Bastille Day

Remove brain and enjoy the stupid

To put it simply, there is nothing clever about this film. It’s too po-faced about going about its business to be a parody even when the film really feels like it’s parodying ‘the maverick detective’ genre – our ‘maverick’ is even introduced via a CIA briefing where a prior report described him as ‘reckless and prone to violence’, he does things that are so against the rule book that he’s ‘own his own’ and he punches or shoots everyone he comes into contact with. Aside from this not a single character has any actual characterisation, each one simply remains a job title or character trait. Yet somehow, and if you really try not to think too hard, this film has enough charisma and talent to actually be rather entertaining… for the most part.

Zoe Naville (Charlotte Le Bon) is persuaded by the man she thinks she loves to walk into the office of a political party candidate after hours and leave behind a bomb. He promises her that it’s safe, the office will be empty and no-one will get hurt. When Zoe finds the office to be full of cleaners she ends up being stuck in the middle of Paris with a literal ticking time bomb. That’s when con artist and thief Michael Mason (Richard Madden) spots an opportunity and steals her bag without knowing the contents. After stealing her phone he drops the back of at a bin – time has run out and the bomb explodes. Michael survives but CIA surveillance now implicates him as the instigator of the bomb so they put their best rogue lone-wolf officer on the case, Sean Briar (Idris Elba). Once Mason proves his innocence and his masterful skill of pick-pocketing the pair team up to find out the truth and stop any further lives being taken by the terrorists, who are soon found to be part of the French police force. – but just how high up does this conspiracy go? 

Again, I reiterate, there is nothing genre-defying or genre-defining here. The plot is riddled with more bullet holes than actually feature in the film – which is really saying something as every single character appears to try to shoot their way out of every single situation. Considering the main issue at hand is terrorism there is nothing logical about how any of the involved parties handle the situation.  The terrorist use a hashtag for their exploits, which magically transforms all the citizens of Paris into Bastille Day warriors. I’m sure there are many social media advertising companies who would love to know their secret.

Their ‘secret’ may just be Idris Elba who genuinely saves this film from being utter dross. He manages to droll lines which are so poorly manufactured and cliche-ridden that other actor would need to do the whole ‘nudge-nudge wink-wink’ to the camera. Instead Elba can say utterly farcical fare in such a way that you still get the joke and can laugh at multiple people’s expense. His charisma and sheer screen presence make the film as enjoyable as it is. That and the fact the film is a lean 90-odd minutes, no plot device or scene out stays its welcome and there is more than enough action. If you can ignore the utter waste of Kelly Reilly‘s talent and some of the film’s complicated (read: flawed) ideas about numerous topics then you’re good to go. 

It’s cheesy and hackneyed and only saved by Idris Elba. But, if you make sure you switch off both your phone and your brain at the start of the film, then you’ve found an entertaining enough way to while away 1.5 hours.

2 stars

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

A fantasy with just enough farce to make it fun

I doubt there are many people who have spent the past four years desperately counting down until the sequel of the rather mediocre Snow White and the Huntsman. The film was lacking entertainment and personifies Hollywood’s serious issue with getting ‘dark’ confused with ‘murky’ and deeply frowning viewed as the only way to articulate inner torment. Now we have the prequel/sequel sans Snow White aka. Kristen Stewart (after a certain scandal involving the film’s director Rupert Sanders) who realistically is not much of a loss as she spent most of the film biting her lip. A new threat befalls the kingdom and the Huntsman is called in to help, after we learn more about his mysterious backstory.

Many years ago evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) murdered her way through the land to rule the kingdoms, with her powerless sister Freya (Emily Blunt) by her side. Freya falls in love, something her sister is against as love is a foolish distraction, and has a daughter. When tragedy strikes Freya’s powers are activated (think Elsa-from-Frozen-type powers) and she moves away to take control of her own land. She decides that she must have her own unique army and orphans the children of a village. The children are brought to her castle and taught the one commandment of her rule, that love is a sin. Years pass as the children are trained and moulded into true Huntsman but two children, her two best, break her one rule and fall in love. Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) marry and try to flee but are caught in the process. Freya the Frost, as she is now known, places a great wall of ice between the pair to separate them. Sara appears to be murdered and Eric is thrown into a nearby river to be swept away. Seven years later, after the events of the previous film when Snow White killed Ravenna, Eric is called on by Snow White’s close friend William (Sam Claflin) to stop the Mirror being intercepted by Freya. 

You do not go into films like this with a closed mind. They require a deep suspension of disbelief, with any concepts of logic or reason needing to be locked away for 114 minutes. If you do this you will find this film to be a serviceable and entertaining lark. It would be easy to list all of the flaws within this film but doing so would ignore how relatively entertaining it is.The script is truly mediocre, full of boulder-sized clunky exposition and mawkish sentiments. In fact a bingo or drinking game could be formed based on all the lines/phrases that are uttered about love (‘love is a sin’ ‘love doesn’t conquer all’ ‘love is not a fairytale’ ‘you reek of love’ etc.) There’s a line about wet-never regions which shows how uncertain the filmmakers are about who their audience actually is.  Liam Neeson is on needless and grating omniscient narrator duties.

If you can ignore that, which I know is asking for rather a lot, what is left is a host of charming performances going above and beyond to make the lifeless script fun. Chastain is a fantastic new addition, being far more kick-ass than her running in heels stint in Jurassic World. Hemsworth is as charming as we now expect from him, mugging about and having fun. I doubt there is little I wouldn’t watch if he was in it. Blunt and Theron are solid and borderline-stirring in their villainous portrayals, making some truly dreadful lines sound half-way believable.  Complex issues aside about people playing dwarves the four dwarves who aide the Huntsman on his journey (Nick FrostRob BrydonAlexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith) are great fun and a joy to watch.

It’s not going to win any awards and will most likely be forgotten by the end of the month. It also does not deserve nor need a sequel (instead I would propose a new series called ‘Let’s watch Chris Hemsworth do things’ where we watch Hemsworth do a variety of activities and charm us all). BUT, it is an entertaining enough farce with just enough camp and laughs to fill a dull afternoon/evening.

 2 stars

Zoolander No.2

Another example of a sequel that is a poor imitation of the original.

In 2001 (15 years ago!) the world was posed a question, a question for the ages, “Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?” Derek Zoolander found the answer by the end of the film (spoiler alert!) with family, friends and a charity project running “The Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too.” Within the first three minutes of the sequel all of that resolution is turned on it head, then burned to the ground and thrown away. If the intent was to then set up the sequel as being completely different, and ‘fresh’ compared to the original, then the fatal flaw in that plan is writing a film that’s funniest (and only) laugh-inducing moments are references to the original…

Justin Bieber is dead. After running away from assassins on motorbikes (having displayed some serious parkour moves) he is shot countless times. In his dying moments he manipulates his face into Blue Steel and takes a selfie, then gives into his fatal injuries. He is the latest in a long line of celebrities to be assassinated, taking a Derek Zoolander-themed selfie before dying. The fashion division of Interpol need his help but no-one knows where he is. Seven years ago, after the death of his wife and losing custody of his child, he decided to become a ‘Hermit Crab’ and go into hiding. Only one man can bring him out of his slump…

From the opening sequence alone you can tell how the rest of the ‘humour’ of the film will play out. An opening sequence is so key to a film, so crucial for setting the tone and level of the rest of the film. In this case? Well, it’s such a pandering sequence – ‘Hey! You average Joe, you hate Justin Bieber right? So we’re going to kill him off to make you laugh. We can make your dreams a reality. Love us!’ It’s a problematic choice for multiple reasons.

1) Hating Justin Bieber seems so last year/s. He’s had a bit of a renaissance in the past 18 months so the hate has become, for most, either ambivalence or embarrassed adoration. Therefore the slightly dated nature of the script becomes apparent. He’s also an easy target, one of many that are used to minimal effect, within a script seemingly tailored from social media circa 2013/4.

2) It’s an overlong sequence. Stretching out the humour becomes a motif of the film. Pacing of jokes never really seemed an issue with the first film (queue my rewatching it ASAP) but it is a real issue here. The ratio between gag build-up and punchline is definitely off.

3) Having Bieber appearing to do parkour, then being shot at least 30 times before taking a selfie before dying demonstrates how overblown and tacky the film will be. Zoolander No.2 presumably has a bigger budget, gladly and gawdly shows this fact off.

4) He is one of the countless celebrities to be shoehorned into an overwrought and clunky script. Though his role in the events of the story is clear (if rather ineffective) many others are not. A few stand out in terms of strange but also strangely funny (I’m looking at you here Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiefer Sutherland) but others are borderline pitiful (Anna Wintour and your crew, you didn’t, to quote Tim Guun, ‘make it work!’) 

Zoolander No.2 is a difficult watching experience for fans of the original. The plot is thin, the jokes humiliate rather than delight and the frivolity leaves the film rather throwaway. Like its eponymous character, Zoolander No.2 is empty and full of air. It may be filled of those who are ‘really really ridiculously good-looking’ but it’s forgotten that there’s more to life than that.

I hope they had more fun making the film that I had watching it. Disappointing.

The 5th Wave

The worst film of 2016 (well, 23 days in at least…)

Did you know that discount retailer Poundland (for those outside the UK it’s a shop where everything costs £1, which is roughly 1.32 euro or 1.43 dollars) stocks its own brand of Lego Star Wars? It’s called Battle of the Galactic. It’s an incredibly cheap and tacky-looking rip off of the original. That is what ‘The 5th Wave’ is to franchises like ‘The Hunger Games’ or even ‘Maze Runner’ and ‘Divergent’. It’s cheapily made, poorly constructed and steals the best bits from other films/books then regurgitates them into a mediocre mess. What makes this film even more ‘impressive’ is that it is not even ‘so bad it’s good’. It’s just really really bad and remarkably boring.

Cassie Sullivan (Chloë Grace Moretz) was a ‘super normal teenage girl’. She had friends, went to parties, had a 2.2 family and had a crush called Ben Parish (Nick Robinson) who she spent most of her time day-dreaming about. But then… ‘it’ appeared. Some sort of alien space ship came from nowhere and started hovering above America. For ten days nothing happened. On the tenth day the first attack happened (the 1st wave) and destroyed all electric currents, followed shortly after by waves 2, 3 and 4. Most of the Earth’s population has been killed, with Cassie going with her family to a refugee camp. It’s at the camp that she is separated from her young brother Sammy (Zackary Arthur).  Nobody knows when the Fifth Wave will strike, or in what from it will strike, but it will happen. Against a backdrop of mistrust and fear Cassie makes a desperate journey to find her little brother, on the way meeting mysterious stranger Evan (Alex Roe) who may just be her only hope.

I would like to apologise in advance if, when you read that plot summary above you thought ‘Hey! This doesn’t sound quite so bad!’ Upon rereading it I have made the film sound far more interesting than it actually is. Between each of those events there is so much talking, needless and endless mundane talking, and dire reflecting. Whenever the action picks up it’s then forced to slow again by some pitifully-lacking, poorly-scripted, cliche-ridden sentiments.  For a film that is supposedly the end of the world, the world it features is so dreary and mind-numbingly boring that you do end up wishing for armageddon to happen so the film will end and you can go home.

Considering this film is a 15 (Hunger Games interestingly is a 12A) there is little to warrant it. The action here is so minimal, so bland and lacking in emotion compared to the superior franchise. The set pieces the film possess are so ineffective, clunky and predictable that there is little chance for escapism. The film becomes more and more absurd with each mind-numbingly boring sequence, yet remains utterly lacking in enjoyment. There is an occasional some-what amusing joke that gets shoe-horned into the narrative, but these moments are few and far between.

However, there was one factor about this film that was really reassuring – that will allow me to sleep a little lighter at night. The one thing I did learn from this film was that no matter how bad the alien apocalypse gets, I can still get my beauty products. There’s Moretz’s survivalist with the perfect hair, the sergeant (Maria Bello) with the perfect lipstick/foundation combo, and the smoky kohl-rimmed eyes (a pretty bad-ass Maika Monroe). It’s immensely reassuring to know that no-matter how desperate my battle for survival may get, my look will still be on-point. 

This film is not entertaining enough to hate-watch, or to watch ironically. There’s not even enough to make a drinking game out of it. I can’t even be bothered to turn this into a film rant. It’s just bad. It’s cheapily made, lazily shot with adequate-enough acting. The obvious intention is for this to be the start of a new franchise, one which nobody will want. In a week where I got to see ‘The Revenant’, a film which proved the potential power that film can have, I endured this film which shows that not everyone can handle the responsibility that the great power of cinema can have.

Watch it. Or don’t. Either way – it’s bad.

 

Burnt

A rather overcooked romantic dramedy

Does anyone these days aspire to be Gordon Ramsey? Do they wish to control a kitchen as their lair, spewing and spouting swearwords and insults as they prowl? Ramsey had his peak popularity in the mid-noughties, which is probably when this film was first placed on the boil. It then got forgotten about, rushed to be finished with all of its ingredients past sell their best before date.

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) is in New Orleans shucking oysters, noting down the amount as he does so. He hits one million, downs his tools and walks out despots protestations of his employer. Those million oysters were his penance for his past indiscretions, now complete he can have a second chance. He goes to London to reunite his crew, although there is much bad blood between them. Adam was a rock star chef in 90s Paris – renowned for his ability and persona. However Adam was also a drugs, alcohol and sex addict who managed to burn all of his bridges who was forced to flee Paris and go into hiding. He must be forgiven by his old friends and new (Sienna Miller’s Helene) to his dream of three Michelin stars.

The film’s main ingredient (when will the cooking puns end?!?) is Bradley Cooper. Considering the fact the film’s main plot is so outdated it is perhaps the only reason people will go to see the film. However his character is so unappealing and unsympathetic that you’ll feel had. His character’s closest real-life counterpart is Gordon Ramsey, swearing continuously and having frequent blow-ups about food, with every other character either swooning over his apparent but unproven genius or admonishing him for wasting said-genius. There is genuinely no reason to like his character, which is this film’s fatal flaw. As the narrative limbers from one ‘disaster’ to a next tension is supposedly created by our concern on how he will cope/survive. If we don’t like the character enduring the trials then we don’t really care. This isn’t helped by the lack of realism within these trials – he is hounded by drug lords for the money he owes them. These drug lords are immensely polite, turning up occasionally to speak to him away from other people, and only visiting once or twice to hound him for the large amount he owes them. We are meant to care about Cooper’s character – experience concern that he may not achieve his ambition for three Mitchelin stars. Instead we experience disinterest or distain for such an ass-hat of a character.

Sienna Miller however is gutsy, transforming herself into a tattooed, pierced and partly shaven-haired single mother sous chef. Her character is far appealing than Cooper’s. Yet she is forced to endure conversations with Cooper’s character of the nature of food and eating. These conversations are nauseating to watch, not because they are hunger-inducing but for the sheer pretentiousness of their proclamations.  ‘We eat to stop eating.’ – That’s sooo deep! The rest of the friendship group are entertaining if one-note; the ex-prisoner, the novice, the daddy issues, the rival etc. The script is bland, drifting from one drama to another, and filled with stupid lines about how John Adams used to be an addict and how he hurt people when he was an addict. It’s all so ridiculous and bordering-on fluff.

If you’re seeing this for Bradley Cooper then don’t waste your time. If you’re seeing it for the food, just re-watch an episode of Hell’s Kitchen. An incredibly dated waste of a movie.

The Last Witch Hunter

Lightweight, idiotic and trashy – but not in a good way…

First with the positives; I got to walk on a red carpet last night! After picking up the tickets to the premiere from a tent just off Leicester Square Gardens, then seeing the hundred-odd people surrounding the red carpet, I then got to walk it! It was a pretty incredible experience. Although it was brief, and unsurprisingly no-one knew/cared who I was, it was a bit like walking on air. Perhaps more of a case of floating along than walking the red carpet. There was a brief Q&A before the actual screening of the film – with three of the main stars (Vin Diesel, Michael Caine and Rose Leslie) and director (Breck Eisner) which was also exciting – primarily as I can now say I was sat less than 20 feet away from Michael Caine. Now onto the less positive stuff; i.e. the film itself…

800-years-ago Kaulder (Vin Diesel) lost his wife and daughter to murdering witches. Determined for revenge/justice he joins a raid to destroy the Queen of the witches. Many of his peers die, but Kaulder does not. Kaulder is the last man standing in a face-off with the Queen, one which results in both of their apparent deaths. However, the Queen curses Kaulder in her last breaths to remain immortal – never to love and never to find peace. Now living in present day New York, Kaulder works with a religious sect to combat the thread of witchcraft. His liaison, Dolan 36 (Michael Caine), is one of his closest friends and about to retire leaving Dolan 37 (Elijah Wood) as his replacement. But when tragedy strikes, and Kaulder realises the Queen is returning, he must rely on help from the unlikeliest of people – a witch called Chloe (Rose Leslie).

Oh dear. Just, oh dear. This film is as good as its trailers (i.e a shambles). Again, as I have done with previous reviews, I will rely on bullet points to make my rant somewhat comprehensible.

  • The Plot – Derivative and out-dated. During the Q&A the director boasted of the film’s originality; proud of the fact it is not based on a comic book/tv series etc. After watching the film, this appears to be a flawed statement. The narrative is far from ambitious or new. The plot twist is immensely vanilla. All of the dialogue is just exposition, telling the audience what has happened/what will happen next. The scene with Max in the bakery, and the conversation between Kaulder and Dolan 37 exemplifies this, with Kaulder actually saying to 37, ‘Did you understand any of that?’ This is purely for the ‘benefit’ of the audience, who are clearly being presumed to be of minimal intellect. Kaulder then ‘kindly’ explains it to 37/us. The actual mission Kaulder is on is both absurd and poorly-paced, drifting from one set piece to the next. The story itself is messy, and how it is told it unbearably flat.
  • Gender roles – Who doesn’t love a casual bit of misogyny in their cinema? In a year that saw our silver screens graced with Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in Mad Max: Fury Road we have a film that returns us to the woman-as-sidekick/pretty face. Considering how fierce her turn as Ygritte in Game Of Thrones was, Leslie is ill-served here. Her character is a witch, dressed in black and with loads of jewellery (another tick for the lack of originality box). The character could have been given any career but no, Chloe works as a bartender. [Spoiler alert!] it gets burnt down at some point and she spends a good chunk of time blaming Kaulder, moaning that the bar was all she had. Clearly she had forgotten just how big her Central New York apartment is (a problematic feature of tv/film is giving broke characters unrealistically fabulous apartments – a topic for another time). She then spends much of the time in emotional turmoil and needing to be rescued. Her witch powers are the kind that requite her to sit still and go into people’s minds – disappointing considering she could have been scripted to instead kick ass with her powers or even be able to defend herself without his help. The fact Vin Diesel himself must be almost twice Leslie’s age, and his character about 775 years older, a suggested romantic subplot is both ridiculous and patronising. Why not hire an older actress if so insistent on partnering them off? The fact that her accent wavers from cut-glass to eardrum-slicing really doesn’t help her characters attempts at appeal.
  • Vin Diesel – Kaulder is sad (blank expression and monotonal voice). Kaulder is being sardonic (blank expression and monotonal voice). Kaulder is being brave (blank expression and monotonal voice). Vin Diesel crosses the line from being hilariously bad in this role to being depressingly bad. His attempts at quips and banter fall flat without intonation and emotion. Vin Diesel in person has a great deal of charm but is so unconvincing in this with an incredibly wooden performance. Coincidentally you’ll spend the whole film waiting to boom the line, ‘I am…’ Character traits for Kaulder are heavy-handed added on – his predilection for watches to show that he’s deep and reflects of time because he’s immortal. He drives a fast sports car because he can afford one as he’s lived forever. He only sleeps with air hostess as he has a fear of commitment. All of these attempts at providing depth instead reveal how transparent the plot and its characters are.
  • Direction – The special effects are so bland and unspectacular, almost sludgy in presentation. Even without advertising (which has a separate budget) this film cost $90 million to make. Where did it all go?

This film is not even entertaining to be ‘so bad it’s good’. It’s just bad. Bad and boring, which is an unforgiveable crime in cinema.  Avoid.

Pan

A Truly Magical Disappointment of a Film

The best way to describe the experience of watching this film is to rely on an analogy using The Great British Bake Off (or another cooking/baking show of your preference). Have you ever watched GBBO and observed someone producing a glorious looking cake that everyone talks about, so decide to have a go yourself? So you include all the ingredients they used; having added them at the same time and the same way, you then place it in the oven. However, when you open the oven to take out the cake you made it looks nothing like the cake you saw on the show. In fact your cake looks flat, plain and tastes nowhere as good as the cake appeared on TV. Now – replace the ‘you’ with ‘the production team of Pan’; the ingredients being the script, mise-en-scene, cast etc and the cake with Pan. That is what watching this film is like. Everything is there. It should work. It’s worked for so many other people. It just doesn’t work here.

It’s the middle of World War Two. Peter (Levi Miller) was abandoned by his mother (Amanda Seyfried) when he was only a baby. Left on the door steps of an orphanage he has lived his entire life there.  It is all he knows. The orphanage is managed by a tyrannical nun (Kathy Burke) who Peter suspects is making and hoarding a profit, leaving the boys in her charge eating gruel and wearing rags. Peter and his sidekick decide to investigate, and find a hoard both of food and gold. He also finds his personal record, including a letter from his mother who promises they’ll meet again, ‘In this world or another.’ They are found and punished; with Mother Superior ripping the note into pieces. Later that night they find out where the gold has come from, when a pirate ship comes to forcibly collect the young boys. After a scuffle with some fighter aircrafts, the pirate ship crosses the barriers of time and space to arrive in Neverland. In Neverland he will find fun and friendships, in the form of James Hook (Garrett Hedlund) and Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), and together they will have to rise against the monstrous regime of Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman). Peter will discover his destiny and begin to become the future legend that is Peter Pan.

That plot summary makes the film sound exciting, right? That is ultimately what makes the film so disappointing, on paper it sounds good and on screen it looks good yet it doesn’t quite land. The audience are left watching sequences of increasing splendour and yet will remain impassive and disengaged with the events. The film becomes a case study in a failed attempt at Magical Realism. Upon analysis, there are a plethora of reasons as to why this is the case, though I shall just focus on the main two.

Cast: The cast were truly ill-advised on how to portray their characters. Jackman, as Blackbeard, spends all of his screen time dialled up to 11.  He’s almost like a pantomime dame chewing at the scenery. In a way this makes sense, as the film attempts to pitch an overly theatrical approach, yet it does little favours for Jackman who we have seen far better in so much more. If only he had some quieter moments, allowing for development of beats and nuances, it would have made for a more interesting performance. If acting is all about finding a balance between lights and shades, Jackman’s acting here is so bright it’ll blind. Then we’ve got Hedlund as Hook, played as a Southern gent cowboy-type. The clear intent was to make him an endearing character, shown to care about his friends and loyalties and make the audience wonder how he and Peter became such great enemies later on. It would have been a nice enough take on the character if Hedlund did not spend 2/3 of his lines hunched over, squinting them and barking them at his fellow cast. We get it, you’re stereotypically Southern – just please stop shouting! Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily starts high then gradually disappoints. She’s set up to be a great warrior, but little of this is actually shown. When announced that she was starring in this many were surprised, as Mara’s roles utilise her maudlin persona to great effect. The result in Pan is that she spends the entire film looking as if she doesn’t really want to be there. Which is hardly surprising considering how much source material the sequences with her and her tribe will provide for critics and theorists of cultural appropriation will provide. The only good thing to say about the film is that 13-year-old Levi Miller is a promising new talent who does a great job of carrying the heavy burden of this film.

Script: The need for prequels is a matter of personal opinion. The need for a decent script in prequel is not. This review should serve as a warning to those who want to write a prequel – do not do as this film does. It’s all fine and dandy to include references to the pre-existing film, cheeky lines acknowledging past references for the audience which hint at future inevitable events for the characters. But please, for the love of God, do not write them like they are in the screenplay for Pan. There are so many here, which are shoehorned in so poorly and recited by the actors so stiffly that I genuinely suspect they were written in the actual script like this:

Tiger Lily: What? Are you scared of CROCODILES?

Hook: NO! Now excuse me while I stick my HAND in the CROCODILE-INFESTED WATER.

Peter: Great. Now we’re lost!

Hook: Yes. We’re LOST BOYS!

Peter: Well we better think HAPPY THOUGHTS.

Peter: We’ll always be FRIENDS won’t we Hook?

Hook: Of course! What could ever happen to CHANGE that?

Mother: You’re my Peter. My PETER PAN.

Now, I may not have used exact phrasing there (I think my brain has tried to delete some of the film in a type of self-protection manoeuvre) but those references are as subtle stated as they are above. In fact, the only way they could have been made less subtle is by having the cast recite them turning to the camera with a raised eyebrow and nudging with their elbow. The intention of including these lines (though perhaps not in a manner as poorly as done here) is to establish a clear link between this film and the far far far superior 1953 animation and the 1911 novel. However, this has a counteractive effect, reminding the audience of how much they love either of the original products. Save the money of a cinema ticket and dig out your copy of the book or film.

This leads us to an ultimate conclusion, was this film really necessary? I’ve written in past reviews (Ant-Man and Fantastic Four are the first two that spring to mind) about the difficulties of origin stories. Did we really need to know what made Peter Pan into the Peter Pan? If they really thought people would care about the backstory between Hook and Pan why not show it instead of ending the movie with a heavy-handed sequence that signposted for a sequel – which may not be so inevitable considering Pan has royally bombed at the box office. To be so over-dependent on continuing the story on, instead of giving a satisfying if albeit temporary conclusion, is lazy storytelling.

This film overestimates how good or necessary it is. It manages to make the magical mundane and dreary – an unforgivable crime of cinema.

Jurassic World

The park has grown into a world – but bigger doesn’t always mean better.

jpIt’s been twenty-two years since Jurassic Park came out. (At this point I’ll pause for a second to let that sink in/ get over the shock/let you sit down if you are standing!) Few blockbusters have the same amount of loyalty or produce the same levels of nostalgia from its fans or have so many iconic moments. From that music, to the shot of the water vibrating in a glass building to the introduction of the T-Rex, the raptors in the kitchen and the wonder that is Jeff Goldblum. As a consequence the makers of Jurassic World had a difficult task – to pay homage to the origins whilst also developing without being accused of trying to reinvent the wheel. In some ways they are successful, aspects of this film are incredibly entertaining and equal the original. On the other hand, some aspects are jumbled, flawed and disappointing.

The film reflects real-time, set 22 years after Jurassic Park was forced to close. Jurassic World is one of the world’s most popular theme parks – just as one would take their family to Disneyland they live in a world where it’s normal to go somewhere to see dinosaurs. In fact, it has become so normal that operations manger Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) has been put in charge by the park owner to oversee the upcoming new exhibit. It’s a breed of dinosaur that has never been seen before – literally as it didn’t exist before. The ‘Indominous Rex’ is a product of genetic modification – a hybrid of different species. Although her nephews are currently spending a week at the Jurassic World – who arrived with the intent of spending time with her – she has been unable to do because of this indomitable project. Her nephews go off exploring the theme park with her assistant for company, whilst Claire deals with issues regards the new beast. She is forced to turn to Owen Grady (Chris Pratt, playing an oh-so-common ex-military/ leading velociraptor expert and trainer) for help. If you haven’t guess what happens next (SPOILER ALERT) it escapes. How will Claire and Owen prevent the treat of a beast that has never existed before? A breed whose genetic origins are being withheld from them? What will happen to Claire’s nephews? Will Owen and Claire have an inevitable romance? Will these film avoid obvious character types?

I’ll only provide an answer to the last of those questions – no. Whilst no-one would turn to Jurassic World or it’s predecessors looking for realism, it would be nice to have an action-adventure movie in which the events do not overshadow the characters. In fact, can you imagine a world where a 3D movie action-adventure has 3D characters? Jurassic World is not that kind of world. The dinosaurs are given more developed characters than the humans. In Jurassic World we have:

– Owen Grady, the bad-ass bloke who has no time for society’s bullshit or human being’s bullshit. He wants to live in peace and hang out with his raptor buds alpha-style. He is an attractive man, and knows it. He uses humour to defuse awkward situations or to make his point. (Think Indiana Jones, with less charm.)

– Claire Dearing, the work-obsessive who cares more about her work than family. She is deemed cold and calculating when compared to the male hero. All she cares about is money, order and routine. Luckily the events of the film will show her that this is wrong, and will fix her evil corporate ways. She is living proof that it is impossible to be successful and also care about other people. Runs around in heels. (Think every stereotype of working women that exists in film)

– Zach Mitchell, the older of Claire’s nephews, thinks he is a ladies-man. Stares at lots of young women because he is a ladies man. Turns out that this is all a front to hide his caring-side, and he actually does love his little brother.

– Gray Mitchell, Zach’s younger brother. Shown to have obsessive tendencies through his encyclopaedic knowledge of dinosaurs.

– Vic Hoskins, a man who wants to use Owen’s raptors for evil. Does evil-ish things.

Without any interesting heroes to really root for, the film falls slightly flat, and we end up feeling more sympathy for the dinosaurs. Yes, there are some fantastic set-pieces – some sequences are genuinely frightening and rival the original film. Yes, there are some lovely and subtle tributes to the original film. Yes, it is rather entertaining and somewhat worthy of awe. But it is a film which seems so uncertain of itself with some cheesiness worthy of Skarknado. It simultaneously pokes fun at action movie tropes but then utilises others, with a side order of predictability. All of this results in a vanilla-bland popcorn movie.