Top 10 Films and TV Shows of 2016

For 2016, superheroes continue to reign in film and TV, while other genres like sci-fi, fantasy, horror and related combos offered refreshing alternatives. Many of the best films and TV shows on this list were very profound and pushed the envelope, while others were just plain fun to watch.

Films

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10. 10 Cloverfield Lane: The spiritual sequel to Cloverfield was a tense and suspenseful thriller with a great performance by John Goodman as a doomsday prepper.

xsuicideTIE: 9. Suicide Squad/X-Men: Apocalypse: Despite their flaws both superhero (and supervillain) films were enjoyable romps with unforgettable characters (Harley Quinn, the Joker, Deadshot, Magneto, Quicksilver, and more) and eye popping action-packed moments.

8. Doctor Strange: With the big-screen debut of Marvel Comics’ Sorcerer Supreme the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to remind us why their superhero films are currently the best of the crop compared to Fox’s X-Men Universe films (Deadpool aside, of course) and the DC Extended Universe movies.

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7. Zootopia: The best animated film of the year dazzled us with eye raising animation and a clever script that highlighted important social messages about tolerance and prejudice.

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6. Star Trek: Beyond: The film’s back-to-basics approach with Star Trek’s iconic characters paid proper homage to the TV show while having a genuine adventurous tone.

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5. The Jungle Book: Even though the CG-created animals and environment were flawless and stunning, the film to its merit emphasized story and characters, which left a bigger impression.

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4. Deadpool: As a faithful adaptation of the irrelevant and violent comic book, Deadpool proves that it’s possible to be true to comic book source material and still be an entertaining film.

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3. Arrival: A provocative, well-acted and beautifully shot film about first contact with aliens smartly emphasized the communications hurdles humanity would face. The film’s ending was a true surprise and was just one of Arrival’s highlights.

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2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: The first Star Wars spinoff not only neatly ties in with Episode IV but is a great and exciting film in its own right with more nuanced characters and situations than seen in a typical Star Wars film.

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1. Captain America: Civil War: The Avengers are torn apart from within as Captain America and Iron Man philosophically, then violently disagreed over allowing the government to supervise their team. Featuring strong performances and the best superhero fight scenes ever filmed, the film was an emotional ride for viewers.

TV Shows

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10. Ash Vs Evil Dead: Grossly fun and action-packed as everyone’s favorite deadite fighter Ash Williams and his gang continue delighting horror fans.

redhats invade9. Colony: Unexpectedly well done look at life under alien domination and that “big, beautiful wall” separating American cities is a chilling portent of what lies ahead.12 Monkeys Cole time travels8. 12 Monkeys: Of the many time travel themed TV shows out there, this is the best of them as many episodes explored the convoluted nature of time travel.

dareflashTIE: 7. The Flash/Daredevil: The two best superhero TV shows were on the opposite ends of the tonal spectrum. The Flash is pure Silver Age awesomeness, while Daredevil reflects a more gritty and grounded mood, especially with the introduction of the brutal vigilante, the Punisher. Both shows  featured intense and enjoyable comic book adventures thanks to well written scripts and engaging lead actors, plus supporting characters/actors.

6. The Walking Dead: The megahit series about brutal life after the undead destroy civilization has  hit a creative wall and is past its peak according to many fans. Yet, for the most part The Walking Dead is still delivering more than adequate thrills, gross out moments and entertainment, even if the show went to far in Negan’s introduction and certain character deaths.

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5. Black Mirror: A dark anthology series about the downside of technology offered many disquieting episodes about technology’s impact in our lives today and tomorrow.

El confronts monster Stranger Things4. Stranger Things: A wonderful ode to ’80s sci-fi movies featured terrific child performances, geeky Easter eggs and an intriguing mystery revolving around a missing child and an interdimensional monster.

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3. The Expanse: This well-crafted series about a brewing war among human colonies in our solar system during the next century could wind up being the next great TV space opera.

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2. Westworld: HBO’s potential successor to Game of Thrones went way beyond the original Michael Crichton movie about theme park robots running amok by presenting a thought-provoking series about existentialism and ethics.

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1. Game of Thrones: Even though the fantasy series is drawing to a close, the sprawling epic continues to captivate viewers with its visceral tale of power struggles among kingdoms. One of the highlights was the epic episode  “Battle of the Bastards” that put rival films to shame with its gut wrenching fight scenes.

 

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Captain America: 75 Years As A Living Legend

Alex Ross Captain America art

This year is a true landmark for Marvel Comics’ Star-Spangled Sentinel of Liberty. It’s not just because Captain America is the star of the biggest movie of the year (to date) Captain America: Civil War, but most importantly because this is the year Marvel is celebrating his seventy-fifth anniversary.

Imagine that number, three quarters of a century old and up there with the likes of modern-day legends like Superman and Batman. Unlike those two icons, Captain America didn’t always enjoy a high level of popularity. There are many reasons which reflected the mood of the times and the character’s level of development.

Unlike Batman and Superman, Captain America was undeniably a byproduct of the World War II era. When he made his debut in Captain America Comics #1 in 1941 World War II was occurring.

War-Born Hero

The U.S. was not involved in the war but Captain America Comics #1 coversooner or later the country would be and this left U.S. citizens with frayed nerves. It was the right time for a morale booster in the comic book pages. Comic book creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, both of whom were Jewish and particularly alarmed by Adolf Hitler’s undisguised anti-Semitism, wanted to bring to life an American counterpart to the so-called German Aryan super race. Keeping that in mind they created Steve Rogers, a weakling who wanted to serve his country and was transformed into the super-soldier Captain America.

To their shock, almost immediately after his debut, Captain America became a sensation with the American public. But after the war ended, interest in the Sentinel of Liberty waned. The public was ready to move on from its war footing and Captain America was too ingrained in the World War II era to seem relevant in a post-war America. Even an attempt to modernize him in the 1950s as a “Commie Smasher” failed to reignite interest and before long his title was canceled. It seemed as if he would be relegated to the dustpan of comic book history. Or so it seemed.

Legendary Rebirth

Thanks to the efforts of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s, the good captain was resurrected as part of the new wave of comic book superheroes that took the nation by storm. Due to the ingenuity of Lee and Kirby, Captain America was brought back into the limelight after being found frozen in the landmark comic book The Avengers #4. This plot twist was ingenious in that it brought back the same character without having to pull an Earth-2 introduction of a new character with the same name. At the same time, the man-out-of-time twist added a lot of pathos to Captain America, who now struggled to find a place in a new world and find a sense of relevance. Of course, what helped the captain’s newfound popularity were the exciting stories that placed him in the middle of the Avengers’ battles. From these early tales it was obvious that Captain America was a born leader and the other team members gravitated towards him and treated him as such. It wasn’t long before he became the actual leader of the Avengers and led the team into higher levels of greatness.

Captain America lives again

At the same time, he was rewarded with his own comic book that featured many interesting supporting characters and villains, among them a resurrected Red Skull–his greatest enemy during World War II.  But what kept the stories interesting was the character development of how he struggled to fit in and overcompensated by throwing himself into his work of saving the world.

This came to a head in the 1970s during the Watergate era when he lost faith in the U.S. government and actually gave up the Captain America identity. This theme would be revisited time and time again in several stories in the following decades that coincided when the nation was plagued with self doubt.

The Heart of America

Sam Wilson: Captain AmericaDuring these events other heroes have taken up the mantle of Captain America and provided fresh new outlooks on what it is to be the iconic hero. Most readers know that currently Sam Wilson,  who was Captain America’s partner the Falcon, is the new Captain America. The twist here being that Wilson is  African-American, but it feels natural because who else but Steve Rogers former partner is worthy enough to wield the shield and honor of being Captain America? It is a testament that the role of Captain America is larger than any one person.

Fans of the more traditional Captain America should not fret. As these cyclical stories go, eventually the original hero will reclaim the mantle. Steve Rogers has done it in the past, most famously after he was supposedly assassinated in Ed Brubaker’s acclaimed run of the title last decade. Keep that in mind with the current absurd plot twist that Steve Rogers is a Hydra sleeper agent. This is just a sales gimmick and it too shall pass.

With Sam Wilson as Captain America now, this development illustrates the universal appeal of the superhero. Despite his bright costume, Captain America isn’t some jingoistic right wing ideologue who sprouts platitudes about making America great. He is more than that, he is a symbol for what this country represents and strives for: freedom, justice, perseverance, hope, and decency. He doesn’t go around boasting about the U.S., he just fights for what is universally right. It is part of his core belief and why he resonates with people from all walks of life.

Another reason for his success is because given his situation, it would be natural if he wallowed in self pity, but he doesn’t. Of course, he does have regrets and doubts, but Captain America just plows ahead and adapts to any situation.

Reaching Legendary Status Through Film

These days, seeing how popular he is in our culture, it is hard to believe that some had doubts about his widespread appeal, especially overseas. It’s why his first film Captain America: The First Avenger was called simply The First Avenger in Russia, South Korea and Ukraine, while other countries were given the choice of dropping the name Captain America, but kept it anyway.

Chris Evans as Captain America

 

That film and its sequels turned him into a A list superhero that has in many ways eclipse Marvel Studios’ most popular superhero Iron Man. Much of the credit is due to the smart writing and direction that delivered exciting and thought provoking films. Of course, the casting of Chris Evans was truly inspired. Marvel Studios could have gone the easy route and hired some square-jawed hunk but went with Evans. His portrayal of Steve Rogers/Captain America feels natural and he emotes a sense of empathy and iron will that quickly won over audiences. Just like with Robert Downey, Jr. or Hugh Jackman it is difficult to imagine who can take over the iconic role.

Captain America patriotIt is clear that the superhero is more revered these days because of the films but it is more than that. Captain America has a special quality that is sometimes hard to pinpoint but he evokes an ideal of who we all should be, not just Americans but everyone. That is why we are all celebrating his 75th anniversary.

José Soto

Captain America: Civil War…The Aftermath

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WARNING: The following will discuss major spoilers in Captain America: Civil War, anyone who has not seen the film yet and do not want to be spoiled should stop reading from this point on.

Captain America: Civil War, like the previous Captain America films, has had a profound impact in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The biggest fallout from the deteriorated relationship between Steve Rogers/Captain America  and Tony Stark/Iron Man being the disintegration of the Avengers team.

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Naturally, we cannot expect this situation to last in the MCU. Despite the world’s animosity towards superheroes, it does need a superhuman team to take on the larger-than-life threats. What will likely happen in between this film and the next Avengers film is that the team will be reformed. As to who will make up the new Avengers is open for speculation.

New Avengers and Fugitives

But if the Marvel Studios films loosely follow what happened in the comic books then there might be two teams of Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War, Part I (at this point we don’t know what the film’s new name will be so let’s call it by its original title for now). In the Marvel Comics following the Civil War mini-series there were two Avengers teams, one was known as the Secret Avengers and operated outside the law and there was the “official” Avengers, which was later infiltrated with nefarious sorts and morphed into the Dark Avengers.

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Avengers: Infinity War could roughly follow this development by having Tony Stark leading a new team composed of Vision, Wonder Man (Nathan Fillion will cameo as Wonder Man’s civilian identity of Simon Williams in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, so he is a natural to play Wonder Man–a casting decision we foresaw years ago), a new Captain America, Captain Marvel (someone that the film’s directors, Joe and Anthony Russo, have suggested may appear), and someone new to the MCU perhaps She-Hulk or Tigra or even Black Knight.

Now the film could be about how the official Avengers are treated as celebrities, but the reality is that many of the new recruits are traitors. Think about it. This plot twist would be a variation of the Thunderbolts’ first storyline and Wonder Man’s initial appearance. When Wonder Man first joined the Avengers he was supposed to betray the team but had a change of heart and became an actual hero. The original Thunderbolts team was actually Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil, who were pretending to be heroes. This twist could be unveiled to audiences who would be shocked that new recruits like Tigra or Black Knight are actually supervillains and Zemo was behind the scenes plotting this machination much like he did in Captain America: Civil War.

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Meanwhile, Steve Rogers could adopt a new identity as either Nomad or the Captain as he did in the comic books. He would be without his shield, which he abandoned at the end of his third film. The new, evil Captain America (who can be Johnny Walker, the future U.S. Agent) could be the one wielding the shield while Rogers could use an energy shield like the one that Phil Coulson used in a recent Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode. Of course, by the end of the film Rogers will rightfully regain the real shield. It could be given to him by Stark as a symbolic way of renewing their partnership.

Before that happens, Rogers will probably be leading his own clandestine team made up of Scarlet Witch, Black Widow, Ant-Man and the Wasp and Falcon.

Accords & Aftermaths

So, Secret Avengers, Dark Avengers, what does any of this have to do with Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet? rhodey downPerhaps Thanos’ team of the Black Order could show up on Earth looking for the final Infinity Stone, which happens to be embedded on Vision’s forehead. The aliens defeat the Avengers and take the Stone or are behind the betrayal. This would lead Stark and Rogers to realize they have to join forces to combat Thanos and the film ends. Cue the post-credits scene with a triumphant Thanos and his completed gauntlet.

OK, so what about the rest of the MCU? How does Captain America: Civil War affect it? To be honest, it may have minimal impact outside of the third Avengers film and the Black Panther solo film, and the reason can be seen in the lineup of films between Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther.

Up next is Doctor Strange, which seems likely to be set apart from the traditional MCU. Unlike Ant-Man, do not expect to see an Avenger making a cameo in Doctor Strange. At best, there may be a reference to one of the Infinity Stones. The same situation will apply to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. That sequel takes place in outer space and according to director James Gunn, doesn’t have anything to do with Thanos.

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Captain America: Civil War Is Another Triumph For Marvel

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Captain America: Civil War is the culmination of the first two phases of the Marvel Cinematic  Universe (MCU) and launches Phase Three in a bold and somewhat darker direction. That is because by the end of the film, relationships are frayed, perhaps permanently, and new players have arrived to carry the torch.

A first look at the cast of characters appearing in the film, which includes most of the Avengers, may lead one to believe that the film should have been called Avengers 2.5, but this is first and foremost a movie about Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans). We see that he is still struggling to fit into the modern world being that he is a product of long bygone era.

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The movie is also a direct continuation of the previous film Captain America: The Winter Soldier in that the Winter Solider aka James “Bucky” Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is the focus of pursuit for everyone. At the same time, the events at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron play a major factor that somehow manages to validate that film since it is considered to be an inferior sequel to The Avengers.

The destruction in the country of Sokovia at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron added to the world’s growing unease with superpowered people. This suspicion is compounded after the opening segments of Captain America: Civil War when innocent civilians are killed during a fight the Avengers have with terrorists.

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Enter: The bureaucrats in the form of U.S. Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) who demands that the Avengers sign an accord by the UN that places the superhero team under supervision and dictates that they cannot act unless ordered.  Steve Rogers objects to this, but his fellow partner and Avenger Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr. ) disagrees. He feels that superhumans need to be curtailed partly based on his own guilt about creating Ultron. Later, a terrorist bombing at a UN conference, supposedly by the Winter Soldier, sets off an alarming series of events that turn the two friends into bitter enemies as both men gather allies for their causes.

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Captain America: Civil War is already considered one of the greatest superhero films of all time and that praise is justified. Unlike the similar-themed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this film flows cleanly, is coherent, not choppy and adequately presents both sides of the issue. Even though Captain America is the star of the film, great pains are taken to show the validity of the other side. It becomes difficult at times to find someone to root for because we know they are both in the right. It illustrates the tragedy of a civil war amongst former friends.

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The directors Joe and Anthony Russo return for their second Captain America film and have beaten the second film curse for MCU directors. At the same time, they demonstrate with Captain America: Civil War that they can handle a large, epic story with multiple characters that are all given their moments to shine. That is an unbelievable effort that lesser directors and writers have difficulty accomplishing.

Despite the film’s length (over two hours) it leaves viewers wanting to see more of this world unfold. That is due to the constant action, fast-moving plotline, and smile-inducing appearances by other characters that get their moments in the sun and not just in action sequences. We meet T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), a noble African king out for vengeance, and of course, everyone’s favorite Web-Slinger, Spider-Man (Tom Holland). This MCU version of Peter Parker is the most authentic and realistic take of Spider-Man ever shown on film and leaves one hungering for Spider-Man: Homecoming already. Other stand out characters include Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), the Vision (Paul Bettany), Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).

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The much talked about fight scene the superheroes have with each other in an airport is worthy of the hype and shows the heroes at their best. It was a comic book fan’s dream come true seeing all these superheroes doing their thing. Needless to say the special effects were flawless, as was the intricate fight choreography. However, a following fight scene later on is much more involving and personal, while at the same time heartbreaking as we see that Rogers and Stark are at a point of no return with each other. By the end of the film, everything has changed not just for the two main characters, but for the allies that took their sides.

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Captain America: Civil War is a triumph that is worth multiple viewings not just because of the spine-tingling action but because at its heart the movie is about friendship and how it gets fractured. It is hard to believe this but even though this is Marvel Studios’ thirteenth MCU film, it proves that the Marvel Cinematic Universe can still surprise and excite us as it continues to expand.

José Soto

 

Captain America: Civil War Trailer #2

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Wow that was intense! Marvel Studios just released the second trailer for May’s Captain America: Civil War and it is just jammed full of “Wow!” moments, especially at the end (more on that later).

Even though Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is taking center stage lately and for good reason, I get the feeling that come May, the DC movie will be forgotten once Captain America: Civil War comes out. It’s because by now, we’re all familiar with these beloved characters on screen (and the actors portraying them) and have rooting interests on one side or the other. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is well entrenched and uber popular thanks to Downey’s performances and the good memories from the first Iron Man film. As for Captain America (Chris Evans), seemingly overnight, well ever since the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, he became a star that is popular with the masses.

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This trailer has so many terrific scenes, such as Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) jumping off that arrow, or War Machine’s (Don Cheadle) literal fall to Earth. But the big surprise was the end reveal of Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and he looks terrific and spot on! He vaguely sounds like the Andrew Garfield version of Spider-Man but the costume looks more authentic to the comic book version. But why does he have to be on Team Iron Man? Iron Man is such a tool. Anyhow, enjoy this second trailer for Captain America: Civil War

Waldermann Rivera