A Christmas Prince – Review

Netflix’s 2017 entry into the genre of Christmas films is everything you need something in this genre to be. But that’s not a good thing. A Christmas Prince features every cliché in the book. It’s overly family-friendly and tries to pluck your heartstrings while wearing the mitts you use to pull a tray of Christmas Tree cookies out of the oven.

The film stars Rose McIver, a New Zealand actress that has a bit of cred to her after appearing in a lot of TV Shows, most notably iZombie where she has the lead role, as Amber Moore, a junior editor and aspiring journalist who is (for some reason) chosen to cover a possible royal scandal in Aldovia. Aldovia is pretty much Denmark where everyone speaks with a British accent, I’m not exactly sure where this fictional country is on the map, but who cares, the writers of this film sure don’t. The scandal involves the prince who is expected to pick up the crown after his father passed away, but the prince seems reluctant (WHY??? It’s more than just nerves). Anyway, after a press conference gets canceled and all the other reporters give up and go home, Amber sneaks into the castle and is mistaken for the new tutor for the young princess. It’s 2017 and Aldovia seems to have never heard of background checks. So we have a reporter looking for a scoop who is lying about who she is to get closer to the Prince. I bet they don’t fall in love before she is outed as a fraud.

I’m going to take a point here to cover the parts that made me say (out loud in some parts) “Oh, of course, this is what we’re doing”. The young princess (Emily played by Honor Kneafsey) has spina bifida and everyone misunderstands her, treats her like a ‘china doll’, and sees her as a spoilt rich girl when all she wants to do is go out and play. Prince Richard (Ben Lamb) is also misunderstood. Everybody sees him as a playboy and a philanderer but all he wants to do is archery and have snowball fights. But you see Amber gets that and she sees these people as they really are. Then there’s the evil cousin who wants the throne who forms an evil partnership of evil with a spoilt former flame of Richard’s who also just wants the crown.

All this comes together at the Christmas Eve Ball (of course there’s a ball) which also doubles as the coronation (because, why not?). There’s a Cinderella moment where Amber is given a make-over to look pretty much the same that she has for the whole film. But the juicy scandal comes out at the perfect time. As the Prime Minister recites the coronation proceedings (which are more like wedding vows then how an actual coronation goes) when he gets to the part that says something along the lines of “If anyone here has a dispute to Richard’s claim on the throne, speak now or forever hold your peace” (see? not a real coronation) the bad guys reveal that they had been snooping in Amber’s stuff and reveal that the Prince is not who he says he is.

You should watch this though to see the joke of a storyline it is and look while it’s clichéd, many could argue that it is a good Christmas film. It invokes the spirit of Christmas and Fairy Tales like Cinderella but it’s just so corny. A Christmas Prince is cheesy, sappy and super by-the-numbers but because it’s a Christmas film, it’s going to get a pass from a lot of people. But from me…

A Christmas Prince: Below Average

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Star Wars: Attack of the Clones – Review

Upon my most recent Star Wars marathon and the writing of these reviews, I always thought that it was this film that I liked the least, but it’s a bit of a toss up now between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. The former because it adds very little to the Star Wars mythos, this one because it was just a missed opportunity. While it served it’s purpose of starting the Clone Wars, it was interwoven with this ham-fisted love story, in a desperate attempt to have two of our characters make the babies they’re supposed to to tie in with the original trilogy.

Anakin and Padme’s wooden love story aside, which is difficult because drives so much of the film, Attack of the Clones focuses on the continuing problems plaguing the Galactic Republic. It’s not just the Trade Federation any more, its the Banking Clan and the Techno Union, they all want out and are willing to go to war to do so. With tensions building, Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates a plot to kill Senator Amidala which unveils many more plots and secrets that have been in the making for the last ten years.

As with The Phantom Menace there isn’t much to praise in this film. The acting abilities of Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid and Christopher Lee were drowned out by the again poor character development and general lack of direction from George Lucas. The dialogue from most characters was poorly thought out but it was delivered to the best of the actors abilities. Character was again, left behind for visuals and general plot.

The visuals are interesting in this film, it is good to see that the Naboo sets were still used despite a lot of the other sets and destinations being digitally rendered for the most part. The prequel trilogy films do not deliver the same lived-in feel that the original films and subsequent newer Star Wars films have tried to re-create. This comes at the sacrifice of real world settings for the advancement of visual effects and putting Industrial Light and Magic at the fore-front of the industry. Which, while I feel is a very good thing it did cause a lot of problems for fans of Star Wars.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is more of the same when viewing the films in chronological order. This film has a main character but unfortunately, it’s the wrong one. While yes it charts the path of Anakin Skywalker from fear, to anger, to hate, to suffering and sets up for his fall to the dark side, it focused too much on him. Obi-Wan’s mission leading to the formation of the Clone Army and the beginning of the war was much more important to the story. This film falls short of its potential.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: Below Average

The Mummy (2017) – Review

The first chapter in the rebooted Universal Monsters’ Dark Universe delivers a lot of set up and a bit of fun, but no real bang. The Mummy features Tom Cruise as Tom Cruise in a Tom Cruise movie that really wasn’t very Tom Cruise-y.

The Mummy is not a great film, but its fun. There’s enough action coupled with a little bit of mild horror and well-blow-average comedic levity to make it an OK popcorn flick to sit down and switch off. There’s not much to it.

Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a reconnaissance soldier that uses his job to pilfer and sell antiquities he finds in the Middle-East. During a mission he embarks on to find treasure he accidentally stumbles on an Ancient Egyptian tomb. Upon further investigation Annabelle Wallis’s character Jenny Halsey finds that the tomb was actually a prison holding a princess that seemed to have been scrubbed from history – Princess Ahmanet (played by Sofia Boutella).

Opening the prison has allowed her to return to power and escape. Ahmanet made a pact with Set, the God of Death, to bring him in to the physical world. In the past, she failed but now that she’s been released and now she wants to complete the ritual.

Cruise delivered an average performance, playing almost a caricature of himself. He pulled off some decent action sequences but nothing really stuck. Annabelle Wallis, brought nothing to the role of Jenny Halsey which had nothing in the script anyway, she was there to be a beautiful woman and barely a love interest for Nick. What she did provide was a link to the wider ‘Dark Universe’ through her job with Prodigium, enter Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll.

Crowe brought probably one of the more outstanding performances of the lacklustre cast. He portrayed your pretty standard version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (yes, Hyde also makes an appearance), with just a sprinkling of an organisation leader, a la Nick Fury from S.H.I.E.L.D in the MCU. His is a role I’d like to see developed further in the future of the Dark Universe. Now that I’ve mentioned the word developed, I should mention that there is no character development in this film, it seemed to all fall by the way-side while they set-up the franchise.

Sofia Boutella has brought fantastic physicality in her roles in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond, her performance in The Mummy is no different. While she seems to never be a character with too much dialogue, what she does get to say isn’t bad. I’m not fluent in Ancient Egyptian but it sounded right (she also delivers about one line in English). She was a decent Mummy and provided a good looming threat.

The visual effects were pretty good, lots of sand and big sand storms, a bit of mummification and zombification and some Mercury which moved with a little too much life of its own in my opinion, but other than that I had no issues with it. Sound was good too but nothing stood out to me really.

The story flowed reasonably well providing a lot of exposition into not only the origins of The Mummy herself but really trying to push down your throat that this is the beginning of a new cinematic universe (just in case you haven’t worked that out yet). There was one plot point that seemed to break the in-universe rules they set up, but when you need something to happen and when you’re talking about a ‘world of Gods and Monsters’ you’re going to have to let some of these things slide.

The Mummy is a film its best to just switch off to and let it take you for a ride. The action in the film was enjoyable and the pacing was pretty good. One thing I want to praise the movie for is that it was only 107 minutes long! Though you could probably have thrown in an extra few lines of dialogue or a scene or two to either set up characters or show some development, I thought that the movie didn’t overstay it’s welcome. The mythology this film presented has piqued my interest in the Dark Universe (but that’s because I’m a sucker for Cannon), however the rest of the film was average, with nothing overly standing out.

The Mummy: Below Average

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – Review

The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise returns to the story of the Turners’ in an epic, yet average film.

I look around the Internet and I see how many people actually enjoyed this film, more so than some of the other sequels. I did not think this film was better than On Stranger Tides (a film I watched for the first time just the other day and actually enjoyed, a review is written and will be coming out next week).

This film returns to the main story line of the franchise, that being the saga of the Turners and Davy Jones, almost 20 years after At World’s End (and yet some how no one looks 20 years older). Our new main character is Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites), the 19-year-old son of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Henry’s life long mission is to break his father’s curse and free him from the Flying Dutchman, he has studied every curse and fable of the Sea and he knows that there is one last legend that can free his father… The Trident of Poseidon.

Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is the ‘I can’t believe its not Elizabeth Swann’ character, visually, she simply fits that mould, but her character is so much more. Shes an Astronomer, a Horologist and always the smartest person in the room/on deck. She isn’t as interested in the Trident as she is in reading ‘the Map that no man can read’ that leads to it.

Jack Sparrow (over-acted again by Johnny Depp) is also looking for the Trident to save his own life. Basically, he drunkenly made a mistake which released his greatest nemesis, cursed ghost, pirate killer, “El Matador Del Mar” Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem).

Visually, the film is great, the visual effects of the ghost crew are fantastic. The costumes as always are spot on and the sets look well put together. I didn’t enjoy the music as much as in the fourth film, but the soundtrack still worked well for a the action scenes. Watching a ship obliterate another ship with cannon fire is awesome already, add a crescendo in an orchestral piece of music and its amazing. Say what you want about the Pirates of the Caribbean films, but they always look and sound good.

Kaya Scodelario is fantastic in this film playing the intelligent Carina, often mistaken for a witch, she is a woman of science. Naturally, her beliefs are challenged coming up against the ghost sailors, curses, myths and legends that frequent the franchise. Kaya probably had the most to go on with this script, and she made it work. She was definitely the standout in this film.

Brenton Thwaites performed well, but he is unfortunately limited by his character. He’s a great talent but frequently in the movies he appears in this tends to be a problem. Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow was, again the awful comic relief, similar to Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Unfortunately, Jack Sparrow was not the most over-acted character in this film – there is an awful cameo. Things just tend to conveniently fall in to place for Jack and the opening set piece in this film is a perfect example. I’m just not a fan of his character any more.

I’ll tell you who I did like though, Javier Bardem. The ghostly and murderous Captain Salazar was a great character. Even through the heavy CGI on his character, you can see Bardem was having a ball playing the pirate hunter. His energy made Salazar a villain worth watching.

Rounding out the main cast, two of my favourites from all the Pirates movies, Geoffrey Rush and Kevin McNally as Hector Barbossa and Joshamee Gibbs. These guys are textbook Pirates, Johnny Depp should learn from these two. A little bit of over-acting and some gusto in the ‘Arghs’ is what a pirate should be. They always turn up in these films and Dead Men Tell No Tales is no exception.

The script was average at best, constantly bringing up new rules and exceptions to those rules within legends that were established in the previous film and even contradicting plot points within the film itself. Directing wise, the action was great, better than the other films, and the actors that probably needed some guidance, Thwaites and Scodelario benefited from Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg work.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is an average film, visually great, but the story is where it falls and that’s unfortunate. I wanted to like this film after actually enjoying On Stranger Tides but it slots in at around 3rd or 4th spot on the Pirates franchise ranking – I havn’t decided yet. This film could have worked without Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales: Below Average

Rock of Ages – Review

Broadway Stage meets Silver Screen once again with ‘juke-box’ musical, Rock of Ages!

It’s a typical story of mid-western girl who travels to LA to find fame and glory as a singer. There she falls in love with the first guy she talks to. Gets a job that people would kill for and is pretty much set for life in the city of angels. Until lead rocker of Arsenal, Stacee Jaxx performs at the Burbon Room. The story leads our characters to more or less stereotypical scenarios. With a few interesting/funny twists.

While we’re on the story, the script is… well… flawed. Corny one liners, obvious plot developments and some flat characters. Despite this, the film is lots of fun. You get a chance to sing along to some of your favourite rock songs from the 80s, like Just Like Paradise, I Love Rock and Roll and a double header from Journey with Anyway You Want It and Don’t Stop Believing. I found my self laughing at the stupid things the actors did and I would say that this film would have been so much fun to make.

Bottom Line: If you’re looking for something fun to watch on a Saturday Night with a group of friends, this is definitely that something. Lots of fun, lighthearted, and it features some of the greatest songs in the world! If you want nothing but a good time, any way you want it, if you wanna rock or know what love is then the cinema isn’t too far away… this movie will rock you like a hurricane! I really wanted to say that!

Rock of Ages: Below Average (But, I still love it.)

Cowboys and Aliens – Review

Cowboys.  Aliens.  Cowboys fighting aliens.  James Bond and Indiana Jones vs. otherworldly Martian scum.  A horrible conglomeration or a whole lot of awesomeness?

Cowboys and Aliens, directed by Iron Man’s Jon Favreau, centres on Daniel Craig’s character Jake Lonergan.  Your quintessential tough guy from the west, Lonergan wakes up in the middle of the desert, with no recollection of who he is, or what the funky contraption locked around his wrist might be.  After discovering he is able to deliver damn good ass-kickings, he swaggers into the little-old town of Absolution.  Lonergan wastes no time in giving the local shit-stirrer Percy Dolarhyde (Paul Dano) what for.  Cue some ominously familiar shaped lights in the sky and tendrils viciously yanking the townspeople away.  It’s here we find out Lonergan’s bracelet is a whole lot more than a pretty fashion accessory.  Now it’s up to the rag-tag bunch of gun-toting men (and woman) to get their people back.

If you go into it expecting an intellectually stimulating storyline with soul searching characters and emotions galore, don’t.  Go see, I dunno, The Smurfs or something.  This is a no holds barred shoot-em-up Western crossed with heavy SFX and CGI aliens.  It’s exactly what the title says it’s going to be, and, it’s actually pretty decent.  Daniel Craig plays Lonergan straight and narrow.  Silent and somewhat stereotypical, but it works with the clichéd dynamic of the film.  Olivia Wilde plays the mysterious Ella, whose relationship with Lonergan is a bit disjointed and unusual.  I suppose they had to put a pretty lady in there somewhere though, didn’t they.  But its Harrison Ford’s Woodrow Dolarhyde that I was most anticipating, and his menacing exterior coupled with moments of genuine but subtle tenderness do not disappoint.

This is an enjoyable piece of mindless, explosion ridden gun slinging entertainment.  Have fun, go along for the ride.  The battle scenes are effective (the sound effects were actually a standout), there’s a little comedy, a little romance, a little bit of everything that makes a blockbuster.  It’s a film that’s not ashamed of what it is.  The alien’s themselves are quite unique, in that their motive is exactly that of the humans of the set time period.  And I’ll say no more.  They have absolutely no empathetic qualities.  And that’s ok.  (And boy, they look disGUSTING.)

In short, a fun mindless action-western romp that’s extremely likeable, clichéd and unashamed.

Cowboys and Aliens: Below Average

Green Lantern – Review

In brightest day, In blackest night, no evil… blah blah blah.

Before I go much more into this I would like to say that I was sort of hoping the trailer wasn’t a full indicator of this film… sadly it pretty much is. Green Lantern is a comic book adaptation film of a character I rather like. The Green Lantern gets his abilities from a power ring that uses the green energy of Will Power to create anything he/she/it imagines. There is a Green Lantern for every ‘sector’ of the universe and they all make up the Green Lantern Corps. Hal Jordan becomes a Green Lantern and in a very rushed storyline must save the earth from an entity who uses the yellow power of Fear.

Ryan Reynolds plays the not-a-care-in-the-world, Hal Jordan who is chosen by the Green Lantern Ring assigned to the sector that Earth resides in. His character style comes from his background in situation comedy, rather than the way Hal Jordan acted in the comic books. Because of this his character and therefore the film is more for comic relief and comedy, juxtaposed with the CGI action of the film.

His co-star and in my opinion probably the best performance in the film was Blake Lively, of Gossip Girl fame, who plays Hal’s long time friend and romantic interest, Carol Ferris. The bad guy, Hector Hammond, played by Peter Sarsgaard, was a typical pathetic and weak man taken over by evil and had very little character development.

The Green Lantern Corps were overall very well cast with the exception of Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan) who in my opinion didn’t meet my expectations. Thaal Sinestro (Mark Strong), Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) and Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) were all very well played out and I would like to see more from them especially Sinestro who in the comics had a very long and developed story as a Green Lantern who “went to the dark side”.

I feel bad for Ryan Reynolds as he never got the chance to wear the outfit, a privilege that I believe all superhero actors should have, instead he wore a grey full body suit. Which brings me to my point that the CGI was overdone and it would have been nicer to see less and more real-world SFX. It was a little disappointing because I prefer more real experience.

Overall, I believe that while the movie was pretty good, it lacked in many areas and thats one of the reasons why it failed. Another reason is that the producers obviously didn’t think it through because majority of the population haven’t heard of the Green Lantern and in a year where the movie The Green Hornet was released they may have not analysed their audience as well as they should have. However despite the poor box office effort, they are in scripting for a second and I am looking forward to what could and should be a sequel better than the original.

Green Lantern: Below Average

For those who want to know… the oath is as follows,

In brightest day, in blackest night,

No evil shall escape my sight

Let those who worship evil’s might,

Beware my power… Green Lantern’s light!

Sucker Punch – Review

It’s incredibly hard to describe this film. I saw it on Thursday and I’ve had to give it this long too sink in. This movie improves with age. It starts out with a five minute dialogue-less scene where where the story is set, A woman dies and has left everything she owns to her two young daughters, the girl’s jealous step father decides to take what he wants and he attacks the girls. In the process the younger sister is killed and in an act of self defence the older sister, “Baby Doll” (Emily Browning) points a gun at her evil step father. Baby Doll is framed for the murder of her sister and is sent to an asylum for the insane.

There, Baby Doll meets Rocket, Sweet Pea, Blondie and Amber and thats where things start getting interesting. Baby Doll’s imagination turns the asylum into a club where the inmates are the dancers. Baby Doll’s dancing mesmerises people and allows her and the other girls to experience awesome new worlds and crazy scenarios.

This film provides a look inside the mind of a crazy person. But is the crazy person Baby Doll or Zack Snyder? Let your imagination run wild and you might get this movie straight away. The soundtrack and visual effects are amazing and Zack’s use of his favourite special effect, slow motion shots make this movie a dream come true… Literally, this movie is more dream like than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Zack Snyder is a talented director and here, he has made a good music video.

Sucker Punch: Below Average

Machete – Review

Grindhouse returns in Robert Rodriguez’s exploitation extravaganza, Machete.

Machete Cortez (the totally bad-ass Danny Trejo) is an ex-federale who was betrayed by his own police force chief. His wife and daughter are murdered during a set-up raid. Machete is thought to be killed. Three years later Machete now lives across the boarder in Texas as an illegal immigrant working the day to day jobs of a Mexican in America. He is caught up in a web of chaos when he is hired to kill the state senator, John McLaughlin (played by Robert De Niro). Jessica Alba plays a mexican born department of immigration agent who investigates a boarder crossing operation known as ‘The Network’. ‘The Network’ is run by Luz – a.k.a the infamous “She” (Michelle Rodriguez) who works in a taco trailer as a front for her operations with ‘The Network’. The man who hired Machete and got the ball rolling into this total bullet and blood-fest is Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey), whose model/socialite, drug-doing daughter (Lindsay Lohan (didn’t have to act all that much for this character, did she?)) also plays a roll in the war. Cheech Marin plays Padre, the preist seen in the trailer with one of the most awesome lines in the film “I took a vow of peace… and now you want me to kill all these men? I’ll see what I can do”. Steven Segal rounds off the main cast as the drug-lord, Rogelio Torrez.

You will laugh at how over the top some of the scenes and some of the weapons used in this movie. Rodriguez’s style of filmmaking is second to none. His “low budget” movies, I believe top some movies that spend millions more. He is a god at making things out of nothing. I also recommend for any filmmakers out there to check out his 10-minute film school segments that you can find on his dvd’s or on youtube.

Machete: Below Average

Griff The Invisible – Review

Griff (Ryan Kwanten) is an office worker by day and a superhero by night. He has a very hi-tech set up in his apartment where he monitors the his suburb and fights off any wrongdoers and attackers. He has a Superman/Clark Kent sort of alter ego-ality (yes its now a word) where regular Griff is picked on at work and is very shy and incredibly awkward, while when he wears his suit he is the other extreme, he is strong and brave, he is Griff The Invisible (though the name is never revealed, he toys around with a few name ideas). His brother, Tim (Patrick Brammall) has moved from Adelaide to help out the troubled Griff. In the process he meets Melody (Maeve Dermody) and the two begin dating. But when Melody meets Griff she is immediately attracted to him and upon realising who he ‘really’ is she wishes to help him and become his sidekick. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse and Griff has to look at himself and see if it’s time to grow up.

This movie is such a good and cute film. The character of Griff is so awkward you can’t help but fall in love with him. The tale is whimsical and charming, the acting is decent and usual for an Australian film. Unfortunately I have a bone to pick with others who have reviewed this film. It’s clear to me, through reviews, that some Australians are far too critical of this industry and have rated this movie poorly while it’s others from other countries that find it a very good movie. People are critical of the acting in these films but as I have noticed, people don’t like seeing themselves in film, Aussie films these days are almost mirror images of who we are and how we act. In fact I think they are very good representations of our way of life and encourage the Australian Film Industry to continue. Ryan Kwanten is a very successful actor in the states and has returned, in his breaks on True Blood, to do local films like Red Hill and Griff, again I applaud this move. This movie overall is sweet and is definitely one to see with your partner.

Griff The Invisible: Below Average