For further background on the year in film, please refer to the Some Other Movies From 2016 entry.
The following things happened in 2016:
- Several countries ended diplomatic relations with Iran.
- Tsai Ying-wen became the first female President of Taiwan.
- The United Kingdom voted on whether or not to leave the European Union.
- Pokemon Go was released.
- The Philippines won an arbitration case against China concerning China's "Nine-Dash Line" policy in the South China Sea.
- The Summer Olympics were held in Brazil.
- Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.
- David Bowie, Prince and George Michael died.
Linked entries were viewed on YouTube.
Underlined entries were viewed on Netflix.
1. Your Name
Two young people find their lives intertwined in more ways than one. The animation in this movie is beautiful, and the story is very original. It might seem derivative in the beginning, but give it a half hour and you'll see what I mean.
Some Good Ones
Various animals enter a singing contest. It doesn't have much of a plot, and at times it feels like they're trying to cram every hit song since the Beatles into two hours, but it's entertaining nonetheless. A sequel is on the way in December.
OK. I was really, really drunk when I watched this (a couple of beers + several vodka tonics), but to the best of my recollection the soundtrack is slammin' and parts of this movie are really funny. Would I watch it again? Yeah, totally.
Adam Driver stars as a bus driver/poet in Paterson, New Jersey. I wasn't loving director Jim Jarmusch's previous movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, and I also didn't love his following movie, The Dead Don't Die, but I thought this one was good in an understated way. After watching Paterson I've seen all of Jarmusch's films, and I'd rank it second behind Ghost Dog.
Sad Fact: Driver's costar in this film, the beautiful Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, is forbidden from returning to her native country as a result of an appearance in the American film Body of Lies. She presently resides in France.
Speaking of France, is veterinary school that different over there? Whatever the case, this movie is a disturbing two hours, and I mean "disturbing" in the best way possible. If you've seen movies like Martyrs or Inside you'll be ready for it. If you haven't, you probably won't be.
Further Investigations: Director Julia Ducoumau's, most recent movie, Titane, came out this year.
5. Don't Breathe
Three burglars get more than they bargained for after breaking into an ex-serviceman's house. It's cool to see Stephen Lang in a movie again, even if the burglars make some truly questionable choices in the course of the film. And that aside, why would they assume that he'd have that much money, in cash, after the settlement?
Fun Fact: Fede Alvarez, the director of this movie, also directed the Evil Dead remake.
6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
A young man attempts to catch 'em all in 1920s New York. What's that, you say? No, I'm not talking about Detective Pikachu. Honestly though, I'd take the Pokemon universe any day of the week. It's cuter. It's more to the point. It's easier to relate to. This movie's OK, the world's fairly cohesive, and the ending's satisfying, but I'd much rather have another Pokemon movie.
Fun Fact: There will be a third Fantastic Beasts film next year.
7. Boyka: Undisputed
Scott Adkins fights another round in this sequel to Undisputed III: Redemption. As action movies go it's very formulaic, but the story's solid and Adkins can hold his own as an actor. To be honest, I admire the hell out of the guy. Not only is he a skilled athlete, but he knows exactly what his skill set is - and that skill set is right there up on the screen. Does this tale of Russian gangsters reinvent the wheel? No, but it's entertaining nonetheless.
Some Bad Ones
1. Now You See Me 2
Implausible? Most of this movie is pure impossibility. Parts of it look cool, but don't think too hard about how some of those "tricks" actually work. For me the worst part of this movie was the CGI playing card hand-off in the "secure facility." Mark Ruffalo does his best to soldier through it, but you can tell he's out of his depth.
Try to Contain Your Excitement: There will probably be a third one.
2. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Not so much bad as boring. I fell asleep halfway through. Sure, I was tired from work, but I'm not sure I could have kept my eyes open anyway. In this one (as you'd expect) Alice and her aesthetically pleasing friends marginally disrupt zombie/monster gatherings everywhere, this time with an eye toward ending the zombie plague for good. And of course this wasn't the final chapter. Did anyone ever think otherwise?
Unsurprising Fact: The next installment will arrive in November.
Real-Life Horror: Milla Jovovich's stunt double suffered some horrific injuries on set, and another crew member was crushed to death under a Hummer.
3. Me Before You
Overacting, thy name is Emilia Clarke. In Me Before You she falls in love with a quadraplegic, and that would be fine if her character wasn't so manipulative and self-consciously cute. Nothing is quite as maddening as Emilia Clarke pretending to be the ugly duckling. In fairness to this movie I did hate it slightly less than Last Christmas, but that's not saying much.
4. London Has Fallen
Gerard Butler saves the President from terrorists. I saw the first installment, Olympus Has Fallen, and I'd have to say that this one isn't much better. If you think about it... where was the U.S. military when all of this was going on? And how many motorcycle-riding terrorists could the bad guys have recruited, anyway?
5. Game of Aces
I guess if you wanted to see what Chris "American Pie" Klein has been up to you could watch it. It doesn't make a great deal of sense though.
6. 正宗哥吉拉 "The Real Godzilla"
I include the Chinese title because I'm not sure what the correct English title would be. I watched this on Netflix, and because I was in Taiwan watching a Japanese movie there was no English title to refer to.
The only good thing I can say about this movie is that the "U.S. liaison" is very cute. The rest of the movie involves long, long scenes of people discussing how they should react to Godzilla, what he/she/it might do next, and whether or not the Japanese bureaucracy is equipped to deal with the threat. In the short term no; in the long term yes.
In other hands this movie could have been goofy fun, but "The Real Godzilla" is instead stupefyingly boring. Come on, guys. Give me something here. A robot? A team of sexy robot pilots? More destruction? Less talking?
So Bad It's Good
1. The Great Wall
I was laughing at this movie around the 10 minute mark. It's SO preposterous, even when taken as a fable. And why all the fuss about this "black powder?" The recipe is easily explained, the ingredients are easily obtained in Europe, and Willem Dafoe's character has to know that carrying it back to Europe is completely unnecessary.
If nothing else the Chinese threw a lot of money at this movie, and all the money's up there, on the screen. Matt Damon is solid in the lead role, and I get why he took the part ($$$ + the chance to work with Zhang Yimou) but yeah, it's preposterous.
Those criticizing this movie for having Matt Damon as its "white savior" might have missed the mark. There are often two versions of American-Chinese co-productions, one edited for American audiences and another edited for audiences in Mainland China. It could be that the version I saw was the one intended for Americans, and that Damon's role was reduced in favor of Andy Lau's character in China. I have no way of knowing.
I will say, however, that this movie sits uncomfortably when considered from another racial standpoint, that of Han Chinese attitudes toward foreigners and minority groups. Given that the true historical purpose of the Great Wall was to keep out northern, non-Han invaders, what does recasting these non-Han peoples as monsters say about present-day attitudes to minorities in China? Sure, I could be accused of thinking too hard, but this movie, I think, invites those kind of comparisons.