Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written December 19th, 2016*

While I somewhat enjoyed Michael Bay's first Transformers for an extent, this reignited my fears on why I hate this franchise. All the worst elements of the first ramped up to 11. Due to the success of the first film, I guess they let Bay of the rails as he delivers one of the most annoying and bombastic blockbusters I can think of.

I'll get the small bits of good out the way first. Once again, there is a variety of interesting and technically interesting set-pieces. The action is stylish, fast and oddly brutal at times. While most of the action is decent, this finale is a wet noodle. Completely boring and very lacklustre compared to the LA streets carnage of the first. Although that might be because I had long checked out due to the absurd 150 minute run time.

Optimus Prime being.. fine?

Where Revenge of the Fallen fails horrifically is once again with its characters, run time and awful, awful humour. Bay ramps up the annoying racial stereotypes that plagued the first one. I can't believe any producer thought it was okay to allow him to portray characters like this.

It's also bizarelly overlong. It's insane that this was anywhere near 150 minutes. 2 and a half fucking hours. It would have been fine if it had at least been fun, but it wasn't it's a trainwreck of bombastic garbage. I nearly threw up when I checked how long was left and I was only at the 90 minute mark. Part of me died that I don't think I'll be getting back any time soon.

Along with the misguided racial humour, all the characters are annoying. Shia LeBeouf is once again just a jabbering idiot who got on my nerves with his awkardness. Megan Fox is defined with her opening shot, which is her bent over a bike. Worst of all, the Witwicky family get more screentime is increasingly lame comic scenes. Wanted to see the mum accidentally eat a pot brownie and make a fool or herself? Me neither.

The terrible humour doesn't stop with the characters either. There's some really crude and pathetic shots at jokes which involve things like a small Transformer with a penis for a gun, Megan Fox getting her leg dry humped by a robot and a Decepticon with a massive pair of testicles. This is the most unhinged and demonic Bay has been since the monstrosity that was Bad Boys 2.

Michael Bay leers at Megan Fox with his camera like a disgusting pervert
Revenge of the Fallen even had the balls to try and get some emotional response out the audience with its last act. Like we were meant to feel something when we thought Sam Witwicky had died. It was embarassing. This is a character that's had nearly 5 hours of screentime, but we feel nothing. 

There is nothing to the side characters to even grip on to. I cannot tell you a single thing other than John Turtorro works in a kebab shop after the events of the first. It really makes me sad seeing Turtorro lowered to levels like this.

Yeah, it's awful. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is all the worst parts of the first thrown into an absurd run time of 150 minutes of horrific displays of Bay without a leash.

3/10 Dans

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Monday, 29 May 2017

Baywatch (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 30th, 2017*

There seems to have been a big disconnect with me and critically panned films in 2017. I was mostly positive about Assassin's Creed, Pirates of the Carribean 5 and King Arthur, and I was expecting the same with Baywatch, but I was wrong. The critics are pretty right about this one. Baywatch is a soulless, boring chore that lacks a lot of laughs.

It works as a reboot and sequel to the TV show (Which I never watched) and follows a lifeguard played by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson as he has to save his beach from day to day crimes, a new convoluted drug plot and train a new wave of members to the lifeguard team.

Many people were expecting a Jump Street level sort of film, which is what I also expected, but it missed a lot of what made Jump Street great. Sure, it's an R-rated comedy based on an '80s TV show, but it lacks the heart and character that made Jump Street great. Oh, it's full of crude humour.

The lifeguards of Baywatch
What surprised me most is just how little they do with its R rating. There's plenty of uses of "Fuck" and variations, but there's a real lack of nudity, which is a shame considering you have Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrback (Two absurd people that I can't understand how they exist through genetics. They must have been made by some mad scientist in a lab trying to create the perfect human being, and damn, he came close). The only real nudity is in the form of a dead guy's dick. Which was more disturbing and disgusting than it was funny. It reminded me a lot of the equally uncomfortable morgue scene from Bad Boys 2, but nowehere near as tasteless.

As a comedy, it fails pretty hard. There is the odd funny moment (The Hoff's cameo is wonderful) scattered throughout the film, but most of it just mostly crude and lame. My favourite stuff was chemistry between Efron and Johnson who are both always reliable and extremely likeable. Dwayne Johnson makes charisma look effortless. I did also love the variations of mini Dwayne Johnson's in the aqarium of his character's home. Have to get it props for having outtakes in the closing credits. Have not seen that in a long time.

The absurdly attractive women of Baywatch
As an action film, Baywatch fails even harder. All the action is lame and uninspired and poorly shot. The CGI is some of the worst I've seen for a moderately budgeted film and the plot is widely uninterested. It doesn't help this whole thing goes on far too long for a comedy like this. Maybe at 90 minutes this could have been easier to stomach, but at 2 hours, it felt like it would never end.

That's Baywatch, one of my biggest disappointments of 2017 so far. An overlong, mostly unfunny, boring and misguided adaptation. What a waste of such a talented cast.

3/10 Dans

Baywatch is out now in cinemas in the UK
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Eye of the Beholder (1999) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 29th, 2017*

Eye of the Beholder is a film have vivid memories of from my childhood. It's one of those films I watched bits and pieces of as a very young childhood on late night TV. I'd never watched the full thing, but 10 years(ish) later, I finally tracked down "That film where Ewan McGregor has a kid with him as he watches a woman murder people".

I feel like I wasted my time trying to see this film properly for the good part of a decade. It's a very '90s and messy thriller, and it's mostly just pretty shit. A muddled mess of sex and violence that ultimately leads to nothing, a completely pointless ending that made me wonder why I bothered.

The most fun I had with this was seeing a post-Trainspotting Ewan McGregor in a fairly high-budget thriller for it's time (It flopped. Badly). He does a pretty good job as surveillance expert slowly losing his mind as he stalks and falls in love with a serial killer played by Ashley Judd, who also gives a decent performance.

This film is all over the place. For its silly premise, it takes itself far too seriously. It's one of those sleazy thrillers of the '90s in line with Basic Instinct, but lacks the impact that Instinct had. It alls feels very tame for a film about a serial killer.

McGregors' character is a scattershot mess. He has visions of his estranged daughter being with him as he slowly loses his mind. They never really explore his mentally instability much and his actions go far beyond my ability of suspension of disbelief in the latter half of the film. I have to point out McGregor's camera he uses for surveillance. It's designed to look like a rifle with trigger to take pictues, but it makes no sense and would attract more attention that necessary, especially when he leaves it on display leaning out of a window in a public area for hours at a time.

My main takeaway from Eye of the Beholder is that it has a cool premise, but its direction is pretty mediocre and lacks any unique style apart from some remarkably shit '90s designs. The perfomances are fine for the most part, but the whole films overall is just a complete mess. Sometimes digging out films you saw bits of when you were far too young for them are not worth seeking out.

4/10 Dans

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Sunday, 28 May 2017

Robin Hood (2010) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 29th, 2017*

I'm not sure if Robin Hood every needed a "gritty" and "realistic" adaptation, but here we have it. Starring Russell Crowe as he once again continues to be fightin' round the world and directed by Ridley Scott. It's similar to Gladiator in a lot of ways, mostly due to the style and aesthetic, but it's never as good.

The only other exposure to Robin Hood I've had is with the brilliant Disney animated film and the severely underrated BBC show that 12 year old Dan loved. I'm sure the BBC series is probably campy Saturday night viewing garbage that I'll probably find terrible now (Much like Doctor Who *Shudders*), but for a 12 year old it's good shit.

This is a darker and more violent take on Robin Hood and it doesn't really work. It was an okay film for the most part, it's a little bloated and goes through a lot of stretches that are quite boring, but the action scenes are actually quite great and well realized. There's an impressive level of work put into the set-design, everything looks practical and real, the final battle at the end is awesome.

Russell Crowe Fightin' Round the World
I think my biggest complaint is that it really isn't a fun film, it's dark and brooding, but never really fun. I've always seen Robin Hood as a light-hearted and fun character with humour, here it's just kinda bland. Russell Crowe does a fine job, but it's a shame that we never once see him really "Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor", instead we have a more or less historical war film with English folklore thrown in to the mix.

I don't really have a lot to say about Robin Hood really. I enjoyed more than I remember, but it's far from a great film. It's concept just doesn't make for a really gritty film. It reminds me a little of 2017's Power Rangers film, but this is way better than that disaster, but suffers from some of same problems.

Robin Hood and his Merry Men
The biggest shame of Robin Hood is that it had the potential to be, say, as good as Gladiator, but Ridley Scott is not the director he's used to be. He peaked in the '70s and '80s, but merely makes mediocrity these days (With The Martian being a huge exception). I guess I'm trying to say I miss good Ridley Scott.

There's also a hint of a sequel at the end, which unsurprisingly never happened, and to be honest, I'm not really bothered by that. Robin Hood is merely an okay film with some excellent technical aspects and action, but mostly fails as a franchise starter. Meh.

6/10 Dans

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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Transformers (2007) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written December 17th, 2016*

Where do I begin with Transformers? One of Michael Bay's best films, which is an achievement. It's not good, it's not terrible, but it is head and shoulders above its soul crushing sequels which get increasingly and absurdly long with each installment.

Transformers hits a certain sweet spot of escapism entertainment. It's stupid, it's overlong, but it is pretty fun for the most part. It knows what it is. It's a film based on toys about robot cars that come to Earth and fight each other. It's never going to be high art, but it can be an entertaining way to kill 140 minutes.

There are certain Bayism's that nearly derail Transformers though. His weird fetishizasion of the US Military and more problematically, his racist portrayal of black people. It is horrendous. Every scene with the military is bursting with cringy humour and slow-motion heroic shots of soldiers. Its... bad.

Optimus Prime
But nowhere near as bad as his depiction of black people. Every single black person in this film is some sort of loud, annoying and obnoxious stereotype. The car dealer is some weird sleazy, fast talking dick who shouts at his grandmother, who is also a sassy black women who gives him the finger. This awful stereotype is copied with one of the few black characters we meet later in the film.

It might be a tad harsh to single out Bay's direction of black people only, because in all honesty, every character is terrible. Megan Fox is one note, there completely to look sexy, but dirty at the same time. Shia LeBeouf and his Witwicky family are some of the most annoying people to grace cinema. I wanted to punch every single one of them in the face. Every scene involving the family is a deeply awkward and unfunny moment that I couldn't wait to end.

I'm sounding very negative about Transformers, but I did enjoy it. It comes into its own when we actually focus on the robots fighting. Which just sounds so childish when I write it, but that's where Transformers shines. Excellent CGI robots that blow eachother up in sparking madness. The entire final act is just pure chaos, and I loved it for that. For a film 9 years old, the special effects still hold up very well and far better than what I remember from certain scenes from 'Age of Extinction'.

Cars
Bay is in his element when he doing purely visuals. Transformers is a visually interesting and excellent film. Filled with nice cinematography, a bright colour scheme and some cool looking shots, which is what the film should have been, but instead we have to suffer through horrific characters and terrible writing for a lot of it.

Transformers isn't a great film, it's not even a good film, it's a stupid but fun piece of entertainment that delivers some great and stylish action, but fails on almost every level of storytelling and humour. That said, this is still easily the best film in the series. It's all downhill from here.....

6/10 Dans

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Thursday, 25 May 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 25th, 2017*


I've not been a huge fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean series overall, well, the last two instalments in particular. The World's End being an overblown bore and On Stranger's Tides being the worst of the lot as the series fell into a boring parody of itself.

My hopes for Salazar's Revenge or 'Dead Men Tell No Tales' if you're in the US were pretty low. Johnny Depp has been the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons lately, the film has two fairly no-name directors at the helm and the marketing for this film has been pretty bad. Its strangely been billed as 'The Final Adventure', which is weird considering there is nothing to give this indication and the sixth film is very much planned and will no doubt happen unless this strangely flops.

Salazar's Revenge itself... was actually a lot of fun. It's not amazing by any means, but for a big-budget summer blockbuster about pirates, it's perfectly acceptable. It doesn't quite capture the magic of its fresh and wonderful original, but it avoids the pitfalls of its dismal sequels fairly well. So I'll go on record and say this was the best one since the first.

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow
There's nothing too amazing about it though. It walks this fine line of acceptability and fun that is pretty lacking in recent blockbusters. It never really takes itself too seriously and while forced it times, it did have some heart underneath the surface. A lot of the jokes hit pretty hard, but there are a few misses here and there, but nothing offensively awful.

I really liked that this felt like more like a direct sequel to The World's End and completely ignoring On Stranger Tides, more or less. It some ways it feels like 'Pirates of the Caribbean: Generations' too, every new cast member is related to a previous character in the series. Which was unnecessary, but brought things full circle at the end, and did bring some emotion to the film.

Johnny Depp was also the best Captain Jack Sparrow he's been in years. It's hard too tell if he was trying, but for the first time in a while, I actually enjoyed seeing Jack on screen again. He doesn't capture that lightning in a bottle effect he brought to the first one, but he does at least seem to be trying a bit more than he usually does.

For the new characters to the series, no one was massively memorable. Kaya Scodelario was decent, if not given a massive amount to do, but she was far better than Brenton Thwaites, who is pretty bland and forgettable. Oh, if you were expecting a lot from Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, then don't. Their screentime barely amounts to 3 minutes. It will still nice to see them return though, and maybe bring them back for further films?

Javier Bardems' villain was by far the worst part of Salazar's Revenge. His crew retread a lot of the same ground that The Curse of the Black Pearl did, another cursed crew looking for revenge on Jack Sparrow. On top of that, the designs are pretty horrific and outmatched by CGI from 14 years ago now, which is a shame. Bardem's performance is also kinda embarrassing. He does this annoying raspy voice where I could barely tell what he was saying and he rarely gets to do anything where he gets to shine or show his evilness.

Javier Bardem hamming it up as Captain Salazar
While I was worried about these fairly in-experienced directors doing a film like this, Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg do a fairly solid job at crafting some fun and creative action scenes. They're not as good as Gore Verbinski's fluid direction, but I was surprised at the creativity on display. The highlight being a bank being dragged across a town early on and I really loved the design and look of the finale. Geoff Zanelli also delivers a solid score, not as strong as Hans Zimmer, but I'd say it was a worthy addition.

Salazar's Revenge doesn't reach the heights of the Pirates series at its best, but it is a hell of a lot better than its previous two entries and more or less and return to form and a step in the right direction for the franchise.

7/10 Dans

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Mother's Day (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 24th, 2017*

Urm... Well this was my first ever Garry Marshall film and I did not expect this to be the cancerous piece of abortion it ended up being. I expected middle of the road fluff, instead I got a mind-numbing barrage of brain damage and hateful characters.

As someone who hates their alcoholic, estranged mother who acts like a 12 year old in a 38 year old's body, this probably wasn't the film for me. Every character was just... awful. It reminded me a lot of Love Actually, but without the unhinged madness of Richard Curtis to keep it at bay. This was just repulsively bland and icky.

What an awful waste of such a talented cast. How dare a human being waste Timothy Olyphant, that in itself is a sin. That's Raylan Fucking Givens. You give that man something to do. Not humiliate him to this level.

Saying this, I had no idea Jennifer Aniston was in this. She is basically the final nail in every terrible comedy film of the past 10 years. I know people like Friends, which is fine, it was a show of its time, but Aniston truly is an awful actress that drags down everything she is in.

I honestly don't know why I keep adding garbage like this on my Netflix watchlist and then viewing it at 1am. I hate myself. It's worth noting that I still haven't seen Casablanca or many of Terrence Malick's or Richard Linklater's films, but hey, now I've fucking watched Mother's Day. Fuck me. Fuck my life. End my life.

1/10 Dans

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Colossal (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 23rd, 2017*

I gave it a day before I wrote my review for Colossal, as I had mixed feelings, but I overall liked it. The more I think about it, the more I loved it. Colossal is not entirely succesful, but it is one of the most unique and bat-shit weirdest things I've seen in theaters this year.

It follows an alcoholic woman who is kicked out her apartment and forced to move back home because she is broke, upon returning home, she gets a job as a bartender for her friend, she also discovers she has a connection to a giant monster that's destroying a city in South Korea.

It's mad stuff, but at the same time, it is so madly original and unlike anything I've ever seen that I sorta loved it. Anne Hathaway gives the performance of her career as the lead alcoholic who is both parts hilarious and easy to root for.

Anne Hathaway
Nacho Vigalonda delivers a script that is smart, funny and meaningful. I was surprised at how dark the film was too. The trailers made it out to be very light-hearted, which it is for the most part, but goes to some really dark places thanks to Jason Sudeikis, who gives a surprisingly intense and strangely scary performance, which is the complete opposite of his usual role.

As great as the two lead performances are, the main problem with the film I had was the characterization. It's quickly established that both the lead characters are alcoholics, but I never really once felt like Hathaway was really going through that much of a struggle. She moves back to her home town to get her life in order, but she never really struggles with her addiction too much.

There's the odd scene where she looks at a bottle of beer while the camera zooms in on it slowly as the sound and music fades out, but that was really it. There are a couple of scenes where she actually gets drunk and controls the monster (A fairly heavy-handed metaphor), but she's fine for the most part. I just wish they dug deeper into her addiction a bit more.

It's important to note that this isn't really a giant monster movie in the vein of say Godzilla or Pacific Rim, it's an indie comedy with a little bit of monster action thrown in. I think that's what I loved the most about Colossal, it's a bizarre mix of genres that really shouldn't work, but somehow comes together by the end.

Anne Hathaway's monster
Where my biggest flaw with the film lies is maybe within Jason Sudeikis' character. He has a lot of tone changes and does a lot of strange things that don't entirely make sense to me. I understand he's an alcoholic with a lot of regrets, but his behaviour is really erratic and comes out of nowhere. His performance was great though and I loved seeing him play such a nasty person at times.

There are a few things I won't spoil that were left out of the trailer, which was nice to see for a change. The ending is excellent though and everything comes together for a satisfying end a surpris punchline that left things on a great not.

Colossal isn't 100% succesful at what it tries to do, but most importantly, it is a unique and original film that deserves to be supported, but thankfully it is also an excellent and funny film with the strongest Anne Hathaway performance I've seen.

8/10 Dans

Colossal is out now in cinemas in the UK
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Friday, 19 May 2017

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 19th, 2017*
 More my thoughts on the series as a whole:

Well, my Harry Potter journey has come to an end, and what a beautiful, emotional and heartfelt end it came to. Deathly Hallows Part 2 is like the second half of Breaking Bad season 5. Everything put into 2 hours, to bring the series to an end, and it never stops.

This was everything I ever possibly could have wanted from a finale to a series. Everyone has closure and a chance to shine, while the epilogue is touching, beautiful and brings things full circle is the best way possible.

I was pretty hit-and-miss watching all the films back to back a few years ago, but this time they all clicked with me in one way or another. The earlier films have their flaws for sure and are easily the weakest of the lot, but they still were just what I needed right now, and I am happy about the fact I loved them all in some way.

It has been an incredible experience seeing these actors and characters grow in depth and complexity as the series progressed, going through things we've all been through, but in the backdrop of a fantasy world based around magic. The performances of every actor massively improves with each film and it is so noticeable, making each one feel like a genuine improvement on the the last. Even minor characters have evolved and been fully fleshed out, including ones you would not expect. The only exception I'd say was Malfoy, who was just rubbish from beginning to end. There was no reason to fear this villain, every single moment he had a chance to prove his villainy, he proved to be a coward and cry baby, to the point I have no idea why anyone even took him seriously for one second.

In Deathly Hallows Part 2 every scene had meaning and flowed, the action is gorgeous and some of the best of the entire franchise. The heartbreaking revelations are effective and just fucked me. David Yates has truly been a consistent director in the quality of the past few films and as much as I wish a load of different directors got to put their take on Potter on screen, I'm glad someone was able to follow through with their vision for the finale entries. That said, each different director has given something unique and memorable with the films directed.

Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood and I'm sad to see it go once again, but this was a hell of a ride revisiting them, and I cannot wait to do it again in the future. Give me my 4K boxset of the entire series. I will also be reading all the books soon.

10/10 Dans

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Thursday, 18 May 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) - Film Review


*Originally written May 19th, 2017*

Review:

Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was one of my least anticipated films of the year for a few reasons. 1. Guy Ritchie is an awful, awful director. 2. Each trailer has been a mess, one shows it as a light hearted fantasy adventure, while the others show it as a gritty, "grounded" take on the King Arthur legend.

Strangely enough, I quite enjoyed King Arthur for the most part, it's hardly great cinema and it's a huge mess, but I had a pretty good time with it. It reminded me a lot of earlier this years 'The Great Wall, a similiarly fluffy and trashy fantasy epic that flopped.

I've never actually watched a single adaptation of the King Arthur tale, so I wasn't really familiar with any of the characters or story. All I knew was the whole "sword in the stone" angle. So it all felt fairly fresh to me. It's hardly original though, it does succumb to some generic CGI battle crap that has plagued recent fantasy films and most blockbusters in general.

Like I said before, I fundamentally hate Guy Ritchie, I find his directing style, far too stylized and obnoxious, and his writing trying far too hard to be Quentin Tarantino. There are a couple of exceptions to his films that I enjoy, Snatch and Sherlock Holmes are the two that come to mind. King Arthur feels like a strange mix of both of these films.

Charlie Hunnam pulling the sword from the stone
That's where it's tonal problems come into play, which is one of my biggest issues with the film. Half the time it feels like a quippy, fast-paced heist film made of montages, while the other half is dark fantasy nonsense that takes itself far too seriously, and neither of these tones clash very well and it swaps between them very jarringly.

Ritchie's direction is easily closest to his Sherlock Holmes films. The period setting is wonderfully detailed, sets, costumes and weapons are all top-notch and a lot of effort was put into it. Though my problems with his direction are still there. Scenes never sit still, everything is always moving at such a fast-pace, where we never get to know any of the characters, aside from the titular King Arthur, making the deaths of a few characters feel meaningless, even though they linger on their deaths like the audience are meants to care.

Charlie Hunnam is the only real notable person to mention from the cast, as everyone else is an after thought, to the point I cannot even remember a single name. Hunnam does a fairly decent job at a leading role in a massive budget blockbuster, bringing enough charisma to the role, plus he is ripped for it. I just really wish there was more than just the lead character to care about. Oh, David Beckham shows up for a mental and distracting cameo for one scene and he is truly awful.


I'd seen a lot of people compare this to last years 'Gods of Egypt' which is a little harsh, as this certainly looks a hell of a lot better visually and actually has some really insane and weird visuals. The lead up to the final battle is essentially a massive acid trip for the lead character, which was an interesting choice to say the least. Daniel Pemberton's score was an extremely pleasant surprise too.

King Arthur is hardly great, or even good cinema, but for the most part, I enjoyed it, which is more than I can ask for with a Guy Ritchie film at this point. He is still a hack though. Oh, and it is laughable that they had 6 films planned for a franchise. No way is that gonna happen.

6/10 Dans

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Monday, 15 May 2017

Assassin's Creed (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written January 1st, 2017*

I'm no stranger to the Assassin's Creed franchise. I've finished all the main games bar Syndicate and Rogue, but I have been a huge fan so I was pretty excited when Michael Fassbender would be starring in an adaptation of the series from the director of 2015's Macbeth (Which I loved).

The film has now come, it's bombed at the box-office and it was panned by the critics. My expectations were lowered a lot, but I actually ended up having a decent time with Assassin's Creed. It's a bit messy and muddled, but it's visually beautiful, features a usually great performance from Fassbender, but above all, I was very entertained. I actually quite liked a film based on a video game. It might just be a late Christmas miracle.

The story sadly does not take from any of the games. It instead follows a new character, Callum Lynch played by Fassbender, who is a death row inmate who's death is faked as he's transported to the Abstergo facility where the Templar Order put him in a machine called the Animus that allows him to access the memories of his ancestors who were assassins, where he needs to find out what happened to the Apple of Eden.

Olden days Fassbender
Yeah, it's convoluted nonsense. It at least captures the nonsensical silliness of the games by taking itself far too seriously. The Animus machine makes no sense at all. Rather than the VR like bed of the games, its instead a weird attachment to the users head where they're able to run around in a confined space. Without the help of visual effects in the scene, it would have looked laughable.

Much like the video games, all the best stuff is when the lead is actually in the Animus focusing on his assassin ancestor. In many ways the stuff in the Animus feels like a video game where the audience in thrown in the middle of a mission 3 or 4 times in the film. While these scenes aren't entirely meshed well into the film, they are at least the most visually stunning, mirroring what made director Justin Kurzel's Macbeth so great.

Despite being based on a mature rated franchise, the violence in Assassin's Creed is sadly toned-down for a teen audience. Characters use knives and swords, but it is all next to bloodless. Things cut away and get a little choppy during the set-pieces in order to get its 12A/PG-13 rating. Although, knowing Fox, there might be an uncut version on the Blu-ray release.

Fassbender fighting round the world
Even with the toned down and hastily edited action, where Assassin's Creed disappoints most is with its characters. Don't get me wrong, the cast are all fine, working with what they're given, but despite Fassbender's modern day character, there is nothing to anyone else. Fassbender's assassin ancestor Aguilar is a paper-thin character, he barely says anything and we know nothing about him. I do like the look of his character though. Marion Cotillard isn't given much to do, neither is Jeremy Irons as the villain of the film, despite have evil intentions?

Assassin's Creed is what it is. It's a dumb, yet beautifully shot action film based on a game where people access their ancestors memories. It's not amazing, but it is very entertaining 110 minutes. Which is more than I can ask for with a game based on a film.

7/10 Dans

Assassin's Creed is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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Saturday, 13 May 2017

La La Land (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written January 12th, 2017*

I'll put it out there, I'm not a fan of musicals or even jazz music, but I did love Damien Chazelle's previous film 'Whiplash'. I also love Ryan Golsing and Emma Stone, so I was looking forward to this, and it exceeded those expectations by an insane amount. La La Land is one of the most beautiful, electric and emotional experiences I've ever had from a film. I don't want to hyperbole, but this might be one of the greatest films I've ever seen. I know it's only January 12th, but I really can't see much else topping this as my film of the year of 2017.

This was clearly made by someone who loves his craft, Chazelle really has a love for jazz and all things nostalgic, which shows. The music is great, the set design is wonderful. It creates this feeling of a classic film set in the '50s, despite being set in the modern day. It's a strange combo that works. Remove smartphones and the internet from La La Land, apply a black and white filter and this could easily be made in the '50s. That's not a knock.

A Lovely Night
Everything in this film is so beautiful. The direction is pure precision. Chazelle creates an electric film packed full of emotion and heart. It's a film aimed at people to follow their dreams and it was perfect. It made me want to pursue and be passionate about what I love and never give up. This is the sort of film that makes me want to be a filmmaker, if I wasn't so damn lazy.

At the centre this is a love story between a jazz pianist and an actress trying to achieve their dreams in LA. Both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are seriously amazing, my favourite film of all-time is Drive, but I think Gosling gives the best performance of his career. Much to my surprise though, despite both being amazing, I found Stone to outmatch Gosling most of the time, especially in the musical numbers. Stone has a much better singing voice than Gosling, which isn't a problem considering most of his stuff is based on his amazing piano skills.

Despite looking like a bright and colourful film, the film does take some really emotional turns that lead to a heartbreaking and bittersweet ending that hit all the right notes. We see Gosling and Stone's relationship start to fracture as they realize the compromises they have have to make in order to achieve their dreams or whether or not you should even follow your dream.

City of Stars
As a musical, aside from the opening scene which had me a little worried, everything after that was memorable and made me want to listen to it all day long. There was an insane amount of talent that came to making some of the music here, especially 'City of Stars' and 'The Fools Who Dream' which were easily my highlights. There's also a great scene of some '80s music that I didn't expect, but I loved it.

La La Land was pure magic, a sense of wonder and passion that I've not seen from a film in a long time. Beautifully directed, powerful and endlessy memorable. One of the greatest films of all-time.

10/10 Dans

La La Land is out May 15th on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD now in the UK
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John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written February 18th, 2017*

I'm really glad I saw John Wick: Chapter 2 twice before reviewing it. My first time watching it I wasn't in the best mood, it had been a long day and Wick was my third film of the day, by the end of it I was just bored and wanted to go. Thankfully, I saw it again the next day with a clearer head and LOVED IT. Not as much as the first, but I still liked this a lot, it expands the world greatly, ramps up the action and delivers a surprisingly emotionally impactful ending.

Taking place 5 days after the first, Chapter 2 opens with an overlong prologue of Wick getting his car back after the events of the first. It wasn't bad at all, it just felt pointless and served no purpose other than to reintroduce a character you already know. Cutting this 15 minute scene really could have made for a much shorter and tighter film.

After the prologue, Wick is forced back into the assassin world due to a blood pact he made. He soon finds himself in Rome for a hit and things go south. It's much more in depth and less simple than the premise of the first. I appreciate them expanding the story, but it lacked the emotional pull of the first.

John Wick with more neon
But what you all care about is the action. Nothing is as memorable as the club scene from the first, but they really ramp up the action this time. It's a stylish, beautifully choreographed dance of "gun-fu" that is electric to watch. It even felt more violent and gory than the first, really delving in to some gruesome injury detail. The camera work is gorgeous, no shakey cam bullshit. It also has the best pencil scene in a film since The Dark Knight.

On top of the action. This is a gorgeous looking film filled with beautiful neon lighting, interesting sets and locations. The museum finale set-piece was awesome. It reminded me of the finale of The Man With the Golden Gun.

Keanu Reeves is still fantastic as Wick, a role he was born to do. I really love that he does most of his own stunts too. The character of John Wick is a man of few words and Reeves really managed to still do a lot with that. It's a shame that Reeves is pitted against such a boring villain this time, who is somehow outshined by Ruby Rose (An actress I usually hate), who plays a mute bodyguard who talks through sign language. It was a pointless character quirk, but it was fun and made use of those beautiful subtitles.

John Wick and his new dog
While we got a glimpse into the assassin world in the first John Wick, Chapter 2 really delves into how this world works and just how big it is. I did find it got a bit goofy at times, but I realize that John Wick takes place in a world so very different to the real world. It feels like a comic-book at times. It even made way for a cameo from Laurence Fishbourne and he was brutal. That guy is rarely good, I even found him to be the worst part of The Matrix and he nearly derails the whole film with one scene.

The ending really surprised me too. I know Chapter 3 was planned before the second was even in production, but the ending of this really sets up an interesting third, it was even kinda emotional seeing John Wick in the place he is at the end. It helps that Tyler Bates score is also once again wonderful.

John Wick: Chapter 2 wasn't a strong as the first for me, but it was still a stylish, fun and effective orgy of violence and action that greatly expands the universe. Give me John Wick Chapter 3.

9/10 Dans

John Wick: Chapter 2 is out June 12th on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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John Wick (2014) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written October 29th, 2015*

Good films by Keanu Reeves are a rare thing, amazing films are even rarer. John Wick is luckily one of those rare Keanu Reeves films where everything just mashes together perfectly, it is a blast in every way. Violent, kinetic and just 95 minutes of pure joy.

Keanu Reeves plays the titular John Wick, a retired whose wife had just recently died and as a last gift, he is given a dog to look after to fill some of that void his wife left. Shortly his prized car is stolen and his dog his killed, leaving way for a sympathy of revenge.

I pretty much loved everything about John Wick, it is everything an action film should be. The action is gorgeously shot and choreographed, all the death is lingered on and mostly all practical, no dodgy CGI or annoying as shit shakey-cam. Olivier Megaton really needs to a take a note or two from this film. Just looked and saw that this was from a first time director too. Wow, this guy has seriously talent.

John Wick being neon lit
Nearly every set-piece was strong and memorable, the story takes about 20 minutes to kick in, but from then on it is just jumping from action scene to action scene. The best of the bunch has to easily be the club scene, which is just beautiful, filled with neon lights and topped with a pulsating and pumping score. It was just a shame that the finale is really lacking and lackluster compared to the insanely high standard that every other action scene that came before it.

The cast are all great, so many memorable faces here like Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Ian McShane, Adrianne Palicki and the always excellent Lance Riddick. Each of these characters served their purpose and the surviving ones have the potential to return to the universe for the announced 'John Wick 2' which is set for next year.

Keanu Reeves as John Wick
Of course then there is the lead, John Wick himself, Keanu Reeves, was he any good, or does he give another wooden and emotionless performance? Thankfully, Reeves was great, while being a cold-blooded and bad-ass killer, he still manages to emote and bring some heart to the role, especially during the early moments when he is grieving over his wife. It was so nice to see Reeves be good again, it's great to have him back too, I just hope this a new beginning for him and he doesn't go back to doing films like The Day the Earth Stood Still.....

John Wick is everything an action film fan could want, filled with so many amazing action scenes, gun-fu, gorgeous settings and one of the best performances of Keanu Reeves' career.

9/10 Dans

John Wick is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
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The Fast and Furious (2001) - Film Review

Review: *Originally written January 2nd, 2016* "Live life a quarter mile at a time" Whatever that means. It's always i...