Welcome to our list of the TOP 10 BIGGEST SURPRISES of 2016!
10. "10 Cloverfield Lane" - Upon re-watch when preparing for this sequel, we found ourselves liking and appreciating "Cloverfield" much more, especially as a product of its time. The found-footage genre has since taken a tailspin into the terrible, trite, and messy, but the fact remains: "Cloverfield" is a solid movie. When producer J.J. Abrams announced a surprise, secret sequel, people lost their minds. Us? Not so much. We figured, "don't push it, J.J. You've already resurrected multiple franchises, quit while you're ahead." We are pleasantly surprised to say "10 Cloverfield Lane" is incredible, infinitely better than we expected, "a taut, eyeball-widening mystery that mixes well with a hidden hand of cards and a slew of wonderful performances." It's a pandora's box of mystery, and one of the best movies of 2016.
9. "Lights Out" - We'll be honest, we fear the worst when we see advertising for PG-13 horror movies because we've been burned so frequently in the past. That was most certainly the case for "Lights Out." Another oh-so-scary-BOO!-ghostly-entity film? Pass. This one, surprisingly, has some great twists and turns, and we totally respect it for its ending. We're sure all of this was a one-time thing, and since the sequel was green-lit very shortly after it became a box office success, we can't say we will feel as positive about any other films featuring the antagonist Diana. For what it's worth, "Lights Out" never overstays its welcome and has sufficient creeps to keep you engaged.
8. "Deepwater Horizon" - It's not that we thought "Deepwater Horizon" looked bad, it's just that we thought the dialogue would be cheesy and basic, the visuals would be terrible, and questioned how it would make the company BP look (since they were responsible for the real life oil spill). Luckily, this film is excellent! The visuals are some of the best we saw all 2016, and in a epic display of fire, explosions, oil-splatters, and mayhem, the story managed to be gripping, intense, concise, and not at all like we feared.
7. "Trolls" - Again, we have a case of "holy shit, they made this toy into a movie?!"-itis. The trailer for "Trolls" boasted uber-colorful, ridiculously cheerful characters and plot featuring singing, dancing, glitter-farting, cupcake-pooping beings way too into scrap-booking for their own good. This film surprised us because it's startlingly touching and nowhere near as "buy all the Trolls toys here!" as we assumed it would be. Plus, they only played that damn Justin Timberlake ear-worm once throughout its run time, so that's a plus in our book. "A hug-infested, color-blasted, sing-songy romp!"
6. "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" - Andy Samberg doesn't have the best record outside of "Saturday Night Live." His feature length movies are hit and miss for us. "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" looked like a flop waiting to happen. While the film did flop monetarily, we have to say, we absolutely loved this movie. It's an interesting, crafty, pertinent critique on the music industry and our celebrity-obsessed, cell phone-loving society wrapped in sass, crass, and wittiness. This is one of the best comedies of 2016 and a complete wonderful surprise.
5. "The Shallows" - A movie about a woman who gets trapped on a rock by a gigantic shark. What could this movie possibly do to show that it's worthy of being in the same category as something like "Jaws" and not one that belongs in the same category as "Sharknado"? The suspense, terror, and fast paced back and forth action in "The Shallows" keeps it from being a bore, and its mostly short run time means it doesn't overstay its welcome. Add this to a shockingly awesome looking water-based antagonist and you've got yourself a solid horror-at-sea thriller to scare a new generation of people from wanting to go to the beach.
4) "Storks" - A movie about stork-employing baby factories-turned-package deliverers? Hello, 1950's suburbia meets product placement! "Storks" was most certainly headed for our worst of the worst list prior to seeing it and judging on trailers alone, but this gorgeously animated family comedy turned out to not completely suck! In fact, it is really cute and well made! Not all of the jokes work out, but we're forgiving of the ones that don't because "there is a lot of wit and humor in the dialogue and delivery of it, making this a surprisingly enjoyable film for both adults and kids."
3) "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows" - We loathed the 2014 "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" revival produced by Michael Bay. It was abundantly clear his stink and influence were all over that project, and it was an unoriginal, "empty waste of cinematic space." Needless to say, we didn't have one iota of faith for its sequel. To our complete dismay, in a cataclysmic turn of events, we liked this movie! Despite its faults, "Out of the Shadows" is worlds above the original in a somewhat entertaining, much more fan-serviced affair. With the additions of Gary Anthony Williams and WWE star Sheamus as Bebop and Rocksteady, we found ourselves laughing and shocked by its vast improvement upon the original.
2) "The Angry Birds Movie" - When "The Angry Birds Movie" was announced, we feared the worst for this app-to-movie adaptation. When the trailers debuted, there was absolutely no confidence from us that this would be a worthwhile or funny film. Despite our fears, this managed to be a decent kids movie! Sure, it's very heavy on the adult-oriented innuendo, but there are a couple of major laughs in this mostly "fine" animated film. Keep in mind, it is about a gaming app, and this is not the best movie on this list, but it sure as hell is one of the biggest surprises of the year. Jason Sudeikis is a fantastic voice actor!
1) "Ouija: Origin of Evil": We *hated* the original "Ouija" in 2014. It made our worst of the worst list that year. Needless to say, we were not looking forward to this prequel...but HOLY COW. The unimaginable happened! "Ouija" Origin of Evil" isn't half bad! In fact, it's even really good! Though not perfect, director Mike Flanagan has achieved something worthy of the horror genre here with an era-appropriate, intriguing back story to an otherwise completely unworthy source material. What a difference a changed director makes, and what a friggin' shock! This film is capable of standing on its own, so please, ignore the original and stick to this far better prequel!