This year’s disappointments


The end of the year is approaching and as always with this blog I will be posting my personal Top Ten, based on movies I have seen in the last twelve months.  It’s very difficult as a complete amateur movie critic as I am literally unable to watch every new movie that hits cinemas, so compile my list from the newest movies I have seen during the year, even if some came out the year before etc.FROZEN

Compiled below are a few movies that left me wanting, movies that although not a disaster, could have been much better – or were hyped to be much better.  You may or may not agree with my choices, and feel free to comment.  But for now these are my disappointments of 2014…

RoboCop

Remakes are never that great granted, but wasn’t this classic sci-fi thriller ripe for an update?  So what do we get … a re-tread of the original, but seriously watered down and completely devoid of both the violence and the social commentary that made the 1987 original so memorable.  Paul Verheoven must have been offended how much the director ‘didn’t get’ his vision, and even some pretty decent action and not-bad casting could not save this.

Frozen

When will I stop hearing about this pretty, fun but utterly generic Disney movie?  One memorable song, some fun comedy characters but typical Disney Princess fair that lacked ideas and originality.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie – but as good as EVERYONE goes on about …. no.  Give me Beauty & The Beast any day of the week.

Godzilla

This did a lot right, it did a lot wrong too.  A monster-mash that takes most of the movie to actually happen, and decent casting that is all but wasted.  Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston – that’s all I need to say, but nooo, let’s make Kick-Ass the star instead.  Wrong!  Great effects work aside and some nail biting moments, but overall this could have, should have been much more.

Jack Ryan – Shadow Recruit

Simple, how do you mess up a perfectly decent reboot of a popular franchise?  How about only one action sequence of any note and the casting of Keira KnightleyChris Pine, fresh off Star Trek does a good enough job, but this was mostly Bourne-light with a clichéd story and not enough boom for my buck.  Could have been superb, but was mostly ‘meh.

Wolf Creek 2

Rave reviews don’t mean a decent experience I am quickly realising.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of WC #1 but this promised everything that movie lacked, like a faster pace and tons more gore and violence.  Yet an overly tongue-in-cheek tone and way too many one-liners just killed this for me.  Could have been a first rate shit yourself slasher, but instead I got a second rate piss myself farce.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Still despite the best intentions this reboot of the blockbuster franchise still underwhelms.  I can’t get used to Andrew Garfield as Spidy/Peter Parker and even the casting of Jamie Foxx is embarrassingly poor.  The overly kiddie-friendly tone doesn’t help either.  Great special effects though.

The Wind Rises

Studio Ghibli is always an event to me, and their animation style can never be faulted.  However with this rather personal swan-song for director Hayao Myazaki the subject seemed rather niche and the characters not overly compelling, and the whole movie despite being well done, lacked that spark that makes Ghibli great.  Stunning to look at but not that memorable, even more disappointing considering it’s the famed director’s final movie.

X-Men Days Of Future Past

Another highly acclaimed movie, another one that left me feeling cold.  The plot was muddled, relied too heavily on you knowing what happened in all the other X-Men movies, and some fun time travel mechanics and a great cast of characters couldn’t save this fun, action-packed but ultimately confusing and messy movie.  Never get tired of Mystique kicking ass though.

There you go.  I may add to this list if December throws up any further disappointments, but with The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, Exodus: Gods & Kings and also Guardians Of The Galaxy all to come (hopefully), maybe that won’t happen.  Also expect my definitive end of year Top Ten around New Year’s eve.

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Godzilla


Viewed – 22 May 2014  Cinema

Ah, the blockbuster, that high concept thrill ride usually packed with special effects and not much depth (cough, Michael Bay, cough) but every now and then we get a summer event picture that at least tries to have an engaging story or half decent acting, and this somewhat throwback to 50s b-movies and Japanese sub-culture casts Bryan Cranston, fresh from his iconic turn in the multi-award winning Breaking Bad as a scientist who following a nuclear meltdown at the plant he works at, becomes obsessed with a government cover up in Japan and desperate to find out what really happened.

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Not hard to guess it’s all really a cover up for the discovery of a very big lizard as well as a bunch of ready to hatch monsters, with the biggest smack-down in history just on the horizon.  This is fun, hokey but very well done entertainment.  Cranston, a very emotional and believable actor is as expected very good here, as is Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass) as Cranston’s soldier / bomb-expert son in a more mature role than I’ve personally seen before.  The story is packed with conspiracy theories, cover ups etc …and I love that sort of thing, and when we finally get some monster action (about an hour or so in) it’s full on, superbly staged and awe-inspiring to the point of actually being quite scary.  The views from the people and soldiers as giant monsters loom overhead, or close by is nerve-shredding – achieving a sense of greatness and magnitude.  Effects are also first rate with the destruction of cities, explosions and just general mayhem all packing a visual and emotional punch. 

Other than it’s b-movie routs however, the movie has little else to say and I felt the first half was stretched out … we’re not here after all to look at readings on a screen and talk about nuclear testing, we want monsters!  But for a blockbuster that does exactly what you might expect, with a decent, if a little under-used cast (Cranston) and some genuinely powerful moments … you still can’t go wrong.  Just don’t expect much else.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Pacific Rim


Viewed – 13 July 2013  Cinema

I had been looking forward to this ever since I read director Guillermo Del Toro’s next project wasn’t going to be The Hobbit, but instead a movie about huge mechanized robots vs huge sea creatures.  Del Toro can do no wrong in my eyes, and his popular Hellboy movies not to mention Pan’s Labyrinth are proof of his talent and skill.  However what to expect from this latest offering, was less easy to anticipate.

Charlie Hunnam (Sons Of Anarchy) plays Raleigh, a soldier who pilots one of these enormous robots alongside his brother to prevent the enormous Kaiju from destroying the world with their warpath of destruction.  From the off it seems like an impossible task, the power and sheer size of these creatures meaning the world must surely be doomed?   Yet after one confrontation claims the life of Raleigh’s brother the ‘Jaeger project’ is shut down, causing the soldiers to form a resistance in anticipation of another attack.  Lead by Idris Elba’s Commander Stacker, its not long before Raleigh is called back to the front line, where he befriends Japanese rookie Mako (Rinko Kikuchi) who is fighting her own demons resulting from the attacks.

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This is a movie predominantly about big things laying the smack-down against big things, and its a (very) noisy, brash, intense and epic experience.  Del Toro paints the landscape with his expected style and exuberance, with fantastically shot encounters (no shaky cam here) and superb creature and robot designs.  Clearly one big homage to Japanese mech anime like Mobile Suit Gundam and Patlabor, as well as the many Godzilla movies the country has churned out over the years.  Casting is decent with the always effective Elba and a cameo from Ron (Hellboy) Perlman is always welcome.  However, leading man Hunnam has always been one of those pretty-boy actors whose overly sincere way of delivering lines comes off as wooden – he does look the part, there are just actors out there with more charisma.

Sadly this all masks what is essentially a very basic premise (something about an underwater rift that is glossed over in the movie’s opening minutes) and well, with sea creatures as the bad guys – we don’t have a villain of any real interest beyond their ability to knock over buildings.  Add to this two scientist who come across as particularly irritating (and no, are not funny), and for everything this movie does right (the look, the superb effects, the battles) it always seemed to do something wrong at the same time.  Del Toro has still delivered an event picture to really blow the blockbuster season out of the water, and I think at home I might be able to settle into its overwhelming bombast better – but as a cinema outing, I actually found it a bit much.

Verdict:  3 /5