Thursday, 29 December 2016

Best and Worst Films of 2016

In a year that was great for independent cinema and biopics, but not so much for comedies and sequels, here are our top 10 best films and five worst films of 2016.



1) Spotlight –  an important true story about child abuse that also emphasises the value of investigative journalism.

2) Captain Fantastic – striking the right balance between drama and comedy, this film about an unconventional family is thought-provoking, has beautiful cinematography and a strong cast. 

3) Hacksaw Ridge – a gripping and graphic depiction of World War II, telling the true story of a soldier who wanted to be a medic but refused to carry a weapon.

4) Mustang – a brutally honest, shocking, educational and culturally aware coming of age story about five sisters in Turkey who are forced to be married off one by one.

5) Room –  based on a novel, this suspenseful film about a young woman held captive in a shed for several years with her five-year-old son will make you cry and laugh.

6) Me Before You – based on the best-selling novel, which was inspired by a true story, this film will leave you in tears and has been one of the most tragic, heartfelt and controversial films of the year, exploring the life of a quadriplegic man. 

7) Trumbo – this biopic telling the story of famed screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted by studios during a time when Communism was feared, shines a light on an artist who was forced into the darkness for a long time.

8) Deadpool – there have been a few good superhero films this year but this one was particularly refreshing in its originality and has consistent obscene humour, graphic fight scenes and a fantastic soundtrack.

9) Art of The Prank – flawed, but hilarious and interesting, this documentary chronicles the adventures of notorious artist and activist Joey Skaggs and shows how frighteningly malleable the media can be.

10) Zootopia – a creative and insightful film with endearing characters, stunning animation and layered with important messages about equality and racial issues.

Honourable mentions:
The Jungle Book
Love and Friendship
I, Daniel Blake
Star Wars: Rogue One 
The Revenant


1) Angry Birds Movie
2) My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
3) Zoolander 2
4) Spin Out
5) The Legend of Tarzan 



1) Room – a disturbing plot that stays with you and fantastic performances.

2) Me Before You – a thought-provoking and touching story.

3) Trumbo – an interesting reflection on history with great performances.

4) Spotlight – an unbelievable true story with amazing performances.

5) Bridget Jones's Baby – a wonderful addition that brought laughter and joy to 2016.

6) The Light Between Oceans – a film that leaves you reflecting on ethics.

7) Star Wars: Rogue One – never enough Star Wars and it has an unexpected ending.

8) La La Land – a beautiful contemporary film that pays homage to the past.

9) The Jungle Book – visually stunning and worth the update.

10) Deadpool – an original and funny approach to the superhero genre.

Honourable mentions:
Hell or High Water
The Revenant 
Eddie The Eagle
Captain American: Civil War


1) Angry Birds
2) Zoolander 2
3) The Legend of Tarzan 
4) High-Rise
5) Underworld: Blood Wars

Wednesday, 21 December 2016


By Angie Raphael

I am calling it extremely early, but Lion will certainly be one of the best films of 2017. This bittersweet and emotional roller-coaster will have you gripped from the outset and will probably leave you in tears by the end. It is such an important film too, raising awareness about the plight of lost children in India, as well as encouraging further discussions about adoption in Australia. Adapted by screenwriter Luke Davies from Saroo Brierley's autobiographical account, Lion opens with five-year-old Saroo (Sunny Pawar) who gets lost in India thousands of kilometres from home. He faces many scary obstacles before being adopted by Australian couple Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham). Decades later, Saroo (Dev Patel) searches for his Indian family.

Adorable young Pawar has never acted before but he carries almost the first half of the film and gives one of the most engrossing performances ever by a child. Kidman, who has two adopted children of her own, has spoken publicly about her connection to the story and it shows on screen. Meanwhile, Patel's Aussie accent is almost as good as Kate Winslet's turn in The Dressmaker. Director Garth Davis has also done a wonderful job of capturing India's vast terrain and bustling city life, in stark contrast to Tasmania's coastal beauty. Lion runs for about two hours but the time flies by and this amazing true story will remain in your thoughts long after the film is finished.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


By Angie Raphael

This film provides a snippet into the life of Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the days after the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy (Caspar Phillipson), in November 1963. It explores how the first lady dealt with her grief and trauma while trying to comfort her young children and shape her husband's legacy. Although Portman does not look much like Kennedy, she is captivating to watch and no doubt deserves an Oscar nomination if not the win. Peter Sarsgaard is also very good as Bobby Kennedy and the depiction of their relationship is interesting. The costumes and set designs are also exquisite, especially the recreation of the White House and Lyndon B. Johnson's swearing in as the new president onboard Air Force One. Director Pablo Larrain is meticulous with every scene. Unfortunately, given its subject matter, Jackie is such a depressing film and teaches us nothing particularly new about the Kennedy family. Nonetheless, it is worth seeing for Portman's performance alone. 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

A United Kingdom

By Angie Raphael

Based on a true story, A United Kingdom is about Prince Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) from Botswana, who causes an international political commotion in the late 1940s when he marries Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike), a white woman from London. If you are unfamiliar with the history, it is really quite shocking to see the lengths taken to stop Khama from becoming the king and to keep the deeply in love couple apart. There were a lot of issues going on at the time, particularly South Africa introducing apartheid. Writer Guy Hibbert carefully explains the political ramifications of each decision made by the protagonists and antagonists so it is never too overwhelming or difficult to follow. Director Amma Asante, who created the equally moving Belle a few years ago, also keeps the intensity consistent throughout. Olyelowo delivers some moving speeches and Pike is also very good in her staunch role, but at times their chemistry was lacking, which is disappointing given the entire story hinges on the powerful love between their characters. A United Kingdom did grow on me the more I thought about it and it really is an important story worth adapting to film.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Red Dog: True Blue

By Angie Raphael

With so many action-packed blockbusters filling cinemas these days, it is great to unwind with an innocent and simple film from time to time, and Red Dog: True Blue is about as heartfelt as they come. This prequel to the beloved Red Dog explores the relationship between the puppy and his first owner, Mick, played by the very talented Levi Miller in the younger years and Jason Isaacs as an adult. Writer Daniel Taplitz produced a tight script exploring themes of love, family, friendship and Aboriginal culture. Director Kriv Stenders also beautifully captured Western Australia's expansive north and the film looks just as good as any Hollywood production. It probably was not necessary to make this prequel and it may not be quite as emotional as the original, but Red Dog: True Blue is a feel-good film for the whole family. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

La La Land

By Jackie Raphael

The musical is nostalgic, quirky, romantic and surprisingly dramatic. It tells the story of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) a jazz pianist and Mia (Emma Stone) an aspiring actress, who are both trying to fulfil their career dreams. The pair fall in love and are forced to choose between their work and relationship. While this plot is nothing new, the way in which Whiplash director Damien Chazelle tells the story is quite unique. The cinematography is beautiful and the music plays a pivotal role in setting the tone of the film. As always, Gosling and Stone have wonderful chemistry and show off their amazing skills in acting, singing and dancing. My main critique is that the film is a bit too long and has some unnecessary moments. I highly recommend you watch Rebel Without a Cause and Casablanca before seeing this film to fully appreciate the way in which La La Land pays homage to these classics. The film strikes a wonderful balance between the past and present. I left the cinema wanting to dance on the streets.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Office Christmas Party

By Jackie Raphael

This Christmas film is definitely not for children but it certainly is a lot of fun. Hopefully you have never been to a Christmas party quite like the one depicted in this film. When uptight and cranky chief executive Carol (Jennifer Aniston) threatens to shut down one of her company's branches, which is run by her brother Clay (T.J. Miller), he and his colleagues Josh (Jason Bateman) and Tracey (Olivia Munn) decide to throw a Christmas party to land a deal that will ensure everyone gets to keep their jobs. Several things go wrong throughout the party, which results in some rather ridiculous and hilarious scenes. Bateman was as charming as always, while Aniston was convincing as the tough boss. Miller was very well suited to his wild and quirky character, while Kate McKinnon was brilliant as the no-nonsense human resources manager. However, Munn was often trying too hard to be sexy and cool. Office Christmas Party has consistent laughs throughout, although the ending is a bit over the top. It is not as good as similarly toned films like Horrible Bosses, but if you enjoy that style of humour you should be entertained.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016


By Jackie Raphael

Cute animated animals singing classic hits is always a great idea. Mixing that with a lot of heart and some solid character development, Sing is a fun film for any age. The film follows the journey of a koala named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), who creates a singing competition to save his crumbling theatre. Each finalist has a unique story as to why they want to win the competition, adding depth to the plot. The impressive cast includes Reese Witherspoon (Rosita), Seth MacFarlane (Mike), Scarlett Johansson (Ash), John C. Reilly (Eddie), Taron Egerton (Johnny) and Nick Offerman (Norman). Their wonderful performances brought the characters to life, especially in Johnny's storyline. While there is an element of repetition towards the end of the film, it is relatively well-paced. The soundtrack will have you bopping in your seat – one young girl at my screening was even dancing in the aisle.

Thursday, 1 December 2016


By Jackie Raphael

This espionage film is essentially a dramatic version of Mr and Mrs Smith with a splash of Casablanca. Set during World War II, Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) is a Canadian intelligence officer who meets French resistance fighter Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) in Casablanca. The pair pretend to be married for a shared mission but eventually a real romance blossoms. The plot is not particularly original and there are some unnecessary Hollywood moments, however Allied also has some suspenseful and action-packed scenes, and wonderful costumes. Pitt and Cotillard have great chemistry too. Overall, it was an enjoyable film, which thanks to the tight writing of Steven Knight and expert direction of Robert Zemeckis, never lags during its entire two hours.