Savage Dog (2017)

What’s this? Another martial arts movie starring Scott Adkins and a few of his mates? Well OK, I guess…as long as its a little bit differ…oh.

Martin Tillman (Adkins) is an Irishman serving time in Indochina 1959 (for whatever). He is also wanted by the British for his links to the IRA and a terrorist attack. So straight away, am I supposed to be rooting for this guy? Anyway old Martin is a good brawler (who’d of guessed it huh) and makes corrupt prison warden Steiner and his other corrupt mates plenty of money. But unfortunately the British are after Martin and are snooping around Steiner, so he releases Martin. Martin gets himself a little job in a small bar run by Valentine (Keith David). There he falls in love with a girl and starts to feel at home.

Alas Martin quickly lands himself in trouble when he ejects a troublemaker from the bar (beating him up in the process). This troublemaker turns out to be a top fighter for Steiner and his cronies. So Martin is offered the chance to come fight for Steiner, again, to make up for it. Naturally he declines, but Valentine talks him into it for the money. So Martin fights, the money is good and everyone is happy. Eventually Martin is instructed to lose a fight because he’s simply too good and no one is betting against him. At the same time Valentine unknowingly bets his bar on Martin to win. So Martin loses the fight and Valentine loses his bar. In his frustration Valentine attacks Steiner’s henchmen and gets himself killed. In turn Martin is also taken out despite Steiner not really wanting that. But luckily Martin is only wounded and comes back to exact his revenge.

Yes the plot is initially a different spin on the usual proceedings, they have actually tried to build the characters and give the movie some purpose. But this merely becomes a little convoluted with bits of the plot not really going anywhere and then everything just being reduced to the usual vengeance scenario. The whole ‘underground fighting for the bad guys’ aspect is so incredibly unoriginal now its not even remotely entertaining. Of course you know Martin will be betrayed eventually, that is a no-brainer. He comes back from the dead, has his little training montage and voila! You couldn’t get more cliched if you tried.

The curious thing about the story is the fact its narrated by Valentine, the movies token black character. Its odd because this character narrates it as though he’s telling someone a story from his past, yet he dies. The really odd part is he carries on narrating after his character has been killed! Martin’s love interest is in the movie purely for him to have a love interest and sex scene, she is of no real consequence. I think she is actually the daughter of Steiner, I think, but that also went nowhere.

The main henchmen are the real hook for the movie as they are played by other martial arts superstars. Cung Le plays an ex-Vietnamese paratrooper who doesn’t really do or say much. Unfortunately this character could be taken out of the movie very easily and you wouldn’t notice. He is literally there just for a good fight scene. The second in command henchman apparently fought for the Nazi’s and is played by Marko Zaror. This guy actually does have some input into the plot in the sense that he does much of the bad stuff. Both are merely cast for one thing though, and they do deliver when it counts. Each has their own main fight sequence and they are of course very good, well choreographed. But again we are shown another reason not to like the protagonist Martin as he kills Cung Le’s character cheaply with a gun after getting beaten in the fight. The movie also has other known fighters dotted throughout who you may or may not recognise.

I think the problem with this Adkins movie, and others, is Adkins himself. This guy just isn’t a leading man type guy. He doesn’t really have the looks for a leading man, in fact he looks more like a bad guy. And more crucially he can’t really act too well, his range is limited. The same can also be said for most of these guys, they work well in the background as stuntmen or minor henchmen with little dialog, but that’s it. Give these guys actual acting roles and things tend to fall apart, Zaror being particularly bad in this movie. I know you could say the same about JCVD but he gets a pass because he was the first, he was one of the original 80’s action men. So yeah Adkins character in this movie is an IRA terrorist who gets away with his dubious past basically, kinda shitty.

Obviously this is a movie made for a specific fanbase and that fanbase I’m sure will enjoy this. If I was back in my teens I reckon I would love this too, but I’m not. With that I can’t say that I loved the movie, but its not terrible. You want some solid fights then you will be pleased with this. Nothing spectacular but just solid fight sequences and gun battles with plenty of blood that do look good. Other than that its just business as usual really, the only quirk being who they can match up in these movies. Problem is there is only so much you can do and you can’t keep regurgitating the same spiel over and over.

5.5/10

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The Mummy (2017)

I feel I must point this out just in case, for the younger generations. This movie is not entirely based upon the oddly popular Brendan Fraser trilogy that started in 1999. Believe it or not there was in fact an original horror movie from way back in 1932 starring Boris Karloff that kick started the entire idea. But lets be honest here, this new movie takes many ideas from many classic horror movies. So much so it feels more like a long trailer of highlights from other movies redone with better effects (I still can’t believe the nerve of them frankly).

So the main change in this modern reboot is the titular Mummy (Princess Ahmanet) wanting to resurrect Set, the God of war and chaos (instead of a dead lover). Initially she was inline to the throne in her native Egypt, but her fathers second wife has a baby boy which takes her place. Out of anger and frustration at losing her rightful place as Queen, Ahmanet murders her family and plans to resurrect Set using her lovers body as the vessel for the Gods spirit. She must do this using a special dagger to transfer Set’s spirit. Before this can be done she is captured and of course mummified alive.

What follows is (now) pretty much your bog standard action flick all because Tom Cruise was cast. Yes that’s right, probably one of the worst choices ever for this type of movie. Cruise would easily be in my top ten of actors that I would never consider for such a dark tale of mysticism and terror. Apparently Cruise had much of the control in the creation of this movie, and boy does it show. The opening sequence could quite easily be from any Mission: Impossible movie as his character Nick Morton and sidekick Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) are caught by ISIS-esque insurgents as they try to pinch ancient artifacts from a small town (which the insurgents would have destroyed anyway).

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The pair are actually on reconnaissance for the US military at the time but are moonlighting as black market traders for ancient artifacts. Amidst the carnage of gunfire and airstrikes (with no apparent casualties) the tomb of Ahmanet is discovered. At the same time a sexy blonde archaeologist (Jenny) appears out of nowhere who Morton was supposedly bonking and naturally becomes his love interest for the rest of the movie. Its around this very early point when you realise this movie isn’t gonna be very good. Apart from Cruise merely playing the same character he’s played for years now, the entrance to this tomb is ridiculously vast!! and they treat these priceless ancient artifacts like spare parts from Ikea.

Lets not be too negative here, there were some good points in the movie. The horror element was actually nicely done. The movie isn’t scary or anything but the various CGI effects for people having their souls sucked out of them with their bodies being reduced to shriveled up zombies, was pretty cool. The undead themselves were also really well rendered using CGI and makeup; they did look pretty terrifying visually and the way they moved was well choreographed.

Its just a shame that’s about all I can say on the positive side of things. The fact they basically stole the whole undead guide/corpse idea with Vail from John Landis classic ‘An American Werewolf in London’ is damn near unforgivable. I can’t even say it was a homage because they just outright copied the entire concept! Then there are things that don’t really add up; why exactly does Ahmanet need to use this specific ruby encrusted dagger? What connection does that dagger have to Set? During the movie Morton is told numerous times the curse cannot be broken, then apparently it can be broken just by destroying the ruby. In one scene the undead cannot swim (they just sink), then in another they can swim. In another sequence Morton and Jenny are escaping in an ambulance at top speed when some zombies attack outta nowhere. How did they get on the ambulance?? There were clearly no zombies on the vehicle in one shot, then they’re all over it.

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Then we have the secret organisation known as Prodigium headed by Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe). Or call it what it is, the very very blatant and obvious attempt at copying Marvel’s cinematic universe building, Universal Pictures S.H.I.E.L.D. equivalent. Aside from the fact this one idea has been used a gazillion times, ‘Van Helsing’ for example. There is no imagination here whatsoever, its literally all about setting up future movies with small easter eggs dotted around, there is no other point for it. The fact Universal don’t even really try to hide this fact, and everyone knows it, makes it worse!

Observation: So within Prodigium there are lots of little teasers as I mentioned already. One such teaser is the forearm of a creature that clearly hails from the movie ‘The Creature from the Black Lagoon’. But here’s the thing, there was always only one creature from the classic movie/s, but this teaser indicates there are possibly numerous creatures that have already been seen and maybe killed (unless the main creature is now missing a forearm). But seeing as its unlikely that the first new movie will have a one-handed creature (unless it grows it back?) I must assume there are more than one.

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Even then they couldn’t even do anything interesting with this; when Dr. Jekyll transforms into Mr. Hyde…nothing happens! Crowe simply turns a shade of grey, his eyes seem to go yellow, he adopts a cockney accent and that’s it I think. Don’t get me wrong I think its good they didn’t go with some huge CGI creation that we’ve all seen before, but the character definitely needed something else. Also Prodigium has Ahmanet all chained up for the most part, but guess what? One minute she’s all chained up and helpless, the next she simply decides to break free and escape. As already pointed out, this does seem to happen a lot in this movie, things just changing on a whim. Much like Morton being taken over by Set, only to quite easily retake control of his body seconds later (so much for Set). Oh and Vail being resurrected at the end of the movie, did Morton resurrect everyone that died in the film? He could have.

I think everyone knows the problem with this movie, it stands out like a sore thumb. And that is quite simply, the movie is torn between being a proper fully fledged horror movie and a Tom Cruise action vehicle. Clearly the entire production didn’t know what to do with the director being in limbo and the studio basically giving Cruise full control. The whole movie is a mess of ideas from start to finish with Cruise running around alongside his much younger female love interest, and grinning a lot (much awkward and unfunny comedy). The movie fails on such a large scale its embarrassing; they essentially tried to map stereotypical Tom Cruise action flick tropes onto this horror classic of the silver screen. There are some nice touches here and there yes, but ultimately it fails on almost every level.

4/10

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

So here in old blighty we have this sprawling legend of one Arthur Pendragon, King Arthur, King of the Britons. The King who is said to have defended Britain against the Saxon hordes in, umm…a long long long time ago. Arthur was supposed to have beaten the Saxons and established an empire over Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Gaul. Along with Arthur other apparent legends have also been scooped up and added such as Merlin, the Sword in the Stone (a different item to Excalibur in some tales), the lady in the lake, the Holy Grail and various knights such as Lancelot. All of this and much more comes under what is known as Arthurian legend.

In the opening battle sequence of this movie I was shocked, gob-smacked! Firstly the visuals are undoubtedly incredible, expected but even still, whoa! But wait what’s this? Gigantic battle elephants that wouldn’t look outta place in a Lord of the Rings or 300 movie?? Yep looks great but literally what the hell? Of course this is just the start of numerous gigantic animals we will see. Later on expect giant bats, snakes, rats, a large eagle and a whopping mega gigantic snake that actually eats people, oh yes.

But the other rather silly thing that happens, Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon is watching as his army is getting wiped out and Camelot is being destroyed. So he casually grabs his trusty sword Excalibur, gallops towards the giant battle elephants by horse taking out all enemies, leaps across a huge drop between Camelot’s ramparts and the elephant (the horse presumably falling to it death) and hacks his way into the huge portable armoured mount on top of the elephant. There he casually takes everyone out including his arch nemesis Mordred and wins the day. All this kinda leaves you wondering why he didn’t do this straight away, and why he even needs an army.

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Its also around this point you start to notice the casting, and I’m gonna have to bring this up. Turns out in this Guy Ritchie directed version of events Sir Bedivere is played by Djimon Hounsou. Not only that but Sir Tristan is also portrayed by a black actor (Kingsley Ben-Adir), and in the end we get a knight who is of an Oriental background (not sure where, I’m guessing China). The fact he’s called George gives no clues but at least he seems to be created for the film. OK so let me be straight here, if Ritchie wanted to include diversity in this movie, that’s fine with me. It would be perfectly acceptable to have included some new characters that came from other realms, such as Africa, the Middle East or the Far East. In fact it would probably be relatively historically accurate. But to race swap two of Arthur knights, two Englishmen of legend, is honesty unforgivable.

As for the cast on the whole, its fine, nothing spectacular, but fine. Everyone speaks with a cockney accent which is completely bullshit but this is a Guy Ritchie movie after all. Apparently Ritchie thinks everyone in the UK has a cockney accent. There are a few scenes which are 100% pure Ritchie which was…awkward. You know what I mean, a group of fast talking cockneys with stupid names describing events which involve other folk with equally stupid names. Pretty sure no one was called Mike or Blue or ‘Goosefat Bill’; mind you I’m also pretty sure no one used the word ‘fuck’ back then either.

So its obvious that various elements of the Arthurian legend have been jettisoned or rejigged. This isn’t too much of a problem though because the Arthurian legend has many versions, angles, viewpoints etc…But for example, the actual existence of King Vortigern is as equally questionable as Arthur himself. Castles didn’t actually exist during Arthur’s life, they didn’t turn up for at least another 500 years. The same can also be said for armour. Characters such as Merlin and the knights of the round table are thought to be entirely fictional. The sword Excalibur is also thought to be entirely fictional. And alas all the giant creatures, watery squid witches, demon knights and supernatural/superhero abilities we see are of course all bullshit to make this movie more exciting.

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And that’s the real problem here, this movie doesn’t really feel like a historical film about King Arthur. It feels more like a superhero movie with Arthur being an X-Men type character with a supernatural weapon. Ritchie has taken a historical piece and revamped it into a videogame/comicbook-esque action movie for the youngsters. Just look at the final battle between Arthur and this Mortal Kombat character in some dark alternate dimension. Literally the epitome of a modern day movie for youngsters. But that isn’t a problem per say, revamping old things can be good and this movie does have good elements. But this whole venture feels so contrived and artificial, the fact they deliberately left out Merlin, most of the main knights and the round table (tacked onto the ending) for future sequels was all too obvious. So obvious in fact I think that one factor really hurt the movie because people are getting really sick and tired of these predictable cinematic universe setups.

Apart from all that none of this makes a great deal of sense either. Why are there watery witches living in an underground rock pool in the bowels of the castle? What exactly are they supposed to be? Why do they need dead bodies? I presume they enabled King Vortigern to be able to turn into a demon knight? What was that alternate dimension? I thought it was simply a nightmare Arthur kept having, apparently not? So upon death Uther Pendragon turned himself into the stone that would hold the sword Excalibur…wut??? Or was that just another nightmare from Arthur’s mind?

Anyways, if you were expecting a film in the same spiritual fairytale-esque vein as John Boorman’s cult classic, you might be disappointed. This movie feels more like a loud, in-your-face Robin Hood tale with some fantasy monsters and a roided up King Arthur (who wears very natty stylish clothes including a quarter length coat!). The visuals are admittedly lavish and beautiful and there are some nice touches. Unfortunately its also a typical Guy Ritchie affair mixed with silly videogame-like traits which overall makes it feel, tone wise, very muddled.

5.5/10

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Ghost in the Shell (2017)

I have seen very few Japanese animated movies in my time on this small blue planet, in fact I can count on one hand how little I’ve seen. ‘Akira’ and ‘Monster City’ aka ‘Demon City Shinjuku’ are two of the only films I’ve seen. I have seen the original 1995 ‘Ghost in the Shell’ movie (based on an original manga by Masamune Shirow) once, but it was so long ago I cannot remember anything about it other than some iconic imagery. So I entered into this new 2017 US adaptation pretty much as a fresh faced newbie. Could this new vision wow me?

The plot: In the future humans are enhanced by augmentation with cybernetic body parts. Hanka Robotics headed by Cutter develops this augmentative technology. A female survivor of an apparent terrorist attack (Mira Killian) has her brain placed within a robotic body and is used as a special counter-terrorism operative under Section 9; where She eventually gains the rank of Major. Section 9’s main target is cyber-terrorist Kuze who wants to take down Hanka. Kuze has personal reasons for his actions, Cutter has secrets the Major is unaware of.

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Lets talk visuals, with today’s standards in special effects there is no way this could go wrong, right? Correct! the visuals in the movie are fabulous. The Japanese semi-dystopian cyberpunk world set in a not too distant future, is pretty much ‘Blade Runner’ tenfold, but brighter. I love the attention to detail we see in and around the faceless city as we follow the protagonists. The citizens and their individual styles, their attire, the technology they are using in their everyday lives etc…Every street or alley is bustling with life from neon advertisements to small food vendors or quirky robotics buzzing around. I liked how things just happened in the background, just routine stuff…but clearly had a lot of thought put into it. Although I think they went a tad over the top with the holograms, did they really need holographic arrows in the road?

Whilst its not dark and gritty overall, once you get away from the large colourful holographic images within the gleaming skyscrapers, we find a more typical Japanese/Asian city with huge Lego-esque blocks of concrete living quarters. These areas are grey, cold and somewhat depressing to look at, but definitely not as bleak as the animated movie from what I can remember. The shift in tone from the city to the suburban areas was well handled and showcased an elaborately designed Asian metropolis. I only wish they had toned down the westernisation of the city.

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But that’s not all, I found myself loving much more with the visuals. The car that is used by the Major (Scarlett Johansson) and Batou (Pilou Asæk) is friggin’ awesome! It looked like a classic Lotus Esprit with futuristic mods including some natty alloys and an incredible neon turquoise interior. I loved the weaponry we see being used, it all looked über cool. I loved the costume designs throughout, the various robots we see such as the eerie geishas, and of course the various shots that homage the source material.

Unfortunately I have to address the controversy that surrounded the movie with its casting. fuck it! The casting was brilliant all round which I admit I found surprising. I too am slightly fed up with seeing the same actors in big movies, but gosh darn it if Johnasson didn’t look perfect as the Major. Did she act the part well? Well I guess that could be argued either way, she wasn’t bad put it that way. But Johansson certainly looked the part that’s for sure…even up against both the 95 movie and the original manga, she was perfect. I thought Asæk looked great and did a good job with the battle-hardened Batou. Juliette Binoche added some gravitas as Dr. Quelet. And Takeshi Kitano also added much Japanese gravitas as Chief Daisuke Aramaki (although it was weird that only he spoke Japanese).

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What I found completely ludicrous about the controversy was the fact this story essentially focuses on artificial robotic bodies. How humans modify themselves to such an extent that they are able to insert a human brain into a completely artificial robotic body. Surely this practically erases any notion of political correctness surrounding race and gender. An artificial body can be made to look like anyone of any race or gender, with any brain inserted, a complete hodgepodge. So complaints about ‘whitewashing’ are completely unwarranted. The fact they had to tack on an actual explanation to appease this so called controversy was ridiculous; all because a minority of people didn’t like a white female in the lead role?? A perfect example of when to simply ignore the hyperbolic outrage machine and just create your art.

As a movie that I’m essentially treating as a new entry (because I can’t recall too much of the original) I did find myself enjoying what I saw. Sure there were still a few quibbles that I questioned, even though some of it did feature in the original 95 movie . But at the start of the movie we see the Major leaping off the top of a skyscraper to infiltrate a section of the building in order to stop a terrorist attack. Next scene she’s leaping in through the window. How did that happen exactly?? How do you go from free falling off a skyscraper to leaping through the side of the building? The sequence where Kuze (the apparent villain) programs some garbage truck drivers to kill Dr. Quelet, but where did the garbage truck drivers get their guns from? Garbage truck drivers always carry guns? A cliched double cross scenario over the eventual death of Dr. Quelet. Shooting at a gigantic steel tank with a regular gun? This clearly becomes pointless very quickly. In fact the entire plot surrounding Kuze’s background and eventual team up with the Major is pretty darn cliched bog standard stuff (although I liked the irony of anti-augmentation protesters being used as the first test subjects for cybernetic augmentation).

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The plot itself seems to have been somewhat dumbed-down from what I can recall (and swatted up on). Yes I enjoyed the sequences that are directly lifted from the original source material, but at the same time I know they are mere window dressing and lack real depth. The 95 movie questioned the uneasy relationship between humanity and an ever advancing man-made technology. It was cold, bleak and included body horror. Dare I say identity politics (self-identity) also featured strongly, gender, sexuality and feminism.

This Major is still feminine and at the same time clearly not female, we can see that, but that seems to be as far as it goes. Heck this movie doesn’t even really touch on the problems with cybernetic augmentation. We are basically shown that it works wonders and can give humans a new lease of life (Batou and his eyes for instance). But at the same time there has been great cost to reach that point in technological advancement. Bottom line, sure shitty things happened in the past, but the technology is still sweet so no biggie. You don’t really get the impression that there is a negative side to cybernetic augmentation here, there’s no real clash of ethics.

This new movie does away with much of that, presumably out of fear that the general cinema going audience either won’t understand or simply won’t like the heavy themes. This new vision barely touches on some of these elements and unfortunately seems more concerned with simply looking pretty. I can’t deny that the movie really lacks emotional punch, I really felt that the ending should have been much more dramatic and emotional. Didn’t get that, instead it just felt like any other jacked-up superhero-esque finale we see these days. So yes this adaptation has been somewhat neutered, there’s no hiding from that sad fact. But superb cinematography, production design and solid performances do help in easing the pain. I still found myself enjoying the movie. If you enjoy science fiction I heartily recommend giving it a chance.

6.5/10

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The Great Wall (CH/US, 2016)

K so in China there is this huge wall that was slowly constructed over the ages by various Dynasties. The earliest construction starting back in the 7th century BC. This great wall ran along the ancient border of northern China to protect against various groups of invaders from various areas that now make up some of eastern Europe, Mongolia and mainly Russia. This is fact, but this movie deals with legend (but not a real one).

The plot: A band of European mercenaries are in China searching for the magic black powder that kills many (gunpowder). After losing all of their men to Khitan bandits in the region, the last two mercs, William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal), stumble upon the great wall (unsure how they didn’t see it). There they discover a special division of the Imperial Army of the Song Dynasty called ‘The Nameless Order’. Turns out this special division was put in place to protect the Chinese Kingdom from a race of alien monsters (yes that’s right, alien monsters). Unfortunately for the Europeans this must remain a secret so they are held captive indefinitely. Luckily they both display great courage and fighting skills when the aliens attack which pleases the Chinese, so they end up helping with the struggle.

Yes its an age old tale which we’ve all seen a fair few times for sure. The question is does this movie get around this cliched plot and give us something special? Well first things first, lets look at the enemy, the alien monster horde. For starters the design is absolutely terrible, truly, this is no lie. The woeful CGI doesn’t help its case of course but what the fuck is going on with that design? It looks like something from the 90’s, I can’t even describe it. Its kinda like a mutant alligator crossed with a vicious dog, with its eyes just above is fronts legs, a mohawk and some gills down its back for communicating in high pitch screams.

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These aliens apparently came to Earth via a meteorite that struck a mountain, which turned the mountain green because…I don’t know. This happened two thousand years prior to these events, sooo…did these aliens evolve in that time?? Whatever happened it must have happened quickly because there are apparently millions of these aliens. This in turn leads me to ask how on earth these aliens haven’t been discovered by anyone other than the Chinese yet?? How have the aliens not managed to overcome the wall thus far considering how great in number they are. Why do they always attack the same spot on the wall? Why not somewhere else or split into two separate attacks? Are there other attacks elsewhere on the wall we aren’t seeing? Why do they only attack every 60 years??? Seriously what is that about? Are they hibernating in the meantime?

The aliens also appear to be somewhat invulnerable because they can only be killed by being struck in their incredibly small eyes?! So…no other body part being struck has any effect?? We also learn that these aliens have a Queen and she controls the hordes via their high pitch calls (with the gills). But we also learn that if the Queen is neutralised (or killed obviously), so that the rest cannot hear her calls, the hordes will freeze or sleep or just become statues or something. Oh and there’s some crap about magnets hypnotising the aliens into a deep sleep, whatever I dunno. The ideas and story behind these creatures are so stupid and messy I can’t believe they went ahead with them.

Lets take a look at the Chinese warriors in this movie, The Nameless Order. Well each warrior is split into individual units with special skills and different colour uniforms/armour. For example there are the archers which wear all red armour and the, ahem, acrobatic unit which wear all blue armour. Oh and the acrobats are all women. Yeah seems a bit unrealistic for an entire unit to be made up of women, but I know women warriors did exist back in ancient China so I’ll give that a semi-pass. Now all these units make perfect sense…except for the ladies unit. These female warriors bungee jump off the top of the wall, spears in hand, to attack the aliens below. It sounds exciting but is in fact completely and utterly pointless and merely offers juicy meat for the aliens to snap up. Seriously, with all the arrows, flaming boulders, harpoons, spears, explosives etc…taking out lots of aliens at a safe distance, why would you need women to leap to their inevitable deaths simply to skewer one single alien?

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This leads me onto the wall itself. This isn’t just a simple wall, oh no, this is a wonder wall with lots of hidden features that are revealed by moving sections. Not only can soldiers exit at the foot of the wall through secret moving wall sections; half way up the wall also reveals sections that allow giant scissor-like blades to thrash out and dismember climbing aliens. The interior of the wall is also highly intricate with lots of rooms, corridors, prisons, machinery, store rooms etc…They also seem to have a never ending supply of ammo like arrows and giant circular boulders, oh and they have hot air balloons too.

I have to mention the bewildering amount of deus ex machina moments in this movie. There is so much it just makes a mockery of the entire thing. The whole sequence where William scales down the wall to capture an alien, in thick mist, is one long joke. The moments where the Chinese rain down arrows, explosives and flaming boulders onto the ground below, completely blind due to the mist, but conveniently miss William is laughable. Then of course Tovar saves William out of literally nowhere, like where the fuck did he just come from?? There are so many shots in the movie where a character is saved at the last second, or something happens and they avoid certain death. Or a character makes some miraculous shot or move or whatever in slow motion (oh my God the slow motion!!). I’ve never groaned so much in my life!!

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Both the Chinese and western cast are acceptable but nothing special. Damon’s historical action figure has got nothing on Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, or Mel Gibson’s William Wallace. Pedro Pascal is actually a little more engaging with his little touches of comedic relief, even though its pretty simple, amateurish stuff. Willem Dafoe is here but it doesn’t matter because his character is unimportant and does nothing. And the Chinese actors are generally as you would expect, taking it all too seriously whilst not acting too well (but they have great hair). And yet again I have to address controversy (almost every bloody movie now). No this is not whitewashing because Damon’s character isn’t supposed to be Asian, he isn’t replacing an Asian actor. His character is European, a European mercenary which was common at the time. Is this a white saviour movie? Hmmm…it could be, but not entirely, Damon doesn’t really save the day. But even if it was, who the fuck cares eh??

I really do get the impression this movie would possibly have done really well, had it come out back in the 90’s. This really felt like a cheesy, hokey 90’s CGI schlock fest that would have been lapped up at the time (due to the wonder of early CGI). I mean, I really really wanted to like this movie as I liked the premise, but its so fucking stupid with so many issues its simply impossible. It does looks good at times (landscapes) but then at other times it looks like a Lord of the Rings wannabe with all the Chinese warriors looking like old colour-coded Lego men. It starts off OK but just becomes more and more absurd as it goes, until we reach the abysmal ending. This really is a thoroughly dated movie in every aspect.

4/10

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Power Rangers (2017)

Or is it Saban’s Power Rangers now? I understand the title comes from the creator of the Power Rangers, Haim Saban, but why?? Why not just ‘Power Rangers’?

So in short, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was a science fiction/martial arts TV show that appeared in the early 90’s; it was adapted from a similar Japanese series. Despite being clearly aimed at kids the show still managed to court much controversy for its supposed violence. Nevertheless the show was a massive hit across the world…for some reason. I myself was too old for the MMPR franchise and never saw any of it, nor did I see the previous movies. So I entered into this movie completely blind, only knowing what I’ve picked up over the years.

The plot is the standard origins reboot affair really. The Power Rangers have always been around it seems, the suits are passed on from group to group. So in this case the previous group of Rangers (who were aliens) died to save the Earth from Rita Repulsa (yeah because Rita is what you call your villainess) by hiding the power coins (the suits power source). With his last dying breath the red ranger orders a meteor strike (from their ship) to try and kill Repulsa but instead sends her to the bottom of the ocean. Back in the present day a new group of high school kids eventually find the power coins and the ancient alien spaceship. Whilst at the same time Rita Repulsa is found and comes back to life, the timing huh. The Asian chap is the first Ranger to find a coin near these caves, embedded in rock. But what was he doing there in the first place??

Its within the ancient spaceship that the youngsters discover the consciousness of Zordon (the dead red alien ranger) who explains to them all about the suits and Repulsa. The teens can only morph into their suits when their emotions run high? And when they can then control their emotions or whatever; so this entails lots of training. Basically they only have eleven days before Repulsa gains her full powers back. She then intends to find the Zeo crystal to destroy Earth, because reasons. Oh and there is also a small robot called Alpha 5 that helps Zordon. Think the robot from Lost in Space but smaller, and he does nothing.

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It was only a matter of time before the Power Rangers got a new gritty movie reboot, twas inevitable. Now I fully admit I don’t know much about this franchise, but I do know of the franchises light-hearted tone, and boy is that gone for a Burton! So long to the brightly coloured lycra and plastic Ranger suits. Goodbye to the acrobatic fight sequences with hokey dubbing over the top, and cheerio to the men in rubber suit monsters. This new reboot is all about teen angst folks, lots of teen angst and of course questions about ones sexuality, because 2017.

In that the entire movie mainly focuses on these teens and them trying to find themselves, or find the power within themselves so they can morph, I dunno. The actors playing these characters aren’t bad per say, they just aren’t interesting, at all (maybe its because I’m too old). I mean the yellow Ranger Trini was just annoying, again I realise her character is supposed to be moody but ugh christ! The rest are your basic carbon copy America teens with their newfangled hipster talk and whatnot. The red Ranger looks way older than the rest. Also I realise the original show had a diverse cast, that being its thing, but its just too manufactured for me, too much box ticking. Oh and they switched up the suit colours, so now the Asian bloke isn’t in the yellow suit etc…Glad they pointed out and avoided that iffy microaggression, phew!

Old Rita is quite scary I thought considering what this was adapted from. Look at her in the original series and its hilariously embarrassing; look at her here and she looks like a flesh-eating zombie. Although her outfit is still ridiculous looking. The sequence where her body is trawled up by fishermen is pretty dark Jesus! Yet the fishermen didn’t seem overly concerned, I’d be freaking out. But end of the day what’s her motivation here? What is she really wanting to achieve by destroying the Earth? She used to be a Ranger apparently and now she wants to wipe them out, someone must have really pissed her off! But where did she get her powers? I presume she’s an alien?

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Yeah so its basically a glum teen angst flick right up until the last act of the movie…and then we get to see some Power Ranger action. Finally we see the new Iron Man inspired suits doing stuff, and by that I mean a bit of leaping around before jumping into their big transformer zoid thingies (which they can all pilot perfectly first time). All this in time to fight Rita’s large monster made out of gold, called Goldar (fuck me). Yeah so its a whole load of pretty average CGI fighting robots and a large liquid gold humanoid. Oh and there are these CGI rock creature henchmen things that just get destroyed easily by the Rangers. So the Rangers eventually win relatively easily all things considered, and Rita gets bitch slapped into space, K. This movie actually gets worse when the Power Ranger action kicks in!

Is this a serious action fantasy? Or is this a jokey light-hearted movie for kids? Come on movie make your mind up here will ya. The visuals are clearly in the serious zone but the tone is all over the show. One minute the actors are acting as if their lives depended on it; the next a huge lumbering gold monster awkwardly walks across the screen with this Voltron looking transformer hot on its ass. I understand the plot is taken from the original source material, but I can’t help but feel they should of put some more thought into it. So yeah, I wasn’t a fan before I saw this movie, aaand I can’t see myself becoming a fan now. I’m willing to bet the original cheesy TV show was probably far better than this because it knew what it was and embraced that. This movie takes itself so seriously I’m not even sure if MMPR fanboys will like it.

5/10

Warcraft (2016)

The world of Warcraft is a massive franchise created by Blizzard Entertainment back in 1994. I say world, but maybe I should say universe because world simply seems too small for this sprawling product. Warcraft is mainly made up of five core videogames for PC’s which revolve around; online multiplayer role-play, strategies and digital card collecting. But it doesn’t end there, the franchise also includes novels, comics, manga, tabletop games, collectible cards etc…Now some may recognise a similarity to Games Worskshop’s Warhammer franchise, and I don’t blame you. Legend has it Blizzard originally wanted to make Warcraft a game set in the Warhammer universe, but things just didn’t work out. And as they say, the rest is history.

So onto the movie and trying to condense this ginormous Tolkien-esque universe into a reasonable length runtime. Basically what we have here is a story from two perspectives, one from the human side and one from the orc side. On the orc side of things, Draenor, the orc homeworld is being destroyed by a power called fel magic. So the all powerful (and nasty) orc warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) opens a portal to the realm of Azeroth (where humans live). Obviously their aim is to conquer this new realm/world, and make it their own. On the flip side the humans that dwell within this realm are none too happy about this, so they take up arms against the orcs. On the orc side we follow Durotan (Toby Kebbell), chieftain of the Frostwolf clan and a generally level-headed orc. Durotan isn’t too sure about Gul’dan’s evil plans. And on the human side…well we follow many characters, Kings, knights, mages etc…

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Dare I mention an amusingly unfortunate parallel? You know, masses of invaders swarming across a foreign land occupied by a predominantly white people (clearly of medieval European influence). Obviously this is a large coincidence, but the minute it dawned on me I had to laugh.

The huge worry with this movie (for me) was whether or not I would be able to become engaged in the story not knowing that much about the Warcraft franchise. I know of the franchise, the basics, but I’ve never played the games or read the books etc…I’m pretty sure this would be the general worry for all, how could they squeeze all this information into one opening movie without overwhelming people. What about people who are newbies to the franchise. Well in all honesty they don’t really address this problem too well in my opinion as questins are raised almost immediately.

OK so fel magic is destroying the orc world, right…what’s fel magic then? Unless I missed it (which is entirely possible) they don’t actually explain what this mysterious force is. What happens to the orc world of Draenor? Does it end up being completely uninhabitable? How does Gul’dan know of Azeroth? I realise he’s a powerful sorcerer but are these different realms/worlds common knowledge to orcs? Did Gul’dan know that humans lived there? Again I realise Gul’dan is a bad guy but maybe they could of entered Azeroth and used diplomacy? Or maybe he could of found a realm/world that didn’t have lifeforms living in it? I know some of these points would negate the whole point of the movie but I’m just throwing them out there ya know.

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There were also other small plot devices that just didn’t seem too well explained to me. Fel magic seems to be the bane of the orcs, seeing as its destroying their homeworld, yet they also rely on it quite a lot. Gul’dan appears to use it all the time, in fact his powers seem to revolve around fel magic. He uses it to harvest souls from captives (the Draenei, another species on Draenor) in order to power the portal through to Azeroth. He also uses it to save Durotan’s baby when it is stillborn. So it does appear that fel magic can be used for many things, good or bad depending how you look at it. But again later on in the movie, Medivh the guardian of Tirisfal (Ben Foster, a goodie), somehow becomes infected with fel magic and it consumes him, turning him into a powerful demon. But why a demon? How does this magic work exactly? Are there any limitations? Does the magic have a natural leaning towards good or evil, or does it depend on who uses it?

Leaving fel magic aside, what about the rest, the visuals? Well I have to say I really enjoyed what I saw, much to my amazement. The orcs do actually look really good in a comicbook kinda way. Let me explain, basically Warcraft has a lot in common with Games Workshop’s Warhammer; and Warhammer fantasy has a very comicbook-esque/graphic novel-like vibe about it, I think. By that I mean its very lively, bold, stylised, highly detailed and outlandish. Its all very different to the darker and more serious tone in Tolkien’s work. The orcs in this movie have that highly stylised, highly detailed look about them which is both over the top and genuinely fun to look at. I loved how each orc had his own unique armour, some adorned with trophies; weapons, haircuts, horns, facial features, skin colour, battle or clan standards etc…Orc chieftain Blackhand (Clancy Brown) was a good example with his matching trophies of some creatures skull and spinal column upon each shoulder.

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The CGI was really solid for the orcs I felt, they really had a lot of weight to them and they genuinely looked intimidating. In turn this did make the battles against the humans kinda daft because I really couldn’t help but feel the orcs would/should be squatting the humans like flies. Sure the orcs are slower but the human knights were encased in heavy armour so they would be slow too. Surely the orcs would just sweep through the human ranks no sweat, hell even a horse was no match for a regular orc. I must also give kudos for the design work on the knights of Stormwind, along with all the other characters magical or otherwise. I really liked the costume designs, colours, patterns, armour, weapons etc…It all looked really great, very colourful and again very comicbook-esque. I honesty loved how the knights looked, really brought back memories of The Empire from Warhammer.

I think the only thing that did look completely off in the movie was the character of Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton), half-orc half-draenei (but spoke English?). This character was not CGI but the actress under heavy makeup, or so you would think. Unfortunately this makeup looked very hokey with the silly fangs sticking out of her mouth; it literally looked like they just sprayed her up with green body paint. Mind you the all CGI dwarfs looked a tad iffy too, as did the elves with their long thin ears and glowing eyes. But still despite the amount of CGI in this movie I can’t believe I’m reporting that most of it was actually pretty fine. Much was obviously CGI but nothing terrible, your standard large CGI creatures/animals were all passable if obvious. I did quite like the large wolves the orcs rode, again harking back to my Warhammer days here.

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I’m not gonna lie and say this movie was plain sailing, far from it. There are a shit load of peculiar names, magical terms, species/race names, location names etc…that will confuse and disorient you. Many of the characters will refer to places, events and characters that will mean nothing. Much of the time you will forget who’s called what, or who or what they’re talking about (unless you’re a fanboy of course). There is a large cast here and their characters all have generally odd names. Some of the cast don’t really work, some surprisingly do, but overall the choice to use mostly unknown or little known actors was a very good decision, voice work and live action.

Whether or not the hardcore fanbase was pleased with this I don’t really know. Would a newbie to this world be engaged? I think so yes. I firmly believe this fantasy does tick all the boxes most fans of the genre would expect to see, on a satisfactory level. Durotan is a likeable…umm…greenish monster, a solid late in the day hero. Gul’dan is your typically evil pantomime-esque villain with a deep gravely voice (also covered in lots of bone trophies and horns). Garona does the divided loyalties bit with aplomb. Ben Foster’s wizard Medivh spouts enough mystical mumbo jumbo to please any avid Dungeons & Dragons fanboy. You’ve also got a stoic King and Queen, and of course the main handsome hero (and poor mans Aragorn) Anduin Lothar, played by Travis Fimmel.

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The movie isn’t as wide in scope as the Tolkien universe, it does feel a bit confined to a few locations, mainly some interiors and battlegrounds. You can see a lot in the visually pleasing backgrounds, but that’s all you get, pretty backgrounds. You never really feel like this world is explored much. The action is brutal and fun, but not bloody or gory which was a bit disappointing with all the mega sized orc weapons. The heavy CGI is excellent in places but somewhat insubstantial in others (there is of course a tonne of flashing, glowing magical effects and greenscreen). And lastly the main problem is the array of human characters that are generally generic and lifeless, in short you don’t really care about them.

Yet despite the numerous faults with this huge huge fantasy franchise undertaking, I liked what I saw. Yes as strange as it may seem, I did like and enjoy this movie…and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Probably the combination of the visuals, various details and some lovely bits of stylistic flair from director Duncan Jones. Wrap all that in a nice warm blanket of nostalgia from my old table top Warhammer gaming days; and I actually find myself liking this bloated CGI stuffed Hollywood blockbuster.

7/10

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