Thursday, 21 June 2018

Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) - Film Review


Review:

*Originally written June 12th, 2018*

Insidious: Chapter 3 is a pretty pleasant surprise. I wasn't a huge fan of the first two films in the series, I felt that they relied too heavily on cheap jump-scares and an over-reliance on insanely loud noises to make you jump.

While Insidious Chapter 3 still has all these things, I enjoyed it a lot more than the other two. The cast were more likeable and interesting than the Lambert's (It might be because the daughter wore a Pixies T-shirt and was reading A Clockwork Orange).


The story was the same old. Girl tries to contact her dead mother, gets haunted, stuff starts to go down, being attacked and dragged around at night, seeing things that aren't there then look back and it's right in your face, the dad doesn't believe it till the third act etc.


It's generic and a little bland, but its breezy pace kept it from being as boring as this years Poltergeist remake and somehow managed to be the best entry in a series with the odds a against it by not just being the third in a horror series, but a prequel as well.

6/10 Dans

Insidious: Chapter 3 is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Sunday, 10 June 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written June 10th, 2018*

I actually feel attacked after this film. I've rested on it for a few days and the more I think about this film, the more insulted I am. I was one of the few people that enjoyed Jurassic World (It's due a rewatch though), it was hardly original, but at the very least had some decent set-pieces and genuine excitement.

Fallen Kingdom on the other hand is just cynical Hollywood blockbuster film making at its worst. I spent 2 hours watching this in disbelief at how such a moronic and stupid script somehow made it through a variety of people and was considered good enough to be greenlit.  

I must admit, I wasn't the most excited for this. The trailers have all been pretty awful, but I was hoping for another Solo situation where I was pleasantly surprised, instead I just received a barrage of nonsensical garbage that made me wish I was dead. 

Films don't need to be smart to be fun, there's a certain level films can hit where they're stupid, but still entertaining (Shoot 'Em Up and Kong: Skull Island are the examples I can think of right now). Fallen Kingdom fails to bring any life to the screen. There are some watchable action scenes, the first act on the island have some cool moments (And a genuinely beautiful shot at the end), but it's all undercut by how rushed it all is.

Despite being that stars of the previous films, Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard's characters are such blank slates of nothing. Pratt makes charisma look easy, he's got that goofy charm, which is let down by such an uninteresting bore he plays here. The closest thing he has to character is his relationship with the Raptor 'Blue' he raised from birth. It's a shame none of the moments between them work at all. There's even a scene where a single tear drops down Blue's cheek. I  did not make that up.

Pratt and Howard aren't even the worst off here. The whole film comprises of side characters who are either just annoying or laughably bad. The worst of the bunch is by far Justice Smith, who is just embarrassing excuse of a character, every line is just a lame joke about how scared he is, how everything is too dangerous for him, or he's just screaming. He's basically Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds, but doesn't even have the excuse of being a child.



 Jeff Goldblum's return as Ian Malcolm is nothing more than a cameo and the entirety of his role is in the trailer. So don't get your hopes up for that. Even the bad guys are just bland and pathetic, as soon as Rafe Spall enters the film, his role is so blatantly set up to be a bad guy and then there's a cliche soldier who wears aviators and takes pleasure in torturing the animals and stealing their teeth.

A huge problem is that that Fallen Kingdom never picks what it wants to be, it tries to be an adventure film, a horror film or some poorly done metaphor about animals rights. It fails on every account. The last  act ventures into horror, but lacks any kind of tension or suspense and also gives us another genetically mutated clone dinosaur with some a cringe-worthy and awful name that I laughed out loud at every time it was mentioned.

I just can't believe what happened to this franchise, a series about the dangers of meddling with nature and now dinosaurs are now able to be tamed and turned into cutesy mascots for children to play with. After the events of the past 4 films, the characters have the balls to argue that dinosaurs need to be saved. Did Bryce Dallas Howard completely forget what happened in the last film? Including her nephews nearly being slaughtered. I'd like to go into details about some of the more utterly moronic moments (Including the bad dinosaur smirking at the audience, which actually happens), but that would be spoilers.


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom fails on every account. Sure, the CGI is good and there's explosions, but it is so mind numbingly stupid and boring that it was hard to enjoy when the writers are constantly insulting your intelligence with every turn. I'm amazed this was directed by the guy who did A Monster Calls and not Michael Bay. Cinema is dead. Jurassic Park is dead. God, I hope the next one is better than this colossal turd.

3/10 Dans

Watch the trailer below:




Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is out now in cinemas in the UK and a 4K UHD Steelbook is available to pre-order from HMV

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Iron Man 2 (2010) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written January 1st, 2016*

Well, it certainly isn't as good as the first Iron Man, or most of the other Marvel films for that matter. I remember this sucking, but I actually liked it more than I remember. Don't get me wrong, it's quite messy and arguably bland, but at the same time pretty entertaining.

This time around, Tony Stark must deal with his failing health and a crazy Russian guy who wants to kill him while the government want their hands on his Iron Man technology. 

It deals with Tony's alcoholism laughably and there is some awful drunk acting here, not that Robert Downey Jr's performance was bad (He was once again excellent), it just portrayed alcoholism in just a terrible and unrealistic way and led to some of the worst moments of the film like the dance fight. That said, I did love the arc of Tony dealing with the fact he might die due to his arc reactor poisoning him, it was nice to see Stark genuinely scared for once.

Mickey Rourke pops up as the villain this time around as a Russian who wants revenge on Tony for what his father did to his father years ago. I don't know how much to criticise a hammy comic-book accent, because Rourke's Russian accent was laughably terrible and so many of his lines were incomprehensible. He did get some solid action scenes, the race track fight is really awesome and I loved the design of his character with the electric whips that look like a weapon from the Ratchet and Clank games. I was severely disappointed at how the ending turned out, it was far too similar to the first, the bad guy gets his own Iron Man suit and must fight him......


Sam Rockwell is also a side villain here, who is funny and I love Rockwell, but he didn't make for a convincing or compelling villain for one second. Brody (Recast by Don Cheadle) is also given a much more significant role this time too, getting to don (eh?) the War Machine armour and actually help in the final set-piece.

We get to meet Natasha Romonoff/Black Widow for the first time and she wasn't given much to do bar an awesome action scene towards the end. She just didn't seem like the same Black Widow from the later Marvel films at all. Odd. 

There was quite a bit of world building here. I think that's what a lot of people took issue with when this first came out, it spent too much time hinting at something greater. Samuel L Jackson was excellent here as Nick Fury in his first proper role outside a post-credits cameo, he seemed much more Samuel L Jackson than I remember him being in the later films. He is essentially here to try and recruit Tony into the Avengers Initiative despite his out of control behaviour and recklessness. We also got a post-credits stinger of Thor's hammer leading into the next film Marvel has to offer. 

I will mention I did find it a lot funnier than the first, the court scene at the beginning was well written and hilarious, easily the best moment of the film, it's just a shame they couldn't keep up to the quality of that scene. 


It has its moments and is a breezy, entertaining watch and contains lots of elements that made the first film so great, but Iron Man 2 is a huge step down from the last film in the series and is one of Marvel's weakest films to date.

6/10 Dans

Iron Man 2 is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Jurassic World (2015) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written June 13th, 2015*

It's been 14 years since the last Jurassic Park film, so we've been waiting quite a while for this fourth entry in the series, but was it worth the wait? Well, yes it was. Jurassic World might have been a bit messy and the script was pretty lame at times, but it was an insane amount of fun.

22 years after the disaster of the first Jurassic Park, Jurassic World is open and fully operating. While the nephews of Bryce Dallas Howard's character are visiting, a new genetically modified dinosaur escapes captivity and starts havoc in the park. That's the basic premise of the film and it never goes any deeper than that. Which was fine, it knows what it is, a big, dumb monster film.

At the centre of all this is Owen (Chris Pratt), a tamer of the velociraptors who teams up to save Claire's (Bryce Dallas Howard) nephews. Chris Pratt is one of the most watchable actors at right now, and he's no different here. After Guardians of the Galaxy and now this, he really has proved himself as a leading man. it's been said before, but I can really see Pratt as Indiana Jones in the inevitable reboot, or the very least Nathan Drake in an Uncharted movie.

Bryce Dallas Howard was a likeable presence too. She was no Ellie from the first film, but she carried the film very well and she's a lovely bit of bacon to boot. There's an issue that she wears heels while traversing a jungle and running from dinosaurs, which is pointed out, but still doesn't make sense.

Jurassic World has a lot of homages to the first film (It pretty much completely ignores The Lost World and 3). There were no cameos from the original cast which was a shame (Apart from one, which not many people would know). You at least get to see the original park where the finale of the first film takes place and Jeff Goldblum makes a tiny background appearance in the form of a picture on the back of his book.


Many people were worried about the quality of the CGI based on the trailers, which were well-founded worries. Sadly the special effects were very hit and miss, there was next to no practical effects and the CGI was hokey at times, but other times it looked spectacular. The new 'Indominus Rex' looked pretty awesome and was a great addition to the franchise. It's just a shame that nothing in this film came close to the awe or spectacle that made the first Jurassic Park so special and perfect.

Once the chaos hit, there was a lot of awesome action scenes and one fantastically crazy death which was pretty horrific. I was surprised at the amount of blood on display for a 12A too, there were a couple of instances of blood spatting on the camera. So, thankfully it wasn't tame. The final action scene was pretty great too and featured a return from same T-Rex we knew and loved from the first film.


It may not hit the heights of the first film, but what will? It's one of the best films of all time. Thankfully, Jurassic World was a worth sequel with excellent action sequences, a likeable lead from Chris Pratt and extremely well-paced which never felt boring for one second.

8/10 Dans

Jurassic World is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD now in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Friday, 25 May 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 25th, 2018*

Going into Solo: A Star Wars Story was a weird experience. It was the first Star Wars film I'd seen from Disney that I just had no excitement for, I usually go to the midnight viewing, but I couldn't even be bothered, so I figured I'd get it out the way by going straight from work on release day. It was a weird day, I just felt nothing going into this film, but that's not entirely my fault.

The long troubled production that been long publicised, the casting of the iconic Han Solo left a lot to be desired, the trailers had done nothing for me, mostly looking like some weird expensive fan film (Even the font for the title from the trailers looked awful). The most troubling thing for me was the decision to give Ron Howard the directors chair after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were fired due to creative differences. Howard is not a director I've often got on with, I enjoy a few of his films, but find his direction to be very bland and workman life. I was worried.

Much to my surprise, Solo is a complete blast. It does very little to justify its existence and brings nothing new to the franchise, but I'd only be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the hell out of it. It has problems for sure, just not ones I expected going in. All in all, it completely exceeded any exceptions I had. It probably helped I had no expectations at all, if I was expecting another incredible Star Wars film in the vein of Empire or Last Jedi, I probably would have been disappointed.


An origin story of Han Solo is probably something we didn't need, but now we've got it. We see the smuggler's early days where he slowly becomes the man we know in A New Hope. There's obviously appearances from well known characters and events mentioned in the Original Trilogy. The problem with prequels is that you know where everything is going to go, who's going to live and who's going to die by the end of it. Solo subverts expectations on this front, the story is full of surprising turns I won't spoil. Disney are clearly going to make a franchise out of young Han Solo and based on this I am completely okay with that.

Alden Ehrenreich does a fantastic job portraying a young and inexperienced Han Solo, it really helps he wasn't always just doing a Harrison Ford impression, although he does do Ford's famous point a few too many times. He brought a lot of confidence and charisma to the role, making it his own without introducing on what made us love Han Solo in the first place.

Rogue One failed to give us many memorable side characters, which I thought was going to be the case here, but thankfully, despite being Solo's film for the most part, most of the supporting cast have a part to play and time to shine. I'll get Donald Glover's Lando Calrissian, who stole the show with every scene he was in, even before the film was released, everyone seemed to universally agree that this was perfect casting and they were right, Glover nails it. Giving us a perfect Lando full of charm, sexiness that some of the funniest lines in the Star Wars series. I'd happily see a spin-off with Glover that is just two hours of him as Lando told through interpretative dance.

We also spend a lot of time with Solo and Chewbacca, learning how they meet. It's a bit clunky (As is most of the first act), but they're growing partnership is clearly the emotional core of the film and for the most part it works. Emilia Clarke is an actress who gets a lot of hate outside of Game of Thrones (Some of it warranted), but she's fine here, not amazing and not given a massive amount to do, they are clearly setting her up for more in an eventual Solo sequel thanks to the surprise appearance of a Prequel Trilogy character (Which I'm still unsure how to feel about).

Aside from Lando, the side character that leaves the biggest impression is Woody Harrelson's Beckett, a thief who ends up taking on Solo to his crew. Harrelson is always extremely watchable and it's no different here, his presence brings life to a lot of scenes and they go places with his character in the third act I did not expect. I just need to watch this again with subtitles, but a few things he said, I just couldn't make out.

First and foremost, Solo is a heist film, it's about bringing a group of characters together to perform this heist and the fabled "Kessell Run". It's a shame that it's just such a slog for the first act, getting all these characters together for the heist is more than a bit clunky and a bit of a drag, but once everyone is together, it is more than worth the wait. I should also mention we learn about the origin of Han Solo's name in the first act and it was one of most laughably bad and poorly written things I've watched in a while.


With Ron Howard directing I was afraid the action would be pedestrian and boring, but it was far from that. It was exciting and well shot, making use of its smaller stakes for more personal and interesting scenes. The train heist shown in the trailer was easily the best of what we had here, and while that a very early scene, it doesn't mean the later action wasn't great. I massively appreciated the smaller approach to the final scenes, there wasn't some giant CGI fight, it was mostly just a confrontation between people and it worked very well.


Don't be put off by Solo's troubled production. Sure, it has very little reason to exist and adds nothing new to the table, but its an extremely fun, if a little clunky and a tiny bit bloated adventure in the Star Wars universe and far better than it had any right to be. Just don't go in with massive expectations and have a good time.

8/10 Dans

Solo: A Star Wars Story is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Monday, 21 May 2018

Westworld (1973) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written October 5th, 2016*

After watching the pilot for HBO's Westworld adaptation (Which was excellent), I thought I'd go back to where it started. 

This was pretty fun and not what I expected. I'd never seen this properly, but I have images from it from when I must have seen scenes as a child in passing, but it holds up pretty well. I wasn't surprised to see this was from the writer of Jurassic Park, as this very much feels in the same vein, but an earlier idea of the concept. A futuristic theme park goes wrong and the attractions start killing guests etc. 

The cast are great, Yul Brynner's performance clearly went onto inspire The Terminator and James Brolin must be Christian Bale's father right? I mean seriously, look at him. Someone has had an affair there. Richard Benjamin also does a great job holding the film together. Spending about an hour with Brolin and Benjamin before the event happens really helps you empathise with these characters. A lot of the first hour is just the two loads exploring the park and experiencing it, Brolin completely into it from the get-go, while Benjamin is far more unsure about the park, even feeling guilty that he may have possibly killed a guest instead of a robot, despite being told all the measures have been put in place for that not to happen.


I was a little disappointed that there wasn't more chaos. We actually see a higher body count from the Roman part of the park, which could have been an entire film in itself, but in Westworld it was pretty much a cat and mouse game between The Gunslinger and the lead. Everything between the Gunslinger and Richard Benjamin was great though, it was all tense and made use of a travelling from different parks.

I also thought there was a scene where The Gunslinger walks through a river which was spoofed in The Simpsons with Principal Skinner, must have got it confused with something else. Meh. I will track down what film that did spoof one day. The internet doesn't seem to have any answers. Help?

As good as Westworld is as a thriller, it does shine brightest as a sci-fi film. The whole film is gorgeous and filled with tons of great ideas (Many of which I assume will be references in HBO's TV show. For 1973, a lot of the practical effects hold up, especially the Gunslinger's unsettling melting robot face towards the end. Even the off putting look of the robots hands lend this weird surrealness to the whole thing. It's also lovely to just see blood squibs again, god I miss blood squibs...


A fun sci-fi film thriller all round and definitely worth a visit before seeing the HBO series. Will check out the sequel at some point, but I feel that won't be as good. Who knows.

8/10 Dans

Westworld is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Deadpool 2 (2018) - Film Review

Review:

I don't think anyone could have imagined how big the first Deadpool turned out to be, I remember loving it when it first came out, but slowly went down in my books with each viewing. It's good fun, but ultimately a very safe and boring origin story mixed with childish humour and adult rated violence.

2 years later and we have the inevitable sequel that had a lot to live up to, and for the most part, it more or less exceeds expectations, despite a few problems. Deadpool 2 is essentially everything the first did, but dialled up to 11. This feels like a hyperbolic statement, but this is one of the most grotesque mainstream releases I remember seeing in quite some time.

It picks up a few years after the first and Deadpool is now an international assassin, taking out kingpins, drug dealers etc, but after some spoilery events he gets involved with a young mutant with fire powers and a time travelling soldier trying to murder the kid. It's straightforward enough, but the stakes are much more worth investing in than the first. 

What everyone came for in Deadpool 2 though is the humour and that is both the best and worst part of the sequel. The run-time is extended from the first and the joke rate is so outrageously high, it's a bit relentless. Meaning, since there are such a huge amount of jokes, only a good chunk of them actually hit, with a lot of the gags being instantly outdated and not very funny. 


There was a lot of Deadpool saying random things with no real context that mostly left a shrug from me. Where the jokes exceed most though is with its jabs at superhero films, pop-culture and Ryan Reynold's career (The mid-credits scene is genius). It does feel like cameo galore at times too, with a couple of great ones and a couple I didn't even realise till I read online after. 

What really interested me in Deadpool 2 was the change of director. The first was directed by a first time filmmaker who did a fine job, even if his action wasn't massively memorable and I was surprised re-watching it recently just how little action there was in it. 2 on the other-hand is a huge improvement in terms of action. John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch brings such energy and brutality to the action. There's nothing as memorable or impressive as the club scene from John Wick or the stairway fight from Atomic Blonde, but it's still extremely fun to watch and there is a ton of action here that stood out. The opening montage and convoy attack for one. I hope Leitch returns for part 3.

The sequel also includes a much more impressive cast. Josh Brolin is damn good as Cable, a time-travelling cyborg Terminator with a personal mission and a huge improvement over "Francis" from the first. The "X-Force" are also introduced kinda, and in all honesty they are pretty wasted, but done so in way that makes for a genuinely funny and expectation diverting scene. Also did not expect Zazie Beetz Domino to leave much of an impact, but she was definitely one of the better characters. Lastly, T.J. Miller's Weasel is massively sidelined and barely in the film, which is easy to see why, I imagine there is a lot of his work left on the cutting room floor.


None of this really matters though, because this is Ryan Reynold's film through and through, he is still the perfect version of Deadpool, continuing to seek redemption for what was done to the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While a few of his jokes don't land, Reynold's still carries this film and makes it an endlessly watchable ride that is just a blast despite its shortcomings.


Deadpool 2 isn't perfect and it might be a little too relentless, but it's one of the most entertaining and grotesque mainstream releases I've seen in a while. Insanely violent, a lot of fun and makes up for a lot of the originals shortcomings. 

8/10 Dans

Watch the trailer below:


Deadpool 2 is out now in cinemas in the UK
With a 4K UHD Steelbook available to pre-order from HMV

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Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015) - Film Review

Review: *Originally written June 12th, 2018* Insidious: Chapter 3 is a pretty pleasant surprise. I wasn't a huge fan of the first...