Wednesday, 27 July 2016

When Spielberg Meets Disney

A girl named Sophie encounters the Big Friendly Giant who, despite his intimidating appearance, turns out to be a kindhearted soul who is considered an outcast by the other giants because, unlike them, he refuses to eat children.  

When Steven Spielberg has to direct a film, no matter what the subject is, I'll be there. Because I know, with Spielberg at the helm and E.T screenwriter Melissa Mathison (though she died last November) at the typewriter, I'm in for the awe of watching the art of a true legend of filmmaking - and to me probably the best storyteller of all time. Steven Spielberg directed 29 feature films in his career, but he has never before made one with the powerhouse that is Walt Disney Studios. This film is the first to be put under the Disney Studios fairy-tale castle logo. 

The BFG comes from a director who knows how to make films on that note and on that scale. It arches back to Spielberg early days when he was making movies about friendship and magic like E.T. And I'd dare to say that this film could serve as Spielberg's E.T for an all-new generation. In fact, for a certain generation, E.T will always stand as the ultimate children's movie. No matter how fantastical the tale, this splendid Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation makes it possible for audiences of all ages to wrap their minds around one of the unlikeliest friendships in cinema history. 

This London-set adaptation of the Roald Dahl story reunites Mark Rylance and his Bridges of Spies director. Mark Rylance is awesome! he brings the BFG alive. It is a thing of wonder to see his trademark nuances, generally so studied and small, magnified to this colossal scale. With no offense intended to pioneer Andy Serkis, it's exciting to see someone else driving one of these virtual performances. Without him, the film would certainly lack the charm and sweetness it now displays. he plays the BFG like an abused child, grown to and alienated old age, taking refuge in a world of his own.  

Spielberg manages to make you feel like magic is real, it's out there, in our world, it's incredible - like he did in Jurassic Park for instance. This feeling is intensified by the fact that you are watching a story through the eye of a young girl. Who can be more imaginative than a child? Ruby Barnhill is fantastic as well, she's brilliant in comedy as well as with the dramatic aspect. Indeed the motion capture work and CGI are very strong and John Williams score is as beautiful as ever. Finally, this film relies on the simple notion that magic only works so long as children believe, and here we see this principle put into practice. 

Overall, The BFG feels like something magical between an Amblin Entertainment movie and a classic Disney Studios fairytale.         

Did We Really Need Another Independence Day Alien Invasion?

Two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Earth is faced with a new extra-Solar threat. But will mankind's new space defenses be enough? 

Independence Day: Resurgence is directed by Roland Emmerich as the first one was. In fact, this second instalment is pretty much just like the first one in every way, except for a few things that the first film had: energy and charisma. This sequel has none of the above. 

There's so many characters, some who give the old cast relevance and some who give the new cast relevance. This whole thing feels pretty awkward. In total honesty and with all due respect to Maika Monroe, they really should have kept Mae Whitman in the President's daughter role. She's a fantastic actress, though yes, she's not a sports illustrated supermodel - but still super talented. She really should have been in this movie. Nonetheless, Jeff Goldblum is by far the best part of this movie. His character is still entertaining, he's fun and it seems that he's genuinely having a great time! I loved seeing him back and someone has to put him in Jurassic World 2 - please! Finally, I really wanted to like this one but unfortunately, it tried to be a lot more than just blind entertainment and it failed. So to the question: did we really need another Independence Day alien invasion? The answer is NO. 

Overall this movie is a big, loud, messy, CGI fest with tons of cheesy dialogue. It's nothing else than mindless fun.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising & How Zac Efron is Growing as an Actor in Comedies

When their new next-door neighbors turn out to be a sorority even more debaucherous than the fraternity previously living there, Mac and Kelly team with a former enemy, Teddy, to bring the girls down.

Neighbors 2 is the sequel to the first Neighbors movie. One of the successes of 2014, which made more than $270 million globally. The comedy really shines in this movie, also they are able to pull it together and give us a touching story about friendship and relations in general. We're supposed to care about this Sorority House who defies the Greek system's rules - by letting its members wild out as freely as the boys do - as some form of millennial Feminism. However, the girls never really develop cohesive personalities. 

Set Rogen is once again just Seth Rogen, this guy is funny and it works here. I especially love the goofy sweetness interplay he has with his partner in crime Rose Byrne. Plus, Zac Efron is constantly growing as an actor and especially in comedies. He's a sort of wild card in the movie and it's fun to see him back. His life is quite touching - in some ways - because he's at this point in his life where all his friends have moved on and he's the only one stuck in the past. In this movie, Efron deepens the joke of his original performance.  

A lot of young women - or former young women - may disagree but for a while, Zac Efron came off as too good-looking to be a movie star. In the High School Musical films, of course, he had this blue-eyed charm, a handsome guy who knew how to dance and when he wasn't dancing, knew how to manage his charisma so that he was right between mysterious and sexy. He was a classic teen idol. 

17 Again, Charlie St.Cloud or The Lucky One revealed that he could play the beautiful and thoughtful boy next door, but as an actor, he lacked force and depth. Nonetheless, Zac Efron proved to be smarter than that and more inventive too. In Liberals Arts (2012) Efron stole every scene. He had an inner demon. he didn't just know how to make fun of himself: he was good at it. He was FUNNY. And that's when all began.  

He has one more movie coming out this summer, the Rom-com Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and it's more than likely it will let him do more of what he's now perfect at acting smart about playing dumb about looking like he does. This is Zac Efron recipe for Stardom.

Overall, you'll probably laugh hard more than once but this film doesn't have much heart.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Legend of Tarzan

Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.

The Legend of Tarzan is directed by David Yates, the man who brought us some of the best Harry Potter movies and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. He, Tarzan. She, Jane. I'm pretty sure you heard that one before. A lot of effort have already been dedicated to the character Edgar Rice Burroughs created more than a century ago. From silent movies to the man of Disney's late 90s animated blockbuster. This movie feels far more faithful to the source material than ever, by offering up a new narrative. And it does respect the character. 

Alexander Skarsgard. How is he? Sadly, the script hardly allows him to speak, but he does look fantastic and the equally pretty Margot Robbie works hard to brings some Feminist nerve to her handcuffed-damsel-in-distress role. Plus, Samuel L.Jackson in particular, doesn't even try to temper his 21st-century behavior, half expecting him to suddenly remember he has an Iphone and GPS his way back to a Tarantino set. Though his character is based on a real-life historical figure. He looks like he has the most fun and embodies pretty much all the original traits of his character. 

Even if the film was shot almost entirely in London studios, there's a whole lot of post-production magic here. Especially when it comes to animals. The action is exciting and there's a really good opening scene. For the most part, the execution is fine, but at its core, I had a hard time getting invested in this story. Finally, the whole film feels almost endearingly old-fashioned in plot and execution, despite several nods to more modern ideas.

Overall, I think this film will entertain you, especially if you're a fan of Tarzan. Either you love the character or you just loved Disney animated film. It is way better than I thought it will be.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Movie Vs. Book: Me Before You

A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she's taking care of. 

It’s easy to be cold and cynical these days, but we should never lose sight of the simple, cathartic pleasure of a good cry at the movies. At first, I didn’t want to review this novel – nor the movie – because I knew I would want to re-read it. Which might seem perverse if you know that for most of the last hundred pages I was dissolved in tears? Based on the best-selling 2012 novel by Jojo Moyes who also penned the screenplay. This story will feel familiar to anyone who sniffed through Love Story or The Fault in Our Stars. Surprisingly it’s better than both. Me Before You is a love story, a family story and above all, it’s a story of the bravery and sustained the effort needed to redirect the path of a life once it’s been pushed off course. This is also a story that is eloquent not so much in its delivery as in its humanity. The set up is the same as many of classic (and non-classic) romance: a poor but cheerful young girl meets a rich, grumpy gentleman and begins working for him. But what makes Me Before You different and quite interesting in principle is that Will Traynor is physically broken as well as emotionally.

You’ll forgive the movie’s clichés because of its surprisingly winning performances. As the film goes on and the frost between both protagonists melts, both actors give their stock roles unexpected emotional layers. On a basic level, it is engaging watching Lou enter this new world for which she is entirely unprepared. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke stars as Louisa, she’s like Love Actually-era Keira Knightley, crossed with a Hello Kitty doll. Clarke’s sincerity doesn’t just win Will’s heart, it wins ours too. Will Traynor since he’s played by Sam Claflin, whose Finnick Odair was one of the best things in the Hunger Games series, isn’t just killer handsome or impossibly good-looking even if his condition has left him bitterly depressed and cuttingly sarcastic in a wheelchair. The actor is good as Will, working well with the physical demands of the role and even bringing a gentle flirtatiousness to his character, as he develops his relationship with Lou. In fact, his grin, with its slight touch of a smirk – creates an unmistakable echo of a young Hugh Grant. Sam Claflin makes Will a broken man with a powerful life inside him.  Plus, Will’s character makes me think of Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre; with his rudeness and temper. While Louisa is so Jane Eyre: “One of the invisible”. Lou has never lived; Will has, but no longer can. You don’t have to be Nicholas Sparks to know where this is heading – that these two opposites will end up attracting, and that love, at least for a while, will prove stronger than death. Lou is not heroic and her male counterpart may be nobody’s idea of a leading man or Prince Charming, and yet with both of them, Jojo Moyes created an affair I will always remember.

Me Before You is a heartbreaker in the best sense. Employing emotional truth to bring the reader to tears. And yet, unlike other novels, tears are not gratuitous. Some situations, the author forces the reader to recognize, really are worth crying over. Furthermore, people can take an awful lot of sadness if you can be funny about it. Jojo Moyes is a literary stylist. Just a storyteller. And a really good one. She manages to draw on the skills she owned as a journalist to create a clear, candid picture of the practicalities of Will’s situation. While the novelist’s mind casts an illuminating light on her character’s reactions. Moyes makes them coming together extremely tender, both sweet and real. But there’s a deadline. One that haunts their love story haunts the novel. The author is masterful, in not shying from the complexities or shading the agony of choosing between life and death. It’s achingly hard to read at moments and yet such a joy.

Screenwriters choose to lose the “Maze” scene when Lou recalls a sexual assault when she was younger. Often when you read about rape in fiction, it’s the defining event of a story. And cutting it from the movie, I think, was a good thing because the scene is very opaque in the book, and putting it on film would have given it far more weight than it has in the book. Plus, it would have eventually change the mood of the story. However the “Birthday Dinner” scene, at Louisa’s home, hits a particularly high note, offering the most poignant moment both in the book and the movie – its soul, really – as well as a pitch-perfect hilarious one. Finally, my favorite part of both the film and the book is when Will and Lou go out on a “date” to a concert. She wears a dress of sexiest scarlet, and as they are in the car ready to go home, he confesses in a very Hugh Gratian manner: “I don’t want to go in yet. I just want to be a man who’s been to a concert with a girl in a red dress.” I know a good British rom-com reference when I see one.

Overall, Me Before You doesn’t try to reinvent the genre. We’ve all seen some version of this movie before, but that doesn’t make it any less effective. It knows what it is and embraces it. “Tell me something good,” Will says to Louisa at two transformative junctures of the book. This story at its heart is about two people who properly listen to each other, it is something good. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have something in my eye. It’s allergies, I swear. 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

James Wan: Rewriting the Book of Horror

Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to North London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a malicious spirit. 

The brilliantly terrifying The Conjuring is the second highest grossing horror movie of all time. The first being: The Exorcist. This film was genuinely the best horror film I had ever seen in a long time and James Wan is in my point of view, the best director working in horror today; so I was really excited to see this second instalment. This movie makes a perfect follow-up to the original Conjuring's lesser known case. Plus, the movie starts with a certain Amityville House. Yes, THAT Amityville. Here, the Enfield Case is probably one of the best documented, most studied and most contested hauntings in existence and in British history. The real recordings of paranormal investigator Ed Warren interviewing the entity through Janet live at the end of The Conjuring 2 and it's difficult not to let chills run down your spine. Nonetheless, director James Wan offers its potential fans a helping of reinsurance to go along with the fear. If there are ghosts and demons out there, then God must be out there as well. James Wan, who directed Saw and Insidious, is a horror filmmaker of such skills that even when he makes a by-the-book haunted-house story, it's easy to feel a hint of admiration for his talent beneath your tingling spine. 

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson couple really ground the film in realism as their backstory and relationship are really touching and heartfelt. Being more than a horror movie, it's about marriage and being with somebody that understands you. The realistic family story grounds the film and makes it better than your average horror film. 

Horror lives in the unknown. It hides in abandoned asylums, in catacombs, in cabins and haunted manors. These are safe places to die. You don't want to die? Maybe don't do an Ouija Board, stay home and watch Netflix instead. Nothing can find you there. Except James Wan. Wan is a modern horror maestro who brings the fear home to you. All these events take place in the very real world, occupied by everyday people trying to get on with their life. We've all been children hiding under the duvet from whatever hid under our bed in the dark. Even now, home alone on a rainy day, we've sat on our couch and wondered what creaked the floorboards in the seemingly empty room next to us. Wan's fear construction is effortless, his best moments lie in the silence between scares.   

He also has a sense of the audience: of their rhythm and pulse, of how to manipulate a moment so that he's practically controlling your breathing. He became a master of THE face. He must have a card in his office reading:"All you need to make a hit horror film is one truly awful face!". THAT face. The face that's staring through the window. Staring through the dark. The face that's coming to get you eventually. James Wan again proves with this film that he knows how to use a jump scare. Those are meant to get you. This man knows how to built tension until it feels insurmountable. He's also a wizard of timing, i-e he toys with us by throwing so routinely unsettling images at us, like, let's say a toy firetruck that starts to move ion its own. Then, letting that omen menace pass at which point the movie will simply pause, stopping dead in its tracks. It's right there, in the middle of that storm of quiet, that our anxiety starts to rush in. Finally, it's truly the craft, performances and the writing that make this film a billion years ahead of all films of its kind, out right now. This film is really good. It's scary, suspenseful, the tension is real and a lot of that is due to a brilliant cinematography. 

Overall, James Wan knows his craft. And all he has to do to bring you true horror is take you home, where you think you're safe from harm. Sweet, sweet dreams.