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Filmotomy’s Naughty or Nice of 2018: Jonathan’s List

We’ve taken a leaf out of Santa’s book, and have decided to reflect on the films of the year by determining which ones have been ‘good/nice’ and which ones have been downright naughty/bad. All of the team have put forward three films on their nice list and three for their naughty lists, giving their reasons why certain films have made the right or the wrong impression. So, grab a mince-pie and some egg nog and join us to examine the lists. Ho, ho, ho!

Nice

Glenn Close

The Wife

When you have an actor who’s on his or her ‘A’ game; there’s nothing better than to sit back and watch the fireworks fly as they show us how the profession of performance art is done. Enter, Glenn Close as the wife of a world-renowned, yet narcissistic author (Jonathan Pryce), who is set to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. In this film she spends her time reflection on the moments in their thirty-plus years of marriage that led to both people sharing resentment for one another.

Flashbacks within the story provide clues throughout the movie, but one only needs to study the look on Close’s face as her husband accepts the award. By reading her facial expressions, we can see every thought, every feeling and every regret she has encountered. Close’s career has spanned film, television and the stage, and in The Wife she brings all her versatility into this masterful performance, and it might rank as the best she’s ever done.

tom leave no trace

Leave No Trace

Few have seen this intimate, soulful and heartbreaking examination of a former soldier-turned father struggling with PTSD to care for his daughter. A film by co-writer and director Debra Granik, few are much less are aware that the filmmaker behind Winter’s Bone and Down to the Bone is quickly becoming one of the indie scene’s most beloved storytellers. Brilliantly capturing the lives of everyday, forgotten Americans from all different walks of life.

When Will (Ben Foster) and his daughter, Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) are upended by social services from their isolated existence living in the forest, to adjusting in the countryside of Oregon, Will tries to make his new reality work, whereas the daughter flourishes, causing turmoil between the two. Foster is quietly devastating as a man who struggles to conform to society, while McKenzine shines as a young girl who begins to understand that she is not beholden to the life her father has made.

Game Night

Game Night

This is a movie about how a once-a-week night of board games and playing with friends & neighbors, that quickly turns into a deadly serious mystery. It should have all the makings of a film destined to be on the Naughty list. Yet, it’s a fun, darkly humorous farce that gets the most out of Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemons as a scene-stealing neighbor with a fixation on joining the gang for the weekly game night.

In a year chalk-full of bad star vehicles (Night School), recycled meta-humor (Deadpool 2) and terrible social commentary comedy (I Feel Pretty). Game Night delivers naughty, devilish fun. And speaking of naughty movies; these are the three choices that deserve several lumps of coal in their stocking.

Naughty

Robin-Hood.jpg

Robin Hood

Ridley Scott’s somber, bloated take on the ‘Man in the Hood’ is no longer the most shameful adaptation ever put to celluloid. That dishonor now belongs to this drab, painfully dull and outright terrible take from first-time director Otto Bathurst. In this take, Robin of Loxley (A painfully miscast Taron Egerton) is sent off to fight in the Crusades, only to come home to have his manor and wealth taken by the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendlsohn, what are you doing in this rubbish?!) in order to pay for the war tax.

Little John, who is now an Arab and played by Jamie Foxx, teaches the soon-to-be robber to fight in a new crusade against the wealthiest 1% who are the real thieves. Parallels from endless wars in the Middle East, to the Catholic Church’s scandal of diddling little boys are all brought up with the subtly of a brick to the face, and the action beats remind me of a combination between Guy Ritchie and Zack Snyder, minus either filmmaker’s visual flair. The result is a terribly edited, visually uninspired and bloated 116 minutes that feels like a torturous 2 1/2 hours that made me pine for dino-action stupidity.

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Every once in a while, there is what I call a ‘Perfect Storm’ of bad popcorn filmmaking. The sort where atrocious screenwriting, gaps in story continuity that are as large and as wide as the Grand Canyon, soulless action/CGI which exist solely to distract the audience from it’s empty nature and caricatures that barely register as one dimensional. Converge into a bankrupt, soulless piece of product which only exists to print money for the studios.

This follow-up to 2015’s Jurassic World, joins Transformers: Age of Extinction, Independence Day: Resurgence, Godzilla (1998) and Bad Boys II as one of the most infuriating features I’ve ever had the misfortune of watching. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Owen (Chris Pratt) return to Isla Nubar to rescue dinosaurs off the island before the volcanic island blows. But a shady corporate slimeball uses the pair for his dastardly scheme of (I kid you not) selling uncontrollable and hostile reptiles to terrorists and selling them on the back market on the mainland. I’m not kidding, that’s the plot and the stupidity doesn’t stop there for two hours and eight minutes.

Ready Player One

Ready Player One

This one hurts me the most because it’s from Steven Speilberg. A director who practically invented blockbuster fare for the masses, but even the godfather of this genre can throw out a clunker. Make no mistake, it’s the director at his most uninspired. This is his most dull outing since he decided to make a sequel to Jurassic Park in 1997.

The playful magic he has in many of his collection of big-budget fare is surprisingly absent. The immersive visuals wear out their welcome after a first act that includes a car race from hell where dozens of players vie for the prize at the end of the Oasis. There’s a bland protagonist, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), who, with his virtual friends, seek to find three Easter Eggs that its creator, James Halladay (Mark Rylance) left hidden around the OASIS. Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn really needs to to fire his agent and pick better scripts) is also searching for the eggs in order to merge Halladay’s creation with his business for reasons that I can’t be bothered to remember.

There’s dozens upon dozens of pop culture references, from Akira to the video game series Halo, to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. However, they feel like empty gestures, playing to fanboys’ yearning of nostalgia. The whole thing feels like a well-edited game narrative, but ome that we’re not allowed to play with.

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