Review of Looper

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My job sucks. Long hours, tedious work and low pay. I cannot wait for the year 2044 to roll by. When that magical date arrives I can quit my dull office life and become a Looper. These mob assassins have it pretty easy. All you have to do is turn up at a location, wait for a tied up person to materialize and blast them with a Blunderbuss. One second of work and in exchange you get paid loads of silver bars. Who are the victims that appear from thin air you may be wondering? They are folks from the year 2074, who have crossed the mob. In the future time travel exists and the gangsters of that era have decided to dispose of bodies by teleporting their prisoners to the past. Sounds like a needlessly complicated way of destroying evidence. Why hire hitmen when you could just teleport people into an ancient volcano instead?

OVERVIEW

Joe is a Looper who is saving up for retirement. The floor safe, in his apartment, houses a pension’s worth of stockpiled silver that he plans to spend in his later years. Joe’s dream, for when he leaves the Looper business, is to move to China. There he can find a nice Asian waifu and indulge in all the drugs he desires. His narcotic of choice is an addictive eye drop. Gross! I hate applying eye drops. When it comes to illegal substances I’ll stick to snorting powder and injecting myself, thank you very much. Anyways, enough about my hobbies. Let’s get back to discussing the movie. Early in the film, Joe finds himself in a pickle when the target he has been hired to kill manages to escape his clutches. The mob is unlikely to forgive this blunder so, in order to avoid punishment, he’ll have to make amends by tracking down said fugitive.

Unfortunately for Joe, the guy he is pursuing turns out to be his future self. Outsmarting someone who is more experienced (and knows what you are thinking) is not going to be easy. Thankfully, he has a clue as to where the older Joe may be headed. Inspired by the Terminator, old Joe realizes that child murder is a great way of resolving life’s problems. Seriously, give that a try next time a toddler starts kicking your seat on the bus. I guarantee that shooting them is more effective than moaning at their parents. Anyway… if Old Joe can kill the boy, who eventually grows up to become the boss who ordered his execution, history will be rewritten. Thus the stage is set. Young Joe heads to an isolated farm, where a single mother and her creepy kid reside. He’ll have to protect the family from his older self, whilst also evading the gangsters who are hot on his heels.

VERDICT

My rating for Looper is four stars. It’s a movie that I can highly recommend, providing that you are able to turn off your brain. In my case that wasn’t a problem, as I have already revealed that I enjoy dulling my mind with copious amounts of cocaine. Looper is a very entertaining movie, but it does have a fair number of plot holes. That’s to be expected, as it was written by the hack who butchered Star Wars. In defense of Rian Johnson, time travel stories do require a suspension of disbelief. They just don’t work otherwise, due to all the paradoxes. For a science fiction tale I was surprised by how contemporary the setting is. The year 2044 resembles modern times, aside from the existence of hover bikes. Some humans have also developed telekinesis by then, although the ability is only strong enough to levitate small coins.

Quibbles about some aspects of the story aside, Looper is an excellent movie. I didn’t spot a weak performance throughout the two hours it lasted. The supporting cast includes the likes of Emily Blunt and Jeff Daniels. Young Pierce Gagnon deserves a mention too, for being a rare example of a child actor that doesn’t suck. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis did a good job of playing the two versions of Joe. I don’t think they look alike at all, but thanks to makeup and JGL mimicking Willis’ mannerisms, I was able to buy that they were the same person. Willis is often accused of phoning in performances, but that wasn’t noticeable in this film. He acquitted himself well enough during the brief scenes were his character suffered anguish. If you have a Netflix subscription, Looper is worth checking out. You would be loopy to miss it.

Review of Fantastic Four (2015)

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The Fantastic Four have been anything but fantastic, when it comes to live action movies. Out of the three films distributed by 20th Century Fox the feature released in 2015 is arguably the weakest. That’s a surprise, given that the movie was directed by Josh Trank, who has previously worked on Chronicle (one of the few found footage films that I have managed to enjoy.) Perhaps studio interference is to blame for the debacle, as Trank’s vision for the project was a sci-fi body horror story. Fox were initially onboard with the idea, eager to distance themselves from past FF films, which have been heavy on camp. Midway through filming however they got cold feet and demanded that changes be made. After seeing light-hearted Marvel dominate the more serious DC, I can only speculate that they changed their mind on the script’s dark tone.

OVERVIEW

Reed Richards is a young genius who, with the aid of pal Ben Grimm, has managed to design an interdimensional teleporter. During his school’s science fair he reveals a prototype constructed out of materials salvaged from the scrapyard Ben’s family owns. At the event he showcases how the device can send toy models to an unexplored alien land. Reed’s teachers dismiss the invention, as a cheap magic trick. Dr Franklin Storm, who is in attendance, however recognises Richard’s talent. He immediately recruits the teen and has him put to work at the world renowned Baxter Institute. Storm hopes that with greater resources Reed will be able to construct a larger machine, capable of sending humans to the aforementioned extraterrestrial planet. Like the Ninja Turtles character Baxter Stockman, the Baxter Institute soon learns that travelling to another dimension carries risks.

Assisting Reed in his scientific venture are Franklin’s son Johnny and his adoptive daughter Sue. I have to stress that blonde haired Sue is adopted because, unlike his comic book counterpart, this version of Johnny is black. Although his race has changed, this iteration of Johnny remains a hot-head (rather ironic given that he later acquires flame based powers). He is portrayed as a capable engineer who has no respect for authority. Rather than build advanced tech he prefers to assemble cars, for the purposes of street racing. Supervising the group is fellow intellectual Victor Von Doom. With a name like that it should come as no surprise that Victor is the movie’s antagonist. Some people are just fated to become their surnames. Did you know that my country’s former minister for tourism is called Joe Holliday?

VERDICT

My rating for Fantastic Four is a two out of five. I imagine many viewers despised the movie because they have been conditioned to expect non stop action and humour from superhero films. Fantastic Four on the other hand is slow paced and sterile. I didn’t actually mind the more realistic approach taken in retelling the Fantastic Four’s origins. The movie starts well enough and did some interesting things later on, when the above mentioned characters are mutated during their maiden voyage across dimensions. Rather than willingly become warriors of justice they are strong armed into serving the military. Unlike other superheroes, who consider their newly acquired superhuman abilities to be a boon, the titular four are traumatized by the changes their bodies undergo. Their distressed reactions mirror the time I realized that my scalp is beginning to bald.

Sadly any nuggets of creativity that Fantastic Four tries to inject into the superhero genre cannot overcome a weak script. The dialogue is so stale that it robs the characters of any personalty and makes a cast of otherwise accomplished actors look very ordinary. What really brought the thing down, in my eyes, was the final act. The studio interference, which amounted to reshoots filmed without the director’s approval, is there for all to see. In the blink of an eye we witness a sombre science fiction tale morph into a below par superhero flick. The closing scene makes a half hearted attempt to introduce humour via a cheesy skit revolving around the team’s name. Preceding that is a showdown with Doom that is marred by awful CGI and uninspired fight choreography. The end result is a box office flop, which played a factor in Trank losing the opportunity to direct Star Wars. Fair enough, although I doubt he would have done a worse job than Rian Johnson.

Review of Venom

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It’s weird seeing a Venom origin story that does not feature Spider-Man. Readers of the Marvel comic books will be aware that Venom started life as Peter Parker’s black organic suit. The couple eventually broke up, as Venom became too clingy. Spidey doesn’t appear at all in this two-hour live action flick. The reason? Sony has currently loaned him out to Marvel Studios. That’s disappointing, but on the plus side the film can boast having the very talented Tom Hardy in the lead role. Ruben Fleischer is the movie’s director. His past work includes Zombieland, a cartoon about undead pop idol singers.

OVERVIEW

Eddie Brock is an award-winning investigative reporter. No idea how he won a prize for journalism, given that the movie presents him as a buffoon. In the opening act, Eddie has the gall to accuse entrepreneur Carlton Drake of running a company that conducts inhumane experiments. Eddie’s claims are not backed by a shred of evidence, so it’s no surprise when he is subsequently fired by the news station he works for. Only when he is in the unemployment line does Eddie decide to search for proof. Under the cover of dusk, he infiltrates a research lab affiliated with Drake’s Life Foundation.

There he finds a trio of alien parasites that the group seized from a wandering comet. One of the creatures ends up bonding with Eddie, transforming him into the titular anti-hero. Venom possesses the looks of Spawn and the tongue of Gene Simmons. For the remainder of the film Eddie battles against mercenaries, who have been hired by Drake to retrieve the specimen he unwittingly stole. A second foe appears late on in the movie. Said antagonist is a fellow Symbiote named Riot, who landed on Earth a few months prior, and has since been murdering anyone who gets in his way.

VERDICT

My rating for Venom is a three out of five. In my opinion, the movie doesn’t deserve all the hate that most professional critics have heaped upon it. That said, Venom is merely entertaining. It’s not on the level of what Marvel Studios usually puts out. Even when compared to other third-party superhero releases, it is a grade below Deadpool, Logan and the first two Raimi directed Spider-Man films. Audiences may be caught off guard by the script’s tone. Venom’s creepy design and appetite for human heads seems perfect for an R-Rated horror. What we get however is a standard PG-13 superhero tale that is heavy on slapstick.

For some, that will be a missed opportunity and potential deal breaker. I personally didn’t mind the more light-hearted direction taken by the creators. The best scenes were not the moments of violence, but rather the times when Venom and his human host engaged in humorous banter. On the visual side of things, it’s good to see a bulky Venom onscreen. The character design is more faithful to the source material than Venom’s appearance in Spider-Man 3. I found the quality of the CG effects to be a mixed bag. At times it looked cool. The final battle was a bit of a mess though. Akin to a Transformers fight, it’s hard to follow as it features two similar looking characters tangling with each other.

Venom isn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it. The credits tease a potential sequel that I would be up for watching. Sony could have a hit on their hands, if the follow-up manages to inject a bit more action to the mix and beefs up the writing in terms of characterisation. Hardy’s performance carries the movie, as no one else stood out. Riz Ahmed and Michelle Williams play the villain and love interest respectively. Both are decent actors but struggled to make an impression due to the lack of material they had to work with. Don’t expect either of them to get Venom-inated for an Oscar.

 

 

Review of Black Panther

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The time has come for another B-list hero to get a feature film, as Marvel has already released movies based on their more iconic characters. Not that I am complaining though. Ant-Man for example showed that Marvel is capable of producing enjoyable flicks based on their more obscure properties. Black Panther’s kick ass display in Civil War impressed me a lot, so it’s good to see him get his own solo adventure. Shame that not everyone gets the opportunity to headline a blockbuster. I feel bad for the likes of Black Widow and Hawkeye. They have been around since the first phase of Marvel movies and are still awaiting their own motion picture.

OVERVIEW

Many moons ago a meteorite, rich in Vibranium, crashed on the fictional nation of Wakanda. The inhabitants used the indestructible metal to develop advanced weaponry, and a mixture that turns anyone who consumes it into a superhuman. Said concoction is fed to the land’s incumbent ruler. Along with enhanced strength and agility, Wakanda’s monarch inherits the mantle of Black Panther. I don’t understand why a mineral alone would cause Wakanda to prosper technologically. The country’s African neighbours also possess valuable resources and it hasn’t helped them develop past third world poverty. Plot wise I think an advanced alien craft crashing on Wakanda, rather than a meteor, would have made more sense. Oh well, who cares. When it comes to superpower origins Vibranium is still more plausible than an eradiated arachnid bite.

Over the course of 134 minutes the newly crowned king T’Challa has to contend with two villains. The first of these is a Vibranium smuggler named Ulysses Klaue, who is played by Andy Serkis. A strong performance from the English actor proves that he is capable of more than simply doing motion capture for CGI characters. At one point in the story T’Challa travels to South Korea, with the aims of capturing Klaue himself. What an odd thing for a head of state to do. Isn’t that a job better left for one of his minions? Black Panther isn’t exactly short on capable soldiers who are up to the task. Perhaps if T’Challa focused more on local matters he wouldn’t have to worry about losing the throne later on in the movie.

“Black” Ops soldier Erik Killmonger is the challenger who attempts to usurp control of Wakanda away from “Black” Panther. Yep, there is a lot of black in this movie. Killmonger’s crusade against Wakanda’s royal family is fuelled by vengeance, as T’Challa’s pop is the man responsible for his father’s assassination. He also plans to become commander of Wakanda’s army, so he can wage war against anyone who dares to oppress his race. I sympathise with his motivations, but not his methods. Killmonger has no respect for tradition and treats allies as disposable commodities. Michael B. Jordan, who is no stranger to the superhero genre, plays the character. Previously he was cast for the role of Johnny Strorm in 2015’s flop Fantastic Four.

VERDICT

My rating for Black Panther is a three out of five. It’s a worthy addition to Marvel Studio’s impressive live action library. Unlike other Marvel releases, Black Panther uses comedy sparingly and it doesn’t feel like a traditional superhero tale. The sequence in South Korea resembles a secret agent film, as it features spies and gadgets that wouldn’t look out of place in James Bond. For the most part the script concerns itself with politics rather than crime fighting. Will the people of Wakanda offer foreign aid or keep out immigrants with their holographic barrier? I wonder how much that cost to build. Trump cannot even secure funding to erect a regular wall at the frontier.

Despite my positive opinion of the film I must say that Black Panther is overrated. Back when the movie premiered I recall critics being very generous with their assessments. If those early write ups are to be believed Black Panther is one of the greatest movies of all time. In reality however it is good, but wouldn’t crack my personal Marvel top five. Those who champion diversity will find a lot to like in Black Panther. Apart from a cast list dominated by minorities, the final battle sees female warriors trounce their misguided male counterparts. In your face patriarchy they will cheer. Expect similar praise from that crowd when heroine Captain Marvel debuts next year. I predict said movie will put a smile on their faces… even if Brie Larson is incapable of grinning in the trailers.

Review of Jurassic World

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Back, when I was a wee lad, I was obsessed with dinosaurs. I could even rattle off their scientific names, which is a wonder given that these days I cannot even pronounce the surnames of foreign footballers. My love of prehistoric creatures was replaced with robots however, once the Transformers cartoon came to my attention. I briefly rediscovered how cool dinos can be when I watched Denver the Last Dinosaur… um I mean the original Jurassic Park. Sadly, the sequel movies weren’t very good. Over two decades after Steven Spielberg wowed audiences with the first film, a wild Jurassic World has appeared. Can it revitalize the franchise? Read on to find out.

OVERVIEW

Our tale begins with two youngsters (Zach and Gray) preparing for a trip. Aside from their suitcases, the boys are carrying the (emotional) baggage of their parents getting divorced. Hopefully visiting the Jurassic World theme park will help to get their thoughts away from such depressing matters. If you ask me Disney Land would have made for a more fun vacation, but I guess they got free tickets because their aunt is the park manager. Auntie Claire won’t have much time to spent with her nephews though, as she is busy working on a new attraction. In order to keep attendances up, management have genetically engineered a lizard that is deadlier than a T-Rex. What could possibly go wrong?

In news that should surprise no one, the above-mentioned Indominus Rex escapes from its enclosure. Owen Grady, a raptor trainer played by Chris Pratt, is tasked with capturing the beast before it begins to chow down on tasty customers. Pratt cements his place as a creditable Hollywood action star with this performance. He kicks arse in the movie, but isn’t able to emulate the charisma seen in Guardians of the Galaxy. Part of the reason is that he doesn’t have funny sidekicks to banter with. Owen is instead paired up with redhead Claire, for a shoehorned romance that lacks chemistry. If you ask me, Owen had a closer relationship with the raptors. Who can blame him? No one likes gingers.

VERDICT

Overall, I think this movie does enough to save the series from extinction. I wasn’t ever bored, even if the two-hour running time was a little excessive. The hunt for a bloodthirsty dinosaur didn’t need to be padded out with a military subplot, which revolved around the creation of chimeras. One thing that I found daft was that Claire spends the entire film wearing high heels. Not the best choice of footwear for someone who is constantly running away from danger. I guess no matter what, life… um style finds a way. Midway during the film actress Bryce Dallas Howard unbuttons her blouse. I suspect the move was to get viewers to stare at her cleavage, rather than her ridiculous shoes.

My rating for Jurassic World is a three out of five. It lacks the magic and suspense of the original, but is entertaining to watch (which is more than I can say for the last two movies.) The dinosaur effects are decent and help to mask how bland the human characters are. I didn’t feel anything when people got gobbled up. On the flip side there were moments were I felt sympathy for the wildlife casualties. These included the passing of a mortally wounded Brontosaurus and the scene where a juvenile Triceratops is assaulted. Sniff, poor dinosaurs. When I finish this review I’m going to watch a cartoon to cheer up. How about The Land Before Time? It looks cute, so I am certain it is devoid of any heart-breaking tragedies.

Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Lucasfilm’s output has increased dramatically ever since the Disney acquisition. There was a time when you would have to wait years for a new Lucasfilm release. Nowadays the studio churns out Star Wars flicks with the frequency that EA brings out a FIFA game. For the foreseeable future cinemagoers can expect to see a mainline Star Wars movie or a prequel spin-off on an annual basis. Rogue One was the first Star Wars prequel, under the Disney banner, to come out and following on its heels is Solo: A Star Wars Story. Over the course of 135 minutes this feature film chronicles how the titular smuggler met Chewbacca and how he got his mitts on the iconic Millennium Falcon.

OVERVIEW

Solo is an intergalactic heist adventure directed by Lord and Miller. Um, I mean directed by Ron Howard. The duo responsible for the hilarious Lego movies were axed from the project, as they allegedly didn’t stick to Jonathan Kasdan’s script. Shame, because the pair’s comedic flair could have bolstered several lines of cringey dialogue. Anyways, moving back on topic. Solo sees Han and Chewie team up with a veteran criminal named Tobias Beckett (played by Woody Harrelson.) The trio have been hired by the Crimson Dawn syndicate to steal some precious coaxium fuel. If the group can successfully pull off the robbery they shall be rich beyond their wildest dreams. Should they fail however, they shall be killed quicker than Captain Phasma in an action scene.

Joining the abovementioned rogues are Han’s childhood sweetheart Qi’ra, along with L3-37 and Lando Calrissian. L3-37 surprised me by being the film’s funniest character. She is a parody of modern day social justice warriors (so much so that feminist money grubber Anita Sarkeesian recently bashed the bot on Twitter.) Just like a rabid SJW, this mechanical lady trumpets the cause of racial equality – in this case rights for androids. Donald Glover meanwhile takes the award for best performance with his portrayal of Lando. Glover has more charisma than Lando has capes and that is saying a lot. In one scene viewers see that the future head of Cloud City needs an entire wardrobe just to store his collection of dashing capes.

VERDICT

My rating for Solo: A Star Wars Story is a three out of five. It’s better than the underwhelming trailer suggests, but lacks the magic and grandeur one expects from this franchise. The movie feels more like Firefly than Star Wars. All that said Solo was more fun to watch than the disappointing Last Jedi. I dug the action sequences, even if the drama is somewhat hamstrung by the story being a prequel. No matter how precarious things get, given the tale’s place in the Star Wars timeline, you know that at the very least Han, Chewie and Lando will escape unscathed. Alden Ehrenreich’s acting was a mixed bag. I never bought that he is Han Solo. He was however a likable enough protagonist and had good onscreen chemistry with his hairy sidekick Chewbacca.

I reckon that the movie would have benefitted from a trim on the cutting room floor. The straightforward plot didn’t need to exceed two hours in my opinion. For the most part the story is predictable, although there are a few neat twists in the final act. I was especially surprised by the identity of Crimson Dawn’s true mastermind. Fingers crossed that said villain will appear more prominently in a future prequel spin-off. Given its well-publicised production troubles Solo turned out more entertaining than it deserved to be. I wonder how this version of the film compares to the vision Lord and Miller had in mind. Sadly we shall never know as the directors were Lego… um let go.

Review of Deadpool 2

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There is no sign that the superhero movie genre is dying. Perhaps it is immortal, thanks to regenerative powers, just like Deadpool. Speaking of Deadpool, the merc with the mouth is back in a sequel to one of the most successful R rated flicks ever. In this follow up to the 2016 hit, Deadpool abandons the life of an assassin and becomes an X-Man instead. Correction. He becomes an X-Men trainee. Wade Wilson’s inaugural X-Men mission doesn’t go well though, culminating in him shooting a care worker in the head. The murder lands him in the slammer, where he grudgingly befriends a tubby teenage mutant named Firefist.

OVERVIEW

James Cameron recently moaned about the number of superhero movies that are coming out. If you ask me he is just bitter, because Marvel characters love to rip off his ideas. Deadpool 2 for example shares more than a passing resemblance to the Terminator. In this film Deadpool is tasked with protecting a youngster from a time travelling cyborg. Doesn’t that sound familiar? The cyborg in question is a chap named Cable, who is played by Josh Brolin. Cable has set his sights on Firefist, as the obese mutant is responsible for the death of his family in the future. Why must overweight people cause so much pain? I still haven’t forgiven Israel’s Eurovision singer for harming my ears with her terrible music.

In order to take down Cable our masked hero assembles a team that he dubs X-Force. Poking fun at political correctness, Deadpool explains that X-Force is more progressive than X-Men, as their moniker is gender neutral. X-Force’s ranks include Old Spice muscleman Terry Crews, an invisible bloke named Vanisher and an alien called Shatterstar. Their screen time pales in comparison to Domino, who happens to be the group’s sole female recruit. Domino, who is portrayed by Atlanta actress Zazie Beetz, possesses the powers of cleavage, crazy hair and good luck. In some ways she reminds me of Fortune from Metal Gear Solid 2.

VERDICT

Deadpool 2 is the type of movie I suspect I will enjoy more on repeated viewings. The script is so packed with jokes that multiple screenings will be required to catch all the gags. I also think that my opinion of the film was affected by overly high expectations. Still who can blame me? Deadpool was my favourite release of 2016 and prior to watching the sequel I kept hearing from acquaintances how funny it is. To be honest I didn’t laugh during the first forty minutes, of this two-hour feature. Part of the reason is the tragedy that befalls Deadpool in the first act, but it must also be said that I didn’t find the meta quips and pop culture references to be all that amusing either.

Thankfully things pick up once Deadpool forms X-Force. I found the scene were the team parachutes down, to rescue Firefist, hilarious. The action ramps up from that point too. I was impressed by the fight choreography that director David Leitch (of John Wick fame) brought to the table. Josh Brolin’s performance was also excellent. The man behind Thanos worked well as the straight man to Ryan Reynolds’ zany Deadpool. Another thing worth mentioning is the soundtrack. Akin to Guardians of the Galaxy, this film knows how to enhance a scene by utilizing nostalgic tunes. Overall I enjoyed the original Deadpool more, as it had a tighter story, but Deadpool 2 still holds up as a solid continuation to the series. My rating is three and a half Chimichangas out of five.