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

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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

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

If you hated that Star Wars film then I can never be your Scriptgremlin again! Whinged the Rebel Scum who until recently I had stopped ‘motivating’ with soap. Which I will start doing again as soon as possible.

And keep doing until the staff at Boots start asking questions again.

Anyway, I was looking forward to reviewing the film that came out this weekend. Not so much the bloated space wizard saga but The Prince Of Nothingwood a documentary about an Afghan film-maker who claims to have produced and directed more than one hundred movies (none of which is on IMDb!) and that he even was at work during the Taliban regime, when all recorded images, even photographs, were forbidden. Oh, and did I mention it currently has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes?

Sadly though, even in London! London! This film is nearly impossible to find, so I was left with no other option than to tangle with the bloated space wizard saga. Go me.

So, I think we can all agree that The Force Awakens was the greatest fan film ever made as it was basically a remake of A New Hope. And there’s very little argument to my opinion that Suicide Squad was basically a well meaning mis-fire that was at least trying something new. Sorry, I mean Rogue One. But it’s still a better Suicide Squad than Suicide Squad. 

Where was I?

Oh, right, The Last Jedi. The first original Star Wars film since Revenge of the Sith and the first watchable original Star Wars film since the original trilogy finished in 1983.

Well, I went into my screening at 10am on day of release (because i’m just that damn cool) and came out of it at 12.50! And that’s only because I had to skip on the credits. Seriously! 4 hours? I’ve had holidays were shorter than The Last Jedi! Good luck if your taking our under tens to see it. Just as an aisde, NO film has a right to be that long unless it’s going for Best Picture Oscar or rhymes with Lord of da Tings. 

And much like those films, this film could seriously do with about half an hour being shaved off of it. And about 99% of those minutes comes in the final 30 to 40 minutes. The is NO reason why the big end action scene could not have been placed at the beginning of the next film or simply scrapped entirely. It holds no memorable action, moments, character development and simply seems to exist to provide awesome visuals for the trailer.

Speaking of which, this film has some amazing visuals that are almost  amazing as those in Blade Runner 2049- which I think is the number of people that actually saw that modern masterpiece unlike the millions that will see this film in the next few weeks. And they will see a film that opens with arguably the greatest space battle of all time as a lone star-fighter goes up against something so huge, so vast, so massive that it succeeds in showing us what Rogue One was trying to do- show us the might of the empire and how truly outgunned and seemingly doomed to fail the Rebellion truly was. A theme that this film keeps hitting and hitting and hitting. And doing it so, so well. You truly do feel that there is no way out for the good guys this time.

At least you do at certain points- one subplot could have been removed completely and not affected the film in any way shape or form beyond allowing the film to focus on whats actually interesting- Rey attempting to get an incredibly unwilling Luke Skywalker to train her and a desperate rebel trying everything they can think of to escape a First Order fleet before they run out of fuel….

Wait, what?

Run out of fuel… In Space? Whilst going in a straight line!?!!? You do know that that’s impossible right? Newton’s First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. Such as gravity, or friction, or a brick wall, none of which exists in deep !?!!? space. At least make it a leak in the ships air tanks or overheating reactors owing to being under so much fire or something. Yeash.

Like I say, the film looks amazing and John Williams as always sounds great. Hell, they even get fantastic performances out of the cast, although I would like to find the person who though Del Toro’s character should have a stutter and have a few… ‘quiet’ words with them. It’s a shame as his character does introduce something of  a moral grey area into the traditionally, morally black and white Star Wars universe and i’d love to see him return at some point.

I would also like to ask what person thought that Supreme leader Snoke should spend all of his time hanging around in what looks so much like a half dressed set you’d think that the budget had run out by that point in filming. And it’s a shame that it does look so cheap as it could so easily have looked so good and so many other scenes have little details that make the universe seem alive that this just seems like an oversight of some kind.

But, most of all I want to find the person who kept putting silly little Joss Wheedonesque little quips and one liners in the film as they seem really out of place and obvious in this universe (and pretty grating in others). The add nothing to film, kill tension really effectively and are a  becoming a Jai Courtney level blight on film.

On a happier note, Mark Hamill is to be commended  after allegedly telling  director Rian Johnson after reading the script for the film, “I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision.” It’s the best performance I’ve ever seen him give, even if he should really be disappointing his English teacher if he ever wants to be an effective Jedi teacher.

It’s a shame that Kylo Ren is still running around set like the emo that quality forgot and whilst he gets some really good writing this time I still don’t see what, if anything Adam Driver brings to this (or indeed any) role as, with better casting and some slightly better direction, there’s enough here for him to be a truly memorable and effective villain, instead of someone that I just wanted to tell to pull themselves together as he seemingly only has one ‘I just want a good cry’ face and… God I miss good villains. What happened to them?  Oh, right, it rhymes with Barvel.

Happily though, Ridley further marks herself as a major talent for the future and Boyega is good as Finn, but he’s more workmanlike than a major talent although he’s not awful in the role, I would liked to have seen him given more to do as his character does get some interesting character development.

All in all, it’s a solid entry into the Star Wars saga from Johnson who until now was best known for Looper back in 2012. But I think a more limited budget would have worked more as it would have made for a tighter, more engaging film. And, I am looking forward to his announced new Star Wars trilogy if his leash was given a little less slack. As this is a very good, very solid film that I think will be an infinitely better watch on the big screen (preferably IMAX 2d)  than on your plasma.

Cut the runtime, the one liners and a plot-line giving other characters both new and old time to breathe and grow, and this could have been a masterpiece.

As is?

My Score- See It 

Shin Godzilla

This far I’ve only ever experienced Godzilla from a Western standpoint. From a terrible 1978 Hannah Barbarea Cartoon to the 2014 film where Godzilla was always slightly off-camera to the 1998 Matthew Broderick vehicle which was so poorly handled that the original company bought the rights to the character, renamed him ‘Zilla and promptly had the proper Godzilla wipe the floor with him.

So the chance to watch the king of the monsters in his natural habitat of Japan being made by the company Toho which had produced 28 previous installments a well as two previous reboots. Which worked for me on another level.

Because, this is the first Japanese Godzilla movie to be a full reboot, meaning that it shows what would happen if Godzilla attacked for the first time in modern day, and there had been no previous records of him. Although Toho has “rebooted” Godzilla a few times each previous film acknowledged the original 1954 movie as canon and just ignored all previous sequels.

So, with my popcorn and coke in hand I settled back in my chair and….

Well, let me put it this way. Japanese films don’t have the same budget as Hollywood films. the 2014 version had a budget of roughly 160 million dollars, this… has a budget of 15. Now to put that in comparison, The Guardians had a budget of 5 million, the closest American production I can find is 10 Cloverfield Lane which was mostly set in a basement.

This is also, the only Japanese Godzilla movie in which the monster was realized completely through CGI, abandoning the traditional suitmation effects. However, according to effects supervisor Atsuki Sato, Godzilla’s skin was deliberately made to look like rubber as opposed to realistic animal skin, and his movements were performed via motion capture, adding a live performance element to the animation.

Well, that’s what they studio claims anyway, to my mind he started off as a sock puppet, then went through his Harryhausen faze before winding up looking like the sort of threat that a 1980’s disaster movie would have been proud to claim.

Seriously, at times I half expected one of the creatures googly eyes to fall off. But, as I’m always saying, a higher budget does not make for a better film. And besides, there was a lot that should have worked. As a straight reboot, the film was free to instead of tying Godzilla to nuclear weapons but to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami and many critics and journalists have noted similarities to those events. As Mark Schilling from The Japan Times stated, “The original Godzilla was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear devastation, most notably the then-recent Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Anno’s beast, however, is also clearly inspired by the March 11, 2011, triple disaster, with Godzilla serving as an ambulatory tsunami, earthquake and nuclear reactor, leaving radioactive contamination in his wake”.

Which is a good idea, and it sort of works with shots of blue-jumpsuited government spokesmen convening emergency press conferences and shots  of a stunned man quietly regarding mountains of debris, something that could have been lifted straight out of television footage of the hardest-hit regions in the north of Japan.

The film also attempts to show the, the old guard with their overly complex and corpulent bureaucratic ways were simply unable to deal with a crisis in any kind of efficient or fluid way. This is shown repeatedly in Shin Godzilla, as the high-ranking members of the cabinet, comfortable in their positions of power, use the hierarchical nature of the system they reside within to protect their own positions, at the expense of the lives of their citizens. In the end, it’s left to your standard group of geeks and nerds to save the day before the USA starts dropping nuclear bombs.

And there are lots of human characters, this is a film has 328 credited actors with maybe enough personality for 32.8 of them. Of which maybe 30 would be some variation of ‘stuffy, panicking bureaucrat.’ Even the ‘committee of heroes’ didn’t do that much to distinguish themselves  beyond one of them wearing a nice pink scarf which I was pretty sure doubled up as a tea towel whenever the washing up needed doing.

Unfortunately, the tonal shift from 80’s disaster movie to what I think is supposed to be political intrigue handles about as well as channel hopping between Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and an episode of Yes Minister. There you are, happily watching Godzilla smash up what I think are supposed to be buildings, with the orchestra going full blast and then BLAM! Office scene, no music, no natural pause in the action, just a mid-scene cut to a bunch of random middle-aged people discussing what we’ve just seen and what Godzilla is up to now instead of showing us.

And the music is weird as well. It constantly sounded like it was about to break into the Thunderbirds theme. Not that I was complaining but I was then half daydreaming about Thunderbirds 2 and 4 turning up to help whilst Thunderbird 1 blasted the living daylights out of Godzilla, in a kind of puppets vs. man in suit battle royal.

Oh, what could have been.

As is, Shin Godzilla has some good ideas- tying Godzilla to more modern threats and bringing back the political themes that used to be prevalent in the series can only be applauded as opposed to the empty western versions I’ve sat through and I’m sure someone’s enjoying it – At the 40th Japan Academy Prize, the film won seven awards out of its 11 nominations, including Picture of the Year and Director of the Year. But I was left cold and pining for a vs battle that will never be.

Trim the run-time down from 119 minutes to about 90, put a man back in the rubber monster costume, merge your story-lines together with slightly more skill and give your characters actual personalities.

As for me?

I’m just going to sit here waiting for Pacific Rim 2: Rim Harder. 

My Score: Skip It 

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 

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