The Honorable Mentions of 2015

The Honorable Mentions of 2015

It’s often hard for me to trim down a list of top 10 great films because I genuinely like a lot of movies. With that said here is a list of films I really liked, but they just didn’t make the cut. This list is going to be in alphabetical order rather than a ranking.

COOTIES

The horror/comedy genre is a tough nut to crack, but when it’s done right it’s so entertaining. Cooties is a fantastic poke at the zombie genre with a stellar cast of actors.

CREED

Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan re-team after Fruitvale Station and make another drama worth seeing. Who would’ve thought the Rocky franchise still had some gas in the tank? And even Stallone feels like he’s back in the saddle with this iconic role. Hands down the best sports film of the year.

THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL

Bel Powley comes out of the gate with an unbelievably strong performance that guarantees she’ll be getting more work in the not too distant future. It was refreshing to see a film talk about teen sexuality in a very frank way rather than using it to make crass jokes.

THE FINAL GIRLS

Another horror/comedy that was worth watching. In a Post-Scream world it’s hard to ape the slasher genre and remain entertaining. Stacked with a strong cast including Taissa Farmiga, Alia Shawkat, Thomas Middleditch, and Adam DeVine this is a film that is far better than the trailer makes it out to be.

THE GOOD DINOSAUR

I seem to be in the minority who really enjoyed this film. Aside from the beautiful visuals this film has a lot to offer that the trailers skimped over. The voice cast is strong all across the board and I loved the western genre overtones at times. It reminded me of Don Bluth’s style at times and that to me is a great thing. PS: The short film SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM is one of Pixar’s best.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Quentin Tarantino returns the the western genre and crafts a whodunit? that far exceeds Django Unchained in story and overall entertainment. All of the actors slip into their respective roles with ease, but it’s Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson, and Walton Goggins that make this film fantastic.

KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE

In a year where we got the most dour Bond film it was nice to see a spy film that seemed to enjoy itself. Taron Egerton does a great job not only in the role of Eggsy, but in holding the screen with strong veteran actors like Colin Firth, Michael Caine, and Mark Strong. I can not wait to see this get a sequel.

LOVE AND MERCY

It seems like it has been years since John Cusack has had a role that really allowed him to stretch his acting ability. With his portrayal of Brian Wilson we get a strong return to form. I must also say that Paul Dano as young Brian is a great mirror to Cusack. Both performances gel together to make one of the better biopics of the year.

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

Everything that I disliked about The Fault in our Stars was thrown out the window with this film. There was a grounded feeling here that I really liked. These characters came to life and dealt with cancer the way I’d assume teenagers would. I will say the first 20 minutes are kind of slow, but once it picks up it doesn’t relent.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – ROUGE NATION

It’s hard to believe that a franchise nearly 20 years old is still going strong. Tom Cruise continues to impress doing some of the most amazing action sequences of recent years. I’m excited to see what Christopher McQuarrie will do with M:I 6.

PADDINGTON

In spite of a trailer that sold this as another goofball kids film what we actually got was a real treat. I’m glad that they didn’t try to make Paddington “hip”. This felt like one of the cartoons I watched as a kid. It was a nice bit of childhood nostalgia. As an added bonus the film co-stars Peter Capaldi.

THE REVENANT

It’s safe to say that this is definitely an instance where style trumps story, but it’s done so well that you can enjoy it. DiCaprio and Hardy give such strong performances that the lack of any real through narrative is easy to forgive. It’s main strength is the visuals achieved using all natural light.

STEVE JOBS

On the opposite side of The Revenant is a film told almost completely indoors. Sorkin’s script conveys a man who through three different points in his life stayed the same as much as he changed. This was a film that hung on Fassbender’s shoulders and he carried it to the finish line. Both Winslet and Rogen were great co-stars that added layers to the story. Another fantastic biopic this year.

And there you have it. Next we discuss my 10 favorite films of 2015.

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My Ten Worst Films of 2015

 

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It’s that time of year again when the dust has finally settled, thoughts have been digested, and we can talk about the good, the bad, and the mediocre in film. The reason this is late is because I try to see at least 100 films from the year before I make my lists. And as always these types of lists are subjective. What I didn’t like may not sync with your tastes and that’s completely fine. Before we dig into the worst of the worst let’s talk about the biggest letdowns of the year.

-BIGGEST LETDOWNS-

FANTASTIC FOUR

I really wanted this to be a great reboot that would do right by these characters, but between behind the scenes rumors and Trank’s tweet of death everything seemed to fall apart. I hold out hope that someday we’ll see the FF done properly, it’s just a matter of when.

SINISTER 2

Another film I was highly anticipating and while it has some good aspects for the most part it doesn’t measure up to the level of the unnerving original. Maybe a third film can be made that will redeem the franchise. Until then just stick to the original.

-MY LEAST FAVORITES-

10. PIXELS

I had hope that Adam Sandler and Co. were going to craft a fun and hilarious film using retro gaming for interesting visuals. What we got was another in the long string of Sandler’s half-hearted attempts to re-capture his previous glory. Even Peter Dinklage’s presence couldn’t save this story.

9. THE LAZARUS EFFECT

2015 was a pretty abysmal year for the horror genre (as you’ll see further in the list) and it all kicked off with this movie. The cast is unbelievably solid (Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover) that you have to wonder what attracted them to this project. Was the original script better? Were they part of a package deal with a talent Agency? Did they all get a tremendous paycheck? We may never know. I just hope we don’t see a part two in the years ahead.

8. HOT PURSUIT

One of the worst things to see is a buddy comedy where the leads have tremendous chemistry, but the script fails to fully utilize said chemistry. Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara are great comedic actresses and work well together if only the director and writers did a better job. At least it looked like they had fun making the movie.

7. ENTOURAGE

It’s funny how a few years can change your perspective on something. I own all eight seasons of Entourage and still occasionally re-watch them. I just couldn’t connect with this film. All the personal growth the characters went through was erased in the first few minutes of the film. Which undercuts the power of the series finale. Maybe down the line I’ll re-watch it with adjusted expectations, but as it is this was borderline painful.

6. AREA 51

This found footage film was Oren Peli’s directorial follow-up to his super popular and successful Paranormal Activity and had an interesting premise. It took nearly six years for this film to get released and it’s pretty apparent why. Everything about this screams missed opportunity. I do hope if Peli decides to direct another film that it won’t suffer from the same terrible fate as this one.

5. ALOHA

Another one of those films that I genuinely wanted to love based off Cameron Crowe and the cast involved. Unfortunately the script doesn’t seem to know what to do with it’s characters. If you can find an excerpt from Amy Pascal’s leaked email talking about this film read it. It’s a perfect summation of what’s wrong with this movie.

4. THE GALLOWS

Another found footage film that had an interesting premise undermined by production. The opening is amazing, if only they’d continued the momentum through the film. I do wonder if the original cut is a better and more coherent story. Sadly I doubt we’ll ever see it. This is a perfect example of how a great trailer can make a film look so much better than it actually is.

3. ACCIDENTAL LOVE

Originally titled NAILED this David O. Russell film suffered from a nightmare production that included multiple shutdowns, lack of money at times, and the director officially leaving the project in 2010. There was a good film to be made, but sometimes problems just make it impossible for that to happen. While Russell can disown the final product there’s no denying his fingerprints are all over it. It feels like something he would’ve made before The Fighter. I’d give anything to see a documentary detailing the whole behind the scenes fiasco of this movie.

2. JUPITER ASCENDING

The Wachowski Siblings have become the most divisive directors working in tentpole filmmaking. While I can enjoy SPEED RACER and even though I didn’t like CLOUD ATLAS I admit it has merits Jupiter Ascending is a mess. The story is convoluted with ideas about how the Earth is intergalactic real estate, Mila Kunis is a reincarnation of a space princess, and humanoid creatures with DNA of animals spliced into them. I really have no idea what the directors wanted to convey. This may become a cult film or it may become a “so bad it’s good” film, either way it’s entertaining to see how big of a mess it truly is.

1. THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE III (FINAL SEQUENCE)

Yes, I watched all three of these films. I will defend the first film as an interesting body horror film that marketed itself perfectly. Even though I wasn’t a fan of the second one due to it’s attempt to try and be an “art” film it did have some interesting bits. The third one has nothing about it that is worth seeing. No longer a horror film this one feels like it’s trying to be a satire on for profit prisons, but it doesn’t know how to properly set a tone. Tom Six said that this is the last Centipede film, I hope he’s a man of his word.

Well there it is, another year over and now we wait to see the horrors that 2016 brings.

Is something wrong with modern film criticism?

Welcome to my first post and considering what this blog will entail I’ve decided to open with a discussion about critics. The past few months have seen a backlash against critics from filmmakers and audiences alike. Back in February director Alex Proyas took critics to task after GODS OF EGYPT received a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes. Proyas stated on his Facebook page that, “Seems most critics spend their time trying to work out what most people will want to hear.” which many have taken as him being bitter in the face of a terrible film. But what if he’s got a point?

As we saw this past weekend BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE made $166 million at the domestic box office and $420 million worldwide even though it currently stands at 28% on Rotten Tomatoes. So let’s take a look and see if there is an issue with modern day movie criticism. Here are a few thoughts I’d like to share.

– Either a film is Good or Bad. There seems to on longer be a middle ground.

This is probably my biggest concern with modern film criticism. Rotten Tomatoes forces a review to be considered either Fresh or Rotten which means mixed reviews get pushed into one or the other category. As someone who had mixed feelings about Batman V Superman this is a problem for me. I’ve never been someone who likes star or letter grading on films. You should not be able to distill your opinion down to a number or a letter. If a review is written with intrigue and insight a reader should be a able to gauge whether or not they agree or disagree with such an opinion.

– The infection of Snark.

A big problem with online journalism is the abundance of snark in writing. It no longer seems an individual can give an honest opinion without taking potshots in the meantime. With Gods of Egypt controversy arose around the fact that the film was stacked with a very Anglo cast. While these concerns are very valid it lead to a lot of critics to mock a film set in Egypt because it starred a Scotsman and Australian. LAST WEEK TONIGHT WITH JOHN OLIVER did a segment questioning how whitewashing still took place in Hollywood. While it was funny and brought up interesting points it undercut it’s own message by mocking films that did not deserve to be lumped into the discussion.

– Contrary for the sake of being Contrary

It’s hard to get your voice heard in an age when any person can stroll down to the local library and log onto any number of social media accounts. So what can a person do to guarantee they’ll be heard? The easiest thing is to go against the normal opinions, even when people know this thought process is asinine. Back around ’09/’10 film critic Armond White gained notoriety all over the Internet for panning many highly praised films (I.e Black Swan, The King’s Speech, The Social Network) while treating a lot of reviled films like gold (I.e Resident Evil: Afterlife, Takers, Grown Ups). One could dismiss his reviews as the ravings of a mad man, but I have say he’s a very intelligent writer. Did he genuinely believe what he wrote? Your guess is as good as mine, but it got him attention all over the Internet and got people to visit his page. And those clicks equaled a good chunk of change for him.

So do critics still matter? Yes and no. We need critics to shine a light on smaller films that may not have the budget to advertise themselves, but are fantastic. But we also need to bring back some objectivity to criticism. We shall see what the future holds.