The Top 20 Films of 2016 (20-16)

 

  1. Arrival

 

Denis Villenueve has followed one of my favorite films from last year, Sicario, with another instant classic. The man is on a roll and continues to churn out beautiful looking films with complex characters and at this point you just hope that he keeps it going.

Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner take a break from the fantasy realm to delve into some heavy science-fiction. The film is not what you would expect from a movie about aliens and first contact. Independence Day this is not. Instead we get a smart, slow-burning film that gives you the belief, this could really happen.

There’s none of the cliché stuff that you would normally expect from this genre and while some may see that as boring, that it what separates the film and takes it to the next level. There are no bad guys in this film and as always Amy Adams shines as a brilliant translator who attempts to decode the alien language.

While not your typical twist, the ‘flashbacks’ we get throughout the film are brilliantly executed and achieve the ultimate goal of any filmmaker or studio, it gets you to want to see the film immediately after it finishes.

 

  1. Maggie’s Plan

 

By now you would think I would have learned my lesson as far as judging a book by its cover. While films like this get ignored or dismissed and some big blockbusters also get ravaged by the majority of the film critic community, I find myself shunning and shutting out their opinion more and more. This year more than any other I feel like it really has been the death of the film critic as there are far way too many agendas or politics being played as to which films get positive or negative reviews.

This film only falls into the ignored or dismissed category because it is a small film with really no marketing behind it. It’s not a love story per say or at least not your typical one. It’s the best kind of screwball comedy, one that is actually smart and like I said, it almost slipped by me.

The lead Greta Gerwig brings so much to the role and film. She brings a calmness and an intelligence that it rarely seen in movies these days. She’s beautiful but not by the normal standards and it is so refreshing to see in a movie these days.

Ethan Hawke plays the male lead, and is what initially drew me to the film and as usual he didn’t lay me down. He’s a pretentious prick in the film and I absolutely love it. Not to be left out, Julianne Moore takes what could be a cartoon character and really gives it depth and vulnerability. Everyone really is on their A-game and it elevates what would be a passable film into one of the best screwball comedies we have seen in years.

 

  1. Ghostbusters

 

The hype and controversy surrounding this film really was unnecessary and unwarranted. The madness really is something we haven’t seen before, at least not when it came to a film that was actually pretty good. Director Paul Feig and company were attacked from the minute the movie and cast was announced. Many decided before a trailer was announced that they were not even giving it a chance. Their loss.

I get it Ghostbusters is a classic, but is it perfect? I mean, come on, people acted like it was something that it wasn’t and tried to deflect it about being a male/female thing. It got ugly, but I like that the people involved just pushed through. Feig loves to work with funny and talented women and Ghostbusters is no different.

This belongs right up there with Feig’s other films and is both silly and smart which is a thin line that most director’s do not know how walk. I would have preferred if it was a sequel instead of a straight reboot, but that’s really my only complaint.

Technology has allowed Ghostbusters to really go where it should have been by now but was unable to go. The ghosts look scary and the movie is fun. I realize those aren’t exactly a popular mash-up these days, but for me it fit and it’s a shame Feig will most likely not get to play in this world anymore.

 

  1. Suicide Squad

 

So mentioning unpopular opinions and the death of the critic before, nowhere does that shine more than with the films of DC and Warner Brothers. This really is the film that turned me off to all of that noise, well honestly you can throw Doctor Strange in there as well.

DC is not Marvel and I love it. I don’t want them to be the same and I don’t get why some people expect that. Suicide Squad is a mash-up of tones and that has to do more with that bullying from certain circles. I wish DC would stick to what they’re doing or trying to do and not give in to that peer pressure to make things more light or throw unnecessary jokes in there.

I love the tone of Suicide Squad, even if like I said some of the jokes feel forced and like a response to haters calling for them. While the antagonists as the main characters is not exactly something new, it really hasn’t been done like this before. Joker, Harley Quinn as well as the others are not good people. Sure, they are fan favorites and no matter what they do they have the audience in the palm of their hands but these are people that have done horrible things.

Those horrible things make them even more relatable since they remind us that just like us, they aren’t perfect. There was a lot more that could have been explored between Joker and Harley and that’s where I feel we got the short end of the stick. Where The Dark Knight is known for the Joker’s brilliant dialogue, here it mostly is about the eye-popping visuals.

Joker and Harley at Arkham, sitting across from each other was great, but man it could have been so much more as the words are really limited between the two. I really wanted to see why Harley would risk and throw away everything for this man, even if he was intriguing and fascinating, I wanted to see more of it.

The other teases were just that, teases but man were they great. Batman and Flash were barely in the movie at all, but they certainly leave an impression. The tease of Will Smith’s Deadshot and Affleck’s Batman is such a tease that almost isn’t fair. It leaves you wanting more.

It’s not perfect by any means but there is a lot to like. The cast is great and while things look dark, the film stands out from others we usually get. It’s a fan-favorite movie with some cheap jokes but also a whole lot of substance. I’ll take that over the same thing we’ve been getting any day.

 

  1. Barbershop: The Next Cut

 

The trailers were never going to do this film justice. It’s certainly not the slapstick film that those ads promise. Instead we get something more like Black-ish that deals with race and important issues while yes, also being pretty funny. In other words, it’s a Barbershop film.

What I liked most about it is what it says about how we raise our kids. In the film, Ice Cube’s son is being tempted by the gang life and wants nothing to do with his father’s choice in career. Now, that’s understandable, we all don’t have to succeed our parents’ vocation. The issue is the fact that his son lacks a sense of respect.

If you wait until your kids are teenagers to try to finally interact with them or teach them respect then it’s way too late. So while his son might be a punk, Ice Cube definitely had a role in that. This is where the Barbershop comes in since that is where Cube spends most of his day. Of course we all need to work, but sometimes we need to remember what really matters, which is our family and molding our children and making them better than us.

The chemistry between the cast is great, even the non-traditional actors such as Nicki Minaj, Common and Eve bring their comedic chops into the film. Another great topic involves that of men and monogamy. It’s fascinating to watch and hear the discussions about why men choose the ‘bad’ girls over the ‘good’ ones.

The film is great at simply portraying what it’s like at an actual barbershop. There’s talk about everything and a whole lot of nothing.

 

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