Sunday, 28 May 2017

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean - Salazar's Revenge





Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar's Revenge / Dead Men Tell No Tales (2D)
Cert: 12A / 129 mins / Dir. Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg / Trailer



Now the main thing to bear in mind for the duration of this review is, Salazar's Revenge*1 wasn't going to be 'for' me. And I'm fine with that. I've never really found Disney's PotC series any more than quite good at best, and my recent live-tweeting of installments one-to-four was knocked on the head after the first two, as I was becoming bogged down by the rapid succession of the things I didn't like about them.

So, we're now approximately nineteen years down the line from the end of At World's End, and young Henry Turner (Brendon Thwaites) thinks he's figured out a way to free his father Will (Orlando Bloom) from his 'Being The Captain Of The Flying Dutchman' curse. This will involve tracking down Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Meanwhile elsewhere, young scientist and scholar Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is on the verge of being executed by her townsfolk for witchcraft, and is determined to discover the identity of her long-lost father. This will involve a chance meeting with Jack Sparrow (Spoiler: he's not her dad). Old faces from movies past return for the outing (although there are more than a few notable by their absence), and despite having a superb villain in the form of Javier Bardem's Salazar (think: a livid, Spanish Darth Vader), the inevitable violence is kept within 12A-certificate levels. For a family thrill-ride, you could do a lot worse.

I just didn't find the finished product particularly interesting. And it's not as if there's an absence of plot mechanics or pacing issues slow that plot down at all; action set-pieces are delivered, swashes are buckled and timbers are shivered with watch-setting regularity. I just couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen all of this before, and barely even in a different order.

Outside of the aforementioned scene-stealing by Sr. Bardem, Kaya Scodelario, Brendan Thwaites and Geoffrey Rush are all aching for a better screenplay, their obvious talent largely wasted. But I may as well join the choir in saying that the real problem here is Johnny Depp, not even mustering his usual lacklustre levels of performance. By this point, Jack Sparrow*2 feels like he should be an incidental character in 'Allo 'Allo, wheeled out once a week with his worn-out schtick in the hope that audience-familiarity will be enough to pad over the gaps in the script. It won't. If anything, the one-note seafarer is just getting in the way now, the very agent holding the series back rather than pushing it boldly forward. Ironically, the character has become more of an anchor than Disney ever intended.

All that said, I don't feel able to lay out the beating that many critics are currently getting off their chests, if only because I don't feel the film's put in enough effort to really warrant one. There are good things in PotC5, but nowhere near enough of them and for nowhere near as long as they need to be.

However, it's also important to note that I actually fell asleep during the multi-million dollar, climactic battle of Salazar's Revenge. I mean only to the point where I jolted myself awake, but still. What can I tell you? By that point I was all out of fucks to give, and the murky*3, fast-cut action/mayhem shaky-cam, coupled with what can only be described as overwhelming symphony of grey-noise from the orchestra, audio-effects department and indeed the cast, basically just said to my brain 'you can't actually concentrate on any of what's meant to be happening here. Just sleep and pick it all up from the ending you know is in the post anyway'.

And with the exception of Bardem, the after-credits sequence made me happier than anything in the preceding one hundred and twenty eight minutes.



So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The other PotC films.


Should you watch this in a cinema, though?
Only if you like watching the same thing again but bigger and louder.


Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I have no idea.


Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Going to go out on a limb here and say no.


Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Probably not. But you'll have to explain yourself.


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


Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Sabé and Tion Medon are in this.


And if I HAD to put a number on it…


*1 No you're right, Ian Disney, giving a different episode-title just for the UK release makes absolute sense. I'm assuming this is so you can tell how many cam-jobs are originating from our shores, given that it's not like "Dead Men Tell No Tales" is a phrase us Brits would look at and think 'hey hang on, how is that pirate-related?'. [ BACK ]

*2 Sorry, 'Captain' Jack Sparrow. Hahaha, yeah, that never gets old… [ BACK ]

*3 And given that the final half hour is way too dark (visually) in 2D, my heart goes out to the poor saps who watched this in 3D and had to put up with the associated light-loss… [ 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, 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.