Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Nothing but easy entertainment, that is what the Beyond monicker on the latest Star Trek movie is about. That is, if you haven't gathered that already through the meaningless slogan ("Beyond" what?) or the facts this movie is directed by a Fast & Furious veteran (Justin Lin) and was co-written by Simon Pegg. But hey, my job is to point the obvious out; unemployment sucks.
Fun and funny but nothing more, Beyond shows us how the current incarnation of the Enterprise crew smashes yet another Enterprise (it appears that, with the movie, Paramount buys them at Costco for a dime a dozen). But it is all worth it in order to save a massive Citadel like multicultural space station from an evil enemy that is clearly a One Nation / Brexit / Trump supporter.
References to Leonard Nemoy's real life passing are blatantly plastered all over the place, Anton Yelchin earns a well deserved caption tribute at the end, and Sulu is revealed to be gay; but, much more interestingly, we are introduced to the character of Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), an Asari, who wins the day and the movie for our distraught crew.
Overall: Pure entertainment can only get you so far. 2.5 out of 5 spaced crabs (Spaced? Pegg? Remember?).
Closing note: In case you didn't get it, I'm suggesting Beyond borrows a lot of its ideas from Mass Effect.

Friday, 21 October 2016

The Legend of Tarzan

Lowdown: Tarzan returns to cure the world from imperialism.
Even my severely limited for contents Netflix account contains multiple versions of the Tarzan story, raising the question of where can a new version - and an obviously large budget one at hand, featuring one of the hottest stars around (Margot Robbie) - fit in. The answer, presented to us by The Legend of Tarzan, is that this Tarzan is a sequel to a prequel that never happened: it takes place after Lord Greystoke was retrieved from the African jungle back to his "home" in England and assumes you know the rough outline of what/who/where Tarzan is. Any references to the original story are made through the occasional flashback.
The story of The Legend of Tarzan revolves around the colonisation of Africa, specifically that of Congo by the Belgiums. Now, if you know your history, you would know that during the late 19th century and up until the early 20th century the Belgiums have committed some of this world's worst atrocities on the local population there, resulting in 6 to 10 million dead and lots of piles of severed hands (the punishment for not producing as much rubber as the Belgiums deemed suitable). In general, the story was that of Western Europeans financial prosperity being generated through the blood of black people in remote Africa.
Rest assured that in this The Legend of Tarzan of ours, the people of Africa are saved from the Belgiums. By a white person, of course, and a noble man at that, with a lovely specimen of ideal white beauty by his side (Robbie) to serve as the movie's token female that requires saving by the alpha male. Given the movie's premises, we also have a black American by their side (Samuel Jackson) to support them, because - as we all know - the blacks of America have won their equality by then and could therefore use their position of privilege to sort inequality problems at the place the whole of humanity had originated from. Just in case you did not pick on my sarcasm yet, I will point out obvious facts such as blacks equality before the law in today's USA or the fact that today's Congo is a garden of Eden devoid of all conflict and/or people being enslaved to dig the precious minerals that make the batteries for the phones and laptops us Westerners are using to read this post at this very second.
I guess the original Tarzan stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs were far from historically accurate, too, so I shouldn't really complain. But I will complain still, because movies such as The Legend of Tarzan will easily mishaps dozens of millions' impression of what the world was like back then. For people who take their history lessons from Hollywood, the fact that even the most enlightened folk at the time - say, Charles Darwin or H. G. Wells - regarded the likes of blacks and Jews as inferior would come as a complete surprise. If it will ever come.
On the positive side, Legend of Tarzan does feature Christoph Waltz doing yet another baddie, but unlike the last James Bond (Spectre) his talents are not getting wasted.
Overall: All the special effects cannot do this rewriting of history the honours. 2 out of 5 jungle crabs.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Nice Guys

Well, here is another review whose subject is not going to receive half the attention it deserves. Better little than nothing, I say!
Do you recall a film called Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? A witty, entertaining and occasionally thrilling take on the lie that is Hollywood, featuring some very good actors in very fine performances? Well, The Nice Guys is a close relative of Kiss Kiss'. In face, it is the product of Shane Black, the director of Kiss Kiss; and not only is it a relative in the maker department, it is also a relative in the subject matter department (Hollywood/lies).
This time, the funny and witty plot follows a muscle for hire with an extended sense of morality (Russell Crowe) and the private dick he was sent to warn off, the hard way, as they collaborate to find out what happened to this girl that disappeared. The seventies plot thickens amidst murders, corruption, sex, drugs and a great music soundtrack of the era. The result is similar to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang's: entertainment, yes, but one which paints a corrupt picture of LA, Hollywood and the quintessential American (as represented through quintessentially American car companies).
Behind the political statement lies one concerning art: The Nice Guys argues for the importance of movies to society. Yes, our movies can be shit (as the movie inside the movie demonstrates), but they can tell the real story, too.
Overall: Witty^2 and fully deserving 4.5 out of 5 crabs.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

5 to 7

Americans' infatuation with Paris as a symbol for their ideas about romantic ideals has been noted before. Clearly they feel like there's something amiss for them in that department. 5 to 7 is yet another movie that capitalises on this notion, but in its favour I will note I thought it does so in an ever so charming way.
Anton Yelchin (RIP) stars as a naive single child of demanding Jewish parents that want to see him become a lawyer while he seeks to follow his heart. And, as per romantic American movies' limited set of things that pass as romantic, such as large but otherwise useless pieces of carbon extracted from African mines and sold at ridiculous prices, his heart leads him to writing + an older, married with children, sexy French woman (Bérénice Marlohe). An against all odds affair develops, focused around the woman's desires, including the desire to keep her marriage/kids. In order to accomodate, our hero is limited to interacting with the subject of his affections between 5 to 7, PM.
Yes, we've seen this movie before and everything, but 5 to 7 is still a nice feel good affair (pun intended). It's got that nice seize the day message to it, it plays the Jewish parents card well (albeit to the stereotype's exact specifications), and it's got good actors throughout.
Overall: As we say in Straya, 5 to 7 is noice throughout. 3.5 out of 5 crabs.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Love & Friendship

If there is a lesson to be learnt from Love & Friendship, it's that not everything coming out of Jane Austen's quill is gold.
There are some fine actors in this tale of an old widow with a big mouth (Kate Beckinsale) and her attempts to secure a comfortable future while, at the same time, mishandling her daughter's prospects. We even have Stephen Fry in a minor role. The problem is, we do not have a good story; Love & Friendship is too much of a mishmash of stories with too many characters (so much so that the movie presents us with a personal written introduction to each, only that even that is confusing due to their abundance yet often infrequent appearances).
One can argue Love & Friendship might offer a historical representation of what the lives of the rich and comfortable was during Austen's time. Perhaps that is the case, but I argue that if I want to watch a meaningless talkfest featuring a multitude of characters I cannot identify with I'd switch the TV on any current affairs program.
As it is, Love & Friendship, despite its hour and a half duration, feels long and boring.
Overall: Clearly, moviemakers have grown desperate in their attempts to cash in on Austen's contemporary popularity. Some thing are best left alone, and Love & Friendship is one of those. 1.5 out of 5 bored crabs.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

There's a good reason why I liked the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the follow up comic, and now the movie. Sure, I like the original too and appreciate it's rags to riches plus feminist motifs. Like Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven, Austen's most famous piece is a tale of restraint. Alas, there is too much restraint in there for me to take and no Jimmy Page on an electric guitar to let loose at the climax.
Enter the zombies into the mix to add that necessary bit of spice to the story! Because as nice as it is to listen to Elizabeth Bennet go on and on, it is much nicer when she takes matters into her own hands and pulls a martial arts move. Or even sticks a sword in someone's eye.
One can clearly see a lot of things potentially going wrong with a movie such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but luckily this one skips them all. First, we have fine actors on duty here; former Cinderella and Downton Abbey graduate Lily James proves she can pull a karate move. And with Charles Dance as her father, clearly she cannot go wrong.
Second, and more important, is the fact this movie clearly does not take itself too seriously as it provides its version of that famous tale told in a zombie infested England where the rich and the privileged study Japanese karate but the lesser endowed go Chinese. Seriously, comic retakes are hardly ever more serious.
Overall: Plenty of fun to be had in here. Certainly more than in the original. 3.5 out of 5 crabs.

Monday, 10 October 2016

The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson

It's a pity I do not have the time to write Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling a proper review, because this is prime time Bryson doing what Bryson does best: providing us with illuminating insights into life and this world of ours through travelling. This time around Bryson revisits the UK, or rather - rewrites, more or less, his Notes from a Small Island to bring it up to date [more or less, as we shall see].
At times, Bryson sounds like a grumpy old man. Only that, given I practically agree on almost everything he writes about, it's either neither of us is or both of us are. Instead of being interpreted as a grumpy old man, I would argue Bryson is a person who loves the UK but hates to see what is happening to it under a conservative regime hell bent on an agenda of austerity (read: funneling more money towards the rich at the expense of the poor). The UK is thus a great place, one of the best in this world, but it is also heading downwards - hence the grumpiness. Indeed, my sole point of contention with Bryson is to do with the local food: Bryson seems to enjoy what passes for food in England and, even worse, what passes for coffee. Clearly, the guy should travel a bit, see the world...
Jokes aside, the only problem with Little Dribbling - a book that is so very well written in such a rich and atypical (by today's standards) language - is that it was made sort of redundant by the recent Brexit. Bryson wrote the book as a sort of a warning to the UK, saying "look after yourself or...". But through Brexit, we now see the worst case scenario, the one Bryson only hints it, materialising right before us. If the Bryson book's UK was on the brink before but could still be sorted, now it is well past that point. Perhaps Little Dribbling will thus be remembered in the pages of history as the book that documented the UK just before it fell into the abyss?
Overall: Solid Bryson deserving 4 very solid crabs out of 5.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Me Before You

There is nothing wrong in movies acting out as vehicles for their actors. Clearly, the main point of Me Before You was to ride on the success of its star, Emilia Clarke (aka Game of Thrones' Mother of Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen) by providing her with a vehicle with which to display her romantic comedy talents. I, for one, will argue this particular escapade fails and that the otherwise lovely and talented Clarke should probably seek to make use of her talents elsewhere (as in, definitely on our screens, but perhaps not in romantic comedies).
Set in the Welsh town of Pembroke (I know because I have been there), yet offering no hint that our affairs take place in Wales - not even the slightest of accents or Welsh signs - our story follows Lou (Clarke). Lou is the 26 year old daughter still living at home of a loving but poor family, and when she loses her coffee shop job (no wonder, given what passes for coffee in the UK) her family is desperate. So she takes on the job of looking after the now paralysed following a traffic accident son of the town's stupidly rich family, the family that owns the town's castle.
That son (Sam Claflin) no longer wants to live, having been thrown from the heights of hedonism into the depths of disability. Thus starts a Pretty Woman / Pride & Prejudice romantic tale that is full of schmaltz, is awfully predictable, and we've all seen tons of times before. Sure, you can argue the theme is good enough for us to enjoy again, and you will probably be right; I, however, will argue that Clarke's exaggerated facial expressions with which she expresses her emotions were way too much for me. By this movie's third act I was simply too annoyed.
Overall: Welsh scenery aside, this is a failed ride telling a [too] familiar story. 2.5 out of 5 crabs.