14 Great Films That Never Made It To The Movies In 2016 (And Where You Can Watch Them Now)
Australian cinemas knocked back a film with Key & Peele and a kitten. For shame.
Movies! We love them, but boy are there a lot! So many in fact that cinemas can’t fit them all. And with ticket prices costing more than ever, who can blame filmmakers, producers and distributors skipping the big screen and going direct to the audience’s living room.
‘Back in the day’ (so, like, the 1990s), for a movie to premiere direct-to-video implied that it was cheap and shoddy and not worth your time. Now thanks to the advent of streaming and online rental services, all sorts of titles are premiering on home entertainment without an ounce of shame.
Sadly, this sometimes mean they get lost in the shuffle, and even if they star big celebrities, they don’t get the coverage they deserve. So we’re here today to round up just some of the movies that bypassed theatres in 2016 that maybe you didn’t realise were waiting to be watched right now. Trust me, they’re all much better than Assassin’s Creed.
For Those Who Want a New Kris Kringle Classic: Krampus
Despite being a yuletide season box office hit in America and starring ‘Australia’s own’ Toni Collette, this horror comedy skipped a local release. It’s a shame because the film is a hoot filled with delightfully grotesque demonic creations (giant clown-faced jack-in-the-box) and some humorously violent sequences (gingerbread men with a nailgun!) to go alongside the nutty sense of humour.
Sure, it would be even better if Tim Burton had made it in 1991 and lent it a distinctly suburban gothic look to go alongside its anti-corporation twist, but if you need a fresh addition to your Christmas horror movie marathons alongside Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night and Gremlins, then Krampus will do the trick.
For Those Who Want an Education on Race: 13th and 3½ Minutes, 10 Bullets
There were a lot of documentaries about America’s tragic history with race this year, but for an all-consuming overview look no further than Ava DuVernay’s impactful 13th. What it lacks in formal invention, it makes up for by having stone-cold experts like Van Jones and Angela Davis among the talking heads. Unsurprisingly, 13th is the frontrunner for this year’s documentary Oscar.
If that’s not enough, then 3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets, which examines the death of a black teenager in Florida under the state’s maligned “Stand Your Ground” defence, is another must-see for the upcoming age of Trump. A tell-tale sign of things to come.
For People Who Want to See the ‘Real Australia’: Pauline Hanson: Please Explain!
Speaking of Trump, let’s not forget we have our own country hanging on the precipice of ‘revolutionary’ political disaster. Anna Broinowski is one of Australia’s premiere documentarians and recently won an AACTA Award for her direction of this captivating documentary about Pauline Hanson’s political history and her 2016 senate bid. She was also the only documentarian who was smart enough to see the change in the winds towards Hanson’s favour. The resulting movie is a vision as nightmarish as it is ridiculous.
For Anybody Needing Something to Watch with Mum: I’ll See You In My Dreams
Blythe Danner stars as Carol Petersen, a widow whose closest company is her dog, but who is given a new lease on life thanks to two very different types of friendship: one with the young pool cleaner, Martin Starr (yes, the one from Silicon Valley), the other with the moustachioed romancer, Sam Elliott. Smart and never patronising — plus with more than its fair share of pathos — Brett Haley’s I’ll See You In My Dreams is a perfect film to play over the Christmas holidays with your mum if you’ve finished Grace and Frankie’s second season.
I’ll See You in My Dreams is available on iTunes.
For When You Can’t Get Enough of RuPaul’s Drag Race: Hurricane Bianca
Winner of Drag Race’s sixth season, Bianca Del Rio aka Roy Haylock, stars in this ridiculous and silly, but ultimately very fun comedy about a high school biology teacher fired for being gay who returns in drag to take her revenge and maybe enlighten a few along the way.
Matt Kugelman’s film was funded by fans through Indiegogo and is occasionally spotty in its laughs, but fans of Bianca Del Rio won’t want to miss their favourite insult factory. She tears through this small Texas town like Thelma and Louise in a wig and heels. To the delight of everyone, fellow drag superstars RuPaul, Willem, Shangela, and Alyssa Edwards also feature.
For Those Who Love Anime: Miss Hokusai
Okay, I’m cheating here — this animated biopic of sorts isn’t out on home entertainment until the second week of January. But it would be a shame for fans of the history of Japanese artists like Katsushika Hokusai (you know his most famous work: The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, recreated here to glorious effect) to miss this beautifully drawn anime set in Edo (now Tokyo) of the 1800s, which is a red-hot Oscar contender.
Told through the eyes of Hokusai’s daughter as she attempts to forge a destiny of her own out of her father’s shadow, Miss Hokusai is animation for adults that packs an emotional punch.
Miss Hokusai is available on iTunes from January 11.
For Those Who Can’t Get Enough of Brit-rock: Oasis: Supersonic
Music documentaries are a dime a dozen these days, but Mat Whitecross — known primarily for his collaborations with Michael Winterbottom — has focused Oasis: Supersonic exclusively on the Manchester rock band’s ascent over their first three years as they go from burgeoning musicians to international superstars.
Using only archival footage and narration from those in and around the band, it chronicles Oasis’ story in an entertaining fashion that doesn’t shy away from the Gallagher brothers’ brash and egotistical personalities.
For Those Who Need a Good Fright: Hush
If you’re looking for a slasher with a nifty spin on the home invasion thriller — think The Strangers meets Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark — with a kick-ass Strong Female Lead then Mike Flanagan’s Hush should do the trick. With enough inventiveness up its sleeve, this brisk horror is perfect Friday night fright fodder. Certainly more so than another Netflix exclusive, I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, which — despite its fun title — is inert and a yawn when it thinks it is being atmospheric.
Hush is available Netflix.
For Those Who Want a Charming Aussie Comedy: Drama
An Australian-made comedy that’s actually funny is rare these days, so you should embrace Sophie Mathisen’s Drama. Filmed in Paris, Drama is actually Mathisen’s thesis film and was filmed across three levels of an apartment building owned by the parents of her film’s focus puller.
More than just a win for ingenuity, Mathisen (who stars, writes and directs) has on-screen charisma for days, and works wonders with co-star Jonathan Burteaux in the story of struggling twenty-somethings.
For Those Who Just Love Nature So Much: Into the Inferno
Werner Herzog rebounds from the disappointing Lo and Behold with this extraordinary glimpse at not just volcanoes, but their importance to the history of the world and to its future. Travelling the globe, Herzog and nerdy but endearing volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer act like giddy schoolkids and in one captivating sequence even discover what could potentially be the dawn of man mere millimetres under the surface in Africa.
Into the Inferno is available on Netflix.
For Those Who Want to See a Different Side of France: Saint Laurent and Divines
Saint Laurent is a decadent and super-stylish biopic about Yves Saint Laurent. Fashion, pills, and glamorous people are what it’s all about (plus some very cute dogs, just beware the overdose scene!) in this lush epic from legendary French director Bertrand Bonello and starring Gaspard Ulliel.
Much different is Houda Benyamina’s Divines which paints a grimier, but no less stunning portrait of a Paris we rarely get to see. With films comparable in ways to certified brilliant movies Girlhood and The Class, Divines was just nominated for a Golden Globe.
For Those Who Need More Key and Peele: Keanu
Key. Peele. A cat named ‘Keanu’. Nuff said.
Keanu is available on iTunes.
Glenn Dunks is a freelance writer from Melbourne. He also works as an editor and a film festival programmer while tweeting too much at @glenndunks.