Independence Day: Resurgence – A worthy sequel.

Spoiler Scope: This review talks about the themes of the movie, without giving any major plot points away.

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Plot Summary: Twenty years after the original Independence Day, humans have adopted the  alien technology for their own purposes, and have built impressive defenses including a moon base. This is to no avail, the aliens come back bigger and more dangerous than ever.

I have a good strategy for New Years resolutions. All resolutions I set, are such that I can do them once, and tick them off. That is – I don’t make resolutions to quit smoking, or to go for a run every week. These run the risk of losing motivation, if one isn’t able to keep up with the resolution.

Watching this movie was one of my New Years resolutions, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get to watch it in the cinema. The movie apparently didn’t do particularly well, and it seemed it was gone after two weeks.

However I did watch it in bed, at about 1am on a Saturday night.

For all the negative reviews this movie got (32% on Rotten Tomatoes), I thought this was a good movie.

The bits I would criticise, would be the campy performances by the younger actors, the cliched romance between a couple of the fighter pilots, and general movie cliches and tropes abound, that generally took me out the moment.

But one doesn’t watch a movie like Independence Day for an original and thought provoking plot. One watches it for an impressive and spectacular depiction of an alien invasion.

And that – the movie did do well.

From depictions of alien-human hybrid weaponry, experiencing space debris impacting a craft’s shields, to seeing the deaths of aliens – it was a visceral and well played experience.

Sure, the movie was cheesy, though in fairness, so was the original, and for that it can’t really warrant a 9/10 or more.

But I would venture that this movie sets the standard for depictions of aliens and sci-fi for this decade. I can’t think of any movies that have done it better.

Bottom line: I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this movie. I found it intense and engaging.

 

 

 

Movie Review: Sicario

Spoiler Scope: The final part of the review discusses some end of movies spoilers. This section is separated by a photo.

Summary: What might have been a generic but well done action thriller, was spoiled by an annoying attempt to be profound.

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This movie annoyed me enough to write a review of it.

The movie is a fairly generic gritty, the-lines-of-morality-are-blurred action thriller. Think the Mexican Drug War version of Training Day.

The movie does a good job of it’s gritty tone. The violence is quick and explicit – enough to be shocking and realistic and factual, but not dwelling on it enough to be gratuitous.

It features images of bodies hanging from over bridges, which is something that happens in real life and the movie is effective in raising awareness of a war on the United States border that kills more than 10,000 people every year.

However, the plot is not particularly believable, and it uses the Mexican Drug War plot more as a vehicle for creating it’s tone, rather than being a serious thought provoking thriller.

While watching this movie, I was thinking that I was happy enough to have watched the movie and not write a review.

However:

Spoilers past this point. 

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The last five minutes spoiled it for me.

After having gotten revenge by murdering the cartel leader and his family, the sympathisable bad guy finds our female protagonist in a motel room and forces her at gun point to sign a document saying that everything was done by the book, meaning he’ll get away with it.

This is one of the obvious plot devices in the film – the idea that this would work is absurd – the signature wouldn’t mean anything if after he left she immediately reported that she’d been coerced.

As he leaves out the parking lot, his back to her, she grabs her gun and points it at him. He turns, stares, she lowers it and he walks away.

The note the movie ends on is that the sole female character in the film is too weak to do the right thing.

The final scene shows a Mexican boy, who’s corrupt cop Mexican father we’ve seen be killed, play soccer with other kids. Some gunfire starts up in the background. They turn, listen for a bit, then resume playing.

These two scenes for me, turned the movie from a ‘don’t take this too seriously’ action thriller to a ‘we’re trying to make a profound point about the bleak and inevitable nature of this conflict and human weakness’. The way it’s done this is heavy handed and clumsy and comes across as forced.

The portrayal of the sole main female character annoyed me. The movie portrays her as a weak person who:

  • Cries after she shoots someone
  • Allows herself to be seduced by a cartel member hired to follow her.
  • Can’t bring herself to apprehend the antagonist at the end of the movie.

I appreciate that having a weak female character in a movie might have its place. In this movie it seemed not to serve any purpose, except for again reenforcing the bleak outlook conclusion they were making.

Movie Review: Total Recall (2012)

There are four elements that make a sci-fi movie like this good.

  1. A good scifi concept. In this case, memory implantation and ‘can we be sure our memories are real?’
  2. A good plot as a vehicle to explore the sci-fi concept.
  3. Good sci-fi city and techno scapes. A visual depiction of what our sci-fi context looks like. Keep it looking pretty.
  4. Action sequences to keep it interesting, so it’s not otherwise just dialog.

Often movies will just focus on the last two points, making a generic action movie set in whatever context – scifi, western, gritty gangster etc, without actually exploring a concept or telling an original story.

Unfortunately, Total Recall is one of these movies.

It starts out interesting enough, and very much mirrors the original Total Recall to start, right down to the original ‘bored guy decides to get Recall, and then turns out his wife is a bad guy’. There is the initial ‘Is this just a false memory, or is he really a spy?’ moments, but from there it’s just a generic action movie.

The movie is two hours and ten minutes long, which is far too long for a generic action movie.

The movie has its good moments, but that’s outweighed with it otherwise being pretty boring and predictable.

I give this movie a 4/10. Pretty, and some good moments, but perfectly missable.

Movie Review: Jurassic World

Spoiler scope: I may mention specific events that happen in this movie, but this kind of movie is pretty difficult to spoil.

In a few words: Sweet dinosaur action, I found it exciting. Lots of awful Hollywood tropes. Worth seeing at the movies if you’re into the action, would probably not be nearly as enjoyable at home.

I really enjoyed this movie. It had me on the edge of seat at times, and I loved some of the action scenes.

That said, this movie is riddled with awful Hollywood tropes, and seems a bit like a paint by numbers Hollywood movie (where they happened to get the animation and action scenes right), to the point where it could be mistaken for satire.

It stars a little boy (say about 10 years old?) and his slightly older brother (about 16?). This adds a moralistic element to the movie – it’s not just an awesome movie about dinosaurs attacking humans, there’s the lessons learned, a coming of age.

I found myself thinking ‘Couldn’t they just make the movie without this crap?’.

But actually I think I get it. The movie studio is out to maximise profit on this movie, so firstly, it can’t be an R rated movie, they simply don’t make as much money, which means no F-bombs or nudity in the movie. Secondly, you need to put kids in the movie, so it looks like a kid’s movie and the parents take the kids along to it.

I think the original Jurassic Park did this better. It had kids in it, but only as one facet of the story. This actually made it a bit more credible, as well as less sickly sweet.

The level of violence in the movie raised an interesting point, in going along with this family-friendly theme. In one scene all these flying dinosaurs have been released and they attack a large crowd of people.
I watched with close anticipation – in a family friendly movie do you show the wholesale slaughter of innocent people?
What they did was showed people being knocked over by the dinosaurs, or picked up and dropped; there was one shot that panned off where it looked like a guy was being pecked to death.
There was also an elaborate scene showing the kid’s babysitter being picked up by one of the flying dinosaurs, taken through the air, and then the giant sea dinosaur jumping out of its pool and eating her and the flying dinosaur. In the flying dinosaurs scene, this was the only explicit death of a innocent person.

I felt this was quite unfair to the babysitter – I think they should have built the babysitter up by making her quite mean to the kids, and this would have been a much more satisfying scene.

The movie also went to lengths to show how the park had been turned into this highly commercial theme park, full of crowds, screaming kids, and a detached experience. It showed several scenes demonstrating various dinosaurs being used as rides, or feeding.
This did have the effect of making me feel ill and over it.

One thing I enjoyed was they put in several references to the original movie. The original park is referenced several times, in hushed tones because it was a tragedy of course. The kids discover the old visitor’s centre, complete with the night vision goggles, and the original jeeps, which they get working.

Overall the dinosaur action scenes were very well done and enjoyable and made the movie enjoyable to watch, but at the time I couldn’t help thinking, ‘I wish they’d just make this an adult movie for the people who saw the original as kids, and leave the moral tale out of it’.