Black Panther


Viewed – 21 February 2018  Cinema

Following the death of his father, Prince T’Challa aka Black Panther returns home to claim his birth right and become king of Wakanda.  However when news surfaces of a terrorist who has stolen some of his homeland’s resources, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) springs into action to stop his home’s sacred power being used for evil.

Black Panther

This has had a great deal of attention and is now one of the highest rated Marvel movies on RottenTomatoes.com, surprising when the character has never been what you’d call a household name like Thor, Spiderman etc.  For whatever reason this movie has gained such attention, what we actually have is a fairly basic super hero movie with the twist of an African setting and largely black cast.  Panther is an interesting, layered character and fairly refreshing compared to the usual machismo we get with other characters; but with a rise and fall and rise again story ark, I failed to see how this was any different than what we’ve been getting for several years now.  Add to this an underwhelming Michael B Jordan as the villain who’s character is basically a carbon copy of another Marvel villain, and like in Creed has no screen presence and is instead feels miscast beyond his impressive pecks.  Yet we do get a fantastic car chase sequence, decent CGI and some tense fight scenes, along with good support from Martin Freeman and especially Letitia Wright as T’Challa’s sister – who gets all the best lines and funniest gags.

As it stands this was very pretty, often fun but very drawn out considering it’s simple plot, and felt more like an ‘also ran’ in the juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe than anything else.  I still had a good time, but like a lot of heavily-hyped things these days … I also came away wondering what the fuss was about.

Verdict:  3 /5

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The Greatest Showman


Viewed – 14 February 2018  Cinema

I can’t say I was particularly enthused at the prospect of seeing this, despite rave opinions from people I know who had been.  I have a bit of an uneasy relationship with musicals, and they have to be particularly good to win me over.  This based on true events depiction, has Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, a man who rose from nothing to become one of the pioneers of show business as we know it.

greatestshowman

I can’t say I was particularly familiar with the story but as soon as this started, I was transfixed.  Jackman, who of course I mostly associate with Wolverine, is a revelation as Barnum and commands the screen with total, Hollywood magnetism and presence.  His rags-to-riches story whilst somewhat clichéd is classic stuff and made me think of Charles Dickens books along with Rogers & Hammerstein musicals of yesteryear.  You know – back when Hollywood did it right.  Add at times breath-taking choreography and several stunning set pieces, with grand set design, colourful costumes and eye-catching cinematography and this was a real treat for the senses.  The songs, if at times a little ‘samey’ are foot-tapping and enjoyable, aided by larger-than-life performances from also Zac Efron and Michelle Williams and a plethora of colourful characters … and well, sometimes it’s overwhelming but never boring.

The movie seems to stumble a little in a plot device with a famed Opera Singer and although essential to the story, takes things in a direction that isn’t quite as much fun … but then comes back again to deliver a great feel good ending that left me wanting to stand up and applaud.  This movie’s been a bit snubbed by the Oscars and that’s a shame as really, a night out at the movies doesn’t get much better than this.  Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5

2017 disappointments


A lot of movies come with a degree of anticipation.  Some get hyped beyond all proportion.  Some are adorned with awards and positive buzz.

Below are 10 movies that whilst not inherently bad, I felt either didn’t live up to anticipation or the attention they had received, or I had personally been excited for them but ended up disappointed. 

10.

Alien Covenant

Alien Covenant

9.

Split

Split

8.

The Wailing

The Wailing

7.

Ghost In The Shell

Ghost In The Shell

6.

Spider-Man Homecoming

Spider Man Homecoming

5.

Blade Runner 2049

blade-runner-2049

4.

Baby Driver

Baby Driver

3.

Dunkirk

Dunkirk poster

2.

La La Land

La La Land

1.

Trainspotting 2

Trainspotting 2

Star Wars: Episode VIII


Viewed – 20 December 2017  Cinema

The Last Jedi

After what I’d call the triumphant success of Episode VII: The Force Awakens for re-establishing a much loved franchise and resurrecting it from the ashes of George Lucas’ mostly misguided prequels – I awaited this follow up in the proposed trilogy with no small degree of anticipation.  What would Luke Skywalker say to Rey on top of that mountain?  What would Kylo Ren do in wake of what he did to his own father Han Solo?  I was about to find out…

Star-Wars-The-Last-Jedi_thumb.jpg

Following the destruction of star-killer base, Kylo Ren and General Hux lead the First Order in an assault against the resistance to restore rule over the galaxy. Rian Johnson (Looper) takes over directing duties and has delivered what largely looks like a Star Wars movie, has the action and confrontations you’ll expect from a Star Wars movie, but offers up a decidedly different feel than expected following Force Awakens and Rogue One.  This is a much more lighter in tone movie with what appears to be a stronger focus on a somewhat child-friendly audience with as a result, a surprising lack of menace.  Almost every serious situation is sprinkled with humour, sometimes well judged, sometimes out of place.  When two of the main bad guys end up coming off like a squabbling comedy double act, something seemed a little off.

Kylo RenThankfully we do get what we came for, especially Rey (a more mature Daisy Ridley, settling into her role) finding herself getting reluctantly trained by a world-weary and cynical Luke (Mark Hamill), and discovering a telepathic link with Kylo Ren (a still slightly bratty yet complex Adam Driver).  This as expected turns out to be the movie’s beating heart, with the myriad of space battles and daring missions onto enemy starships proving less enthralling (especially that casino sequence).  Finn (John Boyega) again sits awkwardly between hero and bumbling buffoon, with Po (Oscar Isaac) taking a (much appreciated) larger role at the forefront of the dogfights and fancy X-Wing piloting.  However the late Carrie Fisher seems to get put on a pedestal (be it intentionally or following reshoots after the iconic star’s passing) and is bizarrely given a rather God-like stature with one scene in particular just coming out of nowhere, leaving me baffled. She’s great, but her character doesn’t seem to fit in with what we’ve previously known.

That’s ultimately where Episode VIII falls a part.  Characters that we’ve grown to know and love, are poorly handled (Luke included), add to this a Saturday morning cartoon vibe to action, performances and situations, and although I still gasped at certain moments and got the feels where it counted … I also didn’t get all that invested – and I really should have.  For it’s pluses and minuses, this is still a fun, visually spectacular and at times exciting sequel.  Yet as a long time Star Wars fan, it leans closer to those prequels than either the earlier movies or the recent ones … and that’s slightly worrying.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets


Viewed – 19 December 2017  online-rental

I suppose we’re beginning to take for granted that pretty much anything is possible in the world of visual effects, only limited to a director or screenwriter’s imagination, and seeing such incredible worlds displayed on the biggest screens we can find, is becoming the norm.  So that is perhaps one reason why this incredible spectacle of boundless imagination and wonder didn’t fair all that well both with critics and the box office.  Oh, and the lack of a big name star probably didn’t help.

Valerian

In the far flung future, two special agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) maintain order throughout the galaxy.  When the minister of defence (Clive Owen) sends them on a mission to floating, over-crowded metropolis … the discovery of a dark force lurking at the city’s core sets into motion a race against time to solve a mystery.

This is a visually spectacular and stylish experience from beginning to end, part Avatar and part director Luc Besson’s own earlier foray into sci-fi, The Fifth Element.  It retains that movies’ bonkers tone that’s decidedly French-European with a little far-east for good measure and well it gives everything a quirky infectiously-entertaining vibe that’s hard to ignore.  However it’s also a great deal to hang on the shoulders of two young leads who aren’t exactly Hollywood A-List or all that charismatic despite best intentions and well, a Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence type-combination would have worked wonders.  That being said, Besson can certainly direct action, understands his source material (a series of graphic novels) and is clearly having a blast introducing us to a rich, diverse and fascinating world, packed with endless possibilities.  The story although engaging fails to deliver on such potential, and like I said performances are serviceable, but as an example of true escapist entertainment … this did it’s job.

Verdict:  4 /5