How We Got Through…February 2017

Film

The Girl With All The Gifts

Actually really disappointed I missed this last year now. A lot less cliche than I thought it would be. I wasn’t completely sold on it until one moment; there’s a scene where shits going down and a doctor is standing in front of a window, in background you see someone running towards the window, you assume it’s a soldier but it’s one of these evil dastardly zombie people, who bursts through the window. This achieves one of those rare things in film; a surprise which hides nothing prior to it. You are shown everything you need to be shown before it happens, yet it still somehow shocks you. Probably the best non-comedic zombie film of the last few years.

Split

Nothing inherently wrong with this movie, I just never brought the central concept. It’s like if I was watching a film where Ryan Gosling plays a character who is too ugly to get a date, they’d need to be a moment in the film which means you can buy the central concept as otherwise you’ll just be sitting there thinking “yeah this is BS”. This film never has that moment, as such it kind of fails. The acting in it was superb though, Anya Taylor-Joy continues to impress after last years The Witch, whilst James McAvoy does fantastic facial work, it gets to the point where you can tell which personality is in control of him from a still shot of his face.

Lego Batman Movie

Will probably not be the best film I see this year, but will definitely be the most fun. The quickest I’ve been sold on a film so far, usually it’s taken me about ten minutes into a film to think “okay I’m into this”, this film sold me in the first sentence. Plus, there’s a Christian group in America protesting it and calling it “gay propaganda”, so you have to see it, even if only to annoy them.

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Zootropolis

Still one of the greatest animated films of 2016. Big downside is it doesn’t seem to have led to more work for Ginnifer Goodwin, which is a shame as she was fantastic in this and deserves more roles.

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Red State

Has some fantastic monologues in it, which Michael Parks knocks out of the….erm, area. Him and John Goodman stand head and shoulders above everyone else in the film. I think it’s more interesting than good, I don’t think it really works as a horror film, horror is a REALLY difficult genre to direct well as everything needs to work, you need the right music, the right lighting etc, if just one of those things doesn’t work then you won’t scare people. Also the film has serious pacing issues, especially in the opening third which half-asses its way into building the universe, but doesn’t do it well enough. Despite that there is something inherently watchable about it, I think it’s because the story is interesting, it just should have been better told.

Inside Out/Lava

I have a huge problem with this film, every time I sit down to watch it my allergies start playing up so it always looks like I’m crying. The allergies get particularly bad during the scene where Bing Bong dies.

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Damn ninjas

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. It’s 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”.

Rings

Unpopular opinion time; this film should not have been a horror, it should have a psychological drama with scary moments. I feel under the service of this story is a really solid detective/ghost story, but it’s restricted by being a horror so puts in scares which don’t do much to enhance the film. Also, I’m getting very annoyed with films being ruined by their trailers. I’d seen two trailers for this; one of which I saw back in November and was mainly focused on one of the characters in the shower and freaky shit starts happening. A well made scene, but it’s also the final scene of the film, it takes place after the “monster” is supposed to have died, so after the “death” you just sit there thinking “I know it’s not the end as we haven’t seen the scene which the entire advertising campaign was based around”. Especially since I think the revelation at the end was supposed to be a twist. It would be like if The Usual Suspects had the tagline “Kevin Spacey is….Keyser Soze”. On the plus side the way the film opened was fantastic and was one of my favourite 10 seconds of cinema of the year so far. They put the Paramount logo into the film itself, by showing it on tv screens on an airplane. They also distorted the logo as it was playing. I love when films do things like that, it grabs your attention immediately.

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.

TV Show

Not Going Out

I don’t know what it is but it seems to have lost something. I think it’s because of how the concept of the show has changed. It used to be about two friends, one of whom was living with the other ones ex in a flat in London. Then it became two friends, one living with the other’s sister. Then one of the cast members left and it just became a standard flat sitcom. Now they’ve moved out of the flat and got a family. It’s good that the story has progressed and it’s interesting to chart the change throughout the seasons, but the new series seems more like a spin-off than a continuation. Also the show has still refused to answer one question; why are these two characters in a relationship. Before they were a couple it was clear there was an attraction from one character to the other, but there was never any indication that there was any attraction the other way. The most likely solution is probably Stockholm Syndrome, but they don’t outright say that due to the terrorist connotations, bloody political correctness.

Book

The Saga Of Darren Shan – Darren Shan

My favourite vampire story. A 12 book series detailing someone growing up, and handles it very well. When you read the earlier books the sentence structure is very childlike, which makes sense considering he is a child, yet as the series develops the author changes the style to a more mature style as the character ages. It’s subtle enough that you might not consciously notice, but on a subconscious level it does register with you and is a genius bit of storytelling. If you haven’t read it I should warn you; it gets VERY weird towards the last few books.

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Songs/Albums

I Will Follow you into the dark – Death Cab For Cutie

How did I not hear this song before? This is a song I should have heard for the first time when I was a bitter cynical 15 year old, I would have clinged to this song like a barnacle clings to a ship, like chewing gum clings to school tables, like I cling to the idea that there’s an adequate way to complete this simile. As it is I heard this when I was a bitter cynical 30 year old.

Actual Results May Vary – Babypuncher

One of the best songs from a simply amazing EP released last year (available for free download here). The lyrics in this song are simply sublime. My favourite line being:

“I can’t fix you and you can’t fix me, but we can both be broken together”

That line resonated so much with me when I first heard it, and sums up the feelings of characters in a script I’m working on at the moment (a longer version of this). This is a perfect song to listen to whilst sitting on a train in the rain and looking out of the window.

Please Come Home – Dustin Kensrue

Unpopular opinion here, I prefer his solo stuff than his stuff with Thrice. Although it can be hard to get past the feeling he sounds like that guy on your college course who carries an acoustic guitar everywhere and plays Wonderwall shirtless under a tree like a dickhead (that’s actually pretty much the genre it’s listed as on my ipod).

Best song:  I Knew You Before.

If the rest of the album was as good as this song, it would be one of my favourite albums.

I’m With Stupid – Aimee Mann

Aimee Mann makes me feel things, and I’m not ashamed to say that. Has the perfect mix of snarky and heartfelt, like a clinically depressed comedian. Also has a line which I absolutely love for some reason:

“Row, row, row your boat

gently down the stream

hope you drown and never come back”

And you have to love an album which is melodic and beautiful yet starts with the line

“you fucked it up, you should’ve quit”

Best song: Long Shot

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2016 In Film (Part Four: The Amazeballs)

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

The 5 Best Kids Films Of 2016

5 Goosebumps

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

4. The BFG

THE BFG

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

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

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

3. Kubo And The Two Strings

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

2. Zootropolis

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

1. Moana

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

 

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