Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Films of the Year 2016 - The Alternative Awards!

      Now for some other awards: Films of the Year 2016 - The Alternative Awards!

      Including such categories as: Most Disappointing Film, Pleasant Surprises, Most WTF? Scene and Best Original Score, etc…
     Read on to see what they are!

      Once again, this is all just my opinion (don't bite my head off!) - and is based on this list of films that I saw last year.
     You can also check out my article for the actual Top 10 Films of 2016, click HERE.

The 3 Most Disappointing Films of the Year
 (AKA Films that I thought would be good but weren’t.)

3) Batman: The Killing Joke

     On the whole, DC make decent animated movies. Since the majority of them are adapted from classic comic storylines, this particular one being tackled eventually was inevitable really. Based on the comic by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, featuring the veteran voice talents of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill; and promising a darker direction – this one had to be a sure fire hit, right?

      And yeah – they messed it up.

      The first problem that is evident is the way in which the filmmakers decided to tackle the problem of making a relatively short comic into a feature length film. Here, they opted to tack on an additional Batgirl story at the beginning that many people have rightfully pointed out as just being plain awful. Not only does it struggle to fit in with the actual Killing Joke story itself, we spend most of the time watching Batgirl wrestle with conflicting thoughts about whether or not she sould be attracted to smooth criminal 'Paris' whilst also fretting over her weird mentor complex with Batman – culminating in her having sex with him on a rooftop. Yes, it’s as weird and cringey as it sounds.

      Even after ignoring this half of the film, the actual ‘Killing Joke’ segment itself still falters. On the surface level, it's a fairly faithful recreation of the comic – and yet the more cartoony style they have chosen to adapt it in seems strangely at odds with (and therefore never really matches up to) the mood and tone of Dave Gibbon’s art style. And although much of the dialogue is spoken as is from the original script, the actors don't often work the nuances of the writing and the thematic parallels between the different scenes aren’t shown as effectively in the editing. It all lacks subtlety – something that made the comic version so good.

      Whereas the comics was almost surreal in its ending – it's all one big joke, y'see? – here it just comes across as awkward and forced. Watching this feels like the joke is somehow on us.

2) Suicide Squad

      In a line of recent DC big screen adaptation slip-ups, it would be easy to finger out Batman Vs Superman. Similarly, Suicide Squad has had its fair share of detractors following its release. Now I’m not saying this is a terrible movie – it’s serviceable for the most part and love-him-or-hate-him new take on The Joker by Leto is at least trying to do something different. I thought the actors and casting were great – especially Margot Robbie; and it's easy to see why she is getting a standalone Harley Quinn movie after this.

      The film as a whole however, ended up being a disappointing experience for me. It felt really disjointed and unsure of its tone – most likely due to studio interference and its suffering extensive rewrites and reshoots. If you want an example of this – just watch the three release trailers back to back and you’ll see a radical shift in tone and direction from what the original vision of the film was to what we ended up with. It’s trying to be dark and gritty – but also light and colourful; edgy and subversive – but also comedic and played relatively safe. It never really excels at any of these things, despite attempting to be all of these things.

      The preponderance of licensed music also severely irked me - pulling me out of the movie on more than one occasion. Once or twice is fine – if used correctly it’s an effective shortcut for setting a tone for a scene – but being used repeatedly scene after scene? There seems to be a running joke that most of the budget for this film must have gone on licensing these tracks (many of which must have been very costly to use) – despite not really being essential to the film and often played for just a few seconds.

      Perhaps the thing that disappointed me the most was the expectation of the film being directed by David Ayer. His previous films: End of Watch and Fury (even Sabotage to a certain extent) made him seem like the prefect choice for his project. It’s supposed to be antiheroes going up against insurmountable odds because they are expendable - so why are these ‘villains’ not really that villainous or ever really felt they were at any real risk at any point. Just more blob-headed zombie fodder to fight through and a city at risk of destruction in the finale – it just all felt so safe and franchise friendly. I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of these issues were indeed a result of studio pressures but the potential this property had under Ayers direction was tantalising. For these reasons I felt greatly disappointed by the end result.

1) Sausage Party

      I like Seth Rogan and friends for the most part. I enjoy the humour (although it’s often simple and familiar from project to project), but this effort was just severely lacking.

      The crux of the problem come from fact that they have taken an idea for a 5 minute animated short and tortuously stretched out into feature length. There are basically only three types of joke; the juxtaposition of family friendly looking animated characters swearing and being subjected to ultraviolence, racial stereotypes anthropomorphised in a food product and sexual innuendos with food products. Which might be funny once or twice – but when the same variations on these gags are trotted out again and again it becomes almost embarrassing.

      Admittedly there are one or two moments that elicit a genuine chuckle (the Gum professor is probably the best character), but for the most part I remained stony faced throughout. It’s not particularly subversive (‘adult’ cartoons have been around for a while now) and the idea of everyday objects moving when we aren’t looking and interpreting the world differently from us isn’t exactly a new one (Toy Story is just one example of many).
      In truth, I think the only audience that this would really appeal to is underage teens who somehow managed to sneak into the cinema. Come to think of it, I wasn't so much disappointed with this movie so much as surprised at how truly loathsome it was.

3 Films That Were Pleasant Surprises
 (AKA Films that I thought would be bad but were actually quite good.)

3) Train To Busan

      Haven't we had enough of zombies already? Surely this genre has been done to death by now? Which is partly why Train To Busan manages to be so surprisingly great. With zombie movies it’s not really about the zombies themselves – it’s about the characters and how they deal with their situation - we all know that.
     The fact that Busan makes sure it adequately takes the time to set up the characters and develop them, leads to rewarding arcs later on, making you genuinely feel for their plight and have some really heartfelt moments.

      As for the ‘Zombies on a Train’ gimmick – it's a bit more than that. The setup leads to a great sense of location (and isolation) to the action and coupled with an interesting mechanic given to these undead (they are sensitive to movement) this leads to some genuine moments of tension.

2) Hardcore Henry

      A lot of critics hated this one. It's essentially a feature length go at an idea established in that Bad Motherf*cker music video from a few years back – an action movie entirely shot from a first person POV. If you are of a generation growing up with ‘cinematic’ first person cutscenes in videogames (The Call of Duty series springs to mind as the obvious example) then this is basically that for the whole film – perhaps why some audiences just couldn't relate to it at all.
     Sure, the story is just a flimsy excuse to hang the action set pieces on and much of it is beyond daft – but you can't deny the technical achievement and the ridiculous levels of stunt coordination that have gone into making this – especially given the small budget (much of it crowdfunded).

      And we haven’t even mentioned Sharlto Copley yet – the films nominal ‘star’ (since the main character isn’t really glimpsed much beyond his arms and legs). I disliked him in Chappie, but here he seems to be having the time of his life playing many different versions of the same character, often with an infectious glee. There is even a great song and dance number featuring multiple Sharltos later on in the movie that features some great editing tricks.

      Just in terms of a visceral action thrill ride this one is worth a watch. Perhaps it would be a bit too much on the big screen (the constantly moving camera might induce motion sickness) but definitely worth seeking out to watch at home.

1) Ghostbusters

      Wow. This one had so much hate aimed toward it - even before it came out! Forget the perceived feminist agendas, SJW wars, ruining people’s childhood blah blah blah – just judge the film for what it is – and it’s actually not that bad. Not a great movie by any means, but really not worthy of all the hate at all.

      The main characters come from a good comedy pedigree (Wiig is always great) and the group have great chemistry together. There are nice cameos (thankfully kept brief), the special effects and ghosts themselves have kept to the spirit (sorry) of the original films and there is plenty of great humour and dialogue to keep things ticking over. Chris Hemsworth in particular is surprisingly hilarious as the dumber than dumb ‘receptionist’ Kevin.

      This is not replacing the original Ghostbusters in any shape or form, so much of the outrage is simply unfounded – I just don't get all the hate. This is its own separate thing so should just be enjoyed as such.

The 3 Most WTF? Scenes of the Year

      Formerly the most ‘WTF Films of the Year’ - this time it’s more individual scenes that stood out rather than the movies as a whole.
      Special mentions go to The Neon Demon’s eyeball scene and the nude art installation opening credits sequence of Nocturnal Animals – but in the end I’m going with the following:

3) Don't Breathe

      Okay, so the film is like a clever reverse ‘home invasion’ thriler, where the ‘villain’ is actually the one who lives in the house (blind war vet Stephen Lang). For the most part there is a careful build up and prolonged moments of tension.
     However toward the latter part of the movie following some key reveals, things go off into a very strange and horrifying direction.
      Let’s just say ‘suspension harness’ and ‘turkey baster’ - and leave it at that…

2) Anomalisa

      This film is weird enough anyway – the whole thing done with stop motion puppets; except nearly all the voices and faces that the protagonist (a wonderfully weary David Thewlis) hears and sees are of the same person (which you may not even notice until a good portion into the film). Things even get a bit meta when he panics as his puppet face falls off.
      But the real weirdness is the awkward love-making scene between him and Lisa – maybe because it’s portrayed in such a realistic and cringey fashion but also because it is acted out in aching slow detail (and with stop motion puppets).

1) Grimsby

      With Sasha Baron Cohen you expect a fair few gross-out scenes. Here you get flying aids-blood, rockets in anuses and scrotum sucking – fair enough.
      But there is one scene involving elephants that you won't believe they actually went through with. Most films would cut away at a certain point and then just humorously reveal the aftermath in the following scene. Not this one though.
      Although the exact type of reaction may vary from person to person – it will elicit some kind of reaction from you – guaranteed.

Best Original Score

Nocturnal Animals (Abel Korzeniowski)

     Soaring, sweeping and dramatic – Korzeniowski’s score is definitely my favourite of the year. It feels fresh and modern but also has a classic quality to it as well; it's emotional, tense and uplifting when it needs to be, whilst always keeping within the same themes throughout (lots of strings!).
     There has been close competition this year from the likes of the Arrival (Jóhann Jóhannsson), The Neon Demon (Cliff Martinez) and The Revenant (Ryuichi Sakamoto) - but this one wins out for me.

Person Who Killed it Most in 2016

Amy Adams

     With Oscar-worthy turns in both Arrival and Nocturnal Animals this year, as well as being comfortable in more blockbuster fare (returning as Lois Lane in Batman Vs Superman), Amy Adams seems unstoppable at the moment.
      Having being nominated for 5 Oscars previously, come this February the statue may finally be hers? Let's hope so!

Best Animal Performance

Sully ‘Steven’ Seagull (The Shallows)

     A consummate professional – always on his mark. Almost manages to outact Blake Lively. Breakout star of the year!

      So there you have it – just some random alternative awards for your perusal. If you want to check out last year’s Alternative Awards, click HERE, or check out my main Top 10 Films of 2015 article HERE.

2nd Jan 2017

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