ZACK CLOPTON'S 2016 FILM RETROSPECTIVE!!!”
2016 was a massive dumpster fire, personally and publicly. In America, it was a year characterized by a shit show of an election, which concluded with America electing a racist, sociopathic, clearly unqualified bag of orange dog shit president. Abroad, there was war and terror and global misalignment. A staggering number of creative, beloved people died and I'm counting my grandmother in that number. I was suffering from emotional burnout for at least seven, probably more, months out of the year.
I feel like Film Thoughts suffered from my bad mood. Looking at the numbers, I still posted more this year then in any prior year. Assuming you count my Harry Potter retrospective in November, I completed eight Report Cards, my best number since Film Thoughts' inception, in addition to several month long events. I launched a new feature in April, called No Encores. However, I personally feel like I let you guys down, as I didn't keep up with my other features throughout the year. At this point, all I can do is promise to do better in 2017.
I know we're all eager to move on but I have to look back one more time. At the movies, you see. For, as huge of a shit burger as this previous year was, the cinema still remain fairly strong. A number of films surprised me with how much I loved them. Even the disappointments usually held up to a baseline quality. It wasn't a great year for blockbusters but I dug up plenty of indie flicks to love.
In keeping with 2016 sucking, my yearly average of total new releases watched was the lowest it's been in two years. I topped out with 80. This is hugely disappointing for me but, I suppose, that's still a lot of hours wasted. Below is THE LIST, ranking every new release I saw in 2016 from most favorite to most hated. I worked hard on this so read it, goddamn it.
A triumph of tone and a display for Lauren Ashley Carter. Her unforgettable eyes convey astonishing emotion. Her unraveling makes an ideal center of “Darling’s” storm. The black-and-white photography puts you in an exaggerated dream world. The editing is broken glass harsh, the sound design stark. The deliberate ambiguity immerses the viewer in this unsettling world.
2. Trash Fire
Richard Bates Jr. returns to his favorite subjects: Dysfunctional families, deviant sexuality, physical deformity. Add a dollop of religious repression and you've got a damn work of genius. The script walks a fine line, keeping the characters' caustic without making them unlikable. The cast is uniformly excellent while the story takes some genuinely shocking turns. See it!
3. Swiss Army Man
For all its bizarre humor – much of which is hilariously absurd and agreeably scatological – the film eventually reveals itself as a fable about the value of life, the power of friendship, and the difference between who we really are and what we want to be. Add two disarmingly charming lead performances and a brilliantly creative, homemade outlook to make a future cult classic.
4. The Handmaiden
Each perspective change takes you deeper into the film's world, the twisting tale constantly re-contextualizing its own events. Themes of class division and complicated thoughts on erotica serve a story ultimately about two bad-ass women besting those that oppress them. Brilliantly fluid direction and an impish sense of humor tie together a great cinematic experience.
5. The Neon Demon
Refn makes his point about modeling. Fanning's virtuous heroine absorbs its vile philosophies. This surface obsessed industry will consume those it desires. But it's an awfully pretty movie, often abandoning narrative for searing visuals. Within the symmetrical world, grotesque violence is introduced. This contrast with the attractive surface, showing ugliness lurking beneath beauty.
6. Green Room
A blood soaked punk rock thrill ride. Even the early scenes have a jittery unease, before the situation constantly escalates. The violence is brutal but blunt, the gore shocking the audience. Anton Yelchin panics well, Imogeen Poots is dryly sarcastic, and Patrick Stewart calmly orders executions. Through the unrelenting intensity, Saulnier sneaks in moments of humor or pathos.
7. The Nice Guys
Shane Black makes the most of the seventies setting, rolling together the environmental movement, porno chic, and, hilariously, anxieties about Richard Nixon and killer bees. The dialogue is highly quotable and hilarious, delivered by two great actors at the top of their games. Watching the plot unfold is so much fun, the film finding new ways to surprise and entertain us.
8. Kubo and the Two Strings
Laika pushes its house style to new levels, creating a visually immersive masterpiece. The film overflows with creative ideas, from dancing paper and giant eyeballs to leaf boats and monster skeletons. Beginning as a fantasy rich legend, it evolves into a fable about how we tell stories to keep our loved ones alive. It also, surprisingly, features some of the best action scenes of the year.
9. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Ricky Baker is one of the break-out characters of the year, the center of this absolutely charming road trip movie. The film successfully switches genres – low-key comedy to backwoods adventure to chase picture – while staying hilarious throughout, finding new ways to make the viewer laugh. A consistently funny cast finalizes what is sure to be a future cult classic.
10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Absolutely the most fun I had in a movie theater all year. The superior sequel ditches the lame stuff from the first one, keeps what was good, and features amusingly over-the-top action.
Most importantly, it finally brings long awaited elements from the cartoon – Bebop and Rocksteady, the Technodrome, motherfucking Krang! - to the big screen.
THREE AND A HALF STARS:
Say what you will about the Deadpool character but this movie perfectly captures him. This is the part Ryan Reynolds was born to play. The action scenes are creative while the script benefits from a tighter focus. The film is packed start-to-finish with hilarious lines and scenarios. That chaotic humor characterizes the entire film, a hugely entertaining experience.
Michele is a very complicated character, as is the movie around her. She doesn't respond to her assault as a passive victim but rather a fully formed person, complex and thoughtful. Paul Verhoven directs the attack scenes with the brutality you'd expect of him, contrasting with the grace with which he makes the rest of the film.
13. The Monster
Extremely intense creature feature, putting two vulnerable characters into an increasingly bad situation. The pitch black direction helps up the suspense. The beast is primarily brought to life through practical effects, making it a visceral threat. The two lead performances root the viewer emotionally, making this as much a story about parenthood as a claustrophobic monster movie.
“Zootopia” has lots of laughs, great lead characters, some thrills, a few surprises, great animation, and a timely moral about the ways prejudice pushes us apart.. It's a buddy cop movie of sorts, the strong-willed bunny and the conman fox learning to love one another, with a surprisingly involving mystery. The titular city is an impressive creation.
Themes about death, choice, and belonging wind through all four segments. Solondz’ script alternates between cruel and his impish sense of humor. Such as a hilarious intermission. The deeply ironic humor stands side-by-side with probing questions about the futility of existence. Yet his empathy for the suffering of damaged humans – and innocent dogs – grounds the stories.
An almost archetypal story of a princess rebelling against tradition, that leans a little too hard on Chosen One cliches, but is a lot of fun, beautifully animated, wonderfully performed, with some great songs. Maui is a lovable creation, hiding his insecurities behind a boisterous personality. Jemaine Clement as a glam rock crab monster is the clear highlight of the movie for me.
17. Star Trek Beyond
Returns “Trek” to its pulpy adventure roots. Focuses on characters and makes the smart decision to pair off most of the pivotal cast members, including Scotty with Sofia Boutella's exciting Jaylah. The villain's motivation is a bit contrived. The action direction is shaky at first but eventually makes way for some of the best ship battles in the franchise's history.
Disturbing thriller that heads in increasingly creepy directions. The viewer is forced to watch, seasick, as another unnerving event happens. Sarah Bolger plays an eerily plausible sociopath while Joshua Rush is endearingly tough. The script packs the runtime full of memorable struggles and sickening reveals. This clever streak runs out before the end but I still enjoyed this one a lot.
19. I Am Not a Serial Killer
The less you know about this moody YA adaptation, the better. There's a big shock about a half-hour in that totally caught me off-guard. Max Records is a fascinatingly conflicted protagonist while Christopher Lloyd is both surprisingly scary and deeply sympathetic as the villain. The tension builds nicely throughout the film, to a low-key ending that still feels earned.
20. The Bronze
Hope Ann Greggory may be my favorite new character of the year. A foul-mouth, obnoxious, woman-child, the film clearly outlines the root of her anti-social antics, making the audience relate to her plight. Her vulgar dialogue is highly quotable and her bad behavior is frequently amusing. The addition of a great supporting cast and an unforgettable sex scene seals the deal.
21. Finding Dory
Seeing these characters again is delightful and the film is packed full of belly laughs. The new additions are equally lovable, especially the neurotic septopus. For an animated comedy, this is really tightly plotted with some satisfyingly big action set pieces. Because this is Pixar, there's also an equal amount of touching emotion.
22. Doctor Strange
Oh sure, the Marvel formula is present. The protagonist is a humbled asshole. The villain is forgettable, even with a talented actor in the role. Sequel hooks are overdone. Who cares? The cast is great, especially the perfect Cumberbatch and Swinson. The trippy visuals are a joy and the conclusion puts an interesting spin on the traditional showdown between good and evil.
23. Shin Godzilla
The strangest Godzilla movie yet, as much a satire about bureaucratic oversight as a giant monster movie. The pacing is odd, cutting between long talky sequences and scenes of massive destruction. Godzilla’s appearance is grotesque, staggeringly strong. Hideki Anno's direction is characterized by a documentary like urgency. A fascinating, powerful, at times frustrating film.
24. They Look Like People
Horror indie that puts the viewer into the brain of a schizophrenic, crafting foreboding voices and an enveloping, unnerving paranoia. When the explicit horror sequences appear, they're suitably disturbing. The funny lead performances cause the audience to become invested in the story. The “Is it or isn't it?” ending builds in intensity and leads to a surprisingly concrete ending.
By combining interviews with survivors and reenactments, this documentary helps the viewer understand what living through the Charles Whitman shooting must be like. The re-telling playing out in nearly real time contributes to this intense feeling. The animated approach adds a surreal layer, emphasizing how awful this event felt as it was happening.
26. X-Men: Apocalypse
Maybe the most comic book-y comic book movie yet made. It has the massive stakes and massive cast of a major crossover event. Despite the apocalypse promised in its title, the film maintains a free-wheeling sense of fun, constantly topping its previous huge set pieces.
27. Under the Shadow
Iranian horror flick that does the jump scare right, by building up a suitable atmosphere of dread and never revealing too much. It's not just the shadow the main character lives under but the tension of being in a war zone and stifling religious repression. This gives the monster at the center greater meaning, which is further supported by clever effects and good performances.
Found footage horror flicks may be played out but this one is genuinely spooky. It directly comments on surveillance state concerns that most films just hint at. The acting from the observed family is effectively naturalistic. The killer is incredibly creepy, displaying some very disturbing behavior. The directors cook up some very unnerving scenarios.
29. 10 Cloverfield Lane
By deconstructing the “cozy apocalypse” genre, the viewer and characters question if they can trust Howard, before it’s reveal how unsafe he is. Winstead shows a real steel and on-her-feet ingenuity. Goodman is simultaneously avuncular, unstable, and sympathetic. Tension builds throughout, through board games and bunker doors, before an ending that catches you off-guard.
30. De Palma
Nearly two hours of Brian De Palma talking about his life, career, and his movies. And it's awesome. The director frankly discusses his successes, his failures, his influences, his divisive reputation among critics, his run-ins with censors, and some surprising insight into his personal life. Through it out, De Palma emerges as a self-aware, funny, down-to-earth kind of guy.
31. Pete’s Dragon
A real tearjerker, that approaches its story with a calm, understanding eye. The result is a story about growth and love, Refreshingly, there's no real villains in the story, only people too wrapped up in their own bias. Most importantly, Elliot is a super lovable dragon and a beautifully convincing special effect.
32. Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader
Adam and Burt sound a little tired but this captures the spirit of the TV show well. The in-jokes – cameos from multiple Catwomen, call-outs to future iterations of Batman – are hilarious. The plot is the right kind of ridiculous, allowing for cameos from multiple villains and giving Adam West a chance to ham it up even more. Not all the jokes hit but, overall, this is really fun.
Expansion of the best segment from “V/H/S” has some interesting ideas, like the Satanic nightclub and memory-sucking leeches. The visual effects of the siren's song or a sequence without sound are inventive. Mostly, I liked how the film made its monster sympathetic without compromising her monstrous nature. Could've done without that epilogue though...
34. Holy Hell
Fascinating documentary about a cult made by former cult members. The film runs you through the experience: The infatuation with a spiritual leader. The joy of communal living. The slow realization that this man is a liar. The exit following sexual abuse allegations. The people who were there tell the tale, drawing the audience into a very strange, ultimately traumatic experience.
35. The Witch
A fantastic overall tone of dread and fear is generated. The director has an amazing grasp of tension. Several individual sequences, involving unfortunate babies or crows, are terrifying. The ending raises some tantalizing questions. However, I'm not sure it holds together as a whole. This one will require a second viewing. Black Phillip was awesome though.
36. The Corpse of Anna Fritz
Grisly Brazilian thriller that, by killing off its most reasonable character first, leaves the audience in a morally uncertain area. Who do you root for? The unrepentant rapist or the slightly remorseful rapist? A number of tense scenarios follow, the title character nearly escaping her captives several time. The shock ending features a blunt but totally appropriate action.
37. Sausage Party
Consistently produces chuckles and is occasionally hysterical. The film primarily has three jokes up its sleeve: An unending vulgar streak, which is sometimes amusing; absurd pop culture parody, which is often hilarious; and a crass satire of religion and cultural stereotypes, which is hit or miss. It’s uneven but worth it for the musical number, the orgy, and the Meat Loaf cameo.
Effectively captures the constantly stoned or drunk headspace of its characters. The increasingly nasty body horror is nicely gross, even if the more surreal attempts at horror don't quite succeed. The work of the lead actresses, especially a gleefully profane Natasha Lyonne and Meg Tilly, bring a lot of humor the proceedings. The plot is nonsense though the ending is enjoyably nuts.
Each new segment in this horror anthology is better then the one before it. The grisly, hospital set black comedy is my favorite, along with the “girl band versus sitcom Satanists” story and concluding home invasion sequence. Patrick Horvath's “Jailbreak” has its moments but lacks a clear direction. The opening tale has some solid effects but not too much else going for it.
40. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
A “Star Wars” movie that emphasizes the war, tackling some complex themes while still delivering on blockbuster expectations. Lovable supporting characters like a wheezy Forest Whitaker, a warrior monk, or a sarcastic droid are more interesting then the flat protagonists.
It also clears up a long standing plot hole in the original.
41. Edge of Winter
Conceptually, this is great. The conflict between the redneck father and the sensitive son discusses the ways masculinity has changed. Joel Kinnaman is sympathetic but still dangerous as the unhinged father. All of this makes it a bummer that the script is so predictable, that the story escalates in such obvious ways. But, hey, a third of a good movie is still something notable.
42. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Yes, some fantastic beasts are on display. Sequences devoted to the interior of a magical suitcase, a horny rhino monster, or a size-shifting feathered serpent are the film's best. They're certainly more interesting then the generic evil wizard or the CGI destruction storm. Eddie Redmanye’s acting is as obnoxiously showy as ever but a lovable supporting cast makes up for a lot.
Uneven dramedy anchored by some great performances. Ellen Page is funny and melancholic, while Allison Janney provides reasonable banter. Watching the titular character enter bad situations and try to lie her way out begins as humorous but quickly becomes desperately sad. The film is powerful if a little scattershot, which the overly vague ending is a symptom of.
44. The Shallows
Preposterous thriller that features a psycho shark, an easily predictable character arc about survival, melodramatic direction, and a ridiculous climax. This isn’t a problem as the film quickly hooks the viewer. The shark makes an awesome adversary. The attacks are viscerally composed. Throw in an animal sidekick named Steven Seagull and you’ve got a pleasantly thrilling flick.
45. Captain America: Civil War
There's a dozen major characters. Several are prominent newcomers, such as a pitch-perfect Spider-Man, a contrivted Black Panther, and a super lame take on Baron Zemo. Not to mention the Accords subplot, which is mostly besides the point. The ending is too clever for tits own good. Yes, the cast remains awesome and the action scenes, especially that airport fight, are cool.
46. Nina Forever
This one runs with the metaphor of an undying relationship in a more sophisticated way then previous “zombie girlfriend” movies. The cruelness and grisliness of the dead girl is played up, as is how kinky a zombie will make your sex life. The meaning wanders off before the end but a handful of powerful scenes, clarifying the theme of grief, tie the movie together.
47. Elvis & Nixon
Interestingly, neither the main actors go out of their way to mimic the historical duo. Instead, Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey are allowed to weird it up as two of America's most surreal figures. The movie doesn't have much else going for it – the script is a wisp, the supporting characters are shadows – but two lovable performers having fun is sometimes all you need.
48. The Night Stalker
Can't quite shake its TV movie roots and the protagonist's kinky sex subplot is unnecessary. As a doorway into Richard Ramirez' mind, it's interesting and bolstered by an excellent Lou Diamond Phillips performance. (And a surprisingly sincere portrayal of Satanism.) The film eventually circles around to a powerful point about the power of influence in our lives.
49. Blair Witch
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett grasps the scariest thing about the original – getting lost in the woods – and add lots more temporal displacement, gnarly gore, a fantastically claustrophobic sequence, and more likable characters. The film eventually overdoes the stick people and shows too much in its last act but this is a fine Hollywood boo show and a worthy sequel.
Takes a while to find its comedic rhythm. Wiig and McCarthy are fine but the supporting players shine. Kate McKinnon has a comedic energy all her own. Leslie Jones strikes me as the break-out talent. Chris Hemsworth plays an exceedingly eccentric simpleton. The ghosts look amazing. Slimer gets a girlfriend. Paul Feig’s direction is ill suited to an effects driven film.
51. Into the Forest
Survivalist drama that focuses on small but vivid character interaction and an acute sense of isolated atmosphere. Rachel Leigh Cook and Ellen Page's performances are thoughtful. The very slow pace hinders the film, making the bigger dramatic moments seem almost random. The final act reveals this as a feminist allegory, about escaping a crumbling, sexist society.
52. Hardcore Henry
As a series of high impact action scenes, this is initially and periodically thrilling, though eventually exhausting. The humor helps, especially a campy performance from Sharlto Copley. The unimportant plot is either satirizing video game cliches – including the misogyny – or playing them straight, depending on how much credit you're willing to give the filmmakers.
53. Sun Choke
Compellingly strange story about obsession, madness, and new age medicine. I wish the film exclusively focused on the bizarre relationship between Barbara Crampton as the abusive nurse and Sarah Hagan as the ill girl. Their scenes prove more compelling then _'s descent into abstract, overly vague craziness. There are still some effectively squirmy sequences of horror though.
54. I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House
Director Osgood Perkins creates a foreboding tone, making the film a compelling exercise in mood. Ruth Wilson's lead performance is fittingly twitchy. The voice over provides an appropriately novel-like feel, the film clearly getting at the interaction between reality and fiction. But I have no clue what the fuck any of it means and the pace is far too mellow.
55. The Blackout Experiments
Documentary about an extreme “horror attraction” that is more like a cross between elaborate performance art and a BDSM session. The interviews with “survivors” attempt to unravel the power of catharsis over trauma, even if you're mostly left wondering why anyone would subject themselves to simulated torture. The peaks into the Blackout experience are bracing though.
56. Justice League vs. Teen Titans
Watching the dynamics among the Titans is the most entertaining thing about this one, which is overall pretty forgettable. The script cheats, as you'd expect, to get to that titular fight but, like most of the action here, it's fun while it lasts. As hard as the story tries, it can't overcome Damian Wayne's inherent dickishness. That sequel hook is pretty inciting though.
TWO AND A HALF STARS:
Sticking Zoe Bell in a survival thriller was a smart idea, even if her transformation from victim to bad ass strains credibility. When focused on the violent, prolonged confrontations, the film meets its goals. However, the script eventually falls into a repetitive pattern, the musical score is distracting, and the artier touches seem disconnected from the rest of the film.
58. The Eyes of My Mother
Gorgeous black-and-white photography props up an intermittently interesting psychological horror narrative. While the stark sound design sometimes produces chills, the distant approach ultimately alienates the viewer. The glimpses we get into the deranged protagonist's mind are fascinating, as is the gnarly gore, but the shrug of a conclusion leads to a weak ending.
59. Lights Out
Expanding a short into a feature is tricky. The short’s visual gimmick is grafted it to a populist ghost story narrative. Sandberg stretches his techniques to their breaking point. It also struggles to build a mythology out of nothing. Diana's shadowy behavior is clearly a metaphor for mental illness. Any comment the film might have about how depression is decidedly shallow.
60. Suicide Squad
The narrative problems are serious. the pacing is all over the place, the visuals are ugly, and the soundtrack is intrusive.. Joker and Harley's relation playing out as a straight-up romance is hopelessly fucked up. Cast is decent, the action is solid, I laughed and had some fun. At the very least, it's better then “Batman v. Superman.”
61. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Filters a number of popular ideas through Tim Burton’s sensibilities, drowning them in gothic atmosphere and quirky humor. Yet all the spooky touches, like stop motion skeletons, couldn’t disguise the stock parts script. Asa Butterfield is a snore. Eva Green displays a rakish smile but disappears midway through. Most of the peculiar children are just gimmicks.
62. Midnight Special
Beginning this chase story in the middle was a smart way to draw the audience in. Sadly, and despite the very talented cast, the characters prove too thin to be compelling. As the script shifts its focus from the cult to the boy's increasingly vague abilities, the audience's interest starts to drift. Some exciting visuals draw you back by the end, yet “Midnight Special” remains uneven.
63. The Jungle Book
Unlike previous live action adaptations of Disney cartoons, this does something different. The film features many of the flaws common in blockbusters – a “chosen one” story arc, over-reliance on CGI, distracting handheld direction, a sequel ready open-ending – but inspired casting choices, like Christopher Walken as King Louie and Bill Murray as Baloo, makes this worth seeing.
64. Phantasm: Ravager
Despite attempts to re-center the franchise around the fear of death, this is ultimately disappointing. Dangling plot points are awkwardly wrapped up. The mythology is briefly built upon but another sequel hook is in place of a definitive ending. Watching Reggie screw around and fight monsters will always be fun. But “Ravager” can’t stand up against fan expectations.
65. Last Girl Standing
I was with this horror indie, which discusses PTSD through a slasher film metaphor, up until its final twenty minutes. Before then, I appreciated the performances and the patient pacing, even if the attempts at horror movie shocks are undercooked. That twist cheapens the meaning of everything that came before and is mildly insulting to survivors.
The brilliant premise – a deaf/mute woman stalked by a Michael Myers-like killer – is quickly reduced to a gimmick, only being utilized in a few scenes. Director Mike Flannigan spoils this by having the killer reveal his face and talk. Which makes this a mildly compelling thriller about two strong personalities fighting. The performances are fine but the story quickly gets repetitive.
67. The Conjuring 2
Another handsomely produced James Wan ghost fest. He ramps the jump scares, loud noises, and spooky kids way the fuck up, This means genuine scares, sudden Crooked Man appearances aside, are rarely found. Aside from the Warren rhapsodizing and Catholic propaganda, it's also way too long. The atmosphere is okay but this is passable horror fare, at best.
68. Carnage Park
An extended act in homage that starts strong but eventually becomes directionless. The gore is impressive but, once the bank robbers get capped, this becomes an endless chase flick. While I enjoy Ashley Bell's performance, far too much of the film is devoted to her wandering the desert. The climax takes place in total darkness, leaving the viewer shrugging.
69. The Mind’s Eye
Low budget riff on “Scanners” that compensates for its lack of scope with an abundance of cheap gore. I appreciate the colorful direction and synth-driven score. The cast is loaded full of talented performers but the characters are thin and the lead actor is a bore. The script has few ideas, beginning as a chase story before becoming a series of repetitive fight scenes.
If you're familiar with the facts surrounding the Satanic Ritual Abuse hysteria, you can guess this one's twist ending. The repeated nightmare sequences are mildly effective but quickly loose their punch. The performances are hammy, even from usually reliable actors. All together, this is the text book definition of an underachieving, pseudo-intellectual thriller.
71. Don’t Breathe
The script uses the impoverished setting as dour window dressing on a standard genre story. The teen antiheroes’ behavior is excused and the blind man is one-dimensional, Stephen Lang giving an odd performance. Alvarez can set up a decent jump scare, involving a tenacious Rottweiler or cracking glass, but that’s all this surprisingly vapid jump scare machine has going for it.
72. Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Essentially, the film has its two heroes acting foolishly in order to make that titular fight happen.
Superman is self-loathing, Batman is a sociopath. Wonder Woman is cool but she's barely in it. Lex Luthor is obviously insane. Zack Snyder made this so it's dour, ponderous, sloppily plotted, misses the point of its source material, and is more concerned with cool visuals then reason.
73. The Invitation
I have no problem with slow burn horror but this takes forever to get to the point. The cast is too large, making it impossible to care about the characters or the theme of moving past loss. You can't get involved with the slowly bubbling tension for the same reason. The attack scenes, when they finally come, are satisfying but get capped off with a huge “fuck you” of an ending.
A distillation of Rob Zombie’s style. He piles on the profane dialogue, white trash grotesquery, inane shock tactics, and in-your-face crassness. This is a bummer, as the film does feature a decent cast, including a disturbing Richard Brake performance. Add some obnoxious shaky-cam direction and a needlessly nihilistic ending to get a lame, deeply unpleasant viewing experience.
75. Nine Lives
Well, I laughed exactly once. Which was one more laugh then I was expecting. Yes, this is exactly as dire as you'd expect. It's mostly unfunny CGI cat antics with a bored sounding Kevin Spacey reading puns over them. The “selfish businessman learns to appreciate his family” is as cliched as can be and takes an off-puttingly morbid turn in the last act.
ONE AND A HALF STARS:
“Cell” presents its zombies in a ridiculous manner. They seize, gyrate, and release bizarre audio feedback sounds. How the zombies act shift from scene to scene. The climax borders on incoherent. It squanders more-or-less all the potential its premise has and doesn’t give a talented cast nearly enough to do. Instead, the movie quickly collapses into goofiness and clichés.
One of the few anthologies were every single segment is a stinker. Like too many indie horror films of this type, several of the shorts are weird for weird's sake. Most of them, like Kevin Smith's pathetic Halloween segment, have little to do with their chosen holidays. The few that come close to being decent – Father's Day, Christmas – blow it with underwhelming endings.
78. Aimy in a Cage
Meet Aimy, the year's most annoying new character. She spends the entire movie screaming her head off and being as obnoxious as possible. The rest of the movie is as in-your-face with its excessive weirdness and abrasive writing. Yeah, the set design and music are kind of interesting but that in no ways justifies the headache you'll get. The shit I watch for Crispin Glover, I swear...
79. Yoga Hosers
Whoever introduced Kevin Smith to pot needs a kick in the balls. The script combines a bunch of haphazard bullshit: Phone-obsessed protagonists who talk in obnoxious teen lingo, tired Canada jokes, incredibly annoying villains, random Satanists, painfully unfunny celebrity impersonations, yoga fighting, mean-spirited critic bashing, and an utterly nonsensical last act.
HALF A STAR:
80. The Greasy Strangler
Sets out to be the most aesthetically unpleasant film ever and largely succeeds. All the disgusting antics – grotesque nudity, close-ups of bodily byproducts – are in service only of obnoxious cringe comedy. The constant repetition of dialogue and intentionally wooden acting is as nearly stomach turning. But congratulations to the filmmakers for meeting in their simpering goal.
Well, it's over now. Both the year and this retrospective, I mean. I know these lists are very long and, as always, I graciously thank anyone who has read through the entire thing. Words can't begin to describe how thankful I am for everyone who reads what I write or listens to what I say on my podcasts. Thank you all so much for being one of the things about 2016 that didn't blow utter chunks.
As has become the tradition by now, come back tomorrow for a list of the films I'm most anticipating in 2017. See you on the other side, dear readers.