Top Ten Movies of 2016

I am taking a break from my Vancouver series to bring you a Top Ten end-of-year list! You, my readers, seem to love my Top Ten entries: Top Ten Things I Have Learned About Toronto and Top Ten Memorable Moments of 2014 were among my most popular posts ever. So for my last entry of the year, I present my Top Ten Movies of 2016 !

I am a self-professed film geek. I enjoy all genres of movies and will watch films from any era, from the first silent movies to the visual extravaganzas on offer today. Of course my film knowledge isn’t on par with, say, a person who has a degree in film or someone who writes about film for a living, but I do love the medium and try to watch new and different types of movies regularly.

Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Movies of 2016.

10.  Sadako vs. Kayako (dir. Koji Shiraishi)

Image result for sadako vs. kayako

Japanese horror-comedy Sadako vs. Kayako pits the ghosts of The Ring and The Grudge against each other in an attempt to rid the world of both of them after they are unwittingly released by a pair of schoolgirls.  It has just the right amount of humour thrown in to prevent the audience from having heart attacks (it was genuinely scary). Give yourself a break from all those lame American horror movies that take themselves way too seriously and watch Sadako vs. Kayako. You won’t be disappointed. A full review can be found here.

9.  Love and Friendship (dir. Whit Stillman)

Kate Beckinsale stars as Lady Susan Vernon Martin in this period piece where we discover that “polite” society often isn’t polite at all. The witty dialogue will keep you entertained, along with an absolutely wonderful performance by Ms. Beckinsale. I bet that you would even like this one if you don’t like period pieces, films based on the work of Jane Austen (I am no big fan of hers myself) or “talky” movies. This one is worth it, trust me. Read more about it here.

8.  Star Trek Beyond (dir. Justin Lin)

I must admit that I am a big fan of Star Trek (The Next Generation TV series being my favourite incarnation of the franchise). However, I will admit that I wasn’t crazy about the second-last Star Trek film (Star Trek Into Darkness, 2013) or its predecessor, Star Trek (2009). Therefore, imagine my surprise at how engaging and well-told Beyond was, how its themes of unity and inclusivity really came through at a time when we seem to need them so desperately; how this film, out of the three newest ones starring Chris Pine as James Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock, is by far the strongest . More information about the film can be found here.

7.  Without Name (dir. Lorcan Finnegan)

As the poster says, Without Name is a “psychotropic faery story”. A middle-aged land surveyor is hired by a mysterious employer to measure and map a remote and creepy piece of the Irish forest. It soon becomes apparent that something, or someone, is with him in the woods. The ghost of the former owner of the woods? Maybe. But that would be too easy. Mr. Finnegan delivers a spine-chilling twist in the final moments, in addition to the truly unique visual style of many of the film’s scenes (the woods themselves appear to move and breathe). There is also a somewhat sinister environmental message to the whole thing. A complete review of the film can be found here.

6.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  (dir.Gareth Edwards)

Some of you will not look on me too kindly after I say this, but I am going to go ahead and say it anyway: the whole Star Wars series never really captured me. For one thing, I didn’t watch the “originals” – Episodes IV, V, and VI – until I was about 20 years old (that’s another story for another time) and, shortly after watching the original three films, I was barraged by Jar-Jar Binks and his brand of ultimate stupidity in the less-than-worthy Episodes 1, 2, and 3 in the 1990s. Perhaps the originals didn’t have enough time to sink in, or perhaps the films simply have no nostalgic value for me. In any case, I didn’t quite “get” what all the fuss was about.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story became one of my favourite films of the year.  It simply reveals the backstory to Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), but it does so in such an interesting, thoughtful, and elegant way that I was completely drawn in. There is also an incredibly strong female lead character (Felicity Jones’ rebel fighter Jyn Erso) along with a refreshingly diverse cast. The film’s dark tone brought to my mind everything from the Resistance fighters of the World War II era to the present-day intolerance we have witnessed in recent events; it’s a story for the ages. A full review can be found here.

5.  Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee (dir.Nanette Burstein)

Gringo is an incredibly interesting documentary about John McAfee, creator of the McAfee anti-virus software that virtually every computer had in the 1990s. But the movie is not about his career or smarts as a businessman. It’s about what happened after Mr. McAfee moved to Belize in the early 2010s with his fortune. He ended up creating a compound where he was claiming to test and develop medicines made from rainforest plants; in reality, he led a strange and bizarre cult-like world. He hired the most dangerous people in Belize to lead his personal security team. He bribed the entire police force of two cities after he murdered his neighbour. In the end, he went into hiding in the jungles of Guatemala before escaping to the U.S. and (of all things) running for president. I saw this film at TIFF, and during the Q and A afterwards, the filmmaker told us that John McAfee has been threatening many people involved with the film and that she changes her cell phone number on a daily basis. Eeeeeeep ! A review of the film can be found here.

4. The Limehouse Golem (dir. Juan Carlos Medina)

The Limehouse Golem is a murder mystery set in Victorian London. I must admit that I am in love with the Victorian era presented in fiction and film, and no doubt that has influenced this choice.  However, this movie offers up much more than your typical murder mystery. Gender politics and sexual orientation issues come into play in a clever script, along with stellar performances by Bill Nighy as Inspector John Kildare and Olivia Cooke as murder suspect Lizzie Cree. An excellent synopsis of what sets this film apart can be found here.

3.  Kubo and the Two Strings (dir.Travis Knight)

This is one of my favourite animated films ever, not just one of my favourite films of the year. It is set in ancient Japan and tells the story of a young boy who inadvertently unleashes an evil force who wants to destroy him. He must go on the run and, with the help of several creatures and supernatural beings, find a way to unlock a secret legacy that will keep him safe. The thing I like best about this movie is that it does not underestimate its audience. It is a story well-told, with some very heavy themes – it does not shy away from death, evil, and the like – and it is told in such a beautiful way that it will satisfy both adults and kids. As if all that wasn’t enough, the stop-motion animation is gorgeous. This film is simply magical. A full review can be found here.

2.  Barakah Meets Barakah (dir. Mahmoud Sabbagh)

This film made my list because not only is it completely charming, it is completely unique. Barakah Meets Barakah is Saudi Arabia’s first romantic comedy. There is very little cinema coming out of the country, and its existence offers a glimpse into a life and a country that is the object of much suspicion and misinformation in the West. The film talks about the perils of dating in the ultra conservative Saudi society, where men and women aren’t even allowed to socialize in public. In addition, the female character in the story, Barakah, or Bibi for short, is a free-thinking modern woman who has become famous through Instagram. Conversely, the male character Barakah, is a conservative-minded civil servant. It also speaks of the changes in Saudi society from a generation ago, when Saudi culture was much less repressive. Despite all this, the mood remains light and the entire film is utterly charming. More information about this movie can be found here.

1.  Arrival (dir. Dennis Villeneuve)

Arrival is the story of professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a linguist who must find a way to communicate with the inhabitants of spaceships who have suddenly touched down in twelve different locations around the world. But this is no ordinary run-of-the-mill science fiction movie featuring aliens, confused scientists, and military types eager to push that little red button. It is an intelligent, thoughtful, meditative approach on the theme of communication. It doesn’t take the easy road at any point and still manages to entertain and engage from beginning to end. It also features an interesting time-travel twist that me and my movie-going companion were still debating the finer points of days later. It is still playing in theatres now; I would recommend seeing it on the big screen if you can. A full review can be found here.

A Happy New Year to all!

Stay tuned!

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