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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Cindy Prascik's Top 10 Films of 2016...and Other Assorted Notes!

Dearest Blog: Here we sit, on the first square of the first page of a brand new calendar. Last year will be remembered for extraordinary losses--in both number and impact--but there were good times to be had at the cinema, almost always. 
What follows will hopefully remind you, dear reader(s), of some of those good times...and maybe some of the other times too. 
Disclaimer #1: Around here most of the awards contenders turn up all at once, for a single week, just before the Oscars. The Academy and I sometimes (*cough*) don't see eye to eye, but it's fair to guess this list would look at least a little different if I'd seen La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Nocturnal Animals, Moonlight, and/or Lion, to name just a few. 
Disclaimer #2: A movie's original Weasley score will not necessarily be reflected in its year-end positioning. Time and repeat screenings (or the lack of opportunity for same) may favor or handicap some films. 
So...let's start with the good, then, shall we? My Top 10 Movies of 2016  

"The soul of our country is at stake."  
10. The Purge: Election Year The third outing in the Purge series didn't quite match its nearly-perfect middle installment, but timely subject matter, stunning visuals, and another strong leading turn by Frank Grillo make Election Year one of 2016's best offerings.  

"God doesn't have children. He's a bachelor. And very angry!"  
9. Hail, Caesar! Behind-the-scenes machinations at a 1950s movie studio drive this clever comedy from the Coen brothers, blessed with a terrific all-star cast and some wonderful choreography by Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli.  

"It is time to follow my own path."  
8. Kubo and the Two Strings 2016 was a super year for animation. Moana, Sing, Finding Dory, and even the Secret Life of Pets could have made a run at this list, but, in the end, beautiful storytelling, combined with stunning and unique art, set Kubo and the Two Strings head and shoulders above the rest. Bonus: Regina Spektor's lovely cover of the Beatles' While My Guitar Gently Weeps over the end credits.  

"I've killed things from other worlds before." 
7. Batman v. Superman Yeah, Internet, you hated it; I got that, but I absolutely loved DC's much-maligned Justice League opening act. The baddies were well and properly bad, the good guys were brooding, and the story effectively laid the groundwork for what's to come. Ben Affleck's Batman/Bruce Wayne was universally praised, and if you thought BVS was just weren't paying attention. ("I like those shoes!")  

"I never met nobody got away with anything, ever."  
6. Hell or High Water This masterful little heist tale is blessed with stellar peformances, a compelling story, and one of the more satisfying and perfectly-suited endings I've ever seen. Do. Not. Miss.

"You're different. Sooner or later, different scares people."  
5. The Accountant Ben Affleck was kinda the highlight of my 2016 cinema year, following his perfect Batman with a strong, authentic turn as a socially-awkward mathematical genius in this mesmerizing thriller.  

"Fear of death is what keeps us alive."  
4. Star Trek Beyond The latest installment in Hollywood's best franchise may well be its most fun yet. The story's exciting, the one-liners always hit the mark, and the ensemble is my favorite of any film franchise. (RIP, dear Anton Yelchin.)

"So far, so good." 
3. The Magnificent Seven The Magnificent Seven remake is a rare beast in today's Hollywoodland. It's an old-school Western. It doesn't shoehorn in a romance, bloat itself with never-ending fight or chase scenes, or attempt to set up a sequel. The film boasts gorgeous cinematography, a perfect cast, and well-timed, genuinely funny humor. The very definition of "must see."

"We were normal, and the rest of the world was crazy."  
2. The Beatles: Eight Days a Week-The Touring Years Eight Days a Week is a cheerful look at the early days of the world's biggest, best, and most influential band. It's a nice reminder that John, Paul, George, and Ringo are more than monumentally talented individuals; first and foremost, they're four pals who thought they could make a go of their little band and got caught up in a tornado of worldwide superstardom. Peppered with snippets of their magical tunes, behind-the-scenes clips, and interviews with the four lads and assorted others who experienced Beatlemania firsthand, Eight Days a Week is a joyous experience.

"I had to question the mermaids! What were you doing while I was working?"  
1. The Nice Guys From its first trailer, The Nice Guys very nearly cemented a place on my ALL-TIME favorites list, and the finished product more than lived up to that promise, earning it the year's top spot. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are brilliant as a pair of mismatched private investigators on the trail of a missing girl. This is a movie that ticks all the boxes: fantastic performances, exciting action, a smart, surprising mystery, and spot-on all-'round perfect cinema experience. I'm confident even the most-favored of the critical darlings could not have knocked this one out of my number-one spot.  
Movies It Hurt Me to Leave Out (Honorable Mentions)  
Eddie the Eagle: A fun, fictionalized story about English Olympian Eddie Edwards, with entertaining performances by Taron Edgerton and Hugh Jackman. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-Out of the Shadows: The most fun I had at the movies this year, and something I've watched over and over again since getting the DVD.  
Bleed for This: A fascinating comeback story anchored by Miles Teller's outstanding lead. 
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: This kick-start of a whole new Harry Potter series is well acted, beautifully filmed, and utterly magical.  
Anthropoid: Magnificent performances (especially from Cillian Murphy) elevate this meticulous WWII story far above its big-budget competition.  

Deadpool: Sharp wit and Ryan Reynolds' hilarious leading turn shook up the superhero business in 2016. Some of the more juvenile bits wear thin on repeat viewings, but, still, a fun outing.  
Suicide Squad: It plays like a series of frenetic music videos, but nifty visuals, Will Smith's unyielding magnetism, and a star turn from Margo Robbie make Suicide Squad worth watching.  
Triple 9: A tense thriller with a superb cast. Real edge-of-your-seat cinema.  

Moana/Sing/Finding Dory/The Secret Life of Pets: Strong year for animation, don't think I saw a bad animated film in 2016.  
2015 Winners I Didn't See in Time for Last Year's List Spotlight, which certainly would have made the cut. 
The Revenant, which would have had a fair chance based solely on the beauty of its locations.  
2016: The Year of the Disappointing Sequel London Has Fallen, Captain America: Civil War (only Black Panther saves this lumbering bore), X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence, Jason Bourne (I liked you better when you were Jeremy Renner), Snow White & the Huntsman, Mechanic: Resurrection (shoulda stayed dead), Inferno, and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (please go back, the first one was good), all failed to live up to even middling expectations set by their predecessors. 
On the other hand, Alice: Through the Looking Glass actually wasn't half as bad as the original! 2016's Bottom of the Barrel (a.k.a. I Paid to See That??) Gods of Egypt, which is actually so terrible it's almost great. The Bronze, one of the worst movies I've EVER seen. Hardcore Henry, worse than The Bronze. The Legend of Tarzan, but at least they didn't make Skarsgard do that yodel-thing onscreen. Assassin's Creed, no...just no.  
2016: The Year Jack Huston Made Such Bad Movies That Pride & Prejudice & Zombies Was Actually the BEST! (Not counting Hail, Caesar!, in which he turns up for all of 60 seconds.) And Ben Hur reviews apparently scared him off social media. 
Come back, Jack...I miss you! *cries*  
2016: How to Spit-Shine A Hero Sully: YES. Snowden: NO. 
And The Winner Is... 
Best Actor: Ryan Gosling (The Nice Guys)
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane) 
Best Supporting Actor: Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) 
Best Supporting Actress: Kate Winslet (Triple 9) 
Best Director: Ethan & Joel Coen (Hail, Caesar!) 
So, dear reader(s), there you have my take on the year just ended. May the new one be happy and healthy for you all. See you at Marquee Cinemas!!

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