What is wrong with films this year? Best and worst of 2013? Tough on both counts.

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Had a little rummage through Empire, The Guardian and Time’s best and worst of 2013. Now interestingly, I shared with my friends that I had seen 120 films so far on my Unlimited card. They asked me what was my top 10? And you know what, I actually struggled, not to say I couldn’t do it. But the ones I did finally put in there were not perfect by any means, personally there were only a few I would consider a very good film. Many were good but . . . or watchable if you’re in the mood, I couldn’t give a solid recommendation. Too picky? Don’t be silly.

 

I can’t help but feel that critics these days are falling for the overindulgent hype that surrounds many films these days. Most irritatingly, however is that this year is not over yet, with the Christmas period being one of the biggest targets to draw audiences with their bigger films. Guessing that The Hobbit, Anchorman 2 and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty will be in there somewhere is not good enough.

 

In all fairness, despite being heavily plugged and advertised the last few months at our local Cineworld, as an Unlimited member I was invited to a secret screening of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. A truly beautiful, easygoing film with a lot of heart, not without its flaws but a surprise, nonetheless and one of Stiller’s most ambitious efforts.

 

 

All this buzz about Gravity. Best film of the year? Certainly not, might just scrape my top 20. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of everyone involved. A stunning visual masterpiece but at its core, a slow-burning drawn out survival story that has been done a hundred times before and much, much better. At first harrowing with Bullock spinning frantically with limited oxygen, it soon got old very quick. Much like Open Water. You could argue I don’t like those sort of films but yet I loved Alive and Buried. Gravity just seemed to be the same rubbish in a beautiful decorated visual wrapper.  It may have taken seven years for Cuaron to make but it took Kubrick twelve years to do Eyes Wide Shut, one of his weaker entries, but it was still more riveting than this.

 

Certainly not, might just scrape my top 20. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of everyone involved. A stunning visual masterpiece but at its core, a slow-burning drawn out survival story that has been done a hundred times before and much, much better. At first harrowing with Bullock spinning frantically with limited oxygen, it soon got old very quick. Much like Open Water. You could argue I don’t like those sort of films but yet I loved Alive and Buried. Gravity just seemed to be the same rubbish in a beautiful decorated visual wrapper.  It may have taken seven years for Cuaron to make but it took Kubrick twelve years to do

 

My markers are based on story, performance, pace, interest, and most importantly, would I buy that and would I watch that again? For most of the 120 films, I would find it a chore to endure them again if they appeared on my TV. Granted people have different tastes, but this constant focus on big pictures that fail to impress or surprise is a joke, regurgitating a checklist of sorts. Romance? Sex? Special effects? Needs to be an epic so make it three hours? Wait, guys, what about plot, story and acting? Shut up!

 

Nothing is original. That is true. But what is important is seeing the same story in a different way, which most of these films haven’t even tried to do. Irritatingly, The Guardian selects films that are of a particular niche or arthouse field. I am unlucky to be in an area where mainstream Hollywood films dominate. We don’t have an independent cinema, as such and if we do, then the choices are sparse and even more expensive to see than the usual 3D turd offering.

 

It doesn’t help with this current economic climate that Blockbusters have collapsed. It’s now only online rental, which I couldn’t stand in the first place, sending everything I asked for months ago. Or I have to travel 30 to 45 minutes to Milton Keynes or Leicester just to see these “Oscar tipped movies”. Either that or I have to find that them on demand and pay silly amount. There is even another alternative, but I don’t want to go down that path. I want to support this industry.

 

Conflicting on the three sites about one film, Only God Forgives. Personally, only God will forgive the people that made that movie. Now Refn delivered a sensationally visual feast but couldn’t hide the surprisingly unwatchable Ryan Gosling in a bizarre, stupidly violent, boring, ridiculous affair. Problem, I can see a cult following emerging. You could decipher the religious imagery and connotations but believe me, there are films that have deeper meanings that aren’t as strenuous. In one scene, a bloke is being brutally tortured, I felt his pain by just watching this film despite only being 90 minutes if that. You want deeper readings, watch Blade Runner and Donnie Darko, much better!

 

Worst films for Time, a few surprises in there. The Hangover Part 3 and Oz: The Great and Powerful? Now, granted. The Hangover 3 was not perfect and I was slightly disappointed and quite a lot of the laughs were revealed in the trailers but I saw a lot worse and liked the darker action-y route that it took and it wrapped up quite well, considering how mental the films were. Oz, on the other hand, very surprised. Franco played the part well, unlike Spring Breakers (Gangsterrrrr!) and Raimi brought a stunning, visual world that was worth seeing in 3D. Granted it was never going to top the original classic. The Counsellor, definitely a poor show. Needed counselling after watching that. (I know, lame, but come on, the chance was there and I took it!).

 

Grown Ups 2 hardly a surprise. Sandler’s recent endeavours have been a guilty pleasure for my brother and me. Overly panned, these silly films have always managed to make us giggle like a pair of numpties but after a funny hour, the film went downhill badly. Even we wanted to walk out at one point.

 

What annoyed me with Empire was many of the films I would have considered in my top 10 are ranked in their 30s section of the top 50. Django? Star Trek? Really? Captain Phillips at Number 2? It was a number 2, more like. A gripping opening hour fizzled out in a drawn out two and a half hour affair, felt like I was kidnapped by the pirates myself. Would have preferred it. (No, I wouldn’t). The complaints go on.

 

It seems film production companies are aware of this decline and instead of investing in new material, they’re going back to the old stuff and rehashing, sorry, remaking it. Oldboy, Total Recall, Robocop, Spiderman, rumours of Lethal Weapon? Why, why, why? Now because of the success of the brilliant Breaking Bad, they are flogging more money at TV shows. Are they going to kill that too? 2014 needs a serious reboot. Provide stories, humour, interest, not the same old crap, at least put a different spin on it. My best and worst will follow once I got rid of the cramp in my hands (Steady now).

 

http://www.empireonline.com/features/films-of-the-year-2013

 

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/dec/06/top-10-worst-films-2013-time-magazine

 

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THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG REVIEW

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The desolation of the competition so far.

A visual cinematic feast for the eyes. Jackson unleashes a beast of a blockbuster. They’ve done it again darker and moodier than ever.

Brilliant storytelling, a great cast and breath-taking visual effects. Film of the year? Saving the best ‘til last? If we got anything to go by with the films this month then definitely.

Now I haven’t read the Hobbit (What?!). However, I was familiar with the original LOTR trilogy and found Jackson faithful in his adaptation. There does appear to be a divide in the critical reception of the Hobbit trilogy. Some found An Unexpected Journey inconsequential. Personally I enjoyed it and saw it as a great indicator of things to come.

Jackson expanded the story and enabled a bigger exploration of the mythology of the Tolkien universe on a much more extravagant scale. From speaking with fans of the book, this installment remarkably remains very faithful, complimenting the source material.

The film carries on from the last with the company being pursued by Orcs. The ring is already starting to take a hold on Bilbo and Gandalf is forced to do some investigating at Dol Guldur.

The cast are back and in fine form. Not to mention some additional characters to the ever-expanding line up and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Hitchcockian cameo from Peter Jackson. The return of Orlando Bloom as Legolas, provided an extra story line which broke up the action. His exchange with Gloin delivered a perfect in-joke for any LOTR fan.

Martin Freeman’s mannerisms and traits were spot on yet again. We were also introduced to a new character Tauriel played by the stunning Evangeline Lilly, who soon becomes embroiled in a love triangle between Kili and Legolas (Yes, Lost fans. Kate is at it again).

Others have found Jackson’s new method of 48 frames per second manic, and at times, nauseating. Undermining the animation and making it appear cartoony. I didn’t find this to be the case. If anything it helped differentiate the trilogy and bring forth a new cinematic style.

The barrel escape was a fantastically riveting and brilliantly executed sequence. This film made me regret the decision to see this in 2D. The special effects and detail on Smaug (performed with perfection by Cumberbatch) was incredible. The minutiae was superb. The golden coins falling like rain off the monster’s metallic skin.

Despite being breathtaking, funny and suspenseful, the pace did test me. And I’m not surprised at a whopping 2 hours 40 minutes. Is there a rule that every LOTR film has to be three hours or something?

I was a little disappointed that more wasn’t made out of the dwarf company. When they were allowed to shine, they delivered. I know it’s difficult with such a big cast BUT the majority of them were either pushed into the background or forgotten about altogether.

Apart from that, an astounding piece of work. I was baffled when I first heard that The Hobbit would be made into a trilogy. I remember ranting about the money hungry production companies for trying to milk a great piece of fiction from a great author. BUT now I cannot wait to see what Jackson has in store for the third and final installment.

4/5