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Non-Review Review: Bad Boys For Life

Bad Boys For Life is an extremely stupid and occasionally veering on incoherent film. It is also a lot of fun.

There are any number of obvious problems with Bad Boys For Life. The pacing and plotting is a mess, stopping and starting at random intervals depending on the film’s mood as much as its own internal logic. Characterisation varies wildly from one scene to the next. Bad Boys For Life has even picked up some of the more frustratingly formulaic narrative beats from modern blockbusters, stumbling blindly into overwrought bathos and even attempting to offer a retroactively Freudian origin story for veteran police officer Mike Lowrey. It also understands that modern blockbusters have to be “about” things; in this case, growing old.

Welcome to Miami.

However, a large part of the charm of Bad Boys For Life is the way in which the film seems to have taken virtually every note that an executive might possibly offer and decided to approach these notes in a way that feels surprisingly fitting for a belated follow-up to Michael Bay’s bombastic duology. Bad Boys For Life is unashamedly and unapologetically its own thing. This results in a cocktail that doesn’t exactly go down smooth, but at least offers a refreshing and distinctive flavour. It helps that Belgian directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah lean strongly into the series’ sensibility, and invest heavily in its core strengths.

For all its gestures towards the modern age of intellectual-property-driven franchise-building, Bad Boys For Life grasps that the heart and soul of the series has always been the charm in watching Will Smith and Martin Lawrence bounce off one another. That dynamic between Smith and Lawrence, two performers who know how to work an audience and a camera, are arguably what grounded the first two films – keeping a very human perspective amid the ensuing “Bayhem.” In Bad Boys For Life, they does something similar, adding a charismatic star power that is often absent from contemporary blockbuster production.

Police don’t stop.

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Non-Review Review: Transformers 4 – Age of Extinction

Transformers: Age of Extinction is not a movie. It is a pneumatic drill. It is sustained bombardment. It is an attempt to force the audience into submission by bounding them. There isn’t a moment of the film where Michael Bay allows silence or mood. Even the establishing shots are offered through swooping camera shots – up, down, in, out. There’s no sense of place or time or character. It’s an extended music video, set to the percussion of cannon fire.

A Prime time?

A Prime time?

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Non-Review Review: Pacific Rim

The generic way of describing Pacific Rim seems to be Transformers vs. Godzilla, which really says more about how hard it is to sell an original blockbuster these days than it does about the quality of the film itself. There are obvious and superficial similarities between Pacific Rim and the two film series cited – giant robots and monsters from the ocean – but that cynical synopsis doesn’t do justice to director Guillermo Del Toro’s bold vision.

Pacific Rim is a punchy old-school summer blockbuster, one which remembers that characters are the foundation of drama, and which imbues its flesh-and-blood cast with as much personality as the flesh-and-blood spectacle unfolding overhead.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

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Non-Review Review: Twilight – Breaking Dawn, Part II

Here’s the thing. Despite all the derision that the Twilight films generate, they actually have any number of ingredients for a perfectly workable young adult horror romance. Despite the sizeable and significant flaws, and those fundamental issues that are very hard to overlook, the film does have a number of very clear thematic roots that can be traced back through horror cinema. The problem with Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part II isn’t that it’s inherently cheesy or trashy or absurd. The problem is that it’s never enough of these things. It feels far too comfortable and too casual to ever really grab the viewer, and everything feels far too safe and generic to get any mortal’s blood pumping.

Baby trouble…

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Tony Scott, R.I.P.

One of the downsides to running a blog the way that I run a blog is that I don’t always have the opportunity to respond to news as it breaks. As such, in writing about the passing of director Tony Scott, pretty much everything that I would say has been said by the time I can publish this, and far more eloquently than I could ever hope to say it. Obviously, I never knew Tony Scott personally, so I won’t comment on the man himself – although the tributes from those who did know him are deeply moving. I knew Tony Scott as countless film fans knew the director, through his work. And that work meant a lot to me.

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Chernobyl Causes: At What Point Exploitation?

This week sees the release of The Chernobyl Diaries, a horror film from producer Oren Peli, the filmamker who gave us the superb Paranormal Activity. However, I can’t help wonder if it is a little “too soon”for a horror based around the nuclear disaster that occurred in the Ukraine in 1986. It has been over a quarter of the century since disaster occurred, and yet I’d be lying if there wasn’t a faint sense of exploitation around the film, which sees a bunch of kids (American, naturally) touring the site of the catastrophe and uncovering all manner of unpleasantness. Still, it isn’t the only exploitation horror ever made, and I can’t help but wonder when a subject is or isn’t fair game.

Real-life horror…

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We Come in Peace, Shoot to Kill: Battleship’s Truly Alien Alien Invasion…

I really liked Peter Berg’s Battleship, and I think a part of that was the way that he tried to subtly bend some of the Michael Bay blockbuster conventions against themselves. So, for example, the hero doesn’t step up to the plate so much as realising he’s not the right person to step up to the plate. The heroes aren’t the bunch of hot pop-stars and would-be male models that make up the leading cast, but people who have actually experienced war and suffered for their patriotism. However, I really like how distinctively alien Battleship’s aliens were.

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