Monday, January 13, 2020

Cinema trips in 2019

Another end of year review.  I saw 10 new films at various cinemas this year, as well as a special screening of Labyrinth for Cathy's birthday.

Selfie with a film star 

Subdividing those 10 films into subcategories, I saw 5 animated films, 4 superhero films and the latest episode of the Star Wars franchise.

Here are the films (BEWARE SPOILERS):

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World
I don't really remember much about this. There was a theme about the world not being ready for humans and dragons to co-exist peacefully so the solution is for the dragons to be hidden away. Not the most positive of messages. 

The Lego Movie 2
Another disappointing sequel. The first Lego Movie was excellent with a reveal of the human world in the final third of the film. Unfortunately the sequel uses the humans as a plot device from the get-go almost and it just doesn't work. There was a great song midway through and I really liked the subtitled velociraptors, but that wasn't enough to make the movie pop like the first one. Cathy was also very upset at the way Fabuland animals had been enslaved in subterranean mines.

Captain Marvel
I really enjoyed this. Lots of humour, a cracking 90s soundtrack (including Garbage's Only Happy When it Rains), Skrulls, and some backstory in the "Cosmic" part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe including a bit more about the Kree and their homeworld. I thought Brie Larson played the main role very well, being vulnerable enough to be believable as a human and soldierly enough to be believable as a member of an elite Kree battle group.

This vies with Captain Marvel for my favourite comic book movie of the year. Zachary Levi is a brilliant comic actor and he carries off the role of child who finds himself magicked into an adult mage's body in a much more credible way than should be possible. Mark Strong was a great scenery-chewing villain as well. There were some scary scenes which juxtaposed a bit awkwardly with the knockabout comedy. But, overall, this is the first DC Comics Movie in a long while that I've actually wanted to watch again (or at all!)

Missing Link
A stop-motion animation about an explorer who finds an intelligent "missing link" and tries to help the sasquatch find his Himalayan relatives. There's a very funny joke about the name of the valley where the yetis live but not much else really stood out. Worth a watch, though. 

Avengers Endgame
The conclusion of the 10 and a bit year movie arc and, whew! It was about time. There are some good bits. Chris Hemsworth as Thor gone to seed was very funny. The film was also interesting for showing the after effects of the Thanos "snap", with support groups and people trying to rebuild their lives. Superhero movies don't often do introspective like that.

Overall, I quite liked the quantum time travel nonsense plotline because it had to be something like that and as far as time travel can ever work in a movie, it worked. Iron Man's closing line to Thanos was suitably momentous. There was quite a protracted goodbye scene, which dragged as such scenes tend to do. When superhero movies aim for an emotional punch they rarely land it on target.

Toy Story 4
I was very disappointed by this. In fact I wrote a massive blog post about why it annoyed me, although I didn't post it because I felt like I sounded like an old man shouting at the clouds. But, basically, there was no real warmth in the script and the characters I've loved from previous films were sidelined. The real thing that irritated me is that Bonny, the toys' new owner, doesn't really care about her toys. She treats them disdainfully and it may feel strange to say this, but it felt disrespectful. It wouldn't have been so bad if the scriptwriters weren't treating the established characters equally disdainfully.

There were a few things I enjoyed - Bo's radio control skunk vehicle, and the new characters Bunny and Ducky - but I really didn't need this movie.

Spider-Man Far From Home
The Marvel Cinematic Universe returned post-Endgame with this slightly silly movie. I like Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Unfortunately I had spoilered this film for myself by finding out a key plot point, and I think that hampered my enjoyment of the film because I knew what was coming. (Mind you, Cathy spotted the 'twist' before it happened anyway.) It was also a bit juvenile being a school trip to Europe film as much as a superhero film.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
Another "well, that's finally over" franchise movie. My main criticism of this film is that it tried to ram too much in. It had about 3 or 4 stories in there and none of them were given enough time. The mystery of Rey's history was solved, sorta. The resistance won, sorta. Evil was vanquished, sorta. But by the end it felt like there were no original ideas being tapped. Bring back a character from the original trilogy - this time, Lando. Develop a planet-destroying weapon - this time on Star Destroyers. Make up for a plot hole from the original trilogy - in Cathy's words, "a great injustice has been righted". Go back to the idea of Force Power being linked to genetic heritage, because why not? 

Like several of the other sequels I went to last year this was a bit meh. You don't need any more Star Wars films than the Original Trilogy in my opinion. The sequel Trilogy isn't bad, but it isn't great either. 

Frozen 2
I really liked this. I went in with low expectations and it had a few story problems. But it has a great message of keeping on on dark times and if you can't see too far ahead just "do the next right thing", which is an excellent message. They wisely reined in Olaf as a character and there is a fab song with a montage spoofing 80s music videos, which had me laughing out loud. Of all the animated films I saw in the cinema in 2019, this was the best.

My aim for 2020 is to expand my horizons a bit and try to see some films that aren't animated, superhero movies or continuing an existing franchise. (I've already made good on that intent this month, so we'll see how I do over the course of the year.)

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