Independence Day: Resurgence Review

I’m going to confess that I’m not really a fan of the first Independence Day movie. It definitely has it’s moments, I like the suspense they create before the aliens attack but as soon as everything starts blowing up I lose interest. Going into this movie I had really low expectations, I’d been hearing early review buzz and all signs were pointing to this being one of the worst movies of the summer. As it turns out going in with low expectations is probably the best way to experience Independence Day: Resurgence.

 

This review will contain story spoilers.

 

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Welcome to Earth

 

As the film opens we’re treated to a quick fly over of Washington DC so we can see how advanced civilization has came since the first movie. The people of 1996 who defeated the aliens in the last movie took their technology and used it to advance our own even going so far as to copy their landmark destroying weapons. As we pan over all the future things they replay Bill Pullman’s iconic Independence Day speech. We also learn that one of the ships that landed in 1996 has transmitted the recording of Pullman to all their buddies and now they’re really pissed off!

 

We follow a character into the white house with the camera behind him, he stops just outside the oval office to take in a gold framed painting on the wall. A painting of Steven Hiller AKA Will Smith who’s been killed between movies because he wouldn’t reprise his role. I burst out laughing at this because it just looks so goofy. They were clearly thought this would be a cool moment but it looks like a promotional image from the first movie.

 

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Just imagine a big fancy frame around this photo and you’re basically there.

 

It also turns out that this young man we’ve been following is Hiller’s son Dylan, who’s followed in his father’s footsteps and became an ace fighter pilot. They are trying to introduce some new blood into the franchise but the problem is that they don’t get rid of any of the old guys. They bring back pretty much everyone you care about: Ex-President Pullman is back with a beard this time, Jeff Goldblum is probably the closest you get to a main character here, the two weird scientists get to rekindle their relationship and Judd Hirsch even shows up to be a ridiculous cartoon character of a man.

 

Quietly out of the Night

 

This movie goes at breakneck speed throughout. There’s absolutely no suspense when the aliens show up after what feels like 15 mins. They just appear literally out of nowhere in a huge ship and make quick work of Earth’s puny defenses stationed on the moon. They say the ship is about 3000 miles long, so big that it has it’s own gravity. All the aliens need to do is fly over London and within seconds it’s completely destroyed under chunks of our own British hubris *drops monocle*.

 

To be honest though all the destruction and action scenes throughout were a bit lackluster in my opinion. These scenes would have been cool in 1997 but after all the crazy Michael Bay and Zack Snyder madness we’ve had since then you need to do more to impress jaded action movie fans.

 

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Gooey Center

 

So after landing their ship over the entire Northern Atlantic Ocean their uninspired plan is to drill a mile wide hole all the way down to the Earth’s core and extract all of our delicious liquid hot magma. Just like Dr. Evil’s plan in the first Austin Powers movie except our evil aliens aren’t concerned with getting 1 million dollars, just revenge.

 

One thing I was hoping for in this movie was a little bit more of the alien’s backstory but they didn’t deliver. You’ll notice I’m referring to them as the aliens a lot, that’s because they don’t even give us any other name for them. All they tell us is that they steal other planet’s resources to power their ships and that each mother ship has a (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) queen alien that controls all of the drone warriors. I don’t know if it’s just me but I need some back story for my villains so I can get invested in their plan.

 

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The Saga Begins

 

While the aliens are setting up their mining operation the humans uncover a mysterious orb that happens to be part of an advanced civilization that has been battling the jerk aliens for years now. So this is the moment that the franchise hooks really embed themselves. The scientists learn from the orb that there is a galactic refugee planet which is the only place safe from the jerk aliens (see, this is why they need a real name!) and this orb was coming to invite Earth to be a part of it so we could avoid destruction.

 

This was the only part of the movie that really interested me, Humans joining up with a bunch of weird good aliens to fight evil aliens sounds like a much better movie idea. However this revelation did devalue the movie for me because from then on all I could think about how I’d rather be watching the sequel. They out their own movie as simply a stepping stone about an hour before the end. This made the final battle feel really flat because we already knew that this alien queen is only the start of Earth’s battle.

 

So yeah, as you can imagine they blow up the queen seconds before the laser reaches the Earth’s core and the world is saved!…Except there’s now a mile wide hole in the middle of the Northern Atlantic Ocean that goes down most of the way to the core. Now I’m no scientist but I think that would cause a few problems for our little blue planet.

 

Movie: “Screw your pesky science, it’s Independence Day!”

 

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I could only recommend this movie as a rental, there’s just not enough substance here to warrant full ticket price. There is some fun to be had if you turn your brain off and just let the stupid one liners and explosions wash over you but it loses it’s charm if you start to think too deeply about it.

 

★★☆☆☆

 

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Why I love Working Girl

Working Girl was a pretty big hit when it was first released, and even garnered itself six Oscar Nominations, including one win for Best Original Song. More recently though it seems to have been forgotten about a little. It rarely turns up in people’s top ten of all time ever favourite movies, and most younger people have never heard of it let alone seen it.

tess beforeWorking Girl is one of my very favourite films. It makes me sad that it seems to get little love these days. Maybe it’s because it’s a little cheesy in parts. Maybe the giant hair is a little too much and the shoulder pads too broad and pointy. Maybe it’s because it can be a little sentimental in places. Or maybe it’s because the title makes it sound like the dodgy bargain bin version of Pretty Woman.

For me these are all positive points, I love the 80sness of it all. I love the hokey ending, and the questionable fashion choices. It has some of the best lessons in feminism and women in the workplace whilst all being wrapped in a candy coated rom-com coating.

The film follows the story of Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a go getting 30 year old woman. She worked hard a night school to get her degree, and probably knows more about the markets then the men she works for. She is desperate to make her way in the world of Wall Street, and will take any opportunity given to her, though these are few and far between and often a ‘business meeting’ organised by her boss turns out to be a hook up for his friend. After one such run in with Bob (Kevin Spacey) she humiliates her boss showing them she is not a forced to be reckoned with. She wants to get ahead, but she wants to do it on her own terms, not just because she slept with someone.

tess and kathAfter returning back to the office and humiliating the boss who set her up with Bob she gets re-assigned to work for Katherine Parker, who is delightfully over played by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is able to play the supportive, yet underhanded boss very well, even if she occasionally veers off into Disney Villain territory.

Katherine appears to be the perfect boss, she listens to Tess and encourages her to come to her with ideas for their clients,with the promise of reward for hard work.

One day Tess comes to Katherine with an idea for a client to buy a radio station. Katherine appears to listen and take and interest. Though just before her departure to Europe on a skiing trip she informs Tess the idea was a no goer. The inevitable happens and Katherine breaks her leg whilst away, leaving Tess to look after her apartment until she can return.

Katherine represents everything Tess wants to be, elegant, poised, sophisticated, and, above all in power. So of course in an attempt to mimic her Tess goes through all of Katherine’s things, including her Dictaphone, which just so happens to contain a memo about Tess’ idea that Katherine has kept for herself.

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So it turns out Katherine was a massive lying dirt bag all along. Tess decides not to take this lying down, ‘cause she actually kicks ass. She sets up a meeting with Jack Trainer (the ever sexy Harrison Ford). The night before the big meeting Tess gets dolled up in Katherine’s finest clothes to attend a party where the famous Mr Trainer will also be in attendance.

He espies her across the room and tells her Jack Trainer just left before she got there, but she should totally have a tequila with him to make up for it. She ends up getting hammered, thanks in part to the Valium she had taken earlier to calm her nerves.

 

I love this scene, it’s all about how you can be an empowered woman who can handle business without having to give up your femininity and dress, as Jack Trainer himself puts it ‘ how a woman would think a man would dress if he was a woman’

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Together Tess and Jack pull together the deal with the client, and on the big meeting between the client and the radio station they are buying Katherine returns from Europe, and discovered Tess’ double-cross when she finds her diary that was left behind in her haste to leave and get to the meeting.

sigourney weaverKatherine manages to get dressed and down to the office where the negotiations are taking place and burst through the door like the wonderfully campy villain she is and kicks Tess out for lying and stealing her idea, all whilst flailing her crutches about. Though at the final meeting the truth prevails. Katherine gets her comeuppance and Tess gets her reward in a new job in a junior position with a new firm, as well as falling in love with Jack. 

On Tess’ first day in her new job she automatically places her things on the secretary’s desk, only to be told by the woman appearing from the fancy office that she is in fact the secretary and the office now belongs to Tess. As she does her introductions to her new employee she decides not to be like Katherine, and be a better boss and a better support.

alec baldwinThere are so many lessons to be learnt from Working Girl, you don’t need to pretend to be a man in order to fit in in places of business. You don’t need to sleep with someone to get ahead. It’s OK to get rid of unsupportive people in your life (At one point Tess finds her unsupportive boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman, so she kicks him to the curb). It’s OK to be supportive to your friends with aspirations, Tess’ best friend, Cynthia (Joan Cusack, who also has the best ever New York accent and some of the highest hair I’ve ever seen) is always there for her, no matter what. Even joan cusackwhen she might not agree with Tess’s actions, she supports them and doesn’t judge her for wanting a career over her cheating boyfriend. Above all, it’s about how everyone should come together and supportive of each other in the workplace in order to achieve equality. We are a little closer to this goal nearly thirty years on, but with men still in the vast majority of positions of power we still have a way to go.

Yes, the production values are little dated. Yes, the fashion choices are questionable. Yes, it’s a little fluffy and things happen at the convenience of the plot. But this is a wonderful film, it’s hard not to get swept up with Tess’ ambitions and fight to be taken seriously in a world dominated by men. She refuses to give up her morals for the sake of getting ahead. She is truly a feminist hero and a great inspiration for any young woman wanting to enter big business.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)

If you grew up or were born in the 80s, that chances are you watched the Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles at some point. Me and my brother, we were huge fans out mum even made a turtle costume for us to play turtles with. Here’s the photo to prove it.  little me

In the UK they were called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, just incase kids were corrupted by ancient martial arts and nunchucks or something like that. The reasons are a little hazy.

I haven’t seen this since I was a young kid, and I remember it being… Not great, but then what did I know, I thought  . When it was my turn to choose the movie for  my regular bucket o’ chicken night with my friend I had a hankering for some nostalgia, and I wanted to wipe the Michael Bay effort from my mind.

So, the movie starts out with various news outlets reporting about a spate of break ins and gang activity in New York, which has been linked to a Foot Clan, which originated in Japan.

A plucky young reporter by the name of April O’Neil comes under attack in the Subway after some super sleuthing  led her to talk about the Foot Clan on television. After she gets knocked unconscious a mysterious turtle like figure comes to the rescue and takes her back to his sewer.

turtlesHere April meets the rest of the Turtles, Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo (Raphael being the one who rescued her), as well as their master, Splinter.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that the characterisations are spot on. Even through those strange rubber suits, they’re all just as I remember them from the show. Raph is the wise-ass, Mikey’s the party dude, Donatello’s the techy guy and Leonardo is the natural leader of the gang. Even dear old splinter is full of Eastern wisdom and serenity just like the old days. Most important of all, they’re still obsessed with pizza!

april oneillThe best character, though is April. She goes out there and follows her heart even though she could get in trouble or lose her job. The truth is what is important to her. Best of all, she has not been overly sexualised. She’s just a regular woman trying to do her job well. She’s not some glamazon, she’s not doing it for revenge or some convoluted reasons about her dad. She’s trying to be a good reporter who is accountable for her own actions. Though sometimes she’s a little left out of the action sequences she still kicks ass in her own way.  

After the introductions it becomes clear that a Foot Soldier has followed Raph back to the turtle lair, after some (intentionally) comedic fighting they all manage to escape, apart from Splinter who gets kidnapped and taken back to meet the leader of the Foot Clan, the evil Shredder.

shredderShredder doesn’t really have that much to do in the film, apart from skulk about and make threats. He also has a hat that looks like a bicycle helmet with bits stuck on and wears a top that looks like he stole it from Prince’s wardrobe, but he does a good job of skulking about.

The turtles and April team up with Casey Jones and start to prepare to take on the foot clan, and ultimately Shredder to take back the city, and their Master from the evil scourge.

I was really expecting this to be really, really terrible. Like Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter terrible. Actually, it wasn’t nearly half as bad as I remember it.

Yes, it was pretty cheesy, but so was the cartoon. If you just go with it you’ll love it. There’s plenty of bad puns and dad jokes to give you a good groan, with a secret ‘that was pretty funny’ smile. As well as some great slapstick moments.

Speaking of which, the choreography is done pretty well. When you consider they were four guys in rubber turtle suits it’s actually kind of impressive. The fight scenes are al interesting and provide a good mix of cheesy puns and actual fighting, which is never too violent as this is a PG.

splinter gif.gifThe puppetry works well even if they couldn’t quite get the hang of lip synching and Donatello has this weird thing where his lip keeps going up at the end of every sentence. Though it has to be said, the scene with a pre-mutated Splinter practising ninja moves whilst watching his own Master, Yoshi. It truly is something to behold.

 

Something else I really loved about this is that it really encapsulates the feeling of New York in the late 80s/early 90s when the city was still years away from becoming the relatively safe tourist destination it is today. It feels grimy and dirty, even though it has that PG rating it feels like there is danger in the air every time it ventures into the street of New York.

Even though it has been watered down and made acceptable for children it’s also a great showcase for how gangs operate by finding vulnerable people and giving them a place and people to call their own, a substitute family.

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Overall this is a bit cheesy, and maybe a bit naff in parts. Sometimes the story becomes a little confused, but you still get the jist of what’s going on. It might not make a greatest ever movie list, but for what it is, it is great. A piece of nostalgia you can let wash over you like snuggling up to a favourite childhood blankie.

 

Top 5 Remakes That Were Better Than The Original

As we groan in abject disdain as Hollywood pumps out more and more seemingly pointless remakes (hello Robocop and the-stuck-in-development-hell Highlander) we are in danger of losing sight of the fact that sometimes the remake can actually improve on the original. Yes, the percentages are low, for every Coen Brothers True Grit there is a bargain basement Get Carter, but remakes can sometimes surprise us, adding a new dimension to an old story, and in some cases (which there are two of on this list) new technology and visual effects can provide a more visceral experience.

I admit, I am a little bit of snob when it comes to remakes, especially those that don’t seem have a point to it; doing a remake for the sake of ego boosting or raising the profile of a particular actor/director makes absolutely no sense to me, there has to be an advance or something fresh whether it be political, technological, sociological, whatever… that the original either was lacking or fudged in the first place.

So here we are, my own personal top 5 remakes that were better than the originals.

1. Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1978)

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The 70s remake of ‘Invasion…’ is on every single one of these remake lists and usually at the top. The reason being because it is absolutely bloody marvellous. The original ‘Invasion…’ was released in 1956 and dismissed without fanfare by the critics but as time as passed it has been widely re-assessed as an allegoric masterpiece tapping into the paranoia and fear of the US populace during the rise of communism and the Soviet Union. The remake keeps the main themes intact, the dangers of conformity, or not asking questions of those around, of just blending into the crowd, of someone exerting complete control over your mind and body, but ramps up the visuals with some deeply disturbing and Cronenberg-esque body horror (see the scene in the garden with Donald Sutherland and bunch of replicated bodies writhing on the grass). And that final scene, oh that final scene, hopeful at first and then horrific afterwards, I dare you to find a closing scene that gives you such a conflicting shock of emotions. Also you get a very, very youthful Jeff Goldblum and Donald Sutherland with a moustache and perm. I don’t know what much more you would need.

2. The Thing (1982)

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A remake of an adaptation of book that has its own prequel, The Thing has its origins and tentacles all over modern cinema, but John Carpenter’s 1982 sci-fi horror is unparalleled in both technical achievement and as a perfect example of how to execute a simple plot in one location with small band of actors. We all know from a previous post how much i admire Kurt Russell and his glorious beard, but credit also has to go to the supporting cast, specifically Keith David as Childs and Donald Moffat as Garry (who has a cracking one liner during the tense blood test stand off). Like ‘Invasion…’ above, the main progression from the original is the special effects. Rob Bottin and his team create some effects and pieces so disgusting and strange that it’s both mildly stomach churning yet extremely difficult to look away. The Thing is not a complex watch but is a compelling one, and again like ‘Invasion…’ and all good sci-fi horror films, the ending is bleak but open for endless theorising, and I am not ashamed to say that I have watched the videos and read the message boards about whether or not Childs or MacReady or either of them is The Thing at the end (and it’s a heck of a rabbit hole).

 

3. The Departed (2006)

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A remake of the Hong Kong crime drama Infernal Affairs, The Departed is absolutely rammed to the gills of all the actors the Scorsese had on speed dial, apart from De Niro who was probably off making a shit comedy because he is De Niro. You’d think with all that talent, and egos probably, that The Departed would possibly sink under the weight but this is Scorsese and he is the king of keeping an ensemble cast in check (I’m guessing by boomeranging his eyebrows if one of them gets a bit feisty). This is one of those remakes that sort of doesn’t have a point to it apart from it being adapted from the Far East in order to suit the American market and usually that just doesn’t work (I’m looking at you Oldboy and Dark Water), but The Departed is one of those rare occasions  where everything just works. Damon and DiCaprio are the two sides of the same coin with Jack Nicholson, as unpredictable as ever, flipping between the two of them. The supporting cast is sublime (the scenes with Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg out-yelling and out-swearing each other is worth the price of a dvd alone), the script has some wonderfully ornate foul language and strong twists and turns, and while it does run on a little long, The Departed just pips Infernal Affairs in high crime drama stakes.

4. The Fly (1986)

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Of all the body horror films The Fly is the one that stays with me the most, probably because it’s the most…. juicy. A remake of the 1958 film, it sticks to the core plot of mad scientist mixes atoms with a fly after a cross-contamination incident but takes the gore and excess to new heights. There’s acid vomit, a maggot baby, Jeff Goldblum (who obviously has good taste in sci-fi because this is his second appearance on this list) falling apart in the most grotesque manner possible, and some phenomenally vile set pieces. The 1958 version was shocking at its time, the visual effects disturbed and appalled in equal measure, but watching it now it’s almost amateurish, so Cronenberg’s remake is a prime example of how advancing technology aids and gives reason to a great remake.

 
5. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

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I’m being bold here and letting you all know that I am not a fan of musicals. Most musicals bring me out in a serious case of hives. Just give me drama, give me comedy, don’t sing it at me. Ya dig? However, I will let Little Shop of Horrors through my musical defences. A remake of a Broadway musical which in turn was based on Roger Corman’s 1960 film, Little Shop of Horrors is an absolute blast. With its tongue firmly in cheek, it presents the story of sad old Seymour and Audrey, desperate to escape the NYC slum and end up in the possession of a strange plant that feeds on human blood. What follows is a bizarre, amusing and pleasingly camp 90 minutes with some wonderful musical song and dance routines, and some glorious cameos from Bill Murray and Steve Martin. The original 60s film wasn’t a musical at all, just a very low budget black comedy and it did work, but when presented with the 80s form with musical additions then you realise that this remake is exactly what Little Shop of Horrors needed.

Fantastic Four Review

spoiler alert

There are spoilers in here, so proceed with caution if you care about spoilers.

 

The Fantastic Four do not have a great history when it comes to big screen adaptations.

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For some reason it didn’t do well

There was the 1994 adaptation that no one really remembers, though I’m not sure how anyone could forget that Thing costume. He looks like one of the Goombas from the Mario Bros movie.

Then Marvel waited eleven years and released a reboot, after all comic book movies were farting out money by this time. It was like they couldn’t fail. Yet the 2005 movie managed to do just that. It left both critics and fans pretty cold, though it must have made some money because Marvel decided a sequel was well worth the effort.

Rise of the silver Surfer was the only Fantastic Four movie I had seen, and it was… Not good to say the least, with an incoherent plot and a lot of questions about the relationships between the characters, it was pretty excruciating to watch.

2015
Look at how dark it is. Must  be really gritty and realistic.

After so many failures I was quite surprised to hear they were doing another reboot. Naturally I approached this new reboot with some trepidation, worried that it’d be full of weird costumes and quips that just aren’t funny. My caution was well deserved.

The films starts with a young Reed Williams (Miles Teller) who gets picked on for inventing a teleport at the age of 12. He recruits the help of one Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) and the become BFFs, awww.

The science teacher declare his science project unscientific (for some reason, I suspect it was supposed to be out of fear) and declares them disqualified from the science fair. Luckily Professor Storm just so happens to be there and recruits Reed to help him and his kids Sue (Kate Mara) and Johnny (Michael. B Jordan) on a project to build a ‘quantum gate’. Which is not so much a gate, but like a pod… Thing.


After them doing some sciencey type stuff Reed, Ben, Johnny and a guy called Victor Von Doom (I bet you can’t guess what happens to that guy) go into the quantum gate on a mission for science, leaving Sue Storm back at the office to look after the computers and stuff.

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Stuff goes wrong on the alternative planet they find themselves on after stabing the ground and angering it. Reed, Johnny and Ben manage to get back to the gate (though not before getting a dose of radiation) and Sue gets electrocuted from her computer or something. It was hard to tell exactly what happened with her.

Unfortunately they couldn’t save Victor Von Doom from, well, his doom and he gets left behind

After spending a few months of being hooked up to various beeping machines Reed escapes and finds his friends have been turned into a talking pile of rubble (The Thing), a fireman (The Human Torch) and an invisible lady (The Invisible Woman). He feels really guilty about this, so he escapes leaving them in the hands of the government for a year.

In the last 20 mins of the film they go back into the quantum gate for some reason and find Victor still alive, though after spending a year on a radioactive planet has left him looking kinda like a big lump of coal. After dragging him back to Earth it turns out he’s a little bitter about the whole being left on a violent glowing, radioactive planet for a year and starts to destroy the world.

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And here you will find the best line in the film. They’re trying to reason with Victor only to be told ‘There is no Victor, only Doom’. I can’t figure out with that was an intentional reference to Ghostbusters or if they were all in the writing room feeling very pleased with themselves for coming up with such an awesome line. I like to think it’s the latter. 

Finally the heroes get together to fight the big evil and become the Fantastic Four.

OK, so the main thing that’s wrong with this film is that It takes far, far too long to get to the good stuff, which is super heroes with some awesome powers fighting a bad guy with equally awesome (but evil) powers. This though, gets all bogged down in it’s own history. As if the audience is going to be sitting there not believing what they are seeing because they don’t know every precise detail of why that guy can light himself on fire. He’s a super hero, it’s the sort of shit they do! 

I feel it would have actually worked a lot better if they had just left the origin story thing for now and just let them have an adventure with mild references to their origins. Thus setting it up for another movie and which could concentrate on just one or two of them.

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It’s actual cannibal Miles Teller

Miles Teller always has a bit of a gormless look on his face and somehow manages to come across as an even less charismatic Shia laBeouf, making Mr Fantastic (as he is known once he becomes stretchy) just, meh. He’s there and he’s smart, there is nothing else to say about him. The others were just as bland. Personally I found there to be little chemistry between the main four actors. With the exception of Reed and Ben they just felt like four work colleagues who didn’t really like each other. So it felt a little forced when they come together at the end to fight the sudden appearance of Doom.

The special effects are pretty awesome and they’ve really made the characters look great and realistic once they do get their powers. It just takes so long to get to that point and the characters themselves are so bland that you simply don’t care. It’s like at Christmas when you came downstairs all excited at the presents nestled under the tree with their bright wrapping, inviting wrapping paper. Only when you tear it off it’s a roll of sellotape and a pair of black socks, not even novelty ones.

The story is just all over the place and you just don’t care about anything that happens, there’s no one strong character to route for or care about. They’re all just floundering  about with nothing to do. 

Marvel clearly really love The Fantastic Four. They keep resurrecting them every few years despite it being a major stink bomb each time. Maybe they love them too much and need to take a step back and look at it objectively. Stop dragging these poor guys through the mud, Marvel!

I’ve never read the comics, but they’ve been going for years, surely there’s an interesting story in amongst the hundreds of issues for them to draw on instead of yet another origin story?

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He even comes with his own hat

Come on Marvel, just draught in Joss Whedon again and let him have a go next time. It is not good when your movie earns five Golden Raspberries (though Worst Picture was tied with 50 Shades of Grey… Yeah, that’s right, this is 50 Shades bad!).

 

 

If you’re a really big fan of the comics there might be something in here for you to enjoy, though I would recommend giving this a miss.

★★☆☆☆

 

Why Inside Out Should Have Been Nominated for the Best Picture Oscar

Every year the best of the best and glitteriest of the glittery follow their natural homing instincts and gather for the annual Academy Awards ceremony.

oscarThe Academy has long been considered the most prestigious award one can get for making a great movie. Some chase after Oscars for years, desperately starring in anything that they think will get them the coveted gold covered statuette of a naked man.

Some will chase to boost ticket and DVD sales. Some like the respect winning can get you. Others probably enjoy the higher wages one can demand when you’re a big star.

 

One of the most sought after awards is that of the Best Picture, just a nomination can boost sales by up to 60%.

Despite this, The Best Picture Oscar has been very hit and miss over the years, and has often overlooked some amazing films in favour of something that might be a little more mainstream.

carl upAnimation in particular has had to fight to be recognised in it’s own right. The Best Animated Feature award was only introduced in  2001, and animated films have only been nominated for Best Picture three times (Beauty and the Beast in 1992, Up! In 2009 and Toy Story in 2010).

At one point Inside Out was tipped to join the other three and get a nomination for Best Picture. Unfortunately it missed out.

I have only seen two and a half of the Best Picture nominated films, so I’m not going to tell you why they shouldn’t have been nominated, but instead this is an argument as to why Inside Out should have received a nomination.

I’m pretty sure it’s been mentioned before that I love Disney Pixar. Their beloved characters, involving stories and innovative animation techniques make them some of the very best kids movies around.

inside-out-1024x640I think it is this mind set that has often made it difficult for animated films to be taken seriously by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (we’ll call it The Academy for short), they’re often seen as ‘for kids’. For some reason entertainment that is aimed at children is seen a being of a lesser quality, a lesser art form as that for adults.

It’s this perception that really needs to go. Yes it is true that a lot of drivel is pumped out at an exponential rate aimed at capturing children’s attention, and (more importantly, to the makers) their parent’s money. This does not mean that every TV show, book, or movie that is aimed at children is somehow inferior to adult entertainment. This is even before I start on the argument that not all animation is for children and is an art form in it’s own right. 

Inside Out is an exploration of emotions, what they truly mean and how they interact with each other. Emotions are not something that only children experience, they are a universal human experience. So I find it somewhat unfair that The Academy could have perhaps snubbed it for being animated and aimed at children, as it is a very solid piece of cinema that has a lesson we can all learn from.

rileyThe story is about an 11 year old girl named Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), who, along with her family, moves from Minnesota to San Francisco in California. Though initially she seems excited about the new house and a new start. When the new house is a bit of a let down, still no moving truck and her father keeps having heated telephone discussions about his business the dream turns sour.

As she struggles to keep herself together she tries not to let her parents know that she is finding it difficult to adjust and keeps on smiling and not talking about her feelings.

Inside her head we can see those emotions as they all tussle to be in charge on the console. As Joy (a wonderfully chirpy Amy Poehler) struggles to keep Sadness (a wonderfully morose Phyllis smith) at bay. When Sadness keeps making all of Riley’s happy memories sad Joy tries to prise them away from her, in the tussle they both end up getting sucked through a memory recall tube and get lost in the Long Term Memory. Leaving Anger (Lewis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Fear (Bill Hader) in charge of keeping Riley happy and Joy and Sadness desperately trying to find their way back to help Riley.

 

INSIDE OUT

On the journey home Joy constantly tries to keep everything light and jovial, even when getting back to head quarters seems hopeless, she tries to remain upbeat in the face of adversity. With the help of her companion she has to learn that it’s OK to feel sad when you need to, and to talk to the people you love and trust about being sad, and it is these simple actions that can get you the help you need to bring back the feeling of happiness.

There are also themes of moving on and being able to let go from the past as we can see from the imagination land area of Riley’s brain, which is going over a dramatic makeover from Riley the child to Riley the adult. As well with the character Bing Bong, Rileys’s imaginary friend from when she was little who no longer gets played with but still lingers in her long term memory in the hope that one day he will be remembered.

bing bongThe script is just lovely, for a film about the importance of sadness it’s a pretty funny film, as well as being deeply touching at times. Like the very best Pixar films it makes you cry at more than one point and makes you feel all of the emotions all at once. It manages this all whilst being accessible to everyone, from a young child to an elderly person.

Amy Poehler does a great job of bringing Joy to life, she’s like an animated version of Leslie Knope, her character from Park and Recreation. Though when Joy realises that Sadness was right all along Poehler is able to bring a humility to the performance.

With a solid script (It did get nominated for Best Script at the Oscars) stellar performances and a moving storyline Inside Out should have been in the running for Best Picture, but it missed out.

riley familyWe can’t say for certain why, the nominations are voted for by the members of The Academy, maybe it’s because most of the Academy members are old men, and they are perhaps less inclined to vote for a film about an 11 year old girl over a film about a newspaper investigating paedophilia within the church.

 

Maybe they just didn’t think it was worth it was because it was aimed at children.

Maybe it was simply because it was animated. Who knows?

What I do know, is that this a moving and delightful film for anyone of any age. It helps us all to look at our own emotions and how they can all play a part in making us who we are and contribute to making us happy (even sadness) and that it was deserving of at least a nomination of Best Picture.

 

Review: X-Men: Apocalypse

Rating 12A, 144 minutes

X-Men: Apocalypse is like one of those birds within a bird within a bird that you can get reasonably cheap from Iceland (and most other decent supermarkets of your choice). It’s overstuffed to the hilt, crammed together with little regard for form or presentation that it is hard really get a grip on all the new stuff while simultaneously trying to enjoy the old stuff. Bryan Singer has a habit of throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, into his films and Apocalypse is no different.

We open with some Mummy-esque Egyptian tomfoolery as poor old Oscar Isaac is plucked from the masses to be the new vessel for the ‘world’s first mutant’ Apocalypse. For reasons I will not spoil because it is actually a pretty nifty opening sequence, he ends up buried for a 1000 years or so under a heap of rubble deep beneath the city of Cairo. Cut to 1983 and the X-Men aren’t really the X-Men. Charles and Hank are still helping the weird and wonderful mutant children of the world in that ridiculous house, Mystique is hopping around Europe helping random mutants where she sees them (and we get a nice sequence in East Berlin where we are introduced to Nightcrawler (whom i love) and Angel (whom i can live without)), and Magneto is living incognito in Poland with a family. We also get a decent introduction to dear old Scott Summers who, thank god, is infinitely less annoying than his previous guise (sorry James Marsden), and Jean Grey is re-introduced as a sassy loner who the rest of the school is mildly terrified of.

In Cairo, some nosy CIA agent (hi Moira!) lets the old immortal cat out of the bag and our dear Oscar emerges from his cocoon looking like a cross between Ivan Ooze and Imhotep, and he is not a happy bunny. He spouts some hokum about false gods, the world needing to be cleansed, systems needing to be torn down and all that usual megalomaniacal stuff after putting his hand on a television. He then starts in earnest to locate his four horsemen (Storm, Angel, Psylocke, and Magneto), with each getting their own scene of transformation and change. Magneto’s thread in particular has decent emotional heft which is also aided by the fact Fassbender is an absolutely cracking actor, but some of that heft is dulled by a strangely bizarre scene in a certain famous concentration camp that left me feeling more uncomfortable than anything.

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From here X-Men: Apocalypse heads down that now familiar superhero film route of wanton destruction, bloodless deaths of millions and oodles and oodles of CGI. The whole charm of the first two X-Men films and, to an extent, First Class was the sparing use of full bloodied action sequences. They were there but they weren’t bombastic honking blares of noises and things loudly crumbling and disintegrating. They were neatly positioned and neatly executed, but in the post-Avengers/Marvel throng, it now seems that every superhero film must have these increasingly lengthy and pointless blitzes and the more I see them, the more wistful I become for the good old days.

Apocalypse himself suffers from having a very vague and underdeveloped motivation for wanting to cleanse the world. He’s basically just a power hungry, greedy bastard clown man. Isaac does well with what he gets, some of his lines are undoubtedly cheesy but he delivers them with enough gravitas to get away with it. Fassbender is the stand out of the rest of the cast, though it does help that Magneto has the most emotionally intense character arc of the lot. He and McAvoy, as always, bounce off each other with great aplomb, although there is only so many times in so many different locations i can watch Charles tell Erik that there is good in him. McAvoy himself doesn’t get that much to work with on the whole, but he delivers some nice comic touches in his scenes with Hank and Moira which makes a nice change from the intense Charles that we are so used to seeing. Jennifer Lawrence is a little bit flat here, and there is a distinct whiff of ‘contractual obligation’ in her delivery. Evan Peters as Quicksilver steals every scene he is in. His holler of ‘WE DON’T KNOW BRO!’ got one of the biggest laughs in the screening. The newbies, on the whole, hold their own. Kodi Smit-Mcphee (whose name annoys me for no discernable reason) adds a wonderful amount of levity to proceedings as Nightcrawler. As mentioned before, Cyclops is far less slappable and credit must go to Tye Sheridan for that, and Sophie Turner is pretty decent as Jean Grey even if she does spend a lot of her time gawping (judging by the ending of the film and what the producers/writers/directors have said in various interviews she is going by playing a far bigger part in the future).

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In the grand scheme of things, X-Men Apocalypse is not a bad film but it’s certainly not a great one. Tonally, it’s a mess. Pacing wise it works. Through its reasonably lengthy 144 minute run-time i never found myself bored or disinterested, and in this day and age that’s quite an achievement. The CGI is rather cartoonish when placed in comparison to Marvel’s output, however, even if it wasn’t a deliberate move by Singer et al, I found some of it rather charming. To see a superhero film actually embrace the non-realism instead of going all Nolan and gritty (hello BvS) was a refreshing change.

There is a little too much scraping over old ground in terms of character exchanges (Charles and Erik in particular have the same argument that they had in First Class and Days of Future Past – they should just get married and have it over with) and some dialogue is eye-roll inducing but on the whole Apocalypse is a pretty solid, entertaining entry into X-Men film history if a little devoid of originality.

Rating: ★★★☆☆