Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Review: Black Panther





Black Panther (first-pass / 2D / spoiler-free)
Cert: 12A / 134 mins / Dir. Ryan Coogler / Trailer



Short version: Marvel Studios continue their surgically uncanny trend of great films in their ongoing Avengers timeline. Leaving aside how culturally notable Black Panther is, it's also a bloody good standalone superhero movie. Intelligent without sporting a superiority complex, intense without morosity, fun without silliness. Outstanding work.

Long version...
Click to read the full article over at SetTheTape.com

The business-end:
• Is there a Wilhelm Scream? I'm not sure...
• Is there a Stan Lee cameo? There is.
• Is there a mid-credits scene? There is.
• Is there a post-credits scene? There is.


So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Let's be fair, The Marvel Cinematic Universe Films.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
If you're a fan of the series, this will be a buy-er.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
'Best' feels awkward, but it's almost certainly my favourite, yes.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
I look forward to your opinions.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't hear one on first-pass…


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Strong game with Maz Kanata, Saw Gerrera and Supreme Leader Snoke all in residence, here.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…




DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Review: Den Of Thieves





Den of Thieves
Cert: 15 / 140 mins / Dir. Christian Gudegast / Trailer



Oh, Gerard. Still growling his way through action movies. Still hoping this is just a phase as the his craggy features become ever-more pronounced. Still picking up the Embittered, Alcoholic, Rule-Breaking Cop™ roles that Neeson is too busy for, most likely because they both share a similar level of accent-control. Anyhow, some casting-call listed that aforementioned part along with the character name "Big Nick O'Brien" and his agent evidently thought it was tailor-made for Paisley's finest. And so it came to be.

Big Gerard stars as Big Nick, a police detective in charge of a specialist counter bank robbery squad in downtown Los Angeles (the bank robbery capital of the world, according to the helpful overlay cards we get in the opening moments). When the boys in dress-down body armour get wind of an imminent job on the Federal Reserve*1, it's scowling all round as we follow the cops and criminals alike through a maze of meticulous planning and frantic gunfire. Nick is constructed entirely from tattoo-ink, cigarettes, scotch, coffee, donuts, Pepto-Bismol*2, a weakness for hookers and a maverick disdain for The Suits™. Textbook stuff, to put it diplomatically.

And amazingly, it's not awful.
Although it's pretty far from great.

It also appears that all of Hollywood's script editors are currently on strike. Den of Thieves should be a clock-punching 95 minute romp of shakycam car chases and punch-ups. Instead, director Christian Gudegast self-indulgently ambles along for 140 of them, seeming to believe the movie has something profoundly unique or meaningful to reveal to the audience and the genre itself. Long brooding scenes of Nick's incidental domestic strife try to shore-up a character who hasn't been built in the first place.

In one over-long interrogation scene, Nick explains to a kidnapped suspect "you're not the bad guys - we are". Probably just as well he cleared that up, since other than himself, getaway driver Donnie (O'Shea Jackson Jr) and chief-crim Ray Merrimen*3 (Pablo Schreiber), the members of each 'crew' are underwritten and interchangeable. For the last hour, even the film itself has no idea who it's actually rooting for. But the end result is the same: a £3 Father's Day DVD assembled from offcuts of every heist movie made in the last 40 years.

Packaged like absolute filler and delivered like it too, Den Of Thieves is fine, if unremarkable. The core idea is solid enough, but the movie lacks character.
As well as characters.



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Watch Dog Day Afternoon, Hell Or High Water, Sicario and Logan Lucky.
I mean instead, not as-well-as. They're all far better.

Fuck it, even Triple 9 manages to keep the same shit under two hours.
.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Nope.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Stream it, tops.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Nope.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Nope.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Nope.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: This film features Uncredited Stormtrooper from The Last Jedi. And you may well snort at that, but if it was on my CV, that's how I'd be introducing myself at dinner parties.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 And I'm pleased to report that the line from the trailer in which Pablo Schreiber describes the Federal Reserve as being "like Fort Knox" has been removed in the final edit. Because as we've all known since 1995, that's a false equivalence. [ BACK ]

*2 Although no packaging is displayed on-screen, Pepto-Bismol is specifically namechecked in the final shooting-script. Although that's still nowhere near as cool as that time Seabrook Crisps got a product-placement deal in a Fast & Furious flick. [ BACK ]

*3 'Ray Merrimen'? Surely he should be Robin Merrimen, if anything? That said, if a movie titled 'Den of Thieves' can be made without Dennis Waterman or Hugh Dennis as the lead actor, we shouldn't expect too much from naming conventions within it.
[ BACK ]


DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Review: I, Tonya





I, Tonya
Cert: 15 / 119 mins / Dir. Craig Gillespie / Trailer



And like that (*clicks fingers*) January's curse was broken and I'm apparently allowed to enjoy new films again. And Oscar-contenders, at that. Craig Gillespie's I, Tonya is a flippantly acerbic bio-pic of Olympic figure skater, Tonya Harding, centering particularly on the events surrounding the 1994 attack on her competitor Nancy Kerrigan. Screenwritten by Steven Rogers and based on historical interviews with Harding (played here by Margot Robbie), her on/off husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), her mother and manager LaVona (Allison Janney) and a few others connected with the case, the opening title-cards boldly proclaim that the film which follows is exaggerated and contradictory. Which proves to be both its trump and Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free cards...

Compiled as a faux documentary, to-camera pieces featuring each of the central characters act as frames for character-building vignettes showing Tonya's early life and progression in competitive skating, as well as her turbulent private life. It's deftly edited but presented as gritty and harsh - on everyone involved - with a scattering of fourth-wall-breaking moments in the story sections. Rogers' screenplay offers its subjects up at their worst and their best (well...) but never quite passes judgement; that privilege is placed directly on the audience.

But as impressive as the storytelling craft is (and it is), that's nothing compared to the performances. Within five minutes of I, Tonya beginning, it becomes clear that both Margot Robbie and Allison Janney are absolutely on-fire, here. The pushy parent/coach dynamic has long been a cinematic staple in sports movies, but it's rarely been brought to the screen with so much visceral, seething energy (while also managing to be far funnier than it has any right to be). Awards-buzz for this film is richly deserved, as will be those trophies which are inevitably brought home.

All of this is topped off with an immense jukebox soundtrack (much of which is diegetic) that manages to escape the trap of 'listen to how cool my favourite records are'*1 (cf). And as if you hadn't gathered from the trailer, there is a lot of The Effing And The Jeffing in I, Tonya, although a script and subject matter as direct as this earns each and every expletive*2.

As someone who neither knows nor cares about the vast majority of All The Sport (and previously knew little-to-nothing about the case in question), my enthusiasm for I Tonya has caught me off-guard a little. But as other film-makers have shown, there's a massive difference between using sport as a setting for a great movie and trying to make a great movie about the sport. Craig Gillespie has fashioned something absolutely magnetic, at any rate.

Although even I have to admit, I have no idea how the 'team-up' episode of this franchise is going to play out…

I, Frankenstein  I, Daniel Blake  I, Tonya


So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The Wolf of Wall Street, Miss Sloane.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Not entirely sure what the re-watch value will be for most people, but it's worth owning as a great example of screen-acting.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Time will tell, but it's definitely up there.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Unlikely, as much as I loved I, Tonya, I know not everyone will connect with it.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: I'm old enough to remember when Margot Robbie played the unrequited love of General Hux in About Time


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Because not even the most cloying hipster would playlist Barracuda or Gloria if they knew people were watching. [ BACK ]

*2 Okay, with maybe one exception, but I won't tell you where that is. Just enjoy the swears. [ BACK ]


DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Review: Maze Runner - The Death Cure





Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Cert: 12A / 142 mins / Dir. Wes Ball / Trailer



And so, after the production team played on through injury-time*1 to accommodate its star's recovery after a filming accident, the third Maze Runner movie finally lands on our shores in an attempt to cheer me up before the end of the month. And for the very most-part, it's succeeded.

Following on from The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure sees Thomas (Dylan O'Brien), Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and the gang trying to break into WKD headquarters, to rescue their captured friend Minho (Ki Hong Lee). Naturally the corporation's enigmatic head, Ava (Patricia Clarkson) and her heel-snapping henchman Janson (Aidan Gillen) have other ideas. Things will get messy.

Much like its predecessors, this is bloody good fun. Far above what the Young-Adult-Adventure™ format usually throws our way, thanks to a fantastic cast and a screenplay which doesn't patronise either them, their characters or the audience. It's very much a dystopian Hollywood action/thriller, of course, but there's still the feeling that (in the appropriate places) The Death Cure is a better zombie movie than most zombie movies (although it doesn't have that raw edge of The Scorch Trials). The plot shifts a back toward the 'chosen one' model for the story's conclusion, but doesn't neglect the supporting characters in doing so, and this particular installment gets very smashy-crashy in its third act (which, true to Hollywood tradition is far too long), putting slightly more emphasis on All Of The Death™ than All Of The Cure™. Additionally, the final couple of scenes are very on the nose and the film could have ended quite well without them.

But minor quibbles don't detract from a satisfying close to a pleasantly surprising trilogy; one which will have slipped under the radar of many casual film watchers by means of its YA marketing-push. The Maze Runner series may not have changed the world, but it's punching well above its weight in a crowded ring*2.


So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Rather than run through a list of lesser-faring teen dramas, I'll just restrict it to the first two Maze Runner movies. Because if you haven't watched those then The Death Cure will make absolutely no sense.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you've seen the previous chapters and enjoyed them, absolutely.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Unless you're completing the trilogy for your shelf, you should get away with a rental.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Well I'm knocking a point off for every scene featuring Aidan Gillen where he can't remember what accent his character's supposed to have. It's as if he doesn't have significant previous with this, and allowing it here (again) indicates sloppy direction.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
I shouldn't imagine so.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is, and it's textbook.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Petty Officer Thanisson is in this, finally getting to run around polished corridors with an assault rifle.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 …is this how sport analogies work? I have no idea. As you've probably gathered. [ BACK ]

*2 See? I use a simple, well-worn boxing metaphor, then extend it to the second half of a sentence and it just sounds wrong.
[ BACK ]

DISCLAIMERS:
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.