Saturday, 19 August 2017

The Defenders (Season 1) (2017) - TV Review

Review:

*Originally written August 20th, 2017*

"Defenders Assemble"

Marvel and Netflix's The Defenders has been a show a long time in the making. We've had 2 seasons of Daredevil and a season each of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist to set this up. For the most part, The Defenders is a success, it's a hell of a lot better than the painful Iron Fist and I liked it a bit more than Luke Cage and Daredevil season 2, but it never reaches the insane heights of Daredevil and Jessica Jones debut seasons.

Things are a bit muddled at the beginning. 2 of the Defenders are obviously needed back in New York for the inevitable team-up, but it makes the finales of Luke Cage and Iron Fist kinda pointless. They made a big deal of Cage going to prison in his show, but he's quickly released by Foggy Nelson in the opening moments of the premier, while Iron Fist is called back from China once he realises the real threat is in New York. There seemed to be a bit of a disconnect and lack of communication from show runners in setting up this series.


Things really shine when the team are finally put together. A whole episode takes place in a Chinese restaurant, and The Defenders get to interact and riff off each other. This is when the show is at its strongest. The cast have really chemistry together. Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock in particular have some of the best scenes.  Iron Fist is also at his best when he's with Luke Cage, but he's still a whiny bitch when he's on his own.

This show clearly didn't learn from the mistakes of Iron Fist (The panned final stage before The Defenders). In all fairness, this was already filmed and they clearly didn't have time to learn from the reception of Iron Fist. Still, Danny Rand is still the most annoying part of the show. He's so annoying and whiny. Which is a great shame when the rest of the team are so great.

Things also fail in the hands of the villains. Sigourney Weaver is completely wasted in a muddled villain that guess what? Listens to classical music! It's wildly unoriginal and she had the potential to be a villain on the same level as Wilson Fisk or Kilgrave. All the stuff with The Hand doesn't help. They sucked in Daredevil season 2 and Iron Fist, and they suck here. They at the very least are finally given some weight as a credible threat here to a point. Elektra is also back as essentially a rip-off of The Winter Soldier, back from the dead with an erased memory but can get flashbacks at the mere mention of her name.

There is some exceptional action spread throughout where each character gets their chance to shine. The boardroom fight in the fifth episode in particular has some real kinetic energy to it and I wish we got just a bit more of that. It's a shame that the finale lacked much of a real punch. There's a big action scene towards the end involving all The Defenders, but it lacked any real threat or fun. Hip-hop music also starts playing and stops out of nowhere for no discernable reason, it was really strange and felt like it was trying to tap into Luke Cage's unique style, but failed miserable and just came off as weird.

The consequences of the finale is also outrageous. I know Daredevil is a lawyer by day, but there is no way The Defenders would get away with the borderline terrorist act they committed.  The finale at least puts all The Defenders in an interesting place at the end (Except Iron Fist. Fuck Iron Fist).


I did appreciate the colour schemes. It was very faithful to the individual TV shows. Daredevil's scenes are mostly red, Jessica's are drenched in muted blues and Luke's scenes are primarily yellow. Bringing these shows together really worked stylistically without losing what made each member unique.

The Defenders wasn't amazing, but it's a step in the right direction for Netflix's Marvel Universe after a couple of missteps. There is real room for improvement (Especially in fucking Iron Fist), but for the most part, it was all good fun with some great character moments and everyone got to a chance to shine. 

7/10 Dans

All episodes of The Defenders are now streaming on Netflix worldwide
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The Hitman's Bodyguard (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written August 20th, 2017*

"Wind beneath my wings"

The Hitman's Bodyguard is more or less exactly what I expected from the trailers, no better or worse. It's a merely passable and watchable action comedy that thrives on Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds chemistry.

The biggest problem is easily the film's tone. It goes a little too serious and sometimes quite horrific (Seeing a man's family get gunned down by a very out of place Gary Oldman doesn't make for good material in a stupid action comedy). Gary Oldman does seem like he's in a completely different film, a genocidal dictator who takes things far too seriously. It was just bizarre and not in place with the rest of the film at all.


Everything is just fine for the most part. Things shine most when it's just spending time with Jackson and Reynolds. These guys work insanely well together. Jackson has the time in full "Motherfucker" mode. Honestly, he says "Motherfucker" more times than I think he ever has in his entire career. While Reynolds does his sarcastic thing. The balance between the two works well. Jackson's character never takes anything seriously, mocking any kind of moment close too seriousness. Him undercutting Oldman towards the end was one of the highlights.

The film stretches its two run-time to breaking point. This easily could have been a 90 minute film, but instead they pad it out with a lot of unnecessary detours than easily could have been trimmed for a leaner and tighter film.


Patrick Hughes at least directs some solid and violent action scenes. He's not hampered by that PG-13/12A rating he was forced to work with on Expendables 3, so there is some at least very violent and dark gallows humour thrown into here. It feels very much like a homage to the films of the '80s and '90s. Midnight Run and 48 Hours being the most obvious that come to mind. I have yet to see The Bodyguard, so I'm not entirely sure if this is a straight up spoof of that, which the trailers and posters made it out to be.


The Hitman's Bodyguard really is what it is. A fun, passable summer action comedy that suffers from a tonal identity crisis and it's a bit too long, but Reynolds and Jackson really shine together.

6/10 Dans

The Hitman's Bodyguard is out now in cinemas in the UK
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Friday, 18 August 2017

The Dark Tower (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written August 18th, 2017*

"Shit Tower"

I'll start by saying I've never read any of the Dark Tower books (Or a Stephen King book to be honest), but from what I've heard from everyone, it is a far from faithful adaption from the books. Books that sound far more interesting than this bland film offered too.

The Dark Tower is a weird film, it has some good ideas, but is never allowed to breathe thanks to its measly 90 minute run-time. Things are always moving, but it never stops once to make me care about the characters. I was also a little iffy on motivations, especially Matthew McConaughey's bad guy. Every character is very thin and barely explored.


We're force feed flashbacks and "visions" to get to know these people, but it's never enough. It starts with a kid called Jake who is some chosen one who sees "The Dark Tower" in his dreams, a tower in another universe that will unleash darkness upon the world if it is destroyed. We quickly learn he is the chosen one that has the only mind strong enough to destroy this tower. Matthew McConaughey's "Man in Black" tries to hunt down Jake and use his powers to destroy The Dark Tower while Idris Elba's "Gunslinger" Roland protects Jake so he can get close and kill The Man in Black as revenge for the death of his father.

There is a clearly a rich world at work here with some cool lore, but this brisk film is far too plot focused. It all feels rushed and messy. We get to point A to B without much interesting happening in the middle. There is potential for scenes between Jake and Roland to bond, but they never really do, making the finale lack any real heart, although the film plays it like it does.

I will admit I did enjoy some of the scenes with Roland's culture shock as he travels from our world from a post-apocalyptic universe. It reminded me of the best moments from the two Thor films. I would have liked to see more of Roland just failing to adapt to the real world and trying stuff out here. Tom Taylor and Idris Elba both do fine jobs. Elba is always effortlessly cool and carries that cowboy charisma extremely well, while Taylor carries a tiny bit of weight with his performance that deserved a much stronger script.

Matthew McConaughey on the other hand is atrocious. A laughably camp panto villain that I couldn't decide was brilliant or just shit. He feels insanely out of place in a film that takes itself so seriously. I had no idea why he was evil and wanted the end of the world either, he just seemed evil for the sake of the plot needing a bad guy.


While there is some visual flourish in the visuals, I'd say the direction for the most part is pretty pedestrian and flavorless, Nikolaj Arcel is a complete jobber and I wish they chose someone more interesting for this project, but I guess the studio needed someone not well established that they could control because this film clearly does not have a singular vision in mind at all. That said, there was some cool stuff here and there. Roland's reloading was pretty awesome and there are a couple of sweet action beats towards the end.


I'd probably have more to say if I was familiar with the source material, but I'm not, so as a standalone summer film, it's just pretty bland, mediocre and very forgettable. I'm pretty sure this series isn't made to be another "Chosen child on a fantasy adventure" thing, but hey, they managed to make into that. What a waste of Idris Elba.

4/10 Dans

The Dark Tower is out now in cinemas in the UK
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Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Point Break (2015) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written March 13th, 2016*

"Point.... Shit"

I know I'm not the biggest fan of the original. I'm aware of what it is, pure '90s action cheese, and for that it's fine, I get why it got its cult status and why people love it, it just didn't do a lot for me, but it was still head and shoulders over this abysmal remake.

The production of this film has was an utter mess, it first started out as a sequel that probably would have been straight-to-DVD, but then it become a remake that was stuck in development hell over the years. I think Gerard Butler was attached at some point too? 

Eventually in 2015 (or 2016 for us in the UK), this remake hit the big screen. I just wish it stayed in its development Hell and eventually got cancelled. It tells the same story the first did, a rookie FBI agent goes undercover with a gang of thieves to bring them down. The two changes here are the fact that surfing is swapped for "extreme sports" and the rating has been watered down for a PG-13/12A audience.


It's a train wreck all around, despite the high-budget, it reeks of a cheap cash-in and has that really dull and ugly look that all these straight-to-DVD films, it's just so grey and drab. So boring and ugly to sit through.

While the original had this tongue in cheek charm of its absurd content, this plays it so dead serious. There's not a single ounce of even a sense of fun. It tells a lot when the scene it Hot Fuzz spoofing a scene from the original Point Break carries more of an emotional impact than the remake. There's no irony to any of the insane stuff on display. 

Utah lets Bodhi get away so many times that it becomes laughable. Both the leads are utterly cardboard and uncharismatic it's ridiculous. Luke Bracey's performance as Johnny Utah makes Reeve's acting looking Oscar worthy, there's not an ounce of charm to him, he's just so boring. I usually like Edgar Ramirez too, but here he suffers the same problem, he's just a pale comparison to the original. Ray Winstone also carries none levels of madness and entertainment Gary Busey managed to exhale with his performance.


Where I thought this remake might redeem itself was in the action department, being partly about extreme sports, I thought maybe there could be some inspired set-pieces, but no everything is fairly dull and boring. It doesn't help that the watered down rating took away from any of the impact, despite police being gunned down during a bank robbery, none of it felt violent at all. The fact they couldn't make any decent heist scenes too is disappointing. 


Point Break is a cheap looking, boring and uninspired watered down version of a film that didn't need a remake, and it shows. Thank god this flopped, hopefully Hollywood will realize nobody wants family friendly versions of '80s and '90s action films.

2/10 Dans

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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Revenant (2015) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written January 15th, 2016*

"Back from the Dead"

Alejandro G. Iñárritu (That's a name I won't be typing again) won the Oscar for last years wonderful Birdman. So expectations were high for the next vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio allusive Oscar. I'm pretty pleased to say that The Revenant is a brutal, bleak and unflinching masterpiece.

DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a frontiersman on a expedition who is left for dead by his crew after a bear attack leaves him in a near death state, his son is also killed by Tom Hardy's Fitzgerald so he goes on a quest for revenge through the hard wilderness once he gets his strength back. 


It was a remarkable film. You feel every moment of DiCaprio's pain from the get go. His performance is truly committed, I don't know what the hell else he needs to do to win an Oscar after this. Honestly, he might need to die on camera for a posthumous award if he doesn't get it this year. I like to think of DiCaprio's journey of revenge in this as a metaphor for his ambitions of that Oscar, just going through so much, only to get knocked down, again and again. 

Even with his Oscar nomination for this, I don't feel a lot is being said about Tom Hardy's performance as the villain of the piece. He was fantastic. Even though he's the bad guy, his motivations still make sense, so it made for a complex villain that there is not a lot of today. 

Much like Birdman, I was left a little cold by the some of the more symbolic aspects of The Revenant. There was quite a few trippy dream sequences that come out of nowhere and honestly did not feel needed. They just come off as a bit pretentious. I'm sure there was a deep meaning behind a lot of it, but I didn't get it.

I did appreciate how straight forward the story was, despite the odd abstract moment. I did feel the 160 minute run-time a couple times throughout, this could of easily been trimmed a bit. This film is draining, you feel every minute of DiCaprio's journey. That said, every minute of the film absolutely gorgeous and there was so much craft and excellent film making was put into this. The opening shot was stunning and looked like one long shot. Every moment of cinematography was beautiful, even after just seeing a film set in the same time in the snowy frontier with The Hateful Eight, every shot looked fresh and unique here. Props to the sound and production design too, they may as well filmed this in the 1820's. Everything looked and sounded perfect.


The bear scene was something of a technical achievement to say the least. It had to be done with CGI for obvious reasons, but that took nothing away from such a thrilling and amazing sequence. Seriously, probably the most intense scene we're gonna get from a film all year. Every action scene struck and left me in awe, from the opening battle to the brutal and vicious showdown between DiCaprio and Hardy, it was all top notch. There was no compromise with the violence on display here either, everything felt real and raw, nothing felt fake or Hollywood. 

Loved the man vs man/man vs nature aspect of the film too. There was a lot of pure survival stuff which I adored during the journey and then it all wraps up powerfully with a touching and emotional end. There was a bit of ambiguity of the ending, but that didn't bother me at all. I will urge you not to look up anything about Hugh Glass before seeing The Revenant though. Oh, yeah, this was all based on a true story and this was surprisingly true to the actual events, which only made me love it more.


The Revenant might be a little long, but it's a bleak, intense, perfectly shot, uncompromisingly brutal and beautiful film that packs an emotional punch and features a truly powerhouse performance from DiCaprio that more than deserves his fabled Oscar.

9/10 Dans

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Monday, 14 August 2017

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 18th, 2016*

"Apocalyptic"

I am baffled by the mixed reviews X-Men: Apocalypse has been getting. Honestly, I am so confused. I've always found the X-Men franchise to be the most consistent of the superhero franchises at the moment, sure it's had its lows (The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine), but in terms of cinematic film-making and meaningful storytelling, I've always felt this series has rose above the rest.

The ninth installment in the X-Men franchise takes us to 1983, set 10 years after the events of Days of Future Past. The oldest known mutant 'Apocalypse' awakens in the current day and vows to cleanse the Earth of life with the help of 4 mutants, so it's up to Professor Xavier, Mystique and new group of teenage X-Men to stop them.

I was a bit suspect with this, considering the reviews, some even said it was worst than The Last Stand, so I didn't know what I was in for, but to be honest, I thought it was great. Hell, it might even be my favourite film in the series so far.



I loved the new cast. It's the same characters we know from the original trilogy, but young and still getting to know their powers. Although the events from this film has made the timeline with these films an utter train wreck. I know Days of Future Past had the time travel stuff, but it's all so confusing, and that doesn't even include where Deadpool fits into this universe.

The strongest part of these new X-Men films has always been Michael Fassbender's Magneto, which was once again, amazing. His earlier scenes were extremely strong, emotionally resonant and oddly powerful when they needed to be. It's just shame he spends the second half of the film as a background sidekick to the inferior and less compelling Apocalypse.

The rest of the returning cast are great too, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence are reliable as ever, but Evan Peters completely tops himself as Quicksilver once again by having one of the best and funniest scenes from any comic-book movie which managed to top his scene from the last one and make a mockery of the MCU version of Quicksilver, which is just laughable in comparison.

I was a bit disappointed by the setting. First Class captured the swinging '60s pretty well and Days of Future Past made use of its '70s setting, Apocalypse on the other hand does nothing with the '80s. Aside from a couple of music choices, this felt like it could have been set in any era. It was fun to see the younger mutants come out of a screening of Return of the Jedi, even taking the oppurtinity of taking a meta jab at The Last Stand by adressing "The third one is always the worst".

On the main villain side of things, Oscar Isaac, a very competent actor is wasted as Apocalypse. There were some things I liked with him. His voice was very intimidating and I the way he killed people was pretty cool at times. There's just no real motivation here for his character compared to say Magneto, who we've seen be torn down by humanity, so we can understand why he does what he does, Apocalypse is just wanting to destroy the world because well, I'm not too sure to be honest? Something about mankind having technology that can destroy them or something?

I was surprised at just how violent this was too, it really pushes boundaries at what a 12A/PG-13 can get away with. People are stabbed, decapitated and melted in pretty graphic ways and things get pretty grizzly and quite bloody when a certain X-Man makes a cameo in a brief but memorable scene. 

The action was pretty great though. I've always loved this series ability to have all these characters with different powers combine in fun and different ways. While the main action doesn't hit till the end of the film, it really worked. We've seen the massive, city-wide destruction before in superhero films, but here it feels like the actual stakes matter with characters we care about. It also helps that these films actual look and feel like real films, as opposed to the MCU's televisual look. 

I don't mean to take jabs at the MCU, but notice how they manage to tell a story without every other scene used to try and set-up other films. It's nice to have a franchise where each film can be watched as its own thing, sure they all connect, but you can pick any of these films up and they tell their own self-contained story.


Despite the mixed reviews, I found X-Men: Apocalypse to be another excellent entry in the X-Men franchise with another powerhouse performance from Michael Fassbender, great action, genuine emotional depth and characters you actually care about.

8/10 Dans

X-Men: Apocalypse is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Friday, 11 August 2017

Live by Night (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written January 13th, 2017*

"Dead by Dawn"

As an actor, Ben Affleck has made a lot of shit, that's just a fact, but where he truly shines is in his directing. Gone Baby Gone is great, The Town was even better and Argo even won best picture at the Oscars, but sadly Affleck has finally not only a disappointing film, but a straight-up bad one at that.

This prohibition gangster drama feels like 3 seasons of Boardwalk Empire crammed into one 2 hour film, it just doesn't work. There's just too much going on, which results in a frustrating mess of a film. It starts of well enough, giving us a fairly simple, but involving story. The first act sets up a story that is more or less ignored until the final few scenes. This wouldn't be a problem if the story we get wasn't so meandering and boring.



I was expecting some sort of fairly simple revenge film. It's not. Instead we spend 2 thirds of the film dealing with a variety of underdeveloped subplots. It feels sorta like they made a film out the Mafia video game series, but instead focused the story on a bunch of uninteresting side missions before resolving the main plot out of nowhere.

This takes place in a very misogynist time, but there is no reason for the female characters to be this outrageously underwritten. The two love interests are nothing, a complete waste of Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana (Who I can't even remember if she had lines or not). Then we had Elle Fanning, who gives a decent performance with what she was given, but her character really fails to leave much of an impact.

If I have positives to say. I will admit the production design is really beautiful and the film is well shot and cinematic. Some of the action scenes are great and have some fairly graphic kills and visual flare. As an actor, Affleck is at least decent in his role. It's just a shame his character is so uninteresting and uncompelling as a lead. Which is Affleck's fault as a director and not an actor.



The pacing is also very poor. Despite being crammed with about 3 different films worth of material, you would think there would be enough happening for it be somewhat fast-paced. It is instead a complete slog. This honestly felt at least 3 hours long.


Live by Night is Ben Affleck's first truly bad film as a director. A crammed mess that wastes the potential of its setting and time period.

4/10 Dans

Live by Night is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Great Wall (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written February 17th, 2017*

"Not so Great"

I went in to this with the very lowest of expectations. Every single one of the trailers made it look like complete garbage. A soulless, boring CGI wank-fest. Strangely enough, I found myself to quite enjoy The Great Wall, I mean, it's complete garbage, but I had a fun time with it.

It's just a fairly simple siege film with a medieval Chinese fantasy twist. After the first 20 minutes that set me up expecting the worst, it all just becomes a non-stop ride of some fairly fun and creative action. I was genuinely surprised at some of the ideas on display here. I loved the spinning blades on the side of the wall. 


The biggest flaw at the centre of The Great Wall is its horrible misguided whitewashing casting as Matt Damon of the film. While the Chinese struggle to fight these monsters attacking the wall, an American comes along and saves the day, while he's praised as a savior. It was just really weird. They seriously couldn't have cast an Asian in the role? It had to be a while American?

Matt Damon is also terrible on top of this. His accent is so very weird. I have no idea what he was going for. Accent aside, he's just pretty... bland overall. All of what I enjoyed here is mostly just on the action and design side.

I did love the Ancient Chinese costume and set design. There's a simple colour scheme of the female soldiers wearing blue and male soldiers wearing red. It was bright and vibrant and brought some life to the film.


It's a shame I wasn't a huge fan of the creatures the Chinese are fighting. They're boring and uninteresting CGI monsters that are given no real explanation. They're just there. The CGI is good, don't get me wrong, they're just very bland and generic.


I don't have much else to say about The Great Wall. It's an entertaining and breezy fantasy epic that is sadly pretty generic and misguided at the same time. Still, it is far better than I possibly could have expected.

6/10 Dans

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Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Atomic Blonde (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written August 9th, 2017*

"Go Atomic"

Atomic Blonde is not what I expected at all. I was expecting a non-stop action film in the vein of John Wick (It's directed by one of the two John Wick helmers), instead, what I got was a violent, slow-paced and kinda messy spy thriller with some action sprinkled in. I did really enjoy Atomic Blonde, a lot in fact, but it had its problems.

The biggest problem is its story. The overall plot is fairly simple. An undercover MI6 agent (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin during the Cold War to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and recover a missing list of double agents. It seems like simple stuff on paper, and it is, for the most part, but in the final act things got insanely convoluted and I had no idea what was happening. A lot of twists are thrown at you very quickly and I didn't have enough time to entirely process them, leaving me confused by the end. A rewatch is in order, it would help to have subtitles too.



Everything else though was fantastic. I had a blast with Atomic Blonde. It was "good shit". Despite my confusions, the film was paced insanely well and had me involved the whole time. It was a lot darker than the trailers made it out to be and I appreciated that. 

While it isn't as action packed as John Wick, David Leitch does an amazing job with the action on display. It's hard hitting, brutal and very violent. The centerpiece scene that is one long 9 minute take through an apartment building then a car chase was spectacular. Easily one of the best action scenes of the year. I loved the way the characters slowly got worn down through the scene and got out of breath, barely able to make any moves. It was great.

Charlize Theron does a fantastic job with the action. There wasn't a lot to her character, but she was sexy and bad-ass enough to carry the film. She did a lot of her own stunt-work and it really shows throughout. I really do hope to see her continue to do action roles, because she is excellent at it.

James McAvoy was also excellent as the Theron's contact in Berlin. Funny, sleazy and pathetic. It was very similar to his role in Filth (which you should really see) where he also played a corrupt cop. The rest of the supporting cast were fine. John Goodman pops up in a fairly thankless role as he seems to do a lot lately.

I was a bit worried about the visual style based on the trailers, but Atomic Blonde is a gorgeous film. Despite taking place in 1980's Berlin (It looks bleak as hell), it still managed to be bright and beautiful with a vibrant color pallet with strong neon blues and reds. I also loved the neon spray paint for the titles and scene transitions.



Being set in the '80s, there is a huge variety of pop music from the era, from David Bowie and New Order and even slowed down German covers of songs you may know well, it was all gravy to my ears. I even really liked Tyler Bates score, which invoked The Neon Demon score to me for some reason.


Atomic Blonde might not excel with its storytelling, but for the most part its an insanely fun and violent ride with excellent turns from Charlize Theron and James McAvoy. One of the best action films of the year.

8/10 Dans

Atomic Blonde is out now in cinemas in the UK
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Allied (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written November 25th, 2016*

"Casablanca 2"

I was looking forward to this, despite my reservations. I wasn't a huge fan of Zemeckis's last R-rated effort 'Flight', which was a heavy handed 2 hour anti-alcohol advert and it feels like I've had to watch the Allied trailer about 30 times in the past month. 

This fictionalized World War 2 romance was an excellent piece of work from Zemeckis and easily his most mature work in a while. Tense, engaging and packed a lot of emotional weight with its ending. Which are all things I didn't expect from Allied.


I was taken back by its slow pace. If anyone was expecting this to Mr and Mrs Smith meets Inglorious Basterds, then just don't bother. This was a deliberately paced drama with a little bit of action thrown in. There's a wide variety of locations. The first act takes place in Casablanca, while the rest of the film takes place in London. While the scenes in Casablanca looked beautiful, the change of scenery to WW2 era London was welcome. There is also some lovely period production design and costumes, which made me really feel like I was watching a film from the era.

The relationship between Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard (Who both give great performances) feel real and genuine, despite taking a little time to get there. The two had real chemistry that made everything all that more impactful. Honestly, the ending I didn't expect to work as well as it did on me, but by the end I was very invested and felt dead inside after. In a good way.


My only real complaints are the predictability of the plot (There's only really one way could have gone) and sometimes Zemeckis's digital photography is glaringly obvious in some scenes that looked horrifically green screened. That said, while the story is predictable, it is no less engaging. And while the action is far and few between, the few set-pieces are well shot and pack a visceral punch. It feels odd seeing violent scenes in a Zemeckis film, but I guess he's branching out now.


Allied is a slow-burn, but a totally worthy World War 2 drama about doomed romance. Excellent lead performances, well-shot and the ending really is one of the bleakest and most heartbreaking things I've seen this year.

8/10 Dans

Allied is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 26th, 2016*

"Bay Hawk Down"

If you know me, then you know I hate Michael Bay. He's made a couple of decent films in his career, The Rock and Pain and Gain for example, but for the most part it's garbage. His latest film, another true story opened to mixed reviews, flopped and disappeared from theaters before I even had a chance to watch it (It only showed at my local cinema for 3 days). I was intrigued at how this could be, because even it was terrible, a Michael Bay film is always a fascinating experience, but this was just very mediocre and forgettable.

It tells the true that follows six members of a security team who fight to defend the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya after waves of terrorist attacks on September 11, 2012.

None of it really worked for me. There were some genuinely tense moments here and there, but it was mostly just dull. I appreciated how Bay toned down his "Bayisms" as a full-on Bay film would have just played as tasteless and offensive. It reminded me a little of Lone Survivor, which I wasn't a huge fan of, but at least it had the charisma of Mark Wahlberg to carry the film.


The cast here is pretty weird, full of TV stunt casting. The lead is John Krasinski, who you'll probably know as Jim from the U.S. version of The Office. He's extremely misguided and miscast in this role and just comes off as goofy. Sometimes comedy actors exceed in dramatic roles, this wasn't one of them. I didn't really care for the rest of cast either or the characters, which is probably due to the script.

Like most Bay films, the script is utter trash. So much cliché military nonsense and patriotism that hits you over the head from opening scene to the final shot. I didn't feel anything for any of the team, even though the first 40 minutes is spent with them. We get a weird scene where one of them is calling their wife as she breaks down crying and admits she's pregnant while she's at a drive-through McDonald's. 

It's so long too, like unreasonably long, bordering on 2 and a half hours and I was pretty much done about 90 minutes in. It was overkill. It might have been a bit more tolerable had there been some interesting action, but there's not. What we do get is some really long slow-motion shots and that over-saturated yellow look that Bay seems to love. 



Still I do appreciate how Bay kept it in his pants for the most part. It's easily his most mature film to date, but that's not saying much. Had 13 Hours had a better screenwriter, better cast and much shorter run-time this could have been an excellent dedication to these soldiers who went through a really hellish night, but instead we're stuck with a mediocre war film that's overlong, poorly written and just forgettable.

5/10 Dans

13 Hours is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Saturday, 5 August 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written August 6th, 2017*

"Besson's back"

Luc Besson is a director I've had a weird history with. Since Leon (One of my favourite films of all time), his output has been less than great, I've enjoyed some of his films, but never really loved. I'm not even been fan of The Fifth Element, although it is due a rewatch. Valerian had everything going against it. The trailers were poor, it just looked like an over-expensive and boring sci-fi expensive that was all spectacle and no soul. That 140 minute run-time didn't do it any favours to my excitement either. To my surprise, I actually loved Valerian?

Valerian is not exactly original. The story is simple, yet needlessly convoluted at points and it borrows from what seems like every sci-fi film of the past 60 years to create a Frankenstein of a sci-fi epic. Yet it mostly all works. 

From the opening moments establishing the world to David Bowie's Space Oddity, I was in. It's a sweeping, gorgeous film filled with countless creative ideas and visuals. Every second was a feast for the eyes. Every penny of the budget was put into the CGI and it shows. Not a single thing looked crappy or fake. It made a world that was unique and had me for the ride.


It wasn't all perfect though. Dane DeHaan was a less than charismatic lead and was constantly outshined by his partner Cara Delevigne. DeHaan was something of a charisma vacuum, trying hard to be cool and giving off one-liners that were not the best.  It's a shame too, as I know DeHaan is an actor capable of giving a great performance (He's better than he was in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, so don't worry).

Cara Delevigne fared much better as the supporting lead. She was fun, charming and fun to watch, which was amazing considering her mostly awful performance in Suicide Squad. It also helped she might have been better to look at than all of Valerian's already beautiful visuals. She's never been an actress massively on my radar, but damn, I want to see everything she's in now.

Enough about how gorgeous Cara Delevigne is. Valerian's action scenes are fun and energetic. The use of sci-fi weapons and equipment made for some truly memorable and entertaining set-pieces. The opening heist was a little confusing at first, but it soon turned into the highlight of the film. The middle is a bit action-light, but I appreciated the surprisingly toned down and small finale.

Valerian's biggest weakness aside from Dane DeHaan was easily its script. There's some humour that hits and a lot that doesn't. Some of the lines are eye-rolling and pretty bad. The film also detours quite a bit, making its 140 minute run-time feel very unnecessary. A lot could have been trimmed. Saying that, the film breezed by and did not feel that long at all. I was also a bit confused by the plot at some points, but that might be me not paying enough attention. I knew enough to stay involved, but I did have a few questions at the end of it.


It's a shame we probably won't get a Valerian franchise as this is destined to be a colossal flop at the end of its run, which sucks because I'd love to see more adventures set in this universe. Just ditch Dane DeHaan and focus on Delevigne instead. 


Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will never go down as a sci-fi classic and will probably flop massively, but it's one of my biggest surprises of the year and one I might love even more on rewatches. A weird, unique and highly entertaining sci-fi epic that's a whole ton of fun and features a wonderfully charismatic Cara Delevigne.

8/10 Dans

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is out now in cinemas in the UK
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Kick-Ass 2 (2013) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written January 26th, 2016*

"Balls to the Wall"

If you know me, then you'll probably know that Kick-Ass is my number one film of all-time. I really liked this sequel when it first released in 2013 (3 years ago. Jesus), but on countless rewatches I've come to accept that this really isn't that good. Don't get me wrong, I still mostly enjoy it, but my word, it is a mess. I guess this is where the whole best vs favourite thing comes into play? 

After Kick-Ass's antics in the first film he has retired and dozens of other citizens have become makeshift vigilantes like he was. Bored of his mundane life he decides to come out of retirement, while at the same time Red Mist comes back for revenge re-masked as a super-villain called 'The Motherfucker' with a gang of villains he calls 'The Toxic Mega-Cunts'.

The  characters are still all as likeable as they are from the first film, and they certainly provide a heart and emotional core for the sequel. The biggest problem is with the direction and the screenplay. The Kick-Ass trilogy is one of the very few comic-book series I've bothered to read and I enjoyed the second instalment, but this adaption really tones down the content. The stuff in the comic would have been far too much for a light-hearted film due to the child murder, dog decapitation and gang rape, so it was probably for the best this was all cut out. Saying that, they replaced all these brutal and violent scenes with scenes that made the villain seem like a joke and not much of a threat at all. Christopher Mintz-Plasse still does a great job and has some great comedic chops, but he just doesn't make for a lead villain. It worked in the first one as he was his father's lackey, but he really fails to step into his shoes.


Matthew Vaughn didn't return to the directors chair this time, and it really shows. He was replaced by who I like to call a "talentless hack" Jeff Wadlow, while the film is really colourful and those colours really pop, it just overall feels cheap and lower budget, despite being made for more money than the first. Wadlow directs the action scenes with horrific shakey-cam at times, despite actually creating some good set-pieces with Mother Russia's cop killing rampage and Hit-Girl's return on the van. It was just a shame nothing comes anywhere near close to the perfection of the Strobe Scene from the first. The tone is also really inconsistent, the film constantly reminds us that this is "real life", but then we get scenes so ludicrously unrealistic and stylised that they seem like something out of Scott Pilgrim.

Most of the music is just remixed from the first film, which wasn't bad. I really did like a lot of the new tracks. I just wished John Murphy returned to compose the music. Strangely enough he hasn't done music for a film since the original Kick-Ass. I will say the music used in the film that isn't the score is brutal, filled with lame and generic pop music. There was even a bizarre scene that promoted Union J. Awful.

Speaking of awful, there are a ton of awful moments, mostly involving anything with Chloe Grace Moretz's Mindy when she isn't Hit-Girl. Moretz does a great job and bring heart to the role, but what they did with her character is brutal. The whole middle of the film is her trying to fit in to normal life and it is so lame and uninteresting and it all wraps up with a juvenile and deeply childish scene involving what is called a "sick stick". I didn't even feel like I was watching a Kick-Ass film during most this stuff, it felt like a more crude Mean Girls.

All the stuff with Kick-Ass is a lot more fun, despite Aaron Taylor-Johnson's performance actually being a bit worse than the previous film. The scene in the back of van towards the end just shows how little he was trying. Aside from that, all the scenes with him and Justice Forever is a joy to watch. Jim Carey steals the show with his small role as the leader of the gang, honestly, this must be his most enjoyable role since the '90s.


With all the shortcomings, I still did really like overall theme and message the film carries from the first one, the whole "Anyone can be a hero" thing, I like it, and it's true. Also, despite the execution, I still find Kick-Ass 2 a hell of a lot more interesting than most of the Marvel films. Maybe it's just because I'm childish and enjoy violence, but I have a lot more fun with these films and care about the characters more than I do with anything Marvel has yet to make.


Kick-Ass 2 is a lesser version of the first in pretty much every way, but it still has its moments, likeable characters and fun action scenes. It's just a shame that it didn't have a better writer and director because this could have ended up great. I hope Kick-Ass 3 does finally happen, as this franchise deserves a real ending, a real ending in the hands of Matthew Vaughn or someone more capable than the talentless hack Jeff Wadlow.

6/10 Dans

Kick-Ass 2 is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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The Defenders (Season 1) (2017) - TV Review

Review: *Originally written August 20th, 2017* "Defenders Assemble" Marvel and Netflix's The Defenders has been a show...