Posts Tagged ‘avengers’

Whilst coming to the end of writing my first extensive look at why a certain “horror” franchise failed to produce quality films, I was made aware of a mini-craze amongst film reviewers on social media in which they reveal their favourite film from each year that they’ve been alive.

At first I had no interest in taking part, but then I thought that it might be fun to see what came out each year I was alive. One thing that I quickly realised that there are some years in which there were few standout films for me, 1990 and 2005 being particularly sparse, whereas I really struggled just to pick one from 1994 as as well as what I chose, there were so many entries that were not only great, but would top many top tens around the world.

So I was born in 1984 and will therefore start there. In the interest of fairness I am only going to consider films that were released at the cinema.

1984 – Ghostbusters
1985 – The Goonies
1986 – The Fly
1987 – Spaceballs
1988 – Willow
1989 – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
1990 – Night of the Living Dead
1991 – Terminator 2 : Judgement Day
1992 – A League of Their Own

1993 – Jurassic Park
1994 – The Shawshank Redemption
1995 – Mortal Kombat
1996 – Star Trek : First Contact
1997 – The Fifth Element
1998 – The Truman Show
1999 – Fight Club


2000 – American Psycho
2001 – The Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring
2002 – 28 Days Later
2003 – Pirates of the Caribbean : The Curse of the Black Pearl
2004 – Troy
2005 – Land of the Dead
2006 – Lucky Number Slevin


2007 – No Country for Old Men
2008 – The Dark Knight
2009 – Star Trek
2010 – Scott Pilgrim vs the World
2011 – Moneyball
2012 – Avengers : Assemble
2013 – Rush

Then we come onto those that I’ve seen since I started reviewing films for this site. Click on the below links for the full run downs of the top tens from these years.
2014 – Nightcrawler
2015 – No Escape
2016 – Captain Fantastic
2017 – TBD

So we reach my penultimate list of looking at films that I saw in the cinema in 2015, and now we’re getting onto films that were relatively decent, but I didn’t think that they were strong enough to make the Top 10.

Most of these films did feature in the Top 10 at some point, but ultimately I didn’t include them in the top 10 for a variety of reasons.

Just like Part 2, this page has been sorted into nothing more than alphabetical order.

Avengers 2 : Age of Ultronavengers_age_of_ultron

Cast : Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johanssen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and James Spader

Plot : The Avengers are celebrating yet another successful mission with a party, and the group all have difficulty lifting the hammer of Thor (Hemsworth), although Steve (Evans) does come very close to budging it, however, when Thor states that they’re simply not worthy, one of Tony’s (Downey Jr) suits walks towards them and threatens them all with extinction.

Tony and Bruce (Ruffalo) realise that their ULTRON program (voiced by James Spader) has achieved self-realisation, and the group must battle against what is effectively now a computer virus. ULTRON was built with the intention of helping protect the Earth from enemies, but after doing research, it determines that the only enemy to Earth is humans, and it sets about wiping out….but it isn’t only ULTRON that the Avengers have to worry about.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : The Marvel Universe has arguably been the biggest franchise of the last ten or so years, churning out hit after hit, and whilst one Marvel film this year featured in my Bottom 10, another (this one in case you hadn’t guessed), featured in my Top 10 for a hefty chunk of the time after it was released. However, a lot like other films in this list, it didn’t last that long.

I’m not going to lie, in the individual films of the Avengers cast, there has only been one sub-franchise that I have been excited by and that is Thor. Captain America is too clean cut for my liking, Iron Man is too one dimensional for me, Hawkeye and Black Widow haven’t been developed well at all, and whilst Hulk is arguably the most complex of the characters, they haven’t really touched on the potential of the character, especially under the wonderful acting of Mark Ruffalo.

I also find the antagonists in the Marvel franchise to be far too predictable, with the exception of Loki, and not one of them (other than the aforementioned Loki) has ever looked like winning. That is the main problem with the MCU, the bad guys are so poorly developed that they’re not even slightly convincing, and that is a big disappointment. Ultron never really felt like a genuine threat, and was far too jokey to be taken seriously as a threat.

That being said, Age of Ultron (just going to call is AOU for short) is a wonderfully fun movie. There’s one thing that can be said for all of the Marvel films, with the exception of maybe Winter Soldier, is that they are fun films. Marvel knows how to produce fun and they have again achieved this in AOU. AOU is a fun ride that doesn’t feel like it lasts as long as the run time suggests. The story has a nice flow and although you have to suspend your disbelief for long sections of it, it is an enjoyable few hours.

The uneasy friendships between a lot of the characters, such as Thor’s impatience with Stark after Ultron is released, is intriguing to watch and it sets up the rest of the franchise so well. All of the Marvel films have references to each other and something that’s so minor in one character’s film could end up having a major impact in another’s. The complex nature of the films means that you’re always wanting to go back  and watch them again, and this is the case with AOU.

Away from the storyline arc of the franchise, the acting is very good throughout and Renner brings a greater level of interest into the character of Hawkeye. Hemsworth is his reliable self and even the emotional-void that is Scarlett Johansson isn’t awful. That’s the thing about AOU, there’s nothing particularly awful about it other than the struggle to produce a believable villain.

BirdmanBirdman Movie Poster

Cast : Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts

Plot : Riggan (Keaton), a once famous actor for a role as a superhero known as Birdman, is trying to resurrect his career in a Broadway play. In amongst all of the chaos, Riggan is having visions of his famous character as it mocks him, as well as his daughter, Sam (Stone), questioning him at every turn.

As well as battling several legal aspects of the play with his lawyer (Galifianakis), and the very difficult to work with, but critically claimed actor, Mike Shiner (Norton), Riggan struggles to make his vision come through.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : I’m not going to lie, I find that I am surprised at myself for including Birdman in this list as the first time I watched it, I really didn’t like it at all. Whilst visually unique with it’s editing making it appear like one shot, and exceptional acting from the entire cast, I didn’t find Birdman particularly interesting and honestly, I even contemplated putting it in my Bottom 10 for a while. However, I wanted to give it another chance and it is only one of two films on this list that I watched for a second time just before sorting these lists out,  and I’m glad I did.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still didn’t find the film to be as brilliant as some made it out to be and I did find myself finding it hard to get attached again, but when you move away from the one-shot feel and look to the film, you realise just how much work has gone into it, and you appreciate it’s story even more.

Firstly, I’ve already mentioned them, but the best part of Birdman is comfortably it’s cast, with Ed Norton being particularly wonderful. I am a big fan of Norton as his performances in Fight Club, American History X and many others makes him one of my favourite actors, even if he doesn’t appear in a lot these days.

Zach Galifianakis breaks his type-cast with a role as a highly intellectual man, Keaton is exceptional as Riggan, and Emma Stone’s turn as Sam shows her flexibility in roles. Not a single member of the cast puts in a poor performance and this is something that I rarely say these days.

It’s hard to put a key element of why I like Birdman when it didn’t emotionally engage me, and that’s why this mini-review will end here. This is probably going to be the shortest mini-review I put in this section, I like it but I can’t put a finger onto why.

EverestEverest-IMAX-Poster-647x1024

Cast : Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Worthington

Plot : Rob (Clarke) is an experienced climber of Everest and regularly helps tourists ascend to the summit. In his group this time are the arrogant Beck (Brolin) and the humble Doug (Hawkes), the latter of whom is making his latest attempt after previously failing.

Supported by his ground staff (Watson and Worthington), Rob starts the latest climb, but regularly has to negotiate with other tour guides in order to schedule climbs, such as the laid back Scott (Gyllenhaal). As they’re approaching the top, bad weather reports start coming in, but can the group successfully make it to the top and back down again in time?

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Following on from one film that I can’t put my finger on why I like it onto another. I suppose in many ways it comes down to Everest not being your typical disaster film, or in many ways not even a disaster film at all, even though it appears like one.

Rather than being a thrill-a-minute fight for survival, Everest is more a character study about how humans will strive to reach their goals, and some won’t let go of them, regardless of how dangerous they are. For example, the character of Beck, played with precision by the ever dependable Josh Brolin, has the dream of reaching the top of Everest and it ends up costing him various body parts without ever reaching the top, whereas John Hawkes’ Doug is far more humble in his approach (the character, not Hawkes, who is likewise fantastic in his portrayal), but just as desperate ends up reaching the top and you feel a genuine sense of joy when he actually reaches the top.

Everest really makes you think about your goals in life and what you’re willing to put your body through to achieve them, but you want these characters to succeed and survive, even Beck and he’s probably the closest thing that Everest has to an antagonist.

But away from the moral message, the humble approach to story telling felt genuine. It shows that climbing Everest isn’t just a simple thing that can be done easily. It accurately shows that you have to take your time whilst doing it, otherwise you pretty much end all chance of making it, and I love the realism. It doesn’t rush into the film itself, or the point where they reach the top, or even the disaster starting. It’s pacing is realistic, but I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t like this as it does take a long time for anything to actually happen. It’s very slow in parts to say the least. I don’t mean that in a negative way from my perspective, but yeah, I can see why some people wouldn’t like it.

The cast is fantastic, although it is a bit strange that some actors, such as Sam Worthington, gets one of the star billings on the poster, even though he doesn’t really warrant it. I don’t mean that in a negative way against him personally, but he just hasn’t done a lot over the last few years in terms of mainstream film, and he is probably only in Everest for a total of 10 or so minutes, if that. Jake Gyllenhaal (his first of two appearances in this section of my look at 2015) has a far bigger and more important role than Worthington, and yet he is below Worthington on the poster.

I feel really bad for what seems almost like I am heavily criticising Worthington there, I’m genuinely not. As I say, the cast all do a good job, although as usual Jason Clarke is just his usual, forgettable self. He’s an actor that you could sum up by saying “he’s just there”. He doesn’t stand out and whilst not awful at all, you get the feeling he brings nothing to a role that no-one else could bring. For example, Gyllenhaal was fantastic in Nightcrawler last year and played it so well that I don’t think that anyone else could have played the character of Lou. Most actors find THAT role during their career, a role that they make their own and Jason Clarke just hasn’t brought that to any role for me, and he is like that in this as well. He’s just kind of there, nothing more, nothing less.

Anyway, I’ve deviated slightly. Everest is what it is, a humble story about a fight for survival. It’s not in your face and I liked the approach, but I can equally see why others wouldn’t.

Jurassic Worldjurassic-world-poster-mosasaurus

Cast : Chris Pratt, Bryce-Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpsons, Nick Robinson, Imran Khan and BD Wong,

Plot : 20 years after the first Jurassic Park incident, they have finally opened a park, but the public’s interest quickly wains due to new attractions being few and far between, so Claire (Dallas-Howard) and Dr Wu (Wong) genetically mix several species together to create a new super-predator.

Meanwhile, Owen (Pratt) has successfully trained Velociraptors to be controlled, but he is constantly fighting off Vic (D’Inofrio) who believes that they should be used as military weapons, and the super-predator successfully getting loose might prove his point.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Jurassic World was in my Top 10 for a while, but almost entirely by the default at the time that I hadn’t seen 10 films. Now, I did like Jurassic World whilst watching it, but then I watched it a second time a few days later and I got exceptionally bored.

Now don’t get me wrong, Jurassic World is a good film in my opinion, it wouldn’t be appearing in this list if it wasn’t, but it’s definitely one of those that loses a lot about it on a second viewing. Unlike Jurassic Park, Jurassic World doesn’t really have re-watchability to it and this is a shame as it isn’t an awful film. I don’t think it was until the second play through that I realised just how many nods that they had made to the original, such as very similar shots, and whilst it’s great for the nostalgia feel, but after a while you want it offer you something new, and unfortunately Jurassic World lacks heavily in this sense.

I grew up loving dinosaurs, even before the original Jurassic Park came out, and I know that there is a plethora of threatening dinosaurs, but Jurassic World constantly keeps going back to the well with the T-Rex and the Raptors (who aren’t even raptors), or indeed a new genetically modified mix of the two. I just wish that they would try something new and give us a break from the same old dinosaurs.

The cast are just bland and uninteresting, and Chris Pratt really feels out of place in this film. Then again, it’s hard to feel in place where you’re with a poor cast, and I don’t think the casting of Bryce Dallas-Howard helped keep the film alive on the second watching as she is just bland beyond belief. I’ve never been impressed with her “acting” and seems to be yet another one of those who has graduated from the acting school in which you don’t get out until you’ve lost your last possible emotion.

So you may be wondering why I’ve put Jurassic World in this section rather that the previous look at poor film and the reason is that despite all of it’s flaws, of which there are many, it’s still a decent watch. I did watch it for a third time recently, about six months after I last watched it, and I did enjoy it more than the second time, and I think it’s definitely one of those that you can’t watch a regular basis.

Obviously there is a lot of CGI in the film, but there are some great practically effects as well, such as when the characters find a field of downed dinosaurs, and the characters try and comfort it as it dies.

KrampusKrampus-Poster

Cast : Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Emjay Anthony, Alison Tolman and Conchata Ferrell

Plot : The holiday season is in full swing as Tom (Scott) and Sarah (Collette) await the arrival of the latter’s sister for Christmas. Along with Linda (Tolman) comes Howard (Koechner), Dorothy (Ferrell), and their kids. Upon being bulied by Stevie (Lolo Owen) and Beth and Beth (Stefania Owen) for still believe in Santa, Max (Anthony) tears up his letter to the mythical figure and throws it out of the window.

Everything seems fine at first, but the group then notice that the world seems dead outside, with no movement, cars or people around. They all soon start realising that something is coming to get them, the demon of Christmas known as Krampus, and they need to put their differences aside and work together in order to survive.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Krampus was a very different type of Christmas film and in many ways it reminded me of Scrooged, with dark humour being the order of the day.

Adam Scott again impresses after previously being very enjoyable in the excellent Parks and Recreation, as well as being arguably the best character in the luke-warm The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Scott is comfortably the best actor in Krampus and he has the best “I’m sick of your shit, but will act happy about it for the sake of peace” face.

The whole cast play their respective roles well, and Koechner feels right at home with the ultra-macho Howard, a role very similar to most of his history on screen, and it’s hard to really place a bad word against any of the performances from the actors and actresses involved. Even the performances from the younger actors aren’t even awful.

I only really have two issues with Krampus. The first is the elderly female character is German, and speaks her native tongue for the majority of the film, although everyone has discussions with her by speaking English. It’s very strange to see an entire conversation in which one person is speaking English and the other German, but then there being claims that the German person doesn’t speak English. If she doesn’t speak English, why speak to her in that language and more to the point, she wouldn’t be able to understand them.

The second is that after all of the build up to Krampus being the ultimate demon and horrifying, but then when you finally see it’s face, it is almost looks like they’ve just painted the mask from Scream. The face doesn’t change and just looks ridiculous. In many ways it takes away the genuine scare the fear factor of the demon.

Mission Impossible : Rogue Nationroguenation02

Cast : Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin and Sean Harris

Plot : Following on from successfully capturing nerve gas that was intended to be sold to terrorists, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is determined to prove the existence of an international criminal consortium known as “The Syndicate”.

The IMF team is then shut down and all of the agents become employees of the CIA, but the problem is that they don’t believe the Syndicate actually exist, and this causes Hunt to track them down without approval, making him a target for the CIA.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : I had never seen a Mission Impossible film before going to watch the fifth installment in the franchise, so I had virtually no expectations going in. I’m not a fan of spy films, or action films in general, and that will almost certainly remain the case through the remaining 40 or 50 years of my life, but despite that I did actually enjoy Mission Impossible.

Unlike Spectre, it treated the genre with a certain level of fun and this even briefly made it into my top 10 of the year, very briefly indeed. The film flowed relatively smoothly and nothing really felt forced. There was nice, methodical way of doing things and the antagonist, whilst threatening, wasn’t shoved down your throat and made to seem more dangerous than they actually were, unlike Spectre.

The cast was strong all around and each put in an excellent performance, especially Cruise. I’ve never understood the hatred towards Tom Cruise. He is a very good actor and you could probably count the bad films he’s been in on one hand, although very few of those are bad because of him. Ferguson is fun to watch and whilst the rest of the main cast, such as Pegg, Rhames and a few others aren’t involved as you would expect, they enhance the parts of the story that they are in.

The one main issue with Mission Impossible 5 is that the main antagonist isn’t really in the film and must like Spectre, the threat was merely implied rather than actually acted on, and in that sense it was a bit of a let down. Other than that Rogue Nation is a fun action film.

 

Mr HolmesMr._Holmes_poster

Cast : Sir Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker and Hiroyuki Sanada

Plot : A long retired Sherlock Holmes (McKellen) is in the early stages of dementia and is living with the harsh, albeit caring, Mrs Munro (Linney) and her son Roger (Parker). He is trying to recall a final case and what went wrong with it.

Whilst trying to recall what happened so that he can write about it, Holmes uses some other cases to try and put pen to paper, but his friendship with Roger could end up causing tragedy.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : If you’ve not heard of Mr Holmes then I wouldn’t be surprised. When I went to my screening there was only me and four others in there, and the sales for it weren’t great. It was very much a sleeper style film, in other words one that’s just there that a lot of people wouldn’t know about.

When I saw Mr Holmes, I liked the numerous aspects to it’s script and storyline, with multiple stories going on at one time or another as the elderly Holmes is almost treated like a mythical figure, and the other characters try and figure out which stories about him are true, and which were fabricated.

Several seemingly unconnected stories then start intertwining by the end of the run time and I love the multi-faceted elements to the story, and also how each story is played out separately through. In many ways I liken it to the TV show “Lost” in that you’re seeing events in both the past and the present, and what’s happening the past reflects the current situation, but you don’t get the full picture right until the end, and that is exactly what happens in Mr Holmes.

This was another film that was in my Top 10 for quite some time, but slowly moved it’s way down the list and was always likely to slip into this list, but there is nothing at all wrong with Mr Holmes. Yes, it’s a very slow film, and very humbly put together, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon style film, and each of the cast are not only competent, but excel in this roles.

 

movies-ronaldo-poster

Ronaldo

Cast : Cristiano Ronaldo and Cristiano Ronaldo Jr

Plot : In 2012 Lionel Messi beat Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or for the fourth year in a row. Ronaldo doesn’t react well at first but this documentary follows his journey over the following few years as he develops into a player that then won it in 2014 and 2015.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : It explores his life on and off of the pitch, including an insight into his relationship with his son, Cristiano Jr.

Can I really count Ronaldo, the film about arguably the best football (no, not the American version of rugby, I mean actual football, you know, where you kick a ball with your foot)? There is a part of me that says yes and another that says no.

Let’s start with the no and the obvious reason of that it’s not really a film in the true respect of being a film, it’s more of a documentary about a year in the life of Ronaldo. That being said, it was released in the cinema in the UK during 2015, even if just for a single showing, and therefore, as per the rules I set out in the Bottom 10 articles, it must be included…..so here it is.

As I personally believe that he is, at the time of writing, the best player and that’s not an invitation for a Ronaldo vs Messi debate, and the simple reason is that the film shows that the rivalry is merely professional. They personally interact with each other at various points during the show, including Messi saying hi to Ronaldo Jr,

The only real antagonism between them in the film is right at the beginning when Messi wins his fourth Ballon d’Or (the award for the player voted best in the world every year) and Ronaldo is upset that he didn’t win it as he thought he’d earnt it. This is obviously initial disappointment, but it shows the work that he puts in to make himself better, and it’s a great character study of a man who not only believes he is the best at what he does, but is determined to prove it. It could easily come across as arrogant in many ways,

My only real fault with the film was that I wish it had covered Ronaldo’s career before the year a bit more, such as his spells at Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United, but other than that it was an enjoyable way to spend an evening at the cinema.

SouthpawUntitled

Cast : Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence and Miguel Gomez

Plot : Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) is a champion boxer and destroys opponents for fun, all with the loving support of his wife Maureen (McAdams) and daughter Leila (Laurence). At a dinner celebration, Billy fails to ignore insults aimed at his wife from the number one contender (Gomez), and the ensuing fight results in Maureen being shot. She dies soon after.

Billy struggles to keep his emotions from collapsing and he quickly loses custody of Leila. He also returns to the ring and it comfortably beaten. He realises that he needs to get his life together again to stand a chance of not only getting back to the top of the boxing world, but also get his daughter back.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Southpaw is a very competent sports drama. The acting is good throughout, the fights are brutal and unforgiving, and the drama is very engaging, but there was one particular reason that I didn’t even consider Southpaw for the Top 10 and that is the daughter.

The daughter is one of the most selfish characters I have ever seen in film. She has no appreciation for her father’s struggles and it’s not even as if she is a young child, she’s maybe 10, and yet she’s so wrapped up in her own desires and needs that she might as well be three. The character basically hates her father for not coping well following Maureen’s death and not having the luxuries that she has obviously grown accustomed to, she rejects any chance to be with him again once she realises that if she goes with him, she won’t be in a life of luxury anymore, and only seems interested again once his fortunes improve.

It’s yet another case of a child character almost single-handedly ruining an otherwise enjoyable film.

Away from the selfish brat of a character, the film is otherwise fairly enjoyable and Gyllenhaal’s dedication to the role is evidence again, going from his dilapidated appearance in Nightcrawler, to the ripped physique in Southpaw. He was an actor who I didn’t have an opinion on until 2014, but since then he has continually impressed me.

If you’re going to watch this, watch it for Gyllenhaal alone.

star-wars-force-awakens-kylo-ren-adam-driver-poster-hi-resStar Wars : The Force Awakens

Cast : Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Dohmnall Gleeson, Carrie Fisher and Oscar Isaac

Plot : 30 years after the death of Darth Vader and the fall of the Empire, a new force has arisen in the galaxy called The First Order, and more particularly it’s figureheads, General Hux (Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Driver). Another resistance is in place, once again run by Leia Organa (Fisher).

Meanwhile, on Jakku, stormtrooper Finn (Boyega) crashlands along with Poe Dameron (Isaac), although the latter disappears. Finn eventually runs into Rey (Ridley), a girl seemingly strong with the force. She also has in her possession Poe’s droid, a droid that contains a map to the location of Luke Skywalker, and they need to take it to Leia, so they escape on a seemingly scrap ship, the Millennium Falcon.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Please note that as this is still out at the time of writing, the below contains spoilers. I’ve never been the biggest Star Wars fan, as I’ve mentioned a few times throughout this website, including a preview I did to The Force Awakens several months ago. I do like them but don’t see the obsession that some have them, and coming into December I was absolutely sick to death of hearing about Star Wars, and in the days following it’s release I grew tired of everyone asking if I had seen it, so I decided to go and watch it far earlier than I was planning.

So, much like the rest of the Star Wars franchise, I didn’t mind it but I wasn’t going to consider it as good as some have said it is. There are many reasons for this, but I’m only going only talk about the main ones for me, the first is the character of Kylo Ren, whilst brilliant in terms of a character and a sympathetic villain, just lost a lot for me when he actually got into the fights at the end with Finn and Rey. Kylo’s win over Finn is rather unconvincing, and then he struggles against Rey. I don’t care how powerful Rey is in terms of the force, experience counts for a lot in fights and not once because he actually look like beating her. For me it weakened a character that I had otherwise enjoyed.

Despite that, Kylo is arguably the most interesting character of the new trilogy as he is bad, but quite clearly has traces of good in him, but level of unpredictability makes him extremely dangerous, as evidenced by the scene on the bridge with Han Solo, and most excitingly, means he can be taken in several different directions. In many ways, I’d say he’s possibly the most flexible character that has appears in the franchise.

For me the true evil in this film is actually the character of General Hux, played by Dohmnall Gleeson. I had never been that fussed about Gleeson before this, but he was stunningly brilliant at Hux. There is a scene in which he is rallying his troops, almost like a Nazi-style rally, and Gleeson’s passionate anger roused me to the point where I almost applauded. It was that good. For me this was the best scene in the entire film as it shows that the First Order meant business, and the Gleeson, despite not having any force powers (as far as we’re aware at this point).

Whilst the antagonist characters were excellent, I didn’t really feel any particular attachment for the protagonists, and whilst not poorly acted or portrayed, they certainly don’t have the same level of presence on the screen as Kylo Ren or General Hux, but there are still fortunately two more films for them to develop.

 

UnbrokenUntitled12312

Cast : Jack O’Connell, Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund and Domhnall Gleeson

Plot : Louie Zamperini (O’Connell) is on board a bomber in a 1943 bombing mission against the Japanese when the engines fail and they have to crash into the ocean. He and several others survive on a life-raft, although with thousands of miles of ocean in numerous directions, they all struggle to survive with little food and water.

Eventually, only Louie and the pilot, Phil (Gleeson) survive long enough to be rescued, although it is a Japanese ship and they are subsequently separated and sent to different POW camps. Louie is sent to the camp that is run by Mutsuhiro Watanabe (Miyavi), a man infamous for vicious treatment of those in his care.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Unbroken was the first film I saw during 2015 on January 3rd and for a long time it was in my Top 10 of the year,  and it wasn’t until December 14th that it was forced out. At this point many people were curious why Unbroken was even in that list to begin with, but the reason is that I simply enjoyed it.

Now, I haven’t watched it since seeing it in the cinema, so this will be a relatively short mini-review.

I’ll start with the story and whilst the story might seem a little far fetched, I read Zamperini’s book soon after watching the film and the film seems to match large sections of the book, so obviously we’re only taking his word for it that things happened as they did, but for me it seemed like a fairly realistic portrayal of being a prisoner of war, as well as a great story of the human instinct to survive.

The film’s division into various sections works very well and you get several mini-films within. My favourite of which is probably when they are in the boat and are desperately trying to hang on, with several trying desperately to about dehydration. That part of Unbroken is interesting to watch because you get a true representation of what characters are actually like when the situation gets too dire for them

I think that the dire nature of the film and the situations that the character find themselves in are why a lot of people didn’t like Unbroken. It’s not a positive film, with torture, desperation and other similar themes throughout, and very few positives in the film, except for Zamperini’s defiance.

Unfriended368285ec6d263ccf5634bca7c620ff91

Cast : Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki and Courtney Halverson

Plot : It’s one year since the death of the popular Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) by suicide. She had killed herself following a video being uploaded of her heavily drunk and having defecated herself. Her best friend Blaire (Hennig) is feeling down about the anniversary, but she is hoping that a night chatting with her friends online can help take her mind off of it.

As the online-chat conversation between the friends start, they notice that another, unknown person is in the conversation, but they can’t get rid of them no matter what they try. The mysterious person appears to know that one of the six people in the conversation was responsible for Laura’s death, and they will make the group feel considerably lower than they did before.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Unfriended was a film unlike any other that I had seen at the time and took the unusual approach of having the entire run time take place on a computer screen, and whilst the might sound extremely limiting, it’s surprisingly not. I’m not going to sit here and claim that Unfriended was a brilliant film, it has many flaws, but I applaud anyone who releases something is seemingly relatively original. Since I saw this I became aware of another film released prior that is similar in terms of the online aspect of things, but Unfriended isn’t really anything like it and in that sense, is relatively unique.

The young cast feels at home in the technology based situation, obviously using their experience using the software to their advantage in terms of camera angles and various other things. They seem to do the acting part reasonably well for a young cast, although again, some of their performance is relatively predictable.

Despite the positives, the main negative for me is that they wasted the chance for a relatively impactful ending. *spoiler obviously* Basically only Blaire survives to the end and the person on the mysterious line is basically Laura’s ghost. When it’s finally revealed that Blaire released the video, the ghost posts the full length video in which Blaire appears mocking Laura onto her Facebook, and Blaire is forced to watch as all of her friends turn against her online. The laptop lid then shuts and a spirit lunges at her.

It would have been more impactful to me if she had been forced to live with the consequences, rather than seemingly being killed. There is a film that features in my Top 10 that has a similar ending in which a person is forced to see the aftermath of their reactions online, but it sticks, and it has far more of an impact that how Unfriended ended.

Ultimately, the reason that I didn’t include Unfriended was that there were simply ten films that were better than it. It’s not an awful film by any stretch, but I can see why others wouldn’t like it. For me it’s one of those films to watch on a Saturday evening when you have nothing else to do, and although I haven’t watched it since, I remember liking it quite a lot.

As time moves on and the technology advances to new levels that were previously thought not possible there are genres that thrive and those that die. Genres, such as westerns, have pretty much died out and are seen as a novelty when released, but others really take advantage and are reaping the awards of biding their time, such as films based on graphic novels and comic books.

There can be few arguments that the genre has enjoyed a major resurgence in the last fifteen years and it is arguable the most popular type of film at the moment, mainly thanks to the gritty Christopher Nolan taken on the Batman franchise with his critically lauded Dark Knight trilogy and the highly enjoyable films in the Marvel Avengers universe. The makers of graphic novels and comic book genre (I will shorten to GNCB after this) have found that winning formula that keeps not only fans of the source material going back to it, but also winning new fans due to it’s approach. As a non-reader of GNCB fiction, I only discover these characters based on the films know nothing about them, but they make me want to read the source material and that is the biggest praise I can give them.

It’s a far cry from the GNCB films prior to the 21st century as there was poor release after poor release and it wasn’t until the aforementioned Dark Knight trilogy started with 2005’s Batman Begins that the genre started to regain a bit of a positive reputation in the films. This was soon followed by films such as (in alphabetical order) 30 Days of Night, 300, Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim vs the World and V for Vendetta, to name just a few whilst not referencing the Marvel Universe.

The Dark Knight

 

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy’s darker and more realistic approach to the Batman franchise gained critical acclaim and helped majorly towards helping films based on Graphic Novels or Comic Books to become resurgent this millennium.

With numerous stories set in the same universes, crossovers and different visual styles, it’s hard not to get engrossed in the films of the genre, and the pure amount of releases of GNCB films shows exactly how successfully they have turned things around. Although there are only four GNCB films being released in mainstream cinema in 2015 (Kingsman : The Secret Service, Avengers : Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and The Fantastic Four), this is to be followed by considerable more.

All of this is based on current confirmed releases and the numbers could easily increase. In 2016 were will see nine mainstream releases of GNCB films, 2017 will see eleven and then twelve currently announced between 2018 and 2020. That is thirty-two films in a four year period and that is astonishing number and virtually all are likely to make money.

In a previous “Keeping It Reel” I mentioned that the only reason that Resident Evil films keep getting made is because they make money, not because they are good, and whilst the majority of GNCB are good, the only reason we keep seeing the Wolverine character, despite his terrible stand alone movies, is that they make money. By the end of 2020, based on current announcements, there will have been a total of ten films featuring the character and that is too much of one character, but again they keep making money.

In short, GNCB films have turned themselves around and there is another genre that can learn from the example, movies based on computer games. For the sake of this article I am only going to focus on mainstream cinema movies released in the English language and that is for the simple reason that it’s easier this way.

The first computer game to see a major cinema release was Super Mario Bros. The games were very well received (I’m not a fan before anyone asks) but the film, released in 1993, was widely regarded as one of the worst films of the 1990s, and it started a dangerous precedent. At the time of writing there have been 28 cinema releases for films based on computer games as the sole source material, and much like the Resident Evil franchise, the majority only get made because people think that they will make money.

resident_evil_milla_jovovich-2

 

Milla Jovovich stars as Alice in Resident Evil, the first film to be based on the poular computer game franchise.

The 28 films have made (when rounding the takings to the nearest million) a total of $2.71 billion around the world, averaging out to just shy of $97 million per film, which is an astonishing figure when you take into account that not a single one of them gained a rating higher than 44% on Rotten Tomatoes (Final Fantasy : The Spirits Within) and no higher than 58% on metametric (Mortal Kombat). Infact, taking into account the Rotten Tomatoes rating at the time of writing, the average rating across the 28 films is a poultry 18.29% (rounded up).

This is not to say that I don’t enjoy films that are based on computer games. I enjoyed Mortal Kombat, the first Resident Evil Film, Silent Hill and for my sins, I also liked Doom. One thing I briefly mentioned earlier was that one of the reasons that GNCB films regained momentum was because of films such as The Dark Knight trilogy offering a gritty and more realistic take on things. Pretty much all of the previous Batman films from the 1980s and 90s were presented almost like a comic book in terms of presentation, such as the burns to Harvey Dent in Batman Forever. They almost felt silly, for lack of better words. Turning the franchise “gritty” certainly worked for that franchise and rejuvenated the genre, and in 2010 there was a hint that this could potentially be the future of computer game movies.

Whilst most seem to agree that the first Mortal Kombat film is reasonably ok, it is widely considered that the sequel, Mortal Kombat Annihilation, is just terrible due to several factors, including a considerably reduced budget, actors choosing not to reprise their roles from the first film (such as Sandra Hess replacing Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade) and just a shockingly poor delivery of lines, especially by the horrendously bad Musetta Vander as Sindel.

Mortal-Kombat-Movie-Liu-Kang-vs-Sub-Zero

Anyway, I digress. In 2010, thirteen years after Annihilation, a trailer was released for what was described as a reboot of the franchise and it looked considerably different to either of the previous films and looked more set in reality, unfortunately it turned out to not be a trailer for a new film, but Kevin Tancharoen’s pitch to do a reboot of the franchise. This lead to a new online series featuring several famous actors, including Jeri Ryan (Star Trek Voyager) and Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers), and whilst a film has been spoken about several times, the last update from Warner Bros, who own the rights, was that the budget for a film would be $40-50 million.

Below is the trailer that Tancharoen created.

So why do computer game movies fail? Well more often than not the main people that watch them are the fans of the games and most VG movies are seemingly made for them. Right there you have an issue because you don’t do what GNCB films do and make sure that the films are not just aimed at the fans of the computer games, but also the wider audience. Just limiting yourself to be there for the fans of the computer games is a big problem because not only are non-fans not likely to watch it, but you are under exceptional scrutiny from those who are fans as they will want want made the games enjoyable.

I’ll give you an example, Doom is one of the most popular games of all time, but when the film came out in 2005 and was largely criticised for it’s virtual non-existent relation to the game, other than a brief first-person perspective scene towards the end of the film. The Resident Evil films have suffered a similar problem as other than a few extremely loose references to the game, the only real connection during the film and the early games are the zombies, infact the first film contained zero characters from the games. This issue did quickly get amended as the films did start following the games a bit more, including using characters from the game, although they were only used in name and appearance only, the personalities were not at all like they were in the games.

To put into perspective how important it is to make your film similar in many aspects to what they are based on, imagine if Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit was made after someone read the novels and then decided to add characters in who weren’t in the books or take other characters out of the books entirely…..oh….wait. Whilst Lord of the Rings was widely lauded, the Hobbit suffered greatly from under-developing many characters at the expense of characters who weren’t even in the book, such as Tauriel.

With an increasing amount of films based on computer games coming out in the next few years, surely it’s only a matter of time before one of them is successful on more levels than money.

So I’m going to end this “Keeping it Reel” with a small pitch for a computer game that me and several friends grew up loving. This computer game series has five entries, and although the fourth and fifth entries weren’t particularly good, the first three were exceptionally enjoyable. They transcend genres, age, gender and so many other factors that I can’t even begin to think of that for me it would make the perfect film. Some will argue that the Pirates of the Caribbean films are a very close to this series, and there are numerous nods throughout that quadrilogy which are obvious easter-eggs for those who played the game that I am going to pitch. Ladies and Gentleman, I give you The Secret of Monkey Island.

secret-of-monkey-island-scumm-bar

The Monkey Island franchise started in 1990 with “The Secret of Monkey Island” and it follows the adventures of Guybrush, a young man who turns up on Melee Island with the ultimate aim of becoming a pirate. As he participates in several trials to prove that he is worthy, he meets Elaine and falls in love, but soon becomes embroiled in a battle with the ghost-pirate Lechuck. This continues through the four sequels, Lechuck’s Revenge, Curse of Monkey Island, Escape from Monkey Island and the Tales of Monkey Island.

Monkey Island was greeted with near universal acclaim due to it’s mix of comedy, romance and action. It was a great all-around game and took nearly three hours to complete, which was exceptionally rare in those days. Even now, 25 years after it’s initial release, I still regularly play the first three games and have conversations with friends about the games on the rare occasions that we see each other. It sums it all up for me about the popularity of the series when the first two installments were given special editions, something which can’t be said about most point and click games, a genre that has been pretty much dead since the early 1990s.

For me there were many reasons why the Monkey Island games, well, the first three anyway, worked and for me the main one of those was that Guybrush was a relatable protagonist. He was a young man with many weaknesses and fears, but tried to overcome those to achieve his dream. That is what a protagonist should be, someone who you could potentially be yourself. The antagonist is also likeable due to the less than serious nature in which his character has been approached.

A Monkey Island film would go down exceptionally well if it paid homage to the games and not someone’s re-imagining.