Monday, 31 August 2015

Best and Worst of August 2015

The final month of the summer brought some of its best and worst participants. We saw secret agents, rappers and romance take to the screen in fine fashion, while superheroes, vacations and videogames have seen better days. But no matter, let’s round out what has been a pretty spectacular summer with three very different but still very good movies that sum up why every ,ovie fan loves this season.

3: Trainwreck
Judd Apatow’s latest rom com may not be quite as clever or envelope pushing as it thinks it is, but putting that aside it’s still tremendous fun. Amy Schumer’s script is fast and funny, as is her performance. There are also some ingenious twists on the genre that flip the gender roles to keep the story fresh and importantly upbeat. At the same time though there’s a certain amount of gravitas and Bill Hader’s down to earth performance only makes the eccentricity of everything else more humorous.

2: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
I knew this film would be good (or at the very least my intuitions pointed to that, and by intuitions I mean footage of Tom Cruise on the side of a plane) but I did not expect it to challenge Brad Bird’s ‘Ghost Protocol’ as the best of the franchise. It seems to have turned this series into the best modern action franchise and it’s easy to see why, ‘Rogue Nation’ defies physics but somehow still keeps you on the edge of your seat, backed up by a great ensemble cast, sequences that are choreographed and directed with an artistry and best of all, it knows where it stands. Director Christopher McQuarrie has crafted a thriller of pure popcorn entertainment.

1: Straight Outta Compton
Biopics are never afraid to make a political statement on behalf of their subject matter, but few do it as nonchalantly and as unapologetically as this NWA drama. There’s a lot of what you may expect such as gut punching gravitas, racial statements and issues of fame. What’s unexpected is how tender it can be when it needs to be, or the award worthy performances from all involved or the sheer brilliance of the script. Amid it all it manages to avoid making any statements that support or condemn the actions of its subjects, trusting your intelligence and understanding your music tastes (as long as you like NWA, but even if you don’t you’ll enjoy it as a dramatic character study).   
And the worst….

I have to feel sorry for Josh Trank, hell in ten years’ time maybe someone will make a movie about his battle with 20th Century Fox behind the scenes of this film. How many of the rumours are true, I don’t know. What I do know is that the end result is simply awful. This film is all exposition, rying to build towards a film that has not happened yet, and after this ,ay never happen (I’d back a ‘Deadpool 2’ replacing its slot). It may not be as bad as ‘Batman and Robin’ but the dreary tone makes it far less hilarious so on the other hand, it’s worse than ‘Batman and Robin’.  

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Straight Outta Compton

"You're listening to Compton's very own Ice Cube, Easy E and Dr Dre."

Some people see biopics as just being Oscar bait, elitist films that will usually come out ridiculously late on in the year (not this year though, because of this small sci-fi movie) that generally seek to garner awards and maybe earn some money for the studio, but not too much of course, because Oscars aren’t handed out to successful films except for ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Titanic’. The point I’m trying to make is that ‘Straight Outta Compton’ is definitely not your usual biopic.
Chronicling the formation and impact of the rap group NWA from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, we see the group’s struggle to get off the ground, the repercussions of their work, the pressure of fame and their struggle to be recognised as true artists.
I can’t say I’m a big fan of their music (yes I know, I’m odd) but if there’s one thing a film like this can do really well, it’s make people who aren’t fans support the representations of the characters and be captivated by their journey. That is something that ‘Straight Outta Compton’ does excellently. It makes you understand and sympathise with the group members as they seek fame and yearn to release their own music, you can easily feel the intensity of their passion towards what they want to do with their lives and talent.
The cast are all brilliant at conveying this, and many other emotions that stand aside the intense passion as well as their great interaction. I’m sure if you’ve heard of this movie you know Ice Cube is played by his own son and when you bear that in mind there’s credit due for portraying all of the faults and dramatic exploits of his father in the movie with the same devotion as the artistic merit on display. Newcomer Jason Mitchel may be the strongest performance though, reacting to various acts of treachery with a deep power. Group manager Paul Giamatti displays a fury and anger that you believe is the only thing that could come close to controlling these young men, but it’s in stark contrast to more intimate moments between him and the rappers, highlighting that amid all the anger he chose to lead them in this voyage.
But then again it’s not as heavy with some of the darker incidents that a biopic from afar might be. Two of the band members, Ice Cube and Dr Dre are actually producing this and after some quick research I know that some details over particular events were glossed over. It’s hardly uncommon for biopics to take liberties with the truth but often it’s for dramatic effect or to speed up the pace of the story, not quite the case here as it’s more to avoid the potential controversy that may arise from shining a light on certain events.
But putting that aside (as you must with all biopics) is what we’re seeing on screen good? Yes it is, very in fact. Amid all of the controversy, rapping and action there are moments of unusual quietness and a certain tender quality lurks around the movie. As well as that it does do the best thing a biopic can, let the audience determine the judgement to pass over the impenitent and unscrupulousness antagonism. The movie knows it’s pointless to escape its own political nature but instead aims to be just as much of a crowd pleaser as a statement. It’s easy to find counterparts between the modern media flow and events taking place decades ago. There’s also an unforgiving representation of the environment that spawned and shaped this style of music.
Like the group that inspired it, ‘Straight Outta Compton’ is strongly political, opinionated, surprisingly complex, yet still retains a mass appeal. One could even call it a unique take on the American dream.

Result: 8/10

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Journal of Whills: Part 13 - Best of 'The Clone Wars', Again

Image result for clone wars the lawless

So now for part 2 of the best of ‘The Clone Wars’ and frankly there isn’t really any point in dragging this out. Actually there is because I do have a few honourable mentions to give in the form of a few individual episodes that shone through. ‘Hostage Crisis’ saw Cad Bane hold the entire senate building hostage and the only person capable of stopping him happens to be a disarmed Anakin (as in with no weapons not as in missing an arm, I mean I know Anakin is missing an arm anyway but… moving on). There’s also ‘Trespass’ that deals with greedy and territorial governors going to war with native tribes, and the Jedi caught in the middle, ‘Cat and Mouse’ involves one cloaked spaceship and a giant cruiser in a tense… what’s another term for cat and mouse, standoff. Then of course there’s ‘Rookies’ perhaps the strongest single episode that excellently humanises the clone troopers, a difficult task in the face of the whole Jedi massacre that concludes the Clone Wars. So with that out of the way, here are numbers 5 - 1.
5: ‘To Catch a Jedi’, ‘The Wrong Jedi’
Once again I’ve tampered with the exact nature of this story arc, there were two preceding episodes, but it’s these final two that really push the emotional boundaries of the series. Having been accused of planting a bomb in the Jedi Temple, Ahsoka goes on the run. These episodes are gritty, claustrophobic and paranoid, taking you into the underworld of Coruscant, the coldness of the Jedi and emphases one clear message for the central character, there’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide and ultimately arrives at a gut-wrenching conclusion.
4: ‘Landing at Point Rain’, ‘Weapons Factory, ‘Legacy of Terror, ‘Brain Invaders’
Chronicling the Republic invasion of Geonosis  and its aftermath, there are so many various scenarios and situations throughout this episode that I can’t sum them all up as quickly as I need to. ‘Landing at Point Rain’ is warfare on the biggest scale of the series and is utter carnage in terms of the levels of destruction and the damage done to the forces of good. From then on in their lives are put in danger time and time again even after the ships have left the enemy follows them in a hideous undead form.
3: ‘The Lost One’, ‘Voices’, ‘Destiny’, Scarifice’
The end, the story arc that rounded out the ‘Clone Wars’ series and it manages to put the whole war into perspective against the ultimate fat against the galaxy, the balance of the force and the conscious state after death. This is the story of how Yoda learnt to sustain his consciousness through the force after death, answering a few of the unanswered questions from the prequels along the way (like why the Jedi use a Clone army that’s origins are questionable). The stakes are high from start to finish and the drama is captivating as well as some stunning visuals and a stunning appearance from Sith legend Darth Bane, voiced magnificently by, get this, MARK HAMILL. The arc is scary and dark, but ultimately hopeful, the exact state you should feel leaving this series, knowing the Jedi’s days are numbered, but they will ultimately live on.
2: ‘Darkness of Umbara’, ‘The General’, ‘Plan of Dissent’, ‘Carnage of Krell’
A four part arc that was featured Clones at its centre illustrated the tension, confusion and danger of war. The opening battle sequence may be the finest piece of animation from the entire series, its masterful use of colour, lighting and pace create an unnerving atmosphere, and the anxious mood continues to grow as Anakin is recalled from battle, leaving his Clones in the hands of General Krell, a brash and egotistical Jedi with utter disregard for their lives. Through the differing personalities of Clones and under this sadistic commander we witness differing views of strategy, warfare and discipline.
1: ‘Revenge’, ‘Revival’, ‘Eminence’, ‘Shades of Reason’, ‘The Lawless’
This arc marked Darth Maul’s return and his plans to seek revenge on Obi Wan Kenobi and it is a masterpiece. It’s an end game piece for Obi Wan, as Maul teams up with the Mandalorian extremists and (remember ‘Voyage of Temptation’) uses this to bring every aspect of the Jedi’s past back to haunt him. It’s a masterful perception of villainy, forcing you to admit that the evil of Star Wars is truly ugly when fully unleashed and the arc is unflinching in its way of demonstrating the consequences of murder, and the way those who follow good seek to stand against evil.  Ultimately the arc is tragic in so many ways, for our heroes and villains as ultimately it is not Obi Wan that defeats Maul, but his old master Darth Sidious (that is not a spoiler because this was made after the original films so you knew he wasn’t there to the end), so ultimately it highlights the nature and place of ‘The Clone Wars’ as no one really stands victorious.
So which ‘Clone Wars’ episodes do you like the most, leave a comment below to let me know, return to this page for more movie reviews and ramblings.  

Monday, 24 August 2015


"What kind of asshole would drive his family across the country?"

Out of all the comedy sequels, reboots and continuations that are being released as comedy continues to recycle ideas, this ‘vacation’ remake, actually makes sense as a concept. When you think about it times change but that universal theme of family will always be relevant (until cyborgs takeover of course). So does this reboot of Chevy Chase’s iconic comedy franchise live up to the originals?
With their marriage in crisis and their kids unresponsive, Rusty Griswold drags the rest of the family along on a madcap road trip. Their destination, a once beloved theme park called Wally World.
To prove to you how iconic those original movies are I only need to type the name Griswold out because I can do it without opening the spellcheck tool and clicking ‘Ignore All’. When Microsoft makes an exception for you, that’s when you’ve permeated pop culture. If this was the first ‘Vacation’ movie then it would be very unlikely that Microsoft would acknowledge their name in their virtual dictionary.
There are many problems with this movie but one of the worst is how close it comes to simply rehashing the original. There’s nothing new or interesting added beyond a cheapening of the humour (I’ll get to that later). Are we supposed to be surprised by certain plot elements, because they also appeared in the first one and by repeating them now you’re not impressing anyone. For me the film is already doomed as in my opinion a remake can create no greater sin than not adding anything new. If I wanted to re-watch the first ‘vacation’ movie, I would just re-watch the first ‘Vacation’ movie.
The beauty of the original was that this whole road trip was a metaphor for Chevy Chase’s character heading straight into a midlife crisis and trying to reconnect with something from his youth. But here there isn’t really any sign of that, I fact it’s the mother (Christina Applegate) that’s heading for an existential meltdown, but that doesn’t really make sense as it’s dad (Ed Helms) that drags them along on the holiday so how are the story and character relevant to each other? I know I said you should change up a few things but not if it doesn’t work.
Again of course it does that classic comedy mistake of putting every good joke in the trailer. Not only that, but even if they were funny in the trailer, with context around them they’re simply aren’t as funny because firstly you can anticipate them and secondly they are all strung together in such an episodic way that you begin to feel like you’re in some sort of sketch show. I know this is a trait with all road trip comedies but the best ones are consistent. Here it’s a weird mix of mayhem, attempted-but-not-quite-working Apatow comedy, slapstick and gross out humour. There’s barely any sign of the Harold Ramis style comedy that was abundant throughout the old ones. I’m not saying that it should be the same but if you want to make a film that can stand alongside the originals as part of a franchise then the tone needs to match. But instead of harkening back to the golden age of R rated comedy we just find ourselves bored by jokes about anatomy and excrement (because that’s a more sophisticated way of saying it).
What’s more is that these jokes start to lose what little potency they had as you are bombarded with them throughout. After a while hearing a seven year old swear and bully his older brother in increasingly horrible ways makes it slightly disturbing. It starts out as humorous, but ends up feeling sadistic.
It’s not really a reboot as it rehashes one too many elements from the original without matching the tone or characters. The cast may be good with the material they have, but the material happens to be terrible.

Result: 3/10

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Journal of Whills: Part 12 - Best of 'The Clone Wars'

Image result for star wars the clone wars

If I’m going to analyse as many aspects of ‘Star Wars’ as I can then I think I would be remised if I didn’t mention ‘The Clone Wars’, the animated TV series that ran for six seasons. Some fans of Star Wars may only recall the movie that acted as an introduction to the series, and it was terrible. The film version was an ill-advised attempt to cobble together the opening episodes of the series that ended up being merely one poorly defined set piece to another. But don’t let that throw you off, the series itself was for the most part excellently constructed, with pleasing action and some great additional characters to add to the ‘Star Wars’ canon. Instead of trying to review the series as a whole I thought I’d choose the ten best (in my opinion) story arcs of the series that will hopefully sum up some of ‘The Clone Wars’ best aspects.
Just to be clear, a story arc means (by my vague and probably incorrect definition) a story that continues for more than one episode. So here are 10-6.
10: Holocron Heist, Cargo of Doom, Children of the Force
Cad Bane’s introduction at the end of season one in which he took the entire senate building hostage was impressive, but as far as story arcs go this dark conspiracy in which he broke into the Jedi Temple and deliver his loot to his Sith employer may be his finest hour. Bane is the centre piece of the plot as his ruthless nature fits in with this somewhat dark scheme that culminates in a plot to kidnap younger children to prevent the Jedi teaching them the ways of the force. It reinforces the coldness of villainy within this universe and the end result is an ominous and impressive story.
9: The Mandalore Plot, Voyage of Temptation
There is in fact a third part to this arc, but it was fairly boring and unnecessary so I took it upon myself to leave it out. This one starts out as a fairly basic conspiracy episode involving political revolutions and terrorist groups. But it quickly spans into a study of Obi Wan’s history and does a great deal to humanise him, as we discover why he was once considering leaving the Jedi order, and why the inevitable turn of Anakin to the dark side (that is foreshadowed in a small way) is all the more tragic as we learn that the master and apprentice had more in common than we thought.
8: Nightsisters, Monster, Witches of the Mist
You may have heard about ‘The Clone Wars’ reintroducing Darth maul to the ‘Star Wars’ universe and this is where that saga began. As his brother his initiated into the Sith Order we witness an insight into the true workings of the dark side of the force. Count Dooku uses fear intimidation and pain to indoctrinate his new apprentice, in stark contrast to the kindly ways of the Jedi. Then of course there are the ulterior motives of the apprentice that I won’t give away, but I will say that the result are explosive, and Anakin and Obi Wan are caught right in the middle of it.
7: Padwan Lost, Wookiee Hunt
Ashoka is kidnapped by a group of mercenaries along with a group of other Jedi younglings, and then they are hunted down for sport. A pretty simplistic plot but that is probably this episode’s biggest strength as its uncomplicatedness allows for some Hunger-Games-Like scenarios in which the characters must decide to fight their hunters or merely run and there’s some major brutality as these young Jedi are murdered as well as some serious growth for one of the series’ main characters and some truly cinematic moments of innovative camerawork and visual tones. There’s also a cameo from everyone’s favourite Wookie, and that helps anything.
6: The Citadel, Counter Attack, Citadel Rescue
Once again, simplicity is strength here. The plot revolves around breaking into a prison in order to break someone out. But the execution is superb with a real feeling of impossibility and despair as obstacle after obstacle is thrown at our main characters and escape becomes increasingly unrealistic. The arc also contains a great Easter egg in the form of an early Grand Moff Tarkin, a young officer that dislikes the Jedi’s methods and believes that the Republic should be refined and reshaped in order to achieve victory. He also finds that his views ae shared by one of his Jedi comrades, Anakin Skywalker. In other words, FORESHADOWING.

So the rest of the list will be posted soon and do you agree with my bizarre opinions, probably not. So leave a comment below if that is the case and let me know your thoughts on ‘The Clone Wars’ and which episodes are your favourite.        

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Journal of Whills: Part 11 - Han Solo

Image result for han solo
Another character study, and who else was it going to be next other than Han Solo. A favourite among fans, Solo is the outlaw with a heart of gold. He represents every lone hero that would populate every western that George Lucas loved, he was the cynical veteran next to the young apprentice in every Kurosawa period piece that helped inspire ‘Star Wars’. He’s supposed to be the every man in space, the guy that can observe Obi Wan’s crazy teachings about ‘feel, don’t think’ and smirk. As he said ‘I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to another and I’ve never seen anything to make me believe that there’s some all-powerful force’.
Even from a real world perspective this character is so significant, before this Harrison Ford stuck exclusively to supporting roles and was only made aware of the part due to Lucas failing to find an actor to play Solo, and called in Ford as they had previously worked together on ‘American Graffiti’ to take part in early screen tests with the newly cast Mark Hamill. By the end of the tests Lucas handed Ford the part and his career was changed forever.
As I said before Solo was the person who could shrug away mystical teachings and existential thoughts, maybe that’s one thing that was missing from the prequels, a character that could say ‘What the hell are you talking about’ every time someone said something about how they don’t like sand. When we first meet him in ‘A New Hope’ he’s arrogant, (boating about how his ship can make the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs) self-centred (‘I’m not in this for your revolution… I’m in it for the money’), and pretty much lives up to his name. He’s used to only looking after himself with the exception to his Wookie sidekick Chewbacca.
The excellence of Han’s character is how much it parallels Luke’s while retaining enough in common that they have to be on the same side. Where Luke is inexperienced, naïve and merely dreams about a life beyond what he knows, Han has done it and it’s made him a wizened cynic that’s only in it for the money. But they are both young, they both hate the Empire and both are willing to fight but for different reasons. Then of course when you compare him to Leia there’s the fact that even though both of them are far from naïve to the realities of the galaxy, she has the task of leading the Rebel Alliance, or in other words, a hell of a lot of responsibility compared to his care free attitude. It only makes his selfless acts in the sequels more noticeable, such as not putting up a fight when he is put into Carbon Freeze to try and protect his friends or volunteering to lead the Alliance’s strike team on Endor. It stands as a testament to some of the various developments over the course of the series that Han Solo, the quintessential loner forms a friendship with his polar opposite and romantic relationship with Leia.
Just thinking about it, there may be one more thing Han cares for when we first see him, his ship. The Millennium Falcon is a small freighter to which several extensive modifications have been made, and it shares many qualities with its captain. The Millennium Falcon something of a misfit, notoriously temperamental and undoubtedly untrustworthy in its appearance. As Luke said when he first laid eyes on the ship ‘What a piece of junk’ and even its previous owner Lando Calrisian later calls it ‘the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy’.
Solo continually tries to avoid commitment but ultimately that is what draws him back every time. Even when he has his reward for rescuing Leia, he returns to help Luke destroy the Death Star, and when he is set to leave again he prolongs his evacuation to save Luke from the wilderness and help Leia escape from the Empire’s attack. It would be safe to assume that when he is finally released from carbonite (after spending three years entombed) he is a changed man, still confident and bashful, but now committed to a cause.

So those are yet more ramblings on Star Wars, let me know some of yours by leaving a comment below, thanks and bye.    

Tuesday, 18 August 2015


"Monogamy isn't realistic." 

It’s rare for comedy directors to not have a hand in writing their movies. Unless they are known for directing over writing they will primarily choose to write their own projects. This tends to give them more creative control as it’s unlikely that anyone will question the style of their directing if they’re doing it for the material they wrote and should therefore know exactly how it should be brought to the screen. But for the first time, Judd Apatow is directing a screenplay that someone else wrote, the star of his latest film Amy Schumer, how will it turn out?
Amy (Amy Schumer) feels that she has life figured out. She has a good job as a journalist and a very active social life with absolutely no commitments at all. However all of this begins to change as she finds herself falling for Doctor Aaron (Bill Hader).
Though this isn’t Apatow’s script, his fingerprints are all over this film, and certainly not in a bad way. As we’ve seen with his other great comedies like ‘The 40-Year-Old Virgin’ he uses it as an opportunity to examine and navigate the bizarre world of sexual culture and its politics. There’s a persistent isolation to his characters whether they be sleeping with everyone or no one. The story may be fairly typical and by the books, but under Apatow’s direction there’s a certain cynical frame of mind to everything that occurs within the framework.
Schumer’s performance also assists this less conventional take on the genre as her character may verge on insufferable and slightly annoying, but it plays well to the comedic tones of the film and her turns of emotion and sentiment stop you from disliking her. She manages to capture a sense of self denial that stops the audience from dismissing her as selfish and we instead see an unusual vulnerability to her instead.
What makes her character more likable is the fact that Bill Hader’s Aaron likes her. Sometimes you can feel bad that one character is associated with one you despise, but in this case Hader’s straight and sensible performance combines with his sheer congeniality makes him both relatable and understandable but at the same time a bit offbeat. As a result you sympathise with him and sort of support his decisions, mostly.
There’s also a lot of laughs to be had from the ensemble cast and their reaction with the two leads. Tilda Swinton and Brie Larson are showing off their full comedic talents to bounce off of the more outlandish characters. Then you have some frankly brilliant celebrity cameos such as John Cena, who has a humorous scene in which he gets angry over being mistaken for Mark Wahlberg, 'I look like Mark Wahlberg, ate Mark Wahlberg' and Lebron James is there as well.
But despite all of these plus points there’s no escaping the fact that ‘Trainwreck’s’ script lacks originality and is not pushing the boundaries of the romantic comedy genre quite as much as it thinks it is. The overall message of the film seems slightly convoluted as it spends half of its runtime poking fun at standard monogamous relationships only for A,y to suddenly decide that’s what she wanted all along. Apatow isn’t quite as modern or edgy with the fairly traditional values and morals of ‘Trainwreck’.
There are however moments in which it can be wonderfully relevant to current relationships. They all seem to stem mainly from the method in which the actors and director execute the script, and at the end of the day that is where ‘Trainwreck’ primarily pulls its strength from.
At times it feels convoluted and at others overly simplistic, but the way in which it is carried out ultimately make ‘Trainwreck’ a fun spin on the romantic comedy genre, if not a revolutionary one.

Result: 7/10 

Monday, 17 August 2015

The Man From UNCLE

Image result for the man from uncle 2015 poster

"For a special agent you're not having a very special day are you?"

Guy Ritchie movies always leave me slightly conflicted. They’re always a lot of fun (mostly, with the exception of that ‘Swept Away’ remake) and I have a great time watching them, but deep down I know that they’re far from perfect and not nearly as good as that first time viewing experience. ‘Snatch’ was immense fun, but on reflection it was essentially a re-tread of his previous film ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’. Both are fun, but very similar. And as much as I love to see an eccentric Robert Downey Jr solving mysteries, the plots of his Sherlock Holmes films are ridiculous at best. So does ‘The Man from UNCLE’ break that trend?
A CIA agent (Henry Cavil) must put aside his differences with a KGB operative (Armie Hammer) as they must work together to prevent the initiation of a nuclear war between their two countries.
‘The Man from UNCLE’ would appear to be quite uneven in tone for a majority as on the one hand you have quite a comical approach as spy clichés are pointed out and ridiculed, Henry Cavil seems to be aware that he’s playing the part of a more arrogant and brash James Bond and has the chance to make fun of a few of the questionable accents within the film. In short, the film does find a good representation of classic era spy films in the way that it avoided taking itself too seriously, choosing instead to revel in the whole spy experience and not get caught up on the dreary side of proceedings.
Cavil and Hammer also have excellent on screen chemistry. In some respects you could label this as a buddy spy movie. Basically they take the partnership of a buddy cop movie and use some stylistic spy tones to make it a more unique concept. For the most part it works pretty well as like any great buddy cop movie the interaction of the two leads is electric and humorous throughout.
However, most spy films of 2015 (we’ve had a lot haven’t we) are great because they find a tone and stick with it. ‘Spy’ was comedic, ‘Rogue Nation’ was a thriller, and ‘Kingsman’…. well that was Matthew Vaughn (because that counts as a tone now). ‘The Man from UNCLE’ tries too hard to inject a serious side into the film and that sort of hurts both aspects of the film. Any serious scenes are sort of blunted by the comedy and the humorous scenes start to feel out of place as the comedy becomes less frequent as the film progresses in favour of an attempt at solemnity.
The action also causes a bit of an issue, setting it in this era with the tone he established early on gave me hope that Ritchie would really get creative with the action scenes and their direction. But the end result is something that could be lifted from any other modern action movie. It’s not bad by any stretch, but not very creative either.
Another aspect that’s fairly by the books is the story. It is fairly basic and although for a film like this that could be far from a complaint, many excellent spy films have fairly substandard plots. But as the film is stretched into as many different tones as possible it starts to tear and the holes become visible. Even without that though there simply isn’t enough creativity to distract me from these issues. ‘Spy’ had the ingenious idea to set up Melissa McCarthy as a genuine master agent, ‘Kingsman’ had computer chips that cause people to go berserk and kill each other and it’s all masterminded by a lisping Sam Jackson. ‘Rogue Nation’ has Tom Cruise on the side of a plane.
Once again I’m faced with the usual show from Guy Ritchie. This was definitely a fun and entertaining movie, but it’s a bit too uneven and unoriginal.
Result: 6/10   

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Journal of Whills: Part 10 - Attack of the Clones Review

Image result for attack of the clones poster

We’ve already sat through episode 1, and now here comes ‘Attack of the Clones’. I will be honest and say this is my least favourite ‘Star Wars’ film for a number of reasons that I will explain below. Because if there’s one thing the internet isn’t full of, its angry nerds ranting about the ‘Star Wars’ prequels.
Though anticipation wasn’t as high as ‘Phantom Menace’ the fact that this was after it made its reaction even worse as ultimately many were hoping that Lucas had learned from his earlier mistakes, listened to what worked and what didn’t work and do his best to repair the damage by making a film that was just as good, if not better, than the original trilogy. Unfortunately none of what I just said actually happened.
When most people point to ‘Attack of the Clones’ they point to that dialogue, that damn dialogue. A number of things made it as cringe worthy as it was. I will maintain that the writing could have been half believable, or altered slightly in the hands of a competent actor, because that’s what a good actor is supposed to do, find the best way in which a line (however awkward) should be delivered and if they can’t, alter it a bit so they can. A number of iconic lines in the original trilogy spanned from the actors tweaking the dialogue a bit, finding an alternative wording that was easier to convey but ultimately meant the same message. Under Hayden Christianson though, and a Natalie Portman that doesn’t seem to care in the slightest (even though she’s worked on films of a similar nature like ‘Thor’) just didn’t do that.
Once again CGI is in excess and now it really is ruining any hope of having a genuinely intense action set piece. Chases through the city of Coruscant look like a video game that you’re not allowed to play and massive battles on Geonosis just look fake, they simply do. When Mace Windu talks to Clone Troopers and walks amongst them at no point do I believe or even suspect that anything I’m seeing was really there.
Once again there are needless henchmen that I’m not sure are supposed to be feared as the main villain or are just there for the sake of it. Ok there’s that assassin they sent after Padme, but then she dies and then there’s Jango Fett (not played by Jaimie Foxx, there’s a D in that one) who also does very little as far as the main plot goes. He’s just a giant reference to a poorly acted and underwritten Boba Fett (I mean if you want to include the galaxy’s most deadly mercenary then show him being a mercenary, not just some whiny kid) and then there’s Count Dooku who does little apart from stand around and look evil, but that was supposed to be Darth Sidious’ job anyway so the whole process is useless. Who am I supposed to fear in this movie, which character is the one that I want to see the hero defeat, there’s no clear antagonist.
In theory this movie needed to show Anakin being morally challenged and harbouring a deep unrest. But no, instead Hayden Christianson comes off as whingey and pretentious. He doesn’t really get angry or troubled, he just seems to throw tantrums. He also mistakes the look of infatuated love for borderline stalking whenever he’s in a scene with Padme. It’s just plain weird. There’s also the frankly terrible judgement of the Jedi Council as they, after emphasising how it is forbidden for Jedi to love, send a clearly infatuated teenager on the most romantic mission ever with Natalie Portman. What did they think would happen?
There are hints to a deep rooted conspiracy but the execution of it means that there’s virtually no tension in it. When Dooku tells Obi Wan that the Republic is under the control of the Sith we, the audience should feel threatened by this. There’s also the galring question of, if the Jedi knew someone forged a Clone army in their name without their knowledge, why would they just go ‘Oh well I guess we’ll never know who secretly ordered the creation of this massive army and then gave them to us without any charge or repercussions of any kind. We might as well use them without any suspicion at all now.’ You’re supposed to be smart and wise, but based on this decision clearly you’re not.
If there are any specific parts of ‘Attack of the Clones’ that I like it has to be Obi Wan chasing Jango down across the galaxy. They have a decent fight on Kamino that’s peppered with humour and a decent flight battle in space through an asteroid field. But it does pale in comparison to the asteroid scene from ‘Empire Strikes Back’. Another good moment is the scene in which Anakin witnesses his mother dying and his subsequent rage, with the music and lighting and expression of the actors involved it actually lives up to what the rest of this film should have been. But then the scene is cut far too quickly and we’re left to savour this one moment of genius.
Yet again this is far from a terrible movie, but ‘Attack of the Clones’ failed to learn from the mistakes made in ‘Phantom Menace’ and doesn’t live up to the ‘Star Wars’ name.

Result: 4/10   

Friday, 14 August 2015


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"Some alien life force, has sent real life video game characters to attack us."

Adam Sandler… even that name sounds like a bad film by now. Every single idea that crosses his path seems to be destroyed and reduced to at least an hour and a half of lazily written jokes that sometimes take place in a nice shooting location of some kind, like a state park ‘(Grown Ups’) or Africa (‘Blended’). Now he’s done the same with this Chris Columbus project, with Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad. Until you add the name Sandler ‘Pixels sounds like what could be a fantastic summer blockbuster, instead it becomes, this.
After misinterpreting a human space probe, a race of aliens send autonomous versions of classic video game characters such as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, to destroy the world. This means that humanity’s only hope of survival is a group of retro gamers.
Look, I wanted to like this film, I really did. But my god it is just awful. With this and ‘Fant4stic’ it’s been a pretty bad week for movies, not a good way to close the summer. Despite some impressive effects concerning the rendition of the video game characters (some genuinely good ones, the right mix of nostalgia and realistic CGI) at the heat of ‘Pixels’, it is just another Sandler film.
For a start can I just say this? Does anyone actually believe the notion that Adam Sandler can actually get together with Michelle Monaghan is one that immediately kills any movie’s sense of reality? Previously her on screen courters have included Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr and now Adam Sandler. That is just messed up. Also you have the role of president of the United States played by Kevin James who already had a flop this year with Mall Cop 2. None of these things are believable but the movie doesn’t seem to know it. Clearly we’re not supposed to be laughing at the idea of someone like Kevin James being a president, the film is blatantly unaware of how ridiculous its own premise is.
That may be a fatal flaw, classic comedies like ‘Ghostbusters’ relish in the stupidity of their concept, but ‘Pixels’ tries to treat the whole scenario as something that could really happen, and guess what? IT IS NOT FUNNY. Another thing that is not funny is Kevin James doing the exact same thing he’s done in every film he’s ever made. He’s a stupid fat guy that falls over while everyone else goes ‘Uh Oh’ to the camera, enough already.
Even the more talented cast members like Josh Gad are given little to do other than scream and react to whatever silly escapade Sandler and James are doing. Gad screams and waves his arms, that’s pretty much it. By far the best part of ‘Pixels’ was Peter Dinklage, but he only has a few lines and even then he’s shoved aside in favour of more of what everyone loves, uncomfortable romantic subplots and dialogue that is only funny to a five year old.
When you think about the style of humour the film has you realise that it is inherently flawed. Think about it, while most of this humour is intended to only be funny to children, the film is supposed to appeal through nostalgia towards the video games that none of the children are old enough to remember anyway. It’s little wonder that Sony have announced that they are reluctant to fund any of Sandler’s project.
While there are some decent effects everything else about ‘Pixels’ fails dismally. It may not be the worst Sandler film (though it does join the string of bad ones he’s had over the past five years, ‘Jack and Jill’, ‘That’s My Boy’, ‘Grown Ups 2’, ‘Blended’) but it may be something worse. At the end of the day ‘Pixels’ is simply a wasted chance, a good idea destroyed by one man.
Result: 1/10

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Back to the Future: 30 Years On

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It’s been so long since its original release that real time has caught up with the futuristic date set in part 2 (2015, we have no hover boards or flying cars) but ‘back to the Future’ still stands tall as not only a staple of science fiction cinema but perhaps the ultimate summer blockbuster. There are many things that make it great, and here I’m going to give a quick rundown of them.
Perhaps it’s the melancholy attitude that Robert Zemeckis takes when dealing with what could be seriously disturbing and suspenseful material with other writers that turns it into less of the action extravaganza that it could have been and into a more Capra like caper. As Gene Siskel said when describing the film ‘If I had the ability to make pictures I hope I’d have the ability to make a film as enjoyable as ‘Back to the Future’.
One of the things that makes it so enjoyable is the chemistry between Doc Brown and Marty McFly. Though it’s never really explained why a teenager would hang out with a mad scientist old enough to be his grandfather, it works. Maybe that’s why we don’t need an answer to that question and why we just accept their relationship. They each complement the other and maintain a strong individuality, serving as one of the greatest double acts in movie history. It’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the role, but of course Michael J Fox was initially unavailable to play it, however after some begging Fox was allowed to accept the role, which he did without even reading the script. Is there anyone that would dispute that this was one of the best move’s in film history, as Fox’s performance defines comedic timing, use of physical expression and a fantastic fish out of water attitude. Naturally he seems so out of place against the 1950s environment is where a majority of the humour comes from, not to mention his perfect amazement and nervousness at seeing his parents as youngsters.
The other half of this double act is Christopher Lloyd, who brought Doc Brown to live in so many ways. He also nearly passed the role, but was convinced by the director’s passion. Again this is just a role where no one else could do it as well. There is no point where I doubt his intelligence and madness of this character whether he’s acting straight with giant devices perched precariously on his head or building an exact scale model of the town then apologising for its crudeness. It’s zany, exciting and over the top, utterly contradicting depending on the time zone and utterly brilliant.
The time machine was originally written as a fridge, but Spielberg was worried that kids may copy the film and climb into fridges, so it was changed to a Delorean (because kids’ climbing into cars is much safer). It was undoubtedly an inspired move as it gave them the perfect opportunity to fabricate the machine with a futuristic style, but still one that looks chaotic as if it was assembled at home by an eccentric lunatic. The innards are perfectly realised and given just the right amount of explanation. How does a Flux Capacitor work, we don’t know, it just does.
The super efficiency of ‘Back to the Future’s’ script is one of the films strongest aspects. If you wanted more detailed thoughts on why the script is a marvel of writing then go to the link below in order to reach a new blog I have CineTheory, in which I go deep into certain film topics and subjects. 

Monday, 10 August 2015


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"This is the end of your world, and the beginning of mine."

Some people accuse the Marvel Cinematic Universe of just following a basic formula and not deserving their huge financial success. Some curse them for initiating this tidal wave of superhero films that are about to hit us, and criticise how the genre is relatively easy to turn bangs into bucks. However I would point to a film like ‘Fant4stic’ (they called it that, the promotional material says so)and argue that actually, Marvel are very good at this, as what we have here is a prime example of how not to do a superhero movie the right way.
Having been employed by the government to conduct research and experiments towards interdimensional travel, Reed Richards (Miles Teller) puts his friends lives at risk when one experiment goes horribly wrong, transforming them into super powered beings.
This film has been met with backlash right from day one. Whether it be fans pointing out how this version exists primarily so Fox have a reason not to hand the rights back to Marvel, on set turbulence and the reported recklessness of Josh Trank as a director, not to mention the fact that he was signed up to direct an upcoming ‘Star Wars’ film for Disney, but mysteriously dropped out for unknown reasons (all we do know is that it was most definitely not a graceful shaking of hands and parting of ways as Trank engaged the world’s largest film studio in a one man Twitter war, bragging about how Fox were desperate for him to direct another Fantastic Four film and he was not sorry to leave the ‘Star Wars’ project).
But putting all of that aside, what does ‘Fant4stic’ have going for it? Well to its credit there is a good balance of emphasising both teamwork and the personal tribulations such a transformation might do to someone (instead of madly glossing over it like the previous films did) and shines a light on some of the character’s history and interaction before the accident. The cast is also pretty solid and the end result is certainly a different take and incarnation of a superhero team. So those are a few things on the positive spectrum.
That being said, on the negative spectrum, there is the slight issue. The issue is that this movie is just awful in literally ever way other than the few things that I mentioned there. Like I said there are good things but these plus points pale into significance when compared to the massive structural and tonal issues that are frequently on display.
It opens with this weird ‘Goonies’ like sequence, then shifts to a lighhearted science project before delving into sudden and rather unpleasant body-horror-esque sequences and there are about a dozen other changes that are all fairly boring and uneventful all before it delves into what has to be the most rushed hero section (the point in any superhero movie where the hero accepts who they are and set out to vanquish evil) of any superhero film I have ever seen. Dr Doom is laughably in its look and mind set, as well as being ridiculously underused.
Like last years ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’, ‘Fant4stic’ is all exposition, building towards a film that has not yet happened, trying to set up this cinematic franchise that will probably never happen now. For the last time studios, focus on the movie you’re making right now instead of one that’s three years away. Though the CGI is mostly competent there are moments where it just looks horrendous, like 1990s cheap CGI bad. Even when it’s good there’s no point that I actually believed it was real, I was constantly aware that I was watching CGI.
‘Fant4stic’ is not even bad in a hilarious way as the dark tone just makes it feel, above all else, depressing. A structurally unstable, tonally uneven, sleep inducing, rushed and depressing film.

Result: 2/10