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Top Five Underrated Films of 2016

     Before I begin my list: there were movies in 2016 that I have not seen, but I wish I had. Those include “Arrival,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Jackie” and “Paterson.” I will give an honorable mention to “Shin Godzilla,” directed, written and edited by Hideaki Anno (the creator of “Neon Genesis Evangelion”). My brother told me how psyched he was to see it. I hope the two of us will be able to see it together when it is available for digital download. Without further ado, here are five overlooked films from 2016 you should see.

     1. “The Shallows”: This simple story about a surfer girl under attack by a shark could be written off as a ripoff of “Jaws.” While Jaume Collet-Serra’s “The Shallows” suffers from one too many slow-motion shots of its lead catching waves, “The Shallows” stands out from other like-minded shark attack films. It boasts of true moments of suspense and terror, complemented by its choice not to show an overabundance of viscera. With thought-provoking imagery, eye-opening symbolism, realistic special and practical effects and an impressive performance by lead actress Blake Lively, “The Shallows” deserves to be lifted out of the depths and into the sunlight.

     2. “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation”: While it was released in theatres in 2015, most people would not see it until it got its DVD release in December. Even though this is the fifth entry in Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible” franchise, “Rogue Nation” re-energizes the series, gets the blood pumping and engages the mind. The best part of “Rogue Nation” is the fact that it is both a great fifth and first film. Fans of the series will not be disappointed, and newcomers will not feel left out from the exhilarating story. Don’t self-destruct this tape because “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation” has iconic action, memorable characters, belly laugh humor and a mission more impossible than any before it.

     3. “Fences”: Denzel Washington’s new film, based on August Wilson’s acclaimed play, was released on Christmas, but you still have a chance to see it in theatres, as you should. It’s understandable why this film could be seen as nothing more than last-minute Oscar bait, but in Denzel Washington’s story of a proud father, Troy Maxson; his faithful wife, Rose Maxson; and their quaint home in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (shot on location), this oft-considered “unfilmable” play makes for an unforgettable experience. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis star as the most heartfelt and heartbreaking couple on the silver screen of 2016 and deserve every nomination they receive. Don’t lock “Fences” out. Even if you don’t like it, what law is there sayin’ you got to like it? You will never forget the Maxsons and the lessons they’ll teach.

     4. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”: Most people chose to avoid this film, seeing it as no more than a Harry Potter prequel, but “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a fresh beginning. It’s a new exploration into J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. It features characters newcomers and diehard fans alike will enjoy getting to know. The story is engrossing and also simplistic. Children, teenagers, adults and families will all enjoy watching this astonishing and wildly imaginative film. Don’t be afraid to peek inside this locked case, because if you don’t, you might miss out on the wondrous light and darkness hidden within its ordinary disguise.

     5. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”: Released in independent cinemas in 2015, this film did not receive a DVD release until October, and it was not directly available in stores until 2016. This is the story of a high schooler’s terrible life and his ugly groundhog face, his friend who’s dying of cancer and his coworker who is definitely not his best friend. It’s quirky, but it’s not dumb. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” features unrealistic cinematography, realistic performances and a screenplay without sap, frailty or fake tears. It’s humorous, thought-provoking, iconic and remarkable. I know it might look like it stinks, but it doesn’t. So, yeah, watch it.

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