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1556313_652980988091655_967783542_oWhat’s it all about?

The latest in the hugely successful and almost entirely enjoyable Marvel film franchise Captain America: TWS (for such it shall be called from henceforth) is basically all about how:

Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

Oh but there is so much more…..

Why did I want to see it.

Duh! I refer you to my Marvel Avengers Assemble (still a stupid title) and the recent Thor: TDW reviews and you can kind of work it out for yourselves.

What did I think?

It is almost impossible to talk about what is cool in this movie without going into plot spoilers, which in a film which harks back to the 1970s and political conspiracy thrillers would be a terrible thing to do, so here’s a list of cool stuff with absolutely no meaningful detail whatsoever (so you’ll just have to go and see it for yourself)

  • Chris Evans is impossibly handsome (this is not a bad thing)
  • Scarlet Johansson is fabulous (but that hairstyle is a bit of a crime)
  • Falcon!
  • Robert Redford!
  • Jenny Agutter!
  • The Winter Soldier himself
  • What’s behind Nick Fury’s eyepatch?
  • Credit teasers
  • Don’t trust anyone
  • Did I mention Robert Redford (he’s 77 you know)?

I just loved this, it is probably the best of the Marvel films so far (and I say that as someone entirely wedded to the Thor/Loki saga) and sets everything up for the next Avengers movie. Great, great fun in a completely crash bang wallop way but also trying to do something a little bit different.

Could quite happily have sat through the whole thing again immediately.


Tower-Of-London There are some things you need to know before I get into the detail of Tower of London and what I thought of it:

  • I absolutely worship Basil Rathbone, have since I was quite young when I used to spend Friday evenings with my Grandpa (while Gran was at bingo) watching black and white films on BBC2 (before Pot Black and the weekly fish supper) which included all the Sherlock Holmes films Basil did with Nigel Bruce
  • I love movies with the old horror stars and got into a discussion on Twitter with Anne Billson about how lovely all of them were, from Peter Lorre to John Carradine, which made me decide to watch this one
  • when it comes to the Wars of the Roses I am firmly Lancastrian based entirely on a passion developed for John of Gaunt due to reading Anya Seton’s Katherine as an impressionable teenager, all subsequent evidence discovered during studying for my history degree to the contrary, so duh Richard III did bump off the Princes in the Tower IMHO, which means he is a baddie, suitable for a Shakespearian horror movie.

What’s it all about?

In the 15th century Richard Duke of Gloucester, aided by his club-footed executioner Mord, eliminates those ahead of him in succession to the throne, then occupied by his brother King Edward IV of England. As each murder is accomplished he takes particular delight in removing small figurines, each resembling one of the successors, from a throne-room dollhouse, until he alone remains. After the death of Edward he becomes Richard III, King of England, and need only defeat the exiled Henry Tudor to retain power.

That’s actually the whole picture in a nutshell. Though does a body swerve around the whole what happened to the young princes thing.

Why did I want to see it?

All of the stuff above but mostly the fact that it’s one of those films that never gets shown on the telly and I had never, ever seen it all the way through, and it’s one of the few of Basil’s films that I had never watched. So thrilled when it was brought out on DVD recently. Was going to watch it as a double bill with Son of Frankenstein (an all-time favourite) last Hallowe’en but *whispers* I forgot.

What did I think of it?

imagesHuge fun. Basil is dashing, in the version of Richard III who is tall, handsome, and intelligently villainous with a minor hump and a good line in velvet doublets. The thing with the figurines is a bit camp (I like to imagine him talking to them as he plans his takeover of the world). Ian Hunter does his usual loudly jolly King with dodgy younger brother (see Adventures of Robin Hood where he is Richard the Lion Heart). Vincent Price does a wonderful line of drunken snivelling before he ends up in the butt of Malmsey.

My only quibble is there is insufficient Boris Karloff, though Mord is always brilliant when he is on screen. And wow there is a lot of striding purposefully and declaiming dialogue and what about the medieval mascara?

Dated, of course, but so glad I saw it.

MV5BMjI3MTM5ODI5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMjE1Mzc4OA@@._V1_SX214_What’s it all about?

Let’s ask IMDb about Stoker:

After India’s father dies, her Uncle Charlie, who she never knew existed, comes to live with her and her unstable mother. She comes to suspect this mysterious, charming man has ulterior motives and becomes increasingly infatuated with him.

You know, for once that really isn’t half bad as a synopsis. It actually bears some resemblance to the film I watched. Yes, I know, a bit sarky but I do sometimes wonder if they’ve watched the same thing I have.

Why did I want to watch it?

Spotted the excellent trailer a couple of times in the cinema last year. Uniformly positive reviews in the places that matter. It looked intriguing. Interesting cast. Suggested a modern version of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, right down to Uncle Charlie’s name. Couldn’t resist.

What did I think of it?

I was absolutely mesmerised from the opening that was actually a bit of the end right the way through to the actual ending. I don’t want to give any plot spoilers away though it’s kind of obvious that Uncle Charlie isn’t at all what he appears, but its exactly what he is that is worth not knowing until India herself finds out.

This is a gorgeous looking film which manages to be extremely unsettling without using (as far as I could see) any of the usual tricks in this sort of psychological thriller. The cast is absolutely brilliant, Nicole Kidman doing another one of her vulnerable ice queen types, Mia Wasikowska convincingly playing much younger than she actually is, and Matthew Goode managing to be handsome, charming and totally creepy all at once. Minor characters are all also very well cast and played.

After the movie was over I checked the BBFC website because I just couldn’t work out why Stoker had an 18 certificate. Yes, adult themes (obviously) but much less bloody and violently sexual to my mind than some 15 rated films I’ve seen recently (300: Rise of an Empire I’m looking at you) and though I’ve now had the rating decision explained to me I still think it’s strange.

Which means that I’ve possibly become become a bit warped in my middle years. It’s not a big deal, I just spent the film waiting for the shoe to drop 18-rating-wise, and it didn’t happen. For me.

(Now concerned that anyone I know who may have seen this is backing away from me slowly….)

But that is a minor issue. I really loved this film and it’s going to be on my regular re-watch list. Yes, it’s that good.

MV5BMTg0NTgxMjIxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDM0MDY1OQ@@._V1_SX214_Zombies have never been a favourite horror thing of mine but they have clearly taken over from vampires and I find myself reading a lot of zombie-focused books these days, but the films, well that’s a different matter. I’m not always good with gore. Often, just not always.

What’s World War Z all about?

Let’s turn to our friends at IMDb:

United Nations employee Gerry Lane traverses the world in a race against time to stop the Zombie pandemic that is toppling armies and governments, and threatening to destroy humanity itself.

If I was a person who quibbles I would point out that he is a former UN employee but I try very hard not to be that person. Though I usually fail.

Why did I want to see it?

Well I read the source novel a few years ago (you can find the review here on my other blog) and Silvery Dude started watching it but only made it through the first twenty minutes (far be it from me to suggest he might be a wuss), though his description made it sound very cool. And it was a sunny Saturday, ripe for horror even of the slick and not too grungy sort.

So what did I think of it?

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  It bears only a superficial resemblance to the source material but that was always going to be the case, and it was a bit disconcerting seeing George Square in Glasgow pretending to be Philadelphia given that I used to walk through there twice a day on my way too and from uni.

I liked the way the film just launched into the story without the usual disaster movie setting up of character back story so you can worry about which ones are not going to make it. There were some very nice jumpy moments and it moved at a cracking pace. Brad Pitt is as always a personable screen presence, believable as a UN worker and good at the whole compassion thing. The zombies are pretty cool and they swarm effectively, and the world gets saved from Cardiff (well, nearby anyway). Nice cameo from Peter Capaldi reminding us all just how sinister he can look without really trying (and he’s one of the good guys). Very enjoyable.

But *whispers* the book is better, go read it.

MV5BMjA4MDQwODg2NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTc5ODc2OA@@._V1_SX214_What’s it all about?

Hansel & Gretel are bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.

Why did I want to watch it?

I asked for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters on my Christmas list a year ago as I thought it looked like great fun, despite what can only be described as iffy reviews. And thus it appeared. Watched it today because we wanted something light and nonsense for Sunday evening viewing. It was either this or Apocalypto (which will come at some point I’m sure).

What did I think of it?

Well, it’s not a film that’s going to challenge your brain cells too much, that’s for sure. In fact it’s absolute tosh, but it is fun and undemanding . You could see the various plot points (such as they are) coming at you a mile off but that didn’t really matter, because the setting was nicely steampunk and the cast looked like they were enjoying themselves and it was all a bit of a giggle. Famke Janssen was a great baddie, and I still can’t decide about Jeremy Renner but Gemma Arterton is fabulous (I think she’s just wonderful, if you haven’t seen Byzantium then you must).

Much more sweary than your traditional fairytale but about as bloody as the originals were. Was never going to win any awards but I liked it.

Insidious-Chapter-2-PosterSo I started to write about Insidious Chapter 2 in my preferred format (you know – what’s the film about, why did I want to see it, what did I think about it) and as I was sketching it out in my head I realised that I would be saying almost exactly what I said in my post about the original movie, which you can read over here.

And I thought, is that really a good use of the folks (and I believe there is more than one) who read this blog’s time? So I thought a checklist comparing was more helpful:

  • Did I watch this on my own on a weekend afternoon? Yes, that would be today (Saturday)
  • Was it sunny outside? Yes
  • Is the film creepy rather than scary? Yes, though marginally more gross than the first one (though that’s still not very gross at all)
  • Was the ending cool? Not as cool as the first one but I can see a third movie coming along if the guys behind this so desire
  • Do I still have crush on Patrick Wilson? I should say so

Some additional thoughts. Always convenient that Gran Barbara Hershey has one of the most obviously Gothically scary houses ever, so hey let’s all go back there to escape from the supernatural thing, it’ll never think to look for us here. And even though the film starts off right after the ending of Insidious, its sense of time gets a bit wacky and I couldn’t tell if we were talking days or hours or weeks.

And really, we should all know by now that when someone says “and I promise it won’t hurt” they may be technically correct but it probably won’t end well.

I’m not sure this film was actually necessary but I still enjoyed it, though if you’ve seen the first one (and why would you watch this if you haven’t) you can pretty much see where this is all going. One for completists only I think.

Oh and I watched this on DVD and sat through the trailers and doesn’t The Need for Speed look really awful? It has the most pompous voiceover I have ever heard. Though We Are What We Are looks very interesting.

kinopoisk.ruSo for those of you who haven’t read the classics, 300: Rise of an Empire tells the following story:

Greek general Themistokles leads the charge against invading Persian forces led by mortal-turned-god Xerxes and Artemisia, vengeful commander of the Persian navy.

Hold on a minute, what’s this “mortal-turned-god” thing? Yes, check your critical faculty and any knowledge of actual ancient history at the door, this is Greeks v Persians Snyder-style.

300:RoaE (for such it shall be known) is a sequel prequel sequel to 300, and both are based on graphic novels by Frank Miller. I must admit I really enjoyed the original, it was good fun with lots of oiled pecs on display (if you like that sort of thing ) and lots of shouting especially by surprisingly Scottish sounding King Leonidas, all pulled together by Zack Snyder.

This time around we still have lots of shouting but this time by surprisingly Australian sounding Themistocles and though we still have lots of pecs on display (though not as oiled as before  – that was clearly a Spartan thing, we’re talking Athenians here) we no longer have Zack Snyder (which shows) but we do have Queen Gorgo (sporting the best name ever) avenging the death of her husband, and equally vengeful Artemisia, Greek but in command of the Persian navy because she does not like other Greeks at all, given the rape and murder of her family and her own abuse at the hands of her countryman.  We know all this about Artemisia not because she tells us but because we see it in lovingly specific flashback.

So before I get into the detail it is worth saying that I didn’t think this was awful, just not as good as it could have been and much less fun than its predecessor.  But the detail, ooh, well:

  • I loved Artemisia, she had a good line in glowering and being horrible to the men around her while demonstrating just how so much better she was than them. She also had a fabulous line in maxi-length fighting frocks and I’m sure at one point I saw a hint of early Persian fishnets.
  • Themistocles was quite good, quite shouty in a supposed-to-be-inspiring way but most specially (as Mark Kermode said on the radio so can’t take credit for this), he has a fabulous Austin Powers moment with a strategically placed garment just after he has done the dirty with a lady character on a rather uncomfortable looking table map. Said lady is of course topless. Which leads me to….
  • There are an awful lot of breasts on show. Now people who know me are aware (I hope) that I am not at all prudish, but I find that lazy, unnecessary nudity gets on my ti really annoys me and there’s quite a bit of that here. Pretending to be grown up but really all about getting them out for the lads.
  • Gorgo is Cersei. Sorry, but she is. She also had a lovely range of fighting evening gowns. Those are evening gowns for fighting in btw, not evening gowns which fight each other, though I would pay to watch that film.
  • Basil Exposition is alive and well and explaining Greek history (as modified) to the masses.
  • Xerxes is just silly, honestly.
  • *SPOILER* – she was always going to get done in by the Athenian equivalent of a shot above the bustle.

300-RoaE is a handsome looking film but lacked any lightness of touch, and was in many ways a bunch of set pieces strung together without a proper narrative drive and wasn’t even clear who it was rooting for. I mean, we all know who we were supposed to be cheering on, but I for one was hoping Artemisia would sort them all out. If we can make Xerxes an 8ft bald and shiny god-king with an impressive codpiece, then surely we can tinker with the outcome of the Battle of Salamis?

So, glad I saw it but would recommend waiting for it to come on TV if you are at all curious. And my girl-crush on Eva Green has been reinforced. Roll on Penny Dreadful.