Monday, 21 August 2017

Power Rangers (2017)

























Or is it Saban's Power Rangers now? I understand the title comes from the creator of the Power Rangers, Haim Saban, but why?? Why not just 'Power Rangers'?

So in short, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a science fiction/martial arts TV show that appeared in the early 90's; it was adapted from a similar Japanese series. Despite being clearly aimed at kids the show still managed to court much controversy for its supposed violence. Nevertheless the show was a massive hit across the world...for some reason. I myself was too old for the MMPR franchise and never saw any of it, nor did I see the previous movies. So I entered into this movie completely blind, only knowing what I've picked up over the years.

The plot is the standard origins reboot affair really. The Power Rangers have always been around it seems, the suits are passed on from group to group. So in this case the previous group of Rangers (who were aliens) died to save the Earth from Rita Repulsa (yeah because Rita is what you call your villainess) by hiding the power coins (the suits power source). With his last dying breath the red ranger orders a meteor strike (from their ship) to try and kill Repulsa but instead sends her to the bottom of the ocean. Back in the present day a new group of high school kids eventually find the power coins and the ancient alien spaceship. Whilst at the same time Rita Repulsa is found and comes back to life, the timing huh. The Asian chap is the first Ranger to find a coin near these caves, embedded in rock. But what was he doing there in the first place??



Its within the ancient spaceship that the youngsters discover the consciousness of Zordon (the dead red alien ranger) who explains to them all about the suits and Repulsa. The teens can only morph into their suits when their emotions run high? And when they can then control their emotions or whatever; so this entails lots of training. Basically they only have eleven days before Repulsa gains her full powers back. She then intends to find the Zeo crystal to destroy Earth, because reasons. Oh and there is also a small robot called Alpha 5 that helps Zordon. Think the robot from Lost in Space but smaller, and he does nothing.

It was only a matter of time before the Power Rangers got a new gritty movie reboot, twas inevitable. Now I fully admit I don't know much about this franchise, but I do know of the franchises light-hearted tone, and boy is that gone for a Burton! So long to the brightly coloured lycra and plastic Ranger suits. Goodbye to the acrobatic fight sequences with hokey dubbing over the top, and cheerio to the men in rubber suit monsters. This new reboot is all about teen angst folks, lots of teen angst and of course questions about ones sexuality, because 2017.

In that the entire movie mainly focuses on these teens and them trying to find themselves, or find the power within themselves so they can morph, I dunno. The actors playing these characters aren't bad per say, they just aren't interesting, at all (maybe its because I'm too old). I mean the yellow Ranger Trini was just annoying, again I realise her character is supposed to be moody but ugh christ! The rest are your basic carbon copy America teens with their newfangled hipster talk and whatnot. The red Ranger looks way older than the rest. Also I realise the original show had a diverse cast, that being its thing, but its just too manufactured for me, too much box ticking. Oh and they switched up the suit colours, so now the Asian bloke isn't in the yellow suit etc...Glad they pointed out and avoided that iffy microaggression, phew!



Old Rita is quite scary I thought considering what this was adapted from. Look at her in the original series and its hilariously embarrassing; look at her here and she looks like a flesh-eating zombie. Although her outfit is still ridiculous looking. The sequence where her body is trawled up by fishermen is pretty dark Jesus! Yet the fishermen didn't seem overly concerned, I'd be freaking out. But end of the day what's her motivation here? What is she really wanting to achieve by destroying the Earth? She used to be a Ranger apparently and now she wants to wipe them out, someone must have really pissed her off! But where did she get her powers? I presume she's an alien?

Yeah so its basically a glum teen angst flick right up until the last act of the movie...and then we get to see some Power Ranger action. Finally we see the new Iron Man inspired suits doing stuff, and by that I mean a bit of leaping around before jumping into their big transformer zoid thingies (which they can all pilot perfectly first time). All this in time to fight Rita's large monster made out of gold, called Goldar (fuck me). Yeah so its a whole load of pretty average CGI fighting robots and a large liquid gold humanoid. Oh and there are these CGI rock creature henchmen things that just get destroyed easily by the Rangers. So the Rangers eventually win relatively easily all things considered, and Rita gets bitch slapped into space, K. This movie actually gets worse when the Power Ranger action kicks in!

Is this a serious action fantasy? Or is this a jokey light-hearted movie for kids? Come on movie make your mind up here will ya. The visuals are clearly in the serious zone but the tone is all over the show. One minute the actors are acting as if their lives depended on it; the next a huge lumbering gold monster awkwardly walks across the screen with this Voltron looking transformer hot on its ass. I understand the plot is taken from the original source material, but I can't help but feel they should of put some more thought into it. So yeah, I wasn't a fan before I saw this movie, aaand I can't see myself becoming a fan now. I'm willing to bet the original cheesy TV show was probably far better than this because it knew what it was and embraced that. This movie takes itself so seriously I'm not even sure if MMPR fanboys will like it.

5/10

Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Boss Baby (2017)





















Holy crap another movie adaptation of a children's book, picture book. This has to be one of the most bizarre premises I've come across for a children's book in some time, well at least until the end where all is somewhat explained.

So basically you've got this family of three, mum dad and their little boy Tim. Tim is as happy as can be with his life because he gets lots of love and attention from his parents. But things take a turn for the worst when his mum and dad have a baby. Much to Tim's amazement the baby arrives in a taxi, wears a suit, and he can talk. Almost straight away the baby throws Tim's life into disarray without his parents noticing.

It turns out that the baby (called 'the boss') is actually a baby but works for a mysterious company called Baby Corp. Here all babies have the minds of adults and work to keep infant love at a good level. Basically when people are born some are sent to their families but others that show a different state of mind are held back to work for Baby Corp, or something like that. These adult minded babies have to drink a special formula that keeps them as babies forever, if they stop they will grow old. Meanwhile, all other babies that go to their families, do retain memories of Baby Corp though their pacifier (dummy). But when that pacifier is eventually taken away (by the parents) they lose those memories. Utterly bizarre I know.



This premise raises many questions though. Does this mean that all the babies in Baby Corp are immortal? Surely it does because if they never stop drinking the formula they never grow older. Where is Baby Corp suppose to be exactly? When a baby is held back to work for Baby Corp, what happens with the family expecting that baby? Its also mentioned at one point by Tim that his parents told him where babies come from. But as Boss baby points out that is incorrect, so how come adults have never noticed the fact that no one gives birth? I guess you could say I'm reading into this too much, but these questions do kinda spring out at you.

Lets look at the villain. This guy used to be one of Baby Corps top babies, but apparently he was lactose intolerant so the special formula didn't work properly on him and he grew up. OK fair enough, but how come he can still remember Baby Corps? I thought  babies lose that memory without their pacifier. Was it different for him because he used to be a CEO of Baby Corp or because he had been using the special formula or something??

I must admit the plot behind this movie was way more convoluted than I ever imagined. I just assumed it would be about a baby that acts like an adult behind its parents backs, kinda like an animated 'Look Who's Talking' type thing. I mean the casting of Alec Baldwin was a good move that's for sure. If there's anyone who has the perfect temperament for being a suit trapped in a babies body, its Alec Baldwin. Hell Baldwin is intimidating enough just by looking at his face, he constantly has that angry dad expression on his face, the scary boss with a short fuse. So spot on voice casting there.



Visually the movie is a treat but that's nothing new these days. But what I did find more interesting were the short imagination sequences that Tim has when he's playing. These sequences had a different, more simplified artistic style (kinda reminiscent of some old WB cartoons) with a much more vibrant, almost neon, colour palette. It was these sequences that I found to be way more intriguing and enjoyable than the rest of the actual movie. I especially liked the artistic style and colours used, really bold and striking. Other positive moments I can mention, a nice little 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' homage, and even more bizarrely a homage to the old classic kids board game Mouse Trap (80's kids will know of this). Where on earth did that come from??

So yeah, its pretty to look at, the voice acting is solid and its amusing in places. I liked it when Tim was battling with the baby, from his parents point of view its seeing the duo merely playing, but its actually a battle. The sequence in the back garden with the pedal car is the perfect example of that. In general its a very average outing really (with a peculiar plot). A standard modern CGI kids flick with all the right boxes ticked.

6/10

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Warcraft (2016)

The world of Warcraft is a massive franchise created by Blizzard Entertainment back in 1994. I say world, but maybe I should say universe because world simply seems too small for this sprawling product. Warcraft is mainly made up of five core videogames for PC's which revolve around; online multiplayer role-play, strategies and digital card collecting. But it doesn't end there, the franchise also includes novels, comics, manga, tabletop games, collectible cards etc...Now some may recognise a similarity to Games Worskshop's Warhammer franchise, and I don't blame you. Legend has it Blizzard originally wanted to make Warcraft a game set in the Warhammer universe, but things just didn't work out. And as they say, the rest is history.

So onto the movie and trying to condense this ginormous Tolkien-esque universe into a reasonable length runtime. Basically what we have here is a story from two perspectives, one from the human side and one from the orc side. On the orc side of things, Draenor, the orc homeworld is being destroyed by a power called fel magic. So the all powerful (and nasty) orc warlock Gul'dan (Daniel Wu) opens a portal to the realm of Azeroth (where humans live). Obviously their aim is to conquer this new realm/world, and make it their own. On the flip side the humans that dwell within this realm are none too happy about this, so they take up arms against the orcs. On the orc side we follow Durotan (Toby Kebbell), chieftain of the Frostwolf clan and a generally level-headed orc. Durotan isn't too sure about Gul'dan's evil plans. And on the human side...well we follow many characters, Kings, knights, mages etc...

Dare I mention an amusingly unfortunate parallel? You know, masses of invaders swarming across a foreign land occupied by a predominantly white people (clearly of medieval European influence). Obviously this is a large coincidence, but the minute it dawned on me I had to laugh.



The huge worry with this movie (for me) was whether or not I would be able to become engaged in the story not knowing that much about the Warcraft franchise. I know of the franchise, the basics, but I've never played the games or read the books etc...I'm pretty sure this would be the general worry for all, how could they squeeze all this information into one opening movie without overwhelming people. What about people who are newbies to the franchise. Well in all honesty they don't really address this problem too well in my opinion as questins are raised almost immediately.

OK so fel magic is destroying the orc world, right...what's fel magic then? Unless I missed it (which is entirely possible) they don't actually explain what this mysterious force is. What happens to the orc world of Draenor? Does it end up being completely uninhabitable? How does Gul'dan know of Azeroth? I realise he's a powerful sorcerer but are these different realms/worlds common knowledge to orcs? Did Gul'dan know that humans lived there? Again I realise Gul'dan is a bad guy but maybe they could of entered Azeroth and used diplomacy? Or maybe he could of found a realm/world that didn't have lifeforms living in it? I know some of these points would negate the whole point of the movie but I'm just throwing them out there ya know.

There were also other small plot devices that just didn't seem too well explained to me. Fel magic seems to be the bane of the orcs, seeing as its destroying their homeworld, yet they also rely on it quite a lot. Gul'dan appears to use it all the time, in fact his powers seem to revolve around fel magic. He uses it to harvest souls from captives (the Draenei, another species on Draenor) in order to power the portal through to Azeroth. He also uses it to save Durotan's baby when it is stillborn. So it does appear that fel magic can be used for many things, good or bad depending how you look at it. But again later on in the movie, Medivh the guardian of Tirisfal (Ben Foster, a goodie), somehow becomes infected with fel magic and it consumes him, turning him into a powerful demon. But why a demon? How does this magic work exactly? Are there any limitations? Does the magic have a natural leaning towards good or evil, or does it depend on who uses it?



Leaving fel magic aside, what about the rest, the visuals? Well I have to say I really enjoyed what I saw, much to my amazement. The orcs do actually look really good in a comicbook kinda way. Let me explain, basically Warcraft has a lot in common with Games Workshop's Warhammer; and Warhammer fantasy has a very comicbook-esque/graphic novel-like vibe about it, I think. By that I mean its very lively, bold, stylised, highly detailed and outlandish. Its all very different to the darker and more serious tone in Tolkien's work. The orcs in this movie have that highly stylised, highly detailed look about them which is both over the top and genuinely fun to look at. I loved how each orc had his own unique armour, some adorned with trophies; weapons, haircuts, horns, facial features, skin colour, battle or clan standards etc...Orc chieftain Blackhand (Clancy Brown) was a good example with his matching trophies of some creatures skull and spinal column upon each shoulder.

The CGI was really solid for the orcs I felt, they really had a lot of weight to them and they genuinely looked intimidating. In turn this did make the battles against the humans kinda daft because I really couldn't help but feel the orcs would/should be squatting the humans like flies. Sure the orcs are slower but the human knights were encased in heavy armour so they would be slow too. Surely the orcs would just sweep through the human ranks no sweat, hell even a horse was no match for a regular orc. I must also give kudos for the design work on the knights of Stormwind, along with all the other characters magical or otherwise. I really liked the costume designs, colours, patterns, armour, weapons etc...It all looked really great, very colourful and again very comicbook-esque. I honesty loved how the knights looked, really brought back memories of The Empire from Warhammer.

I think the only thing that did look completely off in the movie was the character of Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton), half-orc half-draenei (but spoke English?). This character was not CGI but the actress under heavy makeup, or so you would think. Unfortunately this makeup looked very hokey with the silly fangs sticking out of her mouth; it literally looked like they just sprayed her up with green body paint. Mind you the all CGI dwarfs looked a tad iffy too, as did the elves with their long thin ears and glowing eyes. But still despite the amount of CGI in this movie I can't believe I'm reporting that most of it was actually pretty fine. Much was obviously CGI but nothing terrible, your standard large CGI creatures/animals were all passable if obvious. I did quite like the large wolves the orcs rode, again harking back to my Warhammer days here.



I'm not gonna lie and say this movie was plain sailing, far from it. There are a shit load of peculiar names, magical terms, species/race names, location names etc...that will confuse and disorient you. Many of the characters will refer to places, events and characters that will mean nothing. Much of the time you will forget who's called what, or who or what they're talking about (unless you're a fanboy of course). There is a large cast here and their characters all have generally odd names. Some of the cast don't really work, some surprisingly do, but overall the choice to use mostly unknown or little known actors was a very good decision, voice work and live action.

Whether or not the hardcore fanbase was pleased with this I don't really know. Would a newbie to this world be engaged? I think so yes. I firmly believe this fantasy does tick all the boxes most fans of the genre would expect to see, on a satisfactory level. Durotan is a likeable...umm...greenish monster, a solid late in the day hero. Gul'dan is your typically evil pantomime-esque villain with a deep gravely voice (also covered in lots of bone trophies and horns). Garona does the divided loyalties bit with aplomb. Ben Foster's wizard Medivh spouts enough mystical mumbo jumbo to please any avid Dungeons & Dragons fanboy. You've also got a stoic King and Queen, and of course the main handsome hero (and poor mans Aragorn) Anduin Lothar, played by Travis Fimmel.



The movie isn't as wide in scope as the Tolkien universe, it does feel a bit confined to a few locations, mainly some interiors and battlegrounds. You can see a lot in the visually pleasing backgrounds, but that's all you get, pretty backgrounds. You never really feel like this world is explored much. The action is brutal and fun, but not bloody or gory which was a bit disappointing with all the mega sized orc weapons. The heavy CGI is excellent in places but somewhat insubstantial in others (there is of course a tonne of flashing, glowing magical effects and greenscreen). And lastly the main problem is the array of human characters that are generally generic and lifeless, in short you don't really care about them.

Yet despite the numerous faults with this huge huge fantasy franchise undertaking, I liked what I saw. Yes as strange as it may seem, I did like and enjoy this movie...and I can't quite put my finger on why. Probably the combination of the visuals, various details and some lovely bits of stylistic flair from director Duncan Jones. Wrap all that in a nice warm blanket of nostalgia from my old table top Warhammer gaming days; and I actually find myself liking this bloated CGI stuffed Hollywood blockbuster.

7/10

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

Over time this franchise has virtually become a mirror image of the Resident Evil movie franchise (the crappy live action franchise not the animated franchise). Both formulas have become almost identical to the point that you could simply swap out zombies with either vampire or werewolves and no one would notice or care. And of course the big question for both is how they have managed to keep going??

OK so I'm not going to explain the plot here simply because that would require going over all the previous movies and I simply can't do that. Why? because I cannot remember what happened in the previous movies and I'm not gonna rewatch them. The same argument can also be used for the Resident Evil movies coincidentally. But don't worry because this movie actually recaps all the previous movies in a somewhat lengthy flashback with added narration, so you're all covered. But put simply, lots of vamps and lycans fight each other amongst a multitude of double crosses and character plot twists.

The first thought that hit me as this movie get into gear was how bad it looked, what a come down from what has come before. In general this movie looks terribly dull, washed out, dreary and unexciting. Now I realise the whole point of the movie/franchise is to look like this because its a gothic action horror series. But here's the thing, all (or most) of the previous movies had interesting and imaginative visuals and ideas. You could see the people involved wanted to showcase the gothic magnificence of the story with lavish sets and costumes, unique camera viewpoints, creative action sequences and some genuine classic horror vibes. But as the franchise has progressed these elements have slowly drained away leaving this totally drab and frankly cheap looking fifth entry.

The first action sequence is a shambles of obvious greenscreen, an obvious set, terrible transformations and CGI lycans, CGI blood spurts and tired action. The entire sequence looked like it was made for TV or straight out of a videogame. Dated and cliched remark there I know but there is no other way to describe it. Things don't really improve from that point either. Most of the makeup for the vampires is obvious with their straightened hair, highlights and shadow. All the vamps look like fashion models whilst the lycans look like a bunch of hobos or eastern European gypsies, still. No one ever seems to change their outfits apart from the women who change for every scene (except Selene who never gets out of her catsuit). But more importantly the whole movie is just so boring looking. Its like they had limited locations to shoot on with a limited budget. There is not a single scene or shot that looks interesting, cool or has a nice traditional gothic vibe about it. Its all just a series of badly envisioned sets saturated in a limited colour palette of black, grey and dark blue.



As for plot points, well holy shit this becomes a convoluted mess fast. Most of the main characters in this movie are either a secret lover of another, or a secret child of someone else important, or they're double crossing someone. I kid you not it all becomes such a mess of character names and backstory it doesn't surprise me that there are so many flashbacks to all the other films for assistance. To top that you're never really quite sure if a certain character has actually died or not, which of course is deliberate (sequels!!).

Lets talk about the new vampires we meet in this movie, the Nordic vampires. Yep you guessed it, they are Nordic, which is Scandinavian, which instantly makes people think of blondes and snow. Yes that's right, all the Nordic vampires have blonde (or platinum blonde/white) hair and eyebrows and they all dress in flowing white robes (because snow is white and they're in the snowy region of Scandinavia. See how that works). This section of the movie was genuinely laughable. The vamps looked like elves from a certain fantasy novel, they all used basic weaponry (no guns). There was also a never-ending supply of them apparently, and they carry out some underwater ritual or meditation that gives them teleporting powers (I didn't get it). Of course Selene eventually goes through this when you think she's dead (don't be stupid) and ends up with said teleporting powers...oh and blonde highlights because new movie, new look!

For a movie about vampires fighting werewolves there is certainly a lot of fighting between just normal looking people (with guns, lots of guns...and hoodies, lots of hoodies). There is of course lycan action but the shit CGI mixed with how apparently useless they are made it all seem rather pointless and uneventful really. Lycan chief Marius seems to be some kind of ├║ber lycan or hybrid, not really sure but he has a humanoid face when transformed. Naturally despite him being HUGE and muscular he still doesn't tear off Selene's head in the first five seconds of their face-off. I don't understand how or why he doesn't do this. I also don't get how Marius and David (vampire chap from last flick) can expel bullets from their bodies yet none of the others do the same when shot. Is it something to do with how many bullets or vampire/lycan hierarchy and strength?? I'm sure I've been told at some point but cannot recall.

So was I disappointed with this new entry in the never ending battle between vampires and werewolves? Well its hard to answer that really. On one hand no I wasn't disappointed because I knew exactly what to expect, as I'm sure others will do to. I knew very well how it would look, feel and play out. I also knew very well that it would finish leaving the franchise open to carry on further. I would say I was left underwhelmed by the movies lack of imagination, vision and excitement which up to this point has been the franchises saving grace. Yes we know it will do the same thing all over again but come on, at least look good doing it yeah.

3.5/10

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
















'What am I gonna do, get a bunch of criminals together to fight the criminals? That's a stupid idea'

So in the Lego universe, an unknown distance (at this point) away from what we witnessed in the first Lego movie, the city of Gotham exists. Within this city Batman and his allies battle the forces of evil on a regular basis, except on Sundays maybe. The forces of good have gotta have a day off right?

Well as usual it looks like the Joker is at it again with his criminal cohorts and their naughty antics. Whilst trying to detonate a bomb under Gotham City, Batman and Joker face-off. Unwittingly Batman appears to destroy the Joker's delicate feelings when he starkly informs the Joker he isn't his arch nemesis. In fact he doesn't even need the Joker, the criminal isn't as important in Batman's life as he thinks. This hurts the Joker more than anything that has come before and causes him to review his strategies. The Joker plans to show how important he is to Batman, how vital he is in Batman's life, and this will require a cunning plan of deception.

What I really loved about this movie was the raw exposure of Batman's life, his true existence. And by that I mean the fact he's essentially a bit of a loser, a loner, clearly narcissistic, a manic depressive, has maybe a touch of OCD and is quite possibly a bit unhinged. Bottom line we see right away that Batman does indeed need his enemies to survive, he does indeed need the Joker to give his life purpose. This is highlighted fantastically with the sequences in the Batcave where we see vast open spaces filled with technology and gadgets that could be used by a team of superheroes. Then again in Wayne Manor where we see Batman rattling around in large echo filled rooms all by his lonesome, except for the aging Alfred.



I loved the small bits where we see Batman preparing his lobster dinner, then eating it on his own. He then proceeds to his own personal cinema to watch his favourite Tom Cruise movie ('Jerry Maguire') on his own. His laughter again echoes around the empty room exposing his self-imposed solitary confinement. Its also during these sequences we start to see some of the sweet references to all the previous Batman movies. Admittedly they did kinda look the same (unavoidable) but I simply couldn't help but smile as I saw the brief visual flashbacks from every Batman movie in Lego form (except the 1966 movie which was live action).

Its these references to other movies, TV shows, modern pop culture and the humour that, for me, made this movie so enjoyable. Essentially the plot wasn't important, it didn't really need to be, and besides, it was always gonna be the same spiel anyway. This movie was basically a chance to look for easter eggs and have a laugh, and with that I wasn't disappointed. This movie is loaded with obvious and not so obvious nods to so many things. I liked how in between some scenes we saw the classic spinning Batman logo from the 1966-68 Batman TV series. The legendary shark repellent makes an appearance (again from the 66 Batman movie). There are naturally many recognisable Batman suits to be seen in the background at various stages. At one point we see the Burton Batmobile and Nolan Tumbler. The classic John Williams 1978 'Superman' score is used very very briefly and we also get visual nods to Jor-El (in Brando form) and Zod (in Terence Stamp form). There are many lines of dialog from previous Batman movies used here such as 'where does he get all those wonderful toys?'. There are also many many tiny nods with names being used, visual appearances, links to comics and the animated series etc...I could go on.

Another thing that I really loved was the inclusion of so many supervillain characters. Something that could normally be seen as a bad sign and set off alarm bells, works just fine here. Why? because the plot is daft and meaningless and its all about the comedy and visual recognition. Yes we see a shit load of villains who have literally nothing to do but be seen in the background or say one line or complete one task. Who cares! in this movie it just doesn't matter because its literally like watching a child play with his toys (ala the first Lego movie). The fun part is firstly just seeing all these wacky characters in Lego form, secondly then Googling their Wiki to find out more about them. Zebra-Man? Kite Man? Clock King? Condiment King? Calendar Man?? Seriously??? I love it!!



One little niggle though, something I didn't really get or like. All the villains in the Phantom Zone were villains/baddies (dinosaurs?) from other movies such as 'Jurassic Park', 'Gremlins', 'Harry Potter' and the old Universal monster movies of the 20's - 50's. Why? I don't get why they used these characters because it kinda took me out of the whole superhero vibe of it all. Of course I know its because Lego covers virtually everything and if they can use the license they will, but I just didn't like that idea. Why couldn't they just use more from the huge catalog of DC characters? And why wasn't Zod, Ursa or Non used as main villains? They show Zod but don't utilise him which was an odd choice frankly. I'd much rather see him used than Dracula for heavens sake. Also, why does the Joker look more like a demon? He has pointed teeth and again an odd choice in hairstyle.

This did all lead me to ask myself one thing though, seeing as the first Lego movie established this Lego universe as merely a young boys imagination (I believe that's how it went if I remember correctly). Does this mean that everything in this movie is also merely a young child's imagination? Would it be the same child? Seeing as this is a spin-off and linked to said original movie, I must assume its all a child's imagination at playtime.

Anyway that aside, I did enjoy this movie, more so than the first Lego movie methinks. The voice work from the multitude of actors was again spot on (just like the first movie). Obviously Will Arnett as Batman wins hands down because its just so damn amusing to hear Batman talk about regular everyday stuff in that gravelly macho voice. It all looks sharp, colourful and gorgeous. That Lego stop motion animation is so endearing although a tad frenetic at times, and the comedy overall is pretty much pitch perfect. There's stuff for the kids, stuff for the adults and plenty of stuff for the fanboys and nerds. Normally I'm not the greatest fan of modern pop culture references and trendy in-film songs, especially on overload. But this movie shows how it can be done well without being annoying.

8/10


Sunday, 6 August 2017

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)




















I always said after seeing the first movie that it should have been kept as a stand alone, a one off action flick. Yes the movie was a surprise hit out of nowhere but does that mean you automatically whip out a string of sequels which could potentially ruin the films name? When something does well (unexpectedly), should Hollywood proceed to milk it dry? Slowly drain away the imagination and originality until only a cliched predictable shell is left ('Taken' much?). There's nothing wrong with having a good stand alone movie with no sequels.

With that we have the second chapter in John Wick's rather stressful life. It now appears that Wick has an outstanding debt, of sorts, with an Italian crime lord called Santino D'Antonio. In this world of the hitman there is such a thing called a marker. A medallion containing a sample of blood from both parties, basically a blood oath or pact on an agreement, or hit. Previously Wick had gone to D'Antonion for help, now D'Antonio wants the favour returned. Wick being the stubborn fool he is goes against the oath and promptly gets his house blown up and he is forced to take the job. Once the job has been completed, and D'Antonio naturally double crosses him, Wick sets his sights firmly on revenge.

The movie starts off a few days after the events of the last movie. In that we see Wick tracking down his precious Mustang muscle car to the brother of Viggo Tarasov, one Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare). Abram obviously knows of Wick and his skills and comes across as somewhat worried and regretful. Abram knows Wick wants his car, he is clearly concerned about what may happen with Wick, yet he doesn't tell his men to stand down? This just seemed rather odd to me, Abram obviously doesn't want to die, he doesn't want the trouble, so why not just give Wick his car? Let him come in and take it, no worries. Of course that doesn't happen and we get what appears to be a rather pointless action sequence. Seeing as this subplot goes absolutely nowhere (including the inclusion of John Leguizamo's character again), it was indeed all pointless.



Once we get into the core plot things become much more familiar, and by that I mean repetitive and unoriginal. The job he must undertake as part of the marker agreement with D'Antonio involves Wick going to Rome to assassinate D'Antonio's sister (another crime lord type person). Naturally this all takes place at night and within some sort of outdoor clubbing event. Cue lots of flashing neon lights, a live band, people dancing around frantically, scantily clad ladies and a thumping soundtrack. This seems to be the bread and butter of locations for hitmen to frequent in movies.

Its also here that we get the first real action sequence from Wick that we have now come to expect. And by that I mean Wick running around whilst somehow not getting mortally wounded and taking out an absolutely absurd amount of henchmen. I swear its like watching a live action sequence from Operation Wolf or Time Crisis (videogames). Literally every faceless henchman is utterly useless and never seem to aim for Wick's head. There is a never ending stream of these dumb henchmen who never seem to hold back or move in tactically (considering they outnumber Wick 10 to 1). And all the blood is really obvious CGI which just looks lame.

Along with that (or before that) there was the inevitable James Bond-esque guns, gadget and general weapons sequence where Wick tools up. I don't really need to explain it as its pretty self explanatory. What I don't get is why Wick needs to do this. The amount of men he kills, who in turn drop their weapons, Wick basically has unlimited guns and ammo. He need only pick them up off the ground after he's killed the henchman.



As the movie progressed it just became even more ridiculous in my view. Wick keeps on taking knocks, blows, cuts and eventually bullets, yet he still manages to continually take out all his opponents. Over time Wick must start to fend off numerous other assassins also (because of the contract D'Antonio puts on his head) which gets daft as they pop up everywhere. Hell we even get a giant sumo wrestler trying to take out Wick at one point. This really spoilt the movie for me because there were far too many hitmen and women coming out of the woodwork. The final sequence of movie really highlights this nonsense, is half the population of New York undercover assassins now or something?! And all the while regular folk never really notice what's going on, no one ever freaks out, we never see any cops...like what the hell???

I also fail to see how Wick can get anything done because literally everyone in the business knows him, everyone! How on earth can this guy be so stealthy and lethal when he's so flippin' recognisable?! Anyway the plot pretty much reverts back to the exact same idea we saw in the first movie, which I guess was to be expected. I have also noticed a pattern with Wick. Every time he gets into a scuffle he seems to do the same thing. He'll shoot a guy but not kill him outright. Throw or wrestle him to the ground with a fancy move, then take out a couple guys approaching. And then he'll finish off the guy he's got pinned to the ground. The question is why? Surely this is wasting energy and not particularly efficient...but I guess it looks good on camera huh.

I didn't hate this movie, there are some really inventive elements which I liked. The whole Continental hotel idea was something I liked from the first movie and the expansion of that idea was well done here. I do like this idea of aristocratic blokes running these ultra posh hitmen hotels like some kind of gents country club. I like the whole Continental hotel operation and how it runs with its many secret separate branches that cover all fields. Sure we've seen it all before with Bond and more recently with 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' but for some reason it never fails to intrigue. But that's as far as it goes for me, the rest is basically the same guff we saw in the first film but not as slick looking. The fights didn't look as good, the CGI blood was dreadful, and of course this second movie lost all the originals wow factor.

5/10

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Ah a freshly rebooted monsterverse, no not that dark monsterverse...that's some other rebooted franchise wannabe. This is a different rebooted monsterverse from Legendary Entertainment, not to be confused with the multitude of other cinematic universe franchises, failing or otherwise (ugh!).

As this is yet another reboot attempt Legendary and its director decided to go a slightly different route for this monster mash. That slightly different route was setting this movie in 1973 towards the end of the Vietnam War. Basically everything you'd expect to happen in a Kong movie happens here (bunch of military and scientist types go to explore mystery island, find monsters, double cross, fight for survival etc...), but its in 1973 during Nam. Now I initially thought this was quite a neat idea because it was different, and because they did a really good job for the first half of the movie making it look like a Nam war flick (loved seeing all the retro gear).

But dare I say that maybe, just maybe, they went a tad too far in trying to make this Nam element look as authentic as possible. As I've already said the movie does look great, they have recaptured the mood of many Nam flicks perfectly with the grubby visuals, presumably using a specific type of film to get that retro look or just fiddling with it in the edit. You could easily be mistaken for thinking you were watching a Nam flick from the 80's. All the regular Nam cliches and stereotypes are all present and correct with the soldiers and their goofing around, their personally modified military attire, their language, the sweeping camera moves to capture helicopters in flight, the way the soldiers ride their vehicles etc...It all looks really really good.

Thing is I couldn't help but think to myself, this is a King Kong movie, not a Nam war movie. Are you trying to make a monster mash movie here or just recreate the Vietnam war era? This leads me to another little peeve of mine, the soundtrack. Again, I realise the movie was set during Nam, I realise the director and co were going for an authentic vibe, but Jesus Christ the constant music playing became annoying. Yes we get it, this is during the Vietnam war, you really really didn't have to have the soldiers playing music for the start of every new scene. Overall I just thought they were trying a bit too hard with this section of the movie.

Anyway, the Nam section comes to an end and we enter the meat of the movie. We reach the mysterious Skull Island that is shrouded by a massive swirling storm, keeping it hidden. OK so the storm has kept the island hidden from sight but you're telling me no one had ever seen this massive storm before? No one has ever ventured into it out of scientific curiosity? And how does this perpetual storm remain in place?



Skull Island itself is a lush Jurassic Park type affair that is infested with all manner of giant beasties. From huge spider-like insectoids with legs that look like bamboo. Another giant bug-like insect that can camouflages itself as a felled log. A giant squid living in the island waters apparently. Mega sized...errr...ox? And of course the main beastie baddies which look like large reptilian creatures with an exoskeleton covering their faces (Skullcrawlers). The creatures were imaginative and well designed but more importantly believable. Although, you still have the issue of when these creatures battle each other there doesn't often appear to be consequences, initially. When Kong fights the large reptilian Skullcrawlers (or anything) he's throwing them around, beating them with tree trunks, stomping on them etc...but they just keep getting back up apparently unharmed. The old tactic of throwing the opponent happens often in these movies, we see this in superhero flicks too. Of course Kong eventually kills his opponent but they like to drag these things out.

The same can be said for the human characters that whip out their guns and barrage these creatures in a hail of bullets. Yet nearly every time these creatures don't appear to be affected by the gunfire (which I don't understand). No matter how big or powerful the gun, they never seem to do anything against these monsters, yet the humans keep relying on their guns. Its like...don't they see the guns are having no effect? I realise that's all they've got but dude come on, stop firing and get the hell outta there. That's not to say it isn't exciting to watch, its just dumb at the same time. Its kinda like the numerous times that Kong appears out of nowhere and surprises a human character. How in the hell does an ape of that size manage to casually walk around and not draw attention to himself? At the same time how could anyone not know this mega sized, 100 foot tall, bipedal ape was coming in their general direction??

As for the human characters, well they're all a predictable, dull, hollow bunch really. Samuel L. Jackson plays the patriotic military leader who's basically gone a bit off the rails seeing his men killed by Kong, thusly he is obsessed with killing Kong. Yep despite all the odds this guy simply doesn't take no for an answer, he's gonna take down Kong and that's that. Tom Hiddleston plays the good looking, heroic, macho adventurer in a tight t-shirt that can do no wrong and saves the day. Brie Larson is merely the attractive female that still manages to tame Kong even in this movie. Something that felt completely outta place and crowbarred in. John C. Reilly is your standard marooned bearded bloke who's gone a bit loopy (kinda like Alan Parrish outta 'Jumanji'). And John Goodman plays the devious Monarch official who lies to everyone about going to Skull Island (he's basically Burke outta 'Aliens'). Then throw in some random diversity box ticking for some other background characters who literally didn't need to be in the movie.



We do see the native people of Skull Island and their home but unfortunately that is not explored in any real way. We get hints at their lifestyle, how they somehow survive, their culture etc...but nothing more. They are just there to help the plot along. Most of the US troops are faceless expendable monster fodder bar one or two, but you don't really care about any of them. One soldier decides to kill (or sacrifice) himself towards the end, no clue why he does this, he just does presumably because the director thought it would be cool? I dunno. Then in the climatic battle between Kong and the mega (Queen?) Skullcrawler, I noticed Kong somehow manages to rip out the creatures innards with the same hand he's holding Brie Larson in. Or so it seemed to me.

I haven't mentioned the visuals simply because you should all know by now they will be good, very good. Kong looks incredible, the other creatures look incredible, the island looks beautiful and the action is extremely agreeable. There is also a reasonable amount of blood and gore here too which was a nice surprise, certainly not for the family this one. Overall you don't actually get much Kong for your buck (much like 'Godzilla') so there's that. Although the finale throwdown is highly gratifying (lots of throwing being key here). You obviously spend much more screen time with the human characters, but alas they are all pretty throwaway in my opinion. There are too many characters, we don't get to know them and in the end you simply don't care about them. The off-kilter humour at times also did not help.

If I can say this, the 2014 'Godzilla' movie felt like a slightly more sensible affair, a touch more of a monster action thriller vibe about it. This movie has more of a comicbook vibe about it if you ask me. It felt a bit more silly and leaned more towards something like 1995's 'Congo', mixed with bits of 'Apocalypse Now' or any number of Nam war flicks. And of course we have the usual issue of this movie coming across more as filler for a bigger better movie later on down the line that features a famous giant reptilian monster. That's not to say this was a bad movie, its not, its essentially about King Kong punching and destroying stuff, how is that bad? Well its not, its fun and it looks cool. Unfortunately that's about it, overall its very shallow, tonally mixed and is clearly riding Marvel's coattails...but I did enjoy it.

7/10