Now that 2016 is in the can (that’s movie talk for a film that is finished dating back to the pre-digital days) here’s a list of some of the top films from last year. January is the dreary season, with long stretches of rainy weekends and nights ahead, making it the perfect time to order a pizza or pop some corn and catch up on the films you may have missed.
A big theme in 2016 was the superhero movie. While we might be getting tired of watching yet another movie with a guy in a cape and tights, we still go. Enticed by nostalgia and a time in our lives when action figures were our most researched acquisition, our mode of transportation was pedal power, and our favorite meal was a Caprisun and PB&J, these movies take us back. And while few of the superhero flicks today live up to the Superman, Spiderman or the Green Hornet comics we read as kids, this year, one film did. Deadpool didn't attempt to dumb down its superhero and appeal to everyone from kids to adults. Rather, the director of Deadpool made an adult superhero full of dark humor and distain for the over-dramatized plight of other superheroes. If you haven’t seen it, it's hilarious, entertaining and spoiler alert a bit on the raunchy side, but it was easily the best superhero film of 2016. Don’t believe us? Deadpool has received two Golden Globe nominations -- one for the Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the other for Ryan Reynolds, the movie’s male lead, nominated for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Just don't bring your kids, let them enjoy their Caprisun fueled innocence for a few more years, adulthood will come soon enough.
If you like historical films, there were plenty to choose from this year. Three of the best were Free State of Jones, Hacksaw Ridge and The Nice Guys (we put The Nice Guys in the history category even though it is set in the 70's, because for millennials, anything before 1980 is history). Based on a true story, Hacksaw Ridge is about Desmond Doss, the only conscientious observer to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor and the only soldier on the front lines in WWII without a gun. Doss saved the lives of 75 men without firing a weapon. The film has been nominated for a Golden Globe and is high on the list for an Academy Award nomination. Bonus, Vince Vaughn as a shockingly convincing WWII drill sergeant.
Free State of Jones
Although directed by four-time Oscar nominee Gary Ross and starring Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey, Free State of Jones felt more like an Apple TV rental than a box office choice. The movie set during the Civil War centers around the plight of Southern farmer, Newt Knight, and the band of extraordinary armed rebels he brings together to fight against the Confederacy. Frustrated and fed up at by the piracy and looting by corrupt Confederate soldiers that threatened to starve out small farmers, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi to secede from the Confederacy, creating the Free State of Jones. Knight continued his struggle into Reconstruction, distinguishing himself as a compelling if controversial, figure of defiance long beyond the War. Bonus, an interesting history lesson. Not everyone in the South fought on the side of the Confederacy or the Union. Some choose to simply remain free.
The Nice Guys
While The Nice Guys won’t win awards, it does deserve kudos for trying to bring the buddy movie back. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gossling team up in this 1970s period pic set in Los Angeles as private investigators who stumble into a sprawling conspiracy while investigating the alleged suicide of a once-prominent female porn star. If you are a fan of the Lethal Weapon movies, you are sure to enjoy The Nice Guys.
Hell or High Water offers fans of westerns some old-fashioned justice with a modern day twist. Texas brothers Toby (Chris Pine), and Tanner (Ben Foster) reunite when the bank threatens to foreclose on their family land. In a last-ditch scheme to take back a future stolen from them, they plan a series of robberies. Justice appears to be theirs until they meet Texas Ranger Marcus (Jeff Bridges) on the eve of his retirement. The values of the Old and New West collide as the brothers attempt their final heist, which results, in true western style there is a showdown at a crossroads. Nominated for numerous awards, this could film could give Bridges his next Oscar.
If you like your cowboys doing some good old fashion single action gunslinging checkout Magnificent 7, which was well, magnificent. A remake of a 1960s film by the same name the cast includes Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, and Chris Pratt.
Inferno, the latest film in Dan Brown's series is disappointing. But, don’t feel too sorry for Tom Hanks or Inferno’s female star Felicity Jones, both had other movies this year that lived up to their abilities. Tom Hanks gave a convincing and thrilling portrayal of heroic airline pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, re-enacting the crew’s successful emergency landing of an Airbus A320 full of passengers on the Hudson River. If you missed it in the theaters, it is worth the rental.
Felicity Jones starred in a film that Star Wars fans lined up to see. And if you aren’t a fan yet, Rogue One is a good place to start. As a kid, I remember the first time I saw A New Hope. I was seven or eight, and I remember being overwhelmed by the universe, which seemed so expansive and realistic and at the same time alien and unbelievable. I had the same feeling watching Rogue One. The setting was familiar but different.
The first third of the movie introduces new worlds, new characters, and a sense of a conflict that is familiar to fans, but is shown from a different angle. With fewer gratuitous cameos than the Force Awakens and perhaps the best two minutes of any Star Wars movie with more Vader than you'd expect, it ranks at the top of the list of films from 2016 you should see.