Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Films 2016

The best part of 2016 was probably buying an Infinity Card for the cinema. So alongside my normal albums of the year, I've decided to do a 'little' round up of my favourite films. Due to the infinity card being bought in August this is gonna be insanely second-half heavy. Shout out to Netflix and Amazon Prime for helping me catch up with a few of the earlier ones!

30. A Street Cat Named Bob (IMDB: 7.4 | Rotten Tomatoes: 76% | Metacritic: 54%)
29. Passengers (7 | 31% | 41%) 
28. Doctor Strange (7.8 | 90% | 72%) 
27. Now You See Me 2 (6.5 | 34% | 46%) 
26. Anthropoid (7.2 | 66% | 59%) 

25. Hush (6.6 | 94% | 67%) 
24. Paterson (7.7 | 96% | 90%) 
23. The Accountant (7.4 | 51% | 51%) 
22. The Light Between the Oceans (7.2 | 59% | 60%) 
21. Ghostbusters (5.4 | 73% | 60%) 

20. Rogue One (8.1 | 85% | 65%) 
Disney's choice to release a Star Wars film every year could easily backfire, but it hasn't yet. The Force Awakens easily trumped anything the prequels offered, and now Rogue One – the first 'spin-off' from the main story – does everything right. Any film that manages to make Canary Wharf tube into an Imperial Base has my backing. K-2SO is potentially the best droid of the series, although maybe I've grown too accustomed to C-3PO and R2-D2, and Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen are great in their supporting actor roles. All topped off with a fairly bold – although perhaps inevitable – ending for what is a 'family film'. If next year's 'The Last Jedi' continues the trend then Disney will be very safe indeed.

19. Wiener-Dog (5.9 | 77% | 66%) 
A series of four disparate stories held together by a single sausage dog who passes from owner to owner. It's a whacky look at the best and worst aspects of humans, though it is admittedly not for everybody; There's an oft-quoted scene of the dog leaving a trail of diarrhoea up the pavement. The opening story probably being my favourite – where the dog is bought for a young cancer-surviving son, although his mother isn't overly impressed with the idea.

18. Zootropolis (8.1 | 98% | 78%) 
One of the highest rated Disney films ever, Zootropolis is arguably pretty much perfect. It is perhaps due to my 'growing out' of traditional Disney storylines that it's not higher up the list. It's actually far more overtly political than many have been, and in that sense it's an incredibly timely offering. The DMV scene with sloths manning the desks is a stroke of genius, and pigeon-holing different animals into the World – finding out who fits where – is one of the most interesting aspects of the movie. Obviously then Officer Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde come along and smash that to pieces, as they should.

17. The Jungle Book (7.5 | 95% | 77%) 
This isn't the first live action Jungle Book film but it is easily the best. If nothing else it shows just how far CGI has come – and basically continues the animal animation standard that 'Life of Pi' set, but several times over. 13 year old Neel Sethi is virtually the only actor in the film, and does a fine job of carrying the story. While arguably unnecessary the voice cast is also unbelievable, and if you don't enjoy Bill Murray singing 'Bare Necessities' or Christopher Walken performing 'I Wan'na Be Like You' then you're dead inside.

16. My Scientology Movie (6.7 | 93% | -) 
It was always going to be a tough ask to make a documentary about one of the most secretive organisations on the planet, but Louis Theroux does a fairly good job. Deliberately going back to something more akin to his 'Weird Weekends' style, though maintaining a slightly more serious tone than was consistent throughout his breakthrough series. What makes this documentary interesting is, in many ways, Scientology's reaction to the making of it. Would it have been the same had farcical conversations such as whether Theroux was allowed to be on a public road not been had? I don't think so, but with the tools at his disposable it's a very solid effort.

15. Café Society (6.7 | 70% | 64%) 
I'm a sucker for a love story, and I'm a sucker for Jesse Eisenberg so unsurprisingly I enjoyed Woody Allen's 30s' comedy-drama. Again Eisenberg acts opposite Kristen Stewart – the pair are basically the awkward Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone – their interplay is one of the best parts of the 90 minutes. In fact the overall storyline is not that different from La La Land; Eisenberg – Bobby Dorfman – runs away to Hollywood, where his dreams of getting away from home fail but he does end up falling in love with Stewart (Veronica Sybil). In the end Dorfman winds up running a club back home in New York, while Sybil morphs into everything she used to detest.

14. Kubo and the Two Strings (7.9 | 97% | 84%) 
There were some great animated films this year, but Kubo shows something different. This isn't your typical Disney or Illumination animation, but a stop-motion masterpiece. Laika haven't got much wrong so far in the decade since their creation. This is their fourth effort, following on from Coraline, ParaNorman, and The Boxtrolls. Kubo has the power to make origami effectively come to life, which proves useful when he has to start travelling, guided only by one of his creations. As with all good children's pictures there are life lessons to be learnt, and he does eventually overcome the obstacles he needs to. I'm amazed but happy that it managed to beat Zootropolis to the Best Animated Film BAFTA but that's the level we're talking here.

13. Don't Breathe (7.2 | 87% | 71%) 
I'm not sure why but I went into the cinema assuming this was some sort of sci-fi horror film, and while the latter is true it is rooted firmly in the real world. A group of three 'friends' break into other people's homes to earn a bit of extra money; then they get a tip that a blind veteran has a large chunk of cash lying around. Obviously, 'taking candy from a baby' doesn't end up being the case, and the trio struggle to escape. The blind man – brilliantly portrayed by Stephen Lang – allows for slight alterations to the normal horror tropes, being seen isn't the problem here. In many aspects it's the inverse film to Hush. I'm not expert in horror, but I enjoyed it.

12. I, Daniel Blake (8 | 93% | 78%) 
Ken Loach couldn't have made this film at any other point, and that should be obvious just from its plot; A scathing attack on how the benefits system is stacked against those that it should be trying to help. In many ways it's all about Loach; it's his vision. He's been vocal in his criticism of the Government, not least as he picked up a BAFTA. Dave Johns and Hayley Squires bring a realism that a bigger name cast wouldn't have, and they play their roles to perfection. The plot is obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less poignant. The best pure-political film of the year.

11. Nerve (6.6 | 66% | 58%) 
I am under no illusions that 'Nerve' is probably higher on this list than it deserves to be, but the chemistry between Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, combined with the premise of an app where you get paid for partaking in dares is captivating. I like the internet, okay? Yes the ending where it turns out social media is ruining everybody's lives is a bit clichéd, but it's the only bit it really gets wrong. It's a solid easy-watch that actually could have hit even higher heights. The only real issue I have is that the premise the whole film is based on – that Roberts isn't 'someone's type'  is difficult for me to grasp.

10. Swiss Army Man (7.1 | 69% | 64%) 
Picturehouse Entertainment seem to pick up some of the more interesting films – The Lobster, The Greasy Strangler, and Swiss Army Man. Daniel Radcliffe plays a reanimated corpse who helps Paul Dano get home after he was stranded on a desert island, while Andy Hull – who actually gets a cameo – and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra put their unique sound over the top. It's ridiculous. I adore it. I literally can't explain it any further.

09. Under the Shadow (7 | 98% | 84%) 
Horror films have never been a particular love of mine ever since having to turn off '28 Days Later' about forty seconds in during my younger years but 'Under the Shadow' doesn't get you straight away, it builds and ramps up tension over time until you feel distinctly uncomfortable. Narges Rashidi plays the lead, as her husband is called into the army and leaves her alone in their apartment with their daughter, Dorsa. Slowly she feels ever more under attack from supernatural djinn, becoming convinced that a boy Dorsa has befriended is causing them ill fortune. It also has the best jump scare of the year which had some incredible reactions in the cinema. 

08. Deadpool (8.1 | 84% | 65%) 
Something needed to change with superhero films; the formula of origin story, concluding with some form of portal in the sky while throwing round a couple of jokes and ultimately everything being okay was getting a little stale. Alright, maybe Deadpool doesn't change much other than the certificate (and thankfully forgoes on the portal). Either way it does manage to freshen things up, constantly breaking the fourth wall and upping the language. The film is, and has always, been about Ryan Reynolds – and if you need any confirmation of that director Tim Miller decided not to work on the sequel after 'creative differences' with the Canadian – but that's what makes it.

07. The Big Short (7.8 | 88% | 81%) 
There aren't many films that are less interesting on the surface than a film about an economic collapse, especially when you already know the ending, but The Big Short is a masterpiece in assembling an acting cast. Steve Carell continues his transition into 'serious actor' alongside Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, and Brad Pitt. Basically it's an unreal cast. Especially when you consider the additional cameos from Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, and the slightly less glamourous Anthony Bourdain (sorry Anthony). The film wrestles between the banks and those trying to outsmart them, and the idea that these people are getting very rich – you know they're getting very rich from the beginning – off the misfortune of others.

06. Hell or High Water (7.7 | 98% | 88%) 
Two brothers – Chris Pine and Ben Foster – start committing bank robberies in an attempt to save their family ranch, but Texas Rangers, Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham, attempt to stop them. Better film critics would be able to explain the extra degree of complexity that the story employs but I am just a humble blogger than few people read. The majority of the film is fairly light hearted, but that does change as we get to the crux of things. In many ways the two duos are almost completely separate, and they both play off the other perfectly.

05. Spotlight (8.1 | 96% | 93%) 
Alongside The Big Short I think Spotlight is one of the best ensemble cast performances I've seen. Everybody from Billy Crudup to Mark Ruffalo pull their weight in this recreation of The Boston Globe's investigation into child sex abuse by priests. My favourite performance has to be Liev Schreiber's portrayal of editor Marty Baron; the soft, steely, calculating Baron is such a different role than I tend to see him in. I think its win in both Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at The Oscars shows you everything you need to know.

04. Arrival (8.1 | 94% | 81%) 
Not every film goes on to gross $200m and still seem to go somewhat under the radar but that's exactly what Arrival has managed to do. Another feature driven almost entirely by Amy Adams, with a decent shout out to Jeremy Renner. Allegedly the entire ending of the film had to change after Interstellar was released due to their similarities, but I think it's a good thing it had to. The building of some kind of ship – the original plan – seems to lack the complexity that the film gets right. It also allows for storylines that wouldn't have been possible without the gift that Abbott and Costello (along with several other pods) bring.

03. Nocturnal Animals (7.6 | 73% | 67%) 
The film may open with unnecessary, deliberately-grotesque portraits of large, naked women reminiscent of David Lynch but from then on it doesn't put a foot wrong. Amy Adams is, again, flawless in her role, but the best performances are reserved for Jake Gyllenhaal – who plays Adams' vindictive ex-boyfriend, Edward Sheffield, determined to get revenge for a multitude of wrongs – and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who portrays Sheffield's in-story murderer. The symbolism may be obvious, and the sleek style may not be to everybody's taste considering some of the film's content, but if that doesn't bother you, you'll love it.

02. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (7.9 | 97% | 81%) 
Sam Neil reluctantly decides to foster Julian Dennison after being convinced by his wife, but when the two of them get stuck out in the New Zealand wilderness he's forced to rely on his newly adopted son and the two end up bonding, sort of. It's hilarious, and it utilises some of the most beautiful scenery in the World. Plus to top it all off it's got that fella from Jurassic Park, what's not to love?

01. Captain Fantastic (7.9 | 83% | 72%) 
Not a single film this year has come close to the elation I felt watching Viggo Mortensen attempt to keep his children away from the poisoning influence of typical modern life. Upon his wife's death he and his children – all six of them – travel across America to attend her funeral, where her in-laws are vehemently against his way of raising of them. It's beautiful, it's poignant, and it's not at all deserving of The Guardian's one star review. 

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