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I confess I didn't even know this was a DC comic book, but it looked intriguing so H and I did our usual Wednesday afternoon twofers thing. I wasn't expecting much, but it was actually much better than I thought it would be. The basic premise is a kid becomes a super-hero in an adult body when he says the magic word - Shazam. Of course, his hunky adult body hides a child-sized brain, which is where the humour comes in.

Zachary Levi is the adult super hero, pitching his performance just right as a boy in a man's body. Asher Angel does well as the schoolboy with a big secret, and Jack Dylan Grazer is the schoolfriend who becomes Shazam's sidekick. Mark Strong is delightful as the scenery-chewing villain.


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Yes, OK, I admit, I couldn't resist this. I saw the original movie when I was a kid, but apart from ther fact that the cute baby elephant flies and Mrs Jumbo is ripped away from her son, I couldn't really remenber the plot. This is Tim Burton's live action verison with Colin Farrell and Eva Green as the two adult leads and Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins playing Farrell's kids who discover the baby elephant's flying abilities. There follows a plot in which an evil circus owner (Michael Keaton) plots to put Dumbo in his own mega-circus and thereby split up Danny DeVito's small family circus. It's all good clean fun with some mild peril to scare the kids a bit. Well worth a watch on a wet Wednesday afternoon.
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Being an unashamed folkie I wanted to see this - not because i thought it was actually a true account of how Fisherman's Friends - a shanty group from Cornwall - were actually picked up by a major label, but - well - because I wanted top see what the movie had come up with. It says it's 'based on a true story' and i think the 'based on' is probably the most important part of the phrase.

Yes, OK, it's a feelgood British film about the undersogs making good. The charactyers are lovely, the story is sweet anhd there's some good shanty singing (though not too much to the non-folkies need not worry).

James Purefoy makes a good grizzled fisherman. I've never been that keen on Daniel mays, but he comes good as the intruder into a closed society, eventually learning to do the right thing.
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What can i say? I loved this movie. I'm going to try and review it without major spoilers because it's barely been out a week yet.

Vers (Brie Larson) is an extraterrestrial Kree warrior who has dedicated herself to fighting the Skrull, evil shapechangers, on a team led by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), but images of a past life keep coming back to her and when she ends up on Earth she feels she might have had a life there, if only she could remember.

She teams up with a young Nick Fury, a cleverly de-aged Samuel L Jackson to fight what seems to be an alen infiltrarion, only gradually remembering her past as Carol Danvers. There's a wonderful reunion between Carol and her one-time best friend Maria (Lashana Lynch) who manages to be a brilliant pilot and a single mother with a brilliant kid.

This is Captain Marvel's origin story, setting up her upcoming appearance in Avengers Endgame. Also it's the first Marvel movie to have a female main character. (About time, Marvel, please don't forget Black Widow!)

Stay to the end of the credits for two extra scenes. Oh, and watch out for the cat.


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About as far away from Aragorn in Lord of the Rings as you can get, Viggo Mortensen takes the role of Tony Lip, a working-class Italian-American bouncer who becomes the driver (and trouble-sorter) for Dr Donald Shirley (Mahershala Ali) a refined African-American pianist on a tour of venues through the American Deep South in the 1960s.The Green Book of the title is a list of hotels, and such, friendly to black faces. Racial tensions are high and Tony's own prejudice is gradually worn away by the Doc until the two men become firm friends, though from vastly different worlds.

It's a buddy movie, a road trip movie and a movie about prejudice and friendship. Thoroughly enjoyable and even uplifting. Highly recommended.

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This was actually much better than i expected it to be. A take on the Arthurian legend complete with the sword in the stone and Merlin as both a schoolboy and a old man (Old Merlin played whimsically by Patrick Stewart in a dandelion clock wig.)

Louis Ashbourne Serkis is Alex, the titular sword-drawer. You'd expect Andy Serkis' son to be a decent actor, and he is, but kudos also to Dean Chaumoo playing Bedders (Sir Bedevere), in his first film role according to IMDB. Angus Imrie, playing a good ten years below his actual age playes the gawky young Merlin. The young actors are definitely the stars of the show.

Morgana is on the rise and Alex first has to deal with school bullies before he can fight Morgana's demons with an army of secondary school kids.

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I'm not sure what to say about this movie. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Would I like to watch it again? Not particularly.

Don't get me wrong the visuals are stunningly good, though I'm not that fond of manga. The future setting has a floating city above and a dog-eat-dog world down below.
When a prosthetics/robotics specialist finds a deactivated cyborg in a massive junk dump he takes her home, gets her working and treats her as his daughter, even giving her his daughter's name. Alita wakes with no knowledge of her past life. Christoph Waltz is the 'dad' and Rosa Salazar is the cyborg, digitally enhanced to give her enormous eyes. It's very manga, but also a bit uncanny valley.

The storyline is Alita finding out who she is and what she's capable of and then kicking ass. There's a lot of chasing about without an enormous amount of character development. The CGI is brilliant, though, as you would expect from James Cameron and Weta Workshop

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It's 1613. After the disastrous fire which destroys the Globe Theatre, William Shakespeare returns to Stratford to a family who have become strangers. He must struggle to come to terms with his relationships with his wife and daughters, with his grief over the death of his son, Hamnet, some years ago. Written by Ben Elton and directed (and acted) by Kenneth Brannagh this is a contemplative study of Shakespeare's later life, exploring, alongside Shaespeare himself, his failings as a husband and a father and his attempt to mend relatiuonships.

It's beautifully acted by Brannagh who morphs into Shakespeare so well that the actor himself is unrecognisable. Kudos to Judi Dench as a very restrained and dignified Anne Hathaway. There's a cameo by Ian McKellen.

One of the stars is the filming location, Dorney Court, which has been in more movies than many actors. It's a grade I listed early Tudor manor house, dating from around 1440, located in the village of Dorney, Buckinghamshire. It's filmography includes: Sliding Doors, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Sense and Sensibility, Cranford, The 10th Kingdom, A Man for All Seasons and many, many more.

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I'm a sucker for the How to Train Your Dragon movies with Hiccup and his Night-fury dragon, Toothless, and a whole host of recurring characters voiced by a plethora of recognisable actors from Gerard Butler and Cate Blanchett to Kit Harrington and David Tennant. This is the third outing for Hiccup and co. This time Hiccup's Viking settlement is overrun by the dragons they've rescued and they are attracting the attention of dragon catchers and, in particular, dragon hunter, Grimmel, who speciales in killing Night-furies. Hiccup is now the leader of their small but expanding community and he has an understanding with Astrid (but they aren't married yet). He's desperately trying to shoulder the burden of leadership alone. As the dragon population increases and the bad guys get closer, Hiccup dreams of finding the Hidden World his father talked about, where humans and dragons will be safe together, but he has some tough choices to make as Toothless falls in love, and things change. It's a sweet story with some nail biting action and tense moments which lead to a satisfying resolution. The moral of the tale? We are stronger together. As usual the animation is superb.

This whole franchise is particularly noted for having an amputee hero who grows past his disability and never lets it slow him down. Great for children and pretty darn good for adults as well.

And just in case you haven't seen this Jon Snow/Toothless 'audition on Youtube, take a look. It makes me laugh every time. https://youtu.be/pXCpc2Bcirs

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I'm not quite sure why Olivia Coleman got a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Undoubtedly she deserved an award, but surely not the musical or comedy category! It certainly wasn't a musical and nowhere near comedy. The portrait of Queen Anne was that of a pathetic, mercurial, sick woman with little understanding of her country's politics. She almost seems educationally challenged, which doesn't seem likely given her actual political record. Laughing at her is not an option, though she does some ludicrous things, more winceworthy than funny.

The story is basically about the Queen's favourite Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, being ousted by Abigail, her own cousin (recently impoverished and on the make). Abigail is newly come into the Queen's service as a servant and schemes to make herself indispensible to the ailing queen. If that means climbing into her bed, she's determined to do it. Success is not what she imagined it might be. The triangular (sexual) relationship between these three women is central to the plot. The performances  (Coleman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) are exemplary.

The filming locations are Hadfield House in Hertfordshire and (more briefly) Hampton Court. It's atmospheric, but forget historical accuracy. It's not attempting to be a biopic. It's a film to admire, but not neccessarily to see twice.
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A perfect children's film. Emily Blunt makes an excellent Mary Poppins. She admits no one can out-Julie Julie Andrews, but she makes a very creditable showing and you're certainly not left making comparisons. She owns the role in this Poppins iteration. Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Jack the lamplighter in the Dick van Dyke type role as the honest, cheerful salt-of-the-earth Londoner, and manages it without the excruciating Dick van Dyke cockney accent. Let's face it, the standard of Hollywood dialect coaching is way higher than it used to be in the 1960s.

The plot is fairly simple. Michael Banks (Ben Wishaw), one of the children from the first film, now grown, married, father of three children and recently widowed, is understandably depressed, not keeping up with the family goings-on and about to lose the house to the bank. His sister, Jane, is unable to snap him out of it. He has the soul of an artist but slogs away in the same bank his late father worked at.

Enter magical nanny, Mary Poppins aided and abetted by lamplighter, Jack. Cue a string of entertaining songs and set-piece dance scenes which map onto the original movie. You get the magical song and dance with cartoon characters. The lamplighters have a set piece to replace the chimney sweep scene in the original. But it's all good fun and it all ends happily, of course.

If you have kids in the 6 - 12 age group take them. You (and they) won't be disappointed. A bonus for all grownups who saw the original as children is Dick van Dyke (now well in his 90s) making an appearance, both singing and dancing (without the risible accent). And who doesn't love Dick van Dyke? There's a bonus Julie Walters as the Banks family housekeeper, David Warner as Admiral Bloom, and Angela Lansbury as the Balloon Lady.
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H and I Sat through Aquaman this afternoon. That's 2 hours and 23 minutes of my life that I'm not going to get back. It was close to an hour too long and consisted mostly of fight scenes with a bit of origin story wrapped around them. Apparently the UK version was cut to remove some of the gore to secure a 12A rating. I can't say that was a bad move. Aquaman, half human, half Atlantean, has to accept his heritage and fight for his rightful place as king to prevent a war between Atlantis and the surface world. The whole thing is visually sumptuous and the special effects/CGI are, as you might expect, stunningly good, but that's about the only positive thing I have to say. OK, maybe I could say that Jason Momoa did a creditable job in the title role, but I had more sympathy for Temuera Morrison as Aquaman's dad. Nicole Kidman as his mum was under-used. The costumes were good, though there were some jarring continuity glitches when someone seemed to change costume without having any opportunity to do so in the story. The undersea 'ocean' in some sort of cavern deep in the Trench was entirely reminiscent of Journey to the Centre of the Earth (the 1959 version) complete with dinosaurs that were not story-relevant. The script was... well... pretty abysmal, really. Witty banter? No. Incisive dialogue? No. The plot is messy. Things happen without the consequences being explored, and the big reveal towards the end entirely predictable. Frankly I was bored, especially when fight scenes went on for way too long. I am reminded that (Wonder Woman excepted) DC comic-based movies are generally not a patch on Marvel ones.  (Come back Christopher Reeve, and remind us how good the first two Superman movies were.)
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Robin HoodThis owes little allegiance to the  medieval ballads of Robin Hood from which retellers of the tales have taken inspiration for the last century. To be honest the trailer made it look like a cross between Walt Disney and Assassin's Creed, but against all odds I found that I actually enjoyed it. Of course the only way to approach something like this is to consider it as an alternate universe version. The only thing that maps on to more traditional versions of Robin Hood are the names. Forget anything approaching an attempt at historical accuracy. Nottingham never looked like that and the costumes were about as realistic as those in Knight's Tale (which is not necesserily a bad thing because it's still one of my favourite movies).

Once my brain had readjusted to the alternate universe, I went along with this for the ride. Against my expectations Taron Egerton made a respectable Robin (thought it would have been nice if he'd managed a Nottinghamshire accent instead of Essex-boy speak). Eve Hewson as Marion was, for once, not in need of rescuing from the lecherous Sherriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn dressed to look more like an elite Nazi from WW2) Jamie Foxx played John as a Moor recently relocated from the Crusades. At no time did I hear anyone call him 'little'.

Special mention to Tim Minchin as Tuck who was not only there for comic relief, but had a serious side as well.

It's definitely a rock and roll version of Robin Hood, but none the worse for all that. And the ending was set up for a possible sequel. I find I'm quite looking forward to it.

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Crimes of GrindlewaldThis is visually striking and the magical special effects are... well... magical, but as far as storytelling goes it's a bit of a hot mess, and when you actually examine it, it really doesn't move the story far forward from the first Fantastic Beasts movie. I'm not a great Eddie Redmayne fan, which doesn't help (though I admit he's an excellent actor) and they missed a few tricks with Johnny Depp as Grindlewald. I AM a Johnny Depp fan, but his Grindlewald makeup was so unappealing that you couldn't envisage the character being charismatic enough to gather a band of followers.

OK, so what happens? Magizoologist Newt Scamander, due to a misundertanding, now has a strained relationship with love interest Tina (established in the first movie). Grindlewald has escaped from the American Ministry of Magic. Credence Barebone (presumed dead) had reemerged in Paris. So when Dumbledore sends Newt on an undercover trip to Paris, all bets are off. We meet Nagini, a maledictus snake shape-changer, who will later become Voldemort's creature, and there's a guest appearance by Nicholas Flamel and some cute nifflers, but to be honest I'm already losing the thread of what happened when and to whom. Not a good sign.

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Catching up on some movies I missed writing about.

Bohemian RhapsodyI know Bohemian Rhapsody had a few sticky reviews re not going deeply enough into Freddie Mercury's life and the real man, but a movie can only do so much, and this was worth seeing for the music alone. Also the performances were superb. Yes, OK, maybe Rami Malek's teeth were a little overdone re the overbite, but in all other ways he made a very believable Freddie. I'd like to do a special shout-out for Gwilym Lee who looked more like Brian May that Brian May himself. When is a biopic not a biopic? According to Freddie's partner, Jim Hutton, Freddie was diagnosed HIV positive in 1987, while the Live Aid concert took place in 1985. The movie would have us believe that Freddie already knew he was under a death sentence (as AIDS was then) when he walked out on stage to perform the iconic set that cemented Queen's position as a rock legend. Also the way Freddie met his partner, Jom, was certainly not as shown in the movie, so take the 'facts' with a pinch of salt. The music, however... Brilliant.

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When their husbands are killed in a heist-gone-wrong Veronica (and therefore the other widows) are pressed for $2m by a crime boss turned politician. Their only way out is to carry out the next heist that the late Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) had meticulously planned.  This isn't simply a caper movie like Oceans 8. It's gritty and there's a twist. Harry's widow, Veronica, is played by the excellent Viola Davis, and she carries the whole thing, with Liam Neeson adding gravitas. Colin Farrell plays a politician who may be slightly less corrupt than his father, but is he really?

It's hard to tell who the good guys are in this - if indeed, there are any - however you certainly know where your sympathies lie. It's an excellent movie, if gruelling.

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This movie is not as good as it thinks it is. Visually it's sumptuous, but there's something lacking. The best childen's movies work for adults, too, but this simply didn't work for me.

The blurb says: Clara needs a magical, one-of-a-kind key to unlock a box that contains a priceless gift. A golden thread leads her to the coveted key, but it soon disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. In that world, she meets a soldier named Phillip, a group of mice and the regents who preside over three realms. Clara and Phillip must now enter a fourth realm to retrieve the key and restore harmony to the unstable land.

It's a relatively simple story with an unexpected twist, but sadly the only performance that comes close to being engrossing is Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger.


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Ryan Gosling has turned in a tightly controlled, measured performance as Neil Armstrong in what amounts to a biopic recounting his journey to become the first man to walk on the moon. Armstrong was, by all accounts, a man who didn't wear his emotions on his face and Gosling manages to convince as he journeys from commercial test pilot to astronaut. It's fascinating with information about the moonshots as well as Armstrong's private life. Recommended.
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To be honest I didn't think much to this. It was all very sweet, but a bit slow and nondescript. Ewan McGregor is always good value and as the harassed salesman trying to keep his job to the exclusioon of wife and family, he made a decent job of it. It takes Winnie the Pooh to knock some sense into him.
It's all really an excuse to revisit favourite characters from childhood.

To be honest the summer films this year have been a bit rubbish. This was one of the ones we tried, but I'm glad we didn't pay full price. This is why my movie of the week posts have slowed right down.

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Mama Mia...againThe first Mama Mia movie was fun. I found this one maudlin, though the songs were well done. It got me in the feels, several times, as, indeed, it was trying to do, but so OTT that I disliked my emotions being manipulated. The performances were good, the set pieces excellent. Pity that the character of 'Fernando' was dropped in with all the subtlety of a clog in order to get the one song in. So what did I like about it? Well, as usual, the three dads, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard and Colin Firth, played it perfectly and Julie Walters and Christine Baranski reprised their characters beautifully, but if you were expecting another tour de force from Meryl Streep, forget it, except in flashback and a cameo at the end. This was mainly the younger actors taking over. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) wants to know how her three dads met her mum, so cue the younger versions of Donna (Lily James), Harry (Hugh Skinner), Sam (Jeremy Irvine), and Bill (Josh Dylan) with young Rosie (Alexa Davies) and Young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynne). Kudos to Lily James and Amanda Seyfried (presuming they did their own singing). And, yes, I did spot Benny Andersson as the piano player in the cafe scene.

It's set five years on from the last movie and things have changed in a big way. Sophie is reopening the hotel after renovations and has some good news to relay to husband, Sky (Dominic Cooper). Guests are gathering for the grand party, but Donna has left a big hole in everyone's lives. Enter Grandma (Cher!).

And how about the songs? Well, it was obvious they couldn't have all the same ones again (though they did duplicate the obvious one) so there were some that I wasn't familiar with, only having a passing acquaintance with Abba. They all worked well, on screen, though. And if it handn'r been for the excessive tear-jerking I might have given this five stars. As it is, maybe three and a half. Worth watching, but I won't be rushing out to buy the DVD.
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This is every bit as good as everyone is saying. It's a study of female empowerment and middle-aged male angst wrapped up in a a slick script with superb animation. (Mr Incredible's facial expressions are a treat.) Super heroes are still banned but when a movement to get them accepted again focuses on Elastagirl, Mr Incredible is left holding the baby - literally - and wrestling with his older offspring, one at the teen-girl stage and the other a rambunctious boy with overdeloped ideas of his own prowess. It takes the whole family (and their friend Frozone) to foil a dastardly plot, of course. Highly recommended.
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Oceans 8I saw the original Ocean's 11 many years ago, but I haven't seen the recent ones, however an all-female version was intriguing enough to send us scurrying to the cinema on a hot Wednesday afternoon. (Thank goodness for aircon!)

It's an excellent cast headed by Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett with a good supporting cast that includes Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter. It's a heist movie. Debbie ocean has spent several years in jail carefully working ot a daring heist - steal a fabulous diamond necklace during a glttering gala. It's a clever plan and, of course, you're on edge to see whather it works out or not...

Some reliable performances. Special kudos to James Corden as the insurance inspector.


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I didn't have enormously high expectations of this, but I went in expecting fun and that's what I got. It's a rehash of 'Dances with Dinosaurs' but this time the dinos are off the island.

When a volcanic eruption threatens to turn the dinosaurs extinct there's a great debate as to whether nature should be allowed to take its course, but a privately funded foundation wades in with the offer to catch and ship the dinos off the island. They're supposed to be going to an uninhabited island, but...

So enter Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) who is the only person who can successfully catch the raptor, Blue, that he trained in the first movie. He ends up on the Island with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). If they looked to be heading for a happy ever after in the first movie, they are now on the other side of that... but, yes, obviously the movie needed a way of stretching out the sexual tension.

Anyhow, it all gets doubly dangerous when the volcano erupts and the bad guys show themselves up for what they are... and I'm not going to go any further in case you haven't seen it yet.

Is it worth seeing? I think so. Chris Pratt is good in this kind of role and he makes it work. It's obvious from the ending that there's going to be another one.

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SoloI saw the Solo movie yesterday. It wasn't horrible, but I confess to being underwhelmed. It was actually a little boring. It's a simple heist story showing Solo's origins in the underworld of Corellia and his progress through and out of the Imperial military before latching on to a criminal gang trying to steal coaxium (very valuable hyper-fuel). It shows how Han meets Chewbacca and Lando, and in the closing scene shows a cameo appearance by Darth Maul indicating that there's more to come from that direction.

Unfortunately Alden Ehrenreich isn't a good choice of lead. It sadly misses Harrison Ford's charisma. There's no real sparkle. For someone brought up in the underworld, young Solo is terminally naive. I just can't see him growing into the streetwise Han from Episode Four.  I think it's probably a movie that should never have been made, given that turning back the clock and having Ford play the character is not an option, despite it being science fiction. Unfortunately it seems as though Ehrenreich is signed up for three Solo movies.

I'm not saying the performances are bad. Emilia Clarke's Qi'ra is decent and she's set to return, I think. Donald Glover is a good Lando Calrissian, but the best thing about the movie is Paul Bettany's Dryden Vos, a slimy, but believable villain.

Is it just me or is the star of the show actually the Milennium Falcon?
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Deadpool 2I enjoyed both Deadpool movies, despoite thinging that I really shouldn't. Deadpool (Wade Wilson, played by an almost unrecognisable Ryan Reynolds) is wisecracking pottymouth superhero with a disfigured face. In Deadpool 2 his girlfriend (Morena Baccarin) is killed and Wade blames himself. He tries to commit suicide, but he's not so easy to kill and he's rescued by X-Man Colossus and conscripted to the X-Men. When sent to resolve a stanbdoff between young mutant Russel )Firefist) he ends up taking the kid's side. There's prison, a warrior from the future, a sacrifice and - in case you were thinking of leaving you have to stick around for the end credits scene if you want to see how it really ends.
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GuernseyA sweet film with a mystery and a romance. In the aftermath of World War Two a successful writer, Juliet Ashton (Lily James), visits Guernsey, which is still reeling from the effects of having been occupied by Germans. She's there to write about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for an article she's committed to, but on meeting the society's members she realises there's a mystery that no one is willing to talk about. She's corresponded with farmer Dawsey Adams (Michael Huisman) who turns out to be not what she expected at all. Juliet nibbles away at the mystery (what happened to Elizabeth McKenna?) until all is revealed. In the meantime she and Dawsey develop a relationship, which is somewhat unfortunate, since Juliet is engaged to (pushy) American Mark Reynolds. It's probably no great spoiler if I say it all works out in the end (after all, it's that sort of film). It's not just Farmer Dawsey who draws Juliet in,  the rest of the cast is very engaging, too. Kudos to Penelope Wilton and Tom Courtenay for their excellent contribution.
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Infinity War2nd May

Much anticipated, Avengers - Infinity War delivered (in lumps).

Without spoilers, there are two things you need to know before you see it. Firstly, it's not the end of the story, but you'll have to wait until next year to find out how it continues. And secondly, it's worth sitting through the incredibly long credits because there's an Easter Egg right at the end which gives a clue to what's coming next.

So, how does a movie maker take the main characters from across the Marvel franchise and bring them all together in one movie? The answer is, carefully. Guardians of the Galaxy, plus Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther, Spider Man, Black Widow, Vision, Doctor Strange and The Hulk (or mostly Bruce Banner). And of course we get super-villain Thanos from Guardians. There was also a lovely vignette from Peter Dinklage.

No spoilers, but this movie could be a game-changer for the marvel Universe. I'm looking forward to 2019 to see how certain issues are resolved.

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A Wrinkle in Time18th April

Oh dear, what a badly miscast movie. The young leads were OK (Storm Reid, Levi Miller and Deric McCabe) but, oh dear, Oprah Winfrey as Mrs Which was so over the top, she met herself coming back. I think it's down to the costume design. In a previous review I praised the costume and set design for Black Panther. The costumes for Mrs Which, Mrs Who and Mrs Whatsit were just about as far in the opposite direction as it's possible to get.

Chris Pine as the missing dad in need of rescue kinda dialled it in. There really wan't much to be done with a turgid script. Even Gugu Mbatha-Raw had no opportunity to shine.

The galling thing was that we had to travel to the Showcase Cinema in Batley to see it because it disappeared from our local cinema in Wakefield in just one week. (Now I know why.) The nice thing was that the cinema has reclining seats which help you to sleep through in comfort.

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favour and don't.



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Finding your feetOne of those charming British films featuring a galaxy of beautifully aging British thesps let by Imelda Staunton as Sandra, the betrayed wife who runs to her estranged sister, Bif (Celia Imrie) when she has nowhere else to go. Introduced to a variety of unlikely characters including Charlie (Timothy Spall) and Jackie (Joanna Lumley) she gradually begins to unwind and start living again when she joins a dance team..

It's a feelgood movie with a mixture of sadness and joy.

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Black panther21st February.

Black Panther is a gorgeously visual movie, much lauded already by critics for its almost entirely black cast offering a combination of diversity and commercial appeal. Set in the fictional African country of Wakanda, which is high-tech but secluded from the world, this features Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa (Black Panther), now king of Wakanda following his father's death.

His claim to the crown is challenged by Eric Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), an embittered young man who believes Wakanda should use its tech for the benefit of all. So here we have a villain with possibly more noble motives than our heroes, which is an interesting twist. It plays out well in the end.

Kudos to Lupita Nyong'o and Danai Gurira for portraying strong African women (and a special mention for the costume designers. The warrior women were superb).



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The Shape of WaterI'm catching up with my Movies of the Week blog posts. This is from 14th February.

I absolutely adored The Shape of Water.

Set in 1962 in a secret laboratory somewhere in Baltimore this features Sally Hawkins as Elisa, a mute cleaning lady who make friends with and then falls in love with an amphibious captured sea creture, a beautiful monster (Doug Jones).

Elisa's muteness is explained by three parallel scars on the side of her throat and we are left to draw our own conclusions about them.

It's Guillermo del Toro'sblood-curdling fairy tale of forbidden romance is multi-layered. Elisa has a good commannd of sign language, but she's used to not being heard. Her only friends are workmate Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her neighbour, Giles (Richard Jenkins).
The villain of piece is Strickland (Michael Shannon), one-dimensional in his relentless cruelty and the pursuit of the creature when Elisa and Zelda rescue him.

There's excitement and love and an ambiguous ending which you can put your own spin on. If you missed this at the cinema, treat yourself to the DVD when it comes out. Marvellous.

 

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The PostAn American political thriller  directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. It stars Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee. It's set  just before Watergate, when the Pentagon Papers are leaked exposing three decades of government lies about the Viet Nam War, involving four presidents. Graham is notable as being the first female owner/publisher of a major  American newspaper, and Bradlee as the tenacious Washington Post's editor. Though set in 1971 it addresses not only the actual scandle, but the battle for the freedom of the press involving both the New York Times and the Washington Post, themes still very much relevant today. Streep underplays Graham beautifully as she finds her courage. Hanks is a delight as the tough but consciencious editor.
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What a mess of a movie. The plot meanders and doesn't really go anywhere and even Matt Damon in his 'everyman' role can't quite lend it authenticity. The world's resources are finite but when a scientist discovers that humans (and animals) can be shrunk to a tiny fraction of their original size he thinks the problem is solved. All humanity has to do is shrink itself and the resources will go round a lot easier.  But, of course, this is (with one exception) voluntary and only a fraction of the population undergoes the process - and they are relegated to special cities built to accommodate them. Since they don't appear to have any industry I'm not sure where all the teeny-tiny washing mashines and teeny-tiny vacuum cleaners come from, but - hey - let's not get picky. Matt Damon's character is supposed to be shrunk with his wife, but when he wakes up, a mere five inches tall, she hasn't kept her part of the bargain. The rest of this is a meander through his pointless life, a messy divorce and eventually a love story as he meets someone very unlikely and gradually gets sucked into her life. Kudos to Hong Chau for her role as Damon's love interest, a Vietnamese refugee, made small as a punishment for dissidence.

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If, like me, you thought La La Land was an insipid piece of fluff with no plot to speak of and unmemorable tunes, the Greatest Showman might restore your faith in Hollywood musicals. It's the Barnum story again, completely reimagined and with a set of great new songs. The cinematography is lush and the cast of characters (from Tom Thumb to the Bearded Lady) is larger-than-life while remaining sympathetic.

The personal story fits well alongside the public one

Hugh Jackman must be one of the most versatile actors on the planet. From Logan to Barnum -  from gritty action to stylish set pieces - he always seems to hit the right note, musically and theatrically. Zac Efron has grown up from his High School Musical days, and perfectly balances Jackman as ringmaster-in-training. Michelle Williams remains serene as Mrs Barnum, and special kudos to Keala Settle who plays the Bearded Lady with tremendous verve. There are so many charismatic performances in this movie, it's hard to pick one out as being the best.

This was tremendous fun. A good-hearted musical with memorable songs, terrific set pieces and a genuine feelgood factor.  I might go and see it again!

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When four teens are given detention at school they discover an old video game and get sucked into it and become their avatars. There's a fair amount of comedy value in each one of them becoming something they aren't. Hunky sportsman 'Fridge' becomes sidekick to geeky Spencer, who suddenly finds himself in the body of the Rock. Pretty girl Bethany's avatar is Jack Black which causes some obvious badinage when she has to learn to pee standing up. (Slightly too much penis love - must have been written by a man!) :-) Quiet Martha becomes kickass Karen Gillan with way too few clothes for practical jungle hiking. There's a plot, it's good-hearted, and while I wouldn't say it's the most erudite movie I've seen this year, it's entertaining enough.
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The Force Awakens gave us all what we needed, a retelling (almost) of Episode IV in which the girl from nowhere made good and began to discover the Force for herself. It introduced us to a host of new characters: Rey, Finn, BB8 and the unfortunately named Poe* Dameron.

In the Last Jedi our expectations are acknowledged and then thoroughly subverted. Dameron is not a Han Solo for a new age. His hot-headed alpha-masculinity leads to actions that are (at best) misguided. He’s not infallible. He sometimes gets the job done, but at what price. Characters make mistakes—even Luke—but though it’s a dark time for the rebels not all is lost. There is redemption for Luke and Mark Hamill is utterly convincing as the conflicted ‘last’ Jedi.

Rey thinks she can turn Kylo Ren (Ben Solo) back to the light, but can she? Snoke thinks he can turn Rey to the dark, but does he?

We meet a new character, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), an unlikely heroine, but all the better for that.

The women in this movie have it, from Leia to Admiral Holdo. They subvert the idea of the alpha male as the logical choice for the leadership. “Not every problem can be solved by jumping into an X-Wing and blowing stuff up,” says Leia. Yeah! Hopefully Dameron learned a few valuable lessons.

And then right at the end one of the small seeds planted in this movie begins to sprout as an unnamed stable boy reaches out for his broom and it comes to his hand courtesy of the Force.

Loved it.

*(I’m sorry but I can’t take anyone seriously whose name is Poe. Disney, you should really have checked out the names against common slang. In the UK a ‘po’ is a chamber pot! Even Wikipedia could have told you that.)
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This fictional version of how Charles Dickens, at a low ebb in his writing career, came to write A Christmas carol is full if self-referential quirks and peopled by a host of reliable British thesps as the characters running riot in Dickens imagination. Christopher Plummer steals the show as Scrooge, but in addition there’s Jonathan Pryce, Miriam Margolys, Simon Callow, Donald Sumpter. I thought at first there was an echo of Shakespeare in Love (when Shakespeare hears ‘a plague on both your houses’ and it comes back out of his pen with a different twist) but this was much more upfront. The characters take over Dickens imagination and lay waste to the creative process until he finally gets it. Dan Stevens plays the beleaguered Dickens snatching inspiration from people he meets, such as the cadaverous waiter (Sumpter) who becomes Marley. It’s cheesy with a light touch, easy to swallow, and probably destined to be one of those films that crops up regularly on afternoon TV in December.

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This had some terrible reviews, so I wasn't expecting much, which meant I was pleasantly surprised. OK, it wasn't Guardians of the Galaxy or  The Avengers, but it was watchable if you didn't think too hard. I like Ben Afflek's Batman (and, of course Jeremy Irons as Alfred). Gal Gadot was underused after such a stunning turn in Woner Woman, but she did her best with what she was given. Zack Snyder was supplemented by some Joss Whedon script-doctoring, and there were one or two good quips, but Snyder/Whedon is not a good pairing. Their styles don't match. I would guess that half the audience wanted a 100% Snyder movie and the other half wanted 100% Whedon (me included).
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Awww... a very good-hearted film. Paddington is happily settled in with the Brown family and has made friends in the neighbourhood with his cheery disposition. When he goes in search of an ideal present for Aunt Lucy's hundredth birthday he finds a pop-up book in Mr Gruber's antique shop and starts to save up for it. But it's no ordinary book, ir contains clues to a hidden fortune and soon the dastardly Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant) is out to get the book and the treasure. Poor Paddington is in the wring place at the wring time and is accused of burglary and sent to prison where his sunny smile faces its toughest challenge yet. Expect marmalade, a jailbreak, a daring rescue and even more marmalade. Lovely!
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A star-studded but ultimately bland remake of the classic story. Kenneth Brannagh somehow didn't convince as Poirot. His ridiculous moustache seemed to be wearing him and in some scenes it took on a life of its own.

The five-star cast was largely wasted. Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi and Michelle Pfeiffer all had roles that were little more than cameos, though it was nice to see daisy Ridley not carrying a light sabre.

Instantly forgettable.

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Marvel has done it again - delivered a mixture of fast action, high stakes, stunning visuals, charismatic actors and belly laughs in all the right places. Chris Hemsworth has great comic timing and Tom Hiddleston is one of the best loved villains - though, in this case, he's not the big bad. Cate Blanchette is Hela, a forgotten half sibling and goddess of death, who decides that Asgard is hers as soon as Odin dies.

Meanwhile Thor crash-lands on a garbage planet, gets a haircut (pity) and is forced into the arena where he discovers that his opponent is 'a friend from work', yes, the big green guy himself. mayhem ensues.

Eventually Thor, Hulk and Loki go up against Hela and Fenris the wolf in a no-holds-barred finale.

Well worth seeing. One of this year's better movies.

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Valerian movie posterOh dear. Where to start with this one? Luc Besson directed one of my all-time favourites, Fifth Element, so I had every hope this would be good. Visually it's imaginative (though I'm glad we saw it in 2-D)

But...

You knew there's be a but, didn't you?

This whole thing was so badly miscast that it was ridiculous. Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) who is 31 in real life, looked like he'd just stepped out of a high school movie. I'd be generous if I said he looked anywhere close to eighteen. Cara Delevingne, model turned actress, looked about the same age. They were a pretty pair, but totally unbelievable as the leads, and the chemistry between them was nonexistent. Clive Owen as the villain, was dialling it in. I hope they paid him well because it won't look good on his resumee.

I kept wondering whether it would have been better with Bruce Willis in the lead role. (Yeah I get that it's adapted from a comic, so BW doesn't fit the bill, but surely they could have found someone with a bit more gravitas.)

That's a couple of hours of my life that I wish I could get back. Give this one a miss. Save up your cinemoney for The Dark Tower or Kingsmen 2.

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Spider Man HomecomingHaving been integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and into The Avengers in the recent Captain America Civil War, Peter Parker has to return to school like any ordinary kid. Unlike ordinary kids he has his spidey powers and though this is not a return to (yet another) origin story it is a coming of age story where Peter learns to use his powers responsibly (by making a few colossal mistakes, of course). He's too eager, too cocky and - well - a pretty typical teen, really.

Mentored by Tony Stark/Iron Man Parker comes face to face with Vulture, Adrian Toomes (Michael Keaton), whose salvage company has been sidelined and business ruined when the government decides that independent contractors can't be trusted to clean up the alien tech after the Battle of New York. Toomes keeps the tech and turns it into super weapons, selling them to foreign buyers illegally.

I wasn't sure the world needed yet another Spiderman reboot, but I'm absolutely convinced by this one. Parker carries the film well. Robert Downey Jnr. puts in a solidly charismatic performance as Iron Man, but perhaps the most interesting aspect in Michael Keaton's semi-sympathetic portrayal of the Vulture. You can see how a good citizen turns bad, but Adrian Toomes is a villain, but he isn't all bad. It's a nuanced performance that adds another dimension.

I enjoyed this movie immensely.

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Wonder Woman MovieGal Gadot is Wonder Woman. She wears the part naturally and fulfils the promise of her appearance in Batman v Superman. This is the origin story. Diana of Themyscira, princess of the Amazons, reared on a paradise island inhabited by a society of warrior women is unaware of the rest of the world until the First World War, in the shape of Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) come crashing (literally) on to the island. It's 1918. Diana is determined that she should leave the island to end the conflict. Believing Ares is responsible for the war, Diana arms herself with the "Godkiller" sword, the Lasso of Hestia, and armor before leaving Themyscira with Trevor to find and destroy Ares (whom she believes to be masquerading as German General Ludendorff).

Full marks also to Lucy Davis who plays Steve Trevor's secretary, Etta Candy, a woman in a man's world, competent and capable

I've never seen Christ Pine in anything I didn't like and his supporting role in this move hits the mark perfectly. There's good chemistry between the two leads, but Trevor never steals Gadot's thunder.

This is a movie of firsts (first superhero featurting a female lead, first Marvel superhero movie directed by a woman (Patty Jenkins). Diana is a badass without surrending her femininity. Sure the movie isn't perfect, but I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to the next.

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