At just past the halfway point of 2016, it seems like a good time to go back in my notebook and highlight the movies that really grabbed me so far this year.
I’m always a sucker for a good documentary, and there were a few that really stood out. And on the big-budget Hollywood side, there were some titles that showed an originality and outside-the-box style that I respected. And they were just entertaining.
Here’s my top 10 so far this year:
10. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”
- Warner Bros
Yep, I still like the movie.
Though the first DC Comics movie Warner Brothers released to combat Marvel’s money-making crowd-pleasers became a joke to many, I see it as an impressive first shot out of the gate by director Zack Snyder (who has never been universally beloved) in giving the world a different kind of comic-book movie. Sure, there are moments that drag, and Henry Cavill isn’t the greatest Superman, but I enjoyed the path it’s creating for future DC stories. And, can’t lie, I’m excited to see Ben Affleck return as Batman (bring on “Suicide Squad”!).
9. “The Neon Demon”
Director Nicolas Winding Refn has always had a desire to put his audience in experiences that are beautifully uncomfortable, and I believe his latest pulls that off perfectly. You never have to worry about the music not being on point, especially when he’s working with Cliff Martinez (as he does in this one), but at times he can go a little heavy-handed with the despair, as in “Only God Forgives” and “Valhalla Rising.” With “The Neon Demon,” there’s the right mix of darkness and comedy that makes for a fun and twisted movie.
8. “The Nice Guys”
- Daniel McFadden/Warner Bros
Writer-director Shane Black has basically given me the buddy-cop movie that I’ve dreamed about. A story in which there isn’t a lot of mushiness over the friendship, and the plot points we’re all used to are made fun of constantly. Then with two masters of sarcasm as the leads, Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, you’ve got a movie that will find a fan base one of these days (its theatrical earnings so far have been less than desired).
- 20th Century Fox
The record-breaking box-office performance by “Deadpool” has opened the floodgates for new ways comic-book movies can be told. It will be interesting to see if any can duplicate its success (heck, even if a sequel can). But “Deadpool” was certainly one of the movies that made me laugh the most this year. Ryan Reynolds was born to play the role, and I can’t wait to see him do it again.
6. “De Palma”
It’s great when a legendary figure gets older, because that’s when all the secrets come out. And Brian De Palma was never one to be coy about problems on his sets or frustrations to begin with, so watching a documentary in which the director looks back on his historic filmography is a treat. Now, if movies like “Carrie,” “The Untouchables,” and “Scarface” were never your thing, this documentary won’t interest you. But for De Palma fanatics, it’s required viewing.
5. “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”
There aren’t many comedy sequels that can hold a candle to the original, but “Neighbors 2” is one of them. Its feminist twist on the frat-focused original could have been a disaster. Instead it’s a smart commentary on today’s college kids without losing the crass humor that made the original so great.
Another movie in the first half of 2016 that had a surprisingly smart commentary on social issues was this Disney hit. You might not think that race and gender could be explored effectively in an animated movie, but it’s done so well that it elevates a movie that is already strong to begin with.
3. “10 Cloverfield Lane”
Almost no one knew that a “spiritual sequel” to “Cloverfield” was being made, so when it was suddenly dropped into the release slate a few months before opening, it was quite a shock. That’s a good thing, because going in without time to overthink only helped the film. It also just happens to be excellent, from John Goodman’s incredible performance to its twist ending.
2. “The Meddler”
I fell in love with this movie at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and I can’t tell you the number of times since then that a scene from the movie popped in my head. Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne play an incredible mother-daughter tandem. Seek out this movie!
- IFC Films
This all-access look inside disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner’s run for mayor of New York City is not just the best documentary I’ve seen so far this year, but the best movie. Weiner’s personal life as another career-debilitating scandal hits the news is incredible to watch (mainly because of how Weiner reacts to it). Funny but also heart-wrenching, the movie proves that sometimes fact is stranger than fiction.
Don’t hate me, but I still haven’t seen…
“The Witch” “The Lobster” “Sing Street” “The Shallows” “The Secret Life of Pets”