Swiss Army Man. Yes. The entire film is just as bizarre as the trailer looks. More so, perhaps. While watching this, from one minute to the next my opinion would change on it – between it being absolutely awful, to it being absolutely brilliant. And I still do not know what I really thought about it. I don’t think my mate was too far out when she summed it up thusly: ‘a 1.5 hour emotional rollercoaster built around fart LOLs.’ Though, a film that can somehow make the line “maybe someday some of my shit will mix with some of your shit” poignant and touching has to be given some credit. It was full of great themes about loneliness and mortality, as well as a good Paul Dano turn and incredible Daniel Radcliffe one. It was full of fantastic ideas, which sometimes fell on their face in the execution, but whatever my final opinion on it (I may have to get back to you) it is a definite must see for any non-conformist lover of the cinema.
Free State of Jones. An interesting true story from America’s civil war. Matthew McConaughey is as dependable as ever, playing a disillusioned Confederate army deserter who leads fellow deserters, runaway slaves, and women in an uprising against the corrupt local Confederate government. And yet another film to use tracks from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ excellent The Assassination of Jesse James… score. Pretty engrossing and well made overall, but lacked something to elevate it to one of the year’s best.
The Girl on the Train. I have not read the extremely popular book, but this was a good film in itself. It took a while to really grab me, but I liked what it did with the characters, showing the various points of view and all the twists and turns were well played. Good to see such a woman heavy cast, too – from the three female leads to Allison Janney as the no-nonsense lead cop. Some of the story elements were a bit heavy handed but an enjoyable thriller overall.
Deepwater Horizon. The surprise of the year for me. The trailer put me off with its ‘A True Story of Real Life Heroes’ schmaltz but it was a really well put together film. It was a great ensemble cast who all played off each other really naturally and humourously, which, of course, made you give a shit about the characters and their plight. It was the biggest oil spill in US history and the film fully places the blame on money grabbing BP management, so I obviously enjoyed that anti-capitalist, ‘stick it to the man’ element throughout. They also built an oil rig for the film – a whole oil rig as a film set. Cool.
War on Everyone. Two years ago, John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary was released – an original, funny, philosophical gut punch of a film where he got so much so right. This year, he gives us War on Everyone, a film in which he gets so much so wrong. In some ways, everything is only slightly wrong – the performances, the jokes, the character development, the philosophy – but because there is so much consistently slightly wrong, there is nothing to hold it together. It genuinely felt like everyone was just making it up as they were going along. It was nearly there, nearly great, on so many occasions, but it just kept falling on its face and trundling along to nowhere. It is a weird film – not Swiss Army Man weird, but weird nonetheless – and maybe as an audience member you have to get on board with that more.
American Honey. I can actually only review an hour of this, because I walked out. I never walk out of films. And, to be fair to this one, I have seen much worse. I would have stuck it out if it were a normal length film, but with it standing at 164 minutes in total, the prospect of another hour and a half of rambling, directionless ‘narrative’ with a cast of mostly very unlikable characters was too harsh a prospect for my Tuesday evening.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It is actually rather impressive that this film somehow manages to be so much blander than the sum of its fantastic parts. I had a little hope for this one, more than any Tim Burton film for a while, but it was deflatingly average. A boring lead character, inconsistencies within the story, and no real sense of danger in the final battle were largely to blame.
Kubo and the Two Strings. This stop motion animation looked beautiful, and tying the visuals in with the story’s paper theme gave it an original and mesmerising look. It was a strong story too, if not a little over sentimental in places. Good cover of While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Regina Spektor on the end credits too.
I, Daniel Blake. Ken Loach’s timely look at the state of Britain and its welfare system. Not a documentary, for sure, but based on real stories. It is a hard watch – there will be tears – but an important one. People on benefits have been demonised for many years, for taking our tax money, being lazy, and for cheating the system but most people are desperate for this money and are worthy of our help. It is life and death for them, so how we all became so heartless and apathetic, I do not know. But anyway, the film…well written, funny, touching, sad, well acted, and well worth an hour and forty minutes of your time.
Doctor Strange. An incredible cast in this latest Marvel affair: Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, with Tilda Swinton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, and an unfortunately incidental role from Michael Stuhlbarg. Also; great visuals – though reminiscent of films such as The Matrix and Inception, have their own original, mesmerising and rather pretty slant on it. But everything else? Meh. I mean, it was all right – entertaining enough. But Cumberbatch seemed a bit stilted at times. There were some funny bits, but not as much as most Marvel films. And the story just felt slightly paint by numbers. Considering the cast, visuals, and concept this could have been so much more.
FILM OF THE MONTH: I, Daniel Blake
DUD OF THE MONTH: War on Everyone