My top 5 films of this year now. Not all from this year. All new to me this year. Spoilers are scattered throughout. Particularly for films #4 and #3.
5. The Theory Of Everything
Came out back in 2014 and it was one of the top recommended films for me to see by family and various other people who like films in my life this year. And that’s a good recommendation, as it’s about a living legend of science, and actually is not too dissimilar a film from The Imitation Game about Alan Turing that I included in my list last year. So I eventually saw it on a journey back to university and I was not disappointed. Like with The Imitation Game it’s a film about clever people doing clever stuff so I’m in awe throughout on the brain power and intellectual discussion that Stephen Hawking shows but also his willpower to keep going and stay alive when everything tries to go against him with his motor neurone disease that has become completely associated with him. He makes writing a book, writing a paper so inspiring through this, life needs to be inspiring to keep us alive. If Hawking can do it with all the obstacles, anyone can. I must say, the main thing that is sticking in my head though is the scene where his friends ask how ‘functional’ he is and he basically confirms that there’s no problem there. I’m horrifically lewd, this is supposed to be a very serious film. Anyway, it’s a great film and biography of one of the greatest men alive today.
4. Star Trek Beyond
One of my favourite things to do is pick apart loads of holes, in good fun of course, in one of my favourite franchises, Star Trek. Something I normally always rank above Wars but haven’t done so this time, even though Beyond is easily the best of the new films, it’s still not quite enough to beat this Wars offering. But Beyond is mostly on point and on message with the direction that Trek should be taking as it tries to weave its way between getting the audience in with blockbuster style plots and keeping the true fans that have stuck with the franchise for decades happy. I would have preferred it if there were more familiar aliens, even ones that were human-looking but now can be properly presented with extra makeup and the same name. The galaxy is big but it should have some familiar faces. I.e. the aliens look like an updated version of the Jem’Hadar, why not have them be Jem’Hadar and bring the Dominion into this as a huge threat. And in the end, having the villain be human originally kind of undermined that potential a bit because having humans be the problem in this sort of film is not particularly Beyond. Not saying Star Trek can’t do that but this was not the right film to do it in, particularly after Into Darkness made such a meal of it. To say nothing of the fan rage itches that I got in my head upon seeing the whole Yorktown complex. Far too advanced for the Federation to be building…
That aside, I really did genuinely enjoy Beyond. The new alien, Jaylah, was very well cast and would be a good addition permanently to the rest in future films, the rest of the character interactions were much more on point than they were in previous films, the cast is really beginning to gel. Especially in the way they worked together to beat the aliens. The parallels to Star Trek III were also appreciated and lets me hold out hope for the next film to be some sort of time travel genius plot that revitalises the franchise as the new TV series steams ahead. History repeats itself, guys. Sadly that will be without Chekhov finding nuclear wessels due to the sad death of Anton Yelchin, whose death does hang over this film in every scene he’s in, where he was on top form once again – and the tributes to him and Leonard Nimoy in the credit scenes of this film are very powerful.
3. Rogue One (RECENT FILM SPOILER ALERT)
I just finished a couple of days ago writing a far lengthier post on Rogue One that can be found here so honestly there’s not much that has changed from my opinions there. I thought about putting it at #1, I really did. I cannot remember the last time a new Hollywood blockbuster satisfied me so completely by killing off all of the characters at the end of it. Would be better if it were a TV series and I’d spent an entire season with them but that’s by the by. Rogue One did exactly what it needed to with its characters and did not hold onto them for any kind of sequel hook, instead connected a Star Wars spinoff wonderfully to the original trilogy, with the latest in technology for using Leia and Tarkin that only looks slightly off. The plot could have been better but it could also have been much much worse and I really enjoyed seeing this one. It gives me a lot of hope for future Star Wars spinoffs as well as the future of the franchise in general. It also added to the world of the early rebellion really effectively, something that needed some concrete film time dedicated to it, if any of the periods in Star Wars’ history needed anything, this was it. And the final scenes are pretty breathtaking from the moment the incredible snarky droid (who was otherwise an early film highlight) K2S0 has his last stand, the film’s ride does not stop.
2. Princess Mononoke
(see what I mean about them not all being fresh new films)
I finally saw another Ghibli film this year! That makes 3 now. Despite me being very interested in anime, I’m not so hot on what is most normal people’s experience with anime, Ghibli, and had only seen Grave Of The Fireflies and Spirited Away up to now. But yes, I spontaneously decided to watch Princess Mononoke and see what I was missing. Turns out I was missing a lot. Enough that I think I’m ranking this ahead of the other two Ghibli films I’ve seen, as amazing as they both are.
You may say Studio Ghibli are the Japanese Disney and you may be right but on that level Mononoke definitely out violences nearly every Disney film, there is a lot of death and darkness as medieval Japan warlords find out that the environment can easily push back against them when they become too greedy. It feels very thematically similar to a lot of films involving natives or wild-born people defending the wild, but in this case the wild defends itself and pushes back against the humans. At a certain point in the film you have the titular Princess finding herself torn between the wild and the main character Ashitaka. The thing is, despite it focusing on humans destroying the environment, it’s not a straight good vs evil narrative, the environment contains Japanese demons and the issues at stake are how humans and nature are going to coexist in the new world being created by the film – where the main characters are clearly going to be on the side of humans in the end. It’s something I need to see again to really draw out clearer meaning from, I’m going off a lot of memory here, but it is a very good and complex film for the Studio and their high-water mark… for now.
Surprise! Even though I’ve slammed superhero movies in this list as hard as I possibly can, in accordance with my pleasant and friendly review demeanour of course, Deadpool, a superhero movie, has ended up as my favourite film of the year. Probably for the first time ever. Probably the first time I’ve talked about a superhero movie without wanting to metaphorically kick it in the balls at least once. I hope it’s finished high for most and I wouldn’t be surprised, because everything about this movie was rather unexpected.
It lay in development hell for ages, it was supposed to be a flop but somehow, everything went right, it opened to huge acclaim from the public and critics, and I was actually really interested in seeing it. I’d seen a few Deadpool comics before and I liked his deprecating sarcastic style loads and so figured an entire movie of that would be pretty hilarious. I was not wrong. The engaging and snarky title sequence, the performance of Ryan Reynolds keeping you fixated on the main character as he walks across the screen, the banter and comedic moments (of particular note is International Women’s Day), the supporting cast of Negasonic Teenage Warhead inspiring me to demand more teenage lesbians in films everywhere. The script and perfect dark humour carries this to far greater effect than its plot ever could, but given its plot is meant to be parodying superhero movies, I have no issue with it. Also, this film proves deathpools are a thing. Imagine how many worthless deathpool points I could have gotten if I’d got a good list together at the start of this year, I’d have put Castro and Zsa Zsa Gabor on there for sure. Although I probably would have put loads of slots on Popes Emeritii and Mugabes so would have still fallen short in many areas, I should draft some strategically made list up for the new year (probably an appropriate interlude to say: get well soon Carrie Fisher!). But anyway, Deadpool. My favourite film of the year, amazingly. Even superhero films can get me sometimes… if they ruthlessly parody themselves.