Emma Roberts and Dave Franco's techno-thriller Nerve is a colourful package exuding excitement and intensity while ensuring it has just as much substance as style. The chemistry between the two leads is effervescent and they lead the audience through an increasingly risky game of Truth and Dare, examining the usage of mobile phones and social media in an effective way. It's refreshing to see new ideas came to the screen, bringing originality in abundance and being executed in such a successful way. The makers of Catfish have done a terrific job with Nerve and it remains one of the most underrated gems of the summer.
Nocturnal Animals is the dark, beating heart of the adult thrillers this year, with an icy sophistication and equally beautiful and brutal tone packaged neatly in Tom Ford's second directorial effort. Lead by the exquisitely captivating and compelling Amy Adams, it features some of the best editing of a film this year and excellently excels through its peculiar structuring which weaves in and out of stories seamlessly, ensuring audiences are on the very edge of their seats for the entire runtime. Blisteringly tense and feverishly absorbing, Nocturnal Animals is a cinematic art form that, if tightened a little more, could have easily have shot even further up this year end list.
Another film getting more love from me than anyone else is The Girl On The Train, pulling in at number eight. With a sensational lead performance from Emily Blunt, the suspenseful trail followed a similar path to 2014's Gone Girl (a best-selling novel, esteemed cast and director, soaring expectations) disappointed most, but to me it was an intense, suspenseful and totally captivating tale exploring dark thematic material that makes it a nail-biting ride. It's excellent and unpredictable structure ensure momentum builds towards the final reveal and reflects the unreliability of Rachel, the lead protagonist/antagonist. Audiences are kept in the dark regarding who can be trusted and the film succeeds because of this cloud of mystery that hangs over the thrilling film.
Disney's live reimagining of The Jungle Book is not only a terrific example of the wonders of CGI but also an example of how to do a remake right. While certainly recognisable, the 2016 version strays just far enough to allow it to stand on its own two feet and shine in its own right. A star has been born with Neel Sethi as Mowgli, who brings the charm, authenticity and playfulness of the boy-cub that the animated animals cannot; they are, however, perfectly bought to life by the enthusiastic voice cast, who give it everything they have and can. It's a joy to behold and demonstrates the possibilities of computer-generated imagery, while ensuring it never distracts from the upbeat and insightful story it tells.
Who ya gonna call? Paul Feig to direct your remake and Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones as the female Ghostbusters, saving the world from the supernatural presence. Anybody who knows me understands just how much I championed this film and it did not let me down; humorous, thrilling and so damn fun, it was the most exciting release of mid-summer blockbuster window and all tied up in an exuberant, colourful and vivid picture with terrific special effects and overall direction from Feig. Of course, the four female leads (and the terrific and surprisingly hilarious Chris Hemsworth) absolutely steal the day, with each of them given their moment to shine and capture the essence of not only what it takes to be a Ghostbuster, but the importance of putting woman at the front of your blockbuster. While five other pictures come above it, no one of them offer the fun, excitement and joy I felt during Ghostbusters: Answer The Call.
2016s Best Picture winner is a captivating and grounding take on a subject matter that could potentially be a very sensitive topic to consider. Historical child sex abuse is a very sensitive area to discuss but Spotlight understands this and delivers the information in an insightful way that never rests on its laurels or becomes squeamish when the going gets tough, so to speak. It looks at the journalists involved in the investigation and scandal with a refusal to lionise them and prevent the film from dissolving into a melodrama, thanks to the script, director and five leads who give committed and understated performances. It's a difficult but necessary watch, worthy of its Oscar win because of its unflinching display of a story that deserves to be told to a wider audiences.
By a country mile the best superhero film of the year, Captain America: Civil War is the Marvel Cinematic Universes' best release to date, showing exactly what the genre can achieve and showing up everyone else that even bothered to try (and most who didn't). Featuring a huge cast of superheroes, Civil War still manages to focus on Captain America and the moral dilemma at the heart of the film - whether or not the Avengers should be governed to ensure they are not slowly becoming vigilantes. It manages to combine a whole load of excitement with a genuinely thought-provoking twist that pits our favourite superheroes against each other in a chapter that will have huge effects on the Avengers moving forward. Civil War teaches not only what a good superhero film should be but what a terrific blockbuster on the whole should be.
3. Finding Dory
Finding Dory could have very easily become a quick and desperate cash-in for Disney Pixar and fall in with the likes of Cars 2 and Monsters University as sequels we do not need. However, Dory takes all the magic, charm and wonder of its predecessor, enhances those elements and delivers a touching, warm and stunning animation that improves on the original - there, I said it! Dory sets the once sidekick on her own adventure, voiced by the enthusiastic Ellen DeGeneres as she travels across the deep oceans in the search of her parents. It avoids feeling like a complete retread with its own set of rules, and for spending a chunk of its runtime out the ocean and in an aquarium, which offers a whole new colour palette and ingenuity tom play with. Gorgeously animated, rich in its themes and unwavering in its amount of heart, Finding Dory is a wonder to behold and an absolute win for Disney Pixar.
Arrival arrived when the world needed a film as profound, inspiring and awe-inspiring as this. It is infused with a pure emotion that grabs a hold of you from the minute it begins until well after you leave the screening - in fact, it's been over a month since I had the pleasure of seeing this film and it still plays on my mind every day. Simply put, Amy Adams deserves an Oscar for her performance as linguist Louise Banks, with her unfathomable ability to convey so much emotion both in her dialogue, expressions and characterisation, all of which are neatly framed by director Denis Villeneuve who puts the theme of humanity where it belongs - at the front and centre of everything he does with the film. It's difficult to convey quite the power this film has, from the smallest detail to its plot twists and turns. It features an elegance and beauty in its visual, themes and message that makes Arrival the new sci-fi masterpiece of a generation
And, my number one film of 2016 is....
A film like Room has to be experienced to be understood. As with Arrival, it is difficult to put into words how deeply affecting, powerful and inspiring it is without seeing it first. In the role as Ma that won her the Best Actress Oscar earlier this year, Brie Larson offers an enthralling performance that displays a mother's determination to protect her child despite the personal battles she is experiencing in the face of unimaginable odds. Jacob Tremblay is equally as fantastic as Jack, her five year old son, and delivers one of the best child performances of all time, in a role that, quite frankly, should have won him an Oscar. Just as spectacular as the two central performances is the delivery of the rousing themes presented in the wonderful script and screenplay by Emma Donoghue; perseverance, courage and unconditional love all power this survival tale, translating it into the life-affirming, harrowing and rewarding cinematic experience Room is, demonstrating the true power of Hollywood and cinema at its very best.
There we have it, my countdown of the year's best films (at least, in my opinion). Be sure to share your own lists with me (I'd be more than happy to check them out and discuss) and check back over the coming days for a Letterbox'd link with my ranking of every single films I have seen this year.
Thank you to every single one of you who has read my blog, shared their opinions and interacted with me through this blog over the past few years. Here's hoping and wishing you a wonderful 2017!