Review / Aquaman ★★★★☆

The DC Extended Universe is in such a state, that following on from their latest bust (2017’s Justice League), it’s literally last chance saloon. Apart from Wonder Woman, the franchise is seriously in need of another strong hero to carry some of the pressure. It’s not much of a shared universe if Diana Price is the only one who fans really care about.

Aquaman burst onto the scene in the much lambasted Justice League, although Jason Mamoa brought a level of gravitas not seen before from our Atlantean hero, the character always felt like an afterthought. A literal fish out of water. But will his solo outing finally give DC a much needed reprieve?

Directed by James Won, who is widely regarded as one of the best Horror directors currently around, does a stellar job, and even manages to throw in some horror elements, such as the wonderfully shot trench dive scene. The film sees our aquatic hero, Arthur Curry (Mamoa) go back to his home of Atlantis, in order to reclaim the throne from his half brother Orm (Wilson), who intends to wage war on the land above.

Visually, Aquaman is by far the most impressive and stunning addition to the DC universe. Wonder Woman did a great job in bringing in some much needed color to the world,  but Aquaman really steps it up another notch,  Aquaman really makes the most out its various kingdoms it has, each with its own tone. The film definitely has a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe,  when it comes to all the locations they visit. The CGI is also a massive improvement over some of the dire work seen in Justice League, the film is loaded with action scenes, so there’s always something happening.

Though visuals can only take a film so far, and it’s good to see a hero that actually has some charisma and charm. Jason Mamoa is clearly having a blast in this role, and is far more warming to fans, as opposed to the grim, brooding Bruce Wayne and Clarke Kent. The rest of the supporting cast also fit in rather well. Amber Heard as Mera is more than just a sidekick, with powers of her own, she more than manages to stick up for herself and proves to be a worthy ally. Patrick Wilson is surprisingly great in the role of the bitter resentful brother, with a backstory that really explains why he is doing what he thinks is right.  There are also pleasant appearances by Willem Defoe & a surprising Dolph Lungdren!

As mentioned, the villainous Orm does feel like an empathetic antagonists, from his perspective, you can see why he has his views.  Unlike Steppenwolf, who was evil…..for reasons. This is also supported by the presence of Black Manta, one of Aquaman’s adversary’s from the comics. His story is also one that is done very well, with his motives made very clear from the start.

But at a run time of nearly 2.5 hours, the film can really drag on at times, as they jump from quest to quest. The treasure hunt segments could really have been trimmed up a lot more. The story is rather basic, so such a prolonged movie can feel tiring at spots. The action scenes are also all too frequent, when its done well, it’s excellent, such as the rooftop chases in Sicily, otherwise after the 10th set piece, it does feel like filler.  The film does appear to separate itself from the wider DCEU, with very little references to the other movies. The romance between our leading duo did feel very forced, they could have laid the foundations of a relationship that could blossom in any future movies, they do jump the gun here, a strange decision as Mera is involved in with Orm.

Wonder Woman is still the benchmark for the DCEU, but thankfully, Aquaman is closer to that gold standard than the underwhelming releases they are usually involved with.  A wonderfully fun and vibrant movie, the only real issue bringing it down is the slow pacing and extended duration.

Review / Creed ★★★★☆

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When the Creed spin off was first announced, audiences were skeptical to if this was simply another money grabbing franchise, put together for a quick cash in. But just like prior release Rocky Balboa, Creed proved to be an excellent addition to the Rocky series. Focusing on the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Creed(Michael B Jordan), as he is taken under the wings of a retired Rocky. Creed 2, no longer has the influential Ryan Coogler attached to the project, but ultimately, new director Steven Caple Jr. still delivers an excellent sequel.

Even though the fights bring the glamour to these movies, the Rocky franchise has always been more about the story and character development. Creed 2 manages to give both Creed, and his rival, the son of the lethal Ivan Drago, Viktor (Munteanu) , some real personality. Adonis is actually far more unlikable in this film, as opposed to Viktor. Adonis with his arrogance and resentment, comes across far more conflicted, which makes his progress throughout the movie far more enjoyable. Dealing with his engagement and child brings him a far tougher challenge than anything the ring has thrown at him.

Speaking of Viktor, he is far more captivating of an opponent, than the rival in the first film (boxer Tony Bellew’s Ricky Conlon). Conlon was simply a generic cocky, brash prize-fighter, seen many times over. Although Munteanu is not a professional boxer, unlike Bellew, his relationship with his once formidable, but now disgraced father Ivan (Lundgren) really gives Viktor an edge in terms of a personality. The final showdown is done is such a way, you really do end up rooting for both of them to win, as they are both dealing with such inner turmoil. The boxing is as well filmed as they always are in this franchise. You can really feel every killer hook or brutal knockdown.

Stallone is as endearing as always as the aging Italian Stallion, though he doesn’t have as big a role as the previous film,  his character is as warming as ever, and his arc does get wrapped up nicely. If the rumors are true, it would be a nice way to write out the legend. Tessa Thompson also shines again as Creed’s partner Bianca, she is nicely incorporated into Adonis’s facade both in and out the ring. It would have been easy for the film to simply wash over her hearing issues, but it’s used for some powerful scenes this time around.

The movie does suffer from following the usual Rocky formula, borrowing elements from both Rocky 3 & 4. The film is rather predictable to any one who is familiar with any of the previous entries, It’s also a shame that Rocky & Drago don’t really share much screen time together, bar their first meeting early in the movie. Apparently there were some post fight scenes as our old foes share a moment of respect, but it was cut. As soon as the final fight ends, it cuts right to the conclusion of the film. One other nagging moment is that the iconic training montage just seems to lack something to make it Rocky caliber, not just your everyday montage.

Those criticisms aside, Creed 2 is still a fascinating sequel. Adonis really changes as a person, and our antagonist is also as endearing as our hero. The fight scenes are incredibly powerful and wonderfully shot. In all honesty, there really is no need to make a third installment. Though if anything, a film following the Dragos journey to redemption would be just as intriguing to watch.

Review / Crimes of Grindelwald ★★½

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Directed by: David Yates
Starring : Johnny Depp,  Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Zoe Kravitz, Ezra Miller

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was a perfectly enjoyable movie, while it did have the charm & development of the Harry Potter franchise, it still worked well enough to provide a solid foundation to the adventures of our magical animal keeper, Newt Scamander. With the news that the Fantastic Beasts series will now span 5 movies, did concern some. Having to span the entire narrative over five films could dilute the end product, and unfortunately, it seems the sequel, Crimes of Grindelwald, is already feeling that influence.

The story picks up following the arrest of our villain from the last film, Grindelwald (Depp), as his transfer to the UK from the States is inevitably botched, and manages to escape to Europe, to start his own uprising. Credence, the estranged yet powerful orphan, managed to survive the events in New York, is the vital pawn in tipping the balance of power towards our villain. It’s down to Scamander (Goodmayne) to track down Credence before it’s too late.

What made the first film such a joy were the vibrant scenes , escapades of Newt, and all the various magical beasts that he interacts with. How he uses the animals to further help his own objectives was a nice change from simply using magic. The hidden world within his suitcase opened us up to a world outside of the iconic Hogwarts. Unfortunately, in this chapter, Newt is pretty much on the bench, and probably down in 4th in order of importance to the plot.  There are far too many subplots all going on in the film, Grindlewald, Credence and Leta (Kravitz) all have far more significance to the grant story. There’s also the Dumbledore, Queenie and Nagiri arcs, which simply creates a convoluted tangle of tales.

Even with all these story lines occurring, and a run time of over 2 hours to fit it all, it all still feels so dull! This has the feel of a political drama, rather than a magical escape. The finale of the film revolves around a political rally, thrilling! The entire Lestrange story really goes nowhere, and it could have been entirely removed, and would make no difference to the overall story. Which raises huge concerns, considering it was a vast chuck on the plot. To cap it all off, the final at the end, raises some serious inconsistencies, which will leave hard core Potter fans dumbfounded.

The interactions between Newt and Jacob (Fogler) are still as great as the first film, their chemistry really gives their characters a likability that a large majority of the cast simply don’t. Their journey and confrontations with the beasts are by far the strongest parts of the film. Sadly, Newt feels like an after thought, playing a support role to the grander scheme. Jude Law as a young Dumbledore is also rather good, and brings some charisma to a role mostly associated with an old respected scholar. The Hogwarts scenes also bring some nostalgic charm to the movie, and reminds us why the franchise is seen so fondly by many.

There is still lot’s of potential left in the series,  the magic and fantasy aspects are still there, and as part 2 of 5, things will drag on in some the films. Now that the ground works are well and truly set, hopefully the next release sees more of the fantasy, and less of the politics!

Review / Slenderman ★☆☆☆☆

Joey King

Seeing as it’s Halloween, it’s only appropriate to look back upon one of the slew of horror movies that have come out this year, but one in particular stood out, and it was so shambolic, it’s pretty much nailed on for one of the worst films of 2018!

Slenderman was all over the internet 4-5 years ago, the myth, the memes, the buzz, about our suited up stalker in the wood was at its peak, and of course there would be a movie cash in for it.  It’s now 2018, and the chance to capitalize on this trend has long gone, and unfortunately, it’s a horrendous effort that really should have been buried away in the archive room.

A group of teenage girls decide to summon our friend from the occult after hearing the rumors going around school. After one of the group suddenly goes missing, the friends realize maybe it wasn’t a prank after all.

The main issue with Slenderman was that it was coming off the Slenderman murder case which took place in the States back in 2014. With the film being released as that case was coming to a close, meant the studio was in an awkward situation.  What ended up happening is that vast chucks of the movie were removed. The trailers for this film are far more sinister and dark, compared to the toned down mess they ended up releasing, with key scenes missing, the film simply jumps all over the place, and they don’t even bother filming even the smallest of scenes to explain the jumps. You can see in the video below just how much of the film is removed.

Our main protagonist, Hallie, is totally unlikable, even while her friends start to go missing, she is far more interested in hooking up with her crush and making sure she looks cool.  Wren, her best mate, who ends up being driven mad, does her best to at least solve things at least, but Hallie, just yells at her to move on, ignorant to the ominous threat that her close friends are suddenly dying. While another character shows signs of being stalked/possessed, and everything builds up to a particular scene at school, but nope, nothing happens, and you never see her again. From the trailers you can see there was supposed to be a moment of dread here, but its cut, and the character is never addressed again! The scares are awfully weak too, if your neighbor was checking to see if you are safe, why would they be moving around the house in a creepy murderer like fashion? For drama?

It seems like the studio only had permission to film in the woods nearby, so the film spends a large chuck in the forest. School, forest, home, forest, school, forest. It’s almost comical how often they always end up back in the woods for some other reason. Slenderman himself is ok, but once he reveals himself totally, he loses all sense of dread, and is a CGI mess by the end.. He is far more sinister as a character when he is hovering in the background, looming. The movie also thinks showing clips of the clouds in the woods is scary, and constantly uses it as a transition between scenes!

All in all, there really isn’t anything good to say about this movie, but it’s worth a watch if you really want a scare on Halloween!!

Review / Halloween ★★★☆☆

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It’s not been the smoothest of rides for the Halloween franchise, the 1978 classic is still one of the greatest slasher films, and was the foundation of several other movie universes such as Friday the 13th. Since then, the film has spawned over 10 different sequels, the majority of which have been critically panned.  Halloween (2018) attempts to retcon all the complications from prior films, and plans to deliver a far cleaner, direct sequel to the original. Can it be 11th time lucky?

The story picks up 40 years on from the horrific murders committed by the psychotic Michael Meyers (Nick Castle) , Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), a survivor from his original massacre, still awaits the day she can take her revenge on the monster. It seems she may get her chance sooner rather than later.

This time around, it’s not just herself who is dragged into another night of terror, as her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak), along with her family, also end up with targets on their backs. After 4 decades of fear, anger and mourning, can Laurie finally put her tribulations to rest?

Compared to the various underwhelming films that were pretty much a cheap cash grab, Halloween, is very much a return to form. Bringing back a much needed freshness to a series that had long become stale. The ongoing duel between our two leads is what really makes the film tick. The dynamic between out two characters is clear to see, and the fact both roles are taken up by the original cast members from 40 years ago helps a lot.  Laurie is seen as the only one who understands and can confront Meyers, and though her behavior may have created a distance between herself and her family,  she is absolutely assured she is doing the right thing. Without Laurie, the film would have definitely struggled to be anything noteworthy with the new cast.

The iconic Haloween theme is back, and brings back the chilling undertones which a threat like Meyers brings. Obviously the main reason people will flock to this film is for the slasher violence, and Halloween delivers in that regard. Some of the deaths are rather shocking. While others are pretty graphic, as you would expect when the weapon of choice is primarily a kitchen knife! But the kills are also rather inconsistent, moments  such as the scene in a local fuel station toilet is very intense, bloody, and wonderfully shot. While other scenes mostly take place off screen/implied. A strange decision considering it’s an 18 rated movie, and the fluctuating violence does not give the film a consistent feel. Some scenes are very well executed, Meyers silent, casually butchering, while people innocently go out for Halloween on the streets is excellent, and his stalking scenes come off great, especially when motion detection lights are involved (as illogical as that scene)!

While the violence and horror is what keeps this movie above water, the characters and plot do manage to drag it back under. The core characters, Laurie, Meyers, Allyson work fine. While others are simply there to be killed off. But then there are characters that really get screen time for no reason.  Allyson’s boyfriend gets a lot of attention at the start, and is built up pretty well as someone you would enjoy seeing meeting his demise, but he randomly disappears and is never seen again! The whole Doctor sub-plot in the movie felt very unnecessary, and could have been removed entirely. There is also a random sassy kid, who delivers, what are wonderfully delivered one liners, felt utterly out of place. So what is supposed to be a horrific moment, becomes a joke, as the audience are laughing. Would a young kid who is literally facing death banter with people? It was a problem The Nun also had, forcing humour for no real reason.

The plot, which is rather simple, still has various flaws that will bug most, resorting to generic cliches. People slipping when they running then can’t get up. Leaving a serial killer who is being transferred, totally unprotected with no police escort whatsoever. The reason why Allyson ends up losing her phone during the film is so ludicrous and lazily written.  The ‘‘What can we do, cancel Halloween?’’ line is total cheese. Yes, cancel it, you’re the police chief, people will die! It simply sounded like a sound bite they wanted to use for promo material, and not something a law enforcement would do! After 40 years of prepping, Laurie’s plan is rather, archaic, with so much modern tech around, her plan could have been far more sophisticated, and simpler to execute.

That said, Halloween is still a great reboot to a stagnant franchise, but the film brings nothing new to the table. The plot and characters aren’t the best, but let’s be honest, you’ll be watching for the scares and kills, and on that side, it delivers a home run.  Halloween has its flaws, but Meyers does enough to make this film worthwhile, a perfectly decent night out!

Review / Venom ★★☆☆☆

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The central theme in Venom surrounds the split personality of our protagonist Eddie Brock, this also reflects the movie in general, as it just can’t decide what kind of film it wants to be. Venom goes back and forth between a dark thriller to comedy to buddy cop, delivering a conflicted final cut, leaving everyone confused.

Making his return following the disastrous Spiderman 3, Venom is back after 11 long years. After getting in contact with an alien symbiotic organism, whilst investigating a shady organisation, down on his luck Eddie Brock (Hardy) suddenly discovers that he isn’t the only person inside his mind! With his new-found powers, can he tame the malicious Venom, as he aims to take back control of his life?

Without a doubt, Hardy and his scenes with Venom are by far the strongest parts of the film. The film takes a while to ramp up the action, but once the symbiote starts to take over, the intensity takes off! The constant conflict between the two sets up some great scenes, as he struggles to remain in charge. The action set pieces with Venom are a blast, showing the true threat of the symbiotic terror. The powers that Venom possesses are awesome, and it’s great fun to see him go all out, wiping the floor with countless goons.

Though that’s where the film really has to offer is regards to promise. Venom for some reason decides to go full out comedy, ala Nutty Professor. Some scenes where he is struggling to restrain the beast are comically bad, and Brock’s breakdown in a restaurant is incredibly awkward, almost Nicolas Cage levels of insane! Venom constantly demeans Brock for no real reason, yes, it may deliver some cheap laughs, but it goes totally against Venom’s actions when he reveals his true intentions. There is a strange buddy cop vibe, which seems so out of place in a film such as this.

Generic Evil Corporation #2158, The Life Foundation, led by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), is the big bad here. Ahmed does an OK job as the villain, but he really has nothing much to work with, apart from being a young prodigy who is a CEO in his 30s. We don’t really go into what his motivations are, why did he become so crazed? His behavior is pretty much psychotic, but we see nothing to show why he has become this unhinged person, which greatly hurts the character.  Brock’s love interest here, Anne (Michelle Williams) is devoid of anything interesting, and is for some reason, forced into the final scenes of the movie far too much.

The film is also oddly mild, considering the vicious monster Venom is. Whereas Deadpool & Logan have shown that if it’s done well, an R rating is not a bad thing, if anything, it can enhance a movie. The lack of any blood at all is confusing. There are scenes where people’s heads are bitten off, or get impaled, but the clean nature of the scenes makes Venom look sterile. Venom never really feels as dangerous as he should be.

Venom should do well enough at the Box Office to earn itself a sequel, hopefully the studio will take the feedback from this, and produce a far more polished final product. Though it may seem a far reach, the presence of Spiderman, regardless of how small it is, would be great for Venom to play off against down the road.

 

Review : The Nun ★★

THE NUN

Directed by: Corin Hardy
Starring : Taissa Farmiga, Demian Bichir, Bonnie Aarons

The Conjuring franchise has become one of the most revered horror franchise of recent times (well apart from the disappointing Annabelle). One of the biggest highlights from the last mainstream entry, The Conjuring 2, was the demonic presence of Valek, a nun, but not so holy. So it was inevitable there would be an origin story, but would it deliver, or be awfully underwhelming like the previous origin attempt with Annabelle?

Set in post WW2 Europe, Romania to be exact. An isolated monastery out in the forest, is being terrorized by an unknown satanic force. As a local discovers the corpse of one of the Nuns, news filters back to Rome, who dispatch one of their own to further investigate matters, Father Burke (Bichir). Together with Nun-to be, Sister Irene (Farmiga) set off east, to confront the demon (Aarons).

One of the biggest difference with this film, compared to the main series, is the director. James Wan who has created some fantastic horror, is not at the helm here, but rather Corin Hardy. What makes the Conjuring movies so chilling, is rather what you don’t see, than what you do. Building up the suspense is ways other than simply using jump scares for cheap thrills. Such as the use of a simple eerie painting in Conjuring 2. The Nun actually starts of rather well, the locations are perfect for a good scare, forests, check, graveyards, check, a church, check! It all builds up fairly well, one scene featuring the corpse of the nun from the start of the film is done very strongly. But as soon as the demon Valek is revealed (which is far too early in the film) it unfortunately falls back to the traps that catch out many horror flicks, jump scares.  Once the veil of mystery is lifted, it almost becomes laughably comedic at times.

Speaking of comedy, we are introduced to ‘Frenchie’, the local guide who originally stumbled across the body. He is in essence the best part of the film, but also the worst! His sassy humour is indeed quite funny, but it feels awfully out of place. Sure a laugh is useful to break the tension at certain moments, but having it go on through the film felt a rather odd choice. As great as his lines may be, it really does take away a lot of the sinister aura from scenes.

The plot is also very lazy, with one scene in particular summarizing the entire background to the events in a few minute or so. Thanks random side character! Sister Irene is the person we follow, as she attempts to dig deeper into the mystery. The reason she is on this journey is her prior knowledge of the area, even though she admits to never being in Romania. This is never addressed again! Nor are her demonic nightmares she constantly has, as she hasn’t been exposed to out demon previously, nor is she ‘cursed’ as someone of special interest. Valek’s plan also never really makes sense, if the demon is already free, why is it still here? The film doesn’t really make it clear what its agenda is. The film sets up an intriguing ending, to how it may link to the ‘current’ events in the Conjuring universe, but the film stumbles, and goes another way, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but its far less dramatic than what they could have gone with.

Overall, The Nun isn’t a total dud, there are scenes which are genuinely scary,  and Valek is as ghastly as it was in the prior movie (before is goes full cheese by the finale), there have been far worse horror films out this year, but considering the other films in this franchise, The Nun really fails to deliver, and is no where near as unnerving as the film it follows, Annabelle Creation.

Review / Unfriended: Dark Web ★★

Director : Stephen Susco
Starring: Colin Woodell, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel, Andrew Lees

Unfriended: Dark Web could have been an intriguing & uncomfortable look at the dark underworld of the internet, but unfortunately it fast becomes a joke of a horror, resorting to cheap plays for shocks. A stand alone sequel to Unfriended, Dark Web follows on with the unique concept of story telling in real time via various online platforms.

During one of their frequent Skype based game nights with his friends, Matias, our protagonist, who has picked up a recently purchased used laptop, notices that the previous owner of the computer may not have been your usual customer, and soon discovers a dark secret buried deep within the hardrive. It’s not before long, that the a mysterious presence online takes their game night hostage.

The first half of the film is actually rather captivating, the idea of using Skype/Facebook, and the presence of apps like Spotify, as the main methods of communication is a great way to make the film connect with the young audience it’s trying to reach out to.  The initial stages of when our protagonists starts to suspect something more sinister may be in play, is where it’s at its best. The feeling of being constantly being threatened and harassed online by an anonymous presence is something we can all fear. And as our group of friends dig deeper into the murky world they stumble upon, things do genuinely feel disturbing. Especially as they browse through the video files that are stored in the laptop. It works the scares without resorting to any jump scares or cliche tactics. The feeling that everyone move online is being watched is something we all understand.

While that may be the best part of the film, the rest of it is pretty tepid, especially for a ‘horror’. The group of friends, you never really care for, nor do they possess any quality that makes them worth caring for.  Damon, our hacker friend from London is probably the only one who contributes to the plot, the rest are pretty much cannon fodder. Our main character is supremely unlikable, his actions are very selfish and his relationship with his deaf girlfriend seems very unbelievable.  The girlfriend is also played off as idiotically stupid, she is deaf, this shouldn’t make her dumb by default, her actions are shockingly awful throughout the film! Hopefully the plan was to make Mathias be hated, otherwise it’s a massive fail!

Once the villain is revealed, the film becomes laughable, cheesy dialogue between our villain and Mathias is comically bad, and the cheap phasing effects of screen whenever he appeared looked absurd whenever it happened. The original film had a supernatural vibe to it, there is none of that here, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The whole ‘darknet’ concept could have been used extremely well, but what the film eventually descends into, maybe they should have stuck with the supernatural plot. The film never feels like a horror, and really could have been marketed more as a thriller. They never shows anything too graphic, and the death scenes are rather tame compared to what happened in the first film.

It’s just a shame that the movie couldn’t run with the ideas it planted at the start of the movie, what could have been an engrossing story, just fades into a forgettable 90 minutes.

Soldado Unravels…★★★

Incredibly intense and wonderfully filmed, Sicario was one of the stand out films of 2015.  The success of the original meant a sequel was inevitable, but without the influence of Denis Villeneuve and leading lady Emily Blunt, can this installment match the heights of the original?

Sicario : Day of the Soldado, directed this time, by Taylor Sheridan, follows CIA agent Graver (Brolin) as he once again enlists the assistance of rogue operative Alejandro (Del Toro) to destabilize the Mexican drug cartels, who are suspected of smuggling in terrorists across the US border. They aim to accomplish this by staging the kidnapping  of the young daughter (Moner) of the cartel kingpin, and in effect, creating a civil war.

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The opening and middle chapters of the movie are still as potent as the original.  The film mixes the bloody violence and brutal nature of the cartels, with the meticulous nature of our agents well. Brolin who is having a very successful summer, is as fierce as ever. And Benicio Del Toro is the same mysterious, magnetic hitman from before. Although the film loses the character the audience could relate with (Blunt from Sicario), our duo as strong enough to keep her loss to a minimum. Isabela Moner, who yet again plays another young character with her namesake (after her role in The Last Knight!) also gives a great performance as a young girl caught up as the innocent pawn in a government covert operation.

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As the plot starts starts to come together towards the climax, is when things really start to fall off. It was reported that the original screenplay was changed, and the film loses its traction it begins with. The plot starts to leave far to many gaps, and character decisions that really go against their previous actions. Alejandro, who was a ruthless assassin, willing to kill children, suddenly develops paternal like behavior, in hardly any time. We also never really know who the true antagonist is, the cartels? The US government? It’s obvious to see that this is a part 2 of 3, leaving a bit too much unexplained for the third chapter. The operation itself rather falls apart way to quickly, for something that was planned with laser precision. Unfortunately the film makes decisions that feel like a cop out, where the first was praised for the gutsy decisions the script took.

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The tension and suspense the film creates is still on point. There are moments in the movie you will honestly want to look away. The Beast, the daunting, yet iconic soundtrack from the original returns, and when it starts intensifying, the tension cranks all the way up! The ambush scene is magnificently shot, and comes out of nowhere!

Soldado is not a match to the original, but the characters are more than strong enough to carry the film onto the obvious third installment. Sadly it does feel like filler, but maybe after the final chapter, Soldado will look better in hindsight.


 

*THE BEAST INTENSIFIES* 

Downs of 2018

With half the year done and dusted, it’s an opportune time to look back at some of the low lights of the silver screen. What was awful, what simply just let us down? Let’s have a look!


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Pacific Rim Uprising

As a standalone movie, Uprising is not all that bad a film, but when you associate it with the surprisingly popular Pacific Rim, is where things collapse. By removing the creative & dark Del Toro elements, and removing a magnetic lead such as Idris Elba, you are left with a very underwhelming film.  Gone is the sombre and intense feel of the first, replaced by brightly coloured robots that can now be effortlessly controlled by teens, a la Power Rangers. Gone is the vast scale of grandeur and size, in comes the numerous product placements before the title card even shows up.


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Truth or Dare

Considering this was created from the critically acclaimed Blumhouse Productions, whose previous works include Get Out, Happy Death Day and Split. Truth of Dare is a step back to the cheesy horror flick full of jump scares and idiotic characters. The plot is horribly convoluted for a by the numbers horror film, the cast is clichéd, and an ending so shambolic you will leave you astounded by what just happened! And let’s not forget the laughable ‘possessed’ demon faces…….


Film Title: Breaking In

Breaking In

This really could be filed under ‘So bad, it’s good’, while it was nice to see Gabrielle Union play a role she really isn’t associated with, Breaking In starts off reasonable well, but as soon as the action begins, it loses all its tension and delves almost into parody. Where Union’s character got this military like experience, we don’t know.  Guy gets run over twice by an SUV, then just randomly appears later without any sign of damage, sure why not. The entire audience was laughing as the final credits rolled! Which I guess makes it………. a good movie?!


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The Cloverfield Paradox

‘’Stop trying to make Cloverfield happen……….It’s not going to happen’’

There was a reason why this convoluted mess was released on the sly on Netflix, at first, this was slated as an original movie, before studio intervention, The Cloverfield Paradox seems to be all over the place, floating between space horror, comedy and mystery, while never really sticking to one path. A shame considering the sheer talent of the cast involved in the project.


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Red Sparrow

At over 140 minutes, Red Sparrow is one drawn out, turgid spy thriller. The premise of this movie were spies that were trained to seduce. But her character is frankly useless as a spy, wondering why she was even releases to go on field duty!  The entire plot revolves around a mole in the KGB, which comes out of nowhere at the end with literally zero work leading up to it. It’s just……….boring.


So what movies this year let you down? let us know! 😀

Ocean’s 8 – A Villain Short….

Ocean’s Eleven is probably of the most loved Heist movies of recent times, the Soderberg directed thriller was effortlessly cool, with a charismatic ensemble cast, spearheaded by the superstar duo of Clooney & Pitt. Though the following sequels did not reach the acclaim of the first, it’s been over 10 years since Ocean’s Thirteen. Now the franchise is being revived, with an all-female ensemble, will it prove to be a hit, or an ill-advised spin-off?

Ocean’s 8 picks up following the release of Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) on parole, following several years behind bars. The younger sister of the now deceased(?) Danny Ocean, Debbie concocts a plan to gain not only a large jackpot, but revenge on the person that lead to her incarceration. The target, the Toussaint, a lavish $150m Cartier necklace, which will be present at the extravagantly exclusive Met Gala party. She enlists the help of her former partner in crime, Lou (Cate Blanchett), hacker Nine Ball (Rihanna), street hustler Constance (Awkwafina) and jeweller Amita (Mindy Kaling) amongst others.

Some fans feared that Ocean’s 8 was just a sceptical cash grab, and would be an unnecessary addition. But O8 proves to be a thoroughly entertaining, charming and funny ride. Bullock & Blanchett may not be as magnetic as the original Ocean/Rusty dynamic from the first trilogy, but then again, it’s rare to find a combination that good. Both ladies here do a great job in carrying their roles, with Blanchett being particularly enjoyable in her role as the snarky Lou. The rest of the cast are also enjoyable, Kaling is known for her comedic work, and shines here. Anne Hathaway is having a blast playing the ditzy actress/socialite Daphne Kluger. Sarah Paulson & Helena Bonham Carter, who are also part of plan, fit into the team comfortably too. Rihanna is usually can be divisive in her roles, but her lines are kept to a minimum here.

The heist is of course the centre piece to the film, and that is where the film starts to break up. The heist concludes at the end of the 2nd act. As the 3rd act decides to look into what happens after the crime has taken place. Logan Lucky fell for a similar trap, following the heist with an investigation sequence. It really does slow the film down to a halt, and appears to be just an excuse to get James Corden to do his comic routine and get some cheap laughs. Everything building up to their plan at the gala, and the heist itself is very well done. Fast paces and captivating to watch, the film could have quickly wrapped it all up but decided to go on for just a bit too long.

The film also lacks a true antagonist, Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict was a foreboding villain in the original film, someone the audience would love to see get his just desserts. But here, there really isn’t a stand out villain, sure, Debbie’s Ex could be seen as the foil, but his character is so generic, no one really cares about him or his fate. Our squad also never seem to face any challenges or danger. None of the team really show any nerves or rookie behaviour, considering only Debbie and Lou seem to be the real big time criminals. Any danger the team faces is almost immediately dealt with, taking away any suspense.

Ocean’s 8 does more than enough to warrant a sequel, the film is full of humour, style and there are tonnes of celebrity cameos to keep your eyes open for! Though the large amount of obvious product placement of several products is Transformer levels of ‘in your face’. If the sequel can bring in a viable foe for our team to go up again in the next instalment, things look promising for the franchise!

Fallen Kingdom / Review

Jurassic World was a triumphant return back to the big screen for the Jurassic Park franchise, after a 14 year hiatus since Jurassic Park 3JW received not only glowing reviews, but took in a staggering $1.6bn at the box office, so no pressure on the sequel….

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, directed by J.A. Bayona, brings back our leading duo Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) & Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), as they return to Isla Nublar, to coordinate a rescue mission lead by Benjamin Lockwood, the former business partner of John Hammond, o save our reptilian inhabitants from a volcanic fate.

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Essentially, the movie is what you expect from a huge Summer blockbuster, it’s an impressive spectacle, dazzling CGI, hugely thrilling and comedic banter. But it does fail with its story, as the plot regresses back to the usual weaponized dinosaurs arch we have already seen.

The chemistry between our leads is far more cohesive here, their interactions feel less forced than it did in JW, FK gives them far more to do, and they break out of the typecasts they had in the first one. Claire is far more interesting as the head of a Dinosaur conservation group, rather than the dull, cold, career focused executive. The film also makes firm point regarding the boots she now wears, after the heels debacle from the last film!  They are joined on their adventure by fellow conservation staff members’ Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), a sassy and sharp witted veterinarian, and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), the systems analyst, his character does grate a lot, as he is pretty much reduced to the petrified screaming comic relief, though he does tone it down over the course of the movie, Zia is far more tolerable as a character.

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The dinosaurs are of course the reason why we’re here! Blue, the surviving member of Owen’s raptor squad is back, and has a leading role! The film can be split into 2, the island rescue, and back at the Lockwood mansion. The island scenes are amazing to watch, the CGI is as always stunning, and the inevitable fate of the island does lead to a frankly very emotional scene as our heroes make their escape. The big gun for this film is another hybrid creation, the Indoraptor, the cross between the Indominus Rex from JW, and a raptor. It of course escapes, and stalks our protagonists as they attempt to stop the plans of our villain. In all honestly, the Indoraptor does not feel like anything special, and still gets outshone by the T-Rex. Although Blue is still an enjoyable addition to the Jurassic clan, it has rather subdued the wicked nature of the deadly Velociraptors from movies past, now seeming more like a charming sidekick, than its previous iterations.

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The villain of the story is where things start to fall apart, who is simply a generic suit who just wants to get rich quick. It’s pretty obvious from the start who is the underlying antagonist, and it really does hurt the plot. While it is a fresh change to take the adventure away from the island setting, the weaponized dinosaurs storyline still feels ridiculous, in a film containing dinosaurs! The final 3rd of the does’ drag on for a tad too long, as our heroes are stalked through the mansion by the genetic raptor, if could have been concluded far more swiftly. There is also a ridiculous twist regarding the granddaughter of the mansion, which is utterly brushed over by the characters, and feels like a contrived plot device for the films end. The Mosasaurus, the gigantic ocean beast, which featured in the trailers, was seriously underused.

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Fallen Kingdom does feel far more unique than its predecessor, JW felt like a simple remake of the original JP, whereas FK stands alone far better, with a far more warming duo and change of scenery. It’s not an outstanding outing, but fans of the last film will have no reason to not enjoy this!

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