By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2016 12:28AM
Top 2016 films from MIdlands Movies Editor, Mike Sales
After a very tough year personally, I think I have gone for a much more light-hearted Top 20 than in previous favourite lists of mine but there is also something from most genres including comedy, action, horror, drama, documentary, sci-fi and much more.
Not sure it was a “classic” year in terms of films that will have longevity but what it did have was creativity in spades and in at least three cases, the rejuvenation of well-worn franchises was actually the biggest surprise for me.
Read below for the final list of my favourite 20 films in 2016 and links to the full reviews from the site.
20. Hardcore Henry Dir. Ilya Naishuller
What we said: “The violence was suitably over-the-top and generally creative, an excellent and campy Sharlto Copley gets multiple characters to inhabit – including the delivery of a song and dance number – and the stunt work is superb”.
19. Anomalisa Dir. Charlie Kaufman/Duke Johnson
What we said: “With dazzling animation, Kaufman’s tight script and a distinctive style to wrap the themes around, this exceptional film is that rare beast where mock-up mannequins gives us not just an imitation of life but show the intimacy of life. When Kafka meets Aardman you get Kaufman”.
18. Race Dir. Stephen Hopkins
What we said: “2016 has provided a wealth of sports films for fans and Race is a movie that makes you want to read more on a subject which is a rare commodity. Breaking track and field records alongside breaking barriers in America, I recommend you take a chance with this winning film as, despite its shortcomings, is one worth investing your soul in”.
17. Hunt for the Wilderpeople
16. De Palma Dir. Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow
What we said: “De Palma’s legacy as a filmmaker has been assured with a genre-hopping career with unforgettable cinematic images. De Palma is a fantastic documentary…[and] for those wanting to get an insightful and, more importantly, honest review of someone’s life, De Palma lets the director do all of the talking”.
15. Midnight Special Dir. Jeff Nichols
What we said: “A supernatural thriller with a stunning piano-led soundtrack, Midnight Special takes an unexpected route to well-worn themes. Nichols has created an enigmatic film for those willing to stick with a cryptic cross-country cruise that doesn’t answer all the questions, but when done this well – it doesn’t need to”.
14. Zero Days Dir Alex Gibney
What we said: “It’s a hush-hush story with all the twists of a spy thriller…this is an astonishing documentary. A fantastic journey of code-makers and breakers, Zero Days goes beyond its niche technical audience and becomes a successful critique on global warfare in the 21st Century”.
13. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
What we said: "With enough action, throwback ‘easter eggs’ and a host of characters whose journeys we haven’t followed before, Rogue One delivers a solid sci-fi story of hopeful resistant fighters rising up against their wicked oppressors. It's done with fun, flair and impressive visuals that whisks you off to that galaxy far, far away like the annual family holiday. Comforting, expected but with an extra trip or two thrown in. We'll all be back again next year".
12. High-Rise Dir. Ben Wheatley
What we said: “High-Rise is a film that bubbles up slowly from the bottom until it reaches a gloriously gory finale. Experimental but just the right side of coherent, the film explores wickedness and immorality and if you go along with its wantonness you’ll find many more highs in a slow burner - building to a pinnacle of decadence”.
11. Everybody Wants Some!! Dir. Richard Linklater
What we said: “Avoiding clichés, Everybody Wants Some blurs the lines of the traditional jock stereotype. Whilst plenty of time is given to their competitiveness, the film deconstructs this and…at the core is a spirited story of male-centred affection and despite the burliness and muscle-flexing bravado shown by the physical players, Linklater has created a film with much more soul than you would imagine”.
10. The Nice Guys Dir. Shane Black
What we said: “Its use of Warner Bros 70s "Big W" logo designed by Saul Bass shows that the Nice Guys is much more than nice – it’s a big slice of retro-influenced cool. With stylish direction, a sophisticated script and a set of trendy performances, Black’s latest is best enjoyed as a hip cocktail of cynical repartee and noir style”.
9. Hell or High Water Dir. David Mackenzie
What we said: “From dusty roads to budget diners, the film revels in its unobtrusive locations and settings to add realism to a well worn tale. Efficient in story-telling and with flashes of action interspersed with intimate tête-à-têtes, Hell or Highwater is a low key success that is both gritty and smart, tough and stylish and definitely one of this year’s highlights”.
8. Creed Dir. Ryan Coogler
What we said: “For the fans, all the ingredients of the Rocky formula are there with a focus on the characters you have grown up with but the drama is so well crafted there is plenty for those who know nothing about the journey so far. This means that Creed is a filmic feat, an emphatic return to form with an individual voice from director Coogler that amounts to a knock-out triumph”.
7. Bone Tomahawk Dir. S. Craig Zahler
What we said: “Bone Tomahawk therefore ends up being a furious film with pockets of revolting cruelness and the dust-covered savages are a fascinating twist on the “cowboy and Indian” stories of the past and whilst the horse-based passage through the wild is a Hollywood chestnut, the film’s formula mixes in new aspects to the genre. A bloody smattering of torture and mutilation gives the movie a bleak twist that will also satisfy the horror crowd and its no-frills narrative was a thrilling ride along”.
6. Eye in the Sky Dir. Gavin Hood
What we said: “Marvellous powerhouse performances from the entire cast are elevated by Mirren and Rickman showing their legendary range in a remarkable film. Drone controllers Aaron Paul & Phoebe Fox are excellent support as those with their fingers-on-the-triggers but in the safety of your own home the film asks you to question what you would sacrifice for the sake of protecting others. And it doesn’t get much more significant than that”.
5. The Revenant Dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu
What we said: “The film’s endurance reflects the characters’ fight for survival and combines thrills with more tender moments in a hard-hitting expedition of a movie. The director brings nuance and refreshing ideas – the camera gets “fogged” by the actors’ warm breaths in the chilly air at times – but with a superb cast the film is just a log cabin away from setting up camp in Oscar territory” (Editor – and boy did it!).
4. The Invitation Dir. Karyn Kusama
What we said: “Director Karyn Kusama has got nearly everything right with the film, getting great performances out of a good mixed cast, as well as filling her dark shots with trepidation, terror and a fair amount of fear. Expertly crafted, The Invitation creates anxiety through a superb central performance by Logan Marshall-Green, and is an alarming achievement where nothing is what it seems. Filled with fear and a few frightful revelations, this is one party I recommend you RSVP to on its release”.
3. Hail Caesar! Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen
What we said: “A homage, a pastiche, a tribute – the Coens’ ‘Hail, Caesar!’ is a masterclass in the technical but with warm comedic touches, a playfully simple narrative and heaps of laugh out loud moments, it also passes the audition to join those great films that are also about films. With the look of an LA Confidential and a raucousness verging on a Carry On film, the Coens’ latest offering has all the ingredients of the bygone age it affectionately lampoons”.
2. Green Room Dir. Jeremy Saulnier
What we said: “With the passing of star Anton Yelchin, it is even more sorrowful to know that the up and coming actor was putting in great performances right until the end. Bloody, nasty and at times gruesome, this is a superb film where characters make suitably realistic decisions and its understated opening of a down-and-out band playing the shitty underground music circuit contrasts brilliantly with the subsequent carnage later on. Brutal and uncompromising, ferocious and savage, fans of physical and emotional heaviness will lap up this dark movie from the director of Blue Ruin”.
1. Captain America: Civil War Dir. Anthony and Joe Russo
What we said: “Here there is a better balance of characters than Age of Ultron and great action sequences and moving scenes help ground the film but the airport scrap between the two warring factions is simply “amazing” in all “senses” of the word. With an ending that’s as gripping as it is meaningful, the last but not least important aspect is Chris Evans as Captain himself. Originally somewhat of a clichéd damp squib of a character – the 40s hero is a war-time stereotype – Marvel have created an absolute pivotal role for the superhero and Evans’ superb approach creates a (narrative) freedom that Cap’ himself would be proud of”.