Archive | Film reviews

An archive of the blog's film reviews. There's also an archive and an A-Z index of all reviews.


January 23, 2017

What have you been watching? Including The Magnificent Seven, Shooter, Lucifer and The Man in the High Castle

Posted on January 23, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching. 

I know there are a lot of new show coming soon. They really are. They're just not here yet.

That means that in the past week, I've only reviewed Six (US: History) and passed a third-episode verdict on Emerald City (US: NBC; UK: 5*). I'll be deluged again soon and complaining about it, I know….

Anyway, a few oldies are back in the schedules again, which means that as well as The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, Man Seeking Woman and Son of Zorn, I'll be covering Lucifer and Timeless and the season finale of Shooter. I also managed to squeeze in a few episodes of The Man in the High Castle. And I watched a movie.

The Magnificent Seven (2016)
Antoine Fuqua's insipid remake of the classic 1960 Western, in which black-clad gunslinger Denzel Washington puts together a group of similarly iconic gunslingers to help protect Haley Bennett's village from powerful rich guy Peter Sarsgaard.

The film goes through most of the same motions as the original, from the introduction and recruitment of each of the remaining seven (Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Vincent D'Onofrio and Martin Sensmeier) through the training of the villagers to the eventual battle with the baddies, but without ever really making you care about any of them, beyond the fact they're Lee Byung-hun, Chris Pratt and Vincent D'Onofrio. Indeed, unlike both the original and the film's ultimate antecedent, Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai), the film only really comes alive when it's an action scene, the characters proving otherwise unendearing or even interesting.

A few lines from the original ("If God had not wanted them shawn, he would not have made them sheep") manage to sneak in, but they only sure up the rest of the script's ultimate emptiness, and the frequent clichéd homages to Westerns in general only serve to make the movie look hackneyed.

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January 3, 2017

What have you been watching? Including The Mick, Sherlock, Mechanic: Resurrection, The OA and The Bureau

Posted on January 3, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching. 

Well hello. How are you today? Have a nice break away from it all? That's what I like to hear. 

Right, that's the small talk done. Let's talk telly.

So, I didn't watch an awful lot over the Christmas break, since I was actually in Germany and if you've ever watched German TV, you'll remember what a mistake that was (more about that tomorrow). But after the jump I'll be talking about the regulars I did watch, including the return of Doctor Who (briefly) and Sherlock (less briefly):

Global Internet
The OA 

UK
Doctor Who, Sherlock

France
Le Bureau des Légendes (The Bureau)

US
Shooter

However, New Year's Day was on Sunday and Americans being quite efficient, there have already been two new shows to grace the screens. I've already reviewed Ransom (US: CBS) but on top of that there was:

The Mick (US: Fox)
A gender-swapped, race-swapped Uncle Buck that sees It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Kaitlin Olson playing the white trash grifter sister to a billionaire's wife who gets lumbered with looking after the kids when the rich couple go on the run following fraud investigations. If she sticks around, she gets to enjoy the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But she'll also have to deal with the bitchy neighbours, the bitchy daughter and the entitled son.

The show's created by John Chernin and Dave Chernin, the creators of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, so you shouldn't be too surprised to hear that it's funnier than you might think, more accurate about being poor than you might think and also based around people being mean too one another verbally and physically in order to get one up on everyone else. Olson's very good as the Mick(ey) of the title and everyone is marvellously bitchy, too.

Except that's not my idea of fun, so I probably won't stick with it.

I also watched a movie.

Mechanic: Resurrection (2016)
Sequel in name only to the actually not that bad 2011 Jason Statham remake of the Charles Bronson/Jan-Michael Vincent actioner, The Mechanic. Here, Mechanic: Resurrection throws pretty much all the first movie's nuance aside in favour of a sort of melange of The Transporter, The Transporter 2 and The Internecine Project. No longer the meticulous hit-man planner of yore, Statham is retired in Brazil until fellow East End child army survivor (don't ask) turned billionaire bad guy Sam Hazeldine (Peaky BlindersResurrection) blackmails him into returning to his old life by abducting new girlfriend Jessica Alba. Only if Statham kills three of Hazeldine's impossible-to-reach rivals in ways that look like accidents will Hazeldine release Alba. He says.

Foresaking The Mechanic (2011)'s character building and steely professionalism, Mechanic: Resurrection is an insultingly stupid piece of work that tries to give us glossy backdrops, non-stop Statham fight scenes, a bit of ultraviolence and a bit of casual racism as a substitute, hoping we'll like it better. Certainly, the stars seemed to have liked it, because Alba's former Afghanistan soldier turned teacher of Cambodian children is an insult to women, but she does get to go to lots of tropical islands; Tommy Lee Jones gets more of the same travel action, but perhaps was also swayed by the chance to play a socialist arms dealer with a James Bond-style underwater base and submarine using all the subtlety he deployed in Under Siege; Michelle Yeoh was purely there for the tropical islands and not to have to do anything athletic for a change, as far as I could tell.

To be fair, most Statham movies take the piss a little bit and Statham is as aware of that as anyone. Certainly, the fact he takes his shirt off in almost every other scene can't be accidental and I refuse to believe that the FX shots were anything other than deliberate tributes to Derek Meddings' model work in 1970s James Bond movies. There's a certain amount of tongue going into cheek here.

But the writing is still terrible and worst of all, almost none of the murders Statham is supposedly hired to make look like accidents would pass as such for more than a minute. Terrible.

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December 19, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Rogue One, Nobel, The OA and Chance

Posted on December 19, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching. 

It's the final week before Christmas and TMINE's usual end-of-year break, so this is going to be the final WHYBW of 2016, unless I do another one on Thursday and Friday to mop up a few concluding shows.

As usual, American TV has just about wound down in readiness for Crimbo but this year, Internet TV has started arming a flotilla of box sets for everyone to settle down with once the turkey has subsided and no one can move any more. I'll be looking a couple of those in a mo, but there's too many for me to deal with by myself, so if you've already watched season two of The Man in the High Castle on Amazon or season one of Une Chance De Trop (No Second Chance) or Cannabis on Netflix, feel free to let everyone know what you thought of them in the comments section.

Elsewhere, I've (p)reviewed Swedish Dicks (Sweden) and passed a third-episode verdict on Shut Eye (US); after the jump, the regulars:

  • Canada
    Travelers
  • US
    Chance, Falling Water, The Great Indoors, Shooter, and Timeless.

But first, a couple of newbies:

Nobel (Norway: NRK1; UK: Netflix)
Aksel Hennie (The Martian) is a Norwegian special forces officer just back from Afghanistan who is ordered to investigate when a former Taliban target turns up in Oslo. Hennie ends up killing him, but begins to learn that maybe his orders weren't as legitimate as he first thought. Who's responsible, will he get found out, has it anything to do with the Nobel Peace Prize committee and what happened back in Afghanistan anyway involving the target's wife?

Something of a leap up in quality from previous Norwegian efforts such as Okkupert (Occupied) and Mammon, Nobel is a geopolitical thriller that juxtaposes the individual with realpolitik, examining the decisions individual soldiers have to make on the ground, the effects of war and the little bit people who get caught up in big decisions, while looking at the alliances needed and compromises made to end war, where even a $60bn deal can be threatened by the wrong person turning up to a party at the wrong time. It all feels nicely realistic for a change, even if some of the nuances of the language and culture passed me by (eg a translator appears to be speaking Norwegian with everyone else and then someone says to her "six languages and you still can't speak Norwegian". What language is she speaking then?!), and Hennie makes for a very plausible special forces operative.

I'm only two episodes in but this looks like a keeper.

The OA (Netflix)
Netflix has started to develop a habit of covertly producing very odd but wonderful little series with no publicity that it puts out of a Friday as a boxset and surprises everyone. The OA is such a show, a genre-defying piece created by and written by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij, directed by Batmanglij and starring Marling (as well as a certain Jason Isaacs) that's almost impossible to categorise - the best comparison I can come up with is if Neil Gaiman and Hal Hartley sat down together and decided to mash up Stranger Things, Room and Anastasia.

It starts with Marling jumping off a bridge. But when her parents come rushing to her hospital, they reveal she's been missing for seven years - however, before she disappeared, this fully sighted girl was blind. Returning to her home, she's soon shaking up the town with some special powers she seems to have acquired. But she needs five "strong and flexible" people to help her rescue someone, perhaps from that mysterious other realm she once visited…

Full of strange authorial decisions from Marling's insistence that everyone now call her 'The OA' through to only starting the title sequence 45 minutes into the episode once she begins to retell her story of actually being a reincarnated Russian oligarch's daughter, it's a properly auteured piece of work that needs to be watched if you're to stand a chance of knowing what it's like. Visually beautiful, it is by turns upsetting, bewildering and heart-warming, and most frequently like a fairy tale - but even that's a classification it eludes. 

I've seen one episode so far and it never once did any of the things I suspected it would do and did many things I've never imagined. I'm going to watch more just to see if it'll blow my mind any further, but it requires a good deal of patience and I suspect it won't be to everyone's tastes.

I also watched a movie this week!

Rogue One (2016)
An almost immediate prequel to Star WarsRogue One reveals the full details of how those plucky spies mentioned in the first movie's opening introduction were able to retrieve the plans for the Death Star and ultimately help to stop the Empire's plans for galactic domination. Directed by Gareth Edwards and co-written by Tony Gilroy, the film is more like a proper war movie than any of the other Star Wars flicks, echoing The Dirty Dozen and The Seven Samurai, as plucky crim Felicity Jones puts together a band of warriors that includes Donnie Yen and Riz Ahmed to track down the man who designed the Death Star - her father, Mads Mikkelsen. 

Operating resolutely in the vein of Edwards's previous blockbuster, Godzilla, it's a game of two halves. The first is a slow, character-builder that shows off the Star Wars universe with some spectacular location filming. The second is then a giddy, action-packed pay-off that surprises with an oddly large number of heroic deaths. On top of that, you have the return of a number of original Star Wars characters and actors who appear as their young and/or not-dead selves through the power of CGI, the movie effectively spelling out why the Empire was so fearsome, why everyone was properly worried of the Death Star and by the end, precisely why everyone was right to cack themselves as soon as Darth Vader entered the room.

All in all, a movie that gets better in the memory and which finally does something new and worthwhile with the franchise. It's also best to watch Star Wars afterwards to see how it almost exactly matches up with everything we see in that.

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