6 Underground

6under1Oh my fragile senses. What horror that Netflix and Michael Bay just wreaked upon me; I rather feel like I’ve just been somehow assaulted by my television. I’m in something of a stunned daze. I don’t think my eyes or ears are still working and I’m finding it as difficult to string words together into cogent sentences as it does for most of the characters in this fraking movie (“Not the puppies!”/”She’s lost a shit ton of blood”/”Nobody is going to save the world. But we can make it a little less shitty, you know?”).

I’m such a stupid schmuck.  I watched another Michael Bay movie. Oh, I knew what I was doing, I knew the risks, but I knew nothing about this film and as its a Netflix Original, I just thought, well, its going to be a much smaller budget than he’s used to,  it’ll be slower, quieter, more intimate, maybe have a plot even. Wrong. I’m such an idiot.

6 Underground is a $150 million dollar Michael Bay blockbuster with him let absolutely totally loose without a studio bothering to rein him  in or anything, its like anything goes, the ultimate Michael Bay frakfest extravaganza, Welcome to Michael Bay Film School. Its an orgy of exploding cars, exploding people, blood spurting in slow motion, long slow lingering pans over hot women’s bodies, its gun-porn, chase-porn, explosion-porn, bullet-porn, impossible stunts-porn… really, this thing is the very definition of the worst a Mission: Impossible movie could possibly be. I hadn’t realised just how mundane and restrained those Tom Cruise/Christopher McQuarrie arthouse spy flicks were. This film begins with a fifteen/twenty minute car chase through Florence, Italy in which civilians are run over by the good guys, or gunned down by bad guys, streets are wrecked, puppies and babies endangered, cars get ripped in two and bodies are blown apart, impaled, smashed, burned, ripped….

I’ve now reached some kind of epiphany: all those years, when Michael Bay was going around making films like The Rock and those Transformers films, Pearl Harbor or the Bad Boys films, I thought he was just making silly loud blockbusters but really he was perfecting some whole new kind of movie-making, a whole new art-form hitherto undreamed of by any Film School known to man. This thing is the new 3D or the new Imax. This is The Future. Some day all films will be as loud and fast and stupid as this. Yeah, you THINK most films are loud, fast and stupid, but you ain’t seen this, you ain’t seen NOTHING.

So. Lets see if I can stretch what this film excuses for a plot into a paragraph. The 6 Underground are six ‘dead’ people, they are ‘ghosts’ who have faked their own deaths (or had them faked for them) in order to go all A-Team and beat the biggest Bad Guys from beyond the grave- unknowable, untouchable, utterly expendable; these six beautiful people (Ryan Reynolds,  Mélanie Laurent, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Adria Arjona, Corey Hawkins, Ben Hardy and Dave Franco, yeah that’s right I named seven, its a Michael Bay movie) in beautiful places turning murder and mayhem into a work of art. Ryan Reynolds is the leader, ‘Number One’, a genius tech-billionaire with a conscience (yes there is such a thing, that’s the magic of Hollywood), who has recruited a team of ex-CIA/ex-assassin/ex-underworld experts (‘Number Two’, ‘Number Three’ etc etc) in order to right the wrongs that our lousy untrustworthy Governments refuse to because obviously everyone is corrupt other than our ‘ghosts’. Hence today’s mission is sorting out the dastardly dictator of poor Turgistan (I kid you not), first by killing his Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse/Generals while they are vacationing in Las Vegas at a Chemical Warfare convention (or something), and then freeing his brother who has been terrifyingly imprisoned in the Penthouse Suite of the most mindbogglingly lavish billionaire apartment in a city ‘somewhere exotic’  before crashing the dictators state-run television network and then a party on his billionaire yacht.

Naturally doing this involves killing lots and lots and lots of people and blowing up all kinds of shit. Its some kind of brilliant genius, to be sure. At this point in his career, and running utterly amok as he is thanks to those depraved bastards at Netflix, Bay has this down to some kind of relentless, terrifyingly efficient machine, a film posing as Terminator. Its horrible and beautiful and brilliant and bloody awful. Even now, I cannot quite believe it. Did I see it? Did I hear it?

I feel a little like dear old Charlton Heston on the beach: “Those crazy bastards (Netflix). They did it. They really did it. They gave Bay $150 million and Final Cut. Those crazy bastards.” Cue falling to my knees in despair, fists clenched towards my shamed OLED. The End.

Next-Gen Griswold: Vacation

vacation2017.78: Vacation (2015)

One of the blights of the last few decades of film-making has been the industry’s propensity towards remakes/prequels/sequels/reboots of existing intellectual properties, whether it be old movies or tv-series. We’ve seen big-screen outings for Starsky & Hutch, Baywatch and the A-Team and so many other old tv-shows. And don’t get me started on the number of film properties that get resurrected- from 1982 alone, we’ve seem a  prequel to The Thing, a reboot of Conan, a sequel to Blade Runner, a remake of Poltergeist, a sequel to Tron. It seems anything goes. No sooner as Ben Affleck quits his current Batman role, it is just taken for granted that another fresh Batman will immediately hit the silver screen, for better or worse.

One of my family’s favourite film series of the VHS era was National Lampoon’s Vacation series, in which the hapless Griswold family endured terrible holidays to great comedic effect. The whole family would sit down and enjoy them- we must have watched those films so many times. Even today there is an enduring charm to the films, and I can watch Christmas Vacation every year during the Christmas holidays and still get a giggle out of it. Sometimes films age like wine, somehow, no matter how truly average they originally were. Nostalgia no doubt plays a part of that, and no doubt that’s why we get so many reboots and remakes anyway- that, and the intellectual and creative desolation that is modern Hollywood.

So here we have what amounts to the Griswolds: The Next Generation, in which the young son of the originals, Rusty, now a married man with two kids of his own, decides to re-capture the disastrous family holidays of his youth by taking his own family on a roadtrip across America to Wally World. In that weird way so many of these reboots fashion themselves, its part-continuation, part-remake. It’s a road-trip like the first film, it features a hire-car like the first film, they have all sorts of mis-adventures like in the first film. Many of the gags are direct references to the first film, such as Christie Brinkley’s supermodel in a supercar whose drive-by flirtation with our hero in the first is reprised here, a gag probably working better here than others, with a great twist that offers something new.

I suppose the question is, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? And if this is what a Vacation movie is, why should it be anything more? On the whole it’s a poor imitation of the original, as it largely misses the chemistry of the original leads and can’t help but feel over-familiar and tired (as so many reboots/remakes do). But I still got plenty of laughs out of it, once I’d warmed into it twenty minutes in. Its a Vacation movie, and quite fun. You know what you are getting- it ain’t great, but it ain’t bad. Is that damning it with faint praise?