The Oscars: Overrated. The Golden Globes: Bunch of kiss-asses. The Screen Actors Guild Awards: Is that even a real thing? The Independent Spirit Awards: A ceremony where Sarah Silverman actually has a shot at winning for her dramatic work, for fuck’s sake.
But if you want a no-BS roundup of the best, worst, and everything in between that Hollywood had to offer in 2016, then the Tough Guy Digest staff is proud to share our various picks and pans for the past year. Keep in mind though that we are only reviewing the films we were able to see, and that a number of Oscar-bait movies either came out too late for review in New York, or will not be released until January in po-dunk one-horse towns like Austin, Texas. With that being said, enjoy this trip down memory lane:
Best of 2016:
1) “Hacksaw Ridge”: Mel Gibson has his cake and eats it too, making a movie that celebrates a man whose Christian convictions prevented him from picking up a rifle, then dropping him into some of the most intense and brutal combat ever put on film. Not his best, but Mel at 75% is still better than most.
2) “Green Room”: The kind of flick John Carpenter would have made in the ‘70s, a stripped down siege movie where characters make the kind of decisions real people would, with sometimes disastrous consequences. It puts you through the ringer so much that it’s hard to believe it’s over in less than 85 minutes.
3) “The Conjuring 2”: Even if you are not a fan of haunted house movies, you have to admire that James Wan directs the hell out of this thing, with the kind of deliberate and creepy set pieces that M. Night Shyamalan used to knock out of the park back in the day.
4) “13 Hours”: Now that the election is over perhaps people can revisit this depiction of what happened in Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, and admit that Michael Bay has made this best version of this kind of film since “Black Hawk Down.”
5) “Deepwater Horizon”: Peter Berg takes a recent event that we mainly knew about in broad strokes (accident on an oil refinery, some people died, lots of oil spilled into the Gulf) and shows what a fiery nightmare it was for those involved, with ordinary blue-collar joes fighting to escape a figurative hell on earth.
Runner Up: “The Invitation”
Go into this slow-burn domestic creeper – currently available on Netflix – as cold as possible, because half the tension is not knowing where the fuck this thing is going.
Worst Movie: “The Shallows”
“Suicide Squad” was probably the worst movie I saw in 2016, but I’m putting this here because my wife and I had to sit through 90 minutes in a theater of future five-time Best Actress winner Blake Lively stuck on a rock fighting off a CGI shark in the most bloodless PG-13 way possible. Its 77% on Rotten Tomatoes has made me forever skeptical of that site’s ratings, but the insanely ridiculous way Blake kills the shark gave me one of my biggest laughs in any movie this year, comedies included.
Most Overrated: “Deadpool”
Sure there were a couple of funny parts, but I can’t remember the last time a movie so violently and repeatedly hit me over the head in an attempt to convince me I was having fun.
Most Underrated: “Neon Demon”
Yes it’s a Nicolas (“Drive” “Only God Forgives”) Winding Refn movie so of course it’s arty and pretentious, but its striking visuals and cool soundtrack combine for a really creepy and dreamy mood, and even when it lags you know something bizarre and violently memorable is about to occur.
Most Unfairly Maligned: “Gods of Egypt”
Apparently the film critic community already decided in advance that this movie was a disaster and prepared their “hilarious” snarky reviews beforehand, and actually seeing the movie wasn’t going to make a difference. Because the movie I saw had amazing special effects, some clever and inventive world-building, intentionally broad and campy performances from game actors like Gerard Butler and Geoffrey Rush, and overall was exactly the kind of unique blockbuster vision we don’t see any more. If it was called “Marvel’s Gods of Egypt” it would have made a billion dollars and gotten a 95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Best Comic Book Movie: “Batman v. Superman”
Yeah I said it. It’s an overlong mess, but I’ll take Zach Snyder’s in-your-face action scenes, gorgeous visuals, and bizarre creative choices over the predictable bland competence of the Marvel factory. The face-off between Batman and Superman, and Batman’s later annihilation of a room full of bad guys, were more memorable than the celebrated airport battle royal in “Captain America: Civil War.”
Most Expository Dialogue: “Independence Day: Resurgence”
The phrase “it goes without saying” apparently does not exist in the world of “Independence Day: Resurgence,” where no two characters can have a conversation without some bit of background information being ham-handedly inserted. Literally 70 percent of the dialogue is along these lines: “You’ve been a great speechwriter, even though I know you were an even better pilot.” “Your father was a heroic pilot, and even though he died too soon during a test flight, he’d be happy to know you’ve followed in his footsteps.” “Don’t forget, you may be the president’s daughter, but you’re also my fiancée.”
This movie also has my second-favorite unintentional laugh in a 2016 film after “The Shallows,” when Maika Monroe, playing the President’s daughter/Liam Hemsworth’s fiancée/speechwriter/fighter pilot, is fulfilling the last of those roles in trying to destroy a giant alien queen (hmm, sound familiar?) that has escaped a destroyed space ship and is protected by a force field. After the rest of her squadron has been picked off, what clever way can Monroe use to bring down the alien’s defenses? Here’s how: She fires at it again for the umpteenth time, but this time she yells “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!” in the cutest and most girly way possibly, and somehow this brings down the alien’s shield.
Comedy I Turned Off the Fastest Despite Paying Money for It: “The Boss”
20 minutes in, three minutes less than “Zoolander 2.” Even people who weren’t afraid to admit “Ghostbusters” sucked had to constantly reiterate that Melissa McCarthy is a comedic genius. Well try and sit though this dire “comedy” – which she wrote and directed with her husband – and tell me if you can get through the scene where she has her teeth cleaned while she and Kristen Bell “improv” for what seems like three hours. McCarthy is so desperate for an easy laugh that she can’t even keep the basic background of her character straight: Even though she’s previously been established as growing up rough and tumble in an orphanage, later McCarthy apparently doesn’t know what potato chips are, as if she has grown up as some sheltered blue blood her whole life.
Most Honest About Its Repetitiveness: “X-Men: Apocalypse”
At a certain point in the latest “X-Men,” professor Xavier says of Magneto, “There’s still good in him,” right before Magneto goes about killing what seems to be several million people around the world. Just when you start to think you’ve heard Xavier say that in almost every one of these movies, it flashes back to James MacAvoy saying those same exact words in “X Men: First Class.”
Funniest Person in “Ghostbusters”: Andy Garcia
If we are going by laughs generated vs. amount of screentime, then Garcia – playing the mayor of NYC – is clearly the MVP of the new “Ghostbusters,” as he gets two chuckles and the only solid laugh of the film when he says, “Oh never compare me to the ‘Jaws’ mayor, NEVER!” On that note …
Ben Foster Award for Most Overbearing Performance: Kate McKinnon in “Ghostbusters”
Just as Ben Foster’s weird, twitchy affectations in “3:10 to Yuma” (and almost everything since then) were geared toward having critics say he “stole the movie from Russell Crowe and Christian Bale,” you can practically see the smug satisfaction on Kate McKinnon’s face as she awaits the expected praise for being the “breakout star” of the new “Ghostbusters.” The reality is that she is weird and off putting, constantly drawing attention to herself even in the background, and I still don’t know why the hell she licks her proton gun before she goes into battle at the end. Runner Up: Jesse Eisenberg in “Batman v. Superman”
Best Villain Death: “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”
As a huge fan of the original “Jack Reacher” I had high hopes for another installment, which were tempered when they swapped out writer-director Christopher McQuarrie with Ed (“Blood Diamond” “Love and Other Drugs”) Zwick. Unfortunately the sequel diluted the most enjoyable aspect of Tom Cruise’s performance as Reacher, the fact that he’s a gigantic asshole to everyone he encounters. It’s still an entertaining time-waster, but it especially comes to life when Cruise promises to break the arms, legs, and neck of the main villain, and during the climax does exactly that in a very satisfying manner. As far as I’m concerned, even the most mediocre action movies deserve some appreciation for being that literal.
Best of 2016:
1) “13 Hours”: Very rare that a movie can grab you in the opening five minutes and never let go. From the minute Jim Halpert gets off the plane, you are on the edge of your seat and completely terrified for everyone involved. Would have still loved at least one moment for Jim to break the fourth wall and look into the camera as the bad guys approached.
2) “The Infiltrator”: With the release of the second season of “Narcos,” this movie got lost in the shuffle. But it’s a solid piece of work, following Bryan Cranston and John Leguizamo as they try and ingratiate themselves with the Colombian cartel. I personally find Leguizamo underrated in all his dramatic roles, while Cranston is also tremendous and the wedding scene is wildly intense even though you know what’s coming.
3) “The Nice Guys”: Solid cop mystery with a ton of laughs and a child actor you didn’t want to push into oncoming traffic. Crowe and Gosling have great comedic timing, and make you wish they could have their own “Lethal Weapon” run. Welcome back Shane Black!
4) “10 Cloverfield Lane”: Does a great job of genuinely keeping you wondering who is right until the last few minutes. John Goodman gives a great performance and never gets enough credit for his work. For a movie with three people in it, it gets everything out of them without you thinking it’s ridiculous.
5) “Batman v. Superman”: I can understand people who felt this movie left some things on the table, but what is the rationale behind claiming this is the worst pile of shit ever made? (See below for Anthony’s rationale for claiming this is the worst pile of shit ever made) The action was great, everyone except Jesse Eisenberg is good in their roles, the effects were very well done (something not enough movies can get right), and it got from A to B. Is this just an “All Hail Marvel!” thing? Please tell me what you remember from “Ant-Man?” I stand by this movie, and think shitting on it is just the “in” thing to do.
Worst Movie: “Dirty Grandpa”
I don’t know how long I watched this, but I turned it off when I got to the scene where Zac Efron walks in on Robert De Niro jacking it, and they in fact show him jacking it. We should be ashamed for subjecting The Godfather to this. Acting with Zac Efron, that is.
Worst Movie I Made It Through: “Zoolander 2”
“Ghostbusters” was funnier. Oh no he did’nt!
Worst Attempt by Hollywood Elite to Make a Statement: “Money Monster”
Guy listens to a Jim Cramer-esque character (George Clooney) and invests his money and loses it, so he kidnaps Clooney in order to recoup his life savings. Only a pompous idiot like George Clooney would believe that if you invest your money without doing proper research then you have been victimized. Fuck this asshole. (Unclear if CJ was referring to that character or the real George Clooney, so let’s just assume both are assholes)
Best Movie Until You Realize Later That Nothing Happened: “Midnight Special”
Michael Shannon’s son is possibly a member of the X-Men. He drives around for a couple hours and then gets an answer. (Shrug).
Early Call for Best Picture of 2017: “Transformers: The Last Knight”
Best Twist in a Motion Picture: “Manchester by the Sea”
The twist: All the characters act the way normal, logical people would. The son isn’t a goth who needs his uncle to save him at the end. In fact, he’s on the hockey team and is banging two chicks. I just realized the hero of this movie is the kid.
Worst Use of Special Effects That No One Admits To: “The Jungle Book”
Every time that annoying child is in the movie, we get treated to Roland Emmerich-style green screen (as discussed in our “Mechanic: Resurrection” review). Also that kid was terrible. I know we can’t kill kids in the movie, but I would have loved it if the tiger just ripped his throat out. Lesson learned kids: tigers will kill you.
Worst Thing a Movie Has Made Me Think: Liam Hemsworth in “Independence Day: Resurgence”
“Harry Connick Jr. added more than I realized.”
Worst Gag a Movie Tried to Force as a Pop Culture Concept: Number of Drinks Until You Bang in “How to Be Single”
In this movie about singles in New York City, they come up with the notion that once you drink a certain amount of alcohol, you 100% fuck. This is followed up in a scene where Dakota Johnson is perfectly fine and then asks Anders Holm how many beers they’ve had. They count them up, and then immediately start fucking. If this was even remotely true I wouldn’t be writing for this goddamn blog. (All four of the Tough Guy Staff spent several years as single heterosexual men in New York City, and we can all agree that this concept is a bigger example of science fiction than anything in “Independence Day: Resurgence”)
Best of 2016 (in no particular order):
“The Magnificent Seven”: Fun, brainless action remake. Death everywhere. Denzel brings his macho best.
“Don’t Breathe”: Disturbing and gory, just like my drinking. Good tension and smart writing. Had a blind character.
“Don’t Think Twice”: Scary because I’m an improv guy and I’ve seen all of this. Good real-life uncomfortable moments, just like a bad show. (Having all sat through the kind of bad improv shows Anthony is describing, the rest of the Tough Guy staff is having onset PTSD at the thought of watching this movie)
“Kubo and the Two Strings”: Beautiful animation and a full story with fleshed-out characters. If only Hollywood could do the same with live-action movies. Had a blind character.
“Green Room”: Captain Picard has killed thousands of aliens for the Federation, but in this movie he kills illegal aliens as a white supremacist. Be prepared for bursts of violence like fireworks. (We should note that his character in “Green Room” doesn’t technically kill anyone, and the people he’s after are an indie rock band, not illegal aliens. Also did he really kill thousands of aliens on “Star Trek: The Next Generation”? We’ll bring this up with Anthony next time we see him)
Runner Up: “Hush”:
Blind woman is stalked by an anonymous stranger in a well-made, old-school thriller. Apparently blind people are a thing in Hollywood now.
Worst Movie: “Batman v. Superman”
I can’t get that time back. I’m closer to death and have nothing to show for it … I’m looking at you Jesse Eisenberg.
Best of 2016 (in no particular order as well):
“The Nice Guys”: Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make a great team, and I would consider the world lucky if “The Nice Guys” turned into a Hardy Boys-type franchise with the two of them reunited every few years to foil another case with their bumbling sleuthing! Gosling’s rapport with his daughter, who proves herself time and again to be the brains of the trio, was touching and hilarious.
“Hail Caesar”: This movie got panned, but if you’re a fan of old Hollywood, the Coen Brothers’, and Josh Brolin, then you should have nothing to complain about. I thought the story was funny and moved with purpose throughout. With the exception of a musical number involving Channing Tatum that went on a bit too long for my taste, I loved it. (Kevin – For the record, Josh Brolin is way funnier in this movie than George Clooney without having to do the standard comedic overacting Clooney always does in a Coen Brothers movie)
“The Witch”: Great horror movie that doesn’t fall victim to some lame plot twist at the zero hour. SPOILER ALERT: She actually turns out to be a witch! That’s how it ends. She’s not living in a colonial village run by Freemasons that is actually a few miles from a major modern city.
“Everybody Wants Some!!!”: Probably my favorite film of the year. I didn’t really expect to like it at all because I felt it was going to be a watered down version of “Dazed and Confused,” but this film quickly set itself apart. It went down the rare avenue of showing off just how great it actually is to be a jock that everyone wants to sleep with! Usually comedies focus on a group of nerds, with one or two token bruisers who defected from jock life thrown in to show that not everyone is all bad. It was refreshing to follow a protagonist who is unapologetically in love with himself, and that love is totally justified because he’s actually as good as he thinks he is. (Kevin – I’m still amazed Hollywood allowed a movie to get released showing that good-looking guys who play sports and drink beer are more fun to hang out with and more desirable by women than angry artistic geeks)
“Hell or High Water”: I’m putting this on the list reluctantly. I didn’t really LOVE it, but I did find myself thinking about it quite a bit. Upon first viewing, a lot of slick dialogue and some really great performances make up for the plot holes and overall absurdity of the thing. (Kevin – For the record I just watched this again two nights ago. Still some great moments, but you find yourself fast-forwarding past the “boy this economy sure doesn’t work for people like us” stuff, which is at least 46 percent of the movie)
Worst of 2016 (again in no particular order):
“The 5th Wave”: Obviously a trilogy-gone-wrong scenario. This movie ends on a cliffhanger and we’ll never see a sequel because it was just terrible. People are getting shot and seriously just walking away like it’s a paper cut.
“Midnight Special”: Extremely strong start for a movie that proceeds to go downhill and unfortunately never stops. The first 15 minutes were so good I couldn’t believe everyone wasn’t raving about it until it’s SPOILER ALERT revealed that the child who is worshiped as a god is actually just a human from a different dimension and time. A dimension where blasting beams of light from your eyeballs is the preferred form of communication I guess.
“Triple 9”: A good director and a great cast are just completely wasted on a story that never made any sense and wasn’t compelling in the least. To me this is the biggest sin a movie can commit. It’s equivalent to striking out in tee-ball.
“London Has Fallen”: I don’t really feel like an explanation is required here. Entertaining, yes. Completely, utterly horrible in just about every fashion, absolutely! (Kevin – CJ and I are obviously going to be petitioning the faithless electors to have this one removed from the ballot)
“Knight of Cups”: I watched this movie for over an hour before I had to restart it because I had the TV muted. Upon this, I quickly discovered I was wrong, there is just no talking and literally no story at all. It’s really two hours of Christian Bale meandering around and whispering non sequiturs to himself in the form of narration. Terrence Malick should have his DGA card revoked in the same way that an elderly person would get their drivers license taken away if they could no longer pass the visual test at the DMV.
Movie I Didn’t Like But Still Watched 5 Times: “13 Hours”
I really wanted to like this movie and I do admire some of it quite a bit, but it was way too long to hold my interest. I found certain parts of the film were too preachy as well. The action was great, but if you re-watch the movie, a majority of it happens in the last 35 minutes of a 2-hour-plus running time. Looked great and the acting was good, but it just didn’t land for me.
Movie That Was Both the Best and Worst at the Same Time: “The Neon Demon”
Haunting, boner-filled, confusing, erotic, retarded. It had it all. (Kevin – For the record, I would like “Haunting, boner-filled, confusing, erotic, retarded” to be on my tombstone when I die)
Most Overrated: “Deadpool”
See Kevin’s explanation above.
Biggest Cock Tease with the Biggest Cock Teases: “Suicide Squad”
Margot Robbie is the hottest woman on Earth, while Jared Leto generally seems to turn on a lot of chicks, so maybe someday we can get them in a movie where they can really show off their sexuality and appeal. Or, better idea, we can put them in “Suicide Squad” and blue ball the entire planet.
Best Brooding Actor Face: Matt Damon in “Jason Bourne”
Matt Damon apparently didn’t take a single poop for the entire four-month shooting schedule, and all that pain and suffering reflects brilliantly in his facial features throughout!
Movies I Haven’t Seen Which Were Mentioned Above:
“The Boss”: I’m tired of Melissa McCarthy and her whole shtick. Yes she’s funny, but she’s also the same character every single time.
“The Conjuring 2”: I didn’t even know this was a thing.
“Deepwater Horizon”: We get it Marky Mark, you’re just an average fella who happens to be a movie star.
“Dirty Grandpa”: No explanation required.
“Don’t Breathe”: Never heard of it.
“10 Cloverfield Lane”: My father recommended this to me, so I took that to mean it was terrible.
“Ghostbusters”: I had very little faith in this movie from the beginning, and it wasn’t because it has an all-woman cast, it was because I’m just not a fan of trying to re-live my childhood through reboots. An interesting list would be movies that were rebooted and better than the originals.
“Gods of Egypt”: Seemed like you got what you paid for if you sat down to see this movie. I’m tired of watching immortal people bitch slap each other and never dying.
“Green Room”: Never heard of it.
“Hacksaw Ridge”: Andrew Garfield … I don’t know what it is about this guy that I find so off-putting, but I just do. I just watched “Silence,” the new Scorsese film in which he stars, and I didn’t buy him or Adam Driver in that at all. They are both actors you can’t forget are actors as you watch them on screen. Not good.
“Hush”: Never heard of it.
“Independence Day: Resurgence”: Nope. Not even for the joke of it.
“The Infiltrator”: Looked great, just never got a chance to peep it.
“Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”: (Mike wrote the title but apparently forgot to say anything about it, so add your own snarky commentary here)
“Kubo and the Two Strings”: The only animation I watch is hentai, so I shut this off once I didn’t see an octopus with eight dick arms rape a school girl.
“The Magnificent Seven”: How are you going to make a Western about mass murder and give it a PG rating? (Technically PG-13) When I hear guns I want to see bullet holes and blood by the gallons, not dudes falling through shoddily made banisters into bales of hay below.
“The Shallows”: Never heard of it.
“Don’t Think Twice”: Improv is hard enough to watch live, sorry Anthony! Mike Birbiglia is overrated.