Month: November 2017

Review: Geostorm

Geostorm is an abomination. It feels like the ageing and out of touch head of a cable television channel such as Syfy or 5* became tired watching young talent after young talent get their scripts green lit. Deciding he could do better, he takes a week holiday to ‘let the creative juices flow’. When finished he is blinded by illusions of grandeur, thinking his script is far too good for television. He then abuses his position and friends within the industry and gets this mess of a movie made. That overzealous executive is Dean Devlin.

Dean Devlin, who has previously been involved in such award nominated works such as 1998’s Godzilla and 2016’s Independence Day: Resurgence. Those nominations were in fact for Golden Raspberry’s and Geostorm can expect a clean sweep at the next year’s ceremony. Using his own production company, Electric Entertainment, Devlin managed to convince Warner Bro’s and Skydance to both come onboard, a ruse that will surely rock both to their core. I fail to grasp how anyone at those respected companies could sit through the final cut of this film and sign off.

There was a big, red warning sign for those involved to pull the plug in the form of abysmal test screenings but rather than cut their losses they chose to reshoot certain portions in an attempt to improve. That’s why Gerard Buttler suddenly loses his bulging muscles, only to regain them in the next scene, flip flopping as the film progresses. Despite these reshoots there were still several baffling scenes, for example when a business men in Dubai breathes a huge sigh of relief that a tsunami didn’t cause the Burj Khalifa to collapse, only for the camera to cut back and show the towering building on a 45 degree angle.

What I find most astonishing though is the ludicrous $120 million budget, given the fact that this is essentially four episodes of a low quality tv show masquerading itself as a high quality tv show with one famous actor and some cgi. Judging by the shoddiness of that cgi, Gerard Butler must have commanded a large percentage of the budget. It is evident from the start that he only came to set to collect the pay check and go home. To say that he phoned it in would frankly be an insult to all those that do phone it in like Al Pacino in almost everything this last decade.

In the pre-production period it seems the answer to any potential shooting issues or concerns was ‘let’s just green screen it’. Even scenes that take place on Earth outside of a courthouse were green screened, because directing more than three people at once was too overwhelming for Devlin. The only scenes that didn’t look fake were inside the kitchen of our protagonist Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler), but even then upon a second viewing I’m quite sure I’d find something out of place.

With global warming bringing catastrophic weather events all over the world killing millions, Lawson leads 18 nations to create ‘Dutch Boy’, a net of satellites covering the Earth to control the weather by changing pressure, temperature etc. From here it’s just crossing off the boxes in your generic disaster action movie bingo card. Blatantly obvious bad guy? Check. Countdown to end of the world? Check. Copy and paste soundtrack? Check.

The only thing that’s missing is the disaster. Cinema goers who chose to go see this movie to see colossal destruction have been sold a false bill of goods. Geostorm doesn’t have a geostorm. Instead we get teased with some ironic weather events such as a heatwave in Moscow or a tsunami in Dubai. The whole appeal of a film like this or 2012 is not for good acting or plot but for damage on a worldwide scale. Without that well, what’s the point?

Review: Cotton Wool

Director Nick Connor belongs to the Loachian school of filmmaking, that uses the medium as a way to tackle social issues and provoke discussion. For Cotton Wool that issue is the families of stroke victims, especially young children, who have no choice but to become full time carers. This desperately needed to be feature length over forty minutes but it demonstrates that, with the right funding, Connor can rise up to take the place of the ageing Loach himself.

Rachel (Leanne Best), a single mother living in the North of England, works tirelessly to support her two children. There is little time for introductions however and just a few minutes in she suffers a devastating stroke.

The only person by her side is son Sam who is far too young to understand the gravity of what he is seeing, and thinks his mum is trying to scare him. Best is sublime in this sequence, painting a horrifically realistic portrait of the realtime effects of a stroke.

The road to recovery is very slow and Rachel finds it difficult to cope initially. Wheelchair bound and forced to use a tablet to communicate, she is relying on Sam to take care of her. Best continues to excel here, the frustration at her own helplessness is painfully clear. Her daughter Jennifer is resentful in having to take care of her mother, opting to go to a pub with her friends instead.

Sadly the short runtime impacts this aspect of the film greatly. Had there been a handful more scenes fuelling the tension between mother and daughter both before and immediately after her stroke, Jennifer’s escape to the pub would have evoked far more emotion. A necessary escape from the stress of being the sudden head of the household rather than the petulance of a selfish young girl.

It is during this time that Rachel has another, smaller, stroke. Thankfully Sam, having been taught by a nurse a few days prior, knew exactly what to do. The awareness of Sam (Max Vento) at his young age is astonishing, calmly waiting the five minute he was told before pressing the button for help.

When Jennifer comes home, she discovers that neglecting to care for her mother could have meant losing her entirely. This forces a change in mentality, and she tearfully apologises to her mother. The scenes of Jennifer coming home and of her apologising were fraught with emotion but again suffered in the rush to squeeze an 80 minute story into 40 minutes.

While Best was the standout performance in Cotton Wool, she was not alone in bringing Connor’s thought-provoking vision to life. Having previously worked on his last film Northern Lights, Gemma North and Katie Quinn once more delivered capable performances and Max Vento, at just 6 years old, perfectly encapsulated the innocence of a small child in the face of a traumatising situation.

With his next film, The Wall, already announced, Connor is hardly pausing for air before taking on his next challenge. Following the distinct climb in quality from Northern Lights, it feels only natural that The Wall would see his step up into feature length filmmaking, a challenge I’m sure he would face with great vigour.