Moonfall


Viewed – 26 April 2022 online rental

Now I can certainly enjoy a disaster movie. Earlier in the year the Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle Don’t Look Up proved a unique take on the subject, so upon hearing one of the genres go-to directors, Roland Emmerich (Independence Day) was returning, I thought this could by good. Starring The Conjuring’s Patrick Wilson as a former astronaut and Halle Berry as a Nasa executive, this sets up the idea of what would happen if the moon suddenly changed its orbit of Earth and started headed for a collision?

You might be thinking Deep Impact or Armageddon and you’d be right. Despite its concept this felt incredibly familiar. Wilson is fine in his role as is Berry, supported by a likeable John Bradley (Game of Thrones) as a nerdy conspiracy theorist. However everyone else is incredibly wooden. The young actor playing Wilson’s rebellious son is just awful, with very robotic line delivery. Same can be said for Berry’s military officer ex husband. As the impending doom worsens, it’s clear the money was mostly spent on the effects, as this is where Director Emmerich’s movies have faired the best and this is no exception. At times they are impressive and effective, even if there’s also a few obvious green screen moments that look really fake.

The last half hour or so of the movie got a lot more interesting as it’s revealed just what is happening to the moon, and despite some plot revelations that are quite bonkers and a bit too familiar … I did feel there was a decent sci-fi story buried under the mediocrity. The movie just lacked polish, its script felt rushed (the world falls into chaos from just an internet post??) and the casting was lacking. Overall, not much to recommend here.

Verdict: Poor

Spider-Man No Way Home


Viewed – 13 April 2022 online-rental

Where do I begin talking about one of the biggest movies of last year? This third entry in the rebooted franchise starring Tom Holland follows directly on from the last movie that ended with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio revealing Spider-Man’s true identity to the world. Faced with being recognised and harassed everywhere he goes, Peter Parker / Spider-Man turns to Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to alter time and cause people to forget who Spider-Man is … however things don’t go according to plan.

This is up there with one of the boldest concepts for a superhero movie. Hyped leading up to its release due to the fact the movie brings back a number of classic villains from all the previous Spidy movies – including Alfred Molina’s Dr Octopus … I was nervous the wealth of ideas and characters wouldn’t come together in a coherent, easy to follow way. Thankfully, the writers did a commendable job here and deliver a fun, constantly surprising and highly entertaining ‘spectacle’. There’s room in its 2 and a half hour run time for action, comedy and some powerful character moments that definitely had my heart-strings tugged.

Effects wise, even for a Marvel movie this reaches new levels – a fight between Spider-Man and Dr Strange is simply jaw dropping. A special mention should also go to the de-ageing effects for certain returning characters which is probably the most convincing I’ve yet seen. At times there are some plot conveniences that stand out and a bit involving a ‘cure’ remedy feels a stretch – I’m also still pondering that gut-punch of an ending. Yet considering what’s going on and the fact it mostly all works – this was still a triumph. Not the masterpiece it’s been heralded as, but still a great time from start to finish.

Verdict: Recommended

Hero


Viewed – 11 March 2022 Blu-ray

Asian Cinema Season

Not often has Chinese / Hong Kong action cinema been privy to the big budgets you see for a major Hollywood production, but following the Oscar success of Ang Lee’s acclaimed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came this lavish, beautifully filmed movie. Director Yi-Mou Zhang’s (Raise the Red Lantern) 2002 action/drama stars Kung fu star Jet Li as a lone assassin on the brink of completing his mission, who recants his journey and the foes he has overcome to be before his intended target.

Kung fu art

Told in a series of flashbacks, what’s most notable about this is that each flashback is given its own colour scheme; sequences shot in garish red with red costumes and red tinged scenery, or blue costumes and blue scenery and so on. It’s a very effective approach and looks stunning. Add to this several visually creative fight scenes, and although the style is excessive and not exactly realistic, it gives the movie a distinct personality.

As this is mostly of the wire-enhanced style martial arts, it can occasionally look a bit silly, but under Zhang’s direction it’s cool and exciting more often than it’s not. Li is stoic throughout, but proves an effective lead, even if the more emotional and deeper performances come from Maggie Cheung (In the Mood for Love) and Tony Leung (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings). The story at times gets bogged down in philosophy too, and isn’t quite as engaging as I’d have liked. Regardless, this was still very entertaining and is possibly one of the best looking movies I’ve ever seen. Check it out.

Verdict: Recommended

Eternals


Viewed – 21 January 2022 Disney+

A group of immortal super beings who have lived amongst us for centuries, travel the planet seeking out and killing a race of creatures knows as deviants. Their mission is to aid mankind’s development through the ages. In the present day, an estranged Eternals have to regroup when a new threat endangers the planet.

The new Avengers?

This latest Marvel Studios effort introduces a new group of heroes, and after countless Avengers, Spider-Man and Captain America movies it was refreshing to see these newer characters (outside of the comics). Casting is decent, with names like Angelina Jolie and Salam Hayek being joined by Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden and Train to Busan’s Don Lee. What this generally is, is an epic saga following the lives of these characters over the ages, feeling at times like a pilot to a TV series. However under the direction of Chloe Zhao (Nomadland) a lot is crammed into an energetic 2hrs 38 minutes. The cinematography is often gorgeous, aided by not only a globe-trotting storyline but also the wealth of IMAX shots (yes I watched that version) and it certainly delivers a visual treat. Action is also plentiful and the various abilities of the characters make for some exciting and imaginative encounters.

The story is a bit ‘out there’ and doesn’t entirely add up, and an appearance by Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington comes off as an after-thought. Yet with some good character melodrama amongst the action and spectacle, I must admit I enjoyed this. The CGI is decent and the various twists and turns definitely caught me off guard. Better than it’s lukewarm reputation may have you believe and I for one look forward to what we get next.

Verdict: Good+

Dune


Viewed – 18 December 2021 online rental

Set in the distant future, a family dynasty are awarded the responsibility of reining over the planet of Arakis, a world who’s deserts contain a valuable resource called ‘spice’, sort after throughout the galaxy. As the only air to his family’s empire Paul Atreides stands on the brink of a greater destiny only hinted at in his dreams.

Under the direction of Denis Villeneuve, who gave us Blade Runner 2049 as well as sci-if gem Arrival… it’s clear that Frank Herbert’s epic tome couldn’t be in better hands. Bathed in a haunting, majestic beauty, this ‘part one’ of a proposed saga is arguably the year’s most visually captivating movie. Brought to the big-screen previously by David Lynch, this carries over the same structure and plot details whilst creating a feel all it’s own, managing to weave a Shakespearean-like tale of warring houses that also made me think of Game of Thrones. Casting is solid, with decent performances including a sensual Rebecca Ferguson, suitably supported by Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa. However the story sits on the shoulders of young newcomer Timothee Chalomet, who thankfully manages such a task in an understated yet capable turn.

The first half did take its time building characters and plot, and I found some elements easy to get lost by such as the various races / houses. So this may not be the easily digestible space opera of Star Wars, yet was still full of imagination and had some decent action … and as the credits rolled, with the promise of a story just beginning – I was left thirsty for more.

Verdict: Recommended