Arrival (2016): I knew very little about the plot of Arrival going in: something about extra terrestrials on a holiday and Amy Adams, who should get an Oscar nomination for her performance here, tying to make contact. In the end, Arrival was one of the most riveting and powerful films I've seen in a while. This isn't a movie about aliens. It's a movie about humanity. Adams carries the film with a kind of melancholy and all-consuming dedication to understand...not just the aliens intentions here on Earth, but her own. Jeremy Renner, a great actor when given the opportunity to do more than just run and shoot things, and Forest Whitaker - he'll always be "Ghost Dog" to me - round out a fine supporting cast. A great movie!
Midnight Special (2016): Midnight Special is another sci-fi/drama that perfectly balances the two genres, finding both the government and an isolated religious cult pursuing a boy with special powers. The government thinks he's a weapon. The religious group thinks he's a messiah. Both will stop at nothing to obtain him. The movie features an excellent cast, chiefly Michael Shannon as the boy's protect-him-at-costs father and Joel Edgerton as Shannon's childhood friend. Jaeden Lieberher shines (literally and figuratively) as the boy, Alton. Kristen Dunst (who's excellent here), Adam Driver and Sam Shepard round out a great supporting cast. Midnight Special is one of the most human sci-fi movies you'll see, and proves that the most special power is the ability to love without boundaries.
Under the Shadow (2016): Burned out on "spook house" movies? Under the Shadow is the story of a mother and daughter in war-torn Tehran during the late 80's. The film is a fascinating and stark reminder of the evils of war and the treatment of women in the Middle East, as well as a lesson in another culture's demons. As a matter of fact, it's difficult to even classify Under the Shadow as a horror movie. The supernatural elements in the film are handled in such an understated, austere manner that you almost overlook them entirely. Director, Babak Anvari, expertly creates a sense of anxiety from the very beginning, so by the time you begin hearing bumps in the night, they seem like a much-needed reprieve from the warning sirens of an incoming bombardment. Under the Shadow is a refreshing take on the "spook house" movie and leaves the viewer to wonder who's a more sinister force: demon or man? Seek it out. Find it. Watch it.
Sound off in the comments section below. If you've seen any of these movies, please let me know your thoughts, and share with me your favorite movies of 2016.
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