The BFG, or Big Friendly Giant for clarification, is a near-direct adaptation of Roald Dahl’s 1982 children’s book. Steven Spielberg, who has previously worked in heavy CG with The Adventures of Tintin, directs.
In the movie, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is a curious girl who spends her nights awake, reading books and fearing what may be outside. Turns out, something does haunt the quiet streets of London in the middle of the night. Once Sophie spots a sneaky giant, it snatches her up and takes her to Giant Country. To her fortune, it is the nicest giant in the land. Yet, there are several other giants that would gladly eat Sophie if they found out the BFG was hiding her.
Now, I don’t have memory of reading this book when I was younger, so my experience was far different than many others in the audience. There were a number of people who noticeably hung on every word or… bodily emission. To these people, that had read it over the past 30 years, this must have been nostalgic wish fulfillment on the big screen. For those new to the story, like myself, The BFG was a strange trip.
Mark Rylance, who co-starred in Spielberg’s last effort “Bridge of Spies,” stars as he animated BFG. He is easily the best part of the movie, which is great news considering the movie’s title. The BFG needs to be approachable, but also a bit eccentric. Once the lights in the movie come up, regardless of how you feel about the story, you’ll be won over by this lovable character.
Sophie is meant to be the anchor character, showing the audience what it’s like to be vulnerable in Giant Country. However, her backstory is non-existent. Not only that, but Ruby Barnhill isn’t exactly dynamic. That’s a shame because Spielberg typically knows how to pick young actors with promise. Sophie only exists in this world to give us more insight into the BFG’s past and to be put in perilous situations.
I think this visit into a fantasy world feels out of place for Spielberg. I have high regard for Hook and I think he was trying to recapture that magic. However, when everything is CG, the experience feels a bit hollow. John Williams provides the score and it felt as if that was the focus at times. In some of the more “magical” scenes, Sophie would run around to the instrumental score and I couldn’t help but think, “This is the perfect movie to help kids fall asleep.” As I looked around, I may have seen a few adults passed out.
The BFG does become a magical experience eventually. When Sophie and the giant begin creating dreams, the lighter touch feels fanciful. Even as the story takes a complete left turn (once again, not a surprise for fans of the book), and they meet with the Queen of England, it feels like a different movie, even if it doesn’t quite know what that is.
Overall, The BFG seems like a strange effort for Spielberg. It almost could have been directed by anyone else. It’s a strange experience because it’s as unpredictable as it is boring. If you are nostalgic for the book, you’ll eat this up. If not, you may wonder why Steven Spielberg would spend five minutes of screen-time building up to a fart joke. C
The Purge: Election Year
The Purge first hit movie screens in 2013. It painted a picture of an alternate reality where the long-standing governmental power, the New Founding Fathers, has cut down crime in the U.S. by allowing 12 hours, once a year, to be dedicated to a free crime spree. Essentially, murder is kosher for one night a year.
The first movie showed an assault on a family by some insane purgers. The second movie, Purge: Anarchy, showed the story of Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) as he headed out on Purge Night to take revenge against the man who killed his son. Along the way, he runs into people who are far more devious than he, and he manages to find a means of redemption.
Now, in Purge: Election Year, Leo Barnes is now the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). She is running for president and is advocating for the end of the Purge for good. (No, not the movie series. There will probably be at least 3 more.) Those in power are tired of her antics and want her dead. Thus, she and Barnes must fight for their lives during the course of the Purge. Meanwhile, a small shop keeper (Mykelti Williamson) is spending the night at his store with hopes of defending it from the crazies. Of course the paths of these two groups converge and they fight against purgers and military goons in hopes of lasting till 6 A.M.
It’s still not quite clear why Purgers wear masks when it’s perfectly legal to kill. However, freaky masks are this movie’s calling card. One character even exclaims that “The Purge is Halloween for adults!” In that way, I guess it makes sense….? Last Halloween, my Captain Planet costume caused an elderly woman to have a heart attack, but I didn’t intentionally kill her.
Unlike the previous two movies, the focus of the fear isn’t the bloodthirsty crazies running the streets. Instead, the tension is meant to be brought by a neo-nazi military force. Because of this, Election Year is less scary than the previous two Purges. That’s unfortunate because character-wise, it’s the strongest of the three. In the other movies, there were characters that I was happy to see wiped out. This movie focuses on very few people and is stronger for it. The threat of death may actually threaten the future of the “free” world.
Grillo is a great anti-hero in this simple version of “Escape from New York.” He accomplished the majority of his character development in the second movie, but it’s fun to see what part he plays in the annual Purge now.
If you’re a fan of the previous movies, you’re guaranteed to enjoy Election Year. It’s (currently) a trilogy where the idea is stronger than the final product. Though, as a trashy grindhouse series, it still has legs. C+