Eddie the Eagle (2016)

Rating: ★★★★☆

One year ago I went to a London Apple Store Q&A with Taron Egerton, the fresh newcomer from Kingsman: The Secret Service, a film I adored. Although I spent most of the talk looking at his cheekbones, Egerton told us he was just wrapping up filming Eddie the Eagle, a new film he was doing with Hugh Jackman. At the time it did not seem like something I’d really want to watch, but everything for Taron and as soon as the trailers came out I actually got more excited. Everybody loves a cute underdog story, especially when it has such a dorky protagonist like Eddie Edwards. Although it is a bit cheesy at times, Eddie the Eagle is a very happy film and will guarantee to make you smile.

Ever since he was a little boy, Eddie Edwards has wanted to be an Olympian. eddietheeagle4His one problem: he sucks at sports. After countless of try-outs and even one shot at the Winter Olympics of 1988, he finds the one sport for which there is no British team and therefore no qualifications: ski jumping. With the help of former ski jumping star and alcoholic Bronson Peary, Edwards starts training to get a place in the Olympics, much to the dismay of the British Olympic Committee.

Since the story is based on the true event of Eddie the Eagle, there should be few surprises in the plot. Still, like true Hollywood fashion, the underdog story and emotional moments are heightened so that it feels a lot more dramatic. Each build up for the next step in Eddie’s training is huge, so that you cannot help but get emotionally involved in the journey, whether you want to or not. There are a lot of ups and downs for Eddie in the story, so you start feeling really protective over the poor little geek. Does all of this make it cheesy and predictable? Yes, quite. But I’m such a sucker for cheesiness that it does not bother me at all. We all could have guessed it was going to be a feel good movie to begin with, so we might as well stop being Negative Nancy’s for two hours and enjoy a bit of sweet happiness.

Taron Egerton does a marvelous job in portraying the odd but driven Eddie Edwards, something that definitely differs from his chavvy part in Kingsman; The Secret Service. Although he is a bit more handsome than the original Edwards (no offense, Eddie), he captures his whole strange essence, including his specific mannerisms like the jaw sticking up. He makes a great team with Hugh Jackman, who kind of plays a Winter Olympics version of Wolverine. The couple is so odd that it could have been very easy to get the wrong chemistry, but the two have a natural charm to them. There’s a nice cameo of Christopher Walken as Peary’s old coach, although I have to admit that his reconciliation with Peary and the whole ‘I’m finally proud of you’ thing might have been a little too much, even for this film.

eddietheeagle2Another thing that brings a lot of charm to Eddie the Eagle is the time period. It’s set in the late eighties, which calls for old school outfits, technology and of course music. There’s plenty of eighties tunes used, which will make most of the adults watching very happy. Especially You Make My Dreams from Hall & Oats really sets to mood for the kind of cheerful, funny and slightly guilty pleasure-like film that this is. Occasionally we see original footage of the real Eddie Edwards, like his special shout out during the closing ceremony. It’s amusing to see the connections to the actual story, but it does sometimes take you out of the visual illusion. When we are in the cheesy comedy bubble, we’d rather actually stay in it until the end.

Those that are a bit more critical and serious about their films might feel like Eddie the Eagle is a bit over the top. It’s very predictable in both the Hollywood and the real life sense and the moral of working for your dreams is strong with this one. Still, Eddie the Eagle is a delightful and charming film that will make you laugh and perhaps sometimes even cry. Want to look for the perfect feel good film to watch after a break up, a failed exam, or during period cramps, then look no further. The eagle has landed.

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

 

Everybody likes looking at Chris Hemsworth. It’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. Those gigantic biceps have glorified many films and we give our collective thanks for that. That, unfortunately, does not mean that every film Hemsworth stars in is good. Since recently, we can add a new title to that list: a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, a film that would not be as famous if Hemsworth was not in it (because let’s be honest, he was the only reason we sat all the way through it). It has magic, it has warriors, it has dwarfs, it has a love story… and with all these ambitious aspects it is above all one thing: very, very dull.

The Huntsman turns out to be both a prequel and a sequel. Long before blank-faced Snow
White was even in the picture, the sister of thehuntsman4evil queen Ravenna, Freya, goes through a traumatic love experience and sets up her own kingdom in the north with her ice powers. Here she trains children to be loveless, tough warriors and to fight for her. Two of these kids grow up to be the Huntsman himself and his big love Sara, but once Freya finds out about the two lovebirds, she separates and chases them. Seven years later, Snow White is the new queen, but Ravenna’s mirror remains a threat when Freya seems to be looking for it. After he is reunited with Sara and their relationship is very strained,  the Huntsman sets out to secure the mirror and defeat Ravenna and Freya forever.

The big problem with The Huntsman is that while there is not necessarily much wrong with the individual features, the total picture just does not seem to work. It seems that every features lacks something small that just piles up in the end product. The story reminds us a bit of Frozen for adults. It’s not a bad story but it’s not more than that either. The connection with the first film seems a bit awkward. Snow White is only mentioned by name, like she wasn’t invited to the party, and apparently the entire love thing between Snow White and the Huntsman is thrown in the trash with the reappearance of Sara. It is clear they wanted to put Hemsworth into the ultimate spotlight this time. Even the smaller parts of fairytale land have to pay for it. At some points we are get a glimpse of subtle details from the kingdom, like flowers and magical creatures, but they never get explored further. Instead there’s another shot of the Huntsman and Sara rekindling their slightly awkward relationship. What a shame.

With new storylines come new characters, so we’re being introduced to Emily Blunt as Freya and Jessica Chastain as Sara. A bunch of ladies, which is pretty cool, but they’re not the most exciting characters a film can show. Freya is a pretty boring villain, who is neither very active nor terrifying, and just kind of sits in her castle all day, “ruling” the country as some kind of Nega-Elsa. Sara is a bit more active, but although there’s nothing really wrong with her warrior mentality, it seems like she misses an entire personality. It’s like she’s just some kind of empty shell with a bunch of ideas that do not connect to a soul. A more positive note is the appearance of two female dwarfs; one tough and sassy, the other one shy and adorable. Although they’re obviously there for some comic and romantic relief, they’re one of the only things that bring a bit of heart and soul into the film.

thehuntsman2Along with these dwarfs, there are a few other good points about the film. Charlize Theron is once again magnificent as evil queen Ravenna. She’s a perfect, terrifying queen and although her role in this sequel is a lot smaller, she immediately steals the show from her sister Freya (who was no match for her in the first place). Another good point is the beautiful costumes and makeup. Not so much the rags and armour of the Huntsman and the rest of the army, but the dresses and makeup of the Queens. Especially Ravenna’s resurrection makes for some stunning visuals, not the mention her final battle with the Huntsman where creepy black stuff comes out of her mouth. It takes a lot for me to be creeped out by an ‘evil queen’, but The Huntsman does seem to pull it off.

If you love looking at Chris Hemsworth and don’t care about the other things that happen in the film, you’ll love The Huntsman: Winter’s War; there is plenty of Hemsworth and not much else. It’s a very average film with no grand peaks up or down, with a story that has a little bit of excitement to it but not enough to really get you hooked. It’s all very so so, which unfortunately just makes most of it a big bore. I’d rather go watch the more extravagant live actions films, like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast. Sure, they don’t have Chris Hemsworth in them, but a good plot and interesting characters go an equally long way.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

2016 is the year in which the DC/Marvel fight for success reaches its peak. Marvel smashed with Deadpool and will smash even more with Captain America 3 coming out in a few weeks. But this time, DC hits back with its own weapons. Batman v Superman was the long awaited DC product that was going to put the company back up there with the big hits. Then, tragedy hit: Batman v Superman got destroyed in the media like it was a building in Gotham. Have they been fair? Well, while it is not a perfect film at all, it’s definitely more decent than what some Marvel fanatics claim it is.

Bats versus Supes begins during the end of Man of Steel (nice touch). Many people memed after MoS’s release how literally the entire city got destroyed, which is what they took into their intro: we see the other side of the fight and how the city’s inhabitants literally get wrecked by the destruction. This includes the buildings and employees of Bruce Wayne, who is not very happy with Superman and his talent for causing havoc. While Wayne gets into his Batsuit to prepare to fight Superman, Clark Kent himself has to deal with a growing discontent of the public towards him. While the two boys fight it out, millionaire’s son Lex Luthor creates a superweapon to not only destroy Superman, but also to take over the city.

I’ll start with getting the negative batmanvssuperman6things out of the way. Especially in the beginning of the film, the whole story is a bit confusing. The first hour consists of very short scenes that don’t necessarily seem to connect or even seem unnecessary. It makes it somewhat difficult to find out what exactly everyone is up to. When we finally start to figure it out in the second half, some storylines miss the intensity and therefore the engagement of the viewer. Superman should really have a big ‘the world has turned against me but I’ll show them I’m on their side’ arc, but his actions are not bad enough to reach this point. Besides, on the moment supreme where Superman could actually be seen as the devil in disguise, the city quickly agrees on his innocence. There’s that plot that did not work out. Lex Luthor also misses something in the story. The film works up to his ultimate evil plan, only to find Luthor not really doing anything besides bluffing and making some cramped Muppet noises. Sure, Loki in the Avengers did not really do anything when New York was being destroyed, but at least he was involved in most of the story anyway. Finally there’s the fact that the superheroes’ feud gets resolved by the fact they both have a mum. Oh. Ok. The incoherence and anticlimatic plotlines seem to be the biggest problems of Batman vs Superman and it is understandable that many people get really annoyed by it. However, for many other people this is not necessarily a dealbreaker, and they find a bit more enjoyment in other aspects.

While it can be difficult to sometimes make sense of the overall use of a scene, many of them are in itself pretty interesting and well shot. Unless you really make yourself aware of what could be better, the overall flow will not really bother you and will even entertain you, so that’s good news for the general cinema audience. The action sequences are great and the end fight between Bats and Supes is pretty awesome. The special effects look pretty great and are surprisingly not too over the top. Then there’s Ben Affleck, who makes a great Bruce Wayne/Batman. When he got cast, a scream fell over the earth as in ‘how could the dude that effed up Daredevil be Batman??!1!’ but like I figured: don’t judge until you’ve seen him do the thing. He makes a great, gritty Batman who is very different from Bale’s version (in a good way). Henry Cavill is, and already was in Man of Steel, the perfect personification of Clark Kent/Superman, although once again you will wonder how many fucking people in Gotham need eye surgery because nobody seems to recognize Superman with Ray Bans on. Jesse Eisenberg makes a good crazy Lex Luthor, but as batmanvssuperman4mentioned not the right scary villainy Lex Luthor. A big big plus is the appearance of Gal Gadot as Diana Prince, or Wonder Woman. She (unfortunately) has very little screen time, but shines as the kickass lady that puts an end to the two bickering boys and just goes out there to do the job. The film foreshadows the upcoming DC solo-films of Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg, which even made a DC noob like me pretty excited. Lastly there is the choice of making Alfred a foxy hipster, which is neither good nor bad; just noting the odd casting choice of Jeremy Irons.

There certainly is a bias between hating critics and the loving cinema audience. Perhaps DC gets compared to Marvel too much and, since Marvel is pretty much impossible to top, therefore always draws the short straw. People are highly critical before even watching it, so that’s pretty unfair. When you specifically look at the film, Batman v Superman lacks coherence and conviction at times, but for many viewers this will not be a big bother and they will just enjoy a good action film. There are plenty of good things to be found, so before you judge a book by its cover, a film by its trailer or Ben Affleck by his iron face, watch it yourself and pick a side in the battle. #teamitsagoodmovie #butsecretly #teamWonderWoman.

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10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Waking up and finding yourself chained in a rundown basement is always a good start of a film that promises to be exciting. From there it can go many ways, as we have seen in countless of horror and thriller films. Do we see one of those ways in 10 Cloverfield Lane? No, we don’t. Instead, the film gives us two hours of wonderful suspense that keeps you guessing until the very end. Is it a horror? Is it a thriller? Is it a drama? Anything can happen in a closed off bunker.

10cloverfieldlane3In this mysterious piece of work we meet Michelle, a young woman who gets involved in a car accident after running away from her fiancé. When she wakes up, she finds herself in a closed off room. The man who put her in there, Howard, claims the apocalypse has come and a poisonous gas has spread across the land, leaving everybody above ground dead. Now seemingly stuck in a bunker with Howard and fellow person in hiding Emmett, Michelle begins to wonder whether they’re really hiding for an apocalypse or whether there is something else that explains her captivity.
With only three actors in play, it is not strange that the focus of the film is not on a huge plot or special effects, but on the acting and the interrelationship between the characters. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is brilliant as the sceptic and strong Michelle and John Goodman does a great job as the mysterious Howard. The great part about their acting and about the film in general is that it all feels very genuine. I cannot stand films in which characters have the most unrealistic response to whatever the situation is. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, the characters (or at least two of them) do exactly what you’d expect them to do. Especially Winstead brings a great deal of humanity to the situation, which ensures that like herself, you will be oblivious to and suspicious of everything that happens.

Although the plot is not very extravagant, the thrill of it is like an exciting rollercoaster that’s heading towards god knows what. Just when you think everything is okay and the issues are resolved, something new shows up to demolish everything you knew up until
that point. It’s like one of those kids sitting next to the volume button of the stereo who keeps turning it up and down. However, in this film it is not a bother at all. It only adds to the suspense and how much you will get attached to the story. The bunker the group is stuck in is pretty advanced but also quite cramped, which adds to the feeling of being closed up and stuck for what seems could be eternity. But do you really want to leave when you know what could be happening up there?10cloverfieldlane4

When the suspense finally seems to have died down in the very end, we are presented with the final and biggest twist of the film. It’s a twist that will make or break the film for whoever is watching. But whether you loved it or hated it, it sure is a dealbreaker twist that will leave you impressed anyway. Personally, I loved it and it kind of messed me up too. But that’s coming from someone who did not read or watched anything about 10 Cloverfield Lane in advance, so you decide if that counts.

Whether you want to classify 10 Cloverfield Lane as a horror, thriller or drama; it’s all good. There is plenty of great drama  to be found between the three brilliantly played characters, there is A LOT of thrill and suspense to fulfil your needs and there even is a little horror edge to the final product. The film definitely deserves more fame than it currently gets, because it will give you the perfect amount of unsettlement to have you sit on the edge of your seat. The final twist then offers you the ultimate choice; do you love it, or do you hate it? See for yourself, and don’t forget to close your mouth after having it fall open.

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Gods of Egypt (2016)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

What is it with movies set in ancient North-African/Arabian countries that just doesn’t seem to work? We’ve seen The Scorpion King with Dwayne Johnson that was just so so, Prince of Persia with Jake Gyllenhaal could be described as a light embarrassment and even a serious film like Exodus: Gods and Kings never really did the trick. With Gods of Egypt, Hollywood decided to strike again and show us a godlike tale with action, adventure and romance. With a celebrity cast, enormous CGI views and a treacherous quest, what exactly could go wrong? As it turns out: pretty much everything.godsofegypt3

The uninspired plot goes as follows: Egyptian god Set, played by the noticeably white Gerard Butler, got tired of order and goodness and captures the throne of Egypt from his nephew Horus, the also very white Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, by taking away his eyes that contain all of his power. It is then up to (white) human boy Bek to help Horus defeat Set, bring peace and order back into the kingdom and also to save the love of his life from death.

There are so many objections to this film that it’s difficult to know where to begin. First of all, the entire plot. Although the story is based on an existing myth, this rendition does very little to make Egyptian mythology seem more interesting. There are quite some unnecessary scenes, which makes the film a little confusing at times. Even at first watch there are many plot holes to be found. Horus’ eye #1, impossible for any living soul to steal, is completely within arm length and gets stolen within 3 minutes by Bek who magically dodges the traps without a scratch. Bek also manages to climb a 2 km high rock at the same pace as god Horus, without any equipment and without being sweaty afterwards. Bek, you might be a white boy, but you’re not invincible.

None of the characters are very charming or likable, most of them just turn out to be very annoying. Bek annoyed me the most, with his smug face, smug comments and smug actions. Horus was supposed to be the testosterone filled, sassy playboy god, but instead turns into a grumpy egoist. Although Gerard Butler is good at screaming (although not “THIS. IS. SPARTA,” this time), he fails to make Set very terrifying or truly villainy. The actors seem to try either too hard to play their character, which makes them look too comical and hard to look at, or they seem to try absolutely not at all.

godsofegypt4Another big downer is the role of every woman in the film. They either get captured, they die, or they do both. Every time this happens, the death is nothing else but an excuse for some more man pain of the protagonists. In fact, the entire storyline of Bek is based on man pain, in which of course his girlfriend drew the short straw. So much for equality. The biggest worry of the film is the whitewashing of the characters, something that has come up many times before it was even released. We are in Egypt, people. EGYPT. Egypt is Africa, in Africa people are coloured. We don’t need to see a white dude who looks like he just got back from two weeks in Ibiza, especially when he does nothing to hide his Scottish accent (looking at you, Butler).  None of the big characters are POC, except maybe that one black God, but of course all of the slaves and poor inhabitants are Egyptian. This is Hollywood’s white mentality at its finest.

Because of the whole godlike, special powers kind of aspect of the film, it is not strange that Gods of Egypt relies heavily on CGI. Granted, there are some nice overviews to be seen, but the problem is that it is almost too nice. Some scenes are so grand and imposing that they automatically look very fake, which is a shame. It now looks like the makers were trying too hard to compensate the imagery for the horrible everything else. Another CGI detail is that the gods are meant to be a lot taller than humans, which means Horus, Set and the rest of the god gang are about three times as tall as the humans. Many times it looks like they almost forgot about that requirement and since it doesn’t really add a lot to the story, it just seems like more of a running gag than an actual part of the plot.

Gods of Egypt clearly had really high ambitions, but it does not even come halfway in reaching them. Things like the overpowering CGI and mediocre plot could be forgiven if they were compensated with good acting, relatable characters and at least a bit of realism. Up until now, the best casting for an Egyptian person in Hollywood is still Rami Malek in Night At The Museum, which shouldn’t be a bar that difficult to reach. If you happen to identify with smug, testosterone-overdosed men, or just like looking at good looking men with terrible hair extensions and six packs, feel free to watch this film. There really isn’t much more to it.
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Room (2015)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Every year it is another struggle for me to watch the Oscars without having seen like half of the films nominated. It’s the curse of being Dutch and the release dates of those films being a bitch, since the films always seem to come out AFTER the award show has fulfilled its expectations. You can imagine that one little moment of happiness when I do get the opportunity to watch an important nominee, one that has been a critic’s favourite when it came out. It did not win Best Picture, but nonetheless Room exceeded the already high expectations I had for it.

The film features a young boy, Jack, and his room2mother, Ma, who live together in a small, confined space they call Room. Ma takes good care of Jack and they are happy together, although Jack’s perception of the world is extremely limited because of Room. As Jack gets older and his curiosity of Room and everything within it grows, Ma tries to come up with a plan to escape it and run to a bigger universe. Since Room is shot from Jack’s perspective, we get carried away with him and his small made up universe. Even when the film provides us with more and more hints about the actual situation and what Ma actually knows of what’s outside of Room,  we follow Jack’s lead. This is the most intriguing aspect of the film;  Even though we eventually become aware of the actual quite horrifying situation Jack and Ma are in, because of Jack’s view on the world everything seems light and not that serious. This prevents the film from getting a very heavy load and instead makes it quite a sweet watch. Or bittersweet, I should say, since especially Ma is going through some tough times after the escape from Room.

Brie Larsson’s Oscar for Best Actress is very well deserved after seeing Room. She is magnificent as the isolated, but very caring mother towards Jack. Her strength is definitely in the parts after the turning point, when the backlash hits Ma. Still, some of the best acting in the film is done by Jacob Trembley, who plays Jack. It is amazing to see how a boy of his age can perform that well on screen. His character obviously grows from a dreaming little boy to a scared child to a kid who learns to deal with the world and not to mention with other people. The supporting actors perform well, but the core of the film is the relationship between Ma and Jack, so their real influence is pretty limited. Brie Larsson’s and Jacob Trembley’s chemistry is really wonderful and not once in the film will you ever doubt they truly love each other the most.

room6Since I am a sucker for dramatic movies and because I am quite notorious for crying during literally every movie, Room was emotionally-wise very intriguing for me. The innocence of Jack towards most of what happens throughout the story causes most of the harsh and terrible situations to be less emotional than you would normally experience then. That also means that the emotional level of the simple and everyday situations increases with about 700%. When Jack finally decides to let his grandma cut his long hair and he tells her he loves her, I felt my internal waterfalls coming up. I’m not even going to mention the scene when Jack meets the dog of his stepgrandad. It’s a very smart example of how film can play with emotions like that and therefore basically giving us the conscience of a learning child.

By starting off in Room and then slowly working its way towards the rest of the world, Room really makes us connect to and identify with little Jack, which is its biggest strength. The film makes us feel as if we actually came from Room ourselves and slowly opens our mind for what we in this world are so familiar with. I was very fortunate to see it just before the Oscars, so I could root for its nominations during the show. Room is one of those rare movies where I had to mentally recover after watching it, although maybe then closing myself off in the confined space of the toilet might not have been the brightest move.
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Grimsby (2016)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Not very long ago I was exposed to the trashbin called Dirty Grandpa, after which I thought I had just watched the already worst film of 2016. Unfortunately, I was wrong, because not two weeks later I witnessed Grimsby, the newest Sacha Baron Cohen flick. Baron Cohen has managed to set up his own style of film in the past decade, the ‘how many moral boundaries can I break through with one comical character’ genre. The answer to this film is all of them. More specifically, Grimsby is a good example of why moral boundaries were set up in the first place.

grimsby4Dressing up as a new cartoonish character, Baron Cohen plays the chavvy football hooligan Nobby who lives in the shithole of Grimsby, England. His younger brother Sebastian, who has been missing for 28 years, grew up to be an important MI6 spy, now on a mission to uncover a plot that will destroy humanity. When Nobby finally finds Sebastian again, he gets mixed up in the underground world of secret agents. Sebastian quickly finds out that the only way he can stop the terrible plot is to work together with his immature brother.

I do very much understand that the Baron Cohen genre is one you probably must get in order to find it funny. Some people find someone sucking their brother’s balls to get poison out a very funny concept. I am not one of those people. Having to sit through a movie in which this kind of ‘hilarious stuff’ is the only thing that happens really left some emotional scars. Every joke in Grimsby is made to be rude, offensive and just as extreme as possible. Whether it’s drugs, sex, poop or even aids, there really is no filter. The jokes overpower the complete plot, so that many times you’ll pretty much forget there is actually a story to the whole thing. Not that it is really worth paying attention to; the plot could have been written by a five year old in terms of quality and creativity. A very fucked up 5 year old.

Previous Baron Cohen films were already pretty controversial and contained scenes that grimsby3
should have their own Rated R rating, but Grimsby really hits a new level of political incorrectness. There is the earlier mentioned ‘save your brother’s life by sucking his balls’ scene. Aids is being spread around quite freely and infects several celebrities. Rockets can be stopped just by inserting them in your ass. I don’t know where to begin and I don’t know where it ends. The absolute rock bottom downpoint of the film, and of film history in general, is a scene where the two brothers hide from the bad guys in an elephant’s vagina, only then to get stuck in an elephant orgy. It gets graphic and messy and I have been apologizing to my eyes for having to look at that scene ever since.

Baron Cohen’s character Nobby is compared to his previous characters a bit of a wet towel. He’s not very distinct, not very memorable, and frankly his accent is a bit too fake. Baron Cohen is not a completely terrible actor. He did very well in musicals Les Miserables and Sweeney Todd and although his characters here were still a bit odd, they had a lot of charm to them. More charm than most of his offensive ones. Sebastian is played by Mark Strong, who feels very out of place in the story. Strong has done many stoic, agent-like characters before, but pair them with a tasteless sense of humour and it will clash for all the wrong reasons. Lastly we find ourselves looking at Rebel Wilson again, who once again does what she always does as the weird sidekick, like I already discussed in How To Be Single. Get a grip of yourself, girl.

Writing this review was hard for me, because it meant I had to relive some of the things I have seen in Grimsby. I don’t dislike Baron Cohen; I liked Ali G and I can tolerate Borat. Still, Grimsby lacks too much of the fun from the previous films and compensates that with even worse jokes that really take it a bit too far, even for these films. Everything about it feels very cheap and messy, like it was a 48 hour project gone wrong. I felt like I cringed so much during the hour and a half that my face was going to stay like that permanently. Grimsby was an unnecessary experience, so learn from my mistake and skip it. It will save you from several feelings of nausea and the urge to wash your eyes with bleach.
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London Has Fallen (2016)

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

In light of recent events, I still wonder sometimes whether it really is a good idea to keep making movies about terrorism and attacks on major cities. Luckily, there’s Hollywood making that decision for us, deciding to show the world that everything will be alright as long as there’s an American dude with an attitude to kill the baddies. Yep, you guessed it, it’s another one of those films. After the success of Olympus Has Fallen, which was a decent success, apparently the world hadn’t been blown up enough already and they decided to move America’s problems to Europe; and thus London Has Fallen was born. This means we are once again forced to sit through another example of the US ‘heroically’ rescuing the world from shit it created itself.

Now, surprise surprise, set in London, all of the important world leaders have come together for the funeral of the British Prime Minister, including US President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and his trusted bodyguard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler). As they arrive in the big city, bombs everywhere start exploding, leaving the city in chaos and londonhasfallen3most of the world leaders dead. Terrorist leader Aamir Barkawi is looking specifically for the US President, who obviously is the only leader to survive, to avenge his daughter’s death. It is then up to Banning to protect the President and find the men responsible.
There is a small subplot in there somewhere about Banning becoming a dad soon and him thinking of resigning, which nobody really cares about and calls for really unnecessary moments like Banning discussing parenting tips with the President during an attack. All of this combined: America rules, everyone else drools.

London Has Fallen feels like nothing special at all. The story is nothing new, the action is nothing new, the jokes are nothing new (if you can even call them jokes), everything is exactly the way you think it’s going to be. It should probably get a record for being able to put the most clichés in one film. After having stressed about 14 times that the funeral is the most secured event in history, everything gets destroyed within 2 minutes, leaving you to wonder how much of a goddamn effort these people must have made. Banning mysteriously survives the 100+ baddies shooting at him. A woman dies for the sole purpose of some man pain… it’s your typical action flick with stereotypes times 40. Apart from that, the amount of USA pride in the film is disgustingly overwhelming. I feel that way quite often about Hollywood films, given the fact I’m just a simple gal from the Netherlands, but even for those standards London Has Fallen tries nothing to be subtle about America’s ‘greatness’. Not only is Asher the only world leader important enough to survive the attacks, at the end Banning just casually goes into Terrorist HQ by himself and single handily saves the day, meaning he does something what an entire British team of agents apparently couldn’t manage.  Yup, leave it up to the Yanks to save the day. Selfish pricks.

Ilondonhasfallen4 could talk about the acting in London Has Fallen, if only there was any acting to talk about. If there is anything I cannot stand, it is characters with unrealistic emotions and responses to situations. Prime example: Mike Banning, who has to be the typical action hero kind of guy. He always has the last word, makes dumb jokes and oneliners after killing some baddies and is so brave and emotionless that he saves the entire city with a straight face. Let’s not forget the beautiful, emotional moment when their helicopter gets shot down and his sole reaction is “fuck”. Very touching. Gerard Butler is a decent actor, but it’s like he didn’t even try this time. Asher is also double as annoying as he was in the original, but maybe that’s just because I find Aaron Eckhart’s face generally painful to look at.  Morgan Freeman played the exact same character as he does in every film, which is basically just himself. If this would have been their debut films, they wouldn’t have made if very far in their acting careers.

London Has Fallen is a great example of America-centrism that fails to entertain on almost every level. The plot, the characters and the action are all equally annoying and if it didn’t have the big names in it, it would probably never have made the director’s table at all. It is a 16+ movie, so there could have been a lot more great action in it; instead they just choose to let the characters say ‘fuck’ a bunch of times and be done with it. I know it was not going to be a great film, but usually I tend to set aside my judgement and just enjoy some brainless entertainment, but I couldn’t even do that during this film. Sequels usually fail to reach the bar of their predecessor, but the script for London Has Fallen should have been destroyed as much as the Big Ben does in this sad excuse for a film.
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The Good Dinosaur (2015)

Rating: ★★★☆☆

It is a fact widely known by my friends that no matter what film you will play for me, there is about a 86 percent chance I will cry at some point. I am burdened with a great sense of character identification, which means that if one tiny sad thing happens, you’d better bring me a box of tissues. This trait of mine seems to be even worse when it comes to animation movies. Over the years I have cried my way through movies about toys, fish, monsters and even one about emotions themselves (looking at you, Inside Out). Which is why I brought 2 packs of tissues in my bag when I went to see The Good Dinosaur, knowing that if there was one studio that could make me feel bad about dinosaurs, it would be Pixar. And, well, although it did not reach the creative peak of Toy Story and Finding Nemo, it sure was another heart-warming, emotional ride.

thegooddinosaur4This is already felt during the ever lovely Pixar Short; a moving little story about a Hindu boy who rather plays with superheroes than pray with his father, which nicely moves away from the Eurocentric point of view but keeps a heart-warming feeling. It sets the tone for the main film: In an alternative universe where the big all-dinosaur-life-on-earth-destroying meteor missed the earth by inches and dinosaurs live together with humans, we meet young Apatosaurus Arlo and his farming family. Arlo is a faint-hearted dinosaur, but is desperate to prove to his parents and siblings he can be brave if he needs to. Everything gets shaken up when Arlo and his father get caught in a storm at the river bend and the strong current leaves Arlo to be lost and alone far away from home. With the help of a small Neanderthal boy, Arlo has to prove his braveness and find his way back to the farm before winter arrives.

Pixar once again uses its strategy to apply human emotions to non-human species to give them that extra emotional dimension. Arlo and his family are your regular farmers, living in a house with even a grain warehouse and a henhouse. In its turn is what would normally be the uncivilized, clumsy animal sidekick now replaced by a human. The little Spot (yes, that’s his name) is like a baby Tarzan, who is unable to speak and races around like crazy. It’s very refreshing to watch the roles be reversed for once. Arlo (therefore kind of ironically) brings a lot of humanity to the story. Because the universe of the film isn’t the typical fantasy, happy go lucky, creative world it regularly is in animation movies, his fear thegooddinosaur2for the unknown gets a lot of realism. His relationship with Spot is very endearing, especially when Arlo really starts to connect with Spot and they actually start working together, which is very necessary since their world is made to be so realistic and raw. Pixar’s choice for this kind of world also influences the side characters: there aren’t actually that many of them, and although they are a pretty typical kind of dinosaurs, they are not as colourful and creative as in other animation films. Although this works within the film, where over the top and hilarious characters just wouldn’t really fit in the story, it makes everything a bit more boring than what we’re used to from Pixar.

Animation-wise we can see the same ‘problem’. The prehistoric world is made to look very realistic, which leaves little room for big creative explosions. The animation isn’t bad at all; the rough nature is very well done and especially the shots of the wild, stormy mountaintops are quite beautiful. It just doesn’t amaze as much as the more colourful previous Pixar films. Even when the characters like Arlo and Spot look quite comical, the overall feel of the film is a bit contradictory: it’s too comical to be realistic and too realistic to be comical.

Despite these comments, The Good Dinosaur really isn’t a bad film. It’s mostly very adorable and many times also very emotional, with reunions for both Arlo and Spot as its peak. It just does not reach the bar that previous Pixar films have set up. But hey, honestly, can we really blame them for that? It’s practically impossible to keep producing masterpieces like that, and The Good Dinosaur has to inevitably be compared to all of them. This film is a fun watch with some really nice animation work and will it definitely move you, but for the future Pixar might just have to stick what is does best: to be as creative, colourful and extravagant as possible.
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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Rating: ★★★★☆

As a brand new cinema employee it was probably the very worst way to start a new job: the release of part 7 of one of the biggest franchises in film history. After waving goodbye to hundreds of people daily and seeing the last 30 seconds of Star Wars: The Force Awakens more than 30 times, I finally decided to go watch the darn thing myself. I don’t care much for the older Star Wars films; it’s simply not a franchise that really appeals to me. So there I went, with just some basic knowledge about the Darth Vader, Yoda and Han Solo, waiting for a film I only went to see because of its popularity. But then, as soon as the long-known-by-me-credits rolled and the lights went back on, I could not help but being convinced of the greatness of Star Wars.

Although the timeline of the previous films is a bit confstarwarstfa3using (especially for an outsider like me), The Force Awakens takes place somewhat 30 years after Return of the Jedi (like a sequel should). Famous Jedi Luke Skywalker has disappeared without a trace. The First Order, a formation risen from the ashes of Darth Vader’s empire, seeks out to destroy both Luke and the newly build New Republic. However, Luke’s sister Leia leads a formation of her own: the Resistance, which also desperately tries to find Luke before the First Order so they can face big threat together. Things get more difficult when the adorable robot BB-8, who keeps part of the map to Luke, falls into the hands of scavenger Rey and Stormtrooper-gone-rogue Finn and they get involved in the great big mess that is called Star Wars.

The previous Star Wars films all had a big number of cool, classic characters, most of which of course do not return to The Force Awakens. In return, we get introduced to several new characters who are probably just as awesome as their predecessors. The main characters, Rey and Finn, are equally badass and funny and, as the cherry on top, it’s pretty cool to see a woman and a black man as protagonist in a blockbuster like this. From the moment they meet, their chemistry is undeniable and they form a great team together. The other third of the trio is made up by Poe Dameron, a brave Resistance pilot, played by Guatemalan Oscar Isaac. Although Dameron’s part in the film isn’t very big, his instant bromance with Finn will put a smile on your face. Besides this wonderfully diverse trio, the Resistance gets help from a non-human newcomer: BB-8. This little orange ball could be the baby brother of R2D2 and steals your heart with only rolling around, bleeping, and giving a fair thumbs up. The final important newcomer is Kylo Ren, son of Han Solo and Leia, who turned dark and became an important leader of the First Order, vowing to continue the legacy of Darth Vader. Although his part is not bad, Kylo Ren reminds us more of a ‘ugh, whatever mom’ type of teenager than an actual serious and terrifying villain. He is almost like Loki from the Marvel Cinematic Universe: kind of sort of the bad guy, but too adorable and light to do some serious damage, unless you mean break the internet kind of damage. Lastly, some of the big names recur, like Han Solo, Leia and Chewbacca, who pick up where they left off and bring a more classic and familiar feel to the overall film.

starwarstfa5The Force Awakens also has plenty of action in it, with of course the long awaited lightsabre fight. Kylo Ren’s red lightsaber sword had fanboys spontaneously combust in orgasms after the trailer, and its fight against Rey and Finn makes for a great action sequence. There are also some spectacular plane chase sequences with a great use of CGI, as if you’re actually messing up together with Finn. Some of the new worlds look amazing, especially Takodana with the temple run by Maz Kanata. All of it shows the makers went all out regarding visuals and CGI, making a really awesome and genuine looking film. Despite that, the film never feels like it’s dragging. It maintains a quite light tone throughout, with little jokes and a lot of joy, so viewers really connect with the universe and its inhabitants. Even I did, which actually says quite a lot.

It must be a pain for Star Wars fans to read a review of someone who doesn’t even care about the other six. It’s the price they have to pay for getting a new movie that is epic for everyone. The Force Awakens is just great fun; Despite the pretty serious plot, the execution of everything else is very light, which makes the film very enjoyable and time-escaping. There are plenty of references to the older films, enough to make the long term fans happy, but there is also enough new characters, places and situations to make it easy for the general public to get into it. Perhaps this revival will make the franchise even bigger than it already was and I am now officially eagerly awaiting the next Episode. And honestly, after having seen the ending out of context over 30 times, it was SUCH a relief to see how emotional that ending actually was.
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