Thursday, 29 December 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Passengers

Get two of the most popular actors right now, put them on a spaceship together, and see what happens I guess.
Passengers stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as two passengers who have woken up from hibernation on a ship traveling across space to a new planet, they are the only two who have woken up, however, with about nine decades to go before the ship reaches the destination. I've been looking forward to this for a while; I'd heard about the popularity of the unmade script and the synopsis got me interested, I resisted reading the script but as bits of news trickled in, I kept interested, especially when Pratt and Lawrence were attached as I enjoy their work. 
   I'll start, as always, with what I enjoy and number one for me with that is the visuals. The design of the ship, both exterior and interior are amazing. It's a place I would love to visit, from the information interfaces to the architecture, I really enjoyed seeing that. The CGI is top-notch, I don't remember seeing any iffy effects so on that front it's great; they blended it well with real things as well, especially in a sequence (which was in the trailer) concerning a swimming pool and gravity, I thought it was a tense and well-done sequence. So all together I'd say that Passengers was, in general, a good-looking film. 
  What adds to that, of course, are its main leads. Chris Pratt doesn't do dramatic often but here he had to pull off some emotional scenes and I can't say he managed all of them successfully but he gave them a good shot and delivered some quite unexpected compelling series of events in the first act of the movie. Jennifer Lawrence appears alongside and she does just as you'd expect, she's a great actor, looks great, she did just fine in her role. She and Pratt had good chemistry, I thought and enjoyed seeing them together. An extra cast member includes Michael Sheen as the android, Arthur, and he was one of the best parts of the film for me. He was the source of the majority of humor and his constant positive personality was very entertaining.
  Plot-wise, I felt there were three defined parts to it. The first act, was my favorite, it gave off a cast-away vibe and you could feel the isolation, perhaps if they'd have stuck with that a bit longer it would've been a bit more impactful but it was certainly the best part of the film for me. The second act slowed down a little, it was exactly what I expected from the film, going in; Pratt and Lawrence being a couple onscreen and all that entails from flirting to getting-to-know-each-other and all that. Some plot developments did occur, though, and it started to get going again and I was genuinely surprised at one point and enjoyed a certain aspect which I won't spoil here. The third act though happened so suddenly, it was actually quite jarring. There was nothing wrong with it itself, just quite quick and almost predictable. 
   And that's the thing with Passengers, it's not a bad movie by any stretch, but it isn't mind-blowing either. We've seen almost every element before. It felt clean, it felt safe. It was innocuous. There were some twists and turns but you realize the trailer spoils a lot when you're watching the film. All-in-all, Passengers was just OK, and that's it. 


Monday, 19 December 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Rogue One

A Star Wars story like no other.

Rogue One is the first Star Wars Anthology film, it isn't an episode, it doesn't follow the lives of a Skywalker. In fact, as you probably know but I'll confirm here just in case: it takes place just before 1977's Episode IV: A New Hope. I've been looking forward to this film for a while because I'm a fan of director Gareth Edwards and this universe in general.
    I'll start by talking about the cast, the majority of which I didn't know. Felicity Jones leads with her character Jyn Erso and from the trailers I didn't particularly like what I saw; the character just didn't seem likable and to an extent that carried over into the film at the beginning, but then as time went on they laid out a plausible reason for her personality and I grew accustomed to it very quickly and it worked for the story; Felicity Jones does great in the role as I've enjoyed her performances before in films such as The Theory of Everything. Diego Luna's Cassian Andor was an interesting character to watch, his internal struggle with the moral gray area he operated in made for some compelling scenes and Diego's performance I thought was great as I've never seen his work before. Some other cast and character highlights were Alan Tudyk's hilarious droid K-2SO, he delivered some great lines, but they weren't cheap jokes or eye rolls, he's no Jar Jar Binks; even though he was the comedic relief he also served a purpose and could defend himself when needed. Donnie Yen's blind Chirrut Îmwue and his partner Baze were a very entertaining and sometimes quite touching duo who had some great action sequences between them.
     On a villain front, I have to say I really enjoyed Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic. He came across as a classic Star Wars baddie but brought something new in his disposition and line delivery. His own arc as well was a compelling one and in the end, after some thought, you start to feel sorry for this guy, especially in the context of the other films. Now of course Darth Vader turns up during the film and that's what a lot of people were excited about (including myself), and so I'll just say that he isn't in it much, which I'm fine with, but I know a lot of people wanted more of him....Although there a specific scene that he's in that people are going talk about for a long time. So in the end, I really enjoyed the cast, perhaps with the exception of Forest Whitaker, who did fine in his role, but his role wasn't really needed; it just felt like we'd missed something, like there was more of a story there but was cut.
  Now talking of story, Rogue One, is somewhat predictable in the main arc because you know what it's about, you've seen what takes place afterward, but finally knowing the specifics and details is a real treat, for the most part. The first third of the film is very choppy, we're suddenly moving from one location to another super quick setting up each character and situation and it's a bit messy. When the plot gets going, though, it really picks up and becomes an entertaining series of events following these characters, that lead to an epic climactic third act. A complaint the film has is that the majority of characters weren't fleshed out enough and so they didn't care about them but I didn't find that at all; sure we didn't really get to know their history and motivations but just with the time we did spend with them, I really felt for these people by the end, and the ending itself made me come away viewing these people in a different way.
   The final scenes of Rogue One is truly one of the most memorable moments I've had in a cinema. From the choices the film-writers make regarding the characters, to the final five minutes before credits roll, I have to say that Disney certainly is in a league of their own. Was the film perfect? No, not at all, there are things I haven't managed to touch on because of spoilers, but there are also amazing things I couldn't mention for the same reason. As a conclusion. I'll say that although it isn't as streamlined or grand as your main saga episodes, it brought something new to the table and it worked.


Thursday, 17 November 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Arrival

I love science-fiction so when I see a trailer and there are huge ships, alien beings, Amy Adams & Jeremy Renner I'm in.

Now although I've just said there are ships and aliens coming to Earth this is in no way your alien invasion movie; if you're walking in expecting some Independence Day, Mars Attacks type scenario then you're going to be disappointed. Arrival stars Amy Adams as linguist Louise Banks who has been brought in by the government to help communicate with the extraterrestrials that have landed twelve ships around the globe; both she and Jeremy Renner's physicist, Ian Donelly must work out why they are here and what they want through their various visits inside a ship that has landed in Montana, USA.
   The story director Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer gives us is unique to say the least. Villeneuve's use of close-ups makes it such a personal and intimate story. His wide shots, including an impressive continuous shot, make the locations a gorgeous visual masterpiece to enjoy. All of these are scored amazingly by Jóhann Jóhannsson who's use of vocals in the music gives both an earthly feel but also surrealness to it. Villeneuve's decision when and where to use this music also proves well making impactful scenes and emotional moments.
  Of course the directing can't always work on its own but Amy Adams gives one of the best performances I've seen her give. I really can't expand further on that without giving spoilers but things like her reactions to the extraterrestrials and moments towards the end certainly tell me that this was a good casting choice. The other two leads are Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker both of which do a fine job; if you've seen their other work then you know what to expect here, they are both brilliant actors and play their roles just right but Amy Adams certainly steals the show in acting terms.
  Now for the plot of the film, I don't really know what to say. It's best to go into Arrival as unaware as you can with just the basic plot details such as the ones I gave earlier. I will however say that Arrival is one of those films that leaves you thinking about it for a couple of days. When the credits roll you just need a moment to ponder over it and piece together some of the revelations you've just had. When a film can do that I respect it. It's concepts of time, language, narrative and humanity is a lot to take in and certainly food for thought.
    I will most certainly watch the film again and upon second viewing I will see it differently than before with the knowledge I have. Is it the best film ever made? No, I've seen films that I have enjoyed a lot more and serve my personal tastes better. Arrival will definitely lose some viewers with it's slow burn quality; some may feel it drags and if you're not interested in the art of cinematography and film-making then it will feel even slower to you. And as someone who calls themselves a cinephile, even I was surprised at the gentle pace some of the scenes were going.
   In the end Arrival is stunningly beautiful with incredible acting and surreal sounds. It's commentary on stories is one I will remember and if I had to liken it to other films then I'd say some of the vibes I took from it were ones similar to that of Contact, Signs, and Inception. It won't be everyone's cup of tea but an interesting cup of tea it is.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Inferno

Look, I haven't read the books so I won't be one of "those people"; I'm viewing this purely cinematically.

Tom Hanks returns as the symbologist Robert Langdon in the third adaptation of Dan Brown's books again directed by Ron Howard; this time he must solve clues and escape organizations to save the world from a deadly plague. I always enjoy these sorts of films, National Treasure, Sahara, The DaVinci Code - they aren't credited for their quality but there's something about the ancient codes and puzzles genre that entertains me so I was expecting some enjoyment from Inferno despite it not being one of my most anticipated films of the year.
   And true to form, Inferno did give me Tom Hanks running around beautiful Europe solving clues but not quite as much or at least not as interesting as the previous two films; Inferno didn't really focus on the problem-solving tropes of the genre but gave us more action set pieces and character relationships, which is OK in itself but not what I came to Inferno for.
  The cast of these films though are always a highlight. Tom Hanks is one of the best actors of our generation so it's great seeing him on screen again and does some top notch performances, especially at the beginning of the film. He's joined this time by Felicity Jones who is more than adequate at playing the young attractive sidekick and has some good moments with Hanks. Another highlight to join is Irrfan Khan, I really do enjoy watching him in films since I was first introduced to him in Life of Pi, he is a unique presence in this film as the head of a shadowy organization and gives some welcome comedic moments here and there. Ben Foster, whose work I'm not as familiar with, plays the antagonist somewhat and was a convincing billionaire bent on ending half of humanity for the greater good. Apart from those the rest of the characters were fairly wooden and uninteresting which may be due to how they are introduced or lack of screentime.
  A major positive of the film though is the third act which is a tense sequence of events scored brilliantly by Hans Zimmer. The whole film is shot very quick-pace and some shaky-cam which didn't always work and the beginning was a little unsure on what to focus on but in the climax it felt natural and it worked.
   In the end I enjoyed both The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons a little more but all three films are higher-average at best with Inferno being the weakest.


Thursday, 11 August 2016

OJ's Movie Review - The Little Prince

I've had my eye on this film for a while; it's been to various different film festivals and even got a wide release in France but only last week was it finally released in the UK with the help of Netflix.

I'm surprised this film hasn't been promoted more; even if you haven't read the book it's based on (like me) the film boasts a fantastic cast with the likes of Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, James Franco and more. The animation style is similar to that of Pixar, which is interwoven with stunning stop-motion moments. So in general this film has a lot going for it.
  For the most part, I really liked The Little Prince. As I say, the cast do an amazing job, each role is brought to life with very unique voices and delivery. You can have a film with unknown cast and sometimes that works quite well but sometimes when you hear these voices and you instantly recognise them, it gives you as sense of comfort and familiarity; and the lines delivered by ones such as Jeff Bridges and James Franco make them really stick with you. Like a lot of good animated films, The Little Prince gives you a lot of mottos and life lessons to remember; some of the ones in this movie though, I felt didn't come across as clearly as intended. Something would be happening and I was left wondering exactly what it was trying to tell me, and that's the thing with this movie, there seems to be a lot of metaphors, all of which are presented beautifully, but are left up for interpretation. So in terms of cast and dialogue, I really thought the film was something special.
  I mentioned the animation before and I'll just elaborate. The majority of the film is computer animated and although not as detailed as the more popular animation studios can give, which is to be expected, the look and style were enjoyable enough and it seems like they took a few notes from Pixar, which is never a bad thing. The animation though is nothing compared to the visually stunning stop-motion sequences that are presented. It's nothing like I've seen before and was by far the most interesting parts of the film; a visual experience.
   I'll move onto the story now. The summary of which is a little girl moves to a new house with her very controlling, almost OCD, mother and meets her neighbour, an old man who has a hoarding problem that tells her about his supposed experience he had in the Sahara desert. The first two thirds I really enjoyed, some could argue it's a bit slow, but for me I enjoyed the storytelling element and the sometimes very real depictions of life spliced in with the wildly imaginative metaphors. The friendship between the little girl and the old man was a charming and entertaining watch, and the stop-motion story always had me invested. The third act however took quite a turn in the narrative, the tone changed somewhat and I was constantly waiting for some degree of explanation. I felt it got a little too mixed up into what was real, what was metaphorical, and it didn't quite give closure to some of the plot threads. According to some Internet articles both the book and the film try to base it's logic on a child's imagination so I suppose in that way it makes a nonsensical kind of way.
  In the end, The Little Prince was a visually stunning film with a great script and voice work but the narrative was a little shaky, especially towards the third act.


Thursday, 4 August 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Finding Dory

Never mind finding Dory, finding quality has been Pixar's struggle as of late.

So, as if you didn't know, Finding Dory is the sequel to 2003's brilliant Finding Nemo and we rejoin our main fish friends Dory, Marlin & Nemo as they go on an adventure in the waters of California. I really like Finding Nemo, I think it makes the ocean really interesting and encompasses the vastness of it really well along with giving us investing characters to enjoy. I was a little concerned with Finding Dory however as Pixar has only had success with follow-ups in the Toy Story series; both Cars 2 and Monsters University were average at best. 
  This sequel though, isn't too bad. Finding Dory is mostly an entertaining and well-made movie. As with all Pixar films, the animation is some of the best in the business. The sand, the water, the textures on the animals is all so breathtaking to look at (even more so in the short-film beforehand) that the visuals alone make the film worth watching. Fortunately Finding Dory also has a top-notch script filled with funny moments, really good life lessons and mottos, all delivered wonderfully by the cast. 
   Ellen DeGeneres obviously is the highlight as the titular character and she is just as entertaining as the first time we met her and you really feel that she is always so genuine in everything she says and does, you want to be friends with Dory. I actually enjoyed a lot of the new characters introduced also; Hank the octopus makes for a visually interesting character with him being able to change colour and manipulate his body and they allude subtly to things from his past which was a nice way to build the character. Destiny the whale shark is also introduced and I wasn't the biggest fan of her character, I felt the 'clumsy friend' thing wore off quickly and some things she did didn't make sense in terms of what animal she is. Her friend Bailey the Beluga however I thoroughly enjoyed, he had some great lines and entertained me whenever he was on screen, and proved to be educational in some respects with cool visuals. Two more characters I'll quickly mention are the two sea lions voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West; they were great, I'm always happy to see Idris in stuff so this was a treat and their scenes were very funny together.
   Moving onto one or two negative points now; the story has some issues. I really enjoyed the beginning and the majority of the main story but pacing was a problem every now and again. For instance, I won't spoil it, but the whole reason they had to find Dory happened so quickly and rushed it kind of felt they were trying to make a reason to call it "Finding Dory", if I were honest it's more like finding Dory's parents, which isn't a spoiler as that is the synopsis of the film. 
   Another point is that Finding Nemo took place almost entirely in the ocean which made the adventure seem that much bigger and exciting whereas here it all happens in an aquarium which makes sense I guess as they don't want to rehash the same things and try something new but one part did require them to cross the ocean and it made it seem as though it takes just a few minutes whereas in the first film it took the entire movie to get to somewhere much closer than where this takes place. And a final thing I wasn't a fan of was the climax. Now obviously it being a children's film I have to suspend some disbelief but the whole final bit just didn't fit into the world Finding Nemo set up, I thought it went a bit too far.
  In the end though Finding Dory was an adequate sequel; I was entertained and it was certainly better than some of Pixar's recent entries. Nostalgia still makes me prefer the first film but when you've been watching it since the age of five, it's hard to root that out.


Thursday, 28 July 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Star Trek Beyond

Space...the final frontier. This is the review of Star Trek Beyond. It's mission: to explore strange new characters, to seek out a well-written plot and hope for redemption after Into Darkness, to boldly go where the franchise sometimes has gone before...

In general, I like Star Trek. I haven't seen the majority of the various series but I've seen the films and I enjoy the concepts and franchise as a whole. I really enjoyed the 2009 reboot and even after seeing the sequel I came away having had a good time despite problems. So going into this film I was expecting to be entertained.
  And entertained I was. I really enjoyed Star Trek Beyond. Chris Pine again leads a spectacular cast who all do great jobs in their roles, making them their own while still channeling the portrayal of the original cast. Simon Pegg helped write the script for the film and for the most part I thought he did a great job. The dialogue was perfect for ones like Bones & Spock when they banter between one another, and although there were references and nods to the past it didn't feel forced and it wasn't overdone. Star Trek Beyond had a lot of moments where it felt like Star Trek, with just the landscapes, the technology, the story, I thought it captured the feel of the original series more than the previous two did.
  Two new cast members for the film included Sofia Boutella as Jaylah, who did absolutely fine in the role, the character could have done with a bit more fleshing out but acting-wise, Boutella played the action-ready alien girl well through all that make-up and was entertaining enough. Talking of acting through make-up though, Idris Elba is brilliant as the villainous Krall. I enjoy Elba in almost every role of his but a menacing alien baddie suits him perfectly with his voice adding an intimidating aspect to an already frightfully-looking character. Kralls motives and background I also found enjoyable and unexpected; they left a lot unexplained until the third act but I enjoyed his arc none-the-less.
  Just quickly I'll mention the visuals of the movie. The Enterprise looks amazing, as it should be, there are some shots at the start of the film I really liked, both inside and outside the ship. Justin Lin did an adequate enough job as director although I would like to see someone else take on the next installment.
  Talking about visuals allows me to move onto one or two negative things I felt the movie had; some of the CGI, where people were concerned, wasn't perfect. Space, and landscapes and spaceships look great but I did notice moments where people had to fall through the air or do something that needed to be computer-generated and it was obvious to me. Now another problem I had might just be my personal feelings but the very first scene of the film, I won't spoil, felt a bit off, like it didn't belong in a Star Trek movie, it's very short and I like what they were going for but the execution felt to me a bit silly. One last thing is that the overall plot is quite simplistic, probably not a problem for a lot of people, and it didn't bother me too much, but the whole story wasn't as complex as previous ones have been and if you thought about it then you could probably predict a lot of things that were going to happen.
   In the end though I thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek Beyond, it was funny, it was Trekkie, it was pure summer fun and I look forward to seeing where the franchise goes both through these films and next year's return to television with Star Trek: Discovery.


Thursday, 21 July 2016

OJ's TV Review - Stranger Things

Ah, it's been a while since I had a good binge watch.

Stranger Things seems to have come out of nowhere, I had never heard of it right up until they released the trailer last month. So if you didn't know, Stranger Things is a Netflix original series created by The Duffer Brothers and is set in 1983 Indiana where a young boy goes missing in a small town where strange things are happening and an unusual girl shows up. 
   So right away, this setting is genius. I never lived in the 80s but after this I really feel as though I was there, they didn't bang you over the head with it shoving pop culture references at you every minute but just how they dressed, their hair, the posters on a bedroom wall, it all seemed so natural and not gimmicky at all. The movie Super 8 did this to a certain degree and I enjoy that movie but Stranger Things seemed to make it more real to me. What added to it especially was the music, from the opening credits to the score itself, the use of synth music worked excellently to bring you this mysterious, fascinating and yet nostalgic atmosphere; so all-in-all they really did well with the setting and time-period and will definitely be checking out the soundtrack, all of which served as a brilliant backdrop to the plot.
   As I said, a kid goes missing; it's something we've seen many times in television and film but because it is such an urgent, fearful, disturbing event you are instantly following the case because you want to know what has happened and you want to see him back; so from the very first episode I was hooked and I was staying. Now the series is only eight episodes and I think that's a good thing; a lot of American shows have upwards of twenty and sometimes that can lose momentum and become very episodic, which works depending on the nature of the series, but I do enjoy a lot of British shows where they usually have between six and thirteen episodes negating the need for fillers and can concentrate on a good script. Here the Duffer Brothers have crafted a simple but very well written story that feels more like a movie; each episode follows on instantly from the previous with no recaps or 'Next Time' trailers so if you were to watch Stranger Things, a binge is required. The also know when to show things and when to not, they spent their budget wisely and paid wonderful homage to the Hollywood of that time giving you visuals reminding you of things like The Goonies and E.T. These callbacks also never detract from the plot and fit the story well; also despite the 80s adventure inspiration, Stranger Things isn't necessarily for the Spielberg audience with one or two darker moments scattered here and there.
  Now I can't do this review without mentioning the cast. Winona Ryder and David Harbour are really well cast as the adult leads, from the desperate mother who still holds out faith to the driven police chief taking on mysterious government agents. The rest of the cast are largely unknown including the main kids but they were so talented. Millie Bobby Brown and Finn Wolfhard being highlights having to display complex emotions and intelligent arcs. I wish I could mention all of the cast because they were so good, from Joe Keery as high school jock Steve to even the teacher Mr Clarke, each person had a life and character you were invested in.
   In the end Stranger Things is a really well made original series with some of the best cast, music and writing I've seen in awhile that also has some surprisingly good humour that made laugh out loud. I really hope the series gains traction because I can see the cast and crew going places, as well as a possible season 2.


Thursday, 7 July 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Now You See Me 2

They really missed the opportunity to call this "Now You Don't".

Despite the majority opinion I really enjoy 2013's Now You See Me; sure some of it doesn't make sense but for some reason I find it very entertaining. This year's sequel sees us eighteen months since the events of the first film and the Four Horsemen are tasked with performing a heist for Daniel Radcliffe.
   First off, you have to acknowledge the all-star cast here; I really enjoyed them in the first one so it was great to see the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman and more back on board. They all do an excellent job of course and get straight back into these characters who's lives I was fully invested in. After the twist at the end of the original I was wondering how Ruffalo's character would change but I really enjoyed the majority of his arc in this and it builds on what we knew of his back-story already which was cool. We did have some new characters introduced to us and they were just OK; Isla Fisher did not return as the female Horseman so they bring in Lizzy Caplan as this new magician and despite a bit of a rushed introduction she was surprisingly tolerable; her character may be a little irritating to some as she is used as the comic relief a lot which was unnecessary and I do think Fisher's character was more interesting but as far as replacements go, she wasn't bad. Daniel Radcliffe also joins this cast as our antagonistic billionaire who wants something only the Horseman can get; so yeah it's a plot-point we've seen a lot of times in film but hey, it is a heist movie so I'll let it slide. He was absolutely fine in his character, not quite as threatening as sometimes I think he was meant to be but once you get used to this what this type of movie is, he's more than adequate.
   Just touching on the plot; it's a basic heist movie with the Now You See Me glitter all over it so plenty of illusions and visually interesting effects. I enjoyed it quite a lot, plenty of action, plenty of tricks, the locations were interesting as well, quite international which I enjoyed. There were a few twists here and there but some you could see coming and others I wasn't particularly keen on. I know they tried to top the big reveal of the last movie but it didn't really work here; it seemed to struggle explaining what it was they were surprising us with. But as a whole the main story worked for me.
   Something, or rather someone, I did not enjoy much was a particular character they introduced as a relative to one of the horseman; his purpose was a little unnecessary and what they made him into just brought the quality of this movie down. He was more suited for some sort of comedy which unfortunately this film tried to much of. The first film had funny moments and Harrelson was our comic relief but now they've introduced two more "funny" characters and it cheapened it at times.
  My last critique is that unless you enjoy the first film and have watched it recently I don't think you'll enjoy Now You See Me 2 as much. It requires you to remember a lot which was OK for me as I have seen the original a few times but for a casual viewer you are left asking a few questions.
So in the end, if you didn't like the first one, you won't like this. For me it wasn't quite as neat and shiny as the Now You See Me but entertaining enough.


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Independence Day: Resurgence

Fourth of July seems to be the best day for an alien invasion.

Following the trend of making sequels to blockbusters from decades gone, Independence Day: Resurgence takes place twenty years after the original and brings back one or two of the original cast to play alongside a bunch of newbies at this alien-busting lark. First off, I really enjoy 1996's Independence Day, it's a pure 90s summer movie and a Roland Emmerich classic so I was a little hesitant when hearing of a sequel. But now I've seen it let's go over some things.
   I'll start, as I always do, with what I liked. I always love an alien movie so I really enjoyed seeing them here. Although a bit underused at times the alien parts of the film were by far the most interesting; they also built on what we already knew about them which was cool to see what they did with that. On the human side of course we have Jeff Goldblum back and he is a welcome sight to any pop culture fan; he delivers one or two memorable lines and in general is just a highlight. Apart from that I unfortunately have to say there isn't really anything else enjoyable about this film.
   Independence Day: Resurgence is a complete and utter rush from beginning to end. Almost every line of dialogue in the first act was purely expositional. It would cut from one place to another giving you all this information about the world, all these new characters and various things that would go by so quick I didn't have time to get invested. There was no chance to breath, no sooner had it started we were getting huge action sequences and then it would go straight to another. This meant that quite a major piece of new information to this universe went by very abruptly; before I realised what this scene, which in hindsight should have been a bit more impacting, was trying to tell me, we had moved on to set up another action piece.
  Characters weren't developed at all so I didn't feel anything for them when things happened. There were these three new characters, including Liam Hemsworth and they had this backstory but trying to keep track of everything and not having time to be with these characters I couldn't care less what happened to them; it was like watching strangers from afar. Two other characters were introduced and they were put together as some sort of comedy relief I guess but they fit more into a Pacific Rim sort of film. Now I like Pacific Rim a lot but there is a huge difference between that tone and the tone of the first Independence Day, which is what I was expecting here.
   The first ID4 was exciting, it had likable characters, it had tense moments. We all remember the aliens being very imposing and threatening; that scene in the operation room showed us that just one could be very powerful but in this sequel they were relegated to mere CGI cannon fodder. Perhaps if this wasn't a sequel; if it was it's own thing, I would have enjoyed it more. But because it is such departure tonally and leaves behind any sort of practical effects for CGI it just felt really rushed and it ended very abruptly trying to get a third film going.
   In the end Independence Day: Resurgence had a few highlights here and there but this time the king of disaster movies, Roland Emmerich, a man whose work I enjoy (yes, even 2012), has brought just a meaningless, disappointing sequel.


Thursday, 2 June 2016

OJ's Movie Review - X-Men: Apocalypse

A superhero franchise that's lasted sixteen years without being cancelled or remade! Surely that's some kind of record.

   So X-Men: Apocalypse is either the third, sixth, or ninth film in the series depending on how you're counting and stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence returning for a third time while bringing in new cast such as Oscar Isaac, Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan. The basic plot is that an ancient, powerful mutant known as En Sabah Nur has awoken in the 80s and wants to "cleanse the earth" of the weak and so the X-Men must stop him.
    As a whole, I like the X-Men franchise; despite it's bumps I've always felt it's had it's own vibe and personality and is different enough from other comic book universes such as the MCU and the not-so-connected DC properties. X-Men: Apocalypse continues in this and although shares similarities with other movie plots still feels like an X-Men movie. The stories we witness in this film are some of the finest we've seen in the franchise. The two biggest characters we've been following for years of course are Professor X and Magneto and each of them are so well-developed and incredible characters you know exactly what they are feeling and why they are where they are. Magneto's arc in this film is a highlight and from one particular scene in a forest you are hooked on his story and understand why he's doing the things he is. Professor X is great as the leader and strong-minded force who keeps the X-Men together and he really has some great scenes, especially towards the end. Another story in this movie is of course the one of the titular character himself, Apocalypse; his backstory in Ancient Egypt alone was a thrilling and well executed event and when you really see what he can do in the 80s I found him to be the most powerful and best villain they've had in the franchise. Just his voice, and mannerisms are so dark and menacing you really feel like he is an unstoppable threat.
    Apart from those three, other character highlights were the young Jean Grey, Cyclops and Nightcrawler who fit well into the story and I really enjoyed seeing them, and then of course Quicksilver returning from Days of Future Past doing much more in the movie including one of the best scenes of any superhero movie, beating that of his previous. Everyone else did OK but weren't really used as much; Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique doesn't do quite as much as she has done and never has her own 'action piece' as it were and then three of the horsemen, Psylocke, Angel and Storm each had one particular shot that was cool but mostly stood around until the climax where they still didn't have too much screen time.
   Effects wise, all the powers and abilities looked fantastic. There was a lot of CGI and green-screen during the climactic battle and for me personally I thought that all looked just fine. There were one or two specific shots which weren't particularly good in my eyes but that was it.
   Some problems I had with the movie was that, as I said, some characters didn't really have much screen time and/or didn't really do anything at all (looking at you Jubilee) and then another thing isn't really a problem as it is the ninth X-Men-related movie but X-Men: Apocalypse requires you to know and remember quite a bit of the past films and this universe in general, so it makes it almost inaccessible completely to the general movie-going audience and unless you've seen at least five of the other films a lot will go over your head and seem out of place. And as a final negative point there were two scenes in particular that pushed the 12A (PG-13) rating to it's limits which will be fine for a lot of people but I think some will be quite surprised at how dark they went.
   Other than that X-Men: Apocalypse is a really powerful and thrilling superhero movie, and for me one of the best in the series, not quite beating First Class as my favorite.


Thursday, 5 May 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Captain America: Civil War

So here it finally is. Since its announcement back in 2014 we've all been eagerly awaiting this Marvel milestone, lapping up every bit of news until today. So, what did I think?

   Captain America: Civil War has been called "Avengers 3" by some people because of the amount of Avengers that star in the film and it's a valid observation...until you see the movie. Somehow the Russo Brothers, with this huge ensemble cast, dealing with the Avengers themselves, adapting an infamous comic book actually make it still feel like a Captain America movie - which is great! I mean don't get me wrong, you see a lot of other characters and I loved seeing a lot of other characters but it really worked well continuing Cap's story that was left off in The Winter Soldier, which I really enjoyed because Bucky Barnes was one of the most interesting things about that movie and I enjoyed seeing him progress here.
  And talking of characters, there were quite a few to juggle about but the Russo's once again did an excellent job of not making it confusing or crowded. I'll just go through a few of them real quick. Captain America and Iron Man were great as always, Iron Man was not always his one-liner quip guy in this, he has a lot of stuff to deal with so it was interesting to see him in that light; now I went into this movie on the side of a particular team but boy if you don't start questioning your loyalties during this movie then something's wrong; there were points being made that actually made me see the other guy's side so I was happy to see both sides presented equally, after all it is a Civil War. Black Panther gets his movie debut here and what an introduction it was, he is a fantastic character who I cannot wait to see again, his motives were solid and clear and his third-party angle to the war made it really intriguing to watch, definitely looking forward to seeing Chadwick Boseman in his own Black Panther film. The two sidekicks, as it were, Falcon and War Machine were great to see again and do a lot more plot-wise I think so it was nice to see everyone used really well. Vision and Wanda were fine in their roles again, I think I preferred them in Age of Ultron for some reason, they just seemed more interesting then whereas here, although they were great to see again, I didn't feel as invested in their characters as I was others. Ant-Man was fun to see too and boy do we see him, I'm obviously not going to spoil anything here but he was definitely one of my favorite parts of the movie. 
  Now during all this Civil Waring there is actually a villain in the movie and for me, he was one of the best villains Marvel have done in their Cinematic Universe; I felt his motives were valid, his intelligence was shown very well and his scenes were just really interesting to me.
Just before I get into what I wasn't such a fan of I'll mention Spider-Man. Tom Holland is a great actor and does a great job in this, it was really cool to see Spider-Man interact with the Avengers and see him do his stuff. That being said, this Spider-Man was not quite what I was expecting; I don't read the comics so from just a movie-going viewer with the past five Spidey movies to go on, this incarnation was quite different in the way of how they handled him. I've been told it was the most comic-accurate Spider-Man and the best version they've seen of him on screen so I have no place to complain but for me it was a little jarring to see such a change from what I was used too. But I did of course enjoy seeing him on screen and really look forward to seeing him again.
 Now some things I wasn't so struck on. The first action piece; a battle near the very start of the movie just seemed off for some reason. I don't know what it was but it just didn't flow for me, I didn't enjoy who they were fighting and although it does set up something important a lot of it felt unnecessary. The first quarter of the film I'd say was very much a going from set-up to set-up sort of thing and was a little shaky script wise but the plot eventually straightened and it was great. Another negative I have was that once or twice the CGI was quite noticeable, in some of the action scenes and particularly Vision sometimes it wasn't great. And then something that wasn't necessarily wrong with the film but those darn trailers again. We'd go to one location and I'd instantly recognise it from the trailer so I knew what was going to happen, and that occurred nearly every time they went somewhere else; not all the time mind you, but quite a lot I was already knowing what scene this was leading up to.
  In the end Marvel roll out another blockbuster with one of the best ensemble casts and an investing, emotional story. For me it wasn't the best film they've done but a real strong shot from the Russo Brothers and set's up a lot of cool characters for the future.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

OJ's Movie Review - The Jungle Book

Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is about the seventh film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's book and we already know it certainly isn't the last. So how does this one fare?

As with most people, I grew up watching the 1967 animation and fell in love with it, so I was a little irked when I learnt they were going to make, what I thought, would be a frame-for-frame remake, but thankfully I was wrong! 2016's The Jungle Book, although takes a number of ques from Disney's famous classic, is certainly not tied to it; this is it's own thing and does well for it. I enjoyed the fact that I didn't quite know what was going to happen next, and seeing where Mowgli's adventure took him kept my interest; so on a plot standpoint it is familiar on a basic level but with new elements and expanded storylines it felt new and original with a bit of nostalgia sprinkled in places.
   I do of course have to mention the cast; they were all wonderful in their roles and superb to listen to but I do want to highlight three. Bill Murray is a fantastic Baloo which shouldn't surprise anyone, he delivers some great lines and he's such a likeable character, I really enjoyed his performance. Idris Elba plays a very menacing villain as Shere Khan and certainly gives this version of the character a very unlikable bully-type personality which worked well, although it took me a while to stop picturing Elba himself as I watch a lot of his live-action work. And then for me one of the most fascinating and unnerving characters was Christopher Walken as King Loui, he was so well suited to the role I always wanted to see more of him, the character had a huge powerful presence onscreen and I enjoyed that a lot. On a side note, Neel Sethi did a top-notch job as Mowgli with a few moments where you could see he wasn't sure where to look for these CGI animals but for the majority he did exceptionally well for his first film and especially one of this sort with very little to act with.
  I just want to quickly mention the music now; the score is absolutely fantastic, from the very opening scenes giving you a rush of familiarity to the wonderful new sounds John Debney scores over the jungle, it was really a pleasure to listen to. Now the music also segways into some problems I had with the movie...
  I don't think it's a spoiler to say that a few songs from Disney's animated classic make it into this movie, but I'd like to say I enjoyed the first one they did as it was more of a bantering back-and-forth type of singing without going full musical which I think works better in this live-action setting; the second song they did though I didn't feel flowed as well, almost jarring to a point as it seemed a little off, but that's just me personally. And the third one was my favorite but that wasn't present during the film itself, so sit back and enjoy some of the credits when you watch.
  Another negative for me personally was some of the portrayal of this world. They had super-realistic animals doing sometimes very animal behaviours and and they cleverly combined that with some of the script and humour but once or twice the cartoony sequences I felt didn't quite gel with the visual realism I was seeing.
  In the end, The Jungle Book was a fun movie with great story, character and music but had one or two moments of iffy CGI and creative choices. I think it will definitely be the definitive 'Jungle Book' for a lot of kids and look forward to seeing the announced sequel and Andy Serkis' take on the book in a few years.


Thursday, 31 March 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

After three years we finally have the Justice League prequel that we didn't really ask for but went along with anyway.

It seems like we've been waiting for this movie for ages; 2016 seemed like the distant future but now it's here and we're finally seeing Batman and Superman on the live-action big screen for the first time ever. So was it worth the wait? Is DC now pointing and laughing at Marvel? Well...
  I'll start with what I liked. The beginning of Batman v Superman was great. The opening scenes were shot extremely well, Zack Snyder knows how to make something look good this movie looks great. And then we get Bruce Wayne's perspective of the last act of Man of Steel and I enjoyed that a lot; it made it seem real and what it would've been like for a civilian perspective which made for some interesting scenes; so the directing itself and the camera work was really well done. And then there were two or three scenes dotted about I really enjoyed too, one including Holly Hunter's amazing acting in the Capitol building scene that was really tense.
  Another positive for me was Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor; I know a lot of people don't like his representation of the character but purely as a movie villain, I thought he did a great job and was very creepy and menacing; he also had this music that played when he appeared and that was great. Hans Zimmer once again delivers a fantastic score.
    Now moving onto what did not work. There's no easy way to put this, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a complete mess. It is so incredibly choppy I didn't know what I was supposed to be focusing on. There were at least four different movies in here; and they didn't really gel at all. There would be a scene following one character's agenda and then it would cut randomly to a different scene with different characters and I think OK, this is later on now but then after what felt like only a minute it would cut back to the first scene and I was like, "Oh, this is still happening". And it wasn't as if the scenes were related; the whole tone, the music and narrative would change. So imagine that happening with four different movies all at the same time I didn't know what to keep track of in the end. Random things would happen that made no sense and they had no desire to explain them or even hint at why it was happening. Even the characters of Batman and Superman themselves; did you think they had some sort of moral code? Some things that you think Batman doesn't do or Superman we've already seen can't possibly do? Nope, all out of the window without an explanation which made for just a really depressing movie; I cannot think of one scene where something nice or good happened or that justice prevailed or a feeling of satisfaction.
  And don't get me started on easter eggs; I'm obviously not going to spoil them but they were the most forced, shoe-horned, rushed teases I've ever seen. Things I was supposed to be excited for came out of no where and did not fit at all in what was happening.
  In the end, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a choppy mess with one or two distinct highlights and a good score but with a lack of narrative and so many moments it didn't need I have to give it...


Thursday, 24 March 2016

OJ's Movie Review - 10 Cloverfield Lane

Title, poster and trailer all revealed two months before it's release? I think I'm OK with that.

So 10 Cloverfield Lane stars John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. The basic premise is that a woman wakes up in an underground bunker where she is told that a chemical apocalypse has made the air outside toxic. That's all you need to know, that's all you want to know. So, let's get into my review...while sidestepping pretty much everything about it.
  First of all I have to give props to the director, Dan Trachtenberg; you've not heard of him? That's because this is his first feature film. I mean seriously, I hope this guy goes on to have a long and successful career. 10 Cloverfield Lane does not look cheap or amateur in any way despite only having about a $15,000,000 budget; he really only had three rooms to film in so it made for some really claustrophobic and uncomfortable moments, and even with a limited setting don't be surprised if your heart starts beating a little faster and tense up. As a summary of my introduction to Dan Trachtenberg: I think he's going places.
  Acting-wise; wow. John Goodman plays 'unstable' exceptionally well; when he's around you're trying to work him out and figure what his deal is and when he wasn't on screen I was just thinking "Where is he. Where is he". Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic as well as this woman who suddenly wakes up not knowing where she is or what's going on; but she wasn't some helpless wimp, she had a bit of knowledge which I think made things realistic. John Gallagher Jr. did well in his role as well; I'm not familiar with his work but he did absolutely fine as his character Emmet. So on an acting front I can't really fault it.
   Now with the plot, I'm not going to spoil anything because I think the less you know before going in then the more you'll enjoy it but if you're hesitant because you haven't seen 2008's found-footage film Cloverfield which has been called "a blood relative" or something, don't worry at all; while a connection is plausible 10 Cloverfield Lane is completely stand-alone. The narrative of this movie itself I think is very rare but utilises some familiar imagery which make for a thrilling experience because you do not know what's coming next.
  As a conclusion, I really enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane and it's refreshing to see this sort of originality and an upcoming director.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Allegiant

It was either this or The Maze Runner sequel, but what's the difference anyway?

So Allegiant is the third film of the Divergent series, an adaptation from one of the many teen post-apocalyptic novels. As I said in my Insurgent review I really enjoyed the first movie, it was very entertaining and it had a good story and characters and the second one I thought was very weak and it didn't really seem to know where it was going until the last act.
  Allegiant picks up not long after it's predecessor and follows Tris, Four and a few others venture out beyond the wall. I'll start with the things I liked about the movie; the cast for one thing are still great. I think Shailene Woodley and Theo James still do excellently as their characters and despite Miles Teller's off-screen persona I enjoy watching him act. A new addition to the franchise is Jeff Daniels who looked like he came straight from The Martian to play the same character, but he suits that type of person so I enjoyed his role here. Another thing I always enjoy with these movies is the world building; I like the look and design of both sides of the wall and find it visually interesting every time I see it.
  Some things that didn't work for me in this movie now. The special effects for some reason, I don't remember it in the previous two films but here quite a lot of the CGI was really noticeable; some of the green screen didn't blend in to well and the flying vehicles sometimes looked a bit video-game quality. It didn't detract too much but it certainly took me out of the movie once or twice.
  Now I have to say the plot was handled better than Insurgent as it had more of a story and actually did things but overall it just didn't seem as big. Amongst the choppiness, Insurgent had tense simulations and a huge reveal at the end but Allegiant seemed just....Okay. It was comfortable, it was mellow, it didn't seem as impacting or meaningful. Also there were some major points that they kind of just brushed over; scenes and reveals I thought were integral to this world were shown or mentioned but nobody seemed to be that bothered and just accepted it.
  In the end although Allegiant was better that Insurgent in the sense of pacing and I enjoyed the landscapes and technology they showed, it didn't quite have the level of interest for me and the climax felt like something you'd see in a TV series.