2016 has been a pretty good year for film. Over the year, we’ve watched (and subsequently reviewed) some real crackers, including the likes of Room, Goodnight Mommy, Creed, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Inevitably, some fall through the cracks.
Just The Verdict is our way of giving quick takes on a number of films over the course of the past year that we may have missed out on doing a full review for.
So, without further ado, here’s our first batch of swift reviews.
Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s wuxia tale is possibly the most beautifully shot film of the year.
Despite a somewhat opaque plot (requiring pre-reading to fully appreciate the nuance) The Assassin is an otherwise pretty great folk tale, with some very good central performances to boot.
For those wishing to do the pre-reading, this link should help: http://mikefahey.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/cheat-sheet-for-hou-hsiao-hsiens.html
4 / 5
Before The Flood
Before the Flood is a collaborative climate change documentary from Fisher Stevens, Leonardo DiCaprio, James Packer, Brett Ratner, Trevor Davidovski and Jennifer Davisson Killoran.
Equally educational and moving, this is the film An Inconvenient Truth should have been. DiCaprio is a likeable host, and the scope of the documentary surprising – with interviewees ranging from the poverty stricken most affected by climate change, right up to the most powerful people in the world, including Barack Obama and The Pope.
4 / 5
A Bigger Splash
Luca Guadagnino’s remake of 1969’s La Piscine had a lot going for it on paper, but a strong performance from Ralph Fiennes isn’t able to elevate this to anything newsworthy.
Despite being labelled as a psychological drama and dark comedy, there’s little evidence to suggest many of these descriptions are accurate. There’s little humour, and what drama exists isn’t overly interesting. A single plot thread that threatens inject some thrills into proceedings is mishandled. For Fiennes aficionados only.
2.5 / 5
Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie
Our favourite awkwarder documentary maker tackles the highly secretive topic of Scientology.
A genuinely interesting piece, if not quite the big expose that may be desired (Theroux manages to get a handful of ex-members to speak to/help him, but no one currently active within the organisation). Certain aspects are genuinely terrifying, and the re-enactments are an interesting way to try and show to the audience how these allegedly transpired.
3.5 / 5
An interesting, and pretty enjoyable film about a boy who has some kind of supernatural abilities, who is being hunted down both the US Government and some kind of cult.
Curiously, the film starts with them already on the run, and the audience is left to piece together bits of the story as they go. The only real gripe some may have is that it is a little understated as a thriller (though, admittedly, it was marketed more as a mystery film).
3.5 / 5
The Ones Below
Clemence Poesy and Stephen Campbell Moore play a couple who are expecting their first child. David Morrissey and Laura Birn play their newly moved in neighbours, who are also expecting a child. Saying too much more will spoil the plot.
A deeply unsettling film, with good performances from the four principal cast members, The Ones Below pays homage to the paranoid Hitchcockian films of yore.
4 / 5
Zootropolis / Zootopia
Zootopia (renamed Zootropolis for some unknown – probably silly – reason here in the UK) joins the ranks of last year’s Inside Out and this year’s Kubo & The Two Strings as quality animations that appeal to children and adults alike. All three know how to keep the attention span of the young, whilst subtly deal with mature themes and feelings. Here, it is social inclusion and the combating of xenophobic rhetoric.
Possibly second only to Kubo in the animation game this year.
4 / 5