“I Feel Their Presence. In The Air, In The Walls. He Has Found Us…”
With last year’s Jigsaw not being as terrible as one might have thought and Predestination still being a particularly mind-bending and wholly entertaining guilty pleasure, The Spierig Brothers aren’t exactly renowned for airing on the side of caution when it comes to their movies, and returning this week with Winchester, starring Dame Helen Mirren (The Queen) as the famous titular true to life figure of Sarah Winchester, the mould doesn’t exactly stop here. Setting the narrative within the confines of Winchester House in San Jose, California at the turn of the 20th century, Winchester follows Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) as the drug addicted doctor, Eric Prince, who is tasked by representatives of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company to medically assess Sarah Winchester’s mental state as she pours her inherited income into constant construction of her isolated mansion in order to fulfil the wishes of the dead through her interaction with a medium after the passing of her late husband. Part The Haunting, part every single generic horror movie release ever made, The Spierig Brothers’ latest is uncharacteristically dreadful, a movie so woeful in its’ construction that you fail in your attempts to nod off thanks to a wide-set reliance on ridiculously loud jump scares which become worse and worse as the movie moves along, and even with a straight-to-video temperament surrounding it, Winchester can’t even be defined as so bad it’s good; it’s just trash.
With each of the performances rivalling Gods of Egypt for the title of worst ensemble cast performance of recent times, the narrative dwindles its’ way through a The Cabin in the Woods and, more specifically, a Thirteen Ghosts-esque setup, utilising the pull of being based on “actual events” to inspire a sense of horror at the sight of witnessing all hell breaking loose on-screen, ranging from high-pitched screaming hell demons to murdered psychopathic waiters who every now and then feel the need to explode onto the screen, screeching musical accompaniment in hand, in order to enforce a cattle-prod sensibility in which the lost art of actual horror and spine-tingling tension is unfortunately replaced with tedious, never-ending jump scares. With the plot ludicrous, the horror elements distastefully stupid, and even Mirren’s portrayal of a better financed Jennet Humfrye, AKA, The Woman in Black, being totally ridiculous, not even a Dame can save such a hot-steamed mess of a movie, and whilst many may enjoy the chance to jolt out of your seat every ten seconds thanks to an immensely setup surround sound system in your local screening of the movie, The Spierig Brothers have landed on their first cinematic calamity, with Winchester a movie which not only pokes fun at its’ claims of fictional inspiration but sticks needles in the eyes of all horror audiences who by now have learnt that not all horror is created equal.
Overall Score: 2/10
“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
“Never Tell A Soldier That He Does Not Know The Cost Of War…”
Having just arrived back from the drone-filled mayhem of Muse’s tenure at the O2 Arena, a gig in which the infamous remote-controlled weapons of destruction wowed me and my fellow rockers by flying around our heads in proper mind-boggling fashion, something of which a band like Muse could only get away with, the chance to witness Eye in the Sky was a chance to embrace the deadly nature of the world’s newest and deadliest form of killing machines, where although drone-filled media scares fill the news almost 24/7, a chance to display their true ambiguity was something I was inherently interested in, particularly after last years’ somewhat disappointing Good Kill, the Ethan Hawke thriller which attempted to cover similar territory. With a solid cast featuring the likes of Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul and Alan Rickman in one of his last performances before his untimely death this year, Eye in the Sky definitely had the chance to be the first mainstream movie to highlight the power of drone warfare and the polarised views upon it across the world. Did it succeed? Absolutely, with Eye in the Sky being a powerful, if sometimes ludicrous and slightly silly, war drama focusing on the morally complex issue of 21st century warfare.
Although following a plot-line remarkably similar to that of Good Kill, with the scenes in Nevada bearing an almost uncanny resemblance between the two, Eye in the Sky attempts to highlight the ambiguity and indecisive nature of the armchair warfare which engulfs the modern-day war on terror by handing us a situation in which the death of one may indeed help stop the deaths of many more in the future. Helming the responsibility of such is Helen Mirren’s Colonel Powell, a military intelligence officer hell bent on capturing or killing top ranking Al-Shabaab extremists of which they have located in Nairobi, Kenya whilst being surrounded by Alan Rickman’s General Benson in London and Aaron Paul’s drone pilot Steve Watts, situated in the heart of the Nevada desert. Although Mirren shines in the lead role, it is Rickman and Paul who deserve the most critical attention with the hardened veteran being offset by the relative newcomer, broken by the power of his actions and the consequences it ultimately leads to. Some shoddy dialogue aside, with an abundance of cringe-worthy exposition, and rather silly CGI-created on-screen drones, Eye in the Sky is an of-the-moment war drama, one that has the strength of its’ conviction to end the correct way and one that will no doubt heighten the awareness of drone warfare and the problems it fundamentally brings with it.
Overall Score: 7/10
A follow up to Red, without Morgan Freeman!? This already seems like a mistake as he was one of the funniest characters to appear and it does leave a substantial hole in the film. Dropping into the movie, we find out that Frank (Bruce Willis) and Marvin (John Malkovich) have been put on the CIA/MI6 kill list because of a connection to an old cold war operation called “NightHawk” which is causing huge amounts of trouble between Russia, US and the UK due to its huge danger to national security. Frank, Marvin and Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) are now on the run trying to solve the issue in the recklessly comical fashion that made the first such a wonderfully fun movie to watch.
So, you may be asking, does this movie follow the success of the last one? Personally, it’s a good follow-up but it does feel weak and a little slow at points. The actual filming was very basic and relied on a lot of CGI for many of the intense action scenes that stuck out like a monkey in the insect enclosure, wildly waving it’s hands about. A big budget film should at least be able to blend CGI with ease. Alongside a lack of visually extensive scenes, the cinematography was pretty terrible as it was generic and didn’t give you those stunning landscapes which are good at setting the scene and conveying the emotions. Yet the comic book transitions between countries was a cool addition that adds some colour and style.
For a movie which prides itself on action, there is a large quantity of it. With a collection of action superstars, the most technically advanced would be Byung-Hun Lee yet the majority of his scenes is so far over the top, it becomes annoying. Plus his hand to hand combat was actually really weak. It felt slow to watch with hits that weren’t even close to making contact. The rest of the action was interspersed with comedy one-liners that were pretty funny and got the whole crowd chuckling. The acting is also much the same, when Catherine Zeta-Jones is shot, she shows no emotion. Malkovich plays the psychotic bastard quite well, but his wardrobe makes him the highlight of the show, especially at the end with his fruit bowl hat. Bruce Willis is once again mediocre, born and raised in action does that to him I guess and finally we have Helen Mirren who is probably the best acted character.
The sound and music department should be crucified for their terrible work. Most notably is the use of a Linkin Park song which features a very strong scream that appears once in the song, so you shouldn’t use it twice within seconds of each other as it doesn’t mix well. Many of the other sounds were also extremely weak and obscure, the dog next door was crying in pain.
In total, I feel it is a 6/10. Its good fun, but there is a load of errors and annoyances throughout that drive you crazy. You just have to deal with mediocre acting from A list actors. Sorry again for another short review! Been very busy but got a few new things coming over the next week or so!
Here we have a triumphant return from Pixar with the worlds favourite monsters. In a story that prequels Monsters Inc, it looks like an origin story of the great duo. It opens up with a collection of child monsters on a school trip too Monsters Inc., upon enters a tiny Mike, a adorably big eye, a stature that puts him in the light weight boxing division of Barbie & Action Man dolls, alongside vibrant green skin and a cute little smile. At the scare factory, we find out Mike’s inspiration and reason behind his decision to join the Monsters University. From this point on, he focuses on getting there and achieving his dream of becoming a screamer. Not till later do we see a skinnier, leaner version of Sully who is a powerhouse of strength and creature of fear, yet lacks theoretical perspective and uses his fathers fame to further his popularity, therefore, making him the common day rich douche-bag. At the start of good year, both tend to avoid each other and don’t interact much, but as we progress, we see a rivalry and distinguished hatred for each other which lays them in trouble with the university dean and leads to a series of events detailing the pairs friendship growth, alongside a group of shunned students who are pushed to strive for bigger things.
As a member of the 90’s generation, I was about when Monsters Inc. came out and could truly appreciate it at that age due to its colour, comedy and its ingenious plot that makes it so memorable. Now as an adult, this movie feels like it was made for the generation who lived to see it in the cinema and value it. Now I can appreciate the extensive amounts of work that goes into making Sully’s hair move or every single blade of grass under Mike’s feet. The lines and shapes that make up the campus and so much more. Visually the movie is pristine. Everything is vibrant and punchy that sends your eyes blitzing around the screen soaking in every last orange and pink in the vast scenery. Everything was in focus allowing you time to look.
As with any Pixar movie, once they develop onto it and create a foundation, the stories can become a little predictable at points with a lot of moral dilemmas throughout whenever a plot twist occurs. As predictable as it was, the story was still fun, witty and utilizes it’s potential to make it far bigger. Character stories were heartfelt, pulling on the heart strings at points and the whole film would keep a smile permanently wedged onto your face, hairs raised on the back of your neck and an attachment that only Pixar could create. The witty creations and variations that they went through to develop each character is phenomenal and the variation shows the dedication to create a real world for the monsters and not some copy and paste fillers.
As an overview, I don’t have much to write about. The movie was a stunning piece of art, a graceful origins story, a heart warming adventure with silly humour fit for all the family. However, before the movie even starts, The Blue Umbrella is a Pixar short to open Monsters University and is impeccable and a stunning short film to open with. I never felt that I could develop an emotional attachment to an object as simple as an umbrella. If this hasn’t shown at your cinema, Google is a thing that can help!
So, as an overall rating, I’m going to go with an 8/10 due to its predictability, but also the skipping of some sub-characters. A must-see movie for the summer!