Thursday, 22 December 2016

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: Extended Cut (2016)

Ah the trump card in the DC universe, the main player, the saviour, the movie to bring everything together and utterly destroy Marvel once and for all (well that was the idea anyway). First we got 'Man of Steel', the reboot Superman flick that was supposed to herald a new dawn (no pun intended) for Supes. Alas it was a polarising movie and divided audiences everywhere. OK no worries DC thought, lets press forward with a sequel and make it better. That's where this movie comes in, the supposed original sequel to 'Man of Steel'. But as we all know that soon changed, the Superman sequel quickly became a slightly different beast with the inclusion of Batman, so now we had a vs flick. Even though it was still a Superman sequel, Superman himself had suddenly taken the backseat to Batman. But just when you thought Superman couldn't get screwed over any further, the studio (and DC) then threw in other characters like Wonder Woman and other cameos. So the once Superman sequel was now a full blown franchise kick starter/prequel for the proposed Justice League movie. Just a glance at the movies title hints at how overblown this film could be.

So at first this movie goes to some lengths to try and show the devastation we saw in MoS (Supes fighting Zod) from the human perspective. Snyder clearly took on board all the negativity he got from MoS and tried to rectify it somewhat. Does he achieve this?? well to some degree I guess. OK he clearly shows us the collateral damage caused and how people suffered, so I guess that helps. It also showed us Bruce Wayne amongst the people and how his building gets destroyed killing one of his work colleagues. Didn't quite get why that guy died really, Bruce clearly tells him to get out of the building at one point. Cut back a little later and the guy is still in the building, for some reason, as it starts to come down. The guy is literally in the same office that Bruce had told him to leave, what an idiot. Did those people actually need Wayne to tell them to leave the friggin' building?!

So basically Superman destroyed tonnes of property, inadvertently killed innocents and racked up massive bills for...everything! Because of this Superman has become a controversial figure, people are not sure if he's a force for good or a force to put humans at deadly risk. Bruce Wayne doesn't like Supes, he destroyed his building, killed his work mate and he's stealing his thunder essentially. Bruce thinks Supes needs to be controlled, killed or exiled, and he's the man to do just that. In the mean time Lex Luthor is after Kryptonite and is basically using the whole situation to try and rid the world of both Supes and Batman whilst gaining total power. Wonder Woman merely floats around turning up at places to simply show she's in the movie. Important characters like Lois Lane, Alfred, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Martha Kent etc...are now secondary (or defunct) because there are simply too many characters here and compared to the likes of Superman, Batman, Lex, Wonder Woman etc...they're pretty much boring and no longer of importance.

So lets look at some of the big hitters here, the main protagonists and antagonists (except for Supes played by Henry Cavill because we know him from MoS. He's still boring, can't act and always uses the same facial expression). Lex Luthor played by Jess Eisenberg, easily the most annoyingly stupid portrayal in the movie because of everything he does. His voice is annoying, he has hair, his facial expressions and body movements are annoying, he is annoying. Not only that but its clear to see he's merely phoning in a Jim Carrey-esque Riddler impersonation, or just another take on the Joker (or to some degree, a Max Landis impression). Oh and he also has an Asian female sidekick because of course he does. All supervillains have a female sidekick it seems. Suffice to say Eisenberg's Lex is horrible and doesn't fit the character or movie, the hell was all that 'ding ding ding ding' about?

Wonder Woman played by Gal Gadot...badly, because she can't act (yes I said it). Bottom line, the f*ck is this character doing here?! She wants a file, spends the entire run time looking for this file because she wants a picture or something (the pic showing her and the characters from the, as yet unreleased, Wonder Woman movie). She gets the file and the picture, discovers the other Justice League members and decides to help Batman and Superman fight whatever, for some reason...wut?? She literally pops up in this movie for no reason whatsoever, she fights alongside Batman and Supes for no reason whatsoever. Who is she? what does she do? why is she here? where did she come from? why does she have super powers? why does she drive a super car? Like literally what the literal fuck is this all about? This movie is meaningless to someone not in the know and this characters vapid inclusion sums that up perfectly. Anyway we all know she's only in this movie to help set up the Justice League flick and make the BvS trailers look more attractive to the juveniles and female audience.

We do get some laughably bad snippets showing other future DC characters which are all planned for the upcoming Justice League movie. When I say laughably bad, I mean it; the small cameo for Aquaman shows us said underwater hero in his full tattooed glory. Was that wise? I know we all know what he looks like but surely a bit of mystery for his first time on the big screen (plus he looks stupid). And what happens in that snippet anyway? An underwater probe just happens to find Aquaman who totally reveals himself straight away, not too clever methinks. The Cyborg snippet was a horrific, obvious looking CGI mess whilst The Flash snippet didn't really show anything, literally. And why do all these characters have their own logos in the movie? Duh??!

Lois Lane played by Amy Adams, again, why is she here? Her role? to merely try and prove that Superman didn't kill all those people in the opening desert scene where she and Olsen are sent to interview ISIS or whatever. Why was she even sent there? she's a reporter. Why would everyone think Superman killed those people who were killed with bullets, Supes doesn't use guns. Notice Supes doesn't save poor old Olsen or those blokes that were shot, but manages to save Lane...again, ugh! Lane is only used in this pointless sub plot just so she can point out that Superman didn't kill those blokes in the desert, and prove that they were killed by Luthor's men. By which point, it doesn't even matter anyway, the main plot had moved well past all that crap and no one cared. Just stick Lane in a tub, naked and have her kiss a topless Superman because cheap sex appeal.

Doomsday, a big invincible CGI turd with spikes coming out of it...great. Created by Luthor using his own blood and the dead General Zod's DNA (still not really sure how Kryptonian technology does that but whatever). Yeah this thing is so flippin' powerful it should have killed everyone and wiped out America with ease, the end. But no, instead it just throws everyone around a bit, you know, into buildings, debris whatever just happens to be there...blah blah blah. Good job Wonder Woman turns up with her glowing whip and powerful gauntlets...meh who cares.

Lets look at the dream sequence in the movie, the main one, you know, Batman Fury Road. This entire sequence made no sense, no sense! Why is it in here? what's going on exactly? who are the human fly type characters? I understand what the gist is don't get me wrong, Batman is basically afraid of Superman taking control, he's afraid at the fact he's essentially powerless against him, OK fine. Did we need a big long dream sequence on the set of Fury Road? Why do I get the impression this is yet another set up for another possible movie, a stupid movie where Batman looks stupid in the daytime and in the desert. Then you have the Flash moment. The Flash seems to enter Wayne's dream and warn him of something, a future premonition if you will. But how could The Flash enter Wayne's dream? was this visual image a dream itself? had Wayne woken up prior to The Flash coming through? Does The Flash have the power to do this??

Then you have one of the cheapest, lowest moments in this movie, if not the entire DC universe so far. The death of Superman, yes they actually managed to squeeze the death of Superman into this movie, on top of everything else. Here's my problem with this (and surely its bloody obvious), this is the kick starter movie for the entire Justice League franchise, the acorn that will presumably grow into the massive oak. There is obviously going to be quite a few movies after this that will obviously include Superman because he's one of the main team members. There is no way in hell they are obviously gonna kill off Superman right now, in this movie, before the Justice League comes out. Like seriously! how fucking stupid do these studios think we are?? So what you have here is a ridiculously pointless and inane mini plot where Superman gets killed, gets buried, and we're all supposed to take this as a high emotional moment, a tear-jerker. As if we're supposed to be worried about Superman. No DC, no Warner, we're not worried about Superman, we're not crying because we all know he's gonna come back. Quite literally, fuck you Snyder, fuck you for allowing this tacky shit.

Honesty, as I watched this I was actually kinda OK with it, to a degree. But after completion, some thinking, some research and obviously going back over the movie, it basically kinda sucks. Despite the huge budget, numerous people involved and the fact that both DC and Warner have had previous chances to get this stuff right, they still haven't! The film is all over the place, its messy as hell, this cut is about three hours long (or whatever) and there's only actually about ten minutes of Batman vs Superman in it! Bruce Wayne doesn't live in Wayne Manor anymore but instead lives in some underground modern art pad. The batmobile seems to be utterly invincible and can smash through anything whilst the bad guys never seem to learn that shooting it doesn't do anything (the obligatory car chase sequence with a gazillion explosions, car wrecks, mini guns, expendable goons galore etc...).

Product placement is through the roof as is the use of present-day media presenters and various media outlets. This is supposed to be a comicbook world, not our real present-day world. Why are you trying to make out that these characters exist in our reality? that's not the idea. There are too many characters, too many mini plots, choppy editing and pacing and nothing really seems to add up. But at the end of the day, no matter how much they try, Batman had no real motivation to kill (or even fight) Superman and Superman had no real motivation to kill Batman (outside of his kidnapped mother whom he could and should of saved himself easily at any point). Although, we do learn that Batman can be stopped dead in his tracks simply by uttering the name Martha. Lets hope future villains don't pick up on that huh.

I guess my main question did they manage to fuck this up so badly? How, yet again, did DC, Warner and Snyder manage to get this wrong? It just defies believe frankly. I still stand by my opinion that if you were to show this to someone who had little to no knowledge of these characters, this comicbook world as a whole, they would be completely lost watching this movie, totally lost. Is that how a movie should play out? is that the aim? To only cater to the (hardcore) fanboys and fanbase who just wanna see snippets from their favourite comics recreated on the big screen. Of course not! every movie should be able to stand alone and not rely on future instalments to help it out or back it up. A studio should focus on one movie at a time and try to assure that movie is the best it can be. Put simply, this just isn't happening anymore and it certainly didn't happen here. This movie is an outright failure on all counts as a stand alone movie.


Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

So surely everyone knows this is a modern remake of the old 1960's classic western, which itself was a remake of the old 1954 Japanese classic 'The Seven Samurai'. And again surely everyone knows how influential both movies, especially the 54 film, have been in cinematic history. So this does beg the question, do we really need to see yet another remake of this concept? Do we really need an almost exact copy of the 1960's version merely with up to date stars? The answer to that is no we don't.

So what we have here is essentially the same film albeit with minor changes throughout, because you can't make a beat for beat remake can you (ahem!). So that means you have a small town in the wild west of America that is under threat from a corrupt industrialist, a Mr Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard). Mr Bartholomew is using the good people of Rose Creek as slaves to mine for gold, I think that's what it was, doesn't really matter. His henchmen kill a load of innocents when they stand up to him which forces Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) to go off in search of help. Cullen comes across warrant officer Sam Chisholm (Denzel Washington) and manages to convince him for the job. Chisholm then sets off to hire more good men to help him. What follows is surely obvious to all.

So lets look at the heroes, the seven. Well its a nicely rounded, dare I say, politically correct group of gunslingers that's for sure. Most of whom are gunslingers by default but some have other skills too. Yes the group is diverse but for me it was a little too obviously diverse. You've almost got a person to represent every community, which is fine for marketing purposes (and today's overly sensitive climate) obviously, but it just seemed a bit too forced to me.

So looking at the characters what have we got. Denzel Washington naturally plays the all round hero and leader of the gang, Sam Chisholm. Of course we discover that Bogue had killed his family years earlier so that's very convenient and cliched. The overrated Chris Pratt is Joshua Faraday, a ladies man and slick gambler. Ethan Hawke plays the hard to pronounce and stupidly named Goodnight Robicheaux. A southern dandy type who fought for the confederacy and is a sharpshooter, he's basically the Doc Holliday of the bunch. Vincent D'Onofrio plays Jack Horne, a larger than life man of the wild who likes to stab people and wears an odd hat. Lee Byung-hun is Billy Rocks (again stupid name), an immigrant who is an expert with knives and doesn't use martial arts amazingly.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is the stereotypical Mexican of the team who uses two guns. And lastly Martin Sensmeier plays the native American Red Harvest who does exactly what you'd expect the character to do, looks exactly as you'd expect him to look and joins the team for no real reason whatsoever. Its like he joins just so they have a native American on the team. But wait there's more! Just to really make sure everyone is covered in this modern remake, we even get a woman on the team at one point (Cullen), technically. Nothing wrong with that of course, but again it just feels a bit forced, a bit obvious.

So how do they compare to the 1960's seven? Well lets be frank here, they can't compare in any way, how could they, I don't even have to explain why. Plot wise its actually a very similar affair though. The old seven consisted of a Cajun (the fast gun), a drifter (the humorous one), a knife expert (errr...the fast knife guy), a fortune seeker (after lots of loot any way possible), a traumatised veteran (once feared, since lost his nerve), a brash young gunfighter (wanting a reputation as a tough guy and gunslinger), and a half Mexican, half Irish professional in dire need of cash (the loser?).

The old movie does utilise diversity for sure but its not as obvious, not as in your face, the old seven feel a bit more natural. But the old team were helping Mexican townsfolk where as the new movie shows the seven helping a more white European bunch of townsfolk. Some interesting switches there. Obviously there are plot differences between the 1960's version and this new remake, I won't delve into them as this isn't really a comparison of both movies. I compared the characters because they are clearly the meat and potatoes of the movies and in both cases have big A-list names attached.

This remake is a technically impressive film that's for sure. Nothing that will blow your mind I might add as we've seen it all before, but nonetheless, credit where credits due, this film does look the bees knees. The camera work on the landscapes, the wild west sets both exterior and interior, the costumes, the weapon close-ups, the make-up, the pinging bullets, stunts, the camera work on gunslinging etc...Everything looks slick, crisp and completely authentic, as you would expect these days.

But even though the majority of the movie does look sweet, they do mess things up by going over the top in places. For example the character of Billy Rocks, sure he looks cool...but maybe too cool? Having all these small katana blades around his waist seemed a bit silly to me, a bit too comicbook-ish. All the main heroes seemed a tad overdressed for my liking, a bit too flash really. Also at points the camera work/angles on some gun fights almost seemed almost too good, too flashy; maybe a more grounded approach would have looked better?

As for action, fisticuffs and other such cliches, well its a mixed bag of dull and dumb truth be told. For a start we all know what's gonna happen, how its gonna end. We all know most of the good guys will be killed off in heroic last stands (I won't say who but...its all very clearly politically correct put it that way). The gun fights are loud and realistic but totally cliched and uneventful. The big finale at the end is even more cliched and even more ridiculous than I even thought possible. Big bad guy Bogues has this entire army of a few hundred men descending on this small town, yet seven men manage to fend almost all of them off, riiight. All of the good guys seem to have guns with infinite bullets in them, hardly ever do we see much reloading.

The bad guys are a constant stream of stupidity, literally one after another running into plain view for the good guys to gun down easily. All the bad guys are utterly useless at gun fighting...and taking cover. And lastly, Bogues has around two hundred men I think it was, so that's a lot sure. But I would say at least half are killed in the first wave of attack on the town. Then after that each of the seven take down loads of these useless cowboys, one after another like on a shooting range. It just feels like the good guys take down way too many bad guys, of which there seems to be an endless stream. Plus we never see any horses get killed despite the fact that clearly tonnes would have been blown to pieces.

On one hand a modern retelling is a good way to show how an old movie could look with up to date effects, camera work, stunts etc...On the other hand it can still be completely pointless in many cases, and this just happens to be another case. Bottom line, all you have here is a remake just for the sake of a remake in order to use current big bankable stars together. Why do I get the feeling the bigwigs behind this are just jumping on the current 'Avengers' team-up angle, sticking groups of A-list names together in anything they can. The thing is they didn't even make good casting choices in my opinion. There are way better and more interesting actors that could have been cast here, both A-list and B-list/quirky character actors. There really is no reason to ever come back to this after your first viewing; why would you when you have two far better original movies to watch instead. Yep this flick isn't gonna stick with you for very long, already forgotten, next!


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

War Dogs (2016)

Holy Ben & Jerry's what's happened to Jonah Hill?!

Anyway what we have here is a movie based on a Rolling Stone article, whilst at the same time a very very loose adaptation of real events. The story follows two young men in their twenties, Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, who simply become arms dealers and turn out to be very good at it. From humble beginnings they both start off with small fry to ease themselves into the industry. Then as things go well for them they naturally progress to bigger fish and eventually land a major US government contract. But as with many things, what goes up must come down.

This movie has that very well trodden style that kinda feels a bit like a Scorsese mob flick with dark humour thrown in. You know what I mean right, lots of mini montages that show a period of time where the protagonists are going from strength to strength in their new, usually dodgy field of expertise. This is often accompanied by some hip music, usually something retro from way back, a bit of slow motion, narration know the score. Well this movie basically starts of predictably in that vein with both men going through some bad patches, coming together, getting through some scrapes together until finally they click and start their ball rolling.

With that the film is entertaining for the most part as we unravel what kind of characters these guys are. Hill plays Diveroli, a larger than life, overly confident, brash young man who (in this movie) looks like a small time wannabe hood that wouldn't look outta place in...yep you guessed it, a Scorsese movie. On the other hand Teller plays Packouz, a struggling massage therapist with a wife, a kid and morals; the sensible foil to the loud and outrageous Diveroli. In that both actors are genuinely fun to watch as they both bumble their way into the big leagues. I don't really know much about Teller other than the hit flop 'Fantastic 4' but I was surprised to find myself relating to his situation and actually caring about his characters outcome. Here's a genuinely nice bloke, trying his best to make a living, who gets caught up in something that gets outta hand; but he doesn't deserve the backlash.

On the other hand the character of Diveroli is played with gusto by Hill and is easily the more exciting to watch even if his character is an A-hole most of the time. This is a guy Packouz knew from school so they are pretty close, they have history. With that its hard for Packouz to tame or argue with Diveroli because he basically doesn't wanna upset the guy, he likes Diveroli. The man is over the top but essentially just trying to make a buck for the pair of them. To top that Diveroli gets Packouz into the gunrunning biz to help him with his money problems. Obviously things work out well and the pair make a killing which makes it even harder for Packouz to rock the boat because he owes Diveroli everything. But anyway Hill is the best thing in this movie from his somewhat heavy frame which is a little intimidating, to his crazy laugh, off the cuff quips, devious lies and eventual turncoat behaviour.

What we see for the most part is the duo setting up contracts, working their business setup (AEY), juggling home life (for Packouz anyway) and letting their hair down in various seedy ways. The only real moments of 'action', if you can call it that, are when the duo actually go off to Jordan to smuggle some weapons into Iraq. They do this via truck (as they have no permit to fly despite numerous bribes here and there) which is actually quite tense and exciting because you have no clue how it will go down. If you go into the movie blind, without knowing anything of the real time events then its hard to guess what might happen. Sure you know they'll have issues, but you're not sure what kind and if anyone will end up dead. The movie is a blend of black comedy and bio-pic with this adult edge, not overly adult, but just enough to make you unsure about the levels of violence it may or may not show.

After a bit of research I did discover that the story is heavily exaggerated and dramatised to make a more interesting flick. Much of what we do see is apparently fictional  and never occurred, although I'm unsure what. I do know that the entire gunrunning operation into Iraq never happened, so even though its a good section of the film, its invented (or based on other events). This does hinder the movie somewhat as it dilutes the gritty atmosphere, supposedly based on real events. For instance, at one point Packouz's Albanian driver disappears without a trace when their shady deal with another gunrunner (Bradly Cooper) starts to go tits up. Although it sounds kinda normal for something like this, its actually not. The plot up to that point doesn't really follow that kind of mobster killing route, so when this occurs you tend to ask yourself why. Add to the fact that it might not be true anyway and all of a sudden the film lacks punch.

Nonetheless, not knowing anything about this American scandal actually helped me enjoy the movie. It probably helped me enjoy it much more than if I did know the whole story because then I'd know the final outcome and all the stuff that was made up for the film (obviously). So despite the plot being somewhat generic with many tropes and styles that have been done many times before, I was still engaged. The main plot surrounding a huge arms deal with the US government going belly up and the guys trying to blunder their way out of it was good stuff, offering plenty of commentary on modern America. Not overly shocking these days to be honest, but still an eye opener for sure. Solid stuff but nothing epic.


Saturday, 10 December 2016

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

The voyages of the starship Enterprise in this rebooted, alternate timeline continue. Three years into its five year mission the crew reach Yorktown space station, a large fancy looking hub with a stupid name. James T. Kirk grows tired of life in space, Spock has split with Uhura, Sulu has reunited with his family and is apparently gay now, Spock Prime has died and Scotty just continues to fix stuff. Its a veritable soap opera in space and we're no closer to seeing any whales it seems.

So what should happen next? why a rescue mission of course (stupid question). A ship (the USS Franklin) is supposedly crashed and stranded on a planet (Altamid) which is inside a nebula, according to a lone survivor in a drifting escape pod. So like the good little bunch of humanitarians they are the crew blast off into said nebula to assist. Not long after entering the nebula the crew find they are unable to stay in contact with Yorktown, communications down, hmmm smells like a tra...oh. Yep before you can quote a Rebel Admiral from another sci-fi fantasy flick the Enterprise comes under attack from a vast swam of small ships. These ships are able to completely destroy the Enterprise, but not before the crew can escape to the planet below and we meet the antagonist Krall (Idris Elba). Long story short, Krall is after a mcguffin which is part of a super weapon that can kill people very easily. Oh and he wants to wipe out Yorktown with it, bet you didn't see that coming huh.

This movie really started off badly in my opinion. The opening mini plot with Kirk off on a diplomatic mission to offer the mcguffin to this alien race was, for all intense and purposes, crap. The whole sequence looked crap, the CGI aliens were crap, Pine's acting against the CGI aliens was crap, it wasn't funny even though it was really trying to be, and in general it just looked like something from a mock Star Trek picture (like 'Galaxy Quest'). Then as we progress further, the initial trap and space battle that sees the Enterprise torn apart was also pretty ropy looking in my opinion. When I say ropy I mean it just looked like a messy cluster of CGI nonsense. Hundreds of tiny CGI spaceships zooming around in large CGI swarms like little flies or tiny birds, laser blasts everywhere, everything moving quicker than you can comprehend...ugh! Basically its hard to make out what's going on because so much was happening on the screen, and it all looked CGI.

The planet that the crew find themselves stuck on for a large portion of the movie just happens to be a lush, green, Endor-like world with a breathable atmosphere. Also, Kirk and co just happen to come across a sexy female alien with alluring body art, oh and she just happens to be an expert in martial arts, weapons and has converted the USS Franklin into her home. Said Starfleet ship also just happens to be the same ship that houses all the secrets to Krall and his followers, and it just so happens to have a motorbike on board too. Gee I'll bet my bottom Dollar that will come in handy at some point...probably for an action sequence of some kind? eh! oh yes. I did find myself wondering just what the hell would a motorbike be doing on a spaceship...I really should know better by now.

Yeah so the bad guy is after the mcguffin weapon thingy which he thinks Kirk has, but Kirk and co are just trying to get off the planet. Krall then finds the mcguffin, explains what its all about to Kirk and co, as you do, and carries on explaining how he's gonna wipe out Yorktown. So now Kirk and co are involved in trying to stop Krall with the help of Jaylah the sexy alien with alluring body art. This obviously leads to a battle between the Starfleet crew and Krall's endless supply of henchmen. Expect lots of laser blasts, leaping around, many moments of deus ex machina, fast quips, boring martial arts and of course...that motorbike.

So anyway eventually the crew manage to escape off Altamid by fixing the USS Franklin, they set off after Krall who's now gone off to destroy Yorktown. We do see a lot of Krall's henchmen on the planet admittedly, but not as many as is indicated by the amount of ships he has at his disposal. Like seriously there must be thousands upon thousands of these tiny ships that make up this swarm. Where the hell did all the pilots come from to fly these ships? Why didn't we see this army on the planet surface? Where did they park all those ships on the planet? How has no one come across this small army until this point?? Secondly, where did Krall get all these ships? How come they are able to penetrate and virtually fly through solid metal?? What on earth are these things made out of?? Its also at this point that the franchise kinda sinks for me. Why? because they use a contemporary rock song to accompany an action sequence in space. Yes its actually a part of the plot but still, for me that is not something you do in a Star Trek movie. I blame this on the director Justin Lin, yeah you can do that all you want in trash like The Fast and Furious franchise, but not in Star Trek thank you.

Well to answer some of those points, as we discover Krall is actually a former pre-Federation soldier and captain (Balthazar Edison) of the USS Franklin on this Endor-like planet. This guy became upset when the Federation was formed because humans essentially made peace with alien enemies and put him out of work. He and his crew were also unlucky enough to get stranded on said planet (through a rogue wormhole apparently) and believed the Federation had abandoned them. Although I'm still not too sure how they were not found up until this point considering the technology and time span we're talking here. This all happened back in the year 2164 I believe, the ship and crew only being discovered in the present Star Trek year of 2263. With this movie being set in the alternate timeline, this would be the alternate series of events for the USS Franklin. Although this ship is new to the franchise I believe so technically it had no original series of events, if you wanna be really picky.

Moving on, Edison and his crew managed to stay alive all this time by utilising the extinct native alien technology that was left behind on the planet. How they worked out how to use this extinct alien technology is anyone's guess. How they even got it to work is another guess because surely an extinct alien races technology might be low on batteries. For some reason said technology gave the crew life but also turned them into powerful mutants? Oh and it also gave Balthazar the power to drain another living organisms life force? Oh and all those henchmen are actually alien drones that he managed to get going and utilise for his indestructible swarm (I guess the ships were the extinct alien races tech too). And why exactly did he change his name to Krall? Because it just sounded like a cool alien name or what? What's the deal with that?

Yes there are lots of amazing factors here, it always takes me time to get my head around these Trekkie plots (especially with the alternate timeline and new additions) but are you even surprised? The timeline in general for this franchise is so bloody convoluted its unreal. I feel like I need to do major research into Trek lore just to understand the basics in these plots because there's so much backstory. Yet despite that aspect, Star Trek has well and truly become an action franchise these days and alas this third movie merely continues that trend. The plot wasn't the labyrinth of time travel the original 2009 reboot was admittedly, but once again it just feels like an extended TV episode. The villain is a bog standard bloke, doesn't really look very unique, usual goals, played poorly by Elba (alien race with cockney accent huh). The crew do their usual thing, the action scenes were bland, bog standard henchmen types, lots of stupid looking brightly coloured aliens, stupid body markings, crappy CGI swarms of spaceships etc...I just didn't feel it with this, the whole thing just felt tired, a paint-by-numbers job. The original 2009 reboot felt fresh and exciting (despite the horrendous time travelling/alternate timeline nonsense), but how quickly that has faded away. I'm starting to think the franchise is really running on empty now.


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Suicide Squad: Extended Cut (2016)

So with a disappointing start to their cinematic universe, DC and co looked onward to this major project to turn their fortunes around. The first Superman venture divided audiences around the world with its dark and gloomy atmosphere, so what could be done? Well DC and co announced a 'Dirty Dozen with supervillains' movie concept with David Ayer at the helm, a director known for dark, gritty, gloomy movies, ah. So that's what we thought we would be getting, following on from 'Man of Steel' with its dark world. But then 'Batman v Superman' happened and things changed, things got lighter, brighter, sillier, more generic. The dark brooding world of Zack Snyder had taken a bit of a beating from fans, thusly the powers that be decided to change their outlook. It was time for DC to submit and embrace the Marvel universe, it was time for a Marvelisation of their product.

Enter Task Force X, a band of dangerous misfit villains that must work together to complete their undercover black ops mission in order to reduce their prison sentences. At the helm of this...suicide squad? is the hard-nosed, unscrupulous (dare I say...bitch?), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis). Task Force X is her baby and she's not gonna let it fail, the world needs a team to stand up against the possible threat of an evil Superman type villain, and this is it. How will Waller keep control you ask? Well much like Bob Hauk in 'Escape from New York', Waller has implanted tiny explosive devices in each team members neck. Should any of them think of running off or insubordination, the device will be triggered and their heads will pop. Because originality was late for work the day they came up with that.

So lets meet this team of naughty spawns, role call! OK up first is the team leader Rick Flag played by Joel Kinnaman. This guy is an army special forces Colonel and brought in by Waller to keep control. He's the only team member that isn't a criminal. He's also played in a very bland, boring, generic way by Kinnaman who apparently seems to think of himself as the bee's knees with his annoying southern drawl. It doesn't matter how southern you play him Kinnaman, its not cool.

Next up is the token stereotypically sexualised female character, that just happens to be Harley Quinn in this movie, played by Margot Robbie. So Harley is a girl, a sexy girl with blonde hair and she wears very tight booty shorts over fishnet stockings. Now there's nothing wrong with this of course but...well I'm not a teenage so I'm not gonna fawn over how great Robbie is purely because of this. Anyway Quinn has a comically large mallet, and a baseball bat and...errr...she can do acrobatics and stuff...OK there is literally no real reason for Quinn to be in this movie, there I said it. She's only here because she's basically a very popular character and that's it. When you are going up against a supernatural force, or a super powered alien force, what fucking use is a flirty blonde dressed like a stripper wielding a comically large mallet??

Quinn's love interest the Joker (Jared Leto) is of course in this movie, mainly because you need him as they included Quinn, can't have one without the other. So much you could say about this incarnation, did I like the look? No not really, its too gangster, too bling, too punk. This Joker looks like a goth teenage who's runaway from home after being scolded by his parents. I didn't really like his blinged up world, such as the gold dripping from his person in some scenes, his pimped up purple super car, ugh! just too much. I quite liked the fact that he's a basically a lowlife mobster, I liked his henchmen in their quirky masks, I liked some of his outfits such as the tuxedo, I liked some of his dialog and deliveries. On the other hand, I didn't like the tattoo's, I didn't like some of his other over the top Jim Carrey-esque deliveries, I didn't like his laugh, and I didn't like how his SWAT body armour had 'JOKER' printed on it towards the end. Overall Leto's version of the Joker was very mixed for me (what little there was of it), not terrible but not exactly what I would have gone with.

Next, Deadshot played by Will Smith...oh Jesus! So its Will Smith which basically means its not Deadshot and don't be expecting to see that classic mask either cos it ain't happening. There was never any chance of the smug Smith covering up his face for the whole film so what we get is essentially Will Smith being Will Smith as he's done in various other action flicks over the years. Honesty, Smith's performance is no different, he may as well be anyone, its just the same spiel with this guy.

Step forward Captain Boomerang played by Jai Courtney. Now this is yet another example of what the flying fuck is this character doing in this film? The guy is basically a crook and that's it! Sure he might be a good crook, a tough crook, an Aussie crook, but he does nothing, he has no powers! He throws some kind of electronic boomerangs that are almost completely ineffectual unless you want some aerial CCTV surveillance. Yes I can fully admit that Courtney is in fact one of the best performances in the film, its great to have an rough Aussie accent in the film and he's indeed funny. But alas his character is utterly useless, he's a bloke with a bad haircut and facial hair.

Straight outta da hood is El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), a Latino ex-gang member who is probably the most powerful member on the team...but doesn't wanna use them. Naturally being an ex-gang member from LA you expect lots of inane urban dialog such as 'hommie' and 'homes' etc...Deadshot uses this urban dialect when he interacts with him, which is just plain stupid sounding. His outfit seems to consist of a white vest (simple urban street wear) and facial tattoo's which are presumably gang related. This guy does little more than mope around refusing to unleash his powers. When he does its impressive, so much so it renders his human form completely pointless and boring frankly as his fire demon-like form is way more interesting. Should of cast Rick 'Zombie Boy' Genest for this character.

Killer Croc up next played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Easily the coolest and most intriguing looking character, everything about this guy just makes you wanna know more. He eats people, he actually lives in the sewers, he actually moves like a crocodile in and out of the water, he has super strength and he looks damn evil. In fact this guy is so out there and seemingly deadly its kinda makes you wonder how he could ever be tamed for the team. This guy is like a mutated splicing of Hannibal Lector and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. The makeup is excellent for Croc, he genuinely looks scary, you're never really sure what he's gonna do, he sounds badass, his backstory is badass, he is badass. Unfortunately much like some other characters, he pretty much does feck all except for grunting here and there and wearing a really stupid outfit.

Slipknot, played by some bloke called Adam Beach. Kinda cool character name, don't know anything about him but it doesn't matter anyway because he's killed off very quickly with the old exploding neck device. We all knew someone would have to be used for that plot point, and it was Slipknot. Hell this guy doesn't even get any backstory setup unlike everyone else. Yet again, crap addition to the team, what does he do? He can scale walls really well, really quickly...oh and he can grapple really well too. K, thanks for that, next!

June Moore, an archaeologist possessed by an evil spirit that transforms Moore into Enchantress, a powerful supernatural sorceress (played by Cara Delevingne). Finally a character that could actually stand up to an alien super force or other supernatural baddies. One problem, she's a bitch and a turncoat and becomes the films villainess, bummer for Waller. Enchantress seeks revenge against mankind for imprisoning her within some relic in a cave that Moore discovered blah blah blah. She also has a brother called Succubus in the same situation, together they want to destroy the human race. Such a weak villain geez, she looks cliched, uninteresting, yet more tattoo's, a poor storyline and just uses lots of flashy CGI projectiles and whatnot. Succubus is just another large CGI demon type entity that stomps around firing out these weird tentacle-like projectiles. Not really sure what these tentacle things do to people, not really sure what Succubus is supposed to be doing or why Enchantress even needs him. Together they are somehow building this machine weapon thing to wipe out mankind which just happens to be another CGI beam into the sky with lots of floating debris everywhere, ugh!

Lastly we have Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and a prime example of too many characters in one movie. This Japanese swordswoman is here for no real reason at all. She is supposed to protect Flag but we don't really see much of that. I'm genuinely unsure why they included this character, guessing more footage of her was cut. This character looks lame with her childish Halloween mask, she isn't really intimidating, she looks too young, and she merely stands around being mouthy to people whenever she is addressed. Her sword has supernatural powers...but we don't see any of that so who cares.

This movie was very very choppy, clearly edited to hell and clearly torn between about four different plots! Task Force X, the Joker's crime syndicate, the Joker and Quinn's relationship in flashbacks and lastly the supernatural Enchantress plot; all of which is packed together awkwardly. There is also so much crapola that either doesn't make sense or is just plain dumb. Waller kills her own staff at one point, why? because they are apparently not cleared for the information they were working on at that point. But, but...why did you use them? Isn't there some kind of protocol for using the right people for the right cases? Couldn't you just transfer them to another case or something when you no longer needed them?? Does this mean Waller is now a wanted criminal??? Like what the hell lady! Lastly, Ayer makes the bad guys out to be good guys, he turns them into goodies essentially by making Waller (supposedly a goodie at first) ruthless. But does this spoil these characters for the future?? They aren't suppose to be good guys, but now they are, hmmm.

On top of that you have nonsense like the Joker supposedly going down in a helicopter crash and somehow surviving. All the special forces bullets never seem to do anything but when Task Force X come along their bullets are lethal. Apparently Harley Quinn can kill the supernatural beings quite easily with a bat when everyone else requires guns. All the special forces guys are killed willy nilly because they are apparently useless, even in body armour, whilst Quinn and co strut around in casual clothes. A simple bomb kills the supernatural superpower? GQ Edwards (Scott Eastwood) allows himself to get blown up, but surely it didn't have to go down that way? And at the start when the team are suited up, they are all given their regular clothes and weapons.

I get why, because fans wanna see these characters in their original outfits. But plot wise it makes no sense, why would they allow Quinn, Croc, Diablo, Boomerang dress as they do? Wouldn't they actually be better protected in the same kind of outfits as the special forces guys? And why the flip would they allow Quinn to use her baseball bat or mallet? Again, how are those objects effective exactly? The only one actually kitted out sensibly is Deadshot.

This movie tries to hard. All too obvious with the soundtrack; I swear you've only been watching about 5 minutes and the movies already gone through about half a dozen tracks! I didn't count but Ayer used a lot of tunes in this movie, Jesus! Literally every scene has a different track slapped over it, some are fine, some are completely out of place (much like the movies overall humour). Half of the characters didn't need to be there or are simply useless, painfully obvious for some. Everything simply revolves around Flag, Quinn and Deadshot, mainly Quinn and Deadshot. And that's only because Quinn is massively popular (possibly because of horny teenage males), and Deadshot is played by Will Smith, so he has to be front and centre, without the mask, which is utterly lame. Yes I realise this is the extended cut I'm reviewing but it matters not. I never saw the theatrical cut but if its apparently worse than this then...shit! Put simply, the movie starts out quite well despite the thick thick narration and onscreen text, but quickly disintegrates into a generic slapped together mess of monolithic proportions.


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (1996)

One year later and another straight to video sequel came along once again directed by Bradford May. So bottom line we knew what to expect with this and bottom line I don't think we were too disappointed. What was kinda disappointing was the opening of this movie which, once again, started with the same recap of the original that we saw in the second movie. To top that, they even appear to actually use some of the same footage from the second movie to kick off this third movies plot, the same footage!

So this time Westlake (Arnold Vosloo again) is still looking to create synthetic skin that won't disintegrate over time. He is approached by Dr. Bridget Thorne (Darlanne Fluegel) who was apparently one of the original doctors who helped save Westlake's life in the original plot (supposedly in the original movie, but obviously she wasn't in that movie). She claims that she wants to help Westlake, but low and behold she's actually working for corrupt businessman Peter Rooker (Jeff Fahey) who simply wants to unlock Westlake's gift of super strength for his own devious deeds.

The start of this movie looks much like a straight to video affair which was to be expected to be truthful. If the second flick was a slightly trashy looking feature then obviously this would be no different. With both sequels directed by May you could be forgiven for thinking he made both one after the other, seeing as they start off in exactly the same way, same credits, same recaps, same Batman-esque soundtrack by Danny Elfman, same overall style etc...So in one sense, both movies are, continuity wise, very neat and tidy. All together the whole trilogy fits together nicely with the same overall visuals and atmosphere.

The actual movie is of course a golden cornucopia of stereotypical action flick cliches, positively brewing over with them. The bad guys are a small bunch of very slick, smartly dressed men with sharp haircuts. Their leader (Jeff Fahey) is a smooth talking son of a gun with a large house, loads of dosh, a hot wife, a kid and an even slicker haircut than his henchmen. His second in command seems to be homosexual but I'm not too sure how that is supposed to figure into the plot, it just seems to be there. What I did find amusing, something that you saw often in dated action flicks, was how the main bad guy lived in a large house, apparently with all his henchmen. Its all these guys live together? Do these henchmen actually have their own places or do they sleep in the spare rooms? In certain scenes you would see these guys just standing around with their boss as he past the time playing his piano or watching TV or whatever. The whole thing just looks so stupid, like is that all they do all day?? Its such a weird trope of dated action flicks.

As for Fahey's villain, he's a slimeball, he treats his kid badly, cheats on his wife (his wife is naive and dumb it seems), and he talks like a gentleman even though he clearly isn't one. So yeah he's a good villain, a real grease stain with slick back hair. Darlanne Fluegel also does well as the sexy blonde villainess purely because she's a sexy blonde villainess, not much more to say there (stereotypical characters). The plot is fine but rather dull, silly in places and repetitive frankly. Naturally Westlake is still looking to create the perfect synthetic skin and naturally he's gotta fight these bad guys to succeed in getting around to that. Nothing special really, obviously he wins, obviously he doesn't manage with his ultimate goal leaving the franchise open for more. The action is fine but bland, effects are fine but uneventful except for one large explosion towards the end where I'm sure the stunt guys caught on fire by accident. It looks like the size and timing of the explosion caught them by surprise, but who knows.

This final film does really feel more like a made for TV movie than the other two. That's not to say its bad, it still carries the Darkman name well and carries on with the seedy, tacky, grim, trashy atmosphere which was started by Raimi originally. The main problem is it doesn't really offer anything new, nothing fresh is brought to the table here, it feels a bit stale and lacks real bite. Nonetheless it still feels like a solid throwaway comicbook flick, an easy going Saturday night in with a takeaway type flick. As a trilogy all three films are solid entertainment, with this final film being the weakest, but its still engaging and enjoyable.


Sunday, 27 November 2016

Darkman II: The Return of Durant (1995)

The comicbook character that was never actually a comicbook returns in this straight to video/made for TV-esque romp. Originally created by Sam Raimi but serving as executive producer on this sequel, his influence is still a strong presence. The film starts out in much the same way as the original with the same styled title/credit sequence along with a brief recap of the events that took place in the first movie. This is basically a highlight reel of the first film but with new scenes shot with Arnold Vosloo that replicate original scenes with previous lead man Liam Neeson. Overall this opening doesn't really help the movie as it does look very 'made for TV-esque'.

So despite the cheap looking start the movie does actually get into gear pretty fast getting back to Raimi roots. Director Bradford May actually does a sterling job in recapturing that Raimi style that we all know and love from the original and the Evil Dead franchise. You all know what I mean, that kind of cheap looking, tacky, sleazy visual flare with very simplistic yet effective special effects. Its hard to describe but Raimi has the knack of making genuinely authentic looking shabby comicbook flicks. This movie also feels very similar in tone to 'Robocop 2' I think, with the over the top, anarchic violence and gallows humour. The beginning of the movie also seems structured in a similar way, showcasing a short action sequence with some faceless criminals who aren't part of the main plot. Its literally just a quick set up to show that Westlake is now a Batman-esque vigilante stopping crime.

In said sequence Westlake/Darkman confronts a fleeing criminal. When the crook fires his gun at Westlake he calmly holds up a manhole cover to protect himself. But surely the randomly fired bullets could of gone anywhere and the crook could easily of shot him elsewhere after he lowers the cover. Typical early 90's superhero silliness really. The crook then blurts out 'what are you?!', Westlake/Darkman replies coolly, 'I'm just a concerned citizen', before taking the perp down. A perfect Batman 89 rip-off moment and a perfect piece of cheese no doubt. What's kinda amusing though is essentially Darkman is just some bloke in bandages (wouldn't a balaclava be easier?), wearing a black trench coat and a black fedora, yet the crook acts as if he's some kind of mythical superhero.

So now Westlake is living under the city in some abandoned railway line or subway or something, he even has his own railway/subway train thing that he flies around beneath the city with. Of course there is absolutely no explanation as to how he manages all this without getting discovered or how he even got down there and set it all up so don't question it. He funds all this by stopping criminals who just happen to have stolen large sums of cash, so he pinches the loot off them to use for himself. So essentially he's also stealing money or using stolen money on himself which is still kinda wrong...right? Anywho Westlake is still trying to create a synthetic skin that won't disintegrate which is the entire basis of this sequel. Once again Robert Durant (who somehow survived from the first movie with no explanation) is the thorn in his side. Long story short, Durant needs a large building to start up a weapons factory to become powerful once again. The building is already owned by a scientist (who is also working on synthetic skin) and his sister who won't sell up. Westlake teams up with said scientist because his research is getting good results. Durant kills said scientist so he can put pressure on the sister to sell the building. Westlake tries to defend the sister and stop Durant.

Its a pretty predictable pattern for this movie in all honesty, they haven't really stayed too far from the original premise. Bringing back Durant seems like a big stretch seeing as he was basically killed in the first movie, but I guess Larry Drake was such a good baddie they needed him back at all costs. Durant's small crew of henchmen are a wondrous example of classic 90's stereotypical cliches. All white males that look and dress like greasy yuppies straight off the set of 'Wall Street'. In fact none of them are in the least bit threatening at all, they are clearly more for comedic relief and buffoonish if anything. Arnold Vosloo steps in for Liam Neeson and does a surprisingly good job! I really expected the acting to be dire and with little heart and soul but Vosloo does fit the bill nicely. Naturally you shouldn't expect anything epic as this feature is a pure slice of trashy comicbook hokem which I'm sure the actors were well aware of, but it all works nicely.

The makeup for Westlake is once again very good but not quite as good as the original movie. The detail is there but Westlake's face isn't quite as moist and raw looking, it looks a bit more rubbery this time around, but still decent. Action is satisfactory, nothing to shout about, nothing overly grandiose, mainly fisticuffs. Like the first movie its limited by budget and does look a tad cheap at times, but it all adds to the charm of the franchise really. Its fun watching Westlake utilise his synthetic skin to become a double of the various baddies (although this happens in the first movie also), its quirky, stupid, slapstick-esque fun for sure. But ultimately it makes no sense in the finale as he's swapping masks willy-nilly, I thought it was a time consuming process to put these masks on?

With its tongue firmly planted within its cheek, this movie certainly achieves what it set out to do, and that was to try and stand side by side with the original. Yes this movie isn't great by any means, but it is just about on par with the first in my humble opinion. The visuals, the gritty seedy trashy atmosphere, all the usual comicbook tropes such as struggling with inner rage, an underground lair, hero shots, shadows etc...Its all here and it all looks like a solid continuation from the first flick, which again is kinda surprising. Yes you could say Darkman II is basically repeating itself by having Westlake kill Durant and his henchmen all over again, and you'd be right. But at the end of the day if you liked the first then I'm sure this will suffice.


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Crack in the World (1965)

Hell of a title huh, there's a big the world. The thought springs to mind, how in the hell did Earth manage to get a big ass crack in it?? The further thought springs to mind, how will the characters in the movie get around this?? Surely all this would be down to a major earthquake or some kind of natural disaster right? Nope, its mankind messing with nukes again, because that was the go-to plot device for everything back in this era, apparently.

So some scientist types are trying to tap into the Earth's mass of geothermal energy by drilling deep into the Earth's core, in Africa, for molten magma. They are doing this because the energy source down there would revolutionise industry and technology in general. Everything is going swimmingly until they hit a snag, a layer of dense material (of some kind) that they cannot break though with their drills. So after much deliberation and arguing, its decided to use an atomic bomb to try and crack this barrier so they can proceed to the core. What could go wrong I hear you say? well that's where the films title comes in. Yes that's right, the atomic blast causes a gigantic crack to slowly emerge in the Earth which begins to tear across both land and sea causing all sorts of problems. Could this be the end of the world?

K so firstly, firing a nuclear missile down a hole into the Earth's core?! are you guys flippin' nuts??!! OK OK, so after all the boring technical talk it could work in theory but...oh dear, you all missed the big hydrogen reservoir in the local underground vicinity. Thusly this turns the atomic blast into a much more powerful thermonuclear blast, which begins to split the Earth in two, yeah that's a pretty big human error right there folks. But wait! you were also warned by the goodie scientist type bloke that many years of previous nuke testing underground (wut??!!) may have also weakened the underground crust, and a huge crack could result if this project continues. Meh, never mind that, we need that energy, carry on! (why not just go through a volcano? or is that too stupid?).

By all accounts this is a boring disaster movie for the most part, truth be told. Much of the run time is spend with the main cast (and lots of extras) as they ponder over facts, figures and lots of large maps. The base of the organisation that is heading this dodgy project is set underground in a large metallic/rock based lair, very much like a villains base in a Bond movie. There are lots of similar looking sets with maps, lockers, tables, desks and rock formations on display, but mostly maps. Most of the time we watch the actors walk from room to room in conversation, either in good spirits, moody or serious, and then they usually look at a map or two, comparing stats. Most other times we watch the three main protagonists (Dana Andrews as Dr. Stephen Sorensen, Janette Scott as Dr. Maggie Sorensen and Kieron Moore as Ted Rampion...who looks like an early Scott Adkins) all arguing between each other because they are all caught up in a love triangle (ugh!). Gotta love those 60's safari-esque outfits Moore is wearing, all beige too...nice!

In all honesty the only decently exciting sequence in the entire movie is when Rampion and co have to shimmy down inside a volcano to plant a second nuke. The reason being they try to stop the growing crack with another blast...always with the nukes in these American films. This is actually a really good, tense sequence that not only looks decent but has the obligatory death which you just know is coming. Even so, said death is actually quite disturbing and alarming, you don't see anything too graphic of course but it just makes you sweat a bit, gets you thinking too. There are also some little touches that really set the atmosphere, such as Rampion's protective glove beginning to melt as he touches the metal cage around the nuke. You actually feel quite relieved when the remaining team members get out of the volcano.

Of course the grand finale doesn't fail you either, in terms of scope at least, although its not as tense as the volcano interior sequence. You get to watch the frantic escape from deep down as the entire underground base starts to collapse as the crack starts splitting off a huge chunk of the Earth. The devastation of the base is pretty good with lots of on-set chaos and falling debris, they clearly shook that set to bits. Other effects range from the usual usage of models, rear projection, superimposing, stock footage etc...Much of the sets and models are solid but as expected any really glossy visual effects tend to look hokey these days, probably mind blowing for the time though.

You can clearly see this movies visuals and ideas have been inspired by other movies/pop culture of the era. The sets are very very Bond-esque. Dana Andrews actually looks like a Bond villain with his grey hair and craggy features, where as Kieron Moore is the epitome of a suave but gruff action hero. The plot is similar to 'When Worlds Collide', the volcano action sequence has seemingly been taken from an episode of Thunderbirds, and both Moore and Scott starred in sci-fi classic 'The Day of the Triffids'. All together the feature is the perfect concoction of 60's culture. But is it any good? well yes and no. The build up is admittedly pretty dull, sure the plot is intriguing but the movie lurches along in a lackluster fashion for the most part. Things obviously get more exciting once the crack emerges but even then we don't get to see that much carnage (except for a model train crash), it all seems quite watered down really. In the very end the finale might be grandiose science fiction on paper but the film clearly can't really pull it off, the technology for the day just can't do it justice and it just looks crap. The fact its all in colour highlights how crap it all looks really, where as in black and white some flaws could be hidden. Its a long drawn out disaster porn flick and in my opinion not one of the better offerings, its not terrible by any means, just a bit cumbersome.


Friday, 18 November 2016

Sausage Party (2016)

I read some time ago that it took Seth Rogen a long long time to get any studio interested in making this crude feature. Is that surprising? no not really, considering that adult rated movies have only just come back into fashion thanks to a few other successful flicks (God bless that red and black jumpsuited superhero). Yet this naughty idea is so perfect its amazing it took this long for a studio to green light such a move. Of course the idea of a mocking/spoof/parody of the kids animated genre isn't new, we did get that with the Shrek franchise, albeit for the family. But the idea of a full on adult animation which openly takes the piss out of the current Pixar/Disney/Dreamworks crop of features is nothing short of sheer genius frankly. I mean come on, who wouldn't wanna see an R rated movie along the same lines as 'Toy Story' or whatever.

So the story is set within the present day I believe, but in this universe all food and drink are sentient beings. It seems that all food, drink, food related products, cleaning products...basically everything you would find in your supermarket, is alive and can communicate with each other (humans don't see this, all they see are inanimate, lifeless objects). They all live in the supermarket, within their isles which each form small communities of sorts, and cohabit in a universally happy way. They live their lives according to a simple religion or belief, that humans are Gods that will choose them and take them away to a promised land, the great beyond. Of course little do they know that they are in fact being taken away to their doom, to be eaten or used. One thing leads to another resulting in a small band of foods fighting for their lives as they try to discover the true behind the so called human Gods and the great beyond. Are their beliefs true or a complete crock of shit?

Visually this movie isn't really anything to shout home about, in fact its pretty basic looking when compared to various other major animated flicks. Yes it looks nice but it kinda reminded more of a straight to DVD type movie if anything. Some of the characters look down right childish like the main protagonist Frank, who is a sausage (or frankfurter?), Sammy the bagel, Teresa the taco etc...These characters (well all of them) are literally food (or whatever) with a set of eyes and a mouth on them, its extremely basic. Not that you could do much more design wise to be honest. Yet some of the characters were pretty good and looked like they had more time spend on their creation. Firewater the old bottle of liquor, Kareem the lavash and the excellent Gum and his little electric wheelchair, clearly based on Stephen Hawking. I think the worst looking character that just didn't work (for me) was the second main protagonist of Brenda the hot dog bun. I can see how it might have been tricky to give a hot dog bun a face did this character look stupid...and creepy.

But hey who are we kidding here, this movie was never about the visuals, that was never the films main purpose. The movie was always gonna be all about the adult humour, how risqué it could be, how far it could push the boundaries of good taste and general political triggering, you know all the good stuff. On that front the movie is a complete success. Comparisons with South Park are gonna be inevitable here, and I don't blame anyone for saying so. It is indeed highly amusing to see and hear little CGI animated characters that look like something outta of a kids flick, using brutal profanity left, right and centre. But not just the usual words, oh no, we're talking an entire spectrum of naughty words and filthy innuendos. Heck at some points its not even innuendo, they just say it and mean it!

'look how tight I am'
'I've never been opened up before'
'put your meat in my bun'
'I'm filling you!'

Added to that is the devastatingly accurate contemporary political satire which springs up throughout the movie. For example the use of Jewish food products and Middle Eastern (Muslim) food products all stuck together on one shelf, in one aisle, and arguing over the space allocated to them is both predictable and genius. Yes of course the food characters are all cliched stereotypes and their problems are directly taken from present day issues which is all kinda easy comedy to be sure, but it just works in this presentation. Seeing these cartoonish little characters argue over such issues relating to our current political climate is funny and also highlights how idiotic these issues really are. Its a double whammy of comedy whilst bringing delicate problems to the forefront and shining a light on them. Its like, hey look at this! look how inane this really is.

Nothing is really safe in this movie with everything attacked and dragged through the mud. You have a box of grits that is clearly supposed to be a black male who is angry at the crackers for taking his shelf space. Various jokes about specific religious groups such as a poke at the Jewish community and Twitter at the start. Firewater the liquor is based on a Native American so there are various digs at immigration along with racism. The entire plot is virtually a play on Christianity, God and the Bible, which is played out in a small hand drawn animated sequence which explains how foods see humans, the foods beliefs and how they had been tricked for so long. A devilishly simple yet witty attack I might add, brilliantly executed. The start of the movie sees a fantastic parody of the Normandy invasion in 'Saving Private Ryan' with the various food products getting killed in horrific ways when they all spill from a shopping cart. Obviously I'm not saying the Normandy invasion is anything to be amused by, but the parody here was very clever. And lastly of course all the characters you see, as mentioned, are outrageous racist stereotypes, unashamedly so.

Even when you think things couldn't possibly get any more offensive, whammo! the finale slaps you across the face with an all out sexual orgy. Now you might be thinking how cartoon food products having sex could possibly be dirty or X-rated, well its possible. Don't get me wrong its nothing that's gonna blow your mind if you're an adult, but watching a piece of fruit suck off a turnip, or seeing a banana getting wanked off is...pretty bizarre frankly. It doesn't so much look X-rated, its the simple suggestion that's X-rated, and funny. But why is it even in here? It doesn't really add or bare any relevance to the plot. Well just because they can I guess, because they were able to get away with it, so there.

But overall is this an actual good movie or simply a case of morbid curiosity in seeing animated filth and profanity. To be honest I'd say the latter and that's because unlike South Park the characters aren't really engaging and the film lacks depth and scope. I didn't really like or care about the characters, they were just there to tell the story and get killed horribly. As for the story, well its obviously really stupid, sure the cutesy parodies are well done and all but lets be honest here, its idiotic. But overall this was indeed a simple case of watching a movie just to see what all the fuss was about, to see cartoon pieces of fruit n veg swearing and fucking each other. To see racism and sexism played out in your face, with silly characters, and having an excuse to laugh at it. In this current political climate I think this movie does wonders by allowing people to simply (hopefully) let off some steam, sit back, relax and just laugh at this nonsense. So yes its a relatively clever flick which offers up fun chunks of controversy which you can enjoy, but its nothing more than that really. Beyond the headline grabbing controversy its a bit of a one-trick pony really.


Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Skiptrace (HK/CN/US, 2016)

Wow, didn't think they made stuff like this anymore! I feel like I just got back from 1995 after watching some lame, mismatched, double team, buddy action flick. Instead its 2016 and somehow I'm still watching some lame mismatched, double team, buddy action flick. Take the title, its some kind of jargon for tracking people basically, although you can just as easily use the word 'tracking' but I guess that doesn't sound as cool. The title isn't even that relevant to the movie frankly, pfft!

Anyway so this is a Jackie Chan movie, so that inevitably means lots of slapstick action and gymnastic-esque martial arts, the usual routine. The guy he gets awkwardly partnered up with is Johnny Knoxville, so right away you know that Chan is the more straight laced of the duo, whilst Knoxville will be the jackass (no pun intended). Sure enough, Chan plays a by the books Hong Kong cop who's after Knoxville's character, whilst Knoxville plays a loud, brash, bumbling American conman on the run.

For such a basic plot its certainly convoluted in its execution. Bennie Chan (Jackie) is after a crime boss called 'The Matador' who he believes is responsible for his old partners death (and he's a crime boss). The man in question being Victor Wong. The daughter of Bennie's old partner (Samantha) works at a casino which is owned by Wong and also happens to be the same casino where conman Connor Watts (Knoxville) manages to rinse a load of money. Wong believes Samantha helped Watts in this scam so she's in trouble with him. So Bennie must track down Watts in order to help Samantha to prove she wasn't involved. But Watts has been kidnapped by Russians because he's in trouble with them for getting a crime bosses daughter pregnant.

At the same time! Watts also witnessed the murder of a woman at the hands of Wong before being kidnapped by the Russians. So Wong is also after Watts (as well as Samantha) because this murder was all recorded on a phone that Watts still has. So Bennie must travel to Russia to get Watts, then bring him back to Hong Kong to clear Samantha, at the same time using the phone to nail Wong for a murder whilst also trying to prove he's this Matador character.

The first action sequence is set within some Russian factory and sees Bennie taking on all the henchmen whilst Watts is all tied up (long story). As you would expect in a Jackie Chan movie, he is able to fend off all enemies without killing them in his usual circus routine. At the same time Knoxville's character is completely bound and is solely dependent on Chan getting him outta trouble. This involves Chan bounding around the place trying to keep the immobile body of Knoxville/Watts from coming to harm by rolling, throwing, tumbling, pushing, hoisting him all over the shop. I know this is a Chan movie so I know this kind of thing is expected but it was just lame, I'm sorry but it was. I can't even say it was impressive, more juvenile and ridiculously fake looking. It doesn't help when Knoxville is obviously being replaced with a stuntman and Chan clearly isn't moving as fast as he used to or doing anything as remotely dicey.

The whole movie progresses in this fashion, from one obviously fake looking set piece to the next. In between that we get what looks like a selection of simple tourist videos highlighting the natural beauty of the east (mainly China). Seriously I know the Chinese market is massive now and everyone is sucking up to them big time but this was such an obvious move by the Chinese side of this production. Don't get me wrong this isn't a heinous act or anything, some of the landscape shots within China are awesome, stunning, but they don't really add anything to the movie and just feel like mini holiday adverts. But back to the so called action scenes, they suck, they are literally terrible and not amusing in the slightest. After Bennie manages to capture Watts he must escort him back to Hong Kong. But because Watts is an A-hole he burns Bennie's passport meaning they are unable to fly. So Bennie decides they must make their own way on foot...all the fecking way to Hong Kong...from Russia, yeah.

So this takes up the bulk of the movie, watching these two buffoon their way across Russia, Mongolia and China. This involves crap predictable action scenes on a major river, high jinx on a cliff face with extremely bad CGI and greenscreen effects, various escape attempts by Watts but always being caught by Bennie; sleeping naked together in a cave, a few fisticuffs with Russians (yep they're after the duo too); and spending time in a native Mongolian camp where they all end up singing Adel songs. During this time the duo never manage to change their clothes, eat or drink properly or get sleep much. Yet they somehow manage to arrive in Hong Kong alive with their clothes spotless and dry.

The finale throws the usual plot twist in your face which you do kinda smell coming when we see Wong getting killed by an unknown baddie. Other than that its just business as usual with yet more boring gun fights and martial arts between various faceless characters. This entire movie just feels so damn dated its unreal, the problem is its not even a good hark back to the old days. Jackie is clearly too old for this shit and can no longer whizz around defying death. Knoxville is just a redneck idiot who can't act and I still have no idea how or why he's still in the movie business at this point (also, how much makeup is on him in this?!). The action is awful and slow, the humour is weak and cliched. The plot is a total mess and as I've already said the biggest sin is that it doesn't even feel like an actual movie half the time. The only plus points I can give are for the visuals of rural China and Mongolia, other than that the whole thing is as predictable as seeing the end credit bloopers of Jackie hurting himself.