Kate


Viewed – 14 September 2021 Netflix

I admit it, Mary Elizabeth Winstead just does it for me. She always plays cool characters, is a capable actor and exudes a subtle sexiness that’s very appealing. This latest vehicle, playing a character not too dissimilar to one she played in Birds of Prey has her as Kate, a professional assassin who following a hit that goes wrong, discovers she’s been infected with a deadly poison. With about a day to live she races against time to find out the culprit and eliminate them.

Co-starring Woody Harrelson as her mentor, this is very much the female take on John Wick and yes, Winstead is a badass. Set in Tokyo, of course this is stylish, full of neon, fast cars and plenty of gun-fu. Shame then that unlike that Keanu Reeves franchise, the direction here isn’t as slick, and action can occasionally feel stilted, with some uninspired camera work and sloppy editing – add to this an over reliance on (poor) CGI. The plot is still effective if simple, serving up some good twists, and the subplot of a teenage girl who Kate has to reluctantly team up with, proved interesting.

If you like your action fast and colourful, this is still the movie for you. Winstead is great, portraying her pending death well, but much of the plot was quite predictable. Harrelson also is also just ok, clearly capable of delivering this kind of character in his sleep. So no, not quite an action classic, but worth seeing regardless.

Verdict: Good

Zombieland: Double Tap


Viewed – 25 February 2020. Online rental

I really liked the first Zombieland. It felt like America’s answer to Shaun of the Dead,, and although it wasn’t quite as clever as that Simon Pegg vehicle, it had tons of personality and a great cast. This sequel, which I’d never expected but was hyped for none the less reunites us with our American-state-named survivors Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone) etc. during the zombie apocalypse following the discovery of a mutated, even deadlier version of the creatures they’ve become a little too relaxed with despatching.

The gang’s back together…

Clearly the story is a fairly basic excuse to do another Zombieland and although this fails to further build on what came before or flesh out the setting, with barely any exploration of the zombie threat … just being in the company of these chatacters again was good enough. Harrelson, Stone and Eisenberg still have great chemistry and their frequently comical banter is pure joy. Honestly, I dont think i could ever get bored of these characters. Harrelson is especially on brilliant form and steals many of the best scenes. Although, less said about a tiresomely pouty Abigail Breslin as Little Rock and that incrdibly annoying millenial bimbo that turns up, the better.

A shortage of new ideas makes this sequel a bit lazy, but the comedy, some decent zombie killing action and just plain fun characters all sparking off each other, made for solid entertainment regardless – and yeah, I’d welcome a part three with open arms.

Verdict: Good

The Highwaymen


Viewed – 02 April 2019. Netflix

You’d think a movie based on a notorious true story and starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, would be a sure bet. However this thriller told from the perspective of two former Texas Rangers, pulled out of retirement to put a stop to Bonnie & Clyde was surprisingly ‘meh’.

Costner & Harrelson make for an good pairing however, and their banter and slightly bumbling approach to an off-the-books investigation proves the main enjoyment of the film. You see, despite an atmospheric setting and authentic sense of time and place, the movie really plods along, barely even showing the legendary bank robbers, especially ‘in the act’ and by focusing more on these has-been lawmen the movie fails to be as riveting as the subject might suggest. It’s also one of those very vague movies when it comes to various clues and important details leading to finally locating Bonnie & Clyde – which proves rather frustrating. In addition, the real-life fame and hysteria that surrounded the murderous criminals is only slightly touched upon.

There’s entertainment to be had here, but overall this was a missed opportunity.  Another so-called Netflix original that underwhelms … I’m sensing a pattern.

Verdict: 2.5 /5

Solo – a Star Wars Story


Viewed – 20 November 2018. Online rental

I was disappointed and somewhat annoyed by The Last Jedi, so like many others I suddenly felt cautious about a Star Wars movie the same way I’d felt cautious going to see Revenge of the Sith. This spin-off gives us an ‘early years’ snapshot of none other than Han Solo, which I’ll admit was an intriguing idea. Solo (a perfect Alden Ehrenreich) is from the off a likeable rogue who unwittingly gets signed up for the imperial infantry after getting separated from his love interest in the shape of Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke. However once amongst a rag tag group of soldiers he teams up with Woody Harrelson’s smuggler and also makes a new, hairy friend.

Directed by Ron Howard this is immediately entertaining and slickly made. It starts off energetically and barely lets up, with a sharp script that throws in several nods to the classic franchise as well as introducing us to a fun, twist filled caper. The banter between the characters is great, and I especially enjoyed the new droid L3, and how she’s a sort-of girlfriend to notorious womaniser Lando Calrissian! That train sequence is first rate also. However with a focus on smugglers and thieves and not so much the empire or any sort of rebellion, this has a different vibe than what we’ve seen before. The plot for what it is is simple though and the transporting of a valuable item from one group of people to another is only their to bring certain characters together. Yet the origins of the Millennium Falcon and some of Han’s boasted escapades (the kessel run?) was certainly fun to see play out.

A final twist proves overly confusing (unless you have indulged in any of the expanded universe), and Emilia Clarke is surprisingly bland. Thankfully then, this still nails it where it counts … adding its own flavour whilst managing to retain the feel of what a Star Wars movie should be.

Verdict: 4 /5

War for the Planet of the Apes


Viewed – 14 July 2017  Cinema

Following an invasion of their home by a military force, ape leader Caesar (Andy Serkis) vows revenge and sets off to hunt down Woody Harrelson’s ruthless Colonel with a small group of fellow apes.  Along the way they stumble upon a young mute girl who may be evidence of a mutated strain of the disease that has already killed off most of mankind.

war-planet-apes

A decidedly strange experience.  I went into this with very high expectations and have to say what I got was a different movie than I was anticipating.  It has the word ‘war’ in the title but it’s not the humans vs. apes smack down the last movie set us up for.  Instead it explores an on-going conflict set at ‘war time’ between said apposing military force and the still attempting to live in peace apes.  However what we do have is once again a movie with a great deal of heart, some very touching character moments, themes of loyalty, family and friendship as well as a little comic relief in the form of an ageing lone ape who turns up half way through.  We get a lengthy prisoner-of-war sequence that is brilliantly played out with echoes of The Great Escape, and some decent action although nothing on par with the last two movies.  This one’s less about explosions and spectacle and more about the search for a safe haven and a potential future, even if that future is hopeless for humans.  As a conclusion (?) to the trilogy, it feels a tad uneventful and drags in places, and that ending was rather a damp squib.

Yet for fans like myself this is still solid entertainment.  It’s superbly acted with again top marks going to Serkis, whilst Harrelson delivers a fine villain.  It’s also absolutely stunning to look at (can these apes get any more real?) aided by plenty of personality and bags of emotion.  I just suppose by a third movie, I was expecting more not … less.

Verdict:  4 /5