The Mist

Viewed – 06 October 2015  Netflix

Dru Struzan is an artist for Hollywood movie posters who lives in a small American town. One morning he wakes up to the aftermath of what appears to have been a hurricane and subsequently heads off to the local supermarket for supplies. Once there with his young son, he meets up with various locales, just as a strange mist descends on the town.

the mist

Now I jest, as it’s actually Thomas Jane and not the famed movie poster genius whose work is curiously portrayed in the opening scene.  Jane leads a d-list cast who you’ll most likely recognize from various TV shows.  Some will also be familiar to fans of The Walking Dead, no big shock as the movie is directed by Frank Darabont (The Green Mile) who helped launch that popular show.  This is a similar group who we get to know as they get to know one another, whilst holed up in a supermarket; a setting not that far removed from famed zombie classic Dawn Of The Dead.  However, this isn’t about zombies but ‘things’ lurking in the mist. So we get stupid people going outside and meeting a grizzly end, whilst everyone squabbles, a religious loon gets people worked up, and generally they’ve all got to figure out a way to survive.  An always fun concept no doubt, but let down by only passable acting and fairly limp characterization.  Thomas Jane as the lead is rather wooden, especially when he has to deliver earnest and emotional lines, where he just fails to convince.  Some of the other cast fair better – but this clearly wasn’t the focus here (but should have been).  Thankfully we do get some nail biting and freaky encounters that although horror-lite, still pack a punch.  Darabont’s direction, working from a fairly run-of-the-mill Stephen King story is well done thankfully, and he brings what feels like a hand-held camera style that helped crank up the claustrophobic tension.

With a reliance on clichés and stereotypes (yes, there’s a hill-billy whose a bit of a dick), however and some instances of very ropey CGI, the potential here mostly fell short.  The ending also felt like a last ditch attempt to throw a curve ball – but fails.  That being said, for typical monster movie thrills, I still managed to have some fun with this regardless of shortcomings.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Viewed – 29 September 2015 Online rental

With the never ending juggernaut that is Marvel Studios, it would be easy to say this cash-cow is getting milked dry. However with a plethora of comic book stories to mine from, those udders aren’t drying up any time soon. So we come to this sequel to the highly entertaining Marvel Avengers Assemble.


We are thrown straight into the action as our heroes attack a Russian Hydra base to steal back Loki’s sceptre (which you’ll recall him wielding during the last movie).  However little is explained as to what is going on or why, and so despite having seen all the other Marvel movies up to this, I still felt a bit in the dark. Now here’s the first issue – this is again a sequel that relies on you having a very good recollection of not just the last Avengers movie but also Thor: The Dark World and especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  So Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is missing from the line up, the Avengers are holed up in Stark Tower with seemingly Robert Downey Jnr as their boss (?), and there’s two rogue super-powered teens wanting revenge for something Tony Stark did with a bomb.  Then Downey’s Stark goes and complicates it even more by creating an artificial intelligence (Ultron) that turns evil and goes all megalomaniac.

elizabeth olsenSo we come to this globe-trotting and overly complicated sequel’s saving grace … James Spader’s Ultron; a charismatic, darkly humorous villain, with seemingly unstoppable power and a somewhat clichéd kill the entire human race and start again evil plan.  Yet Spader livens up what would otherwise be just another, albeit action-packed super hero movie.  Director Josh Wedon’s skill at snappy dialogue seemed watered down in place of more realism, with downbeat and heartfelt exchanges instead of the humour I’d expected (although there are still some great gags).  The first half an hour or so also drags with a couple of redundant scenes (the tiresome lifting Thor’s hammer bit).  Yet a romance sub-plot between Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner / Hulk is handled well, and each character again gets their moment in the spotlight, most welcomely Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.

Overall a solid sequel slightly let down by the usual sequel trappings such as too many characters and storylines going on at once.  Yet with slickly directed action, several stunning sequences (especially the Iron-Man vs Hulk fight…) I still have to recommend this one.

Verdict: 3.5 /5


Movie Night

What have I been up to lately?  Well I can’t recall if I had mentioned this but over the last few months I’ve begun a ‘movie night’ with my Dad.  Each Tuesday we watch a movie and have some popcorn.  It’s nice and also an excuse to get some movie watching in.  It’s not always a new movie though so sometimes I don’t have a review to post afterwards.  Last Tuesday was such a case, as we watched the horror ‘Oculus’ which I previously reviewed.  Again I enjoyed it and my Dad got a lot out of it too.  So in coming weeks you may get to see more reviews, but if there is a lull, it’s probably down to us watching something I’ve already reviewed (I have ‘John Wick’ lined up for Tuesday).

metal-gear-solid-5-the-phantom-painIn other news I have been playing a great deal of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.  It’s my first proper stab at a Metal Gear game since Metal Gear Solid 2, and even though I purchased Metal Gear Solid 3, I didn’t play it all that much, and I skipped Metal Gear Solid 4.  What do I think of this latest entry?  Like many games these days, it’s open world and huge, with side quests (ops) and a large storyline that I am only really touching the surface of.  Graphically it’s pretty lush.  The wildlands of Afghanistan are immensely detailed and atmospheric and look fantastic, especially with sand storms, day to night cycle and great textures, lighting and effects – even if the water is a bit last-gen.  I like the concept of mother base too, your hub location where you can build up your army (from kidnapping enemy soldiers) and adding to the facilities for developing better equipment for use in the field.  It’s very absorbing stuff.  It also plays really well.  Metal Gear pretty much invented the stealth genre and the ideas here work superbly, with the Fulton delivery system (the ability to attach a balloon to a knocked out enemy, animal or piece of equipment, and immediately send it back to mother base) proving a great deal of fun.  That’s not to say it’s easy as the game takes no prisoners if you get discovered, and the intelligent enemies will hunt you down and nine times out of ten, end your game swiftly.  I’m having a great time with it, but like I said – it’s still early days.

I also got my hands on Gears of War: Ultimate Editon, which looks great…it was always a very well made shooter and had some good characters and a great concept.  The gameplay hasn’t aged badly at all and you can see how the game has influenced a ton of games since it came out, especially with the rock-solid cover-mechanic and the satisfying gunplay.  Graphically it’s quite a step-up from the original, and the textures, lighting and everything looks really good.  I’d say some of the design; of the characters and levels has moved on a bit, but it’s still worth revisiting.

Garbage-20Other than this, I’m still in run up mode to November, where two things are happening…firstly on November 9th I finally get to see in concert my favourite band of all-time ‘Garbage’ of which it’s a special 20th anniversary tour to celebrate the anniversary of their debut album, and loads of things are happening online at the moment, such as regular updates on the band’s Twitter, Facebook, Periscope and Instagram accounts, as well as a re-release of the album in special packaging, on CD, Vinyl and digital complete with remixes, b-sides and specially re-mastered versions of the individual tracks.  I obviously have stuff pre-ordered, and am looking forward to it a great deal.  Next up is my 40th birthday on the 14th.  Now I’m not big on fuss or attention, it can make me uncomfortable…but hey I’m hitting the big 4-0 so may as well make the most of it.  Not sure what that’s going to be right now, but as I’ll be in London leading up to it, that’s a good a start as any.

On TV I’ve been finishing up season 3 of Orange Is The New Black which has once again been great.  I’m also watching Game of Thrones (currently working my way through season 3) and Australian prison drama Wentworth, which I highly recommend.


I’m sitting here also at the start of a week off from work.  Damn work has felt gruelling of late.  I’ve also got my head in a slightly better place than it’s seemed to have been in a while.  Depression, thoughts of things that have happened to me in the past etc. can linger and it’s easy to wallow in it, but it never does me any good or solves anything … so even though moving completely on seems like the hardest thing to do some days, I’m trying my hardest.  I really am.  Having good work colleagues and a job I enjoy and a good family around me helps a great deal and makes me wake up to myself.

So here’s to relaxing, watching movies, playing games and a few days out.  I’m looking forward to it!


Viewed – 12 September 2015  Pay-Per-View

Did we really need another telling of this classic fairy tale?  I think most people are familiar with the story; a girl named Ella (Cinderella) finds herself living with a wicked step mother and two cruel step sisters after her natural parents die.  However a chance encounter with a charming (ahem) prince soon see’s her fortunes changing for the better, with a little help from a fairy godmother.


Disney’s new adaptation of the classic story is directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars relative newcomer Lily James as Ella and Cate Blanchett as her stepmother Lady Tremaine.  This proved fun and has several stand out moments (the ballroom dance, the race to get home before the carriage turns back into a pumpkin) and is for the most part done very well.  Acting is a tad over the top with a disappointingly hammy Blanchett coming across a little too cartoony, and those stepsisters I just wanted to slap.  Helena Bonham Carter also appears as the fairy godmother, and like Blanchet is very caricature and silly.  Thankfully then Game Of Thrones’ Richard Madden as the Prince is just the right side of charming without coming across as cheesy.  Lily James starts out sugar-coated sweet but develops some real depth as her fortunes deteriorate and dreams are shattered … and proved a much more interesting character than say, Elle Fanning’s Sleeping Beauty in Maleficent.

princeBrannagh fills the movie with gorgeous (albeit CGI-loaded) locations and some excellent set design and costumes, making for a real visual treat.  Yet I was hoping for something that warranted this being done again, but with a reliance on cartoon-like performances and slapstick humour we get very little we didn’t see in the 1950 Disney classic, amongst other versions.   A missed opportunity.

For a new audience this is still decent, feel-good entertainment, but for anyone familiar with the story, approach this more as a re-visit than a re-imagining.  It’s no Snow White and the Huntsman.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Drop

Viewed – 08 September 2015  DVD

The moderate hype surrounding this relatively low key crime drama is that it was the final performance of acclaimed actor James Gandolfini, who rose to iconic status in the hit TV show The Sopranos playing charismatic mob boss Tony Soprano.  Add to this the pairing of him with current hot property Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road) and this was a more than alluring prospect for an evening’s entertainment.


Hardy plays Bob, a softly spoken, likable bartender at a local establishment that is used as a ‘drop’ for mob money that’s then handed over to a local Chechnyan gang. Gandolfini is Marv, former owner of the bar and cousin to Bob. Following a hold up one night however, Bob & Marv find themselves in debt to the gangsters and must figure a way of getting the stolen money back. At the same time Bob befriends a local girl who has more than a few problems herself.

As the final role for Gandolfini, this offered up little that wasn’t seen in The Sopranos and isn’t much of a stretch for the actor, even though he clearly still had presence. His character is also a little confusing and I found it hard understanding some of his actions. Hardy fairs better and clearly it’s his film and he again brings to the table a quiet, moody character that he seems to do in every film, with that hint of underlying rage. Noomi Rapace appears as the troubled love interest and is decent also, with her friendship with Bob proving the backbone of the story. For a crime drama this was less about people getting whacked and more a character-piece, but didn’t stand out in any particular way despite a screenplay from famed author Dennis Lehane (Shutter Island).  Enjoyable at times and has a good ending, but overall a little too lightweight for it’s own good.

Verdict:  3 /5