2016 Top Ten

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‘We are Number One.’…and two, three and four, five and so on. It’s belated but I’ve finally found time to notch up my favourite 10 movies from last year. Surprisingly this was easier because there weren’t too many great films released in 2016! You could say most were Rotten! Ahaha…moving quickly on then to number 10….

…but quickly before that, here’s a few films that almost made the grade…The Neon Demon, Deadpool, The Witch, Moana, The Invitation, Captain America: Civil War, Eddie the Eagle, Midnight Special, The Girl with all the Gifts, The Danish Girl, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping then The Little Prince and Hush would have been on the list but didn’t gain theatrical releases so sadly, I didn’t include them.

So, in at ten –

10) GREEN ROOM…AND NOCTURNAL ANIMALS

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Enter the Green Room, a nightmarish small space in a neo-Nazi skinhead filled club. This movie brilliantly delivers on unsettling tension and dark turns as a band are menaced and killed. Full Review. Similarly, Tom Ford’s stylish Nocturnal Animals gives tension to the nth degree, the gritty story-within-a-story standing out as the best thing.

9) THE JUNGLE BOOK

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I don’t dislike the original Walt cartoon from yesteryear, but The Jungle Book isn’t my go to animation from them…so I was pleasantly surprised by this movie which looks incredible, the CGI landscape and animals are epic, Sethi as Mowgli blends into the darkly presented story very well and it zips along nicely as a well modernised tale. You wanna read my review-oo-oo? I know you do-oo-oo. Jungle Book

8) ARRIVAL

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Clever, gorgeous, intellectual, timey-wimey, language and love co-exist but with aliens. The story is always engaging, Adams’ performance is natural and affecting in her story that just happens to feature hovering space crafts and circular lingo. Arrive at my review.

7) ZOOTROPOLIS

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Fun but also incredibly on point about the very real politics of stero-typing and racial prejudice, this fluffy family flick is more in depth and smartly told than you’d think. Don’t be a sloth, quickly click on my review for Zootropolis.

6) 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

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Dropped on us from nowhere, the Cloverfield world is expanded with this shift of genre as we get a claustrophobic thriller centered on relationships, mystery and danger instead of the found footage device. It was such a surprise and a fantastic film to boot. Tension kicks into overdrive, music is used so well and Goodman is a scary monster. Cloverfield

5) KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS

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Laika have done it again by golly! This is such a rich and awesome stop-motion fantasy that goes over some very interesting and cultural textures whilst still featuring the humour and charm you’d expect. I want to see it again to just admire the work put into making this beautiful film. Kubo.

4) VICTORIA

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I am so so…so glad that I got to see this film. It isn’t just the sheer marvelling feature of shooting the entire movie in one-take but the performances are fascinating and believable, the story is engaging and you connect to the world as Victoria becomes involved more and more.

Well….we’ve reached the golden trio, the three musketeers, the tricycle of brilliance from last year. What’s in at number 3 then??

 

3) SING STREET

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Ah, what a charming and musically gorgeous film. The coming of age story is fun in itself but added with 80’s nostalgia, humour and songs, Sing Street becomes a movie to feel happy watching. I re-watched it recently and still found myself adoring every moment.

2) HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE

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Ricky Baker. Ricky Baker. A hero for the ages. This is a gem of a film with bittersweet moments, heartfelt tenderness, sharp comedy, coming of age and bonding adventures, randomness, lush locations and the ever reliable brilliance of Taika Waititi behind it all. Hunt the Wilderpeople down now…it’s so worth it if you haven’t seen it.

It’s here, Bully’s special prize. Iiiiiiin 1 –

 

 

1) THE HATEFUL EIGHT

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It had to be, as a Tarantino fan there was almost no question that this movie would hit the heights but it’d still have to be a good film and gladly it is. Three acts that all soar with incredible cinematic talent both behind and in front of the camera. Morricone on board for the score ensures the sound is perfect. Seeing it in 70mm also helped elevate the special sweeping look of this western blood soaked Quentin extravaganza. Dialogue, violence, humour and details are as crisp as ever and I loved every second. 8

Til next year…maybe…let’s see what 2017 has to give us hey?!

Ten from the Bottom ’16

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Well thank goodness 2016 is nearly over. What an eventful year, iconic celebrities passing away, politics around the world going crazy, Stranger Things deservedly soaring, Trump undeservedly soaring and movies of the past 12 months missing the mark more than usual. It truly was a disappointing year for film with a lot of the feature’s I’d seen scoring average marks at best.

This easily could have been a Top 20 list…I’ve even had to be cheeky enough to tie a couple of films just to squeeze them into the running order. I’m also sick of this year and looking forward to a joyful experience of 2017 that here’s the bad movies that just missed out from pride of place in the final countdown:

Ghostbusters….The Legend of Tarzan….A Bigger Splash….Bad Neighbors 2….X-Men: Apocalypse….Office Christmas Party….Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children….The Big Short….Bad Moms….Keeping up with the Joneses….The Girl on the Train….Finding Dory….Passengers….The BFG and The Huntsman: Winters War. 

On with the main show then —

10) SUICIDE SQUAD…AND SAUSAGE PARTY

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Yes it’s cheating the system slightly but just call it the Troy Review Electoral College and this is why they both win (or lose by being in the list). Firstly with Suicide Squad, an eagerly awaiting fun looking film with a punchy trailer that actually had a poor script, poorer execution, a soundtrack like an epileptic record player and a bad Joker. Squad review.

Sausage Party had a good if not great premise but is such a film catered to guffawing teenagers with smut layered on every scene that eventually the sex jokes wear thin and there’s nothing left to offer…that food orgy scene is OTT, a lame sequel set up comes about and well…read more in my full review —> SP

9) ME BEFORE YOU

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Not my type of film anyway but on top of this is the near constant cheesiness involved. It’s also a film pushing into trying to be that sad movie that girls wipe away stains of mascara after watching it. More than this, the problem lies with the main disability and how forced it becomes. Me B4 U review

8) ALLIED

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The so-called passion between Cotillard and Pitt is more wet than a Christmassy brussel sprout fart, the story-line is absurdly dull with no clever turn and the boredom factor reaches near Spinal Tap levels of 11. Don’t be a traitor, read the full review here.

7) ZOOLANDER 2

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Fashion is danger! So is this ‘comedy’ sequel sprawling with celebrity cameos, a very shaky script and an overwhelming disappointing feeling you get by seeing it. It tries too hard and fails harder…check out how hot my review is right now.

6) FRIEND REQUEST…AND THE 5TH WAVE

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Let’s begin with Friend Request which is like an unwanted invite you get after seeing Unfriended. This sort of follow up/remake film is terrible. There’s lame jump scares, things become unintentionally funny and it feels similar but badly so to the visual flair of Unfriended. Delete now.

Chloe Grace Moretz in this shocking young adult science fiction attempt is okay but stares into the distance a lot, like I did trying to watch this film. Cheap effects and a terrible twist don’t help the movie along. Review.

Into the Top 5 we go –

5) AMERICAN PASTORAL

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The directorial debut from Ewan McGregor but not one to remember. The one word that would describe this movie is boring. It could have been way more interesting and powerful but it’s overly sentimental and hard to get through. American Bore

4) WARCRAFT

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So much going on and none if it really any good is this mostly boring fantasy flick from the brilliant director Duncan Jones…though you wouldn’t think it watching this. Long, silly and a titled beginning which hopefully has no middle or end to come. Borecraft.

3) BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE

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Long. A ridiculous plot. Lex Luthor’s more ridiculous plan. Jesse Eisenberg’s even more ridiculous acting. Boring Cavill. Boring generally. MARTHA! Thank goodness for Batfleck. BvS review

2) WIENER-DOG

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A couple of laughs really really really don’t save this film. It’s dreary, striving to be artistic and/or pretentious. The comedy it does have becomes annoying as it gets drawn out to breaking point. The movie is disjointed and the ending of it all is so horrendous and of bad taste that it leaves the film with such a sour note making you hate it further. Wiener of a film

Well…after taking that depressing trip down movie memory lane, I’ve come to the end of the line. Numero uno, the big kahuna of bad…a film so utterly terrible, unfunny and disgraceful that I knew it would be the first placed worst movie as soon as I’d finished watching it, almost a year ago.

1) DIRTY GRANDPA

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What do you want?? Read my review. I don’t wish to waste time writing more about this film. Go away…see you (hopefully) in 2017!

Allied (2016)

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Robert Zemeckis, Brad Pitt and even Marion Cotillard cannot save this film from falling short of the romantic sweeping wartime drama it aspires to be. There’s good performances and a vague sense of spy-like apprehension but on the whole this feels like a bland affair and you’d wish for more gusto.

After teaming up in Casablanca and working on an assassination, Max (Brad Pitt) and Marianne Beausejour (Marion Cotillard) fall for each other and marry in London. It’s only once settling down and keeping out of the war action that Max learns his love may not be who she says she is, throwing him back into action as he tries to find the truth.

Robert Zemeckis is and will always be a director with great films and fun visionary ideas to his name, his collection of movies spanning genres but with his latest outgoings espicially it seems that he’s foregoing interest of story for the shiny spectacle of how it looks. As in ‘The Walk’, any trepidation or unnerving sense of doom was lost because everything felt like a Chaplin adventure with extra sheen. This new release has a similar gloss that even makes the Blitz over London look like a page from a magazine.

It’s this way of heightening the scenery and not the story that lost me and took me right out of what could have been a grittier more engaging wartime drama. It’s like he tried stepping into the Hollywood glitz of ‘Casablanca’ but too hard and therefore it suffers. Steven Knight also comes under my general fire because his writing of the plot is lagging and no true suspense is offered, even some exchanges of dialogue sound forced or dumb earlier on in the film as they chat over tables in French Morocco.

There may be a slightly unexpected end and everything is shot or framed greatly but aside from this, some mildly memorable music and Cotillard trying to sustain the movie, everything begins cracking. Even the so-called hot chemistry between Pitt and Cotillard fizzles without trace, I never felt amazingly connected by their connection. Just in general I didn’t ever become interested or connected to the movie which is a shame considering the story and talent involved.

Everything just felt lacking and leads to a movie that from start to finish is empty of any gripping emotion or dramatic tension and toil. It’s a typical WW2 bait film throwing back to the Hollywoodland heyday that I almost wished I could throwback out of my memory.

5.5/10

Doctor Strange (2016)

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A visual treat; this new instalment to the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe looks absolutely fantastic, it’s just another expected formulaic tread in the well established world of comic book heroes and origin stories.

After a humongous car crash, top neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) hopes to find a cure to his nerve damaged hands. He travels to Kamar-Taj in Nepal seeking help from the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who helps Strange learn powers and manipulation of worlds. Strange must learn fast as former pupil Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) who wants to know more about the rituals of the Ancient One and bring a ruler of a dark dimension to Earth.

Scott Derrickson certainly stays in keeping with the rest of the Marvel features, in that they all feel warm and welcoming, that sense of knowing what to expect when you sit down for an MCU film is both good and slightly weakening. On the plus side he ensures there’s a fluid feel to this outing but perhaps doesn’t dare to present the non-CGI moments in a different manner, one we’d not expect from a Marvel movie.

The only big problem sitting with this film is the story and that typical formula that most of these comic-book pictures have. The hero is one that quips and more than ever feels like a Tony Stark re-do. There is a villain in this movie, kind of two to be honest but both are nowhere near fleshed out or seen enough to feel any trepidation about them or their devious planning. If DC has one good thing over Marvel it’s their baddies. Also, the love interest like Pepper and Jane, is sort of tepid, doing little to push themselves out of the mould that they’re there as the romantic figure.

It may be felt that the story is strong and clever because of the timey-wimey stuff, big words and grandeur of spiritual enlightenment but in fact it’s a simple plot to follow that basically boils down to Strange discovering his inner powers and helping save the world from three different sanctums. Again, like Marvel adores aliens coming from the sky, this movie features just that which is little more than purple-y special effects.

Crediting the film and the effects team though, this movie looks so damn good. The ‘Inception’-esque warping of the world as we know it is taken to overdrive and gloriously so. There are moments that feel like we’re zooming into a kaleidoscope and times when lands shift and buildings twist that certainly do enough to give this movie a mind-melting appearance. I loved every scene where the CGI came to full power and it’s not normal for me to say that so they did everything perfectly right when it came to highlighting the surreal powers of Strange’s journey.

Cumberbatch may have got the shaping of hand gestures right and tugged nicely with a magical cloak but he’s still delivering that usual Benedict routine just with an American accent. Swinton felt right for me in her part, I know there was controversy but she gives the character a balanced knowledge and hidden power in a calm and believable way. Chiwetel Ejiofor was a great addition, trying to stick to the mantra of what he knows and teaching the arrogant Stephen what he once was taught. Mads Mikkelsen looked the part with superb make-up and has that usual menacing posture and stare but it’s the writing that let him down, not his performance. Rachel McAdams too, is let down by a mildly dull character.

Though this doesn’t stray too far from the formula that Marvel seem scared of breaking, it’s entertaining nonetheless packed to the rafters with hair-raising spectacles of CGI and a neat air of fun that keeps everything ticking over as the MCU conjure up so well.

7/10

 

Keeping Up with the Joneses

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The idea is great and the cast are greater but sadly it falls apart like some botched ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ mission thanks to a quite tame and laugh free screenplay.

Cul-de-sac parents Jeff (Zach Galifianakis) and Karen Gaffney (Isla Fisher) get more than they bargained for as apparent perfect neighbours Natalie (Gal Gadot) and Tim Jones (Jon Hamm) move in. Karen is suspicious and after some digging, she and her husband find out their next door folks are spies.

Greg Mottola who directed the still fantastically funny ‘Superbad’ displays a good hand at the action style drama blended in with the suburban set-up and though this mix of action and comedy sometimes works, Mottola cannot do much to save the day as the Joneses may have and that’s down to the writing.

Michael LeSieur seems to forget the cleverness of what a cool premise is on his hands and instead pratfalls, sex jokes and shrieking fill that missed gap. It’s not helped along by the fact this movie feels kind of long, which isn’t top stuff considering the zippy attempts at spy like frenzy produced on the screen. Where perhaps another writer or British studio would have gifted this plot some wit and smart humour, this film just feels like most other average American comedies that fit into a box and don’t even sniff of trying to break out of it.

Saying this, I found the office scene of texting instead of speaking mildly amusing, the smouldering tension between Gadot and Fisher as they meet in a mall changing room is written well to show off one half of the Jones’ power play. The car chase with the Gaffney’s aiding the escape does stretch to a near boring point but doses some nice adrenaline into the film. The odd yet out there snake restaurant was another neat touch giving Galifianakis lots of room to do his funny shtick.

Hamm and Gadot are the perfect good looking, tall and mysterious pair. They stare and smoulder with ease but don’t have much in the way of development even if the film thinks they’re giving them rounded personalities. Galifianakis gladly isn’t the Alan role here, he’s less weird and acts a helpful talkative man well. Fisher…well she’s just…impossibly forgetting the lingerie moment, she plays off Zach nicely and portrays some degree of strength in knowing people and has a chance to pull funny faces, scream and move through scenes in a way that’s put her Jacques Lecoq training to good use.

The whole suburbia thing of hum-drum people attempting to step out of their comfort zones to live a little is made no less predictable and less bland here.The story is not great and I didn’t laugh out loud but then I inwardly chuckled on occasions and found enough of the film enjoyable.

5.5/10

Swiss Army Man (2016)

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It cannot be said that this film is unoriginal, because wow oh wow is it something odd. The humour and story that goes with it is wacky and tries at some resemblance of meaning/heart which I feel is underwhelming, but it’s certainly different and carried well by the actors.

Cast-away Hank (Paul Dano) is about to end his life when he sees a man washed up on the shore. It turns out to be a corpse emitting gases that eventually helps the desperate Hank to escape to a wooded mainland. The dead body is Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) who becomes disarmingly alive and then helps Hank journey back home.

Daniels aka Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert direct this film with a great eye on making the world the characters are in seem very treacherous. The movie has a fantastic look and the sharp cuts of close ups for quick details or the slower serene moments to build on the creation of Sarah work well towards the friendship between Manny and Hank.

Both the Daniels also scripted this barmy adventure of self-discovery, friendship and stalking. The writing is great in places, the comedy of the idea alone bringing some laughs as you witness the floppy Manny being used like a multi-purpose tool but it’s the reliance on the corpse as a narrative aide that is a downfall too. I think that fart jokes are one of the lowest forms of comedy and sadly this film comes back too flatulence much too often, it also tries carving an arc of sentiment into the plot which kind of works but also doesn’t by the time the ending arrives.

I loved parts though, the visuals of Hank crafting people, vehicles or a cinema out of wood and rubbish left in the forests, I cracked up in the montage of Hank using Manny to further his trek to civilisation, the chopping, the mouth propelling and the shooting of critters was sublime. As Mary Elizabeth Winstead comes into the fold there’s a neat air of intrigue as you wonder where the film is going to go but sadly the end is underwhelming and for a run-time of 97 minutes, this movie feels very long.

Paul Dano is an actor I love watching and that’s no exception here. He plays the bewildered loner well and his wide eyed joy at discovering the saviour of Manny is well pitched. Dano acts like a man broken and lost from modern life for years which works. Daniel Radcliffe pulls in one of his finer and unarguably strangest performances as the dead eyed hardly moving talking corpse befriending Hank. Radcliffe’s facial expressions are brilliant and together they help the film a lot by being so in sync.

Saying this movie is out there is a huge understatement but originality beats remakes and sequels. It may grow tired by the closing credits and strive too hard to be one of those ‘art-house’ features to its discredit but there’s entertaining moments and it’s happily unpredictable.

5.5/10

Ruby Sparks (2012)

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Movies about writing always interest me, so maybe I’m biased in saying this is a wonderful, warm and greatly interesting romantic/drama/comedy, but I’ve said it anyway because it’s true. There’s a lovely dose of heart, charm and quirky comedy to satisfy audiences, even if romance isn’t usually your bag…like it isn’t mine.

Calvin (Paul Dano) wrote a hugely successful novel when he was younger but now he struggles to type anything, has no love-life and visits a therapist. An exercise gets him visualising his perfect female who he begins writing about, strangely one day, this girl Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan) steps into his home and is real. Calvin now has an apparently perfect relationship but can his creation always be that way?

There’s such joy to be had during this film, I found myself smiling along frequently as I watched the odd yet sparkling pairing deal with their lives. The romance is never sickly sweet and it’s dealt with in a clever and wholly charming way, that’s of course helped by the genuine partnership between Paul and Zoe. From the moment the made up girl comes into the real world, the movie has fun playing with ideas of what this could to do him, her and the people around them.

Zoe Kazan writes such a fantastic screenplay that truly gets into the head space of a writer, that lonely frustrating world and their fixations on characters. So, knowing what we know about Calvin, seeing Ruby manifest makes for a weird yet creative idea that is handled very well. It’s not just comedy in seeing them have fun and watch him play God at times, in fact the darker side of how she’s even there gets used and is quite upsetting as we see the miserable side of the relationship.

A sequence at a typewriter and Ruby facing Calvin is one of the stronger moments, an exploration of power and utilises on the whole writing to life idea in an engaging if not touching manner that may threaten everything. On the weaker side, the pacing is sporadic at times and a brief detour to a hippy-esque commune home feels a bit detached but even the vaguely expected ending isn’t bad, in fact it’s left as we don’t know how things will go on from there so I liked that sweet ambiguity. Oh, and also major points just for the name Ruby Sparks which is a great name for a character.

Dano provides that neurotic sense of unease and lovable worry that we all come to know when watching writer types on screen now! He provides a devastating set of self-indulgence as he thinks about the relationship for him and not both of them, which is played well by the actor. Kazan plays the unknowing dream gal in a sunshine way, her big eyes and infectious smile ensuring she’s someone we love just as much as Calvin does. When Kazan then begins displaying other sadder and confused emotions, it’s mildly comedic but then brilliantly emotional. Chris Messina plays a good character too, the necessary middle man with a guide to help his brother but also play around with what can be done to Ruby.

This is a film I adore, a flirty and dream-like notion that is played cleverly and acted superbly. The line between happiness and heartbreak is never thinner but never better from the writing to the performances. Bliss sparks to life.

8/10