Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Review: Avengers - Infinity War (third-pass)





Avengers: Infinity War (2D / third-pass / SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 149 mins / Dir. Joe Russo & Anthony Russo / Trailer



Well, I didn't think I'd be making comparative references against the third Avengers get-together until at least this time next year, but a conversation at the weekend raised the point that for the more, ahem, civilian viewer, there are two superhero movies out at the moment. Inevitably, some casual cinema-goers are going to be standing in the foyer deciding which one they want to watch*1.

Because for a lot of people, the choice will be between a pair of Marvel flicks starring a partially-CGI'd Josh Brolin as a bad-ass with a time-slider*2. But that's not really an accurate comparison, is it? Or is it? Infinity War and Deadpool 2 are very different products, albeit for partly the same audience*3. The merc-with-the=mouth has come armed with the fuckbombs, but it's Earth's Mightiest Heroes who carry the weightier story.

And yet in the weeks since my first two passes, I'd forgotten how funny Infinity War is, especially given its consistently escalating death-toll. Although obviously it's very different from that other movie, tonally. Avengers' humour is very much the Private Eye to Deadpool's Viz. Both are great institutions which can't replace each other, and don't try.

So, watching Infinity War again after a few weeks, I'm pretty much of the opinion that any deaths which occurred before the Infinity Gauntlet was fully operational (only four, remember) will be permanent. The amount of build-up, screen-time or dramatic weight allocated to each one seems fairly irreversible, and the film's legacy would be cheapened if these characters managed to find themselves magically resurrected by the end of Avengers 4

Conversely, the casting-losses which occur once Thanos snaps his fingers (the other twelve*4) are, to put it mildly, suspiciously rapid given their narrative stature. The heroes that flutter out of existence leave behind an intriguingly-thinned (and deliberately 'classic') team for next May's concluding chapter, but the ultimate resolution lies in the knowledge that Spider-Man 2, Black Panther 2 and Guardians 3 have already been commissioned.

But hey, I've previously joined the chorus bemoaning Marvel's reluctance to apply a little consequence to their continuity, and it's still by no means certain who will survive into Phase 4. At a rate of three cinematic entries a year, the MCU is now dense enough to give classic heroes the rest they've earned, while still maintaining forward momentum. Maybe, as a man from another galaxy once said, "it's time to let old things die".

Because we all know this isn't the end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning...*5



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Avengers films.


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


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


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
2019 will tell, I guess.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Not likely, since you'll love it as well. Right?.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is, layered in when Ebony Maw goes for a space-walk.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Mace Windu is in this.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 And of course that's perhaps not the way things should work. But let's not forget I sat in a Saturday night screening of A Ghost Story and watched people walk out mid-way, almost certain that they'd made their choice on a whim since Annabelle: Creation was playing two screens down and was likely the choice on the other side of their coin. Not all moviegoers are as disciplined or as informed as us, dear reader. And that's why I'm here; to help. Or maybe to lecture. Either/or. Okay, it's probably the second one. [ BACK ]

*2 Okay, Thanos-related plot question. When Thor is on the Milano, he tells the Guardians that Thanos "stole the stone and slaughtered half my people". So... where are the survivors, exactly? Because everyone on-screen looked pretty much floaty-in-space-dead to me, the Asgardian ship looked completely mullered, and the Guardians of The Galaxy (the only responders to the distress-call) didn't pick up anyone else from the wreckage.
It had previously struck me that there's not much of a big deal made of Thor being the last Asgardian now, especially as the whole point of Ragnarok was that the refugees fleeing the planet were the symbol of endurance and hope. But yeah, maybe half of that film's survivors are pootling off on the B-Ark somewhere, right? [ BACK ]

*3 For the record, there are currently Deadpool 2 cup-toppers on sale in the foyer. I expect that for the 12A certificate hero-flicks aimed at family audiences, but this is a hard 15. T-shirts absolutely, popcorn buckets at a push, but cup-toppers? Maybe it's meant to be ironic. Although I'm pretty sure the money that Fox are making from the products looks the same either way...
[ BACK ]

*4 Yes, of course I made a list. And no, I'm not going to reproduce it here. I know I marked the review 'spoilers' but I'm not a complete animal... [ BACK ]

*5 Yeah, I went there. I'll be wearing a plastic Union Jack bowler hat and writing angry letters to local newspapers, next. [ 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.

Review: The Cured

This post originally appeared at SetTheTape.com




The Cured
Cert: 15 / 95 mins / Dir. David Freyne / Trailer



It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a horror story in possession of a good villain, must be in want of a subtext…

From Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley’s classical covert probing at immigration and science-vs-morality, to the relatively recent ruminations of George Romero on PTSD and mass-consumerism, it’s certainly the case that in a crowded entertainment marketplace, the presence of a terrifying monster alone will not be enough.

While contemporary horror cinema itself is vast and varied, creatives must choose their projects wisely if they’re to stand a chance of being heard above the tumult. Luckily, this is a lesson already learned by writer/director David Freyne who, after cutting his teeth on a series of short films, brings his feature-length debut to our screens in the form of The Cured.

Taking place in near-future Ireland, the country (indeed the world) is coming to terms with the aftermath of the Maze Virus, a bite-transmitted pandemic which turns its victims into crazed, animalistic killers. Scientists eventually create an antidote, which returns 75% of subjects to their former selves – but leaves them with clear memories of their horrific actions during infection. And while those successfully reverted to their 'human' state can attempt to go back to their old lives, the question remains of how best to treat those resistant to the formula.

To complicate matters further, many non-infected, surviving members of the public are resistant to the idea of an army of murderers being introduced back into society. Protests take place outside treatment centres, and those released find themselves ostracised from their previous communities. So it’s not surprising when some of the persecuted begin to formulate a reaction against this prejudice.

Ellen Page plays Abbie, a journalist raising a young son while turning out regional-TV fare, who agrees to take in her cured brother-in-law Senan (Sam Keeley) after losing her husband during the outbreak. Senan, still struggling to come to terms with his involuntary behaviour, is also distracted by fellow ex-patient Conor (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor), whose cynicism at the authorities outweighs the guilt over his past. When Abbie uncovers a plot to disrupt the reintegration of the cured it becomes apparent that for some, the virus was just an excuse to unleash their inner beast, and the worst excesses of the story’s antagonists are very much human foibles…

It feels slightly disingenuous to call this ‘a zombie movie’, since its monsters aren’t technically by-the-book zombies. But the hyper violent, not-quite-dead, psychopath virus victim is an archetype we’re seeing more and more within the genre, so perhaps a new term is needed. While Freyne utilizes the transmission-method of the infection in classic style, the attacks themselves are less plot-critical, and just used as the narrative method to decide who becomes infected and who becomes lunch (not dissimilar to vampire-fiction in that regard).

But, as noted, this isn’t a film about zombies. The larger backdrop touches upon social discrimination, the rehabilitation of criminals, refugees, activism, civic unrest, domestic terrorism and genocide. It’s about how society reacts collectively in a crisis which, in 2018, feels relevant to the point of foreboding prescience. But at its emotional core, The Cured is a study of the complex triangular relationship which emerges between Abbie, Senan and Conor, and the strains put on each by their interlinking past. It’s pretty bleak stuff, albeit in a great way.

The central cast trio are on blistering form, each picked perfectly for their role. Ellen Page brings a stoic, reflective presence to the proceedings, trying to build the best life she can, while knowing that she’s ultimately trapped. It's a shame that if anything, Abbie's character seems to get left behind as the events of the screenplay overtake her. Sam Keeley looks both haunted and panicked simultaneously, a man not even sure if he deserves a second chance, never mind what he hopes to achieve by being given one. And driving the tension is Tom Vaughan-Lawlor’s Conor, grimly nihilistic and demonstrating single-handedly that curing the virus won’t fix what was wrong before it took hold.

Cinematographer Piers McGrail decreases saturation of colour in equal proportion to the sense of optimism (assisted by the red-brick terraces and overcast skies), and his hand-held cameras bring a sense of intimacy or panic, depending on the requirements of the scene. Similarly, Rory Friers and Niall Kennedy’s score is brooding and ponderous without feeling at all intrusive, all the more effective for the stretches in which it's not used; indoor exchanges where the brittle script serves to puncture silent air, both vibrating with tension.

Among the even distribution of exposition, conversation and outright frenzy, Freyne drops some masterful jump-scares*1, although as the run-time progresses, these go from being genuinely jarring to the more mainstream quiet/quiet/bang variety. And by the third-act, after relentlessly escalating the tension, our storyteller can resist the lure of outright carnage no longer, giving in to the same crimson urges as his ravenous hordes. Then again, it would be an odd movie which builds toward this climax and then doesn’t deliver.

For a first feature, The Cured is an outstanding work, although the claustrophobic suburban landscapes and indie-sensibilities might work more against the title’s individuality than for it, even with Ellen Page’s name on the front (although the fact that the actress is also one of the producers is an encouraging sign of commitment).

David Freyne has chosen his cinematic battle - and weapons – wisely, but will that be enough in the long-run? With such a short theatrical release-window, Tilted Pictures and IFC Films are clearly hoping that the director’s work will find its audience with the DVD/digital release. Your humble correspondent shares that hope, as The Cured deserves to be seen by fans of film and film-making alike…



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
28 Days Later, The Girl With All The Gifts.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
That time has unfortunately passed (very limited theatrical release on this one).


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Stream it first and see how you get on, but for genre-fans this will be a keeper.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
That remains to be seen, but it's a high watermark.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Unlikely, but the discussion itself should be intriguing.


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


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Ellen Page is in this, and she was in the rebooted Flatliners alongside Diego 'Andor' Luna.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Although these were ably assisted by the Soho Screening Rooms' apparent tendency to set the auditorium's default volume to Eleventy-Stupid™ - fantastic for appreciating the sound-design in acts one and two; completely overpowering in the third…
[ 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.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Review: Deadpool 2 (second-pass)





Deadpool 2 (second-pass / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 15 / 119 mins / Dir. David Leitch / Trailer



A second-pass of Deadpool 2 in a more sparsely-populated screening proved to be a slightly quieter affair, but certainly no less enjoyable. With around 30 other patrons, the audible joke-reactions seemed fewer*1, but there was also no accounting for how many attendees had seen the film before*2, and repetition is the enemy of reaction-comedy.

But the gags are still funny, the action is still adrenaline-surging, I still teared-up at one point near the end and I believe I’m still justified in calling this movie better than its predecessor*3.

Deadpool 2 is a winner, but guarded threequel speculation begins now....



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
X-Men Origins: Wolverine.


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


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Yes, yes and yes.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's incredibly strong work, that's for sure.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Only if you're wrong.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Yes.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Uncredited Mudtrooper from the upcoming Solo movie is in this.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 But certainly sounding more like people watching a comedy than my time with the latest Amy Schumer flick where, (with the exception of one particular patron behind me who laughed like a drain but only for about a quarter of the movie) the crowd looked on in near-silent horror at badly ad-libbed body shaming. [ BACK ]

*2 While I was enjoying a second-pass, one of my erstwhile colleagues for the day was on his eighth. And while his own laughter was some way off the reactions of the opening night crowd, he still sat grinning like an idiot for the duration. Which made at least two of us. [ BACK ]

*3 Well, Ed Skrein isn't in it for a start. [ 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.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Review: I Feel Pretty





I Feel Pretty
Cert: 12A / 110 mins / Dir. Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein / Trailer



I like Amy Schumer but I Feel Pretty is dire. It might be the first studio-comedy to have apparently completed production without a shooting-script. Each scene and set-piece drags along aimlessly, petering out before a punchline is delivered, while the two or three decent jokes from the trailer are presented without that quickfire pace and are robbed of any dynamic rapport as a result.

For a movie with 'a message' about 21st century feminism, not a single female character escapes being body-shamed, objectified, patronised or flat-out mocked.

Central gag: fat woman falls off bike.
Excruciating.



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well, demographically speaking, the trailers before his were for Patrick, Mamma Mia 2, Adrift and Book Club. There may have been another, I was too busy looking up the contact details for Dignitas.

But I imagine that if you enjoyed the soul-sucking superficiality of The Intern, you've love I Feel Pretty
.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
No.


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
No.


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


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's possible, but unlikely since nobody else seems to like it either.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
No.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Amy Schumer was in Trainwreck alongside Bill 'BB-8' Hader.


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.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Review: Deadpool 2 (first-pass)





Deadpool 2 (first-pass / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 15 / 119 mins / Dir. David Leitch / Trailer



Well, I don't know how Fox have done it, but they have. Against all expectation (cynical, hopeful or otherwise) David Leitch's new film is quintessential cinematic alchemy; a sequel which matches and then surpasses its originator without downplaying or dismissing that first movie in the slightest.

Deadpool 2 is even better than Deadpool.
There. I said it.

On this first and very broad pass, it's difficult pinpoint exactly what makes the movie better, since I absolutely loved all of it. Also, I admittedly missed sections by not being able to see the screen for crying (usually through laughter, but at a couple of points just through sheer exuberant joy).

The masterstroke (which is no doubt currently being over-analysed at various production studios) is that tonally, nothing is off the table here. Writers Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick and Ryan Reynolds play with the established X-Men universe (indeed the whole comic book genre) without being beholden to it. The film combines gut-busting humour, sincere warmth and affection, blistering action and the foulest of potty-mouths*1 all with equal vigour. That said, Deadpool 2 is above all else a comedy, and is better for it. When it goes full-on in one area, the whole thing is strengthened as a result.

Reynolds plays the title role to perfection as only he can, with returning appearances from Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), Weasel (TJ Miller), Dopinder (Karan Soni), Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) which bring familiarity without repetition. Meanwhile, the 'now featuring' list is headlined by Josh Brolin as Cable, and a tremendously angsty turn from Julian Dennison as Firefist.

Leitch's direction is as tight as the script and as loose as its cast, the eclectic pop/rock soundtrack interspersing Tyler Bates' score with similar fluidity. And while actions in this movie aren't free of consequence, the fourth-wall breaking sets the tone for the screenplay's regard for sticking to the rules. All of which you'd expect, but this is even better, somehow.

About five minutes into the feature it occurred to me that because of the parodic nature of the trailer campaign, I had pretty much no idea what was actually going to happen in the movie. Unless you've already been digging for details, I advise you go into the cinema with the same mindset. Deadpool 2 is a magnificently violent, funny, sweary rollercoaster. Enjoy the ride.


Oh, and there's nothing at the end. Plenty of mid-credits action, but once the names start rolling on the screen, you can make your way out to book your next screening…


So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Well, Deadpool.


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


Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Your preferred format-of-choice, as soon as it's available.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Could well be.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
If you don't love it, yes.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is.
One-and-a-half, in fact
.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: K-2SO is in this.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 There are even a couple of c-bombs, which is unusual for a 15 certificate. They don't necessarily match the flow of the script, but they're used in a way which doesn't de-rail it either. And I only mention this because if That Particular Language is going to be a problem for you, you should know in advance. But by the same token, anyone who's seen the first Deadpool know that this will be a top-end 15... [ 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.