Hello, everyone! I’m so sorry that this post is coming up late. I have a few more reviews to complete and post so I appreciate your patience. Even through 2016 has ended and we have opened a new book for the year of 2017. Looking back to last year, there have been good and bad films; there have even been those terrible films that audiences still enjoyed (Here’s looking at you, Ghostbusters!) Looking over the list of films that I have had the pleasure of watching and enjoying in 2016, I have narrowed down my list to ten.
10) Captain America: Civil War
This year, audiences were forced to choose a side in the superhero universe with two different films: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War. If you read my reviews of both films, you know where I side. Marvel Studios split the Avengers into two separate factions as Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr) battled over their morals and accountability of their actions in the third Cap film. Marvel’s resident director duo, the Russo Brothers, did a wonderful job of balancing the action and not losing the story or the characters in the shuffle. It’s another Marvel film that you can watch again and again.
9) The Jungle Book
This has definitely been a powerhouse year for Disney. With the Marvel franchise continuing its dominance, a slew of animated films, and Star Wars’ resurgence in pop cultures, the Mouse House is the place to be for films. It’s almost easy to forget the re-imagining of their animated classics. The story of Mowgli and his jungle adventures thrilled audiences this year, both young and old. Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man) did a masterful job of translating this classic into live-action with the help of a stellar voice cast and classic Disney magic, making it one of the better remakes out of this run to reintroduce classic characters to new audiences. This does up the anticipation for Favreau to help the sequel and one of Disney’s next live-action remakes, The Lion King.
I wasn’t sure about Zootopia when it first came out, but I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. It is a film not just for children, but it also speaks to adults. The story about how we shouldn’t let the fear of diversity, whether by our gender, race, or in this film’s case, type of animal, hold us back from embracing one another despite our differences. There is even a joke about a sloth working at the DMV! Considering this film won a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, it’s a must-see and earned a place on my list.
7) The Edge of Seventeen
An total indie darling of a film, I had to give this film recognition for its relatable story of surving high school. Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine is a hilariously misunderstood protagonist in the high school setting: having the support of her best friend, finally talking to the guy she has starry eyes for, and just surviving high school, The teacher-turned-mentor role was commanded with comedic timing by Woody Harrelson. What made this film great was that it isn’t a typical teenage movie; while some of the elements (beach time, underage drinking, etc) were there, it didn’t take over the movie and the commanding performances of Steinfeld and Harrelson playing off each other was a bright spot to garner this spot.
6) The Nice Guys
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in a summer comedy? Who would have thought that would be as successful as it was? Written and directed by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), the 1970’s detective comedy had a special energy to it and helped reinvigorate the buddy cop comedy that has gotten a little stale in recent years. There is a lot of violence, 70’s porn and language that will probably tick some people off, but it is still funny. The chemistry of Crowe and Gosling and their comfort in the roles helps make the film be entertaining and a surprise for audiences.
If there was ever a film that was needed in these uncertain times we live in, Loving fits the bill. Based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple in 1950’s Virginia, it depicts the challenges they faced from their community. Back then, interracial marriage was still illegal in 24 state, Virginia being one of them. This story and the Surpreme Court case that sprung from it should be discussed or taught in public schools. Not many people are aware of this story and they should be. Interracial marriages are still somewhat frowned upon now, but the discussion is not as loud as it was back then. Witnessing the love and vulnerabilities of the characters through the actors truly makes audiences feel for the Lovings as they became activists in their own way. This movie shows that the strength of love knows no limits.
4) Hacksaw Ridge
Directed by Mel Gibson (Braveheart), this movie surprised me because it was a story that I didn’t know about and unsure about how it would translate onto film. The film tells the tale of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, who became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. Andrew Garfield was the true surprise for me because I had only known him for playing the wall-crawler in The Amazing Spider-Man. This film is just as courageous as its subject and also as violent as the war it covers. This film is very much a film of two halves; the first part introducing us to Doss, exploring his personal life, beliefs, and how they are challenged. The true challenge came from the Battle of Okinawa, where on the battlefield, Doss tries to stay true to his faith and convictions as he faces the horrors of war. Not all warm films get the recognition that they deserve, but this film earned its place as one of the best in recent memory and a welcome back to Mel Gibson in the director’s chair.
3) Hell or High Water
This contemporary heist film was another surprise recommendation from a friend that I enjoyed. Chris Pine and Ben Foster hatch a scheme to save their family’s ranch. This gritty crime drama is wonderfully original and a film that should have earned more time in the theaters. This movie separates itself from the mainstream of remakes, sequels, and superhero films (which I usually like as well) by being intelligent and character-driven. The reality of this film and acting of this modern-day western makes this film very entertaining and should be a recommendation to anyone who is seeking originality in their movies. This movie will be a serious contender in the awards season.
2) Kubo and the Two Strings
While Disney has been dominant, there is this little company called Laika that has brought out films such as Coraline and ParaNorman. There is a story that is running with originality and the adventure is fun to watch. The themes of the value of memories and how we can never forget people that we lose is something everyone should keep in mind as we go through life. These mature themes are handled with creativity and tact; the delivery surprises audiences and while the film is hard to really describe, it does a wonderful job of reminding audiences that there are other options outside of the Disney factory.
I’m sure I would have put La La Land (Review coming soon) at the top of this list, but I saw this film before I thought about the musical and with good reason. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both give possibly the best commanding performances of their careers. Washington’s acting and directing is a tour-de-force that is sure to entertain audiences. This is an engaging film that grips audiences with its power and delivery. While I haven’t disliked any of Denzel’s characters since Training Day, his “Troy” is like Washington put on a well-fitted tuxedo and walked down the red carpet at an award show, but it was Davis’ powerful and emotional performance that really took the film to a new level as the wife of a man who is coming to terms with his life. I would put this film as recommended viewing for anyone who has seen the play or loves to see these two actors work.