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.

The Oscars: who, what, and why

It’s every movie blog’s right of way to write about the Oscars, so a week later and barely still topical, here are our thoughts on the industry circle jerk we call the Academy Awards. (Don’t worry we’ve got some interesting posts coming in the next few weeks, including American Beauty; the secret stoner classic, and a look at possibly the best TV Show of the last ten years, Mad Men.)

Best Actor

Who Won: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenantleonardo-dicaprio-revenant-trailer-buried-alive-092915

Who should have Won: Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant. Is it his best performance? No. Does it feel a bit more like a career win than anything else? Yes. But in not a very strong year for lead acting performances, his raw and bleeding turn in The Revenant was definitely deserving and definitely won’t be remembered with the same hate other career wins have, like Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman.

ayouth4Who should have been nominated: Surprisingly difficult to pick another great lead performance from 2015, but I’m going with Michael Caine from Youth. Though a very natural role for the old actor to slip into, it was still towering above anything he’s done in the last few years, and maybe even his whole career. Caine brings a real edge and melancholy to the aged composer, and though a very specific character in his own right, manages to cut to the heart of all people old and young, to make us treasure the life we still have to lead, and the life we already have.

Best Actress

Who Won: Brie Lawson for RoomPicture1

Who should have Won: Brie Lawson for Room. No I don’t agree with every choice, but this was another good one. Along with the snubbed Jacob Tremblay, the pair brought the needed heart to what could have been (and in some ways was) an over wrought melodrama with a very topical and timely story. But the performances are what boosted this to an effective and moving drama, and the whole film is worth it for that escape scene alone.

maxresdefaultWho should have been nominated: Bel Powley for The Diary of a Teenage Girl. No actress last year gave more of an emotional, funny, heart-breaking, fun, sincere, and just naked performance than Bel Powley in The Diary of a Teenage Girl. She was the embodiment of the teenager, and her courage to commit to the sexually explicit role added more emotional weight than all of the actual nominations combined.

Best supporting Actor

Who Won: Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies Bridgeof-Spies-777x437

19-creed-stallone.w600.h600Who should have Won: Sylvester Stallone for Creed. Not that I think his performance is better than Rylance’s (but it is as good), I just think the sentiment of Sylvester Stallone winning an Oscar for Rocky would have been nicer, as we all doubt he’s got another one in him (but who knows). His performance is also genuinely very strong and thoughtful, and I think the main reason he didn’t win in the end was because Creed got too sentimental about itself near the end, and the cancer subplot was a bit much.

Who should have been nominated: Jason Segel for The End of The Tour. I already went into jason-segel-the-end-of-the-tour-trailerdetail about his performance in our year end awards post here. But to say again, Segel shocked everyone with his subtle and quiet turn as the famed writer David Foster Wallace, his performance doing the surprising thing of letting us see his humanity, instead of understanding his genius (like most biopic type films try to do). With the right push I could have seen him getting a nomination, the Academy tend to love when comic actors go serious.

 

Best supporting Actress

Who Won: Alicia Vikander for The Danish Girl

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leeWho should have Won: Ahhhhh let’s say, Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight. Don’t really have much for any of the nominations, but Leigh’s excellent turn as the vulgar and funny Daisy Domergue was one of the films highlights, having physicality you don’t see enough in female roles, and it was one of the few nominations that didn’t feel Oscar-baity.

this-is-what-a-femiWho should have been nominated: Charlize Theron for Mad Max: Fury Road. Talking of physicality, Charlize Theron has in in buckets as Imperator Furiosa, and gave one of the most intense and physically (and emotionally) raw performances of last year. The fact Rachel McAdams’ got a nomination for her okay work in Spotlight and Charlize Theron didn’t is just an insult, especially with how Oscar friendly the film was treated. Would an acting nomination really just too much for you Academy? Did all the sand and dust confuse you and you thought she was black!

Best Director

Who Won: Alejandro G. Iñárritu for The Revenant.

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Who should have Won: George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road. Like with the supporting georgemiller2-xlargeactors, this is less a who’s better choice, and more just the context of the win. Both directors worked in insane conditions to produce their fine films and I think the directing shown in both is as good as each other, from the harrowingly naturally lit landscapes of The Revenant, to the perfect mess of explosions and carnage of Fury Road. But with Alejandro G. Iñárritu having already won last year for Birdman I think it would have been better for the Academy to show love for the talent in a genre and style that rarely gets it.

Who should have been nominated: Paolo Sorrentino for Youth. A very underrated film that should have been much more award friendly than it was. Paolo Sorrentino’s funny and heart-warming if also heart shattering meditation on aging and fame was one of the most breath taking films of 2015, and was directed with more abstract beauty than any other, and felt more like art than a film in many ways. Just look at this opening shot!

Would of given this to Pete Docter for Inside Out, but I guess I went with style over practicality.

Best screenplay  

Who Won: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer for Spotlight.

Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer

d92df7b77dc6506907a694978860da35Who should of Won: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley for Inside Out. Inside Out is one of the most imaginative, smart, and emotionally resonating films I’ve ever seen, it already stands proud amongst Pixar’s classics and was considered by many to be the pinnacle of 2015’s films. And the idea on paper could have gone soooooo wrong, ‘what if feelings had feelings’, it sounds more like a joke Pixar film than a real one. But with an intelligent script, vivid and mature takes on the ideas, and the most poignant message given to us last year, Inside Out was definitely it’s best original script…that I saw.11202259_ori

Who should have been nominated: 99 Homes, an almost mathematically well written and very emotionally intense film about the housing crises. I’m a fan of stories about the good man’s fall to the dark side (Star Wars prequels withstanding) and this film does this masterfully, shaping a very sympathetic lead with the single father Andrew Garfield and a very compelling antagonist with Michael Shannon’s corrupt estate tycoon, who should really have had his own supporting nod too. With this, on top of The Big Short and Margin Call, you really get a complete picture of the different effects of the 2010 housing crises.   

 

Best Adapted screenplay   the-big-short-movie-poster

Who Won: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for The Big Short.

Who should have Won: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph for The Big Short. I agree with the Academy again for this one; Adam McKay and Charles Randolph took a highly complex issue and made it not just understandable and relatable to a mass audience, but funny, dramatic, and engaging too. Some people complain that the film fails because even after it they were even more confused by the credit crunch than before, with its use of celebrities using big words, but do you know what I call those people; Americans.

14702-10469-14473-10034-Michael-Fassbender-Steve-Jobs-Movie-2015-l-lWho should have been nominated: Aaron Sorkin for Steve Jobs. Arron Sorkin writing a feature screenplay is like Meryl Streep acting in anything, it should almost automatically get nominated, and Steve Jobs is no exception. His second film about a computer billionaire, Sorkin’s signature dialogue crackles in this very showy and masterfully executed play set in three real time acts, that manage to explore the humanity of Steve Jobs and his co-workers without leaving the confides of the backstage.

Best Score

Who Won: Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight.

Who should have Won: Ennio Morricone for The Hateful Eight. Not really in love with any of the nominated scores, so I thought I’d go with the consensus, and it’s nice for the Grandfather of western soundtracks to finally bag the award, also it is a damn fine score.

Who should have been nominated: Michael Giacchino for Inside Out, Bundle of Joy. This is legitimately my favourite score of 2015. It’s charming, catchy, and effective. It perfectly captures the bright tone of the film while still resonating for the emotional moments; the ice skating memory scene being a real favourite of mine. It’s magic. What can I say; Inside Out is already a classic, and what classic isn’t complete without its iconic music.

Best Picture

Who Won: Spotlight.index

Who should have Won: Spotlight. Mad Max was close, but out of the nominations I really think Spotlight was the most worthy of them all. Was it the most artsy? No. The most experimental? No. It was a good old fashioned journalism film about a very hard issue, and it taught us all something we should learn, about the power of understating and letting the story and facts speak for themselves. Some people call it boring because it intentionally holds back on the easy drama, and focuses on it like a mystery instead of lampooning Priest and the catholic Church, as it’s smart enough to let the facts do that for it, and not to ‘sex’ it up in anyway like a lot of investigation films do; because that would make it shlock.

Who should have been nominated (and fucking won): Inside Out. I’ve already spoken in insideout8-xlargegreat detail about why this is the best film of 2015, and I was shocked after all it’s critical praising that it wasn’t at least nominated for best picture, because that’s what it was. Hell, back when I first saw it I would have put flesh on it being the first animated film to win best picture. But it’s shameful absence just goes to show that, along with race, sexism, homophobia and everything else, the Academy still have a long way to go before they really look at all films and filmmakers equally.

And that’s that for this year’s Oscars! I know I didn’t even cover half of the awards but I covered the ones I care about, and I know who’s ever reading this doesn’t want to hear me prattle on for pages about what I think should win an arbitrary award that means about as much to the quality of a film as a #1 Dad coffee mug.

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