Time sure flies. 2016 is half over and it’s time to have a brief look back at what the cinema has offered us so far. The mxdwn team got together to select their very favorite films from the first six months of 2016. Will any of these films stand the test of time when the year comes to close? Do any of the below titles have a chance at garnering awards respect later on? Will of any of them develop a deeper legacy in the coming years and decades? We shall see but celebrate with us as we salute the best achievements in movies so far this year.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR
Read our review.
For me the best film of 2016 so far is Captain America: Civil War. Not only is this one of the best Marvel films to date, it’s just a well made film. Working as a fine political thriller, action film, and including thought provoking ideas, this film shows us that superhero films are more that just a spectacle of our childhood memories of our favorite heroes. Civil War is the best of the Captain America trilogy and with all the characters involved works better than The Avengers. Never has a superhero film included ideas that this film showcases and it does so very effectively. Kudos to the cast, the Russo brothers on a solid direction, and the writers. We salute you Cap, thanks for the fun.
My personal pick for the best movie of 2016 so far goes to Captain America: Civil War, one of Marvel’s boldest moves since Guardians of the Galaxy that paid off big time. Despite being in the minority of mxdwn writers that actually enjoyed Batman vs. Superman (and probably will even more thanks to the Ultimate Edition), even I have to agree that Civil War did a better job at establishing its overall conflict between characters. The use of the Slokovia Accords, while a means of addressing the limits of power that a superhero should have, was only a catalyst for what would become an all-out battleground between heroes who we have come to know and care about over the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only that, but this film also managed to smoothly introduce two new characters into the world of the MCU, with Black Panther and Spider-Man being great additions to Marvel’s ever-growing roster. True Spider-Man, like Wonder Woman, didn’t need to be in this movie, but he was, and he has since become my favorite live-action Spidey to date. My only real complaint is that Tony Stark/Steve Roger’s relationship in the MCU has always bordered between friendship and antagonistic old vs. new, and it kind of shows here, but that doesn’t stop the paths that they take from being any less tragic. With some of the best action sequences to ever grace a superhero film and enough screentime for every character to shine, Civil War is undoubtedly one of the MCU’s best films to date, and just makes me more excited for the everything else on the Phase 3 lineup.
Read our review.
This has actually been a really good year for movies so far, but The Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! from February still reigns supreme. A fantastic ensemble cast (led by Josh Brolin, not George Clooney) shows the ins-and-outs of 1950’s Hollywood complete with Communist paranoia, the omnipresence of mediocre genre pictures, and the ever watchful eyes of tabloid journalists. But Hail, Caesar! is not presented with cynicism or an overreaching attempt to link it to today’s media. Rather, the Coen Brothers has created one of the best love letters to old Hollywood that is also probably the funniest movie this year. Remarkably, it’s also the Coen Brothers’ most visually accomplished movie, as it’s hard to remember one of their films with such fantastic set design, costuming, and props. Most importantly, you leave the film with a greater appreciation for both the art and the business of filmmaking. Whether it be the sheer stamina of dance in musicals or the lavishness of sets in costume dramas, one marvels at the genuine effort put forth in the years before effects and Final Cut Pro editing took over. (Though because it is set at Capitol Pictures, one slightly wonders if this is part of a Fink-iverse.)
-Brett Harrison Davinger
There has been a dearth of compelling movies in the first half of this year. After all, by this time last year, Ex Machina, Inside Out and Mad Max: Fury Road had already been out in theaters. One supposes (hopefully) that the industry is holding back its best for the latter part of this year in time for awards season. Reflecting on the best out in theaters so far in 2016, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, and the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar! come to mind. Hail, Caesar! is a fun, quirky labor-of-love homage to 1950s-era Hollywood and a gift to movie fans familiar with the films produced under the old studio factory system. It was a blast seeing Esther Williams’ dance-swimming sequences and Gene Kelly’s boisterous tap dancing honored, channeled and sent up by Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum. While Ralph Fiennes did a classically familiar comic characterization of a fussy, exasperated director, the big revelation of the film was Alden Ehrenreich playing singing cowboy. Ehrenreich hits all the right notes as a sincere aw-shucks innocent who flawlessly parlays sweet, talented, funny, and heroic and holds his own and dare I say outshines veterans Fiennes, George Clooney, and Josh Brolin on-screen. What a natural he is, and no wonder he was chosen out of so many to play the young Han Solo. Looking forward to what this young talent can manifest in the future!
Read our review.
Okay, sure it’s not… wait, no. No! I am not gonna talk about what this movie isn’t. What’s the point of bringing up things a film isn’t even trying to do or be? Instead let’s look at everything Hardcore Henry attempted to accomplish and ask ourselves if it was successful. Was it a break-neck action extravaganza? Yes. Did it maintain its intense pace throughout the entirety of its run-time? Yes. Was a single second of its 90-minute run-time wasted? No. Did its gimmick of shooting an entire action film from a first-person perspective hinder or enhance its entertainment value? Enhance. Did the aforementioned length ensure the film’s gimmick didn’t outstay its welcome? Yes. Did it prove that you can create a compelling and sympathetic protagonist without giving overblown speeches explaining their motivations and personal philosophies, instead conveying all their character through actions as simple as a hand gesture? Fuck yes. Did it provide a platform upon which Sharlto Copley could demonstrate why he is one of the best, most entertaining character actors of this generation? Shame on you for even having to ask. So, if we judge by that simple criteria then Hardcore Henry is the most successful film of the year.
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE
Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi took the top rated comedy spot on Rotten Tomatoes last year with his vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. This year he did not skip a single beat with his charming coming-of-age adventure Hunt for the Wilderpeople. The film is equal parts comedy and heartfelt and makes heroes out of the most unlikely pair – an overweight, foul-mouthed orphan and his curmudgeonly foster father. The kid, played by newcomer Julian Dennison, and the foster dad, Sam Neill, are both stand-outs among an equally entertaining supporting cast. Waititi has a knack for finding magically hilarious opportunities in the smallest of moments while tying in a somewhat less polished Wes Anderson-like aesthetic. Waititi is one of the most exciting directors making movies today, and I can’t wait to see what he does next – including on Thor: Ragnarok.
A tale has old as time – a dystopian society where single people are rounded up and given 45 days to find a suitable mate or they are turned into an animal of their choose. Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos’ English-language debut is a blisteringly unique beast altogether – a widely original work that unsettles the heart, brain and eyes (sometimes literally) and serves as a welcome cinematic wake-up call for grown-up filmmaking in an ever risk-averse marketplace (thank the heavens – and A24 Films – that The Lobster has become an arthouse hit). Gorgeously composed, eerily developed and featuring top-notch performances from Colin Farrell (never better), Rachel Weisz, Olivia Coleman and an ace ensemble cast, Lanthimos, with unparalleled verve, has concocted something new altogether: a bleak romantic comedy. The Lobster is a funny, weird, devastating and yet ultimately moving experience that will be hard to forget. Encore!
In just a matter of four films, Jeff Nichols has established himself as a creative force. Teaming up with muse Michael Shannon has produced memorable works and his latest, Midnight Special, is a marvel. The film is ambiguous and eerie, beautifully scored and shot. The film’s whats and whys are more interesting then their answers but this is a gripping film you will be compelled to watch several times over.
THE NICE GUYS
Read our review.
Shane Black’s The Nice Guys was a refreshing take on the classic buddy cop movie, featuring the duo of Ryan Gosling, and Russell Crowe. Though it’s box office take was unimpressive, it was met with positive responses from both critics and audiences. All of the elements that make this film great tie in together; the comedy, the action, the 1970’s environment, and of course a movie about detectives has a good mystery. An underrated gem compared to recent releases, but nonetheless a fun exciting film we don’t see enough of in theaters.
Agree? Disagree? Square off in the comments.