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 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.


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: Deadpool 2

The first Deadpool was a blast, a crude, rude romp of OTT violence, winks to camera and gags. Could they capture lightning in a bottle twice? I was hopeful, but apprehensive. Thankfully a few minutes in and the line “Hit it, Dolly!” settled my nerves. We were back and this was gonna be a whole lotta fun too.

Ryan Reynolds as the Merc with a Mouth is easily one of the best castings in comic book movie history (along with Patrick Stewart as Prof X, RDJ as Tony Stark and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian), and he’s on fine form here in a fast paced, foul mouthed adventure.

After a mistake leads to personal tragedy Deadpool finds himself at a low ebb and seeking redemption, leading him to join the X-Men as a trainee. On his first mission he deals with an angry teen mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) who wants vengeance on the people who run the centre he lives at and takes the name Fire Fist. After trying to talk him down Wade has to use force to subdue him but realizes Russell is being abused, prompting him to kill one of the staff, causing the anger of new teammates Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Stefan Kapicic and Briana Hildebrand, respectively). Russell and Wade are taken into custody, their powers negated, meaning that Wade is slowly dying from cancer which his healing factor was keeping at bay.

Wade brushes off Russell’s attempts to create a partnership and advises him to find other prisoners to protect him. However, when the prison is attacked, Wade defends him and fights the attacker, Cable (Josh Brolin). It transpires that Cable is from the future where Russell has become a mass murderer, including killing Cable’s family. Cable plans to kill Russell in order to stop these events.

Russell hears Wade say he doesn’t care and seeks out a dangerous inmate for an ally, while Wade realises saving Russell may be the purpose he needs. To achieve this he puts a team together to save the kid and stop Cable, dubbing the team X-Force.

Can Wade find purpose? Will he be able to stop Cable and can he set Russell on a different path? And is he really cut out to lead a superhero team?

I loved this movie, which had me crying with laughter in places and is relentlessly entertaining. The action is bloody and wince inducing in places, but much of it is played for laughs. Also the story of redemption, destiny and “being better” is handled well without being preachy.

The relationship between the characters is handled quite well, particularly the wise cracking Wade having to deal with the stoic Cable, played with deadpan badassery by Brolin, who does well with the part.

It’s not going to be for everyone given the crude nature of many of the gags, the gore and the tone, but for me it works. The new characters who are introduced are an interesting bunch and a poorly used character from the X-movies gets a second chance to impress.

There are a few gags that probably won’t age well, but most work fine and Reynolds is charismatic as the lead, and seems utterly at home here. Here’s hoping we get more adventures.

A blast.

Verdict: Manages to match the original and keeps the laughs and action flowing. It misdirects the audience nicely a few times and there are several nice touches. Reynolds impresses again. Bloody, crass and delightfully postmodern this is a great ride. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Life of the Party

This was WoM’s pick as she’s a big fan of Melissa McCarthy, and I didn’t mind going as McCarthy has made some decent flicks, although the premise of a middle aged mother going back to university wasn’t that appealing.

Thankfully, the film is relentlessly funny and has a big heart. On the day that Deanna (McCarthy) drops off her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at the start of her third year at university, her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) announces he wants a divorce and is in love with someone else.

Left reeling, especially as Dan plans to sell their house which is solely in his name, Deanna visits her parents where she decides to finish the degree Dan convinced her to drop out of when she got pregnant with Maddie. Maddie is happy with this decision but less so when she discovers it means her mother will be living on campus.

Back in school Deanna becomes friendly with some of Maddie’s sorority sisters and excels in class, increasing her confidence. Maddie’s initial misgivings abate as she starts seeing the positive effects and encourages her mother to go out and enjoy her life.

While the story of the daughter embracing and helping her mother have fun is a nice touch and avoids the conflict that seemed the easier route. But it does make for some rather odd scenes where the dialogue doesn’t feel like how a mother and daughter would talk, especially when things get a little raunchier, especially as Deanna is introduced as a rather quiet, old fashioned housewife.

This is a minor quibble in a film that gets a lot right, especially in terms of feelgood story. McCarthy is massively likeable as the cheerful, relentlessly optimistic Deanna and does a good job of looking after her new younger friends as they experience insecurity. The problem is that some of this bonding feels rushed and there’s a sense of subplots which have been dropped.

The ending as well falls flat, with no real sense of where Deanna is going next. It’s not the sort of movie that needs a sequel, so it’s disappointing that it doesn’t tell us how Deanna plans to use her new degree. Just

There are some big laughs and hilarious moments, mainly thanks to McCarthy but also in supporting roles like Maya Rudolph as her best friend. There’s also a nice twist halfway through which sets up one of the best scenes.

The poor ending and nagging sense of there being more depth on the cutting room floor. There’s a good thread of encouraging women to pursue their goals, stand up for themselves and not yield to insecurities, but it feels watered down. Maybe a secondary plot would have fleshed it out.

Verdict: Carried by McCarthy’s charm and comic skills this is a rather sweet comedy that delivers plenty of laughs. A shame it ends in such an unsatisfactory manner and the supporting players remain two dimensional and underdeveloped. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Rampage

The Rock. A giant gorilla. I was in from that point.

WoM was less sure about it but taking advantage of our new Odeon Limitless memberships she agreed to take a chance on it. She wasn’t impressed, dismissing it as “stupid”. Me? Well, I love a big, dumb fun movie and this ticked all the boxes.

Dwayne Johnson plays Davis, a soldier turned primatoligist who works with George an albino gorilla he rescued from poachers. All is good until George is exposed to a gas contained in a pod which crashes into his enclosure. As a result he begins to grow ever larger and becomes more aggressive.

The gas is actually a weapon which genetically edits animals to turn them into weapons. The experiments were conducted aboard a space station but when a test subject gets loose the base is destroyed and the samples crash to earth. As well as George, a wolf and alligator are infected becoming vicious giants.

Davis is joined by Dr Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), the scientist who worked on genetic editing but was disgusted by how it was corrupted and used for weapons by the Wyden siblings, Claire and Brett (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy, respectively). The Wyden’s want samples and lure the beasties to Chicago.

Can Davis and Kate stop the creatures before the army blow away half of the Windy City? Can Davis get through to George and stop his, um, rampage? Can our heroes trust the swaggering but secretive government agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)?

I really dug this film because it’s got no pretensions or anything, just accepts it’s ludicrous premise and runs with it. The action is overblown and over the top, with very little basis in reality.

Johnson’s charisma carries the film and his friendship with George is handled well and engaging enough that you care. Johnson is so easily likeable and charming that the audience is on board with him pretty much right off the bat.

The Rock with a new tag team partner

It’s to his credit then that Jeffrey Dean Morgan more than holds his own as the cocky cowboy like Agent Russell. Oozing charisma and keeping the audience guessing as to whether he’s a good guy or not. JDM is one of my long term faves and always a winner.

The rest of the cast do their jobs well enough, with a special nod to Akerman who resists hamming it up too much as the uberbitch Claire.

Of course, this isn’t a character piece, and a blockbuster. And in that role it achieves, there are a few laughs, some big action sequences and it’s wonderfully, witlessly entertaining in places.

Sure, it’s daft, but sometimes that’s just what you need.

Verdict: A loud, dumb action movie which does what it sets out to- entertain. The Rock is his usual charismatic self and the action is well done and engaging. Great fun. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Black Panther

Often the weight of expectation can seriously damage your enjoyment of a movie, and having watched the excitement and adoration for this film grow online when I finally got to see it this week it had a lot to live up to.

To it’s credit it is a solid movie, entertaining throughout and a worthy addition to the MCU. However, for me it seems like a second tier entry in the series and not quite as good as some of the hype had said.

The film deals with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning to his homeland of Wakanda to assume the throne following the death of his father (see Captain America: Civil War). He must deal with his own doubts about whether he is ready to rule.

He also pursues Ulysseus Klaue (Andy Serkis) an arms dealer who has stolen Wakanda’s most valuable resource, Vibranium, the metal which powers their advanced technology. Klaue also has a new ally in Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), a vicious and ruthless individual with a murky past and secret connections to the Wakandan royal family.

Can T’Challa adapt to his new role as king and maintain justice? Can Wakanda keep it’s advances secret and safe from the rest of the world?

The good for this movie is that it continues the entertaining, fun and action filled tone that the Marvel universe is built on. It also creates a whole new setting in Wakanda, a high tech utopia. To the credit of the filmmakers they have crafted a fictional society that feels real, with it’s own traditions, factions and history.

Some aspects of this are wonderfully done like the Dora Milaje, an all female elite guard who are shown as a brilliantly badass fighting force. Or the way each of Wakanda’s five tribes is different.

However, there was one aspect of Wakanda that struck a bum note with me. It seems massively selfish of the country to horde the technology it has, and while concerns over their weaponry are understandable, their withholding of medical advancements is hard to defend. This forms part of the plot of the film but at times the “Wakanda is best” rhetoric from some characters felt a little bit full of itself.

Similarly a point about how Wakanda had been spared oppression unlike much of Africa didn’t ring true. Yes, it had kept out foreign invaders, but T’Challa’s ancestors had taken over the five tribes because of the powers given to them by Vibranium.

These minor points aside the movie works well, although for once this is a comic book film that could have benefited from more villains, perhaps a henchman for Killmonger. It would have provided a second more viable threat for the finale.

That being said the finale is pretty good anyway, and the fight scenes throughout are very well done, particularly the larger scale battles. There’s also a belter of a car chase.

I enjoyed this movie and had great fun. I’ve long liked the character of T’Challa and Boseman does good work here, even if the love subplot was a little underwhelming. And there are some good new characters introduced, particularly M’Baku (Winston Duke) leader of one of Wakanda’s tribes and a swaggering, colourful character who exists on the fringe of Wakandan society. Similarly I also really liked Okoye, the Dora Milaje leader played by The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, who can kickass but hints at a softer, more humorous side.

A solid adventure and ticks a lot of boxes, but I think I went in expecting too much.

Verdict; 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.