My 2017 – a look back (part one)


I think at least as far as entertainment is concerned its been a pretty good year.  There’s been ups and downs as there is every year, disappointments and resounding successes.  So I thought I’d do a look back and therefore have decided to split this into two posts over the next week or so … leading up top my annual Top Ten of the Year on 31 December (please check back for that).

January to June

The year started off rather interestingly, with the absolutely nutty The Greasy Strangler … a movie I had heard a lot about.  The eventual experience was a bit ‘wtf?’ and remains probably the oddest, most out-there movie I’ve seen all year, and not in a good way.  The biggest let down though of the month (and year) was undeniably Trainspotting 2.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but this trapped-in-the-past, albeit entertianing sequel delivered nothing to either repeat the gritty cool of the original or offer anything new.  It’s not a terrible movie but it just had very little to warrant it’s existence.

iPadAir2One of my favourite gadgets this year has been my iPad Air 2 which I picked up in January, and use regularly for so many things…other than my phone (which I’ll get to in party two) it’s been my go to gadget of choice.  Hell or High-water was a particular highlight and a solid robbers on the lam sort-of western with two great performances from Chris Pine and Ben Foster, even if I thought Jeff Bridges was a little over-hyped.

Deepwater Horizon was a great disaster movie based on real events with a stand out turn from the always enjoyable Mark Wahlberg.  February was also when I played the return-to-form latest entry in one of my favourite gaming franchises:  Resident Evil 7.  One of the few games this year I saw through to the end, but this gripping, at times genuinely frightening and action-packed game truly put the franchise back on track.   Around this time I began to deep dive further into music having subscribed to Apple Music and I have discovered some really great artists this past year, which started out with Tegan and Sara as well as Chvrches, PVRIS, Royal Blood and many more (I’ll be covering my music highlights more in part two).

Train to Busan

March delivered one of my firm favourite movies of the year, the Korean zombie horror Train to Busan, which was a brilliantly executed thrill-ride with great characterisation and top-notch production values.  Look out for it in my end of year Top Ten.  March also delivered more highlights in the form of the enjoyable if a tad over-hypoed Doctor Strange, as well as the charming and touching A Street Cat Named Bob.  However the good times had to come to an abrupt stop in the surprisingly poor Kong: Skull Island which offered some truly awful characters, only saved slightly by some fun monster smack down action.  What Tom Hiddleston was doing in this is anyone’s guess though.  Thankfully it was only a short-lived blip as I then got to see another favourite of the year, Logan – with a career defining performance by the often underrated Hugh Jackman.  If you haven’t seen this one yet … remedy that immediately – it’s really that good.

Nintendo_Switch

The end of March also saw me pick up what has been a really worthwhile purchase this year, the Nintendo Switch!  As with any Nintendo console, it was a bit of a risk.  Gamecube failed after only a short run, the Wii was a major success but lacked games, and well I didn’t bother with the Wii U.  Thankfully with games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Steamworld Dig 2 and Super Mario Odyssey it’s been the games console I’ve played the most in 2017 without a doubt. 

April was the month this blog reached it’s 10 year anniversary.  Wow…had it really been that long?  I’m not popular, what I discuss on here is a crowded field to say the least, and standing out is difficult.  However let it be said I still very much enjoy expressing myself on here and appreciate every visitor, every like and every comment when I get them.  Thank you to all who stop by!

Despite being one of my favourite actresses, Scarlett Johansson’s much anticipated Ghost in the Shell, whilst entraining didn’t turn out to be all that it could have been despite some great visuals.  However Tom Hanks delivered a solid performance as always in the based on true events Sully.  I also recently started getting back into the highly-imaginative world of Persona 5 (released in April) which is unique and cleverly done, despite some typical Jap-RPG gameplay trappings.  Suppose all that Switch goodness proved a distraction this year and there’s many games I need to also go back to.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-2

In May I saw more highlights of the year, firstly the highly entertaining (if not quite as refreshing) Guardians of the Galaxy 2 boasting some great turns especially from Kurt Russell.  Then the Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle Nocturnal Animals was also an interesting take on a relationship drama that struck a cord and proved powerful and clever.  Yet the over-hyped and generally rather tiresome La La Land was a huge disappointment with a lack of memorable songs for a musical and bland characterisation despite featuring a great cast.

As June rolled around I finally managed to see the highly acclaimed Hacksaw Ridge and came away humbled and suitably impressed.  It was a very different approach for a war movie but director Mel Gibson and star Andrew Garfield nailed it.  Following this possibly the best comic book movie of the year was released; Wonder WomanGal Gadot was born to play this roll and with a great dirty-dozen meets fish out of water storyline I really had a great time with this one.  I also got around to watching bullet fest sequel John Wick: Chapter 2 which although simply more of the same was still pretty damn good and well, who doesn’t enjoy Keanu Reeves obliterating bad-guys?

Xbox One X

June also saw the annual videogame convention ‘E3’ arrive which promised a great deal from the three big gaming giants Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo and highlights included the reveal of the Xbox One X, more footage of the highly-anticipated Super Mario Odyssey and Sony’s God of War amongst many more.  It was a pretty exciting time to be a gamer and 2017 was only to prove itself as a classic year in gaming history.

Well, that’s it for part one of this look back.  Phew, it’s been a pretty packed year when looking back and there’s plenty more to come.  Look out for Part Two this time next week!

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Spider-Man: Homecoming


Viewed – 05 December 2017  Online-rental

Of all the super-heroes, ol’ Spidy has had some trouble finding sure footing in recent years and for me, there hasn’t been a decent Spidy movie since the second Toby Maguire entry.  However after an enjoyable (if unnecessary) cameo in Captain America: Civil War, the web-slinger has returned in probably one his best received movies since the Sam Raimi directed original. 

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Peter Parker (Tom Holland) is under the watchful eye of billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) aka Iron-Man and so wants to be an official part of The Avengers, not just someone you call on when you’re in a bit of a fix.  So he’s out to prove himself after he witnesses some advanced, out of this world (literally) weapon technology being used by petty thugs.  Turns out there’s a ruthless arms dealer in town who dresses like a robotic vulture.

There’s several things that don’t sit right with me here.  Firstly the constant bumbling, representation of such a beloved character grates after a while, and then his characterisation, without an origin tale or any personal tragedy, is wafer-thin and not something to get all-that caught up in.  Same goes for Michael Keaton’s Vulture, a rather pathetic former salvage worker annoyed by being put out of work by Tony Stark’s bank-rolled clean-up crew following the events of the first Avengers movie, who decides to steal alien technology so to become an arms dealer.  There’s no personal tragedy other than the inconvenience of having to find work elsewhere, and therefore little reason behind what he’s doing other than greed and being a bit of a psychopath.  So what else do we get?  Holland is likeable and well cast as Parker/Spidy, and Keaton is also good despite limited material.  We also get some decent action, including a great sequence at the Washington Monument, and some support characters are fun.  Yet overall this greatly lacks depth and feels like a pilot for a TV show or the opening chapter of a bigger, better story.  I’m guessing that’s the idea … so bring on the inevitable, superior sequel!  After two reboots of ‘meh’ quality however, it’d take something special to get me back on-board.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2


Viewed – 02 May 2017  Cinema

The first movie was my favourite of 2014, so the prospect of a sequel was very exciting.  This time around we find the unorthodox gang of heroes causing strife with a race of beings after Rocket the Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper) gets a little light-fingered with some batteries.  However following a space battle that could cause the guardian’s lives to end abruptly, a mysterious stranger saves the day.  Turns out Star Lord (Chris Pratt) has a Dad who just so happens to be a pretty powerful guy himself, played with charismatic flair by the ever dependable Kurt Russell.

guardians-of-the-galaxy-2

This fills in a few gaps left over from the last movie, especially the question surrounding Chris Pratt’s father and it was great being back in the company of these very likable characters again.  The dialogue is especially sharp throughout, something that was a highlight of the last movie and the jokes & references come thick and fast to make this a ton of fun.  Pratt’s character constantly makes quips about eighties pop-culture such as TV shows like Cheers and characters such as Skelator and Pac-Man, and makes him a very relatable and refreshing presence in this sort of movie.  I was also glad to see that, despite the trailers, Baby Groot isn’t over-used but damn is he cute and very funny every second he’s on screen.

Kurt RussellThe soundtrack, another highlight last time around isn’t quite as memorable (apart from a great use of Mister Blue Sky by ELO) and a left-over side plot involving sisters Nebula (Karen Gillen) and Morgana (Zoe Saldana) felt unnecessary.  I also did not get much out of the gold-painted race that turn up at the beginning and chase after our heroes.  That being said Michael Rooker’s Yondu was again a joy and I’ve always liked the actor and we get some great moments with him here.  The same can be said for scene-stealing Dave Bautista as Drax.  Action generally is top-notch but the plot didn’t grab me as much or feel as layered this time, with the whole Kurt Russell’s planet sequence stopping the movie dead at one stage.

As it stands though this was a solid sequel and I can’t wait to see what comes next.  The Guardians of the Galaxy will return!

Verdict:  4 /5

Doctor Strange


Viewed – 07 March 2017  online rental

A brilliant neurosurgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch) suffers a car accident that leaves him with injuries to his hands … his tools you might say.  So with the fear his career might be in shambles, he seeks out some of the worlds greatest surgeons.  However all refuse or fail due to the extent of his injuries, and so Strange is forced to seek out more spiritual methods and stumbles upon a centuries old battle to save the world.

Doctor Strange

Special effects have come a long way and pretty much anything is possible on screen.  So here you get a kaleidoscope of visual wonder that seems to initially borrow from that ‘turn the city upside down on itself’ moment from Inception and run with it.  It’s dizzying but opens up a wealth of possibilities only limited by a director’s imagination.  Cumberpatch is perfectly cast, charismatic, a little bit arrogant and really looks the part complete with a great goatee.  Supporting him is Tilda Swinton as a mystical ‘ancient one’ – think Morpheus from The Matrix if you think of Strange as Neo.  Add to this welcome but under-used support from Rachel McAdams as Strange’s sort-of (but not really) love-interest, and also Mads Mikkleson as a rogue student who’s trying to bring about Armageddon more or less with the help of a giant CGI face.

Tilda SwintonIt’s all wonderfully bonkers and should probably be taken as such as it lacks  emotional weight or personal stakes and largely washed over this viewer, despite several exciting sequences (a chase through parallel dimensions for example).  Thankfully Cumberbatch and especially Swinton help make everything work to an extent and this makes for good entertainment that’s also surprisingly funny at times.  What the concept might bring to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (hinted especially during the end credits) is ripe with potential … but despite touching on such possibilities, only delivers a partially satisfying experience.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Top Ten Movies 2016


I watched a lot of movies this year.  I watched a lot of very good movies.  I also watched a few bad ones and several disappointing ones.  But the list below, in descending order compiles the movies that had the greatest impact on me during 2016.  A few may have actually been theatrically released prior to 2016 but I didn’t get to see them until this year.

10.

Zootropolis

Zootropolis

‘Disney does it again with very likeable characters, gorgeous animation and a fun, exciting story with plenty of great moments’

9.

The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys

Shane Black writes and directs the spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and the result is every bit as good as that sounds’

8.

The Witch

The Witch

‘One of the more original and genuinely disturbing horror movies of the year’

7.

The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book

‘It shouldn’t work but oh boy … does it.  Disney deliver a remake that really impresses’

6.

X-Men Apocalypse

X-Men Apocalypse

‘Underrated comic book entertainment and for me, the best X-Men movie since X2’

5.

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

‘The biopic of the controversial rap pioneers proves more emotional than I expected’

4.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One

‘A spin off movie every bit as good as the famed saga?  Oh yes and then some!’

3.

The Revenant

The Revenant

Alejandro G. Iñárritu delivers a powerhouse man vs nature survival epic that breaks as many hearts as it does DiCaprio’s bones’

2.

Sing Street

Sing Street

‘Feel good coming-of-age drama with great music, great characters and great performances’

1.

The Martian

The Martian

‘Ridley Scott proves without a doubt that he’s still got it and delivers a powerful, funny, breath-taking sci-fi drama with genuine heart’

A few almost as deserving ‘honourable mentions’ include:

When Marnie Was There

Arrival

Captain America: Civil War

It’s been another great year for movies and I am already looking forward to what 2017 has in store.  Happy New Year everyone and hoping next year is good to you all.

Craig.