Review of Jurassic World

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Back, when I was a wee lad, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. I could even rattle off their scientific names, which is a wonder given that these days I cannot even pronounce the surnames of foreign footballers. My love of prehistoric creatures was replaced with robots however, once the Transformers cartoon came to my attention. I briefly rediscovered how cool dinos can be when I watched Denver the Last Dinosaur… um I mean the original Jurassic Park. Sadly, the sequel movies weren’t very good. Over two decades after Steven Spielberg wowed audiences with the first film, a wild Jurassic World has appeared. Can it revitalize the franchise? Read on to find out.

OVERVIEW

Our tale begins with two youngsters (Zach and Gray) preparing for a trip. Aside from their suitcases, the boys are carrying the (emotional) baggage of their parents getting divorced. Hopefully visiting the Jurassic World theme park will help to get their thoughts away from such depressing matters. If you ask me Disney Land would have made for a more fun vacation, but I guess they got free tickets because their aunt is the park manager. Auntie Claire won’t have much time to spent with her nephews though, as she is busy working on a new attraction. In order to keep attendances up, management have genetically engineered a lizard that is deadlier than a T-Rex. What could possibly go wrong?

In news that should surprise no one, the above-mentioned Indominus Rex escapes from its enclosure. Owen Grady, a raptor trainer played by Chris Pratt, is tasked with capturing the beast before it begins to chow down on tasty customers. Pratt cements his place as a creditable Hollywood action star with this performance. He kicks arse in the movie, but isn’t able to emulate the charisma seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. Part of the reason is that he doesn’t have funny sidekicks to banter with. Owen is instead paired up with redhead Claire, for a shoehorned romance that lacks chemistry. If you ask me, Owen had a closer relationship with the raptors. Who can blame him? No one likes gingers.

VERDICT

Overall, I think this movie does enough to save the series from extinction. I wasn’t ever bored, even if the two-hour running time was a little excessive. The hunt for a bloodthirsty dinosaur didn’t need to be padded out with a military subplot, which revolved around the creation of chimeras. One thing that I found daft was that Claire spends the entire film wearing high heels. Not the best choice of footwear for someone who is constantly running away from danger. I guess no matter what, life… um style finds a way. Midway during the film actress Bryce Dallas Howard unbuttons her blouse. I suspect the move was to get viewers to stare at her cleavage, rather than her ridiculous shoes.

My rating for Jurassic World is a three out of five. It lacks the magic and suspense of the original, but is entertaining to watch (which is more than I can say for the last two movies.) The dinosaur effects are decent and help to mask how bland the human characters are. I didn’t feel anything when people got gobbled up. On the flip side there were moments were I felt sympathy for the wildlife casualties. These included the passing of a mortally wounded Brontosaurus and the scene where a juvenile Triceratops is assaulted. Sniff, poor dinosaurs. When I finish this review I’m going to watch a cartoon to cheer up. How about The Land Before Time? It looks cute, so I am certain it is devoid of any heart-breaking tragedies.

Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Lucasfilm’s output has increased dramatically ever since the Disney acquisition. There was a time when you would have to wait years for a new Lucasfilm release. Nowadays the studio churns out Star Wars flicks with the frequency that EA brings out a FIFA game. For the foreseeable future cinemagoers can expect to see a mainline Star Wars movie or a prequel spin-off on an annual basis. Rogue One was the first Star Wars prequel, under the Disney banner, to come out and following on its heels is Solo: A Star Wars Story. Over the course of 135 minutes this feature film chronicles how the titular smuggler met Chewbacca and how he got his mitts on the iconic Millennium Falcon.

OVERVIEW

Solo is an intergalactic heist adventure directed by Lord and Miller. Um, I mean directed by Ron Howard. The duo responsible for the hilarious Lego movies were axed from the project, as they allegedly didn’t stick to Jonathan Kasdan’s script. Shame, because the pair’s comedic flair could have bolstered several lines of cringey dialogue. Anyways, moving back on topic. Solo sees Han and Chewie team up with a veteran criminal named Tobias Beckett (played by Woody Harrelson.) The trio have been hired by the Crimson Dawn syndicate to steal some precious coaxium fuel. If the group can successfully pull off the robbery they shall be rich beyond their wildest dreams. Should they fail however, they shall be killed quicker than Captain Phasma in an action scene.

Joining the abovementioned rogues are Han’s childhood sweetheart Qi’ra, along with L3-37 and Lando Calrissian. L3-37 surprised me by being the film’s funniest character. She is a parody of modern day social justice warriors (so much so that feminist money grubber Anita Sarkeesian recently bashed the bot on Twitter.) Just like a rabid SJW, this mechanical lady trumpets the cause of racial equality – in this case rights for androids. Donald Glover meanwhile takes the award for best performance with his portrayal of Lando. Glover has more charisma than Lando has capes and that is saying a lot. In one scene viewers see that the future head of Cloud City needs an entire wardrobe just to store his collection of dashing capes.

VERDICT

My rating for Solo: A Star Wars Story is a three out of five. It’s better than the underwhelming trailer suggests, but lacks the magic and grandeur one expects from this franchise. The movie feels more like Firefly than Star Wars. All that said Solo was more fun to watch than the disappointing Last Jedi. I dug the action sequences, even if the drama is somewhat hamstrung by the story being a prequel. No matter how precarious things get, given the tale’s place in the Star Wars timeline, you know that at the very least Han, Chewie and Lando will escape unscathed. Alden Ehrenreich’s acting was a mixed bag. I never bought that he is Han Solo. He was however a likable enough protagonist and had good onscreen chemistry with his hairy sidekick Chewbacca.

I reckon that the movie would have benefitted from a trim on the cutting room floor. The straightforward plot didn’t need to exceed two hours in my opinion. For the most part the story is predictable, although there are a few neat twists in the final act. I was especially surprised by the identity of Crimson Dawn’s true mastermind. Fingers crossed that said villain will appear more prominently in a future prequel spin-off. Given its well-publicised production troubles Solo turned out more entertaining than it deserved to be. I wonder how this version of the film compares to the vision Lord and Miller had in mind. Sadly we shall never know as the directors were Lego… um let go.

Review of Deadpool 2

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There is no sign that the superhero movie genre is dying. Perhaps it is immortal, thanks to regenerative powers, just like Deadpool. Speaking of Deadpool, the merc with the mouth is back in a sequel to one of the most successful R rated flicks ever. In this follow up to the 2016 hit, Deadpool abandons the life of an assassin and becomes an X-Man instead. Correction. He becomes an X-Men trainee. Wade Wilson’s inaugural X-Men mission doesn’t go well though, culminating in him shooting a care worker in the head. The murder lands him in the slammer, where he grudgingly befriends a tubby teenage mutant named Firefist.

OVERVIEW

James Cameron recently moaned about the number of superhero movies that are coming out. If you ask me he is just bitter, because Marvel characters love to rip off his ideas. Deadpool 2 for example shares more than a passing resemblance to the Terminator. In this film Deadpool is tasked with protecting a youngster from a time travelling cyborg. Doesn’t that sound familiar? The cyborg in question is a chap named Cable, who is played by Josh Brolin. Cable has set his sights on Firefist, as the obese mutant is responsible for the death of his family in the future. Why must overweight people cause so much pain? I still haven’t forgiven Israel’s Eurovision singer for harming my ears with her terrible music.

In order to take down Cable our masked hero assembles a team that he dubs X-Force. Poking fun at political correctness, Deadpool explains that X-Force is more progressive than X-Men, as their moniker is gender neutral. X-Force’s ranks include Old Spice muscleman Terry Crews, an invisible bloke named Vanisher and an alien called Shatterstar. Their screen time pales in comparison to Domino, who happens to be the group’s sole female recruit. Domino, who is portrayed by Atlanta actress Zazie Beetz, possesses the powers of cleavage, crazy hair and good luck. In some ways she reminds me of Fortune from Metal Gear Solid 2.

VERDICT

Deadpool 2 is the type of movie I suspect I will enjoy more on repeated viewings. The script is so packed with jokes that multiple screenings will be required to catch all the gags. I also think that my opinion of the film was affected by overly high expectations. Still who can blame me? Deadpool was my favourite release of 2016 and prior to watching the sequel I kept hearing from acquaintances how funny it is. To be honest I didn’t laugh during the first forty minutes, of this two-hour feature. Part of the reason is the tragedy that befalls Deadpool in the first act, but it must also be said that I didn’t find the meta quips and pop culture references to be all that amusing either.

Thankfully things pick up once Deadpool forms X-Force. I found the scene were the team parachutes down, to rescue Firefist, hilarious. The action ramps up from that point too. I was impressed by the fight choreography that director David Leitch (of John Wick fame) brought to the table. Josh Brolin’s performance was also excellent. The man behind Thanos worked well as the straight man to Ryan Reynolds’ zany Deadpool. Another thing worth mentioning is the soundtrack. Akin to Guardians of the Galaxy, this film knows how to enhance a scene by utilizing nostalgic tunes. Overall I enjoyed the original Deadpool more, as it had a tighter story, but Deadpool 2 still holds up as a solid continuation to the series. My rating is three and a half Chimichangas out of five.

Review of Batman Ninja

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This animated movie, featuring character designs from the creator of Afro Samurai, sees the Caped Crusader get transported back to Feudal Japan. Rather ironic, given that Batman is pretty much a modern day ninja. Just like a Japanese assassin, the Dark Knight uses stealth and martial arts to subdue his enemies… and they both look cool in black attire too. How did Batman end up in the past you ask? That’s all explained in the opening scene. Gorilla Grodd’s time machine is responsible for Batman’s historical trip and he didn’t go there alone. Catwoman, the Joker, Harley Quinn and various other villains have joined him along for the ride.

OVERVIEW

Batman Ninja’s plot follows Bruce Wayne who is stuck in the past. He has to find a way back to present day Gotham, but before that he needs to defeat numerous rogues who have taken over the land. Poison Ivy, Deathstroke, Two-Face and Penguin reached Japan two years prior to Batman’s arrival and in the interim they have managed to assemble sizable armies. Can the outnumbered DC hero triumph against so many adversaries? Usually I would say yes, but victory is far from assured as this version of Batman is dumber than Adam West’s rendition of the character. On more than one occasion he is outwitted by betrayals that even his young sidekicks can see coming a mile away.

Gullible isn’t a trait most people associate with Batman. The protagonist acts out of character throughout the eighty-five minute running time. He even losses confidence when the Batmobile is destroyed. Batman Begins to question how he can succeed without the aid of modern tech, which makes no sense. This is the guy who can topple the likes of Superman, even with a handicap of possessing no powers. Who cares about a car he can easily afford to replace? Guile and a few Chiropteran shaped boomerangs are the only things Batman usually needs to save the day. The tone of this motion picture isn’t faithful to the source material. It feels more like a low tier anime rather than a traditional Batman tale.

VERDICT

I watched the English language version of the movie and wasn’t too impressed with the voice acting. To be fair though, I think the poor performances were due to cheesy dialogue rather than a lack of talent. If you ask me the script feels like something penned by an amateur fanfic writer who grew up watching eighties action movies. Batman Ninja’s sole saving grace would have to be its visuals. The CG graphics are quite striking, although there are a few scenes were the animation would have benefitted from some more frames. Nothing major, but said moments made it seem like I was watching a 30 FPS video game rather than a movie studio production.

My rating for Batman Ninja is a one out of five. The movie didn’t do anything for me. During my screening I kept looking at my watch and for a brief moment I even fell asleep. Had I not committed myself to writing a review of this flick, for the billions of followers who read this blog, I doubt I would have lasted till the very end. Despite it not being my cup of tea I suspect that there will be an audience for this film. Some viewers will have fun with how “bat shit” crazy it gets. The finale for example features a giant mech fighting a swarm of monkeys. Nuff said. Overall, the action makes for a good trailer. Sadly however there isn’t enough substance here to carry an entire movie.

Review of Avengers: Infinity War

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Once again Earth’s mightiest heroes must unite to save the world from destruction in a crossover movie spectacular. This time round the Avengers band together to take on Thanos, an intergalactic overlord who possesses a chin that resembles a scrotum. Most of your favourite Marvel cinematic characters make an appearance in this film, with the exception of Scott Lang who is occupied with other matters in the upcoming Ant-Man and Wasp. Hawkeye is also absent, but who cares? I always found Clint Barton to be rather bland. Besides he doesn’t have any superpowers. Good aim? Bah, what’s so special about that? Call of Duty is full of people who never miss their target.

OVERVIEW

Avengers: Infinity War begins with Thanos establishing his badass credentials by effortlessly pounding the Hulk into submission. He is on a quest to acquire the six Infinity Gems, which will grant him the power to purge half of the universe’s life forms. Standing between Thanos and his insane genocide scheme is Thor, who has teamed up with the Guardians of the Galaxy (led by a pudgy looking Star Lord.) Meanwhile on Earth – Thanos’ lackeys hunt down Vision, who is in possession of the Mind Stone. The underlings ask if Vision would “mind” parting with the Mind Stone, but he isn’t receptive to the idea as the jewel is the source of the android’s sentience.

Thanos’ minions also strike The Big Apple, after learning that New York resident Dr Strange holds the Time Stone that they seek. Unfortunately for them NYC has more heroes than yellow taxicabs. Their attack catches the attention of both Iron Man and his wall crawling apprentice Peter Parker. Even with their combined might, the triple S group of Strange, Stark and Spidey struggle against Thanos’ army. If they are to have any chance of beating the invaders more help will be required. Captain America (the latest hero to rock an unshaven look) could potentially turn the tide. Tracking him down might be difficult though, given that he is lying low after the events of Civil War.

OVERVIEW

My rating for Avengers: Infinity War is a four out of five. Not the best Marvel movie perhaps, but a good popcorn flick nonetheless. The wafer thin plot is just an excuse for plastering the screen with 149 minutes of non-stop action. I usually suffer from battle fatigue when a movie is laden with fights, but this one managed to keep my interest from start to finish. The script keeps things fresh by switching locations at a good clip. Unlike some other movies, the bloated cast wasn’t a detriment and everyone involved gets a moment to shine. Marvel productions are known for their humour and Infinity War is no exception to that rule. Drax the Destroyer’s quips in particular made me laugh a lot.

The jokes help to balance out what would otherwise be a depressing tale. Younger viewers will know the pain I felt back in the eighties, when I watched Transformers: The Movie, as many popular characters meet their demise in this feature. Thanos stands out as a rare example of a Marvel villain done right. He is cruel and unpredictable, but also has a compassionate side as shown in his scenes with stepdaughter Gamora. In a warped way he believes that his cosmic cull is an act of mercy. He wants to spare other worlds from suffering the ruin that befell his planet due to overpopulation. All that said, he is still a dick… and no that isn’t a reference to his nut-sack lower lip.

 

Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Mark Hamill turned up at my hometown the other day to open the “Sky Walk” bridge (just like me, the locals love a good pun). I decided to commemorate the event by watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As someone who enjoyed The Force Awakens and Rogue One, I have to say that this film is the weakest of Disney’s post Lucas efforts. Hopefully Solo will put the franchise back on track, although I am pessimistic on that prediction due to the film’s well-publicised production troubles. Replacing directors, partway through filming, sounds like a recipe for disaster. It certainly didn’t save Justice League from being a disappointment.

OVERVIEW

Following on from The Force Awakens’ conclusion, Rey has located Luke Skywalker on an isolated alien world. She hopes that the legendary Jedi will teach her the ways of the Force. Unfortunately for her, Luke has become a reclusive hermit who is opposed to mentoring new apprentices. Skywalker would rather spend his retirement alone drinking green milk, which he harvests by pinching a hideous extra terrestrial’s nipples. Believe me, the image is even more grotesque than my written description. Meanwhile the Resistance is on the run and begin the film pursued by a First Order fleet.

X-Wing ace Poe Dameron earns the good guys a reprieve by leading an attack that fells a First Order dreadnaught. The assault however comes at the cost of many casualties. In the battle’s aftermath, the surviving Resistance craft find themselves low on fuel and still hounded by their enemy’s armada. Perhaps they can flee if someone infiltrates the First Order flagship and hacks their computers, with the aplomb of a Cambridge Analytica Facebook App. Ex-Storm Trooper Finn volunteers to find a code breaker who is up to the task. He begins his search on a casino world, ably assisted by his new yandere girlfriend Rose.

VERDICT

I am awarding Star Wars: The Last Jedi a two and a half out of five. Despite the lengthy 152 minute running time I can’t say that the movie ever bored me. I was however underwhelmed by how the script squandered the potential set up by its predecessor. Director Rian Johnson inherited a story packed with juicy mysteries, but chose not to explore any of them. The question of Rey’s parentage was answered in a most anticlimactic manner. Meanwhile audiences hoping to learn of Snoke’s backstory will find nothing here. Just like Darth Maul, this villain looks sinister but doesn’t have much substance. I suppose the character’s origins will be left for novels and spin-offs to expand.

Just like The Force Awakens, this movie recycles material from the original trilogy. AT-AT Walkers on a snowy battlefield, a protagonist training under an eccentric master and heroes ending the movie on the ropes all harken back to Empire. One thing that really bugged me was Luke’s portrayal. I understand that people get grouchier with age, but Skywalker’s personality shift was too much. He’s completely apathetic to the plight of his friends and family, just because he discovered that his nephew is a bit emo. Let’s hope that J.J. Abrams can salvage this mess in Episode IX. Otherwise, I too may join the despondent ranks of Kylo Ren by moping about, dressing in black and listening to Simple Plan tunes.

Review of Thor: Ragnarok

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When it comes to dysfunctional families the Norse gods of Marvel’s cinematic universe are tough to beat. Odin and Thor have a strained relationship, to put it mildly, and Loki doesn’t get on with the thunder deity either. The god of mischief lives up to his reputation by routinely betraying his brother. In Thor: Ragnarok we learn that Thor has a long lost sister named Hela. She is the goddess of death and has returned from exile with aspirations of claiming the vacant Asgardian throne. Hela’s thirst for conquest will put her at loggerheads with Thor, who seems to be blighted with unruly relatives.

OVERVIEW

Don’t let the movie’s title fool you, a substantial chunk of Thor: Ragnarok takes place outside of Asgard. After getting trounced by Hela, a hammerless Thor ends up marooned on the alien world of Sakaar. The planet’s ruler is a nutty chap named Grandmaster (who is played by Jeff Goldblum, who appears to have walked on set wearing his morning gown.) Grandmaster enslaves Thor and forces him to compete in mortal combat. In effect Thor is now a gladiator, who fights against other gladiators, in a gladiator arena… just like that Ridley Scott movie whose name I cannot recall.

Thor: Ragnarok boasts a star-studded lineup. Many of the big names are limited to brief appearances though. That’s what happens when 130 minutes has to be rationed out between such a big cast. Benedict Cumberbatch’s reprisal of Dr Strange is constrained to a cameo. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is relegated from nemesis to comic relief. If you came to watch a memorable performance from Karl Urban, I “dredd” to inform you that he is nothing more than Hela’s lackey. I didn’t mind that Mark Ruffalo barely featured in human form though. I found the chattier CGI Hulk to be more entertaining than his alter ego Bruce Banner.

VERDICT

My rating for this motion picture is a Thor out of five. Overall I would have to say that Ragnarok is a big improvement over its predecessor Thor: Dark World. If you enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy I imagine you will like Ragnarok too. Both films deliver on sci-fi spectacle, tons of action and lashings of humour. If anything, the script was a little too saturated with gags. Most of the jokes are hilarious, but there were some moments of slapstick that missed their mark. Another grievance I had, with the witticisms, is that on a couple of occasions the mood was ruined by an out of place quip.

I’ll conclude by saying that the ladies acquitted themselves well. Hela is just a generic Marvel villain, who looks like a blade wielding Maleficent. Cate Blanchett made the role work though, with an over the top portrayal that is cartoonishly evil. Tessa Thompson also did a good job as the booze swilling Valkyrie. As someone who loves blondes, I was disappointed to see that Valkyrie doesn’t resemble a traditional Scandinavian war maiden. Tessa did however match the boys when it came to fisticuffs. She’s actually tougher than some of the guys (Loki and Banner I am looking at you.) Okay, I take that back. Banner is a badass. Best not to upset him with insults. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.