- Richard "Rikun" Jao
There's been a lot going on these past couple of months in terms of movies, and the summer isn't even over yet. So instead of writing two long posts, I am going to give my personal impressions on three of the summer movies I managed to catch within the start of blockbuster season.
It's been 30 years since audiences went Beyond Thunderdome, and for a while the Mad Max saga seemed like one that was destined to be a cult trilogy of the past. When the first trailer for Fury Road came out, nobody knew what to expect except tons of explosions in a desert wasteland. So now in a new era and stiff blockbuster competition, can Fury Road bring in a new generation of fans? Absolutely.
It may not seem like it at first, but Mad Max Fury Road feels a little different from its action packed blockbuster counterparts, and the main selling point is it's use of practical effects and direct, hard hitting action that many argue modern action films have lost throughout the decades. I watched this movie three times and while I thought it was a rock solid action movie, I couldn't understand why nearly everyone around me was caught up in such euphoric glee. It even had me questioning if I really was an action movie fan for not being as swept up as nearly everyone else in the audience.
Fear not though, since after letting it stew for far to long I can confidently say that this latest entry into the Mad Max series is not only worthy of its namesake, but will become one of those myth-building cult classics that will endure for years after Fury Road is released to DVD. The world that George Miller has crafted and the attention to detail
The story is dead simple: Max (Tom Hardy) is wandering the wastelands as always until he gets captured by a band of marauders known as the War Boys, lead by charismatic tribal leader Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). Trouble erupts when Furiosa (Charize Theron) double crosses Joe for the sake of his captive slave girls, which starts off what can only be described as the craziest wasteland car chase ever to be conceived in film.
Perhaps for me, it's the sheer amount of detail and care that was put into Fury Road that stood out for me. Every shot was composed to ensure the action stayed front and center, the entire movie was built off thousands of storyboards to emphasize visual storytelling, and every crazy setpiece has a function within the universe of the Wasteland. That's right: even the doof warrior with his flamethrower guitar and beefed up soundstage has a practical purpose amongst Immortan Joe's army.
As for our main players Tom Hardy plays Max as the grizzled badass fans of the old trilogy have known him to be, but the real star of the show is Furiosa and her journey to find her homeland. Theron embraces the role full tilt and shows that she can handle a leading lady role with all the intensity that you'd expect from a post-apocalyptic mad world. The side characters are also memorable in their own right in their own little twists to what one would expect from this sort of world: a seemingly random War Boy becomes a secondary character, the so called "damsels in distress" prove to be more competent and savvy than your typical sex harem, and nothing can beat the awesomeness of an amazon tribe with survival-savvy grandmas amongst them.
This really is a movie that has to be seen to be believed and will no doubt become a staple in any action fan's DVD collection. With sequels on the way, it's safe to say that a whole new generation will get to experience the wonder and insanity that is the desert wasteland, and they'll enter it shiny and chrome.
The first Jurassic Park movie in 14 years, Jurassic World presents a fully realized amusement park that John Hammond could only dream of way back since the first film. It's going to be a given that paleontologists around the world will be cringing at the inaccuracies that carried over from the 90s, but to be fair these are what dinosaurs are to the public eye and seems the entire film knows it. I was one of those kids that knew of Jurassic Park and loved dinosaurs in my elementary days, but never had the unshaking nostalgia many other fans had. Would it measure up to Steven Spielberg's milestone blockbuster? Probably not, but it'll be a fun ride nonetheless.
The self-awareness of this movie oozes out of the catalyst of the movie: in order to increase attendance, InGen has decided to create a bigger, badder dinosaur to bring in the crowds with little regard to what could happen in the long run. As one can guess this never ends well, and it is up to those in charge of running Jurassic World to contain the situation before all the dinos wreak havok.
There's no two ways about it: this movie is dumb fun with dinosaurs, and that's what we're all here to see. The human characters are enjoyable enough, especially Chris Pratt as Owen Grady, the "Alpha" of the raptor pack that have become the fan favorites of this film. Our main character Clare (Bryce Dallas Howard) plays the part of stuffy businesswoman turned determined survivor as well as you can expect, and I personally found her to be fairly endearing when it came down to her saving her nephews. Everybody else from Clare's nephews to the park staff and all the civilians involved play their parts as well as you'd expect, and for a fun popcorn flick it's serviceable enough.
The real attraction though are the dinosaurs in all of their glory. As mentioned before the Raptor Pack is fun to watch and the sheer spectacle of the damage Indominous Rex can wreak on the island. And while the setpiece spectacles are great to see, many fans have already called out the films overuse of CGI, which can become jarring when you're treated to a scene that uses practical effects to bring an Apatosaurus to life. It continues to be an example of the modern use of CGI, and only time will tell if it will age as gracefully as the first movie's combination of CG and practical effects.
It may seem like I may be offhandedly bashing this movie since this review can be reused for any given Transformers movie, but the Jurassic Park movies have always done a decent job of creating likable characters as opposed to annoying humans, and there's an unmistakable sense of lightness throughout the film that keeps the spirit of Jurassic Park alive.
Overall, it's worth seeing if you're looking for a simple action movie with a touch of prehistoric nostalgia. Fans of the old will appreciate the callbacks to the first films and the climax of the movie alone is worth watching through the entire movie. To those who were disappointed with J2 and J3, you'll be glad to know that Jurassic World has made liking dinosaurs awesome again.
Ah Pixar. We've had our in and outs before, and I was afraid that for a moment Disney might had just outshone you in terms of greatness, what with Frozen and Big Hero 6 under their belts. I will even admit to not eating up the hype that other Pixar fans were squealing about when the trailers first showed up, but I managed to see it and am I glad that I have.
Let me be frank here: while Pixar's other movies wrenched at my heartstrings (like Up and Wall-E), Inside Out was a movie that was hard to watch due to the emotional wringer that it will put you through. However, it's a wringer you'll have to go through to fully appreciate such a worthwhile ending.
There are several stories going on here. On the outside we have Riley Anderson, an 11 year old girl who's going through the emotionally taxing process of moving from Minnesota to San Francisco. Inside her mind, we have Riley's five driving emotions that are trying to keep her stable as she adjusts to her new life. Due to an accident in Riley's control center, Joy and Sadness have become lost within the recesses of Riley's mind and have to get back home before Riley breaks down both physically and metaphorically. Don't let the colorful character designs and the amazingly creative world within the mind fool you: this is a movie that children shouldn't watch alone, but rather with the whole family to get the full emotional impact the film has to offer.
Each emotion acts exactly how they're named: Fear (Bill Hader) is panicky, Disgust (Mindy Kaling) is cynical, Anger (Lewis Black) is short tempered, Sadness (Phyllis Smith) is depressed, and Joy (Amy Poehler) is boundlessly upbeat. What's great to see though is how multi-faced said emotions can be and how ultimately they all help to create a healthy mind (even if some of them seem negative at first). All of this translates to a normal, yet emotionally taxing slice-of-life story with Riley, and by the end I wouldn't expect to see an unmoved soul in the audience. The writing is on point, the set pieces are wildly creative takes of the inner mind, and the movie is a great mix of both crazy humor and gut-wrenching scenes. Just the way Pixar likes it.
So if you thought the first ten minutes of Up or Wall-E were hard to sit through then buckle up, because you'll be in for one heck of an emotional roller coaster when you see this one.
Hope you all enjoyed my reviews for the summer's starting blockbusters! Now if you excuse me, I'll be sitting back and waiting for Ant Man to show up.