We’ve reached the midpoint of the calendar year. A lot of movies have been released. Some surprisingly good. Others leaving a bad taste in everybody’s mouths. Here’s a list of some of the best movies of the year as of June 21, organized by release date.
Deadpool was a film that could have went poorly. Instead, it became one of the bigger surprises at the theater this year. Many were quick to note that a hard-R comic book movie in the Marvel world may alienate viewers. A grade-A marketing campaign put these concerns to rest, and the movie lived up to such a campaign. Ryan Reynolds finally got a chance to play a superhero in a good superhero movie. This self-referential romp is for every comic book fan (just leave the kids out of it; they’re not ready for those types of montages).
2016 has been a mixed bag in terms of horror up to this point. Early year attempts like The Forest and The Other Side of the Door, as well as the early Summer release The Darkness, were a rallying cry to low-grade scare fests. The Witch, however, held up the first quarter in the horror genre by providing brilliant atmosphere and slow burn thrills. The film isn’t in your face, but the acting performances and cinematography couple to give a layer of unease to the film that is hard to shake.
Who would have thought a spiritual sequel to 2008’s Cloverfield would yield a solid moviegoing experience? Dan Trachtenberg stepped in and brought the most taut and slow burn thriller of the year so far. The trio of actors fill up the small space of the setting well, giving life to a lifeless place and making the unknown surrounding them feel like a real threat. 10 Cloverfield Lane is, in many ways, a superior film to its predecessor, and it is certainly one of the must watch films of 2016.
The TV comedy power duo Key & Peele made their big screen transition with this cat-centric comedy about two friends diving in over their head into the crime world. And it was pretty funny. Am I confident enough to say it will live on in the canon of comedy film? No. But it is a worthy comedy that utilizes the charismatic bond of its two leads to great effect.
Superhero movies are getting old…is something I would have said a year ago. Sounds kind of hypocritical now that I have two superhero movies on my best of the mid-year list. Yes, superhero movies are a well-worn conventional groove in the pop culture landscape at this point. Where Deadpool turns the convention on its head with some crude humor and meta-textual elements, Captain America: Civil War is your standard Marvel affair. Only, it is also crazy fun. Stunt choreography is reason enough to see this movie, but Marvel fans are also sure to enjoy the narrative stakes at play here.
Shane Black’s hardboiled detective story set in 1970s Los Angeles was an underseen gem of the early Summer. With great tonal control, The Nice Guys balances dark comedy and action. Wonderful onscreen chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling help bolster a clever script and stylish directing to make for an all around solid comedy.
Easily the most offbeat, and perhaps the most divisive, film on this list, The Lobster is a tonal masterwork blending the surreal and the real in a sweet wrap of awkwardness for good measure. Characters are equally obtuse and complex. The camera works wonders around austere and symmetrical locales, bringing life to simple sets. Yorgos Lanthimos gives us one of the most unique and strangely endearing comedies of 2016.
Sequels are hard nuts to crack. Horror sequels, that’s a larger monster still. The Conjuring 2, however, shows that horror sequels can be done with care and craft. James Wan returns to direct, and he brings along a passion for filmmaking and the horror genre that is currently unmatched in the Hollywood horror market. Is The Conjuring 2 better than the original? Not quite. Does it fall flat in its final third? Yeah, sort of. Still, the first act alone is enough to get any horror fan feeling giddy in their seats in anticipation for what comes next.
As always, thanks for reading.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)