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.


GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MNerve

Directed by: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman

Screenplay by: Jessica Sharzer

Based on the novel by: Jeanne Ryan

Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Emily Meade, Miles Heizer, Colson Baker, Kimiko Glenn, Marc John Jefferies, Brian Marc, Samira Wiley and Juliette Lewis.

NERVE is a thrill ride with directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman putting the audience in the middle of the action.  Shot in New York, the camera work and streetscapes made the film more entertaining and better than expected.

Vee (Emma Roberts) is living in the shadow of her best buddy, Sydney (Emily Meade).  Always the cautious, wilting violet, Vee is terrified of putting a step wrong until she’s had enough of being a loser in love and life.

Sydney, being the dare devil, has managed to make it to the Top 10 of a new online game, NERVE, where the Players earn money and fame by completing dares given by the Watches.

And Vee, sick of towing the line, feels a wave of reckless youth and takes the plunge into the world of being a Player.

Knowing that she’s pushing her limits but finding a part of herself that she likes, Vee meets the hunky Ian (Dave Franco).  Loving the couple, the Watches dare the partnership on more challenging dares until the dare becomes a sinister reflection of mob mentality – where being anonymous allows behaviour that borders then becomes that of a sociopath.

It’s all about the moment recorded via the Watches’ camera phones; information about the Players taken from social media and everything available online: purchases made, banking details.  The film highlights how much information is available and how easy it is to take over a person’s life via the internet.

NERVE makes the point it’s no longer Big Brother we need to be afraid of, it’s us who are recording and sharing with each other.

Based on a young adult novel written by Jeanne Ryan, teens living adolescent lives leads to the expected awkward moments of unrequited love and the usual we’re-best-friends behaviour.  Thankfully, I was happily absorbed into the action of the online game rather than the film dwelling on the drama.

The character Vee had cringe-worthy moments, but only a few.  And the adolescent aspect was overcome by the creative camera work; where the audience was taken along for the ride.

NERVE was a lot of fun but I found it hard to take seriously when the story turned into the realm of giving a lesson.

Tapping into the teen angst of wanting to break free was still present and this was shown with unexpected edge.  I enjoyed the ride but the attempt at depth gave the film more meat not more meaning: we’ve already heard about the dangers of social media, right?

But drawing the audience into the world of NERVE and being given the feeling of taking those dares along with the characters made a suspenseful and entertaining film.

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The Conjuring 2

GoMovieReviews Rating:


Directed by: James WanThe Conjuring 2

Writers of Screenplay: Carey Hayes, Chad Hayes, James Wan and David Leslie Johnson

Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Francis O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Simon McBurney and Franka Potente.

Similar to the original (The Conjuring (2013)), Paranormal Investigators, Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine (Vera Farmiga) Warren reflect on a past case (those of you familiar with The Amityville Horror (2005) will understand the need to reflect) and worry about their future in a world that’s quite literally hell on earth.

With a call from the Catholic Church to investigate a haunting of the Hodgson Family in Enfield England, Lorrain’s premonition of Ed’s death could put her fear of the future firmly in the present reality.

Director James Wan (also director of the original ‘Conjuring’ and a favourite of mine, Insidious (2010)) uses a vision filled with archetypes to bring demons to life.  Bringing old fears into a new world by combining a great narrative with a perfectly matched soundtrack (Joseph Bishara) to keep the audience on the edge of their seat; keeping the story and characters held in suspense and letting beings not of this world to enter.

There’s a flavour to the Wan films – a true talent who creates horror without gore.

The story taps into a deep-seated fear of archaic evil our grandparents were scarred of and their grandparents before them.  This is biblical.  To the extent that 20% of the audience left a quarter of the way through the movie because they were too scared (I’m not kidding!).  So be warned, this is a pretty scary movie – but seriously people, if you’re scared you always have to watch to the end, otherwise you’re just left hanging…  Anyway…

Joseph Bishara was also the composer of the film Insidious, the success of both The Conjuring 2 and Insidious lying largely with the suspense created by the creepy soundtrack.

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.

And the two characters that make the couple, The Warrens, are likeable.  The audience is with them, all the way, all through the terrors.

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.

James Wan is creating his own brand of horror thriller, and I’m very much enjoying the show.

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Eye in the Sky

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Gavin HoodEye In The Sky

Screenplay: Guy Hibbert

Starring: Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Aaron Paul, Barkhad Abdi, Lain Glen, Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Northam.


I was completely absorbed by this film, from beginning to end.

I’m not a fan of war movies.  I find the violence a little too real and disturbing because it is all too true.  But Eye in the Sky isn’t one of those blood and guts type of films, it analyses the hierarchy, the politics of war.  It makes murderers of all involved.

What a fascinating take on such a complicated issue.  We are at war, but from the comforts of our homes; directions are made behind closed doors and bombs dropped from drones.  War, in these days, is an ethical conundrum.

There was no loss of momentum in this film, even though the focus was a quiet examination made through dialogue between the characters; the suspense in waiting for difficult decisions that must be made. Not an easy task and very well handled by director, Gavin Hood (Tsotsi (2005), X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), Ender’s Game (2013)).  He lets the characters tell the story in the simplicity of one day, one long moment shown in all its depth and complexity.  And using this linear time-line and keeping it simple, the film felt authentic.

Helen Mirren was perfectly cast as Colonel Katherine Powell.  A tough as nails, uncompromising military soldier who never waivers from her duty.  And mixed emotions seeing Alan Rickman in his final performance as Lieutenant General Frank Benson: a sympathetic character showing his humanity under the cast iron soul of a soldier.  Hard to believe this brilliant actor will no longer grace our screens.

It was interesting to have the curtains drawn back to show what happens behind the closed doors of war.  I can only sympathise with the people who have to make decisions to try and save as many lives as possible.  Deciding what are the legal, ethical and moral ramifications behind the killing of people in a different country – and whose life is worth more.

Eye in the Sky was thought-provoking, suspenseful and moving without theatrics.  A film to get people talking about issues that need to be spoken about.

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A Bigger Splash

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Rated: MA 15+A Bigger Splash

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Screenplay: Dave Kajganich

Story: Alain Page

Starring: Tida Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Corrado Guzzanti, Lily McMenamy, Aurore Clément; Elena Bucci.

An English language Italian-French erotic thriller.

After having throat surgery, Marianne Lane (Tida Swinton) goes on a retreat from her rock star career with her lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).

The film opens to an idyllic life of sun, mud, the blue of the ocean and the relaxation of naked lovers lounging by the pool.  Until Harry (Ralph Fiennes) arrives.  Bringing his long lost daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson) with him.

I’d never thought of Tida Swinton as sexy until seeing her playing Marianne.  Think, We Need to Talk about Kevin (2011), Constantine (2005) and I’ll never forget her in Orlando (1992).  But there’s a genuine love and warmth in this silent yet expressive character.  And the chemistry between Marianne and Paul is totally believable.  As is the subtleties of the narcissism of youth in Penelope and the unbalanced, lost, selfish but, gotta love him for his dancing moves, Harry.  The guy dances like a demented chicken.

And I admit I became a bit jealous of the love between Marianne and Paul, so intimately portrayed to the audience.

What a great mix of characters.  All so well cast and well played.  At one point Harry states, ‘Honesty is the greatest fidelity.’  Where Paul responds, ‘The world isn’t ready for your honesty.’

Set on an island somewhere between Sicily and Tunisia, the elements are used to build the tension: the desert winds, the porcelain faces of pots; ruined boats flaking red and blue and the lost immigrants appearing from behind crumbling buildings set on baron clifftops.  And the ever present snakes.

Director, Luca Guadagnino shows the story using the landscape and montages, almost glitches in the flow to set a slight unease in the audience.  There’s a tension that brews in this film and I loved the classic soundtrack used to set the flavour of the film giving a clarity to the mystery, almost like cleansing the palate.

There’s a fair bit of nudity here, but the film has such a mature feel, it’s just another part of the character’s personality.  How comfortable they are naked in front of others.

The only negative is there was a loss of momentum where the peak of the film was reached too early.  But the story continued giving a greater depth of character.  That looking back with regret, or the feeling you never have to do that stupid thing again.  Or, hell, maybe I will.  But now things are different.  Life is different.  And the consequences of previous choices are now being felt.  And either forgotten, held for ransom, cut away, forgiven or gotten away with.  Life; people.  You just don’t always know what you’re going to get.

I enjoyed watching this film, the subtleties of each character and the beautiful scenery.

Nice to watch one made for the adults.

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GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: John HillcoatTRIPLE 9

Writer: Matt Cook

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Woody Harrelson, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Clifton Collins Jr., Kate Winslet.

TRIPLE 9 was edge-of-the-seat, hard hitting and a great, well-rounded story.

Set in Atlanta, Georgia, Michael Atwood (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is an ex-military soldier who heads a crew with two brothers, Gabe (Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)) and Russell (Norman Reedus).

Caught up in dirty dealings with a Jewish Russian Mafia, Michael and his crew recruit two dirty cops, Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Franco (Clifton Collins Jr.) to help rob a bank in order to obtain a safe deposit box containing information to overturn the recent conviction of the Maria boss. But the boss’ wife, Irina Vlaslov (Kate Winslet) withholds payment. The information’s not enough.

Using brutal intimidation, Irina sends the crew off to a second job.  This is a tight-knit crew, but when faced with the impossible, the ties of family and brothers in arms gets stretched to breaking point.

The complication of morals versus survival shows each of the characters for who they truly are. Each action peeling back another layer, showing the good to be bad and the bad to be good.

Reminiscent of one of my favourites, Heat (1995), TRIPLE 9 was brutal without getting caught up in the details: bloody plastic in the boot of a car tells enough of a story.

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.

The camera work was great without being over-done. The image of shadows behind the curtain surrounding a hospital bed ominous, knowing the faceless really is a monster.

Although all performances were well executed (I will always and forever be a fan of Woody Harrelson), the stand-out for me was Casey Affleck as the good cop, Chris Allen. A strong, believable character who balanced the rest of the cast extremely well. And the balancing of all the strong characters within the storyline is what makes TRIPLE 9 such a success.

One of the best movies I’ve seen for a while and I’m now convinced my favourite genre is Crime Thriller – would definitely recommend this one.

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