For those that know me, it is no secret that I love to go to the movies. This year, I was lucky enough to watch about 24 movies (mostly) in theaters. In these last few days before the new year, I will be sharing my thoughts on these films, from the good, to the bad, to the mediocre. To keep things manageable, I will be breaking things up into a few different posts based on the original release dates for the films. I do have to be up front about one thing, most of the films on this list are popular releases, unfortunately I didn’t have as many opportunities to see “indie” and “art house” films as I would have liked, and I have only seen a handful of films that would actually be nominated for awards.
In terms of structure for looking at these films, I will give my brief take on the synopsis of the film, provide my initial thoughts that I had when I first watched the film, and finally share some thoughts I have had since seeing the film initially, sometimes providing links to videos or articles that may better articulate my feelings.
To kick things off, let’s take a look at the movies I saw in February, March, and April. Superheroes, anthropomorphic animals, a couple of cable tv comics trying to make it on the big screen, these months had a little bit of everything. For the most part, the features during this month were good though a couple left a little something to be desired.
Fair warning, I will try not to get into story details but there may be some spoilers ahead.
Released: February 12, 2016 | Director: Tim Miller
Synopsis: A gun for hire named Wade Wilson finds himself disfigured and superpowered after signing up for an experimental procedure to cure his cancer. What follows is a revenge mission to find Ajax (AKA Francis) and kill him for making his face look like ground beef and ruining Wade’s chances with the love of his life, Vanessa.
Initial Thoughts: (Taken from my Facebook) Deadpool was raunchy, maybe a little offensive, ultra-violent, disgusting, sort of heartwarming and pretty fantastic.
Reflection: I watched Deadpool again during the summer to see if I still felt the same way. It was definitely still raunchy, offensive, violent, and disgusting, but I started to waiver a bit on the fantastic part. After some thinking, I found myself wondering if the movie was overrated. When it came out, the conversation focused on how different the movie was from other superhero movies, as it had shifted away from the traditional superhero movie origin story. Looking back at it now, I don’t know if it was actually that different. Sure, they fast-forwarded to the action, and then showed us the build up in spurts, but if we really dissect it, Deadpool still hits most of the familiar beats. We are shown who he is before he gets his powers, we see him get his powers, and we see what he does with those powers.
Where it really stands out is how it embraces its hard R rating, not being afraid to pump the movie full of gruesome violence, questionable language, and kinky bedroom shenanigans. By fully living up to their R rating, they were able to make sure that Deadpool, who was perfectly played by Ryan Reynolds, represented his comic form more closely than nearly any other superhero adapted to screen.
On my second watching, the crass humor didn’t land as well with me, though some jokes were still fantastic. I also found myself wishing for some more action set-pieces within the film since almost everything was shown to us in the trailers that we were battered with leading up to the film’s release. Honestly, I think the advertising campaign leading up to the film may have been better than the film itself.
Released: March 4, 2016 | Directors: Byron Howard & Rich Moore
Synopsis: A small bunny, Judy Hopps, from a rural farm dreams of becoming a cop in the big city of Zootopia and won’t let anything stop her. After becoming the city’s first bunny cop, Judy realizes life in the city will be more difficult than she thought after fighting through red tape, a lame assignment as a traffic cop, and a run in with a sly fox named Nick Wilde. Eventually, Judy and Nick find themselves working as partners as inhabitants of Zootopia start to disappear and act erratically.
Initial Thoughts: Walking out of the theater, I felt that Zootopia was the best movie I had seen in 2016 at that point (to be fair I hadn’t seen much yet). Not only was it hilarious, but it used a great approach to talking about stereotypes, prejudice, sexism, racism, and fear mongering. It was so smart and reflected our reality and society in a really interesting way that was easy to connect with.
Reflection: All these months later and I definitely feel the same way. Zootopia is still one of my favorites from this year. The animation is fantastic, the message is an important one, especially in our current societal climate, and I find myself still enamored by the characters and voice acting. I also love that although this is very much a kid’s movie, the complex race-relations subtext of the film allows for some pretty intense discussion. I won’t go into it here, but check out Wisecrack’s great video “Is Zootopia Racist?” for an exploration of the racial themes and metaphors of the film.
10 Cloverfield Lane
Released: March 11, 2016 | Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Synopsis: Michelle wakes up after a car accident chained in some sort of underground shelter. She’s told the world is falling apart outside but is her captor benevolent or does he have more sinister motives?
Initial Thoughts: Fantastic performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher, Jr., and John Goodman helped to bring this suspenseful thriller to life. Every moment was tense and I constantly was unsure of what would happen next. John Goodman was especially menacing and watching him filled me with more dread than I thought he could.
Reflection: This was one of the strongest suspense-thrillers I have seen in a long time. It is so hard to even discuss this film without spoiling aspects of what actually happens, so I will just say if you love tense movies this is for you. Thinking back on this film, I see shades of films like Alien or The Thing, the tight confined spaces, inability to escape, and uncertain intentions of those around us trap not only our protagonists but we the viewers as well. One last thing, if the Cloverfield in the name scared you off and made your stomach feel a little queasy, don’t worry, this movie is not shown from a first-person, shaky cam perspective.
Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Released: March 25, 2016 | Director: Zack Snyder
Synopsis: Following the events of Man of Steel, Batman sets out on a mission to find a way to counteract Superman and other metahumans in order to protect everyday people from the chaos and destruction these modern-day gods could potentially rain down on us all.
Initial Thoughts: (Taken from my Facebook) This film had some cool moments strewn about a poorly constructed mess of a movie. It’s actually worse than I expected. Basically, all the stuff worth seeing was in the trailer minus one or two cool sequences.
Reflection: After watching the extended edition of this film (which I fell asleep during), although I will say that several of the story’s plot holes were filled in, the story was still awful. The pacing was off, character motivations made no sense, and the whole filmed had a distinct lack of hope, something intrinsic to the Superman character. Speaking of which, Superman/Clark Kent barely felt like a character in his own film, being given almost no substance in the film. This movie suffers from what some films I will be talking about later also do, there is entirely too much style and not enough substance.
I hate beating dead horses, so check out the Nerdwriter1’s video exploring the style over substance issues of BvS, he says it all much more eloquently than I can.
The Jungle Book
Released: April 15, 2016 | Director: Jon Favreau
Synopsis: Do I really need to explain this one? A kid raised by wolves? Watched over by a black panther and a bear? Hunted by a tiger? You know this one, trust me.
Initial Thoughts: Walking out of the theater I was blown away by how amazing the film looked. CGI has come such a long way and the worlds and creatures we can create with it feel more real than ever. I was also impressed by the ability of Neel Sethi, who played Mowgli, pretty much the only human character. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to act opposite digital characters, playing off of guys in blue suits and puppets.
Reflection: Look, The Jungle Book is beautiful and a great exploration of where movie making technology will go. It looked and sounded amazing, with great voice-acting and performances, but it is all retread. Though there is some slight reimagining of the original film and additions made, there isn’t quite enough to set it apart or make me choose this new version over the original. If you want to see something beautiful, check this film out but don’t expect it to stick with you like some of the more classic Disney feature films.
If you love voice-acting and glimpses behind the scenes, make sure to check out this video to see the making of this film.
Released: April 29, 2016 | Director: Peter Atencio
Synopsis: Two friends come across a cat, Keanu, that belongs to some real badasses and end up getting confused for those badasses. Shit goes down, hilarity ensues.
Initial Thoughts: You ever watch a comedy sketch go on way too long? This is what this movie felt like. It wasn’t awful, there were definitely some laugh out loud moments, but this one could have stayed in the oven a bit longer.
Reflection: I have to be real… I completely forgot I watched this movie.
This is oddly timely, but there were some fantastic bits focused on George Michael in the film.
Excuse the poor quality on this last one, but this is easily one of the best parts:
So have you seen these films? Am I wrong about Deadpool being overrated? Is BvS better than everyone gives it credit for? Is Keanu actually comic gold? I’d love to hear your thoughts, hit me up here or on social media!