So it’s time for the penultimate list and a look at those films that came ever so close to making it into my Top Ten for the year. Pretty much every film on this list spent time in my top ten at some point during the year, and there is a film that was arguably the biggest surprise of the year for me.
So here we go, the best horror film of the year, a decent Dave Franco movie, the movie that finally won Leo an Oscar, and several films that I’ve already reviewed for this site.
Cast : Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Dennis Quaid, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, Stacy Keach, David Lyons and Bruce Greenwood
Plot : In 2004 and Mary Mapes (Blanchett) becomes aware of a series of documents that call into doubt George W. Bush’s tenure in the US Army, a key part of the upcoming election campaign. The documents alledge that despite claims to the contrary, Bush’s was regularly AWOL from training and when he did eventually show up, he was quickly transferred to the Texas National Guard, a favourable move. Mary hires Mike (Grace), Roger (Quaid) and Lucy (Moss) to help her investigations.
The team uses numerous other sources that back up the cover up and they get numerous witnesses stating on camera that everything is accurate. The team eventually put out a CBS 60 Minutes news piece, hosted by legendary news anchor Dan Mather (Redford). The documentary is initially deemed a success. But it isn’t long before the pro-Bush audience members start pointing out flaws, and a vicious hate company starts against the entire team.
Why in this position : I’m going to keep this relatively brief due to the fact that I’ve already reviewed this for the site in the past. “Truth” was a film that I had never heard of before the cinema I was working in at the time released it, but it wasn’t right until the end of the year that I decided it wasn’t quite in the league of the other films that were up there, and that’s why it’s here.
“Truth” is subtlely gripping throughout and it doesn’t force itself down your thrown. You feel yourself getting emotionally drawn into the story, and whilst I have nothing personally against George W. Bush, but the film does bring you into the world of why some don’t like him, and others were fanatical about him, and how that goes too far, because the way the characters are treated in this film is disgusting.
Anyway, as I say, I’ve already reviewed this so I will leave this here.
Cast : Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor, Noah Emmerich and Rodrigo Santoro
Plot : Several years ago Bill (Emmerich) abandoned the gang of John Bishop (McGregor) in order to marry Jane (Portman), but Bishop believes that she belongs to him, and thus seeks revenge. He manages to badly injure Bill several years later, and this is evidence that they know where he and Jane now live, meaning that Jane must defend their home and her husband.
To do that she will need some help and she decides to ask ex-lover Dan (Edgerton), although the two share a bitter recent history and whilst he eventually agrees to help, it’s far from an easy situation for those involved.
Why in this position? I’ve mentioned many times that I really like character driven films and this is definitely one of those. It is far from an action packed film, even if the last twenty or so minutes is very violent indeed. Instead the film, rightfully, decides to dedicate the 98 minute run time to actually developing the characters correctly.
I’m not going to sit here and claim that this is a riveting film, and it certainly wasn’t very popular at the box office, being one of the biggest flops of the year, but I enjoyed it and I can forgive slow films for the most part if they are well developed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not been able to watch it all of the way through again since, falling asleep each time (to be fair it was 2/3am at the time).
I really like how the history of the characters isn’t revealed all at once, and it takes some time for Jane to be redeemed for something relatively innocent. I won’t reveal why Dan dislikes Jane, but you can definitely see it from Jane’s
And one thing I have to mention is that in a year in which characters such as Jyn (Rogue One) and a few others were praised for strong, female characters, Jane is one of the strongest portrayals of women in recent years. I don’t often comment on that sort of thing, never infact, but I figured it was worth mentioning, as is that I also realised midway through that it is also contains three actors that appear in two of the Star Wars prequels, with Portman, Edgerton and McGregor all featuring in both “Attack of the Clones” and “Revenge of the Sith”. I know that isn’t a massively important, or even interesting fact, but was certainly unusual.
Cast : Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter and Forrest Goodluck
Plot : Hunting for animal pelts in the wild, a group of men lead by Andrew Henry (Gleeson) are attacked by a group of Native Americans searching for the daughter of the head of their tribe. Realising that they won’t be able to carry them back to the base, the group decides to bury the pelts, much to the annoyance of Fitzgerald (Hardy), who also regularly antagonises the group’s navigator, Hugh Glass (DiCaprio). One day Glass is attacked by a bear and is seemingly fatally injured, and Henry offers $300 to anyone who will stay with Glass until sufficient help can be brought back, an offer that Fitzgerald, Bridger (Poulter) and Glass’s son Hawk (Goodluck) accept.
Fitzgerald has virtually no intention of staying around and talks Glass into letting him kill him, but Hawk sees the assisted suicide whilst not realising what is happening. Fitzgerald kills him in front of Glass, and convinces Bridger (who wasn’t present during the tussle) to help him bury Glass so that they can go home. Glass does eventually become able to move again and sets about making it back to the camp so that he can kill Fitzgerald, putting his body through hell to do so.
Why in this position? “The Revenant” is probably the only film released this year that will probably still be talked about in fifty or sixty years. This isn’t just a film, it’s a work of cinema. Alejandro Inarritu has achieved an exceptional film that is beautiful to look at, and the cinematography is comfortably the best of any film that came out this year. The use of natural light is exceptional, and the location scout, whoever it was, deserves an award of some variety.
As well as the visuals, the characterisation is exceptional, which is remarkable given that there isn’t actually a lot of dialogue in the film. Whilst I can’t find a count of lines of dialogue, or indeed individuals words, but if DiCaprio speaks more than 200 words during the course of the film then I would be astonished. That’s not a bad thing at all, this was always going to be a film where it was more about psychical work than anything else.
So you may be wondering why it’s this relatively low down after that description, it’s because there are several long periods where nothing is really happening. It looks fantastic, the acting is superb and you’re never bored, but there isn’t a lot happening for the most part.
Cast : Samuel L Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Coggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demien Bichir and James Park
Plot : John Ruth (Russell) is taking Daisy (Leigh) to be hanged for numerous crimes, but the weather is coming in and he realises he will need to stay overnight at a haberdashery. On the way he reluctantly picks up Marquis (Jackson) and Chris Mannix (Coggins), a man who claims to be the new sheriff of the town that Ruth is taking Daisy to.
They eventually arrive at the haberdashery and there are several other guests already there, but Ruth is highly suspicious of everyone, and this isn’t helped when people start giving inconsistent answers, or outright refuse to respond to his questions.
Why in this position? From the second longest English language film I saw this year to the longest, “The Hateful Eight” was very different to “The Revenant”, even though both make you feel exceptionally cold. Even when characters are sat next to a raging fire, you feel the cold with them, and Tarantino is great at bringing you into his world through simple effects like that.
As you’d expect from a Tarantino film, there is a lot of well used dialogue, and there isn’t a director out there that is in his league when it comes to using effective, character building dialogue. Even the minor characters are built well, even if it is a bit strange that it’s called the “Hateful Eight” when there are nine characters in the majority of the film.
For me this is Tarantino’s best film since “Pulp Fiction”, and I have watched it a few times since and there is always something new to discover at it, but for me it does also take a long time to get into, and the “who done it” part feels a bit too easily revealed. That being said, the twist at the end is excellent, and although I won’t go into it too much, there is an A-List star that isn’t advertised to appear, so if you do watch it then I’d recommend not reading the full cast before hand. That’s all I’m going to say.
Cast : Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, James Brolin, Juan Pablo Raba, Kate del Castillo, Jacob Vargas, Cote de Pablo and Bob Gunton.
Plot : In 2010 a group of miners went to work in the San Jose mine in Chile. The owner ignores all of the warnings but he is soon horrified as the largest rock in the mountain collapses, trapping 33 men under ground with a limited supply of air, food and water. Mario (Banderas) appoints himself leader of the group, but he struggles to keep morale up as no-one knows for sure if they are going to be rescued.
Meanwhile, several miles away, Laurence Golborne (Santoro) convinces President Piñera (Gunton) to allow him to mount a rescue, but when he gets down there he not only has to deal with the already troublesome situation of how to get the miners out, but also the gathering families outside of the gates and how he rarely has positive news for them.
Why in this position? : Another one that I have actually reviewed before, so I am again going to keep this relatively brief.
This was one of those films where it could have gone one of two days, and I personally found it be very enjoyable and a true test of the human spirit. Like most, I was very interested in the Chilean mine collapse when it occured earlier this decide, and you know the struggles that they went through. For me it does everything right.
The acting is great, especially Rodrigo Santoro, and whilst it was never likely to feature in my top ten, it was always going to get a favourable placing in this list.
Cast : Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer and Juliette Lewis
Plot : Vee (Roberts) becomes aware of a new game called “Nerve” after Sydney (Meade) becomes obsessed with it. It is a mobile app that allows you to win money by completing dares, but if you say no or fail your dare, you lose everything. She decides to give it a go herself. She accepts a few minor bets, one of which is to kiss a complete stranger, which leads her to Ian (Franco), another player.
The two seem linked as everyone wants them to be involved in bets together, including both walking through a store in just their underwear, but eventually they are placed into a bet that means one might not walk away alive.
Why in this position? : If you’d have said to me at the beginning of 2016 that I would have seen 100 films that I would have laughed, and I would have done so even harder had you claimed that a movie with Dave Franco in it would feature in my top fifteen. I have nothing against Dave Franco at all, but I think it’s safe to say that the majority of his films just aren’t that good, but I was prepared to give him a chance with “Nerve” as it looked fairly unique.
I loved this film and if I’m being completely honest, in any other year this could have easily been a top five contender, it’s that much fun. First of all, I love the look of the film. It’s bright and in your face, but also brings you fully into the environment. The visual representation is excellent and in some scenes you almost feel like a character yourself. This is a film that I imagine will look fantastic in Blu Ray.
So, why this low down? Well it’s not a completely original idea, and it feels somewhat similar in many ways to a concept used in the Gerard Butler movie “Gamer”, in which people can be paid to have their bodies controlled, or you can choose to control. In that sense is felt slightly unoriginal, but even then I still really enjoyed it.
Cast : The voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and Jenny Slate
Plot : Judy (Goodwin) has wanted to be a cop all her life, and she finally gets that chance when she is accepted as the first ever rabbit officer in the force. She isn’t taken seriously by anyone and has been relegated to meter-maid, although she does break records doing it. During the day she runs into Nick (Bateman), a law breaking fox.
News soon starts coming through that several people have started to revert to their animalistic instincts, and they all fit into the category of predators, and it’s up to the team of Judy and Nick to uncover what is happening.
Why in this position? Known as “Zootopia” pretty much everywhere else in the world, “Zootropolis” was by far my favourite animated film of the year. I must admit that I never expected Disney to come up with a film about racism, but that is exactly what they have done with this highly enjoyable and very funny movie.
“Zootropolis” was a breath of fresh air and one of the best animated films to come out in recent years. Before this year I hadn’t watched a Disney film at the cinema for several years, I am in my early-mid thirties at the moment and so it’s not a genre that sits at the top of my priorities list as you would expect, but the joys about getting into films for free is that I will watch everything, and I’m glad I did with this.
This is a very different Disney style of film making, but that doesn’t stop is being very enjoyable, with a great mix of drama and comedy, whilst having a positive message for kids. It teaches tolerance of others, the ability to learn and always chasing your dreams.
The only reason that this isn’t higher up on the list is that it still feels a little “by the numbers” for Disney and there isn’t anything that I haven’t really seen before. That being said, “Zootropolis” does have pretty much my favourite character from cinema this year, “Flash”, a sloth. I can’t really put it into words, just look him up.
Cast : Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Glen Powell, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell, Temple Baker, J Quinton Johnson, Will Brittain, Juston Street and Forrest Victory
Plot : Jake (Jenner) arrives as college in the autumn of 1980 having been invited to join the Southeast Texas Cherokees baseball team. He is roomed with Billy (Brittain), but the two struggle to get on at first. He is invited by the other freshman to “cruise around” looking for women, and Jake is the only one to get any interest as his quiet nature lures in Beverly (Deutch).
The first team meeting goes well, although two rules are introduced by the coach, no alcohol in the house or women upstairs, but as there are several very horny young men in the team, that might prove tricky, but Jake only has his eyes on one woman.
Why in this position? : I was convinced that I wasn’t going to like this film. I watched the trailer several times and was never once excited by the premise, or indeed the general plot of the film. Even now I’m not entirely sure what the point of the film was, which is why it’s not in the top ten, but in terms of pure, unadulterated fun, a film that I can just put on and just turn off my brain, this hits the nail on the head.
I love films that build characters, and whilst there isn’t much of a point to the film, you get to know pretty much every character very well, and I think I summed it up perfectly when I was figuring out where to put films when I said to myself “I would love to see these characters again”. In a year that I think that there were far, far, far too many unnecessary sequels, this is one of the few that I would actually love to see a sequel to.
Had there been a point to the film then there is every chance that this would have featured considerably higher in the list.
Cast : Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlberg
Plot : Twelve alien spacecraft arrive in random locations around the Earth and are hovering silently. They don’t seem to be posing much of a threat, but their presense makes numerous people nervous. The American army eventually hires linguist Louise (Adams) to try and communicate with them, along with a theoretical physicist named Ian (Renner). They initially struggle to communicate, but soon start to make progress when they realise that to learn the alien language, they have to first teach the aliens English.
Louise develops a personal relationship with the aliens, but she becomes increasingly concerned as the other sites stop talking to each other, and it turns out that the Chinese are planning to attack the ship there.
Why in this position? : If you’re after a fast-paced film about aliens that is all about explosions and excitement, “Arrival” is most definitely not for you. It is arguably the slowest film that I have seen during the year, but it is also one of the most intriguing as well. The way the film is build is excellent, and the slow, methodical nature in which the story unfolds.
The acting from everyone concerned is excellent, especially Renner, who portrays a character that self-admits that he doesn’t really see why he is there as there is initially not a lot to offer. That’s what is great about this story, there are some characters that have seemingly no relevance to the story for the majority of it, and they acknowledge that.
The only reason that this isn’t in the top ten is the ending. I really hated the ending and it felt a bit out of nowhere because there was seemingly no natural way for the story to end without some sort of violence (doesn’t that say it all about the human race), so how it ended felt a little forced and out of the blue. It was a big shame as before that I was engrossed and this was a top five contender, but the ending took it out of the top ten all together for me.
Cast : Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, Lucas Dawson and Bathsheba Garnett
Plot : William (Ineson) and his family are banished from a Puritan plantation due to a difference in opinion and interpretation of the Bible. They set up a farm on the outskirts of a forest. Katherine (Dickie) gives birth to their fifth child, but their eldest, Thomasin (Taylor-Joy) is horrified when she is playing with the newborn and it disappears near enough before her eyes.
Caleb (Scrimshaw) finds a hovel in the forest the next day and finds a beautiful woman there. She passionately kisses him before aging rapidly and grabbing him suddenly. Caleb is found several days later, but the woman has done something to him, and she isn’t done yet.
Why in this position? : This is as good as any horror film that I have seen at the cinema in recent years, and arguably as good as “The Babadook”. In any other year this would have comfortably been in my top ten of the year, and up until mid-December it was. I felt really guilty when taking it out of the top ten as the effort that has gone into this great film really deserved a place in this top ten, but there were just ten films better than it.
There are many reasons why this horror film works on so many levels, and the main one, pure and simply, is the excellent acting from everyone concerned, most noteably the ever-improving Anya Taylor-Joy, and Ralph Ineson, who’s breathing technique to portray the character’s fear is exceptional.
The horror is done masterfully, and the look of the film is great. It just goes to show that you don’t have to have a film shown in near pitch black for it to look decent, and whilst the ending it somewhat out of the blue, there isn’t a single point where I wasn’t enjoying this film thoroughly. It is so much better than most of the generic, jump-scare horrors, that it is a shame that this was called “boring” by some, because it certainly wasn’t and much like I’ve mentioned a few times during this, it focuses on what it should, building the characters well.