Archive for 2015

Crash! Landen’s Best 10 Films of 2015

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2016 by Crash! Landen

As always, these are the top 10 films that I’ve seen from 2015. They are not necessarily my favorites as much as those that I think were the best made and most successful at what they were trying to do. The release date thing… I only recognize the release date in my area. If it was made in 2014, but didn’t make it to theaters/streaming services/DVD releases until 2015, then I consider it a 2015 film. I have not seen everything, of course. Among films that I have not seen are Ridley Scott’s The Martian or Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (which should be rectified shortly). So the list may change when I get around to it. I don’t think this was a great year at the movies, but it wasn’t difficult to come up with 10 that I liked. Heeere they are.

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10. Antman The last couple of spots are always the hardest to fill since there are a number of movies that I think could go here. Number 10 was between this and Ex Machina. Both are fairly predictable and I think Ex Machina should have been less so. Antman was far more enjoyable, though, so I gave it the tenth spot, if only to prove that I don’t hate every Marvel movie.

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If you haven’t seen Ex Machina, though, it’s worth seeing (as is Alicia Vikander in the film… did that sound creepy?).

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9. It Follows This was a low budget (slightly subversive) horror flick with something going on right below the surface and is definitely best if you know nothing about it (I had not seen the trailer). Starts off a little shaky and somewhere towards the end it starts to unravel a little, but it collects itself with the final shot. It has a fairly original premise (which I won’t give away) and was a film that I didn’t really know where the story was going. I applaud the effort even if I may or may not have had to sleep with the light on  for DAYS after seeing it.

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8. Spectre Daniel Craig’s last outing as 007(?) maybe didn’t live up to Casino Royal or Skyfall, but it was still pretty good. Like Skyfall, though, you can’t really think about the details, you just have to go with it.

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7. Maps To The Stars David Cronenberg’s films can be either  be memorably brilliant or outrageously bad; ‘Maps’ falls on the better end of the quality spectrum being essentially a satire about some of the Hollywood populace. Mia Wasikowska is great in everything (as she was in Crimson Peak which didn’t make the cut). She’s as quietly warped as Julianne Moore’s character is outwardly off-balance in the story and the pay off between the two towards the end is fairly shocking. Maps made me laugh pretty consistently in a low key sort of way. It’s typical Icy Croneberg.

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6. The Walk Not in the same ballpark in quality and not nearly as inspirational as the 2008 documentary ‘Man On Wire’ about the same subject matter, but still a great film. It’s one of the few occasions where I would say that if you did not see the film in IMAX 3D, then it probably… no definitely will not have the same impact. I would hope this at least wins some FX awards.

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5. Mad Max: Fury Road No Mel, but George Miller’s still running the show, so I knew there wouldn’t be a letdown.  The funny thing is that Miller probably could have just dropped Max altogether, since the film was more about Furiosa than Max, but probably for me, the best action flick of the year. The first meeting between Furiosa and Max (chained to and carrying one of the ‘Warboys’) was as entertaining as any of the high octane car chases. I would like to see the storyboards on that one.

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4. The Gift This one came out of nowhere. I’ve always thought Jason Bateman was better than he gets credit for. I think I saw this right after I had seen ‘Bad Words’ (2013), where Bateman played a misanthropic 40 year old spelling bee contestant (which I highly recommend). That one was a comedy, where Bateman has made his career. The Gift is definitely not a comedy  and it’s another I can’t say too much (if anything) without spoiling it. It has kind of a M. Night Shamalamadingdong movie twist, but it’s not one where there is a game changing moment. You just think you’re watching one film and it ends up in a completely different place and point of view. And it’s kind of a nasty little tale when you get down to it with a creepy ending.

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3. Shaun The Sheep Yes, the first of two animated films on my list. Everything that I have ever seen by Aardman, a company  that makes very clever stop motion animated films and shorts, has been nothing short of brilliant. They are as good at what they do as Pixar is at what they do and they are no stranger to my Top 10 lists. ‘Shaun’ is a complete pantomime. There is no dialogue in the entire film, it’s the ultimate example of Hitchcock’s “Show the audience, don’t tell the audience” theory in action. There seems to be literally a sight gag/joke every 2 seconds of the film.

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2. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Billed (at least by British Film Critic Mark Kermode) as the first black and white Iranian Vampire Western (filmed in America), you would probably think ‘A Girl’ sounds like a horrible idea of a film. In that case you would be wrong. A film is lucky to create a single image or scene that is worth remembering; this movie has several of those. Arash Marandi is both cool and shleppy at the same time, just listlessly matriculating his way through life. Sheila Vand is absolutely mesmerizing. They both have individual scenes that are not only brilliant, but seem destined to be iconic, Together they have several ‘Meet Cutes’ /scenes of the kind that may stay with me until I die, like the montage in the museum from ‘Ferris Beuhller’s Day Off’ that ends with Cameron staring into the painting ‘Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’ by Georges Seurat with the Smiths’  (covered by The Dream Academy, I think) “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”  playing in the background… PAuse to admire that last sentence…. Aaannnd: Continue… Definitely worth seeing if you have the patience for subtitles.

And with the top film, I have to note that I found it odd that for the first time ever, my top film is the same as that of the aforementioned Mark Kermode. I’m a regular listener of ‘Wittertainment’ (Hello to Jason Isaacs), not only because it’s a show about films (and Kermode’s film reviews), but contributor Kermode and host Simon Mayo are genuinely enjoyable to listen to… But, I almost never agree with him on just about every movie that gets a run down on their show, so it was a little surprising to me that I not only agreed with him on the TOP Film of 2015, but the Top Two films. Not saying that legitimizes my opinion in any way (it might do the opposite actually, given that Kermode clings to the belief that the Greatest Film of All Time is The Excorcist). But, anyway, my #1 of 2015 is another animated flick:

 

InsideOut

#1 Inside Out I never, ever, EVER thought that I would like this film enough to make it #1, but with a dearth of ‘Great Films’ this year (or maybe I just haven’t seen ’em yet), Pixar has yet again delivered a story that I just cannot deny my top spot to. I don’t think it’s Pixar’s best effort by any stretch, but it’s still really good. Pixar seems to have a special talent for illustrating in a very simple (yet ingenious) way moments of emotional resonance or memories (as in what the title dish tastes like to the critic in Ratatouille or the depiction of Carl’s memories of his deceased wife in 2009’s Up. Hell, I need to stop typing about it, I might start blubbering right now. They have that effect on you if you actually involve yourself with their films.

I have to admit that coming into the film I did not want to like it largely because I had heard critics such as Mark Kermode going on and on about it (and right now, my words of going  into a film without being predisposed to a particular opinion before you actually see the film are AGAIN coming back on me as they did in that last post). When I did finally see it, I thought it was typical Pixar; clear story, a few chuckles, some great ideas, amazing visuals, etc… Yawn… I liked it, but I did not understand the ‘rave’ reviews… Until Bing Bong. Once Bing Bong made an appearance everything changed and strangely the film seemed to step up from an enjoyable film to a classic one. And of course, they provided at least one more moment where I was blubbering over a cartoon character… BASTARDS! And as clever as the film was, I think it reached another height with the credits (which I won’t spoil for anyone).

And there it is. I know….”NO STAR WARS?! Have you SEEN it yet?” Yep. Seen it. Girl empowerment film. Looked great.”But it had light sabres! And stormtroo–!” Yep. Got it. Not on my list. “But–!” Not on my Worst List either. That’s good, right? Anyway…

My annual lists may change in the near future if I see something better (or worse) and remember to update my lists. Won’t change to add The Force Awakens, though. “Wha—?! What’s WRONG with you?! It’s STAR Wa—!” Thanks for reading.

Crash! Landen’s Worst 10 Films of 2015

Posted in A Few Old, Short Words, Lists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2016 by Crash! Landen

Coff! Kaff! Hack! Koff! It’s been a while… And boy is this blog dusty… SO dusty in fact it’s not working properly. I’ll see what I can do, but if it’s beyond repair, then it’s beyond repair…

Okay, Im back! Seems to be working a little better after making some space. The sign over the door still isn’t working, but I’ll get to that.

I saw a lot of CRAP this past year. I did my best to avoid the biggest bombs, but finding actual “good” movies was a supremely difficult task for me this year, which is why I’m first starting with my annual list of celluoid radioactive waste. This is the absolute bottom of the barrel when it comes to my cinematic viewing choices. Keep in my mind, these are my opinions so I cannot be wrong. It’s my list. The only criteria I have is that I have seen the film* and that I was so aggravated by it that I felt the need to put the film in question onto this list. So without further adieu… Here is my look back at 2015’s cinematic nether-regions (at least with the films that I’ve seen. There are probably far worse films, but like I said; I avoided them for the most part*).

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10. Avengers: Age Of Ultron “What?! A Marvel film on the list?! What?!” Yes! I’l admit I laughed throughout, but the humor was largely there to attempt to cover up all of the film’s fallacies. I’ll admit when it comes to subject matter that has been engrained as part of my childhood that I may not be the most objective of viewers, but, I do try to be. I try not to be that fan that overreacts to any detail leaked online 2 years before the film’s release. I remember when pictures of Heath Ledger were ‘leaked’ and the nerd populace had a collective stroke at the outrage that Christopher Nolan was perpetrating upon them, only to crown the director as a genius auteur and the actor’s performance as award-worthy after the film was released. I was not one of those people. When James Spader was announced as Ultron, one of my all time favorite Avengers villains, I gave it a chance. I have never cared for the actor, but I had not yet seen the film. Of course I was disappointed, though (hence the #10 spot). Again, having read various comics featuring Ultron growing up, I had a perception of how the character should be like in general. What I remembered was Ultron as a raving psychotic machine who ended EVERY sentence with an exclamation point. Spader plays a lackluster lounge singer that specializes in boring the audience with monologues and the WORST part.. and really, I should have known this from the casting of Spader (but, again, I gave it a chance until actually seeing it), but just as with Zack Snyder’s version of Watchman’s Dr. Manhattan, this director chose to not give the villainous automaton a modulated voice. Sounds like a stupid criticism, right(?), but if you don’t get the villain right, first and foremost, in a superhero/action flick then you’re not going to get the movie right. That’s not the only misstep for the film, though. Besides the mis-castings (there were others) the storyline was tedious and never mounted any suspense. Being a nerd, I was also annoyed at some of the things that a nerd would be annoyed at, like the whole hammer lifting gag and SUDDEN SPOILER ALERT having the VISION being the one that can also lift the Mjolnir. Yes, I was out of my mind on that one and not just because they gave no reason as to why the Vison, an android, is worthy other than he lifts the hammer. So he (it) is more worthy than Captain America (which makes me wonder why Steve Rogers would not be more worthy than Thor himself since they have portrayed him as an arrogant buffoon in all of the Marvel films). Anyway… Not, the worst film I’ve ever seen, but not deserving of making 18 billion dollars on its first weekend (which is what it made, right?).

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9. Wyrmwood Not much to say. I hate putting low/no budget films on my ‘Worst’ lists, but this movie was deserving. It was as obnoxious as it was poorly written, but I guess I shouldn’t expect much from a film about zombies and a girl that develops telekinetic zombie controlling powers from an apocalyptic mad scientist.

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8. Blackhat Couldn’t get through it. Wasn’t this Michael Mann. He films are generally far too angstily (is that a word?) melodramatic for my tastes. Chris Hemsworth playing a hacker even more arrogantly than he plays Thor probably doesn’t help matters, but the director does nothing to make anyone care about any of the proceedings (anyone meaning me). The film reminds me of that turd from the 90s Hackers, starring Johnny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie. Jolie was insanely hot in that film. Did that slip out? Anyway… The film just bored the hell out of me and was that sort of  film where the filmmakers approach real world technology like they’re making a 1950s B-movie.

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7. Paper Towns Oh God. This one should probably be lower on the list. I can’t really put this one into words other than saying that the characters were so annoying that I needed to either punch them all in the face or have some punch me in the face. Repeatedly. It’s a film where the film builds Cara Delavigne’s character up into a legendary (yet irritating) figure and in the denouement tell you, the viewer, that it’s WRONG to think of someone that way. “SO wrong. Noone’s mythic. We’re all the same looking to figure things out for ourselves.” BASH!… And I couldn’t get through most of it. Probably not the target audience, anyway…

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6. Jurassic World In the original Jurassic Park I learned that a T-Rex can run up to 35 mph. In Jurassic World I learned that Bryce Howard can outrun a T-Rex… In high heels. And apparently after being set up as an idiot when it comes to “the great outdoors”, she becomes a din-expert and probably saw the original film, like the rest of us since she just came up with this idea with a flare and used it in exactly the same way as Sam Neil used it. Is that meta? I hate meta. This movie also spent WAY too much time reminding everyone what a great flick that original Spielberg film was, instead of trying to make a great film. I KNOW! ” But, Crash!, this made 3 zillion dollars in its opening weekend! How do explain that?” People are idiots! That’s how I explain it! PLEASE NOTE: I was there in the theater on the film’s opening night. Draw your own conclusions on that one.

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5. The Grizzly Maze Wow. Let’s look at the cast… Thomas Jane. Scott Glenn.Adam Beach. All really great actors. The lovely and talented Piper Perabo. I’ll watch her in just about anything. And, uh… Jame s Marsden… Um, yeah, well… But how the hell did ALL of these actors get roped into this pile of Grizzly poop? Just a horribly written film that makes those exploitational low budget horror films (like Grizzly) look like Oscar— nay— legitimate films.

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4. Electric Slide Looked cool. Shot well. All style, no substance. Skipped over story to get to ‘the cool’.

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3. Cop Car Kevin Bacon’s worst film where he plays a murderous sheriff that has his police vehicle stolen by two potty mouthed kids played by two horrible child actors… I have to remind myself of what I always say about actors (especially child actors)… Always blame the director (and editor), because they’re they ones that are really responsible for an actor’s performance. Or to blame, as is the case here.

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2. Knock Knock Knew nothing about this one other than it starred Keanu Reeves. Most critics will decry Reeves wooden acting style, but he generally comes off as a fairly likable dude onscreen and that can go a long way, even if his films are never that good (with some exceptions). But, I gave this one a shot… Then, the credits rolled and the Lion’s Gate logo appeared. Aw, crap! Then Eli Roth’s name appeared as director. F*ck. Do I need to say more? He wrote it, too. I KNOW. I know. I’m contradicting what I said earlier about giving a film  a shot until it actually unfolds before me. But… It’s Eli Roth… I tried. I really did try. I might’ve made it a half hour in until I could no longer tolerate the lead character’s stupidity necessary for an Eli Roth film to work… Did I say that? None of his films work. Not really… Anyway… The acting was horrible (maybe Reeves’ worst acting ever and remember; I like Keanu), the characters abrasive, the film goes exactly where you think it will. And that it’s shot in one house for the entire film doesn’t help it from looking televisual. Just another spiteful, cynical little film made by a guy blatantly ripping off the films that he admires while not fully understanding why those (better-made) films work. Maybe, he’ll make a ‘good’ film one day, but I doubt it.

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1.  Fant4stic* Okay, I’m going to contradict myself again. I’ve talked about being open to a film until I’ve actually seen it, from the tenth spot all the way down to my number two (which is what this film inspires every time I think about it… Number Two), but as with the Avengers, the source material means too much to me to be objective. And when I say ‘source material’, I don’t mean the current offering from Marvel comics. I discovered Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in a big box owned by my babysitter (which is a fairly long time ago in people years) and that was probably why I have been a lifelong comics collector. That initial exposure to Stan and Jack gave way to the likes of Roy Thomas, Rich Buckler, Joe Sinnott and Big Bad John Byrne doing their stints on the Fantastic Four… So, I almost feel like one of those Harry Potter fans feel like when the film they’re watching isn’t following every letter that was written by the author… Almost… I can certainly understand their ire. But, I digress, what am I trying to say? Josh Trank, after his success with Chronicle, an extremely overrated film (at least to me), was set to the task of resetting the Fantastic Four franchise. He does so, by thumbing his nose… no, he just gave the middle finger to longtime fans with a legion of changes to the story and the characters to where the film looks more like an attempt at yet another superhero team than an actual re-imangining of the FF. That might’ve worked if it were, but it is not. It’s the Fantastic Four. And it’s not a good sign when all during the filming, there are stories, legitimate or not, of Trank pitching tantrums and nearly coming to blows with his actors and producers and even less of a good sign when he’s tweeting how bad the film is and how it might’ve wound up had he gotten his way (he also quit/got fired from  helming one of the next Star Wars films because of Fan4stic… allegedly). Then there’s the less than 10% rating on Rottentomatoes.com… which brings me to my second bit of hypocrisy involving Fant4stic: I’ve only seen the trailer…. …. …. …. …. …. Yup. Have not seen it, nor will I. The trailer alone was enough for me to put it in the top … er, bottom spot. And yes, I did see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It didn’t make it onto the list.

I will post my Best of 2015 shortly (meaning maybe tomorrow).