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, 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




#71 THE LIMEHOUSE GOLEM


Starring Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke, Douglas Booth, Daniel Mays, Sam reid, Maria Valverde, Henry Goodman, Morgan Watkins and Eddie Marsan. Written by Jane Goldman. Directed by Juan Carlos Medina. Running time 105 minutes. Certificate 15.

Cor, luv a duck, there's a series of 'orrible murders what are all taking place in the middle of Victorian London during a ruddy pea-souper and it's up to one man Inspector Kildare (Bill Nighly) to try and stop the murderer, known as the Lime House Golem before he strikes again. Kildare, using the killer's own journal, tries to decide which of 4 suspects including Dan Leno and Karl Marks might be the killer, while at the same time trying to find evidence that'll prove the innocence of a former music hall star Elizabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) on trial for the supposed murder of her husband.

A gory, well made, gripping who-dunnit murder mystery whose destination is far more entertaining that the journey, which isn't to say this is a bad film. Indeed far from it, this is a deeply atmospheric, very well acted and written murder mystery, ably directed by Juan Carlos Medina with a superb cast of actors and frankly anything with Eddie Marsan is worth seeing in my book!

Adapted from Peter Ackroyd's Dan Leno and the Lime House Golem this is an engrossing and satisfying thriller and makes for a very nice change from the usual summer glut of overblown special effects blockbusters that have been stinking up the cinemas for far too long this year.

8/10

Sunday, 3 September 2017

#70 STRATTON


Starring Dominic Cooper, Gemma Chan, Austin Stowell, Tyler Hoechlin, Connie Nielson, Thomas Kretschmann, Derek Jacobi and Tom Felton. Written by Duncan Falconer and Warren Davis II and directed by Simon West. Running time 95 minutes. Cert 15.

Dominic Cooper is Stratton, a SBS operative assigned to MI6 on the hunt of Grigory Barovsky (Thomas Kretschmann) a supposed 20-year  dead KGB operative who killed Stratton's partner in a bungled mission deep inside Iraq, or Iran or somewhere in the middle east. Anyway, Grigory has got his hands on a bio weapon called Satan's Snow or something and he's out for revenge. So Strat and his new partner, Marty (Tyler Hoechlin) head off for revenge and to bring an end to Grigory's shit.

Back in 1982 Lewis Collins starred in Who Dares Wins, his showcase to prove to Chubby and Eon as to his suitability to play James Bond. 35 years later and Dominic Cooper seems to be having a punt with this, an utterly middling putt-putt of a spy thriller which jets around the world from Camden, to Docklands to Rome as our very laidback and reserved hero Stratton goes about his job of attempting to prevent Grigory from doing his. It all builds to a very piffling car chase between Stratton's Land Rover SUV and a No. 9 red double-decker bus in a London park.

And that's it really. This is a middling, toothless, non-offensive poottle, mostly through London, which features a couple of casual car chases, some slight blood letting gun battles and a body count in the low teens. Apart from one rather hard-edged interrogation scene this is a rather bland thriller. If you want to see a proper action film about the SBS (Special Boat Services) check out North Sea Hijack, starting the later great Roger Moore as the cat-loving, misogynist marine counter-terrorist expert Rufus Excalibur ffolkes who goes up against unhinged terrorist, Anthony Perkins who's only gone and booby-trapped three North Sea oil platforms with three massive bombs!



STRATTON 4/10
NORTHSEA HIJACK 8/10

#69 LOGAN LUCKY

 Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Katie Holmes, Farrah Mackenzie, Katherine Waterston, Dwight Yoakam, Sebastian Stan, Hilary Swank and Seth MacFarlane. Written by Rebecca Blunt. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Budget $29 million. Running time 119 minutes long. Cert 12A.

When Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) a one-time high school football star loses his job at a construction site because of an old knee injury, he conspires with his one armed brother, Iraq-war vet, Clyde (Adam Driver) and almost silent hair dressing sister (Riley Keough) to rob the local NASCAR race track (site of his construction job) during the Independence Day race. However, to do this they first need to break imprisoned explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) out of prison to blow the underground vault and then return him back inside, all in one frantic day!

What follows is a feel-good heist movie that Hollywood used to churn with abandon, although back in those days, the crooks never won, or seldom got away with the swag. This features a glorious, lovable cast of social misfits, a fucking kick-arse soundtrack and a lightness of touch which ultimately becomes rather jarring, because it masks the fact that beneath the surface this film is as hollow as an egg shell. There is nothing beyond the characters doing their thang to David Holmes choice chunes to hold your attention, and after awhile mine started to wander.

There's never any doubt our lovable heroes won't win and the actual heist aspect of the movie is so perfectly carried out without incident or threat that it totally takes away from the fact that the Logan family are supposed to be a bunch of dim, bad-luck cursed hicks, we're told endlessly that they suffer from bad luck, and yet despite the knee injury and the lost hand, neither of the boys seem that  unlucky. Jimmy has a loving relationship with his daughter, while Clyde runs the local bar, and yet wherever they go, this mythical unlucky curse is used to define them, it's shorthand for any actual character traits. As for the actual heist, which takes up a large portion of this film, you just watch it unravel, wondering how it all pieces together. Normally in these sort of films we'd see our band of anti-heroes practicing and getting better before the actual job, but not so here. Bang the day of the heist arrives and bam our heroes carry out, with perfect synchronicity, the heist. And as with every Soderbergh heist film, there's a nifty 'how did they do that' montage sequence at the end of the film to show you all the stuff he kept hidden.

This isn't all bad news, because we want these losers to win, they deserve it. And besides, there's no real victims here because the money stolen is covered by insurance and it belongs to some faceless corporation and not some individual, so you know it's all good. And also no one dies, not even during a prison riot.

The trailer makes this film look a lot funnier than it actually was, it's not a bad film, not by a long stretch but it's just so flimsy and straight forward that it ultimately just feels like Ocean's 11-Lite. In  fact, I think Soderbegh actually knows this because during a news report following the heist the news presenter describes this as an Ocean's 7-11. Gone are the smooth talking, hi-rolling, super rich con men robbing Las Vegas replaced by a gang of blue-colar red-necks.

Come for the trailer, stay for the music and enjoy it while it's on, cos once it's over you'll forget you ever saw it.

7/10

Thursday, 31 August 2017

#68 TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY 3D


Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong, Linda Hamilton,  Robert Patrick and Joe Morton. Written by James Cameron and William Wisher. Directed by James Cameron. Running time 137 minutes.

Eleven years after the events of Terminator and Skynet is trying it on again by sending another pesky unstoppable cyborg back in time to terminate someone, this time it's 10-year old John Connor (Edward Furlong), rather than his mother Sarah (Linda Hamilton). However Skynet are upping their game by sending not a cybernetic endoskeleton hidden inside the body of a 6' 4" Austrian bodybuilder but prototype, shape-shifting T1000 (Robert Patrick), a liquid metal killing machine and it's up to a reprogrammed T100, Arnie to save the life of the leader of the future human resistance. After that it's a perfect masterclass in action, featuring note-perfect action beat after beat building to a dramatic showdown in a foundary.

Originally released back in 1991, this is a digitally restored, 3D treated release that for some utterly bewildering reason only took a paltry half a million in its opening weekend in the US.

I've not seen this film for a very long time and certainly not on the big screen in well over 20 years and had completely forgotten what a simply superb film this is. The script is tight, the dialogue utterly memorable, I was able to silently whisper each line of the film, so ingrained was it in my psyche. Seeing it again on the big screen in this new digital 4K transfer was a treat, the effects remain surprisingly convincing, but the biggest revelation is the in camera effects and stunts, which in this day and age of cgi remain simply staggering. By god, they fly a helicopter under a bloody bridge!

If you've only ever seen this on your TV and you get a chance, give this a go! It's a staggering and thrilling experience and deserves to be seen up there back on the big screen. Cameron is a consummate action director, perhaps the best we've ever seen and his skill with the camera is perfection and never does he need to resort to shaking his camera like his army of imitators. And despite being well over two hours long, this film never relents, never gives up and just keeps coming. Seriously the time just flew by!

A note perfect and exhilarating 10/10.

#67 AMERICA MADE


Starring Tom Cruise, Sarah Wright and Domhnall Gleeson. Written by Gary Spinelli. Directed by Doug Liman. Budget $ million. Running time 117 minutes.

The rise and fall of an infamous drug and gun runner and based on the true story of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) who during the 1970s and 80s flew drugs, guns and sensitive information in and out of South American to the Medellin Cartel, the Contras and General Noriega supposedly for the C.I.A., and the White House, all the while struggling to evade the FBI, the DEA and other law enforcement agencies. But as his success and wealth grow, Barry's life slowly starts to unravel endangering all those around him, including his friends and family.

Superbly directed by Doug Liman, and very well acted by an always reliable Tom Cruise, this is an enjoyable and exciting movie which leaves a bitter taste, glorifying as it does a drug smuggler. Cruise is on excellent form and for a change doesn't do any running at all in this film, letting his own skill as a pilot dictate the action. His portrayal of Barry Seal is impressive as we actually come to like this family loving rogue who, at the end of the day, is just a man exploited by his own government and the drug cartels, of course he doesn't help his own cause by being such a greedy bastard. Anyway, there's a hell of a lot of enjoyment to be had from this tale, all helped by Cruise's easy charm. And this is a Cruise film, he's in practically every single scene and he carries it well, although this does also mean that we're left aching to know more about what's happening behind the scenes. The C.I.A's involvement for example, particularly when it takes over Barry's hometown of Mena to build a training camp of the Contras, that's a fascinating snippet but left unsatisfyingly explored, mainly because this film is all about Barry, right down to his self recorded video diary which punctuates the action.

Featuring a great soundtrack and cast. This is a satisfying and very enjoyable film, which frustratingly never really digs any deeper than just the man.

8/10

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

#66 THE DARK TOWER



Starring Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor and some other twats that will take too long to name check. Written by four writers, four! Can you believe that? I can't. Although I suppose if they all worked together on this pile of festering cinematic shit it does mean it stopped them stinking up the cinema's with three other films, their names are Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomaas Jensen and Nikolaj Arcel. Directed by Nikolaj Arcel. Running time is only 95 minutes, but believe me that doesn't help, it still felt longer than all the Pirates of the Caribbean films put together. Budget $60 million.

The plot. A troubled boy (Tom Taylor) in the 'real world' has visions of a Gunslinger and a man in Black, we discover he has psychic powers called 'Shine'. his dad is dead, his mum has a new partner who doesn't like him and he's in therapy. Luckily he finds a portal in New York city he's dreamed of and ends up in a world where the Man in Black, called Walter (Matthew McConaughey) is trying to destroy a tower at the center of everything by using children with the Shine. Meanwhile there's this gunslinger called Roland (Idris Elba), the last of his kind who wanders around not killing Walter, because he's not allowed, or something. Anyway, when old Walt learns of the boy, I'm sure he had a name but frankly I can't be arsed to look it up, he realises that he is shiny enough to destroy the Tower and so sets off to capture him, while old Rolly and the boy piss off back to Earth for shits and giggles. It looks bad for our heroes, especially since the Gunslinger can't kill the man in black but in the end he does by shooting two bullets, the second of which catches up with the first to send it, ricocheting into the Man in Black and killing him, so the world doesn't end and everything is okay. The end.

Oh, shit I should have said SPOILER ALERT but I forgot, I hope you can forgive me.

Based on seven books written by Stephen King and starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey this had all the ingredients and potential to be a great film, instead what we get is a dreadfully dull slog that despite it's very brief running time feels like a good three hours in length. It features dull, dreary performances, shit CGI and not one iota of excitement, drama or indeed anything of merit. In fact so fucking, mind-numbingly dull was this piece of shit that I nodded off during the final battle and woke up just in time to watch the credits, still I don't think I missed anything. I'm guessing the boy and Roland won.

I've tried reading the books, gave up on the first one. Which is exactly what I'd say about this, although judging from its disastrous box-office performance I doubt there'll be another one. At one point this project was going to be a trilogy directed by Ron Howard. We can only wonder what that could have been like.

If you are given the option of watching this or having your genitals pulped in an industrial accident, I would whole-heartedly recommend the accident.

2/10 (a point each for McConaughey and Elba, who both deserve so much better than this pile of steaming shit).

#65 THE BIG SICK


Starring Kumail Najiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Adeel Akhtar and Anupam Kher. Written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. Directed by Michael Showalter. Budget $5 million. Running time: 124 minutes. Certificate 15.

The 'hilarious' true story of how Kumail (Kumail Najiani) meet his future wife's parents, while his ex-girlfriend Emily lay in a medically induced coma as the hospital struggled to combat a kidney infection that was attacking her.

The film follows lapsed Pakistani Muslim and struggling 'comedian' Kumail, on the cusp of being discovered for the Montreal Comedy Festival, that's when he's not driving for Uber or putting up with his family's desperate attempts to marry him off in a series of 'hilarious' arranged marriage introductions. Kumail is as spineless as he is inept at comedy and utterly unable to confront his parents about his lack of faith, his desires to pursue a career in comedy or indeed his white girlfriend. Similarly he's unable to tell his girlfriend, Emily (Zoe Kazan) about his parents and their desire to marry him off. What follows is an overly long, slow drive of a movie, which while touching and well observed could easily done with being a good 30 minutes shorter, however since this is an Judd Apatow produced movie, the apparent 'comedy' genius behind just unfunny epics as Knocked Up, This is 40 and Wanderlust I suppose we should be grateful it isn't longer.

The relationship between Kumail and Emily is very touching and beautifully played as is the relationship between Kumail and Emily's parents played by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. And it's this three way relationship that provides the heart of the film's emotional core.

The trouble is that Kumail has this really annoying little smirk on his face through out the entire movie as if he knows he's about to say something really hilarious, but the thing is, he doesn't. Ever. And when we do see some of his set, it's about as funny as well, your girlfriend being placed into a medically induced coma. Anyway the relationship between Kumail and Zoe that develops before the coma is lovely and very well observed.

Although the outcome is never in doubt, the use of real photos at the end of the film gives this a nice little emotional boost. This is a sweet natured but very VERY slow movie that really does try your patience but the destination makes the journey worth while. Just.

8/10

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

#64 THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD


Starring Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek and Elodie Yung. Written by Tom O'Connor. Directed by Patrick Hughes. Running time 118 minutes. Budget $290 million. Cert 15.

Action comedy starring two men for whom charisma comes easy, perhaps all too easy. The film sees Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) a disgraced former triple A graded security agent forced to transport hitman Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) to the International Court of human rights court in the Hague so he can testify against Vladislav Dukhovich (Gary Oldman), the ruthless and bloodthirsty dictator of Belarus, who is on trial for crimes against humanity. Luckily Oldman has a literal army of heavies to throw at killing Darius and Bryce and the film follows the two men as they hack, slash and shoot their way across Europe in a series of boring cars. Along the way, Darius helps Michael repair his relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Interpol agent, Amelia Rousse (Élodie Yung), while at the same time reminiscing about his perfect relationship with his incarcerated wife, Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) who just so happens to be as equally lethal as her husband.

And that's it for the plot, after that, the two men who start out as enemies, before discovering some salient home truths about themselves, thus enabling them to become better people and then finally best pals as 10,000 heavily armed men are horrifically butchered, slaughtered and tortured.

This is a very sweary, very violent buddy movie which was actually rather fun. Not the greatest film ever made, but the two leads and Salma Hayek make it a thoroughly enjoyable romp through some splendid European locations including Amsterdam. This isn't big, it certainly isn't clever and it's neither fresh nor original, however it's a Ronsil action movie and it doesn't try and be anything else.

And I'm a sucker big stupid action films.

With some great stunts, some good gags and besides it's got Samuel L. Jackson in it! Only marred by an unnecessary third action beat that just feels too much particularly as it features a bomb packed truck crashing through crowds and exploding outside a building.

7/10

Sunday, 13 August 2017

#62 ATOMIC BLONDE


Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy,  John Goodman, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella and James Faulkner. Written by Kurt Johnstad (based on the graphic novel The Coldest City by Antony Johnston and Sam Hart). Directed by David Leitch. Running time: 115 minutes. Budget $30 million.

The plot sees Charlize Theron’s Lorraine Broughton running round East and West Berlin, willy-nilly in those heady, pre-collapse days of 1989 in the company of ‘gone native’ MI6 agent David Percival (James McAvoy) in search of yet another list of every single allied agent in the world, e-VER, which has been hidden in a mirco dot hidden inside a watch that was worn by her now-dead lover, James Gasciogne who was killed by the KGB. Now everybody on both sides of the wall wants that list and are willing to beat, bribe, bully, bludgeon or just plain kill anyone who gets in their way. But Lorraine has more reason that most, she wants revenge and find the mole in MI6 who’s been leaking classified secrets to the enemy.

After that it’s a dizzying sprint through the streets of Berlin accompanied by a smorgasbord of classic 80s hits as our blonde bombshell dispatches anyone and everyone, be it by fist, foot, high-heeled stiletto, pistol or snog. And the good news is, if you’ve seen the trailer than you’ve not seen the whole film, just most of it!

This is a stylish and exceedingly well fight-choreographed orgy of violence and style over content, that is sadly undone by its utterly poe-faced lead, who cracks a smile only once throughout the whole thing. Now, I wasn’t expecting a laugh riot, but a sense of humour, even a black one, would have made this a much more enjoyable romp, as would giving us, the audience, a little bit more to work with. All the way through this we get the sense that Lorraine is 4 steps ahead of us and everyone else for that matter and after a while that becomes a little tedious and you soon find yourself just coasting along waiting for the next bone jarring fight or car chase, which oddly enough isn’t that often. Although the highlight of which is a blistering ‘one-shot, one take’ stairwell fight between Charlize and at least 4 KGB agents that is simply, and staggeringly superb.

The film barrels along, ticking off all the spy film bingo boxes and never missing a beat as we discover who the mole, codenamed Satchel really is. Although by the end of this you might, like me, be a bit confused. Theron is excellent, this is obviously a project she was very committed to, in fact all the cast are great, although poor old Sofia Boutella perhaps deserved better.

And yet oddly enough despite a kick-ass premise, some superb action and fight scenes, some raunchy moments and some great violence, this never really went off for me. It was alright but I never really engaged with it.

I was hoping for more, maybe the beginning of a female John Wick franchise and maybe that was my downfall because ultimately this was intended to be more, a mix of the classic spy drama, like Tinker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy and Bourne, but without the vomit-inducing shaky-cam bollox. It's directed by David Leitch, who was the uncredited co-directed John Wick and he's clearly showing he has an extraordinary talent for hi-octane, hard-hitting action flicks and long may he reign!

The trailer promised far more than the end product could deliver but this was still an entertaining and satisfying action romp and proves that Charlize Theron is one kick-ass action heroine!

7/10

Sunday, 23 July 2017

#60 DUNKIRK


Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Gillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy. Music by Hans Zimmer, Written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. Budget £150 million. Running time 106 minutes.

Told from three different perspectives, the land (port of Mole, where unnamed private, Fionn Whitehead fights to survive), the sea (Mark Rylance pilots his small boat to Dunkirk) and the air, (where RAF pilot Tom Hardy fights and flies for his life) this is a superbly directed and intense film made even more so by Hans Zimmer's sound track that utilises a ticking clock to add extra pressure.

Watching Whitehead's repeated attempts to get off the beach becomes almost unbearable, as does each of the three story arcs that finally collide with dramatic effect in a nail-biting finale.

Nolan directs with real aplomb and his staging of the action is fantastic, as is his ability to ratchet up the tension. However this is a strange, almost alien film. The streets of Dunkirk are utterly empty, naturally apart from the 300,000 stranded Tommies standing on the beaches, obediently queuing to be rescued. The cast apart from a few token female nurses is 100% male and most jarring there are no German soldiers to be seen and indeed for most of the film they are only referred to as 'the enemy', we never see the face of a single German solider, nor do we see a British soldier actually do any fighting. It's also a war film that is oddly devoid of blood or violence, nor gruesome battlefield gore, rest assured this is no Saving Private Ryan. And yet despite all of that, the impending sense of death pervades every frame of this film, the sense of guilt of the survivors, the uncomfortable awkwardness of the living towards the corpses of comrades that wash in with the tide, I've never seen a film that so makes you so fear for the living. Ultimately the film does feel a little too clean, everything spic and span, everything art-directed to perfection and everything too 'otherworldly' despite its slavish devotion to period detail.

I've read that this film has been critised for not having a plot or a story, but I beg to differ, just because a film doesn't have an 'arc' for its characters to follow doesn't mean it doesn't have a story. For me, just watching our groups of characters trying to survive and get off the goddam beach was more than story enough.

I breathed a sigh of relief when this was over, I was moved and involved, the 107 minutes flew by and I was left emotionally shaken.

9/10

#59 & 61 VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND WORLDS


Starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Haweke, Herbie Handcock, Kris Wu and Rutger Hauer. Written and Directed by Luc Besson. Budget £197 million. Running time 137 minutes long.

It literally breaks my heart to write these words, indeed the ambulance is on its way as I type them, but this isn't the triumph I was praying for, although what it is is the most beautiful, inventive and spectacular looking science fiction film I've seen since... 5th Element. In fact, in terms of visual mastery and inventiveness this is nothing less than utterly extraordinary. And if I was scoring the film purely on creativity and its look I would have no qualms of scoring it 10/10.

Unfortunately it's like looking at the world's most fantastic supercar and lifting the lid to discover it's just a shell, that there's nothing going on under the hood. It's like a huge stick of candy floss and a box of toffee coated popcorn after the dazzling, tantalizing burst of all that sugary goodness there's nothing to fill you up.

The plot sees Valerian (Dane DeHann) and the object of his, rather creepy, love obsession Laureline (Cara Delevingne) stumble from one plot point to the next by taking turns to be captured and rescued by the other, while Valerian grooms Laureline into letting him shag her. Then it's off to the City of a Thousand Worlds in search of the big plot reveal that somehow links into the beautiful opening scene, a very angry general (Clive Owen) a cute, long-snouted pearl-shitting alien matter convertor and an insane menagerie of assorted alien lifeforms who are all after something or other, oh and Rihanna as Bubble the shape-changing cabaret singer. And at the center of all that is a tale that is nothing. The main plot device is the repetitive rescuing of each of the main characters, in turn. Besson has obviously spent all his time on the visuals and nothing on the plot, characters, script or serious lack of one or all of those parts.

Sadly there's also the lack of not one iota of chemistry between the two leads. That said, Cara Delevinge is unbelievably beautiful and both the camera and Besson clearly love her as her face dominates the screen for large portions of the film. She's an interesting actresses and once she gets past eye rolling and sneering as her default acting setting she has real potential. DeHann is way too slight and weedy to carry the lead role.

But, regardless this is still a delightful movie, it deserves to be seen up on the big screen, just not in 3D, the opening 20 minutes are genuinely wonderful as we watch the birth of the City of a Thousand Worlds, and a day-in-the-life of a strange alien race whose fate subsequently powers the plot of the whole film. And if the film had managed to sustain this early promise, I would be weeping tears of joy and proclaiming this the second coming. But it didn't and I'm not. I just wish Luc had worked with a script writer who could have knocked some sense, or story into the proceedings, because ultimately this does become somewhat tiresome.

I love the comics, which this film is based on, I love Cara Delevingne and I think Luc Besson is a visionary but alas this was was the perfect example of style over substance.

Story: 3/10
Visuals: 10/10
Average Score: 6/10
Cara Deleingne +1
Final score 7/10

#57 DESPICABLE ME 3


Starring Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate, Dana Gaier and Julie Andrews. Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. Budget $80 million, running time 90 minutes long.

Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are sacked from the Anti-Villain League for failing to capture Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former 1980s child actor who's grown up to become a super-villain after he steals a big diamond for his own nefarious purposes, well actually for the third act and final showdown macguffin. Added to that double-dose of adult-life doo-doo comes the surprising news that Gru isn't the only child he was led to believe he was, indeed he has an identical twin brother called Dru (also Steve Carell) who was brought up by his father. We learn that both parents took one of the twins and raised them oblivious to the other. Then the Minions, apart from three, quit cos Gru has turned good and promptly get arrested and thrown into jail. Meanwhile, Balthazar is off on a mission of destruction with the big diamond (see told you) and something even bigger! Lucy (utterly wasted in this film) goes shopping and tries to bond with the three girls. Oh, and talking of them, the youngest daughter wants a real-life, honest-to-goodness unicorn, before the status-quo is returned to normal in time for the next instalment. Blimey, talk about 'never rains but it pours.'

There's a serious amount of plot and story to cram into, DM3's relatively brief, running time of 90 minutes, indeed there's too much because ultimately the film suffers from it. You never truly get a chance to engage with the film or one of the many different plot points before another takes over and that sadly lessens the impact of the film. It starts off wonderfully and very funny and the bits between Gru and Dru are delightful and very funny, as are the bits with the unicorn hunt, and the bits with the Minions, and the bits with Bratt building up to his big third-act macguffin thingie, and... and well with every thing, but sadly it's as a whole that the film comes apart. There's too much of everything and not enough time to do any of it any justice. Plus there's a real sense that when the first 70 minutes of the film was first screened someone pointed out the film makers had lost the plot and so the third act gets shoe-horned into proceedings. Plus since that showdown is extremely reminiscent of the exact same Macguffin in the Minnions Movie it feels neither fresh, or that funny. Just loud and flashy.

The bottom line is this, cos I'm waffling and this damn review has taken me over a week to write and if I wait any longer it'll be the first review I've written that'll come out after the release of the film.

The animation is superb, the inventiveness is a delight  and it looks wonderful thanks to the French studio what made it. And It's very funny movie in parts, Carell and indeed Carell are both very funny as Gru and Dru, as is Trey Parker. But it's a case of the unlearned lesson of 'less is more'. Yes, you'll have a good time but the 3rd act is just too generic and obvious and it weakens what has gone on before.

Gru and now Dru are great characters, as are Lucy, the daughters and the Minions. They deserve better, or atleast something less formulaic next time please. Plus bring back Balthazar, he's awesome!

7/10

Saturday, 15 July 2017

#56 & 63 WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES


Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Michael Adamthwaite, Amiah Miller and Steve Zahn. Written by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves. Directed by Matt Reeves. Budget $150 million. Running time 140 minutes. Cert 12A.

Another simply superb summer blockbuster brings the new 're-imagined' Planet of the Apes trilogy to a meaty, satisfying and dramatic ending. Featuring another exceptional performance from Andy Serkis and what is simply the most staggeringly impressive, natural-looking special effects you've ever seen. Seriously, if you thought the ape effects were good in the first two films, Rise and Dawn, then you ain't seen nothing yet! You will marvel at all realistic these apes look.

The story takes place five or so years after the previous film where we learn that Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his ever-growing family of intelligent apes are being hunted to extinct by a group of soldiers called the Alpha-Omega from 'up North' who are on the revenge trail following the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. All Caesar wants to do is live away from humans in peace and quiet, but sadly the humans lead by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) have other ideas. Following a brutal night-time assault on the secret base of the Apes, Caesar heads out for brutal, bloody revenge with Maurice, Luca and Rocket along for the ride and some company. It isn't long before our band of bare-back riding apes have adopted a mute young girl who they name Nova (Amiah Miller) and a self-speaking-taught ape (Steve Zahn) there mainly to offer light comedy moments to an otherwise relentlessly sombre and serious movie. The ever-growing band of Ape warriors finally track down The Colonel to his mountain lair, although not in the way that Caesar intended and we discover the War of the title is more than just a conflict between humans and apes...

I have to say that when the first of this trilogy first came out in 2011 I wasn't expecting it to be any good, the memories and mental scarring of the horrific Tim Burton abomination starring Marky, Mark Walhberg from 2001 still seemed too fresh and yet that 2011 film proved to be a stunning re-invention that totally kick started this staggering franchise. I was blown away by Serkis as Caesar and over the three films, I've thoroughly enjoyed watching his character, mature and age, it's not often you get to see that across three films. Similarly how delightful to know that in 6 months time I'll be able to sit down and watch all three films back-to-back and enjoy a solid 8 hours of drama.

This film does an amazing job of also subtly referencing the original 1968 classic original Planet of the Apes movie starring Charlton Heston with several brilliant nods.

With a solid cast, a tight script and some excellent action this provided a deeply satisfying and powerful conclusion to the trilogy. Hats off to Matt Reeves for delivering such a superb film and to Andy Serkis who brings such a powerful and believable performance.

9/10

Thursday, 29 June 2017

#54 & 55 SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING


Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Jacob Batalon, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr. Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, from a story by Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley. Directed by Jon Watts. Running time 133 minutes. Budget $175 million. Cert 12A.

CONTAINS NO PLOT SPOILERS


On my sweet, mother funking lord, how is this possible? How is it that a franchise now into its sixth movie, a series slowly murderised over the past three outings, and offering us yet another iteration and origin of its lead character, in a painfully short history suddenly be so, so utterly...
  
GOODMAN FUCKING BRILLIANT!

I mean, hand-on-heart, no bull-shit. This is arguably, not only, the single best Spider-Man film ever made, it's also one of the best super-hero movies EVER made! The only down side is, I seriously doubt we're ever going to see a better Spider-Man film than this, I fear it's going to be downhill from now! I mean I loved the very first two movies, the ones starring Tobey Maguire and directed by Sam Raimi. The second of which was my favourite Spider-Man film right up until this last night when I saw this.

Seriously, EVERYTHING about this movie is note perfect, from the casting, the script, the plot, the structure of the movie, the final showdown, everything! The portrayal of Peter Parker (Tom Holland – who has just secured himself a glittering career), his life at school, his relationship with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), his relationship with Ned, his best friend (Jacob Batalon) who had the potential to be annoying but isn't, Christ I could list everyone, but it's not fair to single out any one performance, because EVERY ONE in this film are great! Including Michael Keaton who doesn't overwhelm the movie, he brings such a languid, depth to this with a performance of real balance. GOD I LOVED THIS FILM, LOVED IT!!!!

At one point the audience erupted into spontaneous applause at a plot reveal that was so surprising, so unexpected and so fantastically handled and the last time that happened was during Saving Private Ryan when Vin Dissel got shot.

Look, no word of a lie, this was just fantastic! Honestly, I can't fault it. Doing away with a huge global, spinning vortex of doom, seen in very nearly every-single super hero film ever made, doing away with a massive dude showdown and instead just focusing on character, plot and story. I mean, who'd have thunked it that just focusing on those three simple elements you could get a film this great? Even Spider-Man's origin is dealt with in this film, but only if you're listening, it's revealed in a conversation and takes up two sentences. This was everything that the two wretched Marc Webb abominations weren't. And I'm willing to bet that the morning after this opens, DC are going to start crying and tearing their hair out in desperation as they stare at the mess of a movie that Justice League is going to be. It could be argued that someone at Marvel, possibly Kevin Feige sold his soul to the devil?

I could go on and on, pouring praise on this movie, but the thing is, I don't want to. I want you to go and see it, without as little knowledge as possible, so I'm not going to talk about the plot, I'm not going to describe anything about particular scenes or any of that stuff. I went in blind and it was great. I would, hand-on-heart, recommend this even to a man lying on his death bed with only two hours and 20 minutes of life left.

I thought Wonder Woman would be the best super hero film of the year, but I'm sorry to say that its reign has ended after only three weeks, cos this new Spider-Man film will now be the new benchmark by which we rate every subsequent super hero films!

If you've ever wanted to know what it would be like to be a 15-year old superhero with great power, then this is the film for you.

Honestly go and see it, be first in line. This is a joyous, exhilerating and utterly delightful superhero film, that not only stands head and shoulders above any of its predecessors, but also as one of the single best superhero films ever made.

A perfect 10/10.

Second time round, it's still a solid 10/10. My only problem is whether to describe this movie as amazingly spectacular or just spectacularly amazing.



Sunday, 25 June 2017

#53 GIFTED


Starring Chris Evans, Mckenna Grace, Lindsay Duncan, Jenny Slate and Octavia Spencer. Written by Tom Flynn. Directed by Marc Webb. Running time 101 minutes. Budget $7 million. Certificate 12a.

In a small town near Tampa, boat mechanic, Frank Adler (Chris Evans) is bringing up his 7-year old niece Mary (McKenna Grace) all on his own following the suicide of his sister a maths genius, whose tragic death is slowly revealed over the course of the movie. Together with a one-eyed cat called Fred and a neighbour, Robeta Taylor (Octavia Spencer), Frank tries to bring up Mary, a fantastically gifted maths genius like her mother, in as normal as possible life. But when Mary's gift is spotted by her teacher, Jenny Slate, it triggers a series of events that sees Frank's mother, Eveyln (Lindsay Duncan) re-enter Frank's life and launch a lawsuit to take full custody of her granddaughter, forcing Frank to make a decision that has a devastating effect on both him and his young charge's life.

A nothing special, straight-forword and rather touching family drama. It's ending is never in doubt, but the cast is so relaxed and believable in their roles that the whole film rolls out in an enjoyable and positively uplifting way, which, thankfully, isn't as emotionally manipulative as one feared. Chris Evans once again proves he's a very likeable actor with far more range than his roles as various superheroes has allowed him. Young Mckenna Grace is excellent as the young maths genius and the rest of the supporting cast are equally as plausible and great in their roles. Marc Webb proves he's far better at this sort of thing and 500 Days of Summer than those wretched Spider-Man movies he spewed up.

This is sweet, funny and uplifting story with just the right amount of string pulling, featuring a great cast and one killer revelation from Frank about his dead sister's final wishes.

8/10

#52 TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST SHITE


Starring Mark Wahlberg, Josh Duhamel, Stanley Tucci, Anthony Hopkins, Isabela Moner and Laura Haddock. 'Written', in the loosest terms possible by Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan, from a story by Akiva Goldsman, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan. Directed by Michael Bay. Certificate 12. Running time 149 mind-numbing minutes far too long. Budget between $216 - 260 million dollars.

The plot matters not one jot to the two hours and 29 minutes of your life that you will never get back if you decide to go and sit through this ugly, hateful, bloated, piece-of-vile, hideous cinematic-shit. Not only does it not matter, neither do any of the words that the bored actors scream-vomit from the holes in their faces.

But since all my reviews include a brief synopsis, here's Transformers: the Last Knight.

Back in the days of King Arthur, Merlin (Stanley Tucci) begs a buried spaceship's worth of GIANT Transfuckers to help him and King Arfur win a war against some unnamed barbarian horde. The Transfuckers unleash a GIANT  robotic, three-headed dragon and give Merlin a staff of unimaginable power. Merlin is told that the staff will be a really important plot device later on in the movie and to make sure he - "hides it somewhere easy to find so the third act showdown can happen." Seriously those are the actual words used. I know, I've seen the film and you haven't.

Anyway, cut to the present. And a battle scarred world, who now hate the Transfuckers on sight, because they've now sat through four of these terrible films, have set up a team of bad-ass military bad-asses to hunt down the Transfuckers and kill every single one of them with extreme prejudice. "Great", I thought, "at last someone to root for in these films!" and I assumed they'd be our heroes and the film would now follow them as they hunt down every last single mother-fucking Transfucker on the planet, until they get to the 'Last Knight' of the title and then we, the audience, would rise as one and cheer as that last stinking piece of shit metal giant robot is executed with repeated blows from a massive baseball bat to the back of his stupid metal head.

But I was wrong.

Instead I had to sit through 2 hours and 29 minutes of shouting and screaming and things exploding while I think the 'plot' played out, sorry spewed out. Robots hit other robots while shouting and things exploded, humans shouted at each other humans while things exploded, girls cried while shouting and things exploded and other things exploded, sometimes with no apparent reason.

On and then it's discovered the Earth is actually a gigantic unicorn, or something and the Transfuckers world is run by a robotic bint in a metal flowery dress.

Meanwhile Mark Wahlberg teams up with both of the only two women in this film, one acts as his surrogate, sassy, wise-cracking 'daughter' and the other as his 'sexual reward' for ultimately winning the day. Oh yes and Sir Anthony Hopkins is a Lord who guards the Secret World of the Transfuckers, but spends the entire film telling everyone he meets about them. He's actually the only person who doesn't shout in the entire film and infact he is the single reason this film actually manages to avoid a score of zero. Thanks to a fantastic scene where he tells off the British Prime Minister.

God almighty, I'm trying to synopses this film, and it's going to take me as long to do that as it did to sit through the film in the first place. Fuck me.

Megantron then turns up and strikes a deal with the Transfuckers hunting humans force and that bloke from some of the other films who's in the army and puts together a team of bad Transfuckers who can act as cannon fodder for later in the film.

Alright, so then our heroes run around, and shout, did I mention the shouting cos I think that's important? The good guys find the staff and the bad Transfuckers steal it, and the robotic bint who's called Quintessa crashes her planet, Cybertron into the Earth (Bloody women drivers) and then the good guys have to do halo jumps out of exploding airplanes and then they steal the staff, but the bad Transfuckers steal it back. Oh yes and that big red truck one from all the films, who seems to spend each film getting beaten up and killed, you know, Sybilltron or is it Cybelltron well, he's went off to find god, but Quintessa made him go bad and now he's a baddy, until the yellow Transfuckers Bumbumbee talks for the first time with his own voice and so Sybilltron is a goodie again. Then he steals the staff, but Megantron steals it off him and then the old Transfuckers from King Arthur beat him up and then Marky Wahlberg stops that. And then Quintessa sticks the staff in something and the world starts exploding, not too sure, but lots of things started crashing. Then the second female character, the one who's a direct descendant of Merlin and also an Oxford Archeologist Professor pulls out the staff before it reaches the vinegar strokes and the human's win, just before the 249 minute mark, which is very lucky, cos that's when the film ends.


Oh shit, I think I should have prefixed that with "CAUTION, MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS" Oh well, too late now.

Then there's some a bit after the first bit of the credits when a lady who seems to be a robot in disguise we've never seen before turns up somewhere in a desert and says something that sets up another film.

Please god. Don't let that happen. Please make it stop. Please. Pretty please with sugar on top. What if I say Uncle, will you stop it then?

Please.

Add to that a total disregard for logic, geography, subtly, acting, or anything resembling entertainment.

But I'll tell you one thing this film isn't, it isn't boring. It's not, honestly, it's not boring. But then on the other hand I have no idea what it is, it's certainly not entertaining, or fun, or enjoyable. It doesn't have a script that's worth mentioning, or any performances of merit, apart from Hopkins, who is seriously slumming it in this piece-of-shit crap-fest.  Nothing really makes any sense. I think Michael Bay actually shot a film twice as long as this but then he just removed every other minute, so jarring does it feel. Sometimes you find yourself momentarily confused, not too sure where you are, or why the shot you're watching seems to bear to relationship to the one we've just seen seen, even though  both shots are in the same scene and features the same actors talking. Locations change depending on what Bay thinks looks good and not one single shot doesn't feature something explode. Not one.

I could go on, but I'm too old for this shit.

This was a putrid, ugly, abomination of a film made not with an scintilla of artistic integrity, made out of pure, unadulterated greed and an almost palatable hatred and contempt for the audience.

The only good thing I can say about this film is that Michael Bay has declared this will be his last Transfuckers movie. But frankly that's just too little, far too late.

Seriously, just don't bother. I squandered two hours and 29 minutes of my miserable life so that you don't have to, I've taken one for the team, so please don't sully my noble sacrifice by seeing if this is truly as bad as I say it is. Honestly, with my hand on my heart it truly, truly is.

1/10