DVD & Blu-ray review: “Power Rangers” (2017)

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“Power Rangers” (2017)

Sci-Fi/Action

2,0

Directed by: Dean Israelite

Featuring: Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, RJ Cyler, Becky G, Ludi Lin, Bill Hader, Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks

Zordon:The answer to what is happening to you is here. You five are the Power Rangers.”

Zack Taylor:Did I just hear you say we’re Power Rangers?”

Hart:Is this some kind of joke? We’re talking to a wall.”

Alpha 5:I was kind of expecting a little more.”

I am not going to go into the full history of the Power Rangers, however it was a TV show originally using footage from a Japanese show, then imported this to the US with a change up of actors  – it became a touchstone for a certain generation, and now it is a big budget movie which was hoping to go on to become a successful franchise, after this entry it is safe to say that this particular incarnation is not going to go any further even with a lucrative international market.

This film revolves around five teens with the appropriate amount attitude, who are inexplicably brought together by coincidence or destiny to become the newest generation in a line of warriors known as the Power Rangers. The world rests in their hands as Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), a powerful witch and former Green Power Ranger, launches an assault seeking the Zeo Crystal with an army of stone golems called Putty Patrollers and a giant golden monster called Goldar.

Make sense of that if you can – there is a bit more to the story but i don’t want to spoil anything in case you actually see the film. If you are someone that enjoys a streamlined plot, with enough tropes to fill a small canoe then this is what you are in for – with the now expected overblown as well as little to fight for ending – this movie really does not have an original part to it.

With the US summer blockbuster season getting underway earlier and earlier every year, this is the prime time to release “Power Rangers”, as it gets a jump on what will probably be higher quality as well as possibly (hopefully) more high minded films. There is definitely going to be more sequels in the coming months, so launching a new franchise early could have be considered quite canny. It was also considered counter programming as it opened up at the same time as the monolith that is “Beauty and the Beast” (2017). Coincidentally the home released is also coming out at the same at the time as that much better received movie – I would watch that any day of the week compared to this.

I do believe with all best intentions that the studio did set out to make a movie that introduced new fans to the Power Rangers, as well as servicing the existing fan base, however what you end up getting is a mish mash of other films, which in some hands could be homage, but in this directors case is so ham fisted that it comes off as a rip off. The story telling devices if there are any come off as being extremely lazy. Dean Israelite, the director, whose previous film was the tired sci-fi teen time traveling movie “Project Almanac” (2015), has seemed to take a step backwards in this new film. It is filled with tired giant mechas fighting each other,  attempting to save a small town in the US, while at the same time absolutely destroying it – making little sense at all.

The young adults that play the five Power Rangers are all doing a perfectly fine job, obviously cast in the mold of the original five from the television show. However these characters, as written, are all now tired archetypal characters that we have surely moved on from. To set up these teens at the start of the film Israelite shamefully steals from the John Hughes classic, “The Breakfast Club” (1985) to make a point about the characters that the are misfits and rebels that fit into archetypes – something Hughes does but shows us that in fact there is more to people than meets the eye, we do not fit into one stereotype, we are more than the sum of our parts. Of course this is lost on Israelite who instead attempts to say teens are reductive and are exactly what they seem.

Another trend that has become tiresome and talked about in many other places is that the trailer for this film gives away the entire story, so if you have seen that then there is no real surprise in this movie – not that there should be.

There are some bright sparks, the early appearance of Bill Hader as Alpha 5 a robotic sidekick, he is also used as a tool for all of the stories exposition, he is great but even he gets tiresome and disappears for the entire third act which is disappointing. Elizabeth Banks seems to be the only major characters as the villain, Rita Replusa, who knows what film she is in and chews the scenery as much as possible. In fact by the time she appears I was hoping she would win and banish the Power Rangers.

If you are a fan of the original then you are in your thirties,  there is more out there for you with far more interesting films in the offering. This is a pretty soulless film that encounters the same problems many giant blockbusters face, it is not really aimed at anyone in particular, money has been thrown at problems with little thought for story, it runs at two hours which is half an hour too long, the set pieces look cheap and the problems are all solved with violence. When the characters try and bond with each other it does come off as lip service and attempted character growth – which ends up failing.

Now, with all that said if you want to own a big movie and watch at home with the entire family without worrying about reality or any real violence then this is the one for you. It may pay to explain to younger family members that young white boys are not always leaders, do not have the answers and may not save the world.

“Power Rangers” (2017) is out tomorrow on DVD & Blu-ray – but I would give it a miss by a very wide margin!

 

DVD & Blu-ray review” Beauty and the Beast” (2017)

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“Beauty and the Beast” (2017)

Drama/Musical

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Running Time: 129 minutes

Written by: Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos

Directed by: Bill Condon

Featuring:  Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson

Gaston:If I didn’t know better, I’d say she even cares for him!“

Belle:He’s not a monster, Gaston! You are!”

“Beauty and the Beast” is the latest in the live action transformation of Disney’s animated back catalogue into live action versions, following the huge successes of “The Jungle Book” (2016), “Alice in Wonderland” (2010), “Maleficent” (2014) as well as the more  modest “Cinderella” (2015) with plenty more to come. Whilst these movies have been expensive to re-make they have all made their money back by all being visually distinct, staying true to their origins, not being sequels or reboots as well as incorporating the visions of their respective directors, who themselves have all been established in the film world for some time – this is more the case with Bill Condon than the others that have been recruited.

“Beauty and the Beast” marks the first time a modern animated film has been remade, not only that, but it also boasts the largest cast assembled for one of these remakes, as well as the most well known. Disney have been wise to have the lead of Belle played by Emma Watson, surely one of the most high profile leading ladies of her age after her part in the Harry Potter franchise. Then building up from there surrounding her with some of the best UK actors around, such as Dan Stevens, Ian McKellen, Ewen McGregor Luke Evans, and many others – but make no mistake this is surely Watson’s film, she shines in it – acting, singing and dancing. For my mind the film has one other ace piece of casting, that of the great Kevin Kline, who has been a superstar not only in movies but is a legendary stage actor – here he brings all that experience as Belle’s father who shines in a role that could have been run of the mill, but with Kline’s casting it becomes something else – bravo on the Director for this choice.

The story itself is fairly simple but offers quite a few complications, it is set in pre-Revolution France, an enchantress disguised as a beggar arrives at a castle and offers the owner, a cold-hearted prince, a rose in exchange for shelter. When he calluously refuses, she transforms him into a beast and his servants into household objects before erasing the castle’s existence from memory. She then hexes the rose and warns the Beast that, unless he learns to love another and earns her love in return before the last petal falls, he and his servants will lose their humanity forever.

Many years later, in the village of Villeneuve, Belle dreams of adventure and brushes off advances from Gaston, an arrogant former soldier. Lost in the forest, Belle’s father Maurice seeks refuge in the Beast’s castle, but the Beast imprisons him for stealing a rose. Belle ventures out in search for him and finds him locked in the castle dungeon. The Beast agrees to let her take Maurice’s place, despite her father’s objections.

I am of an age where I probably should have seen the original animated movie but I have to admit I have never seen it, so I was looking forward to this version (without the baggage) – I am a sucker for musicals so I assumed this was going to be right up my alley. I am so pleased to say that I loved this movie, Watson was good in the lead role, I suspect that this was a role that many would have loved to take, but my real surprise was Luke Evans who has proved over the past decade that he can literally play any role – and here as Gaston he shines in the role as chief protagonist that you can just tell he relishes. With so few musicals being made (although lately there does seem to be a resurgence) if you have a hankering to sing and dance you had better grab it. The other great piece of casting is that of Josh Gad who after almost stealing “Frozen” (2013) as the snowman Olaf, here he to does an amazing job as Gaston’s sidekick LeFou who makes his own part look so easy that you can forget the work it takes to make something look so effortless.

Looking at this movie now, especially when it is possibly going to be the biggest grossing film of the year it seems Bill Condon would have been the obvious choice to direct this adaptation of an adaptation. Over the course of his career Condon seems to have done it all, he has directed a pure horror film, “Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh” (1995), a gothic American drama mini-biography with the excellent “Gods and Monsters” (1998) – oh yes he won an Oscar for best screenplay for that as well – a musical, “Dreamgirls” (2006), two teen blockbusters with the last instalments of the “Twilight” movies, a post modern Sherlock Holes drama with “Mr. Holmes” (2015), now a film that seems to take his past works and meld them into the remake of “Beauty and the Beast” (2017). Condon didn’t need this movie, he has accomplished more in his career than most directors ever will, so the potential downside was quite large, however the challenge must have been appealing, with the success of this film he has been catapulted into another realm of directors, he has made a movie that will end up close to US$1.5 billion, one of the biggest box office successes of the century so far. The pressure for this movie to be a success would have been monumental, it being one of the shining lights of Disney Animation, as well as being one of the key animated films responsible for the second wave of great Disney animated films. That would of course culminate with one of the greatest animated films of all time, “The Lion King” (1995).

What Condon has done is to take the material, not try and fix that which was not broken, used the Disney movie as a template, built around it wisely using new songs, cutting edge animation and wisely using a great physical cast as well as a voice cast that are both uniquely talented, playing to those strengths (maybe except for Ewan McGregor’s accent) whilst pushing them to their limits – remember this movie has acting, singing as well as dancing – something not all actors are able to accomplish believably. What he has had to do is deal with the physical sets, as well as all the elements of a Hollywood musical, a horror film, an animated movie as well as a classic love story. It may seem that all he had to do was copy what came before but make no mistake this movie is a major achievement, one that needs to be seen, as it works on many levels, is satisfying and somehow strikes the right tone in almost every scene. Condon in my mind is at the top of his game, it is no surprise to me that he has been linked to a remake of “The Bride of Frankenstein”, if he is able to marshal the right mix of cast members I can see this being a success – at this stage I would not be against him at all.

This film would be nothing without the music, with Alan Menken back on board, the Disney go to composer of choice and a man coupled with the late Howard Ashman prove that this is indeed of the greatest Disney Animated musicals of all time, it is full of lush orchestrations as well as lyrics that are sublime, are a joy to listen to as well as fitting these characters like gloves, the biggest numbers remain so, and I have to admit to listening to the soundtrack long after I watched this movie.

As well as the music there are two other aspects of the movie that are extremely important, they are the cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler, as well as Jacqueline Durran, the costumer who has cut her teeth on many period films, she does some amazing work here with colors as well as the cut of all the wardrobe – they are as much a character in the movie as the actors themselves are. The costuming combined with the art direction give cinematographer Shliessler a lot to work with, he takes his vast experience working in a variety of genres as well as his long relationship with the director to give us a gothic lite version of this movie. That is not a negative criticism as this what is required as we start in a lighter atmosphere, following the journey of the characters into darkness, working our way back to happier place back to some kind of equilibrium. The relationship between each separate department working together is not more evident than this movie which is taking almost all the genres as well as disciplines and making a product that is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

In case you have not guessed by now my opinion of this movie is that it is excellent as well as humorous, scary, funny as well as bring complex. If you had any part in this movie you need to be extremely proud of the work you have produced. This is truly a film for the entire family; it has so much watchability as well as re-watchability that it is ridiculous. I highly recommend this to all, it is a fine addition to any collection, go and get now!

“Beauty and the Beast” is out now on DVD & Blu-ray.

 

DVD Review: “Rings” (2017)

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“Rings” (2017)

Horror

2,0

Running Time: 107 minutes

Directed by: F. Javier Gutiérrez

Featuring: Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D’Onofrio, Aimee Teegarden and Bonnie Morgan

Holt: “I keep… thinking about this story. There’s this video that… kills you. Seven days after you watch it. The second it’s over… the phone rings. And this voice says…”

Samara: [voiceover] “Seven days.”

If only the best laid plans worked out perfectly then maybe this latest film in this long dormant horror franchise would be good, not a knock-off of the original American remake “The Ring” (2002), that had so much going for it – an up and coming actress, Naomi Watts, as well as a director who was about to break out, Gore Verbinksi. This was of course a remake of the Japanese Horror film of the same name, which was, at the time, one of the scariest films around. Now in 2017 we are lumbered with this hollow remark and no amount of scene stealing by the great Vincent D’Onofrio can help this movie come off as nothing more than a curio.

“Rings” is primarily about college professor Gabriel who buys an old VCR, discovering a videotape trapped inside – you can guess what’s on the video. Elsewhere, Julia sees her boyfriend Holt off to college, but becomes concerned when he falls out of contact. She inspired to find him when a panicked girl, Skye, contacts her asking for Holt’s whereabouts. Julia meets Gabriel, following him to a private area of the college where a number of students are involved in an experiment involving the cursed video, watching and filming themselves, before passing the task to another person, called a “tail”.

Holt arrives shortly after. Unwilling to let Holt die, Julia watches the video, experiencing a vision of a door, and a mark is burnt on her hand. Turning to Gabriel for help, he notices Julia’s copy of the video is larger than usual. She watches it, discovering new footage hinting at the fate of Samara’s body. Gabriel sends them to the town where she was cremated.

Where to start? Its been fifteen years since the first film and I have to ask do the kids these days, who this film is aimed at, even know what a videotape is, and do they care? I would say no on both counts – and good on them!

This is more a re-boot than a sequel, you might think judging from the relative success the re-booted Blair Witch Project had and the welcoming back of M. Night Shyamalan, that this would be a good idea. However, what both these success stories had going for was a great cast, a very good idea and excellent directors. Unfortunately “Rings” misses out on originality and an original vision for the film from the director – relying on jump scares, the almost exact same premise from the first film and characters that might act in an original manner. There are logical leaps at time that make no sense as well long exposition that again make for a very trite storyline.

The director and writers seem assigned to the reboot rather than something that they should be doing, I hope the payday was worth it, because this film is entirely unsurprising and plays out just like you mighty think it would. It is odd because Akiva Goldsman is listed as a writer and he has a career that is not only Oscar worthy but he has started to direct his own projects. Unfortunately his recent career decisions seem to be a move in the wrong direction and he may be mirroring that other great hack, Damon Lindelof.

It is not very often I recommend giving films a miss but if you want to save time and money then given this a big miss, instead  re-watch “Split” (2017) or “Get Out” (2017) – or even better find the original (remake), “The Ring” (2002) instead and watch that – it has a better cast, story and director.

“Rings” is out now on DVD.

But give it a miss what has been seen cannot be unseen.

 

DVD & Blu-ray review: “Life” (2017)

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“Life” (2017)

Sci-Fi/Thriller/Horror

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Running Time: 103 minutes

Directed by: Daniel Espinosa

Featuring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Reynolds

Dominique:Are you bringing the alien back to earth?”

Roy Adams:No, we’re going to keep it up here where it’s safe.”

I don’t normally like reading or hearing other peoples reviews but somehow going into “Life” (2017) I had heard a few and was pretty discouraged by them, the theme that came through was that this was a cross between “Alien” (1979) and “Gravity (2013), but inferior to both – which is not only not true but fairly insulting for all three films to be reduced to a type but also insulting to the film-makers themselves. Its no surprise then that this isn’t the greatest film ever made, but as far as genre films go it is exceptionally watchable with some very original content – you just have to suspend your disbelief and it will all be ok.

“Life”, is set on as well as revolving around a crew aboard the International Space Station performs a successful capture of a space probe returning from Mars with a sample inside. The crew is tasked with studying the sample, which may be the first proof of extraterrestrial life. However, the study eventually backfires as the organism displays incredible strength and gains intelligence, becoming extremely hostile and killing them all one by one. Trapped aboard the ISS with the rapidly growing organism, the crew must find out how to kill it before it manages to escape and destroy Earth.

If you have seen any marketing for this film you will probably know it is about an aggressive alien that is hunting its prey on a space station, and yes on the surface this is similar to “Alien”, but the type of alien as well as the crew and the motivations for the crew are pretty different to the film “Alien” in almost every way. The similarities to “Gravity” are that it is set in space, on a space station orbiting the earth – a fairly pointless and obvious statement.

Daniel Espinosa, the director of “Life”, whose previous film, the extremely poorly received historic Russian serial killer film, “Child 44” (2015) was a bit of a bloated mess is clearly in his rear mirror as this film is a fast paced thriller, with time given over to most of the characters for moments that make you feel for them when they all face their respective fates. The director make effective use of the two shot to maximize the claustrophobic feeling within the space station as well as point of view shots as well, particularly through a tense and gruesome space walk scene. The exterior wide shots look amazing considering this is a low budgeted sci-fi film and has a lot to accomplish with its special effects.

The spcial effects are acceptable at this films budget, however there are some shaky scenes towards the end as well as some of the moving exterior shots. The alien, “Calvin”, in my opinion is very well designed, I am pretty sure it is original, as well as terrifying in most scenes “he” appears, although by the end of the film I was feeling sorry for it and was wondering why we all just couldn’t get along.

The film is cast extremely well with the characters of Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) and David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) given the most to do, as well as having the most depth for them to play with. The cast is round out with Ryan Reynolds who doesn’t miss a beat with his personality and motor mouth – the one thing I did think was he was a bit of stunt casting to draw people into the cinema. I have to admit that I really enjoy seeing Reynolds given the chance just to do what he does best, look good and talk.

The best thing to do before going to this film is to avoid all spoilers, go in clean and be prepared to be shocked as well as seeing a lot of blood and horror. The alien looks excellent as well as gross – it is not a humanoid at all, this for me is a relief. I am pretty sick of creatures from another world taking humans over or assimilating them, I think this has been done to death and the very idea of a new creature being created is a great idea and one not done enough in cinema.

Now that this and “Alien: Covenant” (2017) have been released I have to say that I prefer this film, it is a little more original as well as having way less plot baggage than the later.

If you like a good Sci-Fi with scares, the idea of the world hanging in the balance and some good performances from some really great actors then this is the film for you. Just go in with no spoilers or expectations, and you will have a good time. This has a high level of re-watchability.

“Life” is out now on DVD & Blu-ray.

Film review: “Transformers: The Last Knight” (2017)

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“Transformers: The Last Knight” (2017)

Sci-Fi/Action

3-stars

Running Time: 149 minutes

Written by: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway and Ken Nolan

Directed by: Michael Bay

Featuring: Mark Wahlberg, Stanley Tucci, Josh Duhamel, Anthony Hopkins and John Turturro

Sir Edmund Burton: “It started as a legend, one of the greatest of all… For a thousand years, we’ve kept it hidden, to protect Earth from what is expected to arrive…”

One thing about Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers” movies is that every single one of them boast an ‘A’ list cast, it seems that there is an endless queue of actors just waiting to be in this now five picture series. In “Transformers: The Last Knight” (2017) the latest big name actor to appear is the great Anthony Hopkins who chews scenery like the pro you would expect him to be – it is easy to see he knows exactly what kind of film this is – even if other members of the cast seem a little lost within this franchise. The question is now, after all these films that seem to be eerily similar, can there be anything more to see and experience from a new movie as well as is there a plot that can convince people to pony up the bills to not only go and see this movie but to take the family as well?

I am not a Michael Bay hater at all, in fact I probably like most of his movies, he is unashamedly a male movie director, caring little for anything else, I truly believe he loves movies wanting to make movies that he wants to see. Bay has the clout to pretty much do anything he would like, yet he has continually returned to the ‘Transformers’ Universe even though with each movie he says it will be his very last – something he has echoed in the last few days unsurprisingly. Why wouldn’t he return, the last four ‘Transformer’ movies have generated almost US$4 billion at the international box office – surely one of the biggest franchises in film history. These movies gave Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Megan Fox, Tyrese Gibson careers, as well as solidifying Mark Wahlberg as a box office giant. They also created great over the top roles for character actors John Turturro, Jon Voight, Stanley Tucci, TJ Miller and Kelsey Grammer to name a few.

There is much to like with these movies, of course there is much to dismiss – one of these is the bloated running times, another is the action which at times can be hard to follow – something that harkens back to the first film and continues through to this fifth one.

This new Transformers movie is concerned with the absence of Optimus Prime and the war that has commenced between the Transformers Reaction Force (humans) and the Transformers. To save their world, Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) forms an alliance with Bumblebee, an astronomer named Sir Edmond Burton (Anthony Hopkins), and an Oxford University professor named Viviane Wembley (Laura Haddock) to learn the secrets of why the Transformers keep coming back to Earth.

I am not going to get into plot details but needless to say Bay and his new team of screenwriters have attempted to keep the plot simple as much as they can, however I did feel myself start to get a little confused at one point with the myriad of characters as well as their motivations. There is a lot to the story that seems to contradict itself particularly in the last thirty to forty minutes. In terms of that if you are willing to let these elements go then you will be able to cope, however if plot is important to you then you probably shouldn’t be watching this movie.

There are a few reasons why I actually enjoy these movies; I am talking specifically about the Transformer films here, not overblown expensive and non-sensical blockbusters as a rule. I really like Optimus Prime as a characters as well as a hero, he leads a seemingly endless, while small number of characters, the highlight of them is always Bumblebee. Prime’s home, Cybertron, has been left broken (there have been a few reasons given) as a refugee from space he is really trying to fit in and do his best for his people among humans. The action and special effects are almost always excellent, although the way in which they have been directed have been uneven over the entire run of these movies, a problem that is getting solved a little better with this film especially. I found it was much easier to follow what was happening onscreen, this could have something to do with a lot more wider shots being incorporated by Bay and his special effects team. The other thing that I enjoy is that whilst they attempt to be broad in scope as well as onscreen, they are nothing more than the original cartoon version’s brought to life at cinemas, they are escapist where there is a good guy as well as a bad guy, one will win, one will lose. Of course Bay overly complicates this by having multiple good and bad guys with different (not really) motivations but in the end it is always sorted out – the good guys win and vanquish the baddies. Of course the issue always is where to go to next, Bay has an answer, as does his new cadre of writers – or so they would have us believe – but i saw nothing here that was really new enough to justify the running time let alone another movie but as long as audiences keep turning up at the cinemas, the will keep churning them out.

After saying all that there are still issues with the movies, it mostly for me boils down to plot as well as narrative choices that are made – as well as characters that are introduced, then dumped for no reason, then having choices made that seem to contradict motivations that have been set up either in the current story or previous films. More troubling, particularly with this current installment is the fact that the finale is not one, as we are given a pre-ending credits sequence that vainly attempts to set up another film, making me feel like I just sat through two and a half hours for nothing more than reinstating Prime’s home, Cybertron,  world as a macguffin for the number six.

As I have said there are any number of good actors that appear in these movies, the reason to have them is that they are the ones bringing the story to life, in this case the three standouts are Mark Wahlberg, Laura Haddock and the great Anthony Hopkins. These three main characters, when together onscreen, or just interacting with each other, really made this movie fun for me – even when the plot was way out of control or over the top. Wahlberg has turned into such a star that it is easy to forget he has made some pretty terrific films, just over the last year he has appeared in two legitimately great under seen films in “Patriots Day” (2016) as well as “Deepwater Horizon” (2016), both directed by Peter Berg. Here he carries a movie that could have dreadful but is saved by his expert ability to incorporate not only massive amounts of green screen acting but also bringing in two other actors to let them showcase their own skill. The highlight for me was Anthony Hopkins, brilliantly playing his age, acting against at times, green screens, other actors, a phone as well as giving great reaction shots – my favorite is him flipping people off during a high speed chase. Laura Haddock who almost plays like a Megan Fox lookalike comes into her own towards the end of the film, she could have been just another Bay babe, but has the chops to know what film she is in, and unlike previous versions of her character has much more experience in film to be treated too badly – I mean she seems to be playing her age – 31 – and has multiple degrees – so I think that is a step up from previous versions of this character.

Another thing that Bay has seemed to want to do is make some narrative sense out of the previous films, by not only upping the reason why Sam (Shia LeBeouf) was so important in the first three films – it involves his heritage and the great Witwicky name, but also bringing back John Turturro as some kind of Transformer legend expert – although he spends the entire film on a phone from Cuba – which was a little jarring – the entirety of this sub-sub-plot could have been removed easily with no harm to the plot – yes I used the word plot.

This is primarily an action movie with a sci-fi twist as well additions of humour, that is it – it is not a drama or a war film (although I think Bay may have grander things in mind). The best action films always move forward in terms of narrative, plot as well as the action itself – if it doesn’t do this it fails. One of the best action/sci-fi films that did this was James Cameron’s “Terminator” (1984), it was exposition heavy but when something was explained to the audience there were action set pieces taking place so we felt like it was perfectly natural – by the way it always lowers the running time of the movie, something Bay could take lessons from. What we have with these Transformer movies is action then explanation then more action – not only that it seems the action has nothing to do with the story, even with the massive ending, there are major holes of logic where the goal of the movie just keeps changing to encompass these huge CGI scenes, of really, after a while, is of  little interest.

It’s a real shame to see how this movie turns out; I thought there was going to be more meat on the bones, especially with Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci returning to the movie – it seemed there was going to be a logical progression from number four, but this is put to rest in the opening scenes of Camelot (oh dear), with a particularly nasty bait and switch with Tucci, then an exposition heavy catch up on where we are in terms of the Transformers – by then I was more than a little confused as well as let down. The other element I disliked, which added to the confusion was the arbitrary way characters enter the story, disappear completely, then reappear, again for no real good reason. My feeling was that this was not a completed script with the special effects being planned before anything else – to me it feels like an Ed Wood film with hundreds of millions of dollars thrown at it. Look I have no problem knowing that people will go to this movie, but the question remains will enough people go to make a sequel worthwhile – who knows? There is some kind of Bumblebee movie planned for next year, but at this stage it may be too little too late for that character to have any impact on this behemoth of a franchise.

After all that I would actually say that this is an action movie that is PG, so all the family can enjoy it for what it is – a truly forgettable popcorn movie – it lacks the heart of Marvel films but also eschews the darkness of those terrible DC movies as well. It is more concerned with wowing an audience with CGI characters that are mostly fun but lack depth. This is the perfect example of a post-modern action film, there is nothing new to be added to a shallow legend, it has all been done before, but maybe thats the comfort of the Transformer movies. When I was a child I would have loved these movies, after all that is who they are aimed at. Just remember that it is two and a half hours long, so hang on in there for the very long haul.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” is out now only in cinemas.

 

DVD & Blu-ray Review: “Logan” (2017)

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“Logan” (2017)

Action/Thriller

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Running Time: 135 minutes

Directed by: James Mangold

Featuring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal and Elizabeth Rodriguez

Charles Xavier:Logan, what did you do?”

Logan:The world is not the same as it was, Charles. Mutants… they’re gone now.”

Never has one movie owed more to another movie than in this case, “Logan” (2017) owes a huge debt of to not only “Deadpool” (2016) but to Ryan Reynolds as well. “Deadpool” was the first R-rated (an American term) comic film to do huge global box office as well as getting rave reviews and setting up an erstwhile franchise it also broke new ground in terms of what a comic book movie could be. Both of these movies incorporate their own meta meanings into their plots as well as pushing the narratives of both along.

“Logan” (2017),  as the title suggests seems to be distancing this current film from the two previous efforts, the average “The Wolverine” (2013) and the supremely inferior ”X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009), all three spin-offs from the X-Men series of films. A very wise move for a number of reasons, if you have seen the previews you will see why – this is a very different comic book and Wolverine film, it not only takes place in an all too real future it also embraces its own pop culture narrative – in its own unique way of course.

This is also the long touted last time Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart will play Logan/Wolverine and Professor X/Professor Charles Xavier in this comic book cinematic universe. It is fitting this has come to pass for no better reason than this is one of the greatest comic films put to screen – in fact I will take the previous two efforts if I am left with this one – it shines a shadow over all the X-movies, except maybe X2, still the one to beat.

“Logan” is set in the near future, one in which no new mutants have been born in two decades. As their numbers dwindled, Professor X’s (Patrick Stewart) dreams of a new stage in evolution slowly died. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is scraping a living as a limo driver in the town on the Mexican border and hustling for medication that he takes out south to a remote, makeshift home he shares with Caliban (Stephen Merchant), nursemaid to the infirm Professor X. Logan attempts to hide from the world and his legacy. However, when a mysterious woman (Elizabeth Rodriguez) asks for Logan’s help with Laura (Dafne Keen), a young mutant being pursued by dark forces, he is drawn back into action despite his hopelessness.

First up Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart nail their roles, as usual, but it always seems there is something more in them this time, maybe because they are both playing super heroes on the downside of their lives, for very different reasons. However, as is the case with these type of films the supporting cast really make the film that much better and believable, here we find the comic actor Stephen Merchant shine as Caliban a mutant with the power to sense other mutants and the incredible Dafne Keen as Laura (or if you like X-23) – Dafne is amazing and steals the film as a mutant being hunted by her creators. It is one of the more memorable cinematic debuts ever and in particular in a blockbuster.

The film is directed and co-written by James Mangold, who also directed “The Wolverine” (2013), who I feel had some unfinished business with the character and ably puts his stamp on this film. Mangold who has directed both big and small budgeted films acquits himself here nicely. As you watch the film you feel you are in the right hands, it is also obvious Mangold had a vision and an ending he wanted to get to without a trace of irony to be found. Make no bones about it this was a tough assignment for all involved but Mangold has not had an easy run of it over the past few years – however with this film he has knocked it out of the park. Onscreen it is obvious that everyone wanted to make the best movie possible and wanted to round out this trilogy on the very strongest notes, and they succeed in ways few films do. They embrace the flaws of the previous installments and make Logan a three-dimensional character that feels like he has nothing to lose, has fought the good fight and in his mind has lost everything.

There is so much going on in this film, there are issues of serious mental illness, as well as what happens when an entire way of life disappears, are there second acts truly for people who have lost everything? I don’t think there has ever been a comic book movie like this, one that explores what it means to be all-powerful in one life and then be hobbled in another. This film is so much about the future of a race of people that have been pushed to the brink of extinction and are brought back by the goodwill of a hero who is wiling to sacrifice everything for the good of the many. When the X-Men were created they were an allegory of the civil rights movement and over the years have represented other minorities in US and later in international culture – more than any other comic before or since they spoke to the perceived outsiders in popular culture. Only now could we say we need a film like this for the masses than ever before with the hostile environment that exists within not only US culture but seemingly the entire Western World.

I admit it is difficult to watch both Logan and Charles in both cases broken men, both physically paying for their past deeds and actions. I have grown up with these characters both on paper and onscreen, in previous efforts never once do you feel there are real stakes in terms of their success and survival no matter who they face, Apocalypse, Magneto or anyone else. In this film there is everything to play for, we even see Logan get badly beaten by some thugs at the beginning of the film, so the very real question is what happens to a broken down old mutant. I will leave you to discover this, but I assure you this film is original in almost every way.

This is the supposed last outing for both Jackman and Stewart so that should be reason enough to see this film, it is not the only one which is great, this is a fantastic film and I would rate it in the top five comic book films, it is that great. We are being given the best X-Men film yet it is incredibly rewatchable, something that everyone should own. All the character’s are drawn well, the action is incredible and there are at leat three or four surprises you will not see coming. Highly recommended.

“Logan” is out now on DVD & Blu-ray.

Streaming Review: “American Gods” (2017 – ) Episode Eight: “Come to Jesus”

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“American Gods” (2017)

Fantasy/Horror

5stars_small

8 Episodes

Produced by: Bryan Fuller and Michael Green

Featuring: Ricky Whittle, Emily Browning, Crispin Glover, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Pablo Schreiber and Ian McShane

The series focuses on Shadow Moon, a man serving three years in prison. With only days remaining in his sentence, Shadow is given an unexpected early release after his beloved wife Laura is killed. Shadow finds himself next to a man named Wednesday, who offers Shadow a job. Wednesday appears to be nothing but a con artist who needs Shadow as a bodyguard. Season One concludes…

Episode Eight: “Come to Jesus”

Cinematographer: Darran Tiernan

Directed by: Floria Sigismondi

Where would “American Gods” be without one more “Coming to America” which serves as a bit of a bookend to the first episode as it features the beautiful and completely original femme fatale Bilquis. What we see now is how this old God used to feed in not only belief but also in the orgies that were acted upon in her name – a great and familiar scene on par with the lover eating from the first time we saw her many weeks ago. As with all the old Gods she fell out of memory, we witness how she attempted to stay in her followers minds – in the 1970s Middle East where ‘man’ corrupted her religion forcing her tp travel to America where she quickly forgets her own identity – we also see her possibly siding with New Gods in a  very foreboding way – although that will probably be followed up on in the second season.

As usual I am not going to spoil any surprises, but as usual as each week passes we are introduced to new characters in the way of Gods, with this week being no exception. We are also treated to another cameo in the form of the newly introduced embodiment of Easter, in the form of the always-delightful Kristin Chenoweth, as well as a multitude of Jesus’s, the prime one being played by the excellent Jeremy Davies.

Of course Mr. Wednesday is attempting to recruit ‘Easter’ in his upcoming fight, in this he reveals himself to be the Norse God Odin – not only that but Shadow seems to be finally getting the hang of the entire belief system as well as the pure power of it. Shadow makes his break through with the idea of Easter being personified in the form of a woman. He says, “people believe in Easter and so Easter is a person.”

This season has seen some great acting talent but the gift that keeps giving are really two fold, as well as becoming the MVP’s of season one – Emily Browning as the foul mouthed husband betraying crook, Laura, as well as the magnificent Pablo Schreiber as the foul mouthed unlucky crooked leprechaun Mad Sweeney. It’s funny and highly original that “American Gods” has been about relationships old and new. With Shadow and Laura who had a relationship built in love and trust, whilst the old Gods had the very same with their multitude of followers, but now most of them have either become a “Hope and Crosby” road movie, Shadow and Wednesday, or a mismatched Rom-Com, Sweeney and Laura.

However this episode like the previous season is all about belief, it is something that has stayed strong throughout these eight episodes, it ends on what belief can be as well as what it can do. So, the old Gods grit their teeth and using their power strike the first blow against the new Gods letting them know they are not done with yet – it is actually quite frightening, as with all planned out modern shows there is a cliffhanger – which I enjoyed but others in my household felt a little let down, with a hollow feeling to what as been a lethargic journey.

Once again the look of this episode like the rest of the series is original and incredible with the highlights being the shooting of Kristin Chenoweth as Easter. Chenoweth looks amazing as well as powerful, her make up is fantastic as well – we see at least three different versions of Easter throughout the episode – the final persona of power is the best as well as the most fiercely scary – maybe more than Odin himself. The director of this episode is Floria Sigismondi the first female behind the scenes, she is a breath of fresh air, formally a music video director, here she brings all her talent to bear on this season ending episode.

I loved the book this series is based on and I love this television show – I am a fan. I have one quibble, it is minor, but I wish this show was on Netflix or had been released all at once by Amazon. The reason I did not despair with the perceived slow release of information over eight weeks was because I generally knew where we were going, as well as who the players were,  I still know what is to come. I believe this show would have been better served by having all the episodes available to watch as one large chapter – it would have meant that the compressed time might have had the effect of speeding the plot up. It remains to be seen whether the comments about the show being slow will mean Amazon might have the courage next year to ramp up the release.

Amazon like an early Netflix are ramping up their production, green lighting new shows all over the place as well as having a few existing shows that are in their second, third and fourth seasons which is a good thing for getting new content but can also mean that if something is seen as not performing the axe could be swift. Some early good news was that “American Gods” will definitely get a second season, which will be at least halfway through Bryan Fullers planned three or four seasons, this will give the show enough episodes to at least find its legs.

Episode eight is now available on Amazon Streaming. Which also means that the entire first season can now be binge watched for greater enjoyment. Yay!