Much like a classic mix tape, “Vol. 2” of “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a movie that’s similar in theme to its predecessor but feels fresh and original. Director James Gunn delivered a truly remarkable adaptation in 2014, and now he offers up a sequel that’s just as good, with a hefty narrative that thankfully has so much going on, but never loses sight of its central themes of family, love, and how music is the soundtrack of our lives. With “Guardians” the group of Starlord, Gamorra, Groot, Rocket, and Drax are back committing to a difficult job for a race of aliens called the Sovereign. They’re tasked with killing a vicious monster called the Abilisk and protecting priceless batteries. In exchange, they give Gamorra her sister Nebula back, who has been held prisoner.
Even with the success of “Batman” a year prior, director Bill Bixby had a hard time accumulating the budget and network support for what became the final hurrah for the famed seventies series. Apparently “Death” was supposed to be a vehicle for Iron Man and She-Hulk, but the budget just didn’t allow for it. Not to mention around this time Bill Bixby received the unfortunate news that he had prostate cancer, so “Death” was ultimately a swan song for the series as a whole. It’s a mixed blessing, though, since the budget allows for this final film to give the Hulk what is a bittersweet finale. The movie isn’t at all perfect, and completely meanders in the middle of the film, but overall the final scene paired with the classic theme song is gripping and a great testament to Bill Bixby’s commitment as an actor before his untimely death.
It’s been a while since David Banner has been on the road and he’s now looking for new lodgings in New York (aka Canada) under the guise of David Belson. After an incident involving a pair of jewel thieves on a train attacking a woman, David is forced to invoke the monster of the Hulk, which results in unfortunate casualties. After wreaking havoc as the green monster, David is arrested and is shocked to learn the women he saved on the train from the robbers is claiming David attacked her. He’s also being blamed for the unfortunate shooting of an elderly man during the attack. Realizing the pair of criminals were under the pay of local crime boss Wilson Fisk, David tries to clear his name along with his new attorney Matt Murdock. Little does David know that Matt is a vigilante by night known as Daredevil.
Even after “Superman: The Movie” and its somewhat successful franchise, the idea of turning comic books in to movies or a TV show was a rare prospect. Studios considered it a gamble as then comic books were considered a kids medium, so it was an anomaly for something like the Incredible Hulk to be adapted in to a successful drama that stayed in syndication for a long time. Six years after the end of the series, Bill Bixby returns to the role of David Banner, a scientist now living in a seaside town with his girlfriend. He’s mostly lived a quiet life and is helping to create a machine that can decay gamma radiation. Though he’s helping the local lab to create it, he’s also hoping to use it as a means of killing the hulk and end his curse.
Before the public at large were aware of Nick Fury, ABC’s long struggling “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and the overall organization from the Marvel Cinematic movies, there were 1998’s “Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Long ago when comic book movies were still concepts and properties that studios were hesitant to touch, FOX Studios in America aired the TV movie/pilot movie to little fanfare. Said movie starred David Hasselhoff (cast by virtue of the fact that he looks like classic Nick Fury and nothing more) fresh off of “Baywatch,” and starring as the classic Nick Fury before his re-imagining in the aughts in the Samuel L. Jackson mold. The classic Col. Nick Fury was a tough and grizzled war veteran with dark hair and signature white on the sides. He also donned the trademark eye patch and cigar, leading one of the most covert and top secret organizations in the Marvel Universe.
Logan, the public’s beloved Wolverine, has aged and isn’t doing so great. As he holds onto life for some reason and is looking for a reason to be. His later life is not filled with action, something he seems to have settled into. That is until a woman comes asking for his help and a chain of events leads to him having to help a young girl in desperate need of guidance and assistance.
“Logan” is a terrible X-Men movie, but a very good Wolverine movie. I say that because director James Mangold holds about as much contempt for X-Men and its concept as Bryan Singer does. Mangold offers a vision of the team that is none too flattering. Set in an undetermined timeline of the movie series, we’re met with Logan in the distant future where he’s one of the only surviving mutants left on Earth. The dream has died, Professor X is now suffering from a brain disease that has turned him in to a burden, and everything the X-Men strived for has been forgotten and passed off as a joke. Now faced with nothing but a dark ending, he is confronted by a Hispanic woman who pays him to help her. Logan, at the behest of Charles Xavier, is tasked with caring for a small girl named Laura who is much more like Logan than even Charles Xavier realizes.
This is one of the first time in years I’ve had such a difficult period deciding which movies had to be cut from my top ten and which deserved to stay on. Of course I didn’t catch every thing I wanted to, as probably Manchester by the Sea and Edge of Seventeen may have been on the list, if I saw them. So while there are some omissions out of my control, this is the ten I ultimately stuck to. This is the ten best movies I saw in 2016, along with a big list of potential place holders I quite loved, just the same.
Movies in 2016 that almost made the list includes the moving science fiction thriller Midnight Special, the touching sequel Finding Dory, the elaborate and beautiful The Handmaiden, the fun Ti West western In a Valley of Violence, the superb and very scary sequel The Conjuring 2, the fun and moving Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the hilarious and raucous antithesis to the superhero movie Deadpool, the sweeping fantasy thriller Doctor Strange, the incredible crime drama Hell or High Water, the very fun Adam Wingard reboot Blair Witch, the moving and fun teen drama Sing Street, the teeth grindingly compelling 10 Cloverfield Lane, and the chaotic survival thriller Green Room. Kudos to everyone behind these top notch movies I plan to revisit again and again in the coming years.
Now on the Top 10…