Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Don’t Look Up (2021)

© Netflix

Don’t Look Up  – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Scott Mescudi

Director: Adam McKay

Synopsis: When two astronomers discover a deadly comet is directly on a collision course with Earth, they try to sound the alarm to the rest of the world…

Review: It’s one of the most pressing matters that humanity in the 21st century is having to contend with: the future of the planet that we call home.  It’s an issue that has attracted the attention of the world’s media and has prompted figures from all corners of the globe to take a stand and urge those in positions of power to act before it is too late. Yet, in recent years, we have seen some world leaders fail to recognise what is truly at stake for the future of our planet. Having turned his eye on the 2008 Economic crash and the rise and fall of US Vice President Dick Cheney, Adam McKay has now turned his attention to this impending threat facing humanity, the responses of those who wield the power to do something about it, and how various aspects of modern life cover this pressing issue our planet is facing. And he does so, in the smuggest and most pompous manner possible.

Astronomers Dr Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) and Dr Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence) make an alarming discovery: a giant comet is set to collide with Earth in around six months time. When it collides, it will cause catastrophic destruction on a global scale. Heading straight to Washington D.C. to inform the President (Streep) of their discovery, they are astounded when the White House doesn’t choose to take immediate action to stop the apocalyptic threat. Left with little option, they resort to other methods in order to inform the rest of the planet, in the hope that their warnings of impending doom will somehow prompt those in charge to take action to avert humanity’s destruction.

It is hard to ignore the fact that the idea for this film feels borne out of a particular world leader and his indifference towards the major issue of the environment, and the challenges that the human race faces over this important topic. This feels only exacerbated by the ongoing situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the catastrophic failure by the US Government at the time, to deal with this crisis in a swift and efficient manner. These categorical failures of leadership seem to be McKay’s motivations for writing and directing his latest satirical attack on the current state of US politics, as well as numerous aspects of 21st-century life in general. Yet, there is absolutely no subtlety about who and what McKay is targeting. It comes across like he’s trying to say to the audience how funny or witty his satire is. When in reality, it comes across as extremely patronising. There’s an important lesson to be taken from the need to focus on the environment. However, as with both his previous films that were very much from a satirical perspective, there’s something that’s unbearably smug and arrogant about the manner in which he seeks to deliver this message.

Because of the gravity of the topic that’s being “satirised”, there was an opportunity to provide some thought-provoking, social satire that is nuanced and subtle in what it tried to convey, In reality, McKay’s screenplay, much like his previous films, is about as subtle as taking a sledgehammer to someone’s kneecaps. The satirical writing, or lack thereof, opts to beat the audience over the head with its themes so obnoxiously that it begins to actively make you angry that you don’t really care what he or the characters are trying to say, which is not good when there’s an important lesson for humanity to take away from the events being depicted. There’s no denying that McKay has assembled some of the biggest names in Hollywood for this cast, with lots of beloved actors. Yet, McKay’s dialogue is so overbearingly smug and obnoxious that you openly despise each and every single one of the characters, which makes the run time of the film feel two or three times as long.

The best of a bad bunch is easily Leonardo Di Caprio’s Dr Mindy, he tries his best but when he’s given such horrific material to work with, he can only do so much. Meryl Streep does a decent enough job at portraying a President who couldn’t give two shits about the public they’re meant to represent. However, it’s so painfully obvious who she, and her son (Hill) are meant to be a parody of, their characters might as well have been named Trump. Such a serious and important topic deserved a film worthy of this talented cast, and a director who did not take an infuriatingly offensive approach to the topic. You may well almost want the world to come to an end by the time this apocalyptic misfire of a film reaches the credits.

 What credit the film warrants for taking on such an important topic is immediately negated by its extremely condescending approach in how it chooses to approach the topic at hand. As a result, the whole film feels utterly pointless as a satire. 

Posted in 2020-2029, Film Review

Moonfall (2022)

© Lionsgate

Moonfall  – Film Review

Cast: Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Pena, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, Donald Sutherland

Director: Roland Emmerich

Synopsis: When the moon is mysteriously knocked from its orbit, it threatens to cause a global catastrophe that would endanger all life on Earth…

Review: There’s something that’s oddly fascinating about the concept of a disaster movie. It’s something we hope we never actually have to live through, but when done well, it can be oddly entertaining to watch entire cities get obliterated as nature takes its revenge on us. There’s perhaps no one more synonymous with this genre than Roland Emmerich. One look at his filmography and it’s clear that he’s a director with a penchant for global destruction. So, you’d have thought that combining the concept of Earth’s only natural satellite falling out of the sky and destroying our planet, with a director whose modus operandi is worldwide global destruction would surely be a match made in disaster movie heaven? Well, no, not really.

Several years ago, astronaut Brian Harper (Wilson) was working on a routine mission with fellow astronaut Jocinda Fowler (Berry). However, the mission ends in tragedy and consequently, Harper’s reputation as a renowned astronaut is destroyed. When conspiracy theorist KC Houseman (Bradley), uncovers evidence that the moon has been knocked from its orbit, he tries to warn NASA of the impending doom, but is immediately dismissed. However, as catastrophic events start occurring across the globe, Fowler is left with little choice but to recruit Harper and Houseman for a last gasp mission to save Planet Earth before the impending moon fall destroys the planet.

To give credit where credit is due, the concept of the Moon falling off course and colliding with the planet is an extremely eccentric idea. It would certainly have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall when the concept was first pitched. The originality of the premise offers the opportunity to provide some visually eye-catching sequences, which the film does deliver. However, this is about the extent to which the film offers something that’s truly unique as the scenes of global destruction, such as massive tidal waves obliterating everything in their path, are things that we’ve seen disaster movies do countless times before. Such an idiosyncratic concept provided Emmerich with an opportunity to give audiences something as iconic as seeing the White House get blown to smithereens by an alien ship, but it failed to seize that opportunity.

Given such an absurdly bonkers premise, it would seem counterintuitive of the script to try and use science and logic to try and explain why these mysterious events are occurring. However, for some inexplicable reason, this is exactly what the film attempts. Logic and science should have been flung out of the window immediately, as these attempts to explain these events just do not serve the story in any shape or form. For the simple reason that no matter which way you slice it, the plot does not make an iota of sense at all. What should be a fun adventure of seeing a team of astronauts attempt to prevent total global destruction, becomes an unintentional comedy. This becomes all the more apparent, especially when the bigger picture of the reason why the Moon is falling comes into view.

When a script is this ridiculous, it does not make a difference as to who you cast, because every single character here is as paper-thin as they come.  Halle Berry and Patrick Wilson to their credit, do try their hardest, but to no avail. The character development, if you can really call it that, is non-existent. They’re also not helped by the fact that they’re given some of the cheesiest dialogue that you’re ever likely to hear. The primary focus should be the mission to investigate why the Moon is falling out of orbit and the ludicrously improbable mission to reverse it before it’s too late. However, the film also wastes an enormous amount of time focusing on bland and forgettable side characters that are nowhere near as interesting or compelling as the main crew. This should have been perfectly entertaining, leave-your-brain-at-home disaster movie entertainment. Which, in many ways, it is, but probably not in the way Emmerich intended it to be. Instead of laughing with it, you’re uproariously laughing at it.

In the hands of the master of disaster, this absurd concept should have been an absolute blast of lunar-themed destruction. However, it ultimately ends up being too ridiculous for its own good. 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Deepwater Horizon (2016)

deepwater-horizon
Image is property of Summit Entertainment, Participant Media, Di Bonaventura Pictures and Lionsgate

Deepwater Horizon – Film Review

Cast:  Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, Gina Rodriguez, Kate Hudson, Dylan O’Brien

Director: Peter Berg

Synopsis: An account of the 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the desperate bid by the workers of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to stay alive.

Review: Making a film about a true to life disaster cannot be an easy subject matter to tackle, especially if the disaster that you’re focusing on just happens to be the worst ever oil disaster in US history, and one that cost the company behind the oil rig, British Petroleum a whopping 18.7 BILLION dollars in fines after a total of just under 5 million barrels of oil spilled out into the sea, causing devastation for the local environment and for the nearby communities, and also claimed the lives of 11 of the men working on the oil rig.

After directing the gripping Lone Survivor, Peter Berg along with screenwriters Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand, certainly do their best to tell this story and tell it in a very gripping manner. The first act is a little slow at times, but the build up is necessary as with each passing minute of screen time, and every test that they make whilst on the rig, the tension is built up ever so slightly. You just know that something is not right, and any minute things will go wrong, Soon, it gets to the point when you know, that sooner or later, the shit (or mud in this case) will hit the fan and the rig workers have an unmitigated catastrophe on their hands and soon are in a desperate bid to get off the rig before they go down with it. Once the disaster has struck, the tension is enormous and it remains that way for the rest of the movie.

Berg wasn’t the original director attached to the project as originally it was J.C. Chandor who was set to be calling the shots. Yet due to creative differences Chandor left and Berg came on board, reuniting with his Lone Survivor co star, Marky Mark Wahlberg. It’s from his perspective as real life oil rig worker Mike Williams that we watch with bated breath as the bumbling BP idiots naively assume that there’s nothing wrong with the rig, but Williams and the rest of the crew led by Mr Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell) know otherwise. Wahlberg’s performance is the centrepiece of the film, and it’s his character that we get to know the most with his wife (Kate Hudson) and daughter. Beyond him, there isn’t much character development to really any of the other characters, but all involved give excellent performances.

Berg helms this project excellently, with confident and assured direction throughout, but especially when the drama has fully unfolded. The production design to recreate the oil rig is tremendous and the camerawork and the fast editing does a great job to to heighten the tension when the workers find themselves in peril. These scenes are packed with tension right throughout as you will these people to safety. “Hope is not a tactic” reads the film’s poster, and in this situation, hope could be the difference between life and death. With a thought provoking and moving ending, and one that could and should get you all riled up. When considering how this tragedy came about, how no one was found culpable is almost beyond belief. It was one that changed lives forever and is almost certainly still having an effect on lives to this day, and one that will have you thinking once the credits begin to roll.

The heroism of these workers is given the credit it deserves and Berg nails it with a gritty, tension filled ride that is incredibly well executed and one that pays tribute to those who lost their lives.

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Independence Day (1996)

independenceday
Image rights belong to Centropolis Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Independence Day – Film Review

Cast: Jeff Goldblum, Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Vivicia A Fox, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch

Director: Roland Emmerich

Synopsis: After a wave of alien attacks obliterate several major cities of the world, the remaining human forces that survive prepare to launch an assault on the extra terrestrial invaders and fight back.

Review: When a movie features several recognisable landmarks such as the White House, or The Empire State Building being blown to smithereens, then you know what kind of movie you are in for, particularly if said movie is directed by one Roland Emmerich.  A director who has since gone on to make his name with a handful of disaster movies, many of which also feature big global destruction. Disaster movies are certainly his M.O and while sometimes it works, sometimes it really doesn’t (see Godzilla 1998.)

It is on the eve of the Fourth of July and all of a sudden, these colossal sized alien spacecraft appear out of the sky and poise themselves above many of the world’s major cities. Of course, these alien beings aren’t here to play sports with us and be friendly, no they’re here for one purpose, global destruction. Soon enough, they pull the trigger and blow the aforementioned cities to hell, and what remains of the human race, led by the President Thomas Whitmore, must find a way to repel the hostile visitors, and it is certainly an entertaining, but bumpy ride!

white house boom

With these disaster films, you’re not here for brilliant Oscar winning performances and or well written, well developed characters with gripping dialogue. The main reason you are here is to watch shit get blown up, and Emmerich certainly brings that in abundance. Of course, this can be boring as hell to watch without any substance to it, but there is some substance to it. The iconic shot of The White House being blown to kingdom come has certainly become an iconic moment of cinema, and the action scenes that accompany the arrival of these big bad aliens are very well shot and well handled. The CGI for the alien ships, especially at the time of the release, is also very impressive. You really feel the scale of these ridiculously large ships as they hover over the cities of the world, with many fatalities once the trigger has been pulled.

That being said, you can have things getting blown to bits, and write some interesting characters in there as well. But sadly, these interesting characters are few and far between. By far the most developed, and most interesting characters are David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) a computer expert who may have the key information that is needed to defeat the alien invaders, and pilot Steven Hiller (Will Smith.) It is these two performances in particular that prevent the movie from slipping into just mind numbing action mediocrity, but they are by no means Oscar worthy. Bill Pullman also aids their cause as the President of the USA, but beyond these three, the rest of the characters are largely forgettable, and in some cases, just flat out annoying to watch.

goldblum

The film’s script does leave a lot to be desired and is a little bloated in places. Certain scenes could have been a lot shorter, and some could have been cut out of the movie altogether to reduce the 2 hour 20 minute run time. Yet the film serves its purpose as a big dumb action movie where the audience should just leave their brain at home, and throw popcorn in their face while they watch the action in all its ridiculousness unfold. The film knows what it is, and it plays on that to great extent. With a fair bit American patriotism thrown in there, as you would expect with a film revolving around an American holiday, you have yourself a cheesy and entertaining 90s action movie!

The action is cheesy but entertaining as hell with great CGI for the time, but a very paper thin script and largely weak characters prevent this from being one of the best action movies of the 1990s

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