2017 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. Mainly films that I didn’t like, but can appreciate one thing in it. So quite bad, but had a single redeeming feature that makes them slightly worthwhile as a curiosity. There’s a few here which I can see people being annoyed about are in here. So I should point out that this is nearly all personal opinion, so please don’t firebomb me.

Alien: Covenant

I can’t really make a fair judgement on this as I have never seen any of the others. Despite that, I did recognise a lot of scenes from this that seemed to be taken straight out of the other films in the series. And if I managed that I can only imagine how infuriating it must have been for people who are fans of the series, must have felt like they were watching a remake.

+Katherine Waterston is fucking superb.

-Doesn’t really do enough to stand out on it’s own. I can’t imagine anybody saying “you know what? I hate most of the Alien films, but I really love Covenant”

American Assassin

Not quite as good as the trailer would make you think. Not slick enough, not polished enough, not quite good enough.

+Really good opening scene showing off the panic that attacks can have on the general public.

-A weird view of revenge. Constantly told how revenge poisons the soul but then shown lots of shots of the lead actor kicking ass and being awesome. It’s like when you play Grand Theft Auto IV and dialogue about how the main character doesn’t want to go back to crime is interspersed with him shooting everybody in the face. A film that tries to not just have its cake and eat it, but also spends all the time telling you how unhealthy cake is and nobody should ever have any.

Annabelle: Creation

It’s odd, these films always have REALLY good trailers, full of tense moments and good scares, but they never really work full length. That being said, this is a lot better than the first one. Although considering that is still one of the worst films I’ve seen, that’s not difficult. Renders the original (which is technically the second Conjuring film, and a sequel to this, it’s odd) completely pointless as an origin story. Has some okay performances in it but most of them are just standard. No actual scares really, all jump scares. The scariest moments in this film had nothing to do with this film; 1) I thought there was only one other person in the cinema, who was sitting behind me. But near the end a phone went off near the front. Made me jump. 2) A seat was broken and had a white sheet covering it. Whenever someone opened the door (like when a cinema worker came in to check things were okay) it caused a draft which made the sheet rise, made it look like someone was standing up underneath it.

+A few scenes are spectacularly done. And it ties in well with the rest of the franchise.

-Only does so by rendering the previous origin film pointless. It would be Batman Begins having a prequel where it turns out he was bitten by a radioactive bat whilst in the well, and the rest of the films are a result of that.

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She got better as the film went on, in the closing section she was superb.

Battle Of The Sexes

Great performances, Steve Carrell, in particular, seems to be throwing himself into this with everything he’s got. And the story is compelling and it does a great job of setting the time and place it’s in. So why so low? This is a one scene film. No matter how good the rest of the film is, the audience knows it’s all building up to a single event/scene. In a film like that you need to make sure that scene is superb, and in this, it’s not. It’s quite blandly shot. It’s shot like an actual tennis match from the time would be, which I suppose at least gives it an air of authenticity, but also makes it quite a dull watch. Compare this to Creed from a few years ago, the boxing scenes in that were not filmed like a TV channel would film them, they were filmed like a movie scene, it gave them angles which you’d never get in an actual boxing match, and it was all the better for it. This doesn’t do that, most of it’s filmed from a distance, and this robs the scene of so much.

+Set design/costume were brilliantly done, to the point where just a still photo would set the scene.

-That final match. Just doesn’t work.

Baywatch

Why? Why does this exist? Who is an r-rated version of Baywatch for? People who liked the original won’t like it, and people who didn’t like the original won’t like this. Nobody was calling out for it and it feels like it was one of those films that were only made so they could hold onto the copyright. Also, does it need an R-rating? The only point of it would be nudity, to be as sexually exploitative as they can be, but it doesn’t really do that. Only has the rating because of the swearing, which I also have a problem with; there’s far too much swearing just for the sake of swearing. Now onto the actual film; the opening scene is basically “Look how fabulous The Rock is. He’s basically perfect”. Just full of other characters complimenting him so much that it almost seems sarcastic.

+The line “I can’t save you if you’re being a dick” made me laugh.

-As with a lot of these sequel/reboot it’s far too in debt to the original to make its mark as an original film.

Cars 3

I liked this a lot more than the previous two. Although it should be said that I detest the previous two. I think they’re the only blots on Pixar’s record. Ties into the first one a lot better than the second one did, making the second one seem kind of like a spin-off.

+Genuine emotion in a lot of scenes. And there’s less Larry The Cable Guy, which is always a good thing.

-For a film called Cars the plot is really pedestrian.

Death Note

Oh dear. Oh dear. More like “Death No”, amirite? But yeah this was not a good film. Quite annoyed actually as I wanted this to be good. If only to prove people wrong. This had people against it from the start just because it was a remake. So when bad reviews came in I thought “that’s just idiot fanboys who can’t let go and see objectively, I’m going to watch it and I’m going to like it”. I was wrong, it was bad. The characterisation is completely wrong. They made a lot of mistakes but the biggest is they made Light average. There’s no sense of a tense cat and mouse game between Light and L, and a lot of the rules from the book have actually been changed for the sake of the film for seemingly no reason at all.

+Soundtrack/cinematography. And Willem Defore.

-Doesn’t so much throw away the mythology of the series, so much as burn it then piss on the ashes.

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L was good though

Despicable Me 3

This came really really close to being in the previous one. Like, really close. Then I remembered the amount of 80’s music and references in it which made me slightly smile.

+A love letter to the 80’s, albeit not a very well written one.

-Waaaaaaay too scattergun. Has no idea what the main plot is, there seems to be about 4 of them all vying for attention and it never really focuses on any of them. It’s basically cinematic ADHD.

Detroit

This film suffers from the same problem as a lot of films about the subject do, the villains are so 2-dimensional that it’s hard to buy into the film. The trouble with doing films about race set in 1960’s etc US is that you can’t create a compelling villain. To me, a good villain is just a misguided hero, one where you can kind of see their point. You can’t have that with this, the bad guys are so obviously wrong they’re impossible to defend, they’re obviously pricks. Which is depressing as that’s what it was like back then, a lot of people in power were indefensible pricks who deserved to be punched in the kidneys. Also, the pacing is weird, you have an entire subplot about a band that doesn’t really add anything except 30 minutes to the runtime.

+From a technical viewpoint it looks superb, and has moments which feel really claustrophobic and tense.

-Occasionally seems like it doesn’t know what it’s wanting to say.

Flatliners

Brave move killing off who they did. It’s weird as it’s not really sure what it wants to be, is it a remake, a sequel, or something entirely new? Nobody knows, least of all the film itself.

+Looks and sounds superb.

-Entirely forgettable.

It Comes At Night

I liked it, but not as much as I thought I would. Probably because I saw at the cinema. I know some horror works great at the cinema, but I feel this would work better on your own in a small room. You need to feel part of that world, feel isolated, like a visitor in their world, and sitting in a vast room full of other people takes you away from that. I think I’m going to need to watch it again on headphones on my own, I might appreciate it a lot more then, but watching it on a massive screen in an empty room gave me a sense of freedom that the film couldn’t stop.

+Superb job of keeping you invested in the story.

-Doesn’t quite know what it’s doing sometimes. Some scenes are oddly unsatisfying

Jigsaw

Well it’s better than the last one, I’ll give it that. Trouble with these films is all the crimes exist on their own, there’s no investigation into the crimes effect on the outside world. Is crime going down because people are scared of being punished? Are there a lot of copycat killers? Do people see him as a hero or a villain? This is never touched upon, except in some of the posters for the one before this. Very disappointing. If you bring back a dead franchise, you best do it well. You need it to justify it’s own existence. This doesn’t really do that, it seems like just the next step in a yearly franchise. It doesn’t need to exist, adds nothing new, doesn’t really do much. This does something worse than being bad, it’s pointless.

+Brilliantly inventive traps.

-Pointless and adds nothing to the franchise. Would have been acceptable a year after the last one, but a massive gap means it’s a waste.

Power Rangers

Pure nostalgia fest.

+Some moments are a lot of fun. Especially in the opening “did you just slap me?” “yeah, weird right?” made me laugh.

-Takes itself far too seriously. You cannot make this film seriously, yet they attempted.

Rings

Unpopular opinion time; this film should not have been a horror, it should have a psychological drama with scary moments. I feel under the service of this story is a really solid detective/ghost story, but it’s restricted by being a horror so puts in scares which don’t do much to enhance the film. Also, I’m getting very annoyed with films being ruined by their trailers. I’d seen two trailers for this; one of which I saw back in November and was mainly focused on one of the characters in the shower and freaky shit starts happening. A well made scene, but it’s also the final scene of the film, it takes place after the “monster” is supposed to have died, so after the “death” you just sit there thinking “I know it’s not the end as we haven’t seen the scene which the entire advertising campaign was based around”. Especially since I think the revelation at the end was supposed to be a twist. It would be like if The Usual Suspects had the tagline “Kevin Spacey is….Keyser Soze”.

+The way the film opened was fantastic and was one of my favourite 10 seconds of cinema of the year so far. They put the Paramount logo into the film itself, by showing it on tv screens on an airplane. They also distorted the logo as it was playing. I love when films do things like that, it grabs your attention immediately

-That closing scene does so much damage to the film.

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Split

Nothing inherently wrong with this movie, I just never brought the central concept. It’s like if I was watching a film where Ryan Gosling plays a character who is too ugly to get a date, they’d need to be a moment in the film which means you can buy the central concept as otherwise you’ll just be sitting there thinking “yeah this is BS”. This film never has that moment, as such it kind of fails. The acting in it was superb though, Anya Taylor-Joy continues to impress after last years The Witch, whilst James McAvoy does fantastic facial work, it gets to the point where you can tell which personality is in control of him from a still shot of his face.

+McAvoy is great. And it’s got me very excited for the sequel.

-Was this film just to make a sequel to unbreakable? Seems like a waste, because that film seemed like it was only made to be a prequel.

Suburbicon

Disappointing. Has a sub-plot which goes absolutely nowhere. It keeps seeming like it’s going to interact with the main story but never does, it could be cut entirely and the film wouldn’t change. It seems like it’s just there to say “people used to be racist, which is bad”, and then does nothing else other than that.

+Tremendous ensemble cast.

-Doesn’t live up to its potential.

The Book Of Henry

Read this was the worst film of the year, and responsible for director losing Star Wars job. I actually kind of liked it. I never need to see it again but it wasn’t the worst film I’ve seen. I mean, yeah it does seem like two different films awkwardly put together but the performances are compelling enough.

+Opening half is great character work.

-Closing half doesn’t match it, at all.

The Lego Ninjago Movie

Doesn’t seem to be done with as much love for the subject matter as the original lego movies. The Lego Batman movie was obviously done by someone who loved Batman (or at the very least knew a lot about it), this isn’t. There’s no subtle references to films of the genre, it’s just a standard boring film with the only lego-ness being a villain who’s a cat.

+The villain being a cat is very very funny.

-Bit dull.

The Mountain Between Us

When it was just “two people trapped on a mountain”, was a superb film. Once they added the romance bit I kind of tapped out, just didn’t work at all. And the “realisation shot” was straight out of a low-budget music video for a James Blunt soundalike.

+The first two thirds are fantastic. Brilliantly tense and haunting. And it looks great.

-The romance bit is a bit, erm, shit. And the make-up team needed to do better. Despite them being near death, they never really looked it physically.

The Snowman

A lot more brutal than I expected. The reveal of the killer could have been done better, and it juggled too many characters at once so was a bit of a bloated mess. Not as terrible as I thought it would be though.

+Looked superb, and was suitably brutal.

-Really unsatisfying reveal. And a lot of the scenes were hard not to laugh at.

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I much prefer this version

Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets

I get both the love the hate for this film. Nothing I can say will do it better than I did earlier in the year here.

+The opening scene is tremendous. Like, seriously brilliant. Almost worth watching the film for, sets the world brilliantly. From that moment I had seriously high hopes and thought I’d love this film.

-The visuals, the story, the characters. In short…so so much. I can forgive bad films, I can’t forgive dull ones.

 

 

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2017 In Horror (From Worst To Best)

13. The Bye Bye Man

This was originally going to be a bit higher, but then I realised this has a few advantages over the one in 10, and as such should have been better. It had a higher budget, a wider cinema release, and an actual advertising campaign. Was actually kind of looking forward to this as it seemed intriguing. I thought at the very least it would be an interesting watch. I was wrong. It was boring, pointless, and did the whole “scary thing, scary thing, actually those scary things didn’t actually happen so nothing matters, repeat” thing that I hate about modern horror. Also, it has a stupid name.

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Don’t Watch It (and with that this film wins Easiest Diss Of The Year award)

12. Wish Upon

Have you heard of this film? No, there’s a good reason for that. It’s not great, the story is stupid, the characters are annoying as hell, and it’s not even original. Every idea it has comes from a better film. It also meant that I could no longer put Joey King’s performance in Going In Style in my “end of year notable mentions” list, which I’m sure she’s absolutely devastated about.

11. The Belko Experiment

Not the worst film, but definitely the most disappointing. I expected this to be either fun or smart, it was neither. Didn’t help that it completely ran out of ideas before the trailer ended. If this was 20 minutes long I’d have loved it. It just didn’t have enough ideas to stretch to a feature.

10. Annabelle: Creation

Well it was a LOT better than Annabelle (or as I call it: Annabelle, fuck that movie). But it’s a prequel to an origin story, which makes me uncomfortable. Some very good performances in it, but ultimately rather forgettable (very forgettable actually, I only just realised that for some reason this wasn’t on my list of films seen this year).

9. Rings

Only ahead of Annabelle based on thing: the PHENOMENAL opening scene. Sadly almost negated by the ending being in the trailer.

8. Split

A fun film, albeit kind of disposable and not one I ever really need to see again.

7. Jigsaw

If you bring back a dead franchise, you best do it well. You need it to justify it’s own existence. This doesn’t really do that, it seems like just the next step in a yearly franchise. It doesn’t need to exist, adds nothing new, doesn’t really do much. This does something worse than being bad, it’s pointless.

6. A Cure For Wellness

This film disturbed me. It made me feel very uncomfortable. I liked it, but wouldn’t really say I enjoyed it. Pretty gross, but a fascinating watch. Seriously, this film has a visual style and it just runs with it. I’m not sure whether Dane DeHaan is supposed to be creepy at the end, or whether it’s just because he looks kind of creepy. Either way, it worked, he was great in this. As was Mia Goth. This is one of those films I would definitely recommend you watch at least once. Actually, you don’t really watch this, you experience it.

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“Why don’t we do the poster for Slither, but sexy?” “Genius! More cocaine”

5. Prevenge

As I said in August: “The best horror film about a pregnant woman being controlled by a homicidal fetus that I’ve ever seen.”. 

Still the case. A great British horror quirky slice of cinema. Definitely worth a watch.

4. The Ritual

The book is now on my “to-read” list. Not a nice watch, but a very very good one. Chilling to the bone with a great story and remarkable performances. Probably going to be one of those films that are going to be really hard to find on DVD, I hope not as it would be a great Halloween watch.

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3. Happy Death Day

This was hard to place, as a film it was great, as a horror it was good. This is mainly here to break up the depressing creepiness of this list. Also, it was a new idea that was risky and worked, I like to reward things like that.

2. It

Holy crap! Holy crap this was great. Everyone needs to not just watch this, but to own it and cherish it. This had a lot working against it, mainly because it was a remake. If this failed it would have failed spectacularly. Luckily it succeeded, and it’s easy to see why. Good story, fantastic setting up of the universe, great performances, and most importantly, it’s fucking terrifying.

1. Get Out

This was close. Very, very close. If you asked me to do this again on a different day there’s a good chance the top two on this could be switch around. Today I’m favouring this because what’s on my mind is that weird feeling I had when watching this film. It wasn’t “arrrrrrgh” it was just 2 hours of everything being ever so slightly off somehow. Deeply, deeply unsettling and should win ALL THE AWARDS. Yup, even best musical, it’s that damn good.

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I know, the film that had this in the trailer ended up being creepy, who’d have guessed?

How We Got Through…February 2017

Film

The Girl With All The Gifts

Actually really disappointed I missed this last year now. A lot less cliche than I thought it would be. I wasn’t completely sold on it until one moment; there’s a scene where shits going down and a doctor is standing in front of a window, in background you see someone running towards the window, you assume it’s a soldier but it’s one of these evil dastardly zombie people, who bursts through the window. This achieves one of those rare things in film; a surprise which hides nothing prior to it. You are shown everything you need to be shown before it happens, yet it still somehow shocks you. Probably the best non-comedic zombie film of the last few years.

Split

Nothing inherently wrong with this movie, I just never brought the central concept. It’s like if I was watching a film where Ryan Gosling plays a character who is too ugly to get a date, they’d need to be a moment in the film which means you can buy the central concept as otherwise you’ll just be sitting there thinking “yeah this is BS”. This film never has that moment, as such it kind of fails. The acting in it was superb though, Anya Taylor-Joy continues to impress after last years The Witch, whilst James McAvoy does fantastic facial work, it gets to the point where you can tell which personality is in control of him from a still shot of his face.

Lego Batman Movie

Will probably not be the best film I see this year, but will definitely be the most fun. The quickest I’ve been sold on a film so far, usually it’s taken me about ten minutes into a film to think “okay I’m into this”, this film sold me in the first sentence. Plus, there’s a Christian group in America protesting it and calling it “gay propaganda”, so you have to see it, even if only to annoy them.

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Zootropolis

Still one of the greatest animated films of 2016. Big downside is it doesn’t seem to have led to more work for Ginnifer Goodwin, which is a shame as she was fantastic in this and deserves more roles.

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Red State

Has some fantastic monologues in it, which Michael Parks knocks out of the….erm, area. Him and John Goodman stand head and shoulders above everyone else in the film. I think it’s more interesting than good, I don’t think it really works as a horror film, horror is a REALLY difficult genre to direct well as everything needs to work, you need the right music, the right lighting etc, if just one of those things doesn’t work then you won’t scare people. Also the film has serious pacing issues, especially in the opening third which half-asses its way into building the universe, but doesn’t do it well enough. Despite that there is something inherently watchable about it, I think it’s because the story is interesting, it just should have been better told.

Inside Out/Lava

I have a huge problem with this film, every time I sit down to watch it my allergies start playing up so it always looks like I’m crying. The allergies get particularly bad during the scene where Bing Bong dies.

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Damn ninjas

La La Land

I liked it, but I didn’t love it, and I feel it wanted me to love it. It looked fantastic, and the soundtrack was good, it just left me feeling nothing. Probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I felt Ryan Gosling’s character was a bit of a dick and the romance made zero sense. It’s biggest flaw I feel is its dependence on music, if you took away the songs you’re left with a fairly average story. Whilst the songs were good, they all sounded a bit too familiar, every song sounded like another one, so when you listen to the soundtrack you just think “what song does this remind me of?”, “wait, this has same tune as the song from The Muppets sequel”, and “Seriously, what is this one? I think it’s Amanda Palmer but I’m not sure”.

Rings

Unpopular opinion time; this film should not have been a horror, it should have a psychological drama with scary moments. I feel under the service of this story is a really solid detective/ghost story, but it’s restricted by being a horror so puts in scares which don’t do much to enhance the film. Also, I’m getting very annoyed with films being ruined by their trailers. I’d seen two trailers for this; one of which I saw back in November and was mainly focused on one of the characters in the shower and freaky shit starts happening. A well made scene, but it’s also the final scene of the film, it takes place after the “monster” is supposed to have died, so after the “death” you just sit there thinking “I know it’s not the end as we haven’t seen the scene which the entire advertising campaign was based around”. Especially since I think the revelation at the end was supposed to be a twist. It would be like if The Usual Suspects had the tagline “Kevin Spacey is….Keyser Soze”. On the plus side the way the film opened was fantastic and was one of my favourite 10 seconds of cinema of the year so far. They put the Paramount logo into the film itself, by showing it on tv screens on an airplane. They also distorted the logo as it was playing. I love when films do things like that, it grabs your attention immediately.

Manchester By The Sea

A lot has been said about the performances of this film, I feel enough hasn’t been said about how good the script is. It’s so good that the dialogue doesn’t feel written, it was like they just filmed people talking naturally. It was also the lack of words that was masterful, there were moments where most films would have had characters deliver impassioned monologues, the kind of monologues which sum up their characters and the film, monologues which are so masterfully written people will quote them for years. This film doesn’t have monologues in that moment, it condenses those moments down to a single line. But you understand everything in that sentence, you feel the weight of that sentence, how crushing it is and how much is held within it.

TV Show

Not Going Out

I don’t know what it is but it seems to have lost something. I think it’s because of how the concept of the show has changed. It used to be about two friends, one of whom was living with the other ones ex in a flat in London. Then it became two friends, one living with the other’s sister. Then one of the cast members left and it just became a standard flat sitcom. Now they’ve moved out of the flat and got a family. It’s good that the story has progressed and it’s interesting to chart the change throughout the seasons, but the new series seems more like a spin-off than a continuation. Also the show has still refused to answer one question; why are these two characters in a relationship. Before they were a couple it was clear there was an attraction from one character to the other, but there was never any indication that there was any attraction the other way. The most likely solution is probably Stockholm Syndrome, but they don’t outright say that due to the terrorist connotations, bloody political correctness.

Book

The Saga Of Darren Shan – Darren Shan

My favourite vampire story. A 12 book series detailing someone growing up, and handles it very well. When you read the earlier books the sentence structure is very childlike, which makes sense considering he is a child, yet as the series develops the author changes the style to a more mature style as the character ages. It’s subtle enough that you might not consciously notice, but on a subconscious level it does register with you and is a genius bit of storytelling. If you haven’t read it I should warn you; it gets VERY weird towards the last few books.

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Songs/Albums

I Will Follow you into the dark – Death Cab For Cutie

How did I not hear this song before? This is a song I should have heard for the first time when I was a bitter cynical 15 year old, I would have clinged to this song like a barnacle clings to a ship, like chewing gum clings to school tables, like I cling to the idea that there’s an adequate way to complete this simile. As it is I heard this when I was a bitter cynical 30 year old.

Actual Results May Vary – Babypuncher

One of the best songs from a simply amazing EP released last year (available for free download here). The lyrics in this song are simply sublime. My favourite line being:

“I can’t fix you and you can’t fix me, but we can both be broken together”

That line resonated so much with me when I first heard it, and sums up the feelings of characters in a script I’m working on at the moment (a longer version of this). This is a perfect song to listen to whilst sitting on a train in the rain and looking out of the window.

Please Come Home – Dustin Kensrue

Unpopular opinion here, I prefer his solo stuff than his stuff with Thrice. Although it can be hard to get past the feeling he sounds like that guy on your college course who carries an acoustic guitar everywhere and plays Wonderwall shirtless under a tree like a dickhead (that’s actually pretty much the genre it’s listed as on my ipod).

Best song:  I Knew You Before.

If the rest of the album was as good as this song, it would be one of my favourite albums.

I’m With Stupid – Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann makes me feel things, and I’m not ashamed to say that. Has the perfect mix of snarky and heartfelt, like a clinically depressed comedian. Also has a line which I absolutely love for some reason:

“Row, row, row your boat

gently down the stream

hope you drown and never come back”

And you have to love an album which is melodic and beautiful yet starts with the line

“you fucked it up, you should’ve quit”

Best song: Long Shot