The Meg (2018)

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Swallow a load of this monstrous shark movie, which on trailer and prior buzz alone looked to be the perfect summer popcorn flick of ridiculousness, but upon viewing it doesn’t quite reach that fabled height of silliness but comes close enough to make ‘The Meg’, a grin-inducing creature feature.

Backed by the financial might of Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), a diving team are hoping to discover an entire new layer underneath the Mariana Trench. As bad luck would have it they stumble upon the hungry jaws of Megalodon and the surface crew need to rein in the help of rescue diver Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), who can hopefully stop the toothy villain from killing them and many more.

Director of the National Treasure movies, John Turteltaub sure knows how to call the shots with a rough and ready lead and provide fun thrills, so he’s a handy choice for this shark based feature. Once the film really gets kicking, then the enjoyment factor breaks through the shark cage roof but there are some moments that are, dare I say, a little slow and I wanted more blood-soaked action and some sense of silliness which the narrative set up sorely lacks.

Perhaps the 12A rating doesn’t help this movie either, if it had have been bumped up to a 15 it could have elevated the nastiness and nightmarish situation of a beastly water-dweller stalking populated waters but aside from this weakening classification and a mildly boring first act, this is a film that hints at deathly danger enough to whet the adrenaline-taste buds and survive as a dumb but fun family film.

Shark films obviously have a hard time living up to the famous dread which was sustained throughout ‘Jaws’, but as a B-movie sci-fi outing, this manages to provide two if not three sequences that are tense and have you fearing for the characters and fearing more the chomping nature of this gigantic prehistoric fish, for example, a beach swarming with happy go lucky people is a short but brilliant bite of joyful shark bait tension and features a true underdog!

Jason Statham on board is always a stonking good casting choice, if he’s knowingly setting himself up for meme culture and silly dialogue then it’s a film to revel in. Seeing The Stath taking on something, be it Cranky syndicates or the man-mountain that is Dwayne Johnson is never not a delight and in this movie he takes on something just slightly bigger than The Rock with great gruff determination.

This is a fun film that could have benefited from starting a little earlier in it’s knowledge of being a tongue-in-cheek blast, but once the fearsome creature surfaces than so does the entertaining ride.

7/10

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Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

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The MCU is into the second half of it’s tenth year and now comes their 20th feature film; a sequel to the visually jokey ‘Ant-Man’. After the bombastic success of Infinity War, it was going to be interesting to see how this movie would play out and though the stakes are much lower and the film is quite a so-so affair, it’s exactly the kind of light-hearted superhero outing we need after the gut punch of Thanos’ Gauntlet snap.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is close to finishing his house arrest duration and is bonding further with his daughter. After his Civil War decision to help Captain America, he’s distanced from Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). They may need him though as he receives an important message, one that leads the trio to cross paths with the quantum shifting powers of Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen).

One of the selling points with the 2015 feature was the playing around of scale. This is no less the case three years later. The visual splendour of watching not just Ant-man, but the Wasp switch back and forth between tiny and human-sized fighters is a beaming sight to behold. There’s great fun to be had in watching a kitchen based sequence where Lilly excels as the Wasp fully taking flight and later on in the film we see the roads of San Francisco become a literal Hot Wheels play-set as cars shift mass.

There’s a heck of a lot of writers on board with this movie, Rudd being one of them, but unlike some comedies where too many cooks spoil the broth, this comic book flick manages to evenly play to the strengths of what these 5 screenwriters bring to the table. There’s points where you feel like the funny one-liners could topple over into annoyance and overshadow the main narrative but luckily that doesn’t happen frequently. The humour is felt for sure, but it serves as a well needed light-hearted tone to back the story.

I must say this film feels like it’s taken a step back again into the formulaic routine of pre-Black Panther Marvel flicks. There’s never a true sense of dread or anything to be unexpected. The villain again is the weakest element of the film; in fact there’s two antagonists that are fairly underwhelming and did little to heighten my excitement. I guess the fact this film is fairly stand-alone from the dusty aftermaths of Infinity War doesn’t help too much, an FBI agent spieling off an admittedly amusing reasoning of why Lang is where he is, sets up the personal stakes of Lang and his investment with Hope and her father but aside from that it’s a film that doesn’t grip as strongly as it could have.

Paul Rudd is great once again as the do-gooder shrinking hero, his daughter being the key drive for him to stay on the straight and narrow are sweet moments throughout the scene. Evangeline Lily gets more screen time which is excellent because she too is excellent as the winged, blaster laden partner to Lang’s roguish charm, in fact she is every much a leading strength as Rudd is. There’s great comedy to be had with the ex-con group but it goes without saying that the man of the hour is Michael Pena. He plays Luis perfectly, the comic timing, his delivery, the almost child like burbling wonder is expertly acted.

It obviously was never going to be a film that possessed the same epic weight from April’s Infinity War but as a teeny and fun-sized sequel; it’s a pleasant, entertaining buzzing with gags aplenty.

7/10

Scary Movie 5 (2013)

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My ears hurt and my eyes are bleeding. This truly is a scary movie to watch unfold, with jokes that are scarily bad and performances that go past exaggerated silliness to downright painful.

Jody (Ashley Tisdale) and her husband Dan (Simon Rex) go to collect the children of Charlie Sheen after he died. As Dan is their uncle, they are allowed to keep them but back at their ‘Paranormal Activity’ CCTV laden home, an entity known as Mama begins wreaking nonsense and through spoofing of ‘Black Swan’; Jody wins a new friend to try and help get to a wooded cabin and put a stop the evils of the spirit.

The ‘Scary Movie’ franchise was never a golden series anyway, but I did enjoy the first two for the sheer bonkers yet smart angle of ripping apart tropes from the horror genre. It’s no surprise this fifth instalment was the weakest box office performer and it’s likely killed the saga plus the tiresome parody genre that was spilling over into lunacy about 10 years ago. The fact that original players like Anna Faris and Regina Hall aren’t on board either doesn’t do this film any favours.

David Zucker and Pat Proft throw in ‘jokes’ from punching children, partying hoovers, masturbation gags and a baby on fire with many other misfiring attempts at humour in between. The entire run of this film is an ordeal to get through and it made me sigh in exasperation many many times. The fact that even the bloopers in the credits aren’t funny shows how much this movie hurts your brain.

The first two films of the franchise managed to keep their sights on just a couple of movies to spoof, whereas this one terribly riffs on multiple films whether they’re in the horror realm or not. I didn’t laugh once, a chuckle was a feeling I almost forgot could exist, as this groan inducing nightmare kept on forcing out dud joke after slapstick after toilet humour after dud joke.

An outtake with Tisdale getting flustered with her lines and saying there’s “so many penises” followed by an off screen voice retorting “welcome to Hollywood” showcases the amount of juvenile genital based stabs at comedy, moreover this small exchange is more skin-crawling thanks to the weight of Weinstein producing this movie and what we know of the man. That was the scariest part of the entire feature.

I honestly don’t get this film and how people would have possibly enjoyed it in cinemas, it’s like watching a tired zombie trawl through lame pop cultural gags and wildly unfunny horror parodies.

1/10

Skyscraper (2018)

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Juggernaut action star Dwayne Johnson is back for his second blockbuster of the year, after ‘Rampage’. This time around he’s tackling terrorists, Hong Kong cops and a star-piercing blaze.

Former FBI Hostage Rescuer Will Sawyer (Johnson) now assesses security, which has landed him and his family a stay in the new residential section of the worlds tallest building. The Pearl is meant to be perfectly safe but whilst Will is out and about, a group of terrorists storm the skyscraper and start a fire in the hope of smoking out something valuable and Will’s children and wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) are also trapped inside.

Director of ‘We’re the Millers’ and writer/director for ‘Dodgeball’, Rawson Marshall Thurber is in charge of this summer action movie. He’s clearly handled comedies well before but this film feels like a strange combination of trying to be serious and gritty yet also self aware of it’s ridiculousness. Saying that, he manages to ensure the film which clearly echoes ‘Die Hard’ has some of it’s own cool set pieces to sell.

In terms of spectacle, ‘Skyscraper’ has a good couple of stand out examples. The crane sequence is finely executed if not totally unrealistic, a makeshift bridge within The Pearl racks up some fiery suspense and the inner workings of the spherical top to the building itself provides us a Truman Show-esque shot of Sawyer over a city skyline and this same venue becomes the backdrop for a genuinely great sense-meddling final act battle.

All the visual effects team deserve mention because they’ve made this humongous skyscraper feel somewhat believable, plus the cinematic quality of The Pearl’s design are massively sleek and hands the film an awesome visual flair. Even with this futuristic, gleaming quality I felt that the movie wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as I’d expected, it’s not overly fun or silly like it should have been. The attempts of tension and strained family drama never hooked me in. It’s almost like they were shooting for a genuine disaster movie with tongue in cheek aspects duct taped on, which feels a bit off for me.

The rocky mountain himself provides that expected charm that he’s proven over and over. It’s also nice to see Mr. Johnson playing a character with a physical flaw and being someone that can actually get hurt and pushed around instead of the usual indestructible roles he’s become the poster boy for.

Some flashy visuals and a handful of action don’t do enough to stop the film suffering from not being as heart poundingly engaging as it deserved to be. Turn your brain off and don’t turn it back on again to enjoy ‘Skyscraper’ to the fullest.

6/10

Tag (2018)

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Adulting can be tough, that’s life unfortunately but a bunch of mates playing a game of tag aka ‘it’ in their childhood and over 30 years later, putting aside realities of the real world to still catch each other sounds cool right? Well this actually happened and this comedy takes inspiration from that wacky true story.

Hoagie (Ed Helms) is keen to get his group of friends back together for one last hurrah in the hopes of tagging Jerry (Jeremy Renner); the only member whose never been caught. Every year in May, they play tag wherever and whenever. As the month ticks on and Jerry nears his wedding day, Hoagie and his trio of buddies try to finally get their friend.

The idea itself is a unique and amusing one, from the time I saw the trailer I was on board, because it looked like the film would be genuinely funny with a quirky story throughout. The comedy falls flat though and the actual juvenile witnessing of adults playing a child’s game, seen in some post credit videos are the light-hearted fun that the movie failed at entirely.

Tonally, this movie feels rather odd. It’s like a strange juggling act of typical American prat-falling with more serious elements of how they’re behaving and what they do no matter the cost. A narrative of playing this extensive game of tag to stay in contact could be endearing but it’s not explored enough. What we get instead, are excessive uses of swearing, slapstick violence and slow motion fights with a vaguely comic but over the top Renner voice over.

I will admit there are some funny moments, for example; three of them slapping each other in a small circle so they aren’t it or a house-break that goes beyond where you’d expect. Then there’s a genuinely unfunny joke made me seize up super-hard; a miscarriage strand that’s elongated, truly dark and wildly unfunny. The rest of the movie comes short of the premise and feels little like a comedy, thanks to my mind thinking that with just a tiny shift of direction and a change of score this feature could easily be a horror, Jerry and his dominance are almost sinister and the team are all fairly unlikable.

Helms helms the rag-tag group together nicely, he gives it his all as the competitive ringleader out to finally catch his distant compadre. Jake Johnson is amusing when believing the world is ‘The Truman Show’ and comes across like a stoner version of Nick Miller from ‘New Girl’. Renner drops his Hawkeye arrows but utilises his hero-like Avenger training as the fit and strongest tag player. Isla Fisher is a talented actor and usually funny but here she does little else than shout profanities aggressively. Jon Hamm also has little to do, he smoulders well and plays a tinge of arrogance but feels like the business bound chap to easily get the Wall Street Journal arc into play. Annabelle Wallis plays that journalist and like us is an onlooker to this madness, watching on in disbelief.

I feel like the true aspect itself is a dumb yet good idea but the film runs away with it too much and can’t handle the heavier story points. I was mildly entertained at times and some of the action is exciting but the cast look like they had more fun making it than I had watching them in it.

5/10

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017)

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I missed this when it was on cinematic release but thanks to good ol’ Netflix, I’ve now rectified that wrong. I say it’s a wrong because I’m glad I watched this movie; it’s a breezy fun action flick that satisfied me from start to end.

Former triple A rated bodyguard is down on his luck after an unfortunate mission, but Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is still good at what he does and is called to protect former adversary Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson). It happens that Kincaid is a hitman in Manchester, needing to be at the Hague in the Netherlands to testify against a possibly genocidal leader without being killed or killing his ‘protector’.

Okay okay, the film may not be a marvel or genius example of film-making but if you’re looking for some high octane comedic affair then look no further than this feature that excels thanks to the selling point of it’s leading double act. The script from Tom O’Connor never breaks the mould and it’s obvious throughout how the sequence of events will play out but in a way that makes the film more fun to follow. Also, some attempts to mix in the action and comedy with grounded politics and pearls of wisdom about their two roles in society and what they do feel a bit misplaced against the lighter charm presented.

Again, the direction by Patrick Hughes isn’t something that steps up out of the generic action staple we’re used to seeing but he shows off some neat explosive sequences with confidence and they’re some breezy action moments that don’t yawn with Michael Bay slow motion syndrome. A ‘Black Betty’ backed car chase, a fast jaunt along the canals of Amsterdam and an early Manchester based hit all do a great job in providing exciting action.

It’s easy to see why this film has scooped up a sequel; not just because it did well at the box office against a 30 million budget but it crackles and fizzles thanks to an energetic chemistry between unsuited Deadpool and extended hi-jinks from Detective P.K. Highsmith (The Other Guys). Reynolds turns down his expected Merc with the Mouth shtick and plays around with a semi-boring is best play it by the letter unromantic dude. He gets a few funnies but does a good thing in playing the straight guy hopelessly trying to rein in the balls to the wall maniac-like tactics from Jackson’s portrayal of Darius. If Samuel L. Jackson’s laugh isn’t enough to infect you then I don’t know what is because he’s clearly having a great time in this role. Gary Oldman as the Belarus PM brings effective chill to a part that other actors would have just hammed up or not tried in. Salma Hayek is underused but also seems to be having fun in a role that sees her shouting profanities and being a suitable partner for Jackson.

There are problems, mostly down to cliches and it not being an action film I’ll likely remember in 5, perhaps 2 years but for the time being it sits nicely with me as an entertaining jolt of enjoyment.

6.5/10

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

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It wasn’t a long time ago, on a cinema screen not that far away, that we had a Star Wars adventure to revel in. Moving on from the hugely divisive ‘The Last Jedi’, we get this spin-off story which centres on Han Solo and his life before turning into Harrison Ford.

On a less than glamorous planet, lives Han (Alden Ehrenreich) who aspires to be a pilot and see the stars with his girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke). As they attempt an escape, Han ends up by himself and over subsequent years he clings onto any person or team he can, in the hope to make some money, get a ship and find Qi’ra again.

I’ll hold my hands up and say I’m not the biggest Star Wars fanboy. I know enough of the originals to get by and find the recent offerings to be entertaining but hearing that Han was to get a feature, wasn’t something I had any feeling about whatsoever and it still vaguely feels that way after watching the film. It’s enjoyable enough and deepens Han and his world but it never blew me away or felt like something I’d choose to watch more than the one time.

This movie has numerous flaws and a big one lays within the comedic elements the script strains to lean towards at times. The writing of these lighter lines sound forced and maybe boil down to the aftermath of the troubled production; what with previous comedy duo Phil Lord and Christopher Miller being kicked out and replaced by Ron Howard. The latter director finds his stride away from the comedy moments and he provides some strong directing in the building of the titular character and adding treachery.

There are also a good number of places where I felt this film was lagging and dare I say, lame. It took a while to feel like the cool science fiction western it’s trying to be and earlier scenes setting up everything didn’t exactly do their best in inviting me in like they should. In my opinion the plot does get better as it goes on and nearer the end, as the mission almost wraps, is where I felt the progressing character paths became so much more engaging and interesting. A neat level of are they/aren’t they back and forth is also played with well.

I had fun whilst watching two major sequences; one being an earlier train heist and the other actually showing us the quotable Kessel Run moment. Both these big blockbuster scenarios are gripping and very well made. They each share elements of fun, personal stakes and visual skill which heightens the drama. Luckily these sequences did just about enough to make me forgive the many uses of extremely on the nose dialogue throughout the movie and moments that caused an eye roll – how Han got his name being a major example.

Ehrenreich is a great youthful Solo, he carries a swag and boyish yet capable know-how which works, with just the right level of roguish charm that I’m sure Ford would admire. Clarke is a captivating character helped by the fact she’s a captivating actor. She definitely does well in playing cards close to her chest, being smart, kick-ass and someone you just can’t quite work out. Donald Glover pretty much steals the galaxy, as do his eye-catching capes. It looks like he’s having a ball playing Lando Calrissian; someone else who can be unreadable and whip smart. Phoebe Waller-Bridge may be a good performer but I found the droid character of L3-37 to be an annoying robot sidekick that never grew on me. Paul Bettany is slightly underused but is a believable villain in a world that’s set up as untrustworthy. Anyone could have an agenda against good hearted motives, anyone that is but Han, whether he’d admit it or not.

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ possesses some moments that make you feel as if you’re in the Millennium Falcon; a cinematic theme park ride to enjoy. Then there’s other moments where both the action and story lulls and you wonder why we need to see this story. There’s fun to be had but it’s not a well-oiled machine.

6.5/10