(Updated: 18/07/2016) Possibly one of the most heavily criticised movies for a long time before anyone actually saw it. Now that it’s out however, although public opinion hasn’t completely reversed it seems the movie might actually be worth your time … and I’ll say straight away that it certainly is.
Is it OK to say I have a crush on Kristina Wiig? The Bridesmaids star heads an all new female cast who join together to rid the city of New York from a supernatural phenomenon, despite government and the media struggling to take them seriously. So far so very much the original plot, and this movie bares a very close resemblance to what came before along with many in-jokes and (a slight overkill) of cameo appearances from the original actors. That being said this also has it’s own flavour – in the form of a great cast all doing a fine job bringing their individual personalities into the action. Melissa McCarthy whose brand of often slapstick humour I feared might have been misplaced, is very good as are a somewhat unhinged Kate McKinnon and a fun Leslie Jones. The effects for the various ghosts and creatures are above average and the ghost busting action itself is often thrilling, funny and utterly entertaining.
Inevitably comparing this to the original, I’ll admit the movie doesn’t hold up as well, replacing creepy atmosphere and characterisation with at times corny humour and an overdose of CGI (and gunge). Yet taken on it’s own merits I enjoyed several fun encounters (slimer and mrs slimer?), it made me chuckle often and it was seriously feel good in places, making this more than a simple cash-in … and for a new audience it possibly works even better. So I say give this a chance. It does a lot right and everyone involved (including a dopey Chris Hemsworth) look like they are having a blast, which came across strong enough to this viewer to leave him with a big, satisfied grin.
There seems to have been a bit of a trend in recent years for quality science fiction, or more literally quality space travel movies. I think it began with Doug Jones’ acclaimed ‘Moon’ and then followed through with Gravity and then Interstellar. Hollywood seems to have fallen in love with the great vastness of space again, and I have fallen in love along with them. So this latest effort was high on my must see list.
Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney who following an expedition to Mars, is left unknowingly behind by his crew following a freak sand storm. With everyone thinking he is dead and a memorial back home, Watney has to learn how to survive on an alien planet until he can find out a way of communicating and hopefully getting rescued. Based on the book by Andy Wier and directed by genre heavy-weight Ridley Scott, this is a gripping concept as we watch Damon put all his scientific knowhow to the test and learn to adapt to a harsh environment. Back home Nasa and its myriad of boffins are also trying to figure out a way to save their man, headed by Jeff Daniels and supported by Kristina Wiig and Sean Bean amongst various other familiar faces. Oh and the crew that left Watney behind get the always watchable Jessica Chastian as their commander. It’s clear to me this was a bit of a labour of love and is choc-full of detail and science terminology (even days are referred to a sol 1 and sol 2 etc). Yet beyond some of the realism and authenticity the movie also finds room for well judged humour. We also get a strongly potent emotional thread that builds and gets pretty heart-breaking. Everyone here is on very good form but it’s obviously Damon’s show and he is simply superb…charismatic in the face of adversity and also very believable. He’d have been my tip for Best Actor at the Oscars but sadly it wasn’t to be.
In addition to such a solid, layered performance however is excellent direction from Scott, who aided by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, proves again he’s a master at capturing the perfect look and feel for Science Fiction, and redeems himself after the muddled Prometheus. Some of the shots and vistas and photography here are jaw-dropping. Honestly, there is very little I can say negative about this one apart from hey, where were Mark Watney’s parents?? And the first act is a trifle slow, but that’s some serious nit-picking. If you are fascinated by space travel or are just attracted to decent human survival dramas, not unlike The Revenant I’ll add … then you have to see this.
The first DM was a welcome surprise. I had low expectations, it wasn’t by Pixar or Dreamworks and featured a quirky art style. But why did it work so well? Let’s just say it had a surprising amount of heart, telling the tale of down on his luck super villain Gru (Steve Carrell) whose plan to steal the moon(!) is complicated when three orphan girls come into his care. It was funny, full of ‘aww’ moments and genuinely charming. This follow up has former villain Gru getting recruited by the shady Anti-Villain League to track down a stolen top-secret formula, and is aided by spunky female agent ‘Lucy’ (Kristina Wiig) who as you can guess becomes an unexpected love interest for our put-upon main character.
This sequel showcases the ingenious creations that won so many fans last time, namely the ‘minions’ as well as some great chemistry between Gru and Lucy, and plenty of continued ‘aww’ moments with the children. I felt that unlike the last movie which focused on Gru’s relationship with the girls, making them more of a side line was a mistake – they are the heart and soul of this concept, but instead we get secret agent action, gadgets, lots of minion moments (never a bad thing) and a rather disappointing villain. However on a visual scale this is a tour-de-force. It’s definitely one of the most visually captivating and eye-meltingly gorgeous movies I have ever seen. Animation house Illumination have really out done themselves.
There is a lot going on, a few twists here and there and a fun ‘who dunnit’ plot, along with some great site gags (the sushi bar moment) – so overall this was almost as good as the first, but by throwing in more action and a predicable love story, the magic is missing somewhat. Taken on it’s own merits however, I still had a ton of fun.
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