The First Few Films of 2016

So despite posts for Deadpool and Dirty Grandpa, here’s the first mass Review post of 2016.

Dad’s Army

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As with most TV sitcom to movie adaptations, this one struggles to find its own feet without resorting to forcing in the catchphrases for a cheap laugh. Every character gets their own little moments, but the majority of the plot is a real drag. It’s only when the main plot finally comes together in the finale does the film distinguish itself and makes its existence slightly worthwhile. MAYBE SEE on television or home media if you are a fan of any of the brilliant cast or the original Dad’s Army.

Zoolander 2

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Painfully unfunny and poorly written are the only suitable words that can describe the horrendous offence to comedy that is Zoolander 2. Never before have I felt compelled to speak loudly in a cinema, but during the endless “Who am I‽‽‽” scene, I was on the verge of screaming at the top of my voice “THAT IS NOT A JOKE!!!!!” Not only is that one scene torturous to watch, but the repetitive exposition, and the slow plodding pace that the comedy and story take, make the entire movie an endurance challenge. DO NOT SEE, even if you’re a fan of the original, this movie does not even come close to holding a candle to the original.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

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With a title like this, you’d expect to find a film that frankly is made up of two ideas hastily and awkwardly bolted together. But in reality the admittedly watered down and almost half forgotten zombie-horror element has been blended in rather seamlessly with Pride and Prejudice. What there is left of Pride and Prejudice is done rather well, with the majority of the film made up of really entertaining twisted Austen-esque fare. Granted I am not really a fan of either Zombie films or Pride and Prejudice, but the incongruous pairing of the two stories worked for me, although I’m sure could annoy fans of either side of this title. ONLY SEE if your sense of good taste is as malleable as mine.

 

 

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The Last Films of 2015

I’m sure that I’ve missed around 200 suitable releases for 2015. Including such important films as: Trainwreck, Girlhood, Tangerine, The Assassin, not to mention Jem and the Holograms, and the unmissable Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. But I can’t manage to see everything, particularly when I only have one or maybe two days a week to see every film that has been released. But here’s my last post of 2015, even though I saw most of these in February of 2016, but that’s not the point.

Goosebumps

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Passable family action adventure horror comedy, that is entertaining enough to not be boring which is helped by a rather brusque pace, but is let down by an overuse of deus-ex-machinas. I’m pretty certain that every single difficult situation is resolved because of a detail that hadn’t been set up in any way. The awkward teen romance subplot is awkward and teeny, but is satisfying and unobtrusive for this kind of movie. Before the final minutes I had thought that they were going to go down the emotionally justified plot route but they didn’t, instead resorting to one final undeserved deus-ex-machina. MAYBE SEE if you want to introduce 7 year olds to horror movie concepts and ideas, without entirely distressing them, although the better Doctor Who episodes would also quickly achieve that goal.

Point Break

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It was impossible to shake the feeling, throughout this film, that everything happening onscreen is entirely pointless. Nothing about this film, outside of the characters’ names, use of USA Presidents masks and pointing a gun in the air yelling “AAAAGGHHH!!!”, warranted the use of the title Point Break. The original did not need to be remade, and as far as I’m concerned still hasn’t, this is comparable to a tenth rate parody, without any sense of humour or ability to interest. DO NOT SEE, watch the original instead.

Trumbo

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Brian Cranston’s absolutely electric central performance is enough for me to recommend this film. However what does make the recommendation fall short of wholehearted is the film’s rather televisual cinematography and languid pacing in the middle act, although that is due to the structure of the story i.e. The Trumbo Family’s suffering was exhaustive and lasted a decade so obviously this element would feel endless. MAYBE SEE if you’re looking to appropriately judge the “Best Actor in a Leading Role” Category at the Oscars. Because we all need to see all of these performances to truly make an informed decision, right? Of course not, we all know Leo’s going to win. (Note: I will edit this if I’m wrong and no-one will ever know…)

A Bigger Splash

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Gripping drama from start to finish, matched with wonderfully engaging performances from the entire central cast. Particularly the overworked but underrated Matthias Schoenaerts, who I feel has the least showy of the 4 rather showy roles, all for contrasting reasons. While the middle act does grind to a halt a little, whilst the film covers the ground it needs to for the full drama to work, the joyous character interplay throughout mostly masks this. This is a difficult film to recommend as it is truly “Just a Film”, there is nothing astronomically amazing about it, but what is there is great to watch. DEFINITELY SEE IF you get the chance and enjoy great actors in a beautiful location performing a great drama, but don’t feel compelled to actively seek the film out.

Concussion

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While the film does border on being over bearing at times, Will Smith’s dedication to this role undoubtedly shines, and truly makes the film worth watching on that merit alone. Albert Brooks is good, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is good, but as with A Bigger Splash, nothing is overwhelmingly great; important certainly, but not great. Also on a very minor side note, there’s some incredibly awkward and noticeable ADR for Alec Baldwin’s character that seriously stuck out to me, not just the old trick of putting a different line over the movement of the back of his head, but also an offscreen line having a completely different tone than that of the rest of the scene, as if it wasn’t conventionally recorded or properly mixed into the scene (But that would probably only bother me). MAYBE SEE if you enjoy Will Smith or can’t find A Bigger Splash, which is more entertaining to watch from a dramatic perspective.

Deadpool

Yes, I know this review is almost a week late and stuff from a few weeks ago is even later, but hopefully by the end of this week I will have reviews up for the last films of 2015 and the first of 2016. which is a title that only works if you exclude Dirty Grandpa and this…

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It felt a little disingenuous to have the Valentine’s Day poster here, but I had to include it somewhere as the marketing for the film has been just as true to character as the film itself.

For a film that has been in development hell for so long it is amazing that it has turned out exactly as I expected and wanted it to be. Around 4 or 5 years ago, the 2010 draft of the script leaked online, and assuming that this film would never get made (not to mention being a massive deadpool fan), I read it. The script was brilliant, exactly what a film version of The Merc’ with the Mouth should be. It was foul-mouthed, fourth wall breaking, brutally violent and had a joyously eclectic soundtrack. What has ended up onscreen is approximately 80% exactly the same as the leaked script. Minus an Amy Winehouse joke or two, for obvious reasons.

The details that have changed are (in the context of the finished film) either unimportant i.e. different soundtrack or location choices that still achieve the same effect, or are utterly inspired changes. For example the hilarious opening titles are set exactly as described in the script but the content is so perfect for the character of Deadpool and nearly guaranteed to cause laughter at every screening. As usual I will try not to include spoilers for the film, however really there is no intricate plot to spoil per se but every quip and jibe from Ryan Reynolds’ pitch perfect portrayal of clearly his most beloved comic-book character, ought to not be spoiled.

It is clear that Reynolds, Director Tim Miller and the writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, all considered this film a passion project, from the numerous cameos (which border on the gratuitous) to the deliberate care and attention put into the direction of the crazy action sequences, and for what is technically a big multi-million dollar studio superhero film, they manage to keep things contained without the film ever feeling small.

Never since The Avengers (2012) have a story and characters felt as if they have leapt straight from the pages of a comic book exactly as expected onto the big screen. If I had one complaint it would be that I wasn’t surprised or shocked at any feature of the film (but duly noted I had read an early draft of the script), however I was thoroughly satisfied with the experience all the same. The film doesn’t play down any of the more mature content, but it didn’t break any boundaries the way I hoped it might. In one way or another it was “safe” or perhaps “tame” for what is considered R-Rated material.

Also if I were to nitpick, Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL)’s score felt bland, generic and unimportant to the effect of the film, which if I’m honest for this film it really is. The score didn’t need to aspire to an award for “Best Original Score”, but I needed to find one small negative I had with this film.

Deadpool is a brilliant anti-comic-book film, while still living up to the comic-book-movie genre tropes: simplistic villains, over the top action, and predictable story elements. But it is still a film that I would wholeheartedly recommend. However ONLY SEE if you have a moderate to high tolerance for gore, violence, sex and strong language, as Deadpool is fucking full of it, along with all the fourth wall breaking and surprise Easter eggs that you’d expect from Deadpool.

Bonus Review: The as expected post-credit scene is worth sticking around for if you’re a fan of 80s comedies or Deadpool comics, otherwise not really worth finding out who were the second-unit Sound Assistants. Although you still should, everyone in that long list of names clearly did a fantastic job.

My Worst 5 of 2015

I originally didn’t consider doing this post as I couldn’t believe that there were enough films that I saw this year that were truly awful. But then I made the mistake of reading back over my reviews for the year and came across the following…

Before we begin, here are some dishonourable mentions: Fifty Shades of Grey (great cinematography and editing but the story is aneurysm-inducingly atrocious), Angels vs. Bullies (It would be unfair to put this on a worst of 2015 list, even though it would be number 1, as the film was made by amateurs in 2010), and Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (Vile and puerile humour poorly assembled into a finished film). It is an absolute shame that Dirty Grandpa is a 2016 film as well, or otherwise it would almost certainly be considered for this list.

One thing that I will say for all of the following films: they are all very competently made. It is incredibly difficult to make a complete feature film, with an immense amount of work put in by an immense amount of people. For all of the following films, there is nothing wrong from any technical perspective, everything was in focus, the sound design made sense, and the visual effects weren’t entirely awful. The main reason why these films are on this list is because of how much of a negative reaction I had watching them, mostly from boredom and disinterest, that is of no fault of any of the filmmakers.

5. Hitman: Agent 47

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“If I give you what you want, there will be no peace.”

Typical action shoot ’em up with a ridiculous plot and little to no character depth. Complete with groan worthy character names, this movie is actually watchable in a drunken night in with a movie on in the background kind of way.

4. Pixels and The Ridiculous 6

There is a special circle of cinema hell reserved for Adam Sandler, Happy Madison Productions, and their shared filmography. With two entries this year both for completely different cinematic cardinal sins, Pixels for ruining a brilliant idea that has been done hilariously before, and The Ridiculous 6 for having a diarrhoea prone donkey being a “punchline”.

These were the only films this year that I really wanted to walk out of / stop watching. And for The Ridiculous 6 I actually did pause the film until the following morning when I could cope with the figurative shit onscreen. While I utterly despise these films, they at least lived up to my exceedingly low expectations, as opposed to the rest of the films here.

3. Black Mass

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“Thank God for Whitey Bulger.”

One tense scene in a 123 minute film (which feels like 183 minutes), does not make a low-rent Goodfellas or Wolf of Wall Street worth any time. The central performances are passable and Johnny Depp is having fun under all his prosthetics but there’s not much else to say that’s positive.

2. Ted 2

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“#ShitHappens”

So I did promise that if this ended up on a worst of the year list, I would go into more detail on my views of the film, so here we go. When half of your jokes are recycled from Ted, and the rest are recycled from either Family Guy or American Dad, what you’re left with is a bunch of jokes forced together with no sense of purpose outside of a really flimsy plot. Three and a half years after watching Ted, I can still quote and enjoy plenty of lines and scenes, six months after watching Ted 2 I can only remember the moments that were rehashed from Family Guy. As with the Anchorman films: watching the first one twice will be more enjoyable than watching the two movies back-to-back.

1. Absolutely Anything

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“Have you thought this thing through?”

I HATE the fact that this movie is even on this list, let alone at number 1. But with the massive amounts of comedy talent available to the filmmakers and writers at the time (Robin Williams and Monty Python and Simon Pegg), you would have thought that any ounce of that talent would have ended up in the finished film, but that was clearly too much hard work for any of them. It is such a disappointment when there is so much promise from these comic icons, that never made it to the screen.

Again thanks to all 17 of you for continuing to read my ramblings on whatever movies I decide to see each week, I really appreciate every view I get. I implore you, please do not give any of these movies the time of day, it’s just not worth it.

Next week’s reviews should include: Dad’s Army (2016), Goosebumps (2015), Deadpool (2016), Point Break (2015) and Trumbo (2015). Clearly 2015 isn’t entirely over yet.

My Top 10 of 2015

Another year gone, but at least now I will have two lists to compare the results of. Same rules as last year, any 2015 film (according to IMDb) that I have reviewed is eligible.

Please remember that ultimately this list is entirely my opinion right now, and might possibly change in the future. Not one decision on this list is 100% fact, for two reasons: 1. I haven’t seen every film of 2015, and 2. Film criticism is entirely subjective. No one film is objectively better than any other, it is all for the individual to decide on their own tastes.

^However you are objectively wrong if you disagree with my top 2 in any way…^

Honourable mentions: X+Y which would be ranked around 6th, and The Voices (8th), if they were eligible for positions, but since they were “officially” 2014 releases, they cannot be considered.

The Night Before and Southpaw were just outside the Top 10. However almost any of the top 20 films, outside of the top 5, are relatively interchangeable depending on the definition of “Top 10”. In other words, I may have enjoyed 12 and 13 more than 10 and 11, but the filmmaking or acting involved in the others were enough to surpass that criteria.

10. The Revenant

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“As long as you can still grab a breath, you fight. You breathe… keep breathing.”

Here’s the one exception to my main criteria of “How much did I enjoy the film?”, because I didn’t really enjoy The Revenant. I do however appreciate and praise the skill and technical prowess that has made it to the screen. Despite the reservations I have with the film in terms of its pacing and the over-the-top realism that DiCaprio put himself through in order to needlessly gain Awards attention, it is impossible to fault this film on a technical level. Also if you do speak French, the bartering scene is rather annoying and distracting as the subtitles often don’t quite match what they are saying.

 

9. Creed / Spotlight

So number 9 I have decided is the position where I can cheat and have two choices, just to make things easier for me (even though whittling this list down to 11 has been relatively difficult). For the longest time Southpaw was around this position, purely off the back of the performances of Gyllenhaal and the young actress playing his character’s daughter, and then I saw Creed. With such powerful, engaging performances and brutal fight scenes just gave Creed the edge, but both are definitely worth your time.

For Spotlight, I felt that it had to be included on this list just from the ensemble’s performances and as an example of how good a “Based on Actual Events” film can be, when so many fall under the weight of their own self importance, Spotlight earns that description based solely on the last 4 pages of on screen text of the film, which for me is impressive.

8. Beasts of No Nation

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“I just want to be happy in this life.”

The only entry on this list that was seen outside of a cinema, thanks to Netflix. As I said in my review, seeing the effects of this brutal Civil War through the eyes of this child, Agu, is utterly heartbreaking. Idris Elba, two years ago played Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, now he has just as magnetic a presence but in an entirely different character in this harrowing war film.

7. Ex Machina

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“If you’ve created a conscious machine, it’s not the history of man. That’s the history of gods.”

I was a little reserved in my original review for Ex Machina, but since returning to it recently, I have grown to enjoy and appreciate everything involved in this film. Some of the best performances of the year, some of the best production design, and some of the best visual effects, all brought together to ask classic science fiction philosophical questions, if you are looking for some cold hard Sci-Fi look no further.

6. Amy

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“She was a very old soul in a very young body”

Here’s the only Documentary to feature on this list, mainly because I don’t get to see too many and also because I rarely get an emotional gut reaction to Documentaries, Amy is a distinct exception. As all of the interviews are only audio recorded, you are brought in to focus and engage with how the interviewees’ audio is related to the archive footage shown onscreen. This film refuses to let you watch passively, but engages you for its entirety, a feat that ought to be recognised.

 

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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“Rey… These are your first steps.”

If I’d have been told one year ago that “Star Wars 7 will be your 5th favourite film of 2015″, my only surprise would be that it isn’t any higher. Obviously I enjoyed it massively, I have seen it in theatres more than any other film of 2015, however my reservations about the film stop me from putting it above the following films that vastly surpassed my expectations. Firstly, it is very obviously structured to be act 1 of 3, and so without the other 2 acts I cannot pass a true judgement on the film until all of the pieces are really in place. Secondly it does borrow too noticeably from Star Wars: A New Hope, particularly in its references and plot similarities. But that does not stop it from being one of the most enjoyable experiences of a film all year, from its pitch-perfect marketing campaign to the beautiful final result.

 

4. The Lobster

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“A lobster is an excellent choice.”

This film opens with one long continuously held shot of a car slowly pulling up to the side of the road in the middle of the countryside, a woman then gets out of the car and shoots a donkey in the head. What follows is then a very unconventional love story indeed. A love story that changes its opinion of its own values as the film goes on, it is never truly able to be categorised, and I love it all the more for that. For some brilliantly awkward and unusual performances and weird thoughts on love and relationships, this is the film to watch.

3. The Martian

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“In the face of overwhelming odds, I am left with only one option… I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

I am not the biggest Ridley Scott Fan. But thankfully The Martian can now sit atop the minority of Ridley Scott films I enjoy. Balancing the multiple story strands without any of them outshining the core of the brilliant Matt Damon having to “Science the shit out of this,” is masterful storytelling. I was amazed that I enjoyed The Martian as much as I did. Granted, if you have any knowledge of how stories in films play out you will know exactly how this one goes, but that is not the point of this story, and it never should be. Also if I imagine this being a pseudo-Interstellar Prequel, I find it even more enjoyable.

 

2. Inside Out

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“After all, Riley’s 11 now. What could happen…?”

I struggled with these top 2 choices. For the last 6 months Inside Out had been my film of the year, for some it will be and it would be well deserved. Inside Out takes a recognisable concept, and puts it in the hands of the best animation company still working today. Granted it relies on well used story mechanics, but it doesn’t matter when the emotional response to the film’s story is so well earned. Looking back over the rest of this list, it is definitely the funniest film and best written comedy of the year and will have moments that will stay with me for a very long time. “Don’t obsess over the wait of life’s problems. Remember the funny movie where the dog dies!” may be one of my favourite lines of the year, if not at least one at which I laughed the most.

 

1. Room

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“When I was 4, I only knew small things. Now I’m 5, I know everything.”

From the moment I saw this film’s trailer back in early December (I think), I could tell that I was going to adore this film, I did not realise to what extent that would be. I had imagined that Inside Out couldn’t be beaten in terms of a powerful emotional response but Room managed that twice. The final scene of A.I. Artificial Intelligence never fails to bring me to tears, Room is that scene for an entire feature film, from the Mother/Son dynamic, to the Pinocchio effect being experienced by the central child, it plays on all the same emotions. Any film that brings me to such a strong emotional response cannot be forgotten. I saw this film twice in theatres, and the second time through I managed to hold myself together long enough to notice a detail in the penultimate shot, that caused me to break down even more so than I had upon my first viewing. Admittedly this film is not for everyone, but that’s not the point of this list.

 

Thank you for reading this, all 17 of you. Let’s hope 2016 will bring just as many worthwhile films as 2015.

Releases for January 29th 2016

This will be my last review post of 2015, even though there are still a few 2015 films yet to be released, my personal cut off point is January 31st, so that I can still make a “Top 10 of the year” post while it is still relatively timely. Also, while this isn’t everything that came out this week, it is all that I could manage to schedule, and at least Youth and Spotlight were worth it, and I decided to watch Star Wars again…

Reviews

Youth

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I really don’t understand why or how this film can be as enjoyable as it is. Youth never compromises on its characters and story, so in that respect it is one of the year’s most self-respecting films, whilst managing to handle a tone that borders on the obtuse, yet never becomes unwatchable. In fact it is quite the reverse, your eyes and ears are just drawn inwards to the screen, with crisp and clean visuals and sound design, paired with multiple compelling character plots all of which feel unique and truthful just makes this film a delight to watch. ONLY SEE if you’re interested in seeing

Capture the Flag

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Largest Poster I could find. That is always a great sign of the movie’s quality…

Despite a well intentioned story and solid Atmosphere animation (water, skies, smoke, objects, just not people) every other facet of this movie is torture to watch. Any attempts at lip-sync or emotive voice performances are completely forgotten, the story plays out exactly how any 4 year old would expect it to, and as the target audience seems to be 5 year olds at most this alienates the entire audience. Granted the villains bring a little levity, led by a slightly more idiotic Donald Trump, whose henchmen are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs parallels, with latino Stanley Kubrick as the Janitor. This recognition-humour built in for the adults is worthwhile, for 0.0001% of the movie’s thankfully short runtime. DO NOT SEE. Nothing more needs to be said.

Spotlight

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Mark Ruffalo alone makes this film an absolute MUST SEE, he fills his character with such energy and passion that it is impossible to not find the film compelling. Also, having him alongside such a stellar ensemble cast does nothing but elevate the already lofty and heavy hitting material. Writer / Director Tom McCarthy has made an incredibly powerful film that earns the right to be opened with the phrase “Based On Actual Events”, too often is that phrase used to instil a false sense of drama, here that is not the case, the story is too important and too well told for that to matter.

Releases for January 22nd 2016 (Ish)

Again short reviews here, but the next lot might be a bit more worthwhile.

Dirty Grandpa

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This “Comedy”, for lack of a better word, is indescribably bland, unfunny, and overly reliant on lazy shock and gross-out “humour”, that does nothing interesting or new, and is not worth of any attention whatsoever. DO NOT SEE.

The 5th Wave

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Chloë Grace Moretz’s attempt at breaking into the YA-Dystopian franchise game doesn’t really feel coherent as a story until the final act and by that point the movie is going at such a pace that it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t do anything wrong for its genre, but what it does do right is brief and ruined by the dual concurrent storylines that undercut each other’s dramatic heft when they are cut between. MAYBE SEE if you want a mildly bearable replacement for Divergent.

The Big Short

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While by no means the best film of 2015, it is undoubtedly deserving of being one of the most contemporary and potentially influential films of the year. Every member of the cast is on top form, even if nobody is really given enough time to flourish, and the story is one of the most engaging just from the overwhelming dramatic tension/irony that pervades the film. ONLY SEE if you have an Economics GCSE at least, or are looking to complete an awards season checklist.

Our Brand is Crisis

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A Bolivian electoral campaign doesn’t at first seem like prime material for a film, but despite a few not unexpected story beats, this film is generally entertaining from beginning to end. MAYBE SEE if it turns up on TV at some point.

Creed, The Revenant, and Ip Man 3

So without having seen Rocky II, III, IV, or V, neither have I seen Ip Man, or Ip Man 2, this was a rather interesting week for films of the category “Sequels to films I have not seen”. Apologies for the brevity of these reviews as I currently have three weeks to catch up with, and a Top 10 and Worst 5 of 2015 posts to get on with, so expect those soon.

Reviews

Creed

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Powerful action and character, engaged from start to finish. When the final moments roll around as you’d expect them to, they are utterly uplifting and cheer-worthy. Ryan Coogler’s direction is great, particularly for the heightened training and fight scenes, Sly Stallone gives his best performance in years, and Michael B. Jordan couldn’t be more earnest or solid in this role as Adonis Creed. ONLY SEE if you enjoy heart-pumping  and typically uplifting boxing movies.

Ip Man 3

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Staggering fight choreography as was to be expected, but what was surprising was the amount of heart this film had. Admittedly, the character scenes are very simplistic, and not massively developed, but the fact that they are featured, and work within the context of the film whilst feeling earned, is enough to warrant praise. Admittedly the eccentric pace and various story elements often did give the film a disjointed feel that might not be as much of an issue if one were more invested in the series or genre. MAYBE SEE if the end of that last sentence applies to you.

The Revenant

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It is undeniable that this film has some of the most magnificent imagery, editing, performances, and camera work of recent years, possibly making it one of the most evocative and powerful westerns for a long time. Every member of the cast is on top form, from the well recognised Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy, to the underrated Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson, the latter of whom has had the most fantastic year when it comes to his work. However ultimately the style does overwhelm the substance, while both are present, and the audience is definitely immersed in the surroundings, that is not the case for the characters who are for the most part alienated. ONLY SEE if you have a strong stomach for graphic and esoteric westerns.

The Hateful 8 (Ultra Panavision 70mm Presentation)

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It is easy to appreciate Quentin Tarantino’s method to his madness filmmaking, without necessarily enjoying the final results. This film is really well made, undoubtedly Tarantino should be respected for his dedication to shoot The Hateful Eight on 65/70mm film stock, using the same lenses as were used on Ben Hur and have the film presented in such a way as to create the feel of The Hateful Eight having the size and scale of an event film, like Ben Hur; or if we say what we’re really thinking Star Wars. Unfortunately even with a pristine print of the film, perfect viewing location (Centre of the stalls, Odeon Leicester Square), and Roadshow Program in hand, and the “event” was rather underwhelming, however did improve as the film went on.

The film is structured into two acts. The first establishes the characters at a “molasses-like” pace, constantly reiterating what has already been said countless times, which is a feature of the entire script as I seem to think about it, and this repetition just becomes incredibly irritating and annoying to watch, however in the second act the film really picks up, once the action finally gets going. This is after the absolutely essential sequence of nailing down a rope hand rail into the snow that features no new insights to the characters and is just there to torture the actors and pad out the film’s runtime to warrant an epic feeling overture and intermission, worst of all it is never featured again, if it were I would be more forgiving of the inclusion of this overlong scene. And for the climax of the first act we are presented with a typically provocative monologue that feels completely unnecessary in the greater context of the film, The Hateful Eight can be easily summarised into a solid and entertaining 120 minutes or so, however to warrant the epic filming technique and epic filming locations The Hateful Eight needed an epic 3 hour runtime which for the story that is told, is completely unnecessary.

The story is 5 characters turn up to a house in the middle of blizzard looking for shelter, before they can head off for their destination further along the road, whilst there they interact with the current occupants of the shelter and shenanigans ensue. There is much more to the story in its details and seeing the shenanigans play out is rather entertaining, but nothing in any of these descriptions warrants a grand epic scale or canvas, there are no great themes or insights, or even stunning panoramic vistas, which would be the main reasons to use this format. All of the vistas here are bland and a little flat in terms of the universally cold colour scheme, and once we reach the shelter of Minnie’s Haberdashery, then practically the rest of the film is indoors there is no reason at all to use the format, such is the quality of the film stock and image that the interiors look too much like a set, much in the same way the make-up could be seen in The Hobbit Films when they were presented in 48fps.

I would say MAYBE SEE The Hateful Eight. If you feel compelled to see it, definitely try to find a 70mm Screening, otherwise it really should not be worth much attention. There are elements of a great movie in the film’s second act, but it is hidden under too much waffle to make the whole experience a wholehearted recommendation.

Room

Following on from Boyhood last year, clearly I am allowed just one overly emotional review per year, here is 2015’s.

room-2015

This film made me cry consistently for over 105 minutes. The opening fifteen minutes efficiently, economically and effectively introduce our central characters, predominantly (if not entirely) from the perspective of now 5 year old Jack which is limited by the confines of Room which “go on forever, until the end…” . From then on I was weeping tears of sadness, tears of joy, tears of empathy, tears of melancholy, and everything in between. There is not one moment in this film that doesn’t warrant tears of any sort.

Every facet of this film has been crafted perfectly to elicit an emotional response, and it manages to pull off this feat flawlessly, and effortlessly. Almost entirely due to the emotional honesty and chemistry that director Lenny Abrahamson has crafted with the two wonderful leads, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, all of whom are completely deserving of any awards attention that could head their way. Each of the leads are allowed their moments to shine and they undoubtedly make the most of it. From the second their first conflict breaks out you know that these two characters can hold your attention for the rest of the film, I was wholeheartedly invested in their struggles and was always urging them to succeed no matter what challenges they faced. While this shouldn’t be such a rare trait for films, or for that matter stories in general, this year I have often been left wanting for total emotional engagement and immersion.

Managing this previously impossible task, wasn’t a problem for screenwriter and author of the original novel, Emma Donoghue, as the characters are so brilliantly realised, the story is so compelling, and the dialogue is so perfect and natural for the moment, I cannot find any flaws with the screenplay at all, I can only hope the book manages to keep the same intensity and passion for its story as the film does.

When it comes to the cinematography and editing, the immersion never wanes, and yet shots and moments are often held long enough for the proper emotions to be wrung from the moment, while still allowing these beautifully crafted shots to be appreciated. One moment in particular has Brie Larson’s character, Joy, centre framed with a vast amount of dark empty space above her head, crushing her down and perfectly reflecting her emotional state at that moment in the film. There are plenty of these masterful moments and little intricate details that make me want to relive the experience of this film all over again, just to appreciate those perfect moments of externalised characterisation. And with a film like this where torturous internal conflicts need to be externalised in some way, the visual cues are perfectly handled, congratulations to Director of Photography Danny Cohen.

The score for this film is utterly beautiful and I will be listening to it for years to come, particularly that of the final scenes, as I will be transported right back into those scenes and be thrilled by their effects. To nit-pick one flaw in this movie would be to say, that to create a “dazed” effect for Jack experiencing the world for the first time, they would often resort to the same often used sound design tactic of putting the effect of tinnitus tones over bright white, or over emphasising loud noises for the jump factor. I can’t fault the effectiveness of that effect, but it can be irritating when it has been so often seen (or more appropriately heard).

As I’m sure that you aware, I would call this film wholeheartedly a MUST SEE FILM, however I would caution those who may find no joy in a film that is engineered to make you weep to ONLY SEE Room if the dark subject matter of the film’s set-up will not be too distressing for you.

N.B. This trailer does contain some mild but also predictable spoilers, please watch the film first where possible.