Another year gone, and time once again for Free Kittens Movie Guide to sum it all up, the good, the bad and the ugly. It's been a year of crunchy kibbles and tasty treats, as well as unwelcome guests and pesky pooches. And, of course, 2016 demonstrated, both in real life and the box office, time can sometimes be a harsh mistress. So let's get to it!
WHAT MADE US PURR:
THE BEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR – Just when you thought the zombie genre has finally run its course (and I was about to declare Don't Breathe the best horror film of the year), barreling up the tracks comes South Korea's Train to Busan, the most satisfying zombie film over a decade. Exciting, scary and suspenseful, this one ran me through an emotional ringer. While we're on the subject...
HORROR – In general, this was a great year...even from major studios. Don't Breathe was morally ambiguous and wonderfully disturbing. The Conjuring 2 defied the law of diminishing returns. Lights Out managed to turn a two minute short into a tidy little scarefest. Even The Purge: Election Day continued milking its outrageous premise with interesting results. On the independent front, Southbound was a fascinatingly bizarre anthology film, while Phantasm: Ravager allowed fans to bid a fond farewell to Angus Scrimm.
|"Man, I thought I could hold it 'till we found a gas station."|
SULLY and DEEPWATER HORIZON – Our favorite genre (the disaster film) made a roundabout comeback with these two solidly entertaining films, both based on recent true events.
HONG KONG SHOWS US HOW IT'S DONE – Stephen Chow's The Mermaid is his most entertaining and batshit crazy film since Kung Fu Hustle, while Call of Heroes might be the best “western” not actually made in the West.
|"Will? Will who?"|
WHAT THE HELL WHERE YOU EXPECTING? - Independence Day: Resurgence. Sure, Will Smith was missed, but really...wasn't big, loud and dumb destruction the primary appeal of the original? Roland Emmerich returns with something even bigger, louder and dumber. No one goes to stuff like this to stimulate the intellect. You go for the same reason you order a Whopper: Because you know exactly what it'll taste like.
|Alright, who are you and what did you do with the real Michael Bay??|
WELL, WE WEREN'T EXPECTING THIS – Michael Bay finally directed a great movie, which flopped, of course. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi was a high-tension stunner that eschewed political commentary about the event to focus on heroism. Disney also surprised us with an outstanding live-action remake of one of their weakest animated films, The Jungle Book. Honorable Mention: Pete's Dragon, which outclasses the godawful 1977 original in every way. Speaking of Disney...
DISNEY – They had a year other studios can only dream of. Not only that, most of their films which cleaned-up at the box office actually deserved to, such as Zootopia, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Captain America: Civil War, Moana and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Even some of their non-hits, such as The BFG, Pete's Dragon and Queen of Katwe, were creatively successful.
THE BEST BLU-RAYS WE REVIEWED IN 2016 – Taxi Driver 40th Anniversary Edition, Zootopia, High Noon – Olive Signature, The Quiet Man – Olive Signature, The Mermaid, The Big Short, Call of Heroes, The Revenant, Hell or High Water, Don't Breathe, Florence Foster Jenkins, 13 Hours, The Jungle Book.
WHAT MADE US HISS:
BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN – As someone who hated Man of Steel enough to begin questioning director Zack Snyder's narrative abilities, I avoided this over-hyped film as long as I could until the STILL-RAGING fanboy debates forced me to give in. Sitting through the supposedly better “Ultimate Edition,” all I can say is...God, what a mess. While there's a train-wreck quality that makes this bloated epic morbidly fascinating, it spends more time setting up the upcoming Justice League movie than it's own incomprehensible story. This might be the longest movie trailer in history.
STILL, THIS MOVIE WAS WORSE -
SEQUELS AND FRANCHISES FEEL SOME BUTTHURT – Man, a lot of supposed tentpoles really collapsed this year, didn't they? Here's a few which either underperformed at the box office or screwed the pooch altogether: Ghostbusters, Teenager Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Alice Through the Looking Glass; The Divergent Series: Allegiant, Independence Day: Resurgence, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Zoolander 2, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising; Star Trek Beyond, Bad Santa 2, Inferno, Ice Age: Collision Course, The Huntsman: Winter's War, Barbershop: The Next Cut.
|"Female heroes??? Not on my watch!"|
DEAR TROLLS & FANBOYS – Disney does not pay critics for good reviews; There is no critical conspiracy against DC; Rotten Tomatoes does not review movies themselves; People shouldn't have to be familiar with a comic book to enjoy a movie; Movies and comics are two different mediums; Girls did not ruin Ghostbusters; There is no feminist agenda; There is no gay agenda; It's okay to cast actors in Star Wars and Bond movies who aren't white; You make up less than 5% of all moviegoers; Opposing opinions are not wrong; Your opinions are not facts; You have no personal stake in whether or not a film is critically or financially successful; A bad review of a movie you love is not a personal attack. If a remake, reboot or sequel offends you, get some hobbies and shut the fuck up.
FUCK YOU, 2016 – There have probably been other years in which an abnormally high number of beloved icons have passed away, but in the digital age, we hear about all of them within minutes, making 2016 an especially sobering reminder of our mortality. At any rate, rest in peace Vilmos Zsigmond, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Jimmy Bain, Abe Vigoda, Joe Alaskey, George Gaines, Douglas Slocombe, Tony Burton, Patty Duke, George Kennedy, Harper Lee, Nancy Reagan, George Martin, Keith Emerson, Larry Drake, Ken Howard, Garry Shandling, Merle Haggard, Doris Roberts, Guy Hamilton, Chyna, Prince, William Schallert, Alan Young, Nick Menza, Gordie Howe, Anton Yelchin, Michael Herr, Michael Cimino, Bud Spencer, Garry Marshall, David Huddleston, Kenny Baker, Angus Scrimm, Arthur Hiller, Steven Hill, Gene Wilder, Jon Polito, Hugh O'Brian, Curtis Hanson, Bill Nunn, Arnold Palmer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Andrzej Wajda, Michael Massee, Bobby Vee, Robert Vaughn, Leon Russell, Florence Henderson, Ron Glass, Greg Lake, John Glenn, Bernard Fox, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Peter Vaughn, Michele Morgan, Richard Adams, George Michael, Rick Parfitt, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, William Christopher.
THE WORST BLU-RAYS WE REVIEWED IN 2016 – Neighbors 2, The Neon Demon, Estranged, Daddy's Home, My Summer Story, Ride Along 2, Bigfoot vs. Zombies, The 5th Wave, Precious Cargo, The Levenger Tapes, The Boss, Equals