Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - The Highlights (lionsroar)

Films watched for the first time and reviewed in 2016

Note: Since Trophy Unlocked has to pay for most of the movies we see in the theaters and for most of the films we watch at home, we don’t have the scope of a newspaper reviewer. We don’t see everything that’s out, so our ratings of films are based on what we decide to spend our money on.

Best Films of the year:

In no particular order:

Okay, so any Beatles film released this year would probably make my list, let's just get that out of the way. There was certainly a lot of hype surrounding the film and the involvement of Ron Howard as the director when it received its brief theatrical release. Not sure what, if anything, Howard really added to the project besides his name appeal. The film concentrates on the U.S. tours, which is somewhat well-trodden ground. A lot of the footage has been seen before, but hell, it’s The Beatles, what more do you need?

In a year with a lot of great animated films, Zootopia is one of the best. Not a sequel, which sets it apart from Finding Dory, the film doesn’t talk down to kids, its intended audience, which allows adults to enjoy it as well. I could have done without the Shakira-based character, which seems a little tacked on. Good, but I’m not sure if it has the timeless quality of the best Disney classics.

It’s not often that the sequel is so much better that the original, but then again, 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t really a sequel in the strictest definition, to Cloverfield (2008). While that film is so poorly acted, 10 Cloverfield Lane is more of an acting tour de force, featuring a cast with John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the former who seems to be in every movie and the latter who doesn’t make enough movies for my money. While I have no desire to follow the surviving protagonists from Cloverfield, I really want to see what happens to Michelle.

It seems like every year for the past five or six, there are more and more comic book-based Superhero films. The Marvel ones especially seem to be somewhat cookie-cutter and the DC ones seem to fall flat. That’s one of the appeals of Deadpool, it seems to break the mold and present its hero in a different way. A sarcastic smart-ass, Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool is one of the most fun and certainly the most adult, super-hero film to hit the silver screen.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Laika has been an amazing animations studio with each film getting better than the one before it, culminating in Kubo and the Two Strings, which, along with Zootopia, ranks as one of the better-animated films of 2016. This may be the most accessible Laika film to date. It contains all the elements that make Laika films unique to come down the pike in a number of years.

Disappointments of the Year:
In no particular order:
Hail, Caesar!

You expect better from the Coen Brothers. This film tries, but sadly fails to capture Hollywood in the 1950s. While there is a breakthrough performance by Aiden Ehrenreich, it is not enough to save the film. The most disappointing of all the missteps is a musical number featuring Channing Tatum that would never have even seen the light of day during the Production Code era. Call it comedy or parody, the filmmakers had to know there are other ways to make fun of musicals other than stooping to a sophomoric homoerotic dance number. A lot of context, but little text to Hail, Caesar!

Having never played a second of the video game, I can honestly say this movie did nothing for me. Fans of the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) may love it, but it does not have much appeal to a wider audience. A gamer film strictly for gamers.

I could have chosen this or Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice for this post, as both are disappointments from Warner Bros. and DC comics. While making money is the goal for any film studio and both of the DC films have made money, making good films puts them back in the seats the next time. Look at Paramount’s disappointing returns from their TMNT film Out of the Shadows. While this may have been a better film than its prequel, audiences stayed away mostly because the first one wasn’t that good. This is a painful lesson that Warner Bros. needs to learn as well. Audiences won’t keep coming back if the product doesn’t get better.


Sometimes being different is good, sometimes it is just different. While obviously, a lot of work went into this film, it tried a little too hard to be different rather than great. You can applaud the idea behind it, but the film never quite gets you there. Stop action is one of the hardest genres to work in, but this film never lets you forget that it is stop action. A late entry for 2015, Anomalisa tackles adult situations using a type of animation normally reserved for children’s fare. But while the best Laika films get you past the media, Anomalisa never lets you forget you’re watching stop action to its own detriment.

The Secret Life of Pets

Another example of where the film is not as good as its box office would suggest. This is basically Toy Story with pets, but it goes dark, much darker than the trailers would have led audiences to believe. The film lacks Toy Story's magic and while visually it looks good, looks aren't everything. Pet owners as slave owners and murder as an initiation are not really good story elements for what was billed as family fare.

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