Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My 10 Favorite Movies of 2016

Traveling to a movie theater to spend of money on two hours of, possibly okay, entertainment is not an investment I take lightly. However, I also really like superheroes which is something I have in common with Katrina, my fiancรฉe. Instead of focusing on the big releases of the year we decided to see everything worth talking about. Out of all the movies I saw this year, here are my ten favorites.

I saw MORE than ten films this year, some of which deserve a quick shout out, even though they didn't make the list. KUNG FU PANDA 3 was a decent father/son story, but I think that it is time for this series to end. The elements of chi wasn't executed well and I've had enough of characters named Master "Insert Animal Name Here". GHOSTBUSTERS was just okay. Anyone who is going around actively defending it is trying to counter the controversy and aren't trying support it as a good movie. And, let's face it, that's the best case scenario we could've ended up with. DIGIMON ADVENTURE TRI CHAPTER 1 "REUNION" was technically a 2015 film and while the dub was an amazing experience, that had almost nothing to do with the actual quality of the film, but my own love and nostalgia for the series. It would be unfair to rank it here. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE was just a decent thriller but, like Ghosterbusters, it was a controversy magnet since it had nothing to do with the first Cloverfield movie, and is obviously named such just to sell tickets. Lastly there was YOGA HOSERS, which was fun and stupid, but mostly stupid.

I considered listing the movies I didn't see, but that includes dozens and dozens of films, and that could take forever. The sort of movies you might expect me to have seen include live-action adaptations of Disney animated classics, anything based on DC comics, anything based on a video game, and anything featuring a teenage mutant ninja turtle. I do not watch those films.
I've had the same critique of every Pixar movie for the last five years: they're not a sequel to The Incredibles. I honestly haven't even seen all of them because they're all becoming one of two things: horribly boring or depressing to the point where they cannot be considered entertainment. Finding Dory is the boring kind, and it reminded us for the first time in a while that Pixar is a business. They're, usually, hellbent on telling stories and breaking new grounds in animation. There was no "how did they do that?" moment or "wow this is amazing." Who was asking for a return to the Finding Nemo ocean? It was just more celebrities doing fish voices in a glorified toy commercial. I would be more interested in seeing how Cars 2 turned out.
Most main series X-Men films go the same way: Xavier and Magneto have an ideological clash while the actual X-Men are demoted to background B-plots with a secondary villain. Seriously, there are over a hundred X-Men and the only characters who get screentime are Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique. This was the first X-Movie to deviate into a more generic villain of the week plot. We did get to see an actual team of X-Men doing X-Men things, but there was a lot of Xavier/Magneto drama in there too. They even gave us a dramatic fantasy explanation why Xavier is bald. I understand showing him lose his legs is a big deal, but I always thought he went bald because he was... old. Looking forward to the next one though, which takes place in the 90s we will hopefully see the team in colorful costumes for more than the last ten seconds.
#8 - MOANA
It was a Disney movie. Strong female character. Catchy music songs. Colorful imagery. Funny sidekick. New environments. Big eyes to make you attached to character. Heartfelt story written by more than six people. New animation technology. Never seen water do that. "All-star" cast. Magical realism. Dead parent or guardian. Thrilling action. And Lin-Manuel Miranda. That's it.
This was a wonderful space war movie, but it didn't feel like a Star Wars movie. I get it, this isn't a part of the "Skywalker saga," but they didn't have to try so hard to make it feel different. The characters were kinda bland (I didn't even catch most of their names) and there weren't very many memorable setpeices.  I will defend the movie's Easter eggs though, because a lot of people think it had too many callbacks to past movies. I thought there were only a few unnessecary ones (Did the ugly-faced "watch it" guy really need to make an appearance?) but it is still more or less a self-contained story. A stand alone, self-contained, boring story.
Surprisingly, I was a tad disappointed by Doctor Strange. After almost a decade of more or less the same kind of Marvel movie I was excited to see one of my favorite wizards finally get his due, but in the end it actually felt more generic than Iron Man or even Ant-Man. I think that's because it was trying too hard not to be generic. It's like they didn't want clichรฉ wizard duels that show two guys throwing plasma bolts at each other, so instead of casting spells out of magic circles the magic circles spin like buzzsaws. Also, sling rings are stupid. The effects were fantastic and some reality warping stuff was cool, but when visual effects are the best part of a movie, there's a problem with the movie.
I really wanted to love this movie, but I walked away just kinda liking it a lot. I'm not a huge fan of stop-motion on a technical level, but the stories associated with the medium are usually really imaginative, and Kubo's ancient Japanese folklore anime wonderland captured that. However, the story is still just there. It has a nice childlike whimsy to it. It's a simple fairytale, but that doesn't make up for it pulling a laughably obvious twist. Twice. However, any scene that involved origami was amazing as all can be so that kept regaining my attention.
I had very low expectations for this. I predicted it would be more in line with the Hobbit films, where everything felt like a forced cashgrab on a familiar franchise with forced callbacks and in your face Easter eggs. Also, J.K. Rowling, who wrote the screenplay, has not impressed me with her insistence on keeping the Harry Potter world alive through in-universe Twitter updates. I was thoroughly surprised by Fantastic Beasts, which successfully told a standalone story in the Harry Potter universe without too many winks and nudges. It felt like a great Doctor Who adventure (certainly better than anything Steven Moffat has done) with an adorable supporting cast and the focus centralized on an unseen part of the wizarding world. After eight movies set in a castle I'm castle I'm grateful to explore the rest of the world.
I was really worried about this one. I thought it was too early for Marvel to adapt Civil War and that the story was too big for one film. They rectified this by adapting Civil War's name and basic premise and nothing else. There are no frontline battles. There are no recon missions. There is no widespread impact on the greater superhero communities (because they don't exist yet.) There is no war, but it still manages to be amazing. It's the same way I felt with the Mandarin twist in Iron Man 3. The Marvel fan in me was pissed, but the film lover in me was blown away. The decision to distill the so called civil war down to a small, personal conflict worked beautifully. And everyone who said the cast had to be small because no one would be able to shine if they popped up for one scene was proven wrong, because let's all be real here the best parts of the movie were Black Panther, Spider-Man, and Giant Man and they basically showed up for only one scene.

Not all movies are for everyone. Movies like Guardians of the Galaxy have something for fans, their kids, their parents, and their parent's parents. Deadpool is for a very specific kind of person. It's the kind of thing you know you're going to like before you go into it. It's full of blood, boobs, bullets, and big booms. It's a masterful piece of filmmaking. It showed that not all superhero movies had to be either grimdark or family friendly. It showed that violence and foul language can be used to create art. It painted a picture with gore and destruction. It even had multiple strong female characters including an X-Men wearing an actual X-Men costume! Ten points for showing some spandex.

Katrina sort of dragged me to see this movie, so I wasn't really sure what I was getting into. It honestly looked nothing like what Disney usually does, more like the kind of thing Dreamworks would've made in around 2006. A cop movie staring animals in a city full of animals? That sounds terrible, but damn. Zootopia blew my mind. It's the best Disney movie since the Lion King. So much detail and imagination went into every single moment. It used a simple story to showcase the vibrant world they built. I've never wanted an expanded universe as badly as I do after seeing Zootopia. We only got to see a few districts of the massive city, and there is so much left to explore. Unfortunately, there expanded universe only consists of a few children's books and an unwanted hidden objects mobile game.