Prisoners


Viewed – 29 September 2018  Netflix

I’d heard good things about this 2013 thriller but had not got around to watching until last night.  Starring two actors I always enjoy, Hugh Jackman and especially Jake Gyllenhaal … this looked like essential viewing from the very moment I’d heard about it.  Telling the story of two suburban families who’s young daughters go missing one day, this follows the ensuing investigation that doesn’t bring many leads, causing Jackman’s father to take the law into his own hands.  He decides to abduct the number one suspect and beat out some answers, whilst at the same time the detective in charge of the case, Gyllenhaal attempts to unravel and mystery.

Prisoners

Directed by the acclaimed Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Blade Runner 2049) this is a taught and hard-hitting with above average performances not only from the leads but also Maria Bello.  Unlike similar missing persons movies this raises questions of what’s right and wrong, although never did I not understand the desperation and pain experienced by the worried parents.  With echoes of movies like (the underrated) Death Sentence and Zodiac, the gradually complex investigation is delivered with no end of tension, twists and turns.  It kept this viewer guessing throughout and even if the final reveal is a little too neat, I was still left satisfied.

It’s a lengthy movie but never slow or stretched out and kept me gripped.  A few questions are left unanswered at the end, with a mystery considering a character’s obsession with mazes left up in the air.  But this was still solid entertainment with atmospheric direction and a stunning turn from Jackman making him one of the best working today.  And to think I came to this for Gyllenhaal who whilst very good is left overshadowed.

Verdict: 4 /5

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The Greatest Showman


Viewed – 14 February 2018  Cinema

I can’t say I was particularly enthused at the prospect of seeing this, despite rave opinions from people I know who had been.  I have a bit of an uneasy relationship with musicals, and they have to be particularly good to win me over.  This based on true events depiction, has Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, a man who rose from nothing to become one of the pioneers of show business as we know it.

greatestshowman

I can’t say I was particularly familiar with the story but as soon as this started, I was transfixed.  Jackman, who of course I mostly associate with Wolverine, is a revelation as Barnum and commands the screen with total, Hollywood magnetism and presence.  His rags-to-riches story whilst somewhat clichéd is classic stuff and made me think of Charles Dickens books along with Rogers & Hammerstein musicals of yesteryear.  You know – back when Hollywood did it right.  Add at times breath-taking choreography and several stunning set pieces, with grand set design, colourful costumes and eye-catching cinematography and this was a real treat for the senses.  The songs, if at times a little ‘samey’ are foot-tapping and enjoyable, aided by larger-than-life performances from also Zac Efron and Michelle Williams and a plethora of colourful characters … and well, sometimes it’s overwhelming but never boring.

The movie seems to stumble a little in a plot device with a famed Opera Singer and although essential to the story, takes things in a direction that isn’t quite as much fun … but then comes back again to deliver a great feel good ending that left me wanting to stand up and applaud.  This movie’s been a bit snubbed by the Oscars and that’s a shame as really, a night out at the movies doesn’t get much better than this.  Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5

Top Ten 2017


It’s that time of year again and once again I’ve compiled what I feel are the ten best movies I managed to see this year.  Note: some may be older than 2017.

10.

Your Name

your-name

‘A beautifully animated, heart-warming, emotional and funny body-swap drama’

9.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian_

‘Pure escapist entertainment at it’s finest.  Luc Besson is back’

8.

Wonder Woman

Wonder-Woman

‘DC gets it right and one of the most purely enjoyable comic-book movies in years’

7.

War for the Planet of the Apes

War-For-Planet-Of-Apes

‘Full of heart and emotion and spectacle.  The most satisfying rebooted franchise ever’

6.

Annabelle Creation

AnnabelleCreation

‘Atmosphere, well-judged scares and solid performances make for a surprising sequel’

5.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

‘Cleverly structured and powerful relationship drama with excellent performances’

4.

Gerald’s Game

Geralds_Game

‘A Stephen King adaptation that does a great deal with a very simple premise’

3.

Train to Busan

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‘Korean genre cinema at it’s finest.  Action, thrills and a surprising amount of heart’

2.

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw-Ridge

‘A powerful true story with expert direction and great performances’

1.

Logan

Logan_

‘An incredibly effective take on a familiar character turned into a road movie with powerful performances and genuine grit …  and Hugh Jackman deserves an Oscar’

 

Honourable mentions:  A Street Cat Named Bob, Hell or Highwater, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Logan


Viewed – 21 March 2017  Cinema

It would be easy for me to write this off as just another Wolverine movie.  After all I didn’t entirely miss his (generally) absent status from X-Men Apocalypse, and well the character has been milked to death.  But from initial images showing a more grizzled, aged Wolverine and early positive hype I thought I’d give it a go.

Logan

No question though, Hugh Jackman was born to play Logan/Wolverine.  He has all the grumpy but likeable personality perfect for such a tortured character.  This latest take see’s him departed from his X-Men colleagues sometime in the future when many of them are believed dead and all he has for company between trips away as a grumpy limo driver, is an aged, half senile Dr Xavier (a heart-breaking Patrick Stewart).  So along comes a Mexican woman and a mysterious girl (a star making Dafne Keen) who she wishes for Logan to transport across the border to a ‘safe haven’ known as Eden, where more people like her and Logan himself are seeking refuge.  On their heels is a scenery chewing villain (Boyd Holbrook) and a megalomaniac scientist (Richard E Grant).

Dafne KeenWhat surprised me was just how brutal this latest Wolverine movie is.  We get beheadings, vicious stabbings and dismembered limbs-a-plenty and it seriously doesn’t hold back.  Some of the violence and the general tone here is light-years away from what I’m used to seeing in a comic book movie and it really helped this spring to life … especially in brilliantly executed (pun intended) action sequences that are amongst the best in the genre.  Director James Mangold has delivered a confident and mature road movie that is held together by three strong central characters and their slowly developing bond that makes this much more meaningful and powerful than I could have expected.  This is one of the most intense and gripping comic book inspired movies I’ve seen in a long time and in the closing moments I can honestly say Jackman deserved an Oscar nod.  But we know that won’t happen for this sort of material, unless perhaps you happen to die in real life (ahem…Heath Ledger RIP).

Simply put – go see this movie.

Verdict:  5 /5

Chappie


Viewed – 21 July 2015  Blu-ray

I must admit I’m becoming quite an admirer of South African director Neill Blomkamp’s brand of sci-fi action thrillers.  His debut, the acclaimed District 9 certainly impressed, and his follow up the underrated Elysium was one of my favourite movies of recent years.  So sitting down to this latest, albeit somewhat more personal effort I’ll admit I was excited.

Chappie

A robotics scientist at a company that builds and runs an android police force, creates the first true artificial intelligence and installs it in a test robot fresh off the battle field.  However on-route home to do more tests, the robot is stolen by a group of desperate thugs who subsequently adopt it and name it Chappie.

Set in a near-future Johannesburg, Blomkamp’s movie stars Slum Dog Millionaire’s Dev Patel as the scientist, Hugh Jackman as a rival scientist and Sigourney Weaver as the head of the company.  Playing against type, Jackman is good fair and seems to be loving time out from Wolverine.  Weaver on the other hand get’s a rather limited, thankless role considering her Sci-Fi credentials, so it’s left up to Patel who is very good and a bunch of lesser-known but intriguing co-stars to carry the movie around a brilliant creation.  Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley (The A-Team, Maleficent) does a stellar job voicing the robot, instilling a naivety and energy to the character that really brings it to life.  We follow Chappie’s exploits from frightened child to becoming a hanging-with-the-homies gangster, whilst all the time being manipulated by gang leader Ninja and befriended by surrogate mother ‘Yo-Landi’.

YolandiThink a cross between eighties classic Short Circuit (Number Five is alive!) and genre favourite RoboCop (not the lacklustre remake) with some blatant borrowing of that movie’s key ideas even down to an Ed 209 look-a-like.  The story’s most fascinating aspect however; Chappie’s learning felt rushed, for a robot who has to pretty much grow up before our eyes (…how’d he know lying?), and the clichéd thugs / locales were straight out of the post-apocalyptic handbook.  Yet Blomkamp threw in enough stylish action and energy to keep this viewer smiling and entertained throughout – and that ending was sheer class.

On this evidence, I can’t wait to see what he does with Alien.

Verdict:  4 /5