It’s been 22 years since Jumanji, the film directed by Joe Johnston and based on Chris Van Allsburg’s book, was released. That film was groundbreaking in the 90s for its use of CGI and has become a much loved classic thanks to Robin Williams’ lead role. The original book isn’t exactly crammed with material to adapt but there was so much potential with the concept of a board game that came to life. I can’t remember how many times I’ve watched the original film at this point but it always makes me feel like a kid again. I know it’s meant to be a kind of scary situation but I’ve always wanted to play this fucking game. I don’t care how many monkey’s destroy my kitchen or monsoons fill up my entire house with water. It looks really fun… and incredibly dangerous obviously. For a movie that has it’s fair share of flaws, it’s pretty damn perfect and has remained a classic even though it hasn’t really aged well. So the news that we were getting a new film was worrying. I know Hollywood likes to remake and reboot franchises these days but, surely, nobody would be stupid enough to try and remake the original? I mean Robin Williams made that film what it was so trying to make it without him would be suicide. However, the news that this would be more of a sequel than a remake was enough to get me a bit excited. Dropping the Rock, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan into the jungle? Who wouldn’t want to see that even a little bit? Was I still annoyed that they were squeezing as much cash out of the original film as possible? Was I still worried that it was going to be a terrible mess? Was I concerned to see Karen Gillan dressed like Lara Croft despite it being 2017? Yes, yes, and hells yes! Did I care enough to not see it? Nah.
In my Sunday Rundown a couple of weeks ago I promised to write about the Netflix Gilmore Girls reboot that week. That was mainly because I’d got my dates mixed up and thought this Top 10 Wen-sday was happening then. Still, in lieu of an actual review, which I figured would be both difficult, gushy, hyperbolic, and really fucking long, I’m setting down my strongest feelings regarding the new four episodes. I don’t know when I first got into Gilmore Girls but it was probably when I was 16. I instantly loved it and have rewatched every epsiode more times than I’d care to remember. So when it was announced that Netflix was bringing it back I was ecstatic. Of course, when I binge watched the new episodes as soon as possible I had a few questions. The most important being: WHY WAS THERE NO KIEFER SUTHERLAND CAMEO? I mean how hard would that have been? He’s on Netflix himself. They could have put it in his contract. What else is he doing? We need a Luke Danes/Kiefer Sutherland spin-off where they go fishing and discuss being shit at baseball. Desperately.
Ten: What is the point of the extended muscial sequence?
It went on too long, it wasn’t that funny, and it didn’t add to the story. This sequence basically sums up the vague feeling you get throughout the episodes (especially the second, third, fourth, etc. time through) that things were dragged out without reason. Random snippets appear for no reason other than to add time. If you can’t fill an hour and a half then don’t make a 90 minute episode. It’s that fucking simple.
Nine: Paris obsessing over Tristan is just absurd
After all this time? Fuck that. Paris is a strong woman who has spent the last few years making herself unstoppable. I get that the writers wanted to make her seem vulnerable and emotional behind the mask but this was a fucking shit way to do it. She wouldn’t have reacted to Tristan like this. She wouldn’t have even remembered him. There are plenty of ways to make Paris seem more human but this was just a disgusting one. It was out of character and worked against everything that had happened in previous seasons.
Eight: Emily’s story is perfect
It was always going to be sad to have reunion without Edward Herrmann playing Richard. He was a fabulous presence on the show and his chemistry with Kelly Bishop was amazing. I think the show tried hard to honour his memory but I think it could have gone futher. The funeral scene gave everyone a chance to grieve but it would have been nice for the 3 Gilmore girls to have a nice family goodbye. Sharing happy memories with each other. Still, Emily’s journey through spousal grief was both heartbreaking and enthralling. It felt so real and Kelly Bishop did a great job. I loved everything about Emily’s storyline and think, under the circumstances, that it was the best goodbye we could have wished for Emily.
Seven: Why does Amy Sherman-Palladino keep dicking over Lane?
Lane was always hard done by in the later seasons of the show. She never went to a great college and, aside from a small tour with her band, never saw anything but Stars Hollow. She married young and became a mother straight away. She should have been a rock and roll icon but she had to put her dreams on hold for her family. Which gives the message that women can’t have it all. The series ended with Zac being given the chance to go on tour with a huge band and Lane realising she couldn’t join him. It was her dream to go but she was left stuck at home and working in a diner. Then, years later, she’s still a mother and has to limit herself to band practice and playing drums at the secret bar. What the fuck did she ever do to you Amy? She could have been destined for great things. Why couldn’t she be a successful working mother? A great drummer and a caring mother? It’s bullshit.
Six: Rory’s Gilmore Girls book narrative is JK Rowling epilogue levels of cringe
I mean a book about their relationship that Lorelai suggests should be called “Gilmore Girls” and not “the Gilmore Girls”. This whole plot line made me want to vomit. It’s supposed to be a cute in-joke but it’s just super cringey. It’s a cheap and awful way to give Rory’s professional life some purpose. It’s also not the ending for her career-wise that we’ve all been waiting for. One her first day at Chilton, Rory stated that she wanted to see things and write about that. This ending shows that she sees nothing but her own past. She deserved a brighter future.
Five: The wedding was perfection
It’s been a long time coming but A Year in the Life finally gave fans the moment they’ve all been waiting for. It took us a while to get there but we eventually got to see Lorelai marry the man she was supposed to be with. The wedding sequence was utterly beautiful and, I have to admit, the fact that it was set to ‘Reflecting Light’ (the song they danced to at Liz’s wedding) brought tears to my eyes. The whole set-up for the wedding was gorgeous and watching the family run through it at night was heart-warming. This moment was only marred by Lorelai’ s insanely uncharacteristic decision to “do Wild”. It’s not something she would have done. It was too selfish and cowardly a decision. I’m just glad she eventually saw sense.
Four: Lorelai’s beahviour at her father’s funeral is bullshit
The worst thing about the return of a much-loved show after any amount of time is the possibility that a character you know really well starts doing things that are out of character. One of the first pieces of information we got was the revelation that a drunken Lorelai started publicly shaming Richard at his wake. I know the two were never the closest of people and Lorelai was always critical of the way she was raised. However, there is nothing about the seasons that preceded this one that suggested that would be how she honoured her father. I mean the idea that at the spur of the moment she couldn’t think of one even remotely nice thing to say about him, even if it was just to please Emily, is fucking insane. I mean there were moments fro the previous seasons that would have worked. Like the time he helped her escape from a blind date Emiy set up or the time she took him shopping for stationary. The time he came to visit Stars Hollow and they had Chinese takeout. There were countless moments she could have picked. What she wouldn’t have done is stand there, in a drunken haze, and talk about how terrible a father he was. No matter what she thought about her childhood, Lorelai loved her father and, when all is said and done, she is still a Gilmore.
Three: The sequence with the Life and Death Brigade is fucking sensational
I mean just look at it. It’s fucking beautifully shot and is just so fun. The song, one of my favourites on the Across the Universe soundtrack, fits the action perfectly. As soon as I heard it I had one of my creative moments and imagined a whole film scenario in my head that was actually pretty similar. Everything about it was sensational. The signs alerting Rory to their presence. the gorilla masks, the smoke, the steampunk, the tango. I just loved every second of it. It captured the spirit of the group and showed that, even after all these years, people hadn’t really changed that much. Also, the Wizard of Oz ending was sheer perfection.
Two: Logan Logan Logan
I’ve always been a Logan fan. I know his relationship with Rory wasn’t always great but he was much better for her than either Dean or Jess. Yes, yes, Jess fans. I know you’ll all be shouting at me that Jess changed over time and became the perfect man. I just don’t think all that shit he put her through when they were younger was too much to get passed. Now, I hear you continue to cry, her affair with Logan didn’t exactly go anywhere to prove that they are made for each other. It wasn’t ideal but there is undeniable passion and love between the two of them. I get that the creators were pushing the idea that Logan is Rory’s Christopher and Jess is her Luke. However, Logan was always good for Rory. He pushed Rory at a time when she was really discovering who she was and who she wanted to be. He helped her take risks and have some fun. He always believed she could make it and, after he really buckled down to work, became a great husband for her. Just look at all the times he came running to her aid without even thinking. Dean made her feel guilty and Jess just left without telling her. I think we know who the better boyfriend is. I like to think the pair will eventually settle down together and raise their baby as a happy couple. Just because Lorelai couldn’t find happiness with Christopher doesn’t mean Rory can’t end up with Logan.
One: Not enough Sookie
I know that Melissa McCarthy is one of the biggest comedy stars around now and barely had the time to do her tiny cameo. I understand that we’re lucky that we had that small glimpse of her. However, I don’t think Sookie’s absence was explained in the correct way. It just didn’t make sense for her character to abandon the inn that she dreamed of helping Lorelai create for years. It didn’t make sense for her to just leave like that. Also, what about Jackson and the kids? We see Jackson in Star’s Hollow so that means Sookie left her family for god knows how long. It’s just not right. There were plenty of other ways to have explained Sookie not being around. She could have gone on a year long retreat to Asia to learn all about some new cooking technique. Or taken the family on a food tour of Europe to bring back classic dishes to the Dragonfly. Fucking anything other than what actually happened. The shitty story that Amy came up with just meant Sookie’s eventual appearance was marred and, quite frankly, rubbish. I mean Melissa was fabulous as always and the multiple cake stuff was full of feels. However, the chemistry wasn’t there. It felt static and uncomfortable.
It’s fair to say that the Ghostbusters reboot has had a lot to contend with before its release this month. As you may remember from way back in March I have been defending this film from people who dismissed it immediately. I wanted to see this film from the minute I saw the first trailer. It looked fun and I wasn’t melodramatic enough to believe that it was going to destroy the original just by existing. Although I can’t exactly describe what I was expecting to feel when I left the cinema but I certainly didn’t expect to end up having to question my sexuality solely thanks to Kate McKinnon. I mean I knew I loved the character from the trailers alone but that action sequence got me a little more hot and bothered than I would have thought. Holtzman is my everything at the moment. But getting away from my new found love/obsession for a moment, because it’s the healthy thing to do, I have to be honest that I didn’t come out of the film as happy as I assured the doubters that I would be.
As some of you may remember, my, personal history with Godzilla hit a rocky patch when I first watched the disgusting Matthew Broderick film, as it did with many fans. So when it was announced that Monsters director Gareth Edwards was going to create a new one to be released in 2014 I couldn’t bring myself to be that excited by it. I’ve always loved classic Godzilla and will always be a little bit excited by the prospect of gigantic creatures beating the shit out of each other but I’d been hurt too badly to let this Kaiju back in my life. Until a guy I work with told me I had to and proceeded to bring his copy of the film in for me to borrow. I felt like I couldn’t really say now. So I did what I never thought I’d do. It sort of feels like taking back a cheating ex but never being able to get over the idea that he’ll cheat again.
After a short clip showing a nuclear blast and a mysterious scientific discovery, the action picks up in fictional town, Janjira, where the Nuclear Power Plant is experiencing unusual seismic activity. Engineer Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) is worried about a potential meltdown and sends in a team to investigate the reactor. The reactor is breached and the team, including Brody’s wife, perish whilst the plant is destroyed. 15 years later Brody and his son, Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) discover the breach was caused by a huge, winged creature. A creature that has now woken up and is searching for his mate. Turns out the creature was also noticed by Godzilla who is now hunting down his competition. In order to get back to his family, Ford must take part in the operation to trap and destroy the monster threat. Whilst humanity is doing all they can to prevent the new MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) from destroying everything in sight, the King of the Kaijus is planning his attack.
Godzilla is exactly the kind of film that we needed to get past the 90s abomination. Gareth Edwards’ epic blockbuster doesn’t feel anything like a huge blockbuster. The direction is restrained and he takes a more classical approach. Tension is built through suspense and, like Jaws put off showing the title character until late into the film. It is a world away from the 1998 film, which is something the fans and Godzilla himself really needed. We don’t actually see the titular monster in full until about an hour into the film but his presence is felt through small glimpses. It feels like both a great and a sad choice for Edwards to make. On the one hand, it is very artistic and dramatic. On the other, it limits the amount of monster fighting.
I prefer to focus on the positives and Edwards’ approach is visually stunning and does well at creating tension around it’s main feature. The scene of Godzilla’s first real reveal is just stunning: he appears into a foggy night sky before walking through an array of red Chinese lanterns. Turning to the camera he roars at the audience ensuring that his main entrance is unforgettable. It’s a really amazing scene. However, there is still a part of me that wishes Edwards had been a little less restrained and artistically minded. A part of me that wishes he’d just given us a little more Godzilla. Although, the slow reveal does at least stay faithful to the original.
Godzilla is, unlike its predecessor, heavily influenced by the original but it manages to feel fresh and exciting. The biggest influences, though, come from Steven Spielberg. This is almost like Edwards trying to make a Steven Spielberg Godzilla film and that’s not a bad thing. The film tries to show the human element behind the monster attack. Rather than trying to humanise Godzilla, like the 1998 one tried to, it brings emotional elements through the idea of absent fathers. Yes, it might not be perfectly executed but it acts as an emotional jumping off point between huge monster attacks.
Monster attacks that are, we have to admit, are the main reason we’re here. The coworker who let me borrow the film told me he wished there’d been more fighting, which is something I understand. However, there are moments within the latter half of the film that are just outstanding. Take the moment Godzilla first shows off his dragon-breath. Then take the second time. There might not be as much monster on monster action for a lot of hardcore fans but there’s plenty to keep you entertained.
Considering the pressure that Edwards was under to do justice to the classic and improve on the previous film, Godzilla is a remarkable film. It isn’t perfect but Edwards once again proves that he is a talented film-maker. The less is more approach isn’t in keeping with the blockbuster monster movies that we know now but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. With a few tweaks to the narrative and more dimension to the human element, this film would have been as astounding as its title character.
I work with a guy who is a fairly huge fan of Superman so I have had to contend with his excitement concerning Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel since its production was announced. With the release of every new trailer I was met with a gushing report of how it was set to be the best film ever made and, in the past few weeks, have been continually asked when the inevitable Blu-Ray release is. This is all very well and good but I found it difficult to match his excitement. As a child I loved the Christopher Reeve films and was a fan of the ‘I’m sure it was cool in the 90s’ Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. However, as a superhero, I never really responded to Kal-El in the same way I did with other forces of good. The reason for this is simple: his parents. Clark, as an alien who receives strength from the Sun, has an immense advantage over other heroes. He isn’t making the same kind of sacrifice as people like Batman, Iron Man or Spider-Man. He also never seemed as easy to engage with as a character. He’s a bit too cheesy (yes I realise talking about cheesiness in terms of any superhero is somewhat ridiculous) in an All-American hero kind of way. It’s grating and, when he’s riding around on his insanely high horse, it’s difficult to see him let alone connect with him as a character. If I had to pick an almost indestructible, God-like alien for a friend it’d be Thor no question. He seems fun in a Nordic way, has a nifty hammer and is all beardy. Plus, his human form is a doctor whilst Clark Kent runs around playing a famous journalist. It’s all a bit too narcissistic for me. So by the time I finally got round to watching this supposed masterpiece I had my expectations set to ‘not stunned’.
There was a definite sense that Superman needed a revival that would breathe new life into the man in red and blue. There was room to bring Kal-El in line with the current trend for comic-book movies and have him grow up that little bit. If that meant roughening up the edges then director Zack Snyder and producer (and script contributor) Christopher Nolan weren’t going to take the softly softly approach. Nolan and Snyder aren’t exactly your typical film partnership and there is a sense that this film is battling with its two different attitudes. On the one hand it is the dark and moody tale of a man who must fight against his Kryptonian nature and his human sensibilities: who must pick between the destiny set-out for him by his dead biological father and the careful path his adoptive human father would have him follow. On the other, it is a fast, loud and brash tale of destruction and violence that would have even Michael Bay wondering “is this a bit much?”: in other words hard-core explosion porn. It is Nolan’s style that ends up suffering and the last hour or so ends up being mainly about Kal and his Kryptonian buddies destroying everything they come across.
Just a few months ago, Quentin Tarantino was showing us exactly how you can update the old Western for a modern audience. However, it would show questionable parenting skills if you happily took your 10 year old with you to enjoy the bloody revenge saga. So this can only mean there is a gap in the market for a good, old fashioned family friendly narrative set in the Wild West, right? Well maybe but even if audiences were crying out for a new cowboy hero it certainly can’t have been the Lone Ranger. The original radio series started in 1933 and the television show was popular in the 50s. Not exactly the typical Disney demographic. Nobody has been patiently waiting for this character to get a new outing and, quite frankly, it was always going to be difficult to translate it for a modern world. This isn’t like getting the same freedom you would making a film out of a pirate theme park ride. With something like the Lone Ranger you are forced to stick to certain traditions… even the questionably racist ones. You have to ask who exactly were Disney creating this film for.
Although the answer to that is painfully obvious: Johnny Depp. After director Gore Verbinski put the idea into his head that he could play the Lone Ranger’s Native American sidekick there was no stopping him. We sat on the sidelines of a production full of drama with its apparently limitless budget, expanding schedule and almost free reign for one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. It’s a horrible example of everything that’s wrong with the industry: throwing money, CGI and big names together with the aim to make nothing more than a bucket load of cash. I’ll admit there was always a part of me that hoped this film would fail as it might start a chain of events to change all that. It is with only a slight amount of joy that it seems my wish was granted. The Lone Rangerwas torn apart by critics and opened to disappointing numbers in America. So have audiences simply fallen out of love with Johnny Depp or was it that the Lone Ranger, unlike other recent rebooted franchises, simply has no place in the heart of a modern audience?
“Hey, have you heard? Tim Burton and Johnny Depp did another film together.”
“I think he’s already married to that actress who always turns up in his movies.”
“Of course he bloody is. Who can even remember how many films the two of them have made together anymore?!”
And there was so much potential. The trailer suggested this would be a dark, vampire-based comedy with an amazing cast and fantastic Burton-esque visuals. He cites the television series as one his first major inspirations and the film is full of opportunities for Burton to work his magic and pay homage. Opening in 18th Century Maine where Barnabas Collins, the only son of a family of fishing tycoons, spurns the affection of Angelique (Eva Green) who, unfortunately, turns out to be not only pissed off but also a witch. Needless to say she vows revenge on Barnabas and sets about ruining his life. Once his parents are out of the way she brings about the demise of the true object of his affection, Josette (Bella Heathcote). As a final insult to injury she prevents Barnabas from following his love to the afterlife by turning him into a vampire and burying him in a crate for 200 years. As opening sequences go, this sets the audience up for a great ride. The gothic styling is perfect and the performances by Depp and Green are exaggerated but on target with the necessary sensibility.
2012 was, without a doubt, the year of the comic book movie. Back in April Avengers Assemble brought together some of Marvel’s biggest names in a fantastic (though not without its flaws) group effort that paves the way for a potentially epic franchise. It was the year that Christopher Nolan fanboys had been waiting for with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, the disappointing end to his Dark Knight trilogy. In between these two highly anticipated releases came the reboot of Spider-Man. After three increasingly terrible Toby Maguire fronted films it was down to Marc Webb (who I assume was approached mainly based on the suitability of his name) to try and breathe new life into the well-known origin story of everyone’s favourite web-slinging geek. Considering it had only been five years since Spider-Man 3 brought an end to the Maguire/Sam Raimi relationship, the question on many people’s lips was “is this really necessary?” From the initial announcement of the reboot back in 2010 the internet came together to denounce the film with the expected mix of hyperbole, hysteria and CAPS LOCK. It’s safe to say, there was an awful lot at stake here.
The end result? Marc Webb’s follow-up film to his hugely successful (500) Days of Summer is in no way close to the painful travesty that the internet feared but neither does it seem like a totally fresh reboot to a dwindling franchise. Thankfully, in my opinion at least, it stays away from the exceedingly dark and complex style of Nolan’s Batman Begins. We are instead faced with scenes very familiar to anyone who watched Raimi’s film but with another of Peter Parker’s leading ladies and a different green villain. The film is neither a stand-out nor an utter abomination. The plot doesn’t quite hold up and the action sequences are not the slickest we’ve ever been treated to but, it is important to remember, Webb’s focus for his opening is the characters themselves. The only reason this film doesn’t fall apart under the weight of its own insignificance is the incredibly strong performances on display, especially from the likeable leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.
It is undeniable that comic book movies have come a long way since their early days. Tim Burton’s Batman(1989) gave us a dark tale starring the Dark Knight that was stylistically very similar to the original comics. His two Batman movies introduced us to a gothic world and gave us just enough danger, humour and excitement to make it ok to be a bit of a geek. Bryan Singer’s original X-Men (2000) showed us that superhero movies could be all round good films and Spider-Man (2002) made them smash hits with cinemagoers. Lastly, with Batman Begins and more recently The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan gave us an intelligent, grown-up and very dark look into the world of costumed crusaders. Comic book movies were no longer just for fans of the original source material. They became hits with movie fans as a whole. Gone are the days of the simplistic and silly Batman of the 1960s, audiences want something clever, exciting and just a little bit terrifying.