Ok so before I do the rest of my end of year C-blog stuff I thought I'd do something a bit out of the ordinary and go over the films I saw in the past around about 12 months in the cinema. The reason I'm doing this is I'm not a big cinema person but I saw quite a few films this year and it's more than I'll likely see this year because there's a lot of films that for various reasons don't appeal to me. So let's go through the the films and be WARNED
Minor Spoilers throughout
Major Spoilers in some sections which will be made clear.
Sony Pictures continuing bungling of things that done well could be huge hits was on full show with Passengers. The marketing failed this film as did Sony Picture releasing it in the US before Christmas 2016 and in early 2017 in the UK. This film was sent out to die and for a film that was part romance film part disaster movie it's just a baffling thing to me that no-one at Sony apparently went "Hey we have this Romance film but it's got some Disaster Movie stuff in it too, it's kind of like something we should put out around Valentines day to provide a schlocky film that couples can enjoy that's a bit different to the traditional romance stuff." The film really did work to have something everyone could enjoy from Chris Partt's bare arse to Jennifer Lawrence both appearing in a skimpy bikini and some topless scenes (even if the lighting is down low for them you can still see).
It's not the greatest film but I do feel a lot of critics were hugely unfair to it because
One of the core plot elements not given away in the trailers is that while Chris Pratt's character of Jim Preston wakes up due to a fault in his cryo pod caused as by an Asteroid hitting the ship and damaging the computer. Jennifer Lawrence's character of Aurora Lane doesn't wake up initially. It's only due to Chris Pratt's character's loneliness and obsession with her over the course of a year that he's awake alone on the ship that he finally decides to sabotage her pod to wake her up. A lot of critics seemingly got angry about how Chris Pratt's character proceeds to woo Aurora and the two fall in love but with the big dark secret still hanging over the relationship, which inevitably come to light thanks to the robot bartender spilling the beans when Jim mentioned he was going to come clean but chickened out. Plenty of cries about how this was "male entitlement at its finest" and how "He condemned her to die" were thrown about by certain critics. Except I have to question if they walked out of the film at that point and missed the rest and the message.
You see as the ship suffers more problems due to the damaged computer trying to use other systems to spread the load, a member of the crew wakes up. As Jim and Aurora race to fix the ship a moment comes when due to the crew member having died they realise without both of them awake they'd both have likely died anyway as it falls to both of them working together and overcoming any animosity to save the ship. All of which culminate in a moment where Aurora basically says she'd rather sacrifice all the crew than face having to live out the rest of her days on the ship alone, thus realising the struggle and pain that Chris Pratt's character went through at facing the prospect of living out his days and dying alone. With Aurora realising and forgiving him for waking her up because she realises she'd have been willing to do the same. All of which also then comes full circle with Jim's redemption when he shows Aurora that he's found using the crew access codes that one of them could go back into cryo sleep and offers Aurora the chance to go back.
Again this isn't a great film it's good enough for a rental especially as a couples film and in my opinion it needed to e about 30 minutes longer with all that time added to the disaster sequence to gradually have more stuff on the ship going wrong building up the tension. It wasn't a bad film but Sony dropped the ball on it in so many ways.
Ok let's lay the cards on the table. I love XXX, no not porn but I do like that too. XXX was what I'd call the first in the new tone of gritty spy films but importantly it wasn't constantly grim dark it had moments of humour punctuating it.
I didn't however like XXX2 the Next level.
So the prospect of XXX: The return of Xander Cage was enough to pull me back to the cinema to see if this one cold nail the landing. Unfortunately while it's clear the film was written by a fan of the original film it very much came off like a bad fanfiction that was cynically written to fit corporate requirements. Those requirements being try to turn XXX into a team film like The Fast and the Furious films so paramount could have their own team franchise and to try and unify the fanbases of those who liked the first film and those who liked the 2nd. In the end the film doesn't really satisfy either group of fans.
To elaborate more on the comment about the film feeling like bad fanfiction, the film manages to bring up insane little cool details and throw backs to XXX even in so much as the drinks Xander Cage orders at the bar. However the problems come with the film seemingly making Xander Cage a Marty Stu (Male Mary Sue) with women almost immediately falling for him; him being insanely competent and seemingly nothing he does ever going badly wrong. Xander cage is shown as almost more competent than any-one else in the film only needing the help of his team mates in about one instance. Gone is the Xander Cage of the first film who once nearly got shot because he didn't know about having to take the safety off a gun before using it; gone is the Xander Cage that Yelena saw as a silly goofball / immature prankster initially even gone is the Xander Cage or literally nearly dies saving the world. No XXX the return of Xander Cage makes Xander Cage out to be a hyper competent legendary super spy who all women drop their pants for an all other agents aspire to be seeing him as a legend.
The film meanders from setpiece action scene to set piece action scene, getting ever more ludicrous culminating in Xander cage falling through a plane then managing to survive the fall to earth. The only characters that seem to stand out or be allowed to be characters who get to be bad ass or seem bad ass are Tony Jaa as the jokey but skilled martial artist Talon; Ruby Rose as ace Sniper Adele Wolff and Deepika Padukone as Serena Unger whose played off as pretty much the female equivalent of Xander Cage but really didn't get to do a whole lot beyond the main gunfight and talking about her exploits.
XXX: The return of Xander Cage was kind of trapped though with Bond and all other spy films going mostly gritty and serious while the serious not really being able to go super silly and the middle ground having only fairly recently seen Kingsmen come out. XXX had lost its potential market spot even if it did land this one right.
So I've not seen any of the anime or the anime films for this but I've heard of it over the years and I thought the film would be a good jumping in point. What I saw was good enough with a few moments of amazing visuals but not enough to truly lift it beyond being just merely a good enough movie for me. Not one of the greats I'd say people must see. Honestly despite being over 2 hours I still think the film felt short and could have done with an extra 30 minutes to improve pacing and to allow for some more sweeping visuals and cool looks at the cyberpunk world.
Coming from Guardian of the Galaxy 1 I had high hopes for this film to be my favourite film of the year and well it wasn't. It felt like it was a notch or two below the original and felt more like a side story until near the ending of the film. The plotline felt like it was treading water at worst and at best merely tying up loose ends or providing a way for actors to escape having to play certain characters ever again. About the only major events were the death of a secondary character and another character being added to the main Guardians of the Galaxy ship crew ready for Infinity War. It says something that I have no real desire to see it again.
Another sequel film that didn't quite match up to the standard of the first. Kingsman: The Golden Circle didn't fall as far short of the original as Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 did but it was very clear that the first Kingsman had a far better basis working off the graphic novel, while Kingsman: The Golden Circle was free wheeling it. This sequel felt like in part a re-tread of the original and in other parts merely like an expansion and continuation of it based on ideas from the cutting room floor. The plotline almost retreads some of the original films ideas with the discovery of another secret organisation this time in the USA, Kingsman being compromised and Eggsy and co having to learn about this other organisation and get their help to stop another villains scheme. Honestly having looked into some of the stuff from the official sequel graphic novel Kingsman: The Red Diamond I think I'd have much preferred an adaptation of that and hope the 3rd Kingsman film decides to position itself as a middle film rather than sequel.
Not least because two of the cooler characters end up dead including Roxy who I really though could have come into her own as an enjoyable character but short of prequels to this one or some serious plot armour I doubt she'll be back.
The plot itself is what you'd want at this point with over the top villain schemes, the obligatory intimidating main henchman and some enjoyable actions scenes and some comedy thrown in. Oh and the sudden but inevitable betrayal which this time kind of makes less sense than the one in the previous film.
The difference for me compared to Guardians to the Galaxy Vol 2 here is this at least did advance some of the characters stories and for better or worse leave a number of lasting changes on the series going forward. It's a film I would watch again but I'm not going to be clamouring for the DVD like I did with the first film. Next time get the Graphic Novel writer to write the main script and then the writers to do the screenplay version like the first film rather than try and make a whole new story as for some reason it lost some of the charm of the first film.
Lazer Team 2 is a film that received little to no push compared to the first film. I heard it mentioned maybe twice on Rooster Teeth stuff and that was it. It's shocking how little push this film go with at a guess Rooster Teeth thinking Youtube would push it being a youtube Red film and Youtube expecting Rooster Teeth to push it as much as the first film. Now if this was a bad film I could understand the lack of fanfare but this is one sequel that at least lives up to if not surpasses the first film in my mind. It steps up and goes further than the previous film with a bigger story and bigger effects. It manages to carry on the story well and does a really nice job of actually making your see the ending of the previous film in a brand new light and from a different perspective.
Plenty of gross out stuff and some good jokes, this really does feel like it would be a somewhat realistic result of what could happen to a team who saved the world........ at least how the world presently is.
For the first film that actually got a proper Cinema release and didn't require people to use TUGG to convince their local cinema to do an indie screening it feels a shame it's likely not that many people knew about it or saw it. Though it did release on Youtube / google play store to buy literally the next day.
Honestly this is one very much worth seeing assuming you've seen the first one and I'd argue is either 2nd best film I saw of the year if not Joint best.
The best video game movie I've seen excluding Scott Pilgrim vs the World. If Scott Pilgrim or Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle even count as video games movies is debatable, but it very much felt like a homage to video games taking some jabs at the shortcomings / limitations of games while also showcasing far more just how video game concepts could lead to some amazing movie ideas. Oh and it also snuck in like a 10 second Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild reference in the background seemingly as well as a reference to Metal Gear Solid too .
All the cast does an amazing job especially those playing the game character avatars with The Rock doing amazing acting as overly cautious often quite scared nerd; Karen Gillian (in the second film on this list and 1st where she's not painted blue) does a stunning job of acting as a shy socially awkward teen girl with little self confidence; Jack Black also manages well at the job of acting like a social media obsessed initially fairly self centred teen girl and Kevin Hart does well too as a tall jock character caught in a short side kicks body. Oh and the kiss scene between The Rock and Karen Gillian's characters is destined to become a meme just for how funny it is (and deliberately so).
The story manages to actually work quite well giving space for character development with a good pacing. There's plenty of jokes both for those who know video games and those who don't ranging from character humour to fairly complex video game meta jokes down to the "low brow" of boner and penis jokes. As I previously said it integrates a lot of video game ideas in such to show how they can add to a film such as characters having lives, thus rather than mysteriously being able to avoid all the bullets it means characters can get shot, die and then respawn back in with the limited number of lives adding to the tension but also the possible solutions to problems. The use of "video game logic" allows moment where the film has characters transitioning from an underground series of traps to a hut in the middle of a jungle and actually works because video game logic. Why did the enemy forces catch up with them? Because it's a video game so the enemy forces move at whatever speed they need to.
This is a feel good movie that was made by some-one who clearly put heart into it and knew coming into it that this feel needed to both pay homage to the previous film without feeling like it was trying to ape it. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle does very much feel like it's own film with moments in there for fans of the original film to pick up on. My one gripe in this area, and this is highly subjective, is that there was seemingly no attempt to throw in any references to the Jumanji cartoon series (at least that I could spot).
Either joint best film I've seen in the past year if not outright best and I'd easily say best film Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) has ever been in. I'd even argue if people remember this film I can see a best actor or best supporting actor nomination in this for some of the performances. Very few things can match up to the comedy of seeing Jack Black as a middle aged male professor teaching Karen Gillian's character how to flirt with men....... no really that's a scene in the film and just wow, does it actually lead to a hilarious pay off. Go see this film. If it's out of cinemas go buy the DVD, this is a film you should see even if you didn't see the original Jumanji. There's a reason this is the number 1 film in cinemas for the past weekend and by the looks of things last full week (yes even beating the Last Jedi) and more cinemas actually opting to start showing Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle while closing The Last Jedi screenings . Well done Sony for managing to not screw this one up like you seem to already be doing with most of your 2018 line up.