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

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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

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 

The Belko Experiment Review

It seems to me that grind-house films are having a bit of a renaissance at the moment. And in a way, I suppose that it was inevitable.

Because with the the ‘super blockbuster’ dominating the silver screen, it only make sense that the alternative is to go tiny. It can also be a good way for directors and actors to unwind after making a huge film. After all, if a 5 million dollar film flops in the woods, does anyone hear it?

Which brings me to today’s nasty little beast, The Belko Experiment, a blending of Battle Royale with corporate America, written by James Gunn (The director of both Guardians of the Galaxy films) and believe you me, it is a very nasty little piece of work.

One seemingly ordinary day,  80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia and are ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed.

Alliances are made and broken, people are driven to the edge of madness and beyond heads explode with gleeful abandon and it’s a pretty good, gory time.

The people react like people forced into this nightmare of a situation, some try to become better, some cower and others become monsters. It’s just a shame it all feels so empty.

I mean here was a golden opportunity to satirize cooperate dog-eat-dog mentality exporting workers around the world to save a buck, platitudes designed to hide gruesome truths and this film plays it straight for no real reason that I can work out.

I mean yes, its a good, gory ‘what would you do?’ film. Please don’t get me wrong on that point but I was hoping for something a little bit meatier. And also, for a tight, claustrophobic film I felt like it would have been better served to have been shot in real time, increasing the unrelenting tension and could have been done without very, very easily.

I would also have like the space to shrink over time. Again, this could have easily been done and could have lead to a tenser and more exciting film as the participants are forced to chose between suicide and fighting to the death.

But for what it was? Yeah, it passed 88 minutes harmlessly enough. I could have done with an extra ten minutes added to it and a bit more time developing the characters but it’s another good one to throw on the telly when you’ve got your friends over and you’ve had a few beers.

My Score- See It 

Whats going to go wrong with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets?

So far in this series, I have waited for the films to be released into the cold, hard, unforgiving world for their brief moment in the light before dissecting their still warm corpses to see what lessons we can learn but for this one, I’ve got enough evidence to say that there’s no need to wait.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is going to bomb and it is going to bomb bigly. The only question is how much it will bomb by and how many careers will be destroyed by it.

Now, on paper, Valerian seems like a pretty safe bet. Based off of Valérian and Laureline a French science fiction comics series, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. First published in Pilote magazine in 1967, the final installment was published in 2010. So plenty of source material to work from, the fact that the series has been sold all over the world implies that there is some sort of market out there.

Legendary French director Luc Besson has allegedly been given 209 million dollars to play with and had assembled a cast of stars including Cara Delevingne, Dane DeHaan, Ethan Hawke, Rihanna, Clive Owen and John Goodman.

So, a legendary (in France anyway) series of graphic novels comes to Hollywood for its moment on the silver screen. Wheres the issues?

Eveywhere.

Valerian didn’t come to Hollywood to play. It stayed in France. This is France’s highest budget film…. ever. And it’s not close in any way shape or form.  The closest contender is a French movie called Asterix at the Olympic Games, which cost $82 million to make. Now, with the budget for Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets reportedly coming in at a staggering $209 million, that puts it at almost triple the budget of the previous record holder. Now, most Marvel films don’t have budgets of 200 million dollars and they’re as safe as films can get. This is an untried, untested franchise that has very little, if any name recognition outside of its native France.

But, thinks you Luc Besson is directing it! He directed The Fifth Element! That he did, 20 years ago. And it’s been dividing audiences ever since. I feel that I should also point out that nothing he has done in intervening two decades has come anywhere close to the scale of this project. Yes, Besson has done Stopmotion, CGI  and action films but none of them have had budgets anywhere near a hundred million dollars, let alone 209 million! And he’s not consistent in the quality of his films either. For every Lucy he’s made, there’s a Taken 2 or 3. I don’t he’s ever made a flop, but he’s no Spielberg.

But leaving all that aside, you then have the issue that we are currently experiencing something of a glut of blockbusters at the moment. At least Jupiter Ascending (the last time anyone tried to do a new space opera franchise) had the good sense to be released in the wasteland of January, a time when there was very little to compete with because to my mind, even if Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets had no direct competition it would be a tough sell, but the week before Fox is releasing War for the Planet of the Apes and Christopher Nolan’s WWII epic Dunkirk will be competing with it directly. Not to mention that Spider-Man: Homecoming will still be hanging around for its third weekend at the box office. With so many tried and true franchises out there, why would you sped your hard earned money on anything else?

And then we move on to star power.

There isn’t any really.

I’m not saying that Cara Delvigne isn’t a star, but she’s a new one and she has never headlined a major film before. Her role in Suicide Squad was little more than a glorified cameo and as for Dane DeHaan, his highest profile role was as Harry Obsbourne in the Incredible SpiderMan 2. I’ve seen him in a few films and whilst he never disgraces himself, he’s never looked like leading man material to me. Especially when according to Wikipedia his character can be described as “as a typical square-jawed hero figure, who is strong and dependable”

Even looking at two comparable films Enders Game and Jupiter Ascending, you find nothing to cheer about. Enders Game had a budget of 110–115 million but made only
125.5 million,  As of January 2014, Lionsgate was waiting to make a decision on a sequel film, and was also considering a television series. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Jupiter Ascending on the other hand had a budget of $176 million and made a mere
184 million with any talk of a sequel being met with hysterical laughter. Hell, even The Wachowskis have claimed that it’s pretty much killed their career as far as high budget blockbusters go.

So there you go, all the reasons why, as far as i’m concerned,  Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will be one of, if not the biggest bombs of the year.

But what do you think?