It’s officially Spring! Apart from the fact that it’s warming up, this means that the American summer blockbuster season is finally over, bringing an end to what was a less than stellar round of some of the year’s biggest films (don’t worry, there’s still the Christmas slate). However, as we move into a hopefully more impressive season of dramas (including Sully, Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children and The Accountant), let’s take a more positive look at the first half of the year. It wasn’t all bad, was it? Here’s my list of my top five favourite films of the year so far (all of which I happen to have rated either 9 or 10/10):
- Spotlight (9/10)
This year’s Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards, Spotlight is by far one of the most intense movies I’ve seen. The true story of a journalistic expose of the systematic epidemic of child abuse within the Catholic Church, Spotlight has everything: a horrifying, gripping story, with a tight, tense script, thoughtful yet understated direction and a great cast (Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo) giving even greater performances (Mark Ruffalo should have won Best Supporting Actor!). Morgan Freeman may have been surprised when it won The Oscar for Best Picture, but I was over the moon: it is by far one of the best films I’ve ever seen.
- Zootopia (9/10)
Talk about a change of pace! Zootopia was Disney’s first outing of the year, about small town bunny Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) who moves to the big city of Zootopia to become a cop, and, with the help of unlikely fox friend Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman, the epitome of cool in this role), works to uncover a missing persons case that may be more controversial than expected. But you probably already knew that: Zootopia was the first film this year to join the billion dollar film club, one of only four animated films to do so. And with good reason; more than just about a bunny becoming a cop, Zootopia tackles ideas about prejudice and can be at times quite dark, with a few dark jokes thrown into the mix (Classic Disney). But it never loses the charm and innocence that makes it a great kids film, whilst appealing to adults at the same time, giving it a spot in my top five.
- Captain America: Civil War (9/10)
In a year of huge superhero showdowns, The Russo Brothers showed us how to do it right. As easily two of Marvel’s best directors, they so perfectly mixed the thrilling actions with great humour, in a story ripe with political conflict. After the disastrous events of Sokovia, Tony Stark’s guilt drives him to make the Avengers more politically accountable for their actions, but Steve Rogers, conflicted over the return of once-best-friend-turned-assassin Bucky Barnes, is compelled more by his own moral compass and a newfound distrust of the establishment. Such a complex plot, combined with the introduction of some brilliant new characters (the brilliant Black Panther, amazing Ant-Man and superb Spider-Man), and the return of most of our favourite characters, should make for quite an overloaded film, but the Russos do it justice, with everyone getting just enough screen time and story to make us come back next time. As if we wouldn’t.
- Hunt for the Wilderpeople (9/10)
The only new local(ish) film I’ve seen all year just so happens to be one of my favourite antipodean films of all time. Hunt for the Wilderpeople sees foster child and resident “gangster” Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) go on the run in the New Zealand bush with his foster carer Uncle Hec (a wonderfully grouchy Sam Neill). What ensues is wonderful chaos: from goofy ministers to psycho conspiracy-theorists, topped off with a pointless car chase to rival even that of Mad Max: Fury Road, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of the most charming films of the year. And, with its brilliant cult director Takia Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows, Boy) directing Marvel’s next film Thor: Ragnarok, we can expect even greater things to come.
- Kubo and the Two Strings (10/10)
My most recent review, Kubo and the two Strings, is just one of those movies that is not seen, but experienced. Created by stop-motion studio Laika, this is a fairy-tale set in Ancient Japan, where a young boy named Kubo (Art Parkinson), aided by a talking Monkey (Charlize Theron), a warrior beetle (Matthew McConaughey) and his magical shamisen, must go on a journey to finish his late father’s quest. The cleverly simple yet wonderfully intricate story is accompanied by breathtaking stop-motion animation and an emotive soundtrack (featuring the shamisen, of course), and this, plus such a strong voice cast, brings Kubo to life in a way that will give you goosebumps. Pixar has some strict competition at the Oscars next year.
After a pretty lacklustre last couple of months, my hopes are set high for the next few months to come! But there have still been a number of great films that have come out this year so far, so let me know what your favourites were in the comments.
Images taken from IMDb.com: