Bumblebee [27/december/2018] Score: 7.10 If you can get over all the crashing noise, lights and blurring dazzle of giant robots hitting each other a lot, like schoolchildren in a Really Big Playground, then this is a sweet little coming-of-age story of a young woman and a big robot saving the world from other big robots. And if you’ve seen any other Transformers stories you know exactly what you’re in for. This delivers well with the humour and battling bots, the story and characters all filling out nicely for children of all ages. Verdict: It’ll sting you sweetly.
Aquaman [12/december/2018] Score: 7/10 Seemingly drawing a great deal for its inspiration from the Authurian legends (King Arthur, Sword, Stone, geddit?) this whisks you through a brief origin story, ignores assorted questions like how did Mentor to young Arthur (Merlin-like character) appear on the scene originally, how come he’s able to dash into Atlantis during “Justice League” but now has to be smuggled in, and so and and so forth, before launching into a Quest (hurrah! Another quest!) for a Big Fork (a.k.a. Sword) that has been lost for aeons. The politics are positively mediaeval with kings, knights, armed gangs all screaming at each other before the eventually Big Decisive Battle in which Giants Clash, Screaming Hordes Scream, and much sword-weilding is wielded (I don’t know why the resort to swords when they have phase blasters and post-nuclear fusion super technology). Eventually the outcome is foretold and written and all that in the Rise of The King (saw that with some Hobbits). Overall an entertaining bit of fluffy mush for the Christmas season of nonsense. Verdict: Puddled.
Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse [12/december/2018] Score: 10/10 There is Spider-Man, and then there is a SpiderMan, a SpiderWoman, a SpiderPerson, and on, and on in this fun dance across untold universes of Spidey-Ness as they are mashed up in this race to Save The Cosmos Spidey-Style. In a web of confusion and a tangle tall tale of torment as painful experiences flood the Spidey-Verse with threats galore as the Kingpin tries to tear the cosmos apart to appease the agony in his own heart. Verdict:
Mortal Engines [8/december/2018] Score: 6/10 A simple tale, there are gigantic machines, the size of cities, they rumble across parts of the world that has been transformed a thousand year earlier by a titanic act of stupidity called war. In the aftermath mankind has devolved to stupidity as they all scramble for power and survival in the post-apocalyptic desolation. So, nothing new there. The rest is a straightforward adventure of fun and thrills as boy meets girl, they get into trouble and save the world by trashing the motor cities. Okay, not bad, but lacked a grit or sense of depth beyond stock characters we’ve seen many times before. Great visual effects swamp the story to show off the idea of entire cities on the move, but even these cannot be entirely realistic. Verdict: Steampunk for punks.
Ralph Breaks The Internet [5/december/2018] Score: 9/10 So this is a video game, no it’s a film called “Spot The In-Joke And Movie Reference” in which almost every fantasy Disney film genre, most especially Disney Princesses, comes in for some kind of reference and joke at their expense. Meanwhile our two intrepid characters, Wreck-it Ralph and Venellope, must save their arcade and their friendship by going on a journey of discovery into the big, big, bigger, wider world, universe and hell pit of the internet. A journey of discovery, adventure and all that standard coming-of-age fare of many a Disney fairy tale with growing-upness added for mature spice. Not forgetting the traditional Disney Princess stable of a song. Who will ever forget “Slaughter Race” after it’s been performed by the cutest of the cutest Disney Princesses? Verdict: You want a punchline? Please line up here for a punch.
The Girl In The Spider’s Web [23/november/2018] Score: 7/10 Continuing the story of “The Girl” with new writers following the death of the original author. This slips a little off the ledge of tension and dramatic style established in the first trilogy with a few generic dramatic tricks and melodramas we’ve all come to know from Hollywood where we reveal the back story of “The Girl” and her family history (standard rule: when you have nothing left to say go visit the family history). Thus we learn more about the girl’s motivations in her need to rescue damaged, fallen and injured women in the ongoing battle against abusive men. Throw in a few conspiracy ideas and other dramas and it adds up to a good little thriller but lacks the deeper content we might have expected after being spoilt by the first trilogy. Verdict: Girl does good.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald [16/november/2018] Score: 7/10 Packed to overflowing with details, characters, back stories and more, this is a story more for the fans of the magic realm rather than the average family audience as we’re introduced to such a river of new ideas streaming past you need a a thick notebook to keep up with it all. Squeezing through it all is the story that takes up immediately from the previous film with further conspiracy and betrayal, investigation and discovery of friends and enemies, all mixed up with cute creatures that help save the day and bring a giggle your your lips. Verdict: Beasts of many forms.
Widows [15/november/2018] Score: 6/10 A retelling of the ground-braking TV show from many decades ago, this effectively follows the same plot of strong female characters fighting for survival against a harsh brutal world and brutal men. Keeping with the modern theme of women battling for dignity against a male abusive world they must struggle against all their personal problems and weaknesses to defeat everyone standing against them and every betrayal. As with the original it will be applauded for its assertion that women can be just as strong as men in their own way. Verdict: Gangsta girls.
Peterloo [15/november/2018] A history story that is often neglected in Britain with the bloody massacre of peaceful protestors in Manchester wanting better lives and greater liberty in the early years of the 19th century. The facts have long been ignored by history teachers and deserve this kind of telling but in one sense little has changed in the last two hundred years. Verdict: Don’t BREXIT before you see this lesson in brutal government.
Bohemian Rhapsody [26/october/2018] Score: 8/10 There’s this rock band, right? And they were supreme in being closer to and driven by their audiences than most performers. They gave a soul and a voice to millions around the world and rocked it hard. They lifted hearts, they made the world laugh and sing with them. They are a bunch of Queens! Verdict: Rock on.
First Man [13/october/2018] Score: 7/10 For the visual feast and feats of the story this is magnificent, if you want the intimacy of being close-up with the leading characters all the time as they are thrown and thrashed around machinery amok. For that same close-in visual intimacy there is perhaps too much tightly-contained emotion. Thus the story comes over as a cooler clinical study of one family at the very tip of a huge effort to push American into space beyond the achievements of the Soviets in the Cold War. You have to be patient and be willing to seek out the subtle touches of humanity in the story, look through the cool exterior into the deep, contained emotions lying below, then, perhaps on reflection afterwards might you understand more about the characters. If you are looking for silly Star Wars adventures, go elsewhere, this is reality as a unique moment in world history. Verdict: Space, an ocean of emotion.
Venom [7/october/2018] Score: 8/10 Okay, so this has a difficult conception, a “baddie” from the comicbooks to be turned into some kind of anti-hero. And it works. With weird humour and the usual superhero antics it’s pulled off well as an alternative hero in a world of teenagers with spider bites or orphan billionaires with daddy’s armaments factories to play with. Verdict: Take a bite.
Jonny English Strikes Again [5/october/2018] Score: 7/10 Giggles galore (and that’s not even her name) strikes at the very heart of the British Way of Life (bumbling through, and that’s not even his name) as an evil force strikes deep into the heart of the Prime Minister’s problems with picky things like voters and electrical stuff and nonsense. But don’t worry dear readers, there’s a Real Hero to save the day – an American with a Really Big Computer and an Artificial Intelligence. Unfortunately the American’s innovative artificial intelligence plans to rule the world are disrupted by an old hack taken out of retirement for One Last Mission (sand how many buzzwords can you get in one sentence?). Verdict: Strike while the iron it hot, or your ironing will be all wrinkly.
A Star Is Born [5/october/2018] Score: 7/10 And born again is this old story of the aged male star taking on a young virile female artist with talent. He nurtures her, then hates her astounding success as she flies higher than he. We’ve seen it before, but this is a story well-played, tearfully concluded and hopeful in its spirit. Verdict: Starry.
The House With A Clock In Its Walls [25/september/2018] Score: 5/10 Loud humour and fantasy action to appeal to all ages, and perhaps that’s the problem with this story. By combining both an adult drama and child fantasy it tries too much to be everything when a tighter focus on, say, the child’s experience would have been enough. Here we have a child entering a fantasy world of magic and having to take on the challenge of a mystery. That would have been great for a children’s adventure, but then we have the interplay with adult characters and their, sometimes very tragic, stories which can cause confusion amongst youngsters in the audience. Overall it’s a great fun film, with a few of the “filthy” jokes that youngsters love best and cute live objects to marvel at. Verdict: Clock it before it vanishes in a puff of smoke.
A Simple Favour [21/september/2018] Score: 7/10 Hitchcock must be laughing in his shallow grave at this little beauty. What on the surface appears to be a simple drama, or mystery slowly gathers you up in its arms, slips its hands around your throat and… turns into a black comedy thriller that could easily deserve The Master’s trademark shadow crossing its threshold. With a large pond full of red herrings it takes time and patience to see how the story unfolds, twists and turns and gradually resolves in a way you might not imagine at the first. Verdict: Simply murderously fun.
Mile 22 [21/september/2018] Score: 6/10 Shadow war is a theme that is not really explored in the cinema, it’s all about big dramatic events or those small battles somewhere in the mists of a bigger conflict. But modern warfare is resolving into a new kind of conflict that avoids catastrophic horrors of full-scale warfare in favour of small battles, sudden confrontations in the shadows of the world around us. Here is something that looks on the surface to be nothing but a straightforward macho chase through the city streets to save a witness and uncover a conspiracy, but the shadow war is being played out on multiple levels below that simplistic surface. If you want a straight shoot-out and chase then it’s all here for you, but if you see a deeper meaning in the world’s conflicts then you’ll find another story buried underneath. Verdict: Go the mile, find others.
King of Thieves [19/september/2-18] Score: 6/10 Fiction can never really equal the nuttiness of reality at times. No matter how hard it tries. So here is a true story of a gang of old-time London thieves, masters of their art of robbing vaults, and then making a complete mess of the results. If you’ve seen the story of the Hatton Garden Jewel robbery then here is one telling of it and its consequences. Verdict: Don’t rob yourself of this caper, snatch it while you can.
Crazy Rich Asians [15/september/2018] Score: 7/10 A romantic comedy with a crazy and slight, faint bitter twist in a fantasy world that throws you in a bowl of cherries, wrapped in gold foil with a scent of Chanel No.5 (of course). This is really, unreal and a fluffy fantasy antidote to all the serious dramas and out-and-out daft comicbook nonsense that’s flooding the screens nowadays. So if you want to step into a world of finely-dressed gloss, glamour and outright barminess with far too much money they it knows what to do with then this is a fine taste of wine on a cold day in dystopian hell. Verdict: A rich delight with sweet desert.
BlacKKKlansman 14/september/2018] Score: 7/10 Completely insane tale based on a true story of novice American policeman who tricks the racist bigots of the Klu Klux Klan to accept him as member, even though he’s African-American. Following the thrill and bitter chill of the times decades ago when American racial barriers were being challenged in many ways, while fighting against bigotry within the police force this explores the true experience of people in America in those times right through to today, when the fight for equal respect continues. Worthy addition to the debate in American on prejudice from notable director Spike Lee. Verdict: Black grit.
The Predator [14/september/2018] Score: 5/10 This is not a “Predator” film, this is a blackly-comic comicbook piece of fluff that will have all the serious Predator fans grinding their teeth in frustration at such a nonsense. I must declare a special interest here as I wrote my own interpretation of a reboot Predator film in “Predator Hunt” which, of course, is much better. The story is an attempt to set up a more traditional situation with the hint of a series to-come: family, son of super-soldier (they’re always super-soldiers), silly Evil Corporation (traditional in Hollywoodland), supertechnology to fight and defeat the Predators and lots of silly jokes. Some good banter and jokes in the story but not the kind of bloody battle in the jungle you’d want for a real hard-ass version of the Predator story. Verdict: Preys on your mind.
The Happytime Murders [5/september/2018] Score: 5/10 If you love the Muppets, then this might not be to your taste as this is the Adult Muppets, bad taste spewing across the screen in every scene. But if you love a stream of dirty jokes and adult grit and drama about inequality in America then this might be up your street. Or should I say up your ass? Verdict: Don’t be a Muppet and miss this.
Yardie [5/september/2018] Score: 5/10 Traditional gangster story of young man who has a chance to go straight and clean up his life but first must fight a battle of revenge against those who harmed him in childhood. A solid story bet everything is by the numbers as the story arc takes you on the story you may have seen numerous times in the past. Verdict: Does it fit your backyard?
The Spy Who Dumped Me [24/august/2018] Score: 5/10 This is a fun frolic but needs a certain taste for the more nervous and American-flavoured clownish humour. It is an acquired taste, like eating the wrong food and having the taste stuck in your mouth for ages, but is redeemed by the brisk energy of the nonsense here that doesn’t give you time to stop and think. Like other “spy” stories we follow innocents who are plunged into wild conspiracy and gunfights (it IS an American story), along with a touch of romance, that threatens the world unless our silly innocents can muddle their way through a continent of stupid Europeans to save the world like all the other Team Americas out there. Which they manage to do. Verdict: Don’t dump the idea of enjoying this spicy silliness.
The Equalizer 2 [21/august/2018] Score: 5/10 Remember that film, the thrilling one about the Special Agent, with that set of special skills, who retired from “The Agency”, whoever they are? Remember when he, or maybe it was she, was pulled back into his old work as other agents and friends were betrayed by “The Agency” bosses? Remember when Directors decided to tidy up some “loose ends” and kill off all the old agents in a series of bloody assassinations? Yes, that one? Well, here it is again. Like a fondly-remember retread old tyre settling nicely on the road for a quick run around. Verdict: A dusty old agent equalized with a dusty old story.
The Darkest Minds [10/august/2018] Score: 3/10 Racism takes many forms and is well illustrated here. The principal character is played by a sweet African-American girl, all perky and lost in hormones, but very much in fashion of the times for the times today, sensitive to “people of colour” and women. As so we might expect this to continue as barriers are broken down and a new world dawns for our heroine. Not so. The entire idea of breaking down barriers is that they are supposed to loose all meaning, so now the story flips into the generic post-apocalyptic young adult nonsense of “teens” versus adults and big corporations/government in their struggle for independence, “freedom” and “The American Way”. Crashing slap bang into a wall of traditional values we see all our teenagers sorted into colours (and not even a sorting hat in sight). As if trying to really, really make the point that this is BAD, the entire story now focuses on that fact that while racism no longer exists in this world colour remains a barrier – the colour of your superpower, colour is the superpower! Got the message yet? Now try this point – rather than asserting that colour is NOT important we conclude this story with every child/young adult daubing themselves in their own colours. And thus a new racism is born. This might appeal to some for yet another addition to the ongoing trend in teenage dystopian nonsense, but there could be so much better tales around. Verdict: Enjoy if you don’t mind the darkness.
The Meg [10/august/2018] Score: 6/10 It’s a monster shark, the Mother of All Sharks, it’s big, it’s huge, its AWESOME!! But don’t worry or tremble too much in your seats Jason is on the job and will soon swim rings around this prehistoric beastie and wrestle it to submission. Sit back with a big, huge, awesome tub of popcorn and snuffle down on this golden piece of fruity nonsense which has some delightful moments to chew on. Verdict: We’re gonna need a bigger cinema.
Ant-Man And The Wasp [3/august/2018] Score: 8/10 Rapid-fire banter and comic gags abound in this frantic and frenetic action-comedy spinning like a top around the Ant-Man and partner The Wasp as they have to race to save Mommy from the Phantom Zone, or something like that. The play with the whole concept of being able to shrink small or grow huge in the fun in this second outing of Mr Ant and the lovely lady Ms Wasp as they have to face off with a new superheroine/villain in The Ghost, the pained tragi-heroine of the story. That leads me to one little spoiler here – I don’t recall in the story anyone discussing why they call her The Ghost. She wasn’t introduced with that alias/codename, they just start calling her Ghost. Someone wasn’t checking the script for accuracy. Apart from that tiny niggle there’s so much buzzing through this story to sit back and savour that you can’t go amiss with this interlude before the Great Confrontation with Thanos in next year’s Infinity War sequel. Verdict: Giggles, both large and small.
Mission Impossible: Fallout [29/july/2018] Score: 6/10 So let’s begin with the first impossible thing: why is there an American postal worker delivering packages in the bleak of a story night in Belfast? Does the US Postal service have such a vast reach we don’t know about? That’s the first impossible thing in this frenzy of fun as our heroes race around the world to try and stop a WMD from being built and exploded. Bounding from one impossible leap to another skip and a jump behind their enemy as they must race to a fulfilling conclusion with, in the fine traditions of Hollywood, the bomb’s clock ticks down to 1. All the usual ingredients are there: we can’t trust our friends, traitors inside “The Agency” (there are ALWAYS traitors inside the agency, haven’t they got the message yet, or did that one self-destruct too early?), this message will self-destruct, and a couple of sensible women who sort out all the mess the silly boys have left all over the world. So, sit back, enjoy the roller-coaster ride and switch your mind off for a while in this impossible venture. Verdict: Fall out of your seat laughing?
Hotel Artemis [20/july/2018] Score 7/10 There are many crime stories where a disqualified doctor performs surgery for injured criminals, it’s almost a standard feature of such films, and here is the twist as we are taken into the heart of a discreetly low-profile facility, for the elite criminals, which serves as a neutral territory where their injuries can be treated. Comicbook nonsense and out of the norm characters burst through the paper thin walls of the script in a bubbling piece of shoot-out fun that blasts its way around the traditional story of confrontation and challenge to the hotel’s neutrality when thieves meet assassins and gangsters lunge into the fray while the medics struggle to get on with the job of healing anyone who comes to their door, if you have the right membership. Verdict: Book into this hotel for a visit to replenish your faith in good people.
Incredibles 2 [13/july/2018] Score: 8/10 A repeat a remix a redux(!?) and our rubbery heroine Mrs Incredible, a.k.a. Elastigirl, takes centre stage in this return of the family that saves the world on a regular basis. With more magical powers than can be contained (be careful where you shoot the baby) our Fantastic Family once again must uncover a secret and defeat a villain, but only if dressed exclusively in the right fashion (all rights reserved by Edna). Verdict: Incredible it took so long to see them back in action.
Adrift [4/july/2018] Score: 7/10 A true life story of terror at sea as a young couple of adventurers set romantic sail on a small yacht and find themselves facing a huge storm in the Pacific Ocean. The following days of disaster and survival would teach anyone many lessons in life and human strength when facing the challenge of being adrift in a vast ocean. Not a superhero in sight, this is a true story of adventure, challenge and success against mountainous seas and odds that deserves the widest audience to learn from. Verdict: Steer your way to this one if you can escape from the comicbooks for a while.
Tag [29/june/2018] Score: 7/10 Based on the true antics of a group of friends who’ve been playing the tag game “It” for decades this is the wild comedy fictional version of the same idea – a game that’s been going on for thirty years and a group of friends, at that special middle age, discovering more about their friendship amidst the craziness. Verdict: Tag It.
Sicario 2: Soldado [29/june/2018] Score: 5/10 Whereas the first Sicario film brought a cynical, sharp, dark edge to the drug war on the American-Mexican border, this one slogs through a series of generic and predictable scenes and situations probably ripped off from assorted other suchlike stories. Here, then we have the American government desperate for revenge, the cynical use of secret military forces to enact that brutal revenge in some highly contrived situation that turns a war on Middle Eastern terrorism into a war on Mexican drug cartels. Then we have the usual traditional American political betrayal of that mission and the desperate fight of a handful of “good” men trying to make some sense of justice out of it all and struggle for survival in situations of the silliest proportions. The characters could have made an assortment of better decisions but that would not have led to these overly-dramatic actions for your amusement. Verdict: Soldier on through this if you have to.
Ocean’s 8 [22/june/2018] Score: 7/10 While Danny Ocean is away in hiding (or dead, we’re not sure) his little sister gets to play with the girls and go steal some sparkly things, and if you know you’re crime caper comedies you’ll know all about what happens next and she assembles her own “crew” and sets out to steal stuff from more honest people. Verdict: A little gem.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom [7/june/2018] Score: 7/10 So, there are these dinosaurs, again, lost on an island, again, and someone has to go save them again, and there is a cute child (girl), again, and there is an evil corporation, again, and an old dying man who might be able to stop them but can’t, again, and, erm, a cute dinosaur, again, and a super-trooper hunter who is probably Special Forces, again, and can’t shoot straight, again (probably took his Special Forces training at the Nazi Stormtrooper school of misfiring and bad-aiming), and they all use silly little guns, again, and no one has heard of using RPGs against bloody big animals when they get loose, again, and they all get loose, again. So, here we are in the Jurassic world of Hollywood and our heroine and her boy sidekick have to save the world and the little girl against the Big Bad Dinosaurs or Big Corporations. This is in essence is a “B” movie, thus: The little girl is running away from the dinosaur, does she (a) run to an open space where she has plenty or room for manoeuvre, or (b) run to her bedroom and hide under the bedsheets? The little girl is in her bedroom and it’s been invaded by a big bad dinosaur, does she (a) run for the door, the stairs and escape, or (b) run for the window to climb out and clamber along a VERY TINY ledge to race over the VERY FRAGILE rooftops in the storming rain? The evil corporation are holding a bid auction, do they (a) hold it in warm sunny broad daylight at some giant high security warehouse surrounded by battle tanks, or (b) in a dark and stormy night under a big creaky old house? The heroine and her sidekick are fleeing through the big museum and hiding from the dinosaur, do they (a) switch on all the lights so they can see exactly where it is or (b) switch off all the light so they can stumble around blindly in the vain hope that the dinosaur won’t sniff them out of hiding? But at least this time our heroine remembered to change her high heels for something more practical. Verdict: Answers: B movie fodder.
Solo: A Star Wars Story [25/may/2018] Score: 6/10 Forget Star Wars and just treat this as the early years for a crook, thief, smuggler who occasionally, more by accident than intent, stumbles into being a bit of a Good Guy, sometimes. Wrapping all of Han Solo’s origin story into a single film is part of the problem here. The idea that he acquires his legendary ship, performs his famous feat of navigation, meets his long term sidekick and even plays a role in the early foundation of The Rebellion by helping its founders, all in a matter of a few days, strikes me as far too rushed when it could have been teased over two or three stories. One or two elements could have been dropped as too much of a coincidence that he’d be in at the start of The Rebellion, and so on. For all that it’s a reasonable bit of fun for a Saturday afternoon. Verdict: Star Bores?
Deadpool 2 [18/may/2018] Score: 9/10 So this is the sequel we’ve all been dreading, you know the one – “The One Where They Don’t Get It Quite Right”, but at least this time Mr Pool has his Friends to help him Team Up and fight the bad guys, and makes a mess of everything, everywhere in the fine traditions of all that superhero and spandex nonsense. Beware thought that this film does entail a certain degree of gut-busting laughter-inducing moments of silliness in the fine traditions of My Pool’s antics. the budget has also been increased to add one additional X-person and several other mutants. Verdict: A Bloody Good(ish) Mess.
Breaking In [15/may/2018] Score: 4/10 A generic story of a generic nonexistent daughter of a gangster who discovered intruders in here home after daddy’s loot and her fight to miss lots of opportunities to save her family from bad things. Okay if you’ve not seen one of these before or need some relief from all the superhero nonsense. Verdict: Doesn’t really break any traditional ideas.
Entebbe [15/may/2018] Score: 4/10 A well-known story of terrorists hijacking an airliner in the 1970s and threatening to kill all the Jewish passengers until the Israeli Defence Forces mount a dramatic rescue. But leave out most of the rescue effort and focus on the “human story” the tales of the politics the build-up for the terrorists as they prepare for this and follow their motivations. the result is a more thoughtful, and far less dramatic story. If you are looking for a big dramatic, glamorous fight to rescue the hostages then you’ll have to look elsewhere. Verdict: Tepid history lesson.
Avengers: Infinity War [28/April/2018] Score: 10/10 So, the cinemonster has arrived to devour the audiences for the next week or several. And what a monster it is, epic in its scope, tormented, tragic, heroic and sad with a far deeper sense of meaning about life and love than you could initially expect. Here is a very sympathetic monster on a tragic course of destruction in the name of a greater ideal, a martyr to a cosmic cause of good in the universe who’s just got it all monstrously, terribly, horrifyingly wrong, and yet your heart goes out to him as much and the loving, wise-cracking, casual heroes of Earth, and friends. If you didn’t already know it there is a cliff-hanger of cosmic proportions and very strong hints of far more heroism to come, if the 14million-to-one odds play out. Like a lottery ticket your ticket to this event should be well worth your time. Verdict: Monster with a heart and soul.
Rampage [13/april/2018] Score: 6/10 So, there’s the Big Monkey business all about big beasts and yet another Evil American Corporation trying to ruin the world for their own greed. Normal as usual, with the added mix of humour to entertain everyone. Verdict: Big, Bananas.
Isle Of Dogs [5/april/2018] Score: 8/10 It’s about dogs, wild dogs, angry dogs, and they bite. It’s about Bad Humans, and twelve year old boys. Dogs like boys. Dogs will help boys find their true nature and protect them, and they bite. These are dogs, desolate, abandoned dogs, but still loyal. They are dogs, they are clever, and they bite. This is good, but might not taste well to many audiences. The humour bits, the surreal story chews on your senses and the dogs are lovably snuggly. Verdict: It’s biting.
Ready Player One [31/march/ 2018] Score: 9/10 If you’ve ever enjoyed any genre movies, any Spielberg or SF/adventure films there is something, some sweet little nibble of reference in here somewhere, whether it’s the T-Rex form Jurassic Park or the Delorean from Back To the Future, some little cine image pops up everywhere; and that’s part of the enjoyment in this standard Teenagers versus Big Evil American Corporations (again) drama as the wild gang of clever teens are able to outfox the huge resources of the Big Dumb Organisation. We’ve been here many times but the game scenario fun keeps you racing alone to the Finish Line. Verdict: Get Ready For The Race.
Pacific Rim Uprising [24/march/2018] Score: 5/10 Big robots, versus big monsters and other monsters who want to take over the world. Well that was nice. Usual story of BIG EVIL AMERICAN CORPORATIONS with no regard for the betterment of the world, human safety or the responsibilities towards the rest of the world. Verdict: Hum Drum Beat.
Peter Rabbit [20/march/2018] Score: 9/10 Bunnies! Just in time for Easter, big, bouncy, Bad Bunnies, fighting for their patch, their little plot of Little England’s green and pleasant land. But beware, dear viewer there is death afoot, from the bunnies killing the Bad Man through to much naughtiness as they bound from one adventure and fight to the next while winning the hearts of those who love a good bunny, even without the pie being involved. Verdict: Bunny good fun!
Tomb Raider [16/march/2018] Score: 8/10 A bouncy adventure from the early life of little Lara Croft on a quest for the ultimate treasure – to find her missing father, and possibly save the world. A good adventure well-inspired by the recent video game with plenty of challenges for Lara to overcome along the way. Plenty of inspiration from that other series of treasure-hunting films – Indiana Jones – shows a little lack of imagination, but then how many ways are there to build death traps in an ancient cave? Looks like a good beginning to a new series with plenty of potential for intrigue and action, if they can avoid the conventional idea that guns are the only way to solve all your problems. Verdict: Take a shot at this trip.
You Were Never Really Here [9/march/2018] Score: 6/10 The pretensions of artistic flare of light, focus of camera and poise of performer realise the dream of the director to bring ART to the cinema in this darkly twisted and simple kidnap & political conspiracy tale. Told entirely from the point of view of one man employed to recover kidnap victims with brutal force it dawdles around the beginning to build up his character then sends him on a flight and fight of destruction to save another young girl from powerful men. I’m sure there’s a lot more symbology in this around the theme of powerful men exploiting vulnerable women but the overly obsessive sense of ART and lack of human character in favour of stereotypes stalls what could have been a brisk, brutal and powerful tale. Verdict: Pause for a moment, then consider entering this world’s light darkness.
Gringo [9/march/2018] Score: 4/10 Take a smattering of standard Mexican Drug Cartel Gangster themes, mix in some stupid American corporate crookedness and a few other odds and sods, mix will around one hard core nutcase and you have this nutty concoction of silliness that shouts out for a smoother writing hand rather than this trembling mass of a mess. Verdict: Too high on its own supply.
Game Night [7/march/2018] Score: 7/10 Screamingly silly world of more of the traditional suburban Americans having another suburban nightmare when their twee little party game night goes off the rails and crashes into another reality. Played with gusto by all the performers it fails utterly to take itself seriously and all the more fun for it. Verdict: Great if you’re game for this one night.
Red Sparrow [3/march/2018] Score: 6/10 Ah spies. There are good spies and there are silly American spies who appear to be able to carry guns anywhere in the world they desire and run away successfully from “stupid” local police. In this case we have the traditions of “Moscow Central” being thwarted and turned around by its own conspiracies and those loyal to a strong Russia fighting on all sides for their survival. Verdict: A little sparrow worth seeing for the performance.
I, Tonya [24/february/2018] Score: 8/10 Based on the true story of Tonya Harding, trash girl from the “wrong” side of the tracks who astounded American sports institutions with her bold performances, faced prejudice and struggled with a train wreck of a private life yet still succeeded in breaking through to win awards for her ice dance performances until it all went horribly, stupidly, crazily wrong. Verdict: Pick your winner in this story of many sides, faces and fools.
Lady Bird [23/february/2018] Score: 8/10 Growing up, a stroppy American teenager finds herself, breaks away from family and flaps her tiny little wings at the world. Verdict: Yeah! So there!
Black Panther [16/february/2018] Score: 7/10 The most amazing superhero film of the year so far, a true alternative to the regular Marvel superheroes? And all that? Er, not exactly. The problem with all the enthusiasm for this film is that it misses the point – creating a good and entertaining story. SPOILER ALERT – don’t read if you don’t want to know things. The first problem is that the final fight scene lacks a sense of practical reality with two tribal gangs fighting in the fields like all full-on man-on-man macho confrontations (with just the right camera angles to glint at the audience). This totally abandons the presence of an entire society, a huge city of sophisticated people who ought to be been able to put a stop to all that childish nonsense, or offer a far more subtle fight-chase through the streets or palace. This scene smacks to me of too much “white-man” writing a simplistic image of an advanced society. The second problem comes from the endless heavy-handed use of the white v. black agenda of modern American culture, rubbing everyone’s noses in the White Man’s Oppression of Africa, over and over again. I know American audiences need things repeated at least three times, three times, and times again, to get the message, but this strikes as too much an attempt to appease one sector of the audience over the rest of the world and formed a small but noticeable distraction from the more generic story of two princes battling for the crown. On the positive side the women get a far stronger presence here than most superhero films, bringing the humour and intelligence that the pouting sullen men lack in all their posturing. Let’s hope they can bring further intelligent levity to future outing of the Panther, and keep a good leash on him, the little pet. In all a good competent addition to the Marvel universe, but not as great as it night have been without all the agendas. Verdict: Just a pussycat.
Phantom Thread [7/february/2018] Score: 6/10 The melancholic gloom of the 1950s, the withering of the Empire, of class values and aged style as an obsessive youth arrives to turn people’s lives on their heads. And so here we have a poised, progress through the obsessions of the age in a fashion that can transform lives with a bitter twist of intense passion between an old master and his youthful muse. This is no high-end romantic glamour, no sparkle of the “gay” life and scene, no gloss of jewels, but the meticulous obsessions with work, detail, love, power and passion carefully observed in precise detail. Verdict: A poison that tastes sweet for those with a desire for such bitterness.
Den Of Thieves [5/february/2018] Score: 7/10 Welcome to the sweaty, testosterone-soaked streets of Loopy Land as men, real men with muscles, bask and bath in the sun and glory of guns while baring more skin than a bikini-clad beach beauty. with every muscular curve highlighted by the stencilling of tattoos over which their sweat drips and shimmers in the sun’s glare, we’re left in no doubt that this is a simple, brutal crime caper struggling to be the next generation’s “Heat”. And it just about works if you stay to the twisted conclusion of this carefully-plotted crime and manage to survive the all-guns/no-brains nonsense. Verdict: The nearly new Heat.
Maze Runner: The Death Cure [27/january/2018] Score: 6/10 WARNING: If you have anything to learn from all teenage zombie/alien invasion apocalypse movies it is the fundamental truth – whenever you see any American teenagers being chased by zombies/aliens down the street do NOT, ever, really NEVER let them into your home, retreat, secret redoubt, shielded city. Within minutes they will have left the door open, wandered around looking “cool” in their post-apocalypse grunge wear then left out the back door, stealing your Mad Max survival truck while the zombies/aliens storm through the front door and devour/enslave you, your family, your entire community. Without a second look back or thought of remorse the American teenagers will then set off across the desolate landscape to a Special Island in the sun or Beach to live out their silly little lives in perfect isolation and never cast a thought back to all the horror they visited on you. Of this truth we can be certain, we’ve seen it in so many simplistic movies so it must be true. And so we follow the adventures of American Teenagers as they cross the desolate landscape heading for the Last Retreat of Mankind, followed by lethal infection carried like a cloud of DOOM in their midst and wearing the very best Grunge Wear (TM) you can find under a rock. And so we see battle commence as The Big Evil Corporation struggles to find a cure only to have the American Teenagers screw it all up before sailing away into the sunset. There is some reasonable action to keep everyone entertained but a lot of it and the key twists and turns are better suited to a younger audience who haven’t already seen it all before in so many other such stories, so won’t notice the telegraphed moments when you know Something Bad Is Coming. Verdict: The only cure, their deaths.
Early Man [26/january/2018] Score: 10/10 Once upon a time in a world far, far away, somewhere near Manchester, at dinnertime, there was a tribe. And they were truly the Greatest. Dressed in only Red, they invented The Beautiful Game. But the Reds were threatened by other Teams from the land of Bronze – Southerners – and battle commenced for the Cup of beautiful green in the land of desolation. The Reds must rise to the challenge if they are to Win the Cup of Green and preserve their way of life. If I were to say more it would take pages. Let it only be said that Here Be Legends, Man, and Women, of Skill, of The Foot and The Ball. Verdict: Well Brian, this can only mean one thing – Beautiful!
Darkest Hour [25/january/2018] Score: 5/10 There is a tremendous myth about plucky little Britain in the heat of World War 2, standing resolutely alone against the Evil Hun, of speeches and dramatic moments of decision, and here is another retelling of that myth to reinforce the idea that one tiny little island was able to stand up strong against forces of Darkness while all around them burnt. And other ballocks like that. In this case the story is of the political battle over the decisions that kept Britain, and her Huge, Enormous Empire, on the path of war against brutality. Here are the few days and weeks as Churchill rose to the peak of history, turning a tide of gloom into a determined course of destiny. But don’t be misled into thinking a lot of this is accurate, there are still vast truths hidden from the public about what was really going on. Verdict: We shall fight them in the history books, and perhaps one day, see the sunrise of truth.
The Post [19/january/2018] Score: 7/10 Welcome back the wonderful world of plucky and noble American journalism (not the tabloid kind) in its sterling pursuit of The truth, Justice and The American Way of uncovering evil doings and naughty conspiracies amongst all those wonderful American Politicians who have made the world a Better Place (if you’re a greedy American corporation). Once again we are thrown into the jungle of politics and the attempts to expose the truth is out there when noble activists with a deeper sense of justice and honour decide to expose the conspiracies over the Vietnam War (the one they lost, well one of them), if they can just find a newspaper willing to publish The Truth, the Real Truth, and Nothing But The Truth. Racing out to print the news challenges the journalists to their core of hot metal as they stand up against Big Bad Politicians, and make loads of money in the process. Here then is a small town journal called the Washington Post which stands tall and proud in its defence of Liberty (don’t mention the tabloids) and the pursuit of happiness (is a warm stuffed wallet). Verdict: Plucked straight off the press.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri [12/january/2018] Score 8/10 Its rare for actors to have a story their can chew on, with grit, determination and drama. Not the Big Spaceship kind of nonsense but the small town, down-to-earth kind where everything is miserable but we get on with life and shout a lot or just scowl and growl. This is one of those wonderful stories that takes one small moment in the life of good old small town America and munches down on ever nuance, every character flaw and glow, then sets fire to it all and burns out the truth hidden underneath . Verdict: Swing by this town and see for yourself.
Hostiles [5/january/2018] Score: 5/10 It’s that special time of year to chill you to the bones with some Western Grit. To gallop over the prairies and shoot everyone who gets in your way as you trudge across mountain ranges, deserts or some other spectacular place of beauty that’s been ruined by the presence of Man’s murderous hunger. So let’s take a gallop over this particular country and shiver with the haunting splendour and dire devastation men wrought on each other to steal land, wealth, treasure from the Big County, and all that. Verdict: A good trot out.
Molly’s Game [1/january/2018] Score: 8/10 We are all encouraged to hanker after wealth, power and influence, to have power over others or just have a LOT of money. And here’s one story of the rise, and (of course) fall of one little lady, Molly, who managed to make the dream come true, if only for a brief flowering in a world that demands nothing than worship of wealth. There’s a story here of how wealth corrupts, whether it’s the rise of gangsters or the power of those in influence to destroy those who are weaker, and it’s a story of principles as our heroine refuses to expose her trusted clients to the hunger of the police or the press for their ravenous pursuit of power and influence. Welcome to Molly’s life and times, a brief flowering of fortune. Verdict: A game to play your cards very close to your chest.