Top Ten Best Films Of 2016

It’s that time of year again. The nights are drawing in, the festive period is over, and every film critic is creating their best and worst list of the year. And here is mine.

Quick note, scores aren’t a factor on this list. These were just my personal favourites. Before we get going a few honourable mentions:

Love And Friendship

War On Everyone

Everybody Wants Some!!

And now…

10.

Ten is a tie because I couldn’t pick between them, Room and The Hateful Eight. I had no clue what I was expecting with Room, but I never though I would get a emotive family drama, focussing on the interactions of a mother and young son, with an Oscar-worthy performance by newcomer Jacob Tremblay. The shot when he first see’s the sky is still one that I think about regularly even after all this time. The Hateful Eight is a return to the old-fashioned QT, focussing on colourful dialogue with an array of interesting characters in a secluded location rather than the weird genre stylings of his last few films. Fantastic performances from Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason-Leigh, with a perfect accompanying score by Ennio Morricone.

9.

I’m not a romance film person, but The Light Between Oceans lands itself on my Top-Ten List. Stunning performances by Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander (two of my favourite actors) and exquisite cinematography by Adam Arkapaw save the sometimes clichéd story and dragging second half.

8.

A Wild Western reset in the modern day, Hell or High Water was a pleasant surprise at the tail end of the summer. An actor defining performance by Chris Pine, backed up by powerful supports such as Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. The story may seem like one you’ve seen before, but the modern trappings add a refreshing touch that separates it from similar films with much bigger budgets (I’m looking at you, Magnificent Seven).

7.

Nobody thought Eye In The Sky was going to be good. Even I saw the trailer and thought it looked pretty hackneyed. But the tense arguments, the shocking ideas of collateral damage in war and powerful performances by Helen Mirren, Barkhad Abdi and the late Alan Rickman really make this one stand tall. Here’s hoping for a posthumous Supporting Actor nomination for the latter actor.

6.

At number six, the Master Of Ultra-Violence, Nicolas Winding-Refn, is back with The Neon Demon. An odd mash-up of fairytale and the modelling business in Los Angeles, this is one you don’t want spoiled for you. Just go watch it, but be prepared for some jaw-dropping moments that you’ll be replaying long after the film is done.

5.

Modern horror usually doesn’t do anything for me. I don’t like being jump scared, I don’t seek it out for entertainment. But then The Witch came along, a film of no jump scares or silly noises, and it freaked the heck out of me. The endless tension building, the moody and ominous score by Mark Karven and the debut of lead Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch may not be for everybody, but for horror fans it’s a must-see. A great directorial debut by Robert Eggers.

4.

It took over forty years to make, but High-Rise is worth the wait. A wide selection of great actors including Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Elizabeth Moss and Luke Evans converge in an entertaining and slightly frightening orgy of sex, drugs and violence. High-Rise is the height of decadence and it’s a blast.

3.

Hell Or High Water was a Western through the lens of modern day. Our number three is a Western through the lens of horror. Bone Tomahawk was a sprawling 132 minute exercise in bloody torture and gruesome death and it was one of the my top picks for this year. Another one you don’t want spoiled for you, it’s a remarkable debut by writer, musician, cinematographer and director S. Craig Zahler.

2.

2016 has been a very good year for animation. With soon-to-be classics from Disney with Moana and Zootropolis, and Japanese efforts of When Marnie Was There and Your Name, animation buffs have been spoiled his year. But two films beat them all. Our number two is Laika’s Kubo And The Two Strings is an impressive stop-motion film with inflections of Eastern mythology and settings and a heart of gold underneath. Excellent performances by Rooney Mara, Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron, along with some near-perfect shot compositions, Kubo will be winning awards left, right and centre at this year’s Oscars.

1.

I saw this all the way back in March, and since then it’ been at the top of my list of 2016. And still, nine months later, Anomalisa has stayed on top. An awe-inspiring dream of a film, written by Eternal Sunshine writer Charlie Kaufman and directed by Duke Johnson, I consider Anomalisa to be a perfect film. Mesmerising stop-motion, beautiful portrayals by David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason-Leigh and a story that is heartfelt and crushing, this will be one for the ages.

That’s been 2016, happy new year and may 2017 be a great one!

Why not read my look back at the bad stuff, The Worst Of 2016?

Eye In The Sky Review

With drone strikes becoming a more and more hot-button issue in the modern world, it would only be a small amount of time before the film industry would jump on the situation. While we’ve had films about drones before (2013’s Drones and 2014’s Good Kill), But Eye In The Sky looks to be the first mainstream film on the subject.

Eye In The Sky stars Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman and Barkhad Abdi and is directed by Gavin Hood. The film follows several military personnel and politicians who are attempting to follows all of the moral, legal and ethical guidelines while still trying to eliminate high ranking terrorists using drones.

Eye In The Sky has a great collective cast. Alan Rickman, in his last on screen is doing what he does best, looking and talking with withering disdain. It’s not a bad role to end a great career on and could be a posthumous Supporting Actor nomination. Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul do well enough, it must be hard to act to a computer screen but they manage to make it work. Paul is still mostly known for Breaking Bad and it’s nice to see him break away from that role. The other standout besides Rickman is Barkhad Abdi. Abdi is known for his breakout role as the lead kidnapper in Captain Phillips and just like in that film, here he plays a very complex character for a relative newcomer. His role, which again is more looking at screens is layered and leads him into confrontation with terrorist militia, leading to an incredibly tense chase sequence.

The films characters are dotted all across the world and each of them plays a major role in the film’s story. While we start in Nairobi, Kenya where the terrorists are stationed, we are soon switching to Surrey, Whitehall, the Nevada Desert, Pearl Harbour, Singapore, Beijing and back again on the turn of a dime. You have to be ready for the quick jumps between each setting because there were even times when I had to take a couple of seconds to try and keep track of each one, especially since there are long breaks in between the lesser used locations of Pearl Harbour and Singapore. Most of the film is confined to rooms and people arguing over computer screens and phone calls, but it’s somehow really tense. Many for the characters who have the authority to call the drone strike, from the politicians to the less gung-ho commander’s want to “refer up” to a higher ranking official to take the heat off themselves, to the point where it becomes a bit comical. But each referral adds another layer for information and passcodes to be filtered through, all under the ticking clock plot device of the terrorists being able to leave their compound at a moment’s notice armed with suicide vests and bombs.

To talk about my problems with Eye In The Sky, I may slide into minor spoiler details since my main gripe is at the end of the film. The film tries to pull at the audience’s heartstrings, but it goes overboard in the last scene. It didn’t need to go so far, the two women who were sitting next to me were already in tears before the last couple of scenes, and these added moments just felt like the film was bashing the audience over the head with its message. The build-up to those moments were good and grapples with the audience’s morality as well as the characters, but for me it ended up looking like pandering.

In conclusion Eye In The Sky is a gripping, politically charged thriller. If you liked the Bourne franchise or something recent like 13 Hours, then think of Eye In The Sky as their older, smarter brother. It comes highly recommended.

Score: 8/10 Tense, topical and full of great performances.