Happy Fourth of July! We’re halfway through the year, so it’s time for the Why So Blu crew to put forward their thoughts on the best films of the year so far. With lots of offerings ranging from big superhero films to smaller indies, the guys have all certainly managed to assemble an eclectic list of films they felt stood out above the rest. Be sure to have fun taking in which films landed on top for each Top 5 list. Also, feel free to add in your own thoughts on which films have been the best for you in the comments section. Now, without further ado, let’s start off with our fearless leader.
When Aaron Neuwirth asked me the other day to put together a brief list of my Top 5 Favorite Films of 2016 thus far I felt rather embarrassed. I’m not going to make any excuses. It’s called life. I had a lot of “life” issues to deal with the first half of this year, not to mention nearly a month spent traveling too. So needless to say, I didn’t see many movies at all. When Jason Coleman sent us his list and asked if we shared any of the same titles on ours I had to laugh at myself because I never even heard of the films he selected. In a way, however, that is good. It gives me titles I now know I need to check out this year. There’s a lot of upcoming popcorn flicks like Suicide Squad, 31, Doctor Strange and Rogue One that I’m wildly looking forward to this year, but if I died tomorrow, the below represents what I liked the most so far this year, sad but true. I guess one could say though that I’m having a comic book kind of year.
Like I said, it has been a comic book kind of year for me and while I never read the Civil War storyline in the Marvel comics, how can you not enjoy this one? It’s like an Avengers film on crack (minus Hulk, Thor and Loki). Sure I have a lot of problems with the inconsequential storyline, but it’s the rich characters we all know and love that keep me in the game here. Plus, your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man and the Black Panther get in on the action too!
This is it! It’s the feel good movie of the year that I almost missed out on. If Fox wasn’t so late in sending out 4K UHD Blu-ray review copies, I’m confident I would have never given this one a thought at all due to its lame a$$ cover. I know, awful right? Absolutely! It just reinforces the fact. Don’t ever judge a “book” by its cover. Eddie the Eagle is based on a true tale of Great Britain’s first-ever ski jumping Olympian in the ’88 Calgary games. The getting there part of it is the fun-factor, but this fictionalized recount is so much more. It’s the Rocky of ski movies and its heart-warming, motivational tale will entertain family audiences just like it was the great rousing 1980’s.
This one took Fox forever to make, mostly because you had to convince them of a potential audience out there for it and of course that hardcore rated-R rating slapped on. Thank you for being so persistent Ryan! Coincidentally, it also took a bit of time to win me completely over. Sure I enjoyed it from my very first viewing, but like how fine wine ages, this one does too. It only gets better with age. Every time I re-visit it I notice or hear things I missed the other ten viewings and the story never ceases to amaze me how smartly tight and witty it’s written. Its chimichanga time boys and girls and Deadpool’s going to give it to you.
I love, love, love this movie. I never saw that coming as just a fair-weather fan of the spiritual first entry in this “franchise,” simply titled Cloverfield. So yes! 10 Cloverfield Lane is the spiritual sequel to Cloverfield, however, it’s so much more to me. It’s both a bunker and a psychological thriller, and it completely turns head over heels the way it ends with all hell breaking loose, much akin to my affinity for Cabin in the Woods. Is the bigger monster outside or is it inside the bunker? The answer to that is the yummy filling in the pie. Sheer brilliance!
I told you that you were going to hate my “comic book” list of Top 5 choices. Who the hell puts this one as their top film of the year? This guy! That’s who! Yes, it’s a tragically flawed film and no amount of extra content makes it that much better, but it’s like going to a restaurant and ordering steak. They instead bring you out filet mignon. Things are deep in this one in regards to some of the rear endearing onscreen moments and that entrancing score of John Williams and Junkie XL, but there’s nothing I can say to overcome the damage of the Martha, Martha, Martha line. Why would you say that, indeed! You just need to appreciate this one for what it is, an homage to all DC Comics fans, the animated films and more.
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
I was a pretty sizable fan of the first film, which was my Birthday movie back in 2008. This follow up did not disappoint as it was something completely different yet still drove the Cloverfield mythology forward. Cannot wait for another, though, I want it to pop up on me by surprise like both movies have.
4. Everybody Wants Some!!
My next 3 picks are of the “I’m a sucker for” variety as they come from some of my all-time favorite filmmakers. No, EWS!! does not match the heights of Dazed and Confused, but instead it rightfully carves its own path. The 80s time period is one I have a nostalgia for and the film plays with expectations and really gets so much right thanks to its honesty that may have turned some people off.
3. Hail, Caesar!
Apparently I enjoy movies with explanation points in the titles. It’s the Coen Bros. Whenever they make a movie, there is probably a slot open for it on my list. This might be a film more appealing to those who love the business and the history angle of Hollywood, but I couldn’t help but bathe in its charm and humor.
2. The Nice Guys
Shane Black, I just love most everything he touches. The Nice Guys is a fantastic follow up to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, as it plays with his buddy element. The 70s is a rich backdrop and Ryan Gosling gives us something new and refreshing from him in possibly the comedic performance of the year. The Nice Guys is #2 but don’t be surprised if at the end of the year it finishes higher than my #1, as they have flip-flopped constantly in my brain.
Speaking of Shane Black, Zootopia is the animated homage to the films and scripts of Shane Black. It’s a terrific little detective story that is all sorts of engaging, intriguing and quite hilarious. Disney is on a role with their original animated films and Zootopia is of the best of the bunch.
(Note: Bron and Jordan were able to attend SXSW this year and you can find there coverage HERE.)
5. The Neon Demon
This took me a good deal of consideration to decide whether I loved it and Nicholas Winding Refn is a genius or if I hated it and felt like he is a manipulative hack. I am siding on loving it. We’ll see how that goes when I see it again.
4. Miles Ahead
One of the most interesting, well designed, and frenetic bio-pics I have ever seen. Don Cheadle deserves so much praise for his work on this film both in front of and behind the camera.
3. Captain America: Civil War
At this point, I have seen the film three times and still find it engaging, clever, and funny. That airport scene!
Yes! They did it. And it was good!
1. The Lobster
Unless something truly tremendous comes along, there is a good chance that this film will remain my favorite of the year all the way through. It is the kind of thing a person yearns to show others and watch repeatedly.
The Nice Guys – Shane Black proves he can do anything and I will love it. This is just an all-around enjoyable film.
Hail, Caesar – Beautifully shot, written, and directed with witty dialogue and great performances. This one doesn’t quite make the top 5 because while it is great, it doesn’t really leave that same lasting impression that it would have needed to get there.
4. Independence Day: Resurgence
The terrible sequel for which nobody asked is here to kick you right in the nostalgia and make you question whether you actually even liked the original. Why not at least make it not boring?
3. Zoolander 2
Speaking of terrible sequels for which nobody asked, this lifeless, unfunny mess did just about all it could to stray as far from comedy as a film can while still remaining within the genre. At least Will Ferrell showed up to breathe some life back into this bloated corpse; but alas, he was too little and too late to make any real difference.
2. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
When looking to make a superhero film, see this one for plenty of examples of what not to do with beloved characters.
Very likely the worst film I have ever seen. Some very talented people spent far too much time making this absolute pile of garbage.
(I didn’t see Gods of Egypt, X-men: Apocalypse, 50 Shades of Black, Divergent: Allegiant, God’s Not Dead 2, Mother’s Day, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, or The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Otherwise, this list might be much different.)
5. The Automatic Hate
Even though it came and went, this harrowing family drama involving feuds, secrets and even incest is one fantastic film example of story and acting at its finest. Led by on-screen powerhouses Richard “The West Wing” Schiff and David Mamet regular Ricky Jay as battling brothers, The Automatic Hate isn’t afraid to expose dysfunctional skeletons that lay behind closed doors and it’s the genius of filmmaker-to-watch Justin Lerner. But the real swan song of The Automatic Hate has to be the unmatched chemistry between leads Joseph Cross and Adelaide Clemens memorably playing way-too-close cousins – passion between kin is always complicated.
A rich and dramatic father/son story masked as a gun-toting Wild West tale is given an added jolt of ancestral authenticity with Kiefer and Donald Sutherland playing the feuding family with ample back baggage for the first time on-screen. So while there are a ton of tasty tropes that make this one a winner – a love story involving age appropriate and never better Demi Moore, a layered turn by Michael Wincott as a thoughtful gun for hire and plenty of bad men wrestling with redemption issues – it’s the long overdue work of two generations of Sutherlands that makes this spaghetti saga so satisfying.
3. Band of Robbers
Sometimes quirky creativity is all you need and in the case of the highly underrated Band of Robbers it equals five-star fun. Taking on legendary literary characters of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn now as criminal adults, filmmakers Aaron and Adam Nee deliver a unique spin on familiar material with enough laughs (Adam Nee’s Tom delivers Broken Lizard style humor!), colorful characters (Stephen Lang almost steals the movie as the ominous and scary Injun Joe!) and even a pinch of romance (in the form of Melissa Benoist’s lovely and naïve Becky Thatcher!) that the most sedentary cinefile would have to stand and salute.
Not only a fantastic dramatic return to form for Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan, but housing an Oscar worthy turn by Christopher Plummer as an elderly man with memory loss on a mission, Remember is the best film you may have missed this year. With a terrific script (twists and turns galore!), signature style (Egoyan’s stamp is all over this one!) and killer co-stars (how about Martin Landau and Jürgen Prochnow people?!), Remember is a long lingering cinematic home run you’re not likely to forget.
This doc that dares to delve headfirst into the odd world of ‘competitive endurance tickling’ boldly goes from humorous to horrific all in the name of an engrossing real-life movie mystery that’s by far the best film of the year. Plus with the filmmakers knack for keep things in an early Nick Broomfield style, there’s plenty of nerve wracking in-your-face encounters that are all but missing from narrative features today – Tickled tops them all.
(Others that may fill out my Top Ten at year’s end – De Palma, Intruders (aka Shut In), Paint It Black, The Sound & The Shadow, The Waiting, Neptune)
5. 10 Cloverfield Lane
This is everything that the trailer says it is, and that is a rarity these days. The whole film is pretty much carried on John Goodman’s performance. It’s a small, intimate, and terrifying story that may or may not be connected to the events of Cloverfield. I can’t really go into any detail without spoiling it. But suffice it to say, it is WELL worth a watch.
4. The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book is hands down my favorite animated Disney film. So when I heard they were making a live action version, I definitely had some reservations. Luckily this film was given the amount of care and attention to detail that such a classic deserves. I also loved the fact that they changed the story just a bit from the original Disney version. You can tell that every single member of this star-studded cast is wholeheartedly committed to giving the BEST performances they can. For me the one who stood out the most was Idris Elba as Shere Khan. The best way I’ve found to describe what he brings to this character is Hannibal Lecter with stripes.
3. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Ok, this may not have been what we were all hoping for, but doggonit, this was a lot of fun! There are only a few things in this world that will make me love a movie regardless as to how well it’s made. Those things are Werewolves, talking Apes, and Batman. Despite the fact that his story only somewhat made sense within the entire plot, I still loved every single Batman moment in this movie. I also loved every scene with Superman or Wonder Woman. Just seeing these three iconic mythological figures finally together on the big screen was well worth the price of admission.
2. Captain America: Civil War
This is one of those superhero movies that could’ve EASILY become a chaotic mess of random characters. We’ve seen it happen so many times with movies like Spider-Man AND the X-Men that any time we see more than four familiar faces on the screen, we fanboys start to get nervous. But in the hands of the great Kevin Feige and the Russo Brothers we got what just might be the best Marvel movie so far! It really does have everything you could want from a superhero film. It’s got plenty of action and just enough heart to make sure that you give a damn about what’s happening to these characters that we’ve gotten to know ever since the first Iron Man movie came out all those years ago.
This was a GROUNDBREAKING action movie that also set a new tone for all superhero movies to come. It finally acknowledged the absurdities that we’ve all just kind of accepted when we go see an action movie. It was hilarious, action packed, had a TON of heart, and by the end of it my only complaint was that I wanted MORE! Thankfully we’ll be seeing a sequel soon enough!
5. The Lobster
On the other end of the spectrum is The Lobster, a pitch black comedy from Yorgos Lanthimos, director of the Oscar-nominated Dogtooth. The outlandish premise involves finding love or being turned into an animal of your choice, but that’s just the beginning. Colin Farrell leads a strong cast in a movie that celebrates its weirdness and provides some interesting commentary on societal expectations of relationships as well.
Leave it to Shane Black to deliver a wonderful buddy-comedy that receives great reviews, only for the film to make almost no impact at the box office. This neo-noir tells a fun story that is largely character-focused. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make for a great team, with fine support coming in the form of its colorful cast and sparkling dialogue.
Taika Waititi made one of the funniest films of 2015 with What We Do in the Shadows and he has followed that up with a sweet-natured story that pairs Sam Neill with a much younger actor (Julian Dennison) to be grumpy towards, as the two go on the run in the New Zealand forests. Great use of scenery, a well-handled relationship and some great comedic antics make this one of the highlights of the year.
Jeff Nichols scores again with this Spielberg-influenced science fiction story that never strays from the Southern style Nichols has utilized for his other films, including Mud and Take Shelter. His idea was to have a couple guys traveling for mysterious reasons only at night, with no headlights on and it cleverly evolved into a father-son story with stakes matching Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There’s a great story here that is stripped down to the essentials, with no room for exposition. This is just a low-key affair that occasional cuts loose with some standout sequences and strong performances.
Amazingly it is Disney that has delivered my favorite film of the year so far. Zootopia, one of the biggest ‘not based on anything films’ ever made tells a neo-noir story blended with great animation, hilarious comedy and commentary on the racial politics of today. That is not at all what I expected, but it worked out well for both the Mouse House and me. It has all the complications you would want to better enhance the experience of a colorful family comedy. It’s a great film and the one I’ll happily champion the most, given how far we are in the year at this point.