As the 2016 movie season approaches its midway mark, it's time to check it on what's been great, good, bad, or just plain okay. More importantly, what you missed and need to see. Sometimes it takes a few days to truly know how good a film was. A bad one stinks right away. While this year hasn't produced a flawless gem just yet, there have been a few great ones.
Here are five movies that you need to check out when they reach DVD. Hint: Some of them are currently available.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Trust me, I never thought the phrase "A Michael Bay film" would come together with "Top Movie Picks" ever in my life. Sure, the Rock and Pain and Gain were something different but the near three hour brain bashing servings of Transformers films negated a lot of the praise.
13 Hours was something different. Taking a page out of Peter Berg's Lone Survivor book, Bay told the brutal yet true story of six former soldiers turned mercenaries who make the fateful choice to defend a compound against rebels overnight, risking life and limb. John Krasinski and James Badge-Dale led a tough game cast and the film packed an emotional wallop. When you left the theater, you felt a piece of shrapnel sticking out of your heart. The film stayed with you and provided Bay with his best effort. A truly visceral experience.
Thank god Ryan Reynolds endured and wore Sony Pictures down over 10 years before finally getting the freedom to make his own Wade Wilson story. He knocked it out of the park, making arguably the coolest comic book film of the year and the most unfiltered take on the X-Men mercenary. The film plays well over multiple viewings and holds comedy to a higher standard than mere action and wise cracks.
Reynolds takes shots at Sony, the X-Men, and anybody else wrong enough to stand in his path. The man has always been talented but this film takes the cake for bringing all his skills to light. Deadpool 2 can't get here soon enough. Comic book film fan or not, this film is a must see.
Midnight Special/10 Cloverfield Lane
Yes, I'm grouping these two different yet eerily similar science fiction stories together because they both resonated on different levels. The Jeff Nichols directed Special starred Michael Shannon and Jaeden Lieberher as father/son on the run from the FBI, religious cults, and various levels of authority in a mission to get to a certain location for a supposed special event. Telling you more would ruin too much and Nichols' heartfelt tale about the bond between parents and their kids deserves as little detail as possible. Special powers are involved and the end of the film delivers a sonic boom to your chest.
10 Cloverfield Lane is a sequel to 2008's Cloverfield in name only. Here, the freak is laid on thick as John Goodman keeps a confused yet willful Mary Elizabeth Winstead captive in a basement for her own safety...supposedly. Unpredictable thrills, twists, and wow moments ensue. Each film is an original piece of work that levels you with a creativity rarely seen in Hollywood today. Each are old school delights.
Credit Jake Gyllenhaal for taking an ordinary looking role and turning it into something special and director Jean Marc-Vallee(Dallas Buyers Club, Wild) for giving him the space to embody Davis Mitchell with a wounded grace that allowed for unpredictable events to follow. The story of a widowed businessman who slowly dissembles his life in order to identify why he feels nothing after his wife dies in a car accident doesn't reinvent the wheel of film but truly carves a place in your heart for days after.
You may think you know where this lovely indie is going, but you don't. Gyllenhaal, giving yet another great performance as a man running in place, doesn't hold a thing back without overdoing a single take. This film slipped past you once. Don't let it happen again.
Captain America: Civil War
The Russo Brothers are deadly, ladies and gentlemen. Yeah, two of my top five picks are superhero/comic book related. Deal with it because like its predecessor Winter Soldier, Civil War says more about the current vulnerable state of the world than most films and political talk shows can assemble in 2.5 hours. On the surface, it's one superhero against another. Deep down, it's two friends being separated due to a difference in idealogy. Oh, and there's Chadwick Boseman's fantastic tease of The Black Panther.
Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans save their best work for this film because they make every punch and kick hurt and divide an audience into a cloud of confusion. Do you think heroes should be regulated or should they be able to act when they think it is right? What happens when the good guys square off against each other?
Sure, Frank Grillo's Crossbones threw a wrench into their plans and Daniel Bruhl's Colonel Zemo lit the fire before the match, but this quarrel has brewed for a few films now. The result isn't just an exciting popcorn film but instead a cool and thoughtful expose on the difference between heroism and vigilantism. It was nearly two hours and 30 minutes and I didn't want it to end.
Are either of these films legit 5/5 films? Advertise in the middle of the street type cinematic masterpieces? Probably not. 2016 hasn't driven me to take a long walk after a movie(Fruitvale Station) or made me smile continuously for hours(Chef) nor left me with a worthy hole in my stomach(Lone Survivor or End of Watch).
These six films are legit delights and require your attention. They offer something different. Exciting, honest, and thrilling. Watch them and tell me what you thought.
*13 Hours and Deadpool are available on DVD today. The rest are coming soon or still in theaters somewhere.