The #CultureClub Review: The Best Movies in 2016

Love and Friendship

Love and Friendship is based on Jane Austen’s novel Lady Susan, and in many ways it’s typical of an Austen story. Kate Beckinsale plays Lady Susan Vernon, a manipulative, seductive woman who is willing to do basically anything to win the man she wants. Drama ensues, with ornate costumes to match. Much credit to director Whit Stillman, who manages to capture the manners and detail of the period while making the story itself feel somewhat timeless. For a historical flick, it’s surprisingly funny, and there’s a sense that the characters are aware just how ridiculous their actions are. Add it to your queue immediately.

A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash is a pensive, European-feeling indie that follows Marianne, a rock star (Tilda Swinton), and her boyfriend as they vacation on an Italian island. They’re joined by her ex, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), and his seductive daughter, played by an especially on-point Dakota Johnson, and the latecomers disrupt the peaceful summer dynamic. Think sex, jealousy, and half-naked bodies laying in the sun; ultimately, the sleepy movie becomes something more thrilling. Swinton is always a joy to watch and her musician character here is reminiscent of David Bowie. To say too much more would spoil this thoroughly enjoyable film. What we can tell you is that Fiennes has a dynamite dance scene: You’ll never see Voldemort the same way again

Bad Moms 2

Bad Moms is an important inclusion here, not because it’s the world’s most amazing movie (it isn’t), but because it acknowledges that motherhood is hilarious. Despite the title, this movie, starring Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn, and Kristen Bell, is one of the year’s most laugh-out-loud comedies. If it has anything to say, it’s “Nobody’s perfect” and “Don’t judge.” Forget what other parents are thinking at school drop-off. The news that a Bad Dads sequel is coming next year is concerning, though. Isn’t that just every other comedy movie?

Don’t Think Twice

Can your dreams change as you get older? Mike Birbiglia’s bittersweet comedy takes on this question in the unforgiving context of show business. In Don’t Think Twice, a group of improv actors, played by an ensemble of real comedic performers including Keegan-Michael Key and Gillian Jacobs, have been waiting for their big break for years. Birbiglia is interested in whether we can know when it’s time to pack it up and move on, and whether putting in the hours and effort will ever pay off. There are as many questions here as there are answers, and the movie’s ideas transcend the improv world.

Everybody Wants Some

Richard Linklater has an uncanny understanding of the school experience. As we’ve seen in films likeBoyhood, he just knows what it’s like to be young and walking through the hallways feeling judged and different. In this case, he takes on freshman year of college. This 1980s period piece is fun and kicky, with an overall vibe guaranteed to make you super nostalgic, and a feelgood note we recognised from Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. The cast, which includes Blake Jenner and Zoey Deutch, is a pleasure to watch. Everybody Wants Some hasn’t received as much attention as Boyhood, but it deserves to.

Hello, My Name Is Doris

Sally Field’s return in Hello, My Name Is Doris is a truly welcome one. The actress glows as a lonely hoarder who falls in love with a young hipster from her office. There’s real delight in watching Field play Doris’s surprise that people like her for who she is. It’s a movie about being yourself, but also about knowing when you need to make a change and push yourself in a new direction. Equal parts joyful and sad, Doris’s characters feel oh so human, a rarity in recent silver screen forays. But most of all, we will pretty much watch Field in anything. Really.

The Nice Guys

For some reason, not a lot of moviegoers saw Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe’s hilarious detective caper, but The Nice Guys is truly one of the most entertaining movies of the year. The pair play private eyes in 1970s Los Angeles who team up to solve the mysterious death of a porn star. It’s violent, ridiculous, and so much fun, especially as Gosling’s Holland March and Crowe’s Jackson Healy banter and bicker with each other. Bonus points go to actress Angourie Rice, who plays March’s daughter, Holly; her fast-talking wit easily makes her the film’s best character. Director Shane Black, who previously made Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3, gives the movie a stylish edge (you’ll covet the costumes). Also: Did we mention it stars Ryan Gosling?

The Wave

There are disaster movies, and then there is this disaster movie, which was first released in Norway last year. After a 250-foot-high tidal wave, a geologist and his family brace for survival. Nice and simple. No apocalypses, aliens, or zombies here (not that there’s anything wrong with those). Instead, The Wave tells a more intimate—and in some ways, more terrifying—story. Will there be enough time for the family to escape? Will they make it out alive? Let’s just say that if you have nightmares about massive walls of water afterwards, we won’t blame you.

The Witch

The Witch first terrified audiences at Sundance in early 2015 and finally got wider distribution earlier this year. Starring newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy, the movie is set in 17th-century New England, and follows a Puritan family who encounter a supernatural being in the woods. Without relying on the overly bloody aesthetic typical of current horror flicks, it’s still dark and carefully paced. Instead, The Witch is more psychologically affecting. It also has the feel of an instant classic, perhaps because it’s painstakingly historically accurate. There’s a slow build, but after watching this one, you may never sleep again. Or, at least, you may never sleep in the vicinity of the woods again.