So we’re starting to approach the final few lists and now we’re looking at films where whilst I don’t quite reach the stage of being full of praise, I’m starting to only let minor things stop them from being further up the list as, whilst there are a lot of very bad films out this year, there were also many good ones.
So in this list we’re going to start with a film from New Zealand, but there are also two Michael Fassbender movies, two Jennifer Lawrnece films, and two with very complex moral issues.
Cast : Sam Neill, Julian Dennison, Rachel House, Oscar Kightly and Rima Te Wiata
Plot : Ricky (Dennison) is a troubled youth and after several failed foster families, he is eventually taken to live with Bella (Wiata) and Hec (Neill). Bella tries her best to make Ricky feel at home, but he consistently tries to escape, especially after she unexpectedly dies, meaning that he would have to increase his already strained relationship with Hec.
Hec easily finds him in the nearby woods, but he soon gets badly injured and the pair must live in the woods for several months, but the child welfare officer (House) believes that they’ve run off together and a national hunt for the pair starts.
Why in this position? : On the face of it “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” looks like a great feel-good movie, the scenery looks fantastic (as do all films that are films in New Zealand) and there seems to be genuine comedy throughout the run time, but unfortunately appearances and reality are very different in this case.
Whilst “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” works on some levels, such as the comedy (which is great at times), there is very little substance included and I don’t really care about the characters. Hector is just bland, and if Ricky showed a single emotion during the film then I would be more inclined to like this, but unfortunately he does not, and whilst it doesn’t necessarily make the film unlikable, it’s certainly not a great use to 90 or so minutes of my time.
It was never even in the slightest danger of falling into my Bottom 10 for the year, but it never even slightly touched the “Good” list, infact, when I saw it I was somewhere in the 60-70 range of the number of films I’d seen this year, and the highest it ever got on my list was number 32.
Cast : Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba and Sofia Boutella
Plot : Kirk (Pine) is feeling very lethargic and uninspired travelling space endlessly, and he has secretly applied for a more senior position at the Yorktown starbase. Spock (Quinto) on the other hand is just out of a relationship with Uhura (Saldana), and he soon hears about the death of the Spock who came from an alternative universe. He too is thinking of leaving and resuming the other Spock’s work.
One day an escape pod comes to the station and it’s sole occupant claims to be from an ship that is stranded inside a nearby nebula. The Enterprise enters to mount a rescue, but they are soon overwhelmed by a mass of ships, and it is eventually overrun by the alien race that are run by Krall (Elba). The entire crew become stranded on the nearby planet, but it could be a fellow victim of Krall, Jaylah (Boutella), that will prove to be the turning point?
Why in this position? : I love Star Trek, have done since I was a child, but I never actually watched the original series and therefore it took me by surprise how much I enjoyed the reboot film in 2009. It is to date one of my favourite films, and the follow up, Into Darkness, is a reasonable effort, and I half hoped that this would round off a very reasonable trilogy, but it did not.
STB is a science fiction film that if it was a stand alone film then it would be an ok-ish, little sci-fi film, but the problem is that it isn’t stand alone and therefore it can’t be treated as such, and that’s where the problem comes in. When comparing to the first two in the new trilogy it doesn’t even come close, and for lack of better words, it gets a bit boring.
There are a lot of characters that just don’t really do anything, they’re just sort of there. Even the main characters feel very underutilised and although this was one of a very small handful that I saw twice at the cinema during the year, it has the unfortunate distinction of being the only one that I fell asleep during.
Unfortunately this was a poor way to end an otherwise nice trilogy.
38) Florence Foster Jenkins
Cast : Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant, Simon Helberg and Rebecca Ferguson
Plot : Florence (Streep) is an aspiring singer that is loved by her social group. She has dreams of singing at Carnegie Hall as it not only fulfils her ambitions, but also helps her forget that she and husband, St. Clair (Grant), can’t have children. St. Clair meanwhile is having an affair with Kathleen (Ferguson).
To achieve her dream, Florence convinces St. Clair to hire a pianist for her, and they settle on the enthusiastic Cosme (Helberg), but little does he know what he has got himself in for as it soon becomes apparent that not only can Florence not sing, but she could infact be one of the worst singers ever.
Why in this position? This movie has some absolutely genius moments and I love that it keeps teasing you how bad Florence’s singing is, but when it starts you can’t quite believe it. How Streep didn’t burst out laughing when doing the scene in which her singing voice is revealed is quite astonishing, and I think Simon Helberg’s reaction says it all. I was in hysterics during that scene. It is ingenius.
The performances from all of the cast, including the minor characters, are fantastic, and none of them really put a foot wrong at all during the movie.
The only minor problem with “Florence Foster Jenkins” is that outside of the singing scenes, the film is a little lifeless and dull, even if you somewhat feel for the character of Florence because of how tragically she is portrayed. It’s basically a film about chasing your dreams, even if you think that you’ve lost everything else.
Cast : James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Oscar Isaacs, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tye Sheridan, Sophia Turner and Evan Peters
Plot : Several millennia ago a God-like being called En Sabah Nur (Isaacs) is betrayed by his worshippers, although he is preserved by his dedicated servants. He eventually awakens again in 1983 and sets about getting to know what the world has become, and his becomes decidedly unimpressed. He soon starts recruiting more dedicated servants, eventually seducing Erik (Fassbender), who had renounced his life as Magneto and settled down in Poland before being discovered.
Meanwhile, in America, Charles Xavier (McAvoy) is continuing to run his successful school for mutants, but even he is surprised to see Raven (Lawrence) return. Eventually all those at the school become aware of En’s increasing powers, but using cerebro proves to be a mistake as it allows the God-like being to realise that he can take over Charles’ body, meaning that he’d be able to control everyone in the world.
Why in this position? Two years ago “X Men : Days of Future Past” featured in my top five, but this was never really in with a shot of achieving the same as it definitely isn’t anywhere near as good. DOFP was a fun romp that have an enemy that you could potentially see winning, which is very rare for comic book films.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it as much as a lot of others seem to, and at points it is the same level of fun as the previous two films since the series rebooted a few years ago. There is a far darker tone in this movie than the other two, but this film lacks the intrigue of “First Class” and the scale of destruction that “Days of Future Past” had.
The characterisation is much poorer, with some characters being there without having that much to do. For example, characters such as Psylocke are not given any characterisation whatsoever. She is just there for the sake of giving the antagonist some bodies to surround himself with. The character is completely replaceable and doesn’t really do a single thing through the entire movie, and it’s the same with Angel, Peter and to a lesser extent, Mystique.
Cast : Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Joe Cole, Callum Turner, Macon Blair and Mark Webber
Plot : Punk rock band “Ain’t Rights” are desperate to break into the big time and because of this they accept a gig at a local bar. They arrive to discover that it is a neo-Nazi bar and they immediately start antagonising their hosts by singing “Nazi Punks Fuck Off”. Despite this, the neo-Nazis really like the band and they go off to thunderous applause, but things soon turn sour when Pat (Yelchin) returns to the green room and witnesses a murder scene. The rest of the band soon join him and are held hostage by Gabe (Blair) and Justin (Eric Edelstein).
The big boss, a man called Darcy (Stewart) soon arrives and the band start negotiating with him, but it becomes obvious that if they leave the room then they will be killed, especially as a few members of the band are easily offed.
Why in this position? This film is interesting for a few reasons, not only is it one of the few films released with an 18 rating in the UK this calendar year, it was also the last film to star Anton Yelchin’s that was released before his death, and it’s also very unusually got Patrick Stewart as an antagonist, something which I’ve never seen before.
“Green Room” is unapologetically violent and you feel that the threat on their lives in very genuine. The feeling that any character can die at any time is refreshing, and something that doesn’t feel natural in a lot of other movies. Yelchin is also fantastically dark, far more so than I had ever see, and Patrick Stewart is remarkably creepy.
That being said, this didn’t grip me as much as I had hoped. It’s not bad by stretch of the imagination, but there was definitely something lacking throughout that I can’t put my finger on, and did I enjoy is as much as the 35 films that I’ve placed above it on this list? No, not really.
Cast : Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johnsson, Sebastian Shaw, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Daniel Bruhl, Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Don Cheadle
Plot : Following on from a mission that results in the death of several civilians, the governments of the world agree to a set of guidelines for enhanced-humans, something that Tony (Downey Jr) agrees to, as well as several other Avengers, but the problem is that Steve (Evans) and the rest of the group are very much against it. It also doesn’t help that Steve’s long time friend, Bucky (Stan) is accused of killing several people, including the king of Wakanda.
Meanwhile, a former Sokovian colonol named Zemo (Bruhl) is desperately searching for information relating to Bucky and the winter soldier program, and he uses the continuing in-fighting of the Avengers to his advantage.
Why in this position? : Let’s be realistic, this is an Avengers movie, not a Captain America film. Everything about it is more Avengers than an individual character movie, and it definitely feels closer to the two Avengers movies than the previous two Captain America films. This isn’t helped by the very formulaic nature of the film and it’s rather predictable nature.
Don’t get me wrong, the MCU knows how to get you invested in their films and whilst I won’t claim to be a massive fan of most of them (let’s not forget that “Ant Man” was in my bottom four last year), I go and watch all of them. You can tell what is coming when, and the humour started to wear a bit thin. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t just an issue that I found with “Civil War”, but rather the whole Marvel franchise, and the only truly fresh one I’ve found in recent years is “Guardians of the Galaxy”.
That’s not to say that it’s not enjoyable, because whilst it is predictable, it’s definitely not boring, and is the best film based on a comic book this year. Not that that is saying a lot as I didn’t enjoy the majority of the others.
To be honest, this would be a lot lower had it not been for one deciding factor. The one major issue with the Marvel Cinematic Universe is that the main antagonist is usually poorly built and the threat never seems genuine, other than maybe Loki, but that changed with this as, whilst not a physical threat, Zemo, who is portrayed excellently by the ever-reliable Daniel Bruhl, is more than a match mentally, and spin it however you want, he achieves what he set out to do, something that not a single other antagonist in the MCU has done yet. Well played, Zemo.
Cast : Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna, Michael Parks and William H. Macy
Plot : Erin (Moriarty) runs away from the gang of her boyfriend, Jonah (Luna), after shooting him. The only choose she seems to have is contacting John (Gibson), her estranged, ex-alcoholic father who is trying to live a normal life after spending time in prison. He is initially delighted to see her for the first time in many years, but becomes less impressed when he realises that she is a drug and alcohol addict.
One night his home is surrounded by Jonah’s gang, who reverse to believe that she isn’t in there and subsequently destroy it. The gang is eventually hounded off by John’s neighbours, lead by Kirby (Macy). John decides that the best chance his daughter has to live is to go on the run, but it turns out that Jonah might not be as dead as people believe.
Why in this position? In many ways Gibson was the perfect actor to portray John as, much like the character, he is seeking redemption after a torrid past, and if nothing else, Gibson proves that he is still capable of being one of the better actors in the world. He is great in the role of John.
“Blood Father” was a nice surprise during the year given that I wasn’t expecting that much from it, but I genuinely enjoyed it. It flows quite well, it is visually excellent, and Diego Luna is far more interesting in this than he was in “Rogue One”.
There’s not too much I can say about this film in the negative sense, other than that is a bit slow at times. Just watch it.
Cast : Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Anna Geislerova, Charlotte Le Bon, Harry Lloyd and Toby Jones
Plot : Jozef (Murphy) and Jan (Dornan) are agents sent from the exiled Czechoslovak government to their homeland during World War II. Jozef suffers a badly injured foot during the landing, but they do eventually find their contact, another man named Jan (Jones). He informs them that they are to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the Nazi forces in Czechoslovakia, a mission referred to as “Anthropoid”.
The pair go around the city with the help of Marie (Le Bon) and Lenka (Geislerova), but after careful planning the execution doesn’t go smoothly, even though it proves successful. Due to the failure to do it cleanly, the Nazis close in and it becomes a fight for survival for everyone involved.
Why in this position? I am a big Cillian Murphy fan and have yet to see a film with him that I didn’t like (although there are a few that go near to that area) and so I was keen to watch this for more than a month that it was on at a cinema near Piccadilly Circus. I’m not going to lie, for the first half an hour I was kind of bored, then that changed.
I think the one thing that a lot of people forget about the Nazis is how much of an unstoppable force they were during the early days, and this film portrays that so vividly as the last forty or so minutes are exceptionally tense as they hunt down the main characters, and gradually ever possible escape route gets shut down.
The final forty or so minutes is better on it’s own than a lot of full length films that came out this year.
Cast : Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz and Florence Clery
Plot : War veteran Tom (Fassbender) takes a temporary role as the lighthouse keeper at Janus, and on his visits to the mainland he starts a relationship with Isabel (Vikander). He eventually convinces her to live with him on Janus after he is offered the role permanently, and the two marry.
Isabel suffers two miscarriages and becomes distraught, but one day she and Tom notice something in the water, and it turns out to be a young baby and her dead father. Tom believes that he should fulfil his duty and report it, but Isabel convinces him to pretend to everyone that they finally successfully had a baby. They name the baby Lucy (several actresses, lastly Clery). It’s not until they return to the mainland and meet the baby’s actual mother, Hannah (Weisz) that Tom can no longer keep it quiet and leaves clues as to the true fate of the baby.
Why in this position? : One of the most morally complex, character driven films of the year, “The Light Between Oceans” gives you a great insight into the depths that desperate people will go to in order to find happiness, and the thing is that despite doing a horrible thing, you’d never consider Isabel a horrible person at all, she just wants to be a mother so badly, and you can forgive her for jumping on the opportunity.
It’s hard to really not side with either Tom or Isabel, especially in the latter part of the film, but the thing is that you can’t class Hannah as a character either and she is arguably the true victim in the whole thing as she thought she’d lost a daughter, only to then have to try and re-adapt to the situation when she finds out that her daughter is actually alive.
The film is beautifully shot, but the issue with it is, and the reason it’s not higher on this list is that is is dreadfully slow in places. Had there been more happening then there is a chance that this could have broken into the top ten.
Cast : Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen and Lawrence Fishburne
Plot : Over 5,000 people are making the trip to a new planet when the autopilot decides to go through an asteroid field. Whilst most systems are fine, one life support pod loses power and awakens it’s occupier, Jim Preston (Pratt), ninety years before the end of the journey, and he can’t get it working again. Befriending the android bartender (Sheen), Preston spends more than a year on his own before looking at who else was travelling with him, seeing a woman named Aurora (Lawrence).
Jim starts pondering if he can spend the rest of his life alone, or whether he should effectively kill Aurora by waking her up, forcing her to spend the rest of her life travelling through space. He weighs up the options before eventually deciding to wake her up. Jim tells her that there was a malfunction in her pod and that is why she has woken up, but the gamble pays off and she falls in love with him, but trouble arises when the bartender tells Aurora that Jim purposefully woke her up.
Why in this position? : You would think that a film with arguably the most popular actress and actor working at the moment would create an epic film, but it didn’t feel like that. There are points that saw this film feel very, very slow, maybe not so much as “The Light Between Oceans” because there is a subplot that goes out throughout the entire film.
The acting by everyone concerned is fine, even though Laurence Fishburne’s character is completely inconsequential and largely irrelevant to the story, but for me it is actually Michael Sheen that shines the most in this film as he is as effortlessly charming as ever. Other than that the acting feels fairly generic from everyone, except for the ten or so minutes immediately following Aurora’s discovery of Jim being the one who woke her, in which Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic.
That leads me onto my favourite aspect to the film, the moral complexity as it is a very question that is asked, in other words, just how far would you go to stop being lonely. Whilst you get the feeling that the characters in “The Light Between Oceans” would eventually mentally recover from their loss and move on, you don’t get that feeling with Jim. He is bordering on being suicidal once he realises that he is never going to be alive off of the ship again, but is that enough to really warrant waking someone else up for that to share the same fact, just to stop you being lonely. It’s a case of doing the wrong thing but for the right reason.