Ruk Ranks Every 2016 Movie He Saw: (50-46)

50. Finding Dory

 

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Yeah, Finding Dory is this low. No joke, I thought this movie was painfully average. It’s a shame because Finding Nemo is one of my biggest nostalgic favourites and probably one of my favourite Pixar movies. However, while I’m not against Pixar sequels/prequels as much as some people, I was leery of this project from the beginning. While as I mentioned, I do really like Finding Nemo, I tend to find that Dory is one of the more annoying characters in it. So an entire movie about her was going to have some trouble winning me over. And while I give them credit for trying (and my fears about Dory being annoying did not come to pass) it didn’t really work overall for me. And ultimately, I think the biggest flaw of the story came down to one simple thing.

The movie never really made me care about finding Dory’s parents.

I mean, let’s compare with Finding Nemo for a second. The whole ‘Finding’ storyline in that works because when Marlin and Nemo are separated, we’ve already had plenty of time to get to know and empathise with them both as characters. So we care about them both and we care about them getting back together. Finding Dory showed us a bit of the parents early in the movie but they didn’t come off as anything except generic loving parents. So I didn’t really care that much about them. Not to mention, there’s no pressing need for them to be immediately reunited. In FN, Nemo and Marlin had just been separated and Nemo was shown to be in danger of dying in captivity. In FD, Dory’s gone for years without seeing or even knowing about her parents, so there’s really not as much as strong narrative for them to need to be reunited. Hell, I kinda thought for a moment that they might be going down the ‘parents are dead, Nemo + Marlin are your new family’ route, but nope. Sure, you can argue that we’re supposed to care because Dory cares and we care about Dory but (and maybe this is why I don’t like it as much as other people) I don’t really care that much about Dory. For me, Marlin was what worked so well about the first Finding Nemo. Dory was a cute annoyance. I cared about her character a little bit but not nearly enough to support an entire narrative.

So yeah, to sum up, the central conceit of the movie really didn’t work for me which meant the movie didn’t really work for me. Which is a shame because the animation is nice, there are some neat sequences and Hank was a cool character. But it never really rose above average to me.

 

 

49. London has Fallen

 

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Alright, just getting out there now, this movie was dumb. Super dumb. Really really super mega dumb. The dumbest little star on the dumbest little Christmas tree dumb. Gerard Butler as an Egyptian God dumb. And pretty racist. That said… I still kinda enjoyed it?

It’s pretty much the clearest guilty pleasure for me on this list (well, aside from one other movie that’s coming up next). And I’m not talking about the sort of guilty pleasure where other people think the movie is bad but I actually think it’s relatively good (because that’s not a guilty pleasure at all. That’s you just being wrong). No, London is Fallen is a movie that I actively agree is bad. It’s a terrible movie, no bones about it. But, damn it, I still got a kick out of watching it. It’s just so over-the-top and sincere in its dumbassery. It’s cheesy, makes no sense, overloaded with action and literally does the outrunning the fireball cliché seriously in the finale (in a sequence that I was laughing my head off at in the theatre) but fuck it, I enjoyed it anyway. Honestly, it’s impressive because I wasn’t really that fond of its predecessor, Olympus has Fallen, but I still ended up having a fun fun time at this.

That said, it is still a bad movie. Hackneyed characterisation, silly plot justifications, an absurd premise, questionable politics and, again, kinda racist. But, hey, that’s what guilty pleasures are for. Speaking of…

 

 

48. Sadako vs Kayako

 

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I’m guessing most of you probably didn’t even know this existed, yet alone that it came out this year in Japan. And… that’s fairly justifiable because it’s a pretty terrible movie that originally formed out of an April Fool’s joke. But it’s terrible in an entertaining way. And in the end, isn’t that all that really matters? …The answer is, of course, no, but I will pretend so anyway to justify ranking it above Finding Dory.

So yes, it’s a movie about the main villain of the Ring and the Grudge in a, heheh, Grudge match. (I have no regrets.) Effectively, it’s a J-Horror Freddy vs Jason with a lower budget and played much more seriously (which ironically ended up making it all the more hilarious). Admittedly, unlike that movie, the actual titular conflict here is a bit of a letdown, since it doesn’t take place until the very end and only lasts about 5-10 minutes. However, unlike Freddy vs Jason where the rest of the movie was kinda bleh, the story leading up to the fight in this movie is filled with glorious cheese and unintentional goofiness (especially if you watch the rather poor English dub). From the ghost boy who meows like a housecat (unsettling in previous movies, hilarious here), to the bitchslapping priestess, to the headbutt of death, to the super edgelord exorcist and his blind psychic girl assistant (yes, seriously), to the amazingly silly looking CGI conclusion, this movie is the best kind of bad horror movie. One that I could easily see myself sitting down with mates and just mocking the hell out of it.

Just don’t go in expecting to be scared.

 

47. X-Men Apocalypse

 

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I did a write-up of this when it first came out and, honestly, my views haven’t really changed that much. It was decent but flawed when it first came out, it’s decent but flawed now.

But to sum up my overall thoughts, I liked it…. but I can entirely see why it got such a mixed reception.

The problem is that, while the movie has a lot of good character and story ideas, it really doesn’t feel like it spend enough time on a lot of them. Team Apocalypse in particular gets pretty damn shafted. I will say I definitely enjoyed Apocalypse as a villain (as I have a soft spot for the occasional hammy doomsday villain) and Oscar Isaac is definitely having a ball with the role. But the movie does a really shitty job of developing his team and establishing their motives. Despite showing him recruiting each of them in turn, there’s not a single member of his team (except maybe Angel) that I felt like I really understood why they were working for him. Not even Magneto and he gets the most screentime pre-joining Apocalypse (with a very eye-rolley ‘Stuffed in the Fridge family’ subplot)*. And, as a result, that reflects poorly on Apocalypse himself. They could’ve used those recruiting moments to really show off his charisma and what makes him worth worshipping as a god. Instead, the audience is confused as to why exactly these people are following him.

I’ll admit, I really can’t tell whether the problem with the movie is a result of having too many character subplots (especially with ones like Quicksilver’s, Moira’s and Magneto’s, none of which really add anything to the story) or simply that there’s not enough time to satisfyingly develop them because of the utterly pointless Stryker/Wolverine segment that is dumped in the middle of the movie, like a big steaming… dump. And it’s odd, because I don’t actually dislike that segment. It’s a perfectly well-told mini story within the movie. The problem is that it’s entirely pointless and irrelevant to the rest of the movie and when you already have so other many character threads that desperately need the screentime it hogs up, it feels very hard to justify. Did we really need to see more of Wolverine and Stryker? Haven’t we seen enough already in, you know, almost every other X-Men movie?

I will say though, there was a lot I liked about the movie. The young X-Men (Scott, Jean, Nightcrawler in particular) were great. There were two fun Quicksilver sequences. I particularly enjoyed some of the scenes where Apocalypse demonstrates his power, such as when he hijacks Cerebro. The opening was awesome, as was the final scene where the team show off new costumes (which look great and I hope stick around for the next movie). Mystique didn’t hijack the movie nearly as much as I thought/feared she would. (Her subplot of fearing hero-worship is fairly stupid, to be honest, though.) But it’s fairly easy to recognise that the movie is flawed. I suspect the movie was trying a bit too hard to copy the Avengers method of team-ups** where every character gets a fairly equal representation and their own little stories (as opposed to previous X-Men movies which have been largely Wolverine & co/Professor X, Magneto and co (fyi, that’s not necessarily a bad thing)), but that balancing act, like the first Avengers did perfectly, is much more difficult to pull off than the normal X-Men method and I can’t say they’ve succeeded here.

So, in conclusion, would I recommend it? Honestly, I’m not sure. It’s a lot better than BvS for certain, but it’s very disjointed and significantly more flawed than Civil War or Deadpool or even Singer’s other X-Men films. I think, if you’re interested in the movie and have enjoyed the previous X-Men movies, give it a shot. I can’t guarantee you’ll like it, but there are definitely things to like.

*Personally, I really wish Magneto’s wife + daughter hadn’t died. Not only because the Stuffed into the Fridge thing is overused, cliche and you could see this one coming a mile away. But I also found both were interesting characters. The wife for her connection with Magneto and the daughter for being a fucking Beastmaster. Also, they brought out new, interesting aspects to Magneto’s character which vanish the instant they die so he can go back to being an angsty vengeance machine. Because obviously we needed to see more of that again. Just like obviously we needed to see more of Wolverine.

**Funnily enough, I’d say Civil War actually copied the X-Men method of team-ups this year, by focusing mainly on two characters (Cap + Iron Man) and relegating the rest to supporting status. And it worked very well. Unfortunately, this wasn’t quite as successful.

 

 

 

46. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

 

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Here’s another in the ‘definitely flawed but still kinda enjoyable’ selection.

Honestly, aside from the rather poor pacing and editing, I think the major issue was that it focused far too much on Asa Butterfield’s journey rather than the actual titular Peculiar Children. From the trailers, I was expecting it to be much more a Victorian X-Men sort of movie which is a fairly neat concept. What we got instead was a half-hearted time travel plot with again too much focus on Asa Butterfield (who’s a fine actor but is also the least interesting thing about this movie) and his family issues (which end up being completely forgotten by the end (seriously, I think his dad is still on that island somewhere)) and it just didn’t work as well. Still, the titular children are definitely fun to watch, there are some compelling characters and cool uses of powers here there (creepy puppet kid being the standout)and Samuel L. Jackson is just having a ball in his role as the leader of the Slenderm- erm, I mean Hollows. It’s just that the movie spends so much time on Butterfield’s plot and it’s just not that interesting.

 

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