Friday, 27 February 2015

Expendables 2; Miss Bala; Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn; Starship Troopers: Invasion; Captain Harlock Space Pirate

Expendables 2 
The Expendables films (though I’ve not seen the 3rd yet) seem to exist in a weird parallel universe where crappy action films don’t exist, despite the fact that this series only came about because said films launched and sustained the careers of a number of the cast.
If you like seeing pumped up old men shooting CGI blood out of vaguely Eastern European thugs (and East Asian in the opening sequence) then this is for you.

However, there’s little flair and finesse despite the decades of effort trying to depict men hitting and shooting at each other in new and interesting ways – there don’t seem to be any lessons learned from any stand out action moments, whether 80s Hong Kong Action cinema or the shake-up that was the Bourne series.
Instead you get tired nods to the likes of Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger as they are literally shoehorned into the film with the main characters themselves saying “Where did they come from?”.
The jokey-jokey tone of most of it renders attempts at drama very flat –Liam Hemsworth plays a young new addition to the team who is promptly captured and murdered by the baddies (they’re sort of Satanists in case you wanted their badness glaringly signposted). His murder is the spur for the Expendables to go and get revenge, so essentially a plot point but they do try and get Stallone to be a bit mopey about it so he can get angry when he faces off against Jean Claude Van Damme!

JCVD plays the head of the Satanist baddies and is mister ruthless. He wears shades most of the time, because his eyes are so old they remind you of the Emperor from Star Wars. Still, he enjoys the chance to play a ridiculously silly bad guy, so he’s fun to watch.
Equally fun is Dolph Lundgren, back again to play a weird adolescent suddenly grown into an aging, lethal mountain.

Ultimately the Expendables 2 is less satisfying than most of the work the cast did to get famous decades ago – the action is a little pedestrian, the jokes aren’t funny and obviously the acting is minimal, so there’s no strong element to hold the others up.

 Miss Bala

Brilliantly shot composing of a lot of static cameras panning with the action, tightly focused tracking shots and still moments where the camera remains trained on our heroine as events (usually violent) unfold off screen. The only music used is ambient, and these techniques along with fantastic performance by the lead make this film all the more harrowing.

Laura Guerrero wants to enter the local beauty pageant, but after going to a club to find her friend a group of cartel soldiers turns up to attack the police partying at the club. She escapes and the next day tries to find out what happened to her friend by asking a cop, but he's paid by the cartel, and a nightmare begins where she finds herself embroiled in Mexico's drug war.

From the point of view of a civilian, where we only see and hear what she does, a lot of the events are left for the audience to deduce, a refreshing change from the usual films involving the drug trade that tend to spend a lot of time setting the scene.


 Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn

Boring, pointless exercise, cashing in on a very successful game franchise which has a deep, if generic, back story.
The acting is perfunctory, the focus on the trials of cadets regurgitates many tropes of the military training scenes found in countless lumps of movies and TV shows and the glimpses of the alien threat of the Covenant, whilst suitably menacing from a human perspective, somehow doesn’t have the heft of Neil Blokampf’s short based in the same franchise.
Whilst the film feels like an extended pilot to a TV show that never was, it’s actually comprised of 15 minute segments stitched together with a little extra footage added to paper the cracks. It’s not surprising that Microsoft soon gave up on any studio ambitions.

Not good enough to keep fans of the franchise attentive let alone sci-fi fans drifting in blind. 

 Starship Troopers: Invasion

Shinji Aramaki’s animated entry into the ailing franchise which has suffered since the first sequel appeared.
This take on the universe uses well worn sci-fi tropes of marines sent to a base that has mysteriously gone quiet, an alien intelligence taking over computer systems, betrayal from secretive and/or high levels of authority, a grizzled soldier know for his survival and killing abilities but haunted etc. etc.
The animation is just poor.

 Captain Harlock Space Pirate

Korean-produced anime saga about an immortal space pirate who aims to return to a forbidden Earth, cut off from a future space-faring humanity after it burns through the colony planets and promptly starts a war with itself on its return home.

The plot is forgettable, as are the CGI visuals despite their improvement in the years since Shinji Aramaki directed the 2004 adaptation of Appleseed.


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