Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Review

After the middling David Brent: Life On The Road a few weeks ago, we have another comedy-mockumentary-musical, this time with The Lonely Island. Their songs maybe funny, but is the band able to fill out an entire movie length? Let’s find out.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping stars Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone and Tim Meadows and is directed by Schaffer and Taccone. The film follows pop singer Conner4Real (Samberg) who tries to make a comeback with his old boyband, “Skill Boyz”.

Every comedy-mockumentary-musical (which for some reason is a really big market) is obviously going to be compared to Spinal Tap, basically the ground zero for all three of the genres at play. Popstar is nowhere near the leagues of Spinal Tap, but nothing ever is. It’s a disservice to both films to try and compare, so we’ll just have to look at Popstar on its own merits.

The Lonely Island are known for their comedy songs, and they have some excellent ones in Popstar. Songs about the assassination of Bin Laden (used as a metaphor for sex), gay rights (which ends up just being a mash up of random words) and an entire song about being humble, the satirical lyrics and crazy music videos are good for couple of minutes. This is where Popstar shines, but we only get a few songs and videos at most.

The rest of the jokes are a mix of great and abysmal. Some corkers, like an extended “incident” at the Anne Frank Museum (a not-so subtle dig at a certain star), breaking celebrity news by CMZ (digging at TMZ, and led fabulously by Will Arnett) or an over-the-top proposal, complete with wolves, by Conner4Real to his trophy girlfriend, are good set-pieces, but the rest is just screaming and random sequences of “chaos”. If it wasn’t for the bared penises, breasts and the occasional swear word, it could almost be at home on the Disney Channel, inane nonsense for tweens.

The film has a huge cast list, with several musicians, such as Ringo Starr, A$AP Rocky, Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood and 50 Cent, as well as other famous people like Simon Cowell, Jimmy Fallon and Martin Sheen. Most are just kept to talking-head interviews per the documentary-style of the film, but since most are poking fun at themselves or the music business, I am okay with so many stars turning up. It’s better than Zoolander 2, which shoved stars in despite them having nothing to do with the world of fashion or the story.

The film is only 86 minutes long, pretty short, but the lacklustre story makes it seem far longer. The documentary style is dropped quite early on, leaving us with a rather desperate and plodding orthodox style, which isn’t interesting. We have no investment in the characters, we are meant to be laughing at them, not with them, so when the film tries to be a drama where we sympathise with the main character, it grinds to a halt.

It’s sad, I was looking forward to Popstar, but it seems The Lonely Island work better in short form. Cut it down to an hour, you would have a funny TV film. Cut it down even further, you might get a vlog series out of it. It could work any other way, just not in the cinema. You might get some more enjoyment out of it if you are a diehard Lonely Island fan, but for the rest of us, it’s just passable.

Score: 6/10 Some funny moments, but nothing essential.

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.

David Brent: Life On The Road Review

Ricky Gervais is a comedian I have mixed feelings about. I find The Office and The Ricky Gervais Show relatively funny but find his stand up as well as his more recent stuff like Derek unbearably bad. So I was looking forward to him going back to one of his best characters, David Brent, from arguably his best show. And after Ab Fab and Dad’s Army earlier this year, will Ricky Gervais give us a good TV spin-off?

David Brent: Life On The Road stars Ricky Gervais, Doc Brown, Tom Basden and Diane Morgan and is written and directed by Ricky Gervais. The film follows former sales rep David Brent (Gervais) as he forms a band and goes on tour.

David Brent tries to emulate the great cringe-worthy humour that made The Office a hit, to varying success. There were many moments when I had my head in my hands, hysterically laughing at the sheer awkwardness on-screen. Those times are when David Brent shines, when he’s playing his songs about the plight of Native Americans (with lyrics based off facts from Wikipedia) or when he’s over-explaining his suggestive lyrics. The film works when Brent plays off other people, but when he’s on his own, it’s like a pathetic form of stand-up. Gervais didn’t team up with his Office co-writer Stephen Merchant for Life On The Road, and it can be felt in the script. It feels too stuck on Brent, who is insufferable to deal with in long bursts.

The jokes are Gervais’ usual. If you’re easily offended then you will think that Life On The Road is walking an extremely fine line. Borderline racist impressions of Asians, constant and crude references to sex acts and genitals, to some it will be too much. I think that misses the point. There isn’t a malicious side to it, and while you will laugh with Brent, you will find yourself laughing more at him and his actions. The songs that he plays on his tour follow this train of humour, with songs about disabled people and terminally ill children. You’ll either be with it or you won’t.

The film tries to replace Tim, Dawn and Gareth of The Office with Brent’s bandmates and entourage. Some of the band, such as Doc Brown’s fledgling rapper Dom Johnson (who has to rap about inane nonsense that Brent writes for him) and Tom Basden’s road manager Dan, who keeps getting more and more irate with Brent’s constant unfunny jokes, are great additions. While these two characters get several scenes, the rest of the band gets little to no character development, relegated to just sitting around the bar and drinking. We get small talking-head interviews with them but none last more than a minute. Diane Morgan (known for her character Philomena Cunk) turns up half way through the film as Brent’s recently hired publicist, but again, like the band, she’s a cameo at best. The film would work better with more interactions with characters.

I had two major problems with the film. While the second half of the film, when the band is performing, is full of jokes, the first half has hardly any, focussing more on Brent in his new job. Gervais said this “wasn’t an Office film”, so why do we spend so much of the first act there? The second is the ending. After nearly ninety minutes of showing Brent as a buffoon, Life On The Road tries to swap it and make him some sort of tragic hero. It feels tonally at odds with the rest of the film and lowers the ending. The tone also swings wildly throughout, with trips to the psychiatrist and depressing early mornings while drinking alone, it just doesn’t mesh well within a comedy.

Fifteen years after The Office started, David Brent: Life On The Road feels a little bit like a cash-in on a greatly revered series. It’s not a great follow-up, but the script and biting humour stops the score from being any lower.

Score: 6/10 Funny but flawed.

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.

The Shallows Review

My last review, Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates, I talked about films that no one had an inkling were going to be good. Mike And Dave was the perfect example of a film no one cared about so they just made a terrible film. The Shallows on the other hand…

The Shallows stars Blake Lively, Oscar Jaenada and Sedona Legge and is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. The film follows Nancy (Lively) who gets stranded while surfing due to a great white shark circling the reef she is stuck on.

I know I put three names up on the introduction, but for the entire run-time Blake Lively is the only human on-screen. The actor with the second-longest screen presence is a seagull, who even features on the end credits. The majority of The Shallows is just Blake Lively against the elements. Lively as an actress has never been a big box office draw, with only a few large films and mainly television work, but here she helms one of the best horror films of the year (not as good as The Witch but better than Friend Request or that stupid Ouija prequel they’re making).

The film is rather formulaic, but that works in its favour. It’s not held hostage by a silly gimmick like 3D or found footage, it’s just an isolated area, with a ticking clock (the reef Nancy is stuck on is submerged during high tide) and a big-ass shark. What more could you want? Like most films about deadly sea creatures, The Shallows owes a debt to Jaws. The film is shot very similar, with the first two-thirds only hearing splashes and seeing ominous shapes in the water. During the final climax we see the shark and it’s pretty good CGI. The film goes a bit mad during this final part as Nancy and the shark go man-to-man (or should that be woman-to-fish?), but the film has earned it’s fire-riddled finale and has delivered its promise. It’s a shark movie, and it gives you a damn shark.

The most memorable (and scariest) bit in Jaws is the opening. A girl get’s eaten, but we hardly see any of it due to the scene taking place at night. We can’t see the terror so it makes it more scary. The Shallows takes the opposite approach, while still delivery scary results. When Nancy is first attacked, the camera stays on her face, before moving down to her shark-bitten leg once she gets out of the water. And as a medicine student, she attempts to keep her leg from falling apart with makeshift tourniquet and metal splints. More attacks later in the film give us dismembered legs and rogue jellyfish. The reef that Nancy get’s stranded on has fire urchins, with venomous results if they are stood on. The Shallows puts the pain front and centre and it’s gruesome but also one of the best things about the film. There is a tonne of blood, so if you’re squeamish then it’s not a good one to watch.

Lastly, the film looks stunning. Credit to the cinematographer Flavio Labino for capturing the beautiful Australian coastline. While there were some odd “Surfer Shots”, almost like a GoPro advert, but this is soon dropped for the excellent tense storyline.

The Shallows is an old-school thriller. The director’s other work is Non-Stop and Unknown (both unabashed B Movies) and The Shallows is definitely part of that same group, while still being one great ride. With a summer filled with flops and dull slogs, it’s refreshing to get a well-shot, well-acted, suspenseful thriller with a run time that is only 86 minutes long. If Alfred Hitchcock directed Surfs Up, it would probably end up something like this.

Score: 8/10 The best film of summer 2016.

Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates Review

I try to see at least one film every week, even if the movie in question looks like something I would end up hating. It’s great when something you or indeed anyone in the world thought was going to be terrible ends up being really good. I point mainly to Triple 9 for proof. But with the good, always comes the bad, and today was one of the bad times.

Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates stars Zac Efron, Adam DeVine, Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza and is directed by Jake Szymanski. Loosely based on the real life story of the Stangle Brothers (Efron and DeVine) who appeared on national television to find dates for their sister’s wedding.

For a surprisingly good cast, the acting is terrible. Adam DeVine does nothing but shriek and make silly faces, as if he’s trying to make a baby laugh. Aubrey Plaza is doing her usual sarcastic role, but looks bored half the time. Anna Kendrick sounds like she’s trying to impersonate Minnie Mouse, squeaking away any time she can. Now onto the biggest disappointment.

What happened to you Zac Efron? You were once the next big thing, managing to shake off the teeny-bopper look of High School Musical and starting to branch out into other more adult roles like The Paperboy and Parkland. Then one (Bad Neighbours), two (Dirty Grandpa) three (Mike and Dave) you managed to piss away all the good-will in the world with a string of mis-steps and poor choices. Who are taking career advice for, M. Night Shyamalan? Just go away for a few years Zac, make some little indie darling project and make us love you again. Come on, do you really want to be remembered for a film where you pour eye drops into a woman’s drink to make her need to go to the toilet? That’s a joke ripped straight from Wedding Crashers. When you’re referencing other films, you know your film has nothing to recommend it.

You can tell that this films wants to be a mash up of Wedding Crashers and Step Brothers. Fine, but why did you make this film now rather than back in the mid-2000s when both of those things were the biggest comedies around? Have you gone back to Step Brothers? That film does not hold up as good as you think, and Mike And Dave follows its suit by having “edgy” jokes that would only seem funny if you were about 13 years old. It’s a mixture of screaming loudly, extended drug sequences and being grossed out by eeww…lesbians. It’s weird when the best comedy of the year so far was a Jane Austen adaptation..

The only thing that I actually liked was the scenes between Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick. The pairing of these two, as well as the chemistry between them makes me want to see them in other film together. One scene where they are sat in a tree talking about their pasts is honestly the best moment and feels like it’s been ripped from a much better film. Sadly Adam DeVine turns up halfway through to scream at Zac Efron before miming graphic sex acts.

When will the bad films end? Sure, we’ve had some films that have entered my Top Ten of all time this year, but to suffer through the rest of it is painful. I can’t wait till we get to Oscar season again, at least most of that will be bearable.

Score: 3/10 Drab, dull and annoying. Avoid it.

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.

Finding Dory Review

Oh for goodness sake, let the sequels end! “But this is different,” I hear you say, “it’s Disney/Pixar”. And yes, before they became the super-media conglomerate that eats up every single other piece of entertainment, Disney and it’s younger creator Pixar crafted some excellent contained movies. Which they are now soiling with unnecessary add-ons like Cars 2 and Monsters University (admit it, you completely forgot they made Monsters University). But let’s dive in (pun intended) once again for Finding Dory.

Finding Dory stars Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence and Ed O’Neill and is directed by Andrew Stanton. The film follows on one year after the events of Finding Nemo, when Dory (DeGeneres) remembers her parents, she sets off to find them, with Marlin (Brooks) and Nemo (Rolence) in tow.

While I was on-board for the sequel, the story is rather boring. In Finding Nemo, Marlin was unsure of how to reach Nemo, and that’s what made the story exciting. In the sequel, we are pointed to exactly where Dory’s parents are at the beginning of the film, so it just gets tiresome after the fourth or fifth time Dory goes in the wrong direction. Even in a 90 minute film, this feels like extraordinary padding. To the end of the film I was really getting angry at the drudging story, but then during the final twenty minutes, the film pays off for one beautiful scene, before heading back to trudging boredom for the finale. And sure, it’s nice to go back to these characters, but there aren’t many memorable new ones. But stick around until the very end credits and you may see some familiar faces.

The film is a lot lighter on jokes than previous Pixar films, and most of the good ones were shown during the trailers. The majority come from the duo of Dominic West and Idris Elba as a pair of “geezer” sea lions (who were shown, but only one moment), who switch from stretching out in the sun to barking at trivial things. They are one of the funniest things in the film but are only in the film at the very beginning and at the very end.

Since the whole film is set at an aquarium, you would think that you would get some lovely shots of thousands of fish swimming around the giant tanks. Sadly not so. We may get one or two fleeting glimpses of shots similar to the school run at the start of Nemo, but most of Finding Dory is set in bland white corridors and darkened storage facilities. With Pixar being one of the biggest animation houses, I would really want for something a bit more stimulating than nondescript buildings.

Maybe Pixar spent the entire budget on the short film before, called Piper. It’s another animal based story, of a small bird learning how to hunt for food in the sea. It’s almost photo-realistic, like a nature documentary, but with some silly human qualities added to the birds to make them more relatable I guess.

But I can’t deny, the music is what pushes the film along. Thomas Newman returns once again, and basically does the same thing he did for Nemo. It’s sad when the best thing about the new film is something that was perfected back in 2003, but it’s great to hear Newman’s signature style in a cinema sound system.

To finish, Finding Dory was just like every other sequel this year, really, REALLY not needed. And Dory continues the trend of Pixar properties of having a really good first film and a quite boring second attempt (Toy Story being the only exception). I would say let’s learn from our mistakes, but heck, we’re all going to go watch Incredibles 2 aren’t we?

Score: 5/10 Fleeting moments of greatness, let down by a wilting story.

Jason Bourne Review

This has been one of the films I’ve been waiting for. In a year of unnecessary sequels, we finally get to one that I have a small amount of interest in seeing. And with the last film in the series, The Bourne Legacy, being rather dull, it’s back to series greats Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass to give us a return to form. This is Jason Bourne.

Jason Bourne stars Matt Damon, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Riz Ahmed and Tommy Lee Jones and is directed by Paul Greengrass. Set several years after The Bourne Ultimatum, the new film follows Jason Bourne (Damon) as he is roped back into conspiracies involving new CIA programmes.

I was really looking forward to Jason Bourne. The first three films I would say are some of the best action films to come out of 2000s and it’s made a lot of changes in how action films are created nowadays. But all throughout the film I couldn’t escape the fact that I just wasn’t interested with what was happening on-screen.

I’ll start with what I did like. The cast is a great ensemble, and certain actors (like Tommy Lee Jones as the Director of the CIA) fit straight into the world of Bourne. Vincent Cassel, who plays a CIA asset who has history with Bourne, is another character who again, fits right into the setting of secret assassins and conspiracies. But the standout is Alicia Vikander as CIA agent Heather Lee. Vikander plays her very ambiguously, with several layers of intrigue and menace, ready to do what is necessary to rise to the top of the Agency.

Sadly, that’s really all that’s either new or good in Jason Bourne. The fight scenes are one of my biggest gripes. While the originals were known for their quick cuts, at least they were clear. They would cut to a wide shot, allowing you to see the choreography. You could tell who was hitting who, you understand the geography of the fight. Here, that’s gone out the window. The final fight scene is ridiculously close-up, meaning you have no clue what is actually going on. The rest of the action is quite generic; a motorcycle chase here, a punch-up there, a big smashing-everything-up finale, it’s all rather dull in a series known for fantastical set pieces. I clocked out during the final ten minutes, I was just so disinterested.

The story is another low point of the film. Damon and Greengrass said they would return unless the script was good, but this one feels like a lacklustre one to return for. A lot of it feels like a retread of the earlier films, with several points ripped from one to the other. The main driving force of Bourne in this movie is something that was already explored in Ultimatum and the new stuff feels like a bit of ret-con of character motivations in earlier films. I won’t spoil anything, but one of the main revelations of this films had me shaking my head in the cinema, it was a vain attempt to make the continuity of the franchise seem rich and deep, when it fact it strips Bourne of much of his character arc of the original trilogy. There are some new ideas, which while timely, aren’t as fleshed out as they could be, leaving a couple questions unanswered.

In the end, Jason Bourne really let me down. It might be a tiny bit better than Legacy before it, but it get’s nowhere near the heights of the original series.

Score: 5/10 A low return of a once great franchise.

Now you’ve read my thoughts on Jason Bourne, why not check out my review of the rest of the series?

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.