Tag Archives: “Independence Day: Resurgence”

Summer at the movies 2016: The best and worst

CBS Films/LionsgateBy Tim Lammers

There’s no better way of putting it: Most of this summer’s movie offerings were pitiful. Loaded once again with sequels, remakes and reboots, the obvious lack of originality this summer movie season seemed to finally affect the box office, which at one point, was more than 22 percent down from last summer.

This summer yielded a slew of decent films, a few obvious winners and some huge disappointments. Here’s a look at the best and worst films to hit the big screen since summer movie kicked off in May.

  1. “The Conjuring 2″/”Don’t Breathe” (tie)

Horror movies usually do well at the box  office, usually due to low budgets and normally large enough turnouts over opening weekend to make back their production budgets. Often, though, low budgets equate to cheap thrills, and “The Conjuring 2” and “Don’t Breathe” defied convention. Yes, the films have their fair share of quick scares to make jump, but layered within were actual stories and the novel approach by directors James Wan (“The Conjuring 2”) and Fede Alvarez (“Don’t Breathe”) to allow intensity to build towards suspenseful and exciting conclusions. If the studios are smart, they’ll rush these out on video in time for Halloween viewing.

  1. “Kubo and the Two Strings”/”Finding Dory” (tie)

The animation genre provided the most steady returns this summer, and the Laika stop-motion wonder “Kubo and the Two Strings” and Pixar’s long-awaited “Finding Dory” were easily the two best. The key to the success of both films is that they respected the intelligence of kid audiences and equally entertained adults audiences with smart scripts, loads of excitement, lots of humor (especially in “Dory”) and healthy doses of emotion (“Kubo”). The two films are shoo-ins for Best Animated Feature Oscars.

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  1. “The BFG”

It’s odd that one of Steven Spielberg’s most magical films in years turned out to be one of his biggest box office disappointments. Sadly, Spielberg was the only marquee asset available to market the film, a live-action/motion capture animation hybrid that delightfully brings late author Roald Dahl’s enchanting tale to life. Fresh off his Oscar win for Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies,” Mark Rylance is brilliant in his motion capture performance of a big, friendly giant (hence, the BFG), who teams with an orphan girl (Ruby Barnhill) in a ploy to prevent his fellow not-so-friendly giants from wreaking havoc with the children of London. The film features a bittersweet reteaming Spielberg and his “E.T. the Extraterrestrial” screenwriter Melissa  Mathison, who died before filming was complete.

  1. “Captain America: Civil War”

The third and easily the best film in the “Captain America” movie arc, “Civil War” is arguably one of the best in the entire “Avengers” saga. Expertly directed once again by brother Joe and Anthony Russo, “Civil War” boasts a brilliant mix of action, emotion and effective storytelling that’s not undermined by the film’s thrilling visual effects. Grounded in real-world storytelling that infuses contemporary issues, the film pits Captain America (Chris Evans) against Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) – who are at odds over an international accord that would impose government oversight on the Avengers’ actions. Unlike the two “Avengers” film chapters, the film doesn’t feel overstuffed with superheroes, even though one massive, entertaining scene features 12 of Marvel’s greatest characters. It’s easily the best traditional superhero movie of the year (“Deadpool” gets its own designation since it’s anything but traditional).

  1. “Hell or High Water”

The biggest mystery behind this brooding crime thriller was the decision to release it in early August when it clearly would have been better served in the fall during awards season. The bank robber thriller feels fresh and exciting with some unique plot twists, and the “Heat”-like narrative is expertly constructed through the taut direction of David Mackenzie complimented by the flawless acting of Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine and Ben Foster aids “Hell or High Water” as moves  toward its thrilling (and unpredictable) final showdown. The film, which refreshingly isn’t afraid to be politically incorrect (a rarity these days) is not only the best films of the summer, but one of the best films of the year.

And … the worst

Three films vie for this dishonor, although there are several more that could have easily been included. The ill-conceived “Warcraft” made the disastrous assumption that everybody was familiar with the plot of the blockbuster game series, and the confusing plot only compounded the pain of watching archaic-looking special effects; “X-Men: Apocalypse” was more disappointing than bad, mainly because there were so many expectations after “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which was arguably the best film in the “X-Men” film series.

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The worst movie the summer, hands down, was “Independence Day: Resurgence,” an embarrassing follow-up to the blockbuster “Independence Day” from 1996. The dialogue is horrible (“Let’s kick some alien ass!”), the acting is B-movie laughable and talented actors like Jeff Goldblum and Brent Spiner are completely wasted (Will Smith smartly declined to be in the film). Writer-director Roland Emmerich had 20 years to make this film and this is the best he could come up with? “Independence Day: Resurgence” is summer movie formula crap at its very worst.

Movie reviews: ‘Independence Day: Resurgence,’ ‘Free State of Jones’

20th Century Fox

By Tim Lammers

“Independence Day: Resurgence” (PG-13) 1 1/2 stars (out of 4)

“Independence Day” returns not with a bang – but a huge whimper – with “Independence Day: Resurgence,” a lackluster sequel to the entertaining 1996 original. Despite having 20 years to formulate something new and exciting, co-writer/director Roland Emmerich instead rehashes the original story (the aliens are back, and once again, they want to destroy Earth) – and making it worse by replacing the electrifying Will Smith (whose character is dead) with the boring duo of Liam Hemsworth (as a hotshot pilot) and Jessie T. Usher (as Smith’s son – another hotshot pilot).

Wasting the talents of his most valuable assets (chief among them, Jeff Goldblum), Emmerich  instead relies on a younger, unimpressive cast to tow the line. Left with little to go on after that, the director amply uses wiz-bang visual effects (which are no doubt great) and B-movie dialogue peppered with lame one-liners (“It’s the 4th of July, let’s show them some fireworks!”) in a desperate attempt to save the film. It’s a monster disappointment.

Tim reviews “Independence Day: Resurgence” and “Free State of Jones” on KQRS at 33:30 in.

“Free State of Jones” (R) 1 1/2 stars (out of 4)

The timing is odd for the release of “Free State of Jones,” a historical account of controversial Civil War figure Newton Knight (Matthew McConaughey), who rallied fellow Confederate Army deserters and runaway slaves against the crumbling Confederate hierarchy in Jones County, Mississippi, in the 1860s. While the film is too long at 2 hours and 20 minutes it’s short on the story of Knight himself, thanks to a confusingly-placed side narrative about one of his descendants 80 years after the main events of the movie.

Like any tale based on history, “Free State of Jones” seems to play fast and loose with the facts – either with inaccuracies or ignoring large segments of Knight’s life. The story would have been best served as a History Channel miniseries.

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Interview: Brent Spiner talks ‘Independence Day: Resurgence’

20th Century Fox

By Tim Lammers

For those who hoped that Brent Spiner’s loony yet lovable “Independence Day” character Dr. Brackish Okun somehow miraculously survived the death grip of a nasty alien in the blockbuster film 20 years ago, get ready for a dose of good news.

Dr. Okun was not dead, he was merely sleeping.

Turns out that Dr. Okun, the mad scientist from Area 51, has been in a coma for 20 years. Of course, the kicker is, it’s been 20 years since the release of the first “Independence Day” — and Spiner, whose characters over the years include the iconic android Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” from TV and film — hopes that fans equally respond to Okun the way they did two decades ago.

“When you come back and do a role 20 years later, the hope is that you don’t undermine the fans’ affection for the role,” Spiner said in a recent phone conversation from Denver. “You hope that they will come out of the theater with the same sort of affection they had for the character that they had for the first time.”

Opening in theaters Thursday night nationwide, “Independence Day” is literally set 20 years after the events of the 1996 original, where after two decades of peace, the human race is targeted once again by their long-tentacled foes. The funny thing is, while fans have been uttering words like “It just seems like yesterday” that the first “Independence Day” came out, when Dr. Okun awakens in “Resurgence,” it really does feel like yesterday since he’s been in a deep sleep since 1996.

“I had a meeting with (producer and co-screenwriter) Dean Devlin when I first got the script and I said, ‘You know, the unique thing about this is, for everyone else in the story, 20 years has gone by, but for Dr. Okun, it happened in the blink of an eye,'” Spiner said. “Also, where Dr. Okun in concerned, he was already an anachronism in a way. He was a man of the ’60s and is still that.  No matter what sort of changes have occurred, he stays in the same place.”

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Spiner said he was thrilled by the direction the screenwriters and director Roland Emmerich took with Dr. Okun by making him a bigger part of the story in “Resurgence.”

“The character is much deeper than before. We know much more about him and there’s more of a story,” Spiner explained. “Dr. Okun has a story this time. Yes, he fits in with everybody else and works with them in trying to survive this insurmountable problem, yet there’s a subtext that there wasn’t in the first film about who exactly he is.”

Of course, the special effects for the first “Independence Day” were groundbreaking in 1996, and there’s no question the technology has grown exponentially since then. Still and all, Spiner is pleased that Emmerich, who was at the helm of the first film, has maintained his keen sense as a storyteller while growing and

learning as a filmmaker.

“I think he’s grown in a number of ways,” Spiner said. “Yes, Roland is capable of playing with all the new toys in the special effects world because he’s a smart guy and he knows what he is doing. But I think his sensibilities as a collaborator have grown, too. The way he works with actors has grown. I love working with Roland. I love his openness to experimentation, yet there was a real sense of trust. If Roland thinks his direction is right, that’s what I’m going to go with because he has a real certainty about him about what is right.”

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Most importantly, the performances still mean more to Emmerich than any sort of visual wizardry the special effects team can conjure up, Spiner said.

“He doesn’t give performers the short shrift because he’s interested in special effects,” Spiner observed. “The effects are the icing on the cake, but he’s really interested in the cake, which is the character development and who these people are.”

Without question, the icing on the cake for Dr. Okun in “Resurgence” is — like the first “Independence Day” — the long white locks the help define the character. They’re so radical that Spiner, 67, wouldn’t mind the hair for himself.

“On the first film I asked them if I could keep the wig, but they wouldn’t let me,” Spiner said, laughing. “I thought, ‘Man, I could really use that wig.'”