Saturday, 31 December 2016

Top Ten Films of 2016

For some reason, this year felt underwhelming, so much so that I thought that maybe this was a bad year for cinema with the amount of disappointments I've seen. However, we should not focus so much on the bad, as I found out when making my top ten list for 2016 there have been some great gems this year, more so than I thought, and that's without seeing some of the most critically acclaimed films like Arrival, La la Land and The Handmaiden (trust me, I really wanted to find time to watch them all). So read on and find out what I thought were the best 10 films I've seen this year.

10. Captain America: Civil War

After a shaky year in 2015, it's nice to see the two latest Marvel films break my top ten again. For me Civil War was the sequel to The Avengers we should have had. At times it felt a little bloated with the amount of characters on screen but it was none the less an excellent time at the cinema with a more thought provoking storyline than most other blockbusters this year. You can check out my full review here.

9. 13th

This was one of the last films I saw in 2016 but easily the best documentary I have seen all year and the one that left the biggest impression on me. This is a documentary that showcases a history that I knew little to nothing about and I have a feeling that a lot of people may be in the same boat. This film is so shocking and important that it needs to be seen by everyone. Read my full review here.

8. Zootopia

A lot of the fears we have about what the world is coming to after this year were played out in family friendly and relatable ways in Zootopia. A lot of animation panders to both the kids and adults of its audience but never have I seen one walk the line as well as this, whilst also delivering a very smart and timely story. If we can bring these kind of moralistic messages to all family films then the world would be a lot better place. Check out my full review here.

7. Sing Street

When music and film come together beautiful things can happen, this is one of the best examples. My family is big into 80's music, I was practically raised on it, therefore I have a lot of love for the era. Mix that with a love of filmmaking (obviously) and coming of age stories then this film is an absolute treat. I highly recommend to anyone (it's my Dad's number 1 film of the year!). Check out my full review here.

6. Doctor Strange

Out of the two Marvel films we got this year I did not expect this one to be my favourite. I also did not expect this one to be the most fun I had in the cinema all year. I had an absolute blast, it felt so unique and I loved how at every familiar trope was a twist ready to take you by surprise. It felt like its own thing and really did encapsulate the screenwriters saying; 'the same but different'. Credit to both director, writers and everyone involved for creating a brilliantly crafted story with lots of exciting spectacle. Read my full review here.

5. The Girl With All the Gifts

I haven't seen this film in any top tens this year and I'm not really sure why? Just as I thought I was done with the zombie genre, this film comes along and reaffirms my faith that new, different and unique stories can be told within the familiar apocalypse structure, plus it's an excellent and faithful adaptation of the equally good book. This film has a lot of style and elegance in the way it tells its story whilst also being accompanied by the best score of the year. One of the most original zombie films ever made. Read my full review here.

4. 10 Cloverfield Lane

I feel like this was one of the most perfectly executed films of the year. So many small elements are brought together and are paid off to create a really smart, original and interesting storyline. It's great to see Dan Trachtenberg, from YouTube video fame, now being hailed as one of the most exciting up and coming filmmakers. After this excellent debut feature film, I really can't wait to see what he does next. Read my full review here.

3. Morris From America

This film came out of nowhere and hit me in a very personal way. Maybe I'm biased to this film because I also grew up in Germany but I also think there is a lot going on here that makes this one of the best coming of age stories I have ever seen. Even if you haven't grown up somewhere alien to you then there are still a lot of similar themes you can relate to, as well as being able to watch two of the best performances of the year from Markees Christmas and Craig Robinson. This probably didn't register on everybody's radar in 2016 so I urge you to go out and watch this one. Read my full review here.

2. Swiss Army Man

It's become apparent with this film, that any premise, no matter how wild, crazy or stupid, if treated with enough love and care can be made into one of the most heartfelt, truly human stories of the year. Okay some audiences may not get the absurdity, but if you give it the time of day then I dare you not to moved by this film. An absolute win for creative filmmaking, one of a kind performances and the human spirit. Read my full review here.

1. Everybody Wants Some!!

Yes, Richard Linklater tops my list yet again. He truly is the most interesting director working right now. This film, marketed as the 'spiritual sequel' to Dazed and Confused, may not feature the most relatable characters ever but it really does capture a feeling, an atmosphere and the emotions of moving away from home. It's been a year since I graduated from University and this one really did hit me hard, the experiences depicted may not be universal but the overall journey of the film feels familiar. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me want to hug Richard Linklater for just getting it so right, and yet again making my favourite film of the year. Read my full review here.

So there you go folks, my favourite films of the year. I should probably give shout outs to films that were very close to making this list such as The Nice Guys, The Green Room, The Fits and The Witch. There was some good to 2016, I am however very excited to see what the new year brings.

Let me know what were your favourite films of the year in the comments below.

Happy New Year everyone and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Top Ten TV Shows 2016

It's that time of year again when everybody likes to put everything into lists! And while I'm desperately catching up on as many 2016 films that working in a toy store in December will let me, for now here is my top ten favourite TV shows of 2016. Read on and enjoy.

10. Black Mirror (Season 3)
After a long wait Black Mirror is back and now on one of the best content creators out there; Netflix. The show got a bit more American-ised this year but that didn't stop it from doing what it does best; telling great creepy stories about the dangers and ethics of technology. Every episode is worth the watch.

9. Transparent (Season 3)
This show has been at the top of my list for the last couple years but having it at number nine does not mean this show took a bad turn, but instead highlights the quality of shows we got this year. Now yes, this wasn't my favourite season but it was still able to keep me hooked on the emotional journeys of its well developed characters, and of course brought a few tears to my eyes along the way.

8. Preacher (Season 1) 
I fell in love with the weird and wonderful nature of this show. I'd never read the comic so I didn't really know what to expect from this show. It was really creative with it's approach, darkly funny and featured some of my favourite moments and lines of the year. I can't wait to see what they do next in this world they've created.

7. Togetherness (Season 2)
It was a sad year for Togetherness as the show was cancelled on HBO. Why didn't you watch this one people!? It was brilliant, a great drama with great relationships and some exceptional performances from its leads. Its send off was bitter sweet but didn't leave any threads hanging, it was almost as if the Duplass brothers knew this was the end. Catch up with it if you can.

6. Orange is the New Black (Season 4)
After last season left a lot to be desired, this year it really felt like Orange is the New Black was back. This was possibly even it's best season yet, with many interesting story lines and lots of emotional heartbreak along the way. More of this please. 

5. Game of Thrones (Season 6)
Every year I fear that Game of Thrones might have run its course and have bad season. This year they proved me wrong yet again with one of their best yet. They really know how to make quality shows over at HBO and considering this is very much taking a detour from the books now, its good to see it standing on its own two feet and presenting some of the best TV of the year.

4. Westworld (Season 1)
What's HBO without Game of Thrones I hear you ask? Well HBO is now also this. One of the only shows to increase its audiences every week. That takes some doing. Westworld is one of the best new TV shows of the year and man oh man is it good. So good that it feels like a part of TV pop culture history all ready. By the end of episode one it was the watercooler show of the year with anybody and everybody giving their two cents about what on earth was going on. This is seriously good TV people, if you haven't seen it you're a fool.

3. House of Cards (Season 4)
This was Beau Willimon's final season as showrunner and what a send off it was. For me this show has gotten better and better every season and this did not halt that feeling. There are so many great moments and scenes woven into an exciting and intriguing story that it really felt like a bit of a conclusion this time round. If this was the end I wouldn't be sad but I still can't wait to see what happens to the Underwood's next, even if they now kind of pale in crazy to the current president elect.

2. Stranger Things (Season 1)
I did not see this one coming. Everybody started raving about this one and I knew I had to watch it. Believe the hype, this one is good, really good. I may not have grown up in the 80's but I have a lot of love for films from that era, I grew up on a lot of them, so my nostalgia was pretty high still when watching this. It's not all nostalgia though, a creative and intriguing story is the heart of this show, it's so good that I don't want them to make a second season in fear that they tarnish the first. Fingers crossed they carry on the top notch quality storytelling.

1. Halt and Catch Fire (Season 3)
I think I may have mentioned this in a previous blog but, who thought the history of computing would make a good TV show drama? Halt and Catch Fire has only gotten better each season and boy oh boy was it good this year, so good in fact that I think it was the best show on TV. They've really developed these characters into interesting and layered people, I tuned in every week just to watch them interact with each other. I can really not fault this show, every episode was outstanding and it ended so strong that it could have been the final episode ever and I would have been more than satisfied. Thankfully though, we've still got more of this great TV show to come. Every actor on this show should be working more. I didn't expect this one at the start of the year to top my list but it really was that good! Start watching it now!

What were your favourite shows of the year? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Finally, I’ve had some time to sit down and write this Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review! In a way I have been a little nervous about this review, I liked the film but I didn’t fall as head over heels for it as other moviegoers seem to have. Read on to find out why. As per usual this review is SPOILER FREE.

Rogue One follows the band of rebel spies who attempt to steal the plans for the Death Star, who we first heard about in the opening crawl for A New Hope. The film stars a whole host of characters, most we haven’t seen before, played by a talented ensemble cast including; Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker and Mads Mikkelsen. Now it should be noted that even though we have a female character in a central role, this film is still very dude heavy. It’s a diverse cast in terms of race but its lack of diversity in terms of gender still leaves a lot to be desired in this new age of Star Wars films. Don’t get me wrong, everyone in the cast is great, some a little underused, but I really hope Disney push diversity in their Star Wars films further as we go on.

Now onto the film itself. For the most part I really enjoyed it. There are some really great moments and some really badass moments that will make any Star Wars fan squeal with delight. The final act of the film is just pure enjoyment at its finest. However, I do feel like my enjoyment could have been heightened if I was more invested in these characters. Some of them get more time than others to shine but I never really felt for any of them that much, their backstories were summed up as they had all had bad things happen to them because of the Empire. Cool. Is that it? The main character Jyn gets a little more time devoted to her story so there is more of a connection with her, but considering this is very much an ensemble film it would have been nice do dive deeper into some of the other characters.

The story itself though is something that the prequels should have inspired to be. This film adds to A New Hope and makes the story richer because of it. If this is what we’re going to get from these ‘spin off’ films then I am totally in for more. If I had had the time I would have re-watched A New Hope right after this because I feel like my experience might be different because of this film. This is a really good thing.

Another thing I loved was the special effects, apart from the odd CGI character (they’re not awful but you’ll know when you see it), the effects in this film are pretty much flawless. Like The Force Awakens this film finds a fine line between practical and computer enhancement making this one of the best looking Star Wars films yet. Seriously, the Death Star has never looked better.

Now I know I keeping going back to negatives but this is my final gripe with the film; the score. Now I realise this was probably one of the most difficult decisions to make, do you go with a completely new score to differentiate from the episodic films or do you keep using John Williams’s iconic compositions. In the end they decided on going for something that was a bit of both, which for me just didn’t work. The music riffs off of the classic William’s music but changes little elements of it, so just as your humming along it takes a left turn, I couldn’t help but find this really noticeable and annoying, like a fan film trying to use the same music but can’t because of copyright issues, it kept taking me out of the film. I really wish they had just gone for something completely different.

Overall this film is a great time at the cinema, a good edition to the Star Wars lore that will make a lot of fans happy. For me it suffered with some of its character development and gender diversity but I was still won over by its special effects and some of its truly incredible sequences. If the spin offs can only improve from here, then we are in for some really great Star Wars stories in the future. I am giving Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a rating of 3.5/5. I preferred The Force Awakens but we still have a bright and hopeful future ahead for Star Wars films.

What did you think? Best Star Wars film yet or worse than the prequels? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Screenwriting: ARK

Writing is weird. You have to keep doing it in order to get better at it but sometimes it feels as if things aren't going your way. This is something I have had a bit of a problem with recently, I'm getting all these ideas but none of them are looking good on the page. It's easy to give up but you have to keep at it. I've been meaning to post this for a while and now that I've finally come round to it my writing routine has gotten better and a spark of inspiration has set a new script in motion. Over the summer however, I started writing the one I'm going to show you today, under the temporary title of 'ARK'. It's easy to let this blog turn into one that churns out review after review but being a screenwriter I wanted to share some more of my work with you guys, mainly to show you what I'm up to and also to gain some feedback as to how this work connects with audiences. Now, I've done a bit of this in the past and wanted to carry it on (hopefully) a bit more frequently by sharing the first five pages of one of my scripts. As I mentioned, today's one is from yet another sci-fi film I've half written; 'ARK'. Let's get into it, here's the working logline:

'A young farmer’s son must make it to Earth’s ‘life boat’, the Ark, in order to be with the love of his life, as the planet is to be engulfed by its exploding sun.'

This is a script I have actually written a lot of but have struggled with how to end it. It's a bit of an action love story set in space that is very fast paced and pushes it's main two characters to new depths in order for them to survive together. I really wanted to get the story moving and have a nice fight to start the film off, in order to give audiences a taste of what is to come in terms of pace and action. That fight is mostly shown in the opening five pages. Now, I would love some feedback, what do you think of this opening, does it work? Does this sound like something you would like to see? Did the writing grab your attention and make you want to read on? Let me know in the comments below or contact me over Twitter or email. Read the first five pages below and then get back to me and let me know!

Thanks for reading!