Reviews & Rants, Films for You?
[24/december/2016] Score: 5/10
If you watch enough SF films about people trapped in some desperate situation deep in space, alone onboard a giant starship you will already know some of the formula: It’s a big ship, but there’s only one vital component that could only save one member of the party; it’s broken down/breaking down, but there’s no way to revive the crew; the vital part that put you in peril is supposed to be totally, really totally foolproof; This Should Never Really Happen, but it does; and on and on.
So here we are alone on a vast starship that’s breaking down because Something Went Wrong, and the autopilot is too stupid to revive an engineering team go go fix it, but intelligent enough to repair the bulk of the ship without human interference. Then one passenger wakes up faaaar toooo early, and there’s no way to raise an alarm and wake the crew.
So here we are on a badly designed starship (another Microsoft product like the starship Enterprise, big, complicated, expensive and always crashing?) trying to figure out what went wrong, why and how to fix it. Lost in space-between-your-ears.
Although this may seem like a strong SF technology adventure film, it’s actually a love story about a lonely man who wakes a woman for companionship, seduces her into bed without telling her and leaves her to discover the truth on her own and go into her own rage, then risks his life to save the ship and win the woman he effectively raped and whose life he has destroyed. So typically Hollywood then.
And why does this vast ship only have one, a single lone “bed” that could save their lives and no spare parts to build another, a ship with a capacity for thousands of people and only one little get-out/rescue option??
Verdict: 3rd Class Passengers only.
- The Eagle Huntress
[23/december/2016] Score: 8/10
A documentary, following the ambitions on a young woman, teenage member of the remote Mongolian people who still use eagles to hunt for them in the severest winters. Women aren’t supposed to be huntresses, they’s supposed to be kept back home doing all the domestic work. Not for this 13 year old girl. With the support of her father and blessing of her grandfather, will take on the challenge of mastering the hunter’s craft, competing with all the men at the annual Hunters’ festival, then trek deep into the mountains for her first kills.
There’s a hint of scenes being staged and I’m not sure whether her victory against the men was set up or used for publicity to attract more tourists to this remote outpost of humanity, but there’s no mistaking the silent sullen sulks of older conservative men at her achievement.
Verdict: A rewarding flight.
- Star Wars: Rogue One
[17/december/2016] Score: 7/10
Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away 8 track tapes were still in use stored in remote vaults that any bunch of kiddies could stroll into and steal, with the aid of a score of tough assassins and special forces, and a robot. Forget password protection of encrypted digital memory stored in hardened fortresses covered by thousands of CCTV watched over by fat blokes in badly fitting Security vests, we’re in an entirely other realm.
Welcome to Star Wars, where operatic nonsense sings loudly from the rooftops, Give Me All Your Money Earthmen and the Star of Death lurks deep in the shadows of space overseen by a masked man whose breath hisses a lot like a bad tempered snake as he sweeps around with a long black cloak stolen from the Phantom of the Opera.
But don’t worry children of the world, our plucky crew of freedom fighters are here to save the day and defeat the bad guys.
Verdict: Operatic war adventure.
[15/december/2016] Score: 8/10
Following on from the true-life events of Edward Snowden’s exposure of American government surveillance of the world, come a fictional dramatised account of his life and the experiences that led him up to this point in world history. One many changes the direction of international politics. Imagine what you could do, and imagine all the efforts poured into the world to stop you from it.
Verdict: Heroic and dangerous.
- Edge Of Seventeen
[14/december/2016] Score: 9/10
Bordering on the insanity of not-quite grown-up but really, really, really wanting to be, comes the tale on one girl going through all the nonsense in her life while the rest of the world, really, the entire world, is out to stop her and frustrate HER wants.
So nothing unusual there in the life of a teenage American girl growing up and stamping around a lot as she tries to make some sense of the big grown-up world around her.
What is different, similar in style to Juno, is the down-to-earth sense of “this is normal” life you don’t typically find in a mainstream piece of Hollywood Californian nonsense. Here the characters seem far more grounded in life and not some kind of glossy falsehood.
Verdict: Grounded on the edge of girlness.
- Bleed For This
[3/december/2016] Score: 7/10
A boxing story, a true story, about one fighter who breaks his neck and fights through months of treatments, recovery and fear to make a return to the ring and redeem his title.
A strong inspiring tale about human perserverance and strength of will over all the obstacles that can get in your way.
Verdict: A winner!
- Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them
[19/november/2016] Score: 7/10
A new chapter in the mythic world of magic from Ms Rowling’s fine pen that explores her world of magical mayhem in new ways with new adventures and characters. Without the huge foundation of the Harry Potter books this is a new direction to embark on. The first of several tales of magic that sets the scenes for new adventures, challenges and the rise of new heroes. It appears rushed at times as it races straight into this new magical setting, as if a very large books has been crammed into the script (although there is no book here to read in advance) and it doesn’t give the audience too much time to absorb the idea of a hidden magical world – if you’ve absorbed it all in Potter’s time then you won’t need to be taught now, although one “normal” character will give everyone the chance to see the story through his eyes.
Verdict: A new kind of beast, this.
- A United Kingdom
[25/november/2016] Score: 10/10
At a time when nationalistic and racist bigotry are rising around the world, prompted by politicians eager for power, here is an antidote to the madness. The true story of one couple who crossed racial barriers and continents to discover a deep abiding love that challenged and changed nations at a critical time in the world’s history.
If you want inspiration to overcome the suffocating blanket of prejudice in the world today then look to this and take it as one lead for the world we could make true for everyone.
Verdict: A United World?
[12/november/2016] Score: 10/10
If you want inspiration, magical science fiction without the caped crusaders lurking in the murk of some downtrodden city then here is your dream come true in a scientific sensible and spiritual exploration of the meaning and effects of first contact with aliens and how human civilization might react to it. In the style of other suchlike film whether it be 2001 A Space Odyssey through to Interstellar, you are not handed all the answers on a plate of mashed nonsense. You have to think, to learn and accept the alien as the story teases out a truth about the universe and crossing a chasm of difference between them and us.
It won’t be comfortable to the majority of audiences wanting a dose of candyfloss escapism from the daily routine, but if you want your heart and soul lifted to new heights then this may offer you new answer, ideas and hope about all our futures.
Verdict: Welcome this new arrival.
- The Accountant
[5/november/2016] Score: 7/10
Now that the “odd man” storyline is become more of the norm as society begins to understand and accept the differences in humanity and the hidden attributes of those with a particular non-conventional intelligence, the autistic hyper-focus, it’s time to turn them into superheroes and suggest that this special quirk of human mentality can be “weaponised” and Hollywood likes to say endlessly.
And so here we are, the autistic child taught in the school of very hard knocks by a militaristic brute of a tough-loving father and given all the “right skills” to survive in the harsh world of his father’s interpretation. In the process turning him into an intensely-focussed “killing machine” as all those Hollywood writers like to say.
This looks good, plays well and actually does give you a small understanding of what some children and adults go through in their lives with their distinctive outlook on life, but it also plays out like the first in a series of films about yet another character who steps out of the shadows to save lives (bit of the Jack Reacher here).
Verdict: Born brilliant, made brutal.
- A Street Cat Named Bob
[4/november/2016] Score: 6/10
Cats are gods in our internet-pussy-cat-obsessed world so it’s bound to happen that one of the pesky pussies will have a movie made in his name, and that name is Bob.
Bob that cat, and actual real pussy that gave one man the focus, or cute distraction, from his troubles to climb out of a drug-hazed gutter of his life and reach up to a better world.
I did say cats were magical didn’t I?
And so it is here, as Bob, played by himself for there is only one Bob, aided by his servants the film crew of adoring humans, makes a film about his adventures rescuing a human from the gutter.
Verdict: It’s a cat’s world, and we’re all in their paws.
- Doctor Strange
[29/october/2016] Score: 8/10
Yet another superhero origin story, yet another arrogant genius brought down to more humble circumstances where he can better come to understand that he can make a greater contribution to humanity through his own suffering, bit like Jesus that.
And once again, the hero must take a journey of discovery, both a physical one and spiritual one, finding a mentor and a few guides along the Way, overcoming challenges, confronting demonic forces to achieve Enlightenment, bit like Jesus that.
Verily I say unto thee, Our Hero must discover his Power Within, and all that, his Inner Eyeball, his Truth of the cosmos, universe, or whatever it’s called nowadays, bit like Jesus that.
And then vanquish them with the wave of his hands to same all the people of the world, bit like Jesus that.
Twisting the stories of Marvel from science and technology, tin suits, shields and hammers, into the realms of magic, wanda/wands, etc., we are challenged to accept that the cosmos we understand is unlike anything we’ve seen or felt. Through this twisting story of the rise of a new Angel for this magical world we’ve shown the dazzling alternative reality that comes when you let a greater imagination into you, and all that.
Verdict: Not as original as you might first believe, but have faith that the spell works its charms on you.
- Queen Of Katwe
[22/october/2016] Score: 8/10
Everyone should have an inspiration to push them out of their rut and into a better world for them, their families and communities, and here the game of chess plays a role in helping one girl plan and work her way out of poverty for herself and her family.
This beautiful, gritty true story from Kenya should inspire you to go out and play a better game of life.
Verdict: Make a move on this inspiration.
- Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
[21/october/2016] Score: 5/10
Okay, standard action man plot from a hundred and one films, of conspiracy in the heart of the establishment, a woman in peril and a strong man determined to expose the truth by punching it to death with his battered fists (doesn’t he ever need an intensive care hospital?).
Only redeeming feature is that being more independent than the mainstream Hollywood product this story at least allows for a very strong female character able to stand equal to Jack.
Verdict: Go forward to this.
[19/october/2016] Score: 3/10
So there’s this big evil conspiracy involving religion, plague and a mad scientist.
And there’s a man wandering around with no memory except the ability to babble a lot about “Ancient Mysteries” that aren’t real. So that’s it.
Verdict: Burn in hell?
- Blood Father
[13/october/2016] Score: 5/10
Typical standard, action movie: daughter in deep trouble, evil drug gangs, biker gangs and streams of bullets. Insert characters as required and enjoy the ride through the southern deserts of the US to the song of slaughter.
Verdict: Just add bullets.
- The Girl On The Train
[7/october/2016] Score: 8/10
A fractured plot as each character is written across the screen, to build up an increasingly tense story of alcoholic woman, divorcee, who’s obsessed with her ex-husband and his current life and loves. Her sanity begins to unravel as events spin out of control to point the finger at her as prime suspect in the murder of one of the other women in this twisted situation.
The problem with the story in one sense is they way it jumps from character to character to build up the plot until its dramatic conclusion. This lack of a single point of view and drive might dissuade some from enjoying it to the full. Although the strong sense of Hitchcock lurking in the background might thrill many.
Verdict: Ride into this station for a thrilling trip.
- Free State Of Jones
[6/october/2016] Score: 5/10
The issue with this story is it looks as if it’s just lumping on the trail of other post-American slavery themes by taking a tiny story from one small corner of the American Civil War and stepping forward through the fifteen or more years as it unfolded for this principal characters.
Another issue is the sudden discontinuities, without any direct link to the original events, that leap forward to the middle of the twentieth century. There’s no real explanation for this and really no need to break the flow of the narrative in this way. This makes it more of a dramatised, and not very coherent, documentary of one small group of people struggling through vast social change and intense violence of civil war.
As an entertainment this will lack a real power and effect over the audience. As a piece of history its discontinuity makes it difficult to settle back and enjoy.
Verdict: Broken people in a broken story of a broken nation.
- Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children
[30/september/2016] Score: 8/10
There is a certain fairy-tale magic about British children haven wild adventures at the height of the second world war, cast adrift from their families in remote lonely houses in the countryside, discovering deep mysteries or portals to alternative worlds the children can live out the ultimate dreams of a world free from adults or where darker forces are magnified into mountainous horror.
Here is a mixed blend of those elements and “special” children gifted with peculiar powers are granted the freedom of magical powers; but there are haunting horrors, lightly touched upon, hunting the children for their powers.
Here then is a battle for the future of “different” children, the gifted one who must win or be devoured by the adults.
- Deepwater Horizon
[29/september/2016] Score: 6/10
The biggest oil spill and environmental catastrophe in American history is told here with some difficulty through the experienced of the men and women on the oil rig as it’s driven by short-sighted managers to the brink of disaster until the rig, an exhausted machine, finally breaks down and is torn apart.
It’s difficult to tell a complicated story of sophisticated engineering on the leading edge of high technology and complicated geology but this film does a good job of giving us some of the picture of those fateful hours leading up to the disaster and the people involved on the rig struggling to avert it.
However, the problem may be there here is something too big and complicated as it has to wrap up so many human and technical aspects in so short a story. We know of the enormous sacrifice of the crew but I felt they and their efforts didn’t get the scope of telling they may have deserved.
Verdict: Deep disaster deserving deeper story?
- The Girl With All The Gifts
[28/september/2016] Score: 8/10
A girl in a strange place is intensely interested in all that goes on around her. She’s a bright, perky, keen and enthusiastic student of the beautiful lady teacher she’s devoted to and demonstrates a keen intelligence over all the other children in her class.
And all this while being strapped to a wheelchair along with the rest of the class and escorted by armed soldiers on hair-triggers ready to snap and kill every child in the class if given the slightest cause.
Here is a completely new kind of zombie horror, the horror of what could happen if zombies evolved and their intelligence woke up.
Verdict: Here is the future of a zombie world.
- The Infiltrator
[17/september/2-16] Score: 6/10
In the popular myths of America are the daring endeavours of undercover police/special agency investigators who dive the depths of society’s social sewers to uncover conspiracy, greed and corruption. Here’s another true story retold with a delicate touch about the success of one anti-drug investigation, this time by US Customs, against S. American drug cartels. “Follow the money” led to one of the largest bank collapses (outside the usual excesses of the banking sector) in the 1980s and scores of arrests of drug dealers and their bankers.
A remarkable story that perhaps tries to do too much with so many characters?
Verdict: Spy on this before it disappears into the shadows.
[17/september/2016] Score: 6/10
One of the most dramatic and famous turning points in the history of World War Two is revisited here for a new generation as we see the story of personal sacrifice in the face of brutal horror when a handful of resistance fighters and agents set out to kill one of the leaders of the Nazi power in Europe and triggers a turning in the tide of resistance in their country.
- Kubo And The Two Strings
[10/september/2016] Score: 7/10
There were bored children in the audience for this at times when it tripped into too much metaphysics and not enough fun adventure, or veered into wacky wildness and a touch too alien for some with strong Western tastes? Perhaps a little too grown up for the youngest but entertaining enough and giving older ones something new to think about that doesn’t quite have the normal happy-clappy ending, but a very meaty and satisfying one nevertheless.
Verdict: Needed a couple more strings to its bow?
- Cafe Society
[3/september/2-16] Score: 6/10
There is a magical fairy imp in New York called Woody who casts fairy tale spells over the world ever year or so and casts us all into his glittery misty-eyed world of those “special needs people” who need psychiatrists, need love with a twist of bitter and need to hold ever-so-gay parties while dancing and swinging to the finest jazz in the world.
Here we are again as the spell is cast over us and lifts us all away to that other fairyland of Hollywood in the 1930s, that glorious time of desperate depression-era poverty covered up by the cloying blanket of sparkly glitter and blood splattered across our screens, eyes, floors. And one young innocent must come of age and survive these gay, sparkly, bloody, desperate, and sometimes hollow, times, while pining for a lost eternal love.
Verdict: Magic, and all that jazz.
[3/september/2016] Score: 6/10
There is a special sub-genre of science fiction and ancient fantasy of the artificial made-person. From Pygmalion onwards the theme of creating the perfect woman has mesmerised silly men with the vision of creatures to create, master, own and exploit. And every time it all goes horribly wrong as the inherent nature of woman’s strength and independence asserts herself and tears the bounds of slavery apart.
And so here we are again with another secret corporate laboratory (all big evil corporations love their secret laboratories, I must build one one-day) with a mesmerisingly pretty girl-woman on the threshold of freedom, unless the big evil corporation can deal with her. Oh dear, here we go again.
The film explores this traditional theme in a steady fashion leading to the traditional conclusion, of sorts.
Verdict: A little too much clay and perhaps a fraction less magic.
- War Dogs
[27/august/2016] Score: 7/10
In that crazy wonderland of America they went kind of crazy when going to war and decided it’d be really wonderful if the “little guys” had an opportunity to snuffle at the piggie trough where all the big corporations were bloating themselves fat and rich from defence contracts. As a result of this wide open door policy two little guys were able to steal their way into contracts that looked to make them millionaires. Only problem was the personalities of the characters involved and the greed that eventually swept them all away.
And lessons ought to have been learnt by all, although probably not.
Verdict: Some would say lucky dogs.
- Pete’s Dragon
[25/august/2016] Score: 8/10
This is the wonderful magical story of a dragon who keeps a pet boy to play with. Lost in the woods the dragon has no family or friends until he stumbles on a little human and adopts him as his special pet. Together they enjoy lots of wonderful adventures playing around the forests until one day big grown up evil humans come to spoil all their magic.
Fortunately a few of the big evil humans are nicer and come to help the dragon and his pet Pete in their greatest adventure yet. In doing so they are able to help the dragon find a way home to his family as he leaves Pete to be looked after by the few friendly humans in their family.
Verdict: A wonderful flight of fancy, if your children-at-heart fancy that.
- Suicide Squad
[5/august/2016] Score: 6/10
Like many such films before it in recent years they’ve attempted to cram so many plotlines into this introductory film that you can get totally lost in the story and never sure what to focus on and enjoy. There’s so little time to savour the rich delights of one or two characters in this comicbook translation straight from page to screen. A deep narrative is exchanged for a streaming flow of images and flashing moments, like the tawdry lights in some strip club, that you can’t get a deep sense of character. The outstanding characters, already well-noted in the press for the weeks proceeding these explosive moments remain the under-represented Joker and his moll Ms Quinn, the keen-eyes Deadeye and the stalking shadow of Batman and his “friends” in the background.
As for the story, when one “bad guy goes wrong” and the self-proclaimed “Suicide Squad” have to go fight it, that adds yet another facet to this sparkly jewel.
If you love a comicbook-style of scenes and big bold characters then this is going to be fun. If you want a deeper involvement this is a miss.
Verdict: Comic, book in for a fun time.
- Jason Bourne
[3/august/2016] Score: 6/10
In the fine old traditions of the Bourne saga a girl is killed, like a virgin sacrifice, for your entertainment, and this sets our pretty boy on his next quest for those good old traditional of Truth, Justice and The American Way, which often appears to be the Way of Treachery, heartless betrayal and an obsession with technology to oversee the entire world and ensure all good Americans rest safely in their beds at night.
A wonderful aspect of the Borne movies, especially this one, is its complete disregard of spy tradecraft. This serves as a perfect example of how not to do it as both Jason and Nicky throw the book gaily out the window and prance through the night as if no one is watching them. Forget words like disguise and dodge, and especially bulletproof vest, and just race through the crowds as if wearing a neon vest with the word SPY emblazoned on it for all the many, many, many watching cameras to see you.
As always the CIA are able to access, hack into or spy on every camera in the world, tracking the step-by-step progress of our lost hero in his journey to the Truth. Which is cute to know we’re all safely looked after by those nice people in America.
As for the Big Secret? Well you can find that in a big file called “Black Projects” although no one appears to have thought of Wikileaks as a quicker and less lethal way to expose the Truth of it all.
Verdict: You think I was borne yesterday?
- Star Trek Beyond
[23/july/2016] Score: 8/10
In the traditions of Star Trek films the odd numbered ones are supposed to be the worst. In this case it’s bucked the trend with a humorous adventure and some very bold nonsense in the fine traditions of dumb-ass SF foolery common in the Star Trek universe – set mind on numb.
Here again is another Big Evil Monster (BEM in SF traditions) who sets out to destroy the Federation because of some slight in the past (the Federation really are good at upsetting so many brilliant people you have to wonder whether it should visit a therapist, and they, the Fed., do seem to wander around with a silly self-satisfied grin on their lips so often they’re probably taking far too many happy pills, and don’t get me started on their ever-so-clean cities, all gleaming concrete and glass).
Fortunately for the universe, of the Federation, the plucky young crew of the USS Enterprise manage to, literally, again, crash into the party just in time to save millions of live, which is really, really nice (set gleaming smiles on) of them.
Verdict: Gleamingly nice. 🙂
[22/july/2016] Score: 6/10
This begins as a slightly dark, tense thriller, a nighttime horror story for all little children cowering under their blankets at the tall dark shadows stalking them. Then it turns into a cute princess story and flops around all over the place. The biggest issue with this, I suspect, is the long-winded “Royal Palace” act in the story, something that would be too alien to many children around the world and not brisk and chirpy enough to scamper through a whole scene of table manners. This leaves a dull gap in the story before the conclusive ending that I felt could have been tightened up or reduced in some way.
It will suit many younger children but not for the tastes of everyone. This may explain why it’s not proven popular outside the UK.
Verdict: Big, friendly, but wanting more.
[12/july/2016] Score: 5/10
A remake or repeat depending on your opinion but one lacking in a certain sense of narrative flow in the story when compared to the original. Here the excuse of ghost-hunting in New York is used to hang out a variety of gags, some very good, the flop around the special effects as we build up the the final confrontation with the big bad ghost.
So unimpressive, I’ve now forgotten the final confrontation.
Verdict: A ghost of its former self.
[9/july/2016] Score: 5/10
The problem is that Tarzan has to stand up to the huge, big, vast, really, really big superheroes in all their glorious spandex. And as most modern audiences aren’t accustomed to a man swinging nearly naked through the trees and gleaming in musky sweat this might appeal only to the girls in the audience, even though Jane remains her perky and bold self as an equal alongside Tarzan.
As newer audiences might not know Tarzan or his back story this film has to deal with both the origin story and the current one, post-me-Tarzan-you-Jane and take us right up to the time of Tarzan’s ascendency to his ancestral home in England. So we see the grown up Tarzan first in the dank country of England before being compelled, reluctantly, to take a journey into and across the beauty of the African landscape.
It’s a great adventure but might be mixing too many ideas into such a short time, and to deal with the big spectacle issue the film culminates in another great special effects spectacle mixed with the silly idea of crocodile mating calls.
Verdict: Swing with it and enjoy the steamy bush.
- Independence Day Resurgence
[25/june/2016] Score: 5/10
Oooo, look, gigantic alien spaceships, enormous special effects, totally dead brains producing a story that’s so far out of this world you need a giant spaceship to find it.
Yep, we’re back watching the Americans enjoying another Independence Day fireworks show that makes no sense with all the fireworks shooting off all at once in a thousand directions in a show that makes all the sense of a cabbage.
Verdict: Fight for your independence today.
- Absolutely Fabulous
[1/july/2016] Score: 6/10
So here it is at last dharlings! Soooo, Absolutely Fabulous to see all the old, really, really, old, and crinkly, and withered, and aged, and worn out, really, faces, back in front of us again and stumbling around looking for the Next Big Thing in Fashion!
Almost a worthy successor to the famously infamous TV show, the film offers a huge gallery of faces to spot as they parade across the screens for our entertainment. And yet, there are moments with slow where the pace of the story lags a little.
This is often the issue with translating a short TV episode style of story onto a larger, longer, broader, deeper format – how to keep up the pace without flagging. Those moments are few but do highlight a need for a brisker pace if the sheer ebullience (I’ve always wanted to use the word ebullience, no idea what it means dharlings!) is to be retained.
Just about succeeds.
Verdict: Almost fabulous.
- Now You See Me 2
[4/july/2016] Score: 5/10
There is less magic here as we return to the magical “Four Horsemen (minus one girl and adding another)” and explore their stories, their squabbling and the revenge of the nerds, or some such out to get them.
The issue with this is that is lacks that special magical sense of tension brewing up to a climax as we saw in the first story. This appears to be a case of trying to capitalize on the success of the first story, continue it but lacking a real innovation in what’s to-come. We’ve seen many “revenge” twists in the past as the bulk of the characters return to fight out another game of cat-and-mice but there’s a feeling that too many revelations were telegraphed too far in advance and there’s an expectation that the story will unfold in a certain way, which is exactly what happens.
Revealing that the FBI agent is actually another, secret magician, takes away any sense of tension and turns it all into a chase story, again another lack of imagination.
Verdict: More muddle than magic?
[9/june/2016] Score: 5/10
So let’s work through this: Orcs? [tick], Humans? [tick], Grand Wizards? [tick], Magic? [tick], Big Giant Birdy Thing You Can Ride? [tick], Evil Dark Forces? [tick], A Hero Who Turns Evil? [tick], A Quest? [tick], Lots and Lots of Swords? [tick], HUGE Battles Everywhere? [tick], Nonsensical Dialogue? [tick], Baby In A Basket On The River? [tick], Portals To/From The Nether Dimensions, or Something Similarly Silly? [tick], Vast, Tall White Towers? [tick], A Young Novice/Initiate Who Becomes Hero? [tick], Prophetic Old Hag? [tick].
So there we are, all the boxes are ticked in this wannabe Tolkienesque torment. At least there were no Hobbits.
Verdict: Ticked off.
- Nice Guys
[7/june/2016] Score: 5/10
It’s a buddy movie, set in the 1970s and following paths laid down by scores or mores or other Private Eye & Cop buddy detective movies, TV shows and more over so many decades. There’s a conspiracy, someone’s missing and has to be found and lots of antics along the way and it’s forgettable.
Verdict: Nicely so-so.
- Money Monster
[6/june/2016] Score: 6/10
All bankers and financiers are evil and engaged in a never-ending battle to rip off all the people of the world, of Americaland. And here’s another tale of terror for your bank acocunt as a conspiracy is unravelled when one TV money showman is taken hostage by an unhappy dummy who put all his money into a get-rich-quick scheme that could have been a scam.
Another angle on America’s obsessive hatred of finance and Big Business following the economic meltdown in 2008 with a few amusing twists on the theme of revenge against everyone involved in ruining so many, many, many lives.
Verdict: More anti-money monstrosity.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows
[30/may/2016] Score: 8/10
Energetic bounce around the sewers and skyscrapers of that much-put-upon city of New York with the turtles and their “mommie”, plus an assortment of other mutants. Should keep all the children happy for a couple of hours.
Verdict: No hiding in the shadows from this fluffy fun.
- Love And Friendship
[28/may/2016] Score: 7/10
Women will get more of the jokes and fun in that than a male audience as one “Lady” glides almost effortlessly through “society” to gain a fortune for herself and her daughter, thus establishing herself in the proper position deserving of a true “Lady”.
Not a grand costume film with high budgets, it managed to keep the flow going well enough to raise a smile here and there, in keeping with the modest origins of the story itself.
Verdict: Love it with your girlfriends.
- Alice Through The Looking Glass
[27/may/2016] Score: 5/10
Sad and sorry to say that this attempt to capitalize on the resounding success of the earlier film “Alice In Wonderland” fails to cast the same magic spell of the young woman who is “the Alice” of legend and here falls through the mirror to save the Mad Hatter.
Unfortunately some of the sensibilities of the other, real(?), world have followed Alice through the glass and poured water on any spark of magic that could have arisen here. A simple quest to find a lost family is used to grant Alice the power to travel through time and discover her own sense of how time cannot be changed, no matter how hard you try to push against it’s predestined flow. This simple narrative is used to propel everyone forward in what turns out to be a standard tale of adventure and self-discovery.
Verdict: Lacks magic and needs a stronger looking glass to find it.
- Sing Street
[26/may/2016] Score: 7/10
In the fine old tradition of teenage boys out to impress teenage girls and fight against over-bearing parents, schools and society to sing out with their own voice in the world, this smart little romantic comedy sings with joy at life and getting on with breaking free in that mythical magical new age sound of the 1980s. The typical teenage embarrassments of trying to adopt new styles of their own by copying the latest pop bands will be familiar to everyone and the songs make a sweet highlight to the story.
Verdict: songs of freedom.
- A Hologram for the King
[24/may/2016] Score: 5/10
Don’t expect great drama here, this is one man discovering a new life and romance in a new country and struggling, like the rest of us with circumstances that have thrown him there. If you are looking for deeply meaningful themes only the lightest touch will be found here.
Verdict: Romance of the desert?
- X-Men: Apocalypse
[21/may]2016] Score: 8/10
Okay, so X-Men have had a few issues over the years with the lack of continuity that Marvel’s Avenger gang have shared and the self-destructive incoherent that a few of the earlier films suffered. Now here’s another part of the reboot attempt to win us over to their special universe (just next door to the other gangs but not in the same studio lot, so we won’t talk about that issue).
Another mega-hero from ancient times is brought back to life only to find the world changed too far for him to handle. More incoherent plot tries to bring everyone and everything back on track as a score of “heroes” are thrown in the pot for the battle of superpowers (don’t mention how many thousand of people were killed in this one).
A problem with this kind of film (compared to, say, Deadpool and the recent Star Wars adventure) is the inability to focus on a core story that we could all share. This is an EVENT MOVIE!!! That means big splashes of colour (mostly the colour of blood) and masses of special effects to dazzle us with their glamour. In the process, and digital processing, a lot can be lost as we wander away looking for something we can better connect to.
Having moaned all that this remains a spectacular dazzling show to spend a few hours with and offers enough meat with the candyfloss that we can come away well-satisfied.
Verdict: Not X-Men’s apocalypse, today.
- Green Room
[19/may/2016] Score: 8/10
Drenched in blood and dirt, grubbing the floor for more grit than you might favour, this is another in the fine tradition of a journey into darkness for lost souls seeking just a way through their small lives.
In a head-on collision with other’s sharing the same near-subhuman existence and the idiocy of a few silly mistakes, leads to the unnecessary destruction of lives. Nothing of the glamour of a superhero film, but a great antidote for those who want to “get real” and shake off the hero capes for a while.
Verdict: Green, the colour of sick.
- Whisky Tango Foxtrot
[18/may/2016] Score: 8/10
Based, somewhat, on a true story of one woman’s journey into war, the fiasco of politicians and the absurdities that are thrown up in the face of any attempt at an orderly world, this offers the full range of human emotion, drama, humour, experience good and bad and people just struggle to make some slight sense of their circumstances and survive as best they can.
Verdict: A woman’s touch of war.
- Our Kind Of Traitor
[13/may/2016] Score: 6/10
A slightly less entertaining spy thriller than the usual form from the master of spy fiction Le Carre. With a little too much predictability in key events this is a quick time-filler while we await something with more masterful depth and drama, but he has been a busy boy recently with the more interesting “Night Manager” on TV.
There are plenty of the usual bad guys, versus good guys, as a handful of MI6 civil servants struggle against time and their own Service and corruptly incompetent Ministers to try bagging a new-found source of information that could unravel the plans of a Russian crime syndicate to launder huge mountains of money through the lovely dull grey city of London and the pocket of some shockingly disreputable members of Parliament (gosh, what a surprise). Meanwhile a rather nice London couple and a group of innocent children/victims are caught in the middle.
Verdict: Some Kind Of Story.
- Captain America: Civil War, Part 1
[30/april/2016] Score: 9/10
Galloping ahead of the competition with a light touch on the humour, strong drama and a discussion about the need to supervise the most powerful creatures and creations on Earth in the name of God, Democracy and the American Way Of Life (hurrah!) we journey, very briskly, through the highlights of a far deeper argument about whether dumb-ass democracies should really supervise the most expert professionals on, and sometimes off, Earth.
The only issue might be that we all know this is just part one, so have to wait for a fulfilling completion to this story next year.
Verdict: Be Civil with your superheroes, or war with them?
- Miles Ahead
[26/april/2016] Score: 6/10
Written by Don Cheadle.
Directed by Don Cheadle.
Produced By Don Cheadle.
Starring, erm, Don Cheadle.
One moment in the momentous history of Jazz star Miles Davis as his life and style are explored as far as anyone could go in such a brief moment. This is not something for the mass audience. If you love Miles Davis and his music, if you enjoy something different, then this is especially for you.
This review was not written by Don Cheadle.
Verdict: Miles away from the ordinary.
- Bastille Day
[23/april/2016] Score: 4/10
An American “rogue” (they’re all “rogue”) secret agent interferes in the internal police affairs of the French police in Paris and crashes his way around the city to save it.
Of course he does. For in this tall tale as high as the Eiffel Tower all Frenchmen are the baddies and only a good American can save the world against a terrorist conspiracy. Hurrah!
A by-the-numbers standard mixed-buddy cop-spy adventure that fills the time when you’re bored, really, really bored some time on late night TV with a few of the usual light quips to make you smile, occasionally. There’s nothing to grip, nothing distinctly new here and little to stay too long in the memory.
Verdict: Boredom Day.
- Eye In The Sky
[15/april/2016] Score: 8/10
Only the soldiers know the true cost of war.
That is a strong point here in what is a top-to-bottom exploration of the subject of using drone aircraft to attack terrorists in remote reaches of the world.
Taking the story from the highest political and legal heights of power, and powerlessness, in Britain and the USA. Carried down through the echelons of military control around the world from Britain to Nevada, Hawaii and Kenya, it reaches the front-line agents, the pilots of the drones and the security troops at the very tip of the spear to explore every experience, every heartfelt action and traumatic result as they try to uncover the location and intentions of fundamentalist fanatics. Then the commanders have to decide whether to take action and what sacrifices to accept in stopping the terrorists.
It’s this breadth of what is a brief few hours in the life of one drone and everyone using or debating its use to hunt one terrorist that brings the focus from the heroic ideals of a typical clean action-thriller to a greyer area where truth and justice can become very entangled by politics, law and necessity.
Verdict: It’s worth eyeing.
- Midnight Special
[15/april/2016] Score: 7/10
The title belies a neat conspiracy science fiction thriller that doesn’t quite fit into the world of spectacular big budget superhero films and has too much religious/philosophical ideology to entertain the masses. And yet here is another attempt to create a breakaway from spandex and tin-suited comicbook heroes.
The heroes here achieve their status through love, trust and faith in ideals of humanity vaster than themselves and the willingness to commit themselves to that grander vision. For this is ought to earn and applause of more hardened science fiction enthusiasts who manage to see through the mystery of the title to the loving adventure and journey of discovery that lies as the heart of this film.
Verdict: A Special at any time.
- The Huntsman: Winter’s War
[5/april/2016] Score: 3/10
A meandering story plodding around a score of fairy tale themes, mished and mashed together to take advantage of the success of the early film Snow White and The Huntsman. Unlike that earlier tale this one lacks any sense of continuity and flow through the story, leaping through time from the early days of the Huntsman’s life in a story cobbled together from a spare bin of parts lying around looking for something to do.
It could have perhaps been done better or not done at all and doesn’t have enough magical appeal for children or depths of dramatic and unique story for grown ups.
Verdict: Hunt for alternatives.
- Eddie The Eagle
[5/april/2016] Score 8/10
If you are looking for inspiration, a tall tale of the little man making good, of struggle against so many odds you wouldn’t believe it, then this is the fairy tale of tales.
A true story of one plucky Briton who took on the Olympic establishment and stuffed shirts of the English Olypmic team to achieve a lifelong dream of becoming an Olympian. Forget finesse, forget exceptional physical ability, this is just solid, hard work and endless optimism bording on blind madness. And it worked.
The world might have laughed at Eddie The Eagle Edwards, but here is his story of a dream come true against monumental and heroic odds.
Verdict: Inspiring leaps, let your heart soar like an Eddie.
[1/april/2016] Score 10/10
There are a million stories in the Big City, and this is one of them.
This is a cop story, a story of crime and conspiracy, of cops working hard to uncover the truth of the threat that could destroy the utopia of Zootopolis.
And it’s got a hoppy little cute bunny! Who’s also a cop.
As the city goes wild and beasts roam the streets our plucky bunny has to uncover the truth before Zootropolis falls.
For Everyone who loves a good bunny story and every child-at-heart who loves the giggles of a great joke this is worth every moment you spend, and great if you want an antidote to alternative superhero stores stuck in the dark mists of melancholy.
Verdict: Hop in to it before it scampers away.
- Batman V. Superman: The Dawn Of Justice
[26/march/2016] Score: 8/10
This is a story of heroic deeds to save the world. The efforts of one man, and one man alone to save the world (of Americaland) against its enemies. This is the story of Lex Luthor.
To one side Our Hero Lex sees a super-powered alien involved in the killing of thousands of Good Americans, to another side a dark brutal vigilante who ignores all the rules to assault the street of the neighbouring city; and around the country are other mysterious forces, strange mutated humans who possess powers far and above those of ordinary Good People of Americaland. Do they too pose a threat or are they the harbingers of even greater dangers to our beautiful world (of Americaland).
No wonder it’s enough to drive you batty.
In a crazed fit of madness our hero, Lex, must all his own resources in total secrecy to fight for the rest of humanity. Using the vast power and wealth that can only come to an orphan billionaire, our hero Lex contrives to set monster against monster in the hope of cleansing our world (of Americaland) from the haunting terror that might awaken if they ever choose to turn their powers against us all.
This is Batman’s story, a dark gothic monstrous detective story as pieces slowly come together following the horrific destruction of some city in Americaland (not in Europe) where a brutal battle kills tens of thousands of Good People. The People must be protected and the puzzle assembled to reveal the true picture of what really threatens the world (of Americaland) and who can be assembled to bring Justice to the World Of Americans.
A plucky young woman journalist and her side-kick photographer Jimmy Olsen are following the leads in an investigation that takes her across the world. Seeing her friend and co-worker Jimmy brutally killed in front of her eyes she’s taken hostage only to be rescued by her lover the superhero-from-another-world. Clues are slowly uncovered by her thorough professional investigation over the days to follow that point to a deeper conspiracy that could threaten peace and harmony in the world. Will she be in time to warn the world and avert an even greater disaster when maniac plans are finally exposed?
The hero-from-another-world is torn by the angst of having to understand and deal with the world. Supported by his loving partner he must find ways to deal with a humanity that sees him as either a saviour for all their small problems, or a monstrous threat to the security of the world (of Americaland). What is a poor lonely alien to do about it all, other than frown a lot.
A bunch of Very Stupid Men struggle and muddle their way through a confusion of issues and silly angst until a Strong Woman steps in to knock some heads together and sort it all out.
Verdict: Move to Europe, it’s safe, and far less confusing.
- 10 Cloverfield Lane
[24/march/2016] Score: 8/10
There are monsters in this life, those you run away from, those who hold you captive and those you must defeat.
A tight, neat and brisk thriller of a woman held captive/safe in an underground bunked with two men and the news that they are cut off from the outside world by some mysterious terrifying attack from “outside”. Is it aliens, is it foreigners, or is it all a mad, crazed fantasy of their host/captor? With few clues she must figure out her place and how to handle the situation.
An excellent study in a small setting and small cast make for a good thriller.
Verdict: Stay indoors and breath softly.
- The Divergent Series: Allegiant
[10/march/2016] Score: 7/10
Another in the amazing girls who save the world series starring a teenage girl near you, or some other dystopia in America. Once again our Plucky Girl, with toy boy in tow, has to Save The World from a Big Evil Corporation (of America) who want to ruin their good times in their ruined city/adventure playground.
Striding off into the wilderness without even a bottle of water or a nice snack between them (they don’t know how to make sandwiches in America and all the burger joints were destroyed in The Apocalypse) they discover Bad People, Good People and ruins, lots and lots of ruins, plus an amazing amount of super high technology that: (a) appears as if from nowhere, and (b) isn’t used to restore the beautiful countryside. Bit odd that.
So here we go again as we fight the good fight for all nice people everywhere, with a big group hug at the end of this amazing episode.
Verdict: The end is in sight, next year.
- Hail Caesar!
[6/march/2016] Score: 7/10
A narrator speaks, actors perform their lines, and a story unfolds, of Hollywood folk. Thus we are entertained by the entertainment of the entertainment industry in all its glamour, grit, grim and gloss in those magical (for Americans) happy heydays before the fall of the American Dream, just after those bold days of wine and glory in the 1950s.
And so we see a performance of romantics, revolutionaries and rebels to steal away a few of our vital hours in their presence, their escapades and escapes, those thrills and chills that can hold us in their thrall.
Men struggle with the Greatest Story Of Our Time – how to defeat the evils of communism and resist the poison of commercialism, while women struggle with tight skirts that strangle their brains.
Verdict: That’s All Folks!
- London Has Fallen
[5/march/2016] Score: 3/10
A vicious gang of global terrorists use their assassination drones to attack the beautiful, innocent people of Pakistan at a golden wedding, slaughtering the innocents in the name of Democracy and the Decency of Death.
In response the survivors mete out their own justice against the tyrants of terror in that foul cesspit of the West – Olde London Town. To no avail as the forces of Capitalist Corruption afford victory for the Cult of Democracy and the West in this story of plucky heroes fighting against all the odds for a better world. And fail.
Verdict: The Shades of London Arise!
- Dad’s Army
[27/february/2016] Score: 6/10
Familiar faces and familiar situations from the legendary thirty minute TV comedy stretched into a feature-length story for audiences new and old that will go down well with everyone who enjoys the special magic of the plucky Home Guard.
Verdict: Keeping it up ’em .
[27/february/2016] Score: 6/10
Magic stories leap off the book like a pack of glittery gremlins to terrorist a small American town. And that’s about it. With a few sly and clever family and grown-up jokes for the older audience this will cast a spell over younger audiences but might lack a special punch to take it to more popular heights.
Verdict: Bumpy ride.
- Pride And Prejudice And Zombies
[22/february/2016] Score: 7/10
Surprisingly bold and humorous retelling of the famous love story with added bite that manages to keep a straight face in the face of a ravaging army of flesh-eating zombies.
Verdict: Don’t be prejudiced in avoiding this magnificent piece of fun.
- Triple Nine
[22/february/2016] Score: 3/10
Almost walked out or fell asleep through this retread of a corrupt crime story that tries to hang a lot of story and character on a small fragile hook. There is no central focus or focal character you can clearly identify in this broad ensemble piece as each character tries to outplay each other in weirdness. A handful of peripheral characters and competent cast as thrown across the screen in brief moments of exposure while there is little sense of sympathy for anyone.
This might be trying to follow the same path as something like the Michael Mann film “Heat” but lacks a sharp tension and clarity that would help keep you focussed.
Verdict: 999, you may have to phone emergency services for clarity.
- Finest Hours
[19/february/2016] Score: 8/10
Retelling of a heroic rescue of sailors at sea in danger of loosing their lives when adrift during a storm off the East coast of America. Bringing a new experience to the audience you’re brought into the heart of the sea and the struggle a handful of men face when trying to reach the ship’s crew in peril.
Verdict: Heroic hours.
[13/february/2016] Score: 8/10
So there’s this guy, and he’s, like, in a red suit, because he looks so way-cool in red, it does something to his overall, like, coolness. And there’s this girl, and her wit’s as sharp as a knife, although he prefers guns, but has these waaay cool knives when he runs out of ammo, I mean, so, like, for-get-ful. And he’s never going to be dead, because he’s now immortal because of a runaway science experiment. (Oh, those whacky scientists, eh?) And he doesn’t EVEN HAVE A POOL!! I mean is this a joke or something?
Verdict: Comic book, but there’s not even a book in it, just a red clown. Life’s a joke.
[30/january/2016] Score: 10/10
The true, traumatic and heroic story that demonstrates again the value of good investigative journalism far above the gutter press of tabloids as one team in Boston uncovered a deep conspiracy of child abuse in the Catholic cult that rocked the world fourteen years’ ago.
A human and humane story that doesn’t veer away form its own troubling past as the journalists admit their own failings to have seen the story years’ earlier here they have made up for lost time and dug deep into the corrupting influence of religious hypocrisy and power over poor and vulnerable people.
Verdict: Very Illuminating.
- 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
[29/january/2016] Score: 7/10
Another heroic tale of a handful of elite American troops trapped in circumstances created by the incompetence of higher authorities who failed to appreciate the threats against their own people in Libya after the collapse of national authority.
It doesn’t stray too far from other such tales, notably “Black Hawk Down” in confronting the issue of how and why you place people in jeopardy and what you need to do to protect those you’re duty-bound to risk your life to shield.
The story can be confusing for those who can’t track the internal politics of Libya’s current state of chaos but makes a great action film with underlying ambiguities of the real world.
Verdict: Exhausting hours worth your attention.
- Our Brand Is Crisis
[28/january/2016] Score: 8/10
This didn’t get a great reception in the world’s cinema but is a nice “worthy” tale of cynical political advisors and the corrupt world of democratic politics that trick and cheat people out of their power and voice in the world. Cynical, contemptuous of the public the work of these advisors is played out here as a dark subtle satire of the entire system when two battle out for the victory of their employers in one Presidential election.
The redemption on offer at the end may seem like another theatrical cynical twist to make the audience feel good, except that this is based on a true story with an even more uplifting “ending” that no one would believe if it weren’t true.
Verdict: Worth causes worth watching.
- The 5th Wave
[26/january/2016] Score: 5/10
Welcome back to dystopia, when a small gang of plucky teenagers will save the world in the first of a thrilling series (not) of films (not likely to be produced) based on a “successful” book about aliens invading the world and the human race collapsing in ruin.
Shame that such a them isn’t more professionally and intelligently explored given it;s potential to create a thrilling theme beyond that of mere teenage angst or video game fantasy.
Although this tries to jump on the trail of other such series, Hunger Games, Divergent, Maze Runner, etc., etc., it’s beginning to pall into a repetitive and silly theme. Teenagers can barely control their own hormones let alone save the world. A more mature approach (back to Hunger Games) is called for.
The efforts of the actors can’t make up for the lack of a sharp edge that would make this more enlightening and entertaining. How often do we need to see one of “the enemy” turn coat to help our plucky teens save the world? Where did all the human adults go, the ones in their bunkers and submarines?
Verdict: Wave goodbye to this one.
- The Big Short
[23/january/2016] Score: 7/10
There’s no really happy ending to many stories in the world, just an endless flow of history as people suffer and their lives burn out while other’s manage to take advantages of opportunities in the failings of the system. The Chinese call these “Interesting Times”, when chaos can be exploited by people who see the opportunity and here we have the big opportunity for a handful of well-connected and wealthy finance experts who saw the catastrophe of the world banking system looming before it happened in 2007/8.
So they took a chance and exploited the situation to get rich out of the incompetence of others.
There are no heroes here, no real villain, just a system to use as best you can, but what an exciting ride it can be for those prepared to challenge and win against such a vast, cynical system.
Verdict: No shortage of villains.
- The Revenant
[16/january/2016] Score: 8/10
A man and his son experience almost every kind of outback trauma in the wilds of the early American frontier. With more mud and grit than any true grit, with more blood in the mud that you can feed a wolf with, with more dull, dank darkness of the human soul on the edge of wilderness and darkness in the depths of winter you may feel like this will never end. Fortunately it does.
Every critic appears to love the cinematography, but the story, supposedly based on a true story, is a straight revenge tale while throwing in a few “native tribe” plot threads that slip in and out of one man’s journey, as if to add some local colour to the cold, heartless and bloody events that are unfolding.
Verdict: Gasping good.
[2/january/2016] Score: 7/10
Inspirational story, very loosely based on one woman’s experiences but intended to represent and inspire all women to aspire to a greater life than just being greater while struggling through all the problems and over all the obstacles that will hold them back. Strong commitment, a real flair for innovation and the support of many family and friends are the keys to success here and everywhere.
Verdict: A joy to watch and a joy for all women out in the world who are struggling to make better lives.