movie reviews

Creed 2 movie review

Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa, heavyweight contender Adonis Creed faces off against Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago.
— imdb
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Having grown up watching Rocky movies from a very young age I looked forward to the new incarnation of the series through the brash and often times obstinate Adonis Creed, son to the famous boxer Apollo Creed. Very much the product of his father, a son who wishes to be nothing like him yet echoes every move in a vicious circle, doomed to repeat the same mistakes of his father.

Under the wise tutelage of Rocky, Creed now champion will face off against an old adversary in the form of Victor Drago, a man mountain who is very much the carbon copy of his father Ivan Drago.

We open on a disgraced Ivan Drago, who has no country, respect or honour pushing his son to the limits of endurance in the hopes that he will regain their life back and the finery that this implies. When Victor beats an opponent quickly in an underground boxing match he falls into the watchful gaze of sleazy boxing promotor Buddy Marcelle played by Russell Hornsby. This sets Victor on a collision course with Adonis Creed for the title belt and revenge.

‘Creed 2’ follows a very similar path to ‘Creed’ once again it is about growing up in the shadow of a famous father and wanting to avenge his father’s death. Creed has seen really very little growth since the first movie, retreading old ground and his story arc suffers for it. Rocky as a character is pushed further into the background - he is now the wisened old boxer giving life lessons to his protege even though he refuses to listen.

To me the most interesting story line was Ivan Drago’s who has fallen on hard times as result of his loss to Rocky Balboa many years before. Once his name was synonymous with power and prestige but now he is outcast, dishevelled and bitter forcing his son to walk in his fathers footsteps to regain what was lost and in the process rebuild both their lives. It is a far more interesting dynamic and a story I was more interesting in seeing.

That’s not to say that Adonis’ story isn’t engaging, it is, I just felt it replayed the same hits again as the first movie. As a result the movie wasn’t quite strong enough in that area. The secondary players were given very little to work with this time, Bianca played by Tessa Thompson is somewhat relegated to a bit part player who only appears when a musical interlude is required.

Usually one of the best parts of a Rocky movie is the training montage set to a blistering soundtrack they make you root for the main character and engage in an emotional sense as he overcomes adversity to rise to the top. With Creed 2 the training montage felt a little flat and subdued. It wasn’t quite as engaging as previous montages before it.

When the boxing match plays out between Drago and Creed it is suitably bombastic, filmed nicely and echoes the previous Rocky movies for intensity. The ending is a passing of the torch, where Rocky will slink into the shadows allowing Creed to tell his own story anew. Detailing clearly where the franchise is heading. Sylvester Stallone announced he is no longer playing the Rocky Character going forward. Creed will be left to his own devices but the question is whether Adonis Creed is an interesting enough character to hold an entire movie together on his own.

Overall the movie is enjoyable despite repeating itself then again I guess you don’t go into a Rocky or Creed movie expecting any different do you?

***1/2 out of 5

Alien: Covenant review

Synopsis

The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
— imdb

As one of those people who grew up watching - and enjoying - the first two of the Alien movies (The third I really enjoyed visually with its grimy, grungy atmosphere but it lacked some aspects in story which where somewhat fixed by the release of the 'assembly cut' which made it a better iteration but still not perfect. The fourth movie lets just say it was very 'meh'.) I could appreciate the opening title sequence for what it was. A resetting of tone back to the traditional roots of the 'Alien' movies with its riff on Jerry Goldsmiths opening title score for 'Alien'.

However, after this brief interlude we appear back into 'Prometheus' territory with its sterile white backgrounds and talk of 'god' and 'creation' with a very appealing turn by Michael Fassbender as the android with aspirations of being a type of 'creationist' himself as he talks with his 'Father' played with intensity by Guy Pearce. It is the 'setting up' of David as a villain if we didn't already gleam that from the first movie 'Prometheus'.

I seem to be in a minority of those that quite enjoyed 'Prometheus' upon its release. While far from a perfect film it did, however, offer a visual feast for the eyes that carries on into 'Alien: Covenent'. Even though the story was lacking it did at least offer a somewhat different approach to the material.

We are firmly back in 'Alien' territory with bulkheads and long corridors, moody lighting and an ensemble cast of characters. It is these characters - mostly one dimensional - that join us on our journey to Origae-6 a habitable planet that has been ear marked for a settlement of colonists aboard the ship. A tragedy strikes aboard the ship and 'mother' is forced to wake the weary crew seven years before arriving to Origae-6. In a blink and you miss it cameo James Franco's character dies horribly in stasis setting forth the angst that Karen Waterston's character portrays for most of the running time.

The crew intercepts a transmission from another habitable planet which is closer to them so the newly appointed captain - played by Billy crudup, not relishing seven more years in stasis - sends a landing party to take surface samples and to survey it as an alternative colonising site for their mission.

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From here the atmosphere builds with a terrific looking setting as a back drop. The inevitable infection happens which sets in motion a tense sequence involving small alien hybrids that are menacing in their intensity and blood letting. The culmination of which sees the crew stranded from the mother ship with only the android 'David' for company who may have sinister intentions for them.

It is here that the movie will either lose momentum for you or have you intrigued. We spend a long time in cinematic terms visiting with 'David' as he proceeds to teach 'Walter' the new upgraded version of himself to play the flute - played admiringly with menace by Fassbender - who makes playing both roles seem effortless.

When the inevevitable set up happens and David's plan is revealed (Spoiled bizarrely by the teaser prologue released a week before the film opened) there is a race against time to abandon the planet and regroup with the mother ship.

The tension rises again when the full 'Alien' finally reveals itself and tries with all of its prowess and skill to thwart the escape. It is a skilled sequence that was somewhat sullied by showing a portion of it in the official trailer. I don't quite understand the necessity to do that. It seems to be a current trend in the marketing departments for big tent pole movies.

In essence Alien: Covenant is a hybrid movie not quite a full 'Alien' movie nor 'Prometheus'. It is a bastard child that tries to mesh the best of both movies and doesn't quite succeed. However, where it does succeed it does so quite well. In other areas you may feel slightly aggrieved as it plays as a 'best of' compilation from other 'Alien' movies without adding enough new things to the mix to make it truly great. For instants, I would say that the movie isn't scary. Gone are the long lingering build up of tension scenes. Instead there is fast cuts and quick kills purely for shock value. Ultimately, you need to build tension in order for these shock kills to really hit home. Without that its just some quick blood letting without context.

There seemed to be a few odd editing choices, ending scenes abruptly either for rating or time - the shower scene immediately springs to mind as one scene which does this - to the detriment of the movie for me. I will be interested to see if a directors cut of the movie improves on some of these scenes. 

There is hope for the franchise as the end coda does potentially set in motion an interesting story for the next installment. I am hopeful that Ridley Scott may build on this and hopefully try to create tension aswell as spectacle as I don't believe they are mutually exclusive.  

Ultimately like Prometheus before it Alien: Covenant is not perfect but it is very worthy of viewing on the big screen and does offer some interesting sequences. Good but had potential to be great.

Trailer below:

 

 

Suicide Squad movie review

 
 
A secret government agency recruits a group of imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency, which inevitably leads to chaos.
— Imdb synopsis

REVIEW

Initially, as I watched the trailer for Suicide Squad with it's vibrant graphics and edgy, dark tone, I thought that DC had finally taken a chance and decided to deliver a comic book movie that was, at least, a little different. If the marketing was to be believed you were being treated to a humorous dirty dozen movie where the bad guys take on even badder guys in a battle to save mankind.

In reality that's only partially correct. When the movie is set up we think its going to be like the dirty dozen as it follows a similar setup but with one vital difference. And this is crucial: the setup is very disjointed, showing a series of flashbacks which introduce characters, some interesting, others not so. While trying to set up the plot, such as it is, featuring a round table of big wigs discussing the 'Suicide Squad' and the 'plot'.

Admitedly, the first forty minutes had me interested and hoping when we finally get to the main thrust of the plot that it builds on the beginning. Sadly, that was not the case. The rest of the movie is incoherent, with disjointed poorly edited scenes that look like they have been twisted and turned inside out hoping to find a movie in the process.

I did read that the director was 'Locked out' of the edit by Warner Brothers which may or may not have contributed to the scenes being delivered so poorly. This movie is a pale shadow to the enjoyable 'Fury' movie the director did last. Roumers where floating around the internet that there was 30 million dollars worth of reshoots. Now wheter or not this was forced reshoots by the studio trying to salvage a very expensive summer blockbuster or a director trying desparately to fix holes remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it still remains somewhat of a mess. But was it an enjoyable mess at least?

 
 

Well yes and no. I quite enjoyed whenever the Joker appeared on screen. He added a much needed lift to proceedings and Jared Leto's performances was suitably menacing and intense. But the biggest problem was that he was hardly in the movie at all. He merely drifts in and out of the picture and when he isn't in it, the movie begins to travel in a downward spiral. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn adds a quirky, comic touch to proceedings and outshines everyone else around her.

 
 

The segmented editing style meant that the characters ended up being uninteresting, trading one liners over character. The biggest loser of this was Jai Courtney as boomerang, given nothing to do except try to be an Australian who says stupid things and robs banks. Its a nothing role for him and you wouldn't have lost anything plot wise if he wasn't in the movie at all. They didn't even bother giving Slingshot a proper introduction scene as one of the squad because less than ten minutes later he gets his head blown off in a scene that plays comically rather than serious.

As an ensamble piece it doesn't quite work. Some of the Suicide squad characters are interesting, others are just there for filler and serve no purpose at all. Arguably, it would have been a better movie without so many characters there to fill screen time and to have their 'bit'. If they are not contributing to the plot or building tension or obstacles then they shouldn't really be there in the first place. But therein lies the problem with ensemble pieces. Trying to give the requisite amount of time to each character. This is where suicide squad fails biggest, becoming a choppily edited piece trying to fit every scene together, rushing to the next to the detriment of story and continuity.

 
 

Finally, we have the main villain of the piece Enchantress. It would be fair to say that her scenes where misjudged, playing silly, at times, and others unintentionally comical. As a driving force for getting the suicide squad together she fails to elicit real interest and is quite incoherent. We get snippets of her ranting about building a 'machine' but we really get to know nothing else. And as a result the ending fails. Whether this is down to editing choices or a poorly written script is anyone's guess. This just adds to a series of choices that unfortunately didn't work out.

The movie did have potential which is the biggest loss. I can see where they were headed with it but through whatever reason it just didn't come together and no amount of pretty graphics or special effects or clever marketing will gloss over that fact. (Having said that I can easily see a special edition of the movie being released that is much longer in run time which may or may not help filling in plot points.)

In the end we were left with a movie that wasn't finished and didn't quite work. 

** out of 5

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice Review

BvS logo

BvS logo

'Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.'

Synopsis: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) taken from Imdb.
— http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2975590/

A direct sequel of sorts to 'Man of steel', Zack Snyder is once again in the directors chair of this dark sober tale of fear, demi gods and angst.

In the current run of high profile comic book movies this venture from DC studios and Zack Snyder is a curious mix, often muddled, with both good and bad points.

It is a sober, dark and brooding affair where we once again witness the murder of Batman's Parents in a stylish opening introduction to his character. The titular role of Batman is given to Ben Affleck who plays the role in a very understated fashion. Hard boiled, brooding and angst ridden. One of the more interesting aspects of this incarnation of the character is the fact that he brands the perpetrators he brings to justice. It's strangely dark and nice touch but it is only very briefly touched on in the movie and never really spoken about. It had more potential to add layers to his character.

you can quite evidently see Christopher Nolans influence on the film. Some of the editing choices are clearly from the Nolan playbook. The skips in narration, slightly off kilter, abrupt style in the action sequences are undoubtedly Nolanesque. Its just a question wheter this hinders or helps the storyline.

I felt at times, it made the narrative a bit muddled, trying to add depth to the story that wasn't really there to begin with. If the story beats are broken down you can see the plot is really rather simple. Admittedly, I can see why you would want the epic approach given that its a tent pole summer blockbuster but at the same time I do wish that there was more substance. We never really crawl under the surface. So it feels very scant while attempting depth.

I liked Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, given the limited material he had to play with he gave the tortured soul of Batman life for the most part. However, I wasn't a fan of the batman voice which to me came across a little silly and unconvincing. Henry Cavill is once again short changed as Superman, left looking stern with no sense of humanity, humility or humour, the type of stoic hallmarks of superman in the original Richard Donner movies and it was sorely lacking. The biggest surprise was the casting of Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthar which was wholly misjudged seemingly acting in an entirely different movie to everyone else. At times his acting style was cringe worthy eliciting a snigger rather than intrigue or interest.

But was the movie any good? That's a good question. To be honest I'm torn. I have to admit that usually I'm not the biggest fan of Zack Snyder's approach to super hero movies generally. They tend to be too over the top for me. Taking 'Man of steel' as a point of reference, I felt the ending was just forty minutes of buildings getting blown apart and needless destruction. It felt more like a video game than a movie. This approach very quickly became boring and I began looking at the clock to see how much time was left to run - something I never do during a movie. Sometimes less is more.

With BVS the premise seemed very silly because ultimately where could you go? An indestructible Alien facing a human with a bat suit fetish seemed like a non-starter for interest. At times it does feel exactly like that. There is quite a lot of build up for a showdown that lasts for maybe five minutes of screen time. And how it concludes is rather abrupt and unintentionally silly. Its the kind of moment where you do a double take.

its not all bad though as the movie had some potential which was squandered under the weight of trying 'to fit it all in' including the obligatory intro to the upcoming Justice league movie. As a result the movie just feels too focused on plot and not on Character. Which is, admittedly, a dichotomy as the plot itself is simplistic. It is filled to the brim with subplots and bit players that don't really add much to the movie. Visually it is quite nicely shot in a hazy sepia tone colour palette and the effects are colourful and overblown, as you'd expect from a Superhero movie. The action for the most part is well done especially involving Batman and hand to hand combat.

 

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Ultimately though the movie felt muddled plotwise and I found it hard to keep my attention for the entirety of its running time. 

** out of 5