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Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review - Music

Happy New Years Eve everyone!  Just think, in just a few hours from now, we can say adios to the year 2016!  

And it is here that we pick up our look back at 2016 with the best and worst of music from that time period.

And, well...let's not beat around the bush.  2016 was a HORRIBLE year for the music industry.  I can't think of another year in which we lost so many musicians such as David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, George Michael, and many many more.  2016 was definitely the grim reaper of years for music.  I'll go over the full list of all of the musicians that died when I do my recap on the news and events of 2016 tomorrow, but man, what a year.

In fact, when it comes to 2016, I found it extremely lackluster.  The music was boring as far as my opinion is concerned, and half of the artists that had a #1 song this year are artists that I haven't even HEARD of!  Have a look at the list of songs that charted at #1 and see what I mean.

Work/RIHANNA featuring DRAKE
One Dance/DRAKE featuring WIZKID and KYLA
Can't Stop The Feeling!/JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE
Cheap Thrills/SIA featuring SEAN PAUL
Black Beatles/RAE SREMMUND featuring GUCCI MANE

Okay, so I'll make the conclusion that the later we get into the year, the less familiar that I am with the artists.  I've never even heard of the people who did the song "Black Beatles"!

And while the Chainsmokers had the top song of the year (it was #1 on the charts for a whopping twelve weeks), I actually had to Google them to figure out who they are!  As it turns out, they're the group responsible for that annoying selfie song a couple of years ago.  Though, I suppose the song is okay.  Not really my cup of tea, but then again I found 2016 to be a rather disappointing year.

In fact, I found 2016 so disappointing that I can't believe that a pair of Justin Bieber singles are among my picks for some of the best songs of the year!  There's something catchy about "Sorry" that makes you want to get up and move.  I can't quite explain it.  And "Love Yourself" definitely shows that Justin Bieber - in spite of all the silly stuff he's done - is slowly maturing.  I'm not afraid to admit that he surprised me this year...but in a really good way!  Here's hoping he can continue on the road to positivity and release some more mature music.

Another Justin also had a song that I absolutely adore.  "Can't Stop The Feeling" is a song that comes from the "Trolls" soundtrack, and I will readily admit to grooving along to this tune whenever it comes up.  I had a feeling that Justin Timberlake would sort of follow in Michael Jackson's footsteps, and you know, this song may cinch that for him.  Here's hoping that Justin Timberlake surpasses his 50th birthday!

Adele also had a decent year with her song "Hello" dominating the early part of the year.  She also had a hit with what I consider my all time favourite Adele song to date, "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)".  It just shows that Adele's voice is powerful and lovely enough to be accompanied by a simple guitar and have it be beautiful.  Hell, she could sing along with a kazoo backing her and she'd still have a smash single!

And Zayn Malik proved that he had more than just "one direction" to go when he launched his solo career at the beginning of this year.  His single "Pillowtalk" was a #1 hit worldwide in the spring of 2016, and as 2017 approaches, it is really anybody's guess as to what direction he'll be going next.

Drake also had a pretty decent 2016.  On the heels of the success of "Hotline Bling", his collaboration with Rihanna scored him a #1 hit for both of them...and Drake's own song "One Dance" dethroned "Work" three weeks later!  Not bad for the former Degrassi: The Next Generation actor.

All right, we've heard some selections from the #1 songs of 2016.  But which artists took home a Grammy this past year?  Here's a selection of the winners.  Congratulations to all!

BEST NEW ARTIST:  Meghan Trainor

Okay, so right off the bat, some of you might be wondering why Taylor Swift took home so many awards for an album that came out in October 2014?  Well, much like Adele last year, Taylor Swift's 1989 album was released after the cutoff date, so she was not really eligible for too many awards in 2015.  But in 2016, 1989 became eligible.  And why not?  Love her or hate her, the album that saw Taylor switch music styles was a huge success, and I think I lost track of how many singles she released from 1989 alone.

And, does it come as no surprise that "Uptown Funk" took home the award for "Record of the Year"?  It was just a couple weeks shy of breaking the record for longest #1 song on the Billboard Charts EVER.  And even though we're almost at 2017, the song is still heavily played.  I guess whether you like it or not, "Uptown Funk" is here to stay!  And as for Bruno, his latest song "24K Magic" is doing well, and it looks like 2017 could be another banner year for him.  Time will tell.

While her music has definitely taken a bit of a switch lately, I must say that Meghan Trainor's acceptance speech was one of the more emotional ones ever given at the Grammy Awards, and you could tell that she was genuinely shocked and grateful for the award.  And you know, I'll give Meghan Trainor a ton of credit for standing up for positive body imagery.  When she noticed that she had been edited to look thinner in her video for "Me Too", she said NO, and took the video down until it was restored the way it was filmed.  I say that it's about time more people stood up for positive body image regardless of size.  Good job, Meghan!

And remember how bummed I was that Ed Sheeran got shut out of the major awards last year?  In 2016, that was finally remedied when he won an award for "Thinking Out Loud".  I truly think that Ed is a gifted artist and I look forward to seeing what he'll plan on doing next!

Okay, let's have a look at the other events that took place in the world of music in 2016, shall we?  There's some good, and some bad...but all of it is interesting.

I want to congratulate the following bands for being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016!  Cheap Trick, Chicago, Deep Purple, N.W.A., and Steve Miller were all recognized for their work in the music industry.  As far as I am concerned, all these bands deserve to be in there!

Celine Dion had a really tough year.  In January 2016, she lost both her husband and her brother just a few days apart.  But one thing I will say about her was that she showed so much strength and courage through it all, and she was extremely strong for her children.  And on top of all that, she spent the rest of the year performing for her fans and being incredibly candid about her fears for the future as well as finding new hopes.  Here's hoping that 2017 is a much better road for the French-Canadian chanteuse.

In what many fans might have considered a final farewell, David Bowie released his final album, "Blackstar" on his 69th birthday.  He passed away just two days later, and as I'll be talking about in tomorrow's entry, his death was the first of many from the music industry this year.  Perhaps the haunting video for "Lazarus" was almost David's way of letting his fans know that he was going to be all right...wherever he was going.

Lady Gaga had a rather eventful 2016.  She performed the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50 (where Coldplay were the halftime performers), and she did a medley of David Bowie songs in full Ziggy Stardust makeup at the Grammy Awards.  And later in 2016, she released her fourth studio album "Joanne", which instantly became a success.  I am almost waiting to see what 2017 holds for her, because she's one entertainer that always switches things up when you least expect it.

Lady Gaga's singing partner at one time, Tony Bennett, turned 90 years old this year, and in celebration of the event, he released a brand new album featuring artists from Billy Joel and Diana Krall to Stevie Wonder and Elton John.  A television special celebrating his 90th birthday aired on NBC on December 20, 2016!  It's nice to know that some musicians are still going strong during this past year!

Gwen Stefani had a rather interesting 2016 as well.  Her marriage to Gavin Rossdale went kerblammo, but she found new love with Blake Shelton.  And if you ever wanted to know some of Gwen's thoughts while she was going through that tumultuous time, you could listen to her album "This Is What the Truth Feels Like".  I don't know how honest she is in the songs on that album, but it was her first solo album since 2006's "The Sweet Escape", so it was definitely worth the wait.

Guns N Roses did something that I didn't think would happen in years.  They got back together!  The fact that it took place on April 1 was incredible irony, but it was no April Fools joke.  Axl Rose, Slash, and Duff McKagen got together one more time for a concert at the Troubadour - the first time in twenty-three years since they last played together!  I wonder if they did a cover of "Reunited" by Peaches and Herb?

Always the queen of the unconventional song releases, Beyonce shocked the world yet again with the dropping of her first visual album.  Imagine an album of nothing but music videos.  That's exactly what she did.  And when we all sampled some of her "Lemonade", we actually found that it was a nice blend of sweet and bitter.  Sweet because she still had that voice...and bitter because of her feelings towards Becky with the good hair.

Unfortunately, Beyonce's performance with the Dixie Chicks at the CMA Awards was not welcomed with such fanfare, with country singer Travis Tritt blasting the former Destiny's Child singer for not being country.  I'll admit the performance was sort of strange, but it's not the first time a pop singer collaborated with a country star.  Look at Shania Twain and Mark McGrath with the song "Party for Two".  Or, Kenny Chesney and P!nk with "Setting the World on Fire".  Or, hell, let's go way back to the 1980s when Kenny Rogers sang "We've Got Tonight" with Scottish pop singer Sheena Easton!  I'm not saying that I liked Beyonce with the Dixie Chicks, but I am saying that Travis Tritt could have used a better argument.

I should mention that Sia also had a great 2016 as well.  She was handpicked to do the theme song for "Finding Dory" - a cover version of the Nat King Cole single "Unforgettable".  And she also made history in 2016 when her single "Cheap Thrills" hit the top of the charts - the first time a woman in her 40s has had a #1 single since Madonna in 2005.  Nicely done, Sia.

The television show "The Voice" has been in the news a lot lately, some for good things, and some for not so good things.  When it comes to the good things, it proves that sometimes you can have a second chance to rebuild your career.  For Voice winner Alisan Porter (who played Curly Sue in the movie "Curly Sue"), and Voice runner-up Billy Gilman (who had a career when he was just a kid), it was a chance for both to reinvent themselves, and I think they both succeeded.  And congratulations to Sundance Head, the second winner of the year.

But tragically, a former contestant on "The Voice" - Christina Grimmie - was shot and killed following a concert she performed in Orlando, Florida (just two days before the Pulse massacre).  She was just twenty-two years old.

Christmas did not bring any harmony for the group "Fifth Harmony".  It was announced that Camila Cabello would be leaving the group in December 2016, but reports circulated that the split was not amicable, and that Camila's departure caused the other four members of the group to get angry.  One thing is for certain, I'm sure this story isn't over yet.

Continued thoughts go out to Michael Buble this year, as his son was recently diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatments.  This coming on the heels of the release of his brand new album which contains the infectious first single "Nobody But Me".  Give it a's quite good!

And finally, I can't wrap up the look back on music in 2016 without discussing the Tragically Hip.  The Canadian band which had entertained audiences for three decades called it a day following the announcement of Gord Downie's battle with terminal brain cancer.  The group released one final album together before embarking on a small cross-country tour as a final thank you to their fans for sticking around.  Despite the fact that scalpers were selling tickets at outrageous prices, the shows were a phenomenal success, and CBC simulcast the band's final show in their hometown of Kingston, Ontario over live television so that every Canadian could watch the show.  You could tell that Gord Downie was filled with so much emotion - fear, anger, hope, happiness, contentment.  I don't know what the next year will bring for him, but one thing is for sure...2016 will forever be the year of the Downie.

That's a wrap for the music flashback of 2016.  Tomorrow will be the first day of 2017, and with that comes a post about the news and events of the past year (of which I will be needing at least a couple of pages just for the celebrity obituaries).

And you can also expect this blog to look a little bit different come January 1, 2017.  Here's a sneak preview below.

See you next year!  :)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Jem Reviewed: Episode 41 - KJEM

We're taking a small break from the 2016 retrospective to bring you the latest edition of Jem Reviewed.  And it's certainly a lot more lighthearted than the very special episode of Jem that we discussed last week.

This is Episode 41: KJEM.  And with this, we only have 24 weeks left of the Jem Reviewed series.  Where did the time go?  And in an unprecedented twist, I've got several pieces of Jem Trivia hidden throughout this post.  It's some behind the scenes secrets about this episode that you might find surprising, and that might have actually made this episode much more fun.  Not that it wasn't fun before.  You'll see what I mean.

For now, Danse is at what I believe to be Haven House, where she has a class made up of Starlight Girls and Haven House dwellers.  She's teaching them how to do basic dance moves, but she needs some music.  She decides to turn on a station known as KMEL, but Deirdre and Ashley protest, saying that KBST is better.  Ah, yes...I too remember the days when we fought over radio stations.  Seems like so long ago.

Danse explains that a station doesn't have to be flashy to play good music.  And to prove her point, a Jem and the Holograms song is playing.  The song of course seems to be Danse's unofficial theme song, "When It's Only Me and the Music" - a song we heard during Danse's first offical appearance in Episode 13.  The video this time around isn't as good as the first version, but I'm glad they re-used this song.  It's one of my favourites from Season 1.

But what Danse doesn't know is that KMEL is in a lot of trouble.  Financial strain to keep the station running, plus additional competition from stations such as KBST have meant that people are tuning in less to KMEL, and the owner of the station, Elzer Marcus, is considering selling the station to an anonymous buyer.  It also doesn't help matters much that much of Elzer's staff have been offered a generous pay increase from rival station KBST for them to join the staff there.  It certainly seems like the bell is about to toll for the once popular radio station.

Of course, this news does not bode well for the group of college interns who are working there as part of their experience for their communications course.  The guy with the lime green shirt and blonde hair is somebody who calls himself "
Switch", and he decides that he must find a way to save the station from closing.

Man, this KBST station is a real threat to KMEL.  I wonder who runs it?

Well, considering that Eric Raymond and the Misfits are there taping promotions for the radio station, it's not hard to figure out.  But in a surprise twist, we learn that Eric and the Misfits are really only there for promotions.

Our villain du jour is the owner of KBST,
Adrian Lassiter.  And this leads to my first piece of Jem Trivia.  Initially when Jetta was being created, Christy Marx wanted to make her dark-skinned.  When she was told no, she improvised by creating Adrian Lassiter as the first (and only villain) who was not Caucasian.  I guess in her way she wanted to prove that anybody could be a bad guy.

And believe me, Adrian is definitely a bad guy.  We learn from a conversation with his henchman (the man who made the offer to buy KMEL) that Lassiter is the man responsible for trying to shut down KMEL.  It seems that even though his radio station is popular, it's not enough for him, and he feels that if he can shut down every radio station near him, he'll dominate the radio airwaves.  Ah, your typical "nobody can be better than me" approach.  No wonder the Misfits felt at home at KBST!

Back at the college cafeteria (and yes, colleges do have them.  The food's usually subpar, but they have them), Switch and his friends are brainstorming ideas for how they can save KMEL, but because they're college students, it's not as if they have any money to buy it.  But Switch happens to notice a girl reading a magazine with Jem and the Holograms and it makes him remember that he was friends with Kimber in high school.  That's...contrived.  But, Switch seems to think that he can get through to Kimber to convince Jem and the Holograms to help save KMEL.  I have to say, it's not a terrible idea.

Unfortunately, Jem and the Holograms are performing at a private party where the general public is barred. 

Oh, yeah...while we're at this party, Rio can't help but show off his brand new plane!  Say what?!?  Apparently in between getting yelled at by Jem and him breaking up with Jerrica eight hundred times, Rio's managed to get his pilot's license and just paid off the last installment of the payment plan for his new plane!  Exactly how much is Starlight Music paying Rio for him to afford a freakin' airplane!!!  Alas, this plotline is part of Jem Trivia #2.  Christy's husband Peter Ledger had just gotten his pilot's license right around the time that Christy was working on this episode, and it was his idea to incorporate the flying storyline.

And if this does not make any sense to you, consider Jem Trivia #3.  This episode was intended to be a two-parter.  So, a lot of the details were left on the cutting room how RIO COULD AFFORD A PLANE!!!

Well, it seems as though Rio hasn't even taken his plane on a test run yet before making an enemy.  In this case, it's a rival pilot by the name of McDuffy who can't help but trade jabs with Rio about how lame his plane is.  I bet he's going to factor in a bit with the storyline, but let's hold off on that for a moment.

For now, Switch is trying to get into the party, but since it's by invitation only, he's out of luck.  He even tries to jump high enough over the gate to get Kimber's attention, but fails miserably.

So, what does Switch do?  Well, somehow he ends up getting mixed up with McDuffy who agrees to help him get into the skydiving into the venue.  I should point out that McDuffy is NOT a licensed skydiving instructor, and that Switch is stupid for taking his word, but of course if everybody had common sense in this cartoon, it would be a boring program.

So, Switch jumps out of the airplane and even though he's never really had any lessons in skydiving, he manages to successfully activate his parachute on the first try.  But then reality sets in and Switch realizes that he has no way of controlling the parachute to make the safest landing possible.

So what inevitably happens is that he crashes right into the stage where Jem and the Holograms are performing and takes out Kimber, her synthesizer and enough electric wires to electrocute half of Los Angeles!

Miraculously, nobody ends up killed in the melee.  By the time Jem and the others reach Kimber, she and Switch are having a grand old chat laughing about the times they had in high school.  Never mind that there are live wires around everywhere and Switch caused thousands of bucks in damage...high school reunions are far more important.

Of course, Rio immediately wants to kick Switch's ass for causing a scene, but Kimber tells the brute to leave him be.  Switch explains the reason why he quite literally dropped in, and while Jem is sympathetic about his cause, she doesn't know if she can make the commitment.  Well, how do you like that?  Switch risked his life to get the Holograms to help him save KMEL and Jem says no!  What ungrateful behaviour!  Shame on Jem!

The next day though, Jerrica Benton is doing some paperwork at Starlight Music and has KMEL on in the background.  As it so happens, she turns on the radio just as Elzer is giving his farewell address.  Here it is, verbatum.

"Radio is a medium of imagination, creates pictures in the mind, it brings us news and new ideas, it entertains us with comedy, drama, and music.  Rock, country and western, classical, jazz, and everything in between.  But most of all, radio is the vital part of our most precious right...freedom of speech.  So support your community and public stations, let radio do more than entertain you.  Let it educate you!"

Wow.  So profound.  Apparently it was enough to move Jerrica so much that she changes to Jem while she's driving the Rockin' Roadster...yeah, I don't even think she's trying to keep her identity a secret anymore. 

Anyway, she makes a beeline to KMEL and interrupts a meeting between Lassiter's henchmen and the staff at KMEL.  She formally tells Elzer that she and the Holograms are willing to help any way they can, and they start by announcing that she will get the rest of the Holograms to perform at the radio station, and Switch says that he and the rest of his college friends can round up sponsors and advertisers to keep the station going.  Jem even offers to pay the station's bills and salaries of the staff going until Elzer can get a full team going.  Until that happens, everybody will be volunteering.  Even Rio lends a hand by being an engineer! 

Elzer is touched by Jem's generosity, and he makes a decision to rename the station KJEM, which flatters Jem immensely.  But lest you think this is a plot of contrivance, consider
Jem Trivia #4.  This episode was made because Hasbro released a KJEM playset.  In a way, it was an extremely clever way to tie the toy line to the cartoon, and vice versa!

Of course, one person who ISN'T happy about the news is Mr. Lassiter, and as he spies a plane piloted by Rio flying a banner informing viewers to listen to KJEM, he tells his flunky to do something about it. 

Naturally whenever Jem's plans have to get thrown a monkey wrench, the Misfits are there to lend a helping hand.  But in this case, even the Misfits themselves are left in the dark as to what is going on.  All Lassiter's flunky will say is that he wants them to play in some soundstage for however long they want.  The Misfits are happy to play where their music will be appreciated, but part of me wonders what Lassiter has planned.

Well, it's time for KJEM to make its first broadcast, and the DJ is ready to introduce Jem and the Holograms who are going to perform live at a special concert outside of the radio station.  And with Switch, Rio, and several college students on the staff who know what they are doing, nothing could possibly go wrong, right?


Yeah, that's not a Jem and the Holograms song that's playing on KJEM.  It's a Misfits song!  I mean, granted, it's a good Misfits song - an original ditty called "Listen Up" which definitely gets your attention.  But considering that the station is called KJEM and not KMIS, I get the feeling that this was not planned.

Sure enough, Lassiter's flunky has given Jem and the Holograms a lesson in pirate radio.  Somehow, he's managed to interfere with the radio signal that KJEM uses, and overrode the frequency with his own pirate radio station.  And the Misfits are unintentionally involved with the whole thing!  That's pretty ballsy.  

And naturally the takeover of KJEM is causing havoc.  Sponsors are threatening to pull out if KJEM doesn't come back on the air, and everyone is left wondering what the heck happened.  Rio seems to think that he has an idea as to how it all went down.  He tells Jem and the Holograms his theory that someone else has taken over the radio signal with expensive equipment designed to do exactly that, and Jerrica immediately suspects that Eric Raymond is the person who is ultimately responsible.  Jerrica drives off towards Misfits Music while Rio tries to figure out where the pirate radio station is coming from.

But in this case, Jerrica's accusation that Eric is responsible falls on deaf ears, as Eric himself assures her that he had nothing to do with it.  But Eric does tell Jerrica that he may know who is responsible, and the action shifts over to KBST, where Lassiter more or less reveals that he's the mastermind behind the whole thing.  But of course he doesn't really say that, as he is too intelligent to implicate himself.  In fact, he actually throws his flunky under the bus by placing all responsibility on him!  Naturally, Eric is upset that the Misfits are caught in the middle of all this, and Jerrica is furious that Lassiter would do this to Elzer.  But Lassiter shows no remorse in this case and actually tells Jerrica that he looks forward to sparring with her again as an enemy.  Okay, I know Jerrica and Eric supposedly hate each other, but if they tag-teamed together and beat up Lassiter in his office, I'd be okay with that.  Instead, they decide to go another route.

By this time, Rio and Switch have figured out how the pirate radio broadcast is working.  Although they haven't found any evidence of this happening on the ground, they certainly haven't discounted the fact that the broadcast could be happening from someplace higher say, an airplane?

Of course...McDuffy's plane.  It wouldn't rip any skin off his nose to help Lassiter out.  After all, I bet he paid McDuffy a fortune for his help.  And that soundstage that the Misfits are playing from?  It's actually located inside the plane!  Pretty sneaky. 

But what McDuffy and the Misfits didn't count on was the fact that Rio also has a pilot's license, and while the Holograms follow along in the Rockin' Roadster, Rio takes his plane into the skies and tries to force McDuffy to land the plane so that KJEM can get back on the air - and so the FCC can have words with everybody involved in the pirate radio scheme.

It's almost like we're watching the movie "Top Gun" for a bit as Rio and McDuffy get into a dual in the skies...and I'm hoping that when the planes land that there are first aid kits aboard.  McDuffy's plane shakes so violently that the Misfits get tossed around like rag dolls!  But of course, Rio has to be the victor and the plane carrying the Misfits is forced to land.

Now, it comes as no shocker that McDuffy and Lassiter's henchman are arrested and taken into custody...but the Misfits are also taken away in handcuffs - which shouldn't really be happening since they were tricked into working for the pirate radio station and had no prior knowledge of it.  The Holograms at least recognize this fact, but Jerrica tells Rio that she'll get them released...tomorrow.  See Jerrica, this is why the Misfits can't stand you.  Just saying.

But of course we have a happy ending.  KJEM is saved, and in celebration we get to hear the KJEM theme song...which is largely forgettable, but's meant to be a promo song for a radio station and not a single.  I'll give them a pass.

But you know, this episode seemed so terribly stitched together.  I mean, as far as the episode itself went, it was fine, and plot wise it did make a lot of sense...but I think back to Christy Marx's original idea to make it a two-parter, and I can't help but agree that this would have been a better option.  After all, in the final piece of Jem Trivia, Christy had a ton of ideas for the two-part version which would have included Switch needing an organ transplant, or one of the engineers becoming an alcoholic and the Holograms trying to help them get sober again.  I think those would have been interesting ideas that should have been greenlit.  I'm not saying KJEM is a bad episode.  But, since the last few have been great, this one seems a little bit of a letdown.  I hope this isn't a trend.

Coming up next week for the first Jem Reviewed of 2017...we celebrate Halloween in January.  Well, you can't have good timing all the time.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2016 Year in Review - Movies

All right.  2016 is almost over.  And I've already gotten two days out of the way in this special look back at a year that mostly everyone wants to forget.

Today's the day that we're going to be looking at the hits and misses of the film industry in 2016.  And as I look back on my entry for 2015, I can't help but laugh at the comment I made about 2016 bringing us promise and joy.  I can't say that I agree with that sentiment now that the year's almost over.  But one thing that I can say...2016 was actually a pretty decent year in the movie industry.

I mean, just have a look at the Top 10 films of the year as of December 28, 2016.  Surprisingly, most of these I have seen compared to a couple of years ago where 2014 was a year that I largely skipped over.

1               Captain America: Civil War - $1,153,304,495
2               Finding Dory - $1,027,771,569
3               Zootopia - $1,023,784,195
4            The Jungle Book - $966,550,600
5            The Secret Life of Pets - $875,415,307
6               Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - $873,260,194
7               Deadpool - $783,112,979
8               Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - $746,145,251
9               Suicide Squad - $745,600,054
10               Doctor Strange - $656,497,833

So, clearly Disney is the winner of the movie dual.  Five of the ten pictures in the Top 10 were Disney films, and four of those five make our top four.  And that's not even including the standout film "Moana" which was released just weeks ago either.  I'm sure it may make the 2017 list!

Now, 2016 could be considered the year of the family friendly pictures, as most of these films are suitable for children.  Well, except for maybe #7 and #9.  In fact, Ryan Reynolds who played the title role of Deadpool actually encouraged young kids NOT to see the film! 

But most of the top 10 are filled with solid choices.  "Zootopia" was a fun original movie by Disney, and it certainly had one of the coolest messages presented in the film, which is to not judge a book by its cover...or in this case, the fox by its tail.

It may have taken thirteen years for the "Finding Nemo" sequel to appear, but it certainly made an impact on the box office.  I think the creation of the new characters mixed with the old favourites was just what the film needed, and Ed O'Neill's portrayal of Hank the Octopus was a major scene stealer - even if the animation of said octopus caused more than many migraine headaches for the Pixar crew.

Superhero films were all the rage a few years ago, and it seems as though 2016 is not one to buck the trend.  The latest "Captain America" film was the dominant film at the box office, and many people went to the theatres to see if Batman or Superman would be victorious.

And, I can honestly say that the "Suicide Squad" movie explains why I saw so many people dressed up as Harley Quinn this past Halloween.  Though the movie did get mixed to negative reviews, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, and Will Smith certainly breathed life into their characters.

Now, we've still got a couple of months to go before the 89th Academy Awards celebrate the best of why don't we have a look at the 88th Academy Awards which aired at the end of February 2016 to see what the people voted as best of the bunch.  And more important, let's see if any of these films are ones that I've heard of!!!

BEST DIRECTOR: Alejandro G. Inarritu - The Revenant
BEST ACTOR: Leonardo DiCaprio - The Revenant
BEST ACTRESS: Brie Larson - Room
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mark Rylance - Bridge of Spies
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Alicia Vikander - The Danish Girl
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "Writing's on the Wall" from "Spectre"

Okay, so before I continue on with the retrospect, we have to address the elephant in the room.  There was a controversy regarding the Academy Awards in 2016 with the fact that everyone nominated in the acting categories was Caucasian - sparking the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.  Now, I personally believe that there were a few people that should not have been left out - I still think Will Smith deserved a nomination for his role in "Concussion" myself.  At the same time, I feel that all of the people who were nominated deserved to be up there - not because of what their ethnic background is, but because of the talent that they possess.  I'm going to give the Academy the benefit of the doubt this time around...I guess we'll see what happens when the nominees for the 2017 ceremony are announced on January 24.

Now, as far as the people who did win awards go, I'll say this.  I'll admit that I'm not Leonardo DiCaprio's biggest fan.  I hate to say it, but I was one of the ones who was sort of happy that his character drowned in "Titanic".  That said though, his work in "The Revenant" was phenomenal, and he deserved the Oscar that year.

One of my favourite movies from last year - "Inside Out" won the best animated feature, and I am thrilled about that.  It's not your typical Disney film.  It's really one of the more complex films that Disney-Pixar has produced, and the gamble really paid off. 

And congratulations to "Spotlight" for winning Best Picture!  I predicted last year that the film was going to be a huge success, and I have to say that I like it when my predictions came true.  Such a fantastic movie, and I definitely recommend that you go see it if you haven't yet.  And if you have, watch it again.

As for the others...well, I have NOT seen the films they were in...but congratulations to all of the winners.

The following people also won an award in 2016...but not the ones they were hoping for.  Here are the "winners" of the 36th Annual Golden Raspberry Awards - lovingly referred to as a "Razzie".

WORST PICTURE: (tie) Fifty Shades of Grey & Fantastic Four
WORST DIRECTOR: Josh Trank - Fantastic Four
WORST ACTOR: Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey)
WORST ACTRESS: Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey)
WORST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Eddie Redmayne (Jupiter Ascending)
WORST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kaley Cuoco (The Wedding Ringer)

So, apparently Fifty Shades of Grey was more like Fifty Shades of Blecch.  Honestly, I'm not a fan of the book series, so I doubt that I was going to shake pom-poms and cheer the film on anyway.  But many filmgoers who were expecting to see the scandal and sizzle that the book offered play out on the silver screen left very disappointed.  Is it any wonder the film nearly had a clean sweep of Razzie Awards that year?  And yet it was still popular enough for another Fifty Shades film to be coming out in February 2017?!?  I just don't get it.  I'm not sure I even WANT to get it...

At least Sylvester Stallone redeemed himself this time around by starring in the decent film "Creed".  Prior to that he starred in one box office bomb after another.  "Bullet to the Head", "Escape Plan"...hell, do I even have to list all of the movies with the words "Rocky" or "Expendables" in the title?  The first ones of both series were enough!

But would you have a look at Eddie Redmayne?  He had the opposite reaction!  From winning an Academy Award in 2015 to winning a Golden Razzie in 2016!  The only thing worse would be having won a Razzie and an Oscar in the same year - and Sandra Bullock already made that a reality a few years ago!  But at least she was a good sport about it all.  I'm not sure how Mr. Redmayne felt about it!

Oh yeah...Fantastic Four?  Not so fantastic. 

Okay, so for other movie notes...

Although 2016 was the year of family friendly animation, that's not to say that all your choices were G-rated.  In the case of "Sausage Party", it was quite the opposite reaction!  In fact, one movie theatre got into a lot of trouble for showing a preview of this film before the feature presentation...of FINDING DORY!  Whoops!

It hasn't been a great time for live action adaptations of video games and turning them into movies.  We saw what happened with "Pixels" last year and the movie "Assassin's Creed" is reportedly tanking after just one week in the box office.  It makes me wonder if they're going to make a "Bioshock" movie, or perhaps "Minecraft: The Movie".

(Do people still PLAY Minecraft these days?)

At least some book adaptations made for great movies (unlike Fifty Shades of Grey).  If you haven't read "The Girl on the Train" yet, I'd say the movie version isn't a bad one.  Critics were mixed on whether the film was a masterpiece, but all were agreeable on one thing.  Emily Blunt was a gem.

If I had to make a prediction for movies that should see at least Oscar nominations this year, one of my picks would be "La La Land".  The musical - starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone - has already gotten rave reviews and several Golden Globe nominations.  And it's been a while since a musical has been nominated for an Academy Award, so I say give it a chance!

"Jackie" is another film that is certain to get some Oscar buzz as well, and Natalie Portman does a brilliant job portraying the former First Lady.  Although it's hardly the first film that has told the story of Jacqueline Kennedy, I think it is one of the better adaptations, and the casting for this film is superb.

And if you're looking for other historical retellings of films from 20th century history, I also recommend "Loving".  It's the tale of Mildred and Richard Loving, who fought to stay married when the world told them that interracial marriage was a sin.  It's definitely worth checking out.  And if you're looking for something more modern, "Sully" and "Snowden" are also fair choices.

While Disney-Pixar is the reigning champ of 2016 animation, don't count out Illumination.  Their film "The Secret Life of Pets" was one of the most watched films of 2016, and their latest film "Sing" is also doing remarkably well.  And for those of you who can't get enough of Gru and his Minions, a third installment of the "Despicable Me" series is coming in 2017.

And speaking of animation, "Trolls" also dominated the movie scene with lots of merchandise and fanfare.  Though I think it was also Justin Timberlake's catchy song that helped propel it to popular status.  I'll talk more about that song when we get to the music retrospective.

Okay, seriously Tyler Perry...give Madea up!  I'll be the first to admit that when the first Medea film was released, I really enjoyed it and it was something different from what we were used to.  But "Boo! A Madea Halloween" was the eighth film...and they get progressively worse and worse!  Dude, I think you've done some great things for the film and television industry, and I do respect you...but club Madea over the head with a shovel and bury her already!!!

I mean, if you want to see how a film franchise brings back a character the right way, see Renee Zellweger in "Bridget Jones's Baby".  It proves that Zellweger still has it when it comes to playing the beloved book character, and the third film was just as charming as the first...well, provided you're into those kinds of films, that is.

And, finally I just want to talk about the reboot of the "Ghostbusters" movie series...and how surprised I was that it was so GOOD!  Seriously!  Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, and Kristen Wiig proved that they weren't afraid of no ghosts, and the end result was pure awesomeness.  What WASN'T awesomeness was the abuse and the rude comments directed towards Leslie Jones that caused her to abandon her Twitter account for some time after the film's premiere.  Racist comments and jokes about people's appearance is NOT okay, and if you were one of the ones who made those rude comments towards Leslie Jones, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

I'm actually waiting for the "Ghostbusters" sequel.  At least, I hope one is coming.  The first film was so good, it deserves another story!

So, all in all, 2016 may have not been a good year...but as far as movies went, it was one of the better ones in quite a while.  Well, at least in this guy's opinion.

We're taking a break tomorrow for Jem Reviewed, but I will see you on New Years' Eve for the best and worst in 2016 music.

And I thought I would take this time to post a memorial for Carrie Fisher, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 60.  Her portrayal of Princess Leia will forever be in our minds and our hearts...and at the time of her death, she had just finished Star Wars at least next year we'll all be able to see her one final time.

EDITED TO ADD:  I would also like to take time to express condolences to the entire Fisher family for the loss of their matriarch, Debbie Reynolds, who died yesterday at the age of 84 - just one day after the loss of her daughter.