The two best films of 2016, so far

Jungle Book

Image copyright The Walt Disney Company

As we get into the heart of summer-blockbuster season, let’s reflect on the best films of the year so far. While I’m sure we all have our favorites, from general releases to little gems we’ve seen at film festivals, two stand out for me.

My candidate for “Way-Too-Early Best Film of the Year” is Disney’s new take on The Jungle Book (4 stars on my 0-5 scale). True, it doesn’t hold many surprises and the character of Mowgli is a bit weak in both performance and script, but Jon Favreau and his team knock it out of the park in almost all other aspects. It’s visually grand and mature storytelling and a big leap forward in the craft of CGI animation, and it also nicely juggles drama and comedy while working in a couple of musical numbers from the classic 1967 hand-drawn version. (I still rate that movie higher (at 4 ¾ stars), by the way, just for its pure magic, sense of wonder and artistry.)

A vastly different but no less impactful film is Eye in the Sky (4 stars), my admittedly under-the-radar choice for second best. Embracing a Sidney Lumet intimate intensity, Alan Rickman’s final film (also featuring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul and Barkhad Abdi) is riveting from start to finish, if a bit contrived.

It’s worth noting, of course, that many of the best films I have seen – and probably you too – in 2016 are not really 2016 films. They had either a limited release or a festival run in 2015. So my pronouncement of The Jungle Book and Eye in the Sky as best of 2016 is precisely that. I also have quite a bit of catching up to do, so I’m completely willing to admit there are some great 2016 films I haven’t seen yet. (And let me also give a shout-out to The Lobster (4 stars), a 2015 film that is just now getting a limited release in the United States.)

Oh, and for you sticklers for detail – I love you guys – I should point out that Eye in the Sky played the Toronto International Film Festival last year, which means IMDB labels it a 2015 film. But because that was its lone festival appearance last year and it will be eligible for 2016 awards, I’m labeling it a 2016 film (and so do other sources, such as Rotten Tomatoes).

As good as these films are, I’d be surprised if either ended up in my top five, or even my top 10, by the end of December. The year is simply too young and will be filled with greater accomplishments. But for now, you could certainly do worse than the two I’ve mentioned. So see them now, and in the case of The Jungle Book, see it in 3-D.

© 2016 MeierMovies, LLC

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