January – Spotlight/The Big Short
I’m including both of these as one as to me they’re both very similar. For some reason I’d get the feeling they’d make a brilliant double feature. Both deal with social responsibility and how to cope when your world collapses around you, how you deal with knowing that something that is supposed to be a saviour for the masses is actually responsible for ruining so many peoples lives. Not just good films, but also very important. It’s weird both of these came out in the same month. Occasionally we’re blessed with great release schedules, and sometimes we have nothing.
February – Goosebumps
Again, another REALLY good month. This month had this, deadpool, Secrets In Their Eyes, and, ok actually that’s it. But that’s still a good month. I chose to talk about this though as I’m not entirely sure what I can say about Secrets In Their Eyes, whereas this I can at least have one paragraph about an aspect of it. This is a weird genre; kid-friendly horror. It’s a really hard genre to do, but when it’s done well it’s great. You can’t depend on cheap tricks for these, you can’t just fill the screen with jump scares, ultra-violence, and sexual assault. You have to get creative and think of ways of maintaining dread through well-written characters and a villain that represents a deep fear we all have. This isn’t the best film I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the ones I feel the most warmth for.
March – The Witch (or The VVitch)
Those of you who are regular readers of this blog (and if you’re not, the subscribe button is like, right there) will know that my relationship with horror is complicated. I like the genre yet it’s the genre with the films I’ve hated most. Luckily this film fixes a lot of mistakes that most horror films make. Firstly, it’s f*cking terrifying. I liked this film a lot, but I NEVER want to see it again, it just felt wrong watching it. Not in the way that people feel when they’re watching A Serbian Film or Human Centipede or a Justin Bieber music video. That’s not fear, that’s disgust, if you go outside and vomit on someone you will disgust them, but it doesn’t make you the next Stephen King. This film is truly chilling. In a way that I genuinely can’t remember any film being. I remember watching this and being VERY impressed with how well it was directed (seriously, Robert Eggers is a f*cking genius with what he did, he managed to make a slow zoom into a forest scary and then managed to make you feel genuine terror at a rabbit). Really the only downside to this film is also one of its strengths. It doesn’t hold the viewers’ hands and walk them through.I guarantee at least 70% of the people who see this will hate it and find it boring, but the others will be sitting on the edge of their seat throughout, and it’s those 30% that the film is aiming at, but this means it often does things which disenfranchise the casual moviegoer. Shots don’t linger on important things as if to say “hey, pay attention to this” and things aren’t explained. You never feel like you’re watching a film and the dialogue flows beautifully and feels natural (which is odd as they’re speaking in ye olde english) but on the downside, moments end before you realise how important they are and how much you should have been paying attention.
April – Captain America: Civil War
I really loved this film when I saw it, and for a long time after. But to be completely honest, Endgame made this film worse in retrospect. It made me realise that this film didn’t really matter in the long term. The actual “civil war” had almost no impact on the rest of the franchise, neither did a character being paralysed. This film was like a little kid playing with army figures, he sets up the troops into weird and wonderful positions, he goes to school, hoping to continue when he comes back from school. But then his dad picks up all the figures and puts them back where they were as “that’s where they’re supposed to be”.
May – Money Monster
A big regret of mine is not seeing this at the cinema, I thought it would be overly preachy and dull. Nope, so tense, a great thriller which just goes to show how talented Jodie Foster is behind the camera. The story is depressingly relevant for these times.
June – The Conjuring 2
I preferred this to the first one, which was one of the most highly regarded horror films of the last decade. Does this mean it’s better? I have no idea, I’m aware of how strong personal bias can be, and I saw the first one in a house, whereas this one I saw in cinema, and horror is a genre made for cinema. Not just for the darkness and the volume, but also because of instant audience feedback, much like laughing, when you hear other people be scared it sets the tone and makes you more scared. And of course you’re forced to pay attention to it, you can’t sit there checking your phone (well, you can, but if you do, you’re a c*nt). I cannot overestimate how strong Madison Wolfe’s performance is in this, giving a performance well beyond her 13 years, bringing to mind Linda Blair in The Exorcist. She’s been in other films before but usually as a “main character when she was younger”, but on this the entire film is dependent on her. If you don’t buy her character and her fear, then the film is dead quicker than one of Henry VIII’s wives. The other performances? Well they’re okay, Vera Farmiga seems to be slightly phoning it in as Lorraine Warren this time, Patrick Wilson doesn’t have much to do but furrow his brow, Lauren Esposito does well with what she’s given but reminds me too much of someone I know for that not to be a distraction. This film does have some great scares, but they won’t stick with you, some of them are almost literally a guy sneaking up behind you and saying “boo”, they’re instant scares. They make you jump and provide good reaction shots for people to use in publicity, but once you leave the cinema all fear is over. You don’t see the world differently like you did after It Follows, you’re not left changed by the experience, every scare takes place in the moment. As such it’s destined to be one of those films teenagers watch in groups and sit in the dark (a genre I shall now deem; “frat house horror” as that seems to be the most popular place to watch horror movies according to American TV and films). Basically, it’s the feature length equivalent of one of those jump scare videos your asshole friend sends you, only over two hours long.
July – The BFG
I went into this with relatively low expectations, I saw Pete’s Dragon the same week and it did absolutely nothing for me, I appreciated what it did well, but I don’t need to see it again and I won’t recommend it to anyone. Also their was a family in front of me that I could tell were going to be problematic, with a whole bag of popcorn thrown on the floor behind them (i.e. in front of me) before the film even started. Yet within five minutes of this film I had completely forgotten Pete’s Dragon, I had forgotten the popcorn, I had forgotten the general feeling of ennui that accompanies my general existence, I was completely lost in the world that this film created. I completely brought into the universe that was created, if I saw this film whilst I was a child my parents would hate it due to the fact they’d have had to watch it every single day. Ruby Barnhill is superb in it, she spends a lot of time being the only real thing on screen, so it’s down to her to convince you that the rest is real, and she manages it. So to summarise; some films are funny, some films are heart-breaking, very few films can be described as magical, this is one of them. And it’s a real shame this film isn’t better regarded.
August – David Brent: Life On The Road
An odd film, funny in parts but it seems strange in the way it handles the main character. All through the film he’s shown to be a delusional person who annoys everybody. Logically this film should end with him realising the error of his ways and changing accordingly, maybe stop being such a dick to everybody. But nope, this ends with everyone else changing for him, and saying “he’s not that bad really”, “I quite like him actually”, and he the character doesn’t do anything to deserve this, they all just suddenly decide they like him now it’s reached the end of the film. I actually feel a lot of sympathy for the supposed antagonist of the film, all through the film he’s shown as someone who’s just trying to get on with his job but the main character keeps getting in the way and making so much noise he can’t do it, and when the guy finally snaps and says “look, just shut the fuck up”, we’re supposed to be angry at him, instead of just “yeah, that makes sense, he should have done that earlier”.
September – Kubo And The Two Strings
A film so strong and confident I just automatically assumed it was based on something. The fact that a new property can set up a world this full and real says a lot about the talent of both the writers and the directors. This was one of the few films in 2016 I was actively following from the moment I saw the first trailer, it just looked so good, the music choice (While My Guitar Gently Weeps) was inspired, and visually it was very different from everything else. This HAD to be fantastic for me to like it, anything else would be a bigger disappointment than the first time I tried Hershey’s Chocolate.
October – Storks
Expected it to be terrible, yet was actually quite funny. Not the greatest plot but very charming. Plus it has a fight scene where all the characters are trying to not make any noise so they don’t wake a sleeping baby, which was just hilarious, very inventive.
November – Edge Of Seventeen
It HAS to be this film, and not just because I’m watching it as I write this. Let’s get the obvious out of the way here; I’m fairly certain I’m not the target audience for this film (a feeling which was confirmed by the cinema being almost entirely teenage girls), so this had an uphill battle to impress me, an uphill battle which was evened out by the release of the trailer, which was funny, slightly heartwarming, and cynical as hell, I’m glad to say the only difference between the film and the trailer is the film itself is a lot more heartwarming. It’s just as funny and cynical as you’d hope, although part of my opinion on that might be because I have a weakness for any film which has “I’m going to kill myself” as the first line. It’s not just the cynical nature of the film that’s done well, the characters themselves are really well defined. Even when the characters do and say terrible things, you understand their motivations, even though you don’t agree with them. They are all fully fleshed out, and they all get good lines. Unpopular opinion, I tend to dislike “comedy characters” in films and sitcoms, mainly because it means the writers tend to give them all the best lines, leaving the other characters somewhat underdeveloped. That’s a problem which this film avoids, most of the characters could comfortably lead their own movie, that’s a masterful piece of scripting and the writer should be commended for that. Which is why I’m glad the writer also directed it, it’s easier to follow directors careers than writers as more emphasis is put on directors. I was surprised this was directed by the writer, although it kind of makes sense, this seems like a very personal story and they’d be nobody better to get that across than the person who wrote it. It’s more surprising that this is her first film as a director, whilst it’s not exactly full of “wow shots”, or inspiring cinematography, it’s a lot more accomplished than a first time director should be, here’s hoping she gets a chance to do more work in the future with someone elses script, will be interesting to see what she can do. I feel her best work is as a writer though, the script has some amazing pieces of dialogue that really hit home. My personal favourite being (and i’m paraphrasing here) “I just don’t want to have to live with myself for the rest of my life”. Like I said, I’m watching it right now and it is still just SO perfect.
December – Moana
A film so good it almost seems like Pixar made it, if it wasn’t for the songs. But oddly enough it’s the songs that push this to the top spot. I hate songs in kids films usually as they’re just distracting, but here it served a real purpose, characters seemed to have their own musical motifs attached to them, and the songs are REALLY good. There’s a crab singing a David Bowie-esque song, The Rock singing a song about how awesome he is, and they’re still not the best songs in this film. On the downside there’s one or two jokes that take you out of the movie (there’s a twitter joke in here which is quite funny but completely unnatural), but then they’re followed with moments of brilliance (the psychedelic crab scene, for instance, features animation so colourful and beautiful, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long time). It also features what is without a doubt the best pee-joke of the year. So there’s that. Oh, it also features adorable/terrifying coconuts, which is always the sign of a great movie (be honest, how much better would every film be if you added anthropomorphic coconuts?)
So yeah, that was 2016, and I didn’t even get to mention Zootropolis, Batman Vs Superman, Creed, or Room. Room is one of my favourite movies ever, and the fact I didn’t mention it just shows how good this year was.