The Year in Film: 2016

I look forward to summer movies every year the way I used to be madly giddy with excitement for Christmas Eve as a young boy. It holds true that, when it comes to movies, the early months of the year are “spring cleaning” for studios, the summer months are the fun rides at the cineplex and the “important,” Oscar-courting movies open at year’s end. This year had possibly the lousiest crop of summer movies I’ve ever suffered through. For months, I was depressed by how many letdowns there were and how the best of the lot were “average” at best. Thankfully, a few gems slipped through the cracks  (literally, in the case of the ta-dah marketing of “10 Cloverfield Lane”) and the closing months of 2016 were stacked high with great movies. Here’s a final nod to the masterpieces, the disasters and the painfully average movies in between.

Ten Best:

  1. Silence– As the end credits of “Silence” began to unfold on the massive screen at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, I sat in my seat, drained and unable to move. My buddy Brad asked if I was going to sit through the end credits and I told him I usually did. Truthfully, I was in no shape to get up and leave. When I finally got to my car, I sat and wept for moment before I was able to drive home. There has never been a movie like Martin Scorsese’s “Silence.” The last time a film left me this numb and moved was probably “Requiem For A Dream.” With his latest, Scorsese is taking risks you never see in mainstream American movies. “Silence” is nearly three hours long, centers on how much one can sacrifice for their faith and is punishingly violent. Some won’t make it to the end but Scorsese’s film is ultimately rewarding, engrossing and deeply thought provoking. The level of filmmaking and acting is exemplary but it’s the challenging subject matter and Scorsese’s unflinching depiction that will resonate.
  2. Nocturnal Animals– Tom Ford’s taunting, fearless thriller is a rewarding deconstruction of masculinity.
  3. Knight of Cups– Terrence Malick’s playful, poetic and ravishing Hollywood drama is full of wonders.
  4. Moonlight– Barry Jenkin’s drama came out of nowhere and is a richly accomplished and surprising.
  5. 10 Cloverfield Lane– This early ’16 surprise is more audacious than every single 2016 summer movie.
  6. Fences– As an actor and director, this is one of Denzel Washington’s career milestones.
  7. De Palma– Movie fans will relish this eventful, no-holds-barred interview with Brian De Palma.
  8. The Little Prince– Criminally little seen but a lovely, funny CGI fantasy about embracing childhood.
  9. Everybody Wants Some!!– Richard Linklater’s worthy “Dazed and Confused” companion is a charmer.
  10. Midnight Special– Jeff Nichols’ mysterious and stunning sci-fi drama is even better than his “Loving.”

(Runners Up: The Magnificent Seven, Snowden, A Monster Calls, Kubo and the Two Strings, and 20th Century Woman)

Ten Worst:

  1. Suicide Squad– The worst thing about it isn’t the incomprehensible plotting, wretched editing, clunky direction, desperate soundtrack, unfocused performances or the obviously tinkered with, work-in-progress tone. What really stings is that “Suicide Squad” has genuine contempt for its audience, who spent $300 million on it anyway.
  2. Fifty Shades of Black– A ripe idea for parody is botched in this terrible spoof.
  3. Mother’s Day– Hideous, just hideous. Impossible to pick the worst scene. Just skip it.
  4. Hardcore Henry– A great gimmick became an obnoxious, hard-to-watch waste of time.
  5. Trolls– Aims to fat-shame children and Justin Timberlake doesn’t even sing until the very end!
  6. The Lobster– Many loved this ugly art movie but I thought it was a tedious endurance test.
  7. The Young Messiah– Lifeless adaptation of Anne Rice’s intriguing novel is a limp, non-event.
  8. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2– Plays like a bad sitcom minus the laugh track. This franchise is pau.
  9. The Legend of Tarzan– Choppy editing, auto-pilot performances eclipse the noteworthy CGI animals.
  10. Yoga Hosers– Moments of inspiration aren’t enough to save Kevin Smith’s dreadful Canadian assault.


Subpar Sequels:

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Blair Witch

Finding Dory

The Huntsman: Winter’s War


Jack Reacher: Never Look Back

Jason Bourne

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Now You See Me 2

Ride Along 2

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Zoolander 2


Great Sequels:

Barbershop: The Next Cut

The Conjuring 2

Ouija: Origin of Evil


Big Disappointments:


Cafe Society


The Girl On the Train



Love and Friendship

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

Miss Sloane




Movies I forgot I even went to in 2016:

The Boy

The Divergent Series: Allegiant

The 5th Wave

The Forest

Money Monster


13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Triple 9


Good but Seriously Overrated:

Captain America: Civil Wars

Captain Fantastic

Finding Dory

Green Room

La La Land


Rogue One

Sing Street


Simply  Fun:

Doctor Strange

The Jungle Book

Lights Out


Star Trek Beyond

X-Men: Apocalypse



The Edge of Seventeen

The Nice Guys

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping


Deserves a Second Chance:

The Birth of a Nation

Rules Don’t Apply


Great Movies That Few Actually Saw or Even Heard Of:


The Invitation

Jane Got A Gun

Little Men


Nice Surprises:

The Angry Birds Movie


Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Pete’s Dragon


Guilty Pleasure/Camp Classics:

Central Intelligence

Independence Day: Resurgence

London Has Fallen


Proof that Sci-Fi Can Be Smart:



…On the Other Hand:

Independence Day: Resurgence


Guaranteed a Cult Following:

The Neon Demon

Phantasm: Ravager

The Witch


Great Documentaries:

Amanda Knox

Life Animated

O.J. Made in America               

Shorebreak: The Clark Little Story



Art House Films worth catching:

The Handmaiden

Hello, My Name is Doris

Hunt For the Wilderpeople


The Music of Strangers


Best Animal Performance:

“Marvin” (Bulldog), Paterson

“Old Bill” (Goat), The Witch


Best Opening Credits:

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

(runner up: Nocturnal Animals)


Best Poster:

Boo! A Madea Halloween