These are my ten favourite films from this year - in reverse order, naturally.
Full disclosure - I saw one film late in 2015 that could have snuck into this list. And if not at the top, then pretty damn close. That film is THE REVENANT, which I raved about here. But I'm a man of my word, so I'm considering it a 2015 watch (sorry, Leo).
Anyway. Let's go to the movies...
The surprise hit of the year, DEADPOOL showed that films skewed towards adults can produce blockbuster returns. Kudos to Ryan Reynolds for virtually wiping out the memory of the lame version 1.0 of the character in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE.
9. The Jungle Book
I went into this film not wanting too like it - the '67 animated classic was a staple part of my childhood. Fortunately, the 2016 version is an immersive marvel, with astonishing visuals and CG characters you genuinely cared about.
8. De Palma
My favourite documentary of 2016. Veteran suspense movie director Brian De Palma (CARRIE, DRESSED TO KILL, THE INCREDIBLES) candidly talks about his back catalogue and both his successes and failures. Even at two hours, this film was not long enough.
7. The Witch
Supernatural goings-on in 17th century New England. Buckets of atmosphere. Gripping, suspenseful, eerie. The horror film of the year.
6. A Hologram For The King
I'm definitely in the minority for sticking up for this one, as it was thoroughly trashed in reviews. A great fish-out-of-water tale, with Tom Hanks as the stranger in a strange land (Saudi Arabia). The score by Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer was one of my favourite soundtracks of the year.
5. The Nice Guys
Director/co-writer Shane Black's violent, witty detective story, set in the Los Angeles in the groovy Seventies. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling are the comedy double-act of the year. Who'd have guessed?
4. Sing Street
SING STREET could be lazily (but somewhat accurately) be summed up as THE COMMITMENTS meet GREGORY'S GIRL. It's much more than that, with an acute eye for '80s details and a charming soundtrack.
3. Eye In The Sky
Trimmed to the bone, EYE IN THE SKY doesn't waste one of its 102 minutes. Set in the topical world of military drone surveillance, the tension is often ratcheted up to unbelievable levels. A film mainly about people looking at screens and talking about what is on those screens should have been deadly dull. EYE IN THE SKY is far from that.
With this, PRISONERS and SICARIO, Denis Villeneuve has become the director to watch. He makes intelligent, thoughtful films for adults - rare these days in a film industry relentlessly targeting the 12 certificate. It's a mouth-watering prospect that Villeneuve's next project is the Blade Runner sequel, due in late 2017.
1. Hell Or High Water
On one level, it's a thrilling heist movie. On another, it's a damning indictment of how big banks are ruthlessly treating the little people of middle America. However you view it, HELL OR HIGH WATER is engrossing from start to finish. The witty, razor-sharp dialogue (by Taylor Sheridan, who penned SICARIO) is handsomely delivered by an excellent cast, headed by Jeff Bridges. My film of the year.
Next time, I'll be touching on the films I'm most looking forward to in 2017.