Category Archives: Reviews

Rapid Review: Alien Covenant

Alien_Covenant_Teaser_Poster

I was actually quite hopeful about the latest Alien prequel as I heard reports that it was better than 2012’s Prometheus. However I forgot how low a bar that was. So while Covenant is indeed better than it’s predecessor it’s nowhere near as satisfying as it should be.

It starts promising with the Colony ship Covenant damaged during it’s voyage and it’s crew making the unwise decision to investigate a radio transmission from a nearby planet. The characters are thinly drawn but it goes along OK and there are some gory scenes when the aliens do make some appearances. However once David (Michael Fassbender) appears sprouting the creation/creator philosophy nonsense that was so prevalent in Prometheus the film goes downhill. Instead of intense action/horror scenes we have Michael Fassbender playing opposite himself as the two identical androids (the Covenant ship’s android Walter and the android from Prometheus David) which devolves into some weird Michael Fassbender fan fiction. Add in some really stupid decisions by certain characters and a final twist that the audience would have spotted a mile off and you get a lacklustre result. The GCI effects of the Xenomorph and some of the other creatures are also disappointing.

Rating 2.5/5 – a solid start descends into a less than stellar result

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Rapid Review: Their Finest

Their_Finest

Set in Britain during the Second World War, Their Finest centres on a young woman named Catrin (Gemma Arterton) who is hired to write morale boosting films for the Ministry of Information.

It’s hard to define this film into one category, it’s a behind the scenes drama with some comedic elements and insights into the way women’s roles were changing during this period. Small moments of sexism are all in a normal working day for Catrin as she hired to write ‘slop’ (women’s dialogue). Rather than this being an ‘issue’ film these elements are woven naturally into the story and it’s a fascinating insight into the work behind these propaganda and moral boosting films. I can imagine there are scenes that scriptwriters are all too familiar with such as producers making changes to the script or finding out their American lead (Jake Lacey) can’t act. These scenes are much more engaging than the sub plot with Catrin’s artist husband (Jack Houston) which feels a bit by the numbers.

Director Lone Scherfig brings the 40’s to life without hitting us over the heads with it, and captures the confusion and panic of living through the Blitz whilst its characters have to get on with everyday matters like finding work. She also brings out the best from her cast. Arterton is a sympathetic and likeable lead who can easily go between comedy and drama and has good chemistry with Sam Clafin as her co-writer Tom Buckley, who is sometimes infuriated and also infatuated with Catrin. As always Bill Nighy is great as an actor who still wants to be cast as the handsome lead despite his age. He steals scenes with his comedic one liners but is also poignant in some of the more sombre scenes.

Rating 4/5 – a great British drama that’s a welcome relief for anyone who wants a break from the blockbusters

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Fast and Furious 8

Fast and Furious 8

Otherwise known as The Fate of the Furious in the States, the eighth (!) installment in the franchise has already passed the one billion mark at the box office. This time around Dom (Vin Diesel) has seemingly turned his back on family (get used to this word being used a lot) and joined up with the evil Cipher (Charlize Theron). Can the team foil Cipher’s evil plot and bring Dom back into the fold?

Ah The Fast and The Furious movies, where logic and science goes to die. But the series is obviously doing something right with audiences scrambling to see the adventures of Dom and co. I admit the Fast and Furious movies starting from Fast Five have become something of a guilty pleasure of mine and this latest offering works best when it plays to the series strengths. One of it’s biggest strengths is Dwayne Johnson who brings charisma and entertainment as law man Luke Hobbs, Johnson looks like he doesn’t take any of the film too seriously and is having fun with the ridiculousness of it all. Trading insults with Jason Statham’s Deckard- the last film’s villain now possible good guy?-is one of the more enjoyable parts of the films. When the series has fun and goes from one insane set up to another it’s easy to get swept up in it all.

However the film gets bogged down with too much focus on Dom and Cipher- the least interesting part of the movie. Poor Theron does her best but Cipher and her monologues are a bore. The film suffers whenever it tries to play it seriously and an overlong climax also starts to wear any audience good will. Suspension of belief is already needed to get your head around the gang’s zany schemes but around the time Hobbs grabs a tornado with his hands you start wondering if the filmmakers ever reject an idea for being too ridiculous. Or maybe in the F&F world every idea is a good idea. Also the fact that Deckard murdered Han in the previous movie seems to be forgotten about. Justice for Han!

Not as deliciously bonkers as the 5th and 6th installments and lacks the emotional edge of the 7th. While the 8th will probably go down as the most profitable I doubt it will be the most popular one.

Rating 3/5 – Dom’s ‘family’ have still got it but the series will need to shape up for future installments

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Rapid Review: The Belko Experiment

the belko experiment

You think you had a bad day at work?  At Belko Industries eighty employees are left terrified when their office building suddenly blocks all the windows and exits. Then a mysterious voice announces starts announcing that the employees need to start killing each other, otherwise no one will make it out alive. Cue employees being divided into those who want to get help and those who want to follow the instructions.

So this is basically Battle Royale in the workplace. For the its first half The Belko Experiment is interesting enough, with lots of black humour to help through all the deaths. It also made me jump with all the exploding heads and gunshot wounds (warning it is gory for those who prefer their horror gore free). It’s also only 88 minutes long which means it doesn’t over stay its welcome.

However despite the office setting it’s a bit disappointing that most of the deaths come from gunshot wounds, it would have been a better movie if it was more inventive. The majority of the characters are thinly drawn with only Dany (Melonie Diaz) being particularly memorable as the new girl having the worst first day ever. The mystery surrounding who the voice is and why they are doing this to the employees is also a let down. If The Belko Experiment had more of a satirical slant about cut throat office politics then it may have been more memorable.

Rating 3/5 – decent enough but perhaps better waiting for it to show up on Netflix

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Rapid Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

ghost in the shell

In the new future the difference between human and machine blurs as humans use cybernetics to enhance themselves. Among even them is Major (Scarlett Johansson), the first of kind as the sole survivor of a terrorist attack who has her mind placed in a mechanical body.  Now working as a super soldier with very few memories of her past Major finds herself facing an enemy who may know more about her then she thinks.

Before it was even released Ghost in the Shell, which is based on a Japanese anime, faced criticism for whitewashing its main character. It’s a shame that the film didn’t take the ‘risk’ in casting an Asian actress in the role but I’m not sure even that would have been enough to save this film.

It’s not an out-and-out disaster for example there are some nice visual effects on display and the opening fight scene which includes a creepy geisha bot is good. The idea of he cybernetic enhancements could have led to some really interesting themes about the blurred lines between humans and robots  and what really makes someone human. Unfortunately none of these plot threads anywhere compelling and the film is devoid of much originality. A shame really because from what I understand of the anime and manga it had a huge influence on a lot of talented people like the the Wachowski siblings. Ghost in the Shell also has the misfortune of being released after a whole host of films and TV shows have successfully explored the same thing (Ex Machina, Westworld and Humans to name but a few). It also doesn’t help that Major is by her nature a blank slate, which is not a criticism of Johansson’s acting who is fine in the role, but it’s hard to root for a character who is mostly emotionless.

Rating 2.5/5 – a missed opportunity by Hollywood this sci-fi actioner lacks substance and originality

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Power Rangers

Power_Rangers_(2017_Official_Theatrical_Poster)

Five high school students discover an ancient spaceship and they must become Power Rangers in order to prevent an attack by the evil Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks). It’s morphin time!

Ah yes the popular 90’s kid show is back on the big screen. This time the do-gooder teens are introduced in a Breakfast Club type situation and all come from different cliques. We have Jason/Red Ranger (Dacre Montgomery) the jock, Kimberly/Pink Ranger (Naomi Scott) the popular girl, Billy/Blue Ranger (RJ Cyler) the smart one, Zack/Black Ranger (Ludi Lin) the rebel and Trini/Yellow Ranger (Becky G) the loner. Attempts are made to give the Power Rangers some personality to varying degrees of success. Billy/Blue Ranger is the most likeable as the geeky one who is the most excited about being a Ranger. Jason/Red Ranger is the least interesting as a former jock with the obligatory father issues-yawn!

You can feel the film trying to be more modern and diverse such as giving us Power Rangers that are autistic and LGBT and making them sympathetic and relatable. However the LGBT moment is a blink and you miss it, so while the intention is good, you half wonder why they bother. It’s just a shame the film couldn’t take more risks in more areas and be more than a by the numbers adventure.

It might not be so glaring if the action were up to standard, but while the Rangers discovering and testing their new-found powers are enjoyable the majority of the movie is afraid to be fun. The climatic action scenes are underwhelming and you don’t get that wow feeling when the Rangers morph for the first time. It’s almost as if fun is a dirty word.

Still Elizabeth Banks brings enjoyable campness to the villainous Rita Repulsa. Of course she is nowhere near as hammy as the screeching T.V version, but she is the only one to revel in the ridiculous of the premise.

 

Rating 2.5/5 – Banks and Cyler aside this Superhero franchise is average at best

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Rapid Review: Life

Life_(2017_film)

Six members of the International Space Station find evidence of life on Mars. However as the organism grows and develops it would appear that this discovery could be deadly!

Life starts off very tense as you wonder what this new being is and what does it want? The scene where Calvin (yes they named the organism Calvin!) reacts badly for the first time is nail-biting and horrific. As the film carries on you really squirm with every bone crunching and blood splatter moment that happens. There are also some good surprises which I wasn’t expecting to happen.

However after a solid start in the second half the pace starts to drop and the action slows down. Despite attempts to give each character a bit of back story and depth they still manage to do really stupid things. For example the idea of ‘let’s poke an alien life form and see how it reacts!’-spoiler it ends badly. You also can’t help but feel this film might be received better if everyone wasn’t waiting for Alien: Covenant to arrive.

Rating 3.5 – tense and gripping at times but not original enough to really stand out

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