Monday, June 27, 2016

Independence Day 2: Resurgence


Independence Day was one of the more just straight-up fun action movies of the 1990s--one that didn't take itself too seriously, while still being an exciting, funny and memorable flick. It's been twenty years now, and only now do they decide to bring us a sequel; one that may not have been strictly necessary, but here it is and now we have to deal with it, for better or for worse. 

Just as twenty years passed between the two movies' existence, twenty years passed in movie time; and now they've used the alien technology to rebuild the Earth and to build a weapons defense system--on Earth *and* the Moon. And guess what? One of the last remaining destroyer ships actually set out a distress signal before it was shot down. And then... it takes twenty years... but the reinforcements (or something) *finally* show up. And proceed to wipe the floor with the "defense" system. Thus bringing up the need for Earth to win again via its will to survive in a battle led by some old and new faces alike.

Resurgence's plot is definitely more convoluted than its predecessor's; the whole "distress call" thing makes little sense, and then it's suggested that it's something else entirely, leaving me trying to figure out which it is. The film is ultimately even more harder to take seriously than its predecessor. The film does get off to a bit of a bumpy start; it sort of plods along, occasionally being dull or just flat out awkward or sloppy. It picks up a bit once the aliens show up, but it's not until the second half of the movie that things really get going and this film truly shows why it's worth watching. 

Yes, the action sequences are still pretty awesome. The air battles between the two sides' smaller fighters are still cool, some new ground fights between humans and aliens are nice, and the final showdown is spectacular. Oh yeah, and there's also the visually impressive apocalyptic-esque destruction with the gravity machine. 

Otherwise, the humor is given in lesser quantities and the script isn't as good, but it still sure has its moments, several of them delivered by Jeff Goldblum. Although it's somewhat disappointing not to have Will Smith around anymore in this movie, Goldblum still manages to carry the movie (similar to  how he easily carried The Lost World: Jurassic Park as the only returning main character). Judd Hirsch is also good in his return as well; and some of the new characters are pretty decent as well. 

Overall, Independence Day 2 definitely falls short of its predecessor, but it still has its moments--most of them in the second half of the movie. Fans of the first movie should be mostly pleased (as long as they know what to expect), and fans of sci-fi who are willing to not take things too seriously will likely be entertained as well. More serious filmgoers will not likely find much to enjoy beyond an isolated moment or two. It's not a smash hit the way the first one was, but it delivers more or less what you were probably expecting. It succeeds in its own right, for the most part. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

10 Cloverfield Lane


Well, it's only been eight years, and now they've brought us what they call a "spiritual sequel" to the found-footage sci-fi/horror flick Cloverfield. Kind of a vague term, if you ask me. Is it an actual sequel? A tie-in? Takes place in the same universe? 

The good news about this... um... tie-in is that they dropped the found footage form. This time, they switch to a full-fledged psychological thriller. That pretty much immediately gave the film more hope than its predecessor did. And indeed, we are given much better production values; there are actual actors and an actual script in this film; no shaky cam, no ridiculously inconvenient camera turn-aways.

Unfortunately, I can't say too much about this film's plot; it's better to go into it not knowing a whole lot, especially considering that's how the marketing campaign did things. The film is about some young woman named Michelle who ends up in a bad car accident and wakes up in some underground bunker, where she meets a mysterious stranger named Howard (John Goodman), who claims to have saved her life and that an "attack" (without specifying further) has taken place, leaving the world above uninhabitable, leaving her stuck down there with him and some guy named Emmett. Howard's action begin to seem suspicious though, and Michelle needs to decide if she's safer down here or up there.

This film is ultimately a mostly well-done thriller; it manages to keep the raw tension running throughout, even when not necessarily much is happening; which is managed by the tense music (or lack of music at all), and by John Goodman's brilliant twisted performance of Howard, doing a very good job of seeming easily unhinged. There are some times when the film seems a little slow, but for the most part, it's quite psychologically intense (something you don't see much in films these days, or at least not done effectively) and also has some excitement to go with it (mostly in the final act).

10 Cloverfield Lane may be grouped with Cloverfield in the "Cloververse," but it's quite a different film. It's also a much better one. The other one might have had some moments that were more strictly entertaining, but this one is much more well-made and thrilling. It's not a masterpiece, but considering it's from a genre (thriller) that I have mixed feelings on, it's pretty good. At this point, I'm willing to check out what else the franchise brings--as long as there's no more found footage and it doesn't take 8 years in between movies again.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Pan (2015)


Peter Pan has seen his fair share of time in the cinema; whether it's as the boy who wouldn't grow up or even occasionally a different showing of him, like in Steven Spielberg's Hook where he was an adult. This latest adaption shows him as a kid, per the normal usual; only now it's actually a prequel instead, showing *how* he got to Neverland. 

Again, per the usual, he's an orphan; and he's left at the worst orphanage ever, whose leader somehow seem to know about the pirates who come out of the sky now and then snatch kids away for their own purposes. Eventually, Peter is caught by a crew led by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who gives them liberty... and promptly takes it away by forcing them to mine for "fairy dust" or walk the plank. And guess what? When Peter accidentally flies, it turns out there's a prophecy of all things about him. And now he has to defeat Blackbeard so that Neverland can be a free place once again. Or something like that. 

What we're given here is a plot that's somewhat oddball at times, revealing a time in which Peter Pan and Hook were... buddies? What's even more odd is that here Hook is a complete rip-off of Han Solo (which can be mildly amusing at times, admittedly); and there's little here to compare him to the original character, except for a brief tease where an early fear of crocodiles is shown--*before* he's even lost his hand and thus gotten a hook. 

In fact, this movie is a classic case of "what could've been" regarding Hook. You wanna show us Pan and Hook being friends at one point, fine. But the problem is, they never bother to show us just how that friendship broke off. Were they planning on making a sequel? (Hopefully not.) But that could've actually been interesting, whether it was some misunderstanding or some betrayal or something like that. Might've made the film a little darker, and a dark twist was arguably what the film needed anyway. 

Besides an uninteresting plot, we are treated to a case of what happens when the CGI is overloaded. A scene in which Peter and Hook approach the natives is blotted with CGI colors that make little sense; there's also the CGI abominations that are the "Neverbirds" or whatever they're called; and there's also the poorly done flashback animation sequences. One that namely comes to mind is an underwater "memory" scene that almost left me more confused than before. 

There's not a whole like to particularly like about Pan. There's a couple of cool moments involving the flying ships battling each other (yeah, ships fly pretty much all the time in this tripped-out version of Neverland); and some parts of Hugh Jackman's over-the-top performance are amusing, but the whole film itself just isn't that interesting and the overdone CGI is pretty overwhelming, even by my standards (I can put up with a lot in that regard). It's not necessarily a straight-up painful film to watch, but it's not one to be recommended by any means either. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Jack Reacher


Usually, Tom Cruise is in pretty good action movies. Or at least pretty decent ones, anyway. Sure, occasionally there'll be the duds also. They're few and far between, because Cruise seems pretty good at picking decent action movies to be a part of. 

In this particular one, we open up with a sniper shooting five people dead. Randomly. In the middle of some park. A fingerprint brings him in, and when he meets the law, he offers only this to them: "Get Jack Reacher." And who exactly is Jack Reacher? This shadowy former Army guy who essentially kind of drifts around as some sort of vigilante. At least, I think that's what he is. That's about as far as I could figure it out by the end of the movie, anyway. 

He eventually gets sort of ensnared into some sort of weird plot involving some random organization who covers their tracks pretty well. And yet the purpose of the shooting at the beginning of the film that sets everything into motion isn't touched on very much. Reacher seems to be a man seeking the truth, but he seems to forget about that particular part once he is framed for murder and once someone he cares about is kidnapped, at which point he only seems to care about burying them. 

Perhaps it's not even that it's entirely a nonsensical plot, considering that about 90 minutes of this 130 minute film move so slowly that I was struggling to pay attention. I really had a hard time actually being interested or caring except when Reacher was fighting people or in the middle of an admittedly entertaining car chase halfway through the film. The rest of the film moves pretty slowly; somehow I'm already forgetting details about the plot even as I write this review. 

Tom Cruise does fine per the usual, and Rosamund Pike is okay as well; however, there aren't really any other actors that are noteworthy or ones that you've even heard of, except for Jai Courtney; and his performance is more unintentionally comedic at times. The direction feels a little dull as well. The film might've had a better chance if it'd been 30 or more minutes shorter.

For a film that had somewhat decent marketing at the time of its release, it's quite a bit of a letdown. It's not without its moments, but they feel kinda far between, and there's little else going on otherwise that had my attention. For an action "thriller," it's not particularly thrilling for the majority of its runtime. One could certainly do worse, but when it comes to Tom Cruise action movies, I can probably think of at least ten other flicks you could try instead.