film

Favorites of 2015

2015 was another excellent year for the film industry! Cars, Dinosaurs, Spies, Emotions, Space, Robots, and Boxing! Last year had all of those genre regulars and more, especially the spies, we had a great many antics within that realm. Here though is where I take a moment to zone in on all the films that I believe earned high praise. These aren’t Oscar picks, nor are they the films I think that are “The Best”, but rather my personal favorites of 2015, aka the Future.

Ex-Machina

Between the Avengers sequel, Chappie, and this lovely little film by Alex Garland you might sense an anxiety about artificial intelligence in the cultural Zeitgeist. This film is the best out of those three and not because of any special effects, although it does look good when it has to, but because of the ideas it introduces and leans on. The story centers on Genius Mastermind Nathan Bateman’s (Oscar Issac) latest creation, artificial intelligence, and the turing test administered to said creation by an employee of Bateman’s tech company in the form of Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson). Alicia Vikander’s performance as the savvy AI Ava is the masterful centerpiece performance that the axis of the story pivots on throughout. A smart psychological thriller worth falling in love with.

Kingsmen: The Secret Service

I went into ‘Kingsmen’ not knowing what to expect, it is from this point that I benefitted from most. It was unexpected , high octane, gleeful action snazzed up in a fine suit and cufflinks. With a nicely fleshed out cast surrounding the new talent ‘Kingsmen’ took the spy movie to a memorable new place, and in a year when both Mission Impossible and James Bond earning  entries in their respective pantheons, that is no small feat. Taron Egerton stars as the young street level inductee into the british spy organization known as, you guessed it, The Kingsmen, a highly refined and hyper violent group that saves the world while looking exceptionally dapper. Watch for the Church scene, it’s a bloody affair. This is  strong kinetic action in a new property that knows its place in the world of genre fair spy films, and it revels in it.

What We Do in The Shadows

Easily my favorite comedy of the year, ‘What we do in the shadows’ utilizes the mythology of The Vampire to spin pure comedic gold. Viago, Deacon, and Vladislav ( Taika Waititi, Jonny Brugh, & Jermaine Clement) play three vampires, all born and from different time periods, that all room together in the same house in New Zealand and squabble with each other over things like rent obligations, chore responsibilities, getting into nightclubs, and squashing conflicts among themselves. Done in a mocumentary style in which a film crew follows the vampire gang around filming their everyday lives. I found it to be a pun and wordplay laced riotfest throughout the runtime. Genius comedy filmmaking in a unique style and voice.

Mad Max: Fury Road

What can I say about ‘Mad Max: Fury road’ that hasn’t already been said? It’s grandiose. Gorgeous. Brutal. Spectacular. Intense. Gritty. Pure Fun. If you somehow haven’t seen this film yet, you need to. Point blank. It’s that simple. Need more? It’s the best car chase sequence in film history and its oddly, and beautifully, feminist in its nature. With the addition of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa the decades old series has roared back to life, even without the original Mad Max himself, Mel. Tom Hardy played Max in a gruff and tortured turn and it worked better than expected. George Miller has made a ground breaking Mad man’s masterpiece in his seventies, we should all be so inspired.

Turbo Kid

This film is the bloodiest entry on my list. It’s also the most heavily 80’s inspired piece as well. ‘Turbo Kid’ is an independent flick that takes place in a radioactive wasteland version of an apocalyptic future… in 1997. The toxic tale follows our young and lonely protagonist (Munro Chambers) as he takes on a tyrannical one eyed overlord, Zeus (Michael Irondside), to save his newly acquired, and bombastically enthusiastic friend Apple (Laurence Leboeuf). There’s saw-blades and fountains of blood, bicycles chase sequences, and a cowboy with a robotic arm. It’s weird and self aware, and a lovely unique film, check it out!

Dope

This story is about well meaning misfits Malcolm, Jib, & Diggy (Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, & Kiersey Clemons) as they navigate the end of their High school experience in modern day Los Angeles. As self proclaimed geeks that are in love with 1990’s hip hop and culture the three are fleshed out, layered characters that get caught up in outrageous scenarios. Malcolm in particular is the character we follow most closely as the story progresses. As life in a tough neighborhood has its own challenges Malcolm has his sights set on gaining higher education admittance, he just has to survive with his friends until graduation. The message of the movie lays out nicely over the course of the story and admittedly, I might be partial to coming of age storylines if done well, and this film definitely falls into that category. This won’t be the last time you see the three leads, they each ooze charisma were all a joy to see onscreen.

Inside Out

Pixar hit another homerun with ‘Inside Out’. It’s instantly memorable and heart wrenching. Only this studio could take such a concept and make it so relevant to the inner child in each of us. We follow Riley, a young girl that must navigate the new challenges of life in San Franscisco after her family moves to the west coast from the wintry Midwest. Riley’s emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, & Disgust all vie for the best method of handling these new hurdles in life. Learning concepts like ‘It’s okay to be sad’ and ‘Life has ups and downs, we all just learn to live and make the best of it with a healthy mindset’. It’s a brilliant film with a stellar voice cast to round out a profund idea with Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, and Mindy Kaling.

Jurassic World

I may get some flack, maybe even lose some credit for having this film on my list for some, but I can’t help the fact that I absolutely loved this film. Is it perfect? No, not at all. Is it better than the original Jurassic Park? No, absolutely not! But it IS a very fun monster movie with a super predator hunting our heroes. I quite enjoyed the antics of Owen and Claire (Chris Pratt & Bryce Dallas Howard) as they tried to retrieve and save Claire’s nephews from the Indominus Rex. Like I said, I recognize that some characterizations were slightly cartoonish to say the least, Vincent D’Onofrio’s villainous character for example has hilarious motivations, using Raptors for Military use? If you thought a Dino theme park was nuts then strap in, it gets a little nuts. It’s just great to see dinosaurs in movies again.

Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation

Who knew Tom Cruise had this revival of the last few years in him? After a resounding return to form in the fourth Mission Impossible the lastest doesn’t quite live up to Ghost Protocol’s standard, but its an incredibly enjoyable return to the Impossible franchise. As in both Rogue Nation and this year’s 007’s Spectre the plot centers around our hero spy taking on a shadowy organization on a globe trekking scale with plenty of action, intrigue, charm, and huge set pieces. If you want a solid spy movie, this might be the best of the year,  which is saying something in a year when the genre exploded with numerous unique attempts.

Creed

My personal favorite of the year, ‘Creed’ is the story of Adonis Creed, son of famed Rocky Balboa opponent Apollo Creed, as he comes to terms with the legacy of his father and shaping his own future going forward. Stallone shines again as the Italian Stalian in one of the best performances he’s given in years and Michael B. Jordan deftly crafts Adonis as a hungry and determined personality that snaps and crackles with potential in his punches. The beauty of Rocky’s story coming full circle as he trains Adonis in the ring coupled with exquisitely shot fight sequences in and out of the ring ties everything together incredibly well in the end, the film doesn’t even feel like it should have the right to be this good. There isn’t a single shot I would change, and I find it a disappointment that Ryan Coogler wasn’t nominated for Best Director for this film, he deserves it.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars. Modern Mythology at its finest. The Force Awakens did exactly what it needed to do following the somewhat disastrous prequel films of the early 2000’s. It brought back memorable characters, like Chewbacca & Han Solo, scenery and aesthetics from the original films, and established new fan favorites in Finn, Rey, and Poe (John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, & Oscar Isaac). We also got new villains in Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren and Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke, the overlord of the new evil regime The First Order. Granted, this isn’t the best Star Wars movie, it’s just a really satisfying entry in the saga that never ends.

Hector and The Search for Happiness (2014)

Lastly, here is where I cheat a bit. Technically yes, this film came out in 2014, but I didn’t even know of its existence, much less watch it, until 2015. This film has one of the qualities I love most about movies: It’s got an earnest positivity about it that doesn’t quit. I also have a tendency to love films that involve Simon Pegg. ‘Hector and the Search for Happiness’ is about Hector (Pegg), a psychiatrist in Britain that feels unfufilled by the doldrums of his overly regimented life. He laments giving people advice while not yet having lived life himself. Thus he goes off on an international quest to find the formula to Happiness. Is it a particularly challenging film for the viewer? No, not really, but that’s okay. It’s a tale meant to uplift, and maybe I’m a shmuck for it, but this film made me feel things, and I love it because of that.

Potential Contenders that (somehow) I missed: Straight Outta Compton, The Revenant, The Big Short, Spotlight, Sicario, The Danish Girl, Trumbo, Brooklyn, Peanuts, Spy, Trainwreck, Sisters, Joy, Chappie, & Concussion

Those are the films that affected me most over the course of 2015. It was a uniquely stellar year in which Hollywood learned that some franchise returns can yield Box Office smashing results like Mad Max, Jurassic World, and Star Wars. However they also learned that some franchises don’t soar as high as they could or should, here’s looking at you Terminator Genisys and 007’s Spectre. Let’s Hope this year holds as many gems, if Deadpool is any indicator it’s going to be a weirdly amazing year. Go see Deadpool if you’re old enough, it’s a bloody riot in the best sense. Then see it again.

Advertisements
film

Quick Thought: Chris Pratt’s Next Move

We all now know that actor Chris Pratt can play the hero, and play it well. With two mega-franchises under his belt as fan favorites dance master Peter Quill AKA Star Lord in “Guardians of The Galaxy” and raptor trainer Owen Grady  in “Jurassic World”. What we don’t know is, can he play the villain? The other side of the coin may be the sort of challenging material that the actor could go to after saving the universe, or at least a galaxy or two.

One of the biggest, and best, films of 2015 was George Miller’s ‘Mad Max’. Miller has not been subtle about wanting to make more of these films. Think about it. Chris Pratt could be quite the interesting choice for villainy in the wasteland. Pratt’s ability to motormouth through scenes with Max, or his evil underlings, would be the perfect balance to Hardy’s gruff and silent Roadwarrior. He’s got the acting chops and I would love to see what sort of performance he could bring to Max’s established world of fire and blood.

Pratt doesn’t even have to be involved in the realm of Mad Max, I would just appreciate seeing him try wildly different projects. He’s already moving in that direction with his rumored lead in ‘Cowboy Ninja Viking’ which is a graphic novel adaption being brought to the silver screen by the duo behind ‘John Wick’, Keanu Reeves’ latest surprise action hit. In  ‘Cowboy Ninja Viking’ the story follows a man who suffers from multiple personality disorder and is put into a government program to be turned into a super-soldier of sorts with the skills and abilities that come with being a cowboy, a ninja, and a viking. Sign me up, that sounds like a movie I’m willing to pay to see!

 

film

Should George Miller Direct Man of Steel 2, or Justice League Dark?

Hey there movie fans! Sorry for the gap in posts, I was out of state attending a wedding of some very close friends. As time passed however a great many fun conversations among friends spurred the momentum behind the next few posts I’ll be writing over the next week or so.

This post however concerns legendary filmmaker George Miller’s next big budget project through Warner Brothers. Word around the web is that Miller is currently being offered to direct “Man of Steel 2” and/or “Justice League Dark” now that well documented Monster lover Guillermo Del Toro has left the project. Assuming that Miller’s next project isn’t another Mad Max sequel, which should he choose, and why?

The case for Man of Steel 2 

Think back for a second, if you will, to earlier this year when almost out of nowhere this bombastic, full throttle, completely insane car chase movie erupted onto silver screens all across the country! Can you remember the last time you had that much absolute and refined Fun with a capitol F at the theater? Maybe Joss Whedon’s “Avengers”, but that movie had years of anticipation and expectation to live up to. The world had almost forgotten Max Rockastansky, and now everyone knows who the road warrior is again.

Now think back to when you saw Krypton’s last son gracing the silver screen once more. Bleak. Muted colors. Hardly a smile to be seen. Granted, I must admit, I quite enjoyed the film, but it isn’t without it’s faults. Chief among these is the lack of any exuberance and joy. I also believe an argument could be made that Henry Cavill’s Superman isn’t quite the one we all expect and know, nor that he should be. Growth through multiple films is something that Marvel Studios has been experimenting with and I can’t think of any reason why DC’s golden boy can’t experience character moments and plotlines that drive him to eventually become the character we want and need. At the end of Man of Steel I think he is closer to this, but not yet. By the time “Batman VS Superman”s credits roll we will be even closer, hopefully, to that depiction. My point being that beginning in “Man of Steel 2” Clark Kent should be settled into his role and thus be able to tackle the greater challenges that sequels themselves impose.

George Miller’s style and precision should bleed deeply into this property if he so chooses to take it on and I can only foresee greatness coming forth from this pairing. Miller’s visual flair will elevate this iteration into it’s own form. My own particular fascination is with the rumor that the villain will be Brainiac. The potential for such a powerful Superman villain that will only endorse the deep sci-fi undertones established in the first film is overwhelming. “Man of Steel” did well to incorporate this tone and building upon that in the followup will only empower it to transcend the problems of the first while remaining faithful to the core of this new Superman mythos and yet become a tonally different, but critically substantial film. I can’t claim to be able to dream up the perfect Superman sequel to the incredibly divisive origin tale, but I can’t imagine a better director to tackle the misgivings of the first, and become something truly super.

The case for Justice League Dark

Now that monster connoisseur Guillermo Del Toro has left this veritable Monster Squad remake its time to choose who should fill his shoes. With Characters like John Constantine, Deadman, Zatanna, and the Swamp Thing this is a movie that is rich and lush with possibilities. It also something completely and utterly different from Miller’s own “Mad Max” movies, let alone anything else he has made. It might just be the perfect palette cleanser before dropping back into the north African desert to, most assuredly, flip more insanely designed vehicles through the air once more.

What I love about the Justice League Dark comics is that the content is supernatural and mystic in nature, horror themed throughout really, but it never feels like a terrifying tale. The varying abilities of these characters along with their own according sets of sass, charm, and solemnity make these characters mix well because they are so different from each other. This only emboldens dialogue heavy scenes but fear not as the series is constantly mucking through the.. well, muck of the DC universe and it allows for slight cameos to be something of a reminder that Superman, Batman and the Flash also reside in this universe, and that’s a fun advantage to have.

One of the more palpable aspects of this film over Man of Steel’s sequel is that it seems to me that on set locations and practical filmmaking actually benefit this type of film more so than Superman slugging it out with Brainiac. This film needs lived in sets, on location filming, and real practical effects when possible. CGI is important in this day and age, but if you can get the visual feel of the film down without resorting to full blown green screen, then you have earned my money as a filmgoer. Heck I saw The “Avengers 2” twice in theaters, but “Mad Max” had me talking, writing, and generally not shutting up about it ever since I saw it, while Ultron’s musings were entertaining they weren’t as impressive when you know how both films were made. No hard feelings CGI coders, programmers, and math genies, we all appreciate you! George Miller can do “old school” filmmaking and I believe this is needed in this particular film, he can also inject a healthy dose of demon slaying fun right into the vein of this piece.

However, while I cannot think of another director for the Superman sequel, I have to say I would be incredibly intrigued by whatever Sam Raimi could do with this property, the man that made “Evil Dead” surely could have a great time with this. If George Miller chooses Justice League Dark though I will most certainly be checking it out.

So now that the seventy year old madman himself George Miller is back on everyone’s radar I can’t wait to see what he does next! Whether it is Superman’s next solo adventure, a haunted romp with Constantine and pals, or another desert run with the road warrior, I’ll be at the movie theaters, and ecstatic!