Passengers


Viewed – 16 May 2017  online-rental

I don’t think it can be argued that Chris Pratt is currently on a role.  He’s pretty much the darling of Hollywood right now and has delivered enjoyable performance after enjoyable performance, most notably in his two Guardians of the Galaxy outings.  The same can probably also be said of Jennifer Lawrence who also seems to do no wrong.  Both are charming, good looking stars so sitting down to this space-set adventure was an easy prospect, helped I must add by my love of all things sci-fi.

Passengers

A space station on a 90 year journey to reach an earth-like planet suddenly starts to malfunction, and one ‘passenger’ on board (Pratt) wakes up decades too soon, and quickly realises he might be doomed to a life of solitude and possible madness.  However as time progresses, he’s joined by fellow passenger Aurora (Lawrence) and together they try to exist and adjust to their potentially grim fate.

This is a great premise and I was easily absorbed into both character’s plight.  Think Robinson Crusoe in space and you get what this one’s going for, whilst also throwing in some heart-breaking dilemmas and powerful emotional drama that really surprised and pulled me in.  Pratt is excellent as is Lawrence who are supported well by an android Michael Sheen who brings his inimitable style and class to proceedings.  Helps also that Pratt & Lawrence have convincing chemistry, which made later scenes even more effective.  However amongst the drama there is also a lot of fun to be had, especially with the amusing ways Pratt initially tries to cope (although thankfully Pratt’s gratuitous butt shots are counter-balanced by a couple of lingering Lawrence swimsuit moments) … and with some superb CGI and an epic, at times ominous setting I really got a lot out of this.

The only real issue is pacing, as the story tends to drag its heels a little here and there.  For such a large space station too, it failed to really develop as a setting you haven’t seen a dozen times before, perhaps in need of a bit more eeriness.  However, with solid performances and a thrilling final act … I just have to recommend this one.

Verdict:  4 /5

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Merry Christmas


It’s that time of year again and how fast it seems to have come around.  Doesn’t feel like twelve months.  I’m having a really nice day and have been spoilt rotten so thank you so much to those that have got me anything and I really hope you like what I got you!

This year I have had a couple of box set, namely the Blu-ray set of the cult TV series (due back in 2017…) Twin Peaks which comprises of the full, re-mastered versions of the two seasons of the show as well as the movie, Fire, Walk With Me.  Another box set I got is it has to be said, well overdue and a series of movies I intend to fully review on this blog…yes, its Harry Potter!!  I confess I have never watched a Harry Potter movie but I am actually really looking forward to delving into this much acclaimed and popular world.  In addition to the box sets, I have also had a very nice book, namely ‘The Secret History of Twin Peaks’ by series co-creator Mark Frost and am excited to read through that as a great companion-piece to my Twin Peaks collection.  I also received the much anticipated (and long awaited) The Last Guardian for PS4.  In the picture below you’ll also find an R2D2 mug, and well, I love novelty mugs so that was a nice surprise.  Oh yes, and a Jennifer Lawrence calendar – don’t judge me!  ha ha.  As well as the above, I also got the usual smellies, clothing etc and have to say I’m really humbled by what I’ve received this year.

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I’ll take this opportunity to also thank you, my readers / visitors to this blog.  All year round I write it as a hobby, a continued interest and next year will mark 10 years that I’ve been running Craig’s Movie Report.  I’m not particularly popular or put that much content on here, but I love running this blog and love any feedback or interest I get.  So thank you all.

Merry Christmas and here’s to a wonderful Happy New Year!

X-Men Apocalypse


Viewed – 08 November 2016 Online-rental

An ancient Egyptian mutant, said to be the very first mutant finds himself resurrected in the eighties after thousands of years and is hell-bent on rising up against humanity. However when Dr Xavier stumbles upon his plot, a somewhat disbanded collection of X-Men must unite to save the world.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

I wasn’t expecting much from this and wasn’t the biggest fan of the previous movie, Days of Future Past which everyone seemed to love (?). However presented with a rather formidable villain from the off and with plenty of colourful and recognizable characters I soon found myself enjoying an X-Men movie again.  Director Brian Singer seems to have swapped that rather convoluted time travel plot-device this time around in place of a more coherent good versus evil battle with a threat of global genocide thrown in for good measure.  It works much better having a simpler narrative in such a complicated universe with so many characters and their various back stories.  Yet the movie cleverly weaves in nods and often funny references to past movies and the comics without beating the viewer over the head.  It made for an experience that was more comfortable and easier to simply enjoy.

Cyclops and Jean GrayThe story took time to build tension, focus on key characters, explore individual motives and convincingly bring them together when required.  Standout performances came from Jennifer Lawrence who this time is more character driven and less kick-ass as Mystique and James McAvoy as the always fascinating Xavier.  I also enjoyed Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, perhaps his first bad guy role and he nails it – sinister, powerful and visually bad-ass.  It was also fun to see an origin story of Cyclops and to an extent Jean Gray (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner – still not much of an actor, sadly).  However Michael Fassbender’s Magneto whilst good has a character ark that purely services the plot and doesn’t entirely ring true, and well the whole end of the world stuff is particularly clichéd. Yet with often stunning action, some excellent CGI and plenty of energy this 2hr 20min+ movie still zipped along.  For me it’s the best in the franchise since X2 … and probably the most satisfying blockbuster of the year.

Verdict: 5 /5

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two


Viewed – 26 March 2016  Blu-ray

(Review updated 02/04/2016)

The previous entry in this popular and heavily hyped saga woke itself up out of the doldrums with a shock twist.  Now stop reading if you’re worried about spoilers for the previous movies as this can’t be helped.  Peeta had been brainwashed by President Snow and sent to kill our hero, the reluctant face of the rebellion, Katnis Everdeen.  Thankfully he didn’t succeed or we’d have no movie.  However this set up the final entry in this series perfectly, even if I mostly came away feeling deflated by a saga that had never quite reached its potential – until now.  This is without a doubt the best entry in the series and is skilfully, confidently directed as the rebels rage war against the capital.  Moving away from some of the more camp aspects of the story and instead focusing on a near-suicidal assault on a totalitarian government, this time around the stakes are higher and the tension cranked up to boiling point.

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Jennifer Lawrence is excellent as Everdeen and this time around her troubled relationship with Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta is much more convincing and surprisingly really makes this movie.  You also get the feeling that after the surely expected backlash to the third unnecessarily cash-cow where the final book was predictably split in half, all involved had to finally take their meal ticket seriously for fear it being laughed at like Twilight.  Almost everyone here looks like they really mean it (but Luke Hemsworth remains bland).  Donald Sutherland who had previously been a rather limp villain, actually gets to do some acting.  Add to this some excellently realised action (with a claustrophobic, Aliens-esque sewer sequence) and gorgeous cinematography of often war-Mockinjay snowtorn vistas aided by superb effects – and I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed this, considering my expectations had been dialled back considerably.  Julianne Moore gets a much more meaty roll this time around, but I’d have liked a bit more from Woody Harrelson, even if Philip Seymour Hoffman’s subdued appearance is understandable (he died during filming).

It suffers a little predictability, and that final scene is a bit too saccharine sweet.  Yet The Hunger Games as a saga always held promise, although each movie seemed to lack that something special.  With well-timed twists, strong performances, quality action and a perfectly judged epic tone – this finally proves the series (almost) worthy of such massive hype.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part One


Viewed – 21 March 2015  Blu-ray

So we reach the third entry in the heavily hyped franchise adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ popular novels.  Katnis Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has defied the capital and angered President Snow (Donald Sutherland) and has had to go into hiding along with a group of rebels in the hope of gathering the population of Pan Am against it’s totalitarian government.  An uprising of monstrous proportions is on the horizon.  And so ended the last movie, Catching Fire, in the hope that now things were really going to kick off.

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Well, that’s not quite the case here in the first part of the final book, as Katnis is given the task of becoming the Mocking Jay, the iconic face of the rebellion. This of course means she is an enemy of the capital and anyone who joins her cause are immediate targets.  What you get is over an hour of propaganda creating interviews, visiting districts, doing publicity videos, and not much action … until the final act that is.  It suffers the same slow, drawn-out build up of the last movie but without the exhilarating pay-off of an actual Hunger Games this time around to get all worked up about.  And don’t get me started about how many people die for no good reason in this movie (i.e. the hospital being bombed…).

Sound design and production values are both top notch but this doesn’t make up for such lacklustre plotting.  Lawrence does her best in a role that gives her very little to do other than look earnestly at destroyed landscapes and well, act a bit out of her depth.  Supporting turns from Julianne Moore and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman don’t add a great deal to proceedings, and Woody Harrelson is woefully under-used.  Donald Sutherland is ok but again doesn’t get much time to really chew the scenery – the script clearly too interested in dragging out every little moment for as long as possible, just so there’s enough material left to make another movie.

A serious example of cash-in over quality this time, sadly.

Verdict:  2 /5