Friday, 20 January 2017

Review: xXx - Return of Xander Cage





xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2D)
Cert: 12A / 107 mins / Dir. D.J. Caruso / Trailer



Sometimes, you just know that the first-draft of a movie script was written in crayon. Also that no further drafts were considered necessary. Welcome to a film where the cinema staff performed IQ tests on patrons on the way in and out of the screening, to make sure no permanent cumulative damage had been done. Welcome to what is basically continuous chase/fight sequence, briefly punctuated by Toni Collette*1 pouting. Welcome to an actioner for viewers who find Vin Diesel's Fast & Furious movies "a bit complicated". Welcome to that performer's character flirting with every female on-screen while you bite off the inside of your own cheek. Welcome back, Xander Cage*2

You know the drill, Diesel takes his shirt off and things explode for two hours, in lieu of a screenplay. That Paramount have seen fit to unleash this unasked-for threequel in the middle of January, should go some way to illustrating their confidence in it. It's a movie for a certain type of punter. This afternoon's screening played to eight people; all white, all male, all unaccompanied. Okay, I was in that bracket too, but hey.

The plot*3 centres around Cage and his expanding band of misfits working to recover a magic box being used by The Bad Terrorists™ to weaponise satellites by making them fall out of orbit (and apparently doing so to a metre-precise target-zone). Except obviously The Good Spy Agency™ is morally dubious, as well. And then people from The Bad Ones™ turn out to be The Good Ones™, and 45 minutes in none of it actually matters. One thing's for sure though, Vin Diesel plays A Good One. We know he's good because all of the women want to have it off with him, and pretty much all of the men can't help paying him compliments at every turn or getting punched in the face as a consequence. That is the film. Almost as good as that time Diesel made a full movie about his own Dungeons & Dragons character.

I'm not going to go into the myriad logical inconsistencies presented throughout the film's run-time; xXx doesn't deserve that level of analysis. Things might be different if it was All Good Fun™ at the same time, but this is lazy, reductive and staggeringly misogynistic, with Diesel's vacant grin being the icing on the already substandard cake. At least Assassin's Creed had the decency to keep a straight-face while it insulted everyone.

I've said as much before, but any film which features a middle-aged man on a skateboard is a cry for help.

The best line comes from Toni Collette's agency-boss Marke when she berates Xander Cage with "…I don't believe this shit".

I could only nod discreetly in code-compliant sympathy…



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The cinematic and dramatic oeuvre of Vinegar Diesel.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Hahahahaha, why not?


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
xXx: Return of Xander Cage succeeds in being exactly what it intends to be.
Albeit for exactly the wrong reasons
.


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


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


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: This film stars not only Mace Windu but also Chirrut Îmwe.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Vin Diesel I understand, he just needs the attention. But what kind of gambling debts has the award-winning Toni Collette racked up that she's been roped into this absolute shower? At least she looks mortified at the lines she's been asked to read…

*2 I'm a little surprised that for the third Triple-X movie they didn't go for the title/tagline X3. The imminent Trainspotting sequel seems to have no problem repurposing Terminator's T2 abbreviation, and if it's okay to plagiarise something from a movie as great as that, then the third X-Men movie should present no moral conundrums, surely? And not to get too spoilerific, but Return of Xander Cage has had no problem at all in lifting Deadpool's "something stuck in your teeth" gag, as well as having Sam Jackson's agency-boss fake his own death for an end-of-movie funeral service in pretty much exactly the same way as Nick Fury did in Winter Soldier. No, seriously.

*3 I am of course using the word 'plot' in a sense every bit as loose as the screenplay itself. The word 'screenplay' also used loosely.


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: Rogue One (eighth-pass)





Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (eighth-pass / 2D / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 134 mins / Dir. Gareth Edwards / Trailer


Previous reviews:
First-pass (spoiler-free)
Second-pass (spoiler-free)
Third-pass (**spoilers**)
Fourth-pass (**spoilers**)
Fifth-pass (**spoilers**)
Sixth-pass (**spoilers**)
Seventh-pass (**spoilers**)


Oh, hello there. I've been to see Rogue One again, and rather than bore you silly with nitpicking and needlessly in-depth opinions, I've made you some Skittlez character-posters instead*1.

[ Click for Big (opens in new window) ]

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story poster - Mon Mothma


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story poster - Chirrut Îmwe


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story poster - Baze Malbus



More soon.
You're very welcome.



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
All of The Star Wars.


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


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


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's a strong showing.


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?
Yep.


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

Although if you really wanted to go the long way round with it…
Rogue One features the mo-cap and voice work of Guy Henry, a face perhaps more familiar to UK viewers as a long-time Holby City regular, as is Hugh Quarshie who rocked up in 1986's Highlander alongside Clancy Brown, an actor who appeared in Cowboys & Aliens, as did a certain Harrison Ford, who headlined 1992's Patriot Games, a film which featured Pip Torrens, who also had a role in 2012's Anna Karenina alongside Domhnall Gleeson, who played one of the Weasley's in Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, a film that also starred Mr Guy Henry from off of Rogue One


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 You may well call that a cop-out, but I assure you that if you did you'd be very right indeed. Snarking aside, I haven't finished with Rogue One yet, there'll be more words in a future review.

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, 17 January 2017

Review: Live By Night





Live By Night
Cert: 15 / 129 mins / Dir. Ben Affleck / Trailer



Well, if Brad Pitt played with unabashed glee recently in his Casablanca-themed sandpit, Live By Night is very much Ben Affleck's Godfather fan-film. Adapted from Dennis Lehane's 2012 novel, our Ben directs and screen-writes and stars*1 in the tale of self-made gangster Joe Coughlin, rum-running in prohibition-era America while somehow managing to keep his hands clean.

It's not bad, but given the films which clearly influenced it, it's certainly not great and feels like Affleck couldn't decide what sort of movie he wanted to make. The script is fairly mechanical, with exposition in every other sentence as a four-hour story is squeezed into a two-hour film, and characters are killed off-screen with a single perfunctory line. The hero's wily, moustache-twirling nemesis is set up in the first twenty minutes then seemingly forgotten about until the last ten, and as much as the story rushes through its fifteen-or-so years (with minimal ageing to the principal cast, obviously, and with the heavy-handed assistance of Coughlin's sporadic narration), it still finds time to slot in some quite astonishing sermonising*2.

When he's not trying to channel Gene Kelly in modelling a wide selection of jauntily-angled hats, Affleck struggles with his character's Boston accent*3, almost as much as any Irish character that's not being played by an Irish actor struggles with theirs.

But perhaps the film's biggest problem is that the pacing's all over the shop. Affleck's great at directing the action sequences, but fails to bring any real dynamism to the dialogue-led scenes (of which there are many). With more patience and focus, this could have been a contender for the all-time great gangster-flicks. The ingredients are all there but the chef lacks the discipline to cook them properly.

The lengthy gunfire sequences are pretty neat, though (and with some fantastic head-shots).

In the January no-man's land between awards-bait and popcorn-fodder, Live By Night should be a lean, visceral yet extravagant drama; instead it's just period-detailed padding.

Enough messing about now, Affleck. Where the fuck is Batman?



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
Well Ben would have you believe Scarface and The Godfather, but I think the film actually has more in common with American Pastoral. And not just because of the presence of Elle Fanning, a performer who manages to ride right through the centre of the Uncanny Valley without even being CGI…


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Why not? It'll save you going out to buy it on DVD then going out again to drop it off at the charity-shop when you've watched it once.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Create a non-demanding buffer film while we all wait impatiently for Batman?
Sure.



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


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I will not.


Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is not.


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: That Brendan Gleeson's in this, and he was in that Calvary alongside his boy, Domhnall 'Hux' Gleeson.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Which, let's face it, is a level of involvement that's rarely a good sign for any project.

*2 Because our hero may be a smug, opportunistic, lying, treacherous murderer with commitment and authority-issues, but at least he's not a racist. I'm not kidding, this is literally Act III of the film.

*3 Well I say 'struggles', it's more 'forgets about until he says a word like "bar" or "walk", at which point he's all over it like Peter Griffin'.



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, 15 January 2017

Review: M*A*S*H





M*A*S*H (1970)
Cert: 15 / 116 mins / Dir. Robert Altman / Trailer



There is a reason that this series of retrospective reviews has lain dormant for eight months. I've tried on several occasions to watch my chosen entry for 1970, Robert Altman's M*A*S*H, and failed. It's been turned off within the first half-hour with me under the impression that I just wasn't in a sufficiently receptive mood. So tonight I cleared the palette of my assumptions and expectations, and determinedly settled in for one of the most successful and critically acclaimed films of its year.

Spoiler-alert: I didn't particularly enjoy M*A*S*H in its entirety any more than I had throughout its repeated opening act. Several things appeared to be working against me. But whether it's my own lack of familiarity with the Korean war which is the setting for the story, my own lack of familiarity with the Vietnam war which is what the story's really about, or whether it's just a film intended and widely regarded as being A Comedy™ that I didn't find funny, I guess I'll never know. And sure, it's a satirical comedy but Ring Lardner's screenplay doesn't even boast the defiance of gallows humour, it's just largely 1960s slapstick and smut*1 padding out inappropriately grim scenarios. The film isn't punching up, just a loosely knotted collection of sketches with punchlines of varying visibility and effectiveness.

And I suspect that having characters mumbling and talking over each other for extended periods of time is meant to be a running joke, rather than a repetitious annoyance. That frequent unsteady crash-zoom was doing my head in, as well. The film has managed to sour my previously fond memories of the TV show.

Anyway, it's watched now, and I shall endeavour not to choose 'comedy' as the genre for future entries in the programme. Meh...


Have you really never seen this before?
Really, not. Used to watch episodes of the show on TV when I was younger, but never got into it enough to go back and watch the movie. Although if I recall correctly, the thing I enjoyed most about the series was Alan Alda's Hawkeye, and his character was played in this preceding film by Donald 'comedy legend' Sutherland…


So are you glad you've finally have?
Well, I guess.


And would you recommend it, now?
Not unless you were a fan of the TV series.
In which case, you'll probably have seen it
.


Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Didn't hear one.


…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This movie features Robert Duvall, who also starred in George Lucas' first big-screen movie, THX-1138.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 Complete with the racial, gender and sexual politics of the day, naturally. Although I understand that you can't judge a work of decades ago on the values of today, it doesn't mean you just have to accept its inelegance, either.

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.