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.