Split

Brand New, Old School

I find it interesting that M. Night Shyamalan films have shouted incredibly loudly that HE is the director. He has become the label, the brand, of his own films.

Thanks to the success of the Sixth Sense his brand recognition rapidly increased with Shamalangadingdong’s name featured prominently on every trailer since Unbreakable. Yet, whilst this was happening the brand quality took an equally dramatic turn in the opposite direction.

Let’s face it, he has pumped out some crap films. After Earth? Give me a fucking break? The brand became toxic. The brand is Mega Bloks or U2.

Now I didn’t see The Visit – I’ve been assured it’s not total crap so that’s a start! – but Split is a very real attempt to get back to basics by making a decent film rather than rely on branding to sell pond slime dressed up as nutritious wheatgrass.

The trailer still features the brand name but doesn’t dominated it. The budget is much lower than some of his more recent projects and that only works in Split’s favour.

Split is not a horror movie. There are no jump scares. It’s a thriller and as a non-horror fan that was errr… thrilling because we are treated to a film that tries to build a solid plot, steady character progression and decent acting instead of a singular clutch moment: “AHA! The village is an experiment!”. No-one cares.

The trailer shows three girls are kidnapped by Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy); a man with multiple personality disorder. Crumb has a whopping 23 different personalities and some of his personalities are preparing the girls to be offered to  the suppressed 24th personality known as “The Beast”.

Split cleverly focuses on only a few personalities allowing the viewer to analyse, identify and even connect to them yet we still get fun glimpses of the others.

James McAvoy is clearly loving every minute and gives him an excuse to display the range of his abilities. It’s the little character traits that make it all so believable and without McAvoy this film would lose much of its appeal.

The reason for this is that the scripting and the acting of Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), Claire (Haley Lu Richardson) and Marcia (Jessica Sula) are at best acceptable.

There is also a sub plot of one of the personalities liking young girls and forces the trio to remove clothing. A couple of lingering shots of cleavage and mid-rift seemed unnecessary and uncomfortable to watch and come in place of any genuine feeling of threat to the safety of the girls.

Still, those moments are fleeting in what is genuinely an intriguing concept. The fact that one personality might be diabetic and another might need glasses suggests that the brain can change the physiology of a person, essentially making them superhuman.

The biggest takeaway though is that the film is old school Shyamalan and thanks to that it manages to breath new life into the brand.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ It’s an M. Night Shyamalan film that’s not shit!!!
+ James McAvoy clearly having fun
+ Interesting concept

Side note: Pay close attention to the end scene!

– The girls
– Some questionable cinematography
– Doesn’t feel threatening enough

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xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Return of Fun

This is one of the most confusing sequels in recent years. The first xXx was bad but xXx2: The Next Level is even worse. In fact I hear it’s now used as a form of torture in some countries but I guess people must have liked them though? Otherwise why would there be a sequel?

Imagine my surprise as I walk into the screening and it is jam-packed, wall to wall… with empty fucking seats. Who signed off on this film to get made?

Even co-stars like Donnie Yen and Ice Cube would have been expensive to bring onboard let alone Samuel L Jackson and Vin Diesel. Clearly someone was banking on rebooting this as another mega-franchise like Fast and Furious because at an estimated cost of $85 mill this gamble is going to lose some serious dollar.

And rightly so. It’s a crap film. It’s offensive to all senses, even Bruce Willis in the sixth sense is offended! Spoiler alert: He’s the ghost.

 Yet for all its stupid bullshit I really enjoyed watching it.

There are a five reasons for this and three of them are Donnie Yen. If you don’t know Donnie Yen he fights like Jackie Chan only a bit less campy. Donnie Yen is such a bad-ass action star that he makes everything look effortlessly cool. Thankfully he holds a lot of screen-time.

The rest of the film makes no sense. Why would Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) want to bring a DJ or a brain damaged guy whose “thing” is to be terrible at driving into his crack team of anti-heroes? Or why is he skiing down a forest or racing motorbikes in the sea? In the fucking sea?!

I don’t have those answers. I can tell you it’s a beautiful chaos. Sort of like the Lego movie that features a magic cat that lives in a rainbow land. It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t have to – it’s a magic rainbow cat. Some times things can just be fun for the sake of being fun; of bringing a smile to one’s face. That can’t be all bad, right?

xXx knows that this isn’t the next Bourne franchise so it rolls with it’s own stupidity, poking fun at itself along the way. I wish it wasn’t 14 year old boy fantasy fun though. If you are a feminist… probably skip this one yeah!?

Literally everywhere Xander Cage goes there are scantily clad women throwing themselves at Xander Cage and him taking full advantage of it even though we know that Donnie Yen is the real deal here!

The film does try to be progressive with the inclusion of Adele Wolff (Ruby Rose) who is a hardcore and somewhat gender neutral sniper with green hair and nice tats – I mean tattoos, not boobs – but this seems like a token gesture even if Rose owns her role.

The Return of Xander Cage seems to have been met with a box office flop. I’m not sure how I feel about that. The film is tongue-in-cheek rubbish but with the world seemingly going more crazy by the day why not return some fun to it?

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Donnie Yen
+ Ruby Rose
+ It’s actually really fun to watch!


– Hugely sexist
– Pure crap
– Nonsensical plot and action scenes

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Live by Night

Death by Day

Ben Affleck has had to endure a truck load of bad-mouthing and shit talk throughout his career. Some of this is because it’s trendy to knock him and some is thanks to the emotional range of boiled cabbage shown in some of his films.

In the past few years he’s managed to claw back some kudos from his directorial efforts – particularly the spectacular Argo – and his role in Gone girl and the hero that BvS needed in a film that no-one deserved.

Affleck seems to have cashed in this wave of good sentiment to make a film full of failed promises, terrible costume design and once again: drab fucking acting.

The basic premise of this film is that WW1 vet Joe Coughlin (Affleck) returns home to a fledgling 1920’s Boston. He gets tied up in a life of petty crime and a relationship with a Boston mob boss’s bit of skirt. This forces him to relocate to Florida and start running the rum trade during prohibition.

The very fact that this film is set in Florida already sets it apart from any other gangster film and if you needed any further proof then you only need look as far as Coughlin’s character who is not interested in running drugs or whore houses. This isn’t your typical gangsters drunk on power storyline.

The problem is that the film is now trying to make you care about cops and robbers, lost love, new love interests, revenge plots and prohibition so why it feels the need to weave in even more plot threads such as racism, the KKK and religion is confusing at best.

These are all fantastic topics that are ripe to be explored in more depth but with so much going on Live by Night never stood a chance to get emotionally invested in any of these.

What a shame. All the ingredients are there for a great film but it’s been thrown together with the care of a dog wielding a paintball gun.

That said, the production design is fantastic and really should be at least nominated for an Oscar in this area ahead of Passengers or even, dare I say it, La La Land because it really does look great.

The same can’t be said for the costume design. Go watch Gangster squad. That film had some seriously sharp suits. Affleck on the other hand seems to have been dressed in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s hand me downs.

I mean, it’s hard to make suits look bad but it’s even harder to make it look like the main actor has been replaced with a Madame Tussaud wax work but Affleck manages to do just that. The few moments that Affleck gives us a smile looks like an android learning to smirk.

It’s Dion (Chris Messina), Coughlin’s right hand man, who provides the only injection of exuberance but that rarely manages to counteract what seems to be a depiction of “what if: world’s least enigmatic snooker player, Stephen Hendry, became a Gangster?”.

Quite simply, Live by Night dies when scrutinised in the light of day.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Fantastic production design
+ Promises to go places
+ Chris Messina


– Failed to live up to it’s promises
– Ben Affleck’s acting
– Affleck’s suits!

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Underworld: Blood Wars

Old Meat, New Blood

January is a weird time to release a brainless action flick about sexy vampires punching gross wolf people… yet on some level it’s also the perfect antidote to the heavy going Oscar bait that is currently flooding the cinemas here in the UK.

Blood Wars is an entertaining yet wholly unsurprising addition to the Underworld series. The film focuses around the eternal conflict between vampires and lycans touching upon the internal power plays of the two factions and shockingly Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is sandwiched between right in the middle. Again.

When you break it down to the bare bones this is almost the same film as the last two or three and once again only progressing the storyline and characters in small increments. Normally that would be a damning critique but Underworld sticks to what it’s good at: kicking ass in style.

It is still has excellent production design. It still has the familiar plot threads as outlined above. It still has hoards of werewolves. It still has Kate Beckinsale looking hot in tight leathers for us Neanderthal males (Theo James for the Neanderthal ladies). It still has some really well choreographed fight scenes.

There’s arguably only two surprising elements to Blood Wars. The first of which is Clementine Nicholson who plays Lena – a high ranking vampire from a different covenant.

Nicholson manages to capture your gaze whenever she is on screen. I mean, sure, it helps that she is strikingly beautiful but there’s more to it than that. She exudes star power which isn’t uncommon in Hollywood but Blood Wars is her first ever feature film. It’s an impressive role to snag as a debut. She didn’t let the casting team down.

New blood and a talent to look for in the future. You heard it here first.

The other surprising part about Blood wars is how little the plot moves. The crux of the whole film is that Marius (Tobias Menzies) – head of the l – wants to get his hands on Selene’s half-vamp half-lycan daughter. Selene doesn’t know where she is. They have play a game of fisticuffs and… well… that’s about it.

Selene’s daughter is one of the most important threads that weaves Blood Wars to it’s predecessors. It starts with “I don’t know where she is” and ends with “I don’t know where she is… meh, maybe I should!?”.

As far as pushing forward an overarching narrative goes it would be like you upgrading from a 2 bed house to a 2 bed house… with a shed. Or living in a city suburb then going on a holiday to the city centre for two weeks.

Underworld Blood Wars is nothing to get excited about unless you are a fan of the series. It does enough of what it’s good at to keep such fans from feeling disenfranchised and although Clementine Nicholson injects some new blood into the series the real meat filling is the same old stuff you’ve had before.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Stylish
+ Decent action
+ Clementine Nicholson debut


– Nothing new
– Plot doesn’t really go anywhere

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La La Land

What Dreams May Come

As soon as that first trailer hit 1.10 minutes and that flute starts rolling “roop roop roop flooop roop…” and shortly followed by those bumping horns “bah bah bah baaah bah, bah bah bah baaah bah” my spine tingled.

If this energising, inspiring and uplifting music is representative of the film then fuck yeah this is going to be great!

Musicals are, you know, OK… but writer/director Damien Chazelle’s first film (Whiplash) showed such reverence for the highest calibre of musical artistry and by wrapping it in a compelling story he managed to explain why such musical talent is important so I had really high hopes for La La Land. This will not just be a story of whoever X-Factor has farted out in season 39.

I guess I came into La La Land with different hopes to those who have been gushing about it because I would take Whiplash over La La Land.

I loved the moments in which the film lingers on dope musicians being dope musicians. This is exactly what I wanted from the film and sent me day-dreaming of supping bourbon in a smokey jazz club or sitting in on a jam session because the passion for talented musicians is once again on full display.

I also loved the dream sequences and how seamlessly they blended in to the films narrative without feeling like a generic cheesy musical.

In fact dreaming is the film’s dichotomy. We see Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) struggling to align and achieve their dreams. They both want to be together but Seb, a realist, wants to own a pure Jazz club and Mia, an optimist and dreamer, wants to become a famous actress.

These incompatibilities are a reflection of ourselves. We all struggle to spin plates the plates we have let alone adding that really cool gold-edged plate to the mix!

What do we sacrifice to get what we want? For me; this blog is a type of therapy but you know… life! It get’s in the way sometimes and my writing suffers, other times it’s climbing, running, learning french, personal sanity or personal fucking hygiene that falls behind!

This realisation that only one or two of our dreams are ever truly attainable (if that!) provides a solid backbone to the story but to me it also exposes the film’s flaws.

I found La La Land loosing a lot its mojo towards the middle of the film as the songs became more melancholic and the focus shifting from sweetness of love, music and life to the bitterness of a cold break up.

I fully admit that’s just me wanting more electric music and less emotional baggage but I also noticed the dance scenes in the middle of the film pales in comparison to “Another Sunny Day” or “Someone in the Crowd” at the start of the film.

The mid film dance scenes couldn’t hold up partly because Ryan Gosling was not a great dancer. He looked good – not that it’s hard for Gosling right?! – but he is no Gene Kelly.

Keep an eye out for the early scenes though. You’ll get a few minutes in to and think “hang on, haven’t cut away once yet!” It’s audacious amid a modern Hollywood which seems to believe that more edits mean more bums on seats.

La La Land is a great film. It really is. It’s the best romance film I’ve ever seen but I was just dreaming it was something else.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ A couple of cracking songs
+ Incredible one take dance scenes
+ A solid, bittersweet story


– Kinda sags in the middle
– More of a love story
– Ryan Gosling as a dancer

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Silence

Silence on the Set Please

I read somewhere that it took director Martin Scorsese 30 years to make Silence. That shows a commitment to a passion project that most of us don’t have. Given his incredible body of work it’s no wonder that he has been trusted to scratch that itch. Anyone suggesting otherwise is “funny” and I don’t mean haha funny.

Yet again Scorsese has delivered another expertly crafted film I just wish Silence was entertaining to watch.

Ironically it’s in the moments of silence that the film excels. Silence features some truly stunning cinematography. Muted audio and lingering shots serve to enhance the hostility or tranquillity of the surrounding Japanese countryside. If, like me, you are a country bumpkin then it will tug at your heartstrings and feed that yearning to go get lost in nature somewhere.

I also found the moments where Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver) were silent to be the most dramatic.

The two are priests who have travelled to Japan to spread the good word of the lord and to find Ferreira (Liam Neeson); a mentor with whom contact had been lost. Their stature in the church makes them close to deities to the downtrodden islanders so the times where they are silently and helplessly watching events unfold seem to test their faith more than any other obstacle.

Questioning faith is one of the core motifs but I never truly believed the internal struggle that the priests were having and again that’s thanks to the silence. With limited dialogue (the priests and faithful taking “Never rat on your friends, and always keep your mouth shut” to heart) we are not treated to continued inner conflict and that is exactly what’s needed when addressing something as deep and contentious as faith.

You are left, therefore, with the notion that the film is intended to keep as many religions as happy as possible and for that reason I just could not get invested in the film.

That is a big problem when the film is so god damn long. At over 2 and a half hours you really need to find something to latch on to. “Aww… beautiful scenery!” only captivates for so long and certainly less than 150 minutes.

The last 10 of those minutes suddenly changes pace by providing an epilogue that spans about 30 years of events. It’s a sudden and bizarre inclusion in an otherwise long and punishing watch.

If I hadn’t watched it at the cinema I would have either switched off or drifted into playing with phone mode. As a piece of art I’m sure this has critics and theorists shouting from the rooftops – it is really well produced – but as a piece of entertainment most cinema-goers will remain silent.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Beautiful cinematography
+ Moments of silence


– A punishing watch
– Far too long
– Questioning of faith 

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2016 in Words & Stuff

IMG_0343

Another year of sloppily written nonsense about films is finally over. We’ve seen some amazing films and some films that can only be described as flaming butt nuggets.

I thought I’d give you my opinion on the best and worst of 2016. Why? Well, this is the internet – an endless pit of people shouting into the void – may as well join in the funsies!

Based on UK release dates and films I have personally seen and is a reflection of how I currently feel about the films.

Please Stop…

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice:

OK. Fine. I admit it’s not one of the worst films in 2016 but it was a massive fucking disappointment. Partly because of the hype before the film release and partly because of how promising the opening 10 minutes were. What a waste.

Independence Day: Resurgence:

I was unsure of whether to put this or Gods of Egypt on the shit list but in hindsight Gods of Egypt is so bad it’s almost good. This? This is just a clichéd uninspired mess that’s been thrown together with the finesse of a blind ice sculptor on a bouncy castle.

London Has Fallen:

What a dumb fucking film. You can think of this as a live action version of Team America but without the satire. That should be all the information you need to set fire to it and never look back!

The Danish Girl:

The Danish Girl? But what about the Oscars? Fair point but what about the huge amounts of over-acting and lack of political/social message when exploring hot current topics? Yeah. Checkmate inner monologue. Checkmate.

The Forest:

Everything! That’s what’s wrong with this film.

X-Men Apocalypse:

This is the curse of the 3rd movie again. You have to laugh that they threw in a reference to say that X-Men Last Stand was trash in a movie that is equally as guilty.

Zoolander 2:

If the original Zoolander’s statement that the fashion industry is entirely shallow and stupid in nature felt fresh and sharp like a flesh wound from a blue steel knife then this sequel feels like a slap round the face by mouldy roadkill. Not good.

Honourable Mentions…

Room:

It’s not exactly a fun romp but it’s well worth a watch. Featuring heavily on last years awards list and rightly so the real star is Jacob Tremblay and not Brie Larson.

Doctor Strange:

Doctor Strange was a surprisingly refreshing film from the powerhouses at Marvel who keep churning out decent films. It’s worth a watch not just for the humour and special effects but also for the fantastic acting. For a comic book film; novel!

Finding Dory:

Finding Dory could easily have been in my top 10 list because it’s near flawless like Nemo but that was also it’s downfall it’s too much like Nemo.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story:

So I was moving house late last year and never got to review this. Rogue One is the first film I fell asleep to at the cinema… I think that was more to do with it being the day after the work Xmas party AND the actual day I moved rather than the film. That said it was missing some Star Wars magic. Some will love it. Some will hate it. Some will fall asleep during it!

My Top 10…

10. The Hateful Eight

Tarantino’s latest film was one of the earliest films to be released in 2016 but at the time I wasn’t overly fussed about it – I mean it even had an interval for fuck sake! However, it must have done something right because here I am squeezing it in at number 10, probably because it was something completely different to anything else released this year.

9. Zootropolis

Zootropolis is a scathing piece of socialist commentary on the miserable state of affairs in this rotten world… all wrapped up in some beautiful fluffy bunnies and oh-so cutsie fox friends just having a big ol’ fun time! Yay!

8. Creed

Remember when Sylvester Stallone was a really good actor? Yeah it was all the way back in early 2016 when this surprisingly deep and moving film was released. Creed is a love story to Rocky and Rocky II framed within how the world has treated the Italian Stallion and how that has shaped his world view. It’s well worth a watch

7. Arrival

I freely admit that part of my love for Arrival comes from the fact that I am learning French bit by bit every day. Arrival somehow manages to make language the key plot point whilst also documenting the complexities of comprehension and romanticising it at the same time.

6. Kubo and the Two Strings

The story behind Kubo and the Two Strings is right up my street. It is a deep exploration of a child’s psychological state and how he comes to grips with grief in a challenging world. This all manifests itself in some of the most incredible stop motion fantasy that you’ve ever seen.

5. 10 Cloverfield Lane

It’s a bit of a con to hijack the Cloverfield name for this film because it’s nothing like the original. It is, however, the most tense thriller and one of the most entertaining films of the year. The acting is just fantastic. An instant cult classic.

4. Deadpool

Sweet Christmas! Deadpool was fantastic. Legitimately the funniest film of the year, Deadpool is a satire on the recent superhero genre whilst also being of the superhero genre. Amazingly it doesn’t feel cheap and who would have thought that Ryan Reynolds could become one of your favourite superheros!

3. The Big Short

In 2008 there was this little event that happened called the collapse of the ENTIRE FUCKING EVERYTHING! Irresponsible traders were sad because the reality that they are morons came crashing down and everyone lost a gazillion pounds each…. apart from the few who actually bet it would happen. This is the story of those few complete with explanations of the financial systems that are easy enough to understand, even for us dum dums. Also Margot Robbie in a bath drinking champagne… so there’s that!

2. The Nice Guys

Nice Guys finish last… or in this case second because Shane Black’s buddy cop (?) movie is truly excellent. It’s entertaining from start to finish, has some great performances and drags the buddy movie into the modern day even though it’s set in the 70’s. Thoroughly recommended.

1. The Revenant

It’s the film that finally won Leo one of those elusive Oscars and fair play to him – it’s long overdue. Funnily enough I thought he was one of the weaker parts of the film but there can be no taking away from the fact that this gruelling tale of survival is nothing short of a masterpiece. If your jaw isn’t on the floor during the bear necessities scene then you might want to check you actually still have a jaw.

Think I’m an idiot? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll probably agree with you!

A Monster Calls

Terrifid!!

A Monster Calls is one of those films that is better to go in blind so I’ll keep this as spoiler free as possible but blind or not – you should really watch this film!

In general the film deals with a short period of uncertainty in the life of Conor (Lewis MacDougall) and his relations with Mum (Felicity Jones), Dad (Toby Kebbell) and Grandma (Sigourney Weaver).

Very quickly within the film you will understand where the film is going and what it is trying to say but in this case it really isn’t about the destination it’s about the journey and what a journey it is.

My new year’s resolution was to pick up drawing/painting again (I’ll post my first attempt in a comment below) so I was pleasantly surprised to see art playing a key role in the film. Through the use of art the film not only manages to enhance the story but also bind key plot points whilst managing to be consistently enchanting and awe-inspiring.

A simple glance at the monster is enough to understand that the art direction in A Monster Calls is exemplary… even if he does look a lot like Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy!

However, once you layer the first class sound design of wood creaking and groaning as well as the haunting voice work of Liam Neeson you can’t help but fall in love with the sensory aspects of the film.

Make no mistake though, this is no Baz Luhrmann or Zach Snyder film where style trumps substance, this is a film which will dig its claws into your soul assuming you have a shred of humanity to you.

I have to admit the film didn’t start off that way and although things happen quickly the start does feel comparatively slow but by the time Conor gets to Grandma’s house and accidentally breaks one of her clocks I had a moment of realisation: “oh shit! I’m hooked”.

The story builds and builds to its finale and manages to be almost unbearably sad and touching yet hopeful and uplifting. It’s a brilliant piece of schadenfreude. Bring your tissues.

The script tries to force in some “natural” lines of dialogue between Conor and the monster but this is no natural relationship so these redundant lines come with some flat delivery. Thankfully they are few and far between and other than that there is very little to dislike about this incredible film.

It’s a film that is reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth due to its fairy tale nature and also of Kubo and the Two Strings due to its exploration of psychologically. In short don’t expect sci-fi horror like The Day of the Triffids but do expect a few hours of terrific.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Beautiful art
+ Liam Neeson
+ Grandma’s house


– I might be Groot!
– Slow start
– A couple of flat bits of dialogue

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Assassins Creed

Bad Ass-assin

There are some really beautiful sweeping vistas of sepia toned Spanish cities from the middle ages in Assassins Creed that emblazens your imagination. Why the art director decided to hide these views under thick layers of fog and smoke and dust is not only beyond me but it’s symptomatic of the film simply missing the fucking point.

If you’ve played the games then you should probably avoid the film because it focuses more on Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) and his relationship with his dad than it does the perpetual fight between Templars and Assassins which is disappointing.

If you haven’t played the games then good luck because the lore is publicised as well as your local drug dealer’s P&L accounts.

Let me help.

There is an order of people called the Templars. You can think of them as your current government; they are the ruling classes and could care less about your liberties but hey, they do get shit done.

The Templars want rid of the Assassins who are rebels and freedom fighters. The good guys… as long as you are happy to overlook the whole merciless killing of power figures and any grunt foolish enough to do their job and try to keep the peace. Obviously you’re happy to do that because assassins are cool as shit!

Whilst this dichotomy of values between the two factions and indeed within themselves is only skirted over in the games it’s non-existent in the film. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard), Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) in fact all Templars are one-dimensional “seedy” types and all the Assassins are moody and unlikable.

In the film the Templars are chasing the Apple of Eden which, again, isn’t really explained but it is a literal mind control device of mysterious and unknown origins. It’s been lost since the 1300s.

The Animus is a device that will help locate the Apple. It scrubs your DNA looking for “memories” of your ancestors and allows the user to re-live past events. In this case Cal’s ancestor was the last known person to hold the Apple so relive his life, find the Apple, control the people, rule supreme.

In the game you have to synchronise these memories which provides a loose set of universal laws to the game. You can’t wander too far from your intended location or die or fulfil your inner psychopath by killing everything in sight… unfortunately. Try it and you de-sync. Game over. Start again.

This could have been so brilliant to play with on screen. Think about how wonderful Edge of Tomorrow (or even Groundhog Day!) was simply by failing to fulfil your destiny. Lynch could have tried to run away at first. De-sync. Tell his fellow assassins they are ass hats. de-sync. Be rubbish at assassinating. De-sync. Started disco dancing in front of the town guard. De-sync.

What actually happens is he gets put in the Animus and instantly he is a total badass. What a let down. Where’s the learning curve? Where is the fun?!

At least, being a total bad-ass, means that you get to see some really cool action scenes and to their credit it does convey the freedom of movement and elaborate fight scenes found within the game but that isn’t good enough.

Director Justin Kurzel has managed to strip out almost everything that was interesting and unique about the Assassins Creed game series and settle for a middle of the road generic blockbuster. This film puts the ass in assassin and the mustn’t in Animus!

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ Unlikable characters
+ Epic scenery hidden by smoke and fog
+ Doesn’t explain the animus or the Templars or anything


– Awesome fight scenes
– Free running
– Some nice costume designs

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Arrival

Cunning Linguist

Arrivée. That is how you would say it in French.

Except for the fact that one of these pod things lands in France that fact has absolutely no relevance to the film. It does, however, hold relevance to my experience and enjoyment of the film so hold on to your chapeaux as I parle au sujet des langues.

As you may have guessed; I’m learning french at the minute. I think that’s one of the reasons why I liked Arrival. It isn’t about alien invasions and star warring – it’s about language and how it affects the way we see the world.

There’s a point in the film where Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) says to Louise Banks (Amy Adams) “do you dream in their language”. As soon as I heard this I was all in because I’ve had two dreams in French.

If this has never happened to you then let me tell you: it’s really, REALLY fucking weird. I knew it was real french because I could understand it, but only parts of it, just like my waking self. Think about it; your subconscious is fully talking to you in a language that you don’t properly know. In a way it’s haunting and, in a way, that’s what this film tries to portray.

Imagine how hard and terrifying it must be to be forced to learn a language from scratch, especially with a backdrop of potential extinction level events. No Google translate. No bilingual guy at work to steal a few free lessons from.

Arrivals slow aesthetics and scenes of isolation echoes the feeling when you are trying to understand what you are seeing and hearing, at times switching realities without you realising.

Adams and Renner reflects the audience’s struggle for comprehension and, whilst it helps that they are both captivating in their roles, I wonder if this will be lost on those who have no interest in learning another language? Then again, perhaps I’m projecting too much of myself on the film?

In any case, lasers going pew pew because this is a deliberate film. It knows what and how it want’s to deliver it’s message. At points this works in its favour such as the moment that they all enter the pod because you are left in suspense but at others you wish it would pick up the pace just a little and get to the point.

Weirdly though the key concept to the film is only mentioned in passing, making it incredibly easy to miss. Maybe those who are more intelligent people got it instantly, maybe some knuckle-draggers were just thinking “show me da boobs ‘n’ explosion!”. For myself I was half way to the car before it finally clicked.

I didn’t need that long to identify my biggest dislike though. Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). The urgency at which he speaks to Banks seems to be completely independent of the journey that Banks and Donnelly are on. We see too little of the global crisis to understand his motivation so he comes across as a one dimensional a-hole.

Regardless of whether languages interest you the alien heptapod’s language should. It looks as modern and radical like graffiti yet combines meaning and inference into a single word similar to how German combines a million words into a single one such as “Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften”. Yes, that’s an actual, single, word.

Unfortunately Arrival isn’t as refreshing as the language it portrays but I found it deeply fascinating, if a little confusing, because of exactly that: language.

Fin.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ If languages fascinate you
+ Cool graffiti looking circle language (technical term)
+ Deliberate and thoughtful


– At times, too slow
– Blink and you miss it reveal
– Forest Whitaker

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