Friday, January 13, 2017

The Top 10 Best Movies of 2016

Let's close out 2016 with good movies and masterpieces.

It’s finally time to put an end to 2016, and as always, I wanted to end it on a high note. I want to show that no matter what may happen during the year, we can at least look back and realize that there were some good things that came out of the year. Granted, my definition of good is vastly different from everyone else’s, but whether or not you liked the movies I liked, as long as there was that one movie that you can look back on and say that you enjoyed or loved, then 2016 wasn’t a complete bust.

While most major Hollywood movies suffered over 2016, the best movies either came from places that no one was really expecting to, or were movies that flopped and failed at the box office not because they were bad, but because they were different. Most of the movies on my list aren’t a part of any major franchises with the except of two or three, and I’ll always take a moment to say how much I love original ideas and concepts over the same movie being made again and again.

As always, I didn’t see everything that came out this year. I was trying desperately to see Moonlight, Jackie, and your name, but the cards weren’t in my favor. But honestly, it wasn’t that big of a deal that I didn’t see them. Yes, there were some movies where I had to stretch how much I liked them to qualify for this list, but most of the movies I had no problem with putting in my Top 10. My 6-1 were going to end up on this list no matter what, and the rest mostly fell to how I was feeling at the time of writing. So again, if you’re favorite movie didn’t make it on this list, that’s perfectly fine and unless it appeared on the Worst list, it probably was a good movie or had good things in it. So from me to you, let’s close out 2016 with the Top 10 Best Movies of 2016.

HM: Suicide Squad
Let me make it clear; I get it. I get why people don’t like this movie and that as a whole, it’s kind of a mess.

That being said, you have to admit that there were at least a couple things in Suicide Squad that worked fairly well. Margot Robbie and Will Smith were perfectly cast as Harley Quinn and Deadshot, the soundtrack was memorable and lively, the humor worked more than it didn’t, the first 30 minutes of the movie were a lot of fun, and even the story arc of characters like Deadshot and El Diablo worked well in the long run. There was a lot to enjoy in this movie individually, but together yes, the movie was kind of confused.

But I’ll at least give Suicide Squad a nod for genuinely trying. It tried to be good and tried to make a splash, and you can tell there was effort put into this movie. So yeah, I liked this movie even when everything about it says that I shouldn’t. A guilty pleasure at its finest.

#10: The Secret Life of Pets
2016 was a fantastic year for animated movies, and there’s just something about The Secret Life of Pets that always made me smile. I truly believe that the best kids movies are movies that both adults and kids could enjoy, and that’s what The Secret Life of Pets is. It has a simple plot, cute animals, and some funny puns and gags.

Unlike The Angry Birds Movie, you can tell that this was a concept that had a lot of promise and hope to it. Seeing what pets are like when no one’s around is a good concept and has been used since Toy Story. Now I know that people knocked this movie for being like Toy Story, but I don’t think that’s a big problem because who doesn’t like Toy Story? I like Toy Story, and seeing another company try their hand at the formula is fun, and that’s what The Secret Life of Pets is. It’s a fun kids movie that anyone can get behind and have a kid time with.

#9: Hail, Caesar!
It’s amazing that my appreciation for the Coen Brother’s latest movie hasn’t died down since February, but lo and behold, here it is. Like Suicide Squad, Hail, Caesar! Was kind of like a hodgepodge of concepts and ideas all thrown together, but each concept always hit and left an impact. A cowboy trying to be a graceful British singer? Fun! Tilda Swinton playing two identical twins that are reporters for rival news groups? Fun! Channing Tatum as a super spy sailing out to see with a tiny dog? Hilarious! Hail, Caesar! Was the kind of movie that I wanted to see. I wanted more Coen Brothers in my life, and this provided.

Now I know for a fact that this movie isn’t for everyone. The humor is very dry and the Coens have a very select style of humor, but once you really get into it and know that everyone is understated as hell in this movie, you can have a great time with it. Hail, Caesar! Really fell off of a lot of people’s radars, but give it a watch or pick it up sometime for cheap. It’s not for everyone, but you’ll love it if you understand it.

#8: 10 Cloverfield Lane AND The Witch

What? A tie? ON MY LIST???

Yup, it’s my list and I’m calling it a tie between the two best horror movies of the year. I just couldn’t bear myself to leave one off of the list, and since both of them have a relatively similar concept, then that’s good enough for me!

Both movies are about people that are contained in a small location with others who may or may not be mentally stable while something bizarre is happening around them. It could be the end of the world, Satan, or everyone’s just going insane. There’s no real definitive answer to what’s going on until the last few minutes of the movie, and for both movies that journey is intense and thrilling.

For 10 Cloverfield Land, the focus is placed on the character interactions. There are only three characters in the bomb shelter, and whiel John Goodman is clearly out of his mind here, the fact that everything is shrouded in mystery makes discovering what’s going on and every character’s true intentions all the more interesting.

Contrastly, The Witch is more focused about discussing its themes, like what exactly is God doing? Is he benevolent, vengeful, and if neither, then why would misfortune befall the family stuck in the woods of Massachusetts? Is everyone going crazy, or is there something more nefarious at work? Again, we never know until the very end of the movie what’s happening, and its so surreal and intense that I would dare never spoil it to someone.

If you had to twist my wrist and choose between the two, I would say that The Witch is a better movie, but 10 Cloverfield Lane is a more satisfying experience. Both are still great, and if you have the chance, get a double feature set and watch them both!

#7: Captain America: Civil War
Yes, my opinion can change drastically from when a movie released to my feelings now. I was positive towards Civil War when it first came out, but I didn't think that it was anything too special at first. After thinking about it and watching it a couple more times over the course of several months though, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.

This is how you make a good superhero movie. You take a bunch of characters, give them an interesting premise and ethical debate where both sides and right and both sides are wrong, pit them against each other, and then have them resolve their differences against a common threat. It’s a common set up for most hero vs. hero movies, but it’s executed to perfection here.

The action is completely satisfying, the fight between both teams of heroes is one of the best action scenes of the year, and the resolution actually had impact and weight. This wasn’t Age of Ultron where they were trying to do too many things at once and set up even more things. Plot points were set up for Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Infinity War, and it all felt natural. I’m pretty sure that every scene felt like it belonged here and that there was no real fat that could have been trimmed. The movie was satisfying, long, and yet I can’t think of what could have been cut to shorten the time. I was perfectly fine watching it, and I will easily call this one of the best superhero moves I’ve seen all year.

#6: The Accountant
So this is the odd one out of 2016. The Accountant is a movie that few people have seen, it didn’t make that much of a splash when it came out, and yet I’m putting it fairly high up here. Why?

First things first, this is an immensely satisfying thriller. From frame one, I was hooked and every twist and turn in The Accountant was actually surprising. Even when I kind of had a feeling where the movie was going, it presented those twists and turns in unique ways that I wasn’t expecting. There’s a renunion in this movie that could have been handled poorly in another movie, but instead came across as two people that knew each other for most of their life meeting each other again.

But really, the reason why this is on here is because of Ben Affleck. Afflech completely redeems himself for me from Batman v. Superman with one of the best portrayals of autism I’ve ever seen in a film. I don’t usually talk about why some acting performances were good, but I can attest that playing a character with autism is a challenge, but Ben Affleck pulled it off perfectly in the most believable and respectable portrayal of mental disability in film I’ve ever seen. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if the movie was a huge success or not, good performances and ideas will be noticed, and even if I was the only person that noticed it, I was still damned impressed.

#5: The Boy and the Beast
Oh boy! A Mamoru Hosoda film! I love myself a good anime feature, and no one does it better than Mamoru Hosoda, the director behind The Girl That Leapt Through Time, Summer Wars, and Wolf Children. The Boy and the Beast seems like a mix between all three of these films in terms of ideas and execution, and while some of the concepts aren’t as fresh or as well done in his other movies, the action and raw emotion on display is just plain brilliant.

I love a good 2D animated film, and it’s a shame that most production companies would rather make CG movies that hand drawn stuff, but The Boy and the Beast is just plain gorgeous to watch. Everything flows wonderfully and the characters actually feel like characters here. I grew to like Kumatestu in all of his brash glory, and it made me sad that he’s only going to appear in this movie and not anywhere else. I would die to have an anime made about Kumatestu and his life.

Even if I’ve seen aspects of this movie before, as long as they’re done well, it doesn’t really matter all that much, and they’re done spectacularly. Now originally I had this movie higher up on the list, but then two movies came and outperformed it. One you’ll see later, while the other…

#5: The Nice Guys
I was originally going to put The Nice Guys as number 5, but after giving it a quick watch again, I forgot how fun this movie was. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are just a great pair and seeing them solve a porn star murder in the 70’s is a blast. Just think, how often do you see a buddy cop movie about a porn, political conspiracy that takes place in 1970’s LA? I’ll tell you how often, not often enough!

The Nice Guys underperformed at the box office, which is a crying shame because of how enjoyable it was. It takes a lot of effort for me to like Russell Crowe, but there’s just something about him calmly explaining the fact that he’s hired muscle before breaking a man’s nose that’s just compelling. Most of the humor here seems like it was improv, but the best kind of improv where both actors are working off each other beautifully. Even when they’re just repeating the same information again for a joke, the way they deliver it is so much fun to listen to.

Comedies are always hard to explain why they’re good, but just believe me when I say that you won’t love any other characters any more than Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling this year.

#3: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Comedies are always hard to review, but the ultimate challenge of a comedy is being funny consistently. If you can watch the same comedy again and again and laugh just as hard as when you saw it the first time, then you have comedy gold. Blazing Saddles did it, Anchorman did it, and now Popstar did it.

Popstar is able to stay so funny not just because of how good Andy Samberg is, though he is a riot as always here, but because most of the jokes come in song form. There are so many great songs in this movie describing the imaginary life of pop superstar Connor4Real and his rise from pop superstar to pop has been, and all of them put a smile on my face. “Finest Girl (Bin Laden Song)” is downright amazing, “Equal Rights” is a damn funny song, and “Mona Lisa” needs to be more popular than it is.

Barely anyone saw this movie, and I can’t understand why! Not only is the Lonely Island a great band (let’s be honest here, this is a Lonely Island movie from start to finish), but they’re pretty popular last time I checked. People always talk about “Dick in a Box” or “Like a Boss”, so why didn’t Popstar get the love it deserves? I have yet to see a person that didn’t laugh their ass off at any of the songs from this movie, and even the regular jokes in the movie are great. Killer bees, wedding wolves, and Justin Timberlake as a carrot preparing chef may sound dumb, but you cannot underestimate the power of good comedy.

Look, just give it a shot. You can watch any of these music videos above on youtube, and I even threw in links for each of them. Just go and watch them, piss your pants laughing, then tahnk me later.

#2: Kubo and the Two Strings
Remember how I said that The Boy and the Beast was downright gorgeous and was knocked down a few pegs because of The Nice Guys and one other movie? All of that goes double for Kubo and made damned sure that Kubo and the Two Strings was the best animated movie of 2016.

For a kids movie, this is surprisingly more adult than I bet anyone was anticipated to the point where it can really make both adults and children alike think. The characters are all well defined and the story of Kubo just goes to show how important storytelling is and concludes with an ending that feels justified. It isn’t a happy ending, but it feels like the most honest ending that you could have given a movie like Kubo.

Speaking of being honest, Kubo is the best looking movie of 2016. Hell, it might even be the best looking movie of 2016 outside of animation as well. The stop motion is to die for, creating these massive characters and action sequences that flow beautifully and eloquently. Screenshots of Kubo do not do the film justice. You need to see it in motion to fully understand and be amazed at how perfect it is. When you look at Laika and how they’ve grown from Coraline to Paranorman, to The Boxtrolls, it’s easy to see why they’re so critically acclaimed in the field of animation.

I cannot contain my praise for Kubo, but if I had to say the one singular reason why it wasn’t my number one is because some of the voicework isn’t as great as it could have been. Matthew McConaughey is a fine actor, but his voice just doesn’t work with Beetle for me. That small gripe aside, it’s hard for me to say that Kubo isn’t an animation masterpiece. So what could possibly be better than a movie that I cannot stop myself from gushing over?

#1: La La Land
I don’t usually like to award my number one movie to something so obvious. That isn’t to say that I strive to choose something unconventional as my number one pick, but when I adore a movie and everyone expects it to be my number one, it feels a bit underwhelming for me to announce it. But no matter how I looked at it, La La Land is the best movie of 2016 and everyone knew it would be my number one. That being said, it’s number one for a reason, and that’s because not only was it the brightest movie of 2016, not only was it the most engaging movie of 2016, not only was it the most emotionally satisfying of 2016, but because it was the movie that everyone needed in 2016.

Look, 2016 was not a happy year. Tons of terrible things happened and it was a time of uncertainty and fear for others. But when I saw La La Land for the first time, I was just filled with so much wonder at it. It was movie made for dreamers and not never stop believing in yourself, and while that may sound hokey and cheesy, the movie meant it 100%.

Half of the movie was a throwback to classic Hollywood style musicals, which I already love, but then the second half nearly dropped the musical pretense and just focused on addressing the reality of the character’s situation. It didn’t gloss over the fact that these characters had challenges, it took it head on. One of my closest friends messaged me after she saw it saying that it was deeply impactful for her not just because she was an artist, but because she’s in love with someone who’s also an artist and La La Land addressed what it was like to love someone but work separates them from being together.

The music is memorable, the singing is spot on, the dancing is great, and even just the slightest action was enough to provoke an emotional response from me. Plus for the entire final thirty minutes of the movie, I had no idea what was going to happen. I was completely out of my comfort zone and I loved every second of it. I loved seeing what was going to happen, and the final scene brought the audience I was with to tears, myself nearly included. 

The sad part is that even with my original review, where I had to just bullet point what was great about the movie because it would have taken hours to accurately sum up why it was so good, I still can't give a concise reason as to why La La Land is so mesmerizing. It's cliche to say that it's dream like, but it's such a fantastic movie that it almost seems unreal. In a year where everyone needed to smile just a little bit more, La La Land was the breath of joy and happiness that we all needed. I have no qualms saying that it's my favorite movie of 2016, and I hope that it gets all of the praise it righteously deserves. 

Well I hope you all enjoyed my lists this year! 2017 is shaping up to be a fairly strong year all around, so here's to more good movie, more bad movies, good games, good anime, and good health. I'm going to take a little break now just to unwind and relax, but I'll see you by the end of the month with a review of Split. Because nothing starts the year off right than a nice dose of Shyamalan. See you there. 

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