My Top Ten Books Read In 2016

Welcome to Day Two of my annoying End-Of-Year Lists! Today I’m ranking the thirteen books that I read in 2016 (but it’s still a Top Ten as I didn’t really like the bottom three very much). As always, I rank things according to my own personal taste. For example, number 13 is a far better & more well-written book than 12 or 11 – I just enjoyed 12 & 11 slightly more. I’m also quite proud that I somehow managed to review them all (poorly, though – I suck at book reviews even more than movie reviews) so I’ve included the links to what I said about each.

So now, counting down to my very favorite, these are all the books that I read in 2016:

Three Not-So-Great:

13. Straight White Male by John Niven

12. The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

11. The Death Cure by James Dashner

Top Ten Much-Better-Ones:

10. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

9. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams

8. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

7. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

6. The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

5. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

4. Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

3. The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

2. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill

1. The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett

Can I just say that, while I highly recommend at least my top seven, I want to give a special mention to Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts. I’ve now read several of his books after wanting to find out if he was as good as his father (Stephen King). I’ve really enjoyed all his books so far but, finally, 20th Century Ghosts is one that I really loved. As with all short story collections, some stories are much stronger than others. But the best ones are fantastic!

**See you for two more end-of-year lists over the next two days. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a list of My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2016 then will end on Friday with My Top Ten Movies Released In 2016 (going by UK release dates). 🙂

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Kung Fu Panda 3, The House Of Magic, Rio 2 & Muppets Most Wanted Movie Reviews

I have four quickie kids’ film reviews for you today! I promise they’ll be quick. Why? Because I barely remember three of them.

I’ve just seen Kung Fu Panda 3 so that review will be a little longer than the rest. You see, I get a little annoyed when I look at the pages on my blog & see that I still have some movies that I watched but never reviewed on the 2014 page & the 2015 page (never mind the 2016 page! I’m way behind). It’s especially annoying that the only movies that I actually went to the cinema to see but then didn’t review were these three 2014 kids’ movies. They were so “meh” that I guess I couldn’t be bothered.

So, here we go! I’ll finally say something about them two years later. I’m limiting myself to one paragraph each for the three older ones (plus my kid’s opinion on each). But let’s start with the longer review for the most current film (and by far the best of the four)…

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni

Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J. K. Simmons, James Hong, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson

From: DreamWorks Animation

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.

My Opinion:

I actually thought this movie was really good. As far as DreamWorks movies go, at least. I’ve stated here before how I see DreamWorks movies as strictly kids’ films while I view Pixar & most Disney ones as just being great films overall for every age group. Like, I wouldn’t feel weird discussing both WALL-E & Citizen Kane in the same breath. Except, I’ve not seen Citizen Kane… Never mind.

What I liked about Kung Fu Panda 3 is that, while it has a message as does every kids’ movie, it didn’t let the message get in the way of the movie being fun and actually making kids laugh. The previous movie we went to as a family was Disney’s Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) & I did NOT expect to think a DreamWorks film was far better than a Disney one! But that’s the case this time.

Kung Fu Panda 3 hasn’t forgotten that, first & foremost, it’s meant to be aimed at kids. I felt that Zootropolis completely forgot this while trying to drive its message home with a convoluted plot and uninteresting characters. But Kung Fu Panda 3 isn’t dumbed down for kids, either, which is a big pet peeve of mine. Kids aren’t stupid & shouldn’t be treated that way. The jokes were all age-appropriate without being dumb but also not being too grown-up like things such as the Godfather references in Zootropolis.

I have to admit that Kung Fu Panda 3 was even enjoyable to me as an adult who probably wouldn’t watch many animated films not made by Disney or Pixar if I didn’t have a kid. I do love Jack Black (I don’t care about the haters!) and think he’s been perfect as Po in all these films. I think all the characters are strong & really like the setting and the look. In this one, the baby pandas are adorable & even had grumpy me going “aww”. The baddie in this one was also pretty cool, as were his storyline & all the chi stuff. Plus I’m a sucker for the color green. Here’s the baddie:

I’d even go so far as to say that I like the Kung Fu Panda movies the most out of all the ones made by DreamWorks. I find Shrek a little overrated and I’d say that the How To Train Your Dragon films are possibly their “best” work but they’ve never really clicked with me at all (or the kid). But all three of us have enjoyed each of the three Kung Fu Panda movies.

My Rating: 7/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She liked this movie a lot & giggled through the whole thing. She was far more enthusiastic about this one than she was after walking out of Zootropolis, which she called “not very good”. Her favorite part was Po doing his “chitty chitty chat chat” thing that she’s been annoying us with ever since (thanks a lot, Jack Black!). She also loved the baby pandas, especially when they ate everything in sight. She’s not watched the first two films since we went to see them but this one has renewed her interest (and mine!) in watching those again. I’d happily pick them up on DVD now – I think this is a very solid trilogy from DreamWorks.

The House Of Magic (2013) (US Title: Thunder And The House Of Magic)

Directed by Jeremy Degruson & Ben Stassen

Starring: Cinda Adams, George Babbit, Murray Blue, Kathleen Browers, Joey Camen, Grant George, Shanelle Gray, Nina Grillo, Kyle Hebert

From: nWave Pictures, StudioCanal

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
The House of Magic is a 2013 3D Belgian-French computer-animated fantasy-comedy film. The film focuses on an abandoned young cat who seeks shelter in the home of an old, retired magician with his automatons and gizmos.

My Opinion:

I admit to not fully remembering the plot of this strange little Belgian/French film (which was in English but I assume originally in French?) two years later. But I clearly remember the kind old magician, the cat he adopts, and the man’s REALLY cool magical toys (automatons and gizmos) such as that adorable lightbulb dude in the photo at the very top of this post. I also remember some great songs being used quite prominently (The Lovecats by The Cure & the always catchy House Of Fun by Madness). It’s not some big Disney, DreamWorks, etc production and that does show but I still thought that the characters, the music, and especially those inventive toys were pretty damn good! I wonder if those who made this have gone on to do more animated films? I’d like to see this sort of thing with a bigger budget. It’s a very sweet & charming film from what I remember. I wouldn’t complain at being made to watch it again.

My Rating: 6/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She doesn’t now remember much of this but does remember all those really cool toys that I mentioned above. She said she’d like to watch it again too (fine with me – I’ll pick up the DVD if I see it).

Rio 2 (2014)

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy GarcĂ­a, Bruno Mars, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, Jamie Foxx

From: Blue Sky Studios

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
It’s a jungle out there for Blu, Jewel and their three kids after they’re hurtled from Rio de Janeiro to the wilds of the Amazon. As Blu tries to fit in, he goes beak-to-beak with the vengeful Nigel, and meets his father-in-law.

My Opinion:

Wow. I really remember very little of this except that I think it was about saving the rainforest, right? I don’t remember the first one either – I only know that these Rio movies are very bright & colorful and have some big musical numbers that are okay. This is from Blue Sky, whose movies are quite similar to DreamWorks in that I see them strictly as films aimed at kids and only truly enjoyed by kids. The only Blue Sky one I really liked was The Peanuts Movie but that’s because I’m obsessed with Peanuts & the movie stayed very true to its spirit. Don’t get me wrong – these Rio movies aren’t bad. They’re very pretty to look at & not the worst way to spend a couple of hours with your kid but I don’t think they’re very memorable. I’d have to say that the Ice Age films are a stronger series from this studio as the characters are better. Also, could they get a more annoying set of voice actors for Rio? Anne Hathaway, Jesse Eisenberg, Leslie Mann & Kristin Chenoweth(!!)?? Ugh. I think I remember Eisenberg’s bird kids in this being quite cute, though…

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She says she liked this although she couldn’t remember the specifics of it now. She said “I liked the pink frog!” (Ugh. Kristin Chenoweth.) I think it’s proof that the Rio films are pretty & enjoyable enough while being watched but are ultimately forgettable.

Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Directed by James Bobin

Starring: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, The Muppets

From: Walt Disney Pictures

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
While on a grand world tour, The Muppets find themselves wrapped into an European jewel-heist caper headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick.

My Opinion:

I grew up with The Muppet Show so I of course love The Muppets. Who doesn’t?! The Muppets movie in 2011 (2012 here) was pretty good. It was fun and managed to kind of capture the spirit of the original show (plus I like Amy Adams). But I found Muppets Most Wanted really disappointing even though it was great, as always, to see these beloved characters. The problem was the messy, boring story and the fact that I really didn’t like the main real-life stars. Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell & Tina Fey? How do you go from Amy Adams to some TV stars? Never been a fan of any of them (in fact, who is Ty Burrell anyway? That prick in Dawn Of The Dead??). I just think they made a real mess of this movie – I’ll stick to watching my DVDs of the original show.

My Rating: 5.5/10

My Kid’s Opinion: She remembers this one more than I thought she would! She remembers the plot & the evil Kermit with the mole. She likes The Muppets & says she liked this movie. Maybe I should give it another try…

This is her favorite Muppet-related thing. I agree:

**I’d like to finally take this opportunity to draw attention to a favorite blogger of mine here who does fantastic paintings of The Muppets (and loads of other awesome artwork with a focus on pop culture – but I first started following him because of The Muppets). Please have a look at Scott’s site at Mojoswork.com. You can see all his Muppets artwork HERE.

Scott – I’m sorry it took me two years to finally get around to doing this review! Let me know if you want me to add any more info or if you want me to include a specific Muppets image you’ve done. 🙂 Oh! Scott does a lot of wrestling & sports stuff as well and I thought his History Of The WWF was absolutely amazing despite knowing nothing of that sort of thing myself (MIB – you should really check this out).

I figure I should end this with some Madness since I have House Of Fun in my head after talking about The House Of Magic. I miss this era of music!