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: Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys

The original Terminator – along with the 1991 sequel – has a special place in the hearts of sci-fi fans. The successive third and fourth movies were worth forgetting, but The Sarah Connor Chronicles television series proved that the Terminator universe could still be added to, when done properly..

Fifth installment, Genisys, is both a sequel and a reboot of the franchise. Like in the latest Xmen film, time travel is used to create a new story arc whilst still paying respect to the original.

There are still nods to the past, with lines like “I’ll be back”, and “Come with me if you want to live” inevitably included. It’s still the same story even – the machines try to kill off the Connor family, while the Connors try to prevent Skynet from being created – but there are enough twists and turns to keep the story fresh.

Interestingly enough, none of the key cast are American.

Emilia Clarke replaces her Game of Thrones co-star Lana Headey as Sarah Connor. And we already know that Clarke  can handle the tough-girl role, playing the mother of John Connor, because we’ve seen her play the Mother of Dragons. She’s fiery and confused, feeling victimised because she has little choice but to play her destined role, and wondering if there is a way to escape her dictated fate.

Arnie, The Governator, reprises possibly his most iconic role as an old – but not yet obsolete – terminator. Arnie is getting old now, but the writers have factored this in. Terminators can age because they are made out of living tissue encasing a robot body, giving explanation to the clear wrinkles and grey hair. His robotic nature and inability to empathise with the humans often provides comic relief, but he’s still the same gun-toting badass that we’re used to.

I don’t love Jai Courtney, who plays Kyle Reese. Maybe it’s because I associate him with his jerk character from Divergentor maybe he just isn’t that likable. I’m not sure, but he does OK. And John Connor is played by Jason Clarke, the wildcard who keeps everyone on their toes.

Genisys has managed to update the franchise while still remaining true to the series. The characters are the same, yet different due to the time travel. There are more terminators this time, but we don’t know which one can be trusted, or even which people are terminators in disguise. The film is brought forward into the 21st century, and not just in the apocalyptic post-Judgement Day wasteland way, but in a touch screens are inescapable kind of way. We need to flip some established preconceptions on their head, like in T2, when viewers had to challenge the ideas that all terminators are bad.

James Cameron has voiced his support of this fifth film, and I agree with him. With Genisys we have more terminators, more time travel, more action. There are car chases on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge that remind me of the recent Planet of the Apes films, and helicopter pursuits through the skies. There are shoot outs in alleyways and fight scenes in factories. A few plot holes go unexplained, but none are glaringly major enough annoy. Most importantly, Genisys does justice to the franchise, and wipes clean the blight of the third and fourth films.

Joseph James