“I Want To Know What I’m Involved With…”
In the IMDB trivia page for Inferno, the wildly unwanted continuation of Ron Howard’s big screen adaptations of Dan Brown’s ridiculously popular string of novels, one of the most interesting facts was that during production the film was hidden under the code-name “Headache” due in part perhaps to the constant concussion that professor of symbology Robert Langdon apparently suffers from throughout most of the film’s bloated 120 minute run-time, yet in my own personal opinion, the “headache” in question can only relate to one thing; the effect the film has on those who bear to see it. Not only is Inferno one of the most painfully boring films I can remember seeing in a long, long while, with recurrent fidgeting and patches of drowsiness inevitably resulting in short yet effective cat naps, my experience of watching Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones run amok across Europe in order to locate their next museum-infested clue was indeed one of utter horror, one which will not escape my memory quickly, unlike the bland and completely ludicrous story which encompasses Inferno.
Where other films this year, particularly the woeful array of summer blockbusters, have suffered from fundamental issues of awful storytelling, Inferno takes such a core element of film-making and throws it into one of the rings of hell, with not one moment of dramatic tension or effective storytelling giving the movie the right to command its’ shockingly long two-hour runtime, a runtime which feels almost twice as long due to the filmmakers decision to create dull, two-dimensional characters who are hell bent on running from museum to museum in order to find the titular “Inferno”, a deadly disease created by Ben Foster’s kooky radicalist, Bertrand Zobrist, who believes the only way to sustain humanity is basically to destroy it, a plot line left over from Utopia anyhow, and a plot line which results in the said disease being carried inside a jiffy bag which floats harmlessly within the Basilica Cistern. No, I’m not kidding.
With a twist as obvious as the “radical” twist-ending in this year’s Morgan, which although I’d fallen asleep already to really understand what it all meant, still managed to annoy me to the extent I thought falling asleep might make it better, and an ending what verges on the edge of cheesy, cliche-ridden claptrap, Ron Howard has succeeded in creating a true stinker of a movie, one in which not only the audience will be bored of ten minutes in, but has even effected the actors on-screen with Tom Hanks seemingly passing the time in order to pick up the cheque and ride out his mistake of signing on for three Dan Brown-based movies, and whilst Felicity Jones at least brings some sense of kooky campness during the second half of the movie, you can’t help but feel she would rather be back on the set of Rogue One as fast as possible. Inferno isn’t the worst film of the year, but it is definitely the most boring cinematic achievement I can remember in recent years. And remember, I’ve seen The Cobbler.
Overall Score: 3/10
“We Ain’t Stealing From You. We’re Stealing From The Bank…”
Much like Bone Tomahawk, which reaffirmed the cult status of the legend that is Kurt Russell, Hell or High Water, the latest from Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan and Starred Up director David Mackenzie, above all, highlights the power of the cinematic pro, those that have been in the game for so long, that you know, if given a decent script, are going to bring their A-game to the floor and pull it out of the bag. In the case of Hell or High Water, that pro is Jeff Bridges who brings his most True Grit performance since, well, True Grit, as rugged police chief Marcus Hamilton, unsure of the notion of his impending retirement when news of numerous bank robberies bring him swiftly back into the action alongside trusted colleague, Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham). Flip on to the other side of the coin however and we thrown into the lives of Toby and Tanner Howard, portrayed majestically by Chris Pine and Ben Foster, who are the cause of such crimes in order to align their families’ financial difficulties amongst a seemingly despaired and depressing West Texas. Like Sicario last year, scriptwriter Taylor Sheridan has once again pulled off an intelligent and thought-provoking crime thriller, one which understands the impact of subtlety and the power of effective characterisation.
Where many of this years’ summer blockbusters have simply failed due to a sublime lack of any sort of residual quality, intelligence or fundamental originality, Hell or High Water is the perfect film to combat the pains of the past two months or so with it being a well-scripted, flawlessly acted work of drama which attempts to portray each side of the law, each with their own necessities and issues, with each given equal screen time to build up an efficient level of depth in order to sympathise and care for these characters in the space of only 100 minutes. Where Sicario was a film seeped in ambiguity and became a much darker entity for it, Hell or High Water is for the most part, a laid-back western bromance, with humorous banter and jet-black humour not only adding to the characterisation but to the audiences’ perception of a plausible, true-crime drama which could perhaps be regarded as some sort of realism within the financial uncertainty of the 21st century. Of course, when the violence ensues, it is observed with sheen and calculative efficiency, something of which was sorely missing from the whirlwind-editing of the recent summer blockbusters. Hell or High Water is the type of movie which puts its’ larger and bigger hyped Hollywood cash-cows to shame; it’s a proper, hard-edged drama with top-end acting and a superb script, showcasing the ever-increasing talents of writer Taylor Sheridan. Ironically, Hell or High Water is this year’s Sicario, just with a lighter touch.
Overall Score: 8/10
“Is War The Only Answer?”
When it comes to past live-action video game adaptations that have made it on to the big screen within the past, let’s say the record has not been the best so far. I mean look at Hitman: Agent 47 last year, what a load of rubbish that was and whilst others have trembled in the wake of mediocrity or downright awfulness, 2016 was tapped as the year for the reinvention of the genre with not only Assassins Creed hitting the big screen but Warcraft too, helmed by self-proclaimed fan Duncan Jones, director of sci-fi greats such as Moon and Source Code. Although I can admit to never playing a single second of Warcraft in the past, Jones’ behemoth of a summer blockbuster was a surprising popcorn romp, one that indeed has a wide range of flaws and weaknesses, but one that was never challenging or seemed to be verging on the edge of boredom throughout its’ questionable two-hour plus runtime. CGI galore and Flash Gordon esque costume design. What more does one want?
Amidst unpronounceable locations and names, Warcraft essentially focuses on the battle between Orcs and humans, coincided with some pretty funky CGI magic and featuring warlocks, wizards and flying eagle bird things within the realm of what is essentially a rip-off of Middle Earth. The Lord of the Rings comparisons do not stop there however, with similar themes and even similar characters resulting in a fundamental likeness on the surface but Warcraft falters on the scale of the latter’s depth where even though there were some characters worth caring about, others simply acted either as canon fodder for giant hammers or as a tent-pole for extraordinarily polished suits of armour. Warcraft is set to be the starter pistol for another heavy-hitter of a blockbuster series and although it is indeed not perfect, far off in fact, Warcraft does the job and does it solidly, smashing humans to pieces as it traverses the world of humans in the 21st century. Over to you Assassins Creed, let’s see if you can do better.
Overall Score: 6/10
“In The Coast Guard They Say You Go Out, They Don’t Say You Gotta Come Back…”
Based upon “The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue” by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, Craig Gillespie’s The Finest Hours is a film that intends to be as gripping and wet-soaked as the shores of Cape Cod but ultimately comes off as more of a damp squib, with a cast including Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine, Casey Affleck and Eric Bana not enough to save it from the pit of mediocrity it safely floats upon before inevitably sinking into the realms of history. Much like the true-life tale, an anecdote I’m sure incredibly popular and well versed between the secular, sea-wise clans of the U.S. Coast Guard, The Finest Hours is a movie that has somewhat been hidden under the radar and away from the cinematic masses, with not even a trailer being in sight within my many ventures to the world of cine over the course of the past few months or so, and with this in mind, the sheer lack of advertisement and press-hounding may indeed result in the film not exactly finding a key audience. Were it a more intriguing tale of survival in line with other sea-faring adventures such as Ang Lee’s The Life of Pi, The Perfect Storm and even, see it to believe it, Titanic, perhaps The Finest Hours could have been the riveting adventure it perhaps wanted to be seen as.
Adding to the mediocrity is the fundamental saccharin sweet nature of the movie, with the influence of Disney being particularly noticeable within scenes that not only encourage the burning sensation of a face-palm, but also result in either a painful palpitation of a cringe-induced stasis or a desire to swiftly stick fingers down your throat in order to release the sickly build-up of Disney-induced diseases. Aside from the land of over-sentimentality, award for most unintentional psycho, co-dependant girlfriend of the year has to go to Holliday Grainger for her role as Chris Pine love interest, Miriam Webber, a role which could easily be seen as a mid-20th century portrayal of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Seriously, if you aren’t put off by the possibility of a creepy girlfriend by The Finest Hours, then nothing will. In a nutshell therefore, The Finest Hours sure ain’t the film it would love to be, with a sheer lack of threat or suspense killing the film stone dead, a film which requires such in order to be seen as truly worthwhile. See it in a Blockbuster near you. Oh wait, this isn’t 2003. Just catch it when you can, but don’t rush to see it.
Overall Score: 5/10
It’s not rocket science, the trailer and the films name really do make the outlining plot obvious. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the majority of the movie. Presented as an all American patriotic war film based on a true story, but the Lone Survivor is something far bigger. Based on the operation Red Wings, a 4 team squad have to take down a high profile Taliban target. With no comms, the strike team find there cover blown with no support or commanding orders. Left alone, it’s a right for survival which costs the lives of 3 of the squad leaving only Mark Wahlberg’s Marcus Luttrell to fend for himself.
The story is great. Once again, I’m not versed into the ins and outs of what actually happened and expect the odd embellishment from time to time, but there were a few bits that I was a little saddened by. With a lack of character development throughout, the death of the soldiers do very little to cause an emotional response. Running up to the outbreak of violence, characters are introduced but the movement is incredibly slow. Characters we meet are completely irrelevant and hold no emotion value while in this time, they should have focused on character progression rather than a slew of names and faces. One piece I really enjoyed was the representation of the Afghan people. Moving away from a typical “everyone of them is involved with the Taliban” approach, and taking a positive view and portraying it to a world through a form of media that normally attacks Afghanistan.
As the movie represented itself as an action movie, it’s important to critique this. However, the first thing that I would like to talk about is the use of armour. I understand that they are given Kevlar armour which is supposed to withstand quite the impact, yet it appears that it does very little to stop a bullet when these guys get shot to shit. Now that is out of the way, the action is brutal. There is no other word to describe it. The wounds look real and the deaths are mortifying. One particular shot sits with me and will do for quite some time is the killing of one of the soldiers. After running dry on ammo and suffering multiple gun shot wounds, he props himself up against a tree. The shot expands to center his limp body. As he struggles for breath, Taliban draw closer and aim. Firing two shots that rip through the tree above his head, he doesn’t flinch. The final shot hits Axe (Ben Foster) in the head and sends his head back into the tree only to drop forward seconds later. The lingering shot was amazing. Yet, for a movie at 15+ of age, it seems a little much. With action comes sound. With war comes loud noises. Microphones must have been peaking, at points it scares the living shit out of me because it’s so sudden and really aided in immersing into the movie.
The movie is wonderful. Without digging into everything else too deeply, the acting was alright and visually it was gorgeous apart from the slow-mo team jump which felt generic and cheesy. But otherwise, Lone Survivor deserves a solid 8 out of 10. It’s a great piece of entertainment and deserves a watch from anyone interested in the conflict and to any ladies out there, Taylor Kitsch was massive and Wahlberg didn’t steal all of the screen time!
PS – Another short review as I’m in a race to catch up with The Walking Dead…So. Damn. Good.