Alright everyone! Now that we’ve had our fun with the GOOD list, it’s time to put on some work pants as we start wading through the unimaginable dreck that was yet another “fun” aspect of the abysmal year that we all had to suffer through. You know what though? Most of us made it through to the other side, so if looking back at the year that couldn’t beat us and having a laugh (or one last bitter tirade) at the pathetic excuses for entertainment that made daily life just a little bit worse, well I think we all deserved it, don’t you?
Anyway, let’s not beat around the bush any longer! WE’RE DIVING RIGHT IN!!
Dishonorable Mentions: Death Note & Bright
Since I didn’t even bother trying to watch another Adam Sandler movie this year, this dubious distinction goes to two OTHER Netflix features; albeit it for very different reasons. The truth of the matter is, I didn’t particularly mind either of these films as I think they had some good ideas buried within their mediocre (and cheap looking) execution with Death Note having an interestingly different take on its main character (a whiny little punk with issues of inadequacy instead a megalomaniacal genius) and Bright having an ALRIGHT set up for what is essentially a weaker version of 16 Blocks. That said… yeah, these films are REALLY flawed and in glaringly offensive ways. As much as I like the idea of taking some of the pomp and circumstance out of Death Note and reframing Light Yagami to be a less foreboding figure, I don’t see why that necessitated him to be white since they never play with that change in his identity within the text of the film. There could have been a component of White Privilege to the story (especially with L being black), but that seems to have never been the intent on the part of the filmmakers who simply seemed to associate AMERICAN REMAKE with WHITE AS DEFAULT. Similarly, the half-baked and ham fisted social commentary in the script for Bright creates one of the most cringe inducing screenplays of the year which has Orcs standing in for Black People in a world that still has Black People, and it even finds an excuse to get Will Smith to say “Fairy Lives Don’t Matter” before beating said fairy to death. Sure, the movie picks up once it gets away from its proudly ignorant views on race and becomes a straight up chase film with Will Smith and Joel Edgerton (who’s under a decent enough make up job), but that’s hardly enough to excuse everything that it gets wrong in the process. Now I don’t want this to come across as Netflix bashing because they DO put out quite a bit of decent content as I’ve heard good things about First They Killed My Father, Beast of No Nation, even The Babysitter, and while it wasn’t my favorite King Adaptation this year I thought Gerald’s Game was pretty good too. That said, they’ve had quite a few stumbles over the years, pretty much starting with their awful Adam Sandler deal, and these two movies are just further examples of their awkward steps towards becoming a media empire of their own; something they’ll need to keep working on now that Disney is gonna own everything else in the world and will eventually come out with their own streaming service to try and crush them. If Netflix wants a chance to survive the Disney/Fox merger, they’ll need to avoid having clunkers like this clogging up their service.
Hark! Is it that time of year again!? Yes, it is time for the film critics to have their yearly ritual of ranking the films we saw in order of how much (or how little) venom we can summon up for it, and while I would love NOTHING more than to get this crap-tastic year over with and race towards the future, we can at least afford one more look in the rear view mirror before leaving it all behind. Also, it’s worth pointing out that I didn’t get a chance to see all the movies that came out this year like The Florida Project, and there were films that I couldn’t have seen even if I wanted to like The Post, Phantom Thread, and I, Tonya, due to them getting extremely limited releases in the last weeks of the year. If the studios can’t be bothered to let me see the movie, then I can’t be bothered to wait several weeks to finish up this list. This is a 2017 list, so I’m finishing it in 2017!
Sure! Let’s start this off with a pairing so disparate that it’s likely to cause whiplash! Then again, it’s a probably a good indication of what to expect from the rest of the list as I try to find room for a little bit of everything… and by everything I mean legitimately good movies that everyone likes and amazing B movies that only I seem to like. The Big Sick was one of the better comedies of the year as I’m sure it’s been mentioned on several best of the year lists other than this one, and rightfully so! It didn’t quite make my top ten due to a bit of shaky structuring (time is a bit elusive in it) and the fact that it’s hard to overlook how much of this story is coming from only one viewpoint within it (being written by Nanjiani and Gordon who DID end up working out, it feels a BIT antagonist towards his parents who are drawn more broadly than hers are in the telling of this story), but there’s genuine heart in the way that Nanjiani is trying to navigate such an awkward situation where the right thing to do is kind of murky and his feelings about it all are even more so. It’s a situation, like many in life, that could have ended VERY badly for everyone involved but Nanjiani and Gordon’s script is smart enough to walk that line between genuinely trying to express one’s feelings for someone and having a character realize when that’s not enough and when they need to walk away. It ended up working out for these two but only after Nanjiani left her to live her life and to make her own choices which is certainly a worthwhile lesson for many of us to learn and for Hollywood to pick up on considering how much the BIG ROMANTIC GESTURE is still a staple in so many so called romance films. Kidnap on the other hand… look, I just really had a lot of fun in it, alright!? I know it’s not going to be to EVERYONE’S taste (hence why it didn’t make the list) but it’s damn near perfect in being exactly what it wants to be. Calling something a NON-STOP ACTION THRILLER is about the most hack bit of marketing imaginable, but in this case it’s quite literally true and the film’s greatest asset. Halle Berry is chasing after the people who have kidnapped her son and she can’t stop moving. She can’t lose focus, can’t lose momentum, otherwise she’ll lose everything; and she knows that. Yes it’s over the top and barely makes any sense (there’s maybe three cops in the ENTIRE state) but the tension is there and if you’re willing to get behind its rather ludicrous concept you’ll surely stay engaged all the way to the bloody end of her bloody quest to save her son. Yeah, it’s goofy and has a few less than stellar editing shortcuts (why do they keep reminding us how low on gas she is when she NEVER RUNS OUT OF GAS!?), but they did a lot with what they had to work with which is often the sign of a great film more so than a film with many more resources not taking full advantage of them. Not a bad double feature if you ask me!
Aqua Teen Hunger Force and all the images you see in this editorial are the property of Adult Swim
If you were growing up right at the turn of the millennium, Cartoon Network was probably as influential to you and your taste in entertainment as YouTube is to everyone else nowadays. The ingenious thing about that network is how seamlessly it managed to keep its audience intact for YEARS after you’d think they’d drop off simply for having such good transitional programming for those who were getting older. It started with Toonami which brought anime and somewhat serious drama for those who were getting tired of silly stuff that the likes of Gendy Tartakovsky, Craig McCracken, and Maxwell Atoms were churning out (not to say those shows weren’t substantive; just that tweens aren’t exactly looking to those kind of shows to feel grown up), and then it led seamlessly to Adult Swim which had the naughty shows on that you craved when you were getting old enough to stay up that late. The greatness of Adult Swim and its monumental effect on animation really cannot be underestimated, and while it’s shine has faded somewhat in recent years, we’re gonna reach a point where it’ll end up with a whole generation of animators inspired by those shows the same way that many of the creators OF those shows were inspired by Warner Bros, the Fleischers, or even Ralph Bakshi. I really could go on about Adult Swim and so many of its shows, but today we’re talking about probably its most enduring creatin; Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Now sure it wasn’t among the FIRST run of series for Adult Swim (it’s somewhat a spinoff of Space Ghost Coast to Coast), it’s one of the shows that gave the programming block its identity and made it a cultural phenomenon. In fact, it’s such a massive series with so many great episodes under its belt that I couldn’t simply make a list of the ten best episodes of the series! No, I had to do TWENTY, and we’re gonna start with the first half that list right now!!
20) Bible Fruit – S5 E9
Frylock makes some new friends online and invites them over to the Aqua Teen house. When they arrive however, he is surprised to learn that not only are they fruits but that they have a dark past that they are trying (and failing) to overcome.
What better way to start this off than with the most disturbing fruit since those Claymation California Raisins? In an episode that’s actually quite ahead of its time considering Sausage Party wouldn’t come out for another eight years, this hilarious and often unsettling episode looks at three fruits compensating for their problems with drugs and alcohol by having faith in a higher power. Now the big guest star here is David Cross (along with Kristen Schaal and H Jon Benjamin) under the pseudonym Sir Willups Brightsly Moore who previously had a guest spot all the way back in season one as Happy Time Harry in the episode Dumber Dolls. While that episode is really good and was just barely cut from this list, I feel that Cross’s performance as Bert Banana in this one is by far the better of the two. He may have done a great job as that sad and useless piece of shit Happy Time Harry in Dumber Dolls, but the character didn’t have much depth to him and so Cross’s performance is somewhat one note. Here, he’s given SO much more material to work with as someone TRYING to hold it together but is quick to succumb to his worst instincts. Now I’m not sure if Cross himself has a history of alcohol dependence (his first book is called I Drink for a Reason which may just be titled that way for a goof), but his feelings on religion have been made VERY clear in his standup comedy and it almost feels like the role was written with him in mind because of that. It may not be for everyone as making light of people with SERIOUS addition is not the kind of humor that everyone can enjoy, but it’s easily one of the best episodes with a prominent guest star and manages to find that right balance between tragedy and hilarity.
“I did THREE of those God Damn chipmunk movies! I’VE EARNED THIS, right Mr. Wrench!?” “That’s right Mr. Banana!!” “Burt, you’re talking to yourself again.” “You know what will help with that?” “Is it booze-” “GET THE BOOZE!!”
Alright, well we got through all the GOOD stuff, so now it’s time to remember 2016 the way it SHOULD be; as one never ending nightmare of awfulness and broken dreams. There were no shortage of bad films this year which admittedly is true of ANY year, but the yearly ritual of remembering the worst of the worst must be maintained, and so I present the worst of what I had to sit through in the hopes that I can spare some of you the anguish that these films have caused me. Well there’s no point in dragging it out. Let’s get this over with.
Dishonorable Mention: The Do-Over
How bad is this movie? It is so blisteringly awful that I couldn’t even finish the damn thing. At one point (when I was truly naïve), I had decided to review all four of the Adam Sandler Netflix films as they came out and I managed to get through The Ridiculous 6 mostly unscathed. This proved to be quite the fool’s errand however as the film they did AFTER that is so much worse. I’ve got two thousand words already written about the movie, and I just abandoned that shit when we got to the part where Adam Sandler was fucking a blow up doll for no reason. I managed to see MAYBE ten minutes or so after that where David Spade was creepily (and successfully) macking on the window of the guy who’s identity he stole before realizing that there’s no way in hell I’m finishing the rest of this even for the purposes of a review. Neither of the main actors, Adam Sandler and David Spade, give the smallest of shits about this movie (the latter is straight up smiling during an emotionally distressing moment), the film is shot like a REALLY bad porno (Stormy Daniels is clearly a far better director than Steven Brill considering how flat and under lit everything is in here), and the film is just so unbearably mean spirited without the tiniest bit of legitimate humor to back it up… unless of course you think that Luis Luis Guzmán’s ball sweat dripping on David Spade’s forehead is the height of comic genius. Adam Sandler is just going to continue regressing further and further into his own comfort zone; not unlike someone else on this list, but we’ll get to them soon enough. Look, everyone knows better by this point than to take Adam Sandler seriously ever again, so you don’t need me to tell you that he’s made another crappy movie. If you’ve already managed to avoid this one, then keep on doing so; especially considering how much great content Netflix produces that you can be watching instead of this garbage fire from a bunch of lazy hacks.
So who else is ready for this year to be over? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who felt that things got pretty rough over the last twelve months, but we’ll get to the Bad list soon enough. For now, let’s try to focus on the things that were GOOD about 2016; namely the movies that you all should have gone out to see when they were still in theaters. Unlike last year, I did manage to see quite a bit more movies which has led to a somewhat more well-rounded list, even if you can probably guess which genres got a lot of love from me this year.
Without further ado, LET’S START COUNTING!!
Honorable Mention: Skiptrace
Now last year I needed an extra spot just to fit an indie film on my list as most of what my local theater got was just the mainstream fare and therefore those kinds of films completely dominated my Best Of list. This time I actually went through the effort of seeing the smaller stuff, and while most of them still didn’t make it on my list, at least there’s SOME representation this time around to help fill things out. Because of that, I figured I’d be less serious with my unofficial eleven spot and would choose a movie that wasn’t exactly GOOD but a hell of a lot of fun. It was a tossup between Skiptrace and Huntsman: Winter’s War, but I’m gonna give it to the Jackie Chan flick just out of sheer nostalgia. It’s a Renny Harlin action comedy starring Jackie Chan and Johnny Knoxville; basically making this the greatest thing imaginable for the ONE GUY out there that loves Jackie Chan buddy films but also thinks that Die Hard 2 is the best in the series and that Johnny Knoxville is an underrated actor. So basically it was made for me and no one else (Die Hard 2 is criminally underrated). Look, this movie is really sloppy, especially on the production side (why the hell is Jackie Chan subbed, dubbed, and ACTUALLY speaking English all in the same movie!?), but it’s got so many joyful and delightfully stupid moments like Johnny Knoxville being rolled down a hill in a garbage can or Jackie Chan getting in a fist fight while using a Russian Nesting Doll as a shield that it makes up for the cliché ridden script and lack of any real structure. Even the stuff that’s straight up incompetent is hilarious like how the script puts these two on a train for no other reason than to jump off of it two minutes later, or how a woman gets shot three times and there’s ZERO blood to show for it. It all adds to the goofy charm that makes it hard to stop watching even knowing just how bad the plot is that revolves around Jackie and Johnny needing to cross all of China looking for a damn cell phone charger. In the end, none of that ends up mattering all that much when you’ve got Johnny Knoxville trying to dodge bowling balls or when we get to see drunk ass Jackie Chan singing Rolling in the Deep while hanging out in a Mongolian village. If you’re looking for something incredibly silly and nonsensical with just enough sincerity and heart to avoid coming off as too cynically made just on Jackie’s star power, then you’ll definitely have a good time here. Also, if you like watching Johnny Knoxville get the crap beat out of him because that happens constantly!