John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum Review

Are the John Wick films pulp or art? One one level it’s the story of a nigh unkillable hit-man racking up a body-count that even an 80’s action film would think to be a bit over the top whilst taking on a super secret society of assassins with more influence, manpower and indecipherable rules than the post office.

On the other hand though, my God these films look and sound so… good that it makes every other film look like their just not even trying. The framing of shots, the choreography of the numerous fight scenes  the fact it looks like they paid their editor by the cut and the budget was really running low by that point, the near total use of practical effects and the way that the more that’s revealed to us through hints and whispers the more we want to know, the minimal use of dialogue and fact that this film just seems to take its-self seriously when it could so easily fall into camp.

I’m prepared to think that it’s some sort of miraculous hybrid which exists because a hell of a lot of people put in a hell of a lot of work to create this piece of part? Alp? Put? Pulart?

Anyway…

We pick up ten minutes after the end  of John Wick 2: Wick Harder, where, to paraphrase Finding Nemo  There are 7 billion people in the world, and all they’re looking for one. As soon as the buzzer goes off. Manners count.

Then a ton of fight scenes happen, Halle Berry finally gets some cinema work that she can feel proud of for the first time in a decade and 131 minutes later the wife picks my jaw up off the floor, pops my eyeballs back in and says that no, it is not a good idea for me to start taking martial arts lessons again and I start counting down the days until part 4 gets released.

Because whilst this is an amazing incredible beautiful film which brings in some awesome new characters and develops some existing ones, I mean The Italian Job (1969) had a less obvious cliffhanger ending!

I suppose I could comment on how there seems to be no situation that Wick ( By the way,  technically, it isn’t the wick that gets set off, right? You light the wick, sure, but then it burns down until the flame reaches some kind of explosive, and THAT’S what gets set off, right?)

Sorry, where was I? Notes, notes, notes….

Oh, right, there’s seemingly no situation where Wick doesn’t have some sort of favor or loophole or McGuffin to exploit when he’s not killing every non-dog organic life-form in a 5 mile radius. Because apparently every non-dog organic life-form in a 5 mile radius is an assassin in this universe. Apart from me. Obviously. I’m not an assassin. (As far as you know…) I’m not too sure about my script guy though. That guy is weird.

Tiny, pitiful, irrelevant niggles aside, this film is awesome. It’s got the best horse chase since True Lies, the only interesting underwater fight I’ve ever seen, every character is cool, interesting and fun. Even if one did get a bit weird towards the end, I mean there are films where you can chew the scenery and some where you can’t. John Wick 3: Wick A Vengeance is in the latter case.

But minor niggles aside, this film is the Mona Lisa of action films. It’s a simple, basic story  which is nevertheless full of twists and turns and never less than enjoyable. I liked that the films theme of actions having consequences is carried over to so, so, many characters and it’s got more inventiveness in it’s fight scenes than every other blockbuster this year put together.

Not too sure about the upcoming TV series though. Think that might be a step too far. Once more to wrap everything up with before this franchise gets crushed under it’s own weight and allow film geeks like me to hold it up for the ages whilst everything else gets covered in CGI, 12a sludge.

My Score- See It Now

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Avengers: Endgame Review

Iron Man- the first film in the MCU, came out when I was working in a cinema during university, my old housemates told me about Marvels grand plans as well as  superheros who could control ants and how it was going to be this grand interconnected thing that was going to change movies forever.

(Even though the MCU isn’t the first cinematic universe – Universal got there in the 1940’s with their Monster universe.)

I laughed then. They’ve been laughing for the past ten years.

Because whilst I have my complaints about the MCU – too bland, too much CGI, a questionable quality of villains and indestructible heroes among others.

Also, they’ve completely wasted the post snap era because why would you want to see shows set during a time when half the population of Earth has simply vanished? Hard to imagine a setup with less opportunities to explore.

But… all of that pales into insignificance to this…. well, there’s no better word for it. Avengers: Endgame is a masterpiece.

Yes, it’s the length of a Lord of the Rings film- my screening started at 10.40 and I walked out at 2pm, and I couldn’t think of any scene to cut. Not one moment seemed to be padding or a weak link. It is long but thanks to my tried and true method of surviving a long film by not drinking my can of energy drink until the first practical effect I made it the whole way through. It tasted great on the train home by the way.

Yeah, for all the many, many wonders of the film I get the feeling that the stunt crew took a lot of tea breaks. Which, isn’t really their fault. You know how films traditionally break into three acts? Person goes up tree, person gets stuck up tree, person gets down from tree? This film has one of the clearest examples of this I think I’ve ever seen. I mean yes, the first hour could technically be done in ten minutes but then you lose all the weight and impact that so many little moments that other films would have glossed over.

There were moments here where I laughed, there were moments when I had a tear in my eye, there were moments where I wanted to leap up and punch the air. Except I’m English  and as such I just smiled like a loon. There were also moments in the first two hours when the person snoring happily behind me almost woke up before going back to sleep. They woke up towards during the third act though.  No-ones sleeping through that.

Whilst this is light years better than that bunch of disconnected, tension free fight scenes I was forced to sit through repeatedly last year and is arguably better than the franchises previously unassailable high point of Winter Soldier I do worry that ankle biters might get a bit fidgety given that there’s a lot less fighting and quipping and more people sitting in a room talking about plans, regret, choices and should they get the band back together for one last gig?

Then we get this massive mosiac full of moving pieces on a scale not seen since…. well, Lord of the Rings as multiple story-lines featuring multiple characters in multiple locations full of so much fan service that are juggled with seemingly effortless skill all culminating in an incredible third act.

If this is the end of an era of cinema (not the MCU, that things going to be around after the heat death of the universe) then it’s going out on a high- This film is (at time of writing) is already number 11 in IMDB’s Top Rated Movies and, unlike Snakes on a Plane which was also in the top 250 briefly- the 2000’s were a weird time in cinema, this film is going to be in there for a long time.

Will some of the CGI look dated in a few years? Yes.

Would I have like a practical effect or 2? Yes.

Would I change a frame of this film? Not on your life.

Your going to have to deal with the runtime (which flew by for me but may not for sugar rushed kids wanting a big fight every ten minutes). This feels like a more grown up MCU film. I mean it’s still got plenty of light moments to even out all of the emotional gut-punches, incredible fight scenes and for my money Thor steals the show but as the culmination of a seemingly impossible dream that was told to me all those years ago?

It’s cinematic perfection.

My Score- See It Now!

 

 

Pet Semetary (2019) Review

So there I was, gripping the edge of my seat watching in horror as a slow moving nightmare began to reach it’s inevitable nailbiting climax of terror after a slow buildup and just before the final act reached its crescendo and I began to believe that I would make it to the end credits with a few fingernails intact when….

A bunch of naked climate change protesters glued themselves to the House of Common’s glass-walled public gallery and then didn’t quite seem to know what to do with themselves. At which point I decided to stop watching the Brexit negotiations and go the cinema and watch an actual horror movie instead.

Because sleep is over-rated.

And just by luck, I had tickets to an advanced screening of Pet Semetary! From the pen of horror maestro Stephen King. Wait…. it’s not seriously called Semetary with an S is it? Oh that’s great. Now this review is going to be full of red wiggly lines.

Bu back to dead pet place and we find Dr. Louis Creed and his wife, Rachel, relocating from Boston to rural Maine with their two young children to have a slower pace of life. The couple soon discover a mysterious burial ground hidden deep in the woods near their new home and things go from bad to worse very, very quickly.

Now, the producers have expressed regret over the second trailer which apparently spoils the whole film but since I avoid trailers (especially horror trailers) like the plague I wouldn’t know.

But, I wouldn’t have thought there was much to spoil after the first thirty seconds which needs to go. Instantly, immediately, without hesitation or reservation it has to go. But leaving that aside, this is a pretty threadbare film. I mean it’s the kind of plot that only functions if everyone wasn’t either an idiot or incapable of holding an actual conversation with someone else. I’ve seen more dialogue in films staring Ryan Gosling!

Seriously, an actual conversation at any point in the first two thirds of this film would have stopped this. Which, isn’t a good thing, even for horror. A genre which traditionally relies on people making stupid decisions (a trope which was utterly destroyed by the amazing Cabin in the Woods) which, with a few tweaks this could almost be a prequel to.

Because yes, in the cinema I was scared and became very fascinated with my watch which is normally a good thing but at about the halfway point I twigged that this film only has about three scares which it repeats ad nauseum to the law of diminishing returns. Certain ‘creepy’ sets looked pretty cheap and very set-like which didn’t help. And I give certain props to the film for not having it’s finale become inadvertently hilarious but it was clear that the film had passed it’s peak and was heading downhill.

Also, for a film which the BBFC claims has “strong bloody violence, gore, threat” it seems pretty tame. Almost as if the film was intended to be a hard 12a and was cut down in anticipation of that certificate. What gore there is, is cut away from pretty quickly when it could have been allowed to go a little further to truly earn it’s certificate.

It’s made a few changes from the book, all of which are to the films benefit but it still feels pretty thin. Non of the characters really get any development making it hard to care about any of them when their in danger. More and more I realize that this film fell back on familiar horror tropes. Creepy looking kids? Check. Loud noises at night? Check. Events set during Halloween? Check. I’m not fully convinced that this wasn’t supposed to be some sort of black comedy with horror elements were it not for the fact that i’m certain the laughs that rippled through my screening weren’t always supposed to be there.

Treat Pet Memorial Place as a schlocky horror film. It’s got nothing to say about life, and the universe and ten minutes off the run-time (especially in a slowish moving first half) would have been only to the films benefit  but I went in, was scared then left and wasn’t anymore.

In other words,

My Score- If Nothing Else 

Happy Death Day 2 You Review

Dunkers I’m used to having my heart broken on Valentines day but by Blumhouse? My favorite live-action studio in the whole, wide world? The studio that brought us the Venom film we all deserved in Upgrade? Who’s business model of making films on tiny million dollar budgets means that a wonderful, amazing break from CGI super-blockbusters is never too far away. Hell, their even allegedly bringing the DARK UNIVERSE back to life with an allegedly low budget, small focus, no stars 18 rated film in the pipeline. Aka EXACTLY WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

But back to today and I find myself being put through Happy Death Day 2U Death Harder which is a sequel to 2017’s Happy Death Day which is basically Groundhog day meeting a slasher film, a pretty solid film which needs about a sequel about as much as well…. Groundhog day.

Because where is there to go with a sequel? Either you retread old ground by either forcing the character to go through another looping day or you switch to another character and have them relive the same day over and over again.

Happily though this film decides to go for option three and completely flips genres on us. So instead of having to sit though a pointless sequel about another killer after our heroine, we get a pointless sequel that presents and then ignores a fascinating idea about how this time loop are destroying the universe and our cast should do something about it by killing themselves forever, instead opting to punt our heroine into a parallel universe where she has to relive the first film whilst debating whether she should return home or stay where fate has dumped her…

Except the killers different and all the people that we came to know over the first film have different relationships and personalities because different universe. Except we aren’t focusing on finding our new killer, we’re instead focusing on…erm….

Actually, what the hell are we focusing on?

I mean there is the thread about Tree (our alleged heroine)trying to get home by utilizing some wibbly, wobbly timey wimey device straight out of a middling episode of Doctor Who but where the first was a very tight, very simple film, this film is baggy and seems very plot light. I confess I did enjoy some some the death scenes but that’s very thin gruel when I can go to any Final Destination or Saw movie or even Death Day 1 and watch people die in interesting ways.

The dialogue isn’t as good, the characters aren’t as interesting, the film (even though it”s a mere 4 minutes longer) doesn’t really seem to have any idea what to do with itself. I get wanting to go back to the well but sometimes you should just leave be.

At the end of the day, Happy Death Day 2: Death Harder  is trying to do something more than simply retreading the first one but when you open with the idea of the universe decaying because of the events of the prior and current film and then do nothing beyond another time loop film without little hints that the universe is decaying and that time is therefore running out to fix this just seems maddening. Imagine the possibilities!

And yes, the thread that Trees body is retaining the damage it’s accumulating thanks to the repeated deaths and therefore she’s getting weaker every loop is continued but wasted. Put her in a wheelchair, a cast, have her wake up missing a leg, a hand, an eye – SOMETHING to show that she’s decaying but, instead it’s just one random trip to the hospital and then off we go. And yes, there is still the mystery of who the killer is (and they do do something slightly interesting with it) but it’s just off to the sideline and is solved pretty much by accident and very little fanfare.

If this was a CW show (which it seems to aspire to want to be,) this would be one of the episodes they throw together when the budgets running low, but this isn’t a TV episode, it’s a feature film made by one of the most innovate studios out there. A sequel with no reason to exist as it has very little to say. It’s not completely hopeless, but it’s the weakest film that I’ve seen Blumhouse put out and i’m not looking forward to the already in production part 3 in the slightest.

My Score- Skip It

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 

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