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Saturday, 31 December 2016
2016's Best Films (Part 1: 20-11)
You've seen my worst, my underrated and overrated, so let's begin the countdown of my favourite films of the year! Below you will find the smashing films that have made the list in positions 20 to 11 with the rest of the list just a few hours away! Be sure to share your opinions with me as not only have a few 'Best Of' favourites made the list a little further down than one would expect, but a number of films making others 'Worst Of' list get some love in mine.
Honourable mentions: Passengers (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt's sci-fi extravaganza that I loved more than most), The Purge: Election Year (a terrific addition to the horror franchise with a timely bite), Sully (an engaging and compelling true life biopic starring Tom Hanks), Queen of Katwe (an moving Disney gem celebrating diversity) and The Fundamentals of Caring (an emotional road trip with a real sincerity and its fair share of humour).
One of Disney's many entries on my year end list, Moana teeters on the edge but manages to secure its place because of it visually stunning, culturally deft and well-spirited animated tale it tells. It works in proving exactly why Disney have monopolised the genre, succeeding by continuing to demonstrate their determination to honour and celebrate diversity in their films. It is one of the most luscious animated films of all time, with the beautiful tropical setting coming to life with such detail and precision, all topped off with the beautiful music that sets this apart from the rest of the year's fine selection. It's not always innovative and it should take a few more risks but that doesn't stop Moana being one of year's finest - and it's incredibly uplifting! The songs won't leave you for days!
This film will certainly be making many 'Year End' lists but I'm pretty sure it will be on no one else's Best list; The Boss is an absolute barrel of laughs for the majority of its runtime, with Melissa McCarthy on top form as business tycoon Michelle Darnell. Even when the story becomes a little thin and the third act becomes fixated on creating a more serious tone, McCarthy still surprises and ad-libs to her heart's content, with the film being home to two of the most hilarious and memorable comedy scenes of the year. It's not the most revolutionary comedy or even the most consistent but it does what it absolutely needs to do - humour people - and with a lot of charm, acting as another rock solid vehicle for McCarthy's talent.
18. Hunt For The Wilderpeople
Pumped with charm and wit, Hunt For The Wilderpeople is a terrific little gem of a film that deserves a wider audience. A beautifully poignant message is often disguised behind a farcade of dry humour and unconventional means but that doesn't make the film any less powerful and affecting. Most of this is down to the spectacular work from leads Sam Neill and Julian Dennison, who craft their characters as a force to be reckoned with - despite their flaws - with personality traits being revealed and developed as the film continues, ensuring we engage with them continually and root for them as they attempt to escape and evade the law. It's heartwarming and entertaining, while at the same time harbouring a beautiful message about loss.
This honest and poignant coming of age drama-comedy came out of nowhere and surprised me by the sheer amount of humour, authenticity and emotion contained in Kelly Fremon Craig's script and Hailee Steinfeld's performance. The Edge of Seventeen is an insightful look into a time most of us would prefer to forget but would give our life to live again, perfectly striking this balance in its main character and the two genres it straddles. It doesn't quite reach the heights of stablemates such as The Perks of Being A Wallflower and Mean Girls but it sure as hell comes close.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter found a new instalment courtesy of J.K. Rowling's new prequel series, Fantastic Beasts and it continues the magic of the world in this fun adventure with a sharp allegorical reflection of real-world issues. Eddie Redmayne is a terrific choice to carry the weight of the franchise moving forward and Newt Scamander is a compelling character worthy of audience's time and attention, matched with impressive special effects that ensure the beasts themselves come to life before our very eyes. Despite fears, it manages to form its own identity within the ground-breaking cinematic series, rather than becoming a direct continuation or a cheap cash-in. And if it follows in the footsteps of Harry Potter, this is only the beginning of what should be a healthy and vibrant franchise.
Disney's first animation of the year is pretty terrific, even though it is structured in three acts that progressively weaken. I absolutely adore the first act, its smart and sophisticated world building and the political parallels crafted are astounding; the second act begins to introduce a problem to the narrative that, while still compelling, doesn't always nail its allegories; and the third act seems a little contrived in trying to find itself a route to a climax. Even still, this doesn't stop Zootropolis from being an astonishing piece of film-making from Disney in which they absolutely deliver an entertaining and thought-provoking picture in a way that can be easily accessed by the younger audiences, while eye-opening to the older members of the audience. It is a deft piece of animation that really would be a lot higher if it tightened its final act.
Nicolas Winding Refn's arthouse horror The Neon Demon garnered rather divisive reviews upon release, with audiences either loving or loathing the picture; thankfully, I am a member of the former. Stylistically and visually blistering, the Elle Fanning-led picture is almost hypnotising and absorbing in its use of vivid colours, striking imagery and pulsating score all of which are tied together by a script that allows the horror to manifest slowly and the dialogue to be stripped entirely back. Most of the time, style over substance is an issue in film, but Refn ensures that it works to his advantage by having it build the intensity to almost indescribable levels.
Anthropoid is one of the most deeply affecting films of the year and is terribly under-appreciated. Based on true events, Anthropoid is so deeply shocking and sobering that it refuses to leave you long after the film ends - a true sign of an incredible film. Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan deliver understated but powerful performances as two agents attempting to reclaim their homeland and help delivery the hefty thematic material and subject matter with the dignity it so richly deserves. It successfully escalates the tension as the story unfolds and the problems increase, structured effectively in order for the final scene - the church resistance - to become the most heart-breaking scene of the year and a truly unforgettable thirty minutes of film-making.
Relentless in its intensity and powerful in its message, Eye in The Sky features a moral dilemma at its centre that demands your attention for the entirety of its runtime. It features a number of high power individuals, played by a superb ensemble cast featuring Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and Aaron Paul, in which they must decide whether or not to launch a drone attack to prevent a terrorist attack despite collateral damage being a certain. Playing out almost in real time allows audiences to become absorbed in this moral debate, encouraging you to construct your own opinions and never, ever trying to manipulate. It's upsettingly relevant and timely, defying conventions and stereotypes to offer a genuinely moving and harrowing depiction of modern-day war and the effects it can have on people - from the people in charge to those caught in the crosshairs.
Jennifer Lawrence kicked off the year with the surprisingly terrific Joy, the true life story of the lady who invented the Miracle Mop. Never in a million years would I have settled down to watch a film like that if Miss Lawrence's name wasn't above the title but it manages to free itself from the dubious preconception one might hold. Lawrence is, of course, the shining star in the film, offering a sensational performance that depicts the struggle of Joy Mangano with great detail and passion. Her inspiring tale often sparks the titular emotion and settles for deft equilibrium between comedy and drama, demonstrating the skill of Lawrence and director David O'Russell. It's charming and rousing and manages to secure a spot just outside the top 10 despite being released at the very beginning of 2016.
Keep your eyes peeled for the top ten and see which film has taken the top spot!