Wonder Woman


Viewed – 01 June 2017  Cinema

Despite many people’s misgivings about Batman V Superman, few could argue that Gal Gadot’s sensual Wonder Woman was a particular highlight.  Her appearance kept viewers eager for more, and so we have this origin story that focuses on how Diana (who funny enough is never referred to as Wonder Woman) came to be involved in a mission during (interestingly) the first world war.  Quickly we’re introduced to Diana’s fantasy world of Amazonian warrior women and a loose connections to Greek mythology.  There we have Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) as the reining Queen and also Diana’s mother, as well as the queen’s gutsy sister played by Robin Wright (House of Cards), who despite seemingly a departure for the actress, proves a good fit.  However their peace is soon interrupted when an American pilot Chris Pine (Star Trek) crash lands at their shore, and Diana comes to his aid.

Wonder Woman

This plays mostly like a fish-out-of-water adventure with some well observed comedy and sharp dialogue, helped immeasurably by the chemistry between Gadot & Pine who spark wonderfully off one another.  The WWII backdrop also means we get plenty of action and thrills within a fun ‘dirty dozen’ escapade.  When Diana gets to kick ass too, its a sight to behold, superbly choreographed and well, she’s very appealing to the eyes (where did they find this beauty?).  The movie is a tad over-long and degenerates into typical over-powered villain verses overpowered hero showdown, and well some of Wonder Woman’s super-human powers aren’t fully explained (she can easily toss a tank aside with one hand).  Add to this an avalanche of CGI where some acrobatics began to look a bit cartoonish once people are flying around left right and centre.

However this has it where it counts; with colourful characters that work well with each other, a decent script with plenty of humour and some excellent set-pieces.  DC seem to have turned a corner with this one, so on such evidence, I can’t wait for Justice League!

Verdict:  4 /5

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What I’m watching


I thought I’d write a small post about the TV shows I’m currently watching and my brief thoughts on each.  Over the last few weeks some have had new seasons start and it’s been fun getting back into familiar characters and storylines.  One such programme is Orange Is The New Black which has become one of my favourite shows even though I struggled through season one initially.  However the show has gone from strength to strength and this fourth season is already looking very promising.

OrangeIsTheNewBlack

I am also quite addicted to House of Cards which is currently at four seasons but I’ve been rather late to the party and am working my way through season two.  I’m loving watching Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright etc. manipulate, corrupt and conspire their way through U.S. congress.  I’ve almost finished the latest season of Game of Thrones, a show I began watching simply because so many people I knew were talking about it and so I caved in and took the plunge and am so happy I did.  The earlier seasons were a bit reliant on sex and violence and well, shock factor and that hasn’t changed much but with a greater knowledge of all the characters I’ve really found myself absorbed by it all and it probably is the best big budget drama on TV at the moment.

GameOfThrones

One I’m struggling with this season is Daredevil – following a riveting, surprising and addictive first season, this second helping has felt a lot more drawn out and tiresome, wasting a pivotal character’s inclusion by descending into yawnsome courtroom drama … but I still like the main characters and will stick with it to see how this season concludes.

WentworthPrisonTwo shows I’ve also started watching again are Wentworth Prison and Luther, the former being the Australian women’s prison drama that’s loosely based on cult Ozzy soap Prisoner Cell Block H and is really well done and stylish and at times quite violent.  It’s been very good since its inception and this season doesn’t look like faltering on that initial promise.  The latter is a British crime drama series with Idris Elba as a cop who specialises in solving serial murder cases whilst at the same time battling his own psychological demons.  It’s a bit samey from episode to episode but the shock factor of some of the storylines and Elba’s performance has drawn me back to this one after a long break.

Well those are the shows I’m currently into and enjoying so far, between movie watching, music listening and occasional gaming.

Unbreakable


Viewed – 04 May 2016  Blu-ray

I’m on a bit of a M Night Shyamalan binge of late and so we come to his acclaimed thriller blending comic book myths with mystery.  Starring Bruce Willis as the soul survivor of a train crash who comes under the watchful eye of comic book aficionado Samuel L Jackson who believes Willis may have super powers.  This one’s a strange beast and has a pretty weird vibe through out, with performances not unlike a David Lynch film.  Everyone here apart from the principle leads talks to each other like they are under some hypnotic spell or in a dream.

unbreakable willis

Slow burning and certainly intriguing, with some imaginative camera work … yet this was more ‘er…what is going on?’ than ‘ooh…what’s going to happen?’, and what seems like a low budget lets this down when actually getting to see said train crash would have given this viewer something to latch on to.  One scene especially felt off, with Willis’ son pointing a gun at his father in the belief he’s indestructible; it’s both over-acted and comes out of nowhere and makes the kid look a complete nutter.  Add to this sleepy support from Robin Wright as Willis’ estranged wife and it’s left up to Jackson’s complex ‘Mister Glass’ to save the day.  Here at least Jackson makes for a foreboding and fascinating presence with a tragic back-story, but comes off as a bit of a wack-job from the off with a series of crazy theories.  Willis does manage to carry the film well and is emotional and for the most part convincing, but at times goes along with things a bit too easily.

M Night Shyamalan’s movie can’t escape the shadow of The Sixth Sense with a similar but less understandable weird atmosphere, and a twist towards the end that whilst a shock, also comes off as ‘why?’.  With a bit more ambition this could have been a real gem as the idea has plenty of potential but fails to make the most of it, concluding with a solid final act that’s all too little too late.

The Blu-ray suffers from some smudgy black levels and a loss of detail to distant shots.  Close up detail fairs better however and the blue-tinged colour palette still looks very effective.   James Newton Howard’s eerie score is brought to life in Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as uncompressed PCM 5.1 and dialogue is sharp and there’s decent ambient effects to the soundtrack, if a little subdued.  Extras however make up for any shortcomings on the movie with two in-depth docs ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘comic books and superheroes’ as well as some shorter featurettes and a gimmicky multi-angle section.  Again, like Sixth Sense no commentary from Shyamalan which would have been welcome.  Overall, not a bad all-round package for a fun if rather overrated experience.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5

The Princess Bride


Viewed – 01 April 2013  Blu-ray

25th Anniversary Edition

Director Rob Reiner has been responsible, in my opinion for classic after classic, especially during the eighties with movies like Stand By Me, Misery and When Harry Met Sally, but many will know him for this perfectly pitched fantasy fable that pokes fun whilst also offering a tribute to movies like Legend and LadyHawk.

princessbride

Starring Robin Wright (before she was Penn) as a farm girl named Buttercup, and Cary Elwes (everybody’s favorite comedy heart-throb) as her farm boy love-interest, this is a simple love story with added swashbuckling, masked avengers, a giant, miracles and perfect narration by Peter Falk (Columbo).  At it’s heart its a comedy, and a dry one at that, with some great lines (As You Wish, You Killed My Father … Prepare To Die, He’s Only Mostly Dead!) and some great talent throughout the cast (look out for cameos from Peter Cook, Billy Crystal and Mel Smith).  Reiner’s direction is perfectly paced, telling the story with a bunch of larger-than-life characters, including a great boo-hiss villain in the shape of Chris Sarandon’s Prince Humperdink …. and let’s not forget ‘that’ theme tune.

As a movie I grew up loving, watching it now with more mature eyes, it stands the test of time well.  The script is still sharp and quotable, the performances just right, without getting too silly, and overall I had a great time.  I think it lacks a bit of spectacle, some of the effects and scenery look fake as hell, and the climax lacks a bit of impact.  However this is one of those movies where the moments you loved, are still great and the characters are all as fun as you recall – even if by today’s standards it all seems a little corny and cheap.  I still say its a classic though.

This 25th Anniversary Blu-ray is pretty impressive.  The image is crisp and has much more detail than I could have expected, the colors especially popping (check out Prince Humperdink’s red outfit and gold crown), whilst the sound is clear and  punchy.  I noticed a few moments of slight lip-sync, but that could have been my player (PS3) and when I came to watch the disk on my second player (a Pioneer) it wouldn’t play at all (!).  Very odd.  Extra’s consist of all the special features from the DVD special edition (two commentaries, a documentary, 1987 featurette, photo galleries, Cary Elwes on set video diary etc) as well as all new features including a new documentary covering the movie’s cult appeal, as well as several other featurettes).  So despite a few technical hiccups I experienced, this is otherwise a home-run.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Rampart


Viewed – 13 July 2012 Blu-ray

Woody Harrelson isn’t one of those actors that normally guarantee box office glory.  He’s always been a bit sidelined and often appears in more indie or cult movies than mainstream Hollywood.  Yet here he unusually takes top-billing.  He’s one of my favourite actors, even if he never seems to be in much I’d want to see.  Thankfully this isn’t one of those movies.

He plays Dave Brown, a cop who lives by his own rules and deals out his own brand of justice, even if it means beating a man half to death on CCTV and attracting a lot of bad press and the interest of his superiors.  Juggling his commitment to the job and that of a dysfunctional family who increasingly want to see the back of him … Dave spends his time either doing shady deals with shady people, talking his way out of being forced into retirement, or sleeping around with any woman who offers even a passing interest.  His life is gradually falling apart.

This may not be entirely cheery stuff, but with a very strong performance from Harrelson who manages to make a very unlikable character sympathetic, and with good support from Sigourney Weaver, Ned Beatty and Robin Wright – this was a gritty but believable drama that left me with plenty to think about and admire.  The intelligent direction from Oren Moverman is part fly on a wall documentary, part art house movie with lots of eye-catching, experimental camera work and perfectly chosen moody music.  It reminded me of the excellent Nicholas Cage drama Leaving Las Vegas, although not as bleak.  And that’s quite a compliment in my book.

Verdict: 4 /5