6.24.2016

Sharks n Aliens

Independence Day: Resurgence doesn't deserve a typical review where I keep you in suspense for the first paragraph to let you know whether it's good or not. So I'll just let you know right here from the get-go that this movie is absolutely terrible...if not one of the worst movies of the year and one of the worst blockbusters of recent memory. If you love movies that induce headaches from mind-numbing idiocy, then this movie is for you! Also out today is a movie called The Shallows that may be just as dumb but twice as fun. I'll give you my briefest of brief thoughts on both. Let's start with former.

In Resurgence, 20 years have passed since the events of Independence Day.  The world has lived in peace all this time and advanced far in technology after learning from all the junk the aliens left behind (and yet, a 90s computer was able to beat those aliens with a virus...makes sense.) Now, a new president is faced with a tough decision when an unknown spacecraft appears to be a threat to earth and from there an incomprehensible and stupid story begins to unfold.  Plot specifics aren't necessary here because there's really not much to this film besides aliens attack earth...again. But surely it can't be that bad right? Wrong. The characters here are all essentially cardboard cut-outs and everything is lifeless. I was bored out of my mind during this movie. Watching every battle scene I felt I might as well be watching a video game as there was absolutely no suspense for any peril that any character faced. I could go more in depth on the ranting if I wanted to, but frankly it's not worth the energy. EMILY RATING: 1.5/10 


Now for The Shallows where Blake Lively stars as a woman caught between a rock and a hard place. In this case, a "hard place" being a shark-filled ocean. It's basically Castaway meets Jaws, with even less rhyme or reason than those two films may at times be accused of. As with Jaws, the shark in The Shallows is thirsty for killing and more powerful than seems reasonable. But here, it seems that the unbelievability of its power is amped to incredulous levels.  Is this movie every bit as dumb as Independence Day: Resurgence? Probably....but it pretty much owns its B-movieness. Plus perhaps the most merciful difference is that it's an hour shorter, making it a lot harder to feel bored during its shark-filled proceedings. It kinda revels in its absurdity as opposed to taking it seriously, so it's a lot easier to have fun with. So no, I wouldn't call The Shallows a good movie, but it was an entertaining one...which was a lot more than I can say for Resurgence. EMILY RATING: 6.5/10


6.17.2016

Forgetting Dory


It's kind of fitting that the character who Finding Dory centers around suffers from short-term memory loss since her movie is so darn forgettable. Wait now, Emily. Surely you can't be talking about the long-awaited sequel to the beloved Pixar classic Finding Nemo. That movie has 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. You must have seen a different movie. Perhaps I did because I must say upfront that I'm finding the overwhelming love to this film to be both surprising and confusing. As I'm the minority on this issue, I'm sure those expecting to love this movie still will....but let me address some of the good and the bad.

Right from the beginning we're introduced to the baby version of our forgetful Dory as her parents desperately try to teach her how to survive in case something ever happens and they're not there. After that, the film quickly picks up where Finding Nemo left off as recently returned Nemo is back settling into routine life wherever it was in the ocean they lived (I'm guessing Florida.) Shortly after, Dory has a flashback to her parents she lost and she's determined to find them, but she knows she can't do it alone. Marlin, feeling he needs to pay Dory back for her help during the events of Nemo reluctantly agrees and they start their journey across the ocean. Again.

The film often switches back and forth between the flashbacks as Dory's memories are sparked through her journey. I could tell Pixar wanted so badly for me to just fawn all over the baby Dory, but my appreciation never came and I couldn't shake my disconnect to the whole adventure until halfway through the movie. I was glad they didn't completely copy Nemo and make the whole film about the journey through the ocean...yet by glossing over it, as they did, it almost felt like a disservice at the same time. To accomplish something that took a whole film last go around, they do in about 5 minutes here. I get the writers conundrum in not wanting to duplicate the exact formula, and I might have been more appreciative if some truly creative material followed. Instead, the endless callbacks to everything everyone loved the first time get old pretty quickly and the majority of the plot was just useless conflict after useless conflict. It kinda felt like they amplified the dentist portion of the plot from Nemo and thought of different ways fish could be separated from one another and called it a day. Honestly, I was pretty over it by the time there were like 5 more conflicts still to overcome.

"Let's have Dory speak whale again. Everyone loved that the first time." - An example of the ideas coming out of the pitch room for Dory.

Was that a lot of ranting? Probably. But truth be told, I didn't even laugh until about an hour in. There were two sequences I genuinely liked....only to realize later that night that one of them was directly ripped off from their own earlier work in Toy Story 3 (ie the scene where Dory and her new octopus acquaintance are trapped in the kids touching exhibit, seemed almost identical to the kids daycare scene in Toy Story 3 where all the toys are extremely traumatized with how rough the children treated them.) That said...it's a pleasant enough film and a lot better than most animated kids films, and it will be enjoyable to many people ...particularly those who don't gripe over some of the things that I do. After all, the film is stunning to look at, and as a 3D experience, it was pretty cool to see the depths of the ocean. But as someone who admired the first one's creativity enough, it's sad to see Pixar turn in such an uninspired work (and incredibly puzzling to see such praise for it.) When sequels are ordered rather than organic, it really shows...and try as Pixar might to give us something new and original they just can't deliver because the heart wasn't there.  EMILY RATING: 6/10

6.10.2016

Conjury's Out?


James Wan's The Conjuring, released in 2013, was one of the best horror movies of the 21st century. It revitalized the genre on a general audience scale and honestly was much needed! So of course, naturally success brings sequels and spinoffs. First was Annabelle, the spinoff origin story of the creepy doll that was featured in The Conjuring. Annabelle did pretty well at the box office, considering its modest budget, but it wasn't critically welcomed, and the public also generally felt that it was far inferior to the film it spun off of. Fast forward two years from Annabelle, and three from The Conjuring, and we find ourselves at the release of the direct sequel The Conjuring 2. As I discussed in my Insidious 2 review, horror sequels don't really have the best track record...so will it be possible for lightning to strike twice?

The first Conjuring was based on the case files of real-life ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren. These fictionalized subjects of real life people make a natural fit for a horror franchise to be built around because since they've been involved with a lot of crazy happenings, there's so much material to draw from. And that is exactly what James Wan did when coming up with a sequel; he combed through the creepiest stories to tell the best one he thought he could. The Conjuring 2 is all about a haunting in an apartment in Enfield, England by a crotchety old man. Early on, you wonder how dangerous he really is, since all he's using his powers for is to change the channel on the telly to the program he wants to watch. Seems like a regular old codger to me! Soon we find him to be more sinister with every incident that goes on, and outside help will be needed to put this family who has been haunted, back together. 

James Wan is such a talented horror director. So many scenes play out so artfully and with purpose. It's like you can just see a master at work. Several times throughout the film moments just seem orchestrated to result in the perfect scare. That said, not all scares are created equal, and some definitely felt pretty throwaway, just to give the audience a jolt. There's nothing really wrong with that, but it's just the type of conditioning that makes general audiences feel like all horror movies need to be jumpy ones, instead of slow burners they can't appreciate like The Witch. Also regarding some of the scares, some of the CGI really felt out of place to me and took me out of the film. I appreciated the concept of what they were going for in two particular places, but I'm not sure they pulled it off completely effortlessly. The other thing about some of these ghosts is that they seem much more Insidious and much less Conjuring. Maybe Wan is trying to create a shared cinematic universe here, but I just would prefer some of the stylistic choices of ghosts and demons to stay with Insidious and not spread to everything else James Wan does. 

But The Conjuring 2's strengths don't just lie with its director. Once again in its sequel, Ed and Lorraine Warren played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga are terrific in their roles, and play off of each other incredibly well. Whenever they're not on screen in The Conjuring 2, you desperately want them to find their way to where the action is so they can be a part of it. The supporting cast is all solid as well, without a false note among the bunch. Frances O'Connor as the fear-stricken mother, and Madison Wolfe as the daughter Janet, who ends up being the most tormented of the lot, in particular give fine performances. 




All in all, The Conjuring 2 is a good sequel. But there were just enough moments that had me thinking "this just isn't as flawless as the first." I wish I had had the chance to see it twice before I posted the review, because maybe my rating could move up a little bit...but on first impression I have to rate it with my gut. EMILY RATING: 7.5/10

6.03.2016

Ninja Turtles Before You

Welp. This has to be one of the strangest double review pairings I've done in recent memory. Out now is the sequel to the 2014 Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the adaptation of a popular romantic novel Me Before You. We'll go with Turtles first.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is so unbelievably stupid. It is absolutely preposterous...but I can't deny that I was stupidly entertained the entire time. Trust me, I'm not proud of this, but I did have a really fun time laughing at the absurdity of this movie. But when I wasn't laughing my heart was weeping for poor Laura Linney, that her career has amounted to her giving inspirational speeches in front of a green screen, imagining teenage mutant ninja turtles by her side. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU LAURA LINNEY???

I'll be honest, I'm pretty much a novice when it comes to TMNT. I definitely saw the cartoons and old movies, but all I remember from the those was silly turtles who loved to eat pizza and exclaim "Cowabunga dude!" But the villains and who is who? I couldn't even try to explain this plot to you if I tried. But no matter; the plot really isn't important in a movie like this. At least, the filmmakers don't seem to think so. In fact, I'm pretty sure they were making this up as they went...they just happened to be more canonically minded than the last go round where they did the same thing. So yeah. Out of the Shadows is far more entertaining than it's predecessor, but let's be honest that's not saying a lot. This isn't a good film by any stretch of the imagination--that cannot be stressed enough, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good guilty pleasure. EMILY RATING: 5/10


Now for a film whose plot I can describe! Me Before You tells the story of Louisa Clark and how her life changes when she becomes the caretaker for the physically paralyzed Will Trainer. Though they get off on the wrong foot (I mean who doesn't these days?) they eventually cannot deny the sparks between them, and Louisa (Lu for short,) is determined to show bitter Will that life is worth living.

Me Before You is an incredibly charming and surprisingly very funny film that unfortunately suffers some fatal flaws.  Firstly it's obvious that some key character and plot development were smoothed over during the adaptation process that would have made the film a lot stronger. For example, both character's arcs of falling for one another are not equally portrayed. While Sam Claflin's Will gets to show his changing feelings with ease, Emilia Clarke's Lu is so warm and friendly it's hard to tell when exactly her feelings shift from platonic to "I can't live without you." Luckily Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke have enough chemistry to make up the difference, but still a few scenes here and there could have fleshed things out greatly.

Mild vague spoilers in this paragraph: Also, as everyone deduced from watching this trailer, the film is intended to be a tearjerker, so a tragic ending shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone....but still the film's ending is a huge bummer. I won't say anything further about that or go into specifics but.... it was really certainly divisive. Now back to the trailer which I mentioned a moment ago. Another thing this film struggles to overcome is its trailer which showed way too much of the movie. If you've seen the trailer, unfortunately you know a cliff notes version of the film. That's not saying they showed all the best parts... there are plenty of great moments to discover in the film, there just isn't many surprises as to where the story will go next.

I'm very split on this film. I certainly enjoyed the journey, but I didn't so much care for the destination. I think the fact that Sam Claflin and Emilia Clarke are so likable they allow you to forgive a lot. Still, I just can't help but feel that this movie could have been a lot better as an adaptation and as a romance. EMILY RATING: 7/10