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Kyoko’s Favorite Movies of 2016

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Deadpool: This needs no explanation. It was perfection. You know and I know it. Boom.

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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!

New Orleans Comic Con 2016

 

Me and Chris Evans aka Captain America

Your friendly neighborhood fantasy author just had an excursion to the land of awesome jazz, rich heritage, and the best damn Southern cuisine imaginable. It was basically Treat Yourself 2016 for me, and when I treat myself, I treat myself. Hence, Captain America snuggling and languishing in my arms.

New Orleans Comic Con is a younger con, but they apparently worked out something pretty incredible to snag not only Captain America himself, Chris Evans, but half of the cast of Civil War, including Frank Grillo (Rumlo aka Crossbones), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson/Falcon), Hayley Atwell (Peggy Carter), Jeremy Renner (aka Clint Barton/Hawkeye) and the Russo brothers who are directing the film. I had been on Wizard World’s mailing list for some reason and as soon as they sent word that Chris Evans would be in the South (seriously, look it up, A list celebrities avoid the South like the freaking plague, man, and I’d know) I scrambled for a ticket and a photo op. It was the opportunity of a life time to meet an actual superhero (my second one, actually, as I met Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman, in 2013) in the flesh. Plus, I’d never been to New Orleans and I was dying to get a chance to soak in some of the great things I’ve heard about Crescent City.

I flew down Thursday afternoon and stayed with a friend of mine. On Friday, we got up and had breakfast here, at The Ruby Slipper.

I had cheesecake-stuffed French toast with fresh blueberry compote and it was so delicious I’m drooling as I think about it all over again. Heavenly stuff, man.

And here’s my first street car ride!

We headed to the con to grab our badges and check out the dealer’s room, which was huge and awesome. Here are the goodies I managed to swipe for myself:

This fancy lithograph came with the hilariously expensive Chris Evans silver VIP pass. It’s basically just a glossy 11×17 photo of Captain Hotness, but hey, why not? Who doesn’t love a little smolder?

This awesomeness is a fake movie poster made by one of the artists in the dealer’s room. His concept was taking nerd culture things and turning them into the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s style movie posters, and this one is so gorgeous that I had to snag it to decorate my room. It’s just plain lovely.

Below is another one by the same artist, except it’s from Fallout 3 & 4.

Saturday morning at 10am, I attended the Civil War panel, which includes all the guests I mentioned above. Because I’m a huge nerd and this was a lifetime opportunity, I sat by one of the mics and was lucky enough to ask a question. Yes. I spoke to half the cast of Captain America: Civil War. That high-pitched sound you’re hearing is me screaming internally for hours.

Unfortunately, the audio is a bit janky, but here’s the whole panel. I got to ask a question at around the 26 minute mark, and their answers were priceless. I really encourage you to watch the entire video, and if one with better quality pops up, I’ll add it. It was a phenomenal panel, even with some fans asking weird questions, and the cast was beyond entertaining to experience live.

After the panel, I had the two most awesome experiences as a fangirl ever. First, was meeting Hayley Atwell, Agent Carter herself, for an autograph. I managed to hold it together and I told her that I was so grateful for her portrayal of Peggy as this powerful, amazing three dimensional female character and how it’s so important to have this awesome woman on a major network television show. I also told her that I truly hope she enjoys all the wonderful things that have happened and will happen for her as a result of portraying this character, and Ms. Atwell told me she was so humbled by my words. We shook hands and I was able to take this precious piece of personal history home with me to be framed on my wall.

After that, the main event happened. I waited in line in a freezing cold auditorium for around an hour, dressed to the nines and in full makeup, and then it happened. I walked up to Captain America, Chris Evans, for a photograph.

Now, the funny thing is…I’ve met celebrities before. Not any A-list celebrities, mind you, but celebrities like Maggie Q, Shane West, Bill Corbett, James Urbaniak, who are mostly nerd icons. Each time, I’ve managed to hold in the fangirl squeeing and ask them questions, even hold entire conversations.

But not with Chris Evans.

He was the first celebrity to ever make me 100% starstruck and tongue-tied.

Before the hug, I walked over and said hi and asked him if it would be alright for me to give him a hug for the photo. Mr. Evans smiled and said it wasn’t a problem at all, and then he wrapped his arms around me and I basically lost all mental faculties. I actually had a comment prepared–something about how proud I was of what he’s done with the character of Steve Rogers–but after that hug…yep, I was mush. I just mumbled thank you and tottered away on my heels, blinded by how utterly handsome he was. The hug was that good, but then there’s also the fact that before he let me go, he rubbed the small of my back and that’s what precipitated me turning into a pile of goo. My God. What a man, what a man, what a mighty good man.

Oh, and here’s his autograph as well (sadly not personalized, because you had to pay an extra $200 for that and as much as I ADORE Chris Evans, paying over $600 for a photo op and personalized autograph was outside of my comfort zone.)

The rest of the trip wound down after I met Cap. I swung past the famous Cafe Du Monde for beignets and coffee, which were yummy. We had dinner at this cool seafood place called Mr. Ed’s Seafood Bar and then on Sunday we just walked around town to sight-see and eat at Deannie’s before I headed home. Honestly, the city was beautiful and stuffed with all kinds of feasts for the eyes (and stomach). I’m so happy that Treat Yo-self 2016 went as smoothly as it did, and I will never forget meeting my favorite Avenger in the flesh. It was Item Number Four on my Bucket List, and I’m so giddy I managed it before I turned 30. It was unforgettable.

And for your viewing pleasure, here’s my informal account of meeting Chris Evans, for poops and giggles.