Thursday, 6 December 2018

A-X-L (2018)

A young boy (teen) stumbles across a robot dog which he manages to befriend. Said robot dog is in fact a military weapon designed to protect soldiers in the field. Its code name is A.X.L. Attack, Exploration, Logistics, and the military want him back. Methinks one has seen this concept on the silver screen before.

Yes once again it appears as though the moneymen thought it would be a good idea to somewhat remake the 1986 science fiction adventure 'Short Circuit'. Despite the fact that Neill Blomkamp essentially tried the same thing with his 2015 movie 'CHAPPiE' to middling success. I guess this time making the robot a pet might help its chances? But its not just 'Short Circuit' this movie is based off oh no, throw in some 'Robocop' and some 'Karate Kid' for a right royal rip-off...sorry its called a homage these days isn't it.

The robot in question is a huge thing I might add, it's like a big cat sized robot. An ultra sleek, smooth, shiny, fully equipped robot that can rip a human apart, hack into any software...and bark. Yes that's right because when you make a robot dog you make it so it barks too...apparently. This robot also fully acts like a real dog. It bounds around in a playful fashion, it begs, it growls, it seems to like being stroked, and it even enjoys chewing on sticks (metal bars...cos its a robot).  Like why the feck would you design your military robot to do any of that? The soldiers its gonna protect know its a robot, they know it's not a real bloody dog so you don't have to have it imitate one.

But this four-legged box of tricks doesn't stop there. Throughout the movie it is revealed that this robot can do virtually anything it wants. It can project images and lights (like in a disco), it can play music, it has rocket boosters on its hind legs, it can use social media...oh and it will self-destruct to stop the enemy from getting ahold of it. Many of these things could be useful, I guess, in a conflict situation. But generally its pretty obvious these traits were simply added to fuel the plot in specific situations.

As for the human characters, well they are also your standard unbelievable stereotypes. Our protagonist Miles (Alex Neustaedter) is your usual good looking toned teen who broods behind his flowing locks a lot. He is being raised by his single-parent father so that's why he's more rugged, manly, and moody I guess. His father (Thomas Jane) is also what you might expect. A scruffy baseball hat wearing mechanic who looks like he could be stern but is actually a good man. But in true 'Karate Kid' fashion the hot young stud has an enemy whom he must contend with over the course of the flick. This bully pretends to be his friend but in reality he's jealous of his dirt bike skills and the fact Miles is taking his woman (so kinda justified).

Said main love interest Sara (Becky G...?) is incredibly attractive and curvy in all the right places...because of course she is. No ugly or plain-looking young folk in this movie. She's literally like a young Megan Fox for this movie (apparently she's one of these ex-You-Tube youngsters who has since become a singer or whatever). All these young characters speak in a dialect I don't quite follow, some kind of hip-hop speech or something (2018 folks). 'I'm gonna bounce' seems to translate into 'I'm going to leave'. Lots of 'bro's' and 'my bads' and all this crap youngsters speak these days. There really doesn't appear to be much acting going on but rather constant posing and strutting. Who can look the coolest, who can swagger the hardest, who's more toned etc...

Now with the other movies I've mentioned the special effects were pretty awesome. Now with 'Short Circuit' the plot was very thin and cliched but the practical effects were terrific (for the time). What they achieved with a real robot was impressive. And here's where this movie fails again. As with everything these days practical/live-action effects are virtually a thing of the past. Everything is CGI nowadays and this movie doesn't try to change that. So the robot dog is mostly CGI with the odd close-up of a practical body part. Whilst the small bits of practical effects were nicely done, the CGI just let everything down as you might expect. Yes I know they couldn't use a real robot dog but the reliance on CGI is just too much.

I'm not gonna say this movie is all bad but it was close. Clearly they have tried to make something semi-serious here, a sci-fi with an actual emotional core. Unfortunately they have missed the mark quite badly. I mean, apart from the cliched beautifully toned young people and all their posturing, the blatant plot rip-off, the obvious predictability (more so if you've seen those older films), and the needless chase sequences along with over the top stunts. You also have ludicrously dumb sequences where Miles and Sara manage to fix the robot dog after its been badly damaged with fire (yes the military robot is invulnerable...apart from fire? And it's a military robot??). They literally rebuild the thing! OK Miles is a mechanic like his dad but there is no way he should be able to rebuild this robot. The US government clearly need to hire the kid.


Saturday, 1 December 2018

The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Ho, Ho...Ho?

A Netflix movie with a title that kinda suggests a cinematic universe? The hell you say. Anyway I think its fair to say that most of you should guess what the premise of this flick is gonna be. It this the usual Santa schtick or is there some kind of surprise to be had?

Wait for it!! Deep breath!! it's the usual Santa schtick, sorry. Bottom line, a widow is getting over the recent death of her husband which has of course led to problems in the home with her two kids. Her daughter is generally OK but constantly watches old recordings of her father and fights with her elder brother who has gotten mixed in with a bad crowd and is stealing cars! Nevertheless as you might expect on Christmas Eve they both decide to try and catch Santa and end up fudging up old Saint Nick's plans good and proper. Thusly they all have to work together to save Christmas (ugh!).

So I basically heard about this and wasn't overly bothered at first but when I saw Kurt Russell standing in that Jack Burton-esque pose on the poster, I was sold. Yes I saw this movie solely based on the fact that Russell was Santa. Had this been anyone else I probably wouldn't have bothered. But is Russell worth the admission? Well yes and no. Firstly yes it was inspired to cast Russell as Santa. I would never have thought of that as Russell just doesn't leap out at me as a Santa type guy. But blow me he sure as hell looks the part with his thick wavy hair dyed grey and white and that glorious beard of his. My only real complaint would be he looks too good, too fit and rugged to be Santa. Is that bad?

Admittedly Russell can only work with what he's given and that's not entirely anything original let's be frank. The whole secret Santa thing has been done to death over the decades and there really is little to bring to the table now. So with that said yes everything that happens is kinda neat but totally 'been there, done that, seen it, and bought the t-shirt'. His sleigh typically has all the modern day technological gadgets. His reindeer do what most other magical reindeer do in these films. Santa can magically zoom about in a flash of CGI. Santa also has magical powers like a magician. He uses some kind of time portal to travel around the world. And his sack of presents is bottomless which also leads to his elf driven workshop...I think. Either that or the elf homeworld  or Santa's grotto, not actually sure.

We also have the usual reoccurring questions that pop up with these Christmas adventures. How come no one has seemingly ever seen or exposed Santa before? Until now. He roams about in this movie using his powers and chatting about his unique role quite happily, so one assumes he's always done this, yet nothing has ever cropped up? No news reports, witnesses, or video evidence of any kind? Surely by now Santa would have been exposed. At the start of the adventure they just leave the sleigh where it crashed, just like that! Yet no one comes across it? No one comes across the large lost sack of presents just hanging in a tree in the middle of the city. No one has ever seen any of the elves (which are essentially cutesy copies of 'Gremlins') etc...Basically, with the amount of magic that flies about the place you'd just assume it was impossible that Santa would still remain a secret.

And I haven't even mentioned the song and dance routine yet! Yes in one of the more original aspects of this movie Russell dons some shades and thumps out a little Christmas number with the help of a small backing band. Despite it all looking very Blues Brothers-like, very quickly any film buff will recognise Russell's Presley-esque techniques which he displayed back in 1979 for John Carpenter's TV movie 'Elvis'. So what we have is Kurt Russell, dressed as Santa, essentially doing Elvis, epic much? But once again this kinda makes you wonder how on earth this guy has managed to remain hidden when he does things like this and doesn't even try to hide his identity (he magically flies up a vent in a puff of red glitter at the end).

It also amused me how Santa allowed the young girl to record almost everything on her old camcorder. Sure he takes the tape in the end but still, kinda risky. As for the young duo that accompanies Santa, well they're just your bog standard kids really. The girl is all happy happy, totally believes everything and is full of wonder, rainbows, and unicorn poo. Whilst the elder boy is of course more doubtful, cynical, and harder to convince. A lot of which is down to him struggling to cope with the loss of his father. But as the adventure progresses the duo (mainly the boy) must learn to help each other, be nice, use their brains, and believe in the spirit of Christmas (naturally). Its all about emotions, feelings, and being nice...all that cliched gooey crap. They might have been in a race against the clock but there's always time to stop for some sentimental schmaltz.

Of course you know exactly how everything will turn out in the end with Santa and the kids. Kinda silly how they ruin the story by essentially hinting at the fact that everything was a setup by Santa to merely get these kids back on track with their mother. Then even more ridiculous when Santa essentially looks towards the camera and suggests he and Mrs. Claus watch the adventure he just had with the kids (all recorded on that old camcorder), which is basically saying to us the audience to keep rewatching this movie. At the same time suggesting it will become a new Christmas classic, we'll see Netflix.

So overall it's cliched, predictable, and completely unoriginal. The effects are acceptable but obvious CGI and greenscreen abound especially for the sleigh sequences. The youngsters are fine, the elves are oddly violent (chainsaw??), and Santa's long red coat is leather. So yes as you may well have expected its all about Russell and his hip blues singin' Saint Nick. I can honestly say without Russell this would be just another dull jingle bells without the fun. So put simply, it's worth seeing for Russell and that's it, the rest is complete meh.