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

Best Films Of 2015 (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 2015:

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10) Black Mass

‘Black Mass’ is another winner from Scott Cooper – it features some fantastic performances with Johnny Depp in an outstanding turn as Bulger, the script is fantastic and draws heavy inspiration from classics such as ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Goodfellas’ and there are many outstanding sequences that have ‘quotable’ status. The pacing of the film is generally sound, but the film does choose to focus on some aspects of Bulger’s life that perhaps don’t warrant it and this is its main shortcoming. It’s not quite as good as Scott Cooper’s previous film, ‘Out Of The Furnace’ which was a little more subtle and atmospheric in its execution, but it’s still very impressive. (Full Review here)

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9) Inside Out

‘Inside Out’ is an expertly crafted film – it is extremely original, emotionally satisfying, humorous but at times suitably dark and enthralling but what stops it from reaching the giddy heights of their very best films is its little too familiar narrative. The voicing cast are spot-on and the film is supplemented by a fantastic score by Pixar-regular Michael Giacchino. The pacing is perfect and the characters really resonate with the audience. (Full Review here)

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8) It Follows

‘It Follows’ redefines the horror genre with its fantastic direction and plot. The film isn’t overly scary, but the ideas are exceptional and the film plays out like a 1980’s John Carpenter feature, particularly with its John Carpenter-esque score by Disasterpeace. The performances are excellent  and the pacing is near-perfect. A very good effort by all involved.

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7) Mad Max: Fury Road

For George Miller to make another good ‘Mad Max’ film, let alone an amazing one in a 30 year period is quite frankly, nothing short of a miracle. The film is completely bonkers with its action sequences (the film plays out like a continuous car chase) as are the performances, particularly by the incredibly over-the-top villain played by Hugh Keyes-Byrne. Tom Hardy is excellent as the titular character, easily taking over the reigns from Mel Gibson and the score by Junkie XL is bonkers. There’s so much craft to this film and the action sequences are exhilarating. This film is a work of art and nothing short of a miracle. One of the best action films of recent years.

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6) Sicario

‘Sicario’ is a near-perfect film that features some heart pounding action sequences and excellent performances, most notably from Benicio Del Toro who delivers a career-best performance and hopefully will attract attention in Awards Season. Villeneuve’s direction is superb and he has created a very gloomy, dark film that is extremely intense. It’s not quite as good as ‘Prisoners’, Villeneuve’s previous film, as it doesn’t have the same emotional punch and the ending is also a little muddled but in its own right is superbly crafted and paints a very bleak picture of Mexico as a country. Villeneuve also released a second film earlier in 2015 – a film called ‘Enemy’ which stars Jake Gyllenhaal in dual roles. It’s by no means brilliant, but I’d advise checking it out as it’s a very intellectual watch and Gyllenhaal is excellent. (Full Review here)

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5) Slow West

Originally released at the Sundance Festival, ‘Slow West’ really resonated with critics and audiences alike and then was subsequently released in cinemas. I caught up with it pretty late in the year (otherwise it would have featured in my Mid-Year Review very highly) and loved it. For a debut feature, John Maclean is very mature and the film is visually stunning and a sensory experience. The performances are incredible and Kodi Smit-McPhee puts in a career-best performance and Caren Pistorius’s debut should allow her to go onto getting good work in the film industry. Jed Kurzel’s score is also worthy of mention. This film is proof of the resurgence of the Western genre.

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4) Kingsman: The Secret Service

‘Kingman: The Secret Service’ serves to the spy genre as ‘Kick-Ass’ does to the superhero genre – an adult version with graphic violence and plenty of swearing. It’s terrific fun and there is not one dull moment in the film. The action is enthralling and the film is also very funny. You don’t always need to go to the cinema to watch a film that will stretch your brain and this film is the perfect example of this.

Now into the top #3…

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3) Foxcatcher

‘Foxcatcher’ is a fascinating, enthralling and meticulously crafted film packed with excellent performances all-round from the cast. Steve Carrell is the standout and is very disturbing and calculated as John DuPont. The camera shots are excellent as are the locations that the film uses which help to create a very eerie, disconcerting, yet seemingly safe atmosphere. The film does get a bit self-indulgent at times and is quite a long stretch at 134 minutes. There are a couple of parts which are a little bit dull and it’s a bit disappointing how the audience grow to know the characters only for the film to end so abruptly, but then again, the ending events are abrupt anyway! Considering this film came out in the height of Awards season last year, so for this film to last over a year here and only fall down one place since the Mid-Year Review. (Full Review here)

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2) The Gift

Another film that I caught up with very late in the year that I loved the first time and it gets better with every subsequent rewatch. Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut is assured, intelligent and very well paced and the performances from the entire cast are fantastic, particularly Jason Bateman who normally takes more comedic roles. The film’s story is excellent and it kept me guessing at every turn and the film’s ending is extremely satisfying. The score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Juriaans is also minimalistic yet very chilling. It will take a miracle for Joel Edgerton to surpass this but at the moment, he doesn’t have any other directorial projects greenlit.

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1) Whiplash

‘Whiplash’ would get on this list just for J.K. Simmon’s psychotic performance, it’s that good! But the film not only has this going in its favour, ‘Whiplash’ also has another career-turning performance by Miles Teller and is an enthralling, darkly comedic watch that reaches a mesmerising conclusion. The fact that the film does not have a big budget and was only shot in 19 days just goes to show to all the big-budget, brainless drivel that Hollywood constantly churns out that quality is better than budget. It rightly deserves all its praise that it has garnered.


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 2015 (20-11)

2015 was a fantastic year in film. Although many critics have shared their lists already, there were quite a few films that I didn’t get a chance to watch hence why this is so late. I am pretty confident that I can now share my best films of last year and have been quite ruthless in what makes the list. As usual, 2015 followed the trend of a lot of the films that I had never heard of or had low expectations of ended up surprising me and featuring here.

There were so many fantastic films last year. I would normally stick to a Top Ten list but there are more than 25 films that are worthy so I have decided to expand this to 20 films.

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

These films didn’t quite make it into the Top Twenty but I feel that they should still deserve a mention:

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American Sniper

A very solid film by Clint Eastwood with a strong central performance by a beefed-up Bradley Cooper, ‘American Sniper’ is thoughtful and extremely tense even though it isn’t the most original and does get overly-patriotic at times. Oh, and don’t forget the awful baby prop!

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Legend

A very interesting film with a fantastic performance from Tom Hardy and also from Emily Browning. It features many outstanding sequences but the reason it can’t quite make it in to the Top 20 is it’s a bit of a tonal jumble and director Brian Helgeland does seem grapple with the material a little bit. It would have been even better if it was a little more ‘British’ as Helgeland, an American director can’t quite find the right tone probably because of his nationality.

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Crimson Peak

This was the closest film to get in to the Top 20 as I think Del Toro has created another thoughtful film with some excellent performances and production design that has unfortunately been a misunderstood by critics and audiences alike. Tom Hiddleston, in particular, is fantastic in this and the score by Fernando Velazquez is endlessly haunting.

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Macbeth

It’s a perfect film and would have got into the Top 5 even if it ditched the Shakespearean dialogue which I personally struggled with a lot during the film. That said, the direction by Justin Kurzel is very assured here as are the performances by Michael Fassbender who is sensational here. Hats off also to composer Jed Kurzel and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw. (Full Review here)

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The Walk

A film that I watched pretty close to writing this, ‘The Walk’ is at times enthralling and visually, is superb. However, Joseph Gordon Levitt’s performance is very wonky in places and the film does feel a little pantomime-like in parts.

Now onto my top 20:

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20) Suffragette

I watched ‘Suffragette’ pretty close to writing this and thought it was a really solid film. Although its story should not be taken for granted (there are a lot of fictionalised characters), it’s still good entertainment and does hit on some important messages. The cast are very strong here too and the score by Alexandre Desplat is very fitting.

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19) Ant-Man

The only comic book film to make my list from 2015 is ‘Ant-Man’ which is an excellent and entertaining character-driven film that has a warm heart and innovative action sequences. Wright’s input is incredibly obvious and is all for the better and the casting is near perfect. The storyline is fun and the pacing is spot-on as well. However, one cannot stop themselves from unpacking the film when watching it to distinguish all of Edgar Wright’s directorial traits in it and ultimately ponder what Wright’s finished film would have been like. However what has remained is very, very promising and Marvel have another series to their name and rightly so. It’s just a shame that ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ was the opposite end of the spectrum  – one of Marvel’s very worst films to date. (Full Review here)

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18) Spectre

An extremely different film to ‘Skyfall’, ‘Spectre’ is very dark and has some excellent action sequences but it’s also a lot more playful in tone and harkens back to the days of Sean Connery and Roger Moore. The performances are excellent and the locations and cinematography are mesmerising. ‘Spectre’ is not without its flaws – it has a slow middle section in its lengthy 148 minute run time and the ending is extremely predictable. It’s refreshing to see that Mendes hasn’t just tried to rehash ‘Skyfall’ – one can tell that both cast and crew have complete trust in him and everyone has settled into their roles which makes for a very entertaining and thrilling film. (Full Review here)

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17) The Theory of Everything

Despite feeling a little too ‘Oscar-bait’ at times, ‘The Theory of Everything’ is still a very solid film with some fantastic performances particularly by its two leading stars, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones and the viewer goes through a very emotional yet heartfelt journey. It managed to get #8 on my Mid-Year Ranking but it’s a film that has got a lot better with subsequent viewings.

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16) Ex_Machina

Alex Garland’s debut is a tense, slow-burning yet a very philosophical watch and the film makes for a great character study. The performances in this film are brilliant with Oscar Isaac being the standout and this film has proven to be the gateway for Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander to go on to do great things and Vikander ultimately received a Golden Globe nomination for her role here and an Oscar win for her role in ‘The Danish Girl’. ‘Ex_Machina’ also has one of the best climaxes of the year and it’s worth all the waiting the audience do in the slow-burning build-up.

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15) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2′ is a marked improvement on its predecessor and it very nearly scales the heights of the first two films in the series. It is a heartfelt and satisfying conclusion that makes Part 1 completely redundant and there are many social and political messages embedded throughout. At a time when ISIS terrorises the West, this film couldn’t come at a more ironic time and there are many uncomfortable similarities that both the fictional world created by Suzanne Collins and reality share which culminate in an even more heartfelt watch. (Full Review here)

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14) Chappie

‘CHAPPiE’ may be quirky and a bit of an oddball, but this film is elevated with its tremendous, refreshing warm heart and again, Blomkamp really does get the audience to think with a lot of thought-provoking questions. It is very entertaining and the cast seem to be having a lot of fun here, and even the rave rap duo of Die Antwoord aren’t too bad! The film is supplemented by a completely bombastic, yet memorable score by Hans Zimmer which really fits the film. I was very surprised when it was released last March to fairly negative reviews – perhaps critics misunderstood it? (Full Review here)

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13) John Wick

I was really looking forward to watching this, especially as the UK release for this film was so late – April 2015 as opposed to pretty much the rest of the world getting this in Autumn 2014. The film was definitely worth the wait – it’s an extremely well crafted film and is endlessly entertaining albeit silly. Keanu Reeves is the best that he has been in years and he is well supported by the rest of the cast which includes talents such as Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, Ian McShane and John Leguizamo. A sequel has already been greenlit and it will be impressive if it can match or surpass this. It’s just a shame that Reeves’ other film this year, Eli Roth’s, ‘Knock Knock’ was so very disappointing.

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12) A Most Violent Year

Although the film is a little patchy in places, in terms of ideas and performances, ‘A Most Violent Year’ is incredible in places and it gets better on every rewatch. Oscar Isaac gives a career-best performance with strong parallels to characters in ‘The Godfather’ and the supporting cast also give tremendous performances, most notably Albert Brooks. There is a fantastic 100 minute-or-so film here without the excess baggage and for ideas and craft, this film deserves to be commended. A very good effort.

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11) Everest

‘Everest’ is an awe-inspiring film that features incredible visual effects and some fantastic performances from its star-studded cast. It also manages to pack an emotional punch and character development is solid for a film of this genre. The tone of the second half of the film is extremely unnerving and upsetting and the film’s ending is perfect. Not only is it Kormákur’s best film, it is the best disaster film that I have seen in a long while. The reasons why this doesn’t get full marks are because it is a little hard to distinguish characters in some places (mainly because they’re dressed in tons of layers!) and the film cannot quite get rid of all the clichés associated with the genre but it is a very admirable attempt. The film also would have benefitted from having a 15 rating to make the film look even more realistic by showing more of the degradation of the characters. (Full 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 2015 – Mid-Year Report

July, the half-way point of the year has finally arrived and so it is that time of the year where many people share their current best films of the year and reflect on what the year in film has been like so far. I feel pretty confident that I too am able to share my best films of the year so far. There are still a few films that I am still yet to see but I have watched all the films that I thought might make it into this list but you never know, almost 9 times out of 10, the best film of the year ends up being the one you’ve never even heard of.

Honourable Mentions

As always, there are a handful of films that for whatever reason didn’t quite manage to make it into the Top Ten. As I feel they deserve a mention, I will list them below:

– Jurassic World
– Big Hero 6
– Birdman
– Get Hard
– Enemy

Top Ten Films Of 2015 – Mid Year-Report

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10) The Theory Of Everything

Despite feeling a little too ‘Oscar-bait’ at times, ‘The Theory of Everything’ is still a very solid film with some fantastic performances particularly by its two leading stars, Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones and the viewer goes through a very emotional yet heartfelt journey. This almost certainly won’t feature at the end of the year, but as for now, the film more than fits the bill.

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9) A Most Violent Year

In terms of the film itself, ‘The Theory of Everything’ works better as a film overall compared to this, but in terms of ideas and performances, ‘A Most Violent Year’ is incredible in places. Oscar Isaac gives a career-best performance with strong parallels to characters in ‘The Godfather’ and the supporting cast also give tremendous performances, most notably Albert Brooks. The film does have a lot of problems with its pacing which unfortunately means there are quite a few dull moments in the film, but there is a fantastic 100 minute-or-so film here without the excess baggage and for ideas and craft, this film deserves to be commended.

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8) American Sniper

Another very solid film by Clint Eastwood with a strong central performance by a beefed-up Bradley Cooper, ‘American Sniper’ is thoughtful and extremely tense even though it isn’t the most original and does get overly-patriotic at times. Oh, and don’t forget the awful baby prop!

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7) Ex_Machina

Alex Garland’s debut is a tense, slow-burning yet a very philosophical watch and the film makes for a great character study. The performances in this film are brilliant with Oscar Isaac being the standout and this film is the gateway for Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander to go on to do great things. It also has one of the best climaxes of the year.

This is where the films featured in this list jump up in terms of quality…

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6) CHAPPiE 

A completely misunderstood film that suffered a very poor marketing campaign, ‘CHAPPiE’ is a very entertaining film that has a refreshing warm heart. Its plot may be familiar, but the film still manages to bring some originality to the table. Hugh Jackman turns in a very fun, gritty performance and Sharlto Copley who provides motion capture for the titular character gives an innocent yet funny performance. The film is supplemented with a completely bombastic Hans Zimmer score. I realise I am in the vast minority here, but honestly, there is a lot to like about this film and I really hope it can make it into the Top Ten at the end of the year. It’s a shame the film was marketed very badly and an even bigger shame that Blomkamp, the film’s director, pretty much threw the film away in favour of directing a new ‘Alien’ sequel.

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5) It Follows

‘It Follows’ redefines the horror genre with its fantastic direction and plot. The film isn’t overly scary, but the ideas are exceptional and the film plays out like a 1980’s John Carpenter feature, particularly with its John Carpenter-esque score by Disasterpeace. The performances are excellent  and the pacing is near perfect. A very good effort by all involved.

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4) Mad Max: Fury Road

For George Miller to make another good ‘Mad Max’ film, let alone an amazing one in a 30 year period is quite frankly, nothing short of a miracle. The film is completely bonkers with its action sequences (the film plays out like a continuous car chase) as are the performances, particularly by the incredibly over-the-top villain played by Hugh Keyes-Byrne. Tom Hardy is excellent as the titular character, easily taking over the reigns from Mel Gibson and the score by Junkie XL is bonkers. There’s so much craft to this film and the action sequences are exhilarating. This film is a work of art and nothing short of a miracle. One of the best action films of recent years.

Now into the top three…

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3) Kingsman: The Secret Service

How can this be better than the the last three films? ‘Kingman: The Secret Service’ serves to the spy genre as ‘Kick-Ass’ does to the superhero genre – an adult version with graphic violence and plenty of swearing. It’s terrific fun and there is not one dull moment in the film and that is what makes it, just a hair better, than ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ – it has slightly better pacing. The action is enthralling and the film is very funny. You don’t always need to go to the cinema to watch a film that will stretch your brain and this film is the perfect example of this.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Excellent)

2) Foxcatcher

A sure-fire Oscar-contender that surprisingly didn’t manage to nab a Best Picture nomination. ‘Foxcatcher’ is a meticulously crafted and daring film that is a fascinating character study. Steve Carell gives a career-best performance as does Channing Tatum and Carrell was robbed of the win. The film is a very slow-burn so don’t watch without being wide awake, but the film reaches a very satisfying climax. A truly excellent film.

So the best film of the year is…

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1) Whiplash

‘Whiplash’ would get on this list just for J.K. Simmon’s psychotic performance, it’s that good! But the film not only has this going in its favour, ‘Whiplash’ also has another career-turning performance by Miles Teller and is an enthralling, darkly comedic watch that reaches a mesmerising conclusion. The fact that the film does not have a big budget and was only shot in 19 days just goes to show to all the big-budget, brainless drivel that Hollywood constantly churns out that quality is better than budget. It rightly deserves all its praise that it has garnered.

Reflection on 2015 in Film so far…

2015 has proven so far to be a year in film where despite Hollywood continue to produce many big budget films, the films this year that have proven to be the best for me are the ones that on paper, wouldn’t have been. For example, I fully expected films such as ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron’ to feature here. When I first watched the trailer for ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ or ‘CHAPPiE’ for example, the trailers just don’t them justice and never did I think I would have loved them so much. In terms of quality of films overall, I don’t think this year is the strongest in the decade so far but it is much better than 2011 and 2012 for example. I hope the second half of the year continues to bring a lot of thought-provoking, exciting films that remind us, as the audience, why there is still fuel in the film industry left.

Looking Ahead 

I really hope the Top Six of this list can stay, I really do. But who knows, the next best film may only be just around the corner. Just listing a couple of films that I think look like have potential include:

– Ant-Man
– Inside Out
– Sinister 2
– The Martian
– Everest
– Sicario
– Crimson Peak
– Spectre
– Steve Jobs
– Black Mass
– The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
– The Good Dinosaur

Top Ten Disappointment’s of 2014

I know it has been a long time since the end of 2014, 5 months in fact, however there were still some films that I had not seen at the end of the year and I decided that rather than make a Top Ten which may have seen some changes, now that I have finally seen all the films of 2014 that I wanted to see, I feel that I can now share my thoughts on what the best films were.

This first post details the most disappointing films of the year – they should have been great. In a lot of cases, the trailers pointed towards an excellent film. Furthermore, in some cases where the films were part of a series, they follow up to a fantastic predecessor which made my Top Ten Films of previous years.

10) Dracula Untold 

Ok, everyone knew this film wasn’t going to draculaget the best reviews, but I’m a real sucker for these kinds of films, for example, ‘Van Helsing’, but this film was just completely unmemorable and the effects were sub-par.

9) Annabelle

annabelleThe trailers looked awful and the film looked like it should have been straight-to-DVD. Still, there was a glimmer of hope after last year’s outstanding, ‘The Conjuring’ of which this is a spin-off, but the film was a complete disaster. The acting was dire, scares almost laughable and the ending is just absolutely baffling in terms of the decisions made from  some of the characters.

8) Locke

lockeAnother film that suffered a lot of hype, I was extremely disappointed by this film. Tom Hardy’s performance was baffling and the stakes were never high enough for his character.

7) The Judge

UnknownWith a cast this good, how can a film be this disappointing?! The film was massively overlong, its plot poor and the film looked extremely cheap-looking. Somewhere in this big mess is a decent film, but unfortunately this isn’t it.

6) Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Don’t get me wrong, this was a godotpotaod film and in parts excellent, but it was such a come-down from its stellar predecessor. I didn’t care for the human characters at all and in parts, the film is a real slog. The story is extremely predictable and the film is a bit overlong. That said though, Andy Serkis really does elevate his performance from the first film, which is a plus and there really are some awe-inspiring shots that still make this a worthwhile film.

5) Godzilla

What startsgodzillq out as an absolutely fantastic first 45 minutes then makes the mistake of killing off a key character and the audience are then subject to the extremely wooden Aaron Taylor-Johnson for the next 1 1/4 hours.

4) The Lego Movie 

legoMaybe it was due to the near perfect reviews, but I found this to be a very overrated, self-indulgent film that’s pacing was way too fast and the gags weren’t funny enough. That said though, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller clearly do have a love for these characters and the end twist is very effective, but as a film overall, I cannot help but be disappointed.

3) The Rover 

imagesThis was a big disappointment, particularly as the trailer promised an atmospheric, revenge thriller film rich with fantastic performances from Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. The result is a film that is extremely polarising, slow and boring. The film starts out really strong and ends really well but everything in between is just a struggle and a chore to sit through.  The story is original, but it’s just completely unengaging  – a really big shame.

2) The Babadook

bbdkWith near-perfect reviews and critics calling this the best horror film since William Friedkin’s, ‘The Exorcist’, it really was a shame when the film, despite being original, ultimately turned out to be extremely silly, overlong and unfortunately not scary in the slightest. However, kudos to director Jennifer Kent for holding off the jump scares and trying to be original.

1 ) The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

hg-mjp1The first two films were near-perfect, excellent pacing, character development, acting, music and direction. But the third instalment is painfully slow, boring and Jennifer Lawrence completely phones in her performance. It’s not engaging in the slightest and the decision to split this into two parts is simply a cash grab.  Here’s hoping for a finale that firmly lives up to the first two instalments.