Saturday, 21 October 2017

#82 GEO-SHIT-STORM


Starring Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Richard Schiff, Robert Sheehan, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia. Written by Dean Devlin and Paul Guyot. Produced and Directed by Dean Devlin. Running time 109 minutes long. Budget $120 million. Certificate 12a.

The world is saved from the brink of environmental Armageddon by Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) and his creation of a space based weather combat system nicknamed Dutch Boy. However six years later he's living in a trailer while his brother, Max Lawson (Jim Sturgess) who's secretly dating the President of the United States (Andy Garcia) Secret Service bodyguard  Sarah (Abie Cornish) is running the space station. HOWEVER, when the satellite system starts to malfunction unleashing a variety of ecological disasters upon the world, Jake is recruited by Secretary of State Leonard Dekkom (Ed Harris) to fly back up to the station and find out what the heck is going on. After that it's a race against the clock to work out who's behind a global conspiracy to create a Geostorm and stop the space station from exploding with just one second to spare on the countdown clock.

I heard this described as the best 2 star film of the year. I beg to differ. This is a shit sandwich served up on a plate made of shit and washed down with a glass of liquid shit. Badly directed, stupidly written, lacking the most important aspect of any disaster film, ie disasters and rounded off by some seriously stupid ideas. This sadly isn't even so bad it's funny. It's just bad, bland and boring. The moment the villain of the piece stepped into shot I leaned over to Baxter and whispered, 'He's the villain.' That wasn't even before the first 10 minutes.

Although there is one hilarious sequence that had me howling with laughter, it concerns the world's most useless secret code. The rest of this wearisome, toothless sac of shit is a dreary drizzle of a movie, rather than the typhon filled thrill ride the trailer promised. Lacking all the scale and destruction porn delight of 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day. This squanders not only Gerard Butler and Ed Harris's talents but also Abbie Cornish.

I've just saved you 109 minutes of your life, not counting the adverts and trailers. You're welcome. 2/10

#81 THE SNOWMAN



Starring Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg and J.K Simmons. Written by Hossein Amini, Peter Straughan and Soren Sveistrup. Based on the novel of the same name by Jo Nesbo. Directed by Tomas Alfedson. Budget $35 million. Running time 119 minutes. Certificate 15.

I've seen films in the past that have actually made me literally cry in awe, I've seen films that have made the hairs on my arms rise in delight and I have seen films have made my blood boil in rage. But I have never seen a film that left me as stunned by its unbelievable ineptitude, that was until I sat through The Snowman. Because believe me this is the single most ineptly made film I have EVER seen, ever.

In fact I have never before seen a cast and crew of this skill and calibre so ineptly handled.

The film follows alcoholic detective Harry Hole as he spirals down his own dark, alcohol induced hole of self pity while trying to solve a series of bizarre murders that stretch back at least 10 years and all have to do with a serial killer who leaves snowmen at the scenes of his murders. It took our hero nearly all of the 119 minutes to work out who the killer was, me on the other hand and I'm guessing most of the audiences had sussed out not only who the killer was but how he was picking his victims and what linked them all together within the first 10 minutes, we then spent the next 109 minutes wondering why our pickled hero couldn't. The only hard thing to work out was why such a great cast and terrific source material should end up being so crushingly inept. And inept is the right word, because this film isn't meh, or boring, it's just bland, blank and inept, soul crushingly inept.

Offering us only the occasional flourish, thanks almost entirely to the superb vistas and scenery the rest of this lackluster and inept clunky crime thriller manages to squander all of the promise of the trailer and giving us nothing to get our teeth into and remains an absolutely thrill free ride of genuine banality. In fact, the trailer is a masterpiece in comparison and does the amazing trick of seeming to be a far better structured film than the film it's promoting.

Give this a miss and watch the vastly superior Headhunters movie instead. 2/10


#80 THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE


Featuring the vocal talents of Dave Franco, Justing Theroux, Fred Armisen, Abbi Jacobson, Olivia Munn, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Pena, Zach Woods and Jackie Chan. Screenplay and story by (deep breath) Hilary Winston, Bob Logan, Paul Fisher, William Wheeler, Tom Wheeler, Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Jared Stern and John Whittington. Directed by Charlie Bean, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan. Running time 101 minutes, certificate U and budget $70 million.

How many times does it take for a joke to get old hat?

In the case of LEGO movies, it's three. Or to be more precise it's The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the third film from the LEGO universe following far too closely on the heels of The LEGO Batman Movie and the break away super hit The LEGO Movie.

Using exactly the same formula as the last two films but without the same level of relentless wit and imagination and more importantly Batman, this is the 98 odd minute long advert for LEGO's longest running theme, Ninjago. For the uninitiated among you, Ninjago features six teenage ninjas trained by a seventh who keep on fighting to bring big baddy Garmadon to justice. The film sees Garmadon unleash his big secret weapon, given away in the trailer and the Ninjagos, including Garmadon's son Lloyd, embark on a weapon to defeat the CATastrophic effects of Garmadon's secret weapon. Along the way, our band of plucky teenagers learn to overcome blah blah and become better whatnots. Including Garmadon, who re-unites with his estranged son, Lloyd.

Cue lots and lots of  jokes (some funny, some not so), plenty of pithy comments, silliness and desperate relentlessness. Sadly the film focuses far more on the later than the former and after awhile it all becomes rather tedious.

In the good old days an audience would wait years for a new sequel of a much loved movie or the next instalment in a franchise, not now, now we get a new film every year whether we want it or not. So, never fear, if you don't like this one there's always LEGO Movie Sequel and The Billion Brick Race scheduled for 2019.

Younger kids should love it, but if you're an adult and have already seen the first two movies then this offers you nothing new. But while it's on it's still mindless fun. Despite the fact that particular joke is beginning to wear a little too thin.

7/10

#79 BLADE RUNNER 2049


Starring Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, LennieJames, Dave Bautista and Jared Leto. Written by Hampton Fancher and Michael Green. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Music by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch. Cinematography by Roger Deakins. Running time 163 minutes. Budget between $150 -$185 million. Certificate 15.

35 years after the events of Blade Runner, replicant Agent K (Ryan Gosling) is tasked with hunting down and killing the last remaining Nexus 8 replicants who are still coming back to Earth, decades after they finally rose up and rebelled.

K is a new type of bioengineered replicant, a Nexus 9, programmed to obey. He unwaveringly answers to his boss Lt Joshi (Robin Wright) and undergoes regular baseline tests to establish he's not developing emotions or feelings. Following the successful retirement of a Nexus 8, K uncovers a secret so profound that it could change the world forever, evidence that a Nexus 8 died while giving birth, something long thought to be impossible. K is tasked with killing the offspring and sets off to hunt down the now grown adult. Along the way he uncovers a conspiracy 35 years old, a conspiracy that involves hunting down his predecessor Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) while simultaneously fighting off the lethal attentions of a killer Nexus 9 and the rantings of a blind trillionaire industrialist Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) the owner of Wallace Industries manufacturers of the new Nexus 9 replicants. K's only aid comes in the form of a holographic phone ap called Joi (Ana De Armas), who just so happens to also be a Wallace construct. As K's investigation unravels he encounters old friends and new just as the body count starts to ramp up and the past and present poignantly collide in the snow.

Full disclosure. The original Blade Runner movie is one of my favourite films, ever since it was first released 35 years ago in 1982.  I've owned it on every format from VHS to DVD to Blu Ray. I first saw it at a special Starburst magazine preview one Sunday morning at the Shaftsbury Avenue Odeon. I can still remember sitting in audience and feeling a flush of tingles race up my spine from the moment the fireball scene opened and the first opening bars of Vangelis soundtrack rang out.

As such I think it's safe to say that I felt a certain amount of trepidation when news of this sequel was first announced, which only grew with the release of the first trailers. I was fearful that this new film would miss what had made the first film so incredible and what we would be left with would be yet another terrible 21st Century reboot. A joyless, souless, rehash so when the first reviews started trickling out my anxiety lessened to such an extent that I went in with a little spring in my step.

And I left 163 minutes later, sombre and quiet, a little bit pummelled by the powerful, booming Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch soundtrack and dazzled by Roger Deakins exceptional cinematography and Denis Villeneuve's masterful direction. The visuals were breathtaking, the cast excellent and the effects almost seamless. It offered up nods to the original, while never feeling as if it's pandering, it attempted to forward the Blade Runner's story and tired to remain truthful to the Ridley Scott masterpiece. However, in the final analysis this, for me, was the perfect example of a flawed masterpiece. A film that will in years to come be held up as an example what an adult-themed science fiction film can achieve and while it never matches Blade Runner originality it's still a tour-d-force. However, this film has a problem and that's its length, it's just far too long. In fact there's really no need for it to be this long, especially since it's such a slow burn to begin with. It builds incredibly slowly and ultimately drains any momentum the film struggles to create.

The great thing about Blade Runner was that the story at its core was an unbelievably small and almost trivial tale and at its end had utterly no impact on the vast world in which it took part in. Sadly the story at the centre of Blade Runner 2049 is a vastly different matter, its scale when finally revealed will have a profound global impact on the world portrayed and strangely I feel a little sad it had to be so big. There are other things that niggled me too, but listing them all here feels a little churlish and besides, I still loved it. Overall it's a powerful and sombre film filled with poignant sadness and loneliness and I loved it for that.

This film gets so much right, indeed almost everything including some surprising cameos. but ultimately you're left missing Roy Batty's final 'Tear drops in the rain' speech and craving to hear the Vangelis soundtrack. Also there's a distinct lack of people in this world, one which the conceit that everyone's gone off world, just doesn't make any sense. I loved the slow build of this film, that fact it took its time to unfold, the scale of this world is simply staggering and the sense of weight and scale was almost palatable. Ryan is a magnetic presence and you find yourself drawn along by his characterisation, he is after all just after what we all want, some companionship and a little love, which makes his relationship with Joi so powerful and gives this film an emotional heart it needs. This is a harsh film and a harsh environment, the only truly likeable character is a prisoner with no hope of ever walking in the snow, let alone the rain, and wherever we look we see signs of a society just dying. However this raises many questions that cry to be answered that sadly aren't. We want to learn more of Wallace to find out what he is truly up to. We want to find out more about the off world colonies and we want to know more about Deckard's damn dog, is it real?

This is a powerful film that pays homage to the original while still retaining its own voice and majesty. It's certainly a modern classic but whether we'll still be talking about it, as its predecessor 35 years later remains to be seen. Sadly it died at the US boxoffice, much like the original so that in itself is a good start!

Great visuals, great soundtrack, great performances, great direction, just too long. 9/10

Sunday, 24 September 2017

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


Starring Richard Drefyuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Fran├žois 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