f5eb99f3-e892-4a3a-956d-c536c6a11267-25002-0000243ed0db6d1dJaws 2 is the best shark movie ever made. It is. No, really, it is. It is so. How many helicopters does Jaws 1 eat? Exactly. So I went into The Meg knowing that it was unlikely to be better than Jaws 2, but maybe it would be better than Jaws 3? Surely it would be better than Jaws 4?

Jason Statham plays Jonas Taylor, a kinda International Rescue sort of chap. The movie opens with him having to make the decision to sacrifice two of his co-workers to save eleven others from a nuclear submarine that has apparently taken a bit of a battering from an unseen creature.

Five years later, and Jonas’s ex-wife, Lori (Jessica McNamee) is at the bottom of the ocean investigating a theoretical false floor. Financed by Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), Dr Minway Zhang’s research facility has a suspicion that what they think is the ocean bed is actually a cloud of hydrogen sulfide and this patch of ocean may well be deeper than the Marianas trench. And it is. Lori’s submersible punctures the cloud and discovers a brand new ecosystem of creatures that you’d never think would exist under such extreme pressure, including a MAHOOOOOOOSIVE shark that doesn’t take kindly to the lights on the submersible invading its environment, attacks it and damages their systems. Cue the call out to Jonas for one more suicide rescue mission.

The movie isn’t really about the rescue but in performing it, they seemingly leave a gap in the hydrogen sulfide that allows the really big shark — the titular Meg or Megalodon — to make it out and into the regular ocean. Not only that, but no one tells the really big shark that the changes in pressure should really mean that it explodes when it gets nearer the surface and instead it goes about attacking the research facility. So Jason Statham is going to have to kill it.

Positioned as a horror comedy — Bobby Darrin’s Beyond the Sea in the trailer, anyone? — it’s neither horrific or funny enough to earn either label. Oddly, it seems to take itself fan too seriously for the most part, and steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that it’s utter hockum. There’s a moment when Jason Statham has the opportunity to punch the shark in the face and he doesn’t take it. I’ll never forgive it for that.

It’s cheesy but not cheesy enough. It’s a single slice of Baby Swiss when what it really needs to be is a wheel of Extra Mature Cheddar topped with Stilton and stuffed inside a nice bit of Roquefort. It’s not cheesy in a satisfying way and it’s written by people you’d swear didn’t speak English as their first language — except they do — and they’ve contrived with director Jon Turteltaub to forget to put in anything remotely thrilling or suspenseful into the near two hour running time. It’s not in the least bit exciting and events just plod along from one set piece to another with little in the way of narrative progression in between. Seemingly, Eli Roth was on board to direct and one imagines that while the end result would still probably be bobbins, at least there might’ve been a bit of gore to get worked up about.

It’s not entirely worthless. The dynamic between Statham and Li Bingbing’s Suyin Zhang is quite cute and Shuya Sophia Cai is good as Suyin’s daughter Meiying.

The movie cost a ridiculous amount of money to make and I have no doubt that it’ll turn a profit. But something as dumb and nonsensical as this really should be more fun. And it’s not. Honestly, it’s about on par with Jaws 3.5, and that’s probably the most damning thing I can say about it.

Advertisements

poohDifficult as it may be to believe, but I was looking forward to this, seeing it as a potential stopgap until Paddington 3 has the good grace to be written and made and released and melt my heart all over again.

So how did that work out, then?

Proceedings begin with a young Christopher Robin saying cheerio to Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and the rest of the gang for what he believes to be the final time. He’s being sent off to boarding school so will be moving far from The Hundred Acre Wood. There follows the opening credits scene which takes altogether far too long to explain what happens to Christopher in the following years, and in doing so, basically lays out all the beats for everything that’s going to happen over the next hour and three quarters.

Christopher is sent away, loses his father, is told he is now the man of the house, as an adult and now played by Ewan McGregor he meets his wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) has a daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), goes off to war, comes back with an injury, finds himself working long hours for a horrible boss in a factory, spends less and less time with his family and particularly a daughter who barely knows him. He pushes his work ethic on to her and has plans for her to go to boarding school.

He’s forgotten how to have fun. Evelyn can’t remember the last time he laughed. When he has to work instead of joining his wife and kid on a weekend break to his old house in Sussex, we get the feeling that he might either wind up on his own in life or die from stress. Meanwhile, Pooh has lost all his friends, so walks through Christopher Robin’s door in the tree, to find his old pal and get his help.

This is all in the first act. I haven’t spoiled anything. But if you’ve ever seen a movie in your life, I’ve kinda spoiled the whole thing. Yeah. You’re welcome. Nothing that happens beyond this will surprise you. It absolutely follows the path the rigid narrative demands, and that is a huge problem in making any kind of emotional investment in the film.

Not only that, we focus far too much on Christopher, when any fun to be had in the movie comes from Pooh and his friends, but particularly Pooh. All of the voice actors are great. Jim Cummings voices Pooh and Tigger. Brad Garrett is perfect as Eeyore.

Visually, though, it looks weird. The toys are beautifully animated but their eyes lack life which makes it look like The Hundred Acre Wood is actually somewhere on the set of The Walking Dead. Given that the Wood seems to match Christopher Robins’ mood at any given moment, it’s quite dark and foggy a lot of the time, which doesn’t help matters. It’s a really odd film for kids, if that’s even what it’s meant to be. So it occupies a strange place where it’s aimed at the wrong group of people that it hopes will appreciate it.

The actors are good for the most part and there’s a great cameo from Mackenzie Crook that’s over far too quickly, and a wee red balloon manages to be the movies heart, but overall it’s a let down and precisely no threat to a certain Peruvian delight. It could’ve been so much better.

the-first-purge-pg4_advance1sheet_rgb_2_rgb-720x1140I haven’t kept up with The Purge movies. I saw the first one and didn’t really care for it. It took what on the surface was a great idea and then inexplicably turned it into a fairly dull home invasion movie with some social commentary thrown in. Why narrow the focus so much? It didn’t make sense. The two sequels passed me by. They have, however, made a ton of cash. So what do I know?

The First Purge isn’t so much a prequel to the Purge series as it is a sequel to Get Out. There are bits of The Raid in here. There are bits of Attack the Block. The end is basically Die Hard. Written by James DeMonaco, who has written and directed all previous installments, and directed by Gerard McMurray, this is the movie that the first Purge probably should’ve been.To push crime rates below 1% and restore the economy, the New Founding Fathers of America have declared an experiment that’ll Make America Great Again. Honestly, it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. It never has.

In Staten Island, for 12 hours, no crime will be punishable up to an including murder, and participants will be rewarded with $5,000. This largely black and latino community, while concerned about the implications, are more interested in throwing street parties for the event than they are killing each other, which forces the NFFA to take matters into their own hands.

We see the story through the eyes of local drug king-pin D’mitri (Insecure’s Y’lan Noel), his ex-girlfriend Nya (Lex Scott Davis), and her brother Isaiah (Jovian Wade) and the main urban villain of the piece Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) who is quite happy to kill as many people as he possibly can with syringes attached to his hand a la Freddie Krueger.

The action is beautifully choreographed and shot and the violence is visceral and brutal at times, but seldom has brutality been staged so perfectly. I’m honestly struggling to think of an American movie that presented its violence in a more artistically satisfying manner. I guess my main problem was I just didn’t care too much if the drug baron lived or died.

It doesn’t take much to see the satire and social commentary of life in the US in 2018. There are allusions to Dylann Roof’s Charleston massacre. There are things that are eerily similar to the events in Charlottesville. You’ll no doubt see things that remind you of the Black Lives Matter movement. There’s even a pussy that is in very real danger of being grabbed. There’s a red cap version of the poster. The movie does nothing to shy away from these comparisons, rather it shoves it right in your face and perhaps it does it a little too forcefully.

tagThe first thing you see when Tag starts is a bold note insisting that what you are about to watch is based on true events. Knowing the rough idea of the movie from the trailer, I assumed that I was going to think quite uncharitably of these men-children who have spent the last thirty years refusing to grow up.

For those unfamiliar with the trailer, or the WSJ article behind it, the story is about a group of five grown men who have been playing the same game of Tag for the last thirty years, since they were children. The logistics of this are pretty impractical so the rules are simplified so that the game only runs for the month of May with whoever is It at midnight on June 1 is, oh I dunno, whoever that is has the jobby touch for a year.

Ed Helms plays Hoagie and when we first see him, he’s applying for a janitorial job in a fancy insurance company despite being hugely over-qualified. He gets the job and then we next see him in disguise outside the office of CEO Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm) who is being interviewed by WSJ journalist Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis). I think we’re supposed to think Hoagie is going to assassinate Bob but nope, he Tags him and now Bob is It.

As ridiculous as this is, writers Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen up the ante and have Hoagie explain to Bob that Jerry is retiring from the game and has never been tagged. Ever. So Hoagie is rounding up the gang to head back to Jerry’s hometown for his wedding and finally lay a hand on the scoundrel. With Bob and an intrigued Rebecca in tow, we soon pick up stoner Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Kevin Sable (Hannibal Buress) and we see the unbelievable lengths these people will go to avoid being Tagged. Fire extinguisher to the chest, f’rinstance. Multiple punches to ass cheeks.

In his directorial debut, Jeff Tomsic does a pretty great job of moving things along with a script that restricts the characters within their particular quirks, but distributes quirky lines through them all to keep them all interesting, particularly Sable. Plus, Isla Fisher as Hoagie’s borderline psychotic wife, is an incredible if somewhat furious package. There’s a side-story with a hottie from school who is a potential love interest for a couple of members in the gang that doesn’t go anywhere — certainly nowhere interesting — but other than that, the story is pretty lean.

Is it funny, then? Well, I chuckled a few times. I was laughing silently on the inside on a few more occasions. It was fun. I found the 100 minute running time passed smoothly enough, but it was a movie that for long spells I felt I was more consciously observing from a position of curiosity rather than out and out enjoyment. For example, I spent a lot of time wondering about the fun of Jerry never being tagged, as it meant as a consequence he also had never been the tagger, missing out on a half of the game. He had never been It.

All that said, I came out feeling more positive about the participants than I did going in. Particularly in the final act, the movie develops a bit of a heart and the closing sequence with footage of the actual men who participated in this in real life, got me in the feels a wee bit, and almost coaxed a wee tear to this jaded eye.

 

Do you watch the UK soap opera, Coronation Street? Do you have any interest in the cultural and linguistic differences between the UK and US?

Even if the answer to both of these questions is no, you may be interested to know that my wife, Helen, and I are producing a couple of podcasts related to the above.

The Talk of the Street is a weekly catch-up review of the recent happenings on the famous cobbles. We walk-through the episodes of that week, go over the main talking points, and cover the errors we’ve made in previous episodes.

Common Language questions the quote attributed to George Bernard Shaw that the US and the UK are two nations separated by a common language. Recent episodes have investigated soccer vs football, interstate vs motorway, and immigration processes.

Please check them out and if you feel so inclined, a cheeky wee like and subscribe would be very much appreciated.

deadpool2I made a pact with myself some time ago that I was done with Marvel movies. So far, I’ve been good to my promise and since Thor: Ragnarok, I haven’t crossed the threshold of another stupid offering in the MCU. This presented me with a dilemma, though, because I actually quite liked the first Deadpool. It was clever. It was meta. And despite Ryan Reynolds being Ryan Reynolds, I thought it was pretty cute. Thanks, then, for Stepson #1 for informing me that, technically, this isn’t a Marvel movie. It’s a Fox movie based on a Marvel character. Well, that makes all the difference in the world. (I have no idea if this is true. If it isn’t, keep it to yourself)

We pick up events shortly after the end of the first movie. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is all over the world killing bad guys in increasingly painful manners. Then he comes home, decides to start a family with Vanessa, and then thanks to a mis-thrown cheese knife, Vanessa dies. Look, this is all before the opening credits have run so … shut up.

Deadpool is in a spiral of misery after this and tries to kill himself, which of course, he can’t do. Colossus shows up, makes Deadpool a trainee X-Person and on their first mission, he meets the 15 year old Firefist (Julian Dennison), an angry and abused young man who wants revenge on the headmaster of the orphan school he attends (played by Eddie Marsan, one of my absolute fave actors). Deadpool fights his case, kills a couple of the abusing teachers and then they both end up in the Ice Box — a prison for mutants — where they have neck bracelets that suppress their powers. For Deadpool, this means cancer and death. Then some heavily-armored robot / guy hybrid from the future appears, determined to kill Firefist. Oh dear.

In all honesty, the first half is a bit of a slog. All that meta stuff from the first movie gets a bit dull after a while and throughout, Ryan Reynolds is operating at 120% Ryan Reynolds; at least 50% more Ryan Reynolds than I can typically stand. I struggled.

But despite the time travel element more or less telegraphing how the movie is destined to end, I finally became invested in the second half and enjoyed myself quite a bit. There’s a sequence where Deadpool’s team jump out of a plane and the consequences of not paying attention to warnings of wind speed have some disastrous outcomes. It woke me up. It started to connect with me.

Stand out for me is a member of that parachuting team. Domino (Zazie Beetz) is a hero blessed with good luck. Deadpool is hesitant to call this a power, but within the same sequence mentioned above, the practical result is played out and is hugely entertaining. What a great character. Perhaps a little light to demand a standalone movie, but if there’s a Deadpool 3 I would hope that she plays a key role.

So, not as good as the first outing, overplays the meta stuff by a degree or two, Ryan Reynolds, but for a sequel where we’re working with secondary ideas, it stands on its own two feet pretty well. And there’s some interesting stuff in the credits that will have fangirls and fanboys cooing all the way to the foyer.

Now if someone can give me an out so I can see the new Antman and Wasp, I’d appreciate it greatly.

 

Screen Shot 2018-06-24 at 7.10.37 PMHard as it is to believe, it’s been 14 years since the Incredibles hit  movies theaters around the world. I didn’t actually get round to seeing it until a good few years later and even though I loved it, I’ve only watched it once. It’s pretty much a perfect movie, confirmed by it being the first animated movie to win the prestigious Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It represents a period where Pixar could do no wrong. So we walk into Incredibles 2 with some trepidation, but assured at least that this wasn’t a rush job. No one was on a cash grab here. Maybe they were waiting on the right story.

We pick up events pretty much where we left off, with the Parr family — Bob (voiced by Craig T Nelson), Helen (Helen Hunt), Violet (Sarah Vowell) , Dash (Huck Milner), and infant Jack-Jack (Eli Fucile), aided by Samuel L Jackson’s Frozone — tackling the Underminer’s attempts to rob the city’s bank. There’s something rather lovely about this; that after a 14 year wait essentially no time has passed between movies.

Ultimately, the Parrs are unsuccessful and the authorities are miffed to say the least about the significant amount of damage that’s been brought upon the city. Superheroes are banned. Uh-oh. Soon, the family is contacted by Winston Deavor, a superhero fan, telecommunications tycoon, and owner of DEVTECH, played in true Saul Goodman style by Bob Odenkirk. Winston is the mouth of the company and his sister Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener), is the creative genius behind DEVTECH tech. They propose a publicity stunt to get the public’s opinion of Superheroes back onside. As Helen is the least destructive of the family, given her ability is her elasticity, she’s the one chosen and so leaves Bob to look after the kids.

And so the movie continues very much with the females leading events. Helen is doing great work tracking down a new superbaddie called Screenslaver who uses hypnosis transmitted electronically to control their victims. Later, when the kids have to rally to save the day, it’s Violet who’s in control of matters.

It’s enormous fun throughout. Writer and director, Brad Bird, has developed a story that is part superhero espionage, part media manipulation commentary, and part kitchen sink drama as Bob struggles with Jack-Jack and his relationship with his daughter, who following a mind wipe of a boy who saw her sans mask, has lost her love interest as well as her desire to be an Incredible. The laughs, more often or not, come from Jack-Jack and the discovery that he is, in fact, in possession of 17 super powers but is without the ability to control any of them.

Visually, it’s absolutely sumptuous. I don’t know if there’s been a quantum leap in computer animation since I saw Lego Ninjago but this looks beautiful, particularly the water scenes and the hair. It used to be that the weight was missing from characters. That wouldn’t appear to be the case anymore.

The highest accolade I offer movies here is to refer to them as a triumph. So is this a triumph? Well, not quite. It’s close. The threads of the movie sometimes overwhelm the overall arc of the movie and the revelation of the baddie’s true identity is telegraphed quite heavily from early on. Through no fault of the film, I will shamefully admit that I dozed off for five minutes near the start, and I still managed to guess about a half-hour ahead of time.

The wait has been worth it. But let’s not keep it so long next time, eh?

PS — The short is wonderful, too.