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Top 30 Best New Movies Of 2016 – Guide

6th – The Jungle Book
Starring: Neel Sethi, (voices) Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Christopher Walken
Director: Jon Favreau
Out: April 15, 2016

An orphan boy (Sethi) is raised in the Indian jungle by a pack of wolves and a wise black panther (Kingsley). When they are threatened by a man-hating tiger (Elba), he sets off on an expedition to leave the jungle. On his journey of self-discovery he will befriend a honey-obsessed bear (Murray – in his first ever Disney movie), be lured by a dangerous snake (Scarlett Johansson) and be taken captive by a fire-seeking king of the apes (Walken)… Disney’s recent tradition of producing live action versions of their classic animations (‘Cinderella’, ‘Alice’, ‘Maleficent’ etc) continues. While this is adapting the 1967 version, it includes overlooked elements from the Rudyard Kipling novel to make it more adventurous and dangerous. It isn’t a musical, but does include samples of the classic songs. The result is a near-flawless version of the story, with incredible fully-cgi environments and the most photo-real animals ever put on screen. Director Jon Favreau (‘Elf’, ‘Iron Man’) enthuses proceedings with energy, heart and good humour. It’s even more arresting in 3D.

5th – Silence
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Tadanobu Asano, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson
Director: Martin Scorsese
Out: December 23, 2016
best movies 2016

In the 17th century, two Portuguese-Jesuit priests (Garfield, Driver) travel to Japan, where the Tokugawa shogunate has banned Catholicism and almost all foreign contact/influence. There they try to quietly spread the gospel of Christianity from village to village, and locate their mentor (Neeson) who has renounced God after being tortured. They witness Japanese-Christians persecuted and murdered en mass at the hands of their own government, and once separated, one priest faces a deep crisis of faith – hearing only silence from God as His followers suffer and the number of believers withers… Based on the 1966 novel, called one of the 20th century’s finest, this is about the ethical problems of religious imperialism and christian missionary work. Should a religion from a very different culture be pressed upon another that already has its own (in this case, buddism) – if it takes root at the cost of great hardship for the locals has that been a positive thing? For devout Catholic Martin Scorsese this has been a passion project, adapted way back in the 1990s with the screenwriter of ‘Gangs of New York’. Garfield isn’t quite a young Daniel Day Lewis but he does an admirable job with great material. Characters have lost their faith in movies before but never has it felt as devastating as it does here. Seeing Liam Neeson’s way of life is haunting, and his attempts to turn Garland to the “dark side” through intellectual debate are riveting. ‘Silence’ is the best film ever made about missionary work, and a powerful, unforgettable exploration of what it meant to be a fallen priest.

4th – Victoria
Starring: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Out: 2016

German dramatic-thriller about an isolated Spanish woman living in Berlin who meets a dodgy foursome of local men on a night out and is swept up in their tour of favourite hotspots, growing emotionally close to one of them. Soon he is asking for her help in an ill-fated criminal activity… Unlike ‘Birdman’, which was edited to appear as “one shot”, this is one true continuous take, filmed from 4:30 AM to 7:00 AM (Shot three times before they chose the best version.) And it doesn’t even have the ease of being a 90 minute film – it’s well over 2 hours. The camerawork is closer to documentary style than the cinematic framing of ‘Birdman’, but this approach gives it a sense of reality and energy that’s compelling, unique and anxiety-generating. The performances are fantastic – naturalistic and truthful under the most challenging of production circumstances. Stage actors may run through two hour unbroken performances but that’s in a controlled environment, this is far more complicated. Reportedly the script only consisted of twelve pages, with most of the dialogue being improvised. If true, this elevates it further, as improv under these conditions, and done so brilliantly, is touching cinematic genius.

3rd – Captain America: Civil War
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Scarlett Johansson
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Out: May 6, 2016

When a mistake during a Captain America-led mission results in significant loss of life, the authorities propose the Hero Registration Act, regulating and dictating their activities by a UN panel. The wisdom of whether to sign creates an increasingly bitter rift between Cap and Iron Man, and when Cap’s mind-scrambled WW2 buddy Bucky begins an apparent campaign of assassination, Cap goes full rogue to protect him and investigate the truth, putting his recruited allies (Bucky, Falcon, Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye, Ant Man) on a collision course with Iron Man’s assembled team (Black Panther, Vision, Black Widow, War Machine, Spider-Man)… What ‘Civil War’ does an amazing job of is balance. Firstly to make adversaries out of the heroes, having them plausibly attack each other, while at the same time preventing us from significantly disliking any of them by the end – is very challenging. Secondly the mapping out of personal relations between each of these 15+ key characters, often with complex histories between them, and giving them all appropriate screen time, is also brilliantly done. The action is inventive and enthralling, just the opening Crossbones fight is more badass than almost anything in the Avengers movies. The action even boosts the badass credentials of previously less ‘cool’ characters like Falcon and War Machine. Dialogue is thankfully less quippy than ‘Age of Ultron’, favouring immersion over constant reminders of the author’s voice. But the movie doesn’t escape superhero fatigue. This is now the third Spider-Man introduction, and many of these heroes already fell out and fought in the first half of ‘Avengers’ (although the conflict is heightened here with much deeper betrayal and anger at its core). Black Panther and Spider-Man are both well realised, though surprisingly it’s the heavily-used Winter Soldier who ends up the most sympathetic. ‘Civil War’ is a very successful evolution of what’s gone before and showcases the smarts of Marvel Studios.

2nd – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen
Director: Gareth Edwards
Out: December 16, 2016

Standalone Star Wars spin-off about a wayward band of Rebel fighters who come together to carry out a desperate mission: to steal the plans for the Death Star before it can be used to enforce the Empire’s rule… This is the story of the first two paragraphs of the 1977 Opening Crawl, and leads right into the start of ‘A New Hope’. Lower expectations than ‘Force Awakens’ helps what’s actually a tighter film, offering a different kind of fan service in a way that doesn’t feel derivative. Felicity Jones comes across much better than she did in the unconvincing ‘badass heroine’ marketing, and the varied ensemble around her all play it perfectly, from the matter-of-fact imperial droid (Alan Tudyk) to the blind bo-staff wielding temple guard (Donnie Yen, ‘IP Man’). The more war-like mood (complete with some ‘Nam helmets), plus the lack of lightsabers or Jedi, help give it a different tone that’s most welcome. Ben Mendolson isn’t handed the most memorable villain role but gives a solid, calculating performance as the Imperial officer driving the Death Star’s construction. The film’s at its shakiest when bringing back old characters – Darth Vader’s role is small and dominates the screen but the voice is old-sounding, movement stilted and the costume looks like something from a toy shop. Other key characters from ‘New Hope’ are brought back digitally and, while impressive, the cgi isn’t quite good enough for it not to be a disbelief-breaking distraction. ‘Force Awakens’ brought back beloved characters in the flesh and was more emotional as a result. Elsewhere the fx are absolutely fantastic, from the ominous Death Star tests to the crisp, brightly-lit finale. There’s a definite chill to be had from seeing the rebel ships sweeping back into action ala ‘Return of the Jedi’. Not only does ‘Rogue One’ avoid leaving gaping plot holes but it actually solves a big one from ‘New Hope’. This is an impressive Star Wars entry. Most impressive.

1st – La La Land
Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, Finn Wittrock, J. K. Simmons,
Director: Damien Chazelle
Out: 16 December 2016

A song-and-dance romance about a pair of dreamers – a cocky yet charismatic jazz pianist (Gosling) and an aspiring actress who’s desperate to fit in (Stone) – who fall in love in modern day L.A. However the city that brought them together may tear them apart, as they soon discover that balancing love and art in such a cutthroat climate isn’t easy… This ode to old Hollywood has received a record 14 Oscars nominations (equalling ‘Titanic’), including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and two noms for Original Song (“Audition” and “City of Stars”). It won in every category nominated at the Golden Globes. And (unlike previous musicals like, say, ‘Chicago’) this one deserves the hype. It romaticises the underbelly of Hollywood brilliantly, swelling the heart, inspiring, and conveying the crushing pains of two people reaching for the near-impossible. Stone is at her most expressive and Gosling is pure film star, displaying a chemistry together they have been fine-tuning over three films now (in the same way the likes of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire used to pair regularly). The songs are memorable, sometimes raw, and never outstay their welcome, even for someone who’s no big fan of musicals. The camerawork is strikingly inventive and confident, painting beautiful flight-of-fancy tapestries, and taking in entire scene-and-dance sequences in brilliant one-shot setups. With writer-director Damien Chazelle’s (‘Whiplash’) musical background this is as much a passionate love letter to jazz as much as it is to film, and at the close stands as a tribute to artistic ambition of any kind.


Which titles have I missed? Disagree with the order? Let us know in the comments.

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7 Comments »

  • MzGenuine said

    You missed the N.W.A. movie

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  • gd smith said

    Nothing grabs me here, Seems a very safe set of releases with one or two forcing a plot devise onto a vague outline.
    There will be good movies here and there, but I don’t see these being they. Talking of which, what happened to movie moron’s yearly best and worst of in 2014-2015?

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    • Sheridan Passell said
      Sheridan Passell

      There will be good movies here and there, but I don’t see these being they.

      Hold up, none of these 30 movies, the 30 biggest of next year, will be any good? Where’s your positivity man? What’s the movie that should be on here? Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ will be anything but conventional if that’s what you’re looking for. I agree it is a mainstream perspective. I’ll be updating it as it goes, as I’ve done sporadically with this year’s list – http://www.movie-moron.com/?p=29343 – a work in progress.

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      • gd smith said

        I don’t know. Increasingly, I find it’s the films I wasn’t expecting that turn out to be the really the good ones. Some of these look ok, but I can’t see myself putting them on a must see list is all I’m saying. It’s like I always whine about there being too many superhero movies and I always watch them. Truth to tell I tend to like them, but the prospect of them is never that exciting. If that makes sense.

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        • Sheridan Passell said
          Sheridan Passell

          A lot of the great independent stuff doesn’t rear its head this early, but it’ll be there. I definitely have superhero fatigue too, but then sitting down to watch something like X-Men: Days of Future Past, it really was terrific. It’s new phenomena that I get most interested by, whether it’s when Marvel was starting up or even observing something like 50 Shades-mania. By the end of next year we’ll be watching stuff on VR headsets, that’s what I’m most excited to experience, how they’ll find a way of providing movies in that medium.

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  • OLGA Broward college said

    I think Alice Through The Looking Glass – so fantastic and colored movie that i want to watch over and over.
    love the actors, costumes, nature and of course the idea of this movie.
    would love to recomend it to all people i know-)

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