Andy’s Worst Films of 2016

Although 2016 had a number of exceptional releases, it was hard to find them under the mountains of bad remakes and sequels. This past year brought out the worst in films, presenting often xenophobic, racist and sexist ideas on top of already terrible products. It’s a wonder that many of these made it it past their initial pitches, let alone were made at all to punish moviegoers. So let’s take one last look at the worst 2016 had to offer, and promise to try and do better in the New Years

 

Honorable Mention: Finding Dory

Before the comments come, hear me out. Pixar has been the driving force behind animated movies for over a decade, and last years Inside Out  was a great example of how what many consider children’s films can be used to teach important lessons, many of which touched adults and children alike. So it was doubly disappointing that their next project was a shallow cash grab, using the success of Finding Nemo and well as the nostalgia behind it. The jokes often fell flat, the characters repeated character arcs from the previous film, and the whole thing had a direct-to-dvd feel that undercut the importance of events. The film also tried to have its cake and eat it too in regards to Dory’s disability, sometimes using it for humor and other times as for dramatic effect to get audiences to empathize with them, switching between the two far too often. It’s good that Pixar tried to show what mental issues such as Short Term Memory Los feels like, but it’s hard to feel sorry when the film also wants you to simultaneously laugh at Dory for it. While not among the worst of the year,  Finding Dory was made for financial purposes alone, showing how even innovators like Pixar can make something soulless.

 

Number 10: The Mechanic: Resurrection

Stop me if this sounds familiar: Jason Statham stars as a badass that mumbles all his lines, fighting a gang of dudes who steal his girl, using only martial arts and henchmen that can’t aim to save the day within a 90 minute running time. If that sounds like something you’ve seen before, it’s because you have, but this time with any effort removed. Offensive in how boring it is, every character’s a tired stereotype, every line riddled with cliches, and each punch makes you care less and less thanks to uninventive choreography. The film is a relic of a bygone time, much like Statham himself, trying to excuse bland filmmaking with punching and kicking, all while doing even that poorly.

Click here to read my original review

Number 9: Assassins Creed

The video game movie curse strikes again, this time dragging down great actors like Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard with its terrible script. Shoddily edited action scenes that hint at the effort behind the film aren’t enough to excuse a script that has as little idea of what’s going on as the audience, with characters often asking “what the fuck is going on” without any good answers being given. Many of the characters lack anything to do, everyone’s alignment between good and evil switches constantly, and the film is littered with terrible CGI. To the uninitiated, Assassins Creed is confusing, boring and dumb; this is doubly true for fans of the franchise, making even the most devout players wonder why they liked something so convoluted and dumb in the first place.

Click here to read my original review

Number 8: Gods of Egypt

Much like last years’ Jupiter Ascending, Gods of Egypt is the rare bad film that goes all in with its ideas, despite them being completely insane. Whitewashing an Egypt made up entirely of white Europeans, good actors like Geoffrey Rush, Chadwick Boseman and Game of Thrones  Nikolaj Coster-Waldau are stuck wandering around badly hidden green screens, in an awful sword and sandals flick that also manages to be a terrible sci-fi film at the same time. Ambition often outweighs budgets, with epic creatures and gods presented in dated, 90s-quality CGI, beginning laughable before quickly becoming tiresome. Add to this a borderline sexist treatment of its female characters, and Gods of Egypt can’t even be recommended in a so-bad-It’s good-way.

 

Number 7: The Forest

Trying to sneak its way past audiences in early January, The forest is more xenophobic then scary. Using the controversial suicide forests in Japan for the setting of a D-grade horror flick is insulting enough, but that half of the film  isn’t even in the forest and  gets its jump scares from scary looking Asian people is frankly offensive. So much of the film is seen from the white-privileged perspective of lead star Natalie Dormer, often looking down on Japanese culture, and presents even beloved cultural staples like sushi in a disturbing light, making the film feel out of touch when it isn’t outright offensive towards Japan. That the second half relies so much on bad twists and jump scares makes the film that much more insufferable. In a year full of unique horror offerings like Don’t Breathe and Green Room, it’s hard to tell who this shallow, racially insensitive flick was for.

 

Number 6: Zoolander 2

Among the many sequels no one asked for in 2016 comes Zoolander 2, a film that seems equally confused as to why the first film was a success. Unfunny, stupid and often oblivious to how little interest the filmgoing public has in Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson, with several jokes about them being now old and lame ringing more ironically then what was probably intended. The film just repeats and references the past film constantly, with another set of cameos from popular actors, more jokes about the fashion world that few people get, and more scenes of Stiller and Wilson acting out of touch with the modern day (again, an ironic allegory for the film itself). Were it a different set of actors, we could at least say we could have expected better, but this is about what’s to be expected from Hollywoods’ “why is this guy famous again?”

 

Number 5: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Yes, we got another good Batman in Ben Affleck, and the warehouse fight was okay; this doesn’t excuse the other 2 hours and 25 minutes of nothing, ranging from an hour of dream sequences and future film teasing that ends up meaning nothing. A versus movie means nothing when the film picks a side for the audience, favoring Batman so clearly as to never let Superman even defend himself, which is especially egregious in a film where everyone gives their opinion on Superman. The last fight against Doomsday is a pastiche of bullshit, combining bad cgi, loud and overly-dramatic music and epilepsy-enduring flashing lights into an incomprehensible mess. I respect D.C. for wanting to make their films feel different from the Marvel offerings, but overly-serious and under-good are a bad way of standing out.

Click here to read my original review

Number 4: The Brothers Grimsby

Sascha Baron Cohen was revolutionary when he introduced us to the comedy stylings of Borat back in 2006, combining social satire with an uncomfortable look at how real Americans act. Almost 10 years later, he delivers a tasteless, unfunny mess that tests its audiences patience towards vulgarity. Each scenes formula is to place unlikable characters in situations for them to act horrible to one another, say something disgusting, or go for the most desperate of laughs through bathroom humor. The jokes linger for far longer then they should, turning already unfunny premises unbearable by the end. In case you weren’t already convinced not to see the film, the five minute scene of Cohen and co-star Mark Strong trying to jerk off an elephant penis while inside an elephants vagina is more then enough to point to as how far the film chooses to for a laugh, despite never ceasing to be more then insufferable.

 

Number 3: Dirty Grandpa

Robert De Niro used to be an acclaimed actor, and it’s made that much worse seeing him stoop to such a low as Dirty Grandpa. A sexist, racist and unfunny film is already bad enough, dragging down talented young actors like Zac Efron and Aubrey Plaza to perform the lamest of sex jokes. But someone like Robert De Niro should know better then to degrade himself in a film like this, with a twelve-year-olds idea of comedy in the form of crude language delivered in a way no one talks, race jokes no one finds funny, and old jokes that Robert De Niro is too good of an actor to endure. It’s the kind of film made for frat guys, treating women as objects to be attained and used, and thinking that acting like a child is still funny or charming. Dirty Grandpa is the kind of offensive to women film that works great as a double feature with Trump’s video where he talks about grabbing women by pussy, if that’s any indication of how much I unabashedly despised it.

 

Number 2: London Has Fallen

Another in an unfortunate list of xenophobic films released in 2016, none were quite as irresponsible and offensive as London Has Fallen. Where the first film could be excused as typical action movie fare, this 2016 sequel focuses so much of its energy on how scary and untrustworthy brown people are, taking time to single out arabic looking men and women in crowds, in an attempt to raise suspicion and fear of them. The film disturbingly takes joy in murdering scores of brown people, with Gerard Butler delivering one-liners that come off more racially offensive then endearing to the audience (the most notable of which has Butler exclaiming “Go back to Fuckheadistan”). On top of this, the film looks bad, lacks any semblance of a script, and presents people who drone strike a wedding of innocent people as the heroes of the picture (spoiler alert, they bomb innocent people in the end as an extra fuck you to the villains). London has Fallen is cinematic bile, representing the worst that Hollywood has to offer, and playing on people’s irrational fears to try and seem relevant. It’s a film perfectly made for your racist relatives, and much like said relatives, should be ignored and left alone.

 

Number 1: Suicide Squad

Years from now, once the allure of seeing fan-favorite characters on screen for the first time has died down, Suicide Squad may finally be seen by fans as the poster child for how not to make a film. College classes could be made dissecting the insane editing, contradictory script and numerous bad decisions the film makes. A movie that somehow explains too much and too little, it’s the rare superhero film that explains why the films heroes serve no purpose, and actually make each problem worse with their involvement, inviting speculation from the audience as to why they should even care. Not a single character is likable, wasting talented actors like Viola Davis and Will Smith on a script lacking in any subtly our nuance. Suicide Squad‘s ugliness ranges from its downright misogynistic treatment of women to outdated racial stereotypes, with violence towards women occurring to an inexcusable degree.  Never has seeing people get shot seemed so lifeless, as a team of characters we don’t enjoy following face off against waves of faceless drone that don’t matter, to stop a badly acted villain whose powers are never defined, trying to destroy the world with another stupid blue beam in the sky death machine. You’ve seen this movie before, you’ve seen it done better, and theres absolutely no reason to waste 2 hours enduring this childish, insultingly stupid drivel. For the third time in a row, DC’s joke is on the viewers.

Click here to read my original review

Andy’s Top 10 Films of 2016

Much like everything else in 2016, this was certainly an off year for the film industry, spitting out more unneeded Sequels, remakes and reboots then in previous years. But for everything 2016 was lacking, it made up for with a lot more variety in terms of what we are used to, focusing on thematic elements and stories we don’t see enough of on screen. It’s to these films that we look at why 2016, while not a great year for most, featured titles worth remembering.

 

Honorable Mention: The Jungle Book

Remakes, I believe, can serve a particular purpose if done right, either improving upon a poorly executed idea or showing something well known from a fresh perspective. Jon Faverau’s remake of The Jungle Book served as the latter, taking a beloved if flawed Disney classic and adding the plot and character development the original was severely lacking. An impressive cast of voice actors helped make even the smallest of supporting characters memorable, with the gorgeous special effects bringing the most out of the performances. It’s simply a great remake, that doesn’t so much reinvent the wheel, as much as it shows why the house that Mickey built has earned the pedigree their name implies.

Click here to read my original review

 

Number 10: Weiner

Love him or Hate him, both being equally understandable, the troubled story of Anthony Weiner’s fall-rise-fall again was a documentary made more engrossing having already known the outcome. The opening act smartly skips past the first scandal, presenting what almost looks like a redemption story, and showing Weiner’s passion for politics and serving the people of New York. Once the second scandal drops, however, the film opens up to all perspectives on Weiner, from a tragic figure, serial cheater, and even just a politician trying to not let his personal failings affect his political career. It’s the rare documentary that lets the audience decide the kind of man Weiner was, and how much of the public’s disdain he ultimately deserved, making for the years most involving documentary.

 

Number 9: Don’t Breathe

Evil Dead’s Fede Alvarez returns with an original premise that delivers on its potential for scares, where in a group of robbers are stalked in the house of the blind man they attempted to rob. Through a combination of great cinematography and staging, the film creates tension through the audiences knowledge of prior events, as well as what we can imediately see/here, rather than the tired cliche of jump scares and loud noises. The film also doesn’t shy away from the knowledge that our protagonists are in fact bad people, not letting you forget the reasons the bandits are there, and making whether the punishment fits the crime a question left for the viewers to ponder. While a major left-turn in the film’s final act is likely to turn off some viewers, Don’t Breathe is the rare horror film that understands that lasting scares come from strong characters in a tense situation, rather then loud noises and imagery alone.

Click here to read my original review

 

Number 8: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Announced only a few months before its release, 10 Cloverfield Lane offered a slower, more claustrophobic film in comparison to its predecessor. Much of the film’s weight is placed on the weight of its leads, and they are more then up to task. Mary Elizabeth Winstead feels like a believable every-man, while simultaneously owning her role as the film’s heroine; meanwhile, John Goodman is allowed to stretch his acting chops in an uncharacteristicaly menacing role, owning whole scenes on his intimidating demeanor alone. Much like Don’t Breathe, the film does take a left-turn into some questionable territory, which is also likely to divide some audiences. Despite this, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an almost Hitchcock-Ian effort, remeniscent more of The Twilight Zone then it is of its prior film, and stands as a fascinating start to the series’ new anthology-based direction.

Click here to read my original review

 

Number 7: Deadpool

As one of the biggest critics of Fox’s X-Men franchise as of late, Deadpool is the breath of fresh air the comic- book genre needed to stay relevant. The rated R antics of comics’ favorite Merc With a Mouth feels as genuine as Dream projects come, with the collaboration of director Tim Miller and lead Ryan Reynolds bringing a fresh take on comic books, action tropes, and even self-aware comedy. One-liners pay off as often as the action continues to be engaging, with both serving symbiotically to add depth to what could have been one-note, childish characters. Among the films many surprises is Deadpool’s surprisingly affecting love story, as Morena Baccarin and Reynold’s natural chemistry makes even an excessive relationship like Wade and Vanessas’ seem believable. It was a reminder of the narrative potential the genre is capable of in the right hands, and proof that better doesn’t always have to mean bigger.

Click here to read my original review

 

Number 6: Doctor Strange

Marvel’s second outing this year, Doctor Strange was an interesting combination of   traditional narrative elements with strong characterization and imaginative effects pulled straight from the Steve Ditko comics of the 70’s. While it’s easy to compare to the original Iron Man, Strange manages to stay fresh thanks in part to screenwriter C. Robert Cargill, managing to make familiar idea such as magic and alternate realities seem simultaneously foreign, yet understandable. Cumberbatch is magnetic as Stephen Strange, and is surrounded by strong supporting characters, with special mention going to Chiwetel Ejiofor, who performs even the silliest of material with gravitas and emotional weight. Even without these strengths, Doctor Strange is simply a gorgeous film to look at, wildly imaginative and disturbing in its imagery, bolstered by well-handled 3D. While it may seem familiar on the outside to some, what’s here stands alongside Guardians of the Galaxy as a prime example of how Marvel can take even the most non-sensical material and make something extraordinary for anyone to watch.

Click here to read my original review

 

Number 5: Moonlight

While many go to the theaters for simple entertainment, films can also be a glimpse into lives, perspectives and situations we may not always think about. Moonlight is one such example, exploring how factors like masculinity, strength, vulnerability and sexuality exist in the harsh environment of the ghetto. The film’s viewpoint of three viewpoints in Chiron at different ages in his life shows how our interactions with others weave into the creation of our own identity, at times delivering poignant and beautiful scenes, often clashing against the harsh realities of the films setting. It’s a combination of several topics, from growing up in the hood, gang lifestyle, bullying, and just being gay, and theres enough subtext within each element that many people will see the film in different ways. Moonlight is a movie 2016 needed, a film reflecting an often ignored demographic, and making their struggles and triumphs real in a way that leaves an impact on viewers.

 

Number 4: Captain America: Civil War

The culmination of the past 8 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Civil War is an example of the kinds of detail-rich narratives that can come from an ongoing film franchise. For newcomers, the story is simple enough to invest in, with the summers best action sequence in the 2nd acts’ airport battle, as well as great performances from the expansive cast. But theres a real impact that comes from having watched the prior films up until this point, where knowing the relationships between our heroes makes Civil War‘s fallout that much more heartbreaking. It’s the rare action film that is more concerned over the breaking of bonds as it is of bones, with the highlights often coming from when the characters sit down and discuss their differences on the issue of government registration. And unlike a certain other superhero versus film this year (check the worst of list coming soon), the script manages to give both Cap and Iron Man shared screen time, so you understand where both sides stand in this debate, and establish the tragedy that neither one is wrong in what they believe. The impact Civil War will have on the continuing MCU is sure to be felt for many films to come, and was a welcome reminder of why its important larger-then-life characters to be relatable on a personal level.

Click here to read my original review 

 

Number 3: Star Wars: Rogue One

When people said they wanted something new from Star Wars last year, this is what they were talking about. A decidedly darker look at the events before Episode IV, the story of the mission to steal the death star plans made for an engaging and fresh story, while remaining steeped in the look and aesthetic of the original trilogy. A cast of interesting, yet realistically flawed, heroes helped audiences to care about events that we already knew the outcome of, thanks in part to the tragically brutal ways our protaganist’s meet their fate. Its a sequel that naturally mixes in new elements, while also bringing back elements of previous films with respect and care, and comes off more like a necessary inclusion, rather than a shameless cash-grab. As the final act begins, action set pieces and tearjerking moments come in equal measure, in one of the few Star Wars that really seemed to emphasize the “war” part of its title. Good luck, Episode 8; you now have even higher expectations to live up to.

Click here to read my original review

 

Number 2: Arrival 

This may come off as a hyperbole, but i’m being completely honest when I say that I didn’t know how to review Arrival after my first viewing. It stands alongside Children of Men as a film that uses hard science fiction ideas to deliver important messages about the human condition, and does so with a subtly and earnestness that is impossible to ignore. Each performance is engaging, every action feels realistic, and each reveal unveils another layer of the film that you wont see coming. likewise, its a science fiction film about using actual science, namely linguistics, to solve the worlds problems, and never compromises this focus in favor of cheap emotional beats or forced spiritual interpretations. A film best gone into blind, Arrival is one of the smartest films this year, and comes highly recommended.

 

Number 1: La La Land

Having just seen this on New Years Eve, I didn’t have enough time to review this before my Top 10 best films list, but theres already so much to say. While I’m typically not the biggest fan of musicals, La La Land is simultaneously a gorgeous musical, a beautifully shot film, and just a well told story of love, dreams, aspirations and choices. Gosling and Stone are in top form, delivering a believable and heartwarming romance, building a relationship throughout that makes their hardships later on in the film feel more important to viewers, in comparison to lesser romantic dramas. The music is wonderful, a combination of old-time musical beats and jazz, in a track list where each song feels equally beautiful to listen to as the others. The choreography and timing of each dance is equal parts charming and impressive to behold, with the opening highway number and moonlit dance numbers being particularly enjoyable. We just don’t get films like this anymore, delivering real stories through extravagant means, all while not compromising the melancholy ending that will have you fighting back tears by the time the credits begin to roll. La La Land is impossible not to love, and is as beautiful and enjoyable as it can be poignant and heartbreaking. In a way that few films this year have done, I felt touched and inspired by La La Land.

 

Earth’s Mightiest Films: Andy’s Marvel Films Ranking

It’s truly remarkable what Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios have managed to accomplish in Only 8 years. Marvel Studios didn’t just create a universe of comic book films, but combined itt with a comic book level of continuity, with each film tying into the next as one continuing story, sometimes bringing together conflicting genres of film in the process. But with every story, there can be high and low points; for every idea like Iron Man and the Guardians of the Galaxy that worked, there are some that didn’t quit hit their marks. With Marvel’s third phase of films beginning with last week’s Captain America: Civil War, lets rank each entry to the MCU, starting at what many consider to be the worst….

#13- Iron Man 2

If anyone tells you that bigger always means better, show them Iron Man 2 and watch them retract their argument. while War Machine’s introduction was well done, and there was plenty of action in the third act, the film suffers from its inability to balance all the things it wants to be. As an Iron Man sequel, the characters feel less developed, and most of the films best moments don’t hold up to the quality of its predecessor. As a set up for the first Avengers film, the few scenes with Nick Fury and Black Widow feel disconnected from the rest of the film, and increase the already bloated films running time. Even as an action film, the second act drags with almost an hour of no iron man or fight scenes, and two forgettable villains that disappear for large stretches of the film. While not unwatchable, there’s a reason why the future of Marvel’s film plans was very much in question after Iron Man 2 was released.

#12- The Incredible Hulk 

Like a lot of films on this list, I don’t think that The Incredible Hulk is a bad film. Some of the action is good, the Hulk looked great, and it helped get the bad taste of the Ang Lee Hulk film out of audiences mouthes. But if I had to use one word to describe this 2008 reboot of the Hulk, it would be forgettable. Everything from the wafer-thin characters, to the non-existent plot, to the villain who doesn’t show up until the third act, nothing really leaves an impact on the viewer. For a film about a giant green man destroying everything in sight, it’s baffling how the film manages to make none of this interesting. The Hulk may proclaim that he’s the strongest there is, but for his introduction in the MCU, The Incredible Hulk is fairly weak.

#11- Thor: The Dark World 

Sometimes, actors who really embody their roles can help elevate an average film. Such is the case with Thor: The Dark World, a film that survives on the strength of its main characters. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are well regarded as the definitive portrayals of Thor and Loki, respectively, and much of the films focus is on their shaky relationship. While these scenes keep the audience relatively entertained, too much time spent on boring human characters, a predictable plot, and the weakest villain in the MCU with Malaketh prevent The Dark World from being anything more then an average action film. Simply put, come for the action, stay for Thor and Loki, and hope they get better in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.

#10- Ant-Man

Being totally honest, I have no idea why the world went crazy for Ant-Man. Sure, Paul Rudd was funny, the shrinking scenes were fun, and a lot of the comedy works. But everyone overlooks things like the simplistic plot, forced family drama between Hank and Hope Pym, and the forgettable and non-present villain YellowJacket. Obviously some of this has to do with the departure of original director Edgar Wright, and the tough job replacement director Peyton Reed had with finishing the film on time. For his efforts, the film is a fun summer blockbuster, but nothing more or less then that, in one of Marvels’ safer outings.

#9- Iron-Man 3

While many were disappointed that the third in the Iron Man series didn’t surpass the prior year’s The Avengers, there’s a lot to admire in Tony Stark’s final solo outing. The darker tone worked to the films benefit, helping to increase the stakes, while also making the more comedic moments stand out. Downey Jr. gives a more layered performance as well, delivering a more vulnerable Tony Stark, and helping plant the seeds for the kind of character we’ve seen grow in Age of Ultron and Civil War. But while the action and performances were stronger, the story was surprisingly simple, relying on gaps in logic and a twist that unfortunately leads to yet another weak Marvel villain. Director Shane Black’s take on the Iron Avenger is certainly the MCU entry i’d suggest people give another shot, but not without admitting some significant flaws.

#8- Thor

Even as a comic book fan, I know the character of Thor is a hard sell, let alone making him work in the same universe as his fellow Avengers. So, much to many peoples surprise, the original Thor didn’t really try to be a super hero film, but focused more on being a pseudo-Shakespearean family drama. While the film boasted plenty of fantasy action set pieces, and a great lead character in Chris Hemsworth, the best moments are in its smaller, intimate conversations between characters. The material is full of enough fantasy tropes that were it not in the right hands, the camp factor could outweigh any emotional resonance with the viewer; Luckily, the cast does a tremendous job of making larger then life characters relatable, with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Anthony Hopkin’s Odin as the standouts. Ultimately, the many strengths Thor has far outweigh a slow 2nd act and forgettable human characters, delivering one of Marvel’s better cinematic outings.

#7- Avengers: Age of Ultron

True, Age of Ultron was considered by many to be a disappointment, not living up to the success of the first film, and containing the similar issues with Iron Man 2, such as too much time setting up future Marvel Films. But for everything going against this 2015 sequel, a lot of new and returning things worked incredibly well. The entire cast is well balanced, giving each character enough focus and screen time, while still making room for newcomers Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and the Vision. James Spader brings plenty of character to main villain Ultron, even if his plan isn’t one hundred percent clear by the films conclusion. Most notably, Joss Whedon’s script and direction manage to bring back more of the first films wit, humor and fun, while still helping create a slightly darker and more mature tone. While not the sequel we deserved, Age of Ultron did right by its Marvel name, and helped end Phase 2 on a relatively high note.

#6- Iron Man

The one that started it all, its surprising how many people have forgotten how good the first Iron Man was. Robert Downey Jr.’s career-saving portrayal of Tony Stark helped singlehandedly kick off the MCU, but it’s director John Favreau that really steals the show here. Modernizing Tony Stark, while keeping true to the character’s origin story, helped bring a faithful interpretation of the Iron Avenger to the big screen. And while Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane is yet another average marvel villain (noticing a pattern here?), it’s not enough to distract from how well Iron Man holds up, even after 8 years of other Marvel films.

#5- Captain America: The First Avenger

I was already excited for a Captain America film before The First Avenger came out, but my anticipation grew when it was announced that the film would be a throwback adventure film. Captain America‘s biggest strength lies in its earnest homage to pulp adventure films from the 30’s and 40’s, where the heroes are larger then life, and the villains are bad without any shades of moral complexity in them. That sounds strange to say, and it does hold the film back slightly, but its in the films first act where everything gels together, all thanks to Chris Evans. The film takes its time to introduce audiences to pre-super soldier Steve Rogers, helping elaborate on what makes Cap such a morally righteous character, without turning him into a boy scout in the process. The believability of Steve Rogers helps the audience invest in the more silly comic book aspects of the film, from Cap’s shield, to Red Skull and Hydra, and especially the films ending. Sure, it’s slightly predictable, and doesn’t exactly push the envelope, but the film is a great example of how Marvel Studios is the best in Hollywood at translating characters to film.

#4-Guardians of the Galaxy

2014 was arguably Marvel’s best year for films, and Guardians was the kind of great film that was a perfect storm for everything audiences wanted. A fun science fiction film, an oddball ensemble comedy, and a super hero film all manage to blend together in equal measure throughout guardians. While most will remember Rocket and Groot as their favorite characters, Chris Pratt’s surprise turn as the action lead Starlord manages to balance being a badass and buffoon well. Even as the least “Marvel” Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy was that rare comic book movie that both nerds and general moviegoers can enjoy.

#3- The Avengers 

That this movie exists is a miracle in itself, but The Avengers was revolutionary in so many different ways. The culmination of the previous Phase 1 films, and combining several different genres into one, it isn’t much of an exaggeration to say that a film like this had never before existed. But were it not for Joss Whedon’s fantastic script and direction, every actors perfect portrayals of each famous character, and lots of surprising moments that audiences didn’t see coming, the film could have just been a fun but flawed experiment. But thanks to hiring the right people, and everyone bringing it on every department, The Avengers is a film that defined 21st century film-making, and has put the word “Cinematic Universe” on the mind of every Hollywood studio since its release.

#2- Captain America: Civil War

With Marvel’s latest outing, if the first Avengers film can be seen as culmination of the first Phase of films, then Civil War is the end of 8 years worth of character development. With Captain America and Iron Man’s ideological differences reaching the tipping point, every word exchanged and punch thrown carries more emotional weight then most summer blockbusters. Fantastic dialogue exchanges and character beats are in equal measure to big action, with already established heroes sharing screen time with new blood like Tom Hollands Spider-Man and Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther. Without getting into potential spoilers for this recently released film, Civil War feels like a tragic ending point for the MCU fans have grown to love, but an exciting springboard into the different directions and films to come.

#1- Captain America: The Winter Soldier

There’s a reason why everyone who sees Civil War has been questioning whether it surpasses Captain America: The Winter Soldier; and while Civil War was a remarkable accomplishment for Marvel, The Winter Soldier still stands as one of the best made films of the 21st century. On almost every level, from the spy themes, to the introduction of the Falcon and Winter soldier, and the many twists and turns, the film already stands among the best films in the MCU. But what makes this my favorite film is its characterization of not just Captain America as the soldier, but as Steve Rogers as well. Questions like why he stays a soldier in a time with no clear enemy, and what the price of freedom ultimately is, are pondered over, leading to a fascinating character study on what many consider a one-dimensional character. Among the other impossible things The Winter Soldier manages to accomplish, it’s the way they turned what was many’s least favorite Avenger into the most complex and inspiring characters that shows why Marvel are making some of the best films of the 21st century, and why The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel film to date.

Andy’s Top 10 Worst Films of 2015

It’s easy to let personal disappointment and clouding emotions lead us to respond harshly to bad movies. Whether it tarnishes the name of our favorite franchises, or simply wastes our time, we as an audience pay for our tickets expecting a competently made film, at the very least. By doing a top 10 worst films of the year list, I don’t mean to beat down these films (everyone certainly did plenty of that when they originally came out), but to offer constructive criticism on exactly WHY these films stand out as particularly bad. Criticism is necessary in to properly evaluate a film, and without it, we get the following disappointments bellow.

 

Number 10- Chappie

I loved District 9, but are we sure that wasn’t a fluke? Neil Blomkamp has been getting by on the critical and commercial success of his original take on the sci-fi genre, but that was 6 years ago. Since then, Elysium came out and was immediately forgotten and he lost his pitch for a reboot to the Alien franchise. But as the first trailers and images began to come out, it looked like Chappie could bring us back to the days when Blomkamp was on top of the science fiction genre. Unfortunately, the film is fairly scattered, with the villains and plot coming straight out of its superior predecessors, Robocop in particular. None of the actors seem to really bring life to their characters, and the appearance by rappers Die Antwoord in particular feels awkward and unnatural. For a film so focused on its protagonist being a living being, Chappie unfortunately stood out as one of the more lifeless and unoriginal films of the year.

 

Number 9- The Transporter: Refueled

The original Transporter film was by no means a great movie, but it showed off the acting and action talents of Jason Statham and seemed to come out right around the time people really wanted a fun, simple action film. But we’re surrounded by generic action movies now, and the idea of a cool dude in a suit beating up thugs hasn’t been original in a long time. Refueled’s biggest problem then, unsurprisingly, is how little it brings to set itself apart in this crowded genre. New lead Ed Skrein feels like he’s doing a bad Jason Statham impression, Side characters like Ray Stevenson portray tired stereotypes we’ve seen done better in far too many films before, and the story is a typical “man doing a job screwed over” cliché that we saw better in even the worst Transporter films that came out almost a decade ago. All of this could be forgiven if the action was enjoyable, but the tight editing and shots filmed too close up don’t help show the audience what could be well-choreographed fights. No one was asking for another Transporter film, and by the end of Refueled, I doubt Hollywood will make this mistake again.

 

Number 8- Hitman: Agent 47

A movie based on a Video Game property being bad is unsurprising, to be sure, but to Hitman’s credit, the film does at least begin with a neat twist on the property, placing central character Agent 47 as the villain, an unstoppable killing machine out to murder our lead hero. Then, less than minutes later, the rug is pulled out from under us and the only original thought this movie had goes away, replacing anything original with a D-grade action flick. And while the films problems range from shallow characters, bad editing and a script that somehow manages to be both simple and overly complicated, the biggest sin against Hitman is that its just boring. I’m not mad that this was a bad film, but could enough effort have at least been put in so that it wasn’t as unsurprising?

 

Number 7- Jurassic World

 

Hear me out, first.

I expect that I’ll receive a great deal of criticism from this choice, but I’m sorry: Jurassic world, while still being better then 2 or 3, is not a good film. Its characters are too generic and uninteresting, making us invest less in the action. The dinosaurs look worse then ever, which is all the more inexcusable for how well the practical effects from the first film still hold up today. The new Indominus Rex creature was uninspired in its design, as well as completely random and improvised in its set of scene-specific abilities. I can see the appeal of the films final fight scene, pitting the Indominus Rex against the original T-Rex and a raptor, but that’s still only a fun 2 minutes in a 2 hour movie that feels at best uninspired, and at worst like it doesn’t even enjoy being a Jurassic Park film. Yes, the franchise has come back from bad sequels like 2 and 3, and has now moved up into the realm of generic summer blockbusters. But for a franchise that started from a film notable for being as smart as it was action packed, it’s not a stretch to say we deserved better.

 

Number 6- Terminator Genisys

Can someone go back in time and take out whoevers decision it was to keep making Terminator films? The original was an innovative and original new Sci Fi flick, and Judgment Day remains one of the best sequels ever made, ending in a way that prevents further sequels from being made. But where there’s a will, there’s a way for Hollywood to exploit fanboys for cash, starting with the lackluster Rise of the Machines, the tame and forgettable Salvation, and finally leading us to Genisys. What was presented like an original reboot of the franchise ends up rewriting and insulting on the legacy set by the original 2 films, adding further insult to injury. Even talented actors like Matt Smith, Jason Clarke and Emilia Clarke aren’t able to make such a poorly written script interesting. Paramount tried to show this old dog still had some life in it, but it’s long since been time to Old Yeller this franchise back into its own permanent termination.

 

Number 5- Pixels

My generation grew up with the fall of Adam Sandler, with bellow average films like Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds and Click showing that whatever magic Sandler had captured in earlier efforts like the Wedding Singer and Happy Gilmore had long since gone away. But to take the idea of Pixels, a fun YouTube short that could have made for a fun film, and turn it into a long, unfunny mess is inexcusable. Not a single laugh is to be had here, with jokes ranging from distasteful to unfunny, characters being shallow stereotypes or offensive caricatures, and the actual video game characters the film should be centered on taking a backseat to Sandler’s brand of comedy that stopped being funny for anyone over the age of 12. What’s worse is the rampant sexism inherent throughout the film, with the female lead being called a bitch throughout the film for not falling for Sandler, and a woman literally being used as a trophy in the finale. Pixels wouldn’t have been surprising as another bad video game movie, but somehow Sandler managed to lower the bar even further.

 

Number 4- Taken 3

I’ll say it: I think Taken was one of the worst decisions Liam Neeson ever made. Sure, it made money and was an enjoyable action flick, but ever since then it seems that’s the only type of movie he’ll star in, when before he would give fantastic performances as everything from Ra’s al Guhl in Batman begins to his Oscar nomination as Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List. Taken 3’s tagline warns audiences that “It Ends Here”, but what “it” turns out to be is quality, as Taken 3 takes the now familiar formula of a man out for revenge and sucks all the life out of it. Neeson seems uninterested in the role, as tired by the material as the audience, and even newcomers like Forrest Whitaker cant make a script this forced feel natural, or even so bad it’s funny. Like other films on this list, Taken 3 is another action film that’s sinned by being offensively boring, but with the added negative of frankly feeling forced and unnecessary. Be warned: it is your money and time that end up being taken.

Not that it matters, but no one even gets Taken in this one.

Number 3- Spectre

Remember Casino Royale? Yeah, that was a great reinvention of what James Bond could be, making a realistic angle on the spy film, and featuring a great love story between Daniel Craig and Eva Green. Wouldn’t it be awful if they made a sequel that tried and failed to be both this new serious Bond, but also the cheesy, sexist, silly Bond’s of the past? It be way too long, Bond would have a scene where he sexually assaults a widower on the day of her husband’s funeral, and it would be littered with logic and character problems throughout. Man, that would be a really awful thing to happen to the bond franchise, especially if the previous film would be pretty good too. Oh, wait, all of this did happen; its called Spectre, and it’s the worst thing to happen to the bond franchise since Roger Moore, and hopefully a sign that the people behind the Bond name need to rethink their approach.

 

Number 2- Jupiter Ascending

I think it’s important that we as a movie going audience try and encourage Hollywood to create more original films…just, not like this. The newest Wachowski siblings’ film is a Phantom-Menace level bad film, sharing most of the same problems like exposition-heavy dialogue, long fight scenes with characters we don’t care about, a bad love story, and an over-reliance on bad CGI. None of the actors are allowed to have fun with their roles, and the 2 hour run time moves at a snails pace, giving ample time to see how unnatural all of the characters and dialogue really feels. Special mention needs to be made of Eddie Redmayne, whose portrayal of villain Balem Abrasax switches constantly between wheezing quiet bad guy and a screaming, overacting drama queen. The Wachowski’s were once known for creating one of the best Science fiction film with the Matrix; it’s ironic then that they are also responsible for the most insultingly bad science fiction film, showing just how far down the bottom of the barrel goes.

 

Number 1- Fantastic Four

Regardless of who was truly responsible for the final product, with Director Josh Trank and Fox fighting between one another before the films release, everyone is at fault on this one. A rare super hero film that doesn’t want to be a Super Hero film until the last 10 minutes, every story beat feels unnatural, every performance hollow, every action scene a snore and every decision made by writers a mistake. No one comes out of this film unscathed, and even the films short 100-minute runtime has a good 45-50 minutes you could cut. Fox did nothing to hide that it was making this movie only to keep the legal rights of the property, and it comes off exactly like the shallow, soulless corporate cash-grab that many accused it of being. The lack of effort and complete disregard to the fans of this franchise, as well as movies in general, makes Fantastic Four not only the worst film of the year, but among some of the worst of all time.

Andy’s Top 10 Films of the Year

While many periods in film seemed to focus on particular style of movies, such as the indie boom of the 90’s and the slasher film craze of the 80’s, 2015 was a surprisingly blend of the best from all genres. Hollywood blockbusters shared equal screen time with story-driven dramas, while Netflix and Amazon gave us new places to look for innovative and thought-provoking stories. Some may know that I keep a list on my phone of every film I see, categorizing by what was great and what wasn’t (more on that next week), and yet even for me, figuring out the best films of the year was tough. But Despite this, these 10 films managed to shine through the rest, evolving their genres, offering challenging ideas and stories, and showing us why it is that we love movies.

 

Honorable Mention- Krampus

 Just barely getting knocked off the list, Krampus was an underappreciated gem that was both funnier then it had any right to be, and creepy in a way that didn’t feel silly. The film serves as an excellent homage to children’s horror films from the past, namely Gremlins, while also addressing a real issue in todays society: the Christmas spirit and how we share it with others. Tackling issues like consumerism and our own tendency to neglect the things we are so lucky to have in our lives. Add on some great creature design, as well as great comedic performances from Adam Scott and David Koechner, and you have a film that manages to be a lot of fun, while being just shy of greatness.

 

Number 10- Kingsman: The Secret Service

It’s unwise to expect anything great during the first few months of the year, with companies usually using this time to recover from their major releases the previous year, and throwing out any cheap production that wouldn’t last any other month. So it came as a surprise that Kingsman, Director Matthew Vaughn’s action send off of the spy genre, was enjoyable as both a simple action flick and smart comedy. Samuel L Jackson and Colin Firth both deliver enjoyable performances, both playing up their stereotypical role as mentor and villain, but newcomer Taron Egerton steals the show as our charming lead Eggsy. Add on a fantastic action set piece set to Free Bird (because guys, the movie gave us back Free Bird, and made it seem awesome!) and Kingsman turned out to be the exception to the rule of the January/February curse.

 

Number 9- The Martian

 What Interstellar arguable should have been, it’s always great to see a science movie that actually shows how fun and important science is. While not as thrilling or surprising as some other films on this list, as well as a being a little long, The Martian still gets by on the standout performance by Matt Damon. Don’t get me wrong, all the actors do a great job, but Damon brings a level of charm and realism to his character that pulls audiences in and doesn’t let go until the credits begin rolling. Even if you’ve seen this movie before, Damon makes it feel like you’re right there with him on Mars, where every bit of progress is a victory, and each setback feels that much more like it could be the end. Simply put, its always nice to have a movie that reminds us why we like certain actors, and that this one manages to also be a fun ride also helped it stand out in 2015.

 

Number 8- The Avengers: Age of Ultron

 True, it didn’t set the world on fire as much as the original Avengers film, but Age of Ultron continued to prove why Marvel is the best at what they do. A film as focused on the interactions between our favorite heroes as it is on big scale action, with every returning star feeling comfortable in their role, which helps bring out the drama while still keeping things fun and light-hearted. James Spader shines as the villainous Ultron, and helps keep him from being the typical one-dimensional bad guy that Marvel has been struggling with. Every character is given their moment to shine, whether performing daring heroics or just simply as a person, and the film manages to make room for newcomers Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver and The Vision without feeling bloated. While I hope for more from next years Captain America: Civil War, Age of Ultron still managed to be a fun start to the summer, while still continuing to push the super hero genre forward.

 

Number 7- Beasts of No Nation

 The first Netflix original movie, Beasts is a challenging look at the world of African child soldiers, and is perhaps director Cary Fukunaga’s best work. This movie does for child soldiers what Saving Private Ryan did for World War 2, placing viewers directly in front of the violent, tragic realities of war without restraint, yet managing to not go over into excess or glorification. Newcomer Abraham Attah does a tremendous job with such difficult material, but Idres Elba delivers an Oscar-deserving role as the Commandant, a flawed leader that is at one time terrifying, yet at the other a nurturing father figure. And despite the brutality and horror of this story, the cinematography still manages to stand out as particularly beautiful, showcasing the detailed destruction of war torn cities and the untouched African Jungles. Do yourself a favor and take time to watch this film without distraction, as it’s worth immersing yourself in what, for many, is still a reality.

 

Number 6- It Follows

 A Sexually Transmitted spirit is a horror concept that easily could have gone into the same level of camp as the usually direct-to-DVD trash you find in the corners of Netflix. But luckily, It Follows treats its subject matter seriously, really looking into what sex means for our society. A lot of what is subtext in lesser films is made into pivotal plot points, and the entire cast manages to play up the terror of the situation. The “It” in question also manages to be a creative new villain in the horror genre, taking the appearance of anyone and slowly, but constantly, chasing after our main characters. Bringing up interesting discussion and scares in equal measure, It follows was not only the best horror film of the year, but also the smartest.

 

Number 5- Ex Machina

 What is it to be human, or more importantly, what is required to necessitate humanity? Of the many questions that Ex Machina asks of its audience, this is the most clear. And yet what’s most impressive about the film is that, if you look for it, that’s not the only question asked. Ex Machina, besides being expertly written, beautifully shot, and well acted by its entire cast, is the rare film where different people will see something different from the film. The less I say about this Sci-Fi Gem the better, but I will say that the conversations I have had over this film just shine on how multi-layered and deep of a film this can be for those who look for it.

 

Number 4- Inside Out

 Pixar hasn’t been doing so well, as of late, with lazy cash-ins like Cars 2 and failed new ideas like Brave making it appear that Pixar had run out of ideas. Then out of nowhere, Inside Out comes out and I’m crying like a baby on my couch. Maybe it was how the human characters and emotion characters alike drew me in, or perhaps the level of detail given to the inner workings of young Riley’s mind that helped draw me into this world, but what it really comes down to is that Pixar managed to re-capture that Disney magic they became synonymous for when I was a child. They make great movies that are simple enough for kids, and yet deep enough to reach adults on both a mental and emotional level, and in that regard Inside Out was a terrific return to form. Here’s hoping they can keep up this momentum once again.

 

Number 3- Straight Outta Compton

 The story of N.W.A’s rise to power is that rare music biopic that manages to be about something more then just the music. Director F. Gary Gray smartly chooses to look at the group’s reflection and impact on society, showcasing N.W.A.’s notoriety around events the Rodney King trials and using them as a reflection of the kinds of stories of police violence we hear about in our daily lives (appropriately, the film was released on the one year anniversary of Michael Brown in Ferguson). Along with great social commentary, the film brings us close into the lives of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and especially Easy E, showing how they aren’t just talented musicians, but in their own way flawed people. As someone tired of Musical Biopics, Straight Outta Compton comes as surprising, talented and important as the band it portrays was back in their heyday.

 

Number 2- Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens

 They did it. As someone who grew up with the disappointing-at-best prequels, the idea of a new trilogy both excited and worried me. And yet, somehow, J.J. Abrams managed to do almost everything right. The cast, both new and old, is incredible, making new comers like Daisy Ridley’s Rey and John Boyega’s Finn feel as iconic as returning heroes Han and Chewie. The return to more practical effects helps return to the Star Wars world we know, while CGI is used only when necessary, yet blends in seamlessly. But the biggest accomplishment is how naturally this appeals to everyone; long time Star Wars fans will find this to be a continuation on the themes, ideas and universe from the original trilogy, while new comers will find the Force Awakens to be accessible, yet layered with depth, mythos and intrigue. It’s a film so good that reusing major plot points from A New Hope doesn’t matter, because of how well done everything new is, and how much is set up for the films to come by the end credits. Believe the hype, and go see this one as soon as you can.

 

Number 1- Mad Max: Fury Road

 It was a tough call between this and Force Awakens as my favorite film, but the deciding factor was simple: Star Wars was a great sci-fi film, but Fury Road has changed the action genre. The film takes risks few others do, like using real stunts and explosions, as well as putting their actors in very real danger. But for every risk taken, the action has never looked so viscerally real, yet still rivaling it’s more over the top contemporaries. Yet with all that in mind, characters still manage to take priority, with special mention needing to be made to for max and Nux, but it’s Furiosa that is the driving force behind the entire film. What Charlize Theron manages to do with this role will be written about for years to come. The cinematography helps bring this world to life, and shows both the beauty and insanity of this destroyed world, with every scene a work of art. There are too many revolutionary things in this film to bring up in one quick summary, and that Fury Road is up for Golden Globes, and likely Academy Awards, is a sign of how Fury Road is not only the best action film of the year, but also the Best film of 2015.