Monday, 14 November 2016

The Accountant

The Accountant has an excellent cast, led by Ben Affleck as an autistic savant. Using his skills he's become an accountant, often using an alias and being hired by criminal organisations.
As JK Simmons (as an agent for the US Treasury) puts it: Imagine that you launder huge sums of money. You keep a record of transactions, but most of it is hidden behind codes and euphemisms. Then suddenly you find that some of the money has gone missing somewhere. Ben Affleck is the man you hire to come in and look at your accounts to see where the money has gone.

He gets hired by a robotics company (owned by John Lithgow), after Anna Kendrick has noticed something strange about the accounts.

Amongst this JK Simmons has put another agent (played by Cynthia Addai-Robbinson) in charge of the investigation into exactly who the accountant is, and That-guy-who-was-in-the-walking-dead-and-is-now-the-punisher (Jon Bernthal, I had to look that up) is a mercenary involved with businesses of some description (his first appearance is about him trying to restore the pension funds of the company who hired him).

The mysteries of exactly what is going on are fascinating, the villain's plot is coherent and extremely interesting. The acting is unbelievably good, the action is absolutely incredible. There is a lot of dark comedy, most of it derived from Ben Affleck being unable to understand emotions (so either not understanding someone's reaction, or not reacting in the way you would expect).

This is an intelligent, witty, funny and extremely exciting action film. Go see it.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Batman vs Superman: Ultimate Edition

While I do swear more than I should in real life, I try to avoid it here. I mention this because I want you to appreciate how sincere I am when I say: This film is fucking awful.
It's really, unbelievably bad.

During the events of Man of Steel, Bruce Wayne (played by Ben Affleck) was rescuing his employees from collapsing buildings in Metropolis, which has planted a seed of fear and hate for Superman in his mind.
Lex Luthor has found some Kryptonite off the coast of some tropical location, and is shipping it to himself in Metropolis.

Bruce Wayne, somehow knows this (but, hey, Batman is meant to be the worlds greatest detective, who avoids killing his opponents as much as possible) so goes to a party at Luthor's mansion, and hacks into his computer to find out when the shipment is (keep in mind, he's hacking into the computer of a private citizen who has, as far as he knows, committed no crimes)

What follows is an exceedingly long sequence of Batman trying to get the Kryptonite, only to find it was a trap, and Superman kills him.
Turns it was all a dream, and he wakes up to the Flash talking to him through a portal, saying "You were right, don't trust him!"
Not only is this a missed opportunity to inject some humour, by making the Flash pretend to be a ghost, but that is also a dream.
Batman later tells Alfred (Jeremy Irons) about how he fears and hates Superman. This renders the preceding two dream sequences completely and utterly pointless.

Not only that, but if the Flash's warning was meant to be real, then who does it refer to? Certainly not actually Superman, as he is a hero throughout the film.

Anyway, Batman then tracks the Kryptonite shipment to the docks and plants a tracker on the truck, Rather than tracking it, he chases it in the Batmobile, and outright murders several people (who, as I said before, as far as he knows have committed no crimes) including actual innocent civilians. Not only that, but he doesn't get the Kryptonite from the chase, instead using the tracker to get it. Off screen.

So eventually Batman fights Superman, they bond over their mothers having the same name, and unite to fight against Doomsday. Doomsday was created by Lex Luthor using some machine in a Kryptonian space ship to resurrect Zod's corpse. You know, at least Marvel actually try to keep the origins of their characters true to the comics.

They fight him with the help of Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot - I hear the shooting took so long because she was often late. They kept waiting for Gadot) in the most boring climactic fight sequence of a comic book film ever.

There is some foreshadowing for the Justice League, in the form of Aquaman and Cyborg (as well as the characters I've already mentioned)

Overall this film is incredibly long, with a lot of the run time being completely wasted on scenes that go nowhere or serve absolutely no purpose. Meanwhile, things which should have been developed are rushed or ignored. The characters have the bare minimum resemblance to their comic equivalents, and I would challenge anyone to find a likeable one in the bunch (apart from Alfred).
The writing is so poor that it can only be described as amateurish, and the action is ridiculously boring.
If I hadn't seen Suicide Squad first, I think this would have made me swear off DC films altogether.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Dr Strange

This latest Marvel entry stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the titular Dr Steven Strange, a brilliant but arrogant surgeon, who gets maimed in a car accident, ending his career.
Desperate for a solution, he eventually comes to a temple in Nepal, where Tilda Swinton portrays "The Ancient One". There he learns to open his mind to the concept of magic, and trains to master it.
The temple was recently victim to a theft by Mads Mikklesen, who hopes to unleash eldritch horrors upon the world.

Essentially, it fits the same mould of some other origin stories where an arrogant person needs to learn humility in the face of something spiritual, except rather than anything religious it's black magic and utterly mind-bending special effects.
Seriously, it's as if Inception was mixed with LSD, somehow. For the most part they are brilliant, but there are a small handful of effects which look poor, and could break your immersion.

The acting is excellent, with a script that is witty and laugh out loud funny. It was actually very nice to see Mads Mikklesen, who I've only ever seen in serious roles, have a few funny lines and evidently enjoy himself.
Rachel McAdams is also notable as being very funny, in how she reacts to the weirdness going on.

The action is brilliant, though a bit difficult to follow at times, due to a fair amount of it not really taking place within Euclidean geometric space.

While the framework for the story is generic, as it tends to be with these origin stories, the content was more than enough for me to thoroughly enjoy the film.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Inferno

You may remember the previous two Dan Brown films - "The DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons"
In The DaVinci Code, Tom Hanks solved some puzzle left be Leonardo DaVinci that lead to a great secret that had absolutely no effect on reality or society at all.

In Angels and Demons, Ewan McGregor distracted Tom Hanks so that he could use a visible amount of anti-matter to blow up the Vatican (as well as, presumably, the entire Eurasian continent)

Now after a 7 year gap, Tom Hanks reprises his role as Professor Robert "Layton" Langdon in Inferno.
The story is that a billionaire who gave a non-copyright-or-trademark-infringing Ted talk stating that humanity is facing a huge problem due to overpopulation has died after jumping from a tower which he was chased up.
The professor has woken up with amnesia, and is unable to remember the past few days, but what is evident is that there is a solution to the overpopulation problem put in place. Is the professor going to be able to stop it, or is he perhaps there to ensure it does get released?

So it's all a bit silly, and doesn't really consider anything to do with the morality involved (the bad guys are the bad guys, it's all black and white), and the use of religious art both as a metaphor and as the puzzle seems a bit of a stretch, but Dan Brown has a degree in classical art and he'll be damned if he doesn't get to use it!
There are a few odd choices for dramatic effect (we need to film this scene during the day, and this needs to happen at night, so we need to say it takes hours to travel the 5 meters between locations), but the film is fun overall.
However, that is in large part due to Tom Hanks. He simply carries the film, elevating it from average to entertaining. It's not a must-see, but is entertaining.


Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

"Ja, Kreacher!" is a German Harry Potter spin-off, about house-elves managing a the household of one of the higher-ups in the Ministry of Magic.

On the other hand, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a film starring Tom Cruise and Colby Smulders. Jack Reacher used to be a major in the army (which he is constantly reminded of) and Smulders is his successor. However, two of her subordinates have been murdered, and she has been arrested for the crime. Now it's up to Jack to figure out what's going on, and sort it out.

While the story is itself a bit generic, a usual failing of similar films is that they don't flow. This film flows very well - all of the events make sense and lead into one another, without any leaps of logic, or characters mysteriously teleporting or knowing things they shouldn't.

Tom Cruise is charismatic as always, while also playing a character who is a bit of an arsehole (presumably due to spending a lifetime in the military) - Smulders' character is similar, so it was enjoyable to see them butting heads, even though it did mean that there was a bit of a lack of chemistry (but that could in part be blamed on the characters being stoic and disciplined)

The film was well-written, exciting and witty. I would strongly recommend it (and since it is a sequel, I really must watch the first one!)

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

The Magnificent Seven (2016) is a remake of The Magnificent Seven (1960), which is a remake of Seven Samurai by Akira Kurisawa, which is in turn heavily inspired by the Wild West genre.

As such, it is perfectly understandable if the viewer feels that The Magnificent Seven (2016) feels that the story beats are familiar, or even generic.

The premise of the film is that there is a particular town which is almost under siege by the owner of a mining company. His cronies are sheriff deputies, they are apparently poisoning the water supply, gunning down people in the street, and intimidating the residents into selling their land for far less than appropriate market value.

As such, one of the residents seeks help and a group of seven characters, starting with Denzel Washington, get recruited into trying to save the town.

The acting can only be described as top-tier, the action scenes are fantastically entertaining, and the special effects are so convincing you'd swear they're injuring real horses.

Unfortunately there are some reveals that seem to come out of nowhere. For example, Ethan Hawke plays an obviously troubled ex-gunslinger. Towards the end of the film, he mentions to his friend about an ominous owl. It's a bit of a throwaway line, almost inaudible, but the owl is obviously meant to be some paranoid hallucination that has been haunting him for a long time.
Such things really needed a bit more foreshadowing.

Some of the deaths were very "Hollywood" - i.e. characters taking far too many bullets, and being far too mobile afterwards. This only serves to inflate the actor's ego and break my suspension of disbelief.

Also the ending seems bizarre in terms of tone.

Despite some flaws, I thought that it was an extremely entertaining and very well made film. Definitely worth a watch.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Infiltrator

The Infiltrator stars Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo  and Amy Ryan as undercover CIA agents trying to take down Pablo Escabar's drug operation in the 1980s.

The film is gripping from start to finish, a fascinating "true" story with completely believable characters. Bryan Cranston channels a little but of 'Walter "the best acting I've ever seen, signed Sir Anthony Hopkins" White', but most definitely more on the side of "good" (whilst also being a flawed human being trying to balance his work with his personal life)

Honestly, all of the acting in the film was top notch. The soundtrack was incredible, and the sound design particularly stood out in how masterful it was.

It's difficult to describe without spoiling what happens in the film, but it is really an example of brilliant film-making. Every single element is near flawless.

Do yourself a favour and watch it.