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.