Overlord Review

You know, a J.J. Abrhams film that isn’t full of more lens flares than unexplained red goo just doesn’t feel right. It’s like a superhero film not being full of instantly dated CGI, Meryl Streep giving a bad performance, Michael Bay turning in a tender, understated film that’s generating Oscar buzz, or even a James Corden film that’s actually watchable- it’s just wrong somehow. It would be a nice change but it’s just not the way that the universe should work.

But, here we are. not once in the 110 minutes that Overlord was on the screen, was there a single lens flare. And I should know because I hardly blinked during the entire run-time.

Hell, this film could have been tailor made for me. Set the night before D-Day, we follow a pair of American soldiers who have to blow up a radio tower before 6am the next morning otherwise the D-Day landings could fail. Their drop goes wrong and they find themselves severely outnumbered, low on supplies, men and morale. Surrounded by the most cartoonishly evil Nazis this side of a saturday morning cartoon and with the growing realisation that there’s something terrible happening in the church which could change the entire course of the war.

There’s no CGI (bar a few really bad planes in the first ten minutes) no flashbacks explaining who everyone is and how they got that way, people die – a lot of people die and director Julius Avery (who’s also working on a Flash Gordon reboot with  Matthew Vaughn which should be interesting….) is clearly relishing the fact that this is an 18 movie by putting in exploding heads, body transformations, some nightmarish visuals and gruesome deaths among other treats.

It was tense and exciting with very little let up since the film takes the Saving Private Ryan approach to it’s opening scenes (except not as good obviously, I mean the Saving Private Ryan opening scene is the best movie scene of all time.)  With characters who were sort of introduced just being casually murdered, leaving us to realize that no-body is safe, and as a result, the screen frequently hums with tension.

In fact, were it not for the Darth Vader breathing constantly complaining to no-one in particular about the levels of violence in a rated 18 film Muppet sitting next to me, my screening would have been in perfect silence.

This is the best B-Movie I’ve seen in the cinema in years.

It’s not perfect though, like I said, the few Nazis that do get any character development and arent just goons to be shot are pretty much Saturday morning cartoons and, with such an important deadline, there should have been much more of a sense of a ticking clock. The knowledge that if these men fail then D-Dy itself might be at risk. Also, for a horrifically well guarded fortress, the Nazis central base is pretty easy to slip in and out of. For films like this to really work, the tension has to be built up to unbearable levels and kept there, with an ever more terrified soldier with ever dwindling and ever more ineffective ammunition being attacked by mutated monstrosities all the while aware that thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands of men’s lives hang by the single thread that is own life and, whilst there was some of that, the fact that the main characters would pop in, suffer a few jump scares and then pop home for a cup of tea before trying again twenty precious minutes later did let down some of the tension.

Also, either Third Reich soldiers had one hell of a union when it came to their own tea breaks or this lot were hired from a home for the audio and visually impaired because there were at least four or five times where our ostensibly stealthy heroes decide to start firing guns in the middle of an under curfew village, right next to at least two Nazis! French soundproofing must be incredible.

And, whilst I got that these soldiers weren’t going to be telling us their life story, a bit of depth would have gone down nicely. Along with a few jokes – a bit of black humor goes down  a treat in these films. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything along the lines of Dog Soldiers “I am not breaking radio silence just cos’ you lot got spooked by a dead flying fucking cow.”  But, a few quips here and there would be appreciated.

There’s a few little niggles as well. Our soldiers all seem to have unlimited ammunition, there’s a possibly enhanced dog that just vanishes, there were a few shots which existed purely to be in the trailers (there were all glossy and slo-mo and seemed really out of place.) Soldiers of African heritage weren’t integrated with Caucasian units during World War II (which could have been fixed really easily) but there’s no real deal breakers just lots of little things that only added up when I started writing my script.

All in all though, Overlord did it’s job really well. It’s a good, gory, violent, tense, movie (with unexplained red goo) that I could happily pop on when it comes out on download. Hell, I even liked the child actor. With a touch more tension and maybe some black humor this could have been a great movie.

My Score- See It 

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Halloween 2018 Review

40 years ago, John Carpenter pretty much created the slasher genre- whereupon a group of biologically curious teenagers are picked off one by one by a masked unstoppable killer who goes by the name of Michael Myers who… “can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

In fact, Myers has Less of a backstory than The Terminator! Myers has no backstory, no explanation of why he does what he does, or even if he’s human or just some ancient, primal force of evil that can only be slowed down but never stopped. He never speaks and the fact that you NEVER see his actual face means that you can’t even read his emotions, a slight head tilt is all your going to get.

He was the first of so many copy’s that it’s insane. But, to my mind? He’s the best. Even if legal issues prevented that legendary mask from being in Baby Driver.

Anyway, this film is set 40 years after the original and joins me in ignoring every single sequel that this franchise churned out. Especially Halloween III: Season of the Witch. That was just…. weird.

Anyway, back to the 2018 offering and it’s a relatively familiar tale. Myers escapes and begin murdering everyone he meets on his way to a final confrontation with Laurie Strode (played by the always and eternally great  Jamie Lee Curtis).

And there is a lot here that’s really, really good. From the moment that iconic theme starts playing you get a sense that this is made by people who get that Myers is a force of nature. I loved that so many people are driven to understand him and frustrated even to the point of madness by Myers refusal to engage with them in any way, shape or form. Which drives a lot of the first act as people try so hard to project what they think must be going on in Michael’s head even as they are told again and again (mostly by Curtis) that their overthinking  Myers.

I even enjoyed some of the films kills, but I find it interesting that in the original film, the body count is a mere 6 (5 if you don’t include a German Shepard). Here? That total is surpassed before the end of the first act! Also, where the first was relatively chaste with it’s violence and quite graphic with it’s nudity, this version is ridiculously graphic with it’s violence and really chaste with it’s nudity. Maybe there’s some sort of comment there on how society has become more open in some ways and yet more prudish in others but i’ll let those with more free time then me pick it apart.

Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic but she’s basically Sarah Connor Mark 2 who has tried to raise her daughter and granddaughter to be ready for a inevitable conflict that they don’t seem to realize is coming. I enjoyed the doctor who has spent his life studying Michael and, and….

It’s a clone, ok.

I was really trying hard to get into this film because Blumhose make amazing low budget films and I love pretty much everything they do. I love the cast and the way that the iconic theme music is used. I love that Carpenter was involved, but….

There is a difference between making nods to the original and lifting whole scenes, almost frame by frame and giving everyone a smartphone. Scenes that in the original had me scared and worried, here just made me check off an imaginary checklist. And the ending? Well, that’s twenty minutes that could have been handled so much better. I get what it was trying to go for but towards the end it was verging on the slapstick! Pointless slapstick as well. You could have removed it with a slight rewrite and lost nothing at all.

And there were so. Many. Characters. People forget that the first Halloween film was a low budget, stripped down film with no-body there that didn’t need to be there. Here? There were so. Many. Characters who existed purely to die. Half the films body-count could have been removed and nothing would have changed except the run-time.

When it was setting the scene it was interesting, when it was a Halloween film in the second act it was tense, when it was in the third act… it was fine but overlong by the end.

When it’s a modern reboot it’s tense but pointless, well acted and with a few interesting ideas but it goes on too long and it wastes a fairly interesting twist late in the third act. It takes too long to let Myers get on with his thing and to be honest?

I’d still take the original any day of the week.

Halloween 2018 is fine, nowhere near as good as the original but it was never going to be. I saw it, liked it but the more I check my notes, the more I realize that it was fine and all the bits that worked were lifted almost frame by frame from the original. Strip out the last third, reduce the run-time to the 90 minutes  that films like this need to have in a bid not to overstay their welcome.

What a shame.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

Mile 22 Review

Mile 22 is such a simple premise for an action film that it’s almost impossible to screw up. All Mark Whalberg and his team of highly trained redshirts have to do is transport a corrupt cop from the American embassy to an airstrip through an entire city full of people trying to kill them so he can give them a file which will stop a bad thing from happening. Probably. The film doesn’t seem to care about it’s plot and neither do I.

How simple is that?

Hell, the corrupt cop is even the guy from The Raid?  You remember, it’s that awesome film that plays like Die Hard on steroids and utterly killed Dredd, which had a similar premise and went into production first but lost the release war because of VFX touch-ups which meant that it looked unoriginal and…..

Focus Miles.

Stop talking about things that actually interest you and instead talk about Mile 22. 

Ok, so Wahlberg runs a team called Overwatch who are sent in to do things that the government would rather not get caught doing and their watched over by John Malkovich who has the code-name ‘Mother’ which isn’t creepy at all. Or giving me flashbacks to last years god knows what starring Jennifer Laurence. Malkovich is accompanied everywhere by his collection of bobbing heads of Presidents past and present; their fake, plastic grins casting a knowing eye over clandestine killing. If I was being generous I might say that there’s some sort of satirical point being made about Americas habit of nodding things through without waiting for international backing, or support, or legality whilst maintaining  the cheerful idealism of America whilst the more unsavoury realities of its actions are made explicit.

But the films not smart enough to make that point and neither has director Peter Berg done anything along those lines so I’ll just move on.

Besides, you didn’t come to see Mile 22 (which is how far their convoy has to go before the end credits can start) to hear about satire on geopolitics or how the characters are flatter than a policeman trying to get a runaway steamroller to stop at a red light. You want to know how exciting the scenes where the bang bangs go into the bad man and make him fall over are.

And, their fine. There’s a nice scene where the Dredd killer gets to show off his moves in an almost Jackie Chanesque sequence and enough gunfights, car chases and running to keep you vaguely focused but there’s nothing spectacular or unique or even that memorable. The action sequences are predictable and there’s just this vein of gritty nihilism running through the whole thing. Which normally I wouldn’t complain about, but this is a film where a bit more gloss and some slightly more outlandish stunts would have helped. Also, the editing on these scenes sucks. Seriously, how hard is it to watch Heat a few times until you understand how this time of action should be shot? I mean, allegedly they use those gunfights whilst training US Marines!

Sorry, distracted again.

I recommend not trying to follow the plot beyond the time limited escort mission that the trailers have made you think it as it’s a convoluted mess that exists purely for sequel bait and could have been removed completely without impacting the film in the slightest.

But it’s also the blindingly obvious type of confusing mess.

How their going to turn this into a ‘ multi-media series’ baffles me. This is the kind of ‘world-building’ that makes the DCEU/ Dark Universe look competent.

As an action film it’s a dull, grey, mess full of one dimensional characters laboring under a plot that’s too twisty for it’s own good full of action scenes that have been done better. As a starting point for the Mileverse? I’ll pass.

But what did I expect? The whole franchise has been going downhill since 8 Mile

My Score- Skip It. 

 

 

Serpent/ Don’t Move – Halt still! Review

Serpent or Don’t Move- Halt Still in German for some unknown reason in Germany is an 85 minute no budget film set in South Africa about a young couple who decide to go ‘camping’ for the weekend instead of going to a hotel like normal, civilized, decent people do.

They pitch their tent by a waterfall, and join me in drifting off to sleep after wondering exactly when the plot was going to show up.

And show up it did as this young couple soon find themselves sharing the tent with a Dendroaspis polylepis or Black Mamba. Which, when not taking on the Avengers is an extremely venomous snake of the family Elapidae, and native to parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

How venomous you ask?

Well, it’s been reported that before antivenom was widely available, the mortality rate from a bite was a mere 100%! The bite of a black mamba can potentially cause collapse in humans within 45 minutes, or less. And without effective antivenom therapy, death typically occurs in 7–15 hours. Oh, and it can also move faster than most people can run, slithering speed up to 12 mph [19 kph].

And there’s your film.

Two people, in a tent with a lethal snake, trying to work out how to get the snake out without being bitten. Which means no big movements,no loud noises, trying to get the damn thing out before the rising heat of the day angers and upsets it, causing it to bite you and… oh yeah, not having a ton of secrets which might cause the person your sharing this extremely enclosed space with to reconsider the whole ‘don’t let the snake bite anyone policy’ that they just decided upon.

There are no jump scares, no orchestral stings, just the increasing tension of the situation. It’s a realistic horror which could happen to anyone who decides that ‘going camping’ is a good idea.

But, this is more a psychological film than Snakes in a Tent. Of two people locked in a small space, seemingly facing certain death trying to confess all their secrets whilst distracting certain death with a smart phone. It’s more a slow burn as the temperature rises and tempers fray with safety mere centimeters away but so far out of reach it might as well be on the dark side of the moon.

And the craziest thing? The budget for this film was so low that they couldn’t afford CGI. (Always a plus in my book anyway) So instead they just decided to use an actual Black Mamba whose mouth was carefully secured shut. Because why not?

Sadly though, the film does go silly in the last ten minutes and manages to deflate quite a lot of the tension that had been coiling around my chest like an ever squeezing boa constrictor. Up until then, it really had been a masterclass in showing how sharing a small pace with a so-called loved one can be the most terrifying and isolating thing in the world. As well as the costs that secrets can have.

Naturally, a short film means that the characters don’t get much time to develop, the developments that they do have are fairly generic and I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of the two leads as a couple, but beyond that it’s a very tense little film that if it could have stopped it’s third act going so silly, might be a classic horror film in the making. As is though?

My Score- See It 

The Equalizer 2 Review

Did you know that this is Denzel Washingtons first sequel? He never made Crimson Tide 2 or Mother Goose: A Rappin’ and Rhymin’ Special 2 or The Siege 2: Siege Harder but he returns to this?

The Equalizer verse?

In a way I guess it makes sense- given that this is based off of an old TV show, it would be pretty easy to franchise and the first film wasn’t terrible but it was no Taken either. In fact, I’d completely forgotten that it existed until I figured I should watch it before hitting the multiplex to catch the sequel which… i’m also going to forget exists in well, however long it takes me to finish this review. Say…. 20 minutes? 30 if I have to get another brew.

So, we rejoin Robert McCall, the worlds most perfect human a few years after the first film and find that he’s basically an Uber driving vigilante who’s in perfect control of every situation, reads classical literature, provides a father figure to a local wayward youth and is arguably the most boring protagonist I’ve seen in years.

He has no flaws, no fear, and at no point did he seem to be in danger. And I know that similar claim can be made about Liam Neesons character  in Taken (10 points if you can tell me his name without hitting IMDB or Wikipedia.) But he took damage, he showed emotions, he was in danger and at times seemed like he could fail. In other words, in both Taken films he was human.

He also remembered to have a second act as well.

I mean seriously, the structure of a film should be thus. Person goes up tree, person gets stuck in tree, person gets down from tree. It varies from genre to genre but that’s the basic idea. Here? We spend 42 minutes setting up that Mcall is vigilante Jesus,as well as several pointless subplots before the main plot actually gets going!

I mean, I know that 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything but in a supposed action movie I think it’s a bit much. Especially when the film is a slightly overlong and stodgy 121 minutes anyway, could this not have been cut down?

Anyway, Washington’s only friend is murdered and he embarks on a quest for justice! That…. takes about ten minutes since the villain pretty much confesses and monologues the first chance they get, before we get onto an overlong, tedious, dull third act with no suspense which is all that stands between me and a well deserved pint.

Denzel Washington is one of the finest actors working today and it’s a shame to find him wasting everyone’s time appearing in such an underwhelming film. It’s in dire need of at least 25 minutes being removed as well as least a subplot. Films like this need to be fast paced, with villains who appear to pose a threat to our hero, have more than a handful of goons as well, as well as seeming to actually have an evil plan as opposed to nothing better to do with their or indeed my time. And also, if your going to have the whole ‘dark reflection of the hero’ villain, please, please, please have either of these characters have actual well, character!

Equalizer 2: Equalize Harder is a dull action sequel to a not particularly interesting film. It’s characters are flat, it’s got way too many subplots  all of which are so predictable that I could set my watch to them. All of which adds to the bloated run-time and when there is action it’s not terribly active. Or involving. Or original. Or… I can’t think of any more O words and the kettles boiled.

In short?

My Score- Skip It

The Meg Review

Oh boy.

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.

This film is exactly what I expected it to be when I realized that this film basically boiled down to ‘Jason Statham punches giant shark in the face.’ My inner eight year old’s undisguised glee matched only by my beloved wife’s absolute horror when we both realized that this film knew exactly what it was and proceeded to be just as terrible as we hoped/dreaded it was going to be.

The plots the usual bunch of nonsense -scientists go where their not supposed to go, accidentally unleash a 75 foot long shark that makes Bruce from Jaws look Vegan, seem unaware that most of them have ticking clocks above their heads and compete to see who can say their terrible, cliched, predictable dialogue with their tongue firmest in their cheek.

Unfortunately, it’s such a simple plot that by my watch the film had ended quite naturally after a mere 75 minutes  but then pulled the most obvious twist in the book right after ‘It’s still moving.’ to pad it’s run-time to 113 minutes.

And… I have no idea why I love this film as much as I did because objectively I should hate it. There’s barely any practical effects, all of the characters were archetypes- nerd, geek, jerk billionaire, the plot hold no shocks or surprises, it’s idea of being clever is calling it’s lead character Jonas (you know, like the guy in the bible?), Jason Staham has NO business being in a 12a film here he can’t do Jason Staham things like swear or beat up faceless goons or react to all the CGI blood that should be sloshing around the set by swearing.

I’m convinced that all the equipment used would shred like toilet paper at the depths we see it go to, there are plot holes on top of plot holes but… but…..

IT’S JASON STAHAM PUNCHING A 75 FOOT SHARK IN THE FACE!

Whales are bitten in half as an afterthought, some underwater sections are tense and scary- others made me leap out of my seat in joy and one frame in particular i’m happy to offer Scriptgremlins arms in payment to get on my wall. Don’t look at me like that. They grow back. They always grow back. And taste great covered in BBQ sauce.

Would I have loved this more if it was allowed the 15 rating that it needed? Yes.

Would I have loved it more if it pandered slightly less to the Chinese audience? No, not really. To be frank it’s nice to not have New York under threat for once. Plus, there’s no real changes to the film besides setting the film off the coast of China as opposed to the USA.

Would it have been better if directed by Eli Roth as opposed to the guy who made Cool Runnings aka the greatest sports film ever? No. The budget was too high and this film was exactly what it needed to be.

Should you mistake this for a date night movie? No.

No no no no no.

Just… trust me on this.

This is a film to grab a couple of mates, sink a few/large amount of beers before/whilst seeing and just enjoy it. I can see this being a serious staple of Friday/Saturday night evenings in for a few years.

I loved it.

Not as much as I love Deep Blue Sea and no-ones ever going to mistake it for a classic but if you are as desperate as I am for a break from franchises and fancy a good old fashioned creature feature that could have done deciding if it wanted to end after 75 minutes or not, having a smaller budget so it could get the higher rating it so desperately needed and er….

If anyone knows where I can get a poster of THAT scene at the end (if you’ve seen the film then you know the one I mean) please put, let me know in the comments.

God speed you magnificent throwback. May you not bomb as hard as I think your going to.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

 

Hotel Artemis Review

Welcome to the Hotel Artemis
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face.
Plenty of room at the Hotel Artemis
Any time of year (any time of year) you can find it here.

And if your a naughty boy or girl that may well be a good thing. Because the Hotel Artemis follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals. As long as they follow the rules.

Wait a second… a secret society of criminals living under our noses with rules and punishments and a sense of style that seems to exist about 50 years ago? Why does that seem so familiar…

Actually comparisons to John Wick aren’t really helpful because those comparisons are only skin deep. If anything, this is almost Tarantino level stuff. Early Tarantino. Reservoir  Dogs Tarantino . Not ‘I’d like to make a Star Trek film’ Tarantino. Seriously, whats up with that?

Back at  the Hotel Artemis,
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place) we find such a colorful group of stock characters (assassins, arms dealers, criminal kingpins, a drink and pill addled nurse among others!) that it was with some surprise that  I looked at my watch and noticed that over an hour and ten minutes in and nothing had happened! There was a lot of talking, of building people up and enough burbling about nano machines to almost make this a Metal Gear Solid Game. As well as a good job of setting up this world (it basically reads like a run up to the Judge Dredd universe.)

And for a first time director, Drew Pearce has managed to get some pretty great performances out of people who are pretty much playing the same people that they always play. But add a slight twist to what you would expect. Dave Batista is still a man mountain, Sofia Boutella still plays a bad-ass who would have had a fight scene to rival THAT corridor scene in Daredevil had the editor had slightly less ‘energy powder’ that morning, so on and so forth.

We even get New Spock sporting a ridiculous mustache, a crybaby persona some of the worst, clunkiest dialogue/exposition I’ve heard in a while and a character that flips depending on what the scene needs him to do. Jeff Goldblum appears in a cameo (sadly keeping his shirt on again) but this is Jodie Fosters film. (How has she not been in anything since Elysium?) From her way of walking to her mannerisms she inhabits her character completely and is the heart and soul of the film. I could have done without the flashbacks – Not only is Foster good enough to not need such an obvious crutch, they don’t add anything to the film, spoil the tone and wreck the tension of untrustworthy people holed up with all their secrets, clashing agendas, mistakes, missteps and misunderstandings whilst attempting to ride out a huge riot that will kill almost anyone caught outside. Aka, a cracking setup for a siege film. A cheap to make, highly effective and sadly very rare genre. (Which, coincidentally, has spawned some of my favorite films).

Sadly though, after all of that build up the entire third act just seemed very rushed and a few too many things happened off screen, as if the budget ran out just a heartbeat before the director needed it too and as a result, one or two scenes that would have been awesome we’ll never see which is annoying as it’s what the whole film has been building towards and there’s a bit of jumping around the set as well, as well as a primary ending which seems to ignore much of went before in order to make for a more conventional ending. Which is naff as it’s endings that people remember most. (Which is why deserts are almost always the best bit of dinner)

Make more of the third act, rewrite Spock completely or just gt rid of him, scrap the flashbacks, maybe put in a touch more action and this could have been as good as it could have been. Mark the director as a rising star (as a director- I’m perfectly aware that he wrote Iron Man 3). And just hope that people treat this a hell of a lot better than last years also excellent Free Fire. 

My Score- See It