Here we go again – another year has come and gone – with hundreds of new films having graced our cinema screens. Some will be honoured by a variety of awards bodies in the coming weeks – many will have received those awards back in early 2016, because of the peculiar way in which the film releasing calendar is contrived.
But, of course, the honour that all films really want is to appear on What’s Worth Seeing’s list of what was worth seeing – and what they’re all hoping to avoid is – no, not a Razzie – but the ignominious honour of appearing in our list of what was NOT worth seeing during the year.
So, here they are – the Best and Worst of the 2016 UK releases – according to our reviewers, Jason Korsner and Maria Duarte. And, as ever, it’s interesting to note that some films feature on both of our best lists, while others feature on one best list and the other worst list. But if everyone liked the same films, what a boring industry it would be.
What was Worth Seeing in 2016...
|...according to Jason Korsner
|...according to Maria Duarte
CAPTAIN FANTASTIC - Viggo Mortensen excels in a complex but utterly convincing turn as a father who could be the world's best or the world's worst, depending on your own view-point, in a highly entertaining and thought-provoking drama that challenges you to think about everything from religion to education and family life. He's blessed with powerful support from Frank Langella and an unusually talented pool of child actors.
I, DANIEL BLAKE - Ken Loach's most powerful and moving political drama since Cathy Come Home, which shines a light on the victims of Britain's welfare state as it holds a mirror up to austerity Britain. The reflection is a damning one and anyone who has been on the dole will recognise and empathise with the lead character's plight. (NB: Jason and Maria did not agree on this one, so don't expect our review to match!)
|THE REVENANT - This visceral battle of man versus nature (and man versus man) rightfully won Leonardo DiCaprio his first acting Oscar, Alejandro González Iñárritu his second successive directing Oscar and Emmanuel Lubezki his third successive Oscar for cinematography.
|SPOTLIGHT - This double Oscar winning film is a riveting drama about how a team of real life investigative journalists at the Boston Globe uncovered a massive child abuse scandal perpetrated by priests in the city which was covered up by the Catholic Church.
|ELVIS & NIXON - Working backwards from a genuine photo of President Nixon meeting Elvis Presley, Liza Johnson finds Kevin Spacey and Michael Shannon both at the top of their games to deliver an absurdly surreal but supposedly real encounter that satirises both celebrity and politics.
|ARRIVAL - This is one of the most compelling and intelligent sci-fi films of recent times. Amy Adams gives a virtuoso performance alongside Jeremy Renner in this drama, which is about love, loss and the power of language set against the backdrop of alien first contact.
|LOVE & FRIENDSHIP - Whit Stillman's bristling and brisk Jane Austen adaptation engages the head more than the heart, with a smartly refined turn from Kate Beckinsale and delightful comic support from a "nice-but-dim" Tom Bennett.
|TRUMBO – This is the wonderfully entertaining yet poignant story of leading American screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (a sublime Bryan Cranston) who in 1947 was one of the “Hollywood Ten” blacklisted screenwriters, and jailed for being a communist.
|HELL OR HIGH WATER - British director David Mackenzie offers an outsider's view of small-town America as he brings us a good old-fashioned modern-day Western, masquerading as a morally ambiguous cops and robbers drama, with Jeff Bridges delivering another scene-stealing supporting turn.
|SON OF SAUL - This is Laszlo Nemes' impressive Oscar winning début feature, which explores the inner workings of Auschwitz in 1944, as seen through the eyes of a Jewish Hungarian prisoner, forced to burn the corpses of his own people. It is chilling and thought provoking.
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: Charlie Kaufman's grown-up animated soap-opera Anomalisa; Belgium's highly imaginative and irreverent religious satire The Brand New Testament; Paolo Sorrentino's thoughtful come-of-age drama Youth; Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as Passengers in a refreshing and simple sci-fi thriller; and Son of Saul, dealt with perfectly by my colleague Maria in the next column.
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: Once and Begin Again director John Carney was back on Irish soil for his latest warm-hearted musical drama, Sing Street, while Dame Helen Mirren was on macho form as an army chief overseeing a drone assassination mission against an Islamist militant in Kenya, in Eye in the Sky, making us all wonder how far we should go if it might save lives.
What was not Worth Seeing in 2016...
|...according to Jason Korsner
|...according to Maria Duarte
WHY HIM? - Having punctuation in a film title is rarely a positive sign. Why has the team behind Meet the Parents produced a tasteless, less funny and less clever version of their previous outing? Why has one of the leading actors of his generation lowered himself to a straight-man role in a gross-out comedy that gets laughs from toilet jokes, celebrity cameos and boldly stealing routines from classic films? Why don't you just take along your smartphone and watch clips from Meet the Parents instead?
BAD SANTA 2 This has to be the most disappointing sequel of the year which unfortunately lives up to its name. It is both nasty and bad. While the original film, starring Billy Bob Thornton, was irreverent, offensive and politically incorrect, it was also gob-smackingly funny and ingenious. Twelve years on and it is still one of the best anti-Christmas films around, but its successor, also starring Thornton, is a pale imitation which lacks the wit and ingenuity of the first film. Plus it is borderline creepy.
|BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE - Two of the world's favourite superheroes - what could go wrong? Sadly, almost everything. It's a truly messy, half-sequel-half-reboot, dark and charmless melange of heroes that serves as a trailer for future DC efforts; they'll need to up their game to rival Marvel.
|DIRTY GRANDPA - Nobody wants to see the great Robert De Niro demean himself by playing a dirty old grandfather who just wants to bed a college student following the death of his wife. This road-trip gross-out movie, which stars Zac Efron as De Niro's uptight grandson, is just embarrassingly bad and not funny.
|BLOOD FATHER - What on earth Cannes was doing screening Mel Gibson's formulaic revenge odyssey as part of its official selection, goodness knows. He might be having praised heaped on him for his upcoming Hacksaw Ridge, but the only original thing about this brainless crime thriller is Gibson's beard.
|DOG EAT DOG – Even Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe can't save this lurid and nastily violent crime movie with misogynistic undertones by director Paul Schrader. It is an incomprehensible mess in which Cage and Dafoe are completely wasted.
|JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK - Tom Cruise's magnetism can't come close to rescuing a vanity project so incoherent that either no other recognisable name wanted to be involved or was allowed to come close to the set; the only other face on the poster is looking the other way. If he's thinking about revisiting the role, my advice: Never go back.
|GOLDEN YEARS – This aspiring Ealing style comedy about a retired couple forced to turn to a life of crime to make ends meet is as creaky and slow moving as its ageing characters. Its veteran cast, led by Virginia McKenna, deserved better than this lacklustre and hideously unfunny crime caper full of cringing sexual innuendos.
|I, DANIEL BLAKE - Unfettered by political sympathies, heartfelt as it is, Ken Loach's Palme d'Or winning rant against austerity is a lazy list of anti-government moans, strung together by a cynical tear-jerking excuse for a story. And another thing...
|WARCRAFT: THE BEGINNING – Yet another dull and unfathomable film adaptation of a video game which is best played than being given the big screen treatment.
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: Tom Hooper's simplistic but earnest examination of a pioneering sex-change patient in The Danish Girl; the unremittingly grim culture-clash drama Orthodox, which tells you nothing about anything; Now You See Me 2, a disappointing sequel which lacks the magic of its predecessor and The Unknown Girl, the slow, static, arch supposed drama from the Dardenne brothers.
|JUST MISSED THE CUT: Gerard Butler's sword-and-sandals epic Gods of Egypt, Nicolas Winding Refn's latest pretentious drama The Neon Demon, the DC Comics mess, Batman v Superman and Blake Lively's sexist and exploitative shark-attack thriller The Shallows.