With the arrival of Christmas comes the epic list you’ve been waiting for all year: BuzzHub’s Best & Worst Films! 2016 was undeniably a weak year for cinema, with a significantly higher standard of storytelling on the small screen, but there were nonetheless many film which made a big impact on us over the past 12 months…
Before we reveal our list, it’s time to announce our fifth annual Men & Women of the Year:
Brothers Casey & Ben Affleck both had a terrific year on the big screen: Casey is the frontrunner for Best Actor at the 2017 Oscars for his work in Manchester by the Sea, while Ben delivered excellent performances in the otherwise unexceptional blockbusters Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and The Accountant. His latest directorial feature, Live By Night, is expected to be part of the Oscar conversation in the coming months. Meanwhile, Riz Ahmed was THE breakout actor of 2016: he led the sensational HBO miniseries The Night Of and had standout supporting roles in Jason Bourne and Rogue One. He also popped up in Netflix’s The OA and released a fantastic album with his rap group Swet Shop Boys.
It’s quite extraordinary that in five years of BuzzHub, Amy Adams has never before been one of our Women of the Year. The sole excuse, in fact, is horrific oversight. Adams, a five-time Oscar nominee, has yet to deliver a weak performance, and 2016 saw her excel in Arrival and Nocturnal Animals. She is literally guaranteed a sixth nomination. The fruits of Felicity Jones‘ 2015 nomination paid off for the British actress, as she starred in Rogue One and Inferno: inhabiting complex enigmatic women in both.
And now, our list, featuring every new release we reviewed between January and December 2016 (including some 2015 US releases that didn’t screen for BuzzHub in Ireland until early this year).
THE WORST: ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
We hoped, we prayed, that talented Muppets director James Bobin would redeem the Wonderland created by Tim Burton in 2010 with a better film. As it turned out, Bobin outdid Burton only in insulting even further the memory of Lewis Carroll, who would turn in his grave if he saw this cynical, ugly cash-in with no humanity or energy to speak of. Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter, reduced as his role may be, remains modern cinema’s most despicable creation.
52. SUICIDE SQUAD
A mean-spirited, ugly film with no creative vision nor coherence, Warner Bros.’ attempt at uniting their most famous supervillains was 2016’s loudest catastrophe. Director David Ayer lost control of his editing room and his cast, and it’s clearly visible on screen.
Captain Sully’s story didn’t deserve a feature film, but a feature film it got. Extraordinarily unimaginative director Clint Eastwood stretches a 5-minute event to a 90-minute drama, with Tom Hanks struggling to inject any personality into a decidedly uncomplicated character.
50. ELVIS & NIXON
Suffering from the opposite problem to Sully, this quasi-fiction can’t handle the largeness of its central figures: Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon struggle with an appalling script, and the film’s focus falls too heavily on Presley at the expense of Spacey’s enjoyable Tricky Dick impersonation.
49. THE LEGEND OF TARZAN
Splendid production design couldn’t compensate for a weak script and incredibly flat performances: Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie pout endlessly, while Christoph Waltz’s shtick finally crosses into being insufferable. In the year of The Jungle Book, this man-of-the-forest adventure was less than compelling.
48. CAPTAIN FANTASTIC
For a film about an intensely alternative lifestyle, Captain Fantastic is an awfully conventional film. Viggo Mortensen completely overdoes the quirk as a widower raising his children in the wilderness, as appallingly-misjudged subplots are introduced and abandoned. An off-putting misinterpretation of a typically-appealing situation.
47. THE BFG
After delivering his best film in years with Bridge of Spies, Steven Spielberg’s Roald Dahl adaptation was a major disappointment. His first mistake was the casting of the unlikeable and unsympathetic Ruby Barnhill as young protagonist Sophie. His second: terrible overreliance on CGI like none we’ve seen since The Hobbit. Finally: directly adapting the book’s questionable third act, in which the monarchy and military are glorified at the expense of storytelling. Not very magical at all…
46. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
Better suited to TrueMovies than the big screen, Tate Taylor’s soapish adaptation of the bestselling thriller hands Emily Blunt the role of a profoundly unpleasant woman, and challenges her to carry a 2-hour film. Even the immensely-talented Blunt can’t handle it, and it’s Justin Theroux who provides the film’s most engaging moments.
45. SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU
As the spitting image of the 44th President, Parker Sawyers is something of a revelation. Unfortunately, he’s the only good thing in this clichéd Obama romance. Tika Sumpter (who plays First Lady Michelle) is extremely unlikeable, and the constant, abrasive foreshadowing is painful.
44. NINE LIVES
Visibly inspired by French comedy, Barry Sonnenfeld’s harmless family comedy sees Kevin Spacey inhabit the body of a cat, while Christopher Walken teaches him about the responsibilities of fatherhood. Cheaply-made, but not without its moments of amusement, and Malina Weissman (soon to be seen in A Series of Unfortunate Events) impresses as Spacey’s daughter.
43. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Marvel Studios, known for their enjoyable formula of levity and colour, wander into grim realism. They shouldn’t have tried. Civil War has bursts of brilliance (Tony Stark visiting Peter Parker in New York is a phenomenal character introduction), but- similar to last year’s Age of Ultron– lacks the imagination to sustain its cast of goofy characters.
42. MR. CHURCH
Eddie Murphy and Britt Robertson are a likeable pair in Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy)’s sentimental drama. Formulaic and packed with stereotypes, but it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
41. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
Foolishly prioritising a boring group of young fighters over the beloved original cast (Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman are horrifically underused), Roland Emmerich’s two-decades-late sequel seems to have learnt nothing from the intervening generation of blockbusters. Occasionally diverting, but astonishingly unmemorable.
40. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE
High on the list of 2016’s most overrated films, this New Zealand comedy has a handful of amusing moments, but little nuance or- most importantly- charm. Young lead Julian Dennison is obnoxious; even a gruff Sam Neill can’t elevate the material.
39. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE
With the stupidest script in the world, Bryan Singer managed to make an enjoyably colourful comic-book adventure, with the terrific trio of Fassbender, McAvoy and Lawrence helping him out. Apocalypse is intensely silly, but that’s not always a bad thing…
Starring Christopher Plummer as a Holocaust survivor who hunts down an Auschwitz guard, Atom Egoyan’s drama suffered from a misjudged ending and overly-complicated twist. Plummer, however, is terrific as the haunted old man, as are Dean Norris and Martin Landau.
Covering the same ground as a little film called Casablanca, Robert Zemeckis’ WWII thriller is oozing with poorly-drawn caricatures and undue sentiment. That said, it does feature the best sex scene of the year.
Crude and infantile, as promised, Ryan Reynolds’ resurrection of the foul-mouthed Marvel hero can’t be faulted for kick-starting a new era of ‘edgier’ popcorn entertainment. At times Deadpool is very funny, but its jokes are far too broad and topical to achieve cult classic status.
35. MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
Through The Looking Glass beat Tim Burton to Worst Tim Burton Film of 2016, allowing this YA adaptation to be a surprisingly charming adventure of tolerable quirk and relative tonal balance. Asa Butterfield is a superb leading man– unfortunately, Eva Green shows up halfway through and ruins things. Nonetheless, this was Burton’s best film for some time.
34. JASON BOURNE
Recapturing the frenetic pace of his original trilogy, Paul Greengrass delivers a pleasantly coherent action film featuring an engaging selection of actors: Alicia Vikander is a striking presence as always, while The Night Of duo of Riz Ahmed and Bill Camp add a layer of intrigue (but, sadly, share no scenes).
2016’s most universally-despised film was by no means its worst. Paul Feig’s female-led reboot is energetic, contemporary and regularly hilarious. If the world learnt one lesson from Ghostbusters, it’s to not to pay much attention to the cultural opinions of misogynists and racists.
Taking some comedic cues from golden-era Looney Tunes, Nicholas Stoller’s animated comedy is cynical but colourful, with elements of workplace comedy and child-friendly versions of SNL sketches.
Like Jeff Nichols’ previous films, Loving is well-intentioned- in this case, the story of a mix-raced couple persecuted in 1960s Virginia- but fails to make an impactful statement, with too-quiet performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. An important story, but a somewhat inessential film.
30. SING STREET
Director John Carney returns to Ireland after his disappointing 2014 rom-com Begin Again with this enjoyable if clichéd celebration of Dublin youth culture and 80s mod music. Superb soundtrack, including the terrific original song “Drive It Like You Stole It”.
29. HELL OR HIGH WATER
David Mackenzie’s modern-day western is a spin on the No Country for Old Men formula, with Jeff Bridges as a veteran sheriff hunting two bank robbers (Ben Foster, Chris Pine) across rural Texas. There are brief moments of Coen-esque brilliance, but this is broadly a derivative retread of overused Southern stereotypes.
28. THE HATEFUL EIGHT
A contender for Quentin Tarantino’s worst film as director, his embarrassingly self-indulgent vanity western overstays its welcome three-fold, with even an Ennio Morricone score and Bruce Dern performance failing to elevate to greatness what is essentially a three-hour Hollywood wet dream by a man with too much money to spend.
27. HAIL, CAESAR!
Like Tarantino, the Coen Brothers succumbed to dangerous levels of creative freedom this year, giving the world this mediocre Hollywood satire with little originality and insufficient charm. In a cast that included Josh Brolin, George Clooney and Scarlett Johansson, it was Alden Ehrenreich who made the most impact (and scored the role of Young Han Solo).
26. CAFÉ SOCIETY
Woody Allen continues a string of vaguely enjoyable period romances; the stars on this occasion being Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg. Not as smart as Allen’s other 2016 release, the TV series Crisis in Six Scenes, but undoubtedly a comedy of broader appeal.
25. THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
Arriving one week before That Other Reboot Of A Yul Brynner Western (we speak, of course, of HBO’s Westworld), Antoine Fuqua’s sharp Seven soon faded from public memory. But this is a thoroughly enjoyable, often politically-stirring tribute to the genre, with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke as two mesmerically mysterious heroes.
24. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS
Despite featuring some incredible actors- Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Jake Gyllenhaal- Tom Ford’s drama is all style-over-substance, presenting a convoluted binary narrative, some beautiful production design… and little else.
23. BATMAN v SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
For cynics and superfans, Batman v Superman was an easy target. But it sincerely isn’t a bad film. In fact, it’s probably Zack Snyder’s best. Ben Affleck is an excellent Batman, bringing a fresh aggression to the role, while Gal Gadot proves herself a worthy Wonder Woman in a handful of scenes. Meanwhile, the cinematography is stunningly, the score operatic and (especially in the 3-hour ‘Ultimate Edition’ cut), the grand scale of the action makes the film feel epic, substantial and worth the wait. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is the best comic-book movie villain in years, cackling and blinking his way through his every hyper-charged scene. Watching Dawn of Justice feels like reading a comic-book, and a pretty entertaining one at that.
22. PETE’S DRAGON
Remakes work best when they’re completely, utterly, incomparably different to the original product. David Lowery’s take on 1977 Disney classic Pete’s Dragon is just that. The Mouse House’s indiest film for a decade, this has a profound midwestern simplicity to it. Its failure at the box office is a testament to how old-fashioned it is. Highly admirable.
21. STAR TREK BEYOND
After his spectacular 2009 and 2013 films, Star Trek sacrificed J.J. Abrams for the good of Star Wars, so expectations were never particularly high for this threequel. With that in mind, Justin Lin’s Beyond is a brilliantly engaging and exciting action film, with a lot of Guardians of the Galaxy‘s zippy pacing and much hilarious character interaction, courtesy of a Simon Pegg script. The “Sabotage” sequence is one of 2016’s best.
20. THE ACCOUNTANT
Borrowing various threads of the Bourne franchise and neo-noir, and throwing in the enigma of an autistic assassin, Gavin O’Connor’s The Accountant is a fascinatingly-conceptualised, if goofily-executed thriller. Ben Affleck is at his best as the titular accountant, with JK Simmons and Jon Bernthal providing solid support.
Denzel Washington gives a terrific central performance, directs less terrifically, in his adaptation of August Wilson’s classic play. Exploring a period of African-American culture too rarely shown on film, Fences is a slow-burner, but a film of great emotional depth.
18. FINDING DORY
One of Pixar’s less disappointing sequels, this often-delightful Nemo sequel conspicuously lacks original ideas, but doesn’t tarnish the characters’ legacy either. One wouldn’t have associated Finding Nemo with gritty realism, but when Dory features an octopus driving a truck, the 2003 film looks like Son of Saul in comparison.
17. DOCTOR STRANGE
After a string of dull efforts (*cough* Civil War), Marvel return to the colourful creativity we last saw in Guardians of the Galaxy. Scott Derrickson’s trans-genre blockbuster is remarkably entertaining, with a series of engrossing set-pieces, while Benedict Cumberbatch, Tilda Swinton and Benedict Wong lead a terrific cast.
16. DAVID BRENT: LIFE ON THE ROAD
Ricky Gervais invented the documentary-style sitcom with The Office, and though the format has become a bit stale over the past 15 years, the creation of David Brent remains as awkwardly hilarious as ever before. As Brent travels the English midlands with his crappy songbook, we gain insight into a truly tragic figure in a hostile world. Life on the Road isn’t Gervais’ best work, but it’s often relatable and heartbreaking.
Oliver Stone truly is the king of the Washington conspiracy drama, and his timely portrayal of whistleblower Edward Snowden is a worthy portrait of a modern-day Watergate. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a terrifyingly good Snowden, and maintains a pressing pace with Stone’s script, while Rhys Ifans, Zachary Quinto and Nicolas Cage impress in small roles.
A strange and sombre affair, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson’s stop-motion drama would be delightfully weird, were it not so damn depressing. David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh lend exceptional voice work to the central characters as a quiet romantic tragedy unfolds.
13. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
A rare John Goodman role worthy of the man’s talents, the thunder-voiced giant is perfectly cast as a mysterious captor in Dan Trachtenberg’s secret Cloverfield follow-up. The three-hander between Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. (two of the most consistently brilliant young actors around) is thrilling. The franchise-bait finale diminishes the film’s impact, but not before Goodman has gnawed into every inch of the (intensely claustrophobic) scenery.
12. MONEY MONSTER
A Dog Day Afternoon for the Occupy Wall Street era, Jodie Foster’s thriller is a masterclass in good pacing, as George Clooney’s sleazy TV host is held hostage by an enraged viewer (Jack O’Connell) in real-time. The film is a simplified visual representation of the Bernie Sanders (and, to a lesser extent, Trump) phenomenon, as a blue-collar worker takes revenge on the elite establishment who conned him of his savings. Clooney and O’Connell spark against one another brilliantly.
11. JAMES WHITE
Christopher Abbott delivers an astounding breakout performance as the eponymous James in Josh Mond’s semi-autobiographical story of a man struggling with parental illness, lost purpose and a city that won’t slow down to his pace. Thoughtful and inspired.
and now, the Top 10 Films of 2016!
Casey Affleck is quietly brilliant in Kenneth Lonergan’s exploration of grief, regret and male relationships, a film of tremendous spacial atmosphere and underlying sadness. In a handful of scenes, Michelle Williams is a standout supporting player.
It’s a century-old trick to tell the most critical human stories through anthropomorphising, and Disney’s Zootopia– set, quite simply, in a city of talking animals. The story of social tolerance, set against a backdrop of urban crime and political corruption, is sophisticated and oh-so-important in 2016. The DMV scene, featuring Flash the Sloth, is the year’s best moment of physical comedy.
Nobody was more surprised than us to discover the brilliance of The Lonely Island’s music documentary satire, a bruising indictment of modern celebrity culture… featuring the catchiest pop tunes of 2016! “I’m So Humble”, “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” and “Incredible Thoughts (ft. Michael Bolton)” are magnificent songs, embedded in a film that’s constantly hilarious and uniquely charming.
A true return to the magic of classic Walt Disney family filmmaking, Jon Favreau’s Kipling adaptation is a tribute to the animal kingdom, to the music of the Sherman Brothers and to Walt himself. Avatar and The Hobbit pale in comparison to this film’s extraordinary achievement in digital animation, as Favreau creates a rich world of beasts and bugs, sand and water, around excellent young lead Neel Sethi. Bill Murray is a delightful Baloo the Bear, and Christopher Walken is an unforgettable King Louie (complete with cowbell).
Depicting the life of a gay black man in Miami with extraordinary sensitivity, Barry Jenkins’ vividly-directed drama is a work of haunting beauty, subverting every Hollywood cliché to tell a sincere story of love, masculinity and the passing of time.
Denis Villeneuve has emerged as a master of gripping, profound genre-transcending drama, and his stunning sci-fi Arrival is by far his finest film to date. Amy Adams is phenomenal as the grieving linguist recruited to translate the communications of alien visitors, a nuanced woman with more secrets than she realises. Villeneuve tells a complicated story full of affecting twists, aided by Bradford Young’s incredible cinematography and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s superb score. One of 2016’s most pleasant surprises, and a philosophical redefinition of the alien invasion film.
An enchanting expansion of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, as an irresistible Eddie Redmayne visits 1920s New York with a case full of imgeniously-concieved magical creatures. David Yates’ thorough exploration of the resplendent scenery serves as canvas to a rivetingly dark origin story with powerful political subtext. Intelligent and elaborate, Fantastic Beasts serves as a terrific kick-start to a new era of Rowling’s wonderful storytelling.
The year’s most vital political film doesn’t directly confront Trump or Brexit, but rather the timeless issue of Britain’s nightmarish social welfare system. 80-year old Ken Loach directs with the urgency and passion of a newcomer, as we witness the Kafkaesque brutality of the benefits world through the eyes of Daniel (Dave Johns) and Katie (Hayley Squires), two characters struggling with poverty, bureaucracy and a heartless Tory government. A call to revolution, and a heartbreaking work of socially-conscious creativity from one of Britain’s finest filmmakers.
Retooled and heavily-reedited at the last minute, hopes were not particularly high for Gareth Edwards’ standalone galactic war movie. How wrong we were. Led by a revolutionarily-diverse ensemble cast, Rogue One is a breathless tribute to the unique energy and aesthetic of George Lucas’ 1977 classic, with additional bursts of sophistication; both in terms of story and filmmaking. Often bleak and deeply moving, but with bursts of brilliant comedy throughout, Edwards’ film is that ideal Hollywood blockbuster: lovingly-created and executed with passion and imagination. It may lack the scale and nostalgic thrill of 2015’s The Force Awakens, but compensates with uninhibited emotion and a palpable thirst for Hope.
It seemed unlikely that Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to Whiplash would live up to that film’s brilliance, but his dazzling musical love letter to the movies is just as stunning and unforgettable. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are the enchanting central couple, who throw themselves into the joyful song-and-dance with admirable energy. Chazelle directs with extraordinary energy and enthusiasm, and the film’s narrative structure injects fresh life into the template of the 1950s movie musical. It’s rare to find a film this bursting with happiness. In a year as generally downbeat as 2016, La La Land is to be treasured.
That’s our list Do you agree with our choices, or do you think we’re completely wrong? Let us know in the comments below!