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Big Action On a Small Scale
Whilst he had to wait for all the Super Soldiers and aggressive raccoons to have their movies, it's finally Ant-mans chance to make it to the big screen. And in spite of the unfortunate departure of Edgar Wright along with a short production time, Ant-man is still able to continue the style and quality of the Marvel cinematic universe.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a con-man and master thief who has recently been released from prison. Impressed by his skills, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recruits him to become the next Ant-man. He needs him to pull off a heist to retrieve the Yellowjacket suit, a costume with the same abilities of the Ant-man costume, being developed by Daren Cross (Corey Stroll) who intends to sell it to villainous corporations such as Hydra. Motivated by his desire to see his daughter again, Scott accepts his second chance in life and sets out to carry out the heist.
Whilst they try to raise the stakes at points (Pym reminds us every so often of how the Yellowjacket suit could change the world as we know it) the real charm of the film is in how low-key it is compared to the rest of the Marvel films. It's not some epic battle where the fate of humanity is at stake. Instead it's just a cool heist movie and a nice change of pace from the usual large scale tone used in most Marvel movies.
This low key style leaves a lot more focus on the characters to keep the film entertaining and fortunately the actors were up to the task. Paul Rudd is a great addition to the Marvel Superhero roster by being cool, likable and grounding Scott as a human character through bringing the same comedic skill that we loved in films like the 40 Year Old Virgin (albeit with less "You know how I know you're gay" jokes). Douglas is also memorable as his mentor and the original Ant Man, being an interesting take on a retired superhero. Instead of just being old and brooding, he still has the same courage and wit he had in his prime. Plus we get a few cool flashback scenes seeing a younger Michael Douglas (made with very convincing CGI) working as the original Ant- man in his prime, which looked so cool that it made me eager to see Pym get his own movie at some point.
Whilst Yellowjacket did seem to follow all the weak Marvel tropes for villains (rushed back-story, lack of screen time etc.) he was still surprisingly entertaining in the film. Largely because of Corey Stoll who not only gives a great menacing presence, but also plays it so over the top that he brings charm to an otherwise charmless character. The only weak character was Bobby Cannavale as Scott's ex-wives new douchey boyfriend. Mostly because the douchey boyfriend character is one of the most worn out clichés in cinema and didn't seem to have any real purpose in the film other than weak comedy relief. Plus it seems a shame that the film spends so much time with him whilst we hardly get any scenes with his wife and daughter (Judy Greer and Abby Fortson respectively) who are far more important to the story and should have had more screen time. It's especially disappointing Fortson didn't get more screen time since the few scenes she was in were amongst the funniest moments in the film.
However the centrepiece of this film is the action sequences, which contain the most creative fight scenes that Disney's Marvel have had in a while. The size shifting dynamic added a whole new element to the fight scenes visually, taking the usual destruction of a standard blockbuster and placing it inside a children's bedroom. Plus the scenes feel like they have Edgar Wright's fingerprints all over it having clever wordplay and great visual gags making the fights hilarious.
Though that's not to say that the fight scenes are flawless. At times their decisions to have the battles be created entirely with CGI are fairly distracting as most of the backgrounds are blurred out in the miniature scenes. It never ruins the fights, but it can be distracting. And it would have looked a lot better if they had been more creative for some of the sequences and used actual sets for some of the miniature shots.
But at the end of the film the lingering thought did remain, would Edgar White's Ant-man had been better? Maybe it would have been more visually creative. Or maybe it much of Wright was still in the film and it wouldn't be much different. But ignoring what it could have been, the films still great at what it does. It packs in the laughs, has likable characters and does a decent origin story. However other than the fight sequences, there's nothing substantially different here that we haven't already seen from other superhero films.
Song of the Sea (2014)
Breathtaking Animation and An Emotional Story
From the opening sounds as we first hear the hypnotic "Song of the Sea" it is clear that this film is something special. It's a Celtic song that a pregnant mother sings to her 4 year old son to tell the tale of the Selkie, a mystical creature with the power to live as a seal at sea and human on land with the ability to carry the spirits across the oceans. Shortly after this he wakes to find his father clutching his new born sister in his arms, with his mother disappeared.
6 years later, the young boy named Ben (David Rawle) has grown to be a grumpy child who has been raised by his father Conor (Brendan Gleeson), neither of whom have been able to get over the loss of a mother and a wife. He's raised along with his sister Saoirsie who has yet to speak a single word despite nearly reaching six years old. But the relationship between Ben and his sister is troubled, as he often treats her with much disdain and distance. He loves his sister as any brother would, but blames her for the loss of his mother at the same time causing him to to act out at times.
This difficult situation leads to the children's grandmother (Fionnula Flanagan) to take them to the city of Dublin, away from the lighthouse and the sea in the hope of having them finally recover. But Ben misses his home, with the lighthouse being one of the few things left to connect him to his mother and sets off to journey home. On his journey he encounters the mystic creatures of Irish folk lore that he was enamoured with as a child from giants made of stone to an aged creature who contains the memories of every mystic creature in his long beard. From these creatures Ben discovers that his sister is a selkie and he must return her to the sea so she can sing the selkie's song to release the souls of the mystic creatures.
Unlike the standard computer animated films that have become too commonplace, Song of the Sea is lovingly drawn with hand drawn animation. It's truly imaginative in its visuals at times creating beauty in the mundane through creating the streets of Dublin and having gorgeous bright lights engulfing the town at night. At others it creates the mystic land of the sea and the sight of the seals swimming majestically against the rough waves or giants emerging from the ocean's depths. It is constantly beautiful and carries with it stunning attention to detail bringing the world to life through incredible touches including dust particles floating in the sunlight, creating a world to behold through its more traditional take on animation.
Whilst the film explores the entirety of Celtic legend, the core of the film remains its characters and how they deal with their bereavement and depression. Each character deals with their pain in a different way with some removing their emotions entirely due to not being able to handle them any longer or becoming obsessed with the past when they were happy. With this we get great emotional depth from all the characters as we can understand and even possibly relate to all the pain that they are going through. But the centre relationship is the heartwarming relationship between Ben and his sister. He is going through a difficult period of his life, at times being selfish and even cruel because of his his reeling from the loss of his mother. But as the film goes on we watch many beautiful scenes where we see he is a brother willing to go any length to save his sister.
I could draw all kinds of comparisons about this films to other animated gems. I could say that it has the sense of childlike wonder that you see in a Disney film. I could say that the film delivers the same spirit of adventure of a Ghibli film. But comparisons like this do the film a disservice. This film stands in its own right delivering a unique animation style and focus on Irish culture not quite like any I've seen before. It is truly a masterpiece.
Terminator Genisys (2015)
A Weak Addition To the Terminator Franchise
Now in its fifth instalment the Terminator series, Arnold has returned once again in another attempt to stop the seemingly unavoidable judgement day from happening. But sadly at this point it feels as if the franchise has been back too many times. It fails to bring anything substantially new and instead feels more like a weak rehash of things we've already seen in previous films.
We open the film with familiar ground. In a post apocalyptic war the humans, led by John Connor (Jason Clarke), launch an assault taking out Skynet once and for all. But after their victory they discover that a T-800 (played by a CG Arnold Schwarzenegger and a body double) has been sent back in time to 1984 in order to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and they send Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to protect her. But when he arrives everything is different. Sarah is not the meek helpless person we saw in the first Terminator, but rather a hardened warrior. And the Terminator Kyle is sent to kill has already been taken care of. with the only T-800 left being an aged model who has raised and protected Sarah since her childhood that she calls "Pops" (played by the real Schwarzenegger).
After this we diverge in to needlessly convoluted storyline of time travel silliness involving our leads travelling from 1984 to 2017, dealing with alternating time-lines that correct Kyle's memories and a new Skynet using a new "killer app" to take over the world. At times it's hard to follow and all the complicated time travel is basically the film's way of being able to reset the world and the characters to start a new slate in a more modern setting.
The strongest part of the film probably ends up being Schwarzenegger. Whilst his aged Terminator is obviously just a clever way to get him into the film, the concept of his flesh ageing as any human make sense and his "old but not obsolete" theme is different to what we've seen in previous films and does lead to some interesting scenes of his joints stiffening up mid battle. Plus as usual he does deliver the most laughs in the film through his robot trying to be human routine whilst still able to pull of the imposing figure that made the Terminator great to begin with.
But unfortunately this old Arnie seems to be the only element of the film that isn't a rehash from earlier films. The story is the same mixture we saw in T-2 with Arnie protecting the humans, a theme of whether a robot can love and the heroes attempting to stop judgement day. The only difference being that here the characters are so poorly developed that we don't really root for them the same way we did in previous instalments. Our characters are given such little time to develop that when they go from 1984 to 2017 they never have a single line of dialogue reacting to how different things are in the future.
Then there's the way the film seems to destroy the intimidating presence that Skynet had in the other films. They're defeated so quickly in the short opening with the humans toppling them like domino's, that I was left wondering how they were even a threat to begin with. But worse yet is how the film seems to ruin the intimidating image of the original T-800 from the first Terminator movie changing him from a near unstoppable presence from the first film, into an easily defeated nuisance who's defeated almost as quickly as he is introduced.
When it comes to the fight scenes they're a bit of a mixed bag. At times Alan Taylor proves himself confident of creating a decent action sequence with some of the earlier fight scenes with Byung-Hun Lee set in the 1980's are good creating a cool game of cat and mouse with a T-1000 chasing a helpless Kyle through a clothing store. But other fights just appear as mindless CGI violence looking as generic as you can get. The worst being a helicopter chase which uses some of the worst CGI that I've seen in a blockbuster movie in quite a while with helicopters having a cartoon's concept of physics and look atrociously unbelievable throughout.
Ultimately the film relies only on nostalgia. It tries to remind you of the past Terminator any time it can with half the dialogue in the film being recycled from the other movies ("I'll be back" "Come with me if you want to live" etc.) and relying on tie ins to previous Terminators showing the original T-800 along with the iconic designs of the futuristic metal exoskeletons. But in trying to do this it feels more like a homage to the Terminator films than it does a new instalment. And not a good homage either.
Rock of Ages (2012)
Just Enjoy the Music
What happens when you get a bunch of actors, dress them in silly costumes or wigs and get them to sing some of the best rock tracks of the 70's and 80's? You get Rock of Ages. And with it all the cheesiness and over the top nature of a jukebox film.
Its story follows just about every cliché that you can think of. Our out of town girl Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) comes to Hollywood looking to become a rock-star. She meets and falls in love with Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) who has the same aspirations of rock and roll. We watch them try to get into the rock and roll scene which is going through difficult times due to fighting off a politician doing a slander campaign to boost his support and the corporations that are trying to turn rock groups into boy rapping groups.
For the most part the cast seem to be up for getting into the spirit of the film and embracing their over the top characters, all of whom have their funny moments. Catherine Zeta Jones does well as the campaign woman with a stick up her rear who believes that rock and roll spawns nothing but sex, hateful music and sex. Paul Giamatti is a manager who isn't in it for the music and only wants the money, willing to back-stab anyone for an easy dollar completely embracing his character as a douche-bag. The only actor who seems out of place is Alec Baldwin who gives the impression of a guy who's already signed a contract and can't pull out now. The only thing amusing with his character was his over the top wig.
But the best cast member is Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx. He seemed to devote himself to Stacee as much as he would to any dramatic role playing an exaggerated Axl Rose style of rock-star. He has a big ego, but with good reason. Any time he enters a room all eyes turn to him and he seems to be able to get every woman he meets to swoon or fall under his spell at the mere sight of him.
Then there's the songs themselves, which are very enjoyable. Unlike a film like Mama Mia (and its dreadful vocals from the likes of Pierce Brosnan and Meryl Streep), here the actors are great singers and do the songs justice. However once again Cruise is the standout demonstrating some real musical talent by not just acting like a rock-star, but singing like one too doing an amazing cover of Bon Jovi's 'Dead or Alive'.
Whilst the songs are great, the film's weakness is the time between songs. Where we're left following what are really quite boring plot lines that we've seen before too many times like the main couple splitting because of a misunderstanding or a girl having to go to the life of a stripper because Hollywood is tough. Not only have we seen these too many times but they're done poorly here. Plus the film is too long and it would have probably helped if the film were cut by about 20 minutes since 2 hours is too long for a jukebox musical to keep audiences entertained.
But as bad as the script is, the actors are entertaining and the songs are good. So long as you don't have any higher expectations then you shouldn't be let down.
The Schwartz Is Strong In This One
Recently parody movies have gotten progressively worse. They went from being clever deconstructions that you could enjoy even if you haven't seen the film they're parodying, to being more cringe-worthy than they are funny by trying to drench out laughs just by naming another movie. But back when parody films were still worth watching, Spaceballs came out to mock everything Star Wars with quotable dialogue and great actors making this one parody that was done right.
When Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga) of the planet Druidia is kidnapped by the evil race of the Spaceballs in a plan to steal all the air on their planet, the king hires space pilot Lone Star (Bill Pullman) and his sidekick Garf (John Candy) to bring her back. On his journey to save her he discovers a power known as the Schwartz which he uses to take on the Spaceballs empire.
Unlike Brooks other work like Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein this film isn't well made on a technical level. Those films were more focused on recreating the look and atmosphere of the genre they are parodying. Here it doesn't look like an authentic sci fi film with Brooks unable to recreate the same kind of effects the Star Wars films had and instead the film's sets and costumes feel more like cheap cosplay.
However even though it's not his best made film, Brooks is still able to do a great job at mocking the Star Wars films. He takes swipes at everything from the seemingly never ending ship in the introductory shot to the grand master Yogurt (played by Brooks himself) stopping the film at one point to show us the line of Spaceballs toys that will be coming out. It even mocks the fans themselves with Rick Moranis playing with his Spaceballs toys mid film to act out his love fantasies. Plus the cast is full of very talented comedic actors with Bill Pullman blending the characters of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo into one typical protagonist and John Candy demonstrating his talents in slapstick comedy.
But at the heart of Spaceballs is the trio of idiocy consisting of Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis) who takes the booming voice and imposing figure of Darth Vader and turns him into a short dweeb, Colonel Sandurz (George Wyner) a man so spineless that even when he knows it's stupid will literally comb the desert because he's been ordered to and President Skroob (Mel Brooks) a man so dumb his briefcase is unlocked with the numbers 12345. Whenever these guys are on screen I always seem to be in hysterics laughing. Plus they seem to get dumber and dumber as they go further up the chain of command. I don't know whether Brooks had such idiots rule the largest empire as clever political satire or just to have an excuse for slapstick antics, but either way this trio definitely steal the film with their 3 stooges style of comedy.
It's nowhere near Brooks best work like Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein. Also I do get the impression that he doesn't have the same attachment to Science Fiction a he did to other genres like westerns, but I never go too long without laughing when I watch this film. Brooks brought his usual genius to the screen and it did not fail to disappoint.
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
It has ambition. It's just a shame it doesn't have anything else.
I've always seen the Wachowski's as very hit and miss when it comes to their films. On the one hand they've made some incredible work like The Matrix and the highly underrated Cloud Atlas. But they've also had some bad movies like the Matrix sequels and Speed Racer. However they have never made something quite as bad as Jupiter Ascending. The film seems to fail at everything, creating dull undeveloped characters and placing them in a ridiculous world that feels like it's trying to show how dumb science fiction can get.
The story is bizarre to say the least. Our lead Jupiter discovers that she is an exact genetic copy of the mother of a group of intergalactic nobility and thus the rightful owner of earth. Because of this her genetic children come at her each with their own insane plans including trying to kill her, forcing her to sign away her rights to the planet and marrying her (yes, one of her genetic children tries to marry their mother ). The only thing stopping them is an ex half wolf military hunter Caine Wise who can track her through smell over the universe. The story is all over the place and is needlessly complex leading to a lot of the story being so boring and rushed that you'll forget about most of it 5 minutes after watching it.
Beyond this I just can't take the world they try to create seriously. It has so many bizarre things that sound more like something you'd hear from a crazy conspiracy theorist on the street. Like the government being able to somehow erase the memories of the entirety of Chicago when a fight spreads across the city. Dinosaurs were made extinct on earth and the surviving dinosaurs were taken into space and made slaves. Bee's are designed to recognise royalty. Why a studio would give 170 million dollars to ideas this ridiculous I have absolutely no idea...
And in this bizarre world we also get a lot of dumb characters, who are all underdeveloped due to the film favouring to give exposition about the world than building up its characters. Firstly there's Mila Kunis as Jupiter. She is the exact opposite of cool action heroes like Ripley as in spite of being the film's lead all she does in the film is be kidnapped, ask expository questions and wear weird clothing. On top of which she has no reactions to anything. When she discovers aliens exist her reaction is the same as if she were to have been told that it was a little windy today.
Sean Bean plays an ex soldier who was spliced with the DNA of a bee (and yes, many people have already made the Sean Bee joke). His entire role in the film seems to be nothing but give some exposition. And Channing Tatum, who's not bad in the film but is so bland a character that I can't remember anything about him other than that he's a wolf hybrid who likes to sniff stuff and rides rocket skates.
And then there's Redmayne. Oh Redmayne, what happened? I went from watching your incredible transformation in The Theory of Everything to you giving an over the top performance which lives up to the silliness of the likes of John Travolta in Battlefield Earth and Nicholas Cage in Wickerman. He seems to lose complete control of his vocal chords in the film going from near inaudible whispering to suddenly bellowing random sentences. He's the most entertaining part of the film, but for all the wrong reasons as I can hardly stop myself from bursting into laughter any time he's on screen.
Even the action sequences are week with the Wachowski's mostly favouring generic CGI heavy fight scenes over the kind of kung fu action and revolutionary practical and computer generated effects that made them a household name in the matrix. It's not even good CGI mostly being a series of random explosions and filling the scene with ships, to the point I could hardly see what was going on.
The only compliment I can give to this film is that it's imaginative in the designs of the costumes and characters which are creative. Other than that it's just a dreadfully written space opera that's only entertainment value relies solely on just how absurdly awful it is.
The Abyss (1989)
Under the Sea
After creating two of the most instantly recognisable science- fiction films in the 80's (Aliens and Terminator), Cameron ended the decade by embarking on a unique and original project with an underseas setting. Whilst it may not live up to some of his other action masterpieces, The Abyss remains a great adventure through it's focus on suspense and unique underwater environments.
Similar to the Terminator films, The Abyss is focused on reflecting Cold War fears of complete annihilation of the human race. It is set in the midst of the cold war and the story of an oil rig crew, searching underwater for a crashed nuclear submarine and investigate the causes of the crash. To do this they must work in harsh conditions with the regular pressures of submarine work, passing hurricanes and the threat of Russians causing increasing pressure and insanity amongst the crew. Whilst on their mission they begin to realise they may not be alone there and encounter a mysterious alien species who seem to be able to control the water around them.
Whilst the story is interesting at points, the film is problematic in handling it as the script is constantly trying to push the story in different directions. At times the film is very dark, with one storyline going in to the growing madness and paranoia of one of the Navy SEAL's as he is on the verge of attacking the other crew members. Then at other points it grows very soppy with the aliens friendly presence and the way they're used in the film being more reminiscent of something like ET. Particularly its ending (which I won't spoil here) does go in to gag levels of cheesiness.
But whilst the films writing may be scattered at points the visuals never fail to disappoint. Whilst the film is well known for its revolutionary effects in using the first 3 dimensional CG character, what's truly impressive is the films breathtaking underwater setting. James Cameron and the crew spared no expense to create realistic underwater environments, buying a 7 million gallon tank at an abandoned plant and filling it with water. At times this way of filming led to an extremely troubled production including the likes of algae infestation and even lead actor Ed Harris almost drowning, presumably in an attempt to take method acting to the next level. But the results of this are astounding with the lighting and use of colour creating a real sense of how this submarine crew are cut off from the rest of the world.
Its style is also a nice step away from the usual Hollywood blockbusters with the film favouring a slow tension building scene than the usual fast paced action movies. For example, in one of the film's best sequences Bud has to descend into the Abyss and has to deal with the pressures that such a dive would bring with depleting oxygen and difficulties in keeping consciousness. Sequences like this are both visually spectacular and more successful in putting us in the perspective of our characters and experience the same pressures they do.
Whilst it's writing has its weaknesses, the visuals are truly something spectacular and deliver on creating some great moments of tense atmosphere. Beyond this the ambition and technical brilliance of the effects used in the film are truly astonishing creating the most realistic underwater environment put to screen.
The Rocketeer (1991)
Fun, Exciting and A Nice Callback To 30-40's Serials.
In contrast to a film like Indiana Jones which was built upon the formula of 30-40's serials, the Rocketeer is designed to recreate them. And it succeeds, bringing the real feeling of something like Flash Gordon in every way from it's cool look to it's action packed story.
This story starts when a pilot, an everyman named Cliff (Billy Campbell), comes across the strange device that allows a man to take flight without wings and soar through the skies. But he quickly learns that there are many others who are interested in the device, with the machine being said to be capable of world domination and his girlfriend being kidnapped in an attempt to obtain the device. Thus he must now fly to the rescue fighting of gangsters, Nazi's and shady agents in order to save his girl. It's an over the top story with a plan that doesn't make sense when you think about it (how would Nazi's having jet packs lead to world domination?), but one that lives up to the adventure and excitement that the film is going for.
The film also has a great cast of memorable and likable characters. Connelly plays the girlfriend to our hero, who may often be a damsel in distress but always remains likable fighting back and even saving the hero once or twice. Timothy Dalton plays Neville Sinclair, a Nazi sympathiser who's snuck into the Hollywood scene and is a straight cut villain who comes equipped with his own James Bond's Jaws kind of henchman. And Billy Campbell as the Rocketman, who is the everyman with little complexity and just the guy doing the right thing.
They're all the basic archetypes we've seen before, but they're so well played and are very memorable. Plus it's nice change to see a straight up hero like the rocketeer now we're at a point where it seems that every hero must be dark and brooding. And it's always enjoyable to have a villain like Dalton who always seems like he's a short step away from twirling an evil moustache.
It captures the atmosphere of 30's Hollywood in a great way. Everything from the costumes to the sets really gave a great feel of the time. The little details the filmmakers went to do have are impressive from the Hollywoodland sign to smaller things like some characters use of slang in the dialogue, it all goes a long way to make the context very believable. Plus by being in the 30's we get a great character in Howard Hughes (Terry O'Quinn), who plays a Walt Disney type imaginative character who invents the machine and lives up to the creative legend that Hughes is built up to be.
Just like any great adventure film the action sequences are great. Beyond the great shoot outs and brawls, the jet-pack sequences are brilliantly imaginative with some well thought out sequences of the Rocketeer soaring on to a moving plane or speeding round a packed ballroom. Better yet this great imagination is also backed by very impressive special effects. The effects in this film are comparable to something like Christopher Reeves Superman, creating a very realistic feeling of flight which few films have seemed to be able to do.
This film has everything you'd expect from a family action movie. In my opinion it's a film that never got the reception it deserved only making a small profit at the box office and sadly stopping the chances of sequels. This is really a shame because they probably would have been something impressive since this film was a great adventure and one that should not be missed.
Lost in Translation (2003)
A Journey I Never Want To End
Lost in Translation is a very unique film. On the one time it can be incredibly funny, but at the same time is sidelined by a constant feeling of melancholy. We follow these characters throughout, but are constantly held at an arm's length from them. And Sofia Coppola plays with our expectations of what constitutes a typical Hollywood romance, bringing originality to the genre through the way she romanticises the atmosphere in Tokyo and creating a beautifully unusual relationship between two unlikely people.
Firstly we have Bill Murray, who takes on his most dramatic and quite possibly his best role yet. His dry wit and subtle nuances are put to best use as he plays Bob Harris, a faded movie star who has taken a job filming a commercial for Suntory whisky. But whilst there he is thrown in a melancholy, dealing with a midlife crisis, questioning why he's doing an advert rather than taking more serious roles and a wife who seems to no longer need him. On top of this whilst working on his commercial he's the only American there, unable to have a conversation with anyone. Those who do speak English seem to say to him the bare minimum giving basic instructions like "turn and look in camera".
Then there's Scarlett Johansson, in one of her earliest roles as a young bride of a photographer. She's there with her husband, but just like Murray's character she's trapped in the same state of isolation and melancholy. With nothing to do she spends most of the day alone lounging around at home not even needing to put on pants and when she does go out she's lost in an unfamiliar world with nobody to share such unusual sights with. The short time that her husband is there he seems to be more interested in talking to a blonde actress than he does in spending time with her, leaving her feeling even more alone when her husband is there.
But after 30 minutes stuck in this melancholy, these two lonely souls finally cross paths and together they spark something of an unusual relationship. We finally begin to see the characters break from their state of melancholy as they (along with us) start to see the beauty of Tokyo along with having fun at last. Whether they bond from a genuine connection or for their need to find someone else in such a lonely place, they finally seems to have found joy with one another.
One thing that makes this relationship stick out from the standard Hollywood romance is that Coppola shows much about are characters in unusual ways. Instead of just having a conversation about how alone they feel abroad, we get to see it through having them feel separated from all the people around them in every shot. Then there's their relationship which Coppola leaves deliberately ambiguous most of the time so we feel the same kind of distance that they feel in being in a foreign land.
Another thing that really caught my eye in the film is how beautiful Coppola made the city of Tokyo.She does a great job at exploring it with different kinds of shots ranging from packed streets to the quiet surroundings of a monk, with Coppola romanticising the city and showing its true beauty. This beauty can be found in larger parts like the sight of the glowing city at night or through smaller touches like a Japanese couple in Kimono's walking about. Just like Woody Allen with Manhattan, it feels like Coppola has a real love of the feel of the city as she showcases it spectacularly throughout the film.
This is a film that really seems to resonate with me the more I watch it. Every time I seem to leave with an even greater appreciation of the complex characters and gorgeous visuals. More than that I think there's still so much about the film I've yet to figure out. There's so much ambiguity between the pair that with each viewing I feel like I walk away learning a little more about this film and it's characters.
Jurassic World (2015)
It's a dumb movie, but enjoyable nonetheless.
You'd think that after the first park went so badly that corporations would never try to mutate dinosaurs again. But we humans never seem to learn, as 22 years later and we've got a brand new park even bigger with new deadly attractions bound to cause more chaos.
We spend the first 20 minutes of the film seeing the park itself. It's more modern than the tribal feel of the first park, instead going for something more like Universal Park being a fully fledged tourist attraction with modern high tech designs with things like holograms to boot. But despite the park being a success with 20,000 visitors daily, apparently it's still not enough and they need to make a new attraction to lure in new audiences. So they've had the scientists create a new dinosaur that's even bigger and more dangerous called the Indominus Rex. What could possibly go wrong?
But then everything goes wrong. The Indominus Rex escapes and begins to hunt for sport, killing every dinosaur and person that it comes against. We see the new dinosaur hunt its prey in interesting ways blending into environments, clawing at thick skinned enemies or armour to find weak points and just charging dead on with brute force to chomp its enemies to bits. On top of the terror of this new dinosaur we also get plenty of cool scenes with trained velociraptors, who despite being trained like circus lions still always pose a threat to the human characters who risk being turned on at any moment. Their uncertain allegiance does lead to some pretty tense stare offs.
Whilst the dinosaurs are great, the human characters are far less enjoyable. Most of the characters in the film are either idiots or just plain annoying. Just like the first Jurassic Park we get two new kids here that are visiting the park and who seem to do nothing but get in to trouble and become damsels in distress despite this being a family film and obviously never being in real peril. There's an underutilised Vincent D'Onfrio as a military type who wants to use the dinosaurs for hunting who doesn't seem to have much purpose in the film other than rubbing in the Jurassic Park message that corporations are bad. And Irrfan Khan as the park owner, who comes across as a more annoying, douchey version of Richard Branson.
The only good characters are the leads Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard). They're both the basic archetypes you'd expect in a blockbuster film playing the Pratt playing the typical quick witted action hero and Howard playing the park manager who goes from a busy bureaucrat to being a caring bad-ass. But they play the archetypes well by remaining likable and getting a fair number of laughs over the course of the film.
At times the film does come off as being self contradictory in some of its messages. For example at one point in the film a character jokes about selling out to corporations and that they may as well just name one of the dinosaurs after them. But then the film sells itself out to corporations by naming several products they could name it and filling the film with many product placements from Starbucks to Mercedes. Then there's the way that they mock some blockbuster clichés like the woman ripping her dress up to become a bad-ass, but then indulges in others like the typical stereotypes.
Other than one fight scene (which I won't spoil here) none of the fight scenes ever reach anything close to the likes of the iconic T- Rex scene in the first Jurassic Park. At times the action can even begin to feel a little dull or repetitive. And if you think about it too much then you'll be bound to find many plot holes. But there's still enough here to put it ahead of the previous Jurassic Park sequels and is still an enjoyable turn your brain off b-movie blockbuster.