For One World To Live, The Other Must Die

Michael Bay

Mark Wahlberg
Laura Haddock
Anthony Hopkins
Isabela Moner

Years after the events of Transformers: Age Of Extinction, Cade Yeager [Wahlberg] is wanted by the law, as are every faction of Transformer, constantly hunted by the newly formed Transformer Reaction Force or TRF. Seeing it as his mission to protect the Autobots and defecting Decepticons, Cade sets up in a junk yard and assisting the robotic allies when he can. On one particularly scouting mission, he comes across Izabella, an orphan from the battle of Chicago (depicted two films ago) and an ancient Transformer who gives him a talisman. This alien artefact attaches itself to Cade and he is charged with a mission to find the staff of Merlin, which is actually Cybertronian technology. At the same time we are introduced to Professor Viviane Wembly [Haddock] who is kidnapped by her car (a hidden Transformer, obviously) and brought to the castle of Earl Edmund Burton [Hopkins] who has something very revealing inside into the secret history of the Transformers and the Earth itself.

Reviewing these films is a genuine chore; nothing about them really changes or evolves yet we are expected to critique them uniquely, when in truth copying and pasting would be just as sufficient. Seriously, how are these big bombastic films so boring and somehow so fucking successful? Things like Independence Day were undeniably dumb but they had intense spectacle and charm. The only similarity here is that Transformers is dumb, which is a genuinely painful thing to write because as much as this franchise is and always was promotional material for toys, it has the potential for an interesting story – but not in its current form and certainly not under Bay’s direction. Speaking of which, with this being Michael Bay’s last outing in the Transformers universe, there is a genuinely apparent attempt to give a bit of cohesion, closure and significance to all five of these movies – what with the Witwiccan line of succession and a laughable connection to essentially every famous or influential figure from history being aware of or complicit with Transformers – but it feels as dismissive and tacked on as every other plot development in this film; something to be wheeled out then flung in a ditch for something else to take its place.

Not wanting to break form with this fifth instalment, the key focus is still on the human characters. Cade’s once oh-so-important daughter is now absent because she’s in college and he’s a fugitive, so he’s just hanging out on Native American reservation territory, occasionally scouring the ruins of Chicago for parts and newly arrived transformers. Wahlberg continues to deliver as much zeal and enthusiasm as the previous film, in that he’s giving a reasonably energetic performance but there’s no heart behind any of it. Haddock does the best she can with her defiant, intelligent, hoity Oxbridge type who, in Mark Wahlberg’s words, dresses like a stripper. The film bites back saying, “How dare you, a woman can be both smart and sexy!” and while that’s completely true, this script has no idea what denotes intelligence outside of exposition, snobbery and various honorific titles. Isabela playing the role of Izabella is actually the most crushing for the fact that she is a rather promising young actor but this entire film wastes her in a nothing role of sass and tears. Izabella isn’t the only young character, as appeared in many of the trailers there are four boys who journey through the scarred Chicago but they are written out literally by the end of the scene, proving themselves to be unnecessary filler in a film that didn’t need any more bloody filler. Oh and Josh Duhamel’s back too.. but who cares? So aside from Anthony Hopkins (who I shall revisit later), that leaves us the mechanised cast. Everyone knows the score by now, Megatron will execute some terrible plan making him in fact a manipulated and inefficient pawn and Optimus will turn up and save the day, probably while monologuing “I.. am Optimus Prime” (He says it four times, if you’d like to know). Only this time, the twist is that Optimus has been brainwashed into attacking Earth, leaving the primary Autobot of choice Bumblebee. I’m pretty fucking sick of Bumblebee. This iteration is nauseating. He’s supposed to be some young, immature punk who uses various radio frequencies and recordings to communicate but that wore thin a long time ago. On top of that, they try to give him extra backstory by making him a World War II veteran (a point of such pride that he features in propaganda posters) which raises so many more questions and problems than anything else and the focus given on his real voice is so excruciating that it transcends moronic. There are also a string of other forgettable spinning cutlery characters. Fan favourite Hot Rod is finally here with weird blue bug eyes and a French voice actor because.. reasons? A submarine Transformer (I think) that didn’t actually transform and if it wasn’t a Transformer, someone needs to tell Bay how submarines actually work: loop-the-loops are not a thing. And finally Quintessa, the villain of this release. Why in the name of holy hell is Quintessa a tiny lady? I don’t get it. She’s five foot high and has a human face. There’s no explanation as to what she is or what her powers are but everyone seems to be aware of this previously unmentioned individual. Baffling. Holy shit, I just remembered that Cade has a side kick called Jimmy.. ah well, he literally does nothing.

The truth is I can’t hack whatever Bay has been producing these last ten years. From the marvellously cliché tropes to the bizarrely impossible tick-box features, Bayworld is mind-numbing. The way people talk, act, move, everything feels like a video game written by a twelve year old and I will openly concede that’s a straight-up insult to video games and twelve year olds. Nothing furthers character development or the plot, everything is shot and delivered as simplistically as possible into the camera. Characters feel a certain way? They will tell you. There’s no room for subtext or subtlety here. Want to liven the mood every ten goddamned minutes? Easy, simply chuck in a weirdly dated reference about J-Lo or Tiger Woods, either that or some other horrendously flat joke. And the film carries on like this for two and a half hours. A constant barrage of hollow flare paced with hideous attention-deficit skittishness. With frankly astonishing ease and brazenness we are taken from a poor man’s opening fight from Gladiator to a deserted town that feels like an asylum with a few randos milling around while buildings explode, all the while serving up helpings of objectification, over-sexualisation and barely-curbed racism. The script even does its best to self deprecatingly highlight its racist tendencies with a conversation between Cade and a Native American cop {Don’t call me Chief, it’s Sherman / Aren’t you the Chief of your people? / Yeah but coming from you it sounds vaguely racist} but despite that we still have characters like Mohawk who has a “street” dialect fresh out of Short Circuit 2 and a Vespa that can only say Chihuahua in a Latino voice because he’s broken. But I’m no longer surprised. These are not things that I am shocked to see, they are things I expect in this release. If anything, I’m more astounded when they aren’t present. They are as much directorial traits as long corridors are to Kubrick, I just don’t understand the base appeal; surely people aren’t that mouth-breathingly dumb.

To give a moment of positivity, Jablonsky continues to punch out his memorable and pounding theme which remains completely serviceable. The film even goes so far as to create a moment of levity to poke fun at how absurdly “epic” and over-the-top it can get. It’s not funny but that’s neither here-nor-there. I will also admit that as ridiculous as the story is, it’s actually much more straightforward than its predecessors: Optimus is turned evil by a witch who wants to use a magic stick to drain the Earth of power. Everyone races to find the stick. It’s not good and it overly contorts itself in the false assumption that this will make it seem clever but that doesn’t detract from the fact that I can sum up the basic core narrative easily. The cinematography is also astoundingly good. All those rich colours, deep contrasts and slo-mo nonsense are aided wonderfully by the scale and beauty of the IMAX cameras. The fact that 90% of this film is shot with IMAX makes the regular widescreen shots feel like odd choices but one cannot take away from how detailed everything feels. But, of course, all of that is shat in the bin due to the hyperactive editing we’re subjected to.

At this point you are either a committed cinematic Transformers fan (and may God have mercy on your soul) or you’re simply holding out for some sort of miracle when the next director comes along. Either way, I can’t see what people are getting out of these bloated, farcical messes as they deteriorate more and more with each passing feature. If I had to summarise the entire film in one sentence, something about the film that would either sell you on the release or give you cause to walk away, it would be: Mark Wahlberg grows a fucking sword to save a robot’s life. Do with that what you will.

Release Date:
23rd June 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
While searching through an old study for the magical staff of Merlin.. or Cybertron.. or whatever, Cade and Viviane tear the room apart barking out painful double-entendres that are supposed to infer to everyone else in the house that they are having wild, passionate sex. From the horny old dears who are desperate for this highly educated woman to simply find a man (one of whom is Rebecca bloody Front!), to dopey lines like, “Just shove it in there” the whole thing feels like something out of Austin Powers or a Carry On flick; made all the more agonising for the utter lack of emotion, passion or basic level give-a-shit that one would expect from a paycheque of this size.

Notable Characters:
With an uncomfortable degree of energy Anthony Hopkins really commits to this shit. He rattles off scores of lines about Transformers history and leans into every terrible joke about “snuggling Agnes” or who the hell ever. One could argue he did the same thing in the Thor franchise and while I would agree, it feels worse here. Like a grandparent who’s walked into a strip club and is drunkenly being brought on stage. I can’t tell if he’s into it or he’s just going along because everyone is cheering but I feel something terrible is happening. To top it off, he’s also accompanied by an absolutely infuriating side-kick that I don’t feel is worth mentioning on account of being a poorly written cretin.

Highlighted Quote:
“Something’s coming and you can’t shoot your way out of it”

In A Few Words:
“Transformers: The Last Knight somehow manages to show us everything that could happen in this film while simultaneously and paradoxically showing us absolutely nothing”

Total Score:



All You Need Is One Killer Track

Edgar Wright

Ansel Elgort
Lily James
Kevin Spacey

The titular Baby [Elgort] is a young and extremely talented driver working for a shady criminal group, run by Doc [Spacey], to pay off an accrued debt. Despite not working with the same crew twice, Doc insists Baby acts as driver on every heist. Thanks to a childhood accident, Baby developed tinnitus and uses a variety of musical tracks to enhance his focus, allowing him to perform incredibly impressive feats behind the wheel. With his debt almost paid off, Baby meets a young diner waitress, Debora [James] and becomes immediately enraptured. Both fall heavily for each other but Doc reveals that there is yet another job, reuniting Baby with felons Buddy, Darling and the extremely unstable Bats, played by Jon Hamm, Eiza González and Jamie Foxx respectively.

Aside from the colossal success of the Fast & Furious franchise, the “fast car” film isn’t nearly as prevalent or popular as it was in decades past. There have been a few notable revivals such as Death Proof, Drive and The Transporter which lean into the importance of the car itself as a setting or personality, ensuring the stunts have a weight and impact to them which simply can’t be replicated by computer generated effects. Baby Driver attempts the same thing and, when it works, is exceedingly commendable but with so many erratic cuts the achievement of the stunts in question are lost on the audience. In other words, fast paced camera movements and quick cuts butcher what should be a white-knuckle thrill ride, leaving us with a reasonably impressive but relatively hollow experience.

Before we go any further, we need to address what will no doubt be an unpopular opinion: Edgar Wright is not making good movies. To unpack that bold statement, let’s draw an unnecessarily unfavourable side-by-side comparison with someone like Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino’s career has been one of defiance, producing ambitious surprisingly humorous films that shouldn’t work or appeal to mainstream audiences but succeed all the same. In this regard, the two directors are alike. Tarantino’s love of classic cinema dictates how he writes and shoots a film. Wright is similarly influenced but doesn’t take the method onboard, choosing instead to employ his signature hyper-caffeinated style. With his earlier projects, this was welcome and very refreshing but it doesn’t automatically translate to every story type. Then we have the musical influence, Tarantino has never trusted composers to score his films, choosing obscure tracks that he likes – much to a film’s detriment, in my opinion – but this toe-tapping, head-nodding mixtape of hits is something audience members seem to love, especially with the same method adopted for something like Guardians Of The Galaxy. As with Guardians, Baby Driver’s inclusion of these tracks has an actual narrative grounding but the choice of tracks is much more on-the-nose and lacks that obscurity. In other words, you love the track because you love the film not love the film because you love the track.

But to address the specifics of not making good movies, Wright’s latest releases have been perfectly acceptable but all of them have faltered in the script phase. Scott Pilgrim was a great adaptation that fell apart at the end because it didn’t understand its main character, The World’s End introduced some very interesting ideas about identity and growing up but failed to execute any of them pleasingly and Baby Driver tries so hard to be cool but the final product is very sophomoric, bringing to life an idea of coolness as conjured up by a teenager. I will be the first to admit there is an exceptionally high amount of really inventive and entertaining moments or scenes but the story as a whole is so incredibly thin and derivative; while it may be a popular move, the story of a criminal who says “One more job, then I’m out” is eye-rollingly cliché. Subsequently, we’re left with a music video movie montage that is very much 70/30 style to substance with each individual segment having some standout thrilling moments but little to actually invest in. A great many critics watched Ant-Man and mused how exciting it could have been had Wright stayed on as director. Well, now that we’ve witnessed an Edgar Wright heist film, I think Ant-Man dodged a bullet.

To ease back on the berating for a second, there are plenty of elements present that really elevate this film. Wright’s biggest problem seems to be the scripts he produces but the level of detail and on-screen flare is extremely impressive. Say what you will about the motivation for anything any of the characters do, no one can deny that some physical article that could be background or minuscule has been meticulously thought out, even to the degree that it directly affects camera movement or placement. During one of the opening sequences, Baby leaves the safehouse to pick up coffee, subtly dancing to the rhythm of his selected track – it’s the kind of free escapism that many of us feel but few ever act upon. So that relatability alone makes for a fun scene. In the background, however, through the use of graffiti, posters and signs we see the lyrics of the song discreetly manifesting around the lead. The amount of planning and prep work that must have gone into getting that to line up must have been quite extensive and really speaks volumes to Wright’s skill as a visual director. But as I said before, this is a music video trope, without furthering the story it becomes little more than a gimmick – to me, the most successful use of this kind of direction was Webb’s eclectic stylings in 500 Days Of Summer. But the fact this level of scrutiny has been utilised here makes it even more frustrating that it’s not present in the story.

But even when a film’s plot falters, sometimes we can be sucked in by charm, by the performances, by the desire to see these people either fail or succeed. At times, Wright has created nuanced, interesting and deep character portrayals but mostly they are two dimensional one-note jokes. Most notably, we need to talk about how Wright portrays women. In literally every release he’s produced, women are such an afterthought; reactionary, weak, undeveloped and inconsequential. The first of our two token female characters in Baby Driver are Buddy’s partner in crime, Darling, who is little more than a sex object. She is Buddy’s plus one and while he gets a backstory about his cocaine-addled Wall Street banker days, she is reduced to “his favourite stripper.” Sure they’d die for each other, or whatever, but she seems to have no discernable and unique skill or ability other than she comes packaged with Jon Hamm’s character. Then we have Debora, the film’s female lead. Now I’ll openly admit the central love interests are both fittingly “weird” in their own right and wear their quirks on their sleeves but, much like Darling, while Baby is given a great deal of backstory, motivation and personality, Debora is just along for the ride because she falls madly in love with this mysterious enigmatic young man. We are given a brief glimpse into some sort of backstory about having someone to care for but that’s really it. This woman exists as a diner waitress solely looking for someone to latch on to. I mean, we’ve got the oedipal thing going on in that Baby ends up falling for a waitress who not only works at the diner his mother did but looks oddly similar but none of that expands on who this woman is. She just meets this guy, gets swept up in the journey and is little more than a pawn to be manipulated and dictated to from start to finish. If it was a one-off I wouldn’t lay into so much but literally EVERY SINGLE Edgar Wright film produces these laughable female characters and it’s fucking tiring. The other thugs appear in two forms, bumbling ineptitude or menacing villain. The only one who sort of walks an interesting line is Buddy but even then he eventually declines into a Michael Myers style adversary who simply won’t die – I don’t know if the film intentionally foreshadows that or not but given Wright’s tendency to hide clues, it’s more than possible.

But what of Baby himself? Ansel Elgort gives us a wistful, borderline spectrum performance with a lot of energy and slick James Dean suaveness and his fascination with music feels like a fairly natural and logical feature, all things considered. I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely convinced of the transition between awkward dreamy kid to parkour menace who pulls a Batman every five minutes by miraculously disappearing into thin air, nor was it clear when the hell this film was set, drawing on both a childhood with seventies and early 2000’s vibes simultaneously but we can all suspend a modicum of disbelief. To a point. Toward the end of the film, the gun-toting practically psychotic Bats makes an incredibly astute observation in that you can’t trust someone who hasn’t got their mind on the mission. Having worked with a previous driver who had to listen to a certain track made him a liability, jeopardising a job because several “hex songs” came on the radio. This sets up a potentially wonderful and disastrous predicament for Baby that eventually arrives when he steals a car and races through radio stations looking for an appropriate track but nothing comes of it. After revealing this kid’s kryptonite, there’s no fallout when he encounters that very problem – which is such a wasted opportunity for depth and originality.

Ultimately, Baby Driver is an escapist film, one reliant upon sheer looks and slick action. There’s evidently a heart desperately trying to push through but it gets lost in trite developments and a few confused messages along the way. While this will be enough to seduce the bulk of cinemagoers, I can’t help but feel disappointed with something that failed to really push the boundaries in terms of excitement or fun.

Release Date:
30th June 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoilers within**
One of Baby’s little quirks is his obsession with making recordings of people and sampling them into electronic music. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this kind of character attribute but holy fuck if it’s not the stupidest thing to do in a film involving criminals. The second it’s revealed that he records almost all of his heist missions, I was convinced the tapes would play a large role in exposing the crime syndicate or used as leverage. Instead, Baby innocently explains they are simply mixes and the consequences are all but non-existent. It’s frankly astonishing. The tapes, by the way, aren’t then destroyed, they are just kept to one side. It’s an absolutely fascinatingly dumb inclusion that makes so little sense outside of the nostalgic use of tapes and personal mixes – which are growing in popularity with a generation who didn’t really have cassette tapes.

Notable Characters:
**Spoilers again**
Kevin Spacey’s character is very vanilla. Not because the portrayal is bad or the character is flat but because there’s nothing especially new to it. Doc could easily be any number of Spacey’s previous roles, albeit watered down. What really irked me, though, was the dramatic tonal shift by the end fo the film. Throughout we learn that Doc is some powerful kingpin with whom Baby has a huge debt to clear. Once he’s finally cleared it, he mistakenly believes he can walk away from the criminal life. At that point, Doc reappears and does the typical crime boss thing and threatens death or physical harm to Baby and everyone he knows or cares about; revealing that he has known all about everything Baby has tried to keep private – again, a standard genre trope. But it’s evident that Doc has a soft-spot for Baby and genuinely wants to work with him. All fair and good so far, I’ll even give a pass to Doc trying to defend Baby’s bloody tapes but to then suffer a major personality shift just because the plot required it felt so cheap. Essentially, despite refusing to help the kid, Doc goes on to not only return a specific tape but gives him a stack of money, a car to escape with and then sacrifices himself taking on the cops and a vengeful Buddy. The seeds were there – buried deep but still present – but nothing on a level to warrant that kind of action.

Highlighted Quote:
“Who doesn’t like hats?”

In A Few Words:
“Rather than a refreshing, fun, cool, polished romp Baby Driver is a bromidic damp squib”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #192

[18 June 2017]

Winning Team:
Genre – Insanity: the martial arts edition

Runners Up:
The Wuxia Tang Clan
Genre – A rap group incorporate martial arts into their performance
Shaolin Sucker
Genre – Terrifying kung-fu film based entirely around felatio
Thrush Hour… With Sexy Results
Genre – Jackie Chan helps Chris Rock retrace all his ex-girlfriends from the previous three movies and have ‘that’ conversation
Drunken Masters Of Losing
Genre – Losing is just what we do

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of the cannibal psychiatrist in The Silence Of The Lambs and Hannibal?
2. Mathieu Kassovitz’s La Haine is set in which country?
3. Disney’s Tangled is based on which fairy tale?
4. What colour is Darth Vader’s lightsaber?
5. What is the name of Charlie Chaplin’s most iconic role?
6. The following quote is from which film, “You stay classy, San Diego”?
7. Who directed Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish and Alice In Wonderland?
8. Gladiator was released in which year?
9. In which Toy Story instalment are Woody and Buzz donated to a day care nursery?
10. Who played the lead role in The Grey?

ROUND II: Filming [Martial Arts Special]
1. Who played the lead role in the Ip Man trilogy? Stephen Chow? Donnie Yen? Tony Jaa?
2. Fist Of Fury was released in which year? 1961? 1968? 1972?
3. Kung Fu Hustle was shot in which language? Korean? Mandarin? Cantonese?
4. Jackie Chan’s Drunken Master was released in 1978, when was The Legend Of Drunken Master released? 1982? 1994? 2006?
5. Who directed 2013’s The Grandmaster? Kar-wai Wong? Ang Lee? Fruit Chan Gor?
6. The Ong-Bak series is set in which country? Japan? Thailand? Indonesia?
7. Jet Li’s Fearless is set in which century 5th/400s? 16th/1500s? 19th/1800s?
8. Which film tells the story of a masked doctor who steals from corrupt authorities and gives to the poor? The Man From Nowhere? The 36th Chamber Of Shaolin? Iron Monkey?
9. House Of Flying Daggers’ original title is Shi Mian Mai Fu; what is its literal translation? For Honour And Revenge? Strike In Bamboo Kingdom? Ambushed From Ten Directions?
10. All the guns in The Raid were plastic so all the muzzle flashes were added digitally. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What are the titles of the two The Mummy sequels and four spin-offs? (one point per correct answer)
2. Predator 2 was released in which year?
3. What is Sandy’s surname in Grease?
4. How old is Elliott in ET?
5. Which film starred Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, John Candy and Jim Belushi?
6. The following quote is from which Marvel film, “You gave me this mission. This is how it ends”?
7. How many films has Guy Ritchie directed to date?
NINE (Lock Stock, Snatch, Swept Away, Revolver, RocknRolla, Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes 2, The Man From UNCLE, King Arthur)
8. Following songs from which film: Everybody Needs Somebody To Love, Sweet Home Chicago, Flip Flop & Fly and Rawhide?
9. The following is the poster tagline for which 90’s comedy, “Love is wonderful. Until it happens to your only daughter”?
10. What is the name of the film in which Robin Williams plays Leslie Zevo, a man who fights his uncle for the rights to the family toy factory?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. In Edge Of Tomorrow, which country do the mimics first attack? Germany? France? Spain?
2. Zach, Gray, Owen and Claire are characters in which Jurassic Park sequel? The Lost World: Jurassic Park? Jurassic Park III? Jurassic World?
3. What is the name given to the titular monster in Creature From The Black Lagoon? Gill-Man? Lagoon Beast? Webbed Menace?
4. A post credits sequence is most commonly referred to as what? Tail trailer? The After Dinner Mint? Monk’s reward?
5. Who directed 2006’s Dreamgirls? Rob Marshall? Bill Condon? Susan Stroman?
6. The following is a quote from which film, “Someone doesn’t have to weaponise the bird flu, the birds are doing that”? 2012? Zero Dark Thirty? Contagion?
7. Animated feature Persepolis was released in which year? 2007? 2009? 2012?
8. What is the subtitle for City Slickers 2? Mitch Returns? The Slickers Ride Again? The Legend Of Curly’s Gold?
9. What is the name of the Hun villain in Mulan? Shan Yu? Khan? Yao?
10. The song The Hanging Tree in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 is actually sung by Lorde, not Jennifer Lawrence. True or False?

Screenshots: Star Trek / Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan / Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home / Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Poster: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Actor: Leonard Nimoy


Welcome To A New World Of Gods And Monsters

Alex Kurtzman

Tom Cruise
Sofia Boutella
Annabelle Wallis
Russell Crowe

In the heart of Iraq, ex-military adventurer Nick Morton [Cruise] uncovers an Egyptian tomb hundreds of miles from Egypt. This discovery is the life’s work of archaeologist Jenny Halsey [Wallis] and she immediately takes over the excavation. Rushed for time, with insurgents closing in, the group airlift out the key discovery: the sarcophagus of Princess Ahmanet [Boutella], written out of history for her crimes. While flying over the United Kingdom, the plane carrying Nick, Jenny and the mummified Ahmanet is attacked by a flock of crows which causes the plane to crash. Miraculously Nick manages to survive and is told by Dr Henry Jekyll [Crowe] that he is cursed and Ahmanet’s resurrected body will pursue him to complete a ritual which will bring Set, the god of the dead, to life.

After three separate introductions (in the form of a title card, a weirdly disconnected section about crusaders and flashbacks detailing Ahmanet’s cursing) we finally meet the main character and as he runs around Iraq looking for buried treasure and fighting terrorism in the process. Following this vapid, opportunistic treasure hunter and his quipping side-kick, there is a distinct air of trying to revive the campy 90’s The Mummy feel but largely fails on account of Cruise feeling stunted in the role. His attempts at wacky, witty and charming comes off very.. for lack of a better word.. Transformers; like a string of poorly written videogame dialogue that emulates how humans talk but sounds ridiculous. As such, we are left with a film that has the most baffling shifting tone. On the one hand, it thinks it’s a comedy and on the other a horror film. Obviously films can quite happily and easily be classified as both but this embodies neither and feeling more like a flat, overly CGI version of An American Werewolf In London than any iteration of The Mummy.

Staying with Cruise for a moment, of his roles to date, it’s evident he is best suited as a villain but so rarely plays them. This cocky anti-hero who needs to grow up (a role usually associated with younger men) in no way stretches him and feels unpleasantly hollow and unsettling; which is doubly odd as almost exactly the same thing worked masterfully in Edge Of Tomorrow. As far as acting goes, he does a perfectly acceptable job but it doesn’t fit this film, what we end up with is a completely reactionary character (admittedly not unusual in horror) who thinks he’s a charismatic Indiana Jones type. On top of that, despite being completely insignificant, we are constantly told that Nick has the key to defeating this ultimate evil, that he has the potential within to be the best of humanity. There’s little-to-no evidence that points to this but the fact that he continually resists Ahmanet’s brainwashing and – enormous spoiler coming up – can eventually control Set, he evidently must be something special; either that or Set is a pushover.

In supporting roles, we have the exposition spouting unnecessary love interest, Annabelle Wallis. Much like Cruise, there’s nothing offensively bad about the acting bar the fact that the character is poorly written. She starts as some sort of headstrong, stubborn expert – we know she’s an expert thanks to her analysis of the tomb being devoid of assumption because confidence in archaeology translates to fact, apparently – but is quickly reduced to a panicky besotted pawn who continually mutters, shouts, screams and wimpers the word “Nick.” For me, her shining moment was loading Ahmanet’s body onto the military transport plane. She clears away several army personnel and chastises them for their lack of delicacy and care, “Please be careful! This is 5000 years old!” You mean the sarcophagus we just flew around by helicopter, across the desert, on some rope? Yeah, we’ll be careful. The other key role is the titular antagonist herself, Ahmanet. To date I haven’t seen a bad performance from Sofia Boutella and in spite of this pretty dire release, I can thankfully say that statement still stands as true. Through the CGI, the heavy make-up and the barely-present costume, Boutella personifies the unstoppable force with decent flare but regrettably lacks enough layering to make her interesting. Which leaves us with one of the biggest surprises. I think Russell Crowe’s performance as both Jekyll and Hyde will be quite polarising but personally I found it rather pleasing. The mechanics of his changing and exactly when and why he needs the serum is unclear to say the least but overall it worked for me.

The biggest problem The Mummy faces is its sheer lack of creativity. With so much to draw from in terms of mythology and the expanded universe of monstrous creatures, we should have something reminiscent of the manic world of Hellboy but the monsters and Egyptian lore that justifies the film’s existence is merely used as a reference point; more goes into the burial site than the mummification itself, the dagger and the stone are important to bring Set into physical form but it’s not entirely apparent how or why, for a god of death Set is a non-entity presented as a shadowy, stumbling, dusty corpse (I think), the resolve of how to combat evil is very uninventive and the world building necessary to draw us in simply isn’t there. On top of that, we’ve also got an exceptional amount of disorientating, choppy editing and so much bland CGI, all of which is accompanied by a bland, uninspired score which, compared to Jerry Goldsmith’s amazing work on The Mummy, is practically unforgivable. And to finish the film off we have a final lackluster fight which reminded me of one of the Underworld films, the first of which was a better film despite having no budget and being released a decade and a half ago.. even bloody Van Helsing was better than this.

The idea of a shared universe for the Universal monsters (the ownership of which is very dubious as all of them are based on other properties that Universal simply happened to acquire) has been tried over and over. The closest success would have to be something like Penny Dreadful but that’s only because it established an appropriate tone from the get-go and built up entertaining characters for us to follow. The 1932 original The Mummy was a creepy foreign-based supernatural horror, while its 1999 remake was a silly fun adventure. Despite trying so hard, I think the only way to categorise this release is action and for a foundation for a sprawling cinematic universe, it’s incredibly weak. But then this raises the question of when this Dark Universe first started. On the one hand Dracula Untold was the first instalment but after it wasn’t especially well received, that idea was supposedly abandoned, so on the other hand we have the extra confusion that apparently the Brendan Fraser Mummy trilogy is apparently canon. It’s this kind of messy leaps-and-bounds style franchise launching that causes films to suffer. Too many potentially promising projects have fallen by the side of the road thanks to overstuffing standalone features with future set-ups that compromise the story itself. I mean, they gave this thing a fucking logo.. the sheer arrogance is astounding. But having said that, after three rather disappointing instalments, it seems to be working for DC, so maybe the studios can wait it out until it happens to get good. But as a contained story, while this may please certain cinemagoers, it is a very weak and unimpressive film.

Release Date:
9th June 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
I maintain this version of The Mummy is without personality and any intended jokes fall flat but there is one instance, very early on, that amused me for some unknown reason. To establish the geographical setting when introducing Nick at the start of the film, we are shown the stone ruins of some ancient settlement. A line of on-screen text explains this is Mesopotamia before further revealing “the cradle of civilization.” It then adds the punchline, “Currently known as Iraq” before bullets rip through the historic statues and we see an ISIS-like insurgent group attempting to destroy anything considered contradictory to their warped extremist view. That one line held so much promise; the idea that tomb raiding takes place now as a matter of urgency while irreplaceable relics are destroyed by fundamentalists. Unfortunately, nothing the film presents lives up to that promise.

Notable Characters:
Joining Nick on his desert adventures – and later as a cursed being haunting Nick’s subconscious – is Jake Johnson as Chris Vail. I fucking hated this character. I don’t know if it was just weakly scripted dialogue or too much pressure on the actor to adlib his way to cinematic gold but he fails miserably. Chris is an awful unfunny buddy character but on top of that, he only shows up when the plot remembers that he exists. It’s like the writers wrote themselves into a corner and resolved the issue by saying, “Oh! Chris! We’ll just have Chris turn up and .. I dunno, say something funny and show Nick the way. Sorted.”

Highlighted Quote:
“I’ve seen evil and I see the face of Satan in your new friend, Henry”

In A Few Words:
“A tick-box, made by committee exercise if ever I saw one”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #191

[04 June 2017]

Winning Team:
Horse Head Hippies
Genre – Activists draw attention to the plight of horses by placing imitation horse heads in beds

Runners Up:
Home Corleone …With Sexy Results
Genre – When Michael’s “family” go on holiday to Sicily and accidentally leave him behind, he is forced to defend the “family” home with cannolis
The Codfather Part II
Genre – James Pond conducts a secret war against the yakuza for control of the local sushi dealerships
The Furry Godmother
Genre – A young naïve cosplayer finds a heavily musked fox’s head in their hotel bed after refusing an offer to attend a future furry convention and offending the furry godmother
The Dogfeathers
Genre – The story of a dyslexic mafia family constantly mis-speaking/reading instructions “I’ll make you an offal you can’t refuse”

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Notebook is an adaptation of which novel by Nicholas Sparks?
2. What colour is Gandalf’s beard in The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King?
3. What is the first rule of Fight Club?
4. The Pai Mei sequences in Kill Bill, take place in which volume?
5. Graham Chapman portrays which English king in Monty Python & The Holy Grail?
6. What is the name of the film in which Phil, Stu and Alan try to recall the drunken events from the previous night, in order to locate their friend Doug?
7. How many films are in the Lethal Weapon franchise?
8. Which actor played the lead role in Serpico?
9. Which was the first Fast & Furious film to feature Dwayne Johnson?
10. In what year was The Karate Kid released?

ROUND II: Filming [The Godfather Trilogy Special]
1. Who played the role of Tom Hagen in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II? James Caan? Robert Duvall? George Hamilton?
2. In The Godfather, Clemenza instructs Rocco to leave the gun but take which desert? Profiteroles? Doughnuts? Cannoli?
3. The Godfather Part III was released in which year? 1988? 1990? 1994?
4. What is the name of Michael Corleone’s daughter played by Sofia Coppola? Anne? Mary? Catherine?
5. In The Godfather, what message do Sollozzo’s men send the Corleone family regarding Luca Brasi’s offer? Fish wrapped in a bulletproof vest? A bag of oranges with a knife through them? Wine bottles filled with bullet casings?
6. Which director did Coppola choose to direct The Godfather Part II, before the studio insisted Coppola return? Martin Scorsese? George Lucas? Steven Spielberg?
7. How many of its 11 Oscar nominations did The Godfather Part II win? 2? 6? 10?
8. The following quote is from which Godfather release, “There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He taught me keep your friends close but your enemies closer”? Part I? Part II? Part III?
9. Who was originally cast to play Michael Corleone’s daughter? Sandra Bullock? Famke Janssen? Winona Ryder?
WINONA RYDER (she withdrew to appear in Edward Scissorhands)
10. Marlon Brando’s mouthpiece from The Godfather is on display in the American Museum Of Moving Imagine in New York. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which film starred Ben Affleck, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds and Ray Liotta?
2. Stage Beauty, starring Billy Crudup and Claire Danes, tells the story of the first female what?
3. The following quote is from which film, “It only matters that we act now, before we lose the war. Otherwise this will always be Hitler’s Germany.”
4. In The Matrix, the sign in the Oracle’s kitchen reads Temet Nosce, according to the film, what does this mean?
5. What is the name of the lead character in A Bug’s Life?
6. What did Barry Sonnenfeld direct in between Get Shorty and Wild Wild West?
7. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “The creators of Jaws and Star Wars now bring you the ultimate hero in the ultimate adventure”?
8. Who played the lead role in Oliver Stone’s Presidential biopic, Nixon?
9. What is the name of the Joker’s lead henchman in Batman?
10. How many kids make up The Goonies?
SEVEN [Mikey / Mouth / Data / Brand / Chunk / Andy / Stef]

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. How many times is it mentioned in The Big Lebowski that the Dude’s rug really tied the room together? 5? 12? 36?
2. What do Garry and Wyatt name their female creation, in Weird Science? Missy? Lisa? Pamela?
3. Which director said, “The most honest form of filmmaking is to make a film for yourself”? Werner Herzog? Peter Jackson? Martin Scorsese?
4. What year was Lady And The Tramp released? 1955? 1964? 1972?
5. The alien (and main villain) in Stargate assumed the identity of which ancient Egyptian god? Ra? Horus? Anubis?
6. In which film do Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi and Jim Carrey play Las Vegas magicians? Sleight Of Hand? Backwards In An Alley? The Incredible Burt Wonderstone?
7. Errol Flynn co-starred with Olivia de Havilland in how many films? 3? 8? 17?
8. In the Pirates Of The Caribbean films what is Captain Barbossa’s first name? Hector? Theodore? Weatherby?
9. The Name Of The Rose, starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater, is set in which country? France? Italy? Austria?
10. Edward G Robinson’s final scene before he died was a death scene. True or False?
TRUE (it was for Soylent Green and he died 10 days after shooting was completed)

Screenshots: Bad Neighbours / The Lorax / 17 Again / High School Musical 2
Poster: Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates
Actor: Zac Efron


Courage. Power. Wonder.

Patty Jenkins

Gal Gadot
Chris Pine
Danny Huston

Framed after the events in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Wonder Woman is the origin story of the titular character who was very briefly introduced in the previous instalment. Telling the story of both the Amazons (created by Zeus to defend mankind) and Themyscira (the hidden paradise island that the Amazons reside on to avoid being discovered by Ares, the god of war) we are already treated to a wealth of exposition before we even get to the origin of Diana [Gadot]; the only child on the island who was built from clay by her mother, Queen Hippolyta [Nielsen]. As time passes, Diana is trained harder than any other Amazon but her life is thrown into turmoil when an American World War I spy, Steve Trevor [Pine], accidentally finds his way to the island, pursued by the German navy. Being the first man to visit the island, the Amazons argue over what should be done but when Diana learns of the Great War she claims it is her sacred duty to fight, believing that this is the work of their long dormant adversary, Ares. Meanwhile we are also introduced to war-hungry General Ludendorff [Huston] and his twisted cohort Dr Maru (dubbed Dr Poison) [Elena Anaya] who are busying themselves creating the ultimate destructive gas, to be utilised before a peace treaty can be signed.

With the post-Nolan DC adaptations being complete disappointments, so much has been placed on this film’s shoulders: Wonder Woman as a character has never headlined her own live-action feature film, a female-led superhero film is something of an extreme rarity – especially with a budget of this size – and that’s before we even get to the socio-political significance and representation that Wonder Woman embodies. Seriously, it’s a daunting task, if a film underperforms no one (outside of the financial backers) bats an eyelid but one that people have projected so many hopes and dreams on, quickly becomes a thing of nervous hype. The relaunch of Star Wars, the first Avengers release, the eventual Black Panther film, these movies end up inheriting qualities above their station as simple entertainment and become either a model for things to come or a chance to rewrite how films are made/cast/watched. As such, Wonder Woman will be viewed in one of two different ways: firstly, as a piece of entertainment and secondly as a banner/call to arms for all female-led blockbuster releases. Thankfully, in my opinion, Wonder Woman absolutely excels at both.

Stepping away from the flailing foot-finding of its fellow DCEU films, this release is the perfect combination of fantasy, action and levity. In terms of content, the narrative is strong, straightforward and powerful, the production design is glorious, drawing on set and costume elements from mythology and our own history, the action is creative yet grounded when it needs to be and the whole film evokes a comic book sensationalism that one would expect while displaying a key amount of core earnestness and emotional resonance. What’s also impressive is that the jarring guitar riffing theme that was present in Batman v Superman has been incorporated masterfully by Rupert Gregson-Williams without relying on it, to the degree that I actually enjoyed hearing it rather than resorting to wincing every time it reared its head.

As mentioned, other than simply being a functional superhero release, there was a lot of expectation for this movie to address the cinematic gender imbalance; Wonder Woman, through key developments and a handful of lines goes further and briefly touches on racial equality too. But at its core, the film is really ploughing the road for a female hero who everyone can rally behind and a lot of that comes from the central performance. While she didn’t get a chance to do much of anything in Batman v Superman, Gal Gadot shines here as the feisty, determined but also innocent Diana. As much as I am loathe to draw a Marvel comparison (because that shouldn’t be necessary), Diana possesses all the positive qualities of both Thor and Captain America, giving us the humorous fish-out-of-water experience paired with superhuman strength and a sincere eagerness to better humanity through example and strength of spirit. As it currently stands, DC’s most interesting, vibrant, compassionate and powerful character is Wonder Woman and I frankly love that.

As with all films of this nature, the lead takes the spotlight and others follow suit as supports. There could be a reasonable argument made that for all the progressive forwardness, once Diana leaves Themyscira, she is at the mercy of men. While I appreciate the point, I would disagree, highlighting that the film is a) navigating issues inherited from the comic and b) as a newcomer to “the world of men,” of course Diana would be best guided through it by a group of men so she could then critique its failings. Which is why casting Chris Pine as the charming and equally noble Steve Trevor was a stroke of genius. He plays the supporting role well enough, constantly underestimating Diana and translating his world to her without ever feeling like an upstaging. A fact that, now I’ve typed it out, is shocking that I should even have to acknowledge. I could also be wrong but when Wonder Woman (who has no need to observe time in the same way mortals do) laughs at Steve’s watch saying, “You let that little thing tell you what to do” I’m quietly confident that was a well-placed and subtle dick joke. The other Amazons are decently cast – although fall into the background outside of Diana’s mother and aunt – and the villainous roles are complex enough that if I talk about it in too much detail, I’d spoil the film but each of the three “bad guy” components were well handled – although I really feel Dr Poison could have been explored more.

For all its achievements, Wonder Woman is far from perfect and suffers in two crucial factors. While the direction is very impressive, the editing during the fight scenes felt a little choppy at times, mixing impossible camera movements swirling around computer generated body doubles with in-camera static shots of flying fists. Far from terrible and very much present in most big-budget releases of this kind but still a distinct separation that I don’t care for. The second issue is actually along the same vein and relates to said CGI; specifically how some of it was very questionable. I appreciate these DC films are going for a shared aesthetic but if they plan on reducing every film to a final night-time fight sequence with long shots of people being hurled around with a lack of weight to it all, we’re already on a downward spiral. The final fight very much slips into Man Of Steel/Batman v Superman territory and could have been handled better but the fact Wonder Woman’s big boss fight is against an old white man feels extremely fitting. The only thing that rained on the film’s parade a little (and this could be construed as a spoiler, so you’ve been warned) is that the joviality that is shared at the close of the war feels uncomfortable. All I kept thinking was, “Good thing there wasn’t a second world war.. oh wait.” But that’s hardly the fault of the film and to be honest, would be present in any narrative set at the end of World War I.

While this won’t please everyone and, as an effective standalone origin, certainly doesn’t save the ongoing DC franchise, I feel it is more than worthy of exceptional praise and deserves to do profoundly well.

Release Date:
2nd June 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
I was going to highlight the exposition method of detailing the Amazon’s history utilising the style of an epic oil painting and while it’s extremely noteworthy, I highlight these cutaway elements all too often. In truth, there are several standout moments. Watching a young Diana punching at the air desperate to be a fellow Amazon was both cute and marvellous, Diana’s first interaction with ice cream was funny and appreciated as a comic fan, Diana defiantly walking out into No Man’s Land was superbly inspirational and her desire to help those who were suffering was genuinely moving. This is honestly a film of great moments and to highlight one would be pretty stupid, so any of the above will do nicely.

Notable Characters:
Much in the same way that any actor tries to put their mark on an adapted character, Gadot really defines the role with a maturity I had not seen in any of her previous performances. Part of that comes from the fact that in the comics and other media adaptations she is presented in so many different ways but mostly it’s from the script and her performance. On so many occasions Diana confronts Steve, earnestly pleading with him that the world shouldn’t be the cesspit it has become or expressing outrage at the treatment of people and the attitudes of generals and politicians whom she labels as cowards. And the beauty is that she is right. All too often we are unable to see our faults for being too close to them and thanks to one hundred years of hindsight we too can scoff and say, “Who are these stuffy, moustached blowhards? She’s trying to fix this mess!” but I feel this film is also taking a stance against our current situation and saying, “It’s not enough” and THAT is where this film’s true power lies.

Highlighted Quote:
“You think it’s just one man to blame.. its not.. maybe we’re all to blame”

In A Few Words:
“A sublime release rife with action, spectacle and a surprising amount of comedic intervals”

Total Score: