Kingsman: The Golden Circle

kingsmanposter_0The Kingsman return to save the world, but following a catastrophic attack on their organisation they seek out American equivalent Statesman for help. Statesman, based in “good ol” Kentucky use the front of selling whisky to cover their top secret spy organisation. The antagonist this time is the leader of The Golden Circle, the largest drug cartel in the world.

As full disclosure, I watched this film as part of a cinema double bill with the original and I would recommend that you do not, as it pales in comparison. As a stand alone film it might pass as entertaining, if overlong. But held in the light of the original and after some thought, it just seems rather bad.

The biggest issue are the new additions to the cast. The Statesman appear to be a fantastic idea in the trailer but it boils down to one of the biggest wastes of talent on film. Jeff Bridges is in a handful of scenes never leaving a boardroom, Channing Tatum gets a couple of scenes before being sidelined for the rest of the film and Halle Berry gets to hold a clipboard. Pedro Pascal is the only Statesman to get anywhere near a worthwhile role as a lasso wielding agent.

This waste of talent extends to the new villain. Julianne Moore does quite well as a kitsch sociopath but never leaves a single location and appears sparingly. It feels infinitely worse to see the potential and for it not to be realised. Were these actors just doing 1 or 2 days on set squeezed into their schedule?

The main plot points feel like less impressive versions of the original too. A wealthy sociopath with an evil plan and a minion with a bionic body part come to mind. Neither quite as good. And without giving spoilers there are some character decisions made by writing team Goldman and Vaughn that are infuriating! “Why did they do that?” moments.

On a good note the action scenes are competent, although nothing comes near the church scene in the original. And the absolute best part of the entire film is an extended cameo from Elton John. Not only does he take the lions share of the laughs, I think he gets as much screen time as Jeff Bridges.

Also, fun fact, John Denver songs have now appeared prominently in Free Fire, Okja, Alien: Covenant and this all in 2017!

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mother!

motherDarren Aronofsky’s latest film arrived with a lot of secrecy, odd syntax in the title (all lower case with an exclamation point!) and in the four days since release the hyperbole of being called the worst film ever thanks to audiences baffled reaction. But in my opinion, it is captivating, thought-provoking and shocking. An art project worth the time to watch and later investigate the allegory afterwards. Although those familiar with other Aronofsky films may find themselves understanding a lot quicker.

Jennifer Lawrence plays mother, married to Javier Bardem’s character. She has lovingly refurbished and built their home whilst he tries to create poetry. One day they are visited by a man played by Ed Harris and later his wife played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Bardem’s character invites them to stay with them despite them being strangers, much to mother’s bafflement. Events start to occur that become stranger and stranger, putting huge strain on mother and to say more would be to spoil the fun of trying to piece together what is happening.

Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic in the film. The camera often in close up to her face and rarely leaving her for the duration. There are moments when her rage is so visible that you will want to act on her behalf. The supporting cast is great too, and a particular highlight of the film for me was when Brian and Domhnall Gleeson appeared for a small cameo.

Whilst clearly the film has been divisive, I would argue that it is important that there are film makers challenging viewers with stories that are not simple “a to b” and it is not a bad thing if people need to discuss or research the themes of the story they just saw. In fact the only people I would recommend not to watch this film, are people with a low threshold for being shocked as scenes toward the end of the film escalate quickly.

American Assassin

american-assassin-postersFueled by rage following the death of his fiance in a terrorist attack Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) dedicates himself to the destruction of the cell responsible. Later picked up by the CIA he is trained by ex Navy Seal Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) just in time for his first operation to retrieve a stolen nuclear device.

Based on a series of novels by Vince Flynn, American Assassin feels like a quintessential spy thriller from the 1990’s. A much harder edged Patriot Games with much less nuance.

Where it excels is in some incredibly brutal action scenes. This assassin is not afraid of an 18 certificate and a lot of blood. Far from gratuitous, these scenes actually give you a sense of consequence to the violence. Keaton is good as well as the “seen it all before” veteran trainer despite his character being an archetype of the spy thriller.

Plot and character wise it will be nothing new, but it is perfectly serviceable as entertainment, but unlikely to stay in the memory for long. The only thing to leave a sour taste in my mouth was how the film seems to represent American foreign politics.

It

770a84b6ee3ee8f05246812ff3d98bad-halloween-movies-scary-moviesIn the summer of 1989 in the small town of Derry children are going missing and it falls to a group of outcasts to battle against the malevolent manifestation of evil that is Pennywise the Dancing Clown.

“It” has a lot to live up to if you are of a certain age. Not only is it based on an iconic Stephen King novel, but there is also the Tim Curry starring mini series that scared many a child in the 90’s. Thankfully this updated version is spectacularly good, managing to be unbearably tense at times and featuring a delightfully chilling performance from Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise.

Rather than take on the entire 1300+ page novel, this film is just the children’s story with the adult tale due to follow in a sequel. Ultimately the film feels like a coming of age story as it follows the 7 children across a Summer, albeit whilst they fight the embodiment of evil that feeds on their fears, both real and imagined. Adults appear rarely in the story and when they do its generally not as a force for good, the kids have to face their fears together as they become adults.

As far as the horror goes, this works really well at ratcheting tension and has some good effects work, but it shouldn’t scare you out of your wits. Pennywise is chilling but as the children come to understand what he is you too should find his spell breaks a little.

Highly recommended and once you have seen it I am sure that you will float too.

 

Patti Cake$

patti-cake-20170803022437Patti dreams of being a rapper whilst living a paltry existence in Jersey. She works two jobs, has an alcoholic mother and an ailing nan. Will she make it to the top or burn out like her mother?

Following the music/sports tropes of downtrodden talent living in adversity this film has a few things going for it that lift it up to being worth your time. The cast are universally good at making the characters worth rooting for and the tunes are catchy as hell.

So whilst you will see a life of adversity, a glimpse of talent, a montage where it comes together, a final hurdle that gets in the way only for that moment of triumph to appear, it will be an entertaining journey.

Danielle MacDonald, Siddharth Dhananjay and Mamoudou Athie as Patti, Jerry and the Basterd respectively make this the film that it is. Sparking off each other and showing the audience something to root for. And Danielle’s rapping skills sell the whole thing as authentic.

Logan Lucky

logan-lucky-poster-2Jimmy Logan (Channing Tatum) enlists the help of his brother Clyde (Adam Driver) and sister Mellie (Riley Keough) to pull off a heist at a NASCAR event. Matters are confused by the Logan curse, the fact their safe cracker Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) is in prison and that he wants them to include his idiot brothers.

Steven Soderbergh retired from film making in 2013 to pursue other projects and frankly it’s great to see him reversing that decision, because he is a phenomenal and experimental talent. This film is quintessentially his work as it is both consummately put together and also not quite the perfect product.

Where this film works really well are with the two sets of siblings and the heist itself. The Logan’s feel like a closely knit group who look out for each other and feel like genuinely ‘good’ people. The Bangs on the other hand are a bunch of screw ups and only Joe seems to have anything going on between his ears. Daniel Craig is great as the extrovert safe cracker who is “in-car-ce-rat-ed”! And the heist is genius, lots of moving parts and characters involved with moments early on in the film paying off later. This after all is from the man who gave us Oceans Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen.

Where it doesn’t quite pay off are in an experimental piece of casting and perhaps too many characters not quite getting fleshed out. Seth MacFarlane is famed for his voice work but whilst funny, his believability as a British entrepreneur investing in NASCAR is a stretch. Where as Katherine Waterston and Hilary Swank show up much later in the film as a love interest and FBI agent respectively with roles that feel underwritten or cut for the sake of running time.

So, overall a smart and entertaining romp that is fractionally short of great. But much better than your average fare.

Rough Night

rough-night-poster-13Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is an uptight woman running for office and preparing to get married. Cue a bachelorette party organised by her best friend from college Alice (Jillian Bell) and a night to never forget when they accidentally kill their stripper.

A comedy in the same vein as Bridesmaids and the more recent Bad Moms, but failing to be as funny as either, or indeed funny at all. There are moments that bring a broad smile, but nothing laugh out loud.

Bright spots tend to lay around the periphery. Demi Moore and Ty Burrell as swinger neighbours and the entire group of groomsmen being more effeminate than the women are funnier moments. The comedy within the main group tends to focus on Jillian Bell’s outrageous brand of humour as seen in 22 Jump Street and Fist Fight and Kate McKinnon’s screwball comedy as seen in Office Christmas Party and Ghostbusters. Although McKinnon, usually a safe bet fails to make any big impact because her Australian accent is so off putting its hard to concentrate.

It’s not unwatchable, it’s just a big disappointment given the cast.

American Made

feito-na-america-trailer-posterBased on the real life exploits of Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), American Made charts a course from how Seal went from TWA domestic airline pilot to taking pictures for the CIA to smuggling weapons and drugs for the US Government and the Medellin Cartel.

Given the subject matter it’s incredibly hard to describe just how fun this film is. Seal as a person seems to live on adrenaline and Cruise could not be a better choice to portray him (even if Seal in reality bares no resemblance). Watching him juggling work for the CIA and the Cartel whilst dodging every type of law enforcement is an absolute blast. Cruise of course choosing to fly the twin engine planes himself.

The subject matter will be familiar to any fans of the Netflix series Narcos, but  even with that knowledge you will find it no less unbelievable when you see the tactics the CIA and America used to fight communism and drugs in Central and South America. Artistic license creating a hugely entertaining film and perhaps sparking an interest in recent history.

Bringing back the Actor/Director combo of Edge of Tomorrow is a big success. Hopefully Doug Liman’s film finds an audience at the cinema this time unlike that cracking action film.

The Dark Tower

darktowerintl2Jake (Tom Taylor) has dreams of The Gunslinger (Idris Elba), The Man in Black (Matthew McConaughey) and their battle for the fate of The Dark Tower. A couple of lines of text at the beginning of the film inform us that the tower is important and that people say a mind of a child can destroy it. Aside from this, you won’t find much more out from the remaining 90 minutes.

Based on a series of Stephen King novels published between 1982 and 2004 The Dark Tower is meant to be a sweeping fantasy tale across King’s universe. This film feels barely finished and hollow. I actually remained in my seat as it finished stunned by what I had just seen. Despite four credited screen writers and a supposedly vast canvas to draw from the film literally explains nothing. Why does The Man in Black want to destroy the tower? What are gunslingers? Who are the weird henchmen with fake skin?

Aside from the massive pitfall of zero story, little else is good about the film. The special effects are decidedly ropey in places, McConaughey phones it in whilst looking ill, Taylor is wavering on the annoying child actor side of the scales and Elba is completely wasted with a fairly committed performance. And an end of credits sting is also baffling and seemingly pointless.

It actually seems as though they realised how badly it was going halfway through the creation of this film and just thought they would cut their losses, stop and release it anyway.

 

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

captain-underpants-new-posterSchool boy friends Harold and George love creating comic book stories and playing pranks on their teachers. Their nemesis, Head Teacher Mr. Krupp intends on spoiling their fun however and separating them at school. In a last-ditch effort to stop him, the boys hypnotise him into thinking he is their favourite comic creation, Captain Underpants!

Whilst having a fairly fun and round animated style and a few novel ideas to mix up the story telling (using the boys comics and addressing the camera directly whilst the action is frozen) this is not a film aimed anywhere else but the young members of the audience. The humour is rooted in farts and toilets and a grown man wearing pants after all.

As far as the youngsters are concerned though, there is a lot of fun to be had in some pratfalls and toilet humour.