5. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”
I have seen this film four times already, three of which were in theaters, and I still have yet to see why so many have come to hate this one. Zack Snyder continues to grow as a director and Batman v Superman showcases him at his very most restrained, adding subtlety and beauty into a dark political drama disguised as a superhero film. Yes, the final act does seem a bit repetitive and Snyder does fall back on the directorial excess he is known for, but the rest of movie is fascinating enough to overcome the negatives. It is an effective deconstruction of the modern superhero, a tight philosophical study, and the comic-book movie that shows these heroes at their most fragile and vulnerable, which is exactly what makes these incarnations so compelling. Lastly, do not even get me started on the fight between Batman and Superman. It is stellar.
4. “The Witch”
An ingenious and seriously messed up combination between The Shining and The Crucible, this contemporary ghost story from first-time director Robert Eggers may just be the scariest movie in years. Set in 1630s New England, The Witch follows the slow, but deadly deterioration of a pagan family after a curse is placed upon them by a witch. With beautifully, stark landscapes and a bleak, unnerving atmosphere and score, Eggers shows that he is a filmmaker to be reckoned with as he perfectly conveys the time and place of these events without a single sign of inconsistency. It doesn’t hurt to have an unbelievably determined cast in front of the camera, each of them speaking in old English as if they had been their whole lives. It is an unnerving and horrific experience, but one that leaves a lingering sting long after the credits have rolled.
3. “The Jungle Book”
Disney’s effort to adapt many of their classic animated films into live-action releases has been pretty hit or miss since the beginning. For every Cinderella there is a Maleficent and it makes you wonder whether this is something that should even be done. Well, The Jungle Book is the answer to that question as it shows both just how good a live-action Disney remake can be as well as challenge just what someone may believe can be achieved on screen. First of all, the story is great, following the young Mowgli (played by the phenomenal Neel Sethi) as he makes his way through his jungle home in search of other humans and dodging attacks from the homicidal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) who is hell-bent on Mowgli’s destruction. Excellent world building and voice acting from a cast of such talents as Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson, Ben Kingsley, and Christopher Walken make for a gripping story as the state-of-the-art special effects help to secure that the ride is as visually dazzling as it is emotionally ravaging.
2. “Swiss Army Man”
Quite possibly one of the oddest films of all time, this fantasy about a castaway (Paul Dano) who finds a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) washed up on shore and helps the corpse slowly come back to life and later reveal fantastic abilities that will assist the castaway in finding his way back to civilization. If one of your major criticisms with modern films is the lack of farting corpses, this is the movie for you. The directing duo simply known as “Daniels” pack a million ideas into this 90-minute surreal masterpiece. Based upon the trailer, one may assume this to be a one joke comedy, but it is much, much more than that. Swiss Army Man is an unbelievably beautiful story of love, friendship, loneliness, hope, and the will to go on. It is also a study into the art of being comfortable in your own skin and loving yourself for who you truly are. Never have I seen a more thoughtful film contain a man riding another man as a jet ski.