Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Charlie's Angels 2019

Charlie-vous Fancy?

Charlie's Angels 2019
2019 USA Directed by Elizabeth Banks
UK cinema release print.

Wow... before I say anything else, the new Charlie’s Angels movie is not without some minor problems but, honestly, it’s a great movie and I can’t understand why it’s got so many negative reviews from people. It’s frankly a little weird that there are just so many one and two star reviews on the IMDB, for example. Seriously, enough people hated this thing so much that they decided to take the time to vent negatively about it? Well... it almost seems like there’s some kind of bizarre secret agenda against the movie but I’m here to say that the naysayers are dead wrong about this one. I had a blast with it but... now I’ve got that out of the way, like I said, there are a few problems, albeit minor problems... so I’m going to go right in here and tell you about the issues I had with it. But first, a little emotional context...

I remember when the original Charlie’s Angels TV show came out in the UK around about 1976. I would have been twelve and I think I was one of the few boys who watched it. I don’t know why... I already wanted to sleep with some of the Angels at that age so I couldn’t quite figure out why the other kids at school of my sex weren’t all over this one too but, well, it was just mainly a girl thing, somehow. Pretty bizarre. I watched odd episodes here and there, didn’t follow it religiously but I did like the shows I saw.

Cut to the 21st century and McG’s two Charlie’s Angels movies. I loved these and think they’re absolute masterpieces of cinematic magic. The beautiful and constant colour palette changes from scene to scene, the sense of fun and the chemistry between the girls was all absolutely brilliant and I’ve never been able to figure out why we didn’t get another three or four of these.

So, I would have to say my expectations were a little low on this new one because a) I knew it couldn’t top the sheer artistry and perfection of the McG movies and b) the word of mouth on this one was awful. The one thing which did give me hope is that one of the, relatively, younger generation of Hollywood composers who I like a lot... Brian Tyler (see my review of his first concert here) has done the score for this. Indeed, I had the CD in my hands before the movie even opened over here... so I at least knew the music was probably going to be pretty good. I’ll get to that later.

So there I was, hopeful that the film could be okay but really not expecting much from it. And, for the first ten minutes of the film at least, that expectation was sadly on the nose. The opening scene which is the usual ‘conclusion of an adventure’ sequence that the Bond films pioneered and popularised back in the 1960s is here as expected and, although it gets the male chauvinist stuff out in the open fairly on, the action in this lead-in looks like it’s either been too aggressively edited so you can’t see what’s going on or it's maybe cutting around performers who can’t fight in the hopes it may look like they’re kicking ass (which is something a fair few Hollywood movies have done in recent years, unfortunately). Then, when I was expecting a revamped old school homage to the Charlie’s Angels TV show opening like in the McG movies, I instead got a terrible dose of imagery which, may, have been origins of the leading characters... or maybe not. It was going way to fast for me to process and there was some terrible, blary, loud pop singing going on behind the visuals. I was pretty fed up by this point.

However, against all the odds, the film then proceeded to win me over fairly hastily. The three main girls in this... Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska are all pretty amazing and have some really good chemistry. They are ably supported by various people playing ‘Bosleys’... among them Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou and the writer/director Elizabeth Banks as the ‘main Bosley’ of the movie. And a special shout out to Luis Gerardo Méndez playing a ridiculously cool guy named Saint. For every comment I see that the film is trying to make men look stupid all the way through... well, yeah, maybe that’s a bad agenda but, honestly, this character more than makes up for any of the bizarre, ‘man demoting’ sexism perpetrated by the writers here so... yeah, not a problem.

Okay, so the film by this point is stepping up the pace with some really cool action sequences and some nice humour in the right places. Once again the film purposes itself as being a sequel to all incarnations that have gone before it and not a stand alone reboot. In fact, there’s some terrible and obviously 'deliberately tacky' photoshopping of Patrick Stewart with various incarnations of the Angels through the years, which is a nice touch.

Let me sort out some of the bad now.

The action editing in some scenes still looks like it’s trying to hide a lack of fight training... unless, as I said earlier, it’s a deliberately choppy style which doesn’t quite come off. This is unfortunate but it’s not evident in all of the action scenes and they’re still quite exhilarating to watch, nonetheless. Like the previous incarnations, there’s a big emphasis on fun in this movie, even without the ‘colouring book’ cinematography. There were other sequences in the movie which didn’t quite make sense in the edit to me... however. I felt I was being asked to make certain leaps in understanding which I could have done without in simple things of the ‘how did that person suddenly wind up in that vehicle?’ variety. It did look like the editing was trying to make up for some accidentally un-filmed footage now and again but, thankfully, these moments were few and far between.

The only other problem I had was the horrible and ‘mixed in way too loud’ pop songs which punctuate the film at quite a steady lick. They seemed to be the driving force behind some of the montage sequences when, frankly, it should have been the other way around (I mean, McG’s sometimes terrible needle drop music choices were at least supporting the scenes they were being used in, I thought). Again, though, this is countered with... oh , wait, I’ll save the genius of Brian Tyler for a little later.

One thing which, briefly annoyed me was a stupid plot twist which was revealed halfway through the film. I knew it was coming, the audience knew it was coming and... it was so obvious that it enraged me when it happened. Except... turns out the audience are being ‘played’ at this point. Not going to say anymore about that because it would constitute a spoiler but lets just say I so fell for the writer/director’s art of distraction that I was pleasantly surprised (yes, I know, I was surprised... it happens now and again) when the truth of the situation was finally brought to the foreground.

And all this with... oh yeah... Tyler’s score. He’s great at creating the soundscapes for these kinds of films and, though I was hoping for more of the original 70s Charlie’s Angels theme in it... it only makes a brief appearance in an ‘homage’ closet scene... I have to say that the score for this one really knocks it out of the park. It’s got a strong melody line and it mutates into good solid action scoring on a dime. To hell with Brian Tyler, though, for giving me a score which wouldn’t leave my head after the film had finished and wouldn’t let me sleep that night because my brain kept playing it back while I tossed and turned under the sheets. In fact, I’m still humming it as I type. Absolutely first class work from this composer and I can tell this is going to get a lot of spins on the CD player this month. Nice composing from someone who has fast become one of the ‘greats’ of Hollywood scoring.

So, there you go. Not much more to say on this one. Brilliant cast, good chemistry, fast pacing, some mostly good action and a brilliant score... if you can get through the opening ten minutes without turning off, I think you’ll find the new incarnation of Charlie’s Angels is a cinematic delight. And if you want to see a cameo from an old character from the original show, not to mention various other cameos, stick around for the six mini scenes which play out during the end credits. This is a definite Blu Ray purchase for me when it comes out and... well... I just wish I had time to fit in another cinema screening of this one but it’s the wrong time of year for that. Go see it if you can though. With a few tweaks it could have been a masterpiece... instead it's just a really fun, entertaining movie. And who can argue with that?

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