Monday, January 2, 2017

Top 10 Movies Of 2016

As 2017 starts, I look back at my top 10 movies of 2016. I admit that i did not watch all the movies released in Singapore and there are some honourable mentions that i decided to miss such as TRAIN TO BUSAN. Even for those i watched, not all of them were given reviews.

Anyway here are my top 10 movies of 2016 and why i hold them in such high regard.

It defies genre, it defies convention, it throws us right into the thick of the action. The perfect comic book movie. Very faithful to the source, witty, funny. We aren't talking the cartoony quips or snide banter of disney's Marvel movies. This is smart, actually humorous, befitting of the film and filled to popping point with pop culture references of all sorts. Yet DEADPOOL is not some laugh-a-minute comedy. Ryan Reynolds completely sells even the more sombre scenes with such earnestness.

The magic carries on in this amazing spinoff of the HARRY POTTER franchise. It had a lot to live up to and delivered the same wondrous sense of fantasy and adventure while weaving a brand new story quite literally from scratch. With compelling new characters juxtaposed against a familiar world of wizardry, a near perfect script and a touch of nostalgia, the world of HARRY POTTER has now broken free of the restraints of the books and opened up a whole new direction of possibilities.

Filled with subtle but powerful emotional moments, equally powerful fight scenes, and strong underlying themes, BATMAN V SUPERMAN is loud, grand and an easily misunderstood creature.
This is a complex movie delving into complex themes that few current day superhero comics, let alone movies, touch on. It deconstructs and explore the nature of trust, power, and question the inherent good or evil in human hearts. These philosophical questions are brought up, lending much needed depth to a genre reduced in recent years to superficial childlike thrills.

As a whole this is a tremendous improvement in every aspect over previous marvel team up movie AVENGERS AGE OF ULTRON. Comic book movies will be hard pressed to match up to this standard set by CAPTAIN AMERICA CIVIL WAR. Yes there is ill placed humour, yes they kill a certain amount of the drama with cheap comedy and yes the relatively generic musical score by Henry Jackman seems wasted on such an epic. But the few flaws aside, this is finally the kind of movie that marvel should be making. One that takes its superheroes more seriously, tones down the jokes, and delves into deeper themes both social and political

Video game movies have never gotten a fair chance to shine. Plagued by either a low budget or too many deviations from the source, they have been constantly ridiculed at the box office. WARCRAFT changed that. In fact it may hew a little too faithful to the source. As an adaptation of the very first Warcraft game, it succeeds in creating a high fantasy world where orcs, gryphons and other magical creatures exist. The characters are earnestly fleshed out, decently developed and extremely likeable. The production designs come right out of game, preserving even the more extreme ones all produced with special effects that would rival James Cameron’s Avatar. The fact that WARCRAFT has gone to become the highest grossing video game movie in the world by 2016 speaks volumes about its quality.

Japan is back in the game with their very own new Godzilla movie SHIN GOJIRA. Where Hollywood revived Godzilla as a tribute to his more heroic role in the showa era “versus” movies, Toho Japan has gone back to the roots of the 1954 original Gojira and crafted a modern thriller about the horrors of mankind’s misdeeds, the inaction of a government and the impotence of a military in the face of this fiercer, meaner, force of nature Gojira. More than just a monster movie with amazing special effects, SHIN GOJIRA is a political thriller that satirises the japanese government, it is also a very human drama, unafraid to show that horrible consequences of a monster’s rampage.

Monsters come in many forms and on the flip side from the giant monster in GOJIRA comes the most unexpected but most obvious monster of all, us. 10 Cloverfield lane is a thrilling mystery fleshed out perfectly thanks to the performance of its cast led by veteran John Goodman. Every moment is a nail biting tension, every bit of dialogue is a clue to something that would come later, all cleverly woven into tense film about how far desperation would drive someone. With a hinted connection to an overarching shared universe which started with the Cloverfield giant monster movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane shows that you do not need big special effects or big action to tell a compelling story.

The Lord of the Jungle has reclaims the big screen with this modern day interpretation of the classic character written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Not surprising that this magnificent period piece comes from the same director as FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM. I personally loved that it was not an action blockbuster. There were enough slower scenes that fleshed out the characters and the setting. The performances of the cast is amazing, with the more mythical elements of the Tarzan mythos realised through cutting edge special effects and featuring beautifully stylised cinematography throughout. The themes of the movie, both personal and political, are a constant presence throughout Tarzan’s tale and journey of self-discovery.

STAR WARS without lightsabers or jedi? Unheard of yet perfectly executed in this movie. ROGUE ONE shows the grittier side of the star wars universe being a war story first and a star wars story second. In a departure from the classic black and white morality of the star wars franchise, ROGUE ONE presents morally grey good guys and bad guys. A cruel empire or the only hope for order amidst galactic chaos? A courageous group of rebels or scheming underground movement that would backstab and betray to achieve their ends? This complexity adds a fresh layer to the stale good vs evil duality and crafts a compelling science fiction movie which relies too heavily on nostalgia.

A first person shooter movie that is not based on a first person shooter game. The story, the characters, the entire setting is right out of a video game that never was. Filmed entirely from a first person perspective using go-pro cameras, the frantic action may be a little too much for some but for me it is a perfect action movie revealing in violence and intense carnage. Its unique visual style and masterful cinematography makes this look like a big budget film. You’d never know that it was made cheap using off the shelf visual effects software.