h

The Best (And Worst) Films of 2016

For media hounds, 2016 was a whirlwind year, with a ton of great music and film accompanying the loss of so very many of our artistic heroes. It was also a year of grand heights in cinema – especially for animated film – and crushing lows, mostly delivered on hype wagons whose wheels came off on opening night. Naturally, these picks are but my humble opinion, and don’t include some of the year’s most celebrated flicks, the most glaring omission por moi being Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. Let us know your picks in the comments!

THE WORST:

 

The 5th Wave (1)

 

The first instalment in a film trying to be this year’s Hunger Games was a pale imitation, written as if by someone who’d never seen a film and had been force-fed the Young Adult bestsellers list. Its ethics are deplorable, Chloë Grace Moretz and Maika Monroe are utterly wasted, and Alex Roe better hope he’s a better football player than he is an “actor”.

 

“From Moretz’s magically reloading gun to her complete lack of any plot-driving agency to staggering logical oversights, the film seems to test a young adult audience’s ability to suspend disbelief.” – Read the full review here.

 

Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2)

 

Looking back, I think I was overly generous giving this turgid, uber-gritty super flick two stars. Director Zack Snyder’s first film (2004’s Dawn Of The Dead) was his finest, and this was his lowest point since the abysmal Sucker Punch. Batman becomes a straight-up serial killer, Superman becomes as whiny as Bats; Wonder Woman is awesome for all of three minutes but we’re forced to watch Jesse Eisenberg parody his own shtick in the worst performance of the year. And it’s longer than Christmas lunch with your racist aunt - unforgivable.

 

“Batman V Superman is, in spite of poor moral reasoning, a competent hero flick. But after such lengthy interrogation, these archetypal figures should muster more than mere competence. The real battle here is between Snyder and the weighty DC legacy, and both emerge scarred from this fight.” – Read the full review here.

 

Suicide Squad (2)

 

Again, I was overly generous on dem stars. There goes those hype wagon tyres – macho muppet David Ayer and a totally bumbling last-minute effort to salvage the film’s ugly tone made Suicide Squad into the year’s most expensive mess. They aimed for Guardians Of The Galaxy, they got garbage. Even Margot Robbie and the chilling Viola Davis can’t salvage the worst superhero film since… well, DC’s last effort. Let’s just not talk about Jared Leto.

 

“Where the film’s marketing promised colourful anarchy, the film itself delivers tired superhero cliché, with little to differentiate it tonally from the dreadful Batman V Superman save for a tendency towards quipping.” – Read the full review here.

 

 

Blood Father (1)

 

Mel Gibson’s supposed return to his hard-man heyday proves desperate, with an “honest” portrayal of a recovering addict (read: method) taking pride of place in a film content to dwell in the gutter. The script is so trope-laden it borders on satirical – though that would be giving it far too much credit. It wouldn’t matter even if one of the greats were directing: this first-draft fuck-up should have been bonfire fuel.

 

“Richet’s lamentable effort is a waste of three talented actors, a waste of your money and time, and a waste even of its own exhausted premise. Its only questionable value is as a disturbing reflection on Mel Gibson, the man.” – Read the full review here.

 

Independence Day: Resurgence (1)

 

Hey, remember when Roland Emmerich was vaguely relevant? So does he, apparently. This is less a sequel and more an expensive photocopy of its 20-year-old predecessor, and even for 1996 this would feel like a step backwards, wholly uncertain of whether it’s serious, or one big joke. The great Jeff Goldblum leads (most of) the original cast into a funhouse mirror version of the original, which someone has kindly smeared with faeces – make like Will Smith and say “Hell no!” to this dreck.

 

Dishonourable Mentions:

 

Inferno (1.5) – even the director couldn’t give a toss about it.

La La Land (2) – an opinion likely to have me publicly decried, but it stands.

Apprentice (2) – what happens when you try to ape art house cinema.

 

THE BEST:

 

Land Of Mine (5)

 

The war movie to end all war movies throws a cadre of young German soldiers, taken hostage at WWII’s end, into the mess of their nation’s making, as a grizzled Danish sergeant forces them to clear landmines by hand. Director Martin Zandvliet deftly balances powerful empathy and near-unbearable tension in a truly confronting and unforgettable drama.

 

 

I, Daniel Blake (5)

 

Ken Loach, hero of the working class, makes one of the simplest and most profoundly affecting flicks of 2016, drawing humour and heartache from a career-defining performance by comedian Dave Johns. This is truly a film of the everyman and for everyone. Ready your feels.

 

“Ever the realist, Loach steers clear of stylistic flourish, so the only music on offer is that which Blake owns on cassette; the only colour palette on display the muted greys and browns of the industrial North. For Loach, the most arresting colours are those drawn from character, and Blake is a magnetic centrepiece.” – Read the full review here.

 

Zootopia (5)

 

Disney's parable of inclusivity is one of their finest to date, and yet another grand example of Disney's animation studio striving to reach the lofty standards of Pixar. Joyous and surprising, even where it's story follows more traditional narrative arcs. Also, dat sloth.

 

 

Hunt For The Wilderpeople (4.5)

 

New Zealand’s favourite son Taika Waititi takes a step back from the (brilliant) joke-a-minute approach of What We Do In The Shadows to deliver a bittersweet and hugely charming adventure in the vein of his debut, Boy. Sam Neill is at the height of his powers, sharing amicably with top-shelf newcomer Julian Dennison. Just try forgetting that birthday song: Ricky Baker, ahhhhh, Ricky Baker.

 

Kubo & The Two Strings (4.5)

 

I went along to Laika’s latest stop-motion animation expecting an adventure of Legend Of Zelda proportions. While Kubo & The Two Strings delivered, I also spent the last third of the film trying not to let the kids at the screening see my tears. This is an exciting, action-packed kids’ movie about the inevitable passing of one’s parents, and it’s an absolute must-see.

 

“Kubo has many strings to its bow, but the two that define it are its intense evocation of family and its devotion to the power of story. Only in the passing of stories are we immortalised, and only by embracing our impermanence are we given joy and significance in our lives.” – Read the full review here.

 

Honourable Mentions:

 

Deadpool (4.5) – everything Suicide Squad could have been - an utter delight.

Tickled(4.5) – a shocking and riveting documentary thrill-ride.

Son Of Saul (4) – a painful, brilliantly constructed first-person tour of Auschwitz.

Everybody Wants Some!! (4) – heady nostalgia and masculinity done right.

High-Rise (4) – slick, seductive and scandalous; a highly polished nightmare.

Swiss Army Man (4) – the year’s weirdest: a bromance with a farting corpse.

The Neon Demon (4) – Nicolas Winding Refn gets glamorous, stays vicious.

Your Name (4) – true love is real, you guys, it’s friggin’ real.

10 Cloverfield Lane (4) – this is how you sequel.

What's been your favourite films of the year? Let us know in the comments section.