With 2016 now firmly in the rearview mirror, it's time to look back and take stock of the movies that came out of last year. Gazette movie buff Michael MacNeill gives his take on 2016's hit movies.
Dishonourable Mention: Suicide Squad is everything wrong with blockbuster movies and somehow ruins a bunch of fan-favourite DC characters.
Honourable Mention: Kubo and the Two Strings is gorgeously animated with an interesting world but just narrowly missed out on this list.
10) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One serves as a prequel to A New Hope, and answers the question behind how the Rebels were able to get the plans to the Death Star. Basing a story on such a small side note with a known outcome shouldn’t work, but Rogue One is able to deliver. It is most definitely a war film, focusing on the average soldiers and their sacrifices. While the tone is more mature, there are still many moments of levity and spectacular action. Rogue One also pulls off the enormous feat of retroactively enhancing and perfectly dovetailing into A New Hope.
9) The Jungle Book
Lately, Disney has been going through its animated catalogue and reimagining them in live-action. The Jungle Book is definitely the best of these films yet. The CGI in this film is breathtaking; almost everything you see besides Mowgli is not real. First-time actor Neel Sethi, playing Mowgli, gets props for basically acting against only a green screen and still doing an excellent job. All of the voice acting is terrific, especially Idris Elba as the menacing tiger Shere Khan. The Jungle Book is the rare remake that might actually be better than the original.
This is probably the most controversial pick on this list as Deadpool relies heavily on crass humour, which is not everyone’s particular cup of tea. But there is a lot more going on than just dick jokes. Deadpool’s lampooning of the superhero genre feels like much-needed satire as the movie industry is becoming oversaturated with heroes in tights. Even with these satirical jokes, Deadpool is a great superhero movie with original action and a surprisingly touching romance. Also, Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool is one of the greatest marriages between actor and character in movies today.
7) 10 Cloverfield Lane
This secret sequel caught everyone by surprise. The movie was made under a false name and the trailer only came out a few months before its release. This worked to enhance the feeling of mystery that permeates the entire film. You don’t know what is going on, where they are, who's trustworthy or what could possibly lie in store (a rarity in our trailer-spoiler culture). The cast is also superb, especially John Goodman who turns in a terrifyingly creepy performance. All of this creates a superb bottle-episode-type thriller.
6) Sing Street
Sing Street might be the most under-appreciated movie of the year, earning only a measly $3 million at the domestic box office, but is also one of the year’s most uplifting movies. It is a simple story: boy meets girl, boy wants to impress girl, boy forms a band and the band ends up meaning more to him than he expected. This coming-of-age tale is handled beautifully and shows how the expression of music can change a person’s life. The music also consists of classic ‘80s bands and some fantastic original songs.
5) Captain America: Civil War
Well, at least one of the superhero vs. superhero movies this year was great. Civil War is in the upper echelon of Marvel movies. It has all of the signature Marvel action, characters and humour. It might even have the best action of all the Marvel movies, with a 20 minute airport fight scene of pure joy as your favourite superheroes fight each other just like a kid playing with their action-figures would imagine. There is no way you can watch this movie and not be thoroughly entertained. Even with all this fun, Civil War is still able to make you care the characters and the story. We have history with Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, making it hurt even more when their friendship falls asunder. Civil War was definitely the best blockbuster of the year.
4) La La Land
La La Land is a love letter to the Hollywood musicals of yesteryear. Characters spontaneously burst into dance and song without any warning, and it's fantastic. All of the numbers are also beautifully choreographed. The camera holds back and uses minimal cuts so you can see the brilliance of the performers on full display. This in combination with gorgeous cinematography gives the whole piece a surreal feeling. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling not only show off their singing and acting chops, but also show once again that they have amazing chemistry on screen. All of this is also paired with a powerful message about following your dreams and what it takes to get there. Don’t let the musical label dissuade you, give La La Land the chance to sweep you off your feet.
3) The Nice Guys
Buddy-cop movies can be a lot of fun if the pairing of our two anti-heroes works well, and Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe kill it. They are great to watch whether they are taking jabs at one another or trying to solve a problem. Shane Black’s script is also amazing, giving off a similar vibe to his previous movies Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3. It has lots of hilarious quips and situations, while also creating an intriguing mystery for the two PIs to solve. Everyone involved has expressed a desire for a sequel and I really hope to see the continuing adventures of Gosling and Crowe.
Arrival, like the best of science fiction, asks big questions that really make you think. The concept of aliens arriving on Earth is nothing new, but how it's handled is refreshing. There are no explosions or cheesy one-liners. Arrival demonstrates what seems like a much truer idea of how we would handle extraterrestrial visitors. While the aliens are the instigating factor of the film, the focus of the movie is much more human. Amy Adams is our gateway into the film. Through her, the film is able to tackle substantial human concepts like love, language and destiny. These concepts give your brain a lot to digest, ensuring that Arrival stays with you long after you’ve left the theatre.
1) Hell or High Water
When a Western film hits, it really hits — and Hell or High Water hits like a freight train. This simple story of two bank-robbing bothers in modern day Texas works on a variety of levels. It works as a straight-up action thriller with some intense bank robbing and detectives in hot pursuit and it works as an interesting character study of two brothers who have to deal with their previous actions in life and what they want to leave behind. It also has a lot of underlying commentary on American decay, systemic poverty and the institutions that are supposed to help us. All of the acting is impeccable. Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges all bring fully envisioned characters to life. All of these components come together to produce a thrilling and yet pensive movie.
Agree or disagree? Leave your top movies of 2016 in the comments.