Wednesday, 17 January 2018
Ever since Inside Out, Pixar seems to have gone through a mini-slump of movies that haven’t quite matched their usual standard. Coco, the latest addition to the Pixar filmography, sees a return to the quality we expect from the animation studio.
Coco takes place during the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos, also known as The Day of the Dead, and is a perfect set up for a Pixar film. It allows the film to entertain with bright colours, wonderful animation, and fun characters, as well as having an emotional message that will leave a deeper impact on audiences.
The Mexican setting allows Pixar to explore a different culture that hasn’t had a great deal of focus on in recent times – The Book of Life being the main exception. This colourful festival fits perfect with Pixar’s animation as each frame is crafted full of detail, with fluorescent colours, unique characters and locations and the usual Pixar Easter Eggs. Not only is the film visually stunning, but it presents the opportunity to learn more about a celebration of life and family from another nation. Early on there are a few exposition-heavy scenes but it is necessary to make sure that everybody – especially the children – are fully aware regarding the meaning of this festival. Once the details have been straightened out, Coco’s true charm takes over as the adventure really begins.
The best kind of Pixar films are those that are equally as entertaining for both kids and adults – see Toy Story series, Inside Out, WALL-E etc. Coco joins this esteemed list as it is a fun adventure story packed with antics and great music to keep you thoroughly entertained. But most impressive is how the film manages to gain an incredible emotional response, especially in its final stages. The threats to the well-being of great characters may be enough to garner a response from you but the films respectful use of a sad disorder will have you fighting back the tears. It is a really beautiful moment and one of Pixar’s finest scenes that they have ever crafted – it’s up there with the first 10 minutes of Up and the incinerator scene from Toy Story 3.
Themes of family and creativity and how to balance the two are ever apparent as the film’s message about the two is very clear. Again, this is both equally as valuable for both children and adults as it is a universal message that everybody can relate to in some way. Pixar never fails to amaze on how they can create a story that has such a range that it can touch even the sternest of viewers.
Michael Giacchino’s score and the original songs from various artists contribute heavily enabling you to feel immersed in this world. The music is created through a combination of mariachi, salsa, and flamenco with the results being high energy, catchy tunes which will stick in your head for days. The work from the cast members – particularly from Gonzales, Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal – is to be praised in making the musical numbers of the film seem as authentic from the characters as possible.
To continue talking about the cast, its great to see that in a film like this that the majority of the cast were all of Latino descent, bar Pixar regular John Ratzenberger. Despite being an animated film, its great to see that this cast was made up in the correct way and it really helps add to creating this authentic imagined world.
Coco provides everything you could possibly want from a Pixar film. Fun, enjoyable characters within a world that is a joy to explore, as the film also looks to tug at your heartstrings. Add in the originality of the story which provides fantastic representation for those who celebrate this event and you find very little to not enjoy. Despite a slowish start, the film has plenty of conflict, twists, and entertainment to keep you engaged throughout its entire runtime.
Tuesday, 2 January 2018
Now that the 'Best of the Year' list is out of the way, it is now time to look at the very worst that 2017 had to offer. Despite being a fairly good year for film, there were a lot of stinkers that often overshadowed the better creations in cinema this year. There were many to choose from and like with the 'Best' list, there were films that missed out on making the list. With that here are some dis-honourable mentions:
47 Metres Down
Underworld: Blood Wars
and The Circle
At number 10 is a film that could so easily be number 1 on this list but for one reason alone it is much higher up. The Bye Bye Man is a completely inept film which has one an incredibly silly plot - if you say or hear the words The Bye Bye Man, you're haunted until death. There are no scares in this film which features terrible dialogue, awful characters and acting as well as some of the worst special effects in recent history. However, this creates an extremely enjoyable viewing and is so bad that it is actually a good fun watch. This really is a god awful film but The Bye Bye Man is a film you can gather your friends to watch it and have a great time laughing all the way through. Due to this, it finds itself at number 10 as the next nine films have little to no redeeming qualities.
With Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons in leading roles, Justin Kurzel directing and a sizeable budget, if there was ever going to be a successful video game movie, then it was surely going to be Assassin's Creed. Unfortunately for everyone, this movie was a painful slog as the depressingly boring story held the film back from reaching its true potential. The focus of this film was completely wrong and lacked anything interesting which is a real shame considering the source material. This film was released in the first week of 2017 in the U.K and the fact it managed to stay in bottom 10 for the entirety of 2017 is somewhat impressive.
For many, the prospect of a Dark Tower film or series has been highly anticipated whilst this property has been stuck in developmental hell. 2017 finally saw the story be depicted on the big screen and it really wasn't worth the wait. In a year that had many great Stephen King adaptations - Gerald's Game, IT and 1922 - The Dark Tower proved to be one of the worst ever. The film tries to cram too much into its 95-minute runtime and is a complete mess in terms of tone. Matthew McConaughey puts in one of his weakest performances as he adopts some strange accent that makes his villain someone you cannot take seriously. I certainly hope that the books are much better than this pitiful film.
Ugh. Is there anything more disappointing this year than the attempt to recreate the Dark Universe with The Mummy reboot? The chance to create a dark cinematic universe based on the classic Universal monsters was an incredibly exciting idea, but after The Mummy, all that excitement vanished. The film looked to cram in as much exposition and build up other stories rather than focus on making The Mummy a good film in its own right. It becomes yet another Tom Cruise action film which the Dark Universe really should not be. Sofia Boutella is criminally underused as the titular character as the story makes her take a back seat for most of the film. Yes, the reboot film focuses more on a terrible, generic Tom Cruise character, Russell Crowe and average action rather than the Mummy herself. This is perhaps the biggest cock up in trying to start up a franchise which is music to the ears for the previous holder, the DCEU.
Lets hope that Michael Fassbender has a better 2018 as it couldn't get much worse than his 2017. His biggest crime of the yeat was The Snowman, based on the Jo Nesbo bestselling book. This film was so dull it was hard to believe that talented director Tomas Alfredson and great actors Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson were involved. From a pure talent perspective, this should have been quite the hit but the film delivered on absolutely nothing. The film feels about 5 hours long with nothing of real intrigue happening. The final showdown is extremely laughable as this film apparently went through a lot of trouble in post-production. The final cut of this film is apparently missing key scenes but I'm not sure they'd be able to completely salvage this snooze fest. A terribly handled film that has reached meme status, stay away from The Snowman.
Wish Upon's premise was a fairly interesting one, with a teenager being given an overwhelmingly amount of power. This could've been an alright film but the film suffers from some of the same problems as The Bye Bye Man. There are many moments in this film that are laughable - mostly involving the deaths - but it isn't nearly as enjoyable which is why it is so low on this list. Every character is just terrible people which makes watching this film insufferable when it is focussing on their stories and interactions. There's little to like about this horror which isn't remotely scary or suspenseful at all.
Any of these next four films could easily have been number 1, these really are the worst of the worst. To try and rank these four, I had to think long and hard about different aspects of these films. At number 4 comes Flatliners due to the fact I think it has the best performance in any of these four films, that being from Ellen Page. However, the rest of the film is incredibly dull with very little happening that is scary, interesting or compelling. Nothing is really explored in this half-arsed attempt at rebooting the 1990 film. The film doesn't really explore the effects of flatlining as the film seems to make it up as it goes along. This is also very poorly edited as something drastic and damaging will happen to a character, yet the film will instantly cut and that person will be perfectly fine. Dull with a wasted crop of young actors, Flatliners is one of the most lifeless films of 2017.
Sometimes adults can be accused of being far too cynical when it comes to animated films, but I feel like a good gauge is experiencing the audience's reaction firsthand. When I saw The Emoji Movie, the screen was dominated by parents and their children. The atmosphere was silent as this god awful film didn't even manage to have an effect on the younger viewers. This is such a blatant cash grab filled with lazy, cheap jokes that create a very painful watch. It's bland in so many ways with uninteresting characters and James Corden. This Hollywood at its worst as it looks to capitalise on anything remotely popular or well known. The only good thing about this film is that it was only 91 minutes long which made it more bearable than these next two films.
I know I'm not the target demographic but surely there aren't people who genuinely believe this series has any form of quality within it? It's not hard to believe that the 50 Shades series was based on Twilight fan fiction as its terrible writing has transferred to the big screen. Christian Grey is one of the worst characters in film history with one of the most disinterested performances of the year by Jamie Dornan. The film isn't sexy, it's creepy. For a romance, it lacks any sense of loving and care which makes the character Anatasia's decisions even more baffling. There's a random helicopter crash thrown in that leads to nothing just because. Literally nothing happens from it and there are no consequences, it's absolutely baffling. Unfortunately, this isn't the last of the series and I fully expect 50 Shades Freed to end up on my list for the worst of 2018.
My worst film and the most incompetent of the year is Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. My god was this by far the worst experience I've had all year at the cinema. Two big reasons for this being my worst film is due to its horror and action styles of filmmaking. The film is littered with awful jumpscares that become predictable after a mere five minutes. The film doesn't try anything new or creative and is the laziest film of the year. To make things worse, half the film is unwatchable due to the excessive use of shaky cam. I commend you if you manage to watch an action scene from this film and see exactly what is going on and don't leave without a headache. As a fan of action and horror, this atrocity hurt even more than the others. There is also great source material behind these films which makes it even worse. It's a completely lazy and insulting film and only proves further that Paul W.S Anderson is one of the worst working directors today. This series really needs to die and I hope this really is the final chapter, although the ending does leave the story open. Please don't make us suffer anymore. Incompetent at every level, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the worst film of 2017.
So that wraps up my 10 worst films of the year list and my reflection on 2017 film in general. What was the worst film that you had the displeasure of watching in 2017? Let's hope 2018 has a lot better films in store than these 10 piles of garbage, I don't think it could get any worse than the bottom four on my list, Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!
By Angus McGregor
Monday, 1 January 2018
So 2017 has come and gone, so everybody is rushing to put out their best and worst of the year lists. I know you've probably seen dozens of these already, but why not look at yet another? With that, here are my 10 favourite films of 2017, enjoy!
This list is also based on films by their U.K. release dates, so if there's a film you feel is in the list that shouldn't be by date, this is why. 2017 was a pretty good year for film and was an improvement on 2016 in most regards, especially in terms of blockbusters. With such a competitive year, there were, of course, many films that narrowly missed out on my list. Due to that, I'd like to give a shoutout to some honourable mentions that were very unlucky to miss out on my list:
A Ghost Story
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
So now that's out of the way, let's jump into number 10!
At number 10 is the first of two Netflix films on my list and is what I believe to be the best Stephen King adaptation of the year, Gerald's Game. 2017 was a pretty good year for the horror/thriller genre, with films such as Get Out and Split being fantastic in their own right. Yet, it was this that really got under my skin, with its simple plot that is handled magnificently by director Mike Flanagan. Carla Gugino puts in one of the best performances of the year -whilst mainly handcuffed to a bed - in a story that creates a terrifying situation but also is a fantastic character study. The film gets really dark at times and is very unsettling, especially when we explore Gugino's characters past. For fans of horror, definitely give Gerald's Game a watch.
Coming in at number nine is an early U.K. release that did very well during award season in 2017, Hacksaw Ridge. Mel Gibson's return to the director's chair was a very successful one, as Hacksaw was one of the years most powerful and finely crafted films. The film focuses on an unlikely war hero and focuses on his determination to save lives rather than take them. The action scenes are incredibly realistic, creating many brutal moments, but Hacksaw is a true testament to the human spirit and retells this miraculous story wonderfully. Andrew Garfield was fantastic as the stuttering Desmond Doss in a film that gets great performances from Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington.
Paddington 2 is by far the most surprising film of the year for me and is one of the best times I've ever had at a cinema! This film is pure fun and it really caught me off guard. I expected a fairly enjoyable film that would satisfy me for just under 2 hours. However, the film exceeded all expectations, with a great story filled with fun, interesting characters and silly antics making this one of the most purely enjoyable family films of recent times. This already impressive British cast was improved with the additions of Hugh Grant and Brenden Gleeson, who are fantastic in their newly acquired roles, whilst the returning Ben Whishaw and Sally Hawkins are ever so delightful yet again. A complete joy that will have you laughing, tearing up, gazing in awe and on the edge of your seat, Paddington 2 is a very worthy addition to this list.
The second Netflix film to make my list is Bong Joon-ho's Okja, an extremely emotional story that really caught me off guard. The first half of the film explores the relationship between young child Mija and this super pig Okja, as we create an emotional bond with the two. The second half is much darker as it explores celebrity depiction, animal cruelty and greedy conglomerates which mirrors the real world oh so closely. This film features an impressive cast of stars who all bring it as very conflicted characters which is something I really appreciated with the film. The characters whether good or bad are not all morally perfect - with the exception of Mija and Okja - and creates for some interesting dynamics and only showcases the innocence of the two main characters furthermore. With such sensitive subject matter like animal cruelty, there are some very emotional moments, none more so than in the finale. The film is a Netflix original and is the kind of film that needs support in order for Netflix to continue making strides with their original films.
Edgar Wright is one of my favourite filmmakers and has created some of the best genre-blending films, with hits like Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. Due to this, I was eagerly anticipating his latest film Baby Driver ever since it was announced. It isn't my favourite film from Wright but that is no discredit to the film as this is one of the best-crafted action films of recent years. The use of real stunt drivers, choreography and music create some of the most enjoyable action scenes of the year in a film that was oozing of originality. The ensemble cast works perfectly well with each other, creating an interesting dynamic which kept you guessing which way the story will go. Wright has yet another success under his name and continues to showcase his abilities as one of Hollywood's best and most creative directors.
Cracking into the top 5 is Call Me By Your Name, which I feel has the best male performance of the year from Timothee Chalamet. This gay-romance film is both beautiful and heartbreaking as the story follows a young Italian boys first ventures into love. Despite the nature of this relationship, the story is universal and there are things that everybody can relate to and even see reflections of themselves in. This makes the film even more powerful and emotional for the viewer, which is backed up furthermore by fantastic performances and soundtrack. There are two scenes in particular that will stick with me for a very long time due to their powerful effect, including the end credits where Chalamet showcases his talents. The way he conveys his emotions without saying a single word is arguably the best piece of acting this year and is a fantastic ending to a great film.
At number 4 is perhaps the most unique film of the year and certainly of this list, Raw. This French/Belgian coming of age, horror film really surprised me with just how good it was, as it follows a young woman's first experience at veterinarian school. With this, she faces many urges but not all that would be expected in a coming of age film. The film actually uses cannibalism to explore temptations, rivalry, sexuality and many others in this environment which leads to some very startling and incredibly grotesque moments. Garance Marillier is fantastic in the lead role as we slowly see her character Justine descend from a top student into a flesh-hungry, jealous nightmare. This was a very challenging performance which Marillier excels fantastically well in Julia Ducournau's feature film debut as a director. As both a fan of coming of age and horror films, this was a perfect blend for my tastes and one that I won't forget anytime soon.
Manchester By The Sea may just be the most realistic film of 2017 and it uses that authenticity to power its often bleak and emotional story. The film follows Casey Affleck - who gives the performance of his career - and how he struggles to deal with past and present traumas and problems. As the film goes on, we get more information about this deeply troubled character, and with each addition of information, there is a powerful punch behind it. Kenneth Lonergan's script is near flawless as the film is never ever dull and constantly has you hooked, despite it being miserable a lot of the time. It must be said, though, that the film does have some great humour within the film to stop it from being all doom and gloom. This is a film that could turn people the wrong way but I loved every moment of this film and was hungry for more once the credits started to roll.
At number 2 is Christopher Nolan's war epic Dunkirk. Dunkirk certainly won't go down as one of the best character-driven movies but certainly will in terms of a cinematic experience like no other. This film is completely immersive with flawless sound design, cinematography and practical effects that help create an ever so realistic setting. An impressive cast featuring the likes of Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy and even Harry Styles provide rooted performances, filled with emotion, fear and struggle at every moment whilst stuck in this situation. The narrative structure itself is very unique and was a great way for Nolan to explore different aspects of this event, with linking them up simultaneously. For me, this is up there with Nolan's best work and one that I'll be rewatching soon in 2018.
At number 1 and way ahead of everything for me is La La Land. By comparison, nothing ever came close to overtaking La La Land as my favourite film as I was completely swept away by this film. The music, choreography, performances, cinematography, costume, set design, everything was just perfect. This is now one of my favourite films of all time as I loved every moment of this film. I was humming the soundtrack for days and think about it constantly as it is a truly magical film. This happens to be the film I've seen the most at the cinema as I could not get enough of this movie earlier this year. Ever time I talk about it, it just makes me want to watch it yet again. The film has resonated so deeply with me unlike any other this year which makes La La Land, undoubtedly, my favourite film of 2017!
So that concludes my top 10 list of films released in 2017! I hope that everyone had a great year and hope for all the best in 2018! Let me know what your favourite films of the year were and also what you're looking forward to seeing this year. Also, keep your eyes out for my top 10 worst films of the year which will be a lot harsher list! Until then, thank you for taking the time to read my blog, it is much appreciated!
By Angus McGregor