Peter Spann reviews his top ten film picks of 2016 so far.  “A year of joy, sadness, explosive drama, dancing on air and all that jazz…”

 

  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

If you haven’t seen this delightful NZ film yet do yourself a favour and carve out 2 hours of your life and watch it.  From the opening scene that is artfully set up under the credits you know you are in good hands, and the laughs (and tears) keep rolling.  It’s smart but never self-aware and shows what a versatile and wonderful actor Sam Neil is, also introducing Julian Dennison as the films overweight, wannabe-gangster juvenile delinquent.  Perfect!

 

  1. La La Land

Glorious, luminous, big hearted, bitter sweet, pure cinematic joy.  Two star crossed lovers (Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) sing, dance and float through LA and Paris proving a Cinemascope reverie to nostalgia.

 

  1. Hacksaw Ridge

Mr Gibson’s return to form.  This is not a movie, it is an emotional experience.  With enough distance on WW2 it perfectly illustrates the futility of war while at the same time reminds us of the hope of human spirit without the smultch and flag-waving from American war movies.

 

  1. Arrival

Amy Adams proves her acting chops in this many faceted sci-fi which is really about connection and love.  It lays the groundwork for its big reveal at the end without ever pandering to the audience or fully flagging what will happen.

 

  1. The Nice Guys

In this thoroughly amusing 1970s neo-noir comedy, Ryan Gosling is a bumbling private investigator who finds himself paired with Russell Crowe’s for-hire enforcer on a case involving a missing girl and a dead porn star. If the premise alone isn’t enough to get you interested its perfect replica of 1970’s LA will.

 

  1. Manchester by the Sea

Grim, dark and moving this sucker punch of a drama manages the not-inconsiderable feat of finding consistent humor amidst so much despair.  Career defining performances by Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams adds to the appeal.

 

  1. Moonlight

Sensitive, subtle, intense and complex, it’s a triumph of both expressive direction and nuanced, heart-rending performance.

 

  1. The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino’s snowbound western, in which copious bloodletting results after a motley group of travellers are stranded at a roadhouse. It is horribly violent, exhilaratingly intelligent, discursive and sinewy – brutal and cerebral in this director’s signature ludic style.

 

  1. Eye in the Sky

As taught as it is timely, Eye in the Sky offers a powerfully acted (Helen Mirren no less, Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad,” Need for Speed), Academy Award (R) Nominee Barkhad Abdi (Captain Philips), Iain Glen (“Game of Thrones,” Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and the late Alan Rickman (Die Hard, Harry Potter) in his final on-screen performance.  Told in real time it will keep you on the edge of your seat.

 

  1. The Shallows

I might cop it for this one but Time magazine agrees… In Jaume Collet-Serra’s smart, tense woman-vs.-nature thriller, ace surfer Blake Lively outwits a great and terrible creature of the deep. Sometimes the greatest movie pleasures have nothing to do with awards bait. To mangle one of Jean-Luc Godard’s favourite maxims: All you need for a movie is a girl and a shark.