Spider-Man: Homecoming


Viewed – 05 December 2017  Online-rental

Of all the super-heroes, ol’ Spidy has had some trouble finding sure footing in recent years and for me, there hasn’t been a decent Spidy movie since the second Toby Maguire entry.  However after an enjoyable (if unnecessary) cameo in Captain America: Civil War, the web-slinger has returned in probably one his best received movies since the Sam Raimi directed original. 

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Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is under the watchful eye of billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) aka Iron-Man and so wants to be an official part of The Avengers, not just someone you call on when you’re in a bit of a fix.  So he’s out to prove himself after he witnesses some advanced, out of this world (literally) weapon technology being used by petty thugs.  Turns out there’s a ruthless arms dealer in town who dresses like a robotic vulture.

There’s several things that don’t sit right with me here.  Firstly the constant bumbling, representation of such a beloved character grates after a while, and then his characterisation, without an origin tale or any personal tragedy, is wafer-thin and not something to get all-that caught up in.  Same goes for Michael Keaton’s Vulture, a rather pathetic former salvage worker annoyed by being put out of work by Tony Stark’s bank-rolled clean-up crew following the events of the first Avengers movie, who decides to steal alien technology so to become an arms dealer.  There’s no personal tragedy other than the inconvenience of having to find work elsewhere, and therefore little reason behind what he’s doing other than greed and being a bit of a psychopath.  So what else do we get?  Holland is likeable and well cast as Parker/Spidy, and Keaton is also good despite limited material.  We also get some decent action, including a great sequence at the Washington Monument, and some support characters are fun.  Yet overall this greatly lacks depth and feels like a pilot for a TV show or the opening chapter of a bigger, better story.  I’m guessing that’s the idea … so bring on the inevitable, superior sequel!  After two reboots of ‘meh’ quality however, it’d take something special to get me back on-board.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

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Gerald’s Game


Viewed – 08 October 2017  Netflix

There’s no denying that Stephen King is a hell of a writer and has been responsible for not only countless acclaimed novels and short stories, but also that his work has made for some classic movies.  This latest adaptation, based on the 1992 novel of the same name finds a married couple, Jessie and Gerald who travel to a woodland holiday home in hope of reigniting the fire in their already troubled marriage.  Once there Gerald has the idea of a little kinky bondage and role play, of which Jessie is initially game, that is until Gerald has a heart attack, leaving Jessie to ponder a grim fate.

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This intriguing concept plays out very cleverly, exploring Jessie’s horrible dilemma, whilst throwing in hallucinations and memories of long buried secrets linked to childhood trauma.  It’s brilliantly acted, especially from Carla Gugino (Sin City) who’s plight I found utterly compelling.  Add to this a tense, cleverly written and at times creepy as hell plot and this twisting and turning horror-thriller kept me equal parts guessing and gripped.

I felt reminded of that other, claustrophobic King adaption ‘Misery’, and to a larger extent Oscar magnet ‘127 Hours’, and even if where it finally goes is a little ‘oh of course’, I still was both entertained and particularly impressed by this little low budget thriller I’d pretty much stumbled on by accident.   A simple idea done well it seems, is all that’s needed sometimes.

Verdict:  4 /5

Alien Covenant


Viewed – 03 October 2017  Online-rental

I was optimistic about this one.  I was initially a little hyped when it hit theatres considering that director Ridley Scott not only created the Alien franchise, but also helmed last year’s (for me) ‘movie of the year’ Martian.  So I was thinking, he’s back and bringing Alien back.  Oh was I wrong…

Alien Covenant

The crew of the Covenant are transporting a colony of thousands in hyper sleep, in search of a new planet to call their home.  After receiving a distress call from a near by planet, they choose to, albeit reluctantly investigate.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  Sort of a direct sequel to the much hyped yet bewildering Prometheus, a film I came away disappointed by, this has returning character David, a synthetic android marooned on said planet who the crew of the space ship meet up with.  Amongst their crew is also an identical synthetic called Walter (both are played by Michael Fassbender), who soon finds himself bonding with his look-a-like by way of a drawn out flute lesson (yes you read that right…a flute lesson).

This is a movie in search of an identity.  It wants to be a survival horror typical Alien movie, and then like Prometheus it wants to be a philosophical origin story on both the creation of the Aliens and some mumbo-jumbo mythology involving mankind and bio-engineering.  The problem is it’s very hard to get invested in much of any of it, what with tedious characterisation and a plodding pace.  Fassbender tries his best but is let down by a poor script that is both over-complicated and boring.  Unconvincing CGI for the Aliens doesn’t help either and when crew members start dying off and you’re not even entirely sure which ones they were – the movie has problems.

Alien never needed a deep mythology.  It didn’t need a back story.  The mystery, the foreboding eeriness of H R Giger’s designs was enough – once a director attempts to explain it all, it ultimately kills it … which Scott is very much going to do if he insists on making the franchise something it never needed to be.

Verdict:  2 /5

The Fly


Viewed – 29 August 2017  Blu-ray

It’s hard to believe this movie came out in 1986.  It’s look and atmosphere still feel contemporary and semi-futuristic bar some 80s fashions and hair styles.  This retelling / remake of the 1950’s b-movie has Jeff Goldblum on star-making form as eccentric scientist Seth Brundel, who after inviting a plucky reporter (Gina Davis) to his lab, reveals he has invented a teleportation device.  However after the initial reveal, Brundel decides to teleport himself but makes the mistake of allowing a common house fly inside the pod, therefore setting into motion a grotesque and alarming physical transformation.

The Fly

This is perfect material for director David Cronenberg (Scanners, Videodrome) who has always had an interest in body-horror and transformation in his movies.  However beyond the gory effects (that still impress and revolt) this is a tragic love story.  Helped immeasurably by convincing chemistry from the leads (who were a real life couple at the time) and a strikingly complex turn from Goldblum … watching events play out is both emotionally draining and exciting.  It’s a very unique kind of horror experience, with no actual evil enemy but more a horrible set of circumstances. In that respect it’s not unlike The Elephant Man.  It may be at it’s core fairly simple and only really has three characters … but what Cronenberg achieves with such simple tools is a revelation and made this an instant classic.

The Blu-ray has a decent if slightly soft image but colours are strong and close-up detail is good.  The soundtrack in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is also effective with atmospherics and Howard Shore’s obvious b-movie throwback score both doing their job.  The only slight let down is somewhat mono sounding dialogue that whilst still clear could have done with sprucing up.  Extras are plentiful though with an essential commentary from Cronenberg as well as some worthwhile deleted scenes, press kits, behind the scenes stuff and photo galleries.  Overall a decent job for a genuine horror gem.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

The Game


Viewed – 22 August 2017  Blu-ray

20th Anniversary Edition

As an admirer of director David Fincher, this thriller from 1997 was one of those movies I’d forgotten he’d actually made.  At the time still riding high after the success of Seven, this rather high-concept but somewhat under-the-radar effort proved an obvious follow up; throwing in all the traits we’d come to expect from the director – bags of style, a twisting narrative and an attention to detail that has him often compared to Stanley Kubrick.

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Michael Douglas stars as wealthy businessman Nicholas Van Orton, a guy who seemingly has it all but is ultimately cold and miserable.  That is until on the day of his birthday, his brother, played by Sean Penn gives him the gift of ‘the game’.  Baffled and intrigued at the same time, Nicholas agrees to attend an interview at the organization responsible … and so sets into motion a unique thriller that clearly borrows from the likes of Hitchcock as Nicholas struggles to stay one step ahead of an increasingly bizarre series of events.

I’ve always liked Michael Douglas and he’s very good here, proving complex and likable for a character that is otherwise mean spirited and selfish.  Penn hams it up a little bit but proves enjoyable and Deborah Kara Unger is also decent.  The idea itself is great but ultimately isn’t fully realised and despite Fincher’s assured direction and best intentions … it could have gone further, been more elaborate but sticks rigidly to plausibility for the most part (despite throwing all that out the window for the final act).  Not one of Fincher’s best but still worth a look or revisiting for the concept or if you’re a fan of either Douglas or Fincher.

The Blu-ray boasts a quality image despite the occasionally soft-looking exterior or wide angle shots.  Close-up detail is good and dark scenes offer plenty of detail.  The movie is delivered in DTS Master Audio 5.1 and is for the most part punchy and immersive, even if in certain scenes dialogue gets a little lost in the atmospherics.  Extras consist of merely a couple of trailers – very poor, but perhaps not surprising for one of the director’s more over-looked movies.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3 /5