Thursday 31 March 2016

Best and Worst of March 2016

It’s been quite a month, one of surprises, shocks and upsets. There was a lot of variation both in genre and quality. For example we had two horror movies that acted as bookends to the scale of modern horror, with one being terrible and formulaic and the other being innovative and ground breaking. At the same time we’ve also seen a great comedy and one movie that just defied all logical categorisation, but more on those later. The sad truth is that while there were some glimmers of greatness, March 2016 has been a month of disappointment. It started with the release of the horrific ‘Ghostbusters’ trailer, Terrance Malick failed to astound me and Zack Snyder managed to sink an entire franchise (don’t be surprised if in a year’s time we’re seeing trailers for ‘The Flash: Days of Future Past’ as they try to pull the time travel reboot trick).

It’s also been a month of conflict as critics have had to battle directors calling them out for not liking their terrible movies, audiences who have become desensitised to what constitutes a good horror movie, others who were somehow disappointed that the Coen’s had made a sprawling ensemble comedy that relied more on great characters than a contrived plot (because ‘The Big Lebowski’ and ‘Burn After Reading’ were nothing like that, apart from in every way) and the never ending pile of DC fans accusing us of being paid out by Marvel. Yes you caught us out, just the other day I had lunch with Kevin Fiege, Russo Brothers, Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr and we all laughed at how we had doomed what was obviously the greatest movie ever made by writing inaccurate reviews of it(!) But anyway, here are the best three movies of the month.

3: Hail, Caesar

The Coen’s have managed to craft a film that is just as much of a loving homage to the Golden Age of Hollywood as it is a sharp satirical view of it. It’s wonderfully intelligent while also gleefully ludicrous and ever cast member turns in a star performance, from Josh Brolin’s sacrificial fixer to Alden Ehrenreich as an inept musical cowboy attempting to make it as a dramatic actor. Paired with Roger Deakens once more, the Coen’s stage their epic escapade in such a beautiful manner that it’s hard not to be swept up in the glitz and glamour of classic Hollywood.

2: The Witch

Here I was worrying that horror filmmaking had forgotten how to stage atmospheric environments. ‘The Witch’ creates an impermeable eeriness that gradually rises in tension as the movie proceeds, creating a genuine sense of terror and suspense. It’s less of a story about ghosts and ghouls but more of depression and isolation as a puritan family tears itself apart. Excellently performed, beautifully shot and so skilfully unnerving that it almost makes me forget the twenty other terrible horror movies that I had to sit through in order to discover this gem.  

1: High Rise

It’s tough to say what Stanley Kubrick would be doing if he were alive today and I don’t want to overreach myself but I feel as if he would be making films like ‘High Rise’. Ben Wheatley’s trippy science fiction thriller takes a 1975 novel that was once deemed unfilmable and not only adapts it faithfully (mostly) but makes it disturbingly relevant. That’s what ultimately makes it so frightening, not the ultra-violence, eerie atmosphere, or its sadistic, destructive and hallucinogenic nature. What make ‘High Rise’ frightening is just how insightful it is, it glimpses the future by looking into the past.

And the worst…

The Other Side of the Door

There were a lot of contenders of this month’s worst movie (expect to see some of them on the end of the year list) like ‘Gods of Egypt’ and ‘The Divergent Series: Allegiant’ but neither of them compared to the lazy, overly familiar, terribly written, nonsensical guide to making a horrifically bad horror film.  

But I’m not done yet, for one month only there’s the biggest disappointment award. And that goes to…

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Normally I wouldn’t care but I’ve seen such an outpouring of fans trying to defend this movie, and ordinarily that would be fine but I think there’s a line between defending your own opinion and attacking someone else’s. Fans seem to take it upon themselves to insult the integrity of any critic that dares disagree with them, great critics like Matt Zoller Sietz, John Schnepp, Mark Kermode Kristian Harloff, Mark Ellis, Alicia Malone, Scott Mantz, A.O Scott, Chris Stuckmann and Jeremy Jahns have all received some kind of hate because people can’t stand the idea of anyone disagreeing with them. Now I’m saying enough, and I’m going to once again say exactly what I thought of this movie.

I’ve hated every one of Zack Snyder’s films, but this one above all the other is the one that I just cannot understand how anyone could overlook its problems. I’ve seen dozens of people trying to defend the movie, accusing all its criticisers of being Marvel fanboys, saying that the movie is “just for comic boom fans”, “it’s too complex for average moviegoers” or “it’s just mindless fun, don’t nitpick”.

But is it really any of those things? For me it was too dark, depressing and boring to be viewed as mindless fun, too unfaithful and inaccurate to be enjoyed as a comic book adaptation (as Kevin Smith said “Zack Snyder didn’t read a bunch of comics, he read one comic once, and it was Dark Knight Returns, and his favourite part was the last part where Batman and Superman fight”) and too poorly written, badly structured and nonsensical to be appreciated as a well made film. There are some good moments but they seem to be lost in a sea of wasted opportunities and non-cohesive storytelling.

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