Thursday, May 26, 2016

Film Review - The Nice Guys (2016)

The Nice Guys is the new film written and directed by Shane Black and concerns two private detectives (Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling) on the trail of a young girl name Amelia (Margaret Qualley) in 1977 Los Angeles but she will not be easy to find.

Now I was very much looking forward to this film before it came out as the previews for it looked great, it looked funny, violent and hard edged and every time I saw the preview for it I laughed my head off.

Sadly however the film is a bit of a disappointment but before I delve into that lets talk about what I did like:

- Firstly I loved Angourie Rice in this film who plays Holly Holland's daughter, every scene she was in she was like a mini Sherlock Holmes in that she thought things through and knew when to defend herself she also plays off Gosling and Crowe very nicely and I hope to see more of her in future movies.

- Secondly the film does have moments where I did laugh out loud, sometimes an action moment would play out or a funny gag would come on screen or a cool 1970's reference would pop up on the screen I would laugh my head off (oh and there are some great references to late 70s films peppered throughout the film.)

But as I said this film was disappointing to me for two big reasons:

- Firstly the film doesn't have a clear definable villain for the audience to point to and say "That's the Bad Guy" and when you look back at the first 2 Lethal Weapon films that Black wrote they were there be it Mr Joshua (Gary Busey) and General McAllister in the first film and Joss Ackland the South African Diplomats (Joss Ackland) in the 2nd film.

Here there are a couple of guys that come and go but I felt that they needed to be molded into the one single character or have both work as a tag team to take on Gosling and Crowe but alas we got what we got and the film suffers as a result.

- Secondly the plot of this movie is all over the place and at times I did think to myself "What are they looking for here" and when I came out of the film and began to think about the plot more I thought to myself "I think I know what all that was about and I saw it in the Last Boy Scout" and that comparison began to make more and more sense to me when I thought about it as both are very very similar in terms of their plot and storyline and Boy Scout I have to say is the better film than this one.

And so that was the Nice Guys which was a bit of a disappointment I'm afraid but it has its moments, 2 out of 5.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Film Review - Top Gun (1986)

30 Years Ago Top Gun soared into cinemas across the world and not only cemented Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer as star producers but also made Tom Cruise into a superstar with his role as Maverick, an Ace Fighter Pilot who goes to the Top Gun Fighter Weapons School and goes up against the best of the best.

Re watching this film last Saturday night was so much fun:

- Firstly the flying scenes are truly exhilarating to watch and they really give you the feeling of being up there amongst the clouds at 20-30,000 feet and when the dogfights get underway particularly the one in the last act of the film it has a sense of edge and reality that no effects work today can match.

- Secondly the music created for the film still remains timeless and exciting to listen to, whether it be the main Top Gun anthem by Harold Faltermeyer or the now world famous Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins or Take my Breath Away by Berlin or the underrated Mighty Wings by Cheap Trick which blares over the end credits of the film, the Music plays a very key role in this film and indeed when playing a Fighter Jet game this soundtrack is not too hard to come to mind.

- And lastly I have to talk about the young cast assembled for this film, some of whom became stars in their own right, Cruise was actually quite good here and he shows a young energy, optimism and joy in a lot of his scenes in this film, Val Kilmer is nicely cast as Iceman the cool, calm rival who's always very methodical if a little douchey, Anthony Edwards plays off Cruise nicely as Goose and a very young Tim Robbins also appears as Merlin another fighter graduate.

It's also worth noting that these young actors are allowed to soar as much as they can as both Tom Skeritt and Michael Ironside are there to ground them whenever they need to and both bring a real presence to their fairly medium sized roles and it adds some weight to the film.

What slightly doesn't work however is pretty much everything involving Kelly McGillis's character and in no way would I saw that this is her fault at all because if you've seen her in Witness you'll see what a great actress she is but if you watch Charles de Lauzirika's superb making of doco you'll see that her scenes were pretty much made up in post production for the most part and those scenes do pull you out of the film a little bit but not by a great deal.

Apart from that 1 minor niggle I still think Top Gun is great fun 30 years on and I loved revisiting it as well as watching the making of doco almost straight after it, 4 out of 5.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Film Review - X-Men Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men Apocalypse is the fourth X-Men film directed by Bryan Singer and takes place 10 years after Days of Future Past where the world has accepted mutants and Xavier (James McAvoy) has now established his School for the Gifted, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is out and about in the world rescuing Mutants from harm and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has gone into exile but the rise of En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) may well change the world into a new dark age.

This was my most anticipated film of the year by some measure as I am a huge fan of the X-Men as well as the previous 3 films Bryan Singer has made, they were tightly edited, had a real blend of storytelling, action and character and they felt like they were about something rather than just being a special effects fest but that 3peat is very tough to top but could Singer do it again and make it 4 in a row?

Well he did but not to the extent he did on X-Men 1 and 2 and Days of Future Past but this is also a very very solid movie that I had a lot of fun watching:

- First off Singer's direction is still very good and I feel that because he had such a firm hand on the directorial whip that this movie does not descend into a gigantic incoherent mess each scene is well staged, the performances for the most part work with 1 big exception and his action scenes were very well filmed a nice relief from the endless and annoying and tiresome shaky cam quick cutting that we sadly see far too often in action films nowadays.

- Secondly I have to give praise to John Ottman in terms of both his editing and scoring work on this film, he cuts the film very tight (again there is 1 exception) and his score is excellent first with the opening cue from Ancient Egypt with the choir score and then hearing that theme music again from X-Men 2 and Days of Future Past OH SO GOOD! and the mixing in of the 80s songs was also very nice, Ottman is an underrated contributor to this series and he does great work again here.

- And lastly all of the performances are very solid, McAvoy and Fassbender are wonderful together and they remind you oh so much of Sirs Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen from the first 2 films, Lawrence was fine but it is one of her weaker performances in recent years while Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Olivia Munn and Ben Hardy were pretty solid in their roles while Evan Peters is just delightful as Quicksilver and he has much more to do here and he makes the most of every scene he's in, I hope to see more of him in movies soon.

But that new young cast oh my goodness they steal the show for me, Tye Sheridan, Sophie Turner, Kodi-Smit McPhee, Lana Condor and Alexander Shipp are just wonderful as the all new and much younger X-Men characters and I really hope that they will get their own film where they're front and centre as they more than deserve it and it also shows how making this work would've made X-Men First Class a much stronger film as the kids in that film were its weakest element for me.

However the film has 3 very significant issues that cannot be ignored:

- First off Simon Kinberg's script is pretty flat and at times it tries to do so much with its storytelling and characters that it struggles to give each character a true moment to shine, it also doesn't really have the heart and the depth that X-Men 1, X-Men 2 and Days of Future Past had going for them and speaking of X-Men 2 it is a real real shame that Michael Doughtery and Dan Harris who did such a great job on X-Men 2 (it's still my fav of the series) couldn't have written the screenplay with Kinberg as I feel that if they had then a lot of those story/character issues might have been fixed.

- The second is Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, he looks fine in the role but his voice is so heavily modulated that it sucks any and all emotion from his voice and makes him sound like a flat and generic bad guy with a deep voice and if you've seen A Most Violent Year, Inside Lleweyn Davis, Ex Machina and the Force Awakens this man can work genuine wonders with his voice.

But sadly because of the extensive modulation I just never got into that character and as a result I have to say that all 4 of the Comic Book films released so far this year have dropped the ball in this department and I am getting sick of it frankly because time and time again this genre has done this and as a result I find it difficult sometimes to care about whether the heroes win the day, hopefully Thanos will be better in the 2 part Infinity War Avengers film.

- And lastly the Wolverine cameo (don't worry if you saw the last trailer for the film it shows you he's in it) was utterly utterly utterly pointless and it's a good 10 minutes that frankly should have been removed from the film and given to the other characters that desperately needed it and who play a much more important role in the story than he does and one scene as part of this just made me cringe big time, I wish that he had been cut from the film entirely as this was the only time I felt the near 2.5 hour length of this film.

And so that was X-Men Apocalypse, a film that I felt did deliver the goods and left a big smile on my face when I walked out of the cinema but at the same time those flaws are big enough for me to say that it is the weakest of Bryan's X-Men films but still I think it's worth seeing, 3 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

Florence Foster Jenkins is the true story of Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) a New York Socialite in the 1940s who decides to go back onto the Opera stage with the help of her husband (Hugh Grant) and a young Pianist but Florence will find it difficult to stage a successful singing career.

I had fun watching this film and a lot of that I think is due to Streep's performance in the title role, she looks like she's actually having fun again in a film instead of just doing an OTT voice and mannerisms like she has done in some of her more recent roles, Grant is his usual charming self and he has a nice chemistry with Streep and I LOVED seeing Rebecca Ferguson again after she made a very strong impression in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation last year, I can't wait to see her again in a film hopefully that will be soon.

And so that was Florence Foster Jenkins, a good fun time at the cinema with nice humour and performances, 2 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - Angry Birds (2016)

Based off of the many many Games, Angry Birds tells the story of Red (Jason Sudeikis) a bird who is ordered to go to Anger Management where he meets Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride) but one night a Boat comes to their island home and its full of Green Pigs led by Leonard (Bill Hader) and his intentions may not be as friendly as he claims that they are.

Going into this film I felt really only thing running through my mind "This is either going to be great or its going to be horrible" and it was one that I found very hard to shake as the film got closer to release so was it either of those things.

Well no but it was awfully boring to sit through but before I delve into that I do want to talk about what I did like and those are first of all Peter Dinklage as the Mighty Eagle I thought he was fun in the film but at the same time you expect the goods from him by this point and he was better I think in the Boss from earlier this year and second of all the animation around Chuck was really fun to watch even if some of it was inspired by Quicksilver from the X-Men.

However the story of the film just bored me to no end, I felt that it didn't really feel fun or bright or energetic in any way, a lot of it felt very predictable and also it just felt a little predictable and given what companies like Pixar and Illumination Entertainment and Laika are capable of doing in terms of animated films that have a broad appeal to kids and adults, to have something like this come along I feel isn't enough anymore.

And so that was Angry Birds, younger kids will have fun with it but I don't know if older kids will get much out of it, 1 out of 5.

Film Review - Bad Neighbours 2 (2016)

Bad Neighbours 2 continues on from the first Bad Neighbours film and both Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne's characters are now planning to sell their house but they find themselves in a 30 day waiting period where the buyers can pull out if something goes wrong which could well happen as a trio of women led by Chloe Grace Moretz plan to buy the house next door and throw parties.

I liked this film and much like the first film I was surprised by how much fun I really did end up having with it, Rogen and Byrne have a really nice chemistry (and it's also nice to hear Byrne use her Aussie voice rather than try and fake most likely badly an American accent) and I also enjoyed Zac Efron's character and the arc he goes through in the film.

But the show stealer here is Moretz and watching her in this film I was reminded just how good of an actress she can be when she has a role she can really sink her teeth into and she was fun, her character made sense to me and it does make you think about some of the issues going on in regards to women in university and both of these Bad Neighbours films have had that I think something a little more at the centre of them as well as having the gross out humour which there is plenty of in this film.

And so that was Bad Neighbours 2 and in a world where 8 in 10 Sequels don't work and 9 in 10 Comedy Sequels don't work it's nice that 1 can come along and break that rule, 2 and a half out of 5.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Film Review - Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead (2015)

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead is a documentary about the history of National Lampoon magazine beginning with its origins at Harvard University and its eventual success into the mainstream.

I had a lot of fun watching this doco, the origins of the magazine were done in a very interesting way and I thought it handled the ups and downs of its success very well, it was also great to hear from people like Al Jean and Mike Reiss, Judd Apatow, Chevy Chase and John Landis among others especially as they started to branch out into Radio and Film.

One other thing that came to mind as I watched it was that so much of the comedy they did you would probably never get away with today though some of it particularly from the Apatow group does have some of that rambling feel that is talked about in regards to the magazine in the doco and there is also some wonderful tribute footage of John Belushi who died in 1982.

The doco also nicely covers the making of Animal House, Caddyshack and the first Vacation though part of me wishes it had delved more into those more but I can see why it didn't as it would've thrown the doco off course.

And so that was Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead a very good doco that is worth watching, 3 and a half out of 5.