Thursday, 15 September 2016

War Dogs

War Dogs is based upon an interview in Rolling Stone magazine and stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller (Mr Fantastic from Fanborestic) as Ephraim and David respectively.

David works in Malibu as a masseuse around the time of the second gulf war, but meets up with his old friend from high school (Ephraim) and joins him in his small weapons contracting business called AEY.
In the past most of the military contracts were given to companies associated with Dick Cheney, but since the corruption became public knowledge all of the contracts were put up for auction. While there is still insider trading with the biggest contracts, a lot of the smaller stuff gets ignored, which is where AEY comes in. Such small companies are considered to be feeding off the scraps of the war industry, they are called "War Dogs", hence the name of the film.

The film is extremely funny, fascinating, and incredibly convincing as a true story. The actors all put in fantastic performances, and special mention has to go to Jonah Hill for having the second most annoying laugh in the Universe.

I highly recommend this film.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Sausage Party

Sausage Party is an animated film written by Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill, and is about talking food. The premise and sense of humour is set up very efficiently, opening with a song about how they want to be taken by the Gods (human beings) to the Great Beyond (outside of the shop) where "We cannot possibly overstate how certain we are that nothing bad happens to us in the Great Beyond!"

It's a difficult film to review, as I don't want to spoil any more jokes than I have - part of the hilarity coming from the punchlines being unexpected.

It can be said to be a film about atheism, blaming pretty much all of the ills of the world on it. While I disagree (i.e. without religion, we'd still find whatever differences there are between people and use it as an excuse to fight) I do think it has a good message about blind faith versus evidence.

In short, it's a thoughtful, foul-mouthed, raunchy-as-hell, hilarious comedy, and I enjoyed every single minute. If that sounds up your street, go and watch it.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The BFG

The BFG is a story written by Roald Dahl, which was adapted into an animated film in 1989, which I loved as a child. I think that my dad must have been a fan of the book, as it most definitely informed his patois as I was growing up.

The story is about a young orphan named Sophie, who one night discovers a giant, who kidnaps her and takes her to the "Giant Country". While other giants want to eat humans, this giant is a perpetually disappointed vegetarian who gives people dreams.

If you are unfamiliar with the story I don't want to spoil too much for you, but it's one that can be enjoyed by adults and kids of all ages.

The new film, directed by Steven Spielberg seems to be a very faithful adaptation, much like the 1989 cartoon. The main differences being that it's live action, blatantly directed by Spielberg (though I can't put my finger on why), and does not feature a musical interlude about farting.

If that sounds good to you, then I suggest you watch it. If you really want the farting song, perhaps you should stick to the 1989 version.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Suicide Squad

I haven't yet seen Batman vs Superman, but I have heard that the dour atmosphere didn't resonate with viewers, prompting a massive re-write of Suicide Squad.

It shows.

The first part of the film is spent setting up the characters, and it takes quite a while.
The next part of the film is spent setting up the characters. Again. It, too, takes a while.

Generally, the first act of the film is terrible. It has awful editing, largely noticeable by the very jarring changes in the soundtrack. It was also very evident that a large chunk of the soundtrack is made up of old songs, forcing them to the forefront. It is almost as if the film is simply an excuse to renew the licences on the songs.

The main chunk of the film is actually quite solid and very enjoyable. Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) are the main heart of the film, putting in genuinely good performances. Harley's relationship with the Joker (Jared Leto) is quite like what I remember from the Batman cartoon and the games. It's somewhat sweet, but it also feels like Harley is paradoxically disposable to the Joker (which is the closest the film comes to touching on the abusiveness of the relationship)

That's not to say that the main chunk is without it's flaws - it also has plot-holes, with characters suddenly being idiotic, and things happening for the sake of plot convenience.

Overall, it's a fairly good film, but you'll have to shit through 20 minutes of utter dross before it gets any good.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Star Trek Beyond

This is going to be difficult to pick apart, as it's a really solid and entertaining film. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Star Trek Beyond is the best live action Macross film I've ever seen.

Seriously, they are incredibly similar:

The protagonists are drawn into a fight with creatures that are somehow connected to humanity.
Said creatures are focused entirely on conflict.
Thus the film focuses about the question of whether peace or violence is better for the progress of the species.
Of course, it is optimistic, saying that while violence is inevitable, peace is better and should be striven towards.
Music is used as a weapon.
People die, and it is genuinely touching.

It is quite obvious that Simon Pegg wrote it, with a greater than usual emphasis on Scotty, and a joke which seems very reminiscent of Dr Who (when The Beatles were referred to as classical musicians)

The film is not perfect, but I find it very difficult to think of any particular criticisms. It's funny, thoughtful and entertaining, with very good special effects.

I'd recommend watching it.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Ghostbusters (2016)

Before release

When the new Ghostbusters film was announced, I saw the announcement surrounded with rhetoric that the all-female cast was to counter the "imbalance" or the first films. In my opinion, pushing equally hard in the opposite direction is not a way to be progressive. "Two wrongs don't make a right" as the adage says.

Eventually the trailers came out, and they made the film look atrocious.
They mention that "30 years ago New York was saved by 4 friends", pitching this film as a sequel. They featured a few jokes, most of which seemed incredibly unfunny.

"How hilarious! She's implying that the ectoplasm went into her vagina! And she's a woman! A woman being crude is funny, right?!" You know, gross out humour that isn't funny in the first place, let alone when relying on the gender of the person for shock value (which would of course only actually shock people who haven't ever talked to a woman in their entire life)

Oh, she licked her gun, and the test of the main gun didn't have enough power, curving downwards. Both are going to be interpreted as phallic, aren't they?

Oh, the black actress is basically being a completely racist stereotype. Remember how Ernie Hudson's skin colour informed his entire character in the original? You don't? Good, because it was completely irrelevant.

Oh, the film is going to feature the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man at some point... who crushes the actresses... Yet they don't die...


Overall, the trailers and marketing made the film look like an unfunny, racist, slightly sexist cartoon, claiming to be a sequel to the original. Something strongly attempting to convince me it's progressive, whilst actually being unfathomably regressive.
The marketing made the film look atrocious, is what I'm trying to say. This was extra frustrating because if one were to dare expressing such an opinion, it would seem that legions of internet denizens would descend to accuse you of being a misogynist. Ad honinem is far easier than debate, or appreciating that people have different opinions, and this easy route is unfortunately extremely popular.

After release

Wow! That was surprisingly good!
Whilst most of the stuff from the trailers is in the film, the trailers were incredibly misleading. There is some crude humour, but that is a very small proportion of the film.
They largely stay away from sex jokes - the aforementioned bit where they test the main gun was just left with a "that was disappointing", so kudos.

Patty, as played by Leslie Jones, does not actually portray a racist stereotype. She plays a very likeable character, and does it very well.

Holtzman, the engineer, is a genuine delight as well. I'm particularly fond of a section where she's dancing around in the lab to something in the vein of WHAM! or Lionel Ritchie, and when it's switched off she makes a comment about thinking it was Devo.

There is a lot of new technology in the film, which is really cool.

There is a very large variety of ghost designs, perhaps inspired by the cartoon. Once again, very cool.

All of that being said, there are some definite negatives.
Some of the jokes fall completely flat. For example, the characters are in a meeting and about to be kicked out of the University. While the person in charge is getting ready to say "two words", the main characters are predicting what he's going to say... while sitting about a metre away from him. Not only would he be able to hear exactly what they're saying (and should react accordingly) but it's simply not very funny.

Despite absolutely not being a sequel in any way, shape or form, the film does make many references to the first film, but then doesn't go as "big". When looking for a base of operations the team are offered the fire house, but because they can't afford it they settle for a room above a Chinese takeaway.
The climax of the film takes place in a hotel with a dark history, sort of like the first film (which was apartments)... but they don't leave the ground-floor.
It keeps comparing itself to the first film, and then intentionally not doing things as well.

Which makes the villain even more of a conundrum. He's a white nerd who has been bullied, and is a fan of a book that the main characters published. Some have interpreted this as a metaphor for fans of the original films, with the film directly attacking them. Whilst I didn't interpret it that way, it is completely understandable.
To me, the villain was a caricature of the people who posted the more toxic comments on the trailers on youtube. Whilst this may make it sound like I enjoy wearing headwear to block RFID signals, because the film references youtube and comments as well, it made me think that the blow-back was artificially inflated in order to make the people who watch the film dislike the villain (hey, it's easier than actual characterisation).

The cast from the original film have cameos, but Bill Murray's is utterly terrible. Allegedly he only appeared because Sony were going to get litgious if he didn't - and it shows!

Conclusion

Overall I thought that this film was surprisingly funny, though that might be because my expectations were extremely low. Your mileage may vary, depending on your interpretation. Mine was that this is funnier but not as scary as Ghostbusters 2, but inferior to Ghostbusters 1 in pretty much every way, including the special effects.
The marketing was beyond misleading, and was in fact outright lies. Sony should fire whomever made the trailers.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Independence Day: Resurgence

The original Independence Day is a fun 3-hour film by Roland Emmerich released in 1996, wherein aliens attack Earth, but are defeated by Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith using a computer virus. This is a big plot-hole in the theatrical release, but was apparently covered in deleted scenes.

It was a little bit flawed, but well put together and really enjoyable.

Now, 20 years later, we have a sequel.

The story is that Earth has implemented alien technology into our own, essentially becoming something like X-Com. We have achieved world peace, have fusion drives, and an outpost on the moon.
Since the first film, all of the aliens on Earth have been catatonic due to not having their leader controlling them (except for some in Africa, which hunted humans, because this film doesn't want to be consistent).
All of the characters who were psychically assaulted by the aliens in the first film have been having visions and headaches, and think the aliens are coming back.
They do, and things explode.

Those things include Canary Wharf. I know that it would need to be recognisable, otherwise the viewer won't care, but why Canary Wharf? Surely with alien technology at our disposal we would build something better than the Shard?

The film makes no attempt to build up characters, possibly on the assumption that most of it was done in the first film, but also makes no effort to build up suspense.
For example, there is a familiar character from the first film, who gets established as being somewhere unspecified in a couple of seconds. Then, when things are starting to get exciting, this character is in peril. However, it was not established that they would be in peril, they just are, and then there is a resolution in a matter of seconds.
This feeling of being rushed and lazy pervades the majority of the film.

China is a pretty huge market, which films now specifically cater to. That isn't a problem in itself, but this film does not handle it well.
There is a Chinese female pilot in the main elite squadron, but there is nothing particularly memorable about her. She presumably had a name, her uncle works on the moon, and she is the love interest for another character.
At the end they get together, but in doing so they didn't share any development or growth, unless it was off-screen. It just is.

The film has a couple of homages to films in other genres, a bit like the first one did, but all it does is remind the viewer that they could be watching something better.

Brent Spiner reprises his role as Dr Okun, who has been in a coma for 20 years. If you remember the original, he was the main researcher in area 51, who admitted that alien technology was way beyond ours.
So why is he surprised when an alien calls humans primitive? That's just inconsistent and terrible writing.

The morning before seeing it, I watched Chris Stuckman's review of the 1990s Captain America film:


At the climax of that Captain America film, there are two fights going on, and the camera cuts between them and different angles so quickly (less than a second per shot) that it comes across as a completely inept attempt to try and be exciting, instead making the audience physically ill.

Independence Day 2 also makes this mistake, especially at the end.

The quality of everything: writing, special effects, acting, directing all greatly deteriorate as the film goes on. By the end it felt like it was simply box-ticking. Like they had a checklist of things that films of this genre do, and were hurrying to do each one.
Which is made even stranger by the fact it was also directed by Emmerich.

It feels like there is a huge amount of footage missing, and I wonder if perhaps the budget ran out part way through. That would go some way to explaining why there was a decent (though slightly lazy) first act, while the rest of the film felt rushed and looked abysmal.


My rating? Don't bother.