Reviews & Rants, Films for You?
- The Greatest Showman
[27/december/2017] Score: 10/10
It’s a show like no other, the magic of theatre and the Big Top, the glamour, the music, the passion, the power of love overcoming all obstacles of wealth, poverty, race and so, so much more. A joyous and mythic celebration of what it is to be human and to strive for your dream, in lights.
Verdict: Roll up, roll up, come see the show!
- Pitch Perfect 3
[22/december/2017] Score: 9/10
All good things must come to an end, and if you’re seeking a sensible conclusion to the tallest tale of the Pitches then you’ve come to the wrong place. With a scream of anger and passion the Pitches are going out with a bang, if they can find some boys to bang, and a giggle of silliness thrown in to the regular mix. Resolving many of the questions of “what happens next…?” the third round of Pitching takes the girls, young ladies (ha!) on a final grand roadshow.
Verdict: Pitch in you Pitches!
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
[15/december/2017] Score 8/10
In the galaxy far, far, far away, where they still use 8-track tapes to run their robots, the evil Black Hats (actually white plastic domes) and the good white hoods (actually black cloaks) are back to swing their torches around a lot and embark on the never-ending story of good versus evil and BIG BATTLES with BIG SPACESHIPS controlled by very small brains.
Weaving three plotlines in this story of the Last Jedi we are taken on a whistle-stop tour of the Far Away Galaxy and Learn Many Things which are probably Important. So settle back all you stormtroopers in your Space Destroyers and watch it all on the big video, take your bets on who will survive the battle and don’t forget – no one can hear you giggle hysterically at all this.
Yes, why did the Space Destroyers sit out the battle at the beginning?
Overall a grand adventure if you promise to leave your critical faculties behind and just enjoy the glamour, the drama, the excitement, the show.
Verdict: More things, there are, than seen can be.
- Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle
[9/december/2017] Score: 9/10
The game that turns your life around returned for a new digital generation and throws an assortment of youths into a jungle adventure they’ll never forget. If the idea of Jumanji sounds silly then the adventure itself, the play of characters against their avatars in the game and the playing of the cast is half the fun in the family-friendly adventure perfectly suited for this seasonal holiday time.
Verdict: A fun welcome to be had.
[6/december/2017] Score: 7/10
Once again we are reminded of the true horror of life in the ideal utopian world of the 1950s American Suburbia where the most ideal family setting can be just the thinnest veneer masking deeper and more terrible truths about ourselves and our world. Biting deep and twisting the bitter knife hard with glee the story spins you around the runs you down in the dark if you’re not careful.
Verdict: Happy Days!
- The Man Who Invented Christmas
[2/december/2017] Score: 5/10
A fairytale for the birth of the fairytale that is Christmas as we are taken on a mythic journey back in time to those desperate and painful days when a certain Mr Dickens struggled to earn a crust to wrap around his turkey feast. But all is not well in the chilly world of Mr D. He’s run out of ideas and has now set himself the task of writing a new story he will be forced to publish himself in time for Christmas. Like a Hollywood adventure he must save the family in just six weeks. Can he do it will he manage to earn something from his new ghost story? Will his efforts succeed and will he change the world forever with the little tale of ghosts, of Christmas, of poverty, wealth and redemption?
Verdict: Stuff this one in a sock hung on the mantelpiece.
- Battle Of The Sexes
[24/november/2017] Score: 8/10
Are men better then women, at something, anything?
Based on the true story of the tennis event that tried to answer one of the silliest questions in the world we follow the antics of showman versus sportswoman in the challenge of the day.
Verdict: Love all.
- Justice League
[19/november/2017] Score: 6/10
Big ambitions for a big story that suffers from a variety of issues to my eye.
Take the simplest points that leaped out to me: in two of the the few gag lines given to Batman’s butler Alfred seem, if I remember rightly, to be identical in “Batman V. Superman”. Was this laziness in the writing or a hidden joke from the writer?
As for the bold and brilliant Amazons. Was this just an inheritance from the comicbooks or another example of Hollywood hatred of women that they must remain confined on their island, must always use bronze age weapons (no upgrading to defeat alien gods and monsters here) and that only Princess Diana gets the superpowers (other than near immortality) to defeat the gods, weren’t they all supposed to be on equal terms of speed and strength to Superman, or has women’s equality escaped them despite their fighting talents?
The film is only two hours and has to cram a very complex “team-up” storyline into it with the obligatory big stupid alien monster/invader (why are they always obsessed with destroying Earth, what have we done to them for all this attention???). Combining all these elements means skipping through a lot of preamble, leaving a few loose threads hanging in the air (remember the dream scene in BvS where Bruce Batty is visited by Flash to warn him about Lois Lane, where did that come from?). To do the story justice this could have done with far more attention to building up the story, introducing us to the earlier discoveries of the alien thingies flying around and building up the detective and recruitment work of Diana And Bruce well before we see them here.
For all this it’s a reasonably average superhero team-up movie, with one or two good characters and gags, about yet another big bad alien wanting to destroy Earth (again) for no apparent reason (again).
Verdict: In-justice to the potential.
- The Florida Project
[15/november/2017] Score: 9/10
You might not like this truth but beyond the fairytale lands of Disney there is an alternative universe called reality, where the harsh conditions living on the edges of society can make anyone go to extremes for survival, whether a little six-year old scamp of a child or her young mother struggling for existence in a world that’s turning its back on the needs of society in favour of endless processions of Pretty Disney Princesses.
Here then are two other kinds of Princesses of society’s shadows, the Shadow Princesses of Reality, whose bitter-sweet lives might tug at your heart strings in ways no magic wand’s spell could ever be cast.
Verdict: Magical Tragical.
- Only The Brave
[14/november/2017] Score: 6/10
There is a point where you have to be careful in painting a story of tragedy, loss and wonderful achievement, do you follow the route of the harder grit of true life or the exalted glamour of heroic men of action?
This little-known story is told here with that careful balance. We have the grit of strong men and women struggling with their lives, and the home-town family unreality of many a mythic story leading us forward to its inevitable conclusion of noble sacrifice to save the lives of thousands of others.
Verdict: Brave story.
- Paddington 2
[12/november/2017] Score: 10/10
Some heroes are born to the role, with daddy’s billionaire armaments factories. Some are gifted mutants or bitten by spiders, but one, and only one, is gifted with the sweet golden flavour of Marmalade.
Forget your tin suits, your iron shields and all those capes, forget your lairs under the family mansion, forget your alien powers, here is the true power of a huge open heart and the will to do good in the world for your family, friends and community, even if you don’t quite get it right first, or second, time around.
You only need the bear necessities of friendship and an optimistic point of view to change people’s worlds, even if it is sometimes a close shave.
- Murder On The Orient Express
[4/november/2017] Score: 7/10
If you have a creepy feeling that you’ve seen this before you might be right; but perhaps this is a journey worth repeating for the sterling qualities of a cast allowed to gnaw on the script with such talent and still turn a few surprises around with the spin of a revolver’s chamber.
Obviously with the advent of modern technology for special effects we can taste the flavours of the finest meals served on an exotic journey through foreign lands in far away romantic eras before the age of cynical realism. Taste the air as smoke and steam mingle on a journey in which foul deeds are done in the name of justice, and unravelled by the flamboyant twirl of a fetishistic moustache.
Verdict: It’d be murder not to catch this train.
- Thor: Ragnarok
[26/october/2017] Score: 7/10
A great camp romp across the stars as Thor Assembles his own Team to save Asgard. All very mythic but after assorted Marvel movies a few questions and doubts begin to filter through the loud, dazzling glamour. Like, for just one example, if all the Asgardians are near-immortal superbeings in a civilization hundreds of thousands of years old why do the civilians all seems to dress like they’re still in olden times and tremble at a single threat from the outside, don’t they have lots and lots and lots of spaceships of their own to escape? And for another example, if they are superior beings how come they (i.e., Thor) can be surprised by the presence of magic or technology so easily able to lay them flat on the floor, and not be able to handle it with the snap of a magically-empowered super-finger?
For a simple dumb adventure this comicbook glamour is appealing but the glamour can wear off in time without a deeper context to a story, a depth of realism and detail that can deal with simple, and very complicated questions; but that for my own writings to-come.
In the meantime here’s Team Thor trouncing another terrible threat to the universe, and the worlds burn.
Verdict: Thumping good fun, but beginning to loose the glamour.
- The Death Of Stalin
[21/october/2017] Score: 10/10
Only revolutionary and radical politics or fundamentalist religion can give you the insanity and satirical comedic inspiration to create a black comedy this good about the final days of Stalin and the aftermath of his death as all the Soviet Politburo rats scramble to seize control of the country while slaughtering the witnesses and anyone who happens to be in the way.
While you should not laugh out loud at the bleak monstrosity of socialist insanity you have to – it’s the only way to keep your sanity amidst this brutality.
Verdict: You will die laughing.
- The Lego Ninjago Movie
[21/october/2017] Score: 7/10
Less well-known than Batman, less original than the original Lego movie of original Awesomeness, here is a third tall tale of animated plastic bricks with minds of their own as they runaway with your inner child.
Might be a few too many “adult” relationship scenes for the youngest in the audience, but plenty of giggles to entertain, and one really huge evil “monster”.
Verdict: Awwwww! Cute-!
[20/october/2017] Score: 2/10
Flying the flag of American stupidity this mixed mash of heroic nonsense deserves the self-destruction that is given to its shining star. This is an amazing experience as you have to wonder how they got the budget to make such a scrambled mess of technology, really bad Hollywood science (which has nothing to do with reality for the rest of us) and the traditional evil global political conspiracy that seems to drive so much American psyche nowadays.
However, someone, somewhere might enjoy this nonsense, so I give it a point for silliness.
Verdict: Might give your brain a meltdown.
- The Party
[19/october/2017] Score: 8/10
A short(ish) film that briskly slides the knife of satire into the pretensions of the political class and their relationships as one woman embarks on a small, discreet dinner party for a few chosen friends in celebration of her promotion to high political position, only to see it all burn down in ruins as private secrets and scandals leap out of the shadows to rip their masks away.
Verdict: Worth voting to see this before it shoots out from the cinema.
- Blade Runner 2049
[7/october/2017] Score: 8/10
Sequel to the famous cult classic that was never that successful in its original cinema release all those years ago.
This is a sound attempt to continue the theme of a world turned to ash of pollution and total environmental ruin, where most living things are artificial. Even the majority of humans appear now to be more artificial than natural and this leads to the crisis of the world’s future in the hands of one replicant assigned to investigate the origins of the current crisis, the original story and the radical outcome that could alter the world forever.
Obviously well-laid for a sequel (or whole series of them?) to-come if this one works well.
Verdict: Worth running your eyes over this one.
- The Mountain Between Us
[6/october/2017] Score: 4/10
Two idiots find themselves stranded on top of a mountain and have to struggle with the elements outside and the elemental feeling slowly brewing within.
Daft as a battered old brush, this story attempts very unsuccessfully to weave the thread of intimacy between the two characters with little tangible chemistry that’s needed to suggest warmth between them. Although this tries to be something romantic its over-cleverness almost had me heading for the exit a couple of times.
Some might enjoy this, for the performance of the two lead actors, but the story’s core theme doesn’t have the heart they need to make this a plausible plot and conclusion.
Verdict: A mountain to climb and appreciate this one.
- Goodbye Christopher Robin
[29/september/2017] Score: 7/10
Reality is never as glamorous or easy as fiction, whether a superhero film or the childhood dreams of wild adventures in the magic woods with a talking bear.
Christopher Robin, real boy, has his life and stories turned into the magical and wondrous tale of Winnie The Pooh, but the real world devours him and the agony lasts a lifetime.
A magical story that carefully tries to navigate a way through the creation and world-wide fame of the little talking bear while reflecting on the real world’s reaction, both good and bad, at a time when people were far less experienced in handling such reactions.
Verdict: And Pooh sighed.
- Victoria and Abdul
[26/september/2017] Score: 6/10
Amidst the continuing magical realism of the myth of Queen Empress Victoria, and the anniversary of the partition of India, we have another true story dusted off for our education and entertainment. Here is a comedy-drama telling of the experiences of Abdul Karim who joined Victoria’s household in the declining years of her life and all their interactions, while the idiot class of arrogant, racists bigots around the palace looked on in horror.
Don’t think this is the true story, and many will react against the fairytale style of Victoria’s life, but at lest the story has been exposed to the world. Perhaps one day his diaries will receive as much exposure for people to judge whether this is a worth story.
Verdict: Dusted free of grit?
- Kingsman: The Golden Circle
[23/september/2017] Score: 7/10
Sequel to the earlier mad story of “glamour spies” in the old tradition of insane plots, berserk madmen/women and gleaming henchmen/woman what else is there to say about the hard work of the Kingsmen, and their cousins the Statesmen, in saving the world from the really bad guys.
Verdict: Circles the wagons, there are Bad Guys out there!
- Wind River
A woman is killed and her death must be investigated; but this is a native American woman, and there is little interest in or resources for a thorough investigation; but a little can be done and this is how we begin to follow the thread through the snows of the mountains.
The underlying theme here is the way native American women are treated across the whole country, how little there is to protect them against abuse and disappearance, and how many many suffer. This is just one story inspired by the reality.
(As a special note, this is distinctly different from the woman-killing in the previous review of American Assassin. There you have a meaningless death merely for mindless motivation, here we have the trigger needed to explore what happened to her, why, what it says about our world and how some women are still treated in some parts of the world.)
Verdict: It’s a cold world, and we have only each other for warmth.
- American Assassin
[16/september/2017] Score: 1/10
Let’s kill a woman. And that will be the fine motivation for Our Hero to go on a raging path of comicbook revenge around the world against Evil Terrorists and a search for a WMD (Weapon of Mass Destruction). First he has to become a super-agent, then wrangle with Superiors, then fight, while wearing natty black clothes, against the Bad Guys in the mean streets of some anonymous foreign city.
And so on and so forth.
Killing a woman for motivation and your entertainment at the beginning, even if she was daft enough to stand sill for it, is NOT the way to create a good drama.
Verdict: Let’s kill this now.
- The Limehouse Golem
[2/september/2017] Score: 7/10
A fun-packed thrill of terror to tremble your heart’s in the dank nights of winter to-come as a Victorian melodrama takes flight with the horrors of dark alleys and monstrous murders.
There’s a stalker in old London town and only out plucky Inspector can save the day for people trembling in torrid terror in their creaking cold beds at night.
Telegraphing its way all the way to a bleak ending at the Big House this penny dreadful will send you away with the sight of a job well enough done to bring a kind of justice to the world free of superheroes.
Verdict: A dreadfully good penny spent on this one.
[30/august/2017] Score: 8/10
Yet another heart-wrenching true story in the seemingly endless saga of Americans murdering each other, racialism and gross neglect of true justice.
This one is set in the 1960s, the era of racial uprisings, radicalism and repression as ordinary people struggle for their long-denied rights as humans.
See it if you want to learn what a great society should NOT be.
Verdict: Black and bleak story continues.
- Logan Lucky
[28/august/2017] Score: 8/10
Tapping into that thick river of American Stupidity as vast as the Mississippi is long, broad and muddy this is a tall tale of dumbness that eeeks (you will go Eeeek!) out of a hysterically dry-witted humour following a mixed bag of nuts as they attempt to rob their local hometown bank down the race track. Nothing really described the indescribable idiocy that verges on reality for only a true life story could be any dafter (see American Made, below).
Verdict: A Lucky find if you get to see and enjoy it.
- American Made
[25/august/2017] Score: 8/10
The adage that “fact is stranger than fiction” is proved once again in this liberally twisted interpretation of one tragic and befuddled story in recent American history – the Iran-Contra conspiracy and all its players, fools and victims.
A government that willingly turns its back on and actively aids and abets large-scale criminal conspiracy in pursuit of greater visions of democratic ideology might just be acceptable in extreme circumstances, but one that shows such incompetence in handling everything during the process like a gang of circus clowns deserves far more punishment and justice than they ever received, such is the pragmatic nature of the real world without costumed superheroes flying around with capes.
Here then is this vast conspiracy of stupidity told from the viewpoint of one man duped into joining in their actions at the beginning, growing bolder and wilder with each year then betrayed by the very government that drew him into this affair in the first place.
If there is one lesson to be learnt it’s that you ought always to mind your back when dealing with such invitations to work for such people.
Verdict: The world as far stranger then you think.
- The Hitman’s Bodyguard
[23/august/2017] Score: 5/10
Want more? How about car chases, shooting up assorted and mysterious English towns and skipping over the shoot up Europe? How about totally over-the-top acting with tongues placed and pushed firmly into cheeks? How about the usual and utterly misunderstood nature and role of “Interpol” (a special Hollywood police force that doesn’t exist in the real world)?
Verdict: Put a contract out on this one.
- The Dark Tower
[22/august/2017] Score: 5/10
An interesting introduction to Stephen King’s big set of books I’ve not read.
Interesting because it tries to introduce you to a new reality and prepare you for the sequels to-come (yes, there will be a low-rent saga of all this on TV soon) and makes a reasonable but not impressive impression.
Interesting in the sense of being another adventure of the mythic legend of the youth with Great Power Destined To Save The (insert where appropriate People/World/Universe/Whatever) and thus treads a well-trod and familiar route on the journey to adulthood. The rest of us shall remain mere mortals watching glumly on the sidelines.
Verdict: Interesting, but no great legend.
- Atomic Blonde
[9/august/2017] Score: 5/10
There is a sense of familiarity here, all about cold war “superspies” and all the sub-Bond genre nonsense that palled the story for me. I thought more of “Salt”, the double agent story from a few years back and all the other stories of it silk. For a good spy story you either go the daft-as-a-brush Bond route with the fine spectacle of a mad megalomanic trying to rule the world, or you go the Le Carre route of that special cold, ruthless, dank shadow of Berlin we all know and delight in watching from a very great distance.
Here there is confusion over what it’s supposed to be, silly all fighting action spy or the gloom and doom of greater authenticity at the end of the Cold War.
Verdict: For Few Eyes Only.
- Captain Underpants
[9/august/2017] Score: 7/10
Every child, of any age will love the tastelessness of Cpt. Underpants and poo jokes, so what else is there than to sit back, relax and enjoy the ultimate superhero as he wears his enthusiasm along with his pants on the outside.
Verdict: A good joke.
- England Is Mine
[5/august/2017] Score: 6/10
Before The Smiths, before Morrissay, there was just a petulant, arrogant, little boy growing up in Manchester and wanting to do poetry, music and all that stuff. Like all big dreaming teenagers he was pushed by that rarest of the rare circumstances which prompted him on the route to a world-changing success that made his name and work influential
This is NOT that story, this is the gloomy, angst-riddled story of the teenager up to that fateful moment of change. So don’t think you’ll be in for a tour of The Smiths or any of their music, here is where you will see a few of the the first fledgling formations of fame to-come, once he stops sulking.
Verdict: Yeah, well.
- Valarian And The City Of A Thousand Planets
[5/august/2017] Score: 7/10
Yes, I have to agree with other feelings on the net about the lack of attraction and magic between the leading characters, but then have to ask whether, given the talent of Luc Besson behind all this, it was a deliberate choice and direction to play Valarian as slightly cool?
I think a little more feeling, emotion, passion and spark might have been a better choice of direction but I’ve never read the original material that inspired this film.
What can be said is there here is a wondrously visual appearance and a competent story if you want something more playful than a Marvel Studio production.
Verdict: A thousand facts of fun.
[22/july/2017] Score: 9/10
The style of this tragi-heroic story from the early days of the Second World War will not sit easily with many in the audience who might expect a standard story of plucky Britons clutching to the beaches and awaiting rescue from more plucky Brits on the horizon; but this is a new and broader interpretation of the vast story. A third of a million men British and French were rescued in a few short days and here are three threads interweaving the forgotten and intense efforts of the RAF Spitfires, the civilians in their “little ships”, the Royal Navy and the Army battling to survive and escape from the small town of Dunkirk.
The tension is not told through dramatic dialogue but the growing intensity of the music as three stories, on land, in the air and at sea and slowly teased together to take us all on a flight around and through this long battle for survival at all levels.
Dialogue takes a poor second place to the combination of action highlighted by music and you have to be prepared to be rewarded by this grand story-telling as it reaches its heroic conclusion.
Verdict: Plucky heroic attempt to tell one fraction of a vast story.
- Spider-Man Homecoming
[8/july/2017] Score: 9/10
He’s back, Spidey, with even more fun, style and the brashness of youth renewed in this new vision. Forget the origin story, you should have seen that already a long time ago, here is a renewed youthful, vibrant Spider-Man struggling with school, friends, being a part-time Avenger and dealing with all the growing up that is his signature theme.
With its fun-filled and action-packed adventure this stands well equal to and, in some opinions, well-above the previous attempts to portray boy becoming young man/hero.
Verdict: A very friendly neighbourhood –
- Baby Driver
[1/july/2017] Score: 7/10
There is a standard style of gangster film that blends fantasy, the romance of crime and teen rebellion with the final comeuppance. In this style the successful gang always fall foul of the new gang member who’s more psychotic and murderous, bringing their neat and successful stream of robberies to an end. Think of the Michael Mann heist film “The Heat” and how they were eventually destroyed by one crazy new recruit. And thus again here we have a successful gang, with brilliant getaway driver, being torn apart when one crazy member wrecks everything.
Meanwhile our anti-hero Baby falls into dreamy teen love with a local waitress who might, one way or another, be his escape from a life of crime, his redemption, if if can survive “just one last job”.
Despite these traditional themes, the psychotic gangster, the token girlfriend and the dramatic heists, there is a tremendously fun thread of endless theme music that roars through the story and carries you to its inevitable conclusion.
Verdict: It’s all for you babe.
- The House
[30/june/2017] Score: 4/10
The screaming idiot is not my style of comedy, poking fun at suburbanites with inane and insane displays of ignorant idiocy is an easy way to win a few laughs, but those laughs can also be cries of despair and pain at suffering this.
The idea sounds a good one – a couple find they have no money for their teenage daughter’s high education and embark on a unique fund-raising effort; but then the story spins away into silly gangsterland fantasy as their own fantasy of this new life consumes them.
The story could have been played with more subtle humour and kept to a “small town” focus without having to play at being “Suburban Mafia Casino”. Such a tighter story might have had fun with the satire of one small family struggling in this situation.
Verdict: the House always wins, except in this one.
- Despicable Me3
[30/june/2017] Score: 8/10
Dru, the girls and the Minions are back. Only this time everyone’s going straight on the right side of the law, which is making a horde of minions very unhappy. Meanwhile evil criminals are still trying to steal the world, or big bits of it, for themselves like spoilt selfish little children.
Not as surprising or innovative this time around, we’ve seen the amazing performance of the characters, from Dru, to the girls, Lucy’s introduction and the amazing minions, so this is more of a continuation of the same style as before, which will perfectly suit the audience of youngsters and studio investors.
Forget anything else – the Minions are back to save the world and steal bits of it!
Verdict: A crime not to see it.
- Transformers: The Last Knight
[23/june/2017] Score: 6/10
BIG NOISY ROBOTS, STRIKE AGAIN!!!!
If you love the endless battler for truth, justice and the Robot Way of Life then you’ll love this nonsensical mishmash of ancient history (King Arthur gets a look-in this time around), myth (King Arthur…) and mayhem as the Transformers fight with humans, who fight with each other and all fight against the other robots to bash things a lot amidst a flurry of giggles and tongue-in-cheek wisecracks, while threads from the previous films are woven lightly into this vast tapestry.
Good if you want your brain bashed in for a bit, and it can hold your attention if you don’t let logic get in the way. Oh, and it leads neatly into the rumoured next two films to-come.
Verdict: Robo Heaven.
[16/june/2017] Score: 8/10
So sweet it hurts your teeth in this whimsical story of a cute, really, really cute, little girl with enormous talent in mathematics and getting on her uncle’s nerves in the cutest possible way as he struggles to give her a “normal” life growing up. Meanwhile other’s want to use her talent for their own selfish motives.
Verdict: Gift yourself with it if you’ve a sweet tooth.
- The Mummy
[10/june/2017] Score: 5/10
Your mission, Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to raise the dead. No one will take you seriously and no one will be there when they throw things at the screen. This message will explode in a puff of ancient dust in 5 sec-
With the same preposterous, wild and whacky stunts we’ve come to enjoy giggling over in every Mission Impossible film here we’re hurtled from the Middle East to the East End of London in a racing battle against the Forces of Monstrous Darkness, and other ghoulies of the night.
As usual no one has told the intrepid explorers – DON’T WAKE THE MUMMY!! But no, greed has to raise its head and thus raise her head to strike fear and awesome terror in audiences everywhere, or somewhere, between yawns.
Verdict: Missing the impossible.
- Wonder Woman
[3/june/2017] Score: 9/10
There are elements both magical and typical in this “awakening” story. As the innocence of the near-immortal little Princess Diana is torn away in the bloody slaughter at the end of the Great War in what follows as a “rogue team saves the world” scenario plays out across the Western Front and into the heart of the enemy’s plans for a brutal solution to the war.
For an introduction to a strong female superhero this is exceptional compared to the attempts over the decades and will be applauded everywhere, as a wider popular adventure it serves well and offers a more adult maturity in its themes of war and sacrifice that you won’t find in many typical comicbook adaptions.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge
[27/may/2017] Score: 6/10
As is traditional in this theme park ride-turned-film series, there are moments when the special effects squeeze my eyeballs around a maypole; but apart from that this is an average acceptable way to spend time with pirates and ghostly ships rising from the depths, magical treasures, quests and all the normal nonsense in the Caribbean, according to these legendary tales.
Verdict: Set sail on this one.
[24/may/2017] Score: 7/10
It’s going to be difficult to explain what appears on one side to be a social comedy drama of a drunken woman returning to her small home town in America to escape or sort out her personal relationship issues, and a giant monster stomping over the city of Seoul (not in Americaland).
Somehow, if you really suspend disbelief and go with the flow of it all, it works. After all if you can have monsters like Godzilla rising form the depths, why not a monster Shezilla appearing from the mists?
Verdict: Stomping good.
- King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword
[19/may/2017] Score: 5/10
So there’s this sword. It’s got magic and everything, and turns the wielding hero into some kind of Cockney gangster with a sawn-off shotgun, blasting/slashing through all the real villains down in old, really, really old, London town.
And there’s other stuff, BIG MONSTERS, and things, and more magic, and mystery, and all sorts of spooky goings on.
So if you like that sort of thingy, a bit like “Great Wall” recently, and that other one, “Gods of Egypt”, just ripping old legends and stories to shreds and weaving the remains together with lots of cute special effects, and running around a lot, and running over there, and there, then back there again, you’ll enjoy this.
- Alien: Covenant
[13/may/2017] Score: 6/10
In the gritty grimy universe of Aliens (not the same aliens as in Aliens v. Predators, but a completely different aliens, really, honestly, would The Corporation lie to you??) the stupidity of humans is compensated for by the lovely wonderful robots that do all their thinking for them, just like a self-drive car that Google/Facebook/Uber want you to have (Corporations ARE lovely!). Here then is another crew of idiots who can’t think, shoot or run straight and decide to drop in on a new planet after they follow a distress signal (yes, one of THOSE distress signals) when they’re forced to stop in space owing to a tragic disaster that hit their ship and killed their Captain (obviously a human-idiot-designed spaceship).
Due to their unfortunate circumstances they stumble (I did say they can’t run straight) into SOMETHING TERRIBLE for which they are not prepared, equipped or mentally suited.
So that’s normal so far.
The rest you can make up as you go along by plucking assorted ingredients from other or the lesser Aliens films that may have also driven you nuts with it’s pessimistic conspiracies and assorted nonsense.
This big issue for anyone who enjoyed the earliest Alien films (1 & 2), and the suggestion that aliens had been around for thousands of years and used as hunting prey by the Predators, is the idea that here the Aliens are the indirect creation of humans who came on the mysterious originators. Plunging into the universe of the absurd continues and can be expected to continue for many sequels, prequels and nonsense to-come.
Verdict: Alien threequel.
- Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2
[29/april/2017] Score: 8/10
Having established the Guardians in Vol.1 we’re here to follow their adventures growing up, so to speak (I Am Groot) in the galaxy they’ve saved and which now wants them to safe it repeatedly.
If you enjoyed the first film this will be just as good, but in a way it lacks a sense of centre, or focus other than the adventures and maturing relationships amongst the Guardians and their foes/allies and other’s. Relationships are discussed, explored, grown or ripped apart, truths are discovered and fought over.
In this sense the story is one of further establishing who the Guardians are and what motivated them, while saving the universe, well, while Groot saves the universe and the Guardians.
Verdict: A family film, for all the families in the Galaxy.
- Going In Style
[27/april/2017] Score: 5/10
A remake of a famous film from long ago, this is essentially three old men on one last fling to save themselves against, you guessed it, an Evil Corporation when they set out to rob a bank and cover their trail.
So easy for them to solve their problems with guns and a plucky idea. It’s the American Way.
Verdict: It’s a steal of a couple of hours of your time.
- Their Finest
[25/april]2017] Score: 7/10
In those magical and terrifying days when plucky Little Britain (and their huge world Empire, vast battle fleets, etc.) stood alone against the forces of another trumped up evil tyrant in Europe a handful of special forces writers had to mobilise the spirit of England and entertain the world. Here’s a tall tale of tales about telling tall tales with all the thrills and spills that come when normal conventions of work, love and duty are suspended and a great humanity, greater talent and greater effort come to the fore, and all that.
Verdict: A fine hour and a half spend dwelling on past glories.
- Fast & Furious 8
[12/april/2017] Score: 6/10
SPOILER: There is a moment here when the story lost the plot and became just another Hollywood exploitation of women – when one strong character is served up for sacrifice and your entertainment. This cost points as far as I’m concerned from what is otherwise a good Furious film with the insane car stunts we’ve grown to expect and ridiculous characters and wild stories of saving the world from mad men. A bit like a junior Bond film with ten Bonds all equipped with stupidly over-the-top supercars.
Verdict: Furious about one point, but good for a run out to the piccies.
- Ghost In The Shell
[1/april/2017] Score: 5/10
This ought to have actually been an April Fool’s joke for the mish-mashup of a story. Drawing much from the original source manga comic and the famous anime that followed in 1995 here is a wrong story.
Getting it all wrong is a fine tradition in Hollywood and here, for all the fans is a tragic mishandling of a great theme. However, this is not a theme that lends itself well to a broader mass audience outside the manga/SF enthusiast community and anyone who already knows about “ghosts” will know how badly this has been interpreted here.
Calling the lead character “Major” as her name totally destroys the origins of Major Motoko Kusanagi, a former military intelligencer operative seconded with her team to the mysterious Section 9. Throughout, in this film, she’s “Major” and not “the Major” and that fact will grate on anyone who knows anything about the original story.
I can’t refer to the original manga, never having read it, but have seen the anime and found it richer than this mess. Here, in this new Fool’s joke, there’s an exaggerated attempt to extract all the popular images and push them to the forefront while loosing out on the deeper sense of “what is real” and “what is human/spirit” in a world that’s going cybernetic.
Verdict: April Fool!
- Free Fire
[31/march/2017] Score: 8/10
Take a gang of crazed IRA nutters, put them in a big old factory with a gang of crazed S. African and American gun dealers and gangsters, then trigger a firefight that lasts ninety minutes of mayhem and craziness, brutality and betrayal.
A superb exercise in dark humour and insanity and bullets and blood fly everywhere, commented on by crazy dialogue at the zing and zap of one blast after another.
Verdict: Hilariously horrifyingly good.
- Personal Shopper
[21/march/2017] Score: 7/10
A tightly confined, deep study of one woman’s intense morning for her dead brother and some, any, sign of his survival on the other side.
A medium herself she’s increasingly desperate to find the answer to life beyond death and wraps around her a cloud of spirits. Do they warn, do they answer or are they all in her head?
In the main this is a good, simple, careful and unspectacular ghost story. The only flaw is when the director/writer/whoever tries to get too clever in a later hotel scene and leave a giant question mark hanging over those moments – what was that? We’ll never know.
As for the woman’s answer to her own question – are you there?
- Beauty And The Beast
[21/march/2017] Score: 7/10
You know the story, obviously you know the story, it’s been advertised for what seems like years before arriving live-action on-screen.
So here’s the beauty with all the magic of a Disney film, sing along when you can, and here’s the beast, driven to monstrosity by a witch (they always get the bad press) and a magical spell to be swept away only by Love’s True Kiss, and all that.
So if you and your kiddies loved other versions this will be a beautiful one to add to the collection.
Verdict: Beastly beautiful.
- Kong: Skull Island
[11/march/2017] Score: 6/10
So, there’s this war ending in Vietnam and a handful of experienced US soldiers are assigned to escort a scientific team to investigate a remote island in the Pacific.
Loosing the war to the Kong is a fine tradition in the West and here we are again, with war-weary men making one last stand in the name of God, Justice, and all that nonsense against a REALLY BIG MONKEY.
This is more of a reboot of the Kong story, erasing the tragic origin and beginning a new life of Hero to protect the little apes (men) from the really big bad lizard monsters that emerge from the dark pits of the Earth’s core.
Verdict: A load of old monkey business.
[4/march/2017] Score: 9/10
Somewhere in the dry bitter future, probably a post-apocalyptic one according to all the reports from America (we’re doomed, all doomed!!!), with the taste of sand and grit in your mouth, is the tale of old men struggling one last time to protect the future of all men from the forces of Big Evil American Global Corporations. there they have to rise through bitter defeat for one last challenge (there’s always one final challenge) to protect those who might follow their lead.
And so we find our bitter and grizzled Logan, the former Wolverine, working to earn a few crumbs of coin to help out his old mentor Professor X from something terrible in their past. Meanwhile their future beckons in the slight presence of one small girl, with a very big future destiny before her.
If you’re wondering, then yes, this is the grittiest and grimiest Wolverine story to-date and a perfect antidote for all the spandex glamour and gleam of most comicbook superhero movies. It might race a bit too far away, with weaving plotlines and sidelines on their journey, but that’s normal for these things. What isn’t so normal is that sense of a real world, not just a glamour, behind these men and their struggle for survival and perhaps a little justice.
Verdict: Claws your soul beautifully.
- Viceroy’s House
[3/march/2017] Score: 7/10
One of those lesser-known stories to the outside world, only a few million will have heard or read the story of the breakdown and breakup of the British Empire, and at the heart of it was the traumatic and grossly mishandled independence of what was then India. A society kept under the boots of the British for over a century, kept segregated by racist and religious bigotry until the boiling point when all the heat tipped over everyone. One vast sub-continent fractured along religious lines, millions of people murdered or dispossessed and the few good Britons struggling with the fire racing towards them while politicians cut deals behind their backs.
This is the best attempt to-date to show the world one story across the lives of high and low in a society undergoing a tremendous, heart-wrenching transformation, leaving echoing ripples we continue to live with today.
Verdict: A noble effort at a difficult story.
- The Founder
[2/march/2017] Score: 8/10
This should be a warning to all young and naive entrepreneurs wanting help to launch their small business on the bigger world – be careful, very, very careful, who you trust.
Based on the true story of the early years of the McDonalds Corporation as the two men who founded their small burger cafe in California discover their entire work is slowly the ruthlessly stolen from under them and turned into a predatory corporation out to dominate the world.
Verdict: Take a bite, but chew on it carefully and thoughtfully.
- Patriots’ Day
[25/february/2017] Score: 6/10
It’s difficult to tell where the fictional elements of this tragic story begin and end. We have here the true story of the terrorist bombing of the Marathon crowds in Boston told through the eyes of one fictional character who links and carries us through all the many threads of detective work to identify and capture the criminals. Many of the other characters portray real people, law enforcement agents and victims from that day played with enough drama to immerse you in their lives and experiences.
In all a good lesson in dramatic retelling of a complex story.
Verdict: Worth investigating.
- John Wick: Chapter Two
[18/february/2017] Score: 6/10
Once again we find the remorseless and ruthless John Wick, shooting and blasting his way around like a rogue missile on a bad day in pursuit of some relief from the exhausting life of hired hitman as he’s pushed to toe limits of exhaustion against all those who’d use him for their wicked ends.
Perhaps he should have just taken the dog for a walk instead.
- The Great Wall
[18/february/2017] Score: 4/10
Throwing you in at the deep end of such a vastly ambitious mythic story, telling one fantasy of the origins and purposes of the Great Wall of China (to keep the Big Bad Monsters out) we’re dragged through a maze of people, situations and places that might confuse and befuddle most minds and fail to capture the real essence of Duty to Your Country in the face if Big Beasts.
Verdict: A difficult wall to climb.
[17/february/2017] Score: 7/10
Theatre translated to film can often suffer from too literal a translation and here we have a situation that demands patience and preserverance to follow the threads of one man’s life as they unravel before our eyes in his struggle for some kind of dignity and fulfilment in a life twisted bitterly by past event and failings.
It will take your time and understanding in this closely-confined environment as the fences between and around each person are built up and torn down but deserves attention.
Verdict: Hope over this fence for a little breath of air.
- Hidden Figures
[??/february/2017] Score: 10/10
There are thousands of hidden stories in the world, some small some world-changing. This is the latter from the early days of the American Space Programme and the final days of legal institutional American racism, when a handful of exceptional black women in the American space agency NASA worked diligently and often unrecognized to handle some of the most difficult mathematical problems in the world to help get the US into space in their chase for glory after the great historic feats of Russian imagination.
Verdict: Don’t hide from this achievement.
- The LEGO Batman Movie
[11/february/2017] Score: 9/10
Like totally, more AWESOME than any other LEGO movie. Like, so awesome you just have to see this, and make your own Bat-thingy with any handy bits of plastic lying around the house, because this is, Waaaaaay Coooool!!!!
Anyway, there’s this sad old bloke in a cave full of Really Cool Toys, and another old bloke muttering that he should get out more often, and lots, and lots of other people who want to see him help their city, and even more people what want To DESTROY THE CITY!!! Arrrgh, but the old bloke has a secret identity as a bat, so he’s in a flap as he wings around the city saving EVERYONE!!! Hurray!!!!!
[10/february/2017] Score: 6/10
Another of those “Wall Street is Wicked” true stories (supposedly) about a gold heist that nets its gang a huge amount of money from innocent investors who didn’t do their due diligence. into a supposed gold mine deep in the jungle a long way away.
Verdict: Deserves digging into.
- Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
[3/february/2017] Score: 5/10
We’ve been here with Alice so many times, but it’s nice to see her racing around to deal the death blow to the evil Umbrella Corporation and expose all the conspiracies (there are ALWAYS corporate conspiracies) that have destroyed the world.
Here again she’s confronting old enemies and uncovering new truths in her own origins and those of the situation that has destroyed the world.
Will she save the world one final time?
Verdict: A chapter worth reading.
- Hacksaw Ridge
[28/january/2017] Score: 7/10
It’s very difficult to judge a true life story. Do you assess the quality of the play or the original inspiring story of a man who, with strong personal convictions, volunteered for war to save lives and fought against everyone’s prejudice until given the chance to prove his worth?
Here is a blend of peaceful rural sentiment that moves smoothly through challenge into war and a personal glory that such a man would remain modest about.
If you seek inspiration in a world going increasingly mad with idiotic politics and fundamental religion then here is one dramatic source to turn to.
Verdict: Inspiration in overcoming obstacles.
- Underworld: Blood Wars
[13/january/2017] Score: 7/10
If you love Selene and her unique style then you’ll love this next step in her evolution from foot soldier (or should that be fang soldier?) to fully-fledged super vampire fighting all the forces arrayed against her seek as they out her daughter to the answer for the age old question of life, the universe and everything. This, like the previous films, ins one episode in her life, her transition and transcendence to the central focus of the vampire world. Don’t expect any great drama or award-winning effects, but a steady nibble at the blood pounding through your veins is good enough.
Verdict: A good bite.
- Assassin’s Creed
[2/january/2017] Score: 5/10
Well they made a little more effort of this video-game-to-film conversion, a conversion process involving competent special effects and a solid cast of above-average actors/actresses to give a little emotional punch. However, as a video game conversion the skill of effects and cast cannot make up for a certain lack of emotional edge in the story and characters. We have video characters spending a lot of their time involved in the game style and little less of the emotional passion that would appear to drive people to centuries of endeavour.
Especially with the lead character, let’s call him Mr Hoodie, who has apparently blanks his entire life to become a nothing, an abstract who just happens to have had rather good ancestor who was an assassin. I guest that is supposed to explain his “instinctive” lack of compassion to everyone around him. Could also call him Mr Tool for being nothing but an instrument for your entertainment.
Apart from that if you enjoy a mindless romp then here’s a new romper room for you.