Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Fast & Furious 9 - Film Review

At the start of Fast & Furous 9, Dom and Letty are living the quiet life off the grid with Dom’s son Brian. You know, “family”. Their peaceful existence is interrupted when a skeleton from his closet comes back to haunt him. For a man who has preached the importance of “family”, the team and audiences alike are shocked to discover that the man plotting the end of the world is Dom’s previously unmentioned brother Jakob.

After chipping off The Rock (branching off to Hobbs & Shaw outings), they get a chip off the old block and fellow WWE superstar John Cena plays Dom’s estranged brother Jakob Torreto. I guess if you are casting a brother he doesn’t see, it makes sense to pick John Cena!

If the idea of Vin and Cena as brothers has you like “really?”, it would not be the first time the Saga has stretched the limits of believability. After all, this is a franchise that has evolved over twenty years from a Point Break remake that swapped surfboards for subarus to the world’s longest runway chase to The Rock casually changing the trajectory of a torpedo with his bare hands.

There have been moments where Dom’s Dodge Charger has threatened to jump the shark but F9 sees the car become a cow that jumped over the moon.

Yes, the trailer have hinted at it. At this point it was a space race as to who would get there first. Fast & Furious or Mission Impossible but Tom Cruise’s running was ultimately pipped at the post by the franchise running on Diesel. This is a man who no longer lives his life by a quarter mile at a time but light years at a time. Having graduated from street racers to self-proclaimed spies and secret agents, it makes sense that they have reached their own Moonraker.

The film has a bloated runtime of 143 minutes. If the film had stuck to a fast and furious pace, it could have probably clocked in at about 90-100 minutes. The problem is that everytime the movie gains momentum with a thrilling set piece, it stalls to retcon its increasingly convoluted continuity. We must learn about Dom & Jakob’s backstory, the #JusticeForHan explanation, etc.

It is a shame because when it gets going, it is admittedly a lot of stupid fun. The action sequences, of which there are many, are slick, entertaining and as ridiculous as ever (this reviewer must have rolled his eyes at least six times in the opening 20 minutes). As long switch your brain’s gear into neutral. Particularly if you are from Edinburgh as the geography of the car chase in that is completely non-sensical.

The most intense struggle is not between Dom & Jakob but between the movie’s internal logic and your brain. Ludacris’s Tej keeps banging on about science and math to explain how they get away with some of the crazy stuff they do but other times, they rip up the rulebook and say “what the hell, it’s a movie isn’t it?”. One example of this is the use of electromagnets within the story. They are strong enough to pull a car a street away through a building but somehow do not cause the car that they are held within to collapse in on itself. If it rips a fork out of someone’s hand while they are eating, why do they not rip out metal fillings from their teeth?!

The film, and the franchise’s biggest problem is the lack of tension or threat to the characters. There is a moment following the first mission where Tyrese Gibson’s Roman questions his immortality after unbelievable survival against the odds. The rest of the team laugh it off, saying they are not superheroes. As it happens, the FF movies are close to becoming the automotive equivalent of the MCU. Not in a good way however. One of the main issues fans have with superheroes movies is a lack of consequence to the actions. The stakes are not high enough. How can one truly believe in the danger of the missions when the threat of anyone dying is inconceivable? Especially when, just like superheroes, no one ever stays dead for long. To paraphrase The Dark Knight, “You either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain who lives long enough to join the team and welcome the return of the hero miraculously back from the dead”.

Fast & Furious 9 is the cinematic equivalent of a go on the dodgems. You have a great time but there is no risk of anyone being hurt and ultimately you leave the ride slightly underwhelmed.


Fast & Furious 9 is in cinemas from Thursday 24th June

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Crawl - Review

Director Alexandre Aja makes a big splash with this year's sleeper horror hit Crawl. Like many great horrors, the title has a double meaning. Not only do the monsters crawl but the majority of the action takes place in a crawl space beneath a house... plus it makes your skin crawl!

Haley (Kaya Scodelario), a collegiate swimmer, must travel back home to check on her estranged father (Barry Pepper) during a hurricane when they both become trapped in the basement with a vicious alligator. With no one coming to their Gator-Aid, they must work together as flood waters and tensions rise around them, bringing fear and their troubled past to the surface in a race against time.

Having made his name with French horror Haute Tension aka Switchblade Romance, Aja has abandoned any notion of a twist that featured in that film that split audiences right down the middle like a gator chomping through a Floridian. This is an old school thriller that is as lean and mean as a hungry alligator during hurricane season. Also, he gives the humour present in his Piranha 3D remake a wide birth to focus on building the tension and emotion... although he still knows when to throw in an effective and gory kill to satisfy the blood lust!

Scodelario makes for a tough, resourceful scream queen whose fiercely competitive swimming background helps to level the playing field once the protagonists are underwater. At times, when drenched and vunerable, she is almost the doppelganger of Emma Stone and she will undoubtedly have audiences on her side willing her to survive.

The film does have a standard OTT premise needed for a good old-fashioned horror thrill ride but the writers make sure to ground this in as much believability as possible. Decisions made by characters feel authentic and the barriers to their escape flow naturally that you never scoff or remark "well that would never happen". Plus the tension and threat is maintained throughout to the point where no one is safe... even the dog!

A genre cross between Jaws and Hard Rain, Crawl is a gripping horror with bite that will once again make you afraid to go back in the water and is the most thrilling way to spend 87 minutes in Florida until Galaxy's Edge opens later this year!

4 stars

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Spider-Man: Far From Home - review

Spider-Man: Far From Home is the 23rd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it finds itself in a similar situation to the Ant-Man films. After the overwhelming intensity and drama of the Avengers movies, the stakes for Spider-Man's European Vacation (or Magical Mysterio Tour) are smaller, the tone needs to be lighter and more hopeful but it also must nail the superhero landing and bring Phase 3 to a close whilst simultaneously addressing "The Blip".
The Blip is canonically what the MCU is calling the second snap which brought back half of the world's population following Thanos's original snap... although why they didn't call it "The Snappening" we will never know.
To be fair, Far From Home hits the ground running with a poignant but amusing high school news video bringing everyone quickly up to date with how those teenagers who disappeared would fit back into school... in short they must take their midterms again but get rewarded with a trip to Europe for a science holiday. Conveniently, all the main characters from Homecoming all got snapped at the same time so the gang is all here.
Peter is having the hardest time adjusting. Aunt May seems to be flirting with Happy Hogan. He is dealing with burgeoning feelings for MJ and he is struggling to cope the loss of Tony with the pressure of being the hero as the world looks to someone to take over the mantle of Iron Man.
That hero could just be Quentin Beck, a mysterious superhero dubbed Mysterio by a mispronunciation on Italian TV. With armour that looks like Thor, mystical green powers like Doctor Strange and the flight capabilities of Vision, he is the Avengers all rolled into one... well, at least the ones who like to wear capes!
Not only can he fill the shoes of Iron Man but he could fill the role of surrogate father that Peter has struggled to replace following the deaths of his father, Uncle Ben and now Tony.
Tom Holland has continued to grow into the role since Civil War and is now the definitive on-screen Peter Parker and Spider-Man... and Night Monkey. He is able to go from comedic one-liners to tearing your heart out at the flick of a web shooter and will undoubtedly be the heart of the MCU going forward into Phase 4.
Newcomer Gyllenhaal is excellent as Beck/Mysterio and the film truly comes alive in the second half of the film once Gyllenhaal goes, as I like to dub, "full Okja" which leads to a sequence that easily tops Doctor Strange's trippy visuals as Mysterio's demonstrates the full extent of his powers.
To discuss much more would stray too close to the deadly spoiler realm so... spider-lips are sealed.
Director Jon Watts has so far taken Spider-Man from New York to Washington in Homecoming and now on European Vacation in Far From Home so I expect the next logical step is to complete his trilogy and have the next film set at Christmas.
Phase 3 may have come to an end but the two incredible post-credit scenes, it is far to say, have flipped everything upside down and it will be very interesting and exciting to see where Spider-Man and the MCU are headed.

3 stars

Monday, 17 June 2019

The A24 Project - Episode 19 - De Palma & Swiss Army Man

Brian De Palma is the subject of A24's second documentary De Palma as he shares experiences and insight into a career that has spanned over fifty years and in Swiss Army Man Paul Dano is a suicidal young man who encounters a farting corpse played by Daniel Radcliffe in one of their most original films.

In A24 Hour News, Dallas and Lee discuss the breaking news that Robert Pattinson is dropping out of The Souvenir Part II and look at the hype machine for the upcoming Midsommar.

Alternatively, you can download or stream The A24 Project on Apple Podcasts, GooglePlay, Spreaker and Spotify.

Monday, 3 June 2019

The A24 Project - Episode 18 - Green Room & The Lobster

What's your desert island band and if you were to be transformed into an animal what would it be?

Lee Hutchison and Dallas King look at Green Room, about a punk rock band who are forced to fight for survival after witnessing a murder at a neo-Nazi skinhead bar. The film stars the late Anton Yelchin who died tragically after the film was released, we celebrate his short but special career. We also discuss The Lobster directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, one of the most original films in the A24 catalogue, it's set in a dystopian near future, where single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.

In A24 Hour News, we look at the success of The Lighthouse at the Cannes Film Festival.

Listen to the episode online here -

Alternatively, you can download or stream The A24 Project on Apple Podcasts, GooglePlay, Spreaker and Spotify.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Hugh Jackman: The Man, The Music, The Show - review

Scotland is no stranger when it comes to superheroes. The Avengers have assembled in Edinburgh to deep fry their kebab in Infinity War and turned St. Abbs into New Asgard in Endgame.
The Scots have welcomed the likes of Captain America, Black Widow and Thor with open arms and an Irn Bru and now it does the same to the most famous of X-Men… Wolverine.
For the Tony award-winning, Oscar-nominated Hugh Jackman has chosen Glasgow to play host to the very first performances of The Man, The Music, The Show.

Embarking on a world tour at the age of 50, one might have expected to see Old Man Logan but the audience was treated to The Greatest Showman moving around the stage with the energy of a New Mutant.
This chappie must be drinking from The Fountain of youth because he was tapping those Happy Feet for 2.5 hours.
Opening with The Greatest Show, it is obvious that this Chappie is having the time of his life (not the Dirty Dancing song). His enthusiasm is infectious and it ensured that the capacity crowd at the SSE Hydro was anything but les miserables.

Ably backed up by a band and dancers, plus an rapturous reception for Keala Settle who appeared for This Is Me, Jackman effortlessly moves through his career; from his first job playing Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Carousel, a performance of You Will Be Found from Dear Evan Hansen featuring a local Glasgow choir before ending act one with a medley from Les Miserables.

The Met Gala took place this week and the theme was camp but I think all the camp was taken by this show as Jackman brought out The Boy from Oz Peter Allen for a spot of audience interaction to kick off the second act, and to his credit, no matter what the Glasgow crowd threw at him, he dealt with it in his stride and in character.

Followed by this, he took a trip down memory lane through some of his favourite movie musicals before launching into a huge dance routine.
And this is a sentence one would never expect to write; there is a moment where Wolverine tap dances to Thunderstruck by AC/DC… and I say that because at the end Jackman is so worked up his facial expression changed to the point I was like “It’s Wolverine” followed by him recreating the famous “Schnick” poses using drumsticks.

The only other actor who I have seen capable of working an entire arena into a frenzy and have them hanging off their every word is The Rock, The Most Electrifying Man In Sports Entertainment. Well, Jackman is certainly the Most Electrifying Man in Musical Theatre entertainment.
As he brought it home with From Now On, the capacity crowd was on their feet giving him a well deserved and earned standing ovation, as this really was... *don't say it, don't say it, don't say it* The Greatest Show!

5 stars

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Glasgow Film Festival: Mid90s review

If you are a fan of the TV series Spaced, you will remember a scene where Tim and Daisy bond over watching skate videos. Making increasingly more audible and physical reactions as the falls and hits as people fall off their boards get more and more extreme and intense.
This was the scene in the Glasgow Film Theatre during the Opening Gala UK premiere of Jonah Hill’s Mid90s.
They were one voice reacting with uproarious laughter one minute and shock and horror the next as the lead character Stevie (played by Sunny Suljic and based only slightly autobiographically on Hill), learns to face what life throws at him, whether that be ollies, grinds, girls or punches; pick himself up and get back on the board.
It is a testament to Jonah Hill’s directorial debut that if you didn’t know, you would believe that Mid90s was made in the Mid 90s.
Shot entirely on 16mm, it has the look and feel of the skate videos that the character of Fourth Grade wants to produce.
Soundtracked by some of the period’s greatest hits (who didn’t have a copy of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged gig on at every gathering?), Hill showcases some real talent behind the camera. Particularly during a house party scene that features some Superbad use of editing and camerawork. Now that is superbad meaning good of course, as was the vernacular in the Nineties.
There is a rawness to the film that is reminiscent of Larry Clark’s Kids. Although not as extreme or exploitative, it is honest in its portrayal of what the youth culture was engaging in at the time.
Mid90s is about finding your place in this world and Jonah Hill may have found his place in the industry. Albeit a future where he is behind the camera instead of in front of it.

4 stars