Wednesday, 20 April 2016

OJ's Movie Review - The Jungle Book

Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is about the seventh film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's book and we already know it certainly isn't the last. So how does this one fare?

As with most people, I grew up watching the 1967 animation and fell in love with it, so I was a little irked when I learnt they were going to make, what I thought, would be a frame-for-frame remake, but thankfully I was wrong! 2016's The Jungle Book, although takes a number of ques from Disney's famous classic, is certainly not tied to it; this is it's own thing and does well for it. I enjoyed the fact that I didn't quite know what was going to happen next, and seeing where Mowgli's adventure took him kept my interest; so on a plot standpoint it is familiar on a basic level but with new elements and expanded storylines it felt new and original with a bit of nostalgia sprinkled in places.
   I do of course have to mention the cast; they were all wonderful in their roles and superb to listen to but I do want to highlight three. Bill Murray is a fantastic Baloo which shouldn't surprise anyone, he delivers some great lines and he's such a likeable character, I really enjoyed his performance. Idris Elba plays a very menacing villain as Shere Khan and certainly gives this version of the character a very unlikable bully-type personality which worked well, although it took me a while to stop picturing Elba himself as I watch a lot of his live-action work. And then for me one of the most fascinating and unnerving characters was Christopher Walken as King Loui, he was so well suited to the role I always wanted to see more of him, the character had a huge powerful presence onscreen and I enjoyed that a lot. On a side note, Neel Sethi did a top-notch job as Mowgli with a few moments where you could see he wasn't sure where to look for these CGI animals but for the majority he did exceptionally well for his first film and especially one of this sort with very little to act with.
  I just want to quickly mention the music now; the score is absolutely fantastic, from the very opening scenes giving you a rush of familiarity to the wonderful new sounds John Debney scores over the jungle, it was really a pleasure to listen to. Now the music also segways into some problems I had with the movie...
  I don't think it's a spoiler to say that a few songs from Disney's animated classic make it into this movie, but I'd like to say I enjoyed the first one they did as it was more of a bantering back-and-forth type of singing without going full musical which I think works better in this live-action setting; the second song they did though I didn't feel flowed as well, almost jarring to a point as it seemed a little off, but that's just me personally. And the third one was my favorite but that wasn't present during the film itself, so sit back and enjoy some of the credits when you watch.
  Another negative for me personally was some of the portrayal of this world. They had super-realistic animals doing sometimes very animal behaviours and and they cleverly combined that with some of the script and humour but once or twice the cartoony sequences I felt didn't quite gel with the visual realism I was seeing.
  In the end, The Jungle Book was a fun movie with great story, character and music but had one or two moments of iffy CGI and creative choices. I think it will definitely be the definitive 'Jungle Book' for a lot of kids and look forward to seeing the announced sequel and Andy Serkis' take on the book in a few years.

7/10


Thursday, 31 March 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

After three years we finally have the Justice League prequel that we didn't really ask for but went along with anyway.

It seems like we've been waiting for this movie for ages; 2016 seemed like the distant future but now it's here and we're finally seeing Batman and Superman on the live-action big screen for the first time ever. So was it worth the wait? Is DC now pointing and laughing at Marvel? Well...
  I'll start with what I liked. The beginning of Batman v Superman was great. The opening scenes were shot extremely well, Zack Snyder knows how to make something look good this movie looks great. And then we get Bruce Wayne's perspective of the last act of Man of Steel and I enjoyed that a lot; it made it seem real and what it would've been like for a civilian perspective which made for some interesting scenes; so the directing itself and the camera work was really well done. And then there were two or three scenes dotted about I really enjoyed too, one including Holly Hunter's amazing acting in the Capitol building scene that was really tense.
  Another positive for me was Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor; I know a lot of people don't like his representation of the character but purely as a movie villain, I thought he did a great job and was very creepy and menacing; he also had this music that played when he appeared and that was great. Hans Zimmer once again delivers a fantastic score.
    Now moving onto what did not work. There's no easy way to put this, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a complete mess. It is so incredibly choppy I didn't know what I was supposed to be focusing on. There were at least four different movies in here; and they didn't really gel at all. There would be a scene following one character's agenda and then it would cut randomly to a different scene with different characters and I think OK, this is later on now but then after what felt like only a minute it would cut back to the first scene and I was like, "Oh, this is still happening". And it wasn't as if the scenes were related; the whole tone, the music and narrative would change. So imagine that happening with four different movies all at the same time I didn't know what to keep track of in the end. Random things would happen that made no sense and they had no desire to explain them or even hint at why it was happening. Even the characters of Batman and Superman themselves; did you think they had some sort of moral code? Some things that you think Batman doesn't do or Superman we've already seen can't possibly do? Nope, all out of the window without an explanation which made for just a really depressing movie; I cannot think of one scene where something nice or good happened or that justice prevailed or a feeling of satisfaction.
  And don't get me started on easter eggs; I'm obviously not going to spoil them but they were the most forced, shoe-horned, rushed teases I've ever seen. Things I was supposed to be excited for came out of no where and did not fit at all in what was happening.
  In the end, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a choppy mess with one or two distinct highlights and a good score but with a lack of narrative and so many moments it didn't need I have to give it...

5/10

Thursday, 24 March 2016

OJ's Movie Review - 10 Cloverfield Lane

Title, poster and trailer all revealed two months before it's release? I think I'm OK with that.

So 10 Cloverfield Lane stars John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. The basic premise is that a woman wakes up in an underground bunker where she is told that a chemical apocalypse has made the air outside toxic. That's all you need to know, that's all you want to know. So, let's get into my review...while sidestepping pretty much everything about it.
  First of all I have to give props to the director, Dan Trachtenberg; you've not heard of him? That's because this is his first feature film. I mean seriously, I hope this guy goes on to have a long and successful career. 10 Cloverfield Lane does not look cheap or amateur in any way despite only having about a $15,000,000 budget; he really only had three rooms to film in so it made for some really claustrophobic and uncomfortable moments, and even with a limited setting don't be surprised if your heart starts beating a little faster and tense up. As a summary of my introduction to Dan Trachtenberg: I think he's going places.
  Acting-wise; wow. John Goodman plays 'unstable' exceptionally well; when he's around you're trying to work him out and figure what his deal is and when he wasn't on screen I was just thinking "Where is he. Where is he". Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic as well as this woman who suddenly wakes up not knowing where she is or what's going on; but she wasn't some helpless wimp, she had a bit of knowledge which I think made things realistic. John Gallagher Jr. did well in his role as well; I'm not familiar with his work but he did absolutely fine as his character Emmet. So on an acting front I can't really fault it.
   Now with the plot, I'm not going to spoil anything because I think the less you know before going in then the more you'll enjoy it but if you're hesitant because you haven't seen 2008's found-footage film Cloverfield which has been called "a blood relative" or something, don't worry at all; while a connection is plausible 10 Cloverfield Lane is completely stand-alone. The narrative of this movie itself I think is very rare but utilises some familiar imagery which make for a thrilling experience because you do not know what's coming next.
  As a conclusion, I really enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane and it's refreshing to see this sort of originality and an upcoming director.

9.5/10

Thursday, 17 March 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Allegiant

It was either this or The Maze Runner sequel, but what's the difference anyway?

So Allegiant is the third film of the Divergent series, an adaptation from one of the many teen post-apocalyptic novels. As I said in my Insurgent review I really enjoyed the first movie, it was very entertaining and it had a good story and characters and the second one I thought was very weak and it didn't really seem to know where it was going until the last act.
  Allegiant picks up not long after it's predecessor and follows Tris, Four and a few others venture out beyond the wall. I'll start with the things I liked about the movie; the cast for one thing are still great. I think Shailene Woodley and Theo James still do excellently as their characters and despite Miles Teller's off-screen persona I enjoy watching him act. A new addition to the franchise is Jeff Daniels who looked like he came straight from The Martian to play the same character, but he suits that type of person so I enjoyed his role here. Another thing I always enjoy with these movies is the world building; I like the look and design of both sides of the wall and find it visually interesting every time I see it.
  Some things that didn't work for me in this movie now. The special effects for some reason, I don't remember it in the previous two films but here quite a lot of the CGI was really noticeable; some of the green screen didn't blend in to well and the flying vehicles sometimes looked a bit video-game quality. It didn't detract too much but it certainly took me out of the movie once or twice.
  Now I have to say the plot was handled better than Insurgent as it had more of a story and actually did things but overall it just didn't seem as big. Amongst the choppiness, Insurgent had tense simulations and a huge reveal at the end but Allegiant seemed just....Okay. It was comfortable, it was mellow, it didn't seem as impacting or meaningful. Also there were some major points that they kind of just brushed over; scenes and reveals I thought were integral to this world were shown or mentioned but nobody seemed to be that bothered and just accepted it.
  In the end although Allegiant was better that Insurgent in the sense of pacing and I enjoyed the landscapes and technology they showed, it didn't quite have the level of interest for me and the climax felt like something you'd see in a TV series.

6.5/10

Sunday, 27 December 2015

OJ's TV Review - Doctor Who series 9

It's been ten years since Doctor Who has been back on our TVs!? It can't be!


Series 9 gives us Peter Capaldi's second run as The Doctor and what a run it was. Even the pre-title sequence in the first episode can give a long-term fan a mind-blow. The opening two parter was an interesting one and although was unusual gave us some great appearances and easter eggs.
   As the series went on I noticed that there wasn't really a continuing story-arc, you know that little scene they usually put in every episode that has a pay-off in the finale, there wasn't really one here. I really liked that; there are maybe one or two lines of dialogue you can look back on now as a foreshadow but all in all each story was self contained. I enjoyed there being a lot more two-parters as well, it allowed for a more paced plot rather than a rushed ending. All-in-all the majority of episodes I really enjoyed, making series 9 one of the best series since 2005.
   Of course there were bad episodes, in my opinion The Girl Who Died, Sleep No More, and The Husbands of River Song were just dreadful. I know they have their fans but for me personally, I disliked a good portion of each of them.
   In the end I think series 9 was one of the best series so far and Peter Capaldi is still an excellent Doctor, Jenna Coleman was good, as always, despite my dislike for the character and I rather enjoyed the finale, which is unsual for me and Doctor Who.

9/10



Thursday, 24 December 2015

OJ's Movie Review - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

After so much hype and speculation, the force has finally awoken!

I don't need to explain what this movie is; everyone knows what Star Wars is, we all know there were three good ones and then there were three not-so-good ones. It's no secret that this movie is the most important film of the year to a lot of people...so what did I think?
   I'll star off with what I enjoyed, which was a lot. I always love a J.J. Abrams film and so I enjoyed seeing his directing now in this Universe. He gives you some absolutely amazing shots showing you this fantastic world and it's characters, a highlight for me being the opening scenes. He also does action pieces well, and a few times I could see things reminiscent of 2009's Star Trek; so on a directing front I can't think of anyone else who could've done it. In a similar vein to that, I love the use of practical effects in this; the film of course had CGI and used it well but I always smiled when seeing what I knew was really there, weather it be some alien bird pecking away or a monstrous thug lounging in a bar, it really worked well. 
   Script-wise was not bad at all. I think they did humour pretty well, I definitely laughed out loud at scenes, maybe for me personally one or two didn't land as much but as a whole it's entertaining on that front. The drama as well was done excellently; you really fell in love with these characters and were invested in their lives, including even the little BB-8 droid and Oscar Isaac's cool-guy pilot character, which added to the emotional beats and shocks of the plot. A high point for me was the Finn and Poe friendship that had very short screen-time but in those moments you could see these guys were bros.
  Just mentioning the cast quickly, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher did great jobs reprising their roles, couldn't fault them really and they jelled so well with the new guys, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega who were phenomenal and can definitely see them having future careers. I loved their characters and am looking forward to seeing them again. Mark Hamill was also in this film and all I'm going to say is that I enjoyed every moment he was on screen.
  Now for some things I didn't enjoy as much. Don't get me wrong, The Force Awakens is definitly it's own thing and gives us places and concepts we've not seen before but unfortunately it did slip into a similar problem Jurassic World had which was that it just recreated too many moments and plot points from it's predecessors. Scenes were happening where I was thinking "Really? We're doing this again?" and that was it's main weakness for me, too much of what we'd already had and so it made it predictable in or or two places. 
  Another point that I'd like to mention, that may only be something I feel, but the climax didn't seem very....climactic. It wasn't until we were in the middle of a scene and I thought about how long it had already been on that I realised I was watching the final battle, as it were. It was fine in itself, definitly some tense and action packed moments but I think due to the fact that the movie was constantly fast paced it didn't transition well that this was now something big.
  In the end Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fantastic movie and entertaining on it's own, it gives some exciting references and cameos for the long-term fans but if you're not a casual viewer then you may feel it's retreading some familiar ground.

8.5/10

Saturday, 19 December 2015

OJ's Movie Reviews - Star Wars: Episodes I to VI

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens out this week, I did a movie marathon to look back at the previous six films and tell you my opinion on the franchise.

The Phantom Menace began the unloved prequels, it was supposed to be the origin of all including the famous Anakin Skywalker. For me, I like this movie. I have a bias opinion because this was the only Star Wars film my family had on VHS when I was growing up so I watch this film with nostalgia. I acknowledge there are problems, terrible CGI, the great Jar Jar Binks and many more, but without this movie we wouldn't have Darth Maul, that fantastic John Williams piece and quite a revealing behind the scenes documentary. So in the end, I like Episode I.
   Attack of the Clones came next. This film makes me laugh everytime; no not because of George Lucas' jokes but the unintentional dialogue. The screenplay for this film is so bad it makes Anakin out to be a whiny and sometimes very creepy teenager who gives us his detailed opinions on sand. Along with that and some plot points that don't make sense, for me Episode II is the worst Star Wars film.
  Revenge of the Sith is the third of the prequels and eventually ties into the original trilogy. Most people say it's the best of the prequels and I can see where they're coming from. It still has a multitude of problems but the plot isn't as all-over-the-place as the previous two and the climactic showdown, although entirely green screen, can be entertaining. Some things though don't follow continuity and and other events are little hard to swallow (in the context of the universe, not real life) and so Episode III upped the quality a smidgen but that really isn't saying anything.
   A New Hope, although not titled that on original release, was a game changer in cinema. It spawned and inspired so many great ideas and the fandom is still as strong as ever that you can't deny Star Wars is something special. The story is a nice, satisfying one filled with action, charm and adventure. It is a thrill for any sci-fi fan and you love the characters it shows us. I do have to admit that upon first viewing I was little underwhelmed due to so much hype but now after revisiting I enjoy it quite a bit and appreciate it's influence.
  The Empire Strikes Back is next and is, I think, the most referenced Star Wars film and has a lot of recognisable scenes. It gives us the Yoda we all love, the famous "Father" scene and some cracking lines of dialogue we quote to this day. The action is still top notch, the special effects were great for the 80s and it's the film George Lucas messed about with the least. In my opinion, Episode V is the best Star Wars film.
  Finally we come to Return of the Jedi. Like the previous two, it's not bad at all if not for a few weak points where you kind of have to gloss over. It gives us some great sequences on the planet Tatooine at the beginning and a very tense moment aboard the Death Star. The little Ewoks are annoying to some but they don't bother me at all and in the end Episode VI serves as a fantastic end to the original trilogy.

So that's it. My short opinions on Star Wars so far. I cannot wait to see what The Force Awakens has to offer and my review for that should be up soon!