Top 10 Favorite Movies Seen for the First Time in 2016 (in and out of theaters)

***Spoiler Warning

  1. Labyrinth

I had the unique experience of seeing this movie for the first time at a Times Square movie theater that showed the film as part of a 30th anniversary celebration. The atmosphere was electric, the cheering escalating when David Bowie first appeared onscreen. George Lucas, Jim Henson, Jennifer Connelly, and David Bowie and so many others create a highly imaginative and bizarre film. It’s the kind of movie you’re not sure what to make of when you first see it, but will keep you thinking weeks after you’ve seen it. Labyrinth is even more fascinating and some of the particularly odd scenes make more sense with my friend Timbray’s interpretation that the movie is a metaphor for Sarah’s sexual awakening. Certain scenes are a bit too cheesy for my taste, but overall it’s the epitome of weird and brilliant art.

  1. The Intern

What I love about The Intern is that it challenges typical depictions of older adults in film. Robert de Niro’s performance is both refreshing and important on an individual level and in terms of his chemistry with others characters, particularly with Anne Hathaway’s character Jules. While the storyline of Jules’s husband cheating on her seemed like a weak attempt to add more drama into the story, the character-driven movie overall leaves you feeling good based on the positive portrayal of older adults, their relationships with younger individuals, and the wise insights and knowledge they possess.

  1. The Butler

The Butler succeeds at telling a highly personal, intimate story while also conveying so much essential history. This balance is especially fascinating considering the personal story is based on true events, led by Forrest Whitaker’s shining performance.

Yet, the presidential portrayals are inconsistent. Some excel while others have voices, appearances or mannerisms so unlike the historical individuals they’re playing that it proves distracting. However, this pales in comparison to the other triumphs achieved in this important film.

  1. Hot Fuzz

Satirical dark humor is my cup of tea. Hot Fuzz drowns audiences in the scalding substance through witty writing and a stellar cast. The slow-forming jokes are worth the wait, as are the satirical twists on the seemingly idyllic small town and the climactic final shootout.

  1. Finding Dory

Finding Nemo is a Pixar movie I’ve always enjoyed, but never loved. Thus, I was interested but not super excited about Finding Dory. My feelings changed when I actually saw the movie. At a time in my life when I feel my personality and identity and my way of doing things are wrong and unacceptable according to the standards of society and the standards of my job, Finding Dory is a refreshing and comforting movie. The movie’s message about accepting your identity and personality and doing things your own, often peculiar way was exactly what I needed and what I still need at this point in my life. Thank you, Pixar, and thank you Finding Dory.

  1. Stardust

Stardust masters the feat of challenging and parodying many conventions of the fantasy genre while also adhering to many of the conventions. The end result is a highly exciting and funny movie. It’s also worth noting that Robert de Niro’s performance in Stardust is incredibly different from The Intern, but equally as impressive.

  1. X-Men: Apocalypse

X-Men: Apocalypse may be one of the weaker and less creative installments within the long-standing franchise, but it serves up a few special elements that allow it to capitalize on the coveted #4 spot. The first element is seeing Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr as a father, husband, and factory worker. We see a compassionate, pragmatic, even tender nature from him that the franchise has never showcased before. The deaths of his wife and daughter (the daughter is revealed to be a mutant!!!) are easily the most emotional and intriguing parts of the movie. I wish these elements were further explored.

The second element is the delightful Quicksilver and the scene where he saves everyone within the mansion.

The third element is that overall it’s a satisfying ending to the X-Men prequel trilogy, even though X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past were superior films. The character development and relationships of the prequel trilogy’s four core characters (Charles Xavier, Magneto, Mystique, and Beast) reach satisfying conclusions. These conclusions are also enhanced by the likes of Quicksilver and a young Jean Grey portrayed by Sophie Turner. I like how young Jean Grey unleashing her power is the key to destroying Apocalypse and saving the day as a contrast to how what Jean’s use of ultimate power led to in X-Men: The Last Stand.

  1. Captain America: Civil War

Stories that challenge the conventions of their respective genres are usually the stories I like best. Captain America: Civil War engages in this pursuit by pitting heroes against heroes more so than heroes against villains. While I love the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), their movies sometimes get formulaic and I was excited to see the formula challenged.

Overall the pursuit is successful. The movie organically builds off the events and relationships from past MCU films and doesn’t paint either side of the conflict being totally right or wrong. Tom Holland shines in the MCU’s introduction of Spider-Man/Peter Parker (The Empire Strikes Back reference will forever endear me to his character). The mystery behind the deaths of Tony Stark’s parents is even tied in via meaningful and shocking means.

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Harry Potter and Star Wars are my greatest fictional loves. I can’t choose between these excellent cinematic additions to both universes. Both maintain the spirit of their respective franchises while creating newly imaginative and meaningful connections. Rogue One delivers a dark, gritty story that still retains the humor and sense of adventure that defines Star Wars and even enhances elements of the original trilogy. Fantastic Beasts possesses intriguing connections and quirky charm both familiar and new within the Harry Potter universe. See my blog post reviews of both films for more in-depth thoughts.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them review:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review:


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