Legion (2010) Film Review

Why are films about the biblical end of the world always so terrible?

I mean Christian films are near universally, unwatchably terrible in general *Cough Assassin 33ad Cough* but in this case I’m talking about films where either God or the Devil has decided it’s time to wipe out the world.

I mean just imagine it, the ground cracks open spewing lava and creatures of unimaginable horror flow out and begin slicing through humanity with neither pity,remorse or regret.

Or the face of God appears in the sky, his mouth opens and as humanity turns to hear his words, instead a Death Star style beam hits the Earth turning it into an asteroid field in seconds.

Hell, what about a beam circling the world just wiping people from existence irrespective of how much they beg, plead or prey.

My point is, the end of the human race in the face of we know not what should be an excuse for a director to let their imagination run riot. Or, if your budget doesn’t stretch to armies of angels pouring from the clouds wielding all manner of weapons against the technically superior but actually completely unarmed humans, the idea of a group of humans trapped somewhere under hopeless siege from beings that they can barely understand, let alone fight has certain appeal.

And as long as you look at something like Legion (2010) and do exactly the opposite, then you shouldn’t go far wrong.

All-right not maybe exactly the opposite, there were a few touches I liked. The film gets half a point for calling it’s main setting (a diner in the middle of nowhere) Paradise Falls. Well done. You’ve read a book or done a quick google search. Also on the positives you’ve got a pretty solid performance from Paul Bettany as Gabriel, leader of the angel army sent against humanity who has decided that humanity deserves a second chance.

For some reason.

Remember, this film was released before Cats (2019).

With what little he’s given, Bettany does a great job as someone who’s defying everything he’s ever known or loved for what he believes in.

And er…..

I guess Douglas Quaid is OK?

The trouble is everything else. Like I was saying, this film is set in a diner in the middle of nowhere which is a good idea seeing as this thing had a pretty low budget but that and a moderately fun final battle is pretty much where the good news stops.

Like was hinting for the first 200 words of this review, the end of the world should be an excuse for directors to allow their imagination to run riot. Can you imagine what you would have the armies of Heaven look like? On a limited budget though so no CGI but… make up? Nope. In Legion, the villains are…people. People with black eyes showing that they’ve been possessed by Angels (Legion is the angels of Heaven V Humanity, the devil/Hell is apparently sitting this film out. I think they saw the script.)

Now OK, the idea that angels need to possess humans to exist on this plain or keep the budget down, is not without merit but the trouble I have is that people possessed by the angels can be killed by bullets. Not special blessed bullets or bullets made from a limited metal but just generic bullets that you can buy anywhere. (Assuming you live in the colonies, in grown up countries, you have a few hoops to jump through first.) Which, given that most of our angelic opponents don’t seem to have any plan beyond CHAARRGGGEE!!! Means that most of the time our heroes (for want of a better term) defeat them by ye olde strategy of firing guns with spent shells clinking to the ground which never(!) gets old.

It’s also very dull. The whole film is dull. After the first ‘action’ scene, we get 20 minutes of our heroes (for want of a better term) hanging around in a diner, chatting and I guess developing character? But instead it just felt like a bunch of people waiting for Godot, which would actually be a pretty cool film, a bunch of people, trapped in limbo (which looks like a diner in the middle of nowhere)  waiting to be judged wounds like a pretty cool film.

But that’s not what I got. Instead, it’s a bunch of people hanging around a diner being boring or flatter than someone who’d tried to have an argument with a steamroller until Bettany turns up and tells them that their waitress is pregnant with the new messiah and they have to keep it safe at all  costs from the army of angels coming to kill them since he was supposed to but decided he didn’t want to.

So now Legion is a siege movie until a woman  gives birth against what might as well be a zombie hoard.

And there were so many little things that annoyed me. The film takes itself so seriously that it’s no fun at all. If the job is to protect the new messiah do you want to have 12 people do the protecting? You’ve got a plague of flies so do you want to change all the water to blood? Give the cast Boils? A thunderstorm of hail and fire? Hell, you say that the world is covered in darkness now but then have a ton of scenes in daylight.

Consistency, Whats that?

One of our lead hero’s is literally called Jeep,the film (according to IMDB) IS allegedly a horror film but is actually about as scary as my washing up. There is a slightly tense moment at the end of the first act which sadly turns into a moment of unintentional hilarity which sadly isn’t the last.

Look, Legion, despite having a great (if completely wasted) premise is a boring dull which wastes it’s cast, it’s setup, it’s budget, and most importantly of all, my time. I mean there is one slightly interesting fight scene towards the end but it’s not worth slogging through the film for. You won’t care about anyone on screen, the death scenes are boring, it’s nether scary nor tense and I’m never going to think about it again.

Let alone check out the sequel series that ran for two series on SyFy. (Naturally)

See you next time.

My Score- Bomb 

Primal Film Review

From people who probably had nothing to do with Snakes on a Plane I present to you…

CAGE ON A BOAT!

Because reading the tagline for this film, I thought this was checking boxes on the B-Movie list that I didn’t even know existed. I mean you have Nicholas Cage (sadly acting for once instead of just caging out) playing the great white hunter whose ship full of animals is commandeered to take an assassin back to the US. Things go south and now he has to deal with a ship full of trapped civilians, US troops, a highly trained assassin and a boatload of terrible CGI. Sorry, I mean ‘released animals.’

Plus, the whole thing is directed by a former stuntman! I mean yes, his most recent credits might be Resident Evil: Retribution 2011s The Three Musketeers and 2010s Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore but… I… er….

Give every film a chance on it’s own merits.

It just doesn’t seem to have that many.

Like I said, Cage is actually acting in this film, instead of going through sets like a student through free drinks, the assassin (Kevin Durand- you’ve seen him in stuff but never bothered to find out who he is.) Is trying his hardest to be this un-caged psychotic killer but he’s just not given either the dialogue to work with or the actors miscast- think of Steve Buscemi in Con Air for what this character was probably supposed to be.

It’s a shame as had the actors been reversed- Cage in the villainous role and someone else in Cages role, and the dialogue tweaked slightly then this film could have worked as outside of the first Alien and Predator films I can’t think of any films where were expected to root for the group as opposed to the individual, that really worked for me, I mean it’s novel and i’m quite a fan of novelty.

Besides, filling the ship with animals to be released and add to the chaos seemed to be a stroke of genius, I mean you’ve not only got to deal with a crazed killer, but lions and tigers and bears oh my!

Except they haven’t got to deal with lions and tigers and bears oh my! Because the animals were treated as plot points, I mean they did score some kills (including one I didn’t buy in any way, shape or form.) But firstly they were of sch bad CGI and the camera work so bad, I half suspected that the film was intended to be on Sy-fi  instead of released straight to DVD in my local Tesco’s.

Which is a shame as robbed of that unique selling point, the film just became well… highly generic and just almost no fun to watch. I mean yes, there was the odd moment of promise and there weren’t any deal-breakers but you didn’t have a moment where our killer uses a poison dart frog? Or releases an American Crocodile? I mean yes, there is a Jaguar but that’s not really used except as a plot device and the film barely seems to have the energy to use the 2 venomous snakes it has beyond a resigned shrug. And the monkeys. Really terribly looking monkeys.

Besides that though and for obvious reasons, the vast majority of our characters are literally described in one sentence and even when one sounds really interesting (one character is on the run after being accused of killing a man in Jamaica) but they don’t really serve to do anything beyond die and say things like ‘how are we going to get out of this.’ ‘We’re all going to die.’ So on and so forth. You could have swapped them out with Solenodon (a venomous, nocturnal, burrowing, insectivorous mammal) and I doubt I would have noticed.

And to do that to Famke Janssen takes some serious doing.

Oh, and remember a few paragraphs ago when I said the director used to be a stuntman? Well, there aren’t any stunts of note or interest, the kills aren’t fun to watch, there’s no moment where our villain seems to be threatened or frightened or vulnerable, and Cage is I think mean to be playing a jerk with a hidden heart of gold. Well, he defiantly hid that heart well.And as a result I was struggling to find someone to root for.

Also the film seems to have tried to have some sort of conspiracy come out of nowhere during the last third but it made very, little sense, didn’t really add anything to the film and I won’t mention it again.

So yeah, Primal has a great idea, good actors, a great setup but at it’s core then there’s just not much there. It squanders it’s USP. Wastes it’s actors, has frankly terrible fight choreography, never quite gets it’s plot together, uses terrible CGI and just comes across as dull, uninteresting and flat. If your after a film that uses asymmetrical warfare then check out the original Alien and Predator films.

Not Alien vs. Predator though. That one sucks.

My Score- Skip It 

Radioactive Film Review

Now, Radioactive is a film that I sort of had my eye on at the turn of the year- I mean a cinematic telling of the life of Marie Curie – arguably one of the most influential scientists to have ever lived and one that certainly should be taught more widely in schools.

Yes please.

I mean a film about a journey through Marie Curie’s legacy – her relationships, scientific breakthroughs, and the consequences of them. Starring some really awesome actors including an amazing performance from Rosamund Pike in the lead and directed by the  Oscar Nominated Marjane Satrapi in her proud return to the directors chair since her last offering – 2014’s The Voices- whereupon a likable guy pursues his office crush with the help of his evil talking pets, but things turn sinister when she stands him up for a date.

Naturally it stars Ryan Reynolds.

And has a 6.4 rating on IMDB.

Still, that shouldn’t matter. This is a story based on a real person which means there’s already a complete story and this film is based off a graphic novel (haven’t read it, never will, the books don’t matter.) Which means that it’s already been story-boarded. Literally, you just need to assemble the sets and cast and we’re off to the races.

So to recap, Radioactive has a really solid cast, an interesting story which has already been story-boarded and… somehow they mess it up.

To start with, this film is just ugly to look at. I mean I get that the budget wasn’t the highest but surely you could have hired more than one lighting guy, because this film is just dull, all the sets are dull, the costumes are dull, the lighting is so bad I had to turn up the brightness on my TV to make sure that I could actually see what was going on. Apart from when Marie was looking at some radioactive material (which apparently glow like kryptonite) as if she was Gollum. If she’d started call it her precious I wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow.

Except that would have required an emotional response and with enough exceptions that I could count them on one hand, the entire cast appears to have been told to show no emotion, ever, under any circumstances. As if the entire cast was swapped out with a load of Vulcans before the cameras started rolling. I’m serious, I’ve reacted with more emotion when I found an unexpected £10 in my jeans then these people do when they discover something that they know will change the world.

Also, for a film about Marie Curie, we never really get to know much about her, where did she pick up her interest in science? Where was she taught? Why did she and her sister move to France? They seem to be wealthy, so where does their money come from? I could go on but I won’t because if the film isn’t interested in these sorts of things, why should I be.

No, the things I found more baffling were a series of short vignettes about the ripple effects of Curies discoveries which ranged from chemotherapy, to the bombing of Nagasaki, to Chernobyl WHERE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENED. These short stories add nothing to the film in any way, shape or form, pop up at seemingly random intervals where they disrupt what little forward momentum this film has managed to gather and just left me confused. Because if you want to make a film that examines as to whether or not the discovery of radiation has been to the benefit or detriment of humanity then i’m up for that, but this is not the way to do it.

But, if you were desperate to have these pointless distractions in the film then there’s a natural way to weave them into the narrative in the scenes where Curie visits a spiritualist (don’t ask. I haven’t got the first clue why.) But it would have been easy to have them appear to her as vision of the future that she’s creating via montage and then have her dismiss them as too much win, instead they just pop up every 20 minutes or so with nothing to say, nothing to add other than to lull me out of a ‘deep critically meditative state.’  And start taking notes again.

Which is another issue, this film is so dull that it drags. I mean the run-times less than an hour 45 minutes but it just…keeps…. going… Mostly because there doesn’t seem to be any struggle in Curies life. She gets kicked out of her lab by the establishment for… reasons, then gets a new lab at a party, has no issue securing funding for her work, her husband idolizes her and they apparently never argue, she almost loses her second child because of her refusal to go to a hospital but it’s resolved in less than twenty seconds and never comes up again. Does she feel guilt for inadvertently giving hundreds of people radiation poisoning Or keeping that stuff in her house near her young children? Hell if I know. Even her own radiation poisoning is reduced to the old ‘persistent cough syndrome.’

Now I get that reducing a life to less than 2 hours is a mammoth undertaking and that sacrifices must be made but I knew less about her after watching her film than if I’dd been sat next to her at a dinner party for the same amount of time.

Oh well, a least no-one bothered with an accent meaning I didn’t have to sit through Monty Python and the glowing vial.

Look, Radioactive does have an amazing performance by Pike and solid performances from everybody else but it asks questions that it shouldn’t, has nothing to do with them when it asks them, is dull to watch and neither teaches me anything about Curie or inspires me to learn more about her which is something a film of this type should 100% definitely do.

Look, I’m not the biggest fan of biographical films but even I know that this isn’t a good one. Skip this and go pick up a book if your interested.

My Score- Skip It

Psycho (1998) Film review

Now, it’s true that on the surface, remaking Psycho (1960)- arguably one of the most iconic horror films in history sounds like the worst idea since giving the working class the vote. Or making 3 cinematic sequels AFTER Hitchcock had died (no, seriously they did this and I don’t recommend any of them. I’ll tell you about them sometime though.)

But the idea itself isn’t without merit. I mean, the same piece of art can be reinterpreted using different, modern methods. For example, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa painted with paintballs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qohY8RpUQTU). And if we just turn around and say that you can only use each script once then the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) is going to seriously struggle to put on anything one the theatres ro-open. But no, there’s a video of 8 actors and HRH Prince Charles debating  how to say ” To be, or not to be, that is the question:” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEs8rK5Cqt8) And I’ve never heard anyone say that we should stop putting Shakespeare on. It would be nice to give him a break though and allow some other playwrights a chance to shine but that’s a debate for another time.

What i’m trying to say, is that in principle I have absolutely no issue with remaking Psycho, using the same script but different actors, times, shooting styles in a bid to modernize and re-contextualize a modern classic. Hell, Hitchcock himself remade one of his own films, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) as The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), and this film had a blessing from Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter, Patricia Hitchcock O’Connell.

Quite why she did that though, I have absolutely no idea because this film commits the most cardinal, unforgivable sin of horror films.

It isn’t scary.

Not at all. It get mildly, slightly tense at some points but that’s about it. And look, I’m not going to compare this to the original. It’s not fair, productive or even very helpful. And it’s not like this thing is.. oh  I don’t know… a shot for shot remake meaning that pretty much the only  difference is the actors and that the film is in colour now.

Oh, it is a shot for shot remake meaning that pretty much the only  difference is the actors and that the film is in colour now. Why does this thing exist? Well, according to the director (Gus Van Sant)  replied “So no one else would have to.”

I.. uh… Dwah?

Fine. I’m just gong to imagine he lost a poker bet and imagine that in another timeline Michael Bay had to remake this film.

Anyway, like I was saying, 436 words in i’m going to finally start reviewing this film as a film in it’s own right. Because there’s not really much to say about it. Yes, the twist at about a third of the way through stands up but THE BIG TWIST at the end just isn’t scary in colour and yes, the Psycho music is arguably some of the most iconic is cinematic history, but when you use it every five minutes, it kind of loses it’s effect. Less is more with iconic themes.

Actually, cinematic-ally speaking, less is more in general. But I get away from myself.

The cast is fine, Vince Vaugn is actually a pretty good Norman Bates, William H. Macy is fantastic of course and everyone else is there.

Of course the story ties together nicely and it looks very nice but it’s just not scary and in a horror film, that is a sin I just cannot forgive. Even in the films most iconic scene I just didn’t feel anything other than mild interest.

And I know that I said I wasn’t going to compare this film to the original but Hitchcock made chocolate sauce scary and since this film is a shot-for-shot remake I can’t really credit this films achievements because they don’t belong to THIS film. Mr. Van Sant if you were going to remake this film then remake it. If your going to make it in the ’90’s then make it in the ’90’s. Aside from a walk-man this could have been set in the ’60’s and frankly you may as well have set it in the 1960’s since you’ve copied so much else.

And look film, I hate the last scene of Psycho, everyone hates the last scene of Psycho, it’s universally regarded as one of the worst scenes Hitchcock ever did and if you want to get rid of it then go for it, the shortening of it worked, but i’m not so sure about having the background music turned up so loud that I actually paused my film to check that there wasn’t some random popup wasn’t doing it’s thing in the background trying to get me to play something awful and full of viruses but no, the music in this scene was just so loud that I had to put subtitles on.

I mean in a way I am glad this film exists because it shows that even if you remake a film exactly the same way as a master then you don’t become a master, even with a solid cast and a significantly larger budget there’s something more in making a film, more than sets and lighting and music and dialogue. Something more.

I like it.

Look, Psycho (1998) is a film that seems confused as to why it exists. Remaking and updating a film I have no issue with. Remaking a film shot-for-shot to show that you can? Apparently as an experiment? (That’s what the director says anyway.) An experiment to prove what? That you can stand up to Hitchcock? That you can remake films like a production line every 20/30 years or so? That cinema is broken enough to meekly accept cookie cutter films meekly and without complaint? Well… I think that last one’s been proven but the rest still stand.

Don’t bother with this one when the original still exists. The original was a truly groundbreaking film and this is literally an experiment which, if you really wanted to conduct you should have made using an adjusted for inflation budget.

As is?

Skip It

 

Wasp Network Film Review

I love a good spy thriller. Stuff like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy where everyone exists in a constant state of grey and fear and being incapable of trusting anyone as they may be the one who smiles in your face whilst stabbing you in the back.

And a spy thriller based on a true story?

Yes please.

And this seemed like such a promising idea for a film- a group of exiles who targeted communist Cuba in the 1990s? Sun drenched Miami and Cuba serving in complete contrast to the darkness of the films subject matter, shifting loyalties, debates over the best way to rebel, from dropping leaflets to helping people trying to escape in rafts by dropping supplies to more… direct action against the Cuban economy.

All well and good, you’ve got a cracking cast as well, Penélope Cruz, Edgar Ramírez, and  Ana de Armas among others on the screen and the director (Olivier Assayas) has some serious chops as well, (check out 2016’s Personal Shopper if you don’t believe me). So you’ve got all the ingredients for a cracking thriller but….

It’s just a mess.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with having a large cast, but you need to be able to juggle them all effectively, ensure that we understand who everyone is and what they want. Were’re also going to need an effective audience Point of View character (preferably fictionalized so they can be everywhere they need to be so that we see the important plot events), we also need a clear understanding of time. Is this film taking place over days or years? Where are we? Why are we here? Is every single character needed to move the plot along? What is Love?

In Wasp Network, we get almost none of those. What I think is meant to be out POV character (  René González portrayed by Edgar Ramírez) is given lead character status in my notes purely because he’s the first person we see and actually do something that advances the plot.

Oh yeah, the plot…..

Look, watching Wasp Network I was half convinced that this was meant to be a TV series but Netflix decided very, very late in the day that this was going to be a two hour film and the scissors were brought out. Rendering some characters completely irrelevant to such an extent that if you were to completely remove Ana de Armas character- make her an off-screen character if she needed to be mentioned at all, then nothing would change. She doesn’t DO anything, impact the plot in any way or bring any benefit to the film beyond… well… being  Ana de Armas, which usually is enough for me but not here.

We jumped around in time so much that I was forced to fall back on the old ‘how old is the child actor this scene?’ which is never a good thing. Especially as no-one really seems to age or change in any serious way beyond debating whether to get a pager or an expensive new mobile phone.

But, whatever. I was approaching the hour mark starting to get my head around who was who, what they did any why they did it and was waiting for the plot to actually start after being introduced to more people than someone starting a new day at work at a big company, the director decided that this was a good time to spring THE BIG TWIST which might have worked had I any idea what was going on.

But the director had thought of this and instead of going back to the previous hour and trimming it down to twenty or thirty minutes so we can get on with the actual plot we  paid to see, kept the previous hour and THE BIG TWIST intact and then threw in some well… opening credits as if i’d seen the first episode of Wasp Network! And now it was week 2 and I was getting the basic gist of the series as if it was a weekly show. I was baffled. If. You. Have. That. Little. Faith. In. Your. Film. Then. Re-edit. Re-shoot or Re-write The. Filming. Thing. Do not just slam in more exposition in one minute than you have plot in the last hour before going to warp speed because the network cancelled WASP Network after one season and you need to tie up all the lose ends to make the fans happy.

Because the second hour is just thing happens that happened in real life, a few seconds of actual news footage showing the reactions to the thing and then were off with no time to show the effects of the thing on our rugby team of characters then were off again with a new thing that we barely have time to process before another thing, and another, then the director calls it a day and we all go on with our lives feeling slightly baffled.

I mean you could almost look at Wasp Network as a set of scales. The first hours super slow, then you get the opening credits of exposition, and then we go to hyperspeed in the second hour to balance things out.

Also, you need to stop wasting actors. Poor Penlope Cruz is working so hard with what she has, and is given (in the second half naturally) an opportunity to actually contribute but she just doesn’t.

The sad thing is though, Wasp Network is fixable. The story is good, the cast is there, it just needed to be a mini series rather than a film. Or if it needed to be a film, cut down the characters to a more manageable number, cut the first hour down the thirty minutes, somehow turn the opening credits into fifteen minutes of on screen time and then use the rest as breathing space for the rest of the film. But to be honest, a TV series is probably the best bet.

On the other hand, it did encourage me to get a book about the Wasp Network so I guess it did it’s job?

Books pretty good actually.

I’m off to read it and I recommend you do as well.

My Score- Skip It

Alex Rider Series 1 Review

Well, that was confusing.

All right, a little backstory to help set the scene.

The Alex Rider franchise started back in September 2000 and is based around the idea of a secret agent also being a British school boy, which, whilst not officially tied into the James Bond franchise, each book follows a lot of the same beats as a James Bond film (not book) and I always enjoyed reading them on holiday.

Now, this series starts with the plot of the second book (Point Blank) but also obviously has to set up the premise of the series- uncle dies, uncle worked for M16, 14 year old nephew is ‘encouraged’ to work for M16, nephew goes up against super-villains with only wits and gadgets on the somewhat flimsy premise that no-one is going to suspect a 14 year old boy of being a spy.

And if your wondering why the first book isn’t being turned into the first series… There was a film many years go…. many people killed….lots of money lost…. moving on.

Which, given that the plot of the first involves a deadly virus being released onto British school children is the sort of story-line that Amazon is probably thanking the Gods of streaming that they don’t have to advertise.  Not that they bothered advertising this series, literally the first I knew about this show was when it popped up on my Amazon Prime account, no trailers, nothing on the radio Hell, I didn’t even see a single, solitary tweet advertising this thing. I still haven’t but that’s no never mind I’ve seen it now.

Now, for those of you wondering, the Alex Rider book that this 8 episode- each of which is 45 minutes long- TV series is based off of is 320 pages long which means that this is pretty much the same idea as those Hobbit movies from a few years ago that you’ve already forgotten exist.

Because i’m just going to say it now, these should have been made into movies, each 90-120 minutes long because that’s the medium that these books have always seemed to have one eye on, as their fast paced, fun, full of action sequences and fun, shallow characters and we know that this formula works on the silver screen. It would also gloss over some of the books inherent flaws as it moves along at a fair old clip.

Sadly though, as a TV series, and a fairly slowly paced at the start TV series at that, this shows a lot of flaws.

And I mean a lot of flaws.

I’ll gloss over the numerous plot-holes, conveniences and inconsistencies within the show.

I’ve got bigger fish to fry.

I can even sort of overlook the fact that it takes 4 episodes(!) of this 8 episode series to get going, even though I accept and understand that people will have given up on this by the end of episode 2 as ‘it gets better later’ can apply to almost anything and this is…

Well, also… I’m not really sure that it does get better. At one point my wife turned to me and asked “Who is this for?” And I didn’t really have an answer. The beats of the story are straight out of a teenage story book, but the action is all over the place,ranging from teenage hi-jinks to brutal murder scenes to bike chases across London. The cinematographer thinks that their making a moody piece of art because every single shot is gorgeous and amazing and wonderful but seems strangely out of place when in the very next scene after this gorgeously shot scene where our paper thin villain has done something evil i’m watching a teenage boy go skiing down a mountain.

Oh yeah, the villains are straight out of James Bond central casting as well. Not modern cranky Bond but Roger Moore Bond. They’ve got the lair, the dodgy accent, the plan that sounds good on paper but wouldn’t work in the real world, I think he’s even got the uber goon

Oh, and did I mention the scenes where our lead is brutally tortured? Yeah, this show’s weird.

No-ones having any fun, a hell of a lot of the adults just spend their time staring at screens saying things that ARE VERY SERIOUS INDEED or sound like their destined for the trailer that never seemed to get released. Also, the spies seem to have wandered in off the set of Spooks or some as yet unreleased English version of Jason Bourne.

Even the gadgets are all very serious and po-faced.

So you have a spy series with an identity crises featuring actors that seem to have wandered in off of several very different incarnations of fictional spies where our lead himself is given very little to work with (Rider is a self insert Mary Sue) and is in dire need of a decent haircut.

Oh, also, I would have told you the plot by now but I can’t without spoiling it and to be honest, the actual plot of the book just seems to be a springboard for padding, dropping hints for something that fans of the book will see coming in episode 1 and will make no sense to those that aren’t.

Also massive sequel bait.

Good luck with that at the twist they’ve introduced seeing as it messes up the continuity of the books but whatever, no-one said books and TV shows have to be the same. Even they are are being written by the same person. Who also wrote that terrible Stormbreaker film now that I think about it.

Back with Alex Rider and each episode is 30 minutes of padding followed by 15 minutes of actual plot just in time for the cliffhanger for that episode.

The actual actor playing Alex is fine, even if he is in dire need of a haircut. Actually the cast as a whole are fine, i’m just not sure that they were all told the same thing by the same director.

Look, If you can get past the first 4 episodes, slow pace and beautiful shots which frame what should be fun, pulpy teenage wish fulfillment story full of fun but flat characters and more padding than you can shake a serious person spouting exposition over a computer screen at. It’s not dull, just confused.

In other words?

My Score- If Nothing Else

 

Spaceship Earth 2020 Film Review

Biosphere 2: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the biospherians . Its two-year mission: to grow some food and try to avoid going stir crazy. To seek out new life and convince my wife that she’s watching a spoof documentary whilst at the same time confusing the living daylights out of me.

Because i’d thought i’d purchased a film about a group of 8 people locking themselves in a biodome after getting inspired by 1972 Sci-fi classic Silent Running, and instead i’d spent the first twenty minutes watching an experimental theater group building a boat as a sort of performance art (their words, not mine.) Then sail around the world setting up hotels in Marrakesh and still going to-the-best-of-my-knowledge art galleries in London  (As you do.)

What can I say, it was the 70’s followed by the 80’s. There was loads of ‘inspiration’ floating around.

The setup is actually pretty cool, using a lot of footage actually shot by the biospherians (again, their word not mine.) interspersed with them in the present as talking heads. And to be honest, once we’d settled down and the documentary had actually gotten onto it’s subject matter I found the whole thing to be utterly fascinating.

I mean, maybe it’s just the fact that it’s looking likely that I’m probably going to be locked in my house for two years or the fact that this was supposed to be an experiment that would help us learn how to grow food because we used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars. Now we just look down, and worry about our place in the dirt.

So, for those of you who aren’t really aware of this whole thing, the idea was 8 people would seal themselves inside a replica of earth’s ecosystem called Biosphere 2, for 2 years and see what would happen. FOR SCIENCE! Although exactly how much value the science was worth seems to be up for some debate by people with way more letters after their name than I’ve got.

And weirdly, the Lord of the Flies thing that your imagining. didn’t happen whilst they were in the dome. No, the ‘crazy’ stuff actually happened after they left, with the random appearance of someone that I wouldn’t have predicted turning up in a million years.

Like I said, Spaceship Earth takes a while to hit it’s stride and whilst I got at the end (sort of) why they spent so long getting going, I feel like a lot of people would have clicked off after 15 minutes or so which is a shame as this really is an interesting and unique story recorded in real time and discussed by the people that were there.

Also, and whether this is a positive or negative depends on you, this documentary left me feeling that rather than giving me all the information that I needed, such as why everyone was dressed like they were about to take part in the Crystal Maze instead of doing SCIENCE in say… a T shirt and jeans, this documentary would make a great leaping off point into a unique and interesting story that I just sadly can’t see happening these days even though it would be ‘easier’ I guess.

Actually, doing research for this review, I discovered that the experiment was recreated by Jaimie Oliver of all people in a school car park and featuring a group of 16 year olds. (Link- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_HSKO_8yok ) It’s defiantly interesting… but I still prefer the original.

Ignore the first thirty minutes or so and this is an interesting jumping off point for a story that really deserves to be told and I wish had gotten more of a advertising push because it really spoke to me.

My Score- See It 

Greyhound Film Review

Normally I don’t much care for films that come in pretty solidly under the 90 minute mark. But since Greyhound is pretty much already doomed to being seen by about 4 people since it’s on Apple TV I was feeling slightly charitable going in/collapsing on the couch with a beer.

Because whilst this is based on a book that doesn’t matter, Greyhound has a really solid plot “Early in World War II, an inexperienced U.S. Navy captain must lead an Allied convoy being stalked by Nazi U-boat wolfpacks.” Sounds great. There’s several films from the submarines point of view but I can’t remember any from the point of view of a convoy right in the middle of things, no air cover to assist in the location and destruction of U-boats, forced to rely only on their eyes and temperamental technology. Lead by an inexperienced captain (Tom Hanks) the crews of every every ship in the convoy depend on his wits as he battles not just the enemy, but tiredness, hunger, thirst and the elements themselves.

Set almost entirely on the bridge of the lead ship Greyhound, we are there in the thick of from about 4 minutes in  (we open on a rather pointless and irrelevant flashback that could easily have been done away with.) Now, it’s true that characterization is a bit thin on the ground and I couldn’t name a single member of the cast if you pt a gun to  my head, but in the middle of a highly vulnerable convoy under constant attack I’d rather not hear the crew monologuing about pregnant sweethearts and why they joined the Navy after learning to sail at 12 and falling in love with boats.

No, Greyhound is a film which feels like someone with a very enthusiastic pair of scissors went over the script and cut out a lot of non mission critical dialogue. Which is another reason why it’s a shame that this is missing out on cinemas. On the silver screen? This would be an insanely tense experience which would thrill loads of dad’s and granddad’s (and me as well, this film is a tense as anything.)

It’s not perfect, whilst it’s true that there’s no fat or padding on this films bones i’m still not a fan of an 82 minute runtime before the credits start, at times the CGI is quite obvious and, I’ll confess it’s been a while since I’ve seen Das Boot (AKA The Greatest Submarine Film Ever) but I don’t remember  scene where they call up the convoys their trying to blow up and basically saying “Stupid Americans, Ve are coming to blow you up Mwa ha ha ha ha”. I mean according to naval friends of mine, Submarines break radio silence like this about as often as they take flight and it sort of cheapens the effect. I would have had the U-Boats keep their mouths shut and be a silent, eternally threatening presence as they harass the convoy, picking off stragglers and forcing our mentally and physically exhausted hero’s to exhaust even more of their diminishing fuel and ammunition in a duel to the death.

And speaking of the convoy, it would  have been nice to know exactly how many ships were in the convoy  bringing desperately needed tea to the UK , where diminished stocks had forced Granddad Miles to have a mere 7 cups a day. (Milk, no sugar and at times not even a biscuit- the man knew how to rough it.)

But aside from some slightly dodgy CGI, chatty Germans, an uncertain number of ships and needing a basic understanding of Naval terminology this is one hell of a good film. I mean for once it shows Tom Hanks in a type of role that I haven’t seen him in a while.

Vulnerable.

Like I said, Hanks ( who also wrote the screenplay) is an inexperienced captain, which means that he’s not 100% on everything. He’s lucky at first but then starts making mistakes which cost ships and lives again and again and again. Each loss weighing on him more and more throughout the film, questioning his decisions when he hasn’t the luxury of time to do so. It’s a fantastic character study and a chance for Hanks to stretch himself in a way that he hasn’t recently.

Short runtime aside (I should probably stop harping on this but I just can’t bring myself to do so.) This is a fantastic film that actually shows the logistics of battle. Where is the enemy? How far? How fast are they going and in what direction? Should we use one depth charge or a full spread?

In short, Greyhound is an amazing lean, mean fighting machine of a film. A character study and analysis of battle in an area of WW2 which I haven’t seen much on cinema. It’s such a shame i’ll never see this on the silver screen as it would have been an amazing experience. As is, I definitely think that you should.

My Score- See It 

The Old Guard Film Review

Another day another film based on a graphic novel that has dreams of becoming a film franchise.

All right, lets see what we’ve got here… I mean I haven’t seen an adaptation with dreams for almost a month now and I was beginning to wonder if Hollywood was feeling all  right.

But no, it’s all systems go as usual, this one just seems to be hiding it’s graphic novel roots a lot better than other films of this type that I’ve seen, which is fine by me since the books don’t matter when it comes to the film.

But as a film, The Old Guard isn’t bad, it’s not great either, it’s just a slightly dull film with a slightly dull name.

I mean yes, Charlie Theron is back in her seemingly happy place (does she do happy? She always gives me Hannibal Lector vibes) of running around set with an asymmetrical haircut and a Glock in her hand. She leads a group of seemingly immortal warriors who potter around Earth trying to do good but aren’t sure if their actually helping the situation. Then, they receive psychic visions (just roll with it) that a US Marine has been cursed with immortality at the same that they realize that a pharmo-bro (arguably the least threatening villain I’ve ever seen) has discovered they exist and wants to catch them so they he can study them and then sell their immortality. Standard origin story 42 Alpha.

And standard is very much the word. I mean yes, there’s a very cool fight scene in a rickety plane which also doubles as a training montage, it’s also great to see a gay couple in a film that’s a loving supportive relationship. Theron looks great in some of the fight scenes and it’s always great to see Chiwetel Ejiofor in a film. Seriously, if Hollywood ever figures out how to use that guy he’s going to be swimming in awards and I was never bored with the film.

Sadly though, there’s a lot on the other side of the equation. Now, Theron and her merry band basically have Wolverines ability to heal which means that fight scenes where their up against dudes in armor that gets scoffed at by wet paper bags there’s no such thing as tension in the repetitive fight scenes. A late revelation makes no sense unless our gang has the power of clairvoyance. Which they don’t. Normally the way films deal with an issue like this is to have a super-powered henchman appear at the end to raise the stakes but that just doesn’t happen here.

I mean yes, a lot of the film looks very nice, the music fits well and it was nice to see a film that kept it’s use of CGI to a minimum, I mean that’s all well and good  but it doesn’t stop our leads from being a bunch of right miserable sods. Our poor POV character erm… Marine has just been told that she’s going to live forever and has to abandon her family and friends so she doesn’t have to watch them die of old age whilst pleading with her to share her secret of immortality and no-one brings up the time that they all got plastered for 20 years in Renascence Italy or spent 5 years exploring somewhere, or how much they hate modern technology and everything was so much easier 150 years ago. No, they all just sit there drinking enough alcohol to put a student to shame, being miserable and telling Marine about that time an immortal got caught, chucked in an iron coffin and then placed at the bottom of the sea for 500 years.

In fact, everyone’s very serious and dour and no-one (save maybe pharmo-bro but he’s on screen so little it’s basically a cameo role) is having any fun. That’s why the plane scene stood out, it was fun and enjoyable whilst also servicing the plot and informing us of the characters motivations, abilities and utilizing the location to great effect.

Otherwise The Old Guard (which I can only imagine is going to get the sequel title – The Old Guard 2 Old Harder) is a perfectly functional film which does a perfectly functional job of being vaguely entertaining whilst setting up the inevitable sequel that looks like it might be a lot more fun.

Unfortunately by the time it comes out I’ll have long since forgotten this film exists and have to watch it again.

It’s a hard life this fl reviewing lark I tell you.

My Score- If Nothing Else

The Darkest Hour (2011) Film Review

Isn’t it always the way, you set out to re-watch the film that finally won Gary Oldman his Oscar (2017’s Darkest Hour), but I took a wrong turn at 1973’s Invasion of the Bee Girls whereupon “A powerful cosmic force is turning Earth women into queen bees who kill men by wearing them out sexually.” and instead wound up with this…

Which is a shame as on the surface it looked sort of promising. It’s your bog standard alien invasion film but for once it’s not in the US but Moscow which is a city that I haven’t really seen on screen. You can then springboard that into a language barrier, our desperate group of survivors trying to communicate with each other, humanities differences laid bear versus a relentless united alien onslaught. An opportunity this film squanders completely as all of our leads are American- or a Swede who speaks perfect English- or speak near enough perfect English that I wondered why we weren’t just back in New York for the millionth time.

Also, the aliens are invisible which hopefully means that I don’t have to look at that much terrible CGI (which I eventually did) or some dodgy rubber masks (which I didn’t). It also means that there’s the option here for some tension. Does this seemingly empty street contain no, one or a hundred aliens? How do we work out a way to see, let alone fight them when were so low on options, skills and resources? I mean it was done so well in this years Invisible Man (Yes, that was this year. I know, I was shocked as well.) But here, it just isn’t.

Pretty quickly, our main people wandering around set saying words and doing things (I’ll deal with them later), work out that they trigger anything electrical, car alarms, streetlights, even mobile phones, so as long as you’ve got  couple of old Nokias handy you’ll be fine.

And look, I get in a film this brief (to my mind it had ended quite naturally after a pitiful 71 minutes but then, thanks to one of the worst and most blatant plot holes I’ve ever seen it manages to drag itself on to a slightly less pathetic 82!?!?! minutes of runtime.)

Where was I? Oh, right, in film this shockingly brief and focused on a small group of survivors your not going to get an in depth description of everything, but my question regarding Alien invasion films of the last few years is, why are you here? Why did you fly 90 billion light years to start a fight? In Skyline (an incredibly underrated film) the aliens were after our brains… apparently. But that made sense, our brains are found only on Earth. In Darkest Hour? They just want our minerals. Because, nowhere else in the solar system has minerals? You didn’t fancy Mars, Jupiter or Saturn? I get that we don’t really pose much a threat here, but still.

Sorry, personal bugbear.

Back on track and we find wandering around Moscow… Humans! Well, a few of them. Our main group are a bunch of idiots with no personalities, depth, charisma or skills beyond seemingly getting everyone around them (who are universally way more interesting and fun to be around) Killed. They have also have no names in my notes or even vague descriptions since they were just one blob of screaming nothingness.

None of the scenes that were meant to be tense were tense since a, I didn’t care for anyone on screen and b, any scene that had the beginnings of being tense were over in just a few seconds wherein taking their time, allowing the tension and panic to build until hopefully some of them escape by the skin of their teeth would have been so much more effective and memorable.

It would also have naturally extended the runtime.

Also, the aliens never evolve their attacks or methods. We don’t get an attack alien, a tank alien, a worker alien, just an alien. All the same. All a glowing ball with a Wonder Woman lasso and nothing to say beyond meaningless screaming. No sense of a hierarchy, or command structure or any variation in any way, shape or form. And after a while they just get boring and predictable. Even the death scenes lack variety.

I mean, you can tell a film is bad when a bunch of Russians cosplaying  as a bunch of Mad Max extras barely caused me to garner a flicker of interest in these new people who seemed to have wondered in from a much better film than the one I was watching.

And then even they become boring, one note people who seem to have no personalities beyond I AM RUSSIAN, I WILL DEFEND THE MOTHERLAND. Also their actors are really bad. As in wooden beyond belief in pretty much any and every scene. And of course they speak perfect English. Because why would I want our main  group of idiots facing off with a group of highly armed people who they can’t communicate with beyond sharing a common goal?

Yet, I still wanted the film to be about them. At least they had a spark of something about them.

Aside from that, this is still a very, very simple, predictable, boring film. Group forms after the first fifteen minutes whereupon i’m now supposed to care about them (I didn’t) then seek to get out of where they are to somewhere else without getting taken out by the invading forces. There’s no deeper metaphor, no utilization of Moscow as a shooting location beyond a few shots seemingly on behalf of the Russian Tourism Industry. The extras are more interesting and fun than our leads which is why they all die faster than a Game of Thrones actor wanting a pay rise, the invading aliens are boring and it was just so short and yet so padded.

Am I done?

Yeah, I think i’m done. I probably have more things to say but I’ve spent more time working on this than the film is long and I’m off to watch Dredd which also stars someone who was in this which is a good enough reason to rewatch Dredd.

Not that I need one.

My Score- Bomb