Friday, 31 July 2015

2015 So far

As usual with films there's been good and there's been bad.

The strongest films of the year so far have been Mad Max Fury Road, John Wick and Inherent Vice. Fury Road and john Wick are action films so wonderfully done that it's a miracle they were released within a year of each other. That's unusual for two classics.  Both have stripped down narratives, use clear action progression, are carefully paced and have terrific lead characters who say very little but give exactly what is needed. Mad Max probably edges ahead for its truly insane action and for having two great characters (Max and Furiosa) but both are movies that will be watched years from now with awe. Following The Raid 2 and Ninja 2, we seem to be beyond shaky-cam and into a era of great action movies.

Now to the dreck for a moment. Worst film for me so far has been American Sniper. While there are many incompetent films this one had decent work done in it yet was dull, obvious, choppy in its story-telling and didn't do any justice to its potential, that of the effects on war on the psyche of a normal man who is a professional soldier. A film such as The Hurt Locker or the TV mini-series Generation Kill dealt with the situation with nuance. this was dial-a-cliche.

Back to the great. Inherent Vice is a great character comedy, with a wonderful oddball story and unique characters. Explaining much about it does a disservice, as the film is an experience above all. It has great moments of melancholy beneath the humour, and might be Paul Thomas Anderson's greatest achievement so far, as a strain for significance that cancels what is apparent in character work  that affected earlier films is nowhere to be seen.

Let's go to the very flawed.  Jurassic World and Terminator Genysis are deeply lazy films in their writing. Neither can be bothered truly re-inventing themselves. Terminator tries a little harder but its inability to do much with its base ideas in its second half squanders goodwill from first half changes to the series lore. It could have been an interesting sci-fi movie but ends up mediocre. But it's better than the last two films in the series and at least had some momentum and recognition of the underlying sadness of the original film. Jurassic World is a mechanical sequel that does nothing new and yet manages to be acceptable to the masses. Its fine if you turn your brain off but is deeply stupid if you dont. It's a depressing film as it suggests no-one cares what they are watching and how it's made, as the execution is barely competent yet the highest-grossing film of the year so far.

Back to the good. Predestination and Mission Impossible Rogue Nation are films that won't be seen as classics but are very good at what they do. Predestination is a sci-fi time travel film that shows up how limited Terminator Genysis is by taking on the twisted logic of time travel to its logical conclusion, that it will drive you mad and then to spiritual exhaustion. Hopefully it's a major cult film in the making but I don't want to write too much about it as it potentially spoilery. Mission Impossible Rogue Nation is, like numbers one and four in the series, a text-book example of how to make an excellent entertainment. It's only real purpose is to go from one terrific suspense/action scene to the next, and they're all very entertaining and twisted, but has lots of humour, plot turns, and lots of details lesser films would ignore. It also has a great motorbike chase and opera scene, doing what it needs with a clear knowledge of what people want from it.

There have been some other good entertainments that are worth a look. Ex Machina (good first two-thirds, duff ending), Avengers Age Of Ultron (messy plot but great character moments), Birdman (Not as deep as it thinks it is but entertaining), Fast & Furious 7 (Silly, too long but loads of fun, especially in the mountain heist) and Ant Man (Derivative, with no stand-out scene, but very enjoyable). These films all have very obvious flaws but work as good entertainments.

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