Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Our top 10 films of 2016

2016 has been another great year in the movies. The superhero train is still hurtling down the cinema tracks, while smart science fiction, original horror and subversive comic book movies are still going strong. Throw in a fantastic beasts, a New England Witch and awards baiting performances and you have got a top ten to be proud of.

It's popcorn all round, then, as we delve into our top 10 films of 2016.


Director: Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station)
Cast: Rocky veteran Sylvester Stallone alongside Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle), Tessa Thompson (Selma), Phylicia Rashad (Frankie & Alice) and Graham McTavish (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) 

There hasn't been a really brilliant Rocky movie in decades – then along came Creed like a sucker punch to the jaw. One of the most thoughtfully calibrated reboots in memory, Creed affectionately doffs a cap to the spirit of the original, while ploughing its own muscular, confident furrow. Michael B Jordan is Adonis, son of Apollo Creed, while Sylvester Stallone reprises his role as Rocky Balboa, earning his first Academy Award® nomination since the original Rocky (1976) – and floods of tears from the audience into the mix.

The Witch

Director: Robert Eggers
Cast: Kate Dickie (Prometheus), Ralph Ineson (Kingsman: The Secret Service) and Anya Taylor-Joy

The Witch may be a very strange film, but it is a truly wonderful one nonetheless. A family are banished from their village in New England during Jacobean times. Forced to set up home far from others, the devout father begins to suspect his eldest daughter of convening with dark forces. A multi-layered folk tale with stand out performances from Anya Taylor Joy, The Witch comes across as much like The Crucible as it does your average demonic possession horror. A devastating psychological ordeal that works as well taken at face value as according to more complex theories. The cryptic events are never fully explained, leaving The Witch ambiguously unsettling.


Director: Lenny Abrahamson's (Frank)
Cast: Brie Larson (The Spectacular Now), Jacob Tremblay and Sean Bridgers (The Woman)

Lenny Abrahamson's adaptation of the best selling novel by Emma Donoghue centres on two exceptional performances. Brie Larson earned all the headlines, of course, for her Academy Award® winning turn as a young woman kidnapped and held in the captivity of Room for years, who finally makes a break for freedom. Jacob Tremblay, as the boy who is only ever known Room, is heartbreaking in this unsensationalised adaptation. It is through his fairytale perspective that we experience a turbulent and traumatic set of events, turning what could be a clichéd drama into something distinctive and oddly uplifting.

Hail, Caesar!

Directors: The Coen brothers' (Inside Llewyn Davis)
Cast: Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men), George Clooney (Burn After Reading), Scarlett Johansson (Lucy), Channing Tatum (White House Down), Ralph Fiennes (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Jonah Hill (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin), Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading), Clancy Brown (Cowboys & Aliens), Christopher Lambert (Southland Tales), Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager) and Dolph Lundgren (The Expendables)

The seventeenth Coen brothers film is perhaps the most Coenesc of them all, taking in all their favourite elements – a sometimes violent potboiler of a plot, a 1950s period sheen, a dark sense of humour, and a bevy of brilliant A-list characters (Ralph Fiennes, Alden Ehrenreich and Tilda Swinton are among the highlights). The madcap tour of classical Hollywood dazzles, the existential and political machinations intrigue. It is astonishing how the Coens remain in a league of their own, after three decades of consistent quality, and still make it look simple. Would that it were so simple...

Captain America: Civil War

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Cast: Marvel Cinematic Universe veterans Chris Evans, Anthony Mackie, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Sebastian Stan, Paul Rudd, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Paul Bettany and Don Cheadle Chadwick Boseman alongside Chadwick Boseman (42) and Tom Holland (The Impossible)

The most ambitious and arguably best of the Marvel movies to date, Captain America: Civil War is a huge, complex epic which is not just great for a superhero film but great for any type of movie. Captain America and Iron Man go head-to-head over family and friends, factions are formed and loyalties tested. A Spider-Man arrives, as does Black Panther. And Daniel Brühl as Zemo is one of the most interesting and understated villains we have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.


Director: Denis Villeneuve (Sicario)
Cast: Amy Adams (American Hustle), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler)

In a year where blockbusters often faltered, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve offered a stirring riposte. Here was genre cinema done right. Arrival certainly isn't lacking in Hollywood glitz – there is scale and bluster, special effects that wow and there is pace and tension. But it is also a intensely cerebral piece of work, transforming Ted Chiang's short story into an atmospheric wrong-footing puzzle which plays with narrative conventions and linguistic head scratchers. And thanks to an emotional, career best performance from Amy Adams, it never loses sight of its humanistic core. Not bad for a film about aliens.

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

Director: David Yates (Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows)
Cast: Eddie Redmayne (The Theory Of Everything), Colin Farrell (Total Recall), Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice), Alison Sudol (What To Expect When You're Expecting), Dan Fogler (Fanboys), Ezra Miller (The Perks Of Being A Wallflower), Samantha Morton (Control), Jenn Murray (Dorothy Mills), Faith Wood-Blagrove, Jon Voight (Mission: Impossible), Gemma Chan (Exam) and Carmen Ejogo (Selma)

The first part of J.K. Rowling's planned five film franchise thankfully doesn't disappoint, steeped as it is in all the magic we have come to expect from the Wizarding World. Eddie Redmayne is soft and sympathetic as magizoologist Newt Scamander, but it is Dan Fogler's likeable No-Maj (American English for Muggle) Jacob who steals the show. Him and that naughty kleptomaniac platypus the Niffler.


Director: Tim Miller
Cast: Ryan Reynolds (Buried), Morena Baccarin (Homeland), T.J. Miller (Transformers: Age Of Extinction), Gina Carano (Fast & Furious 6), Ed Skrein (Ill Manors), Brianna Hildebrand (Prism) and  Stefan Kapicic (Big Miracle)

The DC Extended Universe went dark and stormy, while Marvel increased their hero headcount. But one of the best films of the year starred a rude, potty mouthed, amoral, antihero whose face looks like "an avocado had sex with an older, more disgusting avocado". Ryan Reynolds redeemed his Green Lantern (2011) sins with panache, making Deadpool a raucous, hilarious antidote to the po-faced superhero genre. It killed it at the box office, too, and a sequel is under way, directed by David Leitch (John Wick).

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Director: Gareth Edwards (Godzilla)
Cast: Felicity Jones' (The Theory Of Everything), Diego Luna (Milk), Riz Ahmed (Ill Manors), Ben Mendelsohn (Killing Them Softly), Donnie Yen (Ip Man), Jiang Wen (Gone With The Bullets), Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels' The Butler), Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt), Alan Tudyk (Serenity), Jonathan Aris (Sherlock) and Eunice Olumide (World War Z)

The first of the new standalone Star Wars movies, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrived as an unknown quantity and proceeded to annihilate the box office like a blast from the Death Star itself. Darker, grittier and bolder than any saga film to date, Gareth Edwards' film is a World War II mission movie set in the galaxy far, far away. It may be short on laughs but this is a welcome counterpoint to the main Episodes and forces you to see Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) in a whole new light.

The Revenant

Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu's (Birdman)
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf Of Wall Street), Tom Hardy (Inception), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina) and Will Poulter (We're The Millers)

It was the movie that would finally see Leonardo DiCaprio win his first Academy Award® after five near misses. It was also the movie that become instantly legendary for that wintry Calgary shoot. The benefit of time and reflection shows it for the movie that it really is – an astonishing, gut punching piece of cinema. Admittedly, there is not a huge amount of narrative meat on the bones – the dialogue is mostly grunts and gurgles – but Alejandro González Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have crafted two hours of overwhelming visual and sensory brilliance, anchored by DiCaprio's extraordinary and selfless lead turn.

You can read out full review of The Revenant right here.

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