10. The Hateful Eight
I’m surprised that The Hateful Eight only made it in at number 10, but I haven’t seen any of the above so I’m biased.
I admit, I’ve been useless at keeping up to date with new film this year, but my love for Tarantino got me straight down to Tyneside Cinema when this was released. It was the first time I’d seen one of Quentin’s films on the big screen, but although I was late to the party, it was a good one to start with. With most of the brutal action taking place in the confines of ‘Minnie’s Haberdashery’ over the 3 hours, you really felt as though you were drowning in the bloodbath, the tension heightened by Ennio Morricone’s original score. Without giving away any crucial spoilers, the biggest plot twist in this Western is the fact that Channing Tatum stars in it. And Samuel L. Jackson’s character is as disturbing as any performance he’s ever given.
9. 10 Cloverfield Lane
Imagine regaining consciousness after a car crash and finding yourself trapped in an underground bunker under John Goodman’s close watch, who insists that a chemical apocalypse is underway in the outside world.
Originally shot and edited under the name The Cellar, 10 Cloverfield Lane was marketed as a sister film to J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield – a film where New York is invaded by massive fuck off insects and Janis Ian from Mean Girls explodes. The two films couldn’t differ more. Goodman’s performance is unnervingly impressive as we spend the film deciding whether our alliances lie with him or the tenants he’s rescued. They’re told by Howard that the outside air is poisonous…but is he telling the truth? Is he an unstable murderer or an overprotective father figure? This film will have you screaming at the screen – it’s got gore, tension and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. What could be better?
Room is a touching drama that fantastically deals with the issue of trauma and how people can overcome it.
Having first read the novel, I was sceptical; however the film does the difficult storyline perfect justice. Jacob Tremblay is one of the best child actors the screen has seen recently, and audiences are guaranteed to be drawn in by his curiosity and innocence. The plot follows Jack and his Ma’s life within a single room – what I love is that the reason they’re in the room comes secondary to their endearing relationship, and although what they experience is very traumatic, the film prioritises the human feeling it takes for them to survive in that room. The content isn’t for the faint hearted, but it’s a testament to the things that strength and courage can triumph, and is in the end a very feel-good film.
What director Tom McCarthy achieved in the shooting of Spotlight is, quite frankly, incredible.
It’s easy to write an action-filled investigative journalism plot, but McCarthy created something so much deeper. The film is stripped-back and portrays the work of investigative journalists in a more realistic way. There aren’t the fistfights and overextended moments of suspense, but a real focus on the mesmerising plot, which is based on true events. The film follows an investigation into child sex scandals in Boston, based on a series of true stories run by the “Spotlight” team in 2003. Mark Ruffalo gives what could well be his best performance to date. It’s no surprise that the film won Oscars for Best Film and Best Original Screenplay. It is an honest, thought-provoking work that is ground-breaking in the genre.
6. The Jungle Book
It’s easy to criticise Disney for cashing in on their classics by remaking them in the live-action format, but this year’s The Jungle Book proved that there’s as much love poured into these films as with their originals.
Firstly, the special effects used to render this film’s beautiful setting and scarily-realistic animals dispelled any doubts that the studio couldn’t handle the challenge of bringing these things to life. Additionally, The Jungle Book boasts one of the year’s best casts, including the likes of Bill Murray, Idris Elba and Scarlett Johansson. Surprisingly though, the clear standout was Neel Sethi as Mowgli, who pulled off acting to a green screen for most of the film seamlessly. And whilst the intensity was cranked up from the original, its loveable charm was not lost. So, if The Jungle Book is anything to go by, next year’s live-action Beauty and the Beast is certainly something to look forward to.
Zootropolis is the most engaging Disney film I’ve seen in a while, and I applaud its fiercely anti-racist message.
Set in a world populated by animals, the protagonist, a bunny called Judy Hopps, must fight societal prejudices to become the first ever bunny police officer. The film’s strength is not in its brilliant visuals or exceptional voice cast, but its exploration of modern day prejudices. We want desperately for Judy to succeed in spite of all those who dismiss her, and later when the government of Zootropolis spreads hateful propaganda against the ‘predators’, the lions, wolves and tigers, we see a corrupt and intolerant society that is all-too-familiar. Zootropolis is a triumph. It’s funny, smart, and political, and in the world of Trump and Brexit, where we seem to be heading towards a right-wing nightmare, this film offers a glimmer of much-needed optimism.
4. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
I’ll be honest with you. I’m a bit of a Harry Potter heretic.
I really didn’t like anything beyond the fourth film, The Goblet of Fire (Rest In Pepperonis Robert Pattison) as I thought the story just kind of fell off and it devolved into a bleak narrative devoid of all the fun of the first three installments. That’s why it was such a shock to me when I walked into Fantastic Beasts, a movie I wasn’t really all that bothered about, and came out grinning like a child, the same as I was when I first saw Philosopher’s Stone all those years ago. A truly magical film in a bold new setting with exciting characters, Fantastic Beasts is a return to form for the franchise, with standout performances from Ezra Miller and Katherine Waterston. It made me laugh, well up, and feel fear, but most of all it had me hook, line, and sinker.
3. Captain America: Civil War
Considering its big cast, Civil War could also be viewed as Avengers 2.1, sadly missing Thor, the Hulk, and (surprisingly) Nick Fury, but wonderfully adding Ant-Man, Spider-Man, and Black Panther to the mix.
I was therefore excited, but, knowing the storyline, also scared for the film, having followed most of these characters since the start of Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The clash between Captain America and Iron Man was nicely done and what they stood for made sense for both, and even though the division of characters was used as advertising (i.e. which ‘Team’ you were on), I’m glad the film showed both sides as deeply flawed. The film was gritty and grim but thankfully also had some comic relief, and it was a brilliant kick-off for what is supposed to become a darker Phase Three.
Becky van Leeuwan
There’s been something horribly wrong with the relationship between humanity and 2016.
Deadpool was the only catharsis we could find. Sure, it’s not as beautiful as The Revenant, nor has the narrative depth of Inception. But, my god, it’s fucking cathartic. It takes everything that superhero film culture has created and punches it in its steel-plated crotch. It’s brash, inappropriate, and most of all, fun. It’s the kind of limb-tearing, bone-breaking grit that fans want from superhero films, and the boisterous hilarity that we need after the shitshow of 2016. The CGI is wonderful, its characterisation spot-on, its score composed by Junkie XL; what’s not to love? I mean, it’s also nice to have a protagonist with a face like an avocado had sex with an older, more disgusting avocado. Like, hate-fucking.
1. I, Daniel Blake
Ken Loach’s second Palme d’Or winner, I, Daniel Blake is an immensely powerful film, which shows humanity at its best and worst.
Dave Johns is superb as the titular character, a carpenter who requires benefits after suffering a heart attack. Daniel meets single-mother Katie (Hayley Squires) and together they experience the hardship and humiliation of the Kafkaesque modern welfare system. They both face intimidation, forceful opposition and difficulty when merely trying to provide for themselves, reducing a starving Katie to grasp tin of beans in the film’s harrowing and moving food bank scene. Daniel’s strident self-respect and unwavering defiance act as a rallying call for the dispossessed and less fortunate. Simply essential viewing.