Monday 11 May 2020

30 Day Film Challenge - April 2020 - Part 1

Many people are finding all sorts of things to help pass the time in this ongoing state of lockdown; one such example I stumbled across was the 30 day movie challenge. Across a period of, funnily enough, 30 days, one must watch a film each day that conforms to a series of conditions.

I had a go with it throughout April, and in these upcoming posts will provide my opinion on all the films watched. It's been ages since I've posted something here so let's get on with it...

#1 - A film you loved as a kid, but not as an adult
        Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

The Star Wars prequels were met with very mixed feedback amongst most audiences, diehard fans or not. It was noble of George Lucas to try and establish further backstory for many of the original trilogy's key characters but in the end his storytelling largely relied on tired clich├ęs that failed to offer any interesting surprises. The Phantom Menace kickstarts the trilogy with some exciting set pieces, but this isn't enough to combat many of its biggest flaws, be it the dull and predictable story, the bloated run time, or the hideous abomination that is Jar Jar Binks. I was fond of this sort of stuff as a kid, like many others my age; epic sci-fi action with aliens and cool laser sword fights was always great fun. But alas, many years later, my adult self is simply left more bored than entertained.

#2 - A title that begins with the first letter of your name
        Aquaman (2018)

I couldn't think of many films beginning with A that I hadn't watched recently, so I went with the only major success within DC's shared universe thus far. Aquaman's global earnings of over $1 billion show that audiences were truly won over from the beginning, and while it wins points for its visual effects and some impressive set pieces, I otherwise found it to be a fairly generic, dramatically uneven, and overlong action flick that doesn't offer anything truly memorable by the time the end credits roll. The production design clearly had a lot of effort put into it, and while it's nice to see it not adopting an unnecessarily dark and moody atmosphere, it's also hard to deny that some of the comic book aesthetics just don't always blend in with the live action environment; I know Black Manta's design mirrors his original one from the comics, but he still looks absolutely ridiculous, as just one example. A decent film overall, but nothing truly spectacular.

#3 - A title with 5 or more words
        Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)

Though I still have a lot of appreciation for the first three films of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, I can't really defend many of their biggest flaws. At World's End offers a storyline with a surprising amount of dramatic depth, but sadly this dramatic depth is joined by some major plot contrivances and an excessive usage of retroactive continuity. Johnny Depp's iconic role as Jack Sparrow is once again the source of many of the film's best jokes, but the script doesn't always know when to cut back on the silliness; many scenes that demand a more serious tone aren't always gifted with it. The film's top notch cast largely deliver without fault, and it's fair to say that the visuals bringing the various settings and characters to life are just as refined as one would expect. While it may be burdened by its tonal shifts and bloated length, I still think At World's End offers a decent level of entertainment.

#4 - A title that includes a number
        Back to the Future Part II (1989)

The first Back to the Future film is widely considered flawless for all the right reasons: it's inventive, engaging, and was brought to life with some remarkable visual effects for its time. Sequels were always welcome, but their efforts to replicate the original's formula were significantly less memorable. Part II certainly has a good concept, but the central storyline just becomes too convoluted the more it goes on, with its attempts to be clever and complex often resulting in unwanted confusion. It's a film that still boasts plenty of charm, largely thanks to our leading stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd once again, but the narrative simply feels too overstuffed to be consistently engaging. A good film, but one that doesn't quite live up the high standards set by its predecessor.

#5 - A film featuring a character with a job you want
        The Disaster Artist (2017)

I was unsure over what I wanted to do with my life for a long time. One of my first ambitions was simply to be a train driver, but only because I had an obsession with Thomas & Friends and railway modelling as a kid; interests bestowed onto me by my late grandfather. It was in 2010 that I settled more on becoming a film editor, having made all sorts of small videos about my model railway, as well as many video game reviews for my YouTube account at the time. Now I'd love to be able to make my own films in the industry, or at least work professionally editing others. 

But I wouldn't quite like to end up in the same shoes as Tommy Wiseau. The Disaster Artist depicts the bizarre filmmaker's production of his independent dramatic feature The Room, adapting its story from Greg Sestero's memoir regarding the film's production. James Franco performs the main role of Wiseau himself, and does an excellent job throughout a compelling and engaging narrative; the end result is an infectious blend of comedy and drama, and an insightful look into how a terrible yet hysterical cult classic came to be.

#6 - The worst animated film you've ever seen
        Titanic: The Legend Goes On (2000)

Most people who haven't heard of this film are never quite sure if I'm joking or not when I mention it to them, though its reputation precedes it for many others. An animated take on the story of the RMS Titanic originating from both Spain and Italy, this is a film with no redeeming factors whatsoever, and one that will just leave you shocked and confused for so many reasons. The animation is lazy and ugly, and subsequently joined by atrocious voice acting, horrendous storytelling, and countless moments of bad taste that completely mock what was a huge tragedy in human history. From a rapping dog to stereotypical Mexican mice, it's something that tries to turn a dark and sensitive premise into a cute story for the whole family to enjoy, with utterly dreadful and disgraceful results. Stay away.

Also stay away from the other one...yeah, there's another animated Titanic film. Do not watch either of these abominations.

#7 - A film you'll never get tired of
        The Lion King (1994)

There were multiple films I watched for this condition, but my favourite film of all time is obviously going to be the top choice. For me, The Lion King succeeds in every aspect, with gorgeous animation, incredible music, and an engrossing yet approachable storyline with plenty of memorable characters, themselves brought to life by the efforts of a fantastic cast. I've rambled on in many other blog posts (and in countless tweets) over why I love it all to pieces, and although I may be a bit tired of doing that, I'll certainly never get tired of watching this.

#8 - The soundtrack is better than the film
        The Lorax (2012)

The only good film I feel Illumination have made thus far is the original Despicable Me; it's flawed, but still very entertaining and surprisingly heartfelt. The rest of their works leave much to be desired, and The Lorax is a prime example. A pop culture craving twist on Dahl's classic story, The Lorax repeatedly milks a disposable, generic sense of humour to the point where it just feels like a parody of the original tale rather than a direct adaptation, and so ranks as little more than forgettable entertainment for the very young.

But with that said, the film's musical aspects were handled quite well, and so the soundtrack has a decent lineup of catchy songs on offer. How Bad Can I Be? by Ed Helms and the concluding ensemble Let It Grow were my favourites; in the end, the music was the only thing I actually wanted to remember when leaving the cinema.

#9 - A film you dislike that everyone loves
        Captain America: Civil War (2016)

With over $1 billion earned at the box office as well as universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike, Captain America: Civil War is one of those films that you can't dislike without potentially triggering a war of any sort amongst the most diehard fans. Its bold exploration of some complex political themes is impressive for a superhero film, but with that aside, I just wasn't consistently impressed with how it handled its premise as a whole. The oversized ensemble cast with numerous other heroes awkwardly shoved into the story lead to an occasionally messy plot and pace, with Spider-Man's inclusion during the end climax being the best example. His integration is incredibly forced and desperate, and in the end Civil War just too often felt like an excuse to show off all these badass heroes within the franchise instead of offering an engaging update on a classic comic book story. It's not terrible, but just often boring, and so I didn't conform to the consensus of it being one of the MCU's finest.

Have mercy.

#10 - Your favourite superhero film
          Iron Man (2008)

Iron Man I knew very little about as a kid compared to the likes of Spider-Man or Batman, but his feature film debut remains a favourite of mine for countless reasons: superb performances, incredible visuals, and a strong, character driven origin story that doesn't solely rely on action to keep audiences hooked. The focus is just as much on the principle narrative and its characters as it is on the lineup of set pieces with our leading hero, all of which are brilliantly crafted with some remarkable visual effects. The end result is an entertaining film deftly balancing humour, drama, and fast paced thrills, and it still remains my favourite installment of the MCU.

Part two of this post, featuring films 11 to 20, will be coming soon. Stay safe all of you.

Thanks for reading!