The Great Wall

What a premise eh? The Great Wall of China built to keep out monsters! This should be great right? Wrong. This film commits not one but two cardinal sins, over using slow motion to create dramatic tension because, wait for it, it’s just plain dull. Matt D is boring, the wall is just that and even the monsters are lame, like weird predator dogs but not as scary as either. The story has just about enough weight to carry it for about 30 minutes so as you can imagine this is a tedious 2 hours of watching Matt D throw a spear at a dog beast, slowly, shoot an arrow at a four legged creature, slowly, fall in love and kiss a lady at normal speed, bor-or-ing. Anyone who manages to make a monster movie this dreary shouldn’t be allowed to make films anymore. Did I mention it’s predictable and by the book? Well it is so nothing in this film comes as a surprise as you can see it all coming a mile off. By the time the baddies had turned into a sweaty circle pit like at the front of a metal concert to protect the queen while she eats her sandwiches or something I’d long past caring. In summary it’s not great but it does contain a wall.

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T2 Trainspotting

Going into Trainspotting 2 (I refuse to call it T2 as that is obviously that robot movie) I was worried, after all we’d already been burned by sequels we didn’t need nor want after a huge time gap, I’m looking at you Tron: Legacy, but I had no need to be. Trainspotting 2, while never as good as the first (how could it be?), does do the first one justice and makes it proud. It’s poignant, funny, sad and dark and it pays homage to its predecessor without being cheesy. It also proves that Danny Boyle can be a great director when he puts his mind to it and just how important a great soundtrack is, as integral here as it was in the first. It’s less about the drugs and more focused on the characters and even though they really aren’t nice people you’ll find that actually you’ve quite missed them, even Begbie. Essentially the film deals with friendship, ageing, heritage and once again social commentary and it’s a testament to the writing, directing and acting that this story can be told now. On paper all the elements are there and for once they pull it off transferring it all to the big screen which is not something you can say about a lot of modern films which is why Trainspotting 2 is a triumph.

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Sing

The people who brought you the Despicable Me franchise are back with their latest movie ‘Sing’ and once again it’s great. One thing they do well is balance the humour for children and adults alike but this time they have also tapped into the zeitgeist of the public consciousness. Whether you watch or don’t watch the myriad of talent shows that flood our small screens every year you will be aware of them. This is loosely based on one of those and although they can be the most irritating here it is turned on its head by having the cast of animals sing loads of popular tunes (the rights must have cost them a fortune alone) from the punk porcupine to the lounge singer mouse to the boyband gorilla and more each has real character voiced by some rather big names (which is where I imagine the rest of the budget went).  The story is moralistic without being preachy and as you can guess is something along the lines of never give up your dreams but with a good balance of old and new songs and some of the best visual jokes this side of Storks (look out for the carwash scene) there really is something for everyone in this animated animal adventure.

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Manchester by the Sea

Nominated for an Oscar (that he must surely win?) Affleck plays Lee, a depressed janitor and when we meet him he has a penchant for violence and self-loathing. As the film unfolds you find out why, and while not an easy watch this is the first must see film of the year. Afflecks outstanding performance, how you portray cut up inner conflict and subtle at the same time is beyond me, and the direction by Kenneth Lonergan are so clever that it deserves all the praise it is getting. With the snowy fishing town of Manchester as the backdrop the cinematography creates an atmosphere of loneliness and despair, add to that the use of music and the supporting cast and you have a real tear-jerking tale of life and all the things it can throw at you. There are also pockets of humour within the bleak story that crafts a much need balance for the films runtime. It’s a powerful and at the same time understated story that grips from the offset and uses flashbacks to great effect to really open the present and get under the skin of these characters and everything they are going through. Manchester by the Sea will probably lose out come award season to a more feel good film like ‘La La Land’ but I urge you to go and see this film because it isn’t often cinema has such an impact and stays with you long after the event.

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2016 or Annus Horribilis

2016 in no particular order:

Television

Halt and Catch Fire

Quarry

Flowers

This Is Us

Hap and Leonard

Game of Thrones

Brain Dead

The Young Pope

Black Mirror

Stranger Things

BoJack Horseman

Fleabag

The Get Down

Better Call Saul

Lady Dynamite

Banshee

Black Sails

Narcos

 

Albums

Car seat headrest: Teens Of Denial

ANOHNI: Hopelessness

Steve Mason: Meet The Humans

Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions: Until the Hunter

Michael Kiwanuka: Love & Hate

Glass Animals: How To Be A Human Being

Field music: Commontime

Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool

Bon Iver: 22, A Million

Biffy Clyro: Eclipses

Anderson Paak: Malibu

Frank Ocean: Blonde

Christine and the Queens: Chaleur Humaine

Kendrick Lamar: untitled unmastered

Sturgill Simpson: A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

Drive by Truckers: American Band

Iggy Pop: Post Pop Depression

Conor Oberst: Ruminations

Band of Horses: Why Are You OK

Lambchop: FLOTUS

Bat for Lashes: The Bride

Babbadnotgood: IV

Avalanches: Sunflower

Leneord Cohen: You Want it Darker

David Bowie: Blackstar

 Games

Pokemon Go

Quantum Break

Destiny: Rise of Iron

Titanfall 2

 

Gigs

Michael Kiwanuka

Richmond Fontaine

The Wonder Stuff

 

Films

The Nice Guys

The Revenant

Deadpool

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Neon Demon

Finding Dory

Storks

Kubo and the Two Strings

The Lobster

Train to Busan

Blood Father

Victoria

The Greasy Strangler

 

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The Shallows

The Shallows is as everyone will know a shark film, it has some good ideas and a few good scenes I just wish it had been directed by someone else, what could have been great sadly falls flat due to its Disney does Jaws approach. Firstly there’s the rose tinted photo and text overlays, the watch that appears in the corner just makes it look like cheap daytime TV. Then there’s the seagull that becomes Nancy’s pal, stuck with her due to a fractured wing, but handy to chat to not unlike Tom Hanks basketball ‘Wilson’ in Castaway, she names it Steven Seagull. But the cardinal sin committed in this film is the unnecessary, unrelenting and overused slow motion, if these scenes were at normal speed this film would have been at least half an hour shorter. Blake Lively does her best as the damsel in distress but there’s little in the way of a script so it’s down to the filmmakers to create an atmosphere and tension which they achieve in part. As the second lead in this film the shark should have had more character but just ends up as generic shark number 1. Not so much cat and mouse as animated shark verses less animated actress, ultimately The Shallows is a bit of a disappointing wash out.

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Gods of Egypt

Gods of Egypt might the only film I’ve seen that contains no real acting (acting like you don’t want to be there doesn’t count, not mentioning any names but I’m looking at you Rush). Form the outset everyone hams their way through, jumping from set piece to set piece in a movie that never really knows who it is aimed at. There are points when I’m thinking well this is aimed at kid’s right? Until a bit of bad language and a dirty joke, it can’t be aimed at adults can it? What grown-up would sit through this poor Game of Thrones knock off CGI-fest? (I don’t count I’m writing a review) Based loosely on mythology the story is a simple feud for power between the gods who rule the lands ‘Action Man’ and ‘Jamie Lannister’ who enlists the help of a young Michael Bolton to get back his stolen eyes back while fighting beasties, robot birds and a cloud monster (don’t ask). I enjoyed some of the monsters but the console games I’m currently playing have more believable graphics and this film will almost certain date and then be forgotten. File next to Clash of the Titans or the bin marked piss poor swords and sandals epics of which I’m sure, unfortunately, this won’t be the last.

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