It’s been a while since I dispensed my opinion on the merits and otherwise of the films gracing out screens, and since it is summer blockbuster season in the States which means there is no shortage of fare to review, I am going to give you some short and snappy reviews of some of the big films in cinemas right now. And, if box office takings are anything to go by, nothing is bigger than dinosaurs, so let’s start there…
I have to say I was pretty excited about this one. Jurassic Park – 22 years ago! – was the pure definition of a fun, family blockbuster – interesting characters, great ensemble cast and some super scary dinosaurs. I still vividly remember being on the edge of my seat for most of the film, and especially when those velociraptors were chasing the kids around the kitchen (for a hilarious twist on that, someone clever went through that scene and replaced the raptors with cats: http://gawker.com/someone-replaced-the-velociraptors-in-jurassic-park-wit-1539021680 ). With the rebooted Jurassic World, the brains behind the operation have tried to recreate the same combo of fun and scary entertainment – even giving us two kids to root for again. Now, I don’t know whether it’s just that in this age of Transformers, Avengers, Terminators and every freaking superhero you can imagine, we have become much more difficult to scare, but I just found this a little underwhelming on the fear front. I only felt a real sense of peril for the main characters once or twice, when it should have been there throughout.
Don’t get me wrong, Chris Pratt as raptor wrangler Owen was FREAKING EXCELLENT (and if this doesn’t secure him the Indiana Jones gig I don’t know what will), and there were also some clever touches like giving the control room geeks personality (in the form of Jake Johnson and Lauren Lapkus), but for the most part this new Jurassic outing left me a little bit cold. And, I have to say, a little bit ranty. I know you guys LOVE my feminist ranting, but I will keep it short this time – Bryce Dallas Howard’s control freak park manager DID MY HEAD IN. Why does she apparently know nothing about dinosaurs when she runs a dinosaur park? And why does she insist on wearing high heels for the WHOLE MOVIE WHEN SHE IS BEING CHASED BY DINOSAURS??? Now I am sure it wasn’t Howard’s fault, and I could maybe forgive it, but the addition of her sister – played by the normally excellent Judy Greer – apparently being unable to stop crying in every single scene just about made me want to barf. Come on Hollywood, you can create better female blockbuster characters, I know you can. So do it. Now. Sorry Chris, but your Jurassic World only gets three blue M&Ms from me.
Ah, Pixar – you crazy geniuses. Not only have you given us a female protagonist – 11 year old Riley – but you have also peopled her brain with some hilarious comediennes, who make me take a deep breath after writing reviews like the one above and remind myself that there is still hope. For those of you not aware, Inside Out takes place in the brain of Riley – with her emotions of Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger battling out for control of what she is feeling. And – as a young kid who has been uprooted from her happy childhood home and moved out to not so friendly San Francisco – there is quite the battle to be had.
I would suggest this is one of the best – if not the best – Pixar films ever. They have always succeeded in combining fun with delivering genuine feels (yes, you may need your hankie) – as well as making you think differently about things. Not a small feat for a movie targeting small people. That said, me and my thirty year old friend laughed a heck of a lot more than our eight year old companions (yep, we kidnapped some kids so we would look less dodgy) – though the kids claim to have loved it (maybe they did more internal laughing). But this film more than delivers for adults, more so probably than any other Pixar film(except maybe Toy Story 3). And Amy Poehler personifying Joy? Brilliant. This is a 4 and a half M&M watch for sure. Get to it, you won’t regret it. And turns out the inside of a girl’s head isn’t so scary after all 😉
I actually only ended up seeing Spy – the secret agent spoof from the people who brought you Bridesmaids (including the brilliant Melissa McCarthy) – when the session of Jurassic World I wanted to see was sold out. But, who would have thought it would be the better watch? As Kingsman: The Secret Service showed us, there is a lot in the James Bond/spy genre to mock, and Spy does so to hilarious effect. McCarthy plays Susan, a desk bound CIA agent whose usual day involves whispering instructions into Jude Law’s ear (via an ear piece of course). However, when some suitably improbable brown stuff hits the rotating thing, she has to step up and become an actual spy.
McCarthy has great support here, with Law, Allison Janney and Miranda Hart being suitably hilarious. But the real stand outs for me were Rose Bryne, whose evil (or is she?) Russian baddie was equal parts potty mouthed and kick ass, and Jason Statham – who knew the guy could be funny? And not just a little funny – completely, utterly, almost wet myself funny. But this is McCarthy’s show, and it is refreshing to see her playing a much straighter character than normal – infusing her lead with a relatability which made this such an enjoyable watch. And the James Bond style credits at the beginning? Genius. Four M&Ms from me.
Mad Max: Fury Road
I was pretty surprised when this reboot of Mad Max started getting rave reviews, as the trailers had left me a bit ‘meh’. But the critics were loving it, some calling it the best action movie of the last ten years. So, of course I had to check it out for myself. I went in with an open mind, but low expectations – the best way to see anything if you can. And I left feeling…’meh’ (yep, it is totes a word, the Oxford English Dictionary just said so. FYI so is fo’shizzle, so my friends can stop mocking me for that one!). Yep, I didn’t love this new Mad Max. I’m sorry.
In my defence, I haven’t seen any of the other Mad Max films. The only Mad Max I am familiar with is my nephew when you take away his yoghurt before he’s finished. So, I think I missed quite a bit in terms of references to the previous films. But I am a firm believer that a film – even if part of a franchise – should stand on its own two feet, and this one fell flat for me. Sure, from a purely cinematic perspective it was an impressive watch, but I need more than just amazing action sequences and pretty cinematography – I need a story that goes somewhere and characters that I can care about, and I found neither here. Yes, I know this film has been lauded for taking a macho action franchise and injecting some real feminism – which I appreciated – but that didn’t overcome my overwhelming ‘I just don’t really care what happens’ feeling. I know my sister will be shaking her head reading this, but it would be a dull world if we agreed on everything 😉 Only 2 M&Ms from me.