2016 has come and gone so that means its time for me to get off my butt and write up an arbitrary list of my five favorite films of the year! The same rules I held myself to last year still apply: The films must have been released in 2016 and I had to have seen them during that year. Wouldn't you know it though a film slipped through the cracks again so I'll have another "honorable mention" section down below. So without further explanation lets dive right in!
Director: James Wan
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe
Plot: Another "true story" from the case files of Ed & Lorraine Warren. This time following a case they called "The Enfield Poltergeist". It takes them across the pond to England to help a family being terrorized by a malevolent spirit.
Opinion: James Wan delivers yet another modern classic in the genre. He proves once again his complete mastery of the macabre and supernatural. Farmiga and Wilson slip right back into their roles effortlessly and have amazing on screen chemistry. One of the few sequels that equals and often even surpasses the original. I previously wrote up a full review right here.
Trivia Tidbit from IMDB: James Wan was offered a "life-altering" amount of money in order to direct The Fate of the Furious (2017). However, he turned that opportunity down to direct The Conjuring 2 (2016) instead. "I feel rejuvenated to tell a scary story one more time," Wan wrote on Instagram.
Director: Shane Black
Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice
Plot: A perpetually drunk P.I. and a surly tough guy find themselves having to work together on a case involving a dead pornstar, the Los Angeles district attorney, and the Detroit auto manufacturers.
Opinion: Set against the backdrop of 1970's LA, this dark comedy was some of the most fun I had at the movies this past year. Gosling and Crowe get to show off their previously untapped comedic talents, and Black gets to deliver on the promise he showed in Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Trivia Tidbit from IMDB: The project was initially proposed as a TV series but was re-tooled as a film after the pilot seemed to be going nowhere.
Director: David Lowery
Starring: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford
Plot: A young boy is found in the woods who claims to have survived out there for 6 years thanks to his friend who just so happens to be a dragon.
Opinion: Disney was on a roll with the remakes last year. John Favreau's "Jungle Book" was fantastic and being a huge fan of the original 1977 Pete's Dragon I had high hopes for this new version. In all honesty this remake is better then the original, and in my opinion one of the best family films ever. The script is smart and never pandering and it does the one thing I love to see in a "kids" movie: it doesn't coddle you. It deals with hard themes of loss, growing up, and what family truly means, but in a way that both kids and parents will understand. It is truly remarkable filmmaking.
Trivia Tidbit from IMDB: Director David Lowery described his version of Pete's Dragon is to be more of a "re-invention", rather than a straight-up remake of Pete's Dragon (1977). His ambition for the film was to distinguish itself from the 1977 film as much as possible and also that he wanted to reinvent the "the core story of a venerable Disney family film". Lowery even watched the following films: The Black Stallion (1979), The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013), My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Spirited Away (2001), and The Witch (2015), for artistic and visual inspiration.
Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rima Te Wiata
Plot: Ricky is a troubled kid who has been bouncing around from one foster family to another. His final hope it seems is to get along with his new care givers Bella and her gruff husband Hector who live out in the mountains and countryside of New Zealand. When Ricky decides to go on the run rather then return to the foster system, a nationwide manhunt is put into motion to find him and Hector who also gets caught up in Ricky's escape.
Opinion: Waititi's previous film What We Do In The Shadows was featured prominently in my 2015 Top 5 list so it is with little surprise that he should appear again this year. He's delivered another smart, funny, and utterly entertaining movie. On top of all that though this movie has an immense heart. Julian Dennison's acting debut as Ricky is simply perfection and Sam Neill is the best he's ever been as the curmudgeonly Hector. Full write up is here.
Trivia Tidbit from IMDB: In the birthday scene, the cast and crew filmed ten takes singing the normal "Happy Birthday" song before finding out they didn't have the rights to use it. So the song "Ricky Baker, It's your Birthday" was created on the spot by the actors.
Director: Travis Knight
Starring: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey
Plot: A young boy lives in seclusion with his mother who tells him fantastical stories that turn out to be more truthful then he could have ever imagined.
Opinion: Kubo deals with many of the same tough themes as "Pete's Dragon": Losing loved ones, growing up, and what a family truly means. It also doesn't pander to you or dumb anything down despite being a "kids" movie. Pair this with the ridiculously gorgeous stop motion animation of Laika Entertainment, who've previously brought us Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Box Trolls and you have my favorite film of the year!
Trivia Tidbit from IMDB: The Skeleton Demon (based on the Gashadokuro of Japanese folklore) is the largest stop-motion puppet to be built, standing at sixteen feet tall.
Late to the table Honorable Mention
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Andrew Garfiled, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson
I sadly did not have the chance to see this before the year ended which is a crying shame because it surely would have taken my top spot. For me this is one of the best films ever made on the subject of faith and the best movie Scorsese has ever made.
Well that wraps up my list! Differing opinion? Something I may have left out? Please let me know, and thank you as always for taking the time to read!