Warcraft Review: Dungeons and Dullards


Director: Duncan Jones

Writers: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt

Stars: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper

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Release date: June 16th, 2016

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 123 minutes


2/5

Best part: Toby Kebbell as Durotan.

Worst part: The human characters.

Hollywood has had a difficult run of adapting video games to the big screen. Over the past two decades, each entry has become a critical and commercial bomb. Sure, the Resident Evil and Silent Hill franchises are enjoyable, but not well made. The ins and outs of even the most popular video game properties appear to be lost on modern movie audiences.

Warcraft has stepped up to the plate, hoping the achieve what Max Payne, Doom, Prince of Persia, Need for Speed, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Super Mario Bros., Hitman (twice) and every fighting game franchise failed to do. Does it succeed? Nope, not even slightly. It merely adds to the long-line of silly, pitiful video game adaptations. It kicks off with the Horde, as the orc chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), his pregnant wife, Draka (Anna Nelvin), and his friend, Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky), prepare to leave dying orc realm Draenor. Led by warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) and dark magic known as the Fel, the orcs leap into human realm Azeroth via portal and soon wreak havoc.

From conception to execution, Warcraft presents all of Hollywood’s worst and craziest impulses. Writer/director, and long-time WOW fan, Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) has worked on this adaptation for the past few years. Jones’ intentions are admirable, attempting to turn this franchise into the next Lord of the Rings-sized cinematic experience. Indeed, thanks to his unique style, it features several unpredictable twists and turns. In particular, the action sequences are directed with enough physical and emotional impact. Throughout its exhaustive 123-minute run-time, however, those unrequited with the lore will struggle to keep up. Marketed as an origin story, the movie exists entirely to set up a potential franchise. Jones is a little too infatuated with the world of Warcraft, throwing together a plethora of sub-plots, characters, and specifics from the franchise without explanation.

Similarly to Avatar and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the movie provides a hands-on look at a whole new civilisation. The orc characters are fascinating, making rational decisions and showcasing their impressive brute strength in equal measure. However, the human characters are reduced to one-note performances and stereotypes. Vikings actor Travis Fimmel fails to make Military commander/lead badass Lothar appealing. Despite vague attempts at humor, he suffocates under the dour, self-serious tone and artificial backdrops. Charming actors including Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga, both from AMC series Preacher, deliver monotonal, deer-in-headlights performances. The Mage characters are laughable, with Ben Foster and Ben Schnetzer providing little else beyond out-of-place American accents. A miscast Paula Patton is buried under green paint and awkward prosthetics as human/orc warrior Garona.

Warcraft marks yet another failed attempt at adapting a video game into the celluloid medium. Despite Jones’ best intentions, the impenetrable exposition, stale performances, and lack of excitement make for one of the year’s most forgettable movies. Here’s hoping Assassin’s Creed, out on Boxing Day, can break the curse.

Verdict: Another woeful video game adaptation.

Need for Speed Review – Crash ‘n’ Burn


Director: Scott Waugh

Writer: George Gatins

Stars: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, Scott ‘Kid Cudi’ Mescudi


Release date: March 14th, 2014

Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 130 minutes


 

1½/5 

Best part: Aaron Paul.

Worst part: The frustrating supporting characters.

Disastrous losing streaks aren’t enjoyable for anyone in Hollywood. They come without warning whilst embarrassing their victims beyond belief. In Tinseltown, losing streaks can happen to directors, writers, and actors. Sadly, Hollywood’s catastrophic run of video game adaptations is officially getting worse. After witnessing exhaustive action flick Need for Speed, I believe Hollywood should throw in the towel. The movie, despite its alluring cast and marketing campaign, isn’t worth the admission cost. Save your money and play the game instead. trust me, you’ll have a much better time. At the very least, you’ll gain some sense of control.

Aaron Paul.

Who’s asking for these video game adaptations, anyway? Everyone wants their favourite games, comic books, and novels adapted into movies. But why can’t people simply enjoy them for what they are? These adaptations, cashing in on a particular brand, prove that some entertainment mediums don’t cross over effectively. The mass divide between video game and cinema mechanics drifts Need for Speed into an inescapable vortex of mediocrity. It’d be simplistic and cheesy to make a significant number of car puns throughout this review. However, the plot, such as it is, relies on its viewers having low IQs, acute nymphomania, and Red Bull addictions. People who refuse to sit through 12 Years a Slave or The Wolf of Wall Street (you know, intelligent movies) will lap up Need for Speeds irritable ticks and predictable turns. The plot kicks off with testosterone-fuelled car mechanics being idiotic. After a sorrowful introduction from renowned radio presenter Monarch (Michael Keaton), we run into notorious grease monkey/street racer Tobey Marshall (Aaron Paul). Marshall, running his late father’s garage, is haemorrhaging money faster than he can earn it. Gaining respect within Mt. Kisko, New York’s underground drag-racing scene, Marshall is considered one of the circuit’s hidden treasures. Celebrity driver Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) comes to Marshall for help. Hoping to settle their long-lasting feud, Brewster offers Marshall a spectacular opportunity. Brewster asks Marshall’s crew to fix-up the Ford Mustang acclaimed car designer/entrepreneur Carroll Shelby (don’t worry, I didn’t know who that was either) was working on before his passing.

Dominic Cooper & Dakota Johnson.

Before I go on, I’ll ask Dreamworks Studios and co. just one thing. Dear studios, this is based on a plotless video game, what did you think would happen?! The Need for Speed franchise consists only of uninteresting cut scenes and exhilarating car chases. This franchise, despite reaching the right demographic, can’t deliver acceptable cinematic endeavours. Congratulations Burnout and Gran Turismo, I now have more respect for you! Anyway, the plot takes sharp turns early on. After pitching their work to car dealer Julia Maddon (Imogen Poots), Marshall gets back on Brewster’s bad side. Hindered by Marshall’s efforts, Brewster challenges him and his comrade Little Pete (Harrison Gilbertson) to a race. Using Koenigsegg Ageras, the three speed down the freeway before Pete is killed. With Pete’s sister and Marshall’s old flame Anita (Dakota Johnson) standing by Brewster’s word, Marshall is sent to prison. Before long, motivations, revelations, and speeches bust out of these irritating characters. This revenge plot, controlling this half-assed Fast and Furious rip-off, is as tedious as watching someone play the aforementioned video game. Even before the half-way mark, it divulges into derivative tropes and face-palm-inducing moments. Sadly, thanks to George Gatins’ interminable screenplay, the movie assumes its two or three movies into its own franchise. After its annoying characters are introduced, the movie pushes on without depth, personality, or originality. Separated from the franchises’ eighteen instalments, these characters are simply uninteresting hindrances. Another problem – trust me, there are a lot of ’em – stems from Hollywood’s current trend of adapting useless properties. Stunt coordinator turned director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) obviously doesn’t care about the movie’s slower moments. Not knowing whether to take itself seriously or take deep breaths, Need for Speed’s jarring tonal shifts become debilitating road blocks.

“Racers should race, cops should eat donuts.” (Monarch (Michael Keaton), Need for Speed).

The cars.

Tripping over the franchise’s baffling ‘mythology’, gullible thirteen year-old boys will be the only ones savouring this tumultuous experience. Deliberating on visions of the future, masculinity, and racing’s raw power, the movie’s spiritual side dampens its insignificant and questionable narrative. Predictably, plot contrivances, cliches, and unnecessary sketches extend the bloated story. Despite presenting itself as a homage to 70s drive-in flicks, aided by overt references to Bullit, the movie sorely lacks pathos, energy, and relevance. Beyond the plot-hole, and pot hole, driven narrative, the dramatic and comedic moments don’t help. The slapstick moments, led by irritating supporting players, are accompanied only by crickets and tumbleweeds. One act of defiance, involving one character quitting his job, is just plain tiresome. Paul, coming off of AMC hit series Breaking Bad, does his best with such immature material. Paul and Poots, developing a slither of chemistry within their Mustang’s small confinements, are charismatic forces in need of better projects. On the other end of the spectrum, rapper Scott ‘Kid Cudi’ Mescudi hampers every scene he coverts. As the movie’s most offensive stereotype (and that’s saying something), Mescudi should stick to his rap career. Somehow, Need for Speed‘s characters are less realistic than the racing sequences. Thankfully, the action set pieces steal the show. Created with flawless technical precision and attention to detail, the skids, crashes, and flips deliver tiny joyful moments. Thanks to immaculate practical effects, Waugh’s exhaustive knowledge of stunt-work pays-off here. Unfortunately, he and the screenwriters stall when it comes to everything else. Why should I compliment this abominable mess? The negatives far outweigh the positives. I could make more car puns and jokes, but they would distract from my anger toward this unending skid-mark.

Here, Hollywood has blessed us with yet another woeful and forgettable video game adaptation. Yawn! Surely, it can’t be that difficult to produce one worthwhile adaption. Up there with Doom, Max Payne, and Prince of Persia, Need for Speed steals this franchise’s rhythmic title and speeds off into the distance. Thankfully, this movie will probably crash and burn at the box office. Trapping Paul, Poots, and Keaton inside a fiery mess, this lazy car-race flick delivers cheap thrills and loud groans. Unfortunately, story-driven games are now being given short shrift. Thanks to the aforementioned franchise killers, the Last of Us, Halo, and Metal Gear Solid adaptations may never happen.

Verdict: A tedious and stupefying actioner. 

Resident Evil: Retribution – Overworked Corpse


Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

Writer: Paul W.S. Anderson

Stars: Mila Jovovich, Sienna Guillroy, Michelle Rodriguez, Bingbing Li


Release date: September 14th, 2012

Distributor: Screen Gems

Country: USA

Running time: 96 minutes


 1/5

Best part: Its tech-savvy visuals.

Worst part: The acting. Yeesh!

It’s 1968. A filmmaker by the name of George A. Romero has a dream of making the big time in Hollywood. He creates an idea for a new monster to unleash upon terrified audiences. Night of the Living Dead, the first true iteration of the ‘zombie’ is born. 44 years later, his legacy has led to one of the most immortal series’ of our time. That’s not a good thing in this case, as the Resident Evil saga has more than officially outstayed its welcome.

Mila Jovovich.

Mila Jovovich.

It’s fifth instalment can be described simply as a watered down Romero zombie flick for the iPhone generation. Tearing apart every seemingly interesting opportunity, what is left is merely a shadow of the fun 2002 original and some mildly entertaining sequels.The plot of Resident Evil: Retribution is as frustrating as teaching a child how to solve a rubik’s cube; it’s messy, tedious and forces you to give up after 10 minutes. The moustache twirling baddie-spitting organisation known as ‘Umbrella’ is once again interfering with failed test subject and spandex-clad warrior queen Alice (Mila Jovovich). Recoiling from the events of previous instalments, her capture leads to a series of simulated obstacles, each more trying than the last. Alice, a collection of allies and her fragmented mind must defend themselves against the horde of undead creatures and the vicious Red Queen.

Michelle Rodriguez.

Michelle Rodriguez.

Based on the hugely successful series of video games (now up to no. 6), the relentless and blood-curdling antics of the games far outweigh anything put forth by Jovovich and her hack-director husband Paul W.S Anderson. Anderson (known for such ‘classics’ as Alien vs. Predator, The 2008 Death Race remake and last year’s silly re-imagining of The Three Musketeers) places his lack of filmmaking prowess in full view (along with his wife’s naughty bits). A man clearly interested in the alluring aspects of video game creation over the basics of film production and script writing, his mindset for direction works like a stoner with a sudden rush of ideas for the next great invention. If you missed the last few instalments, everything is unnecessarily explained in minute detail, hopefully getting audiences to revisit the better points of this undead nightmare (specifically Resident Evil: Extinction). This series is clearly his baby, and he intends to prove that with every idea based on a simple “I love this element from the game, we’ll throw that in here!”. Sadly for him Resident Evil: Retribution fails on every level. The fun, violent, techno-action allure from the original becomes sanitised in a film filled with bright lights, simulations and an over abundance of touch screens. The elements of video game story and characterisation have never worked on film, nor will they if Anderson keeps his filthy hands on every adaptation. 

“Waiting for a written invitation?” (Alice (Mila Jovovich), Resident Evil: Retribution).

Jovovich & Li Bingbing

Jovovich & Li Bingbing.

Resident Evil: Retribution suffers from repetitive story and action beats, ripped not only from better parts of this series but from completely different movies. Alice’s simulated memories turn her life into the most basic of video games. The elements of surprise, suspense, original action/chase sequences and character interactions are ruined with every contrivance and predictable jump scare hastily thrown in. She wakes up in Dawn of the Dead, Sucker Punch, Aliens, Escape from New York and finally The Terminator, as Anderson once again reveals to have a lack of original thought. Though not surprising given his mindless filmography. All the ‘W.S Anderson’ touches are thrown in for good measure. Long hallways with on-coming obstacles, creatures leap over and over again at the screen, silly special effect-laden set pieces and charisma-less characters are part of the ensemble of bad decisions in this cliche ridden extravaganza. Even his action style, although fun in rare moments here, is a bland hybrid of John Woo’s hyper-violent gun play and Zack Snyder’s slo-mo. The performances from Anderson regulars don’t help much either. Without a suitable reason for bringing in characters from previous instalments, Michelle Rodriguez (Resident Evil), Oded Fehr (R.E: Apocalypse and Extinction) and Sienna Guillroy (R.E: Apocalypse) provide nothing but clones devoid of personality. While Jovovich, despite looking good in black spandex, is all but sinking with this ship.

Despite Paul W. S. Anderson commitment to his own creation, Resident Evil: Retribution marks the beginning of the end for the franchise. Thanks to the nightmarish acting, derivative style, and bland story, this corpse should be put out of its mystery!

Verdict: This undead series should rest in peace.