Speechless; words fail me…

I’ve watched my first Fast and the Furious movie. It was a spin-off, really, or so I’m led to believe- Fast & the Furious: Hobbs and Shaw. My goodness it was silly. In fact, it was so silly I feel rather insulted by the film-makers. Didn’t they think I deserved a decent script, character arcs, drama, realistic action sequences? No? Indeed, apparently not. Coming so soon after Kong vs. Godzilla (or was it Godzilla vs. Kong? Is there even a difference?) a film I’m still trying to figure out enough to write a review… A line from a Pet Shop Boys song springs to mind, What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this? 

That joke from Airplane comes back to me, of a news pundit commenting he has no sympathy for the doomed air passengers “they knew the risks, they bought their tickets…” or something like that. In my case, “he knew the risks, he knew what kind of films they are, I say- let his brain explode!”

Perhaps I need to watch some of, if not all, the remaining eight (soon nine, I gather) Fast & the Furious films in order to glean some sense of logic or purpose in the events and characters I watched in that Hobbs & Shaw movie (I mean, what was Helen Mirren doing in it?). All I could gather from its huge body count was that if you don’t have a line of dialogue then you’re simply cannon fodder and that there’s no harm in excessive bloodless, painless carnage as long as everyone is spitting out silly wisecracks and the cars look cool.

I didn’t expect that Idris Elba could mine the depths of his ‘performance’ in that Star Trek film again, but he found a way… I did like Vanessa Kirby though. I don’t think I couldn’t have lasted it out to the bitterly senseless end without her being in it. Oh well, we’ll put my eventual review on pause.

The Dark Tower

dark1Here’s something of a disclaimer: I have not read any of the Dark Tower series of books written by Stephen King, of which I understand there are several. I have no idea if this film is based on the first book, or is a rushed compendium of all of them, but I suspect it is the latter, as it would explain why the film races by in 95 minutes bereft of any weight or meaningful pause. This film is so rushed its unable to expand its characters beyond basic archetypes, it’s some kind of good vs evil saga, in which the bland battle against the bored.

There is clearly some kind of grand mythology at play, some kind of melting-pot of science fiction and fantasy that I guess can be found in the books, but it’s utterly AWOL here. Its confusing to people like me who are unfamiliar with the book saga and likely frustratingly simplistic to fans of that book series- perhaps like what condensing the Lord of the Rings trilogy into a single movie would be like- it just can’t work.

We have teleport stations to other worlds, demons attempting to invade our universe from some Outer Dark, a Dark Tower (I feel like asking Stephen King whether it should have been a White Tower, as its protecting the universe from Darkness but perhaps I’m being tetchy and its explained in the books) at the centre of the universe that thwarts them. Our bad guy Walter Paddick (Matthew McConaughey) is attempting to destroy the Dark Tower and our hero, Roland Deschain (Idris Elba, who between this and that Star Trek film should perhaps just give up on Hollywood), is the Gunslinger, who is trying to destroy Paddick before he succeeds. Its hardly mind-bogglingly imaginative stuff, and it’s not aided by having some kid who is (yawn) the Chosen One who Paddick can somehow use to power some weird laser cannon to finally destroy the Dark Tower and wreak the Apocalypse upon all creation. It really is that stupid. Maybe there was nuance and dramatic tension in the books, but there’s none of that here.

I suspect that this would have worked much better as a series on HBO or Netflix, across several seasons. Why exactly anyone thought this would satisfy as such an empty, thrilless, joyless movie is beyond me, the irony of the ending teasing further adventures just another example of Hollywood thinking absolutely anything can be a franchise. I am getting so pissed off with the films that don’t just end (ta da! ‘THE END’ like films used to), instead closing with a tease for something that will never happen- it’s just insulting to the audience and anyone who has invested any time watching it.

Loathing Luther

lutherSo I watched the last part of season five of Luther last night (it aired over four consecutive nights last week, but I caught up with it Tuesday & Wednesday) and I have to say, the whole thing was fairly abominable. There seems to come a time when a much-hyped series/franchise just ends up in a sea of fan-service and self-parody, and the much-loved Luther seems to have succumbed. Too many coincidences, too many shocks purely for shock’s sake, too many leaps of logic, so many things that simply made no sense, too much really awful editing. Idris Elba seems to think he just has to stand there and slouch in his coat and that’s enough, and sure, the guy is the epitome of cool but on the face of this, I hope the persistent rumours of him one day being James Bond never come true. I like him, he’s a fine actor, but you can’t phone-in performances like this, particularly in one-note scripts like this (late Christmas) turkey. An embarrassment for all concerned (even Ruth Wilson), this is certainly my first disappointment of 2019; really, it was terrible from start to finish.

Actually, I’ll qualify that last remark- the Dr Who New Years Day special was probably worse but it wasn’t as big a disappointment because I hadn’t expected much, if anything, because if there’s one thing that you can count on, it’s that the Doctor always disappoints.

What a shame, Luther, what a shame. Off to jail, then son, and here’s hoping Auntie Beeb throws away the key.

 

The Take (Bastille Day)

take12017.13: The Take (2016) – Amazon Prime/VOD

The Take is one of those films… well, its enjoyable enough. Its an action thriller set in Paris, in which an apparent terrorist plot to set off bombs during the French national holiday Bastille day celebrations is in fact an elaborate ruse in the Die Hard tradition to disguise the real bad guys motives to steal a fortune during the ensuing chaos.So its instantly familiar, and its stunts and action sequences have a Bourne Identity-feel to them too, only reinforcing the seen-it-all before feel about the whole enterprise. It is competently made and it all seems very sincere, but that familiarity undermines it all.

If nothing else, it offers a glimpse of what a James Bond movie might have been like with Idris Elba in the starring role (although my wife thought he was channeling his BBC tv-character Luther through the whole thing). His CIA agent however is, like all of the films characters, woefully paper-thin, and while Elba does his best he can’t lift the character into anything really interesting. He is something of a rogue, doesn’t conform to procedure and authority figures well, can handle himself in a fight- what this film desperately needs is some character beats, to get under his skin, which it fails to do.  Possibly it’s a ninety-minute film that really needed to be two hours long, but its so cautious of modern viewer’s attention spans it lacks conviction enough to give that thirty minutes of character beats and narrative foundation. If this were a film made in the 1970s I’m sure it would have been more substantial. In 2016… keep it slick, keep it quick. So we get the explosions and chases and fights and shoot-outs but that’s about it. Pretty vacuous, but efficient.

Unfortunately for the film, it will likely be most widely remembered for the timing of its cinema release prior to real-life terrorist acts in France that caused it to be pulled from cinemas there. As silly as some of these films seem to be,  it’s clear that their plots are uncomfortably close to reality and an indication of how messed-up our world is.  Its a cautionary reminder.