Top Ten Movies of 2016

2016 was a movie year with interesting dichotomies.  On the one hand, many studio films and sequels fell flat (particularly over the summer).  On the other hand, it was a fantastic year for independent cinema, surprise original genre hits, and social/political documentaries.  For me personally, it was the first year I attended the Sundance Film Festival, and managed to see a personal best 75 films released this year.  Of those films, here were my favorites (presented here as [spoiler-free] unless otherwise noted).
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The Best Movie Stuff of 2016

2016 has come and gone.  As many films have only just recently become available for the average viewer, I’m still putting the final touches on my “Top Ten” list.  However, I have once again put together a compilation of some of the best moments and elements in the year in film. This will be mostly [spoiler-free], unless otherwise noted.  Here are some of my favorite film things from 2016:
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The Best Films of Summer 2016

2016’s blockbuster season has been panned by many as one of the worst in recent memory. It seems like week after week, the big new release was both critically reviled and completely bombed at the box office. Despite the low lows, there were several bright spots that kept people headed to the cinema this summer. Here’re my [spoiler-free] thoughts on both the best and worst films of the summer. (more…)

‘Captain Fantastic’: A Nuanced Exploration of Discourse in America

Captain Fantastic is a heart-warming film that forces the viewer to consider the faults of modern society and the benefits to living an alternative lifestyle.  Written and directed by Matt Ross, the film was a hit at Sundance this year, and rightly so.  While it is frequently damning to American culture, it also has a lot to say about the value of compromise, discourse, and self-reflection.  Most impressively, it is a movie that revels in the existence of the morally gray, a trait that is rare for a two-hour long feature film.  Captain Fantastic really impressed me, and it’s a film that is best discussed from start to finish, so full [spoilers] ahead.

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‘Pete’s Dragon’ Review: Wonder over Nostagia

Pete’s Dragon (2016) is a magical live-action Disney adventure that harkens back to family films of decades past. It is a children’s film that treats its audience with respect, and is very mature in its exploration of magic and wonder.  Recently I had the pleasure of attending the premiere at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood, courtesy of The View and Fantasy Movie League. The experience was delightful, and I have many thoughts about the film itself. I am going to keep this post mostly [spoiler-free], keeping the conversation to my thoughts about characters, pacing, and tone. (more…)

‘Swiss Army Man’ Spoiler Review: A Corpse Multi-Tool for Your Survival Needs

Swiss Army Man was perhaps the most polarizing film of Sundance.  There are stories of how people walked out of its premiere screening, and it’s easy to see why.  Depending on expectations, this film could be a kinetic masterpiece or an extended fart joke.  Personally, I think the film is the former.  This movie is completely insane, and I believe that “The Daniels” (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) are the next Neveldine and Taylor, but with a stronger eye for the cinematic.  My opinion is that this movie is best if you go into it completely fresh, but unfortunately the trailer gives away a number of surprises.  If you haven’t seen anything, I recommend stopping here and just seeing the film; however, I’ll do my best to keep spoilers to what’s in the trailer for the first portion of this review. (more…)

‘Wiener-Dog’ Spoilers: Life Sucks and Then You Die

Wiener-Dog tells several stories featuring people who find their life inspired or changed by one particular dachshund, who seems to be spreading a certain kind of comfort and joy.”  This is the description given to Wiener-Dog when it played Sundance, and while technically true, anyone familiar with Todd Solondz’s work will suspect something a bit more cynical is afoot.  The film does not disappoint, presenting a pitch-black dark comedy comprised of four disparate tales about the human condition loosely connected by one displaced dachshund.  This movie is not for everyone.  It’s cynical and mean-spirited, and it features animal abuse, which can be particularly hard to stomach. However, I found the movie hilarious and want to talk about each of the four sections, including the ending. [Spoilers] ahead. (more…)

‘The Witch:’ A Puritan Morality Tale

Unlike most films of its genre, ‘The Witch’ gets its scares from being quietly unsettling rather than relying on jump scares and surprises for its audience.  The movie is marketed as a horror film, and rightly so; many of the images and situations are deeply disturbing.  Surprisingly though, the film is also one of the most realistic period pieces I’ve seen in years.  I’ll be diving into later plot details of ‘The Witch,’ so [spoilers] ahead. (more…)

Top 10 Movies of 2015

We’re two months into 2016, and I finally feel that I’ve seen enough 2015 films to put together a top 10 list (just in time for the Oscars).  More than ever, last year had a ton of variety in its excellent films, and the lists that I have seen do not have a strong overlap with one another.  I’ve watched 62 new releases from 2015 (by far a personal record), and yet there are still several high-profile films that I’ve missed and thus couldn’t include.  Without further ado, here is my list:

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‘Deadpool’ Review: The Suit isn’t Green or Animated

I was able to catch an early screening of Deadpool, and am pleased to say that it is definitely the Deadpool movie that fans have been clamoring for since X-Men Origins: Wolverine totally tanked the character.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the character, but I found the movie darkly funny throughout, and on par with similar entries like Kick-Ass or Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Here are some mostly spoiler-free (as if spoilers matter here) thoughts. (more…)