John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum
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I haven't reviewed a film in two years, but I came here because I needed to say that this was the worst piece of shit to come out in 2018 so far.
A few moments of decent action overshadowed by terribly frantic pacing, no dramatic depth, an excess of tedious character archetypes, forced attempts at humour which all fell flat, rushed and confusing scientific logic and unnecessary 3D effects.
Though hardly a fan of any blockbuster featuring Kristen Stewart, Snow White and the Huntsman's possibility of big budget action sounded enough like a potential guilty pleasure.
Snow White and the Huntsman's actual story was not one which I expected to be interesting at all. It's just another film in the contemporary trend of rebooting stories popularised by Disney animations to be converted into live-action fantasy adventures with war as a key undertone. Such examples of this include Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) and The Legend of Tarzan (2016), neither of which have made any major impression with critics. Perhaps the worst example of all these is actually The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016) which is actually the spin-off of Snow White and the Huntsman. In attempting to capitalise on its predecessor while stealing story elements from Frozen (2013) and giving its title the theme of Captain America: Civil War (2016), the genre managed to show its absolute worst side. Though it wouldn't be fair to judge Snow White and the Huntsman on the basis of its inferior sequel, it's certainly appropriate to know what low standard of filmmaking to expect when going in to the experience.
The mistake I made was hoping that I could hold Snow White and the Huntsman to a higher standard than its lacklustre spin-off. With slightly higher expectations, my disappointment remained all the same as both films proved insistent on carrying many of the same basic narrative flaws. The central difference is that The Huntsman: Winter's War was doomed from the start, yet Snow White and the Huntsman actually had potential. But from the instant the film begins, so does trouble.
The film's entire intro feels like it could not have anything less to do with the story of Snow White. By giving the formerly nameless Queen the identity of a remorseless sorceress who usurps the throne through the power of the Dark Army, suddenly the story becomes more of a dark fantasy version of William Shakespeare's Hamlet than anything Snow White-related. It could not make any sense why Queen Ravenna would lead the destruction on a kingdom and then expect to be considered "the fairest" in any sense, but that's just one of the ridiculous pieces of disbelief that audiences must sacrifice if they are to enjoy Snow White and the Huntsman. And before the intro is even over, any slight relevance that Snow White ever had to being a princess of any sort is destroyed so that she may be reinvented as an action hero. In doing so, Snow White and the Huntsman completely erases all traces of the Snow White mythology. And ultimately, director Rupert Sanders fails to compensate for this with even a mildly interesting action-adventure.
Snow White and the Huntsman is about two underdeveloped archetypes running across a repetitive fantasy landscape as audiences are briefly introduced to elements of fantasy mythology. These include trolls and dwarves, but the story doesn't care enough to stop and explore them at all. They are just token story elements which develop nowhere against the backdrop of a story which does the same with every other dynamic. The story does so little that the pace of the film drags on, and this is problematic given that the film already runs for beyond two hours. The film plays out on an array of convincing scenery and strong production design with occasionally brief moments of visual effects panache thanks to Rupert Sanders' keen eye for imagery, but they are ultimately too short and arbitrary to rescue the narrative. And the action scenes are always too brief and repetitive even though the film focuses its narrative around a war in the land. There is no drama to the war, and any attempt for there to be is as thoroughly cliche as the film's condemnation of love. The choreography is decent and the visuals really could have done something, but the action scenes are ultimately as underdeveloped as the characters and extremely few.
But despite all its heavy shortcomings, the cast in Snow White and the Huntsman manage to deliver some decent performances.
Kristen Stewart's leading performance as Snow White is not as bad as you might expect. The actress barely even says a word for the first 40 minutes of the film, spending the majority of the time simply running from one point to another while conveying terror in her facial expressions. Her physical engagement in the role is very committed, but it just serves to ensure there is no sense of characterisation in the part whatsoever. Out of the blue she finds herself a character of extreme physical strength, though it is never really all that believable. Put simply, Kristen Stewart is not a convincing hero. This is not in fact her fault at all, but rather because the story desperately wants to reinvent the classic fairy tale character as a re-imagining of Joan of Arc. When Kristen Stewart attempts to seize control over the character there is a clear intensity in her charisma which makes the role slightly more credible, but the lacklustre writing and lack of character development pay not help to the potential of her impressing audiences. She makes every effort she can during the sporadic moment that the film stops working against her, but it's overall the script is not one she can fully conquer. Kristen Stewart reveals potential in her role which is just worn down by the terrible story.
Chris Hemsworth is the real hero of the story though. Portraying the titular Huntsman straight off the back of his success in Thor (2011), Chris Hemsworth once again shines with a powerful sense of anger. He is far less glamourous in Snow White and the Huntsman and grittier, capturing a more savage side to the character. The film tries to make him a more charming hero with its lacklustre dialogue, but it's the more savage side of Chris Hemsworth that really shines. Chris Hemsworth conveys an angry obsession in the character of Eric, revealing a real weakness in his anger over the loss of his wife and giving him greater dimension in the face of a screenplay which works against it. Chris Hemsworth may be a cliche fairy tale hero, but he plays the role with a solid heroism and subtle elements of grit which makes him a welcome lead.
And Charlize Theron actually has very little screen time in Snow White and the Huntsman. Despite being touted as the central villain in the story, she actually drops in and out of the screen since her significance is spoken of by the other characters more often than it is shown. In actuality, she plays a glorified cameo in the film which betrays all expectation and proves disappointing. Yet the quality of her performance does not fail. In attempting to capture the obsessive vanity of the character, Charlize Theron equips two central states of mind for the characterisation of Queen Ravenna: Angry and Weak. When embracing the former, Charlize Theron unleashes a powerfully over-the-top performance which cries out the desperation of her character's villainy with psychotic melodrama, while in her weaker state she manages to convey a real sense of vulnerability in the character. Queen Ravenna is an insecure and obsessive woman who is overcome by a sadistic vanity, and Charlize Theron is electrifying in capturing it with a twisted melodrama. It's rather like Faye Dunaway's effort in Mommie Dearest (1981), but actually a good performance. Charlize Theron is a solid if diminutive villain in Snow White and the Huntsman, working the film to her credibility when it's clearly such difficult material can.
Bob Hoskins is also a welcome presence as with any feature, though I can see why he'd want to retire after doing a film like this.
Snow White and the Huntsman has moments of visual flair and a fairly talented cast, but its awkwardly misguided screenplay leaves audiences with a generic story of uninspired heroism, a lack of characters and a major shortage of action.
With a ridiculous title and the Monster Pictures label to back it up, Australiens sounded like a real piece of Australian dumb fun.
The standard for acting and scripting in Australiens is immediately asserted within the first minute of the film. With pretentiously untalented child actors delivering heavily hokey dialogue, the film's status as an intentionally so-bad-it's-good doesn't even give audiences a second to adjust to it before it begins hitting them over the head with its ridiculous nature. And soon enough, it goes into utter excess with this. There is a line for how stupid a film can intentionally be before it becomes pretentiously bad. Australiens is a film which crosses this line at every conceivable opportunity and endlessly hits viewers over the head with its utter stupidity to the point that it very much sweats it. The film is so determined to be the stupidest possible B-movie it can relies on the writing style and production values of a really silly YouTube-grade comedy sketch, but this is not enough of a hook to last a feature length running time.
The premise in Australiens is very simple and the story itself is never really a problem, but the dialogue itself is merciless in its bad sense of humour while the characters are very annoying. I wasn't sure if the cast was terrible or if they were just portraying the awkward stereotypes as explicitly as possible, but they are so loud and abrasive about it that it's fairly unbearable at times. If the characters aren't obsessively self-centered and egotistical, they're awkwardly silent and make things worse every time they speak. This makes them flat-out annoying and unlikable, and the small cast of the film ensures that they are essentially all we get for the film's entirety. They grow tiresome very fast, and as a result their sense of humour fails to land all that well. Australiens would be funnier if the cast was a lot faster with their delivery, a fact which I learned by fast forwarding the film in an attempt to enjoy it more. This actually worked because it cut through all the awkward pauses between lame dialogue of the characters while speeding up the fact that they take every joke one sentence too far. But since director Joe Bauer did not see the sensibility in how to appropriately pace his overbearing sense of humour, I ultimately didn't even laugh once. I don't know why the director chose to be so abundant with this theme, but it didn't work the first time nor did it work the following hundreds of times over the following 112 minutes. Australiens felt like it had gone on for too long with just a few minutes of the film over, so attempting to deal with it for close to two hours is clearly not going to create a result which is any more satisfying.
As well as that, there is little about Australiens to capitalise on the fact that it is an Australian film. The title of the film suggested there would be more of a patriotic self-parodying sense of humour to the film, but it is extremely rare throughout the film. The feature could have utilised better Australian stereotypes such as bogans and drongos in their war against Aliens, but the feature instead attempts to replicate that which has been long-established by Hollywood narratives. This betrays the film's potential to utilise the originality suggested by its title, and frankly there is too little about the film to signify that it is all that Australian in any way. I know you can't expect every Australian film to hit viewers over the head with its cultural background, but when the potential is right there and the title suggests that the film is going to work off of this theme, the arbitrary result can prove really dissatisfying.
It's also obvious how amateur the production's technical department is. Even though the film aims to be ridiculously bad, poor audio dubbing and bad sound recording is concerning just as generally bad filmmaking. It may be an arbitrary element in a film which aims to be intentionally bad in so many departments, but slack sound editing is just a work of general cinematic incompetence.
The cinematography itself is rather inconsistent because Australiens is relatively tame in its visual quality and presentation yet sometimes it proves to be appropriately moody with the way in which it's cut together. There's nothing particularly special about how it's all filmed, but at least the editing ensures that none of the shots really linger on for too long.
The one production value I will voice a mild appreciation for is the visual effects. I expected that the visual effects in Australiens would be very intentionally bad, as in the kind of quality you'd get out of a film distributed The Asylum. But actually I enjoyed them. Most of the time they were obviously visual effects, but the kind you'd find on a good old fashioned Saturday morning camp TV show. They make the experience fun and pay solid credibility to the filmmakers, while also hinting that the film could have succeeded if it went in a different direction with the story. There's the added benefit of how they are used in the action scenes; despite there being no major cinematic grace to the action sequences, they are cut together nicely and utilise the best of the film's production values well enough to create momentary visual spectacles at sporadic points throughout the film.
The musical score is also very well composed. Rather than just being a repetitive and simplistic background theme, the musical score in Australiens actually carries a classical alien feeling to it which reinforces the science fiction nature of the film. It is also very energetic which helps keep the mood of the film consistently progressing forward, so there is at least some consistent life in the film. It's so effective that the moments of extended dialogue which are bereft of music feel lifeless by comparison; but I suppose that was bound to happen either way with such a ridiculous screenplay.
Australiens has the best intentions and a strong use of campy visuals and music, but its overbearingly repetitive sense of humour and annoying characters shift away from sensible satire and parody into straight-up juvenile territory.
Pinning Ben Affleck in the role of an action hero under the direction of Gavin O'Connor, The Accountant sounded like a decent guilty pleasure.
The introduction to The Accountant immediately shows that there are problems with the script. Though the film deals with autistic characters, the approach taken by the parents of the autistic child at the centre of the story is far too one-dimensional. Christian "Chris" Wolff's mother refers to her son being a "problem" as opposed to the challenge, while his father insists he be forced into a life of loud noises and flashing lights to counter his fear of both. Neither of these characters have any sensible understanding of the pitfalls of autism, and this leads to two insufficient story arcs: one is that the mother abandons the family because she cannot deal with her own child, while the other is the father who is determined to force the condition out of his son with masculine-enforced training. Though this is also used for cheap and underdeveloped sentimentality at sporadic points in the film that continuously make the narrative seem more pathetic, it also epitomises the problem with how The Accountant approaches its subject matter. The titular character has potential to be a well-developed and interesting character, but any potential for actually exploring him is forsaken in favour of his autistic status being used as an excuse to turn him into a Gary Stu. He is a ridiculously overpowered action hero whose autism provides him no foreseeable difficulties at anything in life. The Accountant is so safe with its subject matter that it glamourises autism without exploring the harsh struggles of its reality.
Yet the main character is not the only problematic one. Following the film's intro, out of nowhere we are introduced to two unfamiliar characters played by J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson. We have no idea who either of these characters are or why they matter. Yet somehow they link the protagonist to a violent conspiracy where he reveals himself to be an assassin or something like it. I think it links to the intro scene that comes before the flashback to Chris' childhood but I can't be too sure. This just epitomises the long-running convolution that exists in the narrative of The Accountant. For a film about a protagonist who is a genius in remembering so many slight details, the less-intelligent audiences will struggle to piece together the story as he may be able to. I would expect this to fall under the category of the majority, so the general confusion in The Accountant is likely to afflict a higher percentage of viewers. I was one of them, and quickly realised that if I am to enjoy the film I must stop trying to make sense of the story. And when one has to do that, it shows a severe problem with the filmmaking at hand. When the film finally attempts to make an explanatory link between the characters not only is it difficult to understand, but the audience will find it hard to care anymore by this point.
Partially, this is due to the fact that none of the characters in the film are interesting. Outside of the underdeveloped protagonist, none of the other characters are interesting either. Although the titular character has potential, as his condition is used simply as an arbitrary plot point to turn him into a Gary Stu while the deeper elements of his character are given no exploration. He becomes paired with a female companion who has her own irrelevance and uninteresting backstory that she feels compelled to share with us. Then there's the characters who play a role in the tediously sentimental flashbacks and the others who make up the wider faction of the story, all who get little to no characterisation or heart. There are so many characters but so few that audiences can feel anything for, so the feature ends up a very shallow and dehumanised experience.
On top of that, there is no narrative flow. The Accountant oscillates back and forth between being a seriously talkative and character-driven drama one minute with a barrage of stylish action scenes in another, despite failing to provide a narrative which allow a strong transition between the different content of each scene. The action scenes in The Accountant are the highlight of the film because they serve as a reminder of Gavin O'Connor's competence as a visionary director, and the strong mix of practical choreography, solid cinematography, appropriately-timed editing and minimised use of visual effects all credit this. The sound editing and subtle musical score also help to keep the mood stable.
And Ben Affleck clearly plays a strong role in carrying the film. Though not always the finest actor in a leading role and stuck in a poorly handled and underdeveloped role, Ben Affleck does everything he can to present Chris Wolff as a competent hero. Ben Affleck is able to channel the intelligent nature of the character and speak with a sophisticated confidence in his words, yet he also limits the amount of emotional investment in the dialogue as to touch upon the character's struggles to match the emotional state of those around him. While this performance may come off as hollow in another film, it hits the nail on the head in The Accountant and once again offers Ben Affleck the chance to be the best part of an overall lacklustre action film following Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). His physical efforts in the action scene are also a powerful tool to the film's credibility, so at least The Accountant has a solid lead.
John Lithgow and J.K. Simmons make a pair of respectably sophisticated veterans who deliver their dialogue sharply.
However, Anna Kendrick doesn't have much of a purpose for being present. Her performance isn't particularly bad, but her character's sole purpose is to be the generic romantic interest of the protagonist which is rendered even dumber by the fact that the story reveals him not to understand or care about romance for any reason. As a result she just ends up falling back on her natural persona which is honestly rather irritating in such a pretentious dramatic story. She just feels too out of place and miscast, so it's not one of her finer efforts.
The Accountant benefits from Gavin O'Connor's visual style and Ben Affleck's solid leading performance, but the overly convoluted story, tedious narrative structure and underdeveloped characters result in an overlong and slow thriller which is full of pointless dialogue but short on competent action sequences.
With Divergent (2014) being flat out one of the worst movies of recent years and Insurgent (2015) being entertaining solely for being laughably stupid and cliche, Allegiant's savage critical reception enticed me into seeing just how low the series could sink this time.
Allegiant is a film which goes above and beyond the concept of being doomed from the start. Not only is it the successor to two extremely poor calibre films, but it comes out in an era where the obsession with Young Adult films has completely died down. With The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (2015) being a deeply unsatisfactory conclusion to the series, any personal interest I had in the genre has essentially gone with it as well. The Divergent series has stood out to me as the worst example of these Young Adult stories, and Allegiant took every chance to make sure this prophecy remained fulfilled.
The film opens depicting the Divergent universe caught up in the political turmoil established by the preceding films. The stories of these films were ridiculously poor; Divergent was a repetitive series of lifeless training sequences with no established context whatsoever while Insurgent told a generic conspiracy story packed with uninspired and predictable plot twists. It's difficult to decipher what story Allegiant is telling from there onwards. Not so much because the story is confusing, but because it hasn't been worth keeping up with the Divergent story by this point and so I hadn't bothered. Instead I just looked at the turmoil and thought of the conflict between the Districts and The Capitol from The Hunger Games films (2012-2015). Soon after the characters are running across a dead wasteland which serves as a reminder of The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials (2015). So by the point in Allegiant, it's clear that the film series has lost none of its derivative elements. But I was expecting it by this point. From here on, the story descends into an endless repetition of formulaic melodrama and lifeless characters. There is little worth critiquing in the script because the story is generic, uninspired, repetitive, predictable, derivative and many other negative adjectives that I couldn't care to waste my time on coming up with. The dialogue matches the story in this context and bombards audiences with underdeveloped stock characters and archetypes. Admittedly the film isn't as cringe-worthy as its predecessor, but that is actually more of a downfall for Allegiant because it counters the potential for it to be so bad that it's good.
Allegiant is not a film for thinkers, so audiences who appreciate the virtue of thinking need not apply. Audiences who seek anything outside of a stylish experience should not be looking towards this film, but the mindless might get mild kicks out of how Allegiant looks. I'll admit that the production values for the film are pretty good and the universe building continues with the improvement in this area that Insurgent showed over Divergent, but we've seen this exact same kind of universe in every other Young Adult franchise series that was released during the genre's heyday. The presence of Robert Schwentke as a returning director certainly does provide a mild benefit to this film because some of the set pieces and cinematography offers appealing imagery to audiences, but the visual effects are a little bit lower in quality this time around. But the sound editing and musical score is decent, even though the latter is a little repetitive. If Robert Schwentke wasn't working with such a sadly pedestrian script, then maybe he could have created an entertaining summer blockbuster. Alas, we all must wait for him to recapture the height of glory he reached when directing Red (2010).
Despite the production values of the film Allegiant has no sense of how to utilize them. Most of the film is overly talkative and plays out in generic science-fiction designed rooms which are more interesting than the topics that the characters are discussing. There is absolutely minimal action in the film with two uninspired action scenes in the first hour and little else. The story leads up to some kind of big battle which is supposed to take place in the final film, but I have no expectation that it will be at the scale we could hope for or that it will be entertaining to watch. Given that the overall production of the film is in development hell right now, there is no telling if it is even ever going to happen. Allegiant's visual elements wear thin when the story can't find anything to do with them, so it's just another area in which the film falters.
Shailene Woodley's performances in Divergent and Insurgent were the only consistently redeeming parts of the films. But by this point it seems like she doesn't care anymore. Her line delivery is consistently flat and uninspired in Allegiant, and the character Beatrice "Tris" Prior doesn't have anything compelling to do anymore. If you actually took her out of the story in Allegiant then it essentially wouldn't make any difference because she has no sense of identity whatsoever, and Shailene Woodley seems no longer inspired to pretend as if she does. I don't blame her for giving a half-assed effort, but when she did so well the first two times despite dealing with some heavily lacklustre material it is a sheer disappointment that she cannot be bothered putting even an iota of charisma into the part this time. Allegiant presents audiences with the sad fact that Shailene Woodley has given up on the series despite being the only consistently good thing about it.
Miles Teller is slightly better this time around because he seems more intense than pretentious, and Octavia Spencer is always a likable presence. But so many talented actors are reduced to playing the same standard for lifeless stock characters as the extras around them, and when people like Jeff Daniels are included in that list it is all the more disappointing.
Allegiant isn't as bereft of narrative as Divergent or as cringe-worthy as Insurgent, but it is nevertheless just as derivative, predictable and uninspired as its generic source material will allow it to be.