Well this is a good start, isn’t it? I know I’ve let two weeks go by without a weekly post before, but three? THREE? It’s unheard of. Well, it was, but now it’s happened and, given how this year is going, it may well become the norm. The problem was last weekend, when I took on a fairly sizeable craft commission for Aisha’s work. I say sizeable, but that only relates to the amount of work required, not how impressive the finished result was and certainly not in terms of how much I got paid. The job led to far more post-1am bedtimes than I’d intended, and also led to me going to bed with paint in my hair three nights in a row. It’s done now, phew, so it’s back to planning the wedding and not writing reviews. Also, I’ve not had much of an urge to post a weekly piece because I haven’t actually watched all that many films, certainly not any from my lists. In fact there was a period of eleven days where I watched nothing. Not a damn thing. As it goes, in the past three weeks I’ve watched a total of six movies, which might be my lowest tally since I started this blog. And had I not run out of clean shirts yesterday and spent the evening ironing fresh ones, that total would probably be at least one lower. None of this is all that important though. I know what you’re here for, my mini reviews of these films, so here they are:
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
The first film I watched this year was one I’d been looking forward to for some time. I enjoy Hot-Rod a great deal, and the trailers and videos leading up to the release of Popstar were all very entertaining, but alas it wasn’t in cinemas for very long so I’ve had to wait for DVD. Fortunately it was worth the wait, as I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I’ve not got a lot to say other than I found it very funny, enjoyed some of the more unexpected cameos, and the songs were still great. The only problem was that the bigger and funnier bits were revealed in the trailers, so didn’t have the surprise value that would have made them all the funnier, but they were still very enjoyable.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 8/10
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)
Another fun but relatively lightweight film was this, starring Tina Fey as a war correspondent in Afghanistan alongside Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman. There’s a nice balance of comedy and drama and the three leads are terrific, even if I was always waiting for Freeman’s character to reveal his Scottish accent was false. Highlight of the whole thing is easily Alfred Molina, who seems to be visiting from a different, more farcicaly film, but is endlessly entertaining whenever he’s on screen.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 7/10
Ex Machina (2015)
The first time I watched Ex Machina I didn’t love it. It was watched on a time crunch, a streaming rental that I kept falling asleep during and didn’t have a chance to re-watch within the rental window, so I never fully understood all the love and hype surrounding it. Now I’ve given it a fairer, more attentive viewing, and I uderstand even less. This film feels like a big bag of “fine”. To me it’s nothing overly special. Yes the story is vaguley interesting – Domhnall Gleeson is a programmer who wins a staff lottery to spend a week with the company’s CO in his isolated home, within which artificial intelligence has been created and is being tested – but the only part that really stands out for me is the production design. The performances are great too I suppose, particularly Alicia Vikander as Ava the robot and Oscar Isaac as her creator, Nathan, but given all the expectation this was a huge let-down. You can hear more of my thoughts on it in the Movie of the Month Lambcast about it.
Lists: 2015 Movies
Choose Film 6/10
Jurassic Park (1993)
Speaking of the Lambcast, we’ve recently started a new feature called LAMB Tracks (I say new, a few episodes were attempted a long time ago but never really got off the ground, so as far as I’m concerned we’re starting from scratch). LAMB Tracks are basically your standard movie commentaries, but with myself and fellow LAMB members talking over the film being covered. The project is being helmed by Elwood Jones, and it was his idea to start things off with the Jurassic Park franchise, something I was more than OK with given my adoration of the first movie and varied opinions on the others. He, DJ Valentine and I took part in the inaugural episode, so instead of repeating my thoughts on the film (hint: it’s my favourite one of all time) I’ll just redirect you to the commentary instead.
Lists: None (already crossed off: 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Empire’s 5-Star 500, Empire Top 500, Empire Top 301, Total Film Top 100, Steven Spielberg Movies)
Choose Film 10/10
Odd Thomas (2013)
The best word to describe this film is right there in the title, odd. Anton Yelchin plays the eponymous fry-cook who can see dead people, and can also sense imminent doom. When his town becomes under threat from an unknown but potentially catastrophic event, only Odd, his girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) and the local police chief (Willem Dafoe) can stop it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this, given how rarely I find it discussed, and how under the radar it was upon release. I’m not at all familiar with the source material, and went in pretty much completely blind, but had a fun time throughout. Yelchin is terrific, and the relationship his character has with Stormy is a lot of fun, as is their chemistry. I enjoyed the premise that other people were aware of his abilities and made use of them, but at times I felt like there was a missing scene or piece of set-up somewhere, as this came off like an instalment in a previously established franchise, or the extra-long season finale of a TV show. Most of the information is eventually present, but it takes a while to piece everything together. This is especially the case with the ghostly bodachs, terrifying spectral skeleton-like beings who are drawn to impending death and who only Odd can see, and if they realise Odd can see them they will kill him too. It’s never really explained what these things are, where they come from or how they work, just that they’re a big bundle of bad. There’s a decent supporting cast (of which the women are all incredibly gorgeous, even small roles like a brief flashback to Odd’s mother, who is essentially Sofia Vergara in season one of Modern Family) and a fun plot that often had me guessing, even though some of the twists were pretty clear, and an ending that blind-sided me more than a little.
Choose Film 7/10
Hell or High Water (2016)
I’ve heard Hell or High Water described as 2016’s No Country For Old Men and, whilst I can certainly see the similarities in terms of setting and some of the characters, this isn’t quite as fantastic as that Coen brothers’ masterpiece. It’s still great though, and I’m very glad I got to watch it before finishing my full ranking of 2016 releases. Ben Foster and Chris Pine are brothers intent on robbing a series of banks for small quantities of cash, raising a specific sum for a specific reason. Jeff Bridges is the retirement-nearing cop out to stop them. It’s not the most original of stories, but what makes it stand out is by establishing that neither of these figures is entirely in the right or the wrong – Pine’s aim is to provide for his family, whilst Bridges is a foul-mouthed jovial racist with many a slur for his Catholic, half-Mexican, half-Native American partner – and in fact sets up the primary antagonist as being the financial system that has rendered the surrounding area a barren landscape of closing down businesses and billboards offering debt consolidation. It’s a very topical look at a traditional heist story, and the casting of three fantastic actors doesn’t hurt either. All are great here, with Bridges in particular really shining, sticking to the Rooster Cogburn-esque performance he hasn’t been able to escape from for a few years now.
Lists: 2016 Movies
Choose Film 8/10
Posts you may have missed:
What Kind Of Year Has It Been? 2016 Edition
Favourite Scene Friday: The Princess Bride – Get Used To Disappointment
Lambcast #355: Best Of 2016 I was joined by Heather Baxendale, Howard Casner, Daniel Lackey and The Vern to discuss the films of 2016, and the ones we deemed the least terrible.
Lambcast #356: Ex Machina I was joined by Kristen Lopez, Nick Rehak, Sean Homrig and Nikhat Zahra to discuss Alex Garland’s sci-fi movie, Ex Machina.
Lambcast #357: Most Anticipated Movies of 2017: I was joined by Jess Manzo, Courtney Small, Zoe Rose Smith and Kristen Lopez to discuss the movies we’re most looking forward to in the next twelve months.
Lamb Tracks #1: Jurassic Park Commentary We kicked off a brand new LAMB feature – LAMB tracks – with a commentary of Jurassic Park, and it wasn’t even my idea! Elwood Jones, DJ Valentine and I talked over the greatest film ever made, and will be covering the other films in the Jurassic saga over the next few months.