I mentioned in my Tomb Raider review (available here) that that film is a video game movie with the emphasis on the “movie” part. This is the opposite, this is like watching a playthrough on youtube of a game. It’s just sheer balls to the wall fun. This is not a smart movie, and it’s not a movie you need to watch again and again, analysing every frame. But whilst it’s not something you NEED to see again, it is something you’ll WANT to see again, late at night, when you’ve had a bad day and just need something to distract you from the unrelenting horror of modern life.
The cast all know this as well, none of them seem to be taking it seriously, and it’s a much better film for it. Jeffrey Dean Morgan, in particular, seems to be having the time of his life, giving his character a southern drawl and carrying himself in the most entertaining way possible. Let’s face it though, you’re not here to see him be entertaining as hell, you’re here to see CGI monsters destroy shit. And you’re in luck, as the closing third of this is just chaos upon chaos, the kind which last years Geostorm could have used. Surprisingly, the CGI holds up remarkably well. There are one or two brief moments where it looks a bit cartoon-like but other than that they’ve done a great job with making it all seem real. It’s also, really, really funny, having multiple laugh-out-loud moments throughout. Now I’ll admit the laughs aren’t exactly high-brow, but they’re incredibly effective. Who’d have thought a monkey making crude hand gestures would be so funny?
It’s not all good though. The villains are basically as substantial and necessary as the pop tarts one of them eats (although the actors playing them, again, do remarkably well). It’s a shame as I feel they’re just a few scenes away from being entertaining as hell, but they’re just not given enough to do to justify you remembering who they are. There are also three characters introduced at the beginning who disappear after the first act, which is just weird as they’re all introduced with character traits and personalities that could have justified them being there throughout. They’re built up so well and then just disappear. I’m guessing there’s deleted scenes of them somewhere but at the moment it just seems a bit weird, like the scriptwriter just forgot to delete them in his second draft.
It’s also not helped by its rating. It needed to be slightly more visceral. Now I’m not asking for 90 minutes of decapitations and torture porn, but there are some moments where they cut away slightly too early, or have something in the background out of focus that could have looked great in focus. Although you can have great violence in a PG film, a good example of this was The 5th Wave, which featured someone being knocked over by a giant wave. Now instead of having them just knocked off a balcony, it had them knocked off, and their back hit against a railing on the way down. It made it feel more real and painful. This film also has the “you mother f-explosion” thing which WAY too many films have lately and it’s annoying. Just say “fuck”.
So in summary: don’t go out of your way to see it, but do see it if you can. Incredibly fun and joyous. Kind of like Jumanji. And The Rock is hilarious in it, kind of like Jumanji. Actually, this is a lot like Jumanji, only slightly less so.
Because despite the last trailer giving WAY too much away, who isn’t going to see this film? It’s Batman fighting Superman…for at least a third of the film anyway. And despite that trailer there’s still hope. The idea that Batman is turned against Superman because of the chaos he caused in Man of Steel is good screenwriting; it makes sense from a character point and helps bring the films together. The casting is also very solid, with Batfleck actually looking to be one of the best iterations of the Dark Knight yet. But we all still need to take a step back to wait and see whether Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is the trainwreck everyone is HOPING it will be, or whether like Keaton and Ledger before him he will turn in a great performance despite the naysayers. I have no idea, but I at least love how much fun he seems to be having.
Deadpool: February 10
I limited this list to only two superhero films because I didn’t want it to be inundated with them, and I wanted this to be a cut away from a lot of most anticipated lists by not just focusing on the big blockbusters coming our way (but saying that I am looking forward to Civil War and Dr Strange).
Now Deadpool; the reason I chose this over the many superhero flicks of 2016 is because this is by far the riskiest. R rated, fourth wall breaking, X-Men Movie universe expanding, and Ryan Reynolds’ starring; it’s had the best advertising campaign of any superhero film that manages to introduce the character while staying true to his roots, and is being made by people who clearly care deeply about making it an authentic adaptation. So let’s hope all those good intentions don’t pave the way to hell this time.
Hail, Caesar!: February 26
Because it’s the Coen brothers (who I’m not the biggest fan of so not just dick sucking), doing a satire of the golden age of Hollywood with an all-star cast of old (Clooney and Brolin) and new talent (Hill and Tatum), with a the truly Coeny plot about a Charlton Heston type movie star being kidnapped, and the hapless Hollywood fixer who has to find him. It should be a very gaudy picture, with its only hurdle to clear is the early February release date, which could be a) a sign that the Coen’s just don’t give a shit, or b) the studio wants to drop it where no one will see it. We will see.
Everybody Wants Some: May 13
His first film since his cinematic milestone and masterpiece Boyhood, Linklater returns to his stoner roots, with the spiritual sequel to possibly the best hangout film ever, Dazed and Confused; the 70s set stoner comedy that always found the chuckles, but never lost the poignancy of leaving your teenhood behind. This latest outing is set in the 80s and picks up exactly where Boyhood left off (if a few decades earlier) with a group of teens (played by refreshingly unknown actors) integration into their first year of college life and their college baseball team. Now this doesn’t sound that different from your typical stoner/gross out comedy of today, but with Linklater’s sensitive directing and thoughtful mind for youth and character, what sounds like a typical set up will (hopefully) be another timelessly funny and heartfelt film that captures that moment between teenhood, everything else, and who knows what.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: November 18
I like the Harry Potter films about as much as the next guy, I grew up with them. But honestly I might be looking forward to this more than any of those films, because I always found the most fascinating part of them to be the world itself. And now we have a film set in that world, Seventy years before the original films (so in the 20s), set in New York, led by one of the best young British actors working today Eddie Redmayne, and was penned by J.K Rowling herself…I’m shocking myself how game I am for this film, and you all should be too! It’s Harry Potter without Harry Potter!
The Disaster Artist: TBA
The adaption from the unsurprisingly hilarious but surprisingly poignant novel about the making of The Room, the infamously best worst movie ever made, but is really about the friendship between its crazy maker Tommy Wiseau and his co-star Greg Sestero. Produced by Seth Rogan and directed by James Franco (who with his directing record doesn’t scream hope), but with a screenplay adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the screenwriters behind The Fault in Our Stars, The Spectacular Now, and 500 Days of Summer, I became far less worried. And that was before the all-star cast started flocking to it like moths to an eccentric flame. James Franco of course is taking the role of Mr Wiseau himself, and his little brother Dave is Greg, but as well as them; Seth Rogan, Zac Efron, Alison Brie, Sharon Stone, Josh Hutcherson, and Bryan fucking Cranston, are also co-starring. With such a shockingly A-list cast, we can only hope they’ve all gathered because of the strength of the script and talent involved, and nothing less. If Franco can make this even half as good as the novel, this could be one of the best films of 2016.
The Nice Guys: May 20
If my look at Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bangdidn’t give it away, I love Shane Black when he does buddy movies. So it’s great to see him return with what looks like a spiritual sequel (or prequel) to that, with this 70s set dark comedy crime thriller that brings us the inspired pairing of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling; an enforcer and hapless private eye who team up to find a missing girl and solve the murder of a porn star…how can you not be stoked for that! So let the guilty violence and laughs commence!
Moana: November 23
Disney’s next animated film after the disappointing Big Hero 6 (and fuck you it wasn’t that good) brought to us by the directing duo behind some of Disney’s greatest films (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Treasure Planet) and will follow an ancient Oceania tribal girl as she searches the South Pacific for a fabled island, helped by a demi-god voiced by Dwayne Johnson. Don’t know much beyond that, but with the talent involved we can but hope for another Disney classic, or at least something up there with Tangled and Frozen.
Kubo and the two strings: August 19
But this is the animated film I’m looking forward to most in 2016! Brought to us by the same team and studio behind the stop-motion masterpieces Coraline and ParaNorman, comes this action fantasy set in ancient Japan about a teenager fighting demons and searching for the magic armor his legendary samurai father once wore….it’s a STOP MOTION ANIME! I MEAN…how can you not be wetting yourself at the awesomeness of that! And with an all-star cast, the talent behind the scenes, and the recent trailer for it, all we can do now is wait and hope.
La La Land: July 15
A musical dramedy about the romance between a jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling, and an actress played by Emma Stone, and J.K. Simmons is in it too. Really the only reason this has made the list is that its writer and director Damien Chazelle’s follow up to his jaw-breakingly great Whiplash. Whether he’ll be able to live up to that will have to be seen, but I find it a good sign he appears to be going for a very different vibe for this film.
High-Rise: March 18
The new and probably highest profile film from the bizarre director of Sightseers, A Field in England, and Kill List (the only of his films I have seen), Ben Wheatley; and stars Tom Hiddleston as the newest resident in a self-contained block of highrise apartments with a vicious classiest system, in this dark comedy Sci-fi thriller…or something like that. Co-starring Jeremy Irons and Elisabeth Moss, there is still a bit of mystery about this film, for all those who haven’t read the books it’s adapted from, as the advertisement has done a good job in being vague on plot but specific on tone and style. And with early release reviews beginning to come in I’m seeing almost equal people calling it a failed attempt at something grand, or hailing it as a masterpiece. So I’m glad its release date isn’t too far into this year, before we get a chance to judge for ourselves whether Mr Hiddleston has been using his Marvel down time on worthy projects.
Live by Night: October 7
Ben Affleck finally took a break from acting to get back to his much more interesting career as a director, with this follow up to Argo. Adapted from another Dennis Lehane novel like his first and best film Gone Baby Gone, it’s a period crime thriller that follows the prodigal son of a police captain as he becomes a bootlegger and later a gangster legend. Again here because of the director and writer’s track record, he’s currently three for three on great thrillers, and I doubt Affleck’s in a hurry to break the streak; especially with his next directorial project being the first solo Batman film in the new DCCU. And that’s before mentioning that Mr Leonardo Dicaprio has taken on a producer hat for it.
Of course these are only vague predictions on what will be some of the best films in the coming year, as we all know that best films tent to come out of nowhere with a sharp left hook, not let us see it coming from months away.