Tomb Raider Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Score- Skip It

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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 

 

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