10 Best Films of 2016 (Craig)
I’ve given you my worst of the year so now it’s time for the best. As I mentioned in my round-up of my worst films of the year; 2016 was a year of growth and change for Kneel Before Blog. One of those changes was that I got some help with the film reviews in the form of Graeme.
This means that more films than ever before could be covered and that it wasn’t just my opinion appearing on the website when it comes to cinema releases. Graeme’s tastes are different to mine which of course brings lists that are different.
As with previous years my opinions change over time so a lower score at the time doesn’t necessarily mean it’s higher on this list. The scores are only relative to my enjoyment at the time of writing so that often changes as time goes on. Now that the qualifiers are out of the way let’s dig into my best films of 2016.
The Rocky films are great as far as I’m concerned. I enjoy them all -yes, even the fifth one- and love the character so I was apprehensive about seeing him return when Rocky Balboa gave the character a satisfying conclusion but it turns out that this spin-off was a clever way to use the character and it’s just great to see Sylvester Stallone play this role again.
Adonis -or Donnie- is a good character and Michael B. Jordan is great in the role. He bounces off Stallone really well and has solid motivation throughout. His physicality is really believable and he comes across as a damaged character but in a realistic way. Donnie is still a functional human being who has some issues that he deals with. The film does lack a decent antagonist for Donnie to take on at the end but so much works about it that the flaws come across as being minor. If this were to become a franchise starring Michael B. Jordan with Sylvester Stallone backing him up then I’d be fine with that.
This film snuck up on me as a favourite and I didn’t actually realise just how much I liked it until I rewatched it. I was pretty positive about it at the time but it does get better on subsequent viewings.
It makes a lot of topical and important points about the role of privacy in the modern world as well as how obsessed people can become with trends. It even tackles the notion of celebrity and how fleeting it is in such a fast paced technology driven world as well as the way people are essentially glued to their phones. There’s a lot here that feels current and in some cases it’s perhaps a little too much but the ideas are explored with a certain level of sophistication that really stands out.
It also helps that Emma Roberts’ Vee is a compelling character who develops from shy and retiring to brave and adventurous. She does so in a matter of hours which doesn’t entirely work but Roberts is talented enough to make it believable enough. She has good chemistry with Dave Franco and I found myself constantly rooting for her. The dares depicted are entertaining and varied which definitely helps. I also really like how organically it moves from innocent fun to something far more sinister. The film looks great and tells its story well.
Disney have been altering their prize winning formula in subtle ways over the past few years and continue this trend here. Frozen changes the central relationship from a romantic one to a sibling one and Moana has friendship as the focus. The development of the friendship between Moana and Dwayne Johnson’s Maui feels really organic and never fails to entertain while always being endearing. I appreciated the fact that no part of this film was about Moana finding a husband and it was accepted by everyone that she would one day lead her people. It’s progressive but not in an overt way which actually makes it a big deal. Using Polynesian mythology as the backbone of the story was a nice touch as well.
It probably goes without saying that the animation here is stunning but I’ll say it anyway. The visuals in this film are nothing short of breathtaking and I would confidently say that the songs are better than the ones used in Frozen. This is the best work Disney have done in a while and it deserves to be praised.
Every once in a while something comes along that just works. This is the film that Ryan Reynolds always wanted to make and it shows in every minute of it. The material is tongue in cheek but taken just seriously enough to not feel entirely like a spoof.
Despite the fact that it has many of the origin story trappings the more adult rating and swearing makes the experience feel different enough. Reynolds is perfect in the role, the costume looks great and the whole thing is a laugh riot from start to finish. It does wear its low budget on its sleeve but uses it well and focuses on the fun factor as well as the character. A weak villain and some other issues aren’t enough to drag it down and arguably work as satire of superhero films.
Breaking the fourth wall could have gone very wrong but it actually works by showing Deadpool as someone who is seen as insane by people around him when he constantly talks to himself. To other characters it simply seems like he’s talking nonsense and this means that the character can be put into other films without removing what people like about the character. This is just a good time and a joy to watch.
Most of the film is a debate on whether to pull the trigger to take out some high value targets in order to prevent a devastating suicide bombing complicated by an innocent little girl trying to sell bread in the blast zone. The debate is handled really well with a range of opinions from people with decision making power who all pass the buck so that the accountability doesn’t lie with them. It becomes very darkly funny when the bureaucracy as well as the reactions to it becomes laughable. The characters walk a fine line between compassion and practicality with Helen Mirren playing a really complex military Colonel who is perfectly willing to accept the innocent blood on her hands for the greater good. It’s complex and compelling with the constant debate against the ticking clock constantly ramping up the tension.
At times the film does feel a little emotionally manipulative with the purity and innocence of the little girl being given a lot of attention. but it doesn’t stop the ending being a really powerful one and the structure helping the narrative build to it naturally. Alan Rickman’s final line “Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war” is chilling and reminds us why he is such a significant loss to cinema.
Sing Street mainly consists of 4 things. It’s a coming of age story, a love story, a story about the growth of a band and the story of a kid growing up in a broken home. That’s a lot of uses of the word “story” for a single sentence but it is very much a mash-up.
Fortunately it’s a mash-up that works and works very well. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo’s Connor is a good character to follow and the growth of his confidence mirrors the growth in the identity of his band. The love story plays out in the background as his musical dream is all in service of impressing Lucy Boynton’s Raphina who serves as the inspiration for all the songs he writes. Raphina is the weakest part of the film as she comes across as a fairly bland dream girl at first but this is largely fixed by some development later in the film. The best scenes in the film are when Connor talks to his brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) who give him some much needed life and musical advice. These scenes also show the family being torn apart in a really powerful way.
Whether you like the music or not will be down to personal taste but if you like rock/pop from the 1980s then the songs will be to your liking. They all sound like they belong to that era and are perfectly placed to get the right emotional reaction at the right time. I had a great time with them and this film in general.
Barely a minute goes by before giving me something more to laugh at as the film fully commits to how ridiculous the whole thing is. The characters are really engaging with Julian Dennison’s Ricky being just the right amount of damaged to carry this whole thing and him being overweight is a nice contrast with him roughing it in conditions that should require fitness. Sam Neill is a good foil for him as the gruff and impatient Hector. They are a fun pair to watch and the extended chase that plays out over the course of the film only gets funnier.
As always, comedy is subjective but this is one I would heartily recommend as I can confidently say that it’s one of the funniest things I have seen in years.
Is this an Avengers film or a Captain America solo film? The answer is both and neither at the same time. If that sounds confusing that’s because it is. Defining this film is difficult but also doesn’t really matter because the end result works so well.
Adapting the well known comic book story arc of the same name, Captain America and Iron Man butt heads over an issue that they both have an opinion on and the argument is framed in such a way that both sides have merit and it was difficult for me to personally ally myself with one side over the other. As the film goes on the argument becomes somewhat muddled but not to the extent that it becomes bad. It actually handled the conflict better than the source material does. This film also introduces Black Panther as well as a version of Spider-Man that might hang around for a while before the next reboot.
Marvel have pretty much a guarantee of a certain level of quality as shown by their other entry this year, Doctor Strange so it’s unlikely that they will make a film that could be considered objectively bad. This means that I’m always going to enjoy seeing these characters interact on some level even if I don’t enjoy the film. I really enjoyed this film and a large part of it was down to how well the characters were used. Marvel know what they’re doing by now and this shows it. We also did a podcast on this that you can listen to here.
After the hatred and anger I felt after seeing Star Trek Into Darkness -podcast here-, I am absolutely delighted to be able to say that the follow-up was one of the best things I saw this year. It captures the magic of the original series in a big way while modernising it in a way that doesn’t feel offensive.
The film isn’t without its problems such as a weak villain with a convoluted backstory that is developed far too late in the film but it has it where it counts. Memorable characters have always been one of the strengths of Star Trek as a franchise and this film knows it. The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise are used really well by pairing them off in unconventional ways to show how they interact when out of their comfort zone. Kirk also feels like the strong and confident leader that he should with the rest of the characters supporting him in the right ways. This is a film that has reverence for the franchise and understands what made it popular in the first place.
It’s really sad that Anton Yelchin was lost at such a young age but this film gives him an appropriate send-off without really meaning to. The film was wrapped before his death so the significant role he has is a happy accident and shows his considerable acting talents really well. All told the film just works and makes me actually look forward to the next entry in the franchise. We did a podcast on this one too and you can listen to it here.
If you’re expecting a standard alien invasion story then that’s definitely not what you’ll get here. This is more about communication and understanding which feels fresh in the modern science fiction landscape that is mostly dominated by action driven blockbusters. The film spends a lot of time focusing on how to communicate with aliens where there is no basis for understanding. It’s all about how things can have multiple meanings and can be interpreted in different ways. All good science fiction relates that to issues faced by the world and the message of misunderstood communication as well as the importance of cooperation is especially topical in the time that we currently live in.
Other than the compelling science fiction elements, this is also a really compelling character study with Amy Adams delivering a brilliant performance as the central character Louise. Jeremy Renner’s Ian is a bit on the thin side but he’s only there as backup for Louise so it sort of works. The film finds a unique way of exploring Louise and has a twist that completely works but I won’t say any more because it would definitely count as a spoiler. Don’t just take my word for it and make sure you see this film as soon as possible. It deserves to be experienced and absolutely deserves all the praise it gets. I don’t exaggerate when I say that it was the best film I saw this year on pretty much every level.