Happy new year! Guess what? My movie count actually went down in 2016! This is due mostly to having a busier year than usual – I spent two months traveling around the country, and in the fall I got a new job that ate up a lot of my time. I also spent a lot of my free time playing video games! These are all positive things, of course, but they did leave a way smaller window for watching shitty movies.
Let’s run the motherfucking numbers:
In 2016, I watched exactly 250 movies. So, yeah, even though my count went way down, I still far exceeded the number of movies any sane person should watch in a single year. Maybe these trends will continue, and in a few years I’ll be a normal, functional human being!
Until then, here’s all the bullshit I watched in 2016. As usual, each movie title will link to that film’s IMDB listing. I’ve also included links to streams of the movie on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon or YouTube where applicable. I realize there are other streaming services aside from those four, but you’re on your own with those, you ingrateful bastard. These links will appear after the title and date, in the form of little icons like this:
Okay, let’s get started:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (January 7)
After seeing it twice in theaters, I really wanted to see The Force Awakens again without having to pay for it, so I downloaded one of those filmed-in-the-theater bootlegs. I knew I was in for a treat when I saw this:
Guess what? The movie is still great! Or, as our friends from la galaxia might say, mucho bueno!!
Spaceballs (January 7)
Fun Fact: As a kid, I saw Spaceballs long before I ever saw any Star Wars movies! And since I was feeling especially Star Warsy after rewatching The Force Awakens, I decided to revisit it. I’ve found that most Mel Brooks movies haven’t aged well, and this is certainly no exception, but there’s enough childhood sentimentality attached to it for me that I couldn’t help but enjoy it anyway.
Attack on Titan: Part 1 (January 7)
I’ve never really watched any anime before, but for some reason earlier this year, I decided to watch the Attack on Titan series on Netflix. The cartoon is about a walled-0ff medieval-ish village, which is under constant attack from enormous, freakish humanoid monsters. It’s great!! This movie is a Japanese live-action adaptation, and it deviates enough from the source material that I can see long-time fans being annoyed at the changes. However, as someone who watched the series and the movie right in a row, I thought the film was a ton of fun. It retains the spirit of the cartoon, if not all the details, and the monsters look awesome and gross as fuck. I’d definitely recommend the cartoon over the movie, but why not just watch both?
The Martian (January 9)
The buzz surrounding this movie, and the novel from which it was adapted, had me curious to check it out – but holy shit, what a dull, insipid pile of puke. All the worst excesses of a Michael Crichton novel, without any of the fun dinosaurs or killer apes to make up for it. Fuck this movie.
Kazaam (January 9)
I’d never seen this infamous Shaquille O’Neal genie movie before, but was prompted to finally give it a watch by the How Did This Get Made? podcast. I always assumed the movie was dumb fun, but I never realized how much it focused on Shaquille O’Neal’s rap career, which is awkwardly assimilated into this genie movie at every given opportunity. This aspect made Kazaam ten times stupider than I’d imagined, and thus ten times better.
Also, you fucking idiots, there was never a Sinbad genie movie! Grow the fuck up.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (January 9)
This is a movie about kid spies, based on a Mark Millar comic book that I’ve never read. I remember really enjoying this movie, but right now I can’t recall a goddamn thing about it. So, there you go.
Garage Sale Mystery: Guilty Until Proven Innocent (January 10)
Of the two Garage Sale Mystery movies released this year, this was the weaker by far. Still, if you like really stupid bullshit made for doddering old ladies (like I do), this series is about as good as it gets.
From Bedrooms to Billions (January 10)
A documentary about the British video game industry, with a strong focus on its early days during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Being an American, this is an area of video game history that was almost entirely off my radar, and this doc was fascinating as a result. Unlike the Japanese game industry, which has always been hugely corporate, the roots of UK equivilant were so grassroots that its almost more appropriate to describe it as a “scene” rather than an “industry.” Just a bunch of nerdy dudes coding games, slapping them onto discs, and sending them to each other. The artistry and DIY entrepenurism on display here are really inspiring, and I’d recommend From Bedrooms to Billions to anyone interested in video game history, especially if you’re as ignorant about this branch of it as I was.
Everest (January 10)
Boring “based on a true story” tedium about tour guides on Mount Everest. Like the mountain itself, Everest is beautiful to look at, but totally devoid of life.
Feast (January 10)
For some reason, I was having a discussion with a friend about the reality TV show Project Greenlight, during which I learned that the show’s third season focused on the making of the film Feast. I love Feast, but was unaware of its Project Greenlight connection, so I immediately downloaded and watched the season. It was very interesting in general, but my main takeaway was that Feast director John Gulager is a complete fucking basket case. The dude’s main priority as director seemed to be badgering the producers into casting his awful friends and family in the movie, and his frequent meltdowns often halted production altogether. He is delightful to watch, and the season is a great glimpse at what it’s like to make a movie in the stupidest way possible. Anyway, I rewatched Feast afterwards. It’s still great.
The Revenant (January 11)
Bridge of Spies (January 12)
More crappy Oscar-bait garbage. Year after year, I get suckered into watching movies like this, and I always regret it. Just completely worthless trash.
Event Horizon (January 12)
The only positive thing about watching The Martian is that it inspired me to check out some other space exploration movies that I hadn’t seen before. Event Horizon was pretty good, and reminded me a bit of Michael Crichton’s Sphere, except way more violent and horror-y. Sam Neill is great in this.
The Ridiculous 6 (January 13)
Sheer morbid curiosity drove me to check out this Netflix-exclusive Adam Sandler western. My expectations were obviously lower than low, so I found myself pleasantly surprised by the movie. I don’t wanna say it’s good – because it’s very, very far from good – but it’s shockingly watchable. While most of the humor is the dumbest possible fun, one scene about the origins of baseball impressed me with its genuine cleverness. But since you can just watch that scene on youtube, you might as well just do that and skip the rest.
Werewolf (MST3K version) (January 14)
One of the true MST3K classics, this episode is hilarious and features one of the show’s best songs:
Dope (January 17)
My first reaction after watching this teen comedy was that the situations in it are ludicrously implausible. But then it occurred to me that implaisibility is a staple of teen comedies – it’s just kind of weird to see in a modern movie that takes itself as seriously as this one. If you can get past that, this is an entertaining enough little movie, but prepare your eyes for a lot of rolling.
Anomalisa (January 17)
Charlie Kaufman once again does what he does best: tells a surreal, cryptic and visually striking story about identity, except this time with really impressive puppets! Like most of this guy’s films, this is pretty heavy shit. If you’re into that kind of thing, Anomalisa is a beautiful, thought-provoking and moving film.
Faults (January 17)
Really stupid movie where my girlfriend Ramona Flowers plays a girl who has been swept under the spell of a religious cult, and whose parents hire a deprogrammer to snap her out of it. The deprogrammer is played by a guy named Leland Orser, who I’ve never seen in anything before, and his performance is pretty incredible. Other than that, this movie is mostly pretty stupid and unbelievable. But Ramona Flowers is pretty.
Buzzard (January 17)
Really cool movie about a small-time scam artist and all-around scummy dude named Marty, whose paranoia drives him to go on the lam in Detroit. The plot here is pretty sparse (and downright silly at times), but Marty is such an interesting character that Buzzard is totally captivating. There are some bits in the middle that could be trimmed (specifically, the time Marty spends with his annoying friend), but as a whole, this is a very engaging little movie that I highly recommend.
The Nightmare (January 18)
The creator of the wackadoo Room 237 brings us another documentary, this one about sleep paralysis. Basically, a bunch of people tell stories about the bad dreams they’ve had, and those nightmares are brought to life via Unsolved Mysteries-esque reenactments. The Nightmare is meant to have a spooky horror vibe, but just like when people tell you about their dreams in real life, this ends up being pretty goddamned boring.
Batman: Bad Blood (January 22)
It’s getting tiresome reporting year after year about how shitty these animated Batman films have gotten, but it’s my duty to continue doing so. This one is based loosely on Grant Morrison’s Batman and Robin and Batman Incorporated runs, and also tries to squeeze in an origin story for Batwoman. The result is a nearly unwatchable motherfucking mess. Please get your shit together with these cartoons, DC. Please?? I hate hating Batman.
Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow: The Futurism of Walt Disney (January 22)
This is a wonderful documentary about Walt Disney, specifically focused on his relationship with technology. From his breakthroughs in animation to his truly insane plans for EPCOT, this is a must-see for any fans of Walt and his legacy. The one downside is that the movie’s “host” is doofy and annoying as fuck, but that’s a small price to pay for what you’re getting here. The whole thing can be viewed on YouTube, so check it out.
Icebreaker (Rifftrax version) (January 23)
Icebreaker is Die Hard at a ski resort, with Sean Astin in the John McClane role, and a bald Ben Weasel-looking Bruce Campbell as the Hans Gruber. I’d never heard of this movie before the Rifftrax guys talked over it, but it’s totally awesome 90’s action cheese (despite the fact that it was actually released in 2000). It turns out Bruce Campbell was born to play an action movie villain – he’s so wonderful and hilarious here that I wish I could see him play this type of character more often. The Rifftrax commentary here is very funny, but if you’re an action junkie, I’d honestly recommend this with or without the Rifftrax. It’s that entertaining.
Streets of Fire (January 23)
Bizarre rock n’ roll action movie featuring Diane Lane, Rick Moranis, and Willem Dafoe. I watched this on assignment from How Did This Get Made?, having never seen it before, and I’m so glad I did because this movie is fucking crazy. Some dude named Michael Paré is hilarious as the hero, Rick Moranis plays against type as a sleazy asshole, and Dafoe is over-the-top wonderful as the bad guy. There’s too much wacky shit going on to list here, so just go watch this movie and then listen to the HDTGM episode.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (January 23)
Diane Lane’s turn as a rock n’ roll gunmoll in Streets of Fire inspired me to finally check out her pivotal punk rock movie. The Fabulous Stains is fun enough, but it has basically the same “rise and fall” story arc of every movie ever made about a rock band. As someone who has played in actual punk rock bands, the whole “what is the price of mainstream success” thing is stock as fuck, and completely unrelatable. This movie is fine, but I kinda wish someone would make a movie about a punk band that takes a more realistic approach.
Regression (January 23)
Really boring and shitty mystery thriller starring Ethan Hawke and Hermoine from Harry Potter. Steer clear of this one.
JeruZalem (January 25)
For the most part, JeruZalem is a pretty run-of-the-mill found-footage zombie movie, but it was filmed on location in Jerusalem, which is pretty cool. The movie isn’t great by most standards, but it really won me over with its fascinating setting and its unique creature design. I ended up loving it.
Times Square (January 25)
The Fabulous Stains inspired me to check out some other female-led punk rock movies from the early 80’s. Times Square was my favorite by far. The two teenage girls who lead the film are just so goddamn cool and likeable, and their friendship really captivated me. Add in Tim Curry and some 80’s NYC grittiness, and you have a movie that’s right up my alley. Plus, it features the best fucking song of all time:
I love this movie!!!
Breaking Glass (January 28)
Another 80’s punk girl movie. This one was pretty sucky, from what I remember.
Get Crazy (January 29)
And this one was even suckier.
Time Chasers (MST3K version) (February 1)
One of the all-time great Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. I remember hearing a couple of years ago that a Time Chasers sequel was in the works. What ever happened with that? I suppose I could just google the answer, but in case you haven’t noticed, I’m busy writing a blog right now.
Sunshine (February 6)
I’m not sure what inspired me to watch this 2007 astronaut movie starring Cillian Murphy, since I’d never really heard of it before. It was a pretty dull, run-of-the-mill movie, but I learned one interesting thing by watching it. Did you know that the musical composition Sunshine (Adagio in D Minor) was an original piece written for this film’s soundtrack? You probably don’t recognize that title, but you definitely know the music:
This piece shows up all over the place, and feels like it’s been around forever! If you’d have asked me where it came from, I probably would have guessed it was a classical piece from the 1700’s or some shit. Who knew that it originated in some shitty sci-fi movie from friggin’ 2007??? Not me!
Coherence (February 6)
This film is about a group of friends getting together for a dinner party on a night when a comet enters Earth’s orbit, apparently bringing about the end of the world. The basic premise reminded me a bit of the crappy David Cross movie It’s a Disaster, but this one has some mind-fucky tricks up its sleeve which might make it just barely worth watching.
Invasion of the Neptune Men (MST3K version) (February 6)
I always get this episode of MST3K mixed up with Prince of Space, since they’re both about Japanese superheroes teaming up with Japanese children to fight Japanese space aliens. If you can only watch one of them, I’d have to recommend Prince of Space, but this one is pretty funny too.
Labyrinth (February 7)
The Dark Crystal (February 7)
I am guessing I must have watched Labyrinth because of how much David Bowie’s death was being talked about at the time. I was never a big fan of the dude’s music, so this movie is my only real point of connection to Bowie. Then I must have watched The Dark Crystal afterwards, because what the hell else are you gonna do immediately after watching Labyrinth?
The Gift (2015) (February 10)
On February 10th, I got on a plane to Los Angeles, where I would meet up with my friend mc chris, and join him on his U.S. tour as his roadie/merch guy. Being on tour meant that from February 11th through April 7th, I only ended up watching five movies total – all of them in theaters. But on the plane, I watched The Gift, a thriller starring Jason Bateman. It was okay. Almost any movie is okay when you’re on an airplane.
Deadpool (February 18)
I saw Deadpool on my birthday, at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. I’d never been to an Alamo before, and it was every bit as rad as I’d always heard. I haven’t been to the one up in Yonkers yet, but I hope to get there soon. The movie was pretty awesome too – funny and heartwarming with excellent action sequences. It honored Deadpool comics more than I ever imagined was possible, and was just unbelievably ballsy. What a great birthday!
The Witch (February 23)
February 23rd found us in Atlanta, GA on a day off. This was mc chris’ home turf when he was working for Adult Swim, so he showed me some of his old haunts, including the Midtown Art Cinema where we saw The Witch. Before the movie we ate at Mellow Mushroom and hung out at a bar where I beat the high score in Bags, and then it was time to travel back to 1630’s New England. I could see how some people might find this movie slow and plodding, but its pacing really worked for me, gradually ratcheting up the creepiness until shit got totally bonkers near the end. We spent the rest of the tour trading Black Phillip quotes back and forth to each other.
Zootopia (March 8)
We saw Zooptopia in some shitty theater right off the highway, somewhere in Rhode Island. It wasn’t the best movie-going experience, but the film itself was really fucking great. I’m not sure exactly how long it takes to put these animated features together, but Zootopia‘s themes of engrained prejudice and fear-mongering could not have come during more appropriate period of American history. Whether this was planned or just serendipitous, someone at Disney should get a fucking raise just based on timing alone. Aside from its incredible social commentary, the movie is also beautiful, funny as hell, and just pure Disney magic. More talking animal movies please, Disney!
10 Cloverfield Lane (March 14)
We saw 10 Cloverfield Lane at a theater in a mall somewhere in Michigan. I remember that there was a stack of posters that they were giving out to people who bought tickets. I stole four of them because (a) it’s a really cool looking poster, and (b) I was completely confident that I’d end up loving this movie. But I did not end up loving this movie. I didn’t like it at all, in fact. Sure, there were some interesting things in there, but for the most part it felt like slapped-together half-ass nonsense. John Goodman gave a great performance, as always, but his character made absolutely no sense. And the alien scene at the end was kaka poo poo. What a fucking disappointment. At least the poster is cool.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (March 25)
The final movie of tour was Batman v Superman in Kansas City, KS. While it was kinda nice seeing this movie in Superman’s home state, holy god did it suck. I mean, it fucking suuuuuuuucked. This is a disjointed, boring, confusing, unrelentingly ugly mess which pisses all over these beloved characters. Just total garbage made by a studio and a director who not only don’t understand superheroes, but seem to actively, aggressively hate them. I was surprised to discover that Ben Affleck’s performance as Batman – which I’d been very skeptical about – was actually the brightest spot in an otherwise vantablack pit of shit. Honestly, he has the potential to be the best on-screen Batman ever, if he weren’t bogged down by terrible scripts, terrible dialogue, and a disgraceful mischaracterization of the character. And that’s the nicest thing I can possibly say about this movie, which might be the worst superhero film to date. Fuck this movie, and fuck Zack Snyder, and fuck Warner Bros. if they don’t fix this by the time we get to Justice League. Anyway, on a positive note, it was nice to see a superhero movie with mc chris again. Back when he lived in NYC, we saw almost every superhero movie together, so this experience felt right even if the movie itself was so, so, so wrong.
Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday (April 8)
Home from tour for a day or two, I got to relax in bed and watch a movie alone again for the first time in a couple of months. And of course the first one I chose was the new Netflix Pee-Wee movie. It’s pretty great! If you like Pee-Wee, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t like his Big Holiday.
Walt Before Mickey (April 8)
This is a biopic starring the least memorable kid from American Pie as a young Walt Disney. During tour, we’d visited Walt’s hometown of Marceline, MO so I was primed as fuck for a film about Walt’s early years. Unfortunately, this was pretty dull with phenomenally bad acting. Huge Disney fans should still see it, I guess, but go in with low expectations. Anyway, here’s a cool photo I took of Marceline’s Main Street:
X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut (April 8)
I loved this movie when I first saw it – enough to make a bullet-pointed list about it, something I rarely do in these write-ups. And revisiting it revealed that I still love it, although I can’t really remember what exactly is new in “The Rogue Cut”. Presumably, Rogue is in it. Cool.
Batkid Begins (April 13)
This is a documentary about a 5-year-0ld boy with cancer, and how the Make-A-Wish Foundation rallied the entire city of San Francisco to help make his dream of being Batman come true. That’s a beautiful story, and therefore it’d be pretty evil of me to say that the movie is boring as hell, right? Probably. So let’s just move on.
Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem (April 13)
Another in this line of cartoons aimed at young children, this one has Batman fighting a team of monster-like villains such as Scarecrow and Solomon Grundy. These movies are aimed at li’l tykes, so they can be dull, but the animation is pretty and Batman runs around and fights people, so they’re relatively tolerable.
The Jungle Book (2016) (April 15)
This was a beautiful, thoughtful remake of The Jungle Book that, despite some distractingly stupid performances (I’m looking at you, Christopher Walken), worked pretty well for me. What I liked most about it was that the social dilemmas presented in the movie were actually fairly complex and thought-provoking… and by the climax, I was fully on Shere Khan’s side. Get the fucking manchild out of the jungle before he burns the whole goddamn thing down!! Wait a minute… does this opinion make me a member of the alt-right? Uh-oh. Anyway, if you can stomach some annoying bits, as well as the fact that everything you’re constantly looking at is fake fake fake, then this is a very enjoyable movie. Now go and make America great again!
Dark Mountain (April 21)
Found-footage horror about a team of documentarians who set out to find the fabled Lost Dutchman’s Mine in Arizona. The movie, shot on location in the Superstition Mountains, is absolutely gorgeous. Everything else about the movie is pretty piss poor though. Unless you’re extremely interested in looking at the pretty scenery, you’d be much better off just watching The Blair Witch Project again.
The Voices (April 21)
In this funny and sweet horror/comedy, Ryan Reynolds plays a lovable but delusional man whose pursuit of an office romance becomes intensified by his pets constantly telling him to kill people. A romantic comedy starring David Berkowitz doesn’t really sound like a great idea, but Ryan Reynolds is just charming enough to make it work.
The Brood (April 21)
Somehow I’d never seen this David Cronenberg classic before, and I decided on a whim to watch it on Hulu. It’s so fucking scary and gross and shocking and smart! Go watch it!
Hush (April 22)
Typical home invasion thriller, except the victim in this case happens to be a deaf woman. It reminded me at times of Wait Until Dark except starring a deaf-o instead of a blind-o. The movie is pretty good, and is elevated by Kate Siegel‘s awesome performance in the lead role.
Circle (April 22)
Hooo boy, this is a dumb one. A group of fifty diverse strangers are mysteriously abducted and forced by their unseen captors to stand in a circle formation, facing each other. Every two minutes, the group must vote on which one of them should die next. As you can imagine, this sets up some of the stupidest, hackiest, most clichéd social commentary you can imagine. Circle is so ridiculous and cringy and awful that I almost want to recommend it, just as a bizarre The Man From Earth-esque oddity. But, I won’t do that to you.
Cube (April 22)
Circle left such a shitty taste in my mouth that I had to cleanse myself by watching a movie that does a similar thing, but does it right. So I rewatched the excellent Cube.
Rites of Spring (April 24)
My memories of this one are pretty foggy. I think it’s about a group of thieves who try to hide out in a farmhouse and get involved in some kind of ritualistic sacrifice, or something? I can’t remember much more than that. Well, I remember it sucks. Does that help?
Hercules (2014) (April 24)
The idea behind this version of Hercules is that all the legends about Herc are bullshit, and his great deeds were actually relatively mundane events that were intentionally embelleshed by his nephew/hypeman Iolanus. It’s a pretty cool concept that leads to a lot of entertaining scenes, which make this movie almost worth watching. Unfortunately, it pretty quickly devolves into a typical 300-esque war movie, so I can’t really give it a full recommendation. Let your feelings about The Rock be your tie-breaker.
Star Wars (April 24)
As part of his act on tour, mc chris did an extended comedic monologue about the first Star Wars film, with a focus on deconstructing the Mos Eisley Cantina scene. It was a very funny bit which I got to watch evolve over the course of the tour, and even after hearing every single night for 7 weeks, I still enjoyed it. Once I was home, I wanted to rewatch the movie with his observations in mind. And so I did! The end.
Maximum Overdrive (April 25)
Stephen King Presents: Emilio Estevez and company vs. sentient killer trucks. The worst part of this movie is Yeardley Smith, who it turns out is unbearable when you have to actually look at her face. The best part is, of course, the Green Goblin truck.
The Ninth Gate (April 25)
Johnny Depp is a book salesman who fights demons, or some shit. This movie sucked.
Cujo (April 26)
Another shitty old Stephen King horror movie. This one is about a dog who acts like a jerk.
The Lazarus Effect (April 26)
More jerky dogs are running around in this dumb movie, along with jerky humans played by jerky actors. And if I’m not mistaken, this was my first Ray Wise appearance of 2016. It was nice to see him again.
Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show (April 26)
“Hi we make TV shows for a living, and we work so hard and we’re so great. Please worship us like the gods on earth that we are!” Then they squeeze their own nipples and feast on the sweet nectar that emerges.
The Boy (April 26)
Maggie from The Walking Dead plays a nanny who is hired by an eccentric elderly couple to provide care for a creepy porcelain doll that they believe is their son. I was a bit concerned about this horror movie’s PG-13 rating, but it actually ended up being pretty goddamn scary and fun. Recommended!
Krampus (April 26)
I was bummed that I missed out on this when it was initially released during the 2015 Christmas season, but I finally got around to checking it out in late April. It’s rare to find a Christmas horror movie that isn’t just a slasher with Santa Claus in it, so this was a real treat. Krampus is creepy, funny, family-friendly, and chock full of genuine Christmas spirit! It also has excellent creatures in it, putting it on par with stuff like Gremlins. I didn’t know what to expect from this, but I found it to be an instant classic suitable for rewatching every December.
Justice League vs. Teen Titans (April 28)
I’m totally running out of ways to tell you how awful these new DC animated movies are. This time, I’ll try telling you backwards. Lufwa si eivom siht.
Holidays (April 30)
A “compilation” style anthology, where each segment is helmed by a different director, and focuses on a different holiday. I’ll let you know right off the bat that Kevin Smith’s Halloween segment is fucking dreadful. Just the lamest, most pathetic shit you’ve ever seen. Luckily, all the other segments range from good to great (“Father’s Day” is probably the best of the bunch), so the movie is still worth checking out.
Southbound (April 30)
Another anthology, this one showcasing several interconnected stories that all take place along the same stretch of highway. There are some pretty good ideas in Southbound, but overall it kinda bored me.
Cyber Tracker (Rifftrax version) (May 5)
Samurai Cop (Rifftrax version) (May 5)
May 5th was a Rifftraxy kind of day! I don’t really remember much about Cyber Tracker, but Samurai Cop is a perfect Rifftrax movie. It’s a Lethal Weapon-esque movie about a cop who plays by his own rules, and most of those rules involve really shitty martial arts. The titular samurai cop is amazingly goofy, the token exasperated police chief is a constant delight, and Robert Z’Dar is sublime as the villain. This might honestly be a Top 10 Rifftrax, so check it out.
Solarbabies (May 5)
I’d never heard of Solarbabies until How Did This Get Made? brought it to my attention, and goddamn – where has this movie been all my life?? Wonderfully weird 1986 sci-fi, featuring a ragtag group of kids navigating a bleak post-apocalyptic landscape. There’s lot of dumb, half-baked nonsense in this movie (otherwise it wouldn’t be How Did This Get Made-worthy), but overall I found it really charming. If I had seen this as a kid, I bet it would have been one of my favorite movies.
Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
It’s fucking amazing that this movie exists. Bringing together everything Marvel had built in its previous 85 films, the result is a perfectly crafted orgy of superhero craziness that is almost too goddamn incredible to handle at times. Nearly every Marvel character, plus some notable new ones, show up to take part in the fun. This all culminates in that fucking airport scene, the greatest superhero battle ever captured on film. And I don’t want to hyperbolize, but it might also be the single greatest thing that has ever happened in the history of the human race. Giant Man alone puts it at least in the Top 10. And as a New Yorker, when Spidey and Cap had that Queens/Brooklyn exchange, I almost burst into tears right then and there. But Civil War‘s greatest accomplishment is how, even with all this crazy bullshit going on, it still manages to keep a pretty sharp focus on Captain America himself. In spite of all the comic book madness constantly happening, what we come away with is a story about friendship that has some genuine emotional weight to it. After the dreary mess of Batman v Superman, this was such a breath of fresh air. All that and a zillion superheroes too! If this is what we get from a “simple” Captain America sequel, I cannot fucking wait to see what Infinity War has in store for us!
Wizards of the Lost Kingdom (Rifftrax version) (May 6)
There must have been rights issues of some sort with this Rifftrax, because it seems to have been removed from their catalog. So if you haven’t seen this one yet, it appears you’ve snoozed and losed. Don’t feel too bad though, because it wasn’t all that great.
Hell Comes to Frogtown (May 6)
What if the Mad Max movies recast Mad Max as Rowdy Roddy Piper? What if the plot was about Mad Max’s testicles being filled with the world’s most fertile sperm, this forcing him to have sex with women all day long to repopulate the world? What if that world was chock full of people in frog costumes that look like they came straight from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Coming Out of Their Shells tour? All these questions – and more – are answered by the 1988 classic Hell Comes to Frogtown. Go watch it!
Kindergarten Cop 2 (May 6)
Dolph Lundgren fills Arnold’s shoes in this lackluster, porno-quality sequel to Kindergarten Cop. If you’re thinking of watching this for the so-bad-it’s-good yuks, don’t bother. You’ll just end up bored, and probably under arrest for conspiracy to murder Bill Bellamy.
Zoombies (May 12)
2016 saw me easing off on Asylum creature features a little bit, but I did thoroughly enjoy Zoombies. Everything you need to know about this movie can be gleaned from its title: zookeepers in a safari park must deal with a zombie outbreak that infects all the animals in their care. The zombie animals range from koalas to lions to elephants, and they’re pretty entertaining – and in a surprising turn of event, I even found myself getting a little bit emotional about the plight of a gorilla named Kifo. That’s something I never expected, and it elevated Zoombies far above the usual Asylum movie, in my opinion. If you’re only gonna watch one Asylum movie without Sharknado in its title this year, make it Zoombies.
The 5th Wave (May 13)
Dreadfully dull young-adult alien movie, which is a shameful waste of Chloë Grace Moretz’ talents. Don’t bother.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (May 14)
I think Jane Austen is boring as fuck, and the addition of zombies can only do so much to make her shit any less of a slog. The effort is definitely admirable, and this movie version is very well-made, but it comes down to this: If you like Pride and Prejudice, then you will likely get a kick out of this. If you don’t, you won’t. Explore your feelings and act accordingly.
Justice League: The New Frontier (May 15)
I rewatched my favorite DC animated film in honor of its creator, Darwyn Cooke, who had passed away the day before. I am generally a “story guy” when it comes to comic books, and barely even notice the art unless it’s very good or very bad. There are maybe 5 comic book artists in the history of the medium whose work I could pick out of a lineup. Darwyn Cooke is one of those 5. His work, more than anyone else’s, captures the essence of what superheroes are supposed to be about: adventure, derring-do, joy, and hope. He will be sorely missed.
Arachnia (Rifftrax version) (May 16)
Man, you have to see what the spider monster looks like in this movie. You just have to!! This ridic movie – apparently from the same studio that produced Time Chasers and Icebreaker – makes for a hilarious, instant-classic Rifftrax.
The Myth of the American Sleepover (May 16)
This was only on my radar because it’s the first (and only other) movie by David Robert Mitchell, director of my favorite film of 2015, It Follows. This one isn’t a horror film, but in it you can see hints of the beautiful cinematography, wonderful characterization, and moving coming-of-age storytelling that would later be exemplified by It Follows. This isn’t a masterpiece or anything but it’s a good starting point for what will hopefully be a good long body of work.
The Fantastic Four (1994) (May 19)
You probably know the story of this movie, right? It was slapped together by Roger Corman and a shitty production company called Constantin Film Production, solely for the purpose of the latter retaining film rights to the franchise. It was never intended for release, never was officially released, and has become something of a legend. When I finally got to see it this year, I was all stoked to see this famously awful movie… but the problem is that there have now been three officially released Fantastic Four movies which all suck, and this one isn’t really significantly worse than any of them. That kinda took the fun out of it, y’know?
An Open Secret (May 23)
Documentary about the teenage sex rings which allegedly have been maintained by Hollywood’s elite for decades. This movie fucked me up for a while, and frankly I’m not too interested in talking or thinking about it much right now. So let’s just move on to Hillbillys in a Haunted House.
Hillbillys in a Haunted House (Rifftrax version) (May 23)
As a kid, I once read an issue of MAD Magazine which featured a movie parody of The Naked Gun, and I remember thinking: What’s the point? I kinda feel the same way about this edition of Rifftrax – what is the point of riffing a movie that’s meant to be a slapstick comedy in the first place? The joy of riffing is deflating movies that take themselves seriously even though they’re ridiculous, so applying that approach to a comedy – even a failure of a comedy like this – seems like a waste of effort.
They’re Watching (May 24)
Found-footage horror movie about a reality TV film crew who find themselves in a tiny village in Moldova, where legends of witchcraft have all the locals on edge. Look, 90% of this movie is really boring and stupid, but there’s a scene near the end that’s so goddamned cool that it almost makes watching the whole thing worth it. Fast-forward!
13 Ghosts (May 25)
Classic 60’s haunted house movie by William Castle. If you like that kind of thing, you probably already have seen this. So writing about this movie is probably pointless. Actually, writing about any of these movies is pretty pointless, now that I think about it. What a waste of time. Fuck, I’m still only in May.
LEGO DC Superheroes: Justice League – Attack of the Legion of Doom (May 29)
Another cute and funny little LEGO DC movie. Honestly, this series is probably the best thing that DC has going for it right now when it comes to animation. In one sense, that’s really fucking sad. In another sense, these movies are hilarious and I’m glad they exist.
I Walked With a Zombie (May 29)
This is a Caribbean-set voodoo-zombie movie from the 1940’s, and it’s much more entertaining than any other film I’ve seen which fits that description.
LEGO DC Superheroes: Justice League – Cosmic Clash (May 31)
If you can only watch one of the two LEGO DC movies, this one is probably a little bit better. But I bet you can watch both if you really try.
I Am Street Fighter (May 31)
I’m not even a big Street Fighter fan, so why the fuck did I watch this documentary about Street Fighter fans? When I figure out the answers to questions like that, maybe my healing process can finally begin.
Victor Frankenstein (May 31)
This is shit. Pure fucking shit. You know this is shit. I knew this was shit, too. I watched it anyway. Don’t be like me.
Tales From the Crypt: Ritual (May 31)
This is a 2002 remake of the aforementioned I Walked With a Zombie, which had the Tales From the Crypt label slapped on it after the fact. Pretty weird. Still, it’s not a bad movie, and if I’m not mistaken it’s the very last canonical appearance of The Cryptkeeper. That alone makes it worth your time.
The Amazing Spider-Man (1977) (May 31)
Whenever people talk about early superhero movies, they forget about shit like this. And rightfully so. This made-for-TV movie served as a pilot for a live-action Spider-Man series, and it’s just about as crappy as you’d expect a 1977 low-budget Spider-Man TV movie to be. This thing makes the Incredible Hulk TV show look good, and the Incredible Hulk TV show is not good.
Antisocial (June 1)
“Five university friends gather at a house party to ring in the New Year. Unbeknownst to them, an epidemic has erupted outside, causing outbreaks around the world.”
That’s IMDB’s desctiption of Antisocial, and that’s all you’re gonna get here because I don’t remember this movie at all.
It (June 3)
This was a TV miniseries and not a movie, so technically it shouldn’t really be included here. But since I listed The Langoliers way back in 2011, I figure I should stay consistent. It is my favorite Stephen King novel, and while this adaptation was okay, it pales in comparison to the source material. I’m looking forward to the remake!
Two-Fisted Tales (June 8)
After the success of Tales From the Crypt, Fox tried to get an anthology series off the ground based on another EC comic book, Two-Fisted Tales. This made-for-TV movie/pilot is as far as they got, which is unfortunate because all three stories here are all pretty good, particularly Robert Zemeckis’ World War I tale Yellow. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Yellow, along with the other two stories, were all later reworked as individual episodes of Tales From the Crypt. So if you’ve seen all of that series, there’s no real need to watch Two-Fisted Tales unless you’re really into lame host segments.
Adventures in Babysitting (2016) (June 20)
The Elisabeth Shue classic, remade as a Disney Channel Original Movie. This version is somewhat faithful to the original kinda, but it obviously suffers from being toned-down for the Disney Channel. Honestly, if you’re looking for a spiritual successor to Adventures in Babysitting, you’d be much better off watching Jonah Hill’s The Sitter.
A LEGO Brickumentary (June 21)
A surprisingly chipper-sounding Jason Bateman narrates this fairly entertaining 90-minute advertisement for LEGO products. If you like LEGO, this is about LEGO.
Ratz (June 22)
Ratz is a goofy movie from the late 90’s about two dorky teen girls who use a magic ring to turn rats into handsome prom dates. Carla and I had both, separately, seen this movie before we knew each other and had fond memories of it. But throughout the course of our relationship, attempts to find the movie were always dead ends – from scouring video rental stores in the mid-oughts to, more recently, searching the internet. This year, we finally found a torrent of the movie and got to watch it together. I’m not sure I can say it lived up to the near-mythic status it held in our memories, but it’s a fun enough little teen movie. I’m glad it’s back in our lives.
The Dooms Chapel Horror (June 23)
Dude returns to his hometown years after being run out on a rail for supposedly causing his brother’s accidental death, and because he is a dumb asshole, he brings a film crew with him to document the occassion. It sounds like a tense family drama – and it kinda is – but since this is a horror movie, it’s not long before the story turns into something resembling Pumpkinhead. This results in a creature feature that is entertaining enough, but nothing special.
The Abandoned (June 23)
A young woman takes a job as a night-shift security guard at an abandoned apartment complex. The job is easy and and uneventful, and she spends most of her shift just browsing reddit on her phone. Just kidding! She fights deformed ghost children!
Simply Irresistible (June 28)
Another movie watched for How Did This Get Made? purposes, Simply Irresistible is a romantic comedy starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as a chef who gains superhuman cooking skills from a magical crab. Yes, you read that correctly. A magical crab. Anyway, the brilliant movie They Came Together has really enhanced my ironic enjoyment of romantic comedies – all the tropes really stand out to me now, and holy shit Simply Irresistible‘s got ’em all! It also exposes how phenomenally shitty SMG is at acting whenever she’s doing anything but slaying vampires. If you’re into making fun of absurd movies, this one lends itself to that activity really well.
Hardcore Henry (June 29)
I first became aware of Hardcore Henry when I saw a trailer for it before The Witch, and although it looked kinda cool, I was skeptical that its crazy FPS perspective could remain engaging throughout an entire action movie. Spoiler alert: It remains engaging as fuck. The movie does feel a lot like a video game at times, but I honestly thought that worked in its favor. Hardcore Henry is top-notch, no-frills kickass action from beginning to end, from a perspective you’ve never seen before. Highly recommended.
LEGO DC Superheroes: Justice League – Gotham City Breakout (June 30)
Earlier, I wrote that if you only watch one LEGO Justice League movie this year, it should be Cosmic Clash. Well, that’s because I forgot about this one. This one – which features Batman going on vacation while the rest of the Justice League protects Gotham City in his absence – is the best one.
Green Room (June 30)
This movie got a lot of hype this year, especially within the punk rock community. The truth is it’s a good movie, but not really great. One thing in its favor is that it does feel slightly more authentic than most movies about punk rock, but really only slightly. Aside from the punk connection, Green Room is a decent little thriller with a handful of cool moments – nothing more and nothing less. One thing that really shocked me was the crappiness of Patrick Stewart’s American accent – dude would switch back and forth between Britishness and Americaness sometimes several times within the same sentence. I don’t wanna dis the guy, but he should probably stick to playing British dudes from now on.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (June 30)
The Lonely Island movie is just about as funny as everything else the Lonely Island has done, so your opinion of Popstar will correlate perfectly with your opinion of I’m on a Boat and all that shit. I personally think it’s all pretty hilarious, and so I loved this movie. Great music, too!
Over the Edge (July 1)
Awesome – fucking awesome – 1979 movie about badass teens rebelling against authority in their lifeless small town, featuring young, hot Matt Dillon. This fucking movie will make you want to spit on cops, smash the windows of your high school, and tell your parents to go ram it up their wrinkly assholes. Just a great fist-pumping middle-finger-flashing youth culture movie. And as a bonus, it made me appreciate the Cheeky song Grow Fins, Turkey even more.
Sinister Squad (July 10)
The Asylum tries to kill several birds with one stone, by creating both a mockbuster of Suicide Squad, as well as a sequel to last year’s Avengers Grimm. For those unfamiliar with that piece of shit, it was an attempt to combine the superhero genre with the recent trend of “updated fairy tale” movies. Avengers Grimm was truly dreadful, even by Asylum standards, but Sinister Squad fares slightly better. Like the movie it’s ripping off, this is about a group of villains assembled to fight a larger threat, except in this case they’re all fairy tale villains like Rumplestiltskin and the Big Bad Wolf. My favorite character was Carabosse (more commonly known as Maleficent), who is reimagined here as a rip-off of the Enchantress, and is really fucking hilarious in her attempt to be creepy. Anyway, this was definitely a notch above its predecessor, but it still was a total waste of my time. Still, a sick part of me can’t wait to see where this series goes next… I’m hoping for Sleeping Beauty v Rip Van Winkle: Yawn of Justice.
Satisfaction (July 10)
Another teen-girl-in-rock-band movie from the 80’s, this one starring a young and hot Justine Bateman as the teen girl in question, and Liam Neeson as the old creep-o who has sex with her. This movie is boring and annoying.
Mannequin 2: On the Move (July 11)
I’d never seen the Mannequin sequel until How Did This Get Made? stepped in once again to educate me. It is a delightfully stupid romp which features a gorgeous young Kirsty Swanson, a hilarious villain played by Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s, and – one of my favorite 80’s movie staples – a flamboyantly gay black dude. Despite the release year of 1991, movies really don’t get much 80’s-er than this, so check it out if that’s your thing.
Cabin Fever (2016) (July 13)
As a man who once wrote wrote a song about hating the original Cabin Fever, I was all prepared to hate this remake too. I know it seems like I’m setting up to say that I ended up liking it after all, but nope – I hated it. My preparedness came in handy.
Keanu (July 14)
I have never been able to get into the Key and Peele TV show at all, but for some reason their movie worked for me. If you’re one of the other twelve people in America who isn’t super into these guys, you should still give this funny and charming movie a chance.
Beyond Clueless (July 16)
Fucking insane documentary by some insipid weirdo who loves teen movies so much that he paid Faruza Balk to read his rambling thoughts about them for an hour and a half. This thing really feels like a video that was slapped together as a project for a freshman year film class, and then received a C-minus grade. Instead it’s a real movie that appears on Netflix. Unbelievable.
Losers Take All (July 18)
Another horrible fucking punk movie made by dildos who don’t understand punk rock at all. This one features some pretty embarrassing songs too, including this cringe-worthy rip-off of Clampdown:
The Invitation (July 20)
A couple attend a dinner party, where the begin to suspect that their hosts and all the other guests are members of a death cult. Spoiler alert: Their hosts and all the other guests are members of a death cult. There, now you don’t have to watch this.
The Doom Generation (July 20)
Really sloppy, nonsensical attempt to capture the nihilistic youth culture of the mid-90’s. This is trying so hard to be shocking and violent and sexy, but everything is just laughably absurd, particularly Rose McGowan’s cartoonish performance. There are much better movies with this same vibe – like True Romance or even Natural Born Killers – but The Doom Generation is so ridiculous and poorly put together that it’s kinda worth watching just to give yourself a cringe-boner.
The Purge: Election Year (July 21)
The third Purge movie is probably the best in the series so far, but make no mistake – it still really sucks.
Batman: The Killing Joke (July 22)
The Killing Joke is my favorite comic book of all time. When it was announced that DC would be adapting it into an animated film – with the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill – I was pretty fucking stoked. So, now that I’ve seen it, did I like it? Well, I don’t know. The problem is, this is difficult to judge as one cohesive movie, because it’s not. It’s two movies, which do not fit together in any kind of cohesive way thematically or plotwise, and therefore must be judged separately. The first movie is an awful and offensive Batgirl movie. From what I’ve read, DC felt they needed to flesh out The Killing Joke because (a) the original story is a bit too short to be a stand-alone film, and (b) Barbara Gordon – and the horrifying trauma she suffers through – are used as little more than a narrative tool, and the character deserves more than that. I don’t disagree with either of those points, but holy shit did they drop the ball. Aside from the pointless and disgusting fact that Barbara has sex with Bruce Wayne, her story is just dull, pointless, and has barely any connective tissue to The Killing Joke. It’s awful and gross and lifeless. Once the movie transitions into the actual Killing Joke plotline, however, it’s wonderfully done and an almost-perfect adaptation. It was fantastic seeing the story I love come to life with gorgeous animation and the most iconic vocal portrayals of Batman and The Joker. It’s truly great, and it’s such a shame that any time I want to watch it, I’m going to have to fast-forward through 30 minutes of utter garbage.
Ghostbusters (2016) (July 23)
It’s difficult to talk about the Ghostbusters without awknowledging the sad, pathetic controversy that surrounded it. Look, I saw this movie with Carla, and she told me it made her feel like a kid again, in a way that few movies ever have. More important than that were the various reports of little girls going to see it and leaving the theater with dreams of becoming Ghostbusters. How could anybody in the fucking world take issue with something like that? I honestly can’t think of anything more vile. And honestly, if you can’t find something to love about this movie, you’re just not a fucking Ghostbusters fan. There, I fucking said it. I’ve been a fan of the franchise for my entire life, and I thought this movie was brilliant. It was funny as fuck – especially Kate McKinnon, whose portrayal of this film’s Egon analog convinced me that she’s a goddamned comic genius. It had really fun action, great setpieces, super imaginative ghosts, and a female Slimer! What else could a Ghostbusters fan want? I guess they want to see a bunch of manly dudes bust ghosts while women make them sandwiches. I guess they want little girls to play with Barbies and tiaras, because they don’t deserve to have funny and ass-kicking action heroes to admire. And at the end of the day, they got their wish – the movie flopped hard, the assholes won, and everything is fucked.
Home (July 24)
I watched this Dreamworks animation film with my nieces. It was terrible.
Ghostheads (July 24)
Still jazzed from Ghostbusters, we watched this fun documentary about fans of the franchise. Generally speaking, the movie was very similar to last year’s Back in Time, except without the bizarrely disproportionate focus on the movie’s vehicles. If you are a big Ghosthead yourself, then this is pretty entertaining.
Dead Rising: Endgame (July 26)
Sequel to the horrible Dead Rising: Watchtower, this one is somehow even worse. And the saddest part is, if they release a third movie, I’ll probably watch it.
ClownTown (July 26)
Very dull horror film about a group of friends trapped in a small town filled with killer clowns. Nothing to see here.
Ghostbusters (1984) (July 26)
Ghostbusters mania continues, with my 7000th viewing of the original movie! Everytime I get annoyed by hipsters’ fetishization of Bill Murray, I need only rewatch the film to remember why he totally deserves it.
Montauk Chronicles (July 27)
After watching the excellent Stranger Things, which was inspired in part by the “Montauk Project” conspiracy theory, I decided to check out this documentary on the subject. But after sitting through this meandering, disorganized mess of a movie, I feel like I understand the theory even less than I did before. Who could have guessed that a conspiracy theorist would be this incohesive??
The Forest (July 27)
Margaery Tyrell ventures into a Japanese suicide forest to find her missing sister, and a bunch of PG-13-rated scary stuff happens. The Forest held my interest to a decent degree – mostly due to its pretty settings – but was pretty forgettable at the end of the day.
Spy (July 29)
I really enjoyed this espionage comedy starring the lady from Ghostbusters. My favorite thing about it, though, was how much the two leads resemble Roseanne and Jackie in this scene:
The Shadow (July 29)
The most impressive thing about The Shadow is the lengths they went to to make Alec Baldwin resemble the comic book character – right down to the big schnoz! It looked cool as fuck. The rest of the movie is pretty dumb, though.
Welcome to Me (July 30)
I’ve never been a huge Kirsten Wiig fan – her SNL characters left me cold, I wasn’t crazy about Bridesmaids, and even in my precious Ghostbusters, she was pretty much just the straightman. But she totally won me over in this movie with her nuanced portrayal of an extremely interesting character. Welcome to Me is weird and hilarious and heartbreaking, and absolutely worth seeing.
Sharknado: The 4th Awakens (August 1)
After the dreaded Sharknado expanded its reach to New York City and the endless void of outer space (in parts 2 and 3, respectively), where is there left to go? The answer, of course, is Vegas baby! This installment makes a 5-year time jump, and resolves the previous film’s Jason Todd-esque cliffhanger by revealing that Tara Reid’s character is still alive. It also continues the series’ tradition of filling every possible minute with cameos from D-list celebrities. Look, you already know how you feel about these movies, and that’s how you’ll feel about this one, too. I love ’em.
Zoolander 2 (August 3)
I saw Zoolander 1 for the first time back in 2013, and thought it was pretty funny. Sadly, I can’t say the same for this joyless cash-in of a sequel.
Mono (August 4)
One of the worst teen comedies I’ve ever seen. Avoid.
He Never Died (August 4)
In this horror comedy, Henry Rollins plays an immortal cannibal whose attempts to control his bloodlust have made him an antisocial loner. Rollins is really impressive here, in a role that requires him to alternate between quiet awkwardness and total wackiness. The movie as a whole isn’t the best thing I’ve ever seen, but it’s pretty decent.
Lights Out (August 7)
A feature-length “remake” of the 3-minute long short horror film of the same name that got a bunch of attention back in 2013. This movie isn’t bad or anything, but the exposition-heavy plot really just dillutes the scariness of the original short. So just watch the short. Here it is:
Garage Sale Mystery: The Novel Murders (August 7)
Aunt Becky Katsopolis must use her literary expertise to hunt a killer who is patterning his crimes after scenes from famous mystery novels. All the fun Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes references here were enough to make this my favorite installment of Garage Sale Mystery so far. Keep ’em coming, please!
Suicide Squad (August 9)
This movie was significantly better than Batman v Superman in my opinion, but unfortunately it was still a pretty terrible piece of shit. There were a few things I liked about it – Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn was pretty great, and I loved the cameos from Batman and The Flash. Some of the action/battle scenes were pretty fun. Other than that, yeesh. Jared Leto’s portrayal of the Joker was even worse than I thought it would be. The pacing was bizarre and sloppy. The characters – including some of my favorite DC villains – were one-note and lame, for the most part. And oh my god, this movie has the most embarrassingly cringeworthy soundtrack I’ve ever heard in my life. This is a fucking mess. The DC cinematic universe is a fucking mess, and it’s hard to imagine it can ever be set right. Prove me wrong, Justice League!
The Final Girls (August 22)
After an uncharacteristic two-week break from movies, I dipped my toe back in by revisiting one of my favorite films of 2015. Here’s what I wrote last year:
This is about a group of modern-day young people who get sucked into an old movie, so in that sense it reminded me a lot of Teen Beach Movie – except in this case, the movie in question is basically Friday the 13th. If I have one complaint, it’s that I wish the filmmakers had had the guts to shoot the “inside the movie” segments in a grainy 80’s style – it feels a little weird that the characters are watching an old grainy movie but then once they get sucked inside of it, everything looks exactly the same as the “real world.” Aside from that, The Final Girls is clever, funny, exciting and shockingly emotional. Without giving anything away, I will confide that I wept like a little baby during one scene near the end. If you have any amount of affection for the genre being homaged here – or especially for Friday the 13th in particular – you should consider The Final Girls must-see.
Dahmer (August 22)
Hawkeye stars as Jeffrey Dahmer in this goofy TV-movie-esque biopic, which strangely avoids the whole cannibal aspect of the Dahmer murders. My favorite part was teenage Dahmer trying to hide a decapitated head from his father by pretending it was porn. This would have been better if it was staged as a goofball comedy, and also if there was more people-eating.
Spirited Away (August 23)
Never saw this Studio Ghibli classic before, and I really liked it. The plot is complete nonsense gibberish, but the characters, creatures and settings are so goddamned beautiful and imaginative that who cares about plot? I really need to check out more Studio Ghibli stuff; I’ve only ever seen the American dub of The Secret World of Arrietty and now this! What should I watch next?
The Mist (August 23)
Drag Me to Hell (August 23)
It Follows (August 23)
I was really sick and stuck in bed this day, so I consumed a bunch of horror movie comfort food. All three of these movies are absolutely perfect.
Ruby (Rifftrax version) (August 23)
Late 70’s slasher about an alcoholic gangster’s widow (played by Piper Laurie, aka Carrie’s mother) who must contend with a series of murders at the drive-in movie theater she runs with her mute daughter. This movie is completely fucking bonkers and the Rifftrax guys have a lot of fun with it.
The Dead Room (August 27)
Unbelievably boring and predictable haunted house film from New Zealand. What the fuck, New Zealand?? You’re usually so good at this kind of stuff.
I Am Not a Serial Killer (August 27)
Really interesting film about a fucked up teenage boy who deals with his homicidal tendencies by investigating a possible serial killer in his neighborhood. The story is a character study for the most part, but it takes some insane twists and turns that you will definitely not see coming. Also, Christopher Lloyd appears in this movie, and I honestly think it’s one of the best performances of his career. Watch this thing!
The Conjuring 2 (August 29)
I hated the first Conjuring back in 2013, and this one is pretty much more of the same. Actually I think I enjoyed this one a bit more because it was so stupid that it amused me on the so-bad-it’s-good level, as oppossed to its predecessor which was just really boring. I was especially tickled by the speech that the lady made to the demon near the end. I quoted it for days afterward, and I still remember it:
Saying your name gives me dominion over you, demon! And I do know your name! You are Valak the defiler! The profane! The Marquis of snakes! And I condemn you back to Hell!
The Marquis of snakes, you guys! Another good thing about this movie is that it inspired me to spend an hour or two reading about demons on the internet. In the movie, Valak looks like Marilyn Manson in a nun outfit, but historically he had the amazing title of “PRESIDENT OF HELL” and was portrayed as a little winged boy riding a two-headed Yoshi:
WHY DIDN’T THEY USE THAT VERSION IN THE MOVIE???
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (August 30)
I think this movie flopped and that chances of another sequel are pretty low, which is ultimately a good thing because I think they totally blew their turtle load with this one. I mean, this movie introduces Bebop & Rocksteady, Dr. Baxter Stockman, Casey Jones and Krang into the new TMNT universe. Where the hell do you go from there? Leatherhead? Ace Duck? I mean, these guys did not think ahead at all! Anyway, like the first movie, this one had some fun moments and was unafraid to embrace the ridiculousness of the Turtles, but was ultimately dragged down by the Michael Bay-ness of it all.
In the Deep (August 31)
Mandy Moore and some other lady are trapped in a shark cage and surrounded by great whites. Almost the entire movie takes place in the shark cage, which is supposed to feel claustrophobic and create tension, but for me it just made the movie kinda boring. In the Deep is the well-made execution of a pretty good idea, but it just didn’t really work for me.
Ghost Team (August 31)
Napolean Dynamite, Justin Long and a gang of other gross nobodies start a ghost-hunting business in this insulting dud of a comedy.
Big Bad (August 31)
A group of smalltown kids vs. a werewolf in this charming and fun little PG-rated adventure film. Quality-wise, this kinda falls right at the median point between Stranger Things and Disney Channel original movies, but it strongly reminded me of both those things.
Independence Day: Resurgence (September 1)
Let’s get this out of the way: This movie fucking sucks. However bad you think it is, it’s ten times worse. Even if you’re a huge fan of the original Independence Day – which I am – it still really fucking sucks. However, I am a sucker for unfathomably huge monsters, and this movie climaxes with a battle against an enormous, awesome alien monster in the middle of a desert. This sequence is beautiful and the monster itself is so cool. Unless you are a really huge fan of big monsters, I wouldn’t say this scene makes watching the whole movie worth it, but I’d recommend fast-forwarding to the end if you ever get the chance.
Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2 (September 5)
The original SLC Punk was a phenomenally bad movie, but this sequel is bad on a level I’ve never even imagined before. It’s definitely the worst film of 2016, and perhaps one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life. If you’re not into punk rock, this is still a really awful movie… but if you are into punk rock and understand the concepts the movie is portraying, then this thing will make you nonstop cringe with embarrassment. Movies just don’t get much worse than this one – and to be clear, it’s not bad in a fun Birdemic way or anything like that. It’s painful. Avoid at all costs.
Baskin (September 5)
It’s been a long time since I’ve found a movie as viscerally disturbing as this Turkish horror film about a group of cops who accidentally cross over into some kind of Hell dimension. This is really gross, really weird, really cool stuff in the same vein as the Hellraiser films. If you’re a strong-stomached horror fan, don’t miss this one!
Batman Unlimited: Mech vs. Mutants (September 6)
This is probably the best of the Batman Unlimited cartoons. The plot involves Batman and Green Arrow piloting enormous robots to battle against Godzilla-sized versions of Killer Croc and Bane. You’re probably thinking that sounds really stupid, and you’re absolutely right. But what elevates this movie is that the main villains are a teamed-up Penguin and Mr. Freeze, who are totally hilarious together. I honestly wouldn’t recommending any of these movies unless you’re (a) a small child, (b) are the parent of a small child, or (c) are just a Batman fan with OCD like myself… but if you do watch one of them, this is probably the one it should be.
Indie Game: Life After (September 6)
My main memory of watching the original Indie Game film back in 2012 was that I really disliked the creator of Fez. I didn’t remember why, but I remember having a strong negative reaction to the dude. I thought of that before I started this one, and I wondered if I’d judged him too harshly back then. Perhaps this movie would redeem him! Nope! He is an even grosser little pile of smarmy puke than I remembered! Fuck this guy.
The Brothers Solomon (September 7)
For some strange reason, I’d conflated this movie with The Skeleton Twins in my mind, and therefore was under the impression that it was a more serious, somber film. Well, it’s not. It’s a totally wacky goofball comedy about two Dumb and Dumber-esque brothers who want to adopt a child together. It’s very funny!
Invisible Sister (September 8)
Speaking of Disney Channel Original Movies (which I did, like, 8 movies ago), this is one. It’s about a teen science nerd who accidentally turns her popular older sister invisible, and then must imitate her in social situations for some reason. I guess the idea is supposed to be that the sisters look a lot alike, since everyone is completely fooled by this ruse, but the problem is that the two actresses actually look nothing alike!! They’re not even the same height!! Couldn’t they get twins to play these roles, or use split-screen technology, or something? Ridiculous!!
Friday the 13th (September 11)
Friday the 13th Part II (September 11)
Friday the 13th Part III (September 11)
Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (September 11)
Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (September 11)
Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (September 12)
Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood (September 12)
Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (September 12) I was listening to a podcast about the Friday the 13th films, and it made me want to go back and rewatch the first one for the zillionth time. Well, as you can see, things spiralled completely out of control from there.
Sully (September 13)
I interrupted my Friday the 13th marathon to go see Sully with my dad. Sully is a movie starring Tom Hanks as the airline pilot who crashed a plane into the Hudson River a couple of years ago. If you haven’t seen this film (and I pray that you haven’t), you’re probably wondering how they could stretch this incident out into an entire feature-length movie. The answer is, they couldn’t. The actual incident took place over the course of like 30 seconds, so the movie just shows those same 30 seconds over and over and over again, from different angles. It also shows the boring-ass investigation into whether Sully was responsible for the incident. Spoiler alert: He wasn’t. Even my dad was bored by this fucking movie, and he watches James Corden on TV every night and shit. Fuck this movie.
I Am Thor (September 14)
You might remember muscleman Jon Mikl Thor from his roles in cheesy 80’s horror movies like Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare or Zombie Nightmare, or you might remember him from his theatrical heavy metal band Thor. What this great documentary reveals is that the dude is still out there doing his thing, playing shows to increasingly smaller and more niche crowds, but never losing an ounce of his positive spirit. His positivity is totally infectious, and you can’t help but smile nearly every time he’s on the screen. Honestly, this guy ought to have Andrew WK’s career. Until then, at least we have this awesome and inspiring little movie.
The Shallows (September 15)
Another movie about a pretty young girl trapped by a shark, but this time she’s above water, on a sandbar. The Shallows is a much better movie than In the Deep, mostly due to a strong performance by Blake Lively, and an even stronger performance by the shark. Great supporting roles by a seagull and a dead whale round out the cast of this surprisingly tense and nail-biting thriller. Kick-ass ending, too! Shark movie of the year1
Space Mutiny (MST3K version) (September 16)
I Accuse My Parents (MST3K version) (September 16)
Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders (MST3K version) (September 17)
Teen-Age Strangler (MST3K version) (September 20)
Soultaker (MST3K version) (September 23)
Have I mentioned how much I love Mystery Science Theater 3000? I really love it.
Black Mountain Side (September 24)
I had just reread Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, and was looking for a movie that kinda matched the tone and the arctic setting. Black Mountain Side – about a group of archaeologists at a remote station in the wilderness of northern Canada – wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but it was close enough. The setting had the appropriate amount of stark, macabre beauty, and the characters were interesting enough. The story was kind of stupid and completely fell apart at the end, but I enjoyed the journey enough that I could happily shrug that off.
Eegah (MST3K version) (September 24)
The Pod People (MST3K version) (September 24)
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (MST3K version) (September 25)
Angels Revenge (MST3K version) (September 25)
Girls Town (MST3K version) (September 26)
Invasion USA (MST3K version) (September 26)
Mitchell (MST3k version) (September 28)
Really really love it!
Rocktober Blood (October 1)
As I do every October, I once again attempted this year to watch 31 horror movies in 31 days. Usually I fall slightly short of that goal, but this year I was lucky enough to get a new job after being unemployed for like two years – great news in general, but not at all conducive to watching movies all day long! I didn’t come anywhere close to 31 movies in the month of October, but I did watch some pretty good ones! I started off the month with an 80’s heavy metal horror film that somehow I’d never seen before. The movie was hilariously ridiculous in all the best ways, but especially in the bad acting department. I loved the performances in this movie so much that I had to capture a couple of choice moments with my phone:
Howard Lovecraft & the Frozen Kingdom (October 2)
Some people might roll their eyes at the idea of an animated children’s movie based on the work of H.P. Lovecraft, but I don’t think it’s such a crazy idea. Stories like The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath were only a small step away from Narnia-type stuff, and would only require minor tweaking to adapt into kid-friendly fantasy. Unfortunately, Howard Lovecraft & the Frozen Kingdom misses the mark. The writers of the film are clearly knowledgable about Lovecraft’s mythos – enough to get a lot of the names right, anyway – but the sunshiney tone here is all wrong, and the cheap, shoddy animation doesn’t help. For this concept to work, you’d need filmmakers who understand that children’s stories can be bleak and dark – someone similar to Edward Gorey or early Tim Burton. Hopefully someone tries again someday, because I think this sort of thing could be really great.
31 (October 3)
31 is Rob Zombie’s worst film to date, and that’s really fucking saying something. The story, if you can call it that, is about a bunch of gross carnies who are captured and trapped in a warehouse with a bunch of murderous rejects from The Running Man. Every single aspect of this movie is super derivative, charmless, mean-spirited, ugly and boring. If I had to find one nice thing to say, it’s that the primary baddie is kinda cool-looking, by which I mean he reminded me of The Joker.
The Blackcoat’s Daughter (October 5)
I think I need to rewatch this one. The first time, I only really half paid attention and as a result found it confusing and dull. However, a few people whose opinions I trust have told me it’s a great movie, so I’m sure I missed a lot. Look forward to me revisiting this in the year 2023 or so.
The Final Sacrifice (MST3K version) (October 5)
Final Justice (MST3K version) (October 5)
The two Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes with “final” in their titles also happen to be two of the best episodes of the show. Especially The Final Sacrifice, which is the best episode.
Dagon (October 6)
Here begins a little marathon of Stuart Gordon‘s Lovecraft adaptations. Dagon – based on The Shadow Over Innsmouth – stays pretty true to the original story, in spite of its location being changed from New England to Spain for some reason. And even if you don’t know a shoggoth from a deep one, it’s still a damn entertaining movie.
From Beyond (October 7)
The problem with adapting Lovecraft is that his body of work consisted almost entirely of short stories, so a lot of movies use the source material as a jumping-off point and then expand into a much more intricate (and usually, much shittier) narrative. From Beyond is a prime example of this, using the original story as its prologue and then continuing into what almost feels like a direct sequel. However, it breaks the usual pattern by failing to suck ass. In fact, like all of Gordon’s Lovecraft films, it’s actually pretty damn good!
Shock ‘Em Dead (October 7)
I take a break from my Gordon/Lovecraft marathon to check out another heavy metal horror film that I’d never seen, this one from 1991 (one of my favorite years from the 80’s). This one’s about a dweeby dorky geeky nerd who makes a deal with an evil voodoo priestess to become a hard-partying rock star who gets to have sex with Traci Lords. But of course the price of fame must be paid in blood, and so a Seymour Krelborn-esque killing spree ensues. This is a fun movie!
Re-Animator (October 8)
Okay, back to Lovecraft and Stuart Gordon. Right before watching this, I revisited the original Herbert West – Reanimator via audio book, and it occurred to me that this is one of the few Lovecraft stories that’s intentionally, consistently funny. Comedy was not in Lovecraft’s usual bag of tricks, but it’s used to such great effect in this story. The movie follows suit, and I believe its wacky slapsticky tone is the primary reason it’s become one of the most well-known Lovecraft movies. It was a nice discovery to piece together that its humor comes pretty much straight from the story. You should read it and then watch this movie.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare (Rifftrax version) (October 8)
I was a fan of this movie long before there was a Rifftrax version, and I’d recommend watching it sans-riff if you haven’t seen it before. I’d definitely wouldn’t categorize it as a “good” movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a ton of fun and features a legitimately cool plot twist that I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere else. Plus, of course, Jon Mikl Thor.
Yoga Hosers (October 9)
I really enjoyed Tusk back in 2014, so I had naively high hopes for Kevin Smith’s newest horror movie. What a fool I was. Yoga Hosers is a fucking piece of shit which aside from an amusing performance by Johnny Depp (reprising his role from Tusk) has absolutely nothing to offer. It’s the kind of movie that you periodically have to avert your eyes from, just because you’re so embarrassed for the people who made it. I guess Tusk was just a fluke, because this thing is a total fucking mess.
Cthulhu (October 9)
Not an adaptation of any particular work, but an original modern-day story within the mythos, Cthulhu is about a homosexual man returning to his Innsmouth-esque hometown for his mother’s funeral. The parallels drawn between Lovecraftian themes and the smalltown gay experience are very interesting, and the movie is surprisingly entertaining overall. Recommended for Lovecraft fans on the lookout for something a little different.
When a Stranger Calls Back (Rifftrax version) (October 10)
Tourist Trap (Rifftrax version) (October 10)
More Riffs. When a Stranger Calls Back is a mind-numbingly stupid sequel, which really benefits from the Rifftrax treatment. Tourist Trap, however, is a legitimately cool slasher movie that would be worth checking out even without the jokes.
Just Before Dawn (October 14)
Pretty decent slasher-in-the-woods flick from 1981, featuring some really lovely scenery. But the scariest part of the movie has nothing to do with the killer – it’s when the actors have to cross a rickety old rope bridge high above a really deep ravine. The actors actually crossed this bridge over and over again, and it freaked me the fuck out every time.
Don’t Breathe (October 14)
A group of young burglars figure that the house of an old blind man should be easy pickings, but they are very wrong. This reminded me a bit of Lovecraft’s The Terrible Old Man, except that story leaves the details up to the imagination, while Don’t Breathe definitely does not. In a year filled with mediocre mainstream horror movies, this one was a super scary breath of fresh air (no pun intended). One of my favorites films of 2016.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (October 15)
Fuck The Killing Joke and double-fuck Batman v Superman – This is the best Batman movie of the year. Return of the Caped Crusaders is an animated feature that takes place in the world of the 1960’s TV show, which features Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar reprising their original roles from that series. Like the Batman ’66 comic book, this movie has a ton of fun playing with the tropes of the source material, often with laugh-out-loud hilarious results. My favorite bit was a scene in which Adam West recites famous quotes from other versions of Batman (such as Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, and Tim Burton’s Michael Keaton) – as a lifelong fan of the character, this made me positively giddy with delight! If I have one complaint it’s that Commisioner Gordon and Alfred are designed to resemble their comic book counterparts, rather than the actors from the show. While this is a bit off-putting in its lack of consistency, it’s just a small quibble with an otherwise pitch-perfect movie. I’m looking forward to next year’s sequel, which will star William Shatner as Two-Face!
Train to Busan (October 15)
Right when I was starting to think I’d had just about enough of zombies, Jonnie Whoa Oh (who isn’t even a horror fan) hipped me to this incredible Korean film about a father and daughter trapped on a passenger train as it’s overrun by the living dead. Train to Busan succeeds where so many similar movies have failed, due to really strong characters, a super-intriguing setting, and – above all – a really interesting and kick-ass take on zombies. I’ve seen a lot of zombie movies – probably hundreds of them – but I can’t remember the last time I saw a zombie hoarde portrayed in such a cool and unique way. When large groups of them get bunched together in the tight confines of the train cars, they move almost like a liquid substance, and it’s fucking hypnotizing to watch. Even if you feel burnt out on zombies, you need to give this movie a chance. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Train to Busan is my #3 film of the year.
Sausage Party (October 24)
I was intrigued by the idea of an R-rated parody of Pixar-esque animated films, but unfortunately Sausage Party turned out to be embarrassingly awful, unfunny, intelligence-insulting garbage. I’ve always thought Seth Rogen seemed like a pretty likable guy, but between this and his shitty Preacher adaptation, we should probably stop letting him be in charge of things.
First Girl I Loved (November 6)
My friend David Hunter produced this movie and so when he held a screening at the awesome Nitehawk Cinema, I couldn’t miss it. Unfortunately the screening was at 11 am on the day of the New York Marathon, and when I emerged from the Bedford Avenue subway station, it was nigh-impossible to cross to the other side of the street because of all the fucking people running by. I had to dash across, weaving between runners, in direct defiance of a cop who told me not to do it. Look, I get that people enjoy their cute little race, but maybe next time they should put it on an island somewhere, far away from normal people trying to do normal things.
Anyway, I eventually made it to the theater, and ended up sitting right next to David. This made me feel a bit nervous, because what if I laughed when I was supposed to cry or cried when I was supposed to laugh? What if I didn’t like the movie and couldn’t hide my lack of enthusiasm from the ever-watchful eye of the guy sitting right next to me??? Thankfully, this turned out not to be a problem because First Girl I Loved is delightful. It’s the coming-of-age story of a teen girl who unexpectedly falls in love with a female friend, and must come to terms with her own blossoming homosexuality as well as the reactions of those closest to her. The movie is funny, sweet and – at times – utterly heartbreaking. I’m very proud of my friend! If you’re a fan of stuff like The Perks of Being a Wallflower of Fat Kid Rules the World, you should definitely check this out. Just make sure there’s not a motherfucking marathon going on.
Doctor Strange (November 6)
After seeing First Girl I Loved, we all headed into Manhattan for a screening of the latest Marvel movie. Doctor Strange doesn’t deviate very far from the typical MCU formula, but luckily I love that formula! Sherlock Holmes is perfect as Stephen Strange, and his supporting cast (with the exception of Rachel McAdams, who is given absolutely nothing to do) is great. The special effects are mind-blowing, full of trippy visuals that seem like a Steve Ditko panel come to life. And while the villain is pretty underwhelming, the “final battle” is an awesome sequence that could only work with this particular superhero, and feels pulled straight from an issue of the original comic book. This probably wouldn’t make my Top 5 Marvel movies or anything, but I loved the character and cannot fucking wait to see him hanging out with the Avengers!
Honor and Glory (Rifftrax version) (November 10)
I remember enjoying this Rifftrax quite a bit, but I don’t really remember much about the actual movie except that it’s a martial arts flick from 1993 starring Cynthia Rothrock.
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (November 12)
This is about a time-displaced school for weird kids with special powers, and it feels kind of like X-Men meets The Addams Family meets Percy Jackson. If you can still manage to stomach Tim Burton’s style, then you should enjoy this. I can, and I did.
Pete’s Dragon (2016) (November 20)
It has almost nothing in common with the original, but this new version of Pete’s Dragon is a pretty decent movie in its own right. It’s tear-jerky in that typically Disney way, the Pacific Northwest setting is gorgeous, and the Elliott the dragon is dope as fuck.
The BFG (November 20)
Before this movie came out, I had a discussion with my dad over whether or not it would be a hit. My argument was that a Disney movie directed by Steven Spielberg and based on a Roald Dahl novel could not fail. His argument was that it would flop because nobody would want to go see a movie with the title “The BFG.” My counterargument was that his argument was stupid. Well, my dad had the last laugh because the movie hardcore flopped. It’s a shame though, because it’s a sweet, funny movie, and really honors its source material. I guess my only issue is that the CGI giants look weird and a bit too “uncanny valley”-ish to me. But if you enjoy the book, definitely check this out.
Hulk: Where Monsters Dwell (November 27)
In what seems like a direct reaction to the announcement of DC’s animated Justice League Dark movie, Marvel released this feature about the Hulk and Doctor Strange joining up with a team of monsters to battle Nightmare. The team consists of Man-Thing and then a bunch of Marvel monsters I’m not really familiar with. I was disappointed that some of my favorites like Werewolf By Night and Simon Garth were excluded, but this was still a pretty fun little Halloweeny story, and one of Marvel’s better animated movies.
Legends of the Hidden Temple (November 30)
When I was a kid, I wrote a screenplay for a Double Dare movie, in which Marc Summers got spirited away to some kind of mystical land, where he got involved in an endless war between an army clad in red and an army clad in blue. Sadly, my brilliant film never got made, but the similarities between that concept and the Legends of the Hidden Temple movie are fucking shocking. Based on the Nickelodeon game show from the 90’s, this TV movie takes all the abstract concepts from the show and brings them to stunning life. The stone head Olmec is a main character of course, but we also get the Steps of Knowledge, literal red jaguars and purple monkeys, evil Temple Guards, and even a three-minute time limit to remove an artifact from the temple! They even cast the weathered corpse of Kirk Fogg – the show’s host – as a tour guide for the mysterious Hidden Temple! It’s pretty clever how all these concepts – created for game show purposes – are weaved into a fictional narrative here. Having said that, unless you’re the type of person who will sit there and go “oooooh cooooooool” at every reference to the TV show, you will probably think this movie is boring and stupid. Luckily, I obviously am that type of person! Make more of these, Nickelodeon! Do Guts next!!
Invaders From the Deep (MST3K version) (November 30)
Revenge of the Mysterons From Mars (MST3K version) (November 30)
There are three episodes from the earliest days of Mystery Science Theater 3000 which have always been considered “lost episodes.” This year, Joel Hodgson finally made two of those episodes available, and while they’re not exactly funny, they are fascinating historical relics for MSTies. These were the first two episodes ever recorded, and a lot of the show’s concepts were still being worked out – Tom Servo doesn’t even show up in the first episode, for instance. The most noteworthy difference by far is the way the show approached riffs at the beginning. While we’re all used to the breakneck ten-jokes-a-minute pace that MST3K later employed, these early episodes seem way more about showcasing the movie itself, instead of showcasing the jokes. There are times when five full minutes pass in between commentary from Joel and the Bots! It’s disorienting, but it makes you realize that the show was probably directly influenced by “horror host” shows, and was likely originally intended to be a “straighter” presentation of archive films. The movies themselves are both awful puppet features and, due largely to the lack of riffing, pretty difficult to sit through. Still, if you’re a long-time MSTie, this is like finding hidden gold!
12 Dates of Christmas (December 2)
I got really into the Christmas spirit this year. Look at my miniature village!
Isn’t it wonderful?? Say it’s wonderful, right now, out loud! Anway, part of getting into the Christmas spirit this year was watching a shitload of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies on Netflix. For those unaware, Hallmark Channel movies are kind of like the “light” version of Lifetime movies – they’re cheesy, cheap-as-fuck romantic comedies starring washed-up celebrities, which usually incorporate some kind of magical element and/or obnoxious Christian overtones. Here’s an interesting article on the subject. This particular Hallmark movie is one of many that rips off Groundhog Day – it features Amy Smart and Mark-Paul Gosselaar reliving a Christmas Eve blind date over and over again until they fall in love. If you’re into that kind of thing, this is that kind of thing.
Pete’s Christmas (December 2)
Pete’s Christmas is not a Hallmark movie – it is a Disney Channel-esque teeny-bop movie starring the kid from Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Interestingly enough, though, it employs the same Groundhog Day gimmick as 12 Dates of Christmas. It’s not nearly as entertaining though.
Christmas Holiday (December 4)
Christmas Holiday isn’t a Hallmark movie either. It’s a crime noir from 1944 which is only tangentially related to Christmas. It’s pretty good though, and features Gene Kelly in a villainous role, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.
Tree Man (December 9)
This documentary is about the people who sell Christmas trees on the streets of Manhattan, which focuses specifically on a guy named Francois who travels from Quebec each year to sell trees on the Upper West Side. Full disclosure: I know Francois personally from my time as a nanny in that neighborhood. In fact, my brother-in-law and nephew even appear in the movie! So, for me, this movie was an intimate look into the private life of a guy I have a passing acquaintance with, which made it a little bit awkward to watch but mostly pretty nice. If you don’t know Francois, the movie is still fun and heartwarming and Christmassy, so check it out next December, okay?
A Dogwalker’s Christmas Tale (December 9)
Back to Hallmark! This one stars nobody you’ve ever heard of as a spoiled rich girl and a handsome dogwalker who fall in love in spite of having opposing views about a dog park getting bulldozed to make room for a fancy salon. This is every romantic comedy trope you’ve ever seen, mashed together and elevated to extreme levels of corniness.
Angels in the Snow (December 9)
If you’re only gonna watch one of these Hallmark movies, please make it this one. I don’t wanna spoil anything, but to me this is pretty much The Room of shitty sentimental Christmas movies. It stars an aged Kristy Swanson and it’s fucking insane, and I don’t wanna say anything else about it. Just watch it!
Superargo and the Faceless Giants (Rifftrax version) (December 11)
As of this writing, I watched this Rifftrax exactly one month ago, and yet I don’t remember it at all. Like, at all. Did I actually watch this?? Maybe this is some Mandela Effect shit.
A Merry Friggin’ Christmas (December 12)
In this shockingly decent holiday comedy, Joel McHale spends Christmas with his grumpy father, with whom he has a strained relationship. The asshole father is played by Robin Williams, in one of his last roles (although not his very last role – that honor goes to something called Absolutely Anything, in which he provided the voice of “Dennis the Dog”). This movie isn’t gonna become anyone’s new Christmas favorite, but it wasn’t bad at all. Recommended for fans of Christmas Vacation.
Saving Christmas (December 13)
Kirk Cameron’s insane jesusy Christmas movie is most well-known for its 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which it absolutely deserves. I will say this for it: It’s bad in a whole bunch of ways that I didn’t even know existed. I’ve seen a lot of things that sucked, but this breaks new ground in ways to suck. The “plot” – and I use that word very loosely – involves Kirk Cameron counseling his grinchy brother-in-law about the joys of Christmas. The brother-in-law is upset because he feels that the holiday’s imagery takes away from the message of Christ, and Kirk systematically explains (though a series of weird and inconsistent vignettes) how every icon of Christmas – from the trees to the stockings to Santa Claus himself – have origins which are implicitly tied to Jesus Christ. These explanations are, of course, complete and utter bullshit. Even compared to other Jesusy nonsense, this movie is constantly insulting its audience’s intelligence. It’s also often wildly boring. And mean-spirited. And embarrassing for everyone involved. It’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, and because of that I found myself consistently fascinated throughout. I’m guessing that won’t be the case for most people, but if you have similarly bizarro sensibilities, Saving Christmas might be worth a peek.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (December 14)
While he was spending $1000 on room service, you’d think Kevin could have at least brought the pigeon lady a sandwich or something, right? I mean, I’m sure she loved the turtle dove, but food or shelter would have probably been a better gesture of friendship. Kevin, you fuck.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (December 15)
This movie got some people so excited that, after they watched it, they started saying really silly things. Like: “Rogue One is better than The Force Awakens.” That is completely untrue. If you’re looking for that magical Star Wars feeling that makes your heart swell up – that feeling that we all got last year after seeing Episode VII – you won’t find it here. But that’s okay because this is, by design, a very different type of Star Wars movie. What you get here is a kick-ass, exciting war movie built around amazing battle scenes in beautiful locations both on the ground and in space. You also get the kind of comic-booky continuity service that Star Wars fans (myself included) are suckers for. What you don’t get are lovable, memorable characters or the typical warm fuzzies the main saga movies provide. Oh, one more thing you don’t get is – SPOILER ALERT – the slightest bit of respect for Peter Cushing who is recreated digitally to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin. I understand the temptation to insert Tarkin into this story, but unfortunately the special effect used to bring him to life is terribly off-putting and distracting, making him look like a character from Uncharted 4 who is surrounded by regular humans.
If it sounds like I’m being negative, I don’t mean to be. It’s not a perfect movie – and it might disappoint people who are expecting a tone similar to that of The Force Awakens – but as the first major stand-alone movie in the Star Wars universe, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. And it kicks ass doing it.
Deadly Prey (Rifftrax version) (December 16)
Deadly Prey is kind of like an 80’s action movie version of The Most Dangerous Game, except with a much higher quotient of shirtless dudes in tiny denim shorts. As you can imagine, Rifftrax has a lot of fun with this.
Moana (December 17)
Within the first twenty seconds of Moana‘s very first song (the incredible Where You Are), I was already weeping. Not because the song is sad or anything like that, but just because of the incredible, overwhelming Disneyness of it all. I barely stopped crying for the rest of the movie – both because the movie actually does get sad at points, and just because I couldn’t believe I was watching something so perfect. Disney animation has been on an incredible roll lately, but Moana takes the fucking cake. In fact, at the risk of being hyperbolic, I’d honestly say that this is the best animated Disney film since The Lion King. As I implied earlier, this is in no small part due to the fucking amazing songs, which were co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame. I wouldn’t expect any of the tunes to become mainstream hits the way Let It Go or A Whole New World did, because unlike those songs, these are tied tightly to their context within the movie. Even the song that’s clearly being positioned as the hit…
…loses its relevance when separated from the story. That might be a bad thing for the pop charts, but a very good thing for this film. The music isn’t all Moana has to offer, however. It’s also got beautiful scenery and animation, a great message about balancing societal responsibilites with personal aspirations, and an incredible heroine – perhaps Disney’s strongest female character to date. And while Moana might not be as “important” or groundbreaking as Frozen was, in my opinion it’s a much better movie overall. Moana was my favorite movie of 2016, and if you’re a Disney fan to even the slightest degree, please do not miss it!
Merry Kissmas (December 17)
After taking some time to watch real movies, I return with a vengeance to Hallmark Christmas nonsense. If memory serves, this one involves a magical kiss inside a magical elevator that results in magical love. I can’t remember whether the magic was metaphorical or literal, but the truth is it doesn’t even matter.
The Christmas Project (December 19)
The Christmas Project is about a group of kids fighting bullies during the holidays, and it feels a lot like a modern version of A Christmas Story. It’s nowhere near as memorable as that classic of course, but it’s watchable enough.
Christmas in the Smokies (December 21)
Of all the shitty, insipid Hallmark Christmas movies I watched this year, Christmas in the Smokies was the only one that actually pissed me off. The IMDB plot summary reads as follows…
…but that completely omits the love story, which is totally gross. Years ago, the berry farm daughter was cruelly dumped and left heartbroken by a shitty guy. Now he has returned to town, and she obviously wants nothing to do with him, but her father not only invites him over but actually allows him to live at their house and work on the farm. He does this against his daughter’s wishes, even after she expresses how uncomfortable this guy makes her. When she confronts her dad about it, he of course spouts out a bunch of sagely wisdom about forgiveness and Jesus Christ and blablabla. There’s nothing inappropriate about letting this guy into the house! It’s her Christian obligation to forgive the guy and let him back into her heart. Of course they end up falling back in love with each other. Of course the father’s smug righteousness turns out to be correct, and he gets to condescendingly smile at her for doing the right thing. It’s all so goddamn fucked up and offensive. Fuck you, Christmas in the Smokies.
My Santa (December 23)
Back to what Hallmark Christmas movies are supposed to be – stories about women accidentally falling in love with Santa Claus’ son. After the disgusting shittiness of Christmas in the Smokies, this one’s light-hearted shittiness was a brath of fresh air.
Make the Yuletide Gay (December 23)
Dopey comedy about a closeted gay guy who tries to hide his sexuality from his parents when he comes home from college for the holidays. Marco from Degrassi plays his boyfriend! This movie is corny, weird and super low budget, which of course means it’s right up my alley. It’s worth watching just for the parents’ reaction when their kid finally comes out of the closet to them – it’s a legitmately cool scene, I thought. If you’re less into corny-ass bullshit than I am, however, don’t bother.
Santa’s Christmas Circus (Rifftrax version) (December 23)
This “movie” seems to just be a vaguely Christmas-themed episode of some old regional TV show, in which a bizarre and annoying clown named Whizzo capers around a tiny set for more than an hour. I’d never seen one of these clown TV shows before – Krusty on The Simpsons has really been my only point of reference. Is this really what they were like? Just some guy standing in the same spot and acting like a dipshit for an hour? It’s crazy! I will say this though – the kids in the audience appear to be having the most fun they’ve ever had in their lives. So I guess at some point in history, children were genuinely entertained by shit like this. For those of us who aren’t long-dead children, however, this is a nightmare. Even Rifftrax doesn’t make it much easier to get through!
A Christmas Horror Story (December 23)
Here’s what I said about this movie last year:
At least once a year, I’ll declare that some movie will become an “annual tradition” or “part of my yearly holiday playlist” or some shit like that. I think this might be the first time I’ve actually stuck to that, for one year at least. Good for you, A Christmas Horror Story!
Future War (MST3K version) (December 26)
Future War is a really underrated episode of MST3K, even by myself. I never think of it on the same tier as classics like Mitchell, Time Chasers or Final Sacrifice, but that’s really where it belongs. If you’re into movies about hooker nuns leading teams of fat guys into battle against dinosaur armies, this is the movie for you!
Finding Dory (December 27)
I missed this in theaters, and finally got around to seeing it at the tail end of the year. It’s a fun enough movie with gorgeous visuals and some great performances, but at the end of the day it just kinda seems like a random episode of a Finding Nemo TV series or something. That’s kinda how most of the Pixar sequels feel to me, honestly. Hopefully they stop making them.
Holiday Switch (December 29)
By this point Christmas was over and I was getting kinda burnt out on these Hallmark movies, but when my friend Crystal highlighted this one on her excellent blog Live-Blogging Lifetime Movies, I decided to let it be my last hurrah with this nonsense for the year. This one is about Nicole Eggert as a struggling housewife who crawls into a magical washing machine and emerges in an alternate universe where she married a richer guy. You can probably guess where this goes, but I won’t spoil it. Crystal will!
The Girl on the Train (December 29)
The Girl on the Train feels like a Lifetime movie script accidentally got produced and released as a mainstream Hollywood movie. It’s that stupid and shallow and melodramatic and boring. You might as well just watch Presumed Dead in Paradise instead.
Blair Witch (December 31)
It’s funny to think about now, but the reason I squeezed this one in on New Year’s Eve is because I thought it might make it onto my Top 10 list. I adored the original Blair Witch Project, and so I was pretty interested in this sequel from the director of You’re Next and The Guest. Unfortunately it kinda blows. The first movie worked for a few different reasons – mostly because at the time nobody had seen anything like it before, but also because its characters were somewhat interesting and relatable. No such luck with this one. The characters are bland morons, who sleepwalk through a watered-down version of the original. So just watch the original, y’know?
Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life (December 31)
My final movie of the year was an overlooked teen (or, I guess, pre-teen?) comedy from earlier in 2016. It’s a shame that Middle School didn’t get a bit more attention, because it’s a cute little movie that manages to be genuinely funny at points (mostly due to Andy Daly as the evil middle school principal) as well as surprisingly touching. It also features a great twist that I didn’t see coming at all. If that’s not enough it also features short fantasy segments which utilize really beautiful hand-painted animation. It didn’t exactly close out my year with a bang, but Middle School is a perfectly adequate choice for a lazy weekend afternoon.
So there you go, that’s My Year in Movies 2016. As usual, there were a lot of gems, and a whoooooole lot of stupid crap. Here’s my obligatory Top Ten list:
10 – Hardcore Henry
09 – Don’t Breathe
08 – Zootopia
07 – Ghostbusters
06 – Doctor Strange
05 – Deadpool
04 – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
03 – Train to Busan
02 – Captain America: Civil War
01 – Moana
It was a fun year for genre movies, and my Top 10 is chock full of superheroes, horror, sci-fi, action and cartoons. That’s no surprise, coming from me, but I would recommend almost all of these movies to anyone, even if you’re not a huge fan of the genre it falls under. Especially Moana, you guys. Watch Moana.
Okay, that’s it for this year. See you all in Hell.