Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Ross Bishop's Favourite Movies Of 2015

Well 2015 has been one heck of a year for movies, filled with huge franchises and bucket loads of nostalgia. This is very much reflected in my favourite movies list for 2015, whereas in previous years I'd usually have a mix of blockbusters and independent films - this year is very much dominated by the tent pole movies. Not just because I love these type of films but because I genuinely felt they delivered.

For me it's really interesting to look at this list and compare it to my most anticipated of 2015 list, because eight out of ten of those films are now on my favourite list! It's great to be looking forward to something and not being disappointed.

So on to the list: -

10. Snowpiercer
Although technically never released in the UK (and released in other territories last year), I managed to see this magnificent film in 2015 and really enjoyed it. With a great concept and great performances, I highly recommend you hunt this out.

9. Ant-Man
A pleasant surprise, after all the controversy with Edgar Wright leaving the directors chair weeks before filming began this could have been a disaster but instead ended up being a very entertaining movie.

8. John Wick
Keanu Reeves as a retired hitman getting revenge for the death of his puppy (left to him by his late wife), whilst also creating a new fighting style called Gun-Fu which leads to some awesome action sequences. Great action film.

I enjoyed the 24th Bond film a lot, however it has its problems - it's overly long and simultaneously takes itself too serious (but then doesn't at the same time). Despite this, it was great to finally see Daniel Craig in a Bond film that felt like a Bond film, not trying to mimic Bourne or such.

6. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
A great spy film, it gets the edge on SPECTRE because it knows exactly what it is and delivers its story and action at an quick pace to keep you constantly entertained. Also, Tom Cruise again amazes with his stunts and even with all the hype around the opening airplane sequence I think the motorbike chase is even more exhilarating.

5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Another film in my top ten where I will acknowledge its flaws despite still loving it, it's too short and as a result skips over some fairly major plot points. However, the action is great and the character banter between the heroes is extremely clever, which only gets better on multiple viewings. Not quite as good as the first film, but still one of the stronger entries in the MCU.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road
A very unique action film which is essentially one long car chase, spectacular sequences that magnificently blend practical effects enhanced by CGI that make your jaw drop. George Miller is a crazy genius.

3: Kingsman: The Secret Service
Matthew Vaughn does for secret agents what he did for superheroes (with Kick-Ass), creating one of the best and most entertaining films of the year. Oh and that Church scene?! Sequence of the year!

2. Jurassic World
I came out of Jurassic World as giddy as a school boy, I absolutely loved it. Masterfully paying homage to the original but at the same time creating a sequel / reboot that makes sense some twenty years later in the context of the story. Nostalgia probably gave this some extra love as well!

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Well I wouldn't have thought a Star Wars film would have been at the top of my list, but there's no denying what a stunning job JJ Abrams did with The Force Awakens. Successfully reinvigorating  the franchise, whilst introducing new characters and building on the existing saga, magically combining old with new and just generally producing a great movie. I've never previously been excited for Star Wars, but I can't wait to see this again (and see what happens next in Episode 8).

Monday, 27 April 2015

My Thoughts On Avengers: Age of Ulton With Spoilers

Rather than rushing a review as soon as I’d seen it for the first time, I decided to wait until I’d seen Avengers: Age of Ultron a couple of times before writing up my thoughts. You see with most big summer blockbusters I want to see, I get lost in the hype and my own expectations can sometimes subdue the impact of a great film. So I tend to need a second viewing with reset expectations to really appreciate a film for what it is (not what I wanted it to be). That may sound like I’m pre-empting  a negative response for Avengers: Age Of Ultron, I’m not, but just wanted to set the scene…
Ok, big question “Is it better than the first Avengers?”. Not really, but then it was never going to be – the first film was a great film in its own right but also had the huge novelty factor of getting all of these heroes together on screen for the first time. Saying that, A:AOU is still one amazing film so let’s get into the detail…

First of all, this film is dense. It is jam-packed with action set-pieces, interesting story-beats, character development and set-up for future films in the MCU. Yet there is no fat, every sequence or piece of dialogue has a purpose and either drives the story forward, explains a character motivation or lays the ground work for a pay-off that comes later. The fact this is shorter than the first film is down-right incredible.

This density is the films greatest strength, but as a result means character motivations or plot threads are sometimes explained in one line of throw-away dialogue and if you’re not paying attention you could miss it (the second viewing helps keep up with this). Secondly, because there is so much going on (especially in the action sequence) there isn’t any real stand-out moments (i.e Hulk punching Thor out of the screen, or Hulk using Loki like a rag-doll) instead we get a boat-load of little ones which are all great but don’t quite leave the same impact!

But the fact we live in a world where we get to marvel at all of this on screen really is incredible, this is my child-hood dream. The opening sequence with The Avengers fighting in tandem throughout the snowy forest is a comic book panel come to live. The banter and interactions between all the different characters is masterful, clever and witty.

Now on to specifics, so they’ll be MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD and some of it won’t make sense unless you’ve seen the film…

The Hulk vs Iron-Man/Hulk-Buster fight is incredible! Filled with great action beats and funny dialogue “Go to sleep, go to sleep, got to sleep…” I was surprised how early this occurred in the film, as I was expecting this to be part of the climax.

Thor’s side story feels rushed and it’s not overly clear what he sees in his dream that makes him take the decision to support bringing Vision to life(?). I know it had something to do with the Infinity Gems, the destruction of Asgard and an impending threat, but not 100% clear on it all exactly. Rumour has it that there is an extended version to be released on the upcoming blu-ray, so hopefully this section of the film is fleshed out.

On the whole Thor seemed to have the least amount of screentime this time around, with more time dedicated to Black Widow, Dr. Banner and Hawkeye. I get why they did this as they don’t have their own solo films, but it’s a shame, as I’m not overly interested in these three and would have preferred more time with Thor.

The hammer scene is being referenced a lot as one of the stand-out scenes for when The Avengers are having some down-time, but honestly all of the scenes when it’s just the group having banter among themselves is great.

I was actually surprised how happy and the complete the ending felt, knowing that Civil War is coming I was expecting the film to end with more tension between Cap and Stark. But as it stands they ended on pretty good terms.

The new Avengers… so we end with a new team; Captain America, Black Widow, War Machine, Vision, Scarlett Witch and Falcon. It’ll be interesting to see how Marvel handle this transition with general audiences as it may feel like we’ve now got the B team in place (a result of the big 3’s contracts coming to an end). I think we’ll see how this works soon though, as we have Civil War coming and with Captain America leading the squad I assume all these characters will be in the that. By the time we get to Avengers 3, we’ll most likely have Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Black Panther and Dr.Strange floating around too!

I would have also liked a bit more variety in the action sequence, as although we travel the globe - all the big sequences tend to take place in the middle of a city in the middle of the day, so they all look a bit samey.

Shame to see Quicksilver go so soon, really liked the character and don’t think we got enough time with him. Though you never know he might be back soon!

I thought Ultron was a good villain, his witty banter made him quite unique for an AI robot but his arc is pretty standard affair. AI is created to protect humanity, decide humanity needs to be destroyed. Again, may be a result of the editing, but I don’t think we ever really spent enough time with Ultron to fully understand his motivations or hatred towards the Avengers.

Based on the trailers, I was expecting a very dark and sombre film however the film had its fair share of laughs and witty banter. Ultron himself was also much more comedic than filled with dread as we were led to believe…

The opening shot with all the Avengers fighting through the woods was incredible and the obligatory money shot of the camera revolving around our heroes in the climax was insane.

I could go on for hours about specific pieces of dialogue or sequences, but there’s only a  finite amount of time. So overall I’d say, Avengers: Age of Ultron is a solid movie but it never quite surpasses the original.


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Ross Bishop's Most Anticipated Films Of 2015

2015 stood to be the biggest year in cinema history (at least in terms of expected box-office revenue) with pretty much all the major movie franchises releasing new instalment! The last time such a feat occurred was in 2012, when we saw the release of The Avengers, a Batman, a Spider-man, a James Bond film and new instalment in the Middle-Earth saga (as it’s now called). However, there have been a few noticeable films pushed back to 2016 which could stop it being quite as big as it initially expected: -

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Independence Day 2
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Finding Dory

But that’s no bad thing, it means we still have films to look forward to next year! Anyway back to 2015 and what films make my most anticipated list!

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Without a doubt my most anticipated film of the year, and with the hype built up now with all the previous Marvel films and how good the first instalment was I literally can’t wait.

Skyfall re-invigorated the Bond franchise, and with most of the same cast and crew returning for the 24th 007 adventure I’m hoping for great things!

3. Jurassic World
Another reboot/sequel, which has a interesting take on the premise. If it’s not a master-piece it should at least be a good couple of hours in the cinema!

4. Mad Max
I’m genuinely intrigued to see how this semi reboot/sequel turns out, and so far the trailers have all been bat-shit crazy and look very unique – so I’m excited! The fact the film was shot in 2012 also means they’ve had plenty of time to make sure this is a quality movie.

5. Ant-Man
It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out, but if Guardians of the Galaxy has taught us anything it’s that you don’t bet against Marvel.

6. Kingsman: The Secret Service
Matthew Vaughn doesn’t make bad films, they’re either very good or excellent, the fact he’s now playing in the action spy genre gets me extremely excited!

7. Fast & Furious 7
Ever since Fast Five re-ignited my passion for the series, I’ve been looking forward to the next instalment. Fast 6 wasn’t quite as good as its predecessor but it was still a fun ride, so looking forward this and hopefully in gives Paul Walker a fitting send off.

8. Inside Out / The Good Dinosaur
Pixar has lost it’s magic in recent years and they seem to focusing more and more on sequels, so a year when we get two original films from “once great” company is nothing to be scoffed at and is hopefully a return to form!

9. Mission Impossible 5
Ghost Protocol was a well-crafted and fun spy adventure – so I’m hoping for more of the same! Also, Tom Cruise doesn’t make bad films so I’m excited.

10. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Look I’m not a huge Star Wars fan (I didn’t watch the originals when I was young enough to get caught up in them and the prequels are awful), but I can appreciate the gravity of a new instalment in the franchise – so that alone gets it on the list.

What are your most anticipated films of 2015?

Friday, 2 January 2015

Ross Bishop's Top Ten Films of 2014

When I wrote up my most anticipated films of 2014 list (almost exactly a year ago), I stated that 2014 was looking like a quiet year for cinema in comparison to the huge scale blockbusters coming in 2015. Although that is still the case, I would argue that in terms of quality 2014 ended up being one the best overall years in cinema for a long time! Which made deciding this list extremely difficult…

Just a bit of context, I don’t review films professionally so this is a top ten list comprised of films I’ve actually seen, and although I see as many films as I can I’ve not seen every single film released this year. Likewise this is MY top ten so it’s more my favourite films of the year rather than technically the best films (it’s just my opinion after all).

Also, as I live in the UK this is based on films actually released in the UK in 2014, so some of last year’s Oscar films are on my list this year as we get them later than the US! And with that said, here we go…

10. Gone Girl (9.5/10)
A very dark take on marriage and long-term relationships. On first viewing I though the film was very good, but it wasn’t until the days after when I couldn’t stop thinking about it that I realised how much it had got it’s hooks into me. Glad I hadn’t read the book beforehand as feel that would ruin the first half of the film if you’re just waiting for the twist.

9. Dallas Buyers Club (9.5/10)
Great performance from both the lead actors, not surprising considering they both won Oscars for them! However, despite its dark subject matter – the film is very enjoyable and somewhat uplifting primarily as a result of the great acting from the leads.

8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (9.5/10)
Another wonder of film-making, the fact the lead character (and most of the cast) are CGI yet are more believable than real actors in the majority of films just shows how well made the Apes movies are.

7. Fury (9.5/10)
At this stage we’ve seen a lot of WW2 films, but I felt Fury gave a different perspective focusing on tank warfare and during a time period  we rarely see in this genre (the last few days of the war). The battle sequences are incredibly tense and the performance by all the actors involved truly great.

6. Nightcrawler (9.5/10)
A dark and twisted look into the world of the media and late night news, with a stand-out performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Highly recommended.

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (9.5/10)
In terms of the two Marvel movies released this year, Guardians of the Galaxy has probably got more buzz since its release and technically is the greater accomplishment in terms of introducing movie-goers to a whole new cast of characters, however sci-fi has never been a genre that truly grabbed me. Action espionage thrillers on the other hand… and Winter Solider delivers that in spades! Also, this film concreated Captain America as my favourite Avenger with a story that made the hero relevant in the 21st Century. My favourite and in my opinion BEST Marvel film to date.

4. The RAID 2 (9.5/10)
It didn’t quite surpass the original in terms of initial impact, but in terms of scale and ambition The RAID 2 delivers on all fronts – if the first film was compared to Die Hard, the closest you’d get for the sequel would be The Godfather. The best action you’ll see on film all year.

3. The Wolf of Wall Street (9.5/10)
It was my most anticipated film of the year and it didn’t disappoint, it may be 3 hours but I’d happily watch it over and over again. Leonardo Dicaprio once again showing why he’s the actor of his generation.

2. Paddington (9.5/10)
I didn’t see this coming, but this has to be one of the best and most uplifting family films of all time. The sheer love and care that is on screen makes it a joy to watch, it’s funny, clever and heart-warming. Truly magical film-making.

1. 12 Years A Slave (10/10)
Probably the most intense movie experience I’ve had in cinema ever, emotional and riveting story-telling – an absolute must-see!

As I said at the beginning of the post, in terms of sheer quality I thought 2014 was an awesome year for films so I had to include a runner-up list which consists of (in no particular order):-

Starred Up (9.5/10)
The Lego Movie (9/10)
All Is Lost (9/10)
Edge of Tomorrow (9/10)
X-Men: Days of Future Past (9/10)
Calvary (9/10)
Guardians of the Galaxy (9/10)
Locke (9/10)
Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1 (9/10)
Exodus: Gods and Kings (9/10)

Here’s hoping 2015 also delivers a stand-out year for cinema!