From The Mailbag: Reviews of 2017 films not reviewed by Ruthless Reviews

[Editor’s Note: As I pointed out last year, we love to get mail from our readers. We especially love hate mail and whiny mewlings (I WILL BE MAKING A FORMAL COMPLAINT!) when one of our reviewers scathes a shitty movie. Occasionally we get good, coherent and useful feedback. Here is a belated response from one of our readers, Thatcher]


Last year I made a bit of an arse of myself by complaining that the films to look forward to in 2017 recommendation was lazy and then proceeded to talk up 4 pretty silly films and Dunkirk.

This year’s foray into embarrassing myself on the internet will be to give a short review of all the films I watched that weren’t already reviewed by Ruthless. Note, I also saw many of those films that were reviewed on site and admit I agree with Kevin’s reviews for most of them.

So in release order:

XXX: The Return of Xander Cage

This was an early entry, but managed to hold on for the whole year as the worst eye-assaulting films of 2017. I have a fairly high tolerance for trash film. I am generally more forgiving of the Fast and Furious Franchise (at least 5,6,7) than most reviewers, nonetheless, this movie was a wall to wall disaster.

It missed the most obvious target any OTT action film should be aiming at: to be fun. When your premise is X-Treme sports star can beat up special forces and outsmart professional spies, don’t have every character be a dour egomaniac in love with their own voice. This film is 50% characters telling everyone how bad-ass they are plus macho posturing, and 50% badly shot action scenes that are choppy rubbish.

It is practically cliche by now, but dear Western Film-makers if you are going to put Donnie Yen in film, pay for his film crew too so you can actually show off his skills. 400 half second cuts in action scenes should only be required if the actors cannot really fight. Speaking of cliche, the bad guys were really the good guys and the bosses were really evil is something my 8 year old niece could have seen coming a mile away. A film like this shouldn’t have to try and rely on lazy plot twists to be entertaining and that is the greatest sin of any film, especially of this genre; I was not entertained.

A Dogs Purpose

A Dogs Purpose wasn’t terrible. I half went to see it because PETA was protesting it and half because of a dog obsessive friend. It gets off to a good start with the first dog dying within 4 minutes of the movie starting, and then goes on to develop the premise of dog souls being eternally resurrected and living a variety of lives, some depressing and some aimed to hit all the happy doggy moments we are familiar with.

Unsurprisingly for anything produced by Walden Media it is a wholesome family affair with nothing that will challenge you and an aww-shucks one true love message that runs throughout. Unfortunately this also means there is nothing particularly memorable about the film, I walked out happy and teasing my friend for her emotional responses. A week later I couldn’t tell you the name of any character who wasn’t the dog, and now a year later I double checked it on Wikipedia.

Overall though its not a bad film, and if you like dogs its a great film for watching at home on the couch with friends while eating junk food and talking throughout the movie.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.

Resident Evil: The most unbelievable subtitle ever. Sorry but no franchise that has made 1.2 Billion off a 300 million investment is going to see a Final anything in this market. However, in fairness this film does conclude the ridiculously convoluted and repeatedly side tracked story of the previous 5 installments. Just in time for the already planned reboot.

The reboot has a rough mountain to climb because it will lack the one thing everyone kept returning for: Milla Jovovich. Rather than go on about the film which follows the tried and tested stable of Alice plus expendable extras kill their way through lots of zombies to get to the mcguffin, I think we should all take a moment to appreciate this actor of limited range who despite being in more than 30 films, many award winning, will only ever be remembered for being a telekinetic zombie hunter and her multi-pass.

Much like the significantly more talented Hugh Jackman who will never escape being Wolverine for 17 years, Jovovich’s 14 years of playing Alice is an achievement worth recognizing. As although I just commented on her limited range she has delivered consistently and most importantly put all that she had into the role, never sleepwalking through an episode like late Death Wish Bronson or post 70s Brando. So my hat is off to you Milla, you provided us with over a decade of schlocky zombie killing action where the overall quality may never have reached great heights but you never half-arsed your part in delivering that entertainment.

Raw

Justine is a newly enrolled student at a prestigious veterinary school, for the first time away from her overbearing parents and following in the academic footsteps of her older more rebellious sister. Having been raised as a strict vegetarian she is shocked when one of the hazing rituals forces her to eat meat for the first time. This makes her crave flesh, and the sweetest kind is long pork.

What follows is a wonderfully macabre and tortured exploration of lust and addiction. The three key elements of any good horror; gore, sex, and violence and their intermingling are on fine display without ever becoming gratuitous, mind you the director Julia Ducournau likes panty shots even more than an anime fanboy. While keeping this spoiler free I have no real criticisms of this film, the magical lack of any faculty or staff at the school except when the plot requires it is the same in every college film since forever, and the ending while somewhat obvious is delivered so well you can forgive it.

While a good slasher film can be fun, I do wish there were more intelligent horror films like this and Get Out. Enjoy a nice rare steak for dinner then sit down and enjoy this film.

The Belko Experiment

I really wanted to like this film, maybe I wanted it too much, but the promise of Saw meets Office Space never really eventuates and it quickly devolves into stupidity too quickly. They rushed the plot, and by jumping from kill 3 people to kill 30 people which as there were only 80 to start with means you instantly know at very best half the cast is just there for gory head-splosions.

Basically it either needed to be longer to come up with more interesting games to dispose of 80 victims, or it needed to have less people in the first place so we could develop connections with each character or at least have some base idea of their personalities and motivations. In the end they achieved neither and so I really didn’t give a crap who lived or died and there was disappointingly little suspense in what could have been an interesting psychological game of cat and mouse.

Colossal

This is a film far better than its dismal box office would suggest. Anne Hathaway (despite already winning an Oscar) shows off that she is a vastly under-rated actress and will probably remain that way until Meryl Streep dies, because she has such range most film-makers don’t know what to do with someone who doesn’t fit in their preconceived niches. Once again she shines as an alcoholic who discovers she can magically manifest and control a giant monster on the other side of the world.

It is as crazy as it seems but manages to end up as a more interesting tale of abusive relationships and self-destruction than just a budget Pacific Rim. The giant monster and robot battles in the end are just the cream on the cake of the relationship between Gloria (Hathaway) and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis Also showing he can do more than goofball comedy).

Pecking Order

As a documentary some may think it doesn’t belong on this list, but then again it is just a more honest version of based on a true story films. If you liked Best in Show or similar, this is the Kiwi version of that with chickens, and by being real it is both more endearing and more cringe worthy.

Filled with people who are dedicated to their hobby, no more or less ridiculous than collecting Star Wars figurines, it charts the path of one poultry club and its members in the lead up to the national competition and the internal squabble over who gets to be club president. The incumbent is a thousand year old fossil who was once the biggest name in show chickens, but is now half deaf and almost as senile who refuses to realize his time has passed. The challenger doesn’t even want the job, but is being maneuvered into the role by power brokers who see his youth and affable nature as a bonus to stop the 183 year old club stagnating.

Most of the participants are interesting in their own right including the ones who have no interest in the club politics at all. Most of all one self-described chook fancier who is clearly insane but has embraced that insanity knowing he will be raising chickens for the rest of his life until he keels over one day and is found with them pecking at his corpse. Its a fun romp through obsession and some of the finest looking birds you will ever dream of being on your dinner plate.

Aftermath

Arnold Schwarzenegger will never be a great actor, or even a particularly good one. But as mentioned with Jovovich he always gives his best with whatever role he is presented with. Aftermath is his latest foray into serious drama. He gives a solid performance with the material he is presented with. Based on the true story of Vitaly Kaloyev, Arnie plays the part of a grieving husband and father who lost his family in a plane accident due to the errors of an air traffic controller. He tracks the controller down with vengeance on his mind.

This film suffers not from having Arnie in the lead but rather that it just doesn’t have interesting enough dialogue or direction to move it along. True stories are always hard to do and without taking serious liberties with reality it is always difficult to make a gripping film where everyone knows the end even before the first trailers roll. This is one of those films where in the end you will go oh, that happened and then hit up Wikipedia to see what changes they made and to read about the real event.

Borg vs McEnroe

After the disappointment of Battle of the Sexes this was how to do a tennis movie right. Even knowing the outcome it was gripping, shot well, and presented both the leads as fascinating characters each haunted by their own demons. Neither a hero or villain but as both outsiders who the world perceived as opposites but having more in common than differences.

Shia LaBeouf after spending the last few years as nothing more than embarrassing memes redeems himself and shows he could become a great character actor. Apparently he begged for the role, and he delivered in spades without overshadowing the other characters.

Annabelle: Creation

I have never found creepy demon possessed doll films to be scary and I only attended this because my ticket was paid for. It lived up to my very low expectations and I couldn’t recommend it in any way except for a single 10 second scene which was cleverly shot and genuinely creepy with eyes as points of light fading back and then up into darkness. The rest of the film was a mishmash of bad tropes and jump scares that didn’t work due to being overly telegraphed and a demon that had whatever powers the plot demanded, but were wildly inconsistent in that they could cut someone in half and nail them to the wall in one scene and then have trouble holding onto a panicked teen in the next.

Flatliners

The greatest achievement of the Flatliners remake is to have you leaving the cinema thinking the original was a good film. Anyone looking for proof that Ellen Page is an over-rated actor who has just had lucky roles which elevated her status can put this film up as exhibits A, B, and C. Every character, even the good guy, is such a self-absorbed wanker you just wanted them all to die horribly, and the ending of all you have to do is forgive yourself is so tedious and stupid you will wish for the interesting movie that could have been made. I.e. If someone underwent the flatline, came out with the brain superpowers, but was also completely amoral, so automatically forgave themselves for any evil they did.

The Mountain Between Us

The mountain between suspension of disbelief and enjoying this film was just too great for me to get over. I was happy to let the set up premise of an unlicensed unrecorded flight that no-one would know about slide, its required for the story to happen, like letting zombies exist is the requirement for films of that genre. However, when zombies suddenly start to fly and fart rainbows its a step too far.

Well this movie gets into rainbow farting zombie territory about 5 minutes after the plane crash lands and the mountain lion/cougar shows up and then proceeds to get more unbelievable from there onward. Even worse than the well they are dead, film over scenes that come thick and fast are the repeated will he ditch her and not come back? scenes that get less suspenseful with each iteration, but for some reason the writers felt needed to be repeated over and over again to cover up their clear lack of even reading a rudimentary wilderness guide.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

XXX 3 may have been the worst film I watched all year, but The Killing of a Sacred Deer was hands down the most pretentious wank I suffered through. The premise was quite interesting, crazy kid shows up and either by poison or psychic powers cripples with a degenerative disorder the family of a doctor he blames for the death of his father and tells him he much choose one to die or they all do. That’s all good, I’m now ready for some decent psychological drama.

What we get is 2 hours of meandering nothing which infuriatingly occasionally touches interesting points again before diverting back to long silent pauses and whining with occasional dialogue that tries to be confronting but is just bland. Then after all of that the film chickens out on its own theme and just flips a coin for the ending. Even that is done in the most unsatisfying way possible and shot from the worst possible perspective which doesn’t even provide any suspense in what should be a very tense scene.

Faces/Places

A quaint and somewhat touching tale of two artists of different generations traveling through France telling tales, putting up giant photo murals and being very French, that is all. Still less pretentious than The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

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