My 2016 Quest Year In Review

What good would a yearly quest be without a look back at the journey? Sure, I reviewed many of the films I saw for the first time in 2016, but having a summary all in one spot with superlatives and expletives just seems appropriate.

Although probably less in the way of expletives.

With a bit of scrambling towards the end, my December made up for the lackluster September-October-November season (when I was sick) to help me hit 100 films for the year. Here now is the breakdown of how it went.

Top Films I Saw

Topping my list were primarily films from the past two years. Not a surprise, as I usually try to stay on top of Oscar contenders as they’re nominated. Here are some brief thoughts on ten of them.

arrival

ARRIVAL 

Easily one of my favorite sci-fi films of all time (currently top-5 in the category), it was such a complicated tale told in an interesting way with some great emotional elements tied into a non-traditional perspective on the genre. Fantastic. Don’t feel bad if you miss it in theaters, but definitely give it a look. It deserves a Best Picture nomination, and would probably win my version of the award, if I did that this year. {review}

kubo-11

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

From the trailers, I knew it was going to be enjoyable and too-dark-for-my-son, and WOW, I was correct in both respects. The story was really good, and having seen how they animated it using stop-motion technique and seeing it again, I’m blown away by how it all came together. I rarely buy Blu-rays, but I already own a copy of this film. Phenomenal. I’ll probably watch it twice in 2017, and I rarely go back and see things again.

deadpool_fall

DEADPOOL

While I’m not too familiar with the character, what I do know about him made me expect this film to be very superficial and funny, but the lack of depth making it simply a one-off. What we got was a movie with great heart, really entertaining dialogue and action, and enough character work that we’ll hopefully get a sequel with at least seven of the main characters involved again (don’t forget his roommate or the taxi driver, because I didn’t). Seven. Plus Cable, because we were kinda promised Cable. And Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. I’m not asking much… I probably would’ve bought it on Blu-ray, but HBO is showing it every time I search through to see what’s on… and I usually tune in. [review]

GANDHI

Obviously I knew it had won Academy Awards 30+ years ago, so I knew it would be a good movie jumping into it, which is good, because it was 3 hours long, complete with intermission. I wouldn’t buy it because I probably won’t watch it again for at least a few years, but when my son is old enough, this is mandatory viewing for him because it tells a true story from which many life lessons can be learned.

LA LA LAND

I already waxed poetic about my love of this film in a big way in a recent review, and it’s my pick to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Totally deserving (even if I would pick ARRIVAL as my favorite, but nevertheless).

sing-street-8

SING STREET

Such an uplifting coming-of-age story, this is easily the most shareable film I saw all year. I’ve already had a few people watch it, and I’ve recommended it to a few others, and still have a few more people who I need to talk to about it. I figured it would be a decent evening at the movies, and I totally wasn’t prepared for how good it was. More people need to see it. [review]

ROOM

The praise it received last year was well-warranted.  [review]

BATMAN V SUPERMAN

The criticism it’s getting isn’t wrong, just misguided. The Ultimate Edition (essentially a “Director’s Cut”) fixes a lot of things people didn’t like about the theatrical version. If you can handle Superman going through an identity crisis, and a Batman who is angry due to being grief-stricken, you can enjoy this film. Keep an eye out for the costume of the dead Robin with spray paint on it. That answers a lot of questions for people. [review]

THE REVENANT

Easily one of DiCaprio’s best. The praise it received last year was well-warranted. Tom Hardy should’ve been recognized for his work. [review]

hunt-for-the-wilderpeople-slice-600

HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

An amazing film that came out of left field for me and totally surprised me with how enjoyable it was. I’d put it in the next category if it didn’t find its way into my Top 10 of the year.

Other GOOD Surprises

Some films that I really enjoyed weren’t EXCELLENT films, but based on my expectations going in, or based on how they might’ve otherwised turned out, here are the pleasant surprises from this past year.

niceguy-master768-v2

THE NICE GUYS

The trailers gave it the feel of a decent little buddy cop/detective flick. What emerged on screen was something that I hope leads to multiple sequels. Gosling and Crowe compliment each other so nicely on screen. Hopefully things line up for them to work together again, especially with the writer/director here. [review]

RISEN

I was absolutely not expecting the production values and excellent storytelling (and approach) from this film. As I exited the theater and drove home, I contacted a couple people and made the immediate recommendation. Such an interesting perspective on a time in history which has already been chronicled by a number of filmmakers. To make it feel fresh and new is an accomplishment. [review]

ZOOTOPIA

I was not expecting this film to leap near the top of my all-time animated movie list, but it was very, very good. The detective work / buddy cop stuff was probably better than the comedic aspects of things, and the story had a great message of equality and valuing others.  [review]

TRAINWRECK

I don’t usually like Amy Schumer, but this film changed my opinion of her in a big way. And John Cena, who did a really good job here. And LeBron James. Just a surprising movie for a lot of reasons. I won’t say I nearly cried at the end… But just watch and see what I mean. [review]

EVERLY

A 50-year-old Salma Hayek leading an action flick which mostly takes place in her apartment, AND she looks hot? Absolutely an enjoyable movie, caught me completely off-guard.  [review]

MR. RIGHT

Oh how this didn’t make more money in theaters, I’ll never know. Anna Kendrick is as charismatic and lovable as she always is, and Sam Rockwell is at his best as a retiring hitman who falls for a quirky young woman and is completely honest with her about it. Every time it’s on HBO, I tune in. Very recommendable… despite some of the more violent moments. Great romantic comedy… with guns. [review]

Disappointments

Maybe it was a good film but had the potential to be great. Maybe it was horrible. These are the films which were let-downs for me.

SPOTLIGHT

No way did it deserve to win Best Picture. At all. The subject matter was important, and the information it provided deserved to be shouted to the masses, but the script and directing weren’t great, neither was the acting. Big letdown, despite being a decent movie. [review]

VACATION

Not all of the old Chevy Chase Vacation films were great, but none of them were hot garbage. Ed Helms is better than this…

HARDCORE HENRY

Decent concept, but the execution of it made me completely motion-sick. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll still list it as a disappointment, because I had decent hopes for it.

SISTERS

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are better than this. In fact, I might’ve even recommended switching which characters those two played, because they just seemed out of place. Go back, do the Rock-Paper-Scissors again and let Poehler win, having her be the less uptight sister. [review]

JASON BOURNE

The second and third films in the series were very formulaic, and while I’m glad they made this film (because the third left some questions hanging), they missed a few great opportunities here to make something special and to turn the series in an interesting direction. And yet, the final few minutes of the film just completely fumble the ball.

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO

People love this film and I have absolutely no idea why. I don’t find the characters very interesting. It’s not a particularly good story in any respect. And yet, there are endless people glowing about how great it is. Studio Ghibli just isn’t my cup of tea… or whatever they’re serving.

A BIGGER SPLASH

Interesting story, complicated characters, but it seriously lacked tension. Very straightforward, and not in a good way. It wasted the good performances with how it was all edited together… which I’m going to attempt to fix. [review]

LEGEND

Tom Hardy pulling double-duty in a decent tale about organized crime? Absolutely. Throw in some decent performances by the supporting cast, and it should’ve been a good movie, right? Well somehow the music messed it up. From the very start, their selection of music was off-putting, and it just took me out of a lot of scenes. Quite disappointing, indeed.

Notice how I didn’t mention GHOSTBUSTERS 2016? That’s because it wasn’t a disappointment. It wasn’t as terrible as people made it out to be. It was actually kind of funny. And because I own the other two, and I felt like this belonged, I got it on Blu-ray to watch again.

Television Series

This year, I decided to track when I saw a complete season of a television show for the first time, giving myself credit for spending quite a bit of time in front of a screen (often enough to see about 10 movies).

DAREDEVIL Season 2

The first season was very good, but the second season kicked it up a notch, mostly due to the involvement of The Punisher being added as a character. I loved the juxtaposition they used here in terms of what “justice” means, especially as there were sprinklings of Elektra added into that aspect of the season, not JUST using her as a romantic interest for Matt Murdock. Highly anticipating the third season, as well as the Punisher spinoff.

STRANGER THINGS

I feel like enough people are talking about how great this show was, and that I don’t have to pile on. Let’s just say that the day it came out, someone clued me into it, and before the fortnight was done, I had finished watching it. Not completely my cup of tea, but I really, really enjoyed it, which says something.

LUKE CAGE

Yet another Marvel character with whom I wasn’t otherwise familiar, and yet again, they serve up something awesome. Just pile this in with Jessica Jones and Doctor Strange and Guardians Of The Galaxy. Bring on Iron Fist…

GILMORE GIRLS: A Year In The Life

It’s my wife’s fault that I have any interest in the characters at all, and enjoy the quirky, fast-paced dialogue. This was a much more fitting way to end the series than the final season they had… and I’m not sure that they should be done with it, based on the end of these four episode films (there needs to be a term for this, which SHERLOCK fans should get on, quickly).

Going Old School

I pride myself on at least attempting to fill out my film reviewer resume each year by setting a goal to see 20% of my films from no more recently than 20 years ago. While I didn’t hit that number, 15% was decent. Here are my thoughts on a few of them.

Rebel Without A Cause – absolutely deserving of being a classic.

Troop Beverly Hills – my wife made me watch it, and I’m glad she did.

Network – very interesting watch, given the current climate on television.

Postcards From The Edge – I actually had this from Netflix before Carrie Fisher (and then her mother) passed away. Very interesting mother-daughter perspective with ironic timing on my in-home viewing.

Revenge Of The Nerds – funny, but far more cringe-worthy than I recalled from previously having seen bits and pieces of it. There would be a huge backlash if it was made in 2016. One part (at least) would get them arrested as sex offenders. Not in the 80s, though…

Mary Poppins – I counted this because I watched it with a completely different set of eyes than I did back in the 80s as a kid. Bert was definitely trying to hook up with Miss Mary, and rightfully so.

poppins_1995812__

~~~~~~

For the full list of what I saw, and links to reviews (which will be updated periodically as I write more, because more are coming, even though it’s 2017 now), you’ll find it on the page I maintained all year.

~~~~~~~

Other Superlatives

Best Actor

Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Other Great performances:
Ben Kingsley (Gandhi)
Ryan Gosling (La La Land)
Joseph Fiennes (Risen)
Tom Hardy (Legend)

Best Actress

Brie Larson (Room)

Other Great performances:
Amy Adams (Arrival)
Emma Stone (La La Land)
Emily Blunt (The Girl On The Train)
Soairse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Most Visually Appealing

Macbeth

macbeth_poster_07_b

Kubo and the Two Strings
La La Land
Batman v Superman
The Revenant
Risen
The Hateful Eight
Hail, Caesar!

Best Music

Sing Street

sing-street_500

La La Land
Deadpool
Kubo and the Two Strings
Trainwreck
Straight Outta Compton
Miles Ahead

And what else is there? I’m not going to try to judge Directors or Screenplays and the like.

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