A2P Cinema's Favorite Films of 2016
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Notable films yet to see:
Silence, The Fits, Paterson, Toni Erdmann, Hacksaw Ridge, Billy Lynn's Long Haltime Walk, American Honey, Lion, Jackie, Captain Fantastic, The Lobster, War Dogs, Moana, The Nice Guys, Florence Foster Jenkins, Live By Night, A Monster Calls, Hidden Figures
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1… Happy Hour
Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4780662/

Intimate, gentle and wonderfully human, Ryusuke Hamaguchi's epic film is such a patient and understanding masterpiece that will understandably be compared with Yasujiro Ozu. There is relevance in the comparison but I was also reminded of the richness of another personal favorite, Robert Altman. Comparisons aside Happy Hour is film that both feels familiar yet is somehow deeply mysterious at once.


2… The Neon Demon
Nicolas Winding Refn, United States / Denmark / France
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1974419/

Danish-born filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn has always made "interesting" films and for me The Neon Demon is his best. This colorful, stylish, darkly funny and even campy horror journey into beauty and the LA fashion world is one that lingers with its profound imagery, colors, and sounds. Like beauty itself, you can't look away.


3… Things To Come
Mia Hansen Love, France / Germany
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4120176/

The legendary actress Isabelle Huppert had a remarkable year with two of the finest performances. In this gentle, reflective film she seems the perfect fit to work with talented young filmmaker Mia Hansen Love. Completely absorbing, Things To Come is a delicate portrait of a woman set on discovering the world even as the world seems resolved to move on from her.


4… The Witch
Robert Eggers, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0466893/

Atmospheric in every way, The Witch is a masterful achievement in quiet yet deeply moody horror filmmaking. There is a dual-layered richness to this film that makes it so engrossing. For his feature filmmaking debut writer-director Robert Eggers did incredible research in capturing the historic dialogue which further heightens the atmosphere of the film. The film makes perfect use of its woodland location and it expressively uses colors and sounds.


5… Midnight Special
Jeff Nichols
, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2649554/

Jeff Nichols is clearly echoing visual and emotional cues from classic 1970s/80s sci-fi films of John Carpenter (Starman) or Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Nichols has such a terrific naturalistic style and he wisely layers the film with a gifted blend of intrigue and tension. It's a film filled with such grandeur and many recurring ideas that have become trademarks of Nichols work.


6… The Invitation
Karyn Kusama, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2400463/

Beautifully paced and building, The Invitation is an intelligent and layered character ensemble. Karyn Kusama did well with Diablo Cody's script in the underrated genre-piece Jennifer's Body. Here she's working on another level and establishes herself as a significant artist. There is such an intensely building atmosphere of dread and its a thought provoking film.


7… Always Shine
Sophia Takal, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4392770/

Sophia Takal's study of a two aspiring LA actresses is less concerned with satire then it is on feminine identity. It develops tension before a tonal shift in the second half. Its easy to think of Ingmar Bergman's Persona or David Lynch's Mulholland Drive here, but Takal has a voice with this tense and unsettling film.


8… Knight of Cups
Terrence Malick
, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2101383/

Perhaps my least favorite film from my favorite living American filmmaker Terrence Malick, but still a visionary work from a filmmaker who since The New World and beyond has mastered a signature cinematic language. Knight of Cups is Malick at his most experimental which is sure to divide even more audiences.


9… Hush
Mike Flanagan, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5022702/

Smart horror filmmaking, convincing characters and a strong lead performance as well as an effective home invasion setup. Mike Flanagan is establishing himself as one of the great horror filmmakers.


10… Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4034228/

The theme of grief has been evident in Kenneth Lonergan's previous two films (his touching debit You Can Count on Me, and his lyrical masterpiece Margaret), but its clearly stated here in this film - even if its from characters who have difficulty expressing that grief outwardly. A heartbreaking film.


11… Love & Friendship
Whit Stillman, Ireland / France / Netherlands
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3068194/

Whit Stillman has always seemed to echo some ideas from Jane Austen and here he takes on his first Austen adaptation. Not the typical Austen adaptation you'll see or even expect to see. As to be expected of Stillman (or even Austen for that matter), its full of wit and humor.


12… In a Valley of Violence
Ti West , United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3608930/

This story of a vengeance seeking drifter passing through a small town in nothing inventive. Ti West is known for his masterful work within horror genre but here he proves his signature as a master working within and ultimately beyond genre conventions.


13… Right Now, Wrong Then
Hong Sang-sooi, South Korea
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4768776/

A prolific filmmaker, Hong Sang-soo transcends the gimmicky conceptual structure of this film. A deeply observant film, this has many of Hong's familiar trademarks.


14… The Edge of Seventeen
Kelly Fremon Craig, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1878870/

In her debut film as writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig gives a relatively recycled narrative a fresh, insightful, authentic and fully heartfelt edge. Credit star Hailee Steinfeld for carrying the film as an awkward teenager who's unpopularity has all to do with her own bitterness.


15… The Love Witch
Anna Biller, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3908142/

A throwback/homage to horror and exploitation films of the 1960s and 70s, The Love Witch is full of wonderful details and visuals while also being a highly intelligent work.


16… Everybody Wants Some!!!
Richard Linklater, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2937696/

This sort of spiritual follow-up to Linklater's Dazed and Confused is a sweeping and poetic work that further confirms Linklater as one of American cinemas truly great filmmakers.


17… Creepy
Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4900708

For a filmmaker responsible for some of the greatest horror films of his generation Creepy would seem a fitting title for his latest film, a return to the genre after a short hiatus. This film is surreal and suspenseful with a fittingly satisfying conclusion.


18… Fences
Denzel Washington, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2671706

Denzel Washington faithfully adapts August Wilson acclaimed 1983 play with a soft touch, avoiding getting in the way as a director - instead relying on the films theater-influenced settings, masterfully poetic dialogue and incredible performances (including by Washington himself as well as Viola Davis who is remarkable as the soul of the film).


19… Allied
Robert Zemeckis, United States / United Kingdom
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3640424/

Robert Zemeckis echoes some old Hollywood with this effective World War II spy thriller. The concept is setup as camp yet Zemeckis directs this script with a seriousness. The cast is perfect as Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard (one of my favorites!) are two of the biggest and best Hollywood stars. Certainly not as important or masterful as Zemeckis best films, but I really enjoyed this.


20… The Shallows
Jaume Collet-Serra, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4052882/

Sure its campy, but the film wisely embraces what it is and the result is one of the most fun and nailbiting films of the year. Packed with effective scares, a solid psychical performance from Blake Lively, fine special effects, and stunning underwater and aerial photography.


21… Kubo and the Two Strings
Travis Knight, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4302938/

With its fourth feature, Laika Animation Studio continues to rise as the potential leader in innovative American animation filmmaking (particularly with the seemingly continued downfall of Pixar since its masterpiece Up). Full of dazzling color this is a poetic coming of age story.


22… 10 Cloverfield Lane
Dan Trachtenberg, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1179933/

Very loosely connected to 2008's Cloverfield (though perhaps only in spirit, if at all?), 10 Cloverfield Lane is a film that starts as one thing, then becomes something else by its conclusion. That may not work for everyone but I was fully engaged by this all the way through.


23… Microbe & Gasoline
Michel Gondry , France
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3882000

A deeply touching and playful film in the typical signature of Michel Gondry. This film is full of heart.


24… Hell or High Water
David Mackenzie,United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2582782/

David Mackenzie can sometimes be heavy handed with his metaphors but it all works well here in this film that effectively uses time and landscapes to its advantage.


25… La La Land
Damien Chazelle, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3783958/

Damien Chazelle has attempted the movie musical before but with the success of his Oscar-winning drama Whiplash, he had a budget and freedom to make this. Its a film of some spectacular moments and I was particularly engrossed in the moments shared with Emma Stone. For whatever its worth, this will again bring Chazelle some Oscar attention.


26… The Conjuring 2
James Wan, Canada / United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3065204/

James Wan has become the master of the jump scare. This atmospheric sequel again makes great use of Wan's eye for set design detail and camera work to build a tension. Conjuring 2 is a great sequel even if not on the level of the original (or Wan's greatest achievement Insidious).


27… Elle
Paul Verhoeven, France / Germany / Belgium
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3716530/

Isabelle Huppert gives one of the years very best performances in Paul Verhoeven's first French language film. Verhoeven direction is terrific and the film has a stylistic wit.


28… Under the Shadow
Babak Anvari, Iran / United Kingdom / Qatar
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4273292/

A typical ghost horror film in an unusual setting. Babak Anvari directorial debut, Under the Shadow is a horror film in which a mother and daughter in Tehran are haunted by an evil force during the Iran-Iraq war. This is a slow builder but very effective.


29… Loving
Jeff Nichols, United Kingdom / United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4669986/

Loving works on several levels but its most effective as an intimate romance of a couple that simply want to be alone with each other. Top notch performances from Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga.


30… Sing Street
John Carney, Ireland / United Kingdom
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3544112/

Not quite on the level of Once, but John Carney's Sing Street is another tender and funny film (without being overly sentimental).


31… Cemetery of Splendor
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand / United Kingdom / etc
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2818654/

Quiet and mysterious as most of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's best films. If you've seen Weerasethakul's films you know what to expect and you will not be disappointed.


32… Moonlight
Barry Jenkins
, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4975722

A visually poetic work from a talented young filmmaker, Moonlight has moments that are brilliant and some that are a bit heavy handed. Overall a strong work from a filmmaker with a bright future.


33… Ghostbusters
Paul Feig, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1289401/

Its not easy remaking a beloved megahit so credit to Paul Feig and this cast for the result of this - which takes place in an alternate universe from the original 1984 Ghostbusters. Its wisely its own film and its very likable lead characters are unique and not carbon copied from the original. I'm sure it will have haters but I really had fun with this film.


34… Our Little Sister
Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3756788/

In nearly all his films, the great Hirokazu Koreeda evokes many of the early masters of Japanese cinema (notably Yasujiro Ozu and Mikio Naruse). Set in Kamakura and layered in a multigeneration family tale, Our Little Sister easily recalls them again. But Koreeda is a great and unique filmmaker in his own right and Our Little Sister has plenty of his personal trademarks (from its opening shot of toenails to its satisfying conclusion).


35Ouija: Origin of Evil
Mike Flanagan, United States / Japan
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4361050/

What a difference a director can make. This sequel to the horrible 2014 film, Mike Flanagan gives this film an intelligence and craft that was lacking both in the first film and in many films of this subgenre.


36… Sully
Clint Eastwood, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3263904/

The best film Eastwood has made since 2008's Gran Torino. Sully is a very gripping, well crafted and performed.


37… The Purge: Election Year
James DeMonaco, United States / France
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4094724/

A fitting and strong conclusion to a solid trilogy, The Purge: Election Year follows the trilogy's best film (The Purge: Anarchy) and while its a bit more heavy-handed in its political awareness, Election Year offers a similar scope, tension and sympathy for his protagonists.


38… Blair Witch
Adam Wingard, United States / Canada

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1540011/

A surprisingly effective sequel to the groundbreaking 1999 film. This brings some new ideas to the Blair Witch world.


39… Little Men
Ira Sachs, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4919484/

A very simple and authentic tale about a friendship that is tested by a building lease contract dispute. Ira Sachs smartly directs this with a simple and quiet touch.


40… Cafe Society
Woody Allen, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4513674/

Woody Allen's latest is a period comedy/romance set in the Bronx in the 1930s. Allen gives the film his own voice over narration (something he has not done since 1987's Radio Days). Jesse Eisenberg is excellent in the Allen-role and this might be his best film since 2005's brilliant Match Point.


41… Arrival
Denis Villeneuve, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2543164/

Denis Villeneuve is a good director and here he clearly echoes Close Encounters of the Third Kind search for answers. Arrival provides some narrative surprises along the way and Amy Adams gives a stellar performance.


42… The Monster
Bryan Bertino, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3976144/

This low-budget indie horror film is ultimately working on other layers. Underneath the surface is a deep mother-daughter melodrama. Its very metaphoric all the way to its conclusion.


43… Blue Jay
Alex Lehmann, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5912454/

Mark Duplass wrote this script and it echoes the theme of regret that has been at the center of many of his films. Here he stars alongside Sarah Paulson as the two reflect on their past relationship. Blue Jay is a simple and sweet film.


44… Don't Breathe
Fede Alvarez, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4160708/

Don't Breathe has some narrative surprises to go with it's already interesting concept. Fede Alvarez proved to be pretty skilled with jump scare horror in his surprisingly good remake of Sam Raimi's beloved Evil Dead.


45… Viral
Henry Joost / Ariel Schulman, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2597892/

A disease outbreak horror film, Viral is a film that reuses many of the same narrative ideas of other films. Yet to the filmmakers credit it still has a freshness mostly in its authentic handling of its lead characters.


46… Rules Don't Apply
Warren Beatty, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1974420/

Cynical films of Hollywood showbiz are nothing new (especially this year) but Warren Beatty's film Rules Don't Apply offers an engrossing and layered portrait of Howard Hughes.


47… Maggie's Plan
Rebecca Miller, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3471098/

A charming film lead by the always charming Greta Gerwig. The film is at its best when not weighed down by plot.


48… All We Had
Katie Holmes, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3910814/

Katie Holmes directional debut doesn't offer anything innovative but it is a film that feels personal.


49… 20th Century Women
Mike Mills , United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4385888

Mike Mills follows up his excellent 2010 film Beginners with this story of three generations of women in Southern California during the late 1970s. Though in a different setting, it reimagines some of the themes of adolescence that Mills has touched on throughout his early career.


50… The Handmaiden
Chan-wook Park, South Korea

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4016934/

Chan-wook Park has made some great films (Lady Vengeance being my favorite) but his lack of subtly often does not work for me. The Handmaiden (set in 1930s Korea, during Japanese occupation) gives him some material to be more effective and the result is one of his better films.


51… Hardcore Henry
Ilya Naishuller, Russia / United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3072482/

Hardcore Henry is shot entirely from the perspective of the title character using a series of stuntman cinematographers who wore camera helmets for every shot. Its a bold and inventive tactic and the film is so full of nonstop action.


52… Certain Women
Kelly Reichardt , United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4468634/

Not as compelling as Kelly Reichardt's previous films, Certain Women takes her outside Oregon but the landscape and environment is again deeply relevant to the characters.


53… Hail, Caesar!
Ethan and Joel Coen
, United Kingdom / United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0475290/

A cartoonish Hollywood satire comedy from the great Coen brothers Hail, Caesar! recalls some ideas they used in 1991's Barton Fink. Not on that level but it is amusing and I'm curious to see it again (as many Coen brothers films grow upon repeat viewings).


54The Unknown Girl
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium / France
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4630550/

Far from one of the Dardenne's best films The Unknown Girl has admirable political and spiritual intentions and I always respect Dardenne's handling of characters.


55… Miss Sloane
John Madden, United States / France
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4540710/

A clear-cut star vehicle for the formidable Jessica Chastain who delivers with a powerful performance.


56… Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Gareth Edwards, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3748528/

Rogue One didn't fully engage me early in its it first half (though I admit to only being a minor admirer of Star Wars films). However I give the film credit for being the first Star Wars film since the original three to be entirely a work of its own and not simply rely on the nostalgia of the beloved original films.


57… The Innocents
Anne Fontaine, France / Poland
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4370784/

Anne Fontaine's looses some steam in the final act but the build up in the first half is strong enough to keep you engaged.


58… The Wailing
Na Hong-jin, South Korea / United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5215952/

Na Hong-Jin direction is a little message heavy but if you can get passed that the film offers some epic-scale blend of genres.


59… Nocturnal Animals
Tom Ford, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4550098/

Some of the problems I had with Tom Ford's previous film (A Single Man) reoccur here, but there are some excellent moments and great performances here.


60… The Mechanic: Resurrection
Dennis Gansel, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3522806/

This sequel is a step down from the first action film (2011's underrated The Mechanic), but it stays mostly true to the characters, narrative and action, avoiding becoming an overblown sequel.


61… Jane Got a Gun
Gavin O'Connor, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2140037/

There are moments here that soar but some over directon from Gavin O'Connor hurt this film.


62… Julieta
Pedro Almodovar, Spain
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4326444

Julieta is Pedro Almodovar at his most straight forward, which is not something you either want or expect from the autuer.


63… Lights Out
David F. Sandberg, United Kingdom / United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4786282/

For this film, Swedish director David F. Sandberg turned his 2013 short film into a full length mainstream studio feature. Its a very clever horror concept but likely much more effective as a short film as some ideas start to get tired.


64… Three
Johnnie To, Hong Kong / China
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4379728/

The latest crime action thriller from Johnnie To is not his best film but it offers some fine genre moments.


65… Deepwater Horizon
Peter Berg, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1860357/

Based on the true story event from 2010. This film centers around the first day of the tragedy (which lasted nearly 90 days in total).


66… The Little Prince
Mark Osborne, United States
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1754656/

This film adpation is disappointing only because it's not a great film, something the beloved books and story clearly are.


67… The Other Side of the Door
Johannes Roberts, United Kingdom / United States
/ India
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3702652/

Filled with jump scares and typical horror tactics The Other Side of the Door is not all that bad of a ghost story. Worth watching for genre fans.


68… Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Tim Burton, United Kingdom / Belgium / United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1935859/

Tim Burton has long been one of my favorite filmmakers but he has not made a great film since 2005's Corpse Bride. Some since then have been ok - like this film, which is saved by its visuals.


69… The Girl on the Train
Tate Taylor, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3631112/

I'm a big fan of Emily Blunt and while she is admirable here I also think she's miscast. This is difficult material to adapt on screen but there are a bit too many flashbacks weighing it down.


70… Finding Dory
Andrew Stanton / Angus MacLane, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2277860/

Pixar lack of original concepts continues to plague them. Finding Dory is not a great film but it does offer some dazzling animation and even in their weakest efforts, I respect the way Pixar films create emotions in their storytelling.


71… The Darkness
Greg McLean, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1878841/

Greg McLean once made one of the best horror films of the last 20 years (2005's Wolf Creek). He has had a tough time following up that film and while not awful, The Darkness won't help.


72… The Forest
Jason Zada, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3387542/

I made the mistake of expecting too much from this film so I was left disappointed and bored by the result. It follows a popular trend of current American horror films putting a young women in a foreign land. There is still some redeeming quality in the visuals.


73… The Jungle Book
Jon Favreau, United Kingdom / United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3040964/

Disney's live-action/CGI remake of its beloved 1967 animation film is a mixed result. The visuals and CGI animal characters are stunning but this films falls short as standing on its own, mostly because it just seems to be a live-action copy of the 1967 film.


74… Jason Bourne
Paul Greengrass, United Kingdom / China / United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4196776/

Not horrible but fans of the Bourne series will be left unsatisfied. This one feels like a money grab for Matt Damon and the crew, as the Bourne series was intended as a trilogy. Its setup to make more films after this.


75… Triple 9
John Hillcoat, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3040964/

John Hillcoat has proven to be a good director of gritty films but this one fails to be fully engaging despite a talented cast (Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet).


My 3 Least Favorite Films of 2016...
Where as in the past I would seek out every and all new release, I've been more selective in my film viewing the past few years - often avoiding films that don't interest me. As such there are very few films I completely disliked this year. In all, I saw just over 100 new releases in 2016. There were only 3 that I thought had no redeeming quality:

Keeping Up with the Joneses
Greg Mottola, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2387499/

The Boy
William Brent Bell, United States / Canada / China

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3882082/

Independence Day: Resurgence
Roland Emmerich, United States

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1628841/