Monthly Archives: August 2015

Vacation

Family Holidays CAN Be Fun!


I really enjoyed Vacation I just wished I hadn’t already seen it all before.

It’s a common problem in Hollywood with whoever makes the trailers desperate to show the best bits to entice viewers but this is really counter-productive.

This is especially true for comedies because everything is less funny the more you see it, right?

I’ve seen the trailer for Vacation a good number of times so some of its humour was at risk of being lost on me.

Take the Griswold springs section from the trailer as an example. Pretty hilarious when the camera pan back to reveal its a sewage dump instead of a hot spring. The line about the sulphur or the shot of Rusty (Ed Helms) gargling the water or Kevin (Steele Stebbins) throwing a syringe ‘dart’ at his brother are all funny.

This section in the film is almost, shot for shot, exactly the same as the trailer. It’s a shame because the film really is a good laugh but what are you left with story progression?

Well, it barely has that. Rusty takes his family on a trip to Walley World in attempt to rebuild a fracturing family. Does he succeed? Of course but there is no real development of character so one minute they are dysfunctional the next they are a happy family. It feels like a hollow victory.

As an example; the aforementioned Kevin mercilessly bullies his older brother James (Skyler Gisondo) who is so meek at defending himself that I couldn’t help but laugh whenever Kevin was on screen just from anticipating what he was going to say or do to his brother.

Yet that all changes half way through as James stands up for himself and the sibling rivalry just sort of… disappears. This complete 180 of character is even more strange given that James defends himself in such a pathetic way. The lack of any build up to Kevin’s behaviour change is jarring and out of place.

Still there’s a lot to like in this film such as the delightfully bizarre car that Rusty hires for the road trip I would challenge any one to not find it funny.

Having a button that ejects the bumper or makes the driver seat spin 360 whilst driving is amazing and the Korean sat-nav provides staple laughs throughout.

One of the funniest moments that hasn’t been ruined by the trailer is when a stalker-like truck driver finally catches up with the family. Kevin says “oh, so you aren’t a rapist then?” And the reply is so priceless its almost worth watching this story of a family road trip just for this moment.

Even though the trailer shows too much of itself it is still fun to watch – a but like a streaker at a football game!

Because of this; a sequel to Vacation would be eagerly anticipated. There is so much scope for this type abject failure in everything the family tries to do – the trailer just needs to stay the fuck at home though!

Go See

  • That car!
  • That trucker!
  • That kid!

Avoid

  • It’s all in the trailer
  • Change of heart for the kids
  • No real sense that the family are pulling together

Overall

3-5-stars

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The Bad Education Movie

C+ Good Effort


Hmmm. What’s the best way to describe The Bad Education Movie? I guess you could say that it’s like tourettes.

It is unexpectedly funny every now and again when it is loud and in your face but otherwise its not something you should laugh at.

For those who don’t know; Bad Education is a British sitcom about an ‘unorthodox’ history teacher called Alfie Wickers (Jack Whitehall) and the under achievers in Class K.

The film’s starts out with Wickers initiating class wars which is an anything-goes battle re-enactment. The kids are painting their faces, building forts out of tables and making swords and shields out of anything else they can find – all in the name of education obviously.

Although this isn’t particularly hilarious on its own it does give new viewers a useful insight into why the series is called bad education.

This scene also serves another purpose though and that is to set up one of the films many set pieces.

These set pieces are, without question, the continued highlight of the film. Class wars was my favourite. It ends with a disgruntled parents walking in on the inappropriate teaching technique and being ‘attacked’ by the class hamster.

This outrageous scene still makes me chuckle. If not for the soundtrack which is normally reserved for rockets launching into space then definitely close up of the little rodents stupid, confused face.

I couldn’t help but wonder though if the makers had the general plot sorted and then tried to pad or the rest of the film around these set pieces because the rest of the film is flat by comparison.

The story continues with Wickers wanting to let his graduating pupils go out with a bang by talking them on a bat shit crazy school trip.

Because of ‘hamstergate’ Mrs Poulter (Joanna Scanlan) – mum to one of the pupils – demands to join the trip to keep it from derailing and being more bonkers than you can shake a Dizzie Rascal at.

Having Mrs Poulter join the trip is understandable from a plot point of view and although Scanlan is totally believable in her role as an overbearing fun sponge it also stops the characters indulging in what makes the set pieces funny; madness.

If the film was clever enough to show that Wickers’ teaching methods has inadvertantly been of use to the kids or if the film developed characters and relationships in a way that you wanted to invest in then trying to keep the film grounded in reality would make sense.

Unfortunately The Bad Education Movie does neither of these particularly well because the plot is sparse and forgettable at best.

With this in mind it’s a shame that it doesn’t just fully embrace the chaos that makes the set pieces so funny even if this was at the expense of the plot. Instead the film wrestles with the plot, trying to wedge it in like a fat person versus a wet suit.

I haven’t watched enough of the TV series to say whether this is a worthy addition to the continuity but it’s not good enough to make me want to go back and watch through the various seasons.

That said, The Bad Education Movie has its moments of hilarity. There are enough of them to keep you entertained most of the way through but all in all, I’d rather watch The Inbetweeners.

 

Go See

  • School Hamster
  • Set pieces
  • It you are a fan of the TV show

Avoid

  • A bit dull between the set pieces
  • The plot
  • Not a very satisfying potential end to class K

Overall

3-stars

Paper Towns

Paper Mates


As a young adult I used to look down on all these idiots who grew up to work and live in the same small town they were raised. Once heroes of their school year now reduced into waddling doughnut sacks who have given up on everything short of breathing.

Yet look at me now! I’m currently living in roughly the same area I grew up. What a hypocritical bellend.

Well, not quite. I’ve been in a fortunate enough position to travel and see a fair amount of the world but I still vehemently believe that leaving your town and seeing other cultures is as important an education as any.

Cara Delevingne’s character Margo shares a similar sentiment. Margo is also a bit of a tomboy and given I’ve never dated girly girls it was easy to immediately like her character from the watching the trailer.

My outlook has mellowed some, since my younger days, so I was interested to see how I would react to Margo. Would she be my younger self’s ideal girl or would I find her free spirit intolerable?

Turns out it’s the latter. I was surprised but not because my viewpoint has changed it was because of how unexpectedly mature the film was.

Paper Towns could easily have been full of trashy over emotional teenage douche-baggery but this isn’t Twilight without vampires. It’s not just another coming of age teen flick. It’s a relatively sophisticated indie that explores love, life and friendship.

The rebellious and mysterious Margo calls on her neighbour Quentin (Nat Wolff) to help her invoke a night of mischief on her ex-boyfriend and anyone involved in this breach of trust.

This is a dream come true for the nerdy Q who had loved Margo since the day he saw her.

Mischief isn’t really in Q’s nature so it sets Q’s heart racing only to have Margo proclaim that this is how you should live every day. The next day Margo disappears so Q sets it on himself to track his love down.

I could suddenly see this film being a teenage sermon about living young and free, forever ‘man’. Just do what you want ‘dude’. Don’t let the man beat you down ‘bro’. This lecture never came.

We learn that Margo has run away before. We learn that Margo holds little thought for her friends and family. Ultimately we learn that Margo isn’t a manifestation of a perfect ideology. She is just a human, she is like you and me. She is, in her own way, broken and lost simply trying to make sense of where she fits in the world.

It’s not just Margo who isn’t a one dimensional bag of emotions either; Q and his friends Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith) also follow suit.

The friends are built up to be your typical nerds and introverts who like Pokémon and brass bands. They’ve never been to a party and barely interact with girls but embark on an adventure and road trip to find Margo.

I could suddenly see this film being another teenage sermon about living breaking the mould or about the nerdy kids becoming legends. This never came.

Instead the road trip just develops the friendship between the three and actually reaffirms what is important to them. To hell work becoming popular. To hell with fitting in. They are who they are.

In this respect the film is a triumph but it lacks any real punch or gripping drama to make it an un-missable film and whilst I personally loved the ending because it performs a key role in building characterisation it also makes the whole film almost pointless.

If you have a nerdy streak then you’ll probably find this a fun and relatable film even if a lack of revelations means the drama fails to fully unfold in Paper Towns.

 

Go See

  • Refreshing teen drama
  • Character building
  • Good ending

Avoid

  • Feels a bit flat at times
  • Ending makes the whole film fell a bit pointless
  • Margo isn’t the strong free spirit I hoped for

Overall

3-5-stars

Absolutely Anything

Absolutely Mundane

If you go to see Absolutely Anything expecting anything other than a mediocre comedy then you either haven’t seen the trailer or are a misguided individual.

From start to end this film is verging on being blithe and that’s because of two key issues but before I go into them I better give a rundown of the plot.

Neil Clarke (Simon Pegg) is a bit of a failure. As a teacher his class isn’t particularly respectful to him, nor are they going to be the next great thinkers. On top of this the headmaster doesn’t particularly like him. Outside of work he lives alone, is bad with women; mainly because he is as smooth as coarse pepper. He does have one thing no-one else has though: the ability to do absolutely anything. This was granted to him by aliens to see if he would do good or evil. If he does good then humans will be invited into an inner circle of intergalactic super beings, if not the earth will be destroyed.

So, back to the first of these issues. The film fails make use of a really great cast. It’s a wasted opportunity when you have British comedy royalty such as Eddie Izzard, who play’s the school headmaster, and the cast of Monty Python who voice the aliens reduced to mere cameos. Realistically, Izzard is only there for Neil to be able to prove to his friend Ray (Sanjeev Bhaskar) that he can anything by making the headmaster suddenly be kind towards him.

Furthermore the aliens simply serve as a basic plot device. We see them at the start of the film to set up the premise, near the end to judge and jury and that’s almost about it. Neil is unaware of their presence so they are almost irrelevant to the story. There was one redeeming cast member though and that was Robin Williams voicing Neil’s dog Dennis.

Dennis is by far the best thing in the film. Neil says “Dennis be able to speak”, waves his hand and ta-da: “Biscuits!”, “Biscuits!”, “Please please please, biscuits!”. It’s an amusing opener especially when it’s built up by Neil previously talking to him (and seemingly understanding him) like a person and yet all he get’s back is “Biscuits”. Even after Neil say’s “Dennis become a rational thinking creature” he simply rationalises why he want’s biscuits.

Dennis has the right balance of being able to talk English but also still holding his err… what’s the dog equivalent of humanity? Canininity!? Yeah, that’ll do. Anyway, it provides a stable source of entertainment which is admittedly quite limited in Absolutely Anything.

The biggest problem to this film, and the second reason why I found it bordering on blithe, is absolutely everything that Neil wishes into existence. The comedy behind the idea of being able to do anything is not slapstick by Neil is wishing for ridiculous things, instead the comedy comes from the fact that what Neil asks for is given in a literal sense which means he never really gets what he actually wants.

This could be really amusing if the effects of his commands were carried forwards through the film or if they accumulated into an ever more unmanageable situation. But no, a flippant wave of the hand and it’s all undone so there is never any consequence to Neil’s actions. What you are left with is a shopping list of wishes; “Let everyone be alive, give me a great body, let the headmaster like me”. Film it, tick the box, next wish, film it. Nothing he ever wishes for has any sense of permanence and therefore the only thing you can do is to ignore them like last year’s Christmas presents from grandma.

Because the execution of Neil’s wishes is half-arsed you’d think that this calorie free, ‘lite’ comedy might be just another “fun” family film. That’s probably what it should have been. However, there are a couple of NSFW scenes like when Neil’s love interest Catherine (Kate Beckinsale) candidly talks to her friend over a few too many wines; “What you think I should fuck him?”, “yeaahhh…. just fuck him”.

The chuckles from the few parents who did bring their young kids to watch this rapidly turned to awkward gasps. I probably shouldn’t admit that I found this funnier than most of the film but hey, I’m an asshole sometimes!

The idea that you can do anything at all with the wave of a hand, yet for it to never work as you want it to holds a lot of promise. You’d think that adding in a mix of comedy greatness would be a home run but the film is like the OJ Simpson trial: it lacks conviction.

Given that all of it’s themes, characters and plot developments are half baked I wouldn’t recommend you go out of your way to watch this film. In other words if I had to compare to absolutely anything at all it would be just any average TV movie.

Go See

  • Dennis the biscuit dog
  • Promising concept

Avoid

  • Wasted Cast
  • Wasted concept
  • Drops the F bomb

Overall

2-stars

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Spyle Over Substance

Thank god this film wasn’t code-named after my uncle. For some reason, when he was a little one, my brother couldn’t say my uncle’s name so called him Zibby instead. I’m sure it made sense to a 4 year old but The Man from Zibby just sounds ridiculous.

It wasn’t all that many years later when I discovered the original The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series. I was instantly fascinated by how cool Robert Vaughn was as our American hero; Napoleon Solo. I was also fascinated by how much of a frosty badass David McCallum was as the red threat; Ilya Kuryakin but I had obviously had no conception of any potential geopolitical subtext. It’s been a long time since I saw the TV show so my memories are thus: smooth talking, 60’s cool, spy games and the best character names ever invented.

15 to 20 years later and I’m really happy to be watching a film that is almost exactly how I remember the TV series that I loved as a kid only this time they aren’t battling THRUSH… yes – the original series had a criminal organisation called THRUSH!

Perhaps I remember the series wrong, I was a a kid after all, but I don’t care. I didn’t want or need a higher, more serious, political message from this film. What I wanted was endless cool music, a bit of suave, a few pretty girls, a dose of action, some cheesy innuendos and a splash of spy games. The Man from U.N.C.L.E gives you exactly that.

The main thing that struck me with this film was not the omission of THRUSH – a sensible choice – but instead Henry Cavill who plays Napoleon Solo. Once you get past his perfectly chiseled jaw it’s quite striking how his lines sound like they are dubbed by someone in the 60’s. The patterns of his speech fit both his character and the setting sublimely well but his acting? Not so much.

This is difficult to explain but Cavill looks and talks every bit the spy who doesn’t play by the rules and surprisingly so does Arnie Hammer who plays Ilya Kuryakin. But there is something under the surface of both of them that suggests they are playing the opposite roles. Cavill seems too stiff to be a rebellious spy and Hammer seems to be on the verge of cracking a joke ever 10 minutes countermanding his role as a by the books, dedicated, Russian KGB agent.

That’s only a minor gripe because as soon as the music kicked in at the start of the film I knew I’d enjoy it regardless. The music doesn’t stop being awesome throughout the film and adds to the cool vibes that ooze off the screen. I say ‘adds’ because you can’t overlook the costumes, the cars, the scenery and the script that add to an endlessly stylish film.

OK maybe that last one isn’t a high point. I’m sure many people will find it trite and pathetic but for me it hit the right balance of smooth talking and cheeky banter. There are enough of these quips to keep the whole film light-hearted and fun finding a delicate balance between being friends, enemies and begrudging colleagues.

One of the strangest things about this film though is the editing. There are so many missed beats and awkward sound volumes that at times I found it distracting yet at the same time it adds a layer to the film to make feel uniquely different from a ‘Hollywood film’. Not quite an indie film but not mainstream either. Curious.

With all this in mind it’s inescapable to be sucked in by the style that is washed across the screen from start to finish. Some people may not enjoy the whimsical nature of dialogue but personally I loved it. Perhaps it’s because I’d had a couple of beers before hand, perhaps it’s because it dragged out some nostalgia of my childhood or perhaps it’s because it was the perfect antidote to a truly shit week at work but either way it spoke to me on some level.

Go See

  • Fabulous Soundtrack
  • Style, style and more style
  • It’s fun!

Avoid

  • Strange editing
  • Script won’t please everyone
  • Lead actors seem to be playing the wrong characters – in a way

Overall

4-5-stars

The Gift

Personal Space Invaders


The Gift is one of those films that is easily slept on. I’m sure lots of people haven’t heard of it and those who have probably weren’t trembling with anticipation for the film.

Like the 2011 film Limitless this is a surprisingly good film. It holds a lot more depth and subtlety than the trailer would have you believe. More importantly it has something that is notoriously rare: a stunning ending.

The best way to see this film is without knowing much about it which makes my job here super difficult. I need to convince you that this film is (nearly) a must see film whilst telling you as little as possible.

The film’s plot is simple. Simon (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) moves in close proximity to his old childhood home where he happens to bump into ‘Gordo’ (Joel Edgerton); an old school acquaintance of Simon’s. Gordo quickly becomes a bit too forcefully friendly verging on stalker-ish. Why? Well there is some buried history between the two… That’s all I’ll say.

If you watch th… No. When you watch this be sure to stick with it because it’s a slow burn. The film is all too happy to build up with only gentle, rolling, ebbs and flows. Tense scenes within the new house do just enough to keep your interest and the slow build up of animosity between Gordo and the new residents will routinely pique your intrigue with these characters.

In this respect I found it had a similar vibe to this year’s excellent Ex Machina. At some point this slow build up seems to stop and settle into an overly tidy and subsequently disappointing conclusion. It’s only later you realise this tepid section of the film is used for a higher purpose: to emphasise one of the most striking endings you have seen in a film.

Not only is the ending powerful and unerving but it holds such a simple concept that it buries itself deep under your skin.

Only because of the ending did everyone, and I mean everyone, exit the screening vocalising how good the film was, how creepy the ending was, how it was not like what they were expecting but in a good way.

There’s not a lot to dislike about The Gift. If might be a little but slow for some people but it’s beautifully scripted, shot and edited.

The only minor complaint I can come up with is that the characters are more complicated than you first imagine yet there is little evidence of this throughout the film to support this. Adding a few subtle hints throughout would allow minds to wander, trying to guess what’s going to happen and attempting to fill in the blanks. That’s part of the fun with a thriller, right?

If I was to be picky, and seeing as how I’m writing this I guess I am, I’m not sure Jason Bateman was the right person for the role of Simon. His performance was perfectly fine but his face doesn’t fully fit his on screen persona just like my face doesn’t fit a clean shave!

The whole film has that uneasy and eerie vibe like Gone Girl which should be compliment enough for you to go see The Gift. When you realise this was written and directed by Joel Edgerton (Gordo) as one of his first films it’s a shame that more people aren’t getting up close and personal with this film.

Go See

  • Worth it for the ending
  • Decent build up
  • Technically solid

Avoid

  • Too slow for some
  • Doesn’t feed you enough clues
  • Bateman mis-cast perhaps

Overall

4-stars

Pixels

Press X to Restart

Cineworld cinemas offer a subscription service where you pay once to see any/every film. I use this to watch films I like but also to simply kill time. With that in mind I see most films that come out in cinemas whether or not they are any good. There are a few types of films that I dread: horror films because I find them tedious, films based on computer games because they rarely capture the mood of the game and finally Adam Sandler films because, well… Adam Sandler.

The idea of going to see an Adam Sandler film based on video games was like biting into a depression sandwich – You know the outer layers look a bit stale and the filling could be spam for all you know. Stale spam in fact.

I was preparing myself for an experience worse than watching the last Twilight film whilst a herd of cats poddle at your eyes but I was wrong. Well… sort of!

In my opinion, if you are going to make a comedy about a hobby or a pastime then you either need to overtly poke fun about the ridiculous idiosyncrasies of said hobby or show some reverence to it. That way you bridge both lovers and haters by re-inforcing its silliness or informing what makes it great. Pixels falls into a void between both of these.

Aspects of the film poke fun at gaming culture in the form of Josh Gad who plays Ludlow “Wonder-Kid” Lamonsoff. Ludlow is still living in his grandparents’ basement, doesn’t particularly look after his physique, gets too deep into conspiracy theories and critically; has terrible social skills.

Reducing this character to a base stereotype feels like a lazy comedy trope but Ludlow actually has some of the best lines in the film or rather provides the best delivery of them. Because he is so socially inept his raucous outbursts become actually quite funny and none more so than when he flips and starts belittling a group of elite soldiers. The juxtaposition of this useless man berating rows of Adonises is certainly a highlight but there are other rants that punctuate an otherwise comedy-void film.

The biggest offender here is Adam Sandler who is on autopilot. He provides such a bland performance that I wonder if he actually gave a shit about being in this film. The other offender is Peter Dinklage who plays Eddie “Fire Blaster” Plant. I really can’t make out this character, it’s like the writers couldn’t work out if they wanted a wannabe, cheese-ball, lover similar to Austin Powers, a southern hick or just an arrogant jock so they just smashed all these ideas together and hoped for the best. The bizarre traits of this character negate any humour that he tries to portray.

Similar to how the humour is lacking there isn’t particularly any nostalgia over the types of games they include in the film as it doesn’t make any real point as to why they are enjoyable, why they are relevant or even how these old arcade games have evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry and has permeated popular culture to the extent that ‘gamification’ is now in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The fact that old arcade games are used must simplay be to fit in with the plot of a time capsule being sent to space and time passing before it is picked up by an alien race. I guess that’s fine but it’s missed a trick to make the film anything more than a redundant ‘comedy’.

Pixels does have an ace up it’s sleeve to keep this film from being an infuriating lame duck and that is the impeccable CGI. The effects in Pixels really is terrific. Ignore the actual video game characters and just watch how everything they touch gets shattered into a thousand multi-coloured cubes – or pixels if you will. The physics of how each block moves and falls to the ground is so lifelike that I still wonder how they achieved the effects. Did they have a load of blocks and CGI a car around it or did the have a car and CGI the blocks? It really is impressive.

The obvious fun of seeing a giant Pac-Man prowling the streets of New York and the excellent CGI work gives +8 to the film’s base entertainment stat but the tedious attempts at comedy and the absence of any underlying message stops this from being a triple A title. If this film was to re-spawn with a better script and funnier players it might actually be a winner.

Go See

  • Great effects
  • Pac-Man
  • Josh Gad

Avoid

  • Adam Sandler
  • It’s not funny
  • The ‘Dink’

Overall

2-5-stars

Fantastic Four

Blandtastic Bore


I’m sure we’ve all had those days. You wake up, tell yourself “today I’m going to smash it”, you stride in to work and power through a full days work in about two hours. The realisation then dawns on you that, somehow, your workload has doubled! You work harder and harder yet things keep going to shit. Halfway through the day you think “Sod it, work can suck my bum cheeks”. The rest of your day you flake out and phone it in.

Fantastic Four is the same. It’s like they really tried at the start of the film but realised they didn’t have a smash hit so they shovelled up some some garbage and lobbed it carelessly at the end of the film. Bollocks to it, I give up, that’ll do.

The film opens with a young Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell) helping a young Reed Richards (Miles Teller) build a teleporter. Admittedly the concept of a kid developing a teleportation device when his voice hasn’t even broken is bullshit but opening at an early age helps to develop kinship between a genius and the son of a salvage merchant.

Richards is talent spotted and invited to build a bigger, working version, of his teleporter with the help of Victor Von Doom (Toby Kebbell), Johnny Storm (Michael B. Jordan) and Sue Storm (Kate Mara).

Casting. There’s the first balls up. There’s nothing wrong with any of the above actors but Teller is too goofy to be Reed Richards, Bell is too slender to be Ben Grimm, Mara is too moody to be Sue Storm and Jordan isn’t enough of a playboy to be Johnny Storm.

If you know anything of the comics you will know that Johnny and Sue are, by blood, brother and sister and white. Yet here Johnny is black – OK, fine, whatever – but Sue is white? If you are guessing that Sue was adopted then 10 points to you. Unfortunately the film explores this for all of 5 seconds on screen. When was she adopted? Why? How does Johnny feel about this? Where is Johnny’s mum? none of these are even hinted at. Insert the word adopted into the script and I guess that’s enough back story for one film.

In fact, as the team start to near completion of the machine you could have doubts that they even know each other as they barely speak a word to each other so the chemistry between the “brother and sister” is non-existent.

Up to this point the film has been a bit dull, but not bad, you might even have the feeling that it is building towards something good . The team perfect the machine and decide to take the glory of being the first humans to teleport. The machine actually teleports them to a different dimension, the visual aesthetic dimension which is beautiful yet chaotic. It’s a primordial world where streams of pure energy flow and pulsate into golden green pools reminiscent of a new born planet.

The energy pools erupt and the team scramble to get back home. In the frenzy Victor falls into the goop and the others escape but are fundamentally changed; they have gained their superpowers. You would have thought that this is where the film will get good but no, this is where it goes to shit. It’s bizarre to think that the worst part of a superhero movie is the superheroes. I mean seriously? How is that even a thing?

Well here’s how. Firstly, some of the CGI is shonky. There is scene where Johnny Storm – the human torch – takes down a drone in mid flight which looks like it has been lifted from the year 2002. Some of Reed Richards’ – Mr Fantastic – elastic transformations is questionable as are his fighting abilities. Think more camp adventure film than the dynamic action of Elastagirl from The Incredibles.

Next up is that the team never really do anything. There is a 20-30 section where the team practice their abilities without ever really interacting with anyone. Not even the other Fantastic Four members. Even though the training section is long enough most of the actual action is glossed over by a “1 year later” placeholder. The only good thing that comes out of this isolation is that you get to understand Ben Grimm’s – Thing – feeling of isolation and reflection on his new rock-steady appearance (a key plot point from the comics).

In steps Victor Von Doom – Dr Doom – who, of course, survived the previous disaster and came back with a heap of superpowers including being able to microwave people and make their heads explode yet he inexplicably doesn’t use this insta-kill power to stop the inevitable fight with the Fantastic Four.

Furthermore, all the others came back physically changed but mentally the same. Why then, has Victor gone from being a bit dour but overall a decent guy to becoming psychotic? A year in isolation? Perhaps, but there are no signs of his past humanity. Doom wants to destroy the earth to protect the other world which he has claimed as his home.

The peak of this mountain of crap is the finale. The only way to stop Doom is to go to his world and kill him. The fight scene here is absurd. They somehow get stuck to the floor by Doom’s power of gravity or something? Not really sure why or how this happened. Reed somehow manages to stand up and fight on like he is Rocky Balboa. The four work together in the most basic of ways to fight Doom by boring him to death probably. The acting in this scene is atrocious. The dialogue is rushed, confusing and inane in the rare moments it’s actually audible over the music and sound effects. Doom’s method of destroying Earth isn’t explained either its just some rocks and a laser thing. It an awful, avalanche of shit of an ending.

So how did this end up being so bad? Well, there have been rumblings of studio meddling in artistic vision with director Josh Trank tweeting then deleting the same tweet about how we will never see ‘his’ vision of the film. Other stories surfaced around Trank and how he was isolated and non-communicative during filming. Further rumours swirled of large parts of the movie needing to be re-shot.  Perhaps this lead to it’s 3 month delay and critic’s review embargo that only lifts the day before release, which is often a clue to poor quality in films and computer games for that matter.

The Fantastic Four have always had a troubled history in hitting mass market appeal unlike a lot of Marvel’s other intellectual property so if even half the above rumours are true and you factor in the mis-casting of a reboot that steers away from it’s source material then you might find it ironic that this was doomed from the start.

Go See

  • Builds well
  • The other world

Avoid

  • Doom
  • The end scene
  • Dodgy CGI in places
  • There’s no post credit scene for X-Men Apocalypse 😦

Overall

1-5-stars

 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

The Hunt for the Syn-bin-dicate

Mission: Impossible has always felt like a standalone film and in that vein it is similar to the James Bond franchise. Every once in a while the installments try to wedge in some continuity but it only does enough to make you go “oh yeah! that thing”. Rogue Nation is not unfamiliar in this respect.

Rogue Nation kicks off by loosely following the events of Ghost Protocol which closed with the Kremlin partly in ruins. Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), director of the CIA, appears before a senate to demand that the IMF is disbanded due to its reckless nature. Meanwhile Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is on the verge of confirming a super secret bunch of “highly trained” spy soldier dudes hellbent on taking down the IMF known as the syndicate.

What I don’t understand about this film is that if this rogue nation of spies really is as highly trained as we are routinely told throughout the film then why does the IMF wipe the floor with these idiots. You never really get the feeling Hunt is ever in danger – at least not from the syndicate.

Sure they always seem to be one step ahead but that’s only because of Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) who is the worst villain since Kim Jong Il. Solomon might be intelligent but Harris plays such an uptight and stern bad guy that he looks like a stereotypical German villain from a 1980’s b-movie.

And what is with that ridiculous voice? Did someone get Batman’s Bane to so voice over work after kicking him square in the conkers?

OK, so the syndicate were and useless and pathetic but at least their motivations were well argued. You see they want to err… Oh god!? I honestly don’t remember why they were even there. I guess that proves how awful that organisation is.

That said there are other reasons to go see the movie as it feels more balanced than almost any of its predecessors. It has a decent balance of action, plot development and most importantly; quiet moments.

It’s really important to have downtime in an action movie as it gives you breathers to reflect on what you have seen and lets your anticipation build for the next scenes.

So I was pleased that Rogue Nation allows time for dialogue and even some lingering long takes. The scene where Hunt passes out underwater has a lovely, but eerie, silence to it that helps bring drama to the mission where the Syndicate fails to do so.

The most notable scenes in any Mission: Impossible though is of course the action. Rogue Nation eclipses almost all of the previous films with its motorcycle chase scene. All the stunts are real and not CGI making it a joyous spectacle to watch. I probably could have watched an hour long version of that scene alone.

The handheld combat scenes also hold up well. The is-she-isn’t-she-an-ally Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) plays a critical role in delivering punch to these scenes, no pun intended. A number of plot twists and turns help flesh out her character and her relationship with the IMF. The fact that she looks great in a fight scene is a bonus.

Although the syndicate feels like a pitiful inclusion of faceless minions and not the anti-IMF we were promised, Rogue Nation keeps interest through its superb motorbike chase scene, quiet moments and the frenemy that is Ilsa Faust even if she will be forgotten in the next Mission: Impossible. After all continuity in this franchise is about ignoring continuity, right?

Go See

  • Motor madness
  • Girl fight
  • Well balanced

Avoid

  • The forgettable syndicate
  • The really bad, bad guy
  • Not MI’s strongest entry

Overall

3-stars

Hot Pursuit

Hot Trash

Grownups 2, my ‘go to’ comparison for bad comedies. It was such a piss poor attempt at a comedy that I wanted to self-harm and when others started laughing during that film I wondered if it was possible to kill people with popcorn and a straw. Thankfully Hot Pursuit doesn’t dredge the comedy barrel like the aforementioned shambles did but still, it just isn’t funny.

Mix that with the depth of storyline you’d expect from a ‘casual’ comedy film and it ends up being a boring non-event of a film. I can certainly see what they were aiming for and I mean there is a good concept in there somewhere; but then again I can see what communism is going for. Doesn’t mean the end results are necessarily any good.

It’s actually a bit of shame because the trailer hits the comedy notes that the film should have and that’s probably because, like I said before; conceptually it has promise. We have an up-tight, intense, hap-hazard yet knowledgeable police officer ‘Cooper’ (Reese Witherspoon) who has been tasked with a protecting Daniella Riva (Sofia Vergara) the wife of a whistle-blower in a drug bust. The wife is your typical kept lady of leisure; pretty, argumentative, emotional, materialistic and probably quite dumb. When things go south in the initial meeting it’s up to Cooper to keep Daniella alive as she drags her suitcase full of shoes behind her.

If the makers leaned more heavily into the stereotype then this could have started being funny. The fact that Daniella demands to carry a suitcase full of shoes with her never seems to get the couple into awkward situations and indeed Daniella never seems to struggle whilst carrying this awkward thing relegates to a basic fact rather than a comedic device. There is a lot that could have been done around the stupidity of clinging to material possessions when you have people who are out to kill you.

Similarly you could have done more around how by-the-book Cooper is. If you are trying to blend in and become unnoticed then Cooper should be the last person to be able to do this but when she does ditch the officers uniform you don’t particularly get the feeling that she still the same stuffy officer.

I feel like the blame for it being un-funny is squarely on the shoulders of the writers/director here as both Witherspoon and Vergara seem to fit the roles fairly well. When you look at the previous credits of Hot Pursuit’s writers it amounts to a few one off TV episodes. Similaraly, the director (Anne Fletcher) is known for 27 Dresses, Step Up and then just a few cameos. Given this *ahem* pedigree I guess it’s almost inevitable that this film was going to be flop harder than a sumo on a diving board.

In most comedy movies there are scenes that slowly build up to funny events. Hot Pursuit on the other hand has comedy moments that are weirdly paced; not so much a smooth build as a leaner driver with a leg spasms. For example, the is a moment where Cooper tries to steal a car and gets caught. In order to avoid the owner reporting this Daniella pretends to be in love with Cooper and tries to ‘lez it up’. The guy doesn’t buy it and it’s just a bit awkward to watch – and not in a funny way. Suddenly the guy seems enamoured and accidentally shoots off a finger. No build up just slow motion then blam!

Outside of the main characters which are probably the best part of the film there is a host of other characters that are as memorable as plain rice cakes. Their motivations are as well-known as the time Germany invaded the USA in WW2 (yes that really happened!) and their characters are as fleshed out as an anorexic. The plot is as straight forward as Roman road and I laughed less in this comedy that I did in any of Marvel’s most recent films so I’m not really sure this is a Hot Pursuit it’s more like a mild trudge.

Go See

  • If you need a sleep
  • If you fancy Sofia Vergara I guess – clutching at strays here!

Avoid

  • It’s not funny
  • Plot holds no surprises
  • Almost everyone in the film is irrelevant except the main characters

Overall

1-stars