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Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
A piece of trash that cost $165 million...
Independence Day, which first came out 20 years ago, has a venerable position as one of film's most enjoyable 'guilty pleasure' movies. Yes, it's cheesy. Yes, it's ridiculous. But damn, it looked good and was buckets of fun back then and still is. It didn't need a sequel, but I was surprised to hear when one was in production and was mildly excited at the thought.
I didn't expect much, we've moved past being wowed by fantastic CGI (indeed, people seem to appreciate much more the practical effects which are put to good use in certain films and TV shows these days), but I thought it'd be great to tune out and watch an even bigger ship and even more aliens again attempt to take out an extremely patriotic and stoic human race.
By the time I left, I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, feel anger, hate, one thing I did feel was ripped off... gone is the charm and appreciable cheesiness of the first film, what we have as a replacement are characters you can't possibly like, let alone root for, inane and predictable self-sacrificial acts that fell flat and generated no emotion whatsoever, scene after scene of horrible one-liners mixed with 'it was great working with you' exchanges of dialogue from the indestructible arrogant young army types and attempts at humour in the face of millions of human deaths, by-the-book disaster film rivalries that turn into friendships which also ended up turning my stomach, boring plot lines that resurfaced again and again which slowed down the pace of the main conflict, are immediately forgettable, add nothing to the story and went nowhere, an alien race whose entire existence is based on militaristic invasion with 20 years to prepare continuously showing their glaring ineptitude at said invasion rather than having humans fight back against insurmountable odds like the first film, a cheap-looking CGI alien queen with a shield that survives a nuclear blast yet can't take a few shots from an aircraft based on the technology from her own race who'd rather chase a busload of kids than shoot down said aircraft firing at her, a coma patient who wakes up after 20 years and can immediately make jokes and walk around with no sign of muscle atrophy whatsoever, a disabled, insane war veteran who can still perfectly fly a jet based on alien technology...
I could go on, needless to say if you see this, be expecting every disaster movie trope and cliché with none of the charm and likable humour of the first film, and just try and enjoy the above-average special effects. Aside from that, there's really nothing else there.
The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
Leaves you feeling good, and hungry...
See this movie if you love food, appreciate culture through cuisine, are depressed or simply if you want to see a funny, feel good, laid back, well acted film with beautiful cinematography. There is a lot to relate to and the laughs come regularly.
Everyone in the film is great however the veterans Om Puri and Helen Mirren are particularly good and have fun with their roles.
Slow in parts and slightly predictable but doesn't go for the 'cheap shot' in terms of drama, which was refreshing.
I really enjoyed it, and I wish films like this would come along more often.
Taken 2 (2012)
So the score is now Liam Neeson 30, bad guys zero. Seriously, at what point does the ultra-stereotypical bad guy go 'look dude, sorry for this whole revenge thing, I was miffed about my other son who really was pretty evil anyway but now that you've killed another 17 of my family members and a seemingly endless score of my inept henchmen, can't we just forget this whole thing?'
More formulaic than the first but enjoyable nonetheless as the Liam Neeson showcase continues. I especially liked the one-on-one throwdown with the short, podgy bad guy who turned out to be an ultimate fighter or something and was almost able to beat our hero in an entertaining Steven Seagal-esque arena fight to the death.
The Avengers (2012)
Joss does it again
I'm a big fan of Joss Whedon since Buffy days, love Firefly and Serenity, so when I heard he was directing an Avengers movie I started to have faith that it would be done right. Once again Joss didn't disappoint.
Leaving aside the obvious opportunity for ridiculously good action sequences that an Avengers movie can have, and this film has a lot, it was important that whoever directed this captured the different personalities that make up the team, and the way they clash. Joss has always been good at writing for his characters, which is why here he's pretty much perfectly grabbed each hero's personality. The dialogue between them is great and believable and being the fan he has been of The Avengers since the 60s, he has a good idea of their background and what drives and motivates each of them. There's some great exchanges between them as they work out their differences and when we reach the climax and they finally come together and work as a team... what a treat.
The actors that have portrayed their characters in past films are now set, you can't see anyone else playing the characters they play. They're all fantastic, work brilliantly as an ensemble and the new addition - Mark Ruffalo as Banner/Hulk is a great choice, bringing that air of a man who's come to terms with his plight and learned to be calm and relaxed, but with the temper just brimming below the surface. This is the best film featuring Hulk to date, and because Hulk this time was based on Ruffalo's movements and not entirely CGI, it's the most realistic Hulk we've received to date as well.
I'd also like to mention here that Joss is great at writing humour into his stories and this film isn't short of some truly laugh-out-loud moments. Anyone who's a fan of his work in the past will recognise his brand of humour in this film.
To sum up, anyone who's a fan of superhero movies will love this, it has everything you could've hoped for in an Avengers movie. It's great to see some of our beloved comic book heroes given their dues in some great movies lately, such as Nolan's Batman films and X-Men First Class and this film is up there with the best. I'll be looking forward to the sequel, especially after the sequence during the credits.
If you go to this looking for an accurate representation of Greek mythology, you'll be sorely disappointed. If you go to this looking for a decent, nice looking, 300-type action film you'll enjoy it. As someone who knows a bit about classical mythology I can choose to be unbelievably annoyed by them using it as a reference for this film, as it's ridiculously inaccurate, but I'm not.
Leave your smarts/knowledge at the door, enjoy the pretty action and people, the brutal violence and Freida Pinto in the buff, and you'll hopefully feel that you got your money's worth.
That's about it.
X: First Class (2011)
It's becoming more and more apparent when a decent director takes control of a movie series over one that's, well... not so decent. Aside from the action, effects, lore etc. we come to expect from a 'comic-book movie', this film has an amazing amount of feeling and emotion to it as well. Brilliantly written and directed, and with a line-up of actors that are a perfect complement (and they all do fantastically in their roles), this is definitely one to see if you're any kind of fan of the X-Men.
And if you are, you will already have a good idea of how the characters we know and love met, what shaped their future selves (of which we've seen a great deal, to varying success in the trilogy), and the situations which affected who they are to become and I'm very happy to say that while this film takes a few liberties here and there, you can easily accept them as they're inconsequential and the story itself is certainly decent enough to allow us to overlook the liberties taken.
Best to leave your expectations at the door with this one, especially if you've let any part of the trilogy affect them negatively. I enjoyed this immensely. Highly recommended.
It's no masterpiece, but...
It's refreshing to see something at the movies these days that's original, for a start. It all seems to be remakes, sequels, and generally ideas that have been done before with a couple of aspects changed to make them supposedly 'original'.
This isn't the most amazing film I've ever seen, doesn't move to the top of my all-time favourites list, it can certainly be faulted but at the same time I can't deny it was interesting, well written, decently acted and tells a pretty good, definitely original story. The last hour or so of the movie was brilliantly done in my opinion and while it got a tad predictable right towards the end it was definitely entertaining.
I feel that it sometimes got lost in itself trying to be too multi-layered, it was always going to be a fairly in-depth story but I felt certain aspects it could have done without or maybe done a bit differently and it still would've been just as good. I felt it jumped around a bit too much at times.
It didn't change my life or make me question my own reality or anything like that, maybe that's just me but I was certainly entertained and on the edge of my seat for two and a half hours by an original story and some great, smartly done action scenes and for that, I think it was money well spent going to see this film.
I feel like I've seen this before, it's done well and the material's pretty solid developing a confronting story of triumph over a horribly bleak existence, nothing really new, but the performance of Mo'Nique is truly amazing and really what makes this film stand out.
She is captivating, grabbing and wrenching at every scene she's in until just at the sight of her you can only stare in disgust, unable to look away. It really becomes evident when she transforms herself and puts on an act in front of the visiting care-worker to continue getting welfare, while showing such subtle undertones of that underlying menace and volatility that left me in awe and revolted at the same time, eventually leading up to the totally chilling last scene, where her evil, hate-filled mind tries to somehow justify in an entirely unbelievable way more to herself than anyone else the horrors she's let happen right under her nose over the years. She's brilliant to watch.
A decent film made awesome by one of the best, most compelling performances I've seen in a long time.
Clash of the Titans (2010)
Trash of the Titans
Leaving aside the mythological inaccuracies of the film, which for any fan of Greek mythology is understandable, or the fact that it's a remake, this was still disappointing. The original definitely did the actual story of Perseus more justice, had way more character development and a better storyline.
Nothing more than a hack-and-slash action flick, further to the complete lack of any character development the stab at romance falls really flat. Don't expect to garner much emotion for any of the characters or for the storyline itself. The first film's story where Perseus' actions were driven by his love for Andromeda worked a lot better and was more fitting to the mythology. Why they changed it into a strange story of revenge, I really can't fathom. Perseus and Andromeda barely talk to each other in this version, and the Kraken in this film seems to be more an excuse to show off lavish CGI than anything else, and I didn't like the way it was done. You know it's going to finally show up at the end, it makes its way to the city almost instantly once it's released and then proceeds to writhe around in the water for ages conveniently waiting for Perseus as he sets himself set up to kill it. It was supposed to be suspenseful, but wasn't in the slightest. It just went too long, and for some reason it left me feeling sorry for the Kraken.
Also, in the midst of the Kraken attack why did the annoying preacher guy stab and kill the king when all he did was express anguish that his daughter was strung up as a sacrifice? That was very strange and random. He was already annoying, no need to create another reason for us to hate him even more.
Why did they bother with the 2 minute 'training' scene? That was also random and really reeked of being just thrown in. It had no point and didn't serve to show us anything we didn't assume or know already.
Add to this a painful comic relief axe-wielding blatant Gimli ripoff and his equally annoying friend, who leave halfway through much to my delight because things are getting too serious for them, only to have them appear in the midst of the climax in a horribly gratuitous act of formulaic 'heroism' we've seen dozens of times before, which never really works any more and as a result worked even less here. Their bit at the climax was probably the most annoying thing I saw in the film. It left me literally shaking my head and made me want to switch off right there.
The film ended with a blatantly obvious lead-in to a sequel, where Liam basically says to Sam word for word 'the bad guy's gone now, but he'll definitely be back and madder than ever' and that was it. I was left with an overall feeling of dissatisfaction as the credits rolled, and a sense that the whole thing felt way too rushed.
On the acting front, there's nothing to really mention. They all do their job, I guess. Mads and Liam stand out as the talent. I can't help thinking that all Sam Worthington was trying to do was a bad impression of Russell Crowe in Gladiator. He'll never have that same intensity, so don't even try. Continuing on the impression front, Ralph Fiennes seemed to be doing an equally bad one of his much scarier looking/sounding/acting Lord Voldemort. He definitely wasn't taking his role in this film as seriously, and it showed.
A few points for the effects, but as good as they can be effects are no longer enough to carry a film in terms of quality (unless they're of groundbreaking Avatar-like quality, and the effects of this film don't even come close to that). Unfortunately effects alone are enough to carry a film at the box office and probably always will be so until that changes we'll continue to get films like this, devoid of anything much more than said effects. Don't go into this film expecting much else.
This is definitely one of those special films that comes out very rarely, you might only get one a year (if you're lucky). Low key, subtle, not at all over the top in effects, action, dialogue, romance, anything. Just a damn good watch and a movie that tells an interesting, multifaceted story. Certainly not a blockbuster that keeps you on the edge of your seat, nor would it claim to be that type of film, but nonetheless one of the most riveting films I've seen in a while.
I've always liked Sam Rockwell in everything he's been in, he's got a certain intangible quality that I find accessible in an actor, even as the truly evil William Wharton in The Green Mile. He's the main reason I was so interested in seeing this, and here, in his biggest role yet, he's definitely at his best. For this film to work, the person who played the main character was the most important decision to make, and they couldn't have picked anyone better. Sam Rockwell's just so believable.
A fantastic directorial debut, and considering who the director's dad is, boy is there some talent in that family.
Highly enjoyable, even more highly recommended.