Paul McKenzie highlights his top films of the year for 2016
With the New Year well under way its appropriate that we take a look back and pick some of our favourite films from the past 12 months. Looking back allows us to choose from a variety of different types of cinema. Here are my personal favourites viewed in 2016.
The Nice Guys
Its 1977. They’re in Los Angeles. Theres a Murder Mystery. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are the mismatched private eye and enforcer Jackson Healy and Holand March. They are the only ones with a chance of cracking the case.
Black co-writes and directs this neo-noir/comedy and ‘The Nice Guys’ is vibrant and funny, with some dark twists that help add texture and substance of the story. A story that keeps you guessing the whole way through. Gosling and Crowe’s on screen chemistry helps fashion them as a bad-good pairing to take on the case with Angora Rice fantastic as Marches daughter, Holly, who plays the mediator between the mismatched team.
Roy Tomlin (Michael Shannon) rescues his son Alton Meyer (Jaeden Leiberher) from a religious cult whose members worship his supernatural abilities and with the help of his friend, Lucas (Joel Edgerton) they go on the run from the cult and the NSA, who believe that Alton may be a threat to national security.
Nichols builds tension expertly throughout the film, asking questions and giving only answer as and when it is essential for the narrative to move forward. The not so straight forward plot drives the classic questions of sci-fi ‘what if aliens come to earth?’ and ‘what if humans had special abilities?’. It’s these questions that keeps you hanging on until the films spectacular CGI ending. Nichols manages to couple an intriguing plot with fantastic visuals and utilises a cast getting superb performances from Shannon, Edgerton and Leiberher, who are the true stars of the film as the supporting cast doing a fantastic job throughout.
When Marine Was Here
Anna (Hailee Steinfeld) is a young girl who is sent to live with family in the countryside. She soon makes a lone friend in Marnie (Kiernan Shipka) who lives in an abandoned mansion, this leads to a story of infatuation.
Yonebayashi manages to blend together the classic Studio Ghibli style of animation and a unique story in the way that only this company knows how. The themes of death, loneliness, love, friendship are all brought to the attention of the audience, allowing them to become emotionally invested in the story. The use of music is a standard staple of Studio Ghibli and this is no different, using sound to its maximum the impact of the themes of the film.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Young unassuming hero Kubo (Art Parkinson) must undertake an adventure to find his dead fathers suit of armour to help defeat a vengeful spirit from his past. Helped along the way by a wooden monkey figure brought to life, Monkey (Charlize Theron), and a former Samurai who was cursed to live his life as an anthropomorphic beetle called Beetle (Matthew McConaughey).
Kubo and the Two Strings is stop animation that utilises multiple Japanese folk tales and draws them together to create a coming of age story. The initial appeal of Kubo for me was the animation and the creativity in the portrayal of the story through the animation, the distinctive style coupled with the unusualness of a shamisen playing child who controls origami creations to tell tales and fight. Knight makes the most of the originality of the tales to an audience who likely wouldn’t have heard them before. Its mass appeal will call to all viewers with the tales within the story relevant to a wide audience, while still having enough substance to hold the attention of adults and children on different levels.
(Based on the story “Story of Your Life” written by Ted Chiang.)
Twelve mysterious spacecrafts appear in a dozen different sites throughout the Earth. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) a world renowned linguist is sought after by the American government to help decipher messages sent from the ships, with Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) a theoretical physicist who is also called in by the government to help ascertain the information about the spacecrafts.
Arrival offers a mix of mystery – sci-fi – thriller balled together. It’s a film that keeps you guessing almost until the last moment. Its the elements of mystery that helps build tension, while two stellar performances from Adams and Renner allow you to emotionally attach yourself to the characters of the narrative while they are at the centre of what we assume will be an impending war. Villeneuve does well to weave together a film that is both stunning to look at and an edge of your seat thriller, with a final out of nowhere twist that may leave you a little confused at first but totally satisfied.
It breathes fresh air into a world of main stream sci-fi that might other wise be cut and dry in terms of style and substance. Arrival champions itself on its ability to build a fuller cinematic experience with its choice of story, characters, casting of the main lead, the social reflection of international relations, style and the way the narrative is fed to the audience.
If Arrival isn’t a top choice for most film goers for 2016 I would be surprised. It leaves you fully satisfied not only hours after its consumption but for days and weeks later.