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Cockneys vs. King Arthur
Well, you have to give Guy Ritchie some credit, he took Warner Bros 175 million dollars and went nuts with it! Sadly for WB, this is a bizarre movie that suffers from multiple personality disorder. Sometimes it thinks it is Lord of the Rings. Sometimes it is Game of Thrones. At others, it tries to be Snatch, or Lock, Stock. However, what it never really tries to be is King Arthur.
What seemed like a potentially good idea on paper - namely using a Cockney/Snatch template on an enduring legend - fails badly. The acting and accents are, at times, awful enough that I expected Danny Dyer to pop up for a cameo, perhaps as the shortest knight ever. Unfortunately, he doesn't, but we are treated to a brief David Beckham cameo which is nowhere near as satisfying.
As far as the story goes... your guess is as good as mine. Rather than make a King Arthur tale, we are treated to writers who took a couple of names and themes from the myth and then decided to write a fantasy epic. Regrettably, the only thing epic about King Arthur is how badly it fails.
Hunnam is tolerable as Arthur, who here is an orphan brought up by prostitutes, whilst Djimon Honsou is utterly wasted as Bedivere. In fact, most of the cast get no real love in this movie and are reduced to corny quips and Cockerney accents that would make Dick van Dyke swoon with delight. Merlin is gone, replaced with some foreign woman who can't act her way out of a paper bag (and a wet one at that!) The CGI is not good in many places and further detracts from what is, essentially, a fantasy movie with a lick of Arthur paint thrown on it.
So are there any redeeming parts? Well, a couple. Again, however, they are all too short. The opening few minutes paints the picture of a great fantasy epic a la Lord of the Rings, but then nothing like it is seen again, so don't get your hopes up. Later on, Arthur is forced to go to the Darklands (a kind of dark mirror version of the world, full of monsters and evil). This is given the montage treatment and offers you tantalising glimpses of an idea that is far more interesting than the rest of the movie. Again, don't expect any more of that after it is done.
Jude Law plays, of course, the villain of the film, but honestly, his villain isn't at all menacing. I kind of felt sad for him - Jude Law, that is - he must have needed a paycheck badly, but then again, I doubt he realised how poor this effort was going to be.
As the title of this review suggests, everything is Guy Ritch-ied to death here. Cockney accents, fast cuts, montages, cunning plans and exposition about those plans. It is a mediaeval Lock Stock. This just further detracts from the film and all it really needed to be complete would have been Ray Winstone popping up and going on about "Slaaaags!"
In short, it is quite the assault on the senses, and the sensibilities. Possibly the worst Guy Ritchie movie to date.
SUMMARY: Horrible mish-mash of style, legend and bad CGI. Terrible accents galore, poor acting and a massive feeling of "gone too far" about this one. Reimagining at its worst.
Russia saw that Marvel movies were good and said... "Let us do that! We're sure to be successful!""
But they weren't.
Guardians isn't the worst movie I've ever seen by a long way. You can see what they were going for but, sadly, it fell well short of the mark.
I'm all for non-Hollywood movies normally, since seeing how a country other than America handles movies can be very refreshing. Not so much in this case.
Don't get me wrong. There are some good ideas hidden in this film. The problem is, overall, it is sub-par. The acting is decent enough, but the script either needed a lot of work, or the subtitles were way off mark and done by someone who was not a professional translator. Some of the dialogue made no sense in the movie and only served to drag the movie further down from its already shaky perch.
The effects were serviceable, whilst not fantastic but the editing left a fair bit wanting. I'm guessing quite a bit ended up on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately, some of it was needed.
As I mentioned, non-Hollywood movies can be a nice change of pace. Here, though, they tried too hard to make a Marvel movie, right down to an after-credits scene and a world saving plot-line. It wasn't needed. Better to do your own thing rather than ape something so well established. Doing that only invites comparison and, unfortunately, that comparison will never work out in your favour.
Everyone seemed to be taking the whole film so terribly seriously, which was another mistake. Given a bit more humour, and a lot less of the stern, serious frowning, this could have been a gem along the lines of Guardians of the Galaxy. However, the overtly dead-pan delivery and "This is deadly serious" tone made the whole thing less enjoyable.
That said, it was an interesting viewing experience, though not one I will revisit again.
SUMMARY: Russian attempt at a Marvel movie that is not written well enough to stand up to scrutiny. Poor subtitles and mediocre everything else make this a forgettable experience.
Low budget, so adjust your expectations, I guess...
Hell isn't a terrible movie. I've seen far worse, particularly in the post-apocalyptic genre. However, it doesn't really try too hard either to better than all the rest.
A group of survivors, caught in a world that has been overheated due to the Sun going haywire, tries to make it to a promised land of milk and honey. Or... in this case a land of water and erm...more water.
Using simple over-saturation techniques to portray the blistering world works better than it really should and does get across the feel of a world that is slowly dying.
What is not so good are the characters. Though acted decently, the characters per se are bland, bitchy and lacking anything like any real smarts. Yet we are supposed to believe that they have survived in this Hell for three years or more. Other than the ability to wrap themselves up against the sun's dangerous rays and siphon petrol, all of them are lacking in the survival skills that you would think such a group would acquire after three years.
The story moves along decently and is fairly interesting right up until the inevitable Hills Have Eyes plot sets in, with our group falling afoul of a family of mountain dwellers who have developed a liking for Long Pig. Queue the inevitable (and sadly, rather tiresome) capture and escape and rescue motifs common to such story elements.
Most of the group survive this ordeal (which isn't shown in as much graphical detail as it really required to make it stand out) and move on, escaping the grasp of the cannibals and .... the end.
Hell is a rather formulaic movie which suffers from bland, charisma-free characters doing less than sensible things in a world that is poorly defined and realised.
As I say, there are plenty of worse movies out there, but this one will not rank amongst the best. The low budget aside, a lot more could have been done with this feature to improve it, but it just wasn't. The result is a movie that feels like it was written by committee and not by someone with any passion for writing, let alone the genre.
SUMMARY: Low budget, poor characters, weak story. Watchable, but very forgettable. Wait...what was I talking about again?
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
Ghost of a Movie
So first things first. No, I haven't seen the original anime/manga movies/shows which this movie draws its title from. My perspective is from someone new to the franchise.
That said, I can't imagine those earlier works are as dull and predictable as this outing. Are they? Ghost in the Shell has a plot... a plot that is about as tissue-thin and predictable as it can be. A cyborg woman learns that she has been duped into thinking she is someone else and her whole life is a lie, so she sets out for revenge against the evil Corporation(tm) responsible.
Yeah, it really is that trite and yes, it is predictable. But revenge movies can be good, if the subject matter is handled well. Sadly, GitS does not do this. It isn't terrible, but it is as if they decided to put minimal effort into making the story (as cliché as it is) interesting and exciting. In fact, everything about the story is put on screen with so little enthusiasm as to make you wonder if this was the first movie that everyone involved had ever made.
It skirts with dullness and tedium, particularly in the first half-hour or so, only managing to be vaguely interesting for the rest of the runtime.
Nothing is explained about the setting, or the tech, or anything else really. Which makes you wonder if this was targeted at preexisting fans (much like the Warcraft movie) and so you were expected to have the back knowledge already. If so, and judging by the comments of the fans, then they have done a poor job of satisfying those fans.
As for me, a non-fan. I found the movie barely interesting. The acting is fine, the effects... mostly fine, but the simplistic story and predictability let it down. Even the action is rather boring, with fight scenes and shootouts being rather formulaic.
It's a movie that you will watch and then promptly forget about within a few days. After a week, you won't remember what happened or be able to say what the highlights of the film were (hint: there aren't any!) and even when it inevitably comes on TV, you'll frown and be unable to decide if you've seen it before. It really is that unmemorable.
It had promise, in the hands of better film-makers, perhaps. But not this time.
SUMMARY: Kind of tedious and very predictable. Weak story and a total lack of enthusiasm from all involved make this one a bit of a dud.
Alien: Covenant (2017)
Alien... This time its snore...
I don't even know where to begin with this one. I wasn't impressed with Prometheus and I had hoped...hoped... that lessons had been learned from that monstrosity. But clearly the only take-away that Ridley Scott had from the reaction to that movie was "People want more Aliens!" So we come to Alien Covenant. A movie filled with forgettable characters whose deaths (almost always the result of their own stupidity) are tiredly predictable and completely avoidable.
Remember in Prometheus when all the "scientists" do really dumb things purely in the name of pushing the plot-driven mess ahead? Well, prepare for so much more of the same in Covenant. It's as if they have no training in space exploration at all and are just regular Joes that have been fired off into space. No...scratch that. Regular Joes would have far more common sense than the crew in this movie. They should have name the movie Alien: Incompetence.
They open doors on alien worlds without checking for microorganisms, prod plants that release spores that they then inhale and only answer the radio with vague responses instead of concise answers. The list is pretty endless and all it does it to make you glad that they all die off horribly.
Of course, the writers are to blame. This is another example of the increasing trend towards "Get the characters to do something to further the plot" regardless of how retarded those character actions appear to anyone with a brain stem. All that matters is driving the plot forward. Never mind about common sense.
Speaking of the characters, you really won't care about any of them. The characters in A:C are so thinly sketched as to be essentially invisible. You won't get to know them, or even their names for the most part. That's because they have been written with the same lack of attention as the teenagers in a slasher flick. They are there purely to die in various ways, so why bother fleshing them out? That was the mentality here. Also, good luck trying to guess who is who's partner in this "couples" expedition into space. That, unsurprisingly, is also not bothered with.
Another thing...CGI aliens. Sometimes looking as bad as they did in Alien 3, but always unconvincing. But as bad as the CGI was, it pales into insignificance next to Scott's explained genesis of the xenomorphs. It's lame, and is on the same level as George Lucas' midichlorians reveal. We didn't need to know this. They were better as monsters of unknown provenance. The reveal was terribly insulting.
So, as you can tell, Alien Covenant is a hot mess. If all you want is aliens ripping people apart you are well served here, but if you wanted a coherent story, with likable characters and a satisfyingly muttered "Oh! Is it over?" at the end then look elsewhere.
I can't help but wonder what Neil Blomkamp's alien film might have looked like. I suspect it would have been far more enjoyable and worthwhile. But no, we got Ridley "It's my franchise!" Scott and his increasingly desperate attempts to prove he is still a decent director.
Here's a thought, Ridley? Why not actually read through the screenplay before you start shooting it. That way, you might actually notice it is dumb and be able to do something about it.
SUMMARY: Makes you want to say "Come back AvP, all is forgiven. Lessons learned from Prometheus = 0. This franchise needs either a long rest, or a director/writers that really care about it. Not really worth your money.
You didn't really want to SEE the action in an action movie, did you?
Wow! What can I say? The movie is...serviceable... as a popcorn movie, but the horrendous editing makes most of the action an unwatchable chop fest. Add in the shaky cam footage and it is hard to enjoy any fight scene.
It put me in mind of Taken 3, so bad was it. It's as if the people involved in cutting the movie didn't understand what the time code was and thought fractions of a second were more than good enough for each chop. Hint...they aren't! The movie really ought to be re-titled... Resident Evil: Epileptic Fit or perhaps Resident Evil: Aneurysm.
Add in the video game layout of the evil headquarters and you have a film that is hard to either take seriously or enjoy.
If the action had been enjoyable, I might have gone with Revisionist Evil as a title, since the writers threw away some of the information established in the previous movies and made up some other stuff to fit their "vision".
Also, what was with the utterly rubbish ending? Oh noes! Alice sacrificed herself for the good of humanity! Sniff, sniff...Oh wait, no, she just had a little nap! They even suggest there might be more to come, God help us all! Not that I really care about the franchise overly much, but the thought of another movie in this series done like this one is too much to bear.
Acting varies greatly, but is okay on the whole and well...the story is... a bit rubbish really. Some nonsense about a cure Macguffin that drives the plot forward and leads to the fakeout ending mentioned above.
I suppose the best thing that can be said is that there is some pretty decent post-apocalyptic imagery in the film. So that is something to focus on, I guess. Other than that, though...not so much.
It also calls itself the Final Chapter, but you know they'll either add another lame movie to the series later on or wait a few years then reboot it with another actress.
It's all just a bit sad, really.
EDIT: Well, they couldn't even wait a few MONTHS, let alone years, before declaring the franchise is going to be rebooted. Just how desperate are Hollywood these days?
SUMMARY: Mindless, unwatchable, nausea-inducing mess. A flimsy excuse of an action film that just gives you a headache. Not recommended.
A show as full of life as the zombies you no longer see in it.
They decided to drag it out. Of course they did! I didn't really expect anything else after the first few episodes but man, is this show slow. I would call it a pot-boiler, but that implies the stove is lit and the pot will, eventually, boil. There is no such guarantee here.
This episode was just an exercise in dullness bar a few minutes at the end... a formula which the "writers" seem to have perfected over the last couple of seasons. A big pile of nothing, with a few moments of interest scattered within.
And for the love of God, will they stop using the "We're going to kill this character off this episode, so here are some heart-wrenching scenes involving them so that you feel appropriately sad when it actually happens!" Little hint guys! Develop the characters during the show, not in the last minutes of their lives! This crap was old back in season 1 when you did the exact same crap with Amy! Foreshadowing is a writing skill that these guys clearly don't have.
So to the episode and, big surprise, Negan isn't dead. Of course not, because what will they do when he is? Trot out an even more insanely badly written villain? Have the three communities fight amongst themselves? Nor are any of the main characters dead this episode barring Sasha, despite a ridiculous shootout at the end. Plot armour is very protective, it seems. I'm not even sure if this isn't meant to be a comedy, like Z Nation. It's starting to get as daft.
And of course we got to listen to Negan talk us to death for yet another episode. I'm actually starting to hope he wins in the end, because at least then it would be over. Except of course, contrary to common sense, he'd let everyone live because...stupid writing. But I'm sure his demise will come eventually in season 8...later rather than sooner, no doubt.
Here's a novel proposal for once Negan is dead... make the show exciting and interesting again! Have the group actually have to go somewhere again, not just sit around on their butts playing happy families! Or, you know, maybe have the zombies evolve? Have them become a threat again, instead of the joke they have become.
It is clear the "writers" have forgotten the original premise of the show. They are more interested in torturing the cast and crew (and viewers) with the oh so tired "People are the real monsters!" schtick. Give it a rest! Do something creative with the show instead of this villain of the season nonsense (or two seasons, as Negan seems set to be).
It just seems odd, given how much material there is in the comics, that they seem intent on dragging everything out for as long as possible. To make the show creep along like a snail, when it should be fast-paced throughout.
EDIT: I now note Gimple is promising next season will be different and will amaze us... Yeah, Gimple, whatever... Fool me once, and all that. The only way this show will stop being a turgid, treacle-paced mess is if they get rid of Gimple and actually put the money the show makes back into it. I'm told The Expanse has double the budget per episode of this and Game of Thrones has three times the amount. I guess it is true that you get what you pay for and, frankly, we the viewers ain't getting our money's-worth out of this show anymore.
SUMMARY: Season finale...dull. At least they didn't leave too bad a cliffhanger this time, but Lord...is it boring now. Be prepared for Negan to last a loooooong time next season.
Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017)
"It's a bug hunt!" just not of the alien variety...
Where do I begin? To say we waited five years for this mess would be to admit we hoped it would be good. The Mass Effect games are noted for epic story lines, larger-than-life characters and some pulse pounding action sequences. Even ME3, with its lousy ending, was good for 95% of its playtime. Andromeda, however, has none of those things.
It's a game that espouses width over quality. Huge open worlds to explore (providing that you don't go too near the "edge" and get warned to go back) and hundreds of people to talk to (providing you don't want any of that dialogue to be meaningful in any way). There is an abundance of shooty-bang-bang sequences (so long as you don't mind it all feeling like you've done it a thousand times before - because, by the end, you will have).
In all things, Mass Effect Andromeda (ME:A) is a stellar example of why devs should adhere to the old comment "less is more". Here, of course, they did the exact opposite.
Huge open planetary worlds filled with the same four or five types of animals in a variety of colour shades. Let's go to another planet! Yep, the same dinosaur and lizard monsters to shoot.
Then there are the faces. Oh God! The faces! I hope someone does a comparison with side by sides of this, and the first Mass Effect game, because the animation here is laughably bad in places. It's all done by an algorithm, you see, and not facial capture. Accordingly, the NPC's eyes dart about manically during conversations. Their faces are all rigid with the digital equivalent of Botox and when they blink, it is with their entire forehead/brow, not just the eyes. Benny Hill blinking, manic eyes and frozen faces. For a game whose pedigree relies on the interactions between the PC and the many NPC's in the game, this is unforgivably bad.
But if the animations were the worst of it, that could be overlooked. But the writing... man the writing. It is bad in the same way that SyFy channel original movies are bad. Lame dialogue and a flimsy plot, with not even a vestige of pacing. It plods along, tasking you with endless boring side quests that accomplish little except to gain your character experience. There is no satisfaction to completing any of it.
Did I mention the combat yet? Recall how you used to be able to control your squad-mates in the earlier ME games? Yeah, me too! But not here, because....progress! So you start a fight and your squad-mates just do their own thing, which is usually not very helpful, all the while dropping awful clangers of dialogue that are meant to be witty quips. In some cases they even say entirely inappropriate things during combat.
You squad-mates also have developed the ability - a la Aliens: Colonial Marines - to teleport about the battlefield. This often result in one of them teleporting on top of flying enemies, only to fall down and carry on as if that were the most natural thing in the world.
The voice actors mostly sound bored reading their lines, as if they had no actual direction when they were in the recording studio. The end result, along with the lack of animated faces, is to make any conversation seem like one between two heavily sedated (or stoned) people.
And the ending... I won't spoil it, but you end up in a boss fight with an enemy you have fought before and playing, essentially, an extended horde mode battle that goes on far too long. It is not a moment of exultation and delight when you complete it, just one of relief that it is over.
And that last sums up ME:A pretty much. It is dull and repetitive with mind-numbing side quests and some unbelievable dialogue (e.g. "My face is tired"), poor animations, facial and otherwise (I didn't mention the Ministry of Silly Walks, did I?) and an overall feeling that you could be spending your time playing a number of better games.
So what went wrong? My money is on over ambition. They tried to run before they could walk. This game was made by a B-string team from Bioware and they tried to get too much in, and end up with doing none of it justice. Too many conversation with NPC's probably led to them deciding they could not afford facial capture, so they went with the hilariously awful algorithm for animation. Not enough time to make enough variety of enemies (in addition to the few animals, there are about the same number of Remnant creatures and then a couple of generic alien baddies. Too many voice actors recording too many lines with no one giving proper direction led to all the flat deliveries you get in-game.
It wasn't ready for release. That is the bottom line. A Triple-A game rushed out the door to meet the financial year-end, full of bugs and glitches, unpolished and with no sign that any QA team even looked at it.
Bioware should be ashamed of this. No wonder they closed down the Bioware forums last year. It's almost as if they knew the fallout would hit them hard, just as it did with the ME3 ending and decided not to have to deal with people "impugning their artistic integrity" again.
Either way, the game is an embarrassing mess that seems like it was created by people who had never seen Mass Effect before and had only had it described (badly) to them. Bioware? Buyer-Beware, more like.
SUMMARY: Unfinished mess. Terrible facial animation, lousy dialogue, MMO-style busywork side quests. Poor writing, buggy, glitchy and utterly charmless. Not worthy of the Mass Effect name and not worthy of your money.
Into the Badlands (2015)
Action! Boredom, boredom, boredom. Action! Boredom, boredom, boredom...
So, in a nutshell, the header title sums up this show. You get a few moments o faction (very well done, I might add) followed by long periods of tedium and dullness.
In the first season, the world is set up kind of half-heartedly and without any real conviction. There are Barons that rule everything and most everybody else is a serf/slave to them. It is a feudal system, basically. However, all is not well in this dystopia and the various rulers all vie with one another to get the upper hand.
Now, if that latter sounds a little Game of Thrones-ey then you are right. I think that is what they were aiming for. Sadly, though, it plays out more like Game of "I don't care about any of this!" The more you watch, the less you care about the Barons, or their politicking, or manipulation. It really is done so badly that it is less interesting than real world politics. It's that dull.
But there is action! A very stylised, Crouching Tiger kind of martial arts that is pleasant to watch. Unfortunately, the creators seemed intent on trying to talk their characters to death rather than letting them fight it out.
PArt of the problem is the superficial nature of the world-building on offer here. It is a world with little depth to it and, as a result, trying to make the viewer interested in it only serves to show them how shallow it is.
Shallow isn't bad, if it is treated right. But the intent to inject a political intrigue dynamic into the show was woefully misplaced. They should have stuck to a more action-oriented show and downplayed the machinations of people who, honestly, you don't give a monkey's about.
Now, at the end of season 1, the main Baron of the piece was killed off, which gave me hope for the second season, which has just started. However, the creator's decided to employ the TV equivalent of a bait-and-switch and bring this character (an oddly-accented Martin Csokas) back at the end of the first episode of the new season.
Sigh. I won't even bother to explain why this is so pitiful. It is just about the worst betrayal of an audience's trust in the show that you can get.
There are only two characters in the show that merit any interest. The rest are there to, if I'm honest, pad out the runtime and send the audience to sleep.
Ultimately, it is this Jekyll and Hyde mentality that will be the show's undoing. The action is fine, but the politics are boring beyond belief. If you binge-watch this then you will find yourself fast-forwarding through the duller portions (of which there are plenty) and that is never a healthy thing for a show. Unless season 2 changes things up dramatically (and the first episode suggests it isn't going to) then I would be very surprised if a season 3 will be forthcoming.
SUMMARY: Some great action. Some very dull jibber jabber and politicking. No real balance between the two. Most characters are beyond unlikeable and the show has an over-inflated sense of its own importance. Not recommended.
Let's play....tick the TV script boxes!
Yes folks! Sit down and let's check off the sins of this particular, by-the-numbers show.
1. Brooding, perpetually angry looking hero...check! 2. Call it a scifi show but actually have very little scifi to show...check! 3. Annoying and superfluous family drama that dominates the runtime...check! 4. Glacial pacing to ensure that nothing actually ever happens...check! 5. Constantly suggest something more interesting will happen, but never actually get to it...check! 6. Annoyingly try to make human politics interesting...check! 7. Make as many of the show's characters as annoying as possible...check! 8. Have obligatory teen angst and drama tacked on...check!
I could go on, but you probably get the idea. The family drama just never lets up and overshadows the occupation setting horribly. I still don't get why it is felt necessary to shoehorn this dynamic into shows that really don't require it.
If you were hoping this show would be a stirring tale of the rise of the resistance and fighting back against alien oppressors, then think again.
For the most part, the aliens remain unseen and aloof, only sending in their hovering drones when absolutely necessary. Which is fine, but it leaves most of the antagonist work to be done by humans. This sounds good in theory, but in reality...
Remember all those old films an TV shows, where they didn't have the money to show aliens, so they used the plot device of "they can look like us!" as a cop out to have aliens, without having aliens?
Well, Colony feels like that. Except, they aren't aliens that look like us. They are us! We're the aliens in this scifi drama. It may be that this was the intent all along... to show how much scumbaggery we are capable of to our fellow man, but it just seems cheap.
If the story was better, or actually had a plot that progressed from week to week (a la The Expanse) then I might forgive this lack of scifi and aliens. But it doesn't. It just plods along with all the alacrity of a comatose snail.
Think I'm being unkind? Well, how is this... I'm on episode 10 of season 2 and all that has happened since the beginning of season 1 is...
The family recovered a son and (gasp in surprise!) they have discovered the aliens (which haven't been seen yet) have an ulterior motive in rounding up the human population.
That is literally all that has happened of any consequence since day 1 of the series. Beyond that, all that happens is a lot of hand-wringing over decisions that never amount to anything and the ongoing, utterly mind-numbing, never-ending family drama.
It's scifi, for people who don't watch scifi.
SUMMARY: Plot that never moves along, annoying characters, tiresome family drama. The show's conclusion will undoubtedly vie with the heat-death of the universe for the most long-awaited event that no one will ever see.