Bad Times at the El Royale Movie Review

5/10

Not that great of a time.

Bad Times at the El Royale had the beginnings of a great film; a stellar cast, interesting characters, and a beautiful 1950s-like setting. However, El Royale gets lost in its own flashy homage and forgets to produce anything of substance from the story.

The film is written and directed by Drew Goddard, who has works include A Cabin in the Woods, The Martian, World War Z, Cloverfield, and even episodes of Lost. He’s also written a shit load for Netflix’s Daredevil series (seriously, Google this and you might be surprised as I was). With such a solid resume (even though I wouldn’t count World War Z exactly solid) I was surprised that El Royale wasn’t as good as Goddard’s past work.

The film follows seven guests who check in to the El Royale hotel, each sharing a shady past and an uncertain future. Their lives begin to intertwine when secrets come seeping out of their rugged suitcases. And yes, the premise does sound very familiar to Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.

Unlike that film, the major problem with El Royale is that it struggles to juggle seven character arcs. Each of their story is slowly teased out in the beginning and then abruptly tied off. By the end of the film I was left wondering what was the point of all of it? It didn’t feel like there was an end goal that tied in these stories and I don’t know what the purpose was for having these arcs.

The film builds these beautifully flawed and complex characters but then doesn’t utilize them to their full potential. This is one of those cases where the story would have been better formatted as a television series. It could have solved my issues with underdeveloped character trajectories; glaring loose ends that were never answered; and a disappointing ending which I can’t go into without spoiling.

In saying this, the film isn’t a complete disaster. The production design of the hotel was brilliant. One of the neatest aspects was the corridors inside the hotel that were built with two-way mirrors, allowing you to see into each of the rooms. It’s an interesting and original touch that adds a lot of intriguing tension to the story.

The hotels foyer area is also a wonderful throwback to the early 1950’s. It hosts a record jukebox, a lavish gold bar and several milk bar styled vending machines. The rhythmic soul music that oozes out of the jukebox fits perfectly with films homage to 50’s. This is further accentuated by the character Darlene Sweet, who created a stunning soundtrack that kept my interest piqued.

While the cast is full of well-known names such as Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, and Chris Hemsworth, it’s unlikely duo Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo that steal the show. Erivo plays timid soul singer Sweet who after being taken advantage of by her music producer decides to try and make it on her own. Meanwhile Bridges plays Catholic Priest Daniel Flynn who is obsessed with digging for buried money under the floorboards of the hotel rooms.

When Flynn realizes he has the wrong room, he attempts to befriend Sweet to get access to hers instead. Their unlikely friendship is a joy to watch, but it’s Bridges’ honest portrayal of someone suffering from early on-set Alzheimer’s that gives his character a sympathetic side that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Sweet also gives sympathy to Flynn as he stumbles his way through old forgotten memories; giving their bond a relatable human factor that I enjoyed.

El Royale is an interesting mix. There are some excellent parts to its presentation, but the most important aspect of story is still somewhat a mess. This is far from Goddard’s best work, which is a bit sad, but hopefully this might be later rebooted as a television series. The story and characters just feel too big of a beast for a 2-and-a-half-hour film and I’d much rather see it play out in a series. Ultimately if you skipped this film, you wouldn’t be missing much. Plus, there are other great films to watch instead (see our Mandy review) and hopefully more being released soon (I’m looking at you Suspiria, please be good).

Venom Movie Review

3/10

Forgettable and confusing. Venom is a classic case of a film that most know is going to be bad but will still end up seeing it for an actor that they like. Hopefully, this review will make you reconsider.

Tom Hardy plays investigative journalist Eddie Brock. During one of his expose pieces, Brock becomes infected with the alien entity known as Venom. This alien uses Brock’s body as a host to survive and allows him to experience superhuman-like abilities. Brock soon realises that Venom is far from being a superhero and must learn to control his new powers to protect those that he loves.

Fundamentally the film just feels like classic Sony. They’ve hedged all their bets on this film being a success by hiring a stellar cast whose ability is way too good for a film like this; with a huge budget that you can just see being chewed up in big explosions and extensive sets. It’s begging to be liked. But the desperation feeling that pours off this film drag it down, making it a remnant of the blockbuster film Sony wanted it to be.

Tom Hardy is good as Eddie Brock but great as Venom. He fills Venom with a sarcastic ignorance-come-arrogance that provides a small amount of relief throughout the film. This performance gives Eddie Brock a lot more edge than the straight-laced version Topher Grace portrayed in Spider-Man 3 (but sadly there’s no ridiculous Tobey Maguire dancing). Despite all this, Tom Hardy just isn’t given the material someone of his caliber needs, and ultimately this is where the film falls short.

Strangely, Michelle Williams is cast as Brock’s lawyer girlfriend Anne and Jenny Slate as Dr. Dora Skirth who works for the corporation that discovered Venom. Michelle Williams gives Anne a red hot go, but again the script is lacking any real substance to show off her immense talent.

Ultimately, I thought her, and Jenny Slate needed to swap roles. It was a weird casting choice having Jenny Slate, a comedian, playing as serious a role as Dr. Dora. In my opinion, Slate should have played the character Anne. This is because there were more moments of humour that came from Anne which would have been better suited for the comedian. Michelle Williams wasn’t great in delivering these gags and most of them came off feeling awkward. This confirmed to me that their swapping of roles would have been a better idea and it would have given Michelle Williams a lot more to work with. I would have been more interested to see her play Dr. Dora and how she could dramatise the conflicted feelings in the scientist who can no longer justify the means to the end.

In terms of the story, it really felt underdeveloped. There isn’t any motive for Eddie Brock and that means there’s nothing he’s working towards in terms of growth or development. When he fucks up doing an expose which leads to him getting fired, his sense of justice and search for the truth gets completely thrown out of the window, and he never gets it back. The ease with which he ditches these morals makes you question how important they were to him in the first place.

The most disappointing part of the film was the underused Venom character. Venom is supposed to be the ultimate anti-hero, treading the line between good and bad, and often crossing over to the bad side. This part of Venom was never fully realized. At no point was there an internal battle between Venom and Eddie Brock that dealt with any complexities of what’s right and wrong. Venom merely plays a lame sidekick to Eddie Brock’s constant incredulous view at the situation he finds himself.

I fear part of the issue with Venom was also the seriously safe M rating that was slapped over the film. Sony baby proofs an anti-hero who eats bad people and often kills them gruesomely by not showing these aspects because they know it will give the film an MA rating. It’s playing it safe to make the film more accessible to a larger audience (i.e. children) to boost up sales. Compare to this another iconic anti-hero film, Deadpool wasn’t afraid to capitalise on MA rated aspects like strong violence and crude humour because the film knew it made them different and entertaining. The Punisher is another similar example of this.

Overall Venom is sloppy and unimaginative. It fails to realize and capitalise what the ultimate anti-hero Venom should have been. In this day and age where superhero films are a dime a dozen, Venom had the material to compete with interesting and different anti-heroes. But I fear the need to keep it within the safe realm of an M rating was a huge detriment to the film’s potential. Skip it.

Mission Impossible: Fallout Movie Review

Skip it. 5/10

Against current popular opinion, I have to say that Mission Impossible: Fallout didn’t cut the mustard for me. What’s being slated as one of the best action films in recent years, feels more like an overhyped and uninspiring film in my opinion. I don’t doubt the action sequences were executed very well but the story that comes with it doesn’t justify the price of admission.

For all its efforts in setting up fantastic moments of action, the time put into developing an interesting plot appears to be missing. Without substance to compliment set pieces, Mission Impossible: Fallout is a wasted opportunity and could have been so much more. In between these scenes of action, I found myself being bored and unentertained with the same old drivel that follows typical spy driven action films. Antagonist threatens to cause global chaos; team faces the pressure of preventing this whilst under government scrutiny; protagonists don’t know who to trust, and ya-da-ya-da-ya-da you have your film.

This disappointed me given I enjoyed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which was a film that although followed the same structure I just outlined, it at least blended these great action set pieces with an interesting array of characters and even moments of humor. Which didn’t seem to be the case for the latest as rarely were there any glimpses of the same wit or fun engagement between the characters this time around.

Tom Cruise’s character became more of a stern and stone-faced serious spy, rather than the charismatic and intelligent action hero superstar that I expected him to be. The supporting cast of Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson, and Simon Pegg all felt underwritten and were reduced to boring caricatures of their former charismatic selves. Sure, there were a few times when their dynamic worked to produce an interesting moment of entertainment, but amongst the two-and-a-half-hour runtime, these moments were far and few in between.

For me, the only real highlights were the great action scenes which genuinely looked like time and effort was put into setting up and filming. I thought the continuous take that showed Tom Cruise jumping out of an airplane was the best, closely followed by what happens in the finale. Clearly with this being the sixth film in the franchise, there was a desire to up the stakes for what was done previously and for the most part, I’d say they did so successfully. However, I must add that some of these felt out of order and at times were technically out of sync.

The opening scene in my opinion was a terrible choice to kick-off the film as it wasn’t at all exciting to watch. For an action movie, I’m looking forward to seeing the film start off with say a Christopher Nolan opening with what he did for The Dark Knight trilogy or even the great prison escape sequence that began Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

Later on, in the film, there were also a couple of action sequences that ended in a strange way, where the music continued to carry on as we watched the characters disembark from the scene and simply walk away. It felt very off, and I don’t know why they chose to show them, for example, parking and leaving their boat for such a long time whilst music still continued to be played over the top.

Mission Impossible: Fallout is an odd entity. I want to say that you should go see the action sequences from the film because they are well done but at the same time I’m reminded of how uninspiring the whole experience really is. Which is why I recommend giving this a skip and waiting for it come out on Blu-Ray. For what you’re paying for, I don’t believe that you should settle for anything second best when it comes to the story and it’s just too average to sit through. If you must, watch this for the action alone but don’t go in with the expectations that this is the greatest action film of recent years because it’s not. See our reviews for films like The Raid or Shoot Em’ Up instead.

You Were Never Really Here Movie Review

you were never really hereSee it. 6.5/10

Though far from greatness, You Were Never Really Here is nevertheless an interesting character study of a depressed man who works as a hired gun to help those in situations when the law can’t do so. It’s somewhat a disturbing affair, as apart from the subject matter’s bleakness, there’s also a few scenes of graphic violence interplayed. This isn’t done to over extremities like that of a horror or gore type of film but rather to complement the inherent disturbing nature of the lead character, played by Joaquin Phoenix.

The film is written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, who also was responsible for the psychological thriller We Need To Talk About Kevin and it’s clear from both films that she has a very astute eye for detail. There are quite a few close-up shots of specific objects or aspects of characters faces, that together aim to represent a deeper symbolic meaning to what Ramsay wants us to take away from those details. There are connections to grasp between scenes juxtaposed over each other and together the film was wonderful to watch with a director who is very calculating with what she chooses to show on screen. I also really enjoyed one particular action sequence which was all played out through the use of black and white security cameras and it added an interesting directing aesthetic decision to the film.

Being a character study, Ramsay smartly gives Joaquin Phoenix the room to really show off his amazing character actor abilities, which more than likely led to him winning Best Actor at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Much like her eye for detail, Phoenix’s attention for little idiosyncrasies or the way his character would move were examples that showed a deeper understanding for revealing who his character was and more importantly how he was feeling. Intertwined with this are some disturbing flashback sequences of his past which also helped paint the picture of this interesting and unique character.

Having said largely the majority of what I liked about the film, I still left feeling like it didn’t overall blow me away. For a film that was awarded the Best Screenplay at Cannes, I was expecting a lot more exciting aspects with the direction of the narrative but was met in return with a minimalistic slow-burn type of plot that didn’t go to incredibly tense heights. I still enjoyed exploring this character in this dark world that also herald some mysterious conspiracy elements, but altogether it came across as emotionally lackluster to what it felt like it was going for. The story tried to build up to an emotionally driven payoff but it was one that didn’t really work for me. I did feel a level of sympathy and interest towards the lead but it wasn’t to an extent that completely captivated me.

So, whilst technically I’d argue You Were Never Really Here is a sound film, it’s story ultimately is a mysterious puzzle that left me wanting. There are elements of the story that felt great and darkly interesting at times. Then there’s other moments which weren’t that exciting. I wanted to care more about the subject matter and the individuals it explored but alas I didn’t. I’ll still be recommending this as a film to watch this year because it is very much a good film but a good film is where I’ll be leaving it as.

Deadpool 2 Movie Review

deadpool 2

See it. 5/10

“You can’t really live until you’ve died a little”

I felt very underwhelmed by this film. Coming in off a high from the original, Deadpool 2 unfortunately misses the mark in terms of comedy, which is mostly the reason why I enjoyed the original so much. The sequel also continues the trend of being poorly made on a technical front (one of the main gripes I had with the original) and has surprisingly worsened with some horrendous direction. Having said those issues, there’s still enough (if barely) in terms of the story to lift it up as not a complete failure, and there are some interesting new characters that I thought were notable additions to the series, but I’ll get to that later.

The most disappointing aspect of Deadpool 2 was how unfunny I thought almost everything in the story was. There were only a few moments where I genuinely smiled or chuckled but for the most part, everything was just fairly safe and boring. It was strange seeing a downfall such as this because none of the wit or meta-like charm from the original seem to translate onwards in the second. It kind of boggles me because literally the only difference to those who wrote this film compared to the original is the addition of Ryan Reynolds. But surely the inclusion of its charismatic lead who I praised so much in the review of the first film couldn’t be the factor? Well, I can’t say indefinitely but there was something up with whoever was responsible for writing most of the humor.

None of the jokes hit any of their intended punchlines for me. There were even obvious moments of build up to the end of a certain gag that in turn was met with silence and the sound of crickets in the cinema. It was so weird but at the end of the day, that reflects the quality of writing and perhaps the writers are really just one trick pony’s.

This issue of falling flat also was reflected in the poor marksmanship of the direction. Almost 90% of shots were the same old crap of close-ups on people and objects in every goddamn scene. It was getting ridiculous with the lack of variety and inattention for care. Like here we go, a character walks into a room and talks with people, then cut to several shot reverse shots of everyone’s reactions and when anyone is talking, cut it together in chronological order and that’s it, the job’s done.

Even if it was just a monologue of Deadpool lying down, the camera for some reason wants to come as close as possible to his face and hold it for so long that I don’t get why this is meant to feel cinematic as it’s just stupidly close for no reason. Show me a different angle or some new shot styles that visually reflect how the characters are feeling a certain way. For example, if they’re meant to exuberate a sense of loneliness and hopelessness, why not cleverly represent that by using a wide longshot where the camera has been placed to make the character look alone amongst the backdrop?

Instead what was occurring was this train of thought of “ok this line of dialogue is important and close-up shots are used whenever it’s something important in the film., and because people relate to seeing people’s faces when they can be seen from the front, I’ve got to use a close-up to show them because that’s what I learned in film school, so it must be true. And remember, the only way to show all this is by having a close-up of them talking every time or even laying down thinking or even just sleeping or whatever they are going to do”. *groans*

When it came to action sequences, I felt that the efforts to cheat the punches and blows that weren’t landing was incredibly skewed as those scenes quickly became a jumbled edited mess. It became difficult to decipher every hit that was apparently landing simply with the sheer number of cuts they decided to put together in a ridiculously fast fashion. I’m left wondering, why did no one think to film them with slow-motion cameras, as that was a wonderful aspect that worked so well in the first Deadpool? It doesn’t make sense to me and it’s just reaffirming why I’m not the biggest fan of the director David Leitch who also did John Wick and Atomic Blonde. Yes, I have a soft spot for John Wick simply because of the fun and intentionally nonsensical aspects of the story but technically, it’s not that great.

However, as I did mention in the introduction, it’s not all bad for Deadpool 2. I did enjoy the introduction of the character/sidekick Domino whose superpower is that she’s just very lucky. It’s a feature that Deadpool and others laughed at in the film because it does seem ridiculous, but nevertheless, it turned out to surprisingly handy and I’m now sort of a believer. It was an interesting twist on what was possible on the superpower front and I was a fan of how it all played out in the movie.

I also enjoyed how the story was different to what I expected heading into it. I can’t delve into this greatly without spoiling it but I will say the villain here was not was I was thinking. There are still some issues with this, particularly with who was cast to play that role who didn’t really fit the character (wait till you see the movie as I can’t give this away), but at least it was different, and it was a trope that I didn’t see it coming. But as the saying goes, that’s all folks.

Deadpool 2 wasn’t the fulfillment that I wanted it to be and this isn’t because it was hyped up for me before I went in to see it. Essentially all I wanted was new jokes that had the same styled humor from the first and that would make me enjoy watching it compared to other superhero movies. I was even happy for it to have yet another silly plot (though I did hope for more based on my qualms with the first) so long as the jokes were funny, and I could laugh. But I didn’t get that, and I’m left very underwhelmed.

Ryan Reynolds is still great for the role and Deadpool 2 is still trying to subvert the tropes of what other superhero movies are trying to do, but it ultimately falls flat for me and I’m disappointed with how it turned out to be. I’ll still be recommending you see it for yourself if only to also support more R rated films like it. Take those words with a grain of a salt though as it’s a fairly soft recommendation based mainly on how I am a fan of what the character and series is all about. Watch it if you want to but come in with much lower expectations and you might have a better time than I did. See it.

The Purge: Election Year Movie Review

the purge election year

Skip it. 4/10

Somehow my favorite of the series but that still isn’t saying much.

The Purge: Election Year once again manages to just edge its predecessor and slowly rise to the top of the mountain in the Purge series. Except, it’s actually not really a mountain and more so a really small hill that lies in a predominantly flat landscape and is barely visible to the naked eye. But hey, at least it’s noticeable and it’s still better than the other films in the series, even if I still wouldn’t recommend you go see it.

What works better in this film is mainly the likeability factor of the story’s leads. I mean yes, the protagonist is a senator played by the creepy doctor from Lost (Elizabeth Mitchell) but she was thankfully much more enjoyable than what I usually know of her from that short-lived and yet somehow fantastic show (even if it did go quickly downhill). This is also thanks to having her play a senator who is running to oppose the whole inception of the Purge night. I’m immediately inclined to feel a bias towards her side because hey, I’m not a fan of people dying needlessly based on the apparently “scientific fact”, that we harbour inherent aggressive desires and need to release this so-called “beast”. Especially since I’ve mentioned how I don’t understand why the whole Purge night reduces so much level of crime, poverty and also boosts employment. It’s never really explained and the holes in that concept are issues that I haven’t seen resolved. Until now.

And I do want to also quickly bring up the supporting cast choice of Frank Grillo, who returns from the second film. Yes, he once again plays this Liam Neeson type character by going all security guard Taken mode on people but he was the best thing about the second film and I’m glad they gave him another shot. He’s no Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, but he’s still a cool enough character compared to Ethan Hawke’s in the original.

But what mainly drags this film down again, is the general predictability and the huge runtime once again. By this I mean it’s taking the same formats from before, where characters try to hide from the bad guys chasing them, get into trouble, fight it off and then repeat it all over. Thankfully the action scenes looked much better from a technical standpoint but it’s nothing amazing. Especially since the whole film is somehow the longest in the series coming in at a staggering hour and forty-nine minutes. What the hell is going on and why does each film in the series progressively seem to get longer? It’s completely unnecessary and adds nothing to the plot because, in fact, it detracts from the whole experience since it’s just the same shit every 15 minutes. Please let the fourth Purge film not be this long when it comes out later this year.

I’ll cut this review shorter compared to the others (in a seemingly reverse fashion compared to the increasing runtimes) and say that this is right now the best in the series. Having said that, I’m not recommending you expel your time watching it, I’d only suggest seeing it if you’ve committed to the series or enjoyed watching the second film. Other than that, this is basically just a rehash of any old action film. It’s like Taken mixed with a somewhat more original concept, but it’s nowhere near as smart as it should be, even if it’s trying to appear like that. Watch something else from our best of categories, because this series ultimately isn’t worth your time. Skip it.

The Purge: Anarchy Movie Review

the purge anarchy

Skip it. 3.5/10

Better but still not that great.

After my disappointment with the first in the series, I was not looking forward to the sequel The Purge: Anarchy, but surprisingly I had a much better time watching it because the story opened up a lot more different scenarios. But just to be clear, it’s still a bad film overall as it’s not flawless in the slightest. However, compared to the original, it was a much-needed burst of resurgence given I was predicting the series should go through a purge of its own and be killed off entirely.

The biggest aspect that worked for The Purge: Anarchy was the expansion of the storyline to follow three sets of people. It was a good decision to split up the plot into these groups of characters because not only did it allow for a different range of characters to enjoy but it also opened up the landscape for where the story could be headed. Especially since this time we were taken to the streets of where the “Purge” chaos was happening, instead of being confined to some house like a creepy spinoff of Home Alone. That step towards the outside in the narrative was another good choice by the writers. I enjoyed the fact that I could explore the outside with these characters and get an insight of how it all looks on that fateful night.

Having said that, I was still hoping for a lot more out of this film. I wished that the three groups of characters didn’t meet up so quickly and become essentially stuck together. It would have been better to see three parallel storylines occurring and then, later, they all meet up, say towards the final act or the very end. Some of the characters weren’t really that interesting to me and could be annoying at times (yet again). It wasn’t the same level as my hatred for the children (especially the daughter) in the first film, but it was still noticeable, and I definitely had a few favorites which goes back to how they were written.   Though I will say that I did care more about any of their lives and was more sympathetic to them being in danger overall than the characters in the first film.

My other biggest complaint was with the runtime that was way too long and tried to fit in too many scenarios that were basically all the same. At an hour and forty-seven minutes long, this is just way too much time for an action horror set piece. I noticed by the time the third act kicked in, which came far too late and was completely unnecessary to throw in or should have come much earlier in the film. The situations basically followed the same idea of making their way through the city at night, coming into trouble, fighting off and surviving that encounter, then repeating it again. When that happens over and over again for such a long time, you can’t help but zone out.

The film also doesn’t really squash the same complaints that I have with the first Purge film, with how the whole concept works. I guess they just decided to leave it as it is, given it worked so well in the first place so why bother changing it. But aside from taking the story to explore the outside world a lot more, it also really didn’t add to the mythology of this dystopian universe. Sure, I can see a couple of interesting aspects were thrown in, which I won’t devolve into to keep this spoiler free, but for the most part, the concept of the film is just an excuse or reasoning to see action sequence after action sequence. It seems like no one really wanted to add anything else remotely intelligent or thought-provoking about the film’s premise.

So, having said what worked better compared to the first, there is still a lot that drags this film down overall and as such, I don’t recommend you waste your time watching it. Yes, this film could in all honesty be (or should have been) the first in the series, because it does a lot more with the script compared to the original. If you’re still interested in seeing how an interesting concept like the Purge night would work in a film, I’d suggest starting from The Purge: Anarchy and moving onwards. But other than, I wouldn’t really be jumping out of my seat to see it. And with that I say. Skip it.

Avengers: Infinity War Movie Review

avengers infinity war

See it. 5.5/10

Yet another Disney Marvel flick, just with a lot more superheroes.

Avengers: Infinity War continues the trend in a series that has quickly become one of the most obsessed and hyped film franchises, second only to the other gigantic Disney conglomerate, Star Wars. And much like the latter, Disney’s entries into the superhero genre have been formulated and calculated successes that appeal to both children and infatuated nerds. For these reasons, I feel like every one of their films has hastily been put up on a pedestal with the notion that they are some of the greatest movies ever made, much like I’ve seen talked about for The Avengers series. But just like my thoughts on most of Disney’s Marvel films, Avengers: Infinity War is simply another one of these films that follows familiar paths. Is it the most ambitious superhero movie crossover to date? Sure. Does ambition translate automatically to being great? Well, no.

What works best for Avengers: Infinity War is that it’s just a good blockbuster flick. It’s got everything that is required for an action-superhero movie in terms of interesting superheroes, and gigantic action set pieces. All of which is done with great visual effects, including big budgeted explosions and an ensemble of extras that really made me feel less bad for paying top dollar to see this film at the cinema. It’s rare for me to justify paying an amount of money equivalent to what I could get to own it on Blu-Ray but seeing the credits at the end convinced me enough that this was worth it because of just how many people worked on this film. And these are all aspects that are great but it’s also everything that I’ve come to expect with this series, which is mainly my problem with Avengers: Infinity War. It’s not doing anything new.

Yes, it’s setting the standard for how to balance an array of major characters in one film but it’s something that by now I’ve become climatized to. I saw it in the first Avengers and then I saw it in smaller scale versions with Guardians of the GalaxyCaptain America: Civil WarSpiderman: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok. I know that it can be done and it’s not really that special to me anymore. Sure, it’s cool to see but the focus needs to drift away from the spectacle of seeing so many superheroes combined and put effort into the actual fucking story which should be the most important thing in a film. Because damn, did this film just feel like a classic cookie-cutter Disney Marvel film, and in my view, had an assortment of plot-related issues which I’ll get into more detail at the end of this review in spoiler talk.

But what I will say is that everything felt, for the most part, safe. As a comedy, I didn’t really find any joke hilarious, though there were certain moments that made me laugh. I enjoyed Chris Pratt’s brand of humor the most and the same could be said for the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy team. It was definitely better than the “comedic gags” I watched in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, so I was thankful they could resurrect some of those aspects which made the first more of an enjoyable watch compared to the other Marvel films. But aside from that, the rest of the film was devoid of anything genuinely funny to me.

Everything that happened on the dramatic end was expected and I could see from the get-go how it was going to end, especially since I knew that there is going to be a part two in 2019. What bugged me the most about the drama injected into it, was that half of those moments didn’t necessarily have to be that dramatic because they were brought up by dumb things characters did. Again, I’ll go into details at the end of this review but I was left scratching my head at why particular superheroes did what they did. There were a lot of scenarios where they would try to do something, but it always resulted in the opposite of their intentions and I don’t really understand why they tried to do that in the first place. I could tell exactly how it was going to end and it didn’t really seem smart for any of them to take the actions that they took. It was just dumb.

I also thought the ending was weird and almost anticlimactic. I feel like they were trying to emphasize this emotional weight to the story towards the final scenes but everything just felt flat or out of place. Maybe it was the choice to not play any emotional type music in the background because for the most part it was just really quiet to the point where I could just hear characters footsteps and then every now and then they spoke. It was awkward and it irked me to the point where it didn’t really feel like a strong way to finish, especially since I was enjoying the third act up until that point.

In summary, I’d still recommend seeing this film if you got the chance to check it out on the big screen as it’s practically the best way to experience all of the nonsensical blockbuster action. My rating might seem low to many but it’s a reflection of how this film isn’t really that different from the rest of the series. It takes aspects from different parts of the franchise and puts them into a seemingly new and updated bundle, but it doesn’t make it an original or great film. It’s exactly what it’s trying to be, and it doesn’t need to be anything else aside from a simple big old superhero movie that’s intended to generate as much money as possible. I probably won’t be seeing it again anytime soon but see it if you want to.

SPOILER TALK

Issues with certain aspects of the plot are as follows:

1. At the very beginning, we are introduced to the leftovers of a battle between Thanos and Thor and his brother Loki. Whilst I like the aspect of starting off the film in this way and straight into a small action set piece, I’m left with a few questions and qualms.

For example, when the Hulk does eventually appear (seemingly on perfect cue like he was waiting for Loki to summon him with the typical words of “we have a Hulk”), he comes out of nowhere to attack Thanos and I’m left wondering where the hell was he all this time? Was he just chilling out in the back waiting to strike or was he not already in the battle before and would have therefore been hurt just as bad as Thor was? On that same point, why wasn’t Loki just as beaten up like Thor? Did he seriously just pretend to be bad yet again the whole time and sit out the entire battle sequence that killed everyone on the entire ship except Thor and The Hulk? OK. Whatever.

I also could see from a mile away that Loki was pretending to be bad to try and “trick” Thanos with what is such a dumb and cliché move of holding a knife behind your back whilst you walk up to him pledging your allegiance. Firstly, why the fuck are you even trying to do this and do the writers really think we see this whole move as some sort of a surprise? Like “Oh shit, Thanos you have no clue what’s coming, wait till you see this” sort of thing? because the only real surprise is why the hell are you writing such a stupid trope in 2018. It feels like that moment has been almost exclusively targeted towards kids so that it’s so easy for them to pick up, which reaffirms the way I view who all the Marvel films are made for.

But what’s worse is that Loki somehow thinks it’s actually a good idea. Like here’s Thanos, this gigantic big fuck off dude who’s decimated your entire ship and crew, who’s not only just fucked up The Incredible Hulk but also possesses two infinity stones, one of which that you literally just gave him a minute ago. And you’re going to come at him, with a dagger to his throat? Are you fucking kidding me? Fuck off. I could not at all give a crap when he died a few moments later because of it but I know you’ll pop up again in the sequel. Whatever.

2. Later when Thanos has to acquire the soul stone with the help of Gamora, he is presented with the consequence that he must bring up a sacrifice and the whole “a soul for a soul” notion comes into play. For whatever reason, it takes Gamora way too long to realize what is going to happen and she somehow is in the state of mind that “Ha-ha! The universe has got you now bitch. What are you going to do Thanos? You’ve come so close and now the universe turns around and says to you, no”. Are you kidding me? It’s so obvious that he’s just about to fucking murder your ass, what are you even thinking? By that point, she attempts to kill herself in vain because of course, it’s too late, given this is something she should have done literally five fucking minutes ago instead of going on a massive rant with a “bold and defiant speech”. But alright whatever, just get on with it and throw her off the cliff.

Also, I wasn’t convinced that Thanos truly loved Gamora through how his affection for her was shown in the movie up until that point. But this was critical and necessary since the only way to acquire the soul stone was to sacrifice someone who he loved and a “soul for a soul”. So when I saw those tears shed by Thanos, I didn’t really feel like they were genuine enough for me to believe but whatever. Let’s move on.

3. When Iron Man along with Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and half of the Guardians of the Galaxy team subdue Thanos momentarily whilst they attempt to grab off the golden glove that holds all of his infinity stones, Peter Quill decides at the worst time to lose his fucking shit at Thanos for killing Gamora. They’re just about to get the glove off and our fucking Star-Lord decides to get hot-headed all of a sudden when he hears a rumor that Gamora is dead. He starts aggravating Thanos which ends with him punching Thanos in the face, therefore waking him up and losing the fight. Quill. What the fuck are you doing? Even Iron Man was yelling at you to cool your fucking jets as all of that could wait when they get rid of his glove and then you could have your chance to yell at him all you want. But nope, it has to be now. I’m angry and mad and I’ve got to create conflict so the good guys don’t win yet until part two comes. Fuck off. And just quietly, why weren’t any of them attempting to cut off Thanos arm instead of just pulling it off?

I also want to raise an issue with the previous fight sequence before that moment because it feels like they held off on some of the superhero abilities with in particular, Doctor Strange. As a team, they’re all tackling Thanos to hold him down and coming at him from all angles but of course, he breaks free. Then later Doctor Strange fights him one on one and uses his incredible ability to create multiple versions of himself to hold down Thanos but why the fuck wasn’t this just used five minutes ago since that’s exactly what you were all were trying to do? Did you just realize that you could do this particular move at that moment? Because it sure as hell would have helped when it was literally needed five minutes ago.

It also feels similar to what happened at the beginning of the movie when Doctor Strange’s assistant transported one of Thanos’s children/servants to a completely new place after it took almost forever battling him. Why the fuck wasn’t this an option earlier and why didn’t you do this then? It would have sure as shit helped Iron Man and Spider-Man a whole great deal but OK, whatever.

4. Whilst I understand that Thanos’s ambition is to attempt fixing the apparent overpopulation in the universe and its depletion of resources, by removing 50% of everyone that exists. I still don’t really get at how this is at all a full proof plan. I like that it does make him more complex as a villain because he does have somewhat more of an agenda compared to just wanting to take over the universe. But still, is this not just a temporary solution to the problem? Are you going to get rid of 50% of people someday in the future when it does get overpopulated again? How do you know the universe has really been depleted of resources if this all started with the sole example of your planet? Even if you’ve visited others and seen a similar example, the universe is an incredibly large place so at what sample space do you realize the universe is in a dire situation and decide that there are too many people in it? Is it after the 20th planet that Thanos checks out and then he says “ok, I need to fix this”? Surely with such power from all the infinity stones, could you not do the opposite and provide enough resources for the universe? If it’s as almighty and powerful as it sounds cracked up to be, could this not be possible? Maybe it might not be but why doesn’t at least one of the Avenger’s try to bring this up and convince him differently. Otherwise it then just feels like a facade for you to go back to the classic villain trope of wanting complete domination of the universe.

Furthermore, Thanos’s whole ambition to restore balance to the universe also feels off because his whole plan is to just what? Get rid of 50% of everyone that exists. I don’t really get how that will restore balance and why it’s something essential to do so unless again it’s just a facade for you to take over complete domination of the universe. But it also isn’t, because you haven’t completely taken over all your enemies as 50% of the people that are left, also include some of the superheroes that were fighting you throughout the whole fucking film. Do you just want to feel the need to relax now knowing you’ve accomplished your goal and everything is “right” with the universe and that others aren’t going to come after you because of what you’ve done? What are you on about? There’s still very much threats coming at you.

But going back to the original point, how does eliminating 50% of everyone going to restore balance. I get that it’s because it’s going to be done randomly but don’t you see that that’s the very issue that might not necessarily make it balanced? It’s all a matter of chance. What if the remaining 50% of people are filled up with predominantly more bad people and a lot of criminals or villains? Is the balance then restored? What’s your definition of balance? Can you have one side completely good or one end completely bad without the two being needed to effectively create this whole idea of a balance between good and bad? It’s only good because we know what bad is. In the TV series Death Note, it dealt with eliminating people from this world to restore balance but by only targeting those that were specifically bad and were criminals. There was no element of chance to it, so I don’t really see how what your doing is going to accomplish the goal of restoring “balance” to the universe when it very well is just going to make an alternate version of it, just with 50% fewer people.

5. I thought the whole “he can destroy the universe just like that with the click of his finger” was just a cheesy way of creating an analogy for how powerful Thanos could be. But then it actually turned out to be something to take literally. Um, what haha? What if Thanos was listening to music one day and accidentally clicked his fingers to the time of the beat? Would this mean 50% of people living in the universe automatically die? OK, maybe he has to give an intention or a thought process to this as a desire whilst he’s doing the click but why did he have to do it with that particular action? Could the writers not think of anything else for him to do that would awaken the power of the infinity stones? It just seems so dumb. Is that the only move required to trigger the power of the infinity stones to kill everyone like it’s some sort of video-game configuration? Why couldn’t it be something else? I don’t get it. It’s dumb and silly. What happens if he clicks again? Will there be another 50% of people die, so it goes through another half-life of the universe? Whatever.

I also love the fact that this click came after Thor threw his upgraded “Thanos-killing” axe at him but it didn’t work because as Thanos prompted him “he should have aimed for the head”. What are you doing Thor? This isn’t some fucking game, though it sometimes seems like it is. Always go for the head. Period. It’s like the rules of Zombieland. You’re lucky to even be alive because for some reason Thanos forgot another rule of that said aforementioned great film and that is to always double-tap because instead he just left you on the spaceship to be blown up. Why didn’t he kill you more convincingly just like he did with your brother Loki? Do all these characters just suck at executing at such crucial moments? What the fuck.

6. This is less of a spoiler but a complaint regardless. There were different settings throughout the film and we got reminded of exactly where they were because of the annoying title cards that came up. Why did this have to be a thing? It was just so unnecessary and wasn’t crucial at all to the story. Card’s that came up to say “oh look, we’re in space. Now we’re in Scotland. Now we’re in Titan” didn’t need to be there. The only one that was useful was for the location known as “Knowhere” because it helped those that may have been confused when they heard that they had to go to a place that sounded exactly like “nowhere” but again, did it have to be there? No. It was just silly and pointless and took me out of the movie for that moment.

7. I don’t really see how people could be surprised that this film ended as a cliffhanger and the film was sort of trying to build it up as a surprise that the Avengers lost so we could feel the emotional connection of seeing half of them die. As soon as I knew that this film was going to be split up into two massive cash cows, I automatically expected that this was going to end on a cliffhanger note to set up what will be the final resounding comeback in the second. It’s not really a surprise and again, the directors shouldn’t be focusing on this as an aspect and instead be worried more so about what the writers were actually doing with the story. But OK, whatever.

8. Aside from the moment at the beginning of the film that I brought up, there’s also a lot of other instances of where Thanos pretty much could end this entire series if he only took the necessary actions to do so. Here I bring up the times where he’d meet the individuals of the Avengers crew but for some reason decided not to kill them. For example, when he met Peter Quill for the first time and he’s holding Gamora hostage. Why the fuck did you not kill him and the rest of his team if indeed you’ve been doing that throughout your life by destroying entire fucking planets? Are you wanting the 50% element of chance to do so by waiting to get all the infinity stones and then let the universe decide or “judge” by random who gets to survive? If so, why did you already kill Loki at the beginning? Why are you sending your children/servants to kill the others guarding the stones, effectively adding to the possibility of having blood on your hands? All of which, you’ve also deemed “necessary sacrifices” and “merciful actions”. Just fucking kill Peter Quill and the rest of the Guardians, along with Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man and anyone else that I saw you battle against. If you’re hellbent on completing your mission for “the greater good of mankind”, which also means fighting all those that oppose you, this is what you need to fucking do. But OK, it’s a Disney Marvel superhero film and we can’t take it too seriously because it’s meant to be a hero film and the good guys have to win somehow. Whatever.

9. Did anyone else find it off or strange that when Tony Stark/Iron Man had to go call Steve Rogers/Captain America, he pulls out this fucking old school flip phone? Like this is the Tony Stark who is a Playboy Billionaire and the electronic genius who created Iron Man with incredibly advanced technology and he’s walking around with a fucking 90’s Motorola-like flip phone? What the fuck?

I also love that Bruce Banner/The Hulk later then finds this phone somewhere amongst the rubble after the first encounter with Thanos’ children just randomly and it’s still not destroyed. What would have happened if he couldn’t find it? Does that mean he wouldn’t be able to get in contact with Captain America and then that’s it? You couldn’t even use Doctor Strange’s assistant because nope, he fucks off for the rest of the movie as well. Also does Tony Stark not have a lock code on his phone so anyone who picks it up could have access to his contacts? OK, whatever.

10. I didn’t really understand the tension between Tony Stark and Doctor Strange throughout the first half of the film. I get that Tony was of the mind that they should destroy the infinity stone Doctor Strange was possessing and that in response, Doctor Strange was against this idea and desired to use it against Thanos. But why did this mean that they had to continue on with the plan of meeting Thanos at his home of Titan to set up some sort of ambush? You’ve made this decision at the point where there’s only fucking three of you (including Spider-Man), and you don’t think it’s a good idea to go back to Earth because of what exactly? Yes, it would be bringing the fight back to an environment that is your hone and which would, of course, bring in a lot of civilian casualties just like there was in the first two Avengers. But why wouldn’t you at least go back to check in with the rest of your fucking team and get reinforcements cause holy shit, you’re more than likely going to need it. Even still, why don’t you just go back home and check-in with how things are going in case your fucking friends need some help, which of course they did. Later when Thor got his upgraded axe made, what’s the first thing he did? Literally the next scene he came back to Earth right in the middle of a crucial moment to help out the battle for Wakanda. Why didn’t you do the same thing and instead just have this stupid tension for the sake of tension?

11. There are others but by this point, I’m done talking about this film.

The Fate Of The Furious Movie Review

Film Title: The Fate of the Furious6/10

The Fast and The Furious franchise returns in its eighth installment and with it, the pressure of continuing the legacy without its star lead Paul Walker. Paul Walker’s absence set up quite the emotional impact in the previous movie, so I was curious to see where the series could head next. To my surprise, the series seems to be heading in the right direction….ever so slightly.

We reunite with our beloved Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel (whose name sounds like a more fake name for a car movie protagonist than his actual character), on honeymoon with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Soon a mysterious woman appears and lures Dom to become a hired terrorist and begins betraying all those closest to him. It’s up to our revhead compadres, to figure what’s happened to the old Dom and to save the world from the end of civilization as we know it. Screw C.I.A, who else would you trust right?

The theme of family is prevalent throughout the entire Fast and Furious franchise and whilst this is an important conceptual torch to bear, it’s an aspect that needs to exist only in the background. We’ve seen the exact same situation in Fast 6 when Letty turned on family and by now it’s beating a dead horse. What makes a franchise everlasting is its ability to be memorable for different entries in the saga. Harry Potter comes to mind when you look back and can clearly differentiate how the early films were joyful introductions into the wizardry world to the last films which were darker in tones. Each film in the Fast and Furious feels the same in the story but just places them in different locations around the world. The time has come to expand or at least become self-aware of how ridiculous it is because ultimately that’s where it shines the most.

As the franchise grows, the one redeeming factor that has kept me watching the series is the power to grow situations further. In its early days, it was about street racing then drifting and then bank robberies. This has progressed to tank battles, leaping from the bridge to bridge in mid-air, having the world’s longest airplane chase and driving Lamborghini’s from a skyscraper into a skyscraper. You might laugh but this is what I fucking love. It’s so ridiculous that you can’t help but enjoy the spectacle and thankfully The Fate of The Furious continues this to greater lengths. You may have seen from the trailer that a submarine becomes involved with a chase and indeed the entire sequence is nonsensical fun. With each film, the budgets grow bigger and the chance to do things like having The Rock ski on ice whilst holding the car door at 100 miles per hour and diverting a torpedo into another vehicle becomes possible.

This is ultimately why I have given 3 stars and recommend seeing it on the big screen. The action sequences are mindless but great to watch. Comic relief characters such as Roman (Tyrese Gibson) can still work well in these situations and give for some genuine moments of laughter. Yes, he’s essentially playing the same character in all of his films but that’s why we love him.

This is why The Fast and Furious hasn’t really changed its formula because that’s why we love the series. But to be a truly great franchise, it must go beyond a simple formula and to be bold in its storytelling. I’m wishing for another ninth installment, in the hope they either venture into new themes or continue to up the level of ridiculousness and become the fun car movie it should be. But for now, it’s time to enjoy some submarine car chases.

 

Free State Of Jones Movie Review

free state of jones.jpg4.5/10

Well Alright Alright Alright. Matthew McConaughey is back once more in a dramatic lead role that, whilst incomparable to his other serious adventures, proves a noteworthy addition. It’s long and over bloated, but it nevertheless shares an unbelievable yet true story from America’s Civil War.

We follow the life of Newton Knight, who served as a battlefield medic for the Confederate Army in 1862. After the loss of his young nephew, Knight begins to question his involvement in the war and decides to desert the army to create his own renegade band. Knight’s armed rebellion take on the Confederacy in Jones County. Runaway slaves that have joined Knight’s campaign, and there are tensions on all sides. This is where the film begins to lose touch.

There’s almost too much to cover even though each subplot is of importance. Newton begins to change and define himself with a new set of guiding principles that he desperately struggles to share with others who aren’t as willing to adapt. But we also see issues relating to the post-war settlement and the continued racial segregation. Too many climaxes and resolutions were established before yet another one was introduced and this doesn’t do justice to the significance of sub-plot. For example, just as we’ve reached the conclusion of the civil war which takes up a large section of runtime, we progress onto another major conflict with black voting rights by which at this time you feel exhausted.  It’s in these decisions that I feel director and writer Gary Ross has created a film that feels long and overcrowded from one scene to the next.

The choice to intersperse the saga of Newton’s great-great-great grandson adds even further confusion to the plot. Whilst I understand the reasons behind the choice, to draw a parallel between the same spirit and actions of his great ancestor, ultimately this particular story felt difficult to relate to and out of place in the context of the main plot. For the entire film you throw yourself behind McConaughey, so you can’t be expected to feel the same for someone who shows up for less than 15 minutes – even if it is his kin.

As I said, the story of Jones County and Newton Knight’s forces still seems quite inconceivable. There are some nice performances throughout, in particular by Gugu Mbatha-Raw whose beautiful work brought out subtle emotions. McConaughey is still in fine form but didn’t blow me away like he did in Dallas Buyers Club. Having said all that, I still wouldn’t recommend seeing this as you would have a more enjoyable experience reading and researching yourself into the life of Newton Knight. You might be amazed.