Friday, 21 April 2017

OJ's Movie Review - The Fate of the Furious

Ah, back here again. Back with la familia.

I do not enjoy films where over-the-top characters spout out cheesy lines after committing some physics-defying act for a generic plot. So why is it then, that every time I sit and watch a Fast & Furious movie, I come out with a great smile on my face from an utterly enjoyable time? The Fate of the Furious is no different and I never expected anything less. Vin Diesel returns as Dominic Toretto leading his team of multi-cultural criminals along with government guy Dwayne Johnson but this time Toretto has seemingly turned on his friends and is now working with a mysterious baddie.
  The cast, of course, is great. Diesel is on top form in his role as he has been for over a decade. Some of his other films don't do as well but this franchise makes up for it and it's a joy to revisit his unique delivery of lines. Johnson, again, is always a pleasure; he seems like a real nice guy in real life and his characters are always a bonus to a film, and in this case, Luke Hobbs, has some great one-liners which no doubt were the cause of some outtakes due to others cracking up. His verbal sparring partner here is Jason Statham returning from the previous film and he is the epitome of an over-the-top action star so putting him in this franchise was a genius move. The rest of the team were absolutely fine as well; Michelle Rodrigues and Ludacris are as good as they ever are; Tyrese Gibson is the same too, I don't particular find his humor funny but he is a staple of the franchise and so I'm glad he's in it despite his cringy jokes. Kurt Russell returns from Furious 7 and once again plays the shady government agent Mr. Nobody, and he does it pretty well. Nathalie Emmanuel also comes back but I really didn't see a need for her character; she seemed very pointless. The actress does great in the role but there isn't really a role other than someone the Tej character can relate to and then sit in the passenger seat during car chases.
    As far as cars go, The Fate of the Furious gives us some great car action, from the very first one in Cuba to the ludicrously horrifying chase in New York. I don't think the stunts were as impressive as the previous ones, such as jumping through buildings or dragging a safe through Brazil, but it has satisfactory action pieces, especially towards the end. As far as plot goes, it's fine for this sort of film; there was a twist of sorts which took me while to get used to and will have to see where it goes but ultimately the Charlize Theron story was engaging enough but not wildly original.
    The Fate of the Furious was another satisfactory entry into the Fast & Furious series and even though it had the absence of Paul Walker, due to terrible circumstances, I didn't feel the film suffered from it. I think I prefer Fast Five and Furious 7 over this, making it as good as Fast & Furious 6, in my opinion, but in the end, I'm always going to enjoy Vin Diesel using some special nitro to win a race to the soundtrack of the current popular electronic music.


Thursday, 16 March 2017

OJ's Movie Review - Kong: Skull Island

Time to fund another franchise I guess.

Kong: Skull Island is the second film in the "MonsterVerse" after Gareth Edward's 2014 film, Godzilla. It stars a lot of people, including, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly as a group of scientists and soldiers exploring a mysterious island. I've seen the main Kong films throughout the years and I have to say I do enjoy the concept of people finding an enormous gorilla on a primeval island; I always remember when I was younger being creeped out by Peter Jackson's 2005 King Kong and at one point was quite obsessed with it; since then I've enjoyed the 1933 original and even watched the not-so-good 1976 attempt. Now though we see a different take on the character, one set in the 70s, and of a larger world.
   I'll start with what I enjoyed, and first and foremost would be both the soundtrack and original score. Being set in the 70s, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts gives us some great pieces of music to accompany various scenes giving the film an upbeat, feel-good vibe, similar to that of Guardians of the Galaxy, or The Martian. And Henry Jackman delivers a well-composed dramatic score which includes some 70s vibes.
  Another thing to enjoy is that this film is full of really cool moments; scenes or shots that intend for you to be awed. Whether it be a silhouette of choppers flying towards Kong or just the animals and people of the island being framed through the Brie Larson character's 1970 era camera lens which makes for a really nice touch. Vogt-Roberts certainly has an eye for interesting and unique camera set ups and there were some great ones in here I really loved as well as some epic wide shots that you could just frame.
  Now unfortunately it's these amazing moments and "awe shots" that sort bring the movie down for me. While it's great to have those kind of scenes, you can't rely on them. Kong: Skull Island was visually stunning, almost to a surreal sense at times, adding to the island mystery, but as far as story and script goes, it was a bit underdeveloped. For the first two-thirds of the movie it felt like the story was just quickly written dialogue to get us from one cool shot to the next. The characters hardly had any development and surprisingly the most fleshed-out and interesting character was John C. Reilly's Hank Marlow. Although Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are certainly great actors and look great, their characters were very one-dimensional. Hiddleston's was a generic former military hunter/tracker man with convenient skills and Larson's was a photographer, and that was pretty much it. Sam Jackson and John Goodman are also great actors and have delivered some incredibly iconic characters but here even they almost seemed expendable at points.
   So although the film is let down script-wise and is quite unevenly paced throughout most of it the final third is really good as it flows much better and the creature is design is amazing. Kong looks great, as well as some of the other fearsome creatures that inhabit the island but the stand-out for me were the disturbingly hideous Skull Crawlers whose mere existence you were thankful were only fictional.
  In the end Kong: Skull Island isn't quite what I expected it to be but it is a great-looking monster-movie and even has an after-credit scene for those who like to get excited for what's to come.


Monday, 20 February 2017

OJ's Movie Review - The LEGO Batman Movie

Turns out everything is awesome!

The LEGO Batman Movie is, of course. the spin-off to the popular 2014 animation The LEGO Movie. This time, though, it's all about Batman! I didn't know what to expect when I heard this was being made but when those trailers arrived I knew I was in. I enjoyed The LEGO Batman Movie a lot more than I thought I would; it's full of so many things I wasn't expecting that I just couldn't help but love it. I wouldn't say the cast is as stellar as it's predecessor but the script certainly carries it along with joke after joke, and references and easter eggs that you're probably not going to pick up all of them upon first viewing. Not to say the cast is bad in any way; Will Arnett as Batman and Zac Galifianakis as the Joker are genius casting; the lines these two come out with are amazing and I just loved when each of them were on screen.
     And although a movie called "The LEGO Batman Movie" sounds like it's for kids, I think the older ones will certainly get a kick out of this like I did, especially if you're a film buff or a Batman fan. As I said before, the mentions and appearances you get in this are fantastic. But of course no film can carry itself on quips alone, The LEGO Batman Movie does have a story and although it's quite a familiar one and perhaps even similar in ways to The LEGO Movie, I still enjoyed seeing all the LEGO visuals and the top-notch animation that still looks like they filmed real LEGO pieces. There were some heartfelt drama in there too and I think it sends a good message which is what these type of films should do anyway.
   So all-in-all, I really enjoyed The LEGO Batman Movie, from literally the opening logos to the brilliant soundtrack, for me, it gets an 8/10.


Thursday, 29 December 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Passengers

Get two of the most popular actors right now, put them on a spaceship together, and see what happens I guess.
Passengers stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence as two passengers who have woken up from hibernation on a ship traveling across space to a new planet, they are the only two who have woken up, however, with about nine decades to go before the ship reaches the destination. I've been looking forward to this for a while; I'd heard about the popularity of the unmade script and the synopsis got me interested, I resisted reading the script but as bits of news trickled in, I kept interested, especially when Pratt and Lawrence were attached as I enjoy their work. 
   I'll start, as always, with what I enjoy and number one for me with that is the visuals. The design of the ship, both exterior and interior are amazing. It's a place I would love to visit, from the information interfaces to the architecture, I really enjoyed seeing that. The CGI is top-notch, I don't remember seeing any iffy effects so on that front it's great; they blended it well with real things as well, especially in a sequence (which was in the trailer) concerning a swimming pool and gravity, I thought it was a tense and well-done sequence. So all together I'd say that Passengers was, in general, a good-looking film. 
  What adds to that, of course, are its main leads. Chris Pratt doesn't do dramatic often but here he had to pull off some emotional scenes and I can't say he managed all of them successfully but he gave them a good shot and delivered some quite unexpected compelling series of events in the first act of the movie. Jennifer Lawrence appears alongside and she does just as you'd expect, she's a great actor, looks great, she did just fine in her role. She and Pratt had good chemistry, I thought and enjoyed seeing them together. An extra cast member includes Michael Sheen as the android, Arthur, and he was one of the best parts of the film for me. He was the source of the majority of humor and his constant positive personality was very entertaining.
  Plot-wise, I felt there were three defined parts to it. The first act, was my favorite, it gave off a cast-away vibe and you could feel the isolation, perhaps if they'd have stuck with that a bit longer it would've been a bit more impactful but it was certainly the best part of the film for me. The second act slowed down a little, it was exactly what I expected from the film, going in; Pratt and Lawrence being a couple onscreen and all that entails from flirting to getting-to-know-each-other and all that. Some plot developments did occur, though, and it started to get going again and I was genuinely surprised at one point and enjoyed a certain aspect which I won't spoil here. The third act though happened so suddenly, it was actually quite jarring. There was nothing wrong with it itself, just quite quick and almost predictable. 
   And that's the thing with Passengers, it's not a bad movie by any stretch, but it isn't mind-blowing either. We've seen almost every element before. It felt clean, it felt safe. It was innocuous. There were some twists and turns but you realize the trailer spoils a lot when you're watching the film. All-in-all, Passengers was just OK, and that's it. 


Monday, 19 December 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Rogue One

A Star Wars story like no other.

Rogue One is the first Star Wars Anthology film, it isn't an episode, it doesn't follow the lives of a Skywalker. In fact, as you probably know but I'll confirm here just in case: it takes place just before 1977's Episode IV: A New Hope. I've been looking forward to this film for a while because I'm a fan of director Gareth Edwards and this universe in general.
    I'll start by talking about the cast, the majority of which I didn't know. Felicity Jones leads with her character Jyn Erso and from the trailers I didn't particularly like what I saw; the character just didn't seem likable and to an extent that carried over into the film at the beginning, but then as time went on they laid out a plausible reason for her personality and I grew accustomed to it very quickly and it worked for the story; Felicity Jones does great in the role as I've enjoyed her performances before in films such as The Theory of Everything. Diego Luna's Cassian Andor was an interesting character to watch, his internal struggle with the moral gray area he operated in made for some compelling scenes and Diego's performance I thought was great as I've never seen his work before. Some other cast and character highlights were Alan Tudyk's hilarious droid K-2SO, he delivered some great lines, but they weren't cheap jokes or eye rolls, he's no Jar Jar Binks; even though he was the comedic relief he also served a purpose and could defend himself when needed. Donnie Yen's blind Chirrut Îmwue and his partner Baze were a very entertaining and sometimes quite touching duo who had some great action sequences between them.
     On a villain front, I have to say I really enjoyed Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic. He came across as a classic Star Wars baddie but brought something new in his disposition and line delivery. His own arc as well was a compelling one and in the end, after some thought, you start to feel sorry for this guy, especially in the context of the other films. Now of course Darth Vader turns up during the film and that's what a lot of people were excited about (including myself), and so I'll just say that he isn't in it much, which I'm fine with, but I know a lot of people wanted more of him....Although there a specific scene that he's in that people are going talk about for a long time. So in the end, I really enjoyed the cast, perhaps with the exception of Forest Whitaker, who did fine in his role, but his role wasn't really needed; it just felt like we'd missed something, like there was more of a story there but was cut.
  Now talking of story, Rogue One, is somewhat predictable in the main arc because you know what it's about, you've seen what takes place afterward, but finally knowing the specifics and details is a real treat, for the most part. The first third of the film is very choppy, we're suddenly moving from one location to another super quick setting up each character and situation and it's a bit messy. When the plot gets going, though, it really picks up and becomes an entertaining series of events following these characters, that lead to an epic climactic third act. A complaint the film has is that the majority of characters weren't fleshed out enough and so they didn't care about them but I didn't find that at all; sure we didn't really get to know their history and motivations but just with the time we did spend with them, I really felt for these people by the end, and the ending itself made me come away viewing these people in a different way.
   The final scenes of Rogue One is truly one of the most memorable moments I've had in a cinema. From the choices the film-writers make regarding the characters, to the final five minutes before credits roll, I have to say that Disney certainly is in a league of their own. Was the film perfect? No, not at all, there are things I haven't managed to touch on because of spoilers, but there are also amazing things I couldn't mention for the same reason. As a conclusion. I'll say that although it isn't as streamlined or grand as your main saga episodes, it brought something new to the table and it worked.


Thursday, 17 November 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Arrival

I love science-fiction so when I see a trailer and there are huge ships, alien beings, Amy Adams & Jeremy Renner I'm in.

Now although I've just said there are ships and aliens coming to Earth this is in no way your alien invasion movie; if you're walking in expecting some Independence Day, Mars Attacks type scenario then you're going to be disappointed. Arrival stars Amy Adams as linguist Louise Banks who has been brought in by the government to help communicate with the extraterrestrials that have landed twelve ships around the globe; both she and Jeremy Renner's physicist, Ian Donelly must work out why they are here and what they want through their various visits inside a ship that has landed in Montana, USA.
   The story director Denis Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer gives us is unique to say the least. Villeneuve's use of close-ups makes it such a personal and intimate story. His wide shots, including an impressive continuous shot, make the locations a gorgeous visual masterpiece to enjoy. All of these are scored amazingly by Jóhann Jóhannsson who's use of vocals in the music gives both an earthly feel but also surrealness to it. Villeneuve's decision when and where to use this music also proves well making impactful scenes and emotional moments.
  Of course the directing can't always work on its own but Amy Adams gives one of the best performances I've seen her give. I really can't expand further on that without giving spoilers but things like her reactions to the extraterrestrials and moments towards the end certainly tell me that this was a good casting choice. The other two leads are Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker both of which do a fine job; if you've seen their other work then you know what to expect here, they are both brilliant actors and play their roles just right but Amy Adams certainly steals the show in acting terms.
  Now for the plot of the film, I don't really know what to say. It's best to go into Arrival as unaware as you can with just the basic plot details such as the ones I gave earlier. I will however say that Arrival is one of those films that leaves you thinking about it for a couple of days. When the credits roll you just need a moment to ponder over it and piece together some of the revelations you've just had. When a film can do that I respect it. It's concepts of time, language, narrative and humanity is a lot to take in and certainly food for thought.
    I will most certainly watch the film again and upon second viewing I will see it differently than before with the knowledge I have. Is it the best film ever made? No, I've seen films that I have enjoyed a lot more and serve my personal tastes better. Arrival will definitely lose some viewers with it's slow burn quality; some may feel it drags and if you're not interested in the art of cinematography and film-making then it will feel even slower to you. And as someone who calls themselves a cinephile, even I was surprised at the gentle pace some of the scenes were going.
   In the end Arrival is stunningly beautiful with incredible acting and surreal sounds. It's commentary on stories is one I will remember and if I had to liken it to other films then I'd say some of the vibes I took from it were ones similar to that of Contact, Signs, and Inception. It won't be everyone's cup of tea but an interesting cup of tea it is.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Inferno

Look, I haven't read the books so I won't be one of "those people"; I'm viewing this purely cinematically.

Tom Hanks returns as the symbologist Robert Langdon in the third adaptation of Dan Brown's books again directed by Ron Howard; this time he must solve clues and escape organizations to save the world from a deadly plague. I always enjoy these sorts of films, National Treasure, Sahara, The DaVinci Code - they aren't credited for their quality but there's something about the ancient codes and puzzles genre that entertains me so I was expecting some enjoyment from Inferno despite it not being one of my most anticipated films of the year.
   And true to form, Inferno did give me Tom Hanks running around beautiful Europe solving clues but not quite as much or at least not as interesting as the previous two films; Inferno didn't really focus on the problem-solving tropes of the genre but gave us more action set pieces and character relationships, which is OK in itself but not what I came to Inferno for.
  The cast of these films though are always a highlight. Tom Hanks is one of the best actors of our generation so it's great seeing him on screen again and does some top notch performances, especially at the beginning of the film. He's joined this time by Felicity Jones who is more than adequate at playing the young attractive sidekick and has some good moments with Hanks. Another highlight to join is Irrfan Khan, I really do enjoy watching him in films since I was first introduced to him in Life of Pi, he is a unique presence in this film as the head of a shadowy organization and gives some welcome comedic moments here and there. Ben Foster, whose work I'm not as familiar with, plays the antagonist somewhat and was a convincing billionaire bent on ending half of humanity for the greater good. Apart from those the rest of the characters were fairly wooden and uninteresting which may be due to how they are introduced or lack of screentime.
  A major positive of the film though is the third act which is a tense sequence of events scored brilliantly by Hans Zimmer. The whole film is shot very quick-pace and some shaky-cam which didn't always work and the beginning was a little unsure on what to focus on but in the climax it felt natural and it worked.
   In the end I enjoyed both The DaVinci Code and Angels & Demons a little more but all three films are higher-average at best with Inferno being the weakest.