Detroit Review

Director Kathryn Bigelow was inspired to unearth this event by the Ferguson (MO) riots (Aug. 2014) where an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer.

And in a way, that’s the most depressing thing about Detroit. update everyone’s fashion sense, throw in a few smartphones and you could very well be setting this in 2017. The more things change…

Now, for the 12 people who actually watched The Hurt Locker, for which Bigelow won the award for Best Director; and, as of 2017, The Hurt Locker is still the sole film by a female director to win that Award. Your going to find a very similar shooting style.

Because using a style she first adopted with The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow deployed three or four cameras at a time, keeping them in constant motion around the actors. Bigelow preferred to light the entire set to give the performers more flexibility to move around. She didn’t block a scene for the camera by plotting out a series of close-ups and wide shots, instead filming everything in a few takes to keep the emotions as raw as possible. “After two or three takes, I have it,” she said.

Or, if your having trouble with that, try imagining a Jason Bourne movie made by your history teacher.

Essentially, we are given a limited understanding of the situation and then dropped in the middle of things and left to get on with it. Characters don’t monologue about their past or have little phrases about them appear on screen the first time they turn up meaning that at times it’s a little disconcerting trying to work out who everyone is and how they’ve come to be here and empathizing with them can be difficult to start with although towards the end if your not screaming with silent rage at the screen then I don’t know what to say.

Because it’s easy to mock Detroit and make Robocop jokes but, the film shows us a world where a police officer can shoot a man and be back on the beat a few hours later. Where brutal violence is seemingly consequence free depending on the color of your skin. And again, it would be almost effortless to update this to 2017.

Essentially, this movie is based on the Algiers Motel incident during Detroit’s 1967 12th Street Riot, which prior to this film I’d never heard of. And that’s quite a limiting idea when you think about it. Taking a citywide riot which was an inevitable result of systemic racism and took place over several nights and choosing to focus on it’s most notorious aspect- that three teenage civilians, all of them black, were beaten and killed by police. Nine others—two white females and seven black males—were badly beaten and humiliated by members of a riot task force composed of the Detroit Police Department, the Michigan State Police, and the Michigan Army National Guard, and a private security guard.

Now that is still a lot to work with and  Bigelow does a good job of getting all the characters in one place, and then forcing us to watch as the ensuing brutal events emerge almost inevitably as no-one seems willing or able to stop a train that left the station long ago.

Now, i’m not normally a fan of the Jason Bourne style of shooting a film but here it seems a perfect fit. It’s gritty and raw, making it seem like no character is safe or, if they do escape that the events of that night will stay with them forever.

Detroit can seem a little dry at times and spending ten minutes fleshing out the characters before the film gets going proper would have helped the emotional gut-punch that happens throughout the second act. It does nothing wrong, but it could have done more things right.

And why it was released at the height of blockbuster season is simply beyond me.

It needs ten more minutes to be spent developing the characters in the first act and ether another 15 minutes on it’s third act or to spin that off into a different film.

As is?

It’s a solid film but more workmanlike than the passion project this needed to be, with material that sadly seems like it won’t be out of date in another 50 years.

My Score- See It 

 

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The Hitmans Bodyguard Review

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably have to say it again.

The United Kingdom has severe anti-gun laws. Whilst it is not impossible to acquire a firearm in London it would take you a long time to build up the trust required to be given access to a single pistol. Getting hold of enough rifles to launch a small coup? Not going to happen. There’s a reason that London’s gangs use knives and acid instead of guns.

Also, if your trying to get from the UK to Amsterdam in a very short time frame, maybe taking an 9 hour ferry ride isn’t the best idea? Even if you are getting a lift with a bunch of singing nuns.

But, if I started applying logic to this film then it’s going to fall apart completely. Because this film is a blast from start to finish, it’s a live action cartoon not meant to be taken seriously in any way shape or form. Could I sit here and pick hole after hole after hole in it?

Yes, yes I could. But why would I want to?

After months of CGI filled ‘blockbusters’ it’s so refreshing to see a film with actual stunts, actual explosions and a complete knowledge of the fact that it is what it is.

The plots very, very simple.   Ryan Reynolds has to get Samuel L. Jackson to the Hague so he can put Gary Oldman in prison for appearing in Robocop. But Oldman has unlimited access to people who flunked out of Stormtrooper academy for failing their marksmanship tests.

Well, either that or our two main characters are so indestructible that the bullets are hitting them and their just patching up faster than the human eye can see. Because after about 20 minutes I figured out that there was absolutely no danger in any of the fight scenes and from then on whilst I enjoyed the film it did get a slight downgrade.

Call me old fashioned but I like my heroes to have a chance of being killed when their being shot at by a million bullets. Because after a while it an start to get a little bit tedious. And the run-time could do with 15 minutes being chopped off as towards the end I was starting to feel slightly bludgeoned.

But Reynolds and Jackson have amazing chemistry and some of the best scenes are just them, sitting in a car throwing barbs at each other. And I wished that they were longer as they represented a chance for the headache I was starting to develop to start going away.

I would also like to recommend for a knighthood whichever genius decided to hire Salma Hayek for her role which is little more than a glorified cameo where she either sits in a cell hurling some very creative and funny abuse at anyone unlucky enough to wander into her eye-line or wrecking stuff up in a low-rent bar.

And  Élodie Yung is there as well. She gets a nice participation trophy as well as another thank you from me for giving me a break from the relentless action.

Look, this film is not some deep think piece on the human condition, it’s Shoot ‘Em Up blended with The Nice Guys and The Blues Brothers. The films plot twists  which it thinks are so amazing and unforeseen could all be predicted in the first ten minutes. But I mustn’t fall into the trap of over-intellectualising. This is just instantly disposable, artistically worthless, expertly crafted trash, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Just don’t take your mum, this film has Tarantino levels of swearing.

My Score- See It 

Dunkirk Review

 ‘With Dunkirk, Nolan has finally hit the heights of Kubrick’ proclaimed The Guardian. Which caused me to raise an eyebrow in surprise. Because yes, Nolan can frame a shot and use music like a master as well as juggle multiple character arcs, motives and timelines like no one else working in cinema today.

But last I checked, he didn’t spend two days and 127 takes getting the perfect take of a highly complicated scene in which someone gets up, walks across a room opens a door and then closes it again. And, i’m pretty sure that Kubricks characters actually talked like human being with lives and dreams and actually did things like romance and had what we humans call ‘a sense of humor.’

Yeah, the one thing that’s holding me back from joining every other critic in worshiping at the altar of Nolan is the fact that his characters don’t talk to each other, they make speeches and spout exposition dialogue but they don’t talk.

Happily though, Nolan had gotten around this eternal sticking point by making Dunkirk an almost silent movie. To my mind he could have made it completely silent and the film wouldn’t have suffered in any way, shape or form. Would I have missed any of Tom Hardy (naturally with half his face covered) 10 lines? Nope.

But back to Dunkirk,  which until the Fall of Singapore in 1942  was widely viewed as the worst defeat in British military history. And it’s a relatively simple story. 400’000 British troops are trapped on a beach at Dunkirk like fish in a barrel until they are rescued by a flotilla of more than 850 fishing boats, allegedly summoned by Sir Francis Drakes drum which according to legend it can be heard to beat at times when England is at war or significant national events take place. (Insert Brexit joke here) the boats worked for a solid week to carry troops back to safety in England.

It’s a very simple story, told from three points of view with three different timelines. The army story (starring Harry Styles who’s actually kind of awesome) is set over a week on the beaches of Dunkirk. Mark Rylance is sailing towards Dunkirk on his small boat to save as many soldiers as he can over the course of a day and Tom Hardy is flying a Spitfire with seemingly unlimited ammunition trying to provide what cover he can with an ever dwindling amount of fuel.

And if it seems like if forgotten a few nationalities, I haven’t. Their simply not in the film the Germans are never seen because the troops on the beach wouldn’t have seen them and well, Le Monde critic Jacques Mandelbaum has accused the director of being “witheringly impolite” and “indifferent” toward the role the French played in the evacuation of Allied troops, writing: “No one can deny a director’s right to focus his point of view on what he sees fit, as long as it does not deny the reality of which it claims to represent.

“Where in the film are the 120,000 French soldiers who were also evacuated from Dunkirk? Where are the 40,000 who sacrificed themselves to defend the city against a superior enemy in weaponry and numbers?”

Finally, he asks “where is Dunkirk itself?”, Nolan having chosen to set the film almost entirely on the beaches and ocean.

But even leaving that aside, this is a seriously tense film with the soundtrack seemingly consisting of a clock endlessly ticking away, ratcheting up the tension as the ever un-seen Germans strike, and strike and strike again.

But this is a tense masterpiece telling a story that hasn’t been on the big screen since 1958 and whilst I would say this is a good telling of the tale, I was more affecting by the single 5 minute tracking shot in Downton Abbey style Rom-com Atonement than I was by this 106 minute 150 million dollar film. That show showed officers shooting horses, and destroying jeeps troops trying to scrape some enjoyment out of a hopeless situation, people getting drunk and a few preparing for the hopeless last siege. None of which was in Dunkirk. 

It’s too clean, held back by it’s 12a rating when a 15 would have allowed for a greater examination of the human cost at Dunkirk. This film is three short stories dancing together which is fine, it works and has some tense moments. And I get why the characters are pretty interchangeable and mostly nameless and it does work on so many levels but it’s just missing that certain something.

I would have scrapped the air force storyline- it’s pretty pointless anyway and kept the focus on the land and sea, made the film a 15 and really shown what it was like at Dunkirk. Instead, this feels somewhat sanitized.

This is not a bad film, Nolan doesn’t make bad films. Disappointing ones every now and then *coughTheDarkKnightRisescugh* but never bad. And this is a good film that captures a lot of the tension and desperation of 400’000 men who are less than 30 miles from safety but may as well be a million.

With stirring performances, Nolan’s eternal dedication to practical effects and some amazing performances Dunkirk is the best war film I’ve seen since Fury.

But Kubrick levels of good?

Not yet.

My Score- See It 

The Big Sick



“The Best rom-com this decade” screamed the poster

“The best date movie of 2017” was the follow up.

“97%” Said Rotten Tomatoes.

So, I decided it was high time to treat the light of my life to something she doesn’t do very often and take her to the cinema! After some nice Thai and a few cocktails we settled in to watch a pretty funny romantic comedy.

It’s not 97% but even an old grouch like myself can state that it’s a hell of a lot better than most of the romantic comedies I’ve sat through. Its the old story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl falls into coma, boy hangs around with her family whilst dealing with the expectations of his.

And it’s funny, we were both laughing away at various points but sadly, the scenes where we were clearly supposed to have tears in our eyes we just didn’t. Part of the issue is in the main character Kumail,  played by Kumail Nanjiani who also co-wrote the script and upon who’s experiences the story is based.

I’ll be blunt. If his character had gotten any wetter I could wring him out every time I needed to water the garden. Look, I’m English and most days I apologize for getting up but even I don’t apologize as much as this guy. I’ve met doormats with more spine and jellyfish who can do heartbreak better than the main guy. He’s great in the funny scenes and his stand-up looks pretty good, but whenever he’s required to actually act, he’s as wooden as my desk.

Which, given that he’s in almost every frame of this film is kind of an issue. And, the massive amount of screen-time he’s given means that the other characters really don’t have any chance to develop beyond one note characters. You’ve got the mum who just wants her son to marry a nice Pakistani girl, a dad and brother who are sort of there and even Emily, the girl at the center of the film doesn’t really get much development. She’s studying to be a therapist, and er…. can apparently afford a seriously nice apartment whilst a student.

Like I say, I did laugh a lot at this film and it’s a better date movie than almost anything out at the moment but the second best movie of the year after Get Out? What am I missing?

The dramatic scenes fall flat because I don’t know any of these people and the main guy has trouble doing anything that’s not looking awkward and apologizing. Is it in the clash of cultures? And how Kumail has found himself torn between two cultures and now has to chose between the life he wants and the life his parents want for him? Ok, SO DEVELOP THAT IDEA!!!! Or an idea! Is it that he didn’t know what he had until it was gone and is now being a better boyfriend to Emily now that she’s in a coma then he ever was when she was conscious? Then DEVELOP THAT IDEA!!! Is it about her parents trying to cope in a strange city with a strange man whilst their only child lies dying in a coma from a mysterious disease? Great, except House finished years ago.

This film has so many good ideas that it can’t seem to make up it’s mind as to what it wants to be about. It made me laugh but not care, characters beliefs and personalities seem to change on a moments notice and the culture clash comedy seems neutered.

But maybe my heart is just a Norwegian Blue that’s pining for the fjords or i’m culturally insensitive or I ask too much of quite a simple and really well meaning film about finding yourself. and working out what  you want to do with this journey called life.

I just wished that the film could have found some teeth and done something slightly deeper than it actually did. But to my mind, Bend it like Beckham did this sort of culture clash comedy better all the way back in 2002.

A good laugh but a shallow as a puddle and with a leading man who struggles at times The Big Sick is more of an upset stomach.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

Who Is The New Doctor?

In the year 2017, Doctor Who enjoys  somewhat unique place in popular culture. Since being created in 1963 as an educational programme using time travel as a means to explore scientific ideas and famous moments in history. Since then, the show has become arguably one of the biggest in the world.

And at the centre of it all is The Doctor, a renegade time-lord from the plane Gallifrey who travels the universe righting wrongs and tackling some of the most terrifying villains that can be put on at tea-time.

And a nifty idea that has become central to show is that the central character can regenerate. Basically, every few years when the actor playing The Doctor desires to try to escape so they don’t get typecast as The Doctor (and good luck to them with that) the character gets ‘killed off’ and comes back as a new character with the same name and identity but with a slightly different personality.

And until the 16th of July 2017, that main role had always gone to a white man. And all of that changed when, after an inevitable win at Wimbledon for Roger Ferder for a record breaking 8th time we were shown our first glimpse of the new Doctor.

Jodie Whittaker.

Which was followed by several inevitable reactions. Twitter exploded with people claiming that it was ‘about time’ and that it was going to be amazing for the show and it’s dynamics. The second was how PC this move was and how it was going to kill the show and how they would never watch it again. Because it was unrealistic that a two hearted time travelling alien could become a woman.

I had a slightly different question.

Who the hell is Jodie Whittaker?

One quick dive to IMDB and Wikipedia told me that she’s worked fairly solidly for years, bubbling away just below the surface.

She was the main character in cult classic Attack the Block (which is pretty much an episode of Doctor Who anyway), as well as appearing in television shows  Tess of the D’Urbervilles (2008), Wired (2008), Return to Cranford (2009), and of course, the absolutely fantastic Broadchurch, where she played Beth Latimer for 24 episodes.

And despite the fact that I’ve actually had to research who the new Doctor is, I don’t really have any concerns over Whittaker. People forget that Matt Smith was virtually unheard of and the IMDB message boards exploded with claims that he was too young and that he was going to ruin the show. Capaldi was primarily known for playing Malcolm Tucker in satire The Thick of It. And David Tennant wasn’t exactly a household name either.

I don’t care that the new Doctor is a woman either. The writing for that has been on the wall for a while. Although I was defiantly team Tilda Swinton I do think this well respected, talented actress should be given a fair shake at the role.

No, if i’m angry about anything at all it’s the way that the BBC told us about this new Doctor.

You see, Capaldi and Smith had hour long TV shows dedicated to who on Earth they were, what kind of Doctor they were going to be and how excited they were to step into the role, so on and so forth.

But for Whittaker? And unveiling arguably the biggest casting decision of this year? After all, the Whovians were pretty much the only fanbase not declaring with one voice that only Tom Hardy was acceptable in the lead role and eager for anyone that wasn’t Kris Marshall to take the role and how does the BBC tell the world?

A 60 second advert after the Wimbledon mens finals.

Not a teaser trailer, not an advert showing us the new Doctor and then telling us to watch at 6.15 whereupon we would be given more information, hell, there wasn’t even a single word of dialogue.

She simply walked through some woods in little blue riding hoods old cloak, had a key materialize in her hand, look at the camera and that was it. For such a huge casting decision that was all we got.

It was pathetic.

Mind you, it probably added a fair few million to the viewing figures for about ten minutes. And I seriously hope the BBC does better with the new series.

But what do you think about the new casting?

War for the Planet of the Apes Review

 

Why does this franchise exist? I mean the MCU exists as a licence to print money, the DCEU and Dark Universe exist as an experiment to see if you can create a similar licence without putting in the legwork. Bourne exists because America is desperate to reclaim the spy genre and Fast and the Furious because 12 year olds need their sugar rush.

But I can find no reason why pointless of the apes exists betting proving that Andy Serkis deserves a precious oscar that the nasty, tricksy academy is keeping from him.

I mean yes, the 1968 is one of the greatest films of all time with one of the most iconic and parodied endings of all time, and yes, the following films were hit hard with the law of diminishing returns but they created a perfect, eternal, causal loop. We don’t need a new franchise to explain how we got to the original film. We already know.

And weirdly, no-one seems to remember these films exist until the next one is about to hit cinemas. It’s just sort of… there.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, War for the pointless of the apes is amazing. Arguably the best blockbuster of the year but there’s just a curious futility to its existence.

There’s other niggles as well. This iOS apparently a post apocalyptic world with unlimited food, petrol and bullets and the apes seem weirdly ok with being naked in temperatures that are probably hovering around 0.

And despite constant references to a planet of apes, we never see or hear any mention of tribes beyond serkis, so it’s more a Small Wood of the apes than a planet.

But aside from that, I’ve got very little to criticise.

The film wanders from Vietnam movie to revenge western to Ape-pocalypse now towards the end. (That’s not one of mine by the way, it’s literally stencilled on a wall)

Don’t go expecting all out action as was inferred from the trailers, instead Logan would probably be the closest film I could think of. It has ruminations on war and revenge, justice versus vengeance, how far into savagery must you go to defeat the savage?

Even the villain, gets some measure of tragedy, his backstory and a new threat to what remains of humanity giving some understanding to his beliefs, giving layers to a character that could so easily have been a cardboard cutout.

The film looks incredible, with the apes looking like you could reach out and touch them.

Serkis needs his Oscar for his performance as Ceaser, the ape equivalent of Professor X who finds himself pushed deep into a darkness that film seems all to eager to explore.

Because this is a pretty dark film that might be too intense for younger viewers and I was very grateful for the comic relief character, even if he was called
Bad Ape.

With deep characters who have believable motivations, backed up by some of the greatest CGI creations ever made and some truly thrilling yet realistic action scenes this is the first (and probably last) must see blockbuster of the year.

Just don’t believe all that guff about this being a trilogy, part four has already been greenlit.

My Score-See It Now

Baby Driver Review

 

Coming out of my screening I heard another audience member say that ‘fast and the furious is dead. Too much green screen and it got too silly, this film is the madness’. And I agree completely, because yes, I had a ton a jokes about fast and furious reboots and how vin now has hair but why would I silly this, this masterpiece with comparisons to that beached whale of a franchise? Because this is light years beyond fast and the furious.

Imagine the film that you thought drive was going to be, then throw in the verve, swagger, attitude, soundtrack and sunglasses of The Blues Brothers, throw in a spark of madness and your pretty much at Baby Driver.

Edgar wright has truly made his masterpiece in a film that far surpasses the ice cream trilogy.

Taking the relatively simple story of criminal meets girl, criminal has to do one last job, last job goes sideways, allies and enemies shift… you may think you know the drill but there’s enough twists in the tale to keep you entertained throughout.

Special credit has to go to the cast , from Lily James as the love interest, to Keiza Soz… I mean frank Underwood as a mob boss, even Jaime Foxx- attempting to atone for Sleepless whilst still chewing all the scenery he can get his mitts on. But special credit has to go to Ansel Elgort of Divergent franchise fame, as the titular character, who dances around the set rocking a seemingly unlimited supply of sunglasses, iPods and attitude whilst speaking maybe 10-15 words in the film.

Speaking of iPod’s, forget Guardians of the Galaxy, this is the soundtrack to own this summer. I’ve had it on repeat since I got home from my screening and it rules. My neighbors seem to like it as well- they keep banging on the walls to get me to turn it up.

And I guess spending all that money on song rights meant that the reason that there was no cgi or green screen was because Wright had run out of cash? Either that or Wight had a deep desire to show actual pulse pounding car chases instead of CGI cartoons? Either way he’s proven my theory that CGI and green-screen will never, ever, look as good as an actual car driven by an actual person doing actual stunts.

Throw in some amazing one take shots of car chases, Baby dancing around apartments and Atlanta whils’t never being placed in the corenr, that must have been a nightmare to film and you’ve got yourself a classic.

Hell, I haven’t even gotten to the dialogue which cracks and sparkles better than Tarentino on his best day. My audience laughed more at this than any comedy more that I’ve sat through this year.

I mean, one poor, brave soul even tried to applaud at the end credits.

But, as this isn’t mad max fury road, this isn’t a perfect film. It could do with 15 minute being taken off the runtime and the main couple fall in love faster than a Disney princess. And i’ll be charitable and say that the characters aren’t exactly for the ages and that unless Keizer Underwood has one hell of a cleanup team or the dirtiest cops outside of The Shield every single person in the film would have been arrested within about… hmmmm 15 minutes.

But these minor quibbles aside? Nope. Nothing else from me. Drop everything , SEE IT NOW and please don’t let it turn into this years The Nice Guy’s.

Please?

For me?