2017 In Film: Part 4 (The Good)

The penultimate round-up blog. In here I’m putting, get this, films, which, are, good. I know, shocking, right? I bet you never guessed that from the title. My definition of good but not great for purposes of these is this: would I consider buying if they were on sale?

A Cure For Wellness

A very very good film. But not a very nice one. As you can read here I really liked it, but it made me want to self-harm. It’s basically this year’s Nocturnal Creatures, but not quite as great. I do wish Celia Imrie was in it more, she was in the trailer but her role in the film was really nothing more than an extended cameo. Mia Goth was superb however, as was Dane DeHaan (which reminds me, I really need to see Chronicle, I mean, I’ve had it on DVD for months but still haven’t got round to it.

+Doesn’t shy away from showing terrible things. There’s a scene where someone drills into a tooth and you see EVERYTHING. Just thinking about it sets my teeth on edge.

-A bit too slow in parts. Could do with being made slightly tighter.

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

Gifted

A lot less Nicholas-Sparks than I thought it would be. Bit formulaic but it plays to the formula very well. Chris Evans is very good in it, but is overshadowed by Mckenna Grace, who is very very good, probably one of the best performances this year. Is it just me or are child actors getting better? Manages to do a performance which is funny, moving, and hits all the right spots in terms of body language and facial acting. Great performance. Jenny Slate was also REALLY good in it, but wasn’t in it as much as she should have been.

+Genuinely heartwarming.

-A little saccharine in parts.

Hidden Figures

It was good, I wouldn’t call it “Oscar Worthy”. The main trouble with these sorts of stories is it’s impossible to have a good villain. The key to a good villain comes in two separate flavours:

  1. The “nobody knows anything about him” (usually used in horror films)
  2. The “I can see his point, but he’s very very wrong”.

Because these films are character pieces you can’t have the villains be the first one, so you need the second one. But they never work in these films for one simple reason; there’s no logical defence of racism. There’s no way of seeing their point. I had similar problems with Selma too, the villains are so clearly wrong that they don’t make compelling characters. Now I know this is what it was actually like at the time, and it is a truly fascinating story, but it does mean as a cinema experience it never really stays with you. So really my problem isn’t with the film, it’s with reality not conforming to my expectations, so maybe the problem is me.

+An important story that needs to be told and seen.

-One watch may be enough, you’re highly unlikely to need to see it again.

Jumanji

Holy hell this was a lot of fun. I think I actually might prefer it to the original. Got some of the loudest and most consistent laughs from other people in the audience out of any film I’ve seen.

+The performances. All the main characters are basically avatars of other characters. So they have to be played the same way the original characters are (think the scene in Harry Potter where Hermione pretends to be Bellatrix, like that, throughout the entire film). Not the easiest thing to do, but they all do it really well. Jack Black in particular makes a fantastic teenage girl, and Karen Gillians “no idea how to flirt” scene was hilarious.

-The entire film you can’t escape the feeling that you miss Robin Williams.

Kingsman

Pretty much the first one again, but I liked the first one. Funny, violent, and great music throughout.

+Mark Strong’s final scene is brilliant. The new characters slot into the mythos easily.

-Too long, too unfocused, and Colin Firth’s resurrection was not handled that well.

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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. Its 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”. It was a bit like having sex with a singing nazi. It looked good, sounded good, but ultimately left you feeling rather hollow.

+Music which seems like it’s instantly recognisable and you’ll hum for days.

-Kind of a bland story.

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Life

Pretty darn good sci-fi. You watch it and think “you know what would be awesome? If x happens”, and then it does happen, or something better happens. Was worried when I saw the trailer that it would be another cliche “parasitic alien takes over people”, but nope, this is an alien beating people using pure brute strength. And the ending? So harsh, absolutely perfect for the genre. Definitely need to see it again, if only to see whether the opening scene was one shot or whether it just had minimal cuts.

+Pretty brave decisions made in the script.

-Stands very much in the shadow of those that have gone before it.

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. Someone this year said “if you’re depressed, La La Land will cheer you up, but Manchester By The Sea will make you feel better”. That pretty much sums it up.

+So bleak. So, so bleak.

-Revelations about some of the cast members make it hard to watch.

Mindhorn

Disappointed I didn’t get a chance to see this at cinema. Ah well, have the DVD so all is good. Incredibly British and wonderful. Exactly what you’d expect from someone who was in The Mighty Boosh.

+Julian Barrett is having a hell of a lot of fun here. Some great cameos too.

-Doesn’t quite have enough substance to be truly great.

Murder On The Orient Express

I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. The biggest surprise is that it’s not Ewan McGregor as the lead role, a fact I didn’t find out until about a week after I saw the film. When I say “enjoyed this more than I thought” I don’t mean I thought it would be a terrible film. I mean it’s a mystery film, so to enjoy it surely you have to compelled to try to figure it out? Yet all I know about the original novel is how it ends (I have no idea how I know this, and only this). So would I be able to enjoy it despite knowing the ending? Also, the trailers made it look like Johnny Depp was in full Mortdecai mode. Hands up who saw that film. Now, keep your hands up if you enjoyed it. Right *loads shotgun*

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Et tu, bruti? (yes, in this scenario the cat is called Bruti, well, was until I shot it for liking Mortdecai)

Yet despite that (and the negative reviews) I thoroughly enjoyed this. A hell of a fun watch.

+Great ensemble cast.

-Some of the exterior shots look a little ropey.

Patti Cake$

A lot better than I thought it would be. Has both a great and not great soundtrack. I mean, the songs are fantastic, but the music/story integration could be done better. You don’t really get the feeling that the film is influencing the music, or the other way round, they seem kind of independent from each other. Side note, I think this is the only film I’ve seen this year which has had absolutely nobody in it who I know from another film.

+The closing scene when she’s doing her final song.

-Some of which were in the trailer, giving it away.

Prevenge

Without a doubt the best film about a homicidal fetus you’re ever going to see. I do love Alice Lowe, she makes amazing stuff. First Sightseers now this, she’s becoming Britains go-to female film-maker for smart, original dark comedies. She really needs to do a Black Mirror episode, and more films, and more television. Basically she needs to forgo sleep and work forever, creating more content for me to watch.

+The fact that Alice Lowe made this in two weeks whilst pregnant.

-If someone doesn’t like this style of film, this isn’t going to be the one that changes their mind.

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The Boss Baby

Better than the abysmal trailers would make you think it is. Some genuine laugh out loud moments. Putting it here is a little generous I know, but I’m not the audience for this, kids are, and kids love it.

+Genuinely funny in a lot of parts.

-Great for a kids movie, only ok for a movie.

The Hippopotamus

Very Stephen Fry. In both a good and a bad way. Although it has to be said that “now will you all kindly fuck off?” is a great closing line

+Very funny, Roger Allam is terrific.

-Won’t stick with you.

The Promise

A 2 hour film about the Armenian genocide, no, wait, come back, it’s actually REALLY good. Brutal without being exploitative, which is the risk you take when doing a film like this. If you don’t do it right it can come off like you’re exploiting the reality for the sake of drama, you have to stay grounded enough, and honest enough, for the film to work. It also REALLY annoyed a certain group of people, who flooded IMDB with negative reviews of it, calling it propaganda and lies without a hint of truth, saying that the genocide never happed. Most of these “reviews” were posted before the film was even released, so you know they’re definitely trustworthy. Oscar Isaac is REALLY good in this, by the way, believable throughout, but special mention has to go to Marwan Kenzari, who plays his character with such conviction, and does such wonderful facial work throughout that it’s one of the most genuine performances of the year. I would highly recommend seeing this, and not just because it annoys genocide deniers (which is always fun).

+A story that needs to be told, and luckily is told very well.

-Occasionally shys away from the brutality that is needed.

The Ritual

This film did something I will forever love it for; it put most the bits from the trailer in the opening half. I liked this as it meant you weren’t thinking “ok, what from the trailer haven’t I seen yet?”. Chilling, well told and well performed. Book is now on my “to-read” list.

+Very scary in parts. Great story too, you’re never fully sure where it’s going.

-Comes so close to being great, but stops just short.

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The Young Offenders

Kind of charming, rather funny. Has a scene where a disabled drug dealer shoots someone with a nail gun. Seems like a tv show, which as of next year it will be, and I can’t wait.

+Incredibly funny. And having someone lose a shitload of drugs because they have a hole in their bag was very funny.

-Never really seems like a movie, more like a television show.

Their Finest

Have you seen Suicide Squad? You know that bit near the end where the fire guy goes “we’re family”, and the audience is like “how? You’ve only known each other for like a day”? Basically that happens here, certain things between characters don’t feel earned enough and feel kind of forced. Which is a shame as it’s actually a really good story, with great performances and impressive dialogue.

+Compelling story that will reach you emotionally.

-Unearned character interactions.

Thor: Ragnarok

Wait, what’s this? I didn’t hate this film? I know, I’m shocked too. This is what the first two films should have been, just an all out funfest which relishes its own absurdity.

+”the hammer pulled you off?”

-Some character actions are supposed to be shocking, yet at this point it would be more shocking if they didn’t happen.

Tickling Giants

I remember the first time I saw Mark Thomas on television. It was on a channel 4 show that I recorded for reasons I can’t quite remember. I watched it with this kid I knew from up the road and he said it’s really good as “most comedians just talk about stuff, he’s actually doing stuff”, which he was. He was not just telling jokes, he was going actively protesting and doing things to change the country for the better (the episode in particular was about corporate manslaughter laws). Remarkable story that deserves to be told. At first you think “oh, he has permission finally for satire to works, this is great”. Then the president orders an arrest warrant for him. It’s actually kind of terrifying to see a lot of this, but in a way it’s kind of heartwarming to see some people continue to support them. People still want to work on the show even when the channel it’s on disowns them. Kind of a sad ending but one that’s full of potential for the future. Would actually make a really compelling fiction film.

+A fascinating look into what it’s like under those sort of regimes.

-Might be too difficult for people not into political humour to get into, not really a way in for them.

 

So that’s the end of this blog. Final one will be soon. Exactly how many films did I see this year? Did I actually get round to seeing The Disaster Artist and Tragedy Girls? Find out the answer to these questions, and more (but not a hell of a lot more) next time. Until then, comment with where we went wrong.

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How We Got Through….May 2017

Films

Snatched

Not bad, just disappointing. Very bland, the kind of film you see and then immediately forget. Shame as it has some very good moments in it, but some of the jokes fall flat and land not with raucous laughter, but with silence. Same with directing too, a lot of the visual and editing decisions are kind of strange. All in all it seems like every part of it was a first draft, every shot closing not with “perfect, one more for safety” but “that will do for now”. Same with the script, entire scenes seem like bits which should have been taken out in a second draft.

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Joan Cusack is really good in the small amount of scenes she’s in though

Colossal

One of the best films I’ve seen all year. Oh it’s flawed as hell (particularly in terms of time and establishing exactly “when” certain scenes take place in relation to each other) but all those flaws do is take it from a 10/10 to a solid 8. Anne Hathaway gives a performance which equals Rachel Getting Married (which if you haven’t seen, you really should, it’s superb), and Jason Sudeikis is creepier than I ever thought he could be, the kind of performance which makes you think he could easily move into more dramatic roles, or play a serial killer. So well written too, so much so that I immediately looked into the writer and made a note to watch everything he’s done. It’s also extremely unique, I can’t think of a film to compare it too, stands alone in a genre of one, and I can’t see anybody doing it better.

The Promise

A 2 hour film about the Armenian genocide, no, wait, come back, it’s actually REALLY good. Brutal without being exploitative, which is the risk you take when doing a film like this. If you don’t do it right it can come off like you’re exploiting the reality for the sake of drama, you have to stay grounded enough, and honest enough, for the film to work. It also REALLY annoyed a certain group of people, who flooded IMDB with negative reviews of it, calling it propaganda and lies without a hint of truth, saying that the genocide never happed. Most of these “reviews” were posted before the film was even released, so you know they’re definitely trustworthy. Oscar Isaac is REALLY good in this by the way, believable throughout, but special mention has to go to Marwan Kenzari, who plays his character with such conviction, and does such wonderful facial work throughout that it’s one of the most genuine performances of the year. I would highly recommend seeing this, and not just because it annoys genocide deniers (which is always fun)

Sleepless

I’ve seen quite a few bad films at the cinema, but rarely are they as f*cking tedious as this was. You’d think a 90 minute action film set in Las Vegas would be exciting, you’d be wrong. The only reason certain things happen are because characters are idiots, for example at one point the villain points a loaded gun at the main character, now instead of shooting him, he takes a few steps backwards and gets run over a van (which he somehow didn’t hear coming, in an empty parking lot, the emptiness of which I have a problem with also). I’ve seen defences of this say “yeah but as long as you don’t think too hard about it it works. It’s just dumb fun”. And they’re half right, it’s dumb. It’s not nitpicking to point out that someone who has been stabbed (and for whom the wound continues bleeding for 4 hours) should be weakened by that. But nope, the only indication of it is that he occasionally stops and goes “ah”. A stab wound has the same effect as an ice cream headache. It’s a shame as the cast do their job well, it’s just the script is kinda dumb. There’s some odd choices when it comes to directing too. You know that “shakey cam fight scene” that the Bourne movies use? They do that here, only they do it for EVERYTHING in the fight. Someone walks away after the fight; Shakey Bourne Camera, someone gets their phone out to phone someone: Shakey Bourne Camera. It also ends with the most obvious sequel hook in a long time, yet considering everybody in the cinema stood up the very second the credits started, I don’t think it’s going to be looked forward to that much. Maybe I’m spoiled by John Wick, which set my standards unbelievably high, but still, not a great film, it’s not even a good one. In fact, probably one of the worst films I’ve seen this year.

Suburban Gothic

See, now this is dumb fun. Very very fun. I can’t remember who told me to watch this, but whoever it was; thank you very much. Best watched whilst drunk and with other people. It’s on netflix now so if you’ve got that, watch it, and if you don’t, get netflix, watch it, then cancel after the free month.

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TV Shows

The Office (US)

A US remake that is without a doubt superior to the original. I have a major issue with the UK version; the main character starts off disliked, then ends up with all the characters embracing him, without changing anything about his personality. His character does not deserve his happy ending, all he’s done is bitch and moan and be bitter and spiteful, he should not be the good guy and it feels like it’s done mainly because he was played by the writer. The US one handles it differently, because it has more episodes it allows the main character to have more depth and be a fully developed person, so he comes off a lot more likeable. This show is also helped by the fact that Jim and Pam are one of the best relationships I’ve ever seen in television, so often everything about them is said just with a look, or with body language, you could watch it in silence and get a sense of how they respond to each other.

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It also provided me with a lot of good Cover Photos for facebook

Books

1000 Years Of Annoying The French

A book that’s pretty self explanatory, a look at complex history of anglo-french relations. Definitely has an English bias, but never really comes off as hateful and angry. Fascinating read which goes in depth into a lot of historical fallacies, and tries to examine why the two countries occasionally seem like one of those couples who constantly argue and cheat on each other, yet still stay together for some reason.

Cash

Really interesting, but I don’t think you need to read it more than once. Very honest about his own flaws, yet seems to hold back when discussing others. So it’s interesting but kind of frustrating, yet it makes sense, a biography shouldn’t be entirely about settling old scores, and I’ve read many biographies which have been ruined by hot angry and bitter the person has seemed.

The Damned United

Almost exactly as good as the film, and the film was amazing. Possibly the only sports story where the hero comes from ahead and loses.

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Also a reminder of how quotable Brian Clough could be

Death Note

One of the best (read: the only) manga series I’ve read. Fantastic character work, it can be difficult to write genius’s as sometimes writers just research a lot of information and have the characters repeat what they’ve researched, so it comes off kind of sterile and bland. The two main characters in this are obviously incredibly intelligent, but this isn’t shown through facts and figures, it’s shown through logic. They come to nonsensical conclusions, and then explain how it’s not only logical, but the only possible thought you should have (much like the Sherlock series often did). Kind of an intellectual cold war between the two characters, they both KNOW whom the other one is, but need to try to get the other one to drop their guard and reveal more information.

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This quote is life