Selecting the year’s most worthwhile films is always a challenge. Here is a list of dozen from a range of genres, with something for everyone.
Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Shakira
A fabulously successful Disney production with brilliant animation, Zootopia details the unlikely partnership between a rabbit police officer and a red fox con artist as they uncover a conspiracy which involves the disappearance of predators in a mammalian metropolis. Highly entertaining for the whole family
Eye in the Sky
Directed by Gavin Hood
Starring Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman
Helen Mirren stars as a UK-based military officer in command of a top secret drone operation to capture terrorists in Kenya. Through remote surveillance and on-the-ground intel, she discovers that the targets are planning a suicide bombing and the mission escalates from “capture” to “kill.” But as the American pilot is about to engage, a nine-year old girl enters the kill zone. This triggers a dispute between US and UK operatives over the moral, political, and personal implications of modern warfare. Gut-wrenching and honest.
Kubo and the Two Strings
Directed by Travis Knight
Voices of Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes
A huge critical hit, this American film about Japanese mythology is quirky and fun. Clever, kindhearted Kubo ekes out a living telling stories to the people of his seaside town. But his quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. On the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey and Beetle, and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known.
La La Land
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt
An exhilarating homage to the great musicals of the 1930s, set in contemporary Hollywood. A wannabee actress falls in love with a jazz pianist and things take off from there. Wonderful rich colours make LA look like a dream world; the choreography is dazzling; the musical score is wonderful.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, expert linguist Louise Banks has to interpret their language. Are they friend or foe? World governments fear that the silent space ships have hostile intentions and prepare for war. Louise races to interpret the aliens’ mysterious symbols. An intriguing and cerebral fllm.
Fire at Sea (Fuocoammare)
Directed by Gianfranco Rosi
This riveting documentary was shot on the island of Lampedusa, 150 miles south of Sicily, during the European refugee crisis. It contrasts the perilous Mediterranean crossing in overloaded boats with the ordinary life of the islanders. The main characters are a 12-year-old lad from a local fishing family and a doctor who treats the migrants when they disembark, weary, sick, frightened and sometimes dead.
Our Little Sister
Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring Haruka Ayase, Masami Nagasawa, Kaho, Suzu Hirose
Three sisters live together in a large house in the city of Kamakura. When their deadbeat dad, who abandoned them years before, dies, they travel to the countryside for his funeral and meet a shy teenage half-sister. Bonding quickly with the orphan, they invite her to live with them. A slow, meditative, film, Our Little Sister creates characters so realistic and sympathetic that they seem part of your own life.
Queen of Katwe
Directed by Mira Nair
Starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga
This is a wonderfully inspiring film about following your dreams – and a true story to boot. Phiona Mutesi is a young girl selling corn in a slum in Uganda. Though barely literate, she discovers that she is a superbly talented chess player. The girl from the slums drags her family out of poverty and becomes an unlikely international champion.
Captain America: Civil War
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Starring Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson
Captain America is leading the Avengers in their efforts to safeguard humanity. But after collateral damage in one incident, political pressure mounts to install a system of accountability with a governing body to oversee and direct the team. The Avengers split into two camps, libertarian superheroes led by Captain America and law-abiding superheroes led by Iron Man. In a climactic battle at an airport they go mano a mano. If you are looking for something new here, move on. If you’re looking for a great Marvel adventure, tune in.
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney
If you making a film about understated heroism, you could not get a better team than Clint Eastwood and Tom Hanks. On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 lost both engines shortly after taking off from La Guardia Airport in New York. Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger successfully landed his plane with 155 people on the Hudson River. A wonderful tribute to training, professionalism and courage.
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton
The quirky but talented team of Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo) have created a sparkling spoof of the golden years of Hollywood – or actually one day in those gold years. At the centre is Mr Fix-it, a devout Catholic and family man (supposedly based on a real figure) whose job is to keep the drunken, dim-witted, naughty stars out of the gossip columns. A gang of Communist scriptwriters kidnap the lead star in a sword-and-sandal epic and the starlet in a synchronized swimming film has a baby out of wedlock and so on. Sardonic and hilarious.
And last and least:
Independence Day: Resurgence
Directed by Roland Emmerich
Starring Liam Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Sela Ward
Two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Seriously Bad Alien Dudes have another crack at destroying our planet, this time with an anti-gravity gun. They have a Queen, and the Free World has its first female President, so the film is potentially a feminist classic. Things look desperate for the Earthlings, but President Lanford defiantly says, “You’re screwing with the wrong species.” And in the end, American Good Guys win on Independence Day. This is a spectacularly awful movie, but some people love this sort of stuff. If you are one of them, watch it! Roland Emmerich at his … best and/or worst.