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Greetings, everyone! Well, we’re rounding out the year of 2016 tonight and entering the year of 2017. And it’s that time of year when film critics/fanatics discuss the best and the worst of the year. Unfortunately, though, I have not seen enough films to make two separate lists. So instead, I’m just going to discuss the most noteworthy films of the year by breaking it up into different categories, such Best Movie Overall, Worst Movie Overall, Best Musical Score, Most Disappointing Movie, Most Underrated Move, etc. Think of it as my version of the Academy Awards, except with more categories. With that said, let’s get started!

Best Movie Overall:

Zootopia (dir. Byron Howard and Rich Moore)

Okay, I’m gonna be very honest. When I saw the first teaser and poster for Zootopia, I was a little skeptical. Not that it looked like it was gonna be a complete trainwreck, but it just didn’t look like my thing. Well, suffice it to say, it totally won me over. Not only because of its characters, animation, and comedy, but also because of how it pulled the rug out from under the audience with a relevant message about tolerance, racism, and prejudice (which is unfortunately very necessary now that the Donald has made it to presidency). But that’s not the only reason that I rank this film so high. Without this film, I might not have started the 433 Films blog (formerly known as Elijah’s Film Corner), because that first article I wrote got so many readers and even a thumbs-up from Rich Moore himself. So, lo and behold, this blog was born. So, thanks Zootopia! Here’s hoping for a sequel!

Worst Movie Overall:

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (dir. Zack Snyder)

For the past couple of years, I had been struggling with my feelings about Man of Steel. And this year, I finally came to the personal conclusion that I don’t think it’s an awful film or a complete disaster. It’s just not particularly good, which was a huge letdown because of how awesome and even somewhat spiritual those three trailers were. The dialogue is very preachy, the story just sort of meanders aimlessly, way too much time is spent on Krypton, and they managed to turn Superman, the ultimate symbol of hope aside from Jesus, into a brooding Batman wannabe. But, the film also has enough things in its favor – i.e. the Kryptonian visual style, Cavill’s acting ability, the action scenes – so that a better sequel could be made from it. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is everything I didn’t like about Man of Steel amplified to eleven. The dialogue is even more preachy, they still haven’t allowed Henry Cavill to use his natural charisma that made The Man from U.N.C.L.E so enjoyable, and Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor might be the goofiest comic book villain we’ve seen in a while (seriously, he’s so unintentionally hilarious, it almost makes the whole film worth it). Fortunately, though, the film isn’t without its positive elements. Snyder’s signature visual style is more present, Ben Affleck makes an awesome Batman, Gal Gadot shows great potential as Wonder Woman, and Jeremy Irons is deliciously dry and funny as Alfred. But for me, those positive elements weren’t enough to save the film. Let’s hope the DC Extended Universe can make up for it with Wonder Woman this June!

Best Musical Track:

“Witch’s Coven” from The VVitch (composed by Mark Korven)

Full disclosure, folks: I have not seen The VVitch in its entirety, nor do I intend to do so. My reasons stem from personal issues which I don’t wish to discuss. However, the one thing about this film that I feel like I can endorse fully is the music by Mark Korven. I like how minimalist and subdued it is, especially for a horror film. However, the track that most gives me the chills is the final track, “Witch’s Coven”, which plays at the film’s ending. This track is nothing more than the percussive hitting of bows against stringed instruments and female vocalists chanting an invocation of Satan’s powers (this detail should give you a hint as to why I will not watch this film). The music very much reminiscent of Krzysztof Penderecki’s music, specifically Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, mixed in with a dash of Gyrogi Ligeti’s Requiem for good measure. It truly makes you feel like you’re in a nightmarish atmosphere from which there is no escape. Just make sure you listen to something lighthearted afterwards to take some of the edge off.

Most Underrated Film

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (dir. Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone)

Sometimes, the old adage “keep it simple, stupid” is all you need to make a good film. This is a great example. Popstar is probably one of the better comedies of 2016…that virtually nobody went to go see. And that’s kind of a shame because this was a funny and entertaining film. It brilliantly satirized the crazy lifestyle and trends that occur in the music industry today. But aside from all the comedy and jokes, there’s also a relatable, heartfelt story about going back to your roots and not getting a big head once you hit the big time. What else can I say? Sometimes, less is more.

Most Disappointing Film (that’s not a DCEU film)

X-Men: Apocalypse (dir. Bryan Singer)

The X-Men franchise has been one of the most inconsistent film franchises ever, at least in terms of quality. Sometimes, you get a great film (X-Men: Days of Future Past), and sometimes you get a complete disaster (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). But both First Class and Days of Future Past gave me hope that we may start getting a more consistent line of good X-Men films. But, nope! Instead, we got the complete opposite. Now, I still stand by original statement that this is a fun movie, but my overall assessment of it has only decreased over the past few months. Oscar Isaac looks completely bored as Apocalypse, nothing of real consequence is achieved aside from Professor X turning bald, the new X-Men are either completely uninteresting or totally underdeveloped, and by the end, like I said, we’re still in the same place we were when the film started….

Sigh…but at least Logan looks good!

Film That was Most Fun

The Magnificent Seven (dir. Antoine Fuqua)

The original Magnificent Seven was really good, but not really all that different from any of the other Westerns that were coming out at that time. Which is why nobody really called foul when they announced a remake with Antoine Fuqua in the director’s chair. And…I’ll be danged if it doesn’t work spectacularly! Now, don’t get me wrong, folks. This is not really a classic in any sense of the word, but for something that didn’t need to exist, this is actually a lot of fun. The strength of this movie is the cast, which has been given a very welcome diversity boost with Denzel Washington as the leader. Chris Pratt was practically born to play a cowboy, Ethan Hawke does great as a PTSD-stricken former sniper, but in my opinion, it’s Vincent D’Onofrio who steals the show as the ultra-religious, detached Jack Horne. I had real fun with this movie and I suspect you will too. Check it out!

Film That was Least Fun

Suicide Squad (dir. David Ayer)

Under normal circumstances, I would have named this as the most disappointing film of the year. But after a bit of thought, I have come to the conclusion that this movie does know to have fun, unlike its DCEU predecessor Batman v Superman. What really drags it down, though, is some very clunky editing, the worst live-action Joker in the history of Batman, and some very underdeveloped characters. What really confused me about this, however, is the ending when characters like Harley Quinn and El Diablo are talking about family, loyalty, and friendship. But this falls apart for two reasons: 1. They barely know each other, and 2., they’re SUPERVILLAINS!!! They shouldn’t be talking about friendship and stuff like that. Despite all that, there are some good performances (particularly out of Will Smith, Viola Davis, Jay Hernandez, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnamen, and Jai Courtenay), and the film is just laid back enough to where I can say that I had some fun with it. But, it still did leave me with concerns as to whether or not those at Warner Bros. even know what they’re doing anymore with the DCEU.

Best Superhero Film

Captain America: Civil War (dir. Joe and Anthony Russo)

Man, have there been a lot of superhero movies this year! And many of them were actually pretty darn good. But the one that stood out the most to me was Captain America: Civil War. This film actually took a pretty big risk by having the superheroes go up against each other rather instead of a larger-than-life antagonist. This makes for some thrilling tension, and possibly one of the best action scenes in any Marvel movie. But this film is also thematically riveting as well. We as the audience both empathize with Tony Stark/Iron Man and Steve Rogers/Captain America, but we also acknowledge that neither is completely in the right. And like I said before, it makes for some great tension. Also, I would be remiss to not mention this film’s portrayal of Black Panther, which was amazing! Chadwick Boseman carries himself with the correct amount of regality, but also does well when it’s time for him to suit up. I can’t wait for his film! And Tom Holland does awesome as the MCU’s version of Spider-Man. To say that he’s the best live-action Spider-Man is fairly hyperbolic, considering that we haven’t seen him carry a film on his own. Also because I still personally view Tobey Maguire as the best Spider-Man. But he definitely has potential to be a very good Spider-Man. Here’s hoping he fulfills it! So, yeah, this film was pretty awesome!

And now for the last category…

The Biggest Surprise of the Year

The Jungle Book (dir. Jon Favreau)

Well, this came out of nowhere. Granted, when I heard about this film project, I was hyped, but also sort of cautious. Because I didn’t know if they would just be retreading the original Disney film beat for beat, or if the effects would look too fake, or if Neel Sethi could hold his own against a CGI cast, or…yeah, there was a fair amount going against this movie. But, it succeeded! I think the biggest advantage this film had was that the original 1967 film had a fairly thin plot, so the filmmakers were free to add more elements, but not so many that it would detract from the spirit of the original. So, they decided to add some elements from the Kipling stories, while also darkening the film a bit to Lion King levels (huh…maybe that’s why they chose Favreau for this new TLK remake). All these elements make for an engaging, fun, uplifting film. All the actors do a great job, the standouts being Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, and Christopher Walken. The musical score is great at being its own thing while also paying homage to the George Bruns score from 1967, and I like how they handled “Bare Necessities”. What else can I say? This movie’s awesome and I can’t wait for the sequel!

So, there is my summation of 2016 at the movies! Here’s hoping for a fantastic year in 2017! Happy New Year, everyone!

Again, if you liked this article, visit my blog 433 Films (!

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