Sunday, 19 January 2020

Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

For the sixth entry in a series of misfiring Terminator sequels, this is better than it has any right to be. The production team wisely return to the creative well through securing the involvement of Cameron and Hamilton.  The result is something like the indie terminator movie I've always wanted to see. It's no Logan sadly and the high budget probably but it does manage to recreate the feeling of dread from the first two and there are elements which are recognisably Cameron.

Characterisation and subsequent development is a little weak. Acting is good, with Schwarzenegger  and Hamilton doing a fine job in support of the new cast. The social commentary is a little shoehorned. The early action sequences are excellent.

Look out for an early sequence which features some very impressive de-ageing. I'd have happily watched a full film like this - ala The Irishman and Captain Marvel. The technology is progressing in leaps and bounds.

I find it hard to rank the later films in the Terminator series. I'm the rare person who really liked Terminator:Salvation. Terminator 3, for all its jokiness closes the story off satisfactorily. Terminator: Dark Fate are their equal for different reasons. Terminator: Genisys has some wonderful ideas and its alt-universe greatest hits is a lot of fun - but I can't get past the miscasting of Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke, the total lack of chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Courtney, nor his appalling acting.

Verdict: Back for more. 


Sunday, 29 December 2019

Review: The Rise of Skywalker

Finally, we reach the end of the main Star Wars saga. The story is hokey, but the main cast performances are significantly better than previously and the production design (particularly of the destroyed death star) looks fantastic.

Ridley, Issac and Boyega work much better as a team now and there's the beginnings of some great chemistry. In a way, it's a shame we'll never see them in action again. If we do, hopefully we won't have to wait 30+ years.

Abrahm's reveals what a pragmatic master filmmaker he is.  The result is unremarkable as a film, but there are so many threads to tie up, characters to be given their moment to shine and fan service to tip the hat to - it's amazing it works as well as it does. It's a broadly satisfying conclusion to a nine film series with some already wonky entries.

Verdict: It's no The Force Awakes or The Last Jedi - and that's OK. 

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers

It's been a long time since I last watched this thrillingly creepy childhood favourite. 

It's lost little of its power in the intervening years - thanks in part to it being a tightly told story with practical special effects which are suggestive and sparse.  McCathy's committed performance as a small town doctor who notices something is going badly wrong with his home city also helps a lot.

Verdict: Classic sci-fi chiller

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

Review: Hustlers

On one level, Hustlers is a heist movie and plays out very much like one. Told in flashback, the first act sets the scene, the second reveals the scam and the last the consequences.

Lopez is excellent in this - managing to create a character which combines charisma with pragmatism.  While, she's clearly the star - the other female performances are really strong too.   Even the small parts, like that of Wu's character's grandma make an impact. Amusingly, and in contrast to many a male led crime caper - none of the men come off particularly well or even three-dimensional.

Morally, the simplest thing to say is that it's complicated.  Interestingly, it doesn't push you in any particular direction.

Verdict: At times, funny and never less than fascinating view of a true life con.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Review: Angel has fallen

Butler returns for the third instalment of the "Fallen" series.  This time the plot revolves around a presidential assassination attempt and subsequent framing of Butler's character, Banning.

To add to the mix, Banning has been struggling with migraines and other medical problems picked up during his career. I rather liked this aspect as it's rare for a movie to show a character's arc like this. Usually, they carry on until they can no longer bring in the box office numbers.

The assassination attempt is quite inventively done, but the film then settles into a fairly run of the mill action thriller. There were times where I felt I was getting flashbacks to the Jack Ryan TV series.  Disappointingly, you'll likely spot the bad 'uns early on, but Nolte's character brings some much needed fun to the production.

Overall: Better than the London instalment, but let's call it done now. 

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Review: Togo

Togo is an early Disney+ offering and this quietly epic film feels just right for the streaming service.  I'm a sucker for hero dog stories so as soon as I saw the trailer, I knew I had to give it a watch.  Being based on a little known true story only helped seal the deal.

Dafoe is suitably craggy as the sledge driver and Nicholson provides great support as his wife and believer in the worth of Togo as a pup.  The landscape is absolutely stunning - and nicely contrasted (summer when Togo is a pup and winter for the main body of the tale).

Verdict: A true shaggy dog story.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Review: Artemis

Artemis, Weir's follow up to The Martian skirts "difficult second album" territory.  It's a decent fast-paced read as before, but is softer on the science, Jaz's inner dialogue is nowhere near as compelling or convincing as the titular martian and neither is the key conceit - which is closer to conspiracy rather than cock-up.

Fair play to Weir for attempting to create a central character who is pretty the polar opposite of Watney (and likely himself), but it doesn't wholly succeed. It doesn't help that Jaz is close to being a classic Mary Sue - super-smart - academic and street, has practical engineering skills, friends in high and low places, able to tackle foes who are much bigger, stronger and experienced than her etc.  But somehow she didn't convince as a young woman.

Artemis - the moon city base itself - is quite a good example of building a realistic world as is the analysis of the emerging politics.

It's by no means a terrible book, it just feels like curiously old fashioned sci-fi - weakly drawn characters used to present some interesting ideas.

In a nutshell: Watney was from Mars alright, I'm not sure Jaz is from Venus (or the Moon).