Thursday, June 30, 2016

Film Review - The BFG (2016)

The BFG is based off of the Roald Dahl book and is directed by Steven Spielberg and written by the late Mellisa Mathison who also wrote ET in 1982, the story here concerns Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who is whisked away to Giant Country by a Big Giant (Mark Rylance) but could this Giant be Friendly or Enemy?

I've been something of a Steven Spielberg agnostic for a number of years now, I just can't help but feel that he peaked somewhat after that group of films consisting of Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders of the Lost Ark and ET there were some bright spots along the way like Jurassic Park but most of the films he's made since haven't really done much for me so I went into this film somewhat apprehensive.

To my surprise I actually thought this film was pretty good I went along with it, the music by John Williams was really good one of the better scores he's made in the last little while, the look of the film and the visual effects were very nice and Spielberg's own direction felt very alive and fast paced the kind we used to see from him in those films like Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

And also Rylance was great as the BFG and thinking about him in the role it's hard to imagine anyone else playing that character now but all of this was in the first two thirds of the film as the last third sadly went a little off the rails and got a little too silly for my liking and also it became a waste of Rebecca Hall who I love as an actress and was so good in the Gift last year, how sad to see her in such a nothing role in this film.

And so that was the BFG a great first two thirds is undermined by a silly 3rd act but still it is worth a watch, 3 out of 5.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Film Review - Independence Day Resurgence (2016)

Independence Day Resurgence takes place 20 years after the events of the 1996 original film and the Aliens have come back to Earth, can the best efforts of David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) be enough to ward them off for a second time.

Independence Day Resurgence is a big disappointment for 3 very key reasons:

- Firstly the films visual effects work feels very overly digital and CG based and when you look back at the original it was a mix of CGI and Models and Prosthetic effects here it all looks like a PS4 game at times and as a result you don't find yourself marvelling at the effects like you do in Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim which had fantastic and very detailed CGI effects or Bryan Singer's X-Men Apocalypse which had the mass destruction but also a wide array of Mutant Powers which were great fun to watch.

- Secondly the performances all feel very flat, Goldblum feels like he's playing a parody of himself, Liam Hemsworth is given very little to work with, Jesse T. Usher is also very bland as Dylan Hiller, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch and Vivica A. Fox pretty much do glorified cameos and Maika Munroe comes across as a poor girls Brie Larson and it's a real shame Mae Whitman wasn't asked to reprise her role from the original which she did when she was quite young.

Going back to Hemsworth and Usher both of them come across as very poor replacements for Will Smith's character from the first film who did not return for this sequel and his absence does leave a fairly big hole in this film meanwhile Sela Ward and Charlotte Gainsbourg are wasted in their roles.

- This also ties nicely into my third problem with this film and that is the storytelling frankly it's a mess with so many characters and subplots the film has to go through it all gets to a point where the endless subplots start getting in the way of the main storyline which has a really really pathetic ending the type that feels like the cast and crew putting out a begging bowl to their audience well sorry you can all just Smeg Off as you failed to make this film good so why should I care next time.

When I came out of this film I thought of another bad sequel to a really fun first film The Matrix Reloaded which for me has to be the worst sequel of the last 20 years and this film sadly sits on that same shelf, it has bad storytelling, weak performances and artificial effects work, rent Pacific Rim or wait for X-Men Apocalypse to come out on disc don't bother with this film and I am not enjoying saying that one bit as I was really excited to see it, 1 out of 5.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

I Love the Early 80s

Recently I became inspired to revisit Sir Ridley Scott's 1982 Sci-Fi Classic Blade Runner and yes it's as iconic as it's ever been and Rutger Hauer is mesmerising as Roy Batty and there's always something new to find in the immense visuals (I'm very fond of the Dancers wearing the Hockey Masks.)

But it was a combination of revisiting that film as well as thinking about X-Men Apocalypse which is set in 1983 that really got me thinking about something.

And that was just how much I love and I mean genuinely love the period of the early 1980s lets say 1980 to 1984 and the reasons I feel are three key ones:

- The first was that it consisted of this incredible group of filmmakers who were making their mark on the industry people like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott and George Miller who were either coming out of film school or starting to make it big after doing some small little films with no real money behind them.

And they along with John Carpenter, Peter Weir and Francis Ford Coppola took an industry that had become moribund and directionless following the collapse of the studio system in the late 60s and gave it a new sense of direction with films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mad Max 2, Gallipoli, Blade Runner, The Empire Strikes Back and Raging Bull among many others and in each of these films there's a sense of exhilaration, craftsmanship and a sense of doing things that hadn't been tried before and would later set a benchmark for future generations to follow.

- Secondly there seemed to be no real restrictions on what you could depict at that time, you could have a film like Summer Lovers by Randal Kleiser which has multiple scenes of its lead characters nude and its Menage A Troi storyline and really only get an M rating.

Sadly however a film like that or 1984's Blame it on Rio with Michael Caine would never get made today as Nudity has pretty much become frowned upon because well it could warp some younglings mind oh heaven forfend they see some bare tits they're going to when they're older.

Also a dark film like Blade Runner would also struggle as it did in 1982 as Audiences by and large are wanting the "Happy Comfort Food" like they did back then and the more serious minded films like Apocalypse and Dawn of Justice get mixed to negative reviews from audiences and critics.

- And lastly it was to be the dawn of the VHS format and this would become a profound and fundamental change to the way movies would be both presented and released.

Profound in that no longer could films just play in cinemas for long periods of time (and this is both a for good and for bad situation) instead they would play for a period and then hit the Home Video shelves where people could rent and one day own them to watch in their own home and fundamental as it put the Power to the People at Home so to speak.

But when did this period end well I feel that it ended in 1984 with the rise of MTV and Studios and Producers reasserting their dominance over filmmaking as by that time films like Heaven's Gate had nearly driven some studios to the point of bankruptcy and Spielberg himself had a huge bomb in 1941 which forced him to rethink his shooting style when making Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Now don't get me wrong I like that period of the mid to late 80s and early 90s as well but not as much as I do that 1980 to 1984 period of filmmaking as it felt like anything was possible, an industry that had begun to lose its way had been rejuvenated and viewers could take more control over the content they chose to watch and how they chose to watch it, we may indeed never see a period of films like this ever again.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Film Review - Me Before You (2016)

Me Before You is based off the book and stars Sam Claflin (Finnick from the Hunger Games) as Will Trainor a young man living his life before a Motorcycle Accident sees him paralyzed from the neck down meanwhile Louisa (Emilia Clarke) is trying to find a job and she sees an ad for a full time Carer for Will and takes it not knowing what may lie ahead for both of them.

I actually quite liked this film, I thought it was a very nice weepie and it also was willing to delve into some more serious themes and ideas which most would normally shy away from, Claflin gives a great performance as a young man in his Prime consigned to a cruel fate not of his making and one that he struggles to come to terms with like some would (others would of course come to accept that but it was nice to see the struggle) and again I think he is an underrated young actor and I want to see more of him in the future.

Clarke meanwhile kinda got on my nerves after a while with her version of the Carey Mulligan Cryface which started to pull me out of the film as it went on, she and Claflin have some good chemistry but her own individual performance just wasn't as good I don't think as Claflin's was but I also thought Thea Sharrock did a good job in the director's chair.

And so that was Me Before You, a well made Weepie that was willing to be a little deeper than others in the genre and I think it's worth a watch, 3 out of 5.

Film Review - Warcraft (2016)

Based off of the very popular Blizzard Video Games, Warcraft tells the tale of the Orcs whose world is dying and using Black Magic they open a Dark Portal to the World of Azeroth which is ruled by the Humans who do not take the threat of war from the Orcs lightly.

That might sound like a brief plot synopsis but when you watch the film it is very hard to understand as quite frankly this movie is a mess of a storyline but before I delve into that I want to talk about what I did like and that is the films visuals, the visual effects, the Orc makeup, the armour, the weapons, the costumes are all outstanding and a real treat for the eyes as it all looks very real and not once did I get bored just looking at the film.

But that storyline oh my goodness it is a complete and utter mess and right from the get go anyone who is not familiar with the lore of Warcraft is going to be completely lost and will struggle throughout the film to keep up with what's going on and Duncan Jones who co-wrote the script and directed the film it feels like watching it that he has his hands tied.

And when you read that his original cut was 40 minutes longer it really does make the editing in this film feel all the more choppy as scenes and storylines at times feel like they go nowhere and if you look at what Peter Jackson did with Lord of the Rings and the way he brought the audience into Middle Earth and allowed each of the 3 films to have a 3 hour runtime to tell the story properly this just doesn't feel like it's good enough anymore.

The opening of Highlander also did that with Sean Connery's narration that told you about the immortals before blasting Queen and "HERE WE ARE, BORN TO BE KINGS WE'RE THE PRINCES OF THE UNIVERSE!!" just one more example of how it can be done.

And so that was Warcraft if you're a fan then what I say will be meaningless to you as you'll want to see it for yourself but if you're not I would avoid this film as it is not very good at all despite its great visuals, 1.5 out of 5.

Film Review - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

Splinter taught them to be Ninja Teens (He's a Radical Rat),
Leonardo Leads, Donatello Does Machines,
Raphael is cool but Broods and Michaelangelo is a Party Dude,
But when the Evil Shredder attacks again,
These Turtles Boys must Step up and Fight.

I was very hesitant walking into this film mainly because I did not enjoy the first film from 2014 but seeing the preview for this film made me a little more curious after all it did promise Bebop and Rocksteady from the original cartoon so second time lucky?

Actually I will say yes as I enjoyed this film much more than I enjoyed the first film and the reason I feel this is the cast is due to the much lighter tone this film has than the first film had it felt more like that original cartoon show whereas the first film felt it was honouring more the original black and white comics that inspired all of this (and were very dark in and of themselves) and also I liked Stephen Amell from TV's Arrow as Casey Jones, he was a fun character and he did the best he could with what he had.

And I also liked some of the action sequences particularly one with Bebop and Rocksteady where they have access to a Tank, I thought that was pretty fun.

But there are some big problems with this film sadly:

- The first of those is the complete waste of its villains, Shredder barely did anything in this film especially when the human heroes can't stop talking about him and how dangerous he is and Krang barely had any screen time and in the series both of them were very memorable but here they're just thrown into the mix and then tossed away like they're nothing.

- Secondly the Turtles themselves continue to be huge vacuums of personality like they were in the first film, in the series they were very fun characters that didn't take themselves too seriously and had a nice banter as well as working well as a group whereas here there's still the conflict about being in the group and the serious discussions about that and I just don't care about that, it was fine in the first one but in this one they should've been much more honed as a group similar to the cartoon series.

- And lastly the final battle is a humongous anti climax literally I sat there and thought to myself "Is that It?" after it was over as it felt like it only went for about 5 minutes at the most and it is one of the worst climaxes of a film I've seen in a long time and it's a joke and not a good one.

And so that was Out of the Shadows, a fine enough sequel that fans might get a bit more of a kick out of it but you could probably go through life just fine without seeing it, 2 out of 5.

Film Review - Finding Dory (2016)

Finding Dory is the sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) starts getting flahses of her life as a young fish living with her parents so she decides to travel the Ocean in order to go and find them but Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo worry that with her short term memory loss she might get lost along the way.

FInding Dory is a fun adventure but it is also just another sequel that is not as good as the first film, I will say however that the animation is stunning and DeGeneres is wonderful in the film, she really has a great vocal range that is used to maximum effect, I also liked Ed O'Neill (ALLLL) as Hank the Octopus and Brooks is also good fun as Marlin though he will always be Hank Scorpio from the Simpsons to me.

But the storytelling overall in this film is just not as good as it was in Finding Nemo, in that film you really felt the sense of the journey, a quest across the great and vast Ocean for this 1 tiny Fish that could be anywhere and along that road lurked danger at every potential turn whereas here it kinda feels like everything goes in circles and as fun as the new characters are after a while they kinda lost some of their interest for me.

There is also a short film before the feature called Piper about a little bird who lives near the tide on the Beach and it is very very charming and cute with some truly terrific animation that reminded me a lot of some of the old Walt Disney shorts prior to Mickey and Co coming on the scene.

And so that was Finding Dory sadly another example of the world we live in where 8 in 10 sequels just aren't as good as the first film but still it is worth seeing, 2 and a half out of 5.