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

2016 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2016: #15-11


Okay, we’re picking up where we left off.  If you missed it, here’s Part 1 with numbers 25 through 16!  Moving on with . . .

The Top 25 Films of 2016

15. 20th Century Women


If not for its well-deserved Golden Globe nominations, I might have missed out on 20th Century Women.  What a shame that would have been.  This film, by writer/director Mike Mills, works on multiple levels and excels on all of them.  A little bit of a comedy and a little bit of a drama, the film comes at the audience by daring them to look at life from the perspectives of the people around them, rather than just their own.  There’s not an adult on the planet that wouldn’t pick up a little bit of wisdom from this film, and – despite being a quiet and lowkey experience – it’s also entertaining along the way.  (Original post.)

14. Manchester by the Sea


Manchester by the Sea is a tough but rewarding experience.  It has a reputation for being unrelentingly depressing, but if that had been the case, it would have come in lower on my list.  The film is ultimately about the importance of family.  Yes, sad things happen.  But the characters also learn and grow and change in inspiring ways.  At its heart, the themes of hope and love reverberate throughout the film.  Throw some impressive performances and directing into the mix and Manchester by the Sea is a film that should resonate with anyone who has someone in their life that matters to them.  (Original post.)

13. Hell or High Water


In what can most efficiently be described as a modern western, Hell or High Water tells the story of a pair of charismatic bank-robbing brothers who are trying to take the shortcut to a better life while being pursued by a pair of equally-charismatic law officers who are determined to catch them and hold them responsible for their crimes.  The standout in this film is Jeff Bridges who, as Officer Marcus Hamilton, steals the show with his sly jabs at his partner and his raw skills in enforcing the law.  The fact that a man can say such inappropriate things to a friend and still come off as undeniably likable is a testament to Bridges.  The rest of the film is a quick-witted, fast-moving caper that’s always one step ahead of the audience.  (Original post.)

12. Moana


“Break the conventions and act like it’s no big thing.”  That must have been Disney’s mantra when crafting the masterpiece that is Moana.  For the first time that I can recall offhand, Disney released an animated feature film with a female lead that didn’t even hint at or mention the possibility of a romantic interest.  Pixar released Brave in 2012 which was similar in that regard.  But, in that film, while Merida had no desire for a relationship, the very idea of a relationship was a large part of the story and directly led to the film’s primary conflict.  In Moana, nobody even has love on the mind and Moana, herself, is allowed to exist as an independent character who just happens to also be a woman.  And Disney never feels the need to call attention to it, which would just dilute the impact.  It’s refreshing.  Amidst all this is peerless animation, powerful music (not Frozen-powerful, but good, regardless), and excellent voicework.  The story is fast and fun, while also sending a great message to kids and adults alike.  (Original post.)

11. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Ohhhhhh, so close to making my Top Ten of 2016!  Sorry, Star Wars, this year it’s the bridesmaid instead of the bride (or the groomsman instead of the groom.  It works both ways, you know.).  That’s not in any way a slam on the film, though.  Rogue One delivered in all of the expected ways and then in plenty of unexpected ways, too.  People whining about the digital versions of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin and Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia notwithstanding (people complain about anything that’s new or different.  They’ll get over themselves.), the film thrilled audiences with old-school Star Wars action that harkened back to the original trilogy.  And then it surprised audiences with its explanation as to why these characters were nowhere to be found in those classic films.  There were plenty of potential reasons for that, and the filmmakers picked a difficult one to pull off in a barn-burning blockbuster.  I salute them for not going easy on themselves.  What wasn’t surprising was Felicity Jones delivering an outstanding, layered performance as Jyn Erso.  All of this adds up to a superior film that left audiences wanting more.  (Original post.)

And you’ll get more in Part 3 of my Top 25 Films of 2016!  Until then, make sure you don’t miss it and follow us on Facebook!

2016 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2016: #15-11

2016 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2016: #25-16


Here we go.  I’ve been trying to see as many straggling 2016 films that I can before compiling this list.  Truth be told, there are still a few that I need to see, but it doesn’t look like I have any way of seeing them for at least two weeks, and I don’t want to put this list off, any longer.  I honestly believe that any of those three (A Monster Calls, Elle, and Loving) have a shot at cracking this list, which bothers me.  But, once I see them, I’ll give them their proper due, if they deserve it.  All together, counting the films that I watched at home, I saw 114 2016 films.

So, the question is this: What determines if a film is one of 2016’s “top” films for this list?  What is a “top” film?  A film that I liked on a subjective level?  A film more objectively determined to be of high-quality, regardless of how much I personally did or didn’t enjoy it?  Well . . . it’s both.  The higher the combination of the two, the higher it places on this list.  If these were my 25 “favorite” films, it would be a different list.  If these were what I saw as 2016’s 25 “best” films, it would also be a different list.  These are the films that I’m most likely to both recommend and revisit.  So, here are the 25 films from 2016 that I felt had the strongest mix of quality and entertainment value.  And it’s my list, so just deal.

Regardless, nothing is on here without good reason, and I’ll give brief explanations for each inclusion and, sometimes, for its position.  So, let’s get started!  Here – in my opinion – are . . .

The Top 25 Films of 2016

25. Zootopia


I loved this movie.  The fact that it ranks so “low” on this list just speaks to the strength of the other films.  It lacked some of the wit and cleverness that I expect from Disney, which is why it isn’t higher.  But the themes and messages are bold for an animated feature coming out of Buena Vista Entertainment, the characters are memorable and lovable (looking at you, Flash!), and the animation is brilliant.  Zootopia is an amazing film.  (Original post.)

24. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


Yep.  I make no apologies.  In a Best-Of list, this one doesn’t make it.  But throw in the entertainment value, and it’s enough for this particular list.  I don’t care what anybody else thinks, the last 45-60 minutes of this film is everything I always dreamed of seeing in comic book movies when I was a kid.  There were characterization problems.  There were logic issues.  But there was also the Trinity vs Doomsday in the battle to end all battles.  And it was spectacular.  And there was Wonder Woman.  She couldn’t have been more amazing.  You don’t have to love the film.  But you can’t say with any degree of credibility that it didn’t have its strong points, either.  (Original post.)

23. Moonlight


I can hear the whining, now.  “Moonlight is only one spot above Batman v Superman?!  Wah wah wah!”  If that’s what you’re thinking or planning to type, just stop.  You’ll just expose the fact that you didn’t read the introduction and don’t understand what the list is.  In a Best-of list, Moonlight would be significantly higher than number 23.  But, combining quality with entertainment value, it drops.  There is little-to-no entertainment value in this film.  That isn’t a criticism; it’s simply an observation.  Moonlight isn’t about entertainment and it’s not trying to entertain.  From A24 Studios, Moonlight is a vessel to communicate a story and a message.  It does so beautifully.  Its immense quality is enough to get it on this list even without the entertainment aspect, and that should be enough to count as a wholehearted endorsement of this film.  (Original post.)

22. The Witch


“Art-house horror” is the phrase that was bandied about when trying to succinctly sum up The Witch.  Combining horrific ideas and visuals, sociopolitical commentary, an immersive atmosphere, and performances that transport the viewer to another time (with the help of some amazing set and costume designers), the film at once delivers a thought-provoking narrative for the more-discerning audiences and an unnerving horror film for those seeking a more traditional experience without thinking too much about the subtext (as long as they can get past the fact that it’s a period piece).  A24 Studios is one of the three best, most consistent production studios in the industry and The Witch is another fine example of their work.  (Original post.)

21. Shin Gojira


Shin Gojira was my single favorite movie-going experience in all of 2016.  It was a sold-out screening, packed full of immensely enthusiastic Gojira lovers who understand the property.  The film maintains the franchise’s tradition of doubling as a political metaphor as it presents itself as an action film on the surface.  After hilariously mocking the inefficiency of governmental operations in a given scene, Shin Gojira will often then shift tones and slam the viewer with an impressively epic battle scene.  And what about the creature’s first form in the film?  There were audible gasps from the audience (and I might have been one of them).  It was bizarre and par for the course for a film that surprised at every turn.  (Original post.)

20. Captain America: Civil War


Captain America: Civil War did everything right.  The characters were spot on.  The action was on a grand scale.  It delivered Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It featured a level of complexity rarely seen in films of this genre.  The only reason it isn’t higher is because I felt it lacked surprise “moments”, so to speak.  Not storyline twists.  We got those.  I mean the little watercooler moments that other MCU films such as The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier provided (though some of Ant-Man’s lines came pretty close).  But that’s minor.  The film delivered in all of the most important ways.  (Original post.)

19. Café Society


I have said many, many times, over the course of my life, that Woody Allen’s films are better when he sticks to writing and directing and leaves the acting to the professionals.  Café Society is yet another fine example of that.  Allen is such a talented director that he actually gets a charismatic performance out of Kristen Stewart.  The rest of his casting is perfect, as well, with Jesse Eisenberg and Blake Lively, in particular, bringing their A-games.  A whimsical look at old Hollywood, Café Society is all at once charming, heartbreaking, enlightening, and entertaining.  (Original post.)

18. Hunt for the Wilderpeople


If I had decided to do a “2016’s Top Five Films That Were Most Unfairly Overlooked by Audiences and Critics, Alike” list (and maybe I should have), Hunt for the Wilderpeople would have absolutely been number one.  This movie has everything that everyone says they look for in movies.  And I mean everyone.  General audiences would love it, if they would just watch it.  Critics did love it, but it’s gone entirely overlooked during awards season, anyway.  It shouldn’t be.  It should be getting Best Picture nominations at every awards show.  Every single one.  But, we’ll have to settle for allowing it to reign in our hearts.  Which it forever will.  (Original post.)

17. The Nice Guys


The Nice Guys was probably the movie that surprised me the most in 2016.  I saw it because of the reviews, but expected to dislike it, anyway.  I haven’t often been impressed by director Shane Black, I’m not crazy about the seventies decade, and the trailers didn’t showcase the best material from the film.  Thankfully, I trust the professionals who know what they’re talking about, and the critics got me into the theater.  I had a blast watching Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe stumble their way through their investigation and will happily revisit this film throughout the years.  (Original post.)

16. Swiss Army Man


I’m starting to repeat myself, here, but coming from – yet again – A24 Studios, Swiss Army Man is the most inventive, outside-the-box movie of 2016.  There’s never been anything like it and there will never be anything like it, again.  If you want to be taken off guard, constantly surprised, consistently laughing, and endlessly entertained, turn this one on, get comfortable, and let Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano blow you away.  I promise you that you’ll never forget it.  (Original post.)

I’ll be back with the next installment in the next day or two!  In the meantime, make sure you don’t miss it and follow us on Facebook!

2016 Year in Review – The Top 25 Films of 2016: #25-16

2016 Year In Review – The Top 5 Funniest Movies


Humor is a funny thing.  No two people have the exact same sense of humor.  So, a list like this is the most subjective of all types of lists.  My personal sense of humor is somewhat refined but, more than anything, I want something that I don’t see coming and something clever.  Wit makes me laugh.  Wit delivered well is even better.  Frankly, I don’t laugh much at the movies.  Most movies marketed as pure comedies fail to truly make me laugh, even if they do amuse me on some level.  As a result, there’s not a single movie on this list that was marketed as a pure comedy.  All of the films here were well-written and well-executed in all arenas.  And when they tried to be funny, they succeeded through wit, charm, and delivery, whereas most traditional comedies relied on slapstick and LCD humor.  So, behold a more-discerning film fan’s . . .

Five Funniest Films of 2016

5. Swiss Army Man


In Swiss Army Man, Daniel Radcliffe plays a corpse by the name of Manny who has been befriended by the lonely and dejected Hank (played by Paul Dano).  This is Radcliffe’s best performance, yet, and the film as a whole is quite a charmer.  As Hank teaches Manny about life, Manny reacts with childlike innocence and good-natured optimism, playing in direct contrast to Hank’s hopeless outlook on life.  Manny is literally dead but loves life.  Hank is literally alive but wants to die.  The humorous exchanges between the two are a riot and the film only loses a few points because some of it is toilet humor.  Most is not, however.  Swiss Army Man is an ingenious explosion of fun, mixed in with some touching and meaningful pathos.

4. Hunt for the Wilderpeople


Lost in the woods and searching for rescue, Hec and Ricky (Sam Neill and Julian Dennison) make the perfect modern-day odd couple in this heartwarming dramedy from writer-director Taika Waititi.  The dichotomy formed by Hec and Ricky’s wildly opposing personalities is pure gold and creates ample opportunity for plenty of involuntary laughter.  The only reason it’s not higher on the list is because the dramatic aspects of the film (which are of equally-high quality) often take precedent, lowering the quantity of humor in the film, but never the quality.  The ultimate sign that it’s a genuinely funny film?  It even made my dad laugh.  Movies never make my dad laugh.

3. The Nice Guys


I didn’t expect to like The Nice Guys.  The only reason I saw it was because it was getting outstanding reviews.  Even then, I was skeptical.  But, I bought my ticket, and sat down in a nice, comfortable luxury theater . . . and laughed.  I laughed a lot.  As private eyes investigating the apparent homicide of a porn star in the seventies, Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make the perfect pair for the perfect buddy film.  Crowe is the straight guy and Gosling is the funny man who turns in one of the most entertaining performances of the year.  I’m so glad I saw this one; being open-minded pays off, more often than not.

2. La La Land


I was prepared for a great movie when I sat down in the theater to watch Damien Chazelle’s La La Land.  But I was not prepared for the quick wit and sharp humor that comes so fast and so often throughout the length of the film.  As in The Nice Guys, Gosling delivers the laughs with a casual ease, solidifying himself in my mind as one of the best comedic actors in the business, today – even if that’s not particularly what he’s known for.  And Emma Stone is right there with him, dusting off her own comedic skills, previously seen in films such as Easy A and Zombieland.  There’s plenty of heartfelt drama in there, too, but along the way, Stone and Gosling know how to tickle the funny bone and audiences are responding.

1. The Edge of Seventeen


The fact that American audiences largely overlooked The Edge of Seventeen is all the evidence I need that there’s something wrong with the system.  “What system?” you ask?  The system.  The marketing system or the audience system or some other system.  I don’t know!  What I do know is that there was nothing wrong with The Edge of Seventeen.  And, of all the things it did right, comedy was perhaps what it did most right of all.  Hailee Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson both delivered solid, genuine laughs and played off of each other perfectly.  As with all of the other films on this list, this movie was a mixture of comedy and drama, but I think it nailed the comedy component just a little more consistently and a little more often than the rest.  We need more funny films like The Edge of Seventeen.

More Year-in-Review columns are on the way!  Don’t miss them!  Follow us on Facebook!

2016 Year In Review – The Top 5 Funniest Movies

2016 Year in Review – The Top 5 Faces of the Future


Every year, a whole host of actors find themselves with the opportunity to make a splash and get noticed in the movies.  Whether or not it takes depends upon a number of factors, but it primarily boils down to one thing: the talent.  A performer being on this list doesn’t necessarily mean that 2016 marked their first foray into film; it means that they took advantage of their 2016 opportunity or opportunities to such a degree that the year will likely mark the beginning of their ascent towards the upper echelon of the business.  (For reference, think Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.)  The only thing that each of the following people will need is the right role that combines mass exposure with memorability and they’re set.  2016 is the year where they called attention to themselves and, as a result, started the path towards getting that role.  Remember these names, folks.  It might not be this year.  It might not be next year.  But you’re going to be their fans sooner than you think.  Because they are . . .

The Top 5 2016 Faces of The Future

5. Hailee Steinfeld (The Edge of Seventeen)


There are two reasons that Hailee Steinfeld isn’t higher on this list.  The first is that she’s also currently diving into a popular music career, so that could potentially slow her progress in the film industry.  The second is that it’s been six years since she was nominated for a whole host of awards – including an Oscar – for her role in the Coen Brothers’ True Grit.  It seems like her profile would have skyrocketed at that point.  But she was very young, then, and hadn’t yet gotten the chance to demonstrate consistency or versatility.  With 2016’s tremendous The Edge of Seventeen, she did both.  She provided one of the funniest performances of the year and demonstrated a charisma that will translate into any genre, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her efforts.  Audiences mostly overlooked the film, but the industry did not (and neither did I; she’s my personal favorite on this list).  Her time is coming.

4. Lily Collins (Rules Don’t Apply)


Lily Collins made her feature film debut in 2009’s audience-pleasing The Blind Side.  But it’s 2016’s Rules Don’t Apply that will serve as her true launching pad.  The film, itself, received mixed reviews (including one from me), but Ms. Collins, herself, did not.  She was easily the highlight of the film, earning herself a Golden Globe nomination and the right to add “Cast by Warren Beatty” onto her résumé.  Once the film’s focus shifted from her character of Marla to Beatty’s Howard Hughes, all the magic was gone and the film collapsed.  She was the silver lining and it’s now just a matter of time before she gets the magic role that puts her name on the tongues of general audiences.

3. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight, Hidden Figures, Free State of Jones, Kicks)


If you aren’t sure why he’s a Face of the Future, take a look at that 2016 résumé, up there beside his name.  And that’s not even the entirety of his 2016 work.  He first caught my attention in Marvel’s “Luke Cage” on Netflix.  He was the standout amongst a litany of outstanding performers in that show.  And then he did it again in Moonlight, this time securing a Golden Globes nomination.  He didn’t have much to do in Hidden Figures and I didn’t catch Free State of Jones or Kicks but I feel supremely confident in saying that Ali isn’t going away anytime soon.

2. Alden Ehrenreich (Hail, Caesar!, Rules Don’t Apply)


Okay, so this one is kind of a cheat.  Why?  Because Alden Ehrenreich has already landed that One Big Role.  Ehrenreich will be playing a younger version of the iconic Han Solo in the upcoming Han Solo prequel film that’s coming in 2018.  But, this choice is also still notNOT! – a cheat because it was his ability to seize the year of 2016 that nabbed him that role.  He shared the spotlight in Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply with the aforementioned Lily Collins but he stole the show in the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! from earlier in the year.  His natural charisma radiated in both roles and he made the most of his opportunities in 2016.  Look out, world, here he comes!

1. Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Morgan, Barry, Split)


2016 was the year of Anya-Taylor Joy.  General audiences probably didn’t start to notice her until this weekend with the debut of Split (which I included on the list beside her name because it screened at film festivals towards the end of 2016).  The other three films in which she was featured didn’t exactly break out (which is not necessarily an indicator of their quality).  But it doesn’t matter.  Take this in: these four films were her first four films.  And she had a leading role in all four – including the titular role in Morgan.  That’s remarkable and is a sure sign that people in the know have noticed her.  I’ve seen three of her four films and she is a powerful performer who understands the subtleties of the craft.  As of now, she has two smaller films on deck for 2017, so it’s impossible to know what film will eventually catapult her into true superstardom, but it seems inevitable.  Learn the name.  Avoid the bandwagon.

More 2016 Year-in-Review columns are on the way, including the 25 Best Films of the Year!  Don’t miss them!  Follow us on Facebook!

2016 Year in Review – The Top 5 Faces of the Future

2016 Year In Review – The Five Worst Films


Okay, I don’t like doing this.  I don’t like negativity.  But you know what I do like?  Clicks.  And you know what you like?  Negativity.  But I’m going to also include ways that the films could have been better, so it’s not complaining just to complain.  Any movie has the potential to be good.  There are no poor ideas; only poor execution.  So, if I’m going to say bad things, I’m not just going to trash something that people worked hard on.

Also, I didn’t see God’s Not Dead 2, because I don’t hate myself.  I feel confident it would be on this list, if I had.

So, having established all of that, here are my picks for . . .

The Five Worst Films of 2016


5. X-Men: Apocalypse


This one hurts.  It hurts bad.  I hate – HATE – that this film is included on this list.  I wanted to love it.  I (mostly) love the other films in the series.  The first two (and First Class), especially, have so much heart and I’ll always look bad on them fondly.  But I can’t believe that Bryan Singer, the man who directed those, also directed this.  There are a few thins about it that I liked (it isn’t number one on the list, after all), but there was so much that missed the mark (Xavier casually committing mental rape on the woman he loves by erasing her memory) or under-delivered (everything about Apocalypse) or misplaced the focus (prioritizing Magneto over Apocalypse) or showed a deference to marketing over storytelling (betraying Mystique’s character in order to keep Jennifer Lawrence white and marketable).

To fix it: Go back to what worked.  Develop all of the characters, but don’t be afraid to be crazy.  Marvel Studios shows it works on a regular basis and there’s no need to keep the material grounded, anymore, if it isn’t natural for the material.  The audience is open-minded to it, now.  So, go all-out, not halfway.  Stay consistent with characterization.  And make the title character more of a focus than the villain who never goes away.  (Original post.)

4. The Secret Life of Pets


Illumination is still working to impress me with their animated features.  The Despicable Me series hasn’t done it.  And The Secret Life of Pets just made things worse.  The marketing focused on one single sequence that was unique and witty and funny, and showed nothing else from the film.  Because nothing else in the film was unique or witty or funny.  The film was, note-for-note, a clone of Toy Story.  Every major story beat was lifted from that groundbreaking classic.  It was downright appalling and insulting.  It was as if Illumination knew it couldn’t creatively beat Pixar, so they decided to join them.  By copying one of their greatest films and one of the most important animated films in history.  Pixar did this movie first and they did it better.

To fix it: Umm, write an original story.  Sing was a step in the right direction.  (Original post.)

3. The Other Side of the Door


This is going to be pretty quick and simple.  Horror movies only work if the protagonist is empathetic.  If they’re the cause of the conflict by accident, it’s one thing.  If they know what’s going to happen, and they do it anyway and bring hell upon everyone they love, all out of selfishness . . . then nobody is going to care about what happens in the movie.  Like this movie.  If you don’t understand horror, don’t make a horror movie.

To fix it: Make the protagonist the victim, not the perpetrator.  (Original post.)

2. Criminal


Ugh, this movie.  Inept law enforcement, a sleepy score, and uneventful, plodding script . . . why di the cast sign onto this?  The only redeeming qualities for this movie are Kevin Costner and Gal Gadot’s performances.  That’s it.  And I feel bad for the both of them (and Gary Oldman, but even he fails to impress, here) that this will forever mar their résumés.

To fix it: When you write, put yourself in the minds of your characters.  If you aren’t smart enough to think like a seasoned police officer, you shouldn’t be writing seasoned police officers.  Maybe God’s Not Dead 3 would be more up your alley. (Original post.)

1. The Neon Demon


I blame one person for the travesty that was The Neon Demon: director and writer Nicolas Winding Refn.  This drivel is so pretentious, he even prioritizes his own name above the film’s title.  This is like when that guy we all know who thinks he’s really smart but isn’t makes a joke that has no logic behind it, and then he pretends it makes sense and everyone else just doesn’t get it.  There is no logic or substance to this film.  It’s not the cast’s fault.  It’s not the crew’s fault.  It’s Refn’s fault.  And he’s said he wants to direct a Batgirl movie.  No.  Stay away from Batgirl and all comic properties.  They aren’t about you.

To fix it: Write a cohesive narrative that’s abut communicating a story and message to the audience, not about making yourself as a filmmaker feel smarter than you actually are.  (Original post.)

That’s it!  The new school year has started and I’m teaching a brand new film class, so prepping for it has made it hard for me to write these columns, for the moment.  But don’t go anywhere, because I’m sure not!  In the meantime, follow us on Facebook!

2016 Year In Review – The Five Worst Films