Directed By: John Carney
I’m a John Carney fan. His first film, Once is one of my favorite “love” story movies of all time. It also has that catchy main theme song (here’s the Last Man on Earth rendition). While his second film, Begin Again didn’t quite live up to Once, I thought it was a fun movie and thought Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley gave good performances.
I’m so happy to say that Sing Street is a return to form for Carney. Sing Street follows a young boy named Conor as he tries to adapt to life in a new school. In order to impress a girl, he lies about being in a band. What follows is a beautiful, romantic, funny bildungsroman filled with a wonderful 80’s inspired soundtrack. If you were a fan of Carney’s first two films, or want a romantic comedy full of great music, definitely check out Sing Street.
Directed By: Jeff Nichols
Jeff Nichols is one of my favorite directors working today. Bursting onto the scene in 2007 with Shotgun Stories, he’s since followed it up with incredible films like Take Shelter and Mud. This year, moviegoers were lucky enough to not only get one great Nichols film, but two. The first of those being Midnight Special. In it, a father (Nichols’ muse and incredible actor, Michael Shannon) and son go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers. While Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Sam Shepard, and Adam Driver all give great performances, it’s Jaeden Lieberher who elevates the film. Looking forward to seeing what he does in the remake of Stephen King’s IT.
Following up Midnight Special, Nichols treats us with the incredible true story of Loving. The film tells the tale of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who fell in love and were married in 1958 in Virginia. Against the law, they were exiled from their home state and weren’t allowed to be seen with one another. They take their case to the Supreme Court and well, the rest is history. Great to see both Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga get nominated for Golden Globes for this one. They both give wonderful performances.
Directed By: Dan Trachtenberg
In his directorial debut, Dan Trachtenberg (who would go on to direct the Black Mirror episode, Playtest) knocks it out of the park with 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’s incredibly hard to keep a secret in Hollywood, so when this trailer first aired in front of Michael Bay’s newest film (which didn’t make the list, but you should definitely check out 13 Hours), the internet was buzzing about what it could be. Less than 3 months later and we get an incredibly suspenseful thriller set in the Cloverfield universe. Not only that, we also get one of the best performances from John Goodman in ages. Don’t read too much about the film, just go in and enjoy the ride. God Particle (The next rumored film set in the Cloverfield universe) can’t come soon enough. Also, go show the original Cloverfield some love as well.
Directed By: Shane Black.
Shane Black knows buddy cop comedy. The writer of the original Lethal Weapon, the man practically pioneered the genre. So, in another refreshing take, Black brings us The Nice Guys. Set in the 1970’s, the film unites two unlikely private investigators as they search for a missing girl. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are what make the film work. Their chemistry is electric and they deliver Black’s witty dialogue with the panache that it deserves. The movie is very reminiscent of another Black classic, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (which I wrote about, here). It’s a shame this movie got destroyed at the box office.
Directed By: Richard Linklater
Alright, alright, alright. A spiritual successor of sorts to Linklater’s classic, Dazed and Confused, where that movie followed a group around high school in the 70’s, Everybody Wants Some!! follows a group of collegiate baseball players in the 80’s. It’s a fun time and if you’re a fan of Dazed, definitely check it out.
Directed By: James Wan
You know what, I’m not afraid to say this. James Wan is one of the best directors today. The man passed on MILLIONS of dollars to direct Fast and the Furious 8, so he could bring us another horror film. And you know what? He knocked it out of the park. The Conjuring 2 is one of those rare occurrences where the sequel outshines the original. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are absolutely extraordinary and Madison Wolfe’s performance will make you believe in the afterlife. Oh, and Patrick Wilson plays guitar while singing Elvis. This movie really has it all.
Directed By: Jeremy Saulnier
*** RED BAND TRAILER – NSFW ***
Look, 2016 has been a rough year. We’ve lost a lot of great people from the entertainment industry. One of those people was the great, Anton Yelchin. It’s only fitting that his last leading role be one of the most balls-to-the-wall, nail biting, violent, movies of the year. The premise is simple. A punk rock band is forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar. Green Room reminds me of the Assault on Precinct 13 of our generation. It’s ruthless, Anton is amazing, and Patrick Stewart as a neo-Nazi is terrifying. This movie is #NotOptional. Also, do yourself a service and check out Anton Yelchin’s filmography. You won’t be sorry.
I’m calling this my ‘Extremely Goofy Category.” Why? Well, Swiss Army Man is a film about Paul Dano surviving on an island through the use of Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse. The tagline for the film is “The first fart will make you laugh, the last fart will make you cry.” And cry I did, dammit. It’s funny to say, but this film might be Radcliffe’s best performance to date. Check it out if you’re in the mood to laugh (and be creeped out a smidge).
Ricky (pictured above) is my spirit animal. Coming out of New Zealand and starring a grumpy, old Sam Neal , Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a true gem. It’s hilarious, and is the type of movie that you’ll remember certain scenes for years to come. It’s a certain type of humor, so watch the trailer above and see if it’s right for you.
Directed By: Travis Knight
Kubo is one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen. The newest effort from Laika, the company that brought us The Boxtrolls, Coraline, and Paranorman, Kubo is a stop motion film. For those of you that don’t know what that means, I implore you to watch this behind the scenes footage of the making of Kubo. One scene in this film took the studio 18 months to film! That coupled with a wonderful story and great performances by Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey, Kubo is a beautiful film for both children and adults.
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven
Elle is a heck of a film. In it, a successful businesswoman gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who raped her. Actress Isabelle Huppert is sweeping up nominations for her performance. Lionized for her bravura and her daring. And that’s rightfully so because Elle is an audacious, paradigm-smashing movie, one that deserves to be seen.
GIVE THESE FILMS ALL THE AWARDS.
These are my very favorite films of 2016.
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve
If there was a Space Jam like scenario, where we had to offer up some of the best directors the Earth had to offer, I would serve Denis Villeneuve on a silver platter. After a few amazing foreign films (Maelstrom, Polytechnique, Incendies), Villeneuve made his North American debut with the thriller, Prisoners. Since then he’s gone on to direct Enemy and the 2015 masterclass, Sicario. This year, Villeneuve returns in arguably his best film to date. In Arrival, a linguist (played by the wonderful Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to assist in translating alien communications. This might be Adam’s best performance to date. It also has one of the most important messages is a somewhat, turbulent 2016 America. It’s a film about understanding, not demonizing, those who are different. #NotOptional. I trust Villeneuve and am excited for Blade Runner 2049 next year.
Directed By: Damien Chazelle
Chazelle has hit another homerun with this year’s La La Land. Bursting onto the scene with the absolutely incredible Whiplash. Chazelle continues to bring musicality to his films with his latest. Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling (who I kind of home become like a new, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks – they’re great together), La La Land tells the story of a jazz pianist falls for an aspiring actress in Los Angeles. It’s simple, it’s beautiful, and the music absolutely rocks. La La Land reminded me of the golden age of Hollywood cinema (Singing in the Rain) and it’s a feeling that I never knew I missed. A wonderful treat.
Directed By: Kenneth Lonergan
an uncle who is forced to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy’s father dies. It’s a film that is emotionally powerful as it is exquisitely shot. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams are phenomenal. Young talent Lucas Hedges is a must-see. Oscar nominated writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s way of capturing the struggling working class of America comes from a genuine place.
Directed By: Denzel Washington
A devastating adaptation of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning play, Fences is a must see. Slighted by his own father and shut out of pro sports because of his skin color, Denzel plays a broken champ who fails to recognize how the world is slowly changing (he’s the city’s first black garbage collector to be promoted to driver) and how his own disappointments poison the way he treats his wife and son. It’s a powerhouse film and Denzel and Viola Davis are at their absolute best.
Directed By: Barry Jenkins
The film chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami. It’s an absolute POWERHOUSE of a film. Mahershala Ali gives an absolutely commanding performance throughout. Barry Jenkins is a fascinating storyteller, and in large part because of how he goes about being fascinated by his subject, how his camera roams at times, and at others when he knows to cut between his subjects. But most of all, he is a truly magnificent filmmaker because of how he so deftly finds universal themes from a place and people that is somewhat specific. This is a story about a boy who grows into a man. An absolute classic. #NotOptional
THE BEST OF THE REST – Here is a bullet point list of a bunch more films from 2016 that I enjoyed 😀 (Note: At the time of writing this, I have not seen Star Wars: Rogue One or Passengers)
- Doctor Strange
- Jungle Book
- Star Trek: Beyond
- Don’t Breathe
- The Shallows
- Little Men
- Deepwater horizon
- 13 hours
- The Witch
- Edge of Seventeen
- De Palma
- The Lobster
- Blood Father
- Train To Busan
- The Purge: Election Year
- Nocturnal Animals
- Captain America: Civil War
- Captain Fantastic
And more that I’m sure I left off the list. What were some of your favorite films from 2016?