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We’ve reached the end of my list of my Top Twenty Movies of 2016Click here for numbers twenty through sixteen, click here for numbers fifteen through eleven, and click here for numbers ten through six.

And now, my top five favorite movies of 2016!

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5. Hail, Caesar! I can’t believe how ignored this terrific Coen Brothers movie has been!  Set in Hollywood in the 1950′s, the film stars Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, a studio exec and “fixer” who is trying to locate his kidnapped star, Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), before news of the star’s disappearance can make it into the papers.  Baird’s kidnapping, by a group of disgruntled Communist screenwriters, is only one of the many fires that Mannix has to try to put out as he tries to keep his studio afloat and all of his in-production pictures running smoothly.  Hail, Caesar! is a very silly film, which is a difficult tone to hit, but the Coen Brothers make it look effortless.   The film mines a lot of humor gently skewering the art of making movies and the pomposity of Hollywood egos.  The fall-on-the-floor hysterical scene in which director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) — whose very name is a subtle gag running throughout the film — tries and fails to give a line reading to the dim-bulb cowboy actor Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich) could be the funniest single scene in any movie this year.  Josh Brolin is terrific as the serious man (see what I did there?) trying his best to wrangle all the Hollywood crazies surrounding him.  Tilda Swinton, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Alison Pill, Wayne Knight, Jonah Hill, David Krumholtz, Fisher Stevens, Fred Melamed, Patrick Fischler, Robert Picardo, and even Christopher Lambert (the original Highlander himself!) are all so great in their appearances in the film.  While Hail, Caesar! might not be one of the greatest Coen Brothers films ever (of a caliber with The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo, or A Serious Man), it is still easily one of the best movies of 2016.  (Click here for my full review.)

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4. Arrival —  When twelve extraterrestrial spaceships appear in different locations around the globe, linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is tasked with finding a way to communicate with the alien life-forms (huge creatures that the human scientists refer to as “heptapods”).  Arrival is a magnificent film, a gorgeous, original, cerebral sci-fi story.  The film has the visual splendor of a big-budget movie, but this is not an action-adventure film, rather this is an intelligent drama that is a fascinating exploration of language and communication.  I was enormously impressed by the way the film … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh Reviews Rogue One!

December 16th, 2016
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Let me get this out right at the top: Rogue One is better than The Force Awakens.

For those looking for a spoiler-free review, there you go.

For everyone else, buckle in, let’s go!

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I have for years been dreaming of seeing a brand new Star Wars film on the big screen that I could say was great without reservation, and I think that film has finally, finally arrived.

I suspect Rogue One will not be nearly as universally beloved as The Force Awakens.  It is far more adult and sophisticated, and the film goes to some dark, dark places.  This is not a kiddie-focused Star Wars movie, and I love it for that, but I suspect that will hurt the film with general audiences.  I also think that despite the film’s pleasingly simple premise — this is the story of how the rebels captured the Death Star plans that Princess Leia hid in R2D2 in the original Star Wars — I have been shocked by how many friends have asked me, in the past week, “so when is this film set?”  To me, the film’s marketing has been very clear, but I suspect many out there don’t see it as the must-watch continuation of the saga that The Force Awakens was so successfully marketed as.

But I am here to tell you, Rogue One is glorious, a rousing adventure story that packs a devastating emotional punch.  Rogue One grapples with the realities of war and sacrifice in a way that none of the previous Star Wars films have.  The original adventures of Luke, Han, and Leia were something of a fairy tale, but Rogue One shows us the reality behind the fairy tale, the lives and losses of the men and women who struggled in the dirt to set the stage for Luke to save the day in A New Hope.  The film was written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and directed by Gareth Edwards.  These are all Star Wars newbies (with the exception of John Knoll — though he hasn’t previously been involved on a story level, Mr. Knoll has been a key creative force in ILM for decades), but together they have crafted a magnificent Star Wars film.

This story is set immediately prior to the opening scene of the original Star Wars movie.  As that move begins, Darth Vader is in hot pursuit of Princess Leia’s small ship, aboard which Vader knows are the stolen Death Star plans.  Rogue One winds the story back a bit, to tell us how the Rebels first discovered the existence of the Death Star, and then how they … [continued]