Thursday, 31 December 2015

My Top 10 Films of 2015

You've seen my favourite TV shows of the year, now it is time for the big one, my favourite films of 2015, this is a film blog after all! This year brought us some treats but also some slight disappointments, read on to see what were my favourite gems of the year, and for the first time since this blog began, there's not a Marvel movie in sight...

10. Inside Out
After a years hiatus, Pixar returned with Inside Out, their extremely clever and emotionally powerful film about emotions! Nobody can disagree that Pixar were even smarter than usual with this film and really proved that they are still capable of creating brilliant original content. It's smart, funny and touching, everything a Pixar film should be, an absolute delight of a film.

9. Jurrasic World
Jurrasic World divided audiences. It was like marmite, you either loved it or hated it. I loved it. This film brought me straight back to the first and had me feeling like a child again, fully invested in what was now a fully functioning dinosaur theme park. It's what you always wanted to see, or a least some of us anyway and it payed off in a big way at the end. I had huge amounts of fun with this film, so much so that I can forget the little gripes that people have made and just enjoy the hell out of it. Read my full review here.

8. Crimson Peak
I only recently saw this film but fell in love with it straight away. It's creepy and Gothic story has you invested from the get go. There are some superb performances from Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain who have you constantly second guessing the nature of their characters. Director Guillermo del Toro provides us with some of his most stunning and impressive imagery yet, that really allows the film to linger long after it has finished.

7. Legend
This was the year of Tom Hardy. If you didn't know his name beforehand, you do now! In Legend not only does he give one impressive performance, he gives two! Here he plays both Reggie and Ronnie though not you would think it was the same guy. Hardy makes each character their own and really helps elevate the film that is already really well done with its violent yet touching story. If you missed this one make sure to check it out, it's a brilliant film. Read my full review here.

6. The Overnight
The Overnight is one of those surprise films of the year. I hadn't heard anything about it before I saw it and that actually helped my enjoyment of film as it is an absolute head trip from start to finish. It's weird, trippy and hilarious. It twists and turns leaving you constantly guessing as to the outcome of the story. Want to know more? Don't, just go and watch it, you won't be disappointed! Or read my quick review of it here.

5. Dope
Dope is one of those films that when it starts it never slows down. I had seen the trailer and heard some buzz for this film when it screened at Sundance at the start of the year and since then I had been waiting patiently to watch it. The film is a lot of fun, it moves along swiftly and is constantly funny, much to the credit of the three main characters, who have brilliant chemistry together. It's an absolute blast of a film and inspired me as a screenwriter to write my own story in a similar pace and style.

4. Mad Max: Fury Road
Who didn't love Mad Max: Fury Road this year? The film is just balls to walls crazy. It's simple yet so elegantly executed. It was action like you had never seen it before, it's mix of practical and computer effects was incredibly stunning and the break neck pace of each set piece had you on the edge of your seat with nails digging in to the material. I was absolutely exhausted after watching this film, it's an experience that's for sure. Read my full review here.

3. The Martian
I am a sucker for sci-fi films. The Martian did not disappoint me, it was accessible nerdy sci-fi that has you hooked from the very beggining, feeling every emotion and struggle that all the characters involved had in survival and rescue. It's a powerful film and it looks amazing, It features a return to form for director Ridley Scott and an amazing script adaptation from Drew Goddard. It's one of those films that stays with you after you've seen it and really makes you happy to be part of the human race.  Matt Damon also gives an amazing performance considering he mainly has to act by himself. Read my full review here.

2. Me and Earl and The Dying Girl
A film about filmmaking and friendship, what is not to love? This film really makes an effort to set itself apart from others dealing with the difficult theme of terminal illness. It is sad, yes but it's also hilariously funny, moving and thought provoking throughout. It's three leads are superb and have great chemistry and comic timing in their well thought out and layered characters, and they are only elevated through the camerawork that is on display here; the camera is always moving and the film has some incredible shots. If you're a film person like me then you will love their throwbacks to classic cinema and be fully invested in the powerful and emotional story. This was very, very close to being number one,,, You can read my full review here.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I knew this film would make the list but it wasn't until the second viewing that it made number one. Is it perfect, no but all the problems I had with it seemed to disappear or at least I didn't care about them so much on round two. There's a lot of nostalgia at play here and the film really plays on that, it doesn't make it bad and in fact if anything it only heightens your experience of the film. It's very crowd pleasing and there is no doubt that each time I have seen it, I have gotten goosebumps and wanted to jump up and down with joy at what I was watching. We have some great new characters and an amazing new villain. It's a film that generates a lot of discussion and I love that because one of my favourite things to do is talk about film (hence a film blog)! Some may disagree with my placing of this film but if there is one experience of cinema I won't be forgetting from this year it is this one. I loved it, I still love it and I cannot wait for more Star Wars in the future! You can read my full review here.

So there we have it, my top ten of the year. It's been an odd year for cinema, I was very excited for it to begin with but am leaving it now with not as many gems as I thought we would be getting, the films above were some of the only ones that stood out to me. As I am living in the UK a few films have yet to been released over here that are out overseas, films that look like they could have chance on this list. I guess we'll never know but look out for more reviews from me next year which looks to be exciting and hopefully will not disappoint.

Stay tuned for my list of most anticipated films of 2016 but for now, have a Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

My Top 10 TV Shows of 2015

It's coming to the end of the year which means it's time for top ten lists. Lets start with my favourite TV shows of the year, where this time round Game of Thrones is not number one, read on to find out what is...

10. Jessica Jones (Season 1)
The second of Netflix's Marvel TV shows to come out this year and once again proving that Marvel has some of the most interesting roster of characters at their disposal. Many people had not heard of Jessica Jones, unless they had read the brilliant Alias comic book series by Brian Michael Bendis, the show has now changed this and have made yet another unknown character a household name. The show itself stayed true to the tone and style of the comic book and did an amazing job of bringing a darker side of the Marvel universe to the big screen. The big bad played by David Tennant absolutely stole the show and had you yearning for him in every scene. There were parts of the show that I felt went over the top nearer the end but it still held its own over the Marvel films we saw this year.
9. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 2/3)
When this show first aired I never thought it would get as good as it has gotten right now. Season 2 showed a dramatic improvement over its last season and then the third went and blew the lid off with every episode we have seen so far being damn near perfect. Now that we love and know the characters it is a lot easier to get emotionally invested and the show has played on this aspect a lot this season. We have had shocking twists, turns and revelations which I hope continue into the next half. Marvel have turned this piece of coal into a diamond and I can't wait to see more!
8. Togetherness (Season 1)
I absolutely love the Duplass brothers films and was very excited to hear they were making a show with HBO. They did not disappoint. Like their films they gave us a show full of very real characters embarking on some very true to life problems. It featured some amazing performances and a bitter sweet ending that gave me the chills and has had me clambering for more ever since. Thankfully we won't have to wait too much longer as the show returns in February! If you want to read more about my love for the show and its directors take a look at the feature I wrote about them for WOWii here.
7. The Last Man on Earth (Season 1/2)
I have loved Will Forte since his hilarious film Macgruber.  I have loved directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller since their brilliant 21 Jump Street reboot. When I heard the three were making a new and original comedy TV show together that was serialised unlike many others of its kind, I had to watch it. If you haven't seen it yet then I don't want to spoil anything for you as the show literally changes from episode to episode, It's about the last man on earth and it is really funny. Go watch it now and catch up on all the goodness!
6. Halt and Catch Fire (Season 2)
Ever since one of the showrunners did a skype Q&A at my University I have been watching his brilliant show, Halt and Catch Fire. I am so glad I have been able to as well because Season 2 built newer and better things on top of its first season. The show changed its style a bit but still brought a brilliant point of view to the computing world in the 80's as well as some interesting and original characters to the small screen. The show also features some amazing actors that you will definitely be seeing a lot more of in the future if their performances in this show are anything to go by.
5. Bloodline (Season 1) 
Netflix are quickly becoming a TV show powerhouse and Bloodline is no exception in their original show line up. I came to this one later than most but was completely blown away by the incredible cinematography and superb performances, particularly from one of my new favourite actors Ben Mendelsohn. The story plays like a storm, slowly brewing and drawing ever nearer to its explosive climax. It will be interesting to see where they go next with these characters as this season felt like its own self contained thing. I for one won't mind returning to see where this troublesome family goes next.

4. House of Cards (Season 3)
This is the season of House of Cards we have been waiting for. Francis Underwood is now President, lets see what he can do. The show packs a punch with its twists and turns, it features a brilliant and scarily realistic social commentary on our relations with Russia, but the most powerful storyline here is the underlying tension of the presidents relationship with his first lady, played by the true star of the show, Robin Wright. It took me a weekend to finish and I have been dying for more ever since.
3. Game of Thrones (Season 5)
Just because Game of Thrones isn't number one this year doesn't mean that the show is failing. In fact it created a brilliant season that stands up to its name but didn't quite peak what had gone before. It was an interesting season for book readers like myself because we were finally going past certain points in the book and some storylines were being completely changed. I for one am happy with the changes and know that not everything from books is easily adaptable for TV. The next season will be the big test for the show as we finally go into the dark and book readers and non-book readers will have no idea what will be coming next...
2. Transparent (Season 2)
At the start of this year I finally got around to watching the critically acclaimed first season of the show Transparent. I was blown away by it, not only is it brilliant looking and extremely well performed, it also pushes the boundaries on topics we have rarely seen addressed on TV before. I like that it never strives to be likeable or happy or play into audiences expectations, if anything it's truly quite a sad show about people trying to discover themselves. Season 2 pushes this further and even though it has only just come out, as soon as I finished it, it went straight to number two on the list. This is the kind of material I would love to write one day, oh and it has Jay Duplass in it, did I mention I love the Duplass brothers?
1. Daredevil (Season 1)
The first of Netflix's Marvel TV shows to debut and it debuted with an absolute bang. It stayed close to its source material but also allowed itself to be its own thing. The cast were perfectly chosen and embodied the characters like none had before, It was the start of a darker side to the Marvel universe and also allowed for more realistic and grounded story telling in a world of Avengers and alien invasions. Daredevil defied all expectations and to me was the best thing Marvel Studios has made so far. Charlie Cox's Matt Murdock/Daredevil and Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin stood out among the amazing action, cinematography and story telling. A true masterpiece of a TV show that I haven't stopped thinking about since I finished it. If you haven't seen this yet then go watch it now because if you don't you are truly missing out. Its also the only show that had me so excited I wrote a review on it, which you can read here.

Honourable mention goes towards The Flash whose final few episodes of Season 1 had me crying like a baby. I was sad to see it go unnoticed in the list so I had to give it some kind of shout out. I also want to mention that I have yet to see the second seasons of Fargo and The Leftovers both of which I loved last year and I hope I will again, I will catch up on them soon! And one last thing, a show which has just started on SyFy called The Expanse,based on the books of a same name which I have read, is shaping up to be all kinds of awesome, so go give it a watch!

Do you agree with my list? What were your favourite shows of 2015? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars, Star Wars, Star Wars...

Before we start, this is a SPOILER FREE review, you can read this review before you see the film if you wish! I'm not going to give anything away, which may mean this review is quite short, I have plans to maybe give some more spoilery thoughts in the future but for now I wanted to give my intitial opinion of the new Star Wars film.

If you want to find out what Star Wars means to me, go back and read my previous post; Why I Love Star Wars. That should give you some context as to where I am coming from when it comes to my love of the franchise.

So first things first, Star Wars is back, like actually back! The Force Awakens brings back everything you loved about the original films and moves the story forward for the first time since 1983. It brings in a whole new roster of characters and actors and merges them in with some of the original cast. When the film starts with the new scroll of text and the sudden blast of music don't be ashamed if it brings a tear to your eye, don't be ashamed if any of the scenes bring a tear to your eyes, there's a lot of heart and effort put into this film to make it feel like the Star Wars we used to know, maybe a little too much at times but we'll get to that later.

Lets start with the actors. Our new big three is made up of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Issac who all do amazing in their roles and give some of the best performances we have seen from any of the Star Wars films so far. They are perfect as our new heroes, and I left feeling that even if the original cast hadn't been involved, The Force Awakens would still have been a great Star Wars film with just our new characters! With the new film we also have a new lead villain, Kylo Ren, played by the absolutely superb Adam Driver, he gives a standout performance in the film and brings a lot of layers to the character who is very scary due to his conflict and unpredictability. As seen in the trailer and poster we have the return of Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca, the original actors all provide great performances and evoke a lot of nostalgia. Harrison Ford looks like he is really enjoying himself in this film and gives one of his best performances in years as the scruffy looking nerf herder. At the end of the day though it is the droid BB-8 that steals the show...

The story is great and provokes a lot of call backs, nostalgia and plenty of homage, particularly to A New Hope, which at times does become too much as the story points of the first film are reused a lot in the new one. With a franchise as big as this one is in the world of pop culture then you are going to expect a few nods and call backs, but sometimes it did feel as if we needed more original plot points to keep us going.

Director JJ Abrams does an amazing job of bringing the world of Star Wars to life by returning to old puppetry and costume/makeup effects that still look more real than anything you could make on a computer today! This does get proven within the film and most of the time it looks so real you could touch it however, whenever a CGI creature or character comes on screen it is pretty obvious, and this is a shame. It's not Jar Jar Binks bad but you definitely hope it would be better. Personally I would just keep to practical effects, we don't need mo-capped characters in a world that looks so real.

One of my favourite things about the film is the camerawork, the camera is barely static and is constantly being moved around all over the place and makes for some incredible looking shots and stunning cinematography. There are shots in this film that had me grinning like a child again and I really loved being brought back into the world in such a beautiful way. Star Wars has never looked better.

Abrams has brought Star Wars back to life for old and new generations. I had an absolute blast watching this film and went through all the emotions I had watching them as a child. The hype was massive and I think the film mostly lived up to it, I had so much fun watching this film, it was a blast sitting in the cinema again and hearing the incredible John Williams score blasting out loud. I think I'm going to have to watch it again soon just to soak it all in but right now I would definitely rate this as the third best Star Wars film we have seen, under Empire and Hope. It's not perfect but they have done a good job of getting the awkward reintroduction out of the way and making audiences excited for Star Wars again, the ending is the best of any Star Wars film and only promises greater things to come, I am already super excited for Episode 8 which has the potential to be the best Star Wars film yet. I am rating The Force Awakens a 4.5/5. Go see this film in the cinema, you will not be dissapointed!

What did you think of the new Star Wars film? Love it or hate it? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Our outfits for the midnight showing. Less people dressed up than we thought... Totally worth it though!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Why I Love Star Wars

Don't know if you guys know this, but there's a new Star Wars film coming out next week...

Now I am super excited for this film, so excited in fact that the only other film that came close to the amount of excitement and anticipation I feel right now was when the first Avengers film came out. On this blog you have seen me rave about a lot of things and probably consider me a bit of a Marvel fanboy, which I am, but today I wanted to talk about my first cinematic love, Star Wars.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was the first live action film I remember seeing at the cinema. It was a big deal to me, I was 5 and I had mainly watched animated films, going to see a live action film felt very grown up to me. I wasn't aware of Star Wars before that, I wasn't aware how much anticipation had been building up for the film I was going to see, and then the let down that people had afterwards. I obviously didn't have that let down when I first saw Episode 1 because if I did I wouldn't be writing a blog post called 'Why I Love Star Wars'. However stick with me, this isn't a post trying to convince you that the prequels are amazing, because they are far from it, but they do hold a special place in my heart.

Having loved Episode 1, the obsessive side of me began to come out, I wanted everything Star Wars. And this was when I came across Star Wars: A New Hope at a video rental store. My amazement that there was another Star Wars film only increased when finding out there were three more out there! I rented Episode 4 and yet again fell completely in love with the world of Star Wars. The world building in the film is unlike anything else we've seen in film before and with every character featured in the film we have a rich and vibrant backstory. Being able to explore these as a child was something special because it made you feel as if you knew more about each character than anybody else.

I had everything Star Wars related, costumes, toys, books and games. I still have a lot of these things, including a massive box up in my attic full of action figures and vehicles that I had played with many times. In my young mind I have made Epidode 7 already, and 8, and 9, and 10... It was at these times that the seeds for a dream job in film were laid and subliminally making these stories lead me to screenwriting. Yet again another reason to love Star Wars.

I remember every time I went to the cinema I was waiting for a new Star Wars trailer to arrive, I was completely hooked during the era of the prequels. After Episode 3 came out my obsession began to slowly dwindle. I still bought all the games but there wasn't a constant bombardment of new content to digest, I have never been one to watch the shows (though I am giving Rebels a go!), my obsession then turned to Marvel, reading comics and falling for the character of Spider-Man. Even with the annoucment of Disney buying Star Wars and making new films, I was excited but it didn't start the obsession again. If anything I was just happy to know I would see more Star Wars in the cinema and now maybe even one day be able to experience it with my own children, another reason I have kept all my toys! When the obsession kicked back in it was with the first teaser trailer JJ Abrams released, all of sudden I was brought back into realisiation that I was A LOT more excited for Star Wars then I had been letting on!

Now I'm at breaking point, days to go, midnight tickets booked and costumes sorted. I work part time in a toy store and nearly every week I keep spending my wages on The Force Awakens figures. My personal favourite a BB-8 Funko Pop! I've rewatched the Star Wars saga in anticipation, even with my girlfriend who I am lovingly dragging along to the midnight showing, I'm sure she can't wait either...

A photo posted by Alex Hunt (@superalexman) on

I don't think we'll be dissapointed in The Force Awakens. This is the first time the fans have been allowed to make a Star Wars film and that is being proven with every interview or behind the scenes footage we have seen with JJ Abrams, or any person involved with the making of the film on or off the screen. The problem with the prequels is the fact that George Lucas thought he knew what audiences wanted from more Star Wars films but unfortunatley he was wrong. I have enjoyed and fallen in love with the films, I have studied them and broken them down and watched every bit of material I can find involved in the behind the scenes of the film, I like to think that everybody involved with making the film has done the same things, we are the fans and we know why we love Star Wars. Also, three of my favourite actors of the last five years, Adam Driver, Oscar Issac and Domhnall Gleeson are in this film! The one thing George Lucas should have done before making the prequels, which I assume he hasn't, is attend a lecture on his own series of films, to watch the endless amount of fan videos and breakdowns on YouTube that go into depth and detail about why Star Wars is so popular and the staple of pop culture that it is today.

We've been warned though, it is difficult to make a good Star Wars movie, the prequels proved that. But I think The Force Awakens is going to be good. I can feel it.

Star Wars, the prequels, the originals, they are inspiring, they inspired me to go into the proffesion that I am still striving to break into today. Even if you are still on the fence about the new Star Wars films just remember, these films are going to inspire a whole new generation of filmmakers, storytellers and dreamers.

And that is why I love Star Wars.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

Here we are, the final instalment of The Hunger Games franchise. After loving the books, I was majorly happy with the first two adaptations of the source material. The third I was not so happy with and you can read my review for Part 1 here. Now here's the second part of the third adaptation and although a it has a lot of similar problems, overall it is a good send off for the franchise. Read on below to find out my full verdict.

So by now you know the cast, the amazing Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, accompanied by Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth and the best supporting cast from your favourite TV shows of the last five years. Seriously, there are so many familiar faces from the likes of Game of Thrones and House of Cards. In this film the rebellion is in full swing in an attempt to bring an end to the pain and suffering in the Districts.

Now lets start with the good, like the rest of the series, Mockingjay doesn't take a half hearted stab at the source material, instead it takes it seriously and creates a very faithful adaptation of the text unlike other Young Adult franchises such as Divergent, which is pretty much a paint by number YA film with no heart or effort put into making a 'good' film. The Hunger Games stands out because it feels like a film in which an effort has been made to make it more than just a Blockbuster, it's also a social commentary on the world we live in today. Plus the films have some amazing performances from all involved!

There are some brilliant scenes in this film and a lot of these are extremely terrifying and hard to watch at points. There is a sequence in this film that could rival most horror movies and made me wonder how this film didn't get more than a 12A rating. These scenes are well executed and the effects are top notch. We've come a long way from the crappy fire in the first film.

When this film ended I was surprised at how much it hit me that this franchise had ended. It was about four years ago I got hooked on the books and I remember being extremely excited for the first film, this excitement may have diminished in 2015 but I was left thinking how much I would miss those early days of the franchise. It packed a punch that's for sure. If the split of the final book hadn't happened and a third film was made using only the best parts of Part 1 and 2 then this could easily be one of the best trilogies of this millennium so far.

So now onto the bad. Like Part 1 there were scenes in this film that just dragged! It suffered from something I like to call The Walking Dead effect, where there are some great set pieces and then the characters just mope around and engage in un-engaging conversations about how they feel until the next great set piece. Some of the scenes were so slow that it felt like it was intentionally trying to justify the split... well it didn't work guys. But hey, now they have twice the money!

Another problem I had with the film was the lighting, it was so dark in places that I could hardly tell what was going on, which sucked because some of the visuals were great, just a little tough to make out at times.

There are few key scenes that are brushed over surprisingly quickly, scenes of a spoilerish nature but you'll probably understand what I mean if/when you have seen it.

Like I said at the start of the review, it's a good enough send off to one the best YA franchises around, I doubt we'll get anything aimed at teenagers with a similar amount of quality any time soon. Or at least not what I have seen from other YA franchises following in The Hunger Games shadow. But then again I'm not the audience anymore, The Hunger Games got me in my final teenage years and I loved it and I am now sad it's gone, well until the announcement of the prequels or some other way to drain the life out of a decent film franchise! I am giving Mockingjay Part 2 a rating of 3.5/5.

What did you think of Mockingjay Part 2? Better than Part 1? Better than Catching Fire? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!