“We’ve Been Compromised, With Every Citizen At This Planet At Risk. Trust No One…”
With the catalogue of blockbusters appearing on the big screen post-Avengers: Endgame so far this year not exactly managing to hit the same levels of excellence in any way shape or form whatsoever, with the likes of Godzilla: King of the Monsters and X-Men: Dark Phoenix failing to win over both critics and the box office alike, one of Hollywood’s most rusty cinematic franchises is strangely brought back to life in the form of Men in Black: International in a last-ditch attempt to save the day for cinema chains across the world. With the original Men in Black from 1997 still too darn entertaining to be regarded as a guilty pleasure, with a typically sarcastic Tommy Lee Jones and a Will Smith in full-on Fresh Prince-era brilliance resulting in a cinematic partnership for the ages, the subsequent sequel and threequel failed to ignite similar levels of excellence, resulting in sheer bemusement when rumours of a fourth entry was on the way, and with the latest chapter this time being directed by F. Gary Gray, whose work on the excellent, Straight Outta Compton, has somewhat been overshadowed after the not-so excellent, The Fate of the Furious, it’s fair to say that International isn’t the most anticipated movie of the year thus far.
With the usual acting suspects dropped in favour of Thor and Valkyrie themselves, it’s fair to say that the likeable pairing of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson (Avengers: Endgame) is one of the only good things about International, a lifeless, run-of-the-mill, cash-grab which sees Thompson as Molly Wright, a wide-eyed, alien-obsessed dreamer whose experience of the titular darkly attired agents as a young child results in her soon joining up herself and working alongside Hemsworth’s suitably cocky and annoyingly charming, Henry, in order to, you guessed it, save the world against an alien threat known as the hive. With cringe-inducing dialogue, poor storytelling and an over-reliance on forgettable special effects, Gray’s movie prefers the art of nonsensical explosions over a decent plot and whilst the inclusion of Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) as the voice of a clingy, cutesy egg-shaped alien adds a much needed level of comedic spice, International is annoyingly both a gigantic waste of time and talent, adding itself rather nicely to the collection of half-baked summer blockbusters thus far. Neurolyse me now.
Overall Score: 4/10
“Our Paths Have Crossed Before, Dom. You Just Didn’t Know It. I Think I Need To Remind You Why You Chose To Be Here…”
Franchises, franchises everywhere. Whilst the unexpected is utterly unreliable when it comes to the release of particular films in the current cinematic tidal wave, it does seem that the golden dollar bill sign is precedent as the leading force in the development of modern cinematic treats, evidenced by the return of the ridiculously indestructible Fast and Furious series in the form of The Fate of the Furious, a continuation of the franchise two years on from the previous instalment which managed to take an eye-whooping 1.5 billion dollars at the global box office. Whilst the mountain of eye-rolling snobs sniff at the sight of yet another jumped-up, adrenaline-heavy fluff piece, myself included, there is to some degree a sense of enjoyment watching a series continuing to live on despite stretching out what is a basic plot thread throughout eight films, due primarily to a overly ripe cast which all seem to have bundles of laughs causing endless waves of destruction and chaos with a seemingly blank cheque book at their disposal. As for the franchises latest offering, The Fate of the Furious is a surprisingly dull affair, offering very little originality amongst a tonally bipolar and utterly stupid narrative which aside from a few, minor elements could be regarded as the worst the series has had to offer so far.
Of the good things within Furious 8, Jason Statham absolutely steals every single scene in which he is present, from scenes consisting of a constant battle of words between himself and Dwayne Johnson to a final act in which he massacres a variety of killers whilst attempting to save the life of a incredibly important minor, all the while aboard a seemingly untraceable aircraft, one which is operated by Charlize Theron’s Cipher, a character which unfortunately offers no sense of threat whatsoever despite her attempts to come across all edgy and unhinged by wearing Metallica tees and moulding her hair on the likes of Bob Marley and Gary Oldman’s character in True Romance. The absolute absence of threat is fundamental to the film’s overall flaws, with each of the characters acting and performing in such a superhuman manner that the risk of injury or even death is so minimal that at times the film seemed to sink to the level of the worst the Roger Moore era Bond films had to offer, whilst the truly awful CGI comes across as so lazy and haphazard, particularly when considering the array of practical-based action we have witnessed recently within good examples of the genre such as The Raid and Mad Max: Fury Road. If The Fate of the Furious is indeed the future of the franchise, perhaps it’s time to hang up the cape, but with astronomical ticket sales inevitable, the likelihood of such is as solid as Vin Diesel becoming the next US President. Well, to be fair, that wouldn’t be the worst option right now.
Overall Score: 4/10
Let’s get this out of the way first before any problems or missteps arise within this review of F. Gary Gray’s new film Straight Outta Compton, when it comes to the rise of prominent hip hop in the early 1990’s, N.W.A, and the story of their own personal rise and fall, I am not exactly the most well-informed person regarding such, with my only reference for music of that particular genre being the wonderful GTA: San Andreas (Thank god for Radio Los Santos). Pitiful I know, but whilst I was only aware briefly of the impact of the N.W.A in the 1990’s, Straight Outta Compton proved to be an eye-opening biographical epic focusing on the early outset of the group and their titular debut album, focusing most prominently on our “heroes”, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E. Although the key concept of the movie may indeed not be for everyone, with me being classed as an outsider myself, Straight Outta Compton proved to be one of the most incredible journeys in film I have witnessed this year, following in the footsteps of The Social Network in telling a story not exactly with widespread appeal, but resulting in something rather brilliant.
What makes Straight Outta Compton work so well is the effortless fashion in which our young actors portray their characters on-screen, with Jason Mitchell’s Eazy-E in particular being one of the many standout performers, whilst Paul Giamatti as the slimey corporate megalomaniac, Jerry Heller, doing exceptionally well in trying to be as shadowy and ambiguous as he possibly can. With all the on-screen cameos featuring actors portraying younger versions of famous faces such as Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur however, characters were so-often lost and forgotten about within the space of minutes, resulting in minor plot threads seemingly going awry, suggesting that sometimes the scope of Straight Outta Compton was in fact too big to handle, resulting in a film that wants to say more, but ultimately can’t due to restrictions on its’ time length, something of which was already too long to say the least at a mortifying two and a half hours.
Of course the music is great, with track after track being blasted out through the cinema speakers, and even though my minor hip hop knowledge was brought to the table, it didn’t stop me from enjoying every single beat, rap and lyric that boom-boxed it’s way onto me at a volume turned way past eleven, whilst the concert scenes were managed triumphantly, unlike the misogynistic portrayal of women that unfortunately crept up on occasion throughout the course of the film’s runtime. The acting is wonderful, the story, inspiring, and although Straight Outta Compton has some rather dashing flaws, I indeed enjoyed it more than I thought I would, and probably more than I should, with N.W.A locking firmly in my playlist for the next couple of weeks or so.