Saturday, 9 July 2016

Intermission: The half-year in review...

Good lord, are we really half way through the year already? Life barges on at a terrifying pace, an adjective which it has in common with this increasingly awful world we live in (or so it seems to someone who now reads the news like middle-aged people tend to do). Our only salvation*1 is the cinema. The large, darkened room where everyone is legally*2 obliged to shut the hell up because all that matters is the huge, glowing screen and its shimmering message, whatever that may be.

If memory serves, I'd predicted a slow-down of cinematic consumption in 2016. And like most things I predict, it didn't come to pass. I didn't set a target for going to the pictures this year, I just opted for seeing the movies which interest me (as and where I can), and maybe a few which look terrible but should be fun to pick apart, at least. As it turns out, the more I watch films, the more I'm interested by them. So, the more I watch.

Here are the notable entries from the half-year just passed…

2016 started strongly, with The Force Awakens still on general release, of course. But The Danish Girl, The Revenant and Room ushered in the more philosophically and emotionally heavyweight (read: awards-bait) fare which January is renowned for. Also on the theme of Films v Movies, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The VVitch and Hail, Caesar! all interested the hell out of me, and March's Eddie The Eagle turned out to be every bit as self-indulgent as promised (but even managed to win over the confirmed cynic that I am). Civil War arrived in April, overly-long and with far too much going on, but reassuringly MCU, nonetheless.

Once Spring had kicked in properly, it brought us the musically-inspired Miles Ahead, Green Room and Sing Street, the latter of which I already know will be my favourite film of this year (and is already pre-ordered on DVD). More recently Hardcore Henry and The Nice Guys*3 have cemented their place in the playlist of movies to watch into the night with friends and beer. Tale of Tales is an offbeat joy, and of course no win-list would be complete without a nod to the utterly magnificent Deadpool, already a contender for favourite movie (because I'll love the upcoming Rogue One no matter what, obviously).

Despite what I'm about to go on and say, there have been some truly marvellous films so far in 2016…

It's not all popcorn and giggles, of course. Zoolander 2 began the year flying the flag for belated, unnecessary and largely un-funny comedy sequels, just as Bad Neighbours 2 was more punctual but still managed to more than live up to its own name.

With a far straighter face, The Finest Hours struggled with character-building and storytelling in much the same way as it did with the Massachusetts accent. Speaking of accents (and crap sequels), The Huntsman: Winter's War was a bad film, made worse by allegedly Scottish vocalisations which make Mel Gibson's Braveheart look like a hagiographic documentary. But the horror-genre wasn't going to be left out of all this, so Friend Request, The Forest and The Boy dredged the lake of over-wrought, poorly executed clichés to the point that even clockwork-frightfest The Conjuring 2 seemed passable by comparison.

And for those who don't want to see potentially interesting films fail, but would rather watch an already terrible idea still managing to die on its arse, we got Warcraft and Gods of Egypt, both of which actively stripped IQ points from their audience as the hours wore on. I should also mention Me Before You, a film which certainly has its fanbase, but that actually left me more angry than disappointed.

And while this seems like a relentless list of complaining, bear in mind that it's not actually unusual. Bad movies are everywhere; on TV, Netflix, Amazon, the shelf in your local supermarket. The ones listed here are just the films which happened to be released in the cinema, first…

These have been the more troublesome nights. Ones where I'd anticipated a movie either by virtue of its trailers, advance buzz or previous installments, only to find myself oddly deflated by the time the credits rolled. Not necessarily disliking the film, but certainly wondering why it didn't work as well as it could (should) have.

Scoring highly in this department is X-Men: Apocalypse, a two-and-a-half hour trail of destruction which answers the audience's question 'how do you follow Days of Future Past?' with "yeah, we don't know either". Not a bad movie, but an insultingly bland one. The cautiously-approached (by me) Dad's Army reboot also failed to be anything more than a well-intentioned but needless cover-version of a thing you wish you were watching instead.

The Jungle Book was a fantastic-looking and emotionally-empty retooling of a Disney movie that should be left the hell alone, while The Man Who Knew Infinity and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot both managed demonstrate that sometimes, making a documentary would just be better than building a hackneyed film around a premise. Also clocking in as 'pointless placeholder' are London Has Fallen, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, TMNT: Out of the Shadows and Independence Day: Resurgence. No, it hasn't escaped my attention that those are all sequels.

Foremost in this section is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, of course. A film that's like three or four carefully selected presents for different people, that have been bundled together and gift-wrapped by a five-year old. I haven't gathered the strength to watch the Ultimate Edition yet, but I shall do so with great interest…

We're already a few days into the second-half, and there's everything to play for*4. The rebooted Ghostbusters is mere days away, a film which I'm confident will slot firmly into one of the categories above, although I'm going to do my very best to just enjoy it for what it is (hopefully not 'Pixels 2'). The third Star Trek movie of the new series is on the horizon, as is the fifth Bourne film. Doctor Strange lands in the MCU in the Autumn and of course Star Wars: Rogue One brings up the rear in December.

Yep, it's all sequels, reboots and franchise-entries, at least as far as the posters in the foyer are concerned. There'll be smaller and more interesting films of course, but as every cinema-manager knows, screen-time doesn't automatically equate to money-taking*5, so I've no doubt I'll be travelling afield to catch those as and where I can.

As I mentioned above, I didn't set a target for this year. As I mentioned above, I didn't have to.
Will I go to the cinema more in 2016 than I did in 2015? More than likely, yes...

Yes, I keep a spreadsheet. Wait, are you telling me you don't..?

*1 Well okay, and alcohol. I tend not to mix the two directly, though. Largely because you can't pause the cinema when you have to go to the loo.

*2 "I will make it legal…" ~ Frank Palpatine, TPM.

*3 Good name for a band…

*4 As you can tell, I don't do sports-analogies. And when I try, I sound more like a 1980s gameshow host.

*5 Although the decreasing numbers at the midnight-showings held by my local in recent months (as well as the worrying advance-sales for Ghostbusters) would certainly suggest that the big releases are no longer a licence to print money, either.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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