Posts Tagged ‘Star Wars’

Averaging about 6 movies a month (and 75 in total), it’s fair to say I got my money’s worth out of my Cineworld Unlimited card in 2016. What’s less clear is whether I was blown away by any of them in the way I was in 2015 with Still Alice: a solid 10/10 in a way that nothing last year really came close to. (Indeed, if I were going purely by films I saw at the cinema in 2016 vs those released that year, I’d probably appoint The Force Awakens my favourite on account of seeing it again for the third time in January.)

Categories that typically shine were uncharacteristically dull: Oscar-bait drama Room was marred by a clumsy soundtrack whose every chord was calculated to dictate what the viewer should be feeling at any given moment; The Danish Girl was commendably gorgeous to look at (and shares a cinematographer with Room in Danny Cohen), but while people were divided on the subject of casting a cisgender actor in the lead role, it unquestionably denies transgender people the ability to tell their own stories by adapting David Ebershoff’s highly fictionalised retelling of Lili Elbe’s life and not her own (readily available) notes and letters. With the exception of the hilarious Deadpool, even superhero movies in 2016 were pedestrian: Marvel’s other efforts were entirely forgettable, and it’s hard to say which major DC franchise audiences hated more. (For my money, Batman v Superman was infinitely worse, but that’s hardly a compliment. You’d think Suicide Squad screenings came with a mandatory waterboarding the way people reacted, but it would be a kindness to describe it as anything beyond “watchable”.)

Adjusting the judging criteria then to films I enjoyed purely for enjoyment’s sake, it fell to a different genre entirely to pick up the slack: which is why – in ranking the movies of 2016 – I’m awarding my top pick to:

Best: Moana

In a year of Brexits, Trumps and the statistical probability that one of your childhood heroes died in 2016 (RIP Carrie Fisher), it’s perhaps unsurprising that I found so much comfort in the escapism of animated movies. Admittedly, Moana might not be the most original entry in the Disney ouevre: a plucky outsider with an animal sidekick sings her way through a quest narrative, with echoes of (to name a few) The Little Mermaid’s cloistered princess longing for a wider world, Mulan’s (im)perfect daughter railing against familial expectations, and The Lion King’s reluctant ruler with a deceased relative spirit guide. If there’s a certain familiarity to the storyline, however, it’s executed so masterfully that you’ll soon find yourself swept along on the journey regardless. Moana eschews the archetypal lynchpins of a princess narrative (she’s perfectly capable of saving herself, and the love story is one of self-acceptance and empowerment), and while I could easily praise the beauty of the animation, its greatest strength is in the telling. It unfolds so delightfully that I laughed, smiled and, yes, cried my way through the entire thing (minus one overlong sequence involving a villainous crab) and have been singing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s soundtrack on a daily basis ever since.

Runner-Up: Kubo and the Two Strings

For almost every reason I loved Moana, but with my personal kryptonite from a childhood of Ray Harryhausen movies: stop-motion animation! Bonus points for a kid’s movie that dares to go darker.

Honourable Mentions: tapping into that other outlet for escapism: mindless violence – Green Room (tense, claustrophobic, brutally droll, and unapologetically violent) and Don’t Breathe (which cost me the majority of my fingernails).

Worst: Midnight Special

Choosing the best movie might have required some thought, but the same definitely can’t be said for the worst, which goes – unequivocally – to this dreary, shambling, plotless pile of crap. With each passing minute, I became further infuriated with the complete lack of storyline masquerading as the film’s central “mystery”, and the only improvement that could have been made is if I’d gone with my gut instinct and walked out after the first half hour. Just the absolute worst.

Runner-Up: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Here partially facetiously (but also kind of not), perhaps Rogue One wasn’t the second-worst movie I saw last year, but it was definitely the biggest disappointment. Despite having two elements almost guaranteed to win me over (to wit: a female lead, and having Star Wars in the title) one could argue that Rogue One was a victim of its own self-generated hype – trying and failing to live up to the success of the blindingly impressive Episode VII – but truth be told: it’s just not very good. From the opening sequence onwards, the movie jumps with no real focus from one forgettably-named planet to another like some faceless masturbator on Chatroulette, and never really finds its footing from there. Every actor feels like they’re starring in a different movie, with special mention to Forest Whitaker who leaves no piece of scenery unchewed, and the rest of the cast so bland and forgettable that I quite literally struggled to recall anyone’s name besides Jyn’s the minute the credits rolled. Chirrut Imwe (whose name I had to google to write this) is a blind martial artist who not only feels utterly out of place in a galaxy far, far away but is a character trope so clichéd as to have his own category on TVTropes.org; and not since Jinkx Monsoon’s “Water off a duck’s back” have I been so irritated by a repetitive and monotonous catchphrase as “I am one with the Force, the Force is with me”. He’s also a victim of the script’s second worst offense, when – after having a bag placed over his head – he responds: “Are you kidding me?” [OK, that’s pretty funny] “I’m blind.” [Sigh. The writers didn’t place enough faith in the audience to assume they’d get the joke without someone spelling it out for them.] though that doesn’t even begin to compare to Darth Vader’s actual. fucking. pun. of “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director” whilst Force-choking said character. (Not for nothing: the director of Rogue One would do well to have heeded his own advice during production.)

Problems like these contribute to a movie which ultimately just doesn’t feel like it belongs in the same universe as the established movies (discounting the prequels), and the frequent parade of cameos (everyone from series mainstays R2-D2 and C-3PO, to Cantina extras Ponda Baba and Doctor Evazan) feel crammed in and tacked on to remind the viewer: “no, really – you’re watching a Star Wars film regardless of what you might be feeling.” Maybe the alarm bells should have been ringing the minute George Lucas – notably outspoken about The Force Awakens – voiced his approval of the finished product.

Even if I could have forgiven the film it’s many other faults, however, its greatest crime is reserved for the indignity it inflicts on the late Peter Cushing and (now, tragically) Carrie Fisher: with some of the most horrendously ill-conceived, suspension-of-disbelief-shattering CGI since that digital baby in the last Twilight movie. Plumbing the depths of the uncanny valley, Grand Moff Tarkin and (young) Princess Leia are resurrected so unconvincingly as to jar you out of every scene they appear in, jerking mechanically through the sets like they’ve just crawled out of the movie’s inevitable video game tie-in. With the film happy to recast Mon Mothma and – soon – Han Solo for his own tie-in movie, it’s an inexplicable choice not to have another actor play the part: not least because Cushing-alike Guy Henry not only voices Grand Moff Tarkin in Rogue One but provided all of the motion capture for the monstrosity which eventually appeared on screen. Equally, Princess Leia – for the one line she utters – could just as easily been shown from behind: the white robe and distinctive hair buns alone providing even the least Star Wars-knowledgeable audience members enough clues to gather who was speaking. Beyond just this movie, the ramifications for what it means for Episode VIII onward in Fisher’s absence is a chilling thought.

Dishonourable Mention: Storks, which I walked out of but will forgive on account of being marketed to 10-and-unders.

Here’s looking ahead with more hope for 2017!

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Featuring 70 hand-crafted costumes from all seven movies, this exhibition reveals the artists’ creative process—and uncovers the connection between character and costume.

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Aging gracefully in the Provand’s Lordship – medieval dwelling and the oldest remaining house in Glasgow. Because what better way to make me feel better about my birthday than surrounding myself with things even older than I am.

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In honour of the Oscars (and forgetting to post these in January): (±)2015 in cinema, courtesy of my Cineworld Unlimited card! (Yes, I saw Star Wars three times.)

My choice for best movie of the year: Still Alice (which I’ve written about at length.)

Joint runners-up: Jurassic World and The Force Awakens, both of which so perfectly captured my childhood love of the franchises that a sweeping shot of Isla Nublar accompanied by that John Williams score, or the sight of Han and Chewie aboard the Millennium Falcon nearly brought me to tears. Far from banking on the viewer’s nostalgia, however (filled as I was with glee on seeing the original T. rex from JP in the finale!) both succeed in being damn fine movies in their own right; with Star Wars in particular making me fall in love with a new generation of characters who, by the film’s close, I was just as engaged with as the original cast. (Special mention not only to Rey, who I loved, but also to BB-8, who – like WALL•E before him – succeeds in conveying an entire gamut of emotions belied by his lack of a single line of dialogue throughout. Indeed, his “thumbs-up” with the lighter which was just about my favourite moment in the movie.)

My uncontested choice for worst movie of the year: Absolutely Anything. Given the frequency with which I go to the cinema, it’s statistically improbable not to encounter my fair share of duds, though I can usually forgive them on the basis that they at least achieve the basic function of their given genre. Trainwreck was meandering and about an hour too long, but – at least in parts – it made me laugh. Sinister 2 was a pale, horror-by-numbers imitation of the original, but – every so often – it made me jump. It’s rare, therefore, that a film so utterly misses the mark that I’m not only angry at its creators for its existence, but also myself for the two hours of my life I wasted on it. The Simon Pegg movie Absolutely Anything is one such film, and – adding to its list of crimes against filmmaking – also holds the dubious honour of being the last on-screen credit for Robin Williams, who is beyond wasted in this howlingly unfunny pile of shit.

After seeing Still Alice, I remained open to the possibility that something might come along in 2015 to change its position as my favourite film that year. I was entirely confident, however, that I could declare Absolutely Anything the unmitigated worst, without fear of another film even approaching its spectacular craptacularity in the four months that remained. The list of films I’d rather see again in my lifetime is both brief and comprehensive. To wit: absolutely anything.

And, if I had to appoint a runner-up: Life – a James Dean biopic, in which a woefully miscast Dane DeHaan infuses the Hollywood legend with all the charisma of a tree stump.

Here’s looking ahead to the remainder of 2016!

Christmas photos aren’t technically late if you post them before January 25th, right?

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And, bringing us fully up to date, the latter half of 2015. (Hey, this is still a step up from posting the last set of Halloween photos in January!)

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I am so ridiculously excited for this movie that I’ve had my tickets printed for the last 2 months. Mere weeks to go!