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

Wonder Woman has been banned in Lebanon

(Note: This article is correct at time of writing- 31/05/17)

Wonder Woman has been subject to some of the most pathetic ‘controversies’ I’ve ever had the misfortune to glare at over my morning cornflakes. They include the ‘expected’ controversy over whether or not her costume is too sexy (which according to the director it isn’t.)

To an actual controversy about whether or not the Amazons would have shaved their armpits or not (I told you the ‘controversies’ were pathetic.)

Then the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater received some negative responses for announcing a series of women’s only screenings of the film now, they are taking place after the premier of the film and for charity but I still have mixed feelings on the subject.

But the award for most astonishing and in some ways most pathetic controversy belongs to the country of Lebanon. Which has banned the film completely. Not for moral or ethical reasons or because their still scarred from Suicide Squad and Batman Vs Superman: Dawn. It’s not even really for religious reasons.

Rather it’s because Gal Gadot is an Israeli.
Lebanon, which has been officially at war with Israel for decades, has a law that encourages boycotts of Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling to Israel or having contacts with Israelis.

And this has been a seriously last minute ban- allegedly coming into effect a mere 2 hours before projectors started rolling.

The ban was prompted by a group called Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel – Lebanon, which pressured the government in Beirut to block the movie. On its Facebook page, the group said it is advocating a ban because Gadot was a soldier in the Israeli army, and has expressed support for Israel’s military policies against the Gaza Strip, a coastal Palestinian territory run by the militant Hamas group.

In a widely shared posting on her Facebook page, Gadot had praised Israel’s military during the Gaza-Israel 2014 war, sending prayers to Israeli soldiers “who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas.”

Even though Lebanon enjoys a greater margin of freedom of expression than other countries in the region, prior censorship remains in place, particularly with content relating to Israel, religion and homosexuality.

Ironcially, the same council that decided to ban Wonder Woman failed to get Batman v Superman: Dawn of Migraines banned in the country. And other Gadot films (like the Fast & Furious installments she starred in and Tom Cruise vehicle Knight & Day) were also shown in the country.

And despite the ban in Lebanon, Wonder Woman is set to open as scheduled during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan across theatres in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait on Thursday. It is scheduled for release June 22 in Oman and June 29 in Bahrain. Although this may change at any time.

Interestingly, In 2013, the Lebanese government heeded a call by the Arab League to ban Lebanese-born filmmaker Ziad Doueiri’s “The Attack” because it was shot in Israel. As a result, the film was “massively pirated across Lebanon where the DVD was prominently showcased and sold in all major pirate DVD stores there,” says the film’s Middle East distributor Gianluca Chakra, head of Dubai-based Front Row Entertainment.

“Did they actually stop people from watching the film? Absolutely not,” he said.

And I figure the same will happen here.

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 

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?

 

Free Fire Review

A low budget film with a very, very simple plot: After a deal goes south a group of gangsters wind up in an abandoned warehouse shooting each other and trading snappy dialogue.

Why does that sound so familiar?

I’m sure it’ll come to me in a second. I mean it’s not like the answer would be number 75 on IMDB’s top 250! That would be stupid.

But unlike other low budget films with similar pretentions towards becoming cult classics *coughTheAssignmen/Tomboycough* this one’s actually going to pull it off. Because it works. It’s not perfect, but it works.

I mean for the first time since…. Hell, Deep Rising back in 1998 where there is no ‘good’ character. None of these people are undercover cops or journalists, no vigilante has turned up to stop an arm deal and started trading bullets. Every single one of these people is a criminal with terrible aim and seemingly unlimited supplies of ammunition, and to be honest the human race is better off without almost all of them. It’s kind of refreshing in a sick, twisted way.

The dialogue snaps back and forth as these characters make and break deal with each other, set up truces that break almost immediately it’s a blast of nihilism.

It’s not perfect though. Like I said, none of these characters is fighting for truth, justice and the American way so it’s kind of hard to empathise with any of them. And after a while it’s kind of hard to tell which bloody, swearing dirty mess is on which team and I couldn’t quite get a handle on the layout of the warehouse meaning that most of the time I couldn’t really tell you what was going on.

But it was funny, my God was it funny in a sick, black humour kind of way. Aside from one person behind me who alternated between sleeping and kicking the back of my seat someone in my screening was laughing about every thirty seconds or so.

All of the cast seem to be having fun with their characters from Arnie Hammer (for once almost coming close to acting) as a consummate professional to Sharlto Copley as an idiot gun runner to Brie Larson as an out for herself kind of girl, every single character has good lines and moments (as well as several bullets in places where they would rather not have bullets)

I don’t want to fall into the trap of overthinking this because it’s not supposed to be some deep think piece on the human condition, it’s a ten million dollar film set completely in a warehouse in 1978 Boston but filmed completely in Brighton of all places and I loved it.

I would have liked each character to have a distinctive item of clothing so I knew what team they were on and it did take a about five to ten minutes too long to get going, and there was just something about the film that didn’t quite click with me but this is a film that’s going to be just about perfect for when you’ve had your mates over and had a few beers.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to work out why ‘Stuck in the middle with you’ is stuck in my head.

My Score- See It

 

 

Beauty and the Beast Review

And so, in the year 2017, in the most expensive musical ever made with a budget of 160 million dollars, starring Emma Watson and… some guy off of Downtown Abbey,  all the debate surrounding the classic tale of a young girl coming to grips with her inner furry via the time honored medium of Stockholm Syndrome has been about the character of LeFou who is the first ever officially gay character in a Disney film.

And I do mean all the debate, In Russia,Duma member Vitaly Milonov (who has previously compared homosexuality to bestiality) agitated the culture minister for banning of the film, but instead it was given a 16+ rating (children under the age of 16 can only be admitted to see it in theaters with accompanying adults). Additionally, a theater in Henagar, Alabama will not screen the film because of the subplot In Malaysia, the Film Censorship Board insisted the “gay moment” scene be cut, prompting an indefinite postponement of its release by Disney, followed by their decision to withdraw it completely if it could not be released uncensored. The studio moved the release date to March 30, to allow more time for Malaysia’s censor board to make a decision on whether or not to release the film without changes and will be released on the said date with a PG-13 rating but with no cuts. In the end, the Malaysian Censorship Board decided not to ban the film.

But what shocked me the most though, was that China who usually have a ‘no gays ever, under any circumstances’  policy on films . And that’s probably because there’s not really anything there. I mean I wasn’t exactly expecting him to stomp around the set waving a rainbow flag and I did find him a bit too Smithers’y for my taste but there was no line or moment that I haven’t seen before in a Disney film. The charterer of Hades from Hercules comes to mind.

But in a way i’m glad for this pointless controversy because what else is there to say? Have you seen the original? Good, stop there and save yourself the hassle because you have seen this film. And the singing is better. And it’s a mere 81 minutes instead of a bloated 129 minutes and the servants actually look kind of cute instead of horrifying nightmare fuel.

I did like that a plot aspect from the Broadway show – that the servants are becoming more mechanical with every petal that falls, the songs that apparently come with it? Not so much. Just because a song works within the limitations of a stage doesn’t mean it’s going to work in a film adaptation!

Beauty and the Beast is the latest in the baffling live-action adaptation faze that Disney seems to be going through. It passed the time well enough but it’s bland, forgettable and in dire need of the editors scissors.

My Score- If Nothing Else