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

Green Room


Viewed – 21 January 2017  Netflix

I’d heard some good things about this and so when it appeared on Netflix I jumped at the chance.  A low-rent punk band nearing the end of their tour take up an offer to play at remote rural roundhouse, but soon discover it’s run by a gang of neo-Nazis.  After witnessing a stabbing, the band find themselves battling for survival against a murderous group of thugs lead by Patrick Stewart.

Green Room

A familiar but none-the-less intriguing concept, I found myself quickly on board for this. Yet once the shit hit the fan, some issues rear their head, like how the band jump to the conclusion that their lives are in danger after discovering a stabbed girl.  Also, not one time do any of the band enquire what happened and proceed to provoke the thugs by calling the cops instead.  Add to this a mumbling, rather underwhelming Patrick Stewart who really should have stolen the show here and this soon turned into something a little less compelling than expected.  Thankfully there’s some very good stuff toward the end when events turn into a life and death battle of wits, and the late Anton Yeltchin (Star Trek) proves why he’s one young actor who will be sorely missed in the industry.  A spunky Imogen Poots (Need For Speed) as a girlfriend to one of the thugs also proves a welcome surprise.  Add to this some shocking violence that doesn’t cut away or go gentle and this at least delivers as a bloody horror-thriller even if its otherwise formulaic.  The fact some of the plotting is needlessly convoluted (the reason the girl gets stabbed) is another reason this falls short of future genre classic status.

As it stands though for 90 minutes of tense, violent thrills … I guess this still did it’s job, even if similar plotted movies like Eden Lake or Frontiers did it better.

Verdict:  3 /5

X-Men Days Of Future Past


Viewed – 21 November 2014  Blu-ray

Probably next to that Apes movie, the next most acclaimed summer blockbuster of the year.  A welcome return of the mutants headed by Dr Xavier (Patrick Stewart) on a time-bending mission to prevent shape-shifting femme fatale Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing a scientist who brings about a war against mutants.  Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is called in to send his conscience back to the seventies, with the help of Kitty Pryde (an under-used Ellen Page).  There he must recruit the younger Charles Xavier as well as an imprisoned Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to aid him in his mission.

xmen-mystique

This was a bit of a strange ride….whilst I dig time travel storylines, this was sometimes hard to get into, although the seventies setting with the backdrop of the Vietnam war was welcome and done really well.  James McAvoy is again very good as Xavier’s more troubled, younger-self and Hugh Jackman’s grizzled, dead-pan Wolverine is always a joy to watch.  The stronger emphasis on Mystique was good too, and well she’s smoking hot strutting her blue-skinned stuff in some stand out acrobatic fight sequences.  However with the long history of Magneto generally being an evil megalomaniac, busting him out of a prison quickly proves a bad idea and sitting here I’m still wondering what the point of his involvement was, considering they had Wolverine, Beast and a memorable Quicksilver (Evan Peters from American Horror Story).

Effects were of course top-drawer with a superb ‘let’s rip a football stadium out of the ground’ scene … but much of the plot relied heavily on having a good knowledge of the previous X-Men movies with many small details like nods to Rogue and Jean Gray probably going right over the heads of newcomers.  So it felt like I’d come into the show half-way through with the whole Sentinals situation just going on, wiping out Mutants like a continuing part of a TV series.  That being said the principle actors all did a decent job (especially Lawrence) with somewhat muddled material .. so no, for me at least … this wasn’t as good as I had heard.

Verdict:  3 /5

Life Force


Viewed – 18 October 2013  Blu-ray

International Version

I have fond, if cloudy memories of this 1985 science fiction horror.  I’ll admit straight up that as a hormonal boy, the site of French actress Mathilda May walking around naked certainly stayed with me.  But thankfully with more mature eyes, I can appreciate this hoky but fun movie on more than purely teenage fantasy levels.

A group of Astronauts investigating the arrival of Haley’s Comet over Earth, discover a space craft hidden within the tail.  On-board they stumble upon three pods containing three human-like bodies … two males and a female, and subsequently decide to take the bodies back to their own space shuttle.  Cut to London thirty days later and the bodies have been recovered from  the shuttle following an unexplained fire, and before long there’s a beautiful, naked female wrecking havoc and sucking the Life Force out of anyone she meets.

lifeforce6

Directed by Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, Texas Chainsaw Massacre) this is an energetic crowd-pleaser of a movie, with that 80s lack of restraint and bags of personality.  Effects work is decent with some quite cool make up effects and production values throughout are impressive.  Acting honours, it’s a mixed back with a stand-out Steve Rallsback as a disturbed Astronaut and even Patrick Stewart turns up not looking a great deal different than he does now (?). It has an alarming tendency to jump around from quiet talking scenes to all out chaos, surreal dream-sequences and horror – but makes for an experience that is never dull.  Performances are basically adequate, sometimes over-acted but stylistically this looks great and with a thunderous score by Henry Mancini it’s very hard not to get caught up in the sheer enthusiasm of it all.

Yes its a bit silly in places, the story is nonsense, but honesty in this particular movie – it doesn’t matter.

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video is impressive.  Two cuts of the movie, the slightly trimmed ‘Theatrical Version’ and the director-preferred ‘International Version’, two commentaries, an engrossing documentary called ‘cannon fodder’, interviews, trailers, and a collectable booklet.  The movie itself is in great shape.  A very clear, often sharp HD transfer and a decent 5.1 DTS Master Audio soundtrack (or uncompressed 2.0 stereo) both impress.  This is a surprising but welcome treatment for one of the more obscure movies of the 80s, but as a fan I couldn’t be happier.

Verdict:

(the movie):  4 /5

(the Blu-ray):  5 /5

X-Men: First Class


Viewed – 08 June 2011  Cinema

I didn’t get around to seeing the most recent X-Men movie, Last Stand, mostly due to poor reviews and a change of director from Brian Singer to Brett Ratner.  Yet the other night, I did manage to catch about half an hour of it on TV, and thought it looked pretty decent.  This was enough to re-educate me on all things mutant for this latest instalment.  Following the story of how Professor X and Magneto first came to know each other, Patrick Stewart is replaced by James McAvoy, and Michael Fassbender steps into the shoes of Ian McKellen.  Joining them is also a wealth of new mutants, and some familiar faces, including a young Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence instead of Rebecca Romijn).  Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughan also offers his considerable directing-chops this time around.

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