Ben-Hur Review

They remade Ben-Hur? Sure why not? With all the other bloody films being remade, let’s just do whatever films studios still have the rights to. Disclaimer, I haven’t seen the original (apart from the chariot sequence), but it’s usually seen as one of the biggest films of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Let’s see though, maybe it could be good.

Ben-Hur stars Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell and Nazanin Bonaidi and is directed by Timur Bekmambetov. Based on the book from 1880, the film follows Judah Ben-Hur (Huston) who is betrayed by his Roman Soldier brother (Kebbell) and forced into slavery during the time of Jesus Christ.

I’ll start with what I did like. The film is split between several built sets and real-life wilderness. While it is very easy to spot the former, I really enjoyed the latter. Near the beginning we see a montage of Ben-Hur’s adoptive brother Messala’s army career, with him fighting in Germania and Gaul, through wheat-fields and falling snow. It reminded me of the opening of Gladiator, but sadly it’s only in the film for a limited amount of time. I also mostly enjoyed the chariot sequence. While it can’t hold a candle to the original (famous for the alarmingly high amount of injuries and near-death experiences on set) the destruction throughout has a nice crunch to it.

I’m also glad that a lot of the horse and chariot racing was done for real. Sure, horses being tripped and riders being thrown off or trampled are computer generated, but there are many scenes where Ben-Hur is learning to tilt his chariot onto one wheel or another where he jumps onto runaway horses, and it’s all done for real. Director Timur Bekmambetov stated he wanted to not rely on CGI unless it was heavily needed, so I applaud him for using it correctly rather than splashing out.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been used, and quite terribly. During Ben-Hur’s time as a Galley Slave, rowing ships for the Roman Navy, he looks out the portholes and see’s some truly awful looking ships. The previously mentioned chariot sequence (when it isn’t the real riders) is full of rubbery looking models unfit for the early 2000s. It’s a little bit sad when something goes from real-life stunts then to bad stand-ins.

The acting is mixed pot as well. Most of the cast is English or American (odd, since the film is meant to be set in Jerusalem). Jack Huston plays Judah Ben-Hur as a gruff, wooden character, breathing every other word like Kristen Stewart used to do back in Twilight. Toby Kebbell isn’t as charismatic as he was in Warcraft earlier this year (he was honestly the best part of that film), but his character is meant to be a nigh-emotionless killer so I’ll let it pass. The person I was most confused by was Morgan Freeman. While he is really good in the film, I was pulled out the experience by his inclusion. Everyone else is either relatively unknown or coming into their careers, so to have this huge actor in the film, is creates a divide. Bekmamtebov said he wanted the film to be global, hence his inclusion of Freeman. Alright, I’ll let it go. Morgan Freeman does draw in the crowds, since remaking a classic film is not usually a winner of box offices (it’s reportedly making a loss of $120 million).

The bit I found both unintentionally hilarious and odd was the inclusion of Jesus Christ. Jesus is in the original story (the subtitle is A Tale Of The Christ), but in the 1959 version, he’s usually off-screen, a higher presence that is alluded to but never truly shown. There is a line in the updated version which basically is, “This Jesus fellow is rather great, he’s just wonderful.” Now, I’m all for including whatever you want in a film, but it was just so funny how the line was presented in the film, it felt really out of place. That being said, Rodrigo Santoro, the actor who plays Jesus (who also played Xerxes from 300 and Karl from Love Actually, interesting fact), is actually giving a good performance and an interesting addition to the film.

In the end, Ben-Hur wasn’t as bad as I was thinking it was going to be. It’s an odd mix of Gladiator, Passion Of The Christ and Ben-Hur, but sadly with nothing really standout to warrant it being remade.

Score: 5/10 There are better movies to spend two and half hours with.

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War Dogs Review

I’ve been looking forward to War Dogs. As a fan of true-crime films such as The Wolf of Wall StreetPrecinct Seven Five and Pain And Gain, I’ve been really looking forward to a new film in the same vein. And as a big fan of Miles Teller (who has been on a bit of a poor run recently, Fan4stic anyone?) I was hoping this could be a return to form.

War Dogs stars Miles Teller, Jonah Hill, Ana De Armas and Bradley Cooper and is directed by Todd Phillips. The film follows the true story of David Packouz (Teller) and Efraim Diveroli (Hill) who in their early 20s started running guns for the American Military in Iraq.

The director Todd Phillips’ highest profile work is The Hangover trilogy. From the promotion and the trailers, War Dogs looked to be continuing in that vein of often juvenile comedy. Thankfully, the comedy is toned down and the film as a whole is a lot more darker than it was advertised as. The Hangover crowd will find some fairly humorous moments; one scene where Jonah Hill struts around firing a machine gun in the air is one of the funniest parts of the film, but I liked how the humour is pushed back for space for a more mature story. While much of it is fictionalised, including one of the main scenes involving the duo running a truck of guns from Jordan to Iraq, it’s still an incredibly enjoyable film.

The actors do a fine job. Miles Teller is our main “everyman” type of guy, he provides a running voice over and the film is all from his point of view. Ana De Armas plays his wife Izzy, but neither have much personality beyond their roles in the story, they are pretty bland. Bradley Cooper, while a fun part of the film is not in most of it. He’s probably in it for ten minutes at the most, but his terrorist/evil gangster is an interesting role for an actor most known for being a comedy performer.

Jonah Hill though is the main comedy highlight. In a role similar to The Wolf Of Wall Street, he’s the scumbag to Teller’s nice guy. He likes to think he is a gangster; he has a massive picture of Scarface on his office wall, buys golden paper-weights in the shape of grenades and laughs manically like Jared Leto’s Joker. He’s bought totally into making money from the war, using the buzzwords of patriotism and the Free Market to clear his mind of any wrongdoing. A repeated line of his is “It’s not illegal,” which shows his entire character in three words.

The film is nearly two hours, and there is a little bit of a drop in the middle. The film starts great and ends great, but in the middle, once the duo have run their guns to Baghdad and have expanded their empire, it does drop with their second big contract. The film is split into around five “chapters”, with lines from the next part of the film being chapter titles e.g. “Welcome to Dick Cheney’s America!,” or “This is the whole effing pie!”. It’s like a less pretentious version of what Quentin Tarantino does with his films.

The whole films feels like The Wolf of Wall Street for teenagers, a TWOW-lite version. The shoddy stocks and bonds are replaced by AK-47s and over 100-million rounds of ammunition, and for good measure they went and borrowed Jonah Hill to play the same wacky/scummy sidekick of the main character. The glorification of money and despicable characters will obviously draw the anger of some critics, but that’s kind of missing the point. You not meant to cheer for the characters, but laugh at the ridiculous and risky things they do to make money and the mad opportunities that have been offered to them (such as supplying the entire Afghan Army).

The bad guys (or let’s just say “morally questionable” guys) is nothing new to cinema, and I bet that due to its subject matter, War Dogs will get lumped in with films like Pain And Gain or the previously mentioned Wolf. Don’t let that put you off, it’s one of the better things this summer and gets a hearty recommendation from me.

Score: 8/10 A lot smarter, funnier and better than it has any right to be.

Nerve Review

Third week running, with the last of the summer blockbusters coming out as the lucrative summer market comes to a close. And surprisingly, we have another film that looked terrible but managed to follow last week’s The Shallows and turned into a little gem.

Nerve stars Emma Roberts, James Franco, Emily Meade and Miles Heizer and is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Based on the book of the same name by Jeanne Ryan, the film follows teenager Vee (Roberts) who joins the online game Nerve, where she can win money for completing dares.

I must confess, I was actually wanting to see Nerve from the trailer. While I didn’t have high hopes, the set-up looked interesting. As explained in the intro, Nerve is an online game. You are either a “watcher” or a “player”. Watchers, as the name implies watch and set dares for the Players. When Players video themselves completing dares they attract followers which in turn wins them money, simple. It’s Pokémon GO, mixed with Vine and Online Poker. Do you leave with the money you’ve made or do you hold your nerve (aha, I see what you did there) and do “one last dare” to get some more money. It’s an interesting concept for a thriller, one that Nerve tries to explore but never really fleshes out.

The film is full of almost great moments. The dares have that same sort of debauchery of High-Rise and The Wolf of Wall Street had as well as having the colour scheme of The Neon Demon (seriously, it’s like the film is being blackmailed by the neon light industry). You can almost hear Nerve straining at its 12a rating, wanting to push the envelope and put some more crazy and risqué stuff on-screen but needing that young teenage market with disposable income who are annoyed they couldn’t get into Suicide Squad.

These great moments though are let down by a weak story and script that has more holes than a sieve. How come our main characters Vee and Ian (Emma Roberts and James Franco, who are both terrific) have to do three dares one after the other for fear of losing it all, but can go for pizza and a carousel ride without losing all their winnings? Who sets the dares? Who pays the players? Questions that the film really doesn’t care about so it can do the same old “kooky/nerdy girl comes out of her shell and get’s a boyfriend and shows all the cool kids at school that they were wrong about her” storyline that was tired back in the 1980s.

The film tries to include the cool “hacker” vibe that has been in media recently (see Mr. Robot and Watch_Dogs), but oddly shows the hackers as pouty Abercrombie and Fitch models with hearts of gold rather than the socially-maladjusted kids who help North Korea push around movie studios. Nerve brings up many ideas about online accounts and privacy as well as cyberbullying and crime, but none of it is sub-text like the aforementioned Rise or Demon, it’s just text. The final act, where Vee makes a speech to her millions of watchers is as about on-the-nose as you could get without it becoming an infomercial that is played in schools to warn kids about the dangers of the internet.

Nerve is both dumb but also kind of great. It never really drops into a lull, with the two hour run time neither feeling overlong or too short. The story is weak, but the set-up is one of the most interesting of the faux-sincere 12a summer crowd. If may be based off a young adult book, but at least it’s not set in the post-apocalypse like every other teenage-based film of the past five years. It gets a recommendation from me.

Score: 7/10 Young, dumb but thoroughly entertaining.

Suicide Squad Review

People seem to think I hate superhero films, I know, what fools. I don’t hate superhero films, I just hate bad movies, and lately it’s been less of a Venn diagram and more two circles trying to angrily mate. But okay, this time they have a good director. David Ayer, the man behind the excellent End Of Watch is at the helm, so let’s hope this one isn’t as bad as Batman Vs. Superman.

Suicide Squad stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinneman with Jai Courtney and Jared Leto and is written and directed by David Ayer. The film follows the titular squad of bad guys, furloughed from prison in an attempt to save the world from a cosmic threat.

The acting made Suicide Squad one of the most boring films this year. There was all this big talk of Will Smith being a bad guy this time around, but his version of Deadshot is just like EVERY OTHER WILL SMITH CHARACTER. Margot Robbie is doing a hyper version of her role in Wolf Of Wall Street, this time in smudged make up. And that’s it. I know there are more members of the Squad, but they are almost cardboard cut-outs in comparison to Smith and Robbie.

Cara Delevingne does nothing but wiggle her arms and gyrate her hips as Enchantress, and poor Karen Fukuhara (who I was really looking forward to seeing) has about two lines and is constantly wearing a mask. Deadshot and Harley Quinn get multiple flashbacks to establish their characters, the rest of the crew are given one-line back-stories by Captain Whitey-McStubbly, it’s poor character development. Now let’s turn to Jared Leto. Yes, I know you’re trying to impress everyone with your method acting and your CRAZY antics, but when you are doing nothing interesting on screen, it just looks pathetic. He’s jumping from Heath Ledger to Jack Nicholson and not doing anything to make himself stand out. And despite being all over the marketing, he’s only in around ten minutes of a two hour film.

Let’s talk editing. The films is a choppy mess, flipping from laughter and giggles to child murder with nothing in between. The film is known for having multiple reshoots, and these scenes are so easy to spot, they look completely different to the rest of the film. Whoever did the editing in the final action scene was obviously having a laugh with the audience. The screen goes from barely visible to blinding white. You will get a migraine from the abrupt shifts, guaranteed.

The CGI applied for the big bad guy, it makes Gods Of Egypt look competent. The contrast of the characters is so out of sync with background, it’s like it’s not even trying. That could very much be the tagline for the film, “We know it’s terrible, so we’re not going to try.”

If anyone can actually tell me the plot details of Suicide Squad then congratulations, you’re a liar. Stuff just happens in Suicide Squad, none of it making any sense. There is a blue bolt of lightning shooting up into the air above New York City (apparently in the film it’s been there for three days, but everyone must have ignored it until now) and we never have an explanation for why it’s there. Just like BvS, the film is too edited and overlong at the same time. Anything that would have given context has been stripped out and filled in with lame attempts to ape the Deadpool “rude-words-are-funny” style of humour.

One thing I will say though, the music is great. Not the score, that’s pretty generic, but the use of licensed music is well done. Grace’s “You Don’t Own Me”, The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and Animals’ “House Of The Rising Sun” all fit the film and are a joy to hear in a cinema sound system.

It’s obvious that everyone at DC doesn’t want to make films. They just feel they have to because The Avengers happened. DC, not everyone gets to be Marvel, and oh honey, you can’t compete with that, you don’t have what it takes.

Score: 2/10 A waste of a good concept and cast.

The Legend Of Tarzan Review

After a slew of uneventful, boring and drab summer blockbusters, (all three sum up Independence Day 2), we have to wait a few more weeks until we get some actually great movies (Jason Bourne and Finding Dory respectively). So let’s review a film from last week that I finally got round to watching, The Legend of Tarzan.

The Legend Of Tarzan stars Alexander Skarsgård, Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson and is directed by David Yates. Based of the characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the film follows Tarzan (Skarsgård) who after living in London for several years is lured back to The Congo by a conspiracy been orchestrated by Captain Leon Rom (Waltz).

The Legend Of Tarzan is the perfect example of a B movie. Nobody was really asking for a new Tarzan film, he had his time from the silent era all the way into the 1960s. But there is just something about it, it has a little bit of Indiana Jones sense of adventure, of exotic locations and scheming villains that I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

The acting is a rather mixed bag. While physically Skarsgård is a perfect Tarzan (the guy is huge, you totally believe he could be swinging around on vines) he doesn’t display too much emotion. He hasn’t much chemistry with Margot Robbie (this movie’s Jane) who is a charisma machine in whatever role she plays. Samuel L. Jackson is doing a less foul-mouthed version of one of his Tarantino characters, while Christoph Waltz’s Leon Rom is like a live-action version of Dick Dastardly. All of them are sadly let down by a weak script and some bizarre moments of comedy. A running joke by Jackson about monkey testicles seems really odd since it’s delivered in a scene where Tarzan is being beaten down by gorillas. It’s just an odd placement and destroys the tense mood.

The film tries to tie the mythical story of Tarzan to the true events in the Congo at the time, which also seems jarring. Jackson and Waltz’s characters are actual people, so it’s odd to see them mixing with the superhero acrobatics of Tarzan. Add in the real-life atrocities that Waltz’s character committed and it gets really quite uncomfortable.

Tarzan’s mythic quality could have explained away any other combatant. Tarzan is the books fought dinosaurs and Nazis. Who wouldn’t pay to see that, Ape Man fights Nazis? Waltz is already is costume as Belloq from Raiders Of the Lost Ark and there are several scenes where he seems to just replicating that character. Who cares if it’s historically inaccurate, this is a film about a man who climbs on trees and swings on vines, were pretty far from anything realistic at this point.

And since Tarzan is a man of the jungle, he also is able to talk to the animals. Sadly, the CGI is rather low quality. At a time where you have Andy Serkis’ Apes movies and this year’s other jungle-dwelling feral story, The Jungle Book, you really need to step up your game up when it comes to animation.

Don’t be fooled though, there is some greatness to be found in The Legend Of Tarzan. For one, it looks great. While a lot of the film was shot on sound stages, some photography was done in Gabon, allowing for endless sweeping shots of the plains and mountains. And while done on stages, the sets are well designed and realised. Opar, the fabled diamond mine where Djimon Hounsou’s Mbonga and the leopard men live is a stunning set and contains two great action scenes, both at the beginning and end of the film. Costumes as well are on point. Hounsou’s previously mentioned Mbonga, who wears leopard print, claws and bones, as well as Waltz’s all white linen suit fit into that adventure story mould.

In the end, I enjoyed The Legend of Tarzan on purely a anachronistic level. It’s not mind-blowing or transcendent and a little bit long, but it’s a good popcorn flick.

Score: 7/10 B Movie adventure ridiculousness.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Review

I have seen several episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, and while I was never a “fan”, there were enjoyable. But I remember seeing the trailer for the Ab Fab movie and cringing at the fawning over celebrities and models and already wondering if it was going to jump the shark like many TV to film adaptations. Let’s find out.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie stars Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha and June Whitfield and is directed by Mandie Fletcher. The film follows the ever alcoholic, drug-abusing narcissists Edina (Saunders) and Patsy (Lumley) who have to flee to the south of France after Edina accidently kills Kate Moss.

We’ll start with what works, Joanna Lumley. She is by far the best thing in the film, whether she’s showing off for the paparazzi, getting caught up in a fashion runway or just walking down the road with a bottle of champagne in her hand, Lumley commands the screen every time she is on and plays Patsy as a wonderfully vain and pampered waste. Kathy Burke too, despite having only a few short minutes in the film as a ball-busting, loudmouth reporter has some great lines. And that’s really it. Sure there were some good lines here and there that made me laugh, but apart from Lumley and Burke, it’s really quite dreary.

Since Edina is a PR agent, celebrities would obviously be involved in some way with the production. The film takes a leaf out of Zoolander 2‘s book and floods the screen with as many famous faces as it can. When asked had he seen Jaws 4, Michael Caine famously said, “No, but I’ve seen the house it bought.” That’s what Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie feels like, people like Jon Hamm, Stella McCartney, Emma Bunton and Lulu are just turning up to be flattered by the main stars and then pick up a cheque. It’s not just fashion designers and models that turn up either. The film is full of actual actors like Robert Webb, Rebel Wilson and Martin Gatiss, and most are terrible in this. Webb and Gatiss are both funny people but are sadly given nothing to use.

The script, while it starts funny loses its mark around the half hour point. As always, there are some great one liners, but after that mark it descends into a weird sort of slapstick. The script also takes another note from Zoolander 2 by having several jokes aimed at transgender characters. It’s demeaning and ends up just becoming examples of “you’re transgender, that’s different from the rest of us so let’s laugh at you for a bit”. The off-colour jokes end up making the majority of the script about part way through and definitely in my screening there were moments when one of those jokes would come up and the whole cinema was silent.

Despite being only 91 minutes long, there are moments when the film feels a bit baggy. There are subplots about Eddie’s book deal and several dream sequences where Eddie and Patsy imagine that they are partying away the rest of their days surrounded by fashion celebrities. The film sets up the massive “on-the-run” type story but is simply resolved in the last two minutes of the film so that we can have a big happy ending.

In the end, this might be one for the super-fans of Ab Fab. If all you’re wanting to see is Eddie and Patsy together again, getting drunk and going on crazy adventures that you’ll have fun. For the rest, it might be one to check the trailer first before you decide whether to watch it.

Score: 5/10 Absolutely medicore.

Jason Bourne Collection Review

Preface

With the new film in the series, Jason Bourne coming out in the…Jason Bourne franchise, I thought it might be a good idea to go back to the series as a whole. The Bourne series’ influence on cinema in the post-2000 scene is massive, everything from Taken to XIII to Daniel Craig’s James Bond owes a debt to Bourne, and it’s still influencing cinema today. The films I will be reviewing are;

  • The Bourne Identity
  • The Bourne Supremacy
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • The Bourne Legacy

Review

The Bourne Identity

The start of the series, with Matt Damon in the title role and Doug Liman on directing duties. The film follows Jason Bourne (Damon) a spy for the CIA who is struck with amnesia and hunted by his old firm. We see the start of the themes and notes of the franchise here; the European setting, a sense of realism (distinguishing it from the most recent James Bond film at the time, Die Another Day) and the bone crunching mix of Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali for the fight scenes. And while there are moments of greatness peppered throughout (The bank/embassy evacuation, the Mini chase through the streets of Paris and the showdown with Clive Owen’s Professor) there is a hint of ropey-ness about it all. The fight scenes aren’t well shot and the sound effects are ripped straight from an Adam West Batman episode. The staircase ride, while it starts interesting, also has some video-gamey sound effects, poor CGI and sped-up footage. Apart from that, Chris Cooper is a great villain as Conklin and John Powell’s score is one of the most recognisible themes in all of cinema.

Score: 6/10 A Good start to an action series.

The Bourne Supremacy

Matt Damon returns as the superspy but the director’s chair has moved from Liman over to Paul Grengrass. The story continues two years on, when a shadowy Russian oligarch forces Bourne back into the CIAs spotlight. While this was never my favourite Bourne film, after going back to it, I look upon it more favorably. Greengrass’ signature hand-held shaky style is at it’s best here (and sadly imitated poorly by many other directors) conveying the brutality and speed of the hand-to-hand fight scenes. One fight, between Bourne and the last Treadstone assassin, Jarda, is a brilliant display of improvised weaponry. The hotel/ Neski segments have a nice Traditions Of The Trade feel and help fill in background to Treadstone. The main weak point is the story. Who is Gretkov (the oligarch) and why is he so interested in Bourne? Why does he have the Neski files? There is no clear point to why the main bad guy is setting up Bourne other than to make some money, which is quite poor character development.

Score: 8/10 If it wasn’t for the weak story, this would have been the best one.

The Bourne Ultimatum

The final chapter of the Matt Damon trilogy, with Paul Greengrass returning to direct. Set mere hours after the end of Supremacy, the film follows Bourne as he finally heads after the CIA to find out who he really is. This is the culmination of everything that was great about the first two while taking out the elements that didn’t work. The hand-to-hand combat is better than ever, with a beautiful set piece against a Capoeira-infused Blackbrair agent. The rest of the action set pieces are on par, with a great rooftop chase in Tangiers as well as a shootout in London Waterloo. The story is also leagues ahead of the tenuous link in Supremacy, with it linking back to Bourne as his origin rather than some half-baked scheme about stealing money from the second film.

Score: 9/10 The best of series so far.

The Bourne Legacy

With Matt Damon and Paul Grengrass both said they were not returning to the series, it fell to the previous three film’s screenwriter Tony Gilory to take the directing chair and Jeremy Renner as a new “Outcome” agent Aaron Cross to take hold of the Bourne franchise. Set during and after The Bourne Ultimatum, the film follows another agent, Aaron Cross, as the previous programs are shut down by government bureaucrat Eric Byer (played superbly by Edward Norton) to risk embarrassment of the CIA. Cross is the only survivor of his program, leading the CIA to hunt him down. While Jeremy Renner is good stand-in for Matt Damon in the action scenes, his manner is too cheerful. He’s always cracking jokes, which doesn’t really fit the character of a deadly assassin. His romance with Rachael Weisz seems token and the film ends flatly, obviously trying to set up a sequel that never came. Apart from one long-take of Cross in a shootout in a house and a nifty motorcycle trick near the end, the rest of the action is boring or ridiculous. The story isn’t engaging like the third film and it’s only the barest relation to the Bourne series that made anyone want to go see it.

Score: 4/10 Generic-o fist-punchy, gun-shooty (that means it’s bad).

Love And Friendship Review

Jane Austen is a landmark of literature, with her books selling millions and being adapted over thirty times throughout their time. I sadly missed the newest (unofficial) adaptation earlier this year, Pride And Prejudice And Zombies, but here comes another Austen adaptation, Love And Friendship.

 Love And Friendship stars Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel and Stephen Fry and is written and directed by Whit Stillman. Based on the short story Lady Susan by Jane Austen, the film follows Lady Susan (Beckinsale) as she tries to find a husband for herself and her daughter Frederica.

It’s rare that a film makes me smile from the very start. The opening of the film is just a credits roll, but just the way it was presented, with classical music playing in the background, it reminded me of the old English films from the 1940-50s, where they would present all of the cast before the film started. Love And Friendship is obviously tapping into that old style of filmmaking with its presentation.

However, the film has some wonderful post-modern additions, which supply a lot of the laughs in this romantic-comedy. Since the story is all about families and how they relate to each other, we get a family portrait of the characters, with their name and their role in the story, such as, Reginald De Courcy: A Young and Handsome Man. It’s almost a bit like Deadpool’s opening, where it cuts down the characters down to their stock types. The post modern influences keep coming, such as an extended sequence of reading a letter, punctuation and all, appearing on screen as text. Most of the jokes are these farcical moments, which have led the film to achieve a U certificate, since there is nothing rude, but it’s still bitingly funny.

Most of that comes down to the actors, who know how ridiculous the set up is and are relishing being able to chew the scenery with over-the-top performances. Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan shows off her ability as a comic performer, helming most of the jokes with perfect comedic timing.

The film feels almost like a play in many respects. There are only a few sets, the film containing the story to one manor house and then a few London streets. The original story was written in the form of letters, so it’s a big jump to move from that to a fully fleshed out story. It does take a while for the story to get going and understand what everyone’s role is, but it feels just like a classic Jane Austen work, with the themes, character and of course, ending with not one, but two weddings.

I did have a problem with the character drop at the beginning though. We are introduced to around four different families at the beginning, each with around four to five people in them and all intricately entwined with each other through marriages and siblings. I was confused for a good twenty minutes afterwards trying to figure out who is connected to who. It’s also a bit annoying that some characters, such as Stephen Fry’s Mr. Johnson are mentioned in the character drop but have about ninety seconds of screen time despite being mentioned as a main character.

The script might also be something that might throw off audiences. In the style of Austen, it’s all flowery dialogue, the type that uses forty words where ten would do fine. That’s part of the aesthetic, but some audiences members won’t get the jokes hidden beneath the heaps of “thou’s”, “thee’s” and “thy’s.”

In summary, Love And Friendship is an old school period piece that despite being over 200 years old is still incredibly funny. If you are a fan of Jane Austen you will love it, and if you’re everyone else, it’s a good recommendation.

Score: 7/10 Great performances and a witty script.

Angry Birds Review

It’s been a while getting here. I’ve missed every other time to see Angry Birds but after much deliberation I would endeavor to see it. I can’t be a proponent of video games to films and not see what is ultimately one of the most well-known franchises and multimedia enterprises make it’s first steps into Hollywood.

Angry Birds stars Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Sean Penn and Peter Dinklage and is directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly. The film follows Red (Sudeikis), Chuck (Gad) and Bomb (McBride) as they try to save the eggs on their home-world, Bird Island, from an invasion of Pigs.

Back in February I went to see the remake of Point Break. I came out of that screening with a desire to stop reviewing films. How does this link to Angry Birds? I came out of that screening shaking with rage at what I had made myself endure for the good part of ninety minutes.

The story is as hackneyed and generic as it can possibly be. It’s your usual redemption narrative, which is completely out-of-place. It takes so long to get going, never has an hour and a half film felt SO BLOODY LONG. I didn’t think Angry Birds had a story, but that goes to show that you can make a movie out of anything. That doesn’t mean you should make the movie though.

The voice cast is fine, but half of them sound like their phoning it in. Sean Penn’s entire role is grunting, which is a waste of his talent. Peter Dinklage sounds like his going through the motions, I think he was just brought on to add his name to the poster to boost ticket sales. Granted, they don’t have much to work with; jokes about excrement and other slapstick humour is abound, none of it is of merit or memorable. “But it’s a kids film” I hear you say. Okay, the film does have a U certificate, but what child will understand references to The Shining? Or constant sexual innuendos? Or bad language, usually replaced with the word “clucking”?

That’s not even the worst part. The final straw that broke me was the blatant advertising in the middle of the film. As soon as the Birds find Piggy Island, they start using the catapult to fling themselves into the Pig Castle. Before our trio of heroes can be shot by the catapult, around five to six birds are shot first, each displaying their special abilities. These are the birds that you need to spend real-life money to acquire in the game. It’s pandering to the child audience who are in the theatre, “Hey, buy our game, but if you want the rest of these cool birds, getting mum and dad to buy them for you”. Product placement is nothing new in films, just look at any number of James Bond films. But James Bond has an age certificate. And the things he peddles (mainly watches, alcohol and cars) are not being sold to children or being advertised to children. What Angry Birds is doing is shady and exploitative.

And do you know what the worst part is? This is only the start. Did you know Fruit Ninja just got greenlit? Tetris is also in development. The film industry is getting hold of widely known properties and trying to put a narrative to them when they have no backbone to support a narrative. Battleship, Ratchet And Clank even Warcraft, all films that tried to put a narrative on things that have no narrative to begin with. You might call me a hypocrite; I promote video games as being the next great medium that cinema can link with. But the thing is, there are great game stories (I’m not going to go into here). These are just brands that are being stretched into hour and a half adverts.

Bringing it back to Angry Birds, it is honestly one of the worst things I’ve seen this year. Point Break may have made a hobby that I love doing waver, but Angry Birds needs to be called out for the abomination that’s it’s pushing into cinemas.

Score: 1/10 The apotheosis of terrible filmmaking.

Warcraft: The Beginning Review

Video games have never had their day in cinema. While some come close (Silent Hill and Tomb Raider 2, in my opinion) none have ever had widespread acclaim. Now Duncan Jones, director of the fantastic Moon and Source Code is trying his hand at adapting the massively expansive World Of Warcraft to film. Does it change the idea of video games films or is it another sad, failed attempt?

Warcraft: The Beginning stars Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Ben Foster, Ben Schnetzer and Paula Patton and is co-written and directed by Duncan Jones. With the Orc home-world dying, the Orcs come together to take the human realm of Azeroth for their own by force. But a young chieftain (Kebbell) wants to try and live peacefully with the humans. He tries to link up with the commander of the human army (Fimmel) in an attempt to save both his race and Azeroth.

Let’s begin with the good. The art direction for Warcraft is one of the best things about the film. While it has diluted the vibrant colours of the original world and added a more realistic look to the characters, the creatures that inhabit Azeroth are an impressive technical marvel. The detail and nuance, especially of Orc protagonist Durotan (played by Toby Kebbell, who played Koba in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes) is great and shows that Jones has a care for the series. He wants to make a good film and will not settle for poor digital effects.

The merging of CGI and live-action is also another good point of the film. The characters blend seamlessly through built sets and then into green-screen battles, with very little slip-ups that break the immersion. Some of the cinematography as well, particularly the opening, an over-the-shoulder battle between Orc and Human is very nicely shot.

Sadly that’s where most of the good ends. We have to talk about the bad stuff.

The script is the biggest weak point and it brings down the rest of the film. While the film does try to set up its own new mythology and franchise, a lot of it will be confusing to people who don’t know the games, such as myself. It’s a lot of new places and people; The Fell, The Horde, The Alliance, Stormwind etcetera. It’s all dumped on us through exposition in the first half an hour and before we’ve got to grips with it our main characters are already flying away to mountain-top fortresses and we are completely lost.

The rest of the story feels like a grab-bag of clichés of fantasy storytelling and other fantasy-based films. You can see its influence, (Lord Of The Rings/Hobbit and Dawn of The Planet Of The Apes are the main ones) and since it’s just wanting to set up a new world, it falls back on the tired stereotypes of not just fantasy films but also storytelling in general. It’s such a bog-standard story, you can see the twists and turns from a mile off and with the ten or so main characters, none of them are ever developed well. The best is Kebbell’s Orc Dorutan, mainly through his family interaction that opens the film. Even at two hours, it feels rather empty; characters are dropped rather anti-climactically near the end and since Jones wants it to be a trilogy, we have a lifeless ending.

I found myself really wanting to like Warcraft. After ten years of being in development, and Blizzard Entertainment even turning down legendary hack Uwe Boll’s bid to the rights, the story of Warcraft as a film should have a happy ending. But sadly we haven’t made progress with games based films, and as someone who loves games as a medium and as an art, it makes me weary. But we still have Assassins Creed in December, let’s hope it finally changes, right?

Score: 5/10 The fans are the ones who will get enjoyment.