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The rest of my mini-reviews for April 🙂

 

Alien: Covenant

I had originally been determined not to watch this because of how disappointed I expected to feel after Prometheus (I still can’t get over the allegedly experienced biologist who took his helmet off and all that followed), but it was on TV and I succumbed. It was pompous and over-explained everything. Despite a good cast I really didn’t feel there was anything new here so I should have gone with my first instinct. Mr Fassbender’s career choices have been a bit flaky recently…..

A Cure for Wellness

This was a weird one and almost certainly far too long but I kind of enjoyed it. Dane DeHaan is sent to bring his errant boss back from a sanitarium in Europe but after a car crash finds himself a patient in said asylum, and then it all kicks off. There are creepy villagers who fall silent when anyone walks into the pub. There is a weird floaty girl wandering about barefoot. There are dark corridors and lots of tanks filled with water used for nefarious purposes. There is the legend of an evil Baron. There is Jason Isaacs as the head doctor with a cool accent and a big sign above his head with the word baddie flashing on and off. Evil Jason is the best Jason IMHO. It’s beautifully Gothic and fairly intense but not at all scary.

Avengers: Infinity War

I’m not going to say too much about this because reams have been written already. I loved it. It was amazingly well-balanced considering the number of major superhero types involved; the best bits for me involved interactions between characters who are not normally in the same movies, especially Thor and Peter Quill, and Iron Man and Doctor Strange. Also worth noting that everything in it is huge, and that it works because Thanos is a properly rounded character; his plan may be evil, but it is logically evil (from a  certain point of view). Shout out to bits of Edinburgh actually playing themselves rather than pretending to be Moscow or whatever. Can’t wait for the sequel.

All caught up now, and hoping to have a more stable posting pattern soon.

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I didn’t get around to reviewing these movies properly but had Thoughts so felt the need to share 🙂

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Yes, I know this was actually released last year and I did see it at the time but felt that there was so much noise on the interwebs that I would keep my own counsel for a while. Since then I have seen it a further two times and on every viewing it just gets better. I love the new characters, especially Rose though I may also have a serious girl crush on Vice Admiral Holdo. The only quibble I really had on first viewing was the storyline involving Poe & Holdo, but I’ve come to the conclusion that he would definitely have behaved in the same way if Holdo had been a man so in establishing his character development from hothead to leader I think it worked well. Can’t wait for Episode 9!

Isle of Dogs

I have a mixed response to Wes Anderson (admittedly based on a small number of his films that I have seen), veering from absolutely adoring The Grand Budapest Hotel to loathing Fantastic Mister Fox with a passion. Pleased to say that Isle of Dogs is very much in the Grand Budapest tradition. This is such a good film, with a quirky stop-motion animation style and a story that has real heart to it and can be interpreted in a number of different ways, always the mark of a goodie as far as I’m concerned. The voice cast is brilliant and distinctive and there is so much going on visual that it begs to be seen more than once. Loved loved loved it.

Free Fire

I really didn’t get this film at all. I think I could see what director Ben Wheatley was trying to do with Free Fire, set in Boston in 1978 where a gun deal goes wrong, but I couldn’t connect with it at all. And it’s such a shame, because it is so well made, and has such a brilliant cast, and has an intriguing premise but I couldn’t engage with the humour. I just felt that there was something missing. But 10/10 for the accurate facial hair.

Gotham by Gaslight

Gaslight was one of the first Batman graphic novels I ever bought (what can I say, I was a very late adopter in the world of comics) so I was very interested to see what director Sam Liu (he of The Killing Joke which I talked about here) would make of the story. Annoyingly, there are some major changes in this adaptation which I don’t really understand, but all in all it was an enjoyable take on Jack the Ripper.

 

 

imagesWhat’s Cronos all about?

A mysterious device designed to provide its owner with eternal life resurfaces after four hundred years, leaving a trail of destruction in its path.

Of course, it has help……

Why did I want to watch it?

This was a re-watch for me, having seen the film way back when. I decided to watch it again having recently seen The Shape of Water and feeling the need to get into Guillermo del Toro’s back catalogue.

What did I think of it?

I love a non-conventional vampire movie which is exactly what we get with Cronos.

Jesus Gris is an old man with an antique shop who comes across the Cronos device and uses it to postpone his death. Of course, this is never going to be straightforward because fo course there’s a dying rich man who wants it for himself, and of course he has a brutish nephew under his thumb who is trying to hunt it down for him ( a fabulous turn from the great Ron Perlman).

There are some touching relationships in the film, particularly between Jesus and his little grand-daughter who turns out to be wiser than her years. There are some shudder-making scenes (eg when Jesus is licking blood from a bathroom floor, yuck) but particularly gruesome, and the bad guys get there comeuppance so all is well. Mostly. The effects are admittedly a bit dated but the central core of the film is still solid and you could see what a talent del Toro would become.

This is up there with Near Dark in my list of favourites. Worth watching.

Dazzling details: del Toro’s first feature comes in at 94 minutes, and was rated 18 for strong language, violence and horror (though notable now for the DVD being rated 15)

MV5BMjI3Nzg0MTM5NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTE2MTgwNTM@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_What’s it all about?

Jake Pentecost, son of Stacker Pentecost, reunites with Mako Mori to lead a new generation of Jaeger pilots, including rival Lambert and 15-year-old hacker Amara, against a new Kaiju threat.

Why did I want to see it?

I loved the first one so much, and there was no way that I would miss John Boyega continuing to be awesome but in a different franchise.

What did I think about it?

This is a film that isn’t getting a lot of love, either because people don’t think it should have been made at all (did Pacific Rim really need a sequel given that the apocalypse was, indeed, cancelled?) and as one reviewer put it “did it lose its heart” (early exit of a popular character). But I thought it was huge fun and so much better than any Transformers movie I have ever seen.

John Boyega is just such a charming presence and works well with both Scott Eastwood (looking more and more like his Dad very single day) and Cailee Spaeny as the young girl brought into the world of Jaeger pilots, so I was very happy to spend an hour or so watching this. The only disappointment was the insufficient presence of Rinko Kikuchi

Did it get a bit silly towards the end? Of course it did. Are there plot holes the size of Mount Fuji itself? Of course there are. Did I care about any of this? Not a jot.

Lots of popcorn adjacent fun, would watch again.

Dazzling details: Directed by Stephen S DeKnight, Pacific Rim is 111 minutes long and is rated 12A for moderate violence, threat, injury detail, rude gesture. The BBFC does like protecting us all from rude gestures 🙂

Batman-The_Killing_Joke_(film)What’s it all about?

As Batman hunts for the escaped Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime attacks the Gordon family to prove a diabolical point mirroring his own fall into madness.

Why did I want to see it?

Well, I read the graphic novel lo these many years ago and remember it being fairly iconic though not without its problems; as one critic put it (and sorry I have lost the reference for this) The Killing Joke is “an important comic book for many reasons, not all of them worth celebrating”. Even Alan Moore, who was the writer of the prigging ha effectively washed his hands of it.

I thought it would be interesting to see what they did with the animation for adults version, especially as the Book God had asked for it on DVD as a Christmas gift, so it really was time we got around to watching it.

What did I think about it?

So it’s well done in respect of the animation and especially the voice acting – Mark Hamill is and always will be the very best interpreter of the Joker, and Kevin Conroy’s Batman is equally iconic. The origin of the Joker is also very well done.

But the problems with the story are magnified in the film version, largely by the way the expanded story of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl is handled.

You are probably aware that there is has been a standard plot device in comics for some considerable time (which passed into mainstream movies a while back) that in order to give the male hero a justification for revenge a female character close to him is injured, killed or otherwise traumatised, often gratuitously. If you want to read more about this then Google “Women in Refrigerators” which tells you a lot more.

Some spoilers follow…..

So, in the original comic Batgirl is shot by the Joker and her father kidnapped in order to be driven mad a la the Joker himself, and Batman delivers the requisite avenging activity. In the movie, Batgirl’s backstory diminishes her autonomy and has her briefly intimate with the Dark Knight, therefore underlining the whole revenge thing.

And this is a shame because if they had to expand her story to beef out the plot then it was an opportunity to at least show her as capable and resourceful, caught unawares by the villain. Instead, she just falls into a trope which has been sadly overused.

Dazzling details: Directed by Sam Lui, this lasts 76 minutes and is rated 15 for strong violence

Gangster SquadWhat’s it all about?

It’s 1949 Los Angeles, the city is run by gangsters and a malicious mobster, Mickey Cohen. Determined to end the corruption, John O’Mara assembles a team of cops, ready to take down the ruthless leader and restore peace to the city.

Why did I want to see it?

It was less that I wanted to see it and more that the Book God wanted to see it, and had asked for the DVD as a gift for a birthday or Christmas (can’t remember which) and so I obliged and watched it with him.

What did I think of it?

Oh dear goodness, this was a missed opportunity. I thought it was very flashy and attempted a lot of style but had no heart or warmth to it. In fact, the most decent character (I won’t say whom) is dealt with very harshly and although everyone else does end up bearing some scars I found it telling that the one person who questions the methods used to bring down Mickey Cohen and whether its worth it gets bumped off for his pains.

And then there’s Mickey Cohen. if you know anything about him at all you will know that although this film is allegedly “inspired” by true events the way he gets dealt with is nonsense. Sean Penn is awful in the role, overacting as if his life depended on it. I said to someone else that Penn had left no scenery unthawed and I think that was an understatement.

Also Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone deserve better. Most of the cast is wasted to be honest.

Take my advice and watch Mob City; it does the whole thing so much better.

Dazzling details: directed by Ruben Fleischer, this is 113 minutes long (and I felt every single one) and rated 15 for strong bloody violence and very strong language (and a lack of moral compass)

The Shape of WaterWhat’s it all about?

At a top-secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

Why did I want to see it?

I have been an admirer of Guillermo del Toro since seeing Cronos in the early 1990s, and I am a sucker for a grown-up fairy-tale with horror overtones so this was a no-brainer.

What did I think about it?

I loved this film so hard, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Images pop into my head without warning and I am very keen to see it again (hoping that a Film Club outing can be arranged but I’ve already flagged the DVD release just in case). I think the reason it works so well is how fully rounded all of the characters are, from Eliza’s morning routine which shows her as a woman with needs and desires to Strickland and his anger and extreme views. One of the triumphs of the film, I think, is how Strickland as the villain is given a background and a personality that explains but doesn’t excuse his behaviour; his fear and hatred of the other in the shape of the Amphibian Man.

Sally Hawkins is amazing as Eliza, defiant and open-hearted and compassionate, and Octavia Spencer is a delight as Zelda, with her awful husband and her chattering away and her handling of the racism she has to face every day.

The setting of the film is also beautiful, otherworldly images of the apartments above the cinema where Eliza and Giles live underpinned by a colour palette that evokes the underwater. And water is absolutely everywhere; it always seems to be raining.

Others have mentioned the resemblance of the Amphibian man to the Creature from the Black Lagoon and I suppose you could see this as a kind of “what happens next”, and others have mentioned Beauty and the Beast, though I don’t really see that myself . It should be mentioned that Doug Jones does a wonderful job (as he always does) in bringing the creature to life.

I was very glad that it won best picture and best director. It’s about time that del Toro was recognised and although Pan’s Labyrinth is still his masterpiece in my opinion, the Shape of Water certainly ranks alongside it.

If you haven’t seen this please do seek it out!

Dazzling details: directed by Guillermo del Toro, this is 123 mins long and rated 15 for strong violence, language, sex, nudity

 

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Cloverfield ParadoxWhat’s it all about?

Orbiting a planet on the brink of war, scientists test a device to solve an energy crisis, and end up face-to-face with a dark alternate reality.

Why did I want to see it?

It has Cloverfield in the title so obviously I was going to watch it. It’s a whole Pavlov’s Dogs thing, there is nothing I can do.

What did I think of it?

Well. Paradox went straight onto Netflix which doesn’t necessarily mean anything (after all they do have amazing TV series) but nobody seemed to know it was coming, which is a bit more problematic I think. It’s possible to sneak things under the radar without a complete blackout, so that’s interesting in itself.

Anyway, because we do not yet have a smart TV (I know, I know), so I watched this on my laptop late at night in the dark which was actually good fun. And the movie was nowhere near as bad as many on the interwebs have been reporting.

Is it delivering anything new? Not really.

Can you spot all of the influences from other (better) movies? Well, of course you can.

Does the stuff that relates to Cloverfield feel poorly integrated? Mostly yes.

BUT

I actually enjoyed it. The cast was excellent and played it dead straight which is all that anyone can ask. However, the law of diminishing returns is definitely applicable here – original Cloverfield is one of my Top 10 Desert Island films, 10 Cloverfield Lane was really well done but was 80% one film and 20% a completely different film. And Paradox is nowhere near as good in comparison but passes the time perfectly pleasantly.

#damnedwithfaintpraise

Dazzling details: Directed by Julius Onah, this was released onto Netflix. It’s 102 minutes long, and rated 15 for strong threat & injury detail (some of which is entertainingly gross)

Black Panther watercolourWhat’s it all about?

T’Challa, the King of Wakanda, rises to the throne in the isolated, technologically advanced African nation, but his claim is challenged by a vengeful outsider who was a childhood victim of T’Challa’s father’s mistake.

Why did I want to see it?

Seriously? Have you been paying attention to what’s going on in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? There was no way I was going to miss this!

What did I think of it?

I’ll be upfront about this; I ADORED THIS FILM.

As context, this was our film for Valentine’s Day. We one to the cinema, thoroughly enjoyed the film, then went and had a really nice late lunch. There may have been alcohol. There was certainly a lot of discussion about the film.

So, it’s fair to say that I have enjoyed all of the MCU films, but that the ones that have stuck with me the most are those that feature the characters that I know the least about, which means Thor, Ant-Man, Guardians and now Black Panther.  I was really impressed with how the character was introduced in Captain America: Civil War and keen to see how the whole Wakanda thing was going to develop.

There is so much to appreciate in Black Panther. For a start, the story makes sense; what I mean by that is that the place feels that it might actually exist and the society as it’s presented has an internal logic that underpins all of the character and plot developments. It looks amazing, the whole cast delivers excellent performances and I was very invested in the story.

The cast was uniformly excellent and it seems unfair to single anyone out (so I won’t), but of course the number of amazing women involved was really wonderful to see. Actually, I will say that I was really very much taken with Letitia Wright who played T’Challa’s amazing sister.

So much was riding on this film and so many articles have been written about how important it is culturally because of the predominantly POC cast that it’s a real pleasure to be able to note that not only is it a great movie that will bear re-watching but it’s also making all of the money. I can’t wait to see this again!

Dazzling details: directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther is 134 minutes long and in the UK is rated 12A for moderate violence, injury detail, rude gesture (that last one made me laugh so hard)

 

 

 

MV5BNzE1OTczNTc1OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzgyMDI3MDI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_What’s it all about?

Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, before taking on the secret Templar society.

Which makes it sound like cause and effect when in fact he only does the latter because of being forced to do the former. At least I think that’s what happened….

Why did I want to see it?

So here’s the thing. I remember being quite impressed by the trailer when it first came out, but we never made it to the cinema to see it. By the time we thought about picking it up again I had already heard word of mouth that suggested it had fallen prey to the Curse of the Computer Game Adaptation and wasn’t actually that good. Fast forward to earlier this year and a bout of insomnia; as is my habit, I was flicking through the channels and came across a scene between Messrs Fassbender and Gleason (the elder) and thought it looked interesting, and decided to record and watch it later.

What did I think of it?

I’m not going to say that the clip that led me to watching this film was the only interesting bit, because that wouldn’t be true, but I was fairly underwhelmed by the final result. It was OK but I found it confusing, perhaps because I’ve never played the game so didn’t really understand what the point was. The visuals were pretty impressive and I much preferred the historical bits to the modern-day stuff. Michael Fassbender is always watchable and Jeremy Irons was in full untrustworthy mode which is great fun, but it just didn’t click with me (as you can tell by my lack of anything to say almost two months after I watched it).

Dazzling details:

  • Directed by Justin Kurzel
  • 115 minutes long (but it seemed longer)
  • 12A for moderate violence and infrequent strong language. Rating not affected by the presence of Torquemada.