Marvel vs DC vs Fox: Year in Review

Earlier in the year I wrote an article discussing the comic book movies from the first half of 2016. Looking back over that post I can see that I (quite rightly) ranked Marvel as having the best start to the year with the epic Captain America: Civil War. Fox were second after the good but not great Deadpool, and DC were lagging behind after the clunky misfire that was Batman v Superman. In that same post I discussed how excited I was for the rest of the year. Doctor Strange intrigued me but it was Suicide Squad and X-Men: Apocalypse that really got me excited. The DC anti-hero movie promised something completely different to what we had seen for years in comic book movies, whilst Apocalypse was the third installment in an otherwise fantastic prequel franchise.
Now 2016 is coming to a close, I can look back at the year and definitely say:
Well that wasn’t great.

 

Marvel

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Civil War really reinvigorated my love of comic book movies after a gradual slide in interest beginning around the time of 2015’s Age of Ultron. I expected less of Doctor Strange but was still rather excited. I took my seat in the IMAX cinema and whilst it didn’t stray too far from the Marvel formula, it still managed to completely blow me away visually. No doubt seeing the film on such a large screen really benefitted it, as I was truly immersed in the mind-boggling multiverse. For that scene alone it was worth it. Although I’m not sure it will be quite as effecting on the smaller screen on a repeat viewing. Aside from that, as i said, it was rather formulaic, but the action sequences were still impressive, and there were a few nice surprises thrown in. Marvel did a particularly good job in introducing magical elements into a universe that is already well developed, and I look forward to seeing how it is used in future movies.

Doctor Strange: 8/10
Score for the Year: 8.5/10

 

DC

SUICIDE SQUAD

DC didn’t get off to the best start with Batman v Superman, but they had a great chance to save their new cinematic universe with Suicide Squad. The original trailers appeared promising but as soon as the first reviews came out it was obvious something had gone wrong. The result is a choppy movie, which never really takes off. The action is generic, the characters one dimensional, and the story quite honestly boring. The horrific CGI monsters only add to the mess.
It seems DC have been in panic mode since the very beginning. They have tried so hard to rival Marvel that they continuously mess with the films being made, and the movies never hit the spot. They are three movies in now and Man of Steel remains the best of a rather poor bunch. I’m unsure how much longer this universe can survive on such torrid output. In 2017 they really need to hit a homerun with either Wonder Woman or Justice League in order to stay relevant.
Whilst both BvS and Suicide Squad ultimately beat Doctor Strange in box office numbers, they were both released in better months than Strange which was straddled with a November release. Neither BvS nor SS got close to the one billion mark that Civil War breezed through either. That is a worrying sign, especially since DC threw all of its eggs in one basket having all three of their big hitters in Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman appear in BvS.

Suicide Squad: 3/10
Score for the Year: 4/10

 

Fox

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Reading my previous post I can see I was really excited by Fox this year. Sure I didn’t love Deadpool as much as everyone else seemed to, but I still preferred it to BvS, and I was thoroughly excited for X-Men: Apocalypse. By the time Apocalypse was released however, my enthusiasm had waned somewhat, and it was the only comic-book movie this year that I didn’t journey to the cinema to see. Instead I watched this one most recently, only days ago, in the comfort of my own living room. It is a middling effort unfortunately. Not as dull as Batman V Superman or Suicide Squad, probably thanks to the very talented ensemble cast, but nothing special either. Instead of forging its own path (the exact reason why First Class was so brilliant) it relied too heavily on copying the destruction of Days of Future Past. Comic book movies needn’t just be world-destroying action! There’s a moment near the start of the film where Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, having left a screening of Return of the Jedi, states that the third film is always the weakest in a trilogy. Obviously that was a dig at the underwhelming Last Stand, but it also unintentionally became a self-fulfilling prophecy for Apocalypse too.

X-Men: Apocalypse 5/10
Score for the Year 6/10

 

So overall, I have to say, it’s been quite the disappointing year for comic book movies. Out of the six released, I can say only one was truly great. A couple were good but the other three were duds. I’ll only be rewatching one in the future which I think says a lot.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years of superhero fatigue. I began to feel that in 2015, and the feeling has only grown this year.
Perhaps other people are beginning to feel that too. Sure Civil War and Deadpool cleaned up at the box office, but BvS and particularly X-Men: Apocalypse struggled to hit the high numbers they hoped for. There’s a lot of comic book movie output and it can get tiring, repetitive and expensive for people.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
There are a number of very exciting comic book movies being released in the coming year, and they will be addressed in a post very soon.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

 

Top Ten Best Movies of 2016

I haven’t seen all the movies of the last year, but from what I have seen I can rather confidently conclude that it hasn’t been a vintage year for cinema. There has been a lot of output sure, but the ratio of classics to middling movies and duds is seemingly much lower than years gone by. Thankfully though there are a few movies which I will be happy to revisit time and time again in the years to come, and thus I have decided to create a list of these – my favourite movies from 2016.
The films on this list have been released in the UK in the last twelve months.

Let us start with some honourable mentions. Those movies that were great but just didn’t make the cut.

the-hateful-eight

Honourable Mentions

Of course I have to mention Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight which started the year off with a bang and only narrowly missed out on my top ten. Another close call was Shane Black’s magnificent The Nice Guys, featuring the ragtag team of Ryan Gosling’s hapless PI Holland March, and Russell Crowe’s hardman Jackson Healy. It was a great buddy comedy of a bygone era, the like of which only Black seems to be able to do justice to these days. There was also a return to form for Woody Allen, who delivered with the rather special Cafe Society. Independent cinema also threw up some surprises, for example Mistress America, a wonderful film about a shy freshman who befriends her quirky soon to be step-sister, and King Jack, a tiny movie about a  young troubled boy growing up which reminded me of Stand By Me. A similar coming of age film, Taika Waititi’s second feature, Hunt for the Wilderpeople lived up to the hype, with incredible performances by both Sam Neill and the young Julian Dennison. Charlie Kaufman excelled as always in the most haunting, most human film of the year, despite the fact it focused entirely on puppets, in the unique Anomalisa. And of course, Gareth Edwards knocked our socks off with the intergalactic war movie, Rogue One.
Finally I have gone back and forth on this one, but 10 Cloverfield Lane just missed out on the top ten by an inch. Dan Trachtenberg built an underrated gem with just three superb actors and a post-apocalyptic bunker. The tension grows and grows until it is unbearable and the twists and turns are excellent. It was ultimately pipped to the post by…

10. Hell or High Waterhell-or-high-waterJust go out and see this one. A fantastic crime thriller with Chris Pine and Ben Foster as the bank robbing brothers and Jeff Bridges as the aging cop on their tale. This is a type of movie we see very rarely these days – a middle budget Hollywood film; a completely original, rather complex, premise; and some big name stars attached. There’s a brilliant article about it here:
https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/sep/06/hell-or-high-water-hollywood-film-making-70s.

9. The Jungle Book jungle-bookDisney’s live action remakes (Maleficent, Cinderella) have received middling reviews thus far, so it was nice to see The Jungle Book absolutely knock it out of the park. The work of young lead Neel Sethi carries the film, and he is backed up by excellent support, most notably from Bill Murray as Baloo and Christopher Walken and Ben Kingsley as King Louie and Bagheera respectively.

8. Zootopia  zootopiainA loveable animated film, that managed to distinguish itself from the crowd and crack the one billion mark at the box office despite the tough animated competition in the form of Finding Dory, Trolls and Sing. Finding Dory in particular was a great film, but Disney really stepped the game up this year with Zootopia, and deserve to walk away with the Oscar come awards night.

7. Captain Fantasticcaptainfantastic1280jpg-485641_1280wThis quirky tale of a man and his family who live in the wild could have easily been too wacky and unfunny, but Viggo Mortensen and a strong young cast made it both laugh out loud funny as well as heartwarming.

6. Mustang mustang-cannes-film-festivalNaturally this movie about 5 young sisters who rebel from the very conservative society in which they live in remote Turkey has been compared 2000’s The Virgin Suicides. However this is a much more accomplished movie than that Sofia Coppola film, and yet it was just as underseen and underappreciated. The five sisters are quite incredible, and the tale of their struggle and revolution is one of the most beautiful stories told this year on screen.

5. Everybody Wants Some!! everybody-wants-some-1459784161Richard Linklater created this spiritual sequel to stoner classic Dazed and Confused, and managed to live up to all expectations. As with the aforementioned Dazed it is equal parts hilarious and nostalgic and all parts incredible. It doesn’t take itself or its characters too seriously, and there is no life-altering meaning, and that is exactly why it is so brilliant. All it tells us to remember is to enjoy life.

4. Room 'Room' is a journey out of darkness, director saysA truly harrowing movie that perhaps should have stolen the Oscar for best film from under the noses of Spotlight and the Revenant. It is a tough watch but the ultimate hope of the story is so uplifting that it is worth the investment. Whilst Brie Larson certainly deserved her Oscar for what is a near perfect performance, Jacob Tremblay as the young boy who has never seen anything beside the one room in which he lives, may actually be even better.

3. Paterson paterson_film
A return to form for Jim Jarmusch, Paterson focuses on Adam Driver’s bus driver who just so happens to be a poet too. It’s a lovely, charming movie, which excels in looking at the beauty of the everyday person. It is thus in its simplicity and its very ordinariness that Paterson shines brighter than almost any other movie this year. Despite the lack of big money effects and explosions we have become accustomed to through summer blockbusters, Paterson is more memorable than any comic book movie this year. It somehow manages to stay in the mind long after the credits roll, the scenes of everyday life pervading your own.

2. American Honey  AmericanHoneySashaShia.0.0.jpgShot in the intentionally boxy 4:3 ratio this tale of the lost youth of America is enchanting. Travelling across the country right in the car with them, as an audience, we are privy to this often unseen, completely bizarre world. Sasha Lane is extraordinary as the lost soul who is enticed by Shia Labeouf’s mysterious Jake, and thus agrees to a life of driving across country, figuring it out as they go. It’s a very twenty-first century film, and it feels like one that will be studied in years to come – a bizarre capsule of a strange unseen corner of modern society; the tale of a confused generation.
1. Arrival  arrivalA science-fiction film for the ages.
It is a genre that is often done well but not perfectly. Big name directors have tried and failed to find the correct formula – most recently Christopher Nolan with Interstellar – but here Denis Villeneuve figures it all out by not making a science fiction film at all, but instead making a family drama. It is spectacular. It is heartbreaking like almost nothing else seen this year. And it will play on your mind for weeks on repeat long after the fact. A true classic of the genre that (if Prisoners, Enemy and Sicario haven’t already) cements Villeneuve as one of the best directors working today. That is why it is my film of the year.

And so that was 2016! Here’s hoping for more classics in the New Year!

Atlanta Season 1 Review

Donald Glover spoke of how he wanted to make “Twin Peaks with rappers.” There is perhaps no better way to describe Atlanta, the bizarre, hilarious, relevant story of a broke twentysomething year old Earn (Glover) who becomes the manager of his cousin, underground rapper Paper Boi (Brian Tyree Henry). Glover has poured everything into this show, taking every risk possible, in the knowledge that it may only receive the single ten episode run (thankfully for us all it has now been renewed), and it really shows the potential of truly original shows not bound by the directions of a big studio.
Despite the seemingly basic premise Atlanta is perhaps unlike anything else seen on television this year. Glover manages to blend the utterly strange – an invisible car, a black Justin Bieber – with great moments of comedy, and of course a grounded realism too. It could have easily come across as farcical to jump from a moment of such weird levity to something as serious as police brutality and mental illness but Glover and his incredible cast make it a smooth transition.
Speaking of the cast, Zazie Beetz as Vanessa, the mother of Earn’s child and his on-off girlfriend, is perhaps the best of the bunch, stealing every scene she is in. The writing allows her the room and time to develop and so she moves above the one-dimensional girlfriend figure that you see in most other shows.
Glover switches the focus of the episodes up daringly and admirably, with some primarily concerned with Earn and his personal struggle, another about Earn and Van’s relationship, another about Paper Boi etc. etc. with each being as strong as the last. One particular episode stands out for its daring approach. “B.A.N” is as if you are watching this alternative world’s television channel Black American Network, where Paper Boi is a guest on a talk show. It is even complete with hilarious advertisements.
This unusual approach to television will no doubt split the audience but even if you are not a fan of that particular episode it is well worth sticking out to the end because it is some of the best television produced this year.

P.S Look out for the Childish Gambino vinyl hidden in Craig’s very weird “Black History” office in the episode “Juneteenth”.

Verdict: 9/10