Some years I struggle to come up with ten films I loved enough to put on a list like this. Other years, like this one, ran the gambit much like 1999 did which had some great films (Fight Club, South Park, The Matrix) and some truly awful ones (Apt Pupil, Phantom Menace, The Haunting). But let's start with what was awesome about last year's great flicks before we tear into some of the worst films in recent memory. There were so many great films, I had to raise it to 11 this year.
BEST OF 2016:
11)What We Do In The Shadows- A mockumentary about four vampires living together in New Zealand, each from a different time period is a laugh riot and a must see for anyone who likes horror comedy. The director, writer, and star of the movie must have gotten rave reviews from the little seen film as he has been set to direct the new Thor movie. This guy is going places, and even has a sequel to this called, We're Wolves, about a pack of werewolves seen in Shadows led by comedian Rhys Darby. Rent this soon.
10)The Martian- Matt Damon gets stranded on Mars and "has to science the shit out of this," to survive. Basically, a one man play for much of this, Damon soars being funny, sad and terrified all at once. The supporting cast is mostly an after thought but actors like Jessica Chastain and Jeff Daniels make the most out of thin characters to create believable moments that lesser thespians would have slept walked through. A true suspense film that Ridley Scott was robbed of an Oscar nod for. If he was black, he would have screamed bloody murder about it but instead realized that it just wasn't his year, even if the film was a tremendous success.
9)The Big Short- If you told me someone would make a movie about the housing crisis of 2008 AND it was a comedy, I would asked what you were smoking. But leave it to Adam McKay to figure a way to do just that, which also landed this film several Oscar nods, and deservedly so. Using Anthony Bourdain cooking or Margo Robbie in a bubble bath to talk to the audience to explain complex housing laws was genius. So was this film.
8)Ex Machina- Featuring two people who would go on to be in the latest Star Wars film, this independent showing about what AI might be like was brilliant to the last shot. A man is hired to find out if a created robot with AI is really alive or just mimicking human actions with no real knowledge of right and wrong. What follows is sexy, jarring and very realistic. This had the kind of twist ending that M. Night used to make.
7)Ant-Man- Somehow better than the Avengers this year, this smaller picture was everything the Iron Man ensemble wasn't: cohesive, fun and new. Paul Rudd nails it was a thief trying to reform himself for his daughter's sake when he is given a second chance when he becomes Ant Man who has the power to shrink (and eventually grow) while chasing after a bad guy who wants to use that same technology for profit, society be damned. Evangeline Lily is set up nicely to be the Wasp in the sequel and Michael Douglas as the former Ant Man, Hank Pym gives the movie real class. Much better than it had any right to be.
6)Spectre- Bond is back and so is SPOILER ALERT: Blofeld, which if you haven't heard by now, too bad. Not nearly as good as either Casino Royal or Skyfall, it is still better than almost all of Pierce Brosnan's stuff and light years better than Tim Dalton's. Bond is after a new orginization, Spectre, thus the title and of course, Blofeld who rules it. Good action, but the whole Bloffeld reveal is a little lame and I wish it had a better ending. But it's still Bond and I will still be buying next week on DVD.
5)Hateful Eight- I love Quentin Tarantino films. I have seen every one since Reservoir Dogs in a theater and I have never been truly disappointed, although the second Kill Bill was just okay. This one was great, with standout performances by Kurt Russell, Sam Jackson, Tim Roth, and Jennifer Jason Leigh with everyone else along for a fun, gory ride. I love when dialogue is sharp and bitter like this screenplay was, and I am glad the director didn't give up on it when it was leaked on line. A must see for film aficionados.
4)The Revenant- A brilliant film that may be the winner for Best Picture and it is deserving of said prize. Shot as if Terrance Malik directed it, this is a gorgeous, bloody work that tortured Leo DiCaprio so much he got the flu twice. The "true" story of a fur trapper that gets left for dead by a douchebag fellow trapper, who also kills his half breed son in front of him, is a revenge/survival film that is brutal to sometimes watch. I doubt I will ever see this film again but I am thrilled to have seen it the one time.
3)Jurassic World- Wiping the stink that was The Lost World and the okay Jurassic Park 3, this first time big tent pole director nails it with a funny, scary, adventurous sequel. It was everything that Stephen Spielberg's misfire wasn't with star performances from white hot Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard (somehow running at top speed in heels), that sold this picture along with a new, giant dinosaur that was highly intelligent and invisible, Indominous Rex. Add in a ton of Pterodactyls, a giant fish dinosaur, along with two NOT annoying kids and you have one of the biggest films of the year. How was this not up for Best Picture?
2)Star Wars- I smiled from ear to ear this entire movie. From the moment the scroll started, I was eight years old again, even seeing it with my mother made it seem like old times. Yes the plot was slightly derivative of the original (did we really need another Death Star?) but the cast was perfect, Kyle Ren was everything young Darth Vader should have been in the awful prequels, and Han Solo rocked. I can't wait for the next one. Again why is this not up for Best Picture?
1)Mad Max:Fury Road- No film was better than this masterpiece that was so awesome even the Academy realized it and nominated it for ten awards. This is the front runner for Best Director and could even win Best Picture. How awesome would that be? George Miller is in his seventies and he shamed younger directors with this two hour car chase that was short on dialogue and CGI and long on action and actors saying tons with their facial expressions. I think Charlize Theron got robbed for best supporting actress for her role as Furiousa but there was a lot of great performances by women this year. Mad Max took decades to come back and even with Tom Hardy taking over for Mel Gibson, it was worth the wait. Miller said he wouldn't make any more Mad Max movies after this which is the most depressing sentence I could write but who knows, maybe he will change his mind or some young gifted director will take over. This one is a masterpiece that I will never tire of watching. And neither will you.
Honorable Mentions: Inside Out. Kingsmen. San Andreas. Focus. Zombeavers. Avengers: Age of Ultron. Spy. Ted 2. Anomalisa. Creed. Straight out of Compton. Black Mass. A Walk In The Woods. American Ultra. Shawn The Sheep Movie. Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation. Trainwreck. Minions.