Best Films of 2016: Part One
Beginning the countdown of the year’s best films is always a resounding joy, a feat which reminds you that whatever has happened throughout the past twelve months, the escapist medium of cinema is always there to dissolve any troubles. With 2016 deciding to hit us with a particularly puzzling set of circumstances, the irony that the year in film has been one of the strongest in recent memory is a relieving notion, one which once again argues against the common misconception that the “golden age” of cinema is well and truly behind us and one which allows us to create a list of best films so diverse, so rich in quality that it can only be regarded as a pleasurable reminder of the year in film. So sit back, grab a beer and enjoy the first part of our annual inspection of the best of the best, beginning ever so swiftly with…
20. Rogue One – A Star Wars Story
For the latest Star Wars entry to not be one of the best films of the year would have been a universe-ending disaster and although Rogue One isn’t on par with others in the series, particularly last years’ The Force Awakens, it is undeniably an effective addition to the ever-increasing canon. Whereas Rogue One‘s overarching theme is one of a melancholic downer, the final act, where our beloved heroes, led by Felicity Jones, attempt to steal the Death Star plans, setting out the plot for the original trilogy of movies, is a masterclass in visual splendour, throwing grounded battles amongst dogfights within space, reminding that when Star Wars hits the popcorn button, it does it better than anyone.
19. Jason Bourne
Returning to the Bourne franchise after a nine year hiatus, the one-two success partnership of director Paul Greengrass and Bourne himself, Matt Damon, this time decided to hit us will a full-on, adrenaline soaked thrill ride, journeying from Greece to London and from Russia to Las Vegas, with each stop-off attempting to out-do the other in terms of flashy set pieces. Among the spectacle, the concluding chase scene down the Las Vegas strip is amongst one of the best bone-crunching practical stunt-filled scenes in recent history. Whereas directors like Zak Snyder feel the desire to fill each action set piece with CGI, thank the lord for people like Greengrass who understands the power of keeping the adventure down-to-earth, resulting in Jason Bourne being a thrilling continuation of our favourite amnesia-ridden super spy.
18. Under The Shadow
This internationally co-produced Iranian hidden gem is a fantastic example of modern horror cinema, refusing to rely on cheap jump scares and instead infecting the audience with its’ low-key ghostly chill. Featuring some of the biggest scares of the year, as well as the creepiest looking duvet cover ever, Under The Shadow flies the flag for the British entry in the upcoming Oscars for Best Foreign Language Movie and whilst wins for horror movies are as rare as becoming president without prior experience in government, wouldn’t it be great to see director Babak Anvari pick up the prestigious gong for this impressive directorial debut.
17. Captain America: Civil War
Without doubt the best blockbuster of the year, Captain America: Civil War is an excellent top-end addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, gelling a mind-boggling array of characters into an effective narrative which sees our beloved Avengers fall out over the publication of the Sokovia Accords, a red-tape filled containment of their powers which adds a political edge into the series director siblings Anthony and Joe Russo began in The Winter Soldier. Where Batman v. Superman became bogged down in awful storytelling and laughable CGI, Civil War continues as a reminder of the success of the MCU, which not only remains a bankable franchise for Disney but continues to release movies of a successful ilk, paying off the hopes of fans whilst wetting the appetites for the many future releases to come.
16. Bone Tomahawk
The best thing about Bone Tomahawk is in its’ desire to mix the gore-inflicted splatter of the B-Movie conventions with Tarantino-esque dialogue, accumuluating in a Western reminscent of classics such as The Searchers and featuring the most menacing, relentless villains since the cannibalistic family in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With a reinjuvinated Kurt Russel, appearing in his first of two films on this list, in the lead role as the rugged, no-nonsense sheriff, Bone Tomahawk is a timely reminder that sometimes the best films are the ones you really have to seek out. Sure, any old cinema chain can show the latest blockbuster, but it takes real balls to take the chance on not only the directorial debut of S. Craig Zahler but a movie which features the most violent on-screen death I can remember. And it rules.
Kill List director Ben Wheatley finally manages to develop J.G Ballard’s infamous novel to the big screen after years of development hell and inevitably it is the most marmite movie of the year, one which features Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing who after arriving in the titular High-Rise, descends into chaos alongside an array of characters each acting as metaphors for the struggling class wars, a notion which transfers from novel to screen as easy as an A-Level sociological study. Although the concluding act is a barmy mix of messy apocalyptic drama, the strange sense of melancholic black humour rife throughout Wheatley’s work is what really makes High-Rise a riveting success.
14. Everybody Wants Some!!
Quoted as being the “spiritual sequel” to both Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s latest coming-of-age comedic drama takes all the best bits of his previous college-infused delights and creates yet another successful tale of cultural clashes amongst a equally-superb retro soundtrack, ranging from Van Halen to The Knack. Whilst the film follows Blake Jenner in the lead role, the real hero of the picture is Glen Powell’s Finn, the charming and hilarious house-mate who leads the way within a band of characters who make Linklater’s latest a joyous tale of one weekend’s worth of booze, parties and hook-ups. the real goals of college life. Apparently.
13. Hell or High Water
First noticed on FX’s Sons of Anarchy, writer/actor Taylor Sheridan has come very far, very quickly with his narrative abilities, this year following up on his screenplay for last year’s Sicario with Hell or High Water, a cracking, hard-boiled anti-western which focuses on the power of in-depth characterisation amongst a socio-political backdrop, with a mirrored band of brothers, both biological and metaphorical, consisting of the likes of Chris Pine, Ben Foster and a superb Jeff Bridges, giving his most growling performance since True Grit. Understated in times, yet thrilling in others, Hell or High Water was the kind of film needed after a summer of disappointment and whilst not as dark and delicious as Sicario, is another notch of success for writer Sheridan, a man who can pick his directorial colleagues well.
Let’s face it, the genre of animation has really hit its’ stride recently, picking up plaudits left, right and centre, and whilst last year’s success story in the form of Inside Out was Disney hitting its’ most imaginative streak, Zootropolis is another undisputed success, one which takes the age-old story of the underdog, or under-rabbit in this occasion, and places it in the imaginary world where animals big and small, predator and prey live together in harmony. Well, that’s until a mysterious band of predators become insane and start going missing, allowing our beloved rookie police officer Judy Hopps to take the case and figure out the secrets of their disappearance. With superb digital animation and a stellar voice cast, Zootropolis is yet another Disney masterstroke, one which suitably keeps both children and adults entertained alike.
11. The Hateful Eight
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny the film-making prowess of Quentin Tarantino. Following in the footsteps of Django Unchained and keeping things well within the Western genre of which he seems to be a unrelenting fan of (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is one of his favourite films), The Hateful Eight boasts a stellar yet familiar Tarantino cast as we witness a three hour mixture of colourful, addictive dialogue amongst an air of paranoia which culminates in B-Movie exploitation goodness. With Tarantino choosing to opt for the retro feel of the Ultra Panavision 70 for the first time in a movie since 1966, The Hateful Eight boasts stunning cinematography, focusing on everything from Kurt Russel’s moustache to the snowy terrains of late 19th century western America and whilst Tarantino’s latest isn’t a smooth sailing classic like his earlier work, it still is a fantastic piece of cinema and one which brings with it a strong sense of admiration.