Morgan


Viewed – 07 February 2017  online rental

A corporate risk management consultant (Kate Mara) is called to a secluded research facility after a top secret test subject attacks a doctor, leaving her blinded in one eye.  Said test subject turns out to be an artificially engineered young girl.  Was her actions a one-off or is she dangerous?

Morgan

Immediately this brought back memories of movies like Ex Machina and Splice and is always for me a fascinating subject.  Mara plays the stiff collared consultant called in and she’s one of those actress’s I’ve become increasingly aware of, following memorable turns in House of Cards and Gone Girl.  Although I’ve seen her as a much more feisty presence … she handled herself well enough here even if her particular casting didn’t seem all that suited.  However the fairly new to the scene Anya Taylor-Joy (who I recognised from The Witch) impressed much more and delivered a nuanced and layered turn as Morgan, keeping this viewer guessing on how things might turn out.  The concept although familiar was fairly well delivered and support cast was adequate, bar a scene stealing Paul Giammati (who come on, is always a scene stealer). 

As an observation on artificial life forms and with a smattering of action (with some rather impressive fight choreography) and a bit of horror, this made for enjoyable, if lightweight entertainment.  It certainly hasn’t as much to say on the subject as similar movies… but still managed to surprise, especially with that ending.

Verdict:  3 /5

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San Andreas


Viewed – 13 October 2015  Online rental

I can’t say I’ve been all that drawn to Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson as a movie star and was never into American Wrestling.  However this disaster action flick seemed like an easy choice for an evening’s entertainment, and hell – isn’t The Rock in everything these days?

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He plays a Helicopter rescue officer who becomes embroiled in the search for his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) and teenage daughter after a series of devastating earthquakes rumble through California.  In the grand tradition of Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich this is primarily an excuse for effects wizards to really go to town as we witness mass destruction, sky scrapers toppling and the hoover dam bursting … all done with some impressive CGI and excellent set design.  It’s glossy, loud, intense and very exciting as we watch various individuals try and survive an event that is literally tearing the west coast of the united states apart.  It wasn’t hard to get caught up in the story either, with The Rock harbouring regretful memories following the collapse of his marriage, and having to watch his wife move in with another guy (a slimy Ioan Gruffudd).  Yet this is also where the story starts to get rather familiar.

San Andreas 2Yes this is pretty clichéd stuff, the troubled hero trying to piece his family back together and it takes a cataclysmic event for him to realise what he’s missing.  Also we get some awful stereotypes such as the typical Hugh Grant-like English lad who is clearly going to be a love interest for the (predictably) hot daughter.  Add to this a scientist (Paul Giamatti) who nobody listens to at first (he may as well be Jeff Goldbum), and some very predictable near-miss almost deaths and – despite plenty of energy and quality effects – I was entertained but not at all surprised.  It also get’s pretty crazy towards the end (that cruise ship bit…).    Yet although failing to re-write the disaster movie rule book, and sticking a bit too rigidly to formula … for a solid two hours entertainment – I’d still say this is worth a watch.  Oh and, The Rock wasn’t bad either.

Verdict:  3 /5

Saving Mr. Banks


Viewed – 26 March 2014  Pay-per-view

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.  I didn’t predict that, but such a versatile and skilled actor can seemingly inhabit the bodies of many characters you may never have pictured him as … Forest Gump springing immediately to mind.  This based-on-true-events tale tells the troubled history to bring much loved children’s book “Mary Poppins” to the big screen, and the difficult relationship that builds between the legendary studio mogul and author P L Travers (Emma Thompson).

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From the start this is sprinkled with the whimsical, magical feel of the classic movie and has the timeless music and songs showcased throughout, albeit during their inception rather than being delivered by the stars.  Jumping back and forth between the onset of Disney’s acquisition of the rights to Travers’ creation, and her childhood back in Australia … I was swept away by a very moving and emotional story with a brilliantly cranky Emma Thompson at the top of her game.  Her performance may be at times unlikable and a tad annoying but expresses the complex personality and inner-demons of Travers well, and is equally mirrored by Hanks remarkable Disney … eye-opening for those not overly familiar with the man himself, and charming and likeable in a way only Hanks can achieve.  Paul Giamatti as Travers’ chauffer is also good, and his slow-burning friendship with Travers is one of the movie’s highlights.

For me I would have liked less flashbacks (despite a rather good Colin Farrell as Travers alcoholic father) and a bit more behind the scenes of Mary Poppins’ production (no look-a-like Dick Van Dyke or Julie Andrews?  A two second glimpse doesn’t count!). Yet this was still very sweet, uplifting and funny.  Well worth checking out.

Verdict:  4 /5

Cosmopolis


Viewed – 29 November 2012. Blu-ray

David Cronenberg is one of my favourite directors, responsible for such masterpieces as Videodrome and Dead Ringers.  So naturally I will seek out anything by him … even this curious oddity starring Twilight actor Robert Pattinson.

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Pattinson plays a young billionaire living in Manhattan on-route to getting his hair cut whilst travelling in a stretched limo. However for a man who has it all, the beautiful wife, the sexy mistress (Juliette Binoche) and more money than he knows what to do with … he craves something more, something that might make him feel alive again.

Interesting concept, based on the novel by Don Dellilo, this has more in common with Cronenberg’s baffling Naked Lunch than any of his other work.  Filled with impenetrable dialogue that is more a series of phylosophical statements than people actually talking one another – I found this both beautiful to look at, and cold and alienating … meaning gleaming much enjoyment was near-impossible.  Cameos by Samantha Morton & Paul Giamatti were welcome, but even smatterings of sex & violence couldn’t pull this out of the doldrums, and I almost nodded off at times. Pattinson also continues to be one of the most navel-gazing actors I have ever witnessed, and I remain firmly on the fence as to his appeal.

One to avoid then, even for seasoned Cronenberg fans.

Verdict:  1 /5

The Ides of March


Viewed – 22 November 2012 Online rental

When a movie has a good cast, it can make it one to see regardless of subject matter.  However a good time isn’t guaranteed as I realised watching Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy.  Thankfully this isn’t the case here.  George Clooney plays a politician in running for President and with one more state to win over it is up to his campaign team to make him look good.  However when a potential scandal emerges, it’s up to his best team member (Ryan Gosling) to make it go away.

Co-starring such talents as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Marisa Tomei … this is gritty and stylish, peppered with sharp dialogue and cool, classy direction from George Clooney who plays a perfectly believable clean-cut Politician sporting plenty of arrogance.  Gosling, as with the earlier Drive is again great, naive but also ruthless in his goals.  I also totally love Seymour Hoffman in anything, and he doesn’t disappoint here.

A big plot development towards the end left me a little confused, but that is all I can really say against this, as for a movie about a subject I know very little about – this proved surprisingly absorbing and comes highly recommended.

Verdict: 4 /5