Monday, January 02, 2017

My Ten Favorite New-To-Me Movies I Saw in 2016

Time for my annual list of the ten movies I saw for the first time over the past year and liked the best!  Astonishingly enough, they do not all star Alan Ladd :-o  But almost half of them do.  As always, I've linked titles to my posts if I've written about that film.  If you want to check out my lists like this from the past two years, the 2015 list is here, and the 2014 list is here.  Remember, this is me ranking them by how much I love them, not by what movie is "best."

1.  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his three new friends try to save a troubled teen from a bad guy who is manipulating him.  Also, they're wizards.  It's astonishingly good.

2.  Rogue One (2016)

A bunch of Rebels learn that the Death Star has a flaw, so a team of volunteers head off to find the plans that will help the Rebel Alliance exploit that flaw and destroy the Death Star.  I was not expecting this movie to be so very, very good.

3.  Risen (2016)

A Roman tribune (Joseph Fiennes) is tasked with unraveling the mystery about some Jewish guy named Jesus whose body had mysteriously disappeared from his tomb.  It's the story of the Resurrection told like a detective story, and it's one of the best bits of writing I have seen in a long time.

4.  Branded (1950)

An outlaw (Alan Ladd) gets a birthmark tattooed on his shoulder and uses it to convince a wealthy family he's their long-lost son.  But then he has a change of heart and decides to go find their real son in Mexico.

5.  Captain America:  Civil War (2016)

Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) square off over the question of whether or not powered people should be controlled by the government.  All our pals have to pick sides.  I really need to write up a proper review of this, because I went from hating it after my first viewing to liking it after my second, to absolutely loving it after my third, and that's not a normal trajectory for my feelings toward movies, so you know it's something interesting and special.

6.  Whispering Smith (1948)

Railroad detective Luke "Whispering" Smith (Alan Ladd) comes to realize that his erstwhile best friend (Robert Preston) is involved in a series of train robberies.  This is the movie that made me fall in love with Alan Ladd back in February.

7.  The Blue Dahlia (1946)

Three Navy bomber crewmen return home, where one of them (Alan Ladd) discovers his wife (Doris Dowling) in the arms of a sinister nightclub owner (Howard da Silva).  Wifey dear dies, husband gets pegged for the murder, so he goes on the lam while trying to find the real killer.  It's the only original script Raymond Chandler wrote, and it's a beautiful bit of film noir.  My new blog header is from it.

8.  The Great Gatsby (1949)

Nick Carraway (Macdonald Carey) gets enlisted by his wealthy neighbor, Jay Gatsby (Alan Ladd), to help win back the woman (Betty Field) he loved long ago.  Ladd and Carey are excellent, as is Howard da Silva, but the rest of the cast ranges from mediocre to miscast.  Still, Ladd was basically born to play Gatsby.

9.  Donovan's Reef (1963)

Two friends (John Wayne and Lee Marvin) spend lots of time on their Pacific island home brawling (with each other and other people), drinking, and grappling with issues like bigotry, greed, and hypocrisy.  It's both funnier and deeper than I expected.  A wacky buddy comedy set at Christmas, but also a bit more than that.

10.  Ant-Man (2015)

An ex-thief (Paul Rudd) helps a scientist (Michael Douglas) and his daughter (Evangaline Lilly) stop a bad guy (Corey Stoll) from using amazing shrinking technology to do bad things.  It's quirky and fun, and amuses me greatly.

Happy New Year!  What movies did you see this past year that you really loved?


  1. "Branded" sounds like an amazing story. I need to track that one down.

    I barely watched any movies last year--as I think back, I'm surprised at just how few I seem to have watched. One big surprise was "Paddington". I expected it to be very obnoxious "CGI character does slapstick" kids movie. It turned out to be smart and charming, with a weird, absurdist sense of humor--Wes Anderson meets the Muppets. An added bonus: my family watched a very British movie without my prompting, and they really enjoyed it. (They have now seen Peter Capaldi in action. I feel at peace.)

    1. Ashley, Branded is so good, I gave copies of it to three different people this Christmas. I'm pretty crazy about it. It's based on the book Montana Rides! by Max Brand writing under the name Evan Evans.

      You're not the first person to tell me Paddington was better than expected -- I might just have to try it out. I adored the books as a kid!

  2. Happy New Year, Hamlette!

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, "Rogue One"--it was so good!!! One of my new favorites, too.

    I think these were the movies I loved best this year:

    1. "Breakfast at Tiffany's." LOVED THIS SO MUCH.
    2. "Rogue One." This kind of killed me, but I adored it.
    3. "Hunchback of Notre Dame." (Disney) Amazing story and music.
    4. "Toy Story 3." Made me cry.
    5. "October Sky." Also made me cry.

    1. Jessica, that's a cool list! I almost put the 1939 version of Hunchback on mine because it was so amazing.

      I've seen all the movies on your list except the Disney Hunchback (and I think I owe you an email reply about #1). I liked OCtober Sky okay, but saw it many years ago and don't remember it much. I love Toy Story 3, though. Definitely makes me cry. I love that whole series, especially the first one.

    2. That's okay--take your time! I think I emailed you when you were in the middle of being sick, or something :-)

      "October Sky" isn't everybody's thing, I don't think . . . it just really appealed to me. I'm not 100% sure why. Maybe because my dad is an engineer and the kids in the movie reminded me of him? Maybe because I really love the Appalachian mountains? I don't know.

    3. Jessica, I have been sick for three full weeks as of today. Just can't shake my cough, though aside from that I'm better. But yes, I got really behind on my email and blog comments and everything else while I was sick. Slowly getting caught up :-)

    4. That STINKS. I'm so sorry!!! I was sick for a month or more last January and I hated it.

    5. Jessica, it does. Though the past two days, I have felt more or less normal, aside from the occasional cough and nose-blow. It's been such a relief!

  3. Awww, Donovan's Reef made the list! How cool! This is a great list. Can't wait to see Branded, myself! Branded and Blue Dahlia are the only two I haven't seen yet.

    This has been an unusual year for me. I just didn't watch as many classic movies as I normally do. Almost none compared to normal. Very odd! I guess my list of favorite new-to-me movies in 2016 would go as follows:

    1. Rogue One
    2. Fantastic Beasts
    3. Kubo and the Two Strings
    4. For Greater Glory
    5. Ex Machina
    6. Risen
    7. In Bruges
    8. At Middleton
    9. The Two Faces of January
    10. The Magnificent Seven

    1. DKoren, yes! I got such a bang out of Donovan's Reef. Can't wait to watch it again next Christmas.

      You know I will happily watch any Alan Ladd movie with you at any time. Maybe we should share Blue Dahlia on our next visit.

      My last two years, I had only one movie made before 1970 on my top ten list each year. It goes that way sometimes! I've seen half your list, and I LOVE that we have three movies in common!!! Including our top two spots. Too cool.

  4. Happy New Year to you too! "Whispering Smith" is one my list as well, one of the best westerns out there! As for the rest...I'd have to think awhile before compiling a list. :)

    1. Annie, that's great that Whispering Smith makes your list too! I really do love the heck outta that movie -- Luke Smith is second only to Shane in my list of favorite characters Alan Ladd played.

  5. SO MUCH MOVIE LOVE for 'Civil War' and Ant-Man. The former wasn't NEARLY as painful as I thought (I felt only hope for a better future for the Avengers) and the latter is hilarious. I hear great things about the Star Wars world, but as I've never seen anything set in the world, I've not seen Rogue One. :D

    1. Rissi, yes. Civil War ends with a lot of hope. I am at peace with it now.

      Star Wars is a fun world to play in :-) But I know some people avoid it because of the quasi-religious elements.

  6. Happy new year Hamlette!!! I actually didn't see all of the movies. Maybe I must. :)

    1. Rachel, since you love period dramas, you might really like The Great Gatsby since it's set in the '30s. Has some pretty costumes! Ditto for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which takes place in the Roaring Twenties and has so many fun clothes and period details.

  7. Nice list! My favorite of the year was 10 Cloverfield Lane. Blew me away. Rogue One is was up there, and Doctor Strange. I still have a love/hate relationship with Civil War but it's up there too... would love to read a review from you! I was really surprised at how much I liked Fantastic Beasts too. :) Oh and Midnight Special, loved that one. :D

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I really enjoyed Doctor Strange too, but it ended up not being a favorite.

      I need to rewatch Civil War and have it fresh in my head before I can review it, at this point. I hope to review Fantastic Beasts before long, though.

  8. Such a good list! I haven't seen the majority of these, but one of these days I'm going to get around to finishing Shane. Who knows? It may spark my own fetish for Alan Ladd ;)

    1. Thanks, Olivia! It was actually watching Shane and Whispering Smith back-to-back that sparked my interest in Alan Ladd :-) And now I just keep feeding my addiction...


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