I really didn’t like Avengers 2 – it was pointless in the grander scheme of the story, and uninteresting as a movie by itself. As a movie, it was entertaining and worth a watch – especially the early scenes, but afterwards its shortcomings just made me angry.
Soft spoilers below.
While I like many of Whedon’s works, his flaws were on display here. Ultron was an unthreatening villain styled like a comical cartoon character. Now I like James Spader, but the kind of demented personality he gives Ultron doesn’t make sense within the movie, and undercuts his gravitas. The villains and potential villains end up just adding to the already overcrowded pantheon, and the countless Ultron robots are basically cannon-fodder for CGI beatdowns.
Whedon attempts to develop the characters, but is hamfisted about it (Black Widow apparently flirts with a different character in each movie!) and the character interactions were pretty weak.
Liam Neeson has managed to create an identity for himself as an action hero, following the hugely successful Taken, which was written and produced by Luc Besson.
The first movie was the best by far, a solid rescue/revenge thriller in which Neeson tracks his abducted daughter and wipes out a lot of bad guys. Keying off fears of being a powerless parent whose child goes missing in a foreign country, it was pretty effective.
The second movie was weaker, though the whole family get to participate in running around Istanbul, chased by Albanian gangsters.
The third movie is almost a different show, and by far the weakest, with Neeson tangling with US law enforcement. While his friends join in, it bears very little resemblance to the other movies and seems quite pointless.
Run All Night is like the grimer, alcoholic version of the Taken series, in a universe where no one respects Neeson. It’s a solid action movie, though I had whiplash from Neeson-the-respected-spy to Neeson-the-despised-hitman.
I was pretty wary of Divergent, being another one of those adaptations of dystopian YA novels (parodied expertly by Twitter account @DystopianYA), but it turned out to be pretty good.
Chappie was a disappointment, despite Hugh Jackman and Sharlto Copley (both fantastic actors), and I’m wondering if Neil Blomkamp was just a one-hit-wonder with District 9 (aside from the sci-fi worldbuilding he does). There were lots of wasted characters and the ending was kind of silly.
I actually enjoyed Jupiter Ascending, it was imaginative and very good-looking, and I enjoyed Mila Kunis’s character, though almost everyone else (in particular the hero) were very shallow.
Automata was a decent sci-fi flick that covers a lot of similar ground that other movies cover. The pacing is a bit slow, and the protagonist somewhat difficult to like though.
Ex Machina was very strong, with a few nice twists despite its very restricted focus, and Oscar Isaac was amazing – especially the dance scene! You can see him and Domhnall Gleeson in the new Star Wars too, though in very different roles. The movie covers a more advanced kind of Turing test, about proving whether an artificial intelligence is human-like, and I liked how it explicitly dismisses the technical questions in favour of the philosophical.
It’s truly amazing that Jackson could take a 200-page children’s book and inflate it to three long movies that rival Tolkien’s triple doorstopper magnum opus. Much of my enjoyment of the Hobbit movies comes from the opportunity to explore the cinematic vision of Tolkien’s seminal fantasy universe; for all their flaws, the Hobbit movies have been a lot of fun.
Like the other movies, the Battle of Five Armies suffers from bloat with unnecessary over-the-top content. I don’t need five minutes of abstract visual effects preceding a battle between Nazgul and some of the most powerful characters on Middle Earth that doesn’t go anyway, or a strange interspecies romance that I can’t help question the biological validity of. I didn’t like that the villain was CGI (a human actor in makeup with CGI touch-ups would have been for more convincing and tangible), nor that so many scenes were too-weightless-to-be-real CGI – I hope Jackson isn’t going down the Lucas path.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was very pretty movie, and one in which Ben Stiller had to act rather than mug for the camera. I enjoyed the excursions to different parts of the globe, and the themes of going out and living life.
These Final Hours is an Australian end-of-the-world flick following a man who just wants to party away the apocalypse but stumbles upon a girl being attacked. I really enjoyed the movie and the questions it posed about how you act under certain doom. Apparently they’re remaking it as an American flick.
Into the Woods is a movie adaptation of a musical, and unfortunately it shows, with an overcomplicated storyline, profusion of characters, confused tone, limited visual effects, and weak ending. Oh, and all the singing too. I was disappointed.
More from the backlog…
Expendables 3 suffered from the tedium and extinct 80s macho-action aesthetic of the previous installments. Cramming a flick with action stars doesn’t mean a lot when there’s no drama, tension, or art to the action.
Unfriended was interesting as a movie-making exercise, but took the easy way out where nothing needed to be explained, and frankly that episode of Modern Family did it better in terms of variety and creativity.
Big Hero 6 was pretty good, with drama, an interesting villain, visual inventiveness, and a unique setting that mashed up San Francisco with Tokyo – not sure if it was for the aesthetic or to combine cities known for technology and robotics. Some of the side characters were a bit thin, but there’s only so much you can fit into a movie.
Book of Life was a solid movie, definitely very interesting due to its cultural influences, though I’m divided on the aesthetic and I generally dislike movies about the afterlife.
The trend about cutting the final book in a series into two movies is pretty annoying, but I enjoyed Mockingjay enough not to mind too much. While the Hunger Games and much Young Adult fiction is teen angst projected onto a world-scale canvass (notice all these dystopias with circumscribed societal roles), the emphasis on image and celebrity is a modern twist.
The reluctant Katniss helps make “propo” (propaganda) videos with the help of the wonderful Natalie Dormer, and eventually helps storm the Capitol.
It’s not made clear why Plutarch supports the rebellion (jeopardsing his own lofty position), which is a shame. I was surprised that Katniss picked Peeta over Gale, since according to movie logic Liam Hemsworth is substantially more attractive than Josh Hutcherson – but Katniss and Peeta went through a lot more together.