February 2022 Roundup

Moonfall

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AGC International // Directed by Roland Emmerich // Starring Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, John Bradley, Michael Peña, Charlie Plummer, Kelly Yu, Donald Sutherland

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Roland Emmerich is back with a big disaster flick! Excited yet? Moonfall is the latest in the Emmerich pantheon that has given us films such as Independence Day, Godzilla, and The Day After Tomorrow, and, here, well, the moon has fallen out of orbit and this event leads to a huge conspiracy theory being uncovered. On a story level, what can you say about such an absurd idea? In true Emmerich fashion, Moonfall isn’t trying to be anything other than a big disaster film, it knows exactly what it is and delivers on its promise - it’s a big film with a lot to take in visually alongside even bigger stretches of logic. Everyone is game for the job and Jon Bradley is surprisingly good in his role, though Patrick Wilson felt like he was going through the motions at times in a role that called for greater emotion the deeper the movie went. There are some impressive set pieces, which almost should be expected, as the Earth is thrown out of balance and a conspiracy theory angle that was decent, but aside from that, Moonfall doesn’t really offer much else. The script is muddy, maybe there was an attempt to justify the reasons for the disaster scientifically but it comes across as jargon at times. Half of the movie delivers on the popcorn fun aspect, however, the remaining half is, at times, dreadful - be it the story, the subplots, the side characters, the deviations, there’s quite a lot that drags Moonfall down further than a…moon dragged out of orbit. Whilst I hadn’t expected greatness but maybe expected worse, Moonfall is an awful film that has some awfully fun moments.

 

Uncharted

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Sony Pictures Releasing // Directed by Ruben Fleischer // Starring Tom Holland, Mark Wahlberg, Sophia Ali, Tati Gabrielle, Antonio Banderas

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The juggernaut franchise that is Uncharted has finally received a big screen adaptation after what seems like many years and it can boast the hottest star in the world, Tom Holland, as its front man. As a disclaimer, I have not played these games so I was able to watch this through the eyes of someone wanting an action-adventure romp. There certainly was action AND adventure, it’s just neither element was particularly exciting. The movie kept my attention throughout without ever really ensuring that I was entirely invested, this film is fine - it just felt a bit empty, a bit soulless. The attempts at fun and comedy didn’t always pay off and the sense of adventure felt a bit off-key - Fleischer seemingly aimed for Uncharted to be grounded and fun…until it became a video game in the third act - not a video game film. The major third act sequence is adapted and pulled off extremely well and initially provides some thrills and spectacle but it falls foul of genuine leaps of logic (including a lost ship being pretty visible in its cave). Whilst being fairly pacey, the movie also suffers from feeling choppy, there was no real sense of where we are in the world given the globe-travelling nature of the narrative - this felt like a missed opportunity to create a grander scale and scope. Tom Holland is hampered by the lackluster script, and I couldn’t quite buy him in the role - he’s a likable lead, absolutely, but I didn’t feel as if he imbued the role fully. Similarly (and maybe less surprisingly), Mark Wahlberg felt like he was doing a Mark Wahlberg impression, though Banderas was decent in his small, villainous role. Uncharted doesn’t quite end up as Indiana Jones-lite, and it’s not really any worse than 2018’s Tomb Raider, but it just felt flat and generic. Maybe the clearly-hinted at sequel will deliver more so than this.

 

Death on the Nile

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20th Century Studios // Directed by Kenneth Branagh // Starring Tom Bateman, Annette Bening, Kenneth Branagh, Russell Brand, Ali Fazal, Dawn French, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Rose Leslie Emma Mackey, Sophie Okonedo, Jennifer Saunders, Letitia Wright

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Kenneth Branagh’s Agathaverse is back with his adaptation of the author’s classic Death on the Nile. Serving as a follow up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient Express, Hercule Poirot (Branagh) returns to solve another impossible murder mystery, this time set against the backdrop of the Nile. Here, Branagh goes bigger and more cinematic than he did for Murder, but Death on the Nile just isn’t as good - taking into account Murder was simply ‘OK’ as well. I never found myself  gripped by the story which is sadly a hammer blow for a murder-mystery, there was too much setup before the actual murder began to be investigated. Setup is good, rounding out characters is good, but it just takes far too long to get to the crux of the story here and everything beforehand isn’t exciting (or really interesting) enough to be engaging. Every performance is just fine, Annette Bening is reliably good and Sophie Okonedo was a highlight of the movie (Russell Brand seemed unrecognisable in his role as a doctor). Sadly, it seems Branagh is the problem, the films are less about the pivotal mystery and murder than they are about Poirot himself -  whilst Poirot is our lead man, the murder mystery will always be far more interesting and should be taking centre stage rather than providing a spotlight for Branagh’s dodgy accent and on origin story for the moustache (that genuinely happens and I hated every second). Something was needed to distract from the jarringly bad visuals and mundane score, but a saviour never really appeared. The classic tropes of the genre worked - the ubiquitous sequence outlining the characters potential motives are revealed and deduction scenes are well executed - however, it’s hard to find much that’s successful here - it’s all rather forgettable. Unremarkable is the best thing I can say about Death on the Nile.