A linguistics professor is recruited to help the military decipher the language of a recently arrived pod of extra-terrestrials. The further she deciphers their language, the more secrets are revealed and her life may be forever changed.
What sets Arrival apart from most alien invasion films is that there is an actual plot. There is a mystery at hand as to what the aliens want and there is also a race against time to figure out their language. It’s a different type of storytelling that gives us real characters that never try to make them seem more powerful than they are. And overall the general development of the story and its various themes is an engaging and breathtaking experience that can bring about interesting discussions after it’s over. Not only this but it features a very beautiful and thought-provoking ending. It’s also backed by gorgeous cinematography and an excellent performance by Amy Adams.
2) 10 Cloverfield Lane
After a young woman gets in a car crash, she wakes up in a bunker and is told by the man who took her that everything and everyone above ground is dead. Unsure of what to believe, she must use her smarts, skills, and instincts in order to get through her ordeal.
This film the next addition in the “Cloverfield” anthology series. I loved the first film, and this loved this one even more. It’s not the kind of horror film you’d expect, but it’s so psychologically and physically horrific. The intensity that’s present throughout the film, the paranoia, and the claustrophobia from the confined space make this a pretty damn scary film. It hooks you right from the beginning and never lets go. Even at the end when you think it’s over and you can finally breathe, it pulls you back in. It’s also backed by an Oscar-worthy performance by John Goodman, and a powerhouse performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The direction and use of cinematography is also a factor in making this one hell of a ride.
3) Finding Dory
The lovable memory-impaired fish Dory from the first film sets out on a mission to find her family after developing random memories of them. Along with Marlin and Nemo, and new characters, she searches the seas to find them and even realizing family doesn’t always need to be relative.
Everything you love about the first film is present here and more. The scenes featuring Baby Dory are the cutest thing you’ll see this year. And adult Dory has never been more hilarious thanks once again to Ellen Degeneres. The story is just as heartwarming and fun, and the new additional characters are just as lovable. And don’t worry, the other characters you love from the first film are here too (though I do wanna note to watch the after credits scene). I would honestly say that I prefer this one over the first.
4) The Girl on the Train
A troubled woman believes she witnessed a murder while riding her daily train. The couple she once admired soon becomes a couple of mystery. She doesn’t know who she can trust, and the police and others around her believe she may have committed the crime.
The Girl on the Train is an engaging, edge-of-your-seat mystery/thriller that will keep you guessing through its many twist and turns. Right from the start it grabs your attention and never lets go. Emily Blunt provides a terrific performance as our lead, and Blunt nails the character and her mental state throughout the film. Hayley Bennett is also worth noting in her breakout role as the wife of the couple Blunt’s character is obsessed with by brilliantly showing the emotionally damaged and troubled persona of the character.
5) Hacksaw Ridge
A young man wants to make something of himself by joining the military. However, he refuses to fire or even pick up a weapon. He’s seen as a joke by his men but he ends up becoming one of the greatest heroes in history by the lives he saved.
I’m not a fan of war movies really. But I absolutely loved this one. Mel Gibson brilliantly directs this true story by giving us plenty of backstory on our lead character before he is shipped off. From there, Gibson gives a horrific, brutal, and emotionally-driven war story that packs a punch and really puts us in the scenes. The war scenes are graphic and heart-pounding, and the brilliant performance by Andrew Garfield makes it twice as powerful and dramatic. Even during the credits you still feel the emotional impact of the story. Vince Vaughn also surprisingly turns in a solid performance in a dramatic role you’ve never seen from him before. And Teresa Palmer also provides a strong and powerfully dramatic performance as Garfield’s character’s wife. Her character isn’t given as much screen time as I’d like, but she gives it her all with what she has. The entire cast does a great job overall.
6) Manchester by the Sea
A troubled man suddenly becomes the caregiver of his teenage nephew after his older brother dies. He travels back to his hometown and grapples with the grief process, not only current but past as he also crosses paths with his ex.
This powerfully moving drama deals with loss and grief in a brutal way I’ve never seen displayed before. We see the toll it takes on the man as far as his social relationships, his personality and Casey Affleck displays this in powerful performance. Michelle Williams has a brief role as his ex and delivers one of her finest performances in just one scene alone. And newcomer Lucas Hedges provides a breakthrough performance as the nephew who not only shares great on-screen chemistry with Affleck, but also does well on his own as the teen trying to display normalcy to his life, but also not even sure how he’s supposed to grieve after the death of his dad. It’s a depressing film in the long run, but it’s a must see drama.
7) The Witch
The film takes place in old New England, when witches were greatly feared. It follows a family who is shunned from their village and try to start anew in a country house outside of a dark wood. The family then falls prey to a hidden witch within the woods and soon their faith and familial bond is tested.
I’ll start out by saying that this isn’t a horror movie for everyone. I personally found it terrifying. It’s the ultimate slow-burn horror film. Much of the horror at hand involves the use of imagination and it really uses the “less is more” routine to a t. The final act provides for a heart-pounding sequence when everything begins to unravel. It also features beautiful and haunting cinematography and direction to put you into this world and the lives of the characters. It also features a star-making performance from Anya Taylor-Joy as the lead female.
8) Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
Two party animal but caring brothers are told they must find dates to their sister’s wedding in order to hopefully keep them controlled after previous mishaps at other family gatherings. After putting out an ad promising a trip to Hawaii, the brothers get more than they bargained for when two young women twice as wild as the brothers pose as good girls to earn the trip.
Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is hands-down the funniest movie I saw this year. I was skeptical at first, but I found myself laughing all the way through. Not only do the four leads (Zac Efron, Adam Devine, Anna Kendrick, and Aubrey Plaza) have perfect chemistry together, but they each provide some of the most hilarious performances I’ve seen in a while. There’s plenty of raunchy humor, but at its core there is plenty of heart. And the best part? It’s doesn’t divert itself drastically into rom-com territory!
9) Bridget Jones’s Baby
The lovably clumsy and awkward Bridget Jones is back. She’s accomplished many of her goals since the first film, except now she’s still single and feeling the pressures of needing a child. After two one-night-stands (one with her ex Mark Darcy, and the other with a charming strangers she met during a wild music fest), Bridget ends up pregnant, not knowing who the father is. Now she’s torn between the two men, while having to deal with the pregnancy problems.
The third entry in the Bridget Jones films is just as good, if not better than the original. Despite the year-long wait, Renee Zellweger still has it and perfectly captures everything we love about Bridget. She and Colin Firth still have the charming chemistry as the off-again/on-again couple, and Patrick Dempsey also turns in a charming performance as the newcomer pining for Bridget. It has plenty of laughs, and a great amount of heart that makes this (to me) the ultimate feel-good movie of the year.
10) The Intervention
A group of friends plan a getaway, unbeknownst to one of the couples that this is actually an intervention for their marriage. During the trip, the friends grapple with their friend’s married lives that they eventually come to realize that they may have problems in their own relationship to worry about.
The Intervention is a charming and often times funny indie comedy that boasts solid performances by the cast, and each having tremendous chemistry with one another. The characters are very well-written and feel real, as do the problems they find themselves facing.