Monday, February 20, 2017

16 Favorite Movies of 2016

OK. I had all but given up on my favorites lists for 2016. I had tried compiling my list of favorite movies in the same manner I had in past years, where I do a little write up on each movie explaining its presence and positioning on the list; but since I hadn’t written reviews on most of these movies, I found myself writing far too much about each one. It was taking me far too long. I had put off my favorite music so I could concentrate on my movies. I had pretty much decided I just wasn’t going to do it this year when it occurred to me, I had the lists. Why don’t I just present the films the same way as I present the music each year, just list them and let them speak for themselves? Well, duh.

So, it may be a little late, but here are my 16 Favorite Movies of 2016. As usual concerning omissions, there are a great many films I missed that would surely have replaced some of these films on the list, but to be sure, these are all great films in a year that was filled with them. It was a pretty mediocre year for big mainstream films, but the independents were in rare form.

These films run the gamut, from Oscar contenders to surprise horror entries, from a nearly 8-hour documentary of an American sports legend whose life turned toward infamy to a costumed comedy of manners made by a master of the genre, from a classic 70s-style crime drama, to one of the most original premises for a movie I’ve ever seen, from a sci-fi thriller about linguistics, to the greatest performance of Sam Neill’s rather odd career. It was a great year for film, and I’m glad I didn’t pass up this opportunity to share my favorites.


Moonlight
A24
Director/writer: Barry Jenkins
Producers: Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner
Based on the book “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Cast: Trevante Rhodes, André Holland, Janelle Monáe, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome, Naomie Harris, Mahershala Ali
Rated R
Release date: Oct. 21, 2016
Running time: 111min.


Manchester By the Sea
Roadside Attractions/Amazon Studios
Director/writer: Kenneth Lonergan
Producers: Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Kevin J. Walsh, Lauren Beck
Cast: Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler
Rated R
Release date: Nov. 18, 2016
Running time: 137 min.


Arrival
Paramount Pictures
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Producers: Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Aaron Ryder, David Linde
Screenplay: Eric Heisserer
Based on “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma
Rated PG-13
Release date: Sept. 11, 2016
Running time: 116 min.


Kubo and the Two Strings
Focus Features
Director: Travis Knight
Producers: Travis Knight, Arianne Sutner
Screenplay & story: Marc Haimes, Chris Butler, Shannon Tindle
Voice cast: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, George Takei, Matthew McConaughey
Rated PG
Release date: Aug. 19, 2016
Running time: 102 min.


O.J. Made In America
ESPN Films
Director: Ezra Edelman
Producers: Ezra Edelman, Caroline Waterlow, Tamara Rosenberg, Nina Krstic, Deirdre Fenton, Libby Geist, Erin Leyden, Connor Schell
Rated R
Release date: May 20, 2016
Running time: 467 min.



Sully
Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Clint Eastwood
Producers: Clint Eastwood, Frank Marshall, Allyn Stewart, Tim Moore
Screenplay: Todd Komarnicki
Based on “Highest Duty” by Chelsey Sullenberger and Jeffery Zaslow
Cast: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
Rated PG-13
Release date: Sept. 9, 2016
Running time: 96 min.


La La Land
Summit Entertainment
Director/writer: Damien Chazelle
Producers: Fred Berger, Jordon Horowitz, Gary Gilbert, Marc Platt
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt
Rated PG-13
Release date: Dec. 9, 2016
Running time: 128 min.



10 Cloverfield Lane
Paramount Pictures
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Producers: J.J. Abrams, Lindsey Weber
Screenplay: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, John Gallagher, Jr.
Rated PG-13
Release date: Mar. 11, 2016
Running time: 104 min.



The Witch
A24/Universal Pictures
Director/writer: Robert Eggers
Producers: Rodrigo Teixeira, Daniel Bekerman, Lars Knudsen, Jodi Redmond, Jay Van Hoy
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson
Rated R
Release date: Feb. 19, 2016
Running time: 93 min.



Hell or High Water
CBS Films/Lionsgate
Director: David Mackenzie
Producers: Sidney Kimmel, Peter Berg, Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn, Gigi Pritzker, Rachel Shane
Screenplay: Taylor Sheridan
Cast: Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham
Rated R
Release date: Aug. 12, 2016
Running time: 102 min.



Swiss Army Man
A24
Directors/writers: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan
Producers: Eval Rimmon, Lauren Mann, Lawrence Inglee, Jonathan Wang, Miranda Bailey, Amanda Marshall
Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Rated R
Release date: June 24, 2016
Running time: 97 min.



Hidden Figures
20th Century Fox
Director: Theodore Melfi
Producers: Peter Chernin, Donna Gigliotti, Theodore Melfi, Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams
Screenplay: Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder
Based on “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali
Rated PG
Release date: Dec. 25, 2016
Running time: 127 min.



The Invitation
Drafthouse Films
Director: Karyn Kusama
Producers: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, Martha Griffin, Nick Spicer
Screenplay: Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzi Corinealdi, Lindsay Burdge, Mike Doyle, Jay Larson, John Carroll Lynch
Not Rated
Release date: April 8, 2016
Running time: 100 min.



Sing Street
The Weinstein Company
Director: John Carney
Producers: Anthony Bregman, John Carney, Kevin Scott Frakes, Christian Grass, Martina Niland, Raj Brinder Singh, Paul Trijbits
Screenplay & story: John Carney, Simon Carmody
Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Aidan Gillen, Jack Reynor, Kelly Thornton
Rated PG-13
Release date: April 15, 2016
Running time: 105 min.



Hunt For the Wilderpeople
The Orchard
Director/writer: Taika Waititi
Producers: Carthew Neal, Matt Noonan, Leanne Saunders, Taika Waititi
Based on “Wild Pork and Watercress” by Barry Crump
Cast: Julian Dennison, Sam Neill
Rated PG-13
Release date: Jun. 24, 2016
Running time: 101 min.



Love & Friendship
Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions
Director/writer: Whit Stillman
Producers: Whit Stillman, Katie Holly, Lauranne Bourrachot
Based on “Lady Susan” by Jane Austen
Cast: Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark, Jemma Redgrave, Tom Bennett, James Fleet, Justin Edwards, Jenn Murray, Stephen Fry, Chloë Sevigny
Rated PG
Release date: May 15, 2016
Running time: 93 min.



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I also really enjoyed Into the Inferno, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – Ultimate Edition, Deadpool, Eye In the Sky, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, Green Room, Hacksaw Ridge, Hail, Caesar!, High-Rise, The Jungle Book, The Lobster, The Neon Demon, The Nice Guys, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Trek Beyond, and The White Helmets

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Suicide Squad / **½ (PG-13)

Deadshot: Will Smith
Harley Quinn: Margot Robbie
Boomerang: Jai Courtney
Rick Flagg: Joel Kinneman
June Moone/Enchantress: Cara Delevinge
El Diablo: Jay Hernandez
Katana: Karen Fukuhara
Killer Croc: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
Amanda Waller: Viola Davis
The Joker: Jared Leto

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film written and directed by David Ayer. Based on the comic book created by John Ostrander and characters created by Ostrander, Bill Finger and Ross Andru. Running time: 123 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action throughout, disturbing behavior, suggestive content and language).

DC Comics and Warner Bros. have finally brought the comic book battle to the cinemas, once again facing off against their arch nemesis Marvel. It took DC a long time to get their act together. While they were doing that Marvel wrote the book on a cinematic superhero universe. DC is playing catch up. They’ve already taken a good deal of flak for their first two entries “Man of Steel” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”. The third, “Sucide Squad”, has likewise been a critical disaster, but not a box office one. It’s probably important to remember that the first two didn’t exactly slack at the box office either.

None of this really matters. The only thing that really matters is that Marvel took their time building their universe and DC wants to be where Marvel is right now. Marvel put out five films before they threw their heroes together in a team. DC put out 2, and one of those is pretty much a team up between three heroes, only one of which had a previous movie in this particular superhero universe. A total of three villains were introduced in those two movies, and now we get a superhero team made up of villains known as the Suicide Squad. They get their own movie, and we’ve never met any of them before. Batman makes an appearance, and a new version of the madman villain The Joker, with whom audiences are basically familiar from other films unrelated to this universe. But, neither of these previously revealed characters have anything to do with the Suicide Squad itself. What I’m taking a great deal of time to get at here—but DC has not—is that in the movie “Suicide Squad” we’ve got two hours to familiarize ourselves with nine new major characters and give them an engaging plot to survive, which just isn’t enough time.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Star Trek Beyond / ***½ (PG-13)

Captain James T. Kirk: Chris Pine
Commander Spock: Zachary Quinto
Doctor ‘Bones’ McCoy: Karl Urban
Lieutenant Uhura: Zoe Saldana
Montgomery ‘Scotty’ Scott: Simon Pegg
Sulu: John Cho
Chekov: Anton Yelchin
Jaylah: Sofia Boutella
Krall: Irdris Elba

Paramount Pictures presents a film directed by Justin Lin. Written by Simon Pegg & Doug Jung. Based on the “Star Trek” television series created by Gene Roddenberry. Running time: 122 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of sci-fi action and violence).

I overheard a critic speaking recently who said that nostalgia doesn’t belong in criticism. I’m not so sure I agree with this, which is no surprise since I write from a very nostalgic point of view. I understand what this critic was saying. There is an objectiveness that is necessary in criticism and getting too nostalgic runs the danger of adopting the false entitlement of ownership that so many fans espouse these days, leading to much of the illegitimate criticism felt by franchises, such as the “Ghostbusters” reboot. However, I think it’s impossible to critique these franchises without acknowledging their reliance on what has come before. Of course, the best franchise films work just as well if you’ve never seen any entry in the series before, but most are made with the notion their audience is familiar with the franchise characters, tone and mythology.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—July 2016 Final Week

Featuring:
Downton Abbey, season 6 (2016) ****
Ghostbusters (2016) **½
The Shadow (1994) **
Star Trek Beyond (2016) ***½
Modern Family, season 7 (2015-2016) ***½
Jason Bourne (2016) ***
Androcles and the Lion (1952) ***

To call this the final week of July is a bit of a stretch. It’s more like the final half of the month. And this was all I watched in that time period. It was a busy time for both work and family that did not allow for much in terms of watching a screen for long periods of time.

My wife and I finally finished the BBC series “Downton Abbey” and couldn’t have been happier with it. It was consistently good and, like most British shows, did not outstay its welcome. I was happy with how the lives at the Abbey turned out, and while it might be nice to see how progress continued to change the class structure of British Royalty and their servants, it more than likely would’ve seemed more sad than what the results of progress really are. Like the elder generation, we all like our entertainment to stay the way it was.

In other television opinion, ABC’s “Modern Family” continues to quietly provide some of the most hilarious commentary on its titular subject matter. After seven seasons, you might expect some of the characters to become tired or irrelevant. You might think the barb would be dulled, but such is not the case with this series. It continues to pull out quality comedy from familial life without much change in style, structure or even cast. It’s quite remarkable.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ghostbusters / **½ (PG-13)

Erin Gilbert: Kristin Wiig
Abby Yates: Melissa McCarthy
Jillian Holtzman: Kate McKinnon
Patty Tolan: Leslie Jones
Rowan North: Neil Casey
Kevin: Chris Hemsworth

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Paul Feig. Written by Kate Dippold & Feig. Based on the 1984 movie by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. Running time: 116 min. Rated PG-13 (for supernatural action and some crude humor).

The new reboot of the “Ghostbusters” franchise comes with a load of baggage, mostly having to do with the quite progressive idea of recasting the lead characters as women instead of men. I’ve never seen a beloved franchise so maligned by advance anti-buzz as this film. I’m a big believer in seeing the movie before forming an opinion about it. I guess it goes to show you how little progress we’ve made in this country in terms of equality that so many people have an issue with female heroes. People even criticized the editing of the first trailer as a negative point to avoid the fact that they were upset that their franchise had lost a Y chromosome. I’ve never seen the editing of a trailer criticized before. First trailers are usually poorly edited because they’re trying to tell a story before all the filming and effects have been completed.

Anyway, I think it is wonderful that this franchise was taken over by women. It is a great step forward to see women depicted as heroes while remaining women, instead of becoming over-sexualized props for the men they accompany. The main cast is wonderful. The Ghostbusters are just as iconic portrayed here by Kristin Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. They’re funny. They’re capable. They aren’t “real” because they exist in a fantasy, special effects laden universe of the paranormal; but they are women, with thoughts and actions unique to them and not existing in the service of men or even necessarily the plot of the movie. The new Ghostbusters are a shining example of where women in mainstream entertainment should be.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—July week 1

Featuring the films:
All the Right Moves (1983) ***
Andrei Rublev (1966) ****
Ghostbusters (1984) ****
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) ***½
The Shallows (2016) **½
Heaven’s Gate (1980) ***½
Ricki and the Flash (2015) **½
The Bourne Identity (2002) ***
The Bourne Supremacy (2004) ***½
Mannequin: On the Move (1991) ½*

I had a pretty good ten-day run of movies to start off July. I needed a football fix when I realized the Giants would face the Cowboys in a mere ten weeks, so I threw in a Tom Cruise high school classic, “All theRight Moves”. It’s actually pretty amazing that they gave Craig T. Nelson a sitcom where he plays a football coach after the ass he plays in this movie. I mean, yeah, he makes a pretty good football coach, but this ain’t the coach of his television show.

“Andrei Rublev” is one of the more unique biopics I’ve ever seen. At times it veers of into seemingly surreal settings and fantasy, yet it never loses track of its subject. It’s filled with those unique images that Werner Herzog says are lacking in modern cinema. Although it isn’t modern, it isn’t as old as it looks and feels in its execution. It’s a strange but wonderful treatment for an important Russian historical figure.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Twitter Thoughts—June 2016

Featuring the films and shows:
The Flash, season 2 (2015-2016) ***½
Independence Day (1996) *½
All These Women (1964) ***
Party Over Here, season 1 (2016) *½
The Alphabet (1968) ***½
Always For Pleasure (1978) ****
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016) ***
Arrow, season 4 (2015-2016) ***½
Grimm, season 5 (2015-2016) ***
The Do Over (2016) **
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) ***
Our Brand Is Crisis (2015) **½
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, season 1 (2015-2016) **½
Angie Tribeca, season 1 (2016) ****
New Girl, season 5 (2015-2016) ***
Piper (2016) ****
Finding Dory (2016) ***
Central Intelligence (2016) **½
The Boy Next Door (2015) *
Sleepy Hollow, season 3 (2015-2016) ***
Amarcord (1973) ****
The American Soldier (1970) ***
The Amputee, version 1 (1974) ***
Simply Irresistible (1999) ½*
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) **
The Amputee, version 2 (1974) ***
Downton Abbey, season 5 (2015) ****
… And God Created Woman (1956) ***

Hopefully this will be my final full month summary of the year and for all time. Again, a great many movies and television finales to cover, so let’s get to it.

On the television front. I was running behind a bit on several series, so I finished up several series during the month of June. Most of them were comic book shows. “The Flash” continues to be the most fun comic book show on television, although “Supergirl” gave it a run this year. It was fitting that the second half of the season featured a crossover episode on Supergirl. Plus, it was like a bonus “Flash” episode. Didn’t the producers of “Arrow” say that this season wouldn’t be as dark as last seaon? I guess what they meant is that it would be darker. Heck, the team narrowly avoided nuclear Armageddon for its finale. That was after the crippling of Felicity, the failure of the Olicity relationship and the death of a main character. While Arrow teammates do have a tendency to come back from the dead, I think this one’s for real this time. I also finished the surpernatural fantasy shows “Grimm” and “Sleepy Hollow” this month. Both sustained their MOs, although “Sleepy Hollow” felt a little rockier, probably due to its new show runners. It’s renewal was a surprise, but I’ll stay on for another season. FOX’s stalwart sitcom New Girl also held steady for its 5th season.