28 May 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

A largely entertaining film by Guy Ritchie with all his signature directorial flair and screenwriting panache that unfortunately was frequently out of sync with its source material and the story he was trying to do. Everything about the film seemed familiar and there really were not any moments that stood out to make the film fresh and exciting.

However, credit where it is due, Ritchie has an excellent eye and hand for action choreography and it was really the action sequences (and the musical montages) that really helped to lift the film from up the doldrums of its oft-ridiculous and schizophrenic narrative (a product of too many writers/storytellers meddling). It shows a lot when a director has the guts to film a whole sequence in daylight and still manages to capture the kinetic energy and thrill of a chase. The street chase/fight was almost as exhilarating as Steven Spielberg's brilliant one-take in Tintin.

But Ritchie also seemed overwhelmed by both the budget afforded to him, letting the CGI run amok when presented with the opportunity. There were successes like the solid opening scene, but more often the CGI was used to create large set pieces that did not serve to enhance the moment.

Jude Law was spot on as the villain. Law effectively oozed menace but unfortunately his character was as one-dimensional as MCU villain.

Charlie Hunnam on the other hand was a tad miscast. He has the looks and the brawn, but lacked the charisma of a king, even an unwilling one. However, Hunnam and Richie should really get together again and do another film.  There was definite chemistry there with him sprouting Richie's classic quick-edit, rapid fire, flashback narrative.

Djimon Housou was under-utilised and seemed like the token diversity role. Aidan Gillen should stick to being Littlefinger. Astrid Berges-Frisbey needs to stay away from big Hollywood franchises/blockbusters. Eric Bana was solid but too brief. And David Beckham was a hoot.

This legend can be interpreted in many ways, but it was obvious that in this case too many people have plastered their fingerprints all over the story that they wanted to tell. And eventually, the final product was a schizophrenic film that was largely a Guy Ritchie's heist-like film but mixed with a large dose of fantasy and RPG-genre schlock.

15 May 2017

Alien: Covenant [IMAX]

A consistently gorgeous, often exciting and occasionally philosophical - and theological - entry into the Alien franchise that reflected a back-to-form for good storytelling by Sir Ridley Scott. There were enough scares and excitements despite the predictability of the plot, but at least significantly less ridiculousness than "Prometheus". And this time there were double the Michael Fassbenders who really carried the film on his god damn perfectly composed shoulders. 

From the opening shot and scene, Scott, his frequent cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and co-writer John Logan (he of the beautiful "Penny Dreadful" musings) established the aesthetics and theme of the film. Together with the ending, the short prologue beautifully bookend this film and heightens the expectations for the next instalment of the franchise. 

One of the biggest challenges of this franchise really how to keep it fresh. By now, even the most casual fans will know how the Xenomorph (or its variants) propagates and their arrival almost usually means a death (or two or three...) of the cast. Therefore, Scott really has to work on the origin story and also amp up his game on delivery thrills without turning in horror cliches or turning into torture-porn. And at least this round, with Logan, he weaved a philosophical - albeit superficial - exploration into Creationism and Free Will. 

Ultimately, kudos to Fassbender for effectively bringing this vision to life, alhough his experience in "Assassin Creed" must have came in useful. Nonetheless, Fassbender really has evolved into one of the more charismatic actors these days and he will often be the brightest spark in even the silliest and dullest film (see above "Assassin Creed"). 

The film's most beautiful scene was just an amazingly lensed, contemplative, long shot between two Fassbenders. The beauty was only broken by the nagging tug of "How did Scott et al shoot this scene?!"  

David may be one of Scott's greatest character creation in a long time, and this prequel series (almost like a mini-Prestige TV series) will hopefully afford Scott and Fassbender (and ?Logan) to do a deep dive into this fascinating Synthetic. 

Katherine Waterston carried on the mantle of the franchise's strong female lead but she fell more into the vein of Winona Ryder rather than Sigourney Weaver or Noomi Rapace. She was more believable in the quiet emotional scenes rather than the explosive badass moments. Her big fight moments felt under baked and victory undeserved - more luck than pluck. 

Billy Crudup replayed his usual character that he has so often been asked to portrayed. The stubborn, self-righteous pseudo-alpha. His character had potential but somehow just ended up being more bluster than real action. I have a feeling that his religion would have been more in the forefront if Logan had his way. 

Sadly, the rest of the crew were forgettable. Even Danny McBride's fourth-in-command was a thin sketch of a character. And if you had watched the pre-film teaser, don't expect James Franco to be any thing more than a blip; similarly, the LGBT couple had been scrubbed to "buddies" rather than lovers. 

As mentioned, Wolski did a great job lensing the film and Jed Kurzel scored the film adequately. And Milford Sound was a gorgeous choice to set the film in. 

When will the next film be out? And what will it be about now? Hopefully, maybe, Scott will turn the table around and do a quieter entry into mythology of the Xenomorphs. 

Stephen King's Doctor Sleep

This was unexpectedly good. It was not Oscar-winning good, but it was a thoroughly entertaining horror-thriller. Kudos to writer/director...