My 2017 – a look back (part one)


I think at least as far as entertainment is concerned its been a pretty good year.  There’s been ups and downs as there is every year, disappointments and resounding successes.  So I thought I’d do a look back and therefore have decided to split this into two posts over the next week or so … leading up top my annual Top Ten of the Year on 31 December (please check back for that).

January to June

The year started off rather interestingly, with the absolutely nutty The Greasy Strangler … a movie I had heard a lot about.  The eventual experience was a bit ‘wtf?’ and remains probably the oddest, most out-there movie I’ve seen all year, and not in a good way.  The biggest let down though of the month (and year) was undeniably Trainspotting 2.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but this trapped-in-the-past, albeit entertianing sequel delivered nothing to either repeat the gritty cool of the original or offer anything new.  It’s not a terrible movie but it just had very little to warrant it’s existence.

iPadAir2One of my favourite gadgets this year has been my iPad Air 2 which I picked up in January, and use regularly for so many things…other than my phone (which I’ll get to in party two) it’s been my go to gadget of choice.  Hell or High-water was a particular highlight and a solid robbers on the lam sort-of western with two great performances from Chris Pine and Ben Foster, even if I thought Jeff Bridges was a little over-hyped.

Deepwater Horizon was a great disaster movie based on real events with a stand out turn from the always enjoyable Mark Wahlberg.  February was also when I played the return-to-form latest entry in one of my favourite gaming franchises:  Resident Evil 7.  One of the few games this year I saw through to the end, but this gripping, at times genuinely frightening and action-packed game truly put the franchise back on track.   Around this time I began to deep dive further into music having subscribed to Apple Music and I have discovered some really great artists this past year, which started out with Tegan and Sara as well as Chvrches, PVRIS, Royal Blood and many more (I’ll be covering my music highlights more in part two).

Train to Busan

March delivered one of my firm favourite movies of the year, the Korean zombie horror Train to Busan, which was a brilliantly executed thrill-ride with great characterisation and top-notch production values.  Look out for it in my end of year Top Ten.  March also delivered more highlights in the form of the enjoyable if a tad over-hypoed Doctor Strange, as well as the charming and touching A Street Cat Named Bob.  However the good times had to come to an abrupt stop in the surprisingly poor Kong: Skull Island which offered some truly awful characters, only saved slightly by some fun monster smack down action.  What Tom Hiddleston was doing in this is anyone’s guess though.  Thankfully it was only a short-lived blip as I then got to see another favourite of the year, Logan – with a career defining performance by the often underrated Hugh Jackman.  If you haven’t seen this one yet … remedy that immediately – it’s really that good.

Nintendo_Switch

The end of March also saw me pick up what has been a really worthwhile purchase this year, the Nintendo Switch!  As with any Nintendo console, it was a bit of a risk.  Gamecube failed after only a short run, the Wii was a major success but lacked games, and well I didn’t bother with the Wii U.  Thankfully with games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Steamworld Dig 2 and Super Mario Odyssey it’s been the games console I’ve played the most in 2017 without a doubt. 

April was the month this blog reached it’s 10 year anniversary.  Wow…had it really been that long?  I’m not popular, what I discuss on here is a crowded field to say the least, and standing out is difficult.  However let it be said I still very much enjoy expressing myself on here and appreciate every visitor, every like and every comment when I get them.  Thank you to all who stop by!

Despite being one of my favourite actresses, Scarlett Johansson’s much anticipated Ghost in the Shell, whilst entraining didn’t turn out to be all that it could have been despite some great visuals.  However Tom Hanks delivered a solid performance as always in the based on true events Sully.  I also recently started getting back into the highly-imaginative world of Persona 5 (released in April) which is unique and cleverly done, despite some typical Jap-RPG gameplay trappings.  Suppose all that Switch goodness proved a distraction this year and there’s many games I need to also go back to.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-2

In May I saw more highlights of the year, firstly the highly entertaining (if not quite as refreshing) Guardians of the Galaxy 2 boasting some great turns especially from Kurt Russell.  Then the Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle Nocturnal Animals was also an interesting take on a relationship drama that struck a cord and proved powerful and clever.  Yet the over-hyped and generally rather tiresome La La Land was a huge disappointment with a lack of memorable songs for a musical and bland characterisation despite featuring a great cast.

As June rolled around I finally managed to see the highly acclaimed Hacksaw Ridge and came away humbled and suitably impressed.  It was a very different approach for a war movie but director Mel Gibson and star Andrew Garfield nailed it.  Following this possibly the best comic book movie of the year was released; Wonder WomanGal Gadot was born to play this roll and with a great dirty-dozen meets fish out of water storyline I really had a great time with this one.  I also got around to watching bullet fest sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 which although simply more of the same was still pretty damn good and well, who doesn’t enjoy Keanu Reeves obliterating bad-guys?

Xbox One X

June also saw the annual videogame convention ‘E3’ arrive which promised a great deal from the three big gaming giants Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo and highlights included the reveal of the Xbox One X, more footage of the highly-anticipated Super Mario Odyssey and Sony’s God of War amongst many more.  It was a pretty exciting time to be a gamer and 2017 was only to prove itself as a classic year in gaming history.

Well, that’s it for part one of this look back.  Phew, it’s been a pretty packed year when looking back and there’s plenty more to come.  Look out for Part Two this time next week!

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Craig’s Movie Report 10th Anniversary


10th Anniversary

Has it really been that long?  Today marks this blog’s 10th anniversary since my very first post.  I may not be all that popular compared to other blogs and I suppose my blog’s subjects are not that unique to grab a big audience, and well I don’t pay for advertisers to help boost my views either.  Yet I have enjoyed and continue to enjoy writing this bog, sharing my opinions and what’s going on in my life.  I hope whomever takes the time to read anything I post, takes something away from it, either interest for a movie they had been wanting to see, discovering a movie they may not have previously been aware of, or just enjoy my writing style and what I have to say.

A big thank you goes out to regular readers and subscribers for your continued support.  I may be a small-time blogger but I’m dedicated and I appreciate every comment and view and like that I receive.  Keep coming back and I’ll keep posting.  Don’t forget you can also find me on Twitter and Facebook (<<< click) which you can also find on the panel to your right >>>

Here’s to the next ten years!

Craig.

Grimsby


Viewed – 28 November 2016 DVD

aka The Brothers Grimsby

For starters, you don’t watch a Sacha Baron Cohen movie unless you have a pretty broad sense of humour.  Luckily I do and really stupid, often crude comedies tickles my funny bone almost every time.  This latest effort sees him as a local Grimsby guy, who lives on a housing estate, has an army of kids, gets drunk down the pub with his mates – you get the picture.  However ‘Nobby’ hasn’t seen his younger brother for over twenty years, following a stint in an orphanage as children, and is surprised to bump into him during a day trip to London.  However said brother, played by Mark Strong is now a deadly spy on a top secret mission – of which Nobby interrupts and causes all manner of calamity.

The Brothers Grimsby

It’s a brilliant premise and one that Baron Cohen takes to with vigour.  He’s a seriously gifted comedy actor and this latest creation, whilst not a huge leap from his Ali G persona is brilliantly observed and the idea makes for plenty of spot on gags and very funny encounters … especially if like I said, you have a liking for utterly crude, juvenile humour.  At times it all goes a bit too far (the elephant scene) and some situations are just ridiculous, but with Baron Cohen’s enthusiasm, and a great supporting casting including Penelope Cruze, Ian McShane and Ricky Tomlinson … along with some actually very well implemented action sequences (football hooligan vs martial arts expert?) – I still got a kick out of this.

As far as a spy movie plot goes, it’s nothing special, but I did like how some jokes earlier on had even funnier pay-offs later.  For fan’s of Sacha Baron Cohen this is a no-brainer, and for anyone after a good laugh, as long as you aren’t easily offended, I say check this one out immediately.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

What makes a movie get 5 out of 5?


movie viewingThis is something I’ve been meaning to talk about for a while.  What makes a movie, at least for me score the full 5 /5 points on this blog?  It’s for one thing not about perfection.  Even the greatest movies you could pick issues with, no … to score such a score, a movie I think needs to first and foremost entertain, and then also surprise.  I sometimes go into a movie not expecting much and then can be pleasantly surprised when I enjoy it, or I can be hyped about a movie, love it and then discover it manages to throw something in I couldn’t have predicted – sometimes that’s an emotional feeling like a sad or heart-wrenching scene, or a feel good uplifting scene … or in the case of say a horror movie, managing to genuinely scare me when I’m a totally jaded horror fan (The Conjuring).

To score full marks a movie can be flawed, it can have some issues, but those issues must not annoy or distract from the overall experience.  I have so far given just one movie this year 5 /5 which had only been moderately hyped; Straight Outta Compton.  But it surprised me, had an effect on me I didn’t expect and entertained massively; doing it’s job well without throwing in anything that took away from the intended experience.  I love cinema, movies and the art of movie making so a movie that is both well acted and well made on a technical level scores a lot of points with me (Bird Man).

movie viewing 2

Yet giving this score is something I don’t do easily and often ruminate over whether that movie really deserves it.  I’ve been tempted to knock a movie down to a 4 in the past for exactly that reason, but then again I don’t think a 5 /5 is something to only be given to a tiny few.  It should be an award for a movie doing not just what it set out to do, but doing it well enough that it creates an experience that is both memorable and leaves the viewer feeling satisfied.  All the movies I have granted this score to have done that for me …. not all will necessarily hold up to that experience over repeated viewings, but … this blog is about first impressions, on seeing a movie for the very first time mostly, so I have to go with my initial reaction, even if that movie is either better or worse on a second viewing.  It can happen, and movies I’ve marked down improve when seen a second time.  But I also am a great believer in that a movie should do it’s job first time around, and if it needs to be seen multiple times to fully appreciate it, then there is something fundamentally wrong.  There are exceptions to this such as movies like The Usual Suspects or Mulholland Drive which are so intricate in their storytelling they’re actually difficult to get one’s head around first time.

movie viewing 3So a little advise for anyone just starting out in review writing, something I would never say I am an expert at but have been doing it as a hobby for many years enough to know what I like when I see it … Your enjoyment comes into the final score, Your taste can effect the final score, but always take into account what the movie is attempting to achieve – does it do this?  Does it do it well?  And most importantly if you are going to give it full marks – does it make you feel, think or experience anything you hadn’t initially expected it to?  If all of the above is a yes and your expectations were met, then that’s top marks, depending of course on your scoring system.

Above all else, enjoy movies, cinema and the whole experience.  Movies for me, are there to entertain and effect the viewer, to mean something or do a particular job.  If they fail to do any of those then I’ll score them appropriately based on their merits and what the movie was trying to achieve.  Happy movie watching everyone!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Viewed – 09 January 2015  DVD

I remember being quite heavily into these characters when I was a kid.  I especially liked the comics and the animated TV series.  However I don’t recall being that fussed by the movie and don’t even think I saw them all (were there three in total?).  Yet a friend recently recommended this reboot and so I thought I’d give it a go.

tmnt

Transformers’ Megan Fox plays plucky reporter April O’Neil who is hungry for a story that will further her career.  One night she stumbles upon the latest criminal activities of The Foot Clan just as they are stopped in their tracks by a mysterious vigilante.  Thinking this may be her chance April decides to track down the vigilante for herself in hopes of impressing her boss Whoopie Goldberg.

Coming from Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes this feels and looks very much like Transformers, and that’s good or bad depending on your liking of that franchise (think garish high contrast cinematography and lots of things going boom).  Personally I loved the first one and this origin tale is perfectly entertaining and packed with well executed action and heaps of style.  The Turtles themselves are brilliantly realised, full of personality and although entirely CGI, it’s good CGI so that’s ok.  Fox also proves a little bit more than just eye candy even if her comedy sidekick / potential love interest pervs over her more than is strictly necessary.  Alas, the movie’s villains are very basic and not really all that interesting or particularly explored – they’re just evil and power hungry and their big plan is nothing even remotely new.  It’s also very predictable, in way too much of a rush to get to it’s conclusion and at times rather silly.

I enjoyed myself however and it’s difficult to get too bogged down with it’s cliches or redundant plotting when it all looks good and has enough one liners, site gags and quality action (with great use of slow-mo) to leave your brain happily on auto-pilot.

Verdict:  3 /5