“Who Is To Say That It Is Not Everything Else That Is The Dream…?”
Opening against the likes of Scorsese and Assassin’s Creed, A Monster Calls, the latest from impressive director J. A. Bayona, ultimately offers more of family-friendly adventure then perhaps others on show at the start of 2017, a family-friendly adventure boasting a CGI’d Liam Neeson-shaped tree, one which bears a striking resemblance to the Ents from The Lord of the Rings, who forms part of an impressive cast featuring the likes of Rogue One’s Felicity Jones and cult favourite, Sigourney Weaver. With Bayona’s career beginning in a solidly admirable manner with his directorial craft stamped on both the Guillermo Del Toro produced horror The Orphanage and the disaster drama The Impossible, A Monster Calls is a melancholic and poignant tale of one boy’s capacity to cope with the horrors which wait for him in the future, featuring a superb performance from young Lewis MacDougall and a screenplay which admirably attempts to be something much more mature and complex than your average fantasy romp.
If being based solely from the trailers, it would be obvious to assume that A Monster Calls primarily shouts out to the younger viewers out there, and whilst an element of fantasy is ripe throughout the movie, the true nature of A Monster Calls is so much more understated than one might expect, particularly with a gigantic digital tree at the heart of the film, with Bayona taking full effect of Patrick Ness’s adapted screenplay of his own novel in creating a film which will strangely appeal more to an adult audience than one might expect. Furthermore, the ominous and ambiguous nature of The Orphanage is relevant once again, with Bayona choosing to use the sensual appeal of silence to follow our hero to full effect and only using background music when absolutely necessary, creating that eerie atmosphere present within the director’s earlier works. What we have with A Monster Calls therefore is the creepy, cold nature of The Orphanage mixed together with the tough examination of humanity from The Impossible. Does it work? Yes, and although there are moments of slight wanderings, A Monster Calls is a poignant and overtly eye-watering success, only continuing the reputation of director Bayona many-fold.
Overall Score: 7/10
“We Have Hope. Rebellions Are Built On Hope…”
In a year in which summer blockbusters have been somewhat below par, and that’s putting it nicely, we close 2016 with another venture into the galaxy far, far away, with Rogue One attempting to bridge the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope with a merry mix of old and new characters and a storyline which delves into the theft of the infamous death star plans, the red herring-esque of a plot device which paved way for the entire Star Wars universe. With Gareth Edwards on directorial duty, the man behind Monsters and the rather awesome recent reinterpretation of Godzilla, Rogue One is a much darker and melancholic tale than perhaps we have seen previously in the Star Wars canon but one which also contains the adventurous thrill ride we have come to expect, culminating in a final act which ranks up there with the best visual experiences not only in the Star Wars universe but in the variety of blockbusters within the modern era of cinema.
Although narratively Rogue One begins in a striking sense of anti-climax in comparison to other Star Wars movies, we are swiftly introduced to Jyn Erso, a disconnected wanderer who is captured by the rebellion in order to help seek out her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) who is at the heart of a mysterious weapon development for the pre-A New Hope Galactic Empire, ruled over by the key figures of Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Krennic, a digital reincarnation of Peter Cushing’s Tarkin and of course, the menacing Sith Lord, Darth Vader, whose appearances are brief but terrifyingly effective. When Rogue One eventually kicks into gear around the half hour mark, the sense of joy many fans get from re-watching the classic original adventures fuels the journey into a truly classic tale of outlandish planets, wildly inventive alien beings and enough canon nods to leave fans beaming with joy. With Felicity Jones embracing the lead role of Jyn as a mix of Lara Croft and Princess Leia herself, she inevitably has the meatiest role of the movie alongside undeveloped performances from the likes of Mikkelsen, Whitaker and Diego Luna but the real magic of the movie is in its’ fan appreciation, answering questions the canon has had for decades and proving the Star Wars universe is an endless pit of cinematic possibilities, particularly when they are as successful as Rogue One.
Overall Score: 8/10
“I Want To Know What I’m Involved With…”
In the IMDB trivia page for Inferno, the wildly unwanted continuation of Ron Howard’s big screen adaptations of Dan Brown’s ridiculously popular string of novels, one of the most interesting facts was that during production the film was hidden under the code-name “Headache” due in part perhaps to the constant concussion that professor of symbology Robert Langdon apparently suffers from throughout most of the film’s bloated 120 minute run-time, yet in my own personal opinion, the “headache” in question can only relate to one thing; the effect the film has on those who bear to see it. Not only is Inferno one of the most painfully boring films I can remember seeing in a long, long while, with recurrent fidgeting and patches of drowsiness inevitably resulting in short yet effective cat naps, my experience of watching Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones run amok across Europe in order to locate their next museum-infested clue was indeed one of utter horror, one which will not escape my memory quickly, unlike the bland and completely ludicrous story which encompasses Inferno.
Where other films this year, particularly the woeful array of summer blockbusters, have suffered from fundamental issues of awful storytelling, Inferno takes such a core element of film-making and throws it into one of the rings of hell, with not one moment of dramatic tension or effective storytelling giving the movie the right to command its’ shockingly long two-hour runtime, a runtime which feels almost twice as long due to the filmmakers decision to create dull, two-dimensional characters who are hell bent on running from museum to museum in order to find the titular “Inferno”, a deadly disease created by Ben Foster’s kooky radicalist, Bertrand Zobrist, who believes the only way to sustain humanity is basically to destroy it, a plot line left over from Utopia anyhow, and a plot line which results in the said disease being carried inside a jiffy bag which floats harmlessly within the Basilica Cistern. No, I’m not kidding.
With a twist as obvious as the “radical” twist-ending in this year’s Morgan, which although I’d fallen asleep already to really understand what it all meant, still managed to annoy me to the extent I thought falling asleep might make it better, and an ending what verges on the edge of cheesy, cliche-ridden claptrap, Ron Howard has succeeded in creating a true stinker of a movie, one in which not only the audience will be bored of ten minutes in, but has even effected the actors on-screen with Tom Hanks seemingly passing the time in order to pick up the cheque and ride out his mistake of signing on for three Dan Brown-based movies, and whilst Felicity Jones at least brings some sense of kooky campness during the second half of the movie, you can’t help but feel she would rather be back on the set of Rogue One as fast as possible. Inferno isn’t the worst film of the year, but it is definitely the most boring cinematic achievement I can remember in recent years. And remember, I’ve seen The Cobbler.
Overall Score: 3/10
Oscars 2015: Best Actress
And now on to the “Best Actress” category which this year features actresses who may have shown off their acting skills in films that might have just slipped under the radar of the average cinema goer. A prime example is Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night, which I admit to not having seen until I began writing this blog and thus decided to catch up with. In terms of bookies favourite, Julianne Moore is tipped to win for her performance as Dr. Alice Howland in Still Alice, even though she equally could have been nominated for her freakish performance in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars which also came out last year. ‘Tis was a good year for Ms. Moore. On the subject of freakish, my own nod goes to Rosamund Pike for her portrayal of Amazing Amy in Gone Girl which (without spoilers) was spine-tingling. I’m not too sure Neil Patrick Harris will want to see her again at the Oscars. For the overlooked category, Essie Davis in last year’s brilliant The Babadook, who sadly, hasn’t had a sniff in this year’s main ceremonies anywhere. But you know, whether if its in a word, or if its’ in a book, you can’t get rid of the Babadook. Here are the nominations:
Marion Cotillard – Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore – Still Alice
Rosamund Pike – Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon – Wild
Next… Best Director