The Final Countdown

In all honesty, there have been stronger years for film. There hasn’t been that one film that stands above all. However, that is not to say this year hasn’t delivered some exciting and thrilling films. For this blog post I have selected my top 5 films of the year, giving an explanation for their rankings. From Superhero epics to dark and thrilling dramas, this list represents my varied taste in film. With 2015 close in sight, I’m really excited to see what the future holds for film!

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Captain America is my favourite Avenger. Chris Evans will always be the Human Torch to me, but he struck out when he took on the role of the titular character, who demonstrates some old school superhero action. Whereas the 2011 film was more stripped back and set in a different era, the sequel changes the gear into a spy thriller. Black Widow makes a great counterpart for Captain America, bringing that Marvel wit and humour as well as some incredible action scenes. Whilst this is the best Marvel film to date, the thing I appreciated about the first film was that it was standalone. With the news of Captain America teaming up with Iron Man for the 2016 sequel, as exciting as it sounds, they should actually focus on the leading character. However, Captain America takes full reigns on this film and delivers some great moments. One of Marvels solid entries that feels more than just a superhero film.

4. Edge of Tomorrow


Live. Die. Repeat. Whatever title you want to call it. Tom cruise plays a different type of character, the reverse of his experienced action heroes and Emily Blunt is the highlight as the Full Metal…(watch the film and you’ll find out). Despite being based on the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, preventing the film to labelled as original, it stood out against the crowd of a summer filled with sequels and reboots. It was also refreshing to watch a film knowing that there was no intention of a sequel, and that allowed us to focus more on the film. This is coming from someone who has no major issues with sequels or franchises, but it felt unique to see such a strong and solid effort knowing Iron Man wasn’t teaming up for the sequel. Overall, this was an exciting blockbuster with an international flair and with some brains.

3. The Fault in Our Stars


A love story between two cancer affected teenagers equals a $300 million blockbuster. Why you ask? Because it never fees dreary or allows cancer to be the the sole lead of the film. What drives this film is the organic love story between Shailene Woodley’s and Ansel Elgort’s characters. It moves seamlessly between comedy and drama in a genuine manner. I remember watching the trailer thinking it would be extremely cheesy and soppy, but the finished product is actually a deeply emotional yet heart warming take on quite a morbid topic. It also makes you think about life itself and how the two leading characters have had everything against them, but never let it define them. Woodley and Elgort have a natural chemistry between them. This film definitely surprised me in the best way and I would strongly recommend this film to people.

2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I


Let’s be honest here, the final book could have been translated to one film. Yet, allowing the book to be split into two films, we go deeper into character and narrative development. This is the most serious and emotional entry of the franchise. Katniss (Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence) is broken and needs to pick herself up to become the Mockingjay. As always, Lawrence gives an emotive performance and brings substance to the film. Even Josh Hutcherson goes deeper in his role and does not hold back. Thankfully the film fleshed out Effie’s character and was one of the highlights of the film, Elizabeth Banks effortlessly draws out the humour and the depth of the character. I’ve heard that people have been let down by the lack of action, however I would counter argue that with the fact that this is an thought provoking and stripped back blockbuster, which is rare to see these days. Strong performances from Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jennifer Lawrence add something extra to the film and the anticipation for the final entry is strong. Having read the books I can tell you, if you weren’t happy with this film you will be extremely excited for Part 2.

1. Gone Girl

amy dunne

Having devoured the book, I was eager to watch this adaptation. This has to be one of the intelligent and most chilling films of the year. The highlight of this film is the incredibly convicting performance from Rosamund Pike. How she so easily flowed in and out of Amy’s many characterisations, she breathed life into the character and gave us chills. It is also a very strong adaptation, author of the book Gillian Flynn adapted her own book to the screen with no mercy. She acknowledged how she needed to rehash it and reinterpret it for the screen. For if the whole book was translated to screen it would be an extremely long film. David Fincher delivers a cold and calculated thriller which draws you in, even if you’ve read the book. The film stays with you after viewing it, making you think about the many themes it draws upon. 

What have your favourite films of the year been? Feel free to comment or share! Do you agree with my list or have strong objections? Let’s hope 2015 is an epic year for film!


Let It Go

It would be safe to say that my film taste is varied. For me it’s all about a great story and developed characters, no matter what genre. If it meets those criteria’s then it’s a good film to me. Before I continue with this blog entry, I don’t want to come across as the cynical film buff who thinks everyone should love animation and that should be their favourite genre. I just want people to let it go and embrace animated films!

elsa express

Disney is the leading studio that produces first class animated features. Just look at 2013’s Frozen, the billion dollar grossing animation was catapulted into an insane amount of success, taking away two Academy Awards earlier this year (Best Original Song ‘Let it Go‘ and Best Animation) and has become the fifth most successful film of all time. To this day, it’s population has not waned.

However, Frozen is more than just a film with an iconic song, it is a captivating story about a siblings relationship and deep character exploration. When I watch Frozen, I see Elsa’s character who struggles to express themselves and accept who they are. The Let It Go sequence in the film is a pivotal moment for Elsa, as she releases her true self and the isolating setting gives her more power to….let it go.


There’s a moment where the film cuts away to Elsa truly having an inner conflict with herself as she tries to conceal her strength due to it’s negative effects on her loved ones. For me, I’m rooting for her character to truly accept herself and to embrace powers to be used in a positive way.

As stated above, Frozen has become and still is a huge success, with news of a Broadway musical in preparation its success is sure to strengthen. Yet, it could be argued that it was snubbed in the Best Picture category at the 2014 Academy Awards. Only three animations have achieved this feat, with Beauty and the Beast becoming the first animation to be nominated for Best Picture. Up and Toy Story 3 were both achieved this rare feat as well, many expected Frozen to do the same.1 It’s not impossible for an animation to win Best Picture, for the Best Animation category was introduced in 2002 with Shrek taking winning the award. The next step should be for an animation to win Best picture, because animations can deal with deep issues and themes that live action Oscar winning films can tackle.


Up is an example where animations dealt with topics that could seem risky for a family orientated film. Yet it was met with commercial and critical success, winning 2 Oscars (Best Animation and Best Achievement in Music: Michael Giacchino, including a Best Picture nomination) Pixar took a risk and made a film about an elderly gentlemen as the protagonist.

Director Pete Docter explained that the reason why he chose an elderly man as the protagonist was because he believed children could relate to him like their grandparents.2

Up deals with themes such as loss, mortality, ageing, accomplishing dreams, family relationships and learning to enjoy life. It is a general consensus that the first 10 minutes of the film will have people, not matter what age, crying. It was different for an animation but it paid off and 5 years later is still remembered as a classic scene from the film.

More so with Up, but with animated features there are aspects where it is relatable to all ages. For Walt Disney once said, You’re dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.3 Even Walt Disney had the varied audience as a whole in his mind and not just children, which is a huge misconception.


Lastly, not only should animation be take more seriously due to the themes and ideas they touch upon, but the incredible talent behind them should be recognised more. Pixar are notorious for going above and beyond for the research or their upcoming productions.

For Up In 2004, Docter and eleven other Pixar artists spent three days reaching Monte Roraima by plane, jeep, and helicopter. The team spent three nights whilst they were painting and sketching, and encountering many types of insects and animals. They also flew to Matawi Tepui and climbed to Angel Falls.

For Finding Nemo the artists took scuba diving lessons in the coral reef and for Monsters Inc the animators were really challenged to create a lifelike appearance of Sully’s fur. Two things they had to consider was figuring out how to animate the huge numbers of hairs (2,320,413) on Sulley and another was making sure the hairs cast shadows on other hairs. These are just a few examples of the time and effort that is put into the production of an animated film.


Overall, I think that animation has progressed is its treatment by critics and the public. Whilst Frozen may have been snubbed by the Academy in the Best Picture category, no once can dispute its initial and ongoing success and it is a double Oscar winning animation. Pixar continue to push themselves creatively and have an incredible track record, commercially and critically. DreamWorks animation produced the first Oscar winning animation: Shrek and going way way back to 1937, Walt Disney made history by producing the first full length coloured animated feature (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) which to this day is hugely popular.

Animation may have long to go before being considered worthy alongside live action features, but it is clear that is has gained respect in recent years and that all ages are able to embrace the varied themes that animations generally cover.

2 Empire. February 2009. pp.12–15.

The Sequels Awaken

Let’s face it, now more than ever the film landscape is becoming increasingly cluttered with sequels, prequels and reboots. That is a fact. However we need to ask whether that is such a bad thing or not. In 2015, there will be the Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Jurassic World amongst other high profile releases.

In those days, I know it’s hard to imagine, but you just didn’t do sequels. It was considered tacky.”1 Reading this quotation from a modern day perspective is hard to believe. But Sigourney Weaver highlights the reputation of sequels in relation to Aliens and why the film was made seven years after the first film. So the question arises: Are reboots,sequels and prequels damaging to the film industry? Let’s have a look at three case studies see whether there is a problem or not with reboots, sequels and prequels.

The Reboot


My belief is that you can’t judge a film before it has been released, however due to my attachment to the franchise, I felt it was a premature move and that there was a lot more that could have been explored in those films. Even director of The Amazing Spider-Man Marc Webb was sceptical at first concerning the reboot, “but then I went back to the comics, where there’s a constant reinvention. And I thought there was a wealth of material that hadn’t been explored.2 So instead of using that wealth of material for Spider-Man 4 he used it for the 2012 reboot.

Personally I felt like Sony Studios and Sam Raimi had given up and to this day I feel like that Spider-Man 4 was a missed opportunity, Tobey Maguire was the perfect Spider-Man and his chemistry with Kirsten Dunst was natural and convincing. Fair enough if they rebooted it 10 years later or more, but a mere 3 years after the release of Spider-Man 3 to announce the reboot was premature and uncalled for.

However, upon its release, the film made $757 million worldwide and became the highest grossing reboot of all time. In the end, I actually enjoyed the new version of Spider-Man and thought that Andrew Garfield brought a different element to the character and that his chemistry with Emma Stones character Gwen Stacy was one of the highlights of the film. Yet to this day, the new direction for Spider-Man feels too early and the original trilogy is still fresh in my mind. This is an example where a reboot feels unnecessary.

The Sequel


An example of a sequel which didn’t have the spark of its previous film entries is The Bourne Legacy. Again, instead of focusing on developing an already successful film series Universal turned the tables and went in a direction that was not satisfactory. There’s nothing wrong with a sequel itself, but if the sequel taints the franchise then there’s a problem.

The film had a modest impact on the box office by grossing $257 million worldwide as opposed to the $442 million that The Bourne Ultimatum made. Also it only scored 55% on rotten tomatoes as opposed to the 94% the previous film scored.

The Bourne Legacy was parallel to the narrative of The Bourne Ultimatum, so when they referenced Jason Bourne’s character it made you realise that what made the franchise brilliant has been lost. To make my point even more concrete, it has been announced the Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass have decided to return to the franchise for the release date of July 2016. Whilst this is great news, you almost wish they had decided to bring Damon back before the released The Bourne Legacy.

The Prequel


However, in regards to prequels, they can go deeper into an established film series where we can have more depth to certain themes and ideas raised in certain films. Look at The Hobbit Trilogy, a prequel to the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the trilogy goes deeper into the character of Bilbo Baggins and his relationship with the One Ring.

Whilst The Hobbit Trilogy has not had the highly esteemed reception as The Lord of the Rings did, it still has been a huge success commercially and has received generally positive reviews. There have been criticisms about stretching the one book into three films, yet I would defend that decision by saying that you can allow the characters and narrative to flesh out and naturally progress throughout the films.

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Bilbo is a content Shire bound Hobbit with no sense of adventure. In the upcoming The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies  Bilbo has developed in more of a warrior figure and has developed courage and strength. It would have been hard to show that in just one film. Plus, who can hate against more films about Middle Earth?


In defence of reboots, sequels and prequels, why should we be cynical to films that go deeper into an established film universe and allow us to go on a deeper journey with characters that have connected with audiences? Even so, there are still many original films that have their own place in cinema. Look at this years recent blockbuster Interstellar, an original idea directed by Christopher Nolan and written by Jonathan Nolan born out of scientific theories. Next year Pixar are releasing two original animations: Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur. Reboots, sequels and prequels aren’t damaging to the film industry, especially in terms of box office success, however they could cool down a little bit and make more room for original ideas.


Please leave a response of your opinions regarding sequels, prequels and reboots. All comments are welcome!

1 EMPIRE December 2014 issue

2 TOTAL FILM June 2012 issue