Monday, 27 June 2016

Dirty Grandpa (2016)

'I haven't had sex in 15 years and I wanna fuck! fuck! fuck! fuck!'
'Oh, so that's what this is all about??'

Yes this is what this movie is all about, Robert De Niro's dirty grandpa character who has just lost his wife of 40 years, is now revealed to be a foul mouthed, booze obsessed pervert who wants to fuck young girls. Its up to the young, clean cut and unaware Jason (Efron) to escort him from Georgia to his Florida retirement home. Aaand that's your movie in a nutshell people, sound familiar? well that's probably because its been done a shitzillion times before.

I mean honesty, who thought of this? who greenlit it? The entire concept is so cliche and dated, an old grandfather figure that turns out to be a dirty, loud mouthed, profanity spewing perv who also just happens to be an ex-special forces type so he can also kick ass if needs be. This of course means you're gonna get a sequence where he does indeed kick someone's ass much to the surprise of Jason his grandson. Naturally of course, the fact that grandpa is an ass-kicking, alcohole machine, means that the grandson character must be a total goodie goodie, a real preppy nerd type because its the perfect equal polar opposite matchup. Completely and utterly predictable, cliched, corny and unoriginal, the characters literally lay out the ground plan for the plot without even having to write a single word of dialog for them. 

And yes you've guessed it, that plot simply revolves around lots and lots and lots of binge drinking at parties, girls in skimpy bikinis, pool parties, beach parties, drinking, drugs, lame pranks, drinking, sex, nudity, drinking, jail time, muscle flexing and plenty of drinking. This is basically the modern frat boy flick minus any originality because frat boy flicks were a staple diet back in the 80's. So this odd pairing drive off on this road trip of sorts in an attempt to reach Florida. God knows how far they actually get because the entire flick is taken up with the duo getting into various parties so grandpa can try and get laid. This is against the wishes of a shocked Jason of course but he usually ends up getting tricked or drugged into it, then winds up enjoying it, then winds up waking up somewhere hungover and naked...or in jail, take your pick. The whole time Jason is also trying to hide all this outrageous behaviour from his very sexy, yet very prudish fiancee and his conservative parents. Anyway all I know is at one point they get to Daytona beach in Florida, no clue how they got there or how far they still had to go, but who cares.

Now in all honesty the casting for grandpa Dick with De Niro is pretty good. De Niro is the obviously the perfect age and he has that perfect persona where you're not really sure what he's actually like, he could easily be a dark horse. To that extent De Niro does the job well, as we know he's great at swearing and being tough, he still looks pretty tough, and he fits the rough ex-services persona well also. For all intense and purposes he could easily be playing yet another mobster type in a comedy, he never really swings too far from that schtick. As for Jason played by Efron, well to be honest the guy is too good looking and too muscular for this part. He isn't too bad with his comic timing and everything (surprisingly!), but when it came to sequences like the 'flex-off' on the beach and when he's generally topless, he's way too ripped! That's not a bad thing but I really think to get the right comedic affect they should of cast someone without a good physique, with bad hair, someone who's a bit geeky looking. That would at least be a good opposite to the rest of beach/party going extras who are generally all sexy boys and girls. The fact that Efron is way hotter than all of them kinda makes most of the sexual innuendo gags fall flat.

I must point out one character played by some bloke called Jason Mantzoukas. Oh my fucking God this guy was so fucking annoying I could of killed him, literally killed him. Who is this guy? where did he come from? why is he being cast in movies? is he supposed to be a funny guy? Holy shitstains this guy was dreadful, completely unfunny, everything just fell flat or totally missed the target by miles. His whole drug obsession spiel was just so fucking cliched, so old, so not funny! Yeah its so cool and amusing to do drugs or pretend to do drugs ha-ha-ha! Jesus Christ I was giggling at shit like this when I was a kid back in the mid 80's. Then you have the two corrupt cops, one male and one female, played by whoever, I don't care. Once again, completely not funny, not even close, just cringeworthy on every level, literally amateurish.

Yeah so bottom line, this is a piece of shit, an unfunny piece of modern day movie garbage. Not even De Niro or Efron's perfectly tanned torso can save this, its dribble of epic proportions with not a laugh in sight. That is of course...the thought of seeing De Niro's cock in Efron's face sounds good to you? Or 72 year old De Niro's character having sex with a supposed 20 something college student (Lenore) and then having a kid together (making Efron's character the uncle to his grandfathers newborn son and a college slut his new grandmother). Oh and then there's the real classy dialog between grandpa Dick and Lenore...'You're gonna tsunami on my face', 'You're gonna flood like the Nile', Nice.


Monday, 20 June 2016

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

The Russo brothers return for the final movie in this Captain America trilogy that feels more like an Avengers trilogy (there, I said it). Taking concepts and ideas from the 2006 comicbook storyline of the same name, this movie introduces yet more superhero characters whilst continuing the saga with the more well known characters. That being said, bottom line, as the title suggests, its an internal civil war amongst the Avengers. One group against another over a set of ideals that can't be agreed upon, hmmm strangely apt for these modern times methinks. Anyway I dunno why I'm writing all this because surely everyone knows.

The plot...ugh! the plot, well I kinda summed it up just above really but in a nutshell. The UN wants to keep all superheroes in check because they are generally causing lots of damage and killing innocent people during their daring rescue missions to save the world. I mean yeah sure, losing innocent lives is a bummer n all but...if its between that or an entire country, or even the world, getting destroyed then surely collateral damage must be accepted...right??! Well apparently no, and on one side you have Captain America who thinks allowing the UN to control the Avengers is a dangerous move, whilst on the other Iron Man who agrees with the government and wants to be somewhat locked down. The bug being, if they can't agree on this and they don't allow the UN to run the show, they all have to retire. Pretty stupid really because how you gonna enforce that against super people?? Anyway, naturally both heroes have team members that agree with them and thus you have the two superhero factions, let the civil war commence! Oh and there's another uber villain in the mix again to throw spanners in the works at the same time, usual stuff.

So things kick off with a rather ropy action sequence that introduces us to the reason why the UN wants to lock down the Avengers and the flash in the pan showcasing of villain Crossbones. Just when you thought they couldn't possibly get away with showing you more of the same shit all over again, they do just that. In other words we have the Cap and Black Widow doing lots of martial arts type tomfoolery against faceless cannon fodder types, spiced up with the odd bloody obvious CGI move. Falcon swoops in and does pretty much all he can do which is fly around and kick people, you any fool could do with some training on those metal wings. There are lots of stunts that are clearly not the actors (usually shot from behind), Black Widow gets trapped in an armoured truck with a grenade and somehow manages not to get killed, and finally Crossbones is dispatched whilst unfortunately wiping out lots of innocents at the same time.

In general all the action is pretty much like this, for the comicbook fanboys and Marvel fanboys it will be a wet dream once again, for casual viewers like myself it may start to become rather repetitive. That's not to say its bad or anything, but there is only so much kicking, punching and general throwing of characters that one can handle before it all becomes a boring blur with added CGI shenanigans. There is of course an exception to the rule in this movie (well a couple at least), there are two action sequences which the Russo brothers have clearly tried to jazz things up a bit. Firstly the chase sequence where Black Panther is after Bucky Barnes because he thinks Bucky assassinated his father. Now initially this starts off pretty normally,as you'd expect with the usual fisticuffs, although its some good fisticuffs. Luckily things take a different route as the sequence quickly descends into the realms of parkour across some rooftops (to a degree), and then into a full pelt chase on foot. Now while I can't say this sequence matches up to the sheer grit of the infamous chase sequence in action flick 'Point Break', they have clearly tried to do the same sort of thing. Alas it still comes across as too flashy and full of CGI, for me. Again that's not to say its a bad sequence, far from it, its very good, very thrilling and most importantly, its fresh. Yes the super speed running alongside cars (or outrunning them) is very clearly fake looking and kinda cheesy, maybe they should of avoided doing that? possibly, it did look pretty shit.

The second decent action sequence was easily the now infamous airport battle where we finally see all these characters together kicking ass with their unique skills. This was never gonna fail lets be honest, how could it? All the Avengers together, split right down the middle, knocking the shit outta each other, wicked stuff. This was the highlight for me, what I've been waiting to see in all honesty and it didn't disappoint. Each character seemed to get a good amount of ass kicking time on screen, each character got to use their skills and in general it just looked cool, I loved seeing Ant-Man getting stuck in with his micro moves. Now I could nitpick it, I could be really honest and say the CGI was all too obvious again with certain martial arts moves, looking at Black Panther and his videogame-esque flying kicks. Then you have the fact that Vision could of wiped everyone out but kinda didn't, in fact he did f**k all, same with Scarlet Witch really. On the subject of Vision and Scarlet Witch, what the f**k did she do to him back in the apartment? I get she crippled him with her powers but then she knocked him down into the earth or something? like deep underground?
Then I could be a real bastard and mention how Falcon, Hawkeye and Black Widow are technically useless in this battle because they are essentially regular humans without any major weapons, strength or armour to protect them, but we all know that. Anyway lets not talk about the highly ironic fact that Stark and co wanna reign in the Cap and his team so they can all be under UN control to stop unnecessary damage, and go about that by destroying an airport, hmmm.

Once we get past these actions segments things tend to revert back to the usual spiel I have come to expect with these comicbook flicks, lots of exposition that usually involves secret projects and flashbacks. This time it all surrounds Baron Zemo trying to find other frozen super soldiers in Siberia so he can eventually lure in Bucky, Stark and the Cap to reveal a huge secret that would hopefully fracture the Avengers. Bold move because lets be honest here he has no idea that his little reveal will cause the chaos he hopes for, considering everyone knows that Bucky has been brainwashed all this time so anything wrong he may have done in the past is most probably due to that. Well you'd think that but apparently Stark didn't know this? really? after all this time he doesn't stop to think about it for a second? Maybe I missed something but I don't get how Stark doesn't realise this...even though what he finds out is deeply upsetting for him. Also, how in God's name did Stark not detect Black Panther's craft flying behind him on the way to Siberia??!! Surely his Iron Man suit would pick up that craft being so close. And why exactly does Zemo kill the other frozen super soldiers? what was the point of that? Overall I did feel that the entire plot of this film was rather limp frankly, bottom line its all about Zemo simply wanting to reveal a painful secret to Stark, everything is simply building up to that one reveal, and after all that, surely Stark must have realised Bucky was brainwashed at the time! surely!!

In general the effects ranged from being outstandingly slick with some great stunt work (the young Downy Jr. showcasing some excellent CGI), to being blatantly obvious CGI with obvious stuntmen. I don't really think there has been any major leaps in visuals since the last Cap or Avengers movies. I really enjoyed seeing all the characters (can't stress that enough), I thought Spider-Man fit in beautifully and came across perfectly, I enjoyed the team struggles, the strained friendships (something I'm sure many can actually relate to), and the seamless plot continuity. But I gotta be brutally honest here, I only really saw this simply to view all these superhero characters together in the same film, that was the hook for me, that alone, everything else I can take it or leave it. Whilst its by no means a bad movie, I am finding myself suffering from superhero fatigue now, simply because all these movies are blurring into one and I can't really tell them apart, but admittedly that is just me. Whilst I didn't absolutely love it, I didn't hate it either, its a perfectly enjoyable Marvel extravaganza that (to me) feels more like yet another (very similar) Avengers chapter. And for the record, I was on team Captain America.


Saturday, 18 June 2016

Bitch Slap (2009)

Do you like gratuitous violence, tits 'n' ass? course you do, who doesn't. Well what better way to show off some blatant soft porn than in a low-rent, Tarantino/Robert Rodriquez-esque rip-off or clone...but minus the decent acting, effects and everything else. I mean look at that title, it speaks volumes about what your about to head into, you literally can't fail to understand what you should expect from something called this. And its those exact reasons why I decided to watch this movie...translation, sleaze fest...because who doesn't like a good sleaze fest now and then? Oh wait I already covered that angle.

The plot is actually a slight mix of a few genres for starters. Obviously there is the outrageous, CGI filled, guns 'n' gore side of it which is clearly taking cues from certain Rodriguez movies. But then there is a slightly more noir-ish side to the tale, at times, its not a constant theme but its there. Then you have this clear comicbook-esque vibe about it, obviously more along the lines of 'Kick-Ass' and more so 'Sin City', there are also small nuggets of Bond spoofing going on at times, and finally you that rather obvious grindhouse type quality about everything. So nothing of any originality to be found here lets be honest, although again, if we're honest, this did actually come out back in 2009 so I guess this may have been more original than I'm giving it credit for.

The story is told with constant flashbacks to previous incidents that slowly build a full picture (gee I wonder where they got that notion from). I guess this could work if the flashbacks were any more coherent that the main plot segments but alas they're not. In fact they don't really add that much to the backstory at all really, they don't exactly clear up any plot holes...but tend to add more if anything! All they seem to do is give the director an opportunity to add in more gratuitous soft porn scenes involving his main female protagonists in different seedy locations, in very tight latex/scantily clad outfits (I'm not overly complaining about that though). You see all of the main plot is based out in the desert, all of the flashbacks are set in gritty, seedy, neon lit bars or alleyways in some city, so they just add seedy tits 'n' ass in a different location.

The main story is basically a common as muck tale about these three women trying to locate some buried valuable items (not totally sure what actually) in the desert. The valuable items are of course property of some mega violent criminal mobster, who we only in name for the most part, and the three women are of course not entirely who they appear to be. Yep its the old ulterior motive type situation again, with the old twists, turns and back-stabbings that come along with it. The three protagonists are naturally very hot, very sexy, very firm and very delicious. One is an innocent, slightly submissive, weak, brunette stripper. The other is a tough, martial arts knowing, slightly ripped, very suspicious, dirty blonde, mouthy bitch. Finally, the leader is more of a calm, level-headed, stylish, classy red head who is definitely modelled after the classic, black and white noir detective flicks of the 50's.

These three pretty much bicker and fight each other for the entire runtime as they try to locate this buried treasure. Every now and then you get the odd character turning up to attempt some level of suspense such as the cute young police officer who amazingly doesn't get f**ked and used, even though you'd bet your last Dollar on it. What we do get is lots of close-ups on the girls faces showing their expressions (for some reason), lots of gunplay and gun sounds, lots of desert, lots of girly sexual innuendos, plenty of lesbian action (and I mean plenty), and a shittonne of tacky CGI and ultra tacky greenscreen effects. Hell we even get a full on wet t-shirt type sequence where all three women throw water over themselves in slow motion. And what Tarantino/Rodriquez rip-off/clone would be complete without a cute psychotic Asian woman in a micro miniskirt, pigtails and a unique deadly weapon in the form of a razor bladed yo-yo (she also has a very crazy Mad Max-esque partner). Oh and not forgetting the fact they even manage to crowbar in a gratuitous, nun in hot black PVC underwear, sequence too, you know...because its a top rated fetish with pervs (absolutely nothing wrong with that of course, he says with a broad grin across his naughty face).

Lets be frank here (you can be Bob), as I said at the start we all know what we're getting into with a movie like this. You can see it on the cover, you can see it with the films title, you know what to expect and naturally you get plenty of it. The movie isn't pretending to be anything else, its set out its stall and its sticking to it, and with that I can't fault it really. not on that front. The movie wanted to be a sleazy, grindhouse type flick with bucketfuls of hokey, cartoonish CGI action sequences...and that's exactly what is it, at no point does the film hide from this. So all I can say is, if you enjoyed movies like 'Machete' then firstly you'll know where I'm coming from. Secondly, you'll probably enjoy this as its basically a lower budget version with (probably) more tits 'n' ass.


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Zootopia (2016)

So here we have the latest animated feature film (from Disney naturally, because they like...own everything now), aaand its yet another movie based on animals that can walk, talk and do just about everything humans can do, hurrah for originality! But wait! that's not all my fellow movie watching buccaneers. The so called original twist with this gimmicky kids flick is the fact they've basically made an all out, left wing, uber liberal, political message out of the entire thing, errr...hurrah?

The plot is so unbelievably simple even for a kids flick I am still finding it hard to understand why this has done so well. Our main protagonist is a bunny rabbit named Judy Hopps (ugh! Hopps, really?). Now Judy wants to be a cop when she grows up, but in this animal universe rabbits can't really be cops because reasons. Probably because they are small, weak, cutesy animals and wouldn't be able to handle dangerous city crime...I'm guessing is the stories reason. Although its bloody obvious the real reason is because the director wanted an easy plot device for his easy discrimination angle, because in this world it wouldn't really matter which animals could be cops if you think about it (surely the smaller animals would be just as valuable because they could do many things the larger ones couldn't). There is no real reason a rabbit can't be a cop, no real reason a rabbit can't be as good as a tiger or a rhino, but there is discrimination against smaller mammals, possibly even gender discrimination also.

So, Judy grows up and manages to become a cop, defying all her naysayers. Alas all is not well when she eventually gets to the mighty city of Zootopia because she is still being discriminated against by her chief, and fellow, bigger animal officers, who don't take her seriously. Low and behold she is assigned traffic duties. Whilst on her daily routines she manages to stop a petty criminal and in the process she inadvertently gets herself involved in a much bigger unsolved crime by mainly being at the right place at the right time. At the same time Judy has gotten to know a fox con artist named Nick and managed to basically blackmail him into helping her with the case (recorded him admitting to tax evasion). This presents a whole new set of issues for Judy as she herself is kinda prejudice against foxes because firstly she was bullied by one as a kid. Secondly because she's a rabbit and in this world, real world animal traits still exist apparently. So in other words animals like sheep, rabbits, mice etc...are basically 'racist' or 'specist'  against larger animals like foxes or badgers or whatever because they are predators. Anyway the major unsolved crime that the duo must unravel basically involves finding some missing animals, which of course involves double dealings, twists and is generally pretty stupid when you find out why.

So the first things I have to ask initially may sound rather picky and pointless down to the fact this is a kids movie, but nonetheless. Zootopia apparently has 12 ecosystems within the city limits? is that correct? Now I realise the irony of me pointing out how ridiculous that is in a movie about talking animals, but I'm still gonna point it out because its kinda daft really, but hey...its fantasy so whatever. Lets look at one of these presumed ecosystems (presumed because I have no idea what the full 12 are), Little Rodentia...for rodents of course. Now I did kinda like this miniature city within a city type situation, it was actually pretty sweet, but wouldn't it rather dangerous for these rodent citizens? Surely their entire district could be wiped out in an accident quite easily at any point, plus why are none of the buildings in this district actually fixed to the ground?? Judy almost topples an entire street over by accident so...are these fakes buildings or something? Do rodents actually live in fake rodent type abodes, like fancy cages that are mobile?

Another question that kinda leaped out at me was about the predators, what do they live on?? All the other animals (prey) have no worries at all but what about the huge hulking predators, what the feck do they eat? There are also various other real time nods (pop culture references) that don't really add up in this universe. Like the fact the animals apparently listen to animal versions of real music bands like the Fur Fighters, and they also have animal versions of real time movies like 'Wreck It-Rhino'. So what about films like 'The Jungle Book'? how would that work here? I realise these things are totally unimportant because these little references are only stuck in for fun generally, but I can't help but think into these things. For me its like planting a seed in my brain. You've created this little easter egg/hidden gem type thing but without real conviction, its just there, but I can't help thinking about further possibilities, the hows, the whys.

But lastly, what the hell is with these idiotic character names??! Holy pun much! Duke Weaselton the weasel, Emmett Otterton the otter, Leodore Lionheart the lion, Nick Wilde because he's a wild animal, Yax the yak, Dawn Bellwether the sheep (sheep bells), Benjamin Clawhauser the cheetah (claws), Mr Big the shrew (shrews are tiny), Flash the sloth I even need to say? Oh and Shakira plays a gazelle...basically playing herself, because whatever.

The movie also includes various things that are contemporary but dubious at best. The 'Mammal Inclusion Initiative' program which is essentially affirmative action or positive discrimination for all you Brits out there. The movie is also seemingly trying to get rid of stereotypical stereotypes but fails miserably by reinforcing a whole tonne of stereotypical stereotypes such as fat, doughnut eating cops, Italian mobsters, weasels are bad, foxes are untrustworthy, people who work at the DMV are slow (sloths), southern redneck hicks, and basically certain types of people that are mere sheep and would jump off a bridge if someone told them to (kinda true I guess). Then you have the whole cringeworthy racism/sexism aspect that is summed up by Judy explaining why its not cool for another animal to call a bunny cute...K.

Its like the whole scene near the start when Judy stumbles in on Nick and his partner trying to scam a local business. At first the scene is clearly made out to be an insightful parody of our current society where some folks are being discriminated against by others in local businesses, they are getting refused service for whatever reasons (obviously the LGBT issues in real time). Now at first you the viewer doesn't realise its a scam, so the discrimination does come across as wrong, but then once you learn the fox was only trying to scam this local business owner, you just think, oh well never mind, I now feel a bit sorry for the business owner. Its like they have this setup with good intentions...and just blow it for a lame visual gag.

Now don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad film by any means, its certainly watchable, but even the lush visuals can't really save it in my opinion. Why? because even though it all looks great, the animation is awesome and Zootopia is a wonderful, candy coloured utopia with stunning views that I'd actually like to live in, none of that is a wow factor any more, for me at least. Movies these days generally look stunning, the CGI is usually of a high standard at the best of times. So a movie looking super glossy and beautiful is to be expected, anything less would be surprising, generally. So alas having glorious visuals can no longer bail a movie out of trouble completely.

So here's my beef with this movie, its pretty inane but thinks its really clever, oh and the evil baddies plan makes no sense whatsoever. But wait! everyone is going on about how clever this is because it teaches kids to be more tolerant, pff! Like kids will care anything about that, they will watch because its another Disney movie with big, bold, bright, colourful, funny characters doing zany things. While I commend the film for trying to raise awareness of certain things like racial awareness, sexism, class divisions etc...for kids, it seems to get some things right but then falls right into the old trap for other things. Its like, hello? did you not see what you just did there?! It almost feels like they tried so hard to make this a lesson on political correctness that they kinda forgot to add a decent plot, amongst other things.


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (UK, 1975)

This was the second movie from the thoroughly, mostly, British Python team (their first being 'And Now for Something Completely Different'). This was the first movie by the group to venture away from their sketch routine and actually create new material along with an actual plot, the plot of course being a parody or spoof of the age old British Arthurian legend (King Arthur and his knights of the round table).

The plot simply revolves around King Arthur travelling the length and breath of Olde England to find knights that will join him at his court in Camelot, and the round table...if they are just and good enough. In the midst of this minor mission Arthur is called upon by God in the heavens, he instructs them to seek out the Holy Grail. So that is exactly what Arthur and his new band of merry men do, they go out and face much peril in trying to locate the one true Grail. Naturally this entails separate dangers for each of the brave knights as they eventually head off in different directions to discover the fabled treasure, but sure enough, within time, they all team up again to possibly face their greatest challenge thus far.

I must have first seen this film back in my younger years (easily under the age of 10) as my dad is a big Python fan, relishing every word of that absurd, surreal humour. From that day to this I have always pretty much had the same feeling about this film, and that's a very mixed feeling. The main thing I absolutely adore about this film (as with other Python movies) is the atmosphere. Obviously the fact the film was made before I was even born (1978) does add much of this atmosphere simply because the films visuals are a bit dirty, grubby and lacking panache due to the whole production being low on budget, it being 1975, and completely British. For some reason British films have this visual vibe about them which you can easily pick up, you can tell its been shot or made in the UK. But the other factor I've always loved about this film is the dark, foreboding, mythical...almost supernatural element the whole thing has, much like the 1977 Python-esque movie 'Jabberwocky'.

I love the films constant bleak visuals, the heavy swirling mist, the typically gloomy British weather and the little bits of gallows humour sprinkled throughout the landscapes. As already mentioned the low budget has helped, as the old story goes, when there is little cash around the director and his crew must be more inventive and creative in their work. This is very true here with little to no special effects utilised accept for basic props, costumes and sets of course, yet still the films atmosphere is terrific. The stereotypically bad British weather has also helped production greatly by adding some really authentic pissing rain, dark brooding clouds, thunder and on occasion some brilliant sunshine, but not much. One glorious example being a beautiful shot following Arthur and his faithful squire Patsy through the woods before meeting the Black Knight. This little segment was obviously deliberately filmed at a (possibly lucky) moment to capture the pure ethereal beauty of the woodland landscape. The shafts of light breaking through the dense trees really highlighting a typical fantasy trait of the genre and really exposing the good eye of director Gilliam with his composition.  Other sequences in the film have taken advantage of historical locations around the UK and merely added window dressing to the site to add that mucky, olde medieval, English touch (an overly exaggerated, Python-esque, medieval English touch I might add).

The thing is these touches generally work wonders for the atmosphere and visuals. The window dressings might only be some dated clunky wooden furniture, or raggy flags, or wall mounted weapons, or hay and mud, or yet more swirling mist...but they really do the job effectively when simply added to a real historical ruin or building. Even though everything the Python team does is clearly exaggerated, it often still looks relatively realistic down to its usually well worn, overly dirty, slightly battered visage. This is all really apparent in this movie because we all know this medieval knight clutter is rubber and plastic, but it still looks kinda real and ancient.

So lovely hokey-esque visuals aside what about the rest of it? Well clearly its all about the humour, the now well trodden Python humour. As a kid I never really understood it, I merely enjoyed the fantasy adventure side of it. As an adult I now get it, but shock horror! I don't actually think its that funny (ducks for cover!). Yes that's right, I don't think this film is actually overly funny. Its not that the jokes and visual slapstick has dated badly, because it hasn't really, its just that its not really hilariously funny. Its certainly amusing in many places with loads of great gross-out moments (which I really enjoy), but the humour is...slightly low-key for me, its funny but more amusingly witty if anything, you gotta listen to what they say. There is of course plenty of ridiculous farcical slapstick, much of it being over the top gore, which isn't so much funny but just down right fun to watch because its so overly violent and a daft way. The perfect example of course being Arthur fighting the Black Knight and reducing him to a mere torso, arms and legs all hacked off. Now while the verbal we hear is utterly classic and has gone down in cinematic history, I don't find it specifically funny. I love the scene, love the stupid gore and the whole atmosphere/visuals side of it, but its not laugh out loud funny in my opinion. This is my stance with this film, I do enjoy it immensely but mainly for the outlandish fantasy element.

In general the film is very much a rollercoaster for me. As we move from setup to setup I have always found that, even though its not a compilation of sketches, it still kinda feels like it. I can still sort out each part of the film that I enjoy and all the parts I don't, almost like individual sketches. For example, I liked the fight against the Black Knight, but I didn't really like the Knights that say Ni. I liked how they tried to break into a castle being run by Frenchmen, but I didn't really like the little song and dance routine in Camelot. I liked when they tried to cross the bridge of death, but I didn't like the introduction to Sir Bedevere the Wise. The tale of Sir Lancelot trying to save a princess from a castle (or so he thinks) run by a loud mouth Yorkshireman was good, the rabbit of Caerbannog was not good.

I must admit I have always been frustrated with the route Gilliam and Jones decided to take this film, let me explain. I realise this is Python and the whole shtick is being surreal and off the wall, which is fine, but I always thought this film could have been a bit better than that. The story is unoriginal and bland sure, it wasn't a major blockbuster type situation OK, but why did they have to break the fourth wall and break the confines of the story. The fact that the films characters are unaware they have a narrator/historian following them is fine, but he gets killed by a knight from within the films world and the real time police of the, then, present day get involved, I still really dislike it. I never liked that angle at all because it always took me out of the adventure, the fact they ended the film following that note, with the police stopping a huge battle charge, was so so disappointing, even to this day. Unfortunately there are many examples throughout this film which I personally think ruin it.

When we follow Sir Galahad the Pure's tale, he's battling through a rain swept wood in the dead of the night, wolves howling, its looks cold and you are given the idea he's being followed. He reaches a lone castle only to discover its run by lots of sexy women, so far so good. Alas eventually the whole sequence derails as the characters break the fourth wall and chat about their scene, we then see snippets of other characters that will appear later in the film! Again I always always hated this because its not really funny and just took me out of the film, plus why would you wanna give away characters and scenes from the rest of the film?! Another example would be the animations which not only clogged up the film and halted its progress, but half weren't even anything to do with the films plot, even worse felt like padding to stretch the films runtime. Now  realise the films budget wouldn't have been particularly big so creating a huge monster for a scene would of been very hard, so I completely understand why they used an animation short to carry on the films plot for that part. Unfortunately again I felt the team went to far by having Gilliam the animator die (within reality or the present day), thus meaning the animated monster no longer existed, thus meaning the films characters escaped the beast and carried on with their quest. Very Python-esque for sure, but very obviously because they didn't know how to get out of the situation they had written themselves into, and very obviously they didn't have the budget to make the sequence real time.

I definitely have a bit of a love hate relationship with this film, as with much of Python material some of it is inspired, whilst some of it just misses the target completely. The entire cast are of course wonderfully manic as you would expect and its hard to really nail down the best performance or who got the best gags, visual or otherwise. But just for the hell of it...for me its probably gotta be Palin followed closely by Cleese. Palin's trademark Yorkshireman/blue collar grunt routine is by far his best and funniest act for me. Where as Cleese is virtually the epitome of the Python movies in the Black Knight sequence and in general is by far the most talented comedian in the team (in my humble opinion). Yes this movie is totally a cult classic and one of the best British comedies out there, I fully acknowledge that. But personally I think still think its a mixed bag, has its ups and downs and is a tad too off the wall for my liking at times. I know to expect that from Python of course and had this been a sketch compilation movie like two of their other flicks, then it wouldn't be an issue for me. I just wish they had stuck a bit more closely to the films plot and not gone off the rails so much at certain times, I really can't stress enough how the final sequence crushes me, it just brings the entire film to a grinding halt, ugh!


Friday, 10 June 2016

Gods of Egypt (USA/AUS, 2016)

Right lets just get this whole, so called, controversial whitewashing aspect out of the way first huh. Firstly the main characters in this movie are in fact Gods, Gods that have decided to live in Egypt because its such a nice place, according to the movies intro spiel. So in other words these characters are in fact supernatural beings from the heavens above. They are not humans, they are not actually based on any real humans that have lived at any time. Yes they are Egyptian Gods so technically you could say they should be based on Egyptian looking people (same with Norse Gods or Greek mythology), but as with the same argument for those characters, they are still fictional so anyone can technically portray them (works both ways folks). What's more, this movie does in fact have a great deal of diversity! Admittedly the main protagonists and antagonists are white and it is a bit distracting seeing a white Dane portraying an Egyptian God, OK granted, but who really cares?! Amusing thing is, most of the background characters and side characters are actually pretty diverse, a whole array of different people from different backgrounds.

But most importantly, which I think many fanatical people forgot, this movie is in fact a fantasy movie, completely and utterly fictional. Most of it is all made up (except for some obvious Egyptian things), its all hokey supernatural mythology type stuff which basically comes under the same umbrella as such movies as 'Mortal Kombat', 'Stargate', 'The Mummy' and 'Clash of the Titans'. So what I'm essentially saying is, anyone could play these characters, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter that many were white people because its a fantasy movie, OK? right.

So in an alternate (alternate being a key word here...remember fantasy?) Egypt, the Gods live with the grunts on Earth (a flat Earth because fantasy...remember?). Osiris rules Egypt and its a happy liberal place, in fact its so liberal that Osiris has just changed the rules for the afterlife. Now anyone can go to heaven without having to pay to get in because that would be unfair on the poor peasants. At this time Osiris is abdicating from his throne and handing the reigns over to his one trusted son Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). But low and behold, Osiris's untrustworthy brother Set (Gerard Butler), rolls into town, kills his bro and takes full control. Set then takes Horus's God-like power of super sight (Horus was the deity with a falcon head, his symbol, the wedjat eye, eye of Horus) and banishes him into the Outworld...errr I mean desert. Long story of much fantasy based crapola short, Horus must fight to get his rightful place as King of Egypt back from Set and his many minions. Oh and Horus has the help of a plucky young male human called Bek because of course he does!

So other than the films I've already mentioned the casting of Set does unfortunately bring other similarities into your mind. Having the bellowing Butler in the film does have you kinda thinking your watching a sequel or spin-off to his original hit '300' (the Egyptian chapter as it were), because that's obviously why he was cast. But that's not all, the Gods in this movie are a strange blend of robotic transforming armour that sort of...transforms like a...errmm, transformer. Its a very odd collaboration of a living suit of armour that kinda looks metal (gold presumably), but acts like some kind of biomechanical suit, a hybrid of a being and a God-like, super armour suit. Hell you even get lots of transformery type noises when these Gods transformed, it was all so...transformerish. Now admittedly this did look hella hokey truth be told, but in kind of a good way, so bad its good type situation. The CGI you see is pretty average really, its all looks ridiculously shiny and glossy with lots of gleaming, glowing, flashy effects blinding you at the same time. But again, admittedly that's probably what they were going for, these are Egyptian Gods in golden battle suits after all. And in that respect they did look OK, Horus looked like the deity with a falcon head and a glorious wingspan, whilst Set looks nicely intimidating as a jackal-esque creature. Its not much better than the effects we saw in the Mummy franchise with Brendan Fraser admittedly, which is poor for sure, but by this point its pretty clear you shouldn't really be expecting greatness.

Most of the CGI effects we do see are admittedly pretty hokey at the best of times, that along with some pretty terrible and obvious greenscreen effects does tend to make the film laughable at times. The sequence with Butler in his scarab themed battle armour, riding a flying chariot thing being pulled by a giant scarab, was a good example of godawful greenscreen (and hokey acting). Many of the battle sequences depended heavily on CGI and unfortunately it all stood out like a sore thumb looking like semi decent, in-game videogame sequences. Other sequences that simply involved plot with CGI came across like something from the Mortal Kombat franchise, the underworld and realm/portal jumping etc...

That's not to say all the CGI and imagination on show here is bad, oh no don't be fooled, some of the stuff we see is actually pretty good I thought. Take the giant cobra-esque monsters  that are ridden into battle by Goddesses Anat and Astarte. Now this was easily the best CGI on show, it actually looked really good and really realistic (as far as giant cobra monsters go anyway). The two monsters were very Star Wars-esque for sure but they looked very intimidating with their huge razor sharp maws and were highly effective in their scene. Another good bit I liked was the giant space demon called Apophis, a shadow beast that God Ra must fight on a daily basis from his divine vessel in orbit around the Earth. Now again there were clearly elements taken from various other sci-fi movies here (take your pick really), the sandworms from Dune, a Sarlacc from Star Wars, a Graboid from Tremors etc...So yes the design wasn't really original sure, but it still looked pretty good and it intrigued me, I found myself really wanting to see more of the beast and knowing more about its backstory.

In all honesty the problem wasn't really the visuals despite the maximus cheesiness (that heightened the fun for me), nor was it historical accuracy as a matter of fact. Despite the ravenous rantings from the SJW crowd the film does actually handle the ancient Egyptian mythology pretty well I thought. If you read up on the characters, the Gods, their weapons, traits'll find its all reasonably well represented or accounted for in some silly way (Horus and his super powerful eyesight linked to the wedjta eye for example). The problem is how seriously its all taken when its clearly a very light-hearted, silly fantasy with some rather silly things going on. I mean lets take the start where Set just walks into the city and takes over everything and everyone. Sure he has a big powerful army and he's the brother of the King so there wouldn't be much suspicion right away...but when he makes his move no one does anything! no one!! Where is the Kings guard or army?? We are told later on that Ra (who seems to be the uber God) doesn't interfere with other Gods or humans, but really? Set is going around killing other Gods, mortals and generally destroying Egypt, and you're not gonna step in and calm things down? There's no point stopping the giant shadow beast from eating the Earth if you're just gonna let Set wreck it.

But mores the point, Gods are immortal so to speak right, they can't really die as such I believe, yet in this movie they do. The Gods get killed off just as easily as humans in this movie, but surely if you're a God, and you die, can't you just come back? Or can't Ra bring you back? or can't you use your God powers to do something from the afterlife or whatever? The Afterlife appears to be a completely living realm so to speak, its treated like just another dimension or universe that certain Gods can jump into through portals. Bottom line, what I'm saying is the movie creates this world where there appears to be no boundaries for anything, not even death seems to be a hindrance for a character, so you'd think there would be no limits and no real threats as anything can be done. Also why do Gods need to rule Egypt? or anywhere? clearly they cause issues.

So...where do we stand here? Its tricky really, I can see the flaws, I know the flaws and I know technically this is a really bad movie of grandiose proportions. Yet despite all that I gotta say I found myself kinda enjoying the heck outta this. Lets be honest here this really is a giant mess but a thoroughly enjoyable, light-hearted, fantasy romp that is no different to many other movies that have gone the same way ('Stargate', 'John Carter' etc...). The array of creatures, weapons, outfits, locations show off the imagination and creativity used alongside real history, some of it is bad, some of it is good. 

Likewise the plot is totally nuts but in no way any more outlandish than other movies of the genre, again some parts are good, some are stupid, pointless and don't make any sense...but hey no real surprise there. I didn't like how some characters come back to life at the end, or why the God Thoth has multiple clones of himself, how Butler's hair length changes during the movie, and how Goddess Hathor uses that bracelet to jump into the afterlife/underworld...because why exactly? The fact the people behind this (and the actors it seems) have taken it too seriously is what makes it so fun and corny. I genuinely don't think they intended this to be so jokey and daft, they clearly intended a universe of sequels, but alas it came out this way. Nonetheless I still had fun with this, the epitome of the throwaway, flashy, popcorn spectacle...that probably would have done massive business back in the 90's.


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Appleseed Alpha (aka Appleseed a, JP/USA, 2014)

The last animated feature (in this presumed trilogy) is a prequel that predates both 'Appleseed Ex Machina' (2007), and 'Appleseed' (2004). This movie of course still has nothing to do with the original animated 1988 movie, all of these new CGI flicks are updates of that original source material (for better or worse). Yet there is yet another difference with this new 2014 film, its a prequel, but the origins foretold are not in continuity with the 04 and 07 films. Instead, director of all three films, Shinji Aramaki, has decided (oddly enough) to tell a slightly different tale of Deunan and Briareos' origins that do not lead into the two earlier films. So even though this is technically a prequel, its more of a stand alone film that occurs in a time period before the other two. Got it? good, moving on.

So this time we join both Deunan and Briareos in the ruins of New York after the third world war, or as it fizzles out. Both of the protagonists know each other already and Briareos is already a cyborg, both work as mercs and dream of a better life, possibly within the legendary city of Olympus. New York is run by a cyborg gang led by Two Horns, a fat, three eyed cyborg with two horns on his head. After deliberately sabotaging a mission he gave Deunan and Briareos (to keep them under contract longer), Two Horns offers them another mission, to go to the outskirts of the city and mop up some old war drones. Whilst in action the duo notice an approaching car with two people inside, a young girl (Iris) and a cyborg soldier (Olsen). They save the pair from the drones and decide to stick together even though both parties are unsure of each other.

We next meet the cyborg Talos and his unit of advanced, highly skilled, killer cyborgs (the Triton Faction). Now these guys are after Olsen and Iris because Iris carries important information/data about the location of an old hidden gigantic, arachnid-esque, battle fortress, and how to activate it. Talos wants this machine so he can basically take over the world (the ruined world) and transform it into his own vision, presumably a cyborg vision. Naturally Talos manages to capture both Olsen and Iris eventually thus leading our main protagonists to save them.

So again the plot here is pretty dumbed down stuff, its not bad by any means but when you compare it to the original plot of the 2004 movie, its darn simplistic. Compared to the 2007 movie though its much better, no silly zombie-esque nonsense. I was admittedly worried about the fact they had changed the origins here though, what's worse than making a prequel and then altering the basic outline! But despite my fears the story was actually really well self contained and snappy, it never felt odd or somewhat out of place in the franchise. In a way it could of been almost like a separate chapter in Deunan and Briareos' history, a segment of their lives that could just go down as another mission of many completed, chronicles of the duo. You can't even really tell its a prequel truth be told, unless you're a total fanboy.

As I am still relatively new to this whole franchise I did find myself asking questions, possibly dumb questions? quite probably but lets see. First off why does Two Horns look the way he does?? As he's a cyborg I'm guessing there is no real limit on how he could be designed but he's the only guy with three eyes, horns and looks like a mythical beast. In all honesty I thought this looked pretty daft really, it didn't really fit in with everything else. All the cyborgs look like reasonably futuristic armour clad soldiers, or slick killer Terminators, and then you have this fat cyborg with three eyes and tow horns (the multiple rings didn't help either). I must also ask, as I'm still not too sure, are these cyborgs all humans with robotic parts? I know there are various characters that are visibly part human with robotic parts, but these fully cybernetic characters...are they human at all or just fully machine? One reason I ask is because they can be killed just as easily as a human with bullets, it seems, unless ammo rounds are different here. They don't seem to be very tough at all which is kinda surprising considering they are metal. Also all these cyborgs are very human in nature, they basically act like humans. So I'm thinking they were human originally but just got fixed up as cyborgs for medical reasons or for funky gangland purposes, to increase their skills, look cooler or improve their criminal activities. I just can't imagine someone would built an overweight cyborg with three eyes and two horns really.

I have the same type of question about Talos and his henchmen/cyborgs. Again were these guys built by someone or were they human at one point? There is a vast difference in design between the cyborgs so I'm really not sure. For instance Talos is tall, slim, white in colour, and has a very Halo-esque looking gold helmet visor, if you ask me, cool but not overly original looking. He is clearly made to look more like a God or higher being with his design. His combat cyborgs are your standard heavily militarised, black/gunmetal grey coloured, looking machines with big guns, and again rather nice looking Halo-esque visors, admittedly cool. But his second in command is a black coloured female cyborg complete with female hips that sway sexually when she walks, a clear female chest, a very slinky physique and of course a sexy husky female voice. So for all intense and purposes this female cyborg is a complete stereotype of epic proportions, also, why would anyone built a cyborg like that? complete with metal female boobs. Now admittedly these evil cyborgs do look wonderfully realistic, glossy and brilliantly designed (almost as if they could be really built), but overall they are still incredibly cliched looking and like they've been ripped out of the videogame Halo (oh and the female bot can do martial arts because of course she can, think Rise of the Robots but faster).

There are also other silly typical little Hollywood-esque issues that pop up like Two Horns surviving bloody everything even though he really shouldn't. Plus the fact he always turns up at the right place at the right time for some perfect deus ex machina moments. Talos wants to destroy New York with the huge battle fortress aaand..? so what?? Yeah OK there are still people living there but its basically a shell, a skeleton of its former self, its already been destroyed by the does it really matter? (I guess surrounding land in former States was turned to desert by fallout or constant bombing?).

This did feel much more like a normal action flick with a normal premise of save the female whilst stopping the big bad metal tank thing. In all honesty twas only the fantastic visual effects that made this stand out. As already said the various cyborgs on offer all look incredible with some astonishing light reflection work on their shiny metal bodies. The motion capture was of a high level and quality all throughout with every character, as was all the human characters facial features and expressions. Again with all the mechanical fortresses and battle drones, whilst looking top notch in terms of CGI, there is nothing special about them because we've seen things like this many times before. That's pretty much how I would describe the entire movie really, it looks lush! totally beautiful, very slick and easily the best CGI version of Deunan and Briareos so far (voice work is solid and Briareos doesn't have odd human looking biceps anymore). But visuals aside its very by the numbers, very cliche and overall kinda feels like a load of high quality videogame cut scenes that have been stitched together to make a movie. Its good, its good looking, but ultimately its nothing special.