2017 has well and truly started and we’ve seen some great films released already (LaLa Land anyone?) But you might have missed these in the heady rush of 2016. Look out for them on DVD or through your streaming service of choice...
Almost a Musical dept.
Sing Street (dir JohnCarney)
With a potent nostalgia for 80s musical stylings, Sing Street tells the story of a teen who aims to impress a girl by inviting her to be in his band’s new video. The problem? There is no band. Oh, and no songs either. But with gentle humour the band comes to be. With dynamite casting and the best soundtrack of the year, Sing Street is an underdog story told in the context of an oppressive Irish school system with an eye on the power of dreams, love and faith.
Aussie Outback Neo-Noir dept.
Goldstone (dir Ivan Sen)
Not too much competition in this category for 2016, but Goldstone was one of the best films of the year overall. Indigenous detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen) appeared in 2013’s Mystery Road to great effect. Sen returns the downbeat policeman to a new story involving people smuggling and mining politics and the year’s best cameo by Jacki Weaver as the town mayor. A sensitive eye for the landscape produces great cinematography but it’s the moral underpinning that grips and leaves questions in your mind.
All that glitters is not gold dept.
Café Society (dir Woody Allen)
Allen’s strong work ethic in the last decade (a film a year, prolific by Hollywood standards) means each new film comes and goes without a lot of fanfare these days. You may not have time for him as a person but Café Society showcases the director at the peak of his powers in the genre he has perfected: wry humour focussed on the foibles of a hangdog humanity. In this case he excoriates the glitz of celebrity with a tale of the 30s film industry. It’s a compact sermon on Mark 8:36 (“What profits a person who gains the world but loses their soul?”) with great music.
“I can’t believe it’s not Spielberg” dept.
Midnight Special (dir Jeff Nichols)
While 2016’s other Spielberg homage, Netflix’s Stranger Things, got all the kudos, Midnight Special is definitely worth the journey as well. The ever-wonderful Michael Shannon plays the father of an unusual boy on the run from Government agents. Why? In this case, unusual might just mean special powers. But this is no superhero film. Rather it examines the nature of parenthood using a stellar cast including Adam Driver, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Shepherd. Just enough mystery remains as the credits roll to leave Nichols’ film rolling around in your mind for days afterwards.
Sam Neill’s best beard ever dept.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (dir Taika Waititi)
The NZ film industry uncovered a star in Julian Dennison in this film which follows the national manhunt for a rebellious teen and his foster uncle who take to the bush to avoid being separated. It’s laugh-out-loud stuff and Sam Neill has never been better. But look under the hood and you’ll find the engine is Julian’s Ricky and a script that skilfully balances laughs with poignancy and action as well, something new for Waititi. Helming the new Thor film will be his biggest challenge but Wilderpeople is the peak of a quirky career so far.
Is it a sports film? dept.
Eddie the Eagle (dir Dexter Fletcher)
2015’s Creed (a Rocky sequel of sorts) set the bar high for the sports film that’s not really about sports. Fletcher’s Eddie attempts the same trick with more heart than Phar Lap in a story that is the Merriam Webster definition of feel-good. With humour to burn, this is one for the whole family. Eddie the Eagle’s path to the 1988 Winter Olympics is embroidered to allow for Hugh Jackman to appear as coach in need of redemption. Even though the ending is history, you’ll be on the edge of your seat hoping for Eddie’s success. And succeed he does, in a way.
See any noteworthy films you think others might have missed last year? Drop Jonathan a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know…