Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)

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Two decades after the first Independence Day invasion, Earth is faced with a new extra-Solar threat. But will mankind’s new space defenses be enough? (IMDb)
Nothing wrong with a big, brainless sci-fi (see its predecessor) but it’s got to have at least some dramatic weight, be decently acted, have a character to care about as well as some good one-liners. This film fails on almost all counts: The exposition and pep talks are beyond cheesy, the performances often bad, the characters too numerous and forgettable (save for Drs. Okun and Isaac’s cute couple) and the one-liners in one ear out the other, save for one: “They like to get the landmarks”.
4/10 (Bad)

 

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

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Thor is imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, and must race against time to return to Asgard and stop Ragnarök, the destruction of his world, which is at the hands of the powerful and ruthless villain Hela. (IMDb)
Thor is released from his cheesy-golden-Viking realm (“Asgard is not a place, it’s a people”) to super fun results: Hemsworth oozes goofy charm (“No, I won. Easily”) and serves as a solid lead for the fast-paced script. An eclectic supporting cast (the amiable Kiwi Korg and goofy Grandmaster are comedy gold-blum), fun cameos, a suitably intimidating villain, and just the right amount of trope subversions (see the opening scene) amidst the serious moments (see Loki’s final catch) fill it out.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Isle of Dogs (2018)

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Set in Japan, Isle of Dogs follows a boy’s odyssey in search of his lost dog. (IMDb)
Awe-inspiring animation, as expected, with an amazing attention to detail (petals on noses, fur blowing in the wind), breathtaking landscapes (see the journey montages), a variety of unique shots (see the shadowy discussion in the bottle cave), creative storytelling devices (see the split-screens), and fun flourishes (see the sushi-making). A welcome surprise is the engaging hard-boiled political drama added to Anderson’s typically quirky comedy (the gossiping goofy alpha dog pack is great).
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)

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A research team is sent to the Jurassic Park Site B island to study the dinosaurs there while another team approaches with another agenda. (IMDb)
There’s a couple classic Goldblum quotes early on (“Where you’re going is the only place in the world where the geese chase you!”) but he doesn’t suit a lead role, though he doesn’t really end up getting it anyways as we’re treated instead to a thin spread of characters we don’t really care for who are just running around in a weakly premised sequel-plot (how convenient, another island with dinos) that ends in a King Kong rip-off sequence. Suspenseful at points, but ultimately flat and generic.
6/10 (Mediocre)

 

Jurassic Park (1993)

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During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok. (IMDb)
Half build-up, half dino-action: Both acts are well done, with minor flaws: Goldblum’s slick scientist provides both prophetic moral commentary (“What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world”) and comic relief (“That is one big pile of shit”) for the first, but Nedry’s side-plot feels unnecessary; the excitement of the second is second-to-none (the camerawork is impeccable; see the first T-Rex scene) but without many breaks from the action it feels much too long and tires a tad.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

JWM SPOOKATHON 2017: The Fly (1986)

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A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong. (IMDb)
It’s gross (that fingernail scene–*shudder*), it’s gloomy (Brundle’s pad is a perfect set), and unquestionably glorious in its gory sci-fi camp. Goldblum shines all the way through, from awkwardly charming and secretly hunkalicious-in-the-80s scientist to wild-eyed eccentric (“Drink deep, or taste not, the plasma spring!”) to morbidly witty Brundlefly (“The medicine cabinet is now the Brundle Museum of Natural History”) to tragic monster (“I’m an insect who dreamt he was a man and loved it”).
8/10 (Great)
CREEPY QUOTE: Tawny: “Are you a body builder or something?”
Seth Brundle: “Yeah, I build bodies. I take them apart, and put them back together again.”

SPOOKY STILL:
the-fly

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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The adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous hotel from the fictional Republic of Zubrowka between the first and second World Wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. (IMDb)
The visuals are so remarkably entrancing and vibrantly varied here (hotels, prisons, mansions, and mountaintops) that you find yourself as excited to see what the next scene looks like as much as what happens in it–and that’s not to say the writing is sub-par: Within a cute 4-tiered narrative, a wild and wacky plot of murder, money, and escape takes place with plenty of quirky characters (Fiennes is fantastic) and well-placed bits of goofiness and expletives that break up the dazzling dialogue.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Independence Day (1996)

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The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy Earth. Fighting superior technology, mankind’s best weapon is the will to survive.  (IMDb)
All of the ingredients are here for a classic blockbuster sci-fi: The U.S. president, the army (Smith brings the swagger), and the science-y guy (Goldblum is hilarious), with dashes of personal side-plots; aliens, missiles, and explosions; a back-and-forth first act introducing the different players and places and a big triumphant climax. It’s cliche, has some questionable SFX, and lacks action, but with a good helping of memorable characters and humourous dialogue, it remains entertaining.
6.5/10 (Alright)

 

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

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With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son. (IMDb)
Visually, a delight (clashing underwater animation aside), with its meticulously crafted sets, distinct costumes, and cheeky screenplay (lots of incidental eating) captured by beautifully-framed shots. This marvelous aesthetic is complimented nicely by a mellow soundtrack (Jorge is great) and excellent deadpan humour. The dry script delivery doesn’t work as well with the drama–it mostly fails to engage, despite great turns from Murray and Blanchett–but a moving climax helps to entrench it a bit.
7.5/10 (Really Good)