adventure

REVIEW: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

When a volcano on Isla Nublar becomes active, it threatens the lives of the only dinosaurs on Earth. Former park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) and raptor behaviourist Owen (Chris Pratt) mount a campaign to rescue the dinosaurs but those funding the expedition have other plans for the creatures.

Fallen Kingdom is a film of two parts. The first is a disaster film and a race against time. The second part is a horror film. The switch between these two elements isn’t exactly smooth and the middle section does drag a bit but when these two elements take their turn being at the forefront, Fallen Kingdom is a tense and exciting film.

The sequence on the island shows off all the dinosaurs in all their glory. The special effects are overall stunning. In some of the wider shots with multiple creatures the effects aren’t quite as great but on the close ups on individual dinosaurs the level of detail is incredible.

When the story moves to the Lockwood Estate, where businessman Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) awaits the dinosaurs, the tension amps up with the introduction of a new creation from scientist Dr Henry Wu (BD Wong). This is when the film turns into a story about a creepy mansion filled with monsters.

The main problem with Fallen Kingdom is the humans. It’s hard to care about them and while I didn’t want any of the “heroes” to get eaten, it was more from the typical desire for the protagonists to succeed rather than any fond feeling I had for them as characters. Claire is a character who’s changed a lot since we saw her in Jurassic World (2015) but Owen is just the same brash guy. There’s new characters like computer tech Franklin (Justice Smith) and veterinarian Zia (Daniella Pineda) who while are pretty two-dimensional offer a new perspective of the dinosaurs. Unfortunately they both are absent for the majority of the third act leaving it to Claire and Owen to save the day again.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom has some spectacular set pieces and some generally scary moments. However, the human characters and their often-stupid decisions, let the film down. 3/5.

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REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

My original review of Thor: Ragnarok from October 2017 is here.

Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is reunited with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) but he must find a way to escape and return to Asgard, where Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, is set to takeover.

Thor: Ragnarok is a weird and wonderful comedy superhero film. It’s bright and colourful, with wacky characters, costumes and settings. It’s very different to the previous Thor films which can be a little jarring but once you accept that it’s showing a different side to these characters, it’s a fun ride.

It’s the characters and their interactions that makes Thor: Ragnarok. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back and once again you’re not entirely sure if he can be trusted, but through his conversations with Thor you see a different side to their relationship. There’s so many moments in this film where you can see their history and how they really are brothers who have grown up together. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is a hard-drinking scavenger and a really interesting new character. Her banter with Thor, and playfulness with the Hulk are unexpected but great. When Thor, Loki, Valkyrie and Hulk (and also Bruce Banner when he makes an appearance) are together, or any combinations of thereof, their chemistry is clear to see.

The action sequences are a lot of fun and exciting. Seeing Thor and Hulk battle is a real joy to watch while the battle for Asgard between Thor, his companions and Hela is one of the best third acts in a Marvel movie. It’s funny, compelling and has a fair few unexpected moments.

There are some uneven moments in Thor: Ragnarok when it comes to balancing the comedy with the drama. Mostly it works, but a couple of times a joke undercuts the emotion of a scene when is a shame.

Thor: Ragnarok is a lot of fun. It’s bizarre but still manages to have some of the best character development we’ve seen for Thor for ages. It also has more serious themes like colonialism and refugees, while still being very funny. 4/5.

REVIEW: Tomb Raider (2018)

When Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) goes in search of what happened to her father (Dominic West), who’s been missing (presumed dead) for seven years, she ends up on a mysterious island run by mercenaries led by Vogel (Walton Goggins).

Tomb Raider is the latest adaptation of the video game series of the same name. I’ve not played any of the Tomb Raider games since the late 1990s but from my understanding, this film is an adaptation of the rebooted video game franchise, wherein it’s more dark and gritty and grounded in reality.

We meet Lara Croft in this film as she’s striving to be independent and won’t except her father’s death. She’s a normal young woman (though admittedly one who is fitter than most) so seeing her be pushed to her emotional and physical limits as she struggles to discover the truth is great. Lara is capable but she’s also hurting, Vikander plays her complexities brilliantly. Throughout the film you could tell Vikander was doing the majority of her stunts and fights, adding to the excitement.

Once Lara arrives on the island the pace of the film slows down a bit, relying more on the intrigue of what Vogel’s looking for than fast-paced action. That’s not to say there aren’t any action sequences on the island. The sequence with the rusty plane is tense and thrilling, with Lara herself referring to the fact that everything seems to keep getting worse for her. This, amongst other reasons, makes Lara a character you root for.

The thing in the tomb that Vogel and his employer are looking for is a bit on the far-fetched but all the boobytraps are a joy to watch unfold. Also, Vogel’s motivations aren’t that clear and he and his men aren’t fleshed-out villains. There could’ve been any bad guy really, as this was Lara’s, and Vikander’s, movie and time to shine.

While it almost feels strange to hope for a franchise in this day and age, I really hope Tomb Raider is the start of a franchise. Alicia Vikander was a great Lara Croft and as Tomb Raider is Lara’s origin story, it would be great to see Vikander’s Lara go on a proper adventure of her own choosing. 4/5.

REVIEW: Treasure Planet (2002)

When Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) discovers a map to a legendary pirate’s treasure, he embarks on a journey with a crew led by Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) to find it. But danger is close with John Silver (Brian Murray) on board.

Everything about this film is wonderful!

Treasure Planet is an adaptation of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and it’s a story that works surprisingly well in space with it’s larger than life characters and the action and intrigue. Jim is a great character as his experiences shape him, he grows from being a young rebel dreaming of adventure to someone who puts his life on the line for others.

Jim’s relationship with John Silver is brilliant too. The film does a great job of showing how Silver isn’t a one-dimensional villain and while he may be desperate for treasure, he may also start to care about Jim as well.

The animation style is great as it’s a mixture of traditional hand-drawn and computer animation. The human characters are hand-drawn while more mechanical characters are made from CGI, these two styles along with the gorgeous colours of space makes everything on screen look beautiful.

The two songs featured in Treasure Planet by John Rzeznik from the Goo Goo Dolls are fantastic and I’ve been listening to them almost non-stop since I watched the film. I’m Still Here is like a gut-punch when you hear it during the film as you really see and feel what Jim is yearning for. The score is also great and it’s suitably epic and beautiful.

I missed Treasure Planet when it was first released over 15 years ago. I didn’t watch a lot of early 2000’s Disney films – I think I thought I was too old for them – and I’m annoyed at my younger-self as I was missing out on a thrilling adventure with great characters and stunning worlds and technology. Treasure Planet is now one of my favourite Disney films, it’s up there with The Lion King and The Beauty & the Beast for me. Treasure Planet is a great adventure and I loved every second. 5/5.

REVIEW: Sky High (2005)

Son of superhero parents, the Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is about to start Sky High – a school for kids with superpowers. The only problem is, he doesn’t have any yet and fitting into high school has never been tougher.

When Will and his best friend Layla (Danielle Panabaker) don’t fit the typical superhero mould, they get relegated to sidekicks which are generally seen as the losers of the school. This is where you get your typical high school dynamic of the popular kids vs the unpopular kids, and you’re introduced Warren Peace (Steven Strait), the Bad Boy who has hidden depths. There’s a lot of fun scenes with characters using their different powers, whether that’s in fights or in training and seeing all the powers and technology like ray guns together can be entertaining.

Sky High blends a lot of typical high school movie clichés with superhero ones and they work well together to make a fun film. At some points it’s as if Sky High knows it’s almost a spoof of both the teen comedy genre and the superhero one. Characters wear clothes in colours that relate to their powers or to people they’re associated with, and there’s a great gag with the popular yet mean cheerleader squad.

Sky High’s not too different to the norm but it’s different enough with the elements it pulls from both genres and the entire cast looks like they’re having a lot of fun – Kurt Russell especially. Sky High is a fun-family film, it’s got comedy, drama and superhero shenanigans, definitely a fluffy easy-watch kind of film. 3/5.

REVIEW: Zorro by Isabel Allende

A child of two worlds – the son of an aristocratic Spanish gentleman and a Shoshone warrior woman – young Diego de la Vega cannot bear to see the brutal injustices the helpless face in late-eighteenth-century California. And so, a hero – skilled in swordplay and acrobatics and with a persona formed from the Old World and the New – the legend known as Zorro is born.

My knowledge of the character Zorro solely comes from the films starring Antonio Banderas, especially The Mask of Zorro (1998) so this was a nice insight into the potential origin story of the masked vigilante. In the original stories, Zorro was already a hero for the downtrodden, so this book is more about the boy who would become Zorro.

I really enjoyed the historical setting of this book. It spans from 1790-1815 and takes place in both California and Barcelona. I knew little about the history and politics of late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth century California and Spain, especially how the California was a Spanish territory and what happened to the Native American who lived there. The book is rich in the historical details without it ever really taking away from Diego’s story.

I enjoyed Zorro more as it progressed because you first see how Diego’s parents meet and I wasn’t too interested in that, but once Diego is born and you start to follow his adventures and how he slowly begins to learn about the good and evil in the world it became more interesting to me. Diego’s relationship with Bernardo, a boy who is more like his brother than a friend, is great because they have an almost telepathic connection. How their friendship develops over time is wonderful because Bernardo acts as a foil for Diego’s exuberance and his schemes probably wouldn’t be a success without Bernardo’s input.

The action, when it happens, is exciting and the sword fights are thrilling. Zorro is a mixture of a lot of different genres, family drama, romance, and action and adventure. The story is of Diego’s first twenty years and he fits a lot into them and it’s interesting to see that as he evolves, he is becoming the hero we’ve heard of before.

Zorro is a well-written story about an adventurous young man who is a purveyor of justice, destined to become a legend. It’s always fascinating to read an origin story of an almost mythic character and Isabel Allende does a brilliant job with this one. 4/5.

REVIEW: Coco (2017)

Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is an aspiring musician but due to his family’s belief that music is a curse, he’s forbidden to follow his dream. When he attempts to play in his towns talent show, he ends up in the Land of the Dead where he meets his ancestors and goes on a quest to find his musical idol and great great grandfather Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).

Coco is Pixar’s latest film and they have once again upped their animation skills. Coco is a beautiful looking film. The Land of the Dead is one of the most alive places I’ve seen on screen for a long time. The colours are bright and glowing and the whole place looks and feels magical.

In the Land of the Dead, Miguel meets Héctor (Gael García Bernal) a kind of scoundrel but a guy who says he’ll help Miguel out. As the film progresses you learn there’s much more to Héctor than meets the eye and it makes him one of the most interesting characters. That being said, all of the characters are interesting, and you can understand where they’re coming from – even the members of Miguel’s family who are so against music. This is a family who was hurt in the past and fear being hurt again, even if that means stopping one of their loved one from doing what they want to do.

The themes in Coco are incredibly important and relatable, and are shown in a story that’s relevant to everyone. While Coco is about a Mexican family and features a lot of Mexican culture, especially Dia de Muertos (the Day of the Dead), at it’s heart it’s a story about family, following your dreams, and of life and death. There’s some heavy stuff in Coco about death and remembering loved ones when they’ve gone but it’s all handled very well.

Coco features some lovely songs too. While none of them are the kind of songs that get stuck in your head, the songs and the score, composed by Michael Giacchino, are beautiful and fits the tone of the film perfectly. That’s the thing with Coco, nothing about it seems rushed. Yes, there’s action and humour but it really feels like your just following this boy on his journey and it goes at a pace where you can take in all the magical sights and the emotions it gives you along the way.

Coco is a wonderful film. There is a very good chance it will make you cry, but it won’t be due to sentimentality, and that’s the best kind of tears over a film. 5/5.