Passengers (2016)

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‘There’s a reason they woke up early’, so the tagline for this movie goes, as it turns out it’s not a very interesting or even great one. The only great thing the film has going for it is the fun chemistry between its leads and a superbly glossy style for the ship where the action takes place.

Avalon; a spaceship, is travelling to Homestead II, a planet for people to live on. The course will take 90 years but suddenly passenger Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) awakes from his hibernation pod and finds himself alone. Preston’s only company is a barman android named Arthur (Michael Sheen). Later down the line, writer Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) is awoken and with Jim they try to solve the ship’s mystery whilst also falling for each other.

For the positives of this movie, the spaceship has a cool and incredibly sleek design. It’s clear the makers of the film have taken time to think about how certain rooms and items should appear. Avalon is a rotating craft and on the inside, modern technology is advanced with rooms aboard boasting entertainment to rival cruise liners. The connection between Jim and Aurora grows nicely and is believable consistently as they spend more time together. Gravity falls, machines fail and threat does come into play for moments which is good to see but that doesn’t outweigh the rubbish plot.

It’s a shame the story increases in it’s ridiculousness because for the portions of the movie where Pratt is by himself the movie is strong. It of course never reaches that amazing solitary ‘Moon’ vibe of Rockwell/Jones but it gets close and has a neat cold vibe about it as we see him struggle. Sadly as the sci-fi dwindles and the romance takes over it feels like ‘Titanic’ in space, also plot points that create dramatic changes are executed in the most expositional way.

Not only these moments annoyed me in how the writers got the story to move forwards but there were no twists which I expected and the actual thing that caused early rising from hibernation was nowhere near a revelation as it could…should have been. That could have been a clever and possibly dark idea played with but they never tread down that path, even ‘Wall-E’ is a darker comment on society than this is.

Chris Pratt is engaging and manages to submerge his usual Pratt shtick as the cabin-fever sets in. Jennifer Lawrence is a glowing presence as she steps into the story and breaks down with suitable emotion upon realising why she’s there. Together as a couple of love struck space travellers they work well and a spark is clear. Michael Sheen plays a near emotionless character to convincing standards with ever present glossy eyes and almost creepy smile adding to his role.

This film gets more dumb as it continues and makes you forget the nice intense moments that it started with. Aside from a captivating pairing of actors this is a creepily played out love story that doesn’t know how to stop.

5.5/10

 

Jurassic World (2015)

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Clashing great CGI and over amped monstrous match ups replace the magic and wonder that ‘Jurassic Park’ held so well. This update to Isla Nublar’s grand design is by no means terrible, in fact the film is enjoyable, entertaining and has heart but the sandwiching beginning and end are so uninventive and threaten to ruin what could have been a much better addition to the Jurassic series.

Jurassic World has now opened and on the island, new dinosaur attractions are keeping visitors flooding in, though scientists and park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) have come to create a hybrid creature that could frighten both kids and adults. Arriving to the resort are Claire’s nephews Gray and Zach (Ty Simpkins & Nick Robinson) who find themselves getting caught up in madness as the new dinosaur escapes. It’s a time that calls for help from raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to maintain the situation and aid Claire as much as possible.

As with all Steven Spielberg productions, the theme of family is evident, though his usual absent father trademark doesn’t really flare up. It’s more a bonding experience of brothers and absent minded work focused relations that bring about the family tension that gift the film it’s beating heart. Honestly, the hefty middle of the film is fantastic, suspenseful sequences, emotional threats and character progressions all echo of the charm the 1993 original possessed. He may have only been executive producer but Spielberg carries his dominance and directorial stamp on this fun family flick.

Colin Trevorrow steps up to the mantle for clearly his biggest film yet and on the most part he handles it well. There are a few cliches, the end wafts off into B-movie ‘Sharknado’/Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus’ craziness and the general scope of cooking up hybrid creations is utter madness…who’d honestly think a park with actual dinosaurs to be seen would be boring, a T-Rex would have been more than fine as the central animal antagonist. Trevorrow does manage to give the action moments plenty of energy and visual fancy, the dinosaurs do come at an alarming rate, really making you understand the grand world from the movie’s title.

Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver come up with an average story, a simple enough reason basically to bring back the franchise. Expanded to be a tourist hot spot and have zones wide enough to cater for massive beasts, it’s clear something needed to be done to suit the modern audiences of today. It sort of works, the screenplay from their story makes room for views of military belief concerning usage of dinosaurs, it utilises on family cracks and romancing relationships. The best parts of the movie are when it’s referencing ‘Jurassic Park’. The closed off section with the jeeps, the Hammond statue, the new Rexy creeping along like the T-Rex scene in the first movie and more besides manage to keep the magic from over 20 years ago flowing into this fun watch.

The film jumps on the iconic score with great delight, Michael Giacchino uses the building brilliance of John William’s music quite a bit. It works though as everyone knows it and it stirs up those feelings to resonate from when you first remember seeing these million year old animals on screen. It twinkles away almost ominously in the background when Zach and Gray enter the dusty abandoned visitors center. The rest of the score isn’t anything hugely memorable but works when watching the scenes unfold.

Visually this movie has a lot going for it, from the many dinos to the park itself ‘Jurassic World’ will entrance a whole new audience of people. The concept of inclusions like the lowering spectator deck for the Mosasaur, the Gyrosphere moments are fantastic, the camouflaged design of the Indominus Rex makes for a chilling extra layer of deathly attack quality, in general however dumb it is making a new threat, this new beast is a mighty thing to behold and her movements boom around the IMAX in thunderous fashion.

Chris Pratt is an unquestionable movie hero now, he’s just as slick and badass in this as he was portraying Star-Lord. The way he gives Owen a sense of meaning, the alpha doggedness to train and appreciate the Velociraptors could have been stupid but it’s watchable thanks to Pratt making Owen a likable and knowledgeable character to believe in. Bryce Dallas Howard is confident and no nonsense as the head of this new park, her boss lady attitude is ripe for the unfamiliarity she has with things she should know about. She gives what could have been a pretty flat character something to engage with and by the end she’s a thinking helpful women wanting to be close to people. Jake Johnson singlehandedly gives the film most of its comedy dazzle from desk top figurines, T-shirt memorabilia to attempting a farewell romance. The two young lads are great in holding the film’s more careful message of sticking together, Simpkins and Robinson both give each brother the designated behaviour for their ages and are never annoying which in some big films, child actors can definitely be.

Apart from the beginning which jumps straight in and gives us an unnecessary world of new and trained dinosaurs and the ending which is on the ridiculous scale of computer tomfoolery with Dino tag teams, the main portion of this prehistoric picture is big and fun.

6/10

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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Awesomely spectacular in sci-fi visuals, battle-tastic sequences and high class comedy. The tenth installment in the Marvel cinematic universe and 100% one of the best. James Gunn the director and co-writer of this penultimate Phase Two feature has mastered a wise cracking, zippy futuristic barnstormer to once again keep the threat of stale superhero movies well away.

‘GOTG’ kicks things off with a simple enough back story into Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) past of 1988 and from there he’s whisked away into the land of space and the unknown. This movie revolves around him 26 years later as his space pirating ways lead him to grab a much sought after orb. Having this item however is more dangerous than expected and in the process of keeping it he stumbles upon a motley crew of bandits who become friends. (Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel and Bradley Cooper) They all must try and stop the orb falling into the wrong hands, i.e the paws of one mighty villain named Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace).

*very mild spoilers may follow in this write up*

This is such a damn good movie, the movie keeps shuffling along at a speedy pace but never in a way that you feel it’s over before anything has begun. The story is suitably told even if it is predominantly a item for sale kind of shtick. It might be basic but it never feels dull with interesting character interactions to keep the story amusing and fresh. The book-ended Earthy quality to reflect Quill’s background help add that grounded touch to bring us back to more level standings after flying high in the future. The mum, present and Star-Lord aspects all get their time and help make the arrogant, witty dude in charge more three dimensional, which I believe was needed, even if skidding across an empty cave and singing into weird creatures is epic cool. The main likable story focus is centering on them as a gang, a unit, friends and possible a family because of them working together, all their rapports are scripted brilliantly with comedic one liners, miscommunications and personality divides all adding to the hilarity of this odd bunch coming as one. James Gunn and Nicole Perlman have done a top notch thing in writing this film, mixing funny with feels, whizz with calm.

The science fiction is like something wholly and delightfully different to the Marvel films to come so far. Each planet and scene is detailed with futuristic eyes for design and wonder that it’s a treat to see each place appear on the big screen, especially when captured on an IMAX screen. They all work with the unraveling plot and suit the impending darkness of Ronan’s influence. Though Xandar always seems clean, white and like some new Colgate commercial or a Jetson’s city. The sci-fi gizmos are fun and Star-Lord, you know….Star-Lord, oh forget it, he has a Batman like utility belt of gadgetry to deploy; from a handy helmet to some jet-packed boots. It’s all stamped with an assured extreme modern look that gives this film the fun identity you hoped it would have.

‘GOTG’ has a soundtrack of insanely great proportions that relate nicely to Quill as a human with his travelling mixtape, appropriately titled Awesome Mix Vol. 1 that gifts us the sounds of the 70’s and each song ties in with the action it’s played over. Of course there’s the great ‘Hooked on a Feeling’ by Blue Swede but other gems come from David Bowie, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, The Jackson 5 and The Runaways who have one of the best song-to-scene moments with ‘Cherry Bomb’. It’s a very musically felt film even when a song isn’t blasting through the cinema speakers like some phat boombox-esque disco tune. Peter Quill utilises on the moods of ‘Footloose’, he twinkle toes…quite a fair bit and even uses this knack for such a great way to deal with the enemy, very Han Solo tapping on a Stormtrooper to distract jobby.

Chris Pratt is a great leading man and shines as Star-Lord, seriously no idea? Okay, nevermind, the cockiness is just right, never leaning into proper douchebag territory, he has a great sense of comedic timing clearly picked up from his time in ‘Parks and Recreation’, but there’s a sensibility lurking under the leather and helmet of Quill and Pratt showcases this human emotional side when needed to settle the soaring visuals with hearty story, maybe not huge hearty story mind but hearty enough. Zoe Saldana is a great kick-ass assassin and plays green Gamora with the hit-girl precision, she also keeps Quill in check and turns a corner for him without even meaning to. Bradley Cooper is never seen but is utterly fantastic as the voice of the violent Rocket Raccoon, the furball is cute and somewhat softened by the end but he comes out with insults and lines to crack you up constantly, the funniest thing in the film by far. Stan Lee has a cameo, as per. Karen Gillan has black eyes and blue skin in her most evil role yet and she carries that baddie role well giving long stares into shots to convince you she can do harm, underused as a character and I was saddened that after hype of a great female fight between Saldana and her it feels cut short and not that impressive when it comes down to it. Lee Pace is bulky and very bad as Ronan and booms as the central villain, it’s a great play but this film does side more with the journey of the Guardians leaving the villains with less time to breathe.

The best thing about this film is you can tell the makers had a blast getting this made and so you have a blast watching it. It’s zany and piled to the stars with silly and smart comedy, shining special effects and grand fun. A Jackson Pollack comment says it all for some of the greatly scripted one-liners and the dazzling lights and kindness of Groot’s heart tell you how sweet and sad the film can sometimes be. It succeeds it making you care about the good guys an awful lot and each one gets enough screentime to warrant you liking them all, they’re the new Avengers in a way, more weird but just as easily to get attached to. Heck this film even bangs out a final act more impressive and neatly wrapped up than ‘The Avengers’ managed to achieve.

Mad fun, great sounds and sights can be found in this action filled space adventure. An exhilarating ride that makes you want to go round again and again.

8.5/10

 

The Lego Movie (2014)

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‘The Lego Movie’ is fantastic. It’s a real treat and one of the best animations I’ve seen in a while, surpassing even some of Pixar’s genius which is a big thing to say as I do love Pixar films. The story of a generic construction guy called Emmet stumbling upon a hidden world of wonder and prophecy is simple enough to keep the kids distracted but it’s in its thick and fast comedic style where the older viewer is drawn in too.

There’s gags a plenty, both visually and through the script. Emmet is brilliantly usual and blends in with the massive crowd, his happy go lucky nature of doing everything by the book is so delightfully charming that you’re invested in his yellow faced character from the moment he appears bending backwards on a brand new day. A brand new awesome day I may add as it’s a day where he discovers the Piece of Resistance and his normal life is forever changed. He meets up with Wyldstyle and realises the existence he once thought was good enough is a lie and then the madness ensues.

It’s just so silly and the jokes and style are pacy and random enough to keep adult watchers entertained. I truly think this film caters fantastically well to all ages and perhaps even more so to adults who know and love Lego from their childhood. The touching and surprisingly sad element of imagination and its restrictions is a heartfelt and deep thought. I wasn’t expecting the way the latter part of the movie was filmed and it was a neat addition and helped tell the story even more. A manner of perfection and everything in its place is something we all know as the world is designed in a way for everyone to assume perfection is a trait we all need but this film gives a truly lovely message in accepting things being against the norm, there’s a charm and nicety in discovering your own way and doing your own thing.

The voicework is over the top and fun for a cartoon of this crazy nature and Chris Pratt’s delivery is top notch in being so downright amazed at everything that when he does feel lost and unknown his sadder site hits even harder. Will Arnett provides comedy in replicating Bale’s gravelly Batman tone and the moment when him and Liam Neeson as Bad Cop/Good Cop have a gruff voice off is genius, almost as good as Alec Baldwin and Arnett himself doing the same thing in ’30 Rock’. Alison Brie has a fluffy part playing a gloriously odd uni kitty and her Disney like cuteness is heard through her fantasy like wonder in wanting everything to be happy and nice. Elizabeth Banks plays the role of the obvious love interest and you know she and Emmet will end up together but it’s a fun enough back and forth between the two to make that inevitably alright. Will Ferrell is insanely evil as Lord/President Business and has a bigger part to play in the grand scheme of things making the ending a true turn of events in filmic style and it’s a great choice. There’s fun and exaggerated vocal work from all the players involved as you’d expect with a kids film but in a film this mad and fast they don’t ever become annoying so that’s a plus.

The Duplo introduction is also a moment where I was like great…here’s the sequel introduction and I’d have been quite happy with this film being a one off as it’s quirky and cool to not need the probably underwhelming second offering. Also, the fast pace can become a little too fast at times though with police battles, flying duels and mega bricked scenes shooting onto the screen and cutting quickly that sometimes felt a tad too rushed or dizzying. It jumps from location to location spoofing westerns and Middle Earth and in that it feels like the story is skidding about a little too much but apart from the sometimes overbearing sugar rush element of the pace it’s a fun film that questions the order of playtime.

A film that has been hyped up and seen by many and luckily it wasn’t a disappointment, a joyous ride of a film that built up a bunch of funny characters and had a moral to share that almost tore my heart into (Lego) pieces.

8/10