December 2015 in Review

Happy New Year! We are now in 2016, a year of promise, Awards ceremonies and *sigh* another Marlon Wayans film. To close out the year, I watched an assortment of this years instalments, classics, a number of Christmas films and even took some trips to a Galaxy Far, Far Away. So, hope your year is better than the last, and let's see what films I witnessed in 2015's last month.

A Streetcar Named Desire - 5/5 - Elia Kazan directs an exceptional cast to deliver stunning performances. From Marlon Brando's brutish Stanley, to Viven Leigh's disturbed Blance, everybody plays their role to perfection. Let's not forget the fantastic Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, caught in between the dislike between Blance and Stanley. The script tackles real topics with grit and intensity, helped by magnificent writing which adds multiple layers to these great characters. In short, a masterpiece.

High-Rise - 3/5 - Ben Wheatley delivers an intriguing premise, where the class system is well utilized to show an apartment complex going out of control. The cast deliver nuanced performances, with Tom Hiddelston and Elisabeth Moss especially coming off greatly. But the stand-out turns out to be Luke Evans, delivering a spirited and fun performance. However, the plot often fails to move forward, and Wheatley's unable to bring the multiple story threads together satisfyingly. Plus, there's a haunting cover of Abba's S.O.S, used effectively.

Circle (2015) - 1.5/5 - The concept behind this film is an intriguing one, as 50 people are trapped in one room, selecting one person to be killed at a time until only one survives. Unfortunately, the directing duo of Hann and Miscione fail to deliver on the interesting idea. We're just given repetitive items, while the film stretches itself over a large number of characters with paper-thin development and not enough screentime. There are a couple of interesting turns, but they can't make up for the lacklustre material.

Best film of the month and Best film
rewatched: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tangerine (2015) - 4.5/5 - One of 2015's most gorgeous films, with fantastic performances at the forefront. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor are national treasures.

Rocky II - 4/5 - The films biggest problem is how it contradicts the first films ending, to deliver a happier ending. It's a bit hard to swallow, but it's easier to do so because the film never lose sight of the emotional centre, which is Rocky. Be it his need to box, or his sweet relationship with Adrian, it's made abundant this is worth caring for, and it works. The final fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed is one for the ages, a battle that's fun, yet rightly tense when it needs to be. It even manages to turn standing up into a nailbiting moment. A worthy continuation to the original.

A Very Murray Christmas - 2.5/5 - Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray deliver a throwback to Christmas specials, containing well performed song numbers. The problem is how unremarkable it all is, with pointless celebrity cameos all over the place.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part II - 4/5 - This franchise was refreshing as a Young Adult adaptation, as it explored mature topics while never talking down to viewers. It continue the discussion of war, propaganda and politics which the previous instalment excelled in, while including intriguing action scenes. Despite a two part split, this instalment feels a bit cramped, with many parts feeling rushed and others which could've used a few more scenes devoted to them. Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson own their roles, while Liam Hemsworth can't rise above his character being just a part of this love triangle. I will miss these characters though.

Best film seen in cinemas: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Ridiculous 6 - 1/5 - A film which wants to be Blazing Saddles, but is too busy being idiotic to come close.

Krampus - 4.5/5 - It's refreshing to witness a Christmas film that contains bite, let alone one that's so good in its dual handling of genres.

The Great Dictator - 5/5 - There are four questions I am left with.

  • How is this the first Charlie Chaplin film I've watched?
  • How does he make it seem so easy to blend comedy with satirical wit and the current going ons from that time?
  • How is it that final speech is so timeless, relevant and more effective today than many other pieces of work?
  • How did this not win the award for outstanding production?

Room (2015) - 5/5 - I was not prepared for this. Lenny Abrahamson perfectly captures the tales harrowing nature, while pulling off moments that are heart wrenching and uplifting. At the films core, this is a mother and son tale, and Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay do phenomenal work in their roles. No wonder their names keep coming up during talk of awards season.

Best film watched for the first time: The Great Dictator

Rocky III - 3.5/5 - An entertaining sequel, with the scenes of fighting and emotion done extremely well. The writing could be stronger, especially in regards to Clubber Lang, and how Paulie and Adrian are utilised.

Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Force Awakens - 5/5 - Not handled by a bunch of Scruffy Looking Nerf Herders.

Mission Impossible - 3.5/5 - Brian De Palma delivers an entertaining thriller that's directed with effective tension. This is especially present during the films most famous scene, where Ethan enacts a break in, dangling above a pressure sensitive floor. Tom Cruise leads a well acted cast, even if his performance feels out of place at points. The script contains a number of problems, with the villains motivations being unclear, and the final act not living up to what came before. This remains an effective start to a long-running franchise.

Cinderella (2015) - 3.5/5 - Focusing on the marriage politics of the time period, Kenneth Brannagh's take on Cinderella is full of charm, great performances and characters you can feel for.

Biggest Disappointment: High-Rise

The Star Wars Holiday Special - 1/5 - Nothing prepared me for the abomination that is this poorly made, disjointed piece of drek that clearly exists to cash in on the popular brand name which Star Wars began. Jar Jar looks pretty good in comparison.

The Nightmare Before Christmas [rewatch] - 5/5 - No matter how many times I watch this, my love remains the same.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York [rewatch] - 2.5/5 - I know the wet bandits weren't exactly angels, but Kevin McAllister is borderline psychotic. It's a wonder Marv wasn't left a drooling vegetable, let alone dead. Probably PTSD from being abandoned by his family twice.
But I still finished this, seeing it as little more than a relocated remake of the first film. The performances can't be faulted though, with Tim Curry ace as ever, and Rob Schneider even giving a good performance.

Treevenge - 3.5/5 - Imagine you were ripped from your home, beaten, abused and forced to witness those of your kind dead all over the place. Then imagine you were sold off, forced to act as a pretty decoration in the corner of somebody's room.

It's understandable from the trees point of view in this unique revenge horror, but it's all the more shocking how brutal things get. Tree toppers as throwing stars, stomping on baby's heads, tree rape. It can get a bit much at times, but it's eventful and unique.

It's also the best advert for buying a plastic tree every Christmas.

Biggest Surprise: Room

Die Hard [rewatch] - 5/5 - Truly the best way I could've ended Christmas, revisiting a former time, when Bruce Willis gave a shit about acting.

Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau - 3.5/5 - There's little to distinguish this from a typical DVD extra, thanks to a lack of style. What's interesting though is the subject matter, as we witness a passionate man detail how he got a dream project, only to watch it's destruction unfold before his eyes. What makes this documentary are the anecdotes, as we hear about Val Kilmer's dickish behaviour (the one item everybody interviewed seems to agree on), and Marlon Brando's erratic ideas, which are completely fascinating.

Sexy Beast - 4/5 - Jonathan Glazer delivers an entertaining black comedy which is hilarious in its vulgarity, containing fantastic performances. But my word, Ben Kingsley's turn as Don Logan is one of the best performances I've seen. From the first mention of his name, he's promised as a frightening figure, and Kingsley more than delivers. Be it the way he commands the room, the unsettling way he veers between hilariously vulgar and frightening. The film's all the better when he's onscreen.

Vertigo - 3.5/5 - It's strange how I didn't warm to this film from Alfred Hitchcock. James Stewart and Kim Novak gave fantastic performances into their characters, yet I felt unengaged by the plot. I did love the direction the story took in the final half an hour, and believe this could be a film I appreciate more upon a second viewing, but as it stands, I remain disappointed.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens [rewatch] - 5/5 - There was no way I'd close out the year without a second viewing of this. It made for an easier watch with the knowledge of what was going to happen, and I still laughed at the humorous moments, felt for the characters, got engaged with the struggles and battles. And yes, my heart still broke.

Worst film of the month: The Star Wars Holiday Special

The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! - 4/5 - Aardman have done it again, delivering a light comedy that's as well crafted as the animation, delivering a fantastic world that's well realised, and characters you root for through thick and thin. Now let's celebrate Ham-Night with a dodo.

Bambi Meets Godzilla [rewatch] - 4/5 - For all it's simplicity, this is still a great film.

Spy [rewatch] - 4/5 - Not the strangest film to end my year on. This was a nice surprise of 2015, and gives me great hope for Paul Feig's Ghostbusters film.

Best film of the month: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Best film seen in cinemas: Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Best film watched for the first time: The Great Dictator
Best film rewatched: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Biggest Disappointment: High-Rise
Biggest Surprise: Room
Worst film of the month: The Star Wars Holiday Special

Number of films watched: 26