‘The Good Dinosaur’ film review

The Good Dinosaur is pretty great. It’s a Pixar movie, yes, but don’t expect the caliber of Up, Wall-E or Toy Story.

 

It’s basically a coming of age story where Arlo, the smallest dinosaur in his family (and the most useless, as the film tries to portray him), has to encounter dangerous situations and grow the hell up. After he gets separated from his family, he must learn to survive on his own, and get back home before the winter hits, and to prove his worth and make a “mark” on the family honour. He has to deal with the rain, finding food and other dinosaurs that want to eat his new friend, a friend that is helping him to grow up.

 

Let’s be clear though, the story is quite predictable. It doesn’t add anything new to the adolescent coming-of-age story. Of course Arlo is going to become close with that kid he initially hates, and the spoiler early on you could probably guess was coming just by watching the trailer.

 

But who cares? It’s a terrific movie. It’s heartwarming, it’s funny, well-written and it looks amazing. The voice cast is great and Arlo himself is voiced by a child, and I found his portrayal quite authentic.

 

The kids are going to love it, and the older crowd will dig it too, just like every Pixar movie.

 

Rating: 4/5.

 

 

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‘Dragon Ball Z Resurrection F’ film review

For some reason I wrote this early August when the movie was showing in theatres, right after I saw it, but never got round to publishing it. Hope you enjoy nonetheless. By the way, I watched the dubbed version rather than the subbed version, because that’s how I watched DBZ as a kid, and even if I didn’t I probably wouldn’t really give a damn and watch it subbed anyway.

Full disclosure: Was wearing nostalgic goggles.

Man I must have not watched Dragon Ball Z since I was in Primary School, so about 10 years or more. I used to love watching it after Pokemon on Cheez TV on Network Ten. Those were the days.

The last movie, Battle of the Gods a few years back, was the first Dragon Ball Z anime story in about 15 years, I didn’t see that one though, so this was all through fresh eyes.

I didn’t need some amazing reboot or extravaganza that put the series in new directions, I just wanted the DBZ that I remember and loved. For some, that might not be good enough, because this movie doesn’t do anything groundbreaking. It’s almost like an extended sitcom episode, where a badness happens, and everything resets. And just like the Japanese Godzilla movies, a baddie comes along, and Goku shows up and deals with it.

I was fine with that. The characters are just as I remember, Goku’s still the goofy hero, Vegeta’s still the anti-hero in a rivalry with “Kakkarot”.

Krillin’s still a dork, Android #18 still acts like an Android. Bulma is the matriarch. Piccolo senses stuff. I don’t remember Master Roshi being buff when he felt like it, but okay.

I was surprised how funny it was. It felt very much like the show I remember.

This film is very true to the original anime. It plays out exactly how’d you expect and want, unless you wanted a revoltion. Yes it’s more of the same, but I didn’t care. Just a few Kamehamehas and I’m good.

I guess the only part I didn’t like was the ending. Felt a little bit like a cop-out, and was a bit predictable. Oh well, still a great movie. A MUST for DBZ fans, just don’t expecting anything new. For most of us, that will be enough.

Rating: 4/5.

‘SPECTRE’ film review

For reasons unknown, I never got round to publishing this, but I wrote it right after I saw Spectre in the middle of November, so it is still a fresh review from a fresh perspective, just not for your eyes for about a month…

Spectre may the worst of all the Daniel Craig James Bond movies, even worse than Quantum of Solace. That’s not to say that either of the two are bad, but Skyfall and Casino Royale were fantastic, so by comparison they are extremely disappointing.

It’s a shame because Spectre does many things right. The cold opening was a very strong start with impressive cinematography and score, and the story was told through minimal dialogue.

The acting is great, the stunts and action scenes are incredible. There’s even a pair of satisfying Michael Bay explosions.

Spectre tries to tie its plot to the other Daniel Craig movies, and that’s where problems start.

The Sony leak revealed there was concerns about the film being over budget, and the word “over” describes this movie in many ways. It’s over budget, over long, overly convoluted, and at times even feels overdone. At other times it’s undercooked, many story elements aren’t explained adequately. I watched Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace a few days before watching Spectre, and if I hadn’t I would have not understood the references, especially to Vesper from the first movie, who still seems to be there without actually being there.

Another example of this is the previous M who passed away in the last movie. Bond partakes in an unofficial mission that she asked him to do in a video she left.

The writing is quite predictable. Of course Bond is going to disobey orders to stand down from duty. Of course that order is going to be made, and of course they are going to want him back by the end of it.

The two villains are simply not memorable. C is in a power struggle with the new M. C wants to replace the 00 program with Nine Eyes, which is a mass surveillance operation involving nine countries. Blofeld is Bond’s step brother, who seems to harbour some resentment towards Bond’s relationship with Blofeld’s actual father, which is why he killed him and started Spectre. He apparently is responsible for all the bad things that have happened to Bond in the last few movies.

Lea Seydoux is a great actress but she’s back to damsel in distress and has daddy issues. She falls in love with Bond, naturally. Worst part is when they make a big scene when she decides to dramatically walk away, and you just know that something is going to happen to her. And of course, she becomes a hostage.

The movie goes on for bloody ages, about two and a half hours. Even Avengers: Age of Ultron was easier to understand. Quantum of Solace was equally incomprehensible, but at least that movie was under two hours.

There’s parts of a great movie here, but unfortunately some bad decisions and writing lets it down. Bond fans will still get a kick out of Daniel Craig’s acting, the action, the score and that magnificent opening scene.

Rating: 3/5.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ film review

There’s been a theme in many of the reviews for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that being the phrase “Star Wars is back!”, but I can’t think of anything that better describes that feeling across the world this week.

In short: just go see it. Star Wars fan or not, Episode VII is a great movie. I actually consider my feelings indifferent towards the Star Wars franchise, but even I dug the hell out of this and can’t wait until Part 8. The fact that the trailers and pre-release material merely teased the characters, plots and themes, rather than outright spoil the movie, as the Batman v Superman trailer seems to, you’re better off watching this right now and reading as little about it as possible.

If you’re reading this and haven’t seen it yet, why the hell not? Here’s the rating, go see it, and if you have, read onwards.

Rating: 4.5/5.

Okay, MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW. You have been warned.

Wow.

JJ Abrams and the cast and crew did exactly what this movie had to be, and what they said it would be. It’s a movie for Star Wars fans. The fans still bitter about Jar Jar Binks and rough sand. Fans who saw hope in the pretty decent third prequel. Fans who have memories of seeing the very first movie back in the late ’70s and have been obsessed ever since. Being a fan himself, Abrams knew exactly what he had to do. Cut down on the CGI, bring back the practical sets, have a good script, give us some brilliant acting and then hit us in the face with spectacle. It’s an instant classic Star Wars for the modern fans.

My first worry for this movie was whether the returning veterans were going to overstay their welcome, making it tough for the new cast members to find their own voice…kinda like Scrubs Season 9 (yes that’s what we’re going with…). But that’s not the case at all. The story is about new leads being wrapped in the affairs of the old cast, but their personalities and conflicts are set in stone from their very first appearances.  This is despite the opening space crawl almost implying that the entire story is about Luke Skywalker going missing.

The trailers, teasers and even the poster deliberately fooled us. Observing the film’s entire marketing campaign, you’d think that Finn is a Jedi, but Rey using The Force becomes a key spoiler that hopefully wasn’t ruined for you.

The acting, one of the major elements that took down the prequels, is thankfully strong in this one. Daisy Ridley plays an exciting lead in Rey, up to the task of any challenge. And yes, they made her a damnsel in distress and then have her save herself, so that’s a good thing! Finn (the sweaty John Boyega) seemed to turn to the light side fairly quickly, but his words in the trailer alone gave him a backstory and a personal justification for his actions. You have to root for him – he doesn’t even have a name at the beginning!

Then you have BB-8, who I initially thought would be a derivative of R2-D2, and it is a little bit. They must have tried so hard to avoid an annoying Jar Jar Binks character, and they succeeded, because BB-8 becomes one of the best parts of the movie. There’s some good humour in this movie and this droid becomes a very important part of it, and I almost forgot about how important he is to the plot.

Adam Driver as Kyo Ren in a way seemed like a lightweight., but by the end you’ll both fear and hate him. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) I assume is the third lead protagonist, but will most likely have a bigger role in the upcoming movies in contrast to this one where he shows up and acts cool for a bit. I guess they wanted more time to service Harrison Ford’s last hurrah as Han Solo, who plays a much bigger role than both Leia or Luke.

While this is a fan service film, JJ Abrams should be commended for taking incredibly bold decisions. Perhaps it seemed too easy to make Kylo Ren the son of Han and Leia, but then to have Ben KILL his father. As I said earlier, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, but that still got to me. I know that long time fans, some who saw the original Star Wars back in the 70s, just had their whole world lit up when they heard “Chewie, we’re home”, and then destroyed in one foul swoop. That took guts.

Force Awakens is for the fans, but doesn’t play it safe. Some may think it’s just derivative of A New Hope, and maybe that’s a fair argument. I don’t think that was a huge issue this time…BUT,  if the next movie becomes just Empire Strikes Back with Luke Yodaing Rey… That, on the other hand, would be lame, but I have high hopes.

Force Awakens got the fans back on board, and for me, now I’m one of those hardcore fans. I may not buy a Star Wars mug, but I look forward to the next two parts. I’ll even watch the spin off movies.

Star Wars is in safe hands for the future, but for now, the Force is strong in this one.

“Ant-Man” film review

In short, Ant-Man was more enjoyable than I thought it’d be. In fact, it’s excellent. While Avengers: Age of Ultron almost collapsed underneath its sheer girth with all the characters and plot threads, Ant-Man benefits greatly with just four core cast members, all new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It works very well as a stand-alone film, just like Guardians of the Galaxy. There are nods to the other movies and of course its original source material, but they don’t confuse audiences who aren’t a follower of this mega-franchise.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a former systems engineer who just left prison after serving a sentence for petty theft. After he discovers a suit that allows him to shrink in size but also become physically stronger, he becomes a part of a “save the human race from their own demise by stopping a weapon getting into the wrong hands” plot that becomes much bigger than him (ha!). Guiding him is scientist Hank Pym (Michael Dougles), who became the original Ant-Man in the ‘60s after mastering the [INSERT SCIENCEY-FICTIONEY STUFF] that makes the shrinking ability possible. His estranged daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), along with his former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) have taken over Pym’s company and pushed him out. There are fantastic side characters, but these are the four that matter.

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During this heist movie, arguably the biggest theme is family, especially with father figures. Lang’s wants to be the hero his young daughter thinks he is (she’s currently in the care of Lang’s ex-wife and new fiancé), and Pym has a strained relationship with his daughter and Cross, who Pym once saw as “the son he never had”. Cross despises Pym yet at the same time wants his approval so badly, that he’s willing to revive his mentor’s dangerous secretive technology.
All the personalities are brilliant. You root for Lang, because he made a terrible mistake and wants so badly to make everything right. Cross’s demeanour may be one of the most bloodcurdling in the entire MCU, yet he’s not some crazy super villain trying to conquer the world. Pym’s arc with his daughter becomes the most satisfying in the picture, and both are just bad arse characters.

You may be sick of origin stories at this point, but I doubt most non-comic book fans had even heard of Ant-Man, so watching him learn how to shrink in size, control ants and attack targets so much larger than him is simply thrilling to watch. The script and ideas are on point, and the sight of a vicious fight scene at microscopic size on a Thomas the Tank Engine train set was hilariously awesome. Despite the stakes of the heist hinging on a potential dangerous weapon, the characters are so good you just worry whether they get out alive, rather than if we all do.

Ant-Man is a superb motion-picture. For some, the superhero featured in this film seems a tad lame, but trust me, just go see the movie and you’ll change your mind. A great script, great cast, great action and a running time that doesn’t drag on at all, just go see it.

Rating: 4.5/5.

“Metroid Fusion” video game review

Game Boy Advance’s Metroid Fusion is also known as Metroid 4, but you may not have noticed, as it was released the same day as Gamecube’s Metroid Prime, which went on to be hailed as one of the greatest games of all time. While Prime began a legacy of 3D first-person adventures, Fusion is a 2D action-adventure in the same vein as Super Metroid, also hailed as one of the greatest games of all time. By the way, this is the only 2D Metroid game I’ve played. I’ve completed the Metroid Prime Trilogy and got quite far in Metroid Prime Hunters but never clocked it.

You play as Samus Aran, the greatest bounty hunter in the galaxy, who wears an upgradable space suit granting her special abilities. Her arm cannon is used to gun down enemies, while her Morph Ball ability allows her to literally morph into a ball to roll through tight spaces. At the beginning of the game, much of the area is inaccessible, so Samus must traverse what is accessible to pick up power-ups to make her stronger, acquire new abilities and unlock doors. Oftentimes bosses are standing in the way of achieving these goals. Eventually, more of the area is accessible and Samus’s abilities reach badarsery.

Every other Metroid game prior to Fusion basically said “here you are, this is the area, you’re on all own, go find stuff and use it to kill stuff”. Super Metroid was nice enough to have a map, whereas the original Metroid on the NES has players scribbling out their own map on paper, as well as passwords instead of save stations. In Fusion, you have Navigation Rooms where a computer guides you on what to do next, usually pointing to a Data Room on the map, or telling you to investigate some suspicious activity.

Some may believe this takes away from the Metroidvania style of players being lost and having to find their own way in a non-linear fashion. It is more linear yes, but the guide is simply a step in the right direction. You still have to figure out how to get to the destination yourself, and no-one tells you where secret upgrades are. Samus’s interactions with the computer also help with storytelling. Plus for a handheld game, that pick-up and play nature works well with this new format. I’m not a fan of being lost and wondering around aimlessly (which still can happen despite the game’s linearity), so I liked the way Fusion played.

The story sees Samus bring sent by the Galactic Federation to the Biologic Space Laboratories (BSL) space station after an explosion to see what’s up. The station is swarming with X parasites, which can replicate their hosts physical appearance and memories before killing them. Samus’s new mission is overseen by a computer who she nicknames ‘Adam’, after a late friend.  The Fusion subtitle refers to Samus’s fusion suit; after she is infected by the virus and saved by surgery, parts of her suit have become physically attached to her body and too dangerous to remove. Her infection means a fully capable Samus Aran X parasite is wondering around the BSL.  It’s a good story, well told, and gives a new light to some familiar Metroid characters, mainly the Galactic Federation.metroid4_12

The worst part of a Metroid game is usually the beginning. You’re not only powerless physically, but mentally, as you have no grasp of the world around you. Once you get a groove on everything – the story, the controls, the map – and you start to collect some cool power-ups, Fusion starts to feel and play beautifully.

For a handheld game with 2D sprites, the sound design and graphics work surprisingly well to create atmosphere and tension. The music certainly sounds like it would fit in any science-fiction movie score.

The game is short, but is extended slightly by being very hard. Thankfully there are plenty of save stations around, because no-one likes to repeat things. Unlike Nintendo friends Mario and Zelda, the bosses Samus faces are not easy and go beyond attacking the same spot three times when the boss puts their guard down. No, to defeat the bosses in Fusion, you need speed, endurance and agility, because they hit Samus hard.

I don’t mind short games, you’re likely to actually finish them and Fusion is the sort of game you would want to replay. And of course, good short games don’t overstay their welcome.

For Metroid fans, Fusion is a must-have. In fact, anyone a fan of action games should give this one a spin. It’s a fun, challenging, well-polished and involving sci-fi adventure..

Rating: 4/5.

“Jurassic World” film review

*Minor spoilers* The original Jurassic Park was one of the first movies I loved as a kid. My parents had no qualms about me watching it, compared to say, Jaws, because dinosaurs don’t exist anymore and thus it would be less scary. Although I literally just read an article that said scientists may be able to recreate living dinosaurs within 5-10 years. Thankfully we have four Jurassic movies to show why that could be a bad idea.

Welcome to Jurassic World. Taking place 22 years after the first movie (did Lost World and III not happen???), humanity seems to have dinosaurs under control, well at least they think they do to have another crack at a theme park, with more kid-friendly rides and the whole shebang. A young boy named Gray (Ty Simpkons) and his teenage brother Zach (Nick Robinson) go to Jurassic World, not just because Gray is obsessed with dinosaurs, but also to spend time with their aunt, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is Jurassic World’s operations manager. Being head of operations, Claire doesn’t have time to show the boys around because she’s trying to attract corporate sponsors to expand the park, so she gets her assistant to show them around. Meanwhile, Claire is showing velociraptor trainer Owen, (Chris Pratt) their new “asset”, a genetically modified dinosaur hybrid, the Indominus Rex, when it manages to escape and starts to wreck havoc on the island, and the boys are in danger.

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By the way, I really hated Howard’s character. The movie must have tried to build sympathy for her by presenting someone trapped by the corporate world interfering with his family life, but it’s hard to feel that when she (and many of the other characters) have almost no reaction to their co-workers deaths. The only who does is Pratt’s character Owen, – who is highly likeable in many ways – he didn’t just train the velociraptors, he connected with them like family pets. He may be the only one who doesn’t describe the dinosaurs as “assets”. The fact that he remains sympathetic to Claire makes my blood boil. Rather than a protagonist, I see her on almost equal footing as the so-called villain Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio), who wants to use the dinosaurs for military purposes; and the sole returning character, Dr Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) who designed the creature to be a killing machine (but he did what he was told I guess). I swear the next Jurassic movie better chuck her in a jail or something.

So yeah, those were the main problems I had with Jurassic World, but it’s still a great movie. It’s exactly what moviegoers will want to see. The pacing is strong, a testament to good editing. You get the awesome special effects and you get dinosaurs interacting with humans. You can tell production really enjoyed inserting John Williams’s iconic score from the original film for that establishing shot of the theme park. The spectacular reptilian battles will satisfy those disappointed with last year’s Godzilla reboot for not having enough epic monster fights. By the way, the climax of the movie is what changes it from a good movie, to a great movie! You’ll see for yourself.

Jurassic World is laden with references to the first movie, a bit of humour, and unsubtle social commentary. That social commentary, aside from the obvious “this is why science shouldn’t clone dinosaurs”, I picked up fairly easy. A critique of capitalism, as those at the top decided bigger and more dangerous creatures would boost profits, is what led to the big crisis, as well as taking away from Claire’s family life. The militarisation of these dangerous creatures is also placed in the limelight, a possible allegory to other very dangerous weapons. Is the movie a slap down on American capitalism and militarisation? Or am I just thinking about this too much? Well, that’s I got from it.

Most people aren’t going to care about any messages that may or not be there, they just want a great popcorn-munching and movie-viewing session. The issues I have with Jurassic World ultimately do not ruin a very enjoyable experience. The box-office is going nuts for this, and it’s easy to see why, it appeals to everyone – the fans, the critics and general public, and it’s just plain fun.

Rating: 4/5.