Furious 7, review

Racing-action movies have always been popular amongst audiences. 2001 welcomed Rob Cohen’s The Fast and the Furious, a new installment of the genre that no-one expected to blow-up just like it did. Seven films later, Furious 7 proved to be the most successful yet. Spectators were both eager and sombre in the lead-up to release for the latest feature. Eager to see the return of a cast that they had come to love. Sombre because it also meant they said goodbye to not just a character, but an actor who had proved to be a beloved name for audiences everywhere. Paul Walker helmed the series of films alongside real-life buddy Vin Diesel and Furious 7 became so much more than just another action movie, it became a touching memory to the life – and legacy – of Paul Walker.

From insane effects – done incredibly well – to one or two cheesy lines, that are so aware of their placement, and an on-screen chemistry between an ensemble cast that is as real as can be, James Wan’s Furious 7 is a fitting addition to the franchise. It’s not all perfect, in fact it’s not even cinematic genius, but it is cinematic gold. With a box-office profit of $1.512 billion and an impressive array of positive reviews from critics, Wan reminded everybody just why they fell in love with the characters, the film, and the premise back in 2001 with the first movie.

the cast of furious 7

the cast of furious 7

Funny, and never attempting to take itself too seriously, Furious 7 is a well-devised action that hasn’t compromised in any aspect. Heartbreaking – for obvious reasons – Diesel, Wan, and writer Chris Morgan, dealt with the tragic events of Paul’s death in such a respectful way. The final scene is underplayed but so incredibly moving, and even the hardest heart on the sofa will shed a tear come home-viewing.

Think what you will about this racing bonanza that loves to go over  the top and even further, but you can’t deny the simple brilliance of this poignant film that goes back to the roots of the narrative to deliver nostalgia, cameos, and enjoyable performances from Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russel, Dwayne Johnson, and Ludacris. Universal have capitalised on the cheesier moments of the film and cleverly turned them on their head to acknowledge the obvious hilarity, and only Fast and Furious could get away with these.

Furious 7 is a filmic guilty pleasure not just for fans, but for naysayers too. But beyond the pure enjoyment of Jason Statham as an antagonist and the return of everybody’s favourite racing crew, James Wan’s film is a heart-wrenching depiction of a group of real friends who had to say goodbye to somebody they love. The theme of family means more now than it previously has, and rings true through the delivery of stellar performances. Paul Walker was the best at what he did; an action hero who loved his family and his F and F co-stars. Audiences will always remember Furious 7, not just because of the homage to the actor, but because it’s actually a really great film. A fitting goodbye to a beloved man.

Jurassic World, review

Jurassic World; the fourth installment in a series of films which started so well but couldn’t seem to perch atop the high pedestal in which film one – Jurassic Park – set. That’s not to say that this new feature after a fourteen year break is bad. In fact, it’s far from bad. But, does it hold the same level of intrigue that the original did? I suppose that’s up to the individual spectator to decide. My guess would be that enthusiastic fans of Michael Crichton and Steven Spielberg’s thrilling film will be somewhat disappointed by Colin Trevorrow’s foray into the fictional Isla Nublar resort park.

Made on a not-modest-at-all budget of $150 million Jurassic World has currently obtained a phenomenal box-office success of $1.515 billion (and still counting). Weeks into its cinematic release the film is being shown twice a day, every day, in cinemas with audience members still wanting to experience – or re-experience – the awe-inspiring story of a world where Dinosaurs roam around a tropical island and kill off a bunch of people. Four films later, it still holds interest, that much is known.

The question of, is Jurassic World any better then the poorly received Jurassic Park 3?’ remains unanswered. And it will surely stay that way, for critics reviews have been generally kind, and the box-office smashing records speak for audience members but one thing is for certain; something is missing in the Speilberg-produced, Trevorrow-directed film. That something might simply be the fact that no sequel, no matter the budget or the cast, can ever overcome the genre-defining masterpiece that is the 1993 Jurassic Park. With its striking puppet-Dino’s and that kitchen scene, the original still stands today – some twenty-two years later – as a feature film that is as refreshing and good-looking as it was upon release.

bryce dallas howard in jurassic world

bryce dallas howard in jurassic world

Trevorrow brings us back to the original island, one which hasn’t been visited since film one. Now engulfed in futuristic theme-park rides and made-up Dinosaurs, the park is fully functioning and open to 20,000 guests. Arrival at the resort produces chills, for the films slogan read ‘the park is open’ and to see John Hammond‘s dream a reality is both scary and exciting for long-term fans of the franchise. We visit the new over-the-top park with its contemporary buildings and, get this – Dino petting zoo –  but we also get a glimpse of the original visitors centre that is now dilapidated and overgrown, which looks dystopian and bad-ass all at the same time. The odes to filmic times of the past are appreciated and the nostalgia of the piece is what makes it such a strong feature.

The cast is led by Bryce Dallas Howard as Clare Dearing, the parks operations manager, and Chris Pratt as Owen Grady. Making a return is B. D. Wong as Henry Wu, the doctor who so confidently told Jeff Goldblum in film one that the Dino’s couldn’t naturally evolve. Oh, he was So wrong. Here, he’s been up to all sorts of mischief, taking control of these once-extinct animals just a teensy bit more then he should. Howard and Pratt are both strong in their roles, the latter exceptionally so. New Girl‘s Jake Johnson provides the majority of the films humour, and the actor is a genuine talent – especially when it comes to comedy.

The only bug-bare would be the inordinate amount of plot holes. Grady trains the Velociraptor’s to a level in which they don’t try to eat him (whoda’ thunk it?), yet he came from the Navy…so, where has this skill come from? Then there is the much-talked about point of Howard running around in heels the entire 124 minute run-time. Oh, and the biggest distraction of the feature? The constant product-placement that rules a big portion of the first half of the film. Coca Cola Life? Check. Starbucks? Check. Mercedes? Check. Ben & Jerry’s? Yes, check. It’s so obvious it’s almost funny, and it unfortunately causes a bit of an issue in regard to taking the film entirely seriously. Having said that, it isn’t all bad. There are one or two impressive visceral scenes, and the creation of a new Dino is a genius idea in terms of bringing something exciting to the audiences metaphorical table.

Younger audiences who are unfamiliar with Jurassic Park and didn’t experience it while it was still the 1990’s will love this shiny-looking epic. It’s got humour, it has attractive leads, and the action-packed Dino fights are all there. People who consider themselves to be part of the fan-canon of ‘World‘s predecessors may struggle with the repetitive nature the franchise has adopted, and the lack of charisma – as well as genuine scares – Trevorrow’s film holds. It’s a satisfying and reminiscent watch, but it certainly doesn’t hold up to the original.

 

Spike Island, review

Shane Meadows, known for his exploratory directorial motives – often into the realms of British sub-cultures – released documentary The Stone Roses: Made of Stone in 2013. The feature was a look into the legendary Stone Roses gig that took place in May 1990. Similar to this, but non-fiction, director Mat Whitecross made, at the same time, Spike Island; a dramatised picture based on the same concert. An indie pic, the film features an ensemble cast, all of whom were relatively unknown at the time. Today – just two years on – we know Emilia Clarke as Game of Thrones’ Daenerys and Nico Mirallegro as My Mad Fat Diaries’ Finn. Small on budget (and even smaller on box-office takings), Spike Island is a whimsical tale of adolescent friendship, first time love, and a time in music that was pivotal within the British industry. It’s almost definitely a little hap-dash – some could even use the derogatory term flimsy – but if you too inhabit any kind of urgency to live life to the fullest (like the characters here do), Whitecross’s feature is the film for you.

the cast of spike island

the cast of spike island

The film takes place over the space of 72 hours, as a spectator you watch as a group of teenage lads attempt to attain tickets to the Spike Island ‘Stone Roses gig that took place in May 1990 in Widnes. The premise is simple, and the characters involved, including Elliott Tittensor as Tits, Jordan Murphy as Zippy, Adam Long as Little Gaz and Oliver Heald as Penfold encounter a number of diversions along their road to being gig-happy. In terms of narrative and script, its all very, very British, and perhaps a tad cliched. There isn’t much room for an American audience due to, one) the Manchester setting which means all actors involved talk in a strong accent that even people who don’t live ‘up North’ will struggle to understand, and two) the humour is based around a English wit that is hard to tap into unless you inhabit the UK. The Britishness of the feature is what makes it so strong, but this too is what limits its audience – the film took just under £100,000 at the box-office, likely due to a limited release. Though it’s an unappreciated – and barely seen – film, Spike Island isn’t a bad movie.

The group of male friends have a genuine chemistry, bouncing off of one another’s youthful energy, the atmospheric half hour at the gig is truly engaging, and director Whitecross genuinely manages to make those watching wish they could of been at that classic moment of  music history. Spike Island will, for some people, sit on the brink of greatness. These people will likely be fans of The Stone Roses and might of even been to the gig, in this way the film serves as a zeitgeist of the time. Others will cast the film to one side, seeing it as yet another Brit comedy-drama that holds so many similar themes to a number of other movies of the genre. Despite the split that Spike Island likely creates amongst its audience, it should first be seen – and then, hopefully, be loved.