Tag Archives: mexico

FILM REVIEW: The Shallows

There’s only one thing worse than a rubbish shark-based thriller – and that’s a rubbish shark-based thriller that initially hints at having a little bit of promise.

The Shallows, regrettably, is one such film.

Nancy (Blake Lively), has dropped out from her medical studies and is taking a vacation in Mexico in order to try to come to terms with the death of her mother. She’s on a very personal mission to find her mother’s favourite ‘secret’ beach; a remote cove tucked away from civilisation in which the pair of them had shared some wonderful memories in the past.

A keen surfer, she plans to ride the impressive waves that crash onto this beautiful beach.

Unfortunately for her, she’s managed to coincide her watery frolics with the sinister intentions of a great white shark, hell-bent on guarding its feeding grounds, having recently killed a large whale whose huge carcass is now wedged within the rocks and coral of ‘the shallows’.

It’s fair to say, this probably isn’t going to be a good day for Nancy, and it certainly isn’t going to end well – a little like this film.

Granted, there’s not too much here to hang an entire feature film upon. The promise of thrills and spills in the shallow waters of the ocean combined with a rather bolted-on back-story of family bonds, love and respect, are meagre ingredients with which to whip up anything original or of note.

In fairness though to Blake Lively, she makes a fairly decent fist of what she’s given here as she walks and talks us through the bleedin’ obvious by way of a sort of lightly-pained monologue, punctuated on increasingly frequent occasion by grisly moments of misfortune and gore.

It’s all very slick. Too slick in fact.

Smart phone screens flash up on screen unnecessarily, relaying text conversations. Nancy’s divers watch display flashes up too, counting down the minutes until the small rocky oasis that she’s found herself marooned upon, will become submerged beneath the water, leaving her effectively as shark bait.

This should at least make for slightly tense proceedings, if not riveting viewing.

It doesn’t.

A more sympathetic director would have perhaps provided a permanent clock display on screen throughout the film’s duration, providing a countdown until the end credits.

The Shallows is a film in which absolutely nothing is left to the imagination. Everything is played out like a sort of shark movie-making guide for beginners, step by painful step, but with no mischievous sense of irony. Everything ties up neatly according to a set of circumstances and parameters that are absolutely shoved into our collective face, one by one, throughout the film’s eighty-four or so minutes.

If all of the above was the sum total of the film’s crimes against cinema, you could write the whole thing off as a reasonably harmless, yet hugely forgettable use of your time, and not think twice about it. But having hinted from the off that it might – just might – have the potential to be a cult B movie of note, it’s the at first gradual, and eventually rapid degeneration of this film into pure, mindless Hollywood guff that is so achingly disappointing.

And the less said about the film’s pitiful conclusion, the better.

For some reason it all brought to mind a Laurel & Hardy skit in which the hapless pair’s best bungling efforts ended – as they always do – with everything falling down (literally) on top of Olly, but in a painfully drawn out, staggered sequence of carnage, each tumble and fall worse than the previous one, culminating in Hardy, sat on his arse in a pile of dust, rubble and debris; and as he takes one final, unimpressed look at the camera, another brick falls on his head, and then another, and then a long pause, another resigned look at the camera, and then another brick, right on the head – complete with comedy sound effects.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse…

‘Shallows’ by name, shallow by nature.





FILM REVIEW (2015): Spectre

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that Sam Mendes is a big Bond fan.
Of course, the fact that he’s directed the last two Bond outings is the big give away, but it’s how he’s done it which is the most telling thing.
Mendes’ first outing, Skyfall, was arguably the best Bond film for many a long year and although his latest attempt possibly lacks the depth and subtext of its predecessor, as a pure, two hour slice of vintage James Bond, Spectre possibly even tops that.
Although it’s now become increasingly difficult to sum up Bond without coming over all Alan Partridge, Spectre is slick, chic, cheeky, sultry, amusing, dynamic, sexy, global, ridiculous and effortlessly cool.
There are tips of the hat to historical James Bond everywhere in Mendes’ casting. From the Dr No-esque instigator of all of the world’s evils (Christopher Wlatz playing Blofeld), to a vocally-stumped ape of a baddie (Dave Bautista plays Mr. Hinx), to not one, but two Bond love interests in the ever so shapely shape of Monica Bellucci – playing Lucia Sciarra – and Lea Seydoux of the very excellent Blue is the warmest colour fame, portraying Dr. Madeleine Swann.
The plot, bizarrely, comes from beyond the grave. A video message left by M (Judi Dench) prior to her demise in Skyfall, instructs Bond to track down and eliminate an assassin, Marco Sciarra, in Mexico, and to then follow up on this by attending his funeral in Rome. The trail and course of action will apparently become obvious from there…
As ever, Bond jets off around the globe in search of the links and connections that will ultimately lead him to the source of much evil-doing – in this case, a mass conspiracy by way of orchestrated ‘terrorist’ events, to install and control global surveillance of a nature and scale beyond the imagination.
The difference on this occasion is that Bond’s solo mission to track down Sciarra is unauthorised and these antics, combined with an overhaul of MI6 has left both he and M’s replacement, Ralph Fiennes (also M) surplus to requirements. In M’s place enters the slippery new head of security, C (Andrew Scott).
Is C just an eminently unlikable character or is there more to his devious nature? It’s all larger than life and very tongue in cheek. Just the way Bond should be.
From exhilarating helicopter and plane stunts to high octane car chases through the streets of Rome, pitting Aston Martin against Ferrari, the action set pieces certainly come thick and fast as Bond races around the globe from Mexico to England and Rome to Austria, in his bid to out-fox and see and end to the wrong-doings of an assortment of villainous types.
Sam Smith’s voice is excellent and deserving of better material, for what is in all honesty a fairly weak title song – it’s a shame that the relatively recent trend for poor Bond songs has not also been addressed – and Thomas Newman’s soundtrack borders on being over-the-top at times, but given the film’s content, probably just gets away with it, adding greatly to the film’s relentless velocity.
It’s hard to know where to go next for Mendes, if indeed he is at the helm for the next one? Given that he’s made such a good fist of these last two, I sincerely hope that he is.
Great fun, and a reverential approach from Mendes in the continued revival of the long running James Bond story.


Action thrillers are ten a penny out there in movie land and it takes something a little different not to mention a little special to stand out from the ever bloated crowd of contenders.

Sicario is one such film.
Director Denis Villeneuve’s tense thriller focuses on the ongoing, somewhat futile struggle faced by the American authorities to at least keep in check the murky world of drug deals and the ruthless cartels that make them their business.
Emily Blunt plays Kate, an FBI agent, who, whilst leading a mission into suburban Phoenix, Arizona, to free hostages from their cartel captors, stumbles upon a gruesome scene of death and mutilation by which she is suitably repulsed.
On the recommendation of top brass, she is encouraged to join a task force to bring those responsible to justice for which she volunteers without hesitation.
Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and the mysterious Alejandro, (a fine turn by Benicio Del Toro), head up this group tasked with rooting out the key figures in this atrocity, or so the official line reads anyway.
It’s a whole new world for Kate, exposing her to the lawlessness of not just Mexican border towns like Suarez, where bodies hang from bridges, mutilated, the victims of ruthless gang retribution, but of her own colleagues who appear to have thrown the rule book out of the window when going about their pursuit of justice.
“…we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto…”
Kate, like a frightened rabbit in the headlights, remains utterly bewildered by events unfolding around her, and little by little, with Alejandro taking centre stage and the true sinister nature of both his motives and those of the task force’s sorties into the Mexican badlands, revealed, the reason for Kate’s own inclusion on this mission bit by bit becomes clear.
Director Villeneuve’s use of long, atmospheric, sustained overviews of the U.S / Mexican border landscape, coupled with both the inspired notion of by and large never truly revealing a tangible enemy, combine devastatingly with Jóhann Jóhannsson’s raw and gritty soundtrack, to create a really unnerving sense of base fear.
At two hours long, Sicario is certainly not a short film and there could be a temptation to suggest that the subject matter might have been trimmed down without risk of sacrificing any of the key subject matter; but to do so would have been a big mistake.
It’s after all Villeneuve’s indulgence with time here and more importantly the protracted spaces in between the film’s key events that really make Sicario so effective. It’s a film that’s able to breathe, both allowing the viewer to wallow in and contemplate the air of trepidation that abounds, but more importantly, making the viewer experience the protracted discomfort and sense of foreboding that builds throughout.
Slick, stylish and beautifully shot, Villneuve has created an environment in which we’d most certainly never want to find ourselves and unsettling though it may be, in doing so, has created a film that stands up as one of the finest thrillers of recent times.