Top Ten Films Of 2018 – Mid-Year Report

Although July, the half-way point of the year has already arrived and it is now August, I am finally ready to share my Top Ten Films of 2018 so far at the half-way point. As is to be expected, there are still a few films that I am still yet to see but I have tried to get through all the films that I have been looking forward to or the films that reviews have been good for. As usual, I am following the UK release date calendar between January and June. As you are about to see, there are some Awards films included in this list but these have all been released within this time period in the UK.

Honourable Mentions

As always, there are a handful of films that didn’t quite manage to make it into the Top Ten. They all had their specific problems, but the reason why I feel they should be listed is becuase I found them all to either be entertaining, heartfelt or have some very interesting ideas even if they didn’t quite make it into the Top Ten. As I feel they deserve a mention, I will list them below:

– Sweet Country
– Deadpool 2
– Hereditary (that first half is too good)

Top Ten Films Of 2018 – Mid Year-Report

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10) Unsane

The ever-dependable Steven Soderbergh returns with this psychological thriller shot on an iPhone. Unsane stars Claire Foy as a woman who is confined to a mental institution where her alleged stalker reappears. The film revolves around the age-old idea of who is in the right and Soderbergh once again, creates a twisty narrative that had me enthralled pretty much throughout. Foy is excellent and there are good performances by Joshua Leonard and Jay Pharoah here too. The film dips a little in its climax where the narratives becomes increasingly implausible but Soderbergh does a very good job with the vast majority of the film for it to sneak in to no. 10.

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9) Hostiles 

Hostiles is another winner from director Scott Cooper who continues to prove why is he is one of Hollywood’s most exciting directors working today. This Western is a visceral, downbeat and often gut-wrenching watch. There are many scenarios and moments in the film that are emotionally sapping and Cooper puts these characters through hell. Cooper again, manages to get the best out of his actors. The three leads – Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi, are all on top form, all giving career-defining performances. The film follows Christian Bale’s Captain Blocker who is forced to escort a cancer-ridden Cheyenne tribe chief (Wes Studi) back toh is homeland, an individual who Blocker bears a grudge with. Bale’s Captain is gruff, sombre and constantly thrown arduous challenges both mentally and physically. Rosamund Pike’s character brutally loses all of her family in the very memorable first scene of the film and is psychologically damaged and tormented. There is one moment in particular when she first lays eyes on Studi’s tribe which reminds her of past horrors which the actress conveys brilliantly. It is testament to Wes Studi’s performance as Yellow Halk how much of an impression he is able to make – the character is underwritten but Studi is really able to do a lot with the role and manages to convey the bittersweet juxtaposition of his family beside him and the cancer eating away at him. Studi’s performance allows one to imagine how ruthless this war chief may have been back in his day but now is a more mellow, world-weary individual who simply wants to return to his homeland with his family. Technically, the film is excellent with a searing score by Max Richter and it is beautifully shot by Cooper regular Masanobu Takayanagi. On repeated rewatches, I always find something new in this film and despite it being a little muddled in its narrative structure, it is an excellent film. (Full review here)

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8) All The Money In The World 

All The Money In The World is overall, immensely enjoyable and a fun potboiler. It is frequently gripping and is propped up by the brilliant cast. Scott has had a varied career, Alien and Blade Runner at his peak, Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood at his worst and then, many of his films fall in between with ambitious ideas but not necessarily great execution a la Alien: Covenant. All The Money In The World ultimately proves to be one of Scott’s best films and proves that with the right script and the right cast, he can still churn out greatness. Last-minute replacement Christopher Plummer is excellent as J. Paul Getty, as is Michelle Williams as her kidnapped son’s mother who just wants him back but cannot afford the hefty ransom. Although the film will be remembered for its behind-the-scenes shake-up with Kevin Spacey, the film is fantastic in its own right and should be viewed as such. (Full review here)

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7) Last Flag Flying 

Last Flag Flying really knocked me back. Boyhood director Richard Linklater has crafted a bittersweet and warm tale of friendship and coming to terms with loss that is very mature. Yet, the film also has bite in its conflicted commentary of military service and patriotism. The performances by the entirety of the cast are superb and of course, the trio of Steve Carrell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne have such good chemistry together. All of the characters are so well developed that when the film finished, I could have easily watched another two hours of these characters interacting with each other. They are all morally flawed individuals, who have all made mistakes in the past but they all have good intentions. It’s a brilliant film and one that I highly recommend seeking. (Full review here)

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6) Lady Bird 

Lady Bird, the directorial debut of actress / writer Greta Gerwig, is a beautifully humane coming-of-age story of a teenager whose strong personality conflicts with her mothers equally volatile temper. It makes for a fascinating character study, containing plenty of scenarios and vignettes that run true to many home experiences of growing up. Gerwig’s script is particularly polished, mostly avoiding cliche, which keeps the story fresh and makes for a deeply personal insight into the film’s setting of Sacramento, where Gerwig herself grew up. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Five…

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5) Phantom Thread 

Phantom Thread represents yet another high for director Paul Thomas Anderson and is a fantastic note for Daniel Day-Lewis to go out on, should this in fact be his swansong. It makes for a masterful character study and a real treat for cinephiles. Two thirds of this film is pretty much note-perfect but I’m just a little unsure on the direction the film heads in its final act, as it doesn’t quite conform to the neatness the first two have. I suspect on further rewatching, this film will continue to unpack itself and there is a lot more to gain from it. (Full review here)

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4) The Shape Of Water 

The Shape of Water is a beautiful triumph from Guillermo Del Toro, who once again successfully interweaves and juxtaposes the supernatural to reality. Del Toro has clearly been inspired from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, a film that he wanted to remake from a female perspective but wasn’t allowed. As well as this inspiration, Del Toro’s film is a love letter to early cinema which it borrows in some of its tropes and plot points, infused with his darker work on Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. I was hooked by the film throughout and it has a lot hidden up its sleeve and like his other films, it earns its adult rating with its sex and grotesque violence. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Three…

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3) Coco

Coco is yet another triumph for the animation giant, Pixar, and ranks as one of their strongest works. It is moving, life-affirming and should manage to appeal to both adults and children alike. It also goes without saying that the attention to detail in the animation is second to none, Pixar continuing to elevate animation to photorealist levels. Combined with the excellent narrative and emotional journey this film takes us through, Coco is a film fully deserving of its all praise. (Full review here)

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2) Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri proves Martin McDonagh’s writing talent again and then some. McDonagh has such a great ear for dialogue in this film and there are so many wonderful exchanges of dialogue between characters. It is frequently comic, always entertaining and what I particularly love about this film, is it takes many unexpected diversions in its narrative. The film leads you to believe a certain plot point will go in one direction, but McDonagh in multiple instances, subverts expectations and this makes this film all the more fresh. There are many moments where I was genuinely in awe and shock. It is a biting drama about murder, investigating and how people have multiple sides to their personality. (Full review here)

So the best film of the year is…

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1) Sicario 2: Soldado 

Sicario 2: Soldado is a masterful sequel and whilst its behind-the-camera talent may not, on paper, be quite as strong as its original, as a film I found it to be better paced and maintains its sharp focus throughout. The first film made a jarring shift in its final third, which although was satisfying, did make the film lose focus a little as the rest of the film follows Emily Blunt’s FBI agent constantly. This is an even more grimy and black picture where characters are morally and ethically bankrupt and there are multiple scenes which are very uncomfortable to watch, in particular an early scene that sets the backdrop for the rest of the film with terrorists blowing up a supermarket. Sollima’s sequel has a rousing commentary on American politics with a Trumpian-like President and the lengths and processes people go to to cross the border. (Full review here)

Reflection on 2018 in Film so far…

2018 has been a solid year in terms of film – there is not one downright terrible film that I have come across yet but that said, there have been more disappointments than successes. I would say this mid-year Top Ten is probably the weakest batch of films in the last couple of years and this is portrayed in the sheer lack of honourable mentions as I’d feel uneasy bestowing this honour to films that haven’t delivered. Here’s hoping the second half of the year picks up.

What’s Next…?

2018 looks set to continue to be a great year in film and just listing a couple of films that look like they have potential include:

– Incredibles 2
– Ant-Man and the Wasp
– The Meg
– Christopher Robin
– BlacKkKlansman
– Slender Man
– Upgrade
– The Nun
– American Animals
– The Predator
– The Little Stranger
– Venom
– Johnny English Strikes Again
– First Man
– Mandy
– Halloween
– Bohemian Rhapsody
– Peterloo
– Widows
– Overlord
– The Girl In The Spider’s Web
– Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
– Ralph Breaks The Internet
– Aquaman
– Papillon
– Holmes and Watson
– Dragged Across Concrete
– The House That Jack Built

However, it is important to note that this is not a definitive list and these titles are just a few picks scattered across the remainder of the year that have piqued my interest.


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Most Disappointing Films of 2017

Whilst 2017 brought us some fantastic films,  it is fair to say that 2016 had some disappointments as well. Luckily, not as many 20 which is what I have in my favourites list, but listed below are 5 films that really disappointed me. I must note before that I actively try and avoid films that I just know are going to be horrendous (a real film critic has to sit through everything though which is what in an ideal world, I want to be) so this list might not be truly representative. One must also realise the difference between a film that is disappointing and a film that is truly bad. I could probably find 20 films that disappointed me last year but this is not the purpose of this post. Compared to 2015 and 2016, I have to say that this list is a lot more mild. Although the worst film on this list is a bad film, if I were listing these films in tandem with last year, I think the Top 4 are probably worse from last year than the worst film this year. Hence, why this isn’t a ‘worst of’ list like I have done in the past, more of what films I found most disappointing. 

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5) La La Land 

It is with heavy heart that I found La La Land to be an incredibly disappointing film that is totally undeserving of all the praise it is getting. This film especially hurts me even more considering director Damien Chazelle’s previous film, Whiplash, was my favourite film of 2015. I really wanted to like this film and I kept trying to make excuses for Chazelle but there’s just too many missteps to ignore and the film feels very disjointed in its pacing. The performances are admirable and Gosling and Stone carry the film well but by no means are they awards-worthy and the script in particular, which is normally Chazelle’s main attribute is dismally lacking and doesn’t have any direction to it. Surprisingly, it got nominated for an Oscar in this category. The whole plot of the film is by extension, confused and the film doesn’t know what it wants to be and the many elements of the narrative just aggressively don’t come together. Did I miss something in this film? Did I watch a different film to everyone else, not the one that has made such an impression on both critics and audiences and has attracted sterling reviews? (My original review here

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4) The Lego Batman Movie 

l is a film of two halves – its first act is particularly impressive and constantly cracks jokes left, right and centre and is surprisingly very cine-literate. The opening sequence which is a fight between Batman and the Joker is particularly well-crafted and the gags keep coming at a rapid pace and there is so much to absorb on-screen, little references to the character and previous incarnations scattered across the screen – it is pure eye-candy. The voice cast are generally pretty strong and Lorne Balfe’s score is generally competent and there are a couple of memorable, dark and brooding themes that elevate the narrative, particularly in the opening fight sequence. Unfortunately, the film completely violently tanks in its second half. The major factor as to why this film falls off the rails in its second act is due to its story which is misjudged.  Rather than go down a route where it thoroughly explores Batman and his supporting characters, director Chris McKay chooses to shake things up and try and mix in popular culture with this iconic superhero. This does not work at all and as the film progressed, really started to get on my nerves. By the time the credits started to roll and I was being lectured on the subject of working together, I was seething. This is an insult to fans of the character and completely undoes all the good work the film managed to do in its first act. Part of why the first act works really well is because the filmmakers are clearly respectful of the source material but all that respect goes out of the window in the second half and this very much becomes a film centered for children. (My original review here)

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3) Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge 

Although Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge represents a slight improvement over On Stranger Tides and a lot better than At World’s End,  it still feels unnecessay, insubstantial and a cash grab to try and reinvigorate the series. What’s even more disappointing is how little of a director’s stamp there is here by Rønning and Sandberg – the film feels as if it was made by studio executives which is such a shame considering how talented this duo are. Other than for a short while in the middle section, the film completely lacks any energy and it feels far longer than the 129 minute run time than it is. It’s not a terrible film and it does have a couple of redeeming features to it but this is definitely a film to skip if you’ve got a choice this Summer. Of course, the visuals here are excellent but the action sequences don’t really have any flow to them and it’s hard to care for any of the characters. (My original review here)

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2) Mindhorn 

A late entry into this list that I watched close to writing this, Mindhorn is a comedy that has no humour. I didn’t laugh once in this, instead I winced and cringed at most of the juvenile attempts to raise a chuckle. The story is a good concept, but it feels overly familiar to other films of this genre and I’m genuinely surprised at the extremely positive reception this film recieved. What did I miss? Anyway, for now, along with La La Land and The Lego Batman Movie, it is my job to put these films in their place once and for all.

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1) The Mummy

The only really bad film on this list and a film that I was rightly worried for ever since it was greenlit, The Mummy is an abomination. Director Alex Kurtzman is a poor match for the material and Tom Cruise is also woeful in a role he should never have been cast in. The film is not scary in the slightest and any attempts the film makes at injecting humour are aggressively unfunny. Whilst Dracula Untold was forcefully pushed aside and despite that also being a disappointing film, it is a far more enriching experience than this film is. It doesn’t quite achieve a 1-star rating as there are a couple of nicely choreographed action sequences and the film does have a few hints of momentum in its mid-section but the film constantly stumbles and falls apart. At times, the film is even laughable which is always a poor sign. (My original review here)


So there we go – as mentioned, I’m sure if I would have actively gone and watched all the really bad films, this list would definitely change but I didn’t. The fact still remains though, regardless of whether there is anything worse out there, this list is still a collection of flops. However, as mentioned compared to last year, 2017 was a miracle run in terms of bad films and other than ‘The Mummy’, none of these films are really that bad. Fingers crossed 2018 ends up being as good a year as 2017!

 

 

Best Films of 2017 (10-1)

This is the second part of my Best Films of 2017 feature detailing my Top Ten films. Click here to read numbers 20 to 11 and the Honourable Mentions.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten films of 2017:

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10) Get Out

Get Out is an innovative and intelligent comedy-horror that is meticulously crafted and endlessly cine-literate. The concept behind this film is very original and is highly critical and satirical of the post-Obama presidency. Rose’s father even states in a recurring line that he “would have nominated Obama for a third term.” Its final third is particularly impressive as the narrative starts to gradually unravel, culminating in a collection of shocking sequences. It also features an interesting score by Michael Abels that is an eclectic mix of neck-prickling strings and melodic themes. The cinematography by Tony Oliver is also thoughtful and well-judged. (My original review here)

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9) Manchester By The Sea 

Manchester By The Sea is a heartfelt, expertly crafted film that features a career-defining performance by Casey Affleck and it takes its time in really developing its characters and allowing its audience to emotionally connect with them. The rest of the cast are also very strong and the narrative really goes to town with these characters who all go through their own equally debilitating experiences. That said, the film does have some flaws in its tone which is a little unbalanced at times and a couple of baffling musical choices also awkwardly impact the film. (My original review here)

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8) Patriots Day

Patriots Day is a fantastic film and in some aspects is even Peter Berg’s most accomplished film. It is a fascinating retelling of these tragic events and has several simply staggering action sequences and is gripping right from the start. It features some fine performances by the majority of its cast and I’m really impressed with the amount of respect the entire cast and crew seem to have for this material. I do think Berg lays it on a little bit thick at the end of the film in an epilogue which is interesting in learning about the fate of these characters but I think Berg’s intentions are a little too patriotic. But other than this, for the most part Berg remains fairly agnostic and even delves into the back story of the criminals as well. (My original review here)

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7) Baby Driver

Baby Driver is an utterly infectious film that is meticulously directed by Edgar Wright and is expertly paced – the film left me giddy with excitement! The action sequences are choreographed to a tee with several heart-pounding yet knowingly absurd car chases that put franchises such as Fast and Furious to shame for managing to craft something far more engaging at a fraction of the budget. It is superbly acted by the cast all-round and Wright has his fingerprints all over this – this is very much an Edgar Wright film through and through. (My original review here)

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6) Logan

Logan is not just a fantastic superhero film, it is also a fantastic Western film that just happens to have a superhero starring in it. The Western genre is a genre that is close to my heart so not only is it refreshing to be given another ace Western but for it to be in the shape of Logan is extremely impressive. The film is gritty, swearytastic and deliciously violent, fully earning the film a 15 / R rating. The performances by the cast all-round are great and Mangold directs this film with real flair. The film has a lot of emotional beats and really develops these characters that we have come to empathise with over the course of this franchise. The story, also manages to surprise with a couple of great twists and turns. I’m not sure if it’s better than The Wolverine but it is definitely equal to it and both of Mangold’s efforts are the best comic-book films since The Dark Knight. (My original review here)

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5) Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw Ridge is one of the best war films I have ever seen and features some stunning performances with Gibson’s signature gory yet visceral battle sequences that really throw these men into hell-and-back. Gibson is able to really portray the hardship that these men endure time and time again and whilst I am ever respectful of those fight for their country, this film elevated my respect even more for them whilst watching this film. The film is extremely well-shot and features many memorable sequences – this film fully deserves the Awards attention it recieved! That said, the film is not without fault and an inconsistency in tone is this film’s biggest problem as the two distinct halves of the film don’t quite gel together. The first half in particular of the film which develops these characters and prepares Doss for the battle that lies ahead often head into conventional territory and it is quite bizarre as it almost feels like Gibson is knowingly do this but to what purpose, I’m not sure. However, when the film is able to go berserk, it does and it is immensely satisfying. (My original review here)

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4) Silence

Silence is a beautifully crafted film that features some knock-out performances and is frequently emotionally wrenching. Scorsese directs this film with precision and develops these characters extremely well hence the rather intimidating 161 minute run time. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is stunning and the film poses lots of philosophical questions and is a brutal test that questions a lot of characters’ religious beliefs. That said, Silence is not quite a perfect film. I have problems with the score (more soundscape) and I also think the film does lose its footing in its ending which tonally shifts a little and it threatens to undo the superb work the rest of the film has tried to craft. It might be that it just requires a rewatch but I did come out feeling underwhelmed as a film that had taken this long to set up its narrative doesn’t exactly reward the viewer’s patience. But despite this, it is a work of art. (My original review here)

Now into the top #3…

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3) Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent is quite extraordinary – it is a haunting, elegiac and mournful account of this late artist’s life and the struggles he faced. The film is profoundly humane in the way it portrays him and at times, inhumane in his treatment by other characters in the film. Once Armand arrives in Auvers, the film transforms into a detective-thriller as Armand learns from the citizens what kind of character the artist was and the particulars leading to his suicide. The film also works as a morality tale and has knowing odes to Citizen Kane with the notion of people’s experiences and perceptions of others. There are many scenes that are just perfectly judged and on a technical level, the paintings are spellbinding. The ever-dependable Clint Mansell’s score is also worthy of commendation – it is the glue that holds this film together and features many memorable cues and themes. (My original review here)

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2) The Handmaiden

‘The Handmaiden’ is Park Chan-Wook at his best – it’s nearly perfect. It has a labyrinthine plot that is interwoven intricately and the characters are developed in an extremely assured manner. It kept me gripped throughout and as the film continues to get more nuts, I was really on board with it. What’s also impressive is that it’s not quite as blatantly violent as some of Park Chan-Wook’s films have been in the past, instead choosing to focus on story. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of brutal, sadistic violence in this film but it is used sparingly. Visually, the film is beautiful to look at – Chung Chung-Hoon’s cinematography is wonderful and there are plenty of scenery chewing shots. (My original review here)

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1) Brawl In Cell Block 99

Without question, the best film of 2017 is S. Craig Zahler’s sophomore effort, Brawl in Cell Block 99. I loved his debut film, Bone Tomahawk, a Western Horror which managed to fulfil both of those genre promises and then some. It featured in my Best Films of 2016 list, clocking in at 9th due to a slightly saggy middle section. Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a masterpiece of elephantine proportions and along with Hacksaw Ridge, demonstrates a one-two punch by Vince Vaughn who seems to have finally found his calling in film. Vaughn plays Bradley here, who at the beginning of the film loses his job at an auto-repair job and becomes a drug mule. Unfortunately this backfires with devastating consequences. Every element of this film is note perfect, Zahler again delivers another thoughtful script and like Bone Tomahawk, there are some seriously violent and gruesome moments in this film. I was utterly transfixed by this film and was left in utter shock when the film finished that I was speechless for a few moments. I cannot wait for Zahler’s next feature, which is going to be an action film starring Vaughn again and Mel Gibson and on the strengths of his first two films, Zahler is a force to be reckoned with.


So there we go, these films were in my opinion, the best of 2017. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Best Films of 2017 (20-11)

Now that we are in full swing of the 2018 films, it’s time to reflect on 2017 and here I share my Top 20 Films of the year. I know that I am very late in the game but there were quite a few films I didn’t get to watch in time and felt that it would be a disservice to generate a list that wasn’t truly reflective of the year. Although perhaps not as strong as 2015 or 2016, 2017 was still an interesting year in film. A lot of the films that I expected to be great were disappointing and a number of films that were unheard of or those that I initially had little faith in were excellent. I am pretty confident that I can now share my best films of last year which has been particularly hard to compile this year.

Although my Mid-Year Report only included ten films, this list will include 20 films with some honourable mentions as I couldn’t find the heart to neglect so many of these films. The rank order has changed a little from the Mid-Year Report on account of rewatching a lot of these films multiple times and some I have found to be more rewatchable than others. So just because a film ranked higher earlier on last year doesn’t necessarily mean this will be the case now – that’s just the beauty of the art of film I guess. 

Here I rank numbers 20 to 11. The Top Ten will be detailed in a separate post.

Note

I am following the UK release date calendar from January 1st to December 31st hence why a lot of the Awards films do not feature here and why there are some from what may seem like last year. 

Honourable Mentions

Here are my honourable mentions, films that didn’t quite make it into the Top Twenty but I feel that they should still deserve a mention. Please note I have listed them in alphabetical order – this is not a ranking of them. 

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The Founder 

Although it floundered in its Awards campaign it was targeting, The Founder is a very interesting biopic on the rise of McDonalds, with some captivating performances from its cast all round. Michael Keaton plays Ray Kroc, a businessman who turns one McDonalds fast food restaurant into a nationwide and ultimately global franchise. Keaton’s performance is one of his best in a rather extensive back catalogue, an individual who has no care for others but only himself and business. The Founder loses its footing a little in places, but it’s mostly a very solid film that is frequently gripping, particularly down to the performances and ripe subject matter.

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It Comes At Night 

I found a lot to like in Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes At Night and Shults for much of the film, sustains a very intense, depressing, dour and volatile atmosphere. The performances across the board are great, with the standout being Joel Edgerton. It leaves a lot of plot points to audience imagination (possibly too much) but I was gripped pretty much throughout. I can see why the audience reception has been decidedly mixed – this film has been marketed very differently to the film that we actually get and it’s a very similar situation to what happened with 2016’s The Witch which was similarly marketed as an out-and-out horror film but ended up being more of an atmospheric burn. The film is complimented by an equally moody score and cinematogaphy. It’s not without fault though – it doesn’t quite manage to sustain its energy throughout its entire run time and without spoilers, I thought Shults left a little too much narrative to audience interpretation. (My original review here)

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Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle 

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a surprise treat in the crowded Christmas market of films and a very solid sequel to the Joe Johnston-directed, Robin Williams-led 1995 original. Four teenagers find themselves sucked into the videogame when they try to liven up detention which they have been placed into for breaking the school rules. They have to play as the avatars that they have selected in order to make it out of the jungle alive and not get stuck in the game forever. On paper, this sequel shouldn’t work, as it has a hit-and-miss cast and a director responsible for atrocities such as Bad Teacher and Sex Tape. However, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a film that obeys its own rules and the central concept of evolving the Jumanji board game into a modern videogame is a masterstroke of genius. The ways in which director Jake Kasdan interweaves the game into the film narrative is expertly handled, with characters having to tackle different levels, having a certain amount of lives and expositionary flashbacks and characters synthesised into the story. The film always feels fresh, has a lot of heart and even more surprisingly, questions its characters morals and teaches them some important life lessons. It’s consistently funny as well, with a wide range of humour to suit different audiences. (My original review here)

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Paddington 2

A total surprise and a film I never expected to reach this list, Paddington 2 is the rare sequel that improves on its original in every possible way. I was initially very trepidatious before watching this film – I didn’t love the first film even though reviews for it were charming and I suspected this to be the same case again. Director Paul King has exponentially grown as a filmmaker and the film is expertly paced and laden with humour and heart. The performances all round are brilliant, with Hugh Grant excelling in particular as the villain and the film even makes an interesting commentary on a Brexit-era Britain and the prison system. Paddington 2 is a film that delivers heavily for both children and adults.

 

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Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok is a Taika Waititi film through and through – it retains his signature humour and really inverts expectations on what a Thor film should be. This feels refreshingly different from the first two films, more vibrantly coloured and more comical. The film is extremely entertaining and puts the characters that we have grown to like over the course of the films in rather vulnerable positions throughout the film and there is a real sense of danger prevalent. Unlike recent comic book films which have a great, big (and boring) action climax at the end of the film to save the world, Thor: Ragnarok actually earns its finale. The marketing for this film has also been extremely impressive upon viewing the final product – there’s a lot that Marvel have managed to withold from its audiences which is very satisfying. (My original review here)

Now onto the Top Twenty:

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20) War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes is a welcome surprise – it’s grim, heartfelt, revenge-filled and most of all, questions its intelligent audience with multiple morality questions. It is perhaps the strongest of the series, a film with genre hybridity of the Western and the War film, infused with sci-fi. Dialogue is rather scarce in this film and there are many prolonged sequence where the film is almost like a silent film and it is just stunning to behold. Dunkirk, another Summer release also tries to do this but this film succeeds better in this respect due to its stronger characters and more powerful overarching message. ‘War’ is at its best when it is uncompromisingly grim, the pain and loss felt by Caesar and the various nods to the Western and War genre. (My original review here)

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19) Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming, to my surprise, was a breath of fresh air in what has been quite a convoluted genre of late. I thought it struck just the right tone between seriousness and humour and it is a very realistic and grounded film in the Marvel canon. It also features one of the best villains we’ve had in Michael Keaton’s Vulture who is extremely sinister and narcissitic. The whole cast are generally excellent and I was really invested in the narrative that Watts portrays. Watts also does well to not aim too high in terms of visual effects and although there are a couple of impressive action sequences, they never reach the heights of some of the other Marvel films which further helps to keep this film very grounded. (My original review here)

 

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18) Wind River

‘Wind River’ is another cracker by writer Taylor Sheridan who ably steps up to the task of directing as well as writing. Like his previous projects, it is very poetic in parts and deeply haunting and melancholic and his script intelligently written with memorable lines. The unpredictable outbursts violence are extremely raw and brutal, portraying the utter nastiness that this conflict between cultures has resorted to. There are clear juxtapositions between the cold, harsh lanscape surrounding this civilization and the warmth of the inside. There is a constant presence of the cold wind breathing on the necks of these characters which makes ‘Wind River’ deeply sensory for its audiences. At times, I got tingles from the cold, piercing feeling of walking barefoot on snow – Sheridan really has succeeded in crafting a believable world for this narrative to inhabit within. (My original review here)

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17) Only The Brave

Only The Brave is easily the best film of Kosinki’s career and a gripping account of the subject material. It is clear that the cast have the utmost respect for these heroes, resplendent in the modest, genuine performances. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that Kosinski is more of a visionary director than a narrative one and his previous filmography is visually pleasing to look at. Why Only The Brave works so well is because it combines Kosinki’s visual talents with a very solid script, allowing a strong equilibrium between the visual and the story. Kosinski captures the forest fires extremely faithfully – they felt genuinely threatening on the screen, the images of smoke and burning woodlands. The characters are also really well developed and I felt empathy particularly for Josh Brolin and Miles Tellers’ characters, the latter being our insight into the forest firefighter industry, a character trying everything he can to turn his life around from his dark past. (My original review here)

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16) Split

Split is frequently entertaining, very competently directed and features some powerhouse sequences. It is one of Shyamalan’s best works. I will not be going into spoilers but Shyamalan’s signature twist is one of his best and one of the best twists of the decade so far – it is so, so clever. Shyamalan’s twists of late haven’t been able to shock compared to some of his earlier work but this might potentially be his best one he’s ever done. However, when one focuses on how Split functions purely as a film, it is not perfect. It is overlong and way too exposition heavy which derails the film a little. There is a near-perfect 100 minute film in here if a lot of this exposition was omitted and this would make the run time more economical. (My original review here)

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15) mother!

One has to be tread very carefully when discussing this film and it took me a while to fully form my genuine opinion of the film as the film requires multiple rewatches. My opinion at first was mixed and now that I have rewatched it three further times, it is still a film that enamours at times but I also still have reservations. The film is a paranoid, nightmarish rush from beginning to end and is set in a world that is desolate, unforgiving and cruel. Lawrence’s character goes through all manners of physical and psychological torture and time and time again, we are made to witness this degradation. It may not be one of director Darren Aronofsky‘s work, but you’ve got to admire the ambition and the ideas behind it, even if the film is flawed. (My original review here)

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14) In A Valley Of Violence

In A Valley Of Violence may be a little simplistic in the plot department but it is a supremely entertaining romp that features some great performances and is suitably graphic at times. It is competently directed by Ti West who has written a memorable script and everyone who is in this film both in front of and behind the camera seems to be having a really great time. Although it doesn’t try and reinvent the genre, from the opening moments when I got on board with it, I had a big smile on my face the whole way through and it’s one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year so far. The performances, across the board, are all excellent and it’s particularly nice to see John Travolta have fun in his role. (My original review here)

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13) Brimstone

I watched Brimstone pretty close to compiling this list, so there is every possibility its position may move in the future. Dutch director Martin Koolhoven’s English language debut, Brimstone is an ambitious, aggressive and violent assault on the senses, fully earning its 18 certificate and then some. This is a dark, twisted Western horror with a gripping narrative and full of brilliant performances, a career best from Dakota Fanning in particular and Guy Pearce, as usual, does a reliable job with the villainous Reverend. The film has proven to be controversial in its response, but I would urge you to go and watch this straightaway and watch a master at work.

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12) The Killing of a Sacred Deer

As with his previous filmography, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a genuinely unnerving and memorable experience, rich with strong themes and disturbing imagery. It is a film that requires multiple rewatches, particularly as Lanthimos has rooted this narrative in a Euripidian Ancient Greek myth. I felt genuinely unclean after watching it and was left thinking about it for quite a while. (My original review here)

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11) Hidden Figures 

Hidden Figures is an extremely easy film to like and barely puts a foot wrong; I was utterly charmed by it the whole way through. It is competently directed by Melfi and has just the right blend of comedy and factual drama in it to prevent it from being too laborious or too comedic. Not only are the performances are great in this film, but the characters are all really well-developed and the screenplay by Melfi and Allison Schroeder is wonderfully written. What stops this film from being perfect is it is fairly conventional in parts and there are a couple of story arcs that are a little underwritten. But these are very small nitpicks in an otherwise near-perfect film. (My original review here)


So there we go, numbers 20 down to 11. Stay tuned for the Top Ten in a separate post…


What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Top Ten Films Of 2017 – Mid-Year Report

Although July, the half-way point of the year has already arrived and it is now, August, I am now ready to share my Top Ten Films of 2017 so far. It is that time of year where many reviewers share their current best films of the year and reflect on what the year in film has been like so far. Although I’m late, I now feel pretty confident that I too am able to share my best films of the year so far. As is to be expected, there are still a few films that I am still yet to see but I have tried to get through all the films that I have been looking forward to or the reviews have been good for. However, as is always the case 9 times out of 10, the best film of the year ends up being the one you’ve never even heard of. As usual, I am following the UK release date calendar between January and June – as you are about to see, there are some Awards films included in this list but these have all been released within this time period in the UK.

Honourable Mentions

As always, there are a handful of films that didn’t quite manage to make it into the Top Ten. They all had their specific problems, but the reason why I feel they should be listed as I found them all to either be entertaining, heartfelt or have some very interesting ideas even if they didn’t quite make it into the Top Ten. As I feel they deserve a mention, I will list them below:

– Aftermath
– The Founder
Get Out
John Wick: Chapter 2
Lion
Wonder Woman

Top Ten Films Of 2017 – Mid Year-Report

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10) Split

‘Split’ is frequently entertaining, very competently directed and features some powerhouse sequences. It is one of Shyamalan’s best works and features perhaps one of the best twists of the decade so far – it is so, so clever. Both James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy are fantastic. However, when one focuses on how ‘Split’ functions purely as a film, it is not perfect. It is overlong and way too exposition heavy which derails the film a little. There is a near-perfect 100 minute film in here if a lot of this exposition was omitted and this would make the run time more economical. (Full review here)

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9) In A Valley Of Violence

‘In A Valley Of Violence’ may be a little simplistic in the plot department but it is a supremely entertaining romp that features some great performances and is suitably graphic at times. It is competently directed by Ti West who has written a memorable script and everyone who is in this film both in front of and behind the camera seems to be having a really great time. Although it doesn’t try and reinvent the genre, from the opening moments when I got on board with it, I had a big smile on my face the whole way through and it’s one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year so far. (Full review here)

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8) Manchester By The Sea

‘Manchester By The Sea’ is a heartfelt, expertly crafted film that features a career-defining performance by Casey Affleck and it takes its time in really developing its characters and allowing its audience to emotionally connect with them. The rest of the cast are also very strong and the narrative really goes to town with these characters who all go through their own equally debilitating experiences. That said, the film does have some flaws in its tone which is a little unbalanced at times and a couple of baffling musical choices also awkwardly impact the film. (Full review here)

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7) Hidden Figures

‘Hidden Figures’ is an extremely easy film to like and barely puts a foot wrong; I was utterly charmed by it the whole way through. It is competently directed by Melfi and has just the right blend of comedy and factual drama in it to prevent it from being too laborious or too comedic. Not only are the performances are great in this film, but the characters are all really well-developed and the screenplay by Melfi and Allison Schroeder is wonderfully written. What stops this film from being perfect is it is fairly conventional in parts and there are a couple of story arcs that are a little underwritten. But these are very small nitpicks in an otherwise near-perfect film. (Full review here)

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6) Patriots Day

‘Patriots Day’ is a fantastic film and in some aspects is even Peter Berg’s most accomplished film. It is a fascinating retelling of these tragic events and has several simply staggering action sequences and is gripping right from the start. It features some fine performances by the majority of its cast and I’m really impressed with the amount of respect the entire cast and crew seem to have for this material. I do think Berg lays it on a little bit thick at the end of the film in an epilogue which is interesting in learning about the fate of these characters but I think Berg’s intentions are a little too patriotic. But other than this, for the most part Berg remains fairly agnostic and even delves into the back story of the criminals as well. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Five…

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5) Baby Driver

‘Baby Driver’ is an utterly infectious film that is meticulously directed by Edgar Wright and is expertly paced – the film left me giddy with excitement! The action sequences are choreographed to a tee with several heart-pounding yet knowingly absurd car chases that put franchises such as ‘Fast and Furious’ to shame for managing to craft something far more engaging at a fraction of the budget. It is superbly acted by the cast all-round and Wright has his fingerprints all over this – this is very much an Edgar Wright film through and through. (Full review herehere)

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4) Logan

‘Logan’ is not just a fantastic superhero film, it is also a fantastic Western film that just happens to have a superhero starring in it. The Western genre is a genre that is close to my heart so not only is it refreshing to be given another ace Western but for it to be in the shape of ‘Logan’ is extremely impressive. The film is gritty, swearytastic and deliciously violent, fully earning the film a 15 / R rating. The performances by the cast all-round are great and Mangold directs this film with real flair. The film has a lot of emotional beats and really develops these characters that we have come to empathise with over the course of this franchise. The story, also manages to surprise with a couple of great twists and turns. I’m not sure if it’s better than ‘The Wolverine’ but it is definitely equal to it and both of Mangold’s efforts are the best comic-book films since ‘The Dark Knight’. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Three…

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3) Hacksaw Ridge

‘Hacksaw Ridge’ is one of the best war films I have ever seen and features some stunning performances with Gibson’s signature gory yet visceral battle sequences that really throw these men into hell-and-back. Gibson is able to really portray the hardship that these men endure time and time again and whilst I am ever respectful of those fight for their country, this film elevated my respect even more for them whilst watching this film. The film is extremely well-shot and features many memorable sequences – this film fully deserves the Awards attention it is getting! That said, the film is not without fault and an inconsistency in tone is this film’s biggest problem as the two distinct halves of the film don’t quite gel together. The first half in particular of the film which develops these characters and prepares Doss for the battle that lies ahead often head into conventional territory and it is quite bizarre as it almost feels like Gibson is knowingly do this but to what purpose, I’m not sure. However, when the film is able to go berserk, it does and it is immensely satisfying. (Full review here)

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2) Silence

‘Silence’ is a beautifully crafted film that features some knock-out performances and is frequently emotionally wrenching. Scorsese directs this film with precision and develops these characters extremely well hence the rather intimidating 161 minute run time. The cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto is stunning and the film poses lots of philosophical questions and is a brutal test that questions a lot of characters’ religious beliefs. That said, ‘Silence’ is not quite a perfect film. I have problems with the score (more soundscape) and I also think the film does lose its footing in its ending which tonally shifts a little and it threatens to undo the superb work the rest of the film has tried to craft. It might be that it just requires a rewatch but I did come out feeling underwhelmed as a film that had taken this long to set up its narrative doesn’t exactly reward the viewer’s patience. But despite this, it is a work of art. (Full review here)

So the best film of the year is…

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1) The Handmaiden

‘The Handmaiden’ is Park Chan-Wook at his best – it’s nearly perfect. It has a labyrinthine plot that is interwoven intricately and the characters are developed in an extremely assured manner. It kept me gripped throughout and as the film continues to get more nuts, I was really on board with it. What’s also impressive is that it’s not quite as blatantly violent as some of Park Chan-Wook’s films have been in the past, instead choosing to focus on story. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments of brutal, sadistic violence in this film but it is used sparingly. Visually, the film is beautiful to look at – Chung Chung-Hoon’s cinematography is wonderful and there are plenty of scenery chewing shots. (Full review here)

Reflection on 2017 in Film so far…

2017 has been a very solid year in terms of film – there is not one downright terrible film that I have come across yet (well maybe ‘The Mummy‘…) despite being disappointed and rather critical of a number of films this year. There have been a lot of sequels this year and the scale of quality has been from extremely impressive to disappointing. Note that there is only one sequel on this list – ‘Logan’ and the reason it did so well was because it really turned the genre on its head. 2017 hasn’t been quite as strong as 2016 so far but it’s still been a good crop of films and here’s hoping the second half of the year continues to prosper.

What’s Next…?

2017 looks set to continue to be a great year in film and just listing a couple of films that look like they have potential include:

– It Comes At Night
– Spider-Man: Homecoming
– War For The Planet Of The Apes
– Cars 3
– Dunkirk
– A Ghost Story
– Annabelle: Creation
– The Dark Tower
– Logan Lucky
– Detroit
– It
– Wind River
– Kingsman: The Golden Circle
– Blade Runner 2049
– The Snowman
– Thor: Ragnarok
– Jigsaw
– Murder On The Orient Express
– Mother!
– Justice League
– The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
– God Particle
– Star Wars: The Last Jedi

However, it is important to note that this is not a definitive list and these titles are just a few picks scattered across the remainder of the year that have piqued my interest.


Worst Five Films of 2016

Whilst 2016 brought us some fantastic films,  it is fair to say that 2016 hosted some of its fair shares of cinema atrocities too. Luckily, not as many 20 which is what I have in my favourites list, but listed below are 5 films that really got me seething. I must note before that I actively try and avoid films that I just know are going to be horrendous (a real film critic has to sit through everything though which is what in an ideal world, I want to be) so this list might not be truly representative. One must also realise the difference between a film that is disappointing and a film that is truly bad. I could probably find 20 films that disappointed me last year but this is not the purpose of this post. Compared to 2015, I have to say that this list is a lot more mild. Although the worst film on this list is a bad film, if I were listing these films in tandem with last year, I think the Top 4 are probably worse from last year than the worst film this year. 

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5) The Neon Demon 

I’ve had a very mixed relationship with director Nicolas Winding Refn and his films. I really liked ‘Drive’ but I do find his direction generally quite obtrusive and this film has all of his worst qualities. Reviews for this film have been decidedly mixed and I can understand why one might like this film and I really did try to stick it out and try and find something of value here but around the half-way mark, I couldn’t and the film really started to get on my nerves. Elle Fanning is good enough in the lead role but I absolutely hated her character and the message that Refn was sending out to audiences. The rest of the performances were pretty poor, with the exception of Keanu Reeves who seems to be having fun here in a really odd, misguided storyline. The film is obviously designed to shock in places which it does but it’s too little too late and when you have characters as utterly hateful as the ones here are, there’s not much to save this film.

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4) X-Men: Apocalypse 

‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ severely drops the ball big time – it is far and away the worst entry in the entire franchise and apart from a promising first 45 minutes or so, is a CGI bore. The story is incoherent and sloppy and particularly towards the film’s climax, the film is unwatchable. Even the acting which is normally stellar is very underwhelming and there are many examples of both old and new characters phoning it in. There is some stuff to like here – there are a couple of good sequences and the film opens up rather promisingly but other than this, the film is an outright disaster. It is an overstuffed and incoherent mess. (My original review here)

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3) Bad Santa 2 

It pains me to say that ‘Bad Santa 2′ is a lazy, puerile, mean-spirited sequel. It’s not funny at all save for a few one liners that got a faint chuckle out of me and the film actually really got on my nerves as the film progressed. It’s not quite as offensive as some other comedy sequels as it doesn’t try and turn the humour up to 11, instead ‘Bad Santa 2’ is just painfully flat and has no plot. On the narrative front, it’s pretty ropey but Billy Bob Thornton at least gives a good performance as the titular character but it’s just an awful shame he’s been equipped with such a bad script that pairs him up with hateful characters – it’s not going to do him any favours and will undoubtedly be another hit on his career which he doesn’t need.  Alarm bells should have been ringing when news of Mark Waters’ hiring was announced – he is not suitable for this material and has spat upon the legacy of a film that I really like. ‘Bad Santa 2’ can be thrown away and burnt on the ever-increasing list of bad comedy sequels – it is not the Christmas treat that we deserved or wanted. (My original review here)

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2) Midnight Special 

Surprisingly, a film that was critically acclaimed by both critics and audiences but I found to be absolutely dire. What I will say before completing ripping this film apart is that the always talented Michael Shannon and Joel Edgerton’s performances are great even if they look confused to be in this film. Other than this, the film is  lazy, unoriginal and annoyingly directed by Jeff Nichols who I increasingly dislike as a film director but many others think he’s very talented. Not being able to connect with the film at all, I stuck with it on the promise that the ending was going to really be something special but it wasn’t. I’m not saying for a second I don’t like Steven Spielberg but the best way to describe ‘Midnight Special’ is by imagining a film with the corny qualities of Steven Spielberg directed with the utter contempt that Jeff Nichols has and feels like it’s 3 hours long. An utter snoozefest and I don’t understand how others have loved it. I haven’t even dared to approach ‘Loving’ yet which got critical buzz. 

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1) The Boy

Ever since the first trailer came out, I was very trepidacious about the film and then after finally watching it, ‘The Boy’ confirmed my fears. It is horrendously acted, is not scary in the slightest and at the film’s big reveal at the end, it is utterly laughable and I couldn’t take the film seriously. The film looks like it was made-for-television and is cliched the entire way through and offers nothing new to the genre. At least however, it isn’t as offensive as the majority of the films listed as my Worst Films of 2015 but in terms of all the films that I have watched in 2016, this was the worst one. A real shame and it doesn’t do the horror genre any favours – luckily, the year was otherwise triumphant with films such as ‘The Witch’, ‘Green Room’, ‘Under The Shadow’, ‘Hush’ and ‘The Conjuring 2‘ that managed to make a lasting impression and made people forget about this film. But I didn’t forget about it and so here it is so that it can get the embarassment it so rightly deserves. 


So there we go – as mentioned, I’m sure if I would have actively gone and watched all the really bad films, this list would definitely change but I didn’t. The fact still remains though, regardless of whether there is anything worse out there, this list is still a collection of flops. However, as mentioned compared to last year, 2016 was a miracle run in terms of bad films and I would question whether ‘The Boy’ would even rank in the Top Five from last year. Fingers crossed 2017 ends up being as good a year as 2016 but also that there is nothing truly awful released.

Best Films of 2016 (10-1)

This is the second part of my Best Films of 2015 feature detailing my Top Ten films. Click here to read numbers 20 to 11 and the Honourable Mentions.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten films of 2016:

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10) The Revenant 

The first of four Westerns, ‘The Revenant’ is a visually stunning film and it boasts many outstanding sequences. It has some excellent central performances and boasts original cinematography and an atmospheric score. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are both mesmerising here and Iñárritu has really developed as a director. The battle sequences are wonderfully crafted and there are some beautifully shot landscapes to create the film’s atmosphere by Emmanuel Lubezki who deservedly won his third Academy Award in a row. This is probably the best-looking film of 2016. My only gripes with ‘The Revenant’ are its pacing is a little stretched at parts and its story is a little simplistic for a 156 minute running time. But the execution is where ‘The Revenant’ wows and it really is a work of art. (My original review here)

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9) Bone Tomahawk

The next  Westerns in this list, ‘Bone Tomahawk’ is definitely one of the most interesting films of the year. This is the debut of writer / musician / director S. Craig Zahler and he really is a talent to look out for. Although the film is overlong in its middle section, ‘Bone Tomahawk’ poses some interesting ideas and has a wonderful script penned by Zahler which really is so well-written. The cast are all brilliant with career-best performances from Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins but it is Patrick Wilson in my opinion, who is the standout and by the film’s big third act reveal, the characters are so well-developed that we really care for them. The film manages to juggle both elements of a Western and a Horror film and the film is really quite grisly and gruesome at times. I was utterly transfixed by this film and was left in utter shock when the film finished that I was speechless for a few moments. I just wish the film was a little more tightly edited in its middle section and then it could rank even higher. If you have been convinced to watch this, I would recommend reading Zahler’s novel, ‘Wraiths Of The Broken Land’ first to get a flavour for the fantastic dialogue and descriptions that he uses and then you will be able to see his genius translated into this film. I am very interested to see what Zahler does next, he really is a talent to look out for. The film has improved even more on subsequent rewatches enough for me to put it above ‘The Revenant’ which in the Mid-Year report, I had put one position above this film. 

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8) Hell Or High Water

The next Western, ‘Hell Or High Water’ is a near-perfect film and gets better every time I watch it. It tells the story of two brothers who are desperate to keep their family ranch from being foreclosed on by the bank who resort to robbing banks whilst at the same time being investigated by Jeff Bridges’ Texas Ranger. The film is extremely well-directed by David Mackenzie and manages to juggle all the best elements of a rural Western / revenge thriller whilst standing out on its own. It tackles a multitude of thematic elements and is very poetic in its narrative. Even the theme of just sitting down and enjoying a beer is extremely engaging in this film. The performances by the cast all-round in this film are excellent as expected from Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster but it is a real surprise see Chris Pine hold his own as I have really not been a fan of him in the past. The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is note-perfect and is probably the best musical score of the year. Giles Nuttgens shoots this film extremely well and there are a lot of really creative shots in this film. I love this film and was very happy to see it feature in this year’s Academy Awards even though it was evident from the outset that it didn’t have a hope in hell in winning. 

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7) Nocturnal Animals 

‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a suitably dark, poetic and meticulously crafted film by Tom Ford and features some utterly spellbinding sequences. It features brilliant performances across the board but the standouts are Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and surprisingly Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The stories are intricately woven together and the cinematography and score are absolutely stunning. It is a near-perfect film but where perhaps the film is a little flawed is in Ford’s precise attention to detail and the film can feel a little removed from its material as it sometimes doesn’t get a chance to breathe. Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters novel which becomes a central focus in the story and slowly begins to drip into Amy Adams’ reality is by far the strongest link in the film and it is perfectly crafted but Adams’ arc is also carefully constructed and the juxtapositions between these different arcs and stories are endlessly poetic. It’s a really challenging watch and every time I rewatch it, I find something new in it. You don’t get films like ‘Nocturnal Animals’ very often.  (My original review here)

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6) I, Daniel Blake 

‘I, Daniel Blake’ is hard-hitting, heart-tugging and at times, invokes feelings of sheer devastation. It is incredibly well-directed and acted, both Johns and Squires are perfect in their respective roles and their characters are so well-developed that as an audience, we really care for them, perhaps Dave Johns’ titular character is the character I managed to empathise most with in any film this year.  There are multiple scenes here which are very hard to watch and the film offers a very realistic take on the benefits system in England, a very timely and important issue. What the film doesn’t do and why it doesn’t earn the full 5-stars is it doesn’t explore the opposite end of the spectrum – people who do take advantage of the benefits system and if the film had done this, it would have been more well-rounded and justified in its approach. (My original review here)

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5) Eye In The Sky 

Into the Top Five and we have ‘Eye in the Sky’ which is a taut and heartfelt application of the effects of drone warfare that is morally conflicting and features some fantastic performances – it’s straight up there as one of the best films of the year and is just what Gavin Hood needed. It is expertly paced and runs an economical yet efficient 102 minutes, enough to make a lasting impression on audiences and poses lots of moral arguments. The only reason why it doesn’t quite earn a 5-star rating is because the film doesn’t really develop its characters too much and having slightly more of a human edge to the film wold have informed audiences more coherently as to why characters make the vital choices that they do. (My original review here)

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4) 10 Cloverfield Lane 

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is an incredible, intense Hitchcockian film that is taut and claustrophobic and gives us three fantastic performances from its trio. The script is absolutely terrific and it’s very easy to spot ‘Whiplash’ director, Damien Chazelle’s contribution. Dan Trachtenberg’s direction is very astute and assured and he will surely go on to do great things. It is a superb film and is 5-star material. Unfortunately, all this good work is undone by a very lacklustre final 15 minutes which is very haphazardly handled and tarnishes all the good work done and leaves a very sour note on all the development the film has undergone to set the audience up to its ending. However, just taking the film alone with the exception of this muddled ending, it is near-perfect. Rewatching this film, I continue to feel the same way, it really is a shame the last 15 minutes undoes what is a perfect film. (Full review here)

Now into the top #3…

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3) Grimsby 

Although perhaps a very surprising and out-of-place choice, I found ‘Grimsby’ to be one of the best comedies not just of the year, but of the decade – it is consistently hilarious (although quite vulgar in parts) and the cast are wonderful, in particular the two leads, Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong, who displays a real panache for comedic roles. Louis Leterrier has really developed as a director and seems to have a flair for comedy.  The film’s pacing is perfect and it is one of the very rare comedies that is consistently funny – thre is not one dull moment in it. However, the only criticism is that Leterrier still cannot quite grasp how to direct an action scene and this is a recurring theme in all of his films. It’s a real shame how this film has been almost completely misunderstood and has garnered rather mixed reviews, but I would definitely recommend giving it a shot! It more than holds up on subsequent rewatches and the jokes really are laugh-a-minute. (My original review here)

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2) The Hateful Eight 

Business as usual, ‘The Hateful Eight’ is another knockout from Tarantino – it’s bloody and gory, has fantastic speeches and an excellent story. It has some brilliant performances with the standouts being Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth and Walton Goggins. It’s suitably gory and ramps the tension up with gusto and the film gets even better on each subsequent rewatch, I manage to get something new out of the experience each time I rewatch it. That said, there’s no doubt that the film is a little baggy and perhaps could lose 20 minutes – the film would be leaner and more heavy-hitting but as usual with Tarantino, the script is the gem and getting to know these characters and seeing them developed is a work of art and the film builds the suspense up very carefully. (Full review here)

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1) Room 

Very rarely would I say this, but ‘Room’ is a perfect film and deserves a 5 star rating. It is an inspiring watch and reaches various emotional heights. The performances from the cast all round are nothing short of incredible and Lenny Abrahamsson’s careful and assured direction works wonders. The film has a beaming heart at its core – at times the film is devastatingly sad and at others, warm and feel-good. There is never a dull moment – the film is expertly paced and takes ample time to develop its characters. (My original review here)


So there we go, these films were in my opinion, the best of 2015. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Best Films of 2016 (20-11)

Now that we are in full swing of the 2017 films, it’s time to reflect on 2016 and here I share my Top 20 Films of the year. I know that I am very late in the game but there were quite a few films I didn’t get to watch in time and felt that it would be a disservice to generate a list that wasn’t truly reflective of the year. 2016 was, overall, a very interesting year in film – a lot of the films that I expected to be great were disappointing and a number of films that were unheard of or those that I initially had little faith in were excellent. I am pretty confident that I can now share my best films of last year which has been very hard to compile.

Although my Mid-Year Report only included ten films, this list will include 20 films with some honourable mentions as I couldn’t find the heart to neglect so many of these films. The rank order has changed a little from the Mid-Year Report on account of rewatching a lot of these films multiple times and some I have found are more rewatchable than others. So just because a film ranked higher earlier on last year doesn’t necessarily mean this will be the case now – that’s just the beauty of the art of film I guess. 

Here I rank numbers 20 to 11. The Top Ten will be detailed in a separate post.

Note

I am following the UK release date calendar from January 1st to December 31st hence why a lot of the Awards films do not feature here and why there are some from last year. 

Honourable Mentions

Here are my honourable mentions, films that didn’t quite make it into the Top Twenty but I feel that they should still deserve a mention. Please note I have listed them in alphabetical order – this is not a ranking of them. 

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Arrival

‘Arrival’ is masterfully constructed by Villeneuve and for its first two thirds  is particularly gripping. The performances are strong here too and yet again, Villeneuve’s team behind-the-camera do some good work. However, the film bites off a bit more than it can chew in its last third and although the film is still very interesting and original, it does begin to derail and struggle through towards its ending. I’m not going to go into spoilers as this is a film that needs to be watched blindly but I felt the film did leave a lot of questions unanswered and the ending does have a few plot holes to it. Initially, I said that this is a film that warrants multiple rewatches so perhaps things will become clearer on subsequent viewings – they do and the film does give you quite a lot of hints as to what the ending is going to be but on a rewatch, I had a few more problems with the film and initially in the cinema when I had mentioned that the first two acts are stronger, my perception of those acts was only the first half of the film. It’s a film that for a sci-fi is very low on action and big set-pieces – this is very much a thinking person’s sci-fi and is not too dissimilar thematically from films such as ‘Contact’ or ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ for example. On the strength of its first half, I wanted to put it into the Top Twenty but there are too many problems for this film to warrant a spot but for sheer craftsmanship, it’s worth a spot here. Here’s hoping Denis Villeneuve does a good job of the upcoming ‘Blade Runner 2049’ – if he can’t do a good job, then no one can. (My original review here)

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A United Kingdom 

‘A United Kingdom’ is a very easy film to like – it’s a great blend of being informative on this little-known subject matter which is quite shocking at times, funny at times and always profoundly humane. It’s got a collection of strong performances and it is very well-paced and never outstays its welcome. That said, it does race through its beginning before Oyelowo and Pike reach Bechuanaland and perhaps another ten minutes or so to explore their relationship would have been more realistic because they very quickly get married in the space of 15 minutes. It also doesn’t particularly push the envelope in terms of innovation which is why it doesn’t receive full marks but the film is a very easy watch and is endlessly engaging. (My original review here)

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Bleed For This

Out of all the films that appear in this list, ‘Bleed For This’ was the one that I watched closest to publication and I was very impressed with it. The sports drama genre is not normally one that I associate as liking that much but with this film, ‘Southpaw’ and the cream of the crop, ‘Foxcatcher’ last year, it’s a genre that I’m really starting to admire. The performances in this film are excellent – Miles Teller gives it his all as Vincenzo Pazienza and the performances by Aaron Eckhart and Ciaran Hinds are equally as effective. Although this film generally received good reviews, many labelled it as conventional which I don’t think is quite true. In its middle act, I found it very different and the way the film was generally directed and shot was very competent and unashamed. It’s a really strong piece of work and I hope those who may be put off because of the genre are not. 

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Green Room 

‘Green Room’ is a very interesting film. It is directed by Jeremy Saulnier who made ‘Blue Ruin’, a revenge thriller in 2013 which I had a lot of problems with but admired its intentions. ‘Green Room’ looked like it had turned it all around for Saulnier and I was particularly interested to watch this film as it had Patrick Stewart in it as a villain and is one of Anton Yelchin’s final roles who so tragically died last year. The first time I watched ‘Green Room’, I didn’t like it. However, assured that I had missed something from it, I watched it again and found a lot more to like in it. I have since watched it twice more and whilst it still has a myriad of problems, it’s an accomplished piece of work. It is suitably nasty, gory and tension-filled and Patrick Stewart delivers one of his best performances ever. The film tackles some quite interesting themes and there are a lot of shots which I found really touching, one near the ending in particular involving a dog and its bond with its owner. It’s a film that is still flawed but it is a film that manages to evolve into something new on each rewatch. Watch it if you can and don’t be put off if the film doesn’t quite cut it (pun intended) on first viewing. 

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The Legend of Tarzan

‘The Legend of Tarzan’ is extremely entertaining and frequently atmospheric, almost poetic in its assured direction by David Yates at times and the film’s strong cast allow this film to thrive. The film is very well-paced and the action sequences are exhilarating at times. Unfortunately, the film was not received well by the critics with many citing it as an empty, hollow film which I can understand as the film does lack heart in places and Alexander Skarsgård does lack charisma as the titular character but excels in the action sequences. The visual effects are a little ‘ropey’ at times. But these issues do not harm, what is generally a pretty good film, too much as its direction and entertaining storyline more than make up for it and I feel it deserves a mention as it will otherwise be forgotten. It has really held up on rewatching this film multiple times and controversially, I find it a better film than the critical darling that is Jon Favreau’s ‘The Jungle Book‘. (My original review here)

Now onto the Top Twenty:

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20) The Nice Guys

‘The Nice Guys’ was the closest film to get into the Top Twenty and I really struggled with my decision whether to let it in or not. It was between this film and ‘A United Kingdom’ but I felt this film took a lot more risks and gets even better on every rewatch. When this film was released, it really didn’t do all that well at the box office barely earning back its budget. I really like Shane Black as both a writer and director and this film has the best of both his talents. The performances all round in this film are great and the story is full of twists and turns. The cinematography by Philippe Rousselot is particularly great and there are a lot of shots in this film that may not have been thought of by other cinematographers which Rousselot implements. It’s quite interesting to see that this film has managed to sneak into quite a lot of other critical rankings, much higher than the 20th position that I have awarded it so by-and-large, this is a film that really warrants your attention. I think the main reason why this film failed financially was because it was released in a pretty packed month and was up against some stiff competition in the form of other blockbusters.

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19) Sully 

‘Sully’ is quite workmanlike in its execution but it’s a fascinating subject matter that Eastwood is able to spin a riveting narrative out of and it features some fantastic performances, particularly from Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart. It features an efficient blend of awe-inspiring plane crash sequences that play out in Sully’s mind throughout the film and some gripping investigatory work from the NTSB of which some is rather fictionalised but it makes for a great viewing. However Eastwood’s workmanlike execution is his downfall as he doesn’t particularly do too much out of his comfort zone and this is very alike to some of his other films in its direction – you pretty much get what you expect. (My original review here)

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18) Mustang

Although filmed and released in some territories in 2015, the UK got ‘Mustang’ in 2016 and it really is a very important film. ‘Mustang’ tells the tales of five sisters who are forced to get married by their parents after being spotted playing with boys. It is a timely film and one that reinforces how important the role of women is not just in the film industry but in real life. The film was directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, a Turkish-French female director who has said a lot of interesting things on the topic but the film never feels like a lecture, it feels very innocently put together without a strong agenda. The film is outright shocking at times and the performances by the entire cast are really genuine. The score by Warren Ellis is utterly sublime and really helps to elevate the content being portrayed on-screen. ‘Mustang’ is a really important film and a real eye-opener. 

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17) Doctor Strange 

‘Doctor Strange’ is a delight from start to finish – it is thoroughly entertaining, extremely well-paced and has perhaps the best visual effects that I have seen in a film for a while. The film is bolstered by its excellent cast who are all wonderful and Scott Derrickson is a clear fit for the material –  you can really tell the passion that has gone into this film behind the camera. It’s a lot more stripped down than this Summer’s ‘Captain America: Civil War‘ which was effectively an ‘Avengers 2.5’ team-up and by having less characters to juggle around, it really means the film can get a chance to breathe and develop these characters. (My original review here)

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16) The Colony 

This is probably the point where if you’ve heard about this film, you stop reading. You’ve probably heard all of the horror stories of this film if you follow the film industry, the negative reviews and the fact that The Guardian ran a story on how it earnt just £47 at the UK box office. Hold on a minute and I will try to justify myself including ‘The Colony’ (more commonly known as ‘Colonia’). First of all, on the subject of money, this film was simulataneously released on VOD which is not uncommon for a lot of films meaning that although the film will most likely suffer financially in the cinema, it will earn money back over VOD and DVD. Now I found the actual film, regardless of money, to tell a very important story about ‘Colonia Dignidad’ and the Chilean Military Coup. It is gripping and the stakes that face the characters of Lena and Daniel, played by Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl, are very intense. Michael Nyqvist’s performance as Paul Schäfer, the antagonistic leader of ‘Colonia Dignidad’ is terrifying at times and really manages to convey just what a horrible individual this man was. It’s a really entertaining film that constantly ups its stakes whilst at the same time, taking place in a wider context that the film does an admirable job in educating the viewer about. It’s a really interesting watch and one that I would really encourage giving a watch – ignore the reviews and its box office figures. 

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15) Spotlight 

‘Spotlight’ is an excellent film and really showcases the best in Tom McCarthy from his close direction to the excellent, tightly-packed script. The cast are wonderful and it manages to deal with such a sensitive subject matter in a very entertaining and satisfying fashion and once it gets going after establishing a context, it rip-roars right through to the end. However, my only criticism is that it doesn’t do a lot to set itself apart from other films of this genre. It follows the tried-and-tested formula all the way, as entertaining and satisfying as it is but that is why it doesn’t rank any higher. (My original review here)

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14) Finding Dory 

‘Finding Dory’ is  an endlessly entertaining sequel that is peppered with clever humour and it’s also a rather poignant film that explores some very thought-provoking themes. It’s not quite as good as ‘Finding Nemo’, but it doesn’t simply retread the same narrative again instead choosing to tackle some different themes. The animation, in true Pixar fashion, is stunning and the film manages to successfully introduce and develop new characters that I am sure audiences will come to love. (My original review here)

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13) Zootopia 

Originally earning 8th place in my Mid-Year report, ‘Zootopia’ is a masterfully crafted film from Disney and is their best film since ‘Tangled’. What sets it apart from their other films is the fact this film’s story is completely different to anything they have ever done before and is a mystery that kept me guessing right to the end. The world that they have created here is very convincing and is a world that I would love to visit – the animation is that good! The voice cast here are also exemplary with the standouts being Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and J.K. Simmons, all three actors perfectly suitable to their respective roles. I really enjoyed this film and like all the best Disney films found it totally engaging, extremely funny in parts and explores some interesting themes. 

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12) Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them 

‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ is an extremely well-directed film again by David Yates which features some great performances and superb character development. The story is exceptionally well-crafted (did we ever not have faith in Rowling in this department?) and I’m especially impressed that the film that we got is a very different one compared to what the trailers suggested – the film has a lot of surprises and twists and storylines that were not shown in the trailers and this is a very strong move. Yates continues to impress me with his direction (also directing ‘The Legend of Tarzan‘ which landed an honourable mention) and again, is a great match for this material and there are numerous sequences that are perfectly crafted which he is able to conjure a very atmospheric tone. Yates may well have his naysayers but I strongly disagree. The tone Yates goes for is very well judged and the film is very dark for a 12A, perhaps more so than the Harry Potter series and he manages to blend darkness, spectacle and humour perfectly. The film however is a little heavy-handed when it comes to romance. Another flaw the film battles is due to the amount of content it has to set up, the first hour is a little uneven compared to the second half when the film fully lets rip but the film is always very engaging and entertaining. This film is the first of what is envisaged to be a 5-film franchise which I would be really interested in but I do think there are some problems that this film sets up for the second film. (My original review here)

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11) The Witch 

I juggled between places 8-11 in terms of how to rank them and just missing out on the Top Ten is ‘The Witch’. It is a very interesting piece of work that has been incredibly well-researched from debut director Robert Eggers and the script is very authentic. It’s not too scary (I think it has been wrongly marketed as an out-and-out horror film which it’s not) but Eggers is able to conjure a very intense and atmospheric tone and the film has some very interesting religious messages – it almost plays out like a parable at times. Although the cast aren’t particularly well-known, I think this film is going to allow them a breakthrough, in particular Anya Taylor-Joy (evidently she has gone to get a lot of work) and Harvey Scrimshaw, both very convincing young actors. The film does stumble a little in its mid-section where there are a couple of drawn-out conversations which don’t really go anywhere and as mentioned, the marketing for the film is very misleading – although the film is not a horror film, ‘The Witch’ is instead an extremely insightful, atmospheric and philosophical watch that deserves all the praise it is getting and a film that gets better on every rewatch. 


So there we go, numbers 20 down to 11. Stay tuned for the Top Ten in a separate post…


What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister

Top Ten Films Of 2016 – Mid-Year Report

Although July, the half-way point of the year has already arrived and it is now, August, I am now ready to share my Top Ten Films of 2016 so far. It is that time of year where many reviewers share their current best films of the year and reflect on what the year in film has been like so far. Although I’m late, I now feel pretty confident that I too am able to share my best films of the year so far. As is to be expected, there are still a few films that I am still yet to see but I have tried to get through all the films that I have been looking forward to or the reviews have been good for. However, as is always the case 9 times out of 10, the best film of the year ends up being the one you’ve never even heard of. As usual, I am following the UK release date calendar between January and June – as you are about to see, there are some Awards films included in this list but these have all been released within this time period in the UK.

Honourable Mentions

As always, there are a handful of films that didn’t quite manage to make it into the Top Ten. They all had their specific problems, but the reason why I feel they should be listed as I found them all to either be entertaining, heartfelt or have some very interesting ideas even if they didn’t quite make it into the Top Ten. As I feel they deserve a mention, I will list them below:

– Anomalisa
– Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
– Eddie The Eagle
– The Jungle Book
– Captain America: Civil War
– The Conjuring 2

Top Ten Films Of 2015 – Mid Year-Report

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10) Spotlight

‘Spotlight’ is an excellent film and really showcases the best in Tom McCarthy from his close direction to the excellent, tightly-packed script. The cast are wonderful and it manages to deal with such a sensitive subject matter in a very entertaining and satisfying fashion and once it gets going after establishing a context, it rip-roars right through to the end. However, my only criticism is that it doesn’t do a lot to set itself apart from other films of this genre. It follows the tried-and-tested formula all the way, as entertaining and satisfying as it is but that is why it doesn’t rank any higher. (Full review here)

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9) The Witch

I watched ‘The Witch’ fairly close to writing this on recommendation of others and it constantly being praised by critics. I have to agree as it is a very interesting piece of work that has been incredibly well-researched from debut director Robert Eggers and the script is very authentic. It’s not too scary (I think it has been wrongly marketed as an out-and-out horror film which it’s not) but Eggers is able to conjure a very intense and atmospheric tone and the film has some very interesting religious messages – it almost plays out like a parable at times. Although the cast aren’t particularly well-known, I think this film is going to allow them a breakthrough, in particular Anya Taylor-Joy and Harvey Scrimshaw, both very convincing young actors. The film does stumble a little in its mid-section where there are a couple of drawn-out conversations which don’t really go anywhere and as mentioned, the marketing for the film is very misleading – although the film is not a horror film, ‘The Witch’ is instead an extremely insightful, atmospheric and philosophical watch that deserves all the praise it is getting.

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8) Zootropolis

‘Zootropolis’ is a masterfully crafted film from Disney and is their best film since ‘Tangled’. What sets it apart from their other films is the fact this film’s story is completely different to anything they have ever done before and is a mystery that kept me guessing right to the end. The world that they have created here is very convincing and is a world that I would love to visit – the animation is that good! The voice cast here are also exemplary with the standouts being Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and J.K. Simmons, all three actors perfectly suitable to their respective roles. It is one of the best animated features of the decade.

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7) Bone Tomahawk

The first of three Westerns in this list, I watched ‘Bone Tomahawk’ fairly near the time to myself writing this and it is definitely one of the most interesting films of the year. This is the debut of writer / musician / director S. Craig Zahler and he really is a talent to look out for. Although overlong in its middle section, ‘Bone Tomahawk’ poses some interesting ideas and has a wonderful script penned by Zahler. The cast are brilliant with Patrick Wilson as the standout and by the film’s big third act reveal, the characters are so well-developed that we really care for them. That said, the film is overlong and there is no doubt about it but this film very deservedly earns it spot on this list. If you have been convinced to watch this, I would recommend reading Zahler’s novel, ‘Wraiths Of The Broken Land’ first to get a flavour for the fantastic dialogue and descriptions that he uses and then you will be able to see his genius translated into this film.

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6) The Revenant

‘The Revenant’ is a visually stunning film and it boasts many outstanding sequences. It has some excellent central performances and boasts original cinematography and an atmospheric score. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are both mesmerising here and Iñárritu has really developed as a director. The battle sequences are wonderfully crafted and there are some beautifully shot landscapes to create the film’s atmosphere by Emmanuel Lubezki who deservedly won his third Academy Award in a row. My only gripes with ‘The Revenant’ are its pacing is a little stretched at parts and its story is a little simplistic for a 156 minute running time. But the execution is where ‘The Revenant’ wows and it really is a work of art. (Full review here)

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Now into the Top Five…

5) Eye In The Sky

Into the Top Five and we have ‘Eye in the Sky’ which is a taut and heartfelt application of the effects of drone warfare that is morally conflicting and features some fantastic performances – it’s straight up there as one of the best films of the year and is just what Gavin Hood needed. It is expertly paced and runs an economical yet efficient 102 minutes, enough to make a lasting impression on audiences and poses lots of moral arguments. The only reason why it doesn’t quite earn a 5-star rating is because the film doesn’t really develop its characters too much and having slightly more of a human edge to the film wold have informed audiences more coherently as to why characters make the vital choices that they do. (Full review here)

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4) 10 Cloverfield Lane

’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is an incredible, intense Hitchcockian film that is taut and claustrophobic and gives us three fantastic performances from its trio. The script is absolutely terrific and it’s very easy to spot ‘Whiplash’ director, Damien Chazelle’s contribution. Dan Trachtenberg’s direction is very astute and assured and he will surely go on to do great things. It is a superb film and is 5-star material. Unfortunately, all this good work is undone by a very lacklustre final 15 minutes which is very haphazardly handled and tarnishes all the good work done and leaves a very sour note on all the development the film has undergone to set the audience up to its ending. However, just taking the film alone with the exception of this muddled ending, it is near-perfect. (Full review here)

Now into the Top Three…

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3) Grimsby

Although perhaps a very surprising and out-of-place choice, I found ‘Grimsby’ to be one of the best comedies of the decade – it is consistently hilarious (although quite vulgar in parts) and the cast are wonderful, in particular the two leads, Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong, who displays a real panache for comedic roles. Louis Leterrier has really developed as a director and seems to have a flair for comedy.  The film’s pacing is perfect and it is one of the very rare comedies that is consistently funny – thre is not one dull moment in it. However, the only criticism is that Leterrier still cannot quite grasp how to direct an action scene and this is a recurring theme in all of his films. It’s a real shame how this film has been almost completely misunderstood and has garnered rather mixed reviews, but I would definitely recommend giving it a shot! (Full review here)

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2) The Hateful Eight

Business as usual, ‘The Hateful Eight’ is another knockout from Tarantino – it’s bloody and gory, has fantastic speeches and an excellent story. It has some brilliant performances with the standouts being Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth and Walton Goggins. It’s suitably gory and ramps the tension up with gusto and the film gets even better on each subsequent rewatch. There’s no doubt that the film is a little baggy and perhaps could lose 20 minutes – the film would be leaner and more heavy-hitting but as usual with Tarantino, the script is the gem and getting to know these characters and seeing them developed is a work of art and the film builds the suspense up very carefully. (Full review here)

So the best film of the year is…

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1) Room

Very rarely would I say this, but ‘Room’ is a perfect film and deserves a 5 star rating. It is an inspiring watch and reaches various emotional heights. The performances from the cast all round are nothing short of incredible and Lenny Abrahamsson’s careful and assured direction works wonders. The film has a beaming heart at its core – at times the film is devastatingly sad and at others, warm and feel-good. There is never a dull moment – the film is expertly paced and takes ample time to develop its characters. (Full review here)

Reflection on 2016 in Film so far…

2016 has been a very solid year in terms of film – there is not one downright terrible film that I have come across yet, despite being disappointed and rather critical of a number of films this year. However, the films that I have been anticipating (mainly sequels) the most have either done well or completely missed the mark whereas films that I had never expected to like did. Note that there is only one sequel on this list – ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ and even that is more of a spin-off / spiritual sequel. I’ve really been impressed with the Western genre this year with three films (‘Bone Tomahawk’, ‘The Revenant’ and ‘The Hateful Eight’) all being extremely interesting and entertaining. However, the comic-book genre has been hit-and-miss this year – ‘Deadpool’ was disappointing and ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ was close to unwatchable other than its first 45 minutes. But overall, 2016 is a strong year so far and I would hope to see many of these films in my list reappear at the end of the year.

What’s Next…?

2016 looks set to continue to be a great year in film and just listing a couple of films that look like they have potential include:

– Suicide Squad
– The Shallows
– Wiener-Dog
– Lights Out
– Sausage Party
– Captain Fantastic
– Blair Witch
– Imperium
– The Girl On The Train
– Doctor Strange
– The Light Between Oceans
– Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
– Sully
– Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
– Assassin’s Creed

However, it is important to note that this is not a definitive list and these titles are just a few picks scattered across the remainder of the year that have piqued my interest.


Worst Five Films Of 2015

Whilst 2015 brought us some fantastic films,  it is fair to say that 2015 hosted some of its fair shares of cinema atrocities too. Luckily, not as many 20 which is what I have in my upcoming favourites list, but listed below are 5 films that really got me seething. I must note before that I actively try and avoid films that I just know are going to be horrendous (a real film critic has to sit through everything though) so this list might not be truly representative. One must also realise the difference between a film that is disappointing and a film that is truly bad. I could probably find 20 films that disappointed me last year but this is not the purpose of this post.

Honourable Mentions – (not quite awful enough to be ranked here but these films got me quite annoyed)

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Mortdecai 

‘Mortdecai’ came right at the beginning of the year and left a sour note that has remained all year. The trailers looked so promising and the whole cast looked as if they were having fun but what we got was a film that was aggressively unfunny, poorly paced and for a lot of the time, incredibly annoying. Johnny Depp tries his best here but he can’t help a doomed film – luckily he found a resurgence with ‘Black Mass’. Now with all this said, there is one thing going in its favour and it’s that the last 20 minutes or so picks up ever so slightly but it’s nowhere enough to save this failure. A real shame.

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Knock Knock

What on earth was Eli Roth thinking? 2015 saw the comeback of Keanu Reeves in the highly entertaining ‘John Wick’ but he is not forgiven for starring this film which is hammy and annoying. After a promising first 10 mins, the film then descends very quickly into a disaster and it seems as if that Eli Roth wants to let the audience know that he just discovered what paedophilia is. Truly annoying.

 

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Paper Towns

‘Paper Towns’ is another adaptation of a John Green novel and I actually found quite a lot to like in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’. It was by no means great but this is just horrendous. The plot here is utterly implausible and Cara Delevigne’s acting is very poor. Her character is completely unlikeable and she comes across as needy and attention-seeking. A stupid film with an implausible story with bad acting.

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Wild 

‘Wild’ was not just a massive disappointment, it was pretentious filmmaking by Jean-Marc Valee that really narked me off here and it’s a shame as I was quite impressed with ‘Dallas Buyers Club’. Reese Witherspoon’s performance is horrendous and I can’t believe she actually received awards buzz for it?! The film is so badly paced, so boring and the characters are extremely unlikeable and undeveloped. Now Witherspoon’s character is developed but she’s just so unlikeable that I really didn’t care.

Luckily not quite as bad as these worst five films of 2015…

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5) The Avengers: Age Of Ultron

I would never dream of putting a Marvel film into this kind of a list and I honestly tried all year to make excuses for this turd. I have rewatched it twice more after seeing it first in the cinema and this film just doesn’t improve – I have given it more than enough chances. There are some promising elements here and a couple of decent scenes but it’s not enough to compensate for god-awful action sequences, the fact that the film lacks a coherent story and all the film is aiming for is to set up future films. By doing this, they have forgotten to make a film. I really respect Joss Whedon and admired ‘Avengers Assemble’ so I feel really sorry for him. He did have to re-edit the film due to Marvel executives disagreeing with him (although not to the extent Josh Trank did with ‘Fantastic Four’) which I can feel some sympathy but regardless, this film is an absolute travesty.

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4) Poltergeist

The remake of ‘Poltergeist’ was not only a disappointment, but an extremely bad film. The film is not scary in the slightest, it’s mostly laughable and the story is paper-thin and utter claptrap. Sam Rockwell looks extremely uncomfortable playing in this film, Rosemarie DeWitt just can’t act and this is the first bad film I have ever seen Jared Harris play in. The script is beyond awful and cringeworthy.

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3) Daddy’s Home 

How disappointing to have a film with both Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg be so bad?! I didn’t laugh once during this cringeworthy, disgusting film – it is crass, stupid and the characters are all infinitely annoying. The kids in this film are horrible and Linda Cardellini in particular manages to cement herself twice in this list with two dreadful performances. Sean Anders has proven multiple times he is incapable of directing a film and I thought last years, ‘Horrible Bosses 2’ was the final nail in the coffin. But it wasn’t, here he is again and he’s equally as annoying. A vile film.

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2) Selma

Surprisingly, another film along with ‘Wild’ that was commended among critics but I found to be absolutely dire. What I will say before completing ripping this film apart is that David Oyelowo’s performance is mesmerising but that is it. ‘Selma’ is excruciatingly boring, it is pretentiously filmed, it has some horrific performances from Tim Roth, Tom Wilkinson and Oprah Winfrey and it doesn’t help when the film drags on for 128 minutes. What’s even more perplexing is I am the only person who hates this film, it has near perfect reviews among critics and everyone has only good things to say about it. I just don’t get it.

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1) Pan

Ever since the first trailer came out, I was very trepidacious about the film and then after finally watching it, it is an absolute stinker. However, I did have some hope as I have enjoyed everything that Joe Wright has directed and with a cast including Hugh Jackman and Rooney Mara, two of the best actors currently working in Hollywood. How could this have been so bad?! The film feels like an awful pantomime, it is visually disgusting and features awful performances from pretty much everyone in the film, in particular newcomer Levi Miller who I hope never gets work again and Garrett Hedlund as Hook. The story is completely incomprehensible and John Powell’s score is an absolute headache. A complete disaster and an embarassment for all involved.


So there we go – as mentioned, I’m sure if I would have actively gone and watched all the really bad films, this list potentially would change (although it would be hard to remove ‘Pan’, ‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Selma’ from here) but I didn’t. The fact still remains though, regardless of whether there is anything worse out there, this list is still a collection of flops. Fingers crossed 2016 ends up being as good a year as 2015 but also that there is nothing truly awful released. Luckily, the trend didn’t to continue in 2016 with bad Award-Nominated films – the worst one out of the crop was ‘The Martian’ which still was fairly watchable despite being very disappointing.


What are your thoughts? Was there a worse film than ‘Pan’? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister