Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in movies [that I saw] and lives we lost

What a crazy year it's been... and within the next 3 hours and 15 minutes, it'll be all over. I've got some plans for my Prince blog (and maybe some podcasting) in 2017. And here's hoping it'll be a better year.

Particularly with fewer significant celebrity deaths...

But first, the movies.

I went through all the movies I saw this year and it wasn't many. Only 56. And like last year, it looks like only a dozen movies in the theaters. Back then, I ranked them from 12 to 1.

Kung Fu Panda 3
Captain America: Civil War
Now You See Me 2
Finding Dory
Ghostbusters (the remake)
Kubo and the Two Strings
The Magnificent Seven
Doctor Strange
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Rogue One

I don't know if I feel like ranking them. Most of them aren't even fresh in my memory.

One thing I noticed: I saw a lot of animated movies this year. All because my sister wanted to see most of them.
If all of them are nominated for Best Animated Film, I think "Finding Dory" is most likely to win just because Pixar has a pretty strong grip on awards shows. Rarely does it come in and lose.

But "Kubo" shouldn't overlooked either. It might geared a little more towards an older audience (like teens and older), but it's unique in so many aspects. The animation for starters. Spectacular effects. The only thing that brings it down is the ending- kinda bittersweet.

"Moana" is also a good candidate. It's not as good as "Frozen," but it has a lot going for it. Great animation again. And surprisingly good voiceover work by Dwayne Johnson as Maui.

Of the three, I probably had the most fun with "Moana"... I mean when it ended, I wished it kept going or at least had more to it. There was so much drama between her and her family and I just wanted them to reacquaint with some good heartfelt dialogue.

"Kung Fu Panda 3"- it was a fun movie. A good note to start the year on.

The Ghostbusters remake was a theater trip by myself I won't soon forget. Especially since the theater people shut it off at a point cuz they didn't know I was in there watching it. By myself. Maybe I got the humor a bit more because I know these people from SNL and enjoy them there... every now and then.
I certainly see Kate McKinnon becoming more of a movie star as time goes by. She just needs more roles like this. And less of her impersonating other people.

If I'd rank any of these dead last, it'd be "Now You See Me 2"... the effects looked so cool in the trailers and the behind the scenes special. But I feel like maybe the critics got in my head and I became disillusioned the longer the magic tricks went on.

Between the two Marvel movies, I'd have to give the advantage to "Captain America" but only because I know the characters so well.
Plus the story was written better. "Doctor Strange" was still really well done with the acting and the effects. But the defeat of the villain was not well-played. It was like a running gag that ran out of steam after 90 seconds.

I also like how "Captain America" kinda helped the Marvel Universe come full circle with Captain America and Tony Stark's character arcs. Daniel Bruhl also made a really good villain.

I guess "Captain America: Civil War" was my favorite movie in the theater this year... all things considered.

"Rogue One" was a good addition to the Star Wars canon, and the action scenes were some of the best I'd seen in a while. But the slow scenes dragged on and I didn't care quite enough about the characters (not this time around anyway) to get invested.

"Fantastic Beasts" was a really good return to the magical world before Harry Potter. I just wish the action scenes weren't as intense and that they were easier to follow. I really did like Eddie Redmayne and Dan Fogler and their characters. If we see more of Newt Scamander in the future, I'm absolutely game for it.

"Allegiant" was also great. The Divergent series was really well done on the screen. It didn't vary too much from the books, although the books aren't in my current memory. I read through them a couple years ago.
It's just sad that the series might not get a proper ending. I mean, the ending of the books in general... it was heartbreaking. One of my favorite female protagonists in any of the books I read. I'm certainly more for Tris Prior than Katniss Everdeen- mostly because of the universes they're a part of. But I can relate more to Tris- I read the books and experienced all of these things with her. I hadn't felt that close to a narrator/protagonist since Bella Swan.

And I will go into more detail and discussion about Bella and the Twilight universe in the future. I know that series gets a lot of criticism, but Kristen Stewart's interpretation of this character has a lot to do with it. She's a lot stronger and braver than that emo version of her.

That just leaves me with "The Magnificent Seven." Overall, it was a mixed bag of experiences. It had some slow dragged out points, but it had characters I grew to care about. And a great variety of personalities. I'd probably watch it again a bunch of times. Whether or not I want to buy it, I'll have to see. Maybe when the price drops :P

So I guess... a top 5...I can't rank all 12.

1. Captain America: Civil War
2. Allegiant
3. The Magnificent Seven
4. Doctor Strange
5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

As for movies I didn't see in theaters... there were a few stand-outs.
These aren't ranked, by the way.

1. The Imitation Game

I mean, everyone said this was Leo's year to win an Oscar. He finally got it. [Now let's campaign for Robert Downey Jr. to win... I'm gonna keep saying it until it happens..]

But Benedict Cumberbatch was really good in that. I didn't know much about this Alan Turing guy, but he was right in the interviews- he should be in the history books for breaking that unbreakable Nazi code. So sad what happened to him later in life- all because he was gay. Like all the good he did didn't mean anything anymore.
The guy was brilliant- and nobody could play him as well as Benedict Cumberbatch. He's really come into his own in the past couple years.
Although Eddie Redmayne was brilliant as Stephen Hawking.

2. Deadpool

Tonight, we're watching it for at least the 5th or 6th time this year. And we didn't even see it in theaters.
I think I already reviewed it here once. I say Ryan Reynolds is overrated because he's considered good-looking in Hollywood. But he has such a great wit and humor in this movie. Although it kinda helps to take his looks out of the equation.
It'll be a little bittersweet, though. There's Wham! references in this movie.

3. The Martian

If I got to my computer a lot sooner afterwards, I would have done a write-up on this. It's interesting how there was no villain in this movie aside from the harsh Martian environment. And it's still not quite a comedy. But Matt Damon was good. It's kinda crazy how he was managed to live on Mars that whole time he was marooned. Crazy that he was the one person who knew how to grow crops and such because he was a botanist (if it was Jessica Chastain instead, it'd be a much shorter movie... not hating on her acting at all. Her character just wasn't a botanist with insane ingenuity).

Plus- it's lucky he had that sense of humor or he wouldn't have lasted a week.

4. The King & I

I reviewed this one almost as soon as I saw because I liked it that much. It's the kind of movie you can't watch often because it's lengthy and that's kind of a big commitment. Not as big as "Dr. Zhivago," though.
Yul Brunner was so good in this role and it was interesting to see how Anna was able to stand up to him. And those sets and costumes were massive. They sure don't make 'em like that anymore

5. Straight Outta Compton

This was an interesting one for sure. After all the hype and outcries from the awards show critics, I got to see it on HBO. And it deserved something... They told a good story of true events, the characters were well-portrayed. And it was good seeing the other perspective on things.
Not to mention- I hate rap and hip-hop in general. And I liked the sound of the music they put out. The lyrics, not so much. They're very controversial in nature, but these songs were constructed a lot better than what hip-hop developed into.

6. Brooklyn

I got lost in the world of this movie, which is the biggest compliment I could pay. Saorise Ronan deserved an Oscar for this. She was amazing. Her character grows so strong in the face of adversity and change. That's inspiring in of itself.

7. How to Be Single

Dakota Johnson might be getting a bad rap just because she's playing Anastasia in the Fifty Shades movies... but I loved her in this movie and just this movie in general. It was so much fun, again, getting lost in the scene of this movie. And this was another female protagonist I could see myself in. With the exception that I hadn't experienced anything that they have.

Not yet anyway...

8. Race

Don't know why the critics didn't get behind this movie more. The guy who played Jesse Owens was so good. And it was nice to see Jason Sudekis do a good role for a change. Someone who wasn't an idiot or a loser.
It was interesting to see this part of history- before Hitler kinda took over Europe and how we were sticking it to him, but also playing by his rules some of the time.
Also interesting how some of it really did happen- like the moments between one of the German runners and Jesse Owens.

9. Hail, Caesar!

Maybe not the best movie of the bunch... but it's worth including because it was so certifiably nuts.
George Clooney plays a Kirk Douglas type character in a "Spartacus" type movie. But he gets kidnapped and is thrown in a house full of Communists. And Channing Tatum is hanging out with the Communists. And there's a suitcase that gets lost forever in a pretty hilarious fashion.
It's a Coen brothers movie... they did "Fargo"... it has that certain warped sense of humor. And I liked it more than a bunch of their movies. It is kinda slow in parts and I fell asleep once. But it felt an impression.
And one of the actors, I found out later, will be playing Han Solo in an origin story Star Wars movie. I didn't get him at first, but he grew on me over time. He started out as a western star, got thrown into some random movie being directed by Ralph Fiennes, and in a weird twist of fate, he's the one who saves George Clooney from the Communists.

In Memorium  [one day I'm gonna spell that right]

...I hope we never have another year like this again... Just lost way too many good people. I'll just list the ones that made the most impact for me. The ones that were personal or just the most shocking...

  1. David Bowie [I crank up the radio every time one of his songs comes on]
  2. Alan Rickman [Harry Potter movies will never be the same]
  3. Prince-- never forget!
  4. Muhammad Ali -- need I say more
  5. Anton Yelchin-- that was particularly tough one...
  6. Garry Marshall-- from Pretty Woman to Happy Days, we owe him a lot
  7. Gene Wilder-- I predicted when he died, it'd be sad... and it still is... still miss him
  8. Arnold Palmer-- been watching golf for nearly 20 years, but I didn't know much about this legend (other than his legendary status) until after he passed. Class act!
  9. Florence Henderson-- hard to believe, she'd been so alive these past couple years while she appeared on Dancing with the Stars
  10. John Glenn... sadly, one of two I said "they were still alive?" shortly before they died
  11. Kenny Baker [this didn't get a lot of public attention, I don't think, so I'm still kinda shocked he died]
  12. George Michael-- I'm still dealing with this one. I liked his music a lot, but I wasn't a mega fan... still going to miss him, though.
  13. Carrie Fisher... if anyone could have survived this year, we were all sure it'd be her... it's like Alderon was destroyed by the Death Star all over again...
  14. Debbie Reynolds [didn't know she was still alive either... and how she died was troubling and sad]
An article was recently released saying how 2006 was worse as far as celebrity deaths go...

I beg to differ. Prince took a piece of me with him when he died... and I'm fighting as hard as I can not to lose it forever.

At the very least, though... I saw Hall & Oates in concert this year because I felt like I might have regretted it if I didn't. I sure regret not trying to see Prince when he did the Welcome to America tour at the Meadowlands and Madison Square Garden in 2010. He never came to my neck of the woods to tour again...

Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift- my next opportunity to see either of them, I should probably take it... just in case... in this unpredictable world, you never know what to expect.

But I expect 2017 to be better.

Although there were some good things too... particularly in my professional life...

Oh and the Cubs won the World Series. That was pretty cool.

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