There are many ways a film can go wrong. There is a sea of people involved and multiple stages the development has to go through, each of which can break the outcome. Here are some movies that have leaped all of the hurdles and made a good impression.
Maudie follows the life of a disadvantaged outsider making her own path in the world. It’s classed as a tear-jerker and is a low key relationship type of film.
Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke carried the film and they both did an excellent job. Sally is a gripping actress to watch and the blossoming of their relationship from such a poor starting point was incredibly heartwarming.
You can find a discussion of the film by the actors and director here.
The Fundamentals of Caring
This is probably the funniest film I’ve seen for a long, long time. It had me crying with laughter at several points throughout the film. The exact same thing happened on my second viewing last night, so I felt I had to reference it here for you.
The lead actors are a perfect match and I’ve been a fan of Paul Rudd for since he first emerged on the big screen. Humour is a funny thing though, so it might leave you wondering why I found it so hilarious. As with a lot of things, you might need to allow the film a 20 minutes non-judgmental grace period to allow you to acclimatise to what you are seeing :o)
This is a gripping survival film from start to end.
Luckily, I had no idea what the specific content was about otherwise the fact that the film was carried mostly by one person would have put me off. However, Mads Mikkelsen is perfect for the part so there’s no need to worry. Mads is exactly the type of person you would expect to be in this kind of situation and have the best chance of getting out of it. Iceland’s Maria Thelma Smáradóttir was an essential contribution well played, minimal though it was.
It turns out that Joe Penna, who created the film, has a very interesting backstory. At the time of this film’s making, He and his YouTube partner were finding that the income they were making from their YouTube channel would not sustain them. Consequently, Joe had applied for a job at Google to work for its international YouTube management program and had gone through several interviews to secure the job. With the final acceptance email drafted and waiting for approval from his wife, things started happening with the film Arctic.
Apparently, Mads Mikkelsen was looking for what he refers to as a ‘rock and roll’ film between Hollywood blockbusters. This was part of the sequence of lucky coincidences that made Joe’s work catch fire. When asked how he did it, he simply says ‘you just get lucky, that’s how you do it’. However, you won’t have any luck without putting the work in and having talent. Here is Joe’s story about how he jumped from YouTube to Hollywood.
A Netflix film – this is like a female version of the Bourne character based on the work of real-life female bodyguard Jacquie Davis, but more condensed and jazzed up.
I’m ok with that and its a really tense watch from beginning to end. I’m a fan of the lead: Noomi Rapace and she is aided by a perfectly presented eye-rolling youth in the shape of Sophie Nélisse who does a great job and looks the part. The two of them made a gripping ensemble throughout.
The main action takes place in the Moroccan deserts, markets and hotels, not at all the kind of film I’d usually go for, but I knew Noomi Rapace would give it credibility and interest, and she does.
Sibs watched this one in full concentration and all I could get out of her was
Another ‘proper’ sci-fi film any self-respecting geek needs to see to stay accepted by his weird friends.
I can imagine it being a really good book to read if it were a book, which separates it from a lot of films right there. Bradley Cooper brings this character to life excellently well and his narration goes with it perfectly. By the way, the film editing is pretty zippy and works out like a comic strip from time to time, which I really liked and it had an unusual flavour. Refreshing, clever but not in an ‘I’m so clever’ kind of way. The storyline is great and plausible and I like the fact it isn’t a ‘guy saves humanity’ kind of film. Great characters, acting, film effects, editing and story, all good.
A rather good relationship-oriented film with an intriguing storyline that has a lot more going on than you first realise. Forest Whitaker turns up with his dodgy eye and does a great job of being the serious military dude.
This is a solid SciFi film laden with foreboding overtones. Since this film, like Passengers, includes a significant examination of the relationships between the main characters rather than being what Mark Kermode called a “runny, jumpy, shooty” film. And that means you can take heart in the knowledge that it is an intelligent film that does a brilliant job of presenting its creepy story.
The graphics, as shown in the poster where the neck is transparent, is awesomely realistic and the unfolding interplay of the characters is fascinating and gripping in an uncomfortable sort of way. A superb film in a category of its own.
Ready Player One
Having already read the book last year I was in a much better position to absorb the onslaught of highly detailed graphics created by large teams with even larger rendering farms (probably).
All the details that are in the book are represented here but are securely smashed under the whirlwind of graphics. For this reason, I still think that the book is worth reading even if you see this film.
The story is set in the year 2044 where the world economy has crashed and things are bleak. The population seeks solace in an extensive computer game called OASIS. The book starts with the announcement of a global contest for the ownership of the online world and all the wealth that goes with it.
To win, players must solve riddles and complete tasks devised by the original programmers in a race against time. Bad corporate dudes are pitted against geeks. Its a slugfest of evil deeds and clever comebacks.
Cline is involved in the film adaptation and it has worked out fine, just as I had anticipated.
First things first, l think Tom Cruise is an underrated actor, probably because he is so famous that his public and private life are simultaneously battling with his onscreen characters and they all have an unreal life of their own. Liking Tom now is similar to liking ABBA when they were on the rise – not so cool. But I don’t care, and I like airline food as well, just so you know.
But this is the perfect film for Cruise control. The set-up is excellent, as are the well-imagined sentry robots. I just love those critters, and they are the stars of this film in a way. In addition, an excellent aspect of the film is the sounds of the sentries and other tech gadgets. It really sets up a good atmosphere and it definitely would be a different film without them.
One potential weakness of the film is the characters headed by Morgan Freeman, not his fault, not with a voice like that. It all goes a bit Hollywood when they show up though I’m not sure quite why. The formulaic feel of part of the presentation loses 1 star, but it’s still a very good film.
The Edge of Tomorrow
Another great film starring Tom Cruise, this time with Emily Blunt. The best thing about this film is that it’s based in England with English actors but the atmosphere is lifted by the American nuances of our man Tom as well as Bill Paxton. Bill is notable for his brilliantly flawed character in Aliens 2 who I have really enjoyed watching so many times as the whining marine in the ruins of a crashed dropship. so good. Sorry to see you go, Bill 🙁
But the Anglo American mixture here is great and the invasion scenes are awesome. Yes, I’m afraid that word has gotten into my dictionary, so I may as well come out of the closet and use it. All in all a great film.
A quiet, beautiful romance carried via a quality scifi concept that starts on a small scale and remains primarily executed by Joaquin Phoenix and the arty Scarlett Johansson. Amy Adams managed to sneak in there too, she gets about a bit.
The potential for the storyline has been thoroughly developed as it grows and transforms stage by stage. It’s inevitable conclusion finally becomes clear but, as we all know, it’s the journey, not the end-point that is the true gift.
I’ve just seen the new film release LIFE. It was one of those omg! Omg! OMG! films. After a short while, I was wondering why on earth I had volunteered to put myself through this gut-wrenching, relentless roller coaster.
The answer is because it’s great! A welcome return to a more ‘realistic’ type of tale, the graphics, actors, acting all excellent and the tension runs continuously through it all.
There are some shortcomings in terms of correct science, but it’s a lot closer to the mark than plenty of other films, so go with it. For sci-fi fans – don’t miss it on a big screen – it’s a nightmare!
This film is proper science fiction! It has a decent storyline matched by fairly, but not strictly realistic, science outcomes. The spaceship is a really nice design and is the centrepiece of the film. The female vote for this film was close to 5 stars, but I’m sticking with mine for consistency.
I’ve heard reports of poor reviews which I put down to the film being more relationship-oriented, and that probably affects the male vote. A properly visited story will be about how the characters are affected, and it’s the main reason why it’s a better class of scifi story. There are no supernatural events or lengthy action sequences. I bought my copy on blue-ray for the graphical content, but casual viewers might be ok via rental.
It would be a good film for the awkward geeks who have managed to get a girl home and need to calm down while they figure out what to do next. When ‘going with the flow’ is a strange and sweaty new land, and ‘running away’ becomes a serious option. Don’t do that, my man! Put this film on, think really hard about the science and tech and let Chris Pratt teach your subconscious in a non-threatening way.
The recently released film Annihilation starring Natalie Portman is now listed on Netflix UK. It has a more traditional sci-fi premise featuring an unearthly hazy wall shimmering with translucent colours, which is a lot more my cup of tea.
It has a unique style which is worth the watch for that alone. Sci-fi buffs should put this on their viewing list.
Since the average rating for Netflix films is understandably a little bit below ‘ok’, (even though there are a lot of good films to choose from) you will probably find it useful to try visiting flixable.com, a site dedicated to sorting the Netflix listings by rating in a way that Netflix is possibly reluctant to do.
Blade Runner 2049
Thankfully this is a truly awesome sequel to the original film, instead of being the massive disappointment that might have been anticipated. It’s a fine accomplishment.
The delivery is serious, adult and expertly crafted. Nothing is hurried. The scenes and settings are epic and the vistas are all bathed in an orange mist. This is a complete contrast to the noise, detail and complexity of many CGI laden films that are about now.
On the negative side, the film length is 17 minutes short of 3 hours and the last third or quarter of the film didn’t work as well for me. I think that section of the film should have been compacted down to the benefit of the film as a whole. This is a film I will definitely see many more times.
I was eventually drawn to buying the BluRay boxed set. That’s not normally something I’d do since my interest usually dries up after 3 episodes where I’ve figured out the story and general direction.
It was headlined by Thandie Newton, who was the attractive and endearing character Libby in Run Fatboy, Run.
Unfortunately, I later found a TV clip where she was proudly relating how her daughter had sworn at a politician in public with the C-word. That destroyed my image of her and I subsequently lost interest in her on-screen persona. I know that what happens off-screen isn’t supposed to be anything to do with what’s on-screen, but it’s clear that being likable is one of the key reasons why people are put into films in the first place. I don’t worry about that anymore I simply accept that’s how things are with me.
Anthony Hopkins is also present, running through his dead-eyed repertoire from A to B as usual. It’s money for old rope, but it works every time and it’s a bit annoying too.
In essence, watching this series was like watching one very gripping film. I watched the whole thing in a few days simply because I wanted to see what was going to happen next. The science bits were presented extremely well and the storyline is convoluted in a good way.
It’s one of the best sci-fi films to have emerged recently, but since I’m not a fan of watching a story with no end, I won’t be going onto any future iteration.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
This film is so refreshing because it plays for laughs and I certainly enjoyed all the little side jokes as much as the main film. I had a fair few laughs out loud, which is unusual, even really well-made comedies don’t always do that.
This is really entertaining light viewing, sitting on top of a really expensive pile of high-quality graphical effects, props and actors etc. that has become the norm these days. Good fun, worth the time, had a good laugh.
I particularly like the quiet bit in the middle where the raccoon is waiting for a piece of tape. That was pure genius! You rarely see such restrained use of time within a film and it was a delight to see.
Anything with Scarlett Johansson in is worth checking and this is no exception. The exception for me was Under the Skin, which was a bit too rough for my taste. But this film is so much better, and it has Morgan Freeman too, which is always a pleasure. In keeping with her free spirit, this film has a Japanese influence that shows most obviously in the featured Asian gang, but also in the manga style storyline. It also switches over to the French police later on. As usual, it makes a change to get away from Hollywood, but it helps to have some empathy with Manga in order to accept what you get. A Western audience might reject what they see based on their ideals. Recommended for those who look forward to a few non-standard influences.
When I saw Valerian in 3D there was a woman to my right who decided that she needed to eat a giant bag of popcorn for 20 minutes …aaargh! This is pretty much why I prefer to see films at home. But Valerian is an outstanding piece of work, a space opera I’m told. It’s a lightweight film with gobsmacking graphics. I spotted John Goodman’s voice in there too, which proved to be correct.
I find myself at odds once again – Valerian isn’t making a lot of money, meaning that audiences aren’t taking to it very well. All I can say to that is that I really enjoyed it.