Top 10 Favorite Movies of the FIRST HALF of 2016

top10_2014_firsthalf

This list is long overdue. I should’ve posted it sometime in July, but oh well, better late than never. This list only consist of films released between January – June 30, 2016. Some of these might’ve opened internationally prior to 2016, but I’m using the USA release dates or the fact that they opened at a local film festival.

I consider this list a cross between a ‘best of and favorite’, so the criteria is that these films made an impression on me, combining the virtue of being entertaining, deeply moving, thought-provoking, and indelible. Re-watchability is a big factor but it doesn’t account as high as the other virtues I’ve mentioned, because some of the films here are more of a one-time-viewing-only types, but I still very much appreciate the artistry and passion that goes into making them.

So without further ado, I present to you my TOP 10 list (in reverse order):

10. Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (full review)

PPZ

As this is a list of favorites, there is no way I wouldn’t include this one on the list. I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen work, but at the same time I’m not a purist and so I thought this movie was a lot of fun! This is the film that made me fall for Sam Riley, whose portrayal of badass Colonel Darcy is wildly entertaining, and he’s the only Darcy I ever hyperventilate over. The epic first proposal fight scene alone warrants a place on my top 10 list! I also love Lily James as Lizzie Bennet as well as all the Bennet sisters. This currently stands as my most-watched 2016 movies so far. Oh, I’d also list the soundtrack as one of my faves from this year, too.

9. A Bigger Splash (full review)

Abiggersplash

I hadn’t heard much about this film but was drawn by the amazing cast, especially the pairing of Tilda Swinton & Ralph Fiennes as former lovers. Well the two are definitely the highlights here, and Matthias Schoenaerts also delivered a strong performance. It’s a slo-burn, absorbing psychological drama weaving a tale of jealousy, frustrated passion that escalates to a boiling point. Amazingly-shot in the picturesque island of Pantelleria, Italy, but definitely not a case of style over substance.

8. Midnight Special (full review)

MidnightSpecial

This the kind of science-fiction that’s more concerned about the emotional impact of the characters than dazzling us with sleek special effects. Though we’re dealing with a character from another world, Midnight Special is in essence is a father/son story. It’s not a flashy film, but it grabbed me right from its rather cryptic opening scene and never let up. I’m impressed once again by Jeff Nichols’ talent as a storyteller, and his frequent collaborator Michael Shannon delivered once again. Nichols’ new *muse* Joel Edgerton is also excellent here, and neither one of these actors have disappointed me in anything just yet.

7. Captain America: Civil War (full review)

CACivilWar

It’s a testament to the prowess of Captain America franchise that once again I’ve got yet another one of its film on my top 10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was one of my favorites of 2014! Civil War is an excellent film that ties all three Captain American movies superbly well and would rank amongst the best film trilogies of all time. After this, I’m even more confident in the Russo brothers’ directing talent and MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is definitely in capable hands if they continue to make Marvel movies.

6. The Jungle Book (full review)

JungleBook

Disney’s done it again! This, as well as Pete’s Dragon are two of Disney’s major remakes that I hadn’t anticipated at all until the time the film marketing was put into high gear. The CGI effects alone is a wonder, I was literally in awe of how realistic the animals were. But thankfully director Jon Favreau didn’t just make something that’s style-over-substance. He made the classic tale come alive again and feels new. I find Mowgli’s journey quite moving and I really do love all the characters, and Idris Elba‘s voice is wonderfully mesmerizing as the villainous tiger Shere Khan.

5. The Fencer (full review

Fencer

Out of all the films from MSPIFF that I saw this year, this is one that made the most impression to me. It’s the first Estonian film (that’s also filmed in Estonia) I’ve ever seen. It’s such a moving drama loosely based on an Estonian Fencer Endel Nelis who fled from the Russian secret police and became a physical education teacher at a small-town school. It’s a mix of mystery war drama and a sports underdog story that blends seamlessly. I hope you get a chance to check this out when you can, it’s a little movie with a huge heart that deserves an audience.

4. The Lobster (full review)

Lobster

It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to say this is one of the weirdest films I’ve seen in a while. I think the last film I saw that was as bizarre as this one was Holy Motors, but I rate this one much higher due to its emotional resonance. This film gets top marks for originality and thought-provoking concept, you’d be hard pressed not to think about it for days afterwards. It’s a great film to see with someone else so you can discuss it endlessly afterwards. It featured one of the best performances from Colin Farrell I’ve seen to date, and it introduced me to Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos, definitely a striking talent to watch for.

3. Zootopia (full review)

Zootopia

I didn’t see this movie until it’s out on VOD and I must say I was gutted I didn’t see it on the big screen. I was blown away by how good this movie was and how compelling the story was, which proves that animated films have *matured* so much over the years. The plot is more of an action mystery thriller that is as clever and quick-witted as the movie’s protagonist. I love how the story keeps playing with my expectations throughout, cleverly weaving the themes of widely-held stereotypes and discrimination without taking away the fun of an animated adventure. I have bought the Bluray as I know this will be a fun one to watch over and over.

2. Sing Street (full review)

SingStreet

John Carney‘s done it again. This is the second movie of 2016 (after PPZ) which soundtrack has become one of my all time favorites! It’s Carney’s third film (after Once and Begin Again) that I absolutely love. There’s no other filmmaker working today who integrates music into the storyline as shrewdly as Carney does. I love 80s music and this is the perfect love letter to the music of that era. Featuring a gifted young Irish singer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (who was just 15 when he was cast), it’s such a fun celebration of the power of music. I was swept away by the infectious optimism of this movie, and I can’t wait to watch this again.

1. Love & Friendship (full review)

LoveAndFriendship

Another Austen film made my top 10… though it’s based on Austen’s lesser-known work. In fact, this was based on her short epistolary novel Lady Susan that was published posthumously in 1871. This is nothing short of a masterpiece from writer/director Whit Stillman, featuring a masterful performance by Kate Beckinsale in the title role and a delightfully-hilarious turn by Tom Bennett. You’ve never seen an Austen female protagonist like this before, the beautiful Lady Susan is as deviously-cunning as she is impeccably dressed. I enjoyed this movie immensely and I think the fact that it’s more of a satire than a romance drama, it’d be as enjoyable for those who are normally not into this genre. Funny, witty, and so gorgeous to look at, this is another Austen movie I could watch over and over for years to come.


HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Now, I think all of these are terrific films and well worth your time. In fact, I liked Deadpool So much so that I made a top 10 list why it won me over, so it was definitely the biggest pleasant surprise for me this year. I like Beeba Boys a lot, and had the pleasure of interviewing its filmmaker Deepa Mehta at MSPIFF in April.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

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Let’s see which of these films would end up in my FINAL top 10 of 2016. There are quite a few films released in the latter half that I loved… Pete’s Dragon, The Light Between Oceans, Captain Fantastic, Anthropoid, etc. that might end up on my final top 10. Plus there are others that haven’t even been released yet, such as these that I’m anticipating: Loving, American Honey, The Accountant, Queen of Katwe, The Girl on the Train, A United Kingdom, Rogue One, among others.


So that’s my Best list of 2016 so far. Thoughts on my picks here? I’d be happy to discuss ’em with you 😀

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63 thoughts on “Top 10 Favorite Movies of the FIRST HALF of 2016

  1. I admit, I haven’t seen a lot of new films this year but here is a list of what I’ve seen so far with Eddie the Eagle as a honorable mention. This hasn’t been a good year for me as there were films I wanted to see but were gone immediately after a week.

    1. Hey glad to see Love & Friendship on your list too, yay! I wasn’t crazy about Hail, Caesar! though, and haven’t seen Everybody Wants Some yet. It’s too bad a lot of indie films have such limited release.

  2. Unfortunately I saw only one movie from your best list, Capt. America: Civil War and it’s also one of my favorites of the year. As for Deadpool, to be honest with you, I didn’t really care for it and was pretty bored with it when I finally saw it in a theater.

    So far I think 2016 is pretty weak when it comes to quality and entertaining movies. Hopefully the fall and winter season will be much better. I look forward to seeing Arrival, Jack Reacher 2, Rouge One and Magnificent Seven remake. But the one I most looking forward to see is Martin Scorsese’s much delayed Silence, hopefully he and the studio comes to an agreement soon and officially announce the release of the film. I’m actually trying to find the Japanese original film and watch it again. Currently it’s not on DVD or Bluray anywhere. 😦

    1. Hi Ted! I enjoyed Deadpool but honestly haven’t had the desire to see it again.

      Oooh I forgot to put down Arrival as one of my most-anticipated Fall movies! ‘Silence’ is the one w/ Liam Neeson right? Yeah that looks good, reminds me of The Mission which also has Neeson in a small part. So you saw the original Japanese film on the big screen?

      1. Yeah Silence stars Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield, I’ve been reading that the reason the studio won’t release it yet is because Scorsese won’t budge on the runtime. Currently it’s going to be over 3 hours long! But no I didn’t see the original version on the big screen, it opened in theaters way back in 1971; I saw it on VHS a long time ago. I think it’s only available on Hulu, I don’t have an account with that streaming service and I want to own it on Bluray.

        1. Oooh that’s right, Andrew Garfield too, I love both of them! I guess it is problematic to release a 3-hr film these days, though back in the day w/ Ben-Hur it wasn’t a problem. I think they’d still release it because it’s Scorsese, just in fewer theaters.

          Oh it’s on HULU? Well perhaps it will be released in Bluray once the Scorsese’s one is out.

  3. An eclectic list, Ruth. Wow. Mine would be much different! II do like that you have ‘Love and Friendship’ winning first place. I’d like to see ‘The Fencer’. If you don’t mind, I might steal this fun topic and run with it. I haven’t done a list post in ages.

    1. Ahah I figure every blogger will have a very different list. I know for sure you won’t have PPZ anywhere near your list, ahah. Love & Friendship is lovely, I hope you check that out Cindy. And The Fencer is one of those wonderful little indies that cost next to nothing to make but had a big impact. Yes do your own list! I really need to do more list post, too.

  4. Hi Ruth, I’ve actually seen your top 4.

    Zootopia: Was my fav of those four. Cute animals and quite funny in places. A film with rewatch potential and a surprising amount of depth. There’s a clever allegory about the pitfalls of discrimination, which is eerily topical considering Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim remarks. Given my love for Inside Out and World of Tomorrow last year, I’m wondering if animation is where to find originality in movies these days 🙂 4/5

    Love & Friendship: I know you love Austen, so seeing it as your no 1 is no surprise! To me was minor Jane Austen and I didn’t connect with the main characters on an emotional level, which happened in Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility. The wittiness wasn’t for me, but I admit Tom Bennett had some amusing scenes. 3/5

    The Lobster: I admire the uniqueness of it, although the actual story was a bit cold and somewhat forgettable. I know others thought it was great, so maybe I need to rewatch. I’m not convinced it’s as deep as everyone thinks it is, but an interesting satirical take on finding a partner and the expectations of adulthood 3/5

    Sing Street: Might be in my top 10 at end of 2016. Likeable characters and the outfit changes were funny. Although besides the lead and his love interest, the other band members are underdeveloped in the script. Glad you loved the music so much. My rating might go up when I see it again 3.5/5

    1. Hello Chris, hope you are well!

      Thanks for the mini reviews in the comment, love it!

      You’re on to something here, it seems that animation is where we find most originality these days. Yep, it’s extremely timely and the jab against the bigots/racists people are obvious but not so preachy that it took away the fun of the movie.

      You’re right, Lady Susan in Love & Friendship isn’t an easy person to love the way Lizzie Bennet and Elinor Dashwood (my all time fave character) are in Austen’s world. But it’s just so witty and fun that it was wildly entertaining. I saw it twice on the big screen, and Tom Bennett was a riot!

      I hear ya about The Lobster being a cold film, I think some of the scenes in the woods didn’t grab me as the earlier ones in the hotel. But overall I was impressed w/ the concept and the originality of it all.

      I absolutely adore Sing Street! It might end up on my final top 10 too after I rewatch it. I think at this point the top 3 has a good chance of staying in my final BEST list, but we’ll see.

  5. Hey Ruth. I really should check out this zombie Pride & Prejudice.

    Great to see Midnight Special make an appearance. That will be my next review. It’s yet another winner from Jeff Nichols.

    1. Hey there Mark! Love getting a comment from an old pal, hope you are well my friend.

      Yes, check out PPZ, I think it’s a lot of fun. It’s an homage and a spoof to Austen’s most popular work Pride & Prejudice that I think is well-done.

      I LOVE Michael Shannon and he shines in Nichols’ films. I still need to see Take Shelter but I really like MUD. I can’t wait to see LOVING which feature both Shannon and Edgerton again.

      1. Yeah, excuse my absence. I’ve been trying to force my way back to blogging. Sometimes I start with the best of intentions and then tail off again. I’ve been fairly consistent for a couple of weeks now though. It’s just catching up with other people’s stuff that I find hardest.

        Take Shelter is still probably Nichols’ best in my eyes. Although it’s hard to separate any of them. Really looking forward to Loving too. The man really hasn’t done a bad film yet.

        1. It seems a lot of my old blogging pals have deserted me :\ I’ve seen some of ’em circulating other blogs. I do enjoy visiting other blogs, but nowadays I can only comment on those who’ve commented here, as I’m also preoccupied w/ other writing projects.

          I’m glad you are still blogging Mark! I don’t know how long I can keep up w/ this blog either, as one day I have to decide to focus more on screenwriting.

          I really need to see Take Shelter pronto! I really like Jessica Chastain too so I don’t know why I still haven’t seen it yet!

          1. Yeah, I’m the same Ruth. The old blogosphere seems to have changed a bit. A lot of people have disappeared entirely while others seem to have their own agenda. I just do it to keep a little film diary now. I used to be interested in the stats and bringing people in but now I’m not bothered about that anymore. It’s too much of an effort to appeal to everyone so I just do my thing and if people swing by then great. If not, I’m not that fussed anymore.

            Still, it’s good to see you’re keeping at it too. It’s not easy keeping it going. 🙂

            1. I think that’s a given I suppose. I tried to connect with some bloggers who used to visit but after leaving a couple of comments on his blog and got no response I gave up. I used to blog for myself, as a way to keep a film diary as you said, so in that respect I still enjoy it 🙂

              As a press member I have an obligation to continue reviewing movies, but yeah it’s tough. I feel like I haven’t got time to blog about some of the stuff I REALLY want to blog about (still haven’t done my tribute to Sam Riley yet 😦 ) I see you’re still very much into De Niro, you are a very loyal fan, Mark!

              1. Yeah, if the blogging spark is still there that’s the main thing. You should always try and do it for yourself. That’s why I bore everyone to tears with regular DeNiro posts LOL.
                Still a fan and always will be Ruth. 🙂

                1. Oh I do Mark! That’s why I kept blogging even as my stats kept going down 😛 I think it’s cool you blog about who/what you love! I will do my Sam Riley post this year, I don’t care if only one person saw it, he..he.. At least w/ De Niro, he’s got tons of fans (naturally).

  6. I’ve seen a handful, but still so much more to get my hands on…and I’m SO EXCITED for Love & Friendship…those reviews are incredible.

    Great list! So you! Love it!

    1. Ola Drew! Which ones on the list you have seen? I missed so many too, that’s why every bloggers’ list is gonna be very different from each other. I think you’ll enjoy Love & Friendship! That Whit Stillman is a witty fellow and Kate B. is divine.

  7. Glad to see Midnight Special on your list! I would have included The Witch on there and Deadpool. Can’t really think of a lot of great flicks I saw during the first half of 2016 :\

    1. Oh yeah, can’t leave out Midnight Special, was so impressed w/ it. Not interested in The Witch, but Deadpool did make my honorable mentions. Most of my faves are indies/small-budget films, I think that’ll be the case w/ my final top 10 as well.

  8. Everyone says Midnight Special is great, I could kick myself for missing it when it was in a theater near me. I looked forward to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but it slipped through in a busy time for me. I liked Zootopia and The Jungle Book quite a bit, and I could watch Deadpool repeatedly. That said, without doing a formal listing, here are a few others to recommend from January to June: Swiss Army Man, The Shallows, The Nice Guys, 10 Cloverfield Lane and Eddie the Eagle which has been mentioned by a couple of folks. I’d also strongly recommend Elvis and Nixon, it is an odd bit of history retold with humor and a bit of wistfulness. Cheers Ruth.

    1. Hi Richard! Yeah I missed Midnight Special at the big screen too, but hey it’s still good to rent it, it’s the story that won me over. PPZ is a lot of fun! I think those who enjoy period dramas would enjoy it more as the Austen stuff works much better than the zombie stuff. Some of the films you mentioned I haven’t seen yet except Eddie The Eagle which made my Honorable Mention. Oooh, I missed Elvis & Nixon which I’m sure I’ll enjoy, but it wasn’t available to rent a few weeks ago.

  9. There’s a lot here I haven’t seen, which is encouraging since it means I still have some good stuff to seek out. So far I’ve found it to be a pretty dismal year. I do find it interesting that the three films I consider to easily be the best of the first half of the year, The Witch, Everybody Wants Some, and The Nice Guys, didn’t even make your honourable mentions.

    1. Hi Daniel, I haven’t seen the three you mentioned, probably not gonna see The Witch as I don’t care for horror. I think w/ these kinds of list it’ll vary from person to person based on what they have seen. Some films aren’t even available to see yet, i.e. Hunt for The Wilderpeople which I have a feeling I’d love.

      1. I’m looking forward to finally catching up with The Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Anyway, The Nice Guys and Everybody Wants Some!! are both a lot of fun and are also quite smart. If I may ask, what is it you don’t like about horror films?

        1. I have very feeble nerves and scare very easily. Even looking at the trailer of The Witch scares me. If it’s more of a psychological horror I might be able to handle it, but generally I stay away from stuff that might give me nightmares.

          Yeah I still plan on watching the other two you mentioned, they look like fun!

            1. Yeah that’s what I gather from the reviews. I saw The Exorcist years ago and it still terrified me, some things you just can’t un-see! Which from my list have you seen that you liked btw?

              1. I’ve seen Midnight Special, Civil War, The Jungle Book, The Lobster, and Sing Street. Of those, I’d say either Civil War or The Lobster is my favourite. I had with The Jungle Book as well. Midnight Special was really well-made, but I found myself wanting a little more from the narrative. And Sing Street was enjoyable, but it struck me as a lesser version of Carney’s Once and Begin Again.

                1. Glad to see we share some faves. Yes I think Sing Street might be a lesser version of the last two, but it’s still an extremely entertaining and heartwarming film. I actually might rate it slightly higher than Begin Again as I like the fact that it’s a smaller film w/ mostly unknown actors.

  10. Is Love & Friendship hard to understand for non-English speaker? Is it typical Austen language? I think I will see it soon but I may need to wait for subtitles

    1. Hi Margaret! Oh Love & Friendship isn’t hard to understand for me, I mean English isn’t my first language either but it’s basically no different than most British films. It’s the Shakespearean language that’s tough to understand for me, but that’s a rarity these days (thankfully). You should check it out, esp if you love Kate Beckinsale as she’s absolutely wonderful in this.

        1. Oh that’d be a good double feature I think since both are period films, though they’re very different in terms of tone and style. Yes Grant is good in Florence Foster Jenkins, it’s a very understated but compelling performance.

  11. Some on your list I agree with, tho you know how I felt about Sing Street 😛

    I saw Love and Friendship last night by the way. Loved it!!

    The Lobster was my top film for last year, for some reason it was released here last year in October. If I had to choose from this year, it’d be Son of Saul, Anomalisa, The Witch, Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Demolition… can’t think of any others off the top of my head. Other than the Dark Valley 🙂 I am looking forward to watching the Neon Demon too, though I guess that is the second half of the year….

    Didn’t much like Midnight Special, as much as I wanted too….

    So jealous you have got to see Anthropoid. Damn I wanna see that before the end of the year, I hope I can

    1. Ahah yes I think you’ve explained why you didn’t care for Sing Street, well to each their own I suppose. Glad you actually saw Love & Friendship AND loved it, yay!!

      That’s so odd isn’t it that you’ve seen The Lobster last year! I don’t even know if it even got a decent theatrical release here in my city. I was lucky I saw it at a press screening w/ only 7 other people in the theater :\ Man, if I had seen Hunt For The Wilderpeople it’d probably be on my list, I sure hope to see that as soon as it’s available, it might end up on my final top 10.

      I’ll have my extensive review of The Dark Valley next week, I just heard from a friend whom I recommended it to and he also loved it, yay!

      I hope you see Anthropoid soon Jordan, I have a feeling you’d like that one.

        1. I hope you get to check out Anthropoid soon Jordan. Oh yeah, I still need to see High Rise though I have to brace myself for the sheer violence and surreal-ness 🙂

                1. I’m even too afraid to see THAT scene in the woods in The Dark Valley, you know which one I’m referring to I think. I always fast fwd past it when I rewatched that movie 😁

                    1. Well I’m at least a decade older than you so you’re still a young’un 🙂 What major are you taking Jordan? I wish I had taken FILM major but then again as an International Student, there’s only a limited number of majors I could actually take in college.

                    2. Hehe fair enough 😛 I am studying Community Services, hope to move onto Alcohol and Other Drugs. Given my past I really think I can help people.

                      Plus Breaking Bad’s product is destroying our capital cities, we need alllll the help for addicts that we can get. I’m thinking of moving away from here soon because of it, its ridiculous. Its gotten ten times worse in the last 18 months =/

                      I wish I could do film too. But of course, given that I don’t live on the east coast of Australia, there isn’t anything available. Oh, unless I have 20 grand spare!

                    3. Wow, that sounds like a pretty tough subject. My major was Advertising w/ Graphic Design minor, which sounds so shallow, ahah.

                      Where are you thinking of moving to? Are you still thinking in Australia? Man I wish I could visit there one day, my aunt lives in Sydney suburbs and it’s been a dream of mine to visit her.

                    4. I just need to get out of Adelaide. It is a total shithole, there is a reason you have never heard of it. I want to move to a small city/town… like 200,000 people. I wanna get out of the capitals. Of course I’ll get to see even LESS new releases, but its a small price to pay for my sanity!

                      It is a tough subject, but given how my life has gone, none of it is surprising to me. The lecturers often say, “we’ll finish early today, I know it was pretty heavy” and i’m thinkin, huh, why? If this stuff is ‘heavy’ for my classmates they are in for a rude awakening once they are in the workplace!!

  12. Rob_withFOUR

    Just saw “The Lobster” this weekend. Your comment (“It wouldn’t be a hyperbole to say this is one of the weirdest films I’ve seen in a while.”) is dead on. It sounded like a odd “dramedy” that both my wife and I would enjoy. Although there were humorous moments, there was much more drama… and confusion. After it ended I turned to my wife and said, “I have so many questions!” This one definitely makes you think.

    It was fun to see Olivia Colman in a very different role after recently finishing “The Night Manager” series.

    1. Hey Rob! Sorry I almost missed your comment. Glad you saw The Lobster, and yeah it was definitely a weird flick! But I thought the concept was so intriguing and the acting was superb. Yeah I had sooo many questions too, but I think that’s the idea, I love movies that makes you ponder about life and stuff.

      Olivia Coleman is an underrated actress! I love her in Broadchurch series as well.

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