Friday 30 September 2016

Movie Review - Bridget Jones's Baby

Bridget Jones's Diary garnered immense backlash during production at the casting of ReneĆ© Zellweger to play a much loved British literary character, but the end result proved to be naught but harsh judgement - her performance in the role is widely deemed one of the best in a recent English comedy, and even though the film's less-than-inspired sequel didn't meet the same expectations the original had set, her talent in the main role still shone without a doubt. Now, twelve years since said lacklustre sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, arrives a random yet surprisingly well made third installment in the form of Bridget Jones's Baby - the title of which will already grab the attention of fans.

Bridget's relationship with the now married Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) may have thrived at the end of the previous film, but now she is left single once more as things didn't work out, with her other former lover Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) sporadically believed to be killed in a tragic plane crash. Egged on by her friends to be with someone once again (or at least in someone's bed), Bridget finds herself soon sleeping with wealthy relationship expert Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), only to then briefly reunite with Mark in the midst of his much desired divorce. Following her affairs, she finds herself pregnant, with not only a hectic chase to find out who the father really is kicking off, but also a struggle inside her (no pun) to find out whom she truly loves deep down.

Zellweger's distinct charm in the role hasn't vanished even over a decade on, with equally clever writing in place to give her plenty to work with - her memorable voice is there, as is the rebellious yet idiotic nature of the character which leads to a number of hilarious situations. Despite some initial strange plot decisions as things get going, it's a relief to see that this Bridget Jones is much closer to its original basis than its lousy predecessor, focusing equally on a degree of narrative robustness over mindnumbing silliness. That's not to say silliness isn't present - however, it's of course needed for such a character, and just as in the first film, it's executed nicely, delivering plenty of laughs with a stream of physical and verbal gags. Many of said gags also poke fun at more modern pop culture traditions, considering it's been twelve years since the last film, be it with politics or technology, for equally hilarious results.

The performances from series regulars Zellweger and Firth are as funny as ever, and newcomer Patrick Dempsey is especially impressive in his likeable role, despite occasional hiccups in consistency. He, Zellweger, and Firth consequently form a hilarious yet strangely touching (as we near the climax...again no pun) love triangle, which grows and grows with Bridget's bulge. Perhaps its greatest flaws include some sporadic (and poorly conveyed) time jumps, an occasionally annoying performance by Sarah Solemani, and I wasn't truly satisfied with the ending in all honesty; in spite of this, Bridget Jones's Baby is a huge improvement over The Edge of Reason, and definitely worthy of its existence despite being so late on arrival.

Sunday 25 September 2016

Movie Goofs - Jurassic Park III (2001)

The Jurassic Park series, despite being of the most treasured in film history, isn't really one of the highest ranking from a critical perspective; it's only the original that has garnered widespread acclaim, while its sequel, even the recent more Jurassic World, receiving generally mixed reactions overall.

The third entry is seen by most as the very worst and is also the lowest grossing at the box office; and, of course, is one that boasts a plethora of daft plot holes within its tacky narrative...,

  • The Kirby's method of getting Alan Grant to follow them onto the island involved the them faking a huge family business when, in actual fact, all they do is run a small plumbing company. As a result, a cheque they penned to Grant to bribe him into coming with them is of course rendered useless, but this all leads to one curious query: why on Earth did Grant not research this so called "Kirby Enterprises" conglomerate and actually cash in the fake cheque before going on this dangerous mission? That would've saved him an awful lot of hassle...
  • Referring back to this, the reason the Kirby's decided to bring Grant with them is because they thought he knew the island inside out due to his previous ordeals. Except, well, one key problem: Grant was in fact on the other dinosaur island, Isla Nublar, during said ordeals. Grant published a book regarding the experience so it wouldn't have been too hard to learn this. The Kirby's even mention that Grant's book is what convinced them that he's the right man, which just further exemplifies their irrational idiocy.
  • Bellowing into a megaphone as loud as possible isn't the smartest thing one should do while on an island full of free roaming, man eating dinosaurs. The character's do eventually acknowledge this, but to be perfectly willing to do it in the first place is absolutely moronic.
  • The Spinosaurus, strangely desparate to chase the main characters endlessly despite having much bigger things to hunt and snack on, is able to ram through a barbed, incredibly thick steel fence with no visible wounds or injuries. That's ridiculous enough, but this ludicrous strength suddenly tanks as its efforts to smash apart a rusty old door outside a rusty old building fail miserably. 

  • The invincibility of the satellite phone is absolutely absurd. After being swallowed up by the Spinosaurus, it's still audible from within the dinosaur's belly and from a great distance, and even still functional once pulled out of the dinosaur's soaking wet excrement god knows how many hours later. Perhaps it's a Nokia of some sort...there's no other explanation one can fathom really.
  • After reacquiring this strange looking Nokia device, Alan calls Ellie for help and she immediately obliges, somehow managing to convince the Navy and Air Force to send as much of their squad as possible to rescue a bunch of nobodies who willingly and illegally went to the forbidden dinosaur island. Why would they even bother?
  • Why does a man stand on the beach before the arrival of the military just to call out the names of the main characters? It's an amusing reveal but doesn't quite make sense. Could you imagine watching them devise a plan involving a man wandering onto a dinosaur ridden island and yelling as loud as he could, completely unaided or without protection? And him being totally cool with it?
  • Such a relaxing finale: John Williams' memorable score, the gorgeous sunset, and three pterosaurs who just tried to drown and feed the characters to their babies soaring off into the horizon to "find a new nesting grounds", as Grant says with a pleased look. Why nobody is not even a little bit concerned about this is beyond me. So are we cool with letting savage cloned dinosaurs live amongst us now?

Thanks for reading!

Thursday 15 September 2016

Movie Review - The BFG

Easily the most well known filmmaker of all time, Steven Spielberg has tackled all sorts of genres, with mostly superb results: from family friendly classics such as E.T. to genre establishing thrillers such as Jaws, Spielberg's works have also gone on to create flourishing franchises of all kinds and render him one of the film industry's most financially pleasing as well as creatively compelling directors.

He's had a few a disappointments, which has to be expected in such a huge filmography, but this year's The BFG is likely one of the most upsetting and surprising to date - thanks to mediocre box office takings and a general mixed response from audiences.

Based on the Roald Dahl book published in 1982, the story involves lonely orphan Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), who is whisked away from her orphanage by the titular gentle giant (Mark Rylance) when she catches sight of him during his midnight work - delivering and capturing dreams as people sleep. Fearing that returning Sophie home will risk exposure of himself and his homeland of Giant Country, the BFG decides to keep her as a companion, and the two form an unlikely friendship over time which soon leads to their eventual quest to rid Giant Country of the man eating monsters that dwell within it.

The most notable thing about the film at first glance is its extensive use of CGI to create the BFG himself, the Giant Country around him, and the other man eating beasts living in it. Rather than being animated purely from scratch, the BFG, as well as the other giants, are created using motion capture techniques - whilst this is certainly a tad creepy at first glance, it actually makes for some impressive results. Mark Rylance's performance is full of visible effort; he captures the vocal tone and the speech pattern of the BFG perfectly, and his expressions, as well as the effects generated around them, are just as believable. What is a shame, however, is that the BFG's overall characterization simply doesn't live up to the character's standards - he really doesn't seem that friendly from the get go, more like a miserable old man. This trait goes on for far too long, making him eventually dull and somewhat unlikeable, no matter how much talent Rylance clearly shows.

It's strangely not until the film nears its finale that his truly friendly side comes to fruition, which, again, leads to an unlikeable central character for a large portion of the story. When it comes to Barnhill as Sophie - well, considering this is her first major film, she is extremely talented, injecting plenty of humour and genuine emotion into her performance to render the character as a charming protagonist. Her physical integration into the CGI effects as she enters the Giant Country is truly superb, seamlessly generated and highly polished. But these passionate performances (even against weak characters) and amazing visuals can't then save the pacing of the story. The direction doesn't feel like the confidence of Spielberg whatsoever; he's crafted something that's often boring, overlong, and extremely sluggish, with a multitude of unnecessary scenes that serve no purpose but to drag out an underwritten narrative. Such rushed pacing also leads to a lack of emotional exploration during scenes that truly ask for it - too often major things happen, and you think it will result in a tender moment, but it's shrugged off and things move on as if nothing happened. It's truly a shame, as Spielberg was apt for the job considering the source material, but he just doesn't pull it off here; the end result is a boring experience that genuinely made me feel drowsy a few times the more it went on.

Sunday 11 September 2016

Birthday at the Railway

Another birthday, another egotistical blog post - two days ago I turned 22, meaning all the big omgwow numbers (16, 18, 21...) are now behind me. Ageing will now be an unremarkable thing with no accolades to reach. Well, it was always that to me anyway.

This year I've done many things on a week off work. For a start, on September 6, I went to the Mid Hants Railway for the first time in years, and on one of my first visits that wasn't a Day Out With Thomas event. It truly is beautiful to witness, all of these steam locomotives - while of course you wouldn't really wish they were still in service instead of diesels/electrics as the latters are much faster and your journeys would consequently be fairly unbearable, the intricacy and detail is something you just don't see in said modern locomotives. The railway itself is equally beautiful - it was originally used to transport locally grown watercress to London, hence it's Watercress Line brand name, whilst also providing regular passenger services between there and Southampton. The views you see as you journey across rural Hampshire are stunning to say the least, and while on quiet days it can be easy to get a tad bored, you'll find much to love especially in the Ropley station where the loco yard resides - allowing you to view all the current locomotives up close, even during refurbishments, as well as rooms containing trivia and historical information on the world of steam traction. Some parts feel a bit worn out and dull, especially the shops, but this is still a place that provides a calm, relaxing outing for those fond of the subject matter.

In London, I did several things, including visits to the Natural History Museum (and their Colour and Vision) exhibit, the Bond in Motion exhibit at the London Film Museum, and the Revolution exhibit at the V&A Museum - culminating with a viewing of the much loved The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre. I first saw it on a school trip in 2011, and for those who haven't seen it and are interested in any way, I recommend it without hesitation - despite it's play within a play twist, it's by far the most faithful retelling of the novel, with both films (much as I love the 1989 one) making too many changes to really be dubbed loyal adaptations. Relying on just two main actors, the play is a resourceful and well paced ghost story that cleverly brings the novel to life without the need for excessive theatrical effects or gimmicks - less is more in this definite masterpiece, and to say it'll scare you is surely an understatement.

Present wise isn't important this year, as my gifts in general was this amazing series of outings shared with my other half. The aforementioned museum tours were equally as remarkable, particularly that of the NHM, which is easily one of my favourite places on the planet - thanks to how interactive and involving it's exhibits are, as opposed to just being bland models and pictures with text slapped in front of them. The Bond in Motion exhibit, while a little short, is also pretty sweet, giving you a viewing of all of the vehicles used in the original Bond films, from the original classics to those even used in Spectre. You also get a chance to have your photo taken in a cheesy 007 format - we gave it a go...what do you think

Plus, I will be seeing Southampton play Sparta Prague as part of the Europa League on September 15 as another gift of sorts, so let's hope it doesn't turn out to be as miserable as their recent efforts have been. Much as I love them, a key part of me can't help feeling it will be...

Thanks for reading!

Saturday 3 September 2016

Movie Review - Sausage Party

When it comes to adult animated entertainment at the cinema, little is present, and what is available is often the product of franchises such as The Simpsons or South Park, which hold lengthy heritage in the world of television. With this year's Sausage Party, an ensemble work from directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan and co-writer/producer Seth Rogen, a new milestone in cinema has been reached: the first R rated CGI animated flick in history, and something that may be set to continue thanks to its respectable success from a critical and commercial perspective as well as ongoing interest from audiences and producers alike.

Sausage Party takes place within the supermarket of Shopwell's, where the anthropomorphic food products within eagerly await the day they are purchased and taken to "the great beyond", a mythical paradise residing outside the shop doors. One such item is the hot dog sausage Frank (Seth Rogen) who, alongside his hot dog bun girlfriend Brenda (Kristen Wiig), dreams of the day he to is bought by the "gods" and taken to his long awaited great beyond. When his dream is nearly complete, a terrible incident leaves him lost and outside a package on the shop floors alongside Brenda and several other newly met companions, soon after they discover that the great beyond may not be as heavenly as they thought it to be.

The film then follows Frank and the others on their journey to return to safety whilst also discovering the truth behind "the great beyond" - essentially, as many plot summaries have implied, it leads the foods' own discovery of how they are indeed devoured by the human "gods" once purchased. What has to be mentioned immediately is that Sausage Party is incredibly, incredibly offensive and profane - the trailers indicate this with a few F bombs and some generic foul lingo, but this is extremely tame compared to what the entire film has to offer. Indeed, the amount of swearing is insane, but it also has a great time with rapid references to sex, drugs, and god knows how many other offensive gags that exploit all sorts of stereotypes and taboos. It's going to offend some people for sure, but this is more than a brainless slew of grotesque remarks and references - there is wit behind it all, and the comedic timing adds an effective, increased layer of shock value to a number of already messed up jokes, thus making the film an especially enjoyable watch in a crowded cinema.

Funded by a $19 million budget, the CGI animation provided by Nitrogen Studios (among several other studios) is of course not going to rival the innovation and realism of Pixar or Dreamworks, but this is clearly not an intended goal - and the cartoony, light hearted visual style suits the tone of the film perfectly, and, in fact, there is still a surprising level of richness when it comes to textural detail and character fluidity considering the film's lower budget. The ensemble cast made up of, just to name a few key stars, Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Edward Norton, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco, and countless other talents bring further life to an already hilarious script and a lineup of suitably bizarre characters; perhaps the film's major weakness is its excessive reliance on sex references as we approach its final act, which eventually morphs from humourous to a little too uncomfortable, particularly when you consider the design of the characters themselves. Sausage Party as a whole is far from a masterpiece, and I wouldn't dub it one of the most "memorable" films in recent times - that is, it provides a good laugh during initial viewing, but may not leave a huge lasting impression on most viewers. But, what it aims to offer it offers well - a briskly paced and laugh a minute animated adventure with a unique storyline and likeable characters.