Non-Stop: an alcoholic veteran air marshal must figure out which of his passengers are picking the others off one by one until their ransom is met. To be fair, the director did all he could with this, but it’s a difficult task making a SMS conversation seem dramatic – although that can and has been done better with an even smaller scope. Neeson is in full-on Bryan Mills mode; the gruffly mumbling back-against-the-wall everyman with mad fighting skills and a character-defining family backstory. After the first couple of completely preposterous twisty-turney moments you learn not to think too hard about the rest of the plot. The one thing this film does have going for it is a sincere moment about the ‘Illusion of security’, which totally stands out against the dumbness of everything else going on. Probably an idea that sounded fantastic in a pitch, but was ultimately too great a task for the writers and director: leaving the end product feeling a bit daft. Japes on a plane! Proof that turkeys can fly! Plane rubbish! Etc etc…
– Dafuq Jeff – Plz stop sendin me grindr dik pics u basic bitch
– LOL IDGAF, shut yo skanky ass ratchet mouth #YOLO ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The Raid 2: Berandal (aka The Raid: Thug): following on directly from events in The Raid… after his brother is murdered the rookie SWAT member goes undercover in order to flush out the city’s dirty cops. It feels like director Gareth Evans is “doing a Tarantino” here, drawing from a lot of established Asian movie elements: the story is essentially Infernal Affairs; the themes feel like those of a fairly standard Japanese – notably Takashi Miike – gangster flick (internal power struggles, territorial battles, OTT Violence, honour, betrayal, black humour); and the visuals feel like you’re watching a modern Korean movie – e.g. Park Chan Wook – as it’s loaded with rich imagery and patterns (like the art deco ballroom and bar, sterile kitchen, snow fight) and some cartoonishly menacing enemies (‘Hammer Girl’, and the ridiculous side-combed, cane-wielding baddie) – there’s also a shitload of nods to A Bittersweet Life, from the Car/Warehouse fight to the impeccably dressed mobsters. The action scenes remain unbelievably entertaining, expertly choreographed and jaw-droppingly inventive – although shaky cam is used a lot more in this one. You never get tired watching Iko Uwais play human pinball with dozens of henchmen, exploiting the various locations, and through most of the big fights you can’t help but grab your equivalent body part that has just been mangled on-screen and shout “fuuuuck!”, every 20 seconds. Once again, there’s a good peppering of ultra-black humour to provide a little relief from the action. At 150 minutes there’s a lot that could have been cut out and not missed – from developing minor characters through to shots of nails, water, snow – although it is rigidly punctuated with big set-pieces so you never get the chance to nod off. The Raid was a powerful, gritty, relentless and raw 90-minute virtually dialoge-free history-making fight-fest that raised the bar for all action movies – and although I can understand why Evans didn’t want to just do the same again, in ‘beefing up’ The Raid 2 he has leaned a little too heavily on other director’s works, taking the edges off – and diluting – the 90-minute, 10/10 movie that’s contained in here. Niggles aside, the film is still packed with genre-defining action, cutting edge fight-choreography, and more hard-18-rated violence than you could shake a poorly-aimed shotgun at.
Inescapable: an ex-military intelligence officer loses his daughter while she’s travelling Europe, so he jets over and tries to hunt her down. That plot sounds familiar… This is essentially a more bureaucratic version of Taken/Taken 2/Frantic – with fewer thrills, and more focus on the ‘Eastern mystery’ angle. What’s quite good is that almost everyone the father meets is quite shifty, so you never really know what direction the plot is going to turn. Set in Syria (Damascus), it’s not particularly sympathetic to the country, nor are the American actor’s accents. 24 bad guy / all-round TV actor Siddig feels like he’s channeling the spirit of Bryan Mills a little too hard with the hushed, gristly hero yank voice. Inescapable is solid, but unremarkable; interesting, but not smart enough; not fantastic, but not awful… a totally middle-of-the-road movie.
Westworld: a luxury adult amusement park where holiday makers can relive the lawless Wild West for a thousand dollars a night; nothing can go wrong, and you can kill or get off with as many robots as you can! The concept is made more believable as it’s backed up with dozens of one-liners that explain the robots, the park, and answer the obvious “how does that work” questions. The three mains are all good, but Yul Brynner’s evil robot gunslinger stands out as being absolutely chilling: his mannerisms (particularly the slow, but efficient, walk) are unsettling as he malfunctions and chases down the lead – this is clearly the starting point for The Terminator. For an oldie, the film looks great, and is plenty stylish – hat’s off to the photographer and director. Storywise, it could have been a little better proportioned: 60 minute lead up, 5 minutes of destruction, 25 minutes of chasing… felt a little short-changed given the premise. Like all of the best Sci-Fi movies, at the heart of Westworld is a single, great idea, that just hasn’t aged a day, and if anything is more relevant to modern science – right down to the technical jargon. Even if robo-madness isn’t fully maximised, Westworld is a solid film made all the better with its creepy – prophetic – tone, and a retro / kitsch vibe.
Robot hookers… curvy!
Butterfly on a Wheel (AKA Shattered. AKA Desperate Hours): A perfect couple with the perfect life have their world turned upside down when a madman jacks their car and forces them to obey him for 24 hours. The three main actors are all OK – but have major accent issues, Broz (doing an Irish terrorist a la ‘Blown Away’) and Butler (doing a… I’ve no idea what he was trying). The main issue is, with such a big ‘taaa daaaa’ at the end, it leaves the majority of the film with too much ambiguity and not enough plot / direction – hardly anything makes sense and every time the story advances you’re sitting there thinking ‘WTF did I just see?!!?’ In the words of comic book guy… Worst. Ending. Ever. Particularly it’s retrospective ridiculousness. The only real plus I can think of is that it’s very well shot – framing and camera movement are far more impressive than any of the story. All in, this is a stupid film which hopes that by putting all its cards on the table in the last 5 minutes, that it will save the day. A very low rent Man on Fire, Taken, Ransom scenario – and the fact that a film with big stars needs three titles is very telling.
Party Down (Season 1): 10 episodes – follows a dysfunctional catering team of failed/upcoming Hollywood actors and writers. With most episodes having the team cater for a bizarre sub-set of society – pensioner dating / gangsters / porn awards ceremony – there’s plenty of material to work with. Every character serves a purpose; two of the team (Scott/Caplan) provide most of the drama – and there are some moments that really sneak up on you – whereas the rest serve up the laughs in abundance; everyone’s perfectly pitched with their own style of humour. Crucially, the writers have done a fantastic job of creating a well-written, fast-flowing, smart script, packed with wit that’s both genuinely funny and awkward in equal measures. Technically, there’s no frills, fads, or tricks which gives the show an air of plausibility that most comedies lack. The only real downside is that it’s not instantly lovable, and probably best enjoyed on your own – it’s quite dry, some of the subtle running gags take a while to pick out, and it takes an episode or two to properly tune in. Overall, I’ve gone from being unconvinced a few months back, to watching the entire season in 3 days. Party Down’s a bit of a TV gem, and with a movie being green-lighted, it’s clearly winning enough people over in the longer term!
Horrible Bosses: three friends are having major issues at work and decide it would be best if their bosses weren’t around any more… so they hire a ‘murder consultant’. The three bosses (Spacey, Aniston, Farrell) are all well cast and solid comedy characters. The three goons pull off the comedy of errors pretty well; albeit in a Hollywood shouty fashion, especially the little guy. However, it’s Jamie Foxx in the cameo role that and outshines and outfunnies everyone else put together with immaculate comedy timing. Worth noting that Aniston looks amazing, and gets to say some unbelievably filthy lines – ‘I fingered myself so hard I broke a nail’ – for the guys, this has been a looooong time coming! The majority of the jokes are consistent, and pretty funny, although mostly lowbrow crude/sex orientated – which is a shame as it had massive black comedy potential. It’s also well shot and has the advantage of being one of those films that everyone can relate to – who hasn’t had a boss that was a Psycho, Maneater or Tool at some point?! Horrible bosses is far better than it looks, and a contender with Bridesmaids for Comedy of the year.