Monday, 29 August 2016

Pete's Dragon

The adventures of an orphaned boy named Pete and his best friend Elliot, who just happens to be a dragon. 

Pete's Dragon is based on the 1997 live-action animated Disney film. It was a fun idea but one that  wasn't properly fleshed out. This movie is pretty good, maybe not as good as I wanted it to be, but still, I did like it. There's a good balance between spectacle and sentiment. 

All the performances root the fantasy, especially Robert Redford who gives a surprisingly affecting turn as an old-timer who saw the dragon years ago, even though nobody believed him. Moreover, all the cast is attuned to the film needs. 

This film is part E.T, part Jungle Book. It's sweet, soulful and almost Spielberg-ish. Director Lowery doesn't shy from the horror, for instance, the opening scene. It is dark. And it tells you immediately what this child is made of. Pete's Dragon is a quality family film that rewards young people's imaginations and reminds us of a time when the term "Disney movie" meant something: namely wholesome entertainment and awe. However, this movie lacks the punch of Disney's best classics and bigger franchises, it doesn't do anything new. Though, the routine feels fresh again.  

Plus, the town doesn't seem fantastical, but it does feel isolated from society, a place that is as unsee and out of time as the creature living in its miles of surrounding forest. Finally, the filmmakers have studied what endears humans to their pets and amplified those qualities into the realm of fantasy. Here Elliot doesn't just look beleviable but he sounds it as well, - much as an enormous dog - with every breath and sigh adding credibility to a creature we desperately want to be real. 

Overall, this version has a lot more fire in its belly than the original, but is not quite rich enough to sit alongside the famous Disney Classics make-overs we had in the most recent years.

Friday, 19 August 2016

"To Infinity and Beyond"

The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for the test.


Director Justin Lin brings his action energy and a certain nostalgic flair to the series. The dimension of the original series that turned fans into lifelong nerds is that it pushed boundaries, it kept spinning your head with space marvels and awe. You could argue that the philosophical, political and sociological subtext is what always set this universe apart from other tech-heavy space adventures. This film brings back the old philosophical lessons in an old-fashioned way. In fact, some of Kirk lines are relevant to the whole of humanity. Star Trek Beyond fits smoothly with the universe J.J. Abrams started, though, it's lighter and funnier than Abrams' movies with a welcome sense of adventure after Into Darkness. Abrams always had intuitive grasps of the hearts and minds of diehard fanboys and girls. He knows what they want and gives it to them. 

Abrams already reinvented the series once, he did it brilliantly, casting the series with such accuracy for the inner qualities of every Trek crew member. Like the show, it lets the audience share quality time with cast members, who now seem like old friends.The set-up is, in my opinion, the smartest part of the script by Simon Pegg, now pulling writing duties as well as co-starring. Splitting up the characters into unexpected pairings opens up the interactions giving some of the lesser-seen players a platform and reducing the screen time of the usual Kirk/Spock bromance. Simon Pegg injects plenty of fun, wit and certainly doesn't hesitate to give his own acting role, chief engineer, Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, a touch more dramatic significance than before. 

Zachary Quinto's imperturbable First Officer Spock, who conveys logical calm, whimsical humor and a kind of martyred romanticism; also rules the movie with a single raised eyebrow. Without Spock, this might be a bit ordinary. Pine is as usual charming and very effective as Kirk, this time, his character is wrestling with the ghost of his father and a monumental career decision. Once again, he manages to blend the perfect charming action hero with a slight touch of a smirk and a gleam in his eye. Plus, him jumping on the back of an antique 20th-century motorcycle at one key moment, where he goes full Steve McQueen in the Great Escape is a highlight. 

If there's an area in which the film disappoint, it's in the choice of bad guy. For all his faults Benedict Cumberbatch's Khan was a glorious highlight of Into Darkness. Krall after an amazing entrance worthy of a master villain retreats to the edges of the movie. His motivations are unclear and his machiavellian grand plan somehow shady. Until the third act, no spoiler, but wait and see. 

I have to pay a tribute to Anton Yelchin work as Chekov because we've come - through the course of two films - to love and appreciate his character. He did an inspired job of making Chekov's face match his heavily accented words, demonstrating his light comic touch. Yelchin as honoured in the closing credits with a simple "For Anton", slyly disappeared inside this role and in that very act of disappearance, he was never more himself. 

Here is a movie where the emphasis is on good, old-fashioned fun, and that feels in a good way, almost like an extended episode of the Trek TV Show. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see why director Justin Lin was handed the reins of the Star Trek series from the outgoing J.J Abrams. Justin Lin, director of four Fast & Furious entries, is a master at making vehicles fly through the air (here space), as Star Trek Beyond has a few of the most spectacular set pieces ever seen in the series. When the action starts, Lin is more than capable of handling it. Most notably in the extended sequence when the Enterprise is ripped to shreds by Krall's bee-like ships or the final battle. Which takes place in a Federation outpost, that looks like a mix of the Aristocratic Satellite in Elysium, the city of the future in Wall-E and an Apple Store. Those sequences are ones you won't soon forget. Finally, Lin gets the job done remarkably well and it's got a likable retro vibe that takes us right back to the TV series spirit. 

Overall, Trek isn't going to start challenging Wars as the dominant Star franchise, but there's plenty of evidence it could still prosper (see what I did there?). It also serves as a sensitive send-off for the both beloved Anton Yelchin and legendary Leonard Nimoy.

Monday, 15 August 2016

Call It a Rebirth

The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn our of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past. 

It's not an exaggeration to say that the Bourne Trilogy redefined modern action thrillers. It was a relevant, smart and furiously intense reinvention of the espionage genre. The Bourne movies have always been blockbusters, with their fingers on the political pulse and here Greengrass turns his attention over to online privacy post-WikiLeaks. 

Jason Bourne has always had one mission: to find out who he is. It's a mystery that made him one of the most interesting action movie characters of our time. Alongside James Bond and Ethan Hunt, but he was quick, efficient and acted on intuition and impulse alone. With this movie, the series marks a return to what worked for the franchise - namely: Matt Damon. In fact, despite the welcomed hints of vulnerability introduced by advancing age, Bourne's character seems off. Which comes most likely from the script, which unfortunately also provides Matt Damon with precious few lines. Rather than from Damon who is impressively opening up as an actor with the years. 

From a stylistic point of view, Greengrass' sequences are defined by seething movement and sense of endless chaos, capturing indelible moments and images rather than a full and coherent picture of it. Indeed, the director is wasting little time before its first adrenalised action sequence and frenetic editing. Still, few directors can craft such clarity out of absolute chaos.  

Technically and logistically Greengrass delivers everything you expect from him. There's no one better when it comes to staging complex, chaotic action amid the real life of big cities. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  The action-packed final forty minutes are staged in Las Vegas, this city might seem an unlikely backup for Bourne's brand, but it perfectly fit the unpredictable choreographed opera-like carnage. Finally, the action didn't disappoint me, what did is the story. There's definitely a revenge aspect to this film. Not just from the hero perspective, but also from the villain, which was very unexpected and it added something to the movie. However, the subplot involving this social media guru was not needed, it slowed the movie's pace considerably. 

Overall, Jason Bourne is the most unsettling movie in the series but it also left the audience weirdly wanting more.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Tentamen Suicidii*

* Latin for a suicide attempt. It is often referred to as a failed suicide attempt or nonfatal suicide attempt. 

A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.

Nevermind Deadpool: Suicide Squad is the bad boy of superhero movies. Defined as "F****** insane" in promotional interviews. it's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's nasty little brother. On paper, Suicide Squad was summer's last best hopes. Its premise was interesting to anyone who's ever found Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader more interesting than Clarice Starling or Luke Skywalker. Intended as an antidote to the rest of the DC Cinematic Universe. If Marvel has the best superheroes, so the prevailing geek logic goes, then DC must have the coolest villains. How ironic then, that a superhero story determined to celebrate the genre's villains should feature the worst villain that the genre has ever seen. 

Director/writer David Ayer opens the film by attempting to compress origins stories, unique abilities and how they were captured for nine different characters into the film's overload first act. Blasting Hip-Hop songs to show how gangsta they are. In fact, each character is introduced with an instantly recognisable song, helping to ground these super freaks in the world as we know it. While also confirming suspicions that the movie is DC's answer to Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy. Amanda Waller starring Viola Davis, whose self-interest eventually poses the film's only provocative moral dilemma, is going to use those villains: she's going to use fire to fight fire and she's going to get burned. 

Every character is missing someone. Deadshot misses his daughter, El Diablo misses his wife and Rick Flag his girlfriend. Beside that there's Cara Delevingne's Enchantress, a humanoid crocodile who doesn't contribute much to the team and my old friend Jay Courtney: a dumb Australian guy who contributes even less to the team. And THEN, there's Dr. Harleen Quinzel aka Harley Quinn aka Margot Robbie, who is sexualised as hell and a caricature of male fetishism. Plus, she's "potentially" a poor representation of psychological abuse. Though I loved her character. Moreover, Will Smith hopefully has been given good characterisation within small but thorough lines and some touches of humanity, just like Harley Quinn underneath her unhinged insanity. Will Smith charisma and wit unable him to throw one-liners like no one else, giving the  movie a comic aspect without it turning into full mode comedy. 

This is not the Joker's film we were all waiting for. But must surely be a taste of things to come in future sequels. Attempting to honour the history of the character without stepping on Heath Ledger or Jack Nicholson's toes, Jared Leto creates a surprisingly sensual Joker. He's part gangster, part clown, but nor really part of the movie unfortunately. His character is reduced to a long cameo of some sort. Giving the audience a feeling of second movie within the movie they're currently watching. The brief Batman's appearances are awesome, Ben Affleck is amazing as Batman and I can't wait to see this man again in new Batman features. 

Blame it on Batman, but the DCCU has gotten awfully dark in recent years, especially compared with the candy-coloured party they're having over at Marvel. Finally critics often complain that overcrowded comic-book movies don't devote enough energy to psychology or performances, focusing instead on action and big CGI set-pieces. But Suicide Squad strays in the opposite extreme. Though this film is full of fancy action sequences in which our anti-heroes fight off a bunch of anonymous CG baddies (like the Avengers) while exchanging witty one-liner (just like the Avengers) and using their various abilities to emerge victorious without breaking a sweat (like, guess who?  the AVENGERS!). I don't really like to trash a movie and you know that but certain aspect of the second and third acts reminded me of Fantastic Four, yes, it is that messy. 

Overall, Suicide Squad flips the script around and forces the audience to root for the bad guys. But is this enough? Clearly: NO. This film is not half as badass as you wanted it to be.

Monday, 1 August 2016

You Didn't See that One Coming?

The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet. 

This film is the sequel to Now You See Me, we have the Four Horsemen back except one of them: Isla Fisher, who's been replaced by Lizzy Caplan. The pleasure of NYSM2 is that the Horsemen perform magic with human powers. They are superheroes of the mind. Three years ago NYSM was a grand illusion thriller, drawing on elements from Nolan's The Prestige and Soderbergh's Ocean series. 

Mark Ruffalo is the core character of this film, his sincerity makes it work. In my opinion he carries the entire film. He has a heartfelt story in the film and his character has been given the most logical reasons to be there and exist. All of the other characters seem to be contractually obliged to be there. Whereas Ruffalo has motivation. As far as characters go, the rest don't really have much going on. 

Bigger isn't always better, in the case of sequel, especially in a movie about magicians and out-tricking people. Less is better. The key is accuracy. Though, the director keeps things moving at a smooth pace. The first movie had me questioned some of the things that happened, but for the most part you go gracefully along and have fun! In some ways this sequel is quite the same but it lacks of substance. There's tons of flashy big sequences but none of them really had up to anything. Furthermore, there were an absurd amount of continuity errors in this film. usually I don't look for that sort of things, and filmmakers don't expect their audience to. However, when you examines film and you really look for errors like that, it starts to become noticeable. Finally, this movie is edited with impressive rapid-fire precision. We keep thinking: when is the climax going to arrive?      

Overall, in NYSM2 there is always more than meets the eye.