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: It Review

September 17, 2017

Most people my age will be aware of It, the Stephen King novel-turned-TV miniseries that was responsible for scaring the shit of children in the 1990s.

But awareness is just about all many will have. I remember seeing the first few minutes of it when I was probably about 9 or 10 years old and it terrified me. But I never actually watched the rest of it at any point.

Now it’s 2017, I’m a man in my 30s and it’s been remade as a proper Hollywood movie.

So what did I think?

Well I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t find horror movies scary as an adult. Long term readers of the blog will know that. I take the view that nothing can hurt me and I don’t get spooked by sudden loud noises, Some may get a thrill from it, but I’m not one of them.

So I wasn’t scared and I didn’t expect to be.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a good movie. And It…well it wasn’t a bad movie, but it certainly wasn’t without its flaws.

To give it the appropriate credit, the story on a general level was enjoyable, the clown was initially creepy, the setting was good and the mostly child actors did their jobs well. In many ways it was like a dark version of The Goonies or Stranger Things.

But then there were elements that let it down.

For one thing, as someone who hasn’t read the book, I never really understood what Pennywise was. Was he real? Was he an alien? Did he really kill the children? Why were they floating in the air? Did they all come back to life when they came back down? Where did he come from? Absolutely none of this was explained.

Then certain parts – like the stuff with the school bully or the back stories of most of the kids – never went anywhere.

But perhaps most frustrating was that to spin the movie out for as long as it was – and again, it was another movie that went on for too long – Pennywise appeared so many times without claiming any sort of victim that he ended up looking proverbially toothless. And that was compounded by this fearsome creature eventually being beaten up and vanquished by a group of young teenagers.

Not exactly fearsome…

Overall, I did enjoy it enough to consider it a good use of a Saturday evening, but came away frustrated that it wasn’t as good as it could have been.

Oh, and apparently we’re getting a sequel. Great…cos Hollywood doesn’t have enough of them.

I’d rather they remade The Langoliers.

Movies: Death Note Review (or “A Fun Movie When There’s Nothing Else On”)

September 11, 2017

A random pick on NetFlix this evening led us to watching Death Note, an original movie – based on a Japanese manga series of the same name – from the streaming company about a schoolboy given possession of a notebook where all he has to do is write down someone’s name and they die.

A quick google search will find that this is not a particularly highly rated movie, with a 4.6/10 on imdb and a 39% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and yet it did get a recommendation from Digital Spy’s ‘New On Netflix’ article.

So either manga fanboys dislike it because it’s different to the source material, or this really is a marmite type effort where most people will either love it or hate it.

Personally, I liked it.

Now sure, this is not a movie that will win any Oscars for any aspect of its development – the acting is so-so, the dialogue is corny, the special effects are dated and the plot involves oodles of exposition and some rather presumptuous leaps to keep things moving along – and yet it’s fun.

This is the sort of movie you’d enjoy if you liked Final Destination or The Butterfly Effect.

It’s not worthy, it’s not trying to get above its own station and it probably knows that some people will think it’s crap.

But it’s a nice idea for a story, it moves along at a reasonable pace and even though it got a little bit confusing towards the end, it kept me entertained.

Put simply, it is what it is; a NetFlix movie designed to be watched on the couch when you’ve got nothing better to do.

It wouldn’t be a waste of your time to give it a go.

I’d rather watch this again than Detroit.

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: 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.

Movies: Dunkirk Review (or “An Artistic Demonstration”)

July 24, 2017

While it’s true to say that a good movie doesn’t necessarily have to have a strong story, I think it’s also true to say that if it doesn’t have a strong story, it can’t be considered as the best movie of the year.

And that’s where I am with Dunkirk.

To me, Dunkirk is an exercise in visuals and sound. It’s an artistic demonstration.

The idea behind it seems to be to immerse the viewer in the sights, sounds and struggles of the British evacuation of Normany during the Second World War, and it certainly does that.

It’s very loud, visually stunning – with some quite superb direction and camera shots – and remarkably tense thanks to its unrelenting incidental music.

I just saw it at a regular cinema but I imagine it’s best seen in an iMax.

But I don’t think it’ll be my favourite movie of the year – and in fact I can already tell you that it’s not – because it lacked enough of a story to hook me in.

The gimmick – presenting three converging timelines – didn’t seem to add up entirely, and even though there was a good reason for it, the lack of dialogue early on became slightly wearing.

So like I say, as an artistic demonstration, this was absolutely top notch, but it failed to capture me from a creative point of view.

Much like Gravity, I think this is one for the cinema that might not translate as well beyond it.

And because of that it can’t be movie of the year.

Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

July 21, 2017

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to comic book characters, so I’ll hold my hands up and say that when it became obvious in the pre-credits sequence of Spider-Man: Homecoming that the Vulture would just be Michael Keaton in a some alien tech wing suit, I was disappointed.

I wanted an old bald bloke in a green leotard with wings.

But hey, you can’t have everything, and as it turned out, Keaton made it work, although that shouldn’t come as too much of a shock considering he’s been good in everything he’s appeared in since his career revival. For me, he was one of the best parts about the movie, along with Jacob Batalon as Peter Parker’s always-amusing best friend, Ned.

And it was a good movie.

Rebooting the Spiderman series yet again in such a short space of time was a risk, and thankfully they took a different approach, casting and writing him as a younger man living in a world not populated by the same school-friends as we’ve seen in previous films. It was fresh.

It also felt a little less CGI/action-scene heavy compared to most other Marvel efforts, which is no bad thing.

In fact, unlike most superhero movies, this felt like a story from start to finish, including a terrific twist towards the end that I didn’t see coming.

If I was to criticise it for anything, it would be that it presumes knowledge of the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, so f you’re coming in with a fresh pair of eyes, it might be a little confusing.

That though wasn’t a major issue for me, and so on the whole I enjoyed it.