Film Review: The Meg

As a film studies student I heard all about “high concept” films, this being the idea of blockbusters having simple premises which could be pitched in a sentence or two. Some people are a little snooty on this, but sometimes it helps to be able to sell a movie in twenty-five words or less. And this one was sold to me in six; Jason Statham versus a giant shark.

WoM wasn’t as enthused as for some reason she doesn’t like The Stath, which is just weird. But she agreed to go see it with me and actually enjoyed it more than she’d expected, as she’d dismissed it as looking stupid. It is stupid of course, but it’s jolly good fun at the same time.

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A small sub is exploring the bottom of the ocean, testing a theory that the water is deeper than previously thought and that beneath a natural barrier of almost freezing water is an undiscovered realm which could include all kinds of new life. The sub goes through the barrier and explores but is attacked by something in the deep. The last message sent by the captain, Lori (Jessica McNamee), is that something is down there and that “Jonas was right”.

Jason Statham is Jonas, a deep sea rescue diver who five years earlier was forced to leave behind two shipmates on a damaged nuclear sub in order to save the lives of the crew they had got out. He maintained that something had attacked the other sub, breaching the hull, and that had he not left all would have perished. Dismissed as crazy or cowardly, he quit diving and moved to Thailand were he drinks his days away. This is one of the parts of the movie I really liked, in that instead of being a depressed drunk, moping around the place, Statham’s character is rather cheery, chatting to the locals, smiling away and constantly holding a beer.

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Statham and Li

Jonas is approached to rescue the mission by old friend Mac (Cliff Curtis), who is in charge of the mission and who works for Dr Minway Zhang (Winston Chao), who oversees the base it launched for. It turns out Lori is Jonas’ ex wife and he agrees to the mission.

Lori and her crew are attacked again once they get the lights back on, and so they stay in the dark, the sub damaged. Zhang’s daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) decides to head down to save them in a small “glider”, but her lights draw out the beasty. It turns out to be a giant shark, or Megladon, thought to have died out millions of years earlier. But it has been alive the whole time, beneath the natural barrier.

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Jonas arrives in time to save Suyin and she escapes, leaving him to extract Lori and her crew. Unfortunately, with the beast bearing down on them one of the crew (played by Heroes’ Masi Oka) shuts the hatch and stays behind, saving the others but sacrificing himself. Jonas and the others get to safety, but upon leaving they break the barrier, which allows the Meg out before closing again.

With a giant shark rampaging through the ocean it’s up to Jonas, Suyin and the research base’s staff to try and stop it. Can they stop nature’s ultimate killing machine before it turns the seas into it’s personal buffet? And is killing it the right thing to do?

Yes, of course it is. It’s a giant, vicious shark. Luckily, the film doesn’t bog itself down in the ethics of this as the conversation basically goes like this;

The Stath: We gotta kill it.

Scientist: But this is a one of it’s kind life form.

The Stath: It’s gonna eat people. We’re gonna kill it.

Scientist: Okay, I guess.

From then on the film is the team trying to track down the nasty fish, which chomps it’s way through a variety of ships, supporting characters and whales.

The action sequences are quite fun and there are a couple of tense moments and jumps that keep you hooked in. Unfortunately the ending is a little anticlimactic, and the film never fully embraces it’s goofiness. That’s not to say it takes itself too seriously as there’s plenty of humour and the bantering, jokey dialogue is well done.

As ever, Statham brings his own gravelly voiced charisma to the table and is likeable and engaging as Jonas, our courageous hero. In the supporting cast, Li matches him well as the smart Suyin, and they make their underdeveloped love story work.

The rest of the cast are rather underused, although Rainn Wilson’s cowardly and greedy billionaire is quite fun and Page Kennedy gets a few laughs as the team’s only non-swimmer who sensibly argues for just getting to dry land and staying there. Others like Curtis and McNamee have barely anything to do and Ruby Rose is a background player.

It’s a whole lotta fun, even if there are a few obvious plot developments and the ending doesn’t quite satisfy in say the way Jaws does, but this was never going to be Jaws, this is a film where Jason Statham fights a giant shark, and on that level, it totally works and I can’t wait for a sequel where he fights a giant squid or something.

Verdict: Silly but very good fun. Statham carries the film well and it has enough scares and thrills to keep you entertained. The supporting cast don’t have much to do but they do it well, and the main stars, Statham and the shark are great. A good Saturday evening movie when you don’t want to think too hard. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Film Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

One of the questions during Infinity War was where was Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man? As one of only a handful of heroes not to appear, Marvel fans were left wondering where he and Hawkeye were when Thanos attacked. Luckily this film explains a lot of what Scott Lang was up to.

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Last seen locked up with the rest of Team Captain America (Chris Evans) at the end of Civil War, Scott has done a deal which has seen him allowed to return home but forced to live under house arrest. He has gone into business with best friend Luis (Michael Pena) starting a security company, and has no contact with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) or Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who helped him become Ant-Man.

After Scott shrunk to a subatomic level entering the quantum realm and returned, Hank has begun to think that his wife may still be alive, trapped down there. The father and daughter team prepare to find Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), but their machine doesn’t work, however, Scott has weird dreams about Janet and her memories. After leaving a message with Hank, they kidnap Scott, who worries about breaking parole with only a few days left.

While they try to work out what’s going on they have to deal with black marketeers who are after the quantum tech Hank is working on, and a mysterious figure known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who wants the quantum machine in order to drain Janet’s quantum energy to stabilise her powers which cause her immense pain and are slowly killing her.

Can Scott make peace with Hank after forcing him underground and stealing his suit? Will Scott and Hope reconcile and get their relationship going properly? Will they rescue Janet or will Ghost get to her first? Will Scott get caught and sent back to jail?

First of all, I have to say that this movie is great fun. The dialogue sparkles with humour and the action scenes are magnificent, really making use of the characters’ shrinking and growing powers to create striking, inventive fights and chases. Paul Rudd is predictably great as Scott Lang, and is a likeable, charming presence at the heart of the film and Lilly does really well as his more collected partner. Lilly’s intensity and badassery is a nice contrast to Rudd’s goofiness, and the Wasp is a great addition to the MCU and I hope to see more, but this is still Rudd’s movie.

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Despite everything this movie does right this feels like a lesser entry into the MCU canon. While still hugely entertaining it fails to live up to the shared universe’s recent run of form (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War). It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s missing but I think it may have to do with two major factors:

Firstly, after the massive scale of Infinity War it feels rather small scale, and while it explains Scott’s absence there to an extent and has one killer reference to the film’s events, it lacks the emotional punch of that film.

Secondly, the film drops the ball with Ghost.

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Ghost kicking Ant-Man’s ass

A lot of people say that the MCU has a villain problem, but for me this is something the most recent run has worked hard to fix. We’ve had characters like The Vulture, Killmonger, Hela, Ego and Thanos, all villains who have posed a serious threat while also having solid motivation and varying degrees of depth. You felt some sympathy for Killmonger and Hela, cast out by their families. Ego was unrepentant in his ruthless plot. Thanos while flawed showed some love for Gamora and the Vulture remains probably the best of the bunch, a flawed, desperate man pushed to extremes to support his family.

So, what’s wrong with Ghost? Simply put the film makes her far too sympathetic. We see her suffering from the effects of her powers, hear the tragic backstory about how she gained them and how SHIELD weaponized her. The problem is that this could set up a debate about which life is more important, Janet or Ghost. Is it fair to save Janet if it means they can’t cure Ghost, is it okay to kill Janet to save a life? Unfortunately this conflict is never fully developed and while Hank offers to help we never see him working on it, as he’s focused on his wife, understandably.

Worst of all, the film’s actual resolution feels rushed, overly simple and disappointing.

It seems the film has decided that Ghost isn’t a true villain and they throw in Walton Goggins’ smarmy black marketeer, Sonny Burch. While Goggins is quite good in the role he’s clearly there to be a real villain of the piece, but his goons are never an even match. Perhaps had they given Burch a few flash weapons or even a super-powered goon for hire the fights may have been more evenly matched, but as it is they pose little obstacle for our heroes or Ghost.

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What are rent-a-thugs gonna do against a guy who can become a giant?

The laughs come fast and furious, the characters are solid and engaging. The visuals are magnificent and well worth checking out on the big screen, but the film sags and disappoints at the end. Well, apart from one of the best post credit scenes so far.

It feels a waste of the characters and a step back, the first film since Thor: The Dark World that feels like a rushed sequel and not part of a growing universe.

Verdict: Fun, but disappointing. Rudd, Lilly and Pena are great, but they soften the villain too much and it’s definitely a lower tier Marvel movie. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Mission: Impossible- Fallout

I’m not gonna lie, I’d kinda lost track of the Mission: Impossible franchise. It turns out that this is the sixth film and I’ve missed the previous instalment, Rogue Nation. Luckily, this film does a good job of getting you up to speed before the action kicks in.

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It’s been two years since Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) stopped former MI6 agent turned anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), stopping his international syndicate of rogue agents. While many of his associates have been taken out in the intervening period there are several who have never been identified and they continue to work as terrorists for hire. Hunt is tasked with stopping the sale of three plutonium cores which could make nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, during the operation Hunt’s friend Luther (Ving Rhames) is held at gunpoint, and the cores are stolen. The cores are held by the Apostles, Lane’s followers. They are to be sold to John Lark, a fundamentalist terrorist, however, nobody can ID Lark as all his associates have been taken out by the CIA. Hunt is reluctantly partnered with Walker (Henry Cavill) a CIA agent to take Lark out of the picture, pose as Lark and get the nukes back. Walker’s boss describes him as hammer to Hunt’s scalpel, and the character is portrayed as a powerhouse, and revealed to be the man behind taking out most of Lane’s associates. Their contrasting approaches and outlooks cause tensions as the two men are forced to work together.

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The mission hits complications, including the arrival of Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), who previously worked with Hunt in bringing down Lane, a former colleague at MI6. Lark is killed and Hunt can’t create a mask, so wings it, cosying up to the broker known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). Things become more complicated when it’s revealed that the deal is for the nukes to be traded to Lark after he helps break Lane out of custody.

Of course, Lane will recognise Hunt and Hunt’s reluctant to kill a bunch of French coppers. So, he double crosses the Widow’s team and extracts Lane himself, hoping that he can still make the trade for the nukes and save the world from disaster.

I really loved this movie. Like I said, it fills in the back story quickly enough and in a way that doesn’t resort to some bloke spouting exposition. That out of the way the whole movie is a roller coaster of thrills and spills, with plenty of double crosses and twists along the way.

Right at the centre of this is Cruise as Hunt. Cruise is brilliant in the action hero role, convincing in the fight scenes and bringing a lot of charisma to the role. Given that he’s been playing Hunt for over twenty years (man, I feel old now) he seems utterly at home as the character who is a mix of seemingly indestructible super spy and blagger. At several points the well laid plans unravel and Hunt is forced to wing it, which adds fun and unpredictability to the proceedings.

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It’s also good that as we seem him survive all these threats and dangers, that Hunt remains human and vulnerable, in part due to his connections with other people, not just his team but the wife he had to leave and now lives in hiding. It’s a human aspect and well handled, particularly in a scene where Luther explains the situation to Ilsa, urging her to back away as his feelings for her make Ethan vulnerable.

The supporting cast are solid from Rhames as his right hand man and best friend, to Simon Pegg’s techie comic relief. But the great strength is that a lot of the characters are quite ambiguous and you’re not sure who Hunt can trust beyond his core group. Is Cavill’s Walker on the level, or does he have other orders from the CIA? How much faith should we place in Alec Baldwin’s boss character? What is Ilsa’s involvement?

There’s a surprising amount of humour in the film, which worked for me, especially in the dialogue between the team and some of Hunt’s reactions as things spiral out of control around him.

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Another plus point is Sean Harris’ villain Lane, who is shown to be capable, vicious and ruthless, but without lurching into caricature. In fact, his softly spoken performance gives the character more gravitas and holds the attention better than any ranting supervillain would.

But the film thrives on it’s action sequences, and they are absolutely wonderful. Car chases, rooftop chases, parachuting through a thunder storm, shoot outs, fist fights, helicopter chases, helicopter chases all leave the audience perched on the edge of their seat. There are unbearably tense scenes, near misses and amazing visuals, the whole movie a brilliant thrill ride that locks you in, even when the stunts reach ridiculous levels. As I said, Hunt is beyond tough, surviving crashes and bruising brawls and somehow still having enough in the tank to run full pelt for ages. Despite this, you can’t look away and WoM and I were fully engrossed in the movie.

Given that I lost interest halfway through Spectre, it’s glad that someone is still making entertaining spy movies, and I’m definitely ready for the seventh movie now.

Verdict: Action packed but with moments of humour and genuine heart, this is a hugely entertaining spy thriller with plenty of turns in the road. Fantastic fun. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do? BETEO.


Film Review: The Incredibles 2

Fourteen years.

Fourteen years.

That’s how long it’s been since The Incredibles came out and finally a sequel arrives. One almost feels sorry for this film, arriving with the weight of expectation that even the mightiest super would struggle to hold up. The first movie is such a wonderful movie, and has become so beloved to me that this movie, despite being good fun gets squished by the expectation.

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Kicking off right after the first movie the superhero family of the Parrs are debating their next move. They failed to stop the Underminer (Pixar regular John Ratzenberger) and are blamed for the resulting destruction. Worse, teenage daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) was seen by her crush without her mask and so he has to be mind wiped. After being bailed out of police custody they learn that the agency which has hidden and protected them over the years is shutting down, and the best they can do is provide two weeks at a motel.

While the Incredibles were arrested their friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) escapes and is approached by a mysterious figure. In a scene echoing Jackson’s appearance as Nick Fury in Iron Man, he recruits Mr Incredible and Elastigirl (Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter, respectively) and they meet with the Deavors. The Deavors are Evelyn and Winston (Catherine Keener and Bob Odenkirk), siblings who run a major corporation and who’s father was a big supporter of the supers back in the day. They plan to get the law changed, allowing the superheroes to return, they plan this by getting good PR and so they ask Elastigirl to join them, as she is the least destructive of the trio. This causes friction between the couple, but Mr Incredible decides to be the stay at home dad if it means he can get back in the tights.

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While he struggles with the parenting duties, Elastigirl pulls of some big saves but finds herself facing a new foe, the villain named Screenslaver, who hypnotises people to do his bidding.

Can Mr Incredible adjust to being a full time dad? Will Elastigirl taking the spotlight cause trouble for the pair? Can she stop the Screenslaver? How much more of Violet’s teenage strops do we have to sit through?

Like Finding Dory and Monsters University, this is a solid and entertaining family flick, with great visuals, big laughs and some great characters, but like those films it suffers because it doesn’t quite match the previous movie. The first flick had a solid plot and all the threads came together- Mr Incredible felt helpless, Dash felt constrained and Violet felt like a freak, and all three got to work their issues and embrace their powers, leaving them stronger and more united.

The problem here is that some of the threads are left hanging or never fully developed. The hint of tension between Elastigirl and Mr Incredible never builds to anything, and while he becomes a better dad, but it just kinda happens. Similarly there are hints about Elastigirl enjoying being out on her own in the spotlight, but the film never provides the confrontation between her and Mr Incredible to fully explore these themes.

Similarly, I don’t care about Violet’s story anymore. It feels like they’ve forced this subplot in, and it never really resonates. Dash is relegated to merely struggling with maths and the most interesting of their kids is Jack-Jack, who continues to develop a plethora of powers which are one of the film’s strongest parts.

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While I laughed frequently, and the action sequences are gripping enough, I couldn’t shake the feeling of missed opportunities. The identity of the villain is so easy to figure out it never seems a surprise, and the new Supers who are introduced have some impressive powers but are never developed. One, Voyd, voiced by Sophia Bush, is a slightly nervous fan of Elastigirl’s but at the end there’s no pay off. There’s no moment where Elastigirl approaches her and passes the torch, or embraces her. Instead, she chats to Violet in the aftermath.

There are some great moments and some nice touches, particularly Mr Incredible’s characterisation and struggles. As he begins to struggle with the workload of the children he keeps this quiet, refuses to acknowledge he’s in trouble. It’s a typically masculine trait to not want to appear weak, especially when you’re expected to be the strong one. For me it works, but again, it’s resolution feels a bit hasty and underdeveloped.

That’s the problem. When the film hits it’s stride, it’s very good and fun, but the peaks aren’t high enough to counteract the moments that don’t quite work.

This is a very good film, but following a truly great one, it always feels like a disappointment. Perhaps rewatching it again will soften my view, but leaving the cinema I felt distinctly underwhelmed. This just wasn’t worth the wait.

Verdict: Pixar continue to produce entertaining and stunning films, but some of the plots feel thin and it lacks that big blow out moment to truly satisfy. If you don’t twig who the villain is very early on then frankly, see a doctor, you may be in a coma. Fun, but nowhere near it’s predecessor. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Kissing Booth

I love a good teen rom com.

This isn’t one.

The central conceit here is that there are two best friends, Elle and Lee (Joey King and Joel Courtney), who have been friends since they were little kids. Now high schoolers their friendship endures thanks to a series of rules they follow. However, one of the rules is that Lee’s older brother is off limits. Of course, Elle falls for Noah (Jacob Elordi) and he for her. Cue much sneaking around and inevitable drama when it all comes to light.

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The title refers to the fundraiser that Elle and Lee set up for their dance club, where Elle kisses Noah for the first time.

The problem with this movie is that the character of Noah is underwritten to the point that aside from being a hot guy, you never understand why Elle falls for him. He’s set up as a big man on campus, a popular jock who regularly gets into fights, but that’s it. You keep thinking that the film will add a second layer, but nothing develops. I mean, he’s going to Harvard, which I assume means he’s smart, but we see no evidence of this. He’s a slightly aggressive meathead at the start, and he pretty much continues to be the same aside from occasionally professing his love for Elle.

The whole movie feels old fashioned. This extends to the soundtrack, which features some old tracks. In the early stages of the movie it’s found out that Noah has warned guys off Elle and protects her, but this feels a bit of a cliche and like something from an ’80s teen movie. And a bad one at that, not a John Hughes movie. Elle is slightly annoyed by this but very quickly starts viewing it as a sign that he cares for her and that it’s kinda sweet. What?!

Similarly, after another jock slaps her arse while wearing a short skirt, Elle then dates said jock and Noah actually uses the phrase “asking for it”, which the film does flag but quickly moves on from. The whole episode is handled extremely poorly.

The love story is painfully flat throughout, which is a shame, because Joey King is quite charming as Elle in the other scenes of the movie. She shares genuine chemistry with Joel Courtney, who is the standout as Lee. Unfortunately, with them being separated by her sneaking around and the following fallout the strongest part of the film vanishes for a long period of the movie.

It’s also kinda lame that Elle gets to deliver this speech about how being a best friend doesn’t give Lee the right to tell her who to love. I’m firmly Team Lee here, as the major issue is that she snuck around and lied to him about it. Also, we get one scene where Lee reveals why he is so upset and it’s another missed opportunity. He says that Noah gets everything, and that Elle was the one thing that was his, which is a bit possessive and less interesting. They could have talked about how Lee felt like he was always in Noah’s shadow, that he feels like a lamer version of him or that people use him to get close to Noah. All of these would have had a bit more resonance than the poor reason we get in the end.

There are a few funny moments and, as I said, Courtney and King are on fine form, but the rest of the movie is a mess. Supporting characters are distinctly one note,

I know some may feel I was expecting too much from a teen movie, but that’s unfair. The genre has produced far superior fare, and this falls far short of previous movies. And it feels like a step backwards, the teen genre has had some quite clever, witty films over the years including Clueless and Easy A, this lacks their intelligence and humour.

Oh, and the adult roles are lacking too. I’m a firm believer that quite often the adult characters bring a lot to teen movies, but here the parents and teachers are poorly written too, Molly Ringwald turns up as Lee and Noah’s mum but gets a couple of scenes.

While Netflix has succeeded with it’s shows, I’m massively unimpressed with their movie output. Avoid.

Verdict: Poorly written and with a male love interest who is painfully undeveloped, this film falls flat and is rather forgettable. The two leads have chemistry but are let down by a mediocre script which feels outdated, overly simple and shallow. 3/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Disney Classics #19: The Jungle Book

I can’t lie, I’m massively biased towards this movie because it was the first movie I saw in the cinema. Back in the mid-late ’80s they used to show old Disney movies in cinemas, I’m guessing because the home video market was still in it’s infancy. My Dad took me to our local cinema, I think the Plaza in Port Talbot, which is still there but has been a depressing derelict husk for about 20 years now.

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This sentimental attachment means that for years this was right near the top of my Disney list. In recent years it’s slipped down a bit, mainly because the recent run of form Disney have hit upon, but it’s still probably in my top ten because it’s fantastic.

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The film is a loose adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s book, which I’ve never read, and follows a young boy named Mowgli (Bruce Reitherman) who is found alone in the jungle and taken by the panther Bagheera (Sebastian Cabot), who leaves him with the wolves who raise him. However, word arrives that the tiger Shere Khan (George Sanders) is returning to the jungle, and due to his hatred of mankind this puts Mowgli in danger. Bagheera volunteers to take a reluctant Mowgli back to the Man Village.

Along the way they encounter various residents of the jungle, including the bear Baloo (Phil Harris) who offers to look after Mowgli and teach him how to survive in the jungle. Baloo is one of my all time favourite Disney characters, this extremely loveable, laid back dude who gets one of the best songs ever, “The Bare Necessities”.

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The scene near the end of the movie where Baloo is lying on the floor after a fight with Shere Khan and Mowgli pleads with him to wake up. The scene is genuinely moving, even rewatching it now, and you imagine has left a lot of kids on the edge of their seats, pleading along with Mowgli.

In fact one of the things that never stops amazing me is how much I enjoy this film every time I go back to it, and how much of it I still remember vividly. This is thanks partly due to this being massive fun and loaded with a great soundtrack and some memorable characters. Alongside Baloo you get characters like the vultures modelled after the Beatles, Sanders’ fabulous delivery as Shere Khan and King Louie, voiced by Louis Prima, who sings the jazzy, upbeat “I Wan’na Be Like You”.

Watching this movie provides the same warm feeling as Christmas songs or eating rhubarb and custard sweets, it’s comforting and familiar. It reminds me of childhood, and makes me feel good. And just like the songs and the sweets, I still enjoy it. Revisiting Mowgli, Baloo and Bagheera is like visiting old friends.

It might have been bumped down a few places, but whenever I watch this movie I’m reminded of how good it is, how much I love it and all those memories come back to me. And for the next few days I have the songs stuck in my head.

Disney Score: 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Ocean’s 8

If we’re being totally honest, none of the Ocean’s movies are that great. Don’t get me wrong, they’re quite good fun, but there’s definitely more style than substance and a lot of it is carried off due to the natural charisma of the leads George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Julia Roberts. The bar for the all female reboot/spin-off/sequel is pretty low, it just has to be fun.

Unfortunately, this movie limbos under the bar.

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We’re introduced to Debbie Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock, who is up for probation and delivers a pathetically obvious, crocodile tears speech to get released. In this speech we learn that her brother, Danny, is dead. Which is a bit of a crappy way to write out Clooney’s character, really.

Anyway, Debbie has a plan to steal some jewels. The plan is to get the jewels out of the vault by having Hollywood star Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), where them to the Met Gala and pinching them off her there. To do this Debbie puts together a team to do the heist-

  • Right hand woman and old friend Lou, played by Cate Blanchett
  • Rihanna’s hacker, Nine Ball
  • Rose Weil, a faded fashion designer facing bankruptcy who they manage to get Kluger to hire to design her dress, played with a so-so Irish accent by Helena Bonham Carter
  • Mindy Kaling as Amita, a jewellery maker
  • Constance, a pickpocket played by rapper Awkwafina
  • Tammy (Sarah Paulson), a former fence who has worked with Lou and Debbie before but has since retired to suburbia

And so the plot is in motion. The heist itself is the centrepiece of the film, and is quite slick, but I found myself struggling to care.

The moment when I really lost this movie, however, comes earlier. While the gang are getting ready for the job there’s a last minute fly in the ointment as they discover the necklace can only be undone thanks to a special magnet. Oooh, a bit of last minute drama, a need for the plan to be changed? Will there be friction from the group as they realise their cut will be smaller? Could they introduce an expert that Debbie or Lou have history with, adding tension to the crew?

Nope, it turns out that Rihanna’s previously unmentioned little sister is a tech genius and can work out and build a gizmo to stop it on a single subway ride.

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If the other films lived by their casts, this one dies by it’s one. Rihanna shows that Battleship wasn’t a blip and acting isn’t for her. Blanchett, Paulson and Kaling are underused and wasted. What’s worse is that Kaling, who I’m a big fan of has now been in two of the weakest movies of the year so far.

Helena Bonham Carter plays a slightly more restrained version of her usual eccentric and Awkwafina is passable as the pickpocket.

It’s only Hathaway’s turn as the slightly vapid and bratty starlet that works well, making the character absurd without going too far and stealing many of her scenes.

The real weakness is Bullock, which is disappointing as I’m a fan of hers. However, here she’s never really likeable or wins you over. In comparison with her cinematic brother she looks brittle and cagey, lacking Clooney’s easy charm and suave delivery. Danny wins people other with smooth charisma, Debbie just wins them over because the plot calls for it.

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Bullock and Blanchett, looking as bored as I felt

With a heroine it’s hard to root for the film adds a revenge subplot with Debbie out to get former lover Claude Becker (Richard Armitage) who got her banged up. But it’s hard to view this as too much of a bastard move in a film about con artists, and it seems to be Debbie holding a grudge because someone did to her what she does to countless others.

There are a few laughs and it looks great,  but there’s nothing underneath and the characters are so underwritten it’s hard to give a damn. Also, it’s 2018, having a scene where someone has to explain Tinder to Kaling seems out of place, almost like the app had paid to be included?

But by far the film’s worst offence is to be utterly, utterly dull. I gave up giving a damn pretty early on in the movie, and after the heist there are some rather silly twists and turns thrown in for seemingly no good reason.

Verdict: Dull, charmless and lacking warmth. It looks good, and Hathaway is kinda fun, but on the whole it’s all rather flat. 3/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 


5 Reasons Why I’m Not Looking Forward to the Live Action Dumbo

This week saw a teaser trailer and poster drop for next year’s Dumbo, Disney’s live action remake of their 1941 movie. WoM, a huge Disney fan with a soft spot for the big eared elephant is extremely keen to see it, whereas for me it comes nowhere near troubling my “Films I’m Excited For” lists. Here I’m gonna explain why.

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1. Not fussed on the original

When I was a little kid, I got massively upset watching the original film because I hated the way the other characters bullied Dumbo and it made me cry. Because of this I kinda ignored the film until I decided to watch and blog about every Disney Classic (these will resume shortly). I was hesitant, but gave it a rewatch.

I was not impressed. The story is brief and fragmented, and while “Baby Mine” tugs at the heartstrings, the rest of the movie left me cold.

Also, there are clowns. And I hate clowns.

2. Circus as a Family?

One thing I did like about the original, was that it doesn’t paint the circus world in an overly positive light- the animals are caged and bored, the punters are cruel and mock our hero and the carnies are mean and exploitative. And the clowns are jerks.

Therefore it’s a little worrying to see the teaser trailer include some bollocks about the circus being a family.

Nope.

You can’t make out that Dumbo wants to be there or is happy, circus treatment of animals was horrible and surely the happy ending nowadays should be instead of becoming a circus star, Dumbo should instead fly off to freedom?

Reading the film’s Wikipedia page it looks like we may get Michael Keaton as the villainous moneybags who’s after the flying elephant, with Colin Farrell as the nice guy circus worker and Danny De Vito as his boss. De Vito’s character will probably be put forward as a bit of a rogue, but ultimately good compared to Keaton’s despite both being in the exploiting animals game.

3. Tim Burton

I have serious issues with Tim Burton. He’s one of those frustrating directors who can make great movies but regularly churns out dross. At his best he can craft striking visuals and interesting stories of outcasts and weirdos (Sleepy Hollow, Frankenweenie, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood) but he can also lose himself in art student pretension and almost self parody.

Is he suited to making a kid’s film like Dumbo? Or will his quirks unbalance the whole thing?

4. Disney’s Track Record

Since they decided to start remaking their animated movies Disney have had mixed results. While I loved two of these films (The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast), I found Cinderella to be a bit limp and needless, and Maleficent took an imperious and evil villain and added a mopey backstory and turned her into a tragic heroine. Sorry, but it didn’t work for me.

So, will this be a case of creating a film which is both familiar yet individually charming, or a rather pointless remake?

5. Clowns

I hate clowns. We don’t need more films featuring clowns.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

2015’s Jurassic World was an enjoyable adventure which rebooted a franchise that had been dead for over a decade. Part of the appeal was that it went back to the theme park roots, upped the dinosaurs and ensuing carnage, and featured a likeable lead performance from Chris Pratt.

Of course, the success meant that we would be seeing more of Pratt’s Owen Grady and the dinosaurs. But with the park closed down, and the island having become the land that time forgot, what would be the story.

jwfk pos

Well, we kinda go down the same route as the very first sequel, 1997’s The Lost World. Reluctant hero returning to dino country? Check. Dodgy hunters? Check. Dinosaurs running wild in the US? Check.

Owen is drawn back to Isla Nubar by his ex Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), the former manager of Jurassic World who wants to save all the giant lizards (I’m getting sick of typing “dinosaurs”, okay?) before the island’s volcano Pompeiis them all. She’s been trying to win over influential people, but the US government has decided not to intervene. This is because someone has finally realised that the best course of action in a Jurassic movie is to just listen to Dr Ian Malcolm (a returning, if underused Jeff Goldblum). He argues that as mankind subverted natural law they should just let Mother Nature sort it all out with sweet lava justice.

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Goldblum’s back. Unfortunately he doesn’t do much

Unfortunately, while common sense is prevailing elsewhere, Claire gleefully accepts the offer of help from Rafe Spall’s Eli Mills, a slick business man who’s employer was involved in setting up the original park before falling out with John Hammond (Richard Attenborough). They travel to the island to rescue 11 species, with Owen needed to bring in Blue, the Velociraptor he trained from birth.

At the island they meet Ted Levine’s mercenary who may as well be named Dodgy McJudas because as soon as he rocks up you know he’s a wrong ‘un. Owen finds Blue, but holy double cross, Batman! The mercenaries take the raptor, leaving Owen, Claire and the comic relief behind. They leg it from the exploding island, and discover that Eli Mills is planning to sell Barney and friends in order to fund their experiments in creating hybrids, having forgotten how badly that went down last time.

Can Owen save Blue? Can they free the dinos and get them a new home? And what exactly have those mad scientists cooked up this time?

Here’s the thing, some of this movie is rather good fun, and kudos has to go to Pratt and BDH, who do well as our plucky heroes and have good chemistry once more. Unfortunately, BDH’s Claire seems a little confused here, motivation wise. She’s massively invested in the dinosaurs and as the villain points out, she exploited the lizards firsts, so her outrage is odd.

jwfk pratt blue

Personally, I was with Malcolm and felt they should have let the lava take care of these abominations, but there’s no movie there.

There are very few surprises here, apart from a couple of moments when logic jumps ship. You can see a lot of the plot points coming, and one of the big reveals was so obvious that I clicked what was happening in the first scene it looms up.

It delivers a few decent action sequences, but the new Big Bad is a little underwhelming. Compared to the raptors of the first two movies, or the Indominus Rex in the second movie, this new dinosaur doesn’t chill the blood or exude an aura of danger. In fact, it’s the sequences elsewhere in the movie that are more enjoyable, which is not good. The big villain is supposed to be the main event, and here it’s overshadowed by supporting players.

This is fun enough, and is okay to pass the time, and a few sequences are quite gripping, but this is definitely a weaker addition to the series. The trouble is they’ve still hooked me in for the next movie, as this ends hinting at a far more enjoyable story. It passes the time, but it feels a tad underwhelming.

Verdict: Pratt and Howard are decent enough, but the story is uninspired and easy to predict. A few decent action sequences aren’t enough, and it doesn’t deliver on its promise. Meh. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Week Of

I liked the look of this Netflix Original and despite his hit-and-miss output, I still find Adam Sandler quite a funny on screen presence (Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer and The Longest Yard being favourites of mine). Throw in Chris Rock and the premise of a large, chaotic family wedding, and I thought this might be a decent watch.

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The premise is simple, dealing with the week of the wedding of Kenny Lustig’s (Sandler) daughter to the son of Kirby Cordice (Rock). Kenny is financially strapped, but determined to deliver the best wedding he can for his daughter, what he sees as his last proper action as a parent and his responsibility. However, this causes problems such as the fact that the venue they have chosen is beset by problems due to the cost cutting decisions of the manager, who ignored all of Kenny’s recommendations when renovating.

This leads to Kenny having to put up a massive number of guests in his own house, which becomes full and cramped with a colourful, eccentric band of family members from both sides. Kenny is the patriarch of the family, and constantly having to put out fires and being asked to solve issues.

Kirby, meanwhile, is not the centre of his family, indeed he is slightly ostracised. A successful and ambitious surgeon, he sacrificed his family life for his career and was a poor husband and father in the past. He is clearly troubled by this and his relationship with his children is distant and awkward, despite his best efforts.

Where the film works is in ramping up the farcical elements, from a diabetes effected uncle who is mistaken for a war hero, to an unhinged nephew constantly at risk of snapping, to attempts to save money by ridiculous schemes, the overwhelming family is constructed well, with Kenny constantly under pressure. Sandler does very well here as the regular Joe and nice guy placed under massive stress, doing his shtick of barely suppressed rage rather well. Rock is likeable too, as the normal man thrust into this mad situation.

While there are plenty of decent lines and some big laughs, the whole movie feels lacking in some way. It took me a while to figure out why, but I finally put my finger on it. There’s a massive lack of conflict or resolution here.

Kenny’s rage, slowly bubbling away, never boils over. It deprives the film of a big emotional blow out, and some crowd pleasing ranting from Sandler. He doesn’t lose it with his irritating relatives, the hotel manager who jeopardises the wedding or anyone else along the way.

Similarly, while Kirby scores a minor victory over his judgemental former mother-in-law, the rest of the family are still dismissive of him and despite him loosening up we don’t see much sign of his relationship with his family softening. One dance with his estranged daughter doesn’t feel enough.

And there are other factors that never pay off- the maid of honour is painted as insecure and nervous, but doesn’t get a moment of triumph over the critical bridesmaids. The troubled teen doesn’t get any saving grace other than being shown dancing at the wedding.

One area that may have saved it is a bit more drama on the daughter front. While there are glimpses that Kenny’s daughter is angry at his refusal to allow Kirby to help or embarrassed by the wedding he is putting on it never comes to much. It means that when Kenny talks about his fear of losing her it feels less powerful than had it been delivered following a heated argument.

The central couple are massively forgettable. In fact, I can’t credit the actors here as I’ve forgotten their character names so don’t want to put the wrong people here. They get one scene alone together that I remember, which is rather sweet as they joke about barely seeing each other due to the manic preparations, and the groom is shown to be a decent chap in his interactions with other family members, but they barely feature. It’s a massive shame as this could have strengthened the film and provided a nice contrast to the unending farce and OTT-ness of the rest of the movie.

Chaos is fine, but better with small, sweeter moments to break it up. And also, had they been fleshed out more we may have cared more about how the wedding turned out. But of course, the story here is really about the fathers of the bride and groom.

It’ll make you laugh, but it won’t really stick with you and it feels like some zealous editing might have helped. In order to keep the laughs flowing, the filmmakers have sacrificed story and heart, which are the things which make the best comedies work. As it is, this is merely alright.

Verdict: It delivers on plenty of laughs, but lacks focus and chooses silliness over emotion far too often. This means the attempts to add feeling seem rushed and it doesn’t resonate as much as it should. It’ll pass the time, but it’s hit and miss. 5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.