Deadpool — It’s the exact right way to make a Deadpool movie, and it just feels right. Does it have flaws? Sure it does. Does that really matter, or in any way, shape or form affect your enjoyment? Not in the least. Deadpool exists for those who like their antiheroes dark, their action fast and brutal, and their humor razor-sharp and occasionally toilet-flushably crude. It’s just straight-up fun, the most genuine fun I’ve had in the theater so far this year. There’s a breakneck, don’t-give-a-fuck joyousness to the film that perfectly encapsulates everything about the character, and is a welcome break from the dour seriousness of most of the Marvel and DC franchises. The world isn’t at stake here. The galaxy isn’t under attack. It’s just a boy and a girl, and a shitload of blood, guts, and dick jokes.
Zootopia — Between #BlackLivesMatter, #OscarsSoWhite and the mind-snapping success of Donald Drumpf, racism has become a major talking point but dedicatedly tricky topic in America. Yet astonishingly, Zootopia enters into this discussion, and with a lot of moxie. Sure to speak to kids and grown-ups alike, Zooptopia unfolds a poignant lesson about how prejudice can hurt people, but also how it can be overcome. And it does all this in a wonderfully fun film with big laughs, clever casting (did I mention Kristen Bell has a cameo as a sloth?), and delightful animation that boasts photo-real textures, telling physicality, and undeniable verve.
The Jungle Book — I was blown away by The Jungle Book, and while the reviews for the film have been nearly unanimous in their praise, the film still managed to exceed my expectations. Favreau and screenwriter Justin Marks have created a near perfect adventure film that deftly blends humor and action, character and heart, and ultimately leaves behind a film that will be impossible to beat by Andy Serkis’ 2018 version (with Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch). In 10 or 20 years, this will be the version of The Jungle Book that will be remembered above them all.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising — It’s beautiful. This movie is beautiful. It tackles period stigma, sex shaming (“When a boy gets laid, that’s awesome. When a girl gets laid, that’s bad”), and society’s tendency to pit women against one another (Demi Lovato [EDIT: Selena Gomez. Look, I’m over 30.], who has a cameo as the head of another sorority, could easily have been turned into a bimbo Mean Girls stereotype, but she’s not), all without being preachy. It’s positive and affirmational without being schmaltzy. Though it’s not a perfect film (the ending, in particular, fizzles something major), it does—and I pause before writing this, because I realize it’s a major thing to say, but I stand by it—deserve a spot on your DVD shelf alongside Clueless.
The Nice Guys — This is a movie for people with an interest in a number of genres, to varying degrees. The Venn diagram here is widely-encompassing, but generous. This is a movie for people who love noir, or neo-noir; if you like Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (also from Shane Black), this will not disappoint; if you like capers, or heists, or Ryan Gosling falling down and doing other forms of physical comedy to a degree you didn’t know he had in him; if you just like fun— this is your movie.
Green Room — If you enjoy tracking a film’s recklessly bloody bodycount and are into seeing a new and stylish take on the horror genre, this film will feel like a sweet kiss on the forehead; if you don’t require psychological verisimilitude from a film to get your kicks, so much the better. Strap yourself in, let those fuzzy guitars melt your ears, and emit a horrified groan of contentment as the blood and guts churn about you.
Swiss Army Man — Swiss Army Man is a sweet and surreal story about friendship. But more than that, it’s about the life-changing joy of finding someone who is weird in the same way you are. Story-wise, it’s a bit like E.T., where a lonely boy finds his own worth through an unconventional friendship. But deliciously deranged and brazenly bizarre, Swiss Army Man sets itself apart as an ardent love letter to weirdos, telling us that the world may not always get you, but there are always those that will. And if that’s a message that makes your weird little heart skip a beat, then this crass and crazy comedy is for you.