Friday, 28 September 2018

Incredibles 2 (PG)

We have often wondered if you really need to see a Pixar film on the big screen.

Some films, sure, you really need the size to take in the full scope of what is being created in front of you.

But for an animation to make an impression on the big screen, it really needs to be thinking big. It needs to own every inch of that screen.

Sadly, Incredibles 2 — the sequel no one had been asking for — is just a cartoon on a giant screen.

It's not a big film.

Part of the problem is the film struggles to get going. Picking up the action right at the end of the first film is a great idea, but you're asking people to remember what happened 14 years ago.

We've seen the odd film since then. And slept.

So you're playing catch-up from the off, and as with Bond films, the opening scenes feature a bad guy you'll not see again.

Only, we've seen him before. He is, technically, an established character.

So effectively you're finishing off the first Incredibles film AND watching the new one at the same time.

Which, from a certain perspective, makes this the longest Pixar film ever....

But that's not the main problem with this film. Far from it.


This film, unlike it's predecessor, is just not fun.

The essential plot is fine — a scheme to bring Supers back, make them legal again, this time with Elastagirl front and centre.

Meanwhile Jack-Jack is discovering what powers he has, making life difficult for stay-at-home-dad Mr Incredible.

But this is also where part of the problems lie.

There is no focus in this film. In the first, they were a family together. This time around, they're doing their own things.

We have Her over There, Doing Things, we have Him over Here doing Other Things, we have teenage angst, a hyper kid (again) and a baby.

Is this a film about women taking the lead? A film to show that women can do all the stuff men do?

Or is this a film that tells children that if the woman goes to work the man is left at home feeling unwanted and struggling to cope?

We genuinely don't know, as both messages are loud and clear, but then it seems Pixar don't know either.

Which is where the lack of fun comes in.

This film has, roughly, three good jokes.

Well, we say that, but straight after the film ended we could only remember two of them. And right now can only remember one.

But we definitely laughed three times.

Sadly, we also looked at our watch inside the first hour (40 minutes in to be precise).

This is a Pixar film, right? For the first 40 minutes to feel like 90 is nothing short of a crime.

We're not saying they can't tackle serious issues (see the start of Up! and the opening hour of Wall-E), but these films have a track record of grabbing you and keeping your attention.

Ratatouille was 'only' a film about a rat who can cook, but what a great film. You could feel the warmth just washing off the screen like a fine broth.

Incredibles 2 feels the exact opposite of that.

It's a puzzled, confused mess of a movie. There's a good idea at the core, but it feels like too many people wanted their opinions felt.

If you are going to do a sequel so far down the line people have had time to get married AND divorced, you'd better be damn sure you're coming up with a stone cold classic.

Because what you don't want is people taking their children along because they loved the original and leaving disappointed.

You'll lose two generation of fans inside an hour....

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

BlacKkKlansman (15)

As we may have mentioned around these parts before, in this day and age it's nigh impossible to go and see a film without knowing much about it.

But not totally impossible.

Take Blackkklaansman for example. Based on a true story apparently. Might be a comedy I think. Might be a violent drama. One way to find out.....

Well, turns out, it's kind of all those things.

But it's so much more.

As we're sure the rest of you already know, the film is based on the memoir of the same title by Ron Stallworth (played wonderfully by John David Washington), a young black rookie Colorado cop who wants to work undercover.

He gets his chance quicker than would seem feasible, which leads him to decide to infiltrate the KKK.

No mean feat for a black dude.

Not being a complete idiot he enlists the help of his new colleagues Flip (Adam Driver further enhancing his reputation) and Jimmy (Michael Buscemi).

Which is when the fun begins.

Now, sure, a black guy enlisting a Jewish guy to infiltrate a bunch of nationalist nutjobs sounds like a hoot, but there is so much drama and tension (some of it bitingly funny) that you need the laughs.

And you really do need the laughs.

Because, at the heart of this film is one simple, strong message.

What Ron Stallworth was trying to unseat and bring down in the early '70s is not just still here but is the strongest and most invasive it has ever been.

It's easy to be a white guy in this world. Surround yourself with white friends and you won't even think anything is untoward.

Black folks feeling set upon? Oppressed? Under siege? Fearing for their lives on a daily basis? Well not in my leafy suburb...

...but they are. They were then, and they still are today.

And it's on us all to wake up, pay attention, listen, and do all we can to stamp it out.

It's no coincidence that phrases used by David Duke (go look him up, junior) are being used again now — and not in pubs, clubs or at fascist demos with tiki torches, but by the Racist In Chief in the White House.

It starts there, and it seeps down. Gets normalised. Those who think their precious lives are out of kilter because of others rather than their own choices or those in power are being emboldened and empowered.

They're dragging their knuckles from the fringes and into the mainstream.

And it has to be stopped.

Hopefully, films like BlacKkKlansman can help.

With its spot-on historical feel and vibe, with the clever use of threes all over the place to emphasise the number of Ks kicking about, with its depiction of people who think racist thoughts and language are right and normal — Klansman captures both when Stallworth and his fellow Americans went through, but also what black America is enduring today.

To be fair, this film doesn't take a sledgehammer approach to the subject matter. The message is there if you want to hear it, or you can just enjoy a damn fine film.

Right up until the final scenes.

Without wishing to give anything away (although we appreciate it's been all over the interwebs already), the final sequence took the wind right out of our sails and within minutes we were in tears.

Both of us.

Partly out of shock, partly out of anger, and partly at just how vile and hate-filled one small section of society has been allowed to become.

Humans are an amazing species at times, while at others we are far less than the animals we think we are so superior too.

Cats fight, but not because one cat hates how another cat looks. Same with sharks, dogs, bears.... See where we're going with this?

It would be great to live in a world where racism was a thing of the past. But until we reach that day, we need films like this to labour the point and make sure people are still listening and paying attention.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Meg (12A)

"Right, I'm going to be in town", announces one The Bas. "What films should we see?"

Well, we had been hoping...


So, that's how this happened....

To be honest, we really weren't bothered. Nor were we in the mood, being somewhat pooped and run down, meaning energy and enthusiasm were hard to come by.

But Mr The Bas was keen, and he lives miles away now so to stay on the sofa seemed a tad churlish, so we dragged ourselves to the designated multiplex, ambled to the ticket booth, and realised we'd probably missed the start but what the hey.

We were in the lobby, so might as well get it over with...

... And to be honest, we kind of guessed what the bit of back story was that we missed, but we were swept up by the sheer size and scope of the opening shots and scenes that none of that mattered.

The plot, and let's be kind here and call it that, is unsurprisingly simple — scientists do a thing, disturb stuff, need rescuing, then all hell breaks loose and a giant, mahoosive shark needs taking down.

Now the rescue is, naturally, not straight forward. The team are VERY DEEP. Someone has decide to rescue them alone. This does not go well, so now more people are VERY DEEP.

This requires the only man who can do this, but hasn't done it Since What Happened and is now to be found drinking beers all the live long day.

This is Jonas, then, played by the only man who could make this stuff work — Jason Statham.

We've had passable drama and tension up to this point.

Sure Rainn Wilson playing a billionaire science funder is a stretch, but in Bingbing Li, Ruby Rose, Jessica McNamee, Page Kennedy and Masi Oka (yup, the Heroes guy) there's a solid enough cast for what's to come.

And what's to come is The Stathe rescuing folks and then taking down The Meg.

Yes, this sounds daft, dumb, possibly stupid and overblown.

And The Meg is all of these things.

But it works.

Let's face it, you're not sitting here waiting for nuance and twisted sub plots. You're unlikely to be hoping for over-arching themes and messages (but you get a couple).

You're waiting for The Stathe to punch The Meg.

And in this department, the film more than delivers.

It helps no end that the film knows it's daft and over the top, and plays it straight while clearly having a blast.

The effects are pretty much OK, one ropey CGI bit aside, and while the dialogue is at times clunky as all hell it does the job and takes the story to where it needs to go.

Again, let's be clear here — this is not highbrow, nor is it trying to be.

But it is a hell of a lot of fun.

We jumped a couple of times, we were left grinning, we cared about Pippin, we laughed at the stupid bits, we grinned some more.

Basically, we had fun.

A lot of fun.

No, this film won't make you think. It won't make you ponder the deeper questions.

But you'll see The Stathe being dragged through the water by a winch while a giant shark chases him.

And you'll love this.

In amongst all the daftness, though, there is a very strong plus point about this movie.

There are a number of female characters.

They, along with their male colleagues, need rescuing at various times.

But at no point do they need to be running about in their underwear or standing about in a soaking wet T-shirt.

Instead they are strong, well drawn, central to everything and arguably more important than the men.

And that's one of the things that makes The Meg so great (a relative term, granted).

If you look at the recent Jurassic World films, or the knowingly ridiculous Sharknado franchise — The Meg is neither of these.

It has effects that work, a plot that knows where it starts and stops, rounded characters, and a mahoosive monster sharkie.

And it has all this without the blatant sexism that some directors favour so much.

As we said, this is not a deep meaningful film.

But in an empty screen we had a great two hours of entertainment.

And sometimes, that's all you want or need.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Ant-Man And The Wasp (12A)

We'll be honest, we've held back from rushing to see this for a couple of reasons — mainly for fear it wouldn't be as good as the first one, but also because the summer holidays arrived and nothing ruins a film like other people.

On the first point, we really shouldn't have worried.

On the second, waiting turned out not to solve the problem, as some kind soul decided to treat her young grandson to a morning trip to the cinema and then talked all the way through it.

People. They ruin everything.

And the less said about the git on his phone during large parts of the film the better.

So it's a measure of just how good Ant-Man And The Wasp is that neither arsehat managed to ruin it.

For devotees of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU to us in the know), this film follows on from the action in Civil War and Scott 'Ant-Man' Lang's involvement in the shenanigans.

Scott finds himself under house arrest and having to entertain his daughter with cardboard boxes.

But while two hours of a man playing forts and slides with his daughter might be fun, it's not a Marvel film so it's not long before Scott finds himself back alongside Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne.

As before, the interplay between Paul Rudd (Ant), Michael Douglas (Pym) and Evangeline Lilly (Hope/Wasp) is slick and heartfelt — this time with the added tension of Scott's actions alongside Captain America.

But this sequel isn't merely here to recreate all that we loved in the first one.

There are still jokes and gags, but these have been dialled down so as to not distract from the more serious, grown-up, emotional tone.

Our three heroes are on a mission to go back into the Quantum Realm in a bid to find Wasp's mum, who it seems is still alive in there somewhere.

But the plans are hampered by a new 'baddie', Ghost (played wonderfully by Hannah John-Kamen), who wants to access the Realm herself just to stay alive.

And it's here that the more grown-up Ant-Man movie comes into it's own.

In Ghost we have a baddie who is nuanced, greying the lines between what's good and bad, who has understandable reasons for her actions.

In short, you care about her as much as you care for Team Ant/Wasp.

It's a step away from the norm, and it's more than welcome.

Wasp comes into her own here too. The film is arguably more hers than Ant-Man's, as it's her mum they're after.

As well as being a seriously strong, bottom-kicking female hero, Lilly's character is given welcome depth and it just lifts the film another notch.

It should be stressed, though, that none of this takes away from the fun of the movie.

Scott's security team are still around making with the funnies, and there's another bad guy knocking about for chase scenes n wot not.

But these are mere decorations on an already strong tree.

This is a film with real heart, real weight and heft, and yet it is also a whole bunch of fun.

And all without a massive, big-budget set piece showdown battle.

It's a measure of how on top of their game Marvel are at the moment that they can tweak a winning formula and still produce great films.

And all while tying everything into the wider MCU.

Just you wait til you see the end-credit scene....