What a time to be alive.
I know it’s cliche to say that the blossoming year is the worst year for movies so far in the history of the medium. I can’t say that outright but it has been a very discouraging first few months for the 2015 slate. I usually see every movie that is released wide (unless it is deemed strictly for kids or Tyler Perry fanatics). I also sift out independent movies that could be enticing. Movies I entered with cautious optimism were either underwhelming or downright repellant. Only a modicum of films have surprised me with their value. I present to you my lists for the best films, the worst films, the surprises and the letdowns from the 1st quarter of 2015 (in no particular order).
During my childhood, I remember watching a pretty eye-opening episode of Married with Children in which Peg Bundy considers having an affair with another man. Al Bundy is then shocked to find out that this other man is a homosexual when the guy’s husband shows up at his house. Since this guy seems to be a better wife than Peg ever was, you get the sense that Al is almost ready to switch teams. Needless to say, my innocent young mind had never seen anything like this on television before. When I revisited this episode many years later, it blew my mind to learn that the homosexual husband was played by the future Homer Simpson himself, Dan Castellaneta. So, yeah, here’s a rare to see Homer Simpson and Al Bundy on the same screen together with barely simmering romantic tension.
It’s pretty well guaranteed that I’m going to enjoy Jurassic World at this point. I have no preconceptions that it will be any kind of masterpiece, but the marketing for it looks so cheesy that I’m buying what they’re selling. Ooooh, the genetically engineered D-rex dinosaur is killing for sport! I hope they find her cave filled with taxidermized dinosaur heads.
Jurassic World comes out June 12, 2015.
God. Damn it.
I gave up on the TV series of The Walking Dead years ago. I got sick of all the stupid decisions the characters (and the people producing the show) kept making, so after the third season, I just quit. The comics and the TellTale video games are still awesome, though, and because there is still a preponderance of good Walking Dead media, I actually had high hopes for the spinoff TV series that was in the works. Fear The Walking Dead has the potential to be the Walking Dead TV show that I’ve always wanted, since it’s untethered from the comics and allows for a whole new zombie survival story to be told. But now I see this first teaser, and it’s the most generic zombie thing ever made. Ugh. I’ll watch the pilot, but my hopes for this one are at an all-time low.
Fear The Walking Dead starts summer of 2015.
Note: This is the first time I’ve ever done a front page re-post of an old “Before They Were Stars” feature, but since Wrestlemania 31 is in the books and Seth Rollins closed out the event by winning the WWE World Title, I feel this needs to be shared again. Here is the bizarre origin story of your current WWE champion…
If you’re not a pro wrestling fan, you might not be familiar with Seth Rollins, but he is currently one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s top rising stars and in the midst of a huge main event push. I’ve been following Rollins’ career for years, ever since he wrestled as “Tyler Black” in the Ring of Honor promotion, but this… I really have no idea what to make of this! When he was still an unknown, the future Seth Rollins made some appearances in a DVD series called Cyberfights. From what I gather, Cyberfights appears to be some sort of fetish wrestling series, where guys will wrestle matches inside an empty studio while performing deliberately exaggerated homoerotic moves. There’s nothing sexually explicit here per se (hence why there are clips available on Youtube), but if you were to watch this match with your eyes closed, it would definitely sound like you’re watching a gay porn. And, yes, Rollins has a pretty visible boner inside those ultra-skimpy tights he’s wearing.
Every Sunday, Gill delves into his archive of over 800 movie reviews and randomly selects three for your enjoyment! Here are this week’s…
Young Ones is an unusual futuristic/post-apocalyptic film about a family desperately trying to survive in a global drought. Michael Shannon plays Ernest, the father of Kodi Smit-McPhee and Elle Fanning. Ernest, a recovering alcoholic, struggles to make ends meet by serving as a goods transporter among colonies of people. Flem (Nicholas Hoult), a rebellious youth with a motorcycle, wants to court Elle Fanning’s character, but Ernest is having nothing of it. After a fateful encounter between Ernest and Flem, the family finds themselves in more dire straits than ever. Young Ones has a very interesting setting, combining the Mad Max-esque desert wasteland with small futuristic touches like worker robots, but the film as a whole failed to gel for me, because ultimately the setting doesn’t really matter. They could have very easily made this a western with no changes to the script, and while that’s not really a complaint, the problem is that the most intriguing thing in the movie – the setting – doesn’t have any bearing on the story. In the end, Young Ones is a fine movie. It didn’t blow my mind, but it had enough good ideas to be inspiring.
3 out of 5
Song of the Sea
Director Tomm Moore has become my favourite director of animated films thanks to Song of the Sea. His previous film The Secret of Kells was absolutely gorgeous, with an art style that made the movie feel like a series of animated illustrations from a story book. That same style is employed in Song of the Sea, and to magnficent effect. This is the kind of animation that fills me with wonder, and if I’m being honest, makes me feel a swell of emotion just looking at it. Moore’s art style is beautiful, so very, very beautiful. Song of the Sea follows a family that is torn apart when the mother dies giving birth to her daughter – the youngest of her two children. Years later, her son Ben discovers that his mother didn’t die after all, but was in fact a selkie (a kind of water spirit that takes human and seal forms). Before Ben can unravel the mystery of his mother’s disappearance, he and his sister Saorsie are whisked away to the big city by their grandmother. Shortly after their arrival, Ben and Saorsie encounter a group of fairy folk who are trying to find Saorsie because she too might be a selkie. Much like The Secret of Kells, this is the perfect kind of animated movie to watch with people of all ages. Song of the Sea harkens back to a time when not all animated films were computer generated, not all animation was in three dimensions, and not all animated movies had to constantly feature winking meta-humour and different jokes for the children and adults. I’ll say it again: Tomm Moore is my favourite director of animated films, and I urge everyone to watch his movies.
4.5 out of 5
The Maze Runner
Another entry in the long list of recent movie franchises based on young adult novels, The Maze Runner is easy to pitch: it’s Lord of the Flies meets Cube. Thomas, a truly generic white male in his late teens, wakes up with no memories in a strange glade, surrounded by other boys of similar ages. The group informs him that the glade is in the middle of an enormous, ever-changing maze, and after dark, weird creatures stalk the corridors. What’s outside the maze? Why are boys being dropped in the middle of it? Can they ever escape? These are the big questions that drive the plot forward, and the answers…well, don’t always make sense. If you can overlook the leaps of logic The Maze Runner throws at you, though, you’ll find one of the better YA adaptations in some time. The actors playing the lead handful of boys are all pretty good. Maybe not Dylan O’Brien, whose Thomas is an utter blank slate, but Thomas Brodie-Sangster (who you’d know from Game of Thrones) and Will Poulter (Son of Rambow and Voyage of the Dawn Treader) are both top notch, and I feel as though they will go on to be the next big movie stars of their generation. Don’t look for anything deep in The Maze Runner. It’s pretty laughable at times. But if you want a fluffy sci-fi action-adventure film, it’s surprisingly enjoyable.
3.25 out of 5
See you next Sunday for more thrilling short reviews!
Last weekend, Sean Penn’s attempt to be a long-in-the-tooth action hero The Gunman bombed tragically at the box office. Honestly Penn is too chameleonic an actor to be pigeonholed in lobotomized action flicks. Most of the criticisms centered around Penn himself who starred, produced and co-wrote the script. The detractors flayed Penn for self-indulgence by displaying his surprisingly sinewy body, interjecting his geopolitical activism and wasting a sensational supporting cast to scaffold his ego. It was claimed to be a vanity project pure and simple. Less about entertainment and more about insular megalomania. Sometimes though, the results are undeniably arresting for the audience. These are my favorite nosedives into celebrity id…