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The Top Twenty Movies of 2016 — Part One!

I am very excited to present my list of my Twenty Favorite Movies from 2016!  While I don’t think 2016 was quite as strong a year for movies as 2015 was, there were still a heck of a lot of great movies released this year!  I debated cutting back and presenting a list of my fifteen favorites this year, but I found that I was easily able to fill a list of twenty, just as I did last year.

Though I have seen a ton of movies in 2016, as always there is still a boatload of movies that I wanted to see but didn’t get to.  These include Silence, Live By Night, Fences, Twentieth Century Women, Collateral Beauty, Moonlight, The Edge of Seventeen, Rules Don’t Apply, Hidden Figures, Everybody Wants Some!, Keanu, Denial, War Dogs, American Pastoral, Frank & Lola, Cafe Society, Whisky Tango Foxtrot, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and more.  So if you’re wondering why any of those films aren’t on this list, well, now you know.  I am hopeful that I will be able to see many of those films I just listed in the coming weeks, but I couldn’t wait any longer before publishing this list.

Meanwhile, there were plenty of wonderful 2016 movies that I did see and enjoy and yet didn’t make this list.  Those include Jackie, Green Room, The Lobster, Midnight Special, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Office Christmas Party, For The Love of Spockand many others.  (In a few weeks, after I finish posting my Best of 2016 lists, I’ll be posting reviews of many of the films that I saw in my end-of-the-year rush to catch up with as many 2016 films as I could.)

Honorable Mention: Brooklyn This was a 2015 film that I didn’t get to see until well into 2016.  But if I had seen it earlier, it surely would have been one of the top films on my 2015 list.  This gentle story of a young Irish immigrant to the U.S. in the nineteen-fifties was gorgeous and very moving.  Saoirse Ronan makes an extraordinary impression in the lead role, elevating herself from great character actor to true movie star.  In a modern era in which so many American politicians like to demonize the “other,” fostering suspicion and mistrust of anyone not born in the United States, Brooklyn tells a story that brings the immigrant experience to life in a positive way.  This is an important film, and one that is truly alive with joy and pain and a wealth of human emotion.  I loved it.  Click here for my full review.

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20. The Jungle Book[continued]

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Josh Reviews the Extended Version of Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters

October 21st, 2016
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One of the many great things that started to happen with the success of DVDs in the aughts was the proliferation of extended cuts of movies.  I always enjoy checking out an extended cut of a film.  I always find it to be an interesting exploration of an alternate version of a film.  Sometimes, an extended version results in a hugely different film.  Sometimes the changes are significant, and sometimes they are very insignificant.  Sometimes a good film can be made great, or a great film can be made even better.  And sometimes the extended version is dramatically inferior to the original version.  I recently wrote about the extended version of Batman v. Superman, which made a watchable movie (albeit still not a great one) out of the disastrous theatrical version.  I also recently wrote about the extended edition of Ridley Scott’s The Martian.  I adored the theatrical version, and I didn’t think that the minor additions inserted into the slightly-longer extended version made much difference to the film.

Melissa McCarthy;Kristen Wiig;Kate McKinnon;Leslie Jones;Chris Hemsworth

I was intrigued to learn that an extended edition of Paul Feig’s recent reboot of Ghostbusters was being released to DVD & blu-ray.  I enjoyed Mr. Feig’s Ghostbusters, though in my review I commented that often the editing of the film seemed choppy, as if the film had been pared down from a much-longer version.  Would the extended edition address those concerns?  Would it improve the film?  Or would the result be an overly-long, bogged-down version?

Well, somewhere in between.  Ultimately I feel about this extended version of Ghostbusters pretty much the same way I did about the extended version of The Martian.  The additions are good but not essential.  The longer cut is not significantly better than the theatrical cut, but it works and certainly doesn’t do any harm to the film.

There’s no question that the best thing about this new extended edition is that the editing feels smoother and less choppy than the theatrical cut.  There’s a more natural cutting back-and-forth between the characters and story-lines in this longer version.  We get to see more of Rowan, in his human form, before he comes face-to-face with the Ghostbusters, which helps establish his character as the villain.  One of my complaints about the film, originally, is that because the villain exists in three different forms — as the nebbishy Rowan, as the mind-controlled Kevin, and finally as the giant Ghostbusters logo come-to-life — and because none of these forms are on-screen for all that long, the villain didn’t make much of an impact for me.  These additional scenes of Rowan (played by Neil Casey) helped that for me.

I was surprised that Charles Dance’s character, … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Paul Feig’s Rebooted Ghostbusters!

Let’s cut right to the chase: the original Ghostbusters is one of the all time great movies, definitely in my top ten.  Paul Feig’s rebooted Ghostbusters can’t hold a candle to the original.  But this new film is still a ton of fun, very funny and very enjoyable from start to finish.  Mr. Feig is one of the great comedy directors working today, and mixed with this tremendous cast he ‘s created a great movie that is funny and exciting.  Ignore the haters who were all bent out of shape at the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters: this is a solid movie that is definitely worth seeing.

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The idea of rebooting/remaking one of the all-time great movies is a foolhardy one.  I have been saying that for years, ever since rumors of a new Ghostbusters began floating around.  Remake BAD movies that you can improve upon!  Why hobble yourself by forcing audiences to compare your new movie, at every turn, to one of the greatest movies of all time?  It just seems insane to me.

Equally insane?  The crazy, misogynistic anger that has been out there, across the internet, at the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters.  What year is this??  Who cares whether the new Ghostbusters are male or female or whatever??  The questions should be: are they funny?  Does this new cast have a great dynamic together?  Do they create interesting new characters who you care about and root for?  Those are the questions that you should be asking.  And by the way, the answer to all three of those questions is YES, which is why this new Ghostbusters works as well as it does.

But getting back to my original point, I have been saying all along, and I still feel this way now after having seen the new Ghostbusters, that rather than remaking one of the all-time-great films, I’d have preferred had Paul Feig and this cast come together to make an original film.  That would have been more interesting to me, and in my opinion it would have given this project a better chance for greatness (rather than my constantly thinking about, while watching it, the ways in which it falls short of the original Ghostbusters).

However, that being said, this is probably as good a version of a rebooted Ghostbusters as I can imagine seeing.  I have a few quibbles, of course, but overall the movie works very, very well.  The cast is great.  The jokes work.  The visual effects are terrific.  The film successfully walks a fine line between telling the familiar type of story we expect from a rebooted Ghostbusters film while also finding some new twists and new spins to put on … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Spy!

At this rate, I want Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy to never stop making movies together.

Ms. McCarthy killed in Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, and then she stepped up into a co-starring role in Mr. Feig’s follow-up film, The Heat.  In Spy, Ms. McCarthy and writer/director Feig reunite for a third film together, and once again the collaboration proves to be absolutely golden.

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Melissa McCarthy plays Susan Cooper.  She’s the CIA operative who, from her desk at Langley, serves as the voice in the ear of suave, handsome, James Bond-esque super-spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  But when Fine is killed on a mission to recover a rogue nuclear bomb, Susan finds herself thrust into the field, forced to go undercover to befriend the woman who killed Fine, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) in an attempt to locate the bomb before it can be sold to terrorists.

For a long time, Paul Feig (who created Freaks and Geeks and ran the show along with Judd Apatow) felt like something of a secret to comedy fans.  So it’s been a delight to see him achieve big-time success these past few years since Bridesmaids.  I hope this run continues for him for a long time!!!  (I am NOT excited by the idea of a Ghostbusters sequel/remake, but if anyone can make that interesting, it’s Paul Feig, so I am at least curious to see what he’s cooking up.)  There is some sort of magic when he collaborates with Melissa McCarthy.  Mr. Feig seems to know exactly how to use her, crafting characters for her that play right to her best comedic strengths.

What’s great about McCarthy in this role is that Susan Cooper isn’t a bumbling idiot.  She’s smart and loyal and tough.  This isn’t the story of a dour housewife transforming into a super-spy, which would have been the predictable route to go in a movie like this.  I was impressed that Paul Feig (who wrote the film in addition to directing) chose to tell a different story.  When we first meet Susan, we can already see her great qualities.  It’s Fine and her superiors at the CIA who don’t see them.  What happens in the film is that Susan is finally given an opportunity to show what she’s really capable of.  I love that.

Ms. McCarthy is so, so funny.  She’s equally as adept at physical comedy (there is a close-quarters fight in a dirty kitchen that is absolutely magnificent) and verbal comedy (in the early scenes when she’s just sitting at a desk and talking into Fine’s ear, she is still hilarious).  She and the film do fall back on a few familiar tricks — at one point, when … [continued]

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And so, at last, we arrive at my final Best of 2013 list!  I hope you all enjoyed the rest of my lists.  Click here for part one of The Top 15 Movies of 2013, and here for part two and here for part three.  Click here for part one of The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013, and here for part two.  Click here for part one of The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013, and here for part two.

And now, without any further delay, let’s dive into my list of the Top Ten DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2013:

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower Had I seen this film in 2012 when it was released, it surely would have made it onto my Best Movies of 2012 list.  Since I missed including this touching, heartbreaking film on that list last year, I sort of had to find a way to cheat and include it on one of my Best of 2013 lists!  This film has stuck with me deeply since I saw it.  It’s surely one of the greatest coming-of-age stories I have ever seen, masterfully adapted for the screen by Steven Chbosky, based on his own novel of the same name (which I now desperately need to read).  Each one of the kids in the film is portrayed by a phenomenal actor/actress: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman, and a score of others, not to mention some great adults in supporting roles such as Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack, Dylan McDermott, and Kate Walsh.  No child should have to go through what Charlie has to go through in this story, but should god forbid that happen, I hope he/she is blessed with friends as wonderful as Sam, Patrick, and their gang.  And while I referred to “cheating” a moment ago by including this film on this DVD list, the blu-ray is in fact phenomenal, with some great behind-the-scenes stuff and two magnificent commentaries, one by Mr. Chbosky alone and one by Chbosky and all the kids.  (Click here for my original review.)

9. The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 & The Flashpoint Paradox These two direct-to-DVD animated DCU projects were both very strong.  At the start of the year we got the second half of the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns.  Published in 1986, this dark, psychological tale is the seminal “Last Batman Story,” in which an aged Bruce Wayne once again dons the cape and cowl in an attempt to reclaim a Gotham City without hope.  Mr. Miller’s work has been heavily mined for inspiration by … [continued]

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Let’s begin the day with this phenomenal article from badassdigest.com about how Optimus Prime’s death defined a generation of kids.  Do you want to understand the depths of my geeky heart?  Then read that article.  My parents wouldn’t let me see Transformers: The Movie in theatres, but I was allowed to rent it on video.  I didn’t cry, but I was shocked by the brutal deaths of all my beloved characters in the film’s opening minutes.  When Optimus Prime bought the farm I was changed forever.  I had loved the Transformers before, but one viewing of Transformers: The Movie sealed that flick’s place in my heart forever.  “Megatron… must be stopped.  No matter the cost.”

Boy, those crazy guys and gals at badassdigest.com have a direct line into my psyche these days, because while the experience of seeing Transformers: The Movie was seminal, so too was my discovery of Voltron.  This magnificent article examines the mysterious origins of Voltron, a show that combined and repurposed several different Japanese cartoons.  Oh my lord I loved Voltron.  The continuity of that show — the way story-lines flowed from one episode to the next — was a staggering discovery to me as a kid, and I fell in love hard.  To this day, I have a love for long-running continuing stories in any media (Movies, TV, books, comic books, etc.), and I think that began as a kid when I discovered Voltron and Robotech…

I just discovered Jerry Seinfeld’s web-series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and it is magnificent.  I love stand-up comedy and I loved Seinfeld, so no surprise I think this series of shorts of Jerry hanging out with his very funny pals is phenomenal.  With this project, Seinfeld has inched even closer to truly having made a show about nothing.  Genius.  I have already watched them all.  If you haven’t seen this, click on the above link immediately.

Want to watch Ewan McGregor tell a hilarious story about filming the Star Wars prequels?  Jump to 7:50 below:

So far I am very, very excited for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.  My only cause for worry?  The film’s very unimpressive redesign of the Sentinels.  I wish they had stuck a lot closer to the classic, iconic original design by John Byrne.  The Sentinels aren’t just any robots, they have a very specific look, and this isn’t it.

As for this summer’s X-Men movie, I have already written my review of the good-but-not-great new Wolverine solo film, The Wolverine.  Click here for a fascinating interview with Chris Claremont, who shares his thoughts on the film.  Chris Claremont didn’t create the X-Men or Wolverine, but in … [continued]

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The Top 15 Movies of 2011 — Part Three!

Click here for part one of my Top 15 Movies of 2011 list, numbers fifteen through eleven, and here for part two, featuring numbers ten through six. Buckle up, now, as it’s time for the home stretch, the best of the best (at least in my humble opinion) of 2011!

5.  Young Adult Juno writer and director Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman re-team for a deliciously dark comedy about a twisted, pretty-much irredeemably terrible young woman named Mavis Gary (a magnificent Charlize Theron) who returns to the small hometown she left years before, in an attempt to win back her old jock boyfriend (Patrick Wilson). He’s married with a young baby, but so what?  During her week back in town, Mavis bumps into another high school classmate, the nerdy, disabled Matt (Patton Oswalt). The two strike up a weird sort-of friendship, and the way the arc of that pairing avoids any of the typical movie cliche ways that those sorts of relationships usually unfold on-screen is only one way in which this movie is unremittingly awesome.  The running gag about the way Mavis wakes up each morning, the terrific chemistry between Ms. Theron and Mr. Oswalt, and that pitch-perfect ending are just a few others.  A phenomenal film.  (Click here for my full review.)

4.   The Adventures of TintinShould anyone be surprised that the team-up of cinematic titans Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson produced gold?  This deliriously joyful, madcap adventure is non-stop pulpy fun from start-to-finish.  The film just zips on by, one incredible sequence after another, with Mr. Spielberg showing us once again how he is an absolute master at staging an action scene and assembling a crowd-pleasing adventure film.  The animation is gorgeous, the voice-work is impeccable (highlighted by another brilliant performance by the great Andy Serkis — I also praised his work in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, when I wrote about that film earlier on this list), and when the closing credits ran I couldn’t believe the film was over already.  This one is going to get a lot of play in my household in the coming years, of that I have no doubt.  I can’t wait for the sequel, in which Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Jackson will apparently switch roles (so that Mr. Spielberg will produce the film and Mr. Jackson will direct).  (Click here for my full review.)

3.  BridesmaidsKirsten Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo, working with brilliant comedy director Paul Feig (creator of Freaks of Geeks), producer Judd Apatow, and a tremendous cast of women, hit every note exactly perfectly in this comedic home-run.  The film is … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Bridesmaids!

When you combine the two main creative forces behind Freaks and Geeks (one of the greatest television shows ever made) with some of the funniest actresses working today, is it any result that the resulting film is an uproariously funny, ferociously entertaining comedy from start to finish?

Kristen Wiig stars in Bridesmaids as Annie, a young woman whose life is on a bit of a downturn.  Her boyfriend left her, which would be painful enough if the withdrawal of his financial backing didn’t also cause her bakery business to go under.  Annie is at first happy to hear that her life-long best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), has gotten engaged, but soon that happy news turns bitter as Annie begins to feel that Lillian has found a new best friend in one of her bridesmaids, the wealthy, perky Helen (Rose Byrne).  As she feels Lillian slipping away from her, Annie tries ever-harder to plan perfect wedding-related events for her friend, but those efforts wind up exploding in increasingly spectacular fashion.

In addition to starring in the film, Kristen Wiig co-wrote Bridesmaids with Annie Mumolo.  No one could possibly survive and thrive on Saturday Night Live for as long as Ms. Wiig did without clearly having a strong comedic voice and some writing skills, but this film firmly establishes her as a powerhouse talent.  She and Ms. Mumolo have crafted a script that is screamingly funny but also endearingly human.  There is some exaggeration in the film, to be sure, and there are some characters who drift closer to comedic archetypes than they do to real people.  But the central story-line of the film is very real and very honest.  The description of the film’s plot in the above paragraph could just as easily be the plot for a somber, depressing drama.  Obviously, Bridesmaids is anything BUT a depressing drama!  But the idea of a life-change driving a wedge between long-time friends is a story that rings emotionally true, and that gives the film a weight that many other raunchy comedies don’t have.

Having a potent, real emotional story at the core of the craziest of comedies has been one of the reasons why the films directed by and produced by Judd Apatow over the last several years have been so terrific.  Mr. Apatow produced Bridesmaids, and I can see immediately why he responded to the script by Ms. Wiig and Ms. Mumolo.  It’s also easy to see why this story appealed to Mr. Apatow’s former Freaks and Geeks collaborator, the amazing Paul Feig.  (Mr. Feig created Freaks and Geeks, while Mr. Apatow served as the executive producer.  Mr. Feig directed Bridesmaids, which was produced by Mr. Apatow.)  You might not … [continued]