Review of Baywatch

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If you yearn for summer weather, during these chilly months, fear not because a trip to the beach is just one DVD away courtesy of Baywatch. Whilst conducting research for this review (mostly Google image searches of Pamela Anderson) I was surprised to learn that the original Baywatch TV series ran for a very respectable eleven seasons. How does a show about lifeguards last for so long, whilst Hasselhoff’s awesome Knight Rider gets a paltry four seasons to its name? What a travesty of justice! Speaking of the Hoff and Pammy, both actors make brief cameo appearances in this movie. It’s a little sad seeing how the heartthrobs of my youth have now gotten so wrinkly.

OVERVIEW

Lieutenant Mitch Buchannon is the head lifeguard of the world’s most dangerous beach. Seriously. Although nothing of note ever happens at my local seaside, over at Baywatch Florida, Buchannon has amassed a record of five hundred coastal rescues! When the movie begins Mitch recruits three new trainees to his team. The trio of newbies include a former Olympic gold medallist named Matt Brody. You would imagine that enlisting the services of a speedy swimmer would be quite the coup, but unfortunately not as Brody isn’t a team player. This is evidenced by the time he cost his nation relay glory, due to excessive partying. He turned up to the event with a hangover and proceeded to pollute the pool with puke – earning him the nickname Vomit Comet.

In this adventure the Baywatch crew take on a foreign entrepreneur named Victoria Leeds, who is played by a former Miss World. After losing ownership of the family business to her brother, Leeds migrated to America where she proceeded to amass a fortune through drug trafficking. If you think that lifeguards battling a criminal syndicate is ridiculous worry not, because various onscreen characters express similar sentiments. Baywatch constantly pokes fun at itself. This is an action comedy that veers more towards humour than action. If anything the action is rather lacklustre. A film starring The Rock should feature good fight choreography – the few fisticuffs we get however are marred by shaky cam. The shaking will make you more seasick than riding on a Baywatch jet ski.

VERDICT

My rating for Baywatch is a three out of five. The movie isn’t great, as the scathing reviews penned by professional critics will attest to, but I would still class it as a fun romp – providing that you can turn off your brain throughout its two-hour duration. A guilty pleasure offering a blend of comedy and eye candy is how I would put it. The ratio of funny/lame jokes could be better, but I must admit to chuckling quite a few times. Highlights of note include the banter that Mitch and Matt share, along with the scenes mocking how the original series would use slow motion effects whenever CJ took a jog. I could however have done without the morgue sequence involving a dead man’s genitals. That gag was bollocks in more ways than one.

When it comes to fan service both genders are well catered to. Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach bouncing about in swimsuits will go down well with the guys. Female viewers on the other hand can gawk at Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron’s chiselled torsos. If you are the rare breed of girl who prefers blubber to muscle Jon Bass has you covered, in the role of computer whizz Ronnie Greenbaum. Do women who lust after unattractive overweight blokes really exist though? If they do, and one of them happens to be reading this article, please leave your phone number in the comments section below. We should meet up for dinner and a movie some time 😉

Review of The Mummy (2017)

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Tom Cruise resembles the adversary he is pitted against in this movie. Both the titular Mummy and Cruise look great for their age. I wonder what the secret of his youthful complexion is? Perhaps it is exercise, as the protagonist spends a large portion of this film sprinting. What happened to the days when heroes battled against evil rather than flee from it? One of the many things that I didn’t like about The Mummy is that the lead runs away from his problems, and in the end only triumphs due to a power he didn’t earn. Oh well, at least the trials he faced did at least transform him from a selfish prick into someone who is willing to sacrifice himself for others.

OVERVIEW

Nick Morton is a US soldier who is currently based in the Middle East. His orders are to patrol the region and search for insurgents. Rather than dutifully follow his mission however, he uses the role as an excuse to raid local tombs for antiquities. His latest discovery is a crypt that houses the remains of an Egyptian princess. Whilst exploring the catacomb, for treasure, he inadvertently liberates said royal from her sarcophagus prison and ends up getting cursed to boot. To spare the world from a force more wicked than Scientology, Nick allies himself with a clandestine group of UK based monster hunters. Together they must prevent the female Mummy from completing a ritual that will summon the god of death.

Given that The Mummy is being used to launch Universal’s Dark Universe (think Marvel’s cinematic universe, only with monsters instead of superheroes) the film is rich with shoehorned references to other creatures. Prodigium, the group of monster slayers mentioned above, owns a warehouse whose inventory contains an assortment of vampire skulls for example. A chap named Dr Jekyll, who is played by a pudgy Russell Crowe, also happens to lead the organization. I presume that Crowe’s weight gain can be attributed to the fact that scenery is high in calories. He chews the scenery whenever onscreen. This performance will make you wonder how he ever won an Academy Award.

VERDICT

My rating for The Mummy is two stars. It feels like something designed by committee, were Universal execs drew up a checklist of things they should include to mimic Marvel’s success. As a result what we get isn’t a scary horror movie, but a film packed with action and humour. It’s a formula that worked for Brendan Fraser in 1999. This time however the whole thing falls flat. None of the gags are funny and the fight/chase scenes bored me. I also thought that Tom Cruise was disappointing. He is charismatic in real life, but didn’t show much of that here. Not good when you are meant to be portraying a likable rogue. Cruise also didn’t have much chemistry with onscreen love interest Annabelle Wallis, so I couldn’t buy the moments when Nick Morton risks his life for her sake.

Another complaint I have is with the villain. Princess Ahmanet, the Mummy, is just a generic baddie who was buried alive as punishment for an attempt to usurp the throne. Years later, when resurrected, she is driven by the cliché motivations of power and immortality. The Mummy starts off looking rather creepy, but as she drains the life force of others she morphs from a cadaver to sexy Sofia Boutella… who I would rather ogle than fear. Based on this showing, the future Dark Universe team up will resemble League of Extraordinary Gentlemen rather than the Avengers. Don’t spend a dime on this DVD. From what I hear, the cash would be better invested in WayForward’s Mummy Demastered – a rare example of a decent movie based console game.

Review of Baby Driver

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Making a good first impression is important. For example, you won’t get laid if you start the evening off by belching in front of your date. Baby Driver, the latest movie from director Edgar Wright, begins strongly enough. Just like a hot date that turns up to the restaurant in a cleavage flaunting dress, this movie wowed me with an eye-popping car chase opener. Unfortunately nothing that followed the first scene ever topped that moment of vehicular pursuit. Grabbing the audience’s attention from the offset is a good idea, but be sure to save the best for last – or else you run the risk of ending things with an anticlimactic finale.

OVERVIEW

Baby Driver stars a young getaway driver, played by Ansel Elgort, who goes by the alias Baby. The movie kicks off with a bank robbery where Baby showcases his talent for steering automobiles, as he effortlessly evades the law. One thing that stands out about the protagonist is that, during the pursuit, he is constantly listening to his iPod. Protagonists who are tied to a musical device are all the rage in Hollywood. I blame Starlord, from Guardians of the Galaxy, and his pesky Walkman. The justification for Baby’s love of tunes is that he suffers from tinnitus; so listening to songs helps him drown out the ringing in his ears.

I have to say that using a character’s hearing impairment, as an excuse to wedge the soundtrack into the movie is rather creative. Baby himself is more perceptive than he first appears and has a dorky charm going for him. The scene were he struts down the street, with an order of coffee in tow, reminds me of Peter Parker in Spider-Man 3… only less cringey. Anyways, the plot of the movie is that Baby has found love in the form of a diner waitress named Debora. Romance has convinced him to go straight, but before he can sever ties with the underworld he first has to pull off one final heist for his Mafioso employer Doc.

VERDICT

My rating for Baby Driver is a three out of five. I liked the movie, but out of all the Edgar Wright flicks that I have seen I would have to rank it the weakest. Although amusing at times, Baby Driver lacks the laugh out moments of something like Scott Pilgrim or Shaun of the Dead. Viewers who appreciate fast cars, whizzing through city streets, are likely to enjoy the film more than I did. The action scenes feature some very creative driving manoeuvres. When you peel away the catchy OST and slick racing however, what remains is a run of the mill story that doesn’t warrant a two-hour run time.

The acting in Baby Driver is competent, but none of the actors stood out. Doc was probably my favourite character. He’s one of those charismatic gangsters who come across as amiable, organized and professional. Friendly at first glance, but ruthless should you not ago along with his schemes. He is played by the talented Kevin Spacey, a man who can do no wrong… well apart from sexually assaulting teens. Never mind that though, because he is gay. What a novel excuse. I wonder if that would have worked during my school days? Sorry sir, I didn’t do my homework. It’s all right though because I am homosexual.

Review of Kingsman: The Secret Service

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James Bond meets Kick-Ass is how I would best describe Kingsman: The Secret Service. The movie features suave British spies who are armed with quirky gadgets (such as poisonous pens, semi-automatic brollies and taser rings) along with a smattering of comedy and heaps of brutal action. Kingsman’s similarities to Kick-Ass should come as no surprise given that both films share the same director (Matthew Vaughn) and both movies are based on a comic penned by graphic novel scribe Mark Millar. The question on everyone’s lips is whether Kingsman kicks ass or if it is painful to endure, like a kick to the gonads. Read on to find out.

OVERVIEW

In another movie Kingsman antagonist Richmond Valentine could have been classed as a good guy. He’s one of those trendy entrepreneurs who favour baseball caps and McDonalds over smart attire and Michelin star meals. How many villains do you know that abhor violence (bloodshed causes him to hurl, as he suffers from hemophobia) and lobby against global warming? Sounds like a stand up guy, until you learn that his plans for combating carbon emissions involve a mass cull of the human race. I suspected there was something sketchy about him. Why would a pacifist need the services of a secretary who slices up critics, with bladed prosthetic legs, after all?

MI5 and MI6 are too busy misplacing laptops, so it falls upon the Kingsman secret service to foil Valentine’s scheme. Veteran agent Harry Hart (codename Galahad) is assigned to the case. At the same time viewers watch as unemployed chav Gary Unwin (nicknamed Eggsy) tries to transform his life by applying to the titular clandestine agency. There’s just one vacancy up for grabs and stiff competition for the spot, in the form of posh candidates that hail from a military background. Recruitment into the Kingsman ranks is not for the faint of heart. The process, dubbed the most dangerous job interview in the world, tests applicants by seeing how they perform in various scenarios – including skydives with no parachute and an assassination mission, were the target is a cute puppy!

VERDICT

My rating for Kingsman: The Secret Service is a five out of five. It’s an exceptional movie that boasts a great cast. Newcomer Taron Egerton does a fine job playing Eggsy the loyal, yet rough around the edges, underdog. Colin Firth steals the show in the role of gentleman spy Galahad. Based on this performance, if the James Bond franchise decides to reboot back to the less serious days of Roger Moore, I think Firth would make a great 007. Samuel L. Jackson on the other hand proves that he can be entertaining, without resorting to his trademark yells, in his portrayal of Valentine. The star-studded lineup also includes Sir Michael Caine, who plays Kingsman leader Arthur, and a cameo appearance by Mark Hamill.

I think the movie appealed to me because the story has heart. One can’t help but root for Eggsy in his battle against the snooty toffs, who act like they are his superiors just because of their heritage. The mentor/pupil relationship that forms between Unwin and Hart is sweet. After growing up with an abusive step-dad it’s nice to see Eggsy bond with a more respectable father figure. Kingsman’s humour and action remind me a little of Kick-Ass, although Secret Service is more classy… possibly due to all the English accents. It was surprising how violent the action can get. The second act church slaughter reminded me of Kill Bill, but the carnage is so over the top that it comes across as cartoonish rather than gruesome.

Kingsman: The Secret Service proved to be a pleasant surprise. Based off the trailer, I didn’t expect to enjoy the movie quite as much as I did. Let’s hope the recently released sequel maintains the standard set by its predecessor. Have you seen either of the Kingsman movies? If so, what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

Review of Alien: Covenant

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Set a decade after the events of Prometheus, Alien: Covenant continues the prequel storyline of Fox’s sci-fi horror series. Ridley Scott retains the directorial reigns for the franchise he brought to prominence back in the late seventies. Public opinion on Prometheus seems to be divided. I thought the movie had its flaws, but overall was okay. At the very least I liked how it tried to do something different, with a plot that explored humanity’s origins. The designs of Prometheus’ extra terrestrials were pretty cool too. People don’t want originality though. Most moviegoers lamented how HR Giger’s Xenomorphs were absent from the film. That’s something Fox has addressed in Covenant… even if you have to wait until the final act for the titular aliens to make an appearance.

OVERVIEW

Covenant is the designation of a colony ship that is on a multi-year voyage across the cosmos. When the movie begins the space faring craft is slammed by a solar burst. The impact causes extensive damage and claims the life of the ship’s captain, who was incinerated inside his cryogenic chamber. Ouch. The burns he suffered rival my own skin, that time I ventured to Ibiza with scant regard for sun cream. Anyways, unpopular first mate Christopher Oram assumes command before choosing to divert the Covenant to a nearby habitable planet. Perhaps the crew can abandon their original mission and settle on this world instead? Sounds like a reasonable plan, but first they will need to investigate a mysterious transmission that is broadcasting from the planetoid’s surface.

I am sorry to report that the Covenant’s colonists are no brainier than Prometheus’ scientists. Upon shuttling down to their destination they opt against using respirators, as the air appears to be breathable. Does no one in the future fear bacteria? Well, needless to say a couple of the expeditionary team get infected and end up giving birth to pale skinned Neomorphs. Forget the natal discomfort caused by human babies or Chestbursters erupting from a ribcage. These buggers own the market on painful births, thanks to a spawning process that sees them rip through their host’s spine! Stranded, the remaining crew are forced to survive against the unfriendly parasites. They must return to the safety of orbit or else it will be “game over man.”

VERDICT

My rating for Alien: Covenant is three stars. Thanks to Ridley Scott’s gorgeous cinematography I would rank the film above Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. It doesn’t however match the quality of the earlier Alien movies. Aliens had a more memorable cast and better action. In terms of terror Alien is way scarier. Scott’s original movie was creepy thanks to the suspense, which is something that Covenant lacks. Despite the advances in technology I must say that a guy, in a rubber suit, sneaking through dimly lit corridors is more frightening than a CGI alien snarling in broad daylight. Ironically, the Xenomorphs everyone was clambering for are less scary than the new Neomorphs. Their juvenile form is similar to a Velociraptor and the way they stand when fully grown is unnerving.

As is the case in these types of movie, most of the characters are stupid, underwritten and only there so the beasts have something to dismember. Katherine Waterston plays Janet Daniels – the poor man’s Ellen Ripley. She kicks arse in the final thirty minutes, but does little else before that. Michael Fassbender steals the show by portraying not one but two synthetics. The first of these is a friendly bot named Walter, who reminds me of Star Trek’s Data. Fassbender also reprises the role of David, who has gone off the rails since we last saw him in Prometheus. By utilizing Engineer tech, David plots to replace humans with what he considers to be superior life forms. Traitor! You cannot trust an Android. That’s why, when it comes to mobiles, I prefer an iPhone.

Review of Mad Max: Fury Road

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After a thirty-year hiatus Mad Max is back. This time however the titular Road Warrior (Aarrrggghhhhhhhh… What a Rush) is played by English actor Tom Hardy. Mel Gibson is still in the doghouse, so he doesn’t even get to make a cameo appearance in Fury Road. Perhaps I am being too nice but don’t you think sufficient time has passed, since Mel’s much-publicised misdemeanours, that we should give him a second chance? Most of us have done foolish things under the influence of alcohol after all. Even I have been known to perform gymnastics, on the concrete pavement, after one too many ciders!

OVERVIEW

War never changes. That’s what I thought when Fury Road started, because the movie is set in a post apocalyptic Earth reminiscent to the world depicted in the Fallout games. During the opening scene Max is captured by a band of War Boys and turned into an involuntary blood bank. A tyrannical cultist named Immortan Joe leads the group responsible for Max’s abduction. He’s a nasty chap that appears to have borrowed Hardy’s respirator from the last Batman movie. After an unspecified amount of time Max is able to escape from the War Boys’ clutches and joins forces with a badass chick named Furiosa, who has absconded from Joe’s citadel – taking his harem of wives in the process.

Joe is naturally miffed that the ladies, who are carrying his unborn children, have been taken so he gives chase. Gorgeous women are a precious commodity he can ill afford to lose – especially when you consider that most of the populace in Mad Max are either deformed, toothless, missing limbs or all of the above. What follows is a 120-minute vehicular pursuit between Max/Furiosa and Joe’s convoy of follicly challenged henchmen. There isn’t much plot in Fury Road, but to compensate for the lack of narrative you get copious amounts of blood splatter instead. No one should be surprised by the visceral content given that George Miller directed the movie. His previous writing credits include video nasties such as Babe and Happy Feet.

VERDICT

My rating for Mad Max: Fury Road is a three out of five. In retrospect I think I went into the movie with overly high expectations, which had been inflated by the film’s bevy of Oscar nominations and positive reviews. The movie is a solid action flick, but not the exceptional tour de force some people had led me to believe. Due to the script’s minimal use of dialogue I found getting attached to any of the characters a difficult task. The story is also disappointing. A simple premise followed by a chain of action set pieces. On the plus side the gunfights, car chases and fisticuffs were all exciting to watch. Said sequences are all the more impressive when you consider that they were supposedly recorded using practical effects and little CG.

Feminists may wonder why Max Rockatansky gets top billing in this movie. Make no mistake; this is Furiosa’s adventure with Max tagging along for the ride. Charlize Theron handled the physical demands of the role very well and was very much Hardy’s equal in terms of ass kicking. When it comes to strong females, who can pull off a buzz cut and dish out pain, Furiosa is right up there with the likes of Ellen Ripley and Britney Spears. Mad Max: Fury Road may not have wowed me, like it did for some people, but the action alone made it a worthwhile two hours spent. I wouldn’t be averse to checking out another Max sequel. Hopefully we won’t have to wait three decades for the next instalment.

Review of Death Note (Netflix)

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Netflix, you have let me down! People have praised your superhero shows and I myself was impressed by your take on Castlevania. All that goodwill has however evaporated due to your treatment of Death Note. I no longer feel guilty about not subscribing to your service, after my free trial ran out. To be fair, Death Note is one of my favourite anime of all time. Regardless of how good this live action film would have turned out, it would have struggled to live up to the source material’s legacy. Perhaps the limited running time is partially to blame? I feel that a lengthy live action series, which follows the manga more closely, could be a hit with western audiences. That’s something we are unlikely to ever see though, after the negative reception this movie has rightfully received.

OVERVIEW

What would you do if a demon gifted you a notepad that can magically kill anyone whose name you scribble onto its pages? You could take over the world, refuse to write on it because murder is wrong or use the book to assassinate any traffic warden foolish enough to give you a ticket. After acquiring the titular tome, from a fruit eating death god named Ryuk, Light Turner opts to harness the Death Note’s power to rid Earth of evil. A bully, the mobster who killed Light’s mom and various criminals all receive punishment at the hands of Turner’s penmanship. Vigilante justice is frowned by society though, so the authorities soon get involved. A taskforce led by Light’s own father and a detective named L begins to investigate who is responsible for the recent underworld purge.

That premise alone is enough to carry an entire film, but the cat and mouse game between Light and the law gets even more convoluted when romance is thrown into the mix. Light elects to divulge knowledge of the Death Note to his girlfriend Mia Sutton, which aggravates matters further. Given the choice, Light would rather not get innocents involved in his mess. Mia on the other hand is more ruthless. If meddlesome cops try to interfere with their righteous crusade, against criminality, Mia is all for aiming the Death Note’s fatal sorcery at the police. Mia feels more like the anime version of Light than Turner does. Just like Light Yagami, she is corrupted by power and isn’t averse to manipulating friends as a means of achieving what she believes is the greater good.

VERDICT

My rating for Death Note 2017 is one star. I was going to give the movie a two, but the silly finale persuaded me to award it the lowest score possible. Some viewers may find Death Note entertaining, the idea of a killer book is cool after all, but having seen the story executed better in animated form I cannot be as generous. It was disappointing to see the Death Note turned into nothing more than a MacGuffin that turns people into brainwashed slaves that occasionally perish in gruesome ways. The film felt like a teenage horror flick from the nineties with its Final Destination style death sequences. Blood splatter cannot however disguise how boring the story was. I must confess that I nodded off a couple of times during the feature’s 100 minute running time.

I didn’t like how Light was portrayed. The studio didn’t seem to have confidence that western viewers would accept an evil protagonist, so they transferred most of Yagami’s traits to Mia. L wasn’t handled much better either. Rather than coming across as a savant he just seems to be a weirdo, who isn’t all that smart. Most of his deductions are just leaps of logic required to keep the plot going along. A cynic may remark that a black actor was cast as L to deflect the whitewash critics, who were already moaning about the setting’s transference from Japan to Seattle. The only thing that I enjoyed about the film was Ryuk. Willem Dafoe was the perfect choice for delivering Ryuk’s sinister quips and the visual effects team should be commended for their creepy creature design.

Ghost in the Shell detractors may want to revise their opinions, because Death Note is a far better example of an anime adaptation gone wrong. One concern I have is that Death Note’s conclusion leaves things wide open for a potential sequel. Hopefully the folks at Netflix will “kill” that idea in the bud, after the critical backlash the movie has received. Just to be safe I’ll jot down “Death Note 2” into my little black book.