Well, that certainly was a year, huh?
2016 was, for many, a total shit year. I don’t even have to go into all the details of why that was the case, and so… you know, I won’t. Needless to say, though, much of it was heartbreaking. Much of it was disappointing. Much of it was just plain stupefying. Personally, I even lost a job due to layoffs halfway through the year and spent the better part of my admittedly short period of unemployment thinking I’d finally had a glimpse of the end. (Anxiety and depression is fun, you guys!) The political climate this past election also unleashed in me something unexpected, having grown tired of all the bickering and willful ignorance of any nuance to either side. People I knew were being outright nasty towards people, sometimes even going so far as to disown them. This climate even seemed to spill-over into the world of films, which could no longer, for example, be an exciting new entry in a beloved series that, for whatever its faults, was still a solid entry that was easily enjoyed. No, no… now movies are either perfect or they’re absolute garbage with a political bent that has its crosshairs set on your personal belief system! I was in danger of growing completely misanthropic as a result.
Perhaps that’s why I saw so many movies this year…? Last year, I reached another personal record of 143 films by the end of my 2015 in Review series, which concluded in February. As of this moment in writing, however, between rentals, streaming, and theatrical releases, I have seen a whopping 164 films from 2016, and that’s if I didn’t forget any. And that’s not even going to be the final number, as I traditionally discover a few that intrigue me or that I forgot during my “Films I Didn’t See” subseries and thus follow up on before the end. Yeah, I think I might have a problem…
At the very least, though, because of this, I know that 2016 wasn’t all bad. Personally, I have been enjoying being an uncle to my nephew, who at age 1 already has a huge, delightful personality. My period of unemployment was honestly very brief, despite the issues compounding that, and I found a job that is not only expanding my resume but is also something I’m actually quite good at, and I like the people I work with, too. I turned 30 this year, which… well, at least it wasn’t as painful as I had feared. And, before this, I also made a huge personal milestone by pretty much completely and publicly coming out of the closet… And, so far, despite a few exceptions I made by excluding a few people who I’m certain would make some family members’ lives problematic by knowing this, it’s actually been relatively smooth compared to my expectations. Not… perfect… but much better than anticipated. And, you know, the same can be said about 2016 – at least when it comes to the films released this past year, provided you knew where to look and didn’t put too much stock in every big, anticipated film.
And so, I begin my 2016 retrospective as I do pretty much all of my previous annual retrospectives, by laying out what to expect from this series. I make no promises regarding the promptness, as I have a job and a life outside this blog. However, think of this as a time when you can reflect along with me about what you watched and what you may have missed. I obviously mostly saw films from earlier in the year, regardless of whether it was in the theatre or once it was released. As noted above, I reserve the right to be intrigued by the films I note that I have not seen, to then see them, and thus add them to my review and rankings of films I did see once I reach those articles. As such, I will first begin by recounting the various films I managed to miss over the course of a few articles – covering as many as humanly possible, though I’m sure to miss a few. I will then move on to covering the films that were neither my favorite nor my most hated. Capping off the year in review will then be My Worst of the Year list, followed by a list of My Favorite Films of the year, divided by genre. (Note: Not “THE BEST,” but rather my subjective favorites.)
Here’s a rough outline of how this will all go down:
- 2016 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (January – July)
- 2016 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (August – October)
- 2016 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (November – December)
- 2016 IN REVIEW: Everything in Between That I’ve Seen
- 2016 IN REVIEW: The Worst Movies of the Year
- 2016 IN REVIEW: My Favorite Films
2016 was a heck of a stupid year, but hopefully the world of film was at least one of many bright spots in all of the darkness you may have experienced. And, if not, I hope we can retroactively change that through this series.
Here’s to 2017. May it not suck.
Six. This year marks the sixth time I have done a Halloween movie theme month. Not only that, it also signals that I have now been running this blog since I was 25. This year marks my 30th birthday, which also just so happens fall on Halloween. To say that Halloween 2016 is a scary one for me is an understatement. But, the reviews must go on! (Well, not really, but I enjoy writing them, even if I’m fairly certain not many people are actually reading these.) As a result, though, you would think that I might have big plans for this year. Well… I don’t. But one idea did just occur to me, and it’s actually something I intended on reviewing last year, but it completely escaped my mind: How about I review a film starring one of my former high school classmates that also just so happens to be on Netflix?
The film is called “Darkroom” and stars aforementioned classmate Kaylee DeFer, whom I went to school with until she moved. I’m not going to pretend I knew her well or anything – she was perfectly nice, but we just didn’t have the same social circles – but it’s still kinda surreal to have a former classmate who has now had roles in films shows like Gossip Girl and was even a crucial character in the string of events that led to Ted Mosby meeting his wife on How I Met Your Mother. I think the most interaction I ever had with her was our freshman year during our school’s Shakespeare week, and we were assigned to reenact the gravedigger scene from Romeo & Juliet. I sliced my hand open on the metal pole I was using as a prop and started bleeding, resulting in the scene – and my own burgeoning acting career – being cut considerably short. So… yeah, I’ll get around to doing that one, unless it’s no longer available on Netflix or some other service. (And, really, why wouldn’t it be? I only discovered it because I noticed her on the cover while browsing, and that’s probably the only way anyone has watched it.)
I do intend on reviewing some other horror classics I haven’t gotten around to, though, perhaps the original Amityville Horror, as well as perhaps some newer ones, like a certain computer-based film I actually put on my Favorite Films of 2015 list that I admittedly only saw once. (I’m curious whether it holds up, particularly by just watching it on a laptop this time.) I do think this year will be considerably more horror-heavy than previous years, if only because I’ve actually been really in the mood for them, rather than the more lighthearted stuff like It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Ghostbusters (take your pick which, just don’t troll my site). Perhaps it’s just the bleak impending doom of turning 30, though? [shudder] I guess, if the mood strikes, I could end up doing something more cheerful.
Regardless of what goes on though, just know that I’ve been looking forward to this month and watching some suitable movies for it. Until then, consider reading some of my previous seasonally appropriate reviews, linked below.
Dawn of the Dead (Unrated Director’s Cut, 2004)
Don’t Breathe (2016)
Friday the 13th (1980)
Halloween (Unrated Director’s Cut, 2007)
The Last House on the Left (1972)
The Last House on the Left (2009)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
The Thing (1982)
Under the Skin (2013)
2015 is over. Can you believe it? For me, this was probably the most looked forward to year in movies since 2012, when The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises premiered. In fact, 2015 was in a lot of ways exactly like 2012 and had a lot of follow-ups to major films of 2012 – an Avengers film, a new James Bond film, a Hunger Games film, a new Quentin Tarantino film, a prestige Steven Spielberg historical drama, a new David O. Russell film featuring Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro, a new film about Alfred Hitchcock, an Aardman Animation film, a new Pixar film featuring female leads… Yup, pretty much a repeat of 2012, only 2015 featured even more familiar cash-ins than even then, with even more familiar brands making their return to the silver screen: Mad Max, the Terminator, Jurassic Park, Rocky, The Transporter, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Vacation, Taken, the Fantastic Four… Oh, and Star Wars. Can’t forget that one!
But a lot of other films did come out this year beyond just major franchises and major brand releases. I can’t say that I saw everything that was released this year, of course, and I do have to make a confession about my film viewing habits this year, too: I saw far more of those major releases over the minor ones than I had actually intended. Oops. I feel like a bad critic, particularly since I am pretty much about to break another record for number of movies I have seen for a single year. (I count Redbox and streaming services and also post-New Year’s views, too, so long as they’re before I complete the year in review, just to let you know.) I had a rather personally tumultuous year, you see, and so I do believe this resulted in me not exactly engaging my brain nearly as much as I wish I had, and so I feel like I got a little lazy in seeking out the particularly great but overlooked films that were released throughout the year. I might very well break my streak of seeing every Best Picture Oscar-nominated film in a year, in fact, which I have managed to maintain since I first did it for 2012. — Hey, look! Another 2012 parallel!
As a result, I am going to do things somewhat different this year for my year in review, but only slightly.
The major change: I am no longer covering films that were released solely in foreign markets. You see, when I first decided to start doing these year in reviews, I intended for the reviews of film I missed to reflect what was going on in the world of cinema outside the United States, too. I had good intentions, and the list of films supplied by Wikipedia was pretty extensive, particularly for Hindi, Tamil, and Telugu language films releasing out of India, and I mostly had a lot of fun finding out what was making waves in foreign box offices. However, the process of researching these films was exceedingly exhausting, as trailers were rarely in English, and so I had to seek out synopses for these films before I could even provide any sort of commentary on them. Sometimes this resulted in pure ambivalence that I feared could be misconstrued as condescension. I just don’t think I have the energy this year to do it, and I’d really like to make 2015 the year that I get the year in review completed at least by the end of January again, and so I had to sacrifice researching films I really had no chance of seeing in the first place. Foreign films won’t be completely absent, of course, as I’m still including particularly significant or interesting films that I curated while doing preliminary research, as well as foreign films that at least had limited theatrical releases here in America. So, yeah, I’m not being xenophobic, you see! It just made the most sense to lighten my workload in this area of all areas.
The minor change isn’t really an alteration of my process as much as it is an alteration of the changing way in which we watch movies. Yes, since this was the year in which Netflix decided to start releasing original films, I am now also including significant films that debuted on streaming media services from here on out, as well. (Many of them also saw limited theatrical releases, anyway, so I’m not sure how much this counts as a real change, like I said.)
Also, this year, I will actually continue to separate my Best of the Year list (or whatever I end up calling it) by genre, as I did the year before, since I find it unfair to judge the excellence of a side-splitting comedy against the excellence of a tear-inducing art house drama and declare one the victor when they set out to do completely different things and may have equally excelled at those goals, different though they may have been. I am still going to rank the Worst of the Year list by level of craptitude, however, ’cause I have no problems ranking my level of gut level disdain for each individual film!
That’s really about it, otherwise! I will continue to breakdown these lists into multiple posts, starting with a 3-part review of the films I managed to miss, a review of the middle ground films I saw and didn’t feel especially strong in either direction towards, a review of the most terrible films I saw from the year, and concluding with my favorites (’cause, again, I sometimes still really like fluff entertainment that has flaws as much as I like an expertly rendered cry! I’m dynamic like that). As per usual, here is the schedule:
- 2015 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (January – April)
- 2015 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (May – August)
- 2015 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (September – December)
- 2015 IN REVIEW: Everything in Between That I’ve Seen
- 2015 IN REVIEW: The Worst Movies of the Year
- 2015 IN REVIEW: My Top Films of the Year
It’s that time of year again — October 2015 kicks off the fifth annual Halloween Movie Month (formerly known as “Scary Movie Month” but changed because I just didn’t want to review only scary movies)!
You might think that for such an auspicious occasion, I will have something special planned. Well… you’d be wrong. I don’t. I’m planning on winging it, quite honestly. Why? Because life. Lately, I’ve been pretty busy, and this has led to me being very tired, and so I basically have been writing reviews based on what I feel like, and I plan on continuing that for the month of October in regards to season-appropriate movie choices.
That being said, though, I am definitely looking forward to reviewing movies for this year, and I do at least have some things in mind that I want to get to. The first movie I plan on reviewing is a pretty big one, too, and is one that I’ve been meaning to watch for years but have, quite honestly, been a bit too intimidated by to really feel like I could give it its due. However, with the movie exiting Netflix streaming services at the beginning of the month, I felt like it was a sign for me to just do it before it’s too late. Which movie is it, you ask? Well, fine then, I’ll tell you: it’s The Exorcist!
So yeah, no formal plans for this milestone month, but, as with every subsequent year I do this, I increasingly look forward to expanding my exposure to the horror genre and other Halloween-related movies. Seriously, I’ve really grown in my appreciation for these things, and I always find myself holding back on reviewing certain movies until I can do it for this time of year. As always, though, I’m going to start the month off by leaving you with a convenient list of previous Halloween-appropriate reviews for you to peruse.
Just a small update for now. I’m not certain how many of you out there reading read regularly, but I’m still doing this just ’cause, for myself.
I’m currently working on something a bit more challenging than just a mere review, as I’ve been wanting to do that for a while, but for some reason have been held back by a number of things, most of them personal. I really want to write this, however, and it’s somewhat of a personal writing that will shed some light on why I love the film medium so much. Basically, it’s going to be sort of a mission statement, but in the form of a personal, semi-biographical perspective.
I am also planning on tackling more diverse films, not just to grow myself, but hopefully to help anyone out there who is reading to grow, as well, which was my original intention with this blog, beyond just keeping up a writing hobby. I’ll have more details of what kind of idea I have in that article, but, for now, I just wanted to get this little teaser out of the way, as well as just motivate myself to get it done by making this announcement. I’m excited to share it, and I’m excited for some changes I’m going to hopefully have the willpower to enact on this blog — even if only for myself.
It’s January! That means that we’re all looking forward to a year of new movies while looking back on the year past and nitpicking all the stupid things that we think Hollywood should avoid in the future while totally ignoring the fact that they’re all really going to just keep doing the same stuff over and over again.
And that really was the general consensus regarding 2014, from what I can tell. While 2014 had plenty of films we hoped were going to be good, there weren’t very many movies that we could look forward to with certainty of their excellence, either. Examples:
- There was a freaking movie based on LEGO blocks…
- Marvel was hedging their bets on two of their most ambitious films yet. The first was a sequel that completely changed up the series’ tone from the retro sci-fi cheerfulness of its predecessor to a more serious, pessimistic, and shockingly violent espionage flick, despite it being helmed by a duo who were heretofore better known for working in TV comedy and directing You, Me, and Dupree. The second was a film set at a far point in the galaxy with all sorts of weirdness going on, including a talking raccoon and a tree with an extremely limited vocabulary in two of the lead roles.
- Hunger Games fever was seeing its first major me-too film adaptations in The Giver, The Maze Runner, and Divergent while the actual Hunger Games film series continued with the first part of the cash-grabby, two-part Mockingjay adaptation. What’s next? Hobbit knock offs?
- Disney was following up their smash hit, Frozen, with their first ever Disney-branded Marvel adaptation in Big Hero 6, which took serious liberties with the X-Men-related comic book source material, including moving the story from modern day Tokyo to the far future hybrid city of San Fransokyo.
- No Pixar film, while DreamWorks was churning out an update to a classic cartoon in Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a sequel to How to Train Your Dragon, and a spinoff of Madagascar starring the Penguins of Madagascar… titled Penguins of Madagascar.
- Teenage romance films in the same vein as the seemingly never ending Nicholas Sparks adaptations, one of which was a remake of a crappy 1980s teenage romance film, one involving a girl on the brink of death while roaming around in a ghostlike form, and, perhaps the most egregious sounding of the three, an adaptation of a novel about two kids with cancer who happen to also fall in love.
- More reboots:
- Godzilla. Another one. Made by Americans.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, courtesy of producer Michael Bay, who was meanwhile continuing his Transformers series with a reboot of sorts, too.
- X-Men: Days of Future Past, which actually managed to make erasing the previous series of films from the new timeline a part of the storyline.
- Veronica Mars, which was a crowsource-funded restart of a cancelled TV series.
- Left Behind, which also managed to shove in freaking Nicolas Cage in there in one of his most baffling roles of his career. Speaking of which…
- Christian films reached both an all time high for popularity, at least as far as theatrical release goes, and a nadir for quality, the most offensive being the latest Kirk Cameron atrocity.
Yeah, 2014 looked like it was going to be a pretty bland year, even if you weren’t into the serious dramas and independent film scene, which… I honestly don’t keep up with nearly as much as I probably should when it comes to pre-release buzz. I can’t imagine that there are that many who do beyond actual paid professional critics, of which I am tragically not.
In the end, it was indeed a pretty off year for films, but I’m actually not so sure that’s a bad thing. While there were plenty of terrible movies, most of those were easy to spot from a mile away, and many of those uncertain major films actually managed to prove themselves to be a non-issue, while some of them actually turned out to be pretty fantastic, in fact! Yet more unexpected gems also emerged from the darkness to surprise everyone with how good they were… or, at the very least, they surprised me. Looking back, 2014 was a year that the expected gave way to the unexpected — and it was refreshing and satisfying.
On a personal level, 2014 was also pretty great for my film habit, by the way. I managed to buy myself a surround sound system finally thanks to a nice Christmas bonus. (Yay for being freaked out about whether the neighbors will complain!) It was the first year in which I rented a film that was also still playing in theatres — some of them either not available in my area and some just because I was a lazy bum who didn’t want to make the trip. I don’t anticipate me doing this for every release in the future, though, as I still love going to the theatre, and the prices for these films are pretty much comparable despite my TV and sound system not matching that of a theatre, but for things like documentaries or limited releases that are playing just too far away from my apartment, it’s proven to be a pretty convenient medium — particularly when I managed to get some free Vudu rental credit.
Consequently, this was also the year that I broke a personal record for the number of films I saw before the year’s end: a whopping 104, either through theatrical release or rental. By comparison, in 2011, the year I started blogging, I’d only seen 32 from that year in total, with some spillover into 2012 for the viewing time frame. With the added incentive of blogging from the very start, 2012 saw an increase to 58 by the time I posted my last year in review entry. 2013 again saw an increase to 68, meaning my 2014 viewing habits increased by nearly 53% from the previous year — and I’m not done yet, as there are still some films I want to see that I’ll likely watch before I complete this review series. I don’t know whether I should be proud or not… but I choose to be proud. I’ve already told my friends and family, anyway, and it still didn’t inspire them to stage an intervention, so I think I’m good.
So, yeah, I’m actually pretty excited to talk about the films of 2014. I anticipate that it’s going to be interesting and pretty different compared to past years. As always, I’m going to roll this out in stages, first with three entries discussing the films I didn’t see, then an entry discussing just the middle ground films I saw, an entry on the worst films I saw, and, finally, my favorite films from the year. (I say “favorite” because, while they’re all good, in my opinion, I do not rank them in order of excellence but rather personal favor. The “worst” list works pretty much the same way, pretty much, but in the reverse.)
For a rough schedule, here’s how I anticipate it working out, though it’s subject to change if I need to space it out (I will have seen over 104 films, after all, and I might choose to break up the middle ground film entry just due to numbers):
- 2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (January – April)
- 2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (May – August)
- 2014 IN REVIEW: The Films I Didn’t See (September – December)
- 2014 IN REVIEW: Everything in Between That I’ve Seen
- 2014 IN REVIEW: The Worst Movies of the Year
- 2014 IN REVIEW: My Top Films of the Year
It’s that time of year again: Christmastime! And, for the fourth time, we here at The Viewer’s Commentary will celebrate in traditional fashion by reviewing nothing but season-appropriate films until 12/25. (And by “we,” I of course mean “me,” since I’m the only one who writes for the site….)
I might get in a theatrical release, if the urge strikes me so (I’ve been meaning to write a review of the fantastic Interstellar, so that might pop up), but, for the most part, I’ll be expending what energy I might have into writing about Christmas movies — though I do also keep putting off a review of a Hanukkah film, too, but can you really blame me when the only major one anyone seems to have made is Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights? Seriously, someone make a respectable Hanukkah film! Or at least point one out to me if there has been one and everyone just chooses to ignore it or something!
Then again, I’m probably going to be reviewing a lot of stinkers this month. I’ve burned through my favorites already and found a few new ones I love, but, really, of the films I’ve seen so far in preparation for this, most of them have been pretty awful. I’m talking equal to or even worse than A Madea Christmas awful. One of them, currently out in theatres and featuring a certain Growing Pains star, shouldn’t even qualify as a film since anyone who sits through it should be entitled to some kind of justice and compensation.
Ah well. Since this is the fourth time I’ve done this, that means that there’s been three previous months dedicated to the Christmas season. Luckily, for you, I’ve got them all listed below, with a bonus New Year’s appropriate film for you to ignore because, like Eight Crazy Nights, it’s just… horrible. Trust me.
- Bad Santa (Director’s Cut)
- Batman Returns (As I said before, it’s set during Christmas, so it… kind of… counts!)
- Disney’s A Christmas Carol
- A Christmas Story
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- Die Hard
- Home Alone / Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
- I’ll Be Home for Christmas
- It’s a Wonderful Life
- Jingle All the Way
- Joyeux Noël
- Love Actually
- A Madea Christmas
- Meet Me in St. Louis
- Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
- The Muppet Christmas Carol
- The Nativity Story
- New Year’s Eve
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- The Polar Express
- Rise of the Guardians
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Tokyo Godfathers
- White Christmas