This past week I turned 29, an age generally only noteworthy for being the last chance to do everything you’d planned to do before turning 30. At this point it might be expected for me to list those remaining things I’ve yet to cross off, as some form of checklist for the coming 12 months but – and I fear this may be perhaps the most depressing notion I’ve come across – I have none. I’m not bragging and crowing about how I’ve accomplished all I’d set out to do, and am over a year ahead of my lifelong schedule, no, instead it would seem that I never had any goals of this kind. No grand plan to follow, no aspirations in life. The path I’m travelling is one I have no map or compass for, no earthly clue where it may lead, and no real destination in site. You might think this is somewhat liberating, but you see I yearn for such an aim. I crave something to head for. That’s probably why I occasionally dedicate this blog to wading through various movie lists, else otherwise what would I possibly write about? And if anything, it’s these lists that are my one concrete goal, completing them is the one clear (if incredibly distant) point in my future. Outside of them, I really have no clue.
Turning 29 does have a different significance for me, personally though. I’m sure I’ve made reference in the past – probably when I first started the 1001 List, so I’ll forgive you if you’ve forgotten – that I once had a dream that I’d die at a certain age. I didn’t put a great deal of stock in this notion, but it’s one that has stuck with me, niggling at the back of my mind. The age at which I always thought I’d pass was 28 years old. The number of months, weeks and days into that year were never specified, so whilst the past year hasn’t been spent with my back pressed firmly against every wall, head on a swivel seeking out my impending, imminent demise, I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind from time to time. In fact my quest through the 1001 List even began with an otherwise arbitrary deadline that passed midway through my 29th year. Now it would seem all of this has just been a waste, but fortunately a waste of not very much, and now I can go on living with the knowledge that the end could occur for me at any time. Knowing my luck I’ll get knocked off my bike one film away from finishing. Anyway, speaking of films, here’s what I watched over the past week:
Suicide Squad (2016)
After the disastrous Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, all hopes for a successful Justice League flavoured alternative to the Avengers hung on David Ayer’s team of fan-favourite villains, teaming up to take down some unspecified deadly threat. All the promotional material looked phenomenally fun, the cast looked fantastic and the action more than entertaining, with Jared Leto’s Joker as the most likely primary antagonist. Unfortunately, whilst the cast is almost entirely great and some action scenes are a lot of fun, overall the film feels like a mess. It’s sloppily edited – we are introduced initially to Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, before being re-introduced to them again in the very next scene, and later on the placing of a bomb is shown mutliple times within minutes of each other, in case we somehow forgot – the action is shot in a way that rarely looks cool and always feels stilted, the soundtrack sounds like a wedding DJ’s playlist of ill-timed hits through the ages and the villains prove murky and ill-defined. Leto’s Joker pops up here and there but makes no impact on the plot, his appearances seem more to be set-up for a sequel that may never come. It is exceptionally well cast though, I can’t stress this enough. Smith is on standard Will Smith form as a likeable assassin, Robbie nails Harley Quinn’s particular brand of barely harnessed insanity, Viola Davis proves an unexpected badass as Amanda Waller, the government official who initialises the squad, and even the likes of Jai Courtney and Joel Kinnaman evade their generic white guy personas to bring some depth and occasional comedy to their characters. The problem is none of this supposed team of ruthless scumbags ever really does anything particularly villainous, they just seem like a bunch of superheroes and mercenaries who might steal something whilst on a mission to save the world. All the hype certainly didn’t help to temper the disappointment, but even without it I feel this would still leave a bitter taste.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Life 5/10
Finding Dory (2016)
For three years in a row now I’ve been to the cinema and seen a sequel on my birthday, and for three years in a row I’ve been disappointed by a film that wasn’t overly bad, but didn’t live up to what I wanted it to be. 2014 heralded the way over-hyped How To Train Your Dragon 2, last year saw Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation‘s medicority not surpass the barrage of Missions: Impossible I’d subjected myself before seeing it, and this time Finding Dory comes nowhere close to Finding Nemo (obviously, that’s a bona fide 10/10 classic). This time around Dory (Ellen Degeneres) gets separated from Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence, taking over from Alexander Gould, who despressingly is now 22) as she seeks to find her forgotten parents (Diane Keaton & Eugene Levy), a quest which leads her to a Marine Life Institute, offering oodles of potential for new and exciting aquatic creatures for our heroes to interact with. Disappointment is not felt here, as we meet the likes of a cranky, escape-hungry seven-legged octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill), a near sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olsen), a sonar-impaired beluga whale (Ty Burrell), a couple of boisterous sea lions (Dominick West and Idris Elba) and a crazed loon called Becky. The film is fun, particularly Hank’s camouflaging abilities during his numerous escape attempts, and I’ll definitely be buying and re-watching this later in the year (I get the feeling my partner will be receiving it for Christmas), but this lacked the Pixar polish I should really not expect, given the last film I saw it on was Toy Story 3, six years ago. For example, there’s a moment in the climax that sees some of the other characters tagging along to witness Marlin, Nemo and Dory accomplish something. In this scenario, I’d expect the presence of these additional characters to be somehow useful to the plot, to add something only they could contribute to the events at hand, but in reality they’re just there to watch, like the rest of us. Regardless I still had fun, with the sea lions probably being a highlight, after the pre-movie short Piper, which was worth the ticket price alone.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 7/10
Men and Chicken (2015)
Watched for Blueprint: Review.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Full review here.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)
Like most people, I watched this whilst building a LEGO-inspired dinosaur skeleton in a casserole dish. I saw it earlier in the year on a plane, but Aisha hadn’t seen it yet so it seemed the perfect opportunity given how much I loved it the first time around, and that feeling has yet to abate. It’s sweet yet also cynical, hilarious yet poignant and endlessly enjoyable, particularly the films-within-the-film. People who liked The Fault in Our Stars need to watch this and see what a great teen-illness film really looks like.
Choose Film 9/10
7 Days in Hell (2015)
It’s made for TV, but so what? I’d been meaning to catch up with this tennis spoof since last year, and saw it streaming so continued my LEGO funtimes with this comedy, starring Andy Samberg and Kit Harrington as rival tennis players stuck in a week-long tennis game. It’s nothing but silliness, with the two leads playing ridiculous stereotypes – Samberg is a sex-crazed, drug-fuelled maniac, Harrington a dim-witted posh twit – but it’s the ever-increasing lunacy of it all that makes it funny, plus the never-ending stream of cameos and supporting roles from the likes of Will Forte, Michael Sheen, Lena Dunham, Fred Armisen and June Squibb. There’s a lot of comedy at the expense of tennis as a sport, which is fine by me.
Choose Film 7/10
Streets of Fire (1984)
This month’s Movie of the Month over at the LAMB is Streets of Fire, a 1984 cult film mainly remembered for it’s soundtrack, which makes a lot of sense given how great it is. Diane Lane plays singer Ellen Aim, who is kidnapped by Willem Dafoe’s biker gang during a performance in a low-class district, and it’s up to her ex-boyfriend Tom Cody (Michael Pare) to return to town and save her, with the help of a motley band of misfits, including Rick Moranis, in a very non-Moranis type role. We recorded the Lambcast ep on this earlier today, which I’ll link to next week, so I’ll keep my thoughts brief, just to say I had a lot of fun with this film, the supporting cast (Bill Paxton, Amy Madigan, Mikelti Williamson, Grand L. Bush, Ed Begley Jr.) is great, the fashions are ridiculous (Dafoe literally wears black PVC waders at a biker club) and the overall plot is simple yet effective, not drawing the film out too long. Some of the musical performances could be reduced a tad, but this is far, far better than Purple Rain.
Choose Film 8/10
Posts you may have missed:
Lambcast #333: Star Trek Beyond I was joined by Heather Baxendale, Daniel Lackey and Rebecca Sharp to discuss the latest in the Star Trek reboot franchise.
Lambcast #334: Suicide Squad I was joined by Kristen Lopez, Courtney Small, DJ Valentine and Bubbawheat to dig into David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.
Men & Chicken
Aim: Review 8 or 9 1001 List movies each month
Should be on: 62
Aim: Review 1 “Bad” movie each month
Should be on: 7
Aim: Review 1 “Blind Spot” movie each month
Should be on: 8
Aim: Review 2 “Film-Makers” movies each month
Should be on: 15