Posts Tagged ‘captain america’

The Ten Best Movies – 2016

2016 was not great. Not for all those reasons you just thought of. Mostly because movies weren’t that great. There may have been more good than bad, or more good than usual, but nothing was great. Last year we were seriously discussing whether or not a Mad Max movie should win Best Picture. Sylvester Stallone was a frontrunner for an Oscar for playing Rocky Balboa. Tarantino and Iñárittu gave us what could end up being the best movies of their stellar careers. There were zero DC movies.

 

1. Tunnel – Tunnel was the best anyone could come up with in 2016. And barely at that. Any of the first five movies listed here could just as easily been number one, really. They are all very different from each other, but nothing stood above terribly taller than the rest.

 

Of course, this is all in disservice to Tunnel. Which did everything right. You don’t know it because it was made in Korea and pretty much only came out there, (where it won a Blue Dragon for Popularity, which also means nothing to you) playing only in American theaters that specialize in such things. Not that there weren’t plenty of Korean movies in regular American theaters in 2016. There was critically lauded molasses like The Handmaiden, disappointing spy epic Age Of Shadows, great but bloated Train To Busan and Operation Chromite had Liam Neeson as Genral Douglas MacArthur so of course it got to be in theaters no matter how terrible it was. Obviously, none of these came close to matching Tunnel.

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There was a time not so long ago that America made movies like this though. The closest we’ve come recently was The Martian, which also came out last year and might regret that since it could have been the best movie of this one. Essentially a made up incident that feels like it could be telling a true story, with all the same tension and danger and humor and emotion tugging as something that was true might have.2016-the-tunnel
Tunnel may not carry with the weight of typical award-gathering movies or even typical effects-laden crowd pleasers that might typically make typical top of year end lists. But besides getting nearly everything right (the ending goes on seconds too long) it isn’t just a frivolous endeavor either. In this case, it’s indirectly attacking the infrastructure problem Korea has been suffering for some time. Not exactly world changing, but maybe country changing, and in a tangible way, which could be more important.

 

 

 

2. Weiner – Sure, it’s already hopelessly out of date, but you can still enjoy the madcap follies of the most (unfortunately) famous New York Representative in history. There is a rise and fall, marital strife, great chases, political discourse and the greatest documentary quotes since American Movie.

 

The fact that it’s all real (and not even the whole story) is really not part of it. You can learn real some things, and that’s great, but it doesn’t make this any better. Whenever you hear people say “You can’t make this stuff up” it’s always stupid, you totally could make it up, and probably have, but this is one case where maybe it’s finally true. Not that you’d ever want to. But you don’t have to. You just have to watch Weiner.weiner

 

 

3. Zootopia – Any movie with two important message metaphors, a crushing breakdown by its lead actress and political intrigue all wrapped up in a fantastic mystery and laced with easy humor anchored by the perfect interplay of the leads would be a simple pick for Best Picture, never mind a top ten list. That it is animated and ostensibly for children should really make it all the more notable. Not marginalized into some ancillary category.

But of course that is not how it works.

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4. Sing Street – Did the phrase “drive it like you stole it” really exist in nineteeneightywhatever Ireland? I doubt it. There a lot of strange anachronisms in this otherwise pretty dedicated period piece. But Sing Street is less interested in its specificity of tribute than it is in universally reveling in the power of expression.sing4

 

You may like Sing Street for its uplifting ending filled with promise and fulfillment. I read it more as the imminent demise of these things, because there’s no way they make that crossing alive. But that’s just another thing that’s great about Sing Street. Something for everyone, even when it’s the same thing.sing-street-still

 

 

5. La La Land – Speaking something for everyone. La La Land isn’t totally satisfying to anyone. Including its characters.

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Without prototypical musical song, dance or even storytelling (there is no villain, no matter how much you’d like to say Keith is one) La La Land instead really only backs into being a musical, even when music is essential to its plot. Director Damian Chezelle has gotten a lot of criticism for these shortcomings (and more serious, less accurate ones) but what he never gets credit for is deciding to go with two of the best actors available to us today and worrying about the rest of it later. In doing so, he is able to go to the dramatic and humorous extremes that make this one of the best movies of 2016 without it showing any cracks.

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Sure, I wish they’d had to sing while they were fighting, since that’s what musicals are supposed to do, transpose heightened emotion into song. But maybe we should stop telling La La Land what musicals are supposed to do and accept the things La La Land does do. And does so well.

 

 

6. Christine – I’m not even sure I like this movie, never mind love it enough to put it on so high a personal pedestal as this. But I am because maybe it is great and I just haven’t completely come to terms with that yet. It is the one of these ten that I really ought to watch again, but probably won’t, because it is so divisive, even if only internally.

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Rebecca Hall’s performance deserves all the same words. Both because they are appropriate and because it forms so much of the movie. There is not really anything but her performance of Christine in Christine. Which is the point, of course. But maybe that is the problem? Not that it is so much of the movie, but that it is and there still isn’t a lot to be learned about the actual person, Christine Chubbock. Christine, the movie, isn’t all that interested in answering the questions it raises about her, nor the ones you might have had already, about this prescient tragic figure in media history.

 

And maybe that is something to love. Not in general, but in this specific case, where the singular central event (that you probably know about, even if you don’t know the names involved enough to tie it to what I am saying now, but still, seems like I should give you the chance to find out for yourself, one way or another) is such a mystery, that is why it is so famous, or a major part of why anyway, and letting it remain that is the only way to be truthful. For as much as we may know about all of this, we can’t really know any whys and this movie lets you feel that first hand. And that is something admirable, even if it tends to fly in the face of what we expect, what we may feel we deserve, from a movie.3937e12f00000578-3828585-image-a-44_1475949339427

 

7. Captain America: Civil War – After enjoying the world all to themselves for awhile, Marvel movies are now inexplicably getting put to task for being all the same. Employing a winning formula is hardly a reason to get upset, of course, just ask Coca-Cola how springing a new one on everyone works out. How any lobotomized DC production gets to be compared at all, never mind revered, is beyond my comprehension and I’d prefer it to stay that way if finding auteurism and its inherent artistic merit in Suicide Squad is the alternative.

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But obviously simply being the better comic book move is not what lands Captain America on this list (again.) But Captain America the character continues to be the most compelling in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and having him pitted against the other best character is not a risk that should be taken so much for granted. In comic books when this happens there is not so much consequence. The next series is written and this is all relegated to an editor’s asterisk. A failure at this juncture might prove unsustainable even for the Marvel juggernaut. But not only does making a beloved hero into a quasi-villain work, it turns “just another” super hero movie into something timely. Even prophetic. Never mind the background villain being totally human and only turning prior movie’s events into his weapons. This movie is great even without a perfect Spider-Man or an airport scene. Those things are just nice.cripjpg

 

 

8. The Edge Of Seventeen – Even the fact that I watched this on a screener sent to people more important than most of us in order to entice them to give it awards did not prepare me for what this is. The Edge Of Seventeen has more in common with Diary Of A Wimpy Kid than it probably would want to. And less in common with any other teen dramedy you might have ascribed it, based on its marketing matthe-edge-of-seventeen-2016erial.

 

Diary Of Wimpy Kid movies are mostly terrible, but maybe also a little admirable, because of how awful the protagonist is to everyone around him. The movies do not appear to be very aware of this, forcing said Wimpy Kid to learn from anything he’s done or even become attentive to the idea that he might have been terrible. So The Edge Of Seventeen clearly does not follow this trajectory. But in making Nadine so awful to everyone in her life, this movie does not lay out a clear path to success. Which makes its balancing act all the more impressive. And fruitful. Of course, without Hailee Steinfeld’s tightrope performance, you can have nothing else, she can be normal and funny, tortured and maligned, horrible and nasty and totally self-righteous about it and nearly bring you right along with her, as any movie ought to do.edgeofseventeen-steinfeld-classroom

 

 

9. Rogue One – It shouldn’t be encouraged, the conception of a sequel based on one line of dialog from a 40 year old movie. No matter how poured over and dissected that movie’s dialog might have been throughout that period.

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Rogue One is always headed to one very familiar place, but it shows us that that doesn’t have to matter as much as we might have thought. We can be enthralled and moved and just entertained without any hope of the ending we might find we want and only the one we thoroughly expect (and would be annoyed without, really.)

 

More Wild Bunch than Star Wars and all the better for it. Not simply in being different, but in being the different within such a well established set of parameters. Never mind being better than the prequels or even better than last year’s linear sequel. Rogue One stands on its own as a movie first. Then manages to not generate internet riots about its pedigree and submission to it.rogue-one-trailer

 

 

10. Hacksaw Ridge – 2016 wasn’t such a great year for movies. You can tell because Hacksaw Ridge is only mildly interesting and almost as unintentionally creepy for quite a long time. But that is before it wipes your memory clean of everything that has ever come before.

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I saw Mel Gibson interviewed after a screening of Mad Max one time and during it, he said that he’s always trying to find the line with his portrayal of violence where it makes people run out of the theater and stop right before that. He must means everyone runs out, because I’m sure a great number of people who found themselves in the midst of this extended battle sequence did run out of the theater. Maybe stumbled. It is perhaps the most visceral, hopeless, chaotic battle scene to ever happen. And it is enough, in a year full of mostly middling fare, to elevate it above those.hacksaw-ridge

 

 

 

 

10. – 15.

 

Moonlight – Everything (and everyone) says Moonlight is better than any of the movies I’ve mentioned before. But there isn’t one thing about it that stands out. It’s just very well done and slightly unconventional. What I think I like most about it is that it played to an audience that had no idea what it was getting into and wouldn’t have seen it if they had. Also, Naomi Harris is terrible in this and I fear she will win every award.

 

The Finest Hours – Something released in January should never be on anyone’s list of anything except maybe a movies released in January list. But The Finest Hours is two gripping movies pitted against each other in a race for relevance. They both win. So do you.

 

Eddie The Eagle – Movies that make me cry and few and far between and so one that does it maybe ought to be further up this list. But I know Eddie The Eagle’s limitations. And I’m thankful it never let that stop it.

 

The Secret Life Of Pets – Illumination isn’t ever going to get the recognition for the superb animation that it produces because it’s too concerned with being funny. Which is a way more worthy cause for its celebration.

 

Audrie & Daisy – More documentaries should go for court ordered interviews.

The Ten Best Movies – 2014

This list might as well be copied from the list of top ten box office performers. Maybe it should be embarrassing. But I see Goodbye To Language and Boyhood heading most serious critics’ lists and can’t help but feeling as though they don’t like movies. It’s one thing to rail against what is popular (or meant to be) when it is drowning in its own mistakes. But when that ship gets right and you keep doing the same thing, you are the one who looks dumb. Or crazy. Or both. This list has 3 sequels and something based on three dimensional puzzle pieces. It’s the riskier proposition choosing these over a movie that has no intention of making any sense or another with the emotional resonance of looking at a yearbook. This sort of typically celebrated cinematic achievement cannot compete when mainstream Hollywood is going right. And in 2014, it went righter than it has in a very long time.

 

 

1) The LEGO Movie – The bar for 2014 was set so high so early it could never recover. It tried and tried and really turned out to be a pretty amazing year for movies, but there was barely any hope that it would ever get better than it was the first week of February.

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And really, it didn’t have to. The LEGO Movie is everything a movie can be. It is for absolutely everyone and anyone. It is relentless in its action and its humor and is visually stunning to go along with it. It has simple lessons for younger viewers and more complicated ones for whoever wants that. It has a turn that ratchets every aspect that had been working perfectly up to a level for which you might not be prepared.Worlds_ocean1

 

It appeals to the people who want to say “that was fun” afterwards as well as to the people who want to say, “that was smart” as well as the rest of us who hate when that’s what anyone says after a movie. The LEGO Movie does not leave anyone out.

 

 

2) X-Men: Days Of Future Past – It is both imperative and unfair to bring up all that came before this in the cinematic world of the X-Men. It can’t exist without that history, of course, and it has the benefit of choosing the best of all of them. But everything that might help along the way could serve just as easily as a detriment.

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Trying to merge a successful but largely free standing prequel with a bunch of movies that mostly necessitated that very free standingness is not a promising scenario. And so to emerge from that morass with something better than the average of everything that came before seems unlikely at best. Overcoming all of that is worth mentioning, worth praising, before you get to anything else.

 

But X-Men: Days Of Future Past does not need that comparison to be one of the best movies of the year. It is ultimately it’s own movie. One that can weave together a giant cast and give them all just the right things to do. One that can make everyone matter while never inflating anyone’s importance. Once that can exist within both the history of its own universe and of ours. One that can take breaks from glorious action for just as glorious character moments.

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And perhaps best of all, though ultimately superfluous, X-Men: Days Of Future Past wipes the muddled slate clean for all future endeavors. Which seem all the brighter after this. It’s not overstating things to call this a miracle. And yet it’s already become expectation rather than aberration.

 

 

3) Guardians Of The Galaxy – You heard it here first.

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You loved this movie and for good reason. The best reasons. But then also a dancing tree.

 

 

 

 

4) Whiplash – I’m obviously having trouble writing about anything that was good this year and I think it might be Whiplash’s fault. It tells us all what most of us cannot bear to hear, that we’re not good enough and worse, maybe we could have been but we didn’t want to bleed or get anything thrown at us to get there.

 

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5) Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Chris Hemsworth came from nowhere to forge a dull Norse god into a luminous presence in a landscape quickly filled with them. It isn’t quite as shocking for Chris Evans to have turned this otherwise bland character into one on equal footing with all the other giant Marvel personalities. But while Thor movies have never matched Chris Hemsworth’s enthusiasm, with Winter Soldier, Captain America, the franchise, has proven it can more than handle the cornerstone it’s been called upon to be.new-captain-america-trailer-shows-off-winter-soldier-villain

 

 

6) Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance – Even while the central tenant of Birdman was proven wrong at every other turn this year, it somehow stpostfull-watch-edward-norton-discuss-shooting-birdman-on-letterman-ed_michaelill manages to seem more righteous rather than pretentious. It is just another source of accolade that I want to hate this movie and find myself completely powerless to do so. It is made too well. Which is a vague and empty notion that cannot be put any other way.

 

 

 

7) Frank – In a year when movies wanted to show us how easy and wonderful making music could be (We Are The Best!, God Help The Girl, Jersey Boys, Begin Again, even Get On Up) it is refreshing to see it portrayed as difficult, almost impossible, unless of course you are insane.

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And even then it’s not so simple to find an audience. In a year when movies wanted to incorporate social media into their plots and somehow got it all wrong (Chef, Annie), Frank was decidedly humble and sometimes even insipidly accurate about it.

 

Nothing about Frank is easy and yet it still manages to be a light-hearted unconventional comedy. Not a dark comedy, but a comedy that can be dark if it wants to be. Allowed to find humor in anything, but without leaning on those things you aren’t supposed to laugh at for its laughs. It’s a complicated movie inside a pleasant and expressionless papier-mâché head.

 

 

8) Edge Of Tomorrow – Any Groundhog Day premise is welcome. I will sing you the praises of a Stargate episode that uses it even. So perhaps this movie didn’t have to try so hard.

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And that’s the thing. It does not appear to be trying. At all. This is the most relaxed sci-fi comedy filled with brutality and death there has ever been. Nothing can prepare you. Except maybe that new title.

 

 

9) The Raid 2 – Unfortunately for The Raid 2, The Raid exists. If it didn’t, you might feel as though you’d never seen anything like The Raid 2 before.

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But The Raid does exist and nothing will ever be the same. The Raid 2 though, is not The Raid Too. It is its own entity and goes what seems like a really long way out of its way to differentiate itself. There are still fights that seem designed to thrill you only before exhausting you. There are still weirdo villains you’re not sure you can root against. And there is a palpable desperation to every movement. But this is the second album by that band you like whose fist album was made in a garage and now they’ve been signed to a major label and there’s a team of producers involved. You might resent all that new stuff, but it’s still the same band. It’s your own fault for not giving them the same chance you did originally. If they put the same album out, you’d complain about that too. You’re never satisfied, are you? Well, you will be. The Raid 2 will see to that.

 

10) Coherence – Do you love Primer but wish you understood any of it? Then Coherence is for you. Just esoteric enough to make you consider that either you are too dumb or the movie is just pretending to be smarter than you, but adept enough at an impressive web of interpersonal drama to make your waffling not make much of a difference.

 

Maybe most impressive is how funny this movie can be without ever really making a joke. Everyone tries to recreate that funny evening you had witCoherenceih your friends only to realize if you weren’t there, it just plays like a bunch of people trying too hard. Coherence gets that impossible thing just right, which should really be enough, but then there’s a whole confusing low level science fiction plot to contend with too. And when I say confusing, I do mean for you, sure, but more importantly confusing for everyone in the movie. Watching everyone work everything out (or not work everything out) is like watching a very entertaining scavenger hunt of sorts which sounds horrible so there’s yet another impossible thing this movie did.

 

 

11-15)

 

Nightcrawler – Jake Gyllenhaal took a Daniel Day-Lewis turn in this and will probably go largely unrecognized for it which is too bad because this movie might be slightly more accessible than There Will Be Blood.

 

Blue Ruin – Things can be exciting and tense even when everyone is blinded by revenge and terrible at everything they try to do.

 

Enemy – Jake Gyllenhaal again (twice maybe sort of!) in what is probably the creepiest movie of the year, which is quite an accomplishment considering what he does in Nightcrawler alone.

 

How To Train Your Dragon 2 – I’ll never forgive it for not being called How 2 Train Your Dragon but if there was ever a movie to teach me about forgiveness it’s this one. Jesus.

 

John Wick – Proving great action does need a story and character to thrive but maybe not quite as much as we thought.