Seven films from 2016 you likely missed and should watch right now
There's a pretty good chance you missed all of these titles that came out last year, and the weather forecast calls for stay-home-and-stream:
• "Allied": It seems weird to think of a movie that starred Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as "underrated" but this World War II romantitragedy, very much in a "Casablanca" vein, is the sort of well-made, big-emotion drama that, just a few years ago, would have been a smash hit and a sure thing at the Oscars.
Its right-before-Thanksgiving date might have been the problem, since that's also when moviegoers started falling in love with "Moana," And sad stories, never an easy sell, may not have been what audiences were looking for in November. But I bet they'd have loved it.
Already making the rounds of bargain theaters, its big scale probably plays best on the screen but keep your eyes peeled for its video release this winter.
• "The Lady in the Van": Why didn't the folks who still are wearing black armbands for "Downton Abbey" flock to see Maggie Smith's plum role in this fact-based comedy/drama?
It's a mystery because she is outstanding as a homeless woman, haunted by tragedy, who moves her van into the driveway of playwright Alan Bennett's London home and ends up staying there for 15 years.
There are lots of recognizable faces in the supporting cast, including a quick appearance by James Corden, but Smith's feisty, tender performance takes center stage.
• "Kubo and the Two Strings": The stop-motion-animated movie was a modest success in August, but the tale of an orphaned Japanese lad on an epic quest deserved better. (I blame its middling performance on the monkey that looks creepy in the trailer but turns out to be a charming character.)
Not only are its visuals stunning, particularly a scene lit by thousands of tiny Japanese lanterns, but its story of families and forgiveness is a tear-jerking beauty.
• "Maggie's Plan": Julianne Moore gives the funniest performance of last year in this contemporary farce.
She plays a Danish scholar who seems to have no sense of humor whatsoever, so her deadpan reactions to the madness that surrounds her are hilarious.
The main event is that her husband (Ethan Hawke) dumps her for the determined title character (Greta Gerwig), who is absolutely positive that she knows what's best for everyone and who is invariably wrong.
• "Morris From America": Fans of "The Office" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" know how funny Craig Robinson is, but the surprise of "Morris" is what a fine dramatic actor he is.
He plays a single dad, raising his son in Germany. Markees Christmas is also great as Morris, who is puzzled by Germans, adolescence and his grieving but supportive father.
• "The Nice Guys": Here's another one that didn't want for big names; it stars Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as mismatched private eyes (Gosling is borderline incompetent, Crowe is a bully) who team to investigate the disappearance of a young woman in modern-day Los Angeles.
Writer/director Shane Black's dialogue is precise and weird and the comedy/mystery is full of surprises. The film is highlighted by Gosling's riotously game performance, as demonstrated by his handling of a bathroom stall door in the trailer.
• "Sing Street": Audiences went nuts for John Carney's Oscar-winning musical, "Once," which was also adapted into a Tony-winning stage show. But he let them down with the wan retread, "Begin Again."
Maybe that's why they were skeptical of his third musical, "Sing Street," a tale of young musicians in love that zipped in and out of theaters without much notice last summer?
Too bad, because it's nearly as good as "Once" and its setting, the underground music scene of Dublin, will be very familiar to fans of that movie.