Monday, 29 February 2016

Best and Worst of February 2016

Oscars… but who cares about them? They only happen on an annual basis, these summaries of my top three and singular worst film only comes around each month. The month has been rather mixed, as we have darted between the fantastic to the dreadful. Literally anything I saw this month that was not horrible was fantastic, there were not any good or fine films, they were all either at one end of the spectrum or the other. The amazing film were alo of a very different variety as well, with ultra-violent superhero movies, arthouse Asian movies and sobering financial dramedies.

3: The Assassin

A contemplative and thoughtful study of … well I don’t exactly know what but herein lies the brilliance of ‘The Assassin’ it is just one of those movies that you can interoperate and decipher through each beautiful frame. I happen to believe it’s a story of duty and humanity, transporting you into the viewpoint of the assassin, a quiet observer who is patiently waiting to strike, watching the targets who are blissfully unaware of their own impending doom. The action scenes are excellently choreographed but unusually sparse for this type of movie, instead it moves at a slower pace as it questions our motives and perception, forcing you to examine the big picture rather than small and ultimately meaningless conflicts.

2: Deadpool

Best superhero movie ever? One of them definitely (for me at least) as ‘Deadpool’ is intelligently crude (if such a thing can exist), wonderfully subversive and ridiculously entertaining. Tim Miller directs with such a visceral and fluid style that ‘Deadpool’ stands on its own as a terrific action movie as well as a fantastic comedy movie. It’s a hell of a lot funnier than any comedy film that’s been released recently anyway. I’m sure you’ve heard this millions of times but Ryan Reynolds was born to play this part, he’s charismatic, action oriented, threatening and empathetic and just fits so perfectly into this world. A sequel is already in the world and I can’t wait.

1: The Big Short

Led by a stellar cast including Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Brad Pitt, ‘The Big Short’ is a truly unique depiction of a decidedly difficult subject. Far from being a dreary movie about finance and number crunching it was deeply engaging and moves along with a strong and clear momentum, with Adam McKay’s script and direction blending together excellently to form an informative and provocative drama. McKay’s comedic sensibilities provide an underlying tone that allow one to find the film as hilarious as it is horrifying, a defining movie for our current economic era.

And the Worst…

Dirty Grandpa

Whatever horror movie comes out in 2016, they will not be as terrifying or as disturbing as ‘Dirty Grandpa’. There is no fun to be found in this movie, it is a vulgar, repulsive and offensive mess of a film. It’s a meaningless parade of crassness that seems to take pride in its own stupidity as if it’s some sort of satire, but I doubt whether this film has even heard of the word satire. If you want jokes about molestation, racism, homophobia and Robert DeNiro masturbating (not depicted in a fleeting shot but for a painfully long time) then here’s the comedy movie for you. For everyone else, it’s a tragedy.  

88th Academy Awards Wrap Up

Wow do we have a lot to talk about, I won’t even waste time with an introduction, let’ just move straight into it. Chris Rock kicked off the ceremony by addressing the elephant in the room almost instantly, to surprisingly great effect. His opening monologue was sharp, to the point and wonderfully satirical concerning the issue. He didn’t just take the low hanging fruit and targeted everyone involved, especially those headlining the Oscar boycott, “It’s the 88th Academy Awards, which means this this ‘no black nominees’ thing happened at least 71 times before. You got to figure it happened in the ‘50s, in the ‘60s. Why? Because we had real things to protest at the time. We were too busy being raped and lynched to care about who won Best Cinematographer.” He went on to say “I could never boycott, I couldn’t loose another job to Kevin Hart” and to top it all off, “Everybody went mad … Jada got mad. Jada said she’s not coming. Isn’t she on a TV show? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.”
The only problem was that he occasionally drifted into lingering on the issue. We got it at the start, but Rock seemed to reuse the same jokes again and again, and they were never as prominent or satirical as his opening monologue. When he wasn’t talking about race after that he was still very humorous and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s invited back in a few years’ time. As for next year’s host… I’ll get to that later.
I was right when it came to one screenplay award, ‘The Big Short’ did indeed walk away with the prize (so ‘Anchorman’is now from an Oscar winning writer) but it was ‘Spotlight’ that took home the award for Best Original Screenplay instead of my choice of ‘Inside Out’. But I should not despair, as unsurprisingly Pete Docter and Pixar collected the award for Best Animated Feature. There were also no surprises in the Best Documentary Feature, with ‘Amy’ winning the award and ‘Son of Saul’ took the Best Foreign Language Film.
There was however, a surprise in the Best Visual Effects category with ‘Ex Machina’ taking home the award. Now I liked ‘Ex Machina’ a lot, but I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “The effects were the best part”. I said that every year the academy like to give out one award to prove they are not old men, and this year it was with an indie science fiction film. But speaking of ‘Ex Machina’, it was great to see Alicia Vikander win Best Supporting Actress for ‘The Danish Girl’. I know I had placed my bet on Rooney Mara winning but that was mainly down to what I thought would happen and I’m equally pleased for Alicia to win instead, after all she has had a fantastic year and I must once again state this simple message, filmmakers; hire her now, doesn’t matter what role it is, just hire Alicia Vikander because I am now convinced that she can do anything.
It was very surprising to see Stallone loose out to Mark Rylance. I’m not saddened or outraged a Rylance’s performance was an outstanding one. Also, if there’s one thing Rocky Balboa stands for, it’s not about winning, it’s about proving yourself to others and defying the odds. Plus, Rylance’s was possibly the humblest speech of the night as he ran through his admiration of Tom Hanks, Stallone, Ruffalo, Bale and Hardy, even in his press screening he couldn’t stop praising other people with nods to the likes of Paul Dano and Idris Elba.
Best original Score went to Ennio Morricone for ‘The Hateful Eight’, which feels more like a lifetime achievement than anything else as the scores for ‘Sicario’ and ‘The Force Awakens’ felt stronger for me. But then again when you’re 87 years old and wrote the scores for ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ and ‘The Thing’, you can do whatever you want. Then of course is the third consecutive victory for Emmanuel Lubezki in cinematography for ‘The Revenant’, (he won last year for ‘Birdman’ and for ‘Gravity’ in 2013).
‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ swept the technical categories with 6 Oscars in total for Editing (both film and sound), Sound Mixing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design and Costume Design. It even came close to winning Best Documentary Short when Louis C.K opened the envelope and said ‘Mad Max’. If he had stuck with it I think Junkie XL’s fanfare would have started, but as I was saying earlier I think the Oscars have found their next host Louis C.K.
But not Best Director, and I predicted Miller would, but I made that prediction based on the assumption that ‘The Revenant’ would win Best Picture (because even though my heart said ‘Spotlight’ I didn’t have that much faith in it winning) and if Inarritu was going to win that I thought they might as well give it to Miller, (at least he’s Jury President at the 2016 Cannes film festival). But ‘The Revenant’ took Best Director for Inarritu, who was presented the award by JJ Abrams, only for ‘Spotlight’ to defy my own expectations, and win Best Picture. I’m very pleased it did as Tom McCarthy’s movie had a strong political message that few filmmakers would tackle with as much intelligence, emotion and dignity as he did. So for director and picture, I think the academy made the right call.
Best Actress rightfully went to Brie Larson, it’s as simple as that. If I were to pick the best performance of 2015 I’d say it was Larson without a doubt. But the biggest talking point of the evening was of course… Best Animated Short, look I know ‘Prologue’ was the favourite but you just have to accept it went to ‘Bear Story’. There was also Leonardo DiCaprio, finally! His win was met with a standing ovation and in his speech Leo thanked everyone from his co-star Tom Hardy to his director Alejandro Inarritu and of course his long-time collaborator Mr Martin Scorsese. A long overdue award that signals the end of an era, no more Leonardo/Oscar, memes... or that's what you think.

So what did you think of the awards and winners? Are you disappointed with the Best Original Song winner, I know I am. Leave a comment below to let me know, thanks and bye.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

88th Academy Awards Predictions

Last year, when I inscribed my predictions for the Oscars of 2014, I was drastically wrong in virtually every category. I concluded that the reason for this was simple, I let my own opinions get in the way and forgot that the academy would not up haul their traditions that year. But then I realised, why is that a problem? Think about it, why would anyone just want to see me make the most accurate predictions I could only for them to all be right and then another article of me going “I told you so”.

Instead I’m doing the exact same thing I did last year, I’m basing my predictions off of a combination of factors. Firstly who I want to win and then secondly who I think will win. For the most part I’ll just revert to who I think will win, but should I find myself unsatisfied at such a possibility I will state who I would want to win the award. Will they be right? Probably no, but who cares?

Best Picture – Spotlight

Many seem to be backing ‘The Revenant’ to take home the award but more recently ‘The Big Short’ has come into contention as an outsider (which I would like as it would allow us to say “From the Oscar wining director, comes ‘Anchorman’”), meanwhile have placed all of their bets behind ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ taking home the statuette and if I was going for my personal choice alone I would pick ‘Room’. All of which are good choices, but in terms of a film that matches what I want to happen, and what I think will happen, I have to go with ‘Spotlight’ in important, heart-breaking and inspirational masterclass.

Best Director – George Miller

Yeah, I said it. You know why? Because Inarritu will have many chances to take another award (he already has three for ‘Birdman’) and just for once I want to see an Oscar go to a 70 year old Australian who started out making cheap exploitation movies funded by his night shifts in a hospital emergency room that would miraculously turn into a franchise, then moving on to movies about talking pigs and dancing penguins before returning to his exploitation franchise to craft a defining action masterpiece (seriously, just so I can say it one more time, ‘Fury Road’ joins the ranks of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Terminator 2’). Is that so much to ask?

Best Actor – Leonardo DiCaprio

I don’t like to think about what will happen if Leo doesn’t win, protests, boycotts, riots? If it were any other year I would bet on Michael Fassbender winning, but if he continues to make good choices his time will come. For now, it’s DiCaprio’s turn.

Best Actress – Brie Larson

If Larson doesn’t win this award there is no justice in the world. There’s nothing else to talk about, moving on.

Best Supporting Actor – Sylvester Stallone

40 years ago ‘Rocky’ swept the Oscars, winning awards for its director, producers, but not its writer or star, Stallone. We thought the moment had passed, but he’s back and maybe, just maybe he can change. Because if he can change, then we can change, everybody can change!

Best Supporting Actress – Rooney Mara

Mara is definitely in the wrong category here, she shares the limelight of ‘Carol’ with Cate Blanchett, but she’s been labelled a the supporting actress so she might as well get an Oscar out of it, right? I think so, but then again don’t discount Alicia Vikander or Kate Winslet (who won the category at the BAFTAs) snatching it away.

Best Original Screenplay – Inside Out

There are a lot of eligible winners this year ‘Bridge of Spies’, ‘Ex Machina’ (which should be up for Best Picture in my opinion), ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Straight Outta Compton’ all being promising candidates that wouldn’t disappoint me too much. But for me, none of them have the charm, the imagination of the subtle brilliance of Pixar’s latest classic.

Best Adapted Screenplay –The Big Short

Intelligent, satirical, dramatic, there’ nothing else to say really.

Best Animated Feature Film – Inside Out

That can’t come as a surprise, no other film is as universally accessible or uses the concept of animation to its fullest as much as ‘Inside Out’.

Best Foreign Language Film – Son of Saul

I admit I haven’t seen every nominee in this category (in a digital age distribution schedules remain baffling) but they would be hard pressed to be as good a ‘Son of Saul’.

Best Documentary Feature – Amy

Every year the Academy likes to say “we’re not old men, we’re down with the kids, we understand”. So this year that could mean a victory for the Netflix film ‘Winter on Fire’, which is excellent. But for every other reason, ‘Amy’ should win.

Best Original Score -  Ennio Morricone

Best Cinematography – Emmanuel Lubezki (Sorry Roger Deakins, for like the fiftieth time)

Best Visual Effects – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (because I want it to, that’s why)

But what do you think, can you do better? Leave a comment below if you do, also if you want to get angry at the Academy here’s an article I wrote on some of the best Hollywood directors who never won an Oscar, you won’t believe half of the name on this list Thanks and bye.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

"I shall never relinquish my sword for a ring."

The first and perhaps most important question one must ask going into a movie, of any kind, is this; who is this movie for? Is it for fans of Austen or fans Romero? Or is it aiming for the same group of people that liked ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’, I’m just kidding as such a group does not exist. But my point is, does ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ want to be seen as a tongue in cheek parody of the classic novel and the zombie genre, or does it want to be taken seriously? Based on the film I’d say it wants to achieve the latter, and it hasn’t succeeded.

In an 18th Century England overrun by ravenous hoards of the undead, a young woman by the name of Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) deals with issues of manners, upbringing, morality, education, marriage and zombies.

To be fair to ‘Pride and prejudice and Zombies’ it does deliver what it promises. It is indeed an adaptation of Austen’s novel with zombies peppered throughout the plot. But it’s a gimmick that wear off rather quickly, and it is soon after that I realised that, beyond that gimmick, the film has little else to offer. Not only that, but the end result is an extremely jumbled affair that ultimately disappoints those wanting Austen action and gore galore.

Instead of blending the two together seamlessly ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ stumbles through its plot and it ultimately amount to very little. Instead of becoming inventive or entertaining with how they weave the two stories of social standing and battling the undead together the movie feels like three films stitched together.

The first film is one where the world and characters are established and in which the plot is set in motion. During this section there are a few moments of deadpan and sly humour that show promise of a creative amalgamation such as the Bennet sisters sitting in a drawing room, making pleasantries and cleaning their weapons and comparing their expertise within the deadly arts. There are also a few moment of eerie tension in which the undead are given a somewhat menacing presence. But there are also o many moments that feel as if they are meant to be significant and ultimately amount to nothing, almost as if they were stalling for time. Stalling is actually the last thing they should have been doing, as the film is far too long as it is.

The second section of the film seems to do away with the zombie elements to focus purely on the plot of the Austen novel before the third act changes trajectory to wrap up some weak plot for a unified zombie army to take over the world. It’s all very confused and befuddled, as if the writer became too wrapped up in one aspect of the story before realising he still has to deliver on the horror front and then rushed to finish it.

The huge action set-pieces are rather unusual, the gore has a decidedly decorous nature to it, as does the rest of the horror aspects. None of them are inventive or even fun, they are just loud, noisy and highly clichéd. There are exploding bridges with characters narrowly making it over, swordfights to the death (that mysteriously seem to last for hours on end, as it is dusk in one scene, then dawn in the next with both duellists seemingly full of vigour and fitness) and jumping through crowds of zombies. None of these scenes have any sizable context, so their scale and importance remains unknown and the tension is lost as a result. But it insists upon taking itself so seriously that it never feels fun or entertaining, just boring.

But at the same time, none of the actors really have the bravado or talent to carry the scenes of romance and drama. I was never swept p within the human emotions of the situations, I never cared for the characters or empathised with them, I felt more compelled for the zombies. There are a few actors who seem to be in on the joke, and understand the tone the film should be going for. Both of the present Lannister’s Charles Dance and Lena Headey are on the right track, and especially Matt Smith, who provides the only real sense of comedy within the film.

 ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ is rarely as engaging or as frightening as it wants to be, and ultimately becomes a repetitive mess.

Result: 3/10

Thursday, 18 February 2016

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

"How willing ae you to die for your country? I'm ready to go right here, right now."

Donald Trump apparently likes this movie. Let me just get that out of the way immediately because the political background of this movie is a complex one, with many critics being accused of letting their personal bias influence their verdict. I’m just letting you know now, because frankly nothing seems to say more about this movie’s mind-set than the knowledge that Trump likes it.

A recreation of the 2012 Benghazi incident in which a U.S diplomatic compound in Libya was attacked by terrorists and the soldiers who were sent in to deal with the occurrence.

Michael Bay has insisted that the film is not meant to be seen as a political message or statement (no sh*t!), it is instead designed to capture the incident on the ground level, not concerning itself with the background or politics surrounding the issue, simply dealing with the soldier’s experience of the event. Well I can safely say that such a description is in fact an accurate one, as I went in knowing next to nothing about the Benghazi incident and I came out knowing even less.

I’m still unsure as to whether that is an attribute or a flaw. By not investing itself or concerning itself within the background of the situation then it’s hard to empathise with anyone in the film. What precisely are these soldiers fighting for? Yes I know its peace and security and so forth but I mean specifically, in this incident of September 11th 2012, what are they fighting for? But at the same time ’13 Hours’ never gives you a thorough insight into the lives and motivations of these soldiers or their enemies, the Libyan attackers are reduced to faceless aliens who must be vanquished. You don’t need to justify their actions, no one can, but you could give me some insight into why they felt attacking that outpost was necessary. Surely they didn’t do it simply for the hell of it, or just because they needed to be villains?

On the other hand though, if there is one thing Bay can’t do with his films it is intelligent, dialogue driven scenes. Asking Bay to paint a detailed portrait of a political scene is an exercise in futility, it’s like asking someone to punch you in the face, why would you risk inciting such wrath upon yourself? Also, to Bay’s credit, I think what he is trying to do here is to put the audience in the place of these soldiers, we don’t know what is going on at the moment, we are only aware that the situation at hand is one of life and death. It is a chaotic and frantic to be dropped in, a lot like the experience these men must have felt.

However, there is another war film that creates a similar effect. It goes by the name of ‘Black Hawk Down’ and herein lies the problem, for Michael Bay is not Ridley Scott. With that film Scott injected such a gravitas to the story as it unfolded, the action was so visceral and downright brutal that the audience can be almost overwhelmed by the warfare depicted in the film. Bay’s film on the other hand has little sense of gravitas to it, it simply seems like another display of noise and fury that ultimately signifies nothing. Scott wanted to emphasise the lives that were lost that day, with ’13 Hours’ the main emphasis seems to be, “Look, explosions!”

Bay stylises the shootouts, firebombs, chases and explosions in his usual way. There are instances of slow motion, low angle tracking shots and a highly saturated colour scheme as well as rapid fire editing and shaky-cam, none of which really rings true to the concept of visceral and chaotic action. There is a minimal amount of characterisation and even that is accomplished through the most conventional attempt at tear-jerking imaginable, phone calls to home and staring longingly at family photos or passionately telling their life stories to fellow soldiers. It doesn’t help that the movie lasts for two hours and twenty two minutes, which is simply too long. Even if your intention was to capture the chaos of a singular moment, you can’t keep blowing stuff up for that long, that first hour in particular is rough to get through, not because it’s challenging but because it is boring and uninteresting.

When Bay says ’13 Hours’ isn’t about politics, what he seems to mean is that it isn’t about anything really, not the people, the background, the aftermath or the loss of life, just the action.

Result: 4/10

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Dirty Grandpa

"The way I see it, this is our last stand."

No matter how often I think about the alternative ideological concept that lies behind the making of ‘Dirty Grandpa’ all I can think about is the notion that some producer saw that scene from ‘Bad Neighbours’ in which Zac Efron dresses up as Travis Bickle for a Robert DeNiro party and thought ‘we can make a movie out of that idea’. The result isn’t actually as bad as one might expect, it’s much, much worse.

Jason Kelly (Efron) is an uptight lawyer who is sent to accompany his recently widowed grandfather (DeNiro) to Florida for his retirement. However his grandfather becomes involved in increasingly outrageous behaviour and Jason has to keep both him and himself out of trouble in preparation for his upcoming wedding.

Looking at the advertising for this film I can’t help but think the studio wants to revel in the outrageous nature of the film, taking pride in how audiences have felt nauseous and beyond uncomfortable, and can I instantly say that having seen the film, that annoys me. Not because I’m overly sensitive and easily offended, but I dislike the notion that the content of this film can be advertised as being fun and enjoyable, that anyone would be tricked into having to watch this deeply horrible film.

After I watched a film like ‘Sicario’ I felt deeply disturbed and unsettled, but that is just a fraction of how troubled I was having watched ‘Dirty Grandpa’. The problem is that unlike Denis Villeneuve’s thriller, this is intended as a comedy. It’s an endless display of insensitive vulgarity and crudeness that Jordan Belfort would look at and say ‘That’s a bit too far’.

Even more offensive though is just how pointless the whole parade is. There’s nothing intelligent, poignant or meaningful behind the debacle and it is so relentlessly crude that after a while it just made me feel numb and desensitised to the endless parade of crudity and meaninglessness. Let me give you just one example of the level of intelligence and vulgarity we are dealing with here. At one point DeNiro’s character makes a joke concerning a name of another character, Jack Nicklaus, swapping the N for a D. Get it? Another classic moment comes as Efron walks in on his grandfather … shall we say, relaxing in a gentlemen’s way, but not through implication or as a fleeting shot but for a long time. In fact that may be the longest unbroken shot in the film as the rapid fire editing is almost as nauseating as the content of the film.

But if that’s too high brow for you, never fear because there are plenty of jokes about sex, molestation, male and female anatomies, racism, homophobia and anything else that a culturally starved teenager would find funny. I don’t want to say that I can never watch a Robert DeNiro movie again (or at least I hope not because I just bought the Leone cut of ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ so otherwise that’s going to be a rough four hours) but I never lost a sense of utter bafflement throughout this film concerning what it is, that some producer or director has, over DeNiro that would cause him to take part in this movie. I have to keep telling myself that there is no possibility he would undertake this project willingly, did they kidnap Martin Scorsese, steal his Oscar for ‘Godfather Part 2’, anything that would justify having to be in this disgusting, brash and sickening movie?

The whole nature of the film is so disturbingly incoherent, and the fact that one of the laziest attempts at moral decency concerning a lecture about following your dreams and not being held down by other people’s rules only adds to the depression. The only consistent thing within the film is how humourless it is, how often the jokes fail to make me laugh and how regularly they disgust me. The funniest thing about the film is how unfunny it is, the fact that it tries to advertise itself as a comedy is in itself a joke. It’s sense of humour is just so wildly, horrifically misplaced. You would get booed out of a Frankie Boyle gig for repeating any of the jokes in this, firstly because they are disgusting and secondly because they simply are not funny.

Less of a comedy and more of a tragedy.

Result: 1/10

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

From Worst to Best: Michael Bay Movies

Michael Bay is coming back to cinemas with his latest film ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ and some reviews are calling it his best movie, others meanwhile are saying it ranks alongside the usual farce of explosions, nonsensical plot, waver thin characters and descends into the usual Bayhem we’ve come to expect from him. So before I watch it I thought I’d look back on his career and count through his movies, from worst to best. Expect to see more falling into the former description than the latter.

8: Tie: Transformers 1, 2, 3 and 4

That’s right, for me all of them are tied as the worst Michael Bay movie, and while some of them are better than others and maybe not even as bad as other individual films on this list, let me give you a few reasons as to why, collectively, they belong here. Try to guess which specific movie in the franchise I’m referring to with this description. The ongoing conflict between the Autobots and the Deceptocons sees the human race caught in the crossfire, the government don’t trust them, but aided by a lone underdog and some random hot girl the Autobots must search for an advantage over their adversaries to defeat them and save to world. The faults are endless, with the shallowest and most simplistic characters imaginable, incomprehensible action sequences that feel as if they’ve taken eight years off of my life (either because they’re so exhausting or that’s how long they have actually lasted) and numerous plot holes (either in the form of Optimus Prime revealing he can fly in the last shot of the film, Megatron being killed by the object he was trying to find, the military neglecting to use an anti-transformer gun until the last ten minutes of the movie, the villains having an overly complicated plan for destroying Earth or the U.S or Shia LaBoueff going to Transformer heaven) not to mention the hints of sexism racist stereotypes and (specifics) pointless scenes where a character has to explain why he can have sex with an underage girl. If you want more specific descriptions, 2 is ugly (visually, story-wise and ethically), 3 is lazy, 4 is the very definition of an exercise in tedium and 1 started the whole cycle of pain so that one goes here as well. RANT OVER.

7: Pearl Harbor

Quick message to Michael Bay, you are not James Cameron. When you have directed a film as good as ‘Aliens’ or ‘Terminator 2’, then you are Cameron and then you can try to make a rip off of ‘Titanic’. The disregard for historical events is nearly as painful as his inability to grasp actual human emotions and complex characters. You know your film is terrible when Trey Parker and Matt Stone devote a song to it.

6: Pain and Gain

Frankly, nothing I can say about this film will be as good as Mark Kermode’s evisceration of it, so look that up on YouTube. Bay seems to think this is a satire of American excess, but he lacks any sense of humour or understanding of dark comedy, there’s a pornographic and overly stylistic sensibility to it. Instead of satirically undermining society, Bay just stands around trying to laugh at this true story (several people connected to the events depicted have voiced their disdain for the movie). Compare this to Linklater’s ‘Bernie’ or Scorsese’s ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ and maybe you’ll see what I mean. Or as Kermode put it “it’s horrible in a way that ‘Showgirls’ only glimpsed’.

5: The Island

Though there are some interesting ideas in ‘The Island’ what should have been a methodical and contemplative science fiction thriller quickly devolved into an incomprehensible mess of explosions, nonsense and caricatures of human beings. This film is ‘Ex Machina’ if it were directed by Michael Bay.

4: Armageddon

What was he thinking? That is the question that comes to mind upon re-watching ‘Armageddon’ as Bay’s rapid fire editing becomes an exhaustive experience, no shot seems to last longer than three seconds the camera is never still or stable. Maybe it’s because he knew the special effects would look horrendously dated, and there was no dramatic rhythm or character development to sustain the rest of the film. Watching ‘Armageddon’ is like watching a friend struggle to play a video game and won’t let you have a go.

3: Bad Boys 2

This is a car crash of a movie. If Bay ever tried to be satirical this is as close as he came with the ridiculously over the top action sequences, illogical plot twists and character motivations and less than politically correct places. Is it intentional? Even if it isn’t it still sits as Bay’s third best movie.

2: Bad Boys

What may seem ludicrous and overly stylised is actually Bay at his most subtle. ‘Bad Boys’ is a fun, rollercoaster ride of an action movie. It’s not ground-breaking, compelling or intelligent, but its fine as far as pointless action goes. It also gave Will Smith his big break as a movie star, so that’s something.

1: The Rock

This is where Bay’s direction actually benefits a film. Once again ‘The Rock’ is hardly a masterpiece but it is undeniably fun and charming. It has characters that are mildly entertaining and compelling as opposed to talking plot-points and are brought to life brilliantly by the likes of Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery and Ed Harris. The action is well choreographed and engaging rather than incomprehensible. It’s appropriately grounded so that any plot holes are easy to overlook but there are still actual stakes rather than just explosion after explosion, demeaning shot of hot girl, another explosion, racially insensitive character, some quick and obvious exposition, explosion, repeat for 160 minutes.

Monday, 15 February 2016

The Big Short

"Do you have any idea what you just did? You just bet against the American economy."

I have to admit I’m overdue in finally getting around to seeing ‘The Big Short’. But it’s here now and I’m already annoyed that I didn’t see it sooner, because usually financial movies are concerned about greed and consumerism within its main characters.  ‘The Big Short’ concerns itself with people on the edge of that world of corruption and greed but don’t quite fall over the edge, we rarely see the world of Wall Street from that perspective so does that make it unique?

The true story of a group of analysts working in the Wall Street area who discover that the American housing market is on the verge of total collapse, and no one is doing anything to stop it. It chronicles their reaction to the issue and their resolve to try and gain some solace over those responsible for the disaster.

To answer my earlier question, ‘The Big Short’ is especially unique under the direction of Adam McKay (can we please take a moment to acknowledge that ‘Anchorman’ can now carry the caption, from the Oscar nominated director, how awesome is that?). It may seem like an odd choice but when you really stop and think about the style of McKay’s films they all have some underlying intellect to them. For all of ‘Anchorman’s’ random, rapid fire, Python-esque comedy there is a sense of social satire in the exploitive nature of the media, the gender lines that permeate our society and the extravagance of fame. Or maybe that’s just me, do those details really exist, I need to watch that movie again.

I’ll assume I’m right for the time being because ‘The Big Short’ virtually switches over that formula, with the big societal themes being underpinned by the simple comedic tragedy of the situation. It reminded me of ‘Network’ in a certain sense, I didn’t know whether to laugh or be horrified. They are not two separate entities either as the script and direction often blend them together excellently, such as the celebrity cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie and Selina Gomez, on hand merely to explain a banking term of concept to the audience. McKay knows we are more likely to pay attention to something (no matter how important) if it’s being told by a celebrity, isn’t that just a little bit tragic, as well as hilarious?

What’s even more troubling is that it works. I found myself being able to comprehend every complex and detailed term that was used in the movie. As professional analysist started dropping the financial terms into conversations I had no trouble keeping up, after a while I even stated to laugh along with the characters, not just at them.

As a result of the film being able to explain its plot so easily, it moves with a clear momentum and at a pleasing pace. The movie never drags but nor is it ever rushed, it just feels right. It’s easy to be entertained by this movie, but it’s even easier to be appalled and angry as you discover just what bankers across America did in order to sustain their own lavish income, a system that was described by Michael Shannon in ’99 Homes’ as being built “by the winners and for the winners”.

But throughout all of these conflicting emotions, ‘The Big Short’ is held together by the excellence of its cast. Each one carries a different reaction to the events and a fresh perspective so we as an audience can really gain a complete portrait of the disaster. Christian Bale plays a fact based man, someone who is made aware of this situation just from factual data and statistics rather than any human attachment and still becomes equally appalled by the disaster. Steve Carell’s performance is one of anger and shock, while Ryan Gosling is probably the closest to our personified version of a banker, someone who sniffs out deals and brings a certain charisma to each scene. Brad Pitt is simply a do-gooder but even that role carries kore depth than one would initially think, almost satirising the role he plays within the plot.

 Their performances are so authentic that by being filmed in such a documentarian style, sometimes the direction of ‘The Big Short’ can prove a little distracting. I’d say McKay deserves his nomination but there are some rather odd moments that don’t seem to have any meaning behind them, just existing for the sake of innovation. Sometimes it works but at other times it momentarily takes you out of the movie.

‘The Big Short’ is both entertaining and provocative, it’s as humorous as it is horrifying.

Result: 8/10

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Romantic Movie Marathon

It’s Valentine’s Day, which gives me a flimsy excuse to do another article about what was already a fairly weak basis for a post anyway, movie marathons. That’s right I found an excuse to do another one of these things. Last time I selected a dozen horror movies to binge watch and some alternative titles for those who like to live life on the edge. But horror is a much broader subject and comes in so many varieties, as well as being much more tolerable.

The reason is, this time I have fewer titles and can’t offer any alternative ones, but do not fear, because instead of the usual farce of romantic comedies involving a post ‘Dazed and Confused’ but pre ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ Matthew McConaughey I decided to pick out a few alternatives to watch back to back. In my opinion, even if you’ve seen these before, they are just as much fun on repeat viewings.   

(500) Days of Summer

Probably the closest thing to a standard romantic comedy on this list is Marc Webb’s indie romantic comedy, but it manages to be so distinctive and innovative, from its nonlinear structure and surrealist moments. There are so many inventive moments and ideas permeating the film, such as starting on day 488, and then jumping about through the assorted memories of a relationship or my personal favourite scene the reality vs expectations montage. But it’s not just the writing that excels, the performances are all pitch perfect, especially from the two leads Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zoe Deschanel. It may seem like a depressing film to start with, especially if you’ve never seen it before but the ending evokes hope of better things to come.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Edgar Wright’s visual comedy is unparalleled in modern cinema, and ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’ is yet another example of how innovatively funny he can be as well as how brilliantly heartfelt. Also, wow is it fun. It just heaves with such a vibrant sense of energy that you can’t help but fall in love with it just from its exterior alone, with so many examples of great visual comedy, innovative direction and the constant stream of references towards video games, comic books and rock bands. It has the quirky humour of an indie comedy (which makes watching it after ‘500 Days of Summer’ even better) but also some fantastically choreographed fight scenes (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, despite being a comedy director Wright is better at directing action than a lot of action directors).

Punch-Drunk Love

So you’ve just sat through two rom-coms with a few moments that verge on the edge of surrealism, now prepare to dive right over the edge. This stands as the only Adam Sandler movie I like, mainly because it’s not an Adam Sandler movie in the traditional sense, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson who wrote and directed the film and somehow thought that the best person to convey his words to the big screen was Sandler. And amazingly he was right, so brilliantly right, it’s why I get so annoyed today because Sandler has proved that he has a great talent for dramatic acting. But enough about that, ‘Punch-Drunk Love’ is an arthouse film in one sense, but it’s a fantastic portrait of a personality with plenty of unique and funny touches to keep you hooked for its relatively short running time (by PTA standards) of 95 minutes.

Some Like It Hot

The greatest cross dressing film of all time. But Billy Wilder’s screwball masterpiece is more than just a film about men in drag, it’s about falling in love and defying convention and, most prominently sex. A sentiment that it conveys in the simplest terms, look, sex. The point I’m basically trying to make, it that you should make a drinking game out of it by taking a shot for every subtle innuendo, then you’ll understand. The film is about two musicians played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre and was basically Wilder’s homage to the screwball comedies of the 1930s featuring what could be Marilyn Monroe’s best performance. It is such a carefree and joyous film, brimming with craftsmanship and meticulous design.

The Princess Bride

Rob Reiner’s classic fantasy comedy is not a film about falling in love, but proving what you will do in the name of love. Young farm boy Wesley falls in love with peasant girl Buttercup, but when she’s betrothed to marry the tyrannical Prince Humperdinck, adventure awaits to rescue her. The Princess Bride may initially seem simplistic and melodramatic, but through some self-referential humour and by playing so brilliantly with the viewer’s expectations the film ends up working so perfectly. There’s the mix of comedy, swashbuckling and romance that you’ll be quoting for the rest of your life (fans of the movie, say a line now, go on, fun isn’t it, don’t you just want to watch it again now?).

True Romance

When you take a script from Quentin Tarantino and put it in the hands of Tony Scott, and include what has to be the best ensemble cast of all time that includes Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Gary Oldman, Dennis Hopper, Christopher Walken, James Gandolfini, Val Kilmer, Chris Penn, Tom Siezmore, Bradd Pitt and Samuel L Jackson. Like The Princess Bride, it’s not about falling in love but proving what you’ll do for love, but in this case proving that requires taking on drug dealers, hitmen that look like the Sopranos (because they’re played by Tony Soprano) and journeying across America in a wonderfully fun, violent and stylish movie, supported by a stellar Tarantino script and the sheer energy of Scott’s direction as well as that cast that make amazing in every sense of the word.

So those are the movies to binge watch in my opinion, but what do you think? Leave a comment below if you have any better suggestions.

Saturday, 13 February 2016


"I didn't ask to be super, and I'm no hero, but when you find out your worst enemy is after your best girl, the time has come to be a fucking superhero."

There’s really no other way to refer to ‘Deadpool’ other than the passion project of Ryan Reynolds. The actor has fought tooth and nail to bring this adaptation onto the big screen, even agreeing to demoralise the character in ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’, hoping that the powers that be would see the potential and commission a spin-off movie. Reynolds probably didn’t anticipate just how catastrophically bad that version would be. But thanks to the magic of time travel that version is a thing of the past, and here is the ‘Deadpool’ movie we’ve all been craving for.

Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) seeks treatment for his illness, only to be left a mutated immortal who, in the film’s own words, looks like ‘Freddie Kruger face fucked (that's right, breaking out the F bomb, the movie can do it why can't I) a topographical map of Utah’. But now the men who carried out these experiments have kidnapped the love of his life, so he must don a spandex suit and take them on as the vigilante Deadpool.

There were so many things I was sceptical about as this project went through production. I thought there would be no chance in hell of it being rated R, I was wrong, I thought there was no chance in hell it would tie into the rest of the X-Men universe, I was wrong, and I also thought there was no chance in hell that the film would be meta in tone and break the fourth wall as Deadpool famously does in the comics, I was wrong. In fact it became abundantly clear just how wrong I was within the film’s first five minutes. With n opening sequence and credits that I won’t dare give away, but they address virtually every problem I just listed and beyond.

The script of ‘Deadpool’ is just so ingenious in how it deals with every contrasting aspect of the character and makes it work so brilliantly. Consider this conundrum; you want people to empathise and connect with your characters, but how can you do that if the title character is pointing out the fictional nature of the story, how certain elements are dictated by budgetary reasons and copyright law, we refer to characters not by their names, but by the actors who play them. But as I said, it just works, maybe because it knows which moment is the right one to deploy each brand of humour, when to use straight up comedy, when to apply meta humour or fourth wall breaks, and when to play it seriously.

The comedy in question is fantastic, leagues ahead of virtually anything else that passes for comedy nowadays. It’s such a varied sense of comedy as well, I’d be lying if I said it never applies to the lowest common denominator but those kind of jokes are used (are you listening Mr Sandler?) when they are appropriate to the situation and are not the slow basis for the comedy as they are also intertwined with gallows humour, meta comedy and some genuinely terrific action scenes. For a first time director Tim Miller has an amazing talent for directing action, with such a visceral and fluid nature to every scene, no shaky-cam and no unnecessary cuts, and it doesn’t stop for breath but while watching it I never felt exhausted.

As opposed to faltering in its quieter moments, ‘Deadpool’ manages to make its human interactions just as entertaining as its action. The chemistry between Deadpool and every supporting character is fantastic from Morena Baccarin as Wade’s girlfriend, to T.J Miller as his best friend, Leslie Uggams as his blind roommate and even Brianna Hilderbrand and Stefan Kapičić as his reluctant sidekicks. But as for the titular character himself, Ryan Reynolds was born to play this role. It just fits in so perfectly with his attributes as an actor, he is crude and empathetic and hilarious and action oriented, everything just fits together so perfectly. It’s not hard to see why he leaked that test footage, I mean …. Why he was glad when the footage was leaked, yeah, that’s what I meant.

There is apparently a petition to edit a PG-13 version of ‘Deadpool’, but frankly that would be a great injustice to the movie as it relies on being as crude and violent as it is. Not only that but even the very structure of the film isn’t suited to a PG-13 demographic, being told nonlinearly and being so self-referential. There are faults with ‘Deadpool’ but the film even goes as far to address most of them itself, that doesn’t mean that those faults do not exist, but it does make me feel inadequate for targeting what is by now a low-hanging fruit. It’s hilarious, violent, genre pushing and ridiculously entertaining.

‘Deadpool’ is quite simply one of the best superhero movies ever made, as well as being one of the most outlandish.

Result: 9/10

Monday, 8 February 2016

2016 Super Bowl Trailer Reviews

So all of the Super Bowl trailers just hit the internet and I thought I’d have to talk about some of the awesome sneak peaks we got at upcoming movies. I may not know a lot about American Football (or regular football, or any sport for that matter) but I can certainly speculate about movies that are hundreds of minutes long based on information gathered from a thirty second trailer, so where’s my giant stadium? …. Anyway, moving on;

Jason Bourne

 It’s weird that I wasn’t at all excited for the fifth entry in the Bourne series until I saw this trailer and title. Not that either one is especially remarkable on its own (did we run out of words that sound cool when paired with ‘The Bourne …’) but maybe that title implies a character driven and intimately focused story, even more so than the other instalments with Matt Damon. I think above all this trailer simply awoke my excitement because I could finally see this project as a realised film, until now it was a fantasy in the distant, not helped by being labelled ‘Untitled Fifth Bourne Film’, but now, with a real title, Damon back in the iconic role (on a high from his Oscar nominated turn in ‘The Martian’), with Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander to back him up as well as Paul Greengrass’ masterful direction. Yep, I’m pumped now.

The Jungle Book

The live action Disney remakes of recent years have tended to be more style over substance and have failed to deliver something genuinely new and satisfying to the films they are reimagining. So far ‘The Jungle Book’ has me won over on the style side, but I’m yet to be convinced of its substance, even with this trailer. It looks to embody some of the spirit of the original and might just have that punch we’ve been looking for, though they may want to polish up some of those effects as I don’t quite buy the actors voices (incidentally this is a flawlessly casted film from what I can tell) with the animation, but I’m sure they will. That new rendition of ‘Bear Necessities’ is also amazing so I’m definitely impressed with this trailer, and hopeful for the finished product.

Independence Day: Resurgence

Scenes of destruction, space battles, patriotism, Jeff Goldblum. What else could you want from an ‘Independence Day’ trailer? My only concern now is that it doesn’t retain its sense of fun, the reason why the first one is Roland Emmerich’s only enjoyable movie.


It breaks the fourth wall again, which is fantastic again as ‘Deadpool’ is now doing its utmost to emphasise how different it is from every other superhero movie out there right now. So as well as the violence and general tone surely this will help win fans over, and it acts as a nice counter piece to the almost universal praise the film has been receiving since advanced reviews started coming out. It now sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and Chris Stuckmann awarded the film a perfect grade of A+, a score that the YouTube reviewer only gave to one film in 2015, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’. I was confident it would be good but could it possibly be that good? I’ll have to wait and see.

TMNT: Out of the Shadows

This film’s success (critically at least) relies on whether it revels in its own ridiculousness or delves into the usual Bayhem we’ve come to expect now. So far the trailer seems to balance awkwardly in between. I admit Krang was pretty awesome though.

10 Cloverfield Lane

It seems that we’re still very much within the realm of claustrophobic and contained horror here, with little indication of plot, background or events within and outside of the film. Regardless, I still have to tip my hat to the movie for keeping everything under wraps for so long (we didn’t even know this movie existed at all since a month ago, and now it’s taking up Super Bowl commercial space, how crazy is that?)

X-Men: Apocalypse

Above all I get a sense of scale from this teaser, concerning the actions of Apocalypse and how it effects the X-Men universe. Not just from the scenes of destruction, but the reaction of each character just seems to scream unimaginable power from their adversary, as if they are witnessing something truly beyond belief. That also implies that Singer can retain his character driven motivation, which bodes well.

Captain America: Civil War

I know there’s still no sight of Spider-Man, but frankly I don’t mind. This teaser makes an effort to emphasise to separate sides, not just the individuals of Cap and Stark fighting, this really is a whole team affair with the opening chant and striking imagery. We see our favourite characters clearly at conflict with themselves and experiencing new levels of depth. When Tony narrowly avoids being shot at point blank range by Bucky (I just realised how amazing that sentence sounds, and it’s in a movie) there seems to be genuine fear and shock there like he’s never experienced. It also presents us a complete line up of each side so it’s difficult not to get excited about this, much less difficult than it is to get excited for ‘Batman v Superman’.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The 5th Wave

"The waves have begun."

Another young adult novel adaptation, yay. Well to be fair this one would appear to have more potential as it’s not all about dividing teenagers into various factions, making them fight each other in ludicrously extravagant arenas (or not if you’re ‘Divergent’) that will trigger an uprising to overthrow a tyrannical government ….something, something ….love triangle ….umm. Anyway you get the idea, but as it turns out a film with none of those ingreidents can actually be much worse than anything we’ve seen so far from the genre, expect for ‘Twilight’ I guess.

In a world that has been overrun by alien beings known simply as The Others, using various waves to wipe out humanity’s resources (the first ended electricity, the second created tsunamis, the third triggered a lethal plague and a fourth sent snipers to pick off those who remain), only a handful of survivors remain. One girl must race to uncover a hidden plot and save her brother from a secret training camp before the imminent and unknown fifth wave.

While the first act of ‘The 5th Wave’ avoids falling into these clichés, at the half hour mark it dawned upon me that I was once again watching a film in which a lonely teenager wonders through a dystopian future, oppressed by a seemingly all powerful force, drifts into a love triangle and ultimately starts a revolution before (spoiler, but do you really care?) venturing off into an unknown future.

These similarities would not condemn the film if it could find a way to put a new and interesting spin on them, a unique style, plot or perspective perhaps? But ‘The 5th Wave has trouble finding it’s tone for a majority of the film and contrary to these separate tropes of current young adult adaptations being intelligently integrated they appear to be separately knitted together with little imagination or novelty. Earlier I was describing tropes of the genre but I might as well have been siting the sections of the film. It deviates wildly from the central plot to establish some kind of love story, then changes trajectory to include something about overthrowing the established order. It all just seems unimaginative and very rudimentary.

The film takes a nose dive into the realm of boredom to become so utterly generic at a point in which our protagonist meets a boy in the woods, having escaped the apocalypse behind them and at that moment the film just stops dead. It shoves everything aside to try and establish some kind of connection with them by way of awkward eye contact, nervous closeness and one watching the other while bathing. The apparent slaughter behind them simply ends in favour of this romance. While I’m not against the idea of adding that aspect to the film they could have made more effort into weaving it throughout the story and other events rather than just bring everything to a halt right there.

From that moment the film never recovers, if anything it just seems to get worse, as if they pooled the barrel of conventions and kept reaching for more as the film progressed. When they finally get around to crafting a plot and development it is literally done in the laziest and most basic way imaginable where an army officer simply tells them every detail of the events that have transpired, one after the other until the audience, I mean the characters, are up to speed. Character depth is practically non-existent. What do you want to know about the hero Cassie? She’s a strong and independent teenager ….that’s it. There is rarely a moment of vulnerability or complexity, she just goes from one point to the next as a plot device.   

Surprisingly there is some impressive directing on display here for some sections of the film. The apocalyptic wasteland scenes are well staged and designed with a sense of scale to give the viewer an idea over the size of this destruction. It’s also subtly brutal at times with corpses piled high among the debris, the only thing that spoils it is the colour pallet and cinematography that are much too bright to match the tone the story is trying to go for.

‘The 5th Wave’ is about as basic as they come, ticking off one cliché after another.

Result: 3/10