Welcome to Retro Time. In this blog, I’ll be covering topics related to film and television from past decades. These won’t be reviews, but rather a selection of memories, thoughts, and ideas designed to spark a little nostalgia and maybe inspire a conversation or two. Spoilers will likely come up, so please keep that in mind. Thanks for stopping by, and if you have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to chime in. I’d love to get your feedback. Now, let’s get ready to take a look back…
2016 in Review
Okay, so this post is a little bit of a cheat. Typically, my blog is about “retro” entertainment, movies and TV from past decades. But as 2016 prepares to hit the road (and hopefully take its celebrity-slaying bloodlust with it), I feel compelled to take a look back at the films from this year and reflect on some that I feel deserve to be seen. Besides, it’s all going be considered retro someday, right?
So all in all, I felt that the nectar of the film gods was a bit sour this year. There was definitely some good stuff to be had, but this was no 1984 by any stretch of the imagination. Even still, I’m happy to list out a few that I truly liked. A link to the film’s trailer is attached to each title.
Keep in mind, I didn’t see every release that came out. And since I try to be a positive dude, and this is a best of list, I will refrain from mentioning those I saw but didn’t care for. cough BvS cough
Here we go in no particular order.
I actually preferred this to the first Cloverfield movie that came out a few years ago. I liked the tight, intimate story, and John Goodman made a pretty convincing heavy. Through the whole thing, I couldn’t tell if there was an actual threat out there or if he was just some psycho making the whole thing up. I almost wish that there’d been some kind of twist ending like that rather than the monster-of-the-week showdown it eventually falls back on, but oh well. Still solid for its tension and claustrophobic feel.
When I’m not soaking up the sci-fi/horror genres, I’m usually drinking down something history related. I’m a fascinated by tales of worlds and people that once existed by are now gone with the wind (see what I did there?). Anyway, this one had some far-fetched elements and I doubt a man could really survive the level of brutality that Leo’s character was made to endure, but the pacing and the set pieces alone make this one a winner. The depiction of the fur trapping trade in the early 1800’s was fascinating and the tense moments, starting with the initial Indian attack and followed by the bear mauling scene, were as frightening as it gets. Parlay that with good performances and stunning visuals and you’ve got my admission money in your hip pocket.
At first, I was a little leery about the prospects of a new reboot series film without JJ Abrams at the helm. Personally, I though he did a hell of a job with the first two. But Beyond proved to be a worthy successor to the Abrams run and an entertaining film in its own right. I dug the visual style and the largely planet-based setting, which was a refreshing call back to the original series episodes that didn’t always rely on space-battle storylines. Though I felt that the story’s villain was a little mishandled and his motivations were a touch sketchy, (really, another rogue Star Fleet officer?) I enjoyed its fast pace and overall wiz-bang-fun approach. Sadly, I hear that it didn’t necessarily set the box office on fire. Maybe it’s time for a new angle, like say a Next Generation film set in the Abrams-verse?
And we’re back to a history story. But oh what a story. The film chronicles the real life tale of Desmond Doss, a Medal of Honor winner who never fired a single bullet. Fueled by a strong religious conviction not to kill, he instead decides to serve as a medic and goes into the thick of battle without a weapon. The movie starts out subtlety, allowing us to get to know Doss before he’s tossed into some of the most visceral war scenes since Saving Private Ryan. The tension we feel as he works tirelessly to save lives while under constant fire is intense. Directed by Mel Gibson, it doesn’t quite reach Braveheart status (not that anything ever could), but it is still masterful piece of storytelling. After leaving the theater, I was compelled to learn more about Doss and his story. And from what I could find, the film does a pretty good job of respecting his legacy. Highly recommended.
Like countless others, I grew up on Star Wars and was super excited by the prospect of this new movie. A non-Skywalker-family-centered tale that introduced us to new characters and showed the gritty side of the rebellion? Sign me up. Truth be told, though, it started out on shaky ground for me. No opening crawl. No fanfare. No John Williams theme. These were the things that defined Star Wars for me and it took me a minute to adjust to that. But once I met all the new characters and got invested in them, I started to settle into the story and was good to go. Donnie Yen’s force sensitive monk particularly stood out to me. In a movie with no Jedi, he provided the perfect dose of mysticism and swashbuckling heroics that I crave from these films. The third act gave us some of the best battle sequences the franchise has ever seen. AT AT’s, Tie Fighters, X-Wings, they were all there, and for a few brief minuets, I was a wide-eyed little kid again.
And that ending. OH. MY. GOD. When Darth Vader opened up that can of whoop ass on those poor rebels, my jaw was literally on the floor. Best ending of any Star Wars movie ever.
So there it is. I’m going to go ahead and stop there. Not a completely comprehensive list, but just some of the highlights that stood out for me. 2016 had some hits and misses, but the ones that got it right were well worth the time.
Here’s to 2017 and the promise of many more cinematic adventures to come.
George Ebey is the author of the recently released sci-fi novella DEBBI as well as a contributor to the anthology Brave New Girls. He is currently working on a full-length series of adventure tales set on Mars. You can connect with him on Facebook at George Ebey-Author and on Twitter @Ebeybooks.