Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

DC Film Girl’s Year In Review: The Best & Worst of 2016

We can all agree that 2016 was an eventful year in cinema. I also got married and joined the Broadcast Film Critics Association, so it was an important and fun year for me! Because I got married, I probably saw fewer films than in past years, but still over 175 films! The full list of films I saw can be found here. There were so many average and mediocre films that came out this year, but a lovely handful of absolutely incredible and original films. For the past four years, I have enjoyed writing reviews and sharing my opinions on the films I’ve seen here on the internet, but I’ve also been sharing my thoughts on WBAL-TV every Saturday morning! I love being able to share the best (or worst) points about a film with the Baltimore audience and also posting my segments here too.
The list of award winners for the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association can be found here. And the list of the Critics Choice Awards can be found here. I also discuss my Top 5 films on WBAL on New Year’s Eve, which can be found here. Here’s to hopefully another great year of original filmmaking in 2017!
And stay tuned for my list of most anticipated films of 2017 (Fifty Shades Darker, Alien Covenant, etc.!!) and I’ll see you at the theatre next year!

The Best Performances of 2016

Best Actor
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool
Denzel Washington – Fences
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Tom Hanks – Sully
Jake Gyllenhaal – Nocturnal Animals
Lewis MacDougall – A Monster Calls
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo – Sing Street
Paul Dano – Swiss Army Man
Daniel Radcliffe – Swiss Army Man
Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Bryan Cranston – The Infiltrator
Michael Fassbender – The Light Between Oceans
Jesse Plemons – Other People
Chris Pratt – Passengers
Eddie Redmayne – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 
Benedict Cumberbatch – Doctor Strange
Tyler Perry – Boo! A Madea Halloween
Tom Hiddleston – I Saw the Light
Asa Butterfield – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Nicholas Hoult – Equals
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Snowden
Denzel Washington – The Magnificent Seven
Chris Pratt – The Magnificent Seven
John Krasinski – 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Colin Farrell – The Lobster
Andy Samberg – Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Jonah Hill – War Dogs
Michael Shannon – Midnight Special
Patrick Wilson – The Conjuring 2
Sam Claflin – Me Before You
Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys
Russell Crowe – The Nice Guys
Logan Marshall-Green – The Invitation
Blake Jenner – Everybody Wants Some!!
Ben Affleck – Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Henry Cavill – Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Joseph Fiennes – Risen
Taron Egerton – Eddie the Eagle
Best Actress
Emma Stone – La La Land
Jessica Chastain – Miss Sloane
Amy Adams – Arrival
Amy Adams – Nocturnal Animals
Sally Field – Hello My Name is Doris
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emily Blunt – The Girl on the Train
Kate Siegel – Hush
Elle Fanning – The Neon Demon
Taraji P. Henson – Hidden Figures
Blake Lively – The Shallows
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Kate Winslet – The Dressmaker
Alicia Vikander – The Light Between Oceans
Jennifer Lawrence – Passengers 
Sasha Lane – American Honey
Renee Zellweger – Bridget Jones’s Bday
Rebecca Hall – Christine
Evan Rachel Wood – Into the Forest
Anya Taylor-Joy – The Witch
Tilda Swinton – A Bigger Splash
Dakota Johnson – How to Be Single
Susan Sarandon – The Meddler
Madina Nalwanga – Queen of Katwe
Emma Roberts – Nerve
Emilia Clarke – Me Before You
Jennifer Garner – Miracles From Heaven
Teresa Palmer – Lights Out
Vera Farmiga – The Conjuring 2
Kate Beckinsale – Love & Friendship
Natalie Dormer – The Forest
Melissa McCarthy – The Boss
Kristen Bell – The Boss
Mary Elizabeth Winstead – 10 Cloverfield Lane
Best Supporting Actor
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
Dev Patel – Lion
Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Vince Vaughn – Hacksaw Ridge
Armie Hammer – The Birth of a Nation
Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
Mykelti Williamson – Fences
Kevin Costner – Hidden Figures
Hugh Grant – Florence Foster Jenkins
Aaron Taylor Johnson – Nocturnal Animals
Liam Neeson – A Monster Calls
Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Alex Hibbert – Moonlight
Ashton Sanders – Moonlight
Trevante Rhodes – Moonlight
Justin Theroux – The Girl on the Train
Ed Skrein – Deadpool
Will Smith – Suicide Squad
Dylan O’Brien – Deepwater Horizon
Aaron Eckhart – Sully
Robert Redford – Pete’s Dragon
Chris Pine – Hell or High Water
Ben Foster – Hell of High Water
Michael Shannon – Elvis & Nixon
Dwayne Johnson – Central Intelligence
Tom Holland – Captain America: Civil War
Jack Reynor – Sing Street
T.J. Miller – Deadpool
John Goodman – 10 Cloverfield Lane
Aaron Paul – Triple 9
Best Supporting Actress
Viola Davis – Fences
Margot Robbie – Suicide Squad
Molly Shannon – Other People
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Felicity Jones – A Monster Calls
Margo Martindale – The Hollars
Lucy Boynton – Sing Street
Tilda Swinton – Doctor Strange
Janelle Monae – Hidden Figures
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures
Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Morena Baccarin – Deadpool
Gina Carano – Deadpool
Kate McKinnon – Ghostbusters
Gal Gadot – Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Viola Davis – Suicide Squad
Elle Fanning – 20th Century Women
Cassi Davis – Boo! A Madea Halloween
Lupita Nyong’o – Queen of Katwe
Dakota Johnson – A Bigger Splash
Diane Kruger – The Infiltrator
Haley Bennett – The Girl on the Train
Jena Malone – The Neon Demon
Bella Heathcote – The Neon Demon
Abbey Lee – The Neon Demon
Gina Rodriguez – Deepwater Horizon
Eva Green – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Bryce Dallas Howard – Pete’s Dragon
Rachel Weisz – The Lobster
Alicia Vikander – Jason Bourne
Christina Applegate – Bad Moms
Kristen Bell – Bad Moms
Kathryn Hahn – Bad Moms
Margot Robbie – The Legend of Tarzan
Chloe Sevigny – Love & Friendship
Helena Bonham Carter – Alice Through the Looking Glass
Jessica Chastain – The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Margot Robbie – Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Kate Winslet – Triple 9

The Most Underrated Film of 2016

Suicide SquadI’m so sick of the DC Comic Books movie hate. After seeing Suicide Squad multiple times, including the Extended Edition on the Blu-ray (which I liked better because it highlights more Joker and Harley Quinn scenes), I just enjoy it more and more each time I watch it. Yes, the movie definitely has its problems, mainly with a weak villain and a convoluted plot line, but the characters are absolutely fantastic. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn will go down as one of the best female comic book villain performances of all time and it marks her status as a Hollywood movie star. Will Smith is also intriguing as Deadshot and Suicide Squad was his highest grossing box office movie ever. I can’t wait to see what they will do with Gotham City Sirens, also starring Robbie. This film is just soooo not worthy of the measly 26% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Though he definitely should have been in the film more than what he was, Jared Leto’s performance as the Joker is unlike any of the Joker performances in the past and I was thrilled that he made that character his own. Suicide Squad does put more emphasis on Deadshot and Harley Quinn than anyone else, but each character does get their time to shine and its clear the actors had the best time making this film together.
Underrated Runner Ups: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Neon Demon, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

The Top 10 Films of 2016

Honorable Mentions: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, The Conjuring 2, Don’t Breathe, Everybody Wants Some!!, Fences, Ghostbusters, Hidden Figures, Hush, The Infiltrator, The Light Between Oceans, Love & Friendship, A Monster Calls, Moonlight, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Queen of Katwe, The Shallows, Suicide Squad, Sully, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Witch, Zootopia
10. The Neon DemonNicolas Winding Refn is one of the best directors of our time. Drive has remained my favorite film of the past six years and I love the originality and cinematography of Only God Forgives. The Neon Demon is on another level of originality and somehow mixes the fashion and horror genres beautifully. Elle Fanning gives a standout performance, with Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote and Abbey Lee all giving incredible supporting performances. It is the best shot film of the year by cinematographer Natasha Braier and the score by Cliff Martinez is my personal favorite of the year. It is currently available on Amazon Prime streaming!
9. Hacksaw Ridge – Mel Gibson has proven time after time his directorial talents, but he has returned to full form here in this World War II drama that is based on a true story. Andrew Garfield gives my favorite leading actor performance of the year as Desmond Doss, the man who saved 75 men from battle without carrying a single weapon. The first half of the movie is all character development with a touch of romance diving into Desmond (Garfield) and his wife’s (Teresa Palmer) relationship. The last half of the story has the bloodiest and most insane war scenes I have ever seen in film. Garfield is exceptional, and without having ever been in a war zone myself, this is what I can only imagine what it must be like. The film rings very true for many veterans and is one of the most important films to come out this year.
8. Lion – There have been several great films based on true stories this year, but this is the one that really shook me to my core and left me sobbing for an hour! Lion is about a young Indian boy Saroo (a lovely performance by Sunny Pawar) who gets separated and lost from his family and must learn to live on the streets in Kolkata, only later to be adopted by an Australian family. Nicole Kidman is exquisite as Sue, Saroo’s adopted mother and is most certainly deserving of an Oscar nomination for her memorable performance. Dev Patel plays twenty-something Saroo and I adored the mother and son relationship between Patel and Kidman. The ending left me speechless and amazed.
7. Swiss Army Man –  Without a doubt the weirdest film I have seen all year. Swiss Army Man is about the most unlikely of friendships: between a young man (Paul Dano) struggling to live in the forest and his dead best friend (Daniel Radcliffe). Seriously. Dano and Radcliffe are stunning in this drama/comedy that’s a little science fiction, a little romance and a lot of strange. I would actually advise not too look up too much about this film and just go rent it. It’s really fun, beautiful and thoughtful. I loved the ending scene.
6. Manchester by the Sea One of the saddest and hard-hitting films I have seen in a long time, director Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea is absolutely devastating and filled with extraordinary performances. Casey Affleck will win Best Actor at the Oscars for his gripping and internal performance as Lee, a man who cannot get over a tragedy from the past. Michelle Williams is just lovely in everything I have seen her in, but adds so much to the story as Lee’s ex-wife, in her short but vital screen time. Lucas Hedges also delivers a wonderful supporting performance as Lee’s nephew.
5. Nocturnal Animals – Director Tom Ford sure know how to make a nice suit, but he’s as equally good a director. Nocturnal Animals tells the story of Susan (Amy Adams), a high-powered art gallery owner, who receives the draft of a novel from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). The couple in the novel eerily parallels Susan and Edward’s relationship when they were together. The film is beautifully shot by Seamus McGarvey and the score Abel Korzeniowski is intense and matches the tone of the film perfectly. Adams and Gyllenhaal give two of my favorite performances of the year, but its Michael Shannon who steals every scene he is in as the sheriff. The final scene is hopeful, heartbreaking and satisfactory all at the same time.
4. Sing Street – Sing Street is the best film to come out of this year’s Sundance and I truly wish it was getting more awards consideration in all categories! A story about an Irish teenager Conor (a breakout performance by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), who wants to start a band to impress a girl (Lucy Boynton). The original songs including “Drive It Like You Stole It”, “The Riddle of the Model” and “Up” are amazing and high on the list of my favorite songs from 2016. One of my favorite scenes in film this year is when Conor and his band audition for the high school dance and he reimagines the ultimate way he thinks everything should go while singing “Drive It Like You Stole It.” The film is currently available on Netflix streaming and puts a smile on my face every time I watch it.
3. Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds has had the best year of his life! Hollywood Star on the Walk of Fame, Entertainment Weekly’s Entertainer of the Year, a new baby, and oh yea, he got his passion project finally made after 11 years of pushing it to 20th Century Fox! Deadpool was a high risk film. A very R-rated comedy about a superhero/murderer who has a messed-up face with a full mask on for most of the movie. The screenplay by Rhett Reese and Paul Warnick is the funniest and one of the most clever screenplays of the year. It’s worthy of an Oscar nom! Reynolds has never been better as Wade/Deadpool and its clear how much fun he had making this film and how much he loves this character. I’ve seen this film more than any other film on this list and highly recommend the 4K Blu-ray! The best “superhero” film of the year.
2. Arrival It’s no surprise that director Denis Villeneuve’s 2016 film Arrival is earning my #2 spot on my list. Last year his film Sicario was my #2 and in 2014 his film Enemy was my #3. Villeneuve has not made a bad film and Arrival will continue to awe audiences in years to come. This is not just a story about aliens coming down to Earth, trying to communicate with humans. It is so much more than that and we can see that as the story evolves through Louise’s (Amy Adams) eyes. Adams plays a linguistics professor who is asked by the military to help translate the aliens’ message. Adams gives one of the best performances of the year and her character arc literally gave me chills.
1. La La Land – Let’s just all bow down to everyone involved in the making of this film and give La La Land all of the awards right now. It’s worthy of so many. Director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) has been trying to get this film made for so many years. Luckily with the success of Whiplash, he could get his film made even better than he original imagined, now with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling starring. A struggling actress (Emma Stone) and a struggling jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) meet in the city of stars, fall in love, and their relationship is tested when auditions and opportunities come up for the both of them. The music by Justin Hurwitz is exquisite with “Audition” and “City of Stars” (most likely to win the Oscar for Best Original Song), being two of the best songs to come out of a movie musical ever. Gosling learned how to play the piano for this film and he and Stone have lovely chemistry as they are tap dancing around the Griffith Park skyline and floating and dancing in the Griffith Observatory. I could go on forever about the magical scenes in this film. The cinematography by Linus Sandgren perfectly captures the scenery and tone of Los Angeles. Do yourself a favor and see this film while it is still in theatres. I’ve listened to the soundtrack too many times to count and it never gets old.

The Top 10 Worst Films of 2016

10. High RiseTom Hiddleston couldn’t save this bizarre film and too much useless animal violence for my taste.
9. The Divergent Series: Allegiant – This movie was really just sad. Shailene Woodley is an incredible actress and in this case the studio was a little too money hungry and broke up the final book into two films, which completely messed up everyone involved. Allegiant was a flop at the box office and with critics and audiences, so much so that Lionsgate/Summit isn’t even making the final film. I actually feel bad for Shailene Woodley, especially when the first film Divergent was so promising.
8. Dirty Grandpa – I sort of liked this film as I watching it, but then looked back and realized how truly dirty and disgusting it was. Zac Efron and Robert De Niro can do way better!
7. London Has Fallen – Soooo many bad sequels this year. Olympus Has Fallen was really good and really fun. This was just a money grab and it ended up being so poor,
6. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – Jack Reacher is a perfect mix of action and campy fun, and I can never resist a Tom Cruise movie, but this sequel is shameful. Colbie Smulders is great as the female sidekick, but the screenplay was the pits.
5. Gods of Egypt – I hate that Gerard Butler is on another one of my worst films of the year, but this movie was just bad.
4. Zoolander 2 – This sequel actually had some entertaining moments and Kristen Wiig is fantastic, even though I could barely understand her. It’s just a shame that the cameos overtook Ben Stiller’s storyline and basically made the movie into an SNL skit. This just shouldn’t have been made at all.
3. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 – Another sequel that needed to not be made at all! They used the same exact storyline as the first film, but turned it around on the grandparents! Way too late for this sequel, and another comedic gem that should have just been left alone.
2. The Bronze – This character was horrible, disgusting and plain awful. When you present the audience with a main character who is just a despicable person, there is nothing to root for or enjoy watching. And she was far from redeemable by the end.
1. Independence Day: Resurgence– This film is inexcusable. They gave Vivica A. Fox less than ten minutes of screen time and killed her off with a senseless death. I don’t even care if I spoiled anything for you because you really really do not want to watch this. It is the Sharknado of box office movies, but in the worst way possible. Independence Day is a science fiction classic and I hate to say it but without Will Smith, this should not have been done. Jeff Goldblum is great and does what he an to keep the screenplay afloat, but it’s just sad how bad this film turned out. I specifically went to see this film whilst in Los Angeles for my birthday and kicked myself in the butt upon leaving because I should have gone to see The Neon Demon instead!

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