Tag Archives: Laughable stereotypes

London Has Fallen (2016)

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“Prepare for Bloody Hell!” (Because that’s how the British swear, you see.)

Directed by Babak Najafi
Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and Alon Moni Aboutboul

After well-meaning, but entirely inept Western intelligence agencies drone-strike a wedding based on a single, uncoded text message and somehow spectacularly fail to kill any of their actual targets – arms dealer Aarmir Bakawi (Aboutboul) and his sons – Bakawi launches a spectacularly audacious plan for revenge which appears to begin with either infiltrating or radicalising the Coldstream Guards (should have pushed that Prevent training, Lieutenant General Sir James Bucknall, KCB, CBE) and coordinating a series of dazzlingly precise bombings and shootings during the State funeral of the surreptitiously assassinated British Prime Minister. Fortunately, US President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) has nails hard one-man-army and not-at-all-a-Scot, Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Butler) at his side.

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Rebourne: The Producers (2005)

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“Come see what all the furore* is about.”

* The poster with a tagline was quite small and hard to read – it seemed to spell this ‘furor’, so I guess it was intended as a play on ‘fuhrer’.

Directed by Susan Stroman
Starring Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman, 
Will Ferrell, Gary Beach, Roger Bart

The Original

A failing producer and an accountant team up to produce a deliberate flop, realising that they can make more money by overselling the show and failing than by having a hit which needs to repay its investors in the first and arguably the greatest film of Mel Brooks’ directorial career. When their deliriously tasteless bomb arrives, however, it crosses the line twice and becomes a runaway success, bringing about their downfall.

Before the new film version, the musical adaptation played on Broadway with much of the same cast.

The Musical

Max Bialystock (Lane) is the falling star of Broadway, producer of flop after flop reduced to romancing little old ladies for funding. When public accountant Leo Bloom (Broderick) looks over his books, he realises that it should be possible to make more money with an oversold flop than a tightly funded hit.

Continue reading Rebourne: The Producers (2005)

Paul (2011)

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“Who’s up for a close encounter?”

Directed by Greg Mottola
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Kirsten Wiig and Jason Bateman

Best friends writer Clive Gollings (Frost) and illustrator Graeme Willy (Pegg) travel to San Diego Comic-Con and from there embark on a UFO road trip. The holiday takes an odd turn, however, when they encounter the fugitive alien Paul (Rogen, voice and mo-cap).

Continue reading Paul (2011)

Dungeons & Dragons 2: Wrath of the Dragon God

Apparently aka 'The Elemental Might'
Apparently aka ‘The Elemental Might’

“From the ultimate curse comes the ultimate quest”

Directed by Gerry Lively
Starring Bruce Payne, Mark Dymond and Clemency Burton-Hill

When the late minion of the evil Profion recovers an item of appalling power and plots his revenge on the Kingdmo of Ismir, only a band of brave adventurers can stop him, by undertaking the ultimate quest to discover a hidden vault at least, oh, two days travel from the capital.

Continue reading Dungeons & Dragons 2: Wrath of the Dragon God

Robocroc (2013)

As near as can be made out, 'from the Director of Young Guns' is what in PR terms is referred to as 'a bare-faced lie'.
As near as can be made out, ‘from the Director of Young Guns’ is what in PR terms is referred to as ‘a bare-faced lie’.

“The world’s most LETHAL WEAPON”

Directed by Arthur Sinclair
Starring Corin ‘Dragon Wasps’ Nemec and Dee ‘ET’ Wallace

A military drone crashes in a zoo, where its payload of experimental nano bots infects a Saltwater Crocodile, transforming it into a cyborg engine of destruction. Zoo keeper and croc hunter Duffy (Nemec) must track and destroy the beast before it gobbles up the guests at the zoo’s spring break waterslide park (I don’t know, maybe US zoos have them), but the project scientist Dr Riley (Wallace, apparently slumming it) is more worried about her experiment.

What’s wrong with it?

Another of SyFy’s creature features of doubtful quality, Robocroc – or possibly Robo Croc – follows a pretty standard pattern: Beast is woken/provoked, beast escapes, beast gets somewhere super bad for it to be, beast is ‘destroyed’, whoops! it wasn’t, now it is.

The titular Robocroc is a pretty piss-poor attempt at CGI, and the human characters are barely more convincing. The roles are all pretty bare-bones – “cerebral adventurer”, “plucky sidekick/love interest”, “manly military man”, “science bitch” and so on – and while the cast are game, there’s not much to work with.

 Duffy is briefly joined by his croc hunting partner Irish guy. He’s Irish, and then he dies. It’s moving, because he was Irish and they had awkward male bonding banter.

And then there’s the whole bit with the water park and Duffy’s son, which is sort of knocked off from Jaws… the one with the water park. 3D? Yeah… that whole plotline is kind of pointless, except to teach us that girls shouldn’t judge a guy based on the fact that he’s not a classic jock and enables his creepy friend’s creeper photographing of you in your bikini (um… yay?)

What’s right with it?

No-one mugs at the camera or sleepwalks their lines; the cast may know they’re in for a shipwreck, but they’re committed to the process.

How bad is it really?

Terrible, but at least it never winks at the camera.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The army sends a helicopter to look for the crocodile, which suddenly leaps from the water in a high, graceful arc to punch clean through the chopper.

What’s up with…? 

  • The entire water park scene? I swear, kid Duffy and his mate were so creepy, I was sure they were the sacrificial arseholes for that bit of the movie.

Ratings

Production values – Oh, dear lord… 18
Dialogue and performances – Crappy roles, played straight, so I give them that. 12
Plot and execution – Basic, but competent, apart from the entire half of the movie that fits awkwardly. 11
Randomness – Half of this film is a random digression, with creepy ‘heroes’ and… badness. 14
Waste of potential – Would have done better to stick to the robot crocodile and ditch the teen drama. 13

Overall 68%

The Other Side (2011)

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AKA ‘Ferocious Planet’

“They’re not on Earth anymore!”

Directed by Billy O’Brien
Starring Joe Flanigan, John Rhys-Davies and Dagmar Döring.

Dr Jillian O’Hara (Döring) is demonstrating her dimensional window to a doubting Senator, when a malfunction sends a group of observers into a deadly parallel dimension, full of giant carnivorous beasties and cultivated pine trees.

What’s wrong with it?

A stock team of quirky characters – the uptight scientist, disgraced military man Colonel Synn (Flanigan, phoning it in as basically the same character as he played in Stargate Atlantis), his upbeat black 2IC, a hippie assistant, a stick-up-the-butt senator (Rhys-Davies with a terrible accent) and a plucky, preppy presidential adviser – battle CGI not-dinosaurs in a planted pine forest, while a pair of ‘enterprising’ jerks die badly for their greed.

The dimensional window is cheap, the accident cheaper, the dinosaurs positively bargain basement. One man is critically wounded with a length of pipe under the armpit and several others die in a clearly CG splatter of gore.

What’s right with it?

It’s kind of fun in a very stupid way.

How bad is it really?

Even for a stablemate of Wyvern, this is pretty weak fare, with no real distinction.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Running out of ammo, Colonel Synn grabs a branch from the forest floor, which snaps in half; just like a real branch would.

What’s up with…?

  • The formulae that the science bods scribble in a book to brainstorm the problem? I’m pretty sure that they mean nothing.
  • The complete lack of prey animals in a forest full of apex predators?
  • The conflation of ammonia, acid and explosives?

Ratings

Production values – Possibly the cheapest dimensional window ever, and tacky CG dinothings. 14
Dialogue and performances –  The performances are entirely adequate, which sadly just brings the paucity of the script to the fore. 12
Plot and execution – A basic stranded storyline is not enlivened by a weak SF gimmick. 14
Randomness – Nothing is truly left-field, making predictability about the only thing that this film has going for it. 7
Waste of potential – Poor, even for SyFy’s Maneaters line. 15

Overall 62%

The Man With the Iron Fists (2012)

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“You can’t spell Kung Fu without F and U.”

Directed by RZA
Starring RZA, Russell Crowe, Byron Mann, Lucy Liu, Cung Le, Rick Yune, David Bautista, Jamie Chung

Hardworking blacksmith Blacksmith (RZA) makes weapons for different warring kung-fu clans in Jungle Village, staying out of the conflict and trying to save up to take himself and his love interest, Lady Silk (Jamie Chung) out of this den of vice. But when the vicious Silver Lion (Byron Mann) takes control of one of the clans and decides to wipe out everyone else, our hero is drawn into the fighting and gets all mutilated. Together with the son of the murdered clan leader (Rick Yune) and a drunken European mercenary (Russell Crowe), he has to build himself some robot hands and go kick bad guy ass.

What’s wrong with it?

RZA and his compatriots in the Wu-Tang Clan love the ridiculous old Kung Fu movies of the 70s, so the Abbot decided to make a movie that has the elements of those movies that they enjoy, plus lots of swearing and amped-up weirdness. That sounds like an amazing premise, but somehow it just feels …

… well, for starters, in conventional terms it’s just shitty and dumb. It doesn’t have any characters you could care about. But even within the frame of it being a craptacular kung fu movie, it has a fundamental problem, which is that RZA can’t act or do kung fu. The stars of bad old kung fu movies couldn’t act because they were selected for their martial arts prowess, but RZA doesn’t even have that excuse.

What’s right with it?

It is still goofy fun. There are a lot of ridiculous, over-the-top action sequences, crazy gimmicky kung fu weapons (a la the Flying Guillotine), and so on. It would probably be really enjoyable if you watched it in ten ten-minute bursts.

How bad is it really?

It’s OK. It could have been a lot better if RZA had been replaced with a more charismatic lead (that is, anyone), but on the other hand it’s RZA, and part of the enjoyment comes from knowing that. Russell Crowe is not great, prostitute-assassins are cringeworthy … but it’s not terrible. It is a good, light-hearted, beer-and-popcorn action movie that goes on too long (at 95 minutes, mark you) and hits some wrong notes.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The early battles between X-blade (Yune) and Silver Lion’s followers are pretty enjoyable. Also RZA’s deadpan delivery has the effect of making his voiceover narration and many of his lines unintentionally hilarious.

What’s up with…? 

  • Could RZA just not stop rhyming long enough to record his dialogue? “When it comes to money / things get funny”? I guess that’s the kind of hip-hop gold you just have to get recorded when it strikes you lest it vanish again.
  • The long, involved backstory in which RZA is a slave who escapes, gets shipwrecked, is rescued by Shaolin monks, leaves the monastery … I mean, it’s actually really interesting to see how this kind of material gets incorporated into the kung fu canon, but on the other hand it does sort of stop the movie in the middle.
  • Byron Mann? I mean, in general.

Ratings

Production values Not bad, actually: if there are some cheap moments in the fights and effects, that’s only in keeping with the genre. 8
Dialogue and performances Oh no. Oh lord no. Many rappers make good actors — the charisma of someone like Method Man or Snoop Dogg translates well to the screen. RZA, not so much. 16
Plot and execution Surely you jest. 14
Randomness Everything proceeds logically from the premise, but the premise doesn’t make any sense at all. 15
Waste of potential “RZA is spending a shitload of money on making an homage to the Shaw Brothers!” “Yay!” “And he’s cast Russell Crowe, Lucy Liu and himself!” “Oh for fuck’s sake.” 15

Overall 68%

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Transformers_dark_of_the_moon_ver5

“Earth goes dark”

Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Shia LaBoeuf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Josh Duhamel, with the voices of Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving and Leonard Nimoy

The Autobots, now instruments of an aggressively interventionist US foreign policy, are bitched at by the Director of National Security (Frances McDormand, for fuck’s sake,) who is a woman and so doesn’t get it. Sam (LaBoeuf) and his new girlfriend (Huntington-Whiteley) stumble on some plot thing and Sentinel Prime (Nimoy) comes back from the moon. Betrayal, exile, explosions, fights, blah, blah, whatever.

God, I hate this movie.

What’s wrong with it?

Remember how I said – and if you don’t, it’s in the post right below this one – that Revenge of the Fallen was all the dumb bits of Transformers, but none of the good stuff? Well, this is the same, but of Revenge of the Fallen. After a bit of narration from Optimus Prime (Cullen,) we start as we mean to go on, with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s arse wiggling in front of the camera for a full minute. This is followed by the same sexist, racist stereotypes that Revenge had, but with some added homophobia (yay!) and getting a few shots in on Asian-Americans and the Dutch.

The plot is more apocalyptic, but don’t let that fool you into thinking we won’t have any crude comedy from Mama and Papa Witwicky, now well into their second childhood, and Agent Simmons and his big, gay (apparently ex-Dutch Special Forces) valet (played by the not-at-all dutch Alan Tudyk.)

Lots of people and Transformers die, and no-one seems to give a shit.

What’s right with it?

The robot fights are still good, just not good enough.

How bad is it really?

Soul-searingly bad.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Pointless Carly actually gets to do something by convincing Megatron to turn on Sentinel Prime. It’s just as shame there was no build up to suggest why Megatron would even listen to her speaking.

What’s up with…?

  • Megatron’s robot hobo schtick and truck form?
  • No-one caring that Ironhide just got glooped?
  • Ken Jeong’s bizarre appearance as a stock Ken Jeong comedy angry Chinese-American.
  • The Wreckers being three Nascar racing cars with British accents and an engineering remit, and not Impactor’s Autobot special forces team at all.
  • Alan Tudyk as ‘Dutch’ (Dutch by name, Dutch by defining character trait)?

Ratings

Production values – Once more, there is little fundamental progression in the effects, and the addition of an all out invasion means that the screen is more cluttered than ever. 12
Dialogue and performances –  Just… bad. The players are game enough – in Ken Jeong’s case, possibly too much so – but the material is poor, poor, poor. 17
Plot and execution – The plot is a paper-thin set up for the apocalyptic climax, and the characters are treated as entirely disposable, not just by the writers, but by each other. 16
Randomness – On the plus side, there’s no sex bot this time, but there is a whole lot more crap, from hobo-Megatron to Dutch to the fact that no-one talks to Sam any more for plot reasons. 15
Waste of potential – After Revenge of the Fallen, I was not expecting to be disappointed. Kudos, Dark of the Moon; I did not expect you to be this bad. 18

Overall 78%

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

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“Revenge is coming”

Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Shia LaBoeuf and Megan Fox, with the voices of Peter Cullen, Tony Todd and Hugo Weaving

Sam Witwicky is off to college and Bumblebee is jealous because freshmen can’t take cars with them! Hilarity ensues when Megatron’s master, the Fallen, tries to destroy the world.

What’s wrong with it?

Revenge of the Fallen takes every good thing about Transformers and jettisons it in favour of something dumb. The comedy scenes are louder and more grating, the people are more front and centre, the characters are little more than collections of stereotypes and much of the joy of the first film is lost. Minority characters – primarily blacks and women, but also the old as Jetfire farts parachutes – are sidelined or reduced to offensive caricatures. John Turturro’s Agent Simmons becomes a pure gag character, and even Megan Fox is downgraded from ‘I’ll drive, you shoot’ to weak support.

What’s right with it?

Aside from the farting, Jetfire is awesome; I am so sad that they killed him off.

How bad is it really?

Revenge of the Fallen is just a mess, with increasingly ludicrous comedy scenes intruding on the action as if a better Transformers film was being accidentally shot on the same sets and at the same time as a bawdy bedroom farce.

Best bit (if such there is)?

Whenever Optimus Prime makes one of his many last stands, the combination of Peter Cullen and a competent composer can’t fail to give a hint of something better than we actually have here.

What’s up with…?

  • Alice, the Decepticon sex bot? Seriously, the fuck?
  • Parachute farts?
  • Tiny Decepticons dry-humping Megan Fox’s leg?
  • The apparently irresistible comedy stylings of Sam’s parents’ descent into dribbling, surreal senility?
  • SEX BOT WTF?
  • The complete failure of the cold and pressure of the Laurentian Abyss to have any effect on Transformers whatsoever? Didn’t they run this plan past the Autobots?

Ratings

Production values – The effects are pretty much the same as in the first film, and two years on are not quite so hot. Moreover, they are even more cluttered and hard to follow. 9
Dialogue and performances –  Everything about the film is dumber than the last one, and that was pretty dumb. Overall, the emphasis on visual splash hits the performances as well, and everyone looks worse here than they did in the last one. 15
Plot and execution – A messy retcon to the ending of the first film is coupled with some almost laughable historical revelations to produce a humdrum treasure hunt story. 13
Randomness – Seriously, this film scores almost full marks right out of the gate for the sex bot, but the disposable extras and horrible comedy intrusions crank it right the way up. 20
Waste of potential – Takes every potential lesson of the first film and throws them away to produce something with all the same problems, just a hundred times worse. 16

Overall 73%

Transformers (2007)

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“Their War. Our World.”

Directed by Michael Bay
Starring Shia LaBoeuf and Megan Fox, with the voices of Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving

High School loser Sam Witwicky discovers that his new car is actually an alien robotic lifeform, and becomes embroiled in a battle between the heroic Autobots and the monstrous Decepticons (and some Marines, a dodgy government agency, a number of extras who then disappear for no adequately explained reason, and Jon Voigt.)

What’s wrong with it?

The short answer is that it’s the people. Transformers is a film about brave American badasses and some robots what help them, more than it is about the robots themselves. To take an example, during Ironhide’s heroic slow-mo barrel roll, the camera’s focus is on some random hot chick who plays no other part in the movie. Did Bay really not think anyone was there to watch the robots?

Also, despite the quality of the CGI, the action is often too cluttered and frenetic to follow.

What’s right with it?

This film has the best plot of the franchise, as little as that is saying, and manages to only be crassly insensitive towards fat people, Asian call centre operators and black nerds, which by the standards of the series is pretty good going. In addition, the Transformers themselves look awesome, and the stompy robot bits are actually pretty damn good.

John Turturro and Jon Voigt know pretty much what the film is worth and are good fun to watch because they are clearly having fun with it.

How bad is it really?

Transformers is a lot of fun, provided you aren’t looking to engage your brain too much.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The arrival of the Autobots is a well-done montage that builds tension and expectation for the awesome that is never quite delivered on.

What’s up with…?

  • Optimus Prime shanking a Decepticon through the skull-pan with his energy sword? This is way more commitment to a philosophy of total war than I was expecting.
  • All the bloody humans?
  • Bumblebee peeing on John Tuturro? Seriously, that was not needed.
  • The evac run into ‘Mission City’? Why arrange to evacuate a mission-critical object, by chopper, from a heavily-populated area with many tall buildings, under enemy fire, rather than, say, just running flat out until you can meet up with an armoured division coming the other way?

Ratings

Production values – Okay, fair play, the effects are magnificent, if occasionally a little too busy. 6
Dialogue and performances – Lamentable comedic episodes punctuate the necessary and slightly leaden exposition, with Jon Voigt occasionally providing a voice over when the film itself is not entirely clear. The actors give the material a hundred times what it is worth. 12
Plot and execution – In all fairness, this film has a plot which mostly makes sense, at least on its own terms. 8
Randomness – Robopee. The gratuitous city run. The comedy call centre operator. In fact, any of the comedy. The people. Stick with the robots. 14
Waste of potential – There could have been more focus on the Transformers, and should have been. On the other hand, we can clearly demonstrate that it could have been worse. 12

Overall 52%