2016 is reaching that transitional period where the cinematic year navigates from early year and blockbuster releases to the Oscar-destined features. It's at this time where I like to look back over the past eight months and highlight my favorites of the year, so far. Here they are, the best film I've witnessed up to this point:
Honorable Mention: Cafe Society, Eddie the Eagle, Keanu and Loving
Back in 2008 Marvel Studios kicked off Phase One of their ever-expanding film universe. It's been a long time coming and Phase Three finally arrived with the epic showdown between Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) in 2016's Civil War. Now I'm no comic geek or Marvel enthusiasts, but I have seen all of their films except one (Thor: The Dark World). And with the countless titles in their catalog, Civil War hovers confidently near the top of the totem pole. Boasting immaculate special effects, especially those during the Avenger vs Avenger fight scene, and a gripping next chapter in the universe's evolution, Captain America's third installment in definitely on of 2016's best.
With all of the mystery surrounding 10 Cloverfield Lane and its connection to the 2008 found footage film, let me preface by saying that it's completely overblown and mainly responsible for the biggest blemish within Dan Trachtenberg's debut motion picture. The film moonlight's as another entry in the Cloverfield universe, but its finest aspects reside in the psychological thriller that leads to a forced and unnecessary "bridge" of a finale. John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. all capture our attention on this gripping and tense story of a woman behind held captive in a bomb shelter, because something catastrophic lurks outside the doors. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a solid watch for any thriller fans, but consider yourself warned, the ending completely spoils an otherwise wonderful movie experience.
2016's cinematic year couldn't have started off any better. Marvel's first dip into the R-rated game also provided a box office record of its own. And as Deadpool-mania swept across the country, I experienced the laugh-out-loud funny thrill ride for myself. Deadpool is a highly self aware and self-proclaimed anti-superhero flick that follows that follows a terminally ill patient (Ryan Reynolds) who withstands some experimental treatments that ultimately give him insane special abilities. One thing Deadpool does far better than most of the Marvel entries is develop a worthwhile villain. And by effectively telling the story in a non-chronological fashion, the film captures the audience and takes them on an unforgettable ride.
#7. Sausage Party
You can actually catch one 2016's top films in theaters. Sausage Party is the hilarious new animated comedy from the minds of Superbad and This Is the End. The movie tackles the perspective of food and various other items within a grocery store. Stacked to the brim with sexual innuendo and racist metaphors, Sausage Party is without a doubt the edgiest comedy of the year. But while its humor is certainly of the raunchy variety, there's a deeper story and clever elements surrounding a large portion of its jokes. You're guaranteed to laugh and laugh some more, so give the comedy a chance if you can withstand its crude nature.
#6. Eye in the Sky
Gavin Hood's tense military drama, Eye in the Sky, was another early-year release that caught me by surprise. Exploring the highly controversial topic of drone warfare, this exceptional film turns a simple story into a morally complicated puzzle that will leave you questioning your own opinions. Helen Mirren is spectacular as British Colonel Katherine Powell, a committed military officer who's heading a mission to capture three of the most-wanted terrorists in the world. But when things beyond their control compromise the mission, they must decide whether or not to remove these threats with a drone strike that will kill innocent people, including a little girl, with its collateral damage. Although Eye in the Sky will always be remembered as the late Alan Rickman's final film, the entire product is far more than that sadly simplistic label suggests.
*** Stay tuned tomorrow for Part II featuring 2016's Top 5 films so far