2016 Year-End Recap: Final Round Up Of Random Film Shout Outs

On December 30th, I will be publishing my Top Ten Films of 2016 list over at Why So Blu?. I will post it here at a later date as well. Leading up to the Top Ten, though, I will be posting a number of lists reflecting my thoughts on the many films from this year. The following post features a variety of films I wanted to give a shout out to. Whether they are some of the documentaries I caught up with, some of the big blockbusters I was entertained by, or some of the smaller or foreign-language films I really enjoyed but couldn't fit into my top ten, let alone my top thirty, I wanted to provide a list that gave them all some more notice. So here a list of random shout outs for the films of 2016 (with links to the reviews for each when available).

13th is a powerful documentary from director Ava DuVernay, who goes through the tangled web of America's racial history and how that ties in with the criminal justice system. Featuring insightful interviews and observations, filmed in an engaging manner, Netflix did well in making this film easily accessible for all.

Captain America: Civil War did plenty to provide entertaining thrills and other moments in a "gang's all here" sense, but it also continued the journey of Steve Rogers quite effectively. Rather than making this a story about the fate of the world, the film opts to make it one of personal conflict with devastating results. It also happens to be incredibly fun.

De Palma features director Brian De Palma providing a candid look at all of his feature films in an extended interview, featuring many clips. As one who is not the director's biggest fan (though he has a few greats, my favorites - Blow Out, Carlito's Way and Carrie), it was great to see what a strong storyteller he is. There's a good amount of insight and I only wish there a few more personal stories he had to share.

Don't Breathe offers a tense thriller that pits a skilled blind man against some would-be thieves who have invaded his home. Director Fede Alvarez cuts a lot of the fat to provide a mean and lean reverse-home invasion flick that is heavy on the frights. Strong filmmaking allows for a dark and chilling journey through a wild night.

Don't Think Twice finds Mike Birbiglia exploring the world of improve troupes and what happens when one member gains more notoriety than the rest. Birbiglia wisely acts as part of the ensemble, instead of as a clear lead, which paves the way for a great Gillian Jacobs to truly emerge as the film's most involving character.

The Edge of Seventeen seems like a film that should have been a huge hit. Given the rave reviews, strong cast and qualities that make it comparable to other high school comedy classics, this is a sharp and very entertaining film that will ideally catch on with more and more people as time goes by.

Elle finds director Paul Verhoeven back in psychological thriller territory, which also means doing the most to bring liveliness out of a dark situation. Isabelle Huppert is great in the lead role of a woman who takes a different sort of charge of her life, following a sexual assault. It's an uneasy topic to deal with, but Verhoeven is quite good with this sort of pulp material.

Eye in the Sky is an intense film that goes over the many bureaucratic details involved when it comes to drone warfare. I'd imagine there's an even more darkly comedic version of this film that could be a modern Dr. Strangelove, if the right people were involved, but this film from Gavin Hood is still quite effective. Not hurting at all is the presence of Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman in his final live-action performance.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them may be one of my bigger surprises of the year. Given that I'm not well-versed in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (the films were fine, some much better), I only had so much interest in this film. To be so entertained and intrigued by the world that was setup here and most of the characters involved made me happy to look forward to what's coming next.

The Handmaiden is another twisted dark comedy/thriller from Oldboy director Park Chan-wook. Working as a Korean period drama, this story of how a few con artists plan to scam an heiress unfolds in three parts, from different perspectives. It leads to an entertaining series of events that doesn't shy away from the visceral details Chan-wook enjoys putting into his films. True to form, the film also features fantastic music, cinematography and sound design.

Into the Inferno is an amazing look at active volcanoes all over the world. Director Werner Herzog follows a volcanologist to a variety of different locations in an attempt to show how different groups of people have come to accept the volcano they live near. Additionally, there is some stunning photography on display, as we get up close to exploding mountains and rivers of lava.

The Invitation is a great display of paranoia matched by the uneasiness of a situation. Not Tom Hardy Logan Marshall-Green stars as a man who has no idea what is in store for him at a dinner party with old friends. This well-acted film builds a great sense of atmosphere and also features one of the best closing shots of the year.

Lion is an emotional drama that tells the true story of becoming lost and doing what is possible to return. Dev Patel stars as an adult version of Saroo, a child who lost everything when he was five and the film allows him to be a part of a very touching conclusion. However, it is the film's first half that provides an intense look at what it is to be a lost child in India.

The Little Prince appears to have been the product of many people who truly love the original French children's novel. While it took a while to finally come to America, this is another wonderful animated film from this year that allows for multiple animation types and a strong take on how to blend two different stories.

The Mermaid happens to be one of the biggest worldwide films of the year and for good reason. Director Stephen Chow has made a fantastical romantic comedy about a mermaid put on an assassination mission, which is completely fitting for the man behind Kung-Fu Hustle. Utilizing Chow's penchant for silly humor and heartfelt characters, the film is another enjoyable effort from China's acclaimed comedian.

Moana is further proof of just how in order Disney has been with their animated features. Featuring a great new princess story, strong vocal talent, wonderful new songs and stunning animation, this is the sort of film that can easily earn the Disney Classic label, as it goes in and out of the Disney Vault for various home releases to come.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping became one of the tragedies of the summer of 2016, as this incredibly funny and inventive film from The Lonely Island crew failed to make much of a box office impression. Still, it has an incredible soundtrack and non-stop jokes from plenty of comedians (Andy Samberg, Tim Meadows, Sarah Silverman) and musicians (Nas, Ringo Starr, Seal) who were game to have fun in a wacky film like this.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story obviously belongs on this list, because I'm a huge Star Wars fan and this is another film that delivers all the fun and excitement I wanted. The film manages to be both a new entry in the franchise and unlike the films that came before it in a very good way. If we're getting more spin-offs, I hope they keep this film's freshness in mind.

The Salesman is another great drama from Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who is currently among the best of writers/directors when it comes to telling very human stories. Making a film so engaging out of somewhat typical drama that stems from culture and basic human understanding and actions is impressive and this film accomplishes just that.

Train to Busan is the zombie film I was really hoping to catch before the year ended and it did not disappoint. Taking a cast of characters onto a bullet train and throwing a zombie outbreak at them was a wonderfully clever concept for a sub-genre that has seen it all. Matching thrilling moments with some social commentary and a level of emotion, this is one crazy ride through Korea's zombie-infested railway.


Stay tuned for the final Top Ten list and be sure to look back at the other lists posted throughout the week!


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