Mid-Year Top 5 Films for 2016

July is already upon us? What the hell, time? Can you just be cool? Just this once?

Well, for me, the one good thing that befriends the passage of time is I get to write top 5 or top 10 lists for movies. I’m super nerdy and organized like that and have a blast doing it, so without further ado, let’s dive into my top 5 movies for the year 2016 so far!

5 – 10 Cloverfield Lane

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One of two “locked-in-a-small-space” thrillers in my top 5, director Dan Trachtenberg perfectly captured the tension and told the story of Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Michelle residing with her captor, John Goodman’s Howard, trying to decipher whether this man was spewing insanities about the apocalypse or arguing with logic. This movie definitely kept me guessing up until the final act, which then had me guessing again! It had been a while since a movie not only genuinely surprised me once, but twice. Also, this entire movie is a rock-solid argument for making Mary Elizabeth Winstead a leading lady in Hollywood for years to come, and giving John Goodman an Oscar nomination for a freaking sci-fi/horror/thriller kind-of-a-sequel we didn’t know we wanted.

4 – Sing Street

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Without question, this was the most feel-good movie of the year. But beyond that, this gives also the best original soundtrack of the year. Hell, I’m still singing “Drive It Like You Stole It” in my head every time I think of this movie, which is rather often. It left quite an impression. I’m a pretty serious fanboy of director John Carney’s work thus far (Keira Knightley comments aside), and this movie certainly lived up to and exceeded those standards in a big, big way. This was just the perfect Irish John Hughes-esque, coming-of-age film with some amazing tunes and tons of heart.

3 – Midnight Special

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Director Jeff Nichols clearly loves working with Michael Shannon, and vice versa. But with good reason. I feel they get the best work out of each other. Nichols’ movies spend a lot of time subverting audience expectations. See: Take Shelter. He’s quite the fan of keeping moviegoers on their toes until the credits roll, and this wasn’t any different. A spoiler-free example from this movie: instead of what was expected to be an insane car chase, here we get the beginnings of one followed immediately by sheer gridlock. Cars traveling at most 10mph on what’s typically a quick-moving highway, while Michael Shannon and his crew helping his son evade the federal government (it’s complicated) stress about being detected. And it’s one of the most intense moments in film all year. One of many reasons to see this movie ASAP.

2 – Green Room

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Jeremy Saulnier is definitely crawling up my list as one of my favorite working directors today. First off, if you haven’t seen 2013’s Blue Ruin, what the heck are you waiting for?! Regardless, this movie absolutely delivers on the tension Saulnier is so fond of building in an epic way, and gives us one of the best final acts from a movie all year. If I specify why, we dive into spoilers, and I’m not going to do that here. This is definitely a “see it for yourself” movie experience. If you did see Blue Ruin though, you should expect the same level of unadulterated brutality from Saulnier here. Also, it was definitely bittersweet watching Anton Yelchin in one of his final roles, but as he usually does, he brings it. And I couldn’t have been happier to see Patrick Stewart sink his teeth into such a despicable villainous character.

1 – The Revenant

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Apparently there’s a rather large section of the Internet that doesn’t really like Alejandro Inarritu’s The Revenant that much. I hear lots of complaints that it was “boring.” Not once for me was I ever bored or did I ever feel the length of this movie. In between important character moments, we had utterly breathtaking examples of cinematography in something as simple as the sky. Haters be damned, Leonardo DiCaprio certainly earned the accolades he received for this (as did Inarritu). I felt every iota of his pain, as he plays a father that attempts to live up to some of his last words to his son, which was more or less “never give up as long as there’s breath in your body.” Is this occasionally hard to watch due to its brutality? At times, but if you can’t tell by this list so far, I’m not bothered by that as long as it serves a purpose, and it serves the story the best here. Same could be said for historical accuracy, which I didn’t necessarily need from this movie as long as the story they told was immersive enough, which it was. Also, that bear-mauling scene will definitely go down as one of the most memorable in movie history. Just brilliance all around from this movie, and I’ll probably continue to beat the drum for it come the end of the year. (For those asking, yes, this is a 2016 release, as it didn’t receive a wide release until 1/8/16.)

NOTE: Individual, detailed reviews for each movie are forthcoming!

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