5 Hidden Gem Movies from 2016
As we enter December we’re in the midst of the awards season. The race to fit in any movies with Oscar hopes before the end of the year is going strong. In the coming weeks we have a new Star Wars movie coming out, perhaps the first good video game movie (Assassin’s Creed), and a bunch of Academy Awards hopefuls. Movies like ‘La La Land’, ‘Jackie’, ‘Fences’ and ‘Silence’. Even movies like ‘Patriots Day’ and ‘Passengers’ sound like they’re going to be good. Not to mention the films just released in November that we’ll be hearing from more in the coming months. (Those being ‘Manchester By the Sea’, ‘Arrival’, ‘Moonlight’, ‘Loving’, ‘Moana’, etc.) While this can be an exciting and overwhelming time for movie enthusiasts as we try to take in as many of these movies as possible before the awards are handed out in late February, it can be easy to miss out on some really good under the radar movies that came out earlier in the year. (You can discuss this on the BSL Board here. Please feel free to recommend your own hidden gems.) One benefit I have as someone who can’t get out to the movie theater very often is I’m able to binge everything as it hits the secondary market. Its been an interesting year. While I’ve yet to see anything that I would consider including in my top 100 movies list, that will hinge on the movies above most likely, there have been plenty of movies worth recommending. Out of everything I’ve been able to see thats been released in 2016 so far, these are the five films that I think deserve to be seen before you finalize your year end top 10 list. Everybody Wants Some!! At the time of writing this I have seen 77 movies released this year and Richard Linklater’s latest is probably right there at the top. His spiritual successor to ‘Dazed and Confused’ and/or ‘Boyhood’ sees a college freshman and pitcher for the baseball team arriving to his school housing that he shares with other members of the team. There isn’t a lot of plot here, its mainly just a fun character building coming of age story. The cast of mostly unknown actors are all great and realistic representations of a baseball team, outside of one guy but he has a great moment that almost redeems it. They do a great job of showing the competition between members but also what it means to be a part of a team and support each other. There are things to take away from it that only comply with sports but also more broad themes as well. What Linklater did for the 70’s in ‘Dazed and Confused’ he does for the 80’s here. An authentic albeit nostalgic take. Even the love interest avoids annoying tropes and doesn’t take away from the main point of the movie. Whether you played sports or not this is a fun couple of hours to hang out with some interesting characters. The Lobster This movie will certainly not be for everyone. Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ first two movies were weird high concept stories that almost come off as social experiments and his english language debut is no different. Colin Farrell plays a man whose wife has left him and in this world adults without a partner have to go to a hotel where they have 45 days to find one or else they get transformed into an animal of their choosing. I told you it was weird. Farrell’s character chooses a lobster because they have long life cycles and he enjoys the sea. His brother chose a dog. This set up plays out mostly in the first half of the movie and moves to another, equally odd direction in the second half. What makes it so good is the dry humor throughout, it never takes itself too seriously. How could it. Its also incredibly well made with great performances including from John C. Reilly and Rachel Weisz and others I don’t know as well. If that sounds good to you or if you’re interested in a movie that has you laughing to yourself in bewilderment, check it out. And if you like it I’d recommend his first film ‘Dogtooth’. Captain Fantastic This is a movie that had great buzz coming out of the Sundance Film Festival in January which can almost be a warning sign sometimes. Every year there are a handful of movies that come out of there with high expectations and they end up being decent to good movies but can’t live up to the hype. I was fully expecting that to be the case here, and maybe my lowered expectations helped, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Viggo Mortenson plays a man who is raising his kids off the land and is teaching them survival skills as well as home schooling them before circumstances outside of his control force him to bring them into normal society. He runs into the kids grandparents and they have different ideas for how he should be doing things. I can easily see how this movie could’ve been preachy and condemn how we raise our kids or insulting to those who do home school and do things a little differently but it manages to do neither. It gives both sides their perspectives and shows positives and negatives for each. Outside of the powerhouse performance from Viggo its a well rounded movie that is both fun and serious at times, sad and funny at times. I found myself disappointed when it was over. I could easily see this being a ‘Shameless’ style dysfunctional family TV series on HBO or something. Hell or High Water Westerns have been making a bit of a comeback lately and while I wouldn’t characterize this strictly in the genre it certainly has the feeling of a modern one. And a good one at that. Chris Pine and Ben Foster play brothers that are targeting a specific brand of banks to rob in order to keep the family ranch after their mom passed away. Jeff Bridges meanwhile plays a sheriff whose ‘one last job’ is to try and bring them to justice. Nothing new here but one twist is that Bridges doesn’t want to retire. He enjoys his job catching ‘bad guys’ too much. Its also just incredibly well made. Director David Mackenzie is coming off one of my favorite movies from 2014 in ‘Starred Up’ and is now firmly in my ‘must watch’ list whenever he comes out with something new. ‘Hell or High Water’ looks great. Dirty at the same time beautiful. It just feels natural in the same way a Jeff Nichols (Mud, Take Shelter) movie does. Violence is used sparingly here but when it is you can feel it. Its brutal. Its also funnier than I ever thought it would be. The performances help in that regard, they’re all pretty good but Chris Pine is the standout. It reminded me a bit of ‘No Country for Old Men’ if you get rid of Anton Chigurh. Who wouldn’t like that? Sing Street Last on the list is a musical from John Carney, the guy that brought us the fantastic ‘Once’ in 2007. We follow a kid in Ireland whose family is going through some financial struggles so he has to go to a free state-school where he gets bullied. In order to impress a young model he meets on his way home one day he tells her he needs her for a music video he is making with his band. Only he doesn’t have a band. Cue montage of him forming a band and trying to create a song to make a music video to. It took me a bit to get into the movie because of all these cliches but once it gets to the part where the band is formed, which admittedly doesn’t take too long, I was loving it. The music is great with the standout song being ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’. Go ahead and YouTube it. I’ll wait here. Told ya. In all seriousness that song is a pretty good barometer for the style of the rest of the music and the tone of the movie as a whole. Despite the dull and dreary way it starts the movie ends up being a fun, vibrant flick full of optimism. The kids are all good or at least have enough personality to make it work. The relationships at the center of the story work very well. The main character and his brother have a great dynamic and you feel enough for him and his love interest that you’re invested in everything working out. If you have a Netflix streaming account you can watch it right now.
An auxiliary member of the MMAJA, Bob used to run the baseball blog 'The Oriole Report' before transitioning to podcasting about movies, TV, Video Games, and MMA. 'The Redbox Report' movie podcast was started in 2013 followed by 'The Redbelt Report' MMA podcast in 2016. In 2018 they were merged into 'Phelan to Communicate', a podcast that can be found on iTunes and a blog that can be found at http://PhelanToCommunicate.wordpress.com. Bob has also written for Konsume.com and BaltimoreSportsReport.com and delivers mail for a living in Baltimore County. Follow him on Twitter @PhelanToTweet.