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The Girl on the Train (2016)
Gone Girl without the tension, emotion or drama
First off, I will admit that I've not read the bestselling book that The Girl on the Train is based on so my thoughts are based purely on the movie adaptation.
I usually love a fast paced thriller with twists and turns to keep me metaphorically on the edge of cinema seat. The trailers had led me to believe this might be the case for The Girl on the Train. How wrong I was.
The screenplay and direction were often sloppy while the editing was so messy it often felt like scenes were pieced together purely at random. I really struggled to warm to or identify with any of the characters in a film where all men are portrayed as controlling and deplorable and any sense of female empowerment is lost amidst the absurdity of the relentlessly twisting plot.
I have to call out Emily Blunt's stunning lead performance - she steals every scene she's in with a nuanced, conflicted and honest portrayal of a complex and intriguing character. Quality support performances from Luke Evans and Haley Bennet help but don't save the movie and most other characters are so slight and one-dimensional that they fade into the background.
The Girl on the Train felt like Gone Girl without the tension, emotion or drama.
Jason Bourne (2016)
Bourne to thrill
The original three Bourne films are some of the greatest action films I've ever seen and some of my personal favourite movies. The Bourne Ultimatum in particular is up there with Terminator 2 and Aliens in my estimation as one of the greatest action sequels ever made. I honestly had reservations about a fourth Matt Damon Bourne film after the disappointing Jeremy Renner led spin-off and and the fact that the author of the original trilogy hadn't written any further instalments in the Jason Bourne saga. I'm so happy to say that my concerns were completely unfounded.
Jason Bourne is an incredibly exhilarating thrill ride from start to finish. The new writers have developed a refreshingly complex and layered story featuring a metaphorically lost Bourne accompanied by a sub-plot about digital privacy that brings a welcome layer of social commentary. New information about Bourne'a past and true identity emerges to bring about a thrilling globetrotting stand-off between Bourne and his creators.
Julia Stiles returns to the series with a vengeance in a pivotal and emotional plot-driving role while a new supporting cast-members Alicia Vikander and Tommy Lee Jones deliver excellent performances as Bourne's antagonists. Vikander offers an empowering performance as a strong, driven and intelligent female adversary for Bourne to rival Joan Allen from Supremacy and Ultimatum.
What makes this film so outstanding is its flawlessly choreographed action and fight sequences accompanied by John Powell's percussion-heavy score which heightens the expertly directed intense action sequences. Matt Damon shines as Bourne; he is a world- class leading man and action hero with a physicality and determination that elevates the action to the highest level. I'm a huge fan of car chase sequences in film and I'm pleased to say that Jason Bourne features one of the most exhilarating and exciting car chases I've ever witnessed. Paul Greengrass is the master of car chases in cinema - his intimate direction style coupled with the outstanding fast-paced editing and sound design bring about a breathless intensity that can't be matched. I found myself literally holding my breath throughout the whole sequence.
Jason Bourne lives up to Ultimatum's incredibly high standard as an brilliantly directed, surprisingly emotional action thriller that I will remember as one of 2016's best movies.
The BFG (2016)
I think Roald Dahl would have approved
I developed a personal connection to Roald Dahl's stories when I was very young. His tales of ordinary or isolated people put into extraordinary circumstances still has an appeal to me now as an adult. So I was looking forward to seeing the master of fantasy films, Steven Spielberg, take on a cinema adaptation of Dahl's classic children's story, The BFG.
The BFG is a big friendly giant from the fictional 'Giant Country' who catches and delivers dreams to the children of Britain in their sleep. It's a magical concept that lends itself well to cinema. The BFG himself is a simple yet lovable character with an appropriately warm and inviting West Country accent (an accent I'm very familiar with living in that part of England). The character has been recreated masterfully with state-of-the-art CGI that captures every subtle emotion on the giant's face beautifully. Mark Rylance's performance captures the BFG's likable vulnerability well. This works particularly well when juxtaposed with newcomer Ruby Barnhill's tough and feisty interpretation of Sophie, an young girl kidnapped by the BFG after seeing his secret dream work in the act. A classic Disney fundamental can be spotted in Sophie's set up as lonely orphan from Central London. The character, based on Dahl's own daughter, bounces really well off the bumbling BFG's sweet sensibility.
Spielberg's technical skills as a director shine here. Stunning long takes, engaging camera-work and neat storytelling really bring the fantastical tale to life. However, the story that follows Sophie's kidnapping doesn't follow a typical Hollywood structure and lacks substance. Our hero's antagonists, child-eating Giants, lack depth and their motives are unclear. Some minor tweaks to the source material do well to dial up the emotion and lead character development but the silly and nonsensical story involving a rescue mission brought about by the Queen of England struggles to let the audience into its world. I feel that the film lacks the layers that many classic fantasy films (such as E.T., Beauty and the Beast or Edward Scissorhands) have to appeal to adults as much as young children. Similarly, the sense of humour in the film could be perceived as quite childish with an emphasis on toilet humour. The children in the cinema were laughing out loud at the more low brow moments but the same couldn't be said for me or the other adults in the auditorium. There are some emotionally and visually beautiful moments that get lost amongst the silly sense of humour which I believe will limit the films lasting appeal.
Roald Dahl was notorious for disliking movie adaptations of his work but I genuinely believe he would have approved of this mostly faithful interpretation. I don't think this film will go down as a classic that will be remembered in years to come but it's light, visually entertaining and mostly fun to watch, especially if you have children to watch with you who will probably enjoy the movie more than you will.
I ain't afraid of no remake
It's hard not to review the Ghostbusters reboot without commenting on the animosity that the marketing for the movie has received before its release. I totally accept that it's a tough job to effectively remake a classic film that's beloved by so many people (including myself) but I went into the cinema on opening night with an open mind and reasonably neutral expectations.
The film is essentially a modern remake/reboot of the original 1980's comedy classic, only this time the lead cast are all female. It's really refreshing to see an almost completely female driven Hollywood blockbuster with varied, interesting, likable and often very funny women. The chemistry between the four leads is palpable but Kate McKinnon steals the show as kooky and ingenious scientist Jillian Holtzmann. I was, however, disappointed to see that the feminism in the film has gone so far as to have all male characters as either completely stupid or evil. Chris Hemsworth plays a male version of the stereotypical blond bimbo. He's actually often very funny and clearly looks like he enjoyed every minute filming his part. However, I would have welcomed at least one intelligent and rounded male character.
Technically, the 3D effects are excellent with some clever use of letter-boxing; the visual effects are adequate and the score and soundtrack is lively with perhaps an excessive use of covers of the original Ghostbusters theme song.
I had a lot of fun with Ghostbusters, the laughs come fast enough and the cast chemistry holds proceedings together. There's a dip in pace in the middle act due to the thin plot but things pick up again quickly for a rousing finale. I know many of you will have a concern that this movie will destroy a classic. Honestly, it won't. It's not exceptional but it's lots of fun and worthy of your time.
(500) Days of Summer (2009)
I admit that I'm not the biggest fan of romantic comedies. Yes, the odd rom-com can be fresh and interesting but I often find them to be reasonably unoriginal and a little clichéd. (500) Days of Summer couldn't be further from the average rom-com.
The film twists the stereotypical "boy meets girl" rom-com love story formula on its head, in this case, boy meets girl who doesn't believe in love. What ensues is a far more realistic and totally un-Hollywood account of two well-rounded and interesting characters, unsure of what they've got themselves into. Zooey Deschanel shines as Summer, playing the role with eccentric idiosyncrasy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt excels as a frustrated and confused young lover who believes in ideals such as love at first sight and true love. He portrays a multitude of emotions which are cunningly expressed through his job as a greeting cards writer.
The film encompasses numerous other flourishes besides the inspired casting and original plot; the score and soundtrack also suit the film's quirky tone and sharp screenplay perfectly and directorial embellishments such as dashes of traditional animation amongst a beautiful pastel colour palette only serve to garnish this thoughtful and unique film. It may be a little too "indie" for some but I thoroughly recommend (500) Days of Summer to anyone looking for something a little different from the typical romantic comedy.
An intelligent and complex mystery-thriller that demands your attention
I went to see Triangle on a whim hoping it might be thrilling, entertaining or fun at least. I love it when a film exceeds your expectations like Triangle did.
Mellissa George stars as the lead in a small cast of young people on a yachting break off the coast of Florida who encounter a mysterious ship with no passengers after their yacht is upturned.
What follows is a complex and superbly written mystery that unfolds at a perfect pace. I spent most of the movie trying to work out what was going on, trying to piece together all the elements of the storyline. Christopher Smith has clearly spent a long time putting this film together with an intricately crafted deal of detail. I was gripped from the moment the yacht capsized.
The lead performance is excellent, superbly holding the plot together; and the supporting cast are more than passable. If you're looking for something a little different and you're happy to pay close attention to detail for an hour and a half, then I can thoroughly recommend Triangle as an original, well written and directed mystery that will keep you guessing until the final scene.
A funny, stylish, rip-roaring ride through Zombieland
Zombieland is hands-down the funniest horror-comedy I've ever seen.
The plot is similar to that of a typical zombie film anything from Dawn of the Dead to 28 Days Later a small group of the living searching for refuge amongst a population of the ravenous undead. However, it's the brilliant and likable group of characters and satirical tone that add spice to an expected storyline. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg serve as a well matched, funny, zombie-kicking duo, while Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin form a likable supporting cast.
If I were to compare Zombieland to any other film, it wouldn't be Shaun of the Dead, it would be Scream. Zombieland exudes the same satirical edge of Scream without treading into spoof territory. It remains as a witty comment on the zombie horror film genre without resorting to excessive pop culture references or toilet humour. In Zombieland, if you follow the rules, you'll stay alive.
From the "Zombie Kill of the Week" to the laugh-out-loud hilarious celebrity cameo and the rocking soundtrack, to the stylish and original ways in which the undead are dispatched, this film reeks of originality and genuine fun. Not in a long time have I had this much fun in the cinema.
The Invention of Lying (2009)
Clever concept that never reaches its full potential
In a world where people can only tell the truth, Ricky Gervais creates the lie. What follows this simple concept with great potential is a series of quick fire jokes made funny by the sheer bluntness of the absolute truth. The screenplay is lightly comical but rarely laugh-out-loud funny and continually relies on the same concept.
As the plot progresses, it veers from quick-fire jokes to a parody of religion. On the one hand, this offers an interesting and thought-provoking reflection; however, I found the developing plot to become mildly preachy and irritating to watch. The humour level drops and the religious overtones and romantic subplot overshadow the interesting idea.
Visually, I found the film to be rather drab and dreary. Similarly, I didn't care for the dowdy and monotonous score and soundtrack choices. I understand that these are probably intended to represent a world without fiction, but they make the film a little tedious to watch and don't add anything to the movie. I enjoyed Jenifer Garner's performance as Gervais' love interest which she's plays with harsh yet likable realism, but Gervais' lead performance left me a little cold. In combination with lacklustre screenplay, I was left unimpressed with the utilisation of a potentially hilarious and fascinating concept.
The Invention of Lying is a quiet, simple movie on the surface, but underneath lies a more complex, thought-provoking moral allegory, albeit one that fails to deliver anything truly remarkable. It tries to be clever, but fails to deliver.
Surprisingly imaginative, original and very funny
Living in the UK, I had never heard of the children's book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and to be honest, I thought it sounded a little too peculiar and odd for my tastes going by the title and trailers. However, being a big fan of animated movies, I decided to take the risk and judge the movie for myself; and I'm so glad I did.
Not only does Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs have a quirky, thoughtful and imaginative storyline, it also exudes humour through its likable characters, discerning messages and vivid visual style. Telling the tale of a young man's quest to become an inventor, the film shies away from numerous Disney clichés creating a unique and original world full of colour and inspired characters. Unlike most Dreamworks animations, the characters are fully developed and rounded without the need for countless A-list celebrity voice-overs. The screenplay is similarly outstanding in terms of humour with countless laugh-out-loud moments that will appeal to both adults and children alike.
The animation and visual style of the film isn't up to the stunning beauty of the latest Pixar movies such as Ratatouille or WALL-E but it certainly exudes a similar level of ingeniousness, creativity and originality as seen in such movies. Albeit, amongst the wild plot and genuinely hilarious dialogue lies a subtle moral tale of parental recognition, portion sizes and personal confidence.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs took me by surprise, I went into the cinema expecting an average computer generated movie incomparable with today's best of the genre and came out astonished by the sheer creativity oozing from every aspect of the film.
Frenetic, energetic and fun but slightly disappointing
Gamer is the third film from directors Neveldine/Taylor; having written and directed the brilliantly insane Clank series, I was looking forward to see how they got on with a new concept. Gamer retains the frenzied kinetic energy of Clank and blends it with an intriguing if unoriginal plot based around the use of real life gaming avatars.
The plot is mildly stimulating but failed to engage me to any significant extent; I think this may be due to its overall simplicity and unoriginality spread thinly throughout scenes of rapidly edited action, explosions and violence. However, this action is a very well stylised distraction directed with a very novel approach. Visually, the film looks great and normally I'm not a fan of a flashy heavy editing style but it didn't bother me in this case; though I did find my mind wondering with scene after scene of shoot-'em-up style action sequences. Scenes set in the film's online simulated world, similar to that of The Sims or PlayStation Home, offer some attractive visuals and entertaining comedy value.
Gerard butler offers an adequate performance with little dialogue, but I kept thinking to myself that Jason Statham or Bruce Willis (in his peak) could have done a better job. Butler's disguised Scottish accent often odd to hear. However, the supporting cast were impressive, in particular Michael C. Hall as Butler's antagonist.
I enjoyed Gamer but was mildly disappointed at its lack of originality; but it was fast, fun and frenetic with a decent soundtrack, stylish direction technique and a good cast but overall I felt it could have been more.