Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dumbo (2019)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures and Tim Burton Productions

Dumbo – Film Review

Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

Director: Tim Burton

Synopsis: When an elephant in the care of a struggling circus gives birth, the young creature is born with rather large ears. When it’s discovered that he can fly, the circus makes him its newest attraction to turn around its fortunes…

Review: It is very hard not to look at most of these live action re-imaginings of classic animated Disney films of yesteryear as nothing more than cynical cash grabs. For some of these films, you look at them and just think, there is no reason for these films to be remade. However, in the case of Dumbo, since the original film came out over seventy years ago, a remake does seem warranted.  However, with three live action remakes set to grace the big screen this year, Disney is only just getting started, and everyone’s favourite big eared elephant is the first one in its sights.

It is 1919, and Holt (Farrell) has just come home from the First World War, a war that has taken a heavy toll on him. In his absence, his kids Millie (Parker) and Joe (Hobbins) have been enduring a difficult time, with their circus, led by Max Medici (DeVito) really falling on hard times. However an opportunity to revive their ailing fortunes presents itself with the arrival of an adorable young elephant, who happens to be born with unusually large ears. Initially the subject of much derision and ridicule, most notably from Medici, this turns to awe when it’s revealed that this young creatures’s ears give him the ability to fly. This soon attracts the attention of V. A. Vandevere (Keaton), the owner of a much bigger circus/theme park.

Cuteness overload…

Given that humans didn’t feature in the original, and that the original film was just over an hour, Ehren Kruger’s screenplay has to expand on the source material. As such the human characters become the main focus of the film, and not the titular little elephant. Given that they’re the focus of the plot, the screenplay tries to give the humans something substantial to work with, and the results are mixed. DeVito is on reliably entertaining form as Medici, but it’s Holt’s daughter Millie who steals the spotlight as she is the most fleshed out character. She is a very strong willed young woman who has a keen interest in science, as well as taking care of Dumbo and helping him adapt to circus life, alongside her brother.

Parker’s performance shows that she has inherited those acting chops from her mother Thandie Newton. By contrast, none of the other human characters are really given much development, despite some of the stellar names in the cast. Michael Keaton’s character especially feels really out of place, with an accent so peculiar it’s hard to fathom what accent it is or why he’s speaking in that manner. One quick glance at the filmography of Tim Burton, and you would quickly realise that his imagination as a director is as dark and eccentric as they come. With that said, he doesn’t seem to be the most natural choice to bring Dumbo’s story to a new generation. Given the target market of the film, there’s obviously nothing as macabre or as freaky that Burton’s imagination has previously brought to the big screen.

Though, as one might expect with Burton, there are some dark undertones. Yet the direction for the most part feels very safe and doesn’t really take any risks, which feels like a missed opportunity as the scope was there to explore a dark side to the circus. The CGI for Dumbo is really well done and, as you would expect, Dumbo is completely adorable and above all else, in spite of the glittering array of talent in this cast, it’s this sweet little elephant that you find yourself rooting for the most, if only he had that little bit more screen time.

The cast try their hardest, but an indifferent script and the mismatch of tones prevent this live action re-imagining from soaring, but, thanks to the adorable titular elephant, it does get off the ground.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox

Alita: Battle Angel – Film Review

Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Keean Johnson

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Synopsis: Set in the 26th century,  a compassionate doctor finds an abandoned cyborg whom he names Alita (Salazar). Upon reawakening, Alita with no recollection or memories of her previous life, goes in search of answers…

Review: If you’re looking for a big name film-maker to get an ambitious project off the ground, James Cameron is not a bad choice to turn to. For here is a director who for a time, boasted the two highest grossing films of all time in his repertoire, as well as being the one of the two brains behind the Terminator franchise. But even with the involvement of such a talent as Cameron, and director Robert Rodriguez, sometimes, it just not enough to save the project.

After humanity has been seriously affected by a deadly war, Dr Dyson Ido (Waltz) finds the remains of a female cyborg in a scrapyard, brings her body back to his lab and restores her to life. However, Alita with no memory of who she was in her previous life, is determined to get some answers. Right away the film throws the audience head first into the thick of what is evidently a planet that has clearly been effected heavily by war. Yet the screenplay, penned by Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis, doesn’t really provide any context for the preceding war that has seemingly crippled this society. Furthermore, an overwhelming majority of the dialogue feels very stilted.

As the main character, Alita is certainly a likeable protagonist that you want to root for, even if the CGI on her is a little jarring to begin with. You want her to find out the answers that she’s seeking and it is extremely entertaining to watch her throw down against some of the slimy, nefarious people that inhabit this world. But of course, they had to add a romance into the mixture with Alita falling for Hugo (Keean Johnson). It’s functional to the plot as he helps Alita acclimatise to the new world she is discovering but, there’s not a great deal of chemistry between the two of them, and while not as laughable as some of the romantic dialogue that the Star Wars prequels served up, it’s still pretty cringey.

The rest of the cast are also functional at best, which is extremely frustrating when you have Oscar winning talents like Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali. It just feels like their considerable talents are wasted on what could have been a much better script. What’s more, the motivations/purposes of some characters for doing what they’re doing are extremely vague, with scope clearly being left for future instalments. The CGI on the whole is very hit or miss, sometimes it looks really impressive, and there are other instances where it looks extremely cheap. This is problematic for a big budget blockbuster, especially since Cameron’s Avatar, a film that came out a decade ago, showed the world what CGI could accomplish.

For what is clearly striving to be a film that is trying to be its own franchise, it tries so hard to set up a sequel that it negates telling a worthwhile story to begin with. There are some entertaining scenes but again, there’s nothing here that really stands out to differentiate it from the plethora of films in this genre, that have been far more memorable. For any film that spends a long time stuck in development hell, it always feels like the odds are against it. Despite the best efforts of all concerned to bring this property to the big screen, and even with such star power, both in front of and behind the camera, this is a classic case of style over substance.

One cannot fault the ambition, but even with a solid lead performance from Salazar, the extremely corny dialogue and a rather messy plot just cannot save this film from its place on the scrapheap.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Mortal Engines (2018)

Image is property of Universal Pictures, Media Rights Capital and WingNut Films

Mortal Engines – Film Review

Cast: Hera Hilmar, Hugo Weaving, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang

Director: Christian Rivers

Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic world, society as we know it has fallen into ruin. Cities that have become civilisations on wheels, utilising smaller civilisations for their resources in order to survive…

Review: If you are looking to adapt a fantasy novel to the big screen, one man who would be extremely helpful to have on your team, would be visionary director Peter Jackson. The man who of course brilliantly brought the world of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies to the big screen is once again behind the wheels of another dip into the world of fantasy of sorts, except this time, there’s no magic rings, elves or goblins to be found. This time around, it’s a bit more closer to home, sort of.

Set a thousand years into our future, in this time frame civilisation as we know it has collapsed. Resources are scarce, and cities have become meals-on-wheels that roam around the terrain, looking to prey on smaller territories. The leader, or Prime Minister if you will, of what has become London, is Valentine (Weaving) who is looking to establish London’s domination over all of the other territories. In his path, however stands Hester Shaw (Hilmar) a woman who is on her own mission, a deeply personal one at that, against Valentine.

For a directorial debut, Rivers’s direction shows signs of promise as he packs in some exhilarating action sequences, including one right from the opening moments of the film. Having worked extensively with Jackson crafting the magnificent visual effects for both his Middle Earth trilogies, it should come as little surprise that the visual effects are excellent. When it comes to these cities, you really feel the scale of them and just how absolutely enormous they are. The excellent production design also helps to provide a really futuristic feel to these cities.

Lovely scenery….

As the most well known name in this cast, Weaving as the lead antagonist is sadly functional at best. Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw is the most compelling of the bunch as our main heroine. The film really strives to give her a compelling backstory to make you care about her. Unfortunately though, it’s just not as exciting as it wants to be, as there is a real dearth of personality on just about every character that you see on screen. Except for Stephen Lang’s character, who despite his nature, might just have more humanity than everyone else in the film, which is really saying a lot.

Given that the series of novels that the film is based on compromised of four novels, you would think that there is more than enough source material for the screenwriters to work with. Furthermore, when you have Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens writing the screenplay, you would think that there’s enough talent there to craft something compelling, but there is so much in this screenplay that is missing, most notably some heart.

Furthermore, it feels as though there is so more backstory that is just breezed over and barely explained just to squeeze into a two hour film. It feels that feels as though this, could and should, have been a TV show instead. There was a chance to craft the next big franchise, but alas, too many similarities to superior properties meant that the wheels came off, and that opportunity was completely squandered.

Visually impressive with some superb production design, but a pretty weak screenplay that overall fails to give its characters the charisma it needs to really give this story some momentum.  

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Image is property of Universal, Amblin Entertainment and Legendary Pictures

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Jeff Goldblum, B. D. Wong

Director: J.A. Bayona

Synopsis: Years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, with the island’s volcano about to explode, a rescue operation is launched to save the island’s dinosaur population from almost certain extinction…

Review: There is a seemingly undying fascination that humanity as a species has with dinosaurs. With museums that boast fascinating old skeletons of these creatures to a series of films that began all the way back in 1993 with Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, a film that changed the movie industry forever as for the first time on the big screen, dinosaurs came to life. Though the 1997 and 2001 sequels never quite lived up to the majesty of the original, the fascination never died. Indeed, when Jurassic World came along in 2015 to try and reintroduce the franchise to a new generation, the box office roared accordingly, to the tune of $1.6 billion, and so this franchise finds a way to keep on going.

With the Jurassic World theme park having met a predictable fate, following some disastrous dino-experimentation, the dinosaurs that are still on Isla Nublar are in immediate danger due to the island’s volcano which is threatening to erupt. So Claire (Howard) re-teams with Owen (Pratt) to mount a rescue operation to save the pre-historic beasts. However, there is the question of whether these creatures should be saved, or should nature just take its course? With Colin Trevorrow now solely on writing credits along with Derek Connolly, in comes The Impossible director J.A.Bayona who injects some of his disaster movie expertise into the film. In doing so, providing some especially haunting shots of the now desolate park and one scene in particular that is especially melancholic.

Hold on to your butts, and run for your life!

Bayona does his best to replicate the visual majesty of the original, and while topping that is an almost impossible task, he does bring some really stellar action scenes to the mix. Yet the script could easily have done with having some of the DNA of the first film injected into it, as there is a severe lack of development on many of the humans. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard once again both give solid performances as our two main characters, but the development their characters is very limited. It is a similar story for those that are in the supporting roles, as they’re just not as memorable as say a John Hammond or Ian Malcolm. Speaking of, the Goldblum makes a welcome return, but his appearance is fleeting at best.

With Bayona bringing the visual splendour, Trevorrow and Connolly’s script doesn’t quite match up to that. The plot certainly goes in a very interesting direction, and it is very much a tale of two halves. One being the mission to the island, and the other being that mission’s aftermath. Plaudits must be given for them for trying something a bit different, but having said that, it is hard to ignore the similarities that this film has with its predecessors, and there are specific elements that you will look at think that you have seen this before, because we have.

What is cooked up by Bayona and Trevorrow delivers both what a sequel should do, but in other cases should not do. There is a much stronger attempt to bring a more coherent narrative to the story, which does bring more spectacle and emotion. What’s more, Bayona’s horror routes really shine through in a number of places. Yet the lack of development on many of the characters and the rehash of familiar plot elements is a massive frustration as we have seen franchises in the past take things in a brand new direction before. Blending classic Jurassic franchise tropes with some new elements, almost like trying to cook up the perfect dinosaur. The results are not catastrophic, but definitely nothing extraordinary.

The addition of Bayona as director provides some visual majesty that Spielberg would be proud of, but a tonally inconsistent script results in a dinosaur romp that will entertain, terrify and bemuse in equal measure.  

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ready Player One (2018)

Ready Player One – Film Review

Cast: Tye Sherdian, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg

Director: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: In the year 2045, the real world in pretty bad shape. As such, in order to escape their daily troubles, many people go into a virtual game world known as the OASIS, where a world of games and activities await…

Review: If ever there was a record for the amount of pop culture references that were made throughout the runtime of one particular film, the odds are good that this particular work would be pretty near the top of the list. If you were to play a round of pop culture bingo whilst watching this film, you would probably have enough references to yell out bingo, possible a few times over, and maybe then a few more.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, the story focuses on Wade Watts (name to sound like a superhero alter-ego). He is just one of many citizens whose life is far from idyllic in Columbus, Ohio. So he goes into the virtual reality world known as the OASIS, essentially on a daily basis. Given what you can do in this world (basically anything) it isn’t hard to see why people jump into this world with such regularity. As part of a prize left behind by the world’s creator, a competition arises to win a pretty sweet prize that would change the life of the winner forever, which naturally has Wade’s attention. All the while, the head honchos at a rival company led by Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn) try to get their hands on the big prize for their own maniacal purposes.

Given the sheer volume of pop culture references in this film, it could have very easily felt just like a massive pop culture extravaganza. However, despite all the references that will undoubtedly delight audiences everywhere, Spielberg strikes a balance between the vast array of pop culture and a very personal story involving Wade and the relationship he begins to strike up with another gamer, namely Samantha (Cooke). The chemistry between these two is really well done and provides the film with the emotional heart that it really needs amidst all the pop culture phenomenon that is taking place, and the battle that ensues between these two and Sorrento.

Given the portfolio of a director such as Spielberg, with so many pieces of work that have left their ever-lasting stamp on the world of entertainment, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Spielberg crafts a visual treat in terms of the world of the OASIS and all that it encompasses. After his last few films have ventured for the most part into the Oscar territory, it is refreshing to see Spielberg go back into the pure blockbuster spectacle territory. As such, it is likely that a lot of fun was being had during the production, which definitely filters through when it comes to the story. Though it is a visual treat, the plot does suffer from some narrative issues and there is a notable lack of character development on some of the supporting crew besides Wade and Samantha. Furthermore, though the film is extremely entertaining visually, the plot can’t help but stray into very familiar and predictable territory.

Nevertheless, there is something delightful to behold in what Spielberg has brought to the screen, which will definitely be enhanced by how many of the references you will recognise and appreciate. Sheridan and Cooke are excellent in their key roles, and Mark Rylance once again reunites with Spielberg to great effect once again as perhaps the most significant player in this entire story. Spielberg strikes just about the right balance between this incredible world of the OASIS and the real life struggle that comes about as a result of this quest. The nostalgia factor plays its part, but the film is driven deeply personal story at its core. Though let’s be fair, a film driven entirely by the nostalgia/Pop culture Easter egg bonanza under the genius vision of a director like Spielberg wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing at all.

Visually delightful with pop culture Easter eggs aplenty, fused together with a heartfelt and intriguing story ensure a solid return in the blockbuster film-making department for Spielberg.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tomb Raider (2018)

Image is property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Pictures

Tomb Raider (2018) – Film Review

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas

Director: Roar Uthaug

Synopsis: After an explorer vanishes without a trace, his fearless daughter Lara Croft sets out on a mission to his last known location, and to discover what exactly was the true purpose of her father’s venture…

Review: It seems as though there is one genre of films that whenever a new one is announced, that said film is doomed to be a failure before it is even released to the general public. This genre is of course films adapted from popular video games. It is fair to say that over the years, they have gained a reputation for being, simply put, not very good. Two such examples, would the two Tomb Raider films that starred Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s. Though they did not enjoy the best of receptions, the legacy of Lara Croft as an iconic video game character remains very much intact, so much so that another attempt at bringing perhaps the most iconic video game character of the 90s to the big screen was almost inevitable.

Indeed, a good decade and a half later, and here we are. In terms of our badass heroine, it is out with Jolie, and in with recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander who works in a pretty much dead end job in present day London, though questions still remain her regarding her long lost father. When she stumbles upon a clue that links to his last known location, she decides to set out in search of what it was her father was investigating. Of course it would not be a Tomb Raider film if Lara doesn’t find herself in a spot of bother when she lands on this island and must use all of her skills to negotiate the obstacles she finds in her path.

A badass with a bow, watch out Katniss…

For this film to really stand any chance of being a success, it was essential that they cast a capable actress in the lead role. Though casting an Oscar winner is by no means a guaranteed recipe for success, Alicia Vikander brought charisma and personality to the role. She compliments this the physical attributes that are key traits of what makes Lara Croft, well Lara Croft. Vikander gives a committed performance and showed herself to be more than capable of handling the physicality of the role and the demanding action scenes. Though there is nothing ground-breaking about the, these scenes are for the most part fairly well handled by director Roar Uthaug.

It is essential in a film like this that your main character is well fleshed out, and this screenplay does just that. It gives Lara a backstory that explores her origins principally  her relationship with her father and how that has had an influence on her and her tomb raiding adventures. Though it sometimes comes across as a bit soppy, as it is an integral to who Lara is as a character, it does its job. Once we get to the crux of the adventure though is where things start to get really interesting. The plot, certainly recaptures that gritty nature of the games, and while it is entertaining, could be deemed to be a little bit by the numbers.

Yet, for what it is worth, this lays the foundations for the start of what could well turn out to be a franchise. There isn’t a great deal of character development for some of the other characters, most notably Kristin Scott Thomas and Walton Goggins. Nevertheless, the film achieves its goal of delivering a solid adventure for the legend that is Lara Croft, with plenty of visual nods to the franchise that die hard fans are undoubtedly going to appreciate.

The story treads familiar ground, but a strong capable performance from Vikander anchors the film and proves that adaptations of video games aren’t all bad.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Mummy (2017)

Image is property of Universal Studios

The Mummy – Film Review

Cast: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson

Director: Alex Kurtzman

Synopsis: An Ancient Egyptian Princess is awoken from eternal damnation and seeks to bring terror onto our world and has set her sights on Nick Morton (Cruise).

Review: It certainly seems fair to say that right now, a considerable amount of major studios are pouring a lot of time, effort and considerable sums of money into building shared cinematic universes of popular characters. Yet it’s all well and good conceiving these ideas, but it’s vital that the foundations of the universe are done, and done well enough so that it won’t all apart several films down the line. When it’s done well  (see the Marvel Cinematic Universe) it is delightful but when things have gone a little pear shaped, it can be troublesome to steer things back on course. For Universal, this reboot marks the launch of their Dark Universe, but in terms of laying those solid foundations to build upon, they’ve come up just a little bit short.

The film is set primarily in good old Britannia, but occasionally blasts back a thousand years or so to Egypt focusing on Princess Ahmanet. A woman who has consumed herself with jealousy and rage, and as a consequence, is locked away to spend eternity being mummified. Except when Cruise’s Morton stumbles upon a very ancient grave which sets off the chain of events leading to Ahmanet being freed from her damnation and now she’s on the hunt for someone, to help her rule the world (because what else do bad guys and gals really want to do besides that?) For writers as talented as Christopher McQuarrie and David Koepp, it is quite a surprise that their combined efforts result in such a lacklustre script that features really insipid dialogue, and a plot about as generic as they come. What’s more, some of the line delivery is nothing short of atrocious.

This lady is not looking for a hug…

Cruise has shown his talents across many decades as an actor and as a man who really commits himself to the stunts he performs, but here his performance is just as generic as you can get. He tries to come off as this roguish badass that, to be fair, he has done throughout the Mission:Impossible series. Except under the direction of debut director Alex Kurtzman, it simply doesn’t work. Russell Crowe is again another fine actor, but much like Cruise, there’s just nothing to get excited about in terms of his performance, likewise for Annabelle Wallis’s character whose dialogue with Cruise is extremely cringy and gives an extremely wooden performance.

Having risen to prominence in films such as Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond, Boutella is by far and away the film’s leading light (or should that be darkness?) Though she isn’t helped by the film’s weak script she does her damn best to put some meat on the bones of her character, but they are threadbare and it’s just a mighty disappointment given the talent of the actress to not make her more of a compelling, and menacing presence, given that the script and the tone of the movie is all over the place.

There are some exhilarating, well filmed action scenes, packed with decent CGI, and accompanied by a fine score from Brian Tyler. There are plenty of shots of shots of Cruise running. which let’s be honest is is to be expected whenever he appears on screen, given that it has literally become a meme! It’s a shame then that these scenes are just not enough to prevent the film from being a complete mishmash that is trying so hard to get its Universe off the ground. It focuses so much on this, and as a consequence large forgets to be an entertaining movie by itself, and that is a monstrous disappointment.

With a real potpourri of mismatched tones, some very exposition heavy dialogue, and a collection of bland and uninteresting characters, the Dark Universe is off to an extremely uninspiring start.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

King Kong (2005)

Image is property of WingNut Films and Universal Pictures

King Kong – Film Review

Cast: Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Andy Serkis, Thomas Kretschmann, Evan Parke, Colin Hanks, Jamie Bell, Kyle Chandler

Director: Peter Jackson

Synopsis: A venture to make a film, led by an eccentric film-maker in the hope of capturing an uncharted piece of land on film leads to the discovery of a truly terrifying place, home to among other things, a giant ape…

Review: Of all the monsters to have featured in monster movies that have been released down the decades, there are perhaps only two monsters that have a claim to being the most iconic monsters to have ever graced the silver screen. One of these is of course Godzilla, and the other is of course Kong.  Both have featured in many films in the past and have been pitted against each other once before (and will do so again in 2020!) For Kong however, his first foray on the big screen came in 1933, at a time when the World was in the midst of the Great Depression, and so for director Peter Jackson, having just come off his phenomenal success with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, decided to tackle this story about a gargantuan Ape.

Interestingly, the 1933 film was Jackson’s inspiration for wanting to become a filmmaker and it’s clear in each frame that Jackson creates that he has an immense passion for this story, and as such wanted to do his utmost to pay tribute to the original. Indeed, Great Depression USA is where he sets the scene where Ann Darrow (Watts) who’s been made redundant is seeking work and she comes across Carl Denham (Black) an eccentric filmmaker seeking a female lead on an adventure to film the mysterious Skull Island, which Kong calls home. When they foray to said island and Ann is taken prisoner by Kong, a rescue mission is launched, and some monkey mayhem ensues.

The story of this giant ape is mainly told through Ann’s eyes, and Naomi Watts is superb in this role. It might seem impossible that a woman and an ape could become so close, but her performance makes it so believable. As Ann’s human love interest, Adrien Brody also gives a stellar turn as Jack Driscoll, a famous playwright whom Ann is an enormous fan of, and there’s Jack Black’s Carl, who despite his ambition, is ultimately not a really nice fellow. The focus is primarily on these three, although there is perhaps a bit too much focus on some other characters who you don’t care about enough. As such, a considerable chunk could have been taken off its 3 hour running time.

Jackson, with the Lord of the Rings trilogy showed off his ability to make some jaw dropping compelling action scenes. Though there are some that feel a bit scrappy and in some ways incomplete, there are more than a few others that are just  brilliant to watch, with more than a few iconic shots thrown in there for good measure. The special effects are truly phenomenal, all of the Skull Island residents are tremendously well realised, and if you have a fear of insects, one scene in particular might chill you to your core. Jackson again uses the New Zealand scenery as Skull Island, and there are more than a few spectacular shots. It’s so well realised it doesn’t feel like a movie set. The motion capture work that brings Kong to life is utterly tremendous and yet again Andy Serkis deserves enormous plaudits for his work with the technology in bringing characters such as these to life. That Oscar will surely come eventually. Although the film did manage to scoop three well deserved gongs, including one for visual effects.

When you think about a story about a 25 foot gorilla and a human female meeting and almost falling in love seems like a concept so ridiculous it should have been laughed out of production. Yet in 1933 it worked, and in 2005 it worked again, to great effect. It’s so effective that you might find yourself fighting back the tears once the dramatic final showdown on the top of the Empire State building has come to a close. And after this adventure has reached its conclusion, there might perhaps be just one question on your mind, does Beauty truly kill the Beast?

A remake done good with plenty of heart and emotion, and some chest thumpingly great action sequences, the King of the Apes roared again.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

hunt-for-wilderpeople
Image is property of Defender Films, Piki Films, Madman Entertainment, The Orchard, Vertigo and Sony

Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Film Review

Cast:  Sam Neill, Julian Dennison

Director: Taika Waititi

Synopsis: In the heart of the majestic New Zealand landscape, a national manhunt is launched after a mischievous teenager and his grumpy foster uncle, run away into the forest.

Review: The incredible and quite breath taking New Zealand countryside has certainly featured on the big screen before, most notably in Peter Jackson’s tremendous Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as his not-quite-as-tremendous-but-still-great Hobbit trilogy. It’s quite fitting then, that New Zealand born director Taika Waititi, in his latest film, a character makes a quite brilliant reference to the former trilogy, as the main characters find themselves in a very similar situation to one in the Lord of the Rings, but this is by no means a similar movie to the aforementioned trilogy.

There are no rings or orcs to be found here, instead we have Ricky Baker (Dennison) a troublesome teenager who has been given a chance for a new life with new foster parents. All appears to be going well, yet due to various circumstances, Ricky and his “uncle” Hec (Sam Neill) begin an adventure in the New Zealand shrubbery. All the while, the duo become the centre of a massive manhunt in order launched by the authorities in order to bring these two home, and a hilarious and very heartfelt adventure begins.

Adapting the screenplay from the novel Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, Waititi blends the humour of the story (of which there is plenty) and this is combined with some brilliant acting from the two main leads. It is clear that upon their first meeting Uncle Hec is not exactly keen on Ricky, but through time, they begin to develop a connection and an understanding of one another and the path that lead them to meet. Neill is tremendous but more often than not it is Dennison who steals the show with his obsession with everything “gangster” related, even going so far as to name a dog after a very famous rapper! The chemistry between the actors is tremendous, and the dialogue between them is equally so, and Waititi himself makes a cameo that is a contender for cameo of the year.

As well as the quite brilliant LOTR reference, there are plenty of other superb either visual nods to classic movies, or some rather amusing references to other Hollywood classics packed throughout this quirky picture. The cinematography is also spectacular, with Waititi taking full advantage of the New Zealand landscape in a similar vein to Jackson with both of his Middle Earth trilogies, with plenty of awe-inspiring wide shots that will make the viewer feel like they are in the deep dark wood with the characters. With a great soundtrack to boot, Waititi has crafted a quite brilliant piece of film-making that combines memorable characters with a very genuine, heartfelt story that is hilarious to boot. Given that his next project is a massive Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, namely Thor: Ragnarok, a universe that is known for its excellent use of humour, the director is certainly going from strength to strength. MCU fans can rest assured that this Marvel picture is in very safe and capable hands, hands that might be able to lift Mjolnir!

With a very witty and sharp script from Waititi, excellent performances from the lead duo, fasten your seat belts for a very entertaining romp through the New Zealand wilderness! 

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