Monday, 13 November 2017

'Murder On The Orient Express' Is A Classic Reborn. - (2017) Review

Half Price: A perfect movie to take your parents to.

For the second time in nearly 50 years, the Agatha Christie novel ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ has been adapted to film. The story follows the incomparable detective Hercule Poirot, and his impossibly huge moustache. Hercule finds himself aboard The Orient Express, a magnificent train packed to the brim with passengers from all over the world, travelling peacefully, until, in the dead of night, one of them meets an untimely end. Unfortunately for the killer, Hercule Poirot is probably the world’s greatest detective. (Sorry Batman).

He's used to being sad.
What follows is a simple whodunit, as the detective makes his rounds interrogating the various passengers. The film is directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also plays the lead detective. He’s not the only notable cast member as the movie is filled with eye popping actors. Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe, Michelle Pfeiffer. ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ has a rather impressive ensemble, though it leaves something to be desired.

No one does a bad job per se, but no one was particularly impressive either. In fact, each of these actors have had better performances this year alone in different projects. The most engaging of the lot is Branagh himself as the eccentric but brilliant detective, whose obsessive compulsive disorder makes ordinary life unbearable, but solving crimes simple. The actors give you enough of their characters to play your own personal game of clue as the story unfolds, but they tend not to stick with you after the credits roll.

A veritable who's who of "Who's who?"
The best part of the film comes through its impressive direction. Branagh uses a handful of interesting and engaging shots that utilise the claustrophobic train setting to his advantage. You feel like an uninvited voyeur creeping through the corridors, catching a glimpse of various interrogations through a curtain or a window. If only this style wasn’t broken by a series of mostly unnecessary and incredibly dull exterior shots of the train running on its track. In case you weren't sure if that's what trains do I suppose. 

At the end of the day, ‘Murder On The Orient Express’ was a fine film. It’s incredibly well designed, and meticulously detailed in its production. There’s a sense that the intention was to make a film that you’d only see nowadays during the classic movie hour on cable television. I’d say that goal was met, and is best seen on a quiet afternoon, while one enjoys a good old fashioned murder mystery.


Rating: Half Price

Monday, 6 November 2017

'Thor Ragnarok' Ragna-rocks! (Had to do it.) - (2017) Review

Big Screen Watch: An absolute pleasure to watch, great from start to finish!
After being mostly absent from the silver screen for the last two years, ‘Thor Ragnarok’ sees the return of the God of Thunder. Quite unlike we’ve seen him before. The movie opens up with the Norse God covered in chains, and describing a plot to protect his homeworld of Asgard. It should be simple work, but for the Goddess of Death, Hela. What follows is a galactic trek not dissimilar to one taken by the 'Guardians of the Galaxy', as Thor assembles his team, cutely named “The Revengers”

The most noteworthy member of that team is the Incredible Hulk. Yes that’s right, the movie may have Thor’s name on it, but there are more than a couple superheroes in this film. Thankfully, for everything that’s packed into ‘Thor Ragnarok’, the final product is a well-balanced ride. 

One that's fun, unlike in the case of a seesaw. 
Whereas most action adventure movies have a concrete story and pepper in a comic relief scene or two, this movie does the opposite. It’s a laugh fest from start to finish with a few scenes put in to establish a narrative. That’s not to say ‘Thor Ragnarok’ is hurting for substance. In fact, for all it’s non stop humour, I was particularly impressed with how invested I was in the story, even if the movie at times treats it as an afterthought.

As for the humour, 9 out of 10 times I would be upset. Upset that I was laughing so hard I couldn’t catch the next joke in the dialogue. ‘Thor Ragnarok’ never takes itself too seriously and begs you not to either. It’s perfectly comfortable embracing the more ridiculous elements of the franchise for what they are.

Hemsworth is probably glad he can dash a smile or six.
While that's the movie's greatest strength, it's also somewhat of a bummer. I left 'Thor Ragnarok' feeling delighted, and no doubt wanting to see it again, but part of me wished it wasn't the irreverent buddy comedy it is. In a franchise with 'Guardians of the Galaxy', 'Ant-Man', and now 'Spider-Man Homecoming', the MCU could do well with the overtly serious fantasy epic that the Thor films could have been. That's a film that was never quite realized, and thanks to 'Thor Ragnarok', it's likely to never be. The closest 'Thor Ragnarok' comes to giving you that film is to use that Shakespearean melodrama as a set up for a punchline. It's as if 'Thor Ragnarok' was written by Tony Stark himself.

As much as I might grumble to myself about missed opportunities of the last decade, I do appreciate 'Thor Ragnarok' daring to be different. Not just for the 'Thor Franchise' itself, but the film takes an unconventional approach to how films of this ilk typically play out. There's an A story, a B story, and then there are the multiple character arcs that need playing out. Many times the B story became the A story, and one character would seemingly be the main priority over everything else. That sounds like a confusing mess, but somehow, it works. 

Take it from kitten. Confusing mess is fun mess. 
What I absolutely, unequivocally loved in 'Thor Ragnarok', was the gorgeous set design. Of course, the line between a practical and digital environment blurred into obscurity ages ago, but the fact is, everything in 'Thor Ragnarok' has a distinct vision behind it. It's as if the characters stepped into an 80s arcade game designed by Jack Kirby. Funnily enough, for a movie that's embracing how ridiculous it is, its environments go a long way to making this world feel real. 

'Thor Ragnarok' also does right by its characters. In fact, the only thing that I would say the movie does wrong is that it spends too little time with each of them. They feel fully developed, and there's a balance here that rivals even a more complex ensemble like 'The Avengers'. It's only that the characters are so rich that I wanted to spend even more time with them after the credits rolled. Then again for a Marvel movie, that's not always out of the question.

After 10 years, people still walk out early. 
For what felt like the longest time, the character of ‘Thor’ was never truly defined. His best moments came from interactions with others, but a strong sense of who Thor was never truly came across. ‘Thor Ragnarok’ may have the Hulk, but it’s certainly Thor’s show, as Chris Hemsworth gets to show off his perfect comic timing, and delivers his best turn as Thor yet.


Rating: Big Screen Watch

Sunday, 5 November 2017

The Saw Franchise Tortures The Audience in 'Jigsaw' - (2017) Review

Read A Book: Nothing is worse than a stupid movie acting like it's smarter than you.
Years ago it was a Halloween tradition for a Saw movie in the cinema. Back in 2004, the series tried to change the slasher game. It put you in the minds of the victims and gave you a moral quandary or two along the way. You didn’t revel in the violence like a night at Crytal Lake. Over the years, the series moved so far away from that original germ of an idea, it became a whole different animal. Jigsaw’s rules became idiotic but were presented as profound.

Now, after all this time, Jigsaw returns in ‘Jigsaw’. The new film talks a lot about the legacy of the Jigsaw killer, the impact he left on the world after all this time. The symbolism between fans of the Saw films and fans of Jigsaw itself worked 10 years ago, but these days it feels like a fantasy land. Perhaps that’s the point since the movie is entirely populated with moments that defy what we know as reality.


Throw out everything. Physics, sociology, it's all irrelevant.
Everything from character interactions, physics, and even the movies brain dead psychology feel ingenuine. Typically in an idiotic horror movie, you can still enjoy yourself and ignore the more distracting fallacies. Not so here. Here if you’re distracted by the tv movie acting, you can’t exactly ignore it to focus on the nonsensical story. If a movie is the greater sum of its parts, ‘Jigsaw’ is a busted monster made up of garbage.

‘Jigsaw’ doesn’t even deliver on the basic necessities of the modern ‘Saw’ film. The kills are lame. Any moment of suspense feels like the movie tripped into it accidentally. It never even lasts long as you’re able to tell how something will end up 5 seconds after the situation presents itself. You know which character will do what, and why, and when, and how. ‘Jigsaw’ underestimates the intelligence of the audience, and thinks it’s serving up high-grade shock value. The only thing shocking in ‘Jigsaw’ is Tobin Bells landing strip soul patch.


It's even more unsettling on the big screen.
Blood and gore is mostly missing in this movie. It feels like someone wanted to make a PG-13 Saw movie, but couldn’t write dialogue without curse words, and just gave up. It feels sanitized, and not the fun gore fest you’d expect. I cringed once or twice at the sight of blood and winced here and there, but like a modern horror film uses a cheap jump scare, the kills and maiming in ‘Jigsaw’ feel underserved.

There’s a moment in ‘Jigsaw’ when the killer himself utters the words “The game is simple. The best ones are”. How true that remains for this series that started with chained up victims and a saw blade, and ended up with death machines to ostentatious for a Bond villain. The only good thing about ‘Jigsaw’ is it comes in at under 90 minutes. Another reason this should’ve gone straight to video. Not even Netflix, not even blu-ray, not even DVD. Video. VHS video. ‘Jigsaw’ is such a waste of time it belongs on a dead format.

Rating: Read A Book.  

Sunday, 29 October 2017

'Happy Death Day' The Perfect Halloween Treat - (2017) Review

Half Price: A really delightful horror movie. Fun, funny and light on the fright.
In 1993, there was a movie released called ‘Groundhog Day’. It starred Bill Murray, and was directed by Harold Ramis. It was about a weatherman who gets stuck repeating the same day over and over, waking up to the same song as each day restarts. Since then, a number have movies have adopted the classic’s premise for their own stories. They are the movies we refer to as “It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ but”.

It's almost as if we're stuck watching the same movie over and over.
This year alone saw the release of ‘Before I Fall’, which applied the format to a high school melodrama, and 2014’s ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ borrowed the idea for a sci-fi backdrop. This time, the day goes on repeat for a young girl named Theresa (Tree for short), except she doesn’t just fall asleep and wake up in the next day. She has to die first.

‘Happy Death Day’ takes that plot device that worked so well over twenty years ago and put it in the middle of a slasher film. Whenever the day repeats, it’s like looking at the beginning of a different horror movie each time. That makes for some very fun moments as Tree tries to figure out who’s been killing her. Never has there been a montage so gruesome as the one that's seen here, but I'm certainly glad we've reached this point in society. From this moment on montages must be this intense. Literally, life or death. 
The next Creed is gonna be wicked.  
As these movies go, Tree is a very unlikable protagonist when the film starts. It’s what makes it so satisfying to watch her die over and over. While the first 20 or so minutes of the film are a little more than tedious, it’s the price you pay for a film that really picks up in the second half. After the leg work is put in, ‘Happy Death Day’ becomes a fun, mildly scary, horror movie.

It's a movie that you don't expect to be as good as it is, while also having moments of being exactly what you thought it would be. For every surprisingly emotional performance, there was the broad over the top charicature, shallower than my bank account. 'Happy Death Day' never gets too high off the ground, but it makes for a nice float among the clouds. Sometimes, that's just what you need on the scariest day of the year.

Imagine if the Jack o Lantern's smiled with you instead of at you :)
It’s a PG-13 horror movie, with an intriguing premise, hardly any blood and gore, and only runs for about an hour and a half. It’s the perfect film to see if you want a fun movie this Halloween that won’t give you nightmares. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and highly recommend seeing it in a dark cinema, with lots of people in it. 

Rating: Half Price

'Tyler Perry's Boo! 2: A Madea Halloween' Is Not A Movie. - (2017) Review

Read A Book: Please, just make it stop.
I'm distraught.

I'm worried.

I'm scared too.

It's been a year since Tyler Perry hit a new low with his return to the Madea-verse, 'Boo!'. A movie that defies explanation for its irreverent disregard for narrative structure, character development, and humour, but made a lot of money. Now, the sequel has been released, 'Boo 2!' and I can't help but feel personally targeted. It feels like an added dose of punishment for a crime I didn't commit. I know Tyler Perry didn't make this movie for me, or that he intentionally made it as bad as it was for people like me to suffer. He made it for him. It has become my nightmare.

The face of pure evil.
I suppose it’s a recurring nightmare. Madea has long been a staple of Hollywood, and is rightfully in my mind one of the most iconic characters of the last 20 years. She is something that feels genuine, relatable, and continuously funny. Truth be told, she still is. However, this film has no claims of genuineness. It’s distinctly unfunny, and anyone who can relate to it, deserves to be clinically examined.

Just like the last time, the film is an incoherent mess that paradoxically has too much substance, and none whatsoever. So much of the film goes on and on and on and on and on and on, and on, until you find yourself nodding off, having a nice nap, and waking up to find yourself stuck in the same scene you fell asleep in. It’s not at all funny enough to keep your attention. The “jokes” are so bad, I spent more time thinking about how someone could put it to screen without pause.

The face, of pure, evil.

I genuinely do not understand the point of this film. It feels like a student film, right down to the first-time actors and a script that doesn’t even belong on YouTube. Perhaps there is no point. Tyler Perry in the outtakes shown after the credits roll, is clearly having a wonderful time. So are the rest of the people involved with the film. I’m glad he had so much fun. I certainly didn’t. Still, many who read this, have already decided they’ll see it. Madea is an icon. The film itself is one of the worst experiences I’ve had at the cinema this year. I struggled not to leave after the first 15 minutes.

Rating: Read A Book.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

32. Movie Money (17/10/17)

A solid weekend for the box office this mid October weekend. Friday the 13th landed right in Shocktober 2017, and saw the release of 'Happy Death Day', the most recent Blumhouse success story which brought in $26m this weekend on a $4.5m budget. It joins 'Split', 'Get Out', 'Annabelle Creation' and of course, 'It' as yet another horror film making an immense profit due to low budget but a good marketing presence. Unsure whether it will make for a good long term run, but it's certainly a killer opening.

'Happy Death Day''s success is 'Blade Runner 2049''s ho hum, as the 35 years in the making sequel brought it only $15.4m in its second weekend bringing its domestic total to $60.9m, under half its $150m budget, and a worldwide total of $156m. So at least its made a profit. 'The Foreigner came in at number 3, with a mere $13m opening, but its worldwide total is a gargantuan $101m, making this a complete and utter success in its first week of release and proving once again why more movies are geared towards Chinese audiences.

Rounding out the top 5 we have 'It' at #4, with $6m this week, and right behind it is 'The Mountain Between Us' bringing in $5.7m.

That's the top 5 for this week. Here's the podcast:
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Saturday, 14 October 2017

'The Foreigner' Brutally Well Balanced - (2017) Review

Big Screen Watch: I had a lot of fun watching this movie. Better than I anticipated.
Before terror strikes the cinema, there's nothing I'd like to see more than a hard-hitting revenge story, mixed with a tense political drama. Good thing this week saw the release of 'The Foreigner'. A hard-hitting revenge story mixed with a tense political drama, starring Jackie Chan. Yes, Jackie Chan, 63 years old, is blazing through the silver screen in the way most men decades younger than him couldn't even dare. Is it a good film, or is it mostly embarrassing for the old martial artist? Thankfully, it's entirely the former.

Movie Gods we thank you.
After a terrorist attack in London takes the life of innocents, Quan Ngoc Minh, played by Jackie Chan, cares only about one. The daughter caught in the attack. Consumed by rage and a penchant for vengeance, Quan decides he can't wait for bureaucracy. He has to take matters into his own hands. God help anyone who gets in his way. A privilege that belongs to Pierce Brosnan's Liam Hennessy, who already has his hands full dealing with the fallout of a terrorist attack in London. 

That's where 'The Foreigner' takes an unexpected turn. Most might be expecting 'Taken' with Jackie Chan, but in fact, Chan's journey of vengeance only takes up about a half of screen time. A surprising amount of the story is spent unraveling the mystery the movie from a political perspective. When you go in hoping to watch Jackie Chan inflict punishment, Pierce Brosnan navigating the perils of politics is a not a good consolation prize. 

Interestingly enough? Both those stories work. The film takes its time developing these two central characters so much, it often feels like you're watching two films. Both of them entertaining. The wonder is, neither stories feel underserved by the existence of the other. Martin Cambell expertly finds a balance between political thriller and action drama. Someone should get him to direct a Bond film.

Or two.
The action is not present throughout, and only enters the story when it makes the most sense. Because you're not privy to a great amount of fighting, when you do get it, it's all the more satisfying. That's much like the fight scenes themselves, as the choreography is much more concerned with the impact of the blows, than how they happen. Most times this sytle lends itself to incoherence, but here, it worked. Everything is swift, sudden. It makes Chan feel like a force of nature you can't stop. It's also of note that Jackie Chan is delivering a great performance. Its a role that asks you to root for him of course, but he's so good that the movie doesn't have to try very hard to get you to.

'The Foreigner' isn't perfect though. While there is a balance struck with the dual storyline, there's a slight issue with pacing. It takes a while before both stories find their footing, and start to converge. I didn't think this needed to be 2 hours long, and you certainly feel as though a good 20 minutes could've been cut down. The movie doesn't over explain things per se, but it does feel like a situation where more could've been done with less.

Whether you're grimacing at the pain suffered by Jackie's victims, or biting your nails for the mystery to unfold, the result is the same. Tension. 'The Foreigner' has a lot on its plate, but manages to get through its arduous meal with aplomb. It's a well acted, well directed, and infinitely compelling story. Chan and Brosnan deliver some of their best work yet.

Rating: Big Screen Watch 

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

'Kingsman:The Golden Circle' Does Everything A Sequel Shouldn't - Review (2017)

Catch It On Cable: Don't rush to see this in the cinema. If you see it at all.
It's hard to fully explain what's wrong with 'Kingsman The Golden Circle'. I'm tempted to not write a review at all. My first instinct is to posit ways I think it could've been done better. Maybe I will. For now though, I'm going to say what I thought of this movie.

Back in the directors chair for his first ever sequel, Matthew Vaughn brings us 'Kingsman The Golden Circle'. A movie that continues the high octane, wicked smart adventure of Taron Edgerton's, Egsy. A true Kingsman this time around. His mentor gone, he must face a new threat to the world, for Queen and for country. After things go explosively awry, Egsy is forced to venture cross the pond to his America counterparts, The Statesmen. Together they have to fight to preserve peace and prosperity for all mankind. Even if they can't agree on how to spell programme.

For the record.
In many ways, 'The Golden Circle' is a fine sequel. Not in the same way one admires a fine wine, but moreso that way you respond when something's wrong and you say "I'm fine". Something is wrong here, but I don't really want to talk about it. It's not the sort of egregiously bad that you care to discuss. In fact, the film does everything that your run of the mill sequel does, it just does them so poorly that the effect is something of a mess.

For starters, it's one of those films that's unfocused. Busy. Confusing. It has so many elements that go woefully underdeveloped. There's a gaggle of new characters that either do nothing, or do so little, you question their involvement. It renders them as plot devices rather than actual personalities. That's just in the second half. By the time it switches locales from London to Kentucky, the movie has already overstayed its welcome.

And much like a Kingsman, I couldn't possibly ask them to leave.
So the new stuff isn't very good, but what about the old? How do our heroes fare in their second outing? Well to be honest, not much better. Egsy is preoccupied with balancing his new relationship, and his duties as a Kingsman. That plays out as sitcommy as you might expect. Like everyone else our main character just feels ineffective. Even Colin Firth's return as Harry is not the triumphant victory that it's presented as. Most of 'Kingsman The Golden Circle' can be summed up mostly by one word: Empty.

At least the crumbs are tasty.
Something that was a huge part of the original film, was the action. Matthew Vaughn has a very distinct style, and it's certainly returned here. It's unmistakably Kingsman. When the film would irritate me the most, I could at least forget the most recent confusing moment it has, and shift my attention to the fighting. While some of the action does suffer from an overall lack of stakes, I still absolutely admired it on a technical level. There's simply nothing else like a Matthew Vaughn fight scene.

Watching 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' was like eating a pack of assorted starburst, where most of it is yellow, and every now and then a pink one shows up. It's not a film I'd rush to watch again. Perhaps I'd revisit it in the future, maybe with a new perspective on it. For now, the movie is mostly uncompelling, with a few moments that serve as saving graces. It's not bad enough to be written off completely, but there's no reason to rush out to see it if you haven't already.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.

Monday, 9 October 2017

31. Movie Money (09/10/2017)

Well this was a depressing weekend. Although not an entirely unexpected one. It was a top 5 that saw older movies fall, new movies rise, and some unimpressive numbers. Number 1 was the long awaited sequel to the 1982 classic 'Blade Runner', 'Blade Runner 2049'. It brought in $32.7m, below the $50m projections being thrown around by analysts. Worldwide, the movie has made $82.9m, which is almost the entire worldwide gross of the original film, which grossed $93.4m after inflation.

A beautiful film, with a not so beautiful opening weekend.
That's not terrible considering the competition of the next few weeks. The biggest threat is in fact 'Tyler Perry's Boo 2! A Madea Halloween'. It's likely that 'Blade Runner 2049' will maintain its hold over the box office, thanks to the stellar word of mouth its received. The issue being, $32.7m is not the best of starts, and while audiences will likely flock to what's being called one of the best films of the year, the film's 3 hour runtime might prevent it from breaking records. 


The #2 movie is 'The Mountain Between Us'. Almost certainly this films $10.1m domestic, and $13.7m worldwide take, was due to the star power of Elba and Winslet. Without them it probably wouldn't even be in the top 5. With a modest budget of $35m, it won't be a surprise to see this film break even. 'It' continues to make money, crossing $600m worldwide this week at #3. #4 was the big jump to the silver screen for 'My Little Pony', which brought in $8.8m. Finally, 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle' seems to be on its way out the top 5 with $8.1m this week, bringing its worldwide total to $253.5m. It's likely to match or fall just short of its predecessor, which finished its run at $414m worldwide.

That's it for this weeks box office, here's the podcast with Damian's mini review of Blade Runner 2049. You can read the full thing here.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

'Blade Runner: 2049' Nobody Blade Runners like Blade Runner

G.O.A.T: Is it too early to call best of the year?
It's been 35 years after 'Blade Runner' was gifted to the world. The 1982 Sci-fi noir thriller with philosophical undertones changed the face of cinema and is one of the more intelligent blockbusters there is. Since its release, many have tried to capture the film's magic. Right down to the hyper-neon, yet bleak aesthetic it was famous for. Some have come close, but nothing has really come close to a mastery of tone and world-building that made the original Blade Runner so revolutionary. Until now.

Blade Runner 2049 is not a film I wanted. I felt as though the open ending of the first film fit its themes of perception versus reality. The sequel does give viewers a few answers, but it's hardly the episodic followup I feared it would be. Instead, the movie is very much as grounded as the original. Much of the movie is spent following a new Blade Runner, this time played by Ryan Gosling. So I guess that settles it folks. We finally have a new Harrison Ford. Sorry Chris.


The tendency with sequels is to go broad. Bigger means bolder. The problem is so few of them actually provide that in a meaningful way. Blade Runner 2049 deftly subsides that problem and delivers a wider narrative much less personal than the original, but crafts it around an entirely more personal character arc. It's a beautiful synergy of plot and character development that makes 'Blade Runner 2049' feel nothing short of perfect.

You have Ryan Gosling, flexing his sullen muscles as hard as he has since 'Drive', Harrison Ford yet again returning to a long time role, and even the side characters have huge names attached to them. The thing is, you're never distracted by Robin Wright as the hard-ass lieutenant, Dave Bautista as the rogue replicant. Every piece of 'Blade Runner 2049' feels intricately woven together, working to support a greater purpose. Even Jared Leto, hair slicked back with eyes aglow, didn't take me out of the film.

Weird thing? No make up. Just how Leto walked on set. Isn't that wild?
Performances and script structure aside, 'Blade Runner 2049' is stunning. A true marvel. Denis Villenueve is a modern-day visionary. An absolutely beautiful film from start to finish. Blade Runner 2049 is one of those films I could put on with the sound completely off. Of course, then I would miss the superb sound design, score, and gripping dialogue that catapults the film into being one of my absolute favourites of the year.

Then there's, of course, Villenueve's trademark tension. Sicario. Prisoners. Arrival. Films that make their bones on chilling yours. None of that is lost here. 'Blade Runner 2049' is futuristic noir detective movie that at times shares the film sensibilities of horror. And why shouldn't it? The film already is drenched in intense darks and neon. The moments of tension feel entirely in place. The moments you feel uneasy match the sentiment of the characters.
Gifs today brought to you by 2009 NBC comedies.
It's hard not to be cynical about movies, especially as everything old becomes new again. As remakes, sequels and reboots continue to plague the art form, it's a pleasure to find one that feels like a labour of love. It's a sincere, interesting and compelling film. One that feels justified in its 3 hour runtime. Not many films these days have the sense of being a true epic. 'Blade Runner 2049' is.

Rating: G.O.A.T

Sunday, 1 October 2017

'Battle of the Sexes': 1973 or 2017? - Review (2017)

Half Price: A solid biopic, uplifting and well acted. 
The beauty of cinema is that it can transport you to a time and a place you didn't think you could experience yourself. A bygone era that is so different from the times you live in, it feels as though it took place on a different planet. 'Battle of the Sexes', a movie about the incredible tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, does not provide that sense of escapism. The picture it paints feels all too often like a self-portrait of today.

After the 2016 United States election, I can't think of a more relevant film to come out. The qualified and less charismatic Billie Jean King played by Emma Stone, against the loud bombastic Bobby Riggs, played by Steve Carrell, certainly, gives a parallel. The beauty of 'Battle of the Sexes' is the way it gives each of these counterparts a sense of identity. They're public figures, but like the best biopics, you leave the film feeling as though you knew them as people.

With one that REALLY looks like Steve Carrell.

You watch Billie Jean King go through the same journey as the heroes from sports movies past. The movie does a fantastic job of intertwining her own path, with the path of women everywhere. The tennis match itself holds little stake for the characters, but you never lose sight of how important it was for the world.

If I had one gripe with 'The Battle of the Sexes' is that it at times felt entirely too clean. The film gets into the nitty-gritty of Billie Jean's life but still feels as though it might've been holding back. The movie loses a sense of genuineness because of it. Moments come up where you're watching 'The Battle of the Sexes' and you'll be hard-pressed to forget you're watching a movie. It's a well-made movie, with great performances and a captured 70s aesthetic, but it never makes you feel immersed in its world.

A strange and bewildering world.

While I couldn't forget I was watching a movie, what a movie it was. It's definitely one that you will hear about come Oscar season, especially as it relates to the film's stellar performances. There are even a few side characters that shine, despite having little to nothing to do. Sarah Silverman as Gladys Heldman was particularly entertaining, especially considering it seemed as though she could go over the top at any given moment.

The movie tells the story of the 'Battle of the Sexes' well. You definitely understand how important it was, and you feel the struggle of the characters dealing with the extraordinary position they find themselves in. It's a movie that will no doubt serve as an inspiration to many, even if it feels slightly disingenuous at times. I'd say it's worth your time, but maybe at a discount.

Rating: Half Price




Tuesday, 26 September 2017

30. Movie Money 25/09/2017

September continues to be a great time for the movies, with some new blood bringing in waves of cinemagoers to the box office, and familiar faces doing almost as well. First off, the number 1 movie this week was 'Kingsman: The Golden Circle', bringing in just under $40m, with a debut of $39m, which is just about the same amount of the first 'Kingsman'. It's not gangbusters, especially considering the sequel cost $20m more to make. Still, overseas the film has been doing pretty well and is already on track to reach its $104m budget, with a worldwide total of $100m.

Sequel brings home just about the same amount as the original

The number 2 movie is Stephen King's 'It' with a weekend take of $29.7m. You might've heard this week that 'It' is now the most successful horror movie of all time, surpassing 'The Exorcist', however, inflation still contends that to be false. While 'It' has a very impressive $266m domestic gross, and a worldwide total of $478m, surpassing this years 'War for the Planet of the Apes', it still doesn't hold a candle to the whopping $983.2m held by 'The Exorcist'. Still though, it makes for a good headline.

The king.

Number 3 went to 'Lego Ninjago' with a disappointing $20.4m. A soft start for the kid's movie with a $70m budget, especially with international numbers only bringing the worldwide total to less than half that budget at $30m. Number 4 was 'American Assassin' which brought in $6m this weekend and a worldwide total of $32m, not even reaching it's modest $33m budget. Number 5 is the most controversial movie of the year 'mother!' with a weekend total of $3.2m bringing its worldwide total to $25m, shy of its $30m budget. Sad times for numbers 3 - 5. Better luck next time!

That's the report and as always, here's the podcast episode, which, due to being recorded on Sunday, has a few outdated results.

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

29. Movie Money 19/09/2017

The box office numbers this weekend weren't nearly as disparate this week, but there was still a sizeable gap between the #1 movie, and its company in the top 5. Of course the #1 movie was 'It', with $60.1m, a 50% drop from last weeks huge opening. That's a spectacular second weekend, and the movie has made $218.8m domestically and a tremendous $372.3m worldwide. It's easily going to crack $400m within the week, and the weekend will probably see it gaining further beyond that. For context, 'It' is now more successful than the entire run of 'Cars 3', 'The Lego Batman Movie', 'Alien Covenant', in only its second week. Not bad for a $35m budget.

Not everyone could be so fortunate this season.

For the rest of the top 5, #2 on the list is 'American Assassin', with an opening of $14.8m, and a worldwide gross just shy of $21m. The action spy thriller will probably go past its moderate budget of $33m, but it's not likely to make huge amounts of money. #3 is the controversial 'mother!' which opened with $7.5m domestically, and a worldwide gross of $13.5m. The budget of $30m will likely be covered, but the arthouse film doesn't look to be translating with general audiences.

Finally, #4 is Reese Witherspoon's 'Home Again' at $5.1m bringing its domestic gross to $16.9, more than covering its $12m budget. #5 goes to 'Hitman's Bodyguard', the film that just won't go away. $3.5m was its weekend earning, bringing its domestic gross to $70.4m, and its worldwide total to $141.8m. Almost triple its $30m budget.

That's all for this weeks report. Here's the podcast:

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Friday, 15 September 2017

'American Assassin' Is As Dull As It Gets - (2017) Review

Read A Book: You're better off staying home, saving your money.
'American Assassin' is a mess. Not a great way to start a review. You can probably tell where this is going. It's the story of 'Mitch Rapp', played by 'The Maze Runner' himself, Dylan O'Brien. A tragic, superhero-esque origin story sees Rapp lose the love of his life to a mass shooting on the beach. It's told in graphic detail and is likely to evoke some intense reactions from the audience. For anyone looking to escape the all too frequent tragedies on the nightly news, perhaps skip 'American Assassin'.


As hard as it is to watch, for the first half of the film, the violence feels earned. Rapp becomes a vigilante, touring the world to stop evil, one terror cell at a time. You understand his motivations clearly, and Dylan O'Brien gives a good portrayal of a man with Punisher levels of unprocessed grief. It's also in that first half that 'American Assassin' has one of the more interesting training montages I've seen in a while, as Rapp develops his relationship with Michael Keaton's character, Stan Hurley. A man who has the training style of Mr. Miyagi, but the bloodlust of John Rambo.

For a while, it seemed like my worst fears about 'American Assassin' were gone. The film had maintained my interest, given me decent characters, and interesting action. It had defied comparisons to Jason Bourne, and other spy thrillers and become its own animal. Unfortunately, it soon devolved into one of the least interesting movies of this kind I've seen in a long time, with a tepid second half that devours the impression made by the first.

The only people who might suffer more than the audience is the cast. They're flung into a movie that takes itself far too seriously and doesn't have the legitimacy to back it up. The actors are left to give it their all, for a story that ultimately amounts to nothing. It has nothing new, or even compelling to say about the war on terror, and in fact, is even outdated in certain aspects. Had 'American Assassin' come out in 2008, starred Shia LaBeouf, and a Gene Hackman, it would've been exactly the same film.

Eagle Eye 2: The Revenge
The more 'American Assassin' goes on, the worse it gets. It builds up a certain level of goodwill and feels like a spy thriller for the modern day. This generation's international man of mystery, with an axe to grind. It turns out to be quite the opposite, as by the end of the movie, 'American Assassin' revisits tropes from the early 2010s, the mid to late 2000s, and even has an ending that even the action movies of the 90s would call too extreme. For a film that’s based on a book, it’s probably best that you stay home and read one.

Rating: Read A Book.


Wednesday, 13 September 2017

28. Movie Money 11/09/2017: It Wins Big

Ladies and gentlemen rejoice, for the box office has been saved! It seems Pennywise the clown used his powers of allurement on the audiences this weekend as the Stephen King adaptation took home $123.4m domestically, and a worldwide opening of $189m. That's gargantuan for a horror movie, an R rated movie, a September release, and just a fall release in general. No one could have predicted that the film would be such a monster at the box office when it was announced that a remake of a cult 1990s miniseries would be hitting theatres.

Seems like everyone wanted to float with the clown this weekend. 

'IT' will no doubt continue to dominate the box office in the weeks to come but it won't be as easy as it was this week. The competition this past weekend was practically nonexistent with its most threatening rival being Reese Witherspoon's 'Home Again' which brought in $8.5m at #2. #3 went to 'Hitman's Bodyguard with $4.8m, and just barely beat out 'Annabelle Creation' by $800k. 'Wind River' took the #5 spot and has made a comfortable $25m gross, which is more than enough for a film that cost $11m to make. 

That means that 75% of the box office went to 'It', with numbers that were more than double the combined total of last weeks top 5, at $42.8m. With a budget of $35m, 'It' is already one of the best successes of the year, and will only grow. Audience reactions and critical reception have all been good, and word of mouth, plus an absolutely stellar marketing campaign, will leave 'It' to float in the top 5 for many weeks to come. 

Here's the podcast discussion where I give my mini review of 'IT'. The full review can be seen here.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

'IT' (2017) Review: Float On



After what seemed like the dryest movie period in years, finally, there is something exciting happening at the cinemas. It may be a remake of a miniseries adapted from a novel, but still, it's something. Stephen King's 'It' tells the story of Derry, a town cursed with mysterious disappearances of children. After his brother Georgie meets such a fate, Billy recruits his friends on a mission to find out what happened. On their journey, they come to find the orchestrator of their demise, the ravenous, and infinitely creepy Pennywise, the dancing clown. 

Teaching kids everywhere that clowns, are not to be trusted.

'It' shares much with the recent offerings of horror. It focuses on children as its victims/heroes, and it relies on jump scares to give the thrills the audience demands. There's also the unfortunate instance of characters acting far too calmly in the presence of danger, that renders most horror pictures tepid. 'It' succumbs to these and other horror trappings, but has plenty going on that lets it stand out. 

Chief among those is Pennywise. I can't recall the last time a horror film has seen fit to give its narrative a true antagonist. A face to the terror. While this isn't the first time Pennywise has been given life, I dare say it's a far more chilling one than Tim Curry's best effort. What Bill SkarsgĂ„rd does is give a performance that feels developed. Pennywise is sinister, charming, jovial, and horrifying, sometimes at the turn of a dime. 
Or I suppose some other coin would do.

His counterparts, the kids in the film, are perhaps just as engaging. 'It' is more of an adventure film than a true horror movie, with the children feeling like soldiers being called off to war at times. I appreciated how distinct each of their personalities was. It made it easier to get to know them, their fears, their desires, their identities. Once that was done, you could fear for their lives, and the film achieves the tension it needs. 

But what 'It' giveth, 'It' surely taketh away. As much as you root for Bill and the rest of Mystery Inc, there are times when the movie feels downright imbalanced. Pennywise goes from being an unstoppable demon god, to a very stoppable clown. This is not a new issue. For the clown to be scary, he needs to seem like he can't be stopped. For you to root for the kids, he needs to feel like he can. 'It' doesn't seem to be able to reconcile those two necessities, and feels jarring when it flip flops between them. 

Still, I did get swept up in the narrative of 'It'. The film had a number of unique and interesting design choices that you don't often see in horror. The type of stuff that disturbs and unsettles you while watching it. The movie does a great job of immersing you in the terror and uses the camera well to put you in the moment as a participant, rather than just an observer. Then a jump scare happens and you're taken out of the experience. 

With characters, you care for, and an antagonist you revel in watching, ‘It’ has more than most horror films these days even bother to consider. While it still has many of the failings that plague the genre today, it still manages to be a good time, with some truly impressive visuals you should see on the big screen.


Rating: Big Screen Watch.


Monday, 4 September 2017

27. Movie Money 04/09/2017



Well Labour Day weekend 2017 for the US came, and rather than give the film industry a much-needed assist, it proved to be one of the worst weekends of the year thus far. The holiday did provide something of a push to the films of the weekend, giving #1 movie 'Hitman's Bodyguard' an additional $2.8m for a four day total of $13.3m. The rest of the top 5, however, couldn't even muster $10m, with 'Annabelle Creation' coming the closest with $9.3m.

That means, cumulatively, the top 5 of the US domestic box office, over the course of the 4 day weekend, brought in $42.8m. Less than the budget of the emoji movie. Why did this happen? Well, August has never been a hotbed for film releases. It's the end of the summer, beginning of fall, and not many studios experience a lot of success with the films they put out.

The thing about that is, that's a trend that had been coming to an end as of recent. Guardians of the Galaxy cleaned house in August of 2014, and so did Suicide Squad last year. Reason being, August is typically such a dead period for film, they had nothing to compete against them. Contrast that to this year, when for the last three weeks, the biggest films were a horror movie, and an R rated action comedy, neither of which are known to draw the huge audiences that a PG-13 popcorn flick might've.

Hitman's Bodyguard certainly has made much more than it would've thanks to the dry period.

If only films like 'Alien Covenant' or 'War for the Planet of the Apes' had opened up in August, rather than in the shadow of huge Marvel movies, like 'Guardians of the Galaxy 2' for 'Alien Covenant', and 'Spider-Man Homecoming' for 'War for the Planet of the Apes'. Maybe then you'd be hearing more about the future of those franchises.

That's all for this weeks report. You can listen to the podcast below to hear that, and our breakdown of the summer so far at the box office.

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Sunday, 3 September 2017

'Unlocked' (2017) Review: Unseen, Unremembered

C.I.O.C: This week in films no one will care about or see!
There are movies that stick with you, lingering on for days, weeks, months, even years after you leave the cinema. Movies that will go so far as to influence the way people think or act. Movies that become a part of a culture. Then there are movies like 'Unlocked', which as I write this, I struggle to even recount it, much less review it. The type of movie that, much like the content covered in this spy thriller, will go unseen by most, as if it never even happened.


We hardly knew ye.

While I was watching 'Unlocked' I did find myself enjoying the events as they unfolded. The film opens with a snapshot of the diversity of London life. People from all walks of life interacting with one another. The film's plot involves CIA agent Alice Racine, as she is brought it to interrogate a suspect in a potential terrorist threat. While there seems to be the foundation of a film that could provide a meaningful look at Islamaphobia, racial bias, and other issues surrounding the subject matter, 'Unlocked' has neither the deftness nor the intelligence to provide it.

That can be best explained by its main character. Alice Racine is quite possibly one of the impossibly smartest stupid characters there is. Throughout the film, she will be referred to by others for her incredible skills, skills which she will no doubt demonstrate, only to make a mistake that wouldn't get by a twelve-year-old. The plot more or less follows this line of thinking, having moments of brilliance, but then devolving into convention and cliche at the drop of a hat embedded with classified information. It feels like it's playing dress up as a spy movie

I was almost fooled.
Action in the movie is fine, and it does a good job of moving from point a to point b, but you don't really care about the film as it goes on. Alice has some personal demons that are only dealt with on the surface level, not that I was invested enough to go much deeper than that. 'Unlocked' is not bad enough to be offensive, in fact, I almost wish it were. The worst movies aren't the ones that make your blood boil, they're the ones that leave no impression at all.

The saving grace of the film is it's impossibly stellar cast. Clearly, there seems to have been a mix up of sorts, as the film is filled with extremely heavy hitters. Toni Collette, Michael Douglas, John Malkovich, Noomi Rapace, so many accomplished and entertaining forces of acting prowess in this film. Orlando Bloom is also there. The script doesn't give them much to do besides carrying out a cartoonish and cliched depiction of international espionage, but even at his worst Michael Douglas can deliver a line. Overall, if I were to see this on television, I wouldn't hate it. It's a short film, only 98-minutes long, that is perfectly fine if you catch it on cable.

Rating: Catch It On Cable.


Sunday, 27 August 2017

'The Hitman's Bodyguard' (2017) Review: Genuine Article

Half Price: The antics of the two leads more than make up for the film's shortcomings

When a movie gets too self-aware for its own good, it can go either way. They can be fiendishly clever playing on the tropes of its genre, or it can feel like it reaches for brilliance, but never quite makes the mark. 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' might fall into the latter camp, but that's not to say there's no fun to be had with this R Rated action comedy.

Watching Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L Jackson play themselves was more rewarding than I expected. It really ought to be, since it's the roles they know best, and to their credit, the duo plays off each other like the dream team 90s buddy comedies they're trying to emulate. They have a hysterical back and forth as they riddle their enemies with bullets, the same way the script is riddled with plot holes and exposition. Then again, anyone who complains about such things is a stuffy film snob who has no business seeing 'The Hitman's Bodyguard'

"Hmph. Ask me I say a woman superhero is a step backwards for cinema"

The roles of the film are in the title. Jackson plays the Hitman, Reynolds the bodyguard. The two are mortal enemies from the start of the film and share a storied history. The bodyguard protects, from the hitman. Their relationship in the movie is marked by constant bickering, and with a clear "you and I couldn't be more different" buddy movie dynamic. All you need is a Jackson munching on a carrot and Ryan Reynolds with a lisp, and I'd mark this a quiet release of an R Rated Looney Tunes cartoon.

Reverse the roles and the resemblance is uncanny.

Yet despite how obvious it would be, I found there was a charm to the film. Sometimes, there's nothing more that I'd like to do than be transported to the world that looks like mine, but without the negatives. There's violence in this film, but you'll never feel your heroes are in any grave danger. For a movie that felt as though it was going to buck the trends of its genre, 'Hitman's Bodyguard' is quite comfortable doing the same old thing. While familiarity usually breeds contempt, I appreciated the film for at least delivering an entertaining ride, even if it doesn't reinvent the wheel.

I mean they pretty much nailed it the first time.

It's not that I'm giving the film a pass for its errors, but for the entire experience, I'd say its issues were minor. The second half of the film especially capitalizes on the film's strengths. It gives you more of what you like, the witty banter, implausible action, and does it in a way that wasn't just a distraction from the film's errors, but genuinely impressive. The movie crafts some truly interesting action scenes that reward the attentive viewer, even if the rest of the movie lacks that level of intelligence.

'The Hitman's Bodyguard' is a movie that knows exactly what it wants to be, and for the most part, achieves that. The best thing it does is lets its two leads, Jackson and Reynolds, run the show they were meant to run. When the movie's about to overindulge in their performances, it provides a decent ridiculous action movie. Kudos should also be given to Selma Hayek, who was easily my favourite performance in the film. 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' is not a film for the ages, but what it is, is a harmless, fun, creative, and entertaining film you should see at a discount.

Rating: Half Price