Friday, 8 December 2017

Films of the Year 2017 - Part One

First up...some housekeeping.

Firstly, I am going to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi in about 2 hours so if that turns out to be da bomb, you may see it further down this page (In which case, sorry Caesar!)
Update - Star Wars was good but not top 10 good.

Again I must stress that I haven’t seen every film that came out this year. Which means by proxy that I haven’t seen that amazing Bulgarian factory drama or the movie about ‘the guy with the thing.’ Having looked at Empire’s Top 20 of 2017, I haven’t seen 8 of them (sorry, Death of Stalin) but that’s what’s great about lists, they’re open to interpretation, opinion and debate...unless you have Kingsman 2 on it because if you do you’re a fucking idiot.
Let’s go!

10.


War for the Planet of the Apes
I’ve been a fan of this series since the first instalment in 2011 (Rise of...) and the sequel that took it one step further (Dawn of - I know it’s confusing). But now it’s war and there’s no going back.
Apes has so much depth to it that naysayers will never get to see because they think it’s all computer graphic monkey bollocks. But there is so much more character to these apes that it puts two hairy fingers up at other blockbusters who toss in a damsel in distress to bump up the numbers. Caesar the ape has become a true leader with hopes of peace but in this film, those beliefs are tested to the absolute limit hence the title.
Andy Serkis deserves the vast majority of praise for the evolution of Caesar and Motion Capture in general. If Daniel Day Lewis ran round in a monkey costume, they would throw all the awards his way but because it’s a CGI character, seemingly that isn’t good enough for the academy to notice that the acting behind those pixlated eyes is bursting out.
If I were critical, the female characters in the franchise have always been weak and this film to my recollection only has one fully fleshed out female character and the big bad (Woody Harrelson) isn’t much to shout home about either but the trilogy has an beginning, a middle and an end with no weak entries.
At least they didn’t start singing and dancing!

Film in a nutshell - Ape-calypse Now

9. 

Thor: Ragnarok
Post Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel proved that it doesn’t all have to be all Dr Doom and gloom. It can’t be light and funny and have enough colour to put your eyes into a coma. We all could see through the years that Thor/Hemsworth like so many other characters had great comic timing but to switch Thor from a action movie to a comedy buddy movie was still bold as fuck! And it paid off royally!
Retro is back thanks to the already mentioned Guardians but also Stranger Things and a cosmic psychedelic trip through space with the God of Thunder was a masterstroke. Then add in a Hulk and you have a hit on your hands.
Image result for thor ragnarok
But we’re not done...how about Jeff Goldblum playing Jeff Goldblum but in space?”
Stop! You’ve done enough! you had me at Jeff.
Ragnarok works on many levels but none more so than forcing the character to evolve due to some extremely bold decisions which will affect his ability to function in future MCU chapters.
Film in a nutshell - Thor-oughly enjoyable!

8. 


Get Out
Empire and many other publications announced this as their film of the year and it’s easy to see why. It plays as an indie thriller, a socio-political satire and yet another example that original films can be extremely profitable.
Written and directed by Jordan Peele (of sketch duo Key and Peele fame), the premise is simple. A boyfriend travels with his girlfriend to meet her parents for the weekend. However the colour of his skin gives him doubts that the encounter will be in his favour. What happens after that is layer upon layer of mystery, tension and cringe.
The Golden Globes recently nominated it for best film under the Musical/Comedy category. I wouldn't go as far to say it's piss your pants hilarious but it definitely has the odd chortle.
It’s the kind of film that demands a second viewing once you know how it ends. As I write this, it almost feels like a movie length episode of Black Mirror so if you’re into that style and substance, you should find enjoyment here.
Film in a Nutshell - Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner + Being John Malkovich

7. 


Blade Runner 2049
I would never have imagined this being on my list when it was announced to be finally happening. I’m not a fan of the original having tried a few times to find why its beloved. It’s terribly nerdy as to why I decided to go see it but it was the team behind the camera that I trusted. Director Denis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins have not put a foot wrong in their careers and Villeneuve’s last three films (Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival) made my lists and this continues that tradition.
To start with, the film is absolutely gorgeous. And with other films to come on the list with amazing cinematography, that category will be hard to predict come Oscar night. Every frame is crafted to within an inch of its life whether it’s a sandy terrain or a city street. Ryan Gosling is immensely watchable as the main character who gets drawn into a deeper mystery than he ever imagined. If he had only ate a bowl of cereal on screen, this would be my film of the year!
Despite the fact that there’s two guns on the poster, there is not as much action as you would expect. When it arrives it’s well executed but you don’t find yourself itching to see it either. The same can be said of the running time. It’s closer to three hours than two but again you don’t find yourself hoping that one set piece is the last. Yeah, it could chop off a few scenes and not lose its heart but it’s only a minor gripe.
Image result for blade runner 20149
I would say you would have to see the original to fully enjoy the film but as with many long awaited sequels, there is a way to watch it unaided by nostalgia. The only downside is that by the time you read this, the movie won’t be on the cinema and you really ought to watch this with the biggest and noisiest screen you can find. It’s a visual triumph.
Film in a nutshell - Blockbuster with Brains

6. 


Logan
I think it would be fair to say that the X-Men movies have been left far behind since the MCU came on the scene. Not since X-Men 2 has the mutants been on top form until now. As with Thor Ragnarok, the powers that be decided “fuck it.” In actual fact those voices was just one, Hugh Jackman. In exchange for lower salary and a lower budget, Fox agreed to let Jackman make the Logan movie he always wanted to make.

The result is bleak, brutal and bloody. Jackman looks like this was the Wolverine film that he always wanted to make and he's having fun exercising his acting chops. The surprise weapon is the Wolfie/Professor X dynamic that is at times hilarious but also deeply moving. It's the human angle that makes this a great watch rather than the mutant one. A clever side effect to the professor's worldly powers is a good concept which in parts makes up for the lack of a true cold villain, a weakness in many a comic book movie.

Image result for logan professor x

This is Jackman's NINTH appearance on screen as Logan and it's been a bumpy ride especially in the latter years but to see him in this justifies the choice and because we've been with him every step of the way, through good and bad, it's gleeful to see him finally find the sweet spot with the character which makes it more devastating as we're led to believe that his time as Wolverine is coming to a close.

Film in a Nutshell  - The one where Logan has to get up twice a night to take a piss.

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That's it for this week. Next week sees the final chapter of 2017 where I run down all of my 5* movies and find out which one gets the honour of Film of the Year 2017. A hint...Unlike the last three years, this film did not get released in January!
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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Films of 2017 - Honourable Mentions

- STOP THE PRESS - Currently I’m halfway through Kingsman - The Golden Circle and unless it suddenly reaches out of the television and hands me everlasting life and every back issue of the Beano will go down as the most disappointing film of the year. It’s not 1* bad on its own terms but compared to its predecessor it most certainly will disappoint any logical person. The charm has all but gone, the plot has become beyond ludicrous (robot dogs!?) and the jokes are practically nonexistent. Seeing as it was made by the exact same cast and crew as last time baffles me that it could go this wrong.

The following movies came close to making my best of ‘17 but just couldn’t break the top 10. All of these are really good 4* films and should be viewed by everyone.


Colossal

It’s great to watch a hidden gem as I call them and have no clue as to the story or even the general jist of the genre. I had heard Anne Hathaway lavish praise during a podcast interview she was on a few months ago and luckily for me, I had forgotten how she described the film as I do often do.

A few reviewers have likened Colossal to a marmite movie and I can see what they mean. There is a certain sense of disbelief you have to have watching this and if you find yourself scoffing halfway through, the second half isn’t going to pull you back but if you can switch off and take it for what it is, it’s splendid. Whilst there is action in it which can rival superhero films, there is also suspense involving a simple footstep. Put it this way...you’ll never look at a playground the same way again. Trust me. 


Spider-Man Homecoming 

Somehow I managed to find the worst poster in existence but of the Marvel films this year, this felt like the closest to the comics themselves. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, the hero is still innocent enjoying his new found skills and romance is not the be all end all. 

The newly agreed Marvel-Sony co-production means that Spidey can now interact with his fellow superheroes and Tony Stark as his mentor and guide is a natural fit post Civil War and beyond. 

We all felt we had it so good with Tobey Maguire until he started dancing and harassing women in bars with his black hair. Then we had Andrew Garfield who wasn’t too bad but got landed with dodgy villains and rebootitis. We always say this but it feels right this time. Tom Holland embodies petty mischief, loyalty and a childhood that is yet to be extinguished by great responsibility via great power. 

It’s not all roses. The MCU is forced in fairly heavily in parts (a list of items on the Stark jet is unnecessary) and the last action set piece was hardly a thrill ride especially seeing as we saw a lot of it in the final trailer. Arguably, it’s Holland’s scenes as schoolboy Peter Parker who steals the show rather than his web slinging alter ego. 


The Big Sick

Arguably the only “Rom-Com” on my recommend list this year although when you think about it, there wasn’t much in that genre to speak of this year (can you think of one?) so maybe this is why The Big Sick resonated with moviegoers. It took film festivals by storm and the independent movie got very respectable box office numbers due to its authentic story wth characters we can believe actually exist in the real world. Probably helped by the fact that it’s based on true events with Kumail Nanjiani playing himself and Zoe Kazan playing his on off girlfriend. 

Worth seeing alone for what in my opinion contains one of the best jokes/one liner this year in reference to September 11th. Again, trust me. 


Wonder Woman

Much has been written about how it empowers women and how it has given a shot in the arm to Hollywood and the mostly male power players. That’s very likely true but for me, it was just a bloody good film and that’s why it resonated so well with the public. It wasn’t bogged down in Extended Universe business, it had heart, soul, humour, solid set pieces and a charming lead character. The third act in my opinion became a bit too explodey (technical term) but nearly every superhero film is guilty of that.

It’s worth pointing out that although Batman V Superman : Dawn of Justice is utter shite, it does have some redeeming qualities, one of which was casting the perfect Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot. So in a way, Ben Affleck saved cinema and equality, right?


Okja

Director Boon Joon-Ho made my list way back when with Snowpiercer (which to my knowledge has yet to have been released in the UK despite being made nearly 5 years ago). Okja doesn’t make the top 10 but is certainly original with themes of greed, capitalism and animal cruelty concerning an animal which looks mostly pig 🐽 but crossed with a hippo. Sounds shit but I assure you shit it ain’t. Co-written by author/podcaster Jon Ronson and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Tilda Swinton and Paul Dano (my official spirit animal) this is extremely likeable, insane and sad in equal measure.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Films of 2017 - The Worst of 2017


And so it begins...with two kids to look after, not to mention a wife, who for some reason wants constant attention as if I’m bound by law to tend to, I’ve struggles to get to the cinema as much as I’d like. However I’ve been flying through the internet to catch up in the autumn and I gave myself a self inflicting book ban so that I saw as many films as possible. A few in the top 10 are thanks to this method.

But as ever to get to the top, we need to start at the bottom.

Out of every gorgeous baby comes human shit and Hollywood is no different. 2017 has been a vintage year for unoriginality and unspeakable horror. But enough about Love Island, here is my opinion on what was cinematically god awful in 2017.

As ever please note that I am not Mark Kermode or any other film critic and as you should already know that by my grammar and simple language, it means that I have not seen every film that came out so if you think one you love or hate is missing, let me know and I’ll tell you if I saw it.


TRANSFORMERS : THE LAST KNIGHT

After the Shia era ended, I vowed not to spend any more hard earned money seeing Transformer films at the cinema. I’ve kept that promise over two god awful Marky-Mark starring robot porn extravaganzas. This is officially the worst film I’ve seen this year. As usual it’s running time is 2 and a half hours long which means it could have been a much better movie if they shaved off about 2 and a half hours off the final cut. Where to start? There’s the usual obligatory water thin attempt of a female character, a few dozen annoying robots, some of whom we’re meant to remember the names of from other films. Some are fat (HOW!?). There’s a small role for Tony Hale (Arrested Development/Veep) that will be studied for decades to come as an example of money grab acting. Carson from Downton Abbey play Carson but as as robot and has significant screen time. Really!


RINGS

Unnecessary reboot of the J-Horror reboot franchise. The original Americanised version back in 2002 was solid but now they’re fucking with the mythology so much, the ‘tape’ is no longer a tape, it’s a fucking mp4 file that they drag and drop to copy. There are so many good horror films that came out this year, this is not one of them. Ctrl / alt / delete log out of all future attempts. 





TABLE 19

The classic dilemma of a film that doesn’t know  what it wants to be. A romantic comedy? Well it’s not romantic that’s for sure. An indie comedy? Perhaps but it’s not laugh out loud funny. A drama? Can’t be because they’re trying (not very hard) to be funny and romantic. The only saving grace is Anna Kendrick who can do no wrong in my eyes. 





6 DAYS

A Netflix original flick based on the Iranian Embassy terrorist siege in London that resulted in an ambitious SAS infiltration mission that was seen live on TV around the globe. Sounds like an awesome idea for a movie except somehow they made it a boring attempt at a Paul Greengrass docu-drama.


FIFTY SHADES DARKER

An easy victim to add to the list admittedly but what can I say? I’m not the demographic this is aimed at and yet I was subjected to it. The dialogue is beyond ludicrous...

Christian Grey: I hope you're not a sore loser. Anastasia Steele: That depends on how hard you spank me.

Maybe I’ll watch it again just to make sure I thought it was utter balls 🤔

Other stinkers of the year (but not stinky enough to get a deeper mention) include:

  • Assassins Creed (promising but fell apart)
  • The Great Wall (colourful stupidity)
  • The Belko Experiment (Looked like it had been pulled out of the 90’s - in a bad way)
  • Kong Skull Island (another example of how a visually striking film can’t paper over the fact that it’s boring and offered nothing new)

NEXT WEEK - The movies that (nearly) made the top ten...

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Hope and Glory in a Nutshell


Oh right, that's the festival that was on this weekend. I love bands from 12 years ago! Was it good?
Ermmm
What happened?
How long have you got? For the majority of people, the festival was a nightmare. It was that unsafe that the organiser cancelled the second day and people are fuming.
Unsafe? Where was it being held? Speke?
No actually it was being held in the gardens of St George's Hall. They cordoned off the whole park along with the road alongside the World Museum. Apparently the whole thing was a bottleneck and some magical bridges weren't built on time that would have allieveated and solved all of the worlds problems.
Hey! I'm the one who tells the jokes. You stick to the facts rather than make up stories. 
Ok. After the event was cancelled, the event organiser went on a rant concerning stolen pints of milk, sandwiches, Vodka and Apple Macs.
What did I just just say about joking around? 
This isn't a joke https://www.facebook.com/HopeAndGloryFestival/posts/263516580803940
Oh dear god! Who is this man?
His name is Lee O'Hanlon. He runs a festival company called Tiny Cow which is connected to Hope and Glory when it suits him but not at all connected when the shit hit the fan. He's essentially the public face of this calamity.
Has he apologised?
That's a tricky question. He...
No it's not that hard. Has he apologised for cancelling a music festival that he organised?
This interview held last night may explain his general attitude towards apologies. https://youtu.be/brOtgrYOHS0
Oh for the love of all that is holy. This man sounds like he's the one who stole the Vodka. 
Which is surprising as his personality on Twitter is very different.
www.twitter.com/HopeAndGloryFes


This is hilarious! It sounds like a 12 year old got hold of the account. 
Lee O'Hanlon said on Monday that a 'junior member' was in charge of the Twitter feed during the weekend and has now been relieved of the task.
And do the great British public believe such tosh? 
No. As you can see, the 'humour' during the weekend and Monday night is very similar.
Maybe the junior member was actually Lee with a few brewskis in his tum.
You said it not me. Lee could have you done for Libel.
No. This isn't me talking. It's a ermmm (scrambles round desk). It's a junior quiche. I have now taken over this blog as of 10.38am this morning. 
Nice one quiche!
So what's happening in regards to refunds?
Didn't you read the statement or listen to the interview.
Yeah but he went on about sandwiches for a few hours and I got bored. 
Basically news is starting to filter out concerning refund information but we'll believe it when it actually happens.
Did you get a comment from Lee for this article?
Yes...
Sandwiches, sandwiches, milk, bridges!


Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Sands of Lost Time

Mark Spitz once said "if you fail to prepare, you're prepared to fail." My first instinct when reading that quote is to find Mark Spitz and give him a slap for being cocky, smart and successful but he's right because he's cocky, smart and successful.
As I wandered past a depressing Pontins migrant camp which once used to be entertaining the nations families, all I saw was stag and hen parties arriving for a long weekend of drinking and debauchery. They may have saw me and imagined that I was judging them by my slow walk and squinty eyes and I was...on the inside. On the outside, I looked that way only because of the nightmare I had just gone through on what was supposed to be a return to form 20 mile run and what will now be transcribed into this blog.
I had recently found the nerdy magic of Strava routes, for those not in the know, you can make your own running route on the popular app and the app tells you the best route to take to get there. Rather than my usual 10 miles one way and turn around to go back routine, I wanted a change and that change was mistake no.1 (Don't run into the unknown when there's a lot at stake). The stake is that I have my second ever marathon in 3 weeks and this was to be my final long run. I routed a plan to take me to nearby coastal town Southport. I knew I could get there easily by road but I needed more distance so I routed coastal paths and dirt roads. The problem came when the route planning came to Ainsdale. Two thirds into the route is a complex array of forestry and sand duneyness. The route showed a trail going though and along it so my fear of trapsing through sand was eased by my confidence in the app. Mistake no.2 - Don't believe in magic roads in between sand dunes.

So yesterday I began my 20 mile run. Through litherland, into Waterloo, Crosby, and Freshfield. All was fine, I was Facebooking, taking pictures, speed wasn't an issue just the distance. I got a slight discomfort on my foot so I pulled out a plaster, I thought I was the tits. I was prepared for anything. I passed a military base, well it looked like one but maybe it's just an elaborate military base showroom. I then start to find problems...

The route wanted me to cut through a golf course using a public path but I could see a better clearer route but a few heavies (rail workers) wouldn't let me go onto it so I U-turned and went through the golf course and into the forest. The trails were confusing and mucky. I mean, there was like old branches and grass and shrubs, like proper ewww and I looked at my map to see that it was proving tough to predict where to go. I stayed the course and eventually my actual feet met the route the app wanted me to take and so began the entry into the desert that would be my tomb...

The forest gave way to Fury Road and I was Mad Max. The trail was not as I had hoped a asphalt covered delight but instead was a 2 foot wide gully with weeds and nature partially blocking its intended path. My legs started to feel the thorns and prickles, the sand reached areas on my body that I didn't know exist. Middle aged ramblers passed me as if that this was their Mecca and I was a stubborn tourist attempting the impossible. My energy began to wane and the sand captured my feet but also my hopes of 20 miles. I stopped.

I walked, I worried, I looked for a way out. I could go backwards and run back. After all, I was barely half way through the run so logic dictates I could run home and do 20 miles. But to be honest, that thought didn't cross my mind. I had said I wanted to get to Southport and anything less was a failure. But I kept on walking and the further I walked the more I journeyed into the middle of the dunes. A man passed me along the trail which in itself isn't news except that he was wearing speedos...just speedos. He smiled as if I was the stupid one wearing human clothes and he waddled along out of sight. I began to worry. My battery was low (damn you Facebook live from 1 hour ago when I was happy), my drink had become dreg-city and i was still only halfway though the obstacle. I knew at this point my efforts were dead. Mentally, I have a hard time running if I have stopped at some point which is why nearly all my runs don't include walk intervals. This was the mother of intervals and the mission changed from Southport to simply getting out and telling my story. 
I recorded more video which was shoddy and cut out between signal loss but really i did it to make myself feel better and to distract me. It was whilst recording this that I saw the roof of a house, I was finally coming to the end. I left the dunes and stupidly imagined that I could continue my run. I ran 100 metres and gave up.
Around the corner I heard shouting and thug like behaviour. There was a line of cars with scallies enjoying the May sunshine with beers and music. A police car arrived no doubt to put an end to this Britain First nonsense but the car rolled into the next road and I ran again to cover up my weakness and project strength, after all, this seemed to be a place where the law has no control. I made it to a nearby train station and hopped on. On the journey home I could see glimpses of the route I had took, I saw the military showroom, the dunes and the forest. I also saw the trail where I had aimed to get to. There was runners and walkers galore on it, bypassing the forest and dunes in delight. They clearly knew how to use it effectively and I had not. 
I got home and showered off my disgusting body and the creatures I had adopted on it. I had ran 11 miles before I got in trouble, hardly 20. It was a harsh lesson but despite it all, one that I'm glad I was present for.

Adam Yates