Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)

Image is property of Warner Animation Group and Lord Miller Productions

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Tiffany Haddish, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Maya Rudolph

Director: Mike Mitchell

Synopsis: When alien invaders attack the city of Bricksburg, it leaves the city in ruins an several people are abducted, leaving Emmet Brickowski with no choice but to step up and save his friends…

Review: “Everything is awesome,” three simple words, and ones that whenever you heard them back in 2014 transported you to a world of bricks, and tiny yellow men and women, otherwise known as Lego. For decades, these simple bricks have provided children with endless hours of fun. So when a film about these bricks was announced, many assumed it would be a film marketed as a cash grab just to sell more bricks. However, it turned out to be a really witty and extremely entertaining piece of film-making. This is of course is 2014’s The Lego Movie, and yes everything was awesome with that film.

A couple of spin offs have followed in its wake, but now we have a direct sequel that picks up immediately from the first film. Everything seems to be going well until the city of Bricksburg comes under attack from some outer space visitors. Their attack has wreaked havoc on the city, turning it into a desolate wasteland of a very similar ilk to the Mad Max franchise. Years later, and despite the bleak circumstances, Emmet’s positive outlook on life has not diminished. However, that is put to the test when a subsequent attack results in the abduction of among others, Lucy and Batman by a threat from outer space, leaving Emmet with no choice but to rescue the ones he cares about.

Back when it came out, the first film was such a wonderful, innovative breath of fresh air, and extremely entertaining to boot, helmed magnificently by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Though the duo, are now merely on board as writers/producers, t’s clear that their influence comes to the fore and new director Mike Mitchell continues on the trajectory that was set by Miller and Lord. Inevitably, as tends to be the case with sequels, it does mean that it doesn’t feel nearly as fresh or innovative when compared to its predecessor.

The animation and the voice work are once again excellent, with Chris Pratt lending his voice not just to Emmet, but to a fearless warrior named Rex Dangervest, who feels like what would happen if the Lego counterparts of Han Solo and Star Lord had a child. There is an aspect to this story, concerning Tiffany Haddish’s character that could leave some viewers a bit frustrated as it’s a bit superficial, and not very well executed. This isn’t to say that there is nothing substantial as there are some elements, particularly towards the end that are much stronger in terms of the messages they deliver.

However, with plenty of extremely amusing references to some other pop culture properties, it keeps the plot moving along. These will keep the adults entertained, as unfortunately the film unlike its predecessor does feel more aimed at the younger demographics. Furthermore, while “Everything is Awesome” was this insanely infectious piece of delightful pop music that was impossible not to love, this movie’s version of that song is not quite as catchy, or indeed memorable, despite its best effort to be exactly that.

Not as innovative or as witty as its predecessor(s), and the story is hit or miss with its messages. Yet some extremely entertaining pop culture references ensure that this is a mixed, but entertaining, bag of bricks. 

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

Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Avengers: Infinity War – Film Review

Cast: Spoilers!!

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Synopsis: Thanos, the Mad Titan, is seeking possession of the Infinity Stones that would give him unrivalled power, and it’s up to the Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop him as the fate of the Universe hangs in the balance…

This review will have no spoilers…

Review: Ten years in the making, with eighteen previous entries in this incredible cinematic universe that we have watched grow over the past ten years. It has been quite the fun and enjoyable ride, but this is what it has all been building towards. After all the work that was put in to establish this world and its characters in the previous decade of Marvel goodness, it would be fair to say the weight of expectation on this film was enormous. Therefore, one must give kudos to the Russo brothers, who return to the directors chairs of the MCU for the third time, and complete their hat-trick in spectacular style.

The plot, without straying into spoiler territory, focuses on the maniacal Thanos and his quest to obtain the infinity stones with the help of some underling servants known as the Black Order, to wreak unprecedented destruction on the universe, which understandably captures the attention of just about every MCU hero we have met thus far. Given the sheer number of heroes we have met thus far, there was understandable concern from certain quarters as to would they be able to balance the story with so many larger than life heroes? Well as they proved with Civil War, the Russos and returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, do just that.

Each hero that we meet is given their chance to shine and there’s no one that feels out of place. They are all relevant pieces in this battle, and as such , everyone has ample screen time in this battle that simply put, has unprecedented stakes for all of our heroes. Yet despite these threatening stakes, as Marvel so often does, the film is peppered with plenty of humorous moments. But these never negate the moments of drama or danger that these heroes find themselves up against, as you feel that no one, no matter how big or how long they have been a part of the MCU, is in very serious peril.

Speaking of, it has been no secret that the MCU has had some trouble with crafting compelling villains. With a few exceptions, many of them have been very bland and forgettable. Thankfully, that is not applicable with Thanos. It is hard to humanise a villain who wants to kill at will, but he is given the crucial depth that a good villain needs to get in order to make them memorable. Furthermore, they need to be given a presence that our heroes feel, and they certainly feel Thanos’s presence alright, the much needed villain to truly break the villain curse that has plagued so many MCU movies.

As they demonstrated with both of their previous MCU entries, the Russos are once again right on the top of their game when it comes to delivering the compelling action scenes that were used so effectively in their previous MCU films. There are plenty of these throw-downs scattered throughout the film, you really feel the scale of the events that are taking place within this world that we as an audience have grown with over these past ten years. It is some heavy stuff and with this latest entry, again without straying into spoiler territory, it is a film that will have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we have known it.

With only a handful of films left in what has been the third phase of their cinematic universe, it is hard to not feel that all of this is all coming to a close. In a film like this, you need to just give the audience a complete and emotional sucker punch that leaves them reeling, and by the end of this movie, said sucker punch will have been delivered. Though there is still a second part in this story, and a few other films in Phase 3 to come, there is no escaping the fact that with this film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been shaken to its core.

It has all been building towards this, and it brought home the goods. So many heroes could have been problematic, but it is all weaved together tremendously well, and a truly memorable villain in Thanos sets things up perfectly for Avengers 4.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Film Review

Cast:  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker

Director:  James Gunn

Synopsis: Whilst on an assignment for an alien race called the Sovereign, after the deal goes awry, the Guardians find themselves on the run, when they encounter a man who is claiming to be Star Lord’s father.

Review: It is fair to say that Marvel Studios certainly rolled the dice and took a big risk when they decided to green-light a full feature film about a crew of heroes that the vast majority of movie goers across the globe had no idea who they were. Many thought that this film would be the studio’s first mishap, and well we all know that simply wasn’t the case as the first film smashed all expectations and ensured that everyone knew their names, and rightly so, the Guardians became hot property.

Now well into Phase 3 of the giant Marvel machine, it was inevitable that our favourite bunch of lovable arseholes would get a new adventure. The first film was such a mystery, audiences had no idea what to expect going in. Thus given that so many loved what they saw the first time around, writer and director James Gunn decides to follow a similar route this time around, allowing these characters that we grew to love and laugh at, to develop their relationships. What’s more, they have some familial issues and any familial squabbling issues that may be brewing beneath the surface, and there’s a LOT of that going on this time.

The most lovable bunch of misfits in the Galaxy…

Though there’s some bickering, Gunn’s script packs humour in abundance. It has become almost a trademark of the MCU to this point but, this might just be the funniest film of the franchise to date. Everyone has their moment to shine, but in the case of some characters they get several moments to shine, looking at you Drax the Destroyer! Much like the first film, there’s a plethora of very memorable lines that will get those laughing muscles moving, and the story for the first act is extremely enthralling. The Guardians are all once again on excellent form, with the villainous Nebula given much more to do this time around, oh and yes Baby Groot is perhaps the most adorable little sentient plant being you’re maybe ever going to find on the silver screen.

Visually the film is just dripping with so much colour it’s wonderful to look at, and it packs some tremendous action scenes to accompany the superb visuals. Which in turn is also helped by the ensemble of music that makes up Awesome Mix Vol 2, which is just as catchy as its predecessor. However, that being said, not everything is nice to look at as there are points where it becomes extremely obvious that there’s a lot of CGI on screen. The villain was the thing that really let the first film down, and sadly yet again, the main villain (fear not no spoilers here!) is still something of a disappointment.

This individual in question is not as disposable as some previous MCU villains, but nowhere near as memorable as say Loki. Their motivations being a little perplexing, and once their intentions are known, the film meanders and goes from the sublime to the truly ridiculous, which given that this is a film with a talking tree and a genetically engineered raccoon, is quite an accomplishment! But yet again it does feel like a missed opportunity for Marvel to rectify the difficulties that they have had in bringing a truly compelling villain to the big screen, save for the God of Mischief of course.

Nevertheless, this sequel is a worthy companion piece to the original film, once its characters are front and centre. Choosing to walk a similar path that the first film went might seem boring and unadventurous to some, but when it is this entertaining and absolutely hilarious to watch, you can hardly blame Gunn and Marvel for sticking to what they know, cos that produced the goods the first time around.  This band of lovable misfits certainly remain an absolute blast of marvellous entertainment.

Not quite as enthralling as its predecessor, but this sequel packs the humour, the exhilarating action sequences, and yes another awesome soundtrack to boot.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Jurassic World (2015)

jurassic-world-own-raptors-poster
Image is property of Amblin Entertainment, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures

Jurassic World – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson, Nick Robinson, Ty Simpkins, BD Wong, Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio.

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Synopsis: In order to boost falling attraction numbers at the dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, the company creates a new dinosaur, with disastrous consequences…

Review: Sometimes in Hollywood you do wonder if, or indeed when a movie will ever make it to the big screen and escape the doldrums of development hell. Sometimes they don’t but sometimes, films emerge triumphant after a lengthy period of production nightmares. For instance, take the latest entry into the franchise of dinosaur themed mayhem, otherwise known as Jurassic Park. Originally intended for a 2005 release, and thus descending into nearly a decade of the aforementioned development hell. Through all of that though, the final product was completed and it has emerged into a roaring triumph.

Like a dinosaur trapped into an enclosure that has broken free, Jurassic World has been unleashed. With Colin Trevorrow now at the helm, taking over from Steven Spielberg (wait, there was another guy?), in only his second full length directorial feature following his 2011 film Safety Not Guaranteed,  he has brought this franchise wholly back on course after the big disappointment that was Jurassic Park III (oh that’s right…). With the disappointment of that hanging over it, the franchise that was ironically at risk of becoming a fossil after  fourteen years in the wilderness, this is if you do count the aforementioned lacklustre third showing, (to which it is possible many do not) has come out roaring and proves that there is still much life left in this franchise.

Having been over a decade, almost all of the former cast members have now become fossilised, and in their places, enter Chris Pratt as gruff raptor trainer Owen Grady who is sought after by the park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) to ensure that the park’s big, bad and risky science project, the Indominous Rex is suitable for public viewing before the exhibit is unveiled. It is at this point, that everything starts going wrong (as you might expect) with some dinosaur made havoc being unleashed on the Jurassic world visitors as well as our protagonists, who include Claire’s two young nephews Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) who are desperately trying to avoid becoming a meal for the terrifying Indominous.

jurassic world
Stay, my pretties…

As previously mentioned, this new adventure is a much needed return to form for the franchise. Following from his turn in the box office stomping, smash ride Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt shows his action chops once again and provides a solid performance as the film’s primary protagonist. Claire, the aunt of the two boys caught up in the mayhem, initially shuns her two nephews in favour of keeping an eye on the proceedings in the park, and seeks to maintain her professional, businesswoman persona even in the face of the carnage. Yet when caught in the thick of it, she drops this and shows family compassion and courage particularly when her nephews are in some serious trouble. The nephews themselves at times can be exceedingly frustrating and annoying, particularly the younger one. There are some story lines with them that are left at loose ends, which is a bit frustrating. Furthermore the dialogue at times feels very wooden, but it’s not what we came here for, we came for some dinosaur carnage, and boy do we get it.

With action and chase sequences that pack a punch and are without doubt an homage to the 1993 classic, Trevorrow does manage to reinvigorate the action. With a premise that is similar to the previous films, it could very easily go wrong, but it feels new and fresh, even though we have been getting monster filled carnage in movies during this franchise’s absence such as Godzilla and Pacific Rim. It at this point could very easily become stale, however it is not. Trevorrow through his action scenes clearly respects the first film, and the game-changer for cinema that it was. Yet there is enough on show here to recapture the imagination, wonder and joy that so many people experienced when the first movie came out, especially with the final throw down which is nothing short of terrific. The CGI remains top notch, with some solid directing and a top score by Michael Giacchino, there is a lot of fun to be had. There was very little chance of bettering Spielberg’s 1993 belter, but Trevorrow and gang gave a right good go of it, and for that, credit where credit is due. The park opened, and it opened in style.

With a script that does feel a bit wooden, and at times stale, the movie is weighed down somewhat, but with cool throwbacks to the 1993 classic, and some exhilarating action sequences, there is plenty more life in this franchise. 

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

GOTG 3
Image is property of Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Guardians of the Galaxy – Film Review 

Cast:  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Batista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Djomon Hounsou, Glenn Close

Directors: James Gunn

Synopsis:  When a team of space criminals come into possession of a valuable space orb, they must band together to prevent the villainous Ronan from seizing it and wreaking havoc and mass destruction.

Review:  If someone says to you: “name a Marvel superhero character,” the names of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America or Spider-Man might come to mind. However, the names of the likes of Groot , Gamora, Star Lord and Rocket Raccoon might not sound as familiar. Yet with this latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that will most certainly change. This film when it was announced had a lot of people scratching their heads in bemusement and uncertainty. Fans wondered if it could be pulled off, and Marvel had pulled it off and the gamble has paid off immeasurably.

Director James Gunn has put together one of, if not the funniest Marvel films to date, with a very entertaining script as well as some intense and enthralling action sequences. Being the title characters, a lot is expectedly riding on the Guardians, and they deliver. With previous Marvel films that lead to the Avengers, we had several movies detailing their stories and their struggles. Guardians does not have this luxury, as we are introduced to our protagonists immediately, but James Gunn did an exceptional job in making the audience care about each of the main ensemble.

Star Lord (Chris Pratt) is the leader of the team. He is like the love child of Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones , and his scenes are wonderful to behold. Witty lines and real heart and charisma go into his performance. Likewise with the Green skinned assassin Gamora (Zoe Saldana) who’s again a really interesting character to watch with a very intriguing back-story.  The main comedy relief comes from the likes of Drax (Dave Batista) who has some of the most hilarious dialogue we have seen all year, including a difficulty to understand metaphors. Groot (Vin Diesel) is a sentient tree, he doesn’t say much, all of three words, but he adds a great comical presence in the film. Yet, the star of the show is the gun wielding raccoon, Rocket. Brilliantly voiced by Bradley Cooper and terrifically brought to life on the big screen, he is a character that will have tears rolling down your face due to laughter.

Together, the ensemble have some brilliant moments together. Yet the film does have its problems, namely the villains. The three main baddies Ronan (Lee Pace) Nebula (Karen Gillan) and Korath (Djimon Hounsou)  are not as fleshed out as much as the Guardians. Their make up is all very well done with Gillan looking very menacing as the blue skinned Nebula and there is more to her character development than her villainous counterparts. With Thanos lurking in the shadows, it is almost a desire to cut to the chase and have the Guardians fight Thanos, as we know of his presence in this universe. Although chances are that could certainly happen in a coming movie (Avengers 3 perhaps?). Despite this one mishap, the film stands as one of the best we have seen this year. The visuals are all superb, with brilliant make up on each of the characters, and some top drawer action scenes that will fill the audience with immense satisfaction. The penultimate movie of Marvel’s Phase 2 has left its mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and we will definitely be seeing more of Groot and Star Lord in the future.

A terrific ensemble, brilliant dialogue, top quality visuals and make up, some outstanding action sequences and lots of very memorable characters. The villain is a let down, but it does not take anything away from this fantastic addition to the Marvel Universe.

a