Race (2016)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Race. Pretty funny how that one word can completely describe an entire film, in both understandings of the word. The person who thought of it must have gotten some serious high fives from around the office. No, but seriously, the last couple of years we have gotten a lot of biopics of influential historical characters, and especially now that the whole world is going through some race issues, it seemed to be the good time to release a film about Jesse Owens: the legendary athlete. Played by fairly newcomer Stephan James, we follow Owens’ story as he heads to college and from that moment on trains with athlete gone alcoholic Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis) to become one of the greatest track and field athletes in the world. Set in the swinging thirties, Owens must not only battle for a place among the best, he also has to battle against racial prejudices from his fellow students, fellow athletes and eventually against the will of the most discriminating bunch of them all: Nazi Germany.race2

Nothing quite wakes you up about how social situations from the past were like the bluntless of racial slurs. Race has a point that has to be made, so prepare for a lot of those direct confrontations. People saying “did that n***er just touch me?” on the buses, Owens and his friends being shunned away from the dressing rooms by the all-white football team, countless of references to monkeys… unfortunately it captures the essence of the thirties mentality. Some of the troubles that Owens has to face in the film feel a little too set up and convenient for the story, but given the fact that I am a white teenage girl I have very little to say about that area. Although we cannot deny the fact that the things Owens and his peers had to go through are horrible, in Race it is never really taken too far over the edge. If anything, it even seems like the makers chose to stop at quite the distance in front of the edge. There are hardly any gut wrenching or mind blowing scenes in the film, at most you’ll think “ah man, that’s pretty horrible.” Even in the last part of the film at the 1936 Olympics you’d think that the confrontation with Nazi Germany and its treatment of anyone that wasn’t blonde and blue eyed would be quite difficult to watch. Even there we never really get to the point of ultimate emotional involvement, not even when coach Snyder ends up lost in a dodgy alley in Berlin and half witnesses some people being dragged away by soldiers. It’s not a necessarily a bad thing that we don’t feel ugly feelings throughout the film, it can be a plus if you want to just watch a lighter film, but given the topics Race addresses that seems a little unlikely. It’s not very obvious whether the makers wanted to focus on Owens’ athletic career or social structures. It does both, but neither too detailed to really make it obvious.

Owens’ portrayal by Stephen James is quite great, not to mention his athletic talents are quite visible on screen, even for a sports noob like me. His easygoing and neutral good personality come across race4very well so no matter what happens, you will find yourself rooting for the man. Jason Sudeikis plays his first dramatic role in Race, but it seems Snyder is not very different from all the other things he’s played (no, not even from David Clarke in We’re the Millers). He doesn’t do all too bad, this role certainly fits him, but we’ll need a bit more time to adjust to his genre change. All of the supporting actors are quite great, including Jeremy Irons and Carice van Houten, and the aesthetic of the thirties is very visible throughout, which gives it that extra little charm (minus the ruthless racism, of course). Plus, big bonus, even though the races were all about 80 years ago so there shouldn’t be a spoiler alert, the races and competitions Owens participates in still make you feel very pumped, which in true feel good fashion makes you almost forget he was a medalist winner.

So yes, Race has plenty of race and also plenty of race. Both versions are shown quite lightly and although they have obviously tried,  neither really hit the emotional mark. There are plenty of almost feel good moments to be found, which makes Race an entertaining watch, even though ‘feel good’ might not really be the emotion the makers were going for. Basically if you want to feel historically involved but not with too much drama, Race is a great film for you. And don’t we all just feel like that sometimes.

 

 

 

 

 

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

 

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

With half of the world  bitching about how the new Ghostbusters is the most unnecessary, horrible and pointless sequel/remake ever, I feel like they are all looking in the wrong direction. The direction they should be looking at is the new Independence Day movie. With the original 1996 version being a true Hollywood classic, we could have seen it coming, but the producers were apparently keen on beating a dead horse. A horse that could only spill out crap, so it seems.  Okay so speaking of the ‘sequels must be bigger’ situation, planet Earth has been rebuilt after the last attack and even has bases on the moon. Because, you know, we’re suddenly advanced like that. However, the aliens were not finished destroying everything so they’re back with a vengeance. But BIGGER. And BETTER. As new generations prepare for battle, the old characters must find a way to destroy the mothership for good.  independenceday4

I thought after all these years that Hollywood would know better than to spout out films whose predictability levels are through the roof; although it’s still a pretty big thing, I didn’t think I’d encounter a film as stereotypical and predictable as Independence Day 2. From the plot to the characters to the landmarks, there isn’t a single creative idea to be found. The ‘bigger and better’ sequel trope is put in to the max quite literally, with a single UFO covering about ¾ of the earth and destroying everything on its way down; ESPECIALLY cities like London and Tokyo, because no other places on earth are interesting enough to see destroyed and those haven’t suffered enough already. Bigger and better also means more extreme sci-fi on earth. Where in the original we still counted on some rather realistic weapons and ships from Earth, so we could imagine what it REALLY would be like, we now see hyper-futuristic spacecrafts, buildings and technology. Very cute, but it’s only distancing us from the story. They wanted to put so much spectacle in the film that we shoot through the plot like a rocket, so we never get to connect to any of the actions and characters. A fatal mistake.

independenceday3We get a fair amount of characters back from the original, but now added with a whole new generation, which gets very confusing. There’s about 8 storylines running at the same time, all either too small, too boring or too unnecessary to really be adding much to the enjoyment. We don’t have the fun of Will Smith to guide us through, so instead we have to deal with his kinda boring son. There’s also the most typical young white guy ever in the shape of Liam Hemsworth, who plays Jake Morrison (come on Hollywood, that name alone), a talented young pilot who has a problem with authority (ugh) and who is only good at doing risky things while making dumb sassy remarks. Doctor Okun is also back but it’s clear he only just woke up from a 20 year coma; his weird scientist trope is not something we still want to see in 2016. Even David Levinson, played by our beloved Jeff Goldblum  and frankly the only character I was looking forward to seeing, has lost a lot of his magic and cannot help save this film. And you know that if even Jeff Goldblum can’t fix it, you’re really nowhere.

Sure, fair enough, the visuals of the film are pretty great. The big spaceship landing on earth is pretty epic and the mater familias of the aliens is a pretty terrifying sight. It’s plain obvious that all of the studio’s budget went into the visuals, it is the only reason why the rest of the film is so bad. This sequel is one that will (hopefully) be forgotten very soon, as it does the original absolutely no justice at all. You want to be angry at Hollywood in 2016? Leave Ghostbusters alone and turn your anger towards Independence Day: Resurgence.  As even aliens would stay home from this film, this is one resurgence that we did not ask for and especially did not need.

Finding Dory (2016)

 

Rating: ★★★★☆

Wednesday afternoon, June 29. I was prepping myself to go watch Finding Dory in the cinema, knowing that on Wednesdays kids have the afternoon off school which could very much disturb my Pixar experience. Little did I expect, although not even that surprisingly, that the entire room was filled with adults. With a little more hope for humanity, we all settled for the long awaited sequel of one of our favourite childhood films, a sequel that as expected could not top the near perfect original but fulfilled our hearts with enough idiotic sea creatures to entertain us.

findingdory3In Finding Dory we are, surprise surprise, not finding Dory but instead Dory’s parents. When Dory starts getting flashbacks from her childhood, she goes on a quest with Marlin and Nemo to find her parents, whom she lost when she was just a little guppy. They end up at the Marine Life Institute, introduced by Sigourney Weaver, where Dory was once held in captivity. Together with her old friends and new friends, Dory attempts to find her family and fix her broken memories.

In Finding Dory we find ourselves on another colourful journey, not one in the giant mass of the ocean but a much smaller location: a marine institution. The wandering sense of the great big blue is defeated a little because of this; there is just few animation of the ocean but we get more views of the human world, which is fun if that’s more your thing. Also, the glass walls of the aquariums make the search a little less exciting. That doesn’t mean that we cannot enjoy the story; the writers did what they do best and made sure we can give all our love and attention to the cool characters. Dory, most people’s hero from Finding Nemo, gets all the attention she deserves and her background story gives us what’s probably the most loved character of 2016: baby Dory. With eyes bigger than her body and a tiny, shy voice calling for her parents we collectively started suffocating the person next to us out of cuteness. Marlin and Nemo, truthfully the kind of less exciting characters from Finding Nemo, have a much smaller part which no one will particularly mind. To make everyone’s fave character the new hero is a bold move. For me it’s usually not a good move, because it puts too much pressure on Dory to be funny again. FOR REAL this time, cause… you know, she’s the lead now. Although the fun of Dory is now a little bit diminished into the background, we can still enjoy everything else.

The best part of Finding Dory is also what made Finding Nemo the legend it is now: the side characters. We get a shit ton of new, hilarious animals that have already been made into memes, which in this day and age is the ultimate compliment to receive. An octopus (or septipus, rather) who doubles as a chameleon, Dory’s old pipe pal Destiny, a whale with terrible eyesight, Bailey, a ~OOOO~ beluga whale who ~OOOO~ uses his sonar to findingdory1~OOOO~ be the all seeing eye, some sea lions with personal space issues and very importantly: Becky with the good eye, a hot mess of a bird whose reference is the ultimate millennial deal. The character who is most worthy of a shout out is Gerald, basically mister Bean in sea lion shape, as he parades around with a small bucket.  They all grasp the wonderful Pixar idea of fun.

With the new characters and new locations, Finding Dory could have turned out to be many different things, positive or negative. Finding Nemo was impossible to top, so we’re not even going to pretend that was ever achievable, but Finding Dory comes quite close to it. The title could be a double title, since we could actually be finding a new Dory, aka a new awesome side character that sticks with us for a long time. There definitely are a lot of entertaining options. Especially for the true Pixar fans, Finding Dory is a heartfelt and funny picture; and if you haven’t let capitalism gotten you sick from all the advertising yet, be sure to catch this one for a nice piece of animation.

Me Before You (2016)

 

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Nicholas Sparks,  move over. There’s a new ultra dramatic guy girl romantic comedy in town and its name is Me Before You. However, while I tend to avoid Nicholas Sparks films at all costs, Me Before You intrigued me for two reasons: number one is the setting of a cute British village, number two is the sheer cuteness of Emilia Clarke squealing over bumblebee tights in the trailer. I gave it a chance, packed with tissues, and got an expected emotional film whose best feature is definitely the Queen of Dragons.

Based on a cheesy novel, Me Before You tells the story of 26 year old Louisa (Emilia Clarke). After being fired from her tearoom job, she is hired by the super rich, castle owning family of the village as a caretaker for their paralyzed 31 year old son, Will (Sam Claflin). Will has gone bitter after his accident and initially ignores and teases Louisa, who grows more weary over her job. When the two finally starting bonding, Louisa finds out mebeforeyou4Will is preparing for euthanasia and starts working harder to help him see the beauty of life. When the two even fall in love, the subject of death gets more difficult to deal with for the both of them.

What more can you expect from a film like this than tears? Two lovers made for each other but death gets in the way, it’s a tragic thing to begin with. It’s not a surprise in that case that the plot goes exactly the way you think it’s going to go. First they don’t like each other but then she snaps and he’s impressed and suddenly all goes well, everybody happy until that one pivotal moment… yeah don’t watch Me Before You for some surprising material.   The whole subject of euthanasia is a pretty serious one so in a way it’s pretty good to see it represented in a film. There is at least a little inside on what a serious situation could be like. However, I don’t know if it was the smartest move to see it all through the eyes of Louisa, so that no one can really identify with the problems of Will, which puts a little crack in the representation of euthanasia. Still, all the drama that comes with it is present, if not exaggerated with a 1:50 scale.

If the story is not that special and overall it is more your average love story, why do I give it 3 stars? One thing only: Emilia Clarke. Sure, I have a thing for her because she’s really badass as Daenarys, so you can call me biased, but she’s truly the star of this romcom as bubbly Louisa. Louise is a really adorable, happy, a little awkward and enthusiastic girl with whom you will fall in love much faster than Will does. Clarke plays her wonderfully and makes you forget she plays a fearless ruler in that one other show, and not just because she doesn’t have a blonde wig and three dragons flying around (I guess we would mebeforeyou3have noticed those if they were around). Her big smiles, quirky attitudes and especially all of the crazy outfits she manages to wear every scene makes one of the coolest leading ladies in a romcom in a long time. Besides Clarke there’s a whole parade of actors in Me Before You deprived from the most prominent British shows and films; there’s fellow Game of Thronie Charles Dance as Stephen Traynor, Jenna Louise Coleman from Doctor Who as Treena Clarke, Brendan Coyle from Downton Abbey as Bernard Clarke and even Harry Potter’s Matthew Lewis as Patrick, Louisa’s boyfriend. A lot of them don’t get to shine as much as Emilia but it’s nice to see some familiar faces to give a nice feel to the film. Besides the nice British faces the setting of a quaint British village adds a little more to the feel good mood of the film. There’s some pretty sweet overviews of the castle and the small English streets which is nice for once. We got a little tired of the American countryside ranches.

Add Me Before You to the list of emotional, cheesy sleepover-worthy romcoms, because it is a nice watch for a rainy day. The majority of elements in it are not necessarily special, but the presence of Emilia Clarke overshadows a lot of the negatives. Prepare for some laughter, some crying, some face spotting and some typical British accents. And isn’t that really all you need for a nice evening of entertainment.

 

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

I’m one of those youths that’s all for the importance of new generations, new opportunities for those to come and all that loving stuff, but even for me there are things that are better left in the great past where they belong. Prime example of this age: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. With an astonishingly terrible remake two years ago, many childhood hearts have been disappointed. Now TMNT was never my childhood love so I’m not really feeling the sadness here but I know a bad film when I see one and unfortunately, the rampage continues with this new sequel.

The second adventure of the Turtles sort of continues where the first one left off. The group spends most of its time defeating petty evil and staying invisible for big events like basketball games and Halloween parties. While they are out (sort of) having fun, April (Megan Fox) discovers that well-known scientist Baxter Stockman is working tmnt26with old foe Shredder on a secret weapon. Turns out those two are working together with alien meanie Krang, who plans to take over the world. While the Turtles battle against these evil forces from both of and outside of this world, they clash over their exposure to the world and the lack of credit they get from the city for saving its ass constantly, which causes great friction between the four brothers.

If the first movie wasn’t already trying hard enough to be funny and cool, the second one sure tops the forced feeling you will experience throughout. The return of Shredder as a villain was already a bit cheap, as if they couldn’t get any proper villains for the sequel, but the sudden jump to ‘oh hey by the way he’s now working together with Krang who wants to take over the world just because’ makes it even weirder. Maybe it’s just me who doesn’t like villains that are just evil without a good reason, just because they couldn’t be bothered to write a better background story, but Krang didn’t do anything for me. Maybe because his total screen time is like 4 minutes, he hardly ever gets mentioned and above all he is some looks like the literal depiction of brain damage. The breaking the brotherly bond storyline isn’t all too bad, but the ‘love yourself, there is only one of you’ moral that lingers behind it feels, like everything, too forced.

Michael Bay tried to put in some lighter tones to make it more (ahem) enjoyable, also known as jokes. “Jokes”. They mainly consist of the youngest Turtle, Mikey, making some 80’s slang pop culture references and newcomer Casey Jones being confused by what’s going on. Even Will Arnett, who is almost a personal hero of mine when playing Gob Bluth in Arrested Development, couldn’t do the trick as Vernon Fenwick who’s ego has blown up after movie one (not even if they played The Final Countdown in the back). The only thing that made me laugh was the awkward laughter of mad scientist Stockman, which (unintentionally or not) felt incredibly out of place. That’s a C- for comedy talent, Bay.

With the Turtles being the title characters and the big heroes, we could almost forgive the writers for not making any of the side characters interesting, newcomers and old friends. tmnt25Nice to see Megan Fox being reduced to ‘hot stuff’ again with the token sexy scene in which she gets dressed up as a porno school girl while the slowmotion cam captures every inch of her body.  Shrudder was just as boring as last time, Splinter got a whole 4 lines to remind everyone he’s only really good at spouting fortune cookie phrases, Will Arnett didn’t do his chicken dance, so many missed chances. Newcomer Casey Jones could have been cool since the Green Arrow himself, Stephen Amell, plays him but he reminds us more of an overexcited, confused puppy dog than an actual part of the team, let alone his suddenly convenient hockey skills and his no-chemistry fling with April. Two more comic reliefs were added to the cast in the shape of villain minions Bebop and Rocksteady, but their complete incapableness is more obnoxious than actually funny. Do we like funny minions? We do, but when my four year old kid next door has more sense of responsibility than they do, it’s almost painful to look at.

Maybe I’m just looking at it the wrong way. Maybe Bay aimed the film at 11 year old kids who freaking LOVE TMNT, in which case it might be a good film for that kind of audience (including Megan Fox’s scene to prepare them for the birds and the bees). It’s got many elements that kids will like. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 is too childish, sloppy and stereotypical to be truly enjoyable for adults. You’d think Bay had figured that out after he made the first one but he had to be persistent. If you love the old TMNT stuff, I advise you to stuck to that stuff, because the new generation is not going to make it any better. In Gob Bluth’s legendary words, aimed at Bay: I’ve made a huge mistake.
~

 

 

Warcraft (2016)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Firstly I want to apologise for seemingly having abandoned my blog. I have not. I am not a wuss. I can do this shit. It’s just that work and events have enabled me from both watching films and writing about them so it’s been kind of slow. Luckily, with one massive solo marathon in the cinema and tiring its employees with the ‘oh god she still hasn’t left’ I am almost caught up with recent cinema events and I can give my blog a fresh new start.

So yes. World of Warcraft. warcraft4The big gamerverse film that had the possibility of breaking the barriers between videogames and cinema and make something that is actually worth watching. Since my entire knowledge of World of Warcraft is based on that one episode from South Park, I am not one of the enthusiasts that left the cinema with a hard on and I can only speak from film experience and truthfully, Warcraft had a lot to work on. Sorry, warriors.

So Warcraft starts from the very beginning, when humans and orcs were still living peacefully apart from each other in other worlds. The orcs are not in a great position since pretty much all good stuff has been drained from their world, so the oldest and ugliest of them all, Gul’dan, works his magic with a power called the Fel and leads them through a portal to the human worlds where they could all live happily again.  The humans, of course, aren’t very fond of the idea and start prepping for battle with special forces Lothar, your average sassy hero, Khadgar, a mage-in-puberty and Medivh, the protector who does a great job at it by hiding far away. While they gather to fight, things in the Orcs camp are also not easy, where clan leader Durotan starts to question the intentions of Gul’dan and tries to find his own path.

Again, I should state that I know pretty much nothing about the actual game World of Warcraft. It’s one of the biggest games in the world and it has thousands of fans, who all could not wait for a film version of their fave pastime activity. It’s a pretty obvious move of the makers to put in all these little references and things that make the fans feel exciting feels. It’s just a big shame that these things do not really get across to the general cinema audience. Probably about 75 percent of the fun in the film is related to actual game stuff, making it pretty hard for nongamers to be in on the gags. If you then look at the things in cinema perspective, you will honestly not find that much special. Cliché is the word you’re looking for. Nine and a half out of ten things are predictable, there’s a brooding but still lively enough to be sassy hero with a sad background story (his wife died, what a shocker), a son who’s just trying to make daddy proud, the ambitious but inexperienced teen whose silly little mistakes are (questionable) comedy gold… let’s not even begin about the whopping number of 3 whole women in the entire film (4 if you count that one chick that carries a chest with Lothar who is obviously there to increase the female quota), of which the most important one walks around in a skin tight bikini and who out of the human/orc mix is just enough woman to be true fap-material. We’ve seen it all; it’s not surprising anymore, just a little irritating. A big hit like this could have met its expectations a little better on the cinematic front.

warcraft5Animation and action wise, Warcraft is pretty great. The big rough landscapes look amazing and, admirably,  not even fake. Even the city of Stormwind, which contains impossible towers and almost cutesie medieval houses, looks pretty great from the overview perspectives. The CGI in the characters is pretty epic too, the orcs look scary as shit and although Gul’dan still
has a huge videogame-look to him he is a cool sight to behold. The battles are grotesque and spectacular and I haven’t felt that much love for a griffin since Harry Potter. I’m not that big on fighter games but scenes like that could possibly persuade me to start liking them anyway.  Now if the rest would have matched the quality of the visuals, it might have gotten more of my stars.

I get it, guys. I’d also be hella excited if they made a film of Animal Crossing or the first Harry Potter pc game (wait.) so I’m not here to diminish the flames in your hearts. The truth is that looking solely from a cinematic perspective, Warcraft isn’t very special. There’s clichés after clichés after clichés, which gets a little tiring after a while and is something that even great visuals can’t fix. Making a film for the fans is a good idea, no doubt about that, but you’d think they’d try to make it a little more accessible for the general audience like they’ve been promoting. For me, the videogame curse hasn’t been broken, but with the increasing love for videogames in the world it is only a matter of time before a true hero comes along and sweeps us all off our gamer-feet.

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

 

Rating: ★★★☆☆

A good magician never reveals his secrets. So what do we do? Make a film about revealing magicians secrets! Fair enough, the performances in Now You See Me are spectacular and don’t have the average ‘is this your card?’ level, but the sequel does not quite own up to the original. Is it the tricks? Is it the showmanship? Or is it Daniel Radcliffe playing a mean Harry Potter? Let’s find out. Now You See Me 2 will make you feel amazed by illusionists, but has a few less surprises than intended.

Now You See Me 2 picks up a year and a half later after the first one. The Horsemen went into hiding, girl Horseman Henley left the group and gets replaced by gory illusionist Lula and the group, including plot twist leader Dylan Rhodes,  is practicing for the big plan of
nowyouseeme2 the Eye. Their big comeback gets ruined when they get kidnapped by Walter Mabry, a snobby billionaire who’s trying to stay off the grid. He tasks them with a near impossible heist for his big plan, which could lead to the exposure of the entire world’s private information. It is up to the Horsemen and their illusionist skills to get free from Mabry’s grip and expose and frame him for the entire world to see.

I’m just going to say it: Now You See Me (the original) was brilliant. Seeing these really cool tricks being done and then shown even more amazingly how they worked was pretty new to me but pretty goddamn awesome. The sequel is a bit more of the same thing. There are some big tricks and some small tricks, ones that all leave you pretty confused but get explained just as quickly so you can snap you’re fingers and be like ‘riiiiight good job on that one’. The little problem with the sequel is that we know what exactly to expect from the techniques of the film, so that there are less surprises for us on how the trick was set up. We almost start looking for things that could be part of it (and finding them, pretty easily) because that’s what we’ve learned from the first one, which is a bit of a shame. It mainly happens during the final trick, which is supposed to be the climax, but it was pretty easy to figure out and in the end not even that spectacularly clever. On the other hand, the scenes where we are already in on the illusion and see them working their magic live are amazing. The build up to their comeback show is truly wonderful (shoutout to the banana) and the heist itself with the playing card throwing is very magical (ha). These scenes kind of balance out what we miss in the other tricks, so we never get too annoyed or bored with the film.

Since the tricks are the biggest part of the film, the plot seems to be kind of written around it. The story gets a little confusing at times, especially regarding Thaddeus Bradley and Dylan Rhodes, and the cooperation with the Eye. We’re obviously supposed to look at
the special moments more than the overall things. The addition of Lizzy Caplan to the cast was a good choice. She has a lot of personality, more than the average token girl of the group, and seems to be a genuine part of the group; although it would have been better if they left out the forced romantic interest between her and Jack. Woody Harrelson plays a double role nowyouseeme22this time, once again as Merritt McKinney and also his twin brother Chase. Merritt is not more spectacular than before but Chase is a very extravagant character and quite a delight to watch. Finally there’s Daniel Radcliffe, who is not super convincing as the villain and acts more like a Harry Potter gone Draco Malfoy, but he tries and it’s quite fun to see him in another major role besides the boy who lived.

Now You See Me 2 sure has its flaws, but the cool magic tricks and executions of it make up for them. The Horsemen that we all loved from the original are back and smart as hell, while we get the joy from a fresh new group member that is fortunately (and almost surprisingly) just as fun as her predecessor. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine may have been a little unnecessary and just there for namedropping, but the storylines of the others are more fun anyway. Fans of the first will surely like this one too, and the general cinema audience themselves will have another good popcorn film for the Saturday night.

 

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

One of the many MCU friendship squads is back! The next gen X-Men’s third instalment promises more new (or old, damn you timelines) characters, more emotional rides and of course the big ultimate baddie of them all; it doesn’t get much bigger than Apocalypse himself, doesn’t it? While the whole ‘this time it is FOR REAL for real’ vibe does not really get across as well as it could have, XM:A does do another good job on the characters and lets a few people shine like they haven’t shined before.

We’re moving through the second half of the 20th century with speed, so for XM:A we have landed in the crazy eighties. Neon colours, backcombed hair and insane electronic tunes have reached the Xavier School for the Gifted, where people have move past the shocking xmenapocalypse3events of X-Men: Days of Future Past, besides the fact that Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) is now worshipped as the ultimate hero. The peace ends quickly when the ancient and superpowerful mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) rises after thousands of years, and sets out to cleanse the world from its bad ways. When Apocalypse and his four followers (including Magneto) kidnap Xavier for his powers, the other mutants have to quickly master their powers and save the whole world, including their beloved teacher.

What I talked about in Captain America: Civil War was that filmmakers often feel the need to create a bigger villain each film, because a bigger threat is bound to be more spectacular, amiright? XM:A makes a literal use of this, by reaching for the highest bar: Apocalypse, the main dude, a mutant whose power it is to control earth and who keeps on living by infiltrating the body of other mutants while gaining their abilities as well. Despite the intro and a little explanation from FBI lady Moira Mactaggert, there is little explanation about Apocalypse, so he kind of just goes out there and does his thing. He’s not really as scary as they made him out to be which kinds of disempowers the ‘number 1 baddie’ deal. Still, his powers are quite epic and he makes a worthy opponent, especially when it comes to clashing with Xavier. Apart from Apocalypse, the writers didn’t forget Magneto’s little mayhem of 10 years ago. He gets another sad background story to heap up the emotional shitpile that was already inside of him. It’s a little sad to see two nice characters being killed off for the sole purpose of man pain (what else is new, Hollywood) but the relationship it creates between Xavier and Magneto (and the overall group of mutants) is pretty interesting.

What we loved so much about the previous X-Men films, especially DOFP, was seeing the teen mutants working on their powers. It’s a pleasure to see this again in XM:A, where we are introduced to the puberty versions of the original X-Men characters. Sophie Turner plays the young Jean Grey as a more ready-for-action Sansa. Tye Sheridan is a great young xmenapocalypse4Scott Summers and it’s nice to see his character in depth since he was only really a comic relief character in the original series. Also Kodi Smit-McPhee looks like a great Nightcrawler, not just because of the makeup. Other newcomers are the young Storm, Angel and Psylock, but unfortunately they get reduced to mere minions of Apocalypse and we cannot see them shine as much. Fan favourite Quicksilver is also back in a pretty major way, dealing with his relation to Magneto. The outstanding point of DOFP was his slow-motion scene and luckily he gets to do it all over again in XM:A. His slow-motion explosion sequence is brilliant and does justice to a wonderfully played character. All of these mutants’ powers together make for some cool action scenes, especially when fighting each other, so that you will be fulfilled of your superpower needs.

X-Men: Apocalypse, as a true third instalment, is pretty good but not better than its predecessors. Luckily, they are aware of it themselves, with the fourth wall breaking wink to the audience when the teen mutants walk out of the cinema to declare that “everybody knows the third one is always the worst.” Action-wise the film is decent although Apocalypse could have been bigger and scarier to get us frightened. It is made up for by the big ensemble of teen mutants who are dealing with their powers and get their deserving time in the spotlight. They almost overpower the role of Charles Xavier, who in this film only turns bald and has awkward conversations with Moira Mactaggert, and Mystique, who only walks around feeling awkward about her hero status, but it’s a new generation and we need a bit of fresh meat to keep things interesting. Now it’s time to wait for X-Men in the nineties. Quicksilver with white tipped spiked hair? Can’t wait.

The Nice Guys (2016)

Rating: ★★★★☆

There’s something about a squealing Ryan Gosling that I just can’t seem to get out of my mind. I didn’t quite know what to expect from the same guy that did The Notebook and Drive, but once I saw the trailer for The Nice Guys I knew I was really going to like this pretty rude piece of work, even though it’s set in the seventies which is one of my lesser favourite time periods. We are treated to a 2 hour long (great) mess that is both subtle and extravagant  and will leave you wanting more adventures of the completely incapable detective duo Healy and March.

Welcome to the groovy seventies, where we find ourselves in the big city Los Angeles and theniceguys5its underground, party hardy, hedonistic vibes. After porn star Misty Mountains (which ruins my entire perception of The Hobbit) is tragically killed in a car crash, her old aunt claims to have seen her alive and hires terrible private investigator Holland March (Ryan Gosling) to help her find her niece. March thinks she was just confused by a girl called Amelia, but when the no nonsense underground investigator Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) comes onto the same trail, it seems there is something more going on with Amelia. Inbetween the alcohol, strippers and disco tunes, the two are forced to work together to uncover a plot that goes deeper than just a silly misunderstanding and reaches as far as the government

The seventies are known for their ridiculous creations, style, sexuality and fashion choices, something that The Nice Guys picks up very nicely. Although we get to see most of the underground world of the disco decade, it never really gets too vulgar or over the top. Even with porn being a much discussed topic, The Nice Guys still gets a sense of class, which is superweird considering the film is actually pretty rude and gory. Even this gore, the amount of violence and dark humour is shown so subtly that you cannot help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it. Throwing a corpse onto a wedding table, mistaking an acrobat’s ass for a table and preteens trying to flash some older dudes, there are many absurd things to be seen that are made to look pretty normal. The humour is very subtle, the action is plenty and not too much and although the plot gets a little messy sometimes towards the ending, it does not even show that much because the rest of it is just as absurd.

The absolute highlight of The Nice Guys is the relationship between Healy and March. Crowe’s role is nothing new for him, but he plays the grunting, quite Healy with visibly TNG_Day_#34_12122014-131.dngmore joy than many of his other roles. Ryan Gosling on the other hand plays someone completely different. Enormous mess Holland March is one of the most eccentric characters of 2016 and even though he is a humongous ass, there is something really likable about him. His high pitched squeals are sounds you never thought he would make and it’s a shame that he is still best known for The Notebook because March would be a much better point of fame. The two make a ridiculous pair and March’s incompetent investigating skills and constant failed deductions are a fun contrast with Healy’s underground professionalism. It’s a nice new bromance that I’m happy to be welcoming to Hollywood.

March’s relationship with his young daughter is the more endearing but nevertheless funny part of the film. Amazingly, instead of making daughter Holly (Angouri Rice) a liability to the whole thing, she is an equally contributing part of the investigation who never loses the child in her. Even her friends are not just silly little girls but genuinely funny (and honestly a bit fucked up) characters. It’s weird how a fucked up film like this pretty much nails pretty much all its characters in realism. Maybe that says something about us humans as a species.

The Nice Guys is a pretty refreshing, groovy and all around fun action comedy with a soundtrack that gets you swinging. Crowe and Gosling are a great team and Rice only complements that trio. The plot and humour are absurd which is exactly what makes it so great. Honestly, none of this would have worked if it wasn’t set in the seventies, so we should thank the disco vibe for making the Nice Guys so rad. Here’s me hoping for a sequel for the first time. Far out, man!

 

 

Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

A film that has Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter being weirdos in it? Revolutionary! No but really, it kind of is, now that the new Alice in Wonderland film is not directed by the legendary Tim Burton but by James Bobin. Bobin has previously directed some Ali G episodes and the new Muppets movies, so we could have seen a whole new side of Wonderland in his eyes. Instead, he’s trying his best to follow up the mysteriousness of Burton, but he only just doesn’t come close enough. What’s Wonderland without a sense of wonder?

Alice Through The Looking Glass starts off with the typical narrative of ‘all is well; oh wait, it isn’t’. After Alice’s triumph in Wonderland and her brutal yet awesome rejection attlg6of Hamish’s proposal (get rekt), she has been sailing all over the world for the past 3 years on her father’s ship like a true Kingsleigh. When she gets the chance to enter Underland again, she finds the Hatter mad (more than usual) and ill: he is convinced  that his family, who he thought had died in the attack on their village,  is still alive and he asks her to find them. While Alice realises they cannot be saved in the present, she seeks the help from Time Himself to travel back in time and save the Hatter’s family. On her quest, she finds out more about the history of many of her acquaintances in Wonderland, as well as a little insight about her relationships in the real world.

The great mind of Tim Burton called for a wonderful interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, with it being the right amount of fantastical and mysterious like the 13 year old emo child inside of you would want it. In this sequel, it’s pretty obvious that Bobin is not as creepy-minded as Burton. Most of the new locations we see, like the old village and the backyard of the White Queen’s palace, are very sweet, cute and have a very big Disney feel to it. Given the plot, this is pretty okay; it fits well and we wouldn’t want it to be a bad second hand version of what Burton does.  No, there is something else that doesn’t make the film feel just quite right: ATTLG is extremely plot driven, so much that it outbalances the sense of wonder for everything that is Underland. There are a lot of cool new things to be found: Time’s whole steampunk style is wicked, including his tiny robot minions called seconds, that combined are minutes. The old village looks adorable and pretty and the newly built lair of the Red Queen is really clever. Unfortunately, we hardly get any time to admire these things, because after about 10 seconds of introduction we get sucked right back into the plot and all these lovely things fall into the background. That’s what made the first film so enjoyable: being able to admire and be as amazed by this crazy-ass world as Alice was.

attlg5Same thing goes for the characters: while Time gets the screentime he deserves (Sacha Baron Cohen was wonderful for once), all of Alice’s old friends in Underland just get the forced “you can make ONE joke to signify you’re still here” treatment and even the Hatter could have been more than he is now. Besides, is the Red Queen’s sad background story REALLY that she got accused of eating a cookie? There are some new big names added to the cast, like Richard Armitage as the old King and Andrew Scott as Moriarty Gone Medical School, but their characters get so little screen time it might not even have been worth it. All these things are not necessarily requirements to make the film 10/10, but it all could have been a little more.

Still, the plot of ATTLG is quite enjoyable and once again the visuals are stunning. Even the real world scenes look amazing, although again they could have been explored a little more. Hamish is the personification of a stick-up-your-butt and is played wonderfully by Leo Bill, and Ed Speelers might not do much more than giggle at Alice’s sassy remarks, his pretty face does get a +1 from me.  It might not the way Tim Burton has done it in the original, but on its own it’s a pretty cool film with plenty of adventure and fantasy that still leaves you longing for a magical mirror of your own and a still alive Alan Rickman in the shape of a butterfly. It’s another point for the sequel curse but hey, thinking it could be better than the first one is just one of the six impossible things we think about before breakfast.

~