90 – Storks
This film struggled to find the audiences that many other animated films did in 2016. In a way it is to be expected, Storks probably has too many jokes that would go over children’s heads, and not enough cute things, in it to really succeed. It is a shame though, because this is infinitely more entertaining than The Secret Life of Pets and far more sophisticated than the, frankly, awful, Sausage Party, both of which did far better at the box office.
89 – The Birth of a Nation
Even if its release hadn’t been compromised by events involving its director, this film was going to come up short when compared to the ridiculously positive response it received at Sundance. And it’s not perfect – everything it gets right about race it gets wrong about gender. But, concentrating purely at the film, while it may not be the Oscar winner it was originally claimed to be, it is a powerful and impressive debut.
88 – The Angry Birds Movie
Too scary for my daughter (we managed five minutes) but good enough that I went back to watch it on my own the next day. The Angry Birds Movie is, arguably, the first successful film adaptation of a computer game. It works because the game itself has little to no narrative which means the writers of the film could invent any story they want without stepping on anyone’s toes. Add a miserable protagonist and a bunch of decent jokes and you have yourself a pretty decent movie.
87 – Black Mountain Poets
An incredibly low budget means this film about two sisters on the run posing as a pair of poets on a mountain retreat is a little rough around the edges, but the performances of Alice Lowe and Dolly Wells are so good that they manage to carry the rest of the film with them.
86 – Speed Sisters
This documentary about the Middle East’s first all female racing team is somehow a feel-good feast, despite the ordeals of trying to race cars in the West Bank when you are a woman. Whether it’s run-of-the-mill sexism, dodgy race officials, or getting shot at by Israeli soldiers, there always seems to be something to shrug off before getting on with being awesome.
85 – Audrie & Daisy
A terrifying Netflix documentary that gives a glimpse of how social media can add an extra level of horror to the lives of people who have been raped. It also shows how small town America can close ranks to protect it’s own – the interview with the police chief is truly shocking. Essential, if difficult viewing.
84 – Welcome to Leith
Another great documentary about another terrible thing. Of course, in hindsight, the story of a white supremacist who tries to take over a tiny town in North Dakota has now become rather… you know… you know what I’m going to say… we’re both thinking it…
83 – 2 Lava 2 Lantula!
Oh, Steve Guttenberg, let me count the ways?
For those of you unfamiliar with the Lavalantula franchise (part of what we might call the Sharknado Shared Cinematic Universe): yes, it is about giant tarantulas that fire lava at people. 2 Lava 2 Lantula! manages to out stupid this premise, and even its title, with hard work and a soft script. It aims for a so-bad-that-it’s-good vibe but ends up being more of a so-bad-(because-it’s-trying-to-be-so-bad-that-it’s-good)-that-it’s-good sort of a film.
And none of it would have worked without Steve Guttenberg. It is easy to dismiss the performance of a man who spends most of a film doing bad puns while chasing massive spiders around Florida, but Guttenberg knows that if something is worth doing it’s worth doing right. He commits to the role and we are all rewarded. He is Colton West, literally and figuratively, and long may that continue.
82 – Eddie the Eagle
OK, so it’s about as historically accurate as The Patriot, but does it matter, really, when we’re having this much fun?
81 – Central Intelligence
Dwayne Johnson can do no wrong. If any other actor announced that his 2017 films would be Fast and Furious 8, a Baywatch movie and a remake of Jumanji, I would be worried, but dude, it’s The Rock, everything will work out swimmingly. I’m actually excited.
In Central Intelligence, he flexes his comedy muscles and, like all his muscles, they prove to be perfectly sculpted and exceedingly powerful. Credit too should go to whoever decided not to use him as a straight man to Kevin Hart, but to make Hart a straight-man-pushed-over-the-edge, and letting them share the burden of providing laughs.
Credit should also be given to whoever came up with the tagline “Saving the world takes a little Hart and a big Johnson” which was, obviously, the best of the year.