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.

My Five Favourite (Childrens) Book-To-Film Adaptations

More details were announced yesterday about the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them film. Well, films now, five of them in particular. I’ll admit I’m nervous that this will be just like The Hobbifilms, where people will be excited for the first one, interested in the next one, and then just completely ignore the film series from then on (I remember being online when the third one was released, and if it wasn’t for me looking at the cineworld website I wouldn’t have even know it came out). Fingers crossed it turns out great, but to commemorate the release details here’s my favourite book-to-film adaptations. I will freely admit these aren’t the “best”, these are definitely my personal choice, choices which are likely to change depending on what day I’m asked.

5. The BFG (2016)

The most recent film on this list, and the one most likely to not be on it if I was writing this on a different day. This definitely isn’t likely to be on someone’s top five list for this topic, truth be told it’s not even mine, it’s only here because of the negative reception it received. It’s currently got a 66 on Metacritic, which is the numerical equivalent of “meh”. I went into this with relatively low expectations, I saw Pete’s Dragon the same week and it did absolutely nothing for me, I appreciated what it did well, but I don’t need to see it again and I won’t recommend it to anyone. Also their was a family in front of me that I could tell were going to be problematic, with a whole bag of popcorn thrown on the floor behind them (i.e. in front of me) before the film even started. Yet within five minutes of this film I had completely forgotten Pete’s Dragon, I had forgotten the popcorn, I had forgotten the general feeling of ennui that accompanies my general existence, I was completely lost in the world that this film created. I completely brought into the universe that was created, if I saw this film whilst I was a child my parents would hate it due to the fact they’d have had to watch it every single day. This film also means that my list of for the “best performace” for the end of year blog now has two child actors in it. Ruby Barnhill is superb in it, she spends a lot of time being the only real thing on screen, so it’s down to her to convince you that the rest is real, and she manages it. So to summarise; some films are funny, some films are heart-breaking, very few films can be described as magical, this is one of them.

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4. Coraline

Because it’s been too long since I’ve seen The Witches and I wanted a film that scares the hell out of everyone, children and adults alike. This adaptation of the Neil Gaiman book also has one of the best uses of 3D in cinema. There’s a scene where somebody stares down a long and narrow corridor, the 3D in this helps enhance the vertigo-like feeling. Most films just go with the “oooo something is poking out at you, woooooo” with 3D, very few use it to enhance the universe as much as they should. The film also has a unique look, a look that is NOT TIM BURTON! People seem to forget that it wasn’t Burton that directed Nightmare Before Christmas, it was Henry Selick, and he is perfect for this film. Heavily influenced by the work of Japanese illustrator Tadahiro Uesigi.

He gives the film a unique look that is perfect for Neil Gaiman’s work, and it’s a real shame that he got pulled off the film version of The Graveyard Book (been replaced by Ron Howard, which could work, but will be very different)

3. Harry Potter

I’ll admit this isn’t the greatest film series, for one thing it’s missing Rik Mayall as Peeves. But it also did one thing very well; it accentuated the Harry Potter brand remarkably. Before this you could be forgiven for thinking the world had reached peak Potter, that the brand had reached a plateau, but the films pushed it through so it was no longer a well known book franchise, it was a global phenomenon. Without the films the chances of there being a Harry Potter world are a lot lower, as would be a lot of merchandising opportunities. Plus, it also gave us Alan Rickman as Snape.

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And now I have a sad

2. Matilda

I know, another Roald Dahl book, but there is no way I could not put this film in this list. One of my favourite books as a child, and one of my favourite films as an adult. Mara Wilson is of course, superb, whilst Pam Ferris is terrifying as Trunchbull. Back when this was released there wasn’t as many book-to-film adaptations as there is now, so seeing the shots of Trunchbull in newspapers in the lead to the film was genuinely exciting. A book which everybody read as a child was finally coming to life, if it went badly I would have been so disappointed that I probably would have developed a crack cocaine habit, trust issues, and a slightly itchy foot. Luckily it’s very good, the music is superb, Send Me On My Way in particular never fails to raise a smile. Actually that’s true of the whole film, it’s the film equivalent of a sweet heartwarming smile. The most disappointing part about it is that it didn’t lead to Danny DeVito having a glorious directing career, which is a shame as he completely nails it here, getting the tone exactly right, and he casts himself as a terrible person. Very few people would do that, most people when they choose to be villains do it in a “cool” way, make the character dark and brooding and misunderstood, DeVito plays his character as one of the most repulsive characters in cinema, and does it in a way that makes your skin crawl, it’s truly brilliant.

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This film really speaks to me for some reason

1. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

Yeah, a third Dahl book. Truth be told I could have made this entire list Dahl adaptations, he’s lucky enough to have had a lot of very good books made of his work, but to me this reigns supreme. Not just one of my favourite children’s books adaptations, not just one of my favourite children’s films, this is one of my favourite films. It’s a shame Mel Stuart didn’t have a larger career after this, as visually this film is superb. Most of the acting is also pretty great (with the exception of one of the parents who is awful, just awful), but let’s be honest one of them stands head and shoulders above all the others.

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Just kidding, it was this guy.

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This film belongs to Wilder, his performance is like a sociopathic clown (something which 2016 is very familiar with), that scene in the tunnel in particular is one of the greatest scenes in cinema history, more so when you realise that Wilder never told the other actors what he was going to do, they all thought he was genuinely losing his mind, it’s brilliant. Now despite me loving this film, I’ve never read the book, I have read the sequel though, and this film sets the characters up so well in your head that it makes the book sequel better as you can clearly envision it in her head. The music is pretty darn good as well, Pure Imagination in particular surely has to go down as one of the greatest original songs created for film, it stands up as being so good it transcends the original source material, one of the only songs I can think that does that would be Rainbow Connection.

 

So that’s our list, where did we go wrong? Which Roald Dahl book should we have taken out? Why didn’t we put The Iron Giant in? If you have any questions comment and let us know, or do that if you have any other things you want to see us do.