Mile 22 Review

Mile 22 is such a simple premise for an action film that it’s almost impossible to screw up. All Mark Whalberg and his team of highly trained redshirts have to do is transport a corrupt cop from the American embassy to an airstrip through an entire city full of people trying to kill them so he can give them a file which will stop a bad thing from happening. Probably. The film doesn’t seem to care about it’s plot and neither do I.

How simple is that?

Hell, the corrupt cop is even the guy from The Raid?  You remember, it’s that awesome film that plays like Die Hard on steroids and utterly killed Dredd, which had a similar premise and went into production first but lost the release war because of VFX touch-ups which meant that it looked unoriginal and…..

Focus Miles.

Stop talking about things that actually interest you and instead talk about Mile 22. 

Ok, so Wahlberg runs a team called Overwatch who are sent in to do things that the government would rather not get caught doing and their watched over by John Malkovich who has the code-name ‘Mother’ which isn’t creepy at all. Or giving me flashbacks to last years god knows what starring Jennifer Laurence. Malkovich is accompanied everywhere by his collection of bobbing heads of Presidents past and present; their fake, plastic grins casting a knowing eye over clandestine killing. If I was being generous I might say that there’s some sort of satirical point being made about Americas habit of nodding things through without waiting for international backing, or support, or legality whilst maintaining  the cheerful idealism of America whilst the more unsavoury realities of its actions are made explicit.

But the films not smart enough to make that point and neither has director Peter Berg done anything along those lines so I’ll just move on.

Besides, you didn’t come to see Mile 22 (which is how far their convoy has to go before the end credits can start) to hear about satire on geopolitics or how the characters are flatter than a policeman trying to get a runaway steamroller to stop at a red light. You want to know how exciting the scenes where the bang bangs go into the bad man and make him fall over are.

And, their fine. There’s a nice scene where the Dredd killer gets to show off his moves in an almost Jackie Chanesque sequence and enough gunfights, car chases and running to keep you vaguely focused but there’s nothing spectacular or unique or even that memorable. The action sequences are predictable and there’s just this vein of gritty nihilism running through the whole thing. Which normally I wouldn’t complain about, but this is a film where a bit more gloss and some slightly more outlandish stunts would have helped. Also, the editing on these scenes sucks. Seriously, how hard is it to watch Heat a few times until you understand how this time of action should be shot? I mean, allegedly they use those gunfights whilst training US Marines!

Sorry, distracted again.

I recommend not trying to follow the plot beyond the time limited escort mission that the trailers have made you think it as it’s a convoluted mess that exists purely for sequel bait and could have been removed completely without impacting the film in the slightest.

But it’s also the blindingly obvious type of confusing mess.

How their going to turn this into a ‘ multi-media series’ baffles me. This is the kind of ‘world-building’ that makes the DCEU/ Dark Universe look competent.

As an action film it’s a dull, grey, mess full of one dimensional characters laboring under a plot that’s too twisty for it’s own good full of action scenes that have been done better. As a starting point for the Mileverse? I’ll pass.

But what did I expect? The whole franchise has been going downhill since 8 Mile

My Score- Skip It. 

 

 

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Serpent/ Don’t Move – Halt still! Review

Serpent or Don’t Move- Halt Still in German for some unknown reason in Germany is an 85 minute no budget film set in South Africa about a young couple who decide to go ‘camping’ for the weekend instead of going to a hotel like normal, civilized, decent people do.

They pitch their tent by a waterfall, and join me in drifting off to sleep after wondering exactly when the plot was going to show up.

And show up it did as this young couple soon find themselves sharing the tent with a Dendroaspis polylepis or Black Mamba. Which, when not taking on the Avengers is an extremely venomous snake of the family Elapidae, and native to parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

How venomous you ask?

Well, it’s been reported that before antivenom was widely available, the mortality rate from a bite was a mere 100%! The bite of a black mamba can potentially cause collapse in humans within 45 minutes, or less. And without effective antivenom therapy, death typically occurs in 7–15 hours. Oh, and it can also move faster than most people can run, slithering speed up to 12 mph [19 kph].

And there’s your film.

Two people, in a tent with a lethal snake, trying to work out how to get the snake out without being bitten. Which means no big movements,no loud noises, trying to get the damn thing out before the rising heat of the day angers and upsets it, causing it to bite you and… oh yeah, not having a ton of secrets which might cause the person your sharing this extremely enclosed space with to reconsider the whole ‘don’t let the snake bite anyone policy’ that they just decided upon.

There are no jump scares, no orchestral stings, just the increasing tension of the situation. It’s a realistic horror which could happen to anyone who decides that ‘going camping’ is a good idea.

But, this is more a psychological film than Snakes in a Tent. Of two people locked in a small space, seemingly facing certain death trying to confess all their secrets whilst distracting certain death with a smart phone. It’s more a slow burn as the temperature rises and tempers fray with safety mere centimeters away but so far out of reach it might as well be on the dark side of the moon.

And the craziest thing? The budget for this film was so low that they couldn’t afford CGI. (Always a plus in my book anyway) So instead they just decided to use an actual Black Mamba whose mouth was carefully secured shut. Because why not?

Sadly though, the film does go silly in the last ten minutes and manages to deflate quite a lot of the tension that had been coiling around my chest like an ever squeezing boa constrictor. Up until then, it really had been a masterclass in showing how sharing a small pace with a so-called loved one can be the most terrifying and isolating thing in the world. As well as the costs that secrets can have.

Naturally, a short film means that the characters don’t get much time to develop, the developments that they do have are fairly generic and I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of the two leads as a couple, but beyond that it’s a very tense little film that if it could have stopped it’s third act going so silly, might be a classic horror film in the making. As is though?

My Score- See It 

The Equalizer 2 Review

Did you know that this is Denzel Washingtons first sequel? He never made Crimson Tide 2 or Mother Goose: A Rappin’ and Rhymin’ Special 2 or The Siege 2: Siege Harder but he returns to this?

The Equalizer verse?

In a way I guess it makes sense- given that this is based off of an old TV show, it would be pretty easy to franchise and the first film wasn’t terrible but it was no Taken either. In fact, I’d completely forgotten that it existed until I figured I should watch it before hitting the multiplex to catch the sequel which… i’m also going to forget exists in well, however long it takes me to finish this review. Say…. 20 minutes? 30 if I have to get another brew.

So, we rejoin Robert McCall, the worlds most perfect human a few years after the first film and find that he’s basically an Uber driving vigilante who’s in perfect control of every situation, reads classical literature, provides a father figure to a local wayward youth and is arguably the most boring protagonist I’ve seen in years.

He has no flaws, no fear, and at no point did he seem to be in danger. And I know that similar claim can be made about Liam Neesons character  in Taken (10 points if you can tell me his name without hitting IMDB or Wikipedia.) But he took damage, he showed emotions, he was in danger and at times seemed like he could fail. In other words, in both Taken films he was human.

He also remembered to have a second act as well.

I mean seriously, the structure of a film should be thus. Person goes up tree, person gets stuck in tree, person gets down from tree. It varies from genre to genre but that’s the basic idea. Here? We spend 42 minutes setting up that Mcall is vigilante Jesus,as well as several pointless subplots before the main plot actually gets going!

I mean, I know that 42 is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything but in a supposed action movie I think it’s a bit much. Especially when the film is a slightly overlong and stodgy 121 minutes anyway, could this not have been cut down?

Anyway, Washington’s only friend is murdered and he embarks on a quest for justice! That…. takes about ten minutes since the villain pretty much confesses and monologues the first chance they get, before we get onto an overlong, tedious, dull third act with no suspense which is all that stands between me and a well deserved pint.

Denzel Washington is one of the finest actors working today and it’s a shame to find him wasting everyone’s time appearing in such an underwhelming film. It’s in dire need of at least 25 minutes being removed as well as least a subplot. Films like this need to be fast paced, with villains who appear to pose a threat to our hero, have more than a handful of goons as well, as well as seeming to actually have an evil plan as opposed to nothing better to do with their or indeed my time. And also, if your going to have the whole ‘dark reflection of the hero’ villain, please, please, please have either of these characters have actual well, character!

Equalizer 2: Equalize Harder is a dull action sequel to a not particularly interesting film. It’s characters are flat, it’s got way too many subplots  all of which are so predictable that I could set my watch to them. All of which adds to the bloated run-time and when there is action it’s not terribly active. Or involving. Or original. Or… I can’t think of any more O words and the kettles boiled.

In short?

My Score- Skip It

Hotel Artemis Review

Welcome to the Hotel Artemis
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face.
Plenty of room at the Hotel Artemis
Any time of year (any time of year) you can find it here.

And if your a naughty boy or girl that may well be a good thing. Because the Hotel Artemis follows the Nurse, who runs a secret, members-only emergency room for criminals. As long as they follow the rules.

Wait a second… a secret society of criminals living under our noses with rules and punishments and a sense of style that seems to exist about 50 years ago? Why does that seem so familiar…

Actually comparisons to John Wick aren’t really helpful because those comparisons are only skin deep. If anything, this is almost Tarantino level stuff. Early Tarantino. Reservoir  Dogs Tarantino . Not ‘I’d like to make a Star Trek film’ Tarantino. Seriously, whats up with that?

Back at  the Hotel Artemis,
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place) we find such a colorful group of stock characters (assassins, arms dealers, criminal kingpins, a drink and pill addled nurse among others!) that it was with some surprise that  I looked at my watch and noticed that over an hour and ten minutes in and nothing had happened! There was a lot of talking, of building people up and enough burbling about nano machines to almost make this a Metal Gear Solid Game. As well as a good job of setting up this world (it basically reads like a run up to the Judge Dredd universe.)

And for a first time director, Drew Pearce has managed to get some pretty great performances out of people who are pretty much playing the same people that they always play. But add a slight twist to what you would expect. Dave Batista is still a man mountain, Sofia Boutella still plays a bad-ass who would have had a fight scene to rival THAT corridor scene in Daredevil had the editor had slightly less ‘energy powder’ that morning, so on and so forth.

We even get New Spock sporting a ridiculous mustache, a crybaby persona some of the worst, clunkiest dialogue/exposition I’ve heard in a while and a character that flips depending on what the scene needs him to do. Jeff Goldblum appears in a cameo (sadly keeping his shirt on again) but this is Jodie Fosters film. (How has she not been in anything since Elysium?) From her way of walking to her mannerisms she inhabits her character completely and is the heart and soul of the film. I could have done without the flashbacks – Not only is Foster good enough to not need such an obvious crutch, they don’t add anything to the film, spoil the tone and wreck the tension of untrustworthy people holed up with all their secrets, clashing agendas, mistakes, missteps and misunderstandings whilst attempting to ride out a huge riot that will kill almost anyone caught outside. Aka, a cracking setup for a siege film. A cheap to make, highly effective and sadly very rare genre. (Which, coincidentally, has spawned some of my favorite films).

Sadly though, after all of that build up the entire third act just seemed very rushed and a few too many things happened off screen, as if the budget ran out just a heartbeat before the director needed it too and as a result, one or two scenes that would have been awesome we’ll never see which is annoying as it’s what the whole film has been building towards and there’s a bit of jumping around the set as well, as well as a primary ending which seems to ignore much of went before in order to make for a more conventional ending. Which is naff as it’s endings that people remember most. (Which is why deserts are almost always the best bit of dinner)

Make more of the third act, rewrite Spock completely or just gt rid of him, scrap the flashbacks, maybe put in a touch more action and this could have been as good as it could have been. Mark the director as a rising star (as a director- I’m perfectly aware that he wrote Iron Man 3). And just hope that people treat this a hell of a lot better than last years also excellent Free Fire. 

My Score- See It

 

 

 

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

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