Ready Player One Review

In the future the world sucks and instead of fixing it, humanity decided to fight the ‘broadband wars’ and then create the matrix. But in a fun way, stuffed full of eye popping visuals and amazing levels of pop culture that  all seem to have stopped about 1989.

But that’s Ok thought I setting about researching this review. It’s based on a book about pop culture so maybe it was written in 1994…. Oh, it was written in 2011. Ok then, I’m just going revert back to my inalienable believe that the books don’t matter and get on with reviewing the most Speilbergy film I’ve seen in years.

Which makes sense given that the man himself directed it and it’s therefore completely understandable why there are none of his films referenced here. (He thought it was a bit vain which is completely understandable) He’s not completely absent though, an item from a film he produced does appear in the film.

But there are so, so many items from other films that I have no idea how they were able to get all of the licences for characters ranging from the ninja turtles to the Holy Hand grenade from Monty Python to well, pick a franchise. My personal favorite? Lets just say that aiming to misbehave has thus far served me well in life.

But, one cannot make a film out of pop culture references alone. And here we get to one of several issues with the film. I mean it looks amazing, within seconds of getting out of the cinema I was texting both of the people I know telling them to see this film in IMAX 3d because my inner eight year old was fully in the driving seat and high on a sugar rush.

But, once that sugar rush faded I began to realize how generic the plot-line actually was, with an evil corporation taking on a gang of kids in order to gain control of a thing by undertaking a quest to collect three things. You’ve seen it done a million times and you’ve seen it done better. With villains who actually have backstories and seem slightly menacing or threatening. As well as heroes who have charisma in either the virtual or the real world. Or at least don’t make me wonder if i’m being reminded of a Final Fantasy character or the lead guy from Reboot. 

It’s packed full of cliches, with narration that repeats itself almost word for word maybe twenty minutes apart, with information that wasn’t terribly interesting or relevant the first time around. Also, the real world scenes seem like an imposition as well as dull and uninteresting compared with the rest of the film. It’s like going straight from a really, really sugary cake to Styrofoam at a seconds notice. It’s also to the films detriment as when i’m not being distracted by playing spot the Easter egg I begin to notice just how little I care about any of the people in this film.

Its all very predictable and to be honest I’m not sure how well it will hold up to repeat viewings as CGI visuals age badly and there’s very little to reward you for sitting through it again on the small screen once you’ve freeze-framed through all the film to see how many Easter eggs truly has.

And I wanted more of the real world explained to me. Is there a government? If so, how does a corporation get away with basically slave labor and having their own people abduct people off of the street? What exactly were the ‘Broadband Wars?’ And does anyone truly believe in the  speech that makes everyone fight for you cliche any more? If there world is running on fumes, how does everyone afford VR technology and how is a purely virtual world kept online with such limitations?

I’m not saying the film is hopeless, but once the sugar rush wears off you realize that this is basically The Goonies meets The Matrix whilst running through a Forbidden Planet with your hands outstretched, throwing everything in sight into your basket. And if that sounds fun to you then go see it. In IMAX 3D. I mean there’s absolutely  worse things out there but this could have been so much better. Just a develop the heroes a bit more, get a less generic villain, either develop or ditch the real world stuff, make the plot slightly more complex and you could have a winner.

I mean I fully expect the film to get a nomination for Best Visual Effects and whilst it’s true that the first bight is taken with the eye sooner or later the rest of you has to get involved at some point.

What a missed opportunity.

My Score- If Nothing Else

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Tomb Raider Review

Alicia Vikander, what exactly do you think your doing? Are you trying to prove to your husband that you can have a big budget based on a video game hopefully start of a  franchise misfire as well as him?

Because you don’t do stuff like this. You do amazing performances in small art house films that are seen by maybe 15 people (but everyone claims to have seen). Did you learn nothing from The Man From UNCLE or Jason Bourne? 

Anyway, today’s failed attempt to launch a cinematic universe…

Oh, you thought that this was just an attempt to launch a Tomb Raider franchise? Oh, my poor sweet summer children. Do you not know that producer Adrian Askarieh has told IGN in an interview that he may oversee a film universe with Just Cause, Hitman, Tomb Raider, Deus Ex, and Thief? And good luck bringing those very different games into one consistent film universe.

Because it’s not like this film has set the box office alight and where it not for the copious amounts of notes I took during the screening this might well be the shortest review of all time.

Because it’s completely generic and plays like one of those cut-scene movies you find on YouTube for those who like to avoid the hassle of playing the actual game but want to see all the cutscenes.

Except the CGI was better in those cut-scene’s than in the actual Hollywood blockbuster that I’ve just seen. Also, for a person seemingly without superpowers, Lara can take punishment that I swear would drop a terminator.

She’s pretty bland as well. We learn next to nothing about her and she does the old Indiana Jones trick of being at the same time completely irrelevant to the plot whilst at the same time really helping out the bad guys.

Vikander is amazing as Lara Croft, but she’s one of those actresses who could’t give a bad performance if she tried and even manages to make something of the very limited material she’s given here. As does Dominic West playing Lara’s dad  Lord Richard Croft who might as well be called the objective marker for all the personality he has. It’s obsessing over his disappearance that’s Lara’s only defining character trait and drives her. Yeah, forget all of the ‘Gap Yah The Movie’ jokes the preceded this film, call it ‘Daddy Issues The Movie’.

Even the plot description from IMDB   “Lara Croft, the fiercely independent daughter of a missing adventurer, must push herself beyond her limits when she finds herself on the island where her father disappeared.” Contains two references to the man and if your wondering about her mum…. she gets mentioned once, doesn’t appear in a single frame of film and I’ve spent more time on her than the damn film.

Anyway, Lara goes to a mythical island to find out when her dad is making a new season of The Wire and then has to save the word from an ancient cult called ‘Trinity’ which is trying to use an ancient Japanese Emperor to wipe out/ take over the world. And she has to do it all without cracking a single joke.

I’m serious! The only time we get anything close to a comic relief character is when Nick Frost wanders in from a different film for an irrelevant two minutes, upsets the Grim Nolanesque tone and then wanders off again leaving nothing but a sense of vague confusion in his wake.

I mean, I re-watched the original films this last week (Thanks IPlayer!) and there’s a sense of fun and wonder and Jolie having fun whilst enjoying a nice break from acting. But there’s none of that here. Viaknder is too good an actress to slum for a paycheck, she’s intense and driven but this is a film that needed a but more fun in it.

The action sequences have all been done before and most of them have more CGI than actual CGI cut-scenes, except it’s all really obvious. The fight scenes are generic, no-one gets any development except, bizarrely for the villain who’s just some bloke that wants to go home after being suck on an island for seven years. He’s got a couple of henchmen who apparently regard shooting people as the height of bad manners and some slave laborers to show that he’s evil. As opposed to some overworked bloke who just want’s to go home.

I mean maybe I’m asking too much from a director (the magnificently named Roar Uthaug) who hasn’t worked since 2015 when he made  The Wave, allegedly the first disaster movie made in Norway and Scandinavia, which holds 68 on metacritic and reads like something that would be perfectly at home on ScyFy.

At the end of the day, this is a perfectly acceptable, workmanlike film. It comes on, is pretty dull and unimaginative, and then it goes away again. It’s one of the better video game movies and better than last years Assassins Creed but that’s really not saying much. Stay home, play the video game again and ask yourself what Einstein arranged for it to be released the week before Pacific Rim 2: Rim Harder and A Wrinkle in Time.

My Score- Skip It

Red Sparrow Review

The good news is that no-ones mistaking this for Atomic Blonde 2: Blonde Harder.

The bad news is that I doubt many people will see it to mistake it for anything. Not just no-one I know is particularly excited for this film but because Red Sparrow is the most unpleasant spy film  I think i’e ever seen. Is Francis Lawrence a pen name for Hostel director Eli Roth? (No. He did direct 3 Hunger Games films though.)

I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be a James Bond film, if anything the trailer gave me a Jason Bourne vibe but that was wrong as well. No, the best description for this film is that Red Sparrow is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo directed by a not very talented Nihilist.

It’s great that Jennifer Laurence is such an amazing actress as she carries this film completely (and I wish her well in her attempt to fix Colonial politics in her year off.) However I find it a shame that pretty much every comment I have elicited up until now has related to the that that ms. Laurence’s erm…. ‘acting talents’ are on full display several times during the film. And according to an article I was sent, this is why pretty much every positive review come from a male critic and very few if any come from female critics.

Which is odd because I’m a male critic and I have absolutely no intention of giving this an overwhelmingly positive review.

Anyway, sometime after the end of the Cold War but before anyone has heard of the mobile telephone, Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. (Although she apparently skipped any hand to hand and armed combat training). Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.

And that seems like a pretty cool idea for a spy thriller, new agent trying to uncover a mole- unsure of who she can trust- high up in the Russian government whilst the CIA scrambles to get him out. Brilliant. Throw in a sick mum and an uncle high up in the security services and you have a pretty good setup for a new spy thriller franchise.

Aside from the fact it’s pretty coldly shot, takes a random pointless detour in London that adds 20 minutes to the run-time and implies that this film takes place after 2014 but everyone is still using floppy disks, pretty much everyone either beats up, attempts to or actually rapes Laurence’s character, the mole (who you should have spotted after about 20 minutes) is uncovered not by diligent work or some sort of slip up but by literally  saying ‘I am the mole’ just so the film can end and we can all go home.

And how this film got a mere 15 rating I have no idea. The BBFC states that this film has “strong bloody violence, gore, sexual violence, sex, very strong language” and it’s not kidding. This is a boundary pushing film but shot in such a style that it’s impossible to get involved and I remained disconnected from the whole preceding when I feel a better director would have made more of the material on offer here. Hell, some scenes are so overly, clumsily lit that they’re clearly taking place on a set. You can’t care about the characters, it’s not a terribly original story, it’s a tough sell: a bleak two-hour-plus Russian thriller with graphic rape and torture. It’s also surprisingly low on action, choosing talkiness over more audience-pleasing mayhem. It doesn’t entirely work, and there’s something about its full-throttle nastiness that lingers, but it’s refreshing to see something that exists in the studio system that possesses so many queasily perverse elements instead of being yet another 12a blandathon. It’s just not quite as seductive or clever or intelligent as it thinks it is.

I gather that there are two more books in the series (written by an actual CIA agent) but I’ll probably give them a miss.

My Score- Skip It

Darkest Hour (2017)

I was going to open with a pun about how you shouldn’t confuse this film with the 2011 turkey about aliens invading Moscow via it’s electricity supply starring a young Judge Anderson.

But i’m not, nor am I going to have a running gag about this film in the review. In fact i’m not going to mention it again because Darkest Hour (2017) has seriously, seriously hacked me off.

Because I need someone to explain something to me.

How is it that a British story, starring a British cast, set entirely in London, directed by a Brit and funded by a British company ( Working Title Films Limited) is coming to Britain 3 MONTHS after being released in the rest of the world? 1 September in the colonies, 1 December in China, 2 December in France and 18 November in Poland!?!! Seriously? I mean I get that this is the film that’s probably going to get Gary Oldmans prosthetics (and probably the rest of him) an Oscar and it’s great to see Churchill portrayed as a man who happened to be right once after a career featuring some horrific blunders as opposed to the messianic figure he’s usually portrayed as being.

Because Churchill wasn’t a universally beloved light in the darkness, he was a controversial figure, a man who, despite winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for “his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values” was at risk of a vote of no-confidence within days as he refused to entertain the idea of peace talks with Nazi Germany when fighting on looked like a futile choice.

And I love that this film is telling a mostly true story (aside from one scene set on a tube train which seriously grated on me is entirely fictional and completely unnecessary). As the WW2 generation passes, it’s important that we have films that tell the truth (or as close to it as we can manage.)

And this is a really well acted film, Oldman has deserved an Oscar for years and this performance deserves one in its own right as he chomps through £18,000 worth of cigars, (although at times I could have sworn he was swapped out for Bill Nighy) which was slightly disconcerting. But it didn’t take away from the fact that Oldman is equally at home laughing at a joke told by Lily James playing a…. an audience insert character (and someone for him to for him to be at first grumpy and then soppy with) as he is delivering some of Churchills most famous speeches.

Now, wisely the film opts to only show the early days of Churchills time as Prime Minister- establishing his government- winning the trust of his people and dealing with the situation at Dunkirk via the medium of  “mobilizing the English language and sending it into battle.”

Which is a good call as not only is this an overlooked aspect of Churchills time as Prime Minister but it also opens the door for further films to examine other critical times during the war: The Blitz for example.

More House of Cards 1940 than Saving Private Ryan, Darkest Hour is a very good, if slightly limited film about a very important time in history. And it’s defiantly more than your traditional Oscar bait film. And I won’t even mind when it inevitably turns up in history classes.

My Score- See It 

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

If you hated that Star Wars film then I can never be your Scriptgremlin again! Whinged the Rebel Scum who until recently I had stopped ‘motivating’ with soap. Which I will start doing again as soon as possible.

And keep doing until the staff at Boots start asking questions again.

Anyway, I was looking forward to reviewing the film that came out this weekend. Not so much the bloated space wizard saga but The Prince Of Nothingwood a documentary about an Afghan film-maker who claims to have produced and directed more than one hundred movies (none of which is on IMDb!) and that he even was at work during the Taliban regime, when all recorded images, even photographs, were forbidden. Oh, and did I mention it currently has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes?

Sadly though, even in London! London! This film is nearly impossible to find, so I was left with no other option than to tangle with the bloated space wizard saga. Go me.

So, I think we can all agree that The Force Awakens was the greatest fan film ever made as it was basically a remake of A New Hope. And there’s very little argument to my opinion that Suicide Squad was basically a well meaning mis-fire that was at least trying something new. Sorry, I mean Rogue One. But it’s still a better Suicide Squad than Suicide Squad. 

Where was I?

Oh, right, The Last Jedi. The first original Star Wars film since Revenge of the Sith and the first watchable original Star Wars film since the original trilogy finished in 1983.

Well, I went into my screening at 10am on day of release (because i’m just that damn cool) and came out of it at 12.50! And that’s only because I had to skip on the credits. Seriously! 4 hours? I’ve had holidays were shorter than The Last Jedi! Good luck if your taking our under tens to see it. Just as an aisde, NO film has a right to be that long unless it’s going for Best Picture Oscar or rhymes with Lord of da Tings. 

And much like those films, this film could seriously do with about half an hour being shaved off of it. And about 99% of those minutes comes in the final 30 to 40 minutes. The is NO reason why the big end action scene could not have been placed at the beginning of the next film or simply scrapped entirely. It holds no memorable action, moments, character development and simply seems to exist to provide awesome visuals for the trailer.

Speaking of which, this film has some amazing visuals that are almost  amazing as those in Blade Runner 2049- which I think is the number of people that actually saw that modern masterpiece unlike the millions that will see this film in the next few weeks. And they will see a film that opens with arguably the greatest space battle of all time as a lone star-fighter goes up against something so huge, so vast, so massive that it succeeds in showing us what Rogue One was trying to do- show us the might of the empire and how truly outgunned and seemingly doomed to fail the Rebellion truly was. A theme that this film keeps hitting and hitting and hitting. And doing it so, so well. You truly do feel that there is no way out for the good guys this time.

At least you do at certain points- one subplot could have been removed completely and not affected the film in any way shape or form beyond allowing the film to focus on whats actually interesting- Rey attempting to get an incredibly unwilling Luke Skywalker to train her and a desperate rebel trying everything they can think of to escape a First Order fleet before they run out of fuel….

Wait, what?

Run out of fuel… In Space? Whilst going in a straight line!?!!? You do know that that’s impossible right? Newton’s First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. Such as gravity, or friction, or a brick wall, none of which exists in deep !?!!? space. At least make it a leak in the ships air tanks or overheating reactors owing to being under so much fire or something. Yeash.

Like I say, the film looks amazing and John Williams as always sounds great. Hell, they even get fantastic performances out of the cast, although I would like to find the person who though Del Toro’s character should have a stutter and have a few… ‘quiet’ words with them. It’s a shame as his character does introduce something of  a moral grey area into the traditionally, morally black and white Star Wars universe and i’d love to see him return at some point.

I would also like to ask what person thought that Supreme leader Snoke should spend all of his time hanging around in what looks so much like a half dressed set you’d think that the budget had run out by that point in filming. And it’s a shame that it does look so cheap as it could so easily have looked so good and so many other scenes have little details that make the universe seem alive that this just seems like an oversight of some kind.

But, most of all I want to find the person who kept putting silly little Joss Wheedonesque little quips and one liners in the film as they seem really out of place and obvious in this universe (and pretty grating in others). The add nothing to film, kill tension really effectively and are a  becoming a Jai Courtney level blight on film.

On a happier note, Mark Hamill is to be commended  after allegedly telling  director Rian Johnson after reading the script for the film, “I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision.” It’s the best performance I’ve ever seen him give, even if he should really be disappointing his English teacher if he ever wants to be an effective Jedi teacher.

It’s a shame that Kylo Ren is still running around set like the emo that quality forgot and whilst he gets some really good writing this time I still don’t see what, if anything Adam Driver brings to this (or indeed any) role as, with better casting and some slightly better direction, there’s enough here for him to be a truly memorable and effective villain, instead of someone that I just wanted to tell to pull themselves together as he seemingly only has one ‘I just want a good cry’ face and… God I miss good villains. What happened to them?  Oh, right, it rhymes with Barvel.

Happily though, Ridley further marks herself as a major talent for the future and Boyega is good as Finn, but he’s more workmanlike than a major talent although he’s not awful in the role, I would liked to have seen him given more to do as his character does get some interesting character development.

All in all, it’s a solid entry into the Star Wars saga from Johnson who until now was best known for Looper back in 2012. But I think a more limited budget would have worked more as it would have made for a tighter, more engaging film. And, I am looking forward to his announced new Star Wars trilogy if his leash was given a little less slack. As this is a very good, very solid film that I think will be an infinitely better watch on the big screen (preferably IMAX 2d)  than on your plasma.

Cut the runtime, the one liners and a plot-line giving other characters both new and old time to breathe and grow, and this could have been a masterpiece.

As is?

My Score- See It 

The Debate Is Over; People Vote That ‘Die Hard’ Is NOT A Christmas Film

The Great British public have done it again.

Sorry, wrong intonation.

The Great British public have done it again.

Every time they get asked a simple question, they somehow manage to mess it up. Even on something so, so, easy to get right.

Take today’s example of ‘questions that should be impossible to get wrong.’ Possibly bored with endless polling over Brexit YouGov ( an international Internet-based market research and data analytics firm, headquartered in the UK, with operations in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.) Decided to ask the question “Do you think Die Hard is a Christmas film?

According to the YouGov poll, 52% of 5457 Brits surveyed didn’t consider Die Hard to be a Christmas film, with 30% (correctly) believing that it is, and the remaining 18% stating that they don’t know. How can you not know? It’s a simple yes or no question.

Furthermore, the poll asked people if they would “consider a movie that takes place at Christmas time, but is not about Christmas itself, to be a Christmas movie” (aka Die Hard), with only 31% saying ‘Yes’, 50% saying ‘No’ and 19% saying ‘I don’t know’.

Hate to break it to you, but that also means that Gremlins isn’t a Christmas film either…

Along with, as far as I can work out pretty much every film that the light of my life and I have and will enjoy over the next few weeks.

Needless to say, the poll caused quite a stir on social media, with one eagle-eyed statistician pointing out that the clearest naysayers to Die Hard being a Christmas film were actually UKIP voters.

And now I need a shower.

This also technically means that Saving Private Ryan is just set during War it isn’t a War film. Doesn’t it?

I mean, what in Die Hard isn’t Christmassy? It’s set on Christmas, it’s about family and love and coming together during troubles and overcoming them together and growing together. I’m pretty sure it also invokes Jesus Christ and God at various points. What more could you ask for in life?

Aside from a more intelligent, educated, film literate public that is.

But what is the greatest Christmas film of all time if not Die Hard? 

Geostorm Review

In 2003, we were treated to The Core, arguably the last gasp of the once mighty disaster movie genre before it slunk off to SyFy to de-evolve into Lavalantula whereupon Volcanic eruptions in Los Angeles unleash a swarm of gigantic, lava-breathing tarantulas.

Sorry, I lost my train of thought as to why Lavalantula (and its equally awesome sequel 2 Lava 2 Lantula) somehow failed to win every Oscar going ad become the highest grossing films ever.

I was, I was… Oh, right!  The Core and the destruction of a once mighty if ery, very cheesy  genre. Basically, the destruction genre did exactly what it said on the tin. Some pesky event (usually a volcano or asteroid or swarm of something- mostly bad CGI.) Would threaten the world, lots of things would blow up, a load of extras would compete to see who could die in the most over the top way possible and then a load of cardboard one dimensional cut-outs would save the day with seconds to spare and then stare off into the distance as the orchestra swells and the audience starts to get to it’s feet.

Like I say, in recent years the genre has gone downhill as disaster films tend to be expensive and these days most of the films that tick all of the boxes come with a Lycra clad fashion disaster with absolutely no sense of their own innate ridiculousness.

Which brings me to Geostorm, an absolute blast from the past which I half expected to find had been stuck on a shelf for 20 years. But it hasn’t, it’s been stuck on a shelf since 2016 as it was  bumped for the vastly inferior  Batman V  Superman Dawn of Migraines.

And make no mistake, this is a very big, very very dumb film. Before going anywhere near the cinema place your brain in a nice secure environment preferably surrounded by classical music and reading war and peace with a nice glass of Brandy.

The plot’s been recycled from, of all things the absolutely terrible Avengers film from 1998. Basically, in a bid to stop global warming, all of the nations of the world built a massive net around the Earth that can do…. stuff to stop extreme weather from killing people. However, one day  the network of satellites designed to control the global climate start to attack Earth, and it’s a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide Geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.

Naturally, only one person can save the day- the man who designed and built the system… Gerard Butler. Because when you need a scientist you ask central casting to end you Gerard Butler. But for him I guess this is a career highlight. Because for a man who once had the world at his feet following 300, Butler has squandered his talents and my time starring in almost unwatchable drokk.

Anyway, he has to go and shout the satellites back into behaving and then there’s inevitably a conspiracy with a villain on Earth who you’ll spot in five minutes and one in space who when they reveal themselves engender less a realization that the clues were in front of us the entire time than “Who the hell were you again?”

But, bear in mind this is a film with the line “You get the car, I’ll get the President” Before kidnapping said President and driving backward in a huge orange taxi, firing a gun whilst firing a handgun with inch perfect accuracy.

Subtle it isn’t.

But every time you start thinking about a plot hole or six there’s another city getting destroyed or something else explodes and you forget all about it. Imagine a film directed by a can of energy drink and your halfway there.

I loved it.

I loved every over the top moment, every ridiculous scene or set piece or fight scene.  I loved that it was just stupid and fun and full of cardboard characters and seemed to have no idea of irony, or plot or worldbuilding or sequel baiting. I loved that the only person who seemed to be acting was the girl playing Butlers daughter who seems far too good to be in this film. I loved the fact that this is the film after 15 million dollars was spent on re-shoots! What was it like before? I need to see what it was like before.

Most importantly though, this is the first film in ages that I could see myself popping on when my mates are around and we’ve had a few beers and you want something to laugh at. It’s the best example of it’s genre since Armageddon and one I would love to catch on Saturday evenings when it’s repeated endlessly on ITV2.

What a shame it’s going to bomb at the box office because there’s a lot here to love. Alas, this film is an explosion and bad science filled butterfly that’s just too beautiful for this world.  It’s also a butterfly I’ll probably forget exists in about 3 hours.

But that’s life.

My Score If Nothing Else- With a Few Beers Inside You