film

Review: Independence Day Resurgence or “We’re gonna need a bigger planet”

The sequel to 1996’s biggest blockbuster has arrived. The question at hand is, ‘yeah, but is it any good?’ That answer takes a bit of unraveling. The first “Independence Day” is a fun and cheesy sci-fi romp that doesn’t necessarily age well, but it knew what it was, namely brash and bold in its own certainty of itself. This film doesn’t quite hold to that charming confidence, but it does have some aspects that really do shine through.

This film starts off slow. Slow compared to the first film that is. I didn’t have that immediate sensation of dread like the first film with the alien spaceships invading right off the bat. Be that as it may it kind of makes sense now that this film’s universe has been dramatically altered from our own with the advancements that the alien technology has brought. Which while this is actually a pretty fun idea, it does separate the audience from the immersion that the first one had just by the very nature of the fact that aliens were invading our planet, this version of earth is very similar to ours, its just not quite ours. However once the invasion begins the film doesn’t really drop its pace which is both welcome and necessary in this sort of movie.

Lets get the easy stuff out of the way now. Jeff Goldblum is great here and is one of the best parts of the film, in fact he and the other returning characters from the first film help to instill that 90’s sense of fun that you’ve been looking for. Throughout the runtime Jeff Goldblum is having a great time and getting even weirder with his character, he’s a joy to watch onscreen again. However, the rest of the cast has some issues. Jesse Usher in particular was simply a poor shoe-in to replace the void left by Will Smith’s captain Steven Hiller. We all knew we’d feel the loss of his presence in the sequel, but when the character that is supposedly his son happens to not only be uncharismatic but also noticeably bad at acting, we notice that lack of charisma that much more. His lines aren’t exactly Oscar worthy to begin with but he doesn’t do much with what he’s given. Liam Hemsworth is serviceable here and does a fine job with his material but never really becomes a fan favorite, he’s just there to fly ships and shoot aliens, and he does a pretty good job at it. Judd Hirsch on the other hand.. he probably should have just been a cameo at best, his arc was the least essential by far and just distracted from the rest of the film. I have to take the time to mention Deobia Oparei’s character here, he’s an African warlord that hunted down aliens after a ship landed in central Africa during the first film. He’s got a little bit of that 90’s inspired characterization of what an African warlord would look like and act like, it wasn’t too overdone, but almost. Anyways, his inclusion was honestly pretty cool, his backstory of hunting down aliens and killing them with dual machetes would be one intense story, fan fiction anyone?

Then there’s Bill Pullman and Brent Spiner. Bill Pullman has an interesting arc here, but it never quite reaches the heights that you want it to. There is no fist pumping moment of rousing integrity and grit here.When the first film had that unbeatable speech it would assuredly be hard to top, but how they handled a certain moment in this film speaks to the unique issue that this film has. Bill Pullman’s former president Whitmore has a scene in a hangar where he begins to give a speech meant to inspire, and at first it does, but all of a sudden, it just ends. Wait.. why? His best line is also undercut by the sense that the film doesn’t know what to do with itself. Pullman’s Whitmore meets a giant alien face to face and proclaims “On behalf of the people of Earth, happy Fourth of July!” That line should have been exciting and quotable until the end of time, but the way the film handled it leaves the audience with a whimper when it should have easily been a bang!

This is a film where some actors and ideas are meshed within the world that the first film inhabited while the rest of the film and actors are in this new world where blockbusters are now grim and dour. Long gone are the quips of the past or that sense of fun. In fact Brent Spiner’s character, Dr. Brakish Okun, is the one that embodies the spirit of the first film the most! He was just a side character we all thought died in the first film, but he really nails the inherent cheese and knowing charm that is missed in the rest of this film. This is captured perfectly after he wakes from his twenty year coma and finds out we have integrated the alien technology and giddily exclaims, “We have alien guns now?!” with wide eyes and accompanying grin. The film would have benefited greatly by including more of that.

 

The things I enjoyed most in this film where some of the world building that came with the advancement of time and technology. The giant mothership clasping to Earth’s side like an enormous tic was just the right amount of ridiculous “The Ship is landing in the Atlantic ocean!” “Which part?” “All of it!” That, that’s just great, exactly the right amount of cheese for me personally. They also give a reason as to why the aliens are invading and the scale of their galactic threat. I personally quite enjoyed that there were reasons behind the alien’s actions now, I don’t believe the first film touched on that and I approve. There’s also a lot more alien action in this one, you see them up close and they have more of a physical threat in this installment. My absolute favorite moment of the entire film however was a quick nod to the White House moment from the first film. Of course they rebuilt the capitol building, and as soon as I saw it I expected something. Just know that it pays off in a short comedic beat. More charm like that and the film could have been much greater.

 

The film ends with a pretty direct tie in to another sequel and at this point I would see it. This installment didn’t do enough to tarnish the franchise for me and it got enough right that I found myself enjoying more than not. They just need to connect with the spirit of the original more than copycatting the more current blockbuster tropes.

Final Score: 3/5

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film

Review: The Shallows, or “Jaws Junior”

*Warning, there will be mild spoilers near the end*

Ah Summer, with its arrival come longer sunny days, time spent vacationing with family and friends, maybe a road trip… and of course, sharks. Aptly released right before Discovery Channel’s famed Shark Week “The Shallows” is a taut and fun popcorn thriller that is very self aware of its own content and audience. The film opens with Blake Lively as Nancy seeking out an off-the-beaten-path beach in Mexico that her mother had visted years ago when she was pregnant with Nancy. Once found she thanks her native chauffeur and is off to surf the secluded waves. After meeting two locals that know the area for its reliably good waves Nancy surfs in the sun and enjoys herself. This is where the film feels more like a music video than thriller for a short but noticeable amount of time. As she goes out for one last ride for the day Nancy is finally encountered with the large predator lurking in her midst.

From the moment the shark is introduced until the resolution there is a palpable amount of tension throughout this one location, one character, film. We are told only what we need to know about Nancy before the encounter as she is ripped from her board and dragged into a cloud of red saltwater. She’s reliable, a former med student that didn’t finish her degree, and that she’s mourning the loss of her mother and has estranged feelings towards her father over that course of events.  After Nancy breaks the surface and is aware of the danger she is in, she furiously paddles and thrashs towards the closest thing to get her out of the water, a floating whale carcass. This begins the shark’s behavior of relentless pursuit as it lies in wait and strikes at it’s most opportune times. From there Nancy ends up clamboring to a jutting rock that only lies above the water during low tide.

Now, whenever a shark movie comes out, the immediate reaction is to compare whatever it is with the king of all shark movies, “Jaws”. This movie is certainly no “Jaws”, but it is probably the best shark thriller to come out since Spielberg’s classic. The shark itself in “The Shallows” is a fine cinematic adaption of the real thing, it’s overly aggressive, threatening beyond doubt, and well, he’s no small fry. The shark is entirely CGI but it’s done so well that you can hardly tell that it’s not actually about to rip Blake Lively in half.

The movie does a wonderful job of setting the audience up to believe, or hope, that she will be saved by the handful of people she encounters during her traumatic event. Instead of giving up at every loss of faith in humanity when she is let down by them she figures out another solution to her problems. Ironically she is failed by men at every turn until she ultimately tricks the shark into its own demise, I won’t reveal how, because that would ruin the surprise. In the end it is a child that finds the washed up go-pro camera that Nancy had recorded her goodbyes into, while also capturing footage of the shark, that sends the child running off to retrieve help.

Ultimately if you are urging for a thriller in the surf and sand, “The Shallows” is fairly servicable to those efforts. The tension is kept high once it gets rolling, and its a fun way to spend an hour and a half. If you enjoy monster flicks, this one will probably satisfy.

 

Final Score: 4/5

 

film

Long Time Coming

Hey there. It’s been awhile. No no, it’s not you, it’s me. Lately I’ve been wrapped up in screaming into pillows and tweets to express my feelings on the political process. I know what you’re thinking, “this isn’t about movies, what are you doing? I didn’t come here to hear about Bernie, Hillary, or Trump!” and you won’t, fear not intrepid blog readers with  hearts of celloid, for that topic is too sweeping and utterly failing to discuss here. This is a place beyond the edge of reality where we analyze adventure and discuss imagination. Lately life has kept me out of the movie theater, as it does from time to time, and I figure its about time to dive back in. This summer doesn’t have as many big offerings as years past, but this weekend alone has several options that have caught my attention.

The Nice Guys

I have no earthly idea how this film has still passed by me. Roundly considered to be a great time at the theater due to the performaces of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe, “The Nice Guys” is a private eye buddy cop movie set in the dirty and dark Los Angeles of the 1970’s.  With Gosling playing the alcoholic private eye with a heart of gold and Crowe selling the muscle, what’s not to love? The film indulges in its strengths with a slick script and brutal clarity with a dash of slapstick tossed in, this one looks to be a gem.

Warcraft

Now officially the highest grossing video-game film adaption yet this one is a curiosity pick for me. I’m not familiar with the games, at least I’ve never played them, although I know plenty that did back in the days of dorm rooms and ramen noodles. I am, however, a fan of fantasy and this movie looks to supplement my lack of swords and monsters inbetween episodes of Game of Thrones. It’s also very pretty, and I can turn my mind off for like-minded films within this genre, so I’ll probably check it out.

The Shallows

Even though only one out of every four “Jaws” films is great, I still love the idea of a harrowing Shark Attack flick. Admittedly the first trailer for this film had me doubtful of the concept, Blake Lively on a rock with a shark circling nearby. The second trailer however showed us that Blake Lively had character reasons to be on this island, and that she’s a resourceful character striving against nature. That’s the primal reason the first Jaws is so great, characters that are human and believable. Hopefully that aspect comes across in her battle with the beast.

Independence Day 2: Resurgence

Everybody and their mother loved the first “Independence Day” and while the film doesn’t necessarily age well, I rewatched it last summer, I can respect its love for small scale model destruction. This time the aliens return, and we have their fallen comrades technology to fight back.. again. This one is a bit of a shrug, but admittedly I have a weakness for big summer blockbusters. There’s nothing better than sitting in a cold theater on a hot summer day watching landmarks explode with splendor, it’s our very own fireworks show, so hell, lets just kick back and enjoy it. Plus, Jeff Goldblum!

Swiss Army Man

After two “mindless fun” entries lets bookend this with another film looking to do something great. “Swiss Army Man” feels surreal in its very nature. Even the combination of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe feels odd, yet with an uncanny perfection about it. Truly unique in story and scope I hope the film does well against the other entries arriving or staying this weekend, we need more original ideas like this. How else will we get films that feature a man using another dead man to escape an island in the ocean, while probably losing his mind? Seriously, check out the trailer if you haven’t heard of this one.