Movies – Kong: Skull Island Review (or “Unsurprisingly Clichéd”

March 22, 2017

It’s fair to say that Kong: Skull Island is an unremarkable movie.

Though the premise is decent and there’s nothing particularly bad about its execution, I left with the feeling that almost no effort went into the development of the plot.

Or to put it another way, while someone probably got paid handsomely for writing the movie, just about anyone off the street could have done a similar job in their sleep.

As I watched it, I just felt like I’d seen it all before and could have ticked off everything that happened on a pre-made cliché sheet.

For example, we have..

  • The scientific expedition where one person knows more than they’ve let on.
  • That person then gets killed.
  • The handsome Indiana Jones style male lead.
  • The plucky girl who tags along for the ride and has no real purpose to the plot beyond a hint at some kind of romantic tie-up with the male lead.
  • And she’s got big tits, obviously.
  • The military guy who starts to go a bit mad and turns into the villain of the piece
  • Samuel L. Jackson (almost) gets to say “Motherfucker”
  • The bloke who decides that for no good reason he’s going to sacrifice his life because he apparently can’t be bothered living anymore.
  • Someone who says “Oh and (insert name here)…thanks” which nobody EVER SAYS in real life.
  • The bit where after initially fearing the monster they soften to him for no reason other than for it to save the day in the end.
  • The monster represented as not anatomically correct (i.e. he’s got no junk).
  • All the good guys surviving.

There are more, but you get the idea.

I’d just like to see a bit of innovation, but I’m not sure that exists anymore.

Still, despite these problems, I suppose I should take the view that it was exactly what I expected it to be and so can’t be too disappointed.

I mean…that’s one way to think about it…

 


Movies – Patriot’s Day Review

March 5, 2017

It seems as though movies based on true stories are in vogue at the moment as Patriot’s Day is the third one I’ve seen in as many weeks.

This one wasn’t a learning experience like The Founder, nor was it particularly schmaltzy like Hidden Figures; it merely presented a recent news story for the viewer to experience.patriots_day_ver3

I’m sure most people – unless they simply don’t follow the news – knew about the Boston Marathon bombings of a few years ago, and so the narrative of the film will hardly have come as a surprise, but that didn’t take away from its drama and impact.

Personally, I watch stuff like this and think “Jeez, that actually happened” and get pretty caught up in it all. I see the impact of the bombings – the deaths of a small number of people and the permanent injuries suffered by others – and take it more seriously than any fictional drama.

Above that though, it was enjoyable. The cast was strong, it never lulled and it had a few moments that I would describe as ‘Punchtheairtastic’; the scene where the Chinese guy escapes and tells the police to “Get those motherfuckers” immediately springs to mine.

The one thing that stood out for me though was that Mark Wahlberg’s character was so obviously fictional. One single cop managed to be patrolling the finish line when the bomb went off and was also at the scene of both terrorist’s arrest? It was too coincidental to be true. But I think it was required. Without his character to provide a link between every major event, Patriot’s Day would probably have seemed disjointed. As much as it’s based on a true story, if it was entirely accurate to the truth then it might not have made for such a good movie.

Why they spent so much time on this fake character’s knee injury though, I could not tell you…


Movies – The Founder Review (or ‘A Film Based On A True Story That’s Actually Interesting’)

February 25, 2017

If you read my review of Hidden Figures earlier this week, you’ll note that I said that I enjoyed it.

Now that’s true, but while writing the review I had trouble coming up with an angle to approach it from, and now I realise why that was.

It wasn’t exactly ground-breaking.

Before the movie started, I knew exactly how it would pan out; these three women would face some adversity but ultimately would help play a small part in the launch of a rocket. And that’s what happened.founder

Now let’s face it, that isn’t a particularly interesting story, and I think it gets away with it because it is based on true events.

But should it?

I’ve now seen three films this year based on true events. Hidden Figures was good but hardly dramatic, while Jackie told a story we all know and in an attempt to be different presented it from a perspective that turned out to be neither interesting nor satisfying.

The Founder meanwhile is different.

It tells a story that I had never actually heard before and more-over it’s a story that I found genuinely informative.

It’s about how the McDonalds empire was created, and while on paper that doesn’t sound all that engrossing, it’s only when you sit down to watch it that you realise that you’ve never really considered a world before fast food was created. It’s something that we take for-granted now and yet there was a time before it was part of people’s lives.

I found it fascinating, and the way it all came about – and I won’t ruin it for you because I believe it’s worth watching without foreknowledge – offered up a moral dilemma about the business practices of Ray Kroc that inspired some debate between myself and my girlfriend afterwards. I still haven’t decided whether he was in the right, and I like that.

Of course, there are other elements that make this a great movie, not least the performances Michael Keaton (Kroc) and Nick Offerman and John Carrol-Lynch (The McDonald brothers), who bring some weight to their respective characters.

The only part that let it down slightly was the stuff about Kroc’s home life. It exists only to offer a sub-plot, presumably to stretch it out a little bit more, but I didn’t think it was touched upon enough to justify its inclusion.

That though doesn’t take much away from what I thought was a highly entertaining film and one that sets an example of the type of true story that studios should look to tell in the future.

It’s definitely worth seeing.

 

 


Movies – Hidden Figures Review

February 20, 2017

There have been a fair amount of cinematic releases over the past few years that have dealt with the lack of equal rights in the USA in the early-to-mid 20th century, so in that regard Hidden Figures is hiddennothing ground-breaking.

But each time the subject matter is dealt with, it’s still makes you pause for thought and consider how backwards society was not so long ago.

How true the events of the movie are is difficult to tell as it all felt very feel-good and schmaltzy – with Kevin Costner’s character in particular seeming to have 21st century ideals in regards to race relations – but that was fine considering the tone of Hidden Figures was markedly different to that of a movie like Selma.

I think it was just meant to be a bit of light fun with an underlying message to make you think, and if that is the case, it achieved it. I certainly enjoyed it, and felt the casting was pretty much spot on. The only area where I thought it suffered was that while it was meant to tell the story of all three women, the focus was almost entirely on Katherine Johnson. That’s not a bad thing as her’s was probably the most interesting story, but the adventures of Mary Jackson were barely touched upon.

As a final note – and I know I mentioned this last year in my review of Midnight Run but I feel the need to say it again – what has happened to Kirsten Dunst? She’s the same age as me, yet easily looks a good 10 years older now.

Worrying.

Anyway, Hidden Figures is good. I recommend seeing it.

 


Movies – La La Land Review (or ‘Worthy of the Hype?’)

January 29, 2017

“I’m probably the only woman here who has been dragged along by their boyfriend”, said my girlfriend as the title card for La La Land came on to the big screen today.

She wasn’t keen to see it, and as it turned out did not enjoy it. But then she doesn’t like musicals.

Neither do I really, although not as strongly as her. Sure, I enjoy Disney movies like The Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast that have songs throughout them, but if you were lalato ask me to sit down and watch a Fred Astaire musical or something of that ilk, I’d make my excuses and leave.

So why did I want to go to La La Land?

For one thing, everyone’s been raving about it, and even though it’s Oscar season and people tend to rave about movies that are in fact overly-worthy piles of self-important pish, the sheer amount of praise meant that I felt I had to give it a chance.

For another thing, Whiplash is one of the best movies I’ve seen since I started this blog, and seeing as it’s from the same director – Damien Chazelle – I suspected I’d like it.

So did I?

To an extent, yes, I thought it was fun, but there were elements to it that I didn’t think were all that good, and ironically those are some of the parts that have made it stand out to other people.

Or to put it another way, I didn’t like some of the songs.

The opening song on the freeway near LA was a bit cringey and the number about standing out from the crowd had me on the ropes thinking “Have I got to put up with two hours of this?”. Those types of set plays are just not for me, and neither was the musical style within them.

Eventually though, La La Land settled down into a proper story about two people – well performed as they were by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone –  trying to make their own pathways in the entertainment industry. It was good; it held up well and kept me entertained. The music improved too, with the piano stuff and the later songs – especially the one towards the end when she was in for her audition – being much more my type of thing.

It also looked nice, with the director making great use of colour in his shots. It’s one of these movies where the quality of the director and his vision makes a difference to what you’re seeing. In a world where bland CGI tends to rule, this was a welcome relief.

Finally, I thought the ending was refreshingly different. Without spoiling it for you if you’ve yet to see it, it’s not how this type of film would traditionally end.

So on the whole, I liked La La Land enough to understand why it’s been getting hyped up so much. Some of it just wasn’t to my tastes, but there’s no doubt it’s good for what it is.

If you like that sort of thing, go and see it. If you’re like my girlfriend and have no time for the genre, then don’t bother.

 


Movies – Jackie Review (or ‘Like Something More Interesting Is Going On In The Background’)

January 29, 2017

When I woke up yesterday morning – having seen Jackie on Thursday – I was saddened to read about the death of John Hurt. He was a brilliant actor who did such a great job in shows like I, Claudius and made a small but lasting impression in Doctor Who.

But before I read about his passing, I was about to write this review and say that “…even John Hurt was poor by his standards”. I wondered if it would go down well and be right to jackiecriticise the performance of someone who had just died and who no doubt everyone would be sympathetic towards.

I decided it was fair enough; Hurt was poor by his standards. It took me until he’d been in three scenes to realise that he was playing an Irishman, as if he only decided to put on the accent half way through. I was disappointing.

But then I was disappointed with Jackie in general.

It’s one of these bleak movies that’s clearly trying for an Oscar rather than looking to entertain.

Now I know that a movie about a woman who has just lost her husband isn’t going to be light or whimsical, but for me, the bleakness was slapped on far too thickly, with depressing and relentless incidental music played over almost every scene.

And whether or not she sounded like her or not, all I could see for the most part was Natalie Portman putting on a funny voice. It’s the complete opposite of Tom Hanks in Sully.

Most of all though, it just wasn’t that enjoyable. It felt like something interesting was going on in the background but we were being prompted to focus on the dull stuff. And at the last moment – as if they knew the film had been as dull as dishwater and they needed to wake people up – they finally show JFK getting his head blown off. That seemed very cheap.

So overall, I thought this was a waste of my time. On the plus side, the only way is up for movies in 2017.

I hope…


Movies: Rogue One Review (or ‘A Proper Prequel To A New Hope’)

December 16, 2016

From the off I feel I should warn you; this Rogue One review contains spoilers. It has to. So if you haven’t seen it yet, close down this page and come back again when you have.

Ok?

Has everyone who needs to go gone?

Good, I’ll begin.

I knew very little of Rogue One going into it. While I knew it was about members of the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans for the Death Star, for some reason I had it in my head that it would take place a few years star-wars-rogue-one-posterbefore the events of A New Hope.

But I was wrong.

And that’s the masterstroke of Rogue One.

It takes place right before it, finally culminating in a scene that actually leads in to the opening scene of the first Star Wars movie.

And in doing so, it has repercussions.

The first is that every heroic character created for this movie dies. They had to, otherwise you could ask why they weren’t in any of the original movies, and I thought it made for a refreshing change to what we’ve come to expect from Hollywood.

We now live in a world where the sequel is king. Nothing of any real consequences happens to the heroes in movies now because they are obviously being protected for a raft of inevitable follow-ups. But here, every character was expendable. They were one-and-done creations that had no use beyond this movie.

So they are all killed off and as a result, Rogue One became more believable and dramatic.

I should point out as well that I was pretty saddened by that despite loving that they ended up dead, because there were some great characters in there, from the Sheldon Cooper-esque K-2SO droid to the fantastic Oriental double act. These were some of the best and most well-rounded characters we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe, but like I say, they had to die.

Anyway, the other main repercussion that stemmed from setting Rogue One right before A New Hope is that certain characters needed to be a part of it.

Obviously Darth Vader was easy enough to bring back, even though he sounded very old thanks to James Earl Jones’s declining voice, but you’d assume that Grand Moff Tarkin might be a little tougher to replace seeing as Peter Cushing is long since dead.

And yet you’d be wrong. I was genuinely shocked to see that for all intents and purposes, Peter Cushing is in this movie. Technical wizardry – a use of CGI that is actually head turning in these days of over-reliance on computer imagery – means that they were able to have another actor play the part and then super-impose Cushing’s head onto him.

It was a bit freaky, but it added so much authenticity to the movie.

You can keep your constant ‘New York gets destroyed’ use of CGI, Hollywood, this is the proper way to use it!

Speaking of CGI, while I’m sure that it was employed all the way through Rogue One, what I liked about this movie was that it seemed like it didn’t rely too heavily on it. Maybe I’m wrong, but a lot of the sets, scenery and worlds it visited looked like they were brought to life with old-fashioned costume and set design. To me that makes a difference; it makes the Star Wars universe seem more complete than the cold and clinical CGI wankfests you see in the likes of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and the Marvel movies.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Rogue One had an interesting and engrossing plot and a sharp and at times funny script. That’s the most important thing isn’t it?

Even though it lasts for 2hrs14m, it didn’t feel like it dragged at any point.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the inevitable battle scene towards the end went on for a bit, but as I say above, the fact that it had repercussions softened that blow a little bit for me.

So, to sum up, maybe I’m biased because I love Star Wars, and maybe it’s that I’m still on an initial high from seeing it at the cinema, but for me, Rogue One is the best movie of the year.

I won’t bother saying that you should see it, because if you’ve read this far then you must have already.

So do you agree or have I been too generous?