In the year 2015 life and responsibility truly rose up with force, which meant that film had to take a back seat. If you discount the two film festival weekends, I saw fewer movies this year than any other since this blog began. So although I still watched a bunch of stuff and, as befits the completion of another yearly cycle, have created a series of arbitrary lists I'm aware they could have looked very different if I'd managed to catch things like Sicario, Carol, White God, Hard To Be A God or Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
I also managed to dodge plenty of bullets as I streamlined my cinema choices appropriately, though one area where I still saw most releases was children's movies. The teenager is on the cusp of leaving this kind of thing behind but although her personal film of the year was Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials she still has a hankering for all those talking animals. One thing our journey through the world of the U and PG showed this year is that there's far more opportunity for experimentation in the multiplex if you make a kids movie.
Tbe Good Dinosaur was a psychedelic Western including a full blown hallucinatory drugs sequence, Shaun The Sheep was completely dialogue free leading to ninety minutes of surreal, abstract cinema and Minions was the most experimental of all, offering a kids movie with no hint of following dreams, resisting peril or being true to yourself just good clean comedy throughout.
Of the films I did see this year, the ones on this list clearly stood out. As usual to accompany the cinema list there's also a list of the best I saw on the little screen, an area where I have not been particularly selective with my viewing. With less time available to watch films I really need to cut back on the shit, this didn't happen in 2015 though so there's a list of that too which is where most of the swear words are.
10 Favourite New Films That I Saw On A Cinema Screen
1: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Is my favourite film of the year, and not because it's a Star Wars movie. It's
here because the old fashioned trope of goodies v baddies is repurposed for a
pulce racing catalogue of thrills packed with funny moments that never come of
as crass, loaded with characters you get behind, care about and root for (good
and bad, a feat in itself) and that slaps Hollywood gender conventions across
the face. The fact that it also effortlessly taps the nostalgia bone without
resorting to needless nods and winks simply cements its position at the top of
Positively crackles with energy as a pair of riveting performances portray shithead vs. shithead in a viscious battle of wills that also generates the best soundtrack of
3: Mad Max: Fury Road
A relentless catalogue of insanity and explosions given much needed visceral heft by
exhilarating stunt work
4: It Follows
Teenagers facing the unwelcome onset of adulthood get reminded of the disappointing finitude of their
existence by the simple brute mechanic behind the most base of
stalk and slash movies.
5: Inside Out
The finest kid's cinema of 2015. All of Pixar's usual trademarks - laughs, wonder and anthropomorphism, tethered
to a remarkable emotional roadmap of the developing human mind. Should be
compulsory viewing for anybody who has to have any form of contact with a
child. So everybody.
6: Ex Machina
Playfully plays with audience expectation whilst offering up a searing
indictment on all humanity.
Ben Wheatley continues to excel as he offers up a woozy, slow motion collapse
of society in a retro-modern skyscraper. Like Cronenberg on presposterously high doses of
8: Night Fare
This year's Frightfest finest offered breathless pursuit, an iconic antagonist
and a final curveball that elevated all that came before it.
9: The Visit
I've said some nasty things anout Shyamalan on this blog. And i stand by them
because he's made some serious shit, so quite where this came from is mind
boggling. Not only has as he managed to make a good found footage movie at a
time when the sub genre is slowly dying, but he uses the form to plumb
scatalogical depths that I've never seen before in the multiplex.
Marvel's formulas are now transparent in their application but their secret weapon is their knack for humour, good characters and the untapped mass of cosmic weirdness that permeates their publications. Ant-Man has all of
that in spades and stands with Guardians as one of the comic gargantuan's
5 Favourite Films I Watched On A Little Screen
1: The Pianist
Polanski's frank tale of WW2 atrocity is untouchable. A stunning movie.
A beautifully ambiguous doppelganger tale with my favourite ending of the
3: Duke Of Burgundy
Acts as a counterpoint to all that 50 shades nonsense as the more wearisome
side of bondage and submission is examined against a gorgeous recreation of sumptuous
eighties european cinema.
4: Trick 'r Treat
An overlooked gem that evokes the best of Creepshow and Tales From The Crypt
whilst bringing a new tiny icon of its very own into the pantheon of horror
The most Lovecraft film of the year.
10 Shittest Films
1: Some Kind Of Hate
Takes on the very sensitive issue of self harm and deals with it in the most
unforgiveably, crass and insensitive way possible. Even when you strip away everything that is apallingly offensive, what's left - dialogue, acting, story is all complete arse. An awful
2: Terminator: Genisys
Inconsistent, dull witted bollocks that seeks to remind you what was great
about the original movies before shitting giant Jai Courtney shaped turds all
3: Chanbara Beauty [Oneechanbara: The Movie]
Cheap, tacky and fucking shit
Truly incompetent film making from a past master. Laughably dire on every
5: Jurassic World
So because everybody is bored with looking at a T-Rex scientists go on to create a T-Rex with arms that can make itself invisible? The dumb fucks deserve to die.
6: Jupiter Ascending
Note to self; if you need a pair of talking heads to appear every ten minutes
to explain your nonsensical sci fi bullshit then it's probably not worth making. I bet everybody who voted for Redmayne's oscar felt embarassed when they watched this.
7: Pitch Perfect 2
Absolutely no plot to speak of, characters randomly appearing and disappearing with
no real reason and the acapella perfomances that gave the first film its hint of charm are
now luducrously over choreographed, overblown and have no real excuse to be present in the film. It's not like this even had much to live up to and still it fell flat on its face.
Could have been a well thought out ambiguous supernatural thriller till some bellend felt the need to shoehorn a ridiculous plot twist in that makes the
entire endeavour crash and burn horribly.
9: Taken 3
Frenetic, blurry editing that disorientates and confuses meant I had no fucking
clue what was going on, where anybody was or why anybody would want to make
another Taken movie.
10: Fantastic Four
Poor old Josh Trank just wanted to use Fantastic Four as an excuse to make his
distinctly mediocre debut again, a bad idea really. The studios realised this too late but that
didn't stop them meddling as much as possible, an very bad idea really. Eventually this abortion got squeezed out into cinema screens, and the worst idea was going to see it.
Sorry it's late, I'll do better next year. Raise a glass etc.
Wednesday, 30 December 2015
Psychedelic insanity that flips between OTT gore and a very Eastern version of hilarity. Will almost certainly have been watched by a young Takashi Miike and I wouldn't be surprised if it was an influence on Raimi's Evil Dead. Which isn't to say it's up to the calibre of either of these masters but still an interesting curio nonetheless.
Tuesday, 29 December 2015
Sunday, 27 December 2015
This year the teenager learnt the festive joys to be had from watching John McClane engage in quippy swearing with ruffled German terrorists and then tug jagged chunks of glass from his lacerated feet. At the end she asked 'So in which one does he lose his hair?'
Tuesday, 22 December 2015
Monday, 21 December 2015
Sunday, 20 December 2015
Thursday, 17 December 2015
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Lucas finally manages a decent Star Wars movie, he still drops a few clangers but overall he gets to the point and delivers.
The teenager declared it her favourite of the prequels, her best reaction was probably when the huge double lightsabre battle finale swung into action and she calmly pointed out that everybody involved was in the later movies, therefore nobody died and there wasn't really anything to worry about.
Sunday, 13 December 2015
Another stand alone story unrelated to the rest of the series, this time about a toy maker called 'Joe Petto' and his son 'Pino'. Despite the main twist being given away by character's names it still manages to build to an admirably deranged finale with a genital-less human size doll dry humping some poor actress before having a bad time on the end of an axe.
Saturday, 12 December 2015
The co-writer of Night Of The Living Dead directs this tawdry excuse to vent his old man's obsession with young ladies revealing their chest area. The killer's weapon is laughably ineffectual, no fucker can act and everything looks like it's been framed by somebody taking a series of extremely shit Christmas holiday photos.
Wednesday, 9 December 2015
Eighties throwback that is most enjoyable when it's invoking the manic energy of Joe Dante at his finest. Unfortunately it's unable to invoke Dante's skill at navigating the weird grey area that exists between being a kids movie and being a grown up one, resulting in the occasional jarring flat note.
Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Two films carelessly plaited together. The first is an OK story about Obi-Wan doing a bit of spying, the other is a breathtakingly shit tale about Anakin Skywalker and the woman who falls in love with him despite his constant demonstration that he's an emotionally stunted psycopathic twat.
The teenager spent most of this one alternating between complaints about Anakin and queries as to how much was left to watch.
Saturday, 28 November 2015
I'm at a loss as to how such disparate elements can still carry Pixar's emotional heft. It's a Western only with intelligent dinosaurs as the main characters, the landscapes are breathtakingly photorealistic whilst the dinosaurs themselves are basic, plastic cartoons. Whether it works is in no doubt however, as at the end I turned to find the teenager reduced to a blubbering wreck forcing the words 'Saddest kids film ever' through a substantial quantity of snot.
The flaws run too deep for this to ever be considered a good movie but only the most committed of cynics can deny that it's likeable, at the end of the day for every 'Yippee!' there's an awesome lightsaber moment.
Charlotte's reactions this time round were mostly incredulous, i.e. "THAT'S Darth Vader?" or "Why would somebody's mum let them go off to certain death in space? They have a nice home already" or "Is that thing going to be in the whole movie?" at Jar Jar.
Although when she acted indignant at the idea that young Anakin could destroy an entire spaceship with one shot, it did give me the opportunity to tell her that the shot was one in a million and he is a kid.
Sunday, 15 November 2015
Saturday, 14 November 2015
A very Italian attempt to create a gothic horror tale about graphic skin transplants using a series of incongruous props, costumes and sets clearly left over from an old Western movie.
Friday, 6 November 2015
As the end credits rolled I found myself watching an audience, who had watched a film about an audience getting seriously freaked out by an exaggerated, tripped-out version of Psycho, a large portion of which involved a madman terrorizing an audience as they watched a film about dinosaurs.
Saturday, 31 October 2015
Friday, 30 October 2015
Saturday, 24 October 2015
Over-inflated baby update: Vin Diesel's skin now exhibits a waxy, rubbery tautness, his face only capable of the briefest of smirks before snapping back to the look of fierce concentration required to will his flesh into holding under the strain of such immense levels of air pressure.
Friday, 23 October 2015
Monday, 19 October 2015
A tale of aristocrats stealing the blood of society's riff-raff that would dearly love to be biting social satire rather than the hopelessly deranged nonsense it actually is.
Sunday, 18 October 2015
Despite Yoda's freakishness Empire clearly struck a chord that A New Hope did not, for on the following night the teenager insisted on watching Jedi. So it was my turn to huff and tut through the nonsense as Charlotte became captivated by soap opera dynamics and Ewoks.
As an added bonus Lucas' motivation for messing with Anakin's ghost became crystal clear, when she asked if that was meant to be vader, why did he look like that? I answered "That's what the prequels are about" and she is now insistent that we watch the prequels.
Still the best of the series by a long shot, even the special edition additions are non-intrusive, all given a fresh edge of hilarity by Charlotte's hopelessly over the top reaction of pure terror every time Yoda's puppet appeared.
Sunday, 11 October 2015
Saturday, 10 October 2015
I was expecting something deep and profound, what I got was a microcosm of human existence that suggests that, at any given time in any given place, loads of random stuff is happening, which the more I think about it is actually incredibly deep and profound
I'm not familiar with enough Korean history to know how much of this kind of thing actually went on and how much of it is just thirties American Gangster tropes embedded in a Korean period piece.
I do know it started well, clipped along at a pace before the last 20 minutes dribbled out like a wet fart.
Friday, 9 October 2015
Thursday, 8 October 2015
Tuesday, 6 October 2015
Sunday, 4 October 2015
Enjoyed it, but Samurai Jack was quite a while ago now and I can't help but see this sequel-that-nobody's-really-fussed-about as a waste of considerable talent.
Charlotte enjoyed it too. She doesn't give a flying fuck about Samurai Jack though.
Friday, 2 October 2015
Bava was no fool, he knew the best part of the popular yellow jacketed thriller novels of the time were their lurid covers. So he used the full force of his baroque mastery of light and shadow to create a sumptuous moving montage of them that formed the Giallo template and reverberated through over 50 years of Slasher cinema.
Wednesday, 30 September 2015
90 minutes of treading water sandwiched between the finding and opening of a box that makes everything dissolve into flashy video-game hardware demonstration.
At one point the teenager said 'I'd forgotten how much cool stuff happens in this film', which gave me an opportunity to do the Bruce Willis Slow Head Turn, so not a total loss.
Sunday, 27 September 2015
Effortlessly veers between tedium, banality and monotony. Quite an achievement given it's written by the author of American Psycho, directed by the writer of Taxi Driver and features a failed child star and America's most popular male porn actor engaging in a distinctly uncomfortable foursome with two naked randoms. Everybody must have tried really fucking hard to make everything this boring.
Wednesday, 23 September 2015
Monday, 21 September 2015
There's enough child left in the teenager for me to realise a parental dream by taking my offspring to the new Star Wars in a few months but first she has to watch the originals.
We set out to watch the theatrical originals and, as she huffed and tutted through the interminably slow droid dialogue, I warned her of the age and clunkiness of the 40 year old special effects. Unfortunately the DVD sputtered to a halt on Tatooine and I had to swap it out for the Special Edition instead. At the first Dewback Charlotte pipes up with 'I see what you mean about these old effects they're shocking', so I explained about Lucas' additions and from that point on she pointed out every bit of shit tacked on CGI with 'Bet he added that too'. Then, during the final Death Star battle, she pointed at every X-Wing pilot who wasn't Luke and said 'He's going to die'.
I'm still making her watch the new one.
Sunday, 20 September 2015
Saturday, 19 September 2015
Not sure who's made the biggest mistake here, the people who thought it was a good idea to make a video game about a japanese cowgirl who kills zombies in her underwear, the people who thought they should adapt it into a shitty, badly made film or me for sitting through such utter fucking bollocks.
Friday, 18 September 2015
Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Saturday, 12 September 2015
Saturday, 5 September 2015
Tuesday, 1 September 2015
Frightfest comes of age in its sixteenth year and I mean this quite literally. Year on year the festival becomes slicker and slicker allowing it to stand shoulder to shoulder with any other major film festival. The pay off for this maturity, though, is the party atmosphere that always suffused the screenings of old has moved elsewhere, and if you're a curmudgeonly, antisocial misanthrope who really doesn't want to 'banter' in the 'bar area' then it's now pretty much altogether absent.
The cinema screens are now solely the domain of the films themselves, there was no surprise announcements,no surpise giveaways, no sneak previews (A Soska sisters video intro appeared at one point and then they showed us a trailer. Thanks ladies) and very few short films (I saw 3, none of which were up to much). The only pre-film viewing to be had was the various skilfully edited advertising montages for Film4, The Horror Channel and Arrow, all of which preach to the converted. At least they varied them this time so I didn't get 24 of the same nailed into my brain. But then I never came to Frightfest for the bonus bits, they were just a bonus, and if I really wanted this stuff I understand that it's mostly been tucked away in the Duke Mitchell Party which takes place in one of the Discovery screens on a Saturday night, but y'know... curmudgeonly, antisocial misanthrope, so fuck that.
The main films once more cycled through the main screens in groups of three and a vast majority had QnA sessions afterward with people involved in the making of the film. These sessions tended to be more vibrant and illuminating if you got the film makers on their first screening and felt a bit 'going through the motions' if you got them on their third, which is to be expected. Of course if a film was the last of the night there was no QnA, and some directors managed to dodge a bullet because of this (I'm looking at you Some Kind Of Hate).
The Discovery screens only showed their films once this year, which meant more commitment if you really wanted to see one. It also meant that there was more choice than ever if a Main screen pick didn't tickle your fancy. And it was worth diving in, I saw eight on the Discovery screens - three of which are in my Fest top 5. Of the main screen films I missed, only A Christmas Horror Story is getting universal praise out there so I guess I'll be watching that at Christmas instead.
In years gone by themes have tended to present themselves that illustrate the modern horror landscape. This year the prevalent theme appeared to be constantly screaming and banging on doors. In some films it was the protagonists, in some it was the antagonists and sometimes it was both (Hi Summer Camp). Don't get me wrong, screaming and banging on doors is a staple of horror and I expect to see it a lot, but it's not scary or disturbing, just irritating,and it'd be nice if film makers began thinking a little bit outside the box or at least paid a bit more attention to their scripts and sound design.
Which sounds like I'm griping and I'm not. Overall the films were a blast and even the shit ones were a joy to see projected on a big screen (with only the one exception). Like last year I struggled with a top 5 and because I didn't want anything to be left out I caved and did 10 instead. So, lists:
1) Night Fare
2) They Look Like People
3) Over Your Dead Body
6) We Are Still Here
7) Bait [The Taking]
8) Turbo Kid
9) Tales Of Halloween
10) Rabid Dogs
5 Not Favourites
1) Some Kind Of Hate
2) Cherry Tree
3) Inner Demon
5) The Entity [La Entitad]
My thanks to this year's Frightfest companions Ed, Ali, Jim and Greg as well as all the lovely folk I engaged in unecessary conversation to kill time before a film started. Thanks also to the organisers for maintaining such an impressive event. Twelve months to go till the next one...