Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse


Viewed – 19 July 2019. Online rental

I wasn’t that fussed about watching this. This is mainly down to the fact, I’ve found the recent Spider-Man movies underwhelming.  However I kept hearing good things about this, especially the animation so I thought I’d give it a go.  Miles, a young black kid with a talent for graffiti, gets bitten by a radioactive spider after trespassing into an underground facility.  There he witnesses a battle between Spider-Man and various super villains just as an experimental device creates an inter-dimensional rip in reality.  Soon after Miles discovers he has wall crawling abilities just as various other ‘Spider-Men’ appear from alternative realities.

Immediately I was taken back by the excellent animation and particularly wowed by how it combines the look of 2D comic book art with CGI – it’s certainly a style I want to see more of.  The story whilst initially a bit cliched anchors itself with convincing relationships and a solid learning-to-be-a-hero ark.  The various multi-verse versions of Spider-Man are also a great idea ranging from a brooding noir style to Japanese animation and even a Porky Pig-style incarnation.  We also get the semi-usual Spider-Man and even Spider-Gwen.  Action throughout is also crazy-inventive, exciting and a visual showcase.

Villain Kingpin’s look is a tad too exaggerated for my liking, but characters like The Prowler (something about that guy sends shivers) and Doctor Octopus are a welcome addition.  For a movie called ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ the fact multiverses aren’t especially explored is disappointing, and the final battle has a bit of a weak conclusion.  However for a Spider-Man movie this is a clear step up from The Amazing Spider-Man movies and even Homecoming.  A firm recommendation.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Garbage thrills at Leeds


Well, there was such anticipation and nervous excitement for me leading up to my fourth time seeing my favourite band. You see, Garbage remain the only band I’ll make the effort to actually go and see live even if it means travelling miles to get to them. Accompanied by a good friend as well as meeting up with another fellow Garbage fan, even before the show we hung around by the stage door and the band’s tour bus for the hope of a chance encounter. I wasn’t disappointed … guitarist Duke Erikson came out to say hello as well as touring bass player Eric Avery and stand-in drummer Matt Walker (standing in for Butch Vig who had to stay at home due to a recent shoulder injury). They were all so nice and down-to-earth.

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The concert itself was amazing. Fourth time seeing them I was slightly wondering if they would be as impressive as previously … suffice to say this was one of the best performances I’ve witnessed yet. Lead singer, Edinburgh born Shirley Manson was on fantastic form with plenty of charisma and energy and belted out hits like ‘Stupid Girl’ and ‘I Think I’m Paranoid’ as well as lesser known tracks like the haunting ‘On Fire’ … to a very appreciative crowd that were constantly jumping about and singing along. It was intense, adrenaline-fuelled and for me a genuine, life-affirming treat. Words can barely describe what it meant to this long-time fan but as the show ended I was on cloud nine.

My friends and I then decided to hang out by the stage door again and after a while, low and behold Shirley Manson came out to say hello, sign autographs and have pictures taken. She is simply the best. Even now, two days afterwards I can’t believe my luck and am pinching myself that it wasn’t just a very vivid dream.

A fan shot video of the band performing ‘Push It’ to a very energetic crowd.

To me, Garbage are and always will be a fantastic band to be into and I feel so proud to call myself a fan and a darkling.

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Shirley and myself after the show.

Green Book


Viewed- 09 July 2019. Online rental

After seeing the trailer for this drama I had a strong feeling it would be good. Viggo Mortensen, an actor I feel I haven’t seen in anything for a while, plays Tony Lip a bouncer who after a stint at the coppacabana comes to an end finds himself out of work with a wife and kids to provide for. As an Italian, Tony tries to avoid working for the local mob and instead gets a job chauffeuring former child prodigy and pianist Dr Don Shirley who happens to be African-American. So begins an unlikely pairing and a journey of self discovery for both men.

This entertaining and engrossing drama boasts two strong performances aided by a story inspired by true events. The mismatched pairing mixed with a road trip may be familiar fair but it’s the gravitas of the real-world spot light it puts not only on racism and prejudice in 60s America but also that of different classes and how throwing such people together can change otherwise narrow-minded opinions. The movie is often funny with Mortensen brilliant as a loveable wise-guy type and the gradual bonding and chemistry that is formed between the characters is heart-warming and particularly thought-provoking.

Yes the story doesn’t quite tackle the real ugliness of racism and offers up a more palatable take on the subject but I’d say that works in the movie’s favour and makes this a must watch.

Verdict: 5 /5

Look Away


Viewed – 06 July 2019. Online rental

Occasionally a concept will grab my attention immediately and this eerie thriller is one such example. A bullied, introverted schoolgirl finds herself turning to her own reflection who’s sinister intentions gradually start to take control.

A story about a teenage girl, fitting in at high school , bullies and going to the prom whilst hiding a potentially deadly secret. Yep this certainly has echoes of Carrie but also brings in a few other elements such as the doppelgänger / alter-ego, peer pressure and a surprising amount of (attempted) eroticism. However as sexy as the movie tries to be, even when blended with the supernatural … a rather pubescent-looking lead actress made for, occasionally uncomfortable viewing. It’s also a movie that wastes potential on a clearly undeveloped script.

Which is a shame, as the dual performance (with some clever camera trickery) by relative unknown India Esley is decent and support from Mira Sorvino and especially Jason Isaacs means this isn’t quite the straight to VOD it otherwise appears to be. Yet the ending was unsatisfying with the movie giving too many hints at a larger story that’s ultimately left to the viewers imagination. In other hands that may have worked but here … it just doesn’t.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Toy Story 4


Viewed – 25 June 2019 Cinema

When toy cowboy ‘Woody’ (voiced by Tom Hanks) finds himself sidelined by new owner ‘Bonnie’ in favour of other toys, he finds new found purpose after Bonnie’s hand-made new toy ‘Forky’ goes missing at a carnival during a family road trip. At the same time Woody is reunited with his old flame, Bo Peep (Annie Potts).

I was looking forward to this. I’m a big fan of the other movies and couldn’t wait for the further adventures of Woody, Buzz and the gang. This time around we are introduced to a new villain, antique shop dwelling Doll ‘Gabby Gabby’ (Christina Hendricks). Yet despite initial promise with her brilliantly creepy Ventriloquist doll henchmen, she just failed to live up to her potential. The same could also be said for wasting the presence of such established characters as Jessie, T-Rex or even Buzz Lightyear (who is mostly demoted to a supporting role). Instead the movie focuses on Woody and Bo Peep which is at least different, even if Bo’s topical feminist symbolism was a bit too on the nose.

With that said, Forky is a welcome addition and gets all the best gags, and the movie looks as expected, stunning – the CGI animation often wowing this viewer. The caper at play here, if a little typical is still great fun too. The heart-strings get pulled firmly towards the end and the key characters are well written with at times real emotional depth. Overall though, this fails to be quite as sharp, clever or funny as what’s come before and the plot was not as engaging, Looking back, Toy Story 3 had everything come full circle. This however, whilst still worthwhile … didn’t have much more to say.

Verdict: 3.5 /5