2016 In Film (Part 2: The Meh)

The qualifier for this is somewhat more complicated than the previous one. These aren’t necessarily bad films, just films that I don’t need to see again. If they’re on netflix and I can’t sleep I might consider them, but I will never buy them or go out of my way to see them. Now this will be when it gets contentious, there’s definitely two I can see a lot of people disagreeing with, and I get why.

10 Cloverfield Lane

I was really disappointed by this, when the trailer came out I was really excited for this, it just came out of nowhere and I loved the original so I was as excited as a vampire at a blood drive. But then I saw it and my excitement dried up quicker than you can say “wow, this film is deeply deeply flawed in many ways The ending doesn’t really work at all. Which is a shame as the first two acts are really strong, it’s like a small independent film, but then it all goes weird in the closing section, and is all the poorer for it. It’s like two different films welded clumsily together, after a tense housebound thriller it becomes generic alien invasion. I haven’t seen a genre shift this severe since Life Is Beautiful”, which doesn’t seem very short, but compared to the length of the film it is.

Batman Vs. Superman

Not bad, but deeply deeply deeply deeply flawed. The trouble with Zack Snyder is he can’t make his own shots, he can make a shot based on a scene from a comic book look gorgeous, but the second he has to make compose his own shot it all falls apart. Also this film is long, very very long, and it doesn’t really hold your attention that much. The acting in it is mostly great (one or two exceptions), Ben Afleck in particular made a fantastic Batman. There was a lot of worry about whether he could pull it off, but the second the trailer came out and we saw him running INTO a collapsing building we knew he’d be perfect, he just looked so perfect for it. Just a shame he was a great Batman in a mediocre film.

Central Intelligence

Funny, but not quite funny enough, and spends too long playing catch up to its own trailer. Plus, Kevin Hart is rather annoying in it.

The Conjuring 2

Have a review of this already over here. So to summarise; If you like horror (or are interested in film-making) then see this film, but it won’t change your mind if you don’t like the genre.

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Said it before and I’ll say it again, this girl is amazing in this film though

The Danish Girl

Far far too English for a Danish film. Personally I would have preferred it if it was a subtitled Danish film, as it is there’s very little Danish about it, if you were only paying small attention to it then you’d have assumed it was set in England. Alicia Vikander continues being just fantastic, I didn’t think she could top her performance in Ex Machina, but here she manages it. If I saw this film later in the year it would have stood a good change of being in the “Good” blog, as it is, I’ve had time to think about it, and in reality it is kind of meh.

Don’t Breathe

I get why people like this, I really do, it just didn’t really do anything for me. I think it’s because I found the main characters too annoying and insufferable that I didn’t care when bad things happened to them. Also there were so many moments which only happened because the characters were holding the idiot ball and refused to let go.

Ghostbusters

Deeply deeply flawed in many ways. Melissa McCarthy has far too many moments when she’s speaking scientifically and you can tell she has no idea what she’s saying and it’s really off-putting. Now I’m not expecting her to know a lot of science, but she can at least act she does. When you’re watching Scrubs or House they don’t know what they’re saying, but that thought never occurs to you because of the way they deliver their lines. Now I know McCarthy can act, she was fantastic in St. Vincent, so maybe the issue here is that the director didn’t push her enough to get a good performance out of her. It’s not just her performance in this film that bothers me, Kate McKinnon needed to be reigned in slightly. Her character was very funny and loveable in the trailer, but stretched over the entire film it just felt a bit too much, sometimes less is more and with a character like that it’s definitely the case, if they just took two or three scenes of her out, it would have improved it a lot. Two other problems, one of which I won’t mention now as I’ll be bringing it up in my Jungle Book mention, but the other one is far more obvious and damaging; there is zero sense of tension. Even when things are at their worst you never think “oh no, how will they ever get out of this?”. As such it’s hard to get emotionally involved in the film. Although despite all of that, I almost put this in the “good” blog. Know why? Yes it’s flawed, yes it has plot problems, yes the script is a mess, but when I left the cinema I didn’t think of any of that, I was smiling and I was very happy, I was entertained. And really that’s all I needed. It wasn’t my greatest moment of the year, but in the then and now, it entertained me.

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No, not them. Never them.

Hail, Caesar!

A bit too film studenty for my liking, like you can tell there were lots of film buffs watching it and appreciating the in-jokes. But it was very well made.

The Infiltrator

Good, not great, and Cranston deserves better.

Jason Bourne

It loses some points for not using the phrase “Bourne again” in any of the marketing. I mean, come on, the pun is right there! So this film in particular? It’s okay, it has it’s moments but it doesn’t really do anything that the previous ones didn’t do.

Joy

Doesn’t really seem big enough for the cast, truth be told it seems like a made for TV movie. It has two excellent moments and one ok moment which aren’t enough for a film like this. It seems almost like a companion piece for Serena, whereas that was Autumn, this is Winter, which sadly means there’s still two more of these things left.

The Jungle Book

What I say here is also true for Ghostbusters: this film can’t stand on it’s own merits. It has too many obvious references to the original to do so. As such it can’t carve its own legacy as it seems aware of the shadow it’s in. When you’re watching it you’re constantly thinking of the other version, and you should never be doing that during a film. Admittedly, the bit where Christopher Walken voices a giant singing orang-utan is odd enough to distract you (it’s at that point where the comparisons to Ghostbusters end).

Midnight Special

I know what it was trying to do, and I appreciate it, it just personally didn’t do enough to hold my interest.

Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates

Quite funny, but it comes close to giving a very important moral which I’ve never seen in film before, only to back out at the last second. The lesson by the way: you’re not obligated to be into someone even if they’re nice, it’s okay to not be attracted to them. It comes close to teaching this lesson, but then pulls away at the last moment.

Morgan

Not bad, just kind of bland. And it seems a lot worse if you’ve seen the British film The Machine, which takes everything this film does well, and does it better.

Nerve

Not quite as unsettling as the trailer promised it would be. I expected something akin to an episode of Black Mirror, instead I got a standard teen film, albeit one with bright colours.

Other Side Of The Door

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Moments of pure brilliance but it’s bogged down by the rest. The director really understand silence, there’s moments where you hear absolutely nothing for about 10 seconds, no music or anything, and it’s brilliant for creating tension as it puts your nerves on edge. More films should do this, most of them just use music cues to tell you when you should be scared so this should be admired for doing something different, but then it does the “quiet, quiet LOUD JUMP SCARE” thing and you’re just disappointed. It’s the same visually as well, there’s some really fantastic shots (if anybody reading this is interested in the visual style of horror and wants to direct, watch this film and you’re guaranteed to see a few shots you want to steal), but then there’s some cliche stuff which lets it down. This KEEPS happening, and it’s annoying. It happens in the script as well. On the one side there’s periods of dullness and cliche bullshit. But then you have moments which break from convention, particularly in two moments:

  1. The main characters didn’t do the whole “no, i’m denying this obvious thing is happening” thing that happens so often, she immediately thought “well, i heard my dead sons voice behind a door, was warned awful things would happen if i opened it, i opened it, awful things are happening. It’s my son causing it”
  2. The ghosts etc made sense. So often in horror films the villains are pretty much just “we are here to break stuff and  be evil”, but in this film they had clear motivations and desires. It was obvious what they wanted and they did have an endgame.

Pete’s Dragon

A good journey, albeit one which spends far too long dicking about looking for the car keys before actually deciding to head off (which is a pretentious annoying way of saying it takes too long to get going). Probably the children’s film I enjoyed least this year, but that says more about how great the other films were than how bad this one is. The harshest thing you can say about this is that it’s bland.

Sausage Party

Funny, but had a few pacing issues that let it own, and isn’t as clever as it thinks it is. Seemed more like a series of sketches than a full blown film.

The Secret Life Of Pets

Thoroughly ok. The closing shot was beautiful. It’s one of the great things about animation is that you can occasionally get absolutely gorgeous visuals, but apart from the closing shot it never really does that. In fact it doesn’t look great throughout, the animals just look ok, and the humans in it look like they’re made of twigs. The story is serviceable and does what it needs to, but I don’t feel I need to see it again. It’s biggest flaw isn’t the fault of the film, it’s just circumstance. A lot of times studios release films which (judging by poster alone) look very similar. Has happened a lot before: Antz/A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo/Sharks Tale etc. This films competitor? Zootropolis. For this film to come anywhere close to that would be difficult.

The Shallows

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I commend this film for the fact that the events of it actually have consequences, it permanently changes the main character, and that’s something which doesn’t happen enough in film. Blake Lively is very very good in it, but is let down by a bland script and directing which doesn’t do the events of the film justice.

Suicide Squad

I feel a good editor could make this film twice as good. I summed it up best earlier in the year: If you go cinema a lot, go see it. If you only go to the cinema a few times a year, and going is a true event, then don’t make this one of your visits.

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War Dogs

Was disappointed with this, things I knew were jokes never really hit home. This film really hits home the importance of directing, this film is directed like an action film, as such the laughs don’t really land.

Secret Life Of Pets/The Boss

Two very different films, but both suffer from from the same flaw: the background characters are the best ones in the entire film. Not the only problems however.

Secret Life Of Pets

I have two problems with this film:

  1. As I alluded to earlier; the main characters are the least interesting ones, which, considering one of them is played by Louis CK is kind of unexpected. It’s not just the characters, the main plot is not that interesting either. The entire main plot is shown in the trailer, nothing new or exciting. There is, however, a fantastic B-story that shows up; the idea that animals that were once pets were thrown away and are now bitter and angry and ready to get their revenge. THAT’S a film, that’s the kind of thing that Pixar or Disney would do. On the subject of Disney there’s already been a lot of controversy about Finding Dory. People are saying that it could lead to an increase of people having exotic fish as pets and then discarding them when they get bored (like they did with owls after Harry Potter And The Quantum Of Solace or whatever it was called). The idea of an animal-led film that has discourages people from getting pets just because they saw them in films? Not only would that be good but it would also be a subtle attack to Disney and Pixar, a “This is why we have a problem with you, you’re irresponsible, not like us, we’re truly wholesome and safe for children to watch with their families”.
  2. The realism. I know, it’s an animated film aimed at kids so I shouldn’t expect 100% realism. But at the very least I should expect it to stay consistent within the world it’s created. The world within the film is supposed to be our world. This is decided very early on when a human character hear’s one of the main characters “talking” and it’s just barking. Yet there’s lots of moments in here which break that realism, moments such as a rabbit and a dog driving a bus off a bridge. Pixar usually does this kind of thing very well. Look at Finding Nemo etc, it takes place in our world, and we do see humans, but the interactions between the humans and the main characters is minimal, and the main characters, although living in a human world, don’t effect that world that much. This film has way too many instances where the animals have a major influence on the human world, there’s the aforementioned bus crash, there’s a break in at a sausage factory, a rabbit beating up a dog catcher etc.

But other than those two problems how was it? It was thoroughly ok. The closing shot was beautiful. It’s one of the great things about animation is that you can occasionally get absolutely gorgeous visuals, but apart from the closing shot it never really does that. In fact it doesn’t look great throughout, the animals just look ok, and the humans in it look like they’re made of twigs. The story is serviceable and does what it needs to, but I don’t feel I need to see it again. It’s biggest flaw isn’t the fault of the film, it’s just circumstance. A lot of times studios release films which (judging by poster alone) look very similar. Has happened a lot before: Antz/A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo/Sharks Tale etc. This films competitor? Zootopia. For this film to come anywhere close to that would be difficult. Zootopia (so far) is probably in my top five films of the year. This? Well be at the bottom of the top half so far. But considering Kubo isn’t out yet, this can easily be pushed down. Although this film did have a subtle Mario green shell reference, which is kind of cool.

The Boss

Nope. Just no. Here’s my massive problem with this film: you have a character get arrested, then when they’re released they go to a Girl Scouts meeting and decides to set up a new business luring Girl Scouts from their group into a new group helping her in a business with communist workers overtones (their logo is a red badge with a picture of a girl raising her fist in the air and wearing a hat). When one of the mothers at the group objects to this, she calls her a cunt, then insults her daughter, whom she later knocks out. The daughter’s age? Between 11-15. So, the “hero” of this story bullies and beats up a school girl just because she doesn’t like her mum. Comedy!

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Actually this film, tonally is kind of weird and all over the place. It attempts to get cheap laughs and sacrifices story to do that, destroying all story momentum for the sake of a joke. For example: there’s a scene where she goes to her old business associates, and they all tell her they hate her and want nothing to do with her. It’s the kind of scene that’s like a large roast dinner, it’s a lot to take in and you need to give it time to settle. Instead, just after the scene takes place the film makes her fall down a flight of stairs, thereby pouring custard on the emotional roast dinner of the previous scene. It’s like the film was written by different writers who never contacted each other to check if their bits lined up. You have important characters turn up for one or two scenes and then are never mentioned again.

It’s a shame as I really want to like Melissa McCarthy; she was great in Bridesmaids, and Spy was excellent. I just feel she has a habit of picking bad films, films where she is only asked to do her usual shtick and doesn’t allow her to stretch herself (otherwise known as Jim Carey syndrome). Which is a shame as when she’s good she’s amazing, check out the aforementioned Spy for evidence of that, and St. Vincent, where she manages to be one of the best characters in a film which contains Chris O’Dowd and Bill Murray (or to give him his full title: Bill Fucking Murray). She can do better than this, and her continual choosing of below-par films just provides ammunition to her increasing number of detractors. Luckily the next film she has lined up is Ghostbusters, I’m sure that is under no pressure.

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I also saw Independence Day; a film which (ironically) seemed like it was written by aliens, completely devoid of human emotion and everything seemed slightly fake and contrived.