2010s In Film Day 6: 2016

January – Spotlight/The Big Short

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. It’s weird both of these came out in the same month. Occasionally we’re blessed with great release schedules, and sometimes we have nothing.

February – Goosebumps

Again, another REALLY good month. This month had this, deadpool, Secrets In Their Eyes, and, ok actually that’s it. But that’s still a good month. I chose to talk about this though as I’m not entirely sure what I can say about Secrets In Their Eyes, whereas this I can at least have one paragraph about an aspect of it. This is a weird genre; kid-friendly horror. It’s a really hard genre to do, but when it’s done well it’s great. You can’t depend on cheap tricks for these, you can’t just fill the screen with jump scares, ultra-violence, and sexual assault. You have to get creative and think of ways of maintaining dread through well-written characters and a villain that represents a deep fear we all have. This isn’t the best film I’ve ever seen, but it is one of the ones I feel the most warmth for.

March – The Witch (or The VVitch)

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog (and if you’re not, the subscribe button is like, right there) will know that my relationship with horror is complicated. I like the genre yet it’s the genre with the films I’ve hated most. Luckily this film fixes a lot of mistakes that most horror films make. Firstly, it’s f*cking terrifying. I liked this film a lot, but I NEVER want to see it again, it just felt wrong watching it. Not in the way that people feel when they’re watching A Serbian Film or Human Centipede or a Justin Bieber music video. That’s not fear, that’s disgust, if you go outside and vomit on someone you will disgust them, but it doesn’t make you the next Stephen King. This film is truly chilling. In a way that I genuinely can’t remember any film being. I remember watching this and being VERY impressed with how well it was directed (seriously, Robert Eggers is a f*cking genius with what he did, he managed to make a slow zoom into a forest scary and then managed to make you feel genuine terror at a rabbit). Really the only downside to this film is also one of its strengths. It doesn’t hold the viewers’ hands and walk them through.I guarantee at least 70% of the people who see this will hate it and find it boring, but the others will be sitting on the edge of their seat throughout, and it’s those 30% that the film is aiming at, but this means it often does things which disenfranchise the casual moviegoer. Shots don’t linger on important things as if to say “hey, pay attention to this” and things aren’t explained. You never feel like you’re watching a film and the dialogue flows beautifully and feels natural (which is odd as they’re speaking in ye olde english) but on the downside, moments end before you realise how important they are and how much you should have been paying attention.

April – Captain America: Civil War

I really loved this film when I saw it, and for a long time after. But to be completely honest, Endgame made this film worse in retrospect. It made me realise that this film didn’t really matter in the long term. The actual “civil war” had almost no impact on the rest of the franchise, neither did a character being paralysed. This film was like a little kid playing with army figures, he sets up the troops into weird and wonderful positions, he goes to school, hoping to continue when he comes back from school. But then his dad picks up all the figures and puts them back where they were as “that’s where they’re supposed to be”.

May – Money Monster

A big regret of mine is not seeing this at the cinema, I thought it would be overly preachy and dull. Nope, so tense, a great thriller which just goes to show how talented Jodie Foster is behind the camera. The story is depressingly relevant for these times.

June – The Conjuring 2

I preferred this to the first one, which was one of the most highly regarded horror films of the last decade. Does this mean it’s better? I have no idea, I’m aware of how strong personal bias can be, and I saw the first one in a house, whereas this one I saw in cinema, and horror is a genre made for cinema. Not just for the darkness and the volume, but also because of instant audience feedback, much like laughing, when you hear other people be scared it sets the tone and makes you more scared. And of course you’re forced to pay attention to it, you can’t sit there checking your phone (well, you can, but if you do, you’re a c*nt). I cannot overestimate how strong Madison Wolfe’s performance is in this, giving a performance well beyond her 13 years, bringing to mind Linda Blair in The Exorcist. She’s been in other films before but usually as a “main character when she was younger”, but on this the entire film is dependent on her. If you don’t buy her character and her fear, then the film is dead quicker than one of Henry VIII’s wives. The other performances? Well they’re okay, Vera Farmiga seems to be slightly phoning it in as Lorraine Warren this time, Patrick Wilson doesn’t have much to do but furrow his brow, Lauren Esposito does well with what she’s given but reminds me too much of someone I know for that not to be a distraction. This film does have some great scares, but they won’t stick with you, some of them are almost literally a guy sneaking up behind you and saying “boo”, they’re instant scares. They make you jump and provide good reaction shots for people to use in publicity, but once you leave the cinema all fear is over. You don’t see the world differently like you did after It Follows, you’re not left changed by the experience, every scare takes place in the moment. As such it’s destined to be one of those films teenagers watch in groups and sit in the dark (a genre I shall now deem; “frat house horror” as that seems to be the most popular place to watch horror movies according to American TV and films). Basically, it’s the feature length equivalent of one of those jump scare videos your asshole friend sends you, only over two hours long.

July – The BFG

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. 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. And it’s a real shame this film isn’t better regarded.

August – 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”.

September – Kubo And The Two Strings

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. This was one of the few films in 2016 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.

October – Storks

Expected it to be terrible, yet was actually quite funny. Not the greatest plot but very charming. Plus it has a fight scene where all the characters are trying to not make any noise so they don’t wake a sleeping baby, which was just hilarious, very inventive.

November – Edge Of Seventeen

It HAS to be this film, and not just because I’m watching it as I write this. Let’s get the obvious out of the way here; I’m fairly certain I’m not the target audience for this film (a feeling which was confirmed by the cinema being almost entirely teenage girls), so this had an uphill battle to impress me, an uphill battle which was evened out by the release of the trailer, which was funny, slightly heartwarming, and cynical as hell, I’m glad to say the only difference between the film and the trailer is the film itself is a lot more heartwarming. It’s just as funny and cynical as you’d hope, although part of my opinion on that might be because I have a weakness for any film which has “I’m going to kill myself” as the first line. It’s not just the cynical nature of the film that’s done well, the characters themselves are really well defined. Even when the characters do and say terrible things, you understand their motivations, even though you don’t agree with them. They are all fully fleshed out, and they all get good lines. Unpopular opinion, I tend to dislike “comedy characters” in films and sitcoms, mainly because it means the writers tend to give them all the best lines, leaving the other characters somewhat underdeveloped. That’s a problem which this film avoids, most of the characters could comfortably lead their own movie, that’s a masterful piece of scripting and the writer should be commended for that. Which is why I’m glad the writer also directed it, it’s easier to follow directors careers than writers as more emphasis is put on directors. I was surprised this was directed by the writer, although it kind of makes sense, this seems like a very personal story and they’d be nobody better to get that across than the person who wrote it. It’s more surprising that this is her first film as a director, whilst it’s not exactly full of “wow shots”, or inspiring cinematography, it’s a lot more accomplished than a first time director should be, here’s hoping she gets a chance to do more work in the future with someone elses script, will be interesting to see what she can do. I feel her best work is as a writer though, the script has some amazing pieces of dialogue that really hit home. My personal favourite being (and i’m paraphrasing here) “I just don’t want to have to live with myself for the rest of my life”. Like I said, I’m watching it right now and it is still just SO perfect.

December – Moana

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. 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 yeah, that was 2016, and I didn’t even get to mention Zootropolis, Batman Vs Superman, Creed, or Room. Room is one of my favourite movies ever, and the fact I didn’t mention it just shows how good this year was.

Hereditary (2018)

It’s been a few days since I watched this. I needed the cool-down period so that I could approach this with the sophistication and slick analytical nature which we are known for. So here goes: WHAT THE COCKING SHIT-FUCK WAS THAT?

I mean, I liked it, I think. I’m still not entirely sure to be honest. I thought it was very, very good, I’m just not sure if I ever want to see it again. It seems to have divided opinion, some people view it as a fantastic film that could lead the way for horror movies, whilst some people view it as a boring mess. Me? I see it as a boring mess, that could lead the way for horror movies.

There is a very good chance you’ll find the opening third incredibly tedious, and you will look at your watch/the person next to you/your own reflection in the shiny surface of something as you contemplate how you’re wasting your life. But like all films; once the small child gets decapitated, it really picks up. But only compared to what was going on before, compared to standard films it is still incredibly slow. Almost two-thirds of the film is basically foreplay, which is always a risky strategy as it means if you flub the actual orgasm then it’s just been a massive waste of everyone’s time. Luckily the cumshot here is really good. The closing section is just insane, in a brilliant way. I feel it could have been a better film if you cut a lot of the opening, but then that also could have hurt it. Part of the brilliance was the way everything was set up, there is SOOOOO much foreshadowing it’s actually genius. So many things you think are inconsequential (even the play being studied in class) actually turn out to be deeply important. After leaving the film you’ll suddenly remember a seemingly throwaway line, and how it actually foreshadowed something important, and you’ll think “fuck, that was brilliant”. And it is. The script is the work of someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. Same with the directing, scares are punctuated with audio cues. What normally happens in a lot of horror films is this: person is sitting in an empty room, suddenly there’s a loud piece of audio, and a face appears behind them. The way this does it; person sitting in an empty room, you suddenly notice there’s a face behind them, and you wonder how long it’s been there. This shows fantastic competence from a first-time director and is a brilliant idea. It forces you to feel you have to pay attention to every single moment. You can’t look away, not even for a second unless you want to risk missing. A lot of the times for films you can be a passive watcher, you’ll be watching the film but you won’t really be fully focused on it, you’ll be thinking of how hungry you are, whether England will win the world cup (Spoilers; yes! But not the football one, the cheese-rolling world cup), or whether that person sitting in front of you will ever SHUT UP and if he doesn’t stop talking you’re going to go down there and twat him with a crowbar. This, you’re very active, you can tell this even in the body language of the people who were watching it whilst I was there; everyone was leaning forward. It’s not just that that makes it seem the work of a seasoned director, the way they cut between scenes is unique, and brilliant, and is sure to lead to many poor directors attempting to imitate it and failing miserably.

This makes the very last scene even more frustrating. The film does a brilliant job throughout of teasing you with the truth, giving you glimpses of why what is happening is happening. Which makes it very puzzling that the final scene is someone explaining exactly what it was about, it would be like if you were watching The Thing and at the end John Carpenter appeared on screen and said “That guy on the left, he’s not human”. It treats the audience with so much respect for most of the film an then thinks we’re idiots who need it explained to us for the final section. I mean, I am an idiot, but still.

That being said, kudos to the film for having the sheer balls to kill what looked like the main character, and so brutally too, I like marketing works like that, when it deliberately deceives you, but not in a way that you feel cheated, but in a way that it means the story beats come as a complete surprise. It’s the way of saying “okay, now all bets are off” and it throws you off, I love it.

So should you see it? Maaaaaybe. There’s another film you should watch first: The Witch. If you hated that, you’d hate this too. But if you liked it, you’d like this too.

2016 In Film (Part Three: The Good)

Films I like but don’t love. One’s that I won’t rush out to buy, but if I saw them at a good price I’d feel compelled to get them.

the-5th-wave
I actually liked this film. Okay, the “romance” moments were really bad but the rest of the film was good. The destruction scenes were very well done and really showcased the horror that’s going on. There’s very little “implied” deaths here, they’re shown, and shown in detail. For example; during a scene where an earthquake induced tsunami where the wave washes through a building, rather than just show it from the outside, or show people getting knocked down, the wave actually knocks someone off a balcony and they land (painfully) on a rail below. The plot itself was really tight as well, it held together beautifully and I’m genuinely invested in the characters and want to see what happens next. A mix of both terribly cliche teen bullshit, and REALLY strong plotting.
The Accountant
Aflecks best film of the year (although that’s not saying much).
Bridge Of Spies
I expected to be really bored by this. But the plot, and the performances, were strong enough to keep me emotionally invested in the story. I loved it.
Carol
A lovely film, seemed to come straight from the 70’s. Very disappointed it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture and Best Director at Academy Awards, it fully deserved it. I also found it kind of weird that Rooney Mara got nominated for Best Supporting Actress considering she was one of the leads. It’s like the academy doesn’t want to admit that a film can have more than one female lead. And in a year where Jennifer Lawrence got nominated for the “oh yeah I forgot that film existed” Joy, it’s not as though there was lots of very strong competition to keep her out, okay she would have still ended up losing to Brie Larson from Room, but still.
Creed
A film that almost made people forget about the last few Rocky movies. It does follow a few of the same story beats as the original, but it’s done so well that you don’t really care. Possibly the best boxing film of the year (and one that reminds me I forgot to put Bleed For This in the “bad” blog so I’ll just quickly mention it here; the important car crash from the trailer? Doesn’t happen until over the halfway mark, it’s horrifically paced, we see the main character lose a fight, train and make a comeback, win that fight, THEN get in the car crash. Cut the first fight and would improve it immensely). But back to this film; it was basically a remake of an iconic film, featuring a black character as the lead, yet the internet didn’t shit on it, THAT’S how good this film was, even racists like it, and they usually only like burning crosses on lawns, drinking beer, and being terrible people.
Had a lot working against it, film adaptations of television shows very rarely work, neither do remakes, and this is both. I went into this with low expectations but it was very enjoyable, funny enough and enjoyable, very entertaining.
Eddie The Eagle
The kind of film you put on at christmas when you’ve got family round and need something funny and innocent whilst you stuff your face full of celebrations and pringles. Very very funny, and not just “slight chortle to self” laugh, but “full on laugh out loud” laughs.
Eye In The Sky
Pretty much a bottle episode, starts off very tense and maintains the tense nature throughout the entire film, which is very hard to do. A worthy last film for Alan Rickman.
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
This was very close to being put in the “meh”, it doesn’t have enough “wow” moments, moments where you truly embrace the magic of the moment, just kind of ordinary. Elevated into “good” by the performance of Dan Fogler and his characters romantic sub-plot, which really works. Is sweet and heartwarming, one of the rare examples of a romantic sub-plot really elevating a film. I think that might be because he’s the only non-magical main character in the film, so he’s our point of reference, he’s the one we identify with.
Florence Foster Jenkins
Some reviewers complained this film was uneven, saying the audience was unsure whether we should be mocking or sympathising with the main character. That’s a strength to me though, the fact that we can do both. She was clearly delusional, but her delusion came from a place of warmth and honesty so we could easily sympathise with her. The fact that the audience can laugh at this character, yet also feel her pain throughout, is testament to both the script and Meryl Streep’s performance (I know, Streep gives a good performance, what a surprise, right?)
Again, went in with low expectations yet really liked this film. Can be best defined as a horror film aimed at pre-teens. Not scary enough for adults, but entertaining enough to justify its existence.
Grimsby
Very close to being in the “Meh”, but Mark Strong’s performance just about pushes it into this one. Funny, disgusting and full of obvious inaccuracies, it’s basically South Park without politics.
Keanu
It’s an action comedy about two people stealing a cat from gangsters, and it features Anna Farris playing a drugged up Anna Farris, this was either going to be awful or charming and funny, luckily it manages the second one. Very sweet and very funny.
Ridiculous plotting, stupid characters, and coincidences that even JK Rowling would consider “a bit much”, yet bombastic enough that it kind of works. Plus Radcliffe seems to be having the time of his life.
Great songs, and a film which could teach Zoolander 2 a thing or two about how to do celebrity cameos; do it to enhance the film, keep the focus on your characters, not on the celebs.
Race
Obvious oscar bait, but a remarkable story that’s very well told. Also Jason Sudeikis gives a career best performance, one scene in particular stands out as fantastic, where he’s in a locker room as a football team shouts at him, he’s ignoring them and continues talking to his athletes about how all the yelling is “just noise” and doesn’t matter.
Secrets in their eyes
A film that nobody really talks about, which is a shame as it was very good. Yes it was a remake, but it’s very well made and has a great story. Plus it’s the first film where I’ve truly understood why people like Julia Roberts.
Storks
Expected it to be terrible, yet was actually quite funny. Not the greatest plot but very charming. Plus it has a fight scene where all the characters are trying to not make any noise so they don’t wake a sleeping baby, which was one of my favourite scenes of the year, was hilarious.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Worth seeing, even if only to hear Martin Freeman call someone a “cunt” in a Scottish accent.
The Witch
Very very scary. But not enough iconic scenes/shots. And maybe it would have been better if there wasn’t actually a witch so it would have been about puritanical paranoia, as it is their paranoia was justified, I feel it would have been a stronger film if it wasn’t a witch that destroyed them, but was their own religious beliefs that did so instead.

Morgan (2016) Review

Director: Luke Scott (Loom, one episode of The Hunter)

Budget: $8million

Running Time: 92 Minutes

Quick Synopsis: Scientists create Morgan, a genetically engineered advanced human, who then goes “grrr”, “arg” and *stab in eye*.

First off, this film has been horribly marketed. I haven’t seen a single trailer at the cinema, or a poster. In fact if I wasn’t checking comingsoon.net every day I wouldn’t even know this film existed. Which is a shame as the trailer showed a lot of potential, a more human Ex Machina starring Toby Jones, Paul Giamatti, and the lead from (the very very creepy) The Witch. This could be a true cult classic. So my expectations were high going in. The opening scene is very well done, it’s shot like security footage and the screen is full of lots of little details which help make it seem more real. Actually there’s a lot of stuff like that, there’s nothing visually that seems fake. The environment they’ve created looks like people live there, and have done for a while. One scene in particular stands out; when Kate Mara’s character (I wouldn’t really call her the protagonist, and I’ll go into that later) is speaking to Toby Jones’ character. They’re just watching something on his computer screen, now, ordinarily you can just do that and it will be fine. But they did something different here, they wrote notes on post-it notes and dotted them around the room, notes on the facility etc. This really helped the world seem real and they should be commended for that. Also, Morgan, the title character, isn’t too heavily featured in the opening section. The scenes of her are either from far away, or the security footage which is almost overhead, as such you never really get a good look at her, you just see her through people’s descriptions of what she’s like. This is a masterclass in setting up a character, a masterclass in which they forgot to do the final exam and just spat on a piece of paper and handed that in. See when you do something like that, the reveal has to have a certain weight to it, you need the main character to step out of the shadows, or step into frame in a certain way, basically you need to have a moment where it feels like you’re opening the curtains to the character, and this film doesn’t do that. The first main look at this character is just a standard shot, someone’s talking to her and it cuts to her. As such this robs the audience of that “wow” moment, it makes her seem ordinary. Which is another problem I had with this film, most of the time you’re told she’s intelligent and advanced, but she’s not given many chances to showcase this as (spoilers) they don’t have her attack people on a large scale until quite far into the film. As such they have to just have other characters tell you how brilliant she is, then follow that up with things we associate smart people with, like playing chess, listening to opera music, and…..actually that might have been it.

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Even this person could listen to opera, doesn’t mean he’s not an idiot

That’s kind of a running theme with the movie, they built up Morgan to be something she’s not. The way the actress plays her is more Children Of The Corn than anything else, but only in the present day scenes. There’s a few flashback scenes where Anya Taylor-Joy REALLY nails it, in those fleeting moments the character is brilliant, likeable, and human, everything that’s not there in the present scenes. No idea why there’s such a stark difference between the two but it’s kind of disappointing. This would be more acceptable of course, if Kate Mara’s character was engaging, but she’s not. She’s not even really the protagonist, which is odd as it means the movie doesn’t really have one. It’s not a problem with the acting, she does brilliant with what she’s given, it’s just the way the character is written means she doesn’t have much substance. There are two characters who I found interesting, Boyd Holbrook’s character, and Michelle Yeoh’s character. Yeoh’s character is really the emotional linchpin of the movie, but it’s not one they do enough with. Boyd Holbrook is given what could be a really unimportant character, the chef. Yet his character has some of the best lines of the script. He’s the only one who finds the character of Morgan a bit “off”, and one of his reasons for doing so is that she made a perfect risotto, and he was unnerved by that as he feels cooking requires heart and passion, things which are inherently human. As such the fact that she managed this shakes his whole belief system and the actor handles it subtly and perfectly. In fact, whilst we’re on the subject, I really think Holbrook could be a fantastic romantic lead in a film, and I hope he’s given the chance.

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Honestly I think this film’s biggest problem is another film. Throughout this whole film I was just thinking, “that reminded me of Ex Machina, I really need to watch that again some time”, and that’s the main thing I got from this film, that I need to watch another film again. I wasn’t thinking about this film, I wasn’t thinking about how character’s deaths effected me etc. On the bright side this meant I also wasn’t thinking of the really asinine obligatory twist ending, and I also wasn’t thinking of how much I hated some of the fight scenes as they were cut too quickly so they didn’t flow naturally, it was shot exactly how a student would film it, which is an accurate summary of the entire film actually: a very well made student film.

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See, every problem can be solved by tea

Morgan

  • Creates the universe very organically.
  • Good side characters.
  • Some very good shorts.
  • It feels more expensive than it’s budget would make you think it is.

More-go Away

  • Lacks a good protagonist.
  • Really obvious twist.
  • Waste of Paul Giamatti.
  • Most things it does well, Ex Machina did better.
  • The trailer made you think the film would be about Morgan turning violent, but that doesn’t happen until the final third of the film.

Instead of this, watch:

Obviously