28 July 2016

The BFG review

I went into The BFG with expectations pretty much as low as they could be. I've loved the work of Roald Dahl ever since I was a child, but nothing about the trailers or TV spots for this film had me convinced that it was going to be anything more than an over-produced, dumbed-down version of a book that I've read more times than I care to admit. Any Americans reading might not understand this, but Roald Dahl is special over here in much the same way that I imagine Dr Seuss is over there, and the idea that one of his most well-known and beloved books might end up being the punchline to an already disappointing summer film season was almost too much to handle.

I can't explain how relieved I am to say that isn't the case. The BFG may not be a perfect movie, or even a particularly good one at times, but it's as accurate an adaptation of Dahl's book as could be expected - a quaint, fantastical, beautiful movie that wears its whimsy on its sleeve. And I loved it.

25 July 2016

Star Trek Beyond review

Like a lot of people my age, JJ Abrams' Star Trek was pretty much my introduction to Star Trek as a franchise. However, unlike a lot of people my age I've never been overly impressed with that film - it's a decent action/adventure movie, sure, but it's as dumb as a brick too, a film reliant on its own momentum to power through a bunch of huge logical leaps that the audience are required to take just for the basic story to hold together. I may not know a lot about the Star Trek franchise, but I know it isn't meant to be stupid, which is why JJ Abrams was always the wrong choice for these films. At best, his work as a director can be classified as "superficially intelligent"; at worst, "entirely brainless". We like to pretend that JJ Abrams is this visionary science fiction auteur, but even a cursory look at what he's done in the genre is proof that he isn't even close to earning that status.

That's the main reason why I wasn't outraged when Justin Lin (best known for his work on the Fast and Furious franchise) was announced as the director of Star Trek Beyond, something I'm now very thankful for considering that he's now helped make the best film of the rebooted franchise to date. Gone is the convolution and conspiracy of Abrams' first two films, instead replaced by a relatively simple story that - again based on my limited knowledge of Star Trek - seems to embody what the Star Trek franchise was always meant to be about: the idea that unity will always triumph in the end.

14 July 2016

Ghostbusters review

Anyone with any kind of online presence has probably seen some of the controversy that the new Ghostbusters has been embroiled in since it was first announced. Hundreds of thousands of people (mostly men) have come out of the woodwork in order to tell everyone and anyone that their childhoods have been ruined by a film they haven't yet seen, a lot of whom are making that overblown, meaningless statement based solely on the fact that the new Ghostbusters are - gasp - women. This is, of course, a huge insult to the original Ghostbusters, a film that only works thanks to the fact that the protagonists all have dicks.

Joking aside, the backlash aimed at the new Ghostbusters has been both incredibly vicious and far larger than anyone could have expected. Its first trailer quickly became one of the most disliked videos in the history of YouTube; comment sections all over the net turned into ideological battlegrounds; director Paul Feig has been on the receiving end of months worth of harassment. Ghostbusters is just the latest thing to shine a light onto an ugly, regressive side of the Internet, but when all is said and done? It's still just a movie, and an OK one at that.

7 July 2016

The Secret Life of Pets review

Illumination Entertainment's first film, Despicable Me, may have instantly marked them as a company to keep an eye on, but The Secret Life of Pets is just the latest film from them that indicates their early success may have been more due to luck than judgement. Gone is all the charm and originality that made Despicable Me what it is, instead replaced by a series of barely connected scenes that add up to nothing more than a significantly less effective version of Toy Story.

We follow Max, a dog living a cushy life in New York with his owner, as he tries to deal with the addition of a new dog, Duke. Naturally they don't get on, and it isn't long before the escalating battle between them results in both of them getting lost in the middle of New York city.

4 July 2016

Revisiting Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The first thing that most people will notice about Terminator 2: Judgment Day in comparison to The Terminator is its vastly increased budget, the opening battle sequence alone seemingly costing more than the entirety of its predecessor. If The Terminator showcased James Cameron's ability to work within his limits, then Terminator 2: Judgment Day is him showing us what he can do when those limits are significantly higher - it's an ambitious film, and one that almost entirely succeeds at what it is trying to do.

Set roughly a decade after The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day follows 10 year old John Connor, future leader of the resistance against Skynet, as he attempts to avoid being murdered by an advanced liquid metal terminator known as the T1000. Unlike The Terminator, which has more in common with the slasher flicks that were prevalent in the early 80's, Terminator 2: Judgment Day instead chooses to be an action film first and foremost, handing John a terminator ally in the form of a reprogrammed T800 in order to give him a fighting chance against the bigger threat of the T1000.

3 July 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence review

Independence Day may be director Roland Emmerich's best film, but that doesn't actually make it a good one. At best, it's just adequate - a mostly coherent story told by a mediocre director with characters that are, for the most part, purely functional. It's legacy comes more from the novelty it was at the time of release than anything else, and if we are being honest it's fair to say that Will Smith is, by and large, the only truly memorable or worthwhile aspect of the entire movie.

So imagine if Independence Day didn't have Will Smith. Imagine that it was bigger, and significantly stupider. Imagine that it was even less in control of itself, veering wildly in tone throughout. Imagine that it was badly put together, derivative of that which came before, utterly without charm or that earnest 90's cheese.

That would still be a better film than Independence Day: Resurgence.

Set 20 years after Independence Day, Independence Day: Resurgence has the alien species from the first film return to Earth in order to finish what they started. After an initial attack wipes out several major cities, it's up to the ESD (Earth Space Defense) to do what they can to stop the aliens from destroying the entire planet.