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 1: The bad)

Okay the title is over simplifying it a lot. These are just films I didn’t like, some aren’t necessarily bad, but were more a victim of hype. There’s going to be a few (and I can guess which ones) which a lot of people will disagree with, but taste is subjective so here goes, if you disagree, let us know with which ones. Oh, and there’s plenty of spoilers so, be wary of that. In alphabetical order because, well how the darn else would I do it?

The 33

Disappointed with this as I think it’s a story that needs to be told, and the story itself is really compelling, it’s just the way it’s told which lets it down. Kind of boring and bland, and the biggest flaw is you don’t feel for the characters so you don’t really care either way what happens to them. I remember this event happening, people were hooked to the news eagerly awaiting each person as they came up, the euphoria felt around the globe is something I had never felt before, and I don’t think have since, this was a breaking news story with a happy ending. A film of that needs to capture the tone of the outside world, as horrible as that sounds it’s true, the reaction to the event turned it into something else, and that’s what’s lacking from this film, context in a wider world. You either do that or you go completely the other way and make the entire thing set in the mine, never showing outside so that we feel the claustrophobia, this film tries for a middle ground between the two and as such doesn’t achieve what it could.

Absolutely Fabulous

This suffers from what I call “Extras Syndrome”. Anybody remember Extras? It was Ricky Gervais’s next show after The Office and its main “gimmick” was that it had a celebrity cameo in every episode. As such people weren’t talking about the episodes, they talked about the cameos, they overshadowed the actual stories. That’s my problem with this film, it has so many cameos that it overshadows the film, maybe I’d like the film more if I had ever watched the series, but a good film adaptation of a television series also needs to appeal to people who haven’t watched the show, and this doesn’t do that.

American Pastoral

My main issue with this film was how uneven it was, subtle as a brick in parts, annoyingly vague in others. Scenes end when they should continue, and continue when they should end so overall the whole thing doesn’t seem to flow that well. Ewan McGregor does have moments of brilliance in his directing, but they’re let down by times where his inexperience shows, maybe this was too big a film for his first attempt. I think in a few years time he will direct a film which I will truly love, but this isn’t it. The scene which shows that is the scene where one of the main characters bombs a post office. That scene should be the highlight of the film, it should seem big, it should resonate with the audience, shock and wow them. It doesn’t do that, it just kind of happens and that’s that, you feel nothing in the immediate aftermath, you don’t feel the shock that the community does. On the plus side; Jennifer Connelly is amazing in this, as is Dakota Fanning.

Blair Witch

It’s pretty much a step by step remake of the first one, only with more of a nodding wink to the audience and with a higher budget. It seems to overestimate how important the original one was. Yes, it  was very important at the time, but that time was 17 years ago, they’ll be people seeing this who were still babies when the original came out, there’s a whole new generation of horror fans who have been raised on different films (albeit, films which have been heavily influenced by the original). If this film came out in the mid 2000s then it would have been a lot better as it would have seemed more natural, as it is it just seems a bit pointless. It doesn’t seem to add or explain anything about the mythos, it just makes a bigger mess of it. I understand wanting the audience to ask questions when they leave the cinema, but they should want to ask questions, they shouldn’t need to, it shouldn’t be essential to understand the film, the film should stand out on its own. Side note; the worst horror movie ending ever? The Devil Inside. A 2012 horror film which ends with a title card telling you to go on the website to find out more. F that.

The Boss

Otherwise known as “Melissa McCarthy calls a woman a cunt then punches her daughter in the face”

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Comedy!

David Brent: Life On The Road

An odd film, funny in parts but it seems strange in the way it handles the main character. All through the film he’s shown to be a delusional person who annoys everybody. Logically this film should end with him realising the error of his ways and changing accordingly, maybe stop being such a dick to everybody. But nope, this ends with everyone else changing for him, and saying “he’s not that bad really”, “I quite like him actually”, and he the character doesn’t do anything to deserve this, they all just suddenly decide they like him now it’s reached the end of the film. I actually feel a lot of sympathy for the supposed antagonist of the film, all through the film he’s shown as someone who’s just trying to get on with his job but the main character keeps getting in the way and making so much noise he can’t do it, and when the guy finally snaps and says “look, just shut the fuck up”, we’re supposed to be angry at him, instead of just “yeah, that makes sense, he should have done that earlier”.

The Forest

I really wanted to like this film, I love seeing horror films at the cinema and this was the first one I’d seen this year, and the trailers made it look interesting. Here’s pretty much every single scare in the film: weird shit, a dead looking thing is far away, then appears close to camera. then the character wakes up. After the fourth or fifth time this happens you just start to think “this isn’t real so nothing about it matters”. Fake scare me once, shame on you, fake scare me twice, shame on me, fake scare me five times, you’ve just being silly no, go sit in the corner. It really sucks that I don’t like this film. I’m interested in the real life place as it seems kind of fascinating, and the idea of doing either a psychological horror or a thriller there is genuinely exciting, but as it is they tried to do both and ended up doing none of them effectively. Somewhere there is a really tense film about someone dealing with their own mortality whilst walking through the Aokigahara Forest, but this really isn’t it.

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How To Be Single

I just didn’t really care for the characters and found them too stereotypical to warrant an emotional reaction.

In The Heart Of The Sea

Spectacle cinema that forgot to put in any spectacle. It has no moments which visually impress you. Also, Hemsworth’s accent kept slipping and that distracted me.

Independence Day: Resurgence

The most telling thing about this films quality is this; it happened this year and yet nobody mentions it anymore. This film should be dumb fun, as it is it’s just dumb. Like a poor remake of the original, only with an obvious sequel hook at the end. It won’t impress people who liked the original, and will mean nothing to those who haven’t, so it’s hard to say exactly who it was aimed at.

The Legend Of Tarzan

Part sequel, part origin story, part retelling, and with the story basically “the only person who can save all these African people is a white guy”, all kinds of awkward. Christoph Waltz seems to be enjoying himself though.

Triple 9

I assume this film was bad anyway, I can’t remember anything from it, even after seeing the trailer, nothing.

Zoolander 2

Too many cameos, and the same problem as the David Brent film; the main character is an awful human being yet the film is about how everyone else learns to realise how great he is. Actually now that I think of it I should have called Extras Syndrome “Zoolander 2 Syndrome”. The cinema I was in had approximately five people in, as such you could hear the silence that met every joke, you could hear every “this is a bit shit isn’t it?”.

Secret Life Of Pets/The Boss

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

Secret Life Of Pets

I have two problems with this film:

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

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

The Boss

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

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

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

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