Sunday, 24 September 2017

#77 CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (RE-ISSUE)


Starring Richard Drefyuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, François Truffaut, Bob Balaban, Lance Henriksen and Cary Guffey. Written and directed by Steven Spielberg. Budget $20 million. Running time 135 minutes long.

This classic film follows the after effects of a Close Encounter of the Third Kind that sees the break up of a marriage and the abduction of a small boy that causes his mother to be vilified as a possible child murderer.

Made in 1977 and following hot on the heels of Star Wars, this was the film that some of us 13 year olds (in 1977) thought was going to be as fantastic as George Lucas's work of genius. Alas to us back then it was a bit of a disappointment, lacking as it was huge space battles, hairy aliens and talking robots. However with the benefit of age and maturity you can now marvel at what an superb film this is. Sure the effects at the end and the arrival of the aliens is fantastic, but what makes it so fascinating to watch, as an adult, is the effects on Roy Neary's (Richard Drefyuss) psyche and family of his encounter. That and his, desperate search for answers. It's beautifully scored by John Williams and the cast is perfect. Plus it makes such a change from the usual wham bam action of most science fiction films.

What you forget is how little is spoken during the film, there are many sequences where characters act and don't speak and yet so much is conveyed. Indeed the whole alien 'first contact' sequence that takes up most of the third act is simply staggering and still packs a fantastic emotional punch. This is one of those films that you find yourself thinking about long after it's over, for example Roy's ditching of his young wife and kids as he gallivants off with his alien chums to the stars.

This new digitally remastered 4K print is superb and boy does this film deserve to be seen up there on the big screen if you get a chance.

10/10

#78 KINGSMEN: GOLDEN CIRCLE

Starring Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Pedro Pascal, Edward Holcroft and Elton John. Written by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn and directed by Matthew Vaughn. Budget $104 million. Running time 141 minutes. Cert 15.

One year after the events of Kingsmen: The Secret Service and everything's gone pear shaped, the entire Kingsmen infra structure has been destroyed in a single co-ordinated airstrike and every agent except for super agent Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and quartermaster Merlin (Mark Strong) has been killed, all on the orders of the world's most successful and richest drugs baron – Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore). She's living in total secrecy orchestrating an insane plot to flood the world with poisoned drugs so that the drug industry will be legitimised she'll be recognised as a powerful and successful business woman. Needing help to find out who targeted them, Eggsy and Merlin head for the US and fall under the patronage of the Statesmen, the American equivalent of Kingsmen, run by Champ (Jeff Bridges) who use the cover of a distillery as cover rather than the men's tailor outfit of the English cousins. There they team up with Statesmen agents Tequila (Channing Tatum), Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and Ginger Ale (Halle Berry) who's the American version of Merlin. And finally they're off to track Poppy down to her Indonesian volcanic lair that she's decked out to look like a small town American town complete with burger bar, cinema and nail bar. Along the way, our plucky Brit heroes stumble across an old friend who's lost, not only an eye, but his way and memory and needs help to rediscover himself.

And that, apart from a relentless barrage of violence and one utterly disgusting, and not in a good way, sex scene, oh and Elton John, is that.

Matthew Vaughn's fifth movie and sadly his first missfire, this is an ugly, bloated movie with none of the charm and wit of the original nor its lovely story arc. This time round Vaughn and Jane Goldman have developed an overly egged pudding of a plot which sees our heroes bouncing back and forth from America to a series of locations from London to Glastonbury and Italy, each time returning to the US before the final showdown in the villains lair. The action is repetitive and lacks all of the style and originality of the, err original movie and it's nearly 15 minutes longer. The bulging cast features four major American actors who only pop up occasionally for what amounts to a series of cameos, indeed Channing Tatum literally spends most of his role sleeping and Julianne Moore disappears for most of the movie.

And yet there are still things to love about this film, Eggsy's relationship with the Crown Princess Tilde of Sweden is both touching and sweet, as is Eggsy's re-connection with his old mentor, Harry (Colin Firth). Elton John is bloody funny, Mark Strong is, as ever, glorious, funny and fantastically watchable and Julianne Moore hints at a far more interesting character if only she'd been given more time to shine.

But what isn't nice is the rest of this film. The action scenes are rendered almost unwatchable thanks to violent editing and shaky cam, the back and forthing between the mission and the Statesmen Kentucky HQ robs the film of its momentum and the sub plot featuring the President of the United States is annoying and poorly developed. There's also an over reliance on rehashing memorable scenes from the first movie - for example an almost word-for-word remake of the wonderful pub scene as well as far too many, repetitive 'one-take' action sequences. All of which just makes this  feel like a tired rehash and not something fresh and original. You don't get the same exhilaration and nothing in this comes close to capturing the pure genius of the church shootout of The Secret Service.

But the single worst thing of this entire film is a mission that Eggsy goes on to bug a suspected link to Poppy's drug plot, Clara Von Gluckfberg (Poppy Delevingne) who just so happens to be the girlfriend of the failed Kingsmen candidate Charlie Hesketh (Edward Holcroft) from the first film. Charlie is the cybernetically enhanced lead henchman of Poppy.  Eggsy heads off to Glastonbury with a tracking device, mounted on a finger sized condom that will only work if it's introduced to Clara's mucous membrane. This leaves Eggsy with a dilema, especially since he's in a loving relationship with his Swedish girlfriend so he rings her up to ask for permission to shag his target. Naturally she expresses her displeasure with his request, so Eggsy comes up with a genius solution to finger his target. Luckily with a camera just millimetres away from Eggsy's digit we get to watch its trajectory to splashdown. Literally. Now, I'm not a prude, far from it but I found this one scene to be genuinely and completely unnecessary. It could of be handled far more subtly and we wouldn't have had to watch his fingers slide into her red knickers and then disappear from view.

So, overall this is an overblown, over-egged and over long action film, with relentless action and a body count in the hundreds. Poppy Adam's plot seems clever on first hearing, but as the film progresses you start to realise it's just stupid and worst of all the mechanics of it cause continuity problems that don't make sense. The final showdown, which is a long time coming finally lacks punch and relies too much on a pair of robotic killer dogs and then to make it even longer, there's not one, or two, or three but five foes to vanquish at the end and boy that gets pretty boring.

All that said, Taron Egerton is a fantastically watchable actor, he brings an immense amount of charm to his character and the relationships he has with Harry, Tilde and Merlin are a joy, what a shame there wasn't more of that than the other.

6/10













Sunday, 17 September 2017

#76 MOTHER!


Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson and Brian Gleeson. Written and directed by Darren Aronofsky. Running time 121 minutes. Budget $30 million. Certificate 18.

SYNOPSIS  
WHAT FOLLOWS IS A SOMEWHAT MORE DETAILED THAN USUAL SYNOPSIS OF THE FILM. AS IN IT GIVES AWAY THE WHOLE STORY. IF YOU REALLY WANT TO SEE THIS FILM AND GO IN BLIND THEN PLEASE SKIP TO 'REVIEW PART, NO SPOILERS' AT THE BOTTOM, HIGH-LIGHTED IN RED. OTHERWISE, GET READY FOR A REAL SHOCKER...

The film opens with a badly beaten woman standing in a wall of fire, that is before Javier places a beautiful crystal on a small plinth in the charred, smouldering remains of a once magnificent wooden house, referred to later as 'paradise'. The crystal radiates light and transforms the blackened husk of a house back into pristine glory. Then a young woman, Jennifer Lawrence wakes up alone in bed, rolls over to look for her husband and calls out, 'Baby?'.

We discover that the house is tended to by Jennifer Lawrence, indeed she does everything in the house and spends 2/3rds of this movie doing house work while her husband Javier Bardem, a poet with writer's block struggles to write a new book as good as his first one. He spends his days looking for inspiration while Jennifer drifts from room to room, doing DIY or cooking meals for Javier. Then one day Ed Harris and later Michelle Pfeiffer turn up and take over. Jennifer puts up with them for a while but really wishes Javier would just ask them to leave, but he won't, especially when Ed reveals himself to be a big fan of Javier's work. Then they start to mess things up and no matter how much she pleads, Javier refuses to send them away. Then their two sons turn up, Domhnall and Brian Gleeson and before you know it, the former's only gone and murdered the later by bashing in his head. Distraught, Ed and Michelle throw a wake in the house and invite loads of people who just take over and Jennifer gets really upset. Anyway, one day while Javier is away, Ed and Michelle break into Javier's office, despite being told that's the only room in the house they're not allowed in, and break his crystal and finally he loses it and he throws them out of his house. Then in an argument, Javier and Jennifer have break up sex and she instantly falls pregnant, which in turn inspires Javier to write a new poem. On the day the baby is due, the poem is finished and before she knows it, the house is filled with thousands of new people who all worship Javier and his new poem, and that's when things finally go bat shit crazy.

These new interlopers utterly trash the house to such an extent that an insanely violent riot breaks out and a whole new religious order emerges with those who take the new poem as a religious tract and inter-faith fighting erupts with other supporters of the poem fighting over its interpretation. Finally open warfare erupts and the house is horribly trashed. In desperation, Javier rescues Jennifer from the anarchy and barricaded in his office she gives birth to a baby boy. And then something truly horrible happens to the baby and Jennifer is horribly beaten and in a fit of rage destroys the house and herself in a huge fireball, reducing the once magnificent house to a smouldering ruins once again. Javier carries her badly burned body back to his office and tells her he needs her love and that he has to try one more time. Then he rips out her heart and removes a beautiful crystal from it which he places on the small plinth, which once again transforms the blackened husk of the house back to its former pristine glory. The film ends with a new woman waking up in Javier's bed, rolling over to look for  her Poet husband and calling out 'Baby?'.

To make sense of all that has gone before here is a handy guide as to who Jenn, Jav, Ed and Michelle really are, although you might have already worked it out for yourselves. I'd sort of guessed from the literal get go.

SPOILER ALERT.
Jennifer Lawrence is MOTHER NATURE, Javieer Bardem is GOD, Ed Harris is ADAM and Michelle Pfeiffer is EVE. The Gleeson boys are KANE and ABEL.

REVIEW PART, NO SPOILERS.

This is a huge, self-indulgent pile of utter bollocks. And although beautifully art-directed and well directed is just so pretentious that it literally disappears up its own arse with self-importance twaddle. If you found Darren's equally appalling Noah a tad too religious for your taste, listen lady you ain't seen nothing yet!

Actually for a while this is quite an interesting and intriguing film, its been marketed as a strange horror/mystery but believe me the only horror here is your own when you realise this is just a fucking 'what-if' Sunday school story. Honestly it's so utterly annoying because when the religious bollocks finally gets flung in your face you're frankly past caring.

The only saving grace (pun intended) is the delightful sight of Jennifer Lawrence wearing a see-through top right at the beginning of the movie. Oh and Ed Harris who's another one of those actors who can do no wrong, well almost no wrong, cos this one really tested my patience.

Nothing to see here, save yourself and jog on.

3/10


#75 AMERICAN ASS ASS IN


Starring Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Shiva Negar and Taylor Kitsch. Written by Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz. Directed by Michael Cuesta. Running time 111 minutes long. Budget $33 million. Certificate 18.

Based on a series of books written by Vice Flynn, Mitt Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) is sent off on the revenge trail when his fiancee is killed in a terrorist beach attack. 18 months later a laser-focused Mitt has grown a beard, learned the Koran, become fluent in Arabic, infiltrated the Muslim terrorist cell responsible and transformed himself into a one-man killing machine. However, before he can exact the revenge he's dreamed and trained for he's recruited by C.I.A Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) for an ultra bad-ass black ops outfit managed and trained by cold war warrior and utter bad-ass Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). It transpires that a shipment of weapon-grade Plutonium has been stolen on behest of a splinter group of the Iranian government and the chase is on to track it down before it's used to destroy the United States 6th Fleet. To make matters even worse the man behind the crime is a mysterious terrorist known only as Ghost (Taylor Kitsch) whose skills and training seem awfully familiar to the sort of training Hurley provides. Hmmm, I wonder if there's a connection...

This film is a real rarity, it's an 18 certificate action film and it's hardly surprising considering the violence, graphic deaths and torture scenes that populate the film. It also doesn't skim on the detail or cut away before we see multiple bullet holes, knife wounds and the close ups of finger nails getting ripped out that seem to behalf practically all the cast of this film, my god even the utterly innocent unnamed bell boy who takes Dylan up to his hotel gets chainsawed to death when he asks for a tip!

Starring Dylan O'Brien who had the misfortune to star in the dreadful YA movies Maze Runner and also Taylor Kitsch, who not so long ago was the next Dylan O'Brien, that was before he had a truly dreadful run of terrible films like Battleshits, John Carter and Savages that seriously derailed his career. This time round he's playing the baddy and he's rather good at it, as is Michael Keaton in the gruff drill sergeant role who just eats up the screen in every scene he's in. Actually there's quite a lot to like about this film, it's an aggressive, hard edged spy thriller with double crosses, hidden agendas, car chases, explosions, fights and more swarthy looking assassins than you can shake a stick at, and it's even got a ticking fricking atom bomb for god's sake, A TICKING FRICKING ATOM BOMB!!!!!

So, in the final analysis, what this is is a typical DTV Steven Siegel movie but with an A-List cast and a bigger budget, oh and no Steven Siegel which is a blessing and earns this film an extra star before we've even gotten to the final score on the door. It's in no danger of blagging a Best Picture Oscar, or one for screenplay, or direction, but it might just spawn a franchise, perhaps even becoming the next Bourne, actually if you liked Bourne then you know what to expect with this, although this is a more violent Jack Ryan than Jason Bourne. It's cut from the same cloth although one without the splashes of shaking camera splashes of vomit, the endless plots-beneath-plots, double crosses, or amnesia suffering super spy because the last thing we need is another one of those!

This is a solid, but utterly poe-faced, violent romp, which has no room for brevity or a lightness of touch and in the final analysis is the male equivalent of a romcom, so let's call it a ACTROM. It belts along, giving you no time to get bored, it's punctuated by action every couple of minutes, it's got guns, car crashes, explosions and punch ups and it's got Michael Keaton, so all-in-all, this is a solid enough Saturday Night Special of a movie and nothing more or less.

7/10



Sunday, 10 September 2017

#74 WIND RIVER



Starring Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Graham Green, Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. Budget $11 million. Running time 111 minutes. Certificate 15.

When a US Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) finds the shoeless corpse of a young native American woman frozen to death six miles from the nearest house, he triggers an FBI investigation, in the form of green-horn FBI special agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) that forces him to relive the terrible death of his own daughter who died in horribly similar circumstances several years earlier, a death that cost him his marriage. However when a second naked corpse is discovered, this time of a dead male miner, the murders takes on a chilling new dimension.

What follows is an thought-provoking and intense but also sadly bleak and somewhat depressing crime thriller set on the stunning vista of a Native American reservation in the depths of Wyoming in the middle of winter in the company of Tribal Police Chief Ben (Graham Green). That said, despite being depressing, that's not a bad thing, indeed it really helps to make this a gripping thriller.

Jeremy Renner is surprisingly good as the tracker and hunter, bringing to his role some real depth, humanity and pain. Although Elizabeth Olsen has a less success in her role which gives her far less opportunity to emote as silently as her fellow Avengers team mate does. Similarly, this is a political film with something to say, this time about the plight of the Native American male youth which is explored and the film rarely misses an opportunity to point out the bleakness facing this tragically disenfranchised portion of American life.

Written by the man responsible for both Sicario and Hell or High Water, this is a serious and intense film that builds slowly and ends with an extremely dramatic and somewhat startling burst of some unexpected violence, which does feel oddly out of place with what has developed over the course of the film. This is Taylor Sheridan's first movie as a director and although he handles it well, some of his scenes feel a little clunky and there is a sense he is still to find his feet as a director.

7/10

#73 CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE


Starring Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Thomas Middleditch, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele and Kristen Schaal. Written by Nicholas Stoller and directed David Soren. Based on the series of books by Dav Pilkey. Budge $38 million. Running time 89 minutes. Certificate U.

Two young friends, one a budding cartoonist the other a writer create a cartoon character called Captain Underpants who somehow becomes real and end up battling not only an angry principle but also a demented super-villain called Professor Poppypants.

This is one bloody funny animated film that came as an absolute suprirse to me, I'd avoided it when it first came out thinking I'd seen enough kids animated movies to last me a lifetime, but when my youngest Baxter said he'd like to see it I thought 'ah sod it, why not?' And I'm bloody glad i did. I loved this, it's silly, it's full of bottom and fart jokes and the animation is a delight! It's most certainly not big or clever and some parents will find it childish but they're missing the point! this is gloriously and unashamedly childish and I loved it for that! The jokes come thick and fast and even include a Uranus joke!

God, I hope there's a sequel. If you've not seen this yet and you get a chance DO IT! I promise you'll not be disappointed, unless you're a stuck up poppy-pants. This is a wonderful tonic to those saccharin overloaded, life-lesson-teaching animated films that get vomited up all the time, like all of the vile films that were previewed before it, like the My Little Pony movie.

So, if a school stage full of children making music with fart sounds has you smiling already then come and give it a go, you'll shit yourself laughing. I know I did.

Great unadulterated childish fun!

8/10

#72 IT


Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgård, Jeremy Ray Taylor (Ben), Sophia Lillis (Bev), Finn Wolfhard (Richie), Wyatt Oleff (Stan), Chosen Jacobs (Mike), Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie), Nicholas Hamilto (Henry Bowers) and Jackson Robert Scott (Georgie). Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman. Directed by Andy Muschietti. Budget $35 million. Running time 135 minutes long. Certificate 15.

There's an ancient evil that lurks deep beneath the streets of Derry, one that awakens every 27 years to feast on fear, but this year it's picked on the wrong bunch of losers to try and feed on. Now seven pre-teenage friends will overcome their personal demons and phobias and come together and try and put a stop to the evil clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgård) and its terrible rampage.

I personally think that in generations to come the name Stephen King will be listed alongside the likes of Dickens, Shakespeare and Mark Twain as one of the greatest story tellers of all times. his output is prestigious to put it mildly. He's written over a 100 books, including The Stand, The Shinning, The Shawshank Redemption and Salem's Lot. And although his books tend to be, on the whole, extremely satisfying, the movie adaptations of his work isn't always successful and for every Carrie, Mist, Misery or The Green Mile there's a Maximum Overdrive, Dark Tower or The Cell waiting for the unsuspecting.

And so to IT, the second attempt to transfer Stephen's most epic opus to the glittering screen, although the last outing better known as the John Boy Walton adaptation is best known for Tim Curry's portrayal of Pennywise the Clown, one of the most unsettling screen monsters of all times, rather than for its rather dull and scare-free and bum-numbing running time.

This new adaptation was a deeply satisfying, surprisingly creepy and altogether thoroughly entertaining fright-fest, which while not scaring me as much as The Exorcist once did nevertheless left me feeling very unsettled and un-nerved by several of the encounters with Pennywise.

 I usually find films this long fairly exhausting, but not so this time, indeed I really think the long running time really helps the film. It makes you feel connected to the young cast and their plight. In fact, the young cast is excellent, be it class clown, hypochondriac or grief-stricken elder brother and the utter lack of a named actor makes it far easier to identify with them and the terrible horror they heroically face.

A terrifically gripping and satisfying movie that despite ending with a caption that reads: CHAPTER ONE still delivers a meaty and powerful ending that will easily satisfy you should the inevitable sequel fail to live up to this one.

A funny, gripping and genuinely scary horror film that despite following the 'don't show it all' rule, still manages to be seriously and unpleasantly gruesome.

8/10