Friday, 23 June 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight - A Random And Rambling Rant

Stop the Bayhem!

Did you know that the robots in disguise have been more than meets the eye as dragons during the Dark Ages? Did you know that Merlin was a drinker and looked a lot like Stanley Tucci? Did you know that 2 hours and thirty minutes can seem like an eternity when Michael Bay is calling the shots?

Anyone expecting a well structured, coherent, eloquent, fully researched and reasoned 500 or so words related to the latest chapter in the big screen outings of Transformers may wish to look elsewhere. Clearly director Michael Bay doesn't give a shit about structure, coherence or reason so why should anyone else.

How can anyone make the concept of giant fighting robots so bone crushingly dull? 

The Last Knight follows pretty much the same path as the other bot bashing clusterfrick flicks, except most likely due to the many writers credited with the "script" there are four main "plots" all fighting and failing for viewers attention. But shock, horror, Bay gives less of a shit about narrative, good dialogue or well drawn characters as that all gets in the way of the IMAX friendly eye candy of explosions, more explosions and some more explosions.

On a side note seeing the film in standard 2D contains constant shifts in ratios it will likely become a drinking game for people who desire any excuse to get drunk will watching this crap.

The editing is also typical of Bay's attention deficit disorder yet he can leave a shot of slow-mo explosion without a cut but a character talking requires 3 different angles and 4 cuts within 5 seconds. 

So much stuff happens on the screen all the time that it is practically impossible to understand exactly what is going on, how is it happening and more importantly why.

The where is always clear as if the title cards didn't give a suitable hint the key tourist friendly landmarks are always in the distance as things get explody.

Marky Mark, Laura Haddock and the cast are giving their all in a film that really doesn't care about what they're saying or doing and Sir Anthony Hopkins is presumably there to give the exposition the gravitas it really doesn't deserve.

Plucky youngster Izabella (Isabela Moner) feels like a character created during an early draft of the script long before knights of the round-table, WW2 era Bumblebee and Evil Optimus Prime were added. In the final film her early introduction hints are a totally different movie, potentially a new interesting take on the rock'em sock'em robot film. It is a shame focus shifts from her and reverts back to the well worn Bay trend of boys and their toys and having too many characters trying to be the funny one.

Humour has never been the franchises strong point and here it is beyond cringe inducing.... not in a David Brent way sadly.

On the plus side the film is less leering towards the female form and the racial stereotypes aren't quite as offensive as previous outings....which is something.....I guess. Most film makers would consider this growth and maturity but I can only presume like most other things Michael Bay doesn't give a shit.

In conclusion, long story short; Transformers: The Last Knight is not the worst of the terrible Transformer series. Although that is like saying a punch to the head is better than a kick in the nards.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Baby Driver - Review

Fast cars, thumping tunes, percussive shooting and orchestrated mayhem.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a highly skilled getaway driver, always to be found wearing sunglasses and an iPod plugged into his ears when stuck behind the wheel of motor vehicle there isn't anyone faster across the mean streets of Atlanta.

But as the long standing debt owed to boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) is almost paid up Baby hopes to start a crime free life, ideally one accompanied by waitress Debora (Lily James).

Unfortunately Baby has forgotten about the obligatory "one last job" and is forced to assist Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González) and Bats (Jamie Foxx) in a final heist.

Written and directed by Edgar Wright, Baby Driver is his first feature shot in the US and is a clear homage to all the classic crime action dramas that the film maker grew up watching. The visual style and wit of Wright is obvious to anyone who has seen his previous flicks (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The Worlds End and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) yet something less obvious is the effectiveness and power of what is heard as part of his storytelling toolbox.

As the film rattles along at a fair old rate of knots Wright's careful attention to detail and pre-production planning allow for every scene, be it action or dialogue driven, to move in near clockwork precision. For those paying attention (aka film nerds) it is possible to look at the skill of the production design, cinematography, editing and everything else, everyone else (aka normal people) can just sit back and enjoy the treats in sound and vision form.

They are blended to near perfection in Baby Driver, evident quite early on during the opening title sequence featuring Baby on a coffee run for his crew making his way down the bustling street while background signs and graffiti display portions of the lyrics of the song Baby is busting a move or two to.

Baby's tinnitus aka his "hum in the drum" device is a slick almost organic way to allow for the heists to be played out with musical accompaniment. 

Crammed with a pub jukeboxes worth of music tracks from across the decades the action within Baby Driver is intrinsically linked with the songs. To the point where the firing of weaponry is choreographed to ring out in time with the likes of Tequila.

What could be a film of style over content Wright's script offers up a few neat plot surprises and has crafted well rounded characters that often defy genre conventions.

There is an almost timeless quality to the period the film is set in, not quite present day but a time where iPods are everywhere and muscle cars roam the streets instead of hybrids. It is a film for the GTA generation that shows the bloody ramifications from crime.

Elgort makes for a solid lead and does have a whiff of the calm and cool demeanour of Ryan O'Neil from Walter Hill's The Driver the biggest influence on Wright's latest. Except where Hill's crime yarn focused on a cat and mouse plot, Baby is more a mouse caught up in and often witness to an increasingly more violent and deadly life. The rest of the cast are clearly having a ball spitting out slick dialogue and getting into the thick of the action, although there isn't nearly enough of Jon Bernthal and Flea.

Where it slightly stumbles is towards the films final act as all the nifty visual/audible flair and dynamic action beats can't hide a dip in the plots momentum. Yet it is a minor blip in an otherwise fast moving, finely crafted crime drama with edge of the seat action.

Although much like all his previous works repeat viewings of Baby Driver are mandatory and likely to throw up a barrage of cinephile nuggets and treats.

In conclusion, crime may not always pay but if you're looking for a rollicking ride with some killer tracks you'll certainly get your moneys worth seeing Baby Driver on the big screen.

Monday, 12 June 2017

The Diary of a Nobody

Bonneville's one man show.

Bank clerk Charles Pooter (Hugh Bonneville) is a family man who likes to talk about the events of his life in Victorian times.

Viewers get an insight into one mans struggles with class, status, marriage and parenting from way back when.

Told in a series of monologues over the course of four half hour episodes adapted by renowned writer Andrew Davies from the original works by George and Weedon Grossmith.

Shot with simplicity by director Susanna White The Diary of a Nobody shows off the skills of Bonneville as he gives great depth and humour to Pooter.

From purely the perspective of the patriarch we get a feeling for all the people around him and simultaneously get an insight into the man himself. How many times have we all woken up the morning after the night before and blamed a bad head on something we ate instead of the alcohol that was also consumed....?

The series is funny, touching and still surprisingly relevant. It is a shame there aren't any extra features but the show alone is more than enough value for money.

In conclusion, a witty script, a fantastic performance and an interesting production The Diary of a Nobody is out on DVD now.

Monday, 5 June 2017

A Family Man

Work to live or live to work?

Dane Jensen (Gerard Butler) is a headhunter, a pushy, smooth talking, fast thinking headhunter for a successful job placement company run by Ed Blackridge (Willem Dafoe). Yet for all energy he Dane puts into his career it is at the detriment to his home life. A loving wife Elise (Gretchen Mol) and two children are left to deal with a husband/father who spends more time on his phone than sat down for breakfast.

But just as the career opportunity he has fought so hard for comes into sight Dane is forced to decide what is more important in his life. His family or his career.

Aside from the terrible title A Family Man is a nicely crafted drama directed by Mark Williams with an impressive cast list. Alison Brie and Alfred Molina give great support as Dane's main rival and hardest placement.

Written by Bill Dubuque, who also wrote The Accountant (another on the nose title), the drama unfolds throwing plenty of hurdles in front of the titular family man and for the most part avoids being too saccharine or twee.

It makes a change seeing Butler in a less action filled role and while his American accent isn't getting any better he makes for a charming lead. Sadly there is very little of Alison Brie to be found here, as a fan of Community I find this face almost criminal.

Although even if the time on screen given to her, Molina and Dafoe is limited they all make the most of it bringing dimension to potentially wafer thin characters.

Gretchen Mol is also worth a mention as she is given more to do in this film as a mother/wife than similarly themed flicks have done in the past.

Where the film succeeds in its engaging characters caught up in difficult decisions. Where it fails is how neatly some of the resolutions happen during the final act. In the whole however it is a charming and uplifting yarn.

In conclusion, thanks to a top notch cast A Family Man is a much needed feel good flick and is available on iTunes, Amazon Video, GooglePlay, Xbox Video Store and Sony now.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Who Is Walking On Thin Ice

What lies beneath the Thames & should we care?

A somewhat out of place elephant greets Bill and The Doctor as they find themselves and the TARDIS have landed smack bang in the middle of a wintry 1814 with the River Thames frozen over and a Frost Fair on top of it. But before they have time to sample much of the local delicacies they quickly discover some of the locals being eaten by something underneath.

Thin Ice by Sarah Dollard is part a fishy monster of the week tale and part the obligatory new companions first experience of the past. Unlike previous passengers Bill is most fearful of the butterfly effect and has a very difficult time dealing with an innocent boys death.

Melanin and historical whitewashing are nicely referenced in an episode that doesn't do much in terms of action or horror but has a fair bit to say about the human condition and occasionally the Time Lord condition too.

Mackie is settling into things very well and bounces of Capaldi in both the funny and more dramatic moments. Even if The Doctors status shifts awkwardly from teacher to apparent subordinate.

Yet again though the main plot feels very inconsequential and seemingly just there to string  a couple of nice talky scenes together. The sequence involving everyones favourite Time Lord, the psychic paper and a dimwit in authority is a slight twist on something we've seen done many times previously.

It just lacked much of a dramatic punch for most of the episodes length and it is something that has become a recurring theme with the show.

I'm having a bit of a problem with this series so far (if I'm honest its been the last series or two too) and it is becoming more frustrating as a long time fan of the show. Every week I still have that wide eyed hope that the subsequent 45 minutes are going to be a roller-coaster of emotions with ideas, concepts and developments that I could never expect or predict.

So far the series feels like it is coasting. Just having a new person by The Doctors side is not enough. Where is the imagination? The warmth? The genuine wit? There are still moments but they're all so fleeting they feel like afterthoughts for a show that should be must see and not "oh yeah, I nearly forgot it was on".

The vault mystery subplot could be a step in the right direction. Although if it just turns out to be The Master I'm going to be a little pi$$ed.

In conclusion, not great, not bad, just run of the mill although it does get an extra point for including The Doctor punching a racist ar$ehole right in the kisser and losing one for not letting Bill be the one that does it.

Friday, 28 April 2017

The Difficult Second Volume

Have the Guardians turned their sequel up to 11?

Heroic manchild Peter "Star-Lord" Quill, smack talking critter Rocket, rock hard straight man Drax, butt kicking extraordinaire Gamora and the teeny tiny incarnation of Groot are back. Having saved the galaxy once now the Guardians must do it yet again.

But in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 it isn't going to be as easy the first time as family woes in all shapes and forms cause rifts within the group and if they're not careful the universe may end before the mix tape of 70s and 80s tunes even gets going.

Follow ups are hard, expectations, hopes and pressures following a success, especially somewhat of a surprising one can often lead to disappointment.

For a studio often cited for being too safe at best or dull at worst Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy was a bold and brash affair that flipped two V's with a cast of lovable rouges. Much if not all of the credit goes to James Gunn, a film maker known for a nice line in irrelevance and anarchy. From the opening credits many fears and worries are quashed as Volume 2 kicks off with a beautifully realised set piece using Mr Blue Sky and Baby Groot that sets the bar for the remainder of the film quite high.

Sadly it is a little too high.

The first two thirds are a wild romp with frequent scatological and wonderful LOLs to be found care of practically every single character. However the final reel is somewhat exhausting and the plot struggles to fight its way through all the on-screen chaos. In comparison to Volume One all their set pieces perfectly blended action with character development they felt necessary.

Thankfully the pure fun and roller-coaster ride of the sequel complete with all the goodwill built up over the previous 90 or so minutes it is a minor blip.

The returning cast are having a ball and all are given multiple moments to shine, be it in comedy beats or knocking seven shades of whatnot out of anyone or anything they disagree with.

New characters fit into the mad world well, in particular Pom Klementieff as naive empath Mantis, a perfect contrast and foil for Drax and Kurt Russell is the most Kurt Russell he has been for quite some time as absent father/living planet Ego. Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) and her fellow golden conceited douchebags are used sparingly and are less a true threat to the Guaradians and more used to mine even more humour in a film already filled to the brim with it. Extra points for the nerdy use of retro gaming sounds used into their remote piloted spaceships.

With three whole Marvel movies out in 2017 fanboys and fangirls have much to get excited about and things have started off very well with James Gunn's beautifully chaotic cosmic part deux.

In conclusion, a bigger, bolder, brighter follow up that doesn't rely on setting up anything more than a potentially kick-ass third volume and will have fans laughing a lot.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Who Puts On A Happy Face

Emojis are still a thing in the future, be afraid :-(

Warning: Minor Spoilers.

While Nardole (Matt Lucas) is busy putting on the kettle, wide eyed and eager new companion Bill (Pearl Mackie) sets out on a spin in the little blue box with everyones favourite Doctor to the far flung future.

They end up in a vast but unoccupied human settlement. Well unoccupied except for the Vardy some diminutive and deceptively cute automotons with a screen for the face that communicates in emoji. Has The Doctor landed on the planet of the vacuous teens?

The time and space traveling duo quickly discover that the people that had been killed presumably due to lack of smiling, which forces one of the grumpiest Time Lords to force a smile or die trying.

Episode Two, Smile is Frank Cottrell-Boyce's second tale for Who and the umpteenth tale about a human colony being terrorised by something. For all it's shiny production values and witty dialogue this feels like another treading water episode for the show that resorts to a turn it off and on again resolution.

The threat isn't that interesting, the creepy concept of being forced to smile regardless of the harrowing situation isn't really mined for all its worth. Any sense of mystery is lost due to the audience being told exactly what happened at the start of the episode, the plotting is slow without any real sense of momentum and the story is lacking anything really original to say about the human condition. The kernel of a thought provoking concept of the opposite of the hope and happy elements of exploration is there but it gets swallowed up in a little bit of corridor running and the lazy third act arrival of some gut totting humans complete with a rushed conclusion.

Thankfully it is saved from utter boredom by Capaldi making the most of things, I really am going to miss him when he hangs up his sonic screwdriver. Sadly aside from a somewhat wasted moment where her character is shown the sad fate of most of humanity, Mackie isn't given much more than obligatory companion dialogue, "Where?" "What?" "How?" "Why?" and feels too much like Rose Tyler did way back in the first series.

If anything the episode feels like a box ticking exercise as part of the characters induction. Step one meet Doctor, step two go forward in time for first adventure proper, step three go back in time to firmly establish understanding of all the timey whimey malarkey. At this rate the next episode will include Bill filling out a Personal Development Plan.

In conclusion, sadly there isn't much chance of turning this Who related frown upside down. Better luck next week hopefully....