Saturday, February 25, 2017

My Favorite Movies of 2016!

And so here we are, in celebration of the Oscars and of the movies of 2016 in general, here is my annual top 10 list of my favorite movies from the previous year!  Enjoy!


10.  X-Men: Apocalypse
Kicking off the list is X-Men: Apocalypse, a movie that was unjustly met with a very mixed to negative response upon release, but one that I think is easily one of the finer X-Men movies overall.  Apocalypse is by no means as solid as X-2, but as far as being a fun superhero movie that pays perfect homage to its comic book roots, you can't do much better than X-Men: Apocalypse.  Plus, director Bryan Singer finally let the X-Men don their iconic costumes, even if it was only for a brief moment before the end of the movie.

9.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One is the first Star Wars spin-off movie that Disney has made since purchasing Lucasfilm in 2012.  While Rogue One is not as strong of a movie as The Force Awakens, it is an enjoyable standalone adventure that manages to work primarily thanks to its connective tissue to the original Star Wars from 1977.  The movie essentially translates the opening crawl of 1977's A New Hope and makes it into a two hour movie.  While one would think that would keep the movie from being engaging, the credit is due to the moviemakers in finding little ways to surprise when it's least expected, such as one of the most iconic Darth Vader moments when he chases the stolen Death Star plans down a hallway, slicing and dicing his way through Rebel solider after Rebel soldier.  Sure, Rogue One wouldn't be nearly as good if it were the very first Star Wars movie, but as a companion piece to the rest of the saga movies, it allows you to look at events you thought you knew in a complete new way.

8.  Doctor Strange
In a year full of superhero movies, Doctor Strange was the best of the bunch due to Benedict Cumberbatch's inspired performance as the titular hero and the sheer originality of director Scott Derrickson's trippy visuals.  Every time you turn around there was something new that you'd never seen done in a superhero movie before, and that was the sheer joy of Doctor Strange.  While the movie lost a little of its momentum in the final act, a few missteps are not enough to keep this from being the strongest superhero movie of 2016.

7.  Arrival
Arrival is a pleasant enigma of a movie.  It is a cross between Contact, Independence Day, and The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man," with a  little bit of The Prestige sprinkled on top.  It is thinking man's science fiction that also has a surprising heart to it that I found very emotionally involving.  While Arrival is certainly not for everyone, I found its slow burn, less action oriented approach to the alien arrival story trope a breath of fresh air for the type of story being told.  In a way, it's very reminiscent to The Day the Earth Stood Still if that movie were made today.  Plus, this movie has a pretty nice twist near the end that makes it an almost certainty that you'll want to see it a second time.

6.  The BFG
Steven Spielberg is my favorite director of all-time, I think that's a pretty well known fact by now amongst the readers of this blog, so it shouldn't be a surprise that his latest movie is on this list.  The BFG is a fun adaptation of Roald Dahl's kid's lit classic of the same name, about an orphan girl who befriends a big friendly giant.  It is a very simple story that may just be Spielberg's most kid approved movie to date.  The movie is very gentle, very funny, and genuinely fun the whole way through.  It is one of those movies that maybe only appeals to people who love kind of quirky fantasy, but it's a great little quirky fantasy movie that deserved more recognition than it got.

5.  Moana
Disney animation has been experiencing another small renaissance in recent years and Moana has continued that tradition.  While Moana won't go down in movie history books as being a Disney movie on par with the likes of Aladdin or The Little Mermaid (two other movies directed by Moana directors John Musker and Ron Clements), Moana is a fun Disney musical that does a lot new while paying homage to the old.  For starters, Moana does not feature a love story, with no sign of a prince in sight.  On top of that, there really isn't a villain.  As well, this is one of Disney's most thematically complex animated movies they've ever done, with Moana being a movie that is really all about remembering who you are deep down inside, or learning who you are for the very first time, while also being a movie about how we all must leave home at some point in order to grow.

4.  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them took us back to J.K. Rowling's wizarding world and we are all better off for it.  With this being Rowling's first ever screenplay, the movie plays exceptionally well.  As a standalone movie, it's a great adventure story, but as a companion to the rest of the Harry Potter world, it's full of tiny little details that help fill in the gaps in the history of the other books and movies.  Still, what makes Fantastic Beasts what it is, is the lovable cast of characters and Rowling's trademark wit and charm in their interactions.  You fall in love with Newt Scamander, Jacob Kowalski, and Tina and Queenie Goldstein, as they traverse across 1926 New York in search of magical creatures that escaped from Newt's enchanted suitcase.  There is no other way to describe this movie other than magical.

3.  The Jungle Book
Disney has been on a hit streak the past few years adapting their animated movies into live action movies, and The Jungle Book is another point in their win column.  While it would be easy to say The Jungle Book is essentially a live action retelling of the animated movie, it's actually more of a hybrid between that movie's approach and the original Rudyard Kipling novel, making The Jungle Book its own movie, while still paying respect to what came before.  The respect is paid mostly in the return of some of the animated movies best songs, woven organically into the story.  Of course what makes The Jungle Book so phenomenal is not just the fact that the timeless story still remains timeless, but in the technological beauty of the movie.  Director Jon Favreau made the whole movie on a Los Angeles soundstage, even though it takes place in the jungles of India.  All of the animals and environments were created with CGI, with the only real element in any scene being Neel Seethi's Mowgli.  Sure, there have been other movies made in recent years that have done this same approach, but none as convincingly as were done here.

2.  Hacksaw Ridge
Hacksaw Ridge is a phenomenal return to form for director Mel Gibson, and the most awesome part is that it's 100% a true story.  It tells the story of Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to win the congressional Medal of Honor for saving 75 lives as a combat medic during the Battle of Okinawa on Hacksaw Ridge.  The whole crux of the movie is that, due to Desmond's spiritual beliefs as a Seventh Day Adventist, he refuses to carry a gun and kill, even so, he wants to serve his country during World War II.  As a Christian, I found this movie especially moving and thought it to be the best faith-based film I've seen perhaps ever.  While the movie is not for the faint of heart, due to the gory battle scenes that realistically depict war, Hacksaw Ridge is an emotional story worth seeing from start to finish because of it's thematic ideas.  At the end of the day, this movie is simply about one man refusing to forsake his beliefs, even when others tell him that he's crazy, and I think that's a great, timely message for a lot of Christians.

1.  Zootopia
When I first read about Zootopia, I was uncertain that anything new could be done with talking animal movies.  Thankfully, Disney managed to prove me wrong.  At every turn, Zootopia did something new.  Whether it be the sloths working at the DMV or the brilliance in how the city of Zootopia is laid out and designed, the movie has original idea after original idea.  Then there are the rich thematic ideas of prejudice and acceptance that run underneath the story that give Zootopia an added depth, but the main reason Zootopia is number one is that it's just flat out funny.  I haven't laughed this hard at any other movie in a long while.  Zootopia is like Lethal Weapon, but made for kids.  It's really a buddy cop movie about the first ever bunny police officer, trying to prove herself by solving an almost impossible case with the help of a conman fox.  The movie follows every trope of the buddy cop movie, while also defying expectations at every turn.  In short, Zootopia is probably Disney animation's best movie they've made since the Nineties, and that is high praise indeed.

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