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FILMS

BEST FILMS OF 2016

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tressTRESPASS AGAINST US
2-out-of-5

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fits-posterTHE FITS
40
First-time director Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits is a beguiling combination of coming-of-age drama, dance movie, and quasi-horror, made on a shoestring budget and starring mostly undiscovered or non-professional young actors, including the lead, 11 year-old Royalty Hightower. As the quietly watchful but determined Toni, she is on screen for virtually the entire running time, and her performance anchors the film. It’s a debut just as impressive as her director’s…

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img_7026FENCES
2-out-of-5
Oh, Denzel. Your charisma knows no bounds. The character that Denzel Washington is playing in Fences, a working-class father and husband who spends most of his time complaining about how hard he’s had it and telling off his kids whenever they try to follow their dreams, is, quite frankly, a bit of a shit. He is selfish, jealous, and often disrespectful to those that love him. And yet he’s still highly watchable, particularly when acting opposite the ever-solid Viola Davis, who pretty much steals this film…

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20th-century-header20TH CENTURY WOMEN
40
20th Century Women is about a man. Actually, it’s about masculinity. And femininity. And sexuality. And getting old and growing up and moving on and being a better Jamie. Jamie (played by Lucas Jade Zumann with cotton-fresh nonchalance), is a 15-year-old boy who was born in the sixties, grew up with Nixon, protests and bogus containment wars…

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resident-evil-the-final-chapter-picturesRESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER
40
The Resident Evil film franchise has been a paradox ever since the first film, despite an all round critical-panning, smashed it’s 102.4 million US dollars at the box office in 2002. At once, Resident Evil lovingly paid homage to the legendary video-game series on which it is based (recreating the mansion and many in-game moments shot for shot) and at the same time disregarded it in favour of pursuing an entirely different storyline. Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine, the heroes of the first Resident Evil game, never made it to that first film. Instead, we follow Alice (Milla Jovovich), a character of Paul W. S. Anderson’s own devising: an Umbrella employee once charged with defending the Hive, a secret underground lab for experimental viral weaponry, now turned against her former employers…

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sing-4SING
40
If you want to spend a night bored and watching large, obscure animals singing crazy renditions of pop classics… then X-Factor is probably your best bet. However, if you want an evening filled with fun, laughter and a fantastic soundtrack belted out by some of Tinsel Town’s best and brightest then book a VIP seat at your local picture show, grab the 3D shades and kick back with the popcorn…

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trainspotting2-headerT2 TRAINSPOTTING
40
Here’s a free piece of advice to everyone out there: When the hazmat-suited scientist pushes you roughly into the cryogenics chamber and says, “When do you want to wake up?” Say, “When World Peace is achieved and we all live in a currency-free utopia.”…

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jackieheaderJACKIE
40
I admire directors who take on biopics, and the actors tasked with portraying their subjects. It must be a challenge to tell a story which has already been thoroughly told, and to give a performance which is simultaneously accurate and compelling and respectful, all while attempting to justify the film’s mere existence by doing something different with the source material, making it original in some way…

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christine-3CHRISTINE
40
On July 15th, 1974 – Christine Chubbuck, an American news reporter that worked for WTOG and WXLT-TV in Florida, committed suicide live on air using a revolver. That morning, Chubbuck covered three national news stories and then a shooting from the previous day at local restaurant ‘Beef and Bottle’, at the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport…

silence_headerSILENCE
40
Silence is not an easy film to watch. Its lack of driving soundtrack, intense religiosity, significant length and unusual pacing make it feel alien at times, almost like watching a film entirely in another language. However, it is this dissonant, unorthodox quality that makes it shine and that allows its emotional punch to be delivered with such quiet power.

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la-la-bannerLA LA LAND
40
“Here’s to the ones who dream, Foolish as they may seem.” The world presented in La La Land is one of beautiful surrealism and reflecting “what if’s”, where the outstretched hands of the talented struggle to grasp onto the future they’ve long been hoping for.

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brent-bannerDAVID BRENT: LIFE ON THE ROAD
1-out-of-5
Life in The Well isn’t so bad. The first few months were hard but once I’d arranged things and got everything how I wanted it, I was pretty comfortable. The only problem is entertainment. The only things that fall into The Well are small animals and the occasional discarded crisp packet so I have to be pretty open minded when it comes to entertainment. Crisp crumbs are a welcome break from raw squirrel though. Today, some careless passer-by dropped an Amazon gift voucher so that opened things up a bit. The voucher was for £4.45 so I would have to think carefully. After much deliberation I decided on “David Brent: Life on the Road” (2016).

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passengers-moviePASSENGERS
3-out-of-5
Passengers is a curious film. If I asked you the question: ‘What goes plink, plink, fizz?’ Your brain would likely whir and buzz for a few seconds like an old, lumbering Windows ’95 PC booting up, before your mouth receptacle flapped open and replied something derivative along the lines of, ‘Alka-Seltzer,’ or ‘Berocca’ – some tablet designed to relieve a terrible hangover or indigestion. Am I right? Was that your answer? I bet it was. It is the New Year after all, so that distinct sound is still resonating deeply in your mind, you alcoholic cretin…

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img_6342ROGUE ONE: STAR WARS STORY
3-out-of-5
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll enjoy Rogue One. All the fundamental pieces are set in place: there’s an eclectic cast, solid archetypes, acute attention to detail for the iconic Star Wars mythos, dizzying dog fight battles that play like a cross between old news footage of spitfires during World War Two and the twinkling stars you might see while suffering an unexpected blow to the back of the head – it’s all here…

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sullySULLY
3-out-of-5
Clint Eastwood as director cum political figure is jokingly comparable to Sylvester Groth’s Goebbels the filmmaker in Inglorious Basterds. I say jokingly because no, I’m not actually doing THAT to Eastwood. I’m referring to the incessant flag waving that’s been draped over his filmmaking since, at least, 2014’s American Sniper, and what he’s clearly identified as the need for average American heroes in a culture already obsessed with hero worship. In Sully, Eastwood’s directing style, renowned for its efficiency, contrasts nicely with the film’s negative portrayal of blame-the-little-guy bureaucratic nonsense. But even that’s been slammed as a misrepresentation of the actual investigation into the actual actions of the actual pilots after the actual plane crash…

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nocturnal-animals-main-headerNOCTURNAL ANIMALS
40
Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals left me shaken, staggering into the falling night, somewhat disheveled as if I’d been either fast asleep or got into a fight during the movie. But this is the 3pm screening at Everyman in posh Surrey, fights don’t belong here and as for sleeping, neither me nor the seven other people in the theatre would even consider it as we all sit on the edge of our hipster sofas, holding our breath, overpriced chips cooling, diet cokes flattening while on the screen, the brilliant thriller unfolds….

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fantasticFANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
40
You should see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them if A) you’re a child or B) you’re still a child. Did you answer B? Course you did. You’re an emotional wreck, and 2016 is still yet to be easy. But if, like me, you love Harry potter and expanded universes, then FBAWTFT will help….

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army-of-one-movie-headerARMY OF ONE
40
In the lead up to Christmas, we’re once again inundated with consumer marketplace tat that we don’t need and don’t want. There are the inevitable Christmas DFS ads that will be rammed down our throats every twenty minutes during Coronation Street, proclaiming that the SALE IS NOW ON! The actors involved will bellow at us like the guy from the Cillet Bang commercials to BUY! BUY! BUY! So we’ll pick up our remote control and hurl it at our recently purchased 4K TV set, before dropping to our knees weeping, because we know…we know that in the dark recesses of our minds in the end, it doesn’t really matter, none of it really matters: we’re getting older and soon we’re going to wither away and die. Our destiny consists of thinning hair and liver spots. Maybe dialysis if we’re lucky….

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arrival-long-posterARRIVAL
40
Arrival is the next Science Fiction blockbuster on the block – or so I thought. Much in the same way that the trailer for Inception chose to focus on its more Hollywood elements: explosions, spectacle, conflict, so too the trailer for Arrivalis something of a red-herring. Arrival is science fiction, but in the true sense: thoughtful, introspective, mind-bending and concerned with the future of human existence and how technology might influence that. Even the title is something of a double-meaning when we realize the hidden aspects of the narrative…

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daniel-blake-headerI, DANIEL BLAKE
40
Welcome to Broken Britain 2016. We open on a black screen. What follows next is an increasingly frustrating phone call between Daniel Blake (played by comedian Dave Johns) and an apathetic-sounding healthcare worker, monotonously reeling off a generic tick-box list as to whether he can lift his arms above his head and other basic motor actions. It is a small interaction within the narrative of the film as a whole, but vehemently exemplifies the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of our welfare state with cringe-worthy comedy and horror…

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asabove-headerAS ABOVE, SO BELOW
3-out-of-5
It’s a rare thing that in 2016 the ‘found-footage’ junk pile can still surprise audiences with a strong premise, ‘As Above, So Below,’ manages to buck the trend of the cliché and deliver a memorably exciting, eccentric and at some points surreal take on the genre…

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girl-on-train-headerTHE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
2-out-of-5
If you’ve ever been drunk on the commute (guilty) you’ll agree that time comes to a standstill and as soon as you find a seat to park your drunken ass, the warm fuzz from too many beers will turn into a tedious mix of trying to look sober, staying awake and forgetting that the beautiful man you were chatting up was in fact a pimply female sporting a monobrow…

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the-forest-poster-3THE FOREST
3-out-of-5
In the early 2000’s, Japanese horror was at its pinnacle – films like ‘Ju-On: The Curse,’ ‘The Eye,’ ‘Audition,’ ‘Dark Water’ and ‘Pulse,’ to name a few, were all carving their marks and unleashing a refreshing, eerie form of terror in the horror marketplace. Of course, the western world needed to seize upon this growing trend of horror like a sweaty fat kid snatching a lollipop away from his emancipated cousin at a family gathering, and the inevitable reboots were made to appeal to audiences that couldn’t be bothered reading subtitles, so the eeriness factor was toned down instead to simply regurgitate clichéd film tropes with jump scares-a-plenty, typically made by a jarring string note at such a high decibel that only dogs and whales could hear them…

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nightcrawler-posterNIGHTCRAWLER
40
Horror is changing. It’s a natural progression. Generic conventions are stretched and adapted with each entry. Each new writer, director, actor, producer brings something distinctive to the table that challenges or appropriates different techniques and tropes, and so, the genre evolves over time…

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the-shallows-movie-poster1THE SHALLOWS
2-out-of-5
Surfing alone on a paradisaical beach that you don’t know the name of and no one knows you’re there. What could wrong? Well…with a plot seemingly written on tracing paper, ‘The Shallows,’ could be forgiven for being a shark fable, where the only task is: “Don’t get eaten!”…

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rob-zombie-3131
1-out-of-5
Rob Zombie’s directorial efforts are a mixed bag; when ‘House of 1,000 corpses,’ splattered its way into movie theatres, people knew that he was able to smear blood and gratuitous violence across the screen like an overzealous and deranged squeegee worker, but after six films now it can be firmly established that Zombie lacks the technical nuances that make an effective thriller/horror film…

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gwatg-posterTHE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS
40
Few horror movie monsters are as slandered as the zombie. While Dracula, Werewolves, the Creepy Monster hiding under your bed just waiting to grab your ankle and Ethel, the suspiciously kind seventy-year old woman at number 16 command respect, the zombie is never treated as anything other than a shuffling, decaying mess with limbs falling off on the cinema screen…

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dont-breathe-iconDON’T BREATHE
3-out-of-5
During its finer moments, ‘Don’t Breathe,’ presents a tight, atmospheric and claustrophobic home-invasion-gone-wrong experience. It also offers a unique twist on the horror genre of recent memory – films like, ‘It Follows’, ‘Under the Skin’, ‘Kill List’, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ and ‘The Babadook’, all have attempted to reinvent the horror category with genuine tension rather than flat out jump scares, and it seems that Director Fede Alvarez is attempting to galvanise the field by bringing the dread into the future whilst respecting the traditions of old…

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The_Hateful_Eight_SoundHATEFUL EIGHT
40
I had the good fortune of being able to watch Quentin Tarintino’s eighth film, The Hateful Eight, with a group of friends the other week. Once the credits had rolled, the inevitable question of ‘did you enjoy that?’ cropped up. I always ask this question of people when I view movies with them, staring at them with the unblinking intensity of a Vietnam War vet, demanding an answer within ten seconds otherwise it’ll be their turn to pull the trigger on the .36 loaded with one bullet and aimed at their head. That’s the rule. There was a deathly silence in the room, as eyes quizzically looked up at the ceiling to ruminate on the last 168 minutes…

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ROBOT TOP TRUMPS

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TOP 10 DYSTOPIAN FILMS

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T.V.

westworld-header

WESTWORLD

That has been the philosophical question, dangled out in front of docile Joe Public like a metaphorical warped carrot for the last ten weeks during Westworld’s first series. Did the final episode deliver? Mainly yes…but also with a stubborn mule kick of ‘not so much.’…

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THE EXORCIST

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As we enter 2017, I’m reflecting on the vulgar amount of TV I watched last year. I do however have a stand out show from 2016, without any shadow of a doubt it’s The Exorcist. Along with Zombie apocalypses, movies of demons and possessions seem to be appearing more frequently than Nick Fury and Stan Lee combined on the big screen. So that explains why this script was adapted to be shown on TV rather than in the Movie theatre. Being a huge fan of the original book and to a lesser extent the Movies (not the second one, watching that feels like getting Tabasco sauce in your eyes) I was always going to be intrigued.

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