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.

Films to look Forward to in 2016

Batman V Superman: March 25

PHDHoUG4AUNdHI_1_lBecause 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 Deadpool_postertwo 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.

 

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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

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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.

 

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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

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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

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If my look at Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang didn’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

moana-poster-conceitual-camundongoDisney’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.

 

 

 

kuboKubo 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

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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 18High_Rise_2014_Film_Poster

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

2E0BBB1A00000578-3300941-image-a-62_1446500565850Ben 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.