Sunday, 15 July 2018

Rampage (2018)

'alright George, we gotta stop these things before they destroy the city'

He says after the John Hancock Center is brought crashing down. I think they've kinda done that already mate.

Another month another Dwayne Johnson movie (much like certain other franchises). The only man in cinema today who gets shot clean in the gut halfway through his movie yet doesn't actually die...or anything. He just keeps on going in invincible mode. Nothing much changes does it, its all about big arm muscles and tight shirts for Dwayne. His acting doesn't really alter much, in fact is he even acting or merely being himself? But you can sure as hell tell this is a 2018 movie. A crap load of poor CGI with a crap load of obvious greenscreen. Johnson has a black female sidekick whilst the main villain is female and she has a goofy white male sidekick, oh and a stealth bomber pilot is also female.

So another month another giant monster movie (facepalm). This time an evil female led company is basically trying to create a pathogen to be used as a biological weapon, because of course they are. Said pathogen obviously is let loose upon the US when the companies space station housing the stuff gets destroyed by a mutant rat. The stuff infects a gorilla, a crocodile, and a wolf. Said animals naturally mutate into giant monsters and start wreaking havoc. But all this doesn't stop the evil female led company though, oh no, they still have their dastardly plans which I can't be bothered to explain anymore.

So for anyone not in the know, this movie is based on a very old Bally Midway arcade game released in 1986. The designers clearly borrowed heavily from certain classic monster movies for their lead characters with the Godzilla-esque Lizzie, King Kong-esque George, and a werewolf-esque looking Ralph. The game merely involved you trying to destroy as much of a cityscape as possible whilst eating people, crushing tanks, and swatting choppers. And with that Warner Bros have thrown together what they think is a good movie?

OK so firstly this isn't a kids movie, which was surprising to me, yet Johnson still doesn't say motherfucker (he's no Schwarzenegger). But yeah this movie is relatively violent with people being eaten, stepped on and crushed, thrown through the air and off tall buildings, and some claret on hand. But whilst it was satisfying to see some adult action, in no way did it make up for the rest of it.

This is a bad movie. The special effects are generally poor with only George looking halfway decent. Ralph looks like a cartoon and Lizzie looks like a dinosaur from a Doug McClure movie. I don't understand why the giant animals actually go around killing and destroying in the first place. Sure the pathogen makes them aggressive but that doesn't mean they would just roam around randomly causing carnage. Again when the female villain turns on this beacon to attract the creatures, why do they decimate the city on their way? (because we wouldn't have a movie otherwise). Why does Ralph have the ability to shoot darts out of his body now? And that only crops up once I think, you'd think it would be shooting these things all the time. Oh and Ralph can fly too, like did the folks behind this movie ever play the fecking game??

The acting throughout is God awful, absolutely terrible. Dwayne Johnson is merely himself as usual. This guy cannot act, he's just himself in every movie (and most of his movies are the same). His costar sidekick (Naomie Harris) is also terribly plain and shows little actual talent (although her wig somehow manages to stay put throughout the action). But the worst performance has to be Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a government agent who fancies himself as a badass cowboy. We know this because he tells us in almost every scene and he sports a single pearl handled pistol on his hip in some vague effort to be 'kewl'. Can someone please explain why this guy stands at an angle in every fecking scene. Literally every scene where he delivers dialog he's standing at an angle as if one of his legs is shorter than the other or they are filming his scenes with a Dutch tilt.

Seeing as this movie is based on an arcade game where your goal is to Hulk smash everything into the ground, you can imagine how this movie ends. When I say end I mean virtually from the halfway mark. Yep that's right, one long incomprehensible mess of CGI 'action' as we follow all three of the giant monsters on their rampage, ahem. Somehow the giant crocodile is able to climb sheer buildings, for some reason not one human being cottons onto the fact that bullets can't hurt these creatures; George decides to eat the female villain whole (coincidentally when she has the serum for the pathogen), yet we don't see him do this to anyone else. He could of eaten the helicopter pilot likewise but instead just throws him away. Lizzie decides to bite Ralph's head off for some reason, the greenscreen gets unforgivably bad, oh and we're meant to believe that people named these monsters Ralph and Lizzie?? I know its based on the arcade game but you really didn't have to go that far.

Dwayne Johnson is apparently the big action star of our current time, or for the current younger generation, so I've been led to believe. I'm left wondering how this can be because aside from his physique the guy is a poor action star. Sure he's fun in silly fantasy comedies and some over the top soft-core action flicks for youngsters, but that's it. He is seemingly unable to break his self-referential nice guy comedy routine and is apparently unable to stop fixating on his own muscles. This is yet again another Dwayne Johnson movie where the main character is (the invincible) Dwayne Johnson.

Am I being too harsh on a mere videogame adaptation? Maybe, I knew not to expect that much from a movie which is very loosely based on a very loose concept. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there will get a kick outta this and that's fine. But for me this is now the umpteenth movie showcasing the exact same spiel. I can't lie about it, this was complete and utter garbage, and not even good looking garbage at that.


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

The Wizard (1989)

Lets go back to a time when videogame adaptations basically didn't exist. A time when videogames didn't really mix with movies and any that dared to do so tended to fail ('Tron'). Movies and videogames were different entities that simply didn't mesh. But that didn't stop Nintendo trying to break that mould with this offering.

The Plot: Sam Woods (Beau Bridges) is separated from his wife. He lives with his two elder sons Nick (Christian Slater) and Corey (Fred Savage). The boys also have a younger brother called Jimmy (Luke Edwards) who lives with his mother and stepfather. Jimmy did also have a twin sister but she drowned leaving Jimmy suffering from PTSD. Its this PTSD that seemingly causes Jimmy to want to wander off to California. Eventually, after becoming frustrated with his fathers apparent inability to care properly for Jimmy, Corey takes it upon himself to run away with Jimmy to California.

On the road they meet up with a young girl called Haley (Jenny Lewis) who is also on her way home to Reno. They decide to team up after discovering that Jimmy is a whizz at any videogame he comes across. Haley will help them travel across the country to a large videogame contest being held in Universal Studios where they will enter Jimmy and split the winnings if he wins.

Now when I was a kid (which seems like 100 years ago now) this was one of those movies that I saw and kinda enjoyed but not overly. It was a movie that was engaging mainly because of the videogame element, naturally. I was never really into the family aspect of the movie simply because it was of no interest to me; twas all about the videogames which at the time seemed like eons into the future of what I was used to (the Spectrum 128K and Atari 2600). In fact I can honesty say I found the movie boring as a kid, a case of fast-fowarding through certain parts.

Looking back now (as a 40 year old...gulp!) I can honesty say that maybe I was onto something back in the day. Now don't get me wrong this isn't a bad movie per say, its just incredibly average and indeed somewhat dull. I mean just digging a bit deeper into the plot there are so many questions. When Jimmy and Corey run away their parents decide to hire a bounty hunter to find them?? about the police?? There really doesn't seem to be much urgency in actually getting the young boys back. I also have to ask why the bounty hunter guy is so...dastardly. I mean this is his job, he's being paid to find these kids, yet he's behaving like a complete asshole for no apparent reason other than being dumb comic relief.

Upon meeting Haley we eventually find out that she's making her way home...on her own? From where? Where has she been? We know her mother has passed on but where's her father at?? The character of Haley is also very much the Mary Sue of this movie if you will; she's like the all powerful lucky charm that can solve any problem, dues ex machina overload. When they need money she knows a truck driver who can gamble for them inside a casino. At the same time Haley is also, apparently, an expert at craps. She knows exactly where to go, who to speak to, and what to do at all times. Yeah OK she's suppose to be more worldly than the boys but come on, she's only about 13 or thereabouts.

The main lure of this movie was of course the videogames. The plot was pretty non-existent but Nintendo didn't really care about that methinks. Twas all about the plugs and boy is this movie full of plugs. The funny thing is you don't actually see much videogame action, just lots of snippets of characters playing dotted throughout (mostly from the NES). Such games included are Mega Man 2, Contra, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Double Dragon etc...Watching now its really nothing special to see these games (what little you see) but I do recall that back in the day it was pretty exciting and cool as it was a first essentially.

As I said previously, as a kid in the UK with a Spectrum 128K and Atari 2600, the games on show in this movie seemed like something completely out of reach, so futuristic, a massive lure. Hell the sight of the now infamous Nintendo Power Glove was enough to blow my little child mind when that popped up. It looked like the coolest toy ever created...being handled by some even cooler looking kid with a slick lock of hair. Seriously did you see how the camera pans around this kids stoic looking face, its like an aftershave advert. Of course now that entire scene is unintentionally hilarious because we all know how that peripheral turned out (and then there's that kids face). Its also amusing to see all the Nintendo/gamer help lines manned by nerds with stacks of cheat books for every game. My how times have changed.

But lets just address what this movie essentially is, apart from a long videogame advert for Nintendo. This movie is basically a kids version of 'Rain Man'...with videogames. Jimmy pretty much is Raymond Babbitt and Haley (not goofy Corey) is a nicer version of Charles Babbitt and instead of gambling its videogames...with a touch of gambling. I can understand why this has become something of a cult but honesty its pretty mundane and unengaging. The cast is quite grand as is the beautiful scenery of rural America, but the plot is thin and honesty nothing much of interest really happens.

Bottom line, at a time when 80's (and general) nostalgia is at an all time high and you can find a multitude of retro goodness online at the touch of a button, this kinda fell flat for me. Its perfectly fine as a minor trip down memory lane for games, haircuts, clothes and an early videogame tournament concept (that maniac hosting the contest! Jesus!). But overall as a movie its wholly average at best.


Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Batman Ninja (2018)

So I'm not up on my comics anymore, haven't been for donkey's years, so when I heard about this I kinda assumed it was based on some recent comicbook line, but no apparently its not. What we have here is exactly what it sounds like, an anime version of Batman. Its basically Batman set in feudal Japan. What would Batman look like in ancient Japan? What would Batman's enemies look like in ancient Japan? How would Batman go about his crime fighting business etc...Its essentially a massive fanboy wet dream project like say...a steampunk Batman, or a Batman set in space or the future, or Batman set in the age of pirates or ancient Rome etc...

The plot seems to be a one-off affair that isn't linked to any previous works or anything coming up. Its literally appears to be a case of, Batman in Japan sounds cool, lets see how that turns out. And with that the plot is insanely off the wall, bizarre, crazy, barely coherent to say the least. Yes its set in feudal Japan, but for the most part this could simply be anywhere, it doesn't matter in the long run. Only the costumes remind you its Japan.

But yeah, Gorilla Grodd is tired of all the other better Gotham villains hogging Batman all the time with their plots and getting in his way. So he decides to get rid of them all. So he builds some machine and sends them all back the feudal you do. Naturally Batman gets caught up in this too (and somehow the entire Batman family of heroes, oh and some of his tech). So now old Bruce is stuck in feudal Japan without the cover of urban Gotham and with only a few of his gadgets. He finds himself up against Grodd, Joker, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, Harley Quinn, Bane, and Deathstroke (no Riddler?). Luckily he does have Robin, Nightwing, Red Hood, Alfred, Catwoman, and a entire Batman ninja clan on his side so its not a one way street.

The movie starts off in a suitably dark and stormy Gotham but soon zaps back through time to feudal Japan. Its at this point where the movie is still relatively grounded (well as grounded as one can be travelling back through time). Batman is out of his element, he's vulnerable without his gadgets and his urban jungle, anything could happen. The movie holds this grounded approach as Batman struggles to cope with his ancient surroundings, like being unable to escape grappling up a tall building. But slowly scene by scene things start to become more ridiculous as the plot unfolds. And when I say ridiculous, I mean giant transforming robot/mech fortresses fighting against a giant samurai shaped entity made up of monkeys, and then a giant Batman made up of bats. Plus there's the whole ninja bat clan thing, the fact Joker has machine guns, Alfred hiding the batmobile in a local hut (with underground lighting?), Penguin has his penguins, just all the tech on show etc...

Nevertheless its when Batman appears in Japan that you really notice how beautiful the anime is here. Japan is rendered in CGI (alas no hand drawn art) but oh boy is it exquisite. Clearly the woodblock artwork of Hokusai (The Great Wave 1829-1833) and similar works have influenced the overall design here with the skies and rolling countryside having intricate patterns woven into them. There are also numerous sequences (mainly one with both Harley and Joker) which appear to have been animated in watercolours (or the CGI equivalent), really diversifying and setting the artwork apart.

Takashi Okazaki, the man behind Afro Samurai, was the character designer here and that is obvious if you know said anime franchise. I think all the characters looked great and were easily recognisable from their comic origins but I still can't help but think hand drawn animation would have looked better. However I did really like how Takashi incorporated genuine traditional ancient Japanese attire (both formal and battle wear) into the characters appearances. By that I mean it was indeed cool to see Batman in his own Batman styled samurai battle armour (which I'm sure many have seen fanart of before). Twas also neat to see Joker in period clothing making him look more like a jester, harlequin, or nobleman at times. Not all the characters looked as cool but basically the villains were in samurai styled armour where as the heroes were in more peasant/ninja styled battle attire; but everything had relevance. So yes overall it all looks very slick, very sharp, very colourful, and extremely well animated.

So whilst I was kinda expecting something along the lines of 'Seven Samurai' or 'Yojimbo' with Batman roaming ancient Japan like a Ronin, handicapped without his technology and having to take down each villain one stage at a time in an old fashioned (yet admittedly videogame-esque) manner. What we actually get is a zany Batman adventure that jams almost every anime cliche/trope into the story resulting in a very Japanese feature which may or may not land with folks in the west. Did it land with me? Well in all honesty not really. I love the entire concept, I love the artwork, and I appreciate all the hard work involved. But alas I totally tuned out from the halfway point when things just go bonkers. I just wanted something more grounded and less...dare I say...traditionally anime with giant fighting robots.

The finale was simply the most surreal tomfoolery I've seen for some time (I don't watch lots of anime). For true anime fans this may be normal and they may enjoy it but it wasn't for me. Just think Transformers, Voltron, Gundam, some steampunk, an army of monkeys, bats, and ninjas, and then throw the Batman universe into the mix and voila! Total insanity with lots of double crosses to boot. The question of how the characters even managed to build these giant robots in ancient Japan doesn't even come into it, there's no point questioning it. I would have liked to see more of the other villains too; the story does tend to focus more on Joker and Harley.

I don't wanna say style over substance because that wouldn't be totally correct and kinda mean; but there is definitely an element of that at play here. There is substance and there's tonnes of style, but admittedly its all spread over a wafer thin plot. And at the end of the day you can't really get around the fact this was (probably) only done because it simply looked and sounded cool. Batman in Batman samurai armour in feudal Japan? Yes please! (we'll worry about the story later). Its not really a movie but more like a fanboy project made for fanboys which plays out like a long sequence of idolised fanboy ideas loosely strung together. It will work for some and not for others.


Friday, 29 June 2018

Death Wish (2018)

Did we ever need a remake of the 1974 Charles Bronson classic? (itself an adaptation of a novel). The simple story of outright vigilantism which was actually condemned in the original novel but virtually championed and celebrated in the movie adaptation. Not that there's anything wrong with a good revenge story, heck there are many Hollywood movies featuring various action stars that centre on revenge against a specific villain or group. But a tale of urban vigilantism against common criminals? A job best left for the police. A man declaring himself judge jury and executioner? Clearly it drags up moral questions. Clearly its gonna be controversial, but surely that makes it more

Now this is an Eli Roth directed movie, so its pretty obvious from the start to not expect anything overly deep (not that the original was either). But that's not to say he didn't have a bloody good go at sticking in some relevant political commentary. Yes believe it or not this isn't a love letter to conservative gun nuts across the American south (not too much anyway). I'm still not too sure why he felt the need to cast Bruce Willis in the lead role though. Surely there are plenty of middle aged blokes you could of cast that don't look quite so fed up with life? No not flippin' Liam Neeson again (good grief!), but this was a good chance to maybe go against cast with someone methinks.

The movie itself does hark back to all those adult action thrillers of the 80's and early 90's that would pop up outta nowhere, sometimes good sometimes bad. A basic revenge thriller with plenty of violence, blood, a menacing bunch of villains, and a man of little words anti-hero type. Of course its more grounded urban setting will cause people to reflect more upon our current society; but at the end of the day I really don't see that as anything overly negative. No more so than many other violent action flicks I've seen over the course of my lifetime.

As for the plot, whilst surgeon Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is talking about going out on a specific night, the car valet overhears and gets their home address from the cars navi system. On said night whilst Paul is working late three men break into their house. Unfortunately Paul's wife and daughter come home and are attacked leaving his wife dead and daughter in a coma. Over time Paul becomes frustrated with the police and their slow progress so he decides to take matters into his own hands.

Political Commentary: Paul Kersey buys a gun. Kersey enters a gun store to buy a weapon after getting a minor beating from two street punks/thugs/hoodlums/underrepresented (whatever is politically correct to say these days). The interior is of course like a candy store for anyone interested in guns and killing. The employee behind the counter is a young sexy blonde with big bewbs (to draw in males like moths to a flame). When Kersey starts to talk about permits, licenses, waiting times etc...the young sexy employee merely mocks the idea of it all, casually suggesting special deals for fast access. The entire sequence is literal gun porn both visually and audibly. Deliberately over the top and in your face. Now one could say that Roth is pointing out the real need for gun control here because even though this is a farcical scene, its also dangerously close to reality? On the other hand maybe he's mocking the  perceived anti-gun notion of how pro-gun folk look and behave.

Then there are the scenes where Kersey is shown learning how to clean a gun, look after it, unload, load, and of course fire a gun...all via the internet. This obviously showcases how easy it can be for anyone to get online and learn how to use a deadly weapon, even to the point of using it proficiently. This harks back to all the You-Tube trouble recently with all kinds of videos being taken down or demonitised for showcasing gun content.

Then there is the scene where Kersey is at his wife's funeral with her parents. Driving back to the family home Kersey's father-in-law pulls over and shoots at some poachers on his land. I'm guessing this is an epiphany moment for Kersey when he realises that maybe he should take matters into his own hands. Maybe he should get a gun and start to hunt for his wife's killers himself. Of course this is wrong and he really shouldn't be thinking (or doing) that; but on the other hand you can understand his emotions.

The inevitable montage where different people react to the ever increasing vigilante incidents in the city. The internet is alive with grim reaper (the nickname the public christen him) fever as Kersey's hits go viral. Naturally many people in the city are somewhat pleased someone is standing up for the common people, standing up against the rotten element. On the other hand many are fearful, they don't like a lone man handing out his own brand of justice on the streets. Will this increase violence? Will it encourage racial/targeted attacks? What are the police doing about it?

But then there are the typical Hollywoodisms that even a movie like this just can't help but include. Kersey becomes a successful vigilante known as the grim reaper because of his all black attire and hoodie. But he wears this every time, even when he goes to a nightclub looking for the main villain. Surely a lone male dressed in all black with a hoodie, going into a club at night, might raise some suspicion (all things considered). Then the duo eventually end up having a shoot out in the bogs where the bad guy misses Kersey at near point blank range...ugh!! Then at the end of all this carnage, with all the club patrons screaming and running for their lives, Kersey strolls out still wearing his black hoodie! Because that doesn't look highly suspicious does it...geez!

Alas the gun action and general violence does go somewhat over the top towards the end also. The stories violent encounters start off in a suitably grounded fashion which works well for the most part. But as things progress the gun fights and violence becomes more outlandish with more moments of deus ex machina rendering the realism as defunct. Its also very clear that Roth is unable to keep his gore fetish under control as he injects this into certain scenes which just feels so misplaced (maybe he should of put more effort into Willis' suffering character). Kersey captures one of the main villains at one point and tortures him, but not before he sticks him into this elaborate death trap ala Saw which ends up crushing his head. A sense of rightful vengeance? I guess so, but it just feels way too over the top because no one would go to those lengths, would also be quite time consuming. Most people would simply get the info and then shoot them.

So yeah, is this a controversial movie? No not really. Is this an irresponsible movie? No not really. Was the release bad timing? In America when is good timing?? Is this a bad movie? Actually no it isn't. Is this a good movie? Well its not great but its perfectly acceptable as an action thriller that does exactly what it says on the tin. You know what you're going for here, you know what to expect, and you get it. And in all honesty, apart from the silly gore in places, the silly Hollywoodisms, and the off casting of Willis (who does actually show some decent form here and there), this is generally engaging and OK. Yeah its a tale as old as time but no one complained when Neeson did it about five times on the I right? Course I am.


Friday, 22 June 2018

Ready Player One (2018)

This movie has been on the books for quite some time, quite some time indeed. Hell rights to the novel (by Ernest Cline) had been won via auction before the novel had even been released! (novel released in 2010). Its another novel which I had heard of in part here and there, mainly due to its nostalgic content, but I've never felt inclined to read it or look into it. But this project really started to gather steam when Spielberg got onboard to direct; that's when most people sat up and took notice.

The Plot: Yeah its generic, its you're typical 80's fantasy type plot line, but that is the whole point. Its the future of 2045 and almost everyone spends much of their time in a virtual world known as the Oasis. Its creator, the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance) put a contest inside his virtual world before he died. You must find three keys which will in turn unlock an easter egg. Whoever finds this easter egg will win ownership of the Oasis. With that we follow a teenager called Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and his various virtual friends as they try to discover the keys to unlock the easter egg whilst trying to avoid the clutches of the evil Innovative Online Industries (IOI) company with the same objective.

OK so the absolute unadulterated lure or hook with this movie is of course the expansive collection of nostalgic characters, objects, vehicles, songs, toys, comics etc; all from a vast range of movies, books, anime, comics, and videogames. In short this movie uses and pays homage to popular pop culture from various decades spanning the 70's right through to the early 00's. This alone was enough to secure the interest of many people (myself included) who may have not been up to speed on the original novel. The mere thought of seeing so many classic characters crossover in one movie was enough to make any nerdy geek cum in his pants.

But is that all this movie has?? It that the only shiny trinket that Spielberg can muster and dangle before you like some...shiny trinket, slathered in retro sauce. Well kinda...Essentially this movie sorta plays out like a Where's Wally? for decades worth of pop culture. I constantly found myself merely looking out for various characters that I'd heard were in the film, characters that were rumoured to be in the film, or simply scouring each frame for hidden easter eggs. So much so that I pretty much forgot to pay much attention to the actual plot of the fecking movie. Now is this my fault? Well yes it is but alas the plot is so mundane and generic you really shouldn't worry about it. And that's the main problem here.

In between looking for all your fave heroes and heroines from various franchises, in the background there is a rather boring plot revolving Wade Watts trying to find these three keys by decoding and deciphering various clues hidden within the Oasis. Yeah it is kinda dull to be honest, its even worse with the live action scenes that are not in the Oasis. But I do understand that aspect of it. The Oasis is supposed to be this realm people escape to for fun. The real world is obviously depressing, boring, difficult etc...So yeah I get that but it still didn't help me in liking this overall. Also didn't help that the real world in this movie looked weird. Like everyone was living in a giant junkyard or something, eh? Yeah poor I get it, but giant junkyards? What is this a tacky 90's videogame adaptation?

Anyway Watts is assisted by some other players which all have their own avatars just as Watts does. These generally look like your standard videogame type creations. Big muscles, bionic body parts, tight outfits, and huge weapons. Said clues seemed almost impossible to fathom out in my opinion as all were personal to Halliday; and even with dipping into his personal files it still came across as utterly unbelievable that the protagonists managed to work them out. At the same time the entire notion that no one has ever managed to work anything out until Watts comes along is just too convenient for me. I know I just said they seemed hard to work out but surely someone could of done at least one. Its almost feels like Watts and his mates are the only people actually looking properly and even when they do uncover secrets still no one else manages it.

This also leads me to some parts of the movie such as Watts winning the vehicle race after discovering a cheat. A cheat?? That kinda felt...well like cheating. I know its a hidden secret but again it also came across as so flippin' hard to uncover (because the clues seemed so obscure, to me at least) I still can't believe Watts even managed to find it. He got it from watching that archive video of Halliday...which apparently no one else has ever thought of ever doing. Kind of like 'The Shining' sequences (in the book it was 'Blade Runner') where yet again absolutely no one has apparently ventured or tried to uncover anything despite how suspiciously key laden that area might appear.

Now whilst all this is going on there is the rather predictable and cliched evil company that is chasing after Watts and co, after the same prize. These guys generally exist to give the good guys something to eliminate in the videogame world during the movies set pieces. A never ending stream of avatars to take out at various stages. They are led by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) who is (along with IOI) the most stereotypical corporate slimeball villain ever. He looks devious and untrustworthy and by golly he is devious and untrustworthy, in case you don't pick it up in the first five minutes.

I also didn't get how IOI are able to imprison people and use them as virtual slaves in this reality; because it doesn't come across as particularly backwards in that sense outside of their walls. There are police and they do arrest Sorrento at the end come IOI had this massive slavery thing going on? And I did have to giggle at the moment where Watts finally meets Halliday (dead?) and almost accidentally erases the entire Oasis because of a large red uncovered button. Like what the hell was that about? Was that supposed to be a joke because it came across as simply dumb.

The first action sequence we get is the Wacky Racers type event with all sorts of classic motors on display. Its a wickedly cool idea I'm sure many people have played out in their minds before but here is merely came across to me as a mass of indecipherable CGI. Again I was mainly too focused on trying to see what easter eggs lay in the background as the DeLorean DMC-12 thundered around the urban track (why didn't he just use the fly mode?). Twas certainly cool to see all these vehicles charging around (who remembers the Bigfoot monster truck??) but it was also so chaotic it was hard to follow. Naturally things got even more chaotic and CGI laden when we reached the big final showdown between IOI and a legion of Oasis gamers. Holly Spectrum talk about a retro clash of the titans. If you ever wanted to see The Iron Giant take on various other franchise characters such as MechaGodzilla or Gundam, well I guess its your birthday.

But in all honesty, is that all this is??? Just a middle aged retro collectors wet dream of seeing all his shelf 'collectables' (toys) fighting each other in a massive cinematic version of a sprawling videogame beat 'em up (Marvel vs. Capcom). Yes it all looks great and yes it is very cool to see all these different characters and franchises clash and mix but I just can't get past that aspect of it. That is literally all there is to this movie because the rest is boring as hell. And are you telling me that this virtual world would have a power-up/pick-up weapon that could effectively kill every single player in the entire virtual world wiping their records?? Why would that be included?? Why??!! Surely that just screams problems.

Essentially this is a love letter of sorts to various decades gone by, but mainly the 80's. Its probably the closest I will ever come to one movie encompassing everything I have grown up with to this point. A cinematic archive of pop culture I (and many others) have slowly grown old with since my birth back in 1978. I appreciate it, I appreciate everything about this movie and I must thank all involved for bringing it to the big screen. But nevertheless the film was ultimately a bit of an anti-climax for me. It seemed to promise so much but in my eyes failed to deliver overall. What is there left for me to say? Well at least, thanks for the memories.

(The Zemeckis Cube: Essentially a Rubix Cube allowing time travel. When activated a few musical notes from 'Back to the Future' play. A mishap of retro knowledge in 2045, but oh so cool)


Monday, 18 June 2018

Pacific Rim Uprising (2018)

Giant robots vs giant monsters, part 2. Giant robots merely punching giant monsters, part 2. Godzilla rip-off/clone/homage (however you wanna look at it) vs giant robots, part 2. 'Rampage 2' without Dwayne Johnson. Yet another giant monster destroying a city, part 2. CGI onslaught, part 2. Transformers vs giant monsters. There are many ways to describe this movie; but the one way you cannot describe this it actually being a good movie.

The Plot: Giant monsters (Kaiju, whatever) from dimension X came from the depths of the ocean to destroy mankind in the original, mankind fought back with giant robots (Jaegers, whatever) and won. This time more giant monsters from dimension X come back from the depths of the ocean to destroy mankind again. Spoiler alert, mankind fights back and wins again. Moving on...oh wait this movie also tees up a possible third sequel because of course it does.

So its illegal for people to build their own Jaegers, something I didn't quite understand really because you'd think in this universe it could be useful. Lets think about this, you have the possibility of giant monsters returning to wipe out mankind. The only way to (reasonably) stop them is with giant robots. So if clever innovative people are able to build Jaegers on their own with random bits and pieces, isn't that maybe a good thing? Use that to your advantage. Sure I can understand the issue of rogue Jaegers or 'unlicensed' Jaegers running around, but if that's your only concern in a world where giant monsters could rise from the depths and take a massive dump on your city, well maybe change your priorities.

Anyway its ten years later and the story now focuses on the son of one of the lead characters in the original movie (note, not actually the lead character). Jake Pentecost (John Boyega) is the stereotypically wild card son of Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) who steals Jaeger parts and sells them on the black market. Naturally Jake used to be a hot young top gun in the Pan-Pacific Defence Corps but quit because of the burden of expectations of his fathers reputation...blah blah blah. But guess what! Now he's back in the PPDC after getting caught stealing some Jaeger shit and given the choice of that or prison. Luckily his old co-pilot Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood) is still around to help him out and generally look and act all grizzled and tough. Because that's what all military trainers are like, apparently.

Not only do we have those incredibly bland and predictable cliches, we also have the usual team of good looking young recruits for Jake to mould in his own image. Of course this being 2018 the recruits are a hand picked and completely unrealistic diverse bunch of kids; you know just to appease everyone just in case. Its whilst watching all this cringeworthy macho bullshit in the PPDC that you fully understand the influence China has on Hollywood these days (in case you hadn't noticed before). Of course you can't really blame Hollywood seeing as they owe it to China for saving the first movie; so its really no surprise that this movie is virtually dedicated to the East.

Looking at the battles (the entire main crux of this movie), yeah they're mighty impressive with all that glossy CGI, but what did you expect?? But lets be real for a minute here, take the first battle in Melbourne, Australia. Yeah the whole city is pretty much obliterated with, I can only assume, hundreds of thousands of deaths, but this is not touched upon. Then you have the big finale battle in Tokyo which takes up most of the damn movie. Once again the destruction is on a GRAND scale the likes of which I don't think we've witnessed before. Tokyo like Melbourne is (in parts) utterly decimated. Hell the human controlled Jaegers even use the fecking buildings as weapons at one point! Did they even check there were any humans in those buildings??

The monsters and Jaegers throw each other around smashing into various buildings as if for fun! And when either aren't falling into buildings, they're swinging around on them or simply barging them over for fecks sake. I simply cannot convey the amount of carnage in this movie, its literally colossal. Its so unbelievably epic it just becomes a farce; surely a staggering human death toll but who cares eh. Funnily enough despite the inescapable death toll you never actually see any humans on the ground anywhere during these battles. The CGI cities are totally barren of any human life apparently. Oh and what the flip was all that shit with some Jaegers being taken over by Precursor (the aliens that control the monsters) brains! So not only do the Jaegers get their brain/core taken over, the Jaegers actually morph into robot monster hybrids at the same time?? What??

I think the one moment where I completely switched off was the point in which the Jaegers started performing martial arts moves. I mean I guess you've gone this far with this crap you might as well just go the whole hog right. And then they launch Gipsy Avenger into orbit so they can freefall the thing directly onto the last remaining monster (there were three but they all morphed together like a big organic Transformer), oy vey!

In essence this movie is pretty much a mix of Transformers, Voltron, Godzilla...and amazingly for this sequel Power Rangers. The sight of these Jaegers being piloted by these young annoyingly cocky hotshots, each with different skills and abilities, was cringeworthy.  Not to mention the cringeworthy performances from Boyega and Eastwood both trying to be stoic funny and ice cool in every scene. Just before the final battle Pentecost turns to his young recruits and claims he can't make rousing speeches in the heat of the moment. He then continues to give a (cringeworthy) rousing speech in the heat of the moment.

For me this comes across as yet another movie that falls under the 'if it had been released in the 90's it probably would have been a big hit' category. Obviously self explanatory and I fully believe this. This isn't a terrible movie per say, its solid sci-fi, its just too late in the day. Overall this movie just feels incredibly dated on every level (except for the effects obviously). But the most heinous crime of all is the fact they totally mullered a pretty decent concept from the original movie. Yes the first movie was big and flashy, but they still managed to somehow go stupidly incoherently overboard here.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Tomb Raider (2018)

So Tomb Raider was a game from Core Design that was released back in 1996 primarily for the Sony Playstation. Many sequels followed over the years taking us up to the 2013 release which was a reboot of the games series. This 2013 version gave us a new in depth look into the origins of the games protagonist, Lara Croft. This 2018 movie is an adaptation of the 2013 game reboot whilst also being a reboot of the first two Tomb Raider movies from 2001 and 2003.

A Tsunami of Cliches (the plot): The most generic plot they have come up with? Yep.

Lara (Alicia Vikander) is essentially a mega rich British woman thanks to her fathers business of whatever. But for some reason Lara is not interested in accepting her fathers inheritance because reasons. Her father Richard (Dominic West) disappeared whilst searching for Himiko, a mythical Queen who was said to have power over life and death. Richard is presumed dead (of course). So after much personal angst and discovering the stereotypical hidden chamber stocked with clues, Lara goes off on an intrepid adventure in search of her dad.

Briefly, she meets up with a good looking toned Chinese bloke. She convinces him to help her. They both sail off to find this mysterious island set right in the middle of a treacherous section of the Pacific (where no on ever survives type scenario). They get shipwrecked on the island. Lara gets 'rescued' by what turns out to be the bad guys. The bad guys work for a dodgy company who are also after this mystical supernatural power. The bad guys are all big muscular blokes carrying large automatic weapons. They find the location of the mystical Queens tomb. Its chock full of booby traps. They get past all the booby traps. All the bad guys get killed. Lara makes it out alive as the whole place comes tumbling down. Generic enough for you?

The start of this movie doesn't really help. Lara is in London working for as a bike courier and decides to enter into this rather childish game of chase for money. Basically loads of blokes try to catch her and grab this fox tail off her bike (essentially a flag) before she can reach a certain destination, I think? The entire sequence looks lame and stupid. Its cringeworthy because the whole time there is this rock soundtrack playing in the background as if the entire sequence is supposed to be 'kewl'; like its some kind of extreme sports around west London, pfft! All the guys chasing her have these extreme haircuts, shades, clearly expensive bike gear, inked and pierced up etc...Its so flippin' pathetic.

But at least that sequence was real in real locations. Unfortunately so much of this movie looks fake because its bolstered with tonnes of CGI. The now infamous waterfall sequence which we all saw in the trailers, yeah it looks terrible. The bomber looks terrible, the rapids look terrible, and Vikander copy and pasted against it all looks terrible. Speaking of that bomber, kinda looked like a WWII plane. That in itself would be a huge discovery...but who cares! No time for that. Literally everything Lara does in this movie is against bloody obvious CGI. All the set piece backdrops, every time she leaps across something (in cliched slow motion), hangs from something, stands in front of something.

Not only that but Lara is bloody useless in this movie too. She literally spends the whole time getting beaten to a pulp by various blokes, only occasionally does she manage to actually win...kinda. I mean on one hand that's more realistic for sure but blimey does she take a beating in this. Lara also takes a huge amount of damage ranging from really nasty landings from heights, getting struck by objects, and even getting a puncture wound in the belly! Its like they went for realism in terms of fighting blokes, but went down the videogame invincibility route for surviving really nasty incidents.

The whole bit with Lara finding her dad was incredibly incredibly predictable and cliched. I mean it was so fudging obvious right from the start. The fact it actually happened and director Roar Uthaug tried to make it surprising just made me facepalm. Not only that but naturally her dad just happens to have a bow and arrow with him, something that Lara just happens to be a dab hand at (ugh!! please!). So now Lara's running around with an apparent unlimited supply of arrows. Oh and all the bad guys drop dead straight away after being shot by an arrow, stone dead instantly.

Lets take a quick look at the bad guys who are led by Mathias Vogel (Walton Goggins) and who all work for the shadowy Hyd...I mean Trinity organisation. Well as I said before they're pretty much you're bog standard merc type in movies these days. All roided up with hipster beards and tattoos. There only appears to be about six of them at first but their numbers become inexplicably bigger during an action sequence. Suddenly there are loads of guys just waiting to get shot with guns or arrows. The only bad guy of any worth is of course Vogel. A solid slimy villain who is quite happy to kill people. The rest are just background fodder for weapons and booby traps.

I find it amusing in movies like this how both the protagonist and antagonist are looking for one specific item and often ignore everything else. Like in this movie they discover this ancient tomb with wall to wall treasures such as ancient text on walls, markings, various artifacts, what looked like precious gems or stones to stop a booby trap etc...Heck even the various skeletons lying around the place could be historically important. But they always totally ignore all that, often allowing the stuff to get destroyed in the process.

Frankly the entire movie is a snooze fest until Lara and co reach the subterranean tomb of Himiko. There we get some nice thrills with the booby traps but even that can't detract from the fact its retreading very familiar ground from a certain Spielberg/Lucas franchise. I mean they virtually copy some aspects beat for beat to a degree. I quite liked the notion that this ancient mystical power turns out to be a deadly potent disease. But then they absolutely ruined it by going down this zombie-esque state route. I mean honesty, hasn't that whole angle been totally milked dry already, come on guys.

I quite liked how they made the movie a bit more adult orientated, a bit dark. Its was also acceptable that Lara wasn't a superhero type character all the time, although I felt she did need to be a bit tougher at times. Its a fine balance I know but Lara did seem a bit sidelined in her own movie at times (maybe that's just me). But overall I'm pretty shocked at how generic this was and the fact they copied other movies.