Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Star Trek Beyond (2016)

beyond-poster

OK, so I’m a Star Trek fan being old enough to have watched the original series BEFORE it was in re-runs! But Star Trek Beyond just plain disappoints. It’s not terrible… but it’s not great either.

It’s Star Date 2263.2 and Kirk (Chris Pine) is into the third year of their “5 year mission” (which seems to somehow throw away a lot of potential sequel opportunities already doesn’t it?). Less buoyant and confident than he used to be, Kirk is feeling a little emotionally ‘Lost in Space’: after all, as the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy put it “Space is big… REALLY big”. Spock (Zachary Quinto) also receives some news of a personal nature that unsettles him. They are both in need of a vacation, and Starbase Yorktown (queue some spectacular special effects and an operatic Michael Giacchino track) appears to be able to offer them that. The crew disperse for a bit of R and R: Sulu (John Cho) goes off to spend time with his family (after the big internet furore, the gay aspect of this is very subtle); Kirk gets career advice from the Admiral; and Spock and Uhuru (Zoe Saldana) go their separate ways since – like Ross and Rachael – they are “on a break”.

beyond1
Kirk (Chris Pine) feeling the weight of office (and probably his snazzy blue jacket too).

The reverie is rudely interrupted by the arrival of a frantic alien called Kalara (Lydia Wilson) from the other side of a dense nebula. She needs help to rescue her crew, stranded on a planet there. Kirk’s rescue mission however goes far from to-plan, and he and his crew are caught in the clutches of the warlord Krall (Idris Elba).  

beyond5
The films “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock”, “Star Trek Generations” and “Star Trek Beyond” all have something in common? Answers in the comments section!

What’s nice about this film is that the core crew of Kirk, Spock, Uhuru, Bones (Karl Urban), Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu and Chekov (the tragically departed Anton Yelchin) gel together really nicely as an ensemble cast. The traditional by-play between the characters feels unforced, comedic and provides a warmth at the heart of the film. There is also a touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy,  who died while the film was in pre-production, woven into the story of which I’m sure he would have approved.

beyond3
Bones and McCoy, definitely NOT wearing the red shirts.

Supporting the crew as a potential new character is the strikingly attractive and kick-ass Jaylah played by Sofia Boutella (the evil amputee Gazelle from “Kingsman”).

beyond2
Jaylah: “Skin Pigmentation? No, I just can’t hold the flashlight and do my mascara at the same time”.

There’s also some fine and innovative alien technology on display with the ‘swarm-like’ alien fleet harking back (in an expanded scale) to the invulnerability of the nanites from an original episode.

Unfortunately, all of these positives are severely offset by a largely planet-bound Simon Pegg and Doug Jung story (didn’t the woeful “Insurrection” teach writers that this tends not to be a good idea?) and action sequences that are so manically fast-moving that it is almost impossible to keep track of what exactly is happening.  (Perversely, this is a film that might actually make more sense on the small screen than the big one, which is just BAD CINEMA!). There was even one point in a final fight scene where I seriously feared Kirk and Krall might have a ‘sharing of mother’s names’ moment (if you know what I mean) but fortunately this script apocalypse is avoided. 

beyond4
In the Olympic synchronised phasar competition, Spock and McCoy were hoping for at least a bronze.

At the conclusion the story actually makes no sense to me at all:  without spoilers, it is difficult to discern exactly what the motivations of Krall actually were. Throw in a graphic in the final reel that looks like Krall is attacking the Death Star (no, seriously – watch for it!) and the concoction just doesn’t hang together very well. I know Simon Pegg and director Justin (“Fast and Furious”) Lin are huge Trekkers, but – sorry guys – this was a C- for me.

beyond6
“For Anton”. The late Anton Yelchin, killed in a freak car accident, and to who the film is dedicated.

It’s a mildly diverting popcorn movie, but with (for me at least) yet another disappointing film, its getting to the point where the best ‘summer blockbuster’ is likely to be Deadpool… and that was released in February!

Fad Rating: FFF.

Advertisements
Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Jason Bourne (2016)

Bourne Free.

bourne-poster

I’ll say straight up that I’m a big fan of Bourne. This is his 4th proper outing as our forgetful hero, if you ignore 2012’s “The Bourne Legacy” with Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz: a ‘parallel time-stream’ drama that – rather against the stream of opinion I think – I also quite liked. Here Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is set free of the torture of his memories of the past.  Or is he?  In a Snowdenesque opening, rogue agent Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is in Reykjavik hacking into the CIAs database of black ops files and uncovers materials that allow Bourne to regress to memories before he was indoctrinated to become the one-man fighting machine: memories that come very close to home and hearth.  

bourne1
Spotted in Athens. The CIA are onto him.

For Bourne is still a tortured soul in this film, drifting from country to country off the grid and making cash by flooring opponents cock-fighting style in bare knuckle fights. 

Bourne2
Why would you bet against this? Clearly they haven’t seen the other films, but easy money for Bourne.

By being contacted by Parsons, Bourne appears on the radar of ambitious CIA cyber-intelligence officer Heather (#ratherboringname) Lee (Alicia Vikander) and new CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). In familiar fashion now, Dewey dispatches an asset with a serious Bourne grudge – Budge? – (the excellent Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”)) to eliminate the troublesome couple. Much mayhem and bloodshed ensues.

Bourne has always been the silent but deadly type, and in this film he goes to extremes with the director (Paul Greengrass, back in the saddle again) only giving him an alleged 25 lines in the whole film (I wasn’t sad enough to count them but I can believe that to be true). Centre stage in the acting stakes again though is my favourite actress of the moment Alicia Vikander who just radiates class with a mesmerising screen presence. Tommy Lee Jones – an actor who has always had too much skin for his face, now going into overdrive with age – is also superb, and as they spend much of their screen time together, the combo is compelling.  

bourne3
Alicia Vikander in ice queen mode as CIA Cyber Intelligence officer Heather Lee.

But most people go to see Bourne for the action, and again the film doesn’t disappoint, with a sequence set round Paddington being particularly thrilling and a Vegas-set car chase to die for (literally if you were unfortunate to be driving the strip that night!).  For there is carnage a plenty in this film, with probably the highest body count of any Bourne film to date.

bourne5
Asset management, with the splendidly ruthless Vincent Cassel.

Technically the film is really well put together, although you need to pay pretty close attention. The traditionally jerky-camera approach makes reading computer screens and text messages stressful for the viewer: the motion pauses for about 32 nano-seconds for reading purposes, so this film must be very hard work for dyslexics. There’s some really nice featuring of new video surveillance technology picking out identities from the crowd (which you might think is science fiction, but is not since my ‘day-job’ company  – Verint – develops such solutions!)

bourne6
For Doctor Who fans, Tommy Lee Jones auditioning for a part as ‘The Face of Bo’.

I have seen other reports that Bourne fans were disappointed by this outing. I was not. I thought it was well up to standard. True there is a certain sense of re-tread (or perhaps that should be re-treadstone, arf!) to this, but the same could certainly be said for similar franchises (like Bond, and all of the current stock of superhero films). I personally can never get enough of Bourne – even the music and the pleasantly familiar end titles are a joy – so for me that’s just fine! 

Recommended!

Fad Rating:  FFFFf.

 

 

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: The BFG (2016)

Spielberg in his lower quartile.

BFG-poster

As a big fan of Spielberg I was rather disappointed by “The BFG”. In the SFR (Spielberg Film Ranking) it is more at the “1941” and “Crystal Skull” end than at the “ET” and “JAWS” end. This is a film squarely aimed at the kids market (and there’s nothing wrong with that) but even for kids films there is no excuse for poor execution.

BFG1
Hairy Palmer… but no Michael Caine.

The BFG, as virtually every parent is aware, tells the story of little ‘insomniacal’ orphan Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill) – espying and being carried off by the titular Big Friendly Giant (a CGI’d Mark Rylance) in the middle of the night. The BFG’s job is to catch dreams and blow them into the heads of sleeping people. He’s friendly but his bullying colleagues in the Land of the Giants are not, liking very much the taste of ‘human beans’. The rebellious Sophie determines to jolt the BFG out of his servile state to take on his repressors; something that will require the help of people in high places.

BFG3
Jemaine Clement as Fleshlumpeater, leader of the giants, who also feature Bill Hader, Fear in “Inside Out”.

On the positive side, the look of the film is glorious from the opening ‘Mary Poppinised’ views of London to the BFGs home and the ‘land of dreams’. Spielberg regulars Janusz Kaminsky drives the beautiful cinematography and Michael Kahn the crisp editing. Also worthy of note is the Production Design and set decoration on which the credibility of a film like this relies.

Mark Rylance also injects great charisma into his facial expressions which, at the moments where the film turns (overly in my view) soppy and sentimental, do move you. And there are some (OK, about two) really laugh out loud moments with flatulent Corgis being a high-point.

BFG6
Mark Rylance is all ears.

However there seems to be minimal chemistry developed between Sophie and the BFG, and it constantly feels that they are filming this in different places (which they very possibly were). While I hate to be critical of a young person, this seems to be down to the performance of Barnhill. Spielberg is normally the master of pulling out epic performances from his kid actors (think of Cary Guffrey in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” or Drew Barrymore in “ET”) yet – whilst young Ruby is perfectly sweet and pleasant – there doesn’t seem to be that depth or range in the actress to make you believe she is particularly scared at the beginning (wouldn’t you need a blanket wash?) or having the gumption to drive the giant to such actions.  

BFG2
“What – Boris Johnson is Foreign Secretary??” . A good surprise face from Ruby Barnhill as Sophie.

I feel even worse about my next criticism – screenwriter Melissa Mathison  (“ET”) – since this was her last screenplay before dying in November last year at the early age of 65 (and the film is dedicated to her).  “Dreams is so quick on the outside but long on the inside” says the BFG, and at times some of the dialogue feels far too ‘long on the inside’. A problem here is that Roald Dahl’s story is rather slight, but the screenplay seriously struggles to pad it out to the 2 hour running time (given the attention span of youngsters, Spielberg would have done well to make this a 90 minute movie). While the film very occasionally kicks into gear, significant chunks are, unfortunately, just plain dull.

The script also seems to lack an anchor for its time and place. The Queen (the excellent Penelope Wilton) is familiar as our monarch, but a comedic reference to “Prime Minister Boris” is immediately punctured by a confusing US reference to Nancy and Ronald!  Why not Barack and Michelle?  Bizarre!   

BFG5
Penelope Wilton’s turn as The Queen. Whizzpopper’s approaching!

The soundtrack is by the great John Willams, but this is not one of his best. I remember an interview with the Maestro where Alfred Hitchcock advised the young composer on the set of “Family Plot” to stop the music at one point to signify the emptiness of a room. There are times in this film where you wish he still held to that advice, since at times the music is jarringly obtrusive and irritating, mimicking in percussion every little dream that zips across the screen.

For balance, in this summer of repeated terrorist horror and distress, this is a dose of escapism that should be welcomed. (It would be nice to think that all these troubles could be solved by helicoptering all the bad guys in the world to a remote island with nothing to eat but snozzcumbers!) And I’m sure that many a 6 or 7 year old will simply delight in the film. But I can’t help thinking it should have been much better, and perhaps might have been better enlivened as a musical, with Tim Minchin lyrics to add a bit of parental zip.

BFG4
Another ash tree suffers from ‘die back’

 As a final serious note to parents, there is a point at which Sophie jumps out of a high window expecting the BFG to catch her: in the same way that the old “Batman” TV series had an Adam West/Burt Ward led pre-clip telling kids not to copy their antics, I would suggest that any susceptible young children need a stern talking to that all of this is pretend.

Kids, 6 to 10:  FFFf.
Fad Rating:  FFf.

Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

(Apologies to readers of One Mann’s Movies for the extended absence: Mrs Movies insisted on dragging Dr Movies on holiday to a foreign location without cinemas. Sheeesh – imagine such a thing!).

Of Ghosts, Ghoulies and Trolls.

gb-poster

Aside from the curiosity of grown men walking off cliffs in pursuit of imaginary creatures, 2016 might go down in sociological terms as noteworthy for the vitriol meted out on a particular film – namely this all-female reboot of the much loved 1984 Bill Murray/Dan Ackroyd original (which spawned a rather less-loved 1989 sequel). Not only it seems have ghosts and ghoulies been unleashed on the world, but also trolls… lots of them. Quite why this is the case, before anyone had even seen the film, is a bit of a mystery to me…. Would this have happened if it had been a “traditional” male-dominated reboot? I suspect not. In which case the phenomenon is unpleasantly sexist and wrong. Perhaps the social experiment should include an all-Jewish or an all-Muslim cast next time?

Notwithstanding the internet furore, I went into this with low expectations…. but was pleasantly surprised. It’s not the best film ever made… but as a piece of summer confection, it is far better than most.

gb1
Who ya gonna call? From left, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kirsten Wiig and Kate McKinnon.

The plot is largely inconsequential, and follows the vague outline of the original 1984 flick: scary opening; Ghostbusters formation; ghouls released by misfit bad guy; big squishy thing (literally); Ghostbusters to the rescue; will they win through? (erm… guesses anyone?).

In a bit more detail, Erin (Kristen Wiig) is alarmed to see her academic reputation rocked by the appearance on Amazon of a book she ghost-wrote (arf) many years ago with Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy). Abby and her kooky colleague, engineering whizz-kid Jillian (Kate McKinnon), are quietly beavering away at a dodgy academic institution in a pseudo-scientific study of the supernatural. The three – together with freaked-out subway ticket clerk Patty (Leslie Jones) – get drawn into the supernatural schemes of loner terrorist nut-job Ed Mulgrave (Ed Begley Jnr) as New York goes non-linear on the spookometer.

gb5
Kristen Wiig – a physicist on the angular spectral plane.

Classifying the film is a bit tricky since it’s not strictly a remake; neither is it a complete reboot. One of the charms of the film in fact is its warm and frequent referrals to the original classic, including (largely) amusing cameos from all but two of the main original cast (excluding Harold Ramis, who died in 2014 – and to who the film is dedicated – and Rick Moranis who just said “no”). A nice example is the selection of the fire station as the Ghostbuster’s headquarters: a choice that is then declined due to the astronomical rents in favour of the upstairs floor of a Chinese takeaway! But as well as wallowing in nostalgia, the film is also aware of its 2016 roots, with some topical jokes and an hilariously barbed anti-trolling reference to the internet furore: a Youtube comment “Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts.”.

gb4
Ex-spectre-ating? Nope – more like a vomit.

I have to admit to not being an enormous fan of Melissa McCarthy’s shtick (she falls in my ‘Rebel Wilson’ categorization box), but Kirsten Wiig is excellent and consistently made me laugh: and there is a lot of good laugh-out-loud humour in here, with the script by Katie Dippold and Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”, “Spy” and who also directs) hitting about a 70:30 hit:miss rate. A more acquired taste is Kate McKinnon who takes kooky to a whole new level. I quite liked her: my wife felt her the weakest of the four leads. But the standout comedy performance here was – surprisingly – by Chris “Thor” Hemsworth as the ‘dumb but can dance’ male secretary Kevin (“such a manly name”). He’s a scene-stealer, and adds significant entertainment value to the appealing and clip-filled end-titles.

gb3
A hunk with an IQ of only Thor. The surprise comic turn of Hemsworth.

But perfect it’s not. The start of the film lumbers rather than launches into its stride (not helped by the up-front ‘scar-ee’ – tour guide Zach Woods – being a wise-guy joke cracker rather than a straight-man… library-lady must be turning in her grave); some of the interplay between the lead characters comes across as forced and a tad cringy; the music editing seems curiously inept at times; and some of the special effects bear more comparison to the 80’s films than modern day state-of-the-art.

gb2
An old friend still fond of hot dogs.

But as a park-brain-at-door summer comedy it didn’t disappoint: and if my rating is perhaps a half-Fad over-generous this is just to counter the internet haters: “I ain’t afraid of no trolls”.

Fad Rating: FFFF.