“I Had Another Family. A Mother, A Brother. I Can Still See Their Faces…”
Arriving in the season of Oscar madness, Lion, the directorial debut from Gareth Davis, is the cinematic adaptation of Saroo Brierley’s non-fiction book, “A Long Way Home”, an autobiographical account of the extraordinary tale of the Indian-born Aussie, who after being separated from his family in Central India at a young age remarkably sets upon reuniting with his long-lost siblings after a staggering 25 years, resulting in the sort of movie you’d expect to be part of the many conversations regarding the upcoming Academy Awards, particularly regarding its’ undeniably touching screenplay. Whilst Lion boasts a fundamentally humane and uplifting narrative basis, one which inevitably results in being an effective tear-jerking tale of the power of human nature, Davis’ debut falls short of being a really excellent drama and instead settles for nothing more than being a solid adaptation of an interesting tale of one man’s journey to rekindle his lost love.
With Dev Patel in the leading role, the links between Lion and Slumdog Millionaire are entirely obvious and unfortunately expected, particularly in regards to the two films’ similar narratives, albeit one being entirely fictional and the other based upon true events. Furthermore, where Danny Boyle’s movie succeeded is where Gareth Davis’s ultimately falls flat, with the riveting and sharp feel of Slumdog being entirely absent within Lion, a film which takes way too long to actually get going and one which would have benefited from actually being at least twenty minutes shorter, particularly in its’ plodding second act where the elder Saroo attempts to locate his lost family, a particular shame when regarding the strong opening portion of the movie in which we witness the younger Saroo’s efforts of survival throughout the mass maze of Central India. With captivating performances from both Nicole Kidman and young newcomer Sunny Pawar, Lion seems to transcend an extraordinary tale from page to screen with some degree of success, yet its’ moments of prolonged tedium in certain areas of the film leave you slightly underwhelmed come the closing credits.
Overall Score: 6/10
Best Films of 2016: Part Two
Concluding our cinematic features for the year of 2016 is the second part of our countdown of the best films the past twelve months have had to offer, and whilst the likes of Tarantino, Star Wars and Marvel haven’t made the top ten, it just reasserts the power and strength of cinema in the modern era. Beginning our final foray into the best of 2016 therefore, we start with…
Not only does Ryan Coogler’s Creed gain kudos for putting Goodison Park, the home of my beloved Everton, on the big screen, it also deserves a rafter of plaudits for reinvigorating the Rocky franchise, resurrecting it from the dead-end many had thought it had drove itself into and proving that with enough solid elements holding it together, such a series can continue to thrive. With Stallone arguably giving the best performance of his career, alongside a superb physical performance from Michael B. Jordan, a continuing collaborator with Coogler, Creed is a thrilling masterclass in how to create a successful sports movie, one which boasts impressive cinematography and sets things up nicely for Coogler’s venture into the MCU with Black Panther, a film which of course also stars the magnetic screen presence of Jordan in a leading role.
9. The Revenant
As many predicted, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s visual masterclass The Revenant was indeed the movie which finally brought Oscar success for Leonard DiCaprio, and whilst perhaps in my own opinion the prestigious gong should have gone to Michael Fassbender instead, the reality is those Oscar lot just love a man to suffer before rewarding him, and boy does he. Whether it be being ripped to shreds by a bear, swimming in freezing water or eating a bison liver, a brave decision considering DiCaprio’s vegetarian ways, The Revenant takes delight in punishing poor old Leo, yet the movie really shines when admiring the simply stunning cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki who too walked away with a deserved Oscar win, one which made him the first person in history to win three consecutive Oscars for his respective cinematic craft. Not a bad way to enjoy Christmas I suppose.
8. The Big Short
Whilst there are those who are clever enough to dissect and understand the financial crisis of 2007/8, films like The Big Short act as the sort of gateway many of us cry out for when it comes to understanding an event so critically important yet so fundamentally confusing. With a top-end cast featuring the likes of Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Steve Carell holding it together, Adam McKay’s comedic take on the unfolding drama works perfectly, creating a film which not only requires the audience’s utmost attention throughout but one which is clever enough to not underestimate its’ subject matter by resorting to cheesy basil exposition. How does the film manage to bypass this? By not only breaking the third wall but knocking it down completely, with guest stars such as Margot Robbie turning up and doing the explanations for us, something of which seems strange on first watch but suitably fits the feel of the film on repeat viewings, an easy feat when considering the superb nature of the movie.
7. The Neon Demon
As with High-Rise, Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is undoubtedly a movie viewers will either really love or really hate. Whilst Refn has some done some superb work in the past with the likes of Bronson and Drive, films like Only God Forgives prove that every once and a while even the most gifted of film-makers can make a real stinker. Fortunately for Refn, The Neon Demon is most definitely a film which sides on all the good things the great Dane can accomplish, with its’ simply marvellous cinematography rivalling that of the most accomplished movie-makers, whilst the Cliff Martinez soundtrack continues the solid collaboration between director and composer which began on Drive. Part Lynchian fairytale, part exploitation horror, The Neon Demon is an engrossing and overly arty B-Movie which puts to shame all the weaknesses of his past and poorer attempts to create such. Not only does god forgive Mr. Refn, but so does your trusted audience.
6. The Witch
“She’s a witch!”. Trying to avoid thinking up that particular famous Monty Python scene when it comes to anything resembling witchcraft is a particularly hard feat, yet Robert Eggers’ unbelievably tense cinematic debut The Witch is a movie which creeps you out from beginning to end, destroying any hopes of a break from its’ melancholic appeal by being just too darn intense and oppressive from the outset. Set in the remote outset of a secluded 17th century New England settlement, one camped right next to the freakiest looking forest of all time, The Witch is a superb and intelligent piece of horror film-making, one which doesn’t rely on cheap cattle-prodding as its’ main selling point and instead one which focuses on the oppressive state of madness and the ambiguity of an age in which witchcraft was a notion taken very, very seriously. If you want the full effect, turn the ligths off and listen with headphones. It’s a guaranteed creeper.
5. Son of Saul
Cinematic interpretations of one of history’s most appalling acts are always a tough watch and whilst Son of Saul adheres to such a notion, this Hungarian Oscar winner is perhaps one of, if not, the definitive Holocaust movie, one which completely disregards the Hollywood based nature of a film like Schindler’s List and instead goes for a much grittier approach, one which boasts some outstanding cinematic qualities and a standout performance from its’ leading man. With its’ sheer harrowing and shocking fundamental nature not exactly being the most enjoyable cinematic experience, Son of Saul rewards the audience in a range of different ways, not only by giving some sort of cinematic justice to the terrible events of the Holocaust, but also confirming the hype surrounding first-time director and actor double of László Nemes and Géza Röhrig respectively who between them leave the audience feeling numb and in awe of such a monumental and powerful depiction of the horrors of war.
4. Nocturnal Animals
Whilst director Tom Ford is perhaps best known for creating some lovely looking suits in the fashion industry, Nocturnal Animals continues the critical success achieved by Ford with his debut feature A Single Man with this dark, white-knuckle tale of revenge and hatred, one which features top-form performances by both Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal respectively and a movie which revels in its’ Kubrick-esque attention to detail. Some may say indulgent, I say beautiful, and with obvious nods to the likes of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick himself in terms of art direction, cinematography and narrative, one which features all the ambiguity and mystery of a film such as Mulholland Drive, Nocturnal Animals is one of those rare cases of going into a film knowing absolutely nothing about it only to be blown away completely come the end. Aside from an opening title sequence which is a rare obvious mis-step, Tom Ford’s second feature is a superb piece of drama and one which deserves all the awards recognition it can get, particularly for the performances from its’ leading actors.
Arriving during Oscar season at the beginning of the year, Lenny Abrahamson’s cinematic adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s critically acclaimed novel went on to receive rapturous plaudits from pretty much everyone, resulting in a deserved win for Brie Larson for Best Actress at the Academy Awards and more importantly, a place in Black Ribbon’s top three films of the year. Whilst Room begins in a melancholic and overtly dark manner, yet one which is necessary to the overarching narrative, the concluding half of the movie is an expertly managed portrayal of discovery and wonder. Featuring arguably one of the best performances from a a child actor ever, one which undoubtedly will see young Jacob Tremblay being a name to remember in the future, Abrahamson’s latest is an uplifting tale of the unbreakable bond between mother and son, even in the darkest of moments, resulting in Room fully deserving its’ place within the best the year has had to offer.
Along with Christopher Nolan, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve has swiftly become one of the most interesting and reliable film-makers working out there today, and with Arrival, Villeneuve ventures into the realm of science fiction and pulls it off spectacularly, a particularly good omen when thinking ahead to the much anticipated Blade Runner 2049 in the coming year. Based on Ted Chiang’s short story, “Story of Your Life”, Arrival takes its’ ques from the best of sci-fi cinema, choosing to thrive on the understated rather than the spectacle and featuring a powerful leading performance from Amy Adams, an actress who has really taken 2016 by storm. With its’ heartbreaking narrative and time-bending twists, Villeneuve’s latest is a beautifully crafted gem, one which stays with you long after leaving the cinema and really emphasises its’ brilliance by being a film you simply have to keep coming back to.
And here we are at last. Who would have thought that after the widely panned bore/cringe-fest which was The Cobbler last year, director Tom McCarthy would have redeemed himself completely with his next cinematic outing, a film which bucked the trend at the Oscars by actually being the deserved winner of best picture and a film more than deserved of being top of the pile for the best films released this year. With an absolutely outstanding cast including the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton, all of whom could have potentially walked off with Academy Awards themselves, Spotlight tells the tale of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal and its’ subsequent exposure by The Boston Globe during the early years of the 21st century, and whilst the subject matter is fundamentally hard to examine on any platform, Spotlight manages to mix the winning formula of understatement and unrelenting drama in portraying a story so integral to recent history. With 2016 being such a stupendous year for cinema, picking the top spot may have been a unforgiving challenge, yet with Spotlight the choice was clear, resulting in a winner that concurs with those on the Academy Award board. Who’d thunk it?
Next Time: Looking Forward to 2017
Best Films of 2016: Part One
Beginning the countdown of the year’s best films is always a resounding joy, a feat which reminds you that whatever has happened throughout the past twelve months, the escapist medium of cinema is always there to dissolve any troubles. With 2016 deciding to hit us with a particularly puzzling set of circumstances, the irony that the year in film has been one of the strongest in recent memory is a relieving notion, one which once again argues against the common misconception that the “golden age” of cinema is well and truly behind us and one which allows us to create a list of best films so diverse, so rich in quality that it can only be regarded as a pleasurable reminder of the year in film. So sit back, grab a beer and enjoy the first part of our annual inspection of the best of the best, beginning ever so swiftly with…
20. Rogue One – A Star Wars Story
For the latest Star Wars entry to not be one of the best films of the year would have been a universe-ending disaster and although Rogue One isn’t on par with others in the series, particularly last years’ The Force Awakens, it is undeniably an effective addition to the ever-increasing canon. Whereas Rogue One‘s overarching theme is one of a melancholic downer, the final act, where our beloved heroes, led by Felicity Jones, attempt to steal the Death Star plans, setting out the plot for the original trilogy of movies, is a masterclass in visual splendour, throwing grounded battles amongst dogfights within space, reminding that when Star Wars hits the popcorn button, it does it better than anyone.
19. Jason Bourne
Returning to the Bourne franchise after a nine year hiatus, the one-two success partnership of director Paul Greengrass and Bourne himself, Matt Damon, this time decided to hit us will a full-on, adrenaline soaked thrill ride, journeying from Greece to London and from Russia to Las Vegas, with each stop-off attempting to out-do the other in terms of flashy set pieces. Among the spectacle, the concluding chase scene down the Las Vegas strip is amongst one of the best bone-crunching practical stunt-filled scenes in recent history. Whereas directors like Zak Snyder feel the desire to fill each action set piece with CGI, thank the lord for people like Greengrass who understands the power of keeping the adventure down-to-earth, resulting in Jason Bourne being a thrilling continuation of our favourite amnesia-ridden super spy.
18. Under The Shadow
This internationally co-produced Iranian hidden gem is a fantastic example of modern horror cinema, refusing to rely on cheap jump scares and instead infecting the audience with its’ low-key ghostly chill. Featuring some of the biggest scares of the year, as well as the creepiest looking duvet cover ever, Under The Shadow flies the flag for the British entry in the upcoming Oscars for Best Foreign Language Movie and whilst wins for horror movies are as rare as becoming president without prior experience in government, wouldn’t it be great to see director Babak Anvari pick up the prestigious gong for this impressive directorial debut.
17. Captain America: Civil War
Without doubt the best blockbuster of the year, Captain America: Civil War is an excellent top-end addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, gelling a mind-boggling array of characters into an effective narrative which sees our beloved Avengers fall out over the publication of the Sokovia Accords, a red-tape filled containment of their powers which adds a political edge into the series director siblings Anthony and Joe Russo began in The Winter Soldier. Where Batman v. Superman became bogged down in awful storytelling and laughable CGI, Civil War continues as a reminder of the success of the MCU, which not only remains a bankable franchise for Disney but continues to release movies of a successful ilk, paying off the hopes of fans whilst wetting the appetites for the many future releases to come.
16. Bone Tomahawk
The best thing about Bone Tomahawk is in its’ desire to mix the gore-inflicted splatter of the B-Movie conventions with Tarantino-esque dialogue, accumuluating in a Western reminscent of classics such as The Searchers and featuring the most menacing, relentless villains since the cannibalistic family in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With a reinjuvinated Kurt Russel, appearing in his first of two films on this list, in the lead role as the rugged, no-nonsense sheriff, Bone Tomahawk is a timely reminder that sometimes the best films are the ones you really have to seek out. Sure, any old cinema chain can show the latest blockbuster, but it takes real balls to take the chance on not only the directorial debut of S. Craig Zahler but a movie which features the most violent on-screen death I can remember. And it rules.
Kill List director Ben Wheatley finally manages to develop J.G Ballard’s infamous novel to the big screen after years of development hell and inevitably it is the most marmite movie of the year, one which features Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing who after arriving in the titular High-Rise, descends into chaos alongside an array of characters each acting as metaphors for the struggling class wars, a notion which transfers from novel to screen as easy as an A-Level sociological study. Although the concluding act is a barmy mix of messy apocalyptic drama, the strange sense of melancholic black humour rife throughout Wheatley’s work is what really makes High-Rise a riveting success.
14. Everybody Wants Some!!
Quoted as being the “spiritual sequel” to both Dazed and Confused and Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s latest coming-of-age comedic drama takes all the best bits of his previous college-infused delights and creates yet another successful tale of cultural clashes amongst a equally-superb retro soundtrack, ranging from Van Halen to The Knack. Whilst the film follows Blake Jenner in the lead role, the real hero of the picture is Glen Powell’s Finn, the charming and hilarious house-mate who leads the way within a band of characters who make Linklater’s latest a joyous tale of one weekend’s worth of booze, parties and hook-ups. the real goals of college life. Apparently.
13. Hell or High Water
First noticed on FX’s Sons of Anarchy, writer/actor Taylor Sheridan has come very far, very quickly with his narrative abilities, this year following up on his screenplay for last year’s Sicario with Hell or High Water, a cracking, hard-boiled anti-western which focuses on the power of in-depth characterisation amongst a socio-political backdrop, with a mirrored band of brothers, both biological and metaphorical, consisting of the likes of Chris Pine, Ben Foster and a superb Jeff Bridges, giving his most growling performance since True Grit. Understated in times, yet thrilling in others, Hell or High Water was the kind of film needed after a summer of disappointment and whilst not as dark and delicious as Sicario, is another notch of success for writer Sheridan, a man who can pick his directorial colleagues well.
Let’s face it, the genre of animation has really hit its’ stride recently, picking up plaudits left, right and centre, and whilst last year’s success story in the form of Inside Out was Disney hitting its’ most imaginative streak, Zootropolis is another undisputed success, one which takes the age-old story of the underdog, or under-rabbit in this occasion, and places it in the imaginary world where animals big and small, predator and prey live together in harmony. Well, that’s until a mysterious band of predators become insane and start going missing, allowing our beloved rookie police officer Judy Hopps to take the case and figure out the secrets of their disappearance. With superb digital animation and a stellar voice cast, Zootropolis is yet another Disney masterstroke, one which suitably keeps both children and adults entertained alike.
11. The Hateful Eight
Love him or hate him, you can’t deny the film-making prowess of Quentin Tarantino. Following in the footsteps of Django Unchained and keeping things well within the Western genre of which he seems to be a unrelenting fan of (The Good, The Bad and the Ugly is one of his favourite films), The Hateful Eight boasts a stellar yet familiar Tarantino cast as we witness a three hour mixture of colourful, addictive dialogue amongst an air of paranoia which culminates in B-Movie exploitation goodness. With Tarantino choosing to opt for the retro feel of the Ultra Panavision 70 for the first time in a movie since 1966, The Hateful Eight boasts stunning cinematography, focusing on everything from Kurt Russel’s moustache to the snowy terrains of late 19th century western America and whilst Tarantino’s latest isn’t a smooth sailing classic like his earlier work, it still is a fantastic piece of cinema and one which brings with it a strong sense of admiration.
Next Time: Best Films of 2016 – PART TWO!!!
“There’s A Reason We Woke Up Early…”
If ever were a movie to put off its’ audience by sheer propaganda-esque exploitation, then Passengers is it, a movie advertised within the inch of its’ life within every single cinema screening over the past four months or so, and a movie which seems to be once again a case of revealing too much to be a true success as a two-hour spectacle instead of a two-minute preview. With two of most bankable acting talents at the moment leading the way in the form of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, Passengers, directed by Morten Tyldum of The Imitation Game alongside a story by Prometheus and Doctor Strange screenwriter Jon Spaihts, is a traditionally cheesy sci-fi romance, one which gains kudos for attempting to subvert its’ narrative giveaways within its’ trailers with a nice juicy twist to get the film going, but ultimately succumbs to its’ fundamental 12A-ness and becomes yet another flashy yet forgettable piece of cinema.
Following in the footsteps of Allied recently, a similarly forgettable tale which just happened to feature top-end A-List actors, Passengers suffers primarily from a saccharin-sweet filled narrative at its’ core, one which above all, results in the concluding act of the movie being one hard not to shout “Cheese!” at, with a cliched resuscitation scene being the heart of such of a problem. Whilst Lawrence and Pratt have some decent on-screen chemistry, the absurdness of their celebrity appearance throughout the movie (Not one pixel of make-up is out of place) creates a difficulty in taking in the apparent science fiction notions the film attempts to lay on its’ audience, with obvious nods to Interstellar, Alien, Solaris, Moon and even The Shining putting the film in danger of being just a reel of scenes from better and more memorable productions. Whilst there are a wide range of issues with Passengers, the inherent friendliness makes it somewhat suitable for this particular period of the year, yet its’ plain-sailing approach sadly just won’t make it past the month as something memorable, a shame when considering the talent on display. Also, what was the point of hiring Andy Garcia? HE DOES NOTHING. Merry Christmas.
Overall Score: 5/10
“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
Worst Films of 2016
The yearly sound of festive Christmas greetings brings with it the annual delight of Black Ribbon’s year in review for film, a must on everyone’s list to Santa, and to begin this year’s activities we look back at the very worst 2016 has had to offer on the big-screen, not only to get the big bad stuff out of the way first but also due to the fact that with only two weeks left of the year, I cannot see any other film replacing the movies that unfortunately have had the bad luck to land on such a list, a list which ranges from shoddy blockbusters to sloppy sequels, from crappy comic adaptations to sleep-inducing symbolical thrillers and a list which features one of the very worst films of the past decade. So, in the words of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, “let’s get into character” and examine the very worst films us here at Black Ribbon have had to sit through throughout the course of 2016…
10. Suicide Squad
We begin the countdown with perhaps one of the messiest excuses for a summer blockbuster in recent history, a film which had a certain amount of positive hype after its’ interesting trailer yet fell flat on its’ face come release date. With awful storytelling and less than one-dimensional characters at the heart of it, David Ayer’s Suicide Squad was a resounding flop, one which suffered from a wide range of much publicised problems such as mandatory re-shoots and a complete change of style due to the success of Deadpool, resulting in the fate of the DC Universe being left completely open to opinion. Should Marvel be quaking in fear of its’ comical rival? Not. One. Bit. With even more films next year continuing the franchise you can only hope it only gets better. It can’t get much worse.
9. Zoolander 2
Beginning the foray of sequels that not only were bog awful but were really not necessary at all is Zoolander 2, the follow up to Ben Stiller’s 2001 comedy which continues the tale of the simple-minded fashion mega-star which not only contains perhaps the worst set of celebrity cameos ever seen in a movie (Cumberbatch, what are you doing?) but also suffers from the fundamental issue of being a comedy which ultimately isn’t funny at all. Where the first had a slight sense of charm and a selection of annoyingly quotable gags, Zoolander 2 instead features a ridiculous and wholly boring storyline which cranks its’ way into submission in order to try and give the movie a reason for existing aside from the obvious financial possibilities. Where the first had David Bowie, Zoolander 2 has Justin Bieber and that in itself is a prime of example of why the movie sucks. Big time.
8. Batman V. Superman
Of the two releases from the DC Universe this year, Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice was undoubtedly a shocker. Two and a half hours of a slumbering narrative which attempts not only to find a solid rationale for the titular battle but to set up the basis of the upcoming extended universe is the heart of the movies’ problem alongside dull, uninspiring CGI and performances that range from Henry Cavill’s solemn-looking Clark Kent to Jesse Eisenberg’s OTT Lex Luthor, a portrayal which takes all the good things about his performance in The Social Network and ramps it up way past eleven, becoming incredibly irritating whenever he’s on screen. Where Suicide Squad was similarly terrible, BvS was undoubtedly worse for one reason; it should have been a riveting success particularly when Ben Affleck was actually quite good but instead we can all acknowledge Zak Snyder perhaps isn’t the man to lead DC to cinematic glory.
7. Now You See Me 2
Yet another pointless sequel which bears all the hallmarks of the blueprint for utter cinematic failure. Awful storytelling? Correct, with the concluding twist making not one bit of sense whatsoever and the films’ narrative being so ridiculous it wouldn’t be amiss in an episode of Scooby Doo. Terrible characters? Oh yeah, particularly when admiring the terrible decision to allow the screenwriters to include the Jar Jar Binks of modern cinema with Woody Harrelson’s creepy twin brother being skull-shatteringly awful. If it wasn’t for how loud the film was in its’ respective screening my many dozes throughout the film may have transcended into outright REM sleep, a position which in no way would have risked the chance of seeing anything remotely interesting on-screen. Please, no more CGI magic, I’ve had my share.
6. Point Break
The real horror of this years’ Point Break is now having to say “you mean the original?” whenever anyone asks if I’ve seen it. I mean come on Hollywood, why on Earth does this movie even exist? Where Katheryn Bigelow’s 1991 was a movie based on testosterone-filled action set pieces and a bromance so contagious you would be excuse for thinking it was actually a romantic drama, with surfing, the 2016 version features nothing of which made the original so fantastic. A dull storyline with dull characters fitted together with dull action set pieces and this years’ Point Break was a real drag to endure. Adding to the insult too was the decision to reenact some of the original film’s most iconic images, not only reminding you how good the original actually is but also making you gag at the thought of more inevitable pointless remakes that will be released in the near future.
5. The Forest
Perhaps sticking to what you do best should have been the advice for Natalie Dormer, formerly of Game of Thrones of course, and although broadening the acting pallet is chalk and cheese of Hollywood these days, The Forest is not quite the shining example of riveting success it might have been in another universe. What makes it so bad? It’s a horror which isn’t scary and primarily relies on the cheap thrill of jump scares which don’t make you jump whilst the doppleganger/twin sister narrative twist at the heart of the film doesn’t really make any sense whatsoever when picked apart. In a year of dull blockbusters, The Forest is the one A-List movie which was destined for straight-to-video goodness. Unforunately for Dormer and co., it’s so much worse.
Ron Howard. Tom Hanks. Felicity Jones. What could possibly go wrong? Oh yeah, it’s a Dan Brown adaptation of course. Whilst symbology, ancient hidden clues and a genocidal virus could be classed as the basis for adventure, Inferno is an A-Z in cinematic narcolepsy. Continuing the theme of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, Ron Howard’s latest is a confusing, shoddy dramatic tale of Dante, memory loss and the end of the world which embraces the notion that if the movie doesn’t slow down, the audience can’t decipher the truly pants storytelling at heart. Although the twist wasn’t expected, due in part to being asleep through most of the film’s first half, Inferno includes the most anti-climatic conclusion seen in recent history with a disease filled plastic bag at the heart of it. That’s right, a flippin’ carrier bag.
3. Independence Day: Resurgence
Yet another terrible excuse for a sequel that really, no-one was crying out for, particularly when twenty years has passed since the original and particularly when in an era where CGI-fuelled blockbusters tend to be actually quite boring, Independence Day: Resurgence is a movie which takes all the worst bits and mushes them into two hours of a laboured and depressingly dull disaster. With recurring actors from the first, aside from Will Smith, seemingly only popping up for the pay cheque and an uninspired choice of younger actors, Resurgence lacks the charm, thrill and general popcorn feel of the 1996 original, resorting to cheap, over-the-top digital effects instead of a narrative and effective characterisation. And still, it isn’t the worst film of the year.
2. London Has Fallen
Unfortunately for Gerard Butler, the two worst films of the year features his majestic Scottish talent and whilst Butler has managed to do some half-decent stuff in his career so far, London Has Fallen is instead up there with the worst he has had to offer. Although not entirely his fault, this xenophobic, ultra-violent mess of a movie is truly terrible from beginning to end, featuring Butler at his most gruesome as well as a plot so intergalactically stupid it is truly surprising to see it actually managed to get past the drawing board. The only good thing about the horror of London Has Fallen is that a sequel surely cannot follow but looking back at 2016, it’s fair to say stranger things have happened indeed.
1. Gods of Egypt
And here we are at last, the Battlefield Earth of the past decade and indeed the worst film of the year by quite a distance. Although director Alex Proyas is renowned for interesting, cult-esque movies in his early career such as The Crow and Dark City, Gods of Egypt is not worthy of viewership by any means. Aside from being perhaps the most toe-curling two hours of cinema I can remember, Proyas has created a movie so stupid, so pathetic in its’ attempts at creating something resembling a historical narrative that Gods of Egypt can’t even be excused of being a movie so bad it’s actually good. Although Butler isn’t in the leading role, his performance is still part of the systematic weakness at the heart of the movie with oak-soaked wooden portrayals across the board whilst the CGI is put to shame by even the most basic of effects seen on the worst television has to offer. There is no hiding it, Gods of Egypt is an epic disaster and will be at the forefront of worst movie lists of recent times for years to come but for now, it’s just the worst film of 2016. Let’s see what next year has to offer.
Next Time: Best Films of the Year -Part One!
“Terrorism Is Just An Excuse…”
A dramatic tale of one of the most controversial figures in recent history you say? Who shall we bring on as director for that then? Oliver Stone of course, the man renowned for shall we say, colourful political views but more importantly probably the right man for the job when admiring his previous work such as the renowned Vietnam trilogy which included Platoon and Born on the Forth of July, both of which supplied Stone with Oscar wins, as well as his work on astute US political dramas such as JFK and Nixon. Although the Oscar winning documentary Citizenfour provided an in-depth examination of Edward Snowden and his role as the notorious whistle-blower, Stone’s dramatisation of similar events features Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the titular role, alongside a strange rafter of familiar faces such as Timothy Olyphant, Tom Wilkinson and Nicholas Cage who come and go in less-than supporting roles. If the man at the centre of the movie wasn’t so darn interesting, Snowden could have been in danger of being a sour, cold drama, yet with a top performance from Gordon-Levitt, Snowden is a interesting, if rather overlong, political drama.
Where the film is in its’ most interesting is scenes in which we delve into the technological aspect of Snowden’s past, whether it be hidden away in some James Bond-esque spy cave in Hawaii or hiding under a false name in the metropolitan sprawl of Geneva, yet Stone is also interested in the personal side of Snowden, giving us an in-depth examination of his relationship with partner Lindsay Mills (Divergent series’ Shailene Woodley) and the strain put on such by his classified occupation. Unfortunately for Stone, this aspect of the film is undoubtedly the weakest and therefore becomes an issue when at least two-thirds of the drama is focused upon such instead of the more interesting, political issues that Stone is renowned for taking more of an interest in. Throughout the course of the drama, the movie does seep into frank ridiculousness, particularly when Snowden is greeted to the pantomime silliness of the enlarged face of an angry Rhys Ifans, a scene in which it was hard to not laugh at the sheer OTT nature of Stone’s decision to enforce a higher level of dramatisation than the already interesting storyline needed. Snowden is overlong, silly and boring at times but with the one-two of Gordon-Levitt and Woodley attempting to do the most with what they can, the film does work on some level, just not the level the pedigree of Stone should be settling for.
Overall Score: 6/10
“I Am An Old Soul. I Like Old Movies And Old Music. Even Old People…!”
I know the feeling. As one of the minorities who believe they were born in the completely wrong era, The Edge of Seventeen is one of those fantastical coming-of-age comedies in which relating with the leading lady is simple. A conflicted socially awkward teen who believes the current social strata is one of isolation and technological addiction could sum up Hailee Steinfield’s Nadine, a high-school junior who fails completely at fitting in with the modern crowd and unfortunately loses her best friend after she catches her sleeping with her brother. Ouch indeed. The Edge of Seventeen works on a wide range of levels, no more so than Steinfield herself, who after her star-making performance in the Coen’s remake of True Grit, embraces the film’s lead role in her stride and creates a character so effortlessly likeable, the fact that she appears in every shot of the movie makes it an enjoyable ride into the ambiguity of modern youthfulness once again.
Whilst the perilous teen conflicts at the heart of The Edge of Seventeen aren’t entirely organic, the rather understated nature of the narrative helps to inflict a sense of realism into the drama associated around Nadine, with her brother, played by Everybody Wants Some!! star Blake Jenner, seemingly at the heart of the main issues, a problem many siblings across the globe can relate to. Adding a level of droll humour to the proceedings, Woody Harrelson’s portrayal of Nadine’s teacher-comfort is a quaint addition, one which allows our heroine to find comfort in the heart of someone much older yet someone who understands her completely. Strangely enough, the 15 rating plastered on the movie will unfortunately dissuade most of the audience the movie is attempting to connect with, yet The Edge of Seventeen is indeed one of the more heartwarming additions to the big screen at the moment and when put up against the likes of Office Christmas Party, it’s Annie Hall. On its’ own however, The Edge of Seventeen isn’t exactly in that particular pedigree but it is still is a worthy addition to the genre.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Hey Santa! Wanna Party…?”
So here it is, Merry Christmas! Everybody’s having fun, look to the future now… Okay, time to stop. The annual season of mass consumerism, wasted mince pies and cheesy red jumpers is upon us and where Christmas follows, so does certain inevitabilities; last ditch shopping, the Doctor Who special and of course, the release of cheesy Christmas movies. Picking up the slack this year is Office Christmas Party, a seasonal comedy which adheres to the blueprint of many before it by squeezing as many famous faces as possible into the mix in the hope that the glowing smile of Jennifer Aniston can take the audience’s attention away from the dire script holding it together. Although not entirely terrible in the backlog of awful comedies, Office Christmas Party is pretty much a 90 minute booze-fest, one which not only has the cringey themes of sexism, toilet humour and general awfulness of party culture films such as Project X and The Hangover, but also adds cheesy, wooden narratives that unfortunately are created to collide with the seasonal nature of the film. Did the film get me ready for Christmas though? No. No. No.
With these types of movies it is strikingly obvious that deep thought and some sort of underlying themes are completely absent, with the main goal of course being that sweet sound of a cash register, and whilst Office Christmas Party isn’t the first movie to abide by these rules, and undoubtedly won’t be the last, you could be forgiven for thinking it might be a complete stinker. The harsh truth however is that Office Christmas Party isn’t even that, it’s just passable fluff, fluff which will bound to suit a certain breed of audience but for me, does nothing at all except wishing I was watching It’s A Wonderful Life instead. After his rather cracking performance in The Gift, it’s a real shame to see Jason Bateman return to easy ground whilst Kate McKinnon attempts to continue her reputation as the kooky linchpin of the movie after her performance in the recent Ghostbusters remake. If this is the type of movie Christmas will continue to offer, I might just hibernate through next years’ annual festivities but at the same time, at least we have Star Wars to look forward to.
Overall Score: 4/10
“No One Warned Us. No One Said “You’re Going To Lose Both Engines At A Lower Altitude Than Any Jet In History”…”
No guys, Clint Eastwood’s latest isn’t a continuation of the Monsters Inc. character but instead a biographical drama based upon the extraordinary events that took place on 15th January 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 was miraculously landed upon the Hudson River by pilots Chelsey Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles after a bird strike had completely destroyed both the left and right engines, leaving them in the air with no thrust and little chance to return to ground safely. Such a remarkable and historical achievement was inevitably set to hit the big screens sooner rather than later and what Eastwood has accomplished with Sully is creating a gripping and intelligently played drama which tackles not only the experience of Captain Sully’s landing but the repercussions of it too. With Tom Hanks performing effortlessly in the lead role as the titular Sully, Eastwood’s latest is indeed a hit, albeit suffering from some minor issues which prevent it from being up there with his best work as a director.
Inevitably, the fundamental narrative that fluctuates throughout Sully is a gripping enough plot in itself to catch the eye of even the least cinematically viable audience with a good, uplifting heroic story being the mark of a bankable picture, particularly when you have the reliable hands of Hanks as your movies’ star, and whilst the movie skips between the past and the present of our titular hero, the most effective parts of the movie take place during the films’ big set pieces, primarily the landing itself as well as the discussions that take place afterwards where although the narrative is hyped up completely to function as the drama, still manages to work, even if Eastwood manages to make every single journalist and white collar worker look like the villains of the piece. What the film didn’t need however was the cringey CGI crash scenes which took place inside the traumatised mind of our hero which completely reverses the effect of the movie and removes it from the subtle and understated nature of a film like Spotlight and instead becomes more of a popcorn movie as a result. Of course, popcorn movie goodness is not entirely a bad thing and whilst Sully does manage to come away as an effective telling of an incredible achievement within recent history, it isn’t really anything more than that, but, as with anything with Tom Hanks in, Sully is still an enjoyable and well made drama.