Tuesday, 27 October 2015

#69, 70, 71 SPECTRE

#69, #70, #71 SPECTRE



Starring: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinner and Andrew Scott. Written by: John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth. Directed by Sam Mendes. Budget $300 - 350 mill (rumoured) 148 minutes running time.

First off I have to say I am a dedicated and utterly committed Bond fan, indeed in preparation for this outing I rewatched the last three back-to-back. So, my feelings for this film might be somewhat biased.


Spectre, the 24th Bond film and the fourth to star Lee Evans, sorry Jug Ears, sorry Daniel Craig and the second to be directed by Sam Mendes. There is a lot riding on this one especially after the extraordinary success of Skyfall, which became the franchise's most successful outing with a global box office take of
$1,108,561,013  – that's a billion, one hundred million! And whereas this one doesn't quite reach the same giddy heights as that it's certainly a lot better than Quantum of Solace and probably as good as Casino Royale.

This is Craig at his most relaxed as Bond, he has a cock-sure swagger that oozes a combination of lethal thuggishness and brutal sexuality. He dispatches villains without a care in the world and shags the ladies with equal abandon, but he's not afraid to bleed and he's most certainly not indestructible, indeed several times during this epic movie, the longest Bond e-ver, he's knocked unconcious, gets tortured and beaten up!

But this isn't all grit and grimness, there's also a strong sense of fun running through the proceedings, as Craig cracks off rye comments and dry quips and several old Bond standards are wheeled out, albeit with a 21st Century polish, if you're a Bond fan you'll find yourself getting more excited as the film progresses and more and more references are introduced.

The story sees Bond going off grid and rogue to complete one more mission for the old M while the new M fends off the attentions of Andrew Scott's 'C', a Whitehall Mandarin with designs of a world without the Double Os and an omnipresence automated security system. Meanwhile Bond ricochets around the world from Mexico to Tangiers via Rome, London, Scandinavia and all points in between as he tracks down Christoph Waltz's
Franz Oberhauser, the sinister mastermind behind all of Bond's misery over the past four films.

There are a lot of characters in this film and it really feels as if Mendes and the writing crew are determined to make sure that everyone has a story, although sadly Poor Rory Kinner doesn't get that much of a look in.

This is a solid, well made, beautifully soundtracked spy romp that references classic Bond but happily updates it for a supposedly more sophisticated 21st century audience. it's a little flat at times but never anything less than entertaining. Craig nails it as the best Bond e-ver and the rest of the cast do their utmost to ensure Craig is well supported.

While it never reaches the peaks of Skyfall and Casino Royale, Spectre is nevertheless an immensely satisfying and entertaining romp!

8/10.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

#68 THE LAST WITCH HUNTER

#68 THE LAST WITCH HUNTER


Starring Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood and Micahel Caine. Written by Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. Directed by Breck Eisner. 106 minutes. Budget $90 mil.

So, boiled-egg-headed action man, Vin Diesel is Kaulder an 800 year-old witch hunter, indeed the witch hunter of the title, and he's the last to boot, which is helpful cos he ticks off both the main points of the movie's title.

He's a loveable, big bear of a man, mellow to a fault and world weary to such an extent that at no point in this film does he ever really lose his rage or cool even when his only friend, Michael Caine whom he calls 'son' dies horribly at the hands of a bad witch...

Caulder works for a secret order of Catholic priests called the Axencross and his job is to police the secret world of witches, who apparently live amongst us in secret and have pinkie sweared not to do magic against humans. He's aided by Micheal Caine's 36th Dolan (a silly title given to a line of priests sworn to aid Caulder till their dying breath). Vinnie spends his days and nights, shaving his head, polishing it till it shines, practicing his gruff Bane impersonation and shagging airline stewardesses. That is when he's not slapping the wrists of naughty young female witches for mixing up their elemental crystals or, if they're male and ugly, smashing in their heads and delivering them to the Witch council for punishment. Naturally the council presides over the only witch prison on the planet built beneath the streets of New York, surely that's not a good idea? I mean keeping all the bad witches in the same prison right under the biggest urban metropolis on the planet, I mean haven't these guys watched Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban. I bet that comes back and bites them on their bottoms at some point in this movie or my name isn't The Amazing Dave!

Anyway, since this movie is the origin story part of a long-dreamed for new franchise for the Disel machine, we get to learn how Vince got to be immortal, it was fighting and killing the Witch Queen who cursed him to immortality with her dying breath. Don't worry that's not a spoiler that happens before the credits. Flash forward 800 years and there's a new big bad witch called Belial as played by Ólafur Darri Ólafsson and he's paving the way for the return of the Witch Queen by killing witches, obviously and taunting Caulder, which both seem like stupid things to do if you're a witch, but what do i know, this might be totally normal behaviour and exactly what you have to do if you're trying to pave the way for the return of the Witch Queen.

This film has a fatal flaw and it's not Vin Diesel, although he runs it a close second, he's sadly let down by a terrible supporting cast that includes Rose Leslie who it seems learned how to act by watching Emma Watson's style of almost crying with every word and Elijah Wood who just doesn't work in anything that doesn't involve big hairy feet and ears. His character  delivers a twist so silly you end up laughing. Only Michael Caine manages to avoid any criticism by brilliantly and literally sleeping through most of the film, thus having to avoid the worst of it.

Incredibly for this sort of thing, a lot of time has been spent developing the back story of this world, which is highly commendable but in doing it seems to have missed something, like a sense of adventure, Caulder is so laid back he never feels in jeopardy and the main threat, Belial is utterly wasted and dispatched with ridiculous ease that it just leaves a final showdown with the Witch Queen, which since he's already defeated her right back in the beginning doesn't make this final confrontation that much of a showdown.

But, it's not a terrible film, nor is it meh, it's just a solid 5/10.

#67 CRIMSON PEAK

#67 Crimson Peak



Starring:Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam and Jim Beaver. Written by Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins. Directed by del Toro. 119 minutes long. Budget $55 mil.

Mia Wasikowska is Edith Cushing, daughter of a rich industrialist, who as a little girl was once a victim of a ghost attack – courtesy of her mum who came to her, just after her death, to scare the living crap out of the little girl and warn her: 'BEWARE CRIMSON PEAK'. Whatever could she mean?

Fast forward 14 years later and little girl all grown up and now trying to get her first novel published, all very Enid Blyton of her, and Tom Hiddleston Sir Thomas Sharpe and mad-as-a-hatter sister, Jessica Chastain, with whom he shares a very close relationship, are in town to raise money for his red clay mining operation at a place called... CRIMSON PEAK. That added to the poster above should give you all the information to work out the rest of the film.

According to Guillermo this isn't a gothic horror film, this is a gothic romance and all that that entails.
It looks sumptuous and very, very, VERY gothic. The performances are totally intense with lots of earnest pouting, intense stares, melodrama and it's all very gothic, very Rebecca, Wuthering Heights and all those other books written by those bints back in the 1630s, you know Emily Hardy, Charles Bronteson and Steve Austin, but Guillermo stresses this isn't a horror film. Oh Sure there are ghosts, ghosts by the bucket load, especially once we finally get to CRIMSON PEAK itself – a ridiculous gothic pile built, for no explicable reason than to look gothic in the middle of a tree-less moor on top a peak, a peak of red clay called: CRIMSON PEAK.

There in the barren, desolate grounds of CRIMSON PEAK stand massive ugly mining machines all failed attempts by Thomas to successfully mine the clay. Obviously this isn't a one man band outfit and so he has the assistance of a man old handiman to help him run the machinery.

The house's most impressive feature is the hole in the roof of the main hall that rains an endless shower of leaves into the main living room of the rotting, insect infested house. The hole has a plaque nailed to it, stating that its been acknowledged to be the world's biggest ceiling hole by the Guinness Book of World Records, seriously how could they let that hole get so big? I mean obviously it would have started with a small leak, they must have noticed? I know the hall is massive so they couldn't have a ladder long enough, but surely they could have sent the mad old retainer up to the attic to fix it before it becomes the hole it ultimately is? Seriously you could drive a bus through it, sideways! And for some inexplicable reason it lets in leaves, tonnes and tonnes of leaves, day in day out, leaves, leaves leaves! But where the bloody hell do they all come from. I mean I saw one tree on that desolate, windy, winding moor and that was an old oak tree all bent and gnarled so I'm thinking it's PEAK leaf making days are behind it, but judging by the amount falling through that roof it must be right up there with the Amazon rainforest in the leave dropping league.

Anyway, I'm ranting. Is this any good? Well yes, but despite of itself, it all becomes a victim of its gothic-ness and the melodrama. The baddies act as if they're hiding something and the heroine knows there's something afoot but can't quite put her finger on it, despite the clues strewn throughout the rotting pile, but the trouble is we've already guessed what's going on way before she does and so we spend the film waiting for her to catch up and while we wait, the silliness and unintentionally funny dialogue start to undermine the good work of Guillermo has done. It looks good, Mia is terrific but it's just a little too silly, it's so in love with the gothic novels it references that it never really becomes a creature of its own design. And CRIMSON PEAK itself is a little disappointing, you want to see more of it and we do see a lot, but it never feels like a whole, just a series of gorgeous gothic set pieces, the bedroom, the grand hall, the kitchen, the attic and the hilarious basement, accessible by a ridiculous elevator and that silly grand hall.

All of the gothic melodrama tropes are in place and if you like you can play gothic bingo if you like, ticking off all the cliches before they arrive - sinister secret in the attic, sinister secret in the basement, haunted bathroom, huge ring of keys, etc etc.

The men, apart of Mia's father, are useless and the secret at the core of this film is signposted right from the offing.

All that said, this isn't half bad, it's by no means terrible and it's well directed, beautifully art directed and entertainingly acted, but it's just a little too silly and it makes the audience laugh too often and after a while that impedes the movie. So, when in the final act the claret really starts flowing and the knives start flashing you've sort of lost the spirit of things.

7/10

Sunday, 11 October 2015

#66 PAN

#66 PAN



Starring Levi Miller, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund, Rooney Mara. Written by Jason Fuchs. Directed by Joe Wright. 111 minutes long. $150 mill budget.

When I was eight or so, I was taken to see the Disney animated classic, Peter Pan and I hated it, 'Mother,' I demanded, 'how am I supposed to understand all of these ridiculous shenanigans without knowing the origins of Peter Pan, Tiger Lilly, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and Tinker Bell? Without knowing that, I can make no sense of this garish, mish-mash of visual buffoonery.' And that was a verbatim reporting of the exact words I used.

Well, then huge praise must be heaped upon the head and shoulders of Joe Wright and his writer, Jason AAAAARRRGGGGHHHHH Fuchs, for at last telling the story that J.M. Barrie just wasn't smart enough to write himself. I'm sure that if he was still alive he'd be thanking both men for rectifying his terrible mistake.

Following in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland and Malificent, this is another one of those stupid, shitty films that thinks we all want to know what happened before the films we all loved happened. You know what I mean, how often have you been in a dinner party and said, "I have always wanted to know Peter Pan's origin story, for example who was his mother, who was his father, what was Captain Hook like before he lost his hand and developed a fear of clocks and alligators?" Well, this film answers those questions for you and I hope you're happy. 

Filled with just a visual vomit of CGI effects and characters shouting, AAAARRRRGGGGHHH in stead of anything meaningful this is just one empty action scene without consequence followed by another all accompanied by a soundtrack that doesn't stop for one second, all the way through the heavily orchestrated orchestra just spews out an endless dirge of musical mush to help the sleeping audience know what they're supposed to be feeling while things happen on the screen.

Hugh Jackman still acts as if he's in panto, emoting to the back row, Garrett Hedlund produces a 111 minute audition for the Indiana Jones reboot and fails and Rooney Mara, wonders who's getting all the good scripts? Only Levi Miller shines and reminds me of a young Christian Bale, everyone else hams it up real good.

Boring, bland, horrifically colourful, hideously garish and utterly uninspiring, everything the Peter Pan cartoon wasn't. This was a film that never flies. Why can't Hollywood just use the budget to make a live action version of the story?

It's biggest crime is the last line of the movie and it made my blood boil, so contemptuous is it in its use. 

Anyway, up next, Jungle Book.

This crap gets a bored 4/10, mainly cos Rooney Mara wears some lovely outfits.