Film, List, Opinion

2015 IN FILM

Looking back on an amazing year in cinema. 

PicMonkey Collage

Tumblr

The end of the year is almost upon us – and what a year it has been for cinema. My Cineworld Unlimited card was put to good use over the past twelve months and I managed to cram in an impressive number of viewings. Whilst there have been a few disappointments along the way, there were also plenty of high points, and even a couple of masterpieces. I have compiled here my top five films of the year – no easy task – with a few honourable mentions for good measure. Let me know what your cinematic highlights were in the comments section!

TOP 5:

BROOKLYN

Director: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domnhall Gleeson

Brooklyn-Blusih-poster

Chud

It feels like every year cinema is getting bigger and as the MCU and other superhero worlds dominate the box office the human element can be left behind. Richard Linklater reminded us of the extraordinary power of the ordinary with Boyhood last year, and John Crowley has followed suit with Brooklyn – based on the novel of the same name by Colm Toíbín – adding a period setting for good measure. Brooklyn is an understated masterpiece, blending gorgeous visuals with a simple and powerful story, alleviated to near perfect status by the incredibly apt casting  – Ronan has been scooping awards for her central role, and oscar glory is well within reach come February.

On a more personal level, Brooklyn resonated with me much more than I expected it to. The film is about a girl close to my age being torn between her desire to be home with her family and to forge a new life in America, a common struggle that transcends time. Brooklyn is a welcome reminder that a film doesn’t have to have superheroes or CGI to impress.

Read my review of Brooklyn here.

ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Director: Alfronso Gomez-Rejon

Starring: Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke, RJ Cyler, Nick Offerman

me_and_earl_4_large

Anticool

After the smash hit success of The Fault in our Stars last year, another John Green adaption was a safe bet, and sure enough Paper Towns came along this summer. The film was marketed on Cara Delevingne, who was mostly absent from the largely forgettable flick. However, the genre had some life breathed back into it by Alfronso Gomez-Rejon, who took a script from Jess Andrews (author of the book of the same name) and came up with Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, a film that avoided cliche whilst still packing an emotional punch.

I was not initially hopeful  – the marketing made the film look like a quirky Fault in our Stars rip-off – but it stood out due to its rarely static camera work and the incredibly funny script – it reminded me of 50/50 (2011) in that it manages to be a film about cancer that is funny without being crude. Add this to strong leads, a brilliant supporting turn from Nick Offerman and an incredible soundtrack (which I discussed here), and you have one of the most memorable films of the year.

LEGEND

Director: Brian Helgeland

Starring: Tom Hardy, Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston

legend2015

Trailer Addict

Based on The Profession of Violence by John Pearson, Brian Helgeland takes on the Krays in his biopic, which sees Tom Hardy in the dual role of Reggie and Ronnie. The gangster genre is overcrowded, so its hard to nail the genre in a way that stands out, but the Krays are hugely interesting source material and this film is worth seeing, if only for the technical wizardry of seeing Tom Hardy fight himself.

Legend is not without faults – Emily Browning’s character Frances is used as a narrative device to get to the story of the twins and is criminally underwritten as a result – but it still stands out as one of my favourite films of the year. Mixing the funny with the violent, Legend brings a distinct sense of Britishness to the gangster genre, and is all the better for it.

STEVE JOBS

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels

224752

Hollywood Reporter

There is a good chance that audiences – particularly those in the US – are getting Steve Jobs fatigue. Since the Apple founder and CEO passed away in 2011 there has been a slew of material on the man, but it would be foolish to pass on this latest effort from Danny Boyle, with a script by Aaron Sorkin.

With a theatre-like three act structure, Steve Jobs is a far cry from the done -to-death biopic structure, and Sorkin’s razor sharp script blends perfectly with Boyle’s unique eye for visuals, and Fassbender manages to inhibit the character despite not physically resembling him. It’s Fassbender’s film through and through – as the title would suggest, he is the focal point of the entire film – but he is surrounded by a stellar supporting cast with Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels and Kate Winslet all providing fantastic turns in their own right.

Read my review of Steve Jobs here.

KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK 

Directed: Brett Morgen

Starring: Kurt Cobain

kbb

Collider 

Since his suicide in 1994 Kurt Cobain has been somewhat of an enigma, the voice of dissatisfied youth, and the wealth of unauthorised material produced on the man did little to dispel any of the myths that arose. However, Brett Morgen’s documentary – the first to be done with the agreement and co-operation of Cobain’s family – cuts through the cultural obsession to look at the man. Morgen stated in an interview that the film aimed to:

“….present an American icon – a revered American icon – in a completely naked and honest manner. Without tearing him down and without building him up, but where we can look him in the eye.”

Blending animated segments with interviews, Montage of Heck is a welcome departure from the typical over reliance on talking heads in documentaries, and is without a doubt the definitive account of who Cobain was. The only thing missing is an interview with Dave Grohl, as a member of Nirvana he seems like a crucial person to talk to about that period in Cobain’s life, and his presence is missed.

Whilst it is at times unsettling to see how deep-set his issues were, and knowing what happened to him makes it all the more upsetting,  Montage of Heck is essential viewing for Nirvana fans, and an enjoyable watch regardless.

RUNNER UPS:

DOPE 

Dope manages to be a crime caper, a comedy, a drama and a coming of age story all rolled into one excellent script. Rick Famuyiwa’s film tells the story of Malcom, Jib and Diggy, three geeks obsessed with 1990s culture who accidentally end up with a rucksack full of MDMA. The lead performances are fantastic and A$AP Rocky even shows up for a supporting role. The film is one that is designed to make you think about the role stereotypes continue to play in society, and it will stay with you long after the credits roll.

MISTRESS AMERICA

Director Noah Baumbach and star Greta Gerwig, who penned the script together, are at their best in Mistress America, a screwball comedy that allows Gerwig to shine. Their collaboration, which worked so well in Frances Ha (2012) has been honed to perfection here, and the film is full to  the brim with laughs, as well as raising some interesting questions about the self obsession in the age of technology.

SUFFRAGETTE 

Undoubtedly one of the most important films of the year, it’s hard to believe UK women’s  fight for the vote had not already been committed to the screen. Starring Carey Mulligan and Helena Bohem Carter, with an appearance from the ever-fantastic Meryl Streep, Suffragette is a fantastic period drama made all the more emotive by the fact that it is based on true events.

MOST PROGRESSIVE: 

SPY/MAD MAX:FURY ROAD

It would be madness not to include Mad Max: Fury Road in talks about progressive depictions in cinema, but I have not yet seen it, so alas my comments cannot extend much further than acknowledgement of what is by all accounts an incredible film.

However, I genuinely believe in years to come Paul Feig’s Spy could be looked back upon as a landmark in comedy. Spy is a sign of progress – perhaps the most notable since Bridesmaids (2011) – with women who are capable, independent and not used as the butt of jokes. The film turns everything that is so awful about James Bond on its head – here we have men that are inept, being helped along by badass women (not a damsel in distress in sight) – and it’s about time.

It seems real change is finally on the horizon, and as ridiculous as it is that it is only the case in 2015, that can only be a good thing. Misogynists need not worry too much – Spectre brought the already questionable James Bond back a few steps in the progressive stakes (read more on that here). You win some, you lose some I guess.

BIGGEST LETDOWN:

KILL YOUR FRIENDS 

Based on John Niven’s (who also penned the script) novel of the same name, Kill Your Friends had the potential to be the British American Psycho (2000), but turned out to be a hollow disappointment. Despite the best efforts of the cast, led by an appropriately stoney Nicholas Hoult, the script feels empty and you’ll be hard pressed to remember the film long after viewing.

Read my review of Kill Your Friends here.

BEST ANIMATION:

INSIDE OUT 

A true return to form for Pixar, Inside Out shows the studio do what they do best – blending beautiful animation with innovative storytelling that tackles big themes in a way that is accessible to all ages. The casting is incredibly well sourced – Phyllis Smith was born to voice sadness – and the timeless concept is one that has already solidified Inside Out as a modern animated classic.

WEIRDEST:

THE LOBSTER 

The english language debut of Greek director Yorgos Lanthinmos, The Lobster is without a doubt the most unique film of the year. A hilariously deadpan story about a hotel where single people go and if they fail to find a partner in 45 days, they a turned into an animal. The film satirises social constructs in a hilarious manner, and whilst there is no doubt that it won’t appeal to everyone, I found the film to be one of the funniest I saw all year.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Not forgetting Macbeth, Ant Man, Trainwreck, Ex Machina, The Martian, Man Up, Mr Holmes, Danny Collins, Jurassic World, Irrational Man and so many more…


 

I’ve shared this video before, but it’s so good that I’m going to share it again. Ben Zuk created a 2015 Salute to Cinema on Vimeo, incorporating 164 movies into a wonderful montage that reminds us just how great movies can be. Enjoy!

 


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/147217969″>2015 Salute to Cinema</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/benzuk”>Ben Zuk</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What was your favourite film of 2015? Let me know in the comments section below!

Standard
Film, List

DECEMBER IN FILM:

PicMonkey Collage

2015 is drawing to a close, and it has undoubtedly been a huge year for film – The Avengers assembled for the second time, Bond returned, Fantastic Four flopped, Mad Max: Fury Road brought action movies to the fore and Inside Out reminded us why we all fell in love with Pixar. It has been a year of heady highs and lacklustre lows, but it’s not over yet. There is still one month left of the year and plenty of exciting films to look forward to as the Oscar race heats up. The biggest cinematic event of the month is without a doubt the release of the hotly anticipated seventh instalment in the Star Wars franchise – whilst I am not myself a fan of the franchise (I’m sorry, I haven’t seen any of the films), I will probably not be able to resist joining the hype and checking out the new movie. As is always the case in December, there are a few seasonal films being released in the lead up to Christmas, and I have looked at them before moving onto the other films being released this month…

CHRISTMAS FILMS:

 

THE NIGHT BEFORE: 

download (5)Out: December 4th

Director: Jonathan Levine

Starring: Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Anthony Mackie

What’s it about?: The film follows three best friends – Ethan (Joseph Gordon Levitt, Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Anthony Mackie), who embark on one last Christmas Eve night out together in New York City, a tradition they have upheld for the previous 14 years.

Will it be good? Director Levine’s credits include subversive slasher All The Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) and dramedy 50/50 (2011) (which also starred Gordon-Levitt and Rogen), as well as horror/rom-com Warm Bodies (2013), so there is no doubt that he has both range and comedic credentials. The cast is also strong – the leading trio are all promising and the trailer suggests a few big laughs. Comedy is always a hard one to read – the trailer will always contain the best moments, but these can easily turn out to be the only laughs in the film. Early reviews suggest that the film is a solid effort, though the likelihood that it will become a festive staple is pretty low.

KRAMPUS:

download (1)Out: December 4th 

Director: Michael Dougherty

Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Colette

What’s it about? A black comedy/horror, the film depicts a family who are stalked by Krampus, the legendary figure known for punishing children who have been bad at Christmas – “the shadow of Saint Nicholas”.

Will it be good? The film is bolstered by a strong cast – Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation fame and Toni Colette head the family – and director Michael Dougherty is known for cult hit Trick’r’Treat (2007), so the chances of this being a Christmas treat for horror fans is quite high. The marketing thus far has kept the tone relatively dark, so the jury is still out on how much of a role the comedy element will play – expect something between Black Christmas (1974) and Gremlins (1984) on the horror/comedy scale.

CHRISTMAS WITH THE COOPERS:

download (2)Out: December 1st

Director: Jessie Nelson

Starring: Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Olivia Wilde, Ed Helms

What’s it about? Titled Love the Coopers in the US, the film follows the four generations of the Cooper clan coming together to celebrate Christmas. Charlotte Cooper (Diane Keaton) is desperate to have the perfect Christmas, but the coming together of the family leads to a variety of misadventures and incidents.

Will it be good? It has a pretty decent cast, but it doesn’t look like anything particularly groundbreaking. The ensemble looks promising, and there are sure to be the typical dysfunctional family laughs throughout and the heartwarming ending, but I’m willing to bet you won’t remember it next Christmas.

OTHER RELEASES:

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS:

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Theatrical_PosterOut: 17th December

Director: J J Abrahams

Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley

What’s it about? Set approximately 30 years after The Return of the Jedi, the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise features new leads alongside returning characters. Plot details have been closely guarded, so we will all have to wait until December 17th to have any real idea what it’s about.

Will it be good? I honestly feel like it isn’t really my place to say, seeing as I haven’t seen any of the other six films. Popular opinion appears to suggest that the original trilogy was cinematic gold, whilst the more recent trilogy appears to get a bit of stick. However, J J Abrahams managed to bring Star Trek to a new generation, so there is no reason why he can’t work his magic on Star Wars too.

VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN:

Victor_Frankenstein_2015Out: December 3rd

Director: Paul McGuigan

Starring: James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe

What’s it about? Based on Mary Shelly’s 1819 novel Frankenstein, the film is told from the perspective of Victor Frankenstein’s (James McAvoy) assistant Igor (Daniel Radcliffe) as he witnesses the experiments on his quest to create the famous monster.

Will it be good? The problem with any adaption of this sort is that it immediately has a lot of live up to and will draw comparisons to the wealth of other existing adaptions. The film has been met with generally negative reviews thus far, probably due to the aforementioned fact, but the fact that it has two great actors leading the film in the form of McAvoy and Radcliffe means that there is a chance for some entertainment factor.

BY THE SEA:

By_The_Sea_TeaserOut: 11th December

Director: Angelina Jolie Pitt

Starring: Angelina Jolie Pitt, Brad Pitt

What’s it about? Written, directed and starring Angelina Jolie Pitt, the film is a romantic drama set in 1970s France. Brad Pitt stars alongside his wife, and the film depicts a couple who travel the country together and stop in a seaside town.

Will it be good? This is the first film that Brangelina will star in together since Mr and Mrs Smith (2005), the film on which they met. Jolie Pitt has shown that she can be a strong director with Unbroken earlier this year, and the fact that the lead pair are together in real life suggests that they will have the chemistry necessary to pull of a romantic plot. Chances are this will be a good, if somewhat understated, piece.

SISTERS:

Sisters_movie_poster (1)Out: 18th December

Director: Jason Moore

Starring: Amy Poehler, Tina Fey

What’s it about? Two sisters – one carefree and spontaneous (Tina Fey) and the other cautious and uptight (Amy Poehler) – decide to throw one last party when their parents announce they are selling their childhood home.

Will it be good? Here’s hoping. Poehler and Fay are a double act to be reckoned with, and there is no doubt that these two can make pretty much anything hilarious. The trailer looks promising and director Moore was behind 2012 smash-hit Pitch Perfect, so this one is looking pretty promising.

IN THE HEART OF THE SEA:

In_the_Heart_of_the_Sea_posterOut: 26th December 

Director: Ron Howard

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Wishaw, Charlotte Riley

What’s it about? Based on Nathanial Philbrick’s 2000 book of the same name, which itself is an account of the sinking of the whaling ship Essex in 1820, an incident which inspired Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick (are you keeping up?), the film tells the story of the crew of the ship Essex as it is attacked by a gigantic sperm whale.

Will it be good? Directed by Ron Howard, the man behind the likes of Apollo 13 (1995), Cocoon (1985) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), hopes are high for this big sea adaption. Apollo 13 in particular showed that Howard knows how to handle a big concept, and the deep sea setting is sure to provide some stunning visuals. A lot is riding on the whale in selling the films visual appeal, and the trailer footage suggests that it won’t disappoint.

DADDY’S HOME:

Daddy's_Home_posterOut: 25th December

Director: Sean Anders

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrel

What’s it about? Brad (Ferrel) is the model step-father to his wife’s children, but finds himself battling for their affections when their infinitely cooler father Dusty (Wahlberg) returns to town.

Will it be good? It’s 50/50. Ferrel is hilarious, as is Wahlberg given the right material, so the pairing has the potential to be something pretty funny. That said, they appeared together in The Other Guys (2010), which was met with a positive reception but has since been forgotten. The two actors have appeared in what adds up to a huge number of forgettable comedies, so the odds suggest that this is the category that Daddy’s Home will fall into come the new year.

SNOOPY AND CHARLIE BROWN: THE PEANUTS MOVIE:

Peanuts_2015Out: 21st December

Director: Steve Martino

Starring: Noah Schnapp, Mariel Sheets

What’s it about? The film follows Charlie Brown try to win the affections of the Little Red-Haired Girl, whilst his pooch pal Snoopy pens the story of his WW1 alter ego Flying Ace, who is on a quest to rescue his love Fifi from the Red Baron.

Will it be good? Probably not. It is really hard to adapt a feature length film out of short panel sketches, making the chances of The Peanuts Movie being appealing to anyone other than young children very unlikely. However, to give it the benefit of the doubt, The Lego Movie last year proved that even the flimsiest source material can work with enough imagination – who says the Peanuts crew can’t be the same? The film is already out the in the US and has received positive reviews, so it is probably worth a watch.

So there you have it, the lowdown on all the films that people will be talking about this December. I suggest you get yourself a Cineworld card and join me in watching, dissecting and discussing them all! Let me know what you think of these upcoming releases in the comments section. I am leaving you with an excellent 2015 salute to cinema by Ben Zuk, featuring a staggering 164 films. Enjoy!

Standard
Film, Opinion

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR PIXAR?

Pixar-Logo-700x300

1995 was a big year. I was born, Pierre Omidyar founded eBay and the DVD was invented. But one of the most notable events of the year (in terms of pop culture at least) was the release of Toy Story. The first ever wholly computer animated motion picture, Toy Story was a technological feat, and it made Pixar Animation Studios a household name.

The California based company have now produced no less than 16 films (including The Good Dinosaur, which is out in the UK today) and have revolutionised the industry several times over. For years Pixar were motored on, with an unprecedented hot streak that began with Toy Story and ended (arguably) with Toy Story 3 in 2010. In between these book ends audiences were graced with; A Bugs Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters Inc (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), Wall-E (2008) and Up (2009).

download2011 hit, and with it came Cars 2, for the first time raising some questions. Whilst the Toy Story sequels seemed necessary and resulted in one of the best movie trilogies of all time, Cars wasn’t a film that felt like it needed its world revisited. Brave, Pixar’s first fairytale the following year made it seem like the shine may have been starting to wear off the once untouchable studio, with Roger Ebert noting that it wasn’t the ‘groundbreaking’ stuff the studio were known for. Monsters University (2013) was a prequel, again raising eyebrows in spite of generally positive reviews.

Inside Out was a smash hit this Summer and was deemed a return to form for the studio known for its innovation, imagination and universal appeal. The jury is still out on The Good Dinosaur, which reportedly has been dogged a tough production, but early reviews have praised the animation over the apparently lacklustre plot. 2015 is the first year that the studio has released two films in one year, a feat it is set to repeat in 2017, and it seems that the two films represent the two reactions that Pixar films tend to be met with – critical adoration, or the realisation that they have failed to live up to the extremely high standards set by that 1995 – 2010 streak.

PicMonkey Collage

Looking ahead, Pixar have announced five films, bringing them up to 2019. Only one of them – Coco (2017) – is an original concept, with the other five all being sequels to previous films. Finding Dory is set to hit screens next year, with Cars 3 following in 2017, Toy Story 4 in 2018 and The Incredibles 2 the following year.

Is this worrying? As stated earlier in this post, Pixar are loved for their original animations, and it doesn’t look like originality is high on their list of priorities at the moment. Cars 3 doesn’t really make a lot of sense – Cars wasn’t even one of the best loved original concepts, and the sequel was the closest thing the studio has had to a critical failure, making it seem strange that they have decided to go back for a third try, though it’s probably down to the merchandising opportunities – Pixar are still a company trying to make big bucks after all.

Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2 are in risky territory, running the risk of tainting two beloved classics. It’s also going to have been over a decade since the originals were released by the time the sequels come out – are they going to be able to make these characters and stories relevant a second time around?

maxresdefaultThe most worrying of all, however, is the fact that they are going back to Toy Story for a fourth film. The original trilogy is the perfect example of Pixar – and animation – at its very best, with a saga perfectly balancing across three films and ending on a spectacular and emotional high. If Finding Dory and The Incredibles 2 are in risky territory, Toy Story 4 runs the risk of destroying the entire generations happy childhood memories (Ok probably not quite that bad, but you catch the gist). John Lasseter, Pixar legend and the director of the first two Toy Story films, is back at the helm, and we can only hope that he would only come back for a great story. He announced earlier this year that the film would focus on the romance between Woody and Bo Peep, who was absent from the third film. It’s all very vague so far, and whilst it could go either way it is going to be a hard one to get right. It will still make piles of money though – everyone is going to want to see if they have pulled it off. Very clever Pixar, but you are playing with fire.

Coco looks like it could be promising. Following the story of 12 year old Mexican boy Miguel, the film is based around the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico. Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) is in the directors chair, and the Day of the Dead festival is a promising inspiration for some beautiful animation, so heres hoping that they can complete the magic triangle with a great story to match.

So, what does the future hold for Pixar? Right now, it looks like a lot of sequels, and the studio is going to have to work hard to keep its most beloved work sacred. The huge success of Inside Out earlier this year will hopefully inspire the studio to get back to doing what they do best – inspiring us all with stunning animation and original concepts.

Standard