Ten Fourth-Quarter 2017 Films to be Excited About!

Fourth Quarter 2017

I did this a 2016 version of this post a year ago (right here) and had fun with it, so I’m doing it again for 2017.  Sometimes it feels that all the good movies for the year are released in the summer.  But that’s not true!  We have plenty more to which we can look forward!  As with the 2016 list, these aren’t the only films to potentially be excited about for the remainder of the year.  But these are the ones I feel have the most potential.  Last year, I feel like I had at least a 70% hit rate, with at least seven of the ten being very good or better.  Let’s see how I do, this year!  I will list the films in order of currently-scheduled release date.  So here are the ten films scheduled for release from October through December of 2017 that I’m most excited about!

1. The Snowman


October 13 – The trailer for Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman reminds me of both this year’s stunning Wind River and the classic The Silence of the Lambs.  Michael Fassbender plays a detective investigating a serial killer whose calling card is an ominous snowman.  Alfredson is a Swedish filmmaker who brought us the original Let the Right One In, so he has pedigree.  And, seemingly part crime story, part mystery, and part horror thriller, The Snowman looks to get the final few months of the year off to an exciting start.  (Official Trailer)

2. The Killing of a Sacred Deer


October 20 – A psychological drama from director/co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster), the cast of Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, and Alicia Silverstone is enough to suck me in and get to me to the theater to see The Killing of a Sacred Deer.  Throw in some mystery, ambiance, and a fresh upstart of a director who is continuing to make a name for himself, and the fact that the film comes from A24 Studios – perhaps the most reliable production studio in the industry today –  and there’s every reason to be excited about this one.  I’m there.  (Official Trailer)

3. Jigsaw


October 27 – I’m sure some of you are groaning, and I know the Saw franchise isn’t for everyone.  But, if you can get over the graphic nature of the violence and look beyond the creativity of the traps (as fun as they can be), narratively speaking, the series has actually provided audiences with one sprawling epic of a story that has a fascinating ethical dilemma at its center.  There are loads of characters who are connected in intricate ways and the filmmakers never fail to surprise with the developments that unfold on screen.  I’m in for the long haul because of the mythology and I, for one, am glad to have the Saw series back.  (Official Trailer)

4. A Bad Moms Christmas

Bad Moms

November 3 – Last year’s Bad Moms was a hidden gem in the middle of the summer and a surprising hit, grossing almost $184 million worldwide on a $20 million budget.  There was some unsettling scuttlebutt that the inevitable sequel would be a movie entitled Bad Dads which would have been a mistake on every possible level.  Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and out trio of freedom-loving mothers will be back to allow an oft-untapped market of young and middle-aged women to live vicariously through them and all of us tagalongs to get a voyeuristic kick out of the sure-to-be raucous proceedings.  (Official Trailer)

5. Thor: Ragnarok


November 3 – Of all the movies on this list, Thor: Ragnarok is unquestionably my most-anticipated.  Come on, what’s not to love about a Thor/Hulk buddy movie with Cate Blanchett as a wickedly intimidating Hela, the return of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and battle scenes with Surtur and what appears to be Fenris, all directed by Taika Waititi – the man who gifted unto the world last year’s wonderful Hunt for the Wilderpeople?  This one appears to be a big winner in every single imaginable way and I can hardly stand the wait.  (Official Trailer)

6. Justice League

Justice League

November 17 – Even if you haven’t been crazy about the majority of the DC Extended Universe, so far (I personally have liked three of the four entries and absolutely loved Wonder Woman, as most did), there’s got to be a little piece you on the inside that is pumped for Justice League (or Wonder Woman and Her Superfriends).  This film has been a long time coming and the fact that I still know so very little about the storyline only makes it that much more intriguing.  DC and Warner Brothers have to be thrilled with the popularity and success of Wonder Woman as her very presence alone will increase the excitement around the film.  Heck, if nothing else, we can count on enjoying Gal Gadot in her now-iconic role as Diana of Themyscira.  But the film has a lot of potential beyond that and there are millions of fans around the world crossing their fingers that it pays off. (Official Trailer)

7. Coco


November 24 – Pixar hasn’t been quite as consistent in recent years with the high-level of quality for which they have become known, but I still have faith in them and continue to look forward to each of their films.  Coco is breaking from their recent onslaught of sequels and giving us something fresh and takes us on an adventure through the Land of the Dead.  I hope this one has the spark of life and originality that we were subject to with Inside Out.  The fact is, no matter how hasty many people are to become cynical and jaded after one or two (relative) missteps, Pixar is still far more likely to deliver than not. (Original Trailer)

8. Murder on the Orient Express


November 24 – The day before Thanksgiving in America is traditionally a great day for movie releases and 2017 is no exception.  In addition to Pixar’s Coco, that Wednesday will see director-actor Kenneth Branagh’s remake of Murder on the Orient Express.  Remake or not, I love locked-box mysteries and the casts of characters they bring along with them.  The cast is outstanding, Branagh is a versatile director, and I’ve simply been on board since the first time I saw the trailer.  This one is near the top of my list for the rest of the year.  (Original Trailer)

9. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi


December 15 – Come on, folks, this had to be here.  There’s so much to be revealed and uncovered in The Last Jedi.  The most exciting aspect of the new trilogy is the journey of Rey as we discover her history, her lineage, and her destiny.  There will be plenty more fun to be had with all of the great new characters, more fun with some of the old, a sad goodbye to Carrie Fisher, and plenty more that we don’t even know to be anticipating.  It’s exciting to not know what’s coming in the Star Wars universe, again!  (Official Trailer)

10. Downsizing


December 22 – From director Alexander Payne comes Downsizing, a comedy-drama about a society who discovers that their lives and bank accounts are significantly improved by shrinking themselves through a new – and irreversible – scientific procedure.  Payne directed the amazing George Clooney/Shailene Woodley dramedy The Descendants as well as other cult favorites ElectionSideways, and Nebraska.  With Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig front-and-center, Downsizing is shaping up to be a crowd-pleasing sleeper hit that seeks to counterprogram against the big bad Star Wars.  For true film lovers, there’s plenty of room for both.  (Official Trailer)

And there we have it for 2017!  As always, there should be plenty of surprising Oscar bait that pops up before January 1, and that’s half the fun (at least) of the end of each moviegoing year, so we’ll see what that brings as well.  All in all, while the upcoming months look solid, I don’t think it paints quite the optimistic picture that 2016 did, but I would love to be wrong.  Go!  Watch!  And (hopefully) enjoy!

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Ten Fourth-Quarter 2017 Films to be Excited About!

Why Event Films are as Relevant as Current Events

Event Films

With Stephen King and Andy Muschietti’s It continuing to break records on a near-daily basis, I thought it was the perfect time to dive into a column that’s been kicking around in my head for a while, now.  As millions of people continue to flock to theaters to catch the new horror remake/instant classic, there – as always – remains a sector of others who stand on the sidelines and refuse to participate.  They have their reasons.  And they aren’t necessarily bad ones, certainly not from their own personal perspectives.  Maybe they don’t like to go to the movies (for some crazy reason that will never make sense to me).  Maybe they don’t like horror movies, in particular, or are scared of clowns.

But, as with every event film that comes down the line, by giving in to those excuses, those people are missing out on much more than “just a movie”.  They’re missing out on more than special effects or music or performances or elaborate sets and costumes or memorable characters.  By opting out of these films, one is making the active choice to lose touch with where we are as a global society and culture.


Most people would probably agree that, in order to be fully informed on the current cultural climate, whether it be local, regional, national, or worldwide, all one must do is stay up to date on the news.  Whether they’re watching the evening news, reading social media posts from news outlets, devouring the newspaper (or some equivalent), or anything of the sort, then they are fully informed and understand where we are as a collective unit.  Why would anyone even challenge that notion, right?  Well, I question it.  And I do so because it’s a logical fallacy.

Let me very clear about the fact that I wholeheartedly agree that keeping up with the news is immensely important.  People should do at least some of those activities that I mentioned above.  Having knowledge about the events that are occurring around the world on a daily basis is absolutely necessary for being able to contribute and participate as a responsible member of your society and your community.  This column is NOT “Watch Movies Instead of the News”.  Rather, this is a version of “Watch Movies and the News”.  Because, as important as getting the information provided by the media is, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.


When one hears a story that’s being reported on a large scale, who are those stories about?  With the exception of the human interest stories that are often tacked on at the end of a broadcast or tucked away towards the back of the paper, the stories that are widely reported upon regard the exceptional among us.  Said stories concern our elected leaders.  They concern the unstable tyrants who threaten the safety of any who refuse to bend the knee.  They concern the maniacal mass-murderer.  They concern the athlete with the multi-million-dollar contract or the movie star with the mansion in Beverly Hills.  These stories don’t concern the laypeople.  These stories don’t concern the common person.  These stories are the cause.  They are not the effect.

Plenty of movies come along that are expected to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.  But then there are the occasional films that aren’t expected to do as well as they do.  These films – the overperformers – are the true “event” films.  These films are often expected to do little-to-nothing or perhaps perform moderately well based on the statistics of similar films that have preceded them.  But then something happens.  Something unexpected.  Something special.  And people are shocked.  People are bewildered.  Well . . . most people.  Because there are also those who have been listening.  There are those who pay attention to people around them.  And those people are quietly saying, “I saw this coming.”


They are the people who feel an unusual groundswell leading up to a given film’s release.  They are the people who understand that many factors contribute to a film’s success – including demand, nostalgia, and the established fanbase if the film is based on a licensed property – but those things can only take a film so far.   They are the people to whom it becomes apparent that something else is making its presence known.  It’s more than a film being “good”.  Wind River is probably, objectively speaking, the best film in theaters, right now.  And it’s doing solid business expected of a film of its type.  Event films have something extra.

I personally suspected It was going to surpass projected numbers because I had picked up on a couple tidbits of information.  Firstly, when the trailer was released online, it broke the record for single-day views, a record that 2017’s Beauty and the Beast – another huge event film that exceeded all box office expectations – had set only months before.  But, then, something else caught my attention, just days before It hit theaters.


Fandango released their statistics regarding presales for It.  The report mentioned that the film was already breaking records, but that actually happens fairly often with online sales, so it didn’t raise any flags for me.  Something else did, however.  Included in their report was an interesting note that only fifty-seven percent of their sample of consumers who pre-purchased tickets to the film described themselves as horror movie fans.  That’s just a handful over half.  It has been marketed as the horror movie to end all horror movies.  So why are so many people who aren’t horror movie buffs going to see this film?

That’s the common thread that all of these event movies share.  They are four-quadrant entertainment spectacles that bring in paying customers who sit well outside of their target demographics.  Much of the time, they tend to be comic book superhero films.  But not every comic book superhero film blows the box office away.  Yet, when the character and/or narrative presented are in sync with the current sociological climate, magic happens, regardless of the inspirational source of the content.


We just passed the seventeenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks.  Back at the end of 2001, the world was on edge and the United States, in particular, was downtrodden, depressed, and terrified.  The regular people of the world needed something to believe in.  They needed a symbol of hope and optimism.  They needed a reminder that good was still out there.  And on May 3 of the following year, they got it.  They got Spider-Man.  Blowing away all expectations, the film was the first to ever gross over $100 million in its domestic opening weekend, eventually going on to gross over $820 million, worldwide.

People also worried for their children and their children’s future during that tumultuous time.  They desired to feel that their children could remain uncorrupted and strong in the face of overwhelming and omnipresent evil.  Less than two months following the same attacks that preceded Spider-Man came Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone.  Naturally, the fans of the book series flocked to the film, but so did many, many others.  I know because I was one of them.  Harry Potter was thrust upon mainstream audiences just when he was needed.  And as a result, the film grossed almost $975 million worldwide.


In late-2015 to early-2016, the American political landscape was volatile, to put it mildly.  The country had been deeply divided by controversial and provocative candidates gearing up for the impending presidential election.  Split down the middle, virtually every citizen in the country felt as if their thoughts, feelings, and beliefs were being encroached upon by the opposing side and that if there was no conformity, then they, themselves, were un-American.  And the potential aftershocks of the eventual outcome would hold repercussions for the entire world.

Then, in February of 2016 . . . along . . . came . . . Deadpool.  While the film was much in-demand and wildly entertaining, Deadpool himself also represented the ultimate in anti-authority figures.  His message was clear: screw convention; I’m going to be, do, and say what I want and that makes me awesome.  Deadpool held no apparent political views.  He didn’t pick a side.  Yet, he resonated with everyone who felt frustrated by the others around them.  He was his own side.  He was a metaphorical island.  Original domestic opening weekend predictions had the film pegged at approximately $65 million.  The final opening weekend tally for North America came in at $152 million leading to a final worldwide cume of just over $783 million, making it the highest-grossing R-rated film in history.


I could go on.  There have been so many more, spread throughout all of film history.  This year alone, in addition to It ($371 million worldwide and counting on a $35 million budget), both Beauty and the Beast ($1.26 billion worldwide) and Wonder Woman (approximately $818 million worldwide) defied all conventional logic and massively overperformed.  Beauty and the Beast was unquestionably launched by nostalgia but the fact that it’s a story about looking underneath the surface to find someone worthy of love that was released just months after the conclusion of the most hateful election in American history can’t be casually ignored.  And I, myself, got swept up in the significance of Wonder Woman and laid out all of the reasons for its cultural relevance and resonance in a very personal column, this summer (which can be found here).

My point should be clear.  As I alluded to, earlier, the news itself is the cause.  These event films are the effect.  If one wants to know why people are feeling what they’re feeling, watch the news.  If one wants to understand what they’re feeling and how to reach them, then they need to experience these films because they are the best gauge for where we are emotionally and mentally as a culture.  The films are perceived escapes that are in reality appealing to our deepest needs, desires, and fears while also putting them on display for anyone who’s listening.  And if you’re skipping these films, for any reason, then you aren’t listening and aren’t nearly as in the loop as you may believe.


You’ve undoubtedly noticed that I haven’t dissected the reasons for the way that It has penetrated the public zeitgeist.  Well, I’m not going to.  Come on, folks; I’m a teacher in my day job.  Do you really think I’m going to do all of your work for you?  Here’s your assignment: if you haven’t seen the film, get over your hang-ups and go.  It’s fiction.  Pennywise isn’t really coming to kill you.  The violence isn’t real.  And you can hear naughty words and be fine.  If your kids can get through a day at middle school, you can survive a movie for two hours.  The film isn’t really about Pennywise, anyway.  It’s about the kids and the adults around them.  (That’s my hint.)  Once you’ve seen the film (and for those of you who already have, you may move to the head of the class), put your thinking caps on, ask yourself why it’s truly resonating, and then also ask yourself why it matters.  Because it does.  The films matter because they represent the people.  And the cost of being better informed about the people is a mere nine American dollars (on average) plus a little analysis and reflection.  Try it.  You just might learn something about yourself along the way.

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Why Event Films are as Relevant as Current Events

The Ten Best Comic Book Movie Castings

There was a time, long ago, when a movie based on a comic book couldn’t even get a greenlight.  Then, slight progress was made so that they could get the go-ahead, but nobody with any name value wanted anywhere near them.  Now, comic books are recognized as the complex pieces of art that they are, with wide-ranging, four-quadrant appeal that has long passed having mere potential and has instead taken over big-budget filmmaking.  As a result, very few talents don’t want to be involved as they can now earn a gigantic paycheck without feeling like they need to compromise themselves and their art to do so.

As a result, there have been many amazing casting choices for comic book films over the decades – and especially in recent years.  I’m delegating to myself the near-impossible task of choosing the ten best.  If your favorite didn’t make this list, it doesn’t mean I didn’t like them.  Save your breath.  Many of my own favorites aren’t making this list.  In fact, I could do a Top Twenty without breaking a sweat, but I’m going to restrain myself, here.

Also, these are not ranked.  That would be painstakingly difficult.  I could probably choose a number one, but after that – no way.  Also, I’m not counting TV.  Only film.  Had I counted TV, only Krysten Ritter, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Melissa Benoist would have likely made the list, anyway.  So, in no particular order, here are . . .

The Ten Best Comic Book Movie Casting Choices in Film History


Heath Ledger – The Joker


Let’s get this one out of the way.  Not that I mean to be dismissive, but I know this is the one that everyone was waiting to see.  So, yes, here he is.  And with good reason.  Ledger’s casting met huge backlash from the omniscient, all-knowing Internet geek world, who claimed he was a pretty boy cheesecake who could never pull off the role.  It wasn’t the first, last, or even millionth time that these people have exposed their ignorance as Ledger threw himself into the part with reckless abandon, perfectly encapsulating the Joker’s more contemporary traits of menace and lunacy, winning an Academy Award (sadly, posthumously) for his efforts.  I personally liked Jack Nicholson’s Joker about as much, as different as it was, but Ledger gets the nod due to his impact and achievement.

Chris Pratt – Peter Quill/Star-Lord


Chris Pratt’s casting also met with some backlash, though not with the same vehemence as that of Ledger.  Most who had an issue with him pigeonholed him as the chubby guy from “Parks and Rec”, seemingly not understanding that 1) exercise is a thing and 2) the performance is what matters the most.  And Pratt nailed the performance.  Simultaneously smarmy and endearing, Pratt gives us a Star-Lord that wants to get close to people, but has no idea how.  Funny, confident, and relatable, Pratt’s demeanor and delivery are unmatched.  Groot gets all the press, but Pratt is the true on-screen force behind the success of Guardians of the Galaxy.

Hugh Jackman – Logan/James Howlett/Wolverine


You know what?  Let’s just go through all the complaints the “fans” had regarding each of these casting choices.  “He’s a stage actor who does musicals!  How can he be Wolverine?!”  “Nobody’s ever heard of him!  Wolverine should be a star!”  “He’s too tall!”  Yes, folks.  “He’s too tall” was actually a complaint.  Well, we all know how this turned out.  Jackman took the character of Wolverine to a whole new level, making him a true household name and pop culture icon.  Jackman could flip a switch and immediately shift from protective and caring father figure to rampaging, uncontrollable animal.  Complex and layered, Jackman crafted a Wolverine that was far more interesting than his comic book counterpart and will live forever in the annals of pop culture.

Christopher Reeve – Clark Kent/Superman


Sorry, I can’t do the complaints, here.  There are two reasons: 1) there was no Internet when this film was released and 2) though I was alive at that time, I wasn’t actually old enough to even be aware of my own existence, yet, much less this movie.  But, looking back on Christopher Reeve’s Superman, there is no questioning his performance or his impact.  Reeve was an unknown, which is exactly who Superman needed to be.  He injected the part with heart, sincerity, and depth and his performance had such resonance that fans still see him as the benchmark to this day – almost forty years later.  Reeve helped put comic books on the map as something that wasn’t just child’s play and we might not be where we are today without him.

Robert Downey, Jr. – Tony Stark/Iron Man

Iron Man

Here’s a twist: the majority of the complaints upon Robert Downey, Jr.’s, casting as Iron Man came not from the geek world but from the general audience.  “Robert Downey, Jr. doesn’t look like a superhero!  He doesn’t have muscles and he’s not exactly young, anymore!”  Well, comic book fans knew better in this case and were pretty united (for a change) in their support for this casting decision.  Tony Stark has never been a muscle-bound physical specimen.  He’s a fast-talking, wise-cracking, a-hole businessman with addiction problems.  Downey barely even had to act, at all, perfectly capturing the essence of Tony Stark and charming audiences for over nine years, now.  Thanks to Downey, Iron Man was a massive hit, Marvel Studios was properly launched, Marvel permanently dug themselves out of bankruptcy, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born.  For Marvel, Robert Downey, Jr. was a real-life hero.

Anne Hathaway – Selina Kyle/Catwoman


Sadly often overlooked, Anne Hathaway was everything that the comic book Catwoman had ever been and more.  Most complaints were not about her look or her ability but simply because some people out there believe that they’re supposed to hate Anne Hathaway on principle, so they do.  But that’s absurd.  With Hathaway playing Selina Kyle as confident, powerful, selfish without getting to the point of being completely uncaring, enticing, intelligent, and downright seductive, Christopher Nolan struck pure gold for the second time in his Batman career when he selected her as Catwoman.  I even got chills as she fought on a rooftop, back-to-back with Christian Bale’s Batman, bringing to life the Catwoman that I had always envisioned.  There’s a small but vocal pocket of people directing a lot of irrational hate towards The Dark Knight Rises, but none of it is towards Hathaway.

Margot Robbie – Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn

There were really no complaints upon the announcement that Margot Robbie would be playing Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad.  Honestly, most people didn’t even know who she was, so that made it hard to complain.  Film lovers knew her from her scene-stealing turn in The Wolf of Wall Street and she quickly became famous for her good looks above all else.  Luckily for the extremely talented Ms. Robbie, that all turned around when Suicide Squad hit theaters all over the world.  Harley Quinn is the only reason that movie happened, so there was a lot of weight on Robbie’s shoulders, but she carried it with ease, once again stealing scene after scene as the cult favorite Harley and solidifying herself as almost the only aspect of the film worth watching.  We’ll see where Harley pops up next (Warner Brothers has said they’re producing a Gotham City Sirens film with Harley, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy.  I’ll believe it when it starts filming.) but both Harley and Robbie are too valuable to the DC Extended Universe to remain on the sidelines for too long.

Henry Cavill – Clark Kent/Superman

Superman Cavill

Yep!  Two Superman choices!  People are actually still complaining about this one.  “This Superman is whiny.”  “He doesn’t save people.”  “He’s hopeless.”  In spite of the facts that the DCEU Superman has never whined, saved the world twice (at great personal expense), and did so because he still believed in the people who turned against him, those complaining about these non-existent issues clearly don’t understand the difference between writing and acting.  Even assuming these things are true, blaming Cavill is laughable, especially when, from his first on-screen appearance as the character, he has exuded the poise, power, chiseled good looks, and demeanor of Superman.  Reeve was perfect as the traditional, classic version of the character.  But Cavill is indispensable as a modern-day hero surrounded by a world of ungrateful cynics – both on- and off-screen.

Ryan Reynolds – Wade Wilson/Deadpool


Reynolds is another rare case where the fans were all onboard from the outset.  Since his days on “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place”, Reynolds has been a master of the cheeky humor that Deadpool has become known for.  The writing wasn’t an exact duplicate of the Deadpool that comic fans have come to love, but it was close enough that most didn’t notice.  Reynolds went to bat for the character after an extremely ill-conceived approach went wrong in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and convinced Fox to give him and Deadpool another chance.  It took a while (a long while), but it worked out exorbitantly well for all.  Deadpool has become yet another household name from the world of comics and his profile is only going to continue to rise, and it’s all thanks to Reynolds.

Gal Gadot – Diana of Themyscira/Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman 2

Remember at the beginning of this column when I said that I could probably choose a number one pick?  This would be it.  Gal Gadot brings Wonder Woman to life in a way that makes one almost forget that she’s fictional.  Gadot reeks of honor, wisdom, love, charm, beauty, strength and everything else that makes Diana the hero that she is.  I was so moved by the character and Gadot’s presentation of her that I wrote an emotional analysis addressing why the character is so important in modern society.  With anybody else in the role, that impact would likely be significantly diminished, if not outright lost altogether.  Gadot will possibly now find herself as the face of the DC Extended Universe and one of the most recognizable stars on the planet.  To many people for many generations to come, she will be the definitive Wonder Woman.  And to think, people whined that she “wasn’t big enough”.  (As though Diana’s strength comes from her physique.)

There you have my choices for the ten best casting choices in comic book film history.  There are many more that could have (and almost) made the list, but I chose those with the greatest impact, resonance, and pop-culture footprint.  Much goes into casting choices, and some have not translated well, but for the most part, the professionals should be trusted to do what they do, while we lay back and wait with anticipation to see the results.  I personally can hardly wait to see what’s next!

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The Ten Best Comic Book Movie Castings


Wonder Woman

I just got home from a second viewing of Warner Brothers’s Wonder Woman and I felt compelled to write, again.  I tried to talk myself out of it.  “No, come on, you can take today off.  You’ve already done your next four #ThrowbackThursdays ahead of time.  You stayed up an hour later than you should have, earlier this week, to write a column on America’s increasing lack of box office influence.  And you already wrote about Wonder Woman, just two night ago.  You gave it a great review.  You’ve done your part.  You’ve done enough for the week.”

But I wouldn’t listen to . . . uh . . . me.  I couldn’t.  I couldn’t listen because I was more relaxed when watching the movie the second time around.  I wasn’t worried that something horrible was going to happen to ruin my enjoyment of the film.  I knew it was all good.  So, I got to take it in and simply enjoy.  And it was a different experience.  Yes, I already wrote about the film.  But that was with my head.  And this movie deserves more.  Diana deserves more.  Gal Gadot, Warner Brothers, and DC all deserve more.  I had to write about it with my heart.  No film criticism, no self-imposed deadline, and no aiming for a certain word count.  I had to write to get it out and then stop whenever I was done.

Wonder Woman, after seeing it for the second time, has become my third-favorite comic book movie of all-time.  It’s behind only The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy.  If you’re keeping track, that makes Wonder Woman my favorite solo comic book movie ever.  And that’s because it plays as more than just an entertaining movie, though it is very much that, as well.  But this film is different because it’s important and because we all needed it, right at this very moment.  And Diana, director Patty Jenkins, and writers Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder, and Jason Fuchs knew it.  And they had something they wanted to tell us.

Diana is the greatest single hero in film.  Not just the greatest female hero.  That discussion has been had.  It’s valid, but it’s not what I’m here to discuss.  Not just the greatest comic book hero.  And certainly not just the greatest female comic book hero.  She’s the greatest hero.  Period.

“But Batman!”  No.  I love Batman.  But Diana is a better hero.  Batman doesn’t care what he does to the villains.  He cares for the innocent, but that’s where his caring ends.  Diana genuinely, truly cares for all life.  If she has to hurt – or even kill – someone, she will.  If she absolutely has to.  But it hurts her.  She feels it.  She doesn’t have even the slightest desire to do it.  She cares enough about everyone to want to help them, but she also cares enough about herself to refuse to become them.  She sees the good in herself and in everyone else, too.  Everyone.  Like all of us should.

“But Superman!”  No.  I also love Superman.  I love Superman more than I love Batman.  Superman’s ideology is far more in line with that of a true hero.  But Superman loses faith.  He loses faith in himself.  He loses faith in his beliefs.  He even occasionally loses faith in humanity.  He always comes back around, and he always will, because he’s Superman.  But Diana doesn’t “come around”.  She doesn’t need to, because she never loses faith.  She knows her convictions are true and right.  She knows others can rise to meet them, too.  She knows right from wrong and she never allows anyone to convince her otherwise.  Diana never permits herself to be corrupted and remains steadfast, even against those with the best of intentions.  Like all of us should.

“But Spider-Man!”  No.  I truly, truly love Spider-Man.  I grew up on Spider-Man.  He, the Hulk, and the Fantastic Four will always be closer to my heart on a personal level than any other fictional characters, anywhere.  They helped me form my moral center and I will always be grateful to them and the writers and artists who told those stories to me during my formative years.  But Spider-Man gets distracted.  He lets his own personal battles and issues inform his decision-making.  He sometimes becomes reactive, rather than proactive.  As a character, that makes him interesting.  It makes him human and relatable.  But it makes Diana a greater hero.  She has personal relationships.  They mean a lot to her.  But they play second-fiddle to her real mission: to stop suffering and spread peace and love to all corners of existence.  Technically, she makes what we mere mortals would consider personal sacrifices in her ongoing efforts to meet this seemingly impossible goal.  But she’s such a hero that prioritizing her personal issues over the larger, global issues at hand would actually be the personal sacrifice from her perspective.  Diana remains focused on the greater good above all else, at all times.  Like all of us should.

“But Captain America!”  This is the closest one.  In his heart, yes, Captain America is as great and true a hero as Diana.  But he doesn’t have the ability to single-handedly effect change the way that Diana does.  He’s more physically and mentally vulnerable to attack and, despite his best efforts and great abilities, he can’t do what Diana do.  And he will sometimes place those he cares for above the mission at hand.  All other things being even, Diana is the greater hero.

“But the Punisher!”  You shut your filthy face, right now.

We – each and every one of us – are living in a frightening world, where we are completely uncertain of what the next day – or even the next hour – may bring.  More and more often, in more and more places, tyrants are somehow rising to power.  They make decisions for the good people of their respective countries.  Many corrupted citizens support them and thereby grant them even more power.  It often feels insurmountable, as if the world is slipping down into an unknown pit of blackness too quickly for us to grab it by the hand the pull it back to its feet.  And it often seems to many of us as though we are alone.

But we are not alone.  Now we have Diana.  Not in the physical sense, of course.  As amazing as it would be for her (or someone like her) to exist and be able to help us get ourselves and our multinational societies to a place of love and coexistence – to help us depose the despots who are seemingly destroying us from the inside out, a little more each day – we don’t.  We don’t have that.  And we won’t have that.  Diana doesn’t exist in the physical world.  But she exists in another way.  She exists in our minds and our hearts.  She exists in the mind and heart of Patty Jenkins.  And she exists in the mind and heart of Zack Snyder.  And Allan Heinberg.  And Jason Fuchs.  And that means that we are not alone.  They are with us.  And now she also exists in my mind and my heart.  And in the minds and hearts of people around the world who have already paid over $80 million to meet her and to see her story and to be inspired by her worldview.

I know I was.  For all the talk of Diana being an excellent role model for young girls (and she unquestionably is), she inspired the living hell out of the 39-year-old dude typing this column.  She serves as a reminder that there is more good in this world than there is bad.  The bad have a lot of power, right now.  But in order to overcome it, we need to see the good in everyone and cling tightly to the good in ourselves.  It will drain the bad of their power.  We need to remain steadfast in our convictions.  There is strength in numbers.  And we need to remain focused on helping everyone around us.  In helping others, we receive help ourselves.  And in completing that cycle, we put good back out into the world.

Warner Brothers released a series of three official teaser posters prior to the film that each featured a single word that is epitomized by Diana.  Here’s one of them.


Here’s another.


And here’s the third.  (My favorite.  I’ve actually ordered one to frame and hang in my living area/TV room.)


These are all very apt and appropriate, but there’s an important one missing.  There’s one more word that Diana truly embodies.  She embodies this word for all of us at a time when we’ve never needed an avatar for it more.  It’s what she reminds us of.  It’s what she brings us.  It’s why this movie and this character are so important.  It’s why Wonder Woman is the movie and Diana is the hero that we all so desperately need.  In experiencing this film, we are all reminded that there will forever be . . .

. . . hope.

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The Movie March Oscar Preview!


It’s about that time!  The 2017 Academy Awards are almost upon us!  It’s the biggest night of the year in the industry, when the best of the art form from the previous year is celebrated, and it takes place this Sunday night, February 26!  It’s an opportunity to acknowledge those who have mastered their art and to encourage others to raise their game.

Here’s how this is going to work.  It will be more involved than my Golden Globes Preview, which I put together rather quickly.  In this particular preview, I will choose the ten highest-profile categories and score each nominee using my own personal scoring system.  The ratings reflect my own personal opinion.  After choosing my favorite, I will also choose the nominee that I expect to win, regardless of who I’m rooting for.

The scoring system will range from zero Emilia Clarkes (the lowest possible) to ten Emilia Clarkes (the highest possible).  Even one Emilia Clarke is fantastic, because any Emilia Clarke is better than no Emilia Clarke.  Finally, an “N/A” means I didn’t get a chance to see the film.  Away we go!

The 2017 Movie March Oscar Preview!

Animated Feature Film


The Nominees:

  • Kubo and the Two Strings10-emilias

  • Moana


  • My Life as a Zucchini


  • The Red Turtle


  • Zootopia


Want to win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Analysis: Kubo was one of the absolute best movies of the year, but not enough people saw it.  That includes the voters in the Academy.  Had they seen it, they’d vote for it, but nobody is going to vote for something they haven’t seen.  With the current social climate, voters will reward the message of fair-mindedness and inclusion put forth by Zootopia.  I hope Pixar feels the sting of not being nominated and comes firing back on all cylinders, soon.

Prediction: Zootopia




Visual Effects


The Nominees:

  • Deepwater Horizon, Craig Hammack, Jason Snell, Jason Billington, and Burt Dalton –


  • Doctor Strange, Stephane Ceretti, Richard Bluff, Vincent Cirelli, and Paul Corbould –


  • The Jungle Book, Robert Legato, Adam Valdez, Andrew R. Jones and Dan Lemmon –


  • Kubo and the Two Strings, Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean, and Brad Schiff –


  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, John Knoll, Mohen Leo, Hal Hickel, and Neil Corbould –


Want to win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Analysis: The special effects team for Kubo and the Two Strings went above and beyond with their stop-motion animation to the degree that I don’t even understand how they did much of what they did.  I’ve never been so awed, baffled, and astounded by what I was looking at.  But, again, the Academy didn’t see the film.  And they have a history of ignoring the actual visual effects in this category and simply voting for the most serious, least-fun film that’s nominated.  I would love to be wrong, here, but that leads me to one final conclusion.

Prediction: Deepwater Horizon




Original Screenplay


The Nominees:

  • Manchester by the Sea, Kenneth Lonergan –

  • Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan –

  • La La Land, Damien Chazelle –

  • 20th Century Women, Mike Mills –

  • The Lobster, Efthymis Filippou and Yorgos Lanthimos –

Want to win: La La Land

Analysis: This one is actually a little tough.  It’s a race between Manchester by the Sea and La La Land.  The latter is the better-written film, but the former has gotten a lot of praise and awards.  But Manchester has also gotten some negative publicity, lately, due to Casey Affleck’s past and, fair or not, the entire production’s chances may be affected – even in categories where Affleck isn’t specifically nominated.  Even without that, though, La La Land may be an unstoppable juggernaut.

Prediction: La La Land




Adapted Screenplay


The Nominees:

  • Lion, Luke Davis –

  • Arrival, Eric Heisserer –

  • Moonlight, Barry Jenkins –

  • Hidden Figures, Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder –

  • Fences, August Wilson –

Want to win: Arrival

Analysis: For my personal pick, this is a close race between Lion and ArrivalLion was a moving and near-transformational experience whereas Arrival was a brilliant and thought-provoking mind-bender – the very epitome of thinking-person’s science-fiction.  The thought put into Arrival, complete with the trickiness of adapting that story, puts it on top of my personal list.  Hidden Figures was as paint-by-numbers as it possibly could have been and truly underserved that story.  Moonlight and Fences both offered powerful perspectives on varying relationships and the struggle of minorities to find their place in the world.  The darling of the bunch, however, is Moonlight.

Prediction: Moonlight




Actress in a Supporting Role


The Nominees:

  • Viola Davis, Fences

  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight

  • Nicole Kidman, Lion

  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures

  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Want to win: Viola Davis

Analysis: This one seems like an easy pick, on the surface.  Octavia Spencer is the wrong nominee from Hidden Figures (it should have been Taraji P. Henson).  Nicole Kidman and Naomie Harris both gave strong performances but not strong enough to stand out amongst the rest of the brilliance of the films around them.  Michelle Williams was memorable.  But all of them were outperformed by the powerful Viola Davis in Fences.  I doubt this one is even close.  Stranger things have happened, but I feel comfortable saying . . .

Prediction: Viola Davis




Actor in a Supporting Role


The Nominees:

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water

  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea

  • Dev Patel, Lion

  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Want to win: Dev Patel

Analysis:  As tough as it is for me to choose who I want to win this one, I think the choice of who will win is a little easier.  Lucas Hedges did fine, but his role essentially amounted to a lot of moping and whining.  Michael Shannon – much like Octavia Spencer in the previous category – was the wrong choice to be nominated, here.  It should have been Aaron Taylor-Johnson, instead.  Jeff Bridges was fantastic, as always, but that particular role did very little to push his abilities.  So, it comes down to Mahershala Ali and Dev Patel.  I had trouble picking a personal favorite between the two as Ali gave a subtle, commanding performance, but Patel really moved me during the conclusion of Lion.  Because of that, I personally would like to see Patel take it home, but I’m pretty sure the Academy will reward Ali for his efforts, which is fine with me.

Prediction: Mahershala Ali




Actor in a Leading Role


The Nominees:

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge

  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land

  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic

  • Denzel Washington, Fences

Want to win: Denzel Washington

Analysis: This is a tough one.  It’s certainly tougher than it would have been, a month ago.  Mortensen was fine but not challenged.  Gosling and Garfield were tremendous but their roles weren’t quite as dynamic or subtle as others.  Washington absolutely blew me away with a very powerful and complex performance in Fences.  I thought Casey Affleck did a good job in Manchester by the Sea, but I found his part to be a rather restrictive showcase consisting mostly of sadness and melancholy .  Nonetheless, he’s been the favorite of other awards shows.  However, recently some allegations involving Affleck have gained a higher profile.  Regardless of anyone’s opinion regarding whether they’re true or, if so, whether the art should be separated from the artist, I’m going to go way out on a limb and predict (especially after the results of the Screen Actors Guild awards) that enough voters will be swayed away from Affleck to give Washington the much-deserved accolade.

Prediction: Denzel Washington




Actress in a Leading Role


The Nominees:

  • Emma Stone, La La Land

  • Natalie Portman, Jackie

  • Ruth Negga, Loving

  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle – N/A

Want to win: Emma Stone

Analysis: This one is a little frustrating for me.  First of all, I failed at every turn to see Elle.  It’s the only film up for a major nomination that I could never manage to catch, and I hate that.  It sounds great and I’m anxious to eventually watch it.  Huppert might actually be a favorite in this category after winning the Golden Globe, but the fact that Elle is shockingly not nominated for Best Foreign Language Film makes me think that her chances are slim.  Secondly, Meryl Streep should absolutely not be nominated in this – or any other – category, this year.  Florence Foster Jenkins was a mediocre, mean-spirited movie and Streep’s character required very little of her.  She basically just acts silly throughout the whole thing and gets a free pass to an Oscar nomination because she’s Meryl Streep.  Meanwhile, truly deserving actresses such as Amy Adams for Arrival and Hailee Steinfeld for The Edge of Seventeen (which I just re-watched.  And, yes, it holds up.) are left sitting on the sidelines.  I would actually rate both of those performances above all four of the nominees that I’ve seen.  Regardless, we have three very solid performances, here.  Stone and Portman are neck-and-neck, but it seems to be the year of La La Land.

Prediction: Emma Stone






The Nominees:

  • Denis Villanueve, Arrival

  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land

  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Want to win: Damien Chazelle

Analysis: This category is stacked.  My personal favorites are Chazelle, for his ingenious presentation methods in La La Land – especially towards the end – and Villanueve for his sleight of hand and skillful misdirection in Arrival.  Villanueve won’t win, though, because his picture is science-fiction.  Gibson won’t win because . . . well, you know.  The other three will be a tight race, but Chazelle takes it home.

Prediction: Damien Chazelle




Best Picture


The Nominees:

  • Arrival

  • Fences

  • Hacksaw Ridge

  • Hell or High Water

  • Hidden Figures

  • La La Land

  • Lion

  • Manchester by the Sea

  • Moonlight

Want to win: Lion

Analysis: Best Picture.  The nominees in this category each year are the films that push and challenge us.  They challenge our emotions.  They challenge our minds.  They challenge our perspectives.  They challenge our worldviews.  How to choose the best of these?  Methodically, that’s how.  If a film’s director isn’t nominated for Best Directing, then the film isn’t winning Best Picture.  So, we’re down to five.  Arrival is astounding, but it’s also sci-fi.  Down to four.  Hacksaw Ridge and Manchester by the Sea are plagued by potential political controversy.  Down to two.  And one of those two is a movie about Hollywood.  Sorry, Moonlight.  In any other year, you’d take home the trophy.  But this year, it’s all about . . .

Prediction: La La Land


And that’s it!  Thank you for reading!  I hope you all enjoy the show and that all of my favorites win!   And if they don’t, then I hope my predictions win!  And if they don’t, I hope your favorites win, as long as you aren’t pulling for Meryl Streep.

And thank you to Emilia Clarke for her help, which she obviously totally knew about, you guys.  How could you even question.  How.  And, on that note, it’s once again time to say goodbye, for now.  Emilia, one more time?  Bye!


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The Movie March Oscar Preview!

2016 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2016: #5-1


This is it!  The end of the 2016 Year-in-Review!  In case you missed the rest of the countdown, here are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3!  Did your favorite make it onto my list?  If not, don’t fret.  It’s only because it wasn’t good enough!  (Or maybe I just missed it?)  You know which films were good enough?  These!  The Top Five of . . .

The Top 25 Films of 2016

5. Arrival


It’s hard to single out one single strength when it comes to Arrival.  A science-fiction film aimed at the sophisticated, deep-thinking adult, the film approaches the idea of extra-terrestrial life not as an excuse to justify war and guns, but as an opportunity to connect with other sentient beings, learn from each other, and grow.  Of course, humans are humans, so the film accurately represents the way society would react, as a whole.  But the message to the film is clear and it’s for you to discover (unless you’re fortunate enough to have seen the film, already, in which case you’ve discovered it).  On top of all of that, the film poses the most thought-provoking question I’ve encountered in a film in quite some time.  Anytime a movie gets me to think about myself on a level I had never thought, before, it’s a win.  Arrival was just nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and it’s much-deserved.  It’s also back in theaters, so go check this one out if you love intelligent film.  Think of it as 2016’s Ex Machina.  (Original post.)

4. The Edge of Seventeen


The Edge of Seventeen was marketed as a coming-of-age story and, on the surface, that’s exactly what it is.  But there’s so much more to it than that.  Writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig delivers an immensely quick and witty script with clever dialogue and believable characters.  Everyone felt like people I know or have known throughout my life.  This adds an element of empathy for each one of them that most movies unfortunately lack.  But even a fantastic script is not sufficient on its own.  As great as the entire cast is (including Woody Harrelson, who owns the Mr. Bruner role), it’s Hailee Steinfeld who elevates the film above others of its ilk.  She doesn’t simply act; she becomes.  Her feeling, her mannerisms, her facial expressions, her delivery . . . it’s all natural, perfect, memorable, and impactful.  She’s one of the single best talents in Hollywood, today, and The Edge of Seventeen was precisely the showcase that she needed.  (Original post.)

3. Kubo and the Two Strings


I really thought that Kubo and the Two Strings was going to finish the year as my top film.  And it came so close.  I still wouldn’t argue with anyone who placed this film on the top of their list.  And I’d dismiss any list that didn’t have this film somewhere near the top.  Because this film is just that good.  It’s that good on both the creative and technical (which, in essence, is just a different form of creativity) levels.  Creatively, Kubo presents a story about love, loss, growth, friends, and family that the world simply needs to listen to, right now.  And it does so with intelligence, humor, atmosphere, action, and originality.  Technically, Laika Studios takes stop-motion animation to a previously-unimaginable level.  It’s so amazing that it’s nominated for Best Special Effects at the Academy Awards.  And you know what?  It deserves to win.  Truthfully, it deserves so much more than that.  It deserves a Best Picture nomination (rather than just the Best Animated Feature nomination that it did attain).  It deserves hundreds of millions of dollars at the worldwide box office (it certainly deserves more than The Secret Life of Pets).  It deserves to be a go-to classic for families and film-lovers, anywhere.  It’s too late for a couple of those things.  But for that last one, there’s still a chance.  You owe it to yourself to give the gift of Kubo and the Two Strings.  (Original post.)

2. La La Land


La La Land is one of those films that I expected to be good, but was even better than I could have imagined.  Yes, it’s great in all of the typical ways that a great movie is great: performances, story, characters, dialogue, musical numbers (in this case), pacing, entertainment value, and so on.  But where this film really surprised me was in its presentation.  Damien Chazelle masters the art of the most basic foundation of storytelling through film: show, don’t tell.  If there’s a unique and inventive way to get an idea across through sight or sound without relying on expositional dialogue, Chazelle will find it, every time.  And then, he’ll find a better way and that is the one he’ll go with.  Following this film and his almost-equally-incredible Whiplash (featuring J.K. Simmons in one of my favorite performances in the history of film), Chazelle has officially arrived.  And seeing the commercial success of La La Land ($182 million worldwide and counting on a $30 million budget), we can safely assume he’ll have carte blanche, moving forward, which is something for film lovers, everywhere, to be supremely excited about.  (Original post.)

And finally . . .

1. Lion


I don’t know what more I can say beyond the fact that Lion moved me more than any other film I’ve seen in my entire life.  Seriously.  I don’t even want to watch it with another person because it’s going to make me cry.  Probably a lot.  And that’s the point of art: to move.  This film reminded me of everything that’s truly important in life.  And it reminded me of why.  It made me feel love for the people who are important to me.  It made me feel love for the people that I’ve lost.  It made me feel love for the good people of the world that I’ve never even met.  And it reminded me that other people feel that love, too, because they made this movie.  And that gave me hope for our world, even as others in that world try to take that hope away from all of us on a daily basis.  There is more love than there is hate.  And love can accomplish amazing things.  Love can accomplish the impossible.  But sometimes, love needs a vessel.  In 2016, love’s theatrical vessel was Lion.  With six Academy Award and four Golden Globe nominations – including Best Picture at both – it’s clear that I’m not the only one who felt this film.  Lion is without question, my top movie of the year.  But it’s more than just a movie.  It’s a source of hope, support, and inspiration.  (Original post.)

And – other than a likely Oscar preview column – that’s a wrap for 2016!  If you haven’t seen any of these films, get right on that.  And keep my comments in mind as you watch them.  Look for the good.  Let the story tell itself, don’t make demands of the story.  These aren’t our stories to tell; they’re our stories to listen to.  Enjoy.  See you, soon.

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2016 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2016: #5-1

2016 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2016: #10-6


Welcome to Part 3 of The Top 25 Films of 2016!  We’re getting down to the nitty-gritty, with only one more Year-in-Review column remaining after today!  In case you missed them, here are part one and part two!  Has your favorite shown up, yet?  If not, maybe it will, today, as we carry on with . . .

The Top 25 Films of 2016

10. 10 Cloverfield Lane


We’re really getting into the best of the best, now, and 10 Cloverfield Lane is certainly in that conversation.  The fact that this film came out in March and stayed in the Top Ten all year is remarkable.  So, why is it here?  Well, why wouldn’t it be?  It’s suspenseful.  It’s sharp.  It’s fast-paced.  It’s unpredictable.  It builds logically.  The dialogue is gripping, with subtle undertones.  The characters are mysterious, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead playing the empathetic protagonist to perfection.  And it never gets too complicated.  Simple.  Immeasurably effective.  (Original post.)

9. Doctor Strange


Doctor Strange wasn’t the 2016 Marvel Cinematic Universe film that I expected to be this high on my year-end list.  Yet, here it sits.  It was the perfect concoction of humor, action, ingenuity, urgency, visuals, performances, storyline advancement, and those ever-important watercooler moments.  The movie was a reminder of why Marvel’s vast library of characters resonates so strongly with all audiences and also that they know how to brilliantly straddle the line between appealing to hardcore fans and to the uninitiated.  Doctor Strange surpassed all expectations and has made yet another Marvel character into a household name.  (Original post.)

8. The Conjuring 2


Have I complimented The Conjuring 2 too much?  Don’t be silly.  When it comes to the greatest horror sequel of all time, one can’t possibly compliment enough.  I’m going to repeat myself, here, but this film isn’t only a great horror film, but a great film, period.  The characters and story take precedence over all else and the horror elements work around them.  And they are scary in part because we love the characters so much.  We feel for them.  They’re presented as real, genuine, complex people just like the rest of us.  Those horror elements are also masterfully staged, being more impactful than any I can remember since . . . well . . . The Conjuring.  This franchise isn’t the “gold” standard in horror, but the platinum standard.  Here’s to hoping that the quality remains this high for future installments.  (Original post.)

7. The Shallows


There was no film in 2016 that was more intense, thrilling, or beautiful than The Shallows.  Unique by its very nature, this is a mass-appealing horror-thriller filmed with art school sensibilities.  Some of the shots are seemingly simple and elegant, while also being hair-raising and blood-pumping.  Director Jaume Collet-Serra knows exactly how to get the desired reactions from his audience and Blake Lively shoulders most of the load in the process.  Anyone who can’t admit that she’s an outstanding actress after seeing this movie is just deluding themselves.  I hope to see much more of both Lively and Collet-Serra in the months and years to come.  (Original post.)

6. Nocturnal Animals


Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals is like a dance between filmmaker and viewer where the filmmaker knows the steps and the viewer is blindfolded but follows along while hoping for the best, but gets to watch a video of the whole thing, the next day.  That’s a compliment, trust me.  Ford, Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Isla Fisher grab the audience by the hand . . ..  No, they don’t.  That’s not accurate.  They grab the audience by the hair and drag them through a deeply moving, impactful, passionate story and then leave them to their own devices to determine exactly what it was all supposed to mean.  People who don’t like (or want) to think won’t appreciate that.  For the rest of us, it’s a thrill that will possibly haunt us forever.  (Original post.)

Okay, we’re almost there!  Only one column remains in the Movie March’s 2016 Year-in-Review!  What’s at the top of the heap?  What’s number one?  Follow us on Facebook and don’t miss it!

2016 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2016: #10-6