Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Top 10 Movies of 2016

2016 may have lacked the one knockout film to top my list, but as a whole the year produced a number of quality movies adding a depth that made it difficult to cut down the list to a meager ten. Honorable mentions include animated features Kubo and the Two Strings and Finding Dory, Mel Gibson's divisive Hacksaw Ridge, and the bizarrely fascinating indie gems The Eyes of My Mother, Swiss Army Man, and The Neon Demon. Enough of what didn't make the list, on to the Best Movies of 2016!

10. A Tale in Three Parts

Our list begins with Moonlight. Writer/director Barry Jenkins' examination of the life of a young gay black man over three separate periods of his life is compelling. Unexpectedly hopeful while avoiding a fascination with violence in favor of a more nuanced story, and peppered with strong supporting characters from Naomie Harris as our protagonist's abusive mother, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, and Jharrel Jerome, the film earns its spot to start our list. Read the full review.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray February 28th.

9. The Best Super-Hero Movie of 2016

A labor of love for star Ryan Reynolds (who first played the character in the best-forgotten X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Deadpool is remarkably smart, funny, and wrong in all the right ways as 20th Century Fox proves they can still make a good X-Men flick when they want to. In a year with far bigger projects hitting the big screen, it's Deadpool which turns out to be the best super-hero movie of 2016. Read the full review.

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

8. Love, Sex & Betrayal (with subtitles)

The lone foreign entry on our list, The Handmaiden is an erotic psychological thriller with plenty of twists and turns as no one is exactly who they seem. Tae-ri Kim stars as a handmaiden with a hidden agenda towards her new mistress (Min-hee Kim), who has more than a few secrets of her own. While it might be a bit too steamy for some, for me it knows just how to please. Read the full review.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD January 24th.

7. There Be Monsters

I wasn't a fan of Cloverfield. So the prospect of making a sequel of any type didn't much appeal to me. Imagine my thrill then to discover this taut psychological thriller in which Mary Elizabeth Winstead finds herself held captive in a bunker by a man (John Goodman) who believes aliens have invaded our world. Far from the splashy CGI shaky-cam spectacle of the first film, 10 Cloverfield Lane ratchets up the tension to 11 while relying on stellar performances by its leads to deliver the year's best in science fiction and horror. Read the full review.

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

6. Love in the Time of Segregation

Based on true events, Loving takes a personal look at the lives of a white man (Joel Edgerton) and black woman (Ruth Negga) who fought for the right to live as husband and wife and build a life in their home state which outlawed even the possibility of an interracial couple. More low-key than I expected for a film about interracial relationships, Loving steers as far from soap box speeches and racist clichés as the story provides us a terrific character study about a couple not looking to change the world but just wanting to be allowed to love each other. Read the full review.

Still playing in select cities. Available on DVD and Blu-ray on February 7th.

5. Dangers in the Dark

Nocturnal Animals may have forever changed how I view driving down a lonely stretch of highway. Three stories in one, it's a bleak but fascinating look at love, loss, obsession, and regret. Amy Adams stars as an unhappy wife who is sent a manuscript by her previous husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) which will shock her out of her malaise. As with the other films which made their way into my top five, this one packs an emotional punch. Read the full review.

Now in theaters.

4. Life's Challenges

The only documentary to make the list, Gleason is an unflinching look at former NFL player Steve Gleason's life after his diagnosis with ALS. Originally meant to be a series of messages to an unborn child he fears he will never directly communicate with, the movie documents the man's slow physical decline, the hardships, the setbacks, and the small victories each challenge brings. Read the full review.

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

3. A Tortured Soul

In Manchester by the Sea, Casey Affleck is unprepared for the responsibility of raising his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) following his brother's death. Despite what may sound like the synopsis of a Lifetime Movie for Women, writer/director Kenneth Lonergan offers an amazing film about a tortured soul struggling with a responsibility he wants nothing to do with and his own demons. Despite its straightforward premise, film has surprising depth. Read the full review.

Now in theaters.

2. The Search for Self

Lion delves into themes of self and understanding your place in the world while telling us the true story of a child (Sunny Pawar, played as an adult by Dev Patel) separated from his family, adopted and raised in another country, and his search decades later to find home. Aside from being a fascinating story, the film itself (as it merges two threads with completely different casts and locations into a moving single narrative) is unquestionably on of the year's best. Read the full review.

Now in theaters.

1. The Best Movie of the Year

Hell or High Water took over the top spot on this list back in August and, despite their best efforts, none of the bigger name awards contenders was able to knock it off the pedestal (although Manchester by the Sea and Lion came close). Director David Mackenzie's film has a little something for everyone as two estranged brothers (Ben Foster and Chris Pine) come together with an out-of-the-box way to save the family farm - by robbing banks. The fact that they're perused by a cowboy (Jeff Bridges) and an Indian (Gil Birmingham), who are far more than those clichés might suggest, is just icing on the cake. Of all the films on this list it's the most layered, the most fully-realized and the most timely which makes it the best film of 2016. Read the full review.

Now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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