Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Review: The Rhythm Section



The Rhythm Section
Cert: 15 / 109 mins / Dir. Reed Morano / Trailer

From time to time, dear reader, even I of all people look at the headlining cast of an otherwise nondescript movie and think 'well this must have something going for it if [INSERT NAME OF PROMINENT PERFORMER] is in it'. And from time to time, I shuffle out of the cinema shortly afterward thinking '...yeah that was just to keep the mortgage ticking over between bigger films, wasn't it?

And so to London (and New York, Madrid, Marseilles and a whole host of easily captionable locations) as Blake Lively plays Stephanie, a woman embroiled in addiction and squalor, struggling to come to terms with her family being killed in a plane crash three years earlier. When she's visited by journalist Proctor (Raza Jaffrey) revealing that the crash was actually a terrorist bombing that was subsequently covered up by the authorities, the chain of intrigue leads to the glens of Inverness where Stephanie finds herself training to be an assassin under the enigmatic but harsh 'B' (Jude Law). The hopes are that revenge and closure will be in the same package, as Stephanie embarks on a world tour of 'cleaning house'...

MUTED


John Wick, it is not. Adapted for the screen by Mark Burnell from his novel of the same name, The Rhythm Section is a muted take on the contemporary spy-thriller. At first the setup and exposition feels efficient if unambitious, but the visual and scripted shorthand continues into the main narrative and comes off as a bit overcooked. On one hand, there's the feeling that this story might have just worked better on the page. But on the other, there are even more interchangably-glum novels like this than there are movies, so who knows where the quality-bar really falls?

Blake Lively does quite well from it all*1, although with a storyline as procedural as this it often feels like she's over-acting. Speaking of such matters, I dread to think how much weight Jude Law gained over the shoot, what with the amount of scenery he chews through. Everyone else turns up and says their lines on time, including a criminally under-used Sterling K. Brown. This isn't particularly inspired casting, but then it's not a particularly inspired story.

SUBTITLED


The film always feels like it's about to get started. There are a few long-take action sequences which are interesting from a film-making point of view, but Atomic Blonde had those and was also fun. This isn't bad, it just isn't memorable. With Bond-meisters Eon Productions' name attached, you may well expect better, but ultimately, putting The Rhythm Section out two months before their own No Time To Die seems like a colossal waste of resources.

Best line comes from Jude Law's 'B' during the training section:
"It's not a tragedy, it's a cliché. You're a cliché, you haven't got what it takes."

Bit on-the-nose mate, but since you mention it...



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
American Assassin and Red Sparrow, two equally troubled productions. On the plus-side, it's not The Snowman...


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Probably not, to be fair.


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


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It is not.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's likely.


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


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Tivik and 2nd Lt. Frobb are in this.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Although on a minor note, Lively's accent can never quite decide if if wants to hail from South London or the Home Counties. I mean I've certainly heard a lot worse from other performers (not least Law himself), but you know that I wouldn't be able to not bring this up. [ 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, 5 February 2020

Review: Bad Boys For Life



Bad Boys For Life
Cert: 15 / 124 mins / Dir. Bilall Fallah & Adil El Arbi / Trailer

Mea culpa. When I intimated that Michael Winterbottom's Greed was the most self-indulgent mess to land in cinemas for some time, I hadn't considered Bad Boys For Life playing in the screen next door. Coming slightly late to this party, I find myself relieved that at least I didn't rush.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence bellow their way through a script comprising almost entirely of short words and written by an excitable fifteen yr-old, where exposition and lensflare play such prominent roles that their names should really be on the poster. This tale of retirement, revenge and relentless slow-motion would be incoherent if it wasn't so painfully linear. It plays like a contractual obligation sequel, except that wouldn't explain the seventeen year gap between installments.

But this isn't your standard 'grumpy old men wink into the camera while making jokes about having a bad hip' jaunt (although it is that, too). Oh no my friend, this film's got a USB drive in it while Uber and 4Chan get verbally name-checked, so you know this is for The Kids. It's not so much a callback to the glory days of the action genre, more a cobbled together greatest hits reel of explosions, gunfire and everyone in the cast getting a turn to go wide-eyed and shout "Oh hell no!".

The film settles down a bit after an hour or so, but only in the way that you know by then it's going to be around half an hour too long. Bad Boys For Lite feels like getting the band back together purely to jam old songs in the garage. Great if you're in the band, not so much for everyone expecting to see a show. And I must confess that I'm not a connoisseur of Mr Martin Lawrence's screen work, but his underperforming here makes Will Smith seem sincere. Lawrence looks like he's having a stroke for a lot of the movie, is that normal?

In the film's favour, I can at least say that:
It's brightly coloured
It's energetic
Somebody gets killed with a forklift

I'm sure a lot of people will enjoy Bad Boys For Life, and good for them. In my defence I missed about a third of the movie because I was rolling my eyes so hard all I could see was the inside of my head.



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Judging by the way the film fetishises it own franchise, I imagine it's very similar to the first two Bad Boys outings*1.


Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
For a lot of people, apparently so.


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


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


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


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I have no idea.
The last forty minutes of the movie is basically a blanket of white noise
.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Will Smith is in this, and he was in that Collateral Beauty with Keira 'Sabé' Knightley.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 For clarity, I have actually seen the first two movies in this series around their time of original release, and I remember literally nothing about them. Under the normal run of things I'd have had a refresher evening before going to see this third installment, but in all honesty I suspect that would have just put me off the prospect altogether. [ 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.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Review: Star Wars - The Rise Of Skywalker (tenth-pass)



Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker
(tenth-pass)
Cert: 12A / 142 mins / Dir. J.J. Abrams / Trailer

Previous reviews: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

So Finn is a Jedi, now. Okay that's not strictly true, Finn is Force-sensitive, now. Or rather he always was, a bit. It's the thing he was trying to tell Rey for the whole of The Rise Of Skywalker. And that's fine. It's great, even. We've known since 1977 that this mysterious essence exists in all living things, indeed it's created by them. And Finn is a living thing. We just know that some beings are more adept at tuning into it. And those beings are typically Jedi, whereas Finn was a conscripted Stormtrooper.

But there's nothing precluding him from having a high midichlorian-count, of course*1. With the best will in the world, Palpatine and Vader wiping out the Jedi over fifty years earlier was never going to prevent new ones from being born. Force powers are inheritable, but mini-Jedi are born to non-Force-sensitive parents all the time. It's why the Jedi Order had a reputation for being child-snatchers, that wouldn't have spread if the only new Jedi were born in the temple, somehow to a largely celibate order.

FLAG

But speaking of abduction, why didn't the First Order flag Finn as one to watch? You'd expect them to have some screening equipment in place for the kids they recruit, at least. Based on the Empire-model, the organisation would either quietly dispose of potential Force-wielders or move them across to the Inquisitor-corps and make use of the bonus abilities. Who needs a bunch of fire-starting five yr-olds running around the place?

Let's not forget that Finn wielded a lightsaber on his character-poster for The Force Awakens, something we assumed at the time was related to him holding his own against Kylo Ren on Ilum (well, for longer than most would be expected to anyway). But Finn's power is demonstrably much lower on the scale than Rey's, and without any formal training. TRoS is the movie, after all, where he sees his friend using the Force for healing and suggestion, not just combat and telekinesis. While he's in awe of Rey's abilities, it's more a quiet reverence and a niggle of familiarity. Now that Finn's aware of the Force tingling within himself, it's growing every day.

BETTY


So it's not beyond the realms of plausibility for one of the Sequel Trilogy's new heroes to find himself coming to the Jedi party a little later. But then, the film seems to suggest that newcomer Janna might be Force-sensitive, too. And the entire squadron she deserted with on Kef Bir. Although in my own personal head-canon, I think that where Finn describes the Force to her as "a feeling", Janna's agreement may be closer to "a conscience". Because unless they were a special project put together by the First Order and hadn't begun their Sith-intern training, the implication there is that anyone can be a Jedi.

And while that's charming in the same way as everyone running a race getting their own medal, the knock-on effect of that optimism is that Anakin, Luke and Rey Skywalker aren't particularly special by virtue of their bloodlines or abilities, only their choices (there is a separate post to be written about the importance of choice, though). The whole narrative of The Chosen One is pretty much diluted when anyone could have trained and become powerful enough to take down Vader and the Emperor, they just didn't, or didn't want to.

We can all be heroes without the Force, that's what Han Solo is there to show.

But I'm very cool with Finn being a Jedi-in-training. Much like Rey building her own orange-bladed lightsaber, it's another foundation laid for future adventures, be they on the screen or the page.

And apart from anything else, Broom Boy is going to need a sparring-partner...



So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The Star Wars.


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


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


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
That one's up for debate, but probably not.


Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
Try me.


Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I can tell.


Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 0: It is Star Wars.

...but if you wanted to go around the houses with it, The Rise Of Skywalker features Lupita Nyong'o, who starred in Black Panther alongside Forest Whitaker from Taken 3 which had Liam Neeson in it. Neeson was also in The Commuter with Andy Nyman, who starred in 2000's Dead Babies next to Paul Bettany, who was of course in Wimbledon with Jon Favreau, the director and voice-artist behind 2016's The Jungle Book which starred... Lupita Nyong'o.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Hahahaah, oh yes I went there. FIGHT ME. [ 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.