The Predator (2018)

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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

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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

Death Wish (2018)

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Adding no fresh or riveting spin on the ‘vengeful justice’ wing of the thriller genre, Eli Roth’s newest addition in the ‘Death Wish’ franchise is led by a capable Willis but has many serious problems.

Surgeon Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is celebrating a birthday and his wife and daughters’ individual successes but that’s short-lived, as one night whilst he’s at hospital working, Lucy (Elisabeth Shue) and Jordan (Camila Morrone) are gunned down in a house robbery gone wrong. As Jordan lies in a coma, Paul begins opening his eyes to the world of violence and decides to try and stop it if he can.

I had major issues with this film and it infuriated me the more it kept on going, but I must say that there’s suitable, palpable tension in the book-ended home invasion scenes and tiny moments in the first thirty minutes are entertaining to a point, but this needlessly stitched on sixth addition to the series is loaded with on the nose dialogue stinking of cult movie dreams and less than gritty blood dripped revenge.

Arriving in cinemas at the worst timing possible after the Parkland shootings, severely puts an off taste in the mouth watching this show-boating gun parade, but at any time this would be a film that would wind me up because it seems happy to display Paul Kersey like a necessary angel of death; the slow motion and hip hop backing painting him like a hero because he’s discovered the world of rifles, glocks etc. The film has this whole treatment of gun shops, ammo and hidden weaponry like it’s a joke and not even the poorly acted radio talk show discussions can save the movie. Their chats of Kersey either being good or bad don’t redeem the glorified manner in which he and guns are portrayed.

It just got more irritating as it went on, that I was following someone clearly designed as the hero of the story, yet on multiple occasions he could have notified the police when finding out information. This would have saved his bullet spraying quest and prevented him from becoming a murderer. I lost sympathy in the character and by the end of the film where he ends up facing absolutely no punishment for his crimes I was glad to see the credits finally show up. Just him being horrendously injured, imprisoned or killed would have gifted the film a message that gun wielding vigilantism isn’t a smart choice.

Willis starts in a capacity different to what he’s done of late, showing some emotion to the loss of his wife but he ends up becoming the same ol’ bold bald unsinkable force. The usually fantastic Vincent D’Onofrio is a boring sidelined character here and I have zero clue why he signed on for this release.

This is a baffling movie arriving at a time of major gun violence problems in America and just generally, it suffers massively by trying to get its audience rooting for someone who treads down the same road of using gun violence.

3.5/10

 

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

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The saga returns and the 2nd of the new Star Wars trilogy whams into the cinema with director Rian Johnson ensuring he gives fans a lot to be pleased about whilst gifting the starry sci-fi blockbuster some neat stylish additions of his own.

Continuing on from Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) island meet up with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), she hopes to learn the ways of the Jedi. Meanwhile Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is desperately trying to evacuate the Rebel base as the First Order try and diminish hope from the galaxy and wipe out the chance of Luke’s return. As they keep trying to escape, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is at odds with his place in all this, not helped by visions that unwillingly connect him to someone else.

Rian Johnson ensures the Star Wars aficionados can enjoy seeing certain characters, screen wipes and the charm of space opera good versus bad as the ever central theme. Hope and the notion of crushing that ideal is what drives the franchise and this is no exception but gladly the director after J.J. Abrams hands this outing some stylistic moments; ones that almost step out of the comfortable SW bubble, that I thoroughly enjoyed. These choices keep the film fresh and help it look exciting but more brooding than ‘The Force Awakens’. A sequence with endlessly mirroring a character, the salted planet of red surface and crystal critters and an extremely amazing breathtaking snappy edit of a soundless explosion are some examples of the visual splendour Johnson and his huge crew have created, which keep the galaxy alive with big screen wonder.

There are some points, mostly that lay within the story, that can feel utterly safe and predictable. Obviously I’m not wanting to spoil anything in this review so I’ll keep hush on the negatives I had but sufficed to say there are space filled deus ex machinas abounds and little character events that I expected straight away which sort of took me out of the immersive thrill. Also, some writing choices they give the action and/or characters felt cheap or not wholly unnecessary and without spoilers I really felt no need for a kiss that comes at one time.

Luke’s island hideout is rife with creatures and one species is the well advertised and product placed Porgs that clearly strike for the kids and the cute factor. Granted they can be quite fun but the clear merchandise cash in that they are and their constant gaping mouth wide eyed shtick becomes less amusing and ever tiring. Aside from a couple of story gripes and these puffin-esque beasties this movie has a good amount of twists and turns that keep the narrative interesting, a mission on a casino centred Canto Bight is rich with wealth, class differences and a couple of fun cameos. Another positive is John Williams returning with a score that’s safe but swells and simmers with the fan buzz of familiar sounds to satisfy all. I also love that a lot of the creatures you see are handled with animatronics which look much better and charming than the sheen of CGI.

Mark Hamill gets his teeth into much more screen time and it’s nice to see Luke Skywalker back, though he’s getting to play well with the bitter side of things. Hamill delivers enough emotion into his journey of who he is now and why he’s left the Jedi Master qualities behind with a tinge of will he/won’t he be a bad egg. Both Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher lift the film with an explainable grace that probably stems from the nostalgia of their presence amongst the whirlwind of desperate escape tactics. Fisher herself still carries Leia as a beacon of hope and strength, she’s good and efficient and Fisher performs this effortlessly filling the General shoes with ease. Adam Driver gets to slowly break away from his angsty teen fits and dramatics and the conflict in his path is nicely evident in the performance. Daisy Ridley manages to keep up the brave and strong qualities of Rey, a hero through and through but one where Ridley nicely plays with the pressure of balancing her place in the Force and the pull of the dark side. Domhnall Gleeson amps up the villainous panto switch with sneers aplenty. Supreme Leader Snoke gets more screen time and has more depth and a constant creepy shadowy presence thanks to the mo-cap work from Andy Serkis.

It’s definitely a long film and this is a long review to almost reflect that. It’s the longest one yet but luckily it never feels a slog; it may not zip on by but it’s a well handled and well paced space adventure that feels like a grand step up from Episode 7 and one that has humour and stakes around every corner.

8/10

Jason Bourne (2016)

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After rightfully dropping ‘The Bourne Legacy’ from my memory; I was anxious but well up for another Bourne outing once realising that Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass would be united once again. This film then, is a slight drop in the honed in grittiness of the trilogy, but it’s still a damn well delivered action thriller.

Kicking off after Jason Bourne’s (Matt Damon) swimming away from Ultimatum, we find the troubled man in Greece trying to live off the grid. That is until a face from the past warns him of more secrets leading Bourne to hunt down answers pursued by the tactics of CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and agent Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander).

Admittedly I must say that even my excitement never wavered upon finding out this movie was in production, I did feel that maybe it wasn’t overly needed. I can confirm that now seeing this I still annoyingly feel that it wasn’t truly necessary. There’s an engaging story in there at times amongst the CIA charged drama but having Bourne finding out there’s more to his past feels quite rehashed.

That’s the only negative I majorly have with this movie though, the story is kind of the same and the convenience of having a third act sequence at a tech convention, for Bourne to just scoop some handy tools for tracking felt lazy, but apart from these sour notes I found myself really enjoying this spy feature. It has both action and technical logistics scenes in equal measure that make it more than just explosions and nonsense, the new faces are a treat to the JB world and you can’t hide the smile when the first shrill notes of Moby’s ‘Extreme Ways’ exits the speakers.

Greengrass is great in making these blockbuster movies feel dangerous and real. The grittiness is in effect and the frequent shaky cam gives an unstable edge to the look which works well in parallel to the quivering nature of truth and who to trust in the plot. Greengrass certainly knows how traverse the globe, shooting cities and their subsequent panics to make Bourne a capable hero against all the odds, thrown amongst riots, assassins and shady government figures; he is a man to root for.

Each big moment feels well handled and packs a suitable punch, mostly for being so damn tense. Firstly there’s Greece and a politically charged breakdown between civilians and police, London gets screen-time in a way not as good as the Waterloo station from Ultimatum but still stuffed with suspense as Bourne tries getting to someone. The gloss and glamour of Las Vegas gets to shine…and smash in a huge way for the final act and it may be Fast and Furious style carnage but it’s breakneck, unflinching and full of adrenaline from start to finish.

Matt Damon is back as Bourne and it’s nice to see him back, he is damn good at the part. Fit and silently firm Damon ensures that Jason is someone we keep on side with, but then it’s the other players in the game that add real spice to the proceedings. Julia Stiles returns and is great in a smaller role. Alicia Vikander keeps you guessing as she treads back and forth in your mind to if she’s good or not and she plays it well. Tommy Lee Jones is a fantastic addition as the stern man overseeing the plan to take down Bourne. Vincent Cassel is another welcome new member and gifts the film a strong asset that can rival the power of Jason himself.

Treadstone and 2002 Bourne may be gone but the Greengrass/Damon combo usher in Ironhand and a still resourceful Jason, to cast an iron hand on the franchise with plenty of solid moments.

7.5/10

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

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Storming onto the big screen with the X-Men of the 80’s, this film is a Beast of CGI but doesn’t soar like a Phoenix, in fact it feels to me at least, more Rogue than the two movies that came before with the McAvoy/Fassbender line-up.

In Ancient Egypt, the almighty En Sabah Nur or Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is re-born but trapped. Shuttling through a time tunnel to the 80’s we have an Xavier school for mutants doing well and Professor X (James McAvoy) wants to expand on this university ideal. However Apocalypse believes he is the one God and wants to rid the world and start anew, so he brings together his Four Horseman, including Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to kill mutants and humans and take over Earth.

Bryan Singer is back as director and the glossy ensemble look of his films is still as true as before. There’s a lot of character back and forth and backgrounds assembling, blowing up or changing. This, his fourth X-Men feature seems to be missing the threat level, I mean people will say that destroying the planet is a threat, but I mean this movie feels sorely lacking of any grit in the tension department. Everything passes through, scene to scene and the stakes don’t feel raised.

So, however explosive the film may look at times and what with the sleek costumes of Apocalypse’s henchpeople and the new gear of the X-Men, we feel thrust into a visually detailed movie but I felt less than thrust into a detailed narrative. Simon Kinberg’s screenplay doesn’t conjure the Days of Future Past thrills or First Class joy, it just sits there throughout the runtime in a meh sort of way, which isn’t great considering the talented cast involved.

It just gets muddled with too much character and action work, Apocalypse; whose name is never mentioned that way is a seriously bland villain which is a huge shame. The Four Horseman pose in the background and don’t do much else. The less than surprising snarly cameo is a blood soaked sequence of little excitement and this theme of standing together never stands well. I honestly found this movie boring, there’s a lot of talking and not many sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat moments. There’s like 2 main fight scenes and they’re not long or impressive like you’d hope.

The saving graces for this superhero outing are the return of the brilliant and better than Avengers version of Quicksilver, who rockets around in his fantastically sound-tracked adventures of slowing time due to his speed. A forested scene with Magneto and his family is a grey and surprisingly dark point of the film that works. Apart from that I can’t think of any other parts that help the film because the new characters are hurried and so you don’t feel for them, know them or care about their fate, the older characters get dull arcs and the big baddie is a big bad dud. Jean Grey is right when she comments on third movies being the worst.

McAvoy is committed as ever and sells Charles Xavier as the caring good Professor wanting to help his school out. He’s subjected to balding, wheelchair issues and a final act dilemma and the actor plays it well. Fassbender is still tormented by the now boring to and fro of Magneto being good then not, yet he’s stern and unbroken for the darker side of Magneto which is all you can ask for. Jennifer Lawrence turns heads in the Berlin cage-fight scene and becomes her shady shade of blue, slowly meandering on the thoughts of Magneto yet still wanting to help Charles. It’s a very human performance but she has little to do, like Oscar Isaac who is smothered in vocal effects and make-up that his excellence is little felt. That plus the fact that the villain is poorly executed and holds no damning threat. Sophie Turner is a neat addition, the Game of Thrones actress is Jean Grey through and through. Evan Peters is the silver streak of the film, when he turns up backed by The Eurythmics everything feels right in the world.

Slightly entertaining but mostly not, this is an average X-Men release that sadly holds no tension or little fun but looks good, it looks just fine.

5.5/10

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

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Better late than never, I finally got myself around to seeing this spectacular addition to the Star Wars franchise. The feel of the movie is nostalgic and that classic wonder runs throughout even with the injection of new faces and special effects.

As the scrolling yellow text states, this seventh Star Wars feature sees the First Order risen from the Empire. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is on a mission to find the map leading to Skywalker’s location. He doesn’t count on Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) teaming up and discovering both the Resistance and the Force.

Scale wise this movie is immense, from the aerial dog-fights between TIE fighters and X-Wings to the planets visited along the way. All of this really sucks you into a new and exciting world still in that memorable Star Wars galaxy. It’s this glory of old that makes this film so good, the look of the new bases and villains speak out as classic Death Star/Vader imagery, the introduction of the Force by a tiny creature is akin to master Yoda and the humble yet potential filled beginnings of Rey draw up hopeful connections to Luke Skywalker. This film does brilliantly right what all three prequels did wrong, it shoots back to the feel good simplistic story telling of good versus evil and doesn’t rely heavily on CGI. Of course it’s there but it aids the scenes and it boosts the vision of the spectacle.

The special effects are quality, gone are the days of obvious green screen and in come detailed and lush worlds, fantastic immersive motion capture performances and explosions that serve purpose and not a Michael Bay wet dream. The little things like the sound and lights of the lightsaber spark nerd delight as the Luke blue bolt shines up, the new tweaks also excite even if the red hilt of Kylo Ren’s weapon could be self damaging. I guess for me the only CGI that gnawed at my head was the overbearing hologram of Snoke which felt perhaps too overbearing, more like a LOTR character than anything else.

J.J Abrams pulls back on lens flares and crafts a near perfect entertaining blockbuster. The way the characters interact and the stories meld are directed efficently leading us to further buy into the continuing saga. It’s his direction that adds a new quality, an almost shakier dark tone that helps a lot, of course the screen wipes and smooth panning shots over deserts raise a smile but the hand-held camera on Stormtroopers or the pacy back and forth cutting during battles makes everything more dramatic and energetic. He has managed to retrieve the joy of Star Wars and lets hope the new directors for 8 and 9 can continue that feeling.

John Williams rightly gets a nod for Original Score at the Oscars because his control and music making is always reliable for bringing in the hair raising emotion. The moment you hear the classic score you feel right at home. The brooding factor is there also as we meet new villains Kylo Ren and General Hux. Sound design too needs a mention as robotic bleeps from old favourite R2-D2 react with what will be the stand out point for most in rolling dude BB-8.

I didn’t expect the movie to make me laugh as much as it did. Obviously it isn’t a comedy but there a lot of moments that truly make you chuckle out loud. There’s an endearing push towards the lighter moments that work in making this a bold and exciting family film. A lot of the laughs emenate from Boyega’s turn as Finn who is a riverting addition and the writing for his character is believable and comedic. The moment a pair of Stormtroopers turn and walk away from a raging Kylo Ren is also classic Star Wars humour which made a lot of the audience audibly cackle.

Daisy Ridley has been plucked from virtual obscurity and thank goodness because she’s a breath of fresh air as this driven scavenger with a talent for something bigger. She’s powerful, not a damsel in distress, stunning and interesting in seeing what’ll happen next. John Boyega is fantastic, like a lad born out of an evil past he brings the funny as I wrote but also develops into a more frustrated and vulnerable character which is acted well. Adam Driver is fantastically despicable as Kylo Ren and luckily he does get the chance to remove the mask so we see into his fleeting troubled eyes before the true villainy sets in. Oscar Isaac is a great watch as he shuttles into the opening and proves his worth as untampered Resistance fighter. Harrison Ford may do a lot of bad things but coming back as Han Solo is not one of those, it feels as if he never left even if he is older. The wry and arrogant manner is back but there’s fear in the mix too. Carrie Fisher makes her comeback too and does well as a general and leader but a worried mother also. Mark Hamill is the actor I was most looking forward to as he shies away from the limelight now but his late reveal is very much the wait in what can come. It’s a sizzling ensemble cast of actors either live action or in mo-cap they all work together in creating a delightful starry universe.

It’s more than worth a watch because it shows how CGI and 3D can be done right and that the Star Wars saga is nowhere near dead. Disney but more importantly Abrams and his unknown actors have revamped this franchise with the satisfaction of retaining what we all adore about the first three.

8/10