The Top Ten Films of 2016

2016 presented yet another fascinating year of cinema, most especially because, among the multitude of films I saw this year, I did not lay eyes on one that earned a four-star rating, an occurrence that hasn’t happened since 2011. This does not mean that there weren’t a number of great films to be seen, there certainly were, just none that quite hit the heights of past greats like “Inside Out,” “Birdman,” or “Gravity.” That being said, it was still a difficult task to whittle the list down to ten and then try to give them some kind of order, but as far as lists go, this is an excellent representation of the wonderful cinema that 2016 had to offer, so let’s get started. 10. Gleason – We kick

Snowden: A Surprisingly Flat Telling of an Incredible Story (Blu-ray)

The Film: One of the hottest news stories of recent years was when former CIA employee Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s illegal surveillance techniques in 2013 through thousands of classified documents that were given to the press. It’s a fascinating tale that we got to hear from his own lips in Laura Poitras’ outstanding documentary “Citizenfour,” which easily took the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature of 2014. Now, three-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker Oliver Stone brings us what I suppose you could call a “reenactment” of the whole affair, telling how Snowden got where he was and why he did what he did, but could a mere dramatization ever hope to reach the heights of hearing the sto

American Honey: A Meandering Road Epic (Blu-ray)

The Film: In the olden days, when anyone referred to a “road movie,” it was usually in reference to the classic series of satirical films starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour. However, nowadays the “road movie” has become a rather different tradition, usually involving journeys of discovery and sometimes a little romance, with several great titles that include “Almost Famous,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “Sideways” (it’s no coincidence that all of these won an Oscar for the screenplay). Now Oscar-winning filmmaker Andrea Arnold (“Fish Tank,” “Red Road”) has decided to throw her hat in the ring with her own take on the tradition with her latest project entitled “American Honey.”

The First Trailer for Alien: Covenant Has Arrived

At long last, the first full trailer for Sir Ridley Scott's long-awaited "Prometheus" sequel, "Alien: Covenant" has arrived, giving us a good look as to what to expect from the continuation of the popular franchise. "Prometheus" had been a somewhat divisive film, with some enjoying the nostalgic feeling it brought with it, while others criticized its lack of originality (the film was basically a clone of Scott's original masterpiece, after all), so it's with high hope that this sequel will present a new storyline that has a few surprises to offer. For those unfamiliar with the film's plot, here's a brief synopsis: The crew of the colony ship Covenant discover what they think is an uncharted

Sully: The Triumphant Return of Clint Eastwood (Blu-ray)

The Film: It’s no secret that director Clint Eastwood has had a lot of trouble coming up with decent projects to take on lately. After “Gran Torino” in 2008, he’s had a string of films (mostly biopics) that have fallen flat or just haven’t properly brought their subject to life, films that have included “Invictus,” “J. Edgar,” “Jersey Boys,” and “American Sniper.” Luckily this hasn’t stopped the great, four-time Oscar-winning filmmaker from soldiering on, choosing as his next project yet another biopic, this time concentrating on the heroic act of Captain Sullenberger. Will this finally be the film to bring his disappointing streak to an end? On January 15th, 2009, Captain “Sully” Sullenberg

The First Full Trailer for Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk Has Arrived

With still over seven months to go before Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" is released, we now have a full trailer to give us a pretty good idea of what to expect from his next epic. The film, which tells the true story of soldiers trapped on a beach in Dunkrik, France during World War II, is Nolan's first war film, but expectations are high given that this is the same brilliant mind that brought us such masterpieces as "Memento," "The Prestige," "The Dark Knight," and "Inception." Perhaps we'll finally even see him earn his first long-overdue Oscar nomination for Best Director (honestly, he should have been nominated multiple times already). With a marvelous cast that includes Tom Hardy, Cilli

Film Nominations for the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards

The nominations for the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards have just been announced, and there were indeed many surprises to be found. First and foremost, in a shocking twist, "La La Land" has been snubbed for a Best Cast nomination despite being the current frontrunner to win the Best Picture Oscar. In the history of the Best Cast award, there has only been one year (the very first back in 1996) where the eventual Best Picture winner was not nominated. Does this spell trouble for the excellent musical, or will it finally bring this streak to an end? Making it into the top category instead was another big surprise, "Captain Fantastic," which also earned star Viggo Mortensen an unexpected

Suicide Squad (Extended Cut): A Major Disappointment for Fans of DC Comics (Blu-ray)

The Film: It’s no secret that DC Comics has been having an awful lot of trouble establishing a decent foothold in a cinematic universe of their own. Their previous attempts have included films like the divisive “Man of Steel,” which wasn’t all bad, but fell apart in its second half with an overload of never-ending action sequences, and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” a disastrous and gloomy effort that tried to bring the two titans together on the big screen. For their latest attempt, they’ve recruited writer/director David Ayer (“Fury,” “End of Watch”) and shifted the focus a bit so that we’re not focused on the heroes, but rather the villains, who are brought together to put their ta

Southside with You: An Intriguing Piece of Romantic History Comes to Life (Blu-ray)

The Film: When most people think of films about a president, they tend to think of grand biopics that cover his presidency or an important part of it, films along the lines of “Nixon,” “JFK,” “W.,” or “Lincoln.” However, how often is it that we get an entire film about a president before they took office, or even before they had any notions of trying to reach it? Of course, the excellent “Young Mr. Lincoln” comes to mind, but it remains a very scarce kind of biopic that opens up several possibilities. One of these possibilities is an idea that writer/director Richard Tanne came up with in which he spends an entire film telling us about the first date between Barack Obama and Michelle Robinso

Nominations for the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards

The nominations for the 74th Annual Golden Globes have just been announced with much of what we were expecting to see, but also a few surprises along the way. As fully expected, Damien Chazelle's "La La Land" made a big appearance, earning seven nominations that included Best Picture (Comedy/Musical), Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Comedy/Musical), and Best Actress (Comedy/Musical). Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight" was not far behind with six nods that included Best Picture (Drama), Best Director, and Best Screenplay. Their biggest surprises this morning included a strong love for Tom Ford's "Nocturnal Animals," which nabbed nods for Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting

The Winners of the 22nd Annual Critics' Choice Awards for Film

The Broadcast Film Critics Association has just finished presenting the 22nd Annual Critics' Choice Awards, with the results being pretty much as expected. Damien Chazelle's magnificent musical "La La Land" dominated the evening with eight wins that included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing. Looking at the rest of the winners, there really aren't any big surprises to be found. The wins for Casey Affleck, Mahershala Ali, and Viola Davis seem to cement their places as the frontrunners of their respective categories, while the win for Natalie Portman shakes up the Best Actress race a little more. It should be noted that the Broadcast Film Critics did not h

Boston, New York (Online), Toronto, and San Francisco Film Critics Announce Their Awards for 2016

Today is a big day for the awards race as the Boston Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Online, the Toronto Film Critics Association, and the San Francisco Film Critics Circle have all announce their year-end awards. As it turns out, Boston has the best picks of the pack, going with Damien Chazelle's marvelous musical "La La Land" for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Editing. The other three groups have gone with Barry Jenkins' strangely over-hyped drama "Moonlight," giving the film other awards in the process that include Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Screenplay. Taking a look at the rest of the winners, we're clearly starting to see some patterns formi

Early Reviews Hail Martin Scorsese's Silence as a Masterpiece

At long last, the embargo for Martin Scorsese's "Silence" has broken, and reviews have started to pour in. As fully expected from one of the greatest filmmakers in history, his latest is earning incredibly high marks with a current score of 100% (8.8/10) on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 16 reviews, and an 84 on Metacritic, based on 12 reviews. As mentioned before, the film, which tells of two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in the 17th century to search for their mentor, is expected to be a major awards player, and has already earned a few honors that include Best Adapted Screenplay from the NBR, as well as being named one of the top ten films of the year by the same group and the American Fi

The Secret Life of Pets: Great Animation, but Lacking in Originality (Blu-ray)

The Film: It’s a question that all pet owners have asked themselves at one time or another: What exactly do our pets do when we’re not at home? Chances are that the answer to the question is not particularly exciting, for the obvious answers would appear to be eat, roam around the house, and, of course, sleep. But what if they did much more than we ever thought they did? This is the kind of scenario that director Chris Renaud and co. have imagined for their new animated film, “The Secret Life of Pets,” a film that playfully speculates on what our pets really do when the humans aren’t around (that is, aside from the countless hours of sleeping). Max (Voice of Louis C.K.) is your typical dog.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Black & Chrome Edition): Brilliantly Made, but Lacking in Story and Characte

The Film: “Mad Max: Fury Road” has been nothing short of a cinematic phenomenon for 2015. It has been one of the highest praised films of the year, not only in the action genre, but for all films in general. With so much love for it, as usual, we must ask the important question of whether or not it is truly deserved. After all, the original “Mad Max” had gotten a fair amount of praise itself, but was actually a rather flat and dull outing. That being said, we should give the return of “The Road Warrior” the benefit of the doubt, for, if nothing else, this infamous cinematic character has garnered an impressive cult fan base over the last few decades. Now, with the return of director/co-write

Washington D.C. Film Critics Name La La Land Best Film of 2016

This morning, the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association (of which I am a member) proudly named their picks for their year-end awards, naming Damien Chazelle's outstanding musical "La La Land" as the best film of 2016. Remarkably, the film took almost every other category it was nominated in as well, including Best Director (Chazelle), Best Original Screenplay (Chazelle), Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score, making it the biggest winner in the group's history. In fact, the only two awards the film didn't win were Best Actor and Best Actress, which went to Casey Affleck ("Manchester by the Sea") and Natalie Portman ("Jackie") for their exc

Moonlight Named Best Film of 2016 by Los Angeles Film Critics Association

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has just finished announcing their awards for 2016, declaring Barry Jenkins' "Moonlight" to be the best film of the year. The film also took Best Director (Jenkins), Best Supporting Actor (Ali), and Best Cinematography. There were certainly a number of unusual picks to say the least (Adam Driver for "Paterson," Lily Gladstone for "Certain Women," and "The Lobster" for Best Screenplay to name a few), and in most cases, their runner-ups ended up being better choices than their actual winners. For example, "La La Land" coming in second to "Moonlight" for Picture, Director, AND Cinematography was a little crazy, but they obviously had a strong liking for

New York Film Critics Circle Names La La Land the Best Film of 2016

The New York Film Critics Circle has announced their year-end awards today, naming Damien Chazelle's outstanding musical "La La Land" the best film of 2016. Surprisingly, the film did not receive any additional awards. Other big winners included Kenneth Lonergan's "Manchester by the Sea" (the film that just won Best Picture from the National Board of Review a couple of days ago), which took Best Actor (Casey Affleck), Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), and Best Screenplay (Lonergan). Barry Jenkin' "Moonlight" took three awards of its own that included Best Director (Jenkins), Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), and Best Cinematography (James Laxton). Looking at the entire list of wi