Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Movie Review: Despicable Me 3 (2017)

I think I owe Illumination Entertainment something of an apology. For the longest time, I always judged them mainly off of their take on Dr Seuss’ The Lorax, which still stands as one of the single worst films I’ve ever sat through in so many ways. However, that is honestly an outlier of their work: The rest of their films, in one way or another, have tapped into a sense of nostalgia for the olden days of animation and translated it quite remarkably for today’s audiences. Whether it’s the 2-D throwback of The Secret Life Of Pets to the tribute to all things musical with Sing, Illumination has secured its place in the industry as the most retro-minded studio working right now. And the crown jewel of their work to date, the series that put them on the map, is Despicable Me. Or, more specifically, the Minions that have now taken a life of their own and, whenever a new film featuring them comes out, you will doubtless see them everywhere. So, in light of the studio’s pedigree and my admitted sensitivity to overblown marketing, how does this latest installment turn out? This is Despicable Me 3.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Movie Review: The Promise (2017)

Even without getting into the premise of today’s film, this has the kind of main casting that is designed to make audiences froth in excitement. You’ve got Oscar Isaac, a true rising star who has been attached to critical and audience darlings for several years straight at this point and has even entered meme status thanks to his… interesting dance sequence from Ex Machina. Next to him, there’s Charlotte Le Bon, whom I’ll admit hasn’t exactly wowed me with her latest features, but quite frankly, she’s more than due for a proper-good production. And then there’s Christian Bale, the modern king of method acting who is well-known by this point for how seriously he takes his work. As much as I know better than I’d like how easily a promising cast can be cut down by a wasteful story, rest assured, this isn’t one of those occasions. This is The Promise.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Movie Review: All Eyez On Me (2017)

No matter how timid I may come across in these reviews, I know that talking about ideas and concepts in relation to films is still less risky than statements concerning other forms of media. Like, for instance, rap music. I will always consider myself a hip-hop head first and foremost when it comes to music, but the amount of outrage that gets generated in those circles over the most minor shit really doesn’t make me all that willing to admit to such things in public. I bring this up to help cushion the blow of what may be one of the more inflammatory statements I could make within that context: I’m not that massive on Tupac. I have respect for the guy’s place in the industry, and I certainly like some of his music, but in oh-so-popular discussions over who is the greatest MC of all time, I’m far more likely to suggest The Notorious B.I.G. than Tupac. However, with that in mind, Straight Outta Compton showed that biographical cinema and rap music intersecting could lead to great results (possibly less great than I initially thought when first watching it, but that’s a discussion for another time) so, even without absolutely loving the subject, hopefully we’ll get something similar here. Key word being “hopefully”. This is All Eyez On Me.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Movie Review: My Cousin Rachel (2017)

Oh, this is going to be a tough one to talk about. What makes that statement weird though, considering I’ve reviewed a wide spectrum of releases on this blog before, is that it isn’t even for any of the obvious reasons. I’ve mentioned how old-timey costume dramas really aren’t my thing for some reason, and writing about them isn’t something I find easy, but that’s not it. I’ve shown a certain verging-on-dickishness when discussing feminist-centric notions, something that makes those topics not exactly my favourite thing to talk about, but that’s not it either. Today’s film is a story involving incest between cousins, and to cut a potentially long and aggravating story short, I found out rather recently that apparently people still need to be convinced that incest isn’t exactly the most ideal thing to be doing with one's time. And yet, even that isn’t why this is going to be a tough review to get out there. Rather, it’s because when all three of these areas intersect with this film’s approach to framing its story, it results in a very all-over-the-place kind of production. Let’s get started and, hopefully, I’ll be able to explain why. This is My Cousin Rachel.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Movie Review: The Mummy (2017)

With Marvel sweeping in box office hit after box office hit, it seems that everyone and their backyard sound stage want to get in on this ‘shared film universe’ trend. Sure, Marvel didn’t exactly invent the idea; filmmakers like John Hughes and Kevin Smith both filled in their films with little threads that tied them together for those willing to pay attention. However, those guys did it more in passing than anything else, whereas Marvel has officially turned it into a new blossoming branch of the Hollywood franchise system. From DC’s attempts to match their graphic novel rivals to Legendary Studio’s increasingly-promising big monster franchise, even individuals like M. Night Shyamalan who seems to be setting up his own comic book-inspired world off the back of Split, this is basically the big new thing in Hollywood right now. So, naturally, it seems that Universal Pictures wants to get in on this trend as well, using today’s film as a springboard for a shared universe based on their classic cavalcade of movie monsters. Of course, if the rest of the entries in the Dark Universe series are anything resembling this, we may be in for a very bumpy ride over the next several years because this film is something truly special. This is The Mummy.

The plot: Mercenary Nick (Tom Cruise) and his partner-in-shady-dealings Chris (Jake Johnson), while searching for treasures in war-torn Iraq, uncover the tomb of Egyptian would-be-queen Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella). After accidentally releasing her from her imprisonment, Nick is brought to the attention of his ex-flame Jennifer (Annabelle Wallis) and her employer Henry (Russell Crowe), who is on a mission to rid the world of monsters. With Nick being under Ahmanet’s influence, he must work together with Jennifer and Henry in order to stop the Mummy from destroying the world and bringing the Egyptian god Set into the mortal realm.

“Let’s remake this over-10-year-old film! We’ll get Tom Cruise to star in it!” sounds like the set-up for a bad joke about how little actual creativity is going on in Hollywood, so you can imagine how well it turns out when that is actually what they did here. Don’t get me wrong, Cruise was a great choice to play this very dickish soldier of fortune, but the way he’s written, his charm falls through the cracks of the asshole that is his character. To make things weirder, it seems that his attitude on set was rather in keeping with his egocentric “I can get away with anything” on-screen persona, if Jake Johnson and the myriad of on-set stories are anything to go by. And speaking of Johnson, he’s a decent match with Cruise in terms of their character dynamics, but his comparable ability with unsavoury characters doesn’t manage to outweigh not only how annoying he can get but also how out-of-place he becomes as the film drudges on. Wallis could have become one of the biggest setbacks for female supporting roles in blockbuster films with how regressive her character is, but fortunately, she’s way too unengaging for that to be a possibility. Boutella as the big bad Mummy is alright, I suppose, but once again, I chalk her okay-ness up to the writers not really knowing what kind of villain they wanted her to be. Crowe is probably the best actor here but that’s only when he lets his darker side loose. *SPOILER* warnings now, because this review will likely be full of them: He’s playing Dr. Jekyll. Seriously. And even though it last for only 2-3 minutes, his turn as Hyde is the single best part of the film.

The writers for this film are David Koepp, whom we last checked in with last year’s abysmal Inferno, Christopher McQuarrie, the man responsible for one of the highest points of Cruise's entire career with Jack Reacher, and Dylan Kussman, largely known for his acting role in Dead Poets Society with this as his first film script. I bring all this up because, between them all, they have sizeable experience in the industry and should have a pretty good idea on what makes a working script. Unfortunately, you’d never guess that just from their efforts here because, dear God, this is one of the dumbest films I’ve seen in a very long time. This is almost classic stupid, as it has all the usual hollow bells and ear-shredding whistles of your standard idiot plot blockbuster, something we honestly haven’t gotten that much of of late (at least from what I’ve seen). The characters are written solely in terms of how they can progress the plot, resulting in character actions that make little to no sense compared to their other actions or even the context of the scenes they take place in. I mean, when you’re at the point of a character visibly dying, coming back to life and stabbing the main character’s superior officer and all without anyone noticing on-screen, you know you’re in prime shitweasel territory. What’s more, the ridiculousness of how much the film doesn’t make sense with itself only seems to accelerate once we get to the final reel, building and building until we hit a truly baffling open ending, resulting in the kind of hysterical “what the fuck did I just watch?” reaction that I haven’t experienced since Pan.

And you know what? I would perfectly fine with all of that. With how the titular Mummy’s powers manifest themselves, this is basically a dumb zombie movie with some mild Egyptian undertones; I have a real soft spot for the stupid exploits of the undead, and I have a real fascination with Egyptian theology. Unfortunately, for as goofy as this mostly is, it also has some serious tonal issues on top of that. On one side, you have Cruise (let’s not bother with character names by this point; you’re all just going to refer to him as ‘Tom Cruise’ anyway) being messed around with by the Mummy, being taken on a head trip that has him questioning what is actually happening to him. And on the other side, you have Cruise and an undead Johnson arguing in a women’s public bathroom about just letting the Mummy do with Cruise what she wants. These two halves don’t fit together; in fact, you can almost smell the cheap Clag glue used to try and hold them in place. Amidst the original-Xbox-era special effects at work and the limp action beats, there’s this lingering feeling that underneath the layers of idiocy is a potentially decent movie. Of course, it’s buried far too deep to be of any use, with the filmmakers instead going for weak jokes off the back of incredibly unlikeable and brick-headed protagonists intercut with scenes featuring the Mummy that we’re apparently meant to take seriously. Sorry but, no matter how much you try and bandage up this mess of a screenplay, it’s still dead and slowly decaying before our very eyes.

So, between the shit writing and the weak visuals, this film is already pretty bad on its own. But how is it as an introduction into the Dark Universe? Wait… Do you hear that? That faint sound in the distance as you’re reading this? That’s me laughing my head off because, even without considering its competition, this is an embarrassingly weak start to a franchise. Let’s get the small things out of the way first: This film’s lack of knowledge about Egyptian gods is matched only by its apparent lack of knowledge about Jekyll and Hyde because they manage to screw up pretty critical details in both. The film keeps bringing up Set as the Egyptian god of death, and yeah, I’m gonna be That Guy on this: Anubis is the god of death, not Set, and I learnt that from the bloody Yu-Gi-Oh movie! If a cartoon about a world-ending children’s card game can get simple details like that right and your movie can’t, you need to rethink things, especially if you’re dealing with something as reliant on minor details as a cinematic universe. But that’s small potatoes when you realize that, since Jekyll and Hyde are also in this movie for a time, they can’t even get the Universal monsters right. Like, it is weird how much they completely miss the mark with Dr. Jekyll, turning a story about the dual nature of humanity into a yarn involving catching evil like a disease, all in the space of a single on-screen conversation. I mean, I get the idea of retooling stories we all know to keep them interesting, but when said retooling involves missing the entire point of the story you’re retooling, it ceases to make any sense why they even bothered in the first place. Oh wait, they bothered because name-brand recognition and “give us money, please!”; nevermind. But here’s the real kicker: Outside of those two instances and the introduction of Jekyll’s monster hunting organization, that is literally all we get in terms of world-building. Nothing set in stone, nothing tantalized to keep audience’s attention outside of a couple vampire skulls and what I think is a scale from the Creature From The Black Lagoon and nothing that ultimately makes it seem like this universe has that many places to go from here.

All in all, this is the new Battlefield Earth. Think about it: Lead actor with heavy ties to Scientology who made the entire film his own passion project, woeful production values, rock-stupid writing which still carries traces of Scientologist doctrine (treating human evil as a foreign element that can be removed with the right ‘treatments’) and attempts at grandeur and scope that fall hideously short; the only thing missing is the legendarily awful camera work and this would tick every box possible. Hell, say what you will about Dracula Untold, the last attempt by Universal to kick off this sort of franchise, but it looks like Iron Man compared to this thing.

But the weirdest part of all this is that I’m not even mad; I’m certainly bewildered and holding back laughing fits as I type this out, but I’m not mad. Because this is the kind of film that film critics, particularly those on YouTube et al. whose bread-and-butter are bad Hollywood movies, are going to be very happy with. Give it about a year, and I guarantee that you’ll see video reviews for this popping up in a lot of places; films like this, where the review material is practically gift-wrapped, are very rare and those that have that quality usually go down into bad movie legend. This is one of those films and, honestly, I wouldn’t mind the Dark Universe going ahead if they’re as consistently dreadful as this. With online film critique as a profession being particularly volatile right now, it’d be nice to know there’s a steady stream of work out there. This ranks lower than Table 19, which may have been far duller than this (and this film definitely gives you your money’s worth in unintentional hilarity) but it is far more competently-made as a film. Budgets exceeding $100 million shouldn’t look this cheap. However, with that spike of hysterical enjoyment I got at this film’s expense in mind, this wasn’t any kind of serious letdown for me; honestly, I didn’t have any real expectations going into this. As such, this still ranks higher with me than A Cure For Wellness, which still continues to piss me off.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

As a means to contrast the enduring sense of dread I had in the lead-up to the release of Baywatch (you know, before I ended up liking it), today’s film has been a long and steady process of chanting “please don’t suck” over and over again every time I saw the marketing for this film. Knowing what DC is capable of in terms of stories, and how much their recent efforts have been underwhelming (I didn’t give nearly enough flack for the whole Granny’s Peach Tea insanity from BvS: Dawn Of Justice when I first reviewed it), I seriously wish that they would stop falling under their own strain and just make the DC Extended Universe worth watching. The closest we’ve gotten so far is Suicide Squad, and even then it ranks up there in terms of the most bewildering fanboy rage quits in recent years; it honestly seems like I’m one of the few people who was willing to give that film a chance. So, in the wake of this film’s alarmingly warm reception, am I going to join the crowd for once or am I going to be the lone jackass wondering what the hell everyone else is seeing? Only one way to find out: This is Wonder Woman.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Movie Review: Churchill (2017)

Outside of a few pop culture appearances, the urban legend of his conversation with Nancy Astor and a Robin Williams skit about who truly wrote his greatest speeches, I honestly don’t know that much about Winston Churchill. So, rather than continue to pretend that I have anything of note to say before digging into the film, let’s just get into this thing already. This is Churchill.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Movie Review: Baywatch (2017)

If you’ve been following my other reviews this year, you’ll notice that I haven’t made it a secret about how surprising a lot of this year’s films have been so far. I honestly don’t know if it’s directly because of my own expectations or if a lot of filmmakers this year have been getting better at left-hooking the audience, but I am getting less and less confident about films actually matching up with general audience anticipation. And yet, even with that in mind, this is the one film that I was looking forward to the least out of everything expected to come out this year. What’s more, as each piece of marketing revealed more about it, the worse it ended up looking. It’s quite a feat to take the teaser poster, with just about the least subtle dick joke I’ve seen in quite a while, and somehow go further downhill from there but that’s how this thing looks. By this point, I think my expectations for this are at their absolute lowest; unless we end up with another perplexingly offensive offering, which isn’t exactly out of the realm of possibility, there’s no way this could be as all-time awful as I’m expecting it to be. Could it? This is Baywatch.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Movie Review: The Shack (2017)

This film isn’t getting an introduction. It doesn’t deserve an introduction. And hopefully, by the end of this review, you’ll understand why because a shocking lack of people seem to see this film for what it truly is. Let’s get this shit over and done with because I am legitimately getting more pissed the more brain power I have to devote to it. This is The Shack.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Movie Review: King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword (2017)

While a lot of the music-loving world still adheres to the idea that Yoko Ono cost us one of the greatest bands to ever touch an instrument, I subscribe to a similar but far less recognized notion. Namely, that Madonna cost the art of cinema one of its potential legendary filmmakers. Guy Ritchie, as has been discussed on this blog before, was responsible for one of my all-time favourite films with Snatch. After that feature, and hooking up with Madonna, Ritchie took one of the biggest stumbles of any filmmaker still working today. Between the star-vehicle-cum-wrong-headed remake of an Italian classic with Swept Away, to the equally wrong-headed attempt to merge Ritchie’s British crime sensibilities with the teachings of Kabbalah with Revolver, the man found prominence in Hollywood from then on but he never managed to recapture that flame he once had. However, even considering the story we have today, it seems that he has indeed gotten back to his roots… in the single weirdest way possible. Let’s get started with today’s film and I’ll explain how. This is King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Movie Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Out of all the Marvel Cinematic Universe we have gotten so far, from the politically-driven thrills of Captain America to the Objectivist musings of Iron Man, 2014’s Guardians Of The Galaxy still stands as my personal favourite of the lot. Hell, my defence for Suicide Squad likely came from how much it reminded me of Guardians in both tone and intent. Apart from what people have come to expect from a modern Marvel film, like the pitch-perfect casting and the industry connections to some of the greatest effects wizards working today, it also opened the gates for a more bizarre and kitschy brand of superhero story, one that director/co-writer James Gunn was more than apt to tell. Despite how late this review ultimately is, with the film in question being out for quite a while before I finally got around to it, I was definitely eager to see just how it would measure up to the original that I hold in quite high regard. Once again, this is the year that sees fit to kick audiences square in their expectations, so here’s hoping for a solid project. This is Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Movie Review: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

Pirates Of The Caribbean is the classic tale of a studio wanting to make a film based one of their most successful theme park attractions that, through one of the single greatest casting decisions in the history of the medium, became one of Hollywood’s hottest properties… at first. It seems that, between the increasing goofiness of the stories being told combined with the increased budgetary requirements (The third and fourth installments in the franchise currently hold the top two spots for the most expensive films ever made), interest in the series is starting to wane. Hell, while I found quite a bit to like about Stranger Tides, it did give the impression that this is a franchise that is starting to beach itself. So, with another spin of the director’s chair and a few returning faces in the cast, maybe this will rejuvenate the series back to its former glory. While I fiddle around with my Blogger settings to make a large enough font to put enough emphasis on the word “maybe”, let’s get started with today’s offering. This is Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.