School may be out, but for RN&R’s movie critic, summer is report-card time. He’s handing out a few accolades and a bunch of dunce caps.
There have been a lot of swings and misses in 2016, especially since late March, when the summer movie season got off to an incredibly early start with a battle between a guy in a cowl and a guy with a cape. You know, the one with that epic fight that ended when Batman and Superman realized they loved their mommies.
Since then, a couple of blockbusters have hit the mark, but most have fizzled. The summer, as of early July, is dragging. It’s a big movie beast that is hemorrhaging wasted dollars on screens across the world. Normally reliable directors are stinking up the place, while a bunch of newcomers are at least providing terrific, smaller fare in an attempt to balance things out.
What does the summer have left? An attempt to reinvigorate Ghostbusters, a Star Trek movie, the return of Jason Bourne, a Pete’s Dragon remake and Suicide Squad, to name a few. As for the year, we have a Star Wars movie in December that will hopefully make up for this summer’s blockbuster dreck.
So far, there’s not much greatness to report in 2016. In fact, there are a few disappointments that amount to catastrophic misfires. We’re talking DC drabness, Spielbergian nightmares and sloppy alien invasions.Heck, yeah
The Witch: So far, the only movie this year to get my highest marks is a horror movie that brings to mind old-school classics like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. It’s gloomy, terrifying, and not at all nice, like a horror movie should be. It’s also well crafted, amazingly acted, expertly written and … it has that damn goat. A
Hail, Caesar!: Typical greatness from the Coen brothers. This spoof of old-timey Hollywood amounts to one of their more lighthearted, goofy efforts, and that means a good time for all with every frame of the film masterfully shot. A-
Swiss Army Man: Weirdness abounds as Paul Dano finds a corpse—magically played by Daniel Radcliffe—on a desert island and uses it as an all-purpose tool. He also befriends the corpse, and to say more will only confuse. Dano and Radcliffe deliver two of the year's best performances so far, along with lots of fart and dick humor. A-
Midnight Special: Director Jeff Nichols has made the most Spielbergian movie of the summer so far in a summer that actually contains a Steven Spielberg movie. Nichols is a giant filmmaker, and he has another one coming out this year, Loving. This one probably won’t contend for Best Picture, but Loving looks to have a good shot. It’s the year of Nichols! B+
The Neon Demon: Director Nicolas Winding Refn gets back on track after the disastrous Only God Forgives with this scathing look at the fashion industry. Elle Fanning is blazingly good as a young model who encounters soul-sucking fashion industry types who want her youthful energy a little too much. B+
Captain America: Civil War: Marvel shows us what a mash-up between two superheroes should look like. In short, it shouldn't suck ass! B+
Deadpool: Marvel also shows us that a superhero movie can be decidedly nasty while still being fun. And Ryan Reynolds can be just fine in a superhero movie, as long as his suit isn't animated. B+
The Lobster: This, The Neon Demon and Swiss Army Man would make for a great “Weird Movie Night” triple feature. Colin Farrell has a way of making it into some pretty terrific movies. B+
Zootopia: This one narrowly edges out The Jungle Book for best family film of the year, so far. I dug Finding Dory, but this Disney gem is closer to being a classic. B+
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping: This one bombed. It shouldn't have. Andy Samberg and his Lonely Island pals made the funniest movie of the year to date, and nobody went to see it. BHell, no
I Saw the Light: Tom Hiddleston sure can sing like Hank Williams. He can act like Hank Williams too, if Hank Williams was a droning, massive bore. Come on, Hank Williams must've had a sense of humor. Or a pulse. D
The BFG: Spielberg attempts to make a movie about dreams but makes a movie that will put you into a sleep so deep you will pool drool under your face and snore so loudly the guy with the flashlight will admonish you. It feels like Spielberg is copying himself. His first Disney venture is a slog. Like in Swiss Army Man, this movie has lots of farts. Unlike Swiss Army Man, the farts aren’t funny. D
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Great idea, abysmal execution. How could both this and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter be so bad? We are talking great opportunities totally wasted! D-
The 5th Wave: This is an alien invasion movie in which the humans are so damn dull you find yourself rooting for the aliens. Still, I'd watch this one again before the Independence Day sequel. I’d watch Donald Trump making out with Hillary Clinton, both of them naked and covered in melted cheese, before watching the Independence Day sequel again. D-
Independence Day: Resurgence: A useless, sloppy sequel to a movie that should have been sequelized years ago. This movie is well past its expiration date. No more Independence Days! You go away! Just go away! F
Cell: If, 20 years ago, you told me John Cusack and Nicholas Cage would wind up as onscreen, worn out husks of their former selves, I would've laughed at you and thrown pastries at you. Oh, how the great have fallen. Nicholas Cage isn't in this Stephen King mess, but Cusack is, and their careers continue on frightningly gloomy, similar trajectories. F
The Huntsman: Winter's War: Watching great talents Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt trying to make this material worthwhile is something akin to watching two adorable golden retriever puppies with huge bags of rotten, smelly apples strapped to their backs trying to make it up a large staircase during an earthquake. F
The Brothers Grimsby: Proof that, in the hands of the wrong director, Sacha Baron Cohen is a totally inept buffoon. Not one good laugh in this movie, just groans. F
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Where movie dreams go to die. Nothing makes me sadder than news from the new Justice League movie set, because it only reaffirms the fact that Warner Brothers keeps allowing Zack Snyder to shit all over the DC universe. How this man didn't get fired after making this colossal dud is a movie unto itself. F-