Captain Jack Sparrow is pursued by an old rival, Captain Salazar, who along with his crew of ghost pirates has escaped from the Devil's Triangle, and is determined to kill every pirate at sea. Jack seeks the Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that grants its possessor total control over the seas, in order to defeat Salazar.
ActorsStarring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Kevin McNally, Stephen Graham, Martin Klebba, Golshifteh Farahani, David Wenham, Adam Brown, Giles New, Angus Barnett, Paul McCartney, Mahesh Jadu, Jessica Green, Zoe Ventoura, Goran D. Kleut, James Mackay, Travis Jeffery, Piper Nairn, Kiara Freeman, Ben O'Toole, Danny Kirrane, Christie-Lee Britten, Wassim Hawat, Winnie Mzembe, Finn Ireland
Resort to Love Review | Clichéd, Yet Compelling
Never did I expect to be compeled this much in front of a Hallmark-lite production, but here we are.
Right from the get-go, it’s clear that Netflix’s latest production, Resort to Love, doesn’t much care about quality. Its aesthetic emulates the glossiness of a Hallmark, or Lifetime Original, and its plot is so unfathomably clichéd to the point where you can easily guess everything that’s going to happen a couple of minutes after the film started. See if you can guess where it’s going: one year after her fiancé, Jason (Jay Pharoah), breaks off their engagement, singer Erica Wilson (Christina Millan)’s career takes a nosedive and is now sent lounge and wedding singing at a resort in Mauritius. Lo and behold, that resort is also the place where her ex-fiancé is getting married (what a coincidence!). Erica, who still has feelings for him, starts to develop a friendship with Jason’s brother, Caleb (Sinqua Walls), which starts a will they/won’t they quasi-love triangle, akin to a classic Hallmark production. What happens next? Whatever’s your first guess is probably right (or not).
Yet, the movie feels quite entrancing. From the opening sequence where an artist invites Erica to a “listening party” and destroys his album so the world will never hear it, Steven K. Tsuchida’s film has a strange aura of anti-conformism. Most films of this stature will start with innumerable clichés, and end with innumerable clichés. Resort to Love doesn’t do that, and builds up Erica’s arc first. There’s this great (and completely random) scene in which she sings Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive as a sign for the audience that she’s gotten over Jason’s rejection and has started a better life in Mauritius. The camera starts to widen to a more blissful aesthetic, as neons fill the frame and the song starts to dictate its intercutting to scenes of Erica enjoying the Island. Right then and there, I knew the film would be different than previous Netflix productions of the same vein, most notably Falling Inn Love (which also stars Christina Millan).
Millan brings much-needed heart to her performance as Erica and shares terrific chemistry with its male counterparts. At first, her portrayal seems contrived in typical emotional beats we’ve seen long before, but as she lands in Mauritius, there’s this clear shift in personality that makes her character more compelling than when we first meet her in New York. She’s more jovial, carefree and starts to have fun with Jason and her fiancé, Beverly (Christiani Pitts), who is completely impervious to the fact that they were previously engaged. This makes for predictable, albeit hilarious comedy where Millan plays with Beverly’s cluelessness and calls out Jason to great advantage. Once Beverly (obviously) finds out about Jason’s previous engagement, there’s an even funnier scene that I won’t dare spoil that had me in stitches.
However, that scene reverts to a more Hallmark-friendly screenplay once it gets into a more dramatic, or dare I say, sentimental mood. It doesn’t get haphazardly sentimental, or emotionally manipulative as most Hallmark films do, but is on the cusp of being exactly like one. Heck, it starts the exact same way as a Hallmark film does: in the middle of a conversation where expository dialogue will fill in the gaps on what we missed. Then we have the overarching conflict that the protagonist will have to confront. She’ll ultimately succeed and fall in love again…of course…not with the one she initially was in love with. That’s always how those films end and Resort to Love doesn’t want to change that formula.
And that seems fine for the most part. There’s nothing wrong with doing something so terribly clichéd if the core of your film is somewhat enticing enough. And for Resort to Love, that seems perfectly fine. Millan, Pharoah, and Walls are all great here, bringing legitimately funny comedy to the table and building upon human relationships that seem not only completely palpable but plausible to the viewer. That makes the viewing experience particularly enjoyable for the skeptical in me who thought this would be a chore to sit through. And guess what? While the story isn’t perfect and steals many tropes from other romantic comedies, it still doesn’t make it terrible. Sue me.
Resort to Love is now available to stream on Netflix.
Old | Dumb Fun in the Sun
M Night Shyamalan’s creative career was cursed from the moment he was hailed ‘the next Spielberg’. Such a title was only going to be met with disappointment. His early films, The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000) and Signs (2002) were a trio of enticing, original supernatural thrillers that offered enough intrigue to match such a lofty title. Since then, the ride’s been a little rockier. In the late 2000s, a string of weaker offerings left a lot to be desired. Notably, Lady in the Water (2006) and The Happening (2008) were horrific for all the wrong reasons – and the less said about his ‘airbending’ effort the better.
Yet, a recent renaissance in his ability to tell original stories has sparked fresh excitement. And, next to maintain the thrills is Old. Although lacking the spine tingling bite of his earliest attempts it’s another example of why we should welcome his contribution to modern cinema.
Part horror, part thriller, part goofy comedy – the film depicts a rough day on a secluded beach for a group of characters who begin to age rapidly as the day progresses. Oh, and it goes without saying – they can’t escape. Based on the graphic novel Sandcastle by Pierre Oscar Levy and Frederik Peeters, it is an adaptation in the sense that director and writer Shyamalan found a concept and went in his own twisted direction with it.
For all parents with young children a day on the beach can often be plagued by horror and heat, as screaming children, sticky sand and warm drinks provide more stress than serenity. After watching Old, I’m sure parents will be dreaming of crowded shores, as a family’s idyllic stop in paradise descends into disaster.
Anchoring the story is a family of four, the warring parents played by Guy (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Prisca (Vicky Krieps). Both Bernal and Krieps have already carved a magnificent dramatic career and their acting chops offer the majority of the emotion and dramatic pull that the screenplay sorely lacks. A selection of actors take the role of their rapidly ageing children, Trent and Maddox. Perhaps the standout sequences are carried by Alex Wolff and Thomasin McKenzie – who harness their rapid growth and sudden hormones of teenagerhood with confidence and believability.
With much to owe to the zany execution of the The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), much of the unique concept is delightful to watch on screen. A strong sequence in the middle of the film see’s the ageing effects of the beach in full effect, and this was a genuine treat. It felt like an early morning pitch meeting fuelled by caffeine, in which all plot possibilities were stuck to the storyboard and from that day, never left.
The physical and mental breakdown of the characters is exceptionally entertaining. Suspiria style, limb bending gore and Cronenbergian body horror take full advantage of the physical possibilities of this rocky trip to the shores. There is very little coherence, but this is where the film is at the height of it’s powers, as the often whiplash inducing shakey-cam captures the thrilling chaos and the silly set-pieces in equal measure. Darkly comedic and outrageously stupid, at times the concept clicked into place and captured the magic that Shyamalan is capable of.
It is this push for conceptual creativity that holds the film back just as much as it propels it, as plot direction takes precedence over depth and substance. Patchy doesn’t quite cover the expositional superficiality of the script. In an opening scene which mentioned ‘living in the moment’ and ‘enjoying youth’ a lot more than necessary – I could actually hear Mr Shyamalan screaming through the screen “have you got it yet? They are about to get Old!”
Particularly in the film’s final 15 minutes, where the screenplay crashes back to land with a bump – a studio driven, expositional ending of nightmares, which is probably the most horrific part of the whole thing. Old would’ve benefited endlessly if it tapped into the psyche of the experience – as the obsessive fixation on concept and plot see’s the weak dialogue get washed away in the sand.
Where the screenplay truly shines is on the surface. Go deeper into the waters of the writing and you’ll find there’s very little but coral and sand. Pushing the concept as far as the runtime will allow – it seems that Shyamalan is beginning to make his name as the fast-food Christopher Nolan. He takes the idea, extracts all the silliness and story he can find, ditching the style and substance in the process.
It simply succeeds as mindless fun. With more plot holes than grains of sand on the beach and moments that tiptoe into pastiche – we are welcomed into a world that is as paradoxical as it is parody. But, for the most part it stays on the right side of the shore, as many moments on the heat-soaked beach truly shine.
Forget McConaissance, it’s time for the Shyamasurgence – a true rejuvenation of original, silly big-screen entertainment. Perhaps the most typically Shyamalan film of all – the good, the bad and the cameo.
As Shyamalan as it gets – for better and for worse. Whose up for some dumb fun in the sun?
The Suicide Squad – Review | A Bold And Bombastic Bloodbath
Has it really been five years since since David Ayer’s much derided (yet profitable) film Suicide Squad graced our screens? Maybe it feels less than that because many of us still have a bitter aftertaste left in our mouths after we first consumed it. I may still harbour some resentment toward Ayer’s film, mainly because of just how spectacularly short it measured up to expectations. The marketing for it was phenomenal but what we ended up with was a turgid, studio-meddled monster of a film.
But despite the fact it was universally panned, Suicide Squad was still a hugely profitable film – raking in over 746 million dollars worldwide. And even more bizarrely the DC movie can also brag that it won an Oscar before Marvel did. It won the Academy Award for best hair and makeup in 2017.
Studios always always ALWAYS follow the money so it didn’t take long for Warner Brothers to give the green light on a sequel.
But one of the things that makes us human is our ability to learn from our mistakes and WB have done just that. Instead of bringing David Ayer back to helm a followup, WB and DC snatched up one of the golden boys of their biggest competitors; James Gunn. He was unceremoniously sacked from his third volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise due to problematic tweets from his past – only to then be hired back a few months later following fan and cast petitions.
At the time though Marvel’s loss was the DCEU’s gain. Given his crude and hyperactive sensibilities, James Gunn was the perfect candidate to give Suicide Squad a much needed do-over. Besides the swanky new “The” in front of the title, The Suicide Squad is more vibrant, violent and ultimately a much more enjoyable film than its predecessor. But having said that…it wasn’t exactly a tall hurdle for Gunn to leap over now was it?
In this iteration, cold-as-ice Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) once again assembles a team of captured supervillains to do her bidding. The team includes mistress-of-mayhem Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), expert marksman Bloodsport (Idris Elba), burly Peacemaker (John Cena) and a bunch of other misfits from Belle Reve prison. As Task Force X, their mission takes place on Corto Maltese where they must infiltrate a facility known as Jotenheim and destroy all evidence of something known as Project Starfish. If they are successful they will have 10 years removed from their sentence. If not – they die. And yes, Gunn isn’t afraid of killing off characters so try not to get too attached to them.
The 2016 film was disjointed, tonally-uneven and felt like it was held together by a bunch of popular and often mismatched-to-the-scene needle drops. Gunn’s version has more structure. He fuses imaginative action set-pieces with off-colour humour. Hmmm I wonder where he could’ve possibly gotten that from? But trust me, this ain’t not Guardians copycat – the R rating makes sure of that. It feels totally distinct thanks to the gratuitous and bloody violence that’s on display.
You can tell that everybody involved in this movie was having a blast on set. Everyone looks like they showed up to work on a playground – and got paid handsomely to do so. Who wouldn’t be happy? This film is positively radiating glee. From the actors performances, to the spirited visuals, to the seriously impressive CGI and very crisp camerawork in the action sequences. The editing is much cleaner than before and it’s simply more pleasing on the eye.
There’s no denying Gunn is a very capable director of superhero blockbuster movies but frustratingly he does repeat a mistake the Ayer was guilty of; favouring spectacle over character. The script is packed with lewd humour (a rant about a character named Milton had my sides splitting from laughter) but it’s also bloated with far too many characters – many of which don’t get much to do.
Joel Kinnaman returns to play Colonel Rick Flag but somehow feels like a passenger among the ensemble. As a commanding officer he lacks agency and is outshined by reluctant leader-of-the-cons Bloodsport (a terrific Elba) and the machismo Peacekeeper (Cena playing the same thing as always).
Margot Robbie is as reliable as always as the unpredictable Harley Quinn, providing most of the laughs and the rare moments of emotionality. However it’s never made clear why she’s all of a sudden back in Waller’s custody – last we saw she was off with her Birds of Prey. What happened there? It’s unclear. But the fan favourite character certainly deserved more to do than a tacked-on subplot involving a whirlwind romance with a ridiculously sexy Guatemalan leader. It all felt a bit unnecessary.
As for the abundance of new characters, only a handful make an impression. Sylvester Stallone’s King Shark is to The Squad what Groot is for Guardians – a lovable creature with limited speech abilities but is also a lethal fighter. But the MVP is David Dastmachian’s tormented Polka-Dot Man. This is Dastmachian serving a delicious slice of awkward loner misfit whose very easy to sympathise with. His power is exactly as advertised – he fires deadly colourful polka-dots and the world of cinema is better off for having this character now.
But the vast majority of new characters barely get an introduction – let alone any development. There’s lots of familiar famous faces but many of their appearances can be described as a glorified cameo. Why are they here? Mostly to serve as cannon fodder. This is without question the bloodiest and most gruesome film in the DCEU. But the issue is because there’s little-to-no time to get invested in the smorgasbord of players, none of the deaths hit with any weight – regardless of how excessively pulpy their demise might be.
Getting sliced to death by helicopter blades might be satisfying for a moment but when you leave the cinema you don’t savour the death because you didn’t feel attached to the character.
Perhaps the most disappointing of all the new additions was Peter Capaldi’s villainous Thinker whose motivation and backstory in Project Starfish are watery at best.
The Suicide Squad is definitely more polished than the 2016 outing but it could’ve done with a couple more rewrites. It’s a bombastic action movie; it’s loud, chaotic, stylish and colourful but there’s a lot of empty noise. However, if you’re looking for an excuse to get back to the cinema then I highly recommend seeing this audaciously daft film on the biggest screen possible.
The Suicide Squad is in cinemas worldwide Friday 30th July and is also available on HBO Max in certain regions.
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