Monday, January 23, 2017

14 Really Good Movies from 2016

24. The Finest Hours



A great, suspenseful film that's really two movies in one. Chris Pine's in a rousing, military story about duty and being tenacious, while Casey Affleck's in a survival thriller. Both parts are equally good, even though Pine's half suffers from a weak romantic subplot. But even that is made better by super cute Holliday Grainger who's totally convincing and touching in her concern for Pine.

23. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows



My new favorite TMNT movie, which - okay - is a pretty low bar. Perfectly captures the ridiculous fun of the '90s cartoon series, and almost makes me curious to watch the 2014 movie. Almost.

22. Suicide Squad



There's some extremely sloppy storytelling around a major plot point, which is laughable, because they actually show it twice and neither time could I tell what the heck was going on. But except for that, I had a pretty great time.

I went in with low expectations and ended up enjoying most of the team quite a bit. I especially like Deadshot, Harley, and Diablo, but Killer Croc also gets a nice story arc. I was disappointed by how little Katana matters, but she was still better than Boomerang and Amanda Waller, both of whom are pretty horrible people. Flagg I can totally take or leave.

But it's surprising to me that I like three or four of these characters. Even though it's a movie about villains, there's more heroism and sacrifice going on here than in either of Zack Snyder's Superman movies. Suicide Squad isn't a great movie by any stretch, but it's easily the best of the three DCU movies so far and I'd love to see more with these characters.

21. Risen



After a disappointing experience with The Young Messiah and a more challenging watch of Last Days in the Desert than I expected, I wasn't sure what I was getting into with the third Jesus film of 2016. (Last Days was technically a 2015 film, which is why I haven't listed it with this year's movies, but it didn't come widely available to watch until 2016.)

I quite liked the procedural investigation angle of Risen though and the actors are mostly very good. Fiennes is excellent and I also quite like Stewart Scudamore as Peter. I want more resolution to Fiennes' journey, but I think maybe that's a positive thing. His story captures my imagination.

20. Keanu



I like Key and Peele a lot, especially Keegan-Michael Key, whom I was introduced to in the final season of Parks and Rec and then started noticing everywhere. I didn't know too much about Keanu going in, but hoped that it would be funny and I wasn't disappointed. I laughed a lot. The plot also messes with expectations in some fun and interesting ways, particularly in how it deals with violence, so not only is it funny, but it's smart, too.

19. The Jungle Book



Visually spectacular and a lot of fun. The voice actors all do remarkable jobs and Neel Sethi is an adorable Mowgli. It won't replace the 1967 animated version for me though, simply on the strength of those songs and my love for Phil Harris, George Sanders, and Sebastian Cabot's voices. It sure is awesome to hear Christopher Walken sing "I Wanna Be Like You," though, and watching the credits is worthwhile purely to hear Scarlett Johansson's sultry version of "Trust In Me."

The new movie also adds some great character stuff that deepens Mowgli as a character and strengthens the emotional impact of his having to leave the jungle.

18. Kubo and the Two Strings



Easily my favorite Laika movie. I always find Laika films cool and visually stunning, but I'm also used to not quite connecting with them as deeply as I want to. They've never punched me in the heart the way Toy Story 2 or How to Train Your Dragon do, for instance. But Kubo comes closest.

I felt the ending was resolved too easily and wasn't really honest with the characters' emotions, but that's a final stumble in an otherwise wonderful, fantastical adventure. This is a great world with great characters and some chilling villains.

17. Zootopia



A lot of fun and also very timely. But while I like and mostly agree with the overarching message of the film, it's presented in such a pointed way that it overpowers everything else. The analogy that compares animal species to groups of humans doesn't always work and the film has a complicated relationship with stereotypes (denouncing them while simultaneously using them for comedy). That makes me work harder than I want to in separating the useful parts from the parts that are just kind of dumb.

16. The Secret Life of Pets



Different from what the trailer led me to expect. Less vignettes about how pets are funny; more adventure. Some of that's good (I appreciate the structure of a traditional narrative) and some of it's not so great (the character arcs are trite). But above all, it's very, very funny and that's enough.

15. Pee Wee’s Big Holiday



Nothing will ever top Pee Wee's Big Adventure, but Big Holiday is super funny and sweet. Makes me want to rewatch Big Top Pee Wee to see where that one went wrong. I don't remember much about Big Top other than being disappointed. No such problem with Holiday; I'll happily rewatch it. Just probably not over and over again the way I do with Adventure.

14. The Nice Guys



A fun movie with a great cast. If there's anyone I want to see Gosling paired up with as much as Emma Stone, it's Russell Crowe. And I always enjoy Shane Black projects. The only thing keeping it this low on the list is that the villains' motivations and plan are ridiculous.

13. Finding Dory



I rate Finding Nemo in the upper-middle tier of Pixar films, so I knew there was potential for the sequel to be good, but I didn't expect great things. And it's not The Best Pixar Movie Ever, but dang it's a lot more entertaining and touching than I expected. I may have even teared up towards the end.

12. 10 Cloverfield Lane



Not the Cloverfield sequel I'd asked for, but an excellent thriller-with-a-twist nonetheless. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a great, relatable hero and John Goodman does an excellent job keeping her and me on our toes. John Gallagher Jr is also compelling as the third major character and I had a good time trying to decide whether he or Goodman (or both or neither of them) was a villain.

11. The Shallows



I'm warming to these survival films with one person stuck in a location for two hours. And it helps when the location is as gorgeous as this one.

Like in Gravity, the main character gets a backstory that's supposed to enhance her experience, but really isn't that meaningful. That's okay though. Her story is plenty thrilling and ends spectacularly. I had high hopes for this movie and wasn't disappointed.
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