The Martlet didn’t see quite as many films as we’d like to this year, and many of the ones we did were, frankly, pretty underwhelming. (Just ask Cormac.) But that’s not to say 2016 was a complete bust; here are just a few of our favourites, with a list of honourable mentions at the end.
“Hang on,” you say. “Didn’t this movie suck total ass and nearly tank DC’s plans for its own superhero cinematic universe?” Well, yes. But go into it with the right mindset, and you’ll see there’s far more ironic enjoyment to be gleaned from this glistening turd than there is earnest enjoyment from anything else released this year. Yes, characters are haphazardly introduced, and more than once. And nobody’s motivations make any sense. But when a tracksuit-wearing human alligator hunkers down on all fours to scuttle into battle, you’ll be hard-pressed to care.—Myles Sauer
Science fiction has often been combined with other genres: add some horror, and you get Alien; drama, and you get Close Encounters of the Third Kind; a torture video from some underground CSIS chamber, and you get the Star Wars Holiday Special. But lately, science fiction has become just another form of action movie. Star Trek, Star Wars, Independence Day — action movies with lasers. Arrival is different, using the genre to introduce the concept of ‘alien’ in order to reflect back on what ‘human’ means—a concept that the characters in the film and the audience both have to grapple with. It’s a film about language, not lasers. You need to take the time to see it—unless you will, and therefore already have.—Cormac O’Brien
HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE
By far the funniest movie you (probably) haven’t seen this year, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a surprise treat for cinema lovers. But if you’ve seen director and screenwriter Taika Waititi’s previous works, including What We Do in the Shadows, it really shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) turns in an excellent performance as a curmudgeonly old farmer, but it’s Julian Dennison as the film’s young lead, Ricky Baker, who steals the show. Even when shit gets real, Wilderpeople is heartwarming, charming, and, again, hilarious. Choose the skux life; you won’t regret it.—Myles Sauer
Thirteen long years after a little fish named Nemo captured the hearts of kids and parents alike, Pixar finally gifted us with its sequel, Finding Dory. Featuring a cast of Hollywood superstars, including American sweethearts Ellen DeGeneres and Idris Elba, the film manages to captivate a brand-new audience of kids with an original plot and a host of new characters, while grabbing older audiences with the same nostalgia used to great effect in the Toy Story sequels. Finding Dory is the feel-good family movie 2016 deserved, because if there’s one message we all needed this year, it’s to just keep swimming.—Leone Brander
MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
I know what you’re thinking—how could a film that came out in 2015 be the best action blockbuster of 2016? Because it’s just that good. It had a more original plot than Independence Day:
Repackaging Resurgence. It had a more engaging antagonist than X-Men: Apocalypse, Jason Bourne, and Ghostbusters combined. It didn’t rely on inexplicable plot twists (Star Trek Beyond), had far fewer superheros than Captain America: Civil War and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and didn’t have a single character with their own name tattooed to their chest. (If you don’t know which film this is, just be glad.) Mad Max had nothing bad and everything great. It was the best blockbuster last year, this year, and every year . . . until Cars 3 comes out.—Cormac O’Brien
Honourable mentions: Hail, Caesar!, Hell or High Water (read our review here), 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Witch.