Archive for the ‘FILM REVIEWS/COMMENTS’ Category

Related imageAn American becomes a member of the Japanese yakuza and tries to help the clan who are under a power pressure from a rivaling gang.

Less stylised than Only God Forgives (2013), director Martin Zandvliet offers a well filmed, satisfying, yet, paint by numbers gangster screenplay from
Andrew Baldwin in the vain of a string of 80s and 90s Japanese organized crime syndicate films, including the likes of American Yakuza (1993) and Black Rain (1989). That said, what makes The Outsider standout and more interesting from many other yakuza yarns is the 1954 post WWII backdrop and the strong cast performances.

The tone and score compliments Zandvliet’s well staged ultra violent moments – fingers are cut off, throats are cut and people are shot, strangled and stabbed. With deaths echoing the Godfather trilogy writer Baldwin wisely includes the staple themes loyalty, betrayal and forbidden love with Zandvliet bringing these visually to life with the grease and atmosphere of the 50s, injected into the costumes sets and locations.

Jared Leto’s snake like performance as prisoner of war Nick Lowell is a highlight as he becomes part of the yakuza. The Shiromatsu patriarch, Akihiro, played wonderfully by Min Tanaka is notable. Tadanobu Asano is memorable as Yakuza member Kiyoshi who Nick helps out of an Osaka prison.

Overall, not a gangster game changer but enjoyable nonetheless.

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Three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, Owen Grady and Claire Dearing return to the island of Isla Nublar to save the remaining dinosaurs from a volcano that’s about to erupt but soon uncover a conspiracy that will change the fate of the dinosaurs forever.

Opening with the Mosasaurus destroying a submersible and a Tyrannosaurus attack, J.A. Bayona’s direction is on point as he handles the mammoth film effortlessly. At first Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom appears to improve the ethical conundrums of bringing dinosaurs back to life, building on themes touched on in Spielberg’s 1993 original and the novel source material. However, things take a major turn in the second act.

This instalment offers an impressive (but distracting) CGI loaded destruction of Isla Nublar’s Jurassic Park/World after the eruption. This setup includes a select few of the de-extinct dinosaurs being ‘saved’ only to be used for corporate gain with echoes of The Lost World. Still, the tone shifts to a Halloween-like dark place and Fallen Kingdom becomes a stalker in a mansion, cat and mouse type film.

The latter half offers some serious nightmares for younger viewers and possibly leaves fans of the outdoors feel of its predecessors scratching their heads. While the second half is a brave shift in terms of setting and tone the philosophical points, mostly from an Ian (Jeff Goldblum’s) cameo, are interesting but the message simply feels off and doesn’t really take Kingdom forward.

In amongst the tense well staged action packed set pieces, (drowning in a Gyrosphere springs to mind) and genuinely thrilling moments there are too many unscrupulous cartoon like villains, even more so than its predecessor. Namely Toby Jones Lockwood Estate auctioneer host, unprincipled Dr. Henry Wu (B. D. Wong returns) and there’s corrupt Rafe Spall’s Murder She Wrote-like killer Eli Mills. James Cromwell Sir Benjamin Lockwood, John Hammond’s former partner accent is as out of place as the cloning Scooby doo subplot twist which leads nowhere. On the flipside both Chris Pratt’s Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Dearing are on form and much better performance wise here. Also notable is Ted Levine’s Ken Wheatley, a seasoned mercenary who has a memorable scene with the a newly created dino, part Indominus rex and a Velociraptor, the sociopathic Indoraptor! Trained Blue’s storyline and purpose is never fulfilled, the raptors ‘emotional’ DNA is never used as the weaponised pro-type goes on a hunt through the estate for our heroes and a young girl.

Kingdom returns to the thrills and scares which the first delivered but through no fault of Bayona, over four films, the novelty and wonder has faded. With a post credit scene setting up another sequel you can’t but think that, even with the change of direction, the Jurassic series should be left in Amber.

Warning: Contains star destroying spoilers.

A crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium.

Credit to award winning director Ron Howard Solo feels like a small film, focusing on characters and high stakes,  not just big sets ups. Howard offers a dark standalone entry without the plodding pacing of Willow or his drama epics. Even with the reshoots and behind the scenes director changes rest assure Howard’s vision fits perfectly in the Star Wars universe. With a few title cards introducing us to the story (no Star Wars title crawl) setting the scene. It’s builds on Rogue One’s grim look opening with Corellia. The effects are as first rate as the performances.

While Han isn’t quite the swashbuckling adventurer yet, Solo isn’t the swashbuckling adventure film either. But that’s not a bad thing leaving room for the further buddy movie adventures of Chewie and Han in the future.

Mother of Dragons Emilia Clarke makes up for her less than perfect Sarah Connor as Hans strong independent love interest. Kira Joonas Viljami Suotamo is perfect one again as Chewie mirroring Peter Mayhew‘s Chewbacca wonderfully. Here we see the Wookie fighting more, pulling arms out of sockets with glimpses into his character and background. Like all the main player characters we’ve grown to love including Lando Calrission (Donald Glover taking over the cape from Billy De Williams) are handled carefully.

Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett and his ill-fated crew are great including Thandie Newton at the top of her game and while Alden Ehrenreich may not be everyone’s first choice as a young Han Solo, he does a sterling job.

John Powell, John Williams music fits and heightens the emotion, double crosses and shootouts. We see how Han is named Sol and here we also see Han, once again, getting to shoot first in a pivotal moment. Yet, thankfully it’s not an eye rolling paint by numbers origin tale.

Amongst the excellent action scenes and impressive special effects (no distracting subpar effects, like in Last Jedi) there’s plenty of Star Wars trilogy connections with planet dropping and character (Bosk, Hutts to name a few) dialogue nods including a surprise link and character to the prequels, namely Dark Maul! It also plays against trailer expectations that Paul Bettany’s Crimson Dawn criminal boss Dryden is the masked Cloud Rider saboteur Enfys Nest who in fact is played by Erin Kellyman. The Star Wars story has plenty of twists and turns and it’s even more universe building than Rogue with its moulding of Han into the character we loved.

While not a huge spectacle film it’s still an essential and recommended Star Wars Wester-like heist film.

Warning Spoilers

Based on The Winchester Mystery House mansion in San Jose, California, where Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm magnate William Winchester is visited by a doctor to test her sanity.

Directors Michael and Peter Spierig offer an old school paint by numbers ghost story with a fistful of effective jump scares and solid camera work. The recreated period, costumes and setting add to the atmosphere, with the eerie unorthodox Winchester house (and star of the film) is wonderfully created, any paranormal sleuths or those who watch ghost investigation programmes will no doubt be familiar with the mansion.

The real-life story aspect adds additional interest with high-class horror performances from the excellent Helen Mirren and reliable Jason Clarke as Dr. Eric Price. Sarah Snook is notable ‎Jason Clarke. Spierigs and writer Tom Vaughan deliver high collars, possession, visions, poltergeist activity, there’s tiresome tropes of redemption and spooky The Haunted and Hill House-like ghost forgiveness.

Horror fans will no doubt spot the butler twist a mile off and raise an eyebrow at Clarke’s Price subplot but that isn’t a bad thing if you like good old fashion well produced big budget ghost stories.

Warning: Spoilers

The evil powerful Thanos is on a mission to collect all six Infinity Stones, which will destroy 50 percent of the whole galaxys population, only a group of superheroes stand in his way.

With its ensemble cast (too many to mention) Avengers: Infinity War is almost wall to wall nonstop action with comic book quips throughout. Thanos is surprisingly likeable in parts and adds some emotional weight making the story more dynamic. Viewers to make sense of chaos on the backdrop of outstanding effects, fantastic sets and outlandish costumes may want to watch Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor Ragnarok to name a few essentials to make sense of the sacrifice and devastation on display.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo offer an enjoyable film with surprise deaths of beloved characters (Loki in the first few minutes) scattered over its well paced lengthy running time, which whizzes by. While older comic book readers may not be able to work out why these on screen character don’t have that secret je ne sais quoi of their paper counterparts, ultra geeks and readers of more recent comic series will no doubt find it a movie Marvel blast. Unlikely characters are paired together, creating some enjoyable comedy, tension and action moments as the story gets bleaker and bleaker for our heroes.

With some sharp editing and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely leave Infinity War on a cliffhanger not seen since The Empire Strikes Back*. Or for those who will never watch another Marvel instalment, behold the most nihilistic ending to a comic book film ever.

*There’s the obligatory after credit scene where Nick Fury calls on Captain Marvel to help Marvel film fans sleep at night until the next installment.

*Spoilers ahead*
An alliance of sorts is formed so that the group can tow their armoured vehicle from a horde of the dead drawn to the sound of its horn.

Despite a post murky filtering tinkering, episode 3 of season 4’s Fear the Walking Dead gains momentum, this is another strong episode from the underdog. The previous 3 series has debatably worked best when it’s not trying to walk like The Walking Dead notably early outbreak city setting, a boat, a villa and hotel respectively. When avoiding The Walking Dead military The Warriors gang tropes is seems to fare better. A jump in time in season 4 has helped usher in Morgan Jones but trading off that interesting earlier outbreak vibe.

The acting in this episode is particularly strong. Garret Lee Dillahunt’s John Dorie is on tracker form, along side Walking Dead’s Lennie James who portrays stick wielding Morgan. Here Jones gives some good advice to Nick and gifts him his little book of peace. We find member Maggie Grace’s Althea holds a journalist secret. Kim Dickens as Madison Clark appears in Nicks flashbacks which become poignant in retrospect. Colman Domingo is on usual problem solving form as Victor.

This is a stand out episode most notable for selfless recovered heroin addict Johnny Depp-alike Frank Dillane’s Nick Clark meeting a surprise death! After fittingly exacting revenge, his untimely demise is by the hand of child. Shot dead! Dillane is excellent durning blood curdling death scene and actor Alycia Debnam-Carey shines as Nick’s sister in his final moments.

While a strong game changing curve ball episode it’s a shame such an interesting and great character wonderfully played is shockingly killed off, that said, there’s plenty more life Fears back to basics and grounded character approach. Let just hope that Fear doesn’t become a one gang verses another gang show.

This pretty neat The Final Version novel page has been brought my attention. It has been going a few years and contains some good observations and facts about the book by readers. I’ve copied and excerpt below.

• It is difficult to pin point when WWIII occurs, however, whatever destructive device was used left buildings standing. This leaves the remaining survivors (who have converged on a few remaining city’s world wide) have whole buildings to live in to themselves. To benefit for this arrangement occupants seemingly have to adhere to the consistent surveillance/monitoring. It echoes Blade Runner and Aeon Flux in chapters, with hints of The Thing and Mad Max in others.
• Denton visits every continent.
• Given it is set post WIII the future appears quite habitable (excluding the wastelands and industrial areas). State Side while the rain beats down there are while plastic pavements/side walks and Neon lights have made a come back.
• It’s a ‘kitchen sink’ book as it has so much in it. However, it’s pulls off bringing the sci-fi elements, (not limited to) A.I, cloning, cryogenics and Robotics together with the historic chapters and the events that are touched on subtly which include the discovery of DNA, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Anastasia’s disappearance, Spanish Conquistadors encounters, painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s fate to name a few.
• Religion is outlawed and practised by underground sects. Notbaly the MJ and King sect.

Source: FanDom http://the-final-version.wikia.com/wiki/The_Final_Version_Wiki

Order your copy here: Amazon

Set in an isolated underwater facility, a team of scientists carry our research on genetically engineered Mako sharks to help fight Alzheimer’s disease but this go awry when sharks go on rampage and flood the facility.

Director Renny Harlin’s delivers a B-movie premise that’s good fun. Although the CGI shark effects are a bad as they were back on its 1999 release, the practical shark effects still hold up and are impressive even today.

There’s plenty of shark action and the cast boasts both Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson in small pivotal roles. Leads Saffron Burrows and Thomas Jane play it perfectly straight and are solid enough. However, Donna & Wayne Powers and Duncan Kennedy’s screenplay add comedy moments mostly in the guise of LL Cool J who is memorable as Sherman the cook ‘Preacher’, instead of it being totally serious throughout.

There’s some good set-ups and surprise deaths, an ominous attack on partying teens, a shark smashing stretchers against windows, sharks casing through flooded shafts, a helicopter crash, think The Poseidon Adventure meets Jaws 3.

Although Deep Blue 2 followed – it’s less squeal and more of remake, recycling some of the story setups and script only without the budget and tension. Stick with Harlin’s original.

Warning – SPOILERS AHEAD.

A billionaire experimenting on bull sharks, soon cause havoc for a visiting group of scientists.

One of the oddest deja vú experiences for all the wrong reasons. Deep Blue Sea 2 is less of a sequel and more of a straight to video remake of the 1999 original. Complete with a smaller shed on the water with a state-of-the-art facility below the surface.

Director Darin Scott offers a darker look, more buckets of CGI blood but it’s not cinematic, it’s hampered by the lack of budget, bottom of the barrel TV look with filtered lighting. The actors do their best with the recycled script and storyline from the original. Bull sharks replace the Makos.

There’s a few tweaks – the sharks tunnel rather than jump fences, they attack an illegal shark finning duo instead of partying teens in the opening, the sleeping shark doesn’t eat the entrepreneur Durant, it eats another cast member instead, there’s no parrot just lots more CGI. It mocks some of the original urinating in the wind dialogue. The story beats are pretty much the same only they destroy the compound themselves. And there’s a tagged on ending where the sharks head to attack some beach goers.

Why Warner Bros. went all 90’s Disney straight to video with this sequel/remake only Samuel L. Jackson character knows. Maybe to cash in on the release up and coming The Meg or off the back of the better 47 Meters Down and The Shallows.

It’s notable redeeming features are American Emily Blunt-a-like Danielle Savre and some real great white footage.

If you’re interested in seeing what the flawed but entertaining original would have looked like with a first draft script and Syfy channel budget, this is a must see, for the less curious swim as far away from this as possible.

Image result for tomb raider 2018The daughter of an eccentric adventurer embarks on a perilous journey starting at her fathers last-known location in Japan.

So in 2001 we didn’t get actress Rohan Mitra, we got Angelina Jolie instead. After casting directors passed on Marvel’s Hayley Atwell and Star War’s Daisy Ridley for this reboot Alicia Vikander won the role. Director Roar Uthaug offers Tomb Raider a Lara Croft origin story, she’s younger with distracting, gasps, grunts, pants and yelps at every stunt. Here Uthaug presents Lara honing her skills, missing jumps here, getting beaten there. It’s Lara the student not the gun-toting archaeologist yet.

Uthaug offers sweeping camera work throughout, London, oceans, waterfalls and jungles, it’s an extravagant production, the locations ooze atmosphere and the effects are not too distracting. Writers Geneva Robertson-Dworet and Alastair Siddons’ dialogue at times is derivative, but thankfully the solid acting glosses over it. Satisfyingly the tone is less comic-like, that said, it lacks any setups to write home about, there’s a circumstantial shipwreck and an exciting escape from a dilapidated plane that has long since crashed, both of which are visually impressive but could be in any other film. There’s nothing in terms of setups which equal or surpass anything in the previous two Tomb Raider films or the original Eidos Interactive game.

To Vikander’s credit she does a credible job and equals actor Dominic West and his deep tones as her dad, Richard Croft. Actor Daniel Wu, Lara’s side kick is notable and Predators actor Walton Goggins offers some seriousness and weight, delivering a the perfect 80s thriller intense bad guy in a good way.

There’s machine-gun shoot outs, bow and arrow pulling, chases, Indiana Jones-like shenanigans and every tragic father daughter cliche you can think of complete with a post title scene setting up a sequel with more Lara-like trademark weapons.

Overall, it’s not bad but not great either, pretty forgettable but at least there’s not a nanotechnology McGuffin in sight.