17 June 2018

Incredibles 2

Pixar/Disney has another hit! A crowd-pleaser for all ages that was entertaining, funny, exciting and unrelenting in its pacing and action. However, writer/director Brad Bird apparently got lazy, the plotting was highly predictable and all sorts of tropes were thrown in with nary a sparked of originality. And it all led to a narrative that lacked the emotional weight that made the original such an insta-classic, but at least we some great action sequences/directing and Michael Giacchino’s best score in ages. 

As aforementioned, the story was highly unoriginal. Every beat of the story line was predictable and nothing was refreshing or given a new spin. That being said, most audience would still eat it up - especially the younger ones - but the laughs were not as big, there were not any standout lines/sequences and the emotional beats just seemed perfunctory and unearned. 

Some of the early action sequences were superbly directed by Bird and closely reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s fluid directing in “Tintin” and “Ready Player One”. They had fluidity and an unrelentless kinetic energy which really drove the action. 

However, when the action got bigger in the last act, that fluidity got lost and instead we were left with a big ensemble piece mashed with quick edits/cuts held together by Giacchino’s brilliant score. 

This was Giacchino’s best score in a long time. The Incredibles’ jazzy/uptempo score effectively carried the drama and the action, and bolstered the comedy and the tension. The final, end credits suite was such a delightful summary of the preceding 118 minutes! This will surely score Giacchino another Oscar nomination. 

The voice cast was mainly the same as 14 years ago and was again spot on. Holly Hunter - with her distinctive rasp - took on a bigger role, and Craig T Nelson effectively showed his undermined masculinity. Thankfully, they kept the teenage angst from Violet to a minimum while Dash’s personality still has not developed beyond “the kid brother”. And Samuel L Jackson is just Samuel L Jackson. 

But, the breakout star of this sequel was definitely Jack Jack, and maybe just because he does not speak and everybody loves babies. 

This animation was great fun but sentimentality may have had coloured the lens. Regardless, it was definitely one film for the whole family and may still get Pixar/Disney another Oscar. 

The short-animation film tagged to the front - "Bao” - was an odd little animation that seemed so different from Pixar’s usual. Not because of the character(s), but it had an oddly dark undertone which - this being Disney - never really came into fruition. 

9 June 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom [IMAX/3D]

The latest in this never-ending franchise, helmed by Spanish director J.A. Bayona, proved that a good director can always be let down by a hamfisted and over-ambitious script, and also by leads that lacked chemistry together. Christ Pratt is an enigmatic lead actor: he has the charisma but not the acting chops; Bryce Dallas Howard - this time with sensible footwear - has still not found another breakout role since her The Village days.

The first and third acts were good, with great action sequences and moments of gorgeous cinematography and imagery (by cinematographer Oscar Faura), but it was really the second act which was the film's Achilles' heel. Writers Collin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly were over-ambitious in their attempt to intellectualise the film/franchise, but the execution and outcome was ultimately one of caricature over-simplicity. The pseudo-philosophical approach into ethics and morality was briefly broached but never bravely explored which then left the question of why even bring it up in the first place.

There was a strong dissonance between the producers and the creative forces on what they wanted this film, and the franchise, to be. And in the end, it was the final product that suffered which ended up being unsure if it wanted to be an all-out summer, popcorn, blockbuster flick or an intellectual summer, sci-fi thriller.

However, to Bayona's credit, and taking the preposterous and contrived elements out, there were some great scary and tensed moments reminiscent of his superb directorial breakout in The Orphanage. Similarly, all the rain-soaked settings showed us that Bayona still excelled out in the elements after his terrific work in The Impossible.

And like in The Impossible, Bayona showed that he has an ability to cast and direct his child-actors. Then we had a young Tom Holland, and now in JW:FK, Isabella Sermon will be a young actress to watch out for (Squirrel Girl anybody?).

Pratt should be thankful he was cast as Star Lord as the franchise is really not working out for him (but after Avengers: Infinity War he seemed to be losing the popularity vote there too).

Howard remained, as in the first film, a damsel to prop up the masculinity of Pratt's character.

The score was again by Michael Giacchino, and also like the first film, was a disappointment as it was again highly incongruous with the action on screen.

There is a great concept hidden within the story of this entry and perhaps the best way to explore it is to get away from the franchise and its baggage. Either that or totally embrace its horror/thriller/sci-fi roots.

IMAX was great this film, but not so much the 3D. Stay to the end for short end-credits sequence.

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep

This was unexpectedly good. It was not Oscar-winning good, but it was a thoroughly entertaining horror-thriller. Kudos to writer/director...