My Favorite Films of 2016

February 22, 2017

No La La Land to be found on my list, despite its impending domination of this year’s Academy Awards. To be honest, I didn’t see a whole lot of new releases in 2016—I’m guessing somewhere between 20-30 films total. So as with other years, this list is really a compilation of my most memorable films of the year… or films I can actually see myself watching again after some time has passed. I suppose I could have given spot #10 to any number of runner-ups, but it just didn’t feel right. Instead I’ll start with something a little different…

10. Westworld Season 1

As the lines between film and TV continue to blur, I feel it is an obligation to include one of my all time favorite cinematic experiences of the year: an HBO TV show. It has everything you would expect from a major budget film… an all star cast, mind blowing visual effects, and most important of all, a compelling story that works on both a literal and allegorical level. The only thing that sets it apart from “film” is that instead of a bloated trilogy that loses impact with each new entry, it becomes exponentially more complex and rewarding with each of the 10 chapters. Perhaps this is a disservice to the medium to leave a potentially deserving film off my list, but as my personal cinematic experience has morphed from sharing a crowded theater to reclining on a couch, this is the only project released this year where I physically leapt out of said couch in utter shock (and complete joy) at the reveal of the mother of all twists.

9. The Jungle Book
And speaking of watching more movies from the couch instead of the theater, this is one of the films that I am very glad I got to see in theaters this year. I had recently re-watched the original animated Jungle Book, and found it to be exceptionally more boring than I remembered as a kid. This new live action version, expertly directed by Jon Favreau, is one of the few examples where a remake nobody asked for ended up making the story fresh for a whole new generation. The special effects were seamless and jaw-droppingly beautiful, but even more impressive was watching a film that’s essentially a boy and a green-screen, and actually caring about the story. This was a good year for fun kids movies, and a welcome diversion from the usual big-budget superhero fare.

8. Hell or High Water
Perhaps the finest example this year of a classic, old-school film. Nothing flashy or life-altering here… just a slow-boiling tale of bank robbing brothers on the run from the law. It’s being hailed as a modern day western, and certainly it has all the tropes you would expect from the genre, including the scraggly old sheriff hot on their tail (masterfully portrayed by Jeff Bridges, all scruff and sarcasm until the film’s vulnerable final shootout). The film also features one of my favorite moments of the year: mid-heist, as the “good brother” suddenly realizes how out of control their escalating antics have gotten.

7. Everybody Wants Some!!
Billed as the “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused, writer/director Richard Linklater sets his latest in the summer of 1980, following a group of college baseball players in the final week leading up to their first day of classes. While this could have easily been another example of Linklater’s more serious, existential, walk-and-talks, this was actually just a great excuse to get a bunch of talented up and coming actors together to fuck around and give each other a hard time. It’s more in the vein of Animal House, Swingers, or even Entourage… but helmed by a master director who grounds the comedic elements in a very real way. Not a false note in the entire movie, and it really transported me to another time and place.

6. The Purge: Election Year
When I finished watching this film, I had to wonder: has there ever been a series of films where each sequel is better than the next? I don’t think there’s another example out there. The first film was mediocre, decent at best, creating an incredible premise (all crime, including murder, is legal for one 12-hour period a year), but hampered itself by keeping the story in a single location as criminals attempted to break into a high-security home. The second film raised the stakes, finally giving us a chance to see the violence in the streets when an innocent couple’s car breaks down as the chaos is about to begin. But man oh man does the latest installment crank everything up to 11—everything is flashier, gorier, and for the first time in the series, FUN. Now there’s a senator who vows to end The Purge, which puts her in the sights of not only the usual psychopaths, but also the protected 1%-ers who will do anything to keep the night of terror going and maintain their power over the less fortunate. Subtle metaphor about the collapse of America? Not exactly. And I suppose it does take a certain kind of perverted mind to find pleasure in this sadistic version of our country where masked international citizens travel here for legal murder-vacations. But man, I fucking loved it.

5. Moonlight
This one took me by surprise, even with all of the “this is the best film of the year” hype. The story follows the life of one man, told through what are essentially three short films highlighting pivotal moments in his life. The structure is simple, linear, and extremely powerful. In the first act we follow a young boy as he tries to escape from his crack-head mom and taunting schoolmates, trying to understand why he feels different from everyone else. You know you live in a fucked up world when the local drug dealer is the only decent person. The tension only builds in the second act, as his mother spirals further into addiction, and the effects of puberty have magnified his gay feelings, as well as the unrelenting bullying all around him. In the third and final act, the boy has become a truly repressed, introverted mess of a man who never felt reciprocated love. Each of the three acts are filled with incredible performances that give real depth and emotion to what sound on paper to be basic stereotypes. Looked at as a larger piece, the film has a quiet message about not becoming the thing you hate, letting go of the past, and learning how to love.

4. Captain Fantastic
Another amazing film from this year that featured stellar supporting performances. Surprisingly funny, the film follows a family that lives in the middle of the forest as a form of social protest. The kids were born and raised like well-behaved savages; living off the land, and highly educated by a very select group of books and principles. The death of a relative means the family must make a pilgrimage back to regular society, and the rest of the film follows their journey as they all discover just how alienated they are from the real world of instant gratification and double-speaking adults. The film could have easily turned into something dramatic and typical, but instead opts for a quirkier, more playful final act. While it does require a little “suspension of disbelief” to take the final steps of the film’s journey seriously, I found it to be a powerful and uplifting film about embracing your family’s weirdness and living the life you want to lead.

3. Sing Street
All this love for La La Land, and nothing for Sing Street?! Here’s a musical I can get behind, where the songs are organic, and catchy as hell. The kids in 1980s Dublin are poor, bored out of their minds, and longing for love… so they turn to writing original songs inspired by the tracks they catch glimpses of in the earliest days of MTV. This is the feel-good movie of the year, with so much heart and soul you can’t help but smile for two full hours.

2. The Witch
This was the scariest fucking movie I’ve seen in years. Stylistically, it reminded me of nothing less than The Shining. It’s THAT level of unsettling and creepy. From the opening frame you feel an utter sense of dread as a family is outcast from 17th century New England society and forced to start over on the outskirts of what reveals itself to be a cursed forest. Something is VERY wrong with this family; though their breakdown is slow, subtle, and undeniably terrifying. This is an outstanding directorial debut, filled with chilling performances, horrific images, and one helluva ending. Mandatory Halloween watching from this year forward!

1. The Lobster
A warning up front- this is not a film for everyone. It is weird. Extremely weird. The story is like a long lost Charlie Kaufman movie: should you find yourself single, you have 30 days to find a partner or you will forever be turned into an animal of your choosing. The law requires this, and they have eyes on everyone. Luckily there is an exclusive resort for singles, with a very “successful” program that tells you what love is and how to find it. It only gets weirder from there, but I was enthralled for every frame of this movie. The standout performances from Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw and the beautiful/dangerous Lea Seydoux are equally enigmatic… completely deadpan, and simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious. Even the smallest side characters left an impression. This was a truly unforgettable film that I found myself thinking about for weeks after I first saw it. If you’re willing to take a truly bizarre journey off the beaten path, you will not be disappointed.


Horror Recommendations 2016

October 4, 2016

Have you seen The Loved Ones? Australian horror film from 2009 that is online in full on YouTube (Paramount approved): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOnumfWyDQU
“A teenager hatches a disturbingly violent revenge plot when the boy she likes rejects her.” Not for the squeamish, but anchored by an amazing batshit crazy lead performance and a twisted story that I found to be delightfully disturbing.

Currently streaming on Netflix:
Black Mirror Before we get into some movies, if you haven’t seen this Twilight Zone For The 21st Century, you need to get onto that shit pronto. Another batch of episodes are coming Oct. 21st, but until then catch up on some incredible sci-fi horror that is already coming to life.
Hush Creepy little film about a deaf girl and a murderous stalker. While I felt the main girl made some TERRIBLE decisions throughout the story, the plot moves quickly, the kills are intense, and the two leads turn in great performances. Definitely worth your time for this straightforward, pulse-pounding thrill ride.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil Hilarious spin on the “murdering hillbillies” genre. Similar to “Shaun of the Dead” in tone, and manages to twist and turn what seems like a SNL sketch in very clever ways.
V/H/S 1 & 2 While not my favorite of the latest entries in the found footage genre (that award goes to Grave Encounters), both of these horror anthologies have great moments scattered throughout some of the not so impressive stories. Worth it for the crazy Japanese murder cult sequence in V/H/S 2.
Stitches Another horror comedy, this one taking a unique spin on the “psycho clown” genre. I seem to recall that some of the jokes fall flat, but overall I enjoyed this very over-the-top gory and punny ode to ridiculous slasher films.
American Horror Story: Freak Show. While we’re talking about killer clowns, if you’ve got a bunch of time to kill this month, why not knock out what is arguably the best season of America’s favorite Fall show? Not every story pans out the way it should, but I’m gonna go on a limb and say a majority of the story lines explored in this particular season were insanely creepy and definitely pushed the boundaries of what’s allowed on network TV.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare Wes Craven and original Elm Street actress Heather Langenkamp play themselves in a film that takes place in the real world as they contemplate making another Freddy movie together, while Freddy stalks the cast and crew. From the Wiki, “While the canon Elm Street films are about dreams overlapping reality, this entry is about films overlapping reality.” Why don’t more people talk about this one? Ahead of it’s time perhaps…
Would You Rather WATCH AT YOUR OWN RISK. I’m only putting this on here because it really fucked with me the first time I saw it. It is a terrible, terrible movie that I randomly happened upon while flipping channels and could not look away. Desperate people do desperately horrible things to each other in order to score some money from a sadistic aristocrat. I think this is a satire? It made me sick to my stomach.

Currently streaming on Amazon:
The VVitch This is my favorite horror film of the year so far. A warning that there is a VERY disturbing scene early on, but what takes this film to the next level for me is atmosphere. It’s brilliantly directed, and by far the creepiest film I’ve seen in years. Loved every drawn out minute of this one.
The Mist After Frank Darabont (Walking Dead) adapted The Shawshank Redemption to such success, Stephen King supposedly told Frank he could have the rights to any of his other properties to adapt. Darabont selected The Mist, which tells the story of a group of small town citizens locked in a supermarket during a paranormal event. For maximum effect, and this advice is to be taken very seriously, adjust the contrast on your TV so that it’s black and white. That’s how Darabont intended the film to be seen, and it really does take it to a whole other level when you watch it this way. Also of note: Darabont changed the ending, and Stephen King wishes he came up with it first.
Carrie (OG) Screw the remake, the original film can never be topped. Another atmospheric masterpiece that I’m embarrassed to say I only saw for the first time about a year ago. This, and other creepy classics like Rosemary’s Baby are all over Amazon. For once, listen to your parent’s advice and watch how the masters from the 60s and 70s did it.

A final set of off-the-radar recommendations… but these you’ll have to find on your own.
Grave Encounters As mentioned before, this is my favorite of the more recent Blair Witch knockoffs. A group of “Ghost Hunters” step into an insane asylum to record another episode of their show. Things… do not turn out well. This was recently on all the on demand platforms– not sure why it fell off, but keep your eyes peeled and this may be free again soon.
The Final Girls One last horror comedy for ya… and a surprisingly good one at that. A girl and her friends get sucked into the very horror movie that made her mom famous. Featuring an all star lineup of your favorite “I know that guy” comedic talents, this one hits all the right notes and once again surprises throughout with clever plotting and big laughs.
Evil Dead (2013) My final suggestion is the remake of Sam Raimi’s Bruce Campbell classic. Produced alongside the film’s original creators, this one takes the original conceit dead serious, while also very subtly nodding to it’s campy source material. This film is absolutely disgusting, and features a climactic showdown that took more days of shooting and more gallons of blood than the rest of the film combined.

And hey, a shameless plug. You made it this far, why not click any of the October archives on the right hand column of this page? My friends and I talked at length about our favorite horror movies every month of October for the six years I did this podcast. Listen for plenty of other suggestions, and Happy Halloween!


Podcast 300, with Joel Sinensky

March 9, 2016

There Will Be 6 Years and 300 Episodes. Joel Sinensky returns for one last podcast, live from my parent’s backyard! In the final episode of TWBS, we discuss how our lives have changed since sitting down to record Episode 001 exactly six years before. We also look back on my Top 10 of 2010 to see if anything holds up, as well as how the industry has changed.

Click to stream, or Right Click+Save Link As to download mp3:
There Will Be Spoilers, Episode 300


Podcast 299, with Mike Dawson

February 29, 2016

There Will Be Westerns. Mike Dawson and I talk about the most manly and badass of all films genres: The Western. Hear our take on classic Clint Eastwood moments, new attempts at the genre, and what we’d do if we lived in the Wild West.

Click to stream, or Right Click+Save Link As to download mp3:
There Will Be Spoilers, Episode 299


Podcast 298, with Robbie Starr

February 22, 2016

There Will Be Our Favorite/Only Movies of 2015. Robbie Starr is back for one last podcast to discuss the favorite films we saw last year… or in Robbie’s case, the only movies he saw last year. Together we create a comprehensive Top 10 Films that are worthy of your eventual Netflix dollars.

Click to stream, or Right Click+Save Link As to download mp3:
There Will Be Spoilers, Episode 298


Podcast 297, with Jeff Newman

February 15, 2016

There Will Be Movie Moments That Ruined My Life. Jeff Newman returns to discuss why movies do nothing but raise our expectations and set us up for disappointment. Hear our paranoid delusions on some classic movie cliches brought to life, as well as why we’re struggling to give up our dreams of Oscar glory.

Click to stream, or Right Click+Save Link As to download mp3:
There Will Be Spoilers, Episode 297


Podcast 296, with Gary Smith

February 1, 2016

There Will Be A Night On The Town. Gary Smith and I relive our glory days of bar hopping and harassing Uber drivers. Drink along as we discuss everything from the multi shot pre-party, to the killer moves on the dance floor, to the inevitable Hype-fueled beer pong games at the end of the night.

Click to stream, or Right Click+Save Link As to download mp3:
There Will Be Spoilers, Episode 296


Podcast 295, with Justin Haacke

January 18, 2016

There Will Be Rivalries. Justin Haacke returns to discuss our world of intense rivalries; whether it’s in politics, sports, music, or movies/TV. Tupac vs. Biggie… Democraps vs. Republitards… Homer Simpson vs. Ned Flanders… who comes out on top?? Download this week’s TWBS and find out!

Click to stream, or Right Click+Save Link As to download mp3:
There Will Be Spoilers, Episode 295

Oh- and here’s that Eminem vs. Mariah Carey diss track:


Podcast 294, with Brett Rader

December 7, 2015

There Will Be Holiday Spirit (or lack thereof). Brett Rader returns to discuss our family traditions, spending too much money on gifts, and the day I stopped believing in Santa Claus. We also chat about the holiday essential movies, and why we’re both terrible Jews.

Click to stream, or Right Click+Save Link As to download mp3:
There Will Be Spoilers, Episode 294


Podcast 293, with Chandler and Austin

October 29, 2015

There Will Be #Krocktoberfest2015, Part 2. Ooooooh boy… you though Monday’s episode was a shit-show? Two hours, a nap, and several shots later, Chandler, Austin, and I reconvened to finish our horror movie marathon discussion. This time we focus on the terrible film we watched in the interim, as well as our experiences at Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights.

Click to stream, or Right Click+Save Link As to download mp3:
There Will Be Spoilers, Episode 293