Saturday, 22 April 2017

Review: Unforgettable





Unforgettable
Cert: 15 / 100 mins / Dir. Denise Di Novi / Trailer



I see yer da's been browsing the steamy-thrillers section in Ritz Video again…

Yes tonight we're going to party like it's 1991, with the story of a jealous ex-wife who'll go to any lengths to blah blah blah you've seen it before oh look there's going to be murders and it'll end with a cat-fight*1. Unforgettable is a film which desperately hopes the paying-audience isn't old enough to have already gotten bored of this format once and still not forgotten about that. As a tale of manipulation, obsession, vulnerability and deceit in which no-one really comes out smelling of roses, it'd be easy to think that this film hates women, although since it's directed and co-written by females I think it's fairer to say that it just hates its own audience more.

But it's not only the structure of the film that's the problem here, but the type of performance which is inevitably required of the cast. Katherine Heigl's psycho-Vogue performance is so gratuitously hammy that there was a group of animal rights protesters outside the cinema. I know the film's meant to hold a creeping air of unease, but I'm fairly certain that's meant to come from the plot developments, rather than worrying if the cast will ever work again. I understand that this is essentially Heigl's default-level of movie these days of course, but what the hell was Rosario Dawson thinking? Okay, Trance had its issues, but it was at least interesting to watch. Unforgettable's director, Denise Di Novi, doesn't even have her name at the top of the end-credits. That could be a sign of professional humility but I suspect it's more likely to be embarrassment, hoping all the punters*2 will have filed silently out of the room by the time her own moniker floats across the screen.

In fact, given the mechanically linear nature of the story and the box-ticking 100 minute runtime, the only surprise was how bored I got waiting for the film to actually end. The only things that aren't a half-arsed love letter to 1990s trash thrillers are a) Facebook as a plot-device*3, b) the incessant Apple product-placement, and c) the excruciating R&B soundtrack. And for three things meant to lend a hackneyed screenplay some modern-relevance, they feel very much like a geography teacher telling his class he likes the new M&M album.

Perhaps worst of all (and despite my moaning), Unforgettable isn't even bad enough to be classed as A Bad Film. So it fails on that front, too.

By the way, if you're ever looking through someone's stolen phone and you see a file named "life ideas", I'm pretty certain that allows you to go ahead and kill them anyway.



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Anything Channel 5 used to show after 11pm.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Hahahahahaha.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
No.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Cast, no.
Director, I certainly hope not although I haven't seen her other work
.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Oh, I think I probably will.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Rosario Dawson provided voice-work for 2016's Ratchet & Clank movie, along with James Arnold 'Kenobi' Taylor and Jim 'a shitload of SW videogame voice-roles' Ward.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Okay, I have to confess that I'd already written the non-specific framework of this review based on the trailer alone. Not so much wilful prejudice as the fact that the promo-reel sells this film perfectly, and you just know it. [ BACK ]

*2 Four. At the first showing on the opening day of this movie, there were four people in the room. I know that's hardly the fault of the cast or crew, but still. Four. [ BACK ]

*3 It's perhaps worth noting that while the film is allowed to say Facebook, they actually show a sloppy facsimile of the site. Whether this is down to budgeting reasons or FB's brand-reputation management isn't clear. Also, the production can't seem to afford playing Nat King Cole singing Unforgettable, which was almost certainly a feature of the script at one stage. Why the hell else would the film be called that? [ 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, 21 April 2017

Review: Fast & Furious 8





Fast & Furious 8
Cert: 12A / 136 mins / Dir. F. Gary Gray / Trailer



Sixteen. As someone who spends a not-inconsiderable amount of time in the cinema, I've seen various trailers for Fast & Furious 8*1 and, as a result, had wondered how many times the word "family" would appear in the final script. It's sixteen times. I counted. To put that in 'cinematic catchphrase' context, the second Paul Blart movie featured A Fat Man Falling Over a mere eight times. Make of that what you will, but I'm at least glad that Peggy Mitchell's secured a job as a screenwriter.

So despite my thinking that the F&F series really should have been laid gently down after part seven, it's evident that it may well be the last great franchise that Universal have. It's certainly the best vehicle (no pun intended) for the dubious talents of Vin Diesel*2, who at least has the rest of the cast to share the limelight and ease the burden of the script (which is frequently excruciating, but who's here for the dialogue, right?).

The film is, in pretty much every sense, exactly what you expect it to be (and no less than you'd expect from the eighth installment of any series). From the opening race around the streets of Havana in which Diesel pushes an old banger literally into the red, this is impressively ridiculous stuff. Things take a predictably mawkish turn when the aforementioned 'F'-word rears its head, but the faux-sentimentality doesn't get in the way of what is essentially a petrol-burning action flick. Old faces and characters appear like at a reunion party, past transgressions not necessarily forgiven, but put on hold out of general goodwill. And once more, the screenplay takes the same cavalier attitude to technology and hacking as it does to the general laws of physics*3. F&F8 may not be everything it could be, but it's certainly everything it needs to be to meet its own selection criteria.

Best line is awarded unapologetically to Jason Statham for "Let's go, Scarface. These arseholes aren't going to kill themselves…".

Fast & Furious 8 is largely an immense amount of fun*4, albeit the perfect definition of Bubblegum Cinema™. It's brightly-coloured and distracting, of no real nutritional value, and after a couple of hours you realise it's pretty much without taste.

Plan your viewing schedules accordingly.



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The movies which preceded it.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you like your testosterone and burning rubber to be on a massive screen, yes.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Pretty much.
Whether that's a good thing is up for debate
.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's not even the best of its series, to be fair.


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?
Not that I heard.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film stars Michelle Rodriguez, who performed voice-work in Turbo alongside Sam 'Windu' Jackson and Bill 'BB-8' Hader.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 And seriously Universal, you attach the tagline "Fate of the Furious" to the eighth movie in the series and not one of you thinks to type it "F8 of the Furious!" on the poster? You had one fucking job, mate. And don't even go thinking about 'Fast10-Furious, because a friend of mine's copyrighted that shit already. [ BACK ]

*2 Although obviously he's more than acceptable when he has three words to say as the voice of an animated tree. Make of that what you will, as well. [ BACK ]

*3 Notwithstanding that the film's centrepiece of an EMP-device which not only disables electronic devices but magically shuts down wholly mechanical engines and opens all locked security gates (y'know, the setting you'd definitely have in the event of a power-cut), Vin Diesel's car is clocked doing over 200mph to get onto the boarding ramp of a moving plane, yet he manages to come to a stop within 40 feet once he's in the cargo hold… [ BACK ]

*4 That said, I'll admit that the bits about the unstable egomaniac who's set to launch nuclear warheads just to prove a facile point tasted a touch more bitter than they were no doubt intended. Maybe I should have seen the movie before last weekend, to be fair… [ 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, 14 April 2017

Review: Going In Style





Going In Style
Cert: 12A / 96 mins / Dir. Zach Braff / Trailer



Come back awards-season, all is forgiven. Here to usher out the end of the cinematic graveyard shift is the latest offering from Zach Braff, somewhat ironically dragging his directorial career in precisely the opposite direction. I can't work out what's more insulting: that this weak, formulaic comedy is a straight mashup of Tower Heist and Last Vegas, or that it's actually a re-imagining of an existing film. Either option is lazy and both are insulting to the audience and industry alike.

So, in the midst of their twilight years, three grumpy old cynics decide to demean themselves by committing an offence in order to get the vast amounts of money they feel is rightly owed to them… and that's also the plot of the film!!*1 For ninety-six laborious minutes, there are jokes about belligerence and the aches/pains of getting old, the thoroughly insincere disapproval of the capitalist status quo*2, and lashings of self-indulgent forced-nostalgia and mawkishness. You've seen this shit a hundred times before, and it probably wasn't even better then, either.

Haha, it's funny because the old men are grumpy!

Normally I'd say that a cast this strong should know better. The problem is, I don't think that's the case, here. With Alan Arkin effectively phoning-in his role from Stand Up Guys, Morgan Freeman having recently partaken in Lucy, Transcendence and Ted 2, and Michael Caine being the kind of actor who routinely appears in guff like The Last Witch Hunter, there's a strong chance that this comfortably paid barrel-scraping is now the default setting for these guys. Christopher Lloyd also embarrasses his legacy in a background role; then again he's doing stuff like Piranha 3D in the 21st century, so that's no real surprise. Collectively, the film feels like the death-rattle of a creature that stopped caring long, long ago.

Haha, it's funny because the old man puts a tin of hot dogs down the front of his pants!

In the film's defence, it had amassed a reasonable-sized audience*3 for a weeknight showing, and they laughed with startling regularity. But they were also hooting through lines which were demonstrably Not Jokes™. I suspect this could have been some sort of autosuggestion-response to going out to see what had been marketed as a comedy film. "I am determined to laugh loudly and enjoy myself throughout, refusing to consciously admit that I have been sold a banger".

Haha, it's funny because there's an old lady and she gets a shock and says the fuck-word!

Everyone's allowed the occasional slip of course, but Warner Bros have put out this film and C.H.i.P.s. in the same quarter. At the rate things are going, I expect Gazza to turn up at 3400 Riverside Drive with some chicken and a fishing rod before the end of June...


So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Last Vegas. Tower Heist.
Pretty much any Warner Bros/Universal comedy of the last ten years
.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
No you should not.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
No it does not.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Well it's directed by the guy who made Wish I Was Here, and stars people from The Shawshank Redemption, Argo, Get Carter and Back To The Future, so what do you think?


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


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
No.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: The original voice of Darth Maul is in this.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Yes, I am hilarious, thank you. Although that is funnier than anything in the film, I promise. I smiled once during this, when there was a puppy on-screen (I'm not a complete monster). Although I didn't smile when the same puppy was brought back later. What the hell kind of film hardens its own audience into puppy-fatigue? [ BACK ]

*2 Y'know, that same capitalist system without which the film wouldn't have been financed or made, nor would there be a room-full of people shedding their disposable income to watch the result. The only things this film rebels against are thoughts of cinematic creativity. [ BACK ]

*3 Although it's noting that this studio-comedy was preceded with trailers for no other comedy films. Instead we got the promo-reels for Dunkirk, Their Finest, Rules Don't Apply, The Sense of an Ending and The Promise. Even accounting for the varying scales of those, they're all period-pieces and 'fogey-flicks'. The UK distributors of Going In Style clearly think that no-one in the audience is going to be under age 50. Although after looking around, they weren't too far off the mark, admittedly… [ 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, 13 April 2017

Review: Free Fire (second-pass)





Free Fire (second-pass)
Cert: 15 / 91 mins / Dir. Ben Wheatley / Trailer



An odd one, this. Free Fire is a film I'd been itching to watch again since my first-pass.*1 In the interim, I'd somehow managed to forget how consistently funny it is, despite me telling people over the last few weeks that humour is one of its many strengths, and I can say hand-on-heart that there are nothing but fantastic performances all round. I fact, I can't think of a single bad thing to say about any of it.

Which is why I'm struggling to think how I haven't given the movie full-marks. Sure, I don't hand that score out often, but Free Fire is a remarkable film. It's not a sequel, reboot or franchise-entry, the 'price of admission'*2 is low and it's continually engaging with a fairly linear story. The script is eminently quotable and the run-time doesn't outstay its welcome. The film's almost unique in that I wouldn't really know what to place it next to on a shelf, other than Ben Wheatley's other films. For an out-of-the-blue movie which can appeal to multiple demographics*3, this is unprecedented Film Of The Year material. And yet I'm still only marking it 6, without knowing what could possibly make it any better. Answers on a postcard, please.

I didn't necessarily 'get' more out of watching Free Fire again, but I enjoyed it every single bit as much. This film is future comfort-food for the cold, dark winter months.

Oh, and nice touch with Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury's Justine's Theme on the soundtrack being a musical reference to Giorgio Moroder's end-credits piece in Scarface.
I'm assuming that's deliberate since it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Best dialogue:

a) "...I like his jumper."

b) [two men, grappling on an abandoned warehouse floor]
"You smell of perfume!"
"IT'S... BEARD OIL!"

c) "I just want a little sympathy, that's all."
"You want sympathy, son? It's in the dictionary between shit and syphilis, now get over there..."



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Inherent Vice.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
If you can, yes.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Best? Probably not.
Most entertaining? Quite possibly
.


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?
Nope.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Cornelius Evazan's in this. And he has two of those best-lines, up there.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 And what a difference a change-of-screen makes. The mumbled dialogue I'd noted last time was all but gone, with the general-release run of the film taking place in the more bijou Screen 3 of my local (as opposed to the advance showing, in the massive Screen 5). Whether it was the same levels bouncing around a smaller room or a different speaker-balance, it goes to show how much film/audio presentation can vary, even within the same venue. [ BACK ]

*2 By which I mean intellectually and philosophically, not financially. The literal 'price of admission' for actual cinema viewing is both high, and frustratingly consistent over varying levels of artistic quality. But that's a grumble for another post. [ BACK ]

*3 Because you don't have to be a Ben Wheatley-nerd to enjoy the film's gunplay and humour, but at the same time it's not an action-movie and there's far more under the surface anyway. [ 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.