Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Hellboy (2019)

Another major movie starring Milla Jovovich, another major flop. Hmmmm.

So we have yet another Hollywood reboot, correction, we have another pointless Hollywood reboot. Yep for some reason unbeknownst to themselves the powers that be thought it prudent to start all over again with this Mike Mignola universe instead of making the third movie in a del Toro trilogy. This essentially going against what the majority of the fans wanted. That's business acumen right there folks.

So let's delve into this reboot one part at a time. Firstly the controversy (on Twitter). Ed Skrein was originally cast as the character Ben Daimio, who in the original source material is Japanese-American. Ed Skrein is of course a caucasian male which enraged and triggered the 'woke' Twitterati. This led to online protests to get Skrein removed from the project. Skrein eventually decided to quit the role in order to appease said Twitterati, a big mistake (or was it?). Funnily enough the role went to one actor who I believe was actually involved in the online protests, Daniel Dae Kim (talk about low huh). Yet what was even more amusing (and hypocritical) was the fact that Kim is actually Korean, not Japanese, but he wasn't gonna let a silly thing like that ruin his chances (insert eye-roll emoticon here).

The Opening: Yeah it's bad, really cheesy, really bad. Not only does it look like a very poor attempt at the type of visuals '300' achieved, but the narration alongside it is also just terrible. It just sounds like some bloke reading the paper. It's right here that you discover the CGI is not gonna be good in this movie. Also the opening title sequence shows us a pretty poor looking Hellboy title. This then leads into a wrestling match sequence which is basically shit and again looks bad. 'Van Helsing' levels of CGI at this point.

The Main Villain: The main villain in this movie is Vivian Nimue, better known as the Lady in the Lake from the tales of King Arthur. Only here she is known as the Blood Queen (in Blade-esque fashion) and is a baddie. It is this character that is played by the great actress Milla Jovovich, yeah. Her assistant in this movie is a big humanoid rubbery looking warthog mutant character with a Mancunian accent, for some reason. He is called Gruagach. Apparently Gruagach is Changeling, a baby fairy that is left in place of a human child which has been stolen by grown-up fairies, for some reason. Thing is Hellboy saw through this and managed to get the human baby back. This angered Gruagach as he lost his chance to become a human, or something.

Hellboy: Played by David Harbour is fine and very similar (in my view) to Ron Perlman's performance. I mean in all honesty it couldn't really differ that much could it. He was always gonna talk a certain way and his dry wry humour was always gonna be that way. He was hardly gonna be like Deadpool or Spider-Man was he. But here's the thing, his makeup actually looked worse than the Perlman/del Toro version, in my view. From a distance it wasn't too bad, up close it looked poor. You could literally see the joins and marks of the rubber prosthetics.

Giants: From the rather nice wood panelled interior of the Osiris Club we follow Hellboy and its members on a giant slaying hunt which essentially looks like something from a Monty Python movie. All these guys roam the English countryside in full regalia, with Hellboy, and no one sees this. The giants eventually turn up in one of the most awful looking CGI action sequences I've seen for some time with some of the worst looking CGI blood. Hellboy kills them all and still not one person passes by and sees anything.

Characters seem to pop up outta nowhere with no real explanation. There are three witches that sewn the dismembered Nimue (as she was left from back in her King Arthur days) back together. They just turned up for that scene then disappeared. I assume they were her coven from the Dark Ages but where did they go? Where did they come from? Where had they been all this time? Another witch called Baba Yaga turns up for one scene in another dimension or something. No real explanations to this character, she's just there and has a history with Hellboy, apparently. Although this scene is easily the best looking and most creepy. Baba Yaga is a truly shocking creature, her pale skeletal body constantly contorting in a nightmarish manner as she moves around. As said the character just seems to turn up out of the blue for no real reason but it is a brilliantly nasty sequence which could easily fit into an actual horror movie.

Merlin: Yes another character churned out for a few minutes before crumbling away. Merlin appears to be Irish in this movie...K. He also offers Hellboy one fleeting chance to take the sword Excalibur to slay Nimue. It comes across as a one time offer. But Hellboy finds it later on in a secret crypt beneath St Pauls Cathedral which was odd. Pretty sure Merlin's offer was a one time deal. Anyway Merlin also reveals Hellboy is actually a distant relation of King Arthur, because of course he is.

Jaguar-Man: Yep, the character of Ben Daimio can turn into a Jaguar. A sort of wereJaguar if you will. Apparently he was attacked and badly scarred by a supernatural entity (in the form of a jaguar) and now he changes into a super-powered jaguar when angered. So basically the Hulk...if the Hulk was a jaguar, or a werewolf. This results in very cheesy looking CGI special effects and sound effects.

The Finale: So Hellboy inevitably turns bad (or it seems) and the Earth opens up setting loads of devilish minions free to cause violent havoc. Sounds cool and you'd think it would be but once again the visual effects are pretty dire. Everything looks like in-game videogame footage from an old Resident Evil game or the latest first-person monster shooter. It all looked so fake and cheesy. It's also at this point that the fake looking CGI blood and deaths go way overboard. Humans are being killed left right and centre in really corny Mortal Kombat type ways, it's too much.

In short, this movie requires you to know quite a lot about the original Hellboy comic series. Now on one hand whilst I fully understand and support why they have gone down that route (its nice to see some true respect to the original source material), it does make the movie feel like a bit of a slog for the uninitiated. I don't know very much about the Hellboy comics so I found myself asking many questions as there was little explanation. It also felt like a huge amount of material was crammed into this one movie with tonnes of characters, nods, winks, and background details. Yes that's cool, but it's also a bit overwhelming. Still, I have to admit to kinda liking this. Overall it is a bad clustered movie with awful visual effects but the combination of myths, monsters, and fantasy with an 18 rating kept me engaged.


Sunday, 14 July 2019

The Principle (1987)

Ah the old, teacher gets sent to a shitty high school in a shitty area where all the kids are unruly and is tasked with trying to turn them around, routine. How many times have we seen this idea played out? I thought I had seen them all but up pops this James Belushi vehicle. So yeah, think along the lines of 'Dangerous Minds' and to some extent 'The Substitute' and maybe 'Toy Soldiers'. The last of which also starred Louis Gosset Jr. I might add.

OK so the plot isn't quite the same as all of those movies, they each deviate but still have a common theme. In this movie whilst out drinking teacher Rick Latimer (Belushi) spots his ex at a bar with another guy. He attacks the guy and ends up damaging his car. For his punishment, the Board of Education sends him to another school in another district where there is a crime/gang problem (and lack of willing teachers). Not really sure why he wasn't fired truth be told. Or put in prison either as a matter of fact. Anyway naturally Latimer hates this decision but once at the school decides to try and clean it up...with predictable outcomes.

So as you can imagine the school is chock full of all the classic 80's stereotypes both with the students and teachers. The students are mostly made up of minorities and range from Latino gangster wannabes, punks, sluts, extras from a Vanilla Ice gig, jocks, and rednecks. Whereas the teachers are mostly white, middle-aged, wholesome looking, weedy looking, geeky looking, and completely out of their depths (although they seemingly know how to handle the kids to a degree). Gosset plays Phillips the school head security guard. An aging man who once had a shot at going somewhere in sports but got an unlucky injury. You get the impression that Phillips being black means he would be able to see eye to eye with some of the students. Talk to them on their own level, gain a bit of their respect or trust. One reason why he has survived in the job for so long. But this trope doesn't actually come up.

You could also look into the old 'white saviour' motif in this movie, if you see it that way. You could say that Belushi plays the stereotypical white character that comes along to a poor area made up of minorities and saves them all. I mean you could look at it that way. But on the other hand, if the main character was also a minority then you wouldn't get that clash of cultures which is obviously the main crux (the only movie I know that has reversed that idea being 'One Eight Seven'). You also have to acknowledge that in reality the truth hurts, and that truth is there are many schools like this and mostly they tend to be made up of minority students. The school doesn't even have to be in a poor area to have the same issues really. The old class/poverty argument can be more of an excuse in my personal opinion. Being poor doesn't mean you have to join a gang or act like an arse in school.

Obviously things are deliberately to the max in this movie. The school (a very typical huge American high school) itself is really dated looking and in a bad state. Literally everywhere is covered in graffiti. The entire place needs a paint job. Everything looks rusty or dirty. All the equipment is dated. The place looks like a literal health hazard truth be told. I can't believe there would be any schools that actually looked like this in reality, at least these days.

As for the story and characters, well its exactly as you'd expect. You can virtually predict every scene, you know exactly what's gonna happen its that cliche. Latimer is a tough guy but manages to get through to a few of the kids. He visits one female student to try and bring her around, eventually succeeding of course. He gets into some scraps, some situations. Phillips acts more like the wise sidekick on occasion although he isn't of that much help generally. And in the end, in a long sequence that is typically over the top, Latimer must face-off against the main gang that rules the school. Although considering what has happened in schools over the years with shootings, maybe this isn't over the top anymore (it would have been when I was at school).

The real problem with this movie is the casting of Belushi. This supposed to be a crime thriller but Belushi is badly miscast. Around the time this movie was made Belushi was mainly a funny guy actor, comedies or action comedies. This type of serious social commentary, mixed with some thrills, isn't really right for a young Belushi. Every scene which is clearly supposed to serious, and at times emotional, it just gets lost on Belushi. He isn't even that good with the small bits of action either as he looks terribly unfit and sweaty. Nowhere near as cool as he clearly thinks he is. Not that this movie would have been anything special with anyone else, its a cliche fest, but Belushi was just a bad choice in my eyes. The criminal students are actually the highlight here, much better performances from the 'bad guys'.

Visually this looks quite good. I liked the sprawling ramshackle all-American 80's high school, and I liked some of the shots with the lighting effects. But apart from that its all very meh. Watching a chubby Belushi thinking he's ice cool as he rides around on his dated looking motorbike was cringeworthy to say the least.


Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Pink Cadillac (1989)

In the long long long filmography of the mighty Clint Eastwood, this has to be one of the most unusual. Unusual in the fact that whilst watching it you're wondering just why the hell he agreed to star in it (other than lots of money obviously). In short, this movie is absolute hot garbage, red hot trash, and I'm not being funny. It's just odd because this is Clint we're talking about and this movie really is that bad.

So basically, Lou Ann (Bernadette Peters) is white trash living in a trailer park (yep the stereotypes come thick n fast here). Her other half Roy (Timothy Carhart) is a member of a white supremacist group (perfect political commentary for this modern age as everyone loves white supremacists these days). The group has a large sum of counterfeit money (turns out to be real but that matters not one jot in the grand scheme of things) which Roy is supposed to look after. Alas he gets busted and Lou Ann takes the fall. 

Feeling somewhat fed up Lou Ann does a runner in Roy's pink Cadillac (ah ha!) which is exactly where he stores the loot (see where this is going yet?). So Roy and his nasty white male friends go after her. At the same time Tommy Nowak (Eastwood) is hired to track down Lou Ann and bring her back to Sacramento (I think it was) cos she skipped bail. Naturally Tommy finds her but falls in love and ends up helping her yadda yadda yadda. Oh and there's also a baby involved which probably would have been killed by the end of this story considering all the danger.

OK so firstly Clint is clearly too old in this movie. He was too old way before this but its really showing here. Yeah he looks sort of OK but he can barely move with any speed and its painfully obvious in all action sequences which don't involve simply standing still and punching someone. There are far too many obvious stunt double moments and one sequence where Tommy runs after this other guy in downtown Reno (unfortunately an aged fat bloke) is hilariously awful looking. Both guys are clearly running at a snails pace and clearly having trouble at that! It really does look very very bad.

The very first time we see Tommy bust some criminal he's been hired to track is also really stupid. Tommy is supposedly a master of disguise (oh yes) and he goes to this huge amount of trouble to set this criminal up. But in a wholly idiotic move he reveals himself to the criminal before he gets the guy fully in his car. This of course leads to a fight which totally could have been avoided. Now let's focus on Tommy and his disguises, and by that I mean Clint and his God awful acting. Yep Clint can do the steely-eyed, somewhat muted tough guy, but sure as hell can't do comedy. The scene where he's pretending to be some kind of brash casino contest host is pure cringe, 100% face behind your hands cringe. Later on he then pretends to be a slack-jawed yokel type, oh Jesus!

But wait, that's not all. The movie is titled 'Pink Cadillac' after the car they use for most of the runtime. This is completely pointless though because they could have used any car, it really didn't make a blind bit of difference. I guess it just sounded kinda cool. Much of the movie is set in Reno which I have been to and here lies another problem. Reno is a small city, the main casino strip is actually very small, just two or three rather short streets that don't actually have that many casinos (as of 2019). So it's pretty clear they must have driven around in circles to make the car chases and in-car shots look good.

And then we have the bad guys, oh boy. Now these guys are your stereotypical gun wielding, redneck, yeehaw yokels that seemingly do nothing all day but get drunk and fire guns in their homemade firing range. They all dress as you'd expect in military fatigues or jeans with big belt buckles, and they all have guns, knives, and big 4x4 trucks. Their homemade base is just like some Scout camping activity centre complete with a fake town to run around in and shoot guns. And their leader Alex (Michael Des Barres) is a short scrawny little guy with a greasy ponytail. The bad guys literally look like a bunch of dads at Scout camp trying to look cool.

Yeah so this movie will probably pan out exactly as you might expect...except for one thing, we don't actually know what happens to most of the characters at the end. Yes believe it or not but this movie isn't that violent. In fact you hardly see any bad guys getting killed at all. I would have bet my bottom Dollar on some of the arsehole baddies getting killed off but nope. But referring back to my original point, we don't actually find out what happens to most of the bad guys. Do they simply stop being supremacists? Or do they even live? Dunno. Same goes for Lou Ann's other half Roy who is a main character. No clue what happens to him. The movie just ends after a car chase just as you were expecting the boss to get killed, did he? You just hear the sound effects of a car crashing (low budget? Lack of time?).

So yeah, a cheap looking pile of poo basically. The final showdown really highlights how poor this movie is. It's like a TV show.  The only plus point that I can think of was the nice locations and backdrops. It feels like an ill-conceived comedy spin-off from the Dirty Harry franchise. A huge misfire trying to ride the coattails of another Clint hit.


Thursday, 4 July 2019

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Set in the late 80's around the fall of the Berlin Wall, 'Atomic Blonde' is yet another swish spy thriller that kinda rides on James Bond coattails but also throws in some John Wick and Jason Bourne for good measure. This film is actually based on a graphic novel called 'The Coldest City' which is something I never knew. Sounds like all the ingredients for an absolute sizzler.

The Twisty Plot: Under MI6 orders and with the help of the CIA, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is trying to get her hands on a list, a list of spies that if it gets out will naturally compromise said spies lives. David Percival (James McAvoy) is an MI6 Station Chief located in Berlin who is assigned to help Broughton. Delphine LaSalle (Sofia Boutella) is a French agent who falls for Broughton whilst trying to help her. And of course there are various other (Russian) characters who are trying to get their hands on said list to either sell or utilise. Oh and there is also an East German secret police (Stasi) agent who originally had the list and also memorised it, so Broughton has to save his ass too.

I must also point out that this entire story is actually told in flashback as Broughton recalls her entire mission in a debriefing to both MI6 and CIA heads. Personally I thought this was a daft thing to do simply because it just gives the whole game away doesn't it. Broughton is all beat up so we know she's gonna get into some major fisticuffs. She's alive so we know she isn't gonna die at any point. She also seems to have no major visual injuries (other than cuts scrapes and bruises) so again this takes away from any possible tension. And lastly she's alone so that could indicate no one else survives. Basically this direction kinda takes away the stakes of the plot, cos you know she's OK at the end. These sequences also tend to bring the film to a halt.

But the real problem with this film is the fact it's trying way too hard with all its various little branches. There are so many twists and turns which lead to you the viewer not really trusting anyone or anything you see. It sounds devilishly cool but it isn't, it's actually frustrating. Every character has their own basic reason for wanting the list, but you don't really get much beyond that. Yeah some wanna sell it, some wanna use it, Broughton is trying to presumably save the spies on it. But despite all the spy intrigue the characters are pretty shallow. Also, as I said you can't really trust anyone so again you can never be sure what their actual motivations are.

The absolute epitome of this is the ending. Spoiler alert, this film has around three different endings and each one makes a complete U-turn on Broughton. It literally feels like the writers and director couldn't decide on which ending they liked best so they rewrote them in order to cram them all in! You think it's over...and it isn't. You think Broughton is on this side...and she isn't, or that side! I couldn't even be sure if she was actually on the side she finishes with, fully expected another twist.

Yes all the reports are correct in that the action is superb, what there is of it. Yes the action is very John Wick-esque (director David Leitch directed 'John Wick') when it happens, but this is far more of a complicated spy thriller than 'Jane Wick'. Pretty much all of the action sequences are top notch in execution (except for the odd bit of greenscreen and CGI) and highly savage. Theron trained to do the scenes and it shows. One scene in particular, in a stairwell, seemed to be one long continuous shot of non-stop bone cracking, impossible to live through, carnage. Highly impressive, highly unrealistic if you think about it, but highly engaging. Had this come before the original Wick flick then it would be even more impressive.

I don't wanna keep bringing up the John Wick franchise but considering the links here it's kinda hard not to frankly. So yes overall this film does essentially look like a John Wick film only with a lot more neon and 80's nostalgia. On one hand it looks great, on the other hand it again looks like they're trying too hard. Seriously why so much neon?? Its like Leitch tried to make the entire film look like that nightclub scene from 'The Terminator', or an early MTV music video. This also goes for the soundtrack which becomes wholly annoying. Almost every scene has an 80's tune in it for no real reason other than to remind you its the 80's. A lot of this simply felt like style over substance and overall it tries to be too clever for its own good.