dick-ish and incredibly un-empathetic throughout it. I know this is based off a book, but I do not know if something got lost in translation or if this was the desired vision of the film. Either way, it yields my worst of the year honors!

Thanks for sticking with me rambling all this way, see you next year!

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