Wonder Woman


Viewed – 01 June 2017  Cinema

Despite many people’s misgivings about Batman V Superman, few could argue that Gal Gadot’s sensual Wonder Woman was a particular highlight.  Her appearance kept viewers eager for more, and so we have this origin story that focuses on how Diana (who funny enough is never referred to as Wonder Woman) came to be involved in a mission during (interestingly) the first world war.  Quickly we’re introduced to Diana’s fantasy world of Amazonian warrior women and a loose connections to Greek mythology.  There we have Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) as the reining Queen and also Diana’s mother, as well as the queen’s gutsy sister played by Robin Wright (House of Cards), who despite seemingly a departure for the actress, proves a good fit.  However their peace is soon interrupted when an American pilot Chris Pine (Star Trek) crash lands at their shore, and Diana comes to his aid.

Wonder Woman

This plays mostly like a fish-out-of-water adventure with some well observed comedy and sharp dialogue, helped immeasurably by the chemistry between Gadot & Pine who spark wonderfully off one another.  The WWII backdrop also means we get plenty of action and thrills within a fun ‘dirty dozen’ escapade.  When Diana gets to kick ass too, its a sight to behold, superbly choreographed and well, she’s very appealing to the eyes (where did they find this beauty?).  The movie is a tad over-long and degenerates into typical over-powered villain verses overpowered hero showdown, and well some of Wonder Woman’s super-human powers aren’t fully explained (she can easily toss a tank aside with one hand).  Add to this an avalanche of CGI where some acrobatics began to look a bit cartoonish once people are flying around left right and centre.

However this has it where it counts; with colourful characters that work well with each other, a decent script with plenty of humour and some excellent set-pieces.  DC seem to have turned a corner with this one, so on such evidence, I can’t wait for Justice League!

Verdict:  4 /5

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Hell or High Water


Viewed – 24 January 2016  online rental

Toby and Jake, two brothers join forces to commit a series of robberies on the same branch of banks foreclosing on their family’s land, in the wake of their mother’s death.  Along the way the robbers attract the attention of a world-weary, near-retirement Texas Ranger (Jeff Bridges).

hell-or-high-water

I’ve always been a fan of bank robbery movies, crooks on the run etc. and this confident and eye-catching thriller certainty appealed.  Add to this Jeff Bridges, one of my all time favourites and we have a recipe for success, right?  Well with a trio of solid turns this fun escapade thriller certainly entertained.  Ben Foster, one of those actors you know from several movies but may not know his name plays Jake, the more unhinged of the brothers whilst Captain Kirk himself, Chris Pine is the more kindly Toby, estranged from his kids but trying to seek out a better future for them … yeah by robbing banks.  Despite first impressions, he’s no angel either (but damn do women swoon after him!).  For the most part this ticks all the necessary boxes; a likable due of criminals, a seasoned, wise-cracking Ranger and the backdrop of the Texas outback complete with sun-drenched vistas and oddball locales (the steak lady).  I was especially surprised by the often fun banter between the brothers and the Ranger and his partner which made for more human characters than I was expecting.  Oh and how many Breaking Bad actors can you spot?

Jeff BridgesHowever, I did get a feeling of déjà vu whilst watching this, which is no bad thing really … but the movie is clearly a homage to such movies like Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, which only caused the plot to get predictable rather quickly.  It also doesn’t help that Bridge’s increasing inability to form easy-to-understand dialogue rears it’s head often making each scene he’s in a little distracting.  Thankfully Pine & Foster are on brilliant form with Foster especially stealing the show with perfect, bad-boy elder brother charisma throughout.

It may not do anything all that clever, perhaps wearing it’s cliches with honour.  Despite such things though, I still had a ball with this and reckon you might also.

Verdict:  4 /5

Star Trek Beyond


Viewed – 13 December 2016  Blu-ray

During an on-going expedition into deep space, the crew of the Starship Enterprise arrive on a colonized ‘city planet’ where they stumble upon the plight of a female alien who requests help to journey to an uncharted planet to rescue her stranded crew mates.  However once there Captain James T Kirk (Chris Pine) and his crew discover a powerful enemy.

STAR TREK BEYOND

The creators of this newly rebooted franchise in the Star Trek universe have indeed done a great deal right … the casting alone is excellent with actors not only doing fine impressions of the earlier incarnations, but also bringing their own personality to the characters.  I got a serious kick out of the last two movies, so it’s with a (slight) heavy heart that I found this one left me wanting.  That’s not to say it isn’t good – at times very good, with some spectacular action and again great chemistry between the main actors, something that made those old movies so watchable in the first place.  However three movies into this new era, we find the writing getting a little lazy with a generic villain once again going all megalomaniac after being wronged by the federation (er…we get it, the federation are assholes).  All that stuff with the artefact got a tad confusing at times also.  Heavily advertised bad-ass female warrior ‘Jaylah‘ who despite looking cool, also has very little depth and really, pluck her out of the movie, would the experience be any worse off?  Someone like that should have been pivotal, not disposable to the plot.

Yet what remains is a couple of hours of fast-paced, action packed, fun entertainment.  Justin Lin’s direction perhaps lacks the ‘class’ of J J Abrams … but doesn’t detract from great casting and some fun nods to yesteryear and nice in-jokes.  Chris Pine is the perfect new Kirk and suitably supported by Zackary Quinto’s Spock and Simon Pegg’s Scotty is also excellent, not that there’s a bum note amongst the ‘crew’.  However Idris Elba’s bitter ‘Krall’ is one-note and doesn’t get all that interesting until the end and even then its a bit deja-vu.  With that said, as a Trek fan I still enjoyed this, but it’s clear to me the franchise should be taking a few risks by now, especially if it wants that ‘Beyond’ in the title to be anything more that a good name for a sequel.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

This year’s disappointments


The end of the year is approaching and as always with this blog I will be posting my personal Top Ten, based on movies I have seen in the last twelve months.  It’s very difficult as a complete amateur movie critic as I am literally unable to watch every new movie that hits cinemas, so compile my list from the newest movies I have seen during the year, even if some came out the year before etc.FROZEN

Compiled below are a few movies that left me wanting, movies that although not a disaster, could have been much better – or were hyped to be much better.  You may or may not agree with my choices, and feel free to comment.  But for now these are my disappointments of 2014…

RoboCop

Remakes are never that great granted, but wasn’t this classic sci-fi thriller ripe for an update?  So what do we get … a re-tread of the original, but seriously watered down and completely devoid of both the violence and the social commentary that made the 1987 original so memorable.  Paul Verheoven must have been offended how much the director ‘didn’t get’ his vision, and even some pretty decent action and not-bad casting could not save this.

Frozen

When will I stop hearing about this pretty, fun but utterly generic Disney movie?  One memorable song, some fun comedy characters but typical Disney Princess fair that lacked ideas and originality.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good movie – but as good as EVERYONE goes on about …. no.  Give me Beauty & The Beast any day of the week.

Godzilla

This did a lot right, it did a lot wrong too.  A monster-mash that takes most of the movie to actually happen, and decent casting that is all but wasted.  Bryan (Breaking Bad) Cranston – that’s all I need to say, but nooo, let’s make Kick-Ass the star instead.  Wrong!  Great effects work aside and some nail biting moments, but overall this could have, should have been much more.

Jack Ryan – Shadow Recruit

Simple, how do you mess up a perfectly decent reboot of a popular franchise?  How about only one action sequence of any note and the casting of Keira KnightleyChris Pine, fresh off Star Trek does a good enough job, but this was mostly Bourne-light with a clichéd story and not enough boom for my buck.  Could have been superb, but was mostly ‘meh.

Wolf Creek 2

Rave reviews don’t mean a decent experience I am quickly realising.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of WC #1 but this promised everything that movie lacked, like a faster pace and tons more gore and violence.  Yet an overly tongue-in-cheek tone and way too many one-liners just killed this for me.  Could have been a first rate shit yourself slasher, but instead I got a second rate piss myself farce.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Still despite the best intentions this reboot of the blockbuster franchise still underwhelms.  I can’t get used to Andrew Garfield as Spidy/Peter Parker and even the casting of Jamie Foxx is embarrassingly poor.  The overly kiddie-friendly tone doesn’t help either.  Great special effects though.

The Wind Rises

Studio Ghibli is always an event to me, and their animation style can never be faulted.  However with this rather personal swan-song for director Hayao Myazaki the subject seemed rather niche and the characters not overly compelling, and the whole movie despite being well done, lacked that spark that makes Ghibli great.  Stunning to look at but not that memorable, even more disappointing considering it’s the famed director’s final movie.

X-Men Days Of Future Past

Another highly acclaimed movie, another one that left me feeling cold.  The plot was muddled, relied too heavily on you knowing what happened in all the other X-Men movies, and some fun time travel mechanics and a great cast of characters couldn’t save this fun, action-packed but ultimately confusing and messy movie.  Never get tired of Mystique kicking ass though.

There you go.  I may add to this list if December throws up any further disappointments, but with The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, Exodus: Gods & Kings and also Guardians Of The Galaxy all to come (hopefully), maybe that won’t happen.  Also expect my definitive end of year Top Ten around New Year’s eve.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit


Viewed – 08 June 2014  Pay-per-view

I never saw the previous, highly regarded Jack Ryan movies; the Alec Baldwin starring The Hunt For Red October, the Harrison Ford vehicles Clear & Present Danger etc.  Something about their overly serious approach to CIA espionage action always had me leaning more towards Mission Impossible or the James Bond franchise for my escapism.  Now in the wake of his credible turns in the recent Star Trek reboots, pretty-boy actor Chris Pine steps into the shoes of a more rookie Ryan, in this origin tale to Tom Clancy’s famed character.

jack ryan

I’ll admit the casting of the likeable Pine drew my attention and well, I can be a sucker for a good action thriller.  Here we also get Kenneth Branagh, another actor I have admired, albiet in a typical English-thesp cast as the bad guy turn, as a Russian terrorist attempting to over throw the U.S. economy.  I was hoping Hollywood had grown out of such casting by now.  He is also the director so maybe he only has himself to blame for that.  Pine however has Keira Knightley as his girlfriend who gets caught up in proceedings when she follows him to Russia fearing his secretive goings-on are hiding an affair.  This is fairly formulaic stuff, and isn’t helped by a chemistry-free pairing of Pine & Knightley, whose relationship is given no weight due to the fact their casual hook-up during a prologue hospitalization is glossed over.  Costner also offers little more than his presence and a mentor vibe (which seems to be his thing these days, see: Man of Steel).  Thankfully Branagh’s villain is fairly decent and charismatic.  The biggest problem though is that we’re presented yet again with a thriller more interested in fancy rapid-fire editing, it’s pounding score and a great deal of espionage mumbo-jumbo than conveying a plot that is easy to follow or characters and situations we can care about.  Doesn’t help either that what action there is, is fairly limply handled and over before you can get into any of it.

For Chris Pine fans, its worth seeing, and I expect we’ll see a more polished sequel down the line.  Yet I’ll hazard a guess for Ryan enthusiasts … you’re probably better off with the books.  Everyone else, this is simply a glossy but otherwise by-the-numbers thriller – and not a particularly surprising one at that.

Verdict:  2 /5