Teodor Reljic’s best and worst films of 2016

MaltaToday’s friendly neighbourhood film critic rounds up the best and worst films that fell under his hammer over the past year

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Teodor Reljic
27 December 2016, 7:30am
As per annual tradition, film critic Teodor Reljic rounds up the best and worst films that fell under his hammer over the past year
As per annual tradition, film critic Teodor Reljic rounds up the best and worst films that fell under his hammer over the past year
The past year has seen many celebrity deaths and political upheavals which appear to be matched in the frenzied and schizophrenic-in-quality releases we seem to have got during what promises to be the historically maddening year of 2016. Click on the titles to read our review.

The Worst

5. 20,000 Reasons

20,000 Reasons
20,000 Reasons
It feels a bit below-the-belt – to say nothing about plain unpatriotic – to rag on a well-meaning, low-budget local release and rake it over the coals once again in full public view. But Jameson Cuccardi’s rom-com is frustrating precisely because Malcolm Galea’s script has great – if low-brow – potential, and were rookie mistakes like baffling sound glitches and some atrocious editing been kept in check, we could actually have a middling commercial property to shop around worldwide. As an equally unpopular local politician might say, shame on you!

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
More painfully average than downright bad, this Michael Bay-produced sequel to an already struggling franchise hits a G-spot of ineptitude: too adult for kids and too ‘lame’ for adults (with cartoony villans and painfully punny jokes aplenty) its supposed appeal is spread far too thin.

3. Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad
Suicide Squad
It could have been DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy moment. Instead, Suicide Squad was a studio-smothered mess that tried to give audiences everything they may have wanted but in the end, only presented them with a botched omelette of a film drained of all flavour by an army of executives confused about what their brand is supposed to represent.

2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Thing is, Batman v Superman was precisely the kind of DC Comics adaptation that Suicide Squad was struggling not to be: dark and dour in a way that feels ‘mature’ and essential only to a teenage audience, Zack Snyder’s hero-on-hero slugfest got a lot of flack for casting Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman ahead of release, but that was the least of the overlong and tonally off-key film’s problems. A Frankenstein’s creature made up of trailer-friendly cool ‘moments’ that have no emotional weight or dramatic impact, ‘BvS’ is a childish film in the worst possible way.

1. London Has Fallen

London Has Fallen
London Has Fallen
Oh boy! Few things in the world could have prepared us for this. Actually, a few things to happen since the release of this Gerard Butler actioner in 2016 could easily have predicted its woefully reactionary political stance – a tale of American exceptionalism run amok, as told by a half-Iranian director, bafflingly enough – and it’s just a shame that the 90s action pastiche predates some of the year’s most hair-scratching calamities by a few months. Come for the xenophobic Arab-thumping, stay for the crappy special effects!

The Best

5. Arrival

Arrival
Arrival
Director Denis Villeneuve and lead actress Amy Adams make good on their reputation for being two of the most reliable presences working in Hollywood at the moment with this emotionally resonant and visually poetic take on Ted Chaing’s comparatively low-key tale of alien-human ‘first contact’. Instead of landmark-exploding combat, establishing a secure line of communication is the main struggle here, and the fact that it’s a linguist and not some military rookie who’s our protagonist for the journey is already enough to make it a cut above the rest. But it’s the film’s emotional arc that turns out to be the most cutting – and rewarding – pay off.

4. Tale of Tales

Tale of Tales
Tale of Tales
Coming to us a bit late, Matteo Garrone’s adaptation of Giambattista Basile’s ‘Lo cunto de li cunti’ is a stunningly realized collage of three stories from Italy’s answer to the Brothers Grimm. Varied in tone and presented in unapologetic collage – a structure that more closely matches the experience of flitting from one short tale to the next in the gathered volumes – Garrone creates a fairy tale film for adults: one that doesn’t shy away from violence and sexuality and that uses the fractured narrative to emphasise key motifs.

3. Rogue One

Rogue One
Rogue One
Star Wars never quite looked or felt like this, and that’s a good thing. The first in the standalone ‘Anthology’ films accompanying the new installments of the saga-proper is a war film through-and-through, that succeeds in giving a necessary shade of grey to the primary-coloured galaxy far, far away we have grown to love so much.

2. Frantz

Frantz
Frantz
This critic was lucky enough to catch Francois Ozon’s delicate but politically potent tragedy in Rome, and here’s hoping local audiences get to savour this between-the-wars drama of star-crossed lovers and protracted regret. Sure, it doesn’t sound like a fun proposal on paper, but Ozon spins it all so beautifully, highlighting the humanity of characters caught in a turbulent historical moment in a way that can’t help but feel emotionally redeeming. But this being the ever-playful Ozon, a twisty-turny second half sees our female protagonist turn detective, so that some narrative thrills are added to the thematic poignancy of the whole thing.

1. Hotel Dallas

Hotel Dallas
Hotel Dallas
Shown at this year’s edition of the Valletta Film Festival, this inventive mockumentary from Romania highlights the absurdity of the Ceausescu regime by fabricating a story of a millionaire who re-created a kitsch-tastic hotel inspired by the perennial American soap opera Dallas, and treats it like it’s a real subject worthy of a documentary. The clincher here is that apparently, Dallas was the only American show allowed by the regime: a move that was supposed to cement the American lifestyle as repellently decadent. Needless to say, the move had the opposite effect – an ironic twist that Sherng-Lee Huang and Livia Ungur’s film explores (and explodes) through surreal musical numbers as well as some bona fide documentary techniques.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...