Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Top 10 Movies of 2016

It's so hard to make this list every year. I've seen so many great movies... How do I narrow it down to just 10? Well, after a lot of thinking I've finally done it. I know some of you might not agree with the movies that are on my list or the order in which I've placed them. That's fine. We're all entitled to our own opinions. Anyway, here it is. As always, I'll start at number 10 and work my way up. 

10. La La Land
•A late edition to the list. I'm so glad I decided to wait until after I saw this sweet and charming movie. I'm not going to go into details here because I just posted the review last night but go out and support this movie people. It's a wonderful throwback to the classic Hollywood musicals. 

9. Captain America: Civil War
•This is everything you could possibly want in a superhero movie. There's so many characters and yet they take the time to develop each one. Also, the action/fight scenes are so well choreographed and amazing you'lI have a massive nerdgasm in your seat. I had a huge smile on my face the whole time I was watching this. 

8. Moonlight
•A gripping coming of age story about a young African American man who struggles to find his place in the world. Told in three parts- you see him as a child, teen, and adult. While I felt the third act was a little weak (but by no means bad) in terms of the acting and writing, it was definitely worth seeing. 

7. Zootopia
•Disney once again hits it out of the park with a movie that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults. The story centers on Judy Hopps, who becomes the first bunny cop in the city of Zootopia (where animals both predator and prey live peacefully together) As she struggles to prove herself, she teams up with conman fox Nick Wilde to solve a case where several predator animals are reverting back to their savage ways. Such a heartfelt story (that I'll admit had me tearing up at times) with themes that are so relevant to today's world. I could watch this one over and over again and never get tired of it. 

6. Lion
•If you don't cry during this one there's something seriously wrong with you. Based on the incredible true story of Saroo Brierly (played as a child by Sunny Pawar and as an adult by Dev Patel), who at 5 years old boards a train in Calcutta while looking for his brother and wakes up nearly a thousand miles from home. He's eventually adopted by an Australian couple. 25 years later, with the help of Google Maps, he sets off to find his birth family. Dev Patel is really good in this, but the real star here is Sunny Pawar. He shows such incredible acting abilities for someone so young. You spend a good chunk of the movie with him and watching this part of the story is so heartbreaking. Makes you really appreciate everything you have. 

5. The Eagle Huntress
•Had a chance to see this movie at the film festival this year. A beautiful true story about a 13 year old girl from Mongolia named Aishlopan, who becomes the very first female eagle hunter in her country. With the help of her very loving and supportive family, she sets off on her journey. I was sucked into this story right from the beginning with its strong message and stunning cinematography. Gave me chills and earned a standing ovation from the whole audience when it was over. This is one I really think everyone should see, especially young girls. 

4. Loving
•One of the most beautiful love stories I've seen in years. Joel Edgerton & Ruth Negga play Richard & Mildred Loving, an interracial couple who were arrested for getting married (which was illegal at that time) in Virginia. Their case went to the Supreme Court and paved the way for many people today. I really admire director Jeff Nichols for choosing to focus this movie on the love story instead of the court case (which most directors probably would've done). It's pretty much a given now that Joel Edgerton & Ruth Negga are going to get Oscar nominations. And it's well deserved. 

3. Manchester by the Sea 
•This movie was such an emotional punch in the gut. Not that that's a bad thing. Far from it. Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, who returns to his hometown near Boston after his brother dies and reluctantly becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew Patrick. Being back in town also forces him to deal with another heartbreaking tragedy that was the reason he left town in the first place. While some might be bothered by the slow pace of the film, I think it really works here. They might as well just give Casey Affleck the Best Actor Oscar now. 

2. I, Daniel Blake 
•This is a movie that I think most people can find something to relate to. As someone who has dealt with being unemployed in the past, it really hit home with me. Features a very strong cast, including Dave Johns. He plays Daniel, a man in his late 50s who is recovering from a major heart attack which has left him unable to work. He's forced to navigate through the U.K. version of the unemployment system and along the way he meets a young single Mom and her two kids. I'm so proud of director Ken Loach for making such a strong statement here with this very raw and honest movie. Hopefully more people will watch this and maybe bring about change to these very flawed systems. 

I spent a long time going trying to figure out where I was going to place these next two movies. In the end, I just couldn't put either of them at anything but number one. I absolutely love both of these movies for different reasons. They made such a strong impression. So yes, it's a tie this year. 

1. Hacksaw Ridge
•Probably the best war movie I've seen since Saving Private Ryan. Say what you what about Mel Gibson, but he can make a damn good movie. He doesn't sugar coat war at all- you see every horrifying moment in graphic detail. And not only that, but he shows you the effects it can take on someone mentally, even years later. Featuring a strong cast including Andrew Garfield, who gives the performance of his career. Not for the weak stomached but something I feel everyone should watch at least once. 

1.  Hell or High Water 
•This brilliant western, crime/family drama kept me on the edge of my seat and so engrossed in it that I lost all track of time. The movie stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as two brothers who rob a series of banks in order to save their family ranch. Hot on their trails is Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), who is nearing retirement, and his partner Alberto (Gil Birmingham). I think one of the things I love most about this is you're not only routing for these two brothers, but you're also routing for the police as well. There's not a bad performance as well. I just wish this was getting more recognition, especially for the acting and breathtaking cinematography. I can't recommend this movie enough. I proudly own it on blu ray and will watch it over and over again. 

Honorable Mentions:
The following movies didn't quite make the cut. Not because they weren't good enough, I simply ran out of room. They're still worth checking out. 

Queen of Katwe
The Companion
Florence Foster Jenkins
Eye in the Sky
Sausage Party

Friday, December 30, 2016

La La Land

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a struggling jazz pianist, falls in love with Mia (Emma Stone)- an aspiring actress. 

•I can see why this movie is getting so much Oscar buzz. It really is a throwback to those classic Hollywood musicals. So nice to see that again. 
•Damien Chazelle was the perfect choice to direct this (he also directed Whiplash, another movie I love). He wrote the story as well, which is so sweet and charming that I had a huge smile on my face the whole time. He's so talented and I can't wait to see what he does next. 
•Catchy musical numbers. I could listen to them over and over again. 
•Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have such strong chemistry. I totally bought them as a couple. I think it's pretty safe to say they'll both be getting Oscar nominations. 
•Stunning cinematography 
•Flawless editing. 
•If you're a fan of musicals, you're going to love the hell out of this. 

•The only thing I can think of is in my opinion Ryan Gosling doesn't have the strongest singing voice. He's far from the worst singer I've ever heard. That being said, his charm and the way he put everything into this role more than makes up for it. 

My Rating: 10/10

Friday, December 23, 2016

Manchester by the Sea

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) finds himself returning to his hometown north of Boston after the death of his brother (Kyle Chandler) and becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges). 

•They might as well just give Casey Affleck the Best Actor award now. Easily the best performance I've seen this year. You start off seeing his character living a very quiet existence. He doesn't show a whole lot of emotion and you can clearly tell it's hard for him interacting with people. As the movie goes on, through flashbacks, you slowly start to find out just what happened to him to make him this way. And also why he's very reluctant to assume the role of Patrick's guardian despite clearly loving his nephew very much. It's absolutely heartbreaking and a huge emotional punch in the gut. Casey just nails it. Wow!!!
•Lucas Hedges also does a really good job here. For some reason I thought going into this that he would annoy me but quite the opposite happened. You can totally understand Patrick's reaction to everything. His scenes with Casey Affleck were definitely some of my favorites and had me sobbing several times. 
•Even though Kenneth Lonergan doesn't have a whole lot of experience directing (this is only his third movie) with this you would think he'd been doing it for years. He's able to get very powerful performances out of all of his actors. He wrote the script as well I believe and it's so raw and honest. The whole story is a huge emotional punch in the gut. Also, I really like how he showed the aftermath of someone dealing with all the things that need to be taking care of after a family member dies, right down to the smallest detail. You don't usually see that in movies. 
•Michelle Williams doesn't have much screen time at all but you can see why she's getting a lot of Oscar buzz as well. 
•Beautiful locations and cinematography. 
•I walked out of the theater just in awe of the  amazing movie I just watched. I have a feeling I'm going to be thinking about it a lot over the next few days. I highly recommend it to everyone. Just bring plenty of tissues. 

•I'm not taking points off for this nor was it something that bothered me, but some people aren't going to like the way this is paced. This is a movie that takes it's time. I was completely fine with it (not once was I bored) and think it was important to tell the story this way. 

My Rating: 10/10

Friday, December 16, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is recruited by the Rebellion for a dangerous mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. 

•This is very much a war movie. Very dark and gritty. It looks like the original movies while at the same time incorporating the amazing technology we have today. 
•While we all know the outcome of this story, I still felt invested in it. The writing was very good. Even some of the lines I heard in the trailer that I felt were a little cheesy really worked in the content of the scenes. 
•Two words- Darth Vader. One of the most bad ass villains in history. He's only in a handful of scenes but holy shit was he terrifying. 
•So many parallels to the political scene today that it's scary. 
•Looks amazing on an IMAX screen and the 3D is actually pretty good. 
•Well choreographed action scenes, especially in the third act. I got chills watching them they were that good. 
•Alan Tudyk as K-2SO stole every scene he was in and provided some much needed humor. 

•A certain character appears from the original movies, but in cgi form. The effects are so bad on this person it's distracting. Normally this would be something I'd take a point off for but the movie is so fucking good that I'll let it slide this time. Everyone needs to stop what they're doing right now and go see this movie. This is the prequel we always dreamed of. 

My Rating: 10/10

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Based on the true story of Christine Chubbuck (Rebecca Hall), a tv reporter in the 1970s who struggled not only with her professional career but severe depression as well. 

•Rebecca Hall gives a powerful, heartbreaking performance. Easily one of the best this year. As someone who has struggled with depression/anxiety for years, I can tell you she really nails it. From the tone of her voice, facial expressions/body language, to her social awkwardness... wow. She put her all into this. 
•Even though you know what is going to happen (and if you don't do a quick google search on the real Christine Chubbuck. It'll pop right up), every minute leading up to the sad conclusion is so tense. Major props to the director. 
•The supporting cast did an amazing job as well. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Rachel Hall and Tracy Letts (who plays Christine's boss Michael). Very strong. 
•I like how the director paid so much attention to detail and made the movie look and feel like the 70s- the color tones, the way each scene was shot, clothing, etc. 

•I really can't think of any. This movie made such a strong impression on me and had me tearing up several times. I highly recommend it to everyone. 

My Rating: 10/10

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Certain Women

The lives of three women (Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, and Kristen Stewart) in Montana loosely intersect. 

•This movie is really just three short stories put together that are VERY loosely connected. I thought the first story with Laura Dern was actually good. I liked the dynamic between her and Jarred Harris. Very interesting. If only the whole movie was just about them. I would've liked it a lot better. 
•Ummm..... I guess if you're having trouble sleeping put this movie on. You'll be out within minutes. 

•This director's movies are not for everyone, myself included. While it wasn't as agonizing as I thought it would be, it was still dull as fuck. Everything from the way she would linger on a shot to the last two stories had me wanting to nod off in my seat. 
•At the end of it all I found myself thinking, what was the point of all this? What exactly was she trying to say? Especially the second story (which is by far the weakest) where not a damn thing happens except Michelle William's character and her husband going to an elderly neighbors home and by sandstone from him in order to build a new house. That's it. I kid you not. 
•I'm not really going to waste any more time on this movie than I already have. I can't really recommend it to anyone. Not even as a check it out on Netflix if you're bored kind of movie. It's far from the worst thing I've seen this year but it's certainly not the best. 

My Rating: 5.5/10

Friday, December 2, 2016

Hacksaw Ridge

Based on the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield)- an Army Medic serving during World War II who, due to his beliefs, was against violence and refused to kill. However, he still wanted to help people. He went on to save the lives of 75 of his fellow soldiers. All while never firing a single weapon (and no I don't consider any of this summary a spoiler because it's all in the trailer). 

•Say what you want about Mel Gibson, but he is a top notch director who knows how to make a damn good movie. Hacksaw Ridge being no exception. Everything from the way he shoots the battle scenes to the way he directs his actors is nothing short of amazing. He had me engrossed in this incredible true story that until recently I didn't know anything about. I walked out of the theater with tears in my eyes and my heart pounding in my chest. And not once did I feel the urge to look up at a clock and see how much time was left. That's how good it was. 
•Andrew Garfield gives the best performance of his career. I always knew he was a good actor. He really embodied this character and if it weren't for it already being a crowded year in this category, I could see him getting an Oscar nomination. Who knows. It may still happen. 
•The supporting cast was outstanding as well. Especially Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn. With Hugo Weaving's character, you really see the toll that war takes on someone even years later. 
•This movie is NOT for the faint of heart. I really appreciate that they didn't shy away from showing the brutality of war. You see every horrifying event in graphic detail. There's blood and guts everywhere, men on fire running around screaming in agony, men literally getting blown in half, and so much more. I highly recommend going into this on an empty stomach. 
•While faith plays a huge part in the story and who this man is, it isn't one of those movies where religion is forced down your throat. 
•Really beautiful cinematography. 
•Powerful score by Rupert Gregson-Williams

•The only one I really have is that there were some scenes in the beginning where Desmond meets and falls in love with a young nurse named Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), who eventually becomes his wife, that felt extremely cheesy. Mainly their dialog (luckily it gets better as the movie goes on. Plus the two of them have great chemistry). Normally I would take a point or two off for something like this and I briefly considered it here. But I just loved this movie so much that I'm willing to let it slide. 

My Rating: 10/10