“I Can Assure You, We Are More Than Prepared For Any Assault…”
Samuel L. Jackson is unfortunately the type of actor who nowadays more often than not falls into the category of “picking up the cheque” when it comes to movie role choices, and whilst I’m game for most things with Jackson in some form of leading role, with recent releases including The Hateful Eight proving that Jackson still has the capacity to show off his acting chops, there comes a time when there can only be so many films in the ilk of xXx: The Return of Xander Cage that you begin to question your fundamental allegiances. With The Hitman’s Bodyguard however, the latest from Australian director Patrick Hughes, a filmmaker who came to big budget fame with The Expendables 3 back in 2014, Jackson teams up with Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds, Daredevil‘s Élodie Yung and Gary Oldman in order to create arguably the most retrograde action comedy of the past few years. Whilst B-Movie nonsense is a genre of movies which sometimes can be overly charming and irresistible even with the fundamental flaws at the heart of it, The Hitman’s Bodyguard manages to fail at every hurdle it attempts to maneuver, utilising nonsensical elements to a somewhat cynical effect and testing the patience of its’ audience from pretty much the outset.
After being demoted from his role as a triple A rated security agent due to the extraordinary death of a client, Bryce (Reynolds) is brought back to the spotlight by ex-partner and Interpol agent Roussel (Yung) in order to protect the life of contract killer Darius Kincaid (Jackson) who is set to give evidence against the evil dictatorship of Belarusian leader, Vladislav Dukhovich (Oldman). Cue retrograde treatment of all female characters, unnecessary levels of violence and jarring usage of profanity, The Hitman’s Bodyguard is the type of movie which features phoned-in performances from the entirety of its’ leading cast, who in their attempt to swivel around the cliched and idiotic plot, scream, shout and swear their way through two hours of absolute nonsense. Reynolds is unbearable, Oldman is worse, and Jackson seems to mixing his performance as Jules from Pulp Fiction with his character from Snakes on a Plane, just without the cool and sophisticated characterisation of the former. The Hitman’s Bodyguard is the type of movie which makes Bad Boys II look like a masterpiece. Avoid.
Overall Score: 3/10
“You Asked Me How Far I Would Go To Protect My Country. Whatever It Takes…”
It comes across wholly ironic that in a week in which we see the big budget release of Alien: Covenant, the sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and a sequel in which does not include the wholly reliable face of Noomi Rapace who declined to participate, that the Swedish born actress turns up in Unlocked, an action-packed spy thriller directed by Michael Apted, perhaps most famous for the Pierce Brosnan led The World is Not Enough, and the type of movie which belongs entirely within the realms of straight-to-DVD mediocrity. Of course, the coincidental notion of these two films being released side by side might not mean anything whatsoever, but in terms of further advancing the career of Rapace, it doesn’t exactly compute why such an esteemed actress chose Apted’s laughably poor action raspberry of a movie rather than the Ridley Scott led sci-fi epic, a movie which although is nowhere near a masterpiece in its’ own right, when put up against Unlocked comes across as some kind of 21st century work of art. With a cast which indeed includes the likes of Rapace, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas and Orlando Bloom, yes, Orlando Bloom, Unlocked does boast an incredibly strong payroll but with a narrative which is woeful as it is unintentionally hilarious, Apted’s latest is perhaps the least enjoyable time I’ve had with an action flick since, well, last week’s Sleepless. Not exactly a strong week for films.
After stumbling into a double crossing, trust bending, terrorism plot, Noomi Rapace’s shock-filled London based CIA agent is thrown violently back into the fold, shooting her way through building after building in order to establish the real play-makers behind a massive biological threat. Cue exposition galore, over-dramatic cameo performances and plot strands which edge of the side of cinematic malpractice, Apted’s real ace in the hole comes in the form of Orlando Bloom who appears half way through the action, conveying the tattooed, grungy, untrustworthy ex-jarhead who enters with a gold pass into the hall of worst cockney accents ever alongside Don Cheadle and Dick Van Dyke who are there to keep him company in the ways of mastering the voice of the East-End. Not only does Bloom win the award for worst cameo of the year so far, his character ultimately is entirely inconsequential to the extent that his existence is some form of contractual agreement to allow Bloom to garner a quick pay check after seemingly disappearing into thin air over the past few years. Unlocked is obviously awful, and although the narrative does threaten to entertain around the twenty minute mark, Apted fails to hold such attentive themes and constructs an action flick so poor that you pray for the likes of Gareth Evans to direct every action movie ever from now on.
Overall Score: 3/10
“They’re Afraid They Won’t Be Able To Put Us Back In The Box When This Is Over, And It Makes Them Belligerent…”
Directed by Lone Scherfig, the creative mind behind films such as The Riot Club and the Oscar nominated drama, An Education, Their Finest, based upon the 2009 novel, Their Finest Hour and a Half by British author Lissa Evans, seemingly begins a cycle of early 20th century war biopics which are set to be released this year, with highly anticipated releases such as Churchill and Christopher Nolan’s unbelievably exciting take on Dunkirk coming to a theatre near you over the course of the next few months or so and whilst Scherfig’s latest is arguably not in the same wide-spread level of appeal as the latest Nolan release or a film depicting one of Great Britain’s most influential figures of recent history, with a cast which includes the bravura acting talents of Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan and Bill Nighy, the groundwork for excellence has somewhat already been established. The question remains therefore whether the finished picture matches the ability of its’ leading stars and whilst Their Finest is indeed a charming low-key drama, one which is laced with a full swing of tea-swigging Britishness, the final flurry of its’ second act doesn’t hold the interest of the first and dwindles into a movie which is wholly admirable but ultimately inconsequential.
Perhaps the biggest criticism of Their Finest is it being a film which once again is a solid example of a movie which doesn’t have enough actual meat on its’ bones to run the course of its’ two hour runtime, utilising narrative avenues which don’t exactly work in the long run, such as the inclusion of Jack Huston as Arterton’s underdeveloped partner, in order to enforce a dramatic subplot which although sets up the film’s leading romantic element, could have been cut out entirely and averted the risk of the dreaded clock-watching from its’ audience. On the contrary, the film does boast a overarching feel-good narrative which is bound to leave its’ intended audience “weeping in the aisles” as stated by Bill Nighy’s excellent portrayal of the fame-addicted presence of ageing actor Ambrose Hilliard, whilst Gemma Arterton continues the argument that whatever she is in she is always top of the class no matter if its’ fighting zombies in The Girl With All The Gifts or battling the sexist and wholly misogynistic ways of 20th century Britain in her role as Welsh writer Catrin Cole. Ultimately, Their Finest is a enjoyable fluffy drama which tells a story and tells it admirably well aside from a few notable exceptions but with a cast as reliable as the one on its’ books, it never really was going to fail.
Overall Score: 7/10
“The Answer To What Is Happening To You Is Here. You Five Are The Power Rangers…”
Of all the many facets of my well-nurtured youth between the mid 1990’s and the early years of the 20th century, Power Rangers was the pretty much the last thing I personally had in mind to be reincarnated and re-imagined for the purpose of reaching out to a modern-day audience, yet here we are this week reviewing a movie which not only conjures up a youth-infused opinion regarding the sheer awesomeness of 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a film which featured the iconic presence of Paul Freeman as Ivan Ooze and in an adult-fuelled retrospect, isn’t as awesome as originally thought, but also begs the question where Hollywood will eventually stop when it comes to flogging and remaking as many footnotes of entertainment that they possibly can. Featuring a primarily youth-infused cast such as Me, Earl and the Dying Girl’s RJ Cyler and The Martian’s Naomi Scott, each battling for screen time against not only their similarly aged peers but the famous figures of both Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks, Power Rangers is a tiresome and wholly predictable CGI-fuelled mess which can’t decide whether it wants to adhere to a Nolan-esque level of maturity or come across as just an overly corny cheese-fest, resulting in a movie which bears similarities to the latest adaptation of Fantastic Four in all the worst possible ways.
Straight off the bat, Power Rangers suffers from a fundamental flaw of having five leading characters who aren’t only ridiculously underdeveloped but are just outright annoying, with introductions ranging from a criminalised youth who finds spare time to wreak havoc on the local town to a bitter bully who thinks it’s fun to sex shame her friend and assault her boyfriend whilst wondering why each of these relationships goes downhill rather fast. Although I understand there is a level of flexibility within a narrative which centres around superheroes and aliens but it takes even the most optimistic of audiences to accept that the five youths portrayed on-screen are indeed the best humanity has to offer. Aside from monotonous central characters, Power Rangers suffers too from the same illness which has raged Michael Bay and Zak Snyder movies for years by including a final act which can only be described as an amalgamation of Man of Steel and Transformers in the worst way possible, utilising awful CGI in creating foes which not only come across as spitting images of the watchers from Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, but are as threatening as a battery powered furby.
Whilst the contractual duties of both Cranston and Banks are both adhered to in some form, both appear and act in ways which can only be seen as dollar-ringed, with the former literally doing absolutely nothing in the twenty seconds he is on screen both in physical and digital form, whilst the latter taking the form of the villainous Rita Repulsa, a simply terrible villain whose penchant for gold infused items can only be regarded as a metaphor for Banks’ appetite for a Power Rangers signed cheque, thanks to a performance which bears similarities to Eddie Redmayne’s camp-fuelled monstrosity in Jupiter Ascending, just without a sense of memorability. Power Rangers ultimately is two hours of film-making recklessness which you won’t get back and being aware of the film-maker’s promise of at least a SIX movie story arc, perhaps we can live in the hope of their first offering being indeed the worst of the bunch. In conclusion, 2017’s Power Rangers is the type of movie in which you leave longing for the ripeness of a 1990’s Ivan Ooze in order to push it into a realm of enjoyment which is severely lacking through almost two elongated hours of dullness. Not for me.
Overall Score: 3/10
“We Got Multiple Explosions. We Need Help Down Here..!”
Of the many cinematic pleasures within 2016, Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon was a surprisingly entertaining thrill-ride, utilising the on-screen likeability of Mark Wahlberg to helm a dramatisation of one of the 21st centuries’ most infamous accidental disasters in a vein both poignant and wholly respectful. Whilst the one-two pairing of Wahlberg and Peter Berg shared mild success previously with Lone Survivor, the release of Deepwater Horizon last year has ultimately pushed the duo into a formidable partnership, returning this year with yet another live-action adaptation of a high-profile disaster in the form of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, a recent example of terrorism action within the United States. With a supporting cast featuring the likes of Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons and John Goodman, Patriots Day is a thrilling continuation of the Berg’s recent cinematic success, creating a sometimes breathtaking drama which mixes white-knuckle tension, Michael Mann-esque action set pieces and an effective screenplay which amalgamates a wide range of on-screen depictions of many who were involved in the events which occurred during that terrifying day almost four years ago.
In terms of differences between the previous works of the successful duo, unlike in Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon where Wahlberg portrayed real-life characters, Patriots Day allows the Boston-born A-Lister to fill his boots with a strictly composite character, created to not only fill certain narrative gaps throughout the movie, but also act as the walking cinematic guide for the audience, seemingly being wherever the high-octane events take place as often and as quickly as possible. Whilst the film uses its’ leading stars to a somewhat solid degree, the frighteningly startling and wholly believable pairing of Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze as terrorist brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev are the real stars of the show, using their intimidating capabilities to create one of the tensest scenes of the year so far in which they carjack and threaten to kill the life of a Chinese U.S national in a manner similar to feel and tone of a similarly haunting scene within last year’s Nocturnal Animals. Concluding with interviews with the true survivors and heroes of Boston, Patriots Day follows in a similar vein to Deepwater Horizon by not only being a entertaining body of work but by being one which is entirely respectful too.
Overall Score: 8/10
“There’s Something Out There…”
Although way too young to realise the impact of The Blair Witch Project when it was released back in 1999, the found footage masterpiece is one of the most traumatising horror movies I had ever seen when I finally got around to watching it in my late teens. Even days after witnessing the events that took place within the movie, the sheer terror of the film still shook me like no other horror movie I had seen previously, with its’ complete lack of jump scares and a pinpoint and effectively measured sense of realism resulting in a movie which left everything to the imagination without any sense of closure or answers to the many questions directors Sanchez and Myrick brought up. Now in 2016, we have Blair Witch, a true successor to the 1999 original (We will forget about Book of Shadows), directed by Adam Wingard, of whom I am a fan of after making effective horrors in the past with You’re Next and segments for the V/H/S franchise. Of course, there was simply no chance that Wingard’s take on the legend of the Black Hills Forest was set to surpass the original yet even so, Blair Witch is a terrifying enough experience to warrant its’ existence, if feeling ever so much like the original in ways both bad and good.
After treading upon a recently uploaded video supposedly containing his long lost sister Heather, James ventures into the Black Hills Forest with his camera-obsessed friends in order to find closure regarding his sisters’ disappearance; events which took place within The Blair Witch Project. After meeting with the young locals who uploaded the video, the group venture into the forest and soon succumb to the curse of the Blair Witch with the group, and particularly James, understanding what his sister may have experienced herself over a decade previously. Although Blair Witch is weakened by its’ fundamental similarities to the original, with the setup and plot twists being pretty much a full-on retread of what fans already know when it comes to the Black Hills Forest, Wingard’s take on the story does boast some effective tense-ridden scenes, particularly in the latter act of the movie when we once again venture into the supposed residence of the titular entity through complete and utter darkness. The cast too are loving every minute and chewing the scenery as they go from one spooky location to the next, yet the film does suffer from not entirely having the organic and strange feel of the original, and although the myth of the Blair Witch herself is slightly scuppered by brief images of a potential reveal, Wingard’s Blair Witch is terrifying enough in sections to warrant a thumbs up. As a fan of the original, Blair Witch is actually a solid, spooky horror which pays a sense of justice to the original, if only too much at times.
Overall Score: 7/10
“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
“Are You A Watcher Or A Player?”
Remember Black Mirror? Yeah, that’s right, that simply brilliant jet-black satirical drama ran by the creative mastermind that is Charlie Brooker and featured weekly tales of horror and torment which ran incredibly close to the perils of modern day society in a fashion not too dissimilar from classic shows such as The Twilight Zone? Well, think back to “White Bear” from the second season in which our beloved heroine is chased through forests and streets by unknown assailants dressed in masks who appear to be following her through video capture on their mobile device as she attempts to figure out what on earth is going on, add into the mix a Hollywood style budget as well as the likes of Dave Franco and American Horror Story’s Emma Roberts, and Nerve is pretty much a Black Mirror episode dragged out to 90 minutes, a notion that has both attractions and problems, yet still results in becoming a solid style-infested summer slick flick.
After swiftly becoming involved in the underground internet-based craze Nerve, a dare-based contest in which “players” compete for “watchers” and cash by accepting and then attempting to complete a wide range of dangerous tasks, Emma Roberts’ Vee, soon becomes entangled with the motorcycle riding adrenaline junkie that is Dave Franco’s Ian, who soon become a formidable pairing in the world of Nerve, racking up both popularity and wealth as they bond through night-time Staten Island. Does all bode well for our recently beloved pairing? Not particularly, and although the final act of Nerve can only be reduced to becoming a complete and utter cop-out, the middle act, in which we witness our power couple of Roberts and Franco compete in doing reckless and simply ludicrous acts of stupidity, is surprisingly addictive and ironically, nervy to watch. The sights out of long-distance heights from that of mobile devices is enough to make anyone squeal, yet Nerve manages to contain such drama effectively and keep itself reasonably low-key in order to adhere to its’ underground nature, at least until the last act in which we are left with a finale so OTT and predictable, it nearly spoils the fun we were having before it. Nearly, but not quite. Stupid, dumb fun with some flashy cinematography is at the heart of Nerve, and for 60 minutes at least, it was some adrenaline pushing drama. Shame about the other 30.
Overall Score: 6/10
“Never Before Have We Had An Informant This High Up In Russian Organised Crime…”
Following on from the hit BBC miniseries The Night Manager starring Hugh Laurie and Tom Hiddleston in essentially what was a pretty strong audition tape for the now seemingly vacant role of Bond after this week it was reported Daniel Craig had turned down a rather lucrative amount of money to carry on as the famous spy. Our Kind of Traitor is an adaptation of the same-named best selling novel by John le Carré, the author whose novels have indeed caught the eye of both the small and the big screen rather recently, with 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy featuring a near perfect performance from Gary Oldman, being arguably the best of the big-screen adaptations to date. Featuring Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgård, Our Kind of Traitor is one of those strange cases of a film not entirely having much wrong with it, but it is no doubt seemingly a film which is too televisual and nuanced to have the spark many of the similar examples of the genre have had in the past, particularly when held up against The Night Manager, a much more interesting and complex thriller than that of the latest John le Carré adaptation.
During their holiday in the far reaches of Marrakesh, married couple Gail (Naomie Harris) and Perry (Ewan McGregor) become embroiled in a Russian mobsters’ plot to defect from his native country and find safe haven in the UK in return for handing all information regarding the illegal finances that split right through the heart of the organised crime syndicate. Although at first reluctant to help in fear of their own safety, Perry and Gail soon realise the lives of not only themselves but the lives of the traitor Dima (Stellan Skarsgård) and his family too. During the course of the movie, it is inherently hard to watch the acting talents of people such as Naomie Harris and Damian Lewis and wonder whether actually what you are indeed watching is a mix between Bond and Homeland, particularly in regards to the notion that much like The Night Manager, Our Kind of Traitor is a story that essentially belongs on the small screen, but by some rather miraculous achievement has instead managed to gather financial backing and the talents of McGregor and Skarsgård to be placed upon the big screen. Our Kind of Traitor is by no means a failure, it just doesn’t seem to have the dramatic quality to render its’ stay within the cinematic spectrum a necessity and whilst Skarsgård devours the scenery around him, less can be said about others around him. McGregor! Not bad, but not exactly remarkable. Watch with a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit. At home.
Overall Score: 6/10
With one of the worst taglines in movie history accompanying it (Check the poster above), the sequel not one person particularly wanted to Olympus Has Fallen has finally decided to embrace our screens in a time of the cinematic year in which, let’s face it, most of the crap tends to descend upon us in a vain attempt to dislodge the award season by letting us know that aside from brilliance of films like Spotlight and Room there is always going to be a gap in the market for absolutely tripe. Following in the footsteps of last weeks’ horror abortion The Forest therefore is Babak Najafi’s London Has Fallen, a cash-grabbing attempt to carry on the murderous rampage of one Gerard Butler during his duties to protect the least believable on-screen President ever in the form of Aaron Eckhart, perhaps best known for portraying Harvey Dent/Two-Face in The Dark Knight, whilst eyeing up the chance to blow up some of the UK’s most valuable and iconic works of art in a metaphorical and very American two fingers up to the people of the UK. As you can tell, it’s a complete turkey.
Although perhaps not worthy of extreme critical examination by any stretch of the imagination, I believe it is the interest of editorial affairs that I point you in the direction of Adam Sherwin’s article in The Independent (Link Below) whereby he gathers the rafter of hatred that has been directed towards London Has Fallen with many proclaiming it a “dumpster of xenophobia” and a film which would “inevitably end up on Donald Trump’s DVD shelf”. Can I argue with any of these statements? Not at all, particularly when regarding the extreme stereotypes and highly racist prejudices which encompass the entirety of the movie whilst the inclusion of complicated and controversial tactics of war such as drone usage is simply lauded within the first ten minutes of the film in which we witness an entire generation of a middle-eastern family get blown up. Is this really entertainment? No. Not only is the film morally bankrupt to the extreme, it is also a shoddy piece of cinema with awful dialogue, ridiculously violent set pieces and awful CGI which wouldn’t go amiss in a straight-to-DVD B-Movie. Don’t take the time out of your day to fuel America’s willingness to enlighten the world regarding the evil nature of the East, London Has Fallen is a Goebbels’ level of war propaganda and something that should be left alone in hope it disappears completely.