The Wheelman – A Wheel Mess

Dear Reader,

I don’t know exactly I thought watching The Wheelman would be a good idea. Maybe I wanted to root for Netflix’s ability to produce quality content. Or maybe I gave into my love of crime movies.

No self control.png

I mean I could have spent that time rewatching more BoJack Horseman

Anyway, The Wheelman is about a criminal driver played by Frank Grillo, who ends up between two mysterious factions after a job goes bad. If that doesn’t sound generic enough, he’s going through a divorce and has a thirteen-year-old daughter.

This movie reminded me a lot of a movie called Locke, starring Tom Hardy. Both movies are about a person driving a car who’s on the phone during the worst day of their lives. The difference is Locke is well written. The main character in Locke doesn’t exactly have to be in the dilemma he’s in, but throughout the movie, you begin to understand his motivations.

The Wheelman, however, has a very basic story with no real reason to care. This might work if it had some great action or awesome car chases, but alas this movie has neither. Frank Grillo tries his best, but considering the lame writing, I don’t think it would have mattered if it was Jai Courtney or Jake Gyllenhaal in the driver’s seat. The only remarkable thing about the dialog is that if you take a shot every time someone says ‘fuck’, you’re gonna be wasted within ten minutes, and that’s probably for the best.

Even when special effects are used, they’re terrible. There’s one point in the movie where a person is shot in the side of the head. Despite this, a shower of blood sprays from the front of his head, instantly turning a shocking moment into a laughable one.

There are hundreds of better movies with similar premises. I’m sure a few of those are on Netflix. The Wheelman fails to do anything remotely interesting. I’d highly recommend avoiding this one unless you need to do a cynical review for your blog and pretend your life has meaning even though in the grand scheme of the universe we are just a speck of dust and eventually we all die.

Regards

Your Writer

 

 

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Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Dear Reader,

Warning: The following will contain spoilers for Kingsman: The Secret Service, although if you’ve seen the trailers for Kingsman: The Golden Circle, this will not be new information.

In my opinion, Kingsman: The Secret Service is one of the best action movies to come out in recent years. It had great action and a ton of laughs. That said when I first saw the trailer for the sequel, I was honestly nervous. Unfortunately, I was right.

Kingsman 2 was directed by Matthew Vaughn who directed the previous installment. I honestly really like Matthew as a director and I genuinely like the other two movies of his I’ve seen (Layer Cake and X-Men: First Class).

So what went wrong?

Storywise I found the film to be quite predictable. On top of that, I was uninvested in what was happening. Part of what made the first movie so great is watching Eggsy (Taron Egerton) improve as a person, and without a more emotional element like that, I just found didn’t care what happened.

One thing I noticed early on was the overuse of CGI. A lot of backgrounds in the movie look fake. Part of me thinks this might be an intentional reference to old James Bond movies, but that doesn’t make it a good decision. I found it really distracting and it gave the movie a ‘fake’ feel. I’m not against the use of CGI but Kingsman 2 abuses it.

I also found there to be a bit too much CGI in the action scenes. Additionally, the camera cuts got a bit fast which in turn made the movie a bit disorientating. The end battle was probably the best scene, even if it was a rehash of the infamous church scene from the first movie.

This sequel introduced a new organization, the Statesmen, who are an American counterpart to the Kingsmen. Unfortunately, the four characters that were introduced are just bland and boring. Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Champ (Jeff Bridges) are barely in the movie. Ginger (Halle Berry) is passable as the tech expert, but shadows compared to Merlin (Mark Strong). Finally, Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) is okay, but I can’t say I cared about what happened to him during the events of the movie.

Despite that, Julian Moore as the main villain Poppy is great. She really sells the mentally unstable aspect of the character and is really entertaining. The rest of the cast from the previous movie are also solid although I do take issue with one character’s return.

Unfortunately, the decision was made to bring back Harry (Colin Firth) despite his death in the first movie. As much as I enjoy the character, I really dislike this decision as I felt his death was a critical moment that had a lot of impact. In my opinion, a spin-off prequel would have been a much better way to bring Colin Firth back in the role.

Overall this was a really unnecessary sequel that doesn’t hold a candle to the original. It added nothing interesting to the Kingsman universe and failed to engage me beyond the most basic level.

Regards

Your Writer

 

Marvel’s The Defenders – Now With 75% Less Iron Fist

Dear Reader,

I’ve been following the Marvel’s Defenders series ever since I first got Netflix. Hell, Daredevil was the first TV series I’ve followed since My Name Is Earl. I enjoyed both the first season of Daredevil and Jessica Jones a lot but I wasn’t big on Daredevil Season 2 or Luke Cage. That being said Iron Fist is the only series in this universe I flat out hated. I find the character of Danny Rand to be very bland.

In Defenders, the Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Kysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colton) and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) team up to fight The Hand, a Illuminati-esque criminal group that are seeking immortality after using up all of ‘the substance’ to revive Elektra (Elodie Yung) who is also part of some prophecy.

Honestly I’ve never liked the Hand as an antagonist. Compared to Kingpin or The Punisher from Daredevil, Kilgrave from Jessica Jones or even Cottonmouth in Luke Cage, they just feel bland. Their motives are cliche and basic and I feel their scale compromises the ‘street-level’ crime fighting that was originally established.

This season did nothing to change that. Sigourney Weaver was fine acting wise but her character wasn’t menacing or interesting on any level.  The arch with Elektra and Daredevil was incredibly predictable and honestly disappointing. None of the other leaders of the hand were interesting either and overall I didn’t really care about them in any way.

Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are still likable characters, but I struggle to buy Danny Rand as the Iron Fist at all. This isn’t the fault of Finn Jones, but of the writers. Honestly Danny Rand still comes across as a whinny millennial and I don’t believe he could have ever become the Iron Fist in the first place. Being fair it probably doesn’t help that his origin series was really weak, but I’m still not on board with him.

The supporting cast that have proved themselves in previous series are still good here. Rosario Dawson as Claire kills it like always. Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) proves to be a much more interesting a likable character than her love interest, Danny Rand, and even though I doubt it will happen, I still want a series based around Stick (Scott Glenn). That being said sometimes these side characters can bog the pacing down a bit.

The fight scenes were okay, but it’s not on the same level as Daredevil. At times there’s so much going on that you start losing track of what’s happening as it cuts between characters. There’s also times where multiple battles are happening and sometimes you feel like your missing out on the exciting stuff. Finally, I just didn’t feel a sense of urgency with the fights. I mean they looked neat for the most part but that’s about it. I know Daredevil has set the bar high for fight scenes, but this wouldn’t be such a big deal if I more invested in what was going on, like I was with previous series.

Overall The Defenders was okay. I didn’t care much for the story, but the fights and snappy dialog were enough to keep me entertained. If you’ve been following the previous series you’ll probably still enjoy this. Here’s hoping The Punisher will be a lot better.

Regards

Your Writer

Prisoners – Criminally Underrated

Dear Reader,

Prisoners is a crime drama directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival) about the abduction of two little girls, one of them being the daughter of Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) who takes matters into his own hands when initial suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano) is released from police custody. Meanwhile Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) pursues various leads whilst looking for the girls.

This movie is filled with brilliant performances. Hugh Jackman is absolutely fantastic as the distraught father of one of the kidnap victims. The way this character evolves is absolutely fascinating to watch. Jake Gyllenhall is also great as the restless detective.  He’s able to bring a sense of narcissism without ever becoming too unlikable. On top of that the police training he received during End of Watch is evident when he’s searching buildings. Finally, Jake brings authority to any scene when he has to boss around other officers.

The supporting cast is also fantastic, with the standouts being Paul Dano as the initial suspect Alex Jones and Terrance Howard and Viola Davis as the distraught parents of the other missing daughter. Even the child actors who play the little girls, Erin Gerasimovich and Kyla-Drew, give convincing performances which isn’t always the case with such young performers.

Nothing in Prisoners feels unrealistic. The family life portrayed in the initial scenes feel genuine and none of the characters are over-eccentric. Dialog is engaging whilst still feeling natural. On top of that you understand why characters make mistakes or do things that aren’t socially acceptable.

The cinematography by Roger Deakins is also very well done, with a cold and subdued look to it which is just perfect for the tone. The lighting at night also feels very natural. I’d argue Sicario does some more interesting things with lighting in certain scenes, but otherwise I’d have no ‘faults’ with how this movie was shot.

If I had any complaints it would be the ending, and even then those complaints would be extremely pedantic and by no means ruin this movie. Some might not feel it has a lot of replay value

Prisoners is an intense, realistic crime drama that certainly deserves more recognition. The performances are brilliant and despite a lengthy run time of two and a half hours, it never feels overly slow. If you haven’t seen this one I’d highly recommend it.

Regards

Your Writer

Atomic Blonde – Duck For Cover, This One’s a Bomb

Dear Reader,

Atomic Blonde is a spy thriller/action film directed by David Leitch (John Wick, the upcoming Deadpool 2) that takes place in 1989, about MI-6 superspy Lorraine (Charlize Theron) who must travel to Berlin to recover a list of spies. Along the way she meets a cast of spies who all have their own agenda as the Berlin Wall comes down.

Unfortunately this one’s a real flatline. It’s a shame because I love movies like Ronin and The Way of the Gun where various groups are after a MacGuffin, the alliances are shaky and death could be around the corner for anyone.

The problems start with one of the first scenes, with Lorraine getting debriefed post the events of most of the movie. Jeez I wonder if she’ll be okay? This takes a lot of tension out of the movie from the get go and even manages to deflate what is really the only good scene in the movie. The last thing you want to do in a thriller is remove the tension and Atomic Blonde manages to do this within the first ten minutes of it’s run time.

None of the characters are very interesting, save David (James McAvory) a seemingly insane MI-6 agent who basically does what he wants in Berlin. Lorraine is probably the least interesting protagonist in any movie I’ve seen since The Great Wall and none of the supporting characters having anything special going for them either. There’s not a single piece of dialog from this movie I can think of as remarkable or interesting. I saw where most characters were going up until the last 15 minutes, which is where the twists start to come out. Unfortunately for me, that was way too late and I couldn’t care less. None of the twists really seem to change how I felt about the characters or gave me a reason to care about what happened during the events of the movie. You can have all the badass action in the world but that’s not going to count for much if I don’t care what happens to the people in the action.

On top of that the soundtrack is really overbearing. There’s a lot of 80’s music that plays over scenes where it’s not necessary at all and at times, conflicting with the tone. I’m not an idiot I get the movie takes place in 1989 so you don’t have to remind me with a constant barrage of 80’s pop music. Considering the last film I watched in a cinema was Dunkirk, where Hans Zimmer created a sound track that literally made the movie it featured in, it was frustrating to have such a lazy soundtrack in this movie.

Finally there’s a lack of spy craft that I feel this movie really could have done with. The movie Ronin is an example where simple tricks are used to gather intelligence or gain an advantage. I’d also say this is a criticism that applies to the John Wick movies. I honestly love a protagonist that can out think and out wit, not just kill the bad guys.

With all that being said, there is some good camera work from time to time. There’s also a sequence half way in the movie on a staircase where Lorraine has to take out some enemy spies, which is bad ass. The hits feel brutal, and if it wasn’t for the early scene I had mentioned before, I would have been concerned with her survival.

I really can’t recommend Atomic Blonde. This type of movie has been done better so many times before. Hopefully someone will put the staircase scene and the scene where Charlize Theron and Sofia Boutella make out on Youtube so you don’t have to sit through this bomb.

Still I hold out some hope for Deadpool 2. I can see David Leitch pulling off a great movie with the right writer. He certainly knows how to execute great action, but to paraphrase The Bowery King said in John Wick 2 “Somebody please, get this man a writer.”

Regards

Your Writer

Dunkirk (2017) – A Mature, Restrained Look at War

Dear Reader,

Dunkirk is a war movie directed by Christoper Nolan about the Dunkirk Evacuation during World War Two, where over 300,000 Allied soldiers were evacuated after being surrounded by the German military in the French town of Dunkirk. For the sake of this review I will not be worrying about historical accuracy, but I may do an article on that later.

There was a lot of hype for this movie considering it’s directed and written by Christoper Nolan (Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Memento). That being said, I myself had some concerns. The first is that the movie is rated PG-13 in the US. Don’t get me wrong I am not some sicko who needs to see gizzards spraying everywhere, but I did fear that it could be a little too sanitized. After hearing initial reviews, I was also concerned I wouldn’t be emotionally involved with what was going on in the movie.

Boy I was wrong.

Dunkirk is a grounded, mature film that shows that war sometimes is truly unfair and cruel. Sometimes you get bombed and that’s it. There is a constant feeling of dread throughout the movie, that at any moment something could go horribly wrong for any of the characters.

The movie shows three different viewpoints, that of Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a British soldier on the beaches of Dunkirk, who befriends various soldiers. Then there’s an old civilian Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) and two young men who accompany him, his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Clarke) and George (Barry Keoghan). Finally there is a squad of fighter pilots including Tom Hardy who wears a mask and crashes many a plane with (presumably) no survivors. All the acting is good, but at the same time none of it is amazing (yes that counts that one guy from One Direction, Harry Styles). If I’m being honest I think even Jai Courtney could have done an okay job in this movie.

What I truly think makes this movie is Hans Zimmer’s incredible score. The sense of anxiety it adds to the movie is brilliant. A lot of the time I felt like I was listening to a clock frantically counting seconds. Combined with the fact that deadly events such as airstrikes or artillery barrages come at random, this movie gives a great sense of anxiety and dread. The explosions and gunshots also have an appropriate punch to them.

The cinematography is also very good, with a very grey, dull look that is very appropriate for the tone of the movie. The use of unsteady handheld cam was also very effective at putting the viewer in the action. The effects are great as to be expected and what CGI there may be was not noticeable or overbearing to me.

As a lot of people have noted, there aren’t really characters in a traditional sense. There is no scene where we meet John who has a wife and two daughters so we automatically care. The only thing we learn about the characters is what happens to them during the movie. Dunkirk focuses on the moment of history it occurs in. Nothing more, nothing less. That being said I actually found this approach rather refreshing. Trying to force viewers to care about a character because he has a family or he’s a nice guy has been done to death. The movie doesn’t try and force you to relate to the characters or that they are morally superior to their enemy. It just shows how much of a terrible predicament they were in.

I have only one problem with this movie and that’s the editing. At times the movie jumps back and forth in time, which I initially found confusing, until I understood it was going on. Don’t get me wrong it’s doesn’t ruin the movie, but I don’t really feel it served much of a purpose other than confusion.

Finally, I do wish the French featured more in the movie. There is one major character who is French, but otherwise there is no portrayal of the French fending of the Germans, which was to my (granted little) understanding of the real events was rather important to the success to the evacuation. Being fair, this would have ate up much more budget and added a lot of time to the movie.

Overall, Dunkirk is a restrained look at the horrors of war. The movie uses sound, music and effective camera work to show how terrifying war can be without any over the top gore. There are no real saviors, no glorious last stands, no cheesy speeches, just a bunch of men in a horrible situation. It’s possibly the best film I’ve seen so far this year, and I’d highly recommend it.

Regards

Your Writer

 

Castlevania (2017 Netflix Series) – A Bloody Mess

Dear Reader,

First a disclaimer: I have not played a Castlevania game in my life, so I have no idea how accurate this is compared to the game series. Like always all I care about is a good story.

The Netflix series is about Dracula who after his wife Lisa is burnt alive for ‘witchcraft’ (which is actually medical science Dracula showed her), releases the forces of hell to wipe out all humans. During the start of this genocide, down on his luck Trevor Belmont, a former monster hunter travels to the city of Gresit which becomes besieged with demons.

Unfortunately the story for this show is very weak. The romance between Dracula and Lisa is literally non-existent. We only see Lisa meet Dracula, then next scene she’s being burnt at the stake by the church. The members of the church are all terrible, anti-science people which comes across as extremely shallow. Trevor is a somewhat interesting character in the fact that he’s a pretty cynical, burnt out character but it’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before.

There’s a group called The Speakers, who only recall history orally. I’m sorry but this comes across as very impractical and silly. Humans have been recording history using pictures since we lived in caves. I also couldn’t find any record of this group being in the games so if it’s an addition to the Castlevania universe it’s a poor one.

A lot of the humour is very childish, with plenty of quips and slapstick. In a lot of ways I feel children would love this show if it wasn’t so violent and profane. That’s fine, but using gore and swearing to make your show ‘adult’ comes across as extremely immature, especially considering there’s no real interesting themes or dialog.

That being said it’s not all bad. The fights are by far the most entertaining aspect of the show. The final episode was certainly the highlight for battles, especially the scene where Trevor instructs survivors on how to deal with the demon menace. The only fight I didn’t like was the one between two violent monks and Trevor which starts off as a slapstick-ish fun, until Trevor rips out a monk’s eye with his whip.

The animation also seems pretty good to me, but I don’t watch a lot of anime so my ability to compare this to other, similar looking material is extremely limited. I also appreciate the brutality of some of the combat, even if it did clash tonally with what was going on.

Finally, I do think the second season has potential. This isn’t a complete trainwreck and as the second season will be much longer, it will have time to expand on story elements. I wish Dracula and Lisa’s romance had been explored in more detail, and that the church weren’t just black and white villains.

Overall I’d struggle to recommend this show unless you really enjoy Castlevania. In a lot of ways it feels like a show for kids, but at the same time it’s extremely violent. A lot of story elements aren’t explored in any real detail and character motivations are very simple. That being said there’s light at the end of the tunnel and hopefully the second season is better. You certainly could do a lot worse for video game to film adaptations.

Regards

Your Writer