James Bowman (jeb1981) wrote,
James Bowman

2016 in film

In theaters:

Captain America: Civil War (A)
Much better than the comic it was based on, thanks to the previous films doing a good job of setting the stage and their more believable, nuanced approach. The airport battle is of course the highlight of the film... as long as you ignore the fact that they shouldn't be fighting in the first place. (That final Cap-Tony fight, though, that's just brutal, not fun. And arguably better for it.) As for new characters, the new Spider-Man and especially Black Panther were excellent additions to the MCU, even if Spidey did seem a bit last-minute. This is definitely in the upper tier of Marvel films, and a welcome next step after the stumbling in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Star Trek Beyond (B)
In spite of the early trailers, this wound up being the most Star Trek-y of the reboot films thus far. The cast are clearly comfortable in their roles (with Karl Urban still the perfect McCoy). The tone reminded me of the 1990s Next Generation films, in a good sense. I also appreciated the nods to Enterprise, even if it's not a show I watched. Idris Elba was probably wasted as the villain, however (unless there's some interesting stuff that was cut).

Shin Godzilla (B+)
A terrific reboot of the franchise, reimagining Godzilla as a disaster movie (with clear inspiration from the tsunami and the Fukushima reactor crisis years ago). It's also a surprisingly political movie, very critical of Japanese bureaucracy; expressing serious uncertainty about the U.S., portrayed as both problem and solution; quietly feminist, with strong central female characters; and, uncomfortably, implicitly supportive of Japanese nationalist views. On the other hand, it has the most menacing version of Godzilla yet, a true abomination. Well worth seeing.

Doctor Strange (B)
A perfectly competent fantasy superhero film, comparable to last year's Ant-Man. The performances were solid, the plot was fine, the action scenes were exciting, and the special effects were spectacular (especially at the climax). I liked how Strange won in the end, a really surprising solution for a Hollywood blockbuster.

Rogue One (B)
The first two-thirds of this film feel kind of half-baked, unfortunately. The characters had potential, but they didn't do enough to make us care about them. The new settings were interesting, but not enough was done with them either. The final third, however, with the actual raid to steal the Death Star plans, was good stuff - had the entire film been like that, I would have rated it much higher. And the film's climax went down just as it should have. (They probably overdid it with the direct ties to Episode IV, however.) Overall, I rate the plot better than The Force Awakens, but the other film was way better executed.


Kung Fu Panda 3 (B)
A fine sequel, with some decent family drama. It's not quite as good as the first two films, however. I also wonder if the power levels are growing too high to make any later films relatable.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (C)
It was just OK. Like the similar Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, it takes itself way too seriously for such a silly concept. Even Matt Smith failed to add much levity.

Deadpool (B)
Highly entertaining, but also really rude (more than it had to be, but less than I expected). Ryan Reynolds nailed it. I was surprised at how serious they got during the origin story.

Zootopia (A)
Probably the best movie I watched this year. Visually dazzling, with good performances from the leads. I was particularly amazed at how bold they were with the racism analogies, conveying some tough but important messages for this day and age.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (D+)
This is not a good movie. The plot is full of holes and contrivances; the Justice League cameos are clearly only there for marketing; Superman and Lois aren't compelling; Lex is more odd than threatening; Batman, while competently portrayed by Affleck, kills or brutalizes a lot of people; Wonder Woman is fine in action scenes and has a great leitmotif, but comes off as generic mysterious lady the rest of the time; the titular fight is entertaining, but starts for dumb reason and ends for dumber reasons; everyone being friends at the end is unbelievable; and worst of all, the tone of the whole thing is joyless and cynical.

Warcraft (B-)
Disappointing. They throw way too many characters and settings at you, and they don't explain them very well, making it easy to get lost. The movie either needed more explanations, or (better yet) it needed streamlining. The stuff with the orcs is good, however, and almost makes up for the weaknesses elsewhere. (I wonder if the supposedly extensive cuts would make the film better or worse.)

Ghostbusters (B)
It's fine. Not a classic like the original, but it's fine. Despite some of the initial gross-out humor, the film actually had a lot less of an edge than the original, with rather restrained performances from the cast (who I know can do better). It was also not particularly quotable, although they tried with Holtzmann. (Interestingly, the politics were also different - the Ghostbusters here don't worry much about money, and the government, while still an obstacle, was surprisingly reasonable.) I actually wished they had taken more risks, although the end result was still OK.

On Netflix:

For the Love of Spock (B+)
A documentary by Leonard Nimoy's son on his relationship with his father and the character of Spock. Interesting and revealing.

Some notes:
- Since New Year's, I've also watched Suicide Squad (bleh), Kubo and the Two Strings (good), One Piece Film: Gold (fun), and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (fine). But since I didn't watch those in 2016, they don't make the list.
- Incredibly low expectations saved Batman v Superman from being an F, but it's still the worst movie I saw this year. High expectations probably hurt Rogue One, however. It was also a pity Warcraft wasn't better.
Tags: dvd, movies, reviews

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