Jason Bourne (2016)

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After rightfully dropping ‘The Bourne Legacy’ from my memory; I was anxious but well up for another Bourne outing once realising that Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass would be united once again. This film then, is a slight drop in the honed in grittiness of the trilogy, but it’s still a damn well delivered action thriller.

Kicking off after Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) swimming away from Ultimatum, we find the troubled man in Greece trying to live off the grid. That is until a face from the past warns him of more secrets leading Bourne to hunt down answers pursued by the tactics of CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).

Admittedly I must say that even my excitement never wavered upon finding out this movie was in production, I did feel that maybe it wasn’t overly needed. I can confirm that now seeing this I still annoyingly feel that it wasn’t truly necessary. There’s an engaging story in there at times amongst the CIA charged drama but having Bourne finding out there’s more to his past feels quite rehashed.

That’s the only negative I majorly have with this movie though, the story is kind of the same and the convenience of having a third act sequence at a tech convention, for Bourne to just scoop some handy tools for tracking felt lazy, but apart from these sour notes I found myself really enjoying this spy feature. It has both action and technical logistics scenes in equal measure that make it more than just explosions and nonsense, the new faces are a treat to the JB world and you can’t hide the smile when the first shrill notes of Moby’s ‘Extreme Ways’ exits the speakers.

Greengrass is great in making these blockbuster movies feel dangerous and real. The grittiness is in effect and the frequent shaky cam gives an unstable edge to the look which works well in parallel to the quivering nature of truth and who to trust in the plot. Greengrass certainly knows how traverse the globe, shooting cities and their subsequent panics to make Bourne a capable hero against all the odds, thrown amongst riots, assassins and shady government figures; he is a man to root for.

Each big moment feels well handled and packs a suitable punch, mostly for being so damn tense. Firstly there’s Greece and a politically charged breakdown between civilians and police, London gets screen-time in a way not as good as the Waterloo station from Ultimatum but still stuffed with suspense as Bourne tries getting to someone. The gloss and glamour of Las Vegas gets to shine…and smash in a huge way for the final act and it may be Fast and Furious style carnage but it’s breakneck, unflinching and full of adrenaline from start to finish.

Matt Damon is back as Bourne and it’s nice to see him back, he is damn good at the part. Fit and silently firm Damon ensures that Jason is someone we keep on side with, but then it’s the other players in the game that add real spice to the proceedings. Julia Stiles returns and is great in a smaller role. Alicia Vikander keeps you guessing as she treads back and forth in your mind to if she’s good or not and she plays it well. Tommy Lee Jones is a fantastic addition as the stern man overseeing the plan to take down Bourne. Vincent Cassel is another welcome new member and gifts the film a strong asset that can rival the power of Jason himself.

Treadstone and 2002 Bourne may be gone but the Greengrass/Damon combo usher in Ironhand and a still resourceful Jason, to cast an iron hand on the franchise with plenty of solid moments.

7.5/10

The BFG (2016)

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The language of the film harks to the marvellous-ness of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory author and his charming writing but apart from that, the visuals and a few fun moments this big screen adaptation lags and is too vanilla.

Based on the book from Roald Dahl, this fantasy flick follows young Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), an orphan who glimpses a giant on the streets of London. She’s swiftly grabbed and taken to the wonky home of the lumbering man, known as the BFG – Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). He collects and gives out dreams but has a tough time due to the meaner giants who can smell Sophie’s presence and make things difficult.

I remember quite fondly, the times I watched the David Jason cartoon adaptation of this story. It’s a 1989 feature and it looks like a Quentin Blake sketch come to life, it’s also fun, dark and a joyous watch. Skip forward 27 years later and we get this take on the story of being brave. This isn’t as enjoyable as the animated offering, perhaps that’s my nostalgia speaking but more likely that it’s this movie attempting a huge amount of motion capture, CGI of the worlds and keeping a British sweetness yet murkiness to the plot…it succeeds in the first two.

Steven Spielberg can certainly make great films and he has a knack for presenting dramas revolving children and the lack of parental figures in their lives. This narrative then should be perfect for his directorial style? Well yes, in a way it suits him greatly and he ensures Sophie is a confident lass even in the cold abandoned state of orphanage upbringing. What stunned me is that Spielberg seems to loosen his grip on the drama of storytelling, as this movie feels sorely missing of tension and engagement.

From start to nearly finish, this film seems catered for the little ones watching. It’s a shame because Dahl was an exquisite master of creating characters, language and worlds with a twisted dark take, which isn’t felt in this release at all. The introduction of the beastly Bloodbottler or Fleshlumpeater should have been way more frightening than it was. It all comes across rather tame, this safe presentation of a giant filled Earth never picking up motivation.

I only sat up and woke up from the sleep I actually nearly nodded off into, once Sophie and her new friend mention that they need to visit the Queen. From that moment onward the movie shifts a gear and becomes driven and amusing, thanks to the scaling of seeing the BFG in a palace tackling tables, hallways and food. The dream ideas just paled in comparison which is a real travesty because it could have been a fun colourful ride into the madness of what happens when we sleep.

The motion capture is fantastic though, I was worried upon seeing the second trailer as more of the giant was shown. I thought it looked naff but the eyes were stunning and creases in the skin, fingernails, quivers of the face all add up to a further convincing demonstration that mo-cap is a way forward in movie-making.

Barnhill plays Sophie confidently and gets a couple of smart, funny lines. There are times when this newcomer feels a little stagey and you can imagine Spielberg feeding her tips before calling action, as the enunciation becomes pronounced quite a lot. Rylance has his face well transferred to the giant, it’s like he has shot up to 24 feet high and learnt how to blow dreams into peoples rooms. It’s a bit of a slow take on the giant at times but he’s fine. Penelope Wilton lands in the more energetic part of the film by playing Queen Elizabeth II and seems to have a good time discovering the truth of what Sophie has known for a while.

At almost 2 hours, this film feels less of a jolly escapade and more like a long trek you wish you hadn’t started, but once you get near the end and you see the finish line, things pick up and a positive feeling washes through you. The BFG – a Bearable Fine Gait.

6/10

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

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Yes, this latest in the Trekkie universe is entertaining and feels like it’s ticking boxes of the roots of the show but there’s numerous times where it felt either too campy or too boring. It’s most certainly a blockbuster movie but it ended up being quite loud, crashy and dumb.

3 years into their 5 year mission, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew land in Yorktown. Kirk goes for a promotion to Vice Admiral but whilst there he sees a distress signal out of the nebula. Once the escape pod figure is rescued the USS Enterprise is attacked by a swarm of ships and a powerful leader named Krall (Idris Elba). The Enterprise ensemble end up separated and then together as they try to take down the force of Krall’s plan and army.

Even though my opening paragraph may sound negative, there’s still a lot to enjoy in this film. The major thing being the look of it all. Each new planet and landscape is detailed to glorious colour, texture and ultimate perfection. The sleek quality of the ships, space and creatures are in full effect. It definitely has a sci-fi appeal and visually the movie strikes a neat balance between weird worlds and summer popcorn entertainment.

Jaylah; a new character and a unique looking scavenger is another great addition the film. She’s smart, strong and resourceful and hopefully she’ll stick around with the team. There are some funny moments also, but at times it’s this attempt at comedy that begins waning and feeling out of touch. The comradery is great though and I liked the different pairings the film goes for as the fleet end up separated. Bones and Spock are a highlight of the movie.

It’s really clear to see that Simon Pegg wrote this film, because with Doug Jung there is a quirky stab at comedy that sounds more Cornetto trilogy then Final Frontier. The most impressive piece of writing is having the Enterprise attacked so early on, it’s a cool moment to set up the conflict and the battle look of this sequence is glorious to watch unfold. I think that was the best set-piece of the movie meaning it could only go downwards from that point. Pegg injects perhaps too much jokey attitude in places that deserve to be more tense and the final showdown in Yorktown feels very silly indeed; from gravity streams to glass shard reflections it just appears quite cheesy.

Chris Pine is looking more and more like Kirk as the franchise goes on, he has a smarmy charm but a confident and likable approach to being the captain and as a hero he acts the part. Zachary Quinto is even more the doppelganger to a young Spock, his Vulcan appearance and demeanour providing logic and humour along the way. Idris Elba gets to perform under some admittedly heavy but cool villainous make-up, his usual dominant voice and stature aiding Krall very well. Sofia Boutella as Jaylah is brilliant, she can hold her own and feels right amongst the rest of the story. Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, John Cho and Anton Yelchin in one of his last feature roles are all fantastic, creating a sparkling chemistry and getting enough screen-time each to contribute something to the plot.

So yes, this is a fun film for the majority and it looks great, there’s just a heavy touch of dullness in places and the climactic scene feels totally the opposite. It may not live long and prosper but it’ll do until Rogue One comes along.

6/10

 

No Stranger Than Love (2015)

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Wow, after seeing the copious amounts of negative reviews for this apparently “disappointingly bland” romantic comedy movie, I expected something tiresome and bad. Instead I got something that however lacking of succeeding it’s aim, was still watchable and interesting.

Art teacher Lucy Sherrington (Alison Brie) is super sweet and nice, all the men in the town love her even if they don’t know her that well. Lucy shares a secret with gym teacher Clint Coburn (Colin Hanks). Together they declare strong feelings for one another which leads to a deep repercussion.

Without going into the aftermath of what saying “I love you” has in store for them both, I can say because I didn’t glance at the plot summary I’m glad I wasn’t in the know. Likewise I shall not say here what happens in case people reading haven’t seen the bio for what this movie is about, that way it won’t spoil what I thought was a unique and clever surprise.

Nick Wernham directs this sickly rom-com with a few neat shots and the capturing of this small town is done well. It feels like a place we all know from movies where everyone knows other people’s business or would like to. Having the character of Lucy not just a plain easy nice gal makes her more engaging, even if she isn’t stretched further in terms of characteristics. Wernham manages to land this film a quirky tone in the most part which does help.

Even if I don’t fully agree with the bad reviews, I must say that the film didn’t go anywhere once the thing that happens…happened. A shady character becomes boring as he goes on and the oddness of the town feels ever fainter as the plot progresses. It does then sadly become a usual suspect of the rom-com genre with cliches, lovey dovey writing and a wishy washy ending. Though I did like the admittedly pretentious poem recited on the hill before the credits hit.

Maybe it’s just my sort of thing, a weird premise and a kooky look at love but I quite enjoyed this movie and didn’t find it that terrible. It doesn’t work when trying to script the whole frailty of life, the workings of the human heart and love but it’s a cute indie film that delivered a cool surprise, a few laughs and a shot at affirming subtext. Also having Alison Brie in it probably helped too.

Speaking of which, Brie is captivating but doesn’t have much material to cope with aside from the Annie ‘Community’ appeal of being kind and objected. She plays the romantic interest to everybody well and you do feel for her as she tries coping with the fact she’s done something wrong. Colin Hanks utilises his voice well, in a way that makes him increasingly annoying which is just right for the development of this story. Justin Chatwin is an interesting man as Rydell. He’s clearly motivated and leering but there’s a well performed soft side to him as he opens up about his past.

Perhaps it isn’t a fantastic movie in terms of writing or directing, but I stand by the fact I liked it and what it tried to pull off.

6/10

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (2016)

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Taking inspiration from the book/memoirs of an international journalist, this American comedy drama uses war as a backdrop and gives it, in places, a biting edge but doesn’t seem to dare take a further step in accounting the horrors of Afghanistan during the troops placement there.

Sick of her desk job, Kim Baker (Tina Fey) grabs the opportunity to go on an assignment to Afghanistan. There she meets another journalist; Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) who helps Kim acclimatise to the Kabul life, or the ‘Kabubble’ as they take to calling it. Kim stays longer than expected and begins getting used to the environment with the added help of photographer Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman).

It feels like a long film, which isn’t a great thing to be kicking off with. The 112 minute run-time could have been okay to focus on the grittier side of realities both soldiers and Afghan people faced but it spends too long with Kim and her limited view on the subject. I only began really liking the movie as it got close the end. It takes Kim going back to New York and gaining an understanding of actions she’s taken and her new course of action to help the plot gain any real drive.

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa direct films as a pair and have the slicker ‘Focus’ under their belt, which is a silly comparison but it shows they know how to keep pace and style up whereas this movie lagged in places and is generally quite a pedestrian looking feature. There’s no special treatment that makes the dangerous location of the story feel more worrying. Even some hand held camera may have helped but aside from the in veil head camera Fey wears, the film tries to be realistic and light-hearted but falls short of both.

I liked where they tried going with it, the basing of the real memoirs and what the actual Kim saw and reported is tinged with a comedic twist. As they joke and laugh at Kim when she’s covered up so the men don’t look at her, the attempt at humour feels ill placed. The pairing of Fey and Freeman helps the film though and the disjointed harmony they share is amusing and sentimental. There’s a sure dryness to the script and it works in most places but they should have been more serious too.

Tina Fey is sharp and straight talking as her character. It’s almost a fascinating achievement as she goes a while being dislikable for the decisions and life risking choices she makes to get news scoops. Fey gladly acts seriously which only draws more attention to the fact the movie isn’t as grounded as it should be. Martin Freeman has a convincing Scottish accent and is an equal match to the sharp, dry playing of Fey. Margot Robbie is a vaguely arrogant yet fun-loving bundle of energy, she plays the sneakier side to her reporter character well to make you dislike her, which is definitely a fascinating achievement. I liked the performance from Alfred Molina a lot, it’s a fun look at the strict ways of a government figure and he pulls off that manner well.

It is Fey and Freeman that provide the drama and heart to a film that unfortunately doesn’t take a brave leap in being more than just an American’s viewpoint and journey.

6/10

 

Ghostbusters (1984)

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Just wonderfully captivating, silly but smart at the same time, this is a movie that deserves the long held praise and ‘classic’ title. I write this review because a) it’s remake has now hit our screens and b) because why not!?

Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) and Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) get a call to the New York Public Library after a librarian witnessed a paranormal activity. Soon the trio are out of their jobs but find work themselves as self titled ‘Ghostbusters’. More and more ghouls begin taunting the streets of New York as Zuul plagues an apartment. The trio gain the help of Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) as they hope to send the ghosts back to whence they came.

It’s a superbly 80’s feature and though it may have dated in certain visual places thanks to the fact we’re all so used to the rise of CGI, it gifts the movie an unmistakable charm and for the day I could imagine the destruction and ghost effects were something possibly impressive to see back in the day. What crackles the most is the energy between the Ghostbusters as they come to terms with their knowledge being right and their growing fame in the city. The four of them each get a time to shine and their comedy moments further boost the humorous quality of the film.

Ivan Reitman directs this ghoulish caper in a way that feels like a perfect buddy flick. The comradery is focused upon as is the maddening amount of carnage that unfolds. The screwball comedy doesn’t drag down the film, as even though there is a huge amount of zaniness to catch, there’s a touch of heart as they save the day and work together. Reitman does best in ensuring this movie can be enjoyed by all ages, there is 100% something in there for everyone.

Elmer Bernstein’s score trickles over the action in a suitably cheesy 80’s tense way, then you have the utterly brilliant Ray Parker, Jr. song of the same name to the movie which is funky and ridiculous but one of the best movie themed tracks of all time. It’s a shame the reboot decided to play around with the song with dance and then urban vibes.

The movie never seems to feel slow, it’s paced and edited well and yes even though a majority of the effects are clunky and there’s not as much tension in the plot like the new one has, you have to welcome the joy of the doofy ghosts as they crop up around the boroughs of NY. Slimer is a marvellously gloopy creation and stands as a very recognisable image from the film, he’s fun and outlandish and you want more from him.

It’s Bill Murray that totally steals the spotlight from everyone in this movie. He has such a brilliant deadpan tone to his performance, so when he delivers the dialogue, it’s drawled out in such a sarcastic monotone way that actually helps his character be even funnier. He’s unbelieving of the spirits, he’s a sleaze and he’s rude but Murray makes Venkman someone you want to know. The rest of the bustin’ team are all brilliant also, adding to the dynamics of the crew. Rick Moranis is great in playing the overly dweeby Louis and Sigourney Weaver gets some fun as she becomes possessed by the demon.

A thoroughly terrific comedy that is one of the bests still over 30 years later.

8.5/10

Ghostbusters (2016)

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After the hugely torn apart and heavily disliked YouTube promos, this was always going to be an interesting watch. Whether it’d be as bad as it looked or if the trailer guy needed firing because the movie is much better. It goes without saying that this reboot of the 1984 classic is nowhere near as good as the original.

Wanting to gain tenure, Erin (Kristen Wiig) needs to get rid of a book about ghosts she wrote with school friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy) as it could ruin her credentials. However after meeting Abby and science whizz Jillian (Kate McKinnon) she witnesses an actual ghost leading them to try and capture a spirit to prove their long time theories. Metro worker Patty (Leslie Jones) sees another malevolent apparition and joins the media coined ‘Ghostbusters’, in trying to stop someone bringing numerous ghosts into our world.

I truly don’t want to rip into this film because people may say that’s too easy and also too expected considering the amount of hate it gained before it was even close to release. Trust me when I say that it’s nothing to do with the fact the busting crew are female or that it’s a classic movie being rehashed…because I get it, films are remade all the time but this felt like a cheesy attempt at being 80’s and never really made me laugh much.

In fact the chemistry between the four women is strong and energetic, I liked the buzz they had. The moments when they’re in unison and coming up with plans to save the day are powerful and still lighthearted. What I didn’t enjoy as much was the lame humour in stupidity and slapstick. Goo and falls aplenty are Sandler fan appeal and I wanted better than that from this.

Paul Feig has proven he knows how to direct comic stars in comedies, but maybe tackling the well known name of this franchise was too daunting. It at times feels like an SNL sketch dragged out as the cast bicker and banter with each other. The pacing is awfully slow in the middle which is a shame because the beginning quarter of the movie is very good. As the busters sit with the mayor and go on about a ‘cat out the bag’ scenario you plead for the dull spiel and obvious ad-libbing to end.

Genuinely the opening of this comedy-action feature is spooky and engaging. A haunted museum and a nice little trick prop help play on the idea of ghost tours. All this leads to a rather well shot and built sequence of horror as the first ghoul appears, which I must say would have made for a better story than the severely underdeveloped threat of some guy placing devices around New York. The film could easily have had the Ghostbusters trying to stop the obviously dangerous killer ghost from the museum, but instead they cram in a loner villain and old jokes such as Oprah riffs or an Eat Pray Love line.

Times Square rolls in and this near ending sequence to be honest lights up the movie and brought a smile to my face thank God. It’s stuffed with lots of ghosts – iffy CGI but let it slide as the slow-mo of the gals kicking butt is pretty awesomely handled. Melissa McCarthy is manageable to tolerate in this, the original stars cameos are a treat to see and there is an undeniable silly charm in places.

McCarthy, who is fast pushing herself into the female Adam Sandler mould, is fine in this. Her chemistry with the others is good and she plays a scene of being something other than Abby very well. Kristen Wiig can do goofy comedy well and shows that off here, even in the moments when her character seems to shift motivations she is a wide eyed dose of humour. Leslie Jones adds an integral sprinkle of information and attitude to the group. She isn’t as shouty as the trailers make out. Kate McKinnon is for me the one that bugged me the most. She starts off being cool and different, her manic expressions and reeling off quick sentences being amusing but then it keeps on going and going…and going. To the point where I got tired of the act and wanted her to be like Rick Moranis in live-action movies nowadays. Chris Hemsworth is the one that steals the show, even if they paint a man as being a pretty face and dumb, his acting of this stupidity is ace and you can’t help but chuckle at the things he does or comes out with.

It may not be the top number in the phone book, but give this average film a call and you’ll see a mild entertainment flick. A true summer movie that’s not hilarious or amazing but really not shocking or as awful as people will have you believe.

5.5/10