Dec 282016
 

I love and loathe end of year list making in equal measure. I love it because there are SO MANY great films and I get to spend many hours reminiscing about all the fantastic art I have seen on-screen over the last 12 months. I loathe it because there are SO MANY great films, and its painful to narrow my favourites down to an arbitrary number. Anyone who says it has been a bad year for film, or the even worse “film is dead”, is just not really trying. This year I went for 20 films with 15 honourable mentions. These 20 stuck above the rest for various reasons – they amused, delighted, shocked, challenged, and wowed me.

My favourite 20: 1 of the films is the only film I saw twice at the cinema this year; 6 are directed by women; 2 are directed by the same director; 2 are animated; 1 is a documentary; Adam Driver, Jeff Bridges, Michael Shannon, Samuel L Jackson, and Joel Edgerton all appear in 2 of the films each; and 7 of the films I saw for the first time at the 2016 Sydney film festival.

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Dec 242016
 

After another year of 200+ new releases, one of the pleasures I take is reflecting on everything that I watched and creating a list of essentials. These feelings are subjective and ever-changing, so if I were to revisit this list in five years, having re-experienced some of these films and caught up with others I missed, it might look completely different.

Much was said a few months back about this year’s dire blockbusters, and documentary filmmaking hasn’t been as potent in 2016, but it has been a terrific year in other areas. Take animated films and horror films for example. Not only in terms of box office success, but the depth of inventive and high-quality releases. When you explore the list below you will notice there are several representatives from those genres. A few other obscure facts about the list: ten films screened at the Sydney Film Festival, five are written and directed by female filmmakers, four are divided into chaptered sections and three had first-run availability on Netflix.

The rules: simply, everything knew I saw in 2016 that had a release date somewhere in the world in the vicinity of 2016. Some of these films had a late 2015 U.S release, others have screened only at international film festivals. All were accessible (via an Australian theatrical release, film festival, SVOD service or TVOD service) to me in 2016 in one way or another.

Of course, I didn’t quite get through my watchlist. Some films I missed or didn’t get the chance to see include Tower, Camerperson, Things to Come, Neruda, Sunset Song, The Love Witch, One More Time With Feeling, My Golden Days and Evolution. There are also some films releasing in Australian cinemas in January and February that are amongst the awards discussion that I have not yet seen. These include Moonlight, Lion, Manchester By the Sea, Fences, Silence, Hidden Figures and Patriots Day. 

I apologise for the erratic lengths of the commentary. Some of these films I had written about already – so my thoughts, in often quite lengthy detail, had already been published. Others I was wracking my brain to find the words to describe how they made me feel. After the jump, check out my list of honourable mentions and 25 Favourite Films of 2016.

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Dec 232016
 

At the beginning of the year I pledged to watch 52 films by women as part of an initiative started by Women in Film, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting equal opportunities for women, encouraging creative projects by women, and expanding and enhancing portrayals of women in all forms of global media. For my challenge I decided that only first-time watches of feature-films directed or co-directed by women or trans filmmakers would count towards the total (which I easily achieved a couple of months back).

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Dec 192016
 

 
There are so many unwritten rules about making a Best Of/favourites list. Some of these were released in some place in 2015, and some aren’t necessarily feature-length films. The films on this list were released in Australia in 2016 in some format, or played here at a festival. They are the 25 films that I learned something from in some way or another. They each in some way challenge either sexism, racism, and classism; and they reinforce the importance that stories have in allowing us to challenge injustices in our world.

If there’s any that don’t make sense, hit me up or ask away. I’d love to talk about any thoughts you have on any of the films listed after the jump.

As always, I hope you dig – Chris.
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Dec 032016
 

jackie

Happy Summer Australia! Escape the oppressive heat and depressing grind of everyday life, and head to your local, air conditioned cinema! As with every summer, there are plenty of great films to see, with the “awards” crush of films well and truly upon us. From animated adventures in the Pacific, to seventeenth century Japan, there is something here for everyone. Check our picks out after the jump.

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Sep 042016
 

arrival

With the Blockbuster season all-but over, typically the Australian Spring months offer up less anticipated, but usually more interesting films. Typically, they include a higher volume of smaller productions (no box-office giants to compete with), and higher-quality international films and documentaries. This year we are privileged to have new films from Paul Verhoeven, David Mackenzie, Amma Assante, Mel Gibson, Andrea Arnold and Denis Villeneuve, amongst others. We’ve picked 12 we’re particularly looking forward to seeing, check them out after the jump.

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Jun 292016
 

being-17-andre-techine

As per usual, the New Zealand International Film Festival is absolutely packed with an amazing variety of fantastic films. I have been lucky enough to see a fair amount of the films showing, so I’ve gone through the programme and picked 12 films I think are worth adding to your festival schedule. Check them out after the jump.

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Jun 082016
 

FINDING DORY

In cinemas June 9 – A Perfect Day, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, The Conjuring 2

In cinemas June 16 – Finding Dory, Warcraft: The Beginning, Me Before You, Miles Ahead, Downriver and Mr Right

A Perfect Day – The subject of this anti-war comedy/thriller – the bureaucracy-plagued international aid program in the Balkans during the Bosnian War – was compelling on its own. Assigned the task of removing a body from a well before it contaminates the village supply, a misfit troupe of aid workers attempt to procure some rope. When all sorts of obstacles impede that mission the series of misadventures are equally hilarious and nail-bitingly suspenseful. The performances (headlined by a superb Benicio Del Toro, and also including Tim Robbins and Olga Kurylenko), and the unusual soundtrack, are also terrific.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows – The turtles face a new challenge when Shredder escapes from custody and joins forces with Baxter Stockman, a mad scientist who plans to use a serum to take over the world. Along for the ride are Bebop and Rocksteady, two dimwitted henchmen who provide plenty of muscle. Luckily, the turtles have their own allies in April O’Neil, Vernon Fenwick and Casey Jones, a hockey-masked vigilante. As the pizza-loving heroes prepare for battle, the notorious Krang also emerges to pose an even greater threat. Ummm. What is this about? They keep making these movies, and it just seems like no one cares about the Turtles anymore.

The Conjuring 2 – In 1977, paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) come out of a self-imposed sabbatical to travel to Enfield, a borough in north London. There, they meet Peggy Hodgson, an overwhelmed single mother of four who tells the couple that something evil is in her home. Ed and Lorraine believe her story when the youngest daughter starts to show signs of demonic possession. As the Warrens try to help the besieged girl, they become the next target of the malicious spirits. This sequel to the massive horror hit, by way of the Annabelle spin-off, has some big shoes to fill. The Conjuring was a genuinely terrifying film, distinctly elevated by excellent direction from James Wan, who returns to helm here.

Finding Dory reunites the friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the true meaning of family along the way. The all-new big-screen adventure takes moviegoers back to the extraordinary underwater world from the original film. While the idea of spending a whole film with Dory isn’t particularly appealing, it is Pixar – and directed by Andrew Stanton (Wall E) – so it is automatically essential viewing.

Warcraft: The Beginning – Looking to escape from his dying world, the orc shaman Gul’dan utilises dark magic to open a portal to the human realm of Azeroth. Supported by the fierce fighter Blackhand, Gul’dan organises the orc clans into a conquering army called the Horde. Uniting to protect Azeroth from these hulking invaders are King Llane, the mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and the powerful wizard Medivh. As the two races collide, leaders from each side start to question if war is the only answer. Early reactions suggest that Duncan Jones (Moon and Source Code) has made a major flop here, and this looks suited to fans of the game only. 

Me Before You – Adapted from the bestselling novel by Jo Jo Moyes, Me Before You tells the story of the unexpected relationship that blossoms between a contented small town Englishwoman and the wealthy, paralyzed Londoner who hires her as his caretaker. Has alluring stars, Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, and fans of the weepy rom-drama will surely get their fix.

Miles Ahead is not just about the music. It’s about what we all face at one time or another in our lives; questions about who we really are, what we have to say and how will we say it. How will we ultimately be defined and who gets to say so? This Miles Davis biopic is both directed by and stars Don Cheadle, and reviewers have admired the unconventional approach to a fleeting period of the Jazz legend’s life and career.

Downriver – After serving time in prison for a crime he supposedly committed as a young child, James (Reef Ireland) returns to his hometown and the community he devastated years ago to put the pieces of his past together. Don’t know much about this, other than some quiet discussion following its premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year. Limited run I expect.

Mr Right – A woman (Anna Kendrick) comes to a crossroad when she finds out that her new beau (Sam Rockwell) is a professional assassin who kills the people who hire him instead of the intended targets. While this has its charms, and takes some baffling chances as a genre mash-up, both of the likeable leads deserve more than what this thin premise offers.

Weekly Recommendations – A Perfect Day has been a long time coming (on and off the release schedule), but certainly our favourite new film. The Conjuring 2, Finding Dory and Miles Ahead would account for the rest of our cinema visits in the next fortnight, if we weren’t attending the Sydney Film Festival.