Thursday, December 29, 2016

The 25 Best (and worst) Films Released on DVD in 2016


1. CAROL **** Made of crystal and suppressed tears, shot eternally through windows and mirrors and half-closed doors, Todd Haynes’s film is a love story that starts as a trickle, swells gradually to a torrent, and finally bursts the banks of your heart. A beautiful film in every way, immaculately made, and featuring two pristine actresses glowing across rooms and tousled bedclothes at each other like beacons of tentative, unspoken hope.

2. 45 YEARS **** If you prefer acting prowess over Star Wars, you won’t do better than observing Charlotte Rampling (she of the withering stare) and Tom Courtenay (he of the soulful gaze), two stalwarts of that wonderful wave of British talent that hit our shores in the 1960s, as they perform a finely calibrated pas de deux.

3. SPOTLIGHT **** Director and co-writer Tom McCarthy played a weasel of a journalist in The Wire. With this film, he has made a meticulous, exacting procedural on real-life journalists who excelled at their job; had the resources to do it properly; and in early 2002 published the first in a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of grim, carefully detailed stories of pedophile priests.

4. SON OF SAUL ***½ A film that is as grim and unyielding depiction of the Holocaust as has yet been made on that cinematically overworked subject — a masterful exercise in narrative deprivation and sensory overload that recasts familiar horrors in daringly existential terms.

5. PHOENIX ***½ Both a powerful allegory for post-war regeneration and a rich Hitchcockian tale of mistaken identity, this film once again proves German filmmaker Christian Petzold and his favorite star, Nina Hoss, are clearly one of the best director-actor duos working in movies today.

6. HELL OR HIGH WATER ***½ By turns funny, elegiac and thrilling, it’s a tale of brotherhood and family that takes in the harsh beauty of the land, the elusive nature of right and wrong and the quirky delights of human connections in a time of bewildering change.

7. ANOMALISA ***½ Even though it is a highly stylized , stop motion animation film featuring puppet-like human characters, it is a pinpoint accurate encapsulation of some of the most banal and some of the most exhilarating moments virtually all of us have experienced in some point in our lives.

8. BROOKLYN ***½ A heartbreaking and poignant story about choices, country, commitments, sacrifice, and love, this is superb, luminous, and bittersweet portrayal of who we are, where we’ve come from, where we’re going, and the places we call home.

9. LOVE & FRIENDSHIP ***½ The funniest, most venomous Jane Austen movie ever made, and conclusive proof that (1) actress Kate Beckinsale has been seriously undervalued by the movies and (2) director Wilt Stillman is a major, distinctive talent.

10. THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL ***½ A remarkably vibrant and frank look at one precocious teen’s emerging sexual life — a film with the stuff of life coursing through its veins and sex very much on its brain.

11. ROOM ***½ Amazingly — and this movie is amazing — this is a story of hope, of possibility. Sure, your stomach will be in knots, your fingers clenched, your heart racing. But it will also fill your heart with a sense of the goodness, the courage, the enduring love that is out there to be discovered — and to be held onto with the fierceness of life itself.

12. LITTLE MEN ***½ The remarkable, magical thing about this film is that, at 85 minutes, it’s so whole. With it’s fully formed people and changing places, this is a film you can live in, and think about while you’re there.

13. KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS ***½ From its opening image — of a distraught woman battling massive ocean waves on a moonlit night — to its surprisingly ambiguous final shot — of what, I won’t say — this animated feature sears itself into your brain.

14. WEINER ***½ A pair of documentary filmmakers have provided a brilliant window into the impact of the contemporary media circus on public life, While not exactly a figure of sympathy — he lied, after all, more than once — Anthony Weiner nevertheless maintains the charisma and the drive to provide the movie with one of the most compelling anti-heroes in recent memory.

15. EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! ***½ Austin-based writer-director Richard Linklater indulges his characters’ antics with such wild, free-flowing affection that you might miss the thoughtful undertow of this delightful movie: Few fimmakers have so fully embraced the bittersweet joy of living in the moment — one that’s all the more glorious because it fades so soon.

16. THE WITCH ***½ A deeply impressive first film by director Robert Eggers, this is immaculately constructed, evinces an exquisitely ominous tone, and is unequivocally haunting. It’s exacting look at the dissonance of human nature is terrifying.

17. DE PALMA ***½ Director Brian De Palma is a true visionary, even if you might not agree with what that vision is. Either way, a trip through his wild and hugely influential filmography is mandatory for any film fan, and that’s just what directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow offer in this documentary.

18. DON’T THINK TWICE ***½ It’s funny and inspiring and harsh and depressing. It’s steeped in existential dread. I don’t know how director Mike Birbiglia pulled it off, but he gets the minutia of an improv-comedy show thrillingly right while using the form to build a kind of allegory of the corrosive effects of capitalism.

19. STEVE JOBS ***½ This is a moving and magnificently crafted story about a person named Steve Jobs who was brought low by pride and arrogance and then redeemed by love. It might be a story that mirrors our dreams and desires, which is what the real Steve Jobs did too, and it that sense maybe it’s directly about him. It’s definitely not about the guy who built and sold computers.

20. THE LOBSTER ***½ A wickedly funny protest against societal preference for nuclear coupledom that escalates, by its own sly logic, into a love story of profound tenderness and originality.

21. CREED ***½ The film mingles go-for-broke romance with bloody pugilist thrills — but instead of feeling like a rehash, it works like gangbusters. Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler honors and builds upon the Rocky formula so that it feels both comfortably old-fashioned and bracingly new.

22. EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT ***½ Viewed largely though the aggrieved eyes of a shaman whose tribe is on the verge of extinction at the hands to the Colombian rubber barons in the 19th and 20th centuries, this film is a fantastical mixture of myth and historical reality, shatters lingering illusions of first-world culture as more advanced than any other, except technologically.

23. STAR WARS EPISODE 7 — THE FORCE AWAKENS ***½ Frankly, this is some sort of miracle. It works on every imaginable level — as a heartfelt love letter to fans, an irresistible invitation to newbies, a visual marvel and a blockbuster of unparalleled emotional heft and cultural significance.

24. BRIDGE OF SPIES ***½ Director Steven Spielberg has taken an important but largely forgotten and hardly action-packed slice of the Cold War and turned it into a gripping character study and thriller that feels a bit like a John Le Carre adaptation if Frank Capra were at the controls.

25. SICARIO ***½ This movie is a tentacled drug cartel thriller grabbing viewers by the throat and squeezing for two hours. The movie continuously defies the conventions of its genre, from its hero’s gender to the vagueness of its morality.


THE SECOND 25
26. The Big Short ***½
27. Hunt for the Wilderpeople ***½
28. A War ***½
29. The Martian ***½
30. Sing Street ***
31. Green Room ***
32. American Honey ***
33. Indignation ***
34. Zootopia ***
35. Finding Dory ***
36. The Jungle Book ***
37. Grandma ***
38. Chi-Raq ***
39. The Revenant ***
40. 10 Cloverfield Lane ***
41. Midnight Special ***
42. Maggie’s Plan ***
43. 99 Homes ***
44. Captain America: Civil War ***
45. Southside with You ***
46. Sully ***
47. A Bigger Splash ***
48. Eye in the Sky ***
49. Hail, Caesar! ***
50. Straight Outta Compton***


THE 25 WORST
1. Mother’s Day (no stars)
2. London Has Fallen ½*
3. Rock the Kasbah ½*
4. Independence Day Resurgence *
5. Warcraft *
6. The Divergent Series: Allegiant *
7. The 5th Wave *
8. The Forest *
9. Alice Through the Looking Glass *
10. Zoolander 2 *
11. The Huntsman: Winter’s War *
12. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 *
13. Ben Hur *
14. Suicide Squad *½
15. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows *½
16. The Boss *½
17. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice *½
18. The Brothers Grimsby *½
19. The Legend of Tarzan *½
20. By the Sea *½
21. The Bronze *½
22. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies *½
23. Now You See Me 2 *½
24. In the Heart of the Sea *½
25. I Saw the Light *½

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