Incredibles 2 – Film Review

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Incredibles 2 has, at long last, hit theatres, a staggering fourteen-years after the original took the world by storm. Director Brad Bird returns to helm this much-anticipated Pixar sequel, and features the voice talents of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner and Samuel L. Jackson.

Like most film-goers, my excitement for “Incredibles 2” was through the roof. I adore the original film and I’ve re-watched it countless times since my first viewing in 2004. Everything from the action to the characters and the world-building was instantly compelling for me as a youngster. From just the Disney logo alone and opening moments of the film, I was riddled with a strong feeling of nostalgia and it brought me straight back to my childhood years. This instalment picks up immediately after the events of “The Incredibles” and follows the Parr family as they attempt to regain the public’s trust in superheroes, all the while a new foe begins to emerge.

Incredibles 2” is something of film-making miracle. It’s utterly rare and outstanding that a sequel to one of the most beloved Pixar classics, a near decade and a half in the making, effortlessly lives up to the hype. It is an action-packed, consistently exciting, well-written, gorgeously crafted and hysterically funny superhero outing, making it the cream of the crop of animated films. The animation is typically stunning and continues to cement Disney’s position as the best in animation. The smallest of details from strands of hair and fabric, creativity, lighting and inventiveness to the animation was mind-boggling perfect. It is bright, exuberant and exactly what I wanted, aesthetic-wise, from an animated summer blockbuster like this.

The action scenes are an evident step-up from the predecessor. They are designed with lavish style, harkening back to the golden-age of superheroes of the 50’s and 60’s, as well as the sleekness of spy movie sequences. The opening action set-piece was full of energy and was intertwined with a great deal of humour, while other standouts are Elastigirl’s downright thrilling missions and a climatic battle on a boat. As crowd-pleasing as ever are the powers on display, making for eye-grabbing, visual-eye candy. Amplifying these sequences is the unforgettable score by the legendary Michael Giacchino, which utilises jazz to an epic scale, and is sure to get to get stuck on your head all over again.
Not only are the visuals, the action and the entertainment at face-value sublime, but like the first, “Incredibles 2” is extremely clever and mature. The dialogue, at times, are very adult and explore thought-provoking themes within the world of this movie. This is what has made Disney and Pixar utterly resonant for audiences, as they possess the ability to operate on multiple levels and are downright intelligent cinema. There is much below the surface and investing B-storylines, such as Bob Parr’s efforts to prove himself to be a great dad and Violet’s teen angst. These plot elements are woven together cohesively to tell an intelligent and neatly composed story, that will genuinely have you on the edge of your seat. There are suspense and thrills but also a brilliant amount of humour, that is sure to bring a smile to every audience member’s face. Whether it’s the humour or the deeper conversations, the voice talents from everyone are marvellous and a great deal of fun.

The only tiny – and I mean tiny – quibble I have is with the villain. Screenslaver is fine, functioning and serves its purpose. It could have been more compelling, it’s no Syndrome from the first movie, but the movie is so unimaginably terrific, that it didn’t affect my enjoyment for a single second. The worst thing about “Incredibles 2” is when it begins to end, for the experience of this two-hour action-adventure romp was so fantastically unique and incomparably entertaining. Fourteen years later and the magic of the original is back, in splendid fashion.

Incredibles 2” is an outstanding slice of Disney cinema. The action, animation, musical score and spectacle are an absolute joy whilst the humour and the dialogue is very witty and rich with substance. Overall, “Incredibles 2” justifies its existence, and proves to not be a re-hash of the 2004 film. While I don’t want to jump to conclusions immediately, this may very well be superior to that first entry. The story plays out like a great novel and is sure to appeal to children more recently introduced to The Incredibles franchise, as well as those who first watched and loved it many years ago. The characters and their designs are impressive as ever, brought to life with strong believability by a spectacular voice cast. “Incredibles 2” is a massive accomplishment, sensational in every sense of the word and a fantastic viewing experience. Though none of us appreciated the fourteen-year wait, I can now happily say that it was most certainly worth it.

9.5/10

(It is also worth noting that the short-film that played before the main feature “Bao” was excellent, touching and a typically smart and refreshing work of animation for Disney, which also contributed to making this cinema experience one of the best I’ve had in a while.)

 

Adrift – Film Review

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Adrift is directed by Baltasar Kormakur and stars Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin. This movie is based on the true-life tale of Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp, who sailed from Tahiti to San Diego in 1983. On their voyage they are find themselves caught in Hurricane Raymond. The film explores the relationship between Tami and Richard, along with their fight for survival following this brutal storm.

The calibre of talent involved in this project was enough to spark my own personal interest. I’ve loved both Woodley and Claflin’s work in their respective young-adult franchises – The Divergent Series and The Hunger Games (my personal favourite). For me, Woodley is one of the greatest actresses of this generation, and she has featured in two of my all-time favourite movies – “The Spectacular Now” and “The Fault in Our Stars”. Furthermore, Claflin’s smaller work outside of his franchise roles, such as “Me Before You”, continue to establish him as an extremely charismatic and a frankly underrated talent. Though I was not initially familiar with director Baltasar Kormakur’s work, he has experience with survival tales, thanks to his work in 2015’s “Everest”. Henceforth, I was confident that this film could be something special, if all the talent aligned correctly.

Adrift” is beautifully crafted, the type of film that builds slowly, but culminates in something extremely touching and emotive. Admittedly, I was concerned at first. From the opening the film seemed to a tad scatter-brained, mostly due to it’s noticeably unconventional story-telling technique. Yet, as “Adrift” built to its crescendo of a finale, all my fears regarding the way the film was crafted was laid to rest. As a viewer, you are afforded the opportunity to look back and reflect on the picture and re-evaluate your thoughts and feelings. For that reason, while it’s an emotional watch, “Adrift” could perhaps be appreciated further on re-watch. Most admirable is that the picture pays immense respect to the figures at the centre of those fateful events. It has the ability to be wondrously respectful, yet also make the events cinematically appealing, which is an extraordinarily impressive feat. Occasionally with a motion picture that’s based on true life events, it can seem more about the journey than the destination – which is perfectly fine, I must add. Gleefully, thanks to an impressive script, there is both a tightly crafted journey and destination.

What is also a sign of an effective film, is the longing I came away with to watch the rest of director Baltasar Kormakur’s filmography. The shot composition, the various angles in which the film is captured within and the divine cinematography make nearly every frame of “Adrift” look like it could be printed on divine postcard. Some of the more dramatic moments utilise marvellously frenetic camera-work, that build on feelings of hopelessness and danger in a truly palpable way. The storm itself is remarkably edge of your seat and truly unsettling. Even the simpler moments – dinner dates or late-night conversations, for example – are filmed expertly. The colours, cinematography and assured direction is brilliant to behold, an elevates the movie above typical survival fare.

It’s criminal that Shailene Woodley has yet to have, at the very least, and Oscar nomination. She is the heart and soul of “Adrift” and delivers a heartbreakingly raw, honest and authentic performance. She has the power to lift you up and inspire, yet also break your heart in many ways. Woodley has done it again, delivering an unforgettable performance that ranks as one of – if not the best – performance of her career, and likely of the year. Claflin gives another richly genuine performance in “Adrift”, even if he doesn’t quite get the same dramatic weight to carry as Woodley does. Despite that, he is still able to convince viewers of his character’s affliction, leaving an impact on the entire picture that does not go unnoticed.

What I found truly special was how utterly real it all felt, a characteristic of much of Woodley’s work. The humour, dialogue, settings and the love story seem ripped from real-life and very un-Hollywood, which is something particularly unique and welcomed. “Adrift” appeared uneven at first, but thanks to stunning direction and rich cinematography, along with the combined talents of Claflin and especially Woodley, this movie soars to extraordinary heights. It’s powerful whilst being nuanced, featuring a simplistic premise that is explored to the fullest. A lovingly made portrayal of love, survival and hope, that is bound to resonate with all those who experience it. In essence, “Adrift” is an effectively subtle and undeniably moving triumph.

9/10

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Film Review

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Solo: A Star Wars Story continues the rich-legacy of the Star Wars franchise, acting as the second anthology film. Director Ron Howard took the reins of this picture after original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller departed this project due to creative differences. The film sees Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo, alongside Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover and Paul Bettany.

As its been widely reported, “Solo” underwent a difficult production, with a director change mid-filming and extensive reshoots. After disappointing box-office results, it seems many have chosen to disregard this spin-off altogether. I’ve become a big fan of the Star Wars franchise more recently, beginning when Disney acquired the beloved saga. I’m no die-hard however – I have yet to see the prequels (I will, despite recommendations to do otherwise). The original trilogy are marvellously captivating, iconic and enthralling pieces of entertainment, my favourite being “A New Hope”. The newest adventures, beginning with 2015’s “The Force Awakens” have been amongst the best blockbusters I’ve experienced this decade. “The Last Jedi”, may just be my favourite Star Wars film, as controversial as that opinion is. “Rogue One” underwhelmed me in terms of its characters, and while I was optimistic for “Solo”, admittedly I felt this tale of a young Han Solo was unnecessary and would begin to over-saturate Star Wars in the market-place.

Given its complications in development, its tremendous that “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, is as cohesive as it is, but even with some great elements, it’s sadly underwhelming. I admire the film-makers attempt to craft a more contained adventure, but it all seems strangely inconsequential. “Solo” didn’t do enough to justify its existence, and the arguments of it being a cash-grab are warranted. I still believe that the decision to weave anthology movies in between the Skywalker saga was a mistake – in my opinion, any anthology work should have been developed after Episode IX. For those who grew up with the original series, a Star Wars film felt like a treat, something that seems at jeopardy as “Solo” hits theatres only five months after the release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”. Even with my reservations about this spin-off’s pure existence, “Solo” still has issues.

Besides a few moments that seem to have heart behind them – largely because of nostalgia – “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, seems like a series of action-pieces, that eventually grow monotonous. None of the danger, stakes nor the intensity felt particularly palpable and the action didn’t thrill the way previous instalments have done. In truth, “Solo” just doesn’t look interesting. The cinematography was dull, and while Ron Howard has proved himself as an exceptional director (I for one was a big fan of “In the Heart of the Sea”), he didn’t helm this movie in an overly engaging way. There were few memorable shots and no memorable sequences. The style of editing in Star Wars that is so familiar, such as the wipe transitions, are noticeably absent, making the picture furthermore absent of specific artistic flare. An action sequence on the train was perhaps the most impressive, but overall the excitement factor often felt rather pedestrian.

Interestingly, my problems with “Solo” are similar to those I had with “Rogue One”. For me, there wasn’t a character here who was as interesting or as richly developed as characters such as Rey and Kylo Ren. We all love Han, he’s one of the most recognisable and popular characters in film. For me personally however, he works best with Luke and Leia, as part of an ensemble. This film didn’t necessary change any perception of the character, but more so re-iterated what we all already knew about Han Solo. Still, he is a character you undeniably want to follow. With the material given to him, Alden Ehrenreich did an exceptional job, feeling like a younger Han Solo, but fortunately no like he’s doing an imitation of what Harrison Ford did so amazingly. Ehrenreich gave a soulful performance, and had fantastic chemistry with Chewbacca, who is a hilarious presence. Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and more off the supporting cast gave stellar performances, but their respective characters that are never likely to rank up there amongst the best of the franchise. The greatest performances lie in the third act, with some well-crafted dialogue, that give the actors a genuine opportunity to showcase their acting muscles. Donald Glover gives a confident performance along with plenty of swagger in his portrayal of Lando Calrissian. Joining Star Wars is Paul Bettany, who is terrifically talented, but his villain was so mundane and forgettable and entirely one note. Worst of all is the newest introduced droid, L3-37, who I found very irritating and contributed little to the story.

It’s not all bad in “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, however. The film harkens back to some of the earlier Star Wars motion pictures. It’s sweeter, more innocent affair, and its serial adventure feel is a fun departure from the recent heaviness of “Rogue One” and “The Last Jedi”. The costume design is brilliant, and along with the creature design, expand the world of the galaxy far, far away. There is and forever will be something enthralling about the Star Wars universe. The score is also outstanding. It’s charming throughout but heightens when it calls back to the original themes, giving the picture a much-needed sense of momentum, and good-natured fantasy fun. For those reasons, “Solo” can be watched and enjoyed, for the pre-established Star Wars universe is just that great. It has an identity, a wholesome quality to it, and “Solo” doesn’t lose that, even if it feels lacklustre.

Overall, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” fails to stand out as a memorable chapter in the Star Wars universe. Its visual look appears blander, especially for a franchise as dynamic as this one. Sadly, a great deal of the characters range uninteresting, to just poorly written in extreme cases. It’s unable to add a great deal more to the franchise, exploring no new themes, ideas or concepts, that even recent anthology film “Rogue One” could. It’s a simple, sweet ride. Star Wars deserves more but, for some this will be enough. It’s impossible to hate – it’s too well-intentioned, charming and lively and cohesive. Certainly it’s boasted by admirable performances, and rip-roaring adventure, but too often finds let down by a feeling of mediocrity that permeates the film. My initial wave of disappointment may cease after another viewing, but I’m in no rush to re-watch this instalment, however much I love the franchise. “Solo: A Story Wars Story” is a fun-summer ride, but a noticeably middling entry in the series.

5.5/10

Deadpool 2 – Film Review

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Deadpool 2 comes to us over two years after the original took the world by storm. After “Deadpool” earned almost 800 million dollars worldwide, the fourth-wall breaking Marvel character has returned in typical R-rated fashion. Reprising his role as the titular character is Ryan Reynolds, while the film also stars Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz and T.J Miller.

Deadpool” was decidedly non-family friendly, making it something of a novelty in the crowded superhero film genre. It’s approach to comedy and action made it extremely refreshing. Personally however, the humour in “Deadpool” didn’t always strike the same chord with me as it did with many others. It did what it set out to do to the best extent it could, even if it left me a little vanilla. This second outing sees Deadpool/Wade Wilson (Reynolds) assemble a team of mutants, to battle the time-travelling cyborg Cable (Brolin). Heading out to see “Deadpool 2” however, I was hopeful that the uniqueness surrounding this character hadn’t worn off, and the franchise could continue to be refreshing.

After seeing “Deadpool 2”, whilst I’ve concluded these films aren’t always suited to my specific tastes, does that make it bad? No. In fact, “Deadpool 2” is a cleverly crafted outing for the outlandish comic-book character, with a surprisingly excellent script, that elevates this instalment just above the original. The story-telling is unashamedly bonkers and ridiculous, and the film is all the better for it. When the humour references pop-culture and is self-aware is when it works best. Seeing Deadpool poke-fun at other comic-book films from “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, to especially last year’s “Logan” made for a marvellously hilarious time. As a comedy first and foremost, there were many scenes, particularly going into the second half, that made myself and the rest of the audience hysterically laugh on numerous occasions. It made for a hilariously subversive viewing experience.

Not only does Ryan Reynolds give a wondrously lively, confident and assured performance, but its fantastically clear how enthusiastic and excited he is to be part of this project. This is likely to forever be the defining character of Reynold’s career. Josh Brolin’s performance as Cable went in surprising directions, defying conventions, whilst the character of Domino was a brilliantly entertaining presence. Furthermore, the action fires on all cylinders. The production design is larger than the first and the fights and stunts are all filmed in slick and smooth fashion. A sequence showcasing Deadpool in action at the beginning of the picture demonstrated lush cinematography and strong direction, that made a definite impact.

Deadpool 2” isn’t entirely successful, despite its improvements over its predecessor. A sequence set in a mutant-prison in the second act slowed the film down considerably. Fortunately, the final act raises the humour and the excitement considerably, but it is worth-noting at least twenty-minutes of the picture grew a tad-stale. Though the action is technically impressive, a set-piece mid-way through the film was entirely devoid of emotional weight or comedy that reached the heights found in the rest of the movie. For my personal taste, while the comedy is extremely clever, a few jokes didn’t hit in the same way or were overly crude in the way that didn’t compare to smarter written jokes. However, I much emphasise that the script is largely tightly crafted, and the moments of great comedy outweighs any that feel a tad subpar.

In the end, “Deadpool” is never what I’m going to gravitate towards as a film-fan or as a lover of the superhero genre. That said, I enjoyed “Deadpool 2” far more than I expected. The cast and characters are infectiously upbeat, relishing in the ridiculousness and fun the script supplies. The action is typically violent and creatively helmed, and the fourth-wall breaking humour continues to feel fresh and new. It does slow down to a noticeable degree at a certain point and some of the comedy feels sub-par in comparison to other far superior gags. Still, “Deadpool 2” makes for a marvellously entertaining time at the cinema, complete with a superbly catchy soundtrack. What made Deadpool unique originally hasn’t been lost, and if anything, the game has been raised. It’s never going to be exactly my cup of tea, but I nevertheless had a fantastic time with “Deadpool 2”. Henceforth, I can imagine those who are die-hard fans of the outlandish comic-book character will be satisfied, and then some, with this bombastic and humorous sequel.

7/10

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – Film Review

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom sees “The Impossible” director J.A Bayona helm this follow-up to the 2015 juggernaut “Jurassic World”. Also returning to the franchise, after their debut in the franchise in 2015 is Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard.

This instalment sees Owen Grady (Pratt) and Clare Dearing (Dallas Howard) embarking on mission to rescue a range of various dinosaur species on the island of Isla Nublar, before an approaching volcanic eruption. Whilst I’ve never seen the original sequels i.e the second and third entries in this franchise (and from what I hear I’m not missing much), 1993’s “Jurassic Park” is an undeniable classic and a milestone in Hollywood blockbuster film-making. To this day it remains thoroughly captivating, suspenseful, relatively terrifying but also with a brimming with a sense of charm and magic. Whilst “Jurassic World” dazzled with spectacular set pieces, I found it to be a blander entry, though not without merit. With a director I was familiar with, who possesses a distinct style, I was thoroughly optimistic for “Fallen Kingdom”.

Pure summer blockbuster fun sums this film up perfectly. Never for one second in its high-energy, 128-minute run-time, did “Fallen Kingdom” lose my attention. J.A Bayona’s direction and more arresting cinematography made this a delightfully darker instalment in the beloved series. The action is visceral and riddled with grit, though still demands you to suspend your disbelief. Sequences on Isla Nublar is exactly the type of fun and edge of your seat experience that audiences want and expect from a franchise like “Jurassic Park”. The climatic 40-minutes is a series of wildly entertaining cinematic moments, that divulge into appropriately violent and frightening territory. Despite the fact “Fallen Kingdom” doesn’t seem to utilise practical effects – a characteristic to the original film, that made it so renowned – the CGI that brings the dinosaurs to life is marvellously seamless. There isn’t an unconvincing shot at any point, making “Fallen Kingdom” a technical and visual marvel.

Chris Pratt brings the same charisma and charm he brings to every project he stars in. A leading man who audiences will surely want to follow, Pratt sells the larger than life scenarios his character find himself in with rich believability. Equally, Bryce Dallas Howard seems highly passionate about being part of this project and brings much of the emotion to the film. Both Pratt and Dallas Howard work brilliantly together and do a great deal through their performances alone.

Fallen Kingdom”, however, could have easily been elevated to greater heights with a stronger script that could develop, what are unfortunately, thinly written characters. The character of Owen Grady in particular, largely works due to the charm of Pratt. Otherwise, the character undergoes little to no development, and is rendered as no more than an entertaining presence, devoid of any emotional substance. This leads me to my biggest issue with “Fallen Kingdom”. Much of the deeper, complex themes that raised the original above standard blockbuster quality, is absent in this fifth outing. Despite intriguing conversations regarding the conflict between science and nature that dominate the opening of the film, any further complexities seem to disappear when dinosaurs enter the picture. For that reason, and as many would likely re-iterate, the magic of “Jurassic Park” is near-impossible to replicate in its sequels.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the cinematic equivalent of a rollercoaster, complete with genuine thrills and excitement. The entertainment value, darker tone and fast-pace made this the type of lively blockbuster I want to see this summer, and I had a fantastic time with it. While, an argument can be made, and rightly so that the Jurassic series deserves to be lauded for more than just it’s face-value entertainment, I was beyond satisfied with this entry. Despite not always capturing original “Jurassic Park” magic and having thinly written characters, the escapism “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” offers is impeccable. It’s lacking below the surface, but its nevertheless a well-crafted picture brewing with creativity. I for one, cannot wait to experience it again.

7/10