Crazy to believe but Muneeb Arshid and I have been cranking out reviews for The Film Lawyers for over a year now.
In fact, it’s time for our Best of 2016 Lists. We apologize for releasing this in February but we needed to ensure we had watched all of the best films before compiling our lists. Without further ado, here is my personal Top 10 List for the Best Films of 2016. I hope you all enjoy my picks and if you have not done so as of yet, go give these films a watch. They are more than worth your time.
10) The Witch
This was the first film I watched in 2016 that far exceeded my expectations and made me fall in love with the horror/psychological thriller genre again. The VVitch was effectively a 17th century New England folk tale that regaled audiences with the story of a family that experiences their lives as part of a bleak, isolated society; they entered this segregated state due to the father of the family having a falling out with the Church. Enter evil that plays with your mind and combine it with a fantastic and unheralded cast (Anya Taylor-Joy is a revelation) and you have the best horror film in ages.
9) The Wailing
I honestly do not know how to describe Hong-jin Na‘s near masterpiece of Korean cinema without spoiling key segments but I’ll try anyway. The film is INTENSE and somehow manages to be downright frightening at the same time. Hong-jin Na completely deviates from what one would expect from a horror film and incorporates elements of satanism and shamanism and ties it all together with a visually gorgeous aesthetic. Go watch it, seriously.
I loved Arrival. Heck, I love anything that Denis Villeneuve creates and true to form following the successes of Prisoners and Sicario, his sci-fi venture about an alien invasion goes in a completely different direction from what modern audiences have come to expect and does so perfectly.
Amy Adams shines as the star of the film (when is she ever not sublime?) but the plot, visuals and dialogue (outside of some overt cheesiness in the final act) manage to shine even brighter than our lead.
It’s a shame that more people did not go out and watch Richard Linklater‘s spiritual sequel to the cult classic, Dazed and Confused, but that should not stop all of our readers from doing so. The film chronicles the adventures over a weekend of a 1980’s university baseball team and how they develop lasting bonds through some downright hilarious hi-jinx.
The film stars a relatively unknown cast, which actually serves to benefit the film as it allows each and every character to shine without worrying about the value of their performance being glossed over due to the presence of a more established actor. For those looking for a fun, nostalgic trip through 1980’s Texas, this is for you.
What happens when you put Rishi Kapoor, Fawad Khan, Siddharth Malhotra and Alia Bhatt in a film together? You get the exceptional Kapoor & Sons, the tale of a dysfunctional family that tries to get together at the behest of an ailing grandfather and try to navigate life-long tensions and budding romantic interests along the way.
Alongside the star quartet mentioned above, Rajat Kapoor and Ratna Pathak are fantastic as well, rounding out a cast that all delivered either career-best or near career-best performances in this family affair.
I really don’t know how to explain just how fantastic Manchester By The Sea was but Muneeb Arshid’s review (just click the link above) should sum it up. He gave it a perfect 10/10 score and if any film was deserving of that score, it has to be Kenneth Lonergan‘s emotionally powerful tale of a down-on-his-luck man who is entrusted with taking care of his nephew following the untimely death of his brother.
Cue 2+ hours of gut-wrenching drama interspersed with appropriately placed comedic moments to separate emotional scenes and you have the best overall film of the year. The performances of Casey Affleck (shoo-in for Best Actor at the Oscars), Lucas Hedges and Michelle Williams elevate the film from great to perfect.
Directed by Sang-ho Yeon, this was a thrill ride from start to finish and was deceptively deep with the messages it conveyed. On the surface, Train to Busan is easy to explain: a virus that turns people into zombies breaks out in Korea and passengers on a train heading from Seoul to Busan try to stay alive long enough to make it to what they perceive to be a relative safe zone. Underneath said surface, the film delves into critiquing society and the classes that still exist as well as the division in politics not just in Korea but around the world.
Evoking the aesthetics of films such as Snowpiercer and The Host (no, not Stephanie Meyer’s version), the movie is fast paced and beautifully choreographed throughout its duration. It has its weaknesses but as a pure adrenaline rush that was still a very well-made film, Train to Busan earns it’s #4 spot on this list.
Imagine if Salman Khan’s Sultan had better acting and actually focused on properly relaying to audiences the intricacies of the wrestling and female empowerment it claimed to and you end up with Aamir Khan’s utterly fantastic Dangal. Telling the tale of a retired wrestler-turned-villager, Dangal subverts typical Bollywood tropes and turns said wrestler-turned-villager into a coach that helps his daughters become world champions of wrestling.
Dangal earned high marks for just how consistently excellent the acting was across the board (Fatima Sana Shaikh turns in a star-making performance), its amazing soundtrack (Naina by Arijit Singh is an instant classic) and its willingness to take a story about female empowerment and deliver it to audiences that have not been as receptive of such tales in Bollywood’s target market. It succeeded and should be on every Bollywood fan’s to-watch list.
The only reason Dangal wasn’t the highest ranking Bollywood film on the list was because Pink covered the female empowerment aspect first and complemented it by exploring the gross gender discrimination that takes place on a daily basis in many countries around the world. The film tells the story of a trio of young ladies who reject the advances of entitled and wealthy drunk mean who in turn drag the ladies into court and shame them in many areas primarily for being women.
Amitabh Bachchan is absolutely remarkable as a retired lawyer who steps in to defend the out-manned and overwhelmed ladies, who are all fantastic in their own ways and played by Tapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang, respectively. Not just for Bollywood fans, Pink should be watched by all audiences and admired for its willingness to tackle topics considered untouchable in modern day South Asia.
Mel Gibson made his triumphant return and he did so with a bang. Hacksaw Ridge was the best war film I have seen since Saving Private Ryan (I’m sure Christopher Nolan’s upcoming Dunkirk may change my mind again) based solely on how incredible the source material was. The film tells the story of World War 2 veteran Desmond Doss, who rejects killing on the battlefield as part of his belief (the film focuses more on the power of faith for an individual than it does focusing on a particular religion, a huge strength) but wishes to serve alongside his countrymen all the same. Under barrage of Japanese troops, Doss performs some of the most heroic deeds (the film actually CUT out some incredible feats performed by Doss because Gibson. and co felt audiences would think it was fake) ever documented on film, all the while staying true to mandate of not killing anyone and focusing only on saving his wounded comrades.
Andrew Garfield leads a star-studded ensemble cast and shines as its focal point, elevating himself to stardom on the back of his effort in this beautifully shot, well-written and emotionally poignant film.
Hell or High Water
The Nice Guys