Aquaman


Viewed – 23 June 2019. Blu-ray

When Nicole Kidman’s Atlantian queen washes up before a lighthouse, her forbidden love with land-dweller Temuera Morrison produces Arthur a half-breed who grows up to become underwater superhero Aquaman. However despite his reluctance to be the hero he’s destined to become, a war at his home world of Atlantis causes his own kind to come calling.

This colourful, energetic comic book adaption has a potentially star-making central performance from Game of Thrones’ Jason Momoa and delivers a setting that immediately intrigues. It’s a shame then, that an over-use of CGI and green screen means that almost nothing in this looks like it was shot on location, leading to a largely artificial look and feel. Add to this a cliched story I felt I’d already watched with strong resemblances to the Thor films and Black Panther, with predictable revelations and plot twists … and what’s left is a movie that feels like it arrived too late for its own party. Momoa is charismatic and well cast and handles a plethora of fight sequences with genuine skill and showmanship, and the gorgeous Amber Heard is equally enjoyable. Willem Defoe feels kind of miscast and despite often being cast as the villain – should still have been the villain (Patrick Wilson is largely forgettable) and what really, is Dolph Lundgren doing here?

With that all said it’s hard not to be entertained. The action is slick and at times jaw-dropping (a particular roof top chase is heart-in-mouth exciting) and at times it’s really feel good. It re-introduces the character (following Justice League) well and brings with it a fascinating underwater world ripe for sequels. Just a pity it’s all feels so deja-vu.

Verdict: 3 /5

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Glass


Viewed – 11 June 2019 DVD

I was on the fence about this. I liked but didn’t love Split, and having watched Unbreakable a while back and feeling mixed about it … I wasn’t exactly jumping to watch M Night Shyamalan’s somewhat forced-feeling shared world third entry.

This picks up not long after the end of Split and introduces us to a psychiatrist who brings the three main characters together in an institute to try and convince them that they’re not special or super human. The concept is certainly interesting and brings a realism to it that works well to explore the idea of superheroes in the real world. Unlike last time, James McAvoy’s multi-personality character is far more explored and I grew very impressed by the performance and when ‘the beast’ personality was in full-throttle I was getting Wolverine vibes from the guy who currently plays Doctor X! Bruce Willis is good but is a little overshadowed by McAvoy and of course Samuel L. Jackson who surprisingly steals the show for a character who doesn’t speak a word for a good portion of the movie.

There’s times when the world-building gets a bit convoluted and a final twist whilst welcome also threw up its own questions. Yet for me, this is certainly the best of the trilogy and creates plenty of potential for further movies if Shyamalan cares to pursue the idea. So I went from initially dismissive of this to actually surprised and impressed. Recommended.

Verdict: 4 /5

Badlands


Viewed – 25 May 2019. Blu-ray

When I heard this 1973 drama was getting a release on the UK division of The Criterion Collection, for a film I had always wanted to see in its entirety – I jumped at the chance. Loosely based on the true story of the state-to-state murder spree of Charles Starkweather and his 14 year old girlfriend Caril Anne Fugate … this changes the names and certain incidents to explore an unconventional love story between Martin Sheen’s Kit and Sissy Spacek’s Holly as they go on the run across the badlands of Montana.

Director Terence Malick, a celebrated auteur delivers an atmospheric, particularly artsy drama that’s never quite as exciting or eventful as it’s premise suggests, going more for a love letter to the American wilderness, some rather gorgeous vistas and an exploration of young love with the backdrop of gradually increasing violence. Spacek narrates like a love sick school kid and her reactions to Kit’s murderous ways are naive and dismissive, which creates a bit of a weird vibe. The influences this later had on movies like True Romance and Natural Born Killers are obvious, but its not quite as entertaining as those movies and is more a movie of ‘it’s time’ and should probably be appreciated as such.

Sheen & Spacek are both very watchable and Sheen has probably never been more iconic what with his James Dean swagger. The movie also has an enjoyably whimsical atmosphere, which I suppose gives the whole thing its own identity. Worth a watch then, but for me hardly essential.

The Criterion Collection once again delivers. The movie whilst often rather soft focus has had the full 4k restoration treatment, and looks great, showcasing the movies naturalistic photography well. The soundtrack whilst only in uncompressed mono is clear and effective-enough. Extras although nearly all archive are plentiful with a 42 minute making of, interviews and an episode of American Justice exploring the real-life crimes of Charles Starkweather. There’s also detailed booklet included, boasting an essay by filmmaker Michael Almereyda. No audio commentary is a bit of a shame but this is otherwise solid treatment for a cult favourite that’s fascinating and enjoyable but not quite the ‘classic’ it’s often celebrated as.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3 /5

(the Blu-ray) 4 /5

Avengers: Endgame


Viewed – 30 April 2019. Cinema

This year’s most hyped movie begins with a rather gentle ‘where the world is now’ first act that sets a melancholy tone for this sequel and eases the viewer into a complicated turn of events to ‘put right what once went wrong’. As anyone could predict after that ending for Infinity War … this is all about time travel as Ant Man gets a disbanded team of the surviving Avengers back together to attempt a risky mission to claim the infinity stone before Thanos originally did.

So what we get are several very entertaining sequences taking place in earlier time periods (but mostly the first Avengers movie) that prove funny, exciting and rather clever … if it wasn’t for the fact that this movie turns time-travel conventions as we’ve come to understand like ‘the butterfly effect’ on their head. This leads to a few moments of ‘hang on, how can they do that? Won’t that change such and such…’ which proved problematic for me.

That aside, banter between the various characters is at the forefront and brilliantly comical and well written. also throwing in a few emotionally poignant scenes between the characters we have grown attached to over the years. Add to this some slick action (Captain America v Captain America?), epic battles and feel-good moments this still delivered a satisfying, at times awe-inspiring piece of cinematic grandeur. Shame then, that towards the end it had to hit a few of those pc-culture tick boxes that came across as obvious and totally unnecessary. So not quite the masterpiece I hoped for, but regardless I still had a great time.

verdict: 4 /5

Pet Sematary


Viewed – 10 April 2019. Cinema

I went into this with expectations dialled down mostly because I don’t consider the 1989 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel all that great. However, a remake is a chance to improve upon a concept so there’s every reason to hope this one fairs better. A doctor (Jason Clarke) and his family move to a rural town and soon befriend the kind old man across the road (John Lithgow) who eventually introduced them to the Pet Cemetery in the woods, located on the family’s land. However following an unfortunate incident involving the pet cat and a lorry, the old neighbour suggests burying the animal beyond the pet cemetery. So of course, the cat comes back and sets in motion a spiral of increasingly macabre events.

Pet Sematary

The movie quickly resorts to cliches like ‘we should never have moved here’ way before that sort of thinking seems reasonable. Also, John Lithgow surprisingly fails to have the screen presence of the originals Fred Gwyn with delivery for such iconic lines as ‘the soil of a man’s heart…’ and ‘sometimes dead is better’ coming off rather half-arsed. However Jason Clarke is decent aided by a memorable turn from Jeta Laurence as his daughter. Flashbacks to the wife’s memories of twisted-spine sister ‘Zelda’ is also cranked up in the freakiness and jump-scares department and really, turns out to be the movie’s most disturbing aspect. Also changes to the final act help explain-away some of the more ludicrous developments of the original, but also come off as even sillier somehow.

So this remake wasn’t terrible and at times genuinely scary, but like the original … I can’t help but feel that the concept is overall flawed.

Verdict: 3 /5