Mile 22 (2018)

dlh_zy_v4aakmew

Director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg have teamed up for the fourth time for this action outing. Their past efforts may have picked up acclaim and entertainment value in equal measures but this is the dud of the bunch by a mile…or 22.

After an operation at a Russian safe house, a strike-force are still on the hunt for caesium, before it could devastate thousands of lives. Li Noor (Iko Uwais) hands himself in to the U.S Embassy in Indonesia, claiming to have memorised the code to open a powerful disc which holds the location of the caesium. An Overwatch team led by Jimmy Silva (Wahlberg) need to transport Noor, 22 miles to a plane so he can claim asylum and tell them the code.

This so called action thriller is a nasty tolerance test of how long you can stomach watching the confusing film play on. It’s an extremely manic movie, one that makes your eyes hurt from the dizzying back and forths between scenes that seem to bear no connection. The editing resembles Jimmy’s repetitive wristband flicking; a sharp snap series of cuts which causes an unwelcome headache, so many of the fight scenes are shoddily edited that you just can’t see what’s happening.

Easily this could have been a rip-roaring short little brutal flick which sees characters heading from point A to point B, instead it feels like 2 hours when it’s only 94 minutes long. Any chance of ‘The Raid’ like antics and combat are lost thanks to the director and cast taking themselves and the dull story way too seriously. It’s a hot mess of a plot with atrocious dialogue and moments where the screenplay believes it’s being light-hearted and amusing are misfires or plainly misplaced.

In all honesty, I checked out of the movie 15 minutes in and let the rest of the near constant screaming of curse words and bloody violence play out as some cloudy filler in front of my hardly attentive eyes. It’s a film which boils down to the most simple reveal and is completely unsatisfying so I dread to think what someone who was invested in the film would think to this lazy conclusion.

One character comments that Jimmy Silva may have a personality disorder and he’s clearly meant to be different but Wahlberg is annoying quite frankly, as a fellow Overwatch member states he’s an asshole. In fact one of the major problems, amongst many, is that the entirety of the strike-force are unlikable and they lead the film to be a disengaging shambles. Iko Uwais is the only meagre redemption for the movie, his action skills are impressive but not enough to save the movie from the dire bog of rubbishness that it is.

‘Mile 22’ is simply put, a terrible feature from point A to point B. Jimmy Silva says at one point, “the end of an operation is euphoric”. Well, I experienced euphoria at the end too, because the film was over.

2/10

 

Advertisements

The Nun (2018)

mv5bmjm3nzq5ndcxof5bml5banbnxkftztgwnzm4mtq5ntm-_v1_

As the poster says, this is the ‘darkest chapter’, well it’s certainly a film devoid of enough daylight and interest that a little nap during the run-time could be very desirable. Without being harsh, ‘The Nun’ isn’t exactly a snooze fest but the story is so plodding that this horror becomes a nun entity.

Some priests at the Vatican send Father Burke (Demian Bichir) to an abbey in Romania in the hopes he can solve the mystery of a nun that committed suicide. Burke is ordered to bring practising Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) along and they soon discover the building is inhabited by a powerful evil called Valak; under the pretence of a nuns habit to blend in with its surroundings.

This is the fifth instalment in ‘The Conjuring Universe’ and it’s by far the worst out of the four I’ve now seen. Corin Hardy ensures to direct this film with a focus on keeping up misty, unnerving atmosphere but aside from the swirling mists of a creepy Eastern European building there’s nothing under the surface to really cause a terrifying reflex to what we’re seeing.

A lot of this movie sees us suffering to watch the same camera movements over and over. The lazy horror staple of a slow swipe to the left or right before it comes back and something has now appeared in the frame is just as boringly repetitive as the multiple times a character follows shadows. The frights themselves or tense set pieces are mostly predictable and rely on the jump scare tactic, which don’t utilise any creativity to elicit strong reactions other than a yawn.

Numbers 1 and 2 of ‘The Conjuring’ started off strong but now the additions are staining the impact of what would have been better had they just stayed as a couple of well made Warrens-led movies. The freaky nature of characters like Annabelle or this toothy nun were scary when seen as small sightings within the main film, whereas now they headline their own features and dramatically ruin their intrigue and spook factor. Even an in-joke within this recent movie feels like a dumb idea; you see a reg plate with Valak amongst the letters and numbers but considering how the demon is meant to be defeated in ‘The Conjuring 2’, why would some random Romanian villager have its name on their truck, it feels like a totally misplaced Easter egg.

Taissa Farmiga scrapes through the mire with dignity and talent in tact and is pretty much the only redeeming quality in this unnecessary and boring contribution to the supernatural franchise.

3/10

The Happytime Murders (2018)

People In Pic

Puppets like you ain’t ever seen them before…and hopefully never will again. Brian Henson, son of puppeteer and legend Jim Henson has clearly got the experience from performing in previous Muppet series to directing a couple of Muppet led movies but he squanders his fuzzy know-how in this dire ‘comedy’ feature.

Cop turned Private Investigator Phil Philips (Bill Barretta) takes on a case from a sex-mad young female who’s being blackmailed. As he roots for clues he ends up at the scenes of multiple murders and needs to team up with his former partner Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy), which would be fine if they didn’t despise each other but they’ll have to put a fractured relationship aside if they want to catch the puppet killer.

Honestly, this is a stand-out for one of the worst movies I have seen. The premise is actually a fairly great one, this notion of puppet/human coexisting could have been mined for laughs and heartfelt felt-lined emotion but it never comes close to either of these dream qualities. Todd Berger’s script is splattered with persistent attempts at what the creators assume is adult humour but is just juvenile.

If you saw ‘Sausage Party’ then this is in the same wheelhouse, though that less than amusing animation is a masterpiece in comparison to this story that hinges on the apparent comedy factor of small puppets dropping F-bombs, incessant sex jokes and a plot mystery solved by a eye-rolling ‘Basic Instinct’ reference of puppet genitalia. It’s almost as if this movie is a bunch of adults guffawing at how far they can take this idea of Muppet-like creatures doing X rated stuff; it never even gets to a point of being cringe-worthy because it starts off as try hard and beats you over the head with sex antics and swearing.

What’s dumb is that it’s not even got the selling factor of being a unique idea. Stringed puppets were rude but cleverly mastered in ‘Team America: World Police’, stage characters in ‘Avenue Q’ have done it all before and even Kermit’s roadshow Muppet mates, who are tailored nicely to children but adults alike because there’s traces of smart grown up humour; a brilliant but short-lived ABC television series had them living and working with humans and is a damn sight funnier than the 91 minutes of drivel I sat through.

There’s no interesting story; the murder mystery is badly handled and the puppet premise is wasted. In fact, worse than the relentless cursing and “look at us with puppets doing mature stuff” is the matter that this a excruciatingly boring movie.

1/10

 

The Darkest Minds (2018)

slide-6

Just when you thought it was safe to think Young Adult tales of togetherness, political angst and romance were over, this film powers up and hits the big screen. ‘The Darkest Minds’ does little to feel any fresher than what we’ve seen countless times before and the script is muddled and tiresome.

A lethal disease has taken the lives of 90% of children under 18; the ones that survived developed powers from telekinesis to more dangerous enhancements. 16 year old Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) is trying to hide the fact she possesses one of the more extreme powers and goes on the run with three other super-teens to try and find a place where everyone is equal and safe from children’s camps.

Of course this film proudly screams it’s producing credits of ‘Arrival’ and ‘Stranger Things’, pretending this will be a film of similar genre and calibre and it definitely misses the latter desire. There are clear echoes of the hit Netflix show and in turn ‘E.T’ here; with the group of kids walking deserted train tracks, evading vehicles on empty streets with their powers and trying to stick together against the violent motives held by government figures but none of the acting, dialogue or visuals are as exciting or tensely dramatic as in ST or E.T.

Chad Hodge’s screenplay becomes a messy shambles and seems to just repeat ideas, most likely explained better in the novel but to no climactic gain here. Conversations about factions of authorities like Tracers or League cohorts become more infuriating to listen to and Ruby just floats between running away and coming back again in what is a highly yawn inducing watch. Ruby’s powers also seem to develop and change depending on the plot needing a way out, the villain is introduced too late and is a weak adversary, it’s not even a surprising turn of events to counter balance the feeble storytelling.

Every now and then, there are some neat uses of effects; be it practical or computer generated. There’s also a short-lived but cool moment of entrapment set up in an abandoned mall. Aside from those examples and the talents of the lead female actor, this is one of those tween sci-fi dramas that thinks its premise is way more captivating and smart than it really is.

Stenberg is good I have to admit, it’s almost like she’s trying to keep her head above the water of this sinking, stinking ship and she just about manages to do so. Skylan Brooks is probably the only other performing highlight of this movie, playing the intelligent and cool Chubs. Liam, played by Harris Dickinson looks too old to be a romantic interest for Ruby and uses his forceful power to somehow make us believe these two are in love. The pairing is hugely jarring and there’s no chemistry to speak of. Lastly, Gwendoline Christie gets the Captain Phasma treatment, by being severely underused in a role that could have been more interesting and corrupt.

‘The Darkest Minds’ is boring and nothing we haven’t already seen, it even comes complete with ‘Hunger Games’ inspired hands-up-into-the-air-in-unison moment. The film seems to think they’re kicking off another YA franchise but all I can hope is that never happens.

3.5/10

 

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

jurassic-world-fallen-kingdom-jw2_adv1sheet_trex_2_preview_rgb-720x1139

Roaring into cinemas comes the follow up to ‘Jurassic World’; which decimated competition with a dominating box office weekend and currently stands in the top 5 highest grossing movies ever. There’s no sure way to know if this will topple that but I can safely say that it’s a well and truly flogged horse that does little to break new ground.

3 years after the disastrous events at the Jurassic World theme park, an active volcano on the island threatens to wipe out the dinosaurs once again. Now part of a protective group, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) is called to return to the scene and rescue the creatures, with the help of former raptor wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt). As the volcano reaches literal boiling point, it becomes clear another tactic hidden from the two of them is at play.

After the amazingly effective original from Steven Spielberg, it’s overwhelmingly clear that these new films have no real idea what to do with the dinosaurs and are throwing them at the screen with CGI aplenty and little to no engaging plot. The narrative strand of weaponising the beasties is picked up again and it tries to expand on that but doesn’t do a great job, the shift in setting is the only marked difference. This is another issue because as soon as the action moves off of Isla Nublar, I found the film to become dreary.

There are so many stupid character decisions made, which can be amusing and when it’s made by a bad guy you don’t mind but there’s also lots of eye rolling moments that happen, when a character we’re meant to root for is in need of an escape that was impossible before. Another problem, is I don’t feel there’s a character to care about, that is obviously a flaw and when intelligent raptor Blue is the only one I side with, that’s not great.

It’s not all doom though. An opening sequence harks back to the neat prehistoric chills from the 1993 movie. There is a nice threat from a looming dinosaur backed by atmospheric lightning flashes. This playing around with light is used quite a bit throughout the feature and is done well I must admit; even with a vaguely amusing Nosferatu-esque dino stalking its prey. I also liked a small claustrophobic scene based in a T-Rex cage, which provided both a shot of tension and a warming inclusion of animatronics. This film does also feel darker in tone to 2015’s outing and a trapped brachiosaurus was a heartbreaking sight that stood out.

One of the reasons I didn’t really connect to or care for the films’ characters is because headliner Chris Pratt is slowly beginning to grate on me. He’s everywhere almost and plays the same kind of roles which are smarmy, wise-cracking, macho heroes. Bryce Dallas Howard injects the film the emotional heart as we see her caring for the dinosaurs even after she helped create the monster problem three years prior. Somehow the script makes this the most boring I’ve ever seen Jeff Goldblum in anything, whilst he picks up an easy paycheck.

If you turn your mind off, then this is a perfectly acceptable and vaguely fun movie but it’s so dumb and loud that I found a lot of it testing my patience and only enjoyed small fractions of a blatant cash grab.

5.5/10

 

 

Truth or Dare (2018)

truth-dare

Let’s pay a game to see how stupidly we can squeeze horrors out of anything shall we? Truth or Dare, the typical drinking excuse to unearth dirt and see friends make out, is taken by Blumhouse Productions and made with no real oomph to keep us scared senseless.

Whilst on a Spring Break trip in Mexico, a group of friends enter some ruins and begin playing truth or dare. Unfortunately for them, one of their group has involved them in a life or death version, wherein each player needs to tell their truth or finish their dare to stay alive. As the teenagers start dying, the remaining numbers hope to work out how to end the game.

It’s never a good sign when the trailer alone for a horror film, makes you shudder with sighs and groans and the movie itself does nothing to make that just feel like bad promotion. There are insanely high levels of expositional chatter and cringe dialogue amongst a plot that is impressively dumb and progressively boring. It baffles me that a story so lacklustre, with characters so paper thin were brought to life by 4, yes 4 screenwriters.

Once the cursed game takes hold, the films first half rattles through each person’s turn so quickly that any hope of tension is dialled to zero. Then the second half seems to take an age to get anywhere and finally wrap up this lame, evil motive of a freed demon, with the mentality of a sadistic freshman. I honestly yawned so much and someone was asleep behind me, this film feels like it goes on for way too long and ends on a resolution so pathetic and it staggers belief why they didn’t just do something similar from the offset.

This whole idea of people who gain creepily elongated smiles and killer eyes is laughably bad. One of the characters mentions that they look like they were Snapchat filters and they do, in such a way that deletes any sense of scariness and makes the visual rather cheap. It further proves my thinking that bad horrors are so, because they rely on some identifying visual over narrative and fall back on jump scares; which this movie definitely depends on for numerous occasions. I don’t get why they didn’t have the actors, you know, act. It would have been far more disturbing seeing them perform in a manner where they suddenly switch and become imposing smiley freaks instead of the hokey stretched mouths.

Lucy Hale plays the central part of Olivia Barron, who is barren of any charisma. The character is pretty much a wet drip and a pushover who makes stupid choices as final girls often do, but Sidney Prescott or Laurie Strode she ain’t. Hale tries hard to keep some injection of interest in her role but it doesn’t quite work. Generally the entire cast are devoid of engagement because they’re playing characters that are mostly jerks or two-dimensional that I couldn’t root for them even if I tried.

‘Truth or Dare’ is an unintentional comedy laden horror, that feels long, uninspired and cheap on every level.

3/10

Downsizing (2018)

downsizing-movie-poster-2017-1000777827

A film about a huge idea has never felt so small and yet so long.

Earth is facing more climate change issues and the devastating toll of overpopulation sees Norwegian Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen (Rolf Lassgard) invent a procedure that shrinks humans to be inches tall. Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) sees this as a chance to live a better life with his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig), but she runs scared from the downsize and leaves Paul to look differently at his way of life, with this newly gained perspective.

This was a movie that initially had me very intrigued and excited. The trailers and Alexander Payne credit gave me good reason to see this as a neat and quirky release but upon seeing the film a few months later, I must say that’s it’s far from the kooky gem it could have been. There’s an unshakeable mundane quality to the storytelling and the majority of the movie left me switched off and yawning.

To its credit, this is a fun idea to play around with but the idea never really gets played around with that much. It’s within the set up and initial thirty or so minutes, that the visual humour of small scaled people with large props works well. Leisureland; a community especially designed for the downsized is a cool idea and all the notions around that are executed very well. It’s just a shame that the movie feels like a split from one half to the next and this shrinking set story from Payne and Jim Taylor becomes one devoid of comedy and stretched to uninteresting ends.

The main problem, I feel with this film, is that almost all the characters left me bored. I never connected to them or felt engaged by their progression. The way they talked was uninspired and certain actions made by some of the characters, between Paul and Vietnamese activist turned cleaner Ngoc felt truly out of place. This idea of a love blossoming like a big yellow rose didn’t ring true. I didn’t really see them as loving each other at all and a lot of the characters; Paul, Audrey, Dave, Dusan and others are cartoonish almost unbearable people, so to follow them for over two hours left me wanting the film to shrink away.

Matt Damon is meant to be a pathetic character and he does carry this constant feeling of uselessness to his role and then manages to turn just upon seeing this inspirational cleaner turn up after a drug fuelled party. It’s the mostly dull and pathetic moping to his character that becomes annoying; to emphasise my point I want to mention Oscar Isaac in ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ who is a talented musician but a pathetic man who never gets anywhere, that is a film and performance where you still feel connected and engaged, Damon and ‘Downsizing’ are not. Kristen Wiig is made out to be a villain of the piece after ditching her husband but you never really know enough about her to care. Christoph Waltz is an actor I do like watching but recently he’s appeared in some bad films and that’s no exception here, he’s still going with the shtick he’s been pigeonholed into but with extra arrogance. The MVP of the whole movie is Hong Chau as Ngoc Lan Tran who seems to be the only one with emotion and shows some connection to the film she’s acting in unlike everyone else.

It’s the sheer disappointment of what could have been, that lets down this movie massively. The premise has some good moments to start but becomes lost very quickly. I haven’t felt so unenthusiastic or uninterested for quite a while.

5/10