Bullet Train: Lock Stock Meets John Wick

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A group of hitmen and murderers gather together on a bullet train, each has their own mission.

I didn’t catch this one in the cinema so I was waiting for the digital release, and now that I have seen it I am somewhat disappointed. Not because it is a bad movie, because it isn’t, but because it tries to be two very different things and didn’t do either of them enough, and to make matters worse these two elements badly clashed with one another. The film certainly has charm but it also has a lot of issues.

The two things this film tries to be to me, is on one hand a Guy Ritchie crime film with the quippy comments and colourful characters and then on the other it tries to be an incredibly stylised action film ala John Wick. The issue with the former comes as the tone can’t seem to maintain its quippy nature throughout and at times tries to go serious and dramatic, this derails it. The problem with the stylised action is that there isn’t very much of it, the film really goes out of its way to set up all these oddball characters with different backstories but then realises after it has done that that there isn’t any runtime left. The action we get is fairly tame and forgettable.

Brad Pitt is still a strong lead, and in that he does make an interesting entry point into this world.

Overall, there are some things to like about this film, namely Pitt, but there are also a lot of problems.

Pros.

Pitt

A few funny moments

It has a nicely lively pace

Cons.

The tone doesn’t quite work

It feels mismatched

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Top Gun Maverick: Men And Their Feelings

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Maverick, played by Tom Cruise, returns to teach the next generation.

That premise sounds generic and lame but actually proves to be quite entertaining. I think by using just the right amount of nostalgia whilst also tying in elements from the first film in an interesting way that felt like it benefited the story and drove things forward rather than just being used for cheap member berry moments.

I think Tom Cruise was good here, though I would not say he was the star of the show as he was upstaged by both Miles Teller, playing the son of Maverick’s old friend Goose, as well as an also returning Val Kilmer. Cruise plays Maverick in much the same way he does all his other action movie characters, see Ethan Hunt or Jack Reacher, so if you like that then you will be entertained, but if you were hoping for something new then you will be disappointed.

Personally, I found this film to be enjoyable and very watchable but I don’t understand why it is so big right now or so critically beloved. Maybe it’s because I didn’t watch the first film as a kid or maybe it’s because I often find Tom Cruise starring in a film to be an off-putting factor, however to me this really was a case of the film being good not great.

Overall, a fun movie but by no means a must see.

Pros.

It is a lot of fun

It uses nostalgia sparingly and well

It is well paced

Teller is terrific

Cons.

Cruise is just playing the same old same old

Jennifer Connelly’s character is a big bunch of sexist cliches

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Day Shift: Ruining A Perfectly Nice Pair Of Pants

3/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Jamie Foxx is a vampire hunter and Dave Franco is a man who consistently ruins his slacks.

For the most part I enjoyed this film. I think tongue in cheek action is where Netflix really shines, not when they are trying to be serious. The comedy of this film mostly landed for me and I found myself laughing quite a few times. Likewise I was impressed by most of the action sequences, but I would expect nothing less with Chad Stathelski’s hand in producing this film.

The world building here was nice to see, even if it did feel like a plagiarised version of the John Wick set up with the Union being a very obvious stand in for the High Table and or the world of the Continental. It was nice to see the film explore different types of vampires with different powers and abilities as it gave the various enemies some nice variety.

I think in terms of performance Jamie Foxx is very take him or leave him, he’s fine but anyone could have done his role and many would have done a better job of it. Franco easily upstages his on-screen partner and has a number of memorable lines. However, I think the scene stealer of the film is Natasha Liu Bordizzo’s Heather as she brings a real presence to the film and also has great chemistry with both Foxx and Franco.

Overall, a moderately entertaining picture.

Pros.

Franco

Bordizzo  

The action

Cons.

It feels a little too similar to John Wick

Foxx is a miscast lead

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Prey: A War Party Rides Out

4.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A young Comanche woman, played by Amber Midthunder, who dreams of becoming a warrior get to seize that opportunity after running into a Predator.

This film was rad, my only complaint is that it has a slow start, but other than that this film was just what the Predator franchise had been needing, a fresh start and new blood. A lot of incels are upset online because this time around it’s a girl who is fighting Predator and she wins mostly on her own merit, with a little help. However, this whole argument is stupid as she outsmarts the beast and is able to beat it that way which is what Dutch did all the way back in the original, these people who have a constant chip on their shoulder thinking that any strong female lead is inherently bad need to leave their parent’s basement. 

Midthunder plays the part perfectly here and you really believe her quest to take down this apex predator. I like how she trains and sets up a killing field for the Predator at the end of the film, it leads to a lot of neat visuals and a really tense showdown where both seem pretty evenly matched.

I also thought the gore here was really on point, a Predator film should be gory after all and in this department this film delivers in droves. I thought the sequence where the Predator goes to down on a bunch of French fur trappers was really well done in this regard and show cased a lot of nice gore without it ever getting to a gross out point.

Overall, a really strong entry into the Predator franchise.

Pros.

Midthunder

The ending

The character journey

The gore

The Comanche dub really adds a sense of authenticity

Cons.

It has a slow start

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Big Trouble In Little China: Kurt Russell Takes On Asian Stereotypes

2.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Kurt Russell fights Chinese demons and some of the worst special effects of his career.

I know this film is a beloved classic to some, and I wanted to like it to, but I just didn’t really gel with it.

The satire becomes so try hardy and desperate as the film progresses that it almost feels like it is reaching out and tapping the audiences saying, ‘remember this trope from action movies, we are twisting it aren’t we clever’, constantly looking for validation. I didn’t find it particularly funny either.

The special effects are dicey at best, why Carpenter thought using so many of them especially when they look so bad was a good idea is beyond me. Moreover, a lot of the depictions of magical Chinese or Asian people in this film feels like it was out of date at the time, which is what I suppose the film is mocking, but still it feels troubling to watch.

In addition, I didn’t find Kurt Russell particularly likeable here, I understand what the filmmakers were going for with his character but more often than not he just comes across as kind of an arse and it makes him hard to root for. James Hong on the other hand is great here, he is clearly having a lot of fun and when the film lets him go fully wild he embraces it to the Nth degree.

Overall, a flawed Carpenter film that doesn’t live up to his other greats.

Pros.

Hong

It is unintentionally funny quite a lot

It is watchable

Cons.

Russell

The racial undertones

The special effects   

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Ava: A Movie We Have All Seen About 5 Times Before

1.5/5      

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Jessica Chastain plays yet another cold emotionless spy, but this time she is a girl boss. Oh we have seen this before from Chastain and just like her ill-fated venture with Simon Kinberg this too is a mess.

The clear feminist girl power vibes here couldn’t be any more striking it they reached through the screen and physically hit you in the face, there is nothing wrong with that but I do wish that this film and Chastain’s other feminist themed action films at least had something interesting and new to say.

Moreover, though no one can doubt that Chastain has action hero prowess, her performance here and in her other action roles feels just a little bit too try hardy and as though she is trying to prove something. We all know her credentials so she needs to have more of that laidback self-assured confidence that a lot of other action hero actors bring to their roles.

The plot is fairly uninspired, you have seen it before and the twists and turns are incredibly obvious from the outset. Chastain does a little to elevate the incredibly trite material but even then it can’t be saved, which is a shame as a lot of talented actors had their times wasted making this.

Overall, flawed and not really salvageable.

Pros.

Chastain is trying

A few well done action sequences

Cons.

Chastain is trying too hard

It has nothing new to say from a feminist/ gender studies perspective

It is bored and played out from the beginning

The pacing is awful

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The Princess: Disney This Is Not

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A princess, played by Joey King, must overcome vast waves of invaders in her families castle in order to save them from certain death and to drive out a man, played by Dominic Cooper, who has become obsessed with her and launched a takeover to try and force her to marry him.

I remember when I saw the trailer for this film I thought it looked pretty naff, the plot didn’t look like anything new and the feminist message looked very been there done that, a princess who likes fighting as is far removed from the Disney ideal is nothing new, and whilst both of these things are true the film still manages to be quite enjoyable.

No, the film isn’t going to win any awards for its writing and its message is incredibly on the nose, but the fight scenes are very well done, to the point of being impressively so, and Joey King manages to give a hell of a performance and these two things quite outweigh the bad writing.

Moreover, I like how the film does not waste time and instead opens straight away on the action. In wider terms of pacing I think this film is pretty tight, at no point whilst watching did I feel bored or like a scene was dragging on for too long and for the most part I solidly enjoyed my time with it.

Overall, the trailers for this film really don’t do it justice, though it is not going to set the world on fire it is a good time.

Pros.

It is a lot of fun’

King

The action

The ending

Cons.

It is very on the nose

It is incredibly predictable

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The Boys: The Instant White-Hot Wild

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The big fight between Homelander, played by Anthony Starr, and Soldier Boy, played by Jensen Ackles, finally comes to fruition.

Before we get into all the things I like about this episode I want to talk about two things I didn’t so much, firstly the politics and the clear elusions to real world events feels incredibly on the nose which breaks from the more intelligent use of social commentary throughout the rest of the season, and secondly Ryan as a character is stalling the story and causing things to drag on. My issues with how they used Ryan here is that it deprived us of the big fight we wanted and instead lead to Butcher, played by Karl Urban, fighting Soldier Boy and Queen Maeve, played by Dominque McElligott, fight Homelander. Also I don’t really care about the Ryan/ Butcher relationship as it feels unnecessary to me.

In terms of things I did like, I enjoyed seeing Homelander rip apart, verbally, his remaining team members it was fun to see him fully tear each one of them down. I would have liked for Homelander to have gone a little bit more off the deep end by the end of the season, but no doubt that needle to the brain will cause him to lose it even more next season. Moreover, I like that they are transitioning the Victoria character, played by Claudia Doumit, into the shows own version of Vic the Veep, I am interested to see where that storyline will go next season and whether it will lead to Homelander and co trying to fully take over the USA.

I also thought the interpersonal moments where really strong here, with Mother’s Milk, played by Laz Alonso, and his daughter’s scene at the end being particularly touching. I think the best thing the show has done compared to the comics is really flesh out the personality and inter play between its cast of characters which means we get all these great moments.

Also just an aside, Starlight, played by Erin Moriarty, joining the Boys at the end of the episode was a deviation from the comics that works and feels rad. Very excited to see where things go from here and how the team dynamic works going forward.

Overall, a fairly strong end to the season.

Pros.

Queen Maeve’s retirement

Homelander fully laying into his remaining teammates

Starlight becoming one of the Boys

The ‘maniac’ dance/fight scene    

Cons.

Ryan

The finale Homelander scene feels a little too on the nose for me

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Thor Love And Thunder: Thor Gets Paternal

4/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, is forced out of semi-retirement when Gorr The God Butcher, played by Christian Bale, goes on a killing spree. Along the way he runs into his old flame Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, who is now the Mighty Thor.

I have to say a lot of the early responses to this film that I saw were quite negative and so I went in with pretty low expectations, thinking to myself surely it can’t be worse than Dark World, however, in the end I found myself really enjoying the film, and think though it has a few minor issues it is on the whole a strong Marvel outing.

Straight off the bat I think this film really does some great character work with Thor, having him get the chance to see Jane again, then losing her, then having to raise a kid on his own- he goes on a journey. Some out there on the more incely sides of the culture war will say that Thor is humiliated and ruined, however, their toxic masculinity is showing. I think it is possible for Thor to be both a badass action hero, which this film shows off on multiple occasions, as well as a sensitive guy who can be open and also poke fun at himself. At no point did I find he was being dominated or out done by the female characters and I think such takes usually arise from those we insecure masculinities themselves.

I thought the supporting cast all had their moments to shine especially Port, Thompson and Waititi, the latter especially had a lot of great lines. However, I will say that I would have liked Sif, played by Jamie Alexander, who makes a big return here, to have been given more to do. I think for me the stand out performance of the whole film was Russell Crowe as Zeus who instantly became my favourite character of the picture.

In terms of the humour, which has proven quite divisive, I think it is peak Waititi and if you enjoy his style of comedy, which I do, you will find it funny and if you don’t you won’t. Personally I found this film had me laughing more often than not. Moreover, again in rebuke to some of the criticism I have seen out there about the humour of this film, I found that it didn’t take away from the dramatic moments at all, and I think the film has a very strong emotional core. If you aren’t tearing up as Jane dies in Thor’s arms then I question whether you are even human.

Finally onto the few minor things I didn’t like about the film. The CGI in the post credits scene with Hercules, played by Brett Goldstein, was quite poor and possibly on a par with the Pip scene from Eternals. Moreover, the film’s pacing was quite noticeably off and the film as a whole felt very rushed with a lot of big things happening in a short space of time without much room for you to take them in. In addition, Christian Bale’s Gorr performance was all over the place, sometimes being quite frightening and sullen and other times being almost camp, this mismatch created quite a jarring viewing experience. Lastly the ‘Lady Thor’ line was horribly cringe and felt far too meta and on the nose, it really didn’t need to be included.

Overall, though it is not perfect there is a lot to like about this film.

Pros.

Thor’s journey

The ending

Zeus

The supporting cast all get their time to shine

Cons.

The pacing

The ‘Lady Thor’ line   

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The Man From Toronto: Don’t Mistake This Film For A Better One

2/5         

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A chap, played by Kevin Hart, out for a nice romantic getaway with his significant other, played by Jasmine Matthews, becomes wrapped up in a world of hitmen when he falls prey to a case of mistaken identity.

This movie is a turd, but make no mistake it is not Kevin Hart’s fault. If it were not for Hart this film would get a lot lower, and I mean a lot. Hart does provide the film with a number of laughs and makes getting through it slightly less excruciating and for that I thank him.

That aside, this is why Netflix is in hot water, yet another stupid pointless action film that does nothing new and thinks that by just throwing famous faces into whacky situations it makes a film good; it takes far more than that. The whole premise of this film is incredibly familiar, but it is not even as though Netflix is ripping off other better action films, no, it feels like Netflix are ripping off their own back catalogue. Moreover, the idea of the soft guy teaming up with the tough guy, here played by a very much phoning it in Woody Harrelson, is more than a little stale at this point. Really this film is peak generic, that is probably the best and most succinct way to describe it .  

Overall, yet more terrible Netflix fare slightly elevated by Kevin Hart

Pros.

Hart

It is watchable

Cons.

It is generic

It has been done better before

It is Netflix plagiarising themselves

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