2017 in Cinema : Part 7 – 50-41

So this is the part where I make a comment about now being beyond the half way point and into the films that weren’t great, but still pretty decent from my perspective. This is also the part where I talk about how I know a lot of the vhoices below will be deemed controversial as there was a lot of backlash against some of the films for a variety of reasons, and this is where I say that I don’t care about the politics and only care if I liked the film or not.

And just to round it all off, this is the bit where I have taken it off of bold fond and advise you of potential issues with the formatting, as usual.

Enjoy.

50) Underworld : Blood Wars

Cast : Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Lara Pulva, Tobias Menzies, Charles Dance and Bradley James

Plot : The war against the Lycans is going very badly for the vampires and only a few covens remain, but both are races are united in their hatred for Selene (Beckinsale). A vampire called Semira (Pulva) eventually finds her and wants her to train the new army, so pleads for clemency with the high council, eventually gaining it.

However, Semira has a plan to drink Selene’s blood to gain her powers, forcing Selene to eventually seek refuge with the Nordic vampires. The normally peaceful coven are then forced to fight against other vampires and lycan alike.

Why in this position? : There will be some that will raise an eyebrow when they see that I have put this film this high up as the “Underworld” franchise is a bit hit and miss, but I generally enjoy them. This entry was decent enough, it was a way to spend 90odd minutes without having to think too hard about what you are watching, and in a year that was filled with a lot of films that tried too hard, that was a nice relief.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a great film, it’s passable, but if I am being honest I can’t remember that much about it, that’s why it is this relatively far down. I do remember being mildly entertained though, and that is purely the only reason why this isn’t further down the list.

Yeah, that’s about it really.

 

 

49) Kong : Skull Island

Cast : Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, Thomas Mann and Tony Kebbell

Plot : Bill (Goodman) is desperate for one last attempt to prove the existence of a species that could be classed as “monsters” and he believes that they are to be found on the newly discovered Skull Island. He manages to get funding for a trip and is accompanied by a selection of army personnel and scientists, as well as tracker James Conrad (Hiddleston).

They eventually arrive on the island and try and map it by unleashing bombs on the terrain, this awakens a huge gorilla that swats down the helicopters like flies and flings the survivors all over the island. The loss of several men eventually drives Lieutenant Colonel Packard (Jackson) to the point of vengeance against the monkey, driving the soldiers against the scientists.

Why in this position? : For me “Kong : Skull Island” was not as bad as some made it out to be and it is one of those films that is very decent visually. I imagine that the blu-ray will be of a good quality, but the problem with a lot of films that are visually impressive is that the story very rarely holds up, and unfortunately this is the case because of the characters.

Most of the characters are one dimensional, with some characters, such as Brie Larson’s Mason, not even having a single dimension. An even bigger issue however is that the vast majority of characters have no impact on the story in any semblance whatsoever. For example, the pairing of Corey Hawkins’ Brooks and Jing Tian’s San Lin who do precisely nothing for the duration, they don’t even die. I suspect the latter is only in the film to gain a higher box office return in the east.

The only character that shows that he is anything but a walking cliché is Packard, who turns from a very loyal and friendly leader into someone who basically has a character arc that resembles Captain Ahab from Moby Dick.

“Kong : Skull Island” is a fun enough romp, but don’t go in expecting anything other than mild(ish) entertainment.

 

 

48) War for the Planet of the Apes

Cast : Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller and Steve Zahn

Plot : The war between apes and humans shows no signs of slowing down thanks to the strong military presence closing in on the close of Caesar’s (Serkis) camp. One day one of his fellow apes betrays the rest and this results in Colonel McCullough (Harrelson) killing Caesar’s wife and eldest child. The apes realise that they must now move to a new area, but Caesar is obsessed with getting revenge on McCullough.

Going out with a small group of apes, he makes his way to the rumoured location of the base, but along the way encounters several humans that have lost the ability to speak, and this has panicked most humans into killing each other. Caesar eventually encounters the rest of his group after they are captured by McCullough, but it turns out that his war isn’t just against apes.

Why in this position? : I’m not the biggest fan of the POTA franchise, it’s just not something that overly interests me and therefore it had to get over that hurdle straight away, and it unfortunately failed for the most part. From what I know of the original films, the movie does seem to link in quite well with that as it explains how humans went from being a high-powered species in this war to second-best and by a significant way. However, whilst it links in neatly with the original films, it somewhat fails to be a great film otherwise.

Visually the film is stunning, and Serkis is his characteristically brilliant self, but the movie itself felt somewhat flat. One such issue is that whilst McCullough is built up to be a fairly decent antagonist, the payoff just isn’t there at the end, and without revealing what happened to him, the ending felt a little flat in the sense that the climax between he and Caesar just doesn’t really get a deserved conclusion.

There are too many characters that are seemingly there purely for the sake of having more characters, and the sad fact is that you could take the vast majority out of the movie and it wouldn’t impact anything at all.

 

 

47) Baywatch

Cast : Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Jon Bass, Charlotte McKinney, Alexandra Daddario, Ilfeesh Hadera and Priyanka Chopra

Plot : Mitch (Johnson) is the lieutenant lifeguard at a beach and is less than impressed when he is forced to recruit disgraced Olympian Matt Brody (Efron), mainly due to the disrespect he has already shown the team. Brody immediately sets out alienating everyone in the team and is the complete opposite of the other newbies, Summer (Daddario) and Ronnie (Bass).

One day Mitch notices that a child has found a bag of drugs (taking complete credit for it himself later on) and as time goes on he is convinced that it is the work of Victoria (Chopra), a local business woman who will do anything to make sure her plans go ahead, even it is involves killing people.

Why in this position? This is another one where people will look at my inclusion of this this far up. All I kept hearing about “Baywatch” was how bad is was, albeit it in a funny way, and whilst I have to say I can see why some might have an issue with it, I actually really liked it. It’s a great guilty pleasure movie, I’m not going to sit here and claim it’s a excellent film, afterall I am writing this mini review on May 30th and I’m currently struggling to put together a top 10 for the year, but this hasn’t even entered my thoughts for that position. What “Baywatch” is is mindless fun. It’s two hours of watching a movie that is very self-aware of how cheesey it is trying to be, and there is something quite endearing about this.

Unfortunately, as fun as the film is, there just aren’t that many interesting characters. Summer and Stephanie don’t really have anything to do in the entire film, they’re just sort of there, and the main antagonist’s character is simply that she was denied an opportunity because she wasn’t male, and now every single thing she is denied is because she isn’t a man….in her opinion.  That’s not to say that they’re not likeable, with Ronnie being particularly fun, but a lack of character development for most of the secondary characters is disappointing.

 

 

46) Ghost in the Shell

Cast : Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbaek, Michael Pitt, Juliette Binoche, Peter Ferdinando and Takeshi Kitano

Plot : Following on from her death, Killian (Johansson) has her brain put into the body of a cybernetic organism, this leads her to become one of the best operatives around. She is assigned to investigate several murders within Section 9, and it turns out that some other organisms that similar to Killian have been hacked to kill, leading her fellow agent Batou (Asbaek) to lose his sight.

As time goes out Killian uncovers a conspiracy theory that means that her inital suspicions about a man called Kuze (Pitt) and the fate of her family before her death into question.

Why in this position? : GITS (as it amusingly appeared on the system for programming movies at work) is a lot like Avatar in many ways. It is visually stunning and arguably the best visual experience that I had during the entire year, and if this list was based on looks alone then this film would be in a contender for the top place quite comfortably, but unfortunately it isn’t based on looks, and much like the aforementioned Avatar, the storyline somewhat lets it down.

That’s not to say that the storyline is awful, far from it. I had no idea of the storyline going in, nor had I ever read the comic books, so the controversy didn’t really bother me at all, but there is something missing from the plot that I can’t quite put my finger on. It is somewhat soulless, which is ironic given that the central character is basically just a soul in an otherwise empty body.

There were too many characters that came in and out of the story at random intervals without ever really doing anything whilst they were on screen, infact you could take every character except for Killan and the majority of the movie would not change.

 

 

45) The Dark Tower

Cast : Tom Taylor, Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, Katheryn Winnick and Abbey Lee Kershaw

Plot : Jake (Taylor) has nightmares of a place in which a man in black (McConaughey) is killing people in order to destroy a tower. He also has trouble at school and a combination of the two convinces his mother (Winnick) to send him away to a clinic for the weekend. When the clinicians arrive Jake notices that they have similar traits to the people in his nightmares (such as a seam in the skin starting at their ear) and runs away.

He eventually finds a portal that takes him to a place called Midworld and he quickly meets Roland (Elba), a man who he dreamt about. The two set out to stop the man in black destroying the tower, therefore preventing an apocalypse.

Why in this position? : Much like a lot of films based on other forms of media, this movie got a lot a hate before the release due to it having little relation to what it was based on, but for me this was a fairly enjoyable sci-fi film. Whilst a little on the predictable side, there was something that personally drew me in to this world that they’re building, even if they don’t spend a lot of time in that actual world.

The acting is decent enough, with McConaughey doing a reasonable job in a rare antagonist role for him. You actually can’t see how he can be stopped and that is a sign of good story telling. The one thing that I would say is that *SPOILER ALERT* the way he is killed is a bit silly as if you fire one bullet in a straight line, a second bullet fired at an angle and ricocheting won’t reach the same point as the other bullet, at least not at the same time.

At a surprisingly short 90odd minutes, I thought the run time was actually quite appropriate as the film didn’t outstay its welcome and didn’t drag, which is something that I can’t say for most films this year.

 

 

44) The Ritual

Cast : Rafe Spall, Rob James-Collier, Arsher Ali, Sam Troughton and Paul Reid

Plot : One evening Luke (Spall) and a friend enter a shop that is soon the subject of a robbery, but instead of helping his friend Luke hides and watches as his friend is killed. Several years later Luke’s friends are treating him to a weekend away hiking in Sweden.

Everything seems to be ok at first but there are odd sounds when they enter a wooded area, and it isn’t long before the sounds are quickly followed by some of the group disappearing.

Why in this position? : Those who know me, or have read this site for a while, will know that I am a big fan of British horror. Granted, I am British so it might be a patriotic thing, but I genuinely believe that some of the more enjoyable and original horror movies of the last twenty years have come from my native land. This might not be as good as films such as “The Cottage”, but it is still a reasonable attempt at horror.

Whilst it isn’t an original idea in the slightest, afterall, how many horror films are set in the woods and have creepy noises at night? What it is though is a very humble film that is set in an often unseen country in movies and one that has some fairly decent acting considering the low budget.

The cast genuinely feels like a group of friends and not just a group that has been randomly assembled, and this is key in the scenes where they’re trying to escape the horrors that await them.

Don’t go in expecting brilliance, but as far as horror films go it is generally alright.

 

 

43) The Belko Experiment

My Full Review

Cast : John Gallagher Jr, Tony Goldwyn, John C McGinley, Adria Arjona, Melonie Diaz, Josh Brener, Owain Yeoman, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn and David Dastmalchian

Plot : As they had into work the employees of Belko are puzzled as to why anyone who is a national of Columbia (where the company is based) is turned away by an unknown security unit. Other than that the day is running relatively normally until a voice comes over the intercom saying that they have to kill two people in the building or suffer consequences. Everyone treats it as a prank until huge metal sheets raise and cover any possible exit. The employees fail to kill two of their own, so the voice fulfils his threat and kills four at random.

Soon after the voice returns and says that if thirty of them aren’t dead within two hours, then sixty of them will die. Realising what a real threat this is, the group starts heading in different moral directions, with a group lead by Barry (Goldwyn) attempting to gain access to the weapons. They eventually split the large group into smaller ones and start executing people in certain groups (such as the over 60s), but that isn’t enough as only 29 are killed, and those that aren’t killed in the subsequent punishment are told that it is now a case of last one standing.

Why in this position? On paper this is my type of film and I have reviewed many similar for this site, such as “Circle”, but the problem with “The Belko Experiment” is that it has far, far too many forgettable characters, and one-dimensional ones at that. I am writing this less than 24 hours after seeing the film and I had to look up the names of the central characters, that’s how bad it is, especially as it becomes increasingly obvious which two are going to make it to the end.

I do like the moral conundrum though and it left me curious how I would react in the situation, and ultimately I found myself leaning towards the logic of Barry and his group. If you don’t kill, you’re going to be killed and you need to get used to the idea. That’s why this film is higher in the list than the first paragraph would make you believe I had intended to put it.

It is tense throughout the suitable run time and whilst you’re always pretty convinced who the two left at the end will be, you are curious about how and when the others will day, even though most of them are clearly just filler.

 

 

42) Their Finest

Cast : Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Bill Nighy

Plot : The second World War is well under way and the allies are losing badly. The government decides that there needs to be some positive propaganda and they hire Catrin (Arterton) to write a new, positive war movie. She immediately has issues with fellow writer Tom (Claflin) as they have differing views.

They eventually agree on a story and hire established actor Ambrose (Nighy) to star in the film, but he is less than keen on being cast in an old man’s role and constantly tries to make it more exciting. Continuing to argue on various things, Tom and Catrin eventually start falling in love, but will the picture suffer as a consequence.

Why in this position? : I must admit that whilst I liked the look of “Their Finest”, I was exceptionally sceptical at first because I find Gemma Arterton to be one of the worst actresses that consistently gets mainstream roles. She was tedious in “Clash of the Titans” and arguably the worst part of the other pretty good “Girl With All The Gifts”, so I wasn’t excited in the slightest about this, but thought I would give it a chance anyway because you never know.

It didn’t start well and the first fifteen-twenty minutes is downright awful, what with odd pacing, boring and I was rational that this had the chance of being close to my bottom ten at the end of the year, as do a lot of BBC made films, but then it started grabbing my attention and I found it to be warm, caring and competent.

The cast all do a decent job and the film is effective and delightful for the most part. It does a great job of replicating how movies from the 1940s feel when you watch them. Had it not been for the first twenty or so minutes then this could have been top ten contender.

 

 

41) Going in Style

Cast : Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, John Ortiz and Christopher Lloyd

Plot : Falling behind on his mortgage, retired Joe (Caine) is shocked when he and his friends discover that their pensions have been frozen by their banks, leaving he, Willie (Freeman) and Albert (Arkin) struggling financially. Joe has recently been present during a bank robbery and he decides that the best way to get their revenge, and the money they need is to rob the bank themselves.

Over the coming weeks they come up with a master plan to rob the bank along with Jesus (Ortiz), even if it does seem that everything is against them. The robbery seems to go relatively smoothly, but little errors lead the police straight to the trio, but what exactly did their masterplan include?

Why in this position? : This is the first Zach Braff film that I’ve seen and enjoyed. Unlike his other efforts this isn’t pretentious nonsense, and it goes back to the routes of how he became famous in the first place, the TV show “Scrubs”.

I heard a lot of younger people complaining that this film was boring, but to say that is definitely an older generation film would be an exceptionally accurate statement. It’s very much an older generation film that I think the majority under the age of 30 will struggle to enjoy as it’s not fast paced and does revolve a lot around the older generation not understanding how young people do things.

The cast is fantastic, especially Freeman and Caine, who appeared together in a film for the sixth time in twelve years, and Arkin is particularly fun. However, it’s a secondary character that steals the show as Christopher Lloyd is wonderfully hilarious.

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