Friday, 26 May 2017

Review: Baywatch





Baywatch
Cert: 15 / 116 mins / Dir. Seth Gordon / Trailer



Full disclosure: I've never seen an episode of Baywatch. But that shouldn't matter, right? Paramount certainly don't seem to think so, with the erstwhile jewel in the crown of Saturday evening programming dusted down and retooled in sunbleached widescreen for the next, hopefully unfussy, generation.

So, you know the drill. Something, something, the Baywatch crew are A Family™; something, something evil drug-dealing property-developer; something, something action-sequence approximately every twelve minutes. There's the muscly one, the thick one, the hot one, the geeky one, and the other two attractive ones that the story doesn't know what to do with, so they're just hanging around in the background most of the time. Also, dick-jokes. This film hopes you haven't seen dick-jokes before.

Formulaic, self-satisfied and more fixated with bathing-suits than even a film set on a beach should be, this feels like Michael Bay directed a studio-comedy. Baywatch is the film that went to the party dressed as 23 Jump Street, but received compliments all night for its Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates 2 outfit.

It's not without a certain juvenile charm, but that wears thin in short order and the film is littered with jokes which must have looked hilarious on paper, lost completely between sloppy editing and uninspired performances. Although that's often a by-product of having six writers onboard. And for every high-framerate jumping stunt or glorious beach sunrise, there's an intercut shot which was so obviously filmed on a soundstage with shoddy lighting and colour-timing, that it might as well be plasticine stop-motion for all its visual continuity. And of course there's a reel of what would normally be out-takes, but are mainly lines of dialogue which were dropped from the film entirely (for reasons which become apparent as you watch). I suppose I should be thankful this wasn't made starring Mark Wahlberg, at least…

But ultimately, I've seen worse. In fact, I've seen worse with this cast. Plus, the sun, sand, unfeasible gymnastics and erratic gunfire has reminded me that I haven't played Vice City Stories for too long. So I've got that to look forward to again…

…and can we all stop pretending David Hasselhoff is some sort of post-ironic cultural icon, please? He was wooden back in the day, he's worse now that he thinks he's doing it deliberately*1.



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
C.H.i.P.s.
(even though this is nowhere near as offensively poor, to be fair).


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
No.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I hope not.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
No.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not, but that really depends on how effusive you are about it.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is; composer Christopher Lennertz seems to have worked it into the track running behind the jet-ski chase and ensuing punch-up.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Jon Bass is in this (in a part clearly written for Josh Gad), and he was in last year's Loving along with Joel 'Young Uncle Owen' Edgerton.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Watching him mangle his few lines of already-simplistic dialogue in this film is embarrassing. Okay, it's maybe not the most humiliating thing David's ever appeared in but he got paid for his return to Baywatch, which in many ways makes it worse. The film acts like Hasselhoff's appearance is some sort of surprise cameo that the audience weren't expecting, apparently unaware that its own opening credits feature the words "and David Hasselhoff" (the same goes for Pamela You-Know-Who's walk-on*2). Guardians 2 only pulled this shit off because the rest of the film was so good, and even then the final musical number threatens to undo that goodwill. Seriously film-makers, stop it. [ BACK ]

*2 And while I normally steer well-clear of casting cheap or tasteless aspersions on the physical appearance of the seasoned performers, I've got to say that it looks like Pamela Anderson is being played by a drag-queen in this movie. And yeah, a footnote within a footnote. How very meta[ 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.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Review: Alien Covenant (second-pass)





Alien: Covenant (second-pass / SPOILERS! Also, LANGUAGE!)
Cert: 15 / 122 mins / Dir. Ridley Scott / Trailer



You see, I did enjoy Alien: Covenant the second time around (first and spoiler-free, here), it's just that…

The two producers credited on-screen at the same time are David Giler and Walter Hill. Am I alone in wondering if this is related to the two synthetic characters in the film being called David and Walter? Like they got to name characters as part of a Kickstarter-perk, or somesuch?

Jed Kurzel did the score for Covenant, and while I've no strong feelings on it either way, it seems a bit odd that in the opening scene, he's credited as David begins playing Wagner's Das Rheingold on the piano. That's quite a slap in the face from editor Pietro Scalia there, to be credited for the film's music the moment someone else's work is playing. Unless those are Kurzel's hands of course, because the framing of that sequence certainly suggests that Fassbender can't play the piano.

Now I know everyone else is asleep, but why does the ship's computer, MU/TH/ER, bark on at Walter to deploy the recharge-sails? All he does is presses a button, which then begins an electronic sequence of automatically deploying the recharge-sails. Fairly certain the computer could have done that by itself?

And while I'm on, why does the same computer harp on at Walter about retracting the sails because there's an incoming neutrino-burst instead of, oh I don't know, not wasting those precious seconds waiting for another button to be pressed and just retracting the sails?

So, if the neutrino-bursts are pretty much unpredictable and unavoidable, and if one of those will damage the deployed hardware, then this weakness has been deliberately built into the ship, yes? Knowing it could happen and knowing the effects of it happening, Weyland/Yutani seem to have done nothing to build in dampers or surge-protectors. Well done, guys.

Acting-captain Oram has a pop at Walter about the unpredictable nature of these natural phenomena damaging the ship, yet six minutes later he's sitting in a landing craft (which is essentially a big box of computers and sensitive electronic equipment, with seats and an engine) and telling the pilot to drive right through a fucking electrical storm, just because he's nosey.

Although on a far geekier note, this isn't the first time a character played by Billy Crudup has come a cropper due to unexpected neutrinos...

Even if the crew of the lander didn't clock the massive ship parked on a mountain which is sending out the beacon-signal on their way down, they land 8km away from it then decide to walk, over forests and mountain-sides. Why not get back in the lander and cruise over to the signal? That's what the craft was actually designed for. Transportation.

And after David pops out of the night and is like "follow me!", they walk to the desolate city he's made home. This crew have landed on a planet - from space, up above - literally within walking distance of a city and not noticed it.

When the two synthetics are discussing programming upgrades, I like that Walter's observation is that David's model was thought to be "too human". Given that the latter bore a deep-seated grudge against a parent, went mad after isolation on a long-haul flight, killed the entire crew through idle curiosity, committed planetary genocide, developed biological weapons then betrayed and killed the only person who still liked him, I'd say David was very human, yes. And indeed too much, so. To the point where you really can't blame his artificial side at all, to be fair.

So watching Daniels and Walter scrapping, there's the moment where she drives that nail under his chin. Ah! I thought, I hadn't noticed the significance of that first time round. As well as the scripted giveaway later in the cryo-tube scene, she'll be looking up at the synth she thought was Walter, see the scar and realise it's actually David! So, I kept my eye open for that when the film's denouement arrived, and… no. Not there, mate. In the film's final moments there are at least two clear shots of the underside of David's chin, and there's not a scratch to be seen, despite the wound having been sustained at the same time as the ones on his face, which are still patched/healing. So either that android's got super-fucking-healing around his lower jaw only, or David transferred his consciousness into Walter's already-handless body (why bother, when they look alike and he's got to lose the arm anyway?), or it really is Walter after all and he's just turned into a massive space-bastard.
Who sets up a huge callback then forgets all about it? Answers on a postcard, please…

But that's not what's really got under my skin. No, for that I'll need to skip the bullet-points…

why is this film so determined to reboot the history it has no real right interfering with? All credit (and deservedly so) to Ridley Scott for directing one of the finest genre-redefining movies of the 1970s, if not all time. But for the pedestal he's put upon, you'd be forgiven for thinking he wrote the story/script (Dan O'Bannon & Ron Shuster) and designed the creatures (HR Giger, as we all know). Now obviously as director he's still at the sharp edge of the creative team, but that's what it was, a team effort.

And while the 1979 original laid the groundwork for everything to come, the universe didn't really expand until seven years later with Aliens, where we learned of the creatures queen/hive system. The species further adaptability was explored in Alien³ and Alien: Resurrection, and notably in around twenty years' worth of novels, comics and video games. The life-cycle of queen/egg/facehugger/chestburster/drone has been given biological resonance by comparing the species to bees or ants, not to create any sympathy for the xenomorphs, but to add a layer of practical believability (and, therefore, danger). And the many, many authors and artists involved in this narrative evolution all used O'Bannon's story as a seed, but they added to the story, they didn't re-write it.

So then Prometheus comes along and goes, 'actually they're a bio-weapon, mate'. Which is a little disconcerting, but basically fine. Then Covenant comes along and goes 'no really mate, the aliens you know won't even be invented until 2104 by a crazy synthetic living in a cave. All the proper 'Aliens' films take place after that anyway, but all those 'Predator' tie-ins? They can go fuck themselves into a cocked hat. Xenomorphs start now, with David. Alright?'

And it seems a bit… well, disrespectful, frankly. As if Scott and the Covenant writing-team of Jack Paglen, Michael Green, John Logan and Dante Harper had invented the sandpit, rather than just being invited to play in it. And that's where the sentiment creeps in of 'oh, but it's Ridley Scott, it's all his'. Not really, see above. He helped, fair play. It's bad enough that the highly-anticipated (and now apparently aborted) Alien 5 movie from Neil Blomkamp was going to re-route the series own timeline *1, without this one sticking two fingers up at everyone who's coloured within the lines for so long. I just get the impression nobody at 20th Century Fox really has any direction for this series and they're hoping it'll freewheel into something cohesive.

None of this would even matter if Scott's grand vision for a clean-slate universe wasn't so smugly oblique. First there were going to be three films in this pre-Alien cycle, now it's looking like four. Although Scott's mentioned six, and said the next movie 'might' be set before Covenant*2, even though the audience now knows what happened to a) Elizabeth Shaw, b) David the synthetic, and c) The Engineers. And there's still no sign of LV-246, despite both prequels so far deliberately framing shots to match the curved ship from Alien. It genuinely wouldn't surprise me if the final prequel answers precisely no questions on the run-up to the Nostromo's fateful encounter. All I want is a cinematic universe where there's the possibility of the Yautja walking around the corner at any moment. Fat chance.

Over-reacting? Oh, probably…



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
That Prometheus.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
To get the most out of it visually? Absolutely.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
SEE ABOVE…


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
With the best will in the world, no.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Shouldn't think so.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film stars that Demián Bichir, and he was in that Hateful Eight along with Sam 'Windu' Jackson.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Okay, Resurrection's not great by any stretch of the imagination, but you stick by your past endeavours, Fox. Think of the problematic areas as potential ret-cons, not narrative black sheep to be airbrushed out of the family photos. If the film was good enough to release and promote in 1997, at least have the courage of your convictions when it comes to retrospective appreciation. If I as a Star Wars fan can stomach the Holiday Special, I'm fairly certain Alien 4 should be workable. And I'm not even going to apologise for David Fincher's Alien³, it's a good movie. [ BACK ]

*2 Although Scott also went on record as saying there'd be no Xenomorphs in his Prometheus sequel and that it was going to be called Paradise Lost. In terms of sticking to his word, it's not dissimilar to David standing next to four facehugger-eggs and saying "Yep, totally safe mate. Come on, have a gander. No, seriously!" [ 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, 19 May 2017

Review: King Arthur - Legend of the Sword





King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2D)
Cert: 12A / 126 mins / Dir. Guy Ritchie / Trailer




Game Of Thrones, for twats*1.





So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Seventh Son.
Yeah, I went there.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Well, any sense of atmosphere or fun you might associate with the cinema is as brutally desaturated as the colour palette. Clocking in at $175m, this is the most expensive sedative I've seen in some time. An effective one, though….


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
What, to bore me shitless with under-acting, an incoherent storyline and a script which took longer to read back than it did to write? Apparently so.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Difficult to say, since stars Jude Law and Charlie Humdrum are so intrinsically wooden that they aren't allowed on set at the same time as their joint presence is considered a fire hazard. The latter's accent seems to veer between Middlesborough and Southwark for the most part of the film until Aiden Gillen's in the room, at which point it takes on a suspiciously Dublinian twang. Much like Gerard Butler, I think Charlie's default-accent has now been lost.

And stop saying 'Londinium', for fuck's sake. This is mythical, not historic, and you sound like a shrieking hen-party for whom visiting the capital has not yet begun to lose its novelty…


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shall begin by looking over my spectacles and you and it will go downhill from there.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't. Plenty of opportunities, but it's probably for the best.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: 2nd Lt. Frobb from Rogue One's in this.

And his only real contribution to the screenplay might be the one part of the film I didn't want to punch in the face, even though it was clearly written in the style of Brick Top, and Geoff Bell doesn't have that gravitas yet.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Bearing in mind that Game Of Thrones is just Lord Of The Rings for twats… [ 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, 17 May 2017

Review: Eat Local





Eat Local
Cert: 18 / 94 mins / Dir. Jason Flemyng / Trailer



And so on a mild Saturday evening in the heart of London's glittering West End, high on the adrenaline of three back-to-back movies and executing what I can only describe as An Uncharacteristically High Level Of Consumer Persistence, your humble correspondent managed to snag a last minute seat in the sold-out screening of the final film in the British Independent Film Festival programme. The feature was Eat Local, written by Danny King and directed by Tom from off of Lock, Stock.

In a remote farmhouse in one of England's southern counties, eight ancient vampire lords meet to discuss the borders between their territories and ensure their general survival. But all is not well inside the house, as the powerful traditionally do not like to share power. And all is worse outside the house as a military strike-team assembles with a view to bagging some prey of their own…

Now my initial thought, before the lights were properly dimmed, was 'aren't festival audiences badly behaved?'. Phones out, shouting across the room, laughing, and one particular patron located a couple of rows behind me who, through the combination of body odour and a more herbal essence, smelled like he'd been smoking weed whilst zorbing for ten hours straight. After a brief introductory speech, the film began and pretty much every name appearing on-screen through the titles elicited a whoop, holler or cheer. It was at that point of course that I realised - festival or otherwise - I was effectively watching the film with the cast and crew*1. Whether this communally heightened sense of engagement let to me enjoying Eat Local more than I would have under civilian conditions, is hard to say. But I enjoyed it, nonetheless.

As a seasoned actor with a solid reputation and wide professional circle, Jason Flemyng has assembled an impressive array of performers*2 to appear in his directorial debut. Eve Myles, Annette Crosbie, Freema Agyeman, Charlie Cox, Vincent Regan, Tony Curran, Jordan Long and relative newcomer Billy Cook lead the charge, with Ruth Jones, Dexter Fletcher*3, McKenzie Crook and Robert Portal (among many others) supporting in smaller roles. For a film which takes place almost entirely at night and in basically two locations, it's heavily populated, but the script is light enough to keep things moving briskly.

So as you might expect, there's an above-average amount of humour in the film, with deadpan, sarcasm and blood-dripping farce all intertwining throughout. And while things stay 'playful' without straying into silly territory, it maybe feels a little too arch for its own good. We never delve too deeply into the particular vampire-mechanics of this outing, although there's enough backstory provided to bring the audience up to speed with the weapons which can and can't be used against them. Because the weapons are the other focus here, when the characters aren't bickering with each other. I mentioned Lock, Stock at the beginning because there's a clear tonal homage here to Guy Richie's classic (and a visual one in the scene where Annette Crosbie lets loose with some heavy weaponry - obviously a comic moment, but nowhere near as overplayed as it would be in many another film). And it works well, but the whole film has that overtly Indie™ quality which might cause it to age poorly. Time will tell.

The best line comes courtesy of Tony Curran's Caledonian vampire, Peter:
"Ah'm no a racist. I'll kill anybody, no matter where they're from. Doesnae bother me…"

Not necessarily a smart film but well-constructed and consistently funny and engaging, my only real issue with Eat Local is that if features Freema Agyeman with fangs, a plaid shirt and an assault rifle: and no-one thought to tell me about this sooner…



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Dog Soldiers.

And I must confess that I say that as someone who watched Dog Soldiers at the cinema and loved it and bought it on DVD the day it came out then didn't watch it for a long time then revisited the film a couple of years ago and was horrified with how clunky and amateurish the whole thing is despite being a solid concept at its core and still containing many things I love. I'm not saying Eat Local will be awful in ten years' time. Although by then I can't imagine many people will care. This is rather good, and I think conceptually it's on the same page as Dog Soldiers.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
As much as I enjoyed it in the cinema, the natural home for Eat Local is on DVD at around midnight with friends and booze.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
With relatively low aims other than being a coherent and fun vampire caper, yes.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Not particularly, then again it's not really meant to change the world. This is Jason Flemyng trying his hand at directing a genre piece and largely succeeding. I look forward to his next project very much.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Nope.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Oh, yes.
Sticks out like a sore thumb, but it's proudly in there so I approve
.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: So many to choose from here, but let's go with this film starring Annette Crosbie, who appeared in 1968's Mrs Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter as did Drewe 'Red Leader From The Battle Of Yavin' Henley.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 This was confirmed during the after-film speech by the director himself, in which he asked any audience members with no connection to the film to raise their hands, and me and about nine other people in the sold-out auditorium duly identified ourselves. I hasten to add that I never felt unwelcome or like an imposter in the room, but there was the definite air of arriving late to a party and being three drinks behind everyone else. [ BACK ]

*2 More accurately of course, casting director Lucinda Syson has assembled the performers. Although given how many of Flemyng's former co-stars from across the years appear, I'm fairly certain that he was instrumental to some extent ;) [ BACK ]

*3 That's right, Spike From Off Of Press Gang. I met him on Saturday as well. Not even at this screening, I'd just harassed him earlier in Fopp Records, off Cambridge Circus. He was doing that thing of wearing earphones despite not listening to anything in a bid to stop people talking to you. Even though that clearly didn't work in my case. He's lovely. [ 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.