Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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There are spoilers in this review, you have been warned!
In the ever-anticipated sequel to the rebooted hit, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is enjoying being Spider-Man and all that that implies, including kicking butt and taking names. Now Peter suffers his greatest challenge yet, a nerdy shutout Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) who garners electric powers and turns evil, his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) who wants desperately to keep living using Spider-Man's blood, and the struggle of being in a relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), after giving a promise to her late father about keeping her safe.
I will just say for the record, I love Spider-Man. I do. I think he is possibly my favourite superhero both in the comics and the screen. And despite the obvious flaws in all three films, the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films were all highly enjoyable and I found good qualities in all three of the films (yet, even Spider-Man 3.) But then it was announced that a new director and new star were going to reboot the franchise, I had cold feet, and of course, upon watching it, it rubbed me the wrong way. The Amazing Spider-Man 1 wasn't what I would consider a "bad film" but it also wasn't nearly as inventive as what Sam Raimi pulled off.
One of my main criticisms was that Andrew Garfield played off Spider-Man as a cocky, arrogant prick throughout the film when he donned the disguise, destroying the essence of what I felt Spider-Man should be, a likeable everyman persona instead of acting like a jerk, and thankfully there is very little of that in the film. Maybe Marc Webb saw my review of The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and thought to change that up, but I doubt it.
And with all respect, I think Andrew Garfield is a great actor. He's not who I would have picked to play Spider-Man, but I think that he is a talented young man who has a bright future ahead of him. He's not bad as Spider-Man, but then again he's not brilliant. Emma Stone is your typical, nice, everyday sweet love interest, and it's nice that they don't make her useless and don't result to giving her "Megan Fox Syndrome" if you know what I mean. And Jamie Foxx is absolutely interesting in this role. I say this because despite having one of the most unique, super-cool designs that I've seen a villain have in a motion picture since Bane, it's the writing that goes back and forth. How are we supposed to root for the hero if we feel sympathy for the villain. Before he turns evil, you can't help but feel that Max Dillon just wants some attention and to be noticed, and that in the end, you kinda don't want him to be evil or even to die. And then treating him like he had no redeeming qualities in himself at all. Maybe if Electro had a redemption near the end of the film then it would work, but regardless I love the design. And while Dane DeHaan wasn't necessarily bad as Harry Osborn, I felt that it was completely pointless of him turning evil at the end. I mean, really the only purpose this served was to have two villains, and honestly it's not needed. There are plenty of great films in the past that had only one villain, Spider-Man 2 is a prime example. Regardless, Dane DeHaan is pretty good. All the other actors are fine in the roles that have been given to them.
And while this film certainly didn't garner as much hatred as the first film did, I don't think this is that big of an improvement upon the first one either. It just felt kinda dull. Not bad, but not necessarily good. The onscreen chemistry of Garfield and Stone was pretty good and I can't think of a moment in the film where I was bored or wanted it to end. The action scenes were a lot of fun to watch as well, but it feels like one of those Hollywood sequels where not a lot of effort was put into it, and considering that this came out the same year as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or How To Train Your Dragon 2 which were vast improvements upon the first installment, this one just kinda exists for now real purpose.
Hans Zimmer has some really beautiful chords throughout this film and the editing by Pietro Scalia was nice, but that's all I can really say about the film.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn't as outwardly mistake-riddled as the first Spider-Man, but it does improve upon several aspects while not improving the story or writing in general. Whereas Spider-Man 2 was an improvement upon the first and was even my favourite film of 2004 (yeah you heard me right), the other "2" Spider-Man film suffers, although the same mechanics could have made this a highly enjoyable film.
** out of ****
FINAL VERDICT: 52%
The young adult medium in Hollywood is really hit-or-miss. For every Hunger Games or Harry Potter, there's a Twilight or Percy Jackson. I will admit that even though I never heard of the Divergent book series by Veronica Roth, I thought that the film adaptations could make for interesting films.
In a futuristic Chicago, people live in several different factions according to their personalities. Abnegation for the selfless, Amity for the peaceful, Candor for the honest, Dauntless for the brave and Erudite for the intelligent. When the young adults come of age, they must complete a test in order to see which group they will live in for the rest of their lives. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) fits under an extremely rare faction. She's divergent, meaning that her way of thinking is different from everyone and she qualifies for more than just one faction. While living under dauntless and going from the bottom to the top, the government, headed up by Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) are on the hunt for said divergents.
Or something like that. Honestly, this film left me confused and lost at various points. The prologue confused me, and the climax confused me. The second act got more interesting, but there are a lot of questions left unanswered. Why is it that if these rare divergents are supposedly dangerous that there are so many people who are accepting of Beatrice? Why is it that some people go totally change without having a scene developing it? The writing seems fairly uneven throughout.
The acting is good. There's no horrible acting here, and yet there isn't really an Oscar-worthy performances. Even the great Kate Winslet seems to be holding back in a lot of scenes. Not really much to say on the acting in this film of course.
I get the feeling that director Neil Burger really wanted to pay homage to The Hunger Games franchise with these films, as these two films have a lot of similarities. However whereas Hunger Games had a very thought-provoking message about the government and the media, Divergent tries to put that in, and the idea is interesting, but it's the execution that has it stalls. It didn't go quite in the direction I thought it was going to be, but I still didn't like where it went. Maybe this was how Roth's book was, I don't know, I never read it, but if it is, that just makes me not want to read the book anymore.
A sort of Hunger Games Jr. without the killing, scope or essentials, Divergent tries to be thought-provoking, but ends up stalling. The confusing, albeit interesting premise showed promise, but it ends up just going under the lore of other young adult films that are just meh. It's not a terrible film, or as bad as I thought it was going to be, as it's production design and a few interesting scenes kept me interesting, but honestly I was just waiting for the film to end so I could sleep at several moments during the climax. Maybe this'll be up your alley if you thought The Hunger Games was too coarse for you, but this is one series I probably won't be coming back to anytime soon.
*1/2 out of ****
FINAL VERDICT: 38%
What a disaster, and I'm not talking about the flood.
Also, there are spoilers in this review.
As a Christian, I am always a little nervous whenever a filmmaker adapts a Biblical work into a feature film as, for the most parts, it is never factually accurate. I realize that with every adaptation of a book or any other written work that you must take SOME liberties in order for it to transition better to the screen. The word some doesn't mean that you have to what Darren Aronofsky did in his adaptation of the timeless Bible story, Noah.
This movie, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky, is unbelivably hypocritical. I happen to know the Noah story pretty much by heart as I grew up with it, and one of the most noticable flaws is that in the original story, Noah was the only faithful man living in a cruel, violent society, hence the reason why God picked him to build an ark where he, his family, and two of every animal will be safe from a global flood. This is all well and good, except in Aronofsky's film, Noah is chosen by "The Creator" to build an ark for... pretty much no reason, and he again lives in a violent society... BUT THEY HAVE HIM KILL PEOPLE!! So let me get this straight... Noah is devout and the outside world is violent and yet he in the movie commits the most violent and horrible of sins. And the fact that Noah is protected by these "watchers" who are apprently fallen angels, who in the original story went to Earth from heaven so they could have sex with the human women, and the women had kids called the Nephilim, which were the genesis of the violence in Noah's wicked world... Yeah, don't you see the problems there? I can accept the minor stuff, for example if those two major problems were averted but they kept other smaller minute things, then I would be accepting of this story. But alas this is not the case.
As you can probably tell, I am extremely frustrated with this film. How can someone screw a simple basic story like this so much? Mostly everything in the film is a giant misfire, and it also deviates from the story countless other ways that irked me, but if I said all of them, we'd be here for a while. I was hoping for a good rousing epic, but instead of a hypocritical mess that made me feel bad as a Christian watching it.
On the positive side, Russell Crowe does a good job like he always does and I must give the filmmakers props for drawing attention to the little known Biblical character Tubal-cain, who actually did exist, and Ray Winstone is pretty excellent as him, and the production design and costume design are nice to look at, and they actually got the design of the ark correct in this film. It's more of a box instead of a boat, which would make it better against the giant waves.
But all that stuff is nowhere near enough to make up for Noah's shortcomings. A messy excuse of a film that could have worked very well, if you did not have an atheist like Darren Aronofsky working on it. Maybe that should be a new law, atheists should not be allowed to make Biblical dramas. Though it had some slivers of good in it, and some pretty impressive visual effects as well, I say skip the movie and read the more factual and non-false story in the book of Genesis.
Oh and before I end this review, I just wanted to bring something up. I kept thinking of that Simpsons episode where Homer and Ned told the story of Noah for a Super Bowl half-time show. I can't believe that The Simpsons got the story of Noah more correct than this big-budget action movie. Ugh!
*1/2 out of ****
FINAL VERDICT: 25%
Ten years after the events of the first film, a disease known as "simian flu" which made Caesar (Andy Serkis) the uber-smart ape he is has caused almost the whole human population to die out. Caesar is now the leader of a flourishing community of apes living in California without even thought of humans for two years. That is until a small band of survivors venture into the apes' territory. Caesar and company pay the survivors a visit in what once was San Francisco. The co-leader of the humans, Malcolm (Jason Clarke) tries to reason with Caesar to use an abandoned hydro dam on the apes property so they can power the city, but the other leader Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) believes that they are nothing but animals and will attack soon. Similarly, the apes' co-head Koba (Toby Kibbell) believes that humans are all bad since he was tortured and kept in a cage all his life by humans, but Caesar being raised by humans, sees the good side in them, leading to a fragile peace between apes and humans, but Koba has some ulterior motives.
Like the first film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a thought-provoking piece of work. It leaves us wondering who is the most human. Director Matt Reeves does a very good job in showing the humanity and the compassion between the humans and the apes. He shows a fascinating, and heartbreaking portrayal of Caesar, played again brilliantly by Andy Serkis, as he learns to be a leader. It is such a fascinating moral dilemma and a thought-provoking study on war, peace and how we treat animals. The other moral issues are subtly woven throughout. Reeves also does a fine job in making the fuse simmer for the first two acts before going into a more than epic final action scene.
Like I mentioned before, Andy Serkis works wonders with Caesar. He shows his chops in every scene he's in, and the audience is totally invested in this character. Toby Kibbell is additionally terrific as the menacing Koba. Jason Clarke, Keri Russell, Gary Oldman and Kodi Smit-McPhee are all wonderful as the humans, as well as the other ape actors, Nick Thurston, Karin Konoval, Doc Shaw and Judy Greer, are just fantastic as well.
Of course, such a movie would not have worked without the slick VFX that it has. The mo-cap of all the actors as the apes are just beautiful to look at. Again, the team behind this film sure as hell deserves to win the Oscar, but will probably lose to Interstellar or something. Michael Giacchino's score is dark and reminiscent of the score of the original Planet of the Apes.
Whereas the first film was great, but flawed, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes elevates everything to the nth degree. An ape version of Empire Strikes Back, it would be nothing without the stellar visual effects, and a beautiful woven script evocative of a Shakespeare tragedy with thought-provoking ideals aplenty, and of course the fantastic acting from all the key players. I thought that How To Train Your Dragon 2 was the best sequel of 2014, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes may just give it a run of its money.
***1/2 out of ****
FINAL VERDICT: 92%