2015 In Review: Films at Will Not Fade


I go to the movies probably more than I can afford to, but I seldom review them because nobody wants to read a review written about a movie after it has already been out for a week. I’ll try to sum up my opinion of some of the movies that I’ve watched this year.

Top 5

Deathgasm was by far the best film of thedeathgasm-poster_1444064580
year. A perfect blend of action, horror and comedy with soundtrack that referenced metal from local and international bands. I also saw Turbo Kid (also produced by Ant Timpson) during the film festival  and it was similar in many ways. Hilarious, gratuitous, and with a kickass 80’s sounding soundtrack. It makes me proud that despite the increasing influence of Hollywood over our local industry, New Zealand can still churn out some brilliant films.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the obvious runner up for film of the year. Full on action the whole way through, without most of the annoying clichés and tropes that you’d associate with a gasoline fueled blockbuster like this.

mad-max-fury-road-poster2And it may be because I only saw it a few days ago, butStar Wars: The Force Awakens gets my vote for third place. I can’t deny being a Star Wars nerd, and I’m glad the new entry does justice to the series. Just as the prequel trilogy mirrored the originals, the new episode mirrors earlier films in a way that feels familiar, whilst still introducing new characters and possibilities. JJ Abrams was a smart choice for director, having revived the Star Trek franchise in recent years.

My other faves were The Martian and Everest. I was worried that The Martian would be a drawn out snoozefest like Interstellar (both films stared Matt Damon and were set in space), but The Martian held up as an entertaining and clever sci-fi. I was also pleased to see that Everest lived up to my expectations. I had met Jan Arnold, the wife of lead character Rob Hall, in highschool. Their tragic story was brought to life tastefully, while still retaining essential elements of good cinema.

Children’s films

As a teacher, keeping up with the latest children’s filmsis part of my job. Surprisingly though, I can only think of two that came out this year. Inside Out was a great exploration into human emotion, but was perhaps too mature for its child audience (not that this prevented the children who saw it enjoying themselves). Minions was annoying, and it is a shame that Despicable Me has stooped to such levels. Children loved it though, so it doesn’t matter what I think of it.


I don’t watch as many horrors as I used to, but I still enjoy them. Deathgasm was the best I saw this year, as I stated above. It Follows was a horror that garnered universal critical acclaim. I have mixed feelings about it. I do feel that it was over-rated, but the weird premise did have me thinking about it for days afterwards. I won’t ruin the plot, you’ll just have to find out for yourself if it lived up to the hype.

Cooties was a deliciously fun low-grade horror boasting big name actors (Elijah Wood, Alison Pill, Rainn Wilson). Contaminated chicken nuggets turn children at a primary school into prepubescent zombies, with the teachers resorting to whatever extreme measures they deem necessary for survival.


I was pretty excited when I first heard about Straight Outta Compton, the NWA biopic. I enjoyed watching it, but it was so long that it started to lose impact as it progressed. There has been lots of litigation and controversy surrounding the film, with certain parties claiming that their role has been downplayed (MC Ren), or depicted in defamatory light (Suge Knight – Death Row Records co-founder, and Jerry Heller – former NWA manager). It will be interesting to see how follow up films pan out – a biopic focusing on the following wave of rappers like Snoop Dogg and Tupac is currently in the works.

One heartwarming documartian-gallery3-gallery-imagementary I saw was called Landfill Harmonic, about a village in Paraguay where children form an orchestra in which they play instruments made from rubbish found in the landfill that many of them live on. It’s one of those underdog tales that show how people can rise from poverty to achieve something great.

The big films.

Star Wars is looking to break all kinds of box office records at the moment, but
it seems that the same could have been said by every major blockbuster that came out this year. Many films were guaranteed to sell just because they were part of a successful series. It helps that Star Wars is actually worth seeing, but let’s be honest, we were all going to go see it regardless. Take the following examples:

Spectre, the latest James Bond film (with the same plot as Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation), was ok, but not great. But you have to see it, simply because it’s Jame Bond. Same goes with any Marvel film. People watch them, regardless of how good they are. I thought that the second Avengers film was better than the first, but it was still forgettable. Jurassic World was an uninspired modern rehash of the original. Some up-to-date CGI wasn’t enough to disguise unlikable actors presenting thEverest-filme same plot as the earlier films, but despite this, dinosaurs still had pulling power to make Jurassic World millions of dollars.

Furious 7 , Terminator: Genysis and Hunger Games: Mockingjay pt 2 were some of the few major blockbusters from established series that I’d consider recommending (other than Star Wars and Mad Max, that I’ve already mentioned).

There were other films that I saw that aren’t worth mentioning, and likely many that I missed that are. What were your top movies of 2015? What ones did I miss that I really need to see? Or which ones do you think I need to reevaluate?

Joseph James

Film Review: Everest


Everest is a true story centred around Kiwi mountaineer Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who guided a group to summit Mt Everest alongside other groups in 1996. It is based on the autobiographical book Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest, by Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), one of the characters in the film.

Hall’s wife Jan Arnold (played by Kiera Knightly in the film) lives in my home town of Nelson. She came and gave a talk to my year group when I was in high school, so I had a fair idea about what the plot would involve. This didn’t spoil anything though, because I was still kept on the edge of my seat throughout.

Willing climbers have paid Hall and his company Adventure Consultants to guide them to the summit of Everest and back, based on his reputation for success and safety. There are also two other groups who are attempting the same during the two week window: a selfish South African group, and Mountain Madness, led by Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal). The overcrowding at base camp causes some complications, but as Fischer points out, it’s not a matter of the three groups competing against each other, but rather a matter of every person competing against the mountain.

We get to know the key characters, their motivations, their weaknesses. Hall has a pregnant wife back in New Zealand. Weathers is a rich American who pursues mountaineering to avoid depression. Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) wants to prove that an Average Joe is capable of extraordinary things. Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) has climbed six of the Seven Summits (the highest peak of each continent), and seeks to complete the set. We watch with abated breath as the climbers all seek to accomplish a common goal: to summit Everest and survive to tell the tale.

I applaud whoever did the casting for this film. The collective acting talent is strong enough that I was able hear to attempts at the New Zealand accent without feeling compelled to cringe. It sounds petty, but it really is an achievement. The only other example of an actor capable of pulling this off (that I can think of) is Anthony Hopkins, who played Kiwi motorcycling legend Burt Munro in The World’s Fastest Indian.

And it’s not just acceptable accents that got noticed. The cast take us on an emotive ride that having us vicariously cheering one minute, and choking back tears the next.

This is certainly a film that shines in a cinema setting, doing justice to the vast scenery shots displayed across a big screen. The scale of the cluttered Nepalese cities and majestic icy peaks are breathtaking. It is nice to see some authenticity, with some of the filming having taken place in Nepal, with the rest being shot in the Italian alps and the UK.

Both triumphant and tragic, Everest tells a gripping tale that reels you in and displays the destructive power of both nature; and the power of the human spirit and will to survive.

Joseph James