2016: what we enjoyed!

2016 has been another busy year for movies, in no particular order, here are some of the films that stood out for me this last calendar year! Just a note, these are films that I managed to watch myself, so some films may have been left out! If there is something you think deserves a shout out, do leave a comment 🙂


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10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane was a film that could have worked without the Cloverfield name, as it’s a vastly different film from the 2008 monster movie. What we got a spectacularly intense thriller. The film is essentially set entirely in one location, as we follow Michelle, who happens to be held captive in an underground bunker by stranger. He says that he saved her, and the world outside has been attacked. Is he telling the truth? Or is he just a madman with issues? John Goodman steals the show with his intimidating performance as the captor. It’s a game of cat and mouse, can she trust him, and should she make a run for it? Is it really dangerous outside? A fantastic movie!


 

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Zootropolis / Zootopia

This was released here in the UK, around the same time as the nostalgic The Jungle Book, but the sheer originality of this movie just edges it in front! Following the adventure of a buddy cop duo, Disney once again delivers gold. Zootropolis is a film that both kids and adults can enjoy. Yes, it has all the usual Disney charm, bright colours, fun characters and vivid locations. The film also discusses deeper issues, such as racism & prejudice, something that really did surprise me when I watched it. The lead duo share great chemistry, and the film is filled with jokes (for both children and grownups!). A must watch!


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Moana

Moana is a film that most certainly deserved a lot more attention and marketing that it got. Seemingly forgotten in the late November/early December box office, and eclipsed by Rogue One, it was a curious decision to release it at that time. Personally, Moana is one of Disney’s finest animated films. It breaks away from the traditional princess storyline, instead focussing on saving the world. The ocean theme worked beautifully, the animation for the water is simply magnificent.  The characters are very charismatic, Moana is a determined, driven protagonist, and Dwayne Johnson does a stellar job as the wise cracking demi-god Maui. They play well off one another, and their interactions are great to see. Finally, the music is of course on point, especially the recurring main theme.


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Kubo and the Two Strings

It was a strong year for animated movies, as this list shows! What made Kubo stand out was the animation. The stop motion animation gave it a unique charm that combined well with its story. As one review online mentioned, it is pretty much The Legend of Zelda, if it was made into a film! Following the adventure of a young hero, to obtain the legendary items,  and save the world from evil! The casting was excellent for this, featuring the likes of Ralph Feinnes, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey & George Takei. It should be a strong contender for the Oscar for Best Animated Film; though it would do well to fight off the challenges from the Disney juggernauts.


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Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) race into battle against Iron Man’s group in “Captain America: Civil War.”

Captain America: Civil War

Well this was bound to be on here!! The biggest blockbuster of the year delivered after all the hype. Where Dawn of Justice failed, Civil War succeeded. The MCU has been building up over several years, and it all culminated here. It could have been easy to turn this movie into a complicated mess, considering the number of heroes involved, but they managed to blend them all in with the right quantity. The action scenes were amazing, the humour was typical Marvel, and the storyline was just as intriguing. The marketing for the film was based of choosing a side, but the film actually does very well to display both sides of the fight.  Also, the introduction of Black Panther and Spiderman was a win!


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Lights Out

It’s been a sensational year for horror fans, 2016 has seen several outstanding scares arrive at the big screen. Conjuring 2, Origins of Evil & Don’t Breathe were all great, but if I could only choose one, it would have to be Lights Out. Not only did it have a unique concept (spoilers alert, keep the lights on!) but it was one of the few films that didn’t fall into the trap of the usual horror film cliches! Shall I run back inside alone? Or get some help? We know how it works with most horror films, but they change it up here! Yes the backstory behind the ‘ghost’ was abit of a mess, but that shouldn’t take away from a well-made scare. Whereas Don’t Breathe & Conjuring 2 got slightly ridiculous near its finale, this film manages to stay on course.


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Rogue One

What’s left to be said about Rogue One? It’s our latest review, so feel free to check out our in-depth analysis elsewhere on our site! To keep it straight-forward for this, all I can say is that Rogue One has a high bar to clear after The Force Awakens, and it cleared it with ease! Yes it has its flaws, as does every film, it’s not perfect. It is however, a story that is essential to the Star Wars universe, with a fine ensemble cast, and a movie that is dramatically different to the other films in the franchise. The more mature and dark tone to the film really makes it stand out from the rest, and a cameo from a certain Star Wars legend is a treat for every fan!


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The Shallows

 A film that snuck under the radar during the Summer box office rush, but The Shallows was a highly enjoyable shark film! Films such as the Sharknado series have really taken the shine of Shark films, becoming more of a joke, than a serious threat. The Shallows takes the genre back to its roots, such as Jaws. The film follows a surfer stranded off the coast of a beach, being stalked by a vengeful shark! It’s a battle of wits, yes, the shark is a tad over the top, but it’s not Sharknado levels of ridicule. It’s also a beautiful film to look at; the location is stunning and the surfing shots are majestically executed. It may not have been the biggest movie this year, but one I most certainly enjoyed.


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Arrival

This was an Alien invasion movie like no other. What we got with Arrival was a smart, cerebral drama, as opposed to the typical alien attack films that we get. Director Denis Villeneuve captures the movie is such a way, the invasion almost feels like a mystical experience, rather than an apocalyptic event. The key here is Language, and how powerful it is. It’s about the science, and not the shooting!  It makes a nice change, and an interesting twist on the Alien genre. Amy Adams delivers a powerful performance here, which should see her rewarded with at least an Oscar nomination come the New Year! It’s that good!

Rogue One ends 2016 in style!

The Force Awakens, managed to bring back the magic of the original Star Wars trilogy, together with making Star Wars a huge Box Office draw once again. Rogue One was announced as the first of a collection of stand-alone films, known as the Star Wars Anthology. The Force Awakens (TFA) strongly lent on the influences of past movies, but could Rogue One replicate its success without using past foundations to build upon?

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Rogue One is the story of an intrepid group of rebels, who attempt to steal the plans which would aid the resistance to take down the impending creation of the apocalyptic Death Star. Our protagonist, Jyn Erso (Jones) is the daughter of Galen Erso (Mikkleson), who as a child, witnesses her father being taken away by the Galactic Empire to assist the completion of the super-weapon. Several years in the future, fate has her confront the consequences of the father’s actions, and plans one final assault to save millions of lives.

She is joined by several resistance fighters, who are all willing to go into a battle against all the odd. Cassian Andor (Luna), a member of the Rebel Alliance together with his reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO (Tudyk). Defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Ahmed), who has the vital intel for the mission. Chirrut Imwe (Yen), a blind fighter, who believes that he has ‘The Force’ and his best friend, Baze Malbus (Wen), who provides the firepower and muscle for his blind friend!

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The biggest challenge facing director Gareth Edwards was to take a group of virtually unknown characters, and make them work in a Star Wars film with very little Jedi & Lightsabre action! The film even goes as far as skipping the iconic ‘opening crawl’ during the opening credits, nor does it have the triumphant John Williams score at the start. What’s important to know here, is that these heroes do not have ‘The Force’, they are not Jedis, nor do they have any kind of super-power to make them stand out from the crowd. They’re just a group of regular (in the grand scheme of Star Wars!) people.

What we get, and it’s a huge compliment to the director, is a wonderful addition to the franchise. It’s a departure from the norm, and that’s what makes this film shine brightest. The overall tone of the movie is very dark; death and tragedy are a big part of the film. Even the Stormtroopers look like they mean business! There’s just something about the black uniform that makes them feel that much more imposing.

The casting here was on point. Donnie Yen as the blind warrior was a master-stroke! Providing not just the fine choreographed fight scenes he is well known for, but also giving the film some of its more humorous moments. Speaking of humour, Tudyk is a show stealer as the Droid devoid of any empathy! Regardless of the situation, K-2SO will give his brutally honest opinion. It was also nice to see Riz Ahmed get a role differing from his usual typecast, which allowed him to show another side to his acting calibre.

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One casting decision that did raise a few eyebrows was to digitally recreate the late Peter Cushing to reprise his infamous role as Commander Tarkin. The director believed that only Cushing could portray the villain, as controversial as the decision was, we had to admit, that the CGI technology has come a long way! Considering Tarkin has a considerable amount of dialogue in the movie, it could have looked awkward, but the result is mightily impressive. Apart from the longer moments of dialogue, it shouldn’t bother viewers too much. There is also one brief cameo from another character CGIed to look like their selves from Episodes 4-6. It’s only a few seconds, but I believe it was worth it, the scene would not have had the same impact had it only been filmed from behind.

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A quick mention regarding a spoiler from the trailers. Yes, Darth Vader does appear in Rogue One! James Earl Jones once again reprises one of the most iconic roles in all cinema! His presence in the movie is minimalist, only appearing in 3 scenes. The last of which is simply outstanding, and will leave all fans in awe! From a critical standpoint, does he really need to be in this film? Not really, like the Joker from Suicide Squad, his role could have been removed entirely. But unlike Suicide Squad, the decision to put him in was justified just for his final appearance!

So we have a dramatic storyline, a likable bunch of heroes and a new sense of danger not seen before in any SW move before, but what’s going against the film?

One criticism has to be that compared to TFA, the characters here are just not as memorable.  Even after just one film, Rey, Finn & Poe had a chemistry that the characters here just did not have.  We also didn’t get enough time to build up each of the team. Why did Rook decide to defect? The reason is never fully explained. Baze & Chirrut are just stumbled upon and join the team a few scenes later.  The film takes a while to get going, and it would have been better to use some of that time to give the team abit more of a backstory.  Another point to mention is that several scenes from the trailer were removed in the final cut. Will these scenes be in the extended edition? Or were they simply edited in to tempt viewers? Regardless, it’s become a worrying trend recently in Hollywood.

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With those gripes aside, Rogue One may have entered the year very late, but it’s already laid a marker in being the best film of the year. The supporting cast, including the likes of Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker & Ben Mendelsohn, all deliver stellar performances. TFA was impressive, but it did lack a spark of originality, it was more of a tribute to the films from before, also relying on bringing back past characters to help. What Rogue One manages to do is create a brand new film, without any major assistance. It also answers a burning question fans have been asking ever since A New Hope, which actually makes this film rather important in Star Wars lore!

Is it the best film if the year? Personally, Captain America : Civil War takes that crown. But Rogue One pushes it mighty close! Go and see it now!

 

 

 

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