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Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 - Top Movies

A lot of my friends are doing their "Top 10" lists about this time, so I figured I would join the party.  Before I give my list, a little background.

Last year (2015), I jokingly did a "Top 10" movies list for 2013 because I don't get to see a lot of new movies each year.  I usually spend my time catching up on Netflix and Amazon with the big movies from 2-3 years ago.  I prioritize my theater time with the big movies for franchises and directors & actors I'm a fan of.

This year, I made an effort to see more new movies, and actually saw 24 movies in 2016 that came out in 2016!  I didn't see all of them in the theater.  This last week has been catch up time where I watched at least one movie a day while on vacation from work. Still, this has given me enough experience to feel comfortable with a top 10.

Now, my top 10 is just that, the 10 movies I enjoyed the most.  I'll admit there might be better films I saw that did not make my top 10.  This is most likely due to those films not resonating with me at this moment in time.  I'll try and explain that in my list.

Also, I'm a big fan boy.  I don't deny it.  I love big comic book and sci fi action movies.  If on January 1st, 2016 you asked me what I thought my list would look like, it probably would have been something like this:

  1. Captain America: Civil War
  2. Star Wars: Rogue One
  3. Batman v. Superman
  4. Doctor Strange
  5. Arrival
  6. Deadpool
  7. Star Trek Beyond
  8. X-Man: Apocalypse
  9. Jason Bourne
  10. 10 Cloverfield Lane
I don't deny I don't get excited about the smaller, personal, meaningful movies.  But these kinds of movies usually surprise me! 


2016 Observations

Before my list, I need to make two observations.  

The Best Movies I Did Not See

There are many movies I wanted to see before 2016 ended that I missed.  I will see these ASAP, and many might have bumped others off to make the list.  These include Midnight Special, Moonlight, La La Land, Moana, American Pastoral, Hell or High Water, Paterson, Neon Demon, The Lobster, Hacksaw Ridge, and others.  If you saw these or any others you would recommend, please let  me know!

Franchise Disappointment

It was a very lackluster year for major franchises in 2016.  While some made my list, others ended up major duds.  I see a theme of studios being too scared to tell good stories and instead are just trying to make something flashy that will sell tickets.  This really saddens me.

I think the biggest offender this year is obviously DC Comics properties at Warner Bros.  But X-Men, Independence Day, Bourne, and others were also big disappointments.

Disney concerns me the most here, though.  The house of mouse had a fine 2016 with safe but fun Marvel/Star Wars movies, and remakes/sequels of animated movies like Jungle Book and Finding Dory.  You'll even see some of these on my list.  But I'm concerned Disney is playing it safe and missing out on an opportunity to do something truly GREAT in film.

I hope that these studios will find a way to trust their writers/directors and movie goers with good stories and see that those types of movies can still be winners at the box office.


My Top 10 Movies of 2016

Honorable Mentions:  Thrillers/Horror

I'm not a big horror fan, but I've been encouraged to watch more good horror and thrillers (in 2015, Bone Tomahawk would have made my top 10.  A truly frightening, excellent movie).  This year, two movies did not quite make my top 10, but they were very well done:  Green Room and The Witch.  I recommend both, but be ready for some tension.


10 - Star Trek Beyond

All I can say about this movie is that it was simple and fun!  Yes, there were plot holes (I highly suggest the How It Should Have Ended episode on this one) and you could see the "twist" coming.  But it was a very fun ride that used the crew of the Enterprise in interesting ways.  Plus, it backs up my thoughts on what will be considered classical music in the future.

9 - 13 Hours

This was a very Michael Bay film, but I felt while watching it that it was Michael Bay "restrained" and back to form that made him popular before some of his more recent films (I'm looking at you Transformers).  Also, I appreciated seeing a glimpse of a story we heard about in the news a lot in 2015 and 2016.  I did not think this would make my list, as it came out early in the year, but it stuck in my mind all year long, and I have to give it credit for that.

8 - Doctor Strange

While this is a pretty basic comic book origin story that we've all seen before, I've yet to see Benedict Cumberbatch in a role I did not like him in.  The visuals in the movie are amazing.  From the moment Stephen Strange encounters the multiverse, my eyes did not rest.  I also feel there are some interesting moral issues brought up in Doctor Strange that are given proper weight with Scott Derrickson's direction (legalism, life/death, "it's not about you").  Strange even defeats the big bad guy through self giving sacrifice instead of an epic fight (for more on why that's important, I suggest my friend JR's review of the movie).

7 - 10 Cloverfield Lane

I enjoyed the original Cloverfield, though I never considered it a "found footage" masterpiece (like perhaps Chronicle is in my opinion).  But J.J. Abrams involvement in this "universe" or whatever it will end up being had me intrigued.  I was riveted throughout this movie.  It is tense, claustrophobic, and at times terrifying all without an overabundance of violence.  I found the payoff at the end satisfying as well.

6 - TIE 

Captain America: Civil War 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I have to cheat a little here, because both of these movies did the same thing for me.  They are both very fun films with good writing, good acting, and a hefty amount of good fan service.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching both of these movies this year.  But they both also suffer from the same thing:  Disney refusing to take real chances.  

I rank both these films high because they were a lot of fun, but at the same time I'm a little bit disappointed in them.  I look forward to the day when Disney will make a Marvel or Star Wars movie that truly stretches movies as an art form.  We owe so much to both these franchises, and they both need their "Dark Knight":  a movie that turns everything on its head and shows us just what is possible in telling a truly GREAT story through these franchises.

Seriously, Star Wars already has this in Empire Strikes back, so we know it's possible.  But that movie is 36 years old, and I'm aching for a return to that.  Here's hoping for Episode VIII.

5 - The Nice Guys

This one took me by surprise.  I had heard some people raving about this movie, but I still tempered my expectations.  I did not expect this movie to feel so fresh, witty, and funny.  I thought Gosling and Crowe worked great together, and Angourie Rice just finished the ensemble perfectly as Gosling's character's daughter.  I regret not seeing this one in the theater.  We need more movies like this from creators like Shane Black.

4 - Last Days in the Desert

I'm a fan of Ewan MacGregor, and he is superb as both Jesus Christ and Satan in this film that imagines the last days of Jesus' time in the desert before beginning his ministry.  MacGregor embodies the human side of Christ in a challenging film that explores what temptation might look like and what doubts and insecurities Jesus might have had.

When I read about Satan tempting Jesus in the Bible, I often don't think that to be tempted means to be more than just presented things like food, power, etc.  I usually read it as though Jesus never hesitated in rebuking Satan.  This movie challenged my assumptions, as good art usually does.

3 - Manchester By The Sea

One of the last films I watched in 2016, this beautiful, sad, deep movie is a masterpiece.  Casey Affleck is near perfect in his portrayal of a man who has known more loss than most of us might ever imagine, trying to do what is right for a nephew who just lost his father.  A movie that honestly portrays the reality of pain and refuses to give any easy answers for how we might deal.

2 - Deadpool

A movie has not made me laugh the way Deadpool did in a long time.  From the first opening credit to the final scene, Deadpool brilliantly makes fun of, pays homage to, and copies the formula for comic book movies.  This is the part Ryan Reynolds seems born to play, and he is brilliant here.  This movie earns every bit of it's "R" rating, and it was worth it.

1 - Arrival

I'm not big on throwing around terms like "instant classic."  We really don't know what will stand the test of time.  Tomorrow's treasures are sometimes today's trash, and vice versa.  That said, I haven't been moved and affected by a movie like Arrival since The Dark Knight (a true classic in my opinion).

Arrival is beautiful.  The cinematography is gorgeous, and the story about Aliens coming to Earth is one of the most human stories I've seen on film.  I can't recommend this movie enough, and I also can't talk about it without spoiling it.  But Arrival is far and away the best movie I saw in 2016.

Interested in my thoughts on the movie?  After you see it, please check my spoiler filled discussion here.

There you have it.  My top 10 movies of 2016.  I hope you enjoyed the journey.  Please let me know what your top movies of the year were and what you look forward to in 2017!