Top Movies of 2016
This is it! Our final "Top" list of 2016! We hope you enjoyed our thoughts on the best of the best this year, and we hope to see you some more in 2017!
Did 2016 scare you? It certainly terrified me, for a variety of reasons. As such, I decided to indulge in as many horror movies as I could stand, and make the rest of this year seem more normal in comparison. Unfortunately, Hollywood decided we all need found footage movies and nothing else substantial, so I had to seek my thrills in lower budget fare. Wow, was I in for a treat! It turns out if PG-13 and focus groups are not a concern, quality horror is alive and well. Be aware that the films I discuss here are not for the children at all, and the R rating they all received was well justified in each case. Here follows my Top 3 Horror Movies for the year:
“Robbers break into a house, and the only person there seems defenseless at first, but soon takes care of business using elaborate traps.” If you explained the bare bones plot of Home Alone to an utter maniac and they made a movie out of what they saw in their head, Don’t Breathe would be the result. That is the only rational explanation for this gem.
What starts as a passable home invasion story quickly turns into a breathless (sorry) stalker-esque film with a blind antagonist as scary as Micheal Meyers (and with strange yet plausible superpowers to match). A few twists and turns later, and we have a nifty and terrific piece of social commentary from the director of the underrated Evil Dead remake. And like that movie, this one will make you grip your seat and gasp for air on several occasions. The inclusion of the always great Stephen Lang (Avatar) as the blind antagonist never hurts either.
Salem is a black stain on the consciousness of America, and dozens of books, plays and films have explored the dark emotions that led to the witch burnings. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a standout, and a good starting point to describe the terrors that this film presents: a good family, living in the harsh environment of the new American frontier has their beliefs and morals challenged by what may or may not be mass hysteria. The Witch builds tension not with demonic creatures and jump scares, but with seemingly normal scenes interrupted by unexplained phenomena.
It also serves as a coming of age film, a beautiful exploration of a man’s desperate attempts to shelter his family from an uncaring world, and an early American fairy tale. To say more would be entering the spoiler zone, but if the Temple of Satan gives a movie an endorsement, you best believe it is scary.
The dialogue is written in early American English, and may be rough to follow at first, but subtitles are your friends here. The incredible cinematography and creepy atmosphere makes it worth the effort. If you stick with the slow opening, this film will reward patience in dividends.
Green Room (2015)
Now I know it is cheating to include a movie from 2015 on here, but to be fair it was mostly on the festival circuit, and as such I missed it. Since the first chance for me to get my mitts on it was the Blu-ray release, I count it as a 2016 movie.
Do you like Patrick Stewart? (If not, what are you doing on a geek website? Shoo!). How about Punk rock? Ultraviolence? This movie delivers all that and so much more. When a punk rock band accidentally gets booked to play a Neo-Nazi compound, things escalate quickly to the point when a villainous Stewart has to get his white supremacist cronies to assault them en masse. A brutal take on classics like Assault on Precinct 13 ensues, with copious amounts of gore, gallows humor and great acting from Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development) and the late Anton Yelchin (Star Trek) in his final role.
This movie takes a strong stomach, and if you didn’t cringe at the mere thought of box cutters before, you will after seeing this. A true indie gem, and a standout in a mostly mediocre year for horror.
Andy lives in DC and fancies himself a horror aficionado and casual (console) gamer. His favorite movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas.
5. 10 Cloverfield Land
In an era of shitty sequels and remakes, there's a lot to be said for a movie that takes place in the same universe as its predecessor but isn't a sequel. John Goodman's performance really sold me and that Candienne from Scott Pilgrim was great, too.
4. Captain America: Civil War
This movie did was Batman v. Superman tried to do but much more successfully. It took the moral dilemma of "killing one to save ten" and multiplied it by 1000. I'm still firmly #TeamCap.
3. Don't Breathe
The constant back and forth on who is the hero and who is the villain in this movie was my favorite part of it. It kept the surprises going which I find rare in many recent horror movies.
A movie that takes place in Japan and none of the main voice actors are Japanese aside, this was my favorite animated movie of the year. Solid story with a good message, Laika has again proven themselves to be a studio to look out for.
1. The Witch
"Oh, this is probably going to be like The Crucible," you say to yourself. "They're going to blame poor Thomasin for...OH MY GOD THERE'S A REAL WITCH AND SHE'S USING A PESTLE AND MORTAR ON A BABY."
I know there was a lot of controversy about this one, and I was certainly a bit hesitant at first. But the movie is just so funny and enjoyable that it's hard to dislike it. Granted it's not one of the strongest movies to be released, but it definitely doesn't deserve all the hate thrown at it. I felt everyone involved did a great job, especially Chris Hemsworth.
4. Jungle Book
Can I just say how awesome 12-year-old Neel Sethi was as Mowgli? All of the actors were amazing and their CGI well done. I hadn't seen the original animated Disney film since I was a kid and it wasn't one of my favorites, so i was surprised by how good this film turned out to be. And of course there was Christopher Walken performing a song as a massive ape. You can't beat that.
3. X-Men Apocalypse
This was one of my favorite superhero movies to come out this year. I appreciate Deadpool, but it wasn't for me. I really enjoyed Doctor Strange, but it suffered from the same problem that I initially had with Guardians of the Galaxy, where I found its weirdness initially off-putting and had to see it a second time. Captain America: Civil War was overlyserious and emotionally challenging (i knew they were eventually you w ere right all along) but it was so serious, and with peggy dying… it was too much. I felt it was a bit of character overload - Captain America feat. Spider Man, black panther, etc. the other two were a lot more focused. I just thought X-men was well done overall. I'm really into these "First Class" set of movies, and definitely think that Apocalypse is the strongest of the three.
Part of the reason I loved it was it was so unexpected. It was a neat premise with some deep themes, and it touched on a lot of topics that other animated films probably wouldn’t be willing to discuss.
This whole movie was simply amazing. It had a great story, catchy music, and fantastic characters. A lot of animated movies can reach a point where they start to feel like they're dragging about midway through, but Moana felt nothing like that. It delivers nothing but talent, enjoyment, and emotion. Also, who knew the Rock could sing? This has definitely earned its place as my number one movie of the year.
I completely acknowledge that my taste in movies is comparable to that of a small child: I love animation and superhero movies. I promise that I do enjoy other movies, too. Lots of movies even! (Except horror, I'll leave those to the Lloyds and Andys of the world). The beginning of 2016 was an incredibly busy time for me, and as such I was unable to get to the theater for almost half of the year. However, once I started Geekundspiel, I made sure to see at least one movie a week. Here's what I did manage to see in 2016 (and not all in theater):
Now onto my Top 10!
10. Queen of Katwe
It's nice to see a new twist on the hackneyed "sports changing someones life" story, and Queen of Katwe certainly subverts it by a) basing it on a true story and b) using chess as the "sport" in question. This was a sincerely emotional and inspirational film, with a lot of eye-opening segments for sheltered Westerners like myself.
9. The Jungle Book
I confess, I would have skipped seeing this one entirely if it weren't for the glowing reviews. The Jungle Book is not exactly a timeless tale that needs to be retold. For one thing, it's probably not the most culturally sensitive story. That being said, this movie took me by surprise. The voice cast, the acting of the boy in the lead role, the CGI... everything just came together to create a very entertaining family film. And of course, Christopher Walken as a singing, swinging King Louie is probably one of my favorite cinematic moments of 2016.
8. Rogue One
The Star Wars film that we didn't know we needed. Rogue One arrived just in time to make it to my Top 10 Movie list. This darker film set in a galaxy far, far away takes us on a journey to the front lines of the rebellion, and shows how hope can thrive when everything else seems lost. Although it's a bit overstuffed with plot and characters, its fantastic visuals and strong performances make it a must-see for any sci-fi fan or Star Wars fanatic.
Doctor Strange ranks up there with some of my favorite Marvel origin story films. While it may not be the best of all the stand-alone titles, it's alluring visuals, original fight scenes, and strong lead performance from Benedict Cumberbatch make this an instant hit in my book.
Like most of Laika's stop-motion films, this movie did not get the attention and praise it deserved. It's beautiful animation and folktale-like story makes this a fantastic addition to Laika's long line of amazing films.
Much like The Jungle Book, I had every intention of missing this movie until the reviews came out. Zootopia completely surprised me by how good it was. The animation is some of the most gorgeously rendered CGI I've ever seen, filled with vibrant colors and amazing detail that rivals Big Hero 6 in terms of world-building. The film as an Aesop against racism and tribalism is especially fitting during this politically contentious year.
Deadpool demonstrated the success a studio could find if it let its creative talent be creative. This movie gave comic fans and non-comic fans alike exactly what they wanted, whether they knew it or not. Ryan Reynolds returns to the superhero genre with a vengeance in one of the most highly anticipated and hilarious comic book films of all time. Deadpool is an instant classic for many, and while I might not agree with some who say it's the best superhero film of the year, I'd be hard pressed to argue against it.
3. Captain America: Civil War
Civil War gave us almost everything we could have asked for in a Marvel film. We got more Cap, we got more heroes, we got Black Panther and Spider-Man, hell we even got Giant-Man for a bit. It was everything Avengers 2 should have been. That being said, there was a little too much of what we asked for, as the film was always a few steps away from becoming overly bloated and unwieldy. Luckily, the Russo brothers have a good handle on their Marvel films, and while it may not compare to its predecessor The Winter Soldier, it still packs a wallop in action sequences, humor, and emotion. It's such a shame that their version of Baron Zemo had to be so boring...
Arrival is a trippy sci-fi film wrapped in a drama wrapped in a regular sci-fi film, and I absolutely loved it. The acting, the cinematography, the pacing, the use of linguistics as the definitive science that saves the day, the odd use of time, the fantastic use of plot twists and the implications they lead to, I could go on and on. Arrival is a film that stays in your mind for some time after leaving the theater, and in this case that's not a bad thing.
Honestly, I can't think of what else I can add to me previous rantings and ravings about this film. I'm still floored by it, and when looking through my Top 10, it's the only one that I want to go back to the theaters and see again right now. Moana is a strong contender for best animated film in a field that already has some stiff competition (between Kubo, Zootopia, and some of the titles from outside the U.S.). If you haven't seen this yet, do yourself a favor and go now before it leaves the theaters!