So. This year has been an enormous, raging, uncontrollable garbage fire, but at least it gave us some good movies. Here’s my shortlist of the best movies for 2016 that have been released.
Captain America: Civil War: I don’t think anyone’s shocked at this being one of my first picks for the best of 2016. Like the Avengers, this movie gives me a massive rush of fangasm to see so many of our Marvel heroes in one story, and it’s great because not only do we know the core team, but we also get introduced to some new faces. Everyone went into this movie expecting to love the fight scenes—which were incredible—and yet we all came out with the same consensus: bump the main team, we need 1000000% more Black Panther and Spider-Man. I am truly blown away how much I liked those two. They were by far the biggest standout characters introduced into the MCU and I cannot wait for both of their solo films, because they have proven to be incredibly interesting. Still, I of course give the movie credit for being the most heart-wrenching film in the MCU canon. We were hit hard and often in the feels, from losing Peggy Carter to seeing Tony and Steve’s friendship fall apart to seeing poor Bucky being used against his will to murder the innocent. It’s a phenomenal film with all the right elements and it has a massive rewatch quality for that same reason.
Moana: Again, this is no surprise. I am a huge Disney fan, and I am especially a fan of Disney princess films and how they have evolved over the decades. Moana is exactly that: the natural progression of a Disney princess with modern day writing. Honestly, it’s like the movie had a checklist of “impossibly awesome things” and it just checked them off one by one. Likable, realistic protagonist? Check. Creative, visually-stunning environment? Check. Bechdel Test pass? Check. Hilarious lines? Check. Catchy-as-hell musical numbers? Check. Gripping story with plenty of action and adventure? Check. Open exploration of people of color, also portrayed by people of color? Check, check, check. This film is a dream. It’s just so exciting and wonderful and powerful that I’ve already seen it twice and I’m trying my hardest not to see it a third time before it leaves theaters. So few films understand that there is a difference between seeing a movie and experiencing a movie. Moana is an experience. I found myself tearing up at the oddest moments, at moments that weren’t even sad, because I was just so wrapped up in the adventure and how it made me feel like anything was possible and that I got to be on this journey with these wonderful characters. Call me petty, but I am so damned glad that Moana was the one to take the crown away from Frozen in terms of opening weekend. Every bit of praise this film has gotten is more than well-earned. It’s practically demanded.
Storks: This one sort of slipped by a lot of people due to when it was released, but Storks was just the quirky kids’ film that I was looking for and I really enjoyed it. Even though I want to say they marketed it as the makers of the Lego Movie, this film smacks a lot of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, in terms of 70% of the jokes being Lampshade Hanging. It could really be argued that it’s more for teens and adults than it is for kids’, and I think the box office and its critical reception reflect that. It’s certainly not a bad thing, either. I was howling. It’s extremely creative, the performances are hilarious, and the humor is spot on. I told my parents to rent it one day so they can crack up at all the great parenting jokes. I consider it a hidden gem among the 2016 films and it’s worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.
Zootopia: Before Moana blew my mind, Zootopia was the other Disney film that completely made me fall head-over-heels in love with it, and I still am to this day. The last time I’ve watched a Disney film this many times, it was Tangled all the way back in 2010. I love Zootopia so much that I own two versions of it: the DVD and the Amazon streaming digital video, though to be fair, I didn’t know Netflix would add it to their library this fall. Zootopia is life. It’s such a well told story with an amazing examination of all kinds of prejudice, from basic sexism to complicated accidental reinforced stereotypes to obvious bigotry. I haven’t seen an animated film handle these concepts this well since Cats Don’t Dance. It’s so relevant now considering what’s been going on the past several years and yet even without the strongly worded, mature message, it’s just an enjoyable film with delightful characters.
The Legend of Tarzan: Oh, quit gaping at me. This movie was also pretty much panned by most people, but no one really disliked it moreso than they were just indifferent to it. Of the movies on my list, this is definitely at the bottom, but regardless, I actually really enjoyed this movie. To be clear, I didn’t expect to. The trailers were pretty generic and I really adore Disney’s take on Tarzan, so I wasn’t really in the market for a new interpretation, but once I saw that it wasn’t Disney remaking itself like it’s been doing in recent years, I decided to give it a try. (And half naked Alexander Skarsgaard is hard to say no to.) I discovered a surprisingly thoughtful film that paid respect to both sides of the fence in terms of nature and man. It doesn’t browbeat and it doesn’t have the same white savior problem that a lot of films similar to it tend to have. I really loved the flashback scenes of Tarzan’s early life. They were gripping and deeply emotional, and the performances were excellent, as was the cinematography and the soundtrack. I would argue it’s worth a watch or a rental for that same reason. I do admit that Margot Robbie is extremely damsel-y and useless, and Christoph Waltz is completely wasted on this script, but everything else about the film was good.
Deadpool: This needs no explanation. It was perfection. You know and I know it. Boom.
Kubo and the Two Strings: Like Storks, Kubo was sort of a niche marketed film, really only made for those who are really passionate about animated fairytales. Well, I am one of those people. I adore Laika productions, and Kubo is no exception. It’s a masterfully told, utterly moving, impressively beautiful film. It’s mature, but it still is palatable for children and young adults. If nothing else, Kubo needs to be seen for how rich and vibrant and detailed its cinematography is, and considering everything is stop-motion, it demands to be appreciated. The only downside is that unfortunately, the cast is not as diverse as it should have been. Don’t get me wrong: the voices chosen totally fit the characters and each actor did one hell of a job, but I still find myself disappointed that a movie set in feudal Japan has so few Japanese actors in it. The biggest casualty is George Takei, who had about three lines as a minor character. What the hell, Hollywood. It’s friggin’ George Takei and you didn’t give him a main role? Shame on you! Despite that shortcoming, Kubo is phenomenal and should not be missed.
I’ve got two more films on the docket for 2016: Rogue One and Passengers, so stay tuned for a possible update to this list in a couple of weeks. Have a happy!