Geostorm (Cinema Review)

12A – 109mins – 2017 – 3D


 

WEAPONISED WEATHER

Three years after top government official Max Lawson (Jim Sturgess) is forced to fire his ingenious-but-impulsive older brother, Jake (Gerard London Has Fallen Butler), from the global climate-control coalition which Jake designed, the senate beg Max to bring his bitter and estranged sibling back on board when the malfunctioning satellite station “Dutch Boy” threatens to unleash a storm of epic proportions across the Earth’s surface.

… Keep Scuttling!

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Independence Day: Resurgence (Cinema Review)

12A – 120mins – 2016 – 3D


 

CORE BLIMEY!

Two decades after the “War of ‘96” as depicted in high-concept multi-billion blockbuster Independence Day, Master of the disaster epic Roland Emmerich’s long-stewing, highly-anticipated sequel, Resurgence, leant heavily on the nostalgia factor in its largely-returning ensemble cast and iconic poster-riffing marketing campaign.

For those reasons, I was fully expecting a template-adhering rinse-and-repeat viewing experience this time around, with mankind once again forced to unify and fight back against the landmark-flattening, national holiday-interrupting, seemingly-invincible alien invaders. While that does happen (of course), I was pleasantly surprised to find Resurgence not resting on its laurels by offering up a surprisingly progressive status quo for humanity, post-first contact. Our close encounter has lead to a technologically-advanced society which has implemented dedicated Earth Space Defence programs both on our planet and the Moon.

While a lot of familiar faces – or at least names, in the case of now-matured offspring, Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe) and Dylan Dubrow-Hiller (Jessie Usher) – are back for more alien ass kicking, it was admirable to see that the intervening 20 years hadn’t been an easy ride of whooping and back-patting for the heroes of the resistance. Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) has noticeably deteriorated into a confused, frail state, while Dr. Brackish Okun (Brent Spiner) has been preserved in a coma ever since being used as an alien ventriloquist puppet. Will Smith’s unfortunate absence is explained away as a test flight tragedy, upholding Captain Hiller’s legacy.

Considering ID4’s optimistic sunshine tone, such doom and gloom is a refreshing change of gear, adding character-enhancing levity to the smashing CG-spectacle. Even headstrong new boy, Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth) hasn’t had it easy: orphaned, frustrated and fearful of being reacquainted with best mate, Dylan, following an air force training mishap nearly killed Hiller Junior.

This is not to say there isn’t still spades of the original film’s memorably amiable banter and chucklesome asides, with motor-mouths Charlie Ritter (Travis Tope) and Floyd Rosenberg (Nicolas Wright) providing their fair share of giggles by bouncing off their straight-men supporting cast. Plus Jeff Goldblum’s assured return and wry delivery never fails to raise a smile every time computer expert David Levinson is on screen.

Sure, you could argue that Judd Hirsch’s school bus-stealing subplot is strictly superfluous, while Vivia A. Fox is given desperately short shrift. Plus not every gag lands, but you cannot write Resurgence off as unentertaining – especially not when it is so willing to jovially tip its cap to its own history with its tongue firmly in check (“You’re even saving the dog?!”).

Since its release last Thursday, I have read a fair few less than complimentary reviews attacking Resurgence’s shallow and repetitive nature and I really couldn’t disagree more! I’m sure even Emmerich and his story writers will concede that the science jargon is bunkum, but this is not lazy or unintelligent filmmaking by any means, with an advanced aesthetic (often evoking Prometheus), resource-stealing motivation for the antagonists and an additional enemy-of-my-enemy tributary teasing a tantalising intergalactic threequel.

It’s busy, bombastic, stakes-raising, speaker-shattering, large-scale eye candy, but if you had a blast cheering on Will Smith and co. through mouthfuls of popcorn and fizzy pop in 1996, I guarantee you’ll still find plenty to love here in this steady and spectacular sequel. Don’t listen to the naysayers who are determined to convince themselves this is a wipe-out: I hereby declare Independence Day: Resurgence a triumph!

CR@B’s Claw Score: 4 stars

Independence Day – Extended Cut (Blu-ray Review)

12 – 145mins – 1996


 

THE BIG TAMALE

“That’s what I call a close encounter!”

From travelling through time and space in elaborate wormhole-conjuring alien artefacts in Stargate (1994), to stomping all over New York City in Godzilla (1998) and flooding entire continents in The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and 2012 (2009), it’s fair to say that German-born Hollywood “Disaster King” Roland Emmerich isn’t known for his intimate philosophical character pieces. 1996’s box office phenomenon Independence Day is perhaps the director at his LARGEST and most bombastic – but as iconic, fondly-remembered calling cards go, it’s a doozy.

With belated sequel Resurgence landing in cinemas today (“We had 20 years to prepare…” the tagline duly acknowledges), last night was the prime time for me to reacquaint myself with the original explosive earth vs. extra-terrestrials invasion flick – courtesy of the recently released extras-rammed 2 disc blu-ray re-release by 20th Century Fox.

I say reacquaint because back in the day ID4 (as it is sometimes shortened – although I’ve always been confused by the numeric allocation… July 4th, perhaps?) was a go-to video favourite for this young CR@B. Curiously, I never upgraded to DVD. Therefore I would estimate that I last saw it on VHS in the late 90s, or stumbled across it on TV back in the day when people still eagerly anticipated terrestrial premieres.

I was also intrigued by the blu-ray boast of an “Extended Cut,” for I have never viewed that. So as much as this was a nostalgic popcorn fest for me, it was also bizarrely like watching the film for the first time all over again. At least, it would have been if any of the additional footage jumped out at me as previously unseen, but at no time was I actively aware I was watching inserted scenes until I paused it for loo breaks (the film is a bladder-bursting 2.5 hours long) and the bookmarked time-lapse bar informed me so.

“Guess who’s coming to dinner?”

So, did I still enjoy Independence Day, almost a decade and a half after I last watched it? In the words of my generation: FUCK YEAH! From a time before blockbusters had to be dark, gritty and intense to be considered mature, Emmerich and co-writer Dean The Librarians Devlin delivered a light, frothy, overblown whizz-bang extravaganza which entertains throughout. Such consistency is admirable considering it takes over 20 minutes for Will Smith’s cocksure hero, Captain Steven Hiller, to appear on screen and near-on an hour before the alien’s strategically-placed chess pieces execute their checkmate manoeuvre on Earth’s landmarks!

No-one dies a brutal death unless it is a supreme sacrifice for America (not even the dog!) and an inherent optimism and buoyant feeling of patriotic hope is underlined by David Arnold’s rousing score. As Senator (Bill Pullman), soldier (Smith), satellite technician (Jeff Goldblum), stripper (Vivica A. Fox) and sozzled crop duster (Randy Quaid) converge to fight for Earth’s freedom, you are swept along on the ride and end up almost shouting “up yours!” to the invading ET’s as the Star Wars-esque counterattack dog fight reaches its firework crescendo.

While the $75million budgeted blockbuster still looks and feels epic (infiltrating the mothership is a particularly jaw-dropping sequence), the Academy Award-winning 90s special effects have dated in some places (comped explosions; green screen; jerky locust-like alien movements; any computer read-out), but this never detracts from the experience and the barrier-pushing scope is always commendable, even if they aren’t reinventing the wheel with the trope-heavy invasion narrative.

But for all of the large-scale big money shots, Independence Day triumphs most spectacularly in its characterisation. As unsubtle as I earlier branded Emmerich’s ethos, his motley ensemble of Earth’s finest do receive flashes of pathos amongst the flashy destruction (“I haven’t spoken to God since your mother died”; Hiller’s wedding; “If we’d got to her sooner…”), while the banter – particularly between Goldblum and Smith, and anything Brent Spiner’s excitable Dr. Okun utters – is simple but sparky. It will be interesting to see if Resurgence manages to retain this amiable and endearing element in our post-The Dark Knight era of grim grunting, especially with Smith sadly sitting the sequel out.

CR@B Verdict: 4 stars

THE LIBRARIANS, 1.1 – “… And the Crown of King Arthur (TV Review)

Syfy – UK Premiere December 2014 – Season 1 DVD out now
Created by: John Titcher
Screenplay by: John Rogers
Developed and Directed by: Dean Devlin

THE DE-DEWEY CODE

In the intervening years before Falling Skies gave viewers a legitimate reason to remember him for more than the hospital gown, ER’s other dashing doc plied his actorly trade as the eponymous Flynn Carsen in a trilogy of made-for-TNT fantasy adventure romps about a seemingly unheroic but brilliantly-minded man hired to protect a range of historical and magical artefacts and store them in a secret underground section of the Metropolitan Public Library.

Moving from film to a weekly series in late 2014, the franchise added a plural to its title and expanded the format by introducing four new characters to lighten the Librarian’s load (and reduce Wyle to recurring guest star). X-Men’s Rebecca Romjin leads the new recruits as no-nonsense “Guardian” Eve Baird, a Colonel and former agent who must protect and train the new workforce. Jacob Stone (Christian Kane) is the manly labourer with a high IQ, Cassandra Cillian (Lindy Booth) a brilliant mathematician with superhuman memory retrieval skills, while Ezekiel Jones (John Kim) is a wiley expert thief and techno-whiz.

They make for a diverse group of personalities, even if on paper they appear to have fairly similar intelligence-based skillsets; being as they are candidates to succeed Flynn in the role of Librarian. Flynn’s reason for welcoming them into the super-secret sect is that a shadowy organisation known as the Serpent Brotherhood are bumping off potential employees, so it was a case of save or be skewered.

As the titular MacGuffin, King Arthur’s Crown is wholly surplus and redundant to the pilot’s plot, merely used to ease new viewers into the show’s Indiana Jones meets The Da Vinci Code globetrotting search ‘n’ solve structure. The mystery leads the gang to the Black Forest and is decoded in record time, before focus returns to the assassination plot and ends on a traitorous cliffhanger.

“Family friendly” is very obviously the key phrase at the forefront of director Devlin’s mind, while “grit” is blacklisted. Bookish Flynn’s impassioned outbursts and smirk-worthy quirks unashamedly channels Doctor Who’s iconic wackiness. So, too, does the fantastical humour, which – along with the gaudily lit cinematography – blunts any of the more violent action set-pieces. For instance, Flynn sharpens his swordsmanship against a seemingly invisible opponent, using the autonomous, free-swinging Excalibur – whom he calls “Cal” and sees as a friend.

The Librarians’ worst offence, however, is its heavy-handed musical score, which doesn’t so much compliment the tone of the episode but signpost it in an almost patronising manner. If the producers ever wanted to save money in the future, they could achieve exactly the same outcome by incorporating idiot boards reading THIS IS FUNNY or THIS IS DRAMATIC instead. While I appreciate the necessity of vibrance to determine the frivolous concept, it is a shame that this graceless approach diminishes the levity of the episode, resulting in a broad and amateurish atmosphere.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars