Spider-Man: Far From Home


Viewed – 12 November 2019. Online rental

In the wake of the events of Avengers: Endgame, Peter Parker / Spider-Man (Tom Holland) is on a school trip in Europe when a series of elemental beasts begin to attack various cities. When a hero from another dimension appears to battle them, Parker feels obliged to offer his help, aided by new tech left to him by the (spoiler) late Tony Stark.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last few Spider-Man movies but do think Holland is perfectly cast. This time around he teams up with Jake Gylkenhaal‘s Mysterio, who proves a very interesting character even if an actor of his calibre is hardly ‘stretched’. Samuel L Jackson‘s Nick Fury is also a welcome return after his absence from other movies. The story is generally teen angst complicated by an inconvenient new threat, and the shadow of Tony Stark / Iron-Man looms once again which for me spoilt the last movie. However here at least Spidy gets to do his own thing and we are treated to some great set-pieces with some very imaginative moments revolving around Mysterio’s illusion powers.

At the end of the day this hardly breaks the mould for a Spider-Man or Marvel movie and lacks the depth of a Captain America or Avengers – but when it’s all this entertaining … does that really matter? Not ‘amazing’ then, but still the best Spidy outing in quite a while.

Verdict: 3.5 /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

Ralph Breaks the Internet


Viewed – 31 August 2019. DVD

I remember enjoying the first movie. Wreck It Ralph was a great idea, borrowing it must be said, from Pixar’s Monsters Inc yet not quite reaching the potential of its rather brilliant concept. However it delivered first-rate turns from John C Reilly as Donkey Kong inspired video game villain ‘Ralph’ and Sarah Silverman as cute kart racer girl ‘Venelope’. So yeah, I was keen to see what (mis)adventured this likeable duo would get up to next. This brings forth the arrival of wi-fi connectivity to the little arcade that’s home to Ralph, Venelope amongst others (including Pacman, various Street Fighter characters and several more recognisable faces), and after an over-zealous gamer breaks Venelope’s arcade machine steering wheel, a quest to get a new one (from eBay no doubt) is undertaken, with the world wide web ripe for exploration.

I found this built perfectly on the foundations set up in the first movie and delivered exactly what a sequel should … bigger and better. The animation is top-notch and I’ll go as far as to say its sone of the most lush, imaginative and personality-filled CGI I’ve ever witnessed. With the looming shadow of Pixar’s Toy Story 4, any hype for this seemed to get brushed under that carpet at time of release, which is a travesty as in many ways this is the superior movie. Ralph & Venelope are a great double-act and although the story is mostly focused on the plucky racer-girl’s journey of self discovery, Ralph still gets many of the best gags and a brilliant final act (hint…one Ralph is never enough!). The clever mickey-takes and references of the internet and especially of Disney themselves are also well-observed and often laugh out loud funny. The Disney Princesses scene is pure gold.

However the story isn’t exactly all that on paper, but its exploration of a developing friendship is poignantly observed none the less. Yet Disney’s obsession with forcing feminist propaganda into every movie these days raises its head again in the closing moments, but it’s at least more subtle than Avengers: Endgame. Tiny gripes aside though, this was great fun and one of the best animated movies of the year.

Verdict: 4 /5

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse


Viewed – 19 July 2019. Online rental

I wasn’t that fussed about watching this. This is mainly down to the fact, I’ve found the recent Spider-Man movies underwhelming.  However I kept hearing good things about this, especially the animation so I thought I’d give it a go.  Miles, a young black kid with a talent for graffiti, gets bitten by a radioactive spider after trespassing into an underground facility.  There he witnesses a battle between Spider-Man and various super villains just as an experimental device creates an inter-dimensional rip in reality.  Soon after Miles discovers he has wall crawling abilities just as various other ‘Spider-Men’ appear from alternative realities.

Immediately I was taken back by the excellent animation and particularly wowed by how it combines the look of 2D comic book art with CGI – it’s certainly a style I want to see more of.  The story whilst initially a bit cliched anchors itself with convincing relationships and a solid learning-to-be-a-hero ark.  The various multi-verse versions of Spider-Man are also a great idea ranging from a brooding noir style to Japanese animation and even a Porky Pig-style incarnation.  We also get the semi-usual Spider-Man and even Spider-Gwen.  Action throughout is also inventive, exciting and a visual showcase.

Villain Kingpin’s look is too exaggerated for my liking, but characters like The Prowler (something about that guy sends shivers) and Doctor Octopus are a welcome addition.  For a movie called ‘Into the Spider-Verse’ the fact multiverses aren’t especially explored is disappointing, and the final battle has a bit of a weak conclusion.  However for a Spider-Man movie this is a step-up from The Amazing Spider-Man movies and even Homecoming.  Recommended.

Verdict: 3.5 /5

Avengers: Endgame


Viewed – 30 April 2019. Cinema

This year’s most hyped movie begins with a rather gentle ‘where the world is now’ first act that sets a melancholy tone for this sequel and eases the viewer into a complicated turn of events to ‘put right what once went wrong’. As anyone could predict after that ending for Infinity War … this is all about time travel as Ant Man gets a disbanded team of the surviving Avengers back together to attempt a risky mission to reclaim the infinity stones before Thanos originally did.

So what we get are several very entertaining sequences taking place in earlier time periods (but mostly the first Avengers movie) that prove funny, exciting and rather clever … if it wasn’t for the fact that this movie turns time-travel conventions as we’ve come to understand like ‘the butterfly effect’ on their head. This leads to a few moments of ‘hang on, how can they do that? Won’t that change such and such…’ which proved problematic for me.

That aside, banter between the various characters is at the forefront and brilliantly comical and well written. also throwing in a few emotionally poignant scenes between the characters we have grown attached to over the years. Add to this some very slick action (Captain America v Captain America?), epic battles and feel-good moments this still delivered a satisfying, at times awe-inspiring piece of cinematic grandeur. Shame then, that towards the end it had to hit a few of those pc-culture tick boxes that came across as obvious and totally unnecessary. So not quite the masterpiece I hoped for, but regardless I still had a great time.

verdict: 4 /5