December 2016 in Review

Another year has left us behind, and it remained as film filled for me as usual. I managed to get a number of festive films watched, as well as a great deal of 2016's releases, and managed to complete my 52 Films Directed By Women challenge. As the releases of 2017 loom upon us, let's look back and see what were the last few films I viewed over 2016.

The Mermaid (2016) - 4/5 - For his latest picture, Stephen Chow delivers an aquatic romance tale, helped by the actual sweetness of said love story. It also carries a nice environmental message, even if it can be delivered heavy handed at times. A great deal of cartoonish comedy is embodied, akin to that of Chow's former works, Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. However, the biggest problem lies in the unfortunate effects work, which is in need of much touching up, proving rather glaring in their fakeness.

13th - 5/5 - For her latest feature, Ava DuVernay grippingly tackles how slavery has never truly left, but merely been repackaged under the 13th amendment. The multiple laws passed which have served to target those who are poor and black are explored, and frankly, the proceedings which unfold in this relevant documentary are both stunning and heartbreaking. This is a film one won't easily forget.

Justice League: The New Frontier - 3.5/5 - This DC Original Movie inhabits the spirit of the Golden Age comics, as we witness these heroes come together in the 1950s to stop a coming threat. It's a forgettable and poorly defined threat whose name escapes me, really deserving of more screentime to help things. In fact, more screentime could've been utilised in many places, as many heroes are deserving of having their stories expanded upon, as opposed to small hints some of them get. Heavy hitters of the DC Universe like Superman and Wonder Woman are lacking in many places, as they suddenly exit the story for considerable amounts of time. But it can't be denied how fun the picture is, and the stories of Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter are honestly well done.

A Monster Calls - 4/5 - Juan Antonio Bayona delivers a heartbreaking tale about accepting grim realities, which proves emotionally moving. It's a visually stunning display, and played powerfully by the cast of actors, especially the young Lewis MacDougall, and the wonderful Felicity Jones. A couple of moments do feel contrived, particularly the subplot involving bullies, but it remains a tale that will stay with you. And Liam Neeson is a fantastic Monster.

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Best film of the month and Best film
watched for the first time: Singin' In The Rain

Elf [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - Taking off the nostalgia goggles this time around, because that last act is really forced and does not hold up well. The remainder of it, though, is a recipe for lovely festive cheer. Will Ferrell can coast by on "Shout until it's funny" types of comedy, but it works well here, as he portrays the wide eyed human that is Buddy the Elf, ready to spread the joys of Christmas.

Bad Santa 2 - 0.5/5 - A more depressing picture than Holocaust drama Son of Saul

Gremlins [rewatch] - 5/5 - Everytime I view this, I'm surprised once more by how brutal the proceedings can be. Maybe it's Gizmo throwing me off, proving all kinds of adorable, but the remainder of his Gremlin brethren can be nightmare inducing. Plus, where else will you see the antagonists singing along to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

The Heroes Of Evil - 1.5/5 - Zoe Berriatúa brings along some intriguing ideas for a story, but fails to have them materialise into anything substantial, or somewhat interesting. The trio of characters are given the most basic, underwritten characterization possible, while dull shock tactics are relied upon to carry the story.

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Best film seen in cinemas: Manchester By The Sea

National Lampoon's European Vacation - 2/5 - Director Amy Heckerling fails to inject the humour into this sequel. Instead, she delivers numerous moments lacking in any sort of believability, and a half baked thriller subplot to close things out. Lucky that the cast are up for whatever comes their way.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - A second viewing allows me to truly appreciate the adorable nature of The Niffler, as well as the fantastic performances by Ezra Miller and Samantha Morton. Tonal problems remain evident though.

Idiocracy - 3.5/5 - Mike Judge delivers a mildly funny satire on where society is going, which carries some frightening plausibility with it. 

Manchester By The Sea - 5/5 - Kenneth Lonergan delivers a powerful take on grief and the long lasting effects it holds, as his picture excels at the moments of heartbreaking, while somehow equally excelling in the hilarious moments. The cast manages to deftly deliver in their roles, with Casey Affleck proving the standout, in a quietly saddening, yet terrific manner. But with just one scene, Michelle Williams manages to prove it's far from just Afflecks show, putting forth a powerful portrayal that should not be forgotten throughout the awards circuit.

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Best film rewatched: The LEGO Movie

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - 4.5/5 - A fantastic return to a Galaxy far, far away. 

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation [rewatch] - 4/5 - Chevy Chase does a fantastic job leading this feel good festive favourite, proving a hilarious treat for holiday viewing. But Randy Quaid and the remainder of the cast shouldn't be forgotten, doing fantastic work with whatever time they each have on screen.

Ghost in the Shell (1995) - 4/5 - This influential animation does a magnificent job in delivering terrific visuals, alongside some truly thought provoking themes. But by the end of it, I can't say I cared for any of the characters, who all felt less than stellar. 

Undercover Brother [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Feeling down today, so a rewatch of this was warranted. It remains a sharp satire, fantastically written by John Ridley and utterly hilarious. Plus, Neil Patrick Harris is quite the scene stealer.

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Biggest Disappointment: The Heroes of Evil

Die Hard [rewatch] - 5/5 - The perfect festive film. At heart, we have a tale about a man attempt to reconcile with his wife over the holidays. Only with terrorists and explosions. 

Arthur Christmas - 4.5/5 - What Aardman animation have delivered here is nothing short of magnificent fun. A festive treat that hits all the right notes with wonderful animation, wonderful voice animation, feel good festivities, and pure hilarity. A real gem that I can't believe I've overlooked until now. 

Lilo & Stitch [rewatch] - 5/5 - "You came back"
"Nobody gets left behind"

Never fails to choke me up. 

Home Alone [rewatch] - 3.5/5 - Macaulay Culkin does good work as precocious child Kevin McAllister, fending off the Wet Bandits as the two attempt to murder one another. Sure, it's contrived as hell, not as funny as I once thought, and Kevin is merely the least awful one of his awful family, but it's rather enjoyable.

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Biggest Surprise: Arthur Christmas

The VVitch (2016) - 4.5/5 - For his directorial debut, Robert Eggers delivers a magnificent piece of horror which worms its way under ones skin. Delivering well crafted chills and thrills amidst an unsettling tone, helped by some powerful acting and not easily forgotten visuals, while exploring the nature of religious belief. Magnificent stuff. 

Our Kind of Traitor - 2.5/5 - Susanna White adapts the John Le Carre novel, delivering a well acted thriller that proves intriguing with its set up. Unfortunately, it manages to get delivered in a completely dull manner, especially when the focus turns to the couple at the centre of this film. Shame. 

Punch-Drunk Love - 3.5/5 - I have a feeling this is a film I'll appreciate more upon a second viewing. For now, it makes sense that Paul Thomas Anderson would help bring forth one of Adam Sandler's best performances, as he portrays the typical character we're used to seeing him as. An unlucky with love man with anger issues, only this time it's portrayed in a serious manner. He delivers tremendous emotional work, as Anderson crafts a bizarre tale which mostly comes together. 

Monster Trucks (2016) - 1.5/5 - Truly monstrous.

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Worst film of the month: Bad Santa 2

Other People - 4.5/5 - I don't think I'll hear Train's "Teardrops from Jupiter" in the same way again. Chris Kelly does one heck of a job in delivering an emotionally affecting tale, proving heartbreaking and rather hilarious, in a manner that feels real. Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon deliver unforgettable performances, which easily ranks among the years best. 

Singin' in the Rain - 5/5 - Viewed for the first time in memory of Debbie Reynolds and, my goodness, this film is everything I needed after hearing that heartbreaking piece of news. It's an absolutely perfect delivery of utter joy, magnificent chemistry, and toe-tappingly wonderful tunes. An outright masterpiece. 

The Intervention (2016) - 3.5/5 - And thus, I've completed the 52 Films Directed By Women challenge.

For her directorial debut, Clea DuVall does competent, if not unremarkable, work. It's fantastically acted, with the cast doing great work in showcasing their individual characters problems & evolving characters. Their honest conversations work well, but the attempts at humour never really land.

The LEGO Movie [rewatch] - 5/5 - After such an awful and death filled year, it's wonderful to close out the year with such an upbeat and masterful film for all to enjoy. Everything can truly be awesome.

The Final Girls [rewatch] - 4.5/5 - Oh, so I guess I'm ending the year on this film. Remains a wonderful love letter to 80's slasher flicks, while being whip-smart, hilarious, and heartbreaking. Plus, it gets all that horror stuff just right. 

Best film of the month: Singin' in the Rain 
Best film seen in cinemas: Manchester By The Sea 
Best film watched for the first time: Singing in the Rain 
Best film rewatched: The LEGO Movie
Biggest Disappointment: The Heroes Of Evil 
Biggest Surprise: Arthur Christmas 
Worst film of the month: Bad Santa 2 

Number of films watched: 29