History is repeating itself. Our 2015 post talked about how we were behind in posting, a fact that did not change much in 2016. Damn activities taking us out of the house. Anyway, we once again are adding “focus more on the blog” to our list of New Year’s resolutions.
As in past years, movie release dates in Australia often vary from the U.S., especially when it comes to award season favorites. There may be a few films on our lists that had American releases in 2015, and movies “missing” from this year’s lists because they haven’t come out here yet. We make our picks based on what we saw in the theatre between 1 January and 31 December 2016.
- Nice Guys –What’s that you say? How is Star Wars not number one for Benny D? Nice Guys just impressed me so much, despite having uber douche Rusty Crowe in a lead role. The creator of buddy cop genre as we know it (Shane Black) and the surprisingly funny Ryan Gosling, have created a fun 70s throwback with plenty of the humour and action you’d expect from the man responsible for Lethal Weapon.
- Rogue One – The only reason this gets bumped down to number two is because I expected it to be amazing, and it absolutely delivered. It feels like a Star Wars film, which is all I can really ask for from these spin off stories. It’s so much grittier than any of the previous films and we finally get to see why Vader has the reputation he does in the original trilogy.
- The Edge of Seventeen – Hailee Steinfeld gives an amazing performance as an awkward teenager who’s already terrible teenage life becomes even more hellish when her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her douche brother (Blake Jenner). This movie is funny and moving. Keep an eye out for Woody Harrelson as Steinfeld’s grumpy history teacher.
- La La Land – This is just a fun film. From the fantastic opening number on an LA freeway to the bittersweet ending, La La Land is a joy to watch. I challenge anyone to not be jiving along to the songs in the film. The great musical numbers are also elevated by the electric chemistry between leads Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
- Captain America: Civil War – This film makes the list on one scene alone. The fight at the airport has all our favourite heroes bashing each other into submission. It also manages to successfully reboot Spider-Man for the third time. Spidey (Tom Holland) is one of the highlights of the film for me, and I can’t wait to see his solo adventure next year.
- Dr. Strange – Marvel’s riskiest film since Guardians delivers yet again. I’m always surprised that they manage to get it right over and over again. Strange could have been way too mystical for their usual audience, but a solid story and a terrific performance from leading man Benedict Cumberbatch makes this film incredibly entertaining, while also opening up the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the world of magic.
- Hunt for the Wilder People – It’s always nice when a movie comes out of nowhere and completely floors you with its awesomeness. Hunt for the Wilder People is a hilarious film from New Zealand, with special performances from the two leads, Sam Neill and Julian Dennison. I’m so impressed with director Taika Waititi. Can’t wait to see what he does with Thor: Ragnarok.
- Deadpool – The role that Ryan Reynolds was born to play was totally worth the wait. He owns the smart ass antihero Wade Wilson, and has created the funniest comic book film since Kick-Ass. The villain is a bit one dimensional, but Reynolds wisecracks definitely make up for it.
- Moana – This feels like a Disney throwback to the 90s. It has a great message, catchy songs (“You’re Welcome”!!!) and real Hollywood star power doing the voices (The Rock). The animation is also beautiful, bringing the Hawaiian oceans to life so vividly
- The Jungle Book – This movie is even more impressive when you realise that it was mostly young Mowgli (Neel Sethi) in front of a green screen. Director Jon Favereau has done an amazing job creating this world from nothing. Bill Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken as King Louie are highlights, too.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
World of Warcraft – The video game movie curse strikes again. Live action Shrek is easily the worst film I saw this year. The effects look second rate and the story is hard to follow. I’m still not sure how, or why, it ended.
Independence Day 2 – Making this film without Will Smith was a mistake to begin with. Filling it with a bunch of uncharismatic twenty somethings was an even bigger one. Jeff Goldblum looked bored and Bill Pullman is playing a senile old former president. The classic original deserved better than this joke of a film.
Suicide Squad – I expected Batman v Superman to be ordinary, but the trailers for Suicide Squad made it look like DC’s answer to Guardians of the Galaxy. What we got instead was a generic action film with a weak villain. The DC movie universe needs a hit after the two critically derided films that came out this year. While they weren’t necessarily deserving of the vitriol they got, there’s no doubt DC needs next year’s Wonder Woman to be a hit, both critically and commercially.
X-Men Apocalypse – There’s one huge problem with this film, and that’s the villain. Oscar Issac’s Apocalypse is so boring and unthreatening. I actually really liked the new students added to the school, like younger versions of Cyclops (Ty Sheridan) and Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), but whenever we switch back to what Apocalypse is up too, the film loses any momentum it has created.
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople – I’ve been recommending this little Kiwi gem all year. Taika Waititi is fast becoming one of my favorite writers thanks to this and 2014’s What We Do in the Shadows. There are also amazing performances by Sam Neill and Julian Dennison that will make you laugh and tug your heartstrings.
- Spotlight – This film tells the true story of the team of Boston Globe journalists as they investigate child abuse by Catholic priests and the systematic coverup by the Church. It’s quiet and serious, but a true joy to watch. The movie forgoes many of the tropes of the genre, instead presenting a very accurate depiction of events. No surprise that this won Best Picture at last year’s Academy Awards.
- Nice Guys – Ryan Gosling is a comedic gem, and Russell Crowe is the perfect straight man for him to play off. Watching these two bumble their way through 1970s LA as an inept private detective and enforcer, respectively, was one of the highlights of the movie year.
- Moana – Disney made a big effort to include people of South Pacific ancestry in the development process for Moana, and it shows. The end result is a magical and moving depiction of island culture, made even better thanks to Lin-Manual Miranda’s musical touch.
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – As a long time Harry Potter fan, this movie both excited and scared me. But I needn’t have worried. J.K. Rowling herself wrote the script, and David Yates, who helmed the final four HP films, keep the magic alive.
- Deadpool – This is probably one of the best made comic book/superhero movies in recent years. Fiercely loyal to its source material, this film is full of oddness that shouldn’t work on the screen, but does.
- Rogue One – Ben will probably be scandalized that the latest Star Wars story doesn’t rank higher on my list. The only reason it’s so low is because there was such a glut of great movies released this year. Rogue One is great, with an ending that is even more poignant in the wake of Carrie Fisher’s death.
- Dr. Strange – Every time Marvel releases a new movie I wonder if this will be the one that ends my love affair with the studio. This isn’t that film. Dr. Strange is an amazing origin story, harkening back to the studio’s early years (think Iron Man and Captain America). The visuals owe a lot to Inception, but manage to create a unique and stunning addition to the Marvel Universe.
- Zootopia – This animated feature could have easily slipped under my radar, but I’m glad it didn’t. With an interesting concept and great message, Zootopia touches on themes you wouldn’t expect to find in a kid’s film. What’s better, is that the subject matter is handled in a sensitive and thoughtful way.
- La La Land – This musical will probably win all the awards next year, and with good reason. Catchy songs, colorful backgrounds, and skillful dance numbers make this a fun throwback to the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Making this year’s list was a serious challenge. There were so many great films released, hence this longer than usual honorable mentions list.
The Edge of Seventeen
Captain America: Civil War
The Jungle Book
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Star Trek: Beyond
Keeping Up With the Joneses
How to be Single
London Has Fallen
Batman vs Superman
Suicide Squad – So neither of these movies were as bad as the reviews would lead you to believe, but they were not as good as I’d hoped. Whoever makes DC’s movie trailers is amazing. Unfortunately, the actual films never seem to live up to the hype. Because of this, I’m lowering my expectations for Wonder Woman.