Top Ten Favorite Films of the Year 2016

 

  Jump to the next page to see my top ten list.


10. The Nice Guys

This is a movie that I highly anticipated and enjoyed immensely. It is just unfortunate that it did not hit with enough people to become the franchise type film it deserves to be. I hate that I won’t be seeing the further adventures of the two main characters but I take comfort in the fact that Russel Crowe and Ryan Gosling had the comedic chops to pull this one off.

Porn is Bad“.

9.  Moana

I’m surprised at how much I liked this film. It turns out that the music is great and the story is a lot of fun, and Dwayne Johnson simply makes everything better. I know that the “movie star” is supposed to be dead, but if you see what Johnson manages to do to turn this film and a movie like “Cenral Intelligence” into hits, you would change your mind. The Movie Star lives! he just happens to have formerly been known as “The Rock”.

You’re Welcome

8. Hacksaw Ridge

Mel Gibson has been persona non-Grata in Hollywood for a decade now, but his talent seems to outshine his demons. This is an inspiring film about a hero who does fight the enemy but does fight the odds. Andrew Garfield is excellent in the lead role, but it is the brutal battlefield staging and phorography that will haunt your nightmares and once again give us a reason to thank the Greatest Generation.

Rescue

7. Arrival

Director Denis Villeneuve made a film I admired three years ago, “Prisoners”, and last year had a film I have yet to see but have heard only good things about, “Sicario”. Next year he has the sequel to “Blade Runner” coming and my hopes are high. Arrival shows that he can make a thoughtful science fiction story with simple visuals and clever story structure. He will need all of that craft if he indeed gets the job that he is rumored for, the remake/reboot of “Dune”. Based on “Arrival”, I have every confidence he is the best choice.

Kangaroo

6. 10 Cloverfield Lane

This is a horror film, but not the one you expect. It takes a simple concept and turns it into a compelling three person drama and then twists your expectations repeatedly. I don’t know who John Goodman pissed off at the Academy. He has been in a dozen Award winning films and has yet to be nominated himself. I think this may be his best performance, but it will go ignored this year because he is taken for granted and it is a horror film.  Shame.

Blu Ray Trailer

5. Swiss Army Man

The plotline for this movie is ridiculous, a stranded young man befriends a corpse and together they travel home. It was so widely mocked before it came out that it was derisively known as the “Farting Corpse Movie”. It turns out to be weirdly affecting and intellectually stimulating, in spite of some very crass humor. It may not be for everyone, but I thought it was great.

Rocket Man

4. Sing Street

 

Remember when MTV played music videos? No? than you are too young to appreciate how wonderful this movie really is. It imagines the world of 80s pop and all the possibilities that young people could see in front of them. The self produced music videos made by the band here are terrific mock ups of the English Style Pop that filled the MTV channel at the time.

The Riddle of the Model

3. Kubo and the Two Strings

I’ve had an aversion to anime for some reason. As a kid I liked Astro Boy and Gigantor but somewhere around Kimba the White Lion, the stories started   to seem a bit weird. This does not look like anime but it’s story feels like a Japanese cartoon, and I loved it. There is so much inventiveness and beauty in this film that I was sometimes overwhelmed. I want everyone to see it. So far, it is the only film from my list that I own on Bluray.

While My Guitar gently Weeps

2. Hell or High Water

A modern western where we feel for both the cops and the robbers. There are great performances in this film, especially from Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. There is a message about the injustice of some kinds of justice here, but in the long run, does anyone ever get away with it? I don’t think so. There is a lot of violence in the film, but also a lot of humor.

What Don’t you want?

1. LA LA Land

Two years ago my favorite film was from debut director Damien Chazelle, “Whiplash”. So far as I am concerned, he is batting a .1000 percent. This movie is everything I hoped it would be. An updated version of a fifties style musical with talent in front of the camera and behind. It is crack for movie lovers and anyone saying different {Rex Reed} is simply taking a position. It’s nice when the movie I liked best from the year is also the one with the greatest qualities. I don’t have to rationalize my choice that way, it is both my favorite and the best.

I saw a headline a couple of weeks ago that declared the movie star dead. That proclamation was based on the disappointing box office opening of this film. Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt have had great success in films in the last few years. Lawrence has arguably been the most bankable star, man or woman, since the start of the Hunger Games series, and Pratt starred in the colossus “Jurassic World” and “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Their pairing may have been the reason this film finally got a greenlight after years in development hell. The lower than expected returns are supposedly an indicator that star power can”t save a movie. The truth is, a movie succeeds or fails for many reasons, and while the star may be one of those reasons, there are usually others. The weakness of this films performance should not be unjustly laid at the feet of the two leads.

“Passengers” is sold to us as a love story in space. The trailers make the film look like an adventure with the star crossed lovers battling to save themselves and the ship they are traveling on. I’m going to avoid spoilers as usual, but I will say that there is a twist in this story that is much darker and deeper than the film clips suggest. Maybe this is not a great movie, but it was better than I expected and the production values are top notch so I think I can recommend it to people who like science fiction and a lot of drama thrown in.

The provocative part of the story occurs for reasons that audiences will understand but may be horrified by. There is an interesting “what would you do? question at the heart of the film. The follow up question of how to handle the choice that is made is less complex because the story takes a very traditional turn into action tension and drama. The second act of the film is where all of the real emotion is and when the story veers back to the usual plot points, there is less that is interesting about it. For the vast majority of the movie, the two leads are the sole human characters on the ship. Michael Sheen, who is great, does have a side part to play, but he essentially is a tool for exposition and philosophy to be engorged in out loud. Lawrence and Pratt have to sell the human elements. I thought their chemistry was solid and that they made a somewhat believable couple under the circumstances.

 The failure of this movie to connect with audiences may have more to do with marketing than anything else. The trailers and ads ignore the real conflict of the film entirely and focus on the romance and adventure. There is a hint of a secret plot but that is a red herring, every shot with Lawrence Fishburne and Andy Garcia in it is misleading to the audience. Garcia must have a fantastic agent to get billing and paid for his contribution to the film. I suspect there may have been more of the story that got trimmed, and in the long run that is probably best.

 

 

The appearance of  Fishburne in the film, signals the start of the last section of the movie and a return to standard action adventure activity.  The idea that a solo engineer and a well read but not expert passenger, can handle the issues that crop up is a little hard to swallow, but since the whole idea of the film is hard to swallow to begin with I guess I can live with it. The action beats are not surprising but the special effects work is solid and there is one final twist that does pay off from the earlier section. In essence it helps redeem the film and make it a bit more worthy.  “Passengers” is not an essential film but it is entertaining and it should make for a good date night film for all those future “Netflix and Chill” evenings ahead.