My Fortnight in Film, 2016 Weeks 45 & 46

This has been my most productive film-watching (and reviewing!) fortnight in a long time, even if none of the films I watched were for reviewing purposes. Aisha and I had a couple of sickly weekends (we’re both still under the weather now, but less so than before), and much of them were spent wrapped up warm in the familiar embrace of Pixar. Speaking of which, as there’s a lot to discuss this week, let’s get straight into what I’ve been watching recently. I’ll most likely be keeping it brief on the films I’ve discussed before, and focusing more on the new stuff:

Doctor Strange (2016)
strangeMarvel’s latest sees Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Steven Strange, an exceptionally gifted and equally arrogant neurosurgeon who loses the ability to do delicate work with his hands after a serious car accident that he was very much to blame for. In search of a means of fixing his fingers, Strange heads to Nepal and meets The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and her other devotees including Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong (Benedict Wong), where he learns the ability to draw power from other dimensions, just in time to face off against one of The Ancient One’s former disciples, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), who is intent on stealing the power or eternal life. When speaking of Doctor Strange, the most-discussed element is often the visuals, and rightly so, for there are some jaw-dropping sights to be seen here. A lot of parallels have been understandably drawn from Inception – that’s what you get when you have fights scenes set within cities folding up on themselves, and another in a rotating corridor – which is fine by me given how much I love Inception, but it’s not all ripped off from elsewhere, and what is has been intensified far beyond anything done before. There’s a mind-blowing visual effects sequence too that goes into directions worthy of Escher or Dali – the fingers growing hands growing fingers still freaks me out – and frankly just a lot of new ideas within the set pieces that I’ve not seen before, and which thoroughly entertained me throughout. I liked all the casting decisions – I’m fine with Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One as, whilst it would have been great to get an Asian actor in there, what Swinton does with the role is terrific – and in fact the cast is overflowing with actors I love. On top of those already mentioned there are other supporting roles for the likes of Rachel McAdams, Michael Stuhlbarg and Benjamin Bratt. However this is very much the Benedict Cumberbatch show, and as such anyone who isn’t him, Swinton, Mikkelsen or Ejiofor feels underused. Granted this is only the first film in Strange’s run, so there’s potential for them to do far more in the future. Also I felt Scott Derrickson’s direction of some of the action scenes wasn’t as strong as it could be, with a lot of shots being too close to the subject so it was difficult to ascertain what was happening. This could be his inexperience with the genre – he’s more known for horror – but still he did a great job and this is one minor area to be improved upon. The film was also a lot funnier than expected, especially once Strange’s cape was introduced, and the interaction between Strange and Kaecilius regarding Strange’s name is one of the funniest exchanges of the year. In short, this is easily my favourite Marvel origin story since Iron Man.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 8/10

Toy Story (1995)
toy-storyWhere Pixar’s story began, despite time degrading the CG, this still more than holds up. I’ll never get tired of watching these films.
Lists: None (Already crossed off: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire Top 500, Total Film Top 100)
Choose Film 10/10

Toy Story 2 (1999)
toy-story-2In my opinion the weakest of the trilogy, that’s by no means an insult given the trilogy in question is probably my favourite of all time. I’ve never been a fan of the character of Jessie (Joan Cusack), but the Jurassic Park riff in Al’s Toy Barn more than makes up for it.
Lists: None (Already crossed off: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire Top 500, Empire Top 301)
Choose Film 9/10

Monsters Inc. (2001)
monsters-incI’ve always loved the sheer variety of monster designs, must have been so much fun coming up with them.
Lists: None
Choose Film 9/10

Finding Nemo (2003)
finding-nemoProbably the Pixar film I’ve seen the most. To me this is a practically perfect film that never stops being enjoyable. It’s very episodic, but every episode is so much fun.
Lists: None (Already crossed off: Empire Top 500, Empire Top 301)
Choose Film 10/10

The Incredibles (2004)
incrediblesI love The Incredibles, but I’m not as high on it as some others. Not sure why, it’s super-fun and really well done, I just rarely find myself reaching for it.
Lists: None (Already crossed off: Empire Top 500, Empire Top 301, Total Film Top 100)
Choose Film 9/10

Bone Tomahawk (2015)
bone-tomahawkWhen their town is attached and the doctor and sheriff’s deputy are kidnapped, four men – the town sheriff (Kurt Russell), his simple, elderly back-up deputy (Richard Jenkins), the doctor’s husband (Patrick Wilson) and a former hunter (Matthew Fox) head out to save them. I’d heard a little about Bone Tomahawk, mainly that it was good, long, and took a bit of a turn towards the end, and this had me intrigued. I’ve generally liked the westerns I’ve seen, and the character-actor-filled cast had me intrigued, and I’ve gotta say I loved this film. The dialogue is delightfully old-timey and the cast are clearly having fun with it, the performances were terrific, especially from Jenkins in an almost unrecognisable turn, the scenery looked gorgeous and the plot kept me interested throughout. It got a tad too gory towards the end, but the characters were so well defined that they got me through. I can’t believe how little this film has been brought up.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 9/10

Zoolander 2 (2016)
zoolander-2I needed a background movie, and the sequel to Zoolander seemed perfect. I enjoyed the first one a lot, but I’d heard a great deal of negativity towards the sequel, but I thought it was fine. I laughed a few times, I appreciated most of the cameos and returning performances, even if it felt like Billy Zane was being set up as this film’s villain but was in fact just in the start and then never seen again, and the addition of Penelope Cruz to the cast was a good and very attractive move. It’s fair to say this was never going to be as good as the first one but, whilst it’s by no means a must-see, there are also far worse films out there if you need to kill 100 minutes.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Life 6/10

Goosebumps (2015)
goosebumpsThis generation’s Jumanji (that us until the new Jumanji film starring Dwayne Johnson comes out), Goosebumps was surprisingly fun and inventive. I read a few of the books when I was younger, but apparently none of the ones referenced here, as I didn’t recognise any of the monsters, but the concept was fun. Jack Black plays R. L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series, whose magic typewriter brought all the creatures to life until he locked them in their respective books. Some typical teenage kids high-jinks sees the monsters break out, and it’s up to the kids and Stine to get them all back. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but there is a lot of fun to be had. The gnomes brought back memories of Gremlins, especially with their fight scene taking place in a kitchen, but Slappy the ventriloquist’s dummy (Also voiced by Black) steals the show. I wasn’t a big fan of Black’s mannerisms and voice for Stine himself, but fine. Also it was great seeing Amy Ryan, Amanda Lund, Ken Marino and Timothy Simons in supporting roles, even if none of them got a great deal to do.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 7/10

Arrival (2016)
arrivalDenis Villeneuve’s new film sees Amy Adams’ linguistics expert brought in along with Jeremy Renner’s mathematician to attempt to communicate with one of twelve extraterrestrial objects that have descended upon the world at random locations. This isn’t a giant action-filled epic exploding blockbuster, it’s a much more personal film, looking specifically at language and international relations, and I loved it. There are certain elements and ideas which I love in film that I cannot mention here because they are of a spoilery notion, but for reasons such as those I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated how this film was laid out. The performances are top notch – there’s also great work from Forest Whittaker and Michael Stuhlbarg (him again!) – and the rationed CGI is marvellous. The film raises interesting questions that are great to explore outside of the film, the language and design of certain aspects is also terrific, and as far as I’m concerned Villeneuve is four-for-four in terms of great movies (I’ve seen Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario and now this). I look forward to whatever he does next.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 8/10

Ratatouille (2007)
ratatouilleOne of the lesser-appreciated Pixar films I think, but one I love. I’m not surprised about the lack of commercial praise it receives given the subject matter of a rat who can cook, but it’s so well executed, especially the physical scenes of Remy in the kitchen, and somehow animated food looks delicious. I don’t think I’ve realised before that Will Arnett voices the dangerous thumb sous chef.
Lists: None
Choose Film 9/10

Inside Out (2015)
inside-outI didn’t like Inside Out when I first saw it. You can read all about that here. However this was a Pixar weekend, so we gave it another shot and I really tried to appreciate it more, but it still didn’t work for me. I find the premise too contrived and unrelatable (seriously, who can even feel joy anymore?) and the correlation between events in Riley’s head and what is occurring outside to be too convenient. The voice casting is stellar though (except Mindy Kaling, she seems like she’d be perfect for Disgust, but she adds nothing) and the insides of various other characters’ heads at the end remains the funniest and overall best part. Not the worst film Pixar has made – Cars 2 and potentially The Good Dinosaur are both worse – but still way, way over-rated.
Lists: None
Choose Life 6/10

Toy Story 3 (2010)
toy-story-3What better way to round out a Pixar weekend than with perhaps the greatest trilogy-closer ever made? When Toy Story 3 was announced I was trepidatious, as given how great the first two are surely there could be no direction but down for the franchise, but I shouldn’t have doubted Pixar as this is, for me,  one of their best films. It may even be my second favourite, after Wall-E. This is why I’m less concerned about the upcoming Toy Story 4. I’m still not 100% all in, given how well this film ends, but I’m not dismissing a part four entirely. In Pixar I trust.
Lists: None
Choose Film 10/10

And Then There Were None (1945)
and-then-there-were-noneThis month’s Movie of the Month for the LAMB was an Agatha Christie adaptation, which sees ten strangers summoned to a remote island under false pretences, who begin to be killed off one by one by an unseen murderer – is there someone on the island hunting them, or is one of their own number behind the crimes? I’ve read the book and saw the BBC mini-series fairly recently so I’m quite familiar with the story, but I still found this immensely enjoyable. Granted there was some Hollywood-ising of the climax to make it more palatable for the audience to leave in a good mood, which annoyed me somewhat given my appreciation for the original ending, but so be it. Remember everyone, no sane person would use seaweed as a pattern for making a shawl. Never forget these words.
Lists: None
Choose Film 8/10

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
fantasticI’m a Harry Potter fan. Not a massive oh-my-god-it’s-the-best-franchise-ever! fan, but I like all the films and have read all the books at least once, except for the spin-off books like this one. The trailers for Fantastic Beasts looked fantastic, and the idea of setting it within the same universe as the Potter books but several decades earlier intrigued me. Plus I liked the idea of someone essentially playing Pokemon Go in the Harry Potter world, so I’d been looking forward to this. Alas, I was somewhat disappointed, and that disappointment began when this was announced as begin part one in a five film franchise, and that Johnny Depp would be playing a significant role in the future. That meant this film would be spending a lot of time setting up elements for those future films, and that Depp would inevitably cameo towards the end, which would surprise no-one except my fiancee, who loudly exclaimed “Is that Johnny Depp?!” to the entire audience. The parts of this film dealing with Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne, having fun veering towards a Hugh Grant persona of the nervous bumbling Brit) attempting to track down and recapture his endangered, misunderstood creatures are a lot of fun, especially once he teams up with his comedic muggle (or “nomaj”) sidekick played by Dan Fogler, but unfortunately that’s only about half the film, with the rest devoted to Colin Farrell and the Magical Congress of the United States (MACUSA for short), who are being troubled by recent attacks from some unknown, immensely powerful being. This storyline continued to grind the film’s momentum to a halt every time it came up, and the deviations with Jon Voight and his son’s campaign for senator were even worse. I have to assume that these set-ups will pay off greatly in the future, but for now they’re in the way of my enjoyment of a film that held such promise. Were this just a standalone film in this universe I feel I’d have enjoyed it much more, but alas there are too few beasts and too many people.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Life 6/10

The Secret Life of Pets (2016)
petsToy Story meets Toy Story 2, but with dogs. Max (Louis CK) is a pampered pooch living with his owner, until she adopts the giant, unruly Duke (Eric Stonestreet), who ruins his set-up. In pure Woody and Buzz fashion the pair of them get themselves stranded and owner-less across town and must find a way home before their owner realises they are gone, and will of course learn to get along as they go. It’s nothing new, but it is a lot of fun, primarily due to the supporting characters, even if many of them are under-used. Kevin Hart steals the show as a megalomaniacal bunny, although Albert Brooks comes close as a hawk trying very hard not to eat everyone else.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 7/10

Posts you may have missed:
Lambcast #347: Doctor Strange I was joined by Robert Zerbe, Courtney Small, Brendan Cassidy and Bubbawheat to discuss the latest Marvel movie, you know, the one I talked about earlier.
Lambcast #348: And Then There Were None I was joined by Lindsay Street, Jeanette Ward and newcomer Sean Homrig to discuss the latest Movie of the Month, as mentioned earlier.
Night of the Living Dead
Dawn of the Dead
Day of the Dead
Favorite Scene Friday: The Blues Brothers – I wrote about the mall chase sequence for this month’s FSF post.

Goals Update
Aim: Review 8 or 9 1001 List movies each month
Reviewed: 53
Should be on: 88
On Track: No!

Aim: Review 1 “Bad” movie each month
Reviewed: 9
Should be on: 10
On Track: No!

Aim: Review 1 “Blind Spot” movie each month
Reviewed: 10
Should be on: 11
On Track: No!

Aim: Review 2 “Film-Makers” movies each month
Reviewed: 15
Should be on: 22
On Track: No!

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One thought on “My Fortnight in Film, 2016 Weeks 45 & 46

  1. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | Lambscores: The Edge of Seventeen, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

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