We’re a 100 days into 2016 and I’ve watched half a dozen releases from this year so far. I’ve missed the two big animated films Kung Fu Panda 3 and Zootopia. The latter I’m told is definitely worth a watch. I’m also half way through the real-life sea rescue drama, The Finest Hours, which is shaping up quite well. Of the six films that I’ve watched, here’s how I’ve ranked them.
Deadpool (8/10) – A fun movie that benefits from a hero who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Made for just USD 58 million and has so far grossed nearly USD 800 million around the world. A new superhero franchise is born for Fox and Marvel Comics and Ryan Reynolds has a meal ticket that should keep him going for a few years. The trick will be to get the sequel out quickly and to get it right.
The Jungle Book (8/10) – An equally fun movie that is a close remake of the beloved Disney animation feature from 1967. A childhood favourite for many (I remember popping the tape into the VCR and watching it every few months as a kid), it’s impossible not to sing along when “Bare Necessities” comes on. There’s one entirely new scene with honey bees that isn’t in the 1967 film that’s really fun. Newcomer Neel Sethi is perfectly cast as Mowgli and a stellar voice cast which includes Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johansson and Idris Elba brings all our favourite characters alive. The CGI animation is absolutely top-notch and it’s hard to believe that the entire movie was shot on a Hollywood soundstage. Director Jon Favreau brings the same light touch that he did to Iron Man and perfectly balances action, humour and a couple of emotional moments. Rival studio Warner Bros. also has a Jungle Book film in the works, but has now pushed it back a full two years to finish it properly and also get some distance from this one. Get set for Disney to give other animated classics the CGI/ live action treatment; in exactly a year’s time we will have Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson.
The Wave (8/10) – This Norwegian disaster film was the highest grossing film in its home country in 2015 and is now making the rounds of international markets. Directed by the amusingly named Roar Uthaug, the film tells the story of a village that is struck by a freak tsunami, resulting from a rockslide falling into an adjacent fjord. Very similar in tone to the Pierce Brosnan starrer Dante’s Peak from 1997, the film features competent performances from the actors and top notch visual effects, all done at a frugal budget of under USD 6 million. Good fun, if you want to experience a non-American disaster film – fewer histrionics, more realism and genuine build-up of anticipation and tension.
The Witch (7/10) – This atmospheric horror film made waves at Sundance and various other film festivals last year, then was picked up fast-rising specialist distributor A24, who really seem to have an eye for quality independent films. Set in the 1630s, an isolated farming family in New England have to deal with the disappearance of their infant child, followed by some very disturbing occurrences at their homestead. Is there some evil thing living in the adjacent woods? Could one of their children be possessed? Strong performances from the actors, especially those playing the 4 children, result in a compelling though slow-paced, old-fashioned horror film. This is production designer Robert Eggers’ first directorial effort. Be prepared to see a lot more of 19-year-old Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the teenage daughter at the centre of the strange happenings.
Hail, Caesar! (6.5/10) – The Coen brothers have been churning out a movie every 2-3 years since Blood Simple in 1984. They alternate between deadly serious dramas like Miller’s Crossing (1990), No Country for Old Men (2007) and Being Llewyn Davis (2013) and over-the-top comedies. I feel their comedies are polarizing, liked or disliked depending on individual tastes. I really like their near-slapstick style and have been a big fan of nearly all their comedies; Fargo, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Ladykillers and Burn After Reading are among my favourites. Like Woody Allen’s films, their productions also attract a who’s who of acting royalty. Their latest comedy is no different and stars George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum as well as other household names. There isn’t much of a plot in this one and the attraction is mainly the production design, a pretty accurate inside view into the 1950’s Hollywood studio system and some fun set-pieces of film scenes being shot. Although I enjoyed the first half, it waned towards the end and I consider it to be one of their weaker efforts. For fans (and there are many of them out there) only.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (5/10) – Enough has been said about this film in recent weeks and I myself expressed my disappointment soon after I watched it. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the standalone Wonder Woman film in June next year and I hope that Justice League: Part One coming out in November 2017 will be more fun with the inclusion of Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg.