Friday, 15 December 2017

2017 - The Year In Review

2017 - A Year In Review

It would be easy to write up a review of the year looking at the big stories of the year but it would make for depressing reading now and no amount of "Now Wolverine can team up with the Avengers" can make up for that.

Instead this will be a bit of a statistical analysis of my year of cinema going along with my picks for the best (and worst) films of the year along with movie moments and performances.

When compiling my list of what I had watched this year, it became apparent that I will need to move with the times in 2018 as I only had kept track of films that I had seen at the cinema and not at home via Netflix, such as Gerald's Game and The Circle.

From 1st January, that will change as there are more and more original films being released via online platforms, including Duncan Jones's upcoming Mute (which will hopefully also receive a small theatrical release).

Films watched at the cinema - 142
New releases watched in 2017 - 115
Repeat viewings of new releases - 9
Classic re-issues watched on the big screen - 18

Worst Films of 2017

  1. Transformers 5: The Last Knight
  2. Song To Song
  3. The Snowman
  4. Geostorm
  5. The House

Movie Moments Of The Year

  1. Luke & Leia (The Last Jedi) - Don't want to go into spoilers but safe to say that when Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are reunited on screen, it is a scene that would turn even the most hardened Sith back from the Dark Side.
  2. Joi, K and Mariette (Blade Runner 2049) - The A.I. Joi melds with a replicant prostitute in order to become physical with Gosling's K and the CGI used in this scene is the most stunning that I have ever seen and blew my tiny human mind as it struggled to comprehend what it was seeing.
  3. Epilogue (La La Land) - A beautiful "What If" recap of this stunning, joyous musical which simultaneously becomes the most bittersweet ending to a romance since Casablanca.
  4. Spitfire vs the Bomber (Dunkirk) - The airborne dogfight cinematography is the highlight of Nolan's film but the acting and emotion cannot be overlooked during the scene where Hardy's pilot silently decides whether to fly home to safety or turn around to take on a German bomber to save more soldiers, knowing it will leave him out of fuel and probably sending him to his death.
  5. The Knock On The Door (Wind River) - When Elizabeth Olsen knocks on the door of a cabin, what happened next completely threw me for a loop.
  6. Post-credit Sting (Split) - One comes to expect a twist from an M. Night Shalamyan film and this was no different but when the film revealed where the story would go in the future I properly "marked out" and was astounded and delighted we would see more from the world of *redacted*
  7. Bellbottoms (Baby Driver) - The opening bank robbery and resulting car chase is a tour de force of action directing and editing, with all the action set out meticulously to the soundtrack of Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and sets the tone for Edgar Wright's bold, brash and brilliant Baby Driver.
  8. Anything with Korg (Thor Ragnarok) - Taika Waititi's hilarious rock monster Korg was the breakout character of Thor Ragnarok. Always there to undercut the tension with a joke or two, I certainly hope to see more of Korg and Miek in the MCU.
  9. Michael Stuhlbarg's monologue (Call Me By Your Name) - Stuhlbarg steals the film out from under the feet of Chalamet and Hammer right at the end with a tender, beautiful speech to his son that earns him the title of best movie parent since Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson in Easy A.
  10. "Oh hai Mark" (The Disaster Artist) - Yes it was featured in the trailer but the filming of this scene in The Room is fantastic (as is the spot on recreations of scenes from the film played side by side during the end credits).

Best Performances Of The Year

  1. Emily Beecham (Daphne)
  2. Tom Hardy (Dunkirk)
  3. James Franco (The Disaster Artist)
  4. Harrison Ford (Blade Runner 2049)
  5. Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane & Molly's Game)
  6. Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name)
  7. Rafe Spall (The Ritual)
  8. Mark Hamill (The Last Jedi)
  9. Hugh Grant (Paddington 2)
  10. Jack Black (Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle)

Most Enjoyable Cinematic Viewing Experiences

  1. The Room
  2. Edinburgh International Film Festival Q&As - This year I was lucky enough to host a couple of Q&As at EIFF including Daphne with a breakout performance from Emily Beecham and a packed house in Filmhouse 1 for The Beautiful Fantastic with Jeremy Irvine.
  3. Raiders Of The Lost Ark with live score at Usher Hall - One of the greatest films of all-time with one of the greatest film themes of all-time played live by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. What's not to love?
  4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi Midnight Screening 
  5. Dunkirk on 70mm & IMAX - Flawless projection from the team at Filmhouse for the gorgeous 70mm print. Sadly there were projection issues at Glasgow IMAX but I did notice the reactions of audience members around me with one girl utterly engrossed with the dogfight scenes so much that whenever Tom Hardy appeared on screen, she moved forward to the edge of her seat. At the end when he opens the cockpit to parachute to safety she started to cheer, only to look around at other people in shock when he closed it to safely land the plane on the beach and burn it so the Germans couldn't use it. It reminded me of the power that cinema can have over people.

Top 17 Films of 2017

  1. Blade Runner 2049
  2. Dunkirk
  3. Wind River
  4. Get Out
  5. The Last Jedi
  6. La La Land
  7. A Ghost Story
  8. Baby Driver
  9. Mother!
  10. The Disaster Artist
  11. Logan
  12. T2 Trainspotting
  13. Call Me By Your Name
  14. Paddington 2
  15. Raw
  16. Kaleidoscope
  17. It Comes At Night
Honorable Mention: War Of The Planet Of The Apes - Who can honestly say that in 2011, when a prequel/reboot to a Sixties sci-fi film that spawned a number of terrible sequels and remakes would produce one of the greatest film trilogies of ALL-TIME, anchored by an incredible central performance from Andy Serkis as Caesar.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

4DX - review

At the end of November, Cineworld Union Square Aberdeen opened their recently converted 4DX screen and today I went along to try it with a second viewing of Star Wars - The Last Jedi.

4DX for those not in the know, attempts to put you into the movie with various tricks such as chairs that move with the action, strobe lighting, wind machines, spraying water and mist plus smoke machines.

The biggest question, given the increased price tag of watching a movie this way, is: does it increase the film viewing experience.

The answer is... not really.

While the initial feeling of having your chair rock back and forth, side to side, as the spaceships fly around the screen and pufts of air blast round your head during explosions is mildly amusing, it feels like the Terminator 4D ride that was at Universal Studios drawn out over two and half hours.

Ultimately, instead of taking you further into the film, it consistently drew me out of the film as I was conscious of the mechanisms at work and it can become a little distracting. Plus having a screen dedicated to films compatible with 4DX technology, it can reduce the choice and availability at multiplexes even more than it currently does, especially at times when the majority of screens will already be playing Star Wars.

I certainly would not recommend it for a first viewing of a film so can focus completely on the story but if you were looking for a bit of fun with a repeat viewing of a big action blockbuster, it certainly can provide a little fun.

The 4DX experience only gets 2 stars!

The Last Jedi - review

When the Force awakened two years ago, a new hope was born for Star Wars fans. Fans that had succumbed to the dark side following feelings of fear, anger and suffering after being disappointed by George Lucas's prequels.

The Force Awakens was a welcome return to the Star Wars universe we all knew and loved. From the effects, the characters and the story.

The story however was slightly too close to the originals for some, with many arguing that it was simply a beat-for-beat retread of A New Hope.

In terms of plot, there will be no discussion of where the story goes and certainly no spoilers but after the opening salvo where sceptical audiences may think "Here we go again", believing that this is simply a repeat of The Empire Strikes Back, it is fair to say, just as Luke says in the trailer "This is not going to go the way you think" and writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) successfully delivers a series of unexpected twists and turns as our heroes and villains journey through a galaxy far, far away.

This means that The Last Jedi will potentially divide audiences between the dark side and the light.

And there certainly is a lot of light. For The Last Jedi is easily the funniest Star Wars film in the saga by a Kessel Run parsec or two. It is a huge gamble as the jokes are not the kind that have featured previously in the franchise and the odds are higher than even Han Solo would like but they all landed perfectly with an eager midnight crowd.

Elsewhere, Johnson makes some incredibly bold choices in terms of story and character in an effort to shake off the shackles of 40 years of history and prove that the saga can look ahead to the future and not be tied to the fate of the old guard. Sometimes literally throwing away everything you think you know.

Speaking of the old guard, it is great to finally have Mark Hamill back in a speaking role as a grizzled, world-weary Luke Skywalker but one possessed with Hamill's now trademark playfulness that he has developed since the original trilogy.

Special mention to Carrie Fisher for a strong, steely final performance as General Leia Organa and it is with great sadness that one can only imagine what would have happened in Episode IX, given that VII was Han's story, this is Luke's and it feels as if it would have naturally been her turn in the limelight.

The new generation of Isaac, Boyega, Serkis, Ridley and Driver continue to grow effortlessly into their roles, with Driver particularly fast-becoming the most complex and fascinating character in the saga.

Of the episode's new additions, the stand-outs are veterans Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro, who finally answers the question of what would happen if Fenster from The Usual Suspects went to space.

It is Johnson's ability to elegantly fuse the old and the new which is one of the major successes. Not just fitting new characters into the story but new locations such as the planet of Crait which provides the backdrop of a major battle with striking imagery of white salt flying up off the ground to reveal a blood red surface. There is also a welcome return to practical effects with a focus on puppetry and make up which seamlessly fits with the space battles and stunning CGI of Andy Serkis's Snoke.

Finally, it is time to address the elephant in the room... Porgs! No complaints here as I am now a fully paid up member of Team Porg. They are funny, not overused, not annoying in the same way as the Ewoks were and impossible to resist as testified by the sight of 400 people simultaneously "Awwwing" at a Porg.

The Last Jedi is the strongest instalment of the saga since Empire but that is where the comparisons to Episode V should end as Johnson is now forging a new path for the rebellion and the franchise, one that is built on much more than just hope but skill, wit and passion and the Star Wars is once again a Force to be reckoned with.

4 stars