Let’s face it, 2016 was not as great as 2015, movie-wise or otherwise. But let’s be fair, 2015 was an exceptional year for Hollywood. Three movies released in 2016 have crossed the $1 billion mark – Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, Zootopia, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on its way to becoming one of the biggest hits of the year.
40 of the 50 highest grossing movies of 2016 have been released right here in Dhaka, mostly by Star Cineplex, releasing over twice as many movies as the other multiplex Blockbuster Cinemas, which is more expensive and targets a specific demographic. A regular movie ticket costs Tk400 (3D is Tk450) at Blockbuster Cinemas; on the other hand, a regular ticket at Star Cineplex costs Tk250 (3D is Tk350). School and office bunkers have a special offer on working days till 3pm: Tk300 (3D is Tk350) at Blockbuster Cinemas, and Tk200 (3D is Tk300) at Star Cineplex. Moreover, Blockbuster Cinemas have special screenings priced at Tk600/Tk1000 (also for 3D); and special screenings at Star Cineplex are priced at Tk450/Tk700 (3D is Tk500/Tk800). Nowadays, Star Cineplex is premiering more movies at the special screens, such as Jungle Book, Inferno, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and it took weeks before we finally got to see them at a regular screening. Every year, Blockbuster Cinemas releases non-mainstream movies, and this year it was 10 Cloverfield Lane and La La Land, for which we are grateful to them and we hope for more.
For the last few years Star Cineplex, along with the European Union in Bangladesh, have been arranging the European Film Festival, where we got to see over a dozen old and new great European films each time. Sadly, it did not take place this year, perhaps due to the fire at the shopping mall for which Star Cineplex had to be shut-down for about two weeks.
This year, I watched 65 movies at the theatre, mostly at Star Cineplex, and it cost me a total of about Tk21,000. Last year, I watched 85 movies that cost Tk24,000. Are movies becoming too expensive for the middle class? A ‘movie’ is a global event, where the film is released worldwide at the same time and watched by everyone at the same time, and it should be within the reach of the public. It’s a wild world, but somehow it feels safer inside the movie theatre. Yes, the screen can be more dangerous than real-life, but we know for a fact, that the monsters and explosions on the screen cannot touch us, not even in 3D, and every time, as long as we are all part of the audience, we would come out unscathed.
The following favorite-list is based on movies released in Dhaka in 2016. I have seen most of the 10-best films at least twice at the theatre with friends and family.
10. Captain American: Civil War There is no shame, for DC fans, in admitting that Civil War was a more entertaining movie than Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. But you have to agree, Marvel movies are made by corporate-machines with machine-perfection. Say sorry.
9. Deadpool Yes Deadpool was a refreshing twist on the superhero movies. My only complaint is that Star Cineplex should have put up a warning-sign at the ticket counter, just like they did during the screening of The Conjuring (2013), that it’s not for children. Lots of parents brought their children and had to leave in the middle. The sex scenes were cut but there were 84 f-words, 34 excrement terms, 21 sexual references, 19 genital-references. We prefer film certification over film censorship.
8. Nice Guys Nice Guys is among the funniest movies of the last few years. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as the ‘good-cop vs bad-cop’ duo are hilarious. We do hope they make more of this.
7. Deepwater Horizon This was the most surprising movie of the year. A disaster-movie based on the infamous British Petroleum oil-drilling catastrophe on April 10, 2010. This looks more like a National Geographic documentary than a Hollywood-movie.
6. The Conjuring 2 This has been a good year for horror movies. Director James Wan is a genius. He single-handedly revived the horror genre like never before and made it part of mainstream cinema.
5. BFG Steven Spielberg’s tribute to Roald Dahl on his birth centenary may seem unconventional to ‘movie lovers’ in contrast to ‘book lovers’. BFG is not a film based on the book. It is an extension of the book itself. It is a book-movie.
4. 10 Cloverfield Lane The best thriller of the year was directed by a YouTuber, Dan Trachtenberg, who used to review films with two of his fellow film-buff friends. Is it a drama? Is it a sci-fi? Is it a sequel to Cloverfield (2008)? John Goodman deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance.
3. Zootopia This year was pretty good for animations and Zootopia was the jewel in the crown. After last year’s masterpiece Inside Out, we were not expecting to be bowled out again so soon. Zootopia is not only the highest-grossing original animation of all-time, it’s an anti-racism tale that would teach our children to live peacefully among each other.
2. Jungle Book How did they make a classic out of a classic? Jungle Book is a milestone in motion picture technology and belongs in the category of classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Star Wars (1977), Jurassic Park (1992) and Avatar (2009).
1. La La Land If you go out to see just one movie this year let it be La La Land! After watching it once, you would feel an urge to see it again, and after watching it four-times (like I have) your appetite would increase even more. Why don’t they make musicals like these anymore? This could be the most nominated film at the Oscars this year with sure-wins for Best Music, Best Song and Best Production Design.