My Favorite Films of 2016…1/3 of the way through.

Best of 2016 (so far)

As a fan of film, and the cinema, I typically try to see a movie each week. It is not always an easy endeavor considering each week is hit and miss with good new release movies. Sometimes you roll the dice on something that isn’t considered “must see”, and you can be pleasantly surprised. Other times you’d wished you saved your time and money. During the first one-third of 2016, I have seen some good, a lot of average, and a few bad ones. This is kind of an unimaginative topic, and an easy scribe, but it has been a while since I have written anything, so to get the juices flowing again I would like to share with you my top 5 favorite films of 2016 (so far).

5. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (Dir. Zack Snyder starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill) I almost decided not to see this film. I have never been a big fan of Superman or DC Comic film adaptations in general. I thought Man of Steel was a blur of CGI and an okay film at best. What finally drew me to see the film was Batman and Ben Affleck’s portrayal of the Dark Knight. When it was announced that the former Daredevil star would be the next Batman, you could almost hear a collective groan from movie nerds far and wide. My initial thought was ‘hmmmm…I can dig it’. To be honest, I think Affleck was an amazing Bruce Wayne/Batman. The film was a little long, and there are a handful of WTF? moments, but it was generally very decent and held my attention for the duration. Dawn of Justice laid some interesting ground work for the next wave of DC films.

4. 10 Cloverfield Lane (Dir. Dan Trachtenberg starring John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead) John Goodman playing a paranoid end-of-the-world survivalist, you say? Sign me up! 10 Cloverfield Lane, is from what I can tell, the second film (the first being 2008’s Cloverfield) in an anthology of stories based on alien/monster invasions. Ninety percent of the film takes place in an underground bunker, and has a great mix of suspense and atmosphere. The writing and acting keep the film moving along nicely, and John Goodman (like always) is amazing. The last ten minutes of the film strays from the formula, but still fits with the story. This film is a pretty sweet unheralded gem from producer extraordinaire J.J. Abrams.

3. The Witch (Dir. Robert Eggers starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson) This 1630’s New England folktale is not a typical, jump-out-of-your-seat horror film. From the start, it is a slow burn, and makes you feel like you may crawl out of your skin at any moment. The cinematography, set design and costumes give The Witch a very authentic feel. From the outset, you know this God-fearing family is doomed; either at the hands of the evil residing in the forest, or through their own unraveling. I’m glad I got to see their demise on the big screen. If you like gritty horror, The Witch will please you.

2. Midnight Special (Dir. Jeff Nichols, starring Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton) Michael Shannon has quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. The roles that he chooses seem to fly under the radar, but create a buzz. The film Midnight Special is no different. Shannon plays Roy, who is on the run from the law after liberating his son from the control of a doomsday cult. His son is no ordinary boy though. He has gifts that no mere human could possess. This is a well done science fiction feature with some great performances from Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Adam Driver, and especially Jaeden Lieberher, who plays the son.

1. Deadpool (Dir. Tim Miller, starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin) Quite possibly the most enjoyable ninety plus minutes you could possibly spend in a cinema, Deadpool is almost perfect. Of all the comic book adaptations, Ryan Reynolds’ Wade Wilson is on par with Robert Downey’s portrayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man. I think I am being fair to say that this film is the most true to the title character that we have seen from Marvel Studios so far. Reynolds brings Deadpool to life as the humorous, blood thirsty “Merc with a Mouth” just as we see in the pages of the comic books in which he was born. Even if you have no idea who Wade Wilson is, you will leave the theater satisfied. The film is not for kids, as it is laced with bloody violence, no-holds-barred sexual innuendo, and enough language to make Joe Pesci blush. The casual viewer may not get every inside joke and the hidden homage to the comic, but they will be a Deadpool fan after watching the movie.

T.

In 50 Words – THE WITCH (2016)

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In 50 Words logo

THE WITCH (2016)

Directed by: Robert Eggers

Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie

Atlas Entertainment, Relativity Media

A farmer and his family are forced to find their way in the New England wilderness after they are exiled from a colonial plantation. The family settles on a plot of land near a forest believed to be inhabited by an evil force. Almost instantly, bizarre and unexplained events begin to happen, including the youngest child being kidnapped. The family must rely on each other and their faith in God and Christianity to get them through as they are preyed upon by the entities that reside in the woods.

Viewers who go into The Witch expecting a typical horror movie could possibly be disappointed. The jump scares are kept to a minimum, and the blood and guts are all intended to be deliberate as opposed to glorified and gratuitous. Instead, director Robert Eggers relies on atmosphere and tension build-up to keep the audience engaged and off balance. The folklore of the time is heavily relied upon, and hits the mark. This day and age, it seems silly to fear black magic and Satanism, but in the sixteenth century, these fears were very real. I was very impressed with the costume and set design. The film had a very authentic and distressed feel. The characters were well constructed, and the actors playing those characters were also genuine and intense. I am sure this film will achieve critical and moderate financial success, but on the same token, it will be a polarizing film with mixed feelings from viewers. The Witch brings true horror to the table, as opposed to cheap gimmicks and loads of blood. As I watched this family collapse under their own suspicion and religious beliefs, I just hoped that the Evil in the forest surrounding them would show some restraint. Not the case. I left the theater thinking what did I just watch? I also left the theater feeling like I had just seen something original and special.

4 Bloody Moons 4 out of 5 Bloody Moons

T.