Hellboy (2019) Review

In 2002, writer/director Neil Marshall created Dog Soldiers, best described as a ‘British Predator’ or ‘one of the best werewolf movies of all time.’ It’s special effects, complete shunning of CGI and brilliant dialogue also rendered it as my favorite film of all time.

This was then followed up with The Descent which people who are into that sort thing have decried as one of the scariest films of all time.

Sadly for his third film we got lumbered with Doomsday which could be described as Mad Max meets Escape From New York via a ton of plot holes, bad effects and complete failure at the box office. Another dud followed and he scuttled off to TV where he’s directed for Black Sails, Game of Thrones and Westworld among others. But with Hellboy (2019) he’s offered a path back to the silver screen. A chance for redemption, a chance to…

make probably the worst superhero film ever.

And I say that with a straight face and no sense of irony.

Now, I don’t normally report on behind the scenes drama because to be honest I don’t care what happens in the kitchen as long as the meal is tasty. And this has to be the worst prepared meal since an old flatmate of mine managed to set fire to pasta. (To this day I still have no idea how he managed it.)

But with stories of the director being over-ridden by producers, actors storming off set, constant re-writes and the firing of Marshalls longtime collaborating cinematographer (allegedly just to show “Who’s boss”).

No wonder Neil Marshall was so allegedly so unhappy with the final cut that he skipped the premiere.

I mean, I fully understand the urge, as I wanted to skip out after the opening prologue which I think could be the cheapest, lowest effort, cliched opening I’ve seen since Lesbian Vampire Killers (naturally starring James @!”@! Corden.)

It sets up your bog standard fantasy story, evil being was stopped back in ye olden days, has come back now to wipe out the human race via some evil scheme (I never was quite able to work out how) and Hellboy is dispatched with the mission brief to: “If Little Red Riding Hood should show up with a bazooka and a bad attitude, I expect you to chin the bitch.” (Sergeant Harry Wells: Dog Soldiers.)

A very simple plot, done a million times and one that you would think would be nearly impossible to mess up. But life finds a way.

I’ll start with the broad strokes and then get down into the weeds.

This film… it’s just hard to look at. The whole film is just dull and uninteresting visually. If it comes out that this film was all shot on soundstages like Dumbo was, I wouldn’t be surprised. At times it looked like that part of Sin City where that yellow guy was onscreen. Everything is black and white apart from him except that was a deliberate choice on behalf of the director. Here, it just seemed to be a miserable accident. The whole dull color palette means that your eye is drawn to Hellboy even when he’s not what your supposed to be looking it. He’s moving and in color which is enough to catch my eye at least.

As if that wasn’t enough, this film feels really mean spirited. I get that this isn’t a Marvel movie (The CGI isn’t nearly good enough) but this film is full of angry, whining people spouting exposition at each other between graphic CGI fights. There’s no moments of levity or black humor, the closest the film gets is a truly pathetic repeated gag whereupon Hellboy keeps breaking his phone for some unknown reason. And forget about character building! And I know that Marshall can do humor and character development in dark situations because he did it in Dog Soldiers!

Sergeant Harry Wells: [referring to the possibility that he is now a werewolf] With Ryan it only took a couple of hours mate. It’s a full moon. I don’t know, maybe it’s like when you need to take a piss or something, I don’t know. When you gotta go, you gotta fucking go.

Cooper: Yea, well maybe it’s more like needing a shite. Just cos you need one doesn’t mean you drop your kegs and pinch one off.

So, Hellboy thus far is a visually dull, mean spirited film with a plot you’ve seen done a million times before and done a million times better. And…. it’s also time for me to set out my stall before people start getting busy in the comments section. No, I’ve never read an episode of Hellboy and yes, I’m a big fan of the Golden Army because that’s Del Toro being allowed to his thing under the guise of a comic book movie. (The first one is passable but slightly dull.) However, new director, new image, new kitchen and a new flatmate who served me a ‘medium’ curry which forced me to drink everything in a 5 mile radius.

Note to self: No more reviewing films just before lunch.

In short: Each film is treated as it’s own separate thing and the fact that I’m 845 words in and nowhere near done is because this film offends me as someone who loves film. And it didn’t offend just me. I saw this film on opening night in a packed screen – 11 people walked out. And on my way out, every. Single. Person. Was attacking the film for different reasons.

Now, even leaving aside EVERYTHING that I’ve already said, this film was just so episodic. It felt like a series of short films with a loosely interconnecting theme that a film in and of itself. And even THAT’s being generous. Here’s how this film goes. Person meets Hellboy. Person then states that Hellboy is destined to wipe out the world and they’d be doing everyone a favor if they took him out now and hastened the end credits. Person then decides not to for various stupid, pointless reasons, we have what might be called a fight scene if you’ve lived all your life in among pacifist monks and only heard about action from the half remembered tales of infrequent travelers to your monastery.

Look, I get the first fight being an easy win. Especially when your dealing with a character who has powers. The audience needs time to bed in, to understand your strengths and weaknesses, especially if your a lesser known comic book hero but in none of the fights does Hellboy ever seem to be in any danger whatsoever. Even when he’s clearly meant to be in mortal danger it’s never communicated to the audience competently or, just at the moment when it’s starting to settle in, he gets saved by some Deus Ex Machina  or the bad guy jut flat out stop attacking him to try to get him to come over to the dark side.

Speaking of the villains, our allegedly Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad villain played by Milla Jovovich (still searching for her first good film in 22 years) who appears to have been given no direction beyond looking pretty and squeezing an imaginary stress ball. I have no idea who could have made this character work, but Jovovich really can’t. She’s backed up by… I think one of the villains from the 1995 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie. Except in that movie the pig monsters mouth moved vaguely in time with the soundtrack and here there’s not even an attempt to try that here.

Although if I had an opportunity not to speak the terrible dialogue then I would take it with both hands and a squeal of unmitigated joy.

Look, I’m glad that Deadpool showed us that 15 rated comic book movies could work but that film seemed like it needed to be  15. This… thing feels like it was going to be a 12a and then got bumped up at the last moment forcing all the dialogue to be rewritten by someone who’s only just learned  about swear words and has to share this amazing discovery with the world every! Third! Word!

Not too mention that pretty much all of the CGI blood and special effects look like they came from 1998 and maybe this film was supposed to be 3d and they changed it at the last minute? I’ll never know but I’ll be grateful for small mercies if that did get canned due to budgetary restrictions.

In the interests of balance, I do kinda like the Hell creatures and yes, it was funny to see a character from Eastenders firing a gun but these moments were in the trailer and they were the only bits I liked. Or even came close to working.

Which is a shame as there were moments that I could have liked were they actually explored and had a point! An interesting scene with Baba Yaga who was defeated in a previous unseen adventure stands out as a creepy, practical effect driven scene that could have been really effective were it not completely pointless as it could have been replaced by any other character spouting a line of technobabble. I’d have saved it for the hopefully never going to happen.

The CGI looks atrocious, Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii 50)’s English accent is the worst I’ve heard since the original Mary Poppins, the pacing sucks and the films timeline makes no sense. There’s a terrible habit of throwing what are supposed to be plot twists at us but ) there’s no real plot to twist. B) They flash by some quickly there’s no time to take them in and C) I saw all of them bar 1 coming and the one I didn’t see wasn’t foreshadowed in any way shape or form and to anyone who hasn’t read the comics is going to make no sense.

In short- A godawful mess that works on no level and seems to have been a wretched set to work on. Normally i’d offer hints and tips on how to be a better film but for this? Just claim it was a tax write off and then bury the damn thing.

But does that make it the worst comic book movie of all time as some of my more excitable colleagues have claimed?

Yes.

Say what you will about Batman and Robin, Steel, Howard the Duck, Catwoman, Judge Dredd and Green Lantern but their either fun to sink a few beers to and tear apart or there’s something that shows imagination or a moment that shows what that film could have been.

There’s none of that here.

There is no moment of joy. No moment where you see what could have been or moment of visual wonder. No sense of enjoyment or passion. This is a bad film made in bad circumstances by people who don’t seem to care. It won’t hurt anyone’s career but it’s just crass and pathetic and I wan’t nothing more to do with it.  Because i know that I’ve forgotten things that happened in this film, moments that annoyed me, characters that don’t need to exist, opportunities missed but I just don’t care anymore. I want this film held up as an example of how bad filmaking can be. How you need a vision, passion, people who understand and will help you so that you don’t wind up with a load of unconnected drivel.

I’m done. I don’t want to think about this abomination for another second.

My Score- Hellfire.  

 

 

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Pet Semetary (2019) Review

So there I was, gripping the edge of my seat watching in horror as a slow moving nightmare began to reach it’s inevitable nailbiting climax of terror after a slow buildup and just before the final act reached its crescendo and I began to believe that I would make it to the end credits with a few fingernails intact when….

A bunch of naked climate change protesters glued themselves to the House of Common’s glass-walled public gallery and then didn’t quite seem to know what to do with themselves. At which point I decided to stop watching the Brexit negotiations and go the cinema and watch an actual horror movie instead.

Because sleep is over-rated.

And just by luck, I had tickets to an advanced screening of Pet Semetary! From the pen of horror maestro Stephen King. Wait…. it’s not seriously called Semetary with an S is it? Oh that’s great. Now this review is going to be full of red wiggly lines.

Bu back to dead pet place and we find Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocating from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children to have a slower pace of life. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home and things go from bad to worse very, very quickly.

Now, the producers have expressed regret over the second trailer which apparently spoils the whole film but since I avoid trailers (especially horror trailers) like the plague I wouldn’t know.

But, I wouldn’t have thought there was much to spoil after the first thirty seconds which needs to go. Instantly, immediately, without hesitation or reservation it has to go. But leaving that aside, this is a pretty threadbare film. I mean it’s the kind of plot that only functions if everyone wasn’t either an idiot or incapable of holding an actual conversation with someone else. I’ve seen more dialogue in films staring Ryan Gosling!

Seriously, an actual conversation at any point in the first two thirds of this film would have stopped this. Which, isn’t a good thing, even for horror. A genre which traditionally relies on people making stupid decisions (a trope which was utterly destroyed by the amazing Cabin in the Woods) which, with a few tweaks this could almost be a prequel to.

Because yes, in the cinema I was scared and became very fascinated with my watch which is normally a good thing but at about the halfway point I twigged that this film only has about three scares which it repeats ad nauseum to the law of diminishing returns. Certain ‘creepy’ sets looked pretty cheap and very set-like which didn’t help. And I give certain props to the film for not having it’s finale become inadvertently hilarious but it was clear that the film had passed it’s peak and was heading downhill.

Also, for a film which the BBFC claims has “strong bloody violence, gore, threat” it seems pretty tame. Almost as if the film was intended to be a hard 12a and was cut down in anticipation of that certificate. What gore there is, is cut away from pretty quickly when it could have been allowed to go a little further to truly earn it’s certificate.

It’s made a few changes from the book, all of which are to the films benefit but it still feels pretty thin. Non of the characters really get any development making it hard to care about any of them when their in danger. More and more I realize that this film fell back on familiar horror tropes. Creepy looking kids? Check. Loud noises at night? Check. Events set during Halloween? Check. I’m not fully convinced that this wasn’t supposed to be some sort of black comedy with horror elements were it not for the fact that i’m certain the laughs that rippled through my screening weren’t always supposed to be there.

Treat Pet Memorial Place as a schlocky horror film. It’s got nothing to say about life, and the universe and ten minutes off the run-time (especially in a slowish moving first half) would have been only to the films benefit  but I went in, was scared then left and wasn’t anymore.

In other words,

My Score- If Nothing Else 

The Aftermath Review

Keira Knightly has gone on record stating that says she doesn’t like modern-day movies for the way they portray women and for regularly featuring themes of sexual abuse.

The actress has revealed she much prefers period pieces when selecting her roles because the women are treated much better.

“I always find something distasteful in the way women are portrayed, whereas I’ve always found very inspiring characters offered to me in historical pieces,” she continued, before adding that she’d only recently started to see some progress in the portrayal of present-day women in upcoming film projects.

“There’s been some improvement. I’m suddenly being sent scripts with present-day women who aren’t raped in the first five pages and aren’t simply there to be the loving girlfriend or wife.”

I would also add that when Keira does venture into the present day, we tend to either end up with Domino which is still one of the worst films I’ve  ever seen or Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit which… well… basically boils down to a ‘charisma contest’ between Chris Pine and Kevin Costner. The audience lost.

Back to The Aftermath and we find… well… stop me if you’ve heard this before. A woman trapped in a marriage so dead that if it appeared on  screen you would instinctively aim for the brain, falls for the lodger who is the most perfect man alive, single handily raising a daughter in a pretty tough environment and then she has to chose between THE MOST PERFECT MAN ALIVE and her dutiful husband who’s never home because of his job and the distance between them of their sadly deceased child which they haven’t even begun to process.

It’s mostly shot in this big, beautiful house (due to having that can barely stretch to a ham sandwich) and it looks gorgeous- in fact, it looks a little too gorgeous, cut out any thirty seconds of Knightley and BOOM, there’s your perfume ad.

The musics amazing as well, pretty much played on a single piano it’s affecting and heartbreaking and I seriously hope that it wins an award or a nomination for something except it won’t because this film is that most tragic of films, an awards bait film which missed awards season.

A moment of silence.

Moving on.

The leads are all fantastic, the film looks amazing, great soundtrack… I mean love triangle films aren’t really my thing but I really enjoyed that aspect of the film. But there was something that I didn’t fall in love with… Something to do with the husbands job… I mean it’s only the B plot, which the film gives so little attention to it may as well be the E plot… What was it now…

Oh yeah, he’s the colonel of the British Forces Germany charged with rebuilding Hamburg because this film is set in Germany in 1946. Which means that whilst Knightley is deciding whether she wants to ‘make sequels’ with a guy who was in Terminator Genysis  or the guy who was in that Tarzan movie maybe 4 people saw he’s off rebuilding a country which was literally ground to dust and has a population surviving off of 900 calories a day if their lucky, not only does he have to deal with that task, playing nicely with the Americans and Russians (and their quickly cooling relationships) he’s also dealing with the 88’s – a group of fanatical Nazi’s who don’t quite seem to have twigged that the war is over and that they lost.

Not only that, but when he get’s home he has to deal with the gentleman who’s house he ‘borrowed.’ Was he just an architect as he claims? Or was he something more? Does he hold a grudge against the killing of his wife in the utterly horrific bombing that the city sustained? What about the daughter? Is he a spy for one of the other factions? So many questions that the movie simply isn’t interested in.

Seriously, this film, set in a period of history that I’ve literally seen so much as referenced before has no interest at all in exploiting or even delving into the questions that it’s setting raises or the opportunities it creates. Strip out the whole ‘rebuilding of a nation subplot’ and make the guy a banker who’s wife is lusting after the gardener in London in the `920’s and nothing changes. The daughter being seduced by an 88 and potentially being recruited into spying on arguably the most important man in 500 miles? Barely a whisper of a mention in the main plot which is so glossy and beautifully shot that it seems to be in a different film completely to the gritty shades of grey drama that one of it’s main characters is going through. Forget a cohesive narrative, this film plays like the wife and I are fighting over the remote when she wants to watch some terrible romantic drama and I want to watch an awesome gritty spy drama.

The Aftermath is a surprisingly racy, beautifully shot and scored bog standard love triangle film awkwardly sharing screen space with a gritty look at a relatively neglected area of history. The main actors are good, the support cast is missing Rachel McAdams but works well enough. It sounds and looks amazing but it just doesn’t work as a whole film. The love triangle works in it’s own fairly bland way but it doesn’t mash at all with it’s far more interesting sub-plot about rebuilding Germany after World War 2.

Talk about a missed opportunity.

My Score- If Nothing Else

 

 

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 

 

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