Ben's Reviews

Ben Lively's Reviews

"Haha I'm just goofin' around!"

Mamma mia! here we go again

The Mamma Mia crew is at it again, this time joined by people who can sing, and also Cher. Once a human, now a sentient, tightly wrapped latex bag with an immobile hole for a mouth, she occasionally emits songs so heavily post-processed the sound editors might as well have used a synthesizer. 

Hugh Skinner, aka the face of Matt Smith if he perpetually heard very confusing news, is particularly annoying. But other than that, the scenes set in the past outplay the scenes in the present by a long shot. 

The dialogue serves little other purpose than to lead the plot to the next ABBA song. Exposition in this movie seemingly took no detours from the pitch to the script, as characters act more like narrators than people. There is a point where Amanda Seyfried (Sophie) walks up to her good friend who is the hotel manager and says, “Señor, you’re the manager,” as if pointing out one’s job is another way of saying “hello, my good friend”. 

This movie is just about as genuine as when you told your aunt that you absolutely loved those floral shirts she got you for Christmas. 

In the Mamma Mia universe, everything from vomiting to giving birth to break ups is fabulous and no sadness ever lasts for more than a minute. The movie is about as emotionally deep as that little puddle of water on your bathroom floor after you take a shower. The only part that made me cry was when I saw Meryl Streep and I knew I was going to have to hear her sing for 3-4 continuous minutes.

If you ignore all of this, though, and you offer yourself up to the spotless world these characters live in, you will have fun. I liked this movie in the same way that you like the bedazzled leather jacket that 80 year old man wears to church. It’s fabulous, but it’s all spectacle.

Among the most entertaining parts was watching Cher’s attempts at reproducing a human smile, the “silly foreigners” gag all too overplayed in the Mamma Mia Cinematic Universe, and that amazing “dancing queen” boat sequence that I truly, unironically smiled at.

This movie is twice as good as the first one. Go see it if you are one of those people who screams in the theater when you see something you like.


Mission Impossible: Fallout

This movie hits you hard with the spectacle you expect to see in an action movie

I am impressed with is this film’s effort. A lot of films, even with big budgets, limit the scope of their action because too many filmmakers see action set pieces as genre requirements rather than opportunities for creativity and exploration. There is too much reliance on norms as well. If there is a fight scene, we must shake the camera and use telephoto lenses, to give the illusion of a fight. If someone is jumping out of a plane and their parachute won’t go off, we need close-ups of their faces and close ups of the failing equipment, all of this in front of a green screen, of course, because that’s the way all action scenes are filmed, right?

This film uses every action sequence (with the exception of the underground London scene) as an opportunity to try something new and, in turn, rejuvenate the genre rather than repeat it. The fistfight scene relies on brilliant choreography, and the camera lets you see whats happening, and the absence of music lets you hear what’s happening. The HALO jump scene is a continuous shot that allows you to feel like you’re falling, and the choice to not give close-ups of the failing equipment gives the viewer a real sense of uncertainty whether it’s going to be fixed or not.

As for story, it’s nothing super new. But what this movie does well is it combines a lot of small elements to create a high degree of tension for what would otherwise be a predictable scenario. Every tense moment worked because I felt like there was a lot to lose.

A lot of the dialogue is characters explaining what’s going on in a very neutral way. There’s not much room for personalities to shine because there is just so much exposition. But a couple funny moments stand out.

This is a fun movie, and a great addition to the franchise. Really sets a high bar for what comes next.


If I were to rank the MI films from my favorite to least favorite:

4, 6, 1, 3, 5, 2


I don't know how you can listen to Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson say "daddy's gonna go make that bacon" without at least smiling.

Yes, this is a terrible movie. The score sounds like those royalty free tracks you get when you search "epic music" on YouTube. The typecast villains are so instantly clichéd the moment they step on screen, that you immediately wonder if they're gonna talk in Russian accents too (they do). The plot is set up like a video game comprised entirely of side quests, and it pieces itself together like a kindergarten puzzle with six pieces. The lack of innovation or inspiration in this film is dumbfounding.

And yet, I had a good time.

Maybe it's because of the sheer pointlessness of THE ROCK WITH A PEG LEG plot device. A device that led to some action scenes that were entertaining in the I-am-a-terrible-person-for-laughing-at-this sort of way.

Or maybe it's because I never had the expectation of taking this movie seriously. Just looking at his stupid face on that poster makes me grin.

Maybe it's just because I was in a good mood, and I was surrounded by friends.

This movie is, in my heart, a so-bad-it's-good instant classic. I don't want to watch it again soon, but when I do, I want it to be with many many people who all have the same upside down sense of humor as me.


Sicario: day of the soldado

The first Sicario was great both for what it did and didn't show on screen. It had some beautiful RD cinematography and tense action sequences, but it also told a story of a morally convicted, strong woman living in a world of corrupt, brute-force kind of thinking. This contrast provided interest for the narrative.

There is no grounding characters like that in Day of the Soldado. No lesson to be learned, either. Everyone is corrupt, and there is no consequence.

Usually Taylor Sheridan's style is to pull back on the violence - make room for build up and character development before putting people in situations where things get blown up and people get shot. But this movie feels like Sheridan is finally releasing all of the angst he has built up over the years from making scripts like that. A lot of violence, but nobody important dies, not even the unnecessary side character.

The little girl character was a glorified prop, and the boy narrative was inconsequential except to set up for a sequel it seems.

Offers some good action sequences, and one moment of tension.



Jurassic World

I will put as much effort into this review as they did on the script

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Produced by Steven Spielberg



This was better than Ghostbusters, but that’s like saying a recycling bin is better than a garbage can. At the end of the day, they’re both trash.

+ The heist scene wasn’t terrible, of course, because that’s obviously where all of this film’s energy was focused

- This was the first time for me in a movie where the iMovie-style editing and poor sound design were noticeably distracting
- James Corden
- One of the laziest screenplays of all time
- The seemingly endless stream of meaningless, boring, irrelevant scenes that lasted for a few seconds and provided no character development, interest, or even laughs.
- The purposeless “wink wink” scenes (I.e. the Anna Wintour cameo, the Princess Diaries references, the other celebrity interactions)
- The absolute lack of conflict of any sort - external or internal. Is there an antagonist? No. Is there a risk in the operation? Maybe, but it never becomes relevant or threatening.
- This is a nitpick but the opening scene where she’s in jail and yet has immaculate makeup annoys me

It fails as a comedy, because there is nothing funny in it, it fails as a drama because the characters are stale, and it fails as a thriller because there is no risk and it is too safe to provide thrills.