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Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
Not as much fun as the first
You could say the original Independence Day was a little bombastic and silly, and you'd probably be right, but I've always really liked it. It's fun, visually impressive, and has a nice sense of humor about itself. The sequel has all of that in smaller doses, but the silliness also comes back in a big, big way.
The alternate present shaped by reworked alien technology is a cool idea and is executed fairly well, and you'll also notice that "fighter pilot" is the profession to have (particularly if you're an extremely attractive orphan). Like the original, it has the basic structure of a disaster film, with various characters meeting up after a disastrous event. But unlike the original, where most of the characters hadn't met prior to the events of the movie, they do know each other here and there's a heavy reliance on coincidence.
Of the cast, Jeff Goldblum stands out the most, slipping right into his decades-old role and providing the best of the comic relief. Bill Pullman is good as well, with his character starting out in bad shape and slowly rising to his former glory. Liam Hemsworth and Maika Monroe are both fair, with neither being terribly charismatic but also not falling totally flat. The deaths here seem a bit unceremonious, quickly forgotten by the characters that were cut so deeply by them moments ago (one example of this is particularly obvious).
There's a bit much going on in the climax; some of it is pretty cool, but there's a bit much going on all at once, with the movie cutting between the various characters and their different methods of striking back against the aliens. While this ends satisfyingly enough, the movie itself ends on a line that just about embodies the silliness of the whole thing.
Overall, fun enough and something of a nice change of pace from your more serious, somber blockbusters, but it goes a little too far into the opposite direction.
Just a tad better than its cracked up to be
This is probably slightly better than its reputation, but not great by any means.
Affleck's good in the title role, but Jennifer Garner doesn't really keep up with him, and her delivery of that one "Liar!" line when Daredevil tells her he didn't kill her father is just laughably awful. The villains are good though, Colin Farrell especially hits it right with his over the top portrayal of Bullseye.
The soundtrack isn't very good either, although that Evanescense song is kind of a guilty pleasure, bombastic as it is. The director's cut is supposedly far superior, but really the only differences are some profanity and a subplot where Murdock defends Coolio, nothing that special really.
A big step up from Man of Steel
There's still a lot of destruction here, but it's not as pointless and I really appreciated that Superman actually makes a major attempt to avoid any civilian casualties this time around, instead of just throwing his enemies into whatever building is nearest. The new cast members are really good too, especially Affleck, Irons, and Gadot (even though she has a fairly small role, what we see of her is great). Amy Adams also improved and Henry Cavill is as good as he ever was.
There's an excess of scattered subplots in the first hour or so, but it's still entertaining for the most part, and it picks up more as it continues. Hans Zimmer also did a surprisingly good score, given how much I had disliked his work on Man of Steel and the previous Batman films, though I suppose Junkie XL did it with him. Wonder Woman's theme in particular is awesome.
Action's fair for the most part, though Snyder just won't let go of his beloved slow mo... Still, there are good sequences, especially the warehouse sequence with Batman.
Fantastic Four (2015)
An interesting mess
I enjoyed the first hour pretty well, but the second and third acts are both basically crammed into a half hour, and there's some odd tonal shifts.
The reason it's kind of a mess is because of the negative fan reaction towards the whole production. Because of it, they just did a bunch of reshoots at the last minute and kinda messed it up; in reality, the fans just seem to have cheated themselves out of a pretty good movie. Whether or not it would've been faithful to the source material is another matter, buy hey, at least the director had a more personal vision.
It starts out like E.T. or The Goonies, and lightly moves more into what you'd expect, with them building the device that will send them to Planet Zero and give them their powers. But then when that actually happens, it VERY abruptly shifts to David Cronenberg-type body horror, like The Fly. This is brief, though, and then it's about them heading back to Planet Zero. Doom is only a threat for the last twenty minutes, and although they have a great explanation for his signature look (his environmental suit being melted into his skin), his villainous motivation isn't fleshed out well enough. And man, more heads explode than in District 9!
The cast is good enough, especially Miles Teller, and I really like the guy who plays Franklin Storm too.
Jem and the Holograms (2015)
I was skeptical about this since the first trailer, but I didn't go into the theater with a bad attitude. Some people involved with the film asked the detractors of the film to reserve judgment until they'd actually seen it. That seemed fair. Maybe there was more to it than meets the eye.
The vivid and colorful animation of the cartoon is somewhat translated into film here, but only for the handful of performance sequences. The "Holograms" part of Jem and the Holograms is, quite frankly, gone, and the band is only arbitrarily named as such at the end. Synergy is basically a low rent R2-D2, it's obvious that the $5 million budget wasn't enough to properly adapt the series. Had they spent another $10 million and used it to realize the characters and the style of the series, maybe this wouldn't be flopping so badly.
Aubrey Peeples' acting is fair, and I think she actually put some effort into her performance, but she just doesn't have an air of excitement about her. Jem/Jerrica just isn't that fun or adventurous. Juliette Lewis is a pretty generic Cruella DeVille corporate type, but I won't pretend Eric Raymond was all that interesting to start with (although he served his purpose well enough).
Most frustrating of all is the mid-credits stinger. This is the only time you see the Misfits in the movie, and unlike everything else in the movie, they nail them. They're mischievous, they've got attitude, and they can't wait to get to the top. Perfect. Kesha appears as frontwoman Pizazz, and vows that she'll get back at Jem, setting up a sequel that almost certainly won't happen.
Too bad they didn't just make the movie they chose to set up in the last two minutes.
Pretty solid, better than expected
I guess you could say that there's a lot of obvious questions left unanswered and that a lot of it doesn't make sense, but for the most part I think that works for the film. On the individual segments:
Tape 56 - works well enough as the frame narrative, the characters remind me of Alex's droogs from A Clockwork Orange (particularly because of their actions in the opening).
Amateur Night - the best segment, I think. Definitely starts things off with a bang. It has the scariest antagonist in the film and there's a real feeling of intensity.
Second Honeymoon - mildly enjoyable but not even really horror. This is the only one where a lack of info makes it worse on the whole.
Tuesday the 17th - cool idea for a villain, and this one builds pretty well.
The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger - well, this one definitely has the biggest unanswered question of the film, but I like the ending and all the scenes where she looks around her place are pretty scary.
10/31/98 - definitely the worst segment. Doesn't have any clever spins on anything, it's overly generic and loud rather than scary.
House on Haunted Hill (1999)
"I lied. The house is alive. We're all gonna die."
Good cast in this, Geoffrey Rush is probably best utilized and Famke Janssen never looked better. I really like Chris Kattan, but I have mixed feelings on his character in this. He oddly goes from being the concerned prophet of doom to the character most blase about the situation very quickly, but he still has his moments.
The movie really does embrace and modernize the William Castle "thrills and chills" style from the very beginning, starting with a horror sequence at a mental asylum that immediately moves into a fun roller-coaster sequence with a bit of light suspense. Once we get to the "house" of the title, the surprises begin. Some of these twists can be pretty contrived, but that's OK - it's all in silly fun.
Comparing this to the other haunted house remake of 1999, The Haunting, this definitely has a more consistent tone and better characters, and though both movies have CGI creatures that arrive in the third act, House On Haunted Hill's monster is a little creepier and nowhere nearly as ridiculous.
The first half hour of this is really weak. It's hard to connect or sympathize with Carrie because we just don't get to know her enough to like her, in all her scenes here she's either acting weird or being tormented by her cartoon mother (I can't believe Piper Laurie got an Oscar nomination for this), and the Nancy Allen character's hatred of her isn't really believable. I like Brian De Palma all right, but subtlety definitely isn't his forte.
But once we get past this and Tommy asks her out, the movie gets a lot better, we actually get to spend some time with Carrie and get invested in her. Everything for the next 40 minutes is very compelling, from the slaughtering of the pigs to the prom, and the suspense in the scene where the bucket of blood teeters over her head is just great. During the last 20 minutes when Carrie gets her revenge, a lot of scenes seem really dragged out, especially when Carrie gets to her house and heads for the tub.
Eh, this was...OK. It's cool that Carruth was able to make a movie for such a tiny, tiny budget and do basically all the behind-the-scenes stuff himself, but it's definitely hard to follow for any average person. The confusion/frustration of it all feels like it might actually be intentional at times, but it's inappropriate to keep this up throughout. (Carruth, being a former engineer, did not remotely simplify it at any point for the sake of the audience).
It has a very dull palette, and the gritty look of it doesn't work like it did for say, Clerks, where the dialogue and characters are lively enough for it not to matter. And speaking of these characters, I didn't really like them very much. I almost want to say they seem emasculated. Maybe not exactly that, but there's just something about them.
The Thing (2011)
Not very good, but not for a lack of effort.
You can tell pretty much everybody on the creative end greatly admired John Carpenter's film - they just didn't have the talent to pull off a film as great as his.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead is pretty good in it, and her character is very different from Kurt Russell's. The creature design of the thing in its alien form is cool, but all the others range from mediocre to really quite poor. I remember a good chunk of people in the theater literally laughing out loud at the "face-merging" scene, including myself. The sets are nice, and in close detail with what we had already seen in Carpenter's film.
The writing is the weakest part of the movie. The plot doesn't mirror that of the Carpenter film too much, but when it does, it's anything but subtle. The bit with the earring is pathetically easy to call. They also go for a few too many jump scares, and the one involving the helicopter is at the expense of any common sense. The thing is overall way less intelligent than it is in Carpenter's film. You can chalk some of that up to this being its first encounter with humans, but most of the time it's just plain dumb.