Hotel Artemis

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Drew Pearce

Starring: Jodie Foster, Dave Bautista, Sterling K. Brown, Charlie Day, Zachary Quinto, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate, and Kenneth Choi

The elephant in the room with Hotel Artemis, is that you spend the movie waiting for it to tie into the John Wick universe. It doesn’t happen. It’s an original story, but,it’s setting is awfully familiar to those Keanu films, which can rob the film of some thrills. Director/writer Drew Pearce had this idea in mind before John Wick came out, but timing is everything. Drew Pearce is a writer best known for his work on Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible – Rouge Nation, and is stepping behind the camera here to direct his first feature. He’s assembled a fantastic cast, and directs from a script he has written himself.

Hotel Artemis is hotel for criminals. In a future L.A. Two brothers, Sterling K. Brown and Brian Tyree Henry, retreat to the hotel after a robbery gone wrong during a riot. They are both injured, and the hotel acts as a hospital for criminals. Somewhere where they can get patched up without worrying about cops, or other criminals due to the Hotel’s strict rules. On duty are the unlikely pairing of Jodie Foster’s Nurse, and Dave Bautista’s Orderly. Their job is to patch people up and make sure no one breaks the rules, but with the discovery of an injured cop, and the imminent arrival of the hotels owner, they may have to break some of the rules themselves.

Criminal underworld with its own mythology, a hotel filled with assassins who have to obey rules not to kill anyone, and some fantastic hand to hand combat fight scenes. It’s easy to see where those John Wick comparisons lie. There are plenty of interesting and fun ideas to explore here, but they’ve all been bought up in the John Wick films. It’s a shame, because otherwise we would be talking about an incredibly original new film. That aside though, this film is a real blast from start to finish, and that’s mainly down to a fantastic script from Drew Pearce. It’s fast paced, and funny. Subverting the genre in interesting ways, whilst leaning on tropes in others. It’s by far the coolest movie of the year; the film looks fantastic, a decaying hotel filled with well dressed cons, the dialogue is sharp, and the soundtrack is fantastic.

The cast are uniformly great, and it’s awesome to see Jodie a Foster take on this role, something we’re not used to seeing her do. Dave Bautista is amazing fun, proving again that there’s a lot more to him than Drax from Guardians Of The Galaxy, and Sterling K. Brown fills the leading man role nicely. It’s also nice to see Sofia Boutella bouncing back after the disaster that was The Mummy. Pearce fits a lot of story into a relatively short run time, and makes efficient use of his one location. If the dialogue is the centrepiece for most of the movie, the bulk of the action is saved for the climax, and it doesn’t disappoint.

Pearce has crafted a uniquely cool picture, it’s just a shame that the most fascinating aspect of his script has already been done in other movies. It’s still a really fun film, but you can’t help but wonder if you’d have enjoyed it more if it was the first time you’d been introduced to the main concept.

7/10

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. J.A. Bayona

Starring: Bryce Dallas Howard, Chris Pratt, Jeff Goldblum, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Rafe Spall, Ted Levine, Justice Smith, Toby Jones, BD Wong, and Isabella Sermon.

I have a huge amount of reverence for Jurassic Park. It was easily one of my favourite movies growing up. I had it recorded on VHS from a television broadcast, and I watched it constantly. I wore that tape out. That being said, when I saw the two sequels at the same age, I instantly forgot them. These were not movies that I had on repeat. When Jurassic World came out, I did really enjoy it. It played on the nostalgia I had for that first movie. Yes, it took me down a well trodden path, but one that I was happy to stroll down. Going into Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I was worried that we would just get a re-tread of The Lost World, a film I have no reverence for. Smartly they’ve decided to take the franchise down a different path, but with all the possibilities available it’s surprising that this is the story they have chosen to tell.

We pick up six months down the road from Jurassic World. The dinosaurs are free, and have been left alone on Isla Nublar. Problems have arisen though when a dormant volcano on the island suddenly becomes active. Bryce Dallas Howard returns as Claire, who is heading a charity campaigning to save the dinosaurs from certain death. When government officials decide to leave the dinosaurs to their fate, Claire is approached by Benjamin Lockwood, John Hammond’s business partner who helped usher in the cloning technology. He has a plan to save the dinosaurs, and get them to a sanctuary. He needs Claire’s help to locate the creatures on the island. To rescue Blue, the last raptor, they will need to enlist the help of Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady.

The trailer for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was perhaps the worst cut trailer I have seen all year. It seemed that it showed too much, but in fact it only showed footage from the first 50 minutes. It’s a shame though because this is defiantly a film of two halves, and for me the first half was more interesting, but I knew every beat before I went in. The second half of the film is baffling. It’s clear that they were keen not to repeat what has come before, and it’s commendable that they have laid the track for future entries, but I just can’t understand why they have chosen this particularly story to tell. The film changes tracks so abruptly from huge summer blockbuster to episode of Primeval, you’d think that the production had ran out of money. This all adds up to a soul crushingly dull cinematic experience.

I enjoyed the first half of the movie. It’s a logical extension, even if it’s the same plot as The Lost World. The set pieces are all excellently executed, the combination of animatronics and cgi are far superior from those in the first Jurassic World. There is some gorgeous imagery here, both awe inspiring and heart breaking. It’s all fun stuff, and Chris Pratt excels doing his best Indiana Jones routine. It’s a shame that all this, although enjoyable, felt so boring. If you had seen the trailers then there are no surprises for the first hour of the movie. The film pretty much climaxes at the end of this half. To the point that there is a clear moment for an intermission to be inserted. When the film resumes, the stakes have been reset. The scale is smaller. The tone of the film has changed, shifting from high octane action to small scale horror. It’s a bold move. It’s a move that doesn’t work. The elements of horror at the end of Jurassic Park worked because Spielberg had spent the whole movie teasing the raptors, but never showing them. Here we’ve already seen the raptors, we’ve already seen hundreds of dinosaurs, all with the ability to kill our protagonists. It’s all so predictable, even the film’s biggest twist is telegraphed from early on.

It’s by no means a poorly directed film. I think Bayona stages the set pieces well, and manages to draw tension from the settings. Where the film really fails is with its lead characters. Gamely played by Pratt and Howard, their return to the franchise largely feels unnecessary. There is no character development, and their scenes together are largely unforgettable. Toby Jones, Rafe Spall, and Ted Levine flesh out the cast, but they are caricatures of film villains. This is fine during the blockbuster spectacle, but when the film shifts to something more intimate the character work needed to be more nuanced. The repetitiveness of the beats of this film, and in fact, the entire franchise is starting to tire. There are too many scenes where our characters are faced with a snarling dinosaur, only for a bigger snarling dinosaur to save their lives by attacking it. The writers may have been trying to branch the story out in new directions, but they have created something which is both predictable and dull.

Fallen Kingdom is more like two separate episodes of the Jurassic World series stuck together. They are both so different in scale and scope. There are some well staged action sequences, and the film has to be admired on a visual level, it looks beautiful. They’ve looked to branch out in a new direction, but the surprise is that this is where they decided to go with it. The ending promises more to come, but it was a dull and predictable slog to get there.

4/10

Isle Of Dogs

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Wes Anderson

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Kunichi Nomura, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Akira Ito, and Scarlett Johansson.

It seems almost trite these days to describe yourself as a Wes Anderson fan. The director moved from cult hero into the mainstream with his last movie The Grand Budapest Hotel. The director is almost a genre unto himself now, his films defined by their unique visual style, dead pan delivery of dialogue, and Anderson’s ever expanding troupe of actors. Isle Of Dogs isn’t the first stop-motion animation Anderson has made either, his last one being Fantastic Mr. Fox. For any other director these films would be experiments, or oddities in their CV, but Anderson’s sensibilities lend themselves to the format.

Isle Of Dogs is set in a futuristic, fictionalised version of Japan. An outbreak of dog flu, which is threatening the human population, forces Mayor Kobayashi to exile all the dogs to Trash Island. The place where all the cities garbage goes. The first dog to head over is Spot, the Mayor’s Nephew’s Dog. His Nephew, Atari then steals a plane to fly to Trash Island to rescue his dog, being helped along the way by a pack of alpha dogs.

This movie is a complete joy. I was slightly sceptical going in, I wasn’t sure how much I would get out of the format, or if Anderson would skew too young to hold my attention. I shouldn’t have worried, I was in a safe pair of hands, and the film is captivating and engaging throughout. It feels odd to say, but I believe that this is a film that deserves to be seen on the big screen. The level of detail gone into creating this world is stunning, and the film looks gorgeous. Wes Anderson directs his live action films as if they exist in a dolls house, and this style with way in which depth is used, and the way the camera moves in his film, is an ideal match for stop-motion. If anything it expands Anderson’s vision, allowing him to make a film more epic in scope.

It’s primarily a kids film, but there is a deeper, darker heart to it. It has an emotional core that you’d expect from a film about a boy looking for his lost dog, and whilst the dead pan delivery of Anderson’s cast doesn’t immediately lend itself to cutting straight to the heart, Anderson has crafted a deeply moving film about love, belonging and loyalty. There is darkness here though, which is far from cookie cutter. There are themes of genocide, conformity, and political manipulation, which when paired with the history of Japan brings out a deeper meaning. The kids might not understand it, but there is more going on under the surface of this film than it first appears. It’s this darkness which robs the film of its charm in the final act of the movie. The jokes and humour give way to something more serious, slowing down the pace, and ultimately causing it to drag.

There has been some debate about the film regarding Orientalism. It didn’t bother me at the time of watching, but the more I think about it, there is something there . There is a lot of affectionate homage, and this is a fictionalised Japan which does mean liberties are taken. If there are controversial moments, they hold no intent. There are two creative decisions which grate the most. The first is the fact that unless someone is there to translate, the Japanese language goes unheard and ignored. If they could put subtitles down for signs, they could have put subtitles for the Japanese, it’s a cute creative decision to have other characters translate the news segments, but it turns the other moments the language is used into meaningless nothing. Making it a secondary language. The other element which grated was Greta Gerwig’s foreign exchange student. In a film full of Japanese figures, having the only white one become the leader of the resistance is a bit of a problem.

Isle Of Dog’s is another great movie from Wes Anderson. It’s lovingly made, and looks fantastic. It manages to be both funny and moving, whilst riffing on some more adult themes. The politics might be a bit off, but I don’t believe there was any intent to offend. It’s just a bit blinkered. If you’d like to know more about this check out this article https://www.buzzfeed.com/alisonwillmore/isle-of-dogs-jared-leto-orientalism?utm_term=.uf19MBb7O#.tvvplm36j

7/10