This might seem like rather a challenging title for an overview article concerning itself with the cinematic releases of 2015, especially as we’re little more than a quarter of a way through the year, but in my own defence I am using the word ‘mediocrity’ in it’s literal term of ‘average quality’ rather than the currently more preferred usage to mean ‘a bit rubbish’.
So, taking that as it is, what I am stating with this piece is that, while I have been a frequent frequenter of the cinema (going back over a decade now), insofar as first quarters go, this year has been the most average to date, being that there has been nothing as yet that has blown me away, and conversely, nothing that has driven me to distraction (though it must be stated that I have not yet and probably never will watch 50 Shades of Grey).
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of things let me inform you that I have a private scoring system for films I’ve seen at the cinema (yes, I keep note of everything that I watch theatrically, I’d love to tell you it’s because it’s necessary to assist in these articles that I write, but in truth I kept records long before I started writing about film… just a little compulsive tick of mine). The scoring system is strict and only highlights films of quality and personal appreciation and works thusly; every film gets listed in the order they were watched, if a film moves me in a major way according to the films own intention, it gets a star; if a film knocks me for six, removing all doubt that it will be one of my films of the year, it gets two stars (and automatic entry into my end of year article).
Last year, for instance, by around this point and not including films that skirted the border of 2013/2014, The Lego Movie, Yurusarezaru Mono (Unforgiven), Her, Captain America: Winter Soldier, The Raid 2 and Calvary had all received a star or two. We’d also had I, Frankenstein and Ride Along, which were, to put it politely, big-time stinkers.
This year, amongst critical kudos, acting tour de force’s, controversy and early blockbusters I starred a grand total of three films; Birdman, The Gambler and Shaun the Sheep; the first of which had it’s official release last year, the second I’m still on the fence about and the last is a spin-off of a TV show for very young children.
The views noted here are of my own opinion, of course, and I don’t doubt that many of you will find them to be way off the mark, but they are genuine and not contrived to elicit outrage, so let’s roll our sleeves up and look at some examples.
Such films as Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything and Wild all received awards buzz, and, yes, did contain excellent performances, but where never truly enthralling. Whiplash went a little further, adding sharper dialogue and some excellent drumming choreography to the great performances, but its paper-thin story and hollow side characters seemed to pass many by; it was very good but not the masterpieces it was hyped to be, all of which could also be said for It Follows, pushed by horror aficionados as the next big thing in terror, but in actuality not really that scary.
Less talked about were Ex Machina, Cake and A Most Violent Year, all of which sported no less excellent performances but similarly didn’t have that hook that pushed them beyond just decent.
There was all kinds of tomfoolery stirred up around American Sniper and The Interview, neither of which, frankly, deserved the kind of attention they received; or at least not for the reasons they attained the attention. Separate yourself from the subject matter of American Sniper and it unfolds as a pretty by the numbers biopic/war movie, and The Interview was a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg film, for goodness sake, the amount you would enjoy it being directly equated to how much you enjoyed Pineapple Express. The press made these films bigger than they would ever have been if left well alone
To my mind the first blockbuster of the year was Kingsman: The Secret Service, which, though containing potentially the single best and single worst scenes of the year, was otherwise enjoyable and forgettable. The next blockbuster, Jupiter Ascending, would go on the list with Will Smith vehicle, Focus, as one of the more critically panned films of the year, ignoring the fact that Focus was nothing less than a solidly enjoyable con film and Jupiter Ascending counteracted its numerous down points with vast invention and rich mythology (a longer director’s cut could actually be one of the better films of the year).
Everything else I’ve seen is barely worth a mention, one way or the other.
From a scientific point of view we would have to explore if, rather than the general quality of film being more tame, it is in actual fact my outlook that has changed, but it has to be said, traditionally, I rather enjoy the first quarter of the year; it leaves a little breathing room around the giant films for the smaller, more character driven pieces to have a go, and I really have wanted to enjoy each and every film that I’ve been to see, but only a small few living up to that initial enthusiasm. Again, it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed many of these films, it’s more that it hasn’t gone beyond that.
There’s still a long time to go yet, even next weekend seeing the release of the latest instalment of my once-hated-but-now-thoroughly-loved Fast and Furious franchise, which has every opportunity of tipping the balance. That besides it was always going a big blockbuster year; just naming the films I’ve heard of/have my eye on includes Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Brad Bird’s Tomorrow Land, Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys, Minions, Ant-Man, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Fantastic Four, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2, Crimson Peak and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
It would take some extremely slack filmmaking to have all these films miss the mark and I’m still holding out on some smaller films rattling my cage a little, so I for one am going to have my fingers crossed and my eyes on the silver screened prize.