Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge

17015800_10154981836668830_529268610073059017_oJack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) returns for the 5th Pirates film in another densely plotted tale of double crosses and derring-do. This film feels in part an homage to the original with an undead pirate (Javier Bardem) chasing Jack Sparrow whilst a young couple (Brenton Thwaites and Kayla Scodelario) uncover the secret of the curse.

This installment also has the confusing quirk of being called different names in different regions. (If you want evidence of this, check out the poster I have embedded in this review). The opening moments dramatically end with Bardem’s Salazar uttering Dead Men Tell No Tales only for the titles to appear and tell us this is Salazar’s Revenge. But aside from the question of which is the better title, have they made a decent film following the diminishing returns of films 2, 3 and 4?

It is certainly better than On Stranger Tides, but I would be hard pushed to suggest it’s better than the opening trilogy. Its best aspects are few and far between, Scodelario makes a good impression as a woman of science driven to finding a map that no man can read, Bardem is fairly menacing as a villain that sometimes sounds like Darth Vader under some impressive visual effects and there is a fun cameo from Paul McCartney. And it’s poorer aspects are retreads of the series general failures. It is impossible to understand the lore of this universe, magic compasses, tridents and curses all seemingly being made up as we go along. Thwaites makes little impression as one of the new leads and Depp feels more and more like a parody of himself. In the original film, there was a hint that Sparrow knew what he was doing, now he’s just a buffoon. And finally, perhaps most damagingly the characters motivations seem poorly fleshed out. Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) has little reason to get back on the ocean, but does so anyway and a new substitute British Captain played by David Wenham seems superfluous entirely, other than the need to have the British navy chasing them as per the original film.

Mediocre at best overall. If you stay to the very end of the credits you will also be treated to a very lacklustre sting suggesting more sequels.

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Baywatch

baywatch-truck-poster-500x740Baywatch on the big screen follows a similar format to the frankly terrible small screen predecessor. Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) is king of the lifeguards and behaves like a police officer whilst incredibly attractive women wear little and run in slow motion. In attempting to follow in the footsteps of 21 Jump Street and turn the preposterous plot into comedy gold the filmmakers have opted for a 15 rating and filled the film with F-bombs and sex jokes. Unfortunately, it lands closer in execution to this year’s other TV remake C.H.I.P.S. Given that virtually no one in the UK watched that film, it is worth pointing out this isn’t a great comparison.

The film starts well. The opening 20 minutes has some verve, introducing the characters, having a joke with the premise and using Dwayne Johnson’s charisma to good effect. But it’s all downhill from there. It’s rarely funny and falls into the same trashy plot of the TV show, despite this supposedly being the joke it is unable to cash in on it. Scenes on which a police officer tries to explain to the team that they are just lifeguards, should be hilarious but fall flat.

Zac Efron, now a sign of a poor comedy following Mike and Dave need wedding dates, Bad Neighbours 2 and Dirty Grandpa is completely wasted. Although perhaps not as wasted as the entire female cast whose entire job it is to look good wearing little.

Overall it is just a crushing disappointment on the glimmer of a good idea, after all, if the Baywatch TV series isn’t ripe for an ironic self-referential comedy I am not sure what is.

 

Snatched

ho00004350Emily (Amy Schumer) is a bit of a mess. Sacked from her job and dumped in the opening minutes she has no one to go on her non-refundable holiday to Ecuador. In a bid to introduce some fun into her mother’s (Goldie Hawn) life she invites her along and they promptly get kidnapped.

Amy Schumer’s debut film Trainwreck was genuinely hilarious and fun to watch, so Snatched has a lot to live up to. Especially when you add ditzy comedy hero Goldie Hawn into the mix. Unfortunately whilst there are some very funny moments it does not always work.

There are a number of issues, including but not limited to; Goldie Hawn is playing the straight role to Schumer which feels like a waste; the other American tourists at the resort (Joan Cusack and Wanda Sykes) are just too odd and unfunny; the plot itself is wafer thin and cliché in its portrayal of “rough” locals.

But it is fun and at only 90 minutes it does not wear out its welcome. Schumer is always value for money and an American adventurer they encounter on the way brings some great, if telegraphed comedy.

Colossal

ho00004354Colossal is such a unique and interesting film that I want to give a strong recommendation to go watch it without giving you too much information on the reasons why.

The extent of the plot that can be safely divulged is that Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is at her lowest ebb, unemployed and drinking too much, she returns to her hometown after being dumped by boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). Back home she rekindles an old friendship with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) but continues her drinking. Waking from a drunken night out she sees the news that a monster has attacked Seoul and it shares an idiosyncratic head scratch with Gloria.

The story constantly keeps you guessing and the underlying drama is much deeper than your average kaiju movie. Hathaway plays a screw up with addiction issues in such a way as to make us route for her and Sudeikis whom I’ve never seen in anything other than a comedic role is revelatory. Ultimately the film goes in directions that blockbuster summer films would not dream of and it’s worth supporting.

Miss Sloane

ho00004196Elizabeth Sloane is a powerful lobbyist in Washington D.C. When asked to lobby against a gun bill by her employer, not only does she laugh in their faces, she moves to the opposite side to lobby in favour of the bill.

Dramatic touchstones for Miss Sloane would be the political thriller Michael Clayton and the Aaron Sorkin television series The Newsroom. It features political intrigue, the sleazy underbelly of Washington, an incredibly driven lead character who thinks ten steps ahead and many speeches about what is right. Overall the plot is one that whilst set in the real world, there are contrivances that allow a dramatic discussion to be had about different facets of the argument. Something you would be used to from The Newsroom, which incidentally shares two of its cast members with this film in Sam Waterston and Alison Pill. If this dramatic license can be stomached then you will be treated to a phenomenal performance from Jessica Chastain.

In fact, Chastain’s performance is so good I would argue you should watch this film regardless of any other reservations. Commanding nearly every scene with steely determination she is a force of nature and whilst Oscar nominations rarely seem to include films released at this time of year I would be surprised not to see her feature next year.

Alien: Covenant

img_20170323_0950491The crew of the Covenant are on a terraforming expedition when a freak solar flare awakens them 7 years too soon. Whilst repairing the ship they encounter a rogue transmission that lures them to another planet that seems even more perfect than their original destination, but when they arrive they find David (Michael Fassbender), the only survivor of the Prometheus mission and perils they could not imagine.

For Ridley Scott’s second Alien prequel following Prometheus, it is clear that complaints about that film have been listened to. The horror quotient has risen dramatically whilst still retaining a heavy science fiction slant in relation to the musings of creation and how we came to be. Covenant is clearly trying to be the middle ground between Prometheus and Alien. Interestingly there are also some direct attempts to resolve complaints about Prometheus, most of which I will not go into for fear of spoilers. A key one I can talk about, as it is the opening scene of the film is that we see Guy Pearce again as the young Dr Weyland. This is how it was always intended to see him, but some scenes were left unfilmed and a TED talk from Weyland was only ever as additional scene rather than part of the movie. But Scott has still perplexingly left out a scene that was openly released featuring the whole crew bonding before they set off on their mission, in fact I am using it as the feature image for this review. Look closely and you will see an actor who suffers the same fate as Guy Pearce in Prometheus.

As a fan of Prometheus I hope that these olive branches are enough to bring those disgruntled by the unexplained back into the fold, because this is a fantastic film. As with all Scott films it is incredible to look at and it features many Alien tropes that most people now know and love. An expendable crew, a bumpy journey to the surface, aliens bursting from people and robots which may or may not be trustworthy. In fact this time we have two performances from Michael Fassbender to revel in as he plays both David and Walter, the Covenants assigned robot. This time we also have a much more fleshed out crew with three key protagonists; Katherine Waterston plays Daniels, the strong female lead all Alien films need, Billy Crudup plays Oram, a man of faith who finds himself in charge of the Covenant and Danny McBride is Tennessee, the cowboy hat wearing pilot.

Overall I felt the film does an excellent job, it is at times gruesome and scary and in others deep and meaningful. Lets hope that Scott gets to complete his Alien prequels and complete the story.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

king-arthur-legend-of-the-sword-uk-posterGuy Ritchie’s take on the Arthurian legend is one filled with classic geezer bravado and filled to the brim with scenes cutting together the explanation of an event and the actual event. So you will instantly know if you are not a Ritchie cinephile that you will spend the majority of this film wincing, because Arthur is quite keen on getting the “lads” together and calling people “sugartits”.

The story itself is somewhat different to how I remember it, a prologue sets the scene of a war between Mage and Man that Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) wins, before a coup results in him sending his infant son down the river before he is murdered. Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) grows up on the streets and in a brothel, and as is par for the course for a Ritchie film, fights in slow motion, occasionally with no shirt. King Vortigen (Jude Law) now rules with an iron fist but the rumour of the born king buoys the people’s hopes.

I’m generally a Ritchie fan, in fact his most recent film, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” is genuinely brilliant. But this never quite gets going. Hunnam is good as the charismatic rogue king and Law clearly watched Alan Rickman’s Sheriff of Nottingham when deciding to be an over the top villain. But then there is the bad, the over use of CGI in the opening and final battles (don’t watch in 3D where you will struggle to see in the mirk), an utterly horrendous stunt cameo for David Beckham in a crucial scene (at least in U.N.C.L.E. he was blink and you miss it), the slightly muddled role of mages in this world and if I’m honest a bit too much quintessential Guy Ritchie. After all, you don’t need every scene to be intercut with someone explaining/planning it.

And then Hunnam or Law will bring a smile to your face by being so damn charismatic or hammy and all is forgiven.

Sleepless

mv5bnjewmdayotm4ov5bml5banbnxkftztgwmzc4mjmymdi-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_Las Vegas undercover cop Vincent (Jamie Foxx) tries to get his kidnapped son back after he is involved in the theft of 25kg of cocaine.

It would be simple enough just to advise this was reprehensible in every way, but I’ll endeavour to give a few examples. Firstly, every single character is a cliche, we have not one, but two cops who don’t play by the rules here. Michelle Monaghan’s character is introduced by way of her refusing to speak to the appointed psychologist after getting assaulted on the job! Secondly, Vincent repeatedly informs everyone he’s actually a good guy, despite everything he does advising contrary. Thirdly, zero police investigative work takes place, everyone shows up at a casino and runs around it fighting and shooting. Fourthly, nothing the villains do make logical sense, seemingly unsure if they want to recover the drugs or kill the only people who can help them do this. Finally, from a technical standpoint the film appears to have been shot with zero lighting and features choppy editing during action scenes, all making for a 95 minute movie feel much longer.

To make it all worse, it ends with blatant sequel bait, but I can’t imagine this will be Jamie Foxx’s Taken or John Wick.