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The Best Films of 2016

Luke Miksa welcomes 2017 with a look-back at the best cinematic treats of 2016.

I’m back!

Another year full of movies is now behind us. I saw some bad ones, and a whole bunch of mediocre ones. But they will be rightfully ignored, as I focus on the best, the funniest, the most action-packed, and dramatically satisfying films of the year. Let’s focus on the good stuff!

A lot can be said while analysing this list. Three of the top ten spots are owned by Disney (with more just on the outskirts), but I guess that just goes along with Disney’s dominant year at the box office. Another note is that three of my picks (including the top two) would easily pass the Bechdel Test, which is great for the growing diversity in Hollywood.

A lot more made the short-list, but the following class of movies made for a culling not taken lightly (Zootopia was a Disney movie with a Breaking Bad reference, for crying out loud!). Also, let’s collectively pour one out for Rogue One sadly missing the cut — the final 15 minutes were absolute ecstasy for a Star Wars fanatic.

Missed the Cut:

Zootopia, Keanu, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Green Room, Eight Days a Week, Edge of Seventeen, Lights Out

 

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10. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

There weren’t a whole lot of great comedies this year. Only the Key & Peele comedy Keanu came close (very close), but this spot ultimately belongs to the This is Spinal Tap style mockumentary from The Lonely Island, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

Popstar stars Andy Samberg as Connor4Real, a pop superstar in the vein of Justin Beiber, and follows the dramatic shifts in his professional and personal career. If you’re familiar with musical documentaries, you’ll definitely appreciate the subversive humour, but the stand-out is the catchy and hilarious soundtrack, which was to be expected with The Lonely Island calling the shots behind the scenes.

This was not a popular film — a box office disaster, all things considered — but I have the feeling that Popstar is a movie with real legs, destined to become a cult favourite.

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Review: Ghostbusters (2016) — Too Obsessed With the Past to Make a Decent Movie

At the risk of being labelled a ‘GhostBro’, Luke Miksa has feelings about the controversial Ghostbusters reboot.

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A reboot of the beloved sci-fi comedy blockbuster of 1984, director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy) presents a Ghostbusters for a new generation. When strange apparitions being appearing in New York, Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) joins her old colleague Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and her quirky new partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), along with historical New York City expert Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Dubbed the Ghostbusters by the media, together the four women — plus their new space cadet assistant Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) — set about to foil a plot which will bring about the apocalypse, right on their doorstep.

"Ain't no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts"

“Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts”

Surprisingly, Ghostbusters has become one of the most controversial films in recent years, and it’s mainly due to loyal fans of the original two films. A second sequel to Ghostbusters with the original cast has been in development hell for over twenty years, but with the death of Harold Ramis, the decision was made to completely reboot the series; a bitter pill to swallow for some die-hards. Things got worse when word came out that the busting of ghosts will now be done exclusively by a team of (gulp) women! This resulted in a veritable shit-show of online misogyny, including the first trailer being one of the most down-voted trailers in YouTube history (Look, it wasn’t a good trailer, but a quick look at the comment section will tell you the whole story).

But now the film has been released, which means it’s finally time to judge it on its merits, and not just prejudice and tears. And what’s the verdict? Unfortunately it’s not good.

Recent history has shown that the best way to reboot a franchise is to tie it in to the existing films, in whats known as a legacyquel; a cross between a distant sequel and a soft reboot (examples: Jurassic World, The Force Awakens, and Creed). This method seems to work, as it remains in the same universe that people are fond of, often with the older characters passing the torch to the new upstarts. But Ghostbusters bucks the recent — successful — trend, and we find ourselves with a hard reboot; a completely new universe where the events of the previous films don’t exist.

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Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) — It’s the End of the World as we Know It, and I Feel… Fine?

Bryan Singer is back to direct his fourth X-Men film; X-Men: Apocalypse. Luke Miksa checks to see whether it stacks up.

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The year is 1983, ten years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Upon awakening after thousands of dormant years, the first mutant, the immortal En Sabah Nur, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), embarks on a plan to destroy humanity and remake it under his will. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the X-Men must band together to face the cataclysmic force that is Apocalypse and his disciples of doom, the Four Horsemen: Storm, Psylocke, Angel, and Magneto — mutants lured by the charismatic allure of Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse is the sixth X-Men movie — ninth if you count spin-off films from Wolverine and Deadpool — and the fourth run at the helm from director Bryan Singer. Having practically pioneered the modern run of superhero films with 2000’s X-Men, Singer certainly has experience in films of this nature, but this really is his weakest effort with this franchise to date. Not to say that this film is bad, it honestly isn’t, but it just feels like a stale retread as opposed to advancing the X-Men films to the next level.

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As with most X-Men films, Apocalypse features many characters, probably too many by normal standards, but these films have always been about the large ensemble. Most major characters are actually well formed despite the sheer number of them. Their motivations are juggled reasonably well: senior characters like ‘Beast’ Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), ‘Professor X’ Charles Xavier, and ‘Mystique’ Raven Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence) get to continue on the paths set from prior films, with the ongoing tragedy of ‘Magneto’ Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) a highlight thanks again to some solid output from Fassbender. But it’s also the fresh faces, the younger cast of ‘Cyclops’ Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), ‘NightCrawler’ Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and ‘Storm’ Ororo Munroe (Alexandra Shipp) showing promise for the direction of these younger versions of characters we know and love.

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Top 10 James Bond Theme Songs

With the memory of Spectre still fresh, Luke Miksa breaks down his definitive list of Bond tunes.

Spectre, the 24th James Bond film, has been out for a few weeks now to mixed reviews. I personally liked it, despite its flaws, but one thing that disappointed me was the new theme song from Sam Smith, “The Writing’s On The Wall”. This is a track which lacks excitement and is, frankly, just a little bit boring.

Don’t give me that look, Sam Smith, with your George Michael earrings and perfect voice.

Look, it’s definitely not the worst Bond theme ever produced — that honour goes to Madonna‘s “Die Another Day” (yuck!) — and it’s got some nice Bond-esque orchestration, but it is mid-tier in the canon of Bond themes. It’s especially apparent since Spectre is where modern-era Bond finally embraces some of the sillier tropes of the franchise, the song’s lovelorn lyrics simply do not resonate (much like the love story of Spectre itself).

There is a rich history of Bond music ever since that weird calypso version of “Three Blind Mice” from 1962’s Dr. No, so I have scoured the 50-plus year history to present you the Top 10 James Bond Theme Songs:

Note: The classic James Bond Theme is out of the running, because it is ubiquitous with every film. Dr. No, you’re cut.

10. “You Know My Name” Chris Cornell – Casino Royale (2006)

This song fits the era so well. Daniel Craig‘s debut as James Bond in Casino Royale was designed to update the character for modern audiences in a post-Jason Bourne world. As was the style at the time, the Bond franchise was to get its very own “gritty reboot”, highlighting a raw an inexperienced 007 for the very first time.

“You Know My Name” captures that tone perfectly, with classical Bond pomp and circumstance dropped for an appropriately grungy number from Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. This was James Bond, but as you’ve never seen him before. You know my name, indeed.


9. “Nobody Does It Better” Carly Simon – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

A guilty pleasure. At this stage, Roger Moore was halfway through his stint as 007, and the movies themselves had skewed into the quip-laden, ‘wink wink’ nature that was synonymous with his run. “Nobody Does It Better” is one of the more commercially successful Bond songs, and is among singer Carly Simon‘s most popular songs (that aren’t about Warren Beatty).

If we’re talking about bedding babes and thwarting criminal geniuses, it’s true that nobody does it better than James Bond. But The Spy Who Loved Me wound up being Moore’s highest grossing and critically acclaimed film, so really, when it came to making successful movies, nobody did it better. Top marks for confidence.

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Disneyland and California Adventure: Hot Tips and Hints for Your Next Trip

Luke Miksa shares his advice for a first-class Disneyland experience.

A trip to the Disneyland Resort isn’t cheap (especially if you come from a great distance, like myself), so undoubtedly you want to make the most of your hard-earned money. The key to a successful visit to Disneyland and California Adventure in Anaheim is to research and plan your days in advance. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over a couple of separate trips:

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Get in Early & Stay Late

Prepare to do most of your attractions first thing in the morning or late at night. The middle of the afternoon is when the Disneyland Resort crowds are at their largest, the sun is at it’s hottest, and lines for popular attractions — such as the relatively new Radiator Springs Racers — can have a wait time of up to 90 minutes!

This may sound mad, but during the afternoon, leave the park entirely. You actually won’t miss anything apart from lines and sunstroke. Go to Downtown Disney for lunch and shopping, or just go back to your hotel. You can chill by the pool (if you have one) or just relax in the air-conditioning.

By avoiding peak times, you will actually become a more efficient guest and I guarantee you will be able to see and do more in the day. And don’t rule out just how important a mid-day rest can have on your psyche, let alone your feet. Conserve your energy! Avoid the rush!

This advice goes mainly for summer, but is applicable for winter, but remember that winter operating hours are drastically shorter, as are crowd numbers.

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Park Hopper

When you purchase tickets, you have the choice of buying individual tickets to the two parks, or you can purchase a Park Hopper: a pass that let’s you — you guessed it — hop between the parks at will. For a slightly higher cost, this flexibility is invaluable in getting the most out of your Disneyland experience.

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Review: Fantastic Four (2015) — Fantastic Faux Pas: Defying the Odds to Become the Worst Fantastic Four Movie

Fantastic Four is back, and this time it’s serious. Luke Miksa reviews:

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Based on the popular Marvel Comics characters, Fantastic Four is another attempt at a big-screen adaptation for Marvel’s First Family. Directed by Josh Trank (Chronicle), Fantastic Four (Fant4stic if you’re an idiot) is a more serious take at the origin story of the super-team and follows a young Reed Richards (Miles Teller, Whiplash), a hyper-intelligent young man who is recruited into the “Baxter Foundation” and joins a team including Sue Storm (Kate Mara, House of Cards), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station), and Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell, RocknRolla). The team develop a transporter capable of inter-dimensional travel, but when the team, including Reed’s childhood friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell, Snowpiercer), encounter problems on “Planet Zero”, they return with their molecules altered, resulting in various powers and abilities which will change them forever.

Fantastic Four is a movie that has been plagued with well documented production problems. I shouldn’t be getting into on-set dramas while reviewing a film, but the squabbles between director Josh Trank and 20th Century Fox have unfortunately manifested into the finished film, which is a jumbled mess of ideas, tone, and plot. What we have with Fantastic Four is two movies. One being the directors vision: a serious scientific exploration into inter-dimensional travel combined with Cronenberg-esque body-horror. The second: an action based movie where the team gets together to stop a cataclysmic event. It’s obvious where the different visions intersect and the resulting mess is the worst-reviewed Marvel-based movie to date.*

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