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Baumer's best 42 films of 2016 (and 12 worst) and Ruk's breakdown of 2016 films (Finished!)

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Honourable Mention #3: Hidden Figures (Would've come 44th)




I mentioned, while I was talking about A United Kingdom, that this basically fell into the category of forgettable Oscar biopic. And yeah, I still stand by that more or less. It's not a bad movie by any means and it is definitely a story I'm glad was told (in large part to create more recognition for these 'Hidden Figures') but as far as actual moviemaking goes it was just alright. Not great, not outstanding, just alright.


The acting was very good with a lot of strong performances behind many of these characters, but the actual storytelling and cinematography was just kind of unmemorable. Again, not bad, just alright. The message of 'racism is bad, m'kay', while certainly more than relevant at this time, considering current events, fail to have the punch or weight behind them that better movies dealing with racism do and just become a more general representation of prejudice during that era. (Hell, even Zootopia had the angle of exploring unintentional racism from otherwise sympathetic people to set itself apart.) Again, it's not necessarily a fault because the anti-racism message is an important one and you really can't tell a story about black females working in the 1960's without it. Just that it's something that's been done a lot better and made a lot more challenging elsewhere.


But even with all that, I have to admit it iss a movie I'm very glad was made and got a lot of attention, if only to put a spotlight on this lesser-known figures. But, while I certainly don't dislike it, I thought it was just an averagely told Oscar biopic. I won't be annoyed if it wins any major awards (unlike something like, say American Hustle or the Revenant) but there are easily more worthy winners this year.

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Honourable Mention #2: The Handmaiden (Would've come 12th)




Yeah, I finally got around to watching it. Yeah, it was fantastic. It's not an exaggeration when I say that this movie made me understand why lesbian porn is a thing.


Okay okay, joking(?) aside, this really was an engrossing watching, both for the emotional connection between our protagonists and the twists and turns as the story unfolds. Every character feels instinctively memorable, from the ingenue thief to the scheming conman to the villainous uncle who oozed unsettling creepiness from his first scene and at the centre, the apparent innocent who has her secret dark sides (and was also probably one of my favourite characters in any movie this year). Each actor/actress does a fantastic job bringing their characters to life and making us interested in their goals and struggles as they work for or against each other in shakey alliances. I have to also give a ton of credit to the fantastic cinematography and production design, both of which help to bring the movie and create this strange atmosphere that just fits so well and draws you in.


Seriously, I regret not watching this before I sent off my Boffy ballot, because you can bet it would've turned up in so many categories. As it is, I'm just going to insist that everyone vote for it in Best Foreign Language instead. And not the Wave. Never the Wave. Ignore Tele. He is cray-cray. 

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Honourable Mention #1: Hacksaw Ridge (Would've come 10th)




You know, I think the best description I've ever heard of Mel Gibson's directorial style is that he's like if 'Cecil B. DeMille met Lucio Fulci'. Effectively, he's an exploitation director who makes Epics. And nowhere has that particular niche that worked better for him than with this movie, which allows him to utilize both of his talents, gory and glorious, to their full and ends up with a product that's outstanding in almost every regard.


The story of Desmond Doss is, by itself, already a fairly interesting religious tale, but it's Gibson's directing of the war scenes that makes this really stand out. The gorn, brutality and violence of the assault on Hacksaw Ridge provides one of the best takes on the horrors of war since Saving Private Ryan and Gibson doesn't flinch away from capturing every second of the literal bloodbath in a way that makes Doss's inspirational actions feel all the more grander. When people are literally being torn to shreds by the dozens in such a visceral and cruel way, Doss's bravery and insistence on pacifism feels all the more impressive. Hell, it felt impressive enough considering the amount of prejudice he received in the training camps as a result of his views, but this was on a whole other level. Every second he spends in no man's land is tense and terrifying as you worry where the next bullet or bomb will fall. Genuine tense and spellbinding stuff


Not to the give the credit just to Gibson's directing though. Afer all, everyone involved gives an excellent performance, even people I wouldn't expect like Vince Vaughn and 'Mr Cardboard' himself, Sam Worthington. Both were almost unrecognisable in their roles. Hell, the writing was deft enough that they didn't even feel like cardboard cut-out Drill Sergeants/Obstructive Superiors as they so easily could. They clearly feel sympathy for Doss even as they try to drum him out of the military. Speaking of, I did feel that Andrew Garfield was possibly a bit too over-the-top in his 'good ol' boy' role, but honestly... he still performs more than admirably enough to more than deserve that Oscar nod. An excellent performance in many regards.


Pretty much the only criticism I can give is that the movie did feel... well... kinda corny at times, especially towards the beginning and end. And the second assault on Hacksaw Ridge never quite reached the levels of the first. But those are still minor dents in one of the most harrowing and enjoyable movie experiences I've had all year.

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#7 Tie

Patriots Day

Directed by Peter Berg

Starring:  Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman

Box office:  30 million and counting


Peter Berg is on a roll.  After putting out Deepwater Horizon a few months back, he's back directing Mark Wahlberg in another film based on a true story. This time, a film based on the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Easily one of the most emotionally powerful films of 2016, imo.


Patriots Day feels a lot like a documentary. Berg tackles the events leading up to and the aftermath of the attack with great detail. Because of the realism in which Berg displays the attacks, I found myself emotionally overwhelmed more than once within the first half an hour. We are shown a few dozen characters (almost all based on real- life people) across the entire city of Boston, and each of them feel important, unique, and most of all, real. Aside from Wahlberg's fictional character who occasionally gets involved a little too heavily in the search for the bombers, each character feels like a real human being that is experiencing these horrific events. To me, that is the most impressive feat Patriots Day accomplished.


Whether it's a police sergeant buying his wife a muffin before heading to work, an MIT officer asking a girl out to a Zac Brown Band concert, or a young couple arguing about how to correctly pronounce certain words in the 'Boston way', this film was filled with real people. These nuances gave the audiences an easier 'in' to the story and characters than I could have imagined. Having a film focusing on this many people is an extremely difficult task, and Berg did a nice job encapsulating all sides of the story.

Patriots Day has a lot going on, and even though it may appear to be counterproductive to show this many sides, it proved to be beneficial for me to see all these different sides to Boston. I felt like these actors weren't really acting, and instead were real people fighting to survive in a time where surviving was all that really mattered. And this coming from a guy who doesn't always believe the official stories of what is presented to us.  But in this case, it's easy to separate the truth from drama Hollywood style.  And from a film stand point, PD is absolutely one of the best of the year.  


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#7 Tie


Directed by Morten Tyldum

Starring:  JLAW, Pratt, Andy Garcia's body and Morpheus and guy from Twilight

Box office:  270 million and counting


I can't remember the last time a movie created so much division among the members of our site.  There were those who hated it, like @Telemachos (but he lost most of his film cred when he shit all over Jurassic World) and there are those who love it, like myself and @DeeCee and a few others.  I'll leave you with Deecee's review, which I thought was beautifully written.


I pretty much see all big budget Sci Fi in cinemas so I was extremely unspoilt for this. I obviously didn't read the leaked script, I haven't seen all of a trailer, avoided the thread here, haven't read any reviews and didn't even know Laurence Fishburne was in the movie. I had heard mention of a twist but my mind was going to more extreme twists like they never left Earth or were in some kind virtual reality. 


I really enjoyed it from the opening shot. I particularly loved the external design of the ship with the way the shield is structured and operates.  Granted, there was a couple of aspects to the physics that did bother me(using a gravity assist around a star at half of light speed and the structural stresses involved) but it wasn't  enough to throw me out of the movie. The in universe explanation for the internal design of the ship worked perfectly fine for me. This is the stage where human interstellar travel has reached the stage of today's 225,000 GT cruise liners.  I may be mistaken but I believe they smartly didn't date the movie. 


The performances by both Pratt and Lawrence were very good and Sheen was a standout as the android bar tender. Fishburne was solid as usual although he didn't have a huge amount to do.  I don't have a problem with the way the character arcs played out. The base premise of this is almost the old question of who would you have with you if you were stranded on a desert island for the rest of your life. 


In this case Jim had 5000 strangers to choose from although in the film it's more fate that leads him to Aurora.  He clearly made a horrible choice even though he agonised over it for more months that doesn't excuse what he did to her.  He also wasn't at times in the best state of mind. They had months to develop a relationship and when the truth came out Aurora's reaction was completely understandable and it was clearly weeks or more of zero communication before the crisis brought them back together (she was even locked in her room for 2 days without Jim noticing). 


Aurora was was lost on Earth and thought the journey to Homestead 2 and back again to a new century would define her life as a writer. Her father's writing came from a life of adventure and she thought this journey would inspire her own writing. However, through a horrible decision on the part of Jim she found something else on the journey.  Her character was given a choice at the end of the movie and in some ways it's a question of how much we as a viewer like her final choice as to whether or not we liked the film. 

I really enjoyed this film!


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#6 Tie

13 Hours 

Directed by:  Michael Bay

Starring:  John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Dominic Fumusa

Box office:  69 million


Here's my original review:


Another stunning achievement from Bay.  There are few directors, if any, that can tell a story the way Bay does.  His camera does things that other director's simply don't do.  He adds so much nuance because of his thought process.  


My problem with views like Panda's are that I don't recall people bitching about Platoon or Apocalypse Now or Deer Hunter.  A war film doesn't have to tell both sides of the story.  They never did before.  What exactly do you want Bay and the writer's to do?  Do you want them to get into the heads and lives of the people shooting up the embassy?  Would you rather them focus 15 or 20 minutes on the guy shooting the RPG into the compound?  As WB said, he did plenty to show that these were fanatics and that not all Libyans were the bad guys.  There was even a quick shot at the end with a Libyan holding up a sign apologizing for what happened.  He also added a post script that said that thousands of Libyans attended the funeral of the American ambassador.  


I hate to paint you with broad strokes Panda, but it just seems to me that you wanted to hate this and you found reasons to hate it.  None of your xenophobia accusations have a merit of truth to them.  And this can be proven with everything WB mentioned as well as what I said.


Also, "everyone was the bad guy" yes this was uttered more than once in the film by the Americans.  But that's how it felt to them.  They didn't know if an approaching car would somehow start shooting at them.  They didn't know if the local police were there to help out or to kill them.  They didn't know if their "friendlies" were actually friendly.  All they knew is that it was chaos and that at any given moment they were going to be fired upon.


I think Bay did an excellent job telling this story.  His vision and attention to detail really helped bring this incredible story to life.  This was first and foremost a story about friends and brothers not giving up on one another.  These were not soldiers, they were security guards there to do a job.  And when they were over run and outnumbered and had to watch as a lot of their friends and acquaintances were killed, they never left one another and stayed till the end.  That makes them heroes.  It's not about heroic American and jingoism, this is a story about the human condition and doing the right thing.  


I thought the acting was outstanding as well and the script was well written.  This will certainly make my top 25 of the year.

Back to the present now:


The thing I love about Bay is that he is fearless.  He really understands his craft and he really does love America and it shows.  
In this case, as more and more evidence came out that proved Hilary fucked it all up, it makes the movie that much more apropos.  It's stories like this, even though Trump means nothing to me, that help me understand why Trump was voted in.   Clinton is at the very least an incompetent leader and one that has her hand so far stretched out and palms greased up that she should be investigated.  This film won't go that far but it does talk around it.  She's all about me, not about the country and that's why, imo, Trump got voted in, because people are tired of politicians like her who are just out the increase their bank accounts.  
I digress. 
This is a fantastic film and one of Bay's best.  
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Hell or High Water tie
Directed by David McKenzie
Starring:  Chris Pine, Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster
Box office:  27 million

Hell or High Water brings the story of two brothers, Toby and Tanner. As the movie opens, we see them rob two Texas Midlands Bank branches in rapid succession. It's only later that we learn why. After the second heist, the Texas Rangers are informed, and Marcus, who is going to retire in three weeks, wants to do one final case before going off into the sunset. At this point, we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.


Couple of comments: this is the latest movie from Scottish director David Mackenzie, and here he brings to the big screen the outstanding script by former actor Taylor Sheridan, who blew us away last year with "Sicario". Here the story focuses on the two brothers, one a divorced dad and the other just released after a 7 year prison stint. The brothers are played by Chris Pine (MILES away from the recent Star Trek Beyond) and Ben Foster also in producer Peter Berg's Lone Survivor). But the best performance comes from Jeff Bridges as good ol' Marcus, always short on breath and "sitting on the porch, practising my future", when his partner asks him why he is sitting outside his hotel room. Bridges has gotten many acclaims over his career, and I don't know that this one tops them all, but it sure comes close. Add in the beautiful landscape of the southwest (New Mexico standing in for Western Texas), plus a gorgeous soundtrack fro Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and it all comes together like a perfect cocktail. 


The story is my favourite part of the film.  Sure it's about robbing banks but it's also about how the American dream isn't so dreamy after all.  Banks are evil and this isn't subtle in the film's theme.  I appreciated this part.  Sometimes you don't need subtlety to be effective.  


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The Jungle Book

Directed by Jon Favreau

Starring:  Bill Murray, Scarlet Johansson, Idris Elba

Box office:  966 million


A stunning achievement in every way.  The highest compliment I can give it is that for the most part I do not care for animated films.  Yes this is a blend of animation and live action but it's still a kids movie and an animated one.  But this blew me away and had me in a trance from start to finish.  The voice acting in this is brilliant and...well.....let me just end it with this.  It's brilliant.  Nothing more needs to be said.


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So I get in after finally putting the last polishes to my Top 10... only to find that Baumer's in the midst of doing his instead.




Fuck it, I'm starting anyway. I need to go bed.


10. Under the Shadow




I've really not been shy about mentioning it on this list, but 2016 has been an absolutely standout year for horror. (No, I mean horror movies not… you know what never mind) Conjuring 2, Lights Out, The Wailing, Oujia, Don’t Breathe and many more horrors came out this year, all of which have made strong critical waves. But out of all those movies, the one that genuinely scared me the most by far was this little film about a mother and daughter haunted by an evil spirit in wartorn Tehran. Seriously, I watched it at home with the lights on and I had to pause the video a couple of times to catch my breath, it was that unsettling. Seriously, this might personally be the most terrifying film I've watched since the Shining.


Funnily enough though, the movie's biggest strength is actually probably the least scary part about it. Specifically, I'm talking about the build-up. Nothing really openly scary happens for the first half or so as we get to know the characters and setting in this little wartorn apartment building. Indeed it could easily be mistaken for a well-written drama. But as the movie goes on, the tension begins to build, more and more people leave the apartment building and our protagonist becomes more and more isolated. Then, when the scares start to come, they come heavy and fast. One particular moment, not even a jump scare, caught me off guard very early and the movie kept up that pressure, creating a constantly unsettling mood where anything feels like it could happen.


Now, I will admit it's not perfect. Some of the build-up does get a bit boring and there a couple of silly moments in the climax. Plus the kid is a bit annoying (albeit deliberately so, like in the Babadook). But if you get sucked into its atmosphere, it gets downright chilling once it gets going. I don't think it'll necessarily be for everyone, but I would still more than recommend it.

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9. Deadpool




Yes, this’ll probably get some controversy. Me, on the other hand? I’m just glad we finally have a decent parody movie again. Seriously, after years of Seltzer/Friedberg shit, I have been damn worried for that particular genre these last few years. And it's a shame too because I love classic parody movies, from Airplane! to Hot Shots to Mel Brooks at his prime. And this movie definitely feels like a Blazing Saddles for the superhero genre. It's not afraid to be gross, to play with the worst excesses of the genre, to fire a joke at you every minute (even if some don't necessarily land), yet it still doesn't feel overly-mocking or cruel towards the genre as a whole. It recognises itself as a superhero movie and has fun with all that entails, rather than simply paying half-assed lip service like a Seltzer/Friedberg movie.


I don't really think it needs to be said just how well Ryan Reynolds encompasses this role. He's been championing this movie for several years now and he utterly blows it away, capturing the wise-cracking irreverent tone of the character perfectly. He pretty much makes the movie work with excellent comedic timing and voice work to compensate for what can't be seen through the mask (although they did a damn good job at making that mask expressive). The rest of the side cast is solid and do their job more than admirably, although I think the villain could've worked with either being more funny or more serious (to better contrast with Deadpool's Deadpoolishness). As it is, he just kinda comes off as punchably smug which while not necessarily bad, was a definite missed opportunity and one of the weaker points of the movie (although the dishsoap line never fails to make me laugh).


That said, it doesn't change the fact that, aside from one other fairly-easy-to-guess movie, I laughed at Deadpool more than almost any other comedy I saw this year. Which is honestly fairly rare for me since I usually hate R-Rated comedies. If it's not your sort of movie, I can understand, but I had a lot of fun watching this and am eagerly awaiting the sequel (albeit not the flood of inevitable imitators attempting to cash in).

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8. 13th




What’s this? A documentary in my Top 10? Damn straight. I saw this movie at the London Film Festival on a day where I hadn’t slept for nearly 24 hours. I was still utterly engrossed and alert from start to finish. It’s damn good and, like Zootopia, incredibly relevant in this time of racial strife (especially since things don’t look like they’ll be getting any better any time soon.)


Honestly, I think, if you're trying to deliver a message, the best sort of documentary is the kind where the audience can see actual parallels and examples from their own lives and experiences without the film needing to outright point it out. I don't know exactly when the film was completed and how much of the election season rhetoric had been taken into account during writing but there were so many real-life examples I could think of from recent news that mirrored exactly what the film was laying out on screen. It was honestly unsettling, especially since it was my own mind that was directly making these comparisons, not the film.


But even aside that, I'm not an expert on documentary filmmaking, but Ava DuVernay does an exceptional job at keeping your attention throughout as she carefully and thoroughly explains each of the points she makes, using plenty of real life examples and simple-to-understand reasoning. Like I said, I was really tired when I started watching, to the point of nearly nodding off while waiting for the movie to start, yet the movie kept my interest throughout. And that's damn impressive.


So, in conclusion, an excellent and gripping documentary with a message that is quite frankly essential to hear, considering how relevant I suspect it will be in the next 4 years of Trump. 

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7. La La Land




I’m saying it now, going in, this movie felt like it was made for me. Whiplash was my favourite movie of 2014 and I have a fairly understated love for the movie musical. To be perfectly honest, the No 1 spot this year was this movie's to lose.... which it kinda did? But not by that much.


I'll admit I was a bit apprehensive when I went into the theatre. After all, when you see a movie as highly praised and seemingly perfect for you as this film, there's always going to be the worry that you'll dislike it. But from the very first music number, this movie had me grinning like a maniac in my seat. And almost every musical number afterwards blew me away. I'm serious when I say I really love a good goddamn musical and this pushed all the right buttons for me. The choreography was great, the colours gorgeous, the energetic songs energetic, the more pensive songs pensive, it all just worked for me. Gosling and Stone had excellent chemistry and pretty much made the characters. And while I've heard a lot of complaints about their characterisation being 'thin', that's always struck me as a 'Fury Road has a weak plot' sort of silly criticism. Yeah, they're not amazingly complex characters, but they're not meant to be, in the same way that the leads in movies like Singin in the Rain aren't meant to be. This movie is about its style and music and the plots and characters are more designed to compliment and work off that style. And I thought they did a more than admirable job and were elevated by the given performances.


That said, while I enjoyed the hell out of the first half or so of the movie, moving into the second half was where I started to have problems. Specifically in that the movie felt like it was trying to have its cake and eat it too. It was trying to be a fun, light, grinning-in-the-seats movie musical like Singin' in the Rain, but it also wanted to be a moodier, introspective Oscar film. Thus we have what feels like a disconnect between the two halves of the film as one half is flighty and fun and the other half is dourer and darker. And it never quite felt like a natural enough transition for me compared to something like, say, Wolf of Wall Street. Not to say either half is bad, by no means (although I much prefer the first half) just that they don't quite fit together.


That said, it's still an amazing movie and (almost) everything I wanted from it. Hell, I still have half the songs from it on my ipod.... although I also have the theme from Digimon on there so maybe that's not the best indicator of quality.


Also, sorry Gosling, but I'm still not that fond of Jazz.

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6. Your Name




Considering how big of a fan I am of anime and that this is the biggest anime film of the year (and one of the highest grossing of all time) is it really a surprise to see this movie this high up? Funnily enough though, this is actually the first Makoto Shinkai movie I’ve ever really watched. Generally I’m not fond of drama/romances (animated or live-action) and since his filmography is largely made up of them, I’ve never really gotten around to watching any of them. Now? Well, let’s just say I’m seriously reconsidering that. Because this was amazing.


It was funny, cute, with excellent writing, voice acting and directing (both dub and sub). And the animation? The animation is absolutely gorgeous and lends the story a gravitas and weight that I just don’t think you recreate in a live action movie. Really, I am so glad I saw this in a theatre rather than on a home video release. Don’t get me wrong, you could probably remake this movie in live action just fine, it's a simple enough story. But I don’t think that even for a second that you could recapture the same sort of beauty or magic that this movie gives itself. One particular climactic scene on a mountain's edge at twilight is just a thing of awe, thanks to both the animation and the excellent build up lent by the story and the writing.


Honestly, the only reason this isn’t No 1 of the year is that it does start to feel a bit sluggish towards the end and some scenes overstay their welcome. But it’s still an absolutely fantastic movie and exactly the sort of thing I like to see animation accomplish these days. What a shame it got snubbed from Boffy and Oscars alike...


But it's also still not my highest ranking animation of the year. That has yet to come...

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5. Captain America: Civil War




Yup. Civil War ranks this high for me. I know Marvel movies tend to get the stink-eye whenever they rank highly on a list round here, but when it comes to entries like this, I will defend them all the way. Because when Marvel gets it right, they goddamn get it right. And I honestly think, first Avengers aside, this is the best movie they’ve ever done. I was a bit iffy on some aspects when I first watched it, but the more time I’ve given to let it settle and the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realised just how much this movie works on every single level. Characterisation, storytelling, structure, as part of a large universe, as part of its own story, there is so goddamn much to appreciate and analyse. 


See, this movie demonstrates that it’s not about how big you make the stakes that matters, but how personal you make them. I’ve always been of the opinion that the reason the first Avengers worked so well is because, ultimately, the main emotional conflict of the movie wasn’t Loki threatening the world. It was the Avengers trying to overcome their differences and become a team. That’s why the catharsis of the circle shot and the final battle works so well. In AOU, the main conflict was the world was threatened by an evil outside force and it wasn’t as good for numerous reasons. But in Civil War, it’s the team that’s threatened by its own internal struggles and, as a result, it’s all the more compelling. Sure there’s an outside bad guy force there as well, but he doesn’t manufacture every disagreement and grudge to an unbelievable point (*cough* BvS *cough*). He just gives a push and lets the characters destroy themselves through their own pre-established grudges and personal views and incompatible philosophies. Hell, if you really think about it, the main antagonist of this movie isn’t Zemo, it’s Tony Stark. And despite people dismissively claiming there are 'no stakes or consequences' to these movies, that's simply not true. This movie ends with the possibility of reconciliation, yes, but it doesn't change the fact that gaping holes have been torn between the character dynamics and it's clear that the letter is merely the first step in what may be a difficult reunion (unless they screw it up in Infinity War).


Speaking of, I’ve also always been of the opinion that the reason so many of Marvel’s movies work so well is because, while they may be admittedly lacklustre with their villains (although Zemo is one of the rare exceptions (even if he seemed fairly generic for most of the film)), Marvel is excellent at characterising their heroes and Civil War takes full advantage of that. Rather than rehashing old character arcs (an issue I’ve been increasingly having with Tony Stark in these movies), it builds off them to new and interesting places and conflicts. It takes full advantage of its status as part of a Cinematic Universe and uses character threads from previous films and uses them to great potential. Seriously, when other franchises talk about setting up Cinematic Universes, they shouldn’t be aiming for producing a movie like the Avengers, they should be aiming to produce something like this movie. Fact of the matter is, Marvel is miles ahead of its competitors in testing the boundaries and worth of the Cinematic Universe and Civil War a sign that they're really starting to take advantage of it with storytelling that builds off the layers already provided and using them to reach to new heights. And, Thor Ragnarok seems to be continuing that considering the Hulk's apparent role.


Honestly, I could gush and gush about this movie all day, and I haven’t even gotten into stuff like the Airport fight. I’ll just say that Civil War is the sort of movie that really proves the worth of the Cinematic Universe and that Marvel continues to set a standard of inventiveness and risk taking that other franchises should aspire to (even if they continue to get called formulaic for it). I may not absolutely adore everything they do but, again, when they get it right, they goddamn get it right.

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4. The Nice Guys




A Shane Black written/directed detective movie? I was sold on this before I even saw the trailer. Quite frankly, I was completely expecting this to become one of my favourites of the year. And did it live up that expectation? Yes. 100% yes. This is every bit as good as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and I goddamn loved the hell out of that movie. Gosling and Crowe were amazing together, almost every joke seemed to land, the story was compelling and I think Angourie Rice surprised us all, picking up a well deserved Boffy nom. 


I honestly don't feel I need to talk much about this movie because if you've seen it, you understand why it's so damn good. It was everything I wanted from a Shane Black movie and delivered on every level. Nice.

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3. Train to Busan




Fun Fact: I first saw this a few hours after I watched Rogue One. And you know how fantastic the final third of Rogue One was? How it had you constantly on the edge of your seat, eagerly awaiting every minute? Well, that’s how I felt while watching the entirety of this movie. Seriously, I mentioned getting tired of zombie movies when talking about 'I am a Hero'? Well, people who are getting sick of zombie films would not be feeling the same if every zombie movie was this well made. 


Effectively a zombie movie set entirely on a train, this movie takes a few minutes to set up our main characters, start the zombie outbreak and then it grips you around the throat and does not let up until the credits start rolling. It is ferocious in its action and intensity. In particular, I have to compliment the pacing. It’s difficult to watch a movie that feels like 80/90% action without eventually getting burnt out, but the movie balances the slower moments perfectly, giving you just enough time to catch your breath before throwing you right back into the zombie pit, refreshed and ready for more.


Hell, the movie even manages to avoid the common horror pitfalls and honestly does a excellent job of getting you to sympathise with the main cast of survivors and root for them against the odds. (Well, minus Asian Donald Trump who everyone justifiably hates). And while it does do the whole 'maybe humans are the real monsters' thing that I decried 'I am a Hero' for, it does it in a way that feels realistic and makes the offenders genuinely look like people just trying survive rather than asshole and monsters (again, minus Asian Donald Trump who is easily one of the most punchable characters in moviedom this year). It also did an excellent of taking a rather unlikeable protagonist and slowly, fiercely making you root for him as the movie goes along. One moment at the very end honestly pulled my heartstrings more than any other zombie movie I've ever watched.


Seriously, whether you're fond of zombie movies or tired of them I would entirely recommend this film as one of the classic of the genre. It's pulse-pounding, beautifully paced, never felt like it was dragging on too long, with excellent effects, action choreography, the whole works. Quite frankly, it's not only the best horror, but also the best action movie I've seen all year. Definitely one to recommend.

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2. A Monster Calls




I don’t know what it is about movies that blend fantasy and reality like this but they almost always manage to get me directly in the feels. Probably the reason I love Mamoru Hosoda so much. Anyway A Monster Calls follows Connor, a young boy dealing with hardship of his mother’s illness. He is visited by a Monster, voiced to perfection by Liam Neeson, who balances caring yet dangerous perfectly with the effects work. Said Monster tells him three stories, each with messages and relevance to Connor’s own life. Now you'd normally expect these messages to be straightforward and blatant morals for the protagonist to learn. However, that's not really the case and part of why I love this movie so much. The messages in the Monster's tales are not only not always straightforward and clear at first glance but also not always the most clearly moral and deal heavily in shades of grey and levels of maturity you don’t usually expect from movies like this.


Seriously, I really loved this movie. The writing was intelligent and meaningful, the acting fantastic (special notes to Lucy Jones, Sigourney Weaver and Toby Kebbell) and the movie went off in directions I wasn’t expecting, yet found made the movie work all the better for it. There’s one scene, right after the second story, that probably hit me harder than any other movie scene I’ve seen this year. A without a single word being exchanged. Just the grandmother, Connor, both taking the scene in utter, complete silence. And it hit me harder than a goddamn freight truck. And, of course, since is the year of animation, I’ve can't go without mentioning the beautiful watercolour animation used to tell the Monster’s Stories. Seriously, that some is really gorgeous art there which helps elevate and bring the stories alive combined with Neeson's smooth storyteller voice.


Seriously, it was very very tempting to put this movie at No 1 for the year. And it came damn close. It’s a fantastic tale, a perfect blend of fantasy and reality into a greater whole, with complex human characters and moralities. I know it kinda flopped in the US, but they really do need to make more movies like this one. Something willing to blend adult themes so masterfully in what seems like a children's story. It just works so well.


As for my real No 1 however...

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