Nightmare Alley


Viewed – 06 April 2022 Disney+

Guillermo Del Toro is one of my favourite directors, so anything he comes out with is going to grab my attention. However this latest effort seemed to appear out of nowhere with little of the fan fair his movies usually attract. Bradley Cooper plays a guy seemingly drifting from place to place due to a troubled past, and gets taken in by a travelling carnival in the 1940s. There he develops a skill from conning audiences with fake psychic ability and chooses to take that skill to con the social elite out of thousands.

Del Toro’s style is once again showcased, even if it’s more subtle than say Hellboy or The Shape of Water. The movie is beautifully filmed, given an old fashioned, somewhat silent movie aesthetic. The carnival setting is perfectly freaky too. However this is very much a film-noir with a femme fatale in the shape of Cate Blanchett and a flawed hero in Cooper. Support is also decent, with appearances from Ron Perlman, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara and Toni Collette.

Due to the mentalist/grifter plot this can be hard to follow at times, and at 2 and a half hours, the movie drags slightly, especially in the first half. However with a clever final act that does make you wish you’d concentrated more early on … as the movie hints and lays bread crumbs to its twist – I felt this was one of those movies that may benefit from repeat viewings. As it stands, whilst not Del Toro at his best, this was still a well acted, stylish and cleverly-constructed movie. Worth a watch.

Verdict: Good

Don’t Look Up


Viewed – 19 January 2022 Netflix

You got to give it to streaming giant Netflix… they certainly can get the big names to star in their movies. So naturally it was only a matter of time before Leonardo DiCaprio appeared. This end of the world satire has the acclaimed actor alongside such stars as Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchet and Jonah Hill.

When two scientists (DiCaprio & Lawrence) discover a huge comet heading straight for earth – they race to warn the powers that be (including Meryl Streep’s President). However in a world obsessed with public image, social media etc they are met with a resounding lack of interest. This movie asks the question: what if an apocalyptic threat to the world happened today in our disassociated, materialistic culture? Granted some of the ways the people in charge treat the threat is exaggerated, but when you consider the likes of Donald Trump can be a world leader and an oddball like Mark Zuckerberg can become one of the wealthiest people on the planet – much of the satire here is at times unnervingly believable.

DiCaprio is decent once again even if that freaking out act is becoming a bit too much his ‘thing’. Lawrence is also very good. The movie does get a little side tracked in a subplot involving DiCaprio & Blanchett, and it feels a bit long at 2hrs 11 minutes. Overall though, this was well done, entertained and made me think about just what sort of world we’re living in.

Verdict: Good

Thor Ragnarok


Viewed – 13 March 2017  Blu-ray

I had heard a lot of good things about this and confess to really enjoying the Thor character and the lore surrounding him, even if I like many was underwhelmed by the last solo Thor outing, Dark World.  In this third instalment, sandwiched somewhere between Avengers: Age of Ultron and the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is captured by a demonic being who is said to bring about Ragnarok, the end of days for Thor’s home world of Asgard.  However he sets about preventing this only to return home and find step-brother Loki up to his old tricks again, this time impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).  However a turn of events brings another family member out of exile in the shape of Hella (Cate Blanchett) who vows to claim her rightful place on the thrown of Asgard even if it means killing everyone who stands in her way.

Thor Ragnarok

It would be easy for me to yawn at this plot, it being yet another Marvel disgraced family member coming out of the woodwork and vowing revenge against those that shunned him (or her).  It was done in the previous Thor movies and also (spoiler!) Black Panther, that it’s now getting very tired.  Thankfully then that isn’t the entire focus of this movie.  Oh no, firstly the dialogue is particularly sharp, with very funny banter from various characters, especially a wonderful, awkward buddy set up between Thor and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Add to this great support from Jeff Goldblum as the other-worldly ‘grand master’, several quirky side characters (the hilarious rock dude) and of course a still brilliant Tom Hilddleston as Loki – and this was just great entertainment throughout.  The movie treads a careful balancing act between all out comedic farce and straight up action adventure, but somehow manages it, and even if Cate Blanchett’s villain is a walking cliché, the actress usual screen presence and charisma stands out and has such a cool design, familiarity can be forgiven in this instance.

It’s often better when these kinds of movies don’t take themselves too seriously, whilst still managing to deliver great action, memorable characters and gob-smacking spectacle.  This is one such example. Highly recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Cinderella


Viewed – 12 September 2015  Pay-Per-View

Did we really need another telling of this classic fairy tale?  I think most people are familiar with the story; a girl named Ella (Cinderella) finds herself living with a wicked step mother and two cruel step sisters after her natural parents die.  However a chance encounter with a charming (ahem) prince soon see’s her fortunes changing for the better, with a little help from a fairy godmother.

Cinders

Disney’s new adaptation of the classic story is directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars relative newcomer Lily James as Ella and Cate Blanchett as her stepmother Lady Tremaine.  This proved fun and has several stand out moments (the ballroom dance, the race to get home before the carriage turns back into a pumpkin) and is for the most part done very well.  Acting is a tad over the top with a disappointingly hammy Blanchett coming across a little too cartoony, and those stepsisters I just wanted to slap.  Helena Bonham Carter also appears as the fairy godmother, and like Blanchet is very caricature and silly.  Thankfully then Game Of Thrones’ Richard Madden as the Prince is just the right side of charming without coming across as cheesy.  Lily James starts out sugar-coated sweet but develops some real depth as her fortunes deteriorate and dreams are shattered … and proved a much more interesting character than say, Elle Fanning’s Sleeping Beauty in Maleficent.

princeBrannagh fills the movie with gorgeous (albeit CGI-loaded) locations and some excellent set design and costumes, making for a real visual treat.  Yet I was hoping for something that warranted this being done again, but with a reliance on cartoon-like performances and slapstick humour we get very little we didn’t see in the 1950 Disney classic, amongst other versions.   A missed opportunity.

For a new audience this is still decent, feel-good entertainment, but for anyone familiar with the story, approach this more as a re-visit than a re-imagining.  It’s no Snow White and the Huntsman.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Top Ten Actors


That I’d watch in pretty much anything.

Inspired from a post over at Where The Wild Things Are and then also at Cinema Parrot Disco, I have chosen to compile the idea from both male and female ‘actors’ rather than doing separate lists… mainly because I was struggling with ten for actresses without being swayed by their attractive qualities…it’s a bloke thing.

Emma Stone

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Favourite movie:  Easy A

Leonardo DiCaprio

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Favourite movie:  Catch Me If You Can

Christoph Waltz

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Favourite movie:  Inglorious Basterds

Marianne Cotillard

Marianne Cotillard

Favourite movie:  Inception

Philip Seymour Hoffman (R.I.P.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Favourite movie:  Almost Famous

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg

Favourite movie:  Boogie Nights

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Favourite movie:  Born of the Fourth of July

Edward Norton

Edward Norton

Favourite movie:  Fight Club

Samuel L Jackson

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Favourite movie:  Pulp Fiction

Cate Blanchett

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Favourite movie:  Blue Jasmine

There are many more, but these are the ones I tend to find myself watching regardless of what role they are in, and the movies mentioned above are the roles I have most enjoyed them in, not necessarily their best.  For actors I tend to avoid…the list is shorter, but I’m not a fan of Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black and to an extent … Ben Affleck.