I Kill Giants (2018)

I had only read one review of this. It gave it 1 out 5 and called it a bloated mess that lacked any heart. That review is wrong and I shan’t link to it. This is lovely and the main character is one of the best I’ve seen all year. She’s not a likeable character to Sophia (a random English girl who has moved there), but when she’s responding to the bullies or the psychiatrist, you can’t help but root for her. Also incredibly funny. To the point where I will randomly insert her lines throughout this review.

“Do you think spitting on people is funny?”

“not haha funny but existentially yes”

I really really liked this film. It warmed my old cynical heart in a way that not enough films do. It reminded me of some of my favourite kids films of the last few years. It had the magic warm feeling that The BFG gave, the emotional depth of Pixar, the wit of The Lego Batman Movie, mixed with the darkness of A Monster Calls.

“The real problems are giants. Total dicks”

I should mention now that this film is VERY reminscient of A Monster Calls. If you saw that (and if you didn’t, wtf is wrong with you? It’s amazing) and liked it, you’ll like this. This is a film aimed at a younger audience, but it has enough heart and cleverness to it that it will stick with you even if you’re an adult.

“would you describe your job as worthless or utterly pointless?”

I suppose I should now mention the performances. Anybody who has read this for a while knows that I was a massive fan of Madison Wolfe’s performance in The Conjuring 2. I thought she was the best part in that movie, elevating the entire film. It’s the same here. In that film she elevated an ok film to a good one, in this she elevates a very good film to a great one. Someone less talented would have made her quirky character slightly annoying, yet she manages to give the character just enough vulnerability that even in her strongest moments you feel for her. The other performances are good, but overshadowed by her somewhat. Although it has to be said that Rory Jackson is great as Taylor too, she makes the character so hateful you relish seeing her get her comeuppance.

So in summary; see this film. It’s on netflix right now (if you’re in the UK at least) and is well worth your time, no matter what snooty reviewers say. It also gave me my favourite quote of the year.

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End Of Year Film Awards

Best Actor

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Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Nocturnal Animals. Better known as “That kid from Kick-Ass”. One of the things about Kick-Ass was that it was about a hero who looked absolutely nothing like a hero, in fact there’s one scene where he threatens somebody and they just laugh at him. Yet in this he’s absolutely terrifying. His despicable nature just oozes out of the screen every second he’s on. Genuinely unsettling, and utterly compelling.

Also:

Bradley Cooper – Joy. If only because he’s responsible for the best moments in the film. His scenes with Jennifer Lawrence almost make her up her game, and it’s a much better film during those all too brief moments.

Best Actress

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Brie Larson – Room. Did you watch this film? Then you know why. She was just amazing in this. Everything about her performance was perfect. I saw this in January, which meant I had 11 months of performances which couldn’t even match it.

Also:

Madison Wolfe – The Conjuring 2. A performance beyond her years.

Julia Roberts – Secrets In Their Eyes. The first time I feel I’ve truly “got” her as an actress. Superb.

Best Script

Eye In The Sky: A film which could have been very bad if written differently. Same plot, same actors, same director and this film would not have only been bad, but catastrophically awful. As it was this film was perfectly paced. When doing a film like this you do run the risk of attempting methodical and instead just ending up with it being boring and too slow. You need to slowly crank up the tension through dialogue, if it goes wrong, it’s awful, but when it works it’s phenomenal. A fitting epitaph to Alan Rickman’s career.

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Worst Film

The Boss: I really want to like Melissa McCarthy, but she keeps making terrible films. Her character in this is extremely unlikeable with almost no character arc that redeems her. In almost any other film she’d be the main villain.

Best Film Moment

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Arrival – The meeting scene. There’s a moment in this where Amy Adam’s character first meets the aliens. It’s about ten minutes long and you can’t take your eyes away from the screen the entire time. Everything about it is perfect, the look, the acting, it all builds towards something which if there’s any justice will become as big a part of pop-culture iconography as scenes from Close Encounters, ET, or Alien. A moment full of pure wonder that truly shows what film can do.

Worst Film Moment

Batman Vs Superman: Martha. A moment which almost became shorthand for “awful and nonsensical”. The thing is, it does kind of make sense when you think about it, it could have been very believable that seeing someone as a person with a family will change your outlook on them, but the way it was delivered simply wasn’t good enough.

Best Film

Room: Excellent script, some of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time, and truly beautiful. This isn’t just film, this is emotional spectacle cinema. A film which I saw very early on in the year, and yet almost 12 months later it has still stuck with me.

Best Film To Look At

Arrival: A film shot with the warmth and cosiness of a home video. Science fiction (more than any other genre) seems to define itself by it’s look. And this film does more than enough to join the greats of the genre.

Also:

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies. 

Beautifully shot, the action scenes are brilliantly choreographed, and the costumes are superb. You could watch this on mute and still find things to appreciate.

Most Disappointing Film

Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice

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This film had so much riding on it, so for it to fall as much as it did (critically at least) is very disappointing. Especially since the problems in it are easily fixed. Some of them aren’t personal preference, they’re basic storytelling mistakes. I know it sounds awful to say but this film should end somebody’s career, you cannot make some of the mistakes they made in this film and still hope to make films. It had such high potential too, it really needed to be great, but in the end it was merely only “okay”

Also:

10 Cloverfield Lane

A film of three thirds: the first two are really good, matching up and in some ways surpassing the original, tense and claustophobic, just brilliant. Then it’s all thrown away in the final stretch until it dissolves into what William Shakespeare would describe as “a massive pile of wank”

Central Intelligence. It took too long to get to the point of the film, and there weren’t really enough “laugh out loud” moments. Reminds me of Hear No Evil, See No Evil, in that the chemistry between the leads is better than the actual fil.

Most Surprising Film

The 5th Wave

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I expected this to be just low-grade YA shlock. Yet it had a really really good plot and some excellent moments. Yes it wasn’t the greatest film I saw this year, but it was a lot better than I thought it would be.

Also: Goosebumps.

Very solid and well made kids horror film. I saw some reviews of it which criticised it for “looks like it was made for children”, which, you know, it was. It’s like criticising porn for being aimed at people who want to masturbate. Yeah it means it won’t make much money among people who want something to watch in the evening whilst drinking a glass of red wine in the evening, but it’s not meant to.

The “Well I Liked It” Award

The BFG: Called by some people “one of the biggest box office bombs of 2016” and I truly don’t get why. In a year which was the best one in recent memory for kids films, this one still stood out in a very crowded bunch. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again; there are many great films, only a select few are “magical”, and this is definitely one.

Best Marketing Campaign

Deadpool: A very violent comic book film, what would be the best way to market this?

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That’s actually pretty brilliant. During the run up to the release to this (way way back at the beginning of the year) Ryan Reynolds was on point, uploading almost in character updates on the film. If anybody doubting how well-suited he was to the role hopefully had those doubt squashed like a bug. Actually he continued it past release, doing new adverts to celebrate the film being out for a month in cinemas. A magnificent campaign which worked wonders. If there’s any doubt how successful this campaign was I’ll point this out; it meant people wanted to see the film, despite the fact that most peoples knowledge of the character being X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

2016 In Film (Part Four: The Amazeballs)

Contains possibly my favourite scene of the year, I’ll be doing a “end of year” awards blog soon so will go into it in more detail there. The film is worth seeing for that scene alone. A truly astounding piece of cinema that deserves it’s place alongside the true greats of the genre.
The BFG
This film is like milkshake made of magic. Bright, colourful, sweet and so lovely.
The Big Short/Spotlight
I’m including both of these as one as to me they’re both very similar. For some reason I’d get the feeling they’d make a brilliant double feature. Both deal with social responsibility and how to cope when your world collapses around you, how you deal with knowing that something that is supposed to be a saviour for the masses is actually responsible for ruining so many peoples lives. Not just good films, but also very important.
Captain America: Civil War
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It’s……amazing. Pre-hype for this was pretty intense, until Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn’t Stop Twice It’s Alright, then people started to get concerned. Was easy to see why, it seemed like Civil War was following a lot of of BvS mistakes: they released a trailer that seemed to give away the plot, then another one which introduced a character people weren’t certain if was going to be in it, and they seemed to be introducing a lot of new characters in one film. I’ll admit, I was really disappointed that they put Spider-Man in the trailer. I thought “but it would have worked better if it was a shock, stupid idiots. I hate them all! Burn them!” But here’s the thing: I was wrong. Spider-Man came in waaaaaay too early in this film for him to be a surprise character. Besides, if that happened then people would walk out talking about “Oh my God, I can’t believe Spider-Man was in that!” as opposed to how good the film is. Plus that information would have leaked in the first screenings, even if you tried to avoid it you’d see it everywhere on facebook when you woke up on release day. So in the end it made sense, so so much sense. God damn I loved this movie, probably my favourite Marvel film so far, had everything: sensible plotting, good characterisation, good action sequences, just, everything you want.
Let’s take you back to a dark time: July 2014. ISIS were causing a major kerfuffle in Iraq, Lucy made film watchers brains explode (at least; viewers with the scientific knowledge of at least a toddler), and S Club 7 reformed. A time before Deadpool. The chances of a film made featuring the character were astronomically low, then test footage was leaked. The reaction to this is solely responsible for the film being completed. This film wasn’t made to cash in on something popular, it was made because people were excited and really wanted to see it. The leaking of the video turned the film from “it would be nice but will never happen” to “release date announced”. This characterised the entire film really, it was really made for the fans. You can tell this even down to the rating, this film really earns it’s rating, it’s violent and brilliant. And let’s face it, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
A film I nearly put in the “good”, but the visuals were just about good enough to push it into this one instead. Directed by a guy who’s mainly known for horror, he’s really allowed to showcase his visual skills here. Kind of makes sense really, horror is definitely a visual director’s medium, you can have a great script, great soundtrack and great actors, but something as simple as making a shot a little bit too light or too dark can kill the entire scare. As such it really shouldn’t be much of a surprise that he pulled it off as well as he did. I know I’m going on about it but I really can’t put over how magnificent this film looks.
Edge Of Seventeen
A very enjoyable film, it’s a bit like listening to a REALLY good cover song, whilst it’s not completely original, and you won’t be surprised by it, you still have to be impressed with how they’ve done it, and you still love it.
Finding Dory
It’s Pixar, does anything else need to be said? It will make you squee and it will make you cry. Not quite as good as Inside Out, but then again very few films are.
Kubo And The Two Strings
A very very unique look, almost origami cinema. A film so strong and confident I just automatically assumed it was based on something. Genuinely heartfelt and a fantastic story. Not just a great kids film, but a great film all round.
Holy crap kids films were good this year. This film is so good it almost seems like Pixar made it. Moving, well told story, brilliant visuals, and the music is beyond fantastic. It also features what is without a doubt the best pee-joke of the year. So there’s that.
Nocturnal Animals
A very good film, but not a very nice one. You can go into this film having the best day ever and this will make you feel awful. This is the cinematic equivalent of a Dementor’s kiss.
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies
This film has a really unique look, actually it’s kind of beautiful. The costumes look amazing, as does the actual look of the film. You see POV shots of zombies when they get their heads cut off. It’s an odd mix of brutality and elegance that you don’t see often enough. Not just that, it’s a well told story that is genuinely laugh out loud funny. The opening narration points out that at the first sign of the zombie invasion, we blamed the French, which is pretty darn funny.
Just absolutely brutal, Gleeson is quietly building up a quite impressive CV. DiCaprio was good, but Tom Hardy was better. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Tom Hardy might be the best actor of this generation, great versatility, amazing abilities, and a proven box office draw, adored by both indie snobs, and the casual film-goer.
Room
If you, dear reader, were in the room with me I wouldn’t grab you by the lapels. I would grab you by the ankles and drag you to the cinema and force you to watch this film, even if I had to pay your ticket. This is definitely a “buy the DVD on release day” kind of film. The kind which remind you of just how fantastic films are. It’s definitely a cinema film too. Certain films just work better at the cinema, horrors for example because they rely on audience feedback, comedy too as it means that (if the film is good) it will create its own laugh track. The other type of good cinema films are ones that just look stunning, films that need you to just sit there and go “wow”. This film was good in the cinema for a different reason, you could hear people cry around you. So much raw emotion on screen. It won so many awards, yet it could have won every award ever and it still would be less than it deserved.
I will judge people who don’t like this film. Actually, God will judge them. How can someone not like this? It’s smart, funny, and just brilliant. One of the finest films of the year and a true piece of brilliance.

The 5 Best Kids Films Of 2016

5 Goosebumps

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Are you surprised to see this here? Well to be honest, so am I. I had quite low expectations here, if expectations were a high jump, then this was set 2cms off the ground, and easily cleared it, not in a way to set a new world record, but one that still performs admirably. The great thing about this film is that it exists in a genre of one; it’s a kids horror film, and one that made back double it’s budget, so expect a few poor imitations in the next few years. I do feel guilty about putting this film here though, because it means I can’t put Finding Dory on this list. That’s not a knock against Finding Dory, it’s just an indicator of exactly how strong kids films have been this year, been a phenomenal time for them, and whilst Dory hit me harder emotionally, I think part of its target audience was adults, whereas Goosebumps was focused almost entirely on the kids. So whilst kids will grow up and watch Finding Dory when they’re older, I feel that while they’re younger, Goosebumps will have more appeal, and it’s odd that that could be seen as a bad thing in todays society, for kids films to be aimed at children. We almost expect them to have adult jokes in them now and consider films failures if they don’t, maybe because all film critics are adults so it can be hard for them to judge kids films on their own merits (probably not though, as they are professional).

4. The BFG

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As already mentioned, I LOVED this movie. It was magical, as I said earlier this year:

“some films are funny, some films are heart-breaking, very few films can be described as magical, this is one of them”

It also had one of my favourite performances of the year, and is a film I’ve already considered buying on blu ray, despite being so poor at the moment I’m panicking about money about two days after receiving any. I know this film wasn’t rated that highly by critics, I just don’t get why. Normally when I disagree with critics it’s on comedies, films which I can see are definitely cult films, I don’t normally disagree based on “f*ck you this film was fairy lights and sunshine on celluloid”.

3. Kubo And The Two Strings

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A film so strong and confident I just automatically assumed it was based on something. The fact that a new property can set up a world this full and real says a lot about the talent of both the writers and the directors. Surprisingly it’s the directors first film as a director, and I would not be surprised if he won an Academy Award for it (it’s not likely, but it would be very deserved). This was one of the few films this year I was actively following from the moment I saw the first trailer, it just looked so good, the music choice (While My  Guitar Gently Weeps) was inspired, and visually it was very different from everything else. This HAD to be fantastic for me to like it, anything else would be a bigger disappointment than the first time I tried Hershey’s Chocolate.

2. Zootropolis

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A film that reminded me of an important lesson; you can have too many jokes in a comedy. I know that sounds weird but even in a comedy the characters need to treat the situation seriously, otherwise the audience don’t feel the jeopardy. If the characters don’t fear the situation, then why will the audience? It’s hard to believe but in the closing stretch of Airplane there’s barely any jokes, it’s all plot. This film does that too, there’s not many jokes in the final third, the characters are genuinely scared and determined and focused on plot, so that makes the stakes seem high to the audience, so they’re more emotionally invested. Now if I was doing a “favourite animated films of the year” then this would probably be top, but as I’m judging this by it’s standard as a kids film, this sadly has to be second. It’s definitely a better film than the one I’ve chosen to go in top spot, but not a better kids film for one simple reason; there’s no magic. There’s no moment where you sit watching this film and are overcome by a feeling of wonder and joy, there’s no “ooooooooo” moment. If it did that then it would definitely be top, and in most years it would, but this year it’s just beaten to the top spot by another film.

1. Moana

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A film so good it almost seems like Pixar made it, if it wasn’t for the songs. But oddly enough it’s the songs that push this to the top spot. I hate songs in kids films usually as they’re just distracting, but here it served a real purpose, characters seemed to have their own musical motifs attached to them, and the songs are REALLY good. There’s a crab singing a David Bowie-esque song, The Rock singing a song about how awesome he is, and they’re still not the best songs in this film. If “How Far I’ll Go” doesn’t get nominated for awards I will genuinely be surprised, it’s touching, empowering, and even from a technical standpoint just a superb piece of music. On the downside there’s one or two jokes that take you out of the movie (there’s a twitter joke in here which is quite funny but completely unnatural), but then they’re followed with moments of brilliance (the psychedelic crab scene for instance features animation so colourful and beautiful, the likes of which haven’t been seen in a long time). It also features what is without a doubt the best pee-joke of the year. So there’s that. Oh, it also features adorable/terrifying coconuts, which is always the sign of a great movie (be honest, how much better would every film be if you added anthropomorphic coconuts?)

 

So, that’s that. We’re starting work on our end of film lists as we speak so if there’s any films you think we’re likely to have not seen this year, let us know and we’ll try to watch them before the years out.

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.