Dumbo (2019) Review

Disney, what the hell is this???

I don’t, in principle have any issues with you reheating some your most popular films though the lens of modern cinema since you made your name reheating old myths and legends before you took over the ENTIRE world of entertainment.

But I do have an issue with how bad their all turning out. God alone knows why you’ve allowed Aladdin to be directed by a man who’s never made a good big budget film in his life (King Arthur: Legend of the Bored anyone?) Even Lock Stock and Snatch were close to 20 years ago and that’s pretty much what he’s coasted off ever since.

The ‘live Action’ Lion King remake is against the trade descriptions act as it’s being made in full CGI and… I’m getting distracted from this latest baffling debacle which somehow had a bigger budget than Captain Marvel and is therefore going to make one hell of a splash when gets declared a bomb in a few weeks. Not enough to do any good, but it’s a start.

Before I go on, I feel I should clarify that I’ve never really cared much for Tim Burton. I liked his first Batman movie and I’ve sat tough bits and pieces of his other films but he’s never done anything for me. I appreciate that he has a unique style but it’s felt very constraining to him as well. As if he’s carved out his little niche in cinema and he’s perfectly happy thank you very much.

But Dumbo is the least Tim Burtony Tim Burton film I’ve seen for a while. Well, I say seen, the film is so dark and grimy to look at that half the time I had no idea what was going on and the other half I didn’t want to.

We blow through film 64 minute film we all know and vaguely remember liking in the first twenty minutes and then were off! Off to where I have no idea, this film feels like Tomorrowland, Free Willy, some sort of satire of Disneys habit of buying EVERYTHING and then stripping it for parts AND a commentary on getting more women into science were all thrown in a blender together (possibly as a reaction to the fact that some aspects of the original film really haven’t aged that well….) Oh, and there’s a flying baby elephant in there as well if your in the mood for some really bad CGI creation that never for a second looks like it’s actually there. I mean, it as never going to look real but for that amount of money it could have looked better.

Speaking of Dumbo, maybe i’m a gruff old traditionalist but I always thought that if you were the name of the film, the  center of the plot description on IMDB (A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer) is all about you AND your the only character that your cooperate overlords bothered to make any merchandise for then… well… you should be the protagonist of the movie. As in, you are the center of the story, make the key decisions, and experiences the consequences of those decisions. I mean it’s only been that way since at least 526 BC so you really should have figured out that’s how story’s work by now.

But instead it’s Colin Farrell’s character that has the best claim to being the protagonist. He has the tragic backstory (dead wife, can’t talk to his kids, lost an arm in WW1 and comes home to a circus on the verge of bankruptcy)… oh, did I not mention the legions of pointless human characters? Sorry, I really should have mentioned that.

This film has loads of human characters Farrells character erm… protagonist, his two kids- plot device and ‘subtle’ message, Eva Green as love interest, Danny Devito as comic relief and Michale Heaton with a…. THING on his head as villain and generic cartoon goons as… well… generic cartoon goons. I’m sure they all have names but they made so little impact on me that none of them made it into my notes. Besides, I didn’t pay my money to see a flying elephant movie with loads of subplots about money worries, warnings about trusting ‘The Man.’ And god knows what else this mess decided to be about for ten minutes before getting bored and switching focus to something else.

One thing I would have liked to have it focus on is it’s heart. There’s something cold about the film which meant that I couldn’t connect with it, it looked awful. Every scene cluttered and unfocused, it’s shot really darkly as well. Not as in gritty, but as in dark, no light. It also has that issue of there being so much CGI that it just stands out. There was no real moment that was just allowed to be. To allow us to focus and enjoy the wonders of cinema. Ether the editor had been allowed one two many ‘energy drinks’ or the director was worried that if we were allowed the time to settle and take in a shot then we would realize just how bad everything looks.

And nowhere is this more evident than during this films interpretation of the pink elephants scene. You remember them, right? Of course you do. No matter how much therapy you go through, you can never truly forget them. In the original film their this amazing five minute scene but here it feels like the director was going through a checklist of things people vaguely remember from the original. And it’s edited to within an inch  of it’s life! Instead of being allowed to enjoy this random bit of lunacy it’s simply a few seconds of the pink elephants and then someone commenting on or simply watching them! It doesn’t add anything to the film or provide a respite from what was originally a pretty grim narrative, nor does it allow the director to show us what he can do, it’s simply appears, kills what little plot movement the film had for a minute and then we keep chugging along.

Another few rounds with the editors scissors wouldn’t have gone amiss either.

Anything else?

Oh yeah, the animals can’t talk in this one  and the crows (among the few friendly and intelligent characters in the original film) have gone but to be honest the last thing this film needed was more speaking parts and subplots so I’ll just chalk that up to Tim Burton being so desperate to make his own version of Jurassic Park that he overlooked the little things.

Dumbo  is an over-budgeted mess from a director who tried to put a fresh spin on a classic tale but failed on almost every conceivable level. This film is confusing, uninteresting, awful  to look at and full of characters who couldn’t be any flatter if they’d been run over with a steamroller. It needed to be shorter and actually have it’s title character be more than a prop or wacky animal sidekick. Seriously, the elephant in Operation Dumbo Drop (1955) looked better and played more of a role in the plot than this!

Finally, Disney, please drop this stupid, lazy and entitled approach to filmaking. Surely there must be someone in that mass of congealed money with an original idea? I think you can afford to take a chance or two.

Because, never forget “It was all started by a mouse.” One that could !@”@”! talk.

My Score- Fire 

 

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The Grinch Review

It was with some trepidation

that I approached the latest offering from Illumination

(Those who unleashed those infernal minions upon every poor, blighted nation)

mediocrity is their stock in trade

so, through that is what I expected to wade.

“But”, said a voice inside my head

Your optimism should not need to be be dead.

After all, this film should be a sinch

pretty much everyone knows the story of The Grinch

It’s been made as a film twice before

and only one of those was a colossal bore

starring an unleashed Jim Carrey

and Who’s that veered between creepy and scary.

It was dull and grimy, padded to no end

and watching it again almost sent me around the bend.

But this is new and shiny and nice.

It’s also in 3d which for someone, somewhere is nice.

It stars Sherlock Holmes, Angela Lansbury and more.

wanting trained voice actors? What a bore!

And stepping into the role of narrator,

played by Boris karloff and Hannibal Lector, who could be greater

Than Pharrell Williams (who made that song happy)

Although as narator he’s really quite sappy.

Giving Danny Elfman the score is a decision I adore

but getting someone called Tyler, the Creator to make a Grinchy rap song?

Whoever decided that will have a career that’s not long.

And who the hell decided to put in the Christmas rap from Die Hard?

I have questions which I don’t know I want answered.

But leaving weird, random music choices aside,

there’s some stuff here of which illumination could almost feel pride.

At 86 minutes, the run-time is nearly perfect.

So that box is most defiantly checked.

It’s so bright and breezy,

that I don’t feel uneasy

about saying that a few times I chuckled

but at times my cheer buckled

because at points my own heart grew at least a half size!

The key stories still there

so please don’t despair

when the film takes a quick detour

Because what little this film adds means more

than the Carrey version did before.

And with a run-time far less than that 106 minute bore.

{Doing this review in rhyme

seemed like such a good idea at the time

still, it won’t be the first that a pub was the start point for a crime)

So i’m told anyway.

But if dragged to this film don’t pray.

There are far worse ways to spend part of the day.

It’s animation is fluid, no moment was bad,

The heart wringing moments made me feel sad.

I laughed at it’s jokes

and it never provokes

any rude or crude moments as it’s rating is U!

The perfect rating for a film by Dr Seuss it’s true.

So as I come to my end,

this film will not drive you round the bend.

On the 1966 original it’s not a patch.

but as a cash-grab it’s not that much of a snatch.

Illumination you’ve done it again!

90 minutes of beige to keep the kids quiet

so if you want to prevent a riot

There’s worse you could see

but take it from me

it has no plans to stay long in your head

And you’ll forget it’s small charms before you lay down in bed.

My Score – If Nothing Else

Halloween 2018 Review

40 years ago, John Carpenter pretty much created the slasher genre- whereupon a group of biologically curious teenagers are picked off one by one by a masked unstoppable killer who goes by the name of Michael Myers who… “can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

In fact, Myers has Less of a backstory than The Terminator! Myers has no backstory, no explanation of why he does what he does, or even if he’s human or just some ancient, primal force of evil that can only be slowed down but never stopped. He never speaks and the fact that you NEVER see his actual face means that you can’t even read his emotions, a slight head tilt is all your going to get.

He was the first of so many copy’s that it’s insane. But, to my mind? He’s the best. Even if legal issues prevented that legendary mask from being in Baby Driver.

Anyway, this film is set 40 years after the original and joins me in ignoring every single sequel that this franchise churned out. Especially Halloween III: Season of the Witch. That was just…. weird.

Anyway, back to the 2018 offering and it’s a relatively familiar tale. Myers escapes and begin murdering everyone he meets on his way to a final confrontation with Laurie Strode (played by the always and eternally great  Jamie Lee Curtis).

And there is a lot here that’s really, really good. From the moment that iconic theme starts playing you get a sense that this is made by people who get that Myers is a force of nature. I loved that so many people are driven to understand him and frustrated even to the point of madness by Myers refusal to engage with them in any way, shape or form. Which drives a lot of the first act as people try so hard to project what they think must be going on in Michael’s head even as they are told again and again (mostly by Curtis) that their overthinking  Myers.

I even enjoyed some of the films kills, but I find it interesting that in the original film, the body count is a mere 6 (5 if you don’t include a German Shepard). Here? That total is surpassed before the end of the first act! Also, where the first was relatively chaste with it’s violence and quite graphic with it’s nudity, this version is ridiculously graphic with it’s violence and really chaste with it’s nudity. Maybe there’s some sort of comment there on how society has become more open in some ways and yet more prudish in others but i’ll let those with more free time then me pick it apart.

Jamie Lee Curtis is fantastic but she’s basically Sarah Connor Mark 2 who has tried to raise her daughter and granddaughter to be ready for a inevitable conflict that they don’t seem to realize is coming. I enjoyed the doctor who has spent his life studying Michael and, and….

It’s a clone, ok.

I was really trying hard to get into this film because Blumhose make amazing low budget films and I love pretty much everything they do. I love the cast and the way that the iconic theme music is used. I love that Carpenter was involved, but….

There is a difference between making nods to the original and lifting whole scenes, almost frame by frame and giving everyone a smartphone. Scenes that in the original had me scared and worried, here just made me check off an imaginary checklist. And the ending? Well, that’s twenty minutes that could have been handled so much better. I get what it was trying to go for but towards the end it was verging on the slapstick! Pointless slapstick as well. You could have removed it with a slight rewrite and lost nothing at all.

And there were so. Many. Characters. People forget that the first Halloween film was a low budget, stripped down film with no-body there that didn’t need to be there. Here? There were so. Many. Characters who existed purely to die. Half the films body-count could have been removed and nothing would have changed except the run-time.

When it was setting the scene it was interesting, when it was a Halloween film in the second act it was tense, when it was in the third act… it was fine but overlong by the end.

When it’s a modern reboot it’s tense but pointless, well acted and with a few interesting ideas but it goes on too long and it wastes a fairly interesting twist late in the third act. It takes too long to let Myers get on with his thing and to be honest?

I’d still take the original any day of the week.

Halloween 2018 is fine, nowhere near as good as the original but it was never going to be. I saw it, liked it but the more I check my notes, the more I realize that it was fine and all the bits that worked were lifted almost frame by frame from the original. Strip out the last third, reduce the run-time to the 90 minutes  that films like this need to have in a bid not to overstay their welcome.

What a shame.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

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

 

 

 

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 

War for the Planet of the Apes Review

 

Why does this franchise exist? I mean the MCU exists as a licence to print money, the DCEU and Dark Universe exist as an experiment to see if you can create a similar licence without putting in the legwork. Bourne exists because America is desperate to reclaim the spy genre and Fast and the Furious because 12 year olds need their sugar rush.

But I can find no reason why pointless of the apes exists betting proving that Andy Serkis deserves a precious oscar that the nasty, tricksy academy is keeping from him.

I mean yes, the 1968 is one of the greatest films of all time with one of the most iconic and parodied endings of all time, and yes, the following films were hit hard with the law of diminishing returns but they created a perfect, eternal, causal loop. We don’t need a new franchise to explain how we got to the original film. We already know.

And weirdly, no-one seems to remember these films exist until the next one is about to hit cinemas. It’s just sort of… there.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, War for the pointless of the apes is amazing. Arguably the best blockbuster of the year but there’s just a curious futility to its existence.

There’s other niggles as well. This iOS apparently a post apocalyptic world with unlimited food, petrol and bullets and the apes seem weirdly ok with being naked in temperatures that are probably hovering around 0.

And despite constant references to a planet of apes, we never see or hear any mention of tribes beyond serkis, so it’s more a Small Wood of the apes than a planet.

But aside from that, I’ve got very little to criticise.

The film wanders from Vietnam movie to revenge western to Ape-pocalypse now towards the end. (That’s not one of mine by the way, it’s literally stencilled on a wall)

Don’t go expecting all out action as was inferred from the trailers, instead Logan would probably be the closest film I could think of. It has ruminations on war and revenge, justice versus vengeance, how far into savagery must you go to defeat the savage?

Even the villain, gets some measure of tragedy, his backstory and a new threat to what remains of humanity giving some understanding to his beliefs, giving layers to a character that could so easily have been a cardboard cutout.

The film looks incredible, with the apes looking like you could reach out and touch them.

Serkis needs his Oscar for his performance as Ceaser, the ape equivalent of Professor X who finds himself pushed deep into a darkness that film seems all to eager to explore.

Because this is a pretty dark film that might be too intense for younger viewers and I was very grateful for the comic relief character, even if he was called
Bad Ape.

With deep characters who have believable motivations, backed up by some of the greatest CGI creations ever made and some truly thrilling yet realistic action scenes this is the first (and probably last) must see blockbuster of the year.

Just don’t believe all that guff about this being a trilogy, part four has already been greenlit.

My Score-See It Now