Director James Cameron has a grand vision for his Avatar franchise. Despite the first movie being one of the highest grossing movies ever… numerous delays and over a ten year wait, it began to feel like we may never actually see what he’d been working. That wait is finally over. Set a number of years after the first movie, Jake Sullly (Sam Worthington) and N’tiri (Zoe Saldana) live a peaceful existence on the planet of Pandora raising their family, consisting of two sons, the daughter of Sigourney Weaver’s character as well as a feral human boy. That is until a new threat from the humans arrives, and Jake & his family are forced to either fight or flee.
Like the first movie, the story is simple yet effective. This time around there is an emphasis on family, race, and nature and it quickly became clear to me the movie is basically one big advert for conservation of the planet etc. not that far removed from David Attenborough documentary at times. However this is still a movie, and a James Cameron one at that – so the visuals, action and technology on display are in a word – stunning.
The CGI is more often than not, jaw-dropping. It’s a step up even from the last movie. Considering that came out in 2009, it still looks better than most movies. Cameron has this time used a high frame-rate technique that gives the movie a near 3D aesthetic, yet takes some getting used to (it’s also available in 3D). I’m not entirely sure it was necessary, but some of the grander moments do look amazing because of it. At 3hrs and 15 minutes yes, the movie is long but that’s because Cameron takes time to develop the characters and story for the first two hours, before delivering some bombastic action in an exhilarating, emotional and impressive final act. A movie that demands to be experienced on the biggest screen possible. A must see.
I was quite hyped for this when I saw the trailer. Thor Ragnorok remains for me one of the more enjoyable Marvel movies, so going into this follow-up I was hoping for another dose of entertainment. This time we have Thor (Chris Hemsworth) out to stop a maniac warlord called ‘Gorr the God Butcher’, who blames the gods for the death of his daughter. Back on earth, Thor’s ex girlfriend Jane (Natalie Portman) is dying of cancer until she discovers hope in Thor’s shattered hammer.
Directed again by Taika Waititi (Jo Jo Rabbit) this mostly light-hearted adventure is full of jokes and visual pyrotechnics as Thor wages war and bumps into characters like The Guardians of the Galaxy and Zeus (Russell Crowe), all to the soundtrack of Guns N Roses. Yeah, sometimes the jokes don’t always land, there’s a few poor effects shots and I grew tired of the screaming goats quickly. Yet the action is fun, the tone is fun and the story good enough for this kind of thing.
It’s a shame then that, despite best efforts Christian Bale is simply ‘ok’ as the villain, failing to figuratively ‘jump out of the screen’. Otherwise, it’s hard to find much fault here. Many of the scenes are very enjoyable and I got caught up in the action and entertainment factor the movie was clearly going for. Natalie Portman also held her own alongside the gods (whilst avoiding ‘woke’ pitfalls of other recent movies). Overall better than critics and the generally negative culture of the internet might have you believe. Simply put – I’d watch it again.
The last Robert Eggers movie I saw was The Witch, a movie that took two viewings before I could fully appreciate it. This latest effort follows a young Prince who grows up to become a Viking warrior, out to avenge his father’s murder at the hands of a ruthless uncle.
A simple set up is given a very (I’m guessing) authentic approach similar to The Witch, meaning that at first this could alienate some viewers used to the more Hollywood interpretations of history. However if you can get past some of the dialect and more unusual aspects, what Eggers has delivered here is a visually powerful, at times brutal and engrossing revenge tale. Camera-work is particularly effective and how shots are framed really impress with their other-worldly beauty. Performances are decent, including memorable (if brief) turns from Ethan Hawk and Willem Dafoe. Nicole Kidman is quite good too. Also as is often the case, Anya Taylor-Joy is again great. Yet the star here is Alexander Skarsgard in an uncompromising, animalistic performance.
At times some of the Nors mythology and weirder aspects went a bit over my head, and some of the rituals like howling like a wolf were a bit too theatrical – but overall this was gripping and a treat to simple take in.
I was quite hyped going into this. This tells the story of Evelyn, a middle aged Chinese woman who runs a laundromat with her husband and father, who is in spiralling debt and being leaned on by the local IRS. However during one meeting to work out her finances, another version of her husband contacts her and tells her he’s from another universe, explaining that there are many more multiverses where Evelyn’s life turned out differently and that he needs her to help him stop a looming threat.
We’re probably accustomed to the concept of the multiverse with movies like Doctor Strange and Spider-Man No Way Home. However this movie takes that idea to the extreme, creating a chaotic and quite bonkers experience. Hong Kong Cinema veteran Michelle Yeoh delivers a commendably demanding performance, that although her grasp of English isn’t great, physically she’s put through the ringer in many dazzling and intricately edited sequences. With all the multiverse stuff the movie jumps rapidly from place to place as Evelyn adopts various abilities, including Kung Fu. The various action scenes are imaginative, well choreographed and often hilarious. The ideas here clearly come from a pretty out-there mind as we get fights with dildos, and at one stage a Chihuahua used like a whip! Jamie Lee Curtis proves memorable as the IRS lady, and movie legend James Hong also makes an extended appearance.
I did feel this got a bit much after a while. The concept means that the possibilities are endless but doesn’t mean a movie need go that far. Also why things were happening got a bit muddled – at times it’s simply odd for the sake of being odd (a multiverse with everyone with hotdogs for fingers!). I was entertained though, just maybe a little restraint would have gone a long way.
Now I can certainly enjoy a disaster movie. Earlier in the year the Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle Don’t Look Up proved a unique take on the subject, so upon hearing one of the genres go-to directors, Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) was returning, I thought this could by good. Starring The Conjuring’s Patrick Wilson as a former astronaut and Halle Berry as a Nasa executive, this sets up the idea of what would happen if the moon suddenly changed its orbit of Earth and started headed for a collision?
You might be thinking Deep Impact or Armageddon and you’d be right. Despite its concept this felt incredibly familiar. Wilson is fine in his role as is Berry, supported by a likeable John Bradley (Game of Thrones) as a nerdy conspiracy theorist. However everyone else is incredibly wooden. The young actor playing Wilson’s rebellious son is just awful, with very robotic line delivery. Same can be said for Berry’s military officer ex husband. As the impending doom worsens, it’s clear the money was mostly spent on the effects, as this is where Director Emmerich’s movies have faired the best and this is no exception. At times they are impressive and effective, even if there’s also a few obvious green screen moments that look really fake.
The last half hour or so of the movie got a lot more interesting as it’s revealed just what is happening to the moon, and despite some plot revelations that are quite bonkers and a bit too familiar … I did feel there was a decent sci-fi story buried under the mediocrity. The movie just lacked polish, its script felt rushed (the world falls into chaos from just an internet post??) and the casting was lacking. Overall, not much to recommend here.
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