I saw 42 films at the cinema this year (as always a big thanks to JAFFA and Reading Cinemas) and the quality was mixed. It was strong early but fairly solid in the last few months.
A respectable 24 movies were rated 7.5 or above but 10 received scores of 6 or below.
It was a big year for super hero movies, sequels and rather pedestrian reboots. But I guess we’re stuck with that for the time being.
Here’s the highs and lows of 2016.
1. Spotlight (10/10)
Both brilliant and chilling, the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered an extensive paedophile ring within the Catholic Church. I knew this was going to be a standout and it lived right up to expectation, possibly exceeded it. A great cast including Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo (who was amazing) and it holds up to a second and third viewing. Not the easiest watch of the year but clearly the best film and deserved Best Picture winner. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do.
2. Captain America: Civil War (9/10)
Marvel knocked DC out of the park with their film pitting good guy against good guy - the main difference being there was an actual reason to be split. Still very much a Cap film, though, we’re introduced to a few more characters in the MCU highlighted by a very cool Black Panther and the MCU version of Spider-Man and he is a real winner. Marvel keep getting it right and while the luck will eventually run out as the cast moves on, most likely, Civil War is pure entertainment, witty and in keeping with what the series has been doing.
3. The Big Short (9/10)
Another early standout film. This one focuses on the housing crash in the mid-2000s and again features an excellent cast with Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling starring. Though they are upstaged by Margot Robbie’s cameo explaining the intricacies of the financial world while sipping champagne in a bubble bath. Not quite as accessible as Spotlight but still easily one of the better movies of the year.
4. Doctor Strange (8.5/10)
Yet another Marvel entry and, a bit like Guardians Of The Galaxy and Ant Man, it was a risky film that they managed to pull off. Granted it started a little slowly but stacked with the humour and witty script we’ve come to expect from Marvel, and some solid leads in Benedict Cmberbatch as the Doctor and Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, it works and brings the mystical world into the MCU. Plus there’s a cracking credits scene! Hard not enjoy this one.
5. Eye In The Sky (8.5/10)
Many may have missed this one but it really had me hooked. Focusing on a remote military strike on a terrorist base in Kenya, tensions arise when an innocent girl wanders into the kill zone. This triggers a moral debate about whether to proceed with the mission. Outstanding performances from Helen Mirren, the late Alan Rickman and Aaron Paul drive the film and it’s definitely worth seeing.
Honourable mentions: Solid bunch. The Accountant (8.5/10) fell just short of the top five but was excellent and a great performance from Ben Affleck. I enjoyed Deadpool (8/10) as most did (pressure on the sequel though) and Suicide Squad (8/10) and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them (8/10) was a refreshing entry to the Harry Potter world (love the jewel thieving critter). Quality dramas like The Girl On The Train (8/10), Room (8/10) and 10 Cloverfield Lane (8/10), the latter a chilling turn from John Goodman though the ending could have been better. Nocturnal Animals (8/10) will probably get better with a second viewing, I had high hopes but it was quite complex. A charming Maggie Smith in The Lady In The Van (8/10) was a delight and in outer space Star Trek Beyond (8/10) was up to scratch. Then, let’s not forget Rogue One (8/10) which proved a worthy entry into the Star Wars universe.
Surprise of the year: The Shallows (7.5/10) proved that you can still make a ‘shark’ film gripping and they certainly achieved it here. Pretty much just a cast featuring Blake Lively as a surfer who lands on a remote beach her mother talked of and finds herself in a battle with a rather fiesty shark. It’s hard to keep the attention and the tension up with such a simple premise but it worked and encouraged me not to go back into the water all over again.
Flop of the year: I could easily say Ghostbusters (4/10) but I knew it was going to be rubbish so the award goes to….The Revenant (4/10). I know a lot of people liked this one but I’m sorry it didn’t do anything for me. Leonardo DiCaprio grunts and crawls his way to a Best Actor Oscar. Please! It was too long, too dour, and ended with a massive cop out. And Tom Hardy deserved an Oscar much more than Leo.
The film I wanted to like more: Definitely Nocturnal Animals (8/10) as mentioned above. The trailer had me intrigued and I very much like Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal, both of whom were excellent by the way. It’s a story within a story and that made it complex and hard work to follow. High quality no doubt and once I see it again I’m sure I’ll rate it higher, especially since it’s one of those films where the ending is left up to your imagination, I guess is the best way to it.
Letdowns: X-Men: Apocolypse should probably kill off that series, it was pretty ordinary, and you would have thought Underworld: Blood Wars would do the same though it was left right open for another. Jason Bourne was pretty average as well and as much as I’m a Jack Reacher fan, Never Go Back wasn’t the best book to base a second film on. I suppose I could add Batman vs Superman into that as well but I didn’t expect it to be that great anyway (that said it wasn‘t as bad as expected).
Another year coming up littered with sequels, both deserved and not so deserved (see Trainspotting). High hopes for Guardians Of The Galaxy 2, Spiderman: Homecoming and Wonder Woman in the super hero genre. DC look to have Wonder Woman right so a lot hangs on this one for their universe. Of course there’s Star Wars Episode 8 and it’s going to be bittersweet with Carrie Fisher’s recent passing. And how could I forget Fast and Furious 8 (Fate Of The Furious) which looks awesome. Hopefully there’ll also be some quality drama/thrillers out there too.
See you at the movies!