21 Films To Watch From 2016

Posted by Michael Parsons on December 31, 2016 in , / 1 Comment

 

By Michael Parsons

Hello readers, and Happy New Year! Cutting right to the chase this year, here are 21 films you should put on your list from 2016 (in no particular order). Enjoy!

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — So now you’ve seen “Rogue One”, the first stand-alone “Star Wars” film. It’s another year until Episode VIII. What the hell are you supposed to do until then??? (FULL REVIEW)
  • The Little Prince – A beautiful expansion and somehow first ever feature adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book, “The Little Prince” is my favorite animated pic of 2016. (FULL REVIEW)
  • The Jungle Book – Rudyard Kipling’s classic book gets a live-action feature. I won’t even attempt to analyze the technical feat that its only human star is a part of. A completely immersive experience. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Julieta – Pedro Almodóvar impugns the axiom truth is stranger than fiction, because his film feels so much like truth. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Manchester By The Sea – A pic that gives more than enough for one’s honest opinion to appear hyperbolic—instant classic, masterpiece, profound, deeply moving etc.—whatever, it’s all true. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Hell Or High Water — This is a heist drama done right. And what do I need to say about Jeff Bridges? (FULL REVIEW)
  • Deadpool — Holy crap. If you don’t know what a teabag is—and I don’t mean the Earl Grey kind—then “Deadpool” might not be for you. (FULL REVIEW)
  • La La Land — It might be a little early in Damien Chazelle’s filmmaking career to call the movie his magnum opus, but “La La Land” has all the signifiers of a modern classic. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Arrival — This sociopolitically fueled sci-fi flick might best be described at the “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” for millennials. Writer Eric Heisserer has cooked one of the most intelligent screenplays of the year. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Green Room — Send in the dogs, the guns, the machetes. “Green Room” is a survival thriller that continues Saulnier’s climb in my ranks of favorite filmmakers. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Captain America: Civil War Easily the most emotionally charged movie of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (which is expanding faster than the Big Bang), “Civil War” is not only the best Captain America movie, it’s the best Iron Man movie, the best Avengers movie, and with only 15 minutes on-screen, the best Spider-Man movie. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Hidden Figures — Sanitized for family viewing, but rarely feels watered-down. A fascinating, albeit enraging history, featuring a perfect cast as strong, smart and resilient individuals. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Triple 9 — Director John Hillcoat  (“Lawless”) takes a page from David Ayer’s playbook with his dim perspective of law enforcement in this violent crime thriller. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Don’t Breathe — This wouldn’t be the first time that someone turned the home invasion flick on its head, but it would be the first time someone did it this effectively. (FULL REVIEW)
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi — It turns out that Michael Bay can direct the hell out of a war picture. (FULL REVIEW)
  • The Infiltrator — Bryan Cranston, Bryan Cranston, Bryan Cranston. Need I say more? This time, he’s not making meth. It’s the true story of one of the biggest drug stings in history, with Cranston playing  an undercover agent who infiltrates Pablo Escobar’s operation at a high level. Binge “Narcos” on Netflix and then watch this. Directed by Brad Furman.
  • Kubo and the Two Strings – I didn’t get a chance to review my second favorite animated movie of the year, but “Kubo” is beautiful. funny and intense. The strongest creation yet from Laika Studios, this fantasy/epic definitely has Eastern influences, a spiritual  flick with creativity and witches to spare. The most fun you’ll have with a monkey and a beetle.
  • Moonlight — An impressive presentation from writer/director Barry Jenkins, and even more astounding performances from three actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes) portraying a character named Chiron from boyhood to adulthood. He struggles with sexuality and his mother’s drug abuse (a fantastically tragic Naomie Harris). Mahershala Ali’s dichotomic character plays a caring guardian who is also a drug dealer.
  • Sully — Hanks is  a sturdy mainstay playing the stoic, frost-haired pilot; plus solid contributions from  Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, and especially Aaron Eckhart, who I’ve always admired and am glad to see in a worthy and influential role. (FULL REVIEW)
  • Hacksaw Ridge — Mel Gibson’s unique and brutal World War II account follows the first conscientious objector (Andrew Garfield) ever to go into battle. Cut into two parts, much like “Full Metal Jacket”, the first is a burgeoning romance and then boot camp, where Vince Vaughn plays the next best thing to R. Lee Ermey. The battle sequences that make up the second half are incredibly well-shot.
  • Passengers — Am I the only person that loved this movie?  Tech concepts are pretty cool, director Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”) and his production team fancying the sort of idyllic sleek design of “Elysium”. An interstellar romance between two of Hollywood’s most likable actors, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Ignore the naysayers. (FULL REVIEW)

— M. Parsons 2016

Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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