In my opinion 2016 wasn't a great year for film. There were certainly a lot of mediocre to pretty good films, but few truly great or excellent films boarding on being a masterpiece, and it shows in this list. I usually make a list of the 15 or 20 best films of the year, but this year I could barely come up with 10 and here they are starting with number 10.
10. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (4.25/5): Now choosing number 10 was really hard choice between Dawn of Justice and the likes of Deadpool, Nocturnal Animals, Hacksaw Ridge and 10 Cloverfield Lane to name just a few, but I ended up choosing Dawn of Justice. Yes, Dawn of Justice has its issues from reported studio melding to really bad editing decisions, but Dawn of Justice is still a really good film. The acting by all the actors is excellent. Ben Affleck is great as this ragged Batman pushed over the edge, and anyone who had doubts about Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman should have been put to ease after watching Dawn of Justice.
9. The Nice Guys (4.25/5): It is very rare for me to go to the theater to see pure comedies. Like horror films, I rarely think it is worth the time and money, and just wait to check it out when the film comes out on Blu-Ray/Netflix, but The Nice Guys got to me. The trailer sold me. Maybe it was the setting of the 1970’s with an inept private detective trying to find out if a dead porn star is really alive, but I think it was because of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling. The two mainly dramatic actors were hilarious, and had great repartee that made that pushed the film from being an average comedy to being really good.
8. Captain America: Civil War (4.5/5): Marvel Studios continues to play it pretty safe with their characters, but it is understandable since they have stars in the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, and Jeremy Renner in lead roles. Civil War is a flawed film, but it has one element most of the other Marvel Studios films have been lacking in a compelling villain in Zemo. Marvel did change the characters back-story to film the Cinematic Universe, but it works mainly thanks to Daniel Brühl subtle performance that finally shows the consequences to Starks, Rogers and the rest of the Avengers actions since the creation of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
7. Manchester By The Sea (4.5/5): Manchester By the Sea is a deeply compelling drama about Lee who goes back to the titled town he does not want to remember to bury his brother, and ends up being entrusted with Patrick, Lee’s brother’s teenage son. What drives Manchester By the Sea are the all the emotionally damaged characters and the acting by the actors who play them in particular Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, and Lucas Hedges.
6. Kubo and the Two Strings (4.5/5): Kuba is a beautiful animated film with outstanding voice acting by Matthew McConaughey, Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, and Rooney Mara among others, and an the rich score by Dario Marianelli.
5. Eye in the Sky (4.75/10): Just like Hell or High Water, I have been praising the film Eye in the Sky nearly all year. I am sure most have heard of the film, because it is the late Alan Rickman’s last film, but Eye in the Sky is a compelling military drama dealing with the drone program mainly from the British perspective. Eye in the Sky of course takes liberty with its story and technology, but has been praised for its accuracy in advanced technology and how the drone program works. Then there are Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman. Both veteran actors give outstanding performances in their roles.
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (5/5):
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2. Revenge of the Sith
3. The Empire Strikes Back
4. The Phantom Menace
5. The Force Awakens
6. Attack of the Clones
7. A New Hope
8. Return Of The Jedi
As much as I have enjoyed and loved the Star Wars film I was and am getting tired of the focus on the Skywalker's. That is why when Disney bought the rights to Star Wars I was hoping for a different kind of Star Wars film with either one taking place in the distant past like maybe showing the original separation of the Jedi and the formation of the Sith or a film the focuses less on both the Skywalker's and the Jedi and explores the universe around them.
While I enjoyed the better remake of the original New Hope in The Force Awakens with better acting, story, effects and music my enjoyment of the film as dwindled over time. Thankfully Disney, LucasFilm and director Gareth Edwards gave me more than I ever could have wanted in Rogue.One.
Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance in A New Hope got the plans for the Death Star, and thankfully fixes one of the biggest plot holes in A New Hope that has bothered me for years. Now I don't think I'll watch A New Hope the same again, which will probably get me to enjoy the film more than I have.
It can be tricky writing or making a film in which you know most likely most of if not all the characters are going to die. It can be a problem for both historical films as well as any other genre. What I think you must have is a compelling story and interesting characters that gets the reader/audience to care about them and root for them to live even though deep down you know they aren't going to make it out alive, and it works thanks to the wonderful writing and directing by Edwards as they deliver some of the best characters, emotional scenes, and best battles in the Star Wars franchise.
The character that steal the film are the imperial droid K-2SO ( Alan Tudyk), director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), digital Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones). I'm sure actors and others are little weary with the the potential of a digital actor on screen, but I have no doubt Tarkin was needed for Rogue One especially with when Rogue One takes place. I was just worried the digital recreation of Cushing as Tarkin would look horrible. Thankfully that is not the case as the digital Tarkin was a presence on the screen and even had a couple good scenes with Mendelsohn. I originally thought Tudyk's K-2SO would be like R2-D2, C-3PO, and BB-8 in that they were there to be side kicks and bring levity, and nothing more. Thankfully K-2SO was more than that just some humor, which he did bring to the film, but he also had personality and heart, which you saw in the scene where he apologizes to Cassian for hitting him, and in the climax of the film with in his brief moment with Jyn as well as his death. Mendelsohn was great as Krennic the real designer behind the Death Star, and who had great ambitions, but was ironically killed by his own weapon. I loved the look on Krennic's face when he saw the Death Star over Scarif knowing what was about to happen.
Now that brings us to Cassian and Jyn. The two damaged fallen heroes of Rogue One. Cassian who perhaps sacrificed his soul for the Alliance, and Jyn who's basically given up on everything. Through meeting each other Cassian and Jyn find what's been meaning in their lives. Cassian finds out there is more than just blindly following orders, and Jyn learns that fighting/dying for something bigger than yourself is worth it, and through that Cassian and Jyn find love in each other.
Yes I'm sure some would say that isn't possible they have only known each other for a maybe a week, but the writing as well as the acting and on screen chemistry between Felicity Jones and Diego Luna effortlessly makes the love the characters have for each other on screen come to life, and is masterfully on display in the climax that delivers one of the three best scenes/moments in the Star Wars franchise.
That scene is right after Cassian shoots Krennic in the back and Cassian and Jyn head for the elevator as above the Death Star and Vader arrive. They probably knew before, but by the time of the emotional moment in the elevator I'm sure they both knew they were going to die even before they saw the Death Star blast on the horizon, and that beautiful heartbreaking moment on the with Cassain and Jyn holding one another can only be matched by two other scenes in the franchise. The one being of course in The Empires Strikes Back with between Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and Lando right before Han is frozen, and the other scene is in the climax of the Revenge of the Sith where Obi-Wan Kenobi can't finish off Anikin and leaves Anikin to his fate on Mustafar.
Wow this post is getting long and I haven't talked, but I really love Rogue One. I briefly say that I honestly didn't miss John Williams as I think Michael Giacchino did an amazing job with the score for Rogue One with his stand outs being "Your father would be proud", "Star-Dust", and "The Master Switch".
All right that's enough of my love for Rogue One, so I will just simply say that I would give Rogue One 5/5 stars, and that it is the best Star Wars film to date as well as easily being one of the best films of the year.
3. Fences (5/5): There is no question Denzel Washington is an outstanding actor, but I do not think I have seen Washington get this invested into a character or give such a compelling performance since probably Training Day. I have never heard of the play by August Wilson before whose play the film is based on. Fences gives a glimpse into black American family life and black relations. Fences certainly is not an easy film to watch, but it is an excellent film worth seeing.
2. Hell or High Water (5/5): I have been talking about Hell or High Water ever since it first came out, so everyone should know my feelings about the film. To put it simply Hell or High Water is a modern western classic touching on themes that have affected many of us mixed with outstanding performances by Chris Pine, Ben Foster, and Jeff Bridges.
1. Arrival (5/5): It was really hard to choose between Arrival and Hell or High Water. I have been a fan of Denis Villeneuve since his intense and riveting thriller Prisoners. Villeneuve always seems to choose films with dark, but compelling themes, which separate his films from similar films. Arrival addresses alien contact with humans in a unique and a dare say original way that has not been done before. Amy Adams effortlessly steals the film from her costars giving an emotional and compelling performance, and one of the best of her career.
Honorable Mentions: Hacksaw Ridge, Deadpool, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Nocturnal Animals, The Shallows, and Star Trek Beyond, Doctor Strange, Green Room, and .Elvis & Nixon.
Underrated/Underappreciated films: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Criminal, and The Purge: Election Year, and The Accountant.
Most disappointing/overrated films: Jason Bourne, The Girl on the Train, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Triple 9.
Films I want to see, but I haven’t seen yet and don’t know when I will be able to: The Mermaid, Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Silence, The Secret Life of Pets, Deepwater Horizon, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, Jackie, La La Land, The Founder and Live by the Night.