Friday, August 18, 2017

Film Review - The Dark Tower (2017)

The Dark Tower is based off of the series of novels by Stephen King and stars Idris Elba as the Gunslinger the last of his kind and Matthew McConaughey as the Man in Black determined to destroy the Dark Tower that binds the universe together but a young boy named Jake may hold the key to save the Tower from destruction.

Part of me was not looking forward to this movie mainly because of the very poor track record of King adaptations on film and to be honest the only really good one that comes to mind for me is Misery from 1990 by Rob Reiner so this one did not have a high tower to climb so to speak to deliver the goods.

And by that standard it delivers but it’s also a very bland and predictable film that’s only really elevated by Elba and McConaughey as the 2 main characters both bring a lot of charisma, charm and determination to their roles and when their on screen they do enough to hold your attention.

But when they’re not on screen the film feels very predictable in terms of its storytelling in that you think to yourself “That’s gonna happen, that’s gonna happen, that’s gonna happen” and it does and the film has a very bland look that feels contrary to the striking horror esque imagery King’s writing tends to put in your mind and one wonders or at least I did if this movie might have benefited from an MA type of tone that would properly do justice to King’s writing.

And so that was the Dark Tower and again its fine but forgettable and given the poor track record of King adaptations that’s more than enough, 2 out of 5.

Film Review - Logan Lucky (2017)

Logan Lucky is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as a pair of brothers Driver’s character only has one arm while Tatum’s is laid off due to insurance liability so he decides to rob the Charlotte Motor Speedway but to do that he will need the help of Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) who is currently incar-cer-rated.

Logan Lucky is a good dose of silly fun that is mainly elevated by its performances, Tatum and Driver are a good pair and they commit fully to their roles even if Tatum himself can be a bit dull at times, Craig is really fun as the ex-con with the southern accent as are Katie Holmes (a surprise I know), Riley Keough and Hilary Swank and boy was it nice to see her again in a movie it has been far too long.

Unfortunately this movie suffers from a common ailment of heist flicks which is a tendency to over complicate the heist to the point where it’s all supposed to come together you still find yourself getting a little lost as to how it all came together and with a good heist film when you get to the reveal you want to go “Oh so that’s how it all happened very good” whereas here it doesn’t quite do that and as a result when it all ended I found myself feeling a little cold about the film.

Now don’t get me wrong Logan Lucky is good clean fun with southern accents but its also a bit forgettable so I’d wait for a matinee session before seeing it, 2 out of 5.

Monday, August 14, 2017

New Radio Ep

Here is my new Radio episode where I reviewed:

- Baby Driver
- Dunkirk
- War for the Planet of the Apes

If I sound a little sniffy its because I was getting over a cold when I recorded it.

As always you can listen here: https://soundcloud.com/abclocalradio_sa/friday-flicks-aug-3

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Film Review - Valerian (2017)

Valerian is directed by Luc Besson who also made the 5th Element and the Professional and is based off of a French comic book and tells the tale of Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and his partner Laureline (Cara Delevingne) who are asked to investigate the capture of a top commander (Clive Owen) who may be hiding much more than they know.

I had a lot of fun watching this movie and there is no denying whatsoever how crazily ambitious Besson is as his direction has a real focus and energy that is reminiscent of his Sci-Fi classic the fifth element as the look of the two films are very similar but here it feels like he has the time, the money and the resources he never had on that film and it is a gorgeous film to look at from the sets, the colours, the various alien species, the worlds both planetary and the world of the Alpha space station itself which is like Deep Space Nine crossed with a high rise tower and I was never bored looking at it.

Seriously the visual effects work here is fantastic and it shows just how to spend 200 million dollars on a Sci-Fi spectacle and much like Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk it demands to be seen on the big screen but as much as Besson shoots for the stars in a major way there are 2 big faults that keep him from succeeding in his quest.

Firstly DeHaan is horribly miscast as Agent Valerian now I like him quite a bit as a young actor and he has done good work in films like the Place Beyond the Pines but here as a leading man he falls very short as his slightly gravely voice sounds horrible at times and he has very little chemistry with Delevingne as the romantic scenes between the two I found a little hard to believe at times.

And secondly Bessons script feels very clunky at times and though the film clips along at a nice pace some of the dialogue here is horrendous and falls very flat and it’s a real shame because his world building and his work overall on this movie succeeds for the most part perhaps much like Ridley Scott or Tim Burton he should have hired a strong right hand as his main screenwriter to make sure the storytelling matched the great visuals on show here.

And so that was Valerian a Sci-Fi spectacle I thought was fun and is well worth seeing on a proper big screen, 3 out of 5.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

For Love of the Dragon

This column has been stewing in my head for a long while but now I feel confident in wanting to put it down into something written and coherent as much as possible.

And that is my love of a Japanese Manga/Anime called Dragon Ball and its sister series Dragon Ball Z.

My love of this show started way back in January 2000 which is also when it first premiered here in Australia first on Cartoon Network and then on Channel 10's Cheez TV block which used to play 3 cartoon shows at a time from 7am to 8.30am before finishing for the day and before it started on CN an Austar/Foxtel channel I saw little ads for it before it started and decided to give it a look the morning it premiered (January 4th 2000 was when it first began.)

I watched the first batch of episodes and then Goku the main character of the show dies and it was only 4 episodes into the series run needless to say I was taken aback but in a good way as later that night I became inspired to find out what happened next as by this point those episodes had long since aired in the United States so knowing the rest of the storyline was not easy to find through an Internet search.

Needless to say I was inspired to keep on watching but I feel I really got hooked on it when the Z Fighters fought Nappa later that season and that sealed it from then on out as here was the brave six staring down him, Vegeta and their Saibamen soldiers and within one three episode block half of them are dead and though they walked around that in the dialogue by saying they went to the next dimension I could easily read between the lines.

And this cartoon series really came along at the right time as I turned 14 the year it premiered here and almost all Western cartoons that I watched never and I mean never touched the subject of death in any meaningful way some cartoons like Reboot from Canada did go in a darker direction but even then no one meaningful really died they were sent off for sure but they were later rescued but here three of our main heroes die in one battle and in 2 of those situations for nothing and then the one person that can help bring them all back to life dies as well in self sacrifice pretty heavy stuff for a fun cartoon show.

But there are 3 other reasons I love this show firstly the roster of heroes here is very well developed and not just Goku but also his son Gohan, Krillin, Piccolo, Yamcha, Tien and Chiaotzu. Yamcha and Tien in particular really struck me from the moment I saw them as Yamcha had long hair and scars on his face and Tien was bald with 3 eyes and instantly I wanted to know them more but sadly they ended up doing very little afterwards and Krillin became the main human fighter to get the majority of the screen time and back then he kinda bothered me a fair bit I tended to find him annoying at times.

The second is the brilliant roster of villains especially in the first 3 seasons of the show which are known as the Vegeta and Frieza sagas (even back then it was 3 seasons on TV it didn't come about with the revising season rosters of the box sets) the first time I heard Brian Drummond as Vegeta I thought he was awesome and I really loved watching that character as well as Goku really learn about their true heritage as peoples of the Saiyan race and how Frieza ties into that.

And lastly that storyline of Frieza and the Saiyan Race which he ruled over with an iron fist and later became so scared of he wiped them from existence was not only exciting to watch action wise but also looking back very thematically interesting as not only the Saiyans were affected but also the Namekians a peaceful race brutally murdered for the mere trinkets they owned affected not just Goku and Vegeta but also Piccolo and still today us as fans are still living with the aftermath of that arcs popularity.

But there is also a more personal side to this that I want to write about as well and that is my love of this series very nearly inspired me to learn Martial Arts in real life but given I was in my early teens at that time I didn't really put the dots together back then as I look back now and perhaps feel that if I had the kind of thinking that would put those together perhaps I might of but hindsight is such a lovely thing isn't it.

However in the early to mid 2000s I started to lose interest in a big degree in the series as the Cell saga had put a pretty definitive end to the storyline and it became clear the Friday after that final episode had played on TV that perhaps the show was not coming back and back then it was really disappointing as it was my favourite show to watch even though others like Nickelodeons Rocket Power was more popular with some of my peers even though I didn't understand that all that well at the time I do now and slowly but surely I moved on.

But then cut to 2015 and Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection F I learned was coming to my cinema now I had heard about it and the previous film Battle of Gods but BOG got a very limited release here in Aus back then and I didn't really have much desire to see it even when it came out on disc but hearing that Resurrection F was coming to my main cinema I had to go as I used to dream of a DBZ film and what that would be like and now here it was and not like the turgid live action film from 2009 which was one of the worst films I've ever seen.

This time it was animated, Akira Toriyama himself was intimately involved with it as well as the Japanese company Toei and it had the proper voice cast not a bunch of stars pretending to be those characters and that night seeing it on the big screen was amazing a packed crowd, big screen and big sound it was something else and it became one of my top 3 films of that year.

But this year 2017 has been when my love of the series has really come back in a big way for three key reasons:

- Firstly I really got to learn more about Akira Toriyama himself the kind of person/writer/creator he was as well as how he plotted out the original manga and how that differs somewhat from the TV series not to mention the rocky relationship he had at times with his Manga editors and it was rather fascinating learning at least for me.

- Secondly to finally be able to watch the original Dragon Ball series from start to finish and this plays into the very different world that was when the series was first on TV as a group of episodes would play and then it would end and maybe never come back and for a serialised show like this one it was terrible but through the DVD compilation sets I was able to see it all from beginning to end and fully uncut plus the option to watch the original Japanese episodes if I so wish.

- And thirdly the opportunity to revisit the first 3 seasons of DBZ fully uncut and without the heavy editing that was done to fit US Broadcast Standards was a real delight and also to do so having watched the original Dragon Ball beforehand and seen the characters really come into their own and in the space of the first 5 episodes watch everything fans thought they knew fundamentally change and some of the character deaths have much more impact and it has made the revisit feel both old and new at the same time not to mention watching it with the proper Japanese music score.

All that being said I have to say that DBZ sadly became another example of a series that just went on for too long and that started with the final battle between Freeza and Goku as a Super Saiyan it just went on and on and on to the point where I gave up watching it it was so long and it only got worse with the Cell and Majin Buu arcs but alas the fans and powers that be in Japan wanted more and well we got what we got even though Freeza would’ve been the ideal end for the series.

At the same time though and here is where I’ll wrap things up the 2 films plus the currently running Universe Survival arc where fighters from the 8 different universes deemed unworthy duke it out for survival have been terrific and shown the series back at its best since the Freeza arc from the late 80s and early 90s though it is a shame I will say that that Tournament isn’t a 2 hour film and the third film in a trilogy with BOG and RF had that happened It would’ve been my runaway favourite film of 2017 so far and been hard to dislodge from top spot at year’s end though these also prove to me that I don’t mind a franchise running this long if the quality is good.

And so that was my love of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z in a column I wanted to get it off my chest and write about it because it's a series I love and has inspired me personally to some degree I hope people enjoyed reading it.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Film Review - The Big Sick (2017)

The Big Sick is co-written by and stars Kumail Nanjiani a Pakistani man who falls in love with a white woman named Emily (Zoe Kazan) but their cultural differences see the 2 separate and Emily then falls into a coma which makes Kumail realise that he has made a mistake and has to make it right.

I was pretty mixed on this movie in all honesty but before I delve into that I want to talk about what I did like and firstly the performances here weren’t all that bad I do like Mr Kumail as a romantic lead and he has a certain charm to him that makes him endearing to you watching him, Kazan is pretty good here as well and both Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are very good here as Emily’s parents.

I also really liked how this movie explored how a cross cultural/inter racial relationship might look like and how the differences are inherent especially for someone who immigrates to a Western country like the United States and has grown up in that country and with its values for so long that that’s how they see themselves as compared to their more traditional minded parents who still want to cling to the old ways despite their new home and how a relationship with a white woman can be complicated at times.

Unfortunately as great as that is the film tries too hard to go for laughs and I didn’t really find it to be all that funny and the more I’ve thought about this movie the more I wish it had a more serious tone to it instead of trying to be a nice and sweet rom com for some relationships at least to me of which this is one of should be treated more seriously as they do have serious repercussions and seeing these really awkward laughs in the film kinda pulled me out of it and it’s a shame as its subject matter was really interesting.

And so that was the Big Sick which had an interesting look at a cross cultural relationship but I wish it hadn’t felt like a twee rom com and been more serious minded, 2 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - Atomic Blonde (2017)

Atomic Blonde is set in November 1989 one week before the Berlin Wall fell down and a MI6 operative named Lorraine (Charlize Theron) is sent behind the Iron Curtain to track down a list that contains every double agent and her contact is David Percival (James McAvoy) but life in Berlin in the 80s is a murky place where information, secrets and loyalties can be bought at a price and survival is key.

I was really looking forward to this movie mainly because it looked like for me a throwback to the 80s eurotrash action thrillers we got a lot of back then and it had both Theron and McAvoy who in particular was coming off his huge success in Split but could the film deliver the goods?

Absolutely it did as I absolutely loved every moment of this movie and first off I have to start with the action sequences which are fantastic to watch as much like John Wick which was co directed by David Leitch who also made this movie you just feel every punch, hit, kick and use of weapons both gun fire and hand held and they have this very real and non choreographed feel to them and when put to some great 80s songs they really come to life.

And that is where I will go next and that is the soundtrack hearing all of these great 80s pop hits really brought the film to life and enhanced the murky world in which all of these characters live 2 real standout soundtrack choices were Cities in Dust by Siouxsie and the Banshees and I Ran So Far Away by a Flock of Seagulls.

But next I have to talk about the cast and first Theron is just fantastic here effortlessly carrying the film on her shoulders (this was very much a passion project for her as she also produced this film) and really throwing herself into the many fight scenes she has in the film, Sofia Boutella from Kingsman is also very good here as are Toby Jones and John Goodman but the show stealer here is definitely Mr McAvoy for not only does he look like a cross between Vernon Wells from Commando and a frontman for a Queen cover group but he just lifts every scene he’s in and infuses it with a great energy and charisma and shows once and for all that you just don’t fuck with the Horde.

But lastly I have to talk about just how well this movie captures that period of Berlin in the 80s first with the wonderful use of news footage from that period but also just how murky this world feels this was the epicentre of East vs West with some in the East going to great lengths to escape to the West and to freedom and it was also a place where as I described above is a place where information, secrets and loyalties can be bought and traded like commodities and as someone who loves this era and has read many newspaper stories and articles through news archives it all felt very authentic but this will be lost on some viewers.

And so that was Atomic Blonde which is easily one of my favourite films of the year so far and it felt like a film that Paul Verhoeven, Luc Besson or John McTiernan could have made back in 1989 or the early 90s I strongly recommend this one, 4 and a half out of 5.