Here lies a comprehensive list of the ten best TV shows I have watched in the year of our lord 2015. They aren’t all necessarily new shows but all have released a season in 2015 that I have really enjoyed.
DISCLAIMER – Obviously I am only one person so there is probably loads of stuff I may have missed this year (The Last Man on Earth) or haven’t finished watching (Daredevil) as well as some shows that haven’t fully aired yet (Peep Show).
So without further ado: Continue reading
How to make a solid sequel…
The first How To Train Your Dragon movie was not only a huge commercial success but also a hit with the critics as well (It currently sits at #150 in the IMDB top 250 films of all time after receiving two Oscar nominations).
When making a sequel however Dreamworks had every reason to be wary after rival studio Pixar put out the disappointing Cars 2 and the patchy Monsters University. Luckily Dreamworks made a number of solid decisions with How To Train Your Dragon 2. Keeping the original cast and director on board was important and bringing in Cate Blanchett and Kit ‘you know nothing’ Harrington didn’t hurt either. Secondly the decision to make this second instalment the second part of a trilogy gives director Dean DeBlois breathing space to expand the characters and the world that they
The main obstacle then in the face of cautious optimism was the general premise. Baring in mind the dragon training promised in the title was delivered in the first film, it was vitally important that the sequel was not a retread of the first story. This is mostly done successfully with the introduction of a couple of key characters as well as vital plot points ensuring that How To Train Your Dragon 2 is not just a stepping stone to the final film in the trilogy but an enjoyable spectacle in its own right.
Dreamworks will always be viewed as inferior to Pixar but they have still put out some of the most beloved animated films of all time and How To Train Your Dragon 2 sits nicely amongst the Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and Madagascar franchises.
Is making a film that will be horribly dated in five years brave or just stupid?
Cyber Horror (as I have chosen to dub it) is the logical next step from found footage now that that particular horror sub-genre is beginning to become moribund.
Like recent Maisie Williams starring TV drama Cyberbully, Unfriended takes place almost entirely on a computer screen through Skype, Facebook and various other mediums of social media. Where Unfriended differs from Cyberbully is it is much more nasty and has a more supernatural angle rather than being ground in reality.
Unfriended is actually a genuinely brilliant and chilling concept that is unfortunately executed quite poorly. The problem with having all your characters in their teens is the performances are bound to be patchy and while the young cast copes well in the beginning, as the tension rises the acting becomes a bit embarrassing which totally takes you out of the story. As the film races to a fairly predictable conclusion, a few scenes that should be shocking end up of just being a bit daft as the clunky direction and hysterical acting fail to do the story justice.
If Unfriended sparks any kind of debate about online bullying it would be purely coincidental as there is no message here. This is a dumb teen horror movie that feels like social commentary due to the subject matter but don’t be expecting Black Mirror.
Unfriended is surely indicative of what the next major horror craze will be. It will take a better film than this to break it, but Unfriended is an important footnote in horror history and perhaps the moment that found footage died.
Marvel takes a gigantic risk… and still remains triumphant.
Loving couple ignore thousands of horror films and have their Honeymoon in a cabin in the woods. The inevitable ensues.
I spent the opening twenty minutes of Honeymoon mapping out a negative review in my head. Game of Thrones Rose Leslie (Ygritte) has a dodgy American accent and the scenes displaying the love she shares with her new groom are far too sickly sweet. After The Cabin in the Woods turned the genre on it’s head I didn’t expect to see something so derivative so shortly afterwards…
Luckily when Honeymoon does finally get interesting it brings with it a surprising new take on the genre and succeeds where similar films like Dark Skies failed.
Honeymoon is creepy and a bit nasty but it stuck with me and as I have said many times this is often the yardstick for a successful horror film.
If you came to this film because you like watching people running through mazes you will not be disappointed.
If you have seen any film ever you will have seen pretty much everything that happens in Maze Runner. Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale or Hunger Games for people who like friendship instead of murder. I guarantee you wont read a review for this film that goes more than six lines without mentioning The Hunger Games such is the obvious comparison. The reason for this is the huge success of that series is literally the only reason this film exists. Rather than have the good looking young adults fight themselves they instead battle huge spider alien creatures whilst doing a lot of running through mazes. Imagine Battle Royale vs Predator and you are pretty much there. I wont bore you with the list of clichés trotted out in The Maze Runner but put it this way the only part of the film that shocked me was the fat, curly haired kid not being comic relief. Another annoyance with this film is that obviously it is the start of a franchise and trilogy so even though this is the first film in the series it already feels episodic and very much like a piece of work that will never stand on its own. This is the problem with releasing films in this way, does anyone ever watch Attack of the Clones or The Matrix Reloaded or even Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers by themselves? No, those films exist to move the story along and connect the first and final chapters but at least the other films in those respective series’ make this worthwhile. The Maze Runner already feels like a means to an end designed as an introduction rather than just a film in its own right. However for all it’s flaws if you can switch off your brain completely Maze Runner does at least look amazing and the characters are likeable if paper thin. Credit goes to Will Poulter (Son of Rambow), Ki Hong Lee and Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Jojen Reed for any GOT fans) for squeezing the most they can from poorly written characters and I suppose even protagonist Dylan O’ Brien is fine considering he is playing the kind of character who would be portrayed by Megan Fox if the role had been female. Loads of people will hate this but if you just want a pure piece of popcorn Hollywood fluff this is completely adequate.
Old crone reacts in an incredibly out of proportion way to slightly annoying goody two shoes child.
A Little Princess continues the time honoured tradition of children’s films featuring unspeakable cruelty and violence in the vein of peers, The Lion King (Father is trampled to death in front of son), Bambi (Mother is shot to death in front of son) and Oliver! (homely and caring woman is beaten to death by a drunk). A Little Princess doesn’t quite plunge those depths of tragedy but ‘wealthy girl becomes a slave after father is killed in the war’ is right up there.
Despite this, A Little Princess recovers to be a genuinely heart warming tale. Not a great deal to be said for the acting, child actors are notoriously awful though. Elsewhere it really does look great, Davos Seaworth features (for any GOT aficionados out there) and I must admit it did make me smile. I would actually say essential viewing for anyone under 11 but a lot to like as a cynical, miserable old bastard as well.
Patrick Bateman becomes Winston Smith in Dystopia.
Equilibrium has been dismissed as ‘Matrix with guns’ pretty much since its release which is very unfair. Whilst there are undeniable similarities (primarily the colours, never has a film utilized so many different shades of grey), Equilibrium is in many ways more intelligent than The Matrix.
Whilst there is absolutely no subtlety here (the drug people take to stop them feeling is called ‘Prozium’, not too difficult to work out this a dig at Prozac and and Valium) the message is no less important. Obviously the ghost of George Orwell looms large over everything, not just the dystopia of 1984 but also the privileged hypocrisy of Animal Farm.
Christian Bale was on a golden run around the time this film was made (American Psycho, The Machinist, Batman Begins, The Prestige etc) and he is once again brilliant here. He can convey more with his eyes than Kit Harrington has throughout the entire run of Game of Thrones. Speaking of GOT, Sean Bean **SPOILERS** meets his demise very early on even for his standards and the film does suffer slightly for this. Emily Watson is also underused as she smoulders when on screen and Taye Diggs is so crap as Bale’s sidekick that he threatens to derail the whole movie. I’m surprised this never became a cult classic as I loved it on release. It would make a brilliant tv series…