As Bon Jovi once said “woahhhhhh, we’re half way there”. Yep, in my annual ranking of films I saw at the cinema we’re not at the half way list. So far we’ve seen films that I would generally rank as bad to ok, at best, but now we’re onto films that whilst I wouldn’t go as far as describing them all as good, they certainly weren’t bad.
So here we go, the films I ranked 60 to 51, and once again, apologies if the formatting is a little off on your chosen browser, I’ve been having a few issues with it over the last few days.
Cast : Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E Grant and Stephen Merchant
Plot : Logan (Jackman) and Charles (Stewart) are living in an abandoned factory with a vampire-esque mutant named Caliban (Merchant). Logan has lost much of his regenerative powers and is now not only aging, but he is no longer able to heal as efficiently as before, whereas Charles has several mental incapacities. One day Logan gets approached by a woman asking to take her and a young girl named Laura (Keen), but Pierce (Holbrook) is also searching.
Logan goes to pick them up ahead of a trip to North Dakota, only to find the woman murdered and Laura climbs into his car. They go back to the factory, followed by Pierce and a mini-war breaks out, after which it is revealed that Laura is Logan’s daughter, and he decides that he has nothing left to lose by taking her as far as they’ll go.
Why in this position? : “Logan” can be viewed from three perspectives, a stand alone film, part of the Wolverine trilogy and as a franchise entry, but for me it fails in two of those. I’m going to start with the one that it does work in, the franchise. Spoilers ahead for those that haven’t watched but I thought that the deaths of Logan and Charles were expertly done, especially when you feel sad because of what the latter has become as you’ve seen near enough literally his entire life on screen.
That’s about it in terms of the positive. The problem with the Wolverine trilogy is that whilst I actually liked “Origins” (not to the point where I would rate it highly though), I didn’t like “Wolverine” because it was kind of boring, and I don’t think this really adds anything, other than showing Logan’s weariness in his world
As with most films based on Marvel comics, the antagonists are not that well developed at all, with Pierce being shown to have no secondary characteristic, and what’s worse is that you never actually feel like Logan isn’t going to ultimately win (if you ignore what I wrote above).
It’s not awful, but certainly not great.
Cast : Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Taylor Kitsch and Scott Adkins
Plot : Whilst on holiday Mitch (O’Brien) proposes to his girlfriend and she accepts. Suddenly a group of terrorists start gunning down people on the beach, killing her and wounding Mitch. He spends the next eighteen months training in MMA, weapons and learning about the teachings of Islam so that he can pass for someone who wants to join their cause, but he really plans to kill them. When he is being questioned to test if he is genuine, the CIA suddenly kill everyone in the room, leaving Mitch.
It turns out that the CIA have been monitoring him for a while and are impressed by his skills and will to get done what needs to be done. He agrees to join them and put under the tutelage of Hurley. Soon a group makes their way to Rome to investigate a possible nuclear weapon being built. Fellow agent Victor (Adkins) is quickly killed, and the group has a race against time until another former protégé (Kitsch) of Hurley sets off the bomb.
Why in this position? : “American Assassin” is one of those films where you’re never bored, there is a lot going on and the pacing is quite good considering, but there is something missing. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it as I largely enjoyed it, but was never beyond mild satisfaction.
Regardless of all of the quick deaths in the movie I never felt like Mitch wasn’t going to succeed and for me that is a bad thing. I should definitely feel at least once that maybe they won’t win, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. Even then that wouldn’t necessarily keep me from enjoying it, but whilst not a bad film, I can’t think of any major negatives.
Having said that there is the strange issue that the terrorists leave Mitch even though he is clearly going to survive his injuries. Several of them are clearly shown making sure that their victims are dead by shooting them in the head, and yet they all go past Mitch and just leave him with shoulder and leg wounds. It’s a bit of a plot hole.
Cast : Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Arnie Hammer, Jack Reynor and Michael Smiley
Plot : Chris (Murphy) and Frank (Smiley) travel over from Northern Ireland to America to buy some weapons. Their contact Justine (Larson) has set up a meeting with unhinged South-African gangster Vernon (Copley). Things don’t start well as Vernon hasn’t brought the correct weapons to the sale, but after testing Chris agrees to take the new ones instead, but there is definitely an air of distrust between them as Vernon seems to have a back up plan.
Tensions soon rise when Harry (Reynor) recognises Stevo (Riley) from the previous night and wants to kill him for bottling his sister’s face. This eventually ends with Harry shooting Stevo and shots being fired between the two sides.
Why in this position? : “Free Fire” was a film that I was looking forward to for some time after there was a trailer on a Blu Ray that I had bought. It looked fresh and funny, if indeed a comedic version of “Reservoir Dogs”. Thing start off very promisingly as the comedy is sharp and witty, but unfortunately as soon as the shooting starts, the film loses anything original that it previously had and it turns into a generic shooter. This isn’t helped by the fact that the majority of the second and third acts are spent with the characters hiding from each other, on the ground and constantly switching between sides.
There are definitely some elements that I liked though. It has a very distinctive look and feel, and the cast is fantastic, with only Arnie Hammer living up to his traditionally bland style of acting. Shalto Copley is excellent as Vernon, and Cillian Murphy is his usual brilliant self, but unfortunately no matter how good the cast is, they can’t rescue a frightfully dull second and third act.
Cast : Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, , Pedro Pascal, Jeff Bridges and Elton John
Plot : Following another successful mission Eggsy (Taron) returns to his normal life and meets up with his girlfriend’s parents. During the dinner with the Swedish Royal Family, he realises that his friend has found his glasses and has to watch as his house, as well as all other Kingsman properties are destroyed, leaving just him and Merlin (Strong) alive.
They eventually discover a similar agency in America known as the Statesmen, although Agent Tequilla (Tatum) soon comes under a new epidemic known as “blue rash”, caused by drugs that have been contaminated by Poppy (Moore), who has her sights set on world domination. The Statesmen reveal that Harry (Firth) survived the events of the first film but has memory loss that means he doesn’t remember anything beyond his desire to study butterflies, but they will need his help in order to stop Poppy.
Why in this position? This is a movie that suffers badly from sequelitis. I had only watched the original Kingsman for the first time just a few months before this and the sequel seem pre-occupied with making as many connections and references to the first film, even if they have little relation to what is going on. At 141 minutes it is one of the longest comedy films I think I’ve ever seen, even if it does also fall into the action category, but there is just a lot of filler in there.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still some enjoyable parts, but it is largely just there. Julianne Moore’s Poppy not actually leaving her base at any point creates zero tension and by the time Harry and Eggsy reach her site, there is only about twenty minutes left and it feels rushed.
Half of the big names don’t really add anything to the story. You could take Tatum’s Tequilla and Berry’s Ginger out of the film and the film would barely change. The latter is the worse of the two as her only character development is that Whiskey denied her application to a promotion, making it predictable that she would end up as one by the end of the movie. That is her only form of character development, other than that you learn nothing about the movie.
Cast : Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones and the voice of Liam Neeson
Plot : Connor (MacDougall) is regularly bullied at school and he feels that he is getting the same treatment from his grandmother (Weaver), who insists that he will go and live with her due to his mother’s (Jones) rapidly failing health from terminal cancer. He has a big imagination and just deems it to be in his head when the massive tree (voiced by Liam Neeson) next to the church on the hill comes out of the ground and demands he tells him a story.
The same thing happens the following night however and the tree tells Connor the story of a prince who seemingly sought revenge, but it turned out to be far more sinister. As the stories continue however, Connor starts to doubt that the tree isn’t just part of his imagination, although to the outside world that is all is appears to be as he destroy his grandmother’s home and hospitalises one of the bullies.
Why in this position? : One of the first films I sure during the calendar year, “A Monster Calls” is not a bad film by any stretch, but the problem is that if you take the visuals away this isn’t actually that interesting as a film. It treads water for the most part and only really has any emotional kick towards the end of the film, but before that it is largely lifeless and “meh”.
This must be one of the most depressing films marketed for kids that I’ve ever seen in my life. From the trailer you might think it is similar in style to “The Neverending Story”, in other words a film in which the kid overcomes his demons to rise to the occasion when it mattered, but it doesn’t feel like it has the same stakes, and whilst arguably more impactful than the aforementioned, it’s definitely not a better film.
The cast just plods through and whilst not doing a bad job by any stretch of the imagination, and you actually genuinely feel a connection with the characters, but it is still largely lifeless.
Cast : Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson
Plot : Gloria (Hathaway) is out of control during a spell of unemployment, suffering from alcoholism, and her boyfriend Tim (Stevens) has decided enough is enough and tells her to move out of his apartment. With no job and nowhere to stay in New York, she moves back to her abandoned parents home in the country. There she befriends former classmate Oscar (Sudeikis), who offers her a job.
Meanwhile, in South Korea an unknown creature of several hundred feet appears out of nowhere and terrorises the capital city of Seoul. One day Gloria notices that the monster mimics her movements and she realises that she is actually the monster. She shows Oscar about this, and it turns out that he is also in control of a different monster that appears randomly in Seoul, but his alcoholic tendencies, combined with a growing lust for Gloria could cause disaster for the Koreans.
Why in this position? : In terms of pure originality, this is up with there one of the most obvious candidates of the year. It is thoroughly original, which is a pleasure to say given the endless streams of sequels, prequels, reboots and remakes that are out these days, although it does remind me in a way of the 2014 movie “Horns”.
However, this is not a perfect movie simply because it’s original, there are some fundamental flaws and the main one is that the characters just aren’t that interesting or believable. I refuse to believe that someone of seemingly sound mind and judgement up until that point would be willing to kill countless millions of people to stop someone quitting their job.
I love the look of the film, it will look fantastic on Blu-Ray, but after a strong start, it gets stale very quickly and I started losing interest at a rapid rate.
Cast : Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr, Michael Keaton, Laura Harrier, Jacob Batalon, Zendaya and Tony Revolon
Plot : Following on from the Battle of New York Adrian (Keaton) realised that he can make a good profit from making weapons out of the debris, but he is soon stopped by the government. Some of his weapons are used in a bank robbery that is then stopped by Spiderman, i/e Peter (Holland).
Peter is struggling to balance being Spiderman and his school work, even though he is getting support from Tony Stark (Downey Jr), and life gets even more complicated as Adrian puts a threat on his life and later figures out that Peter is the man behind the mask.
Why in this position? : “Spiderman : Homecoming” certainly isn’t a bad film, it has a lot in common with most other films in the MCU, but therein lays the problem.
The issue with a lot of Marvel films are the majority tend to have the requirement of watching the previous films in the franchise, there are very few films that don’t require that, with arguably “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Dr Strange” being the exceptions in recent years. As this is the first Spiderman film in the MCU you’d think it wouldn’t have this, but unfortunately it does. There are so many references to the events of previous films that if you haven’t watched them then a lot of what is happening in this movie will go over your head)
I did enjoy Zendaya as Michelle, who was arguably my favourite character in the film. The complete “meh” attitude to everything was a breath of fresh air and from all of the Marvel films, she might be my favourite non-main character.
Cast : Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeifer, Ed Harris, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson and Kristen Wiig
Plot : Mother (Lawrence) is happily married to her poet husband (Bardem) and the live in a beautiful and quaint country home that she is renovating. One day a man (Harris) arrives thinking it was a B&B, but the poet allows him to stay anyway. He is suffering large health problems, but even more of a surprise is when his wife (Pfeifer) turns up the next day unannounced. Mother finds a picture of the poet in their luggage, leading her to question what is going on.
At first everything is civil between the couples, but Mother soon becomes frustrated as the wife’s rude and intrusive nature, and after she and the man break a valued ornament of the poet’s, she demands that they leave. They instead have sex and whilst doing that, their son (B Gleeson) arrives and warns that his brother (D Gleeson) has seen that the man’s will has been changed. They get into a fight and one brother kills another.
Mother suddenly soon has the house to herself, but she finds that keeping people out might be impossible.
Why in this position? : Mother! was arguably the most polarising movie over the year and it seemed to be a case where you either loved or hated it. There seemed to be no in between for most people and I can see why. It is not a film which is obvious in terms of what it is. What you see is most definitely not what you get and there are several interpretations of it.
My initial interpretation was that all of the events were going on in the writer’s head, and when he was getting bored of a character or setting it would start to rot away. This would have explained the constant influx of chaos and chaos. Immediately after seeing it one of my characters likened it to the mother being Mother Nature and regardless of what she tells anyone, they ignore her and things end up getting destroyed.
For me that’s the sign of an interestingly put together movie. That being said, I can’t quite figure out whether I like the movie or not. For me the film is divided neatly into three acts, the couple (Harris and Pfeifer), the inspiration (the pregnancy) and the cult (the followers of the writer and the subsequently cult in the house). The couple act got me in, and the inspiration act left me curious to where it was going, but unfortunately the cult section completely separated me from the story. It was the only act where I was, for lack of better words, bored.
This is a beautifully put together movie and the performances from all are fantastic, with Lawrence owning the screen. No-one puts in a bad performance, but for me the story wasn’t even to carry for over two hours given that not a lot really happens.
Cast : Natalie Portman, Billy Crudup, Peter Sarsgaard and Greta Gerwig
Plot : Jackie Kennedy (Portman) is being interviewed by a journalist (Crudup) shortly after the assassination of her husband, John F Kennedy. Together they recall Jackie’s restoration of the White House to include celebrations of those that had lived their previously, all before moving onto what happened on the day of her husband’s assassination, and the graphic details contained therein.
The immediate aftermath of the assassination includes a moral and financial debate about how the former President should be remembered, and also how she copes as the new President and his wife undo all of the hard work that she had put into decorating.
Why in this position? : “Jackie” is an interesting film in the respects that whilst you might know a lot about JFK’s assassination, there might not be a lot known of what happened immediately afterwards, and it is one of the better historical films that I have seen, mainly because in all honesty I knew precisely nothing about the real life Jackie Kennedy, other than that she was married to the aforementioned JFK.
The acting is pretty much spot on throughout, with the ever reliable Billy Crudup (the second film this year that he and Gerwig have been in together might I add) being ample support for the fantastic performance from Natalie Portman.
The reason that this isn’t higher on the list is that it drags quite badly and it just seems to go in neverending circles. I felt like the story, regardless of how historically accurate it may be, stopped being interesting due to the constantly flip-flopping between what she wanted to do. Whilst it is a good history lesson and has excellent acting, the flip-flopping turned me off entirely.
Cast : Taraji P Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell, Mahershala Ali and Kirsten Dunst
Plot : Katherine (Henson) was a child prodigy in mathematics and now works in the computing department at NASA along with friends Dorothy (Spencer) and Mary (Monae). One day she is given a new assignment to help America seriously enter the space race following Russia’s successful attempts at putting a man in space. Upon arrival however she is quickly singled out due to not only being a woman, but also because she is black.
Dorothy is growing increasingly frustrated at NASA’s refusal to make her a supervisor, and Mary is fighting for the right to take a course that could see her become an engineer, and all three try to overcome the prejudice shown against them, with Al Harrison (Costner) being the only high-ranking NASA official seemingly determined to do something about the racism.
Why in this position? : “Hidden Figures” was certainly one of those films that would fall under the category of “Oscar-bait”. It is an enjoyable enough film, hence why I’ve rated it higher than a lot of other films, but for me it is very by-the-numbers and predictable. In the early part of the year there were a LOT of films where race was a big issue, but this was the least surprising out of all of them.
Paul, played by the ever dependable Jim Parsons, is portrayed to be nothing more than someone who is petulant and often doing work that is in need of having his work checked. He is one of a plethora of one-dimensional characters that unfortunately seem to be nothing more than a method of showing just how under-appreciated and skilled the three central characters are. If the real life Paul was as incompetent as the character in the film seemed then he wouldn’t work at NASA for long.
That’s not to say it’s a bad film though. The film flows nicely and you do want all three of the main characters to succeed, with all three being portrayed well by Spencer, Monae and Henson respectively, with the latter of the trio again developing a good chemistry with Mahershala Ali after the two also played a couple in 2009’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”. There isn’t anyone that puts in a bad show.
I just wish that I felt like the characters were going to genuinely struggle, but the issue with “based on true story” films is that they are making films on these events for a reason.