2016's best and worst movies so far from 'Captain America: Civil War' to 'Independence Day: Resurgence'
Clockwise from top: Jennifer Aniston in "Mother's Day." Ryan Reynolds in "Deadpool," Chris Evans in "Captain America: Civil War," and Ben Stiller & Owen Wilson in "Zoolander 2."
The ebb and flow of box office for Hollywood movies is stunning this year. Records are being set one weekend; then big-budget movies that are supposed to crush it the next weekend are in crash-and-burn mode.
Some critical darlings, such as Shane Black’s star-driven crime comedy The Nice Guys, could not find an audience. Yet millions of superhero fans went to see Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman, despite the movie’s widespread critical pans.
Among studios, it pays (big-time) to be Walt Disney Studios right now. Disney released all three of the top box office champs in the world so far: Captain America: Civil War ($1.1 billion), Zootopia ($1 billion) and The Jungle Book ($930 million).
Of course, the same studio also took a hit when Alice Through the Looking Glass bombed worldwide with $249 million, a stinker given its $170 million budget and the $1 billion-plus that Tim Burton’s original Alice in Wonderland made in 2010.
There are plenty of big titles yet to come, and an entire fall season of potential Oscar contenders. But we decided to take a look now at the best and worst of 2016, so far. Critics Bruce Kirkland, Liz Braun and Jim Slotek offer their idiosyncratic lists:
1 — ZOOTOPIA: Disney’s mega-hit animation is not just inventive, gorgeous and artistically impressive, it actually is about something and delivers its story with sophistication. So, while this movie may be about anthropomorphic animals and focused on a naive bunny and a conman fox, it is also socially and politically relevant. Amazing!
2 — CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR: Marvel was beginning to stagnate, along with the whole superhero universe. But this great adventure thriller from the Russo Brothers rejuvenated the genre at just the right time. Packed with iconic characters, it sorts them out, stages an internal battle and emerges triumphant.
3 — DEMOLITION: Jean-Marc Vallee’s latest Hollywood drama may not appeal to all comers. But it is still a brilliant deconstruction/reconstruction of a man’s damaged life following a tragedy. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a superbly orchestrated performance.
4 — THE NICE GUYS: Shane Black rocks it in the crime caper comedy world. Too bad that audiences did not respond to the marketing campaign for his gonzo film, despite a Russell Crowe/Ryan Gosling pairing as the misfit private dicks investigating a murder conspiracy.
5 — THE JUNGLE BOOK: Jon Favreau impresses me again. Not only is he adept at small-scale, personal films like the delicious Chef, he can dazzle with his big movies. Remaking the familiar wild-child jungle fantasy, Favreau employs beautiful CGI animals and landscapes to give his live-action Mowgli a rich, hyper-real environment to play in.
1 — BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE: Technically, this is not the worst film of the year to date. But it is the biggest disappointment. Zack Snyder puts in brilliant bits, but fails spectacularly overall because the movie is murky, disjointed and ultimately ridiculous.
2 — ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS: With James Bobin taking over from Tim Burton, the magic of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland is lost. Even Johnny Depp, as the Mad Hatter, is missing his mojo.
3 — ZOOLANDER 2: The original was funny in 2001, with idiot savants played by Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson giving us the giggles. This unnecessary sequel is not. So what exactly is the point of ruining our fond memories?
4 — PRECIOUS CARGO: Bruce Willis, who plays a ruthless crime boss here, is wretched. How the high-and-mighty has fallen!
5 — THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR/THE 5TH WAVE: Two equally bad movies, one big pile of crap. Winter’s War is just a deadly boring sequel, while The 5th Wave is an alien invasion “thriller” that is more of a disaster for Planet Hollywood than it is for Planet Earth.
1 — CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR: The best Avengers movie not called Avengers. Nearly all your favourite Marvel heroes fight, which was a common theme going back to the ‘60s comics. Not much more to it than that – nor does there need to be.
2 — DEADPOOL: What superhero movies should be, unencumbered by FX, aware of their own ridiculousness, fast-moving, rude and trenchantly funny.
3 — THE JUNGLE BOOK: A worthy successor to Disney’s 2D animated classic, Jon Favreau’s cutting-edge motion-capture version (think of the bear in The Revenant, now think of an entire movie) is a feast for the eyes, and tells the Kipling story evocatively.
4 — EVERYBODY WANTS SOME: It’s a Richard Linklater film, so yeah, people kind of meander through it. But this film, about a college athlete’s first weekend in a Texas school circa 1980, has booze, drugs, sexual misadventure and not a mean bone in its body.
5 — A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING: While not exactly faithful to the Dave Eggers novel, there hasn’t been a Tom Hanks movie so firmly in his wheelhouse for years. Kind of like Death Of A Digital Salesman, this story of an American's frustrating trying to sell technology to the Saudis rides on Hanks’ ability to convey quiet suffering and perseverance and turn it into absurdist comedy.
1 — ALLEGIANT: I’m getting a headache just trying to remember what these movies are about. Outside the post-Apocalyptic Chicago is a futuristic, I don’t know, domed suburb? Whatever the plot-twist the narrative is, “Fight. Save Shailene Woodley. Theo James and Woodley kiss. Repeat.”
2 — MOTHER’S DAY: I love Garry Marshall. I hate his cheesy “holiday romance” films (although Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve look like masterpieces by comparison). Nobody in this triptych of improbable romances/dramas acts like they believe a word they’re saying – not Jennifer Aniston, not Kate Hudson and especially not Julia Roberts.
3 — I SAW THE LIGHT: Yeah, Tom Hiddleston can play anybody, even the Bard of Alabama, Hank Williams. Too bad there’s a remarkably lousy movie around his performance.
4 — THE CHOICE: If The Notebook was the apex of Nicholas Sparks’ oeuvre of soppy romance, this one might be the most inadvertently laughable, with a veterinarian and an intern “meeting cute,” kinda, sorta, keeping their distance, getting together, tragedy striking, and a totally misleading title.
5 — THE FOREST: Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer has so little to go on playing twins in this confused horror movie about Japan’s “suicide forest” that they go the Betty & Veronica route, brunette and blonde. A handful of jump-at-you scares from the cutting room floor of The Ring and the unanswered question, why the heck would someone camp in a suicide forest?
1 — DEADPOOL: Ryan Reynolds has created a special niche in the superhero genre — something clever and worth seeing. Blackly funny, grown-up fare.
2 — THE WITCH: Women as the root of all evil plays out in this beautifully executed story set in the 17th century. Wonderfully disturbing fairy tale.
3 — LOVE & FRIENDSHIP: Whit Stillman brings Jane Austen (Lady Susan) to the screen with the help of Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, and the results are terrific. Funny and surprisingly contemporary.
4 — A BIGGER SPLASH: A comedy that turns into a thriller, with Tilda Swinton as a rock star, Matthias Schoenaerts as her boyfriend, Ralph Fiennes as her manic ex-boyfriend and Dakota Johnson as a seductive young newcomer. Death-defying performances from everyone involved.
5 — CAPTAIN FANTASTIC: Viggo Mortensen stars as the hippie father of six brilliant, entirely self-sufficient children he has raised in the wilderness. Circumstances force him to bring them into the ‘civilized’ world. This just opened in a few places, so watch for it soon in your town.
1 — INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE: The two minutes of cool visual effects as the world gets blown up are not worth the two hours of exposition-heavy talking. And talking and talking. And over-plotting.
2 — MOTHER’S DAY: Huge, all-star cast; no script. Let’s call this romantic comedy the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible.
3 — DIRTY GRANDPA: Seemingly written by two 12-year-old boys, this sex farce is the true nadir of Robert De Niro’s career.
And Zac Efron’s.
4 — THE CHOICE: A huge, saccharine romance and a giant Hallmark card that just won’t stop.
5 — ZOOLANDER 2: Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson were hilarious in the original movie, which means your disappointment at this lacklustre, laugh-free sequel makes everything worse.