Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

























There was a time when this franchise was thought to be finished. There was a neat little trilogy which ended quite sufficiently story wise. The main two actors were getting on in years, there seemed to be no real reason to go back to this well. Funny, we find ourselves in that very spot yet again, apparently.

So back in 1997 Warner Bros had a bad summer with its crop of releases. The studio needed a big hit and fast, and that safe bet was the Lethal Weapon franchise. Alas things did not go overly smoothly with an unfinished script and short production time. The actual script was never completely locked down and changed throughout the production. Regular character Leo Getz (Joe Pesci) was brought back after initially being kicked out, whilst new character Butters (Chris Rock) was also introduced late in the game (being gay originally). Its worth pointing out that the movies ending had also not been written when the cameras started rolling for the first time.

So this time the plot moves away from drug smuggling and into people smuggling. The lads stumble across a Chinese immigrant smuggling ring being run by some Triads. These bad guys are forcing one specific Chinese man (who clearly has some special skills) to engrave plates to create counterfeit Chinese money. In exchange for this the Triads are bringing his family to the US. Murtaugh and Riggs find themselves helping this specific family whilst trying to crack the illegal smuggling ring. So essentially its the same thing all over again, just swap out drug shipments for people shipments.



I think the main issue with this movie is the fact it lacks action, for an action movie. There is a huge focus on the characters and their family lives here, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does get a tad dull. You don't really feel like you're watching an action movie, more like a TV comedy series. Overall I felt the movie struggled to keep things interesting. That being said, this movie did take a surprising turn back towards the original in terms of being somewhat darker, both content wise and visually.

Both Riggs and Murtaugh are getting way too old for this shit. Riggs spends most of his time complaining about how old he's getting, and we are indeed shown how old he's getting in a few scenes. Where as Murtaugh is quite frankly past it, you're left wondering how this guy is still working on the force...in the field! The duo no longer come across like a mismatched pair of cops, but more like a mismatched pair of old fogies having a fun day out from their retirement home.

Lorna Cole (Rene Russo) is also back but has now been reduced to a background character that is pregnant. She is no longer kicking ass with a smug grin on her face, oh no. Now she's lurching around slowly, heavily pregnant and stuffing her face with all manner of foods (because pregnancy equals cheap food gags). Whilst on one hand this angle is further expanding the story for both her and Riggs, it does kinda spoil her character. I really don't think we needed to see that, surely they could have set the movie after she had the baby?



As said Leo is back too and just as daft as ever. This time Leo has become a private eye so now he has a badge and can kinda get in on the action legally. Again its the same scenario with Leo Getz, he's a funny character but way way too stupid for this type of flick. Well that's what I would be saying but we all know this franchise turned into a slapstick comedy affair so technically he fits in fine. Its just a shame that they had to fall back on old jokes (a common problem with sequels). Did we really need another 'they f*ck you at the drive-thru' gag? Sure its amusing but you mean to tell me they couldn't think of anything new?

New character Detective Lee Butters (stupid name) is secretly getting married to Murtaugh's daughter (who is also pregnant) which is one comedy aspect to his characters story. The other being the new comedy double act that arises between him and Leo. This starts up by Leo inadvertently mistaking Butters for a perp and Butters taking offense, making it racial etc...From there on Leo thinks Butters is too touchy and Butters is always ragging on him. This was a neat little set up but its tainted because you know perfectly well its only in the movie to serve Chris Rock's stand-up routines. At the time Rock was the new comedic sensation in the USA and clearly that got him this gig. Bottom line, Rock was badly miscast and stuck out like a sore thumb. Every time he spoke it just felt like part of his stand-up act, like the movie pauses just so he can have his little spot.



Again the villains in a Lethal Weapon movie aren't all that intimidating or threatening. The Chinese bad guys here were generally faceless (as usual) except for Uncle Benny (Kim Chan) who was too old frankly. The actor playing him really didn't come across as if he could actually act, whilst his character just doesn't do anything (probably because he looked around 90 years old. Think old man Lo Pan in 'Big Trouble in Little China'). Then you had Jet Li in his first American movie, and first role as a bad guy. Now where as Li is perfectly fine as the mysterious silent bad guy, he's clearly too over-powered for the movies protagonists. Yet at the same time he's still not that overly intimidating, he's more like a deadly monk. He didn't even dress like a baddie.

And herein lies another issue with this movie, the main bad guy is just too powerful. During the movie we are shown how strong, agile and skilled Li's character is. Yet in the finale battle between Riggs, Murtaugh and Wah Sing Ku, the good guys win. Its a typical problem with many similar movies. The highly skilled martial artist bad guy can defeat just about anyone effortlessly, but can't beat the aging good guys. This literally makes a mockery of the entire movie really. Not to mention the quite ridiculous moment when Murtaugh saves Riggs from drowning in the final showdown. Talk about movie magic and suspension of disbelief.

In the end this late entry in the franchise felt completely unnecessary. Merely milking the last few drops out of the franchise whilst they still could; whilst the actors were still just about able to pull it off. Did it work? Was it unnecessary? Well yes and no. Overall the movie definitely looks better, moodier, and felt a bit darker/edgier in tone. It certainly feels more like the franchise of old rather than the cartoonish third sequel. But that said it simply cannot escape the feeling of being somewhat unmerited because they kinda tied everything up OK in said third movie. All the soppy family guff we get at the very end was basically not needed, much like this movie truth be told. But surprisingly its actually better than the third movie.

6/10

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Lethal Weapon 3 (1992)

























This movie opens with one of the corniest and cheapest looking opening title sequences I've seen. It literally looked like they were trying to rip-off a Bond movie, especially with the sultry Sting song over the top, which was also a bad choice. Add to that the poor and also cheap looking text/font design, and you had something that simply didn't look right for a movie of this supposed caliber. It looked like something for a straight to DVD job.

After the horrible looking title sequence we yet again leap straight into the action. Bad boy Riggs and old man Murtaugh are in the middle of a bomb situation. Against orders Riggs talks Murtaugh into going inside a large office block to try and defuse said bomb. Essentially what follows is a small comedy routine between the duo as Riggs messes around whilst fiddling with the bombs wires. And Murtaugh basically acting like anyone would (kinda) and panicking. Again this sequence is basically setting up the rest of the movie, its telling you what to expect, and that's lots of cringeworthy goofy comedy.

Riggs fails in trying to shut off the bomb. They run from the building as it explodes and crumbles in on itself completely. As the dust and debris settles, the guys look up from their hiding position behind a nearby patrol car. They notice the destruction they have caused, the heap of rubble that used to be a building. They then notice a small group of cops who begin slow clapping, mocking them. The guys duck back down behind the patrol car. Riggs, wide eyed, murmurs to Murtaugh, 'oops!'. Murtaugh responds, 'yeah, oops'. And that pretty much sums up the level of comedy we're dealing with here. One word, predictable (as fuck).



So this time the mismatched duo (who are now not quite as mismatched as they once were) must take on an ex-cop who's turned evil. Jack Travis (Stuart Wilson) was an LAPD lieutenant who is now smuggling arms in LA. Yes it not drugs this time, that was sooo 80's. The main issue with this smuggling is the discovery of armour-piercing bullets. Kinda self explanatory really but just in case...bullets that can pierce body armour. A real problem for cops. Luckily Leo is back and conveniently knows Travis. Also we get the introduction of another character into the fray, a woman this time. Lorna (Rene Russo) from internal affairs is also on the case, much to Riggs displeasure. Sexism, always a winner for comedy.

We know Riggs and Murtaugh pretty well and nothing has changed much for them (Riggs still has a mullet, Murtaugh is still old). Lets look at Lorna Cole, the new character to make up the new trio. Lorna is basically the 90's version of girl power, female empowerment for the time, which was limited. She was blonde, smart, sassy, and could kick major ass. She was kinda like a sexy tomboy for Riggs to play with. And looking back that was kinda the problem with that character, she was clearly there just for Riggs to fall in love with. Sure she was tough and didn't need Riggs help in a fight, but she was only there to diversify the all male cast and be Riggs love interest. The scene where the pair are comparing battle scars kinda sums this up really. Lorna clearly has an interesting backstory, her scars testify to that...but who cares about that?? Lets get it on! (obligatory sex scene).

Now we know Leo (Joe Pesci) from the last sequel, and in that movie he was light relief but still a relatively sensible character. Well unfortunately in this movie Leo becomes a full cartoon character. Now I like this character, he's an amusing sidekick well performed by Pesci. But here's the real problem, like this movie franchise this character starts out grounded, relatable. But as things progressed the character became more and more dumb. So on one hand you have an enjoyable, decent character that (originally) added to the movie. But on the other hand he becomes a complete buffoon later on down the line and its really hard to deal with (even to the point where he's accompanied by his own comedic buffoon-esque theme tune). Its essentially the story of this franchise in the character, starts out grounded, becomes a farce.



Then you have the issue of a poor villain...again! Jack Travis isn't really much of a bad guy, he's not intimidating, he's not threatening, and he looks like a grumpy football coach. This guy isn't even hidden away much, we know he's the main bad guy also from square one, so not much tension. Unusually he doesn't even have any recognisable henchmen. Yes he has lots of faceless henchmen that are merely cannon fodder, but no one who stands out. What's more, because he owns a construction site, all his henchmen seem to be...builders? Because he also wants to...construct a housing estate?? And this is in between pinching weapons and ammo from police stations to sell on the black market?? Wut?? Why did Travis go rogue by the way? How did he go from real estate to arms smuggling? Meh...don't question it.

The movie does offer more insight into Riggs and Murtaugh's relationship I'll admit, nothing amazeballs but its in here. One of the strongest scenes has to be where Riggs and Murtaugh fight. Murtaugh accidentally shoots dead a young kid who was friends with his son. This kid was involved in a drug deal and was on the road to becoming a gangster basically. Old Roger takes this hard (for some reason) and goes off the deep end. Riggs obviously has to try and get Roger through this ordeal and that does offer a very emotional sequence of truths for both characters, but mainly Riggs. Its powerful, and it continues with another scene at the dead kids funeral where Roger confronts the parents.

One does understand the parents grief, and one does understand Murtaugh's remorse. But I personally stand with Riggs, this kid had a deadly weapon and was fully prepared to use it. Either Murtaugh shoots the kid, or the kid would have shot Murtaugh. The other issue with this entire subplot is the fact its not actually required. There is literally no reason for this entire subplot other than to add some gravitas. It does nothing to forward the actual main plot and feels completely crowbarred in.



Apparently Donner wanted to cut and tone down the action sequences, focusing more on Riggs and Murtaugh, and boy can you see this. The movie really does lack bite. There are some decent looking set pieces for sure, such as the ice hockey sequence and the fiery finale. But overall its seems like there are fewer action sequences. What we do get is once again very fake looking in terms of noticing stunt doubles, background extras and vehicles performing obviously, obvious rigged up sets and live action spaces etc...There is more hand to hand fighting which showcases Lorna and her martial arts, clearly a stunt double. It is daft how Riggs, Roger and Lorna can enter a baddies premises without a warrant, start snooping, and then proceed to beat the occupants up. Bad guys or not, its really unbelievable, and of course to simply showcase Lorna's badassery.

Alas once again everything had been somewhat watered down to fit a more wider audience. This being the real problem with many later sequels in adult franchises that had gained massive popularity. The action was generally very safe, more big stunts, no blood, not much real violence. It did feel like the only real adult stuff left were the odd moments in the police station where all the cops fooled around. There are some nice little sequences here which do present some very good group performances. Its also really by this point that Murtaugh has been reduced to the butt of a lot of (admittedly giggle worthy) old man jokes and nothing more.

Eventually we do reach the end and naturally its all tied up with a nice bow. We are treated to a sequence that harks back to the original movie and the not so shocking news that old Roger isn't gonna retire after all; and Riggs is now an item with Lorna. At the time we all thought this was the final movie to finish the trilogy, how stupid and naive we were. At just under two hours long (for some reason) this entry really felt like it was just going though the motions. Almost like it was obligated to do so. Just chuck out the same spiel all over again just to finish the trilogy and milk that last bit of moolah before the two stars get too old. Its passable but entirely forgettable.

5/10

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)

























The inevitable sequel cometh. The same mullet, the same tormented aging family man, the same scenarios, and the same car; Murtaugh's family station wagon. Yep despite the car getting wrecked in the first movie, Murtaugh has the same car for the sequel. Well this time its actually an Oldsmobile (previous was a Ford) but I'm sure its suppose to be the same car seeing as it looks identical.

Anyway enough about the details of a family station wagon, what happens in this escapade? Mismatched cops Riggs and Murtaugh are now the best of pals and a top crime fighting partnership. Despite being a real pain in their superiors ass with all the damage and paperwork they cause, they always manage to get the job done. Right so this time the plot gets a bit political, well a lot political frankly (for the time).  Yes once again the duo are after the arch nemesis of the 80's, drug dealers. But this time the baddies turn out to be headed by a South African diplomat/consul. To be more precise, the Afrikaner Apartheid Government of South Africa. These diabolical villains are smuggling cocaine and are slowly preparing to return to South Africa with their nasty ill gotten gains.

I think the opening action sequence kinda sums up the movie for me, it shows you what to expect for the rest of the run time. Riggs and Murtaugh are chasing down one of the South African bad guys (Mark Rolston). The good guys are driving the family station wagon, the bad guys in a BMW. Somehow this crappy station wagon is able to keep up with said BMW for the most part. Then at one point Riggs gets out and pursues on foot, as he did in the first movie. Riggs then gets back into the station wagon and drives it up against the highway barrier causing much damage, to Murtaugh's anger and despair. Yet in the next shot there is no visual damage to be seen. It all ends with auto carnage and a helicopter appearing outta nowhere to save the bad guys.



In short this movie ejects the darker grittier aspect of the first movie and instead ops for overblown action and goofy comedy. Once again Shane Black was brought on to helm the script and once again he produced what you would expect Shane Black to produce. The studios rejected Black's work for being too dark and violent. Apparently the studio and Richard Donner wanted to take the franchise into lighter territory, more comedy. Instead they went with a script by Jeffrey Boam which either cut or watered down much of Black's work.

Unfortunately this comedy aspect is really really obvious throughout the entire movie, to the point where it becomes annoying. Now don't get me wrong, there is a lot of super decent action in this movie and the mismatched pairing of Riggs and Murtaugh still holds strong. Its just a shame they turn the gritty duo into a goofy comedy act duo. There are so many scenes of silly dialog between the characters which are admittedly amusing but at the same time, it just feels too much, they just go too far with it. Easily the funniest scene in the movie has to be the TV commercial for condoms with Murtaugh's daughter. That scene is genuinely amusing and played out perfectly. No problems, it fits the bill; but then you have the entire toilet bomb sequence. Its supposed to be thrilling and emotional, showcasing how close Riggs and Murtaugh have become. But at the same time its basically one big gag which ruins any impact its supposed to have.

Its in this movie that we also get the introduction of a new character to the team, sort of. Joe Pesci turns up as Leo Getz, a slimy, greasy little conman who laundered a billion Dollars for the South Africans. He's now in the witness protection program which Riggs and Murtaugh have been assigned to (especially for Getz). Now in this movie little Leo is actually a somewhat solid character. Pesci's performance is terrific fun (can anyone say 'fuck' better than Pesci?) and he is actually a good addition to the movie. The character adds a nice comedy element which isn't over the top; in turn he comes across as relatively realistic. Its just unfortunate they really wreck this character in the next movie.



Then you have the action sequences which have naturally now become really big and slick. Take the main car chase sequence where Riggs and Murtaugh go after an assassin that just tried to off Leo. The entire sequence is bold and clearly looked good on paper. In reality (looking back) its a mixed bag because everything looks so fake. For a start the car chase is clearly going very slowly, but using a pickup truck towing a car what do you expect. Secondly the stunt doubles are far too obvious. You can clearly see at multiple points its not Gibson. And lastly the ending is so stupid and it didn't even work. The surf board that flies through the air and supposedly goes through the bad guys face, yet you can clearly see in the shot that doesn't happen. Terrible editing and effects for a daft conclusion.

The bad guys for this sequel are definitely more menacing than the first I think. Admittedly Joss Ackland's elderly South African consul Arjen Rudd isn't overly intimidating, he merely comes across as a grumpy grandfather if you ask me. He also doesn't really do much other than stand around looking grumpy and barking orders. Its his henchmen that are more dastardly I think. This is mainly because they aren't totally faceless and useless. We do get to know some of the henchmen by face which adds a bit more zing when they fight with the good guys (if they're faceless hoods its meaningless, who cares).



The lead henchman Pieter Vorstedt (Derrick O'Connor) is the real villain of the bunch though. O'Connor really has the perfect look for this character with his scrawny, wiry frame and gaunt face. He looks evil, he is merciless, brutal, and packs more punch than you'd think. I also liked how he's dressed in retro/dated attire that does fit with old school South Africa, the schoolboy-esque blazer and tie look. Vorstedt was easily the best thing in this movie, a really solid villain. Its also worth pointing out that these villains were also racist in this movie. Yes they even used a derogatory word most commonly used in South Africa. God knows if they'd get away with that now (doubtful) but it most definitely adds to the realism and emotional impact when things get heated.

Overall this movie is a hard one to judge really. Its both enjoyable but totally flawed, annoyingly so. Looking back there are so many tiny mistakes such as the length of Riggs hair from scene to scene. The obvious stunt doubles are horribly obvious. The stunts are often very obvious meaning its just too easy to tell where its all been set up, cornered off etc...People and vehicles in the background give the game away far too easily, and the big car jump out of the cargo container in the docks looked like something out of a stunt show. In other words these sequences didn't really blend in, they stuck out. Then there's the nagging question of why Riggs never uses his martial arts skills anymore, remember he had those? And what is it with his constant wearing of red or blue shirts? Is there a hidden meaning behind those??

Its one of the best, if not the best, comedy action movies of all time. But alas its also one of the biggest disappointments in terms of watering down a sequel from its far grittier, darker, superior original. Its up there, but it could/should of been so much more.

6.5/10

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Lethal Weapon (1987)





















This movie opens with the classic Christmas song Jingle Bell Rock by Bobby Helms. Yes that's right this classic action flick could also be considered a Christmas movie as it takes place over the festive season. This is one reason why its always kinda reminded me of 1988's 'Die Hard'. Its seems Xmas was a popular backdrop for action flicks back in the 80's.

So what is this all about? Well back in 1985 Shane Black wrote a screenplay for an urban western inspired by 'Dirty Harry'. In typical Shane Black fashion the script was quite long and excessively violent. Cutting a long story short, after numerous rewrites from various people (including Black), the script was eventually bought and offered to Richard Donner. The final result was (I believe) the first buddy cop flick to really light up the box office; and I believe the first flick to kick-start the whole buddy cop genre, to establish the rules almost. Over the years, from this one movie, came a raft of clones that used and abused every idea to the point where they became common stereotypes.

The eventual plot: Its very simple really. Riggs and Murtaugh must battle a heroin-smuggling operation known as 'The Shadow Company' (they umm...smuggle heroin). You see a young girl is murdered and her father (Michael Hunsaker, a close friend of Murtaugh) wants her killers found. But it turns out Hunsaker used to be in cahoots with the Shadow Company, helping them launder their money. When Hunsaker wanted out, the company killed his daughter. So Riggs and Murtaugh run about the place trying to solve this little problem with lots of gunfire and car chases.



Even today looking back, its really hard to not roll your eyes at all the common tropes and cliches that have now been milked dry over time. I had to keep reminding myself that this was literally the first movie to introduce these things. I mean lets look at the basic outline here, one white cop, Riggs (Mel Gibson). One black cop, Murtaugh (Danny Glover). One is middle-aged, ex-special forces, and a complete loose cannon. The other is an older more mature, straight-laced, by the books Veteran of the police force. The loose cannon is of course insane, suicidal (due to the death of his wife); where as the straight-laced cop is a sensible family man. The sensible cop is lumbered with the insane cop as a new partner. At first they don't get on, a clash of personalities, but over time they come to respect each other and eventually become buddies.

At the start of the movie Riggs is essentially living like a bum. He's an alcoholic living in a run down scruffy trailer on the beach. Not quite sure how he's allowed to have a trailer on the beach, surely local laws would not allow that? In the meantime Murtaugh has a hectic family life with three young kids, one of which is of course a coming of age young girl. Riggs is looking to put himself into dangerous scenarios because he simply doesn't give a shit; whilst Murtaugh is slowly becoming older and grumpier, trying to survive until retirement. The latter is exacerbated by a dreary saxophone theme that plays every time Murtaugh is feeling like shit. Again something that has become an action movie stereotype/cliche ever since.

Everything in the movie is basically set up to reflect these character traits. For instance Riggs carries an automatic pistol where as Murtaugh uses an old fashioned six-shooter. The musical score for Riggs is obviously very different to Murtaugh's little saxophone theme. Murtaugh's young daughter takes a fancy to Riggs, much to his horror (a bit risqué these days!). Riggs sports a wild mullet that goes against police regulations and Murtaugh's sensible short back and sides. Riggs dresses casually in jeans and a shirt, Murtaugh wears a suit etc...Its all very corny these days naturally. But of course the basic premise is that both characters save each other. Murtaugh and his family give Riggs a reason to keep living. Whilst Riggs injects some excitement and much needed manly companionship into Murtaugh's life, at a point where he was at a low due to his age.

'guess we gotta register you as a lethal weapon huh'

As for the villains, well its obviously cliche city, but also not as good as you might recall. The Shadow Company is also controlled by an ex-special forces bloke (a regular trait of action movies, everyone is ex-something). General Peter McAllister (Mitchel Ryan) is simply an old bloke with white hair, he literally does nothing except throw some orders around. This character is not in the least bit threatening. His second in command, the über blonde Mr Joshua (Gary Busey), is also not particularly threatening. Unless you count being able to resist getting your arm burnt by a cigarette lighter as scary. Its amusing really because both characters literally do jack shit for the entire movie, Joshua has a fight sequence with Riggs in the finale but that's it!



And why does Joshua and Riggs fight anyway? Out of nowhere Riggs just offers him a chance to fight him, one on one, mano-a-mano. Yeah we know Joshua had Riggs tortured at one point, and shot him with a shotgun at another, but why do we need this fight? It kinda felt like Donner ran out of ideas for the finale, found himself needing something to fill the gap. Its also at this point we discover both Riggs and Joshua are experts in fighting; something you don't get any inkling of beforehand and never crops up again.

In these old action flicks the baddies normally are the cheesiest. For some reason all the multitude of henchmen appear to be middle aged guys in suits, often with odd haircuts, wearing shades. This was basically the norm back in the day for action movies, but its hilarious looking back now. They were also completely useless and couldn't hit the side of a barn door with their automatic weapons. Its also amusing how these guys never seemed to have any sort of personal life, like they all just stand guard over their boss 24/7. And what group of bad guys would be complete without their own seedy bar to hang out in huh. The kind of bar where you can shoot someone and no one blinks an eye apparently.

Then outside said bar, Murtaugh simply walks into a random alley, the very same alley that McAllister is escaping in. They literally cut from an action sequence to Murtaugh wondering around outside and, oh look, there's the bad guy escaping in his car, how convenient! After Murtaugh pumps the windshield full of lead the car hits a bus and inexplicably flips over and explodes (laugh out loud!). Yeah twas cool to watch back in the day but wut?? There are many (now) hilarious sequences like this in the movie, such as the desert standoff. Riggs is on sniper duty miles away, but McAllister finds him?? Where did McAllister come from?? Murtaugh threatens to blow everyone up with a grenade...but as Joshua points out, he obviously isn't gonna kill his own daughter. Then there's the ridiculous escape failure by Murtaugh's daughter. She tries to escape in the car and somehow allows the baddie helicopter to run her into a ditch. She then proceeds to do the obligatory 'get out and run and pretend to fall over' routine.

Its clearly of no surprise to anyone that this movie is by far the best in the franchise. Like many other old action movie franchises the original is the darker, grittier, more adult orientated of the bunch. 'Lethal Weapon' is by no means a great movie looking back. After rewatching I found myself cringing at many of the action sequences, laughing at dialog and attempts at comedy, and generally thinking to myself how a persons opinions change with age (when I was younger I thought this was an epic action flick). I have to be honest and say, I think this movie gets more of a pass simply because it was the first of its kind; the first to kick open the doors and introduce all these hammy action movie cliches. Its actually the Murtaugh family scenes which are more of the highlight now. Watching Riggs react to Roger's old man bickering with his wife and kids. But despite all that, as said, its still easily the best in the series and way better than most modern day attempts.

7.5/10

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)


Based on a children's book series of the same name which I've never heard of (no surprise). The first epic movie? So are there going to be sequels? If not then this title will look kinda silly no?

The plot: George and Harold are best friends and a pair of practical jokers in their school. At school you would have the usual array of characters such as the bully, nerd, jock, princess etc...Well these two were the pranksters. Their target being their grumpy principal Mr Krupp. One day after meddling with a fellow students invention Krupp decides to separate them which destroys the boys lives basically. In order to reverse this decision the duo hypnotise Krupp with a 'hypno ring' from a cereal box. They instruct Krupp to be more like Captain Underpants, a comicbook character they themselves created.

For a time everything is going smoothly with the boys controlling Krupp as Captain Underpants. That is until a German scientist called Professor Pippy P. Poopypants arrives at the school. It seems that the professor is trying to rid the world of laughter (because he's fed up with people mocking his name). So now its up to Captain Underpants to save the world, but will the boys keep the Captain or reverse him back to Krupp?



So as I'm sure you can tell from the character names here, this movie is inherently a kids feature (with names like Professor Pippy P. Poopypants I'm sure that's not a surprise). The whole idea of a superhero character running around in his underpants is of course an old joke passed down over the generations that (I believe) stems from Superman and his outfit. You know because Superman has those red pants on his outfit which look like underpants, which kinda look like they should be under his outfit. So since that very first incarnation there has always been this silly gag about superheroes and underpants which kids have always enjoyed. Whether or not this quirky character has anything to do with that I don't know, but its a safe bet.

So the movie is extremely childish, because its aimed at young kids. The main protagonists spend their days drawing comicbooks in their treehouse and playing pranks. There's loads of school references (albeit more American) that kids will love to hate. Lots of kiddie toilet humour. And the mcguffin they use to hypnotise Krupp is from a cereal box, a cereal box! I remember the days when hunting for little collectible toys in cereal boxes was part and parcel of my childhood, an important part of the breakfast ritual. Literally everything the duo get up to is aimed squarely at kids because they will relate to it fully. Adults will most probably receive ripples of nostalgia but will possibly find things a bit too Saturday morning cartoonish.



The real treat comes in the form of the movie visuals, something us adults can appreciate. The entire film is mainly CGI naturally but it has that claymation look to it. Everything is big round and solid with few edges, as if everything was made out of solid balloons. Its basically the same visual style as the 'The Peanuts Movie' but much much more colourful and vivid. You kinda wanna eat what you're seeing on the screen, it all looks deliciously edible. But next to that we also get snippets of other animation forms such as hand drawn, cutout, flash and a wicked little sock puppet sequence. Yes we've seen this type of thing before but its definitely a winning move. It all adds a really cool blend of dynamic visuals and imagination into the mix. Not that this movie lacks imagination, hell no, but its just really cool to see other forms of animation (one lasting plus point of the 'The Simpsons').

After doing a bit of research I was also impressed at how close to the original source material the visuals were. They really did stick to the book and capture that, dare I say, crude hand drawn style which is obviously mimicking children's drawings. All they did was make it pop in colourful CGI, kudos. Now I think about it the movies visuals also had a kind of Nintendo vibe about them I think (especially Poopypants giant toilet). An early 80's NES vibe about it, it could almost be a Mario movie if you use your imagination. I could easily see the Mushroom Kingdom being brought to life with these visuals.

So whilst the visuals were terrific the plot was a rollercoaster for me. The movie starts out good enough with the boys doing what they do and then discovering how they can bring Captain Underpants to life, so to speak. That was all relatively relatable and jolly. But everything just gets way too crazy and off the wall when Poopypants turns up. Not having read the books I can't comment on how accurate it all was, and being an adult I'm not the target audience here. But the entire zombie thing had me rolling my eyes, because that isn't the go-to option for virtually everything is it. And Poopypants giant toilet invention is basically too off the wall frankly, its almost South Park levels of absurdity. Its all just a bit too weekday cartoonish for me, and probably other adults. But yeah, its stupid, its silly, its enjoyable, its for kids. Simple as that really.

7/10

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Logan (2017)

And so we reach the big finale, the final curtain for Huge Jackman and his run as the infamous X-Men character Wolverine. The tenth installment in the X-Men franchise, the third solo Wolverine movie and the first R rated movie. Taking much inspiration from the classic comicbook series 'Old Man Logan' the movie is technically a stand alone story clear of any previous events in early movies. But this seems to be unclear with some saying it is a sequel to 'Apocalypse' but not a direct sequel. Or its a sequel to the 'Days of Future Past' timeline. Myself I have no clue, the X-Men franchise is so convoluted and I can barely recall anything from the earlier films anyway.

Its the year 2029 and mutants seem to be slowly dying out as none have been born for the last 25 years. Logan is now an aging, grey haired, broken man whose special healing ability has weakened over time. He now spends his time working as a limo driver whilst caring for Professor X. The professor is now also very old and weak, suffering from a brain disease that causes violent seizures which has resulted in many X-Men being killed.

Logan reluctantly accepts a job to escort a woman and young girl to a refuge in North Dakota. Alas it seems the young girl (Laura) has the same powers as Logan and a shady outfit are after her. The shady outfit in question being Transigen, a company that uses children with mutant DNA to create weapons. Transigen created Laura and want her back. And so Logan must now help Laura reach the refuge in North Dakota.

So the main hook with this movie seemed to be the fact it was an R/18 rating. This would be the first time we would see Wolverine really getting stuck into his enemies, swear and showcase a lot of claret. In all honesty that pretty much seemed like the entire reason for the hype to me. This time there would be no cuts, we'd see Wolverine stick his claws through someones head...and there would be blood, awesome. But was it? Was it really? I mean sure twas cool 'n' all but Jesus Christ I didn't cum in my pants or anything. I guess for a teenager this might have been epic but for me I saw nothing special.



But that aside lets look at the story and acting. The plot isn't anything amazing, its essentially a standard chase formula. Bad guys are trying to catch the good guys as both parties tear across the countryside. Wolverine is the typical reluctant hero, he doesn't really wanna have to deal with it, he has his own problems, but he now finds himself in the thick of it. The girl he's stumbled across was more of a pain at first, uncontrollable, a burden; but as time passes he becomes attached to her, he becomes her guardian. Its all relatively bog standard stuff we've all seen before.

Obviously the movie revolves around Jackman and his gritty performance as Logan. As I just said, at first he doesn't really wanna get involved with Laura, he has his hands full with Xavier. So naturally he's grumpy, rude, kinda selfish in a way, but ultimately tired and weary of his existence. He's aging and slowing down, he's not as agile or fit as he once was and his claws hurt him as they extend and retract. He doesn't wanna get into any fisticuffs but still finds himself raging out and killing people, mostly scummy criminal types of course. But is this really anything new? I mean lets be honest here we've seen Jackman do this grumpy, gritty, no-nonsense persona before with Wolverine, its not really that new. Is he good at it? Yes, very much so, but this wasn't an outright Oscar performance or anything, he didn't blow me away whilst watching.

I feel the same way about Patrick Stewart's performance as Xavier. Was this a good performance? Yes very much so, Stewart like Jackman have both perfected their performances as these characters and it would be hard to see another person in the roles. But did I see anything that blew me away or was any different to what he's done before in previous movies with this character? No not really, it was a solid performance but nothing more than what I've come to expect from this franchise. There is a shit-tonne of emotion radiating throughout this movie and at times, namely the ending, its quite poignant. But at the end of the day I didn't really see anything that I haven't seen before in previous movies, it was just more heightened this time.



As for the kid actor, Dafne Keen (Laura), yes again she was good in her role, but she hardly had any dialog and merely acts like a feral child when the action kicks in (which always looked kinda cringeworthy in my opinion). Yes I understand she's just a child actor and yes she did put in a solid performance for her age, but again it didn't blow me away, it really didn't. Seeing her growl and bounce around (mostly by a stunt double) like a lethal Gollum just didn't wow me I'm afraid. Its only towards the end when she starts trusting and caring about Logan that she actually comes into her own.

I did also notice that all the other child characters in this movie were mostly minority actors. Because clearly director James Mangold and co needed to hammer home the political narrative of minorities/refugees and borders, striving for freedom, and the evil white man chasing and trying to enslave/kill them. Its kinda sad that almost every movie these days has these little, not so hidden, political angles to appease certain demographics and groups.

For me I really couldn't get past the fact it was just another samey superhero flick. Despite all the grit and emotion packed into it, at the end of the day it was the same old thing. The villains were the same corny bunch of faceless kill fodder they always are. There only seems to be a dozen or so hencemen throughout the movie, then come the finale there's loads of them! Loads of bad guys for all the hero characters to merrily kill. I didn't really understand the point of the bad guys either. They wanted this mutant kids back because they created them, OK sure. But they only wanted to exterminate them, so why go to all that trouble to try and capture them? And with all this future tech on display, you're telling me that no one could have added some kind of device in these mutant test subjects that would shut them down, or kill them with the flick of a switch, if needs be? Surely by now these evil companies would have thought to do that because they all seem incapable of keeping their creations under lock and key.



I also really disliked the entire clone of Logan aspect, I realise that's a major part of his characters backstory but seeing two Jackman's (one looking kinda goofy with those muttonchops) fighting each other just looks stupid. The effects were handled well (inevitable CGI superhero stuff aside) but that kind of thing always looks daft to me. Also the clone of Logan (X-24) could have easily killed him at any point, just taken his head off, but no we gotta do the usual throwing thing. That's the other thing about these X-Men.superhero movies, the action is very repetitive. In other words what else do you expect a bloke with claws to do all the time, exactly. Seeing Logan slice 'n' dice people isn't awesome anymore folks, we've been there and done it. Simply adding blood and gore doesn't really make it any more exciting or better.

I just get the impression this movie seems to have been blown way way outta proportion simply because it was Huge Jackaman's last outing as Wolverine and everybody likes him in the role. Oh and of course it was an R rating so that makes it instantly cooler, apparently. Was this a bad movie? No. Was it a good X-Men movie? One of the best ones? Yes. Was it a stunning movie? No, it was a solid but completely unoriginal chase movie in a superhero wrapping. Don't get me wrong I didn't not like it, its certainly one of the better comicbook superhero (based) flicks, I just didn't see what all the fuss was about. In no way does this movie deserve the hype it got, in my opinion.

7/10

Sunday, 3 December 2017

North Sea Hijack (aka ffolkes, Assault Force, UK, 1980)



So this is one of those movies that has numerous alternative titles for no real apparent reason. The official British title, in my opinion, is easily the best and rather self explanatory. The title of 'ffolkes' is actually the name of the protagonist played by Roger Moore. ffolkes is an old English name/title that belongs to the Baronetage of Great Britain and yes it is spelt with a lowercase 'f'. Naturally the Americans needed a more action packed title to sell it, ugh!

The plot: Its really quite simple. Ex-military officer Rufus Excalibur ffolkes is employed to create a contingency plan should any British oil rigs come under threat. Low and behold, months later, a team of crack terrorists take control of an oil rig in the North Sea. They demand a 25 million ransom or they will destroy the rig. Of course this is just what ffolkes was counting on, because he created that contingency plan remember. So its up to him to use said contingency plan and save the day.

So firstly, yes that is the characters real name. Rufus Excalibur ffolkes, just in case you didn't quite get the fact that this chap is full on British. We're talking full on Rule, Britannia! Union Jack waving, tea sipping British. And who better to play this type of character than Roger 'Bond Templar' Moore. The amusing thing is Moore took this gig on with the intention of getting away from being typecast as Bond-esque characters. Yet what we have here is merely Bond all over again, but grumpy. In fact the character of ffolkes is more in line with Daniel Craig's Bond if anything. He's rude, arrogant, merciless, and a misogynist (unapologetically so). Oh and he's also a big cat lover. They basically try to make him out to be the typical bachelor, as far from Moore's playboy image as possible. Alas that fails because it still screams of Bond.

Backing up ffolkes during this dangerous escapade is Admiral Brinsden played by James Mason. Not really sure why they allow an aging officer to go along with ffolkes plan to take down the terrorists. I think the bad guys wanted leverage against the British government, a juicy hostage. But anyway, if you wanted more evidence of how British this movie was, you don't get much more British than good old James Mason. Stiff upper lip and all that old chap.

The evil terrorist villains are led by Anthony Perkins (Lou Kramer) who looks and acts exactly the same as he always does, and Michael Parks (Shulman) as the sidekick with small thick Lennon specs. The character of Kramer is your bog standard baddie really. He's very aggressive, shouts a lot, twitchy, trigger-happy, clearly loses the plot when things get a bit awkward etc...Where as his sidekick Shulman is the typically quiet, calmer madman who looks a bit odd down to his thick specs.

The movie clearly plays it straight and the results are amusing to say the least. We find ffolkes training his men, his elite special unit, on what looks to be a very large climbing frame. It literally looks like he's pinched a builders scaffolding set up, because its literally scaffolding. His men are climbing all over it trying to reach the top within a certain time limit...or something. It doesn't look like a specialised elite fighting unit that's for sure, especially with ffolkes dressed like a character from the Harry Potter universe, or Where's Wally. What really made me laugh is how the British government chose ffolkes and his team. They watch a crappy VHS video recording of his team taking out local Judo club members who were hired to guard his scaffolding (seriously).

The movie does feature solid production values I can't deny. Shot on-board real ships and using real dockyards (in Ireland I believe), all of which adds to the authenticity. There are some good underwater sequences, good sets, and reasonable model shots. Its also looks suitable chilly at all times which again adds to the whole look and feel. Overall it definitely looks like the action is happening out in the North Sea and it definitely looks uncomfortable and moist. As you might expect the action is somewhat lacking in thrills. There isn't really any fisticuffs to speak of, hardly any gun porn, no breathtaking stunts etc...Its all pretty low-key really, dare I say very gentlemanly in execution, to tie in with the main protagonist perhaps. The most brutal things you'll see are a few hits with a harpoon gun.

Overall this is definitely a middle of the road affair that you'd typically see on TV during a lazy Bank Holiday afternoon (probably on ITV). Yes it is indeed almost a precursor to the legendary 1988 action epic 'Die Hard', the similarities are evident. In fact its very much in line with the many 'Die Hard' clones that came later, 'Under Siege' for example. One of the best things about this movie is obviously Roger Moore and his quirks. But its the misogyny from his character that actually makes this more enjoyable honesty. Knowing how controversial it would be now, the sheer outrage that would follow (across Twitter). It does show how more accepting we were back in the day frankly, that you could actually do this without worrying about outrage. Knowing it was just for the movie, just a bit of dark humour for a dark horse of a character. It shows how much we have regressed as a society in my view.

I love how the finale kinda expresses this point. After the mission is complete ffolkes is congratulated by the Prime Minster and top ranking officials. But he doesn't receive medals or money or whatever (stuff and nonsense my dear boy). Instead he is awarded with three fluffy kittens, because he's a cat loving bachelor that hates women, remember.

6/10

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Wonder Woman (2017)

























The fourth movie in the current DC extended universe that has been exploding onto our screens with much aplomb. Well actually no it hasn't but that was the idea wasn't it. So far things have been a bit dodgy to say the least, could this movie turn the tide? Well according to just about everyone this movie did seem to do just that. So has the movies popularity, hype and praise swayed me in any way? Is it justified? Or do we have yet another Ghostbusters (2016) scenario?

The movie is basically a prequel to the 2016 movie 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' whereby it shows the origins of Diana Prince (Gal Gadot), whilst at the same time connecting to the events that occur within BvS. The fact its this way around is of course due to WB's lack of patience and coordination in their comicbook universe building (playing catch up with Marvel as fast as possible). The plot however pans out as you might expect, in the usual comicbook fashion. We learn about Diana's homeland, her culture and people. We learn about a pending almighty evil that threatens everything. Outsider shows up and ends up helping Diana in her quest to find and eliminate evil. A bit of exposition, some minor alternate bad guys to deal with, a few key battles and then one big CGI finale.

Much like the recent 'Kong: Skull Island' (2017) I had an initial problem with the fictional Amazonian homeland of Themyscira. This place appears to be a very large group of islands plopped in the middle of an ocean somewhere. The problem being it appears to be hidden by a perpetual weather system and some kind of invisibility force field. Obviously this is a fantasy movie so something like this shouldn't really matter. But the entire notion that no one has ever stumbled across this rather large place, and reported it, just seems completely unbelievable. The other thing that bothered me was the fact that when German forces actually find this location (whilst chasing a downed Steve Trevor), they simply start to attack! Why would they do that?? Such an important discovery like that. Also what exactly happened to the German ship? Did the force field sink it?



The story moves swiftly on as we follow Diana and Steve (Chris Pine) back to London (its 1918). The plan: Steve simply wants to hand back some important stolen information regarding Nazi gas weapon advancements (Steve was an undercover spy). Where as Diana wants to find the evil God Ares and kill him so she can stop WWI. Diana has basically been brainwashed all about Zeus and his dastardly son who wants to wipe out mankind (Zeus' creation) because he thinks they are a destructive race. She believes Ares is the cause of WWI and she can stop it. The thing this narrative becomes extremely annoying truth be told because Diana never shuts up about it.

Diana is essentially very naive and genuinely curious about this new outside world. She clearly has no idea of gender, society rules and the fact that people might treat each other differently. She finds these human elements and more (such as not helping people in need or acting carelessly with other lives), completely reprehensible. She simply does not understand how people could act this way. The thing is, I found it quite grating after a time because Diana mentions it in almost every scene! I fully understood the need to show and express her emotions on these factors but Jesus, you can truly feel Steve's frustration as he tries to help and explain to her. Good acting? Sure, still annoying to listen to over and over though.

This being a 2017 movie I also understand the requirements for diversity and whatnot. So when it came to Steve's little band of merry men, naturally they were gonna be a diverse bunch. I had no problem with this except for a few tiny details. Firstly, the crazy Scot, surely they could of cast someone other than Ewen Bremner, such predictable and safe casting. Then my other gripe was the native American character. No problem including the guy, but did they have native Americans in the trenches in WWI? Hey I could be wrong but this kinda felt like they were going for a bit too much diversity there. Kinda reaching a bit methinks. Also would they really wear their native attire? In other words would Sameer from Morocco (I'm guessing) go around wearing a fez in a wartime situation? Would the Chief Napi go around dressed like a cowboy or hunter? Shouldn't they be wearing protective clothing? Yeah I'm being picky I know.

I have to admit the Wonder Woman theme tune is very catchy and it does work well here. The action scenes are very well executed and look terrific, but when that score kicks in it does get your adrenaline fired up a bit that's for sure. The entire movie looks good in general but I put that down to the charming period setting of the early 1900's and WWI. I'm sure I'm not the only person that has noticed that movies shot during either world wars always seem to look very authentic and adventurous. Indeed this movie like others ('The Rocketeer', 'Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark/Last Crusade', 'Captain America: The First Avenger' etc...) looks authentic, adventurous and harrowing all at the same time. There is a fine balance between the horrors of war and a rollicking comicbook yarn, and its upheld nicely here. Dare I say a bit darker than the first Captain America movie.

I think its safe to say the best sequence is where we get our first glimpse of Wonder Woman in battle. She disrobes in front of the stunned allied troops and simply strolls out into no man's land sword and shield at the ready. Other than that things tended to get a bit CGI obvious for me. In the first battle Diana is leaping around like a frog and merely throwing Germans all over the shop. I'm sure they would have been killed or badly injured but it felt like more of a cop out in the heat of the moment. I wanted to see her run troops through, slice n dice. The German soldiers also became obvious CGI ragdolls once launched.



The finale was also a bit weak in my opinion. Firstly Diana kills off the main German baddie (Danny Huston) on a packed base, yet no one seemingly cares. Then she fights Ares who turns out to be the elderly David Thewlis! Now don't get me wrong, it was quite refreshing to see a villain not played by some roided up meathead. But watching Thewlis become this electrical power wielding super God was a tad silly. Twas also a bit silly seeing these two superheroes slug it out on one side of this military base; then on the other side mortals are fighting their puny war. Oh and Diana lets the evil Doctor poison go in the end too? Like wut??!! Is that female privilege?

So was this as good as all the hype? Yes and no for me. Its certainly a solid superhero flick, its better than virtually all the DC offerings, and it gives some Marvel efforts a good run for their money too. The main problem for me is simple, superhero fatigue. There have been so many of these movies now, and most are generally the same spiel. Its really hard to watch a single superhero movie now and not think I've seen it all before. But that's because I have, you could essentially swap out Wonder Woman here for any other superhero character, and it would still work the same. So yes its a good solid movie, but its nothing special, it does nothing overly original.

7/10

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)



OK lets just jump into this shall we. The plot: I'm not even going to attempt to explain the plot for this 2 hour plus whirlwind of CGI metal shrapnel. You may well ask why, and the answer to that is simple. Where as I did understand the basic main outline of the plot, its so unbelievably convoluted, choppy, hectic, incoherent, nonsensical etc...that its virtually impossible to explain. Its literally a review in itself, but put basically, it revolves around a mcguffin that can save Cybertron, but is also required to save Earth.

Right OK so the movie kicks off in medieval England, 484 AD. It is a time of Arthurian legend, King Arthur, Merlin, the knights of the round table...errr...transformers. Yes so we know this isn't an accurate account of ancient British history. Its a stupid fantasy movie based on (supposed) legend with large transforming alien robots. Nevertheless this opening sequence did actually look pretty good I thought. The idea of ancient transformer knights in ancient medieval Britain was actually way more interesting than the rest of the modern day set movie. I still have to point out the fact Bay and co actually cast a black actor as a British knight in this Arthurian period. That's just as ridiculous as having the fecking robots! That's the second major motion picture that has done that, what gives?!

Its at this point we learn about the ancient Cybertronian knights coming to Earth and giving Merlin this magic staff mcguffin. But this did raise questions from me initially such as, what's so special about these transformers that they are called knights? Why did they steal the staff from Cybertron? What does the staff do on Cybertron? I believe they hid the staff on Earth because Earth is in fact Unicron (an ancient enemy of Cybertron). They were trying to protect Unicron from Quintessa, a Decepticon sorceress intent on destroying Unicron to save Cybertron. So this led me to think Unicron is a goodie in this movie? Because he was originally a Decepticon. But also, wouldn't the Cybertronian knights wanna help save Cybertron also? It is their home planet after all. Confusing!!!



Its also around this point that Prime (who was spiralling frozen through space, I forget why) lands on Cybertron. But what that intended? He was drifting frozen through space, was it pure luck that he landed on Cybertron or did he put himself on a pre-set course?? Also why was he frozen? Transformers fly through space quite often it seems, or so we've seen before. Heck didn't Starscream fly to Cybertron in one movie? Why didn't he freeze up? Does Bay and co even care what they did in previous movies??? Also when Prime gets to Cybertron he questions what has happened to his homeworld. But...shouldn't he know what happened? The whole Cybertronian war thing...

K lets look at the new characters, or in this new movie, the new politically correct characters because Bay's jumpin' on bandwagons. Firstly we now have kids in this movie, some smartass retro lookin' kids. You know because Bay clearly saw Stranger Things and thought 'I can do that!'. So these kids consist of three tough streetwise kids who happen to be African American, Latino and Asian I think. And then you have the stereotypical curly haired, spectacled, nerdy white kid who's a wimp. These kids are purely in the movie to add more diversity and a kids point of view. Kinda pointless seeing as they do nothing other than get in the way.

The final kid is another tough streetwise girl who's a bit older than the others. This is Michael Bay's strong female character to appease the feminists. She's constantly crying, shouting, growling and acting as deadly serious as possible, you know...for gravitas. This was supposed to be 'empowering' for girls and was clearly pushed as such before the movies release with a string of laughable TV spots/trailers. In them the character talks to the camera as if she was doing an interview. Its shot as if the movie was an account of a real war situation or something, its pathetic. Again its all pointless because after the first ten minutes or so she's hardly in the movie.



Oh and this time there's also a little BB-8 type character in here too, you know because Bay saw 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' and thought 'I can do that!'. So voilà! Instant merchandise for the movie. What's actually amazing is how this little piece of crap is clearly a cross between BB-8 and R2-D2, like in a copyright kinda way.

Things move so thick and fast in this movie its actually hard to keep up. So I realise Transformers have kinda made Earth their new home here and presumably new ones have crash landed over time. But can someone explain where the baby Transformers came from? The baby Dinobots, I presume they were Dinobots. Then you have the same stupid crap carried over from the previous movies with Transformers having hats, chewing cigars, having coats and the Japanese Autobot having a Mercedes badge on him. That really doesn't make sense to me but whatever. But why does this Autobot have the features of a Japanese samurai? I mean...why would he? Then there's the new task force whose job is to hunt down Transformers, they are called the TRF. But...but...what happened to the last task force?

So far we've had a plot that started in the dark ages of England with various characters. It then fast forwards to our present day and a US military point of view; from faceless characters that spend the entire runtime in offices behind computers (or John Tururro on the phone the entire time). It then switches to a children's point of view for literally one action scene before then jumping onto our main protagonists point of view (Mark Wahlberg). This is all in the space of the first 30 minute or so, and we haven't even be introduced to all the characters yet either!



Despite all the obvious pandering and stealing of ideas, Bay still manages to toss countless more overused and unoriginal ideas into the mix. Outta nowhere we get a calling card sequence for some Decepticons; you know when they stick the characters name up on the screen along with some rock music. Its been done to death in loads of movies and can be effective, but here it looks completely out of place and a desperate attempt at riding the coattails of some recent blockbusters. So we get a team of nasty Decepticons that are so badass they required this calling card sequence to showcase their badass names. Yet despite their gangsta speech patterns and bling, these guys get killed off very quickly which kinda makes you wonder why they were introduced in the first place. Next!

Oh my God I could spend the rest of this month writing about this movie and its bollocks. Anthony Hopkins character apparently lives in a huge castle full of ancient artifacts that must be worth millions altogether, not including the castle itself! We get a sequence showing the Autobots helping the allies fight against the Nazi's (wouldn't both world wars have ended pretty quickly with Autobots helping?). There's a high speed chase through Westminster in super performance cars which, if you know London, is a complete joke. Add to that the fact the characters jump from one supercar to another with ease. This all ends with Hopkins, Wahlberg and co stealing British submarine the HMS Alliance (yes indeed!). Would a defunct WWII submarine being used as a museum since 1981 even run anymore? Oh its a Transformer too, of course it is (he says cackling insanely to himself). I also don't think a submarine of that type and age (or any) would have large windows like this one apparently does. Naturally the TRF have their own sub it seems, a regular fecking G.I. Joe unit these guys.



They then discover the sunken alien ship which no one has ever stumbled across before up to this point apparently. Unsure as to where this was located, I guess the Atlantic somewhere but at this point I gave up even wondering because it could have been anywhere lets face it. Its around this time the movie was heading well north of the standard runtime for a crappy movie of this caliber. As the action pointed towards Stonehenge it slowly became more and more convoluted, nigh unwatchable. There are battles kicking off everywhere as Cybertron attaches itself to Earth, which you'd think would cause irreversible damage to our planet but whatever. The goodies fight the baddies, errr...some are defeated, some are killed...I think. The talisman mcguffin is revealed and stops the destruction of Earth, whilst also leaving Cybertron perfectly OK as well. So essentially what was all the fuss about?

In all my days I've never seen such a convoluted mess, which is supposed to be for kids...isn't it?? Jesus fecking Christ it was a chore to get through this; I almost gave up on a few occasions because I was so bored and ultimately confused. Apart from the nonsensical plot and film length, the editing is terrible. Jumping all over the place in a blur of nonstop action (what's new). The aspect ratio is also bouncing around all over the shop. There are multiple characters in here that needn't be, they are literally not required (both human and Transformer). Of course you have all the usual Bayisms we've all come to expect; I don't even need to list them because you know exactly what I'm talking about. Sure it all looks super slick and glossy, but again we've all come to expect that, that no longer holds any weight. Style over substance is an understatement! But we all know that now. It is however ironic that the stupidest part of the movie (the medieval opening), was by far the most intriguing.

If this legendary 80's franchise is to have any kind of future at all, it needs to be completely rebooted. Possibly in animated form, and probably going back to the classic original animated designs. In turn, any and all knowledge of these Bayformer movies should be erased from human history.

3/10

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Fate of the Furious (aka F8, 2017)


Wow so here we are huh, the eight movie in the franchise, this thing just keeps on goin' doesn't it. Obviously by now the entire population of this little blue planet knows how this shitshow works, its not to be taken seriously...at all. Yet despite that clear cut fact I cannot help but tear the opening sequence of this movie apart, and here we go.

It begins in Havana, Cuba where Toretto and Letty are having their honeymoon. Conveniently Toretto's cousin is also in Cuba and is having some debt issues with some local petrolhead. Luckily this all takes place at an auto show (randomly in the middle of the city) which is filled with hot women that are basically half naked (won't someone think of the children?). The perfect scenario for Toretto to show his stuff...aww yeah. So Toretto challenges this young guy with a super modified car to a race to get his cousin outta trouble. Unfortunately Toretto only has his cousins broken down wreck of a car to use. No worries, Dom fixes it up within five minutes (mainly using 'Cuban NOS'? Any different to regular NOS?) and its ready to roll.

What follows is essentially the backbone of the franchise, how it all started, a gritty illegal street race. They throw this in at the start just to remind you of the franchises roots before it goes all xXx and Mission: Impossible on you. Yeah so they have this illegal street race through Havana. All the traffic is stopped merely by two motorbike riders who follow the race and block junctions. Miraculously there are no accidents with other traffic users and absolutely no police presence anywhere. The two cars tear up the city streets with Toretto eventually winning the race in a shit heap that is actually on fire. But no worries because xXx manages to dive out of the car (at top speed) just before it hits a concrete barrier, flies into the air, explodes and lands in the sea. Naturally good old Dom sustains no injuries whatsoever.



As said, this is what we're dealing with now with this franchise, complete disregard for anything actually based within the realms of reality (although this isn't the first time, but its gotten way worse). It also makes it very hard to review such a movie because we all know this. We all know its not supposed to be a serious movie, we all know its throwaway popcorn trash that exists purely to provide Bay-esque visuals. So of course on that front the movie succeeds in every aspect, it does exactly what it says on the tin. The flip side is how far can this be pushed before it just becomes f*cking ridiculous. The answer to that is of course about four movies ago.

Essentially this movie is now practically a superhero flick. All the characters are pretty much invincible and I doubt any will ever be killed off. Hell, if Paul Walker hadn't actually died in real life then I'm sure his character would still be alive and well with the others. But this is a major problem with the franchise (alongside so many other problems). You just don't care about the characters because you know they're invincible. There's no way any of the main protagonists will die, no flippin' way. Even when one does get killed in this movie they end up coming back. All this does is equal zero tension, zero thrills and zero risk. Fuck me even the villain is too big to get killed off it seems, future sequels are gonna have impossibly large casts.

And what is the antagonists goal here exactly? The big bad villain (female of course, Charlize Theron) wants to start off a world war I believe it was, why? And in order to do this she needed Toretto's help to get some vital bits and pieces in order to activate a nuclear sub and start a nuclear war. She couldn't do this herself with her henchmen? And in order to keep Toretto under control she kidnaps one of his ex-girlfriends who is pregnant with his child that he knows nothing about. Convenience much??!! I guess you could say she's lucky Toretto is even bothered about this considering its his ex.

There is so much stupidity and deus ex machina in this movie its painful, so very painful. The way characters (Toretto) seem to just have secret rendezvous or help outta nowhere, like magic, only to be explained towards the end of the movie. Yeah because that's really clever. There are numerous car chase sequences that are essentially fights with various vehicles, its like watching Transformers. Each vehicle also seems to represent its driver so Dwayne Johnson naturally drives a huge, hulking 4x4 jeep thing that probably has really shitty fuel economy and moves like a bus. Its also apparent that in these sequences the hero vehicles don't sustain damage...until its clearly unavoidable (because product placement). The same is often seen with weapons, in other words Dwayne Johnson is always seen with a huge shoulder cannon type thing (what's he compensating for?).

Then of course you have the finale where they all take on a nuclear submarine and we see a sequence which is pretty much straight outta the school of escaping 'Prometheus' style. Toretto survives a massive blast from a heat-seeking missile striking the sub (as do all their vehicles apparently). Roman is even more of an unfunny idiot but unfortunately doesn't get killed here. Other characters from previous movies such as Tej and Frank Petty merely make up the numbers and continuity. Scott Eastwood is in here for no particular reason, I genuinely don't know why he's there. Statham does the same shit as before and some others pop up blah blah blah, who cares. Oh and Toretto names his son (from the ex) Brian after Walker's character, even though in the movie Brian isn't dead sooo...why?

One of the main problems with this movie (and some others) is the fact that you kinda have to know the previous movies to get everything. Bottom line this is not a good stand alone movie, its not a good movie but even more so because you gotta know the backstories to a degree. Other than that its not much different from the Transformers franchise for me, just glossy garbage that ticks all the correct boxes. The epitome of modern movies.

3/10

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Despicable Me 3 (2017)

























Just when you thought they couldn't milk this franchise any further, we get a trilogy, as if it was obligatory (I actually think it is).

I have never understood why this franchise was even remotely popular. The first movie was reasonably passable capitalising on the now exhausted superhero genre. An evil super genius getting long in the tooth tries to remain relevant amongst the growing number of younger supervillains. And in the end the supervillain becomes the hero. Then came the sequel which simply went straight down the old supervillain versus superhero route. The supervillain from the first movie now essentially a superhero fighting crime. Now along comes the third movie which is clearly struggling for ideas.

It now turns out that old Gru (Steve Carell) has a long lost brother called Dru (ugh!!). Dru of course looks identical to Gru except he has hair, he is also voiced by Carell. Dru is a budding supervillain and dreams of working with his infamous super genius brother. Problem is Gru is now a superhero and can't find a way to break this to his brother. So in the long run Gru ends up tricking Dru into helping him take down a problematic supervillain called Balthazar Brat (Trey Parker). Gru does this by pretending they are actually carrying out an evil plan. But anyway, yes they drag up the old long lost relation plot angle to keep this nonsense going. I really don't need to explain how lame this is do I?



Right so we already know Gru, his wife Lucy and their kids. So what about Dru, what's he like? Well like I said he looks identical to Gru, except for his flowing blonde hair. His voice is fairly similar to Gru's because he's voiced by Carell, oh and he dresses in white...to counter Gru's black. So yeah...that's about as imaginative as it gets for that. But wait! There is actually a positive note here, and that's the new evil character of Balthazar Brat. This is mainly down to two simple reasons. Firstly he's voiced by Trey Parker who has that simple, yet amusing tone of voice that we all know and love from South Park. Really hard to pinpoint why his voice is so catchy because its generally pretty normal. I think its Parker's ability to sound so satirical and mocking in a relatively deadpan manner.

Secondly its because the character of Balthazar is stuck in the 80's. He's obsessed with the 80's, anything and everything to do with that era. Being an 80's gen bloke this of course appealed to me greatly and I enjoyed the various pop culture references. Admittedly most of the references, quips and visual gags weren't anything overly original. He dances to various classic 80's pop songs while he works and plays with various 80's toys and gadgets. He dresses in typical 80's fashions, he has a mullet, and his evil plan involves a giant robot or mech rampaging through Hollywood (in typical Godzilla or 80's Saturday morning cartoon type fashion). So whilst this character was indeed a totally unoriginal idea, for me he was fun to watch. Not overly sure how kids these days would quite get him though. I would of thought most of the references would go sailing over their heads.



Indeed its only when Balthazar is on the screen this movie is any fun. Most of the movie is filled with mind-numbing crapola showing Gru looking after his insufferable kids. Like the sub plot involving one of his daughters trying to find a unicorn...eh? Or the other daughter and her potential boyfriend...ugh! Or spending time with his brother and his supervillain inventions (like we haven't seen that kind of stuff before). As for the minions, hell they've been relegated to a sub plot also. You don't actually get that much minion screen time a tall really because they leave Gru after he refuses to return to villainy. Of course they return for the finale but overall they're in and out of the picture. Odd because I thought they were a cash cow.

I dunno, I just didn't get the point of this movie because it literally offered nothing new. Even the bad guy, who was enjoyable, was completely unoriginal in every aspect. Yes the movie looks great as all CGI animated movies do nowadays, so that's kinda inconsequential at the end of the day. The soundtrack is the usual god awful collection of hip-hop and rap which every kids movie has to incorporate it seems. Its not particularly funny and its not particularly exciting. The entire feature simply feels like a by the numbers production merely chugged out to try and squeeze the last few drops of money out before it inevitably dies. Well its dead alright.

4/10