Saturday 31 December 2016

Top 20 Movies of 2016

Top 20 Movies of 2016

Okay... so here we go with the annual, scary to put together list of the best movies of the year. Despite popular opinion, I don’t think it’s been a bad year for movies and my cinema visits seemed a little more frequent than usual as a result. Perhaps my biggest disappointment of the year is the fact that we had both a new Star Trek and a new Star Wars movie and neither of them were good enough to make it into my list. And nobody is more upset about that than me, I reckon. Still, without further ado, here’s my list for this year in reverse order. Hope you like...

20. Mermaid (aka Mei Ren Yu) 3D
Directed by Stephen Chow, this large budget comedy telling a charmingly small moral fable is more hit than miss and it’s one of the more unusual movies to be released at British cinemas this year. My full review can be found here...

19. Green Room
This taut, gritty and harrowing drama about a bunch of musicians trapped in a nightclub is made even more poignant in light of the death of one of its leading actors, Anton Yelchin (who played Pavel Chekhov in the last three Star Trek movies). Another long term Star Trek stalwart, Patrick Stewart, appears here in a role in which he manages to be absolutely downright villanous. Not a movie I could sit through again but that’s no reason not to proclaim it one of the best of 2016. My review is here.

18. The Nice Guys
Funky, 1970s set action thriller/comedy written and directed by one of the great screenplay writers in Hollywood, Shane Black. The music by John Ottman and David Buckley alone is worth looking at this one for. My review here.

17. Doctor Strange
The second best of the many superhero movies released this year sees Benedict Cumberbatch breath life into the quirky, psychedelic 1960s Marvel character that the movie is based on. He’s well supported by the always watchable Tilda Swinton and the always listenable Michael Giacchino. My review can be found here...

16. Train To Busan
In a year perhaps less likely than some, we have three first class zombie movies coming along at once. The first of my picks in this category which make it into my list is the darling of the FrightFest, Train To Busan... which is about as good a ‘zombies on a train’ movie as you’re likely to see. My review can be unearthed here.

15. Women Who Kill
This witty and acerbic comedy with an edge is all about two ex-lovers who put out a radio show about their favourite female serial killers and the depths their obsession with these kinds of people takes one of them. I really hope that this gets some kind of Blu Ray or DVD release over here because I think more people should know about this one than they do. My review can be found here...

14. Respectable - The Mary Millington Story
Simon Sheridan’s documentary about the life and tragic death of Britains most famous porn star was more or less, apart from the odd one off showing, a straight to DVD movie over here. This is a shame because it well deserved a proper cinema release, as far as I’m concerned. My review of this one is here.

13. Sadako VS Kayako
This is what happens when a company jokes about making a movie combining the main monsters from their Ring and The Grudge franchises and the Japanese public buy into this bizarre idea so much that it’s decided to make the movie for real, after all. This is a cheesy but very fun take on the two franchises all rolled up into one outrageous confection. I just hope it can get some distribution either here or in the US sometime soon. My review here.

12. Paterson
What can you say about Jim Jarmusch? Still very much an independent spirit and still churning out non-commercial films which he somehow manages to get financed. One of the great artists of American cinema and this is another movie that demonstrates why. My review of this one can be found here.

11. The Conjuring 2 - The Enfield Case
Although this is not the masterpiece that the original The Conjuring was, this movie still has a certain charm to it... not least in the personalities of the two, true life protagonists and the actors who bring them to life. This one is set not too far from where I live so I was really chomping at the bit to see this (especially since the first movie is so wonderful). This one manages to link the famous tale of the Enfield poltergeist to the events surrounding The Amityville Horror... which I don’t believe for a second but it’s a nice little movie. My review is here...

10. 10 Cloverfield Lane
This claustrophobic tale of a serial killer and two potential victims under lock down dovetails into the same cinematic universe as the original Cloverfield... both as the thing the writer uses to set up the scenario of the main movie with and then, big time, for the last quarter of an hour or so of the story. This one is all about the performances and the way the director shoots the small environment in which the majority of the tale takes place. My review is right here...

9. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Wasn’t expecting this potentially one joke wonder of a novel (which I’ve not read) to be the basis of such a strong movie but this one is a real joy to watch. It’s smart and it has a lot of fun with the parallel world created by the cast and crew. Well worth a look and the second of this year’s three unexpected zombie entries on the list. My review here.

8. Zoology (ala Zoologiya)
It’s to be seen as to whether this Russian/French/German production about a woman who grows a tail and loses her inhibitions art the same time will get a proper release in English speaking countries but, if it does come out next year and you get the opportunity to see it... just go. My review is here...

7. Spotlight
Again, true this story about the investigative efforts of a small team of journalists is probably not something I could watch that often... but it is a quality production to rival some of the greats of that genre such as All The President’s Men. It would be tempting to overplay the subject matter and make it a much more syrupy production than is necessary but, luckily, the writer and director steer clear of going down that route. My review is here.

6. Deadpool
Probably the most popular superhero movie made in a long time, Deadpool, like the comic it’s based on, breaks the fourth wall continuously and still manages to let the audience feel comfortable with it dropping itself into the main cinematic X-Men timelines (which, to be fair, are so screwed up and out of any serious continuity with each other that it hardly matters at this point). My review of this gem of a masked vigilante movie can be found here.

5. I, Daniel Blake
This completely depressing and genuinely moving film is, if anything, a little more glossy and glam in its portrayal of the kinds of poverty and injustice I have seen going on in this country. That being said, this one really drives all its points home and, if the ending is just a little bit of a cliché, you can only forgive it that indulgence in the light of the kind of everyday tragedies it’s talking about. My review of this one is here.

4. The VVitch
This movie had the most bizarre and abusive audience reaction I’ve ever seen... with people laughing and shouting back at the screen or leaving in droves throughout. And my understanding is that this audience interaction with the film was far from an isolated incident. Either way, I kinda loved the slow burn and the very rewarding ending to the movie and I think this one will get the odd revisit by me over the years to come. Here’s my review.

3. Hail, Caesar!
I don’t know why this one seemed to fail with audiences, from what I can gather, but I think this is one of The Coen Brother’s greatest movies... right up there with The Big Lebowski and The Man Who Wasn’t There. It’s absolutely wonderful for people who are into the history of American cinema and... well if you’re reading this blog then that must include you, right? My review of this gem is here.

2. Prevenge
Alice Lowe wrote, starred in and directed this black comedy about a woman driven to serial murder on the instructions of her unborn child while she was, herself, pregnant. Which is surely no mean feat. It’s a bit of a masterpiece and I really hope this gets a proper cinema and home video release (so I can repeat watch the thing) sometime very soon. My review is here.

1. The Girl With All The Gifts
And so, against all the odds, a low budget zombie movie takes my top spot of the films of the year. This isn’t just any zombie movie, however. It’s British made and it manages to be genuinely suspenseful for what is, essentially, a post-apocalyptic road movie. It also manages to have an unexpected story arc to fulfil before the movie is done with and it honestly feels like what would have happened if somebody had asked the late British science fiction writer John Wyndham to have a crack at writing a zombie novel. There’s a little more to this evocative concoction than you may, at first, suspect or realise. My review of this gift of a movie is here.

And that’s me done with this for another year. In a couple of weeks, when I’ve finished evaluating the contenders, I’ll post my favourite movie score releases of the year. Some of these may overlap with this list and... well... I suspect some of them really won’t. So maybe come back and have a read of that at some point. In the meantime, it’s still not quite too late to enter my annual, cryptic movie quiz (just click here) and there’ll be some more reviews coming soon.

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