My Week in Movies, 2015 Week 20

My first full week back at work (and heck of a work-week at that) and having a houseguest for a week too predictably cut into my effective movie watching and reviewing, but at the last minute I managed to claw in one review that prevented me from losing one of those hard-striven green ticks. No new ones this week, but I’m working on at least oen more for next week, fear not. Here’s what I watched this week: Continue reading

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Top 10… Films Of 2012

As promised, the Top lists have returned, with a vengeance! For you see, what once was five has now become ten, because y’know, when something was already a struggle to do on a weekly basis, why not double the workload? Anyway, this list is a fairly standard one for this time of year, looking back at the best films of 2012. I went to the cinema a total of 14 times last year, and for the most part I only saw films that I actually wanted to see, hence why I was able to make this list, as most of what I saw I genuinely loved. The three films that didn’t quite make it this year were, in ascending order, The Woman in Black (partly because of my terrible film experience, partly because it was quite a boring film that I didn’t want to see anyway, thanks Craig), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (wonderful viewing experience, good film that genuinely made me happy) and Prometheus (massive disappointment, but probably better than I originally gave it credit for, if you remove my impossible expectations).

Honourable Mention
The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists
Aardman! In an animation with monkeys! Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run and everything else this Bristol-based animation studio have provided (except maybe Flushed Away) are British treasures, and the closest this country is ever likely to come to Pixar. This story, based on an acclaimed series of children’s books, sees Hugh Grant’s Pirate Captain attempt to win both the Pirate of the Year competition and a big pile of cash from some easily-impressed scientists. It’s hilarious, beautifully crafted and packed with a wonderful cast, including David Tennant as Charles Darwin, Imelda Staunton as Queen Victoria and Martin Freeman as Pirate with a Scarf, and I’ve just realised that I don’t own it yet and I’ve forbidden myself from buying DVDs this year, so I can’t watch it again for a while. Bugger.

10. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan’s trilogy closer disappointed many people, myself included, but it is still one of the best films this year in terms of spectacle, storytelling and general epic-ness. I think it may be better than I originally gave it credit for, and I desperately need to watch it again, at which point it may find itself rising through the ranks of this list. The film ended Batman’s arc nicely, with the inclusion of some interesting characters, and a truly effective villain in Tom Hardy’s Bane. I seem to be the only person who had issues with Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman, but thankfully we have Joseph Gordon Levitt, Matthew Modine and Marion Cotillard to more than make up for that. And Michael Caine was phenomenal, and I’ll be even more disappointed if he doesn’t receive a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role as Alfred.

9. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
 Sneaking its way onto this list after I saw it on New Year’s Eve, The Hobbit was just as entertaining as I’d hoped. There were a few niggles (The Goblin King, old-Bilbo’s introduction) but not enough to spoil what was otherwise a tremendous, and tremendously long, cinema experience. I didn’t see it in 3D or 48fps, because two dimensions and 24 frames per second worked pretty well for The Lord Of The Rings, so I felt it wasn’t really necessary here. Martin Freeman is possibly the most perfect casting in all of history as the younger Bilbo, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (pronounced Smow-erg, not Smorg as I’d always believed) has just jacked up by most anticipated list of 2013 (see next Friday).

8. Brave
Now this is a surprise to me too. When I first saw Brave, I was fairly non-plussed, seeing it as better than the lesser-Pixars (Cars and, presumably, Cars 2), but not as good as anything else they’ve produced. The lack of a truly compelling story, combined with far less going on in the backgrounds of scenes than I’d previously come to expect from a Pixar film made this almost boring to watch. But, after having watched it again recently (also on New Year’s Eve, immediately after The Hobbit) I found it to be nothing short of delightful, full of colourful characters, a wide variety of comedic goings on (a bear falling down stairs, what more could you possibly want than a bear falling down stairs?) and the typically magical effects from the animation wonderhouse. And whilst Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald) will never be my favourite Pixar character (because y’know, she’s a girl), her dad (Billy Connolly) is very entertaining.

7. Skyfall
Last year James Bond came back, back, back with the help of Same Mendes, and together they made one of the greatest James Bond films in history, at least in the Top 5. Skyfall had everything a good Bond film needs – beautiful but disposable women, a nerdy Q (Ben Whishaw, brilliant), a cool car (and me noticing a car is something to take note of), some top quality British actors getting to have a bit of fun (Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Albert Finney), incredible stunts and, of course, a dastardly villain, here in the shape of Javier Badrem’s Silva. Its almost flawless, except no-one really wants to see James Bond become a wreck and suck at being an agent, even if its just for a little while. This is easily forgotten by just remembering the bit where he checks his cuffs after jumping into a destroyed train carriage. Easily my favourite moment in cinema this year, with Avengers’ “Puny God” line being a close second.

6. Argo
Ben Affleck continued his quality-ascending solid thrillers with this impossibly tense extraction film, as his CIA agent formulates and performs and elaborate scheme to rescue six American citizens from 1980s Iran. The mix of edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting tension and biting, self deprecating satire of the Hollywood industry courtesy of Alan Arkin and John Goodman worked unbelievably well, and it was a long time after I’d seen the film that my heart stopped racing at an incredible pace, so fraught is the film. A cracking supporting cast featuring every jobbing character actor available (Bryan Cranston! yay!), an effective and realistic recreation of the era and a well balanced script outshines the overly Hollywood-ised ending to finish off Affleck’s best work to date, both in front of and behind the camera. Roll on whatever he decides to do next.

5. Looper
It’s officially the film I’ve seen the most times at the cinema, with a current total of 1.5 viewings after I fainted during the first attempt. The fact that I not only paid for myself but also a friend to go and see it again (in premier seats no less, and a different companion to the first co-watcher) must mean that the story was beyond captivating. The casting of Bruce Willis and Joseph ‘Joggle’ Gordon Levitt as the older and younger versions of the same guy who, for reasons that become clear, aren’t necessarily all that fond of each other and are definitely out for different goals, is just beautifully done, and I never had any problem with Joggle’s facial prosthetics. There are so many things I want to say about this film, but pretty much all of them are spoilers, so if you still haven’t seen it I can only imagine it’s because you haven’t seen either of director Rian Johnson’s other films, in which case go and watch this, Brick and The Brothers Bloom immediately, for this is a guy who does nothing but make good films. Imagine if he directed the new Star Wars films! They’d be so awesome. Joggle as Han and Leia’s son anyone? Oh, and one final shout out to Pierce Gagnon, the kid in this film, who is pretty goddamn great for a young’un. And Jeff Daniels, for being Jeff Daniels.

4. Seven Psychopaths
Christopher Walken! Woody Harrelson! Tom Waits! His rabbit! Sam Rockwell! Harry Dead Stanton! Kevin Corrigan! Colin Farrell! Crispin Glover! Michael Stuhlbarg! Michael Pitt! Everyone else in this goddamn cast! by Martin McDunnough! Yep, you know me, I’m a sucker for a character actor, so when you give me a cast full of them, I’ll go see your film (goddamn I can’t wait for Lincoln to get over here). Seriously, if at some point in The Sound Of Music Christopher Walken rose from the grave, Nosferatu-style, with a pistol in each hand and started unloading on a gang of hoodlums, I’d happily sit through three hours of saccharine nonsense just for that moment. Especially if he ended up gunning down the Von Trapps. Starting with the little girl. Anyway, it wasn’t just the cast that made me love this film, but all the self-referential twists and turns, the stories within stories, the complete disregard for even caring whether the female characters were well written or not, just everything. 

3. The Muppets
Now I know what you’re thinking, why is The Muppets, a film from 2011, on a best of 2012 list? Hell, it even won an Oscar in 2012. Well, that’s because I live in a world where I can receive a t-shirt I’ve ordered from America in a matter of days, but where it takes 3 months for a film to arrive in my local cinemas. You see, The Muppets wasn’t released here until February 10th 2012, so as far as I’m concerned it came out last year, and thus is more than deserving of a place on this list. The Muppets saw human the human Gary (Jason Segel) and his bizarelly felt-clad brother Walter attempt to track down the disbanded Muppets, with the hope that they’ll perform a show to raise money in order to save their theatre from evil rapping oil tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). Packed to bursting with cameos (of which my favourite is probably still The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Sheridan), wonderful songs penned by Flight of the Conchords‘ Bret McKenzie and more puppet-based hilarity than is probably good for your health, this even surpasses the original The Muppet Movie in terms of sheer enjoyment value.

2. The Avengers

Firstly, I refuse to call this film by it’s British name, Avengers Assemble, because that sounds really quite dull. There is little to no chance of anyone going to see this film and be disappointed when Ralph Fiennes doesn’t show up wearing a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella, so the marketing department can just accept that they were wrong on that front. Who knows, if they’d given it the proper name, this may well have been my top film of 2012. I guess we’ll never know. Either way, before it was released there was much speculation that this could be a monumental flop, all of which disappeared when the film was released and pretty much everyone though it was flipping amazing. And I’m inclined to agree. Be it Mark Ruffalo’s best-Hulk-yet (though that’s not necessarily saying much), the return of Tom Hiddleston as a villain worthy enough of requiring six superheroes (OK, four superheroes and two skilled agents) to bring him down, the deft blend of awe-inspiring action with laugh-out-loud humour or the many lingering shots of Scarlett Johansson’s backside, there was an awful lot to like about this film. Oh, and it was directed by Joss Whedon, who can really do no wrong in my eyes. Which brings me neatly along to…

I went into The Cabin In The Woods already knowing a little bit about the plot, which I won’t ruin just in case. If you have so far avoided hearing anything about it, I encourage you to continue to do so until the copy that I presume you are about to order arrives in the post, at which point you can sit down, watch it, watch it again, then come back and tell me which bits you loved so much. My Christmas was almost ruined when I failed to find this under neath the tree, but rest assured my shiny new Blu-Ray arrived yesterday, and I cannot wait to watch it soon (hopefully this weekend). This is a horror film for people who don’t normally watch horrors, a comedy for those that do, and just basically a great movie for people that like such things. Joss Whedon, hallowed be thy name, has crafted an intelligent, hilarious and brain-melding script whose concept is what I truly love. Even if, as with The Avengers, the trailers may have left me waiting for certain moments to happen, this is still the most enjoyable film I watched in the cinema last year.

Top 5… Worst Cinematic Experiences

I was inspired to write this list after listening to a similarly themed podcast from The Film Vault a few months ago, plus it was a post I could write without having to do any research whilst on holiday in a technology-less cabin in Clydach. Now, this isn’t a list of the best and worst films I’ve seen at the cinema (Best: Toy Story trilogy, Lord of the Rings, Cabin in the Woods etc, Worst: Speed Racer, The Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), instead it’s when certain elements – be they oversights from the cinema themselves or my fellow cinema-goers – have come together to ruin what should have been something wonderful.
Continue reading

Prometheus Plot Holes

Warning, this post is literally nothing but spoilers for Prometheus. I mentioned in my review that the script had numerous plot holes, and I really need to vent them out, so I’ve listed them below. Do not read this until you’ve watched the film, and if anyone can fill the holes in for me please go ahead. I repeat, do not read this post until you have seen the film.

1.    Why is David riding a bicycle and shooting hoops? Is he trying to impress someone? I understand why he’s developing language skills, as he’s researching things as yet undiscovered, but what’s with the sports? He’s a robot!
2.    When Holloway sees the lines on the planet that prove the alien presence, why does no-one suggest scoping the area out for a while? Even just a little fly around would have been nice.
3.    What exactly are the holograms for? David starts one in the caves and another on the Space Jockey deck, but who are they for? They’re useful for him and us, but who made them? They could be some kind of ship’s log, but if so couldn’t someone have said that in one line of dialogue?
4.    When Shaw, Holloway, David and Ford flee the caves, outside there’s two go-karts and a minibus. Two get on each of the karts, and no-one gets into the bus, yet they all drive off (at the time we assume Fifield and Millburn are in there). Who is driving it? You could argue that there’s a nameless crew member that stayed behind as a driver, and headed off to avoid the storm slightly too early for the others to get in, but there’s no proof of this.
5.    Once David has rescued Shaw and Holloway, Janek mentions they don’t know where Fifield and Millburn are, but there’s a map showing their position! He uses it in the next scene. Plus, Janek seems pretty lackadaisical about two members of the crew being stranded on an alien planet. He practically says LOL. Also, how convenient is it that everyone has a surname beginning with a different letter?
6.    Why does David cave in to Vickers’ threats? He’s a robot, there’s not a lot she could do to him.
7.    Millburn the biologist is supposedly cowardly, as he is easily convinced by Fifield to run away at the site of a decapitated body (understandable), and later when he hears there’s a lifeform somewhere nearby, he says he’s heading in the opposite direction. So why, when he and Fifield go to the vase chamber, does he suddenly want to make friends with the alien there? He can’t even see the entire creature, so for all he knows it’s some giant beasty with a strange proboscis. Why did they even decide to stay in the cave full of weird bubbling vases anyway? It’s the exact room, with the dead decapitated body outside of it, that they ran away from earlier.
8.    Millburn and Fifield die when no-one is watching the monitors, because Vickers and Janek are getting it on in her quarters, right? Firstly, how come Janek didn’t order someone else to watch the monitors, and secondly, even if no-one was there, don’t these guys have TiVo? Just rewind the feed and see what happened. We have it in 2012; I’m guessing it’s still around in 2094.
9.    Why did Janek, the captain and pilot of the ship, go to investigate the disappearance of Millburn and Fifield? Surely he’s pretty integral to the running of the ship.
10.What exactly was David’s plan with the black goo? He gave some to Holloway in his drink; did he know he would have sex with Shaw and impregnate her with an alien? If so, why did he do that too? Was he curious, or trying to kill Holloway? Why?
11.Why did the infected Fifield come back to the ship to try and kill everyone? He was the one character I really wanted to die, and he’s the only one who came back to life! Typical. I thought Millburn would have come back with a chest-burster in him, seeing as an alien went down his throat and Fifield had his face melted with acid. Also, why did they go out and investigate Fifield’s clearly dead body (the helmet is smashed with a deadly atmosphere, and his legs are bent over his shoulders) seeing as there’s no way he could have just turned up there on his own, being dead and all.
12.Why does David tell Shaw she is pregnant? If he wanted an alien specimen, surely telling her will just make her try and abort it, and if he wanted to kill her, then not telling her will result in the alien bursting through her stomach and killing her that way. Being pregnant with a baby alien was probably the last thing she was expecting, especially seeing as she was barren and had only had sex 10 hours ago and not before for 28 months.
13.After she wakes up from being sedated by David, Shaw finds it pretty easy to escape from the medics and run to Vickers’ quarters with no-one chasing her. No-one comes for the entire time she is in there.
14.After the impromptu caesarean I could have done with a scene of Shaw breaking down from the intensity of what she’d just gone through. In the past few hours she’d lost her husband, found out she was pregnant when she thought she was barren, discovered the ‘child’ was in fact a killer alien, had a caesarean whilst fully awake and watching it, had the cut literally stapled shut and then fought the creature that had just gestated inside her. I’d say that warrants a little exasperation.
15.Did I miss a scene where everyone on board found out about, and was cool with, Peter Weyland being on board the ship? After Shaw’s surgery the rest of the crew seems OK with him being there. It was pretty damn obvious he was going to be onboard too, seeing Guy Pearce was highly billed in the opening credits. Stop doing that kind of thing. And making Vickers his daughter is pointless, unsurprising and ridiculous.
16.Ripping David the android’s head off is a nice nod to Ash’s fate in Alien, but is it possible for a robot to survive one of these films? Please?
17.When Vickers and Shaw are running from the crashing spaceship, why in the name of LV426 do they not run sideways? I hate when films do this. There’s something rolling behind you in a relatively straight line, so instead of getting out of the way you decide to race it. Insane. Shaw only survives because she trips and rolls out the way. I did like that the last two alive were the two main women, just like in Alien, and similarly the blonde dies and the brunette survives.
18.Shaw’s air supply is supposedly running out at the end of the film, yet she’s barely been away from the ship. Earlier, Fifield and Millburn were away for longer, and were expected to survive overnight when they got stranded. Yes, they were in the chambers with breathable atmosphere, but they had to keep their helmets up because it was going to get cold, so they must have had to survive on their own air supplies.
19.The alien that Shaw had aborted grows pretty fucking huge seeing as it’s had no organic matter to feed on other than a little blood Shaw left behind.
20.At the end, Shaw is told that there are other ships. Does she check them all for surviving Engineers, or just leave in the first ship she finds? I’d have much preferred that the final shot be of her silhouette, with an axe in one hand and David decapitated head in the other, heading off to take out the surviving aliens.
Wow, I didn’t realise I had so many problems with the script. Am I being too harsh? Or stupid? Was a lot of this explained? Let me know.
*EDIT* Thanks to everyone for all the comments and page views so far, the response I’ve had from this is phenomenal. It turns out my list of plot holes wasn’t quite complete, and many of you have posed a few more. I’ve tried to give credit where it’s due, but apologies if I’ve left someone off. Also, some of these get a bit science-y, and I’ve not researched any of the theories, so please don’t shout at me if they’re wrong. Sections in brackets are from me.
21.   How exactly did they manage to reanimate a head that’d be dead for several thousand years? I’m pretty sure in 77 years time that technology isn’t going to be available. Also, why did it explode? – Anon
22.   Organic molecules do not form in oxygen-rich running water. – Anon
23.    It’d be nice if they’d clarified at some point why the Hell the Engineers wanted to kill humans, and why did they think that the black goo, which creates a completely different, far more dangerous race, would be the best way to do it? (Personally I think it was for sport.) – J/Michael Shaw
24.   The DNA was a perfect match, yet the Engineers are big, bald and pale. (My personal theory is that had the physical differences are due to environmental differences between Earth and LV-223 in terms of gravity, proximity to the Sun, etc.) – J
25.   If the Engineers created humans, did they also create all the other life on Earth? From what, and how are they all different? Did all the different species evolve from that one Engineer? If so, how are we all different? – J/areanimator
26.   The crew are really very unprofessional and lacking in protocol for such an important and well funded mission. (Perhaps these were the only people willing to sacrifice 5 years of their lives for a wild goose chase.) – Anon
27.   Could they not have detected the oncoming storm, seeing as they just arrived from space? And don’t they have larger versions of Fifield’s ‘puppies’ they could send down to scout out the terrain first? (Hell, can’t they send the ‘puppies’ into the caves from the safety of the ship? There could have been aliens waiting just inside the cave for them.) – Anon
28.   You can’t run around after having your body cut open to your uterus, even if the wound was closed with some stitches. Your body goes into complete shock, the stitches cannot make up for the fact tissue was cut and muscles were cut which are essential for your core, and by extension for your body to perform any kind of walking movement. – Anon
29.   The two co-pilots at the end didn’t really need to kill themselves. They say Janek is a bad pilot (really? Weyland paid a fortune for a crappy captain?) but he doesn’t really do a lot of piloting, in fact he even says “Hands off” of the steering to crash into the ship. There’s also apparently a member of Weyland’s security who doesn’t go down to the planet with Weyland and co, who Janek is essentially killing at that point too, but fair enough it’s for the good of humanity. – Anon
30.   Why do the cryo-beds have a function that allows David to see their dreams? (Possibly to see if they’re in distress or suffering some kind of psychological trauma from the cryo-sleep, but that’s a stretch). – Beta Max
31.   Why was the medical machine only male-calibrated? OK, it was probably there to operate on Weyland, but it makes little sense to make machinery just for men or women. – Anon
32.   How did the Engineer survive the toxic LV-223 atmosphere without a helmet when he attacks Shaw at the end? He must have needed the helmet to breathe, yet made it from the crashed ship to Vickers’ crashed pod pretty easily.  – Anon
33.   Why was it a secret that Weyland was on his ship, and why was it pegged as a surprise reveal that Vickers’ was his daughter? (Hollywood tension-generating bullshit.) – Anon
34.   Why did the Engineers point all the ancient civilisations towards a military installation? (My guess: the Engineers thought we might have come back all guns blazing, so sent us to a battle-ready moon/planet instead of their home world.) – Anon
35.   Once they discover that the Engineers have the same DNA as humans, they don’t make the logical connection that what killed the Engineers will probably kill the humans too, and no extra quarantine methods or safety precautions are put in place. – Areanimator
36.   The Engineers were running away from something, yet ran towards a room full of deadly black goo that presumably they manufactured. (The room had the giant stone head in, meaning it could be of religious importance, and they thought prayer was their only option at that point. Alternatively, they may have been running towards the room to trap the black goo inside.) – Areanimator
37.   The hologram of Earth resembles modern Earth, rather than how it looked at the damn of man. –The Movie Waffler
38.   Why did Weyland think he could just rock up to an alien moon, have a nice chat with the Engineers and that they could give him immortality? (He was nearly dead, so was probably grasping at whatever straws he could reach.) – Anon
39.   Apparently the Engineers were trying to leave LV-223 because it had all gone wrong, but how? There was no trace of active aliens on the planet. (They may have been trying to seal off the experiment going wrong into the cave with the vases, but one Engineer tripped and got decapitated by the door?) – Lisa
40.   After decapitation, David’s head manages to stay pretty damn close to his body, even after takeoff, crashing and rolling all over the place. Seems pretty unlikely unless the white ‘blood’ is a damn good glue. – Christophe Abi Akle

Oh, and for those of you looking for a more informed, science-based look at the gaping holes woven together to form the net of this film, check out Stephen Gaskell’s post over at Creepy Treehouse.

Prometheus

Don’t ask me how, but I managed to get a ticket to the Cast & Crew Premiere of Prometheus at the Empire Cinema in London’s Leicester Square last night. Though it was disappointing not to see director Ridley Scott or the cast, who are probably saving themselves for tomorrow’s red carpet Premiere (a part of me was hoping I’d get to sit next to Charlize Theron, you can probably guess which part), the experience of going to see a film with nothing but film fans and people who respect the art, in a stunning cinema, was amazing, even if there was a bit of a post-movie crowd crushing to retrieve handed-in phones afterwards. Plus, I saw it three days before the rest of the general public, which makes me feel special. 
 In 2089 a group of scientists, led by Shaw and Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) discover ancient cave paintings on the Isle of Skye depicting giant humanoids reaching up to 6 orbs in the sky. The drawing matches others found all over the world, and point towards a distant planet that may hold some key to the origins of mankind. Four years later, the scientists arrive at the planet LV223 as part of a 17-man crew aboard the Peter Weyland-funded ship Prometheus. Once there, the crew find traces of alien life, but are the answers they receive the ones they were hoping for?

Most anticipated films of 2012

2011 is drawing to a close, and let’s be honest, it hasn’t been a terrific year for film, but worry not, in just over a week a new year will be upon us, and its already looking like a cinematic doozy. Here’s my pick of what’s likely to be saucering my eyes next year:
The Avengers
Marvel’s dream team of superheroes line up to face a world threatening attack, as well as each other, in Joss Whedon’s epic ultimate crossover.