Baywatch (2017)

Baywatch, starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, is a turd of unparalleled proportions. I didn’t expect high art, I didn’t even get decent dick jokes. 

Sadly, this film simply doesn’t work. The jokes don’t land, the soundtrack is achingly contemporary and absolutely hollow. It’s a shame, because the concept could have been a smash hit in the right hands. Instead it just comes across as if the creative team had a few drinks watching 21 Jump Street on Netflix and thought “fucking hell, this is easy, I could do this!”  

It’s the almost the exact same story as Jump Street too, with similar reveals and “twists”. Except where that film was clever, sharp and extremely funny, Baywatch falls flat nearly every time. 
Trying to catch drug dealers operating in the bay, Mitch ( a clearly embarrassed Dwayne Johnson) is forced to team up with unwanted new recruit, Brody (an excessively muscular Zac Efron).  Brody is a douchey ex-Olympian who can’t work as part of a team and is forced to work as part of a team, because he needs to work as part of a team. 

You can clearly see where this is going. Unfortunately the film thinks we are idiots and has to spell this out for us every five minutes. Neither of the two leads is likeable which really hurts the film, as you’re just not engaged or invested in any of these characters. A two hour movie that loses you in the opening 10 minutes, is a brutal chore to endure.

The cast, however, is actually pretty good, Alexandra Daddario as Summer doesn’t get much to do but does it well.  Kelly Rohrbach takes the Pamela Anderson role as CJ. You’d never be able to recast someone as iconic, so I didn’t mind the decision to make her into an Anna Faris style slightly goofy character. Jon Bass as Ronnie was funny, but seemed to be doing a Josh Gad impression the whole time. I guess Gad was busy or too expensive. Or maybe he read the script. 

The Get Down’s Yahya Abdul-mateen II plays the long suffering cop forced to deal with these rogue lifeguards.  He is one of the few in the film who manages to come out of the film with his reputation unscathed. I look forward to seeing him as Black Manta in next year’s Aquaman movie. 
One thing I liked was that the cast was racially diverse and the villain was an Asian lady, Leeds, played by Priyanka Chopra, again not given much to do but, shining nonetheless. 



Baywatch, the TV show, while not being entirely realistic, at least managed to remain sincere. I feel the movie tried to both laugh at and nod to this unflinching sincerity, yet failed in the process. None of the meta jokes about Baywatch worked. None of the slow mo stuff was funny. At one point they even make the same “We’re based on a far fetched old TV show”  joke from 21 Jump Street and THAT doesn’t work. 

I wanted to like Baywatch, I’d have even liked to have said “it’s worth a watch”  but it isn’t.  It’s a total piece of shit, brand damaging for all involved. It managed to make comedian Hannibal Buress come across as boring and flat, a feat so spectacular it should win some kind of award. 

Seth Gordon, who made King of Kong and the first  Horrible Bosses, is usually a quality director, so I was shocked to see some terrible editing, ADR additions and woeful camera angles. There are so many over the shoulder conversation shots where mouth moments don’t sync and Zac Efron’s fringe changes position. I would not be shocked if news of reshoots or extensive editing came out. Something felt off. 

So don’t waste your time or money. Wonder Woman is out soon, go see that instead!

2/10 
For Fans Of:

The Dukes of Hazard 

21 Jump Street 

The House Bunny 

Ben Fenlon 

supernerdsuk.com 

Heroes and Villains Fan Fest London

Saturday, May 27th saw me head down to London Olympia for Heroes Villains Fan Fest, a convention and celebration of superhero TV shows and films. Like a comic con, just with guests that people really want to see. 

Largely covering The CW’s superhero shows, as well as Gotham, HVFF London had guests from Guardians of the Galaxy ( Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn) and Captain America ( Hayley Atwell and Stanley Tucci) 

I know that this is usually a movie or TV review page, but hear me out, HVFF London had enough film and TV stuff to warrant a mention here. I’ve never seen a level of fan interaction, like we saw here, before.  The panels were genuinely hilarious and you could tell the guests as well as the crowd were having a lot of fun.

 Early on in the day, John Barrowman strutted out in drag and then got changed on stage, while doing what can only be described as stand up comedy. Multi tasking at the highest level from Mr Merlyn. Barrowman had the crowd in the palm of his hand, a true showman, it actually left me wanting a John Barrowman stand up tour.
All of the panels were great, Mehcad Brooks’ SuperGirl panel especially getting huge praise from the audience. Having to fly solo onstage after the last minute cancellation of Melissa Benoist, Brooks nailed it. Showing huge charisma and making the audience laugh, a million miles away from Superman’s Pal James Olsen!

I was lucky enough to be granted interview time with Shantel VanSanten ( Patty Spivot from The Flash), Michael Rowe ( Deadshot from Arrow) and Matt Ryan, the erstwhile John Constantine from, well, everywhere Constantine appears these days.  The full length interviews will be on supernerdsuk.com in the coming weeks!  

I’ll also be uploading a full length guest written blog soon in the next few days, so keep an eye out for that!

We would highly recommend attending HVFF if you’re a fan of these shows. The level of interaction is second to none, the guests genuinely love what they’re doing and the overall vibe is just fun, like a community. The event management and staff were some of the best I’ve ever encountered, including my years playing music, so extra special thanks to them for running such an amazing event and keeping everyone happy and safe.

Check out their website here and search the HashTag #HVFFLondon on social media and check out some of the amazing fan photos.

Twin Peaks: The Return (3 and 4) (2017)

Episodes 3 and 4 dropped online immediately after the premiere of Season 3 aired on television , so how does Twin Peaks fare after that spectacular return? Does the quality remain or do we see a slump? Spoilers abound, so beware. 

Filmed as one 18 hour piece by David Lynch and edited down into episodes afterwards, this series feels much more of a singular work than TV usually does. Lynch’s endgame is already known to him and he’s getting us there at his own,very deliberate pace. 

The second pair of episodes started off surreal and nigh on incomprehensible, with Dale Cooper trapped in non-existence, in an otherworldly Sci Fi sequence that will surely haunt my dreams for a while. Unseen, presumably monstrous creatures are heard banging on doors and the tension is cranked as we await Coop’s return to the world. Yet, as The Arm said, the doppelganger must go back to the Black Lodge for Coop to be freed. We find out that the doppelganger has created a double of his own, Dougie Jones, to take his place in the Black Lodge. It’s slightly silly but Kyle McLachlan knocks all three characters out of the park. He’s clearly having a whale of a time here, his performance(s) all brilliant. 

I feel the main arc of Season 3 will be Coop vs Evil Coop, but, I may be wrong , this is Twin Peaks after all. Evil Coop (I’m sure he has a better name but this is fun) has to be the big bad right? Unless Someone else is yet to arrive. Original Coop’s amnesiac stumble around the casino made me chuckle and his traditional American family set up with Naomi Watts felt like the wacky Peaks of old in a way. It’s good to see Watts here, the cast in general is incredible. 

Episode 3 and 4 were more of a return to the traditional Twin Peaks feel, with Episode 4 in particular having some incredible sequences. Finding out that former bad boy Bobby Briggs has become a Sheriff’s Deputy was a nice surprise, seeing him react to Laura Palmer’s photograph and burst into tears as Laura’s theme from the original series played was perfect, beautiful television. A callback filled with genuine emotion. This was followed by the introduction of a new character, someone iconic and odd, who would have fit so well in the original show. 

Wally Brando

Michael Cera‘s casting seemed an odd one, most of us surely guessing (correctly) he would play Andy (or Dick Tremayne) and Lucy’s baby, now fully grown . None of us saw Wally Brando coming. Cera is channelling Marlon Brando in The Wild One, complete with motorcycle and leather jacket. In this less goofy series, Wally is a welcome addition, genuinely hilarious, earnestly flanked by his dim witted parents, while the new Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster) politely listens to his bizarre ramble. It was a glorious, vintage Twin Peaks moment, filled with the fun and spirit that made us fall in love with this weird show in the first place. 

David Lynch himself returned as FBI boss Gordon Cole, accompanied by Miguel Ferrer‘s crotchety zen master and forensics expert, Albert Rosenfield as well as the stunning presence of longtime Lynch collaborator, Chrysta Bell as FBI agent Tamara Preston. Informed of (Evil) Coop’s incarceration, but not knowing he’s actually (Evil) Coop they head to see him in a South Dakota prison, but not before meeting Denise Bryson, now high up in the bureau, still played by David Duchovny.  Denise implies Cole just surrounds himself with attractive women. Surely Lynch making a joke about his own habit of casting stunning women in each of his projects! This new “Blue Rose” case calls back to Fire Walk With Me and ends episode 4 on a cliffhanger. 

Both episodes finished with a musical performance in The Bang Bang Bar, gives the show a nice wind down over the credits, not wasting a single second of its air time.

I’m fully invested in Season 3 and still with 14 hours left, I’m already feeling anxiety about it ending too soon! 
My interview with Twin Peaks star David Patrick Kelly is up now on the Supernerds UK Podcast, available on iTunes and Supernerdsuk.com now! You can also read my review of the first two episodes here.

Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)

The first two episodes of Showtime’s revival of the Lynch/Frost surrealist drama have aired and it’s given us a lot to mull over.  While I do talk some spoilers, I’ve left a lot out, as some things need to be seen for themselves. 

Simultaneously being something totally new and also, essentially the most Twin Peaks thing ever, Lynch and Frost have returned from the Black Lodge rejuvenated and ready to go.  The first two episodes answer some twenty-five year old questions but ask a whole lot more. 

At its core, Twin Peaks has always been the story of Laura Palmer and The Return is no exception, with the first episode opening with Laura’s promise of seeing Special Agent Dale Cooper again in twenty-five years. This new series has a murder mystery of its own, with a high-school principal, played by Shaggy himself, Matthew Lillard being arrested for a truly horrific double murder, is he under the control of BOB or one of the other denizens of the Black Lodge

Speaking of which, Agent Cooper’s evil doppelganger from the finale of season 2 is still on the loose and rampaging around our world, desperate to stay out of the Black Lodge. It’s never explicitly stated that he’s BOB, but a long haired Kyle McLachlan definitely gives off that vibe, channeling the spookiness of the late Frank Silva.  Although I know Silva passed away in 1995, I constantly expected him to appear, baring his teeth and climbing over a couch. The real Dale Cooper is still inside the Red Room, with MIKE,  looking for an escape. It’s hard to take, especially as Coop is one of the nicest, most earnest heroes TV has ever seen. His scenes here are sad but an essential continuation. We can’t go from “How’s Annie?” back to coffee and pie. Not so soon, maybe not ever. 

This new Peaks is free of network censorship and fully embraces the gore, swearing and nudity it wasn’t allowed first time round. It’s a lot more like Fire Walk With Me or even Lost Highway than the original series. But that’s fine, it suits the progression and it works. Nothing, even the creatures or whatever they are, seems forced or over the top.  

While Twin Peaks has always been a little scary, I would definitely say this new version is pretty much horror. While shows like True Detective have aped the Peaks style, here Lynch blows everyone away with his slow burning terror. Lingering shots, pulsating music, purposefully dragging scenes out, Lynch rachets the tension and drags us along with him. The discovery of the corpse(s) in the apartment building slowly pull you to the edge of your seat. The storyline in New York with the glass box is flat out terrifying, feeling like some of the J-horror that has been inspired by Lynch. Some people might find this slow approach tedious or the creatures silly, but chances are they’d have found backwards talking and a Log Lady daft too. 

Catherine E Coulson, the Log Lady, sadly died in 2015 just after filming her scenes, and her appearance here shows how ill she was. With chemotherapy hair loss and a tube in her nose, she looked so frail , my eyes filled with tears seeing her that way, but she delivers her dialogue so perfectly and so real, it’s an incredible performance to leave us with. This double episode was dedicated the memory of both her and Frank Silva, which was a nice touch. Knowing that we’ve lost several cast members since filming adds an extra layer of emotions to our viewing experience too, especially to a show with themes of death and finality such as this one. 

We do get a return of some of the original cast, with Ben and Jerry Horne, Richard Beymer and David Patrick Kelly still as hilarious as ever! Andy, Lucy and Hawk in the Sheriff Department had me aching for Sheriff Truman but I know Michael Ontkean is now retired and living in Hawaii. Near the end it was wonderful to see a scene into the bar, with The Chromatics replacing Julee Cruse, but it felt like the old days. Seeing James and Shelly as well as some new characters. Jacques Reno back from the dead and tending bar in the background was odd, unless he’s got an identical cousin. Hey, it’s happened before!

Darker, scarier and just as mysterious, Twin Peaks: The Return has raised the bar for TV yet again. David Lynch and Mark Frost are still light years ahead of everyone else. 

The current epsiode of the Supernerds UK Podcast is a Twin Peaks special and features my interview with Jerry Horne himself, David Patrick Kelly! 

Available on ITunes, supernerdsuk.com and all places podcasts are found!
Find my thoughts on Episodes 3 and 4 here 

Alien Covenant (2017)

It’s worth noting that Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein was originally titled, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” 

 

Crashing into the cinema, like an out of control landing vehicle, Ridley Scott returns with a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus. Furthering the story of the origins of the Xenomorphs, David and the engineers. 

Covenant, written by John Logan and Dante Harper from a story by Michael  Green and Jack Paglen ,  sets it’s tone immediately and opens with a short prologue, where we see Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland, much younger and minus the old man makeup, igniting the life in the synthetic human, David, (the returning Michael Fassbender). Further pushing the themes of creation and purpose of life that drove the last film. It’s hard to talk about Covenant as an Alien film when so much of it’s story relates directly back to Prometheus

The film then picks up with our rag-tag crew of colonists heading for a planet, with 2000 sleeping passengers and a lab full of frozen human embryos. While recharging the ship’s batteries, a solar storm damages the craft, killing the captain. On carrying out repairs they receive a signal from a mysterious local planet, capable of sustaining life, yet unknown to us.  

Newly promoted Captain Oram (Billy Crudup) makes the decision to alter the mission and things take a fairly predictable turn for the worse, because it’s an Alien movie and that’s how this works.
I enjoyed Alien Covenant. It’s a dark, gory, suspenseful sequel that does indeed answer some of Prometheus’ questions, yet leaves enough dangling threads of its own, to be answered in the sequel, with filming  currently set for a 2018 start date. 

The cast, while not being quite as star studded as before, certainly manages to more than hold it’s own, with Danny McBride and Katherine Waterston filling the Hicks and Ripley archetypes. McBride in particular, while seemingly an odd choice, is phenomenonal in the role and I look forward to seeing him in more films like this. 

The creature design was, as always unsettling and visceral, though the CGI looks obvious and less affecting than the Giger designed, original, practical Xenomorphs did. The albino neomorph was a nice addition to the lore, coming across less devious and more animalistic than we’re used to. Similar to the dogburster from Alien 3 in some ways. 

I’d like to talk about something that maybe considered spoiler territory, but I’ll keep it vague. If you want to remain fresh, skip to the last paragraph! The return of David midway through the film was an unexpected delight for me. I had no idea he would be so integral to the plot. Fassbender playing two different versions of an synthetic was great. Laid back and caring Walter and evil British Villain David.  

Spending 10 years alone on the engineer homeworld, David becomes isolated and obsessed with creation. Complete with his own fortress castle, barricaded away from the nightmare creatures he caused to exist, David became an engineer himself. A quick flashback shows what he’s done and then his new plans kick in. Scott uses Fassbender perfectly and seeing a Synthetic human become the main character really reinforces the film’s message. 

A slow burning, somewhat Gothic science fiction horror movie disguised as an entry in the Alien franchise, Alien Covenant is Prometheus 2 in every way possible. For me, that’s certainly not a bad thing.

8/10

For Fans Of:

Alien

Prometheus 

Frankenstein (1931)

Blade Runner 

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017)

The future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in good hands. James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is a loud, colourful, hilarious and heartfelt statement of intent. 

Returning to the family of misfits and mercenaries he guided to the screen in 2014, Gunn rises to the challenge and raises the stakes for the Guardians and makes a more personal and rewarding film for us. I think that’s why Guardians works so well, in both movies. The literal fate of the Galaxy is at stake, but the core of the story is about family.
So, what does Volume 2 have in store for us? More than I expected. The trailers for the movie gave away shockingly very little, the big creature battle prominently shown, is actually in the opening credits sequence,  following a short prologue of a digitally de-aged Kurt Russell romancing Peter Quill’s mother and planting something rather dubious in a forest on Earth. Russell’s Ego is a welcome addition to the cast, announcing himself as Star Lord’s father early in the runtime. 

There are parallels with Empire Strikes Back, the middle film of another trilogy, also one about a hero with daddy issues discovering his powers. Volume 2 however is a true ensemble film and everyone has various issues of abandonment and loss to work through. Gamora and Nebula, Rocket and Yondu, everyone has something to deal with. 

Rocket steals the film for me, arguably the badass of the group (and in this group that’s saying something)  yet still having so much depth and compassion. We forget how easily a CGI Raccoon and Talking Tree could be misused in other hands, but James Gunn never treats them as anything less than they deserve. Rocket and Yondu bonding after being taken prisoner by the hilarious named Taserface and a mutinous Ravager crew was probably my highlight of the film. Gamora and Nebula’s battle for respect was awesome too, packed with more father issues, Thanos forcing his daughters to compete for his affections.

You know what the absolute BEST thing about GOTG Volume 2 is? The fact it doesn’t act like a set up for any other films. This is a stand alone chapter in the Guardians story, and it’s all the better for it. We only get one mention of Infinity Stones and no appearance from Thanos. It may let some people down, but it keeps the film from being dragged into someone else’s story. That’s not to say there’s a lack of cameo’s or character appearances. 

Sylvester Stallone and Michael Rosenbaum turn up early on as Stakar and Martinex, two of the original Guardians from the 70s comics while our obligatory Stan Lee cameo had some characters show up that absolutely floored me. Some of the FIVE  mid and post credits scenes tease a few big things to come, but just for GOTG, making me very keen to see how Volume 3 turns out. 

The soundtrack is of course fantastic, with songs from ELO, George Harrison and Parliament adding a spacey 70’s vibe. If Volume 1 was scuzzy 70’s Americana, Volume 2 lights a joint and takes us to the planetarium. 
Look, it’s a Marvel movie, it’s gonna do well at the box office no matter what, but it’s just great to see how much love went into this film. These movies are often art-by-comittee and struggle for it (Hello BvS, Iron Man 2, Fant4stic) so it’s particularly excellent that such a singular vision had persisted through both of the Guardians films. 

Packed full of comedy, it’s easily Marvel’s funniest film by quite some distance, with everyone getting a chance to shine, with Dave Bautista as Drax dropping his deadpan jokes more than most. 
Full of retro pop-culture references, breathtaking action and genuine heart,  Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 could easily end up being the biggest film of the MCU. A sequel that goes bigger and better and doesn’t lose any of the things that made us fall in love with the characters in the first place. 

Don’t be a trash panda, catch it in cinemas now. Or May 5th if you’re American. 

9/10

The Belko Experiment (2017)

Do you ever have those days where you want to bash your co-workers across the head with a stapler? You do?! Boy, do I have a film for you!

The Belko Experiment, written and produced by James Gunn and directed by Greg McLean,  is a brutal, horror-thriller, peppered with a sly vein of dark humour and a tremendous cast of unlikeable characters. 

A group of American white collar workers based in their company’s Colombian offices are locked in the building and forced to murder each other for some unknown reason. If they don’t comply, their mysterious captor will start the killing for them. Every employee was fitted with a GPS chip in case of kidnap, but there’s bad news, the chips are secretly some Task Force X style bombs. 

While being a riff on the old Running Man/Battle Royale trope of being forced into murdering people to stay alive, Belko cleverly marries this familiar concept to the idea of the workplace and it’s competitive environment. Not a totally original concept, but you’ll agree it’s a nice fresh take. 

 The two movies I was reminded of most were meta-horror classic The Cabin In The Woods and 2009’s Exam, another single location thriller about corporate competition. 

Belko stars Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona and John Gallagher jr as the main three of our unlikeable characters, but this movie is a real team effort, with Sean Gunn, Michael Rooker, John C McGinley, David Dastmalchian rounding out a strong ensemble. Every cast member is potential cannon fodder and we are left guessing who will be next on the chopping block, with some deaths being very surprising indeed!

The level of violence in this movie is astounding, everything from guns and knives to exploding heads and murder by office equipment. Greg McLean’s direction pulls no punches, showing us enough gore and then some. I’m a fan of horror and I do enjoy spectacular kill scenes, so I quite liked the Final Destination-esque way in which Belko tops each death with something a little more gruesome. 

If you arrived at The Belko Experiment through James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, be aware this is a very different beast, even more dark hearted than Super or the Dawn of the Dead remake he wrote for Zack Snyder. I’d have liked a little more character development, as we’re never really taken beyond any surface level details, however, I enjoyed the rapid pace and lean story,  so I can’t complain too much. 
A story about survival in a literal cut-throat working environment, The Belko Experiment is entertaining, gory and darkly funny. 

7/10

For Fans Of:

Dredd

Exam 

The Running Man

The Cabin In The Woods 

Office Space