Movies: Geostorm Review (or “Incredibly Bad, And Yet Good”)

October 22, 2017

Yesterday I took the unusual step of going to a movie that I had never heard of and therefore had no clue as to its quality.

The reason I went to see Geostorm was that my original pick for a Saturday movie – The Snowman – was so badly panned by critics in spite of a decent looking trailer, that I couldn’t bring myself to potentially waste the time.

And yet this morning, when I googled Geostorm – a Gerard Butler-starring disaster movie about global weather control gone wrong – its reviews are arguably worse. The first review that comes up asks if its the worst movie of the year, while others score it at 1.5/4, 2/5, 1 Star etc.

Now I find this quite interesting. Instead of going to see The Snowman with the prejudiced view that it was known to be terrible, I’ve blindly seen a movie considered equally bad but with no preconceived notions.

So how does my viewpoint compare with the critics?

Well last night I was asked on Twitter how it was and my brief summation was that it was “Incredibly bad and yet good”. I think that’s pretty fair.

On the one hand, it is just absolutely terrible.

The acting is just unbelievably bad on almost all fronts. The New York accents from Brits Gerard Butler and Jim Sturgess have to be heard to be believed, while Irish actor Robert Sheehan’s take on an English accent seems to slip from one region to the next depending upon the scene.

The writing is atrocious, filled with Hollywood cliches and exposition up the wazoo. Put it this way, when Butler speaks to Sturgess’s character for the first time, the first thing he says is “How are you doing Little Brother”, so we instantly know they are related. Nobody talks like that in real life. That type of info dump dialogue continues all the way through the film; it’s so, so bad.

The plot is also entirely predictable, and I doubt anyone in that screening I went to last night would have been unable to spot the bad guy(s) from the moment they came on screen.

Honestly, dear reader, you’d be hard pressed to find a film this year that is quite so awful on almost every critical level.

And yet in spite of that, or perhaps even because of that, it’s enjoyable.

Maybe I found the shonky accents and the one dimensional, wooden characters perversely entertaining or perhaps the way I was able to guess what was about to happen next every time gave me a sense of smug self satisfaction, but all the way through, I sat there with a smile on my face.

But it could be that I take the view that it is what it is. This is a disaster movie; you expect the cliches, the bad acting and the predictable plots and you trade them off for seeing people dying or escaping from some kind of catastrophic event.

And if you get enjoyment out of that sort of thing then you’ll enjoy Geostorm.

I did.

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Movies: American Assassin Review

September 18, 2017

Considering it starts off really well, American Assassin ended up being a bit of a disappointment for me.

The frantic nature of the opening scenes on the beach and main character Rapp’s vigilante mission into Libya are great, but they soon make way for what is a by-the-numbers race against time spy thriller.

Which is not to say that it turns into a bad movie, but rather than it goes from being something that could have been a bit special to a plot that we’ve all seen dozens of times before.

The characters become uninspiring, the plot hangs on the sort of twist that Terry Nation was writing for Doctor Who 55 years ago (the old ‘The only way you could know that is if you’re the villain, because I never told you’ trope) and it all ends exactly how you’d imagine it would.

Put simply, if you like that sort of thing, you’ll enjoy American Assassin, but don’t go in expecting any sort of fresh take on the genre. Like I say; it’s not that it’s bad – indeed it’s perfectly acceptable – but rather it just doesn’t live up to its early potential.

Oh, and for those of you keeping score, it ran for less than two hours and therefore didn’t overstay its welcome.

 


Movies: Wind River Review

September 10, 2017

It seems as though the point I made about the challenging length of Detroit struck a chord with some of you.

It did just seem to go on forever, and like me, others seem to agree that the running time took it beyond the point of being an enjoyable watch and into the realms of a chore.

Well the good news is that Wind River has no such issues.

Checking in at a reasonable one hour and fifty minutes, this crime thriller about a murder on an Indian Reservation in the vast emptiness of Wyoming hits the spot.

There’s plenty to enjoy about it, from a gripping plot to the unusual setting, and the acting is on point throughout. I should note that I especially enjoyed the performance of Graham Greene as Ben. I don’t think there’s any question that he’s the least well-known of the main characters in the movie, and in part that will be because his heritage will limit the roles he is offered, but he was excellent.

Gong back to the movie as a whole, the biggest thing going for it was that nothing was wasted. Every scene had a purpose, whether that was for character development or to move along the plot and therefore it felt brisk even though it was by nature slow in pace, if that makes sense.

And it’s because of that that I would consider Wind River one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. Sure, the pickings have been slim, but this was still a very enjoyable watch on its own merit, and I’d recommend going along to see it.


Movies – Detroit Review (or “Apparently You Can’t Tell A Good Story In Under Two Hours Anymore…”)

September 4, 2017

A movie can have so much going for it, but then after the fact if one thing goes against it, that’s what you dwell on.

On Saturday I went to see Detroit; a movie that has received much acclaim from critics and the general public at large, and yet when someone asked me this morning if it was any good, my brief summary was “It was good, but it went on too long”.

That’s what I fixated upon.

If I was going to expand on my thoughts I would say that it was a tense, well acted affair that highlighted – in a way that it admitted was over-dramatised and used creative license – how bad things were during the Detroit riots of 1967. It was well shot and it did a good job of setting the scene for what was to come in an introductory history lesson at the start of the movie.

But I just can’t get past how it could probably have cut a good 45 minutes out and nothing would have been lost.

Though this was about the infamous police raid on the Algiers Motel where three black men were killed and nine others were beaten and humiliated by racist police, it took at least an hour to actually arrive at this point. Before it did, I had thought that perhaps the movie was a collection of unrelated stories about people who were caught up in the riots.

Then the Algiers stuff – as well as it was acted – also went on too long, and began to lose its impact.

And finally, after all of that, it briefly turns into a courtroom drama, at which point I was just desperate to get up and go.

Now reading that back, it looks as though I didn’t enjoy it, and yet I did.

But it’s that one thing – the length of the movie – that I’ll remember the most.

Apparently you can’t tell a good story in under two hours anymore…


Movies: To The Bone Review

August 15, 2017

In the absence of there being anything at the cinema worth going to, I’ve been spending time revisiting movies I’ve seen before and trying out newer efforts available on the likes of NetFlix and Amazon Prime.

Mhairi and I tend to go turn about on picking movies, and last night on her turn we selected the NetFlix exclusive, To The Bone, which is about a 20 year old girl who has signed herself in to a group therapy clinic in a bid to overcome her potentially life threatening anorexia.

Now I’ve never had an eating disorder and subscribe to the belief system of ‘Exercise as much as you can to allow you to eat as much as you want’, so I found myself struggling to empathise with any of the characters. Indeed, as harsh as it sounds, I just felt myself getting frustrated and saying “Oh just swallow the food for fuck’s sake”.

But is that down to me lacking sensitivity on the subject because I can’t get into the mindset of the characters, or is it down the team behind this not doing enough to make me understand?

A quick internet search will provide you with plenty of reviews that criticise the way the subject matter is dealt with though, so maybe it’s not just me.

But putting that aside, the main question is whether or not it was an entertaining movie.

And it wasn’t really.

I mean…it wasn’t terrible, and I did manage to sit through the whole thing without checking my watch or demanding it was turned off, but it was one of these bland movies where nothing exciting or even noteworthy happens.

The characters seemed one dimensional, you could – and I did – accurately guess the entire flow of the plot after 15 minutes and the acting was unremarkable. But then it did have Keanu Reeves in it.

I just didn’t find myself entertained, sympathetic to characters or invested in any of their issues or plights.

Really, the only thing that could have saved this was for the last line of the movie to be for a character to say “Come on, let’s all go for a bhuna”.

But alas it was not to be.

I’d chalk this up as one to avoid.


Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls Review (“A Masterclass of Acting, But Maybe Not of Writing”)

July 2, 2017

Only this morning I was speaking to a friend about the time back in 1987 when my dad didn’t record episode four of Paradise Towers and it took until December 1994 for it to be repeated on TV again.

That sort of thing must seem alien to the youth of today.

But imagine if it wasn’t?

Imagine if for some reason an episode shown today wouldn’t be able to be seen again – unless you happened to know someone who taped it – until 2024? If that was the case, the whole of Scotland would be absolutely raging right about now.

Because for some reason, right at the point when The Doctor Falls was reaching its climax – when Bill had left the TARDIS and the Doctor lay dead on the floor – BBC Scotland’s feed of the show lost its sound and the remainder of the episode played out to a load of buzzing noises. And then they didn’t even bother to apologise in the post-credits continuity announcement. Bastards.

Thankfully it’s 2017 and I was able to immediately go to the iPlayer and watch it properly there, but by that point arguably the most important scenes of the episode had lost their immediate impact.

Still…I suppose it’s better than waiting seven years to find out what was said.

Anyway, on to the review…

Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls Review: What’s This One About?

Writing everyone out.

Thoughts – A Familiar Change of Pace

Last week I was concerned that this episode would fail to capitalise on the strengths of World Enough and Time, and that it would end up completely over the top like Last of the Timelords.

Those concerns were unfounded to an extent, but as good as this was, my immediate thoughts were that it not only paid a little bit too much tribute to the show’s own lore, but also rehashed old ideas.

For example…

  • References to Telos, Marinus (that was put in there just to mess with people like me, presumably), Planet 14 and so on.
  • Repeating famous lines from classic stories. And Dragonfire.
  • A situation that resembled the events of The Time of the Doctor a little too much.
  • A companion going off to travel the universe after supposedly dying.
  • The Doctor having a Logopolis style flashback to all his companions (except, bizarrely Rory, but even then that could be a deliberate nod to Leela’s omission to the flashback from Resurrection of the Daleks

    The moment when the sound went out and viewers in Scotland went mental

    for all I know)

  • Finishing the story in what we must assume is the last few minutes of The Tenth Planet.

Is this a problem? Mostly no. The references will either go over people’s heads or be seen as quite cool; either way they aren’t essential to being able to follow the plot.

And I guess for the untrained eye, the similarities with Time of the Doctor will go unseen, and there won’t be anyone out there who doesn’t like the set-up to the Christmas episode.

But Bill’s departure – if that’s what it is – was too similar to Clara’s, even to the casual viewer. Objectively, that’s lacking in originality.

Having said that though, where else could it go? Steven Moffat was faced with a choice – just as he did with Clara – of killing the character off or finding a way to give her a happy ending.

Had he not given her that happy ending, it would have been one of the most astonishingly bleak but also brilliant ends to a companion in the show’s history.

I have to say though, the sentimentalist in me is happy that she was spared that end. I like Bill and if it’s the last time we see her then it’s a pity.

The Story Itself

Beyond the similarities it has to old episodes, how good is The Doctor Falls?

Well it’s not without its flaws, but it is very good.

If I was to be critical, I’d say that the Cybermen were all too readily relegated to bit-part players. I’ve said before that they work best as incidental figures because of how devoid of character they are, but then this is

Mon Then

the Tenth Planet Cybermen we’re talking about, and as characterisation goes, they are the best ones. They could have been used better.

I’d also say that much of what went on in this episode amounted to window dressing. Ultimately it didn’t really matter where the characters were, because nothing was resolved. Though Nardole led the villagers to safety, it was left unclear what their long-term fate was, both in terms of Cyberman attack and the ship falling in to the black hole.

And while earlier in the episode it was suggested that they couldn’t get back to the TARDIS because of how time was passing (even though that doesn’t hold up considering the pre-Cybermen came for Bill last week) a magic wand was waved to get the Doctor back there in the end.

In spite of those issues though, what made it enjoyable was the strength of acting from the main players.

Matt Lucas seemed to have more about him as Nardole this week, while Michelle Gomez and John Simm – though both toned down a little bit over the last seven days – worked as a wonderful double act.

Pearl Mackie was excellent as Bill, she really was, and the strength of her acting sold the heartbreaking predicament Bill found herself in.

But best of all was Peter Capaldi.

Even though I don’t think he was always given the best material to work with – why he doesn’t want to regenerate is yet to be explained – he was utterly superb; perhaps the best he’s ever been. Not a single line of dialogue is delivered with anything less than brilliance.

While this looks to be the end of the road for most of the characters, we’ve still got Christmas with Capaldi – the finest actor to play the part in my opinion – and if this is anything to go by, he’ll be tremendous one last time.

Random Observations

  • I feel I might have brushed over how good Missy and The Master were. Some of the lines – including “The Doctor’s dead. He told me he’d always hated you. Let’s go.” and “Urgh, well doesn’t that take all the

    Rory was sad to find out he wasn’t worthy of being in the flashback while that Silurian and her lover were.

    fun out of cruelty” – were sublime, and the way they both stabbed each other in the back was as apt a way for them to go as any.

  • The explanation for how the Master got there and why he was in disguise was also well done.
  • But I’d liked to have seen him regenerate, and felt the suggestion that he had an erection to be a little bit crude for Doctor Who.
  • Hey look, it’s that woman who has made a career out of playing Barbara Windsor.
  • The incidental music was top-notch, as was the direction.
  • On that note, I loved how we saw the Doctor ‘die’ through the shutting of his own eyes.
  • Although if I’m going to be a bit churlish, I found the perspective of the Doctor looking down at ‘Bill’ when he should have been looking up at a Cyberman was a bit off.
  • Anyone else notice that the Cybermen guns used what seemed to be the same sound effect as the Autons from Spearhead from Space?
  • Pearl Mackie’s delivery of the line “Why can’t I be angry” is a highlight of her performance.
  • Maybe I’m being a bit daft but why did they film the pre-credits scene from World Enough and Time a few weeks ago when – based on Capaldi’s hair length – the end of this week’s episode was filmed at the same time as the rest of it?
  • My guess is that the Christmas episode might be all about the two Doctors learning to accept regeneration. I could be off though.
  • The scarecrows were pointless.
  • It’s been pointed out that John Simm’s Master seems to have an obsession with putting the Doctor in a wheelchair. It’s true; it’s happened in every story he’s been in.
  • I was wrong about Nardole’s fate; he wasn’t killed off, and in fact the way he departed – while understated – was nicely handled.

Doctor Who – The Doctor Falls Review: Final Thoughts

Overwhelmingly, the strengths of The Doctor Falls lie in the performances of the actors. They – led by Peter Capaldi – were on top form.

The writing? Only so-so.

Now we’ve just got to wait six months to see how this era of Doctor Who is going to end.

I’m looking forward to it already.

More Doctor Who Reviews

Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon


Doctor Who – World Enough and Time Review (or “Spoilers Don’t Always Ruin A Good Thing”)

June 25, 2017

I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a review of World Enough and Time; after all, it’s the first episode of a two-part story written by the same guy and therefore by the precedent I’ve set it should be reviewed together with next week’s The Doctor Falls..

But I felt I needed to.

Why? For one thing, because the trailer for next week looks like an episode so utterly different in theme that it could completely change the tone of a joint review.

And for another, because – and pardon my language – this was just too fucking good not to.

Doctor Who – World Enough and Time Review: What’s This One About?

The Big Finish audio Spare Parts done better than RTD managed in 2006.

Thoughts – The Spoiler Effect

If you’re a long-term reader, you’ll remember I went off on a rant about the BBC’s use of spoilers to attract viewers in the 2015 season of the show, and specifically how they ruined Clara’s ‘death’ in Face the Raven.

People have always mocked the Tenth Planet Cybermen costumes. Not me though; this is how they should look.

There was no need for it, especially considering she was in the subsequent three episodes, and it totally ruined what would have been a massive shock to the viewer.

I bring this up because a recurring theme I’ve noticed from viewers and reviewers last night is “Wouldn’t it have been so much better if we didn’t know John Simm or the Tenth Planet Cybermen were going to be in it, especially since the last 20 minutes of the episode were devoted entirely to building up that surprise”.

To that I say yes…and no.

Surprises are great and living in a spoiler free world is usually far better when it comes to watching TV shows. For the life of me, I do not understand why my brother – who considers himself a huge fan of the show – seems to want to seek out plot details in advance of every episode from people who get review copies of the show. I think his dream is that I get access to the BBC’s advance review site so he can see things as early as possible. As a reviewer of the show I could easily do that; everyone else does. But I don’t want to. I want to watch it for the first time on a Saturday night or on Christmas Day in its complete form – and bear in mind that review copies of this episode left out the pre-credits sequence – and enjoy it for what it is.

As much as possible I don’t want to know anything about what I’m going to watch and even avoid the name of the episodes I haven’t seen. It was only for the purposes of the introduction to this review that I looked up what next week’s episode is called.

So yes, if I didn’t know that the Master or the Tenth Planet Cybermen were going to be in it then it would have been a massive and welcome surprise.

But…

The fact it was made common knowledge in advance of the season starting meant months of anticipation and excitement for when they did show up.

I looked forward to last night’s episode more than any since The Day of the Doctor, and unlike that episode – where the build and excitement was let down by the lack of appearances from most of the past Doctors – this one delivered on it.

I watched the initial hints of the Cybermen knowing full well what they were and it cranked up the tension.

I watched the first shot of Mr Razor and said “That’s John Simm”, then enjoyed every subsequent scene knowing that it was going to end with his reveal, and it did.

A man, covered head to toe in cloth, attached to a drip asking repeatedly for Bill to kill him. Yup, this is definitely a kids show….

And I still loved every minute of it.

For me, this episode wasn’t about shock factor, it was about loving the tension of seeing the characters on screen realising what was happening when I already knew.

It was just brilliant.

And whether it had been spoiled already for some or not, I also didn’t know that Bill would be shot and turned into a Cyberman, so that was shocking enough. Whether that sticks or not though, I don’t know. I suspect that somehow or other she’ll get out of it next week.

Spare Parts Retold

Moving away from the surprises, this was also a top episode in general. It was creepy, atmospheric and mostly paced well. I do think it lagged just a little bit in the middle when Bill was downstairs with the Master, but that’s only a minor issue.

While I can’t vouch for the science of it, the idea that time is moving at dramatically different speeds at opposite ends of the ship makes sense and works well within the structure of Dr Who. Well…it makes sense except for why they don’t just go back up to the top floor in the lift, but I’m assuming – unless I’ve missed something – that it’s simply a case of the Master being the only one who knows what’s going on and he just doesn’t want to tell anyone.

It also pays homage to the classic Big Finish audio Spare Parts better than the two-part story from 2006. In some ways – specifically in atmosphere and setting – this is Spare Parts retold, and that’s cool.

Which is better? I’ve seen a Facebook post this morning suggest the audio is his preferred choice, but I think they both have their strengths.

Spare Parts is told at the pace of the classic series and assumes knowledge, but then why would anyone without knowledge of Dr Who buy a Big Finish…

World Enough and Time meanwhile is maybe less about the Cybermen and more about the other characters and that’s good too.

So it’s a difficult call, but then I think the acting was better in this one.

Doctor Who

Possibly the best part about the story – beyond the coolness of having Tenth Planet cybermen of course – was the stuff with Missy at the start. Without question this is the best Michelle Gomez has been as Missy and the way  she was able to take the piss about the whole concept of the show was great.

In particular, the Doctor Who joke tickled me.

In a way, despite the way it was a pisstake, it actually made a lot of sense.

If I was a bit…you know…I’d also saw “Oh my god, that makes sense of why WOTAN called him Doctor Who” but then I’m not a bit…you know.

It’s a shame next week is apparently her last stand, but arguably she works best with Peter Capaldi anyway.

The Regeneration Scene

And what about the beginning of the episode?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wow that was intense.

I’ve watched it a few times now because I’m a bit of a geek and it just gets better.

I’d be very surprised if Peter Capaldi doesn’t go out in the most blazing of glories.

Random Observations

  • While I loved the costume and the voices, I didn’t like that the full Mondas Cyberman still made that clunking noise when walking. It really shouldn’t, based on what it was wearing.
  • Similarly, my heart did sink a bit on seeing the ‘regular’ Cybermen in the next time trailer. They suck.
  • It’s cool that they brought the Master back to his roots of being a man who loves a disguise.
  • I also thought that John Simm was much better toned down.
  • People often remark that Doctor Who is a kids show, and like I said, the previous episode felt like it a bit. This didn’t. At all. This was grim as grim could be, with men in hospital wards begging for death. Don’t have nightmares, children.
  • The explanation for the head apparatus – that they’ll still feel pain but won’t care – was especially grim.
  • I loved the costumes. They are far better than pretty much any Cyberman costume since the 1960s. It’s what they should be.
  • The Missy stuff is interesting. Is she really a reformed character or will she go back to her evil ways next week? If I was a betting man I’d predict that she will sacrifice herself to try to save the Doctor, much like Roger Delgado was originally supposed to.
  • I also don’t think Nardole is getting out of this alive.
  • Peter Capaldi is looking especially bouffant in the opening scene.
  • The middle section where they go back to explain how they got there – with Bill asking the Doctor to promise not to get her killed – was very well done.
  • The name of the episode is apparently a reference to a book. I didn’t get that reference but I don’t really care.

Doctor Who – World Enough and Time Review: Final Thoughts

Next week’s episode looks like it might go the way of episodes like The Last of the Timelords and go for a bells and whistles big budget war. I hope it doesn’t because it would fail to properly capitalise on what we’ve seen here.

But even if it does, it won’t spoil the best episode of the show in a long time.

This was fantastic and if Steven Moffat can maintain this level for the remaining two episodes of his tenure, then I won’t be disappointed.

More Doctor Who Reviews

Remember that you can read a select amount of my Doctor Who reviews on this blog and all of them in my two ebooks, available here from Amazon