Monday, 2 January 2017

Top 11 Biggest Disappointments (2016)

Happy 2017 everyone! New year, new crop of films, same old dickhead set to talk about them, and in light of how the new year is where we’re supposed to do things differently than the year prior, I’m going to do something a little different with my year-end lists. Since I’ve listed every film watched in the last 12 months, doing a Best Of/Worst Of list would be a bit redundant, and doing another Critical Disappointments list just glorifies Rotten Tomatoes more than anything else, so I won’t be doing either of those this time around. Instead, I’m going to go over the films that were legitimately surprising in terms of quality, for good and for bad. What films in 2016 did I leave the cinema having gotten a lot more (or a lot less) than I was expecting? Well, time to find out. Now, this isn’t necessarily a list of the year’s worst; I actually still like some of these to a degree. It’s just a list of films from the year that seriously failed to deliver. This is my list of the Top 11 biggest disappointments from 2016… and chances are that a lot of you are going to hate my #11 pick.

#11: Deadpool
Let’s get one thing out of the way right off the bat: I don’t hate this film, not even remotely. It’s still a very fun and kickass movie about one of my all-time favourite comic book characters. However, in the interim between the character’s dreadful appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and this film, I must have convinced myself that I would like this film regardless of what was in it. And sure enough, upon re-watching it, the numerous flaws made them a bit more pronounced. The existence of the origin story at all, let alone how weak it is, really did end up detracting from it and while the character was still fun, it still doesn’t seem like he was used to his full potential. Sure, I’m glad we got what we did, but I’m certainly hoping for a lot more from its sequel.

#10: Triple 9
2016 was a seriously great year for trailers, containing some of the most gripping film preludes I’ve seen in a long time. One of the more enthralling was the trailer for Triple 9, with its skin-crawling rendition of This Little Piggy and its high-profile cast. Such a shame that the film proper turned out as lametastic as it did. Weak performances from a cast who should know better by now, writing that begs not to be so embarrassingly surface-level and direction that thinks simply shining a red light on crucial scenes is enough to be visually interesting, this was a serious let-down.

#9: Carol
A simple case of right idea at the wrong time. The normalized view of homosexuality is definitely something we wish we would get more of, but trying to frame against an era when it was still considered taboo and wanting to still keep it taboo to bring home the drama is not how it should be done. The direction has some good visual ideas and the acting is still good, with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara managing to exceed the tepidness of the material, but considering how closely it holds its own social importance to its chest, it just fails to deliver on it.

Some part of me thinks that this is karma for defending Woody Allen’s recent output as much as I have. While the rest of the world was busy focusing on his indiscretions, I was willing to take his work for what it was worth and found them to be quite entertaining. Hell, Blue Jasmine is still an astounding work of fiction. However, ugly sexual history aside, this film seriously sucks. It most highlights how long-in-the-tooth Allen has gotten, resulting in a grumpy and bitter film that isn’t funny or clever. Credit where it’s due to the actors, but they weren’t nearly enough to salvage this unpleasant viewing experience.

Again, this film isn’t actually all that bad: Solid acting, solid direction and decent writing made for an enjoyable watch. However, knowing how amazing Sicario turned out, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect better from writer Taylor Sheridan. After how incredibly grim and intelligent his last script turned out, this rather basic morally-ambiguous modern Western is kind of bland. It makes some interesting points about the Western genre that definitely deserves notice, don’t get me wrong, but the story itself just isn’t that engaging. I can only hope that the conclusion to Sheridan’s neo-Western trilogy turns out better, and it will definitely be interesting to see how he handles the director’s chair, but as for this, it’s just okay.

Given how well the rest of the year’s theatrically-released anime crop had turned out, from the insane fun of One Piece Film: Gold to the emotional sledgehammer of Your Name, this seriously pales in comparison. Taking a pretty epic concept of beast warriors fighting for the chance at godhood, Mamoru Hosoda smothers it in sports genre clichés and jarring Shonen tropes to create an incredibly underwhelming sit. John Swasey as Kumatetsu is still fun in a rather generic gruff-mentor-figure kind of way, but otherwise it’s just a bunch of plot beats that really aren’t deserving of the praise this film has gotten.

This one probably won’t even register with anyone else, but as I said in the review, I actively wanted to see this sequel. For as maligned as the original is, its biggest issues came out of how it handled its origin story; I thought once it got past that, it would be able to just let loose and have fun. I probably should have anticipated this, but this film only served to make the old problems even more glaring. With a DC Extended Universe approach to introducing characters, just rushing through them without anything resembling actual development, it also failed to make even the returning characters anywhere near as compelling. Good God, Casey Jones was a pain in the arse in this thing!

Another instance of a final product managing to underperform against its own trailer, this was pretty weak all things considered. And it didn’t even need to be! The characters showed a lot of promise, in particular Goodnight Robicheaux, but barely any of it was delivered on. Director Antoine Fuqua has an unhealthy reputation for disappointing films, from Southpaw to The Equalizer, but this is definitely the one that stung the worst. It failed to deliver on the true action potential that the trailer showed us, and then it introduced contenders for the most interesting characters of the year, but then left development behind in exchange for just going along with the decent-but-nothing-spectacular action beats. And this without having seen Seven Samurai or the original Magnificent Seven; I can’t imagine how pissed fans of those classics would have been at this.

Goddammit, Nick Hornby; you’re so much better than this. The modern king of soul-warming dialogue, his work here actually works alright for the first two-thirds of the film, bolstered by some good performances and some very able-bodied direction from John Crowley. And then it all starts to fall apart by Act III, resulting in a rather unfulfilling film. What makes this hurt as much as it does isn’t strictly because of how I know that Hornby can do better like with 2015’s Wild; rather, it’s because for most of the film, he did do better. He just failed to stick the landing, creating a love story that requires Internet synopses to explain character motivation because the film itself just fails to do it.

I stand by what I said in the review proper: This film is still fun in a very what-the-fuck kind of way and that nutjob charm does help out the final product a lot. However, what makes this rank as high as it does is because this is Kevin Smith we’re talking about. The man has well and truly gotten past these kinds of shamelessly low-fi productions; hell, I still maintain that Tusk is a great film that will probably never get the respect it’s due. The aimless plot, the weak stereotype-heavy jokes, the absolutely atrocious effects work; I personally don’t care what your personal opinion on Kevin Smith’s filmography is, the man should be better than this by now. Hell, even in comparison to his earlier days, this is unbearably sub-par. I swear, if Moosejaws is closer to this than Tusk, I’m going to be seriously pissed off.

I don’t think I will ever understand the fascination others have with this film. In fact, it almost reaches the point of honest jealousy in how badly I wish I could see what everyone else seems to with this one. All I see is a tremendously boring sit that wastes incredibly talented actors on a story that literally revolves around a woman reading a book for nearly two hours. How can this be considered a work of high art, when it has the single most ridiculous opening credits of any film I’ve ever sat through? How could this be called be lauded for its look at toxic masculinity, when its depiction of women thinks that Women In Refrigerators is a best case scenario?  How does a film that features a female protagonist that is this shockingly passive to the narrative not get slashed to ribbons by the critical masses? You know what, I take back any feelings of jealousy I had about this. Quite frankly, I don’t care how great people keep trying to convince me that this is; this is made of pretence, and the fact that even critics I follow who openly call out pretence whenever it crops up are buying this is frankly astounding.

So, that was my look at the most disheartening releases of the year; feel free to comment with your own picks for films that you weren’t so impressed with. But I’m not about to let the negativity completely take over just yet, so check in with us tomorrow for my look at the films that genuinely surprised me with how good they were.

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