“We’ve Been Here For Twenty-Two Years. This Hospital Was Built On Two Things: Trust And Rules…”
Written and directed by British filmmaker, Drew Pearce, whose previous credits include screenplays for the likes of Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Hotel Artemis features a generously stellar cast set as they are whacked slap band in the middle of a dystopian riot zone and forced into the titular, secretive building where entry is gained for members only and is ran with strict rules and regulations by Jodie Foster’s (The Silence of the Lambs) Jean Thomas AKA The Nurse. With flashes of neo-noir crime drama and a underlying, wacky black comedic sensibility, Pearce’s movie is a strange, tonally manic mess of a movie which sacrifices plot for excruciatingly annoying characters and a narrative through line for dull set pieces, all taking place within a set location which seems to have forgotten to pay the lighting bill, and whilst Pearce in the past has worked alongside the likes of Shane Black, a filmmaker renowned for making dark comedy work successfully, Pearce’s debut doesn’t take any tips from his cinematic learning curve and is unfortunately a painfully dull and excruciatingly boring waste of ninety minutes in which stuff just happens without any sense of reason or point.
With an opening backdrop which introduces a future-world Los Angeles in which privatisation of the area’s water supply has sparked mass rioting and protest from the lower class of the populous, Pearce’s movie follows Sterling K. Brown’s (Black Panther) Waikiki after a bank heist gone wrong forces him into the Hotel Artemis, an off-the-books NHS for the criminal underworld which reeks heavily of The Continental Hotel influence from the John Wick series. Cue the introduction of Jeff Goldblum’s (Thor: Ragnarok) The Wolf King, who seeks vengeance for the theft of his multi-million dollar priced jewels, and soon the action and violence breaks loose, resulting in the likes of Dave Bautista (Spectre), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek) and the ever radiant Sofia Boutella (Atomic Blonde) all flexing their action muscles in an attempt to overshadow their meaningless characterisation. With Charlie Day (Pacific Rim: Uprising) once again proving to be the most annoying Hollywood actor currently employed, Hotel Artemis fails on a fundamental movie-making level by not only lacking a straightforward central narrative, but also a movie which doesn’t manage to be at all accessible or believable, and by the time the movie crawls its’ way to the finish line, it almost felt heavenly to leave the seat in which I had been violently squirming in for the preceding ninety minutes.
Overall Score: 3/10
“These Creatures Were Here Before Us. And If We’re Not Careful, They’re Going To Be Here After…”
With Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World managing to take an eye-watering amount of cash at both the worldwide and U.S domestic box office back in 2015, a sequel to the return to all things dinosaurs was rather unsurprising and expected giving the current cinematic climate, and with Fallen Kingdom adding to the already mind-blowing array of big-screen blockbusters within the past six months, 2018 seems to be the year to beat in terms of record breaking ticket sales. With Trevorrow taking a step back from directorial duties for the time being, with the American reduced to executive producer before returning to the director’s chair for the third Jurassic World instalment in 2021, The Orphanage and A Monster Calls director, J. A. Bayona takes control of a middle trilogy entry which remains high on gorgeous spectacle and charismatic characters, but one too which is aching for any meaningful level of substance, but with a flashy, beautifully designed catalogue of reincarnated dinosaurs and a riveting potential set-up for Jurassic World part three, Fallen Kingdom is a popcorn-induced exercise of cinematic box-ticking which becomes more rewarding the less you examine its’ rather obvious many faults.
With the movie sweeping towards you with a break-neck speed from the outset, the frenetic pacing of the piece provides quite obviously a film which may have benefited from being broken in two, with the first hour dedicated to a return to Isla Nubar, the titular home of the Jurassic Park franchise, for the basis of a rescue operation after the introduction of previously inactive volcano which is set on eradicating all life on the island, and the second hour a hammer-horror style exaggerated set-piece which sees the newly created Indoraptor wreak havoc within the confines of a mansion where the richest of the rich have come to exploit the now captured prehistoric beasts. With characterisation out the window and the emphasis instead on set pieces, Bayona’s movie attempts to juggle a wide range of interesting notions, ranging from animal rights to the strange inclusion of human cloning, amidst continuous destruction in order to both add something original and stay faithful to audiences who come to just see dinosaur mayhem on-screen, and whilst the end result is messy, the attempt can at least be applauded, particularly when some of the more downright horror inflicted elements of the movie work rather efficiently. With a handful of gorgeously executed shots, including the sight of a sole dinosaur being swollen up by the darkness of an on-shore volcano and the biggest survival downhill run seen in years, Bayona’s take on the Jurassic World franchise is admirable and engaging enough to paint over the creases, and with a tantalising premise hinted at during its’ conclusion, Fallen Kingdom is undoubtedly the middle act of a wider scheme which does its’ duties well enough to suit the generic movie-going audience eager for some explosive digital dinosaur action.
Overall Score: 7/10
“I Used To Sleep On A Lamb’s Wool Beanbag Next To An Electric Space Heater. That’s My Territory, I’m An “Indoor” Dog…”
Whether you feel the back catalogue of Wes Anderson falls too heavily on the kooky spectrum at times, there is no doubting that the stylish cinematic sensibility which springs to mind whenever you think of the likes of The Grand Budapest Hotel or Moonrise Kingdom is undoubtedly one stamped with a seal which paints the American as a contemporary, modern example of someone willing to expand and explore the vast array of horizons possible on film. Following on from his use of stop-motion animation on 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson once again utilises the format on Isle of Dogs, a surreal, comedy caper set in a dystopian near-future city in Japan, one ruled by the tyrannical Mayor Kobayashi who resorts to signing an executive order which immediately orders the evacuation of the ever-expanding populous of dogs onto “Trash Island” due to an outbreak of “dog fever”. With an extensive and highly impressive voice cast, Isle of Dogs is on the one hand an incredibly successful animated exercise, with the flawless and detailed approach to the creation of the movie plain to see from the outset, but with a one-card trick holding up its’ central narrative, Anderson’s latest is entertaining, but far from utterly captivating.
Whilst accents and language utilised within the confines of successful comedic features isn’t wholly original and has been used many times before, most predominantly in last year’s The Death of Stalin which of course featured Jason Isaacs donning a Yorkshire accent for his depiction of Georgy Zhukov, Anderson’s celebrity shopping list of a voice cast resorts to an entertaining game of “guess who” as the film progresses, with Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Edward Norton (Birdman) and Bill Murray (The Jungle Book) the immediate trio of recognisable dulcet tones as the leading pack of the movie who come across Koyu Rankin’s Atari Kobayashi, the young Mayor’s aid, who travels to Trash Island in order to locate his lost dog, “Spots”. With most of the film laying focus on the superb animation, the movie does unfortunately suffer from a sense of being a joke strung out too long, and whilst the pace of the movie is nicely balanced, with the narrative moving back and forth in both time periods and locations in a Scorsese-esque edited fashion, Isle of Dogs does come the end of it, feel quite flat and all too focused on surface rather than depth, but with a cute, barking-mad feel to it and the fact that nobody can turn down a fluffy haired canine, Anderson’s movie works to a solid, not spectacular, degree.
Overall Score: 6/10
“We Have To Stop Her Here And Now, And Prevent Ragnarok, The End Of Everything…”
With arguably two of the weakest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far, the return of Chris Hemsworth’s Thor marks the seventeenth entry in the gargantuan comic franchise, and whilst the character is awash with charisma and undeniable charm, it seems Hemsworth’s God of thunder has been the recipient of being better served when mixed in with the collective Marvel characters rather than being free to fight battles on his lonesome. Inevitably therefore, Ragnarok, directed by New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, manages to follow in the footsteps of Captain America: Civil War by for all intents and purposes being an Avengers movie, just without the titular phrasing slapped across it, with Hemsworth’s character this time being surrounded by the likes of Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner and the return of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in his battle against Cate Blanchett’s evil goddess of death, Hela. With Waititi’s previous works including the likes of What We Do In The Shadows and last year’s critically acclaimed independent groundbreaker, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the Kiwi’s ascent into Hollywood stardom continues the MCU’s usage of interesting, promising directors after Shane Black’s Iron Man 3 and Jon Watt’s take on Spiderman: Homecoming earlier this year, and what Waititi has managed to achieve with Ragnarok is undeniably create the best of the Thor standalone releases so far, but with a aching sense of inconsequentiality running through it, the latest MCU release is supercharged in style but lacking wholly in any sense of prolonging substance.
Faced with the passing of father Odin, Thor heeds the warning of the coming of Cate Blanchett’s Hela, the Goddess of Death, whose desire to overthrow the Asgardian kingdom could potentially lead to the coming of Ragnarok, a prophetic armageddon which eradicates the existence of Asgard from the face of the universe, but with the God of Thunder’s preoccupied exile onto the planet of Sakaar, Thor must first overcome the greatest gladiator battle of all time before returning to save his home planet from certain destruction. With the chugging riffs of Led Zeppelin and a colourful, sparkly tone which made Guardians of the Galaxy so joyous throughout, Ragnarok is a movie which soaks up the fundamental ridiculousness of Thor’s character and simply hands the audience an undeniably entertaining comic adventure on a multi-coloured plate, and whilst the rib tickling comedy and likeable characters, both old and new, keep the audience chuckling and the lengthy running time manageable, the latest Marvel adventure does suffer at times from having almost too much to say without any of it having any real consequence. With a emo-inflicted villain who is too camp to take seriously, strangely jarring cameos from particular Hollywood stars and a limited screen presence from the likes of Jeff Goldblum and Idris Elba, Ragnarok suffers where the likes of Civil War prevailed, with the latter working with each pieces of the chess board onto something of consequence, and considering the future which lies ahead for the fate of the MCU, Ragnarok is indeed a highly enjoyable addition to the Marvel universe but ultimately doesn’t seem exactly necessary.
Overall Score: 7/10
“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.