Frequent visitors may have cast their eyes upon an article we did at the start of the year in which the TV&Film writing staff here at XXIV waxed lyrical about the upcoming films that had us most excited. Shockingly Star Wars didn’t even get a mention – a fact for which we’re kicking ourselves now – so we thought with that oversight in mind, we best take a look at what other mistakes were made, or better yet; where we got it right.
Mad Max: Fury Road – Bill Peel
Unfortunately Bill is no longer with us, but boy did he hit this one out the park. Way to kick things off the right way Bill!
The latest instalment in the franchise showed that writer/director George Miller has still got it; creating arguably the best Mad Max film to date. Spectacular visual effects (and purportedly 90% practical at that) set on top of some of the finest world building ever seen in film, Fury Road is a forced to be reckoned with. Though the film is essentially just a couple of massive car chases, each and every character, vehicle and set piece is just dripping with so much backstory, a re-watch with directors commentary is a must.
Pan – Angelique Komninoglou
It seems my excitement for Joe Wright’s Pan may have been slightly premature.
Although I enjoyed singing along to spontaneous choruses of Nirvana songs, and was initially enthralled by the stunning stylistic visuals and outside-the-box premise, I found the delivery to be lacklustre due to poor casting and a laboured script.
The film, telling the story of orphan Peter who was spirited away to Neverland to carry out his destiny, was clearly aimed at children who ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the ample use of CGI and special effects, but left far too many plot holes for fans such as myself, after backstory and depth, to truly enjoy it. Those wanting to know more about the beloved characters, particularly how Hook lost his hand and became the baddie we all love to hate, will find their thirst unquenched as the film left viewers with far more questions than answers.
The performances were also very over-the-top and although I was impressed by Hugh Jackman’s theatrical take on Blackbeard, as well as Levi Miller’s boyish charm and vigour in his embodiment of Peter, it unfortunately didn’t atone for Garrett Hedlund’s failed attempt at charm and Han Solo swagger as Hook, as well as Rooney Mara’s watered-down version of the ‘Indian’ princess.
Overall, the film had all of the ingredients to be a box office smash, showing fan-favourite characters in a fresh new light, however resulted in being big on sparkle and low on substance in the almost 2 hours at their disposal. Pan had plenty of panache but little finesse, yet unfortunately – or fortunately for this film- franchises are king and there will no doubt soon be a sequel in the works which which will give them the opportunity to right their wrongs.
Jurassic World – Amy Planner
Expectations were understandably high for this one, being a part of such a beloved film franchise. So when I was introduced to the new Jurassic World I approached with caution. But fortunately, my mind was blown! Jurassic World was crafted with care, flair and everything in between.
Yes, the story was a little predictable, but where else were they going to go. It kept me on the edge of my seat, Chris Pratt was hilarious and Bryce Dallas Howard wore the heck out of that white outfit, even when it wasn’t so white in the end.
CONSENSUS: Expectations were met, shattered and thrown out the window for the Velociraptors to feed on. It fits nicely in to the Jurassic Park franchise and was a definite highlight of 2015.
The Hateful….wait. – Tobias Handke
While everyone else gets to brag about their most anticipated film living up to its hype, my choice – Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight – has unfortunately been pushed back until early next year. So instead I’m urging you all to grab a copy of Bone Tomahawk when it becomes available, as it’s my film of the year.
Bone Tomahawk is the slow burning western-horror directorial debut from novelist and screenwriter S. Craig Zahler. The film follows Sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell), his right hand man Chicory (Richard Jenkins), gunslinger John Brooder (Matthew Fox) and injured Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) as they hunt down O’Dwyer’s wife, Samantha (Lili Simmons), who has been kidnapped by a tribe of Native American cannibals.
The cast is super, with Russell continuing his career renaissance and Fox surprisingly enthralling as the rich and mysterious gun for hire, but it’s Jenkins’ jabbering sidekick whose loyalty and simple smarts steal the show.
While much has been made of the films gore (one scene in particular shows a man being scalped alive, chopped in half and then having his face smashed in with a bone tomahawk), it’s the wonderfully original script, confident direction and amazing cast that turns Bone Tomahawk from your average Western into not only one of the genres high points of the last 20 years, but one of the best films released in 2015.
Pitch Perfect 2 – Jamie Doran
Pitch Perfect 2 didn’t hit the high notes that the first film did, but nonetheless, it still has its place in aca-history. To me, it focused a little more on cast addition Hailee Steinfeld (who has now got a record deal) and the finality of the Barden Bella generation that we came to know and love, rather than jam packing a fun film with amazing songs and one-liners.
Look, Pitch Perfect 2 was hilarious and still let us sing along (who run the world?!), featured Rebel Wilson in a slightly more slapstick role than Fat Amy started out and kicked us more in the feels than the funnybone, but it was a great film and should be a staple at every slumber party for years to come.
Spectre – Timmy Bartel
For the most part I had a lot of fun at the cinema watching Daniel Craig return as James Bond in Spectre, but unfortunately once given the time to stop and cast a critical eye back over the film I was disappointed to find it lacking in more ways than one. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad film, it’s just not that good either; and coming off of the set up it got from Skyfall, that disappointment is felt double-fold.
When we left MI6 at the end of Skyfall it seemed the status quo had been somewhat restored to the series. We had Ralph Fiennes in place as the quintessential British Bureaucrat version of M, Miss Moneypenny had made a triumphant return to the screen, and Bond had seemingly taken care of those loose ends from his past. We were all set up for Bond to take off on a new standalone adventure for Queen and country. Unfortunately Spectre fell prey to that favourite plot device of screenwriters in the 2010′s: Destiny.
Yes once more, everything Bond encounters is intrinsically linked to his past, and as if that’s not irritating enough this film retroactively ties everything from Craig’s last three outings to his childhood also. Even if it hadn’t though, this film waits two thirds of its run time to reveal even an inkling of the antagonists motivations, and Bond, simply following the occasional clue, is unsure of his own for the most part also.
In the end, though Craig is a superb Bond and Sam Mendes is a great Bond director, Spectre winds up being a directionless mess, and really just a generic two-hour action flick. But look, they’ve got all the right pieces now, here’s just hoping they can put them all together right the next time.
So there you go
We didn’t do too badly, so long as you let us off the hook about The Force Awakens. Speaking of which; anyone up for a third viewing?