Monday, 11 June 2018

OJ's Movie Review - Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

"Taking dinosaurs off this island is the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas." Was Jeff Goldblum right? Let's see...

   So Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is the follow-up to Jurassic World of 2015 and the fifth film in the Jurassic franchise as a whole. It's a franchise that brings me much nostalgia as I grew up watching the first three over and over again. 

   Here we've got Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard back as the main leads from the previous film and to be honest, they do just as fine of a job as they did before. I don't think I'm particularly invested in the characters, but that's the writing rather than the acting. I still can't decide whether Pratt suits a more serious role but I like Howard in a lot of things so I enjoyed her performance here. Other cast members include Ted Levine who I enjoyed quite a lot as Mr military man; I was a big fan of Monk back in the day and hadn't realized he was in this film so he was a highlight for me. As far as antagonists go, however, he was the only one that was interesting. Rafe Spall's character was pretty generic and B.D. Wong had so little screentime it seemed almost unnecessary. Talking of short screentime though, Jeff Goldblum returns to the franchise after last appearing in 1997's The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and even what little we had of him I really felt like I was watching Dr. Ian Malcom again and that was just great.

   Moving into the plot, I'd say it was quite a different sort of Jurassic film this year. As all the promotional material has informed us, the park is gone and so the majority of the film is set in mainland America. The parts set on the island are entertaining enough but I can understand why they would move on as the abandoned, overgrown facility aspect was explored extensively in the second and third films. Once we're off the island we're really only in one particular location which still gives the isolated feel and we've come to know. The story in itself had some interesting parts for sure; I enjoyed the concept of auctioning off the dinosaurs and some other ideas I had not expected in a Jurassic film, but whether it was because of unoriginal writing or too-revealing trailers I have to say a lot of this film was very predictable.

   One thing I do want to mention is the tone J.A. Bayona has given this film. He's done a few horror-type films in the past and he's brought some of that here which I think worked. But what I was really impressed with was how much it felt like a Jurassic film, in terms of sound design and set design; especially the opening scene, which is my favorite sequence of the entire movie, it really felt like something out of the 1993 original.

   Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is quite different and experimental for the franchise but in the context of films as a whole, it's rather unoriginal and predictable. In the end, I'd say perhaps my own expectations and connection to the franchise were too high but I am looking forward to where the next one goes. 

7/10

Monday, 4 June 2018

OJ's Movie Review - Solo: A Star Wars Story

The second Star Wars anthology film has arrived after a very rocky production period. But did it survive?

   From the beginning, I don't think fans were particularly looking forward to this movie. Then Phil Lord and Chris Miller were attached and we had hope, and then they were infamously unattached and it was at that moment we knew this wasn't going to go well. But seasoned director Ron Howard does, however, manage to deliver a cohesive and quite entertaining film despite the problems. It certainly wasn't like 2015's Fant4stic where it was incredibly obvious that the studio had chopped and refilmed 50% of the movie which ended up a complete disastrous mess. Here, Solo keeps continuity and kept me entertained, at least on a first watch anyway.

   The story was as you would expect a Han Solo origin movie to be; we have our main man played surprisingly well by Alden Ehrenreich, he starts a smuggler's life, meets Chewie and has a bit of an adventure in a fresh Millenium Falcon. There aren't any real problems in the plot really; it's just a paint-by-numbers Star Wars movie. So I think watching it for the first time you can enjoy it on the very base fact you're in this universe again which is fun and we do get an interesting look at the underbelly of society a bit more than we're used to. I've not rewatched it yet but to be honest, I don't feel the need to for a while; it was a checklist of various Han Solo attributes and how he aquired them and now I know, I don't feel any different about the character really. So plot-wise I'd say they played it safe which doesn't surprise me after the controversial Last Jedi, but there are a few narrative points they could've have fleshed out a bit more and I personally wasn't a big fan of the ending.

   The cast I actually enjoyed quite a lot. As I mentioned Ehrenreich plays Solo pretty well, I mean he's no carbon copy but he didn't have to be. He still has the odd familiar mannerism and way he says certain things which I liked but he still had his own sort of personality in there too. We have Paul Bettany in there as our villain and I actually liked him a lot; he was a sort of gangster boss who was serious but also a little unhinged which made me chuckle a few times so that was entertaining. And then we have Woody Harrelson's character who was okay but could really have been played by anyone. Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Social Justice Warrior of a droid was played well I thought but I wasn't a huge fan of the way they went with it - there seems to be a lot of sassy droids in this universe. A great character was Lando Calrissian played by Donald Glover; he was great, and really felt like a young Billy Dee Williams but really didn't have as much screentime as I would've thought.

   I would like to mention that the musical score I really enjoyed, especially whenever the Marauder characters appeared, I really liked what John Powel composed for those scenes. And also the practical effects were really impressive. They didn't look fake but they also had the same sort of feel and vibe as the original trilogy so those two aspects really added to my personal enjoyment.

In the end, I'd say I genuinely enjoyed Solo: A Star Wars Story but really I don't think was necessary at all and probably one to skip for the layman. I hope LucasFilm don't continue to do origins for well-known characters and rather expand on lesser-known stories like Rogue One or how about completely new ones? That's an idea.

7/0




Monday, 14 May 2018

OJ's Movie Review - Avengers: Infinity War

Well here it is, finally. 10 years and 18 films; and Thanos demands our silence.

So Avengers: Infinity War, as you probably know, is the third Avengers film and 19th overall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We finally see the big villain come to fruition, that was teased oh so long ago in 2012. So what did I like?

   Quite a lot actually. I mean I knew I would; just the mere visual of all these characters coming together from all these different films I knew would be exciting. And it was. Seeing the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy together at the same time, seeing Bruce Banner meet T'Challa, seeing Loki interact with Thanos - it was all as great as I imagined. It really is quite the unprecedented spectacle that Kevin Feige and all those at Marvel Studios have put together. All the actors were on top-form of course and some of the new additions were instantly iconic and interesting.

Plot-wise, I'd say this film is very fast-paced and non-stop. If you think of something like Nolan's Dunkirk, it just starts, straight into events and things happen and they don't stop until credits roll. This is similar. There isn't much of a build up, no time for exposition on ten-years worth of movies. If you are going to see Avengers: Infinity War then you need to have watched all, or at least the majority of the previous films. This movie is for the fans and it knows it. There is time for exposition on Thanos, however. A lot of this is very much a Thanos movie. He is definitely one of the best Marvel villains and you really feel a sense of anxiety and uncomfortableness whenever he is onscreen, and a lot of that is down to Josh Brolin's amazing motion-capture performance. His motives are clear, and you may even feel sympathetic for him at points. So this movie has an intense narrative for sure and some very dark moments and also very emotional ones, but it still has that brilliant Marvel humor we love; it has some of the best lines of the franchise that made me laugh out loud.

If I had to pick some faults with the film then I would have to say that some characters had less screen time than I was expecting. And to be honest, it's almost unavoidable with essentially 30-odd people who's back-story we've seen and enjoyed. I'd say mostly Captain America and Black Panther and some who were with them got the short straw this time but we did have Civil War so I'm not complaining too much.

Another negative for me is that come of the CGI was a little off. All the characters look great, especially Thanos, but at times there were some real cringy shots, one particular of the Hulkbuster near the end. One or two other points I can't mention because of spoilers I wasn't such a fan of but they really are only minor things and personal preferences.

In the end, I'd say Avengers: Infinity War lived up to the hype for me; it had some incredible surprises, and iconic moments, including post-credits. I can't wait to see what's next.

8.5/10



Thursday, 15 February 2018

OJ's Movie Review - Black Panther

You think you know the superhero genre; it's tropes, it's format, it's message. And we can enjoy that. It's what we go and see them for. But then directors like the Russo brothers, Taika Watiti, and now Ryan Coogler come along and say "Hey, let me have a go." 

  What did I like about Black Panther? I liked the fact that Coogler wanted to bring his own team on board, his writers, his editors, his sound mixers, his crew that he'd worked with on his other films because that really shows. You could tell they put effort into getting the African setting just right. The Wakandan culture they developed felt engaging and real by their use of music, costuming, and aesthetic inspired by real African tribes. So on a directing front, I really cannot fault this film for standing out.
  
   Story-wise, we're given a royal family drama that somehow takes us into a James Bond feel at times and then leaves us with interesting political commentary all inside a Marvel movie with special herbs and robot arms. All of this surprisingly works well together and it really didn't feel like a two-hour film. I was invested from beginning to end and that was certainly helped by the amazing cast.

   Chadwick Boseman stars as the main character T'Challa and his stoic portrayal of this intelligent new king really makes for a different sort of superhero. He was one of my highlights in Captain America: Civil War and to see him here continues that enjoyment and proves to be one of my new favorite heroes. I wish I could mention all the cast because each one really did great. Letitia Wright as his sister Shuri was really entertaining, Danai Gurira was both intimidating, powerful and also funny. Andy Serkis looked like he was having a blast returning as Klaue and is just a joy to watch. Even Sterling K. Brown from American Crime Story only had a small role but was really worth it.

Now, this film is getting a lot of praise, and deservedly so, but I will point out that it's not without problems for me personally. First I'd say that the villain, Erik Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, while good and had a really strong argument for his motivations, I felt needed a little more fleshing out. He only really starts doing things half-way through the movie. We are told things about his life but never really shown. Don't get me wrong, he's one of the better Marvel villains and a lot of what he says becomes the commentary that you're left thinking about but he does join the list of Marvel villains who end up fighting in the same suit with the same skill-set as the hero. And then a final issue was that some of the CGI wasn't as good as it perhaps could've been, especially towards the end.

But as a conclusion. I think Black Panther is one of the best Marvel films to date. It means different things to different people, and Ryan Coogler and his team really put their own stamp on it. I look forward to seeing these characters again in the future and will be following whatever the only 32-year-old director will do next.

9/10

Monday, 5 February 2018

OJ's Movie Review - The Cloverfield Paradox

Time for J.J. Abram's unorthodox franchise to return for another curious outing.

So The Cloverfield Paradox is the third film in the anthological series, following 2008's Cloverfield, and 2016's 10 Cloverfield Lane. I have to say I've been keeping my eye on this film for a while and I knew that marketing would be unusual like the others but to release a 30-second teaser at the Superbowl and then drop the film on Netflix a few hours later was not quite what I expected.

   I'll start with what I enjoyed. The Cloverfield Paradox boasts a pretty good cast, I genuinely enjoy seeing a lot of the people here. After seeing Captain America: Civil War, I was really impressed with Daniel Brühl's performance and here in this film, I once again enjoyed seeing his acting, this time as physicist Schmidt. David Oyelowo I think is a great actor and have followed his work since I really noticed him in Jack Reacher. Elizabeth Debicki and Chris O'Dowd, again, I thought did really great in their roles; O'Dowd is usually the funny man character so I was worried how he was going to fit in this sci-fi thriller but he really worked, still being used as the comic relief but in a genuinely entertaining way and fitting in with the context of the events. Our main hero is played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and although I had to scan her filmography to realize I had seen some of her previous work, I really thought she did a good job here and enjoyed her performance.

  Now, it's fairly known that this film used to be a completely singular film called God Particle and that during production it was taken over and converted into a Cloverfield entry. Now I have problems with this concept in itself but as it seemed to work out for 10 Cloverfield Lane, I hoped the same would be true here. But no. What has ended up here is that a standard, but pretty good, sci-fi film has been injected with extremely forced Cloverfield connections. All the scenes and plot elements that occur on the space station I really enjoyed, there were genuine creepy moments, really tense action sequences and interesting concepts. But all throughout we kept cutting back to this guy on Earth whose whole role was to remind you that the movie was taking place at the same time as the 2008 film. These scenes and an exposition dump at the beginning just felt so forced that it really let it down. 

I really want to be onboard for the Cloverfield franchise and the first two films I thought were average and fantastic, respectively. And here I really liked everything to do with what remained of God Particle, but if Paramount keeps hijacking films during production and forcing them to be part of this, then it's just going to get even messier. In the end, I'll say I was ultimately disappointed but wasn't at all bored during the film and I was entertained for the most part so I'll give it...

7/10

Thursday, 21 December 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Episode VIII is upon us and it's time to find out if all our Snoke theories were right.

So Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a massive film back in 2015, became one of the highest grossing films of all time and was mainly well-received with the common criticism being that it was too similar to A New Hope. Here in The Last Jedi, that criticism is nowhere to be found. I admit, some moments were very similar to past films but as a whole this a very different sort of Star Wars.

Plot-wise, I can't say much because frankly I didn't know much going in and that's the best way to see it. It essentially takes place directly after the previous film so you know some of it will be set on that island with Rey and Luke. I have to say those scenes were some of my favorites in the entire film; I can't believe how perfectly Mark Hamill has become Luke Skywalker again, his acting was on top form and dare I say, this was one of his best performances. His arc was an interesting and controversial one but I enjoyed it a lot and am glad he returned to the franchise. Daisy Ridley's Rey was also a joy to watch again but despite being in a two-and-a-half hour film, I feel her character needs a little more development; I mean there is an arc for her in this and I was drawn in by it but I almost feel she was a little short-changed in the third act. Just some other comments on the cast, I'd say I thought Carrie Fisher did a much better job here than I felt she performed in The Force Awakens and was glad to see her do such a great performance in her last film. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are back and although they did a fine job acting, I thought the Poe Dameron character became less likable to me for some reason. Laura Dern's Admiral Holdo was a surprisingly interesting character and lead to one of the most amazing scenes I've seen in a Star Wars film, no small part down to director Rian Johnson as well. And the final actor I will mention, and possibly becoming one of my favorite characters is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren; wow this guy can act. He stole some great scenes and I really want to look into more of his filmography.

As I said, Rian Johnson directed this film and you really can tell he's doing something different. Some of the camera work is beautiful and has reached a higher artistic level for the Star Wars franchise. He also wrote the film as well and I think that's where a lot of the fan divisiveness has come from. Rian makes some strong story decisions that affect some beloved characters as well as the greater Universe. I myself am onboard with most of his decisions but one or two did annoy me however I'll see if I feel the same way after Episode IX. The third act of the film though is by far the best part of the whole movie, I had no idea what to expect and it delivered some moments that are sure to become iconic.

I'll talk about some of the problems I had with the film now. One minor thing straight off the bat is that some of the humor was a little modern and not very Star Warsy; there is a joke almost right at the start and it did not work for me at all. Another problem I had was the Finn & Rose plot, not the plot itself, I enjoyed where they went and what they did, but the message and moral it tried to give, although good, was a little heavy-handed and not really what I expected in a Star Wars film. And finally, the main thing I did not enjoy was that some parts of the film were set on a particular ship with Poe, Leia, and Holdo and for me, those scenes really slowed down the movie and is a real drag on rewatch.

In the end, I'd say I enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi a lot more than I was expecting but I completely understand those with a more negative opinion.

8/10 

Friday, 1 December 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Justice League

So Justice League, DC's big superhero team-up movie. The franchise has had major ups and downs in only four years so where does this one fit in?

  I'll start with the overall tone of the movie. After the depressing darkness of Batman V Superman, this film took some cues from Wonder Woman and had a lighter tone to it; now I'm not saying it's gone all light & happy and copying Marvel but I mean they literally added colors to the screen and moments that made you smile and feel like justice was prevailing. So with that, I'll move onto the characters. who certainly added to my personal enjoyment of the film.

   I really enjoyed the League themselves. Bruce Wayne/Batman has remained largely the same since BvS but seeing him here just felt different somehow, one of my favorite moments of the entire film is with him on a rooftop near the beginning; it felt really comic-booky and how I perceive Batman as a character so I really enjoyed that. Wonder Woman again is a joy to watch and continues to be a highlight of all of the films she's in; her wise and mother-like attitude is really nice to see in this threatening universe. The new members I really did enjoy too. The Flash, while not always funny, was entertaining quite a bit in both his powers and story-arc. Cyborg I thought was going to be really broody and boring the whole time, and while he is a serious character, his struggle with his situation and the power-set that he has was really engaging and unexpected. Aquaman was a really fun-loving brawler kind of guy and although I enjoyed his presence I hope more of his character is fleshed out in his upcoming solo film.

   Story-wise, Justice League is not deep or complex, and not too surprising. I think after the tangled mess of BvS, they took a safe route and a bit of a breather with the simpleness of the plot. I didn't mind that at all and welcomed it but I know many will not enjoy the "nothingness" of the story. Part of that has to do with the villain and to be honest, he's not a deeply developed character; another big CGI guy with an army of faceless expendable drones makes for uninteresting stakes. One aspect of the film does involve Superman though, and that's not a spoiler as he's in the trailers and it's no secret. Now I thought his initial return in the film was quite unsatisfactory and it definitely felt like some things had been cut but as the film went on I started to really enjoy seeing him again, especially towards the end. I'd say as far as overall plot goes, it's fairly generic but Zack Snyder's directing does make some interesting visuals along the way.

Another negative I'll point out is the script. Now I know the unfortunate circumstances of why Joss Whedon was brought in to finish the movie and I'm glad he could, but some of the dialogue he injected just did not fit with the characters they were given to. Some of it worked, and I'm convinced Whedon did some good stuff in this but not all of it gelled for me.

In the end, I'd say I personally enjoyed Justice League a lot more than I was expecting but it is ultimately a fluff movie with not much depth and some terrible special effects during the reshoots.

7/10