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 Little Stranger (2018)

the-little-stranger-new-film-poster

British gentry and inflections of Gothic horror are to be found in Lenny Abrahamson’s recent feature. ‘The Little Stranger’ is adapted from a 2009 novel by Sarah Waters, a book that plays around with the themes of finance and evil, which the film attempts to do but doesn’t altogether get a handle of.

Doctor Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) pays numerous visits to an estate out in the country to help with the physical pains felt by RAF veteran Roddy Ayres (Will Poulter). As his trips to the house become more frequent he starts feeling an unshakeable presence through the house which he pins down with rational answers but Roddy’s sister Caroline (Ruth Wilson) is sure something else is going on as is her their mother Angela (Charlotte Rampling).

Abrahamson; the man behind a musician in a papier-mache mask and a kidnapped mother and child, shows he can switch genres well, but there is a connection. The director always seems prone to keep focus on the story’s characters, his latest feature is no different. The characters create a large proportion of the odd mysteries but unlike with Frank or Ma and Jack, the figures roaming through ‘The Little Stranger’ lack a special something and in the end, that’s the main weakness for this film.

This drama does feel too long as well, it snails through the narrative and though it’s not a bore to sit through, the gentile pace is prone to uninteresting spells. A lot of the film comes across like a theatrical play, a drawing room scene especially feels that way and I’m sure this tone stems from scriptwriter Lucinda Coxon who has many plays under her belt. This quality is by no means a negative, in fact it does show off the great acting but it stifles the stride and the times when the film could be more scarily cinematic.

Perhaps if the film stayed in the confines of the home then the run-time would have some minutes shaved off but ultimately it would have kept up an unsettling atmosphere and curious character, of which the house most certainly is one. It almost breathes with a strange desire for trouble. What the film explores well is the air of something not being fully right, through creaking halls and scratched walls, Abrahamson ensures the ghoulish moments are all the more striking by utilising a calm approach to the tension, this is echoed by the slow-moving camerawork which floats in and around the rooms of the dilapidating country house.

You can’t quite put a finger on Dr. Faraday, this is thanks to the fascinating performance from Gleeson who is charming in an irregular way but also quietly threatening. The more he appears, frequently stopping by the big house, the more he feels like an unwelcome stranger. Wilson plays a nice balance of hope against meekness, a smart soul trapped by an event in the past.

This film reminded me of ‘I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House’, not because Wilson also appears in it but because both have great yet rare moments of spooky atmosphere stitched together in fairly quaint, hushed hushed settings and both carry intrigue which speedily vanishes to unwanted disappointment.

5.5/10

The Predator (2018)

mv5bmjm5mdk2ndixmf5bml5banbnxkftztgwnju5ndk3ntm-_v1_

A lot of talk has been going on as of late with ‘The Predator’ and most of it isn’t about the movie itself, so with these dramatic revelations does Shane Black’s recent feature manage to pull through or is it not worth the time?

After a Predator ship crashes to Earth, sniper Quinn McKenna (Boyd Holbrook) makes first contact but is soon captured and dispatched to a rag-tag of veterans by Will Trager (Sterling K. Brown). As these lethal aliens come after their armour; McKenna, the vets and evolutionary expert Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) team up to hunt the hunters.

I must admit that I have never seen any other film from the ‘Predator’ franchise so maybe that aided my amusement to watching this one. There is a great bundle of fun to be had though, if you can ignore some awful Rasta-dogs, plenty of guts, expletives and explosions fill the screen with such giddy abandon that makes this a sci-fi horror like the saga is known for but a crimson soaked comic thriller instead.

This almost non-stop action and comedy comes right out of the Shane Black book of movie-making. Sure, it isn’t set during Christmas but Black writes in plenty of witty dialogue that chips in and out of the impending danger. McKenna doesn’t just have one other person to riff with like other Black screenplays, i.e ‘The Nice Guys’ or ‘Lethal Weapon’, he has a whole bus full of characters to make this movie burst to the seams with laddish humour.

Comedy and ripped intestines don’t prevent the third act from feeling like a sore spot. The film descends into being overly ridiculous and more than a couple of times you can see really shameful uses of CGI. A sequence that is all about a blood sport of hunt and kill should have been way more exciting than it was. A big reason as to why this section doesn’t work comes down to the frantic editing and characters that just disappear or are culled which you can’t quite keep up with.

Aside from this weak final twenty minutes, the movie is a dumb joy to behold and a large feature of that joy boils down to the acting in the brotherhood which manifests between McKenna and a squad of men with extreme characteristics. Holbrook keeps up a near-constant grimace and aggression and Keegan-Michael Key is a big player in padding the film with plenty of laughter.

‘The Predator’ doesn’t really connect to the vets but there is enough wise-cracking involved that we know to root for them whereas on the flip side of the coin, which lands in Sterling K. Brown’s proficient palm, we face a charming yet despicable foe who chews up the scenery with Nicorette gum and pure craft. Olivia Munn, controversy aside, is great in softening the blows of constant larking about. She’s no boring damsel in distress biologist, she has enough smarts and skill to keep her cool around Predators and a team of men dripping in testosterone. Jacob Tremblay is a force of munchkin talent to be reckoned as per usual, his ‘superpower’ of autism may get heavy handed but he’s never irritating which other child actors can easily be.

Some may have issues with the plot development and yes the last stages aren’t so strong but watching antics of a newly formed squadron versus a beastly statuesque creature with dreads is an entertaining ride.

7/10

Crazy Rich Asians (2018)

1xxl4lj5whdrcycihezucgncpaw

So, normally I’m not a fan of rom-coms; the calculable nature of them and how cheesy the dialogue can often be, puts me off them. Surprisingly this film won me over, sure there are cheesier moments but there’s smart writing and spectacular production quality which made it a more satisfying example to come out of the genre.

Economics professor and New York resident Rachel (Constance Wu) is invited to her boyfriend’s best friends wedding. Nick (Henry Golding), the best man, hopes that his large family will love Rachel as much as he does. As the celebrations get under way in Singapore, Rachel faces difficulties living up to the high hopes of Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh).

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ brings together a massive cast of talented actors who offer comedy and emotion to a rich story adapted from Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel. This tale of romance and acceptance may have slight touches of being over-sentimental but that in no way jolts us from the dazzling charm, which the stars and story convey. The screenplay also ends down familiar territory but there’s so much to cheer on in this picture, that the predictability becomes a muted backseat passenger in a joyful experience.

This is an extremely extravagant and beautiful movie. A wedding sequence is torn straight out of a jungle and is perhaps one of the most ridiculously over the top ceremonies but it fills the heart and it’ll likely fill some eyes with tears. The many lush settings and cinematography are crackling with a luxury that will do wonders for the tourism board of Singapore.

On the flip side of the romantic coin is the comedy sparkle, which does work well throughout. It is not solely ‘Community’ alumni Ken Jeong that gifts some funny to the movie; but a gay fashionista, a snap-happy single lad and Awkwafina’s Goh Peik Lin all bring a delicious amount of humour to the table. The latter is bursting with a comic energy that lifts the film even higher than it already is.

Constance Wu is the bridge to the audience; she grounds us to the glittering, affluent world we’re stepping into. She makes her fish out of water character a heart-warming and believable figure to follow. Wu isn’t just stunning and likable but she’s headstrong and smart too which make her moments facing adversity a strong example of women standing strong and proud. Henry Golding is the handsome and charming boyfriend but isn’t the lead usual movies would stumble to. The actor is confident in playing this caring man but doesn’t ever overshadow the brilliance of his leading lady. This movie features the incredible Gemma Chan and unlike her synth days from ‘Humans’, she demonstrates a wealth of touching emotion as Astrid.

Like the dumplings that a family make within the plot, this film is a sweet and often loving romantic filling wrapped up with fluffy comedy and pinched together with a stroke of drama and judgement. ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ has blown the box office apart and with it’s affable cast and elegant, delightful storytelling it’s not hard to see why.

7.5/10

 

The Children Act (2018)

quad_aw-the-children-act

This is a drama with a profound core revolving around a quandary of life and death. It’s very easy to say that Emma Thompson is the crowning aspect within ‘The Children Act’. There is a lot of weighty material going on in this plot and not all of it is as stirring as the film would believe it is.

The Honorable Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is a well respected judge but away from the courts she’s facing a communication breakdown with her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci). On top of this she is given a case about a 17 year old with leukaemia; his parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses and are refusing a blood transfusion which leaves Maye to make an informed choice on the teenagers welfare.

Richard Eyre; with a sturdy background in theatre and directing play adaptations for TV certainly knows how to facilitate strong performances for this thought-provoking story. It’s a shame then that he overdoes the melodrama and thrusts too much emotional manipulation onto the audience come the final minutes of this film.

Before that point, the first two acts are solid and methodically attentive to both the trials of court room lore and her marriage behind closed doors. The High Court of Justice scenes are gripping and tackle tricky issues of law and morals, family and love, death and life which are beautifully explored in Ian McEwan’s script. This sensitive development of healthcare versus dignity never backs down by taking one side and that makes the dialogue based within the court rooms very interesting to hear.

After the verdict is decided, it isn’t only the melodramatic nature that spoils the film but the scripted behaviour and actions of one character are apparently signs of a forced upbringing but are just strange and make the story a surreal ache to get through. I was totally out of the film by the midst of the third act and any chance of evoking a sad reaction from me was utterly in the wind.

Thompson is as sensational as you’d expect, she has such a great emotive range which is second to none. In her eyes, a thousand words are spoken even when she is just silently listening or contemplating. Tucci doesn’t have a large role but brings a subtlety to his turn as Jack, there’s definitely an interest he portrays of quiet, honest conflict for Fiona’s personal life.

‘The Children Act’ has a lot going for it and with a powerful duo of performances, the story especially in the first stages is dignified and absorbing but after a while, it views like a train coming to a halt but still with a mile of track left to go.

5.5/10

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

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)

to_all_the_boys_ive_loved_before

Adapted from a bestselling novel; where it spent 40 weeks in the NY Times Best Seller list, comes this Netflix feature which is an adorable romance but looking past the teen loves and dramas, there is unsurprising predictability to be found.

16 year old Lara Jean (Lana Condor) daydreams about sweeping romance from the books she reads but has never had a boyfriend. Tucked away in Lara Jean’s bedroom is a box hiding letters she’s addressed to past crushes and unluckily for her they get sent out. Peter (Noah Centineo) is one of those recipients, he and L-J begin a false relationship to both make certain people jealous.

To start with, this film feels like a slight slog to get through. The acting is unbelievable and some of the dialogue feels extremely off. On top of this is the excruciating foreseeable nature of the plot, as soon as Lara Jean and Peter sign their makeshift contract it’s blindingly obvious where the narrative will end up. Fortunately, even though the story never goes somewhere unexpected, I found myself warming up to the film and characters.

Some further annoyances almost make the film something you’d regret, such as a scene in a high school bathroom that has such terrible audio laid over making the conversation sound like something from a Bad Lip Reading video on YouTube. Lara Jean’s sister Kitty is highly precocious and somewhat annoying in places but far less soul-crushing than Charles Wallace from ‘A Wrinkle in Time’. I only bring that brat up because Kitty has the same smarter sibling characteristics of CW and this streaming movie refuses to reference Lara Jean without saying the names every time…a personal gripe I know but it’s just vexing.

Other than the major issue of it being a romance that doesn’t really try to subvert expectations, the film isn’t a weak one. The central pair are a charming delight on screen and there’s some kind of comforting vibe to felt throughout this movie. The film isn’t solely about her quest to find someone but Peter becomes just as important in the way he shakes off jock imagery as he plays pretend dating with L-J.

‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ isn’t going to break the mould and I’ll likely forget I ever saw it by the end of 2018 but for the time being it’s a satisfying, if just alright teeny-bop romantic flick.

6/10