Happy New Year! Here we are together again, and as promised, my Top-tastic films of 2016! Please keep in mind that I did not see as many films as I wanted to after August of this year due to several traveling commitments. I did catch up on a few more within the last couple of weeks but they may or may not have made it onto my list. I published my Top Blu-ray list a few weeks ago and none of those films made it onto this list either due to different scales of grading. You may notice a theme in this list and that’s what I went for this time out. It’s a more “fun” oriented list of flicks that captured my attention and made me have a good time – as crappy of a year as we had – I needed to laugh and be blown away. In any event, let’s get on with the show!
Here are my Top films of 2016.
I have been a fan of Alex Proya’s work since 1994’s The Crow starring the late-great Brandon Lee. He has yet to fail me when directing a picture. Gods of Egypt was on the receiving end of the negative stick all year long and I don’t get it. The spirit of adventure was alive and well and harkened back to films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, and such. No, I’m not comparing the two, only in terms of tone. I dug the film that thought was more than acceptable and I could see past the “white washing” folks seem to point out incessantly. I folks out there don’t really know how Hollywood works in terms of getting films made. It’s a shame that the film didn’t do great in theaters but having the Blu-ray more than makes up for it and here’s hoping that Gods of Egypt turns into a cult-classic – it deserves so much more, though.
The Mermaid caught me off guard earlier this year by its sheer cuteness. Then again, that could have been the lovely lead actress. The Mermaid did juggernaut business in China – becoming their all-time box-office king – it made $550 million overseas but not everyone got to see it here in the states. It is directed by Stephen Chow, who also directed Shaolin Soccer (my personal favorite) and Kung-Fu Hustle (did not care for it). The Mermaid has many elements that mesh well even if the story is rather simple. Some of the comedic gags had me in stitches due to how clever they were. Now it’s available in the USA on all media I hope folks go out there and give it a view.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking – what’s with all the fluff? No, it’s not like that at all. The Shallows could very well be considered a 1-person play in that it stars Blake Lively and a seagull nestled up on some jagged rocks trying to avoid being eaten by a 2,000-pound great white shark. You’d be right of course, but the rub, is that the film is pure high octane, with some serious heart from Blake. She carries the film, short as it is, all by her lonesome and that makes us care about her and that damn seagull. The Shallows almost plays in real-time if it weren’t for the day and night transitions – and it also runs a brisk 80+ minutes. The Shallows was a cool and refreshing little thriller that still makes me not want to get into the water ever.
Nocturnal Animals was one of the most recent films I got to see before the year ended and I was quite impressed. It was written and adapted for the screen by fashionista Tom Ford and stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s one of those films that’s a film within a book, and vice versa, that shifts back and forth from reality and whatnot. One definitely has to pay attention to what is going on, because it will spin you like a top if you’re not paying attention. It’s also about folks getting their just desserts. To say any more would ruin the surprises. The film is gorgeous to look at, and damn it, so are the actors. Maybe it’s the costume design? Most folks don’t know that Tom Ford has a degree in architecture. There are reasons why his films look terrific beyond fashion design and certain other aesthetics. Nocturnal Animals is still in theaters, so there’s time to check it out before it comes to home video.
10 Cloverfield Lane was a pleasant surprise that kept me and the audience stumped until the very end. It starts out easy enough but once we’re in the underground bunker built and governed by a hulking John Goodman – all bets are off. Mary Elizabeth Winstead becomes our heroine and we root for her at every step. It is a very self-contained little film that takes place in just a few settings, rooms, and chambers, but the overall lasting effect is beyond claustrophobic. The ending semi-ties things to the original film that was released a few years ago but only slightly. I think this “franchise” is Twilight Zone-ish for a new generation and as long as the quality remains up to par I will be there for the long haul.
For those that like their “superhero” films infused with a more “Real life” quality to them – Midnight Special should fit the bill nicely. Michael Shannon stars a father who is trying to keep his son from the government. The boy has special powers and the government wants him in their custody for further research. The boy’s eyes light up and he can tune into radio signals, etc. Professor X would be so proud. Director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud, Loving) is the new darling of gutsy independent cinema and Midnight Special continues his the upward. He’s yet to make a bad film, so here’s hoping that studios let him direct films that he wants to direct as opposed to a “paycheck” type of film. Oh, and I have no idea what a “midnight special” is.
The Nice Guys is Shane Black’s latest caper flick. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe are two private investigators on the case of a dead porn star in the 1970’s. What’s not to like? 1970’s and porn! Anyways, Gosling’s character tends to be the bumbling idiot of two while Crowe is the muscle. The film is unique in that it blends comedy, action, and several prominent children roles. Films nowadays tend to be overpopulated by annoying children plot points or obligatory character arcs. The Nice Guys features a prominent role in that of Gosling’s character’s daughter. The cool part is that she is not annoying and her arc moves the tory along. The film also drips with style and sound – the soundtrack is spectacular and so is the production design and it all takes place in L.A.
The Accountant barreled its way into my Top film list after I watched it a few days go right before the new year. Ben Affleck plays an accountant, who deals with powerful entities around the globe in a number-cruncher type of way. He’s also autistic and an assassin. The accounting gig is his cover. He is military trained in various forms of hand to hand combat and weapons handling especially giant .50 caliber rifles to dispatch henchman with. Seriously, I sat there in awe and thought this was Jason Bourne and John Wick’s love child. The action was phenomenal and what made the character tick was also fantastic. Anna Kendrick being the female lead also didn’t hurt. I do regret not seeing The Accountant on the big screen.
The Neon Demon burrowed its way into my subconscious upon its release and it stayed there for a long time. Elle Fanning plays a model and new L.A. transplant. She is the envy of other established models and the muse of many photographers and fashionistas. Her rivals want to be her and want to smash her head, as well. Nicolas Winding-Refn is definitely a polarizing filmmaker – you either like his films or you don’t. The Neon Demon can also be considered a horror film, because it has similar horror beats sprinkled throughout the film. Cliff Martinez’s hypnotic synth score enhances the material and the lightening and cinematography will put you under its spell. The Neon Demon was my favorite film of the year until…
Hell or High Water is my favorite film of 2016. I missed it in theaters but heard nothing but good things about it. Sure enough, I watched it and was blown away by it. In fact, it was stuck in my head for days afterward. It’s quite rare for a film to have such impact but this one had just that. Maybe it had to do with the amazing dialogue and honest to goodness REAL world view of things. It takes place in a small dirt town in Texas where brothers played by Chris Pine and Ben Foster rob banks and Texas Ranger Jeff Bridges is hot on their trail. By the time things come to a conclusion no one will ever be the same. The film also drew parallels to real life events and the current state of things, which is odd. It’s art imitating life here. Hell or High Water is 2016’s masterpiece and is required viewing.
To quote Looney Tunes: That’s all folks! It was a good year for films of walks of life and most of these on my list have now been immortalized on Blu-ray & DVD for the world to see. We’ll see you here next year for more Top 10 lists of your favorite and not-so favorite films.