Thursday, March 22, 2018

Film Review - Pacific Rim Uprising (2018)

Pacific Rim Uprising takes place 10 years after the events of the Pacific Rim film from 2013 and this time Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) takes up the mantle of being the chief Jaeger pilot but when Kaiju begin to re-emerge on Earth Jake has to lead a new team of recruits to go and cancel the Apocalypse once again.

This was a movie I had very skeptical views about mainly because I am a massive fan of the first film it had Guillermo Del Toro being given $200m to give us a film form his immense imagination with giant robots fighting giant monsters and Idris Elba showing what a toweringly charismatic figure he can be when given the chance so this movie had a lot to live up to.

And sadly and this comes as no pleasure at all this movie does not deliver on that promise it feels like another sequel that’s made because the first film makes a bunch of movie either in cinemas or on video and watching it I got really bored with it all.

And that mainly comes down to the storytelling and the first film much like Highlander in 1986 kinda wrapped everything up whereas here the way certain events play out felt very silly to me and didn’t make an awful lot of sense when comparing it to the first movie.

But there are 2 major reasons that dwarf all of those:

- Firstly the absence of Mr Del Toro in the directors chair is very keenly felt as you watch the movie as Guillermo has an extraordinary visual imagination, an attention to every single detail no matter how small and the love, the passion, the humanity and the energy he brought to that movie.

He also understood very clearly and this is apparent when you watch the extras on the double disc Blu-Ray release of the movie is that these robots and monsters even though they would be digital creations they have to have a sense of weight and a physical presence in the movie whereas here it just felt like a bad Transformers knockoff.

- And secondly Mr Elba’s absence is also plainly felt when it comes to the overall performances and everyone tries their best Mr Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman both of whom reprise their roles from the first film as well as many others and all of them felt very flat and I just kept wanting Idris Elba to show up.

Because in the first film he hovered above the proceedings as the fixed point the last man standing between humanity and the Apocalypse whereas and though I wasn’t a big fan of the Dark Tower film last year it reminded me of how very charismatic he can be in a movie and his absence was felt for me like it was for Mr Del Toro.

And so that was Pacific Rim Uprising an okay sequel but a very very pale shadow of the first film, 1.5 out of 5.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Film Review - Tomb Raider (2018)

Tomb Raider is based off of the video game this particular movie version which follows the 2 films that Angelina Jolie made in 2001 and 2003 is a reboot much like the 2013 game of the same name was a reboot this time Alicia Vikander plays Lara Croft a young woman directionless after her fathers disappearance but when her company faces liquidation she goes back to his old house and discovers his old notes about an ancient Japanese Empress who if released could potentially spell disaster for the world.

This new Tomb Raider is sadly very very forgettable but that is not in any way due to Alicia Vikander’s performance she gives this role 115% of her time and every time she’s on screen you connect with her and want her to get to that island and find her father and solve the mystery it also helps that she equips herself very well with the action scenes bringing a real grit and determination to everyone of them that reminds me a little bit of Jennifer Lawrence in the Hunger Games series.

Sadly however the rest of the movie is not giving that same commitment and this movie has 2 huge problems going for it:

- Firstly the storytelling here is really really bland and at times I thought I was watching a bad ripoff of the true finale of the Indiana Jones series the Last Crusade with the missing father, the book (“I schould’ve mailed to the Marxsche Brothersche” I said to myself at one point) the traps all of it and well they chose…


- And secondly the villains here are so bland and generic they may as well have been bought off a smegging rack at a bargain basement they have no personality, nothing memorable about them and are just there because well its an adventure film and we need to have some bad people run around in it which leads me to Mr Walton Goggins now you may remember him from such films as the Hateful Eight where he was pretty good but here completely flat.

And its not just him, Kristin Scott Thomas one of our greatest actresses is wasted in a nothing role and Nick Frost someone I love basically just does a 2 scene role can we please find better roles for these people Alicia gave this project her all why couldn’t everybody else.

And so that was Tomb Raider and frankly it’s a big disappointment as I really had hoped that THIS would be the one film to break the mould of well shit video game movies but alas its just another one on the pile, 2 out of 5.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Film Review - Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation is based off of the novel and is adapted by Mr Alex Garland who made the Dredd reboot in 2012 with Karl Urban and Ex Machina in 2015 with Oscar Isaac he also plays Kane in this movie a soldier who returns home from a mission to his wife a biologist and former soldier Lena (Natalie Portman) but she is drafted by Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) for her own mission into the Shimmer a strange portal that landed on Earth from Space but accompanying them are Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Tina Novotny but what they find inside may shock and disturb them.

For the first two thirds of this movie I was really on board, Garland continues the 70s esque Sci Fi feel that he started with Ex Machina here very well where ideas and the human condition form the basis of the Science Fiction elements instead of laser beams and ray guns and that type of Star Wars feel of Science Fiction that became more popular when that film became a hit.

His direction also feels much more confident with lots of wide open shots and muted colours and long edits again recalling the spirit of early 70s and late 60s Sci Fi films like 2001 or Silent Running and also he has a very game cast of actresses who give it their all but before I go into them I want to talk about Oscar Isaac’s role and he’s okay but doesn’t really get an awful lot to do he feels a little bit like a plot device at times.

But the 5 main actresses are all great both as a unit and individually Portman is delivering some of her best work here and it’s a real shame that she hasn’t gotten more chances like this one as she shows a real grit here and an ability to carry a film with real ease, Thompson continues to go from strength to strength with her work here plus her work in Thor Ragnarok and Creed there ain’t anything this woman can’t do, Ms Leigh is very solid as the team leader and Ms Rodriguez is basically doing the Vasquez role from Aliens and she does it very well and Ms Novotny is also good here.

But oh boy oh boy does this movie go right off the deep down and goes Kerplunk Kerplunk Kerplunk and loses its thribble in the third act and up until this point I was completely on board with the film but after that climax I just feel like I’ve watched a bad knockoff of Alien from the early 80s with the Giger esque designs, the crew getting picked off one by one until one remains and the characters doing the same stupid things that people in Sci Fi films tend to do like looking down a hole or at a strange thing or firing a gun and so on and so forth.

And I do not take any pleasure in saying any of that because I was really enjoying the movie up until then but this is a classic case of a film being sabotaged by its third act and it sadly undid a lot of the positive feelings I had for this movie beforehand but I can’t say that as much thinking about the full film in context of its beginning, middle and ending.

And so that was Annihilation and sadly it is a big disappointment, the first two thirds were so good and I was really on board with it that it made the letdown of its third act feel even worse than it normally might have, if you’re a Sci Fi fan check it out but if not then I cannot recommend it I’m afraid and I take no pleasure in saying that, 1 out of 5.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Film Review - 12 Strong (2018)

12 Strong is based off of a true story and stars Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena and Trevante Rhodes from Moonlight as a US special forces Strike Team who go into Afghanistan after September 11 to try to liberate some of its captured areas but the terrain is so harsh they have to do it via horseback and a cavalry attack is one they will be determined to do.

I quite liked this movie for three key reasons:

- First the ensemble group is quite good here, it sure is nice to see Mr Hemsworth getting a chance to do something a little different besides being Thor and doing comedy work which he is very good at doing I must add and I like to compare him to Mel Gibson in terms of his performance abilities and far less so the personal stuff and that both are very charismatic, very funny and very talented and part of me wishes that he would get some of the same opportunities Mel got with films like Hamlet, Air America and Tequila Sunrise among others where he got to show audiences that there was more to him than just Mad Max or Martin Riggs.

As for Mr Shannon and Mr Pena they are their usual reliable selves but another stand was Trevante Rhodes with this and Moonlight he shows himself to be the complete package as a potential leading man as here he was tough and in Moonlight he showed a very sensitive side to him so hopefully he will get the chance to take the lead in a big film one day as he will do that job very well.

- Secondly the film has some very good action sequences and a little bit like Dunkirk from last year they make good use of the cinema’s sound system and they are very easy to follow, make good use of some neat camera angles and have some real punch to them though there was one point where I thought “I’m not going to get a cavalry charge scene” and then I did and I was very happy though the one in the Lighthorsemen from 1987 is pretty damn hard to top.

- And lastly this was a very interesting war story albeit about a very recent and still very raw period of our history and as someone who remembers what the state of the world was like during that period it felt partially eerie to see some of the archive footage from those days and a recreation of the mindset that came after that day and it felt as I said a little raw still to revisit that and it was for me at least very interesting.

And so that was 12 Strong an interesting and nicely made War film that isn’t the best film you’ll see but one that I enjoyed quite a bit and would recommend seeing, 3 and a half out of 5.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Film Review - Red Sparrow (2018)

Red Sparrow is based off of the novel and is directed by Francis Lawrence who made the Hunger Games sequels in 2013, 14 and 15 respectively and he re teams with Jennifer Lawrence once again who this time plays a Russian ballet dancer who’s leg is injured on stage and is then offered to join the Sparrow program which moulds young recruits into agents of the state and with an American agent (Joel Edgerton) getting wind of a mole in the Russian government the race is on to find him and expose the mole.

I enjoyed Red Sparrow most while I was watching it but when it was over and I walked out of the cinema I began to think of it less and less to the point where I began to think of it as forgettable not bad in any sense of the word but just a in one ear out the other kind of movie.

However first off I want to talk about Francis Lawrence as the director he does a good job here with very dark and complicated material and with this and his Hunger Games work I’ve begun to think of him as someone who is making the kind of material that Paul Verhoeven used to make when he was at his peak in the US in the late 80s and early to mid 90s.

Movies like Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers these are films that not only were mainstream action/science fiction/thrillers that people could go and see but they also had something more to them be it satire or a frankness about violence or the sense of something being either reality or a dream and dealing with sex and sexual matters in a very straightforward way that didn’t try to hide it and there are scenes in Red Sparrow that reminded me a lot of Verhoven’s work and this could have been a film he might have made back 25-30 years ago.

And also Jennifer Lawrence (the two aren’t related) does a good job here despite having to nail the Russian accent and deliver a compelling performance and she does well with both Edgerton meanwhile has a tricky role to deliver and he does okay while there are a slew of side performances like Matthias Schoenarts, Charlotte Rampling, Ciaran Hinds (easily as forgettable as he was in Justice League) and Jeremy Irons who is falling into a little bit of a Michael Caine territory recently taking acting jobs to earn some cash.

However this movie has 2 big problems:

- Firstly this movie is just too long its runtime is 140 minutes but it felt like a long 2 and a half hours and again when you go back to thrillers like Basic Instinct or even last year’s Atomic Blonde which this movie tries to emulate at times both of those were only a little bit over the 2 hour mark and this really could have used some tightening to keep its spy story at a good pace so it doesn’t start to waver off course and have the audience go “Hold on hold on, what’s going on here, I’m lost.”

- Secondly this story does get a little too twisty turny for its own good and going back to the length problem the story goes on for so long that you do find yourself getting a little lost about who’s working for who and who wants what and what does this person have to do with this or that and I wish it had been streamlined a little bit much like a heist film where at the end when all the pieces come together you go “Oh that makes sense well done” whereas here the twists and turns got a bit much after a while.

And lastly some of the hotel room scenes in this movie made me a little uncomfortable to sit through now I know these films are planned for years in advance but with everything that’s been revealed in regards to certain people in the industry and their methods it made me think “Why is this in this movie its not very nice to watch” and look I love dark movies I really really do especially the MA15+/R18+ kind I genuinely look forward to those but given everything that’s been revealed in recent months I would like to see those kind of scenes be rethought a little bit.

And so that was my review of Red Sparrow a well made but forgettable spy film, 2 out of 5.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Film Review - Mute (2018)

Mute is a Netflix production directed by Duncan Jones who made Warcraft, Moon and Source Code and tells the tale of Leo (Alexander Skarsgard) a mute Amish bartender/detective who is trying to track down his missing girlfriend Naad in futuristic Berlin meanwhile a former US military officer (Paul Rudd) is determined to get out of Berlin and head home to the US.

Mute is sadly not a good movie and its reasons are three:

- Firstly its look is very cheap it so desperately wants to be a new Blade Runner kind of film with its neon visuals, flying cars, giant billboards, crazy characters and central detective character that it feels like a fan film and all of it is so on the nose and so overdone that after a while I just got bored of it all.

And also the look is so much that classic digital smoothness where the frame rate has that extra smooth feel to it that at times it pulls you out of the watching experience it doesn’t have that traditional frame smoothness that you get with standard cameras both film and digital and it just gets boring to look at after a while.

- Secondly the performances here feel very flat and at times very weak Skarsgard comes across as a complete blank and while a mute central character can be interesting it has to be done with great care and great precision and that is not on display here it feels like it gets in the way of the central story and Skarsgard’s blank facial expressions really do not help.

Paul Rudd I liked his David Boon esque moustache and its clear he is trying to do something with his role but even then after a time I wasn’t all that interested and Justin Theroux just felt a little icky to watch his role and again at first it was fine but after a while I lacked interest.

- And this leads me to my third and final point and that is the mystery frankly it is very unfulfilling to watch and someone who is mute trying to find someone he loves could have been a great mystery provided it is done well but it isn’t done well here and when things do get resolved and I won’t say anything untowards on that front but I didn’t care I just didn’t.

And that is where I want to end this review I just didn’t care about this movie, I didn’t care about its visuals, performances or mystery and I’m stunned that Duncan Jones made this movie hopefully after a few years break he has a chance to refresh to stop to take stock and come back with a great film again as a man exhausted and needing a recharge is clearly on display here, 1 out of 5.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Film Review - Lady Bird (2018)

Lady Bird marks the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig and stars Saiorise Ronan as Lady Bird a young teenager going through high school in Sacramento California and wanting to do something more with her life unlike her mother (Laurie Metcalf) who she constantly fights with all the time but while mothers and daughters may fight as a way of showing how much they care about each other down deep Lady Bird stills tries to find her place in the world even if it means flying away from the nest.

I absolutely adored this movie and was very touched by it when I began to think about it some more coming out of my session because I was that age myself back then in 2002-2003 which is where I will begin though my time in that period was very different to Lady Bird’s the same angsts, desires and feelings are there regardless of gender and Ms Gerwig firstly with her script captures all of that wonderfully the way that people talk here through her dialogue it all sounds very real it doesn’t sound the scriptwriter having their characters talk as they would or saying things that feel insincere or false or untrue to how people talk in this life there’s a genuine sincerity to this story here and it is very welcome indeed.

Secondly Ms Gerwig’s direction is wonderful she doesn’t let her scenes run on too long so her performers can improvise or adlib to try and get a cheap laugh or force some humour in there where it isn’t needed she knows exactly how to time the scenes, direct her actors and when to cut to the next scene so the overall film doesn’t run on too long and to think that this is her directorial debut it has the confidence of someone who has been directing for a decade up to this point I very very much admire her work here and I hope she is making movies for a very long time to come because I will see all of them.

Secondly the central performance by Ms Ronan is simply fantastic every scene she’s in has you glued to the screen watching her she’s that good but she has been very good for a long time and hardly anyone has noticed but here you can’t take your eyes off her and it is fitting to see her nominated for an Academy Award for her work here but she isn’t along in doing good work Tim Chalamet from Call Me By Your Name is very good as the James Dean esque Bad Boy that Lady Bird falls for Ms Metcalf is good here, Lucas Hedges is very good as Danny hell its hard to think of a bad performance in this movie everyone here puts their trust in Ms Gerwig and they repay it ten fold.

But there is one last point I want to make and that is this movie along with last year’s criminally underseen The Edge of 17 written and directed by Kelly Craig beautifully capture what it means to be a young person going through adolescence and puberty a huge change in your life that signifies growing up towards being an adult and through that trying to find who you are as a person both inside and out and yet both films do it with a sincerity and a sense of intimacy that is very hard to find with male filmmakers.

There is a tendency in male oriented teen films especially recently to treat that kind of physical and emotional intimacy in a way that can feel very exploitative where the female characters are seen as more sexualized than is normally the case or where the emotional core where a male character might feel something for a young girl at that age but be unsure what to do about it can be easily sacrificed for either a cheap gag or a cynical laugh where that person is made to feel like their soft and weak for feeling that way like “They shouldn’t be seen as being like that, you should just want to fuck them and leave them” and for me it just pulls me out of the film and it distracts from the emotional core that is trying to play out.

That wasn’t the case in Edge of 17 and it isn’t the case here the emotional core is intact and is handled with great care and if there are laughs to be had they are done in a way that makes sense within the context of that particular scene all of that stuff feels real because their directors and actors believe in it 115% and as a result you as an audience member believe in the characters and their emotions and desires and it makes you feel something inside of how it really felt to be that age and feel like how others can handle these huge changes with ease while you yourself can’t seem to do anything right at all and if you do care about someone it hurts when it goes bad and it feels wonderful when it goes right.

And lastly with these 2 films and Wonder Woman also from last year it is great to see female filmmakers challenge the guys at genres they’ve traditionally dominated in and prove that they can do it as well and have the guys love their work as much as women do even if they don’t quite understand how much it means to the female audience to see themselves represented in this way on that big cinema screen but that’s okay because I personally am happy for them as it can be a very powerful feeling.

And so that was my review of Lady Bird a film I loved and I hope people will go and see in cinemas, 4 and a half out of 5.