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.


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.


Thursday, 2 November 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Thor: Ragnarok

The Thor films have been kind of average so far; can a quirky New Zealander change all that?

Thor: Ragnarok is the third film in its own series and Thor's fifth appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. This time it's directed by Taika Watiti and also features the Hulk as a main character. For starters I'd like to say I love Taikia's work; his film Hunt for the Wilderpeople is hilarious to me and any interview you watch of his is a joy to behold. He has a very unique style of film so I can see why Marvel chose him to inject some energy and humor into this series. And he does do that. Ragnarok is the most entertained I've been while watching a Thor movie but it's not without its problems.

  Story-wise, there is a very quick set-up. You can tell that Taika and producer Kevin Feige wanted to completely dismantle what had been built up in the previous Thor films. I can understand why they wanted to do that but just seeing mythology, characters, and arcs that have been established since 2011 be wiped away or brushed under the carpet was a little disheartening, and this was all during the first act. It was very quick and we were going from scene to scene and location to location very quickly mopping up old plot threads and setting up what this movie was going to be. Once that had happened, and Thor was on the planet Sakar, it became more enjoyable for me. The rest of the movie showcased Taika's style of humor perfectly and had me laughing out loud plenty of times. It did seem a bit like two films at times with one set on Sakar and the other on Asgard as the story kept flipping from one to the other but I was entertained enough with the characters.

  Chris Hemsworth has always played Thor brilliantly and we get to see a lot more of his comedic talent here. Mark Ruffalo is always a highlight of any film for me and seeing him here was great both as Banner and the Hulk experiencing this mad Universe. Tom Hiddleston's Loki, of course, appears again and although the character has perhaps lost some of his popularity since everybody loved him in The Avengers, I enjoyed seeing him because I like Tom Hiddleston as an actor. Two new characters I absolutely loved in this film though, were Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster who is hilarious; Goldblum barely has to act, his own wacky charisma comes through perfectly. And Korg, voiced by Taika Watiti himself had some of the best lines. I'd definitely say the characters were the best part of this film for me.

In the end, I'd say I really enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok. The story is pretty basic and some of the green-screen wasn't great during the re-shoots but I loved the aesthetic and the characters. I laughed a lot too even though I felt some of the emotional beats were lost due to quick jokes. I still look forward to following Taika's work and I'm looking forward to seeing where the character of Thor himself is taken too.


Monday, 14 August 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Besson and the Cries of a Thousand Critics

So Valerian is the latest film from French director Luc Besson. It's set in one of those enormous science-fantasy worlds with many aliens, technology, and bright colors, similar to that of Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, or even Besson's 90s cult hit, The Fifth Element. We follow two government agents, Valerian and Laureline, as they try to solve a mystery in the heart of an intergalactic space station inhabited by hundreds of species and cultures.

   As you've probably heard already, Valerian looks great. I wouldn't say stunning, I never saw a shot and thought wow, I could frame that; Besson gives us a cool aesthetic but as directing angles and cinematography goes, nothing stood out for me. When I say it looks good, I mean the literal things on screen, the bright colors, the alien designs, the City of Alpha itself, all visually interesting. I could pause the film at any moment and look around to see interesting details that are there, just having a small snippet of extensively-thought out cultures and worlds.

   Another thing that was great to see was some original sci-fi concepts I had never seen before. I haven't read the comic so obviously, I don't know how much was taken but there were ideas brought out in Valerian that I thought were really cool and engaging. One particular one that comes to mind is in the first act where our characters must visit a market, and the way they go about this fascinated me and the sorts of things they were doing I really loved watching.

   Valerian is played by Dane DeHaan and Laureline is played by Cara Delevingene. I have to say that Cara's performance was the strongest out of the two, she seemed like a real person in this world and I enjoyed her onscreen. Now Dane Dehaan, who's acting I really like and have enjoyed his weird, villainess characters in both Chronicle and The Amazing Spider-Man 2; but here, he tries to be some sort of charismatic, best-agent-in-the-company, womanizer and it really doesn't work. It's like getting Michael Cera as James Bond; so as much as I love DeHaan, I feel he was incredibly miss-cast in this. He and Cara had pretty much no chemistry what-so-ever. The rest of the cast were fine and serviceable but nothing outstanding on an acting front. Rihanna was in it however and she did just fine, I've never had complaints about Rihanna's acting and her character itself was really interesting in terms of her abilities but the personality bordered on annoying sometimes for me.

   Now as for the story itself, unfortunately, Valerian's narrative is all over the place. I mean, there is a story, you can follow the basic plot I mentioned at the beginning but there are so many tangents and entire scenes and sequences where I'm just thinking, why is this here? Lines of dialogue that make no sense and in the end when you really think about the end result, it was hardly anything major for the Universe or the City of Alpha itself. The premise had us believe our two agents would stop a world-destroying threat and they would have to save the Galaxy but it turns out it was like watching an unused script for a Star Trek episode; you know, entertaining enough, but nothing consequential.

  In the end, for me, the high-concept visuals don't quite make up for the all-over-the-place narrative and uninspiring plot.


Thursday, 27 July 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Dunkirk

In Nolan we trust?

So Dunkirk is the great Christopher Nolan's first film based on a true story, the evacuation of Dunkirk in World War II. No dreams, no memories, no sci-fi; and yet completely Nolan. 
   The first thing I have to mention is, of course, the directing. If you've seen Nolan's films and enjoy his aesthetic, his style and direction then Dunkirk hits all the right beats in that regard and more. I really felt like I was in this film. I felt like I was on the windy overcast beach, I felt like I was aboard the little English boat, I felt like I was clinging to the wing of a Spitfire. There was no Hollywood fluff, research had been done; things looked and sounded like it is. So like what I said about Interstellar, this film was more like an experience than a movie. Helping this, of course, is yet another amazing score by Hans Zimmer, using a constant ticking throughout and tense musical tones build up a perfect atmosphere.

   Acting wise, Dunkirk has a stellar cast with Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy, alongside newcomers like Barry Keoghan,  Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles of all people. But one of the interesting choices Christopher Nolan has made with Dunkirk is that there isn't a great deal of dialogue; there are conversations and lines obviously but mostly you have to engage with the film through visuals alone and that's where the actors do really well with their literal acting in expressions, how they carry themselves and reactions to things; all hard to do but I felt they all did a really great job.

  Now, something I have to say about Dunkirk is that it has a very unorthodox narrative. There isn't really a beginning, middle, and end; neither is there really a main character. I felt that this sometimes worked but other times I felt a little lost into where and when we were in the film. So although the film looked and sounded great, the experimental style choices Nolan makes with the story didn't always work for me. I admit I wasn't particularly riveted during a lot of what is a true-story WWII battle. The two best parts for me was the opening, which I really loved; you're straight into the situation and I just really liked first act in general. Then my attention was refocused during the last act which I enjoyed and the very last few scenes were really well done. Don't get me wrong, there were moments and scenes during the main bulk which I enjoyed a lot but as a whole, the unusual nature of the plot and restrained dialogue didn't grab me.

  In the end, I'm very glad I've seen Dunkirk because it is a very unique film. It doesn't feel like a move, it feels like an experience, like a segment of life, literally an event, which this was. I've thought a lot about a rating and to be honest I feel like you can't fit this sort of film into any sort of rating system really but for the sake of habit, I will give it one. Anway, if you're a fan of Christopher Nolan or World War II, or cinema then you'll get a lot out of Dunkirk; if not, then I'd be really interested in what you think of the film as it proves to be quite controversial.


Monday, 24 July 2017

OJ's Movie Review - War For the Planet of the Apes

Apes together, strong.

Well, here we are, a conclusion of sorts. I absolutely loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes; it's a film unlike anything I had seen before.  Dawn was one of the most intense, edge-of-your-seat experiences I'd ever had in a cinema, and now is the third part of Ceaser's personal trilogy. How did it go?

  I'll start off by just saying how much the apes look like actual real animals. Seriously, the CGI improves with every film. There are moments where if you told me that was an advanced animatronic head on screen, I would believe you. There's one particular shot of Maurice the orangutan where I swear it was like watching a close-up in an Attenborough documentary, they are that real. So that in itself blows me away. Of course, along with the expert VFX team, you have Andy Serkis and others doing their performance-capture work as the apes; the emotion and acting they manage to portray is incredible and a thrill to watch.

   Moving onto the story now, I have to say, the plot is what lets it down for me. For a film that contains the phrase "War for the Planet", the story is a very contained and inconsequential narrative that has no real bearing on the world as a whole. Sure, it has major points in Ceaser's life and the life of his tribe and what they have to face, and as a story there, it was a suspenseful, brutal, incredibly well-scored and acted film. But in terms of what I feel I had been led to expect, it dropped the ball for me. If I accept what the film is about though, and look directly at the what the plot was, even then, although it's not a bad film, it's completely unoriginal. What transpires from the second act onwards is everything we've seen before in films where a group of characters must escape somewhere; it hits all the beats of that genre and the only change it offers is the fact that it's with apes; which, to be fair, is a fascinating visual and I will never grow tired of seeing how the apes are depicted in this franchise but because Rise and Dawn were so different from anything I'd seen before I was not expecting this film to be so familiar.

  I mean there are more aspects about this film I liked a lot, including Steve Zahn's character, some of the little easter-eggs and callbacks to the 1968 film and Michael Giacchino's score, which were all great, and I'm not saying this is a bad film, it's just very unoriginal and falls into some cliches every now and again.

   In the end, War For the Planet of the Apes is an incredible step-up in film-making itself with the directing, acting and what VFX is capable of but for me personally the story was a let-down and I very much hope there is a next entry after this as I feel there is more to tell.


Thursday, 13 July 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Spider-Man: Homecoming

A Spider-Man film produced by Marvel Studios; a homecoming of sorts.

So here we are, the third reboot of Spider-Man, the sixth modern Spider-Man film, the sixteenth entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What can I say? It's actually really great! I enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming a lot, right from the opening all the way to literally the end of the credits.

   We saw Tom Holland's Peter Parker in Captain America: Civil War and there I wasn't too sure on him, he was very different from the film Spider-Men I was used to in Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield but here in Homecoming I really enjoyed him. And it's his difference which is what I now enjoy about him, he really felt like a kid in school and even though we don't see his origin, he's still really new to this. Although I like the previous two adaptations, to different levels, it seemed only after a brief montage did Spider-Man suddenly become very skilled and professional, but here in Homecoming, you can see he's an amateur through the whole film, he makes mistakes, he bumbles about and I really enjoyed seeing that; so for me, Tom Holland is great in the role. Another cast member who was absolutely fantastic was Michael Keaton; his portrayal as Adrian Toomes was so intimidating, never mind as the Vulture, that he is up there with the better Marvel villains, which of course is a common criticism of these films. He really had a lot of great scenes and some very suspenseful ones. The supporting cast was entertaining enough, Peters friends at school were some familiar archetypes but enjoyable ones and Zendaya delivered some lines that made me laugh. Robert Downey Jr. didn't appear as much as many feared and his number of appearances felt just right for a film about Spider-Man.

   Story-wise, I enjoyed a lot; the Vulture had really logical reasons for his actions and Peters arc was well-done with some quite dramatic and emotional scenes. The humor wasn't forced and I'd say the majority of the jokes landed for me. There were plenty of easter eggs and references and actually some of the nods to previous events really felt like you were part of large Universe and it was nice to see how the general public, as it were, viewed the Avengers, similar to how Ant-Man was a smaller-scale story and the villain wasn't looking to take over the world, it's the same here, a nice normalised perspective on an enormous Universe.

   If I had to pick faults with the movie, I'd say one or two bits of dialogue were very expositional in the way of not really needing to be said, and also Spider-Mans suit was a bit Iron Man-like which makes sense in the context of the film but I'd be happy if they did away with the JARVIS-type AI and the heads-up display.

  In the end, you probably can tell I really enjoyed Spider-Man: Homecoming and it's up there with the best of the MCU franchise.


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Transformers: The Last Knight

So apparently this is the last Transformers film directed by Michael Bay, but then again the boy did cry wolf.

   So this is the fifth, that's right, fifth, film in the Bayformers franchise; and this is supposed to be the beginning; they got a special writers room with all these screenwriters and story guys to build an enormous cinematic universe with an epic story arc. So let's see what they came up with...

   I'll start with things I like. This film had some interesting visuals for sure. The sight of Transformers in the world of the medieval knights was certainly something I'd never thought I'd see and I enjoyed the aesthetic if nothing else. In fact, the first act of this film I did sort of enjoy; but I'm afraid my enjoyment didn't last.

  This movie is so convoluted, stupid and non-sensical that I cannot believe how far it has come since 2007. Transformers: The Last Knight reaches a new low by having even more pointless characters that don't factor into the plot at all, introductions where the name of the Transformer appears on the screen in a freezeframe, Optimus Prime has at least 20 mins of screentime, and it ignores it's own continuity over and over again, even from things it set up in the previous film! The dialogue was either exposition or unfunny humor, and I use the term "humor" loosely as it seems getting sophisticated British actors Sir Anthony Hopkins and  Jim Carter to say modern slang and profanity counts as funny.

   Even if you enjoy the craziness of what this franchise has become, and you like the humor and aren't bothered with the plot, the actual filmmaking itself is terrible, from the constant change in aspect ratio to the very strange flashing end credits that appear while the film is still going!

   In the end, I did not enjoy Transformers: The Last Knight. It's still cool to see giant alien robots transform into vehicles, and it was cool to see Josh Duhamel return and be a connection to the first three films but there are so many factors that let it down for me that I have to give it...


Saturday, 10 June 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Wonder Woman

She can save the world, but can she save the DCEU?

   So here we are, back in the DC Cinematic Universe that, so far, hasn't been greatly received but maybe that's all about to change. Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot as the titular character and also boasts the cast of Chris Pine, Danny Huston, Connie Nielson, and Robin Wright. These all do great in the film but by far, Gal and Chris steal the show, their chemistry, interactions, and characters are a real joy to watch. Gal Gadot's Diana is such an interesting character as this powerful, but nieve Amazon woman experiencing early 20th century Europe. She conveys strength, humor, and emotion really well and looks great in the action scenes. Chris Pine is classic Chris Pine which is a bonus to any movie whether it's a science-fiction space franchise or a Lindsy Lohan chick flick, and so here in Wonder Woman, he delivers another entertaining character in Steve Trevor.

   The other cast include Steve's group of merry men he must team up with and I have to say I enjoyed them quite a bit, they each had a distinct personality and even their own little personal battles to deal with. On the villain front, I can't say much because of spoilers but I really enjoyed Danny Huston and Elana Anaya's evil duo, they reminded me a lot of classic 60s villains for some reason. And this movie does that a few times, it gives you the sense of classic movies, whether it's the nods to 1970s Superman or just the slowed down nature of the plot, Wonder Woman just felt familiar and comfortable.

   Plot-wise, as I say, had quieter moments and they didn't pack it full of action which made a nice change to the usual format; it really mad us feel for these characters and care when things happen. The beginning had a bit of an unsteady pace and the climax was a bit generic CGI battle but because the characters were so investing I didn't mind as much. And just seeing the aesthetic of ancient Greek culture mixing with World War I was an interesting visual in itself.

  In the end, I feel Wonder Woman is a real step-up for DC, whether it was the director, Patty Jenkins, the writers or a mix of a few things. The film isn't perfect but I'd be lying if I said I did not enjoy it.


Friday, 5 May 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I am Groot.

   Guardians of the Galaxy was a break-out hit for Marvel in 2014 and has since become quite a pop cultural icon. Well, three years later and we return to this crazy space extravaganza seeing the likes of Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, Groot and more once again. And it's these cast of characters that are one of the great things about these films.

  Chris Pratt always seems like such a nice guy and his Peter Quill character is thus an enjoyable one to watch again. I enjoy Zoe Saldana and even though a notable number of her recent roles have been in very similar settings I find Gamora to be the most interesting. But for me, the best Guardian in this film was Drax the Destroyer; he had the best lines and got the hardest laughs from me. The other returning cast did great as well, I can't pick a problem with any of Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan or Sean Gunn's work here; they did just as well as they did in the previous movies with perhaps one or two having to stretch their characters emotionally and succeeding. Newcomers included Kurt Russell which was great to see and he played Quill's father really well, I can believe that the two are related. Pom Klementieff was surprisingly entertaining portraying the childlike gullibility of Mantis and am looking forward to how she'll be used in the future.

  Story wise, Vol. 2 is very different from the first which was great as I don't like repetitive franchises but the plot wasn't as structured. It felt like half the story was focused on Peter and his dad and all that involved but then the writers had to come up with something for the other Guardians to do so paired them off with various characters and had them either sit around or have things happen to them for which they had to deal with. The final third was where it all came together though, as it would, and the climax was, although familiar in parts, visually unique and quite stunning thus making up for any narrative problems. And the Guardians films do have a lot of great visuals which is one of the reasons why I enjoy watching them.

   In the end Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 wasn't as good as the first but I'm definitely not saying it wasn't good. I laughed out loud, it was surprisingly emotional, and having five post-credit scenes isn't as bad as it sounds.


Friday, 21 April 2017

OJ's Movie Review - The Fate of the Furious

Ah, back here again. Back with la familia.

I do not enjoy films where over-the-top characters spout out cheesy lines after committing some physics-defying act for a generic plot. So why is it then, that every time I sit and watch a Fast & Furious movie, I come out with a great smile on my face from an utterly enjoyable time? The Fate of the Furious is no different and I never expected anything less. Vin Diesel returns as Dominic Toretto leading his team of multi-cultural criminals along with government guy Dwayne Johnson but this time Toretto has seemingly turned on his friends and is now working with a mysterious baddie.
  The cast, of course, is great. Diesel is on top form in his role as he has been for over a decade. Some of his other films don't do as well but this franchise makes up for it and it's a joy to revisit his unique delivery of lines. Johnson, again, is always a pleasure; he seems like a real nice guy in real life and his characters are always a bonus to a film, and in this case, Luke Hobbs, has some great one-liners which no doubt were the cause of some outtakes due to others cracking up. His verbal sparring partner here is Jason Statham returning from the previous film and he is the epitome of an over-the-top action star so putting him in this franchise was a genius move. The rest of the team were absolutely fine as well; Michelle Rodrigues and Ludacris are as good as they ever are; Tyrese Gibson is the same too, I don't particular find his humor funny but he is a staple of the franchise and so I'm glad he's in it despite his cringy jokes. Kurt Russell returns from Furious 7 and once again plays the shady government agent Mr. Nobody, and he does it pretty well. Nathalie Emmanuel also comes back but I really didn't see a need for her character; she seemed very pointless. The actress does great in the role but there isn't really a role other than someone the Tej character can relate to and then sit in the passenger seat during car chases.
    As far as cars go, The Fate of the Furious gives us some great car action, from the very first one in Cuba to the ludicrously horrifying chase in New York. I don't think the stunts were as impressive as the previous ones, such as jumping through buildings or dragging a safe through Brazil, but it has satisfactory action pieces, especially towards the end. As far as plot goes, it's fine for this sort of film; there was a twist of sorts which took me while to get used to and will have to see where it goes but ultimately the Charlize Theron story was engaging enough but not wildly original.
    The Fate of the Furious was another satisfactory entry into the Fast & Furious series and even though it had the absence of Paul Walker, due to terrible circumstances, I didn't feel the film suffered from it. I think I prefer Fast Five and Furious 7 over this, making it as good as Fast & Furious 6, in my opinion, but in the end, I'm always going to enjoy Vin Diesel using some special nitro to win a race to the soundtrack of the current popular electronic music.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Kong: Skull Island

Time to fund another franchise I guess.

Kong: Skull Island is the second film in the "MonsterVerse" after Gareth Edward's 2014 film, Godzilla. It stars a lot of people, including, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly as a group of scientists and soldiers exploring a mysterious island. I've seen the main Kong films throughout the years and I have to say I do enjoy the concept of people finding an enormous gorilla on a primeval island; I always remember when I was younger being creeped out by Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong and at one point was quite obsessed with it; since then I've enjoyed the 1933 original and even watched the not-so-good 1976 attempt. Now though we see a different take on the character, one set in the 70s, and of a larger world.
   I'll start with what I enjoyed, and first and foremost would be both the soundtrack and original score. Being set in the 70s, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts gives us some great pieces of music to accompany various scenes giving the film an upbeat, feel-good vibe, similar to that of Guardians of the Galaxy, or The Martian. And Henry Jackman delivers a well-composed dramatic score which includes some 70s vibes.
  Another thing to enjoy is that this film is full of really cool moments; scenes or shots that intend for you to be awed. Whether it be a silhouette of choppers flying towards Kong or just the animals and people of the island being framed through the Brie Larson character's 1970 era camera lens which makes for a really nice touch. Vogt-Roberts certainly has an eye for interesting and unique camera set ups and there were some great ones in here I really loved as well as some epic wide shots that you could just frame.
  Now unfortunately it's these amazing moments and "awe shots" that sort bring the movie down for me. While it's great to have those kind of scenes, you can't rely on them. Kong: Skull Island was visually stunning, almost to a surreal sense at times, adding to the island mystery, but as far as story and script goes, it was a bit underdeveloped. For the first two-thirds of the movie it felt like the story was just quickly written dialogue to get us from one cool shot to the next. The characters hardly had any development and surprisingly the most fleshed-out and interesting character was John C. Reilly's Hank Marlow. Although Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are certainly great actors and look great, their characters were very one-dimensional. Hiddleston's was a generic former military hunter/tracker man with convenient skills and Larson's was a photographer, and that was pretty much it. Sam Jackson and John Goodman are also great actors and have delivered some incredibly iconic characters but here even they almost seemed expendable at points.
   So although the film is let down script-wise and is quite unevenly paced throughout most of it the final third is really good as it flows much better and the creature is design is amazing. Kong looks great, as well as some of the other fearsome creatures that inhabit the island but the stand-out for me were the disturbingly hideous Skull Crawlers whose mere existence you were thankful were only fictional.
  In the end Kong: Skull Island isn't quite what I expected it to be but it is a great-looking monster-movie and even has an after-credit scene for those who like to get excited for what's to come.


Monday, 20 February 2017

OJ's Movie Review - The LEGO Batman Movie

Turns out everything is awesome!

The LEGO Batman Movie is, of course. the spin-off to the popular 2014 animation The LEGO Movie. This time, though, it's all about Batman! I didn't know what to expect when I heard this was being made but when those trailers arrived I knew I was in. I enjoyed The LEGO Batman Movie a lot more than I thought I would; it's full of so many things I wasn't expecting that I just couldn't help but love it. I wouldn't say the cast is as stellar as it's predecessor but the script certainly carries it along with joke after joke, and references and easter eggs that you're probably not going to pick up all of them upon first viewing. Not to say the cast is bad in any way; Will Arnett as Batman and Zac Galifianakis as the Joker are genius casting; the lines these two come out with are amazing and I just loved when each of them were on screen.
     And although a movie called "The LEGO Batman Movie" sounds like it's for kids, I think the older ones will certainly get a kick out of this like I did, especially if you're a film buff or a Batman fan. As I said before, the mentions and appearances you get in this are fantastic. But of course no film can carry itself on quips alone, The LEGO Batman Movie does have a story and although it's quite a familiar one and perhaps even similar in ways to The LEGO Movie, I still enjoyed seeing all the LEGO visuals and the top-notch animation that still looks like they filmed real LEGO pieces. There were some heartfelt drama in there too and I think it sends a good message which is what these type of films should do anyway.
   So all-in-all, I really enjoyed The LEGO Batman Movie, from literally the opening logos to the brilliant soundtrack, for me, it gets an 8/10.