9 August 2016

Suicide Squad review

I can't believe we are living in a world in which Man of Steel - a staggeringly mediocre film throughout - is still the best that the DC Extended Universe has to offer. Despite being positioned as the saving grace of the DCEU, Suicide Squad is actually anything but - it's one of the most poorly made films I've seen in a year with more than it's fair share of poorly made films, a movie so flawed at a fundamental level of film-making that it's almost impressive. Warner Bros/DC had every chance to make a genuinely good movie here, and their inability to do that makes me more than a little concerned about the future of this franchise.

Because it isn't hard to pinpoint what went wrong with Suicide Squad - it's a film with all the hallmarks of a very troubled post-production period, one that seems to have been caused by extensive studio interference. Various reports indicate that the version of Suicide Squad in cinemas is a conglomeration of a few different cuts, and I'm inclined to believe them - it's a horribly edited movie, full of inconsistencies and oversights that end up making Suicide Squad feel more like a rough cut than a finished product.

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.

14 June 2016

The Nice Guys review

Truth be told, if you aren't already a fan of writer/director Shane Black then The Nice Guys probably isn't going to change that. It's unmistakably his, a film noir inspired buddy movie that never veers too far from the tone and style on display in both Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and (to a lesser extent) Iron Man 3. It's cynical. It's funny. It's got a strange sense of heart. But most importantly, it's a film with instantly captivating main characters.

We follow private eye Holland March and enforcer Jackson Healy as they team up in order to find a missing girl, but (as is to be expected) The Nice Guys is more interested in it's characters than it is the plot. To describe our main duo as flawed would be an understatement - Holland is an alcoholic single father who has to be driven around by his teenage daughter; Healy is a bitter divorcee who makes a living assaulting people. Neither are what you might consider to be good people, but therein lies the brilliance of Shane Black's writing - he balances the cynicism of these characters with beats that help show us that they'd jump at the chance to do the right thing if only given the opportunity. As with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, it's not so much that our characters are bad people, it's that they've been corrupted by a bad world.

8 June 2016

Agents of SHIELD S3E22 "Ascension" review

Between the super-powered brawl that opens the episode, an assault on SHIELD by the primitive Inhumans, a last-ditch attempt to stop Hive's master plan and the death of a series regular, you'd be forgiven for thinking that "Ascension", the third season finale of Agents of SHIELD, runs the risk of feeling rushed. It's not like Agents of SHIELD hasn't produced it's fair share of episodes that are overstuffed, after all - even the first half of this season suffered thanks to how much it tried to do in just ten episodes, a focus on telling the story quickly over telling it well that robbed the show of it's ability to properly dramatise it's most important moments.

Fortunately, "Ascension" understands the difference between story elements that can be dealt with quickly and story elements that need some real time devoted to them, and in doing so offers us what may well be the most emotionally engaging episode of the show to date. Individual moments are given plenty of time in order to allow us to really feel them rather than just see them, an aspect of "Ascension" that also helps highlight how good the writing and performances are here.

5 June 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows review

It would be very easy to dismiss Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles: Out of the Shadows as little more than visual noise, and in truth not entirely unfair. From it's opening moments it's clear that it's a film aimed firmly at a younger audience, and anyone older than that won't find anything here that they haven't seen done better before. But to do so would be to ignore the fact that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is also a surprisingly competent movie, one that still feels like it's trying despite the easily entertained nature of it's target audience.

The story this time sees the titular turtles trying to stop another of Shredder's plans after he succesfully escapes from prison with the help of Dr Baxter Stuckman, a scientist who has been trying to create mutants of his own for some time now. With the help of Bebop and Rocksteady, a couple of lowlife criminals who Dr Stuckman has mutated, Shredder plans to bring an alien invader from another dimension to Earth in order to take over the world.