“Grab Your Families, Your Loved Ones, And Get Out. We Won’t Be Able To Come For You…”
With a related trailer which highlights Sam Raimi as a “producer” on Evil Dead and Alexandre Aja as “director” of The Hills Have Eyes, it’s fair to say that whilst such claims from the spin merchants of Crawl are indeed factually accurate, it also reinstates how fundamentally messed up the genre of horror has become thanks to the way in which every classic horror movie has been chopped up and churned out thanks to the wonderful notion of remakes and spin-offs in recent years. With Raimi of course being the mastermind and director of the original, and better, The Evil Dead in 1981, and producer on the 2013 Fede Álvarez directed remake, a film of which I can admit to actually enjoying, to say that Aja is best known for his work on the rehash of The Hills Have Eyes in 2006 is generally rather aggravating, when the mighty Wes Craven, director of the 1977 grindhouse original classic, seems to be the subject of a Stalinesque mind-wipe towards younger audiences who may not even be aware of Craven or his impact on the genre of horror. Moan aside, Aja and Raimi this week team up for a rather familiar B-movie creature-feature in the form of Crawl, an overly generic work of nonsense which in some ways is quite enjoyable due to the sheer fact that it’s the type of movie which seems to be released at least thirty years too late.
With a very basic, genre-literate set-up, Crawl sees Kaya Scodelario (Extremely Wicked…) as Haley, a swimming obsessed student athlete who stupidly returns to her hometown in the heart of Florida in order to check on the welfare of her father after a Category five hurricane begins to make its’ way towards the mainland. Upon arriving at her deserted childhood home, Haley finds father Dave, as played by Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan), unconscious within the crawl space of their home for no immediate apparent reason until soon discovering the amidst decaying childhood homes, a ridiculously overblown natural threat and unnecessary daddy issues, ravenous alligators have decided to take over the house and are happy to eat anything that gets in their way. With Aja beginning his career with the enjoyably nonsensical, Switchblade Romance, and making his way into Hollywood with unnecessary remakes, Crawl does seem like an attempt to appease as mass an audience as possible, and whilst the exploitation violence within the movie is highly enjoyable in places, the screenplay isn’t exactly one to be desired as it attempts to blend into the carnage meaningless narrative tangents such as reserved family issues without any real point to it whatsoever. When it comes to a film such as Crawl, the violence and the silliness should always be the primary focus and be capped off within a harmless eighty minutes, but with Aja’s latest so predictable and lifeless, the lack of threat and lack of bite, pun intended, means Crawl is a glorified bargain bucket B-movie which just happens to be allowed on the big screen for no real apparent reason whatsoever.
Overall Score: 5/10
“We Were Warned And We Did Not Listen…”
Although hailed as some form of guaranteed audience grabber, Gerard Butler’s most recent backlog of film appearances isn’t exactly the greatest run from the growling, wide-chinned Scot, with the likes of Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen being two of the worst cinema releases in recent history, and whilst there is always hope for redemption, the release of the CGI-fuelled Geostorm brings with it a heavy sense of, “here we go again!”, particularly after months and months of trailers hyping up a movie which on the face of it, might give Independance Day: Resurgence a run for its’ money as worst big-budget science-fiction disaster movie of the past few years. Directed by American debutant Dean Devlin, whose past producing credits ironically include the likes of Resurgence and erm, Eight Legged Freaks, the latest movie to showcase how much destruction can be created from the screen of a computer in the form of Geostorm is unsurprisingly a gag-inducing barrel of garbage, one which takes the cliched notion of leaving your brain at the foyer to a whole new level of unparalleled literalness and too a movie which just makes you question why and how it ever made it past the cutting room floor.
With Butler showcasing the limited amount of range he has as an actor, portraying a supposed super intelligent science engineer with all the efficiency of a leather based raincoat, Geostorm is the type of movie which doesn’t even begin to offer credible reasons for making the audience believe any events which depict on screen are even capable of actually occurring, and whilst end of the world, disaster movies fundamentally require a minimal level of audience open-minded participation, the mind-boggling and headache inducingly bad narrative at the heart of Geostorm leads to a movie which although features scenes of tidal waves, gigantic laser beams and gargantuan explosions, is undeniably boring from beginning to end. With plot turns aplenty all resulting in a synchronised round of sighs from the audience and a tacky, saccharin sweet family narrative thread acting as the film’s through line, Geostorm is trash unrefined, and whilst Devlin’s CGI-based load of hogwash isn’t exactly the worst film of the year, it is undeniably the stupidest.
Overall Score: 3/10
“Mayday, Mayday. This Is Deepwater Horizon…”
Proclaimed as the worst oil disaster in U.S history, Deepwater Horizon brings to the big screen the events which unfolded on the titular oil rig back in 2010, starring Mark Wahlberg as Chief Electronics Technician Mike Williams as well as a strong supporting cast consisting of Kurt Russel, Kate Hudson and John Malkovich. Directed by Peter Berg, whose back catalogue includes The Kingdom, Hancock and Lone Survivor, also starring Mark Wahlberg, Deepwater Horizon is a surprisingly effective disaster drama, one that focuses on the buildup of characterisation and plot and then throws you into submission with a slender mix of both practical and digital effects, resulting in an experience both impressive and terrifying in its’ attempt to showcase the horrific events that took place aboard the titular oil rig only six years ago.
Questionable accents aside, particularly from John Malkovich, as well as a wondering Texas accent from Wahlberg, and a tendency to resort to technical jargon and mumbling, of which was sometimes hard to unravel, Deepwater Horizon follows in the conventional genre-converting blueprint of attempting to tell the tale of a disaster from the POV of many, whilst primarily focusing on one in order to form an emotional and physical connection to occurrences on screen and whilst Wahlberg is effective in the lead role, the beginning of the film recalls a court case featuring the real life Mike Williams after the events of the Deepwater Horizon and thus prevents the audiences’ ambiguity regarding the fate of its leading character. A strange move indeed, but nonetheless, when put up against recent movies of similar ilk such as San Andreas and Everest, Deepwater Horizon is indeed the most effective, unexpectedly so and whilst it isn’t exactly groundbreaking in terms of cinematic originality, Deepwater Horizon is indeed worth the ticket price for its’ big screen quality if nothing else.
Overall Score: 8/10
“That’s Definitely Bigger Than The Last One…”
Here we are slap bang right in the middle of the great British summer where rain fades our dream of a the rare sweltering heat wave and anticipated blockbusters sink faster than the titanic after receiving hit after hit of critical slam-dunking by journalists and bloggers alike. Already in the month of June we have the nomination for worst film of the decade in the from of Gods of Egypt and Independence Day:Resurgence swiftly follows suit in the latter’s bewildering terribleness with wooden acting, ridiculously hollow CGI and a screenplay so boring I actually managed to fall asleep for twenty minutes during the showing, Roland Emmerich’s long-awaited sequel to the 1996 popcorn-infused thrill ride is an overblown turkey of the highest order, a turkey that not only looks like it has been commissioned for the sole purpose of a quick buck but one that completely tarnishes the memory of the original. It’s not Gods of Egypt bad, but it’s close.
So what’s new Roland? Big alien spaceship once again decides to destroy the planet whilst Jeff Goldblum’s creaky scientist tries to appear to know what he’s doing amongst a mad ex-president and a surprisingly awful Charlotte Gainsbourg and a Will Smith lookalike who bears no resemblance in both charm and character to the Fresh Prince whatsoever. Add into the mix overblown CGI and stone-cold humour which received not one laugh during my particular screening and Independence Day: Resurgence is quite simply a complete waste of time, talent and millions of dollars. Somewhere in hell there is indeed a multiplex showing a double header of both this and Gods of Egypt and to have both films being released within the space of just a week, it makes me fear for what’s to come for the rest of the year. Roland, your film stinks. And I hope you know it.
Overall Score: 2/10
“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
Snow, Lot’s of Snow
When a challenge with an intensity such as climbing Mount Everest is set upon us humans by the greater gods, aliens, those weird blue things from Prometheus, or whatever you believe in in regards to our creation, the natural response from almost everyone on Earth is to stay as far away as humanly possible from almost what is near-certain death, but in the case of the mad minority, a chosen few in the last century or so have decided to attempt such a feat in climbing safely to the top of Earth’s highest mountain, with the latest popcorn-fueled, 3D epic in the form of the aptly named Everest, attempting to tell the tale of the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster in which SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS. Obviously if you are well versed in the National Geographic channel or other alternative options to observe our recent history, such spoilers limit the film’s appeal in some sense, but if unbeknownst to the facts, like myself, Everest brings a sharp cinematic appeal to one of the world’s most spectacular wonders.
Boasting a cast so A-List top-heavy, you could have been fooled for thinking actors such as Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Josh Brolin, were set to appear in a arctic spin-off of Avengers Assemble, Everest’s first half consists of both character development and build-up to an almost inevitable conclusion, particularly if you had seen the trailer, regarding the group’s attempt to accomplish their goal of reaching the top of the mountain, Not only does Everest suffer from the familiar movie trait of giving too much away in its’ pre-release trailers resulting in a feeling of, “oh, just hurry up and reach the top,” but subsequently suffers from an almost cramped amount of characters seemingly all played in cameo fashion from A-Lister’s such as Gyllenhaal and Brolin, without having one solid lead or hero, even if it is suggested that Clarke’s role as Rob Hall was the intended recipient of such with the movie switching from focus between Clarke and Brolin in the first and second acts.
If the first half of Everest is somewhat lacklustre, the second half of the film more than makes up for it and undoubtedly saves the film no-end, with the sheer horror of survival in the face of certain death being expertly displayed across gorgeous cinematography whilst scenes of sheer horror in which the effects of such perils are unpleasantly displayed result in a heavy sense of squeamishness. Although scenes in which the true horror and danger of climbing such a feat could have been added to, the film did at times leave me with a sense of vertigo but not in a fashion I would have deemed adequate from a disaster movie in which the tension should definitely be current throughout, something of which cannot be said of Everest, even with the mountainous terrain being constantly adhered to by the film-makers. Everest is a film that aspires to be a metaphorical equivalent to its’ title, with an A-List cast undoubtedly boosting the appeal but it suffers heavily from a slow first half and too many characters with none sticking out from the crowd in an attempt to form any meaningful emotional bond with throughout the course of their life-or-death situation.
Overall Score: 7/10
Appetite for Destruction
If there were still any doubt that 2015 was indeed year of the blockbuster, then you only need to look at the release of San Andreas, an annoyingly over-advertised disaster movie set in the sun-soaked state of California starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Carla Gugino. and Paul Giamatti, whilst being directed by Brad Peyton, whose back catalogue of directorial credits include classic films such as Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island. Ha, no. So, any good you ask? Proceed with caution, it might get rough.
When it comes to movies such as San Andreas, there is always a recipe for disaster (pun intended) which tends to include fundamental and key box-ticking traits in order for it to be classed as a success. For example, one of these characteristics include the introduction and development of certain characters who we follow throughout the destruction that ensues all around them which whilst is off killing waves of incidental human life that the audience usually don’t really care about, seems to miraculously spare our beloved heroes and heroines. In the case of San Andreas, these characters are manifested into the body of Chief Raymond Gaines (Johnson), a man so extraordinary it was surprising not to see him declare himself as part of the Avengers during the ease-filled nature of not only ripping a car door from it’s hinges, not only being able to hot-wire everything and anything in his path, not only being able to breath underwater for what seemed like an eternity, but to also keep the same expression regardless of the situation in which he appears. I mean, I love The Rock, but it is painstakingly obvious after watching San Andreas that dramatic, expressionist acting is not a career path he should be aiming for.
The golden word that came to mind whilst watching San Andreas was cringe with it being filled to the rafters with cliche after cliche due to its’ simply dire script in which the two English characters are made to look like court jesters whilst American hero Dwayne Johnson pretty much portrays God. Do I care for him and his family? Not one damn bit. Top comedy marks however go to the inclusion of Kylie Minogue who overtakes Rita Ora as top contender for worst cameo of the year in a scene that filled me with unintended laughter inside, whilst worst parent of the year goes to the stupid mother who leaves her child on top of the Hoover Dam in a scene which looked good on the surface in terms of effects, but ultimately fell into the black-hole of emptiness that was the films’ depth and substance, a phrase that pretty much sums up the entirety of San Andreas.
Aside from all the negativity, there are some good points that should be mentioned. Paul Giamatti is the best thing in it in terms of acting whilst the sheer scale of destruction that is depicted on screen makes the battle at the end of Man of Steel look like a typical teenage tiff, emphasising the notion that if its’ spectacle you want, San Andreas definitely delivers. So all in all, bring the popcorn, leave your brain at home, San Andreas is many things, an insult to your brain, a symphony of destruction, but one thing is for sure, its’ only a bit-part player in the catalogue of blockbusters that make up 2015 in film.
Overall Score: 4/10