TL;DR – John Wick is a masterpiece of balancing storytelling and worldbuilding without resorting to multiple exposition dumps or clunky dialogue exchanges.
When you are making or adapting some form of narrative medium, whether it is a book, video game, TV show, online video series, or a movie, two of the most important narrative facets are storytelling and worldbuilding, however, they can often find themselves in conflict with each other. I think we have all played that video game that is crammed full of lore, around every corner is another audio log sitting there for you to digest and thus the story gets lost in at that worldbuilding. Conversely, people fall in love with the worlds you can create, as much as people love Harry Potter, they are also enraptured with the whole Wizarding World, #HufflepuffForLife, so if you focus just on your story and don’t build the world around you, you’re going to have a shallow narrative and a missed opportunity. So how do you rectify this issue, well you could do what Snowpiercer and others have done in the past and gone with an opening newscast, or narration, or like the grandmaster of it all Star Wars, and have it all in your opening crawl. Or you could go with the Game of Thrones route and hide your exposition in sex scenes hoping that nudity will keep people engaged, and indeed you may even coin a phrase with ‘sexposition’ in the process. Or you could follow John Wick’s lead by crafting a strong narrative while also building a fascinating world. Now as we will be dissecting John Wick for this analysis, and since we will be focusing on the story, there is no way we could do that and not have any spoilers, so if you have not seen it yet, firstly go watch John Wick, but also you may not want to proceed any further, or do, I’m not your boss.
TL;DR – Somewhere in here is a good movie, unfortunately, it is smothered in poor action, the need to jump cut eight times every second, and an entirely predictable story.
Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars
So Hollywood has been on a bit of a bender recently bringing back franchises from the 2000s to give them another try. First, it was Underworld, then XXX, and now the granddaddy of them all (by a couple of months) Resident Evil. Now, of course, Resident Evil does have a bit more stability in its releases compared to the other two, but when in Rome, lump a bunch of stuff together to make it easier to analysis, so who am I to disagree. Honestly, I do have to say I did quite like the first two films in the series, the first Resident Evil had some iconic scenes, and the second really made the most out of its unfolding zombie apocalypse setting, you know before we got sick of that particular setting, thanks, Hollywood. However, since then the Resident Evil films have felt more like rehashes of each other, different movie, same themes, so I was actually quite excited when they named this next film ‘The Final Chapter’. I wanted to see them really go for it, take that final chapter mantra to heart, and knock it out of the park, but alas once again my optimistic nature has been dealt a blow.
TL;DR – A beautiful story of loss, exploitation, grief, and trying to find out what home means, in the absence of any real information of where it could be.
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
It might be one of those universal experiences, you’re walking through a shopping centre, theme park, city street, etc. with your parents and then you look up and realise you don’t know where they are. That feeling of being lost as a real and palpable fear and thankfully for most of us it short lived. However, this is not the case for Saroo, indeed for Saroo it was not a momentary fear, for him it was a life changing event. Lion tells the story of Saroo Brierley (Sunny Pawar & Dev Patel) who one day after working in rural India with his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), joins him on a train ride to a nearby settlement so Guddu can find some night work for them to help their mother Kamla (Priyanka Bose) who works as a labourer to make ends meet. Then Saroo ends up getting stuck on a train which is not going to the next station, but instead travelling 1500km to Calcutta, a place where no one speaks the same language, and as you are five years old as far as you know your mum’s name is ‘mum’. This is a heartbreaking tale of loss, exploitation, and the struggle to find what home means. Now due to the nature of the film, its structure and the very nature that it is based off a true story it becomes quite hard to talk about aspects of the film without discussing the second half of the film. So for this reason from here on into the end, a SPOILER warning is now in place.
TL;DR – This is a perfect popcorn flick, as long as you don’t try to think through the plot, which you can’t help but do in the 2nd act.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
XXX: Return of Xander Cage is a film of many things, interesting set pieces, an incredibly diverse cast, a title that you really need to be careful with when searching on the internet for researching the movie, but also some missed opportunities. So it should come as no surprise that everyone is trying to create the next Bond, and why wouldn’t you? if you could swing 25 feature films out of a single premise. There have been multiple attempts over the years to create the new spy king, a fresh new face. Now for me, the best attempt has to be Kingsman (Click here to see Review), but many people have tried and one direction they went in was recasting the Bond-type with an extreme sports star, and well I have heard worse premises. However, after twelve years, and fifteen since Vin Diesel has been the lead, did we really need another crack at this formula to see if it works, well if this is anything to go by then … maybe?
TL;DR – Honestly this is one of the silliest premises I have ever seen for a film, but wow it was a surprisingly good film, with great creature creation, and some great action, well worth a look.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
I was not expecting much from Monster Trucks, I mean it has one of the silliest premises I have ever heard, well not the silliest, I mean it is no ‘Tetris the Film’ silly but still. However, the more it went on the more I really started to like it, maybe even against my better judgement, but here we are. Now I am under no illusion that it is not a perfect film, none at all, but in a world where children films is usually a cover for lazy filmmaking, it is great to see a film take care and effort with the small details.
TL;DR – Collateral Beauty has me wondering how projects in Hollywood gets greenlit, how did this mess of a film pass through so many different layers of approval, and at no point did someone go ‘Hey maybe this is a terrible idea for a film’
Score – 2 out of 5 stars
It is ironic that a film about an advertising company would be lambasted in the press and critic circles for the advertising of the film. Indeed, all of this would actually be quite amusing if not for the fact that Collateral Beauty fails spectacularly on nearly every front. How a film with this much talent, yet such a clearly terrible premise for a film, got put into production I do not know. Of course there are a few saving graces for Collateral Beauty, which is what stopped it from getting a lower score than this, but I can tell you right now, unless we have a truly terrible year for cinema I know this will be on my worst films of 2017 list, and we are only three films into the new year.
TL;DR – The biggest problem with Passengers is that it keeps hinting at a better film out there, but unfortunately it never quite gets there.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
So would you say goodbye to everyone you love, board a spaceship in a hibernation pod for a 120-year journey just for a chance of a new life on a new world, even though you know when you get there everyone from your past will be dead. It’s an interesting thought experiment and one of many that Passengers speculates on throughout the film. When the film is at its best it is looking at an answering these questions, when it is at its worst it’s ignoring them to quickly tie the story up.
TL;DR – The best movie adaption of a video game, but that was not really a high bar to cross and Assassin’s Creed kind of just stumbles across it.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
It is one of those weird things of Hollywood that no matter how many times they try, no one has made a decent adaptation of a video game into a movie. Now part of this has been that people have been adapting video games without understanding what there were, and also there are a lot of difficulties condensing a long interactive experience (sixteen hours for the first Assassin’s Creed game) into a two-hour passive movie. To the point where the most successful and critically acclaim versions of this genre Wreck-It Ralph & Tron used video games as just the backdrop for their story. This can be complicated even further as video games are big multi-billion dollar industry so if you’re making a film, you’re gonna want to franchise the heck out of it, the big problem with last year’s Warcraft (See Review). So within all this mess comes the Assassin’s Creed film, based on the incredibly popular series of games that has the fascinating caveat that you could set it at any point in human history. So how does it go, well for a video game adaptation movie, it goes quite well, for just a movie, it is a bit meh.
So here we are at the end of the year, the sound of fireworks still ringing in our ears, the excess of Christmas just a faint memory, and the realisation just dawning that you probably won’t get your money’s worth out of that gym membership you bought for your New Year’s resolution. However, it is also a time of reflection, a look into the past and the hope for the future, and while 2016 has been referred to as a dumpster-fire year, there were some great moments in film, and this is what we are celebrating today.
So far in our end of year countdown we’ve looked at the Most Disappointing Films of 2016 (Click here to see), and we’ve looked at the Highly Commended films of 2016 (Click here to see), but now it’s time for the grand finale with our Top 10 Films of 2016.
In the afterglow of the turning of a new year we look back at what came and to the future at what will be, but any more than that then you get a three ghost situation and that’s Christmas’s thing, and it doesn’t like people encroaching on it. So we continue the end of year listing of thing which we started yesterday with the list of our Most Disappointing/Worse films of 2016 which you can see by clicking HERE. However, today what we are looking at are those films that were good, or interesting, but that were just held back from getting into the coveted Top 10 List. These are all interesting films but they are also are all slightly flawed films and that is generally why they missed out. Now just a warning I will be discussing these films, and some of them are still in cinemas, so be careful because spoilers are incoming.