Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2

A Bit Wanky

Never have I ever written such a good tag line on my reviews. It is childish, witty (if you are a child), amusing (if you have a 7 year old’s mental age) but also perfectly sums up what is essentially a lucklustre and wanky end to an almost-great franchise.

There’s nothing all that offensive about the film and is actually really well produced, much like the whole series, but it seems to lack any real direction or rather focus to what it’s trying to portray. Is this an action adventure? Well the first 2 films certainly seem to think so. Is this a dystopian journey of political intrigue and injustice well MockingJay Part 1 seemed to think so (you can read my review here).

So what is Mockingjay Part 2? Well it’s part romance, part horror, part action adventure, part melodrama, part sci-fi, part thriller, part fantasy, part sigh and part groan.

Turn on the news today and it seems like someone has thrown a load of Russians, some American gun nutters, David “bacon sandwich” Cameron, a handful of brainwashed religious morons and a whole bunch of epic drugs into a washing machine and waited for the madness to seep out. What better time could you need to make scathing political or social references? What better time to show you that yeah things went a bit meth-addict but hey, it all worked out in the end? Mockingjay isn’t any of this.

This Hunger Games fascinates me in potential because it’s a symbol of fighting oppression through the destruction of Snow. It’s a symbol of injustice with the capital ruling the districts for their leisure. It’s a symbol of hope that comes through the change that Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) initiates.

Reality is a harsher mistress though as by the end of the film you actually leave feeling kind of sorry for Snow. Sure, he’s as manipulative as any spin doctor and as tyrannical as Pol Pot but towards the end it is made out like he is just a political pawn too. That might have been OK if the last film started like this but not at the end of the 4th film where he has firmly been the arch nemesis the whole time. By turning this around it negates the feeling that they have been fighting oppression.

The idea of ruling classes and social hierarchy is lost at this point too as we have had people from the capitol aiding the districts and they continue to do so here as well.

What little hope is also whittled away by the questionable dialogue between Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) and Katniss. The drivelling lines of “real or not real” and the eventual deprogramming of Peeta comes in three seemingly un-related stages. First he fanatically wants to kill Katniss, then he’s a bit so-so, then suddenly he’s in love again and they live happily ever after.

If that sounds hopeful that’s probably because I haven’t mentioned that Katniss’s other love of her life Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) is shunned by Katniss although it’s never clear exactly why and that’s only after lots of her friends/acquaintances have died – many in the hands of the Sewer Mutts.

This is where the film is probably better than any of the other films. Katniss and her team roam the sewers in an attempt to reach Snow but fall foul of what can only be described as a naked version of Venom from the Marvel universe. The cheorography of this scene is excellent but it’s the build up that is most impressive by raising the tension but never falling for jump scares in the places you’d expect if this were any old horror film.

This whole section provides some of the most outrageous scenes whilst also being some of the most subtle and intelligent. It’s disappointing that the rest of the film could not live up to this standard because I had high hopes for all of the Hunger Games movies but I think this one was one of the weakest in the series.

You can easily draw comparisons between Mockingjay parts 1 and 2, and the Hobbit trilogy because there is way too much padding in these bloated films that simply didn’t need to be stretched into as many films as they were. Aesthetically the films look great but it doesn’t provide any consolation to the fact that there is very little in the way of impact of revelations and by trying to have a lot of everything in the series conclusion it also has a lot of nothing. Perhaps I’m just too finicky?!

Go See

  • Mutts
  • Well produced
  • You’ve seen the last 3, so….

Avoid

  • Feeling sorry for snow
  • No important messages and revelations
  • It’s just a bit wanky!

Overall

Stars_3

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Steve Jobs

Get Your Retinas on This Display


As a product, both the first Macintosh and the Steve Jobs film were actually pretty decent yet both of these have been a commercial failure.

I regularly look at video game/entertainment website called IGN and in one of their article’s comments section I found people saying “He was an asshole. Why would I want to watch a film about him?”, ” I don’t want to give money to Apple or Steve Jobs” and “I have no interest in his life”, ” There are too many films about him” and “Fassbender doesn’t even look like Jobs”

Those are the more sensible comments I could extract from the childish screaming of the video game community so let’s quickly address these in case you fall into one of the above.

Fassbender. No, he doesn’t really look like Steve Jobs but that’s probably because he is Michael Fassbender and not Steve Jobs. Suspend your disbelief for a second and what lies beneath is an amazingly talented actor who even had the appraisal of Steve Wozniak for the accuracy of his on screen persona.

Apple. I get it, you don’t like Apple but don’t worry the money isn’t going directly to them, they aren’t going to stack it high, set it on fire to it and laugh maniacally whilst wearing manacles, although that does sound fun!

Jobs. Yes, he was an asshole and a bully and probably a sociopath but if you’ve read this far then you know that this is wonderfully portrayed by Fassbender.

In fact, if you scratch beneath the surface, Steve Jobs isn’t really about Steve Jobs and the film isn’t really a film.

I can hear you scratching your heads but let me explain. The film doesn’t follow a chronological narrative of Steve Jobs it is actually the story of how the Macintosh flopped and how Jobs’ next (no pun intended) project flopped before the eventual success of the iMac. All this happens to feature Steve Jobs as our main protagonist.

The film is also curiously broken out into 3 distinct acts that cover the short periods of time before a product launch. The locations for these acts are so limited that it is presented more like a theatre play than a film.

With Danny Boyle at the helm it is easy for Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen to also excel as Steve Jobs, Joanna Hoffman and Steve Wozniak respectively but they never manage to eclipse the fantastic script written by Aaron Sorkin.

At times this film will leave you behind due to the sheer volume of words that are being hurled at you from the stage/screen but the beauty of it is that absolutely none of it is filler. Every word has been carefully sculpted to delve into the inner workings of Apple, Steve Jobs’ mind and any periphery relationships.

The complexity of how Steve Jobs schemes, plots and plans to meet his corporate goals and their effects on those around him feels like a steady, continuous crescendo throughout which is an amazing achievement given there are essentially only 3 scenes.

There is quite a brutal portrayal of how dismissive he is of not only his staff – the people that are the foundations of his success – but also his child who turns out to be the foundation of his humanity. Jobs is depicted as a merciless bulldozer that managed to identify a market that no-one thought was there

No matter what your predisposition is with Apple or with Steve Jobs you shouldn’t pass over this film. Sure, it’s almost everything you already know about Apple, the Macintosh and Steve jobs but follows the ideology of the company by wrapping it’s complexities in a nice user friendly interface.

Go See

  • Fantastic script
  • Well paced
  • Intriguing narrative structure

Avoid

  • Too many of them words to listen to
  • Fassbender doesn’t look like Jobs
  • Not really about Steve Jobs

Overall

4-stars

Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Sewing On The Comedy Badge

Comedy films are probably the worst thing to review. Comedy is so subjective that I could say I laughed really hard at Carter (Logan Millar) honking on some Zombie funbags before running away and some people will laugh at the stupidity of the idea and some people would want to put my in a straight jacket.

Even worse though is that “timeless” rarely applies to comedies. What we find funny today we probably won’t find in 5 or 10 years. I mean, think about it; if you have a fancy dress party and you open the door to someone blacking up you’d say “Granddad, that’s inappropriate! Go home.” and probably feel quite embarrassed afterwards. There’s a possibility that by the time I’ve written this review it’ll be out of date, just like this film.

Arguably, in 2002, 28 Days Later kicked off a new generation of Zombie movies. This lead to all kinds of Zombie films and cross-genre films; Zombie comedies with Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, Zombie TV series with the Walking Dead and the Strain, a Zombie romance with Warm Bodies and lately in 2013 a zombie Epic with World War Z but since then… not much. Also in 2013 “Selfie” was awarded the Oxford Dictionary word of the year but since then it’s almost become a dirty word. Right now, however, feminism and equality are in vogue… or in other words an absolute minefield!

So in waltzes Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse which features Zombies, selfies and stirppers. Timeless comedy classic? No. Funny? Surprisingly so!

The scouts consist of Augie (Joey Morgan) who is the dorky one, the aforementioned Carter who is the cool one who doesn’t want to be a scout and Ben (Tye Sheridan) who is the less cool one with a conscious. They are a group of teenagers coming of age, wanting to go to the cool parties with the cool kids and date chicks. The stripper supposedly has a dark past which makes her a bad person and of course, it’s down to the nerdy scouts to save the day.

With all these well worn stereotypes Scouts Guide should probably be hot street trash.

Perhaps writers Carrie Evans and Emi Mochizuki and/or writer-director Christopher Landon were all too aware of this because the focus is firmly on the situations rather than the characters or motifs within the film. Thankfully these situations are generally very funny.

Lets talk about boobs again because… well… boobs. The scouts escape a police station where one zombie gets partially stuck in a closing gate which tears her shirt open showing her veiny necrotic mammary glands. Not particularly funny in itself but to see Carter take 5 seconds to stare in amazement and then to see his teenage joy after running and giving them a quick squeeze was totally unexpected and hilarious. He just touched his first boobs. Well done Carter, you’re a man now!

Another such moment was when Carter first kills a zombie with the top of the broken bottle. The zombie had pinned him to the ground so after jamming the bottle into the zombies head the blood is unexpectedly funnelled out the bottle top and all over his face. Again, another example is to see a serious moment between Denise the stripper (Sarah Dumont) and Ben only to find a zombie bounce in and out of view of the background window as it is on a trampoline.

It’s not hard to find the funny moments but it’s even easier to find the continuity errors. The first 20 minutes are riddled with more errors than when Assassins Creed Unity launched. Broken car parts magically fixing themselves then breaking in different areas, pledges of allegiances with the left hand in one shot and then the right in the next, a glove and pliers in one hand in one shot and the other hand the next. Clearly the continuity editor hadn’t taken heed of the scouts motto: be prepared.

Its ironic then that this film has very little to do with scouting. There is, at best, vague references to scouting and how that helps to survive the zombie apocalypse. Still, the humour in the film outweighs all of its problems to make it consistently funny. At least that is my opinion as it stands right now. Scouts honour.

Go See

  • Zomboobs
  • Trampoline Scene
  • Bottleneckiing

Avoid

  • Sterotypical characters
  • Continuity errors
  • No scouting?!

Overall

4-stars

He Named Me Malala

I Name Her Amazing

What a disappointment. Malala is an incredible person and what she is fighting for deserves to be heard by as many people as possible so it’s disappointing that there was only six people in my screening. One of these was obviously myself and another being my girlfriend.

If you don’t know who Malala Yousafzai is you must have heard of the last part of her story; the part where she was shot in the face at point blank range for speaking out against the Taliban in favour of women gaining an education.

You remember that part right? Well He Named Me Malala is the other part that you probably don’t know. It is the rest of her story. What’s fascinating about this story is how brave, vocal and, quite frankly, tenacious Malala has been. When I mentioned that Malala spoke out; this isn’t like some grumpy teenager retorting “ugh, in a minute” when asked to do the hoovering or scribbling “d) err.. how about no?!” on a multiple choice questionnaire with only 3 answers. No. Malala actively campaigned against the Taliban regime. A regime that only tolerates active compliance.

Because of her campaigning there are television and radio broadcasts from before the time she was shot. These sections are combined with animations, shots of Malala’s home town, interviews with her family, recent news/media coverage and the odd artistic shot of locations. All this is fine but I found that it was all edited in a jumbled up way.

We end up with lots of different plot threads all running in parallel such as Malala adjusting to life in the UK, her old life as a political campaigner, her father’s life as a teacher and so on without any of it really feeling that coherent. I would have been equally as happy, if not more so, to have a chronological breakdown of the events that lead to her getting shot, then how she recovered and what she is doing now. By jumping around the timeline it also lessens the impact of the moment where she was shot because there is never enough time to build drama within the unfolding events.

As a produced documentary it’s actually not that good but forget I said that nonsense because you shouldn’t be watching this to applaud it for being a technically stunning documentary. You most definitely should be watching to celebrate Malala’s strength of conviction her passionate and unshakeable belief that every child should receive an education if they want it.

It’s such a mundane idea that it is easy to take it for granted living here in the UK. To be able to take a step back and listen to first hand experience in being denied this basic concept, this basic right, makes you feel like a small part of big world – similar to standing on top of a mountain. The fact that Malala speaks with blunt logic is also beautifully refreshing in world where politics is run by spineless half truths, blatant scaremongering and ferocious finger pointing!

Malala absorbed much of her activism from her father Ziauddin Yousafzai who opened his own school in Swat in Pakistan to teach children. Part of his core education was to teach people to stand up for what they believe in and to challenge the rules that society dictates. He too was targeted along with his school for speaking out against the Taliban regime and striving for equality so his story is every bit as interesting as Malala’s.

What really shines through above all else is that these people are just ordinary people. Ziauddin just wants to teach people, he has no real desire for power. Malala would rather lead a ‘normal’ childhood but won’t do that until every child is allowed to have a normal childhood.

The Yousafzai’s are an example of how good humanity can be. It’s a crime that they can no longer return to their home but hey the UK is a better place for them being in it.

Watch this film. If you don’t agree with that last sentence then that is just as criminal and in fact you are probably just as much of an issue as the Taliban were in the Yousafzai’s home town.

Let me put it this way; you don’t have to grow a tail and some whiskers and lap it up when the powers that be drop a saucer at your feet filled with policies that say fuck education, fuck free healthcare or fuck the environment.

Doesn’t mean you have to be politically active either. Just make sure you know where your moral compass points and be a decent human to the other humans around you. It’s not hard.

https://www.malala.org/

Go See

  • Malala’s spirit
  • Malala’s Father
  • Life affirming

Avoid

  • Weird story timeline
  • Not as dramatic as you might expect
  • If you are racist/xenophobic

Overall

4-5-stars

The Last Witch Hunter

Death After Life

The Last Witch Hunter should be right up my street. It has magic and witchcraft and cool looking effects and a dude with a flaming sword and Michael Caine. What could go wrong?

Well, the ending. The ending could go very, very wrong.

I was actually quite enjoying it to start with even if it is a little slow in its build up and just when you wish it would hurry up and get somewhere it prematurely ejaculates all of its themes and plots twists right into your face… OK, I need some better analogies.

So the basic premise of the film is that Kaulder (Vin Diesel) and his bunch of friends went to kill the Witch Queen (Julie Englebrecht). This is back in the days where modern technology meant you had a way to keep dead rats out of your local well. It’s also back in the day when people – including Vin Diesel – had awesome hair and beards.

As Kaulder kills the Witch Queen he is cursed with having eternal life. Cut to present day and Kaulder is still hunting the bad witches only now he looks like Vin Diesel does in every other film. He belongs to a council that has a historian or “Dolan” who records Kaulders deeds. The 36th Dolan is Michael Caine who is retiring and being replaced by the 37th Dolan (Elijah Wood).

The next day we find out that the 36th appears to have been murdered and Kaulder is then on a hunt to find out who did it and why. This is where the film gets good. For a short period of time it manages to strike a really interesting balance of mystery, intrigue and action-adventure. The film talks you through a lot of the potions and alchemy that Kaulder uses to hunt monsters without overstaying it’s welcome, giving you enough to flesh out his craft.

As the investigation continues we get lots of really cool special effects of weird witchcraft in our modern day world. Simple things like a rotten apple tree appearing to be a bright and colourful gummy bear tree are examples of the fantastical hiding in plain sight which at times reminded me of that feeling I got when I first watched Men in Black.

Up until the middle of the film is where the majority of the characters are fleshed out too. It’s here that we meet Chloe; played by Rose Leslie who is famous for saying “You know nothing John Snow”. She, in my eyes, along with Michael Caine are the best characters in this film because lets face it, if I was to pick someone to play a fantasy role it wouldn’t have been Vin Diesel – he’s just too bland for the world around him.

Chloe, however, is one of the good witches who doesn’t use magic for nefarious means. She is also scared of the world outside her insulated circle of friends at the bar she works in. It provides a valuable insight into the other side of this story. We see a group of people who, through no fault of their own, are ostracised, feared and heavily regulated. The witches therefore are a strange dynamic race of people where a small vocal minority cause chaos for humanity but the silent majority have to suffer the consequences. Sound familiar?

It’s here that a few gaping plot holes appear though; the most obvious is the 37th Dolan who originally states that Kaulder saved him as a kid from witches who killed his parents and burnt his house down. “I remember” are the words that serve Kaulder. It’s strange that Kaulder seemed surprised when the the 37th turns out to be a bad guy because his parents were actually witches and it was Kaulder who actually killed them… I thought you said you remembered?!

The absolute worst part of the ending is how rushed it feels. Suddenly within what feels like 10 minutes literally everything happens which is in stark contrast to the pacing within the rest of the film. Turns out the 36th isn’t dead, Chloe is actually a bad witch but doing good, the 37th is a bad guy, the witch queen has been resurrected and will release a plague within minutes to wipe out humanity, everyone has to fight witches and monsters etc.

So after all that you leave the cinema feeling numb to the whole experience as the last thing you remember is just a random assortment of stuff – similar to cassetteboy’s mash-ups only less funny.

I think if a second one were to be made I would give it the benefit of the doubt and go see it because The Last Witch Hunter actually had a lot of promise and I quite enjoyed the first half of it at least. Unfortunately though it pulls the ejector seat release where all the plot points were sitting leaving the rest of the vessel to plummet into oblivion. It’s probably not worth spending decent money to see this film but if you catch it on TV then you will probably find that it’s a semi-entertaining witch… err watch.

Go See

  • Cool effects
  • Rose Leslie
  • Starts well

Avoid

  • Rushed ending
  • Plot holes
  • Vin Diesel

Overall

2-5-stars