Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow, 2015)

In one early sequence of Jurassic World, the apathetic older brother (Nick Robinson) of a pair of kids visiting the now fully-functional dinosaur theme park suddenly expresses a degree of amazement at the sight of a prehistoric leviathan chomping on a shark, primarily because his sibling (Ty Simpkins) has knocked his smart phone out of his hand and forced him to focus on the wonders in front of them. One of several self-referential nods throughout Jurassic World implies that “no one’s impressed by a dinosaur anymore,” so the people behind the park decide to create, with genetic splicing, a bigger, badder beast to drive attention and profits.

It’s something that can easily be read as a wink-wink dig at the way Hollywood special effects generally lack much of a wow factor two decades on from Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park, and how the solution for many studio heads seems to be to use CGI to create even bigger spectacles for hopeful blockbuster behemoths. Much as an expensive box office bomb might prove disastrous for financiers who’ve thrown everything at the wall to see what sticks, Jurassic World’s new attraction – hybrid dino Indominus Rex – runs amok and causes havoc pretty much immediately.

The thing is there’s a difference between ironically breaking the fourth wall about your film’s very existence and actually subverting anything…

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Poltergeist (Gil Kenan, 2015)

As sacrilegious as a Poltergeist remake may seem to some, there are a number of smart creative choices behind 20th Century Fox’s update of the 1982 Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg horror. For one thing, director Gil Kenan has established his own genre skills based around digital trickery, courtesy of his 2006 CGI animation release, Monster House. Secondly, screenwriter David Lindsay-Abaire is a Pulitzer Prize winner for his play Rabbit Hole, which he also helped adapt for the screen in 2010, suggesting some flair for domestic turmoil material. Finally, the remake’s leads are Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt; two actors who almost always do good work even in disappointing projects, and the two are reliably strong as the parents in Poltergeist.

So, it’s not like this film was immediately starting off on the wrong foot, and the final result generally doesn’t make too many glaring missteps. The issue is that there’s not a lot of weight to those steps…

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Cat People (Paul Schrader, 1982)

Made between his milestones American Gigolo and Mishima, Paul Schrader’s Cat People is a blend of the more commercially minded concerns of the former and the stylistically experimental features of the latter. Like The Thing, its Universal stablemate from 1982, Schrader’s film is a very loose remake of a beloved thriller, and one that’s only become more interesting with age…

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Tokyo Tribe (Sion Sono, 2014)

Bringing “slammin’ beats from the ass-end of hell,”, Sion Sono’s manga adaptation Tokyo Tribe is a hysterical hybrid of The Warriors, Yakuza movies and Escape from New York, spliced with video games Jet Set Radio and Streets of Rage, and a dash of Scott Pilgrim. Also, it’s a candy-coloured rap-battle musical where maybe 15% of the dialogue isn’t sung or grunted to some kind of beat. So in that sense it’s like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg but with added beatboxing, tanks, Clockwork Orange-riffing human furniture and virgin sacrifices to Satan. Fun for all the family…

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Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)

In a cinematic landscape where every movie series of notable mainstream or cult popularity is being resurrected instead of left for dead, one figure has emerged as a shining light amid the darkness of Ridley Scott reboots and kingdoms of crystal skulls. His name is George Miller, his character is Mad Max, and his world is fire and blood…

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Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, 2014)

Director Olivier Assayas has a penchant of late for companion piece films. His 2012 feature Something in the Air, a film loosely based on his own coming of age in an era of widespread disillusion, was concerned with youth rebellion in early 1970s France. He mined some similar territory beforehand in his 1994 effort Cold Water, however that film only alluded to the political concerns that Something in the Air puts closer to the forefront. Cold Water and Something share some character names, similar visual cues and thematic motifs. In a way, it’s as though Assayas is using the newer film to comment on the older one, and considering Cold Water’s own supposedly autobiographical elements, one can argue that Something works as an artist looking back on how he previously looked back on his past.

This elaborate self-reflexive approach is maintained for Assayas’ latest extraordinary film, Clouds of Sils Maria, which can be viewed as a companion piece to his 1996 work Irma Vep. Both concern a veteran actress coming to terms with their place in a cinematic landscape they find increasingly baffling, and each offers a unique meta-commentary on contemporary filmmaking. Clouds of Sils Maria takes some major swings at Hollywood’s current crop of samey sci-fi and fantasy franchises along with star stories told through social media and gossip sites…

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Bad Land: Road to Fury (Jake Paltrow, 2014)

Originally titled Young Ones for its US release, Bad Land: Road to Fury has seemingly received a name change in an attempt to capitalise on the hype surrounding the forthcoming Mad Max: Fury Road. Despite the presence of that film’s co-star Nicholas Hoult, plus desert vistas and a post-apocalyptic setting where a fleeting water supply is a key plot point, Jake Paltrow’s sci-fi Western has little in common with the Mad Max series. It actually resembles, of all things, the sprawling 1956 land epic Giant

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Writing by Josh Slater-Williams