2016 in Review : The Top Ten

So this is it, after counting down ninety films, we finally come to the top ten. These films will all find their way into my Blu-Ray collection and in a year in which there was a surprisingly large amount of films released that weren’t absolutely terrible, choosing a top ten was surprisingly tricky as in the majority of other years, most of the films that I listed in my 20-11 list would have made it into this top ten quite comfortably.

I am still highly pleased at more than doubling my previous best in terms of films seen at the cinema, although I realised whilst writing this list that I actually watched 102 films during the year at the cinema, I had completely forgotten about “American Honey” and “Inferno”. I’ve described a few films as being completely forgettable during this countdown over the last few days, but evidently they could have been considerably more forgettable. For the record, both would have probably been in the 80-71 list.

But anyway, onto my top ten and the one thing that I noticed whilst writing this list is that a lot of them were films that I actually paid to watch. For those don’t read this website, I work at a cinema and so get to watch films for free, but when we don’t show a film for one reason or another I went and watched it elsewhere. Out of the ten films I’m about to go through, I actually paid for four. I’m not sure whether they took on extra significance for me because I paid for them, but if that were true then films such as “Men and Chicken” and “Adult Life Skills” would have made it into this.

I don’t think that having to pay for the films has made me more psychologically inclined to include them in the top ten, although three of my top five do fall into the category of films I paid for.

10) Hell or High Waterlarge_mdsgh5nez6ahrtcfd9mr7ufl0ad

Cast : Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham

Plot : Toby (Pine) and Tanner (Foster) are brothers that spend most of a seemingly random week robbing banks across rural Texas. They are aiming to avenge their mother after a reverse mortgage left her with huge debts before she died, and now they’re aiming to make that bank pay. They aren’t doing it unnoticed however, and Texas Rangers Marcus (Bridges) and Alberto (Birmingham) are assigned to the case.

There is seemingly no set pattern to the robberies, other than that they seem to be target at a single bank chain, and this leads Marcus closer to the brothers, especially after Tanner decides to rob a bank by himself, whilst Toby sits in the dinner opposite completely unaware of what is happening.

Why at Number Ten? : “Hell or High Water” was one of those films that I can imagine people being turned off at because it’s very slow film, but the difference between this and several other slow movies on this list is that it is very methodical in it’s slowness. Not a lot happens for long periods of time, but it uses that time to do what all films should do and build the relationship, as well as focusing on the cat-and-mouse nature of the movie.

Even though the movie is slow, not once was I bored, and I loved how subtley done the lengthy scene in which Tanner is snipering people is done. It would have been easy to simply have loud and stereotypical action style music accompanying the death that unfolds on screen, but they choose to go the “No Country for Old Men” route and not have any music at that point, and there is barely any music during the entire film. Sometimes films don’t need music, and this is one of those, but that’s not to say that when there is music that it’s not well used, and it truly brings you into the feeling of being in Texas.

The whole cast puts in an excellent performance, with Ben Foster proving excellent once again, and this is far better than the other film that featured both him and Pine during the year “The Finest Hours”.

I was surprised when this got a mainstream release as I had seen the trailer several months prior and thought that it would make a great film to review for this site, i/e it looks a bit like one of those independent films a few big name actors do every now and then that goes nowhere. I am delighted that it did get a mainstream release and I would encourage everyone to watch it.

 

 

9) Eye in the Skyeye-in-the-sky-poster-lg

Cast : Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman, Barkhad Abdi, Jeremy Northam and Iain Glen

Plot : Colonel Powell (Mirren) wakes up to the news that an undercover agent in Kenya has been killed after being discovered, and this prompts her to try and capture members of the Al-Shabaab terrorist group once and for all. To do this she is relying on Nevada based drone pilot, 2nd Lt Watts (Paul) and an undercover agent on the ground (Farah) to gather locations and evidence. Using a variety of techniques, including a mini robot disguised as a fly, they discover that not only are their targets in a house that they are monitoring, but there are also a lot of explosives.

The group start preparing two suicide bombers and this turns the mission from a simple capture, to one that needs to involve the deaths of those involved and seen on the video. During the lengthy process of getting approval, a young girl starts selling bread nearby, and they realise that in order to kill the terrorists, they run the risk of killing an innocent child.

Why at Number 9? : In a year full of morally complex films, none were even close to “Eye in the Sky” for making you think about the situation and what is the right course of action. It comes down to the basic question of if it’s worth risking a few lives to save millions. Logic dictates that there shouldn’t even be a hesitation. To quote the Vulcans from Star Trek, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”. That being said, that is something deliciously dark about the situation when it involves children as the choice becomes even more extreme.

Let’s not mess about when it comes to describing this movie, it is tense. You will not come out of it with your nerves intact, and arguably more importantly you will still be debating with yourself about what you would do, and that is what the characters spend the movie doing. In many ways it is like an onion and has layer upon layer to take off before you get to the end of the film, but you almost don’t want it to end because you’re that invested.

You also start to appreciate that every decision that is made in relation to counter terrorism is simple, and it requires a lot of thought and consideration of the aftermath and consequences of any actions that they elect to take. It is a film that makes you think.

Everyone gives a great performance, and Aaron Paul offers something completely different from what he has done before, showing a great range as his character has the biggest moral conflict in the film as whilst others are making decisions, he is the one who will ultimately have to follow orders and potentially kill an innocent child. His character’s internal debating is exceptionally well done by Paul, and at a relatively young age he still has a lot to offer.

 

8) Sing Street2yo3lhav

Cast : Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Ben Carolan, Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton, Karl Rise and Aidan Gillen

Plot : Conor (Walsh-Peelo)’s parents are arguing constantly due to restricted finances and because of this he has to change schools and go to the local catholic establishment. There he is soon targeted by bullies, both in terms of other students and the faculty. He is befriended by Darren (Carolan), and he soon notices a girl standing on the opposite side of the street that he is attracted to. He braves it and decides to flirt with the girl, Raphina (Boynton), an aspiring model. During the conversation Conor tries to impress her by saying that he has a band and would like her to appear in the video. She agrees, but now Conor has to actually create a band from scratch.

He does so with the help of Darren, as well as the musically talented Eamon (McKenna), and various others. As time goes on, the group becomes highly competent, but Connor’s relationship with Raphina takes several unusual twists and he soon questions whether it’s worth the effort.

My Full Review

Why at Number Eight : Right, I’m going to start this review with a revelation. I loved this film at the first viewing, and I bought it on Blu Ray some time later. I watched it a second time and loved it just as much as the first, but then something happened on the third viewing. I started noticing a lot of problems with the film, however, I kept this in the first position that I initially planned for it because of fairness, as I have done with a few other films much further down the list. For example, if I had changed this position then I would have to go back and change the position of all of the other films I have watched more than once that are on this list (there are about five of them), and if I’m not going to do it for one, I can’t do it for another. I hope that made sense.

“Sing Street” was one of the first films that I saw during the film that I actually had to pay for because the cinema I work at wasn’t actually showing it. I fell in love with the look, feel and characters of the film, and especially the connection between Conor and Raphina, even if you’re not convinced that it is a relationship will last long term. In many ways it is very similar to the relationship between Scott and Ramona in “Scott Pilgrim vs the World”.

The cast is very warm, the film itself is vibrant and the music is exceptional, making you feel like you’re watching a film that was actually made in the eighties, rather than just a movie set in that time. “Sing Street” is very original and the characters, for the most part are all important to the plot, which is something that I can’t say about most films.

I’m not going to get into why I fell somewhat out of love with this film as time went on, mainly because I want this whole list to be a big positive, and hopefully what I noticed won’t be much of a problem upon the next viewing. I’m not saying that I hate the film.

 

7) Sullyphpxlodvgxtbuq_2_l

Cast : Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart and Mike O’Malley

Plot : Chesley (Hanks) is a pilot and one day he sets off on a flight that fails in just a few minutes after some birds fly into both engines. Realising that he is unlikely to make it back to any local airports, “Sully” as he is affectionately known, decides to do a controlled water landing. He saves everyone on board. At least that is how he remembers it.

When he and co-pilot Jeff Skiles (Eckhart) are interviewed by a team lead by Charles Porter (O’Malley), it is told to them that they have run simulations and every single one shows that they could have made it back to an airport safely. Both refute this, and the media view them as heroes, but Sully is left wondering if the data is actually correct, even if he keeps telling himself it definitely was.

Why at Number Seven? This was the last film to qualify for my top ten list, only entering it in December. I had heard good things about Sully, but little did I imagine how much I’d enjoy it.

Let’s start with something that I haven’t really talked about a lot during this whole countdown and that is the cinematography. This film looks fantastic. It was filmed using IMAX cameras and I fortunately happen to work at a cinema with IMAX screens, so I got the chance to watch it in all of the glory that it was intended to be in, and it nails it. The shots of New York, especially when Sully is going on a run, are sublime and it definitely didn’t help my wanderlust.

Tom Hanks is great, of course he is, when isn’t he? This is one of more serious roles in his career, but he like a fine wine and just gets better with age. I can’t think of a single Tom Hanks performance that I didn’t enjoy down the years, and it will be interesting to see where his career takes him after this.

One thing that I found intriguing about the film was that you don’t see what actually happened until near enough the end of the film. You’re left playing a guessing game, trying to piece together all of the bits to make an informed decision about whether Sully did make a mistake. It would have been very easy to simply show it at the beginning and then have us know what he is saying is definitely the case from the beginning, but the way they did it, introducing an element of doubt, was very well done and for me, made it a better movie.

Watch “Sully”, it is far better than films of a similar nature.

 

6) Spotlightspotlight_ver2

Cast : Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci and Billy Crudup

Plot : In 2001 the Boston Globe newspaper hires a new editor, Marty Baron (Schreiber). He meets with Walter (Keaton), the head of the newspaper’s investigative “Spotlight” team, and assigns them to look into alleged sexual abuse of children within the church.

The subject matter proves a difficult one for Walter’s team to look into as some of the stories of those giving evidence is less than pleasant, but the team suddenly realises that this has gone from just a simple newspaper article, and turned into a very important piece of journalism.

Why at Number Six? Make no mistake about it, “Spotlight” is an uncomfortable watch and arguably the most difficult of the year due to the subject matter, but that is what makes the film great. You feel yourself getting angry at the situation and the attitude of the priesthood, especially the scary aspect that some of the priests that they do manage to interview don’t actually see a problem with what they have done, and they openly admit their experiences with. Don’t get me wrong, I can see why innocent priests are angry at the accusations, but the angry reaction of those that are actually guilty, and the way that they try to act as though what they’ve done is normal, is very off putting.

Make no mistake about it, this is an important movie. Whilst made for entertainment value, this film has arguably the most important message out of any that came out during 2016.

It’s hard to put into words why this film is important, but it is arguably the hardest-hitting of the year and makes you exceptionally uncomfortable, but there there many parts to it that I just love, with my favourite scene being such a simple concept, but a harrowing one at the same time when Brian d’Arcy James’ Matt discovers that one of the alleged perpetrators lives near his house, and he stands in front of it and struggles to hide his anger. This scene is built up later by him personally delivering the newspaper article to the house. It’s a feeling of justification for the character and whilst not a major scene, and a largely forgettable one, it is arguably one of the most human in the entire film.

 

5) Neon Demonthe-neon-demon-poster-by-dave-stafford

Cast : Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Desmond Harrington, Abbey Lee, Karl Glusman and Keanu Reeves

Plot : Jesse (Fanning) moves to LA in the hopes of becoming a model. Her humble and largely self-less approach wins over a few people, including Dean (Glusman), but there are some other models that are considerably less impressed, namely Gigi (Heathcote) and Sarah (Lee), both of whom take an exceptionally negative view of Jesse.

Despite being established in the industry, both Gigi and Sarah find themselves suddenly losing out on roles to Jesse on a regular basis, and this means that once Jesse refutes the advances of her friend Ruby (Malone), there could be big trouble for her.

Why at Number Five? So, this was the ultimate in a film that I loved after watching a trailer I hated this year. I was convinced that this wouldn’t be a major opening around the UK, and I was largely right. For the most part I was unsure why it had an 18 rating until it gets into it’s third act, at which point you have a potential rape scene, and also a scene that I won’t spoil for anyone that hasn’t seen the film, but those that have seen it will know exactly what I mean when I say “the body”.

The scene that I am referring to, as well as the eventual fate of Jesse, left me stunned, sat there at Hyde Park Picture House with my mouth wide open in shock. I love films that leave me surprised and it’s safe to say that this managed it.

“Neon Demon” is visually stunning and the audible aspect to the film is beyond engrossing. “The Demon Dance” and Sia’s “Waving Goodbye” are both booming in their style, but bring you into the world of the modelling industry even more.

The character development is amongst the best from the year, with Jesse herself turning from a humble, nervous and likeable girl, right into the way you would imagine a stereotypical model, i/e full of herself and thinking that people who aren’t models aren’t worthy of her time. Her development isn’t too dissimilar to the change that you see in Walter White in the TV series “Breaking Bad”.

 

4) Me Before Yours_600x889-160203094831-634-me-before-you-poster

Cast : Emily Clarke, Sam Claflin, Matthew Lewis, Stephen Peacocke, Brendon Coyle, Samantha Spiro, Jenna Coleman, Janet McTeerand Charles Dance,

Plot : Louisa (Clarke) is made redundant after the cafe she works at closes. She is given a job caring for Will (Claflin) who is mostly paralysed from the neck down. Will doesn’t make her job easy at first, being very short with her and it’s clear that he doesn’t want her there. Louisa does eventually get him to open up and the two develop a good friendship, but then Louisa’s world is blown open when she finds out that Will plans to go to Dignitas in Switzerland in order to die.

Why at Number Four? I get a feeling that this entry is going to surprise a lot of people, infact it surprised myself some what as this isn’t the type of film that normally interests me, but I found myself charmed by the relatively simply premise of “Me Before You”.

The cast are all heart-warmingly delightful, and they deliver a very mixed back of a film. There are moments that are witty, laugh out loud funny, romantic and heart-breaking. It plays with your emotions so well, but it’s not done in an in your face way. The humour is mainly based on dry-wit, whereas you can just get hypnotised in a scene by simply watching Emilia Clarke’s emotions come purely through her eyebrows. Seriously, watch some of the trailers and try not to be distracted by her eyebrow moments now that I’ve pointed them out.

I’m not entirely sure what to say about this film for the most part. I loved it, even though the majority of my friends didn’t, and it is far, far better than a lot of other romantic films that have come out in recent years. Claflin and Clarke play off each other very well, and you could actually see them as a genuine couple in real life. Claflin’s way to delivering some hilarious lines in a completely deadpan way was right up my street.

If you’re after a romantic night in with your other half and fancy a film that is unlike the majority of others of a similarish nature then this film is for you.

 

3) Eddie the Eagleeddie_the_eagle

Cast : Taron Egerton, Hugh Jackman, Jo Hartley, Keith Allen, Iris Berben and Rune Temte

Plot : Since he was a young boy, Eddie (Egerton) has dreamed of being in the Olympics, but the problem is that he is just not very good….any anything. He tries his hand at every Olympic sport imaginable, before eventually settling on skiing. He is however turned down for a place on the Olympic squad, but he soon comes across ski-jumping and he travels to Germany to practice properly.

After easily conquering the 15 metre jump, he attempts the 40 metres but is very quickly injured. He continues to get injured before he asks slope maintenance operative Bronson (Jackman) to help him after discovering he was a former Olympic ski-jumper himself. Bronson initially refuses, but Eddie’s “never give up” attitude wins him over and he trains him, all to the horror of the others who are practising.

Why at Number Three? : I absolutely adore this film. It is the ultimate feel good movie and I described it at the time of watching it as “this year’s “Cool Runnings”, a movie about never giving up and achieving your dreams, not matter how unlikely it is, how injured you get, or even how many people constantly tell you that you’re just not good enough.

This was my number one pick for a long time, and in another other year this would have walked it right through to my number one spot. It is a remarkable work from this year, even if it is a little cheesy, and Taron Egerton nails it so much that it’s impossible not to find yourself routing for Eddie. He plays it with such humility and grace, that you often forget that he is just an actor and that you’re watching a film.

The comedy is spot on, and I don’t often say that about films. I’m not a big fan of most comedies these days, afterall, my bottom two for this year were both “comedies”, but “Eddie the Eagle” not only promises big things, but it sticks the landing.

I think what sets this apart from other similar films is that whilst the antagonists are arseholes, they are generally decent people. For example, the coach of the Norwegian coach, Bjorn, is a complete dick to Eddie and Bronson, but he is the first to help when Eddie is badly injured after attempting the 70 metres. It shows you that he is a dick, but he has a point that this is now beyond the point of being funny, and is actually getting highly dangerous. One thing that the film constantly brings home is that it is a dangerous sport, and it’s great that it shows this through not only the accidents, but the reactions of the characters.

“Eddie the Eagle” is a gem, and I encourage anyone and everyone to watch it.

 

2) Swiss Army ManImage result for swiss army man

Cast : Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe and Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Plot : Hank (Dano) got stranded on a tiny desert island some time ago and his “messages in a bottle” (or items to that affect) have had no response, so he decides to end his life by hanging himself. During the act, he notices a body that has washed up on shore (Radcliffe). In his desperation Hank tries to revive the long dead body, all before again going back to hang himself in despair, but at this point he notices the body doing strange actions, such as farting on a regular basis, and he soon realises when he sees the body float and seemingly move at will that this could be his way off of the island.

He rides the body like a dolphin to the nearest other landmass, but again feels suicidal when there are no signs of life anywhere near by. Soon after he realises that the corpse isn’t as dead as it would appear, and he is able to have a conversation with the person he calls “Manny”. Manny has no memory of his life, so Hank decides to try and educate him about the basics of life, and it isn’t long before Manny falls in love with the woman on Hank’s phone (Winstead), believing it to be his own girlfriend.

My Full Review

Why at Number Two? : It’s such a shame that this film was written off by many before it had even been released. Many chose not to watch it for the simple reason that it got described as a film about a “farting corpse”, and whilst there is that element to it, it would be unfair to say that that is only what the film is about. The film is more than just about a corpse that regularly farts, it is allegory of life itself, teaching you to appreciate the little things.

There is a scene about 2/3 of the way through the film in which Hank builds a makeshift bus for Manny and teaches him about something that would seem mundane for the rest of us. He describes it like it’s something that should be treasured, and almost makes you feel nostalgic towards doing something that is part of every day life. That is what makes the dynamic between the two characters so memorable and mesmerising, it’s almost like a father teaching his young son about life and how it works.

Dano and Radcliffe are both remarkable in their respective roles, and the characterisation of both Manny and Hank thought-provoking, especially when the ending of the film puts the latter into a new light.

“Swiss Army Man” is one of the most original films that I have seen in my life. There is genuinely nothing like it out there. If you haven’t seen it yet, or are just avoiding it because you’ve heard it’s nothing more than a film about a farting corpse, just go out and watch it. You’ll not regret it.

 

So, 99 films later (well, 101 if you count the two I forgot all about) we come to my number one pick. As I mentioned before, those that regularly read my reviews will know exactly what is coming. It is a film that was completely unlike anything I have seen previously, and brings about every single emotion the space of less than two hours. It is a joyous triumph, a beautiful tragedy and an examination of life outside of the norm. It is of course……..

1, the best film of the year) Captain Fantasticcf_poster

Cast : Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Sam Isler, Annalist Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn and Frank Langella

Plot : Ben (Mortensen) and his wife (unseen) raised their kids in the woods and followed the Buddhist way of life. However, one day she develops cancer and when he phones to check on her some time later, she has passed away. Because of the way he leads his life, and how he has raised the kids, Ben and the rest of the family are banned from attending the funeral, even though they’re all enraged it’s being held as a traditional Catholic funeral, against her wishes.

The kids convince Ben to go to the funeral anyway and take them with him. This is the first venture outside of their normal environment for the kids, and their social awkwardness leads to some very interesting conversations with friends and family alike.

My full Review

Why is it Number One? : Those that have been reading this site for a while know that this was always likely to be my number one film of the year following on from a very positive review that I gave the film a few months back. After watching it I had to take a deep breath after getting home as this was a tour-de-force film.

Now through this countdown of films I have regularly said that because I have reviewed it previously, I’m going to keep it short, but I simply can’t for this breathtakingly fresh movie. From the moment I watched it I fell in love, and I put it right up there with my favourite movie in 2014, Nightcrawler, as being perfect. Everything about it is just so well done and tasteful, right from the way it respects religious views (I’m not religious for clarification), right down to how to deal with a very important family matter sensitively.

This is very much a film about being true to yourself, and never letting anyone else tell you how to live you life, even if it appeared ridiculously odd to the majority. So what if people don’t like how you live your life, try and be happy, but also be humble enough to admit that you’re wrong, if indeed it turns out to be the case.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Frank Langella’s character is a bad person, but he really isn’t. It’s harsh to even call the character an antagonist because you completely get where is coming from, arguably more so than any other antagonist during the year. Yes, he’s a bit of a dick for not supporting his daughter’s wishes when it comes to how she will be buried, but he is ultimately right that if the kids do have a chance of surviving in the real world, they have to be taught in at least some capacity that resembles normality. For me, George MacKay’s Bo sums it up perfectly when he says “Unless it comes out of a book I don’t know anything!”

The acting is stupendous from everyone concerned, and the acting all of the actors portraying Ben’s kids are sublime. This feels like a family, and you really support them in what they do. The way that the youngest pair deliver lines that are hilariously inappropriate for a young child to deliver is done in such a deadpan way that it was almost impossible for me not to like their performances. It’s really weird to see someone who can’t be older than seven have such a frank discussion about the functions of a vagina with her father.

I’m almost afraid to watch this film again, just incase it is not as good as I remembered it being. That’s how much I loved it.

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3 thoughts on “2016 in Review : The Top Ten

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