By Jack Dignan
A raunchy comedy with Zac Efron in the lead role? That... that may not go well. I mean, it's worked before, but more often than not, it really hasn't. But what's that? This is a raunchy comedy with Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, Aubrey Plaza and Adam Devine? Okay, now it's sounding a little more promising. Oh, and what's that? It's from the writers of Bad Neighbours (and Bad Neighbours 2 but let's forget about that for the time being)? Well, this could actually work. And does it? Not exactly. But with that being said, it's a whole lot better than it could've been.
Semi but not really based on a true story, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates follows the story of two brothers, Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave (Zac Efron). Their younger sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) is getting married, and since Mike and Dave have destroyed or ruined nearly every single party they've ever been to, their whole family insists that they find some nice girls to bring along. As the title suggests, Mike and Dave are in need of some wedding dates. And so the hunt begins, and with a free trip to Hawaii up for grabs, nearly every girl in town wants it. But the two that get it are Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) and Alice (Anna Kendrick), except what Mike and Dave don't realise is that their dates aren't quite being honest about who they are.
Like I said, the cast for this movie are immensely talented, and each of them have films and shows that I adore. Zac Efron is a very likeable and talented actor, even if half of his filmography is completely unwatchable, and both Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza are hilarious, quirky and consistently entertaining, so anything they're in, I will watch. Adam Devine I've really only seen in about three other movies, but from what I've seen, I really like him, and so this cast should be working well together. And they do.
The four leads are easily the best part of this film, their comedic chemistry impeccable and their jokes hitting more often than anybody else's. The supporting cast are fine, but a great deal of their jokes are clichéd and unfunny. Don't get me wrong, a lot of the lead's jokes fall flat too, but not as often. There are moments throughout that actually had me laughing, even if all the best bits were unfortunately in the trailer and what wasn't shown isn't all that memorable. Funny in the moment, sure. Quotable afterwards, not really.
While it's short and moves at a swift pace, there are prolonged periods where I couldn't even crack a smile. No matter how likeable or talented the cast was, they weren't getting me to laugh. There'll be a semi-decent joke, followed by a bunch of missed opportunities, and concluded with a serious but ineffective moment that just comes out of nowhere. It tries to be meaningful, yet it feels so out of place, but hey, almost every time there was a meaningful moment they actually managed to follow it up with an alright joke, so that's something.
To sum up, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is a clichéd been there-done that raunchy comedy with a lot of jokes that just don't work, but thanks to the incredibly likeable and immensely talented leads, the film does manage to throw in a few incredibly funny moments, most of which were shown in the trailers.
2 1/2 Stars
By Jack Dignan
The Sydney Film Festival may be over, but plenty of my reviews are still on the way. Goldstone is the follow up to the Australian crime drama Mystery Road, and it follows the story of an Indigenous detective, Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen), who travels to the small town of Goldstone to investigate a missing persons case. His case leads him to encountering a local cop named Josh (Alex Russell), and the two don't necessarily get along. But, with both involved in the case, they must put their differences aside in order to find those responsible for whatever it is that's really going down.
Mystery Road is a film I've been meaning to check out for quite some time, and because I'm yet to see it, I went into Goldstone not realising it was a sequel. Yes, I'm sorry, but, thankfully, Goldstone works rather well as a standalone film, too. There are certain character details and backstories that I'm sure were parts of the first film, but everything else is a brand new, gripping and unpredictable story that allowed new viewers like myself to instantly be brought into this world without much confusion. It's a simple story, but also an excellent display of filmmaking, director Ivan Sen showcasing a grounded and rundown side of Australia with some dark secrets well hidden.
Full of famous Aussie talent, Goldstone is not only a display of great filmmaking, but also great performances. While everyone talks super slowly and not all of the characters had me invested in what they were doing, this didn't take away from the quality of performances given, especially from the two leads, Russell and Pedersen. The story itself can be a tad uneventful and slow, and everything is painfully quiet, but it's another solid piece of Australian cinema that's definitely worth checking out, and has got me motivated to finally see Mystery Road as well.
By Jack Dignan
The first Independence Day is a classic. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Personally, I don't see what all the fuss is about. Sure, it's got some classic Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum moments, and the blowing up of the white house is a pretty cool piece of imagery, but it's seriously lacking in substance, serving as a dumb popcorn flick with a painfully dull first half. I watched it again recently and, while it is a bit better than I remembered it being, it's still not fantastic, and so I was never super excited for the follow-up. If you're a big fan of the original, then this new one may not be too excruciating to watch, but as someone with only a mild interest in the first, the sequel isn't the most exciting movie around.
Picking up 20 years after the original, Independence Day: Resurgence continues on this world-ending story with another fleet of aliens sent to Earth, led by the alien queen. Their mission? Use the Earth's iron core for... reasons, I guess. But it is okay, because Earth has Jeff Goldblum, and Jeff Goldblum makes everything better, especially when aided by a few talented young soldiers, played by Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe and Jessie T. Usher. Is there anything else that really needs to be said about this movie? What you see is what you get. If you've seen any sci-fi movie that's been released since the first Independence Day then you've pretty much seen this film already anyway.
Roland Emmerich knows how to make big budget disaster movies, there's no denying that. He doesn't necessarily make very good ones, but he's certainly capable of making a film in which several cities are completely annihilated. Independence Day is arguably his best film, although that's not a hard thing to accomplish. It chooses explosive set pieces over a decent story, and the same thing happens with the followup. The scale is big, there's plenty of mindless explosions, characters give cheesy one liners and it can be rather fun from time to time.
When the action is going down, I was entertained by this movie. The characters are completely two dimensional and didn't manage to captivate my interests in the slightest bit, but when they're shooting down aliens or racing through the sky, that's all that mattered, each battle feeling as though it could be a final showdown, although I was always rather thankful it wasn't as the best action sequence is saved for last, and yes, that final action sequence is the best part of the entire movie. Except for maybe the fact that Jeff Goldblum is in this.
But no matter how enjoyable the action is, or how likeable Jeff Goldblum is as a human being, Independence Day: Resurgence is still a big, bloated mess of a movie. The film has so many great ideas, and despite nearly all of them being unoriginal, the filmmakers throw it in anyway, and result is extremely uneven. One aspect I really liked was that this new ship had a gravity of its own, but nope, after one cool scene, this is never touched upon again. The film can go from "world destruction" to "save America" in a matter of minutes, only to end it all abruptly and clichéd, setting up a third film I don't really want to see happen.
While all the performances are fine, the actors in this film are really just too talented to be here. They're all better than this, yet here they are. From Liam Hemsworth to Maika Monroe to Charlotte Gainsbourg, everyone in this film has proven to be tremendously talented in other films. This film tries its hardest to give everyone as much screen time as it can, but in doing so it wastes so much time failing to get us invested in any of them. Even the returning characters proved to be far less interesting than they were the first time, and even then, I was not invested in anybody's story from the first film.
Independence Day: Resurgence takes a familiar approach to the first film in the way it tells its story. It's got a very, very slow beginning, and while I found this first half to be slightly more interesting than the second, there's nothing that had me gripped. I wasn't entirely bored, but it wasn't fantastic, and the second half is just plain stupid. Fun, over the top and ridiculous, but stupid as well. It thinks it's a lot better than it actually is, when in reality it's just another been-there done-that sci-fi film that's not going to be nearly as well regarded as the first.
To sum up, Independence Day: Resurgence is big, loud, over the top and from time to time, it's also a lot of fun, mostly thanks to the charismatic and extremely talented cast who are way too good to be in a movie like this. Unfortunately, it's also a slow, stupid, poorly written film with every sci-fi cliché you can imagine.
By Jack Dignan
If somebody were to ask me what the strangest movie I've ever seen is, Swiss Army Man would definitely be up there. At its premiere at Sundance earlier in the year, it got mixed reactions, some people applauding, while others walked out. So, naturally, I had to see it. The film follows the story of Hank (Paul Dano), a man stranded on a small island in the middle of nowhere. Just before he's about to take his own life, Hank discovers the dead body of Manny (Daniel Radcliffe), who just so happens to fart so much that he's able to take Hank off the island. Yes, you read that correctly. Once off the island, Hank and Manny travel towards civilisation, Manny proving to have a lot of skills that can help them escape. He is, as they say in the movie, a multi purpose tool man, or as the title goes, a swiss army man.
This has got to be the most beautiful, heartfelt and thought-provoking 90 minute fart joke I have ever witnessed. The film is completely ridiculous, we're talking about a farting zombie here, but it's definitely worthwhile. The whole premise is one big fart joke, but it's so much more than that. It's a moving and emotional film about life, happiness, love, friendship and what it means to be human. It's a layered and deep movie that I haven't been able to get out of my head since leaving the theatre. Strange is certainly an understatement.
For this entire film, we follow these two people. A lonely man, Hank, and a talking corpse who farts a lot, Manny. Writer/directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have managed to take a ridiculous concept about two strange, strange individuals forming a friendship through farts and turn it into a moving, sweet and shockingly relatable tale that goes through all the troubles and joys of life. Through an undead character, they manage to celebrate all the aspects of life, and it was rather hypnotising and surreal to watch unfold.
By Jack Dignan
I went into Long Way North knowing next to nothing about what I was about to watch. I'd seen a single image of the movie, and that was it. I sat down and was instantly enthralled by the magical storytelling this film has to offer. We follow the story of Sasha (Christa Théret), a young girl who was very close to her explorer grandpa (Féodor Atkine), and is left distraught once he passes away on an expedition. That is until she uncovers a piece of information that suggests he may be alive after all, and that everybody was looking for him in the wrong place. With nobody to help her, Sasha sets out on her own, looking for her lost grandfather.
With a unique animation style and a story that's full of heart, Long Way North is a marvellous adventure. The plot, from time to time, does move at a rather uneventful pace, especially towards the middle of the film, but when it's going ahead at full steam, it really is rather exciting. It's a simple story with aspects that have been done several times before, but when blended together and ramped up with emotion, it works well. The film's conclusion was nothing at all like I predicted, and that is definitely a good thing as it's a sweet and touching finale that fit the tone of the film to perfection.
3 1/2 Stars
By Jack Dignan
The Angry Birds movie wasn't a fantastic film, but it was the start of a trend. It was a step in the right direction towards making good video game movies, and now, not too long after Angry Birds, Duncan Jones has stepped up to create a live action adaptation of the Warcraft video game series. Again, Warcraft is not perfect, and I will explain why shortly, but it shows that Hollywood is trying to make video game movies work, and since 2016 is two for two so far, I am even more excited for Assassin's Creed than I ever was before.
Warcraft follows two stories. The first is of an orc named Durotan (Tobey Kebbell), who just became a father and is a strong warrior and leader amongst his people. The second story is of a human warrior named Auduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), who is more dedicated to protecting his kingdom than he is to being a father. The orc world is dying, and so they create a portal to the peaceful world of Azeroth, led by King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), with the intention of starting a war and taking control. Durotan soon begins to see that the orc's actions may not be right, and his opinion leads to the adventure that is Warcraft.
Since a great deal of the people seeing this movie aren't familiar with the video game series that this film is based off of, Duncan Jones (who rewrote a script by Charles Leavitt) had his work cut out for him. He had to familiarise people with the lore of this extravagant universe, introduce the many characters that we are to follow and create an entertaining story out of it, all done in a two hour runtime. It does lead to some of the storytelling feeling slightly jumbled, especially when 40 minutes of the movie was apparently cut out, but Jones had a difficult task and I do think that, for the most part, he succeeded.
Visually, he has crafted a masterpiece. The visual effects in this movie are mind-blowing, especially that of the orc characters. The characters, which were acted out using motion capture, are flawless in design. Right from the first shot we see of Durotan, the effort put into creating these characters and environments already pays off. The level of detail and design put into it is simply breathtaking, and every time the orcs were on screen, I was constantly in awe. There was never a moment where I wasn't impressed.
As the film follows two different, but interconnecting stories, I can't help but compare them. Nearly every scene about the orc story had me glued to the screen. It was a fascinating, exciting and well executed tale that, for the most part, wasn't even in the original script, but was instead added in by Jones. I am very thankful for this as the story of the humans, which was the sole story in the earlier drafts, isn't nearly as interesting. In fact, the human story is rather hit and miss, some scenes thoroughly entertaining, while other scenes a clichéd, nonsensical bore.
While all the motion capture performances were excellent, especially that of Tobey Kebbell and Daniel Wu, the other performances are a mixed bag. Ben Foster feels extremely forced, while Ben Schnetzer occasionally falls flat. Paula Patton, however, is excellent. Her character is layered and motivated, and the performance is brilliant. Kebbell still manages to steal the show, but Patton isn't too far behind, either.
To sum up, Warcraft's storyline is a fairly mixed bag, trying to incorporate so many different things that it does feel a little bloated, but granted, the task of creating a Warcraft movie is rather difficult, and Duncan Jones does a brilliant job at both writing and directing this visual masterpiece.
By Jack Dignan
It's been 13 years since the release of Finding Nemo, but the minute this film started, it was almost as if no time had passed at all. Pixar, before every theatrical release, play a short film, and the one before Finding Dory, while not their best, put me in the right mood to watch this film. Then... the Disney logo appeared, shortly followed by the Pixar one, and boom! I was brought right back into this world I grew up loving, with these characters that feel oddly like old friends. It felt like I was home, and the 13 year gap between films completely disappeared. It was no longer a thing. Dory, Nemo, Marlin and the whole crew were back, and it was everything I wanted.
Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), the happy but forgettable fish from the first film, is back and ready for another journey. After starting to get flashbacks of living with her parents as a young fish, Dory decides to go searched for them, and the more she searches, the more she remembers, which leads her to travel to California where she's taken inside a Marine Life Institution. Here, Dory meets an octopus named Hank (Ed O'Niell), and together they strike up a deal to help get Dory to her parents.
Dory worked well as a side character in Finding Nemo, a fan favourite as a matter of fact, but many, myself not included, were worried she may not be able to hold her own movie. They were worried she works best as a side character, especially after the recent release of Minions, which was a big step down from the Despicable Me films. Rest assured, Dory can well and truly hold her own film, and don't worry, Marlin and Nemo are still in this film for a great deal of it as well. The characters, both new and returning, are all as warm and loveable as ever.
Pixar always manage to up their game with the animation with each and every movie, and while this is textually different to The Good Dinosaur, which featured almost photorealistic environments, that definitely works in this film's favour. It feels a lot like the original, but is also more fleshed out and textured. It's beautiful, and there's some really, really stunning animation work throughout, especially a few moments in which characters poke up out of water to look at something. The detail in the fish designs become really apparent here, and it's rather breathtaking. But we are talking about Pixar after all, the company who started 3D animated movies.
While the title of Finding Nemo is in reference to its simple narrative, Finding Dory implies a lot more than it suggests. No, nobody's trying to find Dory during this movie (unless she's managed to wonder off like she does from time to time), but instead, Dory is on a mission to find herself, hoping to reunite with her family to do so. It's a journey worth taking, and it's not nearly as adventurous as the original, but it's a sweet and touching story backed up with an emotional core that's a delight to watch unfold.
At times, the narrative does feel a little familiar, which is expected when we've seen stories about searching for family before. It does things that aren't all that spectacular, and you can occasionally see where it's going. I could never see too far ahead, but just little things here and there, and while other Pixar films have an unpredictable and shocking narrative, this one didn't. That is until its third act, which went in unexpected, but worthwhile directions, leading to a moment that had me in hysterics. I probably laughed just as much in that one moment as I did in the drug trip scene in The Good Dinosaur. Trust me though, they're for very different reasons.
To sum up, Finding Dory isn't anywhere near the heights of the original, but it was never going to be and I knew that going in. With that in mind, I enjoyed it for what it was. It's a cute, sweet, emotionally charged and loveable movie about finding yourself and the importance of family.
By Jack Dignan
Based on the book of the same title by J. G. Ballard, High-Rise is the trippy and mind bending story of Laing (Tom Hiddleston), who moves into a high rise apartment block run by Royal (Jeremy Irons). The apartment block, over the course of a couple of months, slowly begins to descend into anarchy, the residents uncontrollable and the law forgotten about entirely. There's not a lot to High-Rise in terms of plot, but the simplicity makes for a strange, strange movie.
Tom Hiddleston leads us on this tale, and it may just be one of the best performances he's given to date. It's confident, his insanity well hidden and restraint. Sienna Miller plays a rather interesting character in this film, and while I do think she was slightly underdeveloped, I was thoroughly entertained by her screen time. A big surprise was Luke Evans, who I didn't even realise was going to be in this film. While his character is unlikeable, his performance is brilliant, and the same can be said for Jeremy Irons, who is the man behind the madness, slowly losing control of the building he holds so dearly. Or, perhaps, this is exactly what he wanted to happen. For a majority of the movie, it remains unclear, but I can definitely say I was satisfied with this film's outcome, even if it did skim through time a little too fast.
Ben Wheatley, director of Kill List and Sightseers, once again proves himself to be an extremely confident director, taking on a film as warped and disturbing as this one and creating brilliance. It's an interesting film that feels very Kubrick at times, and as the film continues, we descend further into the madness that is this movie. Undoubtably, the chaos may turn a lot of viewers off. The content may prove too much, and its occasional nonsensicalness will make it a difficult viewing for people who want their films to be linear and easy to understand. But for the rest, there's a lot of beauty to be found amongst the anarchy, and for the people, like myself, who can find something to enjoy from this movie, it's almost guaranteed you're going to love it.
By Jack Dignan
Steven Spielberg is one of the most important film directors of all time, famous for creating what we call the blockbuster, as well as changing the way we make movies about 20,000 times over the course of his career. His films span a variety of genres, different films appealing to different people. The BFG sees Spielberg returning to the realm of kids movies, which is far from a bad thing as, after all, he did create E.T., one of the greatest kids movies of all time. The BFG will not go down in history as game changing, nor his best work, but as a film of its own, it's an utter delight.
Based on the classic children's novel by Roald Dahl, The BFG is the story of a young orphan named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill). She usually keeps to herself, unable to sleep and wandering around the house until late into the night. This leads her to discover the Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance), or for short, The BFG, who takes Sophie to Giant Land, where he lives. Here, she discovers that The BFG is one of many giants, and that he is the only one of them who doesn't eat humans. He's a kind hearted, dream providing giant who forms an unlikely friendship with Sophie, and the first real friendship she's ever had.
The BFG is a visual delight, Spielberg taking us on yet another unforgettable and joyful adventure. I have fond memories of reading The BFG when I was a kid, and while I had forgotten nearly all of the story by the time I got to see the film yesterday, the adaptation felt loyal, capturing the imagination of Dahl to perfection. It's a magical, fleshed out and exciting world, full of dreams (literally) and wonders, and with a character as likeable as The BFG taking us on this journey, there was rarely a moment throughout when I didn't have a big grin on my face.
Giant Land is an awe-inspiring treat to behold, full of some of the strangest, most beautiful landscapes Spielberg has ever crafted. It's big and bold, capturing the true beauty of this world, and there's a location where The BFG collects dreams that is simply gorgeous. The visual effects department do a fantastic job at not only creating the environments, but also the giants, as they look photorealistic and flawless. The only down side to having a CGI-heavy environment as stunning as this one is that Sophie, the lead, is not animated in any way, shape or form, and from time to time, especially in the first act, she looks slightly out of place. It's a little bit jarring to watch at first, especially in comparison to this year's The Jungle Book, which seamlessly blended together a single human character with an entirely CGI environment.
Still, her character occasionally looking out of place doesn't take away from the magic of this entire story. It's heart warming and moving, feeling like a classic Spielberg movie. Dahl's novel is fresh and original, and translated onto screen it works exceptionally well. The plot is constantly moving forward, and while the first half is a little loose, the second half feels more tightly constraint in its storytelling. Plus, there are some laugh-out-loud hilarious moments, especially the scenes involving a drink called a 'Whiz Popper,' which were absolutely perfect.
The BFG, in my opinion, was just a fascinating character. While all of his fellow giants are loud, obnoxious cannibals, The BFG is a loving, innocent fellow with a heart of gold, and Mark Rylance is the perfect choice for the role. Rylance was phenomenal in last year's Bridge of Spies, another Spielberg directed movie, and clearly those two get along well as Rylance is set to star in Spielberg's next two movies. He captures the playfulness and sweetness of The BFG, and the character design helps with this, too. He looks and feels like the character created by Dahl, and Rylance nails every single aspect of this iconic role.
To sum up, The BFG is a crowd pleasing, heart warming, lough out loud funny and wondrous tale that feels like classic Spielberg. It's a joyous and magical journey with a flawless performance from Mark Rylance, top notch visual effects and a world that feels authentic. I loved this movie. Definitely check it out.
By Jack Dignan
Me Before You, surprisingly, is a film that hasn't had a lot of buzz about it. While nobody shut up about films like The Fault in Our Stars, which I expected to have a similar fan base, I'd hardly heard anybody talking about this film. Granted, The Fault In Our Stars is a much, much better movie, but Me Before You has, apparently, been out in the US for almost two weeks now. I've seen very few trusted reviewers review this movie, and nobody I've talked to overseas has seen it. Why? I honestly don't know as Me Before You is a charming little movie that seems as though it should have more fans than it actually does.
Based on the book by Jojo Moyes (and written for screen by her too), Me Before You follows the story of Lou Clark (Emilia Clarke), an enthusiastic young woman in search of a new job. Despite being completely inexperienced, Lou applies to take care of a recently paralysed man, Will Traynor (Sam Clafin), who is incredibly arrogant and reluctant to receive her help. But Lou finds a way to get to him, trying to make his life as happy as it can possibly be, and in doing so, the two start to realise they may just have feelings for one another.
If I'm being perfectly honest, I don't mind movies like this. They can be, from time to time, rather endearing. Some are utter crap, don't get me wrong, but there's the odd one here and there that just hits all the right notes. Me Before You is not one of those, but it does, however, hit just enough right notes for it to be a good movie. Not a great one, but a good one. Sweet, earnest and funny, this movie does a surprisingly large amount of things right.
It's a touching tale of a bond between two people, and no, that bond isn't always romantic. In fact, for a good chunk of this movie, the two have absolutely no romantic interest in each other whatsoever, and while the trailers do lead you to believe otherwise, I don't even think they went on a single date in this movie. While this could turn some people away who were hoping for a full on love story, I didn't mind it. It's not a super romantic film, despite using some romance conventions, and I really liked that aspect of it.
I think it's safe to say that I will officially watch anything Emilia Clarke does, even if that does happen to be a mediocre Terminator movie. She's a bouncy, cute and excited actress who always gives it her all, and her performance here, while not on the same level as her performance in Game of Thrones, is extremely likeable. She breathes a breath of fresh air into this film that could just as easily have been utterly terrible, and her chemistry with Sam Clafin is nearly unbeatable. Their scenes together are electric, even with a really weird and out of place scene involving their rejection to have lunch at a restaurant.
The thing is, when dealing with a topic as sensitive as this one, they don't always dwell in the realm of realism, and while I certainly don't want every film I watch to be realistic, it does, from time to time, feel manipulative and offensive, especially in some of the more sincere moments. They don't earn your sadness, they guilt trip you into it, and they do so in a slightly insensitive way, along with many other insensitivities. They mean well, I know that, and it's rather sweet from time to time, but I just couldn't help but feel this way.
Ignoring the offensive and unrealistic components of the movie, if you look at the narrative of the film, you've seen it all before. Every plot beat, twist or subplot has been done to death, and everything can be seen a mile away. But no matter how predictable it can be, and it can be pretty damn predictable, I was mildly entertained by it. Is it something I'm going to go buy on blu-ray? Not a chance. Will I watch it on TV one night? Maybe, if I'm bored. Was it a decent way to spend two hours of my life? Absolutely.
To sum up, Me Before You is a sweet and touching romance movie that doesn't really feel all that romantic. While it's led by two great and likeable performances, the narrative can be predictable and insensitive at times, dragging the overall film down.