Top 10 Films for 2016

It’s a mixed bag of top 10 films this year, with a top-heavy favourtism for the thriller!  From the funny-sweet, Hunt for the Wilderpeople to the ultimate crime thriller, Sicario *

I have to say the biggest stand-out for 2016: Director Denis Villeneuve.  More Denis, we want more!

10. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Coming in at number 10 is the New Zealander Comedy / Drama that stole the world’s heart: tongue-in-cheek and heartfelt where the characters are able to take a laugh at themselves ‘cause it’s all heart bro.

9. Pawno

At number 9 is a local Drama based on a day-in-a-life in the Melbourne suburb of Footscray.

It would have been easy to get bogged down in the melancholy, but there’s humour here, the focus on the good: a poem written to a beautiful girl in a bookshop, drummers tapping out a heartbeat with the dance of a local in appreciation, the expression of graffiti and the love of a dog.

Pawno shows life in all its complications with the simplicity of a leaky kettle or a favourite mug.

8. The Revenant

Where Leonardo Di Caprio finally won his first Oscar, and for good reason.

There is a real authenticity here, thanks to Di Caprio, but director, Alejandro has given the film something almost mystical. Nature untouched, is a bit like magic. The Native Americans believed in the will of the trees and the wind, and I think Alejandro managed to capture some of this magic. Not an easy feat and worth watching.

7. Arrival

My favourite director of this year Denis Villeneuve has given his Midas touch to a film that really could have fallen flat.  The insight Villeneuve has managed to show of Dr. Bank’s character is astounding.  If only for this aspect, I enjoyed the film.  Then combine the incredible story, soundtrack and pace with that extra flavour that makes the characters so believable, you’ve got a winning film.

6. Life, Animated

I can understand how this documentary, directed and produced by Roger Ross Williams, has won so many audience awards: Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, San Francisco International Film Festival, Full Frame Film Festival and the list goes on…

I laughed, I cried, I smiled and I learnt something not only about Owen and his battle with autism, I also found an opportunity to reflect on my own life journey.

5. Mustang

Set in Inebolu, a Black Sea village 600 kilometres from Istanbul, Mustang is about the freedom of five young sisters with wild hair trailing down their backs, with a glance and an innocent smile that can lead to so much trouble.

As her first feature film, Deniz Gamze Erguven has given us a story that feels like it should already have been told, and I congratulate this fresh view of life that is usually hidden behind closed doors.

4. The Conjuring 2

Director James Wan is genius in his use of not only the soundtrack, but also the trickery of shadows, slips in time, old toys; a focus on the eyes or a terrifying portrait brought to life.  Seemingly simple devises, but used so well.

There’s a journey here.  An invitation to take hold of a hand  – a, Gotcha, then I’ll let you go a bit… then, I gotcha againThis time, I gotcha good.

3. Triple 9

I liked this film because it went beyond all expectations. The story just kept unfolding to its bloody conclusion. I couldn’t look away: cringing, gasping, hoping and ultimately smiling contently at a well thought-out conclusion.  Love a good crime thriller!

 

2. The Hateful Eight

There’s not a lot of action here. But the dialogue between the characters is hugely entertaining. The depth of thought put into the characters: Samuel L. Jackson as Major Marquis Warren, Walton Goggins as Sheriff Chris Mannix and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue was particularly impressive.  And the not so subtle gallows humour and O. B’s bad luck is gloriously funny.  I had a ball watching this film – good fun!

  1. Sicario

I couldn’t fault this film.  The story, characters, soundtrack, cinematography and editing all combined to create tension and to keep the audience guessing.

If the violence didn’t add to the story, then it wasn’t included. Clever devises used by director Denis Villeneuve used the imagination of the audience to piece the action together giving this film it’s true brilliance.  If you haven’t already, watch this film!  You’re in for a real treat.

* I know, I know, Sicario was released end of 2015, and I do ask for poetic license being my first ‘best of the year’ list for the website.  Being my first reviewed film to earn 5 stars, I couldn’t resist Sicario, at the top, in all its crowning crime-thriller glory.

Red Dog: True Blue

GoMovieReviews Rating:

 

Director: Kriv Stenders

Producer: Nelson Woss

Starring: Levi Miller, Bryan Brown, Jason Isaacs, Hanna Manga Lawrence, Calen Tassone, Thomas Cocquerel, Kelton Pell and John Jarratt.

Sweet and funny, set on the backdrop of red desert, burnt skies and a story about a red dog named Blue.

Red Dog: True Blue is the prequel to the well-know Red Dog, that received world wide acclaim back in 2011.  A neat compliment that made me want to watch the original again.

Shown as a flash-back to the 1960s, True Blue is about young Mick (Levi Miller) who finds himself at a cattle station out in the middle of no where living with his grandpa (Bryan Brown).

Mick is surrounded by all sorts of characters from Jimmy Umbrella (Kee Chan), the Chinese-Australian cook who hates the sun, Bill (Thomas Cocquerel) the larrikin helicopter pilot, Big John and Little John (Syd Brisdane and Steve Le Marquand) who are always fighting, Taylor Pete (Calen Tassone) the budding activist and Durack (Kelton Pell) the Aboriginal stockman who just knows Blue (Phoenix, the dog) is a tricksta spirit.

Blue wasn’t the feature in this film, but he was certainly the main source of humour.  Very clever of director Kriv Stenders (also director of the original Red Dog), as Blue always remained blameless.  And the addition of Willy, the crazy, blind-in-one-eye horse who thinks he’s a bull, made the film even funnier.

Aside from the humour, there are themes here to give the story more depth, such as the politics of equal pay for Aboriginal workers, of free love, landrights, punishment of boys who’ve been bad…  But what really stood out was the beauty of the landscape and those never ending skies.

Geoffrey Hall has returned as Director of Photography, this time making a conscious effort to keep the colour palette of the landscape authentic.  And an anamorphic approach was used for filming giving a narrow depth of field.  The result being beautiful, picture card moments with the weather and landscape becoming another character of the story.

At the end of the year when you drag your feet and wonder when summer is actually ever going to begin, it’s great to see a film that has it’s own brand of humour; that evokes laughter bubbling up from the belly; where the story is sweet (without being too sweet) and uplifting.

Yeah, the kid Mick, annoyed me a bit at the start – all private school and precious.  But I think that was the point.  And the character grew on me through-out the film which may have something to do with the mateship that develops between a lost kid and a cheeky dog named Blue (AKA Marlunghu the tricksta spirit).

And I’m thankful the film didn’t tear my heart out as some of these animal films tend to do.  I was left smiling about a story that relates to life while also giving a positive twist making me really, really want to get a pet dog!

The Edge of Seventeen

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MThe Edge of Seventeen

Written and Directed by: Kelly Fremon Craig

Produced by: James L. Brooks, Richard Sakai, Julie Ansell

Executive Producer: Donald Tang

Music by: Atli Örvarsson

Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Woody Harrelson, Kyra Sedgwick, Haley Lu Richardson, Blake Jenner and Hayden Szeto.

The Edge of Seventeen is a coming-of-age drama with a few laughs thrown in, because teenage angst is funny when looking back.  Not at the time of course.  Being 17 is all about wanting to die at the embarrassment of it all: pimples, older siblings who seem to have it so together and bestie-best friends who are supposed to be there forever (but never are because they’re human too).

Even though it feels like you’re the only one who feels anything at 17, you (hopefully) come to realise that others feel too.

Nadine (new comer, Hailee Stinfeld) is a girl who’s always felt different.  A loner, living in the shadow of her perfect brother, Darian (Blake Jenner, think, Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)).  Until she meets Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), who becomes her bestest buddy.

Life is good.  She has her mate and her Dad, the only two people in the whole world who understand her.  But when Krista hooks up with her brother, Nadine’s bubble bursts.  And she’s left in a world where people are fake and nice and she’s the only one who knows it.

It’s teenage angst baby, where you just love that guy and he doesn’t know you exist and you just know that mum’s mad and favours your brother more than you and you just, want, to, DIE.

And just like that self-obsession, the film revolves around Nadine. Thankfully the film was well cast and that annoying whine didn’t grate too much.

Woody Harrelson cast as Mr. Bruner, the ever-tolerant teacher, diluted the hormone fuelled rants of Nadine.

And there were some laugh-out-loud moments.

In retaliation to Nadine’s mum (Kyra Sedgwick) Nadine yells – ‘I’ll do something just as bad!  I’ll post on Facebook that you pluck the hairs around your nipples!’

There’s a raw honesty in the script (written by Kelly Fremon Craig; the second draft 4 years in the making) that is genuinely funny and at other times gives a jolt as the secrets of girl-teenhood are revealed.

First time director, Fremon Craig, has given free rein to the protagonist here which cuts both ways.

The audience is given insight and authenticity that only freedom can give.  And I praise this honesty.  On the other hand, there’s a little too much girl craziness – a fine line between funny insight and the urge to reach for the mute button.

The soundtrack helped to smooth over the emotion.  And the deadpan humour of Woody as the history teacher not only balanced the character of Nadine but was a release of pressure for the audience.

Overall the film was entertaining with a great script giving a different feel to a storyline that’s been done many times before.  I kept thinking back to Ghost World (2001) but The Edge of Seventeen is more drama/comedy than art house.

So, relatable and honest, but also a film about teen angst, which I’m happy to admit is time past.

The Founder

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MThe Founder

Directed by: John Lee Hancock

Based on the original screenplay by: Robert Siegel

Produced by: Aaron Ryder and Don Handfield

Starring: Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, B. J. Novak.

Business is war.  It’s not even dog eat dog, it’s rat eat rat.

A true story based on the uprising of McDonald’s, The Founder is a remarkable story of Corporate America.  Of how persistence and will power can create an empire for a man with a mouth and a keen eye for a successful business.

The film begins in 1954, showing Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) on the road trying to sell five-spindle Multimixers used to make milkshakes to the owners of Drive-In Diners.

After sitting in his car waiting for over 30 minutes for his meal, Ray checks in with the office to get an order for six Multimixes.  He decides to drive out west to San Bernardino, California, to see what sort of restaurant would require so many milkshakes.  And that’s when the real story begins, when Ray pulls up to the original McDonald’s, to see the lines of people waiting for their meal served not in 30 minutes, but in 30 seconds.

McDonald’s was a vision set in motion by the two McDonald brothers, Mac (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman).  It was the McDonald brothers creation of the Speedee System, an assembly-line style of food preparation, that made the delivery of food to customers, fast.

The golden arches, the iconic symbol of fast food that’s now dotted across the globe in 35,000 locations was created by Dick McDonald.

The brothers are the true Founders.  But without the business acumen of Ray Kroc, McDonald’s would have remained just one restaurant.

The Founder is a character driven story with the crazed look of Keaton matching the perverse determination of Ray Kroc perfectly.

And the story is certainly an interesting one.

What fascinated me was Ray’s fortunate meeting of Harry Sonneborn (B. J. Novak), the financial whiz who came up with the idea to buy the land and then lease to the McDonald’s franchisee.

The idea that McDonald’s is one of the biggest realestate company’s in the world is mind boggling.

But that’s where the fascination ended.

Even with the gumption of Ray, a character to admire from afar as any closer you’d wonder if you’d be left with your wallet, the story just followed from one event to the other.

The monologue of Ray speaking to the camera at the beginning (and the end) added a bit of spice, but I was left wanting more.

The film evoked memories of childhood, of those gherkins flying through the air because no one liked the gherkin.  Seeing the 1950s version of the meat patties made me wish McD’s hadn’t changed from the original – thanks Ray!

But isn’t it interesting that McD’s is providing more quality burgers these days, at more expense to the diner?  The post-war 1950s pushed for more and faster, and the Speedee System was born.  Is it a reflection of today’s society?  Quality even if it costs more?

The Founder is thought-provoking but a greater insight into how Ray’s mind worked, like seeing the Speedee System work, would have given the story more flavour.

And I question the calm camera work here, as there’s a vibrant chaos to the McDonald’s restaurants, that brings out the fun of childhood – just think of those clowns! Showing a bit of craziness would have heightened the movie experience.

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