Terminator: Dark Fate


Viewed – 30 October 2019. Cinema

I genuinely don’t think there’s ever been a truly bad Terminator movie. I’m also happy to say that whilst this doesn’t break the mould, it doesn’t ruin that tradition either. A bad-ass female resistance soldier travels back in time from a ‘war against the machines’ future to protect a young Mexican woman who is the target of a new Terminator that may just be the deadliest yet. Lucky for them there is help from Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton).

James Cameron, producer and series creator has said this is the true follow up to T2 and ignores the other sequels. It certainly feels closer to his vision than any other and the inclusion of Hamilton’s Sarah Conner cannot be underestimated. However as it turns out she’s mostly here to link movies, and a jarring plot twist early on basically makes her involvement pointless. Natalia Reyes as Dani, the Terminator’s target is a little bland also. The saving grace then, ironically is Mackenzie Davis as Grace, the cybernetically-enhanced resistance soldier who proves this movie’s most compelling aspect.

Action is decent, the CGI impressive (if at times over done) and the pace relentless (occasionally to the movie’s detriment) but this concept has always been exciting and it’s no different here. Arnie turns up after a while and proves a real scene-stealer. Yet unlike the masterpiece that was T2 there’s little wow-factor here, and the sense of a franchise finally being milked dry. But for seasoned fans like myself, this still entertained.

Verdict: 3 /5

Men In Black: International


Viewed – 29 October 2019 online-rental

I wasn’t expecting much from this but as a casual fan of the other movies (although I never got around to seeing the second movie), I suppose a desire for easy watching fun and the usual reliability of Chris Hemswoeth grabbed my attention.

This follows the story of a woman (Thor Ragarok’s Tessa Thompson) who following an alien encounter as a child has always dreamed of joining the top secret organisation that turned up that fateful night but didn’t do the mind-zap thing on her like they did to her parents. As an adult she gets her chance and is quickly recruited and given a job to join the London division headed by Liam Neeson. There she is quickly partnered with Chris Hemsworth’s cocky, reckless agent ‘H’ and stumbles on a new threat to the planet.

The story is weak here, something involving a powerful weapon, and is mostly an excuse for a fun if very predictable caper with some entertaining banter between Hensworth & Thompson. Although the twist this time around to reverse the roles and offer up plenty of female empowerment, sadly leaves Hemsworth (and generally any male) as merely joke-fodder or targets of female chauvinism. Oh, hasn’t equality come a long way?

That being said, action set-pieces are decent, production values high and it’s still fun. It just lacks anything beyond the points made above to warrant its existence following a fairly complete and finished trilogy. The failure to even mention Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones’ characters also seems a strange oversight. For die-hard fans only.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

X-Men: Dark Phoenix


Viewed – 18 October 2019 online-rental

I’ve always enjoyed the X-Men movies but in recent years they seemed to have fallen out of favour with the critics. I stood alone it seems in my liking of Apocalypse and I think going by the reaction to this latest offering, I remain in a minority on this one also.

With mutants more accepted into society and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) able to continue running his school for gifted children … all seems well. That is until a fairly routine mission to rescue some astronauts goes bad and Jean Gray (Sophie Turner) gets caught in a blast that drastically increases her powers to an uncontrollable level.

This might not have the epic scale of say, Days of Futures Past and with the focus (mostly) on a single character, some of the series’ most memorable characters are sidelined (especially Jennifer Lawrence‘s Mystique / Raven). However with decent turns from McAvoy and the always dependable Michael Fassbender as Magneto as well as Sophie Turner delivering an occasionally menacing Jean Gray – I still found myself absorbed. There is some terrific action too (particularly the train sequence) and the effects work throughout is great.

There’s just something missing. It lacks the drama and depth of previous movies and Jessica Chastain‘s villain is woefully under written. Turner despite best intentions just can’t carry the movie either. She was wooden in Game of Thrones and isn’t that much better here. So, a lesser X-Men movie but if you’re a fan as I am there’s still much to enjoy.

Verdict: 3 /5

El Camino – A Breaking Bad Movie


Viewed – 11 October 2019. Netflix

I don’t really know what I was expecting from a movie continuation of arguably one of the best TV shows ever made. Breaking Bad had one of the more satisfying endings, and so was there really anything left to explore?

Focusing on what happened next when it comes to the character of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) seemed the obvious answer, as we explore just where he was driving off to after being freed by his captors by series lead Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Whilst keeping one step ahead of the law, he turns to old buddies Badger and Skinny Pete. So yeah, we get several returning faces, mostly during a number of reminiscing scenes that surprisingly make up for a good portion of the runtime … meaning that there really isn’t much going on here other than getting from point A to point B. Paul is very good and layered as Jesse and despite his circumstances still manages to reveal a few of those fun Jesse characteristics that made his character so memorable in the show.

I’d have liked a bit more ‘life and death’ stakes to his situation but that barely comes across and I always felt Jesse was going to be fine. Which took away some of the drama. Also scenes of flashbacks and smaller moments are dragged out just to celebrate the show rather than offering any really service to the plot.

Not a revelation then, and can’t touch some of the bigger moments of the show but as a swan song to a beloved character this was precisely what it needed to be and nothing more.

Verdict: 3 /5

Joker


Viewed – 08 October 2019. Cinema

I didn’t get the most positive impression upon seeing the trailer for this. Although I believed Joaquin Phoenix was an ideal casting for the clown prince of crime … the realistic approach and the fact the movie looked simply like a guy laughing a lot and acting a bit strange didn’t fill me with excitement. There’s more to Joker than being a clown and a bit of a weirdo … but thankfully having sat through this, such feats are swept aside as director Todd Phillips delivers precisely the origin story fitting to the iconic character.

Phoenix plays Arthur, a guy with more than a few mental problems, not helped by an over dependant mother, a thankless job as a street performer, hopeless aspirations to be a stand-up comedian and living in a city that doesn’t give a damn. However with a girl next door who catches his eye, not all is bad. That is until a series of events finds him sinking further into madness and eventually finding a confidence in himself – as the Joker is manifested. Welcome support comes from Robert DeNiro as a chat show host but this is clearly Phoenix’s show and despite (favourable) comparisons to Nicholson & Ledger, he somehow makes the character his own in a complex, at times heart-breaking – yet still menacing portrayal.

This can be seen as a snapshot of our current society. It’s a brave exploration of how the powers that be can create a monster. At the same time, the movie plays cleverly with the viewers interpretation of what is real and what is fantasised . In the closing moments this approach is almost its undoing but with very strong echoes of Taxi Driver and even Black Swan I still came away surprised and particularly impressed. A must-see.

Verdict: 5 /5