Magic Mike XXL (2015)

So you don’t have to wander far to find men moaning about ‘objectification’ and ‘if it was female strippers…’ and ‘feminist double standards’ and boo hoo hoo etc over this one film out of a billion to seemingly be aimed at a female audience.  And they would have a point if only they weren’t utterly wrong.  Just on a form / technique level the film puts the issue of objectification front and centre by not using the camera to dissect Channing from his Tatums.  We’re not given body parts in isolation (a’la every female strip club scene ever) but whole people.  It matters.

Away from the noise, the film is also surprisingly funny and a much lighter ride that the original.  The guys are genuinely amusing in a blokes at work sort of way and everyone is having a good time.  This allows the characters pride in what they do whilst also acknowledging that they are, in their own way, utterly ridiculous.  On the downside, it’s a bit long (the Andie MacDowell scene is the first to go) but that’s a minor problem.

The real winner is that sex is treated as something fun and healthy and, because the camera isn’t cutting up bodies into fetish items, you also get to see some properly impressive dancing.

Recommended.

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Terminator Genisys (2015)

Most film series have an over-riding feel or theme that unify them and when they move away from it the results are often fatal.  For the Terminator series it’s all about dreams.  The first is an outright nightmare, the second is like a daydream that startles you awake and the third always felt tinged by John Connor’s insomniac paranoia.  That they also place memories of possible futures and actual dreams front and centre only re-enforces this feeling.  The forth film tried but lost this and the franchise became yet another action yarn.

Terminator Genisys doesn’t even bother.  It’s about fan service and convoluted (i.e. dumb) plotting.  It ends up offering nothing more than it’s existence and none of it is convincing.  Take Jai Courtney; Kyle Reese is no longer a battle scarred, half-starved soldier on a desperate mission, he’s now ‘generic action guy’ and interchangeable with countless others.  This goes for most of the film and, to be honest, if you hadn’t seen those spoilertastic trailers you’d still know exactly what’s coming.

Disappointing, but you already knew that didn’t you.

Spy (2015)

Spy just isn’t funny.  It might be to you but, save for some fun moments where Jason Statham revels in self-awareness… well, humour is subjective and I just don’t get this particular rambling, post-Apatow brand.  For two hours.

Why is it always two hours?

But I can’t dismiss it out of hand because it is a good hearted movie.  Everyone appears to be enjoying themselves in a ‘let’s include the audience’ sort of way, Melissa McCarthy is more likeable than before, and it’s a decent blend of action and yukkity-yuks.  Also, because the central character is female we don’t have to sit through the usual tired male wish fulfilment nonsense of Seth Rogen getting the much more brilliant woman despite being, well, Seth Rogen’s on-screen persona.

So, good fun if you like that sort of thing.

Oh, and Alison Janney.  Who should really be in most things because she is ace.

Recommend for people but not me.

Ironically, I was the only person in the cinema.

Ex Machina (2015)

Have you read The Beach (1996)?

I read it in sixth form a couple of years after it came out and remember it going through our year like fire.  It was a zeitgeist thing, with it’s blend of backpacking and movies, and a cracking read that grabbed you and then unleashed itself just as it started to lull (the lull was just as important).  Then, after The Beach got it’s own adaptation, we got 28 Days Later… (2002).  Sunshine (2007).  Never Let Me Go (2010).  Dredd (2012). All killer, no filler etc.

Ex Machina is more of the same intelligent, provocative, menacing sci-fi.  It’s got a script that doesn’t treat you like an idiot by drowning everything in exposition and over explanation, and if it’s limited cast and locations give it a TV feel it’s only because Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror (2011 – ) series, with which it shares many common interests, is so cinematic. In typical Garland fashion the film does go where you expect it to but the joy is found in the well placed ideas and the way in which we reach the tipping point.

The cast is uniformly great but Oscar Isaac still stands out.

Highly Recommended.

CineGuernsey: Life of Riley (7.30pm, Fri 12 June 2015)

Adapted from the play by Alan Ayckbourn, Life of Riley is a French comedy-drama directed by Alain Resnais in his final feature before his death.

In Yorkshire, three couples are shattered by the news that their mutual friend George Riley is fatally ill and has only a few months left to live. Thinking how best to help him, they invite him to join their amateur dramatic group, but rehearsals bring their past histories to the surface.

Friday 12th June 2015 19:30

Frossard Theatre

Members: £6.50, Non-members: £8.00, Students: £5.00

2014 France (Français (Eng subs)) 108min. UK cert: 12.

Book online at http://www.guernseytickets.gg

San Andreas (2015)

So here’s some good popcorn cinema.  Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is a helicopter rescue pilot, there’s a massive earthquake, his daughter and estranged wife are out there somewhere needing rescuing.  Get Paul Giamatti in to play a Professor of Exposition and fill in the blanks etc.

As well as the usual scenes of destruction, daring do and realigning of the correct family unit, San Andreas works because of Johnson’s persona.  The guy is sun-blockingly huge and as ridiculous to behold as Arhnold (who never made sense outside of roles that played on his size) but he has a lightness of presence that makes him seem, well, sort of normal.  Something the Austrian never had.  And, unlike 2012 (2009), The Day After Tomorrow (2004) etc, the film itself is devoid of the usual dower messaging that drowns out the sugar rush.

Going back to the smash bangs, because that’s what you’re paying for, there’s plenty to enjoy (despite some floaty CGI) including a tsunami climb and a few genuinely smart solutions for problems.  Granted, you won’t linger on this for long but a good time is a good time is a good time,,,

Recommended.

Surprisingly.

Tomorrowland (2015)

If you change the channel in the dead of night and find that you are 30 minutes into a film chances are that you will be able to follow what’s going on.  It’s a testament to the language of film that you can instantly follow the beats, and it helps that there are only so many stories, but give it a minute and you’ll catch up with who’s seeking revenge, who loves who and why Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks a bit Bruce Willis-ish.

Walk in 30 minutes late to Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland and you won’t have to do any work.  Nothing of note has happened.  Not a single plot or character point that has any relevance to the rest of the film.  Later you’ll be treated several scenes that happen twice; people go somewhere and get attacked by robots, twice, people take a mysterious form of hidden transport, twice, people explain stuff, endlessly.  The rest is a mishmash of movies that you’ve already seen and not in a good way like when Joseph Gordon-Levitt looked a bit Bruce Willis-ish.

It’s the brightest dismal movie that you’ll see this year and it’s suffocating what could have been a fun 90 minutes.

Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

She wouldn’t fall for him.  That’s the problem.  Thomas Vinterberg’s film is something of a delight, especially Michael Sheen’s performance as the utterly decent Mr Boldwood, but it falls down on the crucial point that Bathsheba Everdene makes a choice that just doesn’t ring true.

Maybe it’s just the disappointment of seeing such a strong female character have her head turned by such a vacuous individual, but then people can be two things at once and a woman just making a choice in the era in which the film is based is victory enough.  It just doesn’t fit with the character presented here.

But this is solid, familiar, good looking stuff, not to dissimilar too a tin of biscuits at Christmas.  When it hits TV they’ll screen it on a Sunday evening and it’ll do perfectly nicely.

Recommended.

Avengers: The Age of Ultron (2015)

Watching this latest instalment of the Marvel content delivery system I couldn’t help but think of the surprisingly good X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), both have killer robots and Billy Whizz but Singer’s movie had the distinction of not just being a series of things that happen.  It had a mission and proven high stakes.  Whedon’s film is just more stuff with classic bants thrown in so we can call it witty.  In fairness though it does have the better Maximoff / Quicksilver in Aaron Taylor-Johnson… it also has the usual logical weaknesses (I presume The Falcon had something better to do with his time than help save the world), same old finale and the device of cutting to Stark’s face remains awful.

I’m not saying that it’s not entertaining, it is on several occasions, it’s just more akin to a fast food restaurant than a film, serving a million customers a day… tastes good but it’s not a meal etc.

The individual adventures are much better.

Get ready for a billion more hours of this.