Wonder Woman has been banned in Lebanon

(Note: This article is correct at time of writing- 31/05/17)

Wonder Woman has been subject to some of the most pathetic ‘controversies’ I’ve ever had the misfortune to glare at over my morning cornflakes. They include the ‘expected’ controversy over whether or not her costume is too sexy (which according to the director it isn’t.)

To an actual controversy about whether or not the Amazons would have shaved their armpits or not (I told you the ‘controversies’ were pathetic.)

Then the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater received some negative responses for announcing a series of women’s only screenings of the film now, they are taking place after the premier of the film and for charity but I still have mixed feelings on the subject.

But the award for most astonishing and in some ways most pathetic controversy belongs to the country of Lebanon. Which has banned the film completely. Not for moral or ethical reasons or because their still scarred from Suicide Squad and Batman Vs Superman: Dawn. It’s not even really for religious reasons.

Rather it’s because Gal Gadot is an Israeli.
Lebanon, which has been officially at war with Israel for decades, has a law that encourages boycotts of Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling to Israel or having contacts with Israelis.

And this has been a seriously last minute ban- allegedly coming into effect a mere 2 hours before projectors started rolling.

The ban was prompted by a group called Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel – Lebanon, which pressured the government in Beirut to block the movie. On its Facebook page, the group said it is advocating a ban because Gadot was a soldier in the Israeli army, and has expressed support for Israel’s military policies against the Gaza Strip, a coastal Palestinian territory run by the militant Hamas group.

In a widely shared posting on her Facebook page, Gadot had praised Israel’s military during the Gaza-Israel 2014 war, sending prayers to Israeli soldiers “who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas.”

Even though Lebanon enjoys a greater margin of freedom of expression than other countries in the region, prior censorship remains in place, particularly with content relating to Israel, religion and homosexuality.

Ironcially, the same council that decided to ban Wonder Woman failed to get Batman v Superman: Dawn of Migraines banned in the country. And other Gadot films (like the Fast & Furious installments she starred in and Tom Cruise vehicle Knight & Day) were also shown in the country.

And despite the ban in Lebanon, Wonder Woman is set to open as scheduled during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan across theatres in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait on Thursday. It is scheduled for release June 22 in Oman and June 29 in Bahrain. Although this may change at any time.

Interestingly, In 2013, the Lebanese government heeded a call by the Arab League to ban Lebanese-born filmmaker Ziad Doueiri’s “The Attack” because it was shot in Israel. As a result, the film was “massively pirated across Lebanon where the DVD was prominently showcased and sold in all major pirate DVD stores there,” says the film’s Middle East distributor Gianluca Chakra, head of Dubai-based Front Row Entertainment.

“Did they actually stop people from watching the film? Absolutely not,” he said.

And I figure the same will happen here.

Baywatch Review

I no longer fear death for I have seen Baywatch 

Sorry, I normally do more a lead in than that.

Lets start again.

Baywatch was a tv series that ran from 1989-2001 and includes several unwatchable spin-offs.  At its height, it aired in 148 countries, on every continent except Antarctica. After 11 years in syndication, it was canceled for the second time in 2001. It’s the only TV show in Iceland’s TV history to receive massive complaints from viewers over containing subtitles (for the text would get in the way of ‘vital’ parts of the imagery). As the show was infamous for cramming roughly 15 minutes worth of plot into a 45 minute show via the medium of slow mo shots of various pretty young things in skin tight swim costumes.

Fast forward to 2017 and the show is making it’s big screen debut via the director of such comedy classics as Four Christmases  and Identity Thief. 

And I have no idea who thought this was a good idea.

I never really got into Baywatch when it was on TV, but I remember it being on during tea time just before Gladiators and as far as I can work out there’s absolutely no reason why this film shouldn’t have been the same.

Yeah, all the gross out humor from the trailer? That’s pretty much all there is in the film save one very unfunny and horrifically stretched gag involving the slats in a deck chair and an ‘overexcited’ young man that was met with side-splitting silence in my screening.

Because whilst I know that humor is subjective apparently everyone in my screening is as grouchy and jaded as I am. There were a few smiles, maybe a chuckle or two but mostly, there was just dead silence- even during the outtakes over the credits.

And there was no need for the gross out humor, or the nudity, or the rampant foul language because this would have worked perfectly well as a PG rated summer blockbuster. Seriously, this film felt like a PG rated film with loads of American Pie humor rammed in for no reason. Because most of the people that were going to see this are in their thirties or forties  now and most of the people I know of that age have grown out of that sort of thing and are teenage boys going to flock to a reboot of a franchise they’ve probably never heard of?

I mean the plot: In which Priyanka Chopra and her two inept henchman come up against a group of lifeguards who attempt to foil her operation to smuggle drugs though a collection of really obvious tanks, horrific green screen and appealing CGI that I think is supposed to be an ocean, is pretty much a description of something I would have enjoyed (and been a lot more forgiving of) when I was 10 or 11.

Hell, I’m pretty sure dad would have stayed awake for this one as the slo-mo shots have survived. And their commented on in several awkward almost-but-not-quite fourth wall breaks that just make everything so much worse than it needs to be.

And you can put as many slo-mo shots of Alexandra Daddario, Kelly Rohrbach, Dwayne Johnson and Greek God/human CGI Effect Zac Efron as you like but sooner or later even I start to twig that there may be the odd plot hole or million including vanishing jet-skis, deaths, falsified evidence that could easily be debunked…..

Look, if you wanted to turn this silly show into a gross-out comedy/parody of itself then do that. Go for it, go all out, you had all the ingredients there but the film just seemed to lack the confidence to go there and it had nothing else to fall back on. The characters are all parody’s of themselves or whoever would inhabit this world. It had everything going for it but instead just made me wonder why they had bothered when with virtually no effort they could have mad the film a family friendly affair.

But I don’t review that which could be, I review that which is.

Summing up? In Baywatch the stunts were awful to look at, the CGI obvious, I never came close to caring about the clothing allergic pieces of cardboard with character arks I could set my watch to, the plot had nothing to offer, the humor out of place and not to my taste (or anyone else in my screenings.) And I still have no idea who this… this… thing was aimed at.

Were it not for Transformers: My God Just Stop and The Emoji movie I would say that this is the worst film of the summer.

And as for Hasselhoff and Anderson? Their credits get more screen time than they do.

My Score- Fire 

 

 

King Arthur Review

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, released in 1998, was director Guy Ritchies first feature length film and has immediately established itself as classic film, it’s still comfortably inside IMDB’s top 250 to this day and defiantly  worth a watch.

When Ritchie followed it up in 2000 with Snatch, starring Brad Pitt which is still currently in IMDB’s top 100 it seemed that we were witnessing the arrival of a new legendary director, with a knack for juggling multiple plot lines, huge casts of characters with a distinctive look and feel to his films.

But we weren’t because Ritchie never made a great film again.

His next two films (Swept Away and Revolver) were unwatchable, but he momentarily reclaimed something akin to his former glory with RocknRolla the first in a seemingly never to be completed trilogy.

Then, someone very brave, looked at a director known for making low budget crime films and decided to give him $90 million and to make Sherlock Holmes which did pretty well, making back 524 million,

Similar returns awaited Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows but Ritchie scored one of the biggest bombs of all time in 2015’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and has now been given 175 million dollars to horrifically mutilate the story of King Arthur. And this is just the first in a planned series of 6 films in what I will be calling the ‘Arthurverse’.

That’s assuming that there are sequels which, if there is a merciful God, there won’t be. But, because it’s the job of the first film in a franchise to set up story threads which will be resolved in future films, here are some questions that I hope they will address in the never-to-be-made-ever-ever-ever-sequel

I’ll start with the easy questions. I want the the Casting Directors name, rank, serial number and home address because I will find him and I will make sure that he never again so much as watches a film. I mean who’s was it to cast Jude Law as a a brooding, tortured, menacing character? Who decided that Charlie Hunnam was an actor instead of an underwear model? In 2017 how is it acceptable that pretty much the only female character has literally no name? Seriously, her IMDB credit is simply ‘The Mage.’ And the actress playing her has either never interacted with a ‘human being’ before or was she deliberately told to deliver more wooden acting than someone in a Shamalan film?

To that end, why is David Beckham giving the best performance in this film? He’s awful and appalling but he’s the only actor who looks like he’s actually trying, Hunnam looks confused, Law just looks lost and as for MageI think she’s just trying to puzzle out the strange grunts these bizarre two legged creatures use to communicate.

Similarly, was the fight choreographer hired at an anti-violence protest for cripples? Or have they only heard of violence by rough description? And no, hyper-editing everything does nothing to hide the fact that most of the people killed in the ‘sword fights’ died from the hyper lethal ‘stabbed under the armpit’ method that I thought had died out in the ’70’s.

And for that matter, where exactly is Merlin? I would have thought he would be extremely important in a !~”!”£! King Arthur film! Especially one where Arthur needs a mentor! What exactly are Excallibers abilities other than whatever the plot requires? Why does one side only realize that they can create giant snake monsters at the end of the film? I would have thought that would be the first (and probably last) move that you would need in a fight. And what the hell are the Siren like things that Law keeps down in the basement and where did they come from? What… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? Can that either African or European Swallow carry a coconut? How did a street urchin learn to use a sword? There’s a dojo so we know how he learned to fistfight but why is there a dojo in medieval England?  Why did they use CGI to enhance Keira Knightley’s bust? Why does Ritchie seem confused as to whether he’s making a gritty King Arthur reboot or a gritty Robin Hood reboot?Are strange women lying in ponds distributing swords a basis for a strong and stable system of government? Why does medieval England have access to black powder but no guns? Why is a better Assassins Creed movie than the actual Assassins Creed movie? Why do you hire a great actor in Eric Bana and then only use him for 5 minutes when he would have crushed it as the villain? And most importantly, is this film so tragic and pathetic and forgettable that i’m possibly getting it mixed up with other, better tellings of the King Arthur Legend?

A waste from beginning to end, there is nothing to recommend in this dull, grey, poorly cast, acted, plotted, shot and over-edited mess.

My Score- Fire. AVOID AT ALL COSTS! 

 

Alien Covenant Review

“I’m really excited, I love the Alien franchise as much as you love Mad Max Fury Road & Dredd.” Wittered my scriptgremlin from underneath his rock. And, as I looked at him, his little face full of hope and expectation, I wondered what exactly he was basing this delusion on.

Because lets face facts, the last good Alien film was released in 1986. That’s 31 years ago! Since then we’ve had to deal with Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Alien Vs Predator, Alien Vs Predator: Requiem  and Prometheus. I seriously hope he wasn’t talking about Aliens: Colonial Marines. But maybe he was talking about the creatures numerous appearances in graphical novels? I mean wow has the xenomorphs gotten around in its life. As well as taking on the Predator, The Alien has taken on Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, Tarzan, Buffy, Archie, Star Trek: The Next Generation AND of course, my own beloved Judge Dredd.

None of these are regarded as classics and almost non of them are regarded as cannon within their own universes.

But hey, every 111 million dollar film directed by man who gave us 2010’s Robin Hood deserves to be looked at as it’s own entity. It’s own, mediocre, unsure of what it want’s to be so it winds up being a hybrid of Alien and Aliens.

I mean it, you’ve got your people answering a distress call and winding up dealing with the Xenomorph on a planet which is hopefully the birthplace of wherever the always superb Michael Fassbenders accent calls home, and then finish up the film back on board their spaceship which i’m pretty sure the people from Space 1999 would like back at some point.

And as this is an Alien film, allow me to introduce out not-Ripley for the evening- the mono-named Daniel’s, portrayed by Fantastic Beasts star Katherine Waterston who for me seemed less like a woman finding her inner steel so that she could defeat one of the most deadly animals in the universe, than  a head girl trying to decide whether or not to tell the head teacher that someone keeps disliking her Instagram posts.

Your going to spot every twist from a mile away and resent every scene that doesn’t have Fassbender in. I mean everyone else is fine, but there’s no memorable lines or characters in the entire thing. Even my notes only refer to them as ‘redshirt’ ‘redshirt in hat’ and ‘cowardly redhsirt.’

It had some tense moments and some points where I was squirming in my seat and yes, the music was very impressive and unsettling and it did fly past fairly quickly and inoffensively but this could have been a much better film if there had been better and less dialogue, not telegraphed their plot twists in advance, had a lot more Fassbender and a lot less everybody else and realized that the xenomorph is supposed to be a practical effect that you don’t really see allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks and not a CGI creation. Especially not when the budget is running low.

It’s defiantly not the worst film I’m going to see this summer, but it’s certainly not the best.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to re-watch a 31 year old Vietnam metaphor.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

Sleepless Review

As I sail the world of film, occasionally pausing to watch the latest superblockbuster fling itself gladly upon the coral reef of mediocrity  it heartens me to see the occasional, smaller films still set sail for the local multiplex.

And all the signs look promising, which immediately got my back up.

It’s low budget which means that the studios would have pretty much left it alone as, who cares if a 30 million dollar film grosses only 28.7 million and holds 18% on Rotten Tomatoes?

No. Bad critic! Focus on your opinion and yours alone and you should love this film.

I mean it stars Jaimie Foxx who I’ve liked ever since I saw in him in his Oscar winning turn in Ray, which came out in.. 2004? Christ i’m getting old.  Since then he’s been in Stealth ( one of the biggest box office bombs in history), the franchise ending Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the abominable Annie remake back in 2014. On the other hand he was in Django Unchained and i’ve always had a soft spot for Collateral given that the subtitles are on and never turned off.

I’ll mark him down as ‘wasting his talent/my time.

And this film looks pretty solid, a cop with a connection to the criminal underworld scours a casino in search of his kidnapped son, whilst his kidnapper needs something from him and his boss needs something from him and Internal Affairs is after the lot of them and everyone’s on the clock and you can’t trust anyone and why didn’t I love this film?

Solid cast, solid plot with plenty of opportunities for being a distracting diversion, except someone forgot to bring the action.

Yeah, for a film which is screaming out to be a Die Hard clone with a bit of Taken thrown in and with multiple people at multiple levels of society all being squeezed by the relentless march of time the action was pretty tragic. What few gunfights the film had were boring, the fight choreography sucked, there were too many characters, none of whom I cared about, oh, and the film didn’t have the courage of it’s convictions.

Seriously, the film needed to streamline it’s plot, not have the obvious twist be so obvious and it needed a hero who could be injured. I mean Foxx’s character does receive a stab wound early on, which needs constant attention through the film but has as much effect as a shaving cut most of the time.

But it needed more action, it needed better fewer, better characters and it needed better lighting as well, at times I thought I was in a screening of a slightly muffled script run-through than an actual screening of an actual film.

Oh and sequel baiting? That’s just cute.

Skip this and watch Free Fire, Taken or Die Hard.

MY SCORE- Poor 

Their Finest Review

The last time that I saw a film about the entertainment industry in London during the Second World War, I wound seeing more of national treasure Bob Hoskins than I could afford to tell my therapists about so it was with some trepidation that I apprached Their Finest featuring a (hopefully fully clothed) Bill Nighy and Gemma Arterton.

The set ups a simple one, during the war, typist Catrin Cole has been seconded to the film division of the ‘Ministry of Information’ and winds up helping to write a film about a more or less true story of the Dunkirk evacuation that will inspire and unite the nation, bring America into the war, survive endless levels of official interference, cantankerous old actors, actors that can’t act all the while attempting to keep Richard E. Grant from chewing the scenery into rubble before the Nazis get the chance. Whack it on the stage and you’d have an incredible farce as increasingly desperate scriptwriters try to keep the show on the road. After all, that is traditionally what the old ‘play-within’a-play’ conceit has been used for.

Except this isn’t a fast moving farce on the stage, instead it’s a film that’s so British that I half felt I should be watching it with a cup of Earl Grey enhanced with a twist of lemon (blaspheming early Grey with milk simply isn’t done in a civilized society). Unlike most films, it doesn’t shy away from showing social attitudes of the time and the fact that with most men away in the armed forces, women are for the first time in history earning money and beginning to assert themselves in the workplace.

But this film is slow, very, almost punishingly slow. it’s run-time of 117 minutes passed reasonably quickly for myself but my infinitely better half was bored to Farmville before the start of Act Two.

It is well  acted and scored and potters along well enough, although the heartwarming moments never quite convince, mostly owing to a complete lack of chemistry between Arterton and an incredibly handsome block of wood called Sam Claflin who people keep trying and failing to convince me is a real boy.  Bill Nighy does what he can but he’s given very little to work with.

And despite opening in the rest of the world weeks before the United Kingdom, I can see why it’s so far made back less than a third of it’s budget relatively meager £30 million pound budget. This is a story that needs to be fast moving, to pile on issue after issue after issue, large and small, serious and silly but I’ve seen faster plotting in episodes of Midsummer Murders! Even the war itself feels like little more than a distraction from the central plot of getting this film made, which by the end is supposed to be doing everything bar finding out who Keyser Soze really is.

I really wanted to like this film, it had actors I like, a story-line I normally like, in a setting that I find intriguing but it feels like the kind of film that my grandparents would have loved and that’s the issue. This is a film made for a time that’s already been and gone.

And that time was about twenty years ago. No matter how many twinkly Bill Nighys you throw at me.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

The Belko Experiment Review

It seems to me that grind-house films are having a bit of a renaissance at the moment. And in a way, I suppose that it was inevitable.

Because with the the ‘super blockbuster’ dominating the silver screen, it only make sense that the alternative is to go tiny. It can also be a good way for directors and actors to unwind after making a huge film. After all, if a 5 million dollar film flops in the woods, does anyone hear it?

Which brings me to today’s nasty little beast, The Belko Experiment, a blending of Battle Royale with corporate America, written by James Gunn (The director of both Guardians of the Galaxy films) and believe you me, it is a very nasty little piece of work.

One seemingly ordinary day,  80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia and are ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

Alliances are made and broken, people are driven to the edge of madness and beyond heads explode with gleeful abandon and it’s a pretty good, gory time.

The people react like people forced into this nightmare of a situation, some try to become better, some cower and others become monsters. It’s just a shame it all feels so empty.

I mean here was a golden opportunity to satirize cooperate dog-eat-dog mentality exporting workers around the world to save a buck, platitudes designed to hide gruesome truths and this film plays it straight for no real reason that I can work out.

I mean yes, its a good, gory ‘what would you do?’ film. Please don’t get me wrong on that point but I was hoping for something a little bit meatier. And also, for a tight, claustrophobic film I felt like it would have been better served to have been shot in real time, increasing the unrelenting tension and could have been done without very, very easily.

I would also have like the space to shrink over time. Again, this could have easily been done and could have lead to a tenser and more exciting film as the participants are forced to chose between suicide and fighting to the death.

But for what it was? Yeah, it passed 88 minutes harmlessly enough. I could have done with an extra ten minutes added to it and a bit more time developing the characters but it’s another good one to throw on the telly when you’ve got your friends over and you’ve had a few beers.

My Score- See It