Kingsman Ninjago: Golden Circle

Out now, audiences have the choice to take part in another adventure in the Lego Movie universe or see the followup to one of the most fun surprise hits of 2015. Those films, respectively are The Lego Ninjago Movie and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Both films provide an enjoyable enough time, though they're unable to match the heights of the films whose footsteps they follow. 

The Lego Ninjago movie is the tale of a group of ninjas trying to save their city, as told by a wise old man (a welcome return performance by Jackie Chan) to a young boy who visits his store one day. The boy wants to know all about the young warrior (Dave Franco) whose absentee villainous father (Justin Theroux) has made his life a living nightmare. Can this warrior repeatedly save the city his father is trying to destroy AND have a relationship with said father at the same time? Only if he, along with his ninja buddies, can become one and heed what they've learned from their wise old teacher (also Jackie Chan.) 

It's pretty obvious that The Lego Ninjago Movie is definitely the least inspired of the Lego Movie franchise. It's hard not to feel like many of its concepts were taken from scraps off the cutting room floor, or rejected writers room ideas from the previous entries. That's not to say the film isn't fun, it just doesn't really feel fresh....or completely necessary. And compared to the other two Lego Movies, it definitely is the most forgettable. That said, being a girl who loves cat humor...there was definitely a large part of this movie that got many chuckles from me. You can certainly do worse with kids movies, but if I'm looking for something to watch with my nieces and nephews, I'll likely reach for the original Lego Movie and The Lego Batman Movie before this one. EMILY RATING: 6.5/10

Kingsman: The Golden Circle picks up not too long where Kingsman: The Secret Service left off. The film opens with Eggsy (Taron Egerton) on the run from one of his former schoolmates and it's a completely fun and amazingly done sequence. Unbeknownst to him, this encounter sets off a chain of events that changes the Kingsman and rocks them to their core. With nowhere to turn, Eggsy and Merlin have to travel to America to seek help from the Kingsman's American counterpart: the Statesmen. There, they discover an old ally, as well as another nefarious plot that's in motion across the globe to once again bring the world to its knees. 

I definitely had higher hopes and expectations for the Kingsman sequel than I did for Ninjago, and while it certainly wasn't a *bad* sequel, it just didn't thrill and excite me the same way the original did. To be fair, it couldn't exactly surprise me, since this time around I did have expectations because of loving the first one. Golden Circle doesn't try to top the craziness of the first movie which is good, but it does perhaps try to add too many new characters that aren't really needed. I definitely had fun with the movie...particularly with the one celebrity cameo that they milk to death. But, whether it's not enough sequences like the opening one or something else...something just felt lacking or missing about this sequel. That said, I am optimistic about where this franchise could go if it continues. EMILY RATING: 7/10


It: Casting Chapter Two

The last two weekends It has completely dominated the box office, so non-surprisingly, the buzz for the promised Chapter 2 is just getting started.  For anyone who has read the book or seen the 90's miniseries, they know that the young Losers Club and their encounters with It are only half of the story. The other half happens 27 years later when the kids are all grown up and receive word that their childhood fear has followed them into adulthood.  I was a little surprised when I heard that It would not include the adult storyline because I always loved the idea of seeing adult counterparts to the young heroes. Even if their storyline was weaker than the childhood ones, I still loved the idea of having what you feared in childhood come back to haunt you. In fact, the whole time during my first viewing of the film I couldn't help but begin to imagine who in Hollywood could portray the older versions of them.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one as fan casting posts similar to this one have been popping up left and right since the movie came out (including suggestions from the young casts themselves.)

Amy Adams is one of the most talented actresses working in Hollywood today and happens to look exactly like what one might expect the younger Beverly (Sophia Lillis) to grow up to become. It’s probably a long shot that Adams might be interested in taking part in a horror sequel, but we can always dream of the perfection she would add to Stephen King’s tale in the role of Beverly Marsh. RUNNERS-UP: Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig.

For young Bill’s (Jaeden Lieberher) adult counterpart, once again I chose to match Iwho in Hollywood best physically represents the younger actor, so I had to go with Tobey Maguire. Jaeden totally reminds me of a young Tobey in mannerism and look. While Maguire is not always the most charming or charismatic leading man around, Bill’s character doesn’t really require that...in fact, the character needs a little bit more awkwardness to make it believable that he used to be a kid who overcame a stutter. Tobey can nail this and doesn’t seem to be too busy these days.

Chris Pratt has been wearing out his charm for me as of late, so I was a little unsure of this choice, but physically I think he’s a great match for this role. Ben is supposed to be completely transformed by adulthood, and Pratt himself has gone through a transformation during his time in the spotlight. I’m sure he can portray those inner insecurities of a man who isn’t used to being the apple of everyone’s eye, even though now everyone sees him as a looker. Pratt is in high demand these days so this choice might not be the most likely to happen, but I think it would be a solid choice. Runner-up: David Denman. 

Richie was the hardest role for me to cast because Finn Wolfhard does such a great job and was such a scene stealer in the younger role, it was difficult to imagine who could do the same in the sequel, while at the same time matching the look. Adam Brody fit the bill for me of someone who often provides comic relief...just usually in more of a sarcastic way. He looks similar enough, and he’s dry enough that it just might work (provided that Richie’s humor changes a bit as he becomes an adult.

Mike was one of the kids in It that we probably saw the least of, and was harder to get a grip on who would match him as an adult as far as personality goes. Chiwetel Ejiofor is a solid actor who could give this character a bit more depth than he was given in the first chapter. Of course, I’ve never really seen him in a horror movie, so who knows if it’s his cup of tea!

Eddie was a tough character to cast because he has a certain look and a distinct neurotic personality. My pick is Milo Ventimiglia who matches the look, though I'm not positive how he'd do with the personality. Since people change much through adulthood though, I think this could still work  RUNNER UP: Oscar Isaac was actually my first pick, but his ethnicity doesn't completelllly line up with the younger Eddie.


Is it just me or is Wyatt Olef who plays the young Stan in It, a dead ringer for Tom Hiddleston? For those who have read the book or seen the 1990 version, you’ll know that [SPOILERS HIGHLIGHT TO READ]  Adult Stan’s role in the sequel will be very brief since he commits suicide as soon as he hears Pennywise is back. [/end SPOILERS.] Here’s hoping Hiddleston would be up for a cameo because he’d be perfect!

And that's a wrap! Let me know what you thought of my choices, and if you have some other ideas of your own feel free to share!


Mother! May I?

Darren Aronofsky can be somewhat of a polarizing filmmaker. The director behind Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain, The Wrestler, Black Swan and Noah is incredibly ambitious and truly loves to make ART films that require much interpretation on the audience's part. Often because of this, critics, for the most, part enjoy his films while audiences find them pretentious and tedious. In mother! Aronofsky teams with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem to create a very allegorical and bizarre tale that will likely only appeal to the most patient of viewers. It's a frustrating film if you're expecting it to conform to a genre, but a very fascinating one if you're open to its experience and attempting to dissect it afterward.

Mother! is all about Jennifer Lawrence's unnamed character, a woman who lives in complete solitude with her much older writer husband (Javier Bardem). She's content to live out her days restoring his home which was once burnt to ashes. However, her peaceful life is soon turned upside down with the arrival of a stranger (Ed Harris) and later his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer), who are desperate for a place to stay. More and more her sanctuary and privacy are threatened, along with her sanity.

Mother! is quite honestly, a nightmare put to film....and not necessarily in the way a typical horror movie is. This movie exploits a far different type of horror, and that's the horror of your hospitality being taken advantage of, and your privacy being encroached upon beyond belief. It's filled to the brim with feelings of claustrophobia, hopelessness and being completely and utterly trapped. It made me so completely uncomfortable in a way that not many films have the power to do. Honestly, I was legitimately stressed out.

The filmmaking is all very deliberate. Right from the beginning the style here is clear. The camera stays so close to Jennifer Lawrence's face and follows her wherever she goes.  There might be more close-ups here than there were in Les Miserables, adding to the claustrophobia. As for the performances here, everyone involved truly turns in some incredible work. This might honestly be Jennifer Lawrence's career-best performance, and Javier Bardem is as solid as ever...just in a more subtle way than he usually is. But it's Michelle Pfeiffer who steals the show with every scene she's in, you can hardly take your eyes off her because you have no idea what she'll say or do next. Really though there wasn't a false note in the cast, even with a surprise cameo near the end of an actress who doesn't seem to fit the genre.

Mother! was a completely effective experience, but it certainly won't be a satisfying one for all....especially for people waiting for a big reveal or expecting it to conform to typical horror movie standards. It's in the final third of the film where things go a little crazy that might turn off some audiences. This is because it becomes far less relatable and moves into full allegory territory of something so crazy it would never happen....just like the turns all nightmares and dreams can take. I certainly have my own interpretation of the film, but after reading some others' takes it's clear that this is a film that can take on many meanings to many different people. And that's honestly the best about mother! EMILY RATING: 9/10


It Redux

When I was young, I remember the 1990's tv movie miniseries It, being one of the first scary movies I ever saw. My dad had a VHS copy at his house, and whenever my siblings and I, or my friends and I wanted to freak ourselves out...It was always the movie of choice. As I grew older, the fear of it definitely wore off as I saw Pennywise to be a character who would mostly spout off dad jokes to scare the children. Case in point: "Is your refrigerator running?? Well, you better go catch it!" Not very scary...Plus the scenes when they were adults was pretty much the stuff of soap operas. A lot of people of my generation hold to the nostalgia of It, and see it as an untouchable film not worth remaking. "Why even bother trying to top Tim Curry's unforgettable performance" they'd say. I, on the other hand eagerly awaited and welcomed this remake with open arms, while at the same time keeping my expectations low that this film could go either way in terms of quality. After all, the remake was being helmed by Andy Muschietti, the director who gave the world Mama, an insanely creepy horror film during its first half with tons of potential that missed the mark badly in its finale.

So how did I enjoy It? Very much....but maybe not for the usual reasons I love horror movies. It actually might be stronger in the comedic and childhood bonding aspects than it is in the horror...but that's not to say that it's not effective there too. But the strongest thing the film has going for it is the cast and their natural camaraderie with one another. While a couple of the kids could maybe have used a little more development, (Mike and Stanley respectively), over all these actors totally owned their roles and were clearly having a blast playing off one another. Their language is a bit crass (they're like the kids from The Sandlot if all of them were dropping F bombs all the time.) so this definitely isn't for younger viewers like the original miniseries was. Plus, it's far scarier too. As for Bill Skarsgard's performance stepping into this iconic role, I thought he did a solid job that varied enough from Tim Curry's take to feel fresh.

After the chilling opening sequence which was shown frequently in every bit of advertising for the film, each of the children is slowly introduced to Pennywise one by one. Not all of these encounters are created equal, with some of the spooks being far more effective than others. But the longer the film goes along, the scarier things get. By the time the kids enter the creepy abandoned house, the film goes into full carnival fun house mode and the jump scares are constant.

It is an incredibly fun film that's definitely tense all throughout, but the main benefit here is that you care about the characters and their journey. While the film could have been edited a bit more tightly (it's about 15-20 minutes too long,) I can't deny that I had a really good time getting scared by a creepy clown. EMILY RATING: 8/10 


Summer Movie (& Life) Recap!

Hello dear readers, long time no write! My deepest apologies for not having written in about...um... five months or so, but my life has been INSANELY busy. See, back in March when I last wrote I had just gotten engaged and life was quickly turned upside down by all the wedding planning (and yes it made me want to write a list of the best engagements in film which I'll have to actually do sometime soon.) Then, in April I spent three weeks traveling in Europe, of which I will also have to write a recap on. When I came back, the wedding planning took over again and life has been pretty crazy ever since. Now that the wedding is over and things are getting settled, I finally have a chance to breathe. But don't you think for a second that I haven't been seeing almost every big movie that's come out (Atomic Blonde being the only one I regret not being able to write a recap about.) I just haven't had the chance to write about them is all. But now that I do have a moment, let's take a look back at what Hollywood offered this summer, in order of when they were released, and I'll tell you what I thought about it.


Why is Emily bothering with a Marvel movie you may ask? Because my husband (unfortunately) happens to love them. Everyone and their dog loved the first Guardians of the Galaxy except myself so I certainly wasn't looking forward to this, however, I actually enjoyed this one much more than the first one... mostly because they didn't rely on the "I am Groot" gimmick quite as much. Baby Groot was definitely more tolerable than his adult counterpart. The movie was empty popcorn fun that made me laugh a couple times, but the plot boiled down to its core was pretty much the equivalent of a 90s sitcom if you think about it. For example, replacing its characters with those of Full House, a plot described as "that episode where Kimmy Gibbler finds her long lost father and Michelle gets in trouble for stealing something" seems more suited for the small screen sitcom than a big screen blockbuster. EMILY RATING: 6/10


 I had such a fun time with this movie. It was like the horror equivalent of Jurassic Park (or maybe The Lost World with the monster hunting in the field...), which means that once it started going it was an absolute thrill ride. Plus, it features an amazingly fascinating and off the wall performance by Michael Fassbender that makes you incredibly excited to see where the franchise could go next (supposing Fox actually LETS Ridley Scott keep creating his vision, even though recent rumors suggest rebooting the franchise.) I definitely hope this is not the case because i cannot wait to see what happens next. EMILY RATING: 8/10


Wonder Woman was probably the most delightful blockbuster of the summer. Gal Gadot brought this famous heroine to life and she was so much fun to watch. I found the fight scenes empowering and the human scenes warm and amiable. Her chemistry with Chris Pine is really what made this film work and I loved all of their interactions with one another. And I know the fish out of water thing has been done a lot, but seeing Wonder Woman in 1910's London was really fun. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10

I was a little apprehensive about a Mummy remake when I heard about it since I quite liked the 90's version with Brendan Fraser. But I like Tom Cruise enough in action flicks, so I gave this the benefit of the doubt...however, it was kind of a hot mess. I never found myself hating this movie, but it certainly had its fair share of eye rolls. It was hard to take seriously....not that the movie wanted me to. In fact, I'm not really sure what tone the movie was going for because it could never really make up its mind. So... I didn't hate it but thought this one could have been much more focused. EMILY RATING: 6/10


Last year brought us The Shallows, and now to top a hunting by killer shark movie on the ocean, we set the action UNDER the ocean and add a couple more sharks. This movie was totally a guilty pleasure and I had a blast watching it. It was tense throughout and held my attention all the way through. I'm actually pretty impressed how far the filmmakers took such a simple concept. While the ending could have used a bit more thought, it will be a great edition to Shark Week movie marathons for years to come. EMILY RATING 7/10


From the first breathtaking sequence that opens the film, I knew this movie was something special. In fact, when it was all said and done, Baby Driver happened to be my favorite movie of the summer and perhaps the year. Now it's not like robbery/heist movies are anything new or revolutionary, but this particular story is told so freshly and so unique it almost feels like the only film of its kind. Most of that is due to its characters. Ansel Elgort turns in a career making performance that has to make Lucasfilm a little regretful that they didn't tap him in the young Han Solo role. I absolutely loved this film and its soundtrack and honestly, I can't rave about it enough. EMILY RATING: 9.5/10


I tried like crazy to be able to see this movie during Sundance. I even got my car stuck in a snowy canyon trying to see this film. Sadly, none of the screenings ever worked out for me, but months later when I got to see it at a critics screening I was happy to discover it did not disappoint! The Big Sick is both hilarious and heartwarming. Critics categorize it as a rom-com, but while placing it in that genre is truthful, it's also very misleading. The comedy focuses much more on the relationship between a man and his love interest's parents than the love interest herself. Based on a true story, the film feels real and honest though the romance is atypical...especially for what you'd find in most rom-coms. I thought this film was incredibly funny, refreshing and charming. More films like this reaaaaaallllly need to be made. EMILY RATING: 9.5/10


 A couple years ago I wrote a blog post about how I was REALLY against Marvel and Sony coming to an agreement to let Spider-man appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It attracted many Marvel fans to argue against me and my whole life flashed before my eyes. But my stance then and now remains the same, and even more so after seeing the film they delivered in their collaboration. The first twenty minutes or so was nothing more than all the kids at Peter Parker's high school having constant conversations about how cool The Avengers are. I don't know. I got a little tired of how much they would pat themselves on the back about their other movies. "But Emily, that would happen if those kids lived in that universe. They WOULD all talk about those heroes." Yeah, well it doesn't make it any less eye roll enducing for me to sit through. Besides that, I also wasn't a fan of replacing the iconic Uncle Ben and his death by using Tony Stark as a place holder for guilting him in behaving better, who also comes in to save the day since Peter had to fail constantly. Oh and also making him essentially a mini Iron Man. Okay, I'll stop ranting. On the positive side, Tom Holland was likable enough and Michael Keaton was solid as always. EMILY RATING: 5/10.


The prequel trilogy of the Planet of the Apes has been one of the most surprising and solid franchises of the century. I loved the first two films and had incredibly high expectations for this one. While this is the bleakest entry of the series, and not quite as thrilling as its predecessor, I can't really say that this movie disappoints. It tells its story just the way it should and enriches the mythology of the rest of the series. Once again, I'll never cease to be amazed that they can craft this trilogy around the amazing digital performance by Andy Serkis. He brings his Ceasar to life in a way that not many actors even do with characters they themselves portray. His story continues to be worth telling, and I love that though we know where this story heads, it is still told in a way that lends for surprises. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10

Okay. With this one let me just get into my expectations okay? Look. Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors working today (if not my favorite and most trusted.) I've loved pretty much everything he's done (though I did feel a tinge of disappointment with The Dark Knight Rises that I did feel better after a second viewing.) When I heard he was doing a World War II film I was really excited to see what he brought to the table. So excited that I even went to a preview screening of this film the day before my wedding. Perhaps this viewing circumstance was a mistake as the film had to compete with a million other things going on in my head, as well as with incredibly high expectations. With that in mind, I couldn't help but leave Dunkirk feeling pretty disappointed and having expected more from my favorite filmmaker. Dunkirk is an amazing visual experience and a film that puts you in the place of these men. It's a tale of survival first and foremost, and in that avenue it's told well. I just wanted a little more heart and some characters I could love and cling to. That's not what the director was envisioning in the way he told his story and I get that, but I still felt like something was missing. EMILY RATING: 8/10 


Unlike Dunkirk, I didn't have any expectations as to the quality of Valerian other than that the film probably contained impressive visuals. The film got incredibly mixed reviews, and so I went into it pretty open minded. I discovered that the film it's easiest to compare to is Avatar, a film I passionately hate (before it was cool to hate I might add.) So it might be a surprise to reveal that I actually quite enjoyed watching Valerian (though admittedly I fell asleep a couple times, but that was due to a late night showing coupled with comfy recliner seats.) This film really shows me that expectations and hype really are everything. Unlike Avatar, I didn't have a bunch of people hyping up this film and selling it as the next end all be all, though I did see a select few praise it. Like Avatar, it does a fantastic job of world building: the movie presents us with a galaxy that is incredibly creative and the kind you delight in visiting. Also similar to Avatar, the detail in world building comes at the cost of the story, characters, and plot structure. In this case I was bothered much less, mostly because no one was acting like this film was perfect. EMILY RATING: 7/10


So I didn't really have any expectations about this movie one way or another....until the Rotten Tomatoes score came out and totally trashed this film. My expectations plummeted, and I was pretty sure this was going to be absolutely awful. I went to see the film anyway and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as bad as I'd heard, at least the first 20 minutes anyway. But........then I fell asleep and woke up at the very end. So I'm going to allow my husband to take over this review and give his opinion. So from here on out, these are Brod'ys words.The Dark Tower has many flaws that drag down what could have been a great movie. It shoved way too much into the movie which resulted in rushed pacing. Idris Elba's performance as the wounded Gunslinger was the one good thing this movie had going for it.  McConaughey's performance was ultimately forgettable and his intentions for trying to take down the tower was essentially nothing more than because "I'm Evil!" I was hoping McConaughey would deliver more as he has really blossomed as in actor in recent years. Having said all that -- I walked into the movie with expectations of seeing the worst film ever. But I can say that I had a good time with it. All the easter eggs to King's other works were a nice treat.  BRODY RATING: 6/10


Apparently I'm one of the few people who enjoyed the Annabelle spinoff. It wasn't perfect, but I had fun with another tale of this creepy doll. So now, we delve further into the story and once again I enjoyed myself. This film definitely upped the tension and creepiness of its predecessor and as far as scares go, felt about on par with The Conjuring 2! The backstory should have been more fleshed out than the brief explanatory scene we got near the end, but I enjoyed seeing this group of orphan girls in the very familiar "move into a new creepy haunted house" trope. When it's done well I really can't complain, and this Annabelle prequel was done right! EMILY RATING: 7.5/10


Beauty and the Remake

Over the years, as Disney has begun remaking each of their former animated classics, I've discovered that my reactions to these remakes fall along a wide scale. There's the one I detest (Maleficent) and the one I adore (Cinderella,) and everything in between (the ambivalence of The Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland falls here.) From the previews, I got the sense that this film, unlike Maleficent, stayed incredibly true to the source material...so that had to be a good thing right? But the more I saw, the more it seemed that the film was just a literal reenactment of the animated film with little else to offer. After finally seeing it, the best thing I can say is that I didn't feel outraged as I watched it that it was a total ripoff....but I definitely didn't fall in love with it like I did Cinderella either.

Beauty and the Beast is a mixed bag. There are things that it gets right (such as the production design and costumes which really bring the fairy tale to life) and many things that made me scratch my head. Time to air some grievances. Emma Watson certainly makes a likable enough Belle, but she really isn't much of a singer. In fact, some of the musical sequences are the weakest part of the film because they're either TOO much like the original (the opening song Belle being one of the greatest offenders,) or they're new songs that don't manage to resonate or recapture the magic to belong alongside the other classic tunes. Too often the new songs are used to compensate for character development, and in a live action film that just didn't work for me. In many scenes, these new songs are used as placeholders for why characters make certain decisions, or why they feel a certain way...but it just comes across as hollow when some well thought out dialogue could have done the trick and shaved off a few more minutes from the runtime. Other random complaints include that the beast's CGI is a bit all over the place, Emma Thompson plays her part as if just doing a terrible impression of Angela Lansbury, and some of the CGI designs of the furniture just are kinda ugly (again sorry Mrs. Potts.)

The film is best when it's trying not to rely too hard on its source material (minus the new songs), but when in doubt, it is certainly what the filmmakers fall back on. It feels a bit lazy, but at the same time....it's not exactly an unpleasant film experience. I never found myself hating it. I'm sure that's not the greatest praise, but to be honest, I expected this to be as bad as Psycho 1999! Of course I wish it took more risks like Cinderella did, in just making the story their own, yet still honoring the classic its based upon. I feel like ditching the musical aspect of this would have helped, but alas. The filmmakers were too scared to do anything but pay respect to the animated film. EMILY RATING: 6.5/10


My Top Ten Of 2016

My absolute sincerest apologies for not getting this list to you sooner. I had fully intended to post this back in January before I was hit with all the Sundance craziness, but that just didn't happen. Before I knew it, I had like 15 reviews to write, and no time to find to put this list together. Since then, I still figured I needed to catch up on everything  I could...and yet, I still didn't have time to watch everything! Still, as usual, I had a hard time narrowing down some movies, so I cheated and added in a few ties. So this isn't so much a top ten as it is a top twelve. With all that in mind, let's get started shall we?

Originally, I had planned to give Rogue One a spot on the list due to wanting to finally give some Star Wars love after my disappointment with The Force Awakens, but then I ended up seeing these two films and let them steal a tying spot. Silence and Hell or Highwater both feature male duos. However, the duos of each film couldn't be more opposite. Silence focuses on the difficult experiences that two priests have during their mission to Japan in the 1600's. Hell or High Water focuses on two brothers in modern day Texas who rob banks. The films couldn't be more different, but I honestly couldn't choose which film deserved the #10 spot. Silence was an incredible spiritual experience of a film that was very thought provoking and well made. And Hell or High Water was tightly made and highly entertaining. Both are solid films with fantastic performances by their leads. Original review for Silence HERE

The Edge of Seventeen isn't totally a movie that everyone will connect to, or be featured on everyone's top ten list, but it was an extremely personal one for me. The film follows the lead character of Nadine, who certainly wasn't the most likable protagonist, but her lonely high school experience after a fight with her best friend really resonated with me. The Edge of Seventeen felt like a representation of youth that was honest and fresh. I was honestly surprised how much I loved this film, and can only wish for more like it. Original review for The Edge of Seventeen HERE.

Speaking of surprises, 10 Cloverfield Lane had to be the biggest one of 2016. The movie came out of nowhere and ended up being amazingly good. I saw it three times in theaters and it totally held up every single time. It's so gripping and well done, I easily could have given this spot to some of the more Oscar bait films I watched at the end of the year, but this one just won me over and I wouldn't budge. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman shine in this movie, and Goodman, in particular, does some of his best work in years. 

Lion is definitely one of the most heart-wrenching films of 2016. The film kinda puts you through the ringer as you witness the true story of a four-year-old Indian boy who winds up miles and miles away from his family and no way of knowing how to get back to them. I found his plight (and the consequences of it) very gripping, and also fascinating. The performances here are also fantastic, and by the end, I found myself (and my mother and stepfather) sobbing. 

Two stories are being told in Nocturnal Animals. One focuses on Amy Adams's character as she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) that he asks her to read, and the second is the actual story inside that novel of a man heading out on a family vacation with his wife and daughter that turns insanely violent. The second storyline was what hooked me, because it was basically an absolute nightmare turned into film. The film is so gripping, and it left me thinking about it for days afterward. There's so much to dissect here, and that was almost half of the fun.

What a year for horror it was. Even though I saw The Witch two years ago at Sundance 2015, it wasn't released until February of last year, so since it hadn't released to the general public yet, I didn't feel like I could include it on my 2015 list. I was very happy to see it finally released a year ago and get the praise it deserved from film critics and lovers of the genre. It's honestly such a great and unique addition to the horror genre. It's a very slow and moody film that builds up to the incredibly tense finale. But that wasn't all for the year in horror. Don't Breathe, which was released last August somehow managed to be equally wonderful, yet a very different brand of horror. While The Witch took its time to revel in the world it created, the tension in Don't Breathe never lets up and it's an absolute thrill ride. I seriously loved both of these horror films and had to include both on my top ten list. Original review for Don't Breathe found HERE. Original review for The Witch found HERE.

Every year for the last four years, we've had some sort of space movie come out in the fall (see Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian.) Arrival doesn't take place in space but somehow fits among these films. In particular, Arrival felt like a spiritual sibling of sorts to Interstellar. That not be something that everyone loves, but as someone who adored that film, I felt similar adoration with Arrival. The film is beautiful and it works on many levels, but it owes pretty much all of its success to Amy Adam's fantastic and sincere performance. Arrival felt simultaneously realistic and fantastical. Almost as if, should that type of event (the arrival of aliens) really occur, this is how it would go down. This grounded approach was refreshing when the film easily could have felt redundant. Original review of Arrival HERE

Manchester by the Sea is a deeply disturbing tragedy that is quite frankly a masterpiece. The film is so incredibly beautiful, yet affectedly heartbreaking. It works because of Casey Affleck's performance of a man so removed from feeling, that we can't help but feel disconnected with. We know there's more beyond the surface, but never does he want to engage with anyone enough to show it. Michelle Williams too in her small screen time is amazing, and their scene together near the end of the film (you'll know the one) is one of the most personal scenes ever filmed. Honestly, this is just a perfect movie. Original review for Manchester By The Sea HERE.

If Manchester By The Sea is a perfect movie then what other two films can beat that? Just a couple  of other perfect ones. There has been quite a bit of backlash against La La Land, but I refuse to bend to it. I saw it back in November, far ahead of its release date, and was able to appreciate it for what it was before too much of the hype had gotten to people's heads. La La Land is a beautiful film about relationships, and if there's one thing I love, it's a movie about relationships (*cough 500 Days of Summer cough*) It's also about following your dreams. This movie didn't truly GET me until the epilogue, but that ending solidified it as one of my favorite movies about relationships. And that's a big deal to me. 

For much of the year, Sing Street had retained the number #1 spot, until La La Land had knocked it to #2. But the more I thought about it, the more this movie was MY movie. I just love everything about it. It's so watchable (it's like my new The Way Way Back,) and has one of the best soundtracks in recent memory. Like La La Land, it too is all about following your dreams and the ending here is just absolutely wonderful. It also features a wonderful brotherly relationship that is one of the highlights of the film, and Jack Reynor just steals every scene he's in. I honestly can't recommend this movie enough, nor stop singing its praises. I just love this movie so much. Original review for Sing Street found HERE



Everything is Batman

Three years ago, The Lego Movie came out and pretty much surprised everyone. Unfortunately this time around, the surprisingly good factor wasn't something that could really happen with The Lego Batman Movie, since Batman ended up stealing all the scenes in The Lego Movie. Basically it was hard for anyone not to have expectations. Because of this, I didn't think there was any way for The Lego Batman Movie to live up to the movie it spun off from.

The Lego Batman Movie chronicles the adventures of Bruce Wayne, and his altar ego Batman as he constantly saves Gotham City from crime. His world is turned upside down when Commissioner Jim Gordon retires and appoints his daughter Barbara, who has a much different view on Batman being the sole person the city relies on to solve their problems, to take his place. Batman prefers to work alone and doesn't want to have any attachment of any kind, or to allow anyone into his life. But when Joker unleashes a terrible chaos onto the city (featuring almost every villain you can think of,) Batman must reconsider the value of being a part of a bigger team.

The Batman Movie is an incredibly funny and enjoyable film. Any Batman fan will totally enjoy this movie because there are homages galore to all of his past movies. However, as fun of a protagonist that Lego Batman is (and yes there's a reason he was one of the highlights in The Lego Movie,) we perhaps get too big of a dose of him here. He was a great supporting character, but having him as the lead wasn't quite as fun as having the more humble everyman Emmet from The Lego Movie. Still, Arnett is absolutely hilarious in this role, and it's fun to see him interacting with his Bat family. Michael Cera's Robin was a fun addition too and brings a good dynamic between the two, but I found myself a little underwhelmed by Rosario Dawson's Barbara Gordon. Still, there's more than enough hilarious cameos to rival the first movie...and it's just really fun to think that the Lego Movie universe is one where almost any single crossover is possible (aside from Marvel....and yes the "Iron Man Sucks!" joke was one of my favorites.) The action that results because of these combinations is seriously fun and it certainly makes me excited for any future Lego installments. So while everything is most definitely awesome, it doesn't quite surprise you the way the first one did. But it's still solidly fun and enjoyable in its own right to be sure. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10