2016 has been one hell of a year. Celebrity deaths. Political unrest. A Ghostbusters reboot. But let's not forget the good this year wrought - and there was a lot of good. Here's my top 10 movies of 2016
This year saw a dreadful selection of movies for the summer. Not only was the box office overall abysmal but for the most part the movies were too. I quite liked X-Men: Apocalypse (in spite of the naysayers) and really enjoyed Star Trek: Beyond, but other than the one underdog that made my top 10, they were really bad. So bad in fact, that they dominate the list of my worst of the year.
The big movies before and after the summer were pretty good though. Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, Dr. Strange and Fantastic Beasts were edged out of my top 10 as I compiled it. So too were a lot of Disney's impressive catalogue this year.
Sadly, like every year I haven't seen everything. Films like Nocturnal Animals, Birth of a Nation and Silence have passed me by. That's probably down to the Netflix subscription I purchased in the middle of the year. Shows like Luke Cage, Stanger Things and Black Mirror could easily give any of these films a run for their money.
Anyway, let's get on with it. If you feel the urge to own a copy of any of my crazy recommendations, you can click on the poster to take you to the Amazon page. Enjoy.
Karyn Kusama has never really caught on as a director. Girlfight, Aeon Flux and Jennifer's Body each have as many detractors as they do fans (I can take them or leave them). One could argue that each has nevertheless reached cult status to some degree. The Invitation at first seemed to continue in that vein but I've seen this gem crop up in conversation time and again, perhaps due to a timely placement on Netflix. It's a dark and foreboding horror thriller that gets more and more gripping as it goes on, culminating in a twist that's expertly crafted even if it's a tad predictable.
9Who'd have thought a film filled with fart jokes and potty humour would be among my top films of the year? Usually this type of low-brow comedy would turn me off a movie instantaneously but for those who've seen Swiss Army Man, it's anything but low-brow. The story is about a repressed and depressed man stuck on an island with a talking dead man with some questionable (and apparently useful) body functions. As they spend time together, they realise life's not so bad. And those gross bodily functions that they were once afraid to let rip, are a natural part of life (as well as a metaphor for the enjoyment of it). A surprisingly likeable and poignant film with two brilliant central performances from Daniel Radcliff and Paul Dano.
8The other movie released this year with Captain in the title was surprisingly enough not part of a superhero franchise. This dramedy about family, loss and the modern world sees Viggo Mortensen as the patriarch of a hippy family living off the grid in the middle of the woods. After the death of his wife and mother to their six children, he decides to take them into the real world to attend the funeral. What follows could easily have been a terrible fish out of water comedy, but instead we're treated to a satire on modern life that hits the nail right on the head (calling coke "poison water" definitely has a certain truth to it). Watch this if you want a bittersweet and original comedy.
7The most recent movie I've seen on this list is far more than the sum of its parts. Your Name by Makoto Shinkai (5 Centimeters per Second) can be seen as yet another bodyswap comedy akin to Vice Versa or 18 Again. Yet unlike those forgettable 80's Hollywood movies, Your Name has a lot more to it. Two teenage strangers from vastly different sides of Japan randomly swap bodies. At first it's an embarrassing inconvenience and the two quickly figure out a plan to make it as painless as possible. When the mystical reason for it comes to light, it becomes an exciting race to save many lives. Studio Ghibli's When Marnie Was There could've easily taken this spot, but I believe that was released here in 2015. It's also a must see. Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli may not have closed its doors as planned quite just yet, but with Shinkai's latest I think we've found a worthy successor for when that time comes.
6John Carney has a rather undefinable career. His debut, Once, was a surprise hit with an Oscar winning song and a popular West End musical. Yet no-one seems to rave about it anymore, even though there's every reason why they should. Sing Street is just as charming and just as unassuming, yet its popularity is still a lot smaller than it should be. The film is set in Dublin in the 1980s, smack bang in the middle of the Troubles. It's not about that though even though some of its consequences do creep in. It's a coming of age story about a boy with aspirations to be the lead singer of a band and his innocent crush on the wannabe model with "mysterious eyes". There's some dark themes purveying the edges of the film but this is no gritty kitchen sink drama. Instead we have a heart-warming film that has more in common with John Hughes than Ken Loach
5In an incredibly disappointing cinematic summer, The Nice Guys was the one shining light. This is the kind of light-hearted comedy thriller for adults we don't seem to get from Hollywood any more. Two bumbling private investigators get together to investigate the disappearance of a missing porn star, despite her already being declared as dead. What follows is a plot written by a never-better Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Lethal Weapon) that holds its worth against any Elmore Leonard novel.
4I still love The Force Awakens, even though there's since been a bit of a backlash. It's plays very much on nostalgia for A New Hope and even emulates the same story beats from it. One could argue we desperately needed that after the terrible prequel trilogy. Nevertheless, whatever came next still had a lot to prove. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story did just that and then some. It proved that the stand alone stories could work in a big way. It proved Star Wars is adaptable enough to use the tropes of the war film while still bringing something new and inventive to the table. More reassuringly, it proved that there's some smart talent behind the franchise. Sure it's not without it's issues. The character building at the beginning drags on a little, and we're saddled with a female protagonist not nearly as memorable as Leia, Rei or even Queen Amidala (controversial!). What is there is a tense action film with some of the best scenes in the entire franchise. That Darth Vader scene is worth the price of admission alone, even without the stunning final act. I'm not sure if I like it as much as the Force Awakens, but it sure is close.
3The biggest home-grown movie in the history of New Zealand is perhaps the most fun I've had in the cinema this year. Ricky, an orphan punk (or a punk by New Zealand's standards) is taken in by a new foster family in the middle of the countryside. The enthusiastic and loving Bella (played by the ever brilliant Rima Te Wiata - watch her in Housebound from a few years ago, you'll see what I mean) takes to motherhood with gusto while her husband Hec (Sam Neil) grumps around in the shed. Sadly Bella dies just as Ricky is getting used to having a family. Faced with the prospect of going back to the orphanage, he runs away into the wilderness leaving Hec to follow after. They bond during this excursion, but things take a turn when a social worker whose seen The Fugitive too many times is in pursuit. The movie is simply a joy from start to finish, topping many best of the year lists. And for good reason.
2Considering Disney kicked ass at the box office this year, it's surprising that a Disneyphile like me hasn't put any of their movies in my top 10 (Star Wars doesn't count). Zootropolis, Moana and Pixar's Finding Dory are all very good movies, but for me Kubo and the Two Strings tops them all. Laika's stop-motion epic takes the themes of a traditional Chinese Wuxia tale and adds their own distinctive spin. The animation is beautiful, the set pieces exciting and the story engrossing and emotional. An absolute classic. I'd be surprised if it doesn't win Best Animated Movie at the Oscars.
1In such a tumultuous year, we really needed Arrival. It was the perfect antidote to the dumb, half-assed movies that Hollywood has recently swamped the multiplex with. It also presented a positive spin on international relations, promoting peace instead of war. It tells the story of a linguist played by Amy Adams whose hired to communicate with aliens who have made their way to Earth. It's the same premise as Independence Day but this is no invasion. This is a smart science-fiction movie that doesn't rely on bombastic action sequences. The aliens are here peacefully, even if some countries don't see that. It promotes dialogue, not division - a prescient lesson needed for the real world too. Director Dennis Villeneuve has also proven that the Blade Runner sequel is in safe hands. I wouldn't be surprised if this gets a lot of attention during the awards season, even with La La Land getting all the buzz.
WORST 5 MOVIES OF 2016
GODS OF EGYPT
GODS OF EGYPT
BATMAN V SUPERMAN
NORM OF THE NORTH
In case you haven't guessed, I'm a bit of a movie geek. I'm also a huge fan of the original Ghostbusters and its underrated sequel, both being defining movies of my childhood that stand up incredibly well to this today. They were smart comedies with some decent scares and set pieces wrapped around a premise that had legitimate science and research behind it. Dan Akroyd wrote it because he was fascinated by the subject matter, even going so far as to declare he believes in the paranormal. He also happened to be a talented comedian at the top of his game. Ghostbusters 2016 was co-written by Paul Feig (also the director) who was hired because he was sympathetic to a studio head's political agenda.
Now there's nothing wrong with a movie having an agenda, even for a comedy. Nor do I have any gripes about one that strives to be something positive and different that young girls can look up to. What Ghostbusters did was attempt to do that at the expense of not just men (it depicts all males in an incredibly negative light) but more importantly the long standing fans of the franchise. This was not the sequel that has been teased for decades. This was not a return to the comedy style of the original. This was closer to something like a PG Scary Movie sequel. Or Pixels with ghosts.
I followed the controversy from the point the trailer hit. I like millions of others contributed to its dislikes on YouTube thinking it just a small expression of my opinion. Then it blew up and became political. If you hated this, you hated women became the narrative. I began to read the leaked Sony e-mails and the plot synopsis by the begrudged editor. I viewed the informative Midnight's Edge YouTube videos on the matter looking for any sign of sanity. Still Sony double downed on the "misogynist" rhetoric. Surely a bad movie can just be a bad movie?
When the reviews came in they were mostly positive. It gave me a little hope. I also liked Paul Feig's past filmography. He was also a creative force for Freaks and Geeks - one of the best TV shows of all time and one that understood the nostalgia of the 80s. I know Sony has a history of buying good reviews in the past even being fined in 2000 for it, but publications I trusted gave it four stars out of five. There's got to be something good about it, right?
Wrong. Every joke fell flat. The plot made no sense. The villain's motivations make no sense. Hell, everyone's motivations made no sense. It felt like there was no script as almost every line appeared to improv. Bad improv at that. This was an obvious cash grab to take advantage of the Ghostbusters brand (and the Pringles product placement). People talked about how funny Chris Hemsworth it. He's game I'll give you that but he's not funny.
When you have such an unbelievably stupid character, it breaks your suspension of disbelief. I guess if you like Chris in this, you're more likely to enjoy the film as a whole. If you find some-one who doesn't know how to use a phone, doesn't understand that glass is a barrier and confuses his eyes for his ears funny, the other jokes in the film will be hilarious. That's the only reasoning I can find to understand why some people like it.
I could've easily forgotten this terrible movie had it not been called Ghostbusters. Hell, were it not for the deliberate disparaging of their target audience I wouldn't be so incensed by it all. As it is, I consider it the worst movie of 2016. Perhaps even the decade.
Rant over. Stay tuned for my best / worst games of the year.