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I haven't included Event Cinema in my Movies of the Week posts, but I've seen quite a few theatre productions broadcast to cinemas. All have been well worth seeing. I can't offer reviews because a) I'm not a theatre critic and b) I'm never sure how much the cinema interface changes perceptions of the stage show. Some have been broadcast 'live;' and some have been recorded as live.

 Here's my list for the last couple of years (in the order I saw them).
  • Frankenstein
  • Rozencrantz and Guldernstern are Dead
  • Treasure Island
  • An American in Paris
  • The Madness of George III
  • The King and I
There wasn't one dud amongst them. Special mentions for Benedict Cumberbatch as the monster in Frankenstein, Mark Gatiss as mad King George, and Ken Watanabe as the King of Siam in the King and I. But to ne honest all the productions were brilliant. I used to love going to the theatre, but I rarely get the chance these days, for both logistical and financial reasons. We went to see War Horse at Salford when it was on tour and we had no change from £120 for two of us. That includes the cost of tickets, parking, and fuel. (But not counting the meal at Cafe Rouge beforhand.)

Event cinema, in contrast, costs about £15 per ticket. Sure itr's more expensive than seeing a movie, but it's a great experience. Highly recommended.
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The original Blade Runner is so iconic that Blade Runner 2049 was marked on my calendar months ago, not least because Harrison Ford was reprising his role as Deckard. Ryan Gosling, plays Officer K, working for LAPD as a blade runner, and this time obviously a replicant himself. Replicants now are new models, designed to have no desire for independence and no tendency to rebellion.

Yeah, right! Slaves never want their freedom, do they?

The film's pacing is measured. There's a long build up and K lives a solitary lifestyle, accompanied only by Joi (Ana de Armas) a holographic AI with an independent personality.

When K 'retires' an old style replicant way outside of the dismal city, he discovers a long buried secret that eventually leads him to the maker of his implanted memories, and to an aged Rick Deckard, missing for thirty years.

Yes, Ford only appears in the latter section of the film, and to be fair, that's where all the interest lies. That's not to say Gosling isn't perfectly good as K. but Ford is a genuine scene stealer, a camera magnet, and finding him is all we've been waiting for. All I can say is, it was worth the wait.

We got a bittersweet ending. Is there enough of a loose end for a third movie? Maybe.

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I've been looking forward to the second Kingsman outing, not least because Harry Hart/Galahad (Colin Firth) is back despite having 'died' in the first movie. Well, you can't keep a good Kingsman down. (That's not a spoiler, he's on the poster.) This time Eggsy (Taron Egerton) and Merlin (the ultra-reliable Mark Strong, not playing a villain) end up in the USA with an organisation called Statesman when the Kingman organisation in the UK is effectively destroyed. The two organisations go after drug queen, Poppy, in the depth of the jungle, while she holds the world to ransome.

Harry's return to duty is well played.

There's plenty of action and violence, though much of the action is OTT and hardly credible, which makes it more comic-book and less credible, but still fun to watch (if you can call putting a man through a mincing machine fun).

I guess we'll have to wait until Kingsman 3 to find out whether a favourite character is really gone, this time.

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Judi Dench is always worth watching and she's obviously the go-to actor when there's a Queen Victoria role on offer. In this case it's the story of Victoria's later years, after the death of Albert, and after the death of John Brown (also filmed with Judi Dench as 'Mrs Brown'). Abdul became Victoria's friend an teacher - her munchi - much to the horror of the rest of the Queen's household, her advisors, politicians and - especially, Bertie, her son and heir. Based on a true story, the munchi was with the queen for the last 17 or 18 years of her life. Abdul Karim came from India as a servant and became her friend, opening her eyes to India. Abdul, played by Ali Fazal, winningly handsome, is a much more engaging proposition than images of the real Abdul. Eddie Izard does a good turn as the blustering Bertie. Judi Dench, is, of course, outstanding. I swear I could watch that woman read the telephone directory!
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What's not to like about the 'Pirates' movie franchise. Yeah, okay, the first was the best. It's hard to match that reveal as Johnny Depp sails into the harbour on a sinking boat, but they've all got charm. And this one has the ending that we've been waiting for since Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann were separated by fate.

Henry Turner, son of Elizabeth and will is searching for the Trident of Neptune in the belief that it will end his father's curse. To find the trident he needs to find Jack Sparrow (looking no older now than he did in the first movie). But someone else is also looking for Jack, Salazar was tricked into sailing into the Devil's Triangle by a (much younger) Jack Sparrow and is now undead. Understandably, he harbours a grudge.

Several twists and a romantic sub-plot later it all works out all right in the end - but you didn't need me to tell you that.

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Movie poster - The MummyTom Cruise in a remake of The Mummy should have been good, but somewhere along the road it lost the sense of humour that made the first Brendan Fraser Mummy movie so good. Don't get me wrong, this is a perfectly acceptable action flick, with some good special effects (the kind we take for granted these days) but it's not memorable.

Does anyone else think that Mr Cruise has a picture in the attic?

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As movies go this one wasn't as bad as some of the reviews I've seen. The real problem was that it tried to present itself as a King Arthur movie while abandoning all elements of the legend apart from the sword in the stone and the names Uther, Vortigern and - oh yes - Arthur. Merlin got a brief mention but all of the magic came from his apprentice, a witch (unnamed). If the movie had simply presented itself as a second world fantasy it might have been better received.

Charlie Hunnam made a passable hero and Jude Law a slimy villain, but the 'castle' stretched credibility somewhat, though Londinium did look to be growing out of the remnants of Roman occupation. Maybe having a kung-fu master called George was a little out of place, but - hey - there was so much out of place that picking one thing would be mean.

So... Vortigern betrays Uther and Arthur - as a small boy - escapes downriver in a boat. He's rescued and brought up by whores in a brothel, gradually going from being protected to being protector and ruling the criminal element of the docklands, until he gets whisked off along with a load of other young ment the right age to try his hand with the sword in the stone. Vortigern quite rightly wants to discover who his rival might be and put an end to him.

Yes, of course, in trying to avoid the prophecy of the true born king, Vortigern puts everything into place for it to be fulfilled.

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Anyone can save the Galaxy once... so second time around Star Lord has some additional help from old foes who become new allies - Nebula, Yondu and Mantis. Add to that a delightful Baby Groot. (How can an animated twig be so appealing?) Of course the original team - Peter's family -  is still on board, Rocky, Gamora and Drax.

The opening sequesnce is merely a warm-up for the main tale as our hereoes battle the Abilisk - something that looks like a space octopus -  to protect some super-shiny batteries for their current employers, the Sovereigns (Nice cameo from Ben Browder in gold paint.) Of course they manage to upset the Sovereigns and after a space battle end up crash-landing on a planet where Peter Quill/Star Lord meets his father (Kurt Russell as Ego - the clue is in the name) and discovers he's half a god - unfortunately not the all-powerful half. In the process he learns more about the true meaning of family.

This is fun all the way with hijinx and mayhem plus some smart one liners. I found it just as enjoyable as the original. Highly recommended.

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Gemma Arterton plays Catrin Cole, a newly appointed script writer working on wartime propaganda films in the middle of London in the Blitz. The Ministry of Information wants a film that the public will relate to, so when Catrin finds a tale of two sisters who took part in the Dunkirk evacuation they jump on it as a possible storyline. Working with fellow writer Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and over-the-hill actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy) they gradually pull it all together, though not everything goes their way. Catrin faces many challenges, personal and professional but succeeds. The overall tome of the movie is sweet.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Beauty & the beastA live action remake of Disney's animated Beauty and the beast, complete with talking household knick-knacks and singing furniture. Emma Watson apparently turned down LaLa Land and that was a very wise decision. Her singing is excellent and she makes a very fetching Belle. Kevin Kline is very sweet as her dad and Luke Evans takes the mickey out of himself beautifully as the self-absorbed Gaston. Dan Stevens is the Beast/Prince, but to be honest it's hard to tell how much is him and how much is CGI.

Yes, we all know the story, so no recap of that, except to say that the Beast gives Belle a whole library! Wow! Who cares what he looks like? He's a man with a library!

Yes, of course they all live happily ever after, even the kindly teapot (Emma Thompson), the annoying animated candlestick with the cod French accent (Ewan McGregor), and the stuffy old Ormolu clock (Ian McKellen). It's sweet and the singing is qualiity. Now if only I could get rid of this damned earworm.

jacey: (blue eyes)
Kong Skull IslandTom Hiddleston takes the weight of this film making a good action hero. A team of scientists go on an expedition to explore a hitherto uncharted island taking with them Hiddlestone as a jungle tracker, Brie Larson as a world-class photographer and a military flotilla of helicopters with a somewhat unstable commander. Of course, nothing goes according to plan. There are people on the island already - and the inevitable ape the size of a skyscraper who isn't the monster the military types suppose him to be. There's also a pilot who crashed there in World War Two who provides information and a boat (of sorts) when the mission turns into 'get out alive'. It's all a frothy bit of fun with explosions and dismemberments and the sort of thing you expect from a movie called Kong: Skull Island. Leave your critical brain at the door and collect it again on your way out.
jacey: (blue eyes)
LoganPossibly the best Logan outing of them all featuring Old Man Logan after the rest of the X-men are history. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is trying to live as unobtrusively as possible, working as a driver to support a ninety year old Charles Xavier, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), who is frail and liable to dangerous psi-fits if he's off his meds. Caliban (Stephen Merchant) is helping out as a babysitter. Logan calms Charles with stories of the boat they'll buy when they have enough money, but of course this is just a pipe dream.

Logan is essentially the gunslinger archetype, trying to hang up his six guns, and, of course, something happens to make him take one last X-shaped chance.  Following a shady breeding programme a bunch of mutant kids have escaped from custody, helped by their nurses who didn't want to see them put down like animals. Dafne Keen plays the child who is like Logan, claws and everything. (She's brilliant, by the way.)

Charles, not as senile as he sometimes appears to be, persuades Logan to help the child and thus begins Logan's (and Xavier's) last journey to take her to safety.

It's a thoughtful film, eschewing the flashy CGI super-hero mode for camera work that's more personal. This is a Logan who is more Logan than Wolverine. More human that super-hero. We all know he's going to suffer for his efforts, but that's OK because in the end Logan is going to do what he has to do, and do it well.

Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
great_wallA couple of European mercenaries, journeying to China to find the secret of (or supplies of) black powder get embroled in a battle on the great wall to keep out creatures that rise every 60 years. Matt Damon plays William who finally finds a cause worth fighting for after many years of being a mercenary. It's a slight plot with lots of monster action and some breathtaking visuals. Despoite what I read in one review it's not 'white man shows the locals how to save themselves'. The locals are doing just fine on their own. Matt Damon is always worth watching so this was a good way to spend a wet Wednesday afternoon on the two-for-one deal.
jacey: (blue eyes)
No, I haven't--dropped off the face of the earth, I mean. I've been writing, and I'm just in the throes of finishing 'Nimbus' with the deadline rushing towards me like an oncoming train.. I will catch up with my booklogs and my film logs, just as soon as I've written The End, but in the meantime, these are the books that I need to log:

  1. Julia Quinn: And Offer from a Gentleman (Bridgertons #3)

  2. Lisa Shearin: Wedding Bells, Magic Spells (Raine Benares)

  3. Lisa Shearin: Treasure and Treason (A Raine Benares World novel)

  4. Nnedi Okorafor: Binti

  5. Nnedi Okorafor: Binti - Home

  6. Lisa Shearin: The Grendel Affair

  7. Ben Aaronovitch: Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1)

  8. Ben Aaronovitch: Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant #2)

  9. Ben Aaronovitch: Whispers Underground (Peter Grant #3)

  10. Ben Aaronovitch: Broken Homes (Peter Grant #4)

  11. Ben Aaronovitch: Foxglove Summer (Peter Grant #5)

  12. Ben Aaronovitch: The Hanging Tree (Peter Grant #6)

  13. Diana Gabaldon: I give you My Body

And the movies:

  1. Star Wars Rogue One (again)

  2. The Great Wall

  3. Logan

jacey: (blue eyes)

Hidden FiguresWe had to go to Sheffield to find a cinema showing this in an afternoon. (Wakefield, our usual venue) only had it on for one week in the evening.) It was worth the effort - well worth it. Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, and starring Taraji P Henson as Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monae as Mary Jackson, this tells the true (more or less) story of three of the black women mathematicians (known as 'computers') who worked for NASA (pre electronic computers) and calculated the trajectories for the Americans first flights into space in the 1960s.

Great quote from the script:

KATHARINE JOHNSON: On any given day, I analyze the binomial levels air displacement, friction and velocity. And compute over ten thousand calculations by cosine, square root and lately analytic geometry. By hand. There are twenty, bright, highly capable negro women in the west computing group, and we're proud to be doing our part for the country. So yes, they let women do some things at NASA, Mr. Johnson. And it's not because we wear skirts. It's because we wear glasses.

Held back from senior positions by their gender and their colour these women eventually succeeded to become leaders in their field. It's easy to forget that the 1960s in America still had separate toilets and drinking fountains for 'coloureds', separate sections in the library, separate schools, and that racism was endemic with a kind of casual, unthinking cruelty that passed over the heads of white folks who believed they were enlightened, but who really weren't. This movie brings it all back:

Kudos to Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons for playing second fiddles so well in order to let the real story shine through.

Go and see this movie. You won't regret it.

jacey: (blue eyes)
SingAn animated movie from the creators of Despicable Me about a struggling theatre impressario in a city of humanoid animals, who dreams up a singing competition to bring in an audience and get his theatre out of a deep financial hole. From there we break out into the individual stories of the aspirants from Johnny (voiced by Taron Edgerton), the young gorilla  who doesn't want to be in his dad's gang of robbers to Meena (Tori Kelly), the shy young elephant and Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) the pretty but put-upon pig housewife and mum who is so thoroughly taken for granted by her husband and kids that they don't even notice she's not there as long as her chores are done. Told as a live action movie without the animal aspects this would still be a pretty neat story, but the animation is delightful.

Spoiled only by the mum who brought two children way too young and let the older of the two kick the back of our seats all the way through. Yes, it's a movie for children, but not exclusively so and the guidelines suggest age seven. No wonder the two and five year old kids were bored.
jacey: (blue eyes)
La La LandHonestly, if you want to see a 'good old Hollywood musical like they used to make, skip La La Land and buy a video of Singing in the rain instead. I'm not sure how LLL got all the hype - well, actually I am. Hollywood loves a self-referential movie. My cinebuddy H and I took a friend to cheer her up. Unfortunately I had to wake her up halfway through this as she was starting to snore. That's how riveting La La Land is. The singing is lacklustre, the songs both tiresomely repetitive and intantly forgettable at the same time. The story... well there isn't one really. Aspiring actress meets aspiring jazz musician. The ending? Somewhat downbeat, I thought. And it's about 30 minutes too long. Altogether it hasn't got much going for it. Kudos to Ryan Gosling's piano playing. They claim that the onscreen fingers are really his and that he learned jazz piano especially for the movie.
jacey: (blue eyes)
AssassinsCreedWith plot holes you could drive a bus through this game-to-movie outing featuring Michael Fassbender in a 'shirt-off' role is what it is. I don't play the game (or any games) so whether it will suit game players who already know this world remains to be seen, but as a one-off cinematic event the action fairly rips along. There is - as you would imagine - a lot of posing on rooftops, hand to hand fighting and a plot with Jeremy Irons (always worth watching) as the villain of the piece. There's a cameo by Charlotte Rampling, and I'm always reminded that someone once famed for her looks has matured to be a fearsome older woman. Of course she does only get cameo roles now, but she acts her socks off in them. Worth watching? Yes if relentless action is your thing.
jacey: (blue eyes)
PassengersNot what I expected at all, but enjoyable and interesting for all that, if a little low-key. When there is a glitch on board an automated passenger ship carrying five thousand cryo-passengers heading out to a colony, one passenger, Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), is woken up 90 years too early and has no means of resetting his cryo capsule. He has a whole luxury liner to himself, but his only companion is Arthur, a cybernetic bartender (an eerie Michael Sheen) unable to leave his place behind the bar. Eventually, after a year of loneliness, he gives in to the temptation to wake another passenger, Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), a writer. He thinks he knows her after reading her writing, and believes that they will be soulmates.

It all goes well at first, though of course he hasn't told her that he's deliberately woken her... but then the ship starts to glitch a little and then seriously malfunction. A third person wakes, luckily, this time, a crew member. The three of them have to save the ship...

But that's not everything - the chatty android bartender has let slip Jim's big secret to Aurora, i.e. that he woke her deliberately and scuppered her life plans

This is as much a study of the effects of loneliness and a relationship which progresses in extreme isolation. It could be set in any closed environment, but having to save the ship adds a touch of drama  and tension to the otherwise fairly static plot.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Rogue OneRogue One - very enjoyable. In the space battles they used archive footage of Red Leader and Gold Leader from the original Star Wars Movie, which was great for continuity. Some interesting CGI to create supporting characters from the right time period. (Actors long since gone!) Some of it (Peter Cushing) was a bit 'uncanny valley' but largely it worked. There's been a lot of online discussion about whether they should simply have recast characters like Tarkin, with opinion divided. I didn't mind the CGI. The whole thing was visually excellent, of course, and there's a new robot K-2SO voiced by Alan Tudyk. The plot held together reasonably well. It's a standalone story set just before the events in A New Hope, in which our heroes go after the plans for the Death Star. This is a one-off story, with one-off main characters. We kinda knew how it would go from knowing the status at the beginning of  A New Hope, so no complaints from me on that score. The ending was wholly appropriate and bringing in a fravourite character at the end was a great 'lifter'. Felicity Jones is good as Jyn Erso. Only complaint, why have two actors who looked so physically similar? I'm not that good with facial recognition and it took me a while to sort out Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) and Cassian (Diego Luna) in the early scenes.

I write this on 27th December, the day that Carrie Fisher's death has been announced. RIP Princess Leia. Taken far too young.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Fantastic_BeastsRight off the bat I'll say that Eddie Redmayne is not generally an actor I'd pay to watch just because it's him, but he makes a pretty good stab at the deferential Newt Scamander, champion of strange magical creatures. Newt arrives in New York with a suitcase full of magical beasts. (Yes, like hermione's handbag, Newt's suitcase holds a veritable zoo.) Unfortunately the American magicians are a bit uptight about magical beasts - in fact they've more or less banned them altogether. So when one of newt's beasts escapes he's immediately arrested by Demoted Auror, Tina Goldstein. At the offices of the Magical Gongress of the USA (MACUSA) we encounter senior auror Percival Graves who dismisses Tina out of hand. Back at Tina's aprtment with  a no-maj (and American Muggle) more beasts escape and the hunt is on. This is all complicated by Mary Lou Barebone, the head of the New Salem Philanthropic Society, who claims that witches and wizards are real and dangerous, and something with an incrdible amout of power that seems to be wreaking havoc. Graves is after the power. Newt is after the creatures. It all gets terribly complicated, but, of course, is sorted in the end. And the ending ties in to what we know of a certain magician whose name was linked with Albus Dumbledore's darker past.

There's a lot riding on this film. A Harry Potter spin off without Hogwarts and without the Boy Wizard. Can the franchise reboot itself? It largely carries it off, and Potter fans who've been with the Potterverse from the beginning will not mind the darker tone. Does it succeed? Mostly. Yes, though I think it might be easily forgotten unless there's going to be a whole string of Fantastic Beast movies or further Potterverse spinoffs. (Which seems likely.)
jacey: (blue eyes)
ArrivalThis movie got good reviews. It was labelled as 'cerebral', which closely translated into my understanding means 'no car chases'. That indeed is the case. There are no car chases (thank goodness) but plenty of tension. When twelve alien ships hang in the air over various points around the earth, twelve different governments rush to get their best translators on the job of 'talking' with the aliens, despite them having nothing in common on which to base language. It's an interesting problem. Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called in, alongside physicist/mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner). Based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 short story “Story of Your Life” this is a smart and thoughtful movie, upping the stakes as other nations' interactions with their alien vessels are conducted with varying degrees of success (or failure). Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner are well cast. There is some wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff going on which only makes sense in retrospect. I thought there was a big plot-hole and then I had a lovely ah-ha moment. Recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Dr StrangeI loved this! I'm not a comics reader, so I went into it with no preconceptions at all, and nothing to compare it against. It's an origin story - starting us off down another tributary which will eventually join up with the big river that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This time it's an earthly superhero who taps into magic. That works for me.

The visuals are great. Stephen Strange's transformation works. He goes from brilliant, but arrogant surgeon, to broken man, to someone with a deeper understanding of the supernatural world and a new direction in life. When Strange's hands are almost destroyed in a completely avoidable car crash, modern medicine fails him. A surgeon without his hands is nothing, so he goes searching for alternative therapies, ending up in Nepal being taught by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton at her bald best) to tap into magical energy. Chiwetel Ejiofor has a strong supporting role as Mordo and Benedict Wong (as Wong) adds a dash of welcome humour. But, of course, Benedict Cumberbatch is the show's star and he makes an appealing Strange. I'm not a Cumberbatch fangirl, but he's a good actor, well-cast.

Having been introduced to the world of sorcery, Strange has to decide where his path lies, when Kaecilius, a renegade former disciple of the Ancient One, makes a bid for world domination. That kind of thing rarely ends well when there's a superhero-in-the-making around.

Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Girl with All the GiftsI was going to read the book (by M.R. Carey) until a friend put me off by saying he thought the book was mostly great but he didn't like the ending. I don't know if the film followed the book closely, so you'll have to tell me whether it's the same ending if you've seen/read both.

I wouldn't normally go for zombie movies, but this isn't a normal zombie movie.

In a dystopian near future a fungus has infected a large proportion of the population turning them into flesh-eating, slow moving zombies. A group of children have been infected, but they still have intelligence and can control their bloodlust to a certain extent. Melanie is one such child, living in a government research facility where Dr Caldwell (Glenn Close), a research scientist, is conducting experiments on them, trying to find a cure. Gemma Arterton is Miss Justineau, Melanie's sympathetic teacher and the only person who treats the child as an individual to be nurtured. Colm McCarthy directs.

When the situation outside the compound gets worse as the 'hungries' overrun the uninfected, Miss Justineau, Melanie, Dr. Caldwell, Sgt Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) and squaddie Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade) go on the run in a world filled with people who only see them as a meal. Melanie, polite, intelligent, caring, yet terrifying, is the only one who can bridge the gap between the zombies and the unaffected humans. More clues than that would plunge this into spoiler territory. There aren't a whole raft of CGI effects, and it's not all thrill, spills and excitement - though there is action and tension. It does well with what's probably a smallish budget. Some of the aerial footage was shot by a second unit in the ghost town of Prypjat, near Chernobyl, in the Ukraine, so if the post-apocalyptic imagery looks realistic, it is. (Thgough some was also shot in Birmingham, so what does that say?) Though it's not exactly a fun movie, it is interesting and worth watching. Sennia Nanua plays Melanie in a nuanced performance that bodes very well for her acting future. The film takes the zombie theme and does something different with it, driving it to a different conclusion than the one we might expect.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Bridget Jones babyBridget is now 43 and once more living the single (and more-or-less celibate) life. She's a successful news producer by day, and a couch potato by night... until she's dragged to a music festival and after promising to shag the first man she meets, does just that. Luckily the shagee is Jack (Patric Dempsey). Just a week or two afterwards she meets old flame Mark (Colin Firth) who is on the verge of getting a divorce from his wife. More shagging ensues.

So, knowing the title of the film, you can see where this is going. Bridget is pregnant, but which one of the two gorgeous men in her life is the daddy and how is she going to explain to each one of them exactly what the situation is. There's a great love triangle vibe with stuffy, uptight Mark and easygoing, freewheeling Jack each vying for paternal recognition. There a hilarious dash (or not) to the hospital when the time comes.

Renee Zelweger is brilliant as Bridget, but Emma Thompson as the obstetrician easily steals every scene she's in. Very enjoyable.
jacey: (blue eyes)
miss-peregrines-homeVisually stunning (with a lot of CGI), this is a Tim Burton movie about time loops, strange children and scary monsters. Jake (Asa Butterfield) has grown up on his Grandpa's (Terence Stamp) stories about his life fighting monsters wothout actually giving any of it much credence, until his grandfather is murdered by a monster that only Jake has seen.  He goes in search of the orphanage (on an island off the coast of Wales), and finds the ruin of the Victorian Gothic house, bombed during the Second World War... or was it? Jake finds the time loop and is introduced to Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and the peculiar children with a variety of talents (not all of them useful). He also discovers that the monsters are real.

I felt as though this was a movie I should love. It's quirky and imaginative but somehow Jake should be the emotional centre of the movie, and he isn't. I'm not sure whether to put it down to the director or to Butterfield himself, but he simply doesn't cut it. There's an excellent turn from Terence Stamp as Grandpa Abe and a brief appearance by Judi Dench (always good value) but the children themselves are a bit underdeveloped, character-wise. It's not a movie that's going to stick in my mind for very long.

It scores bonus points for having Blackpool (and Blackpool Tower) as one of the settings.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Swallows-And-Amazons-posterWhat can I say about this? Well, I expected it to be a nostalgic trip back to the type of books I read in my childhood (though I admit I never read this one). Sadly it wasn't enough to hold my attention. I have to say that my enjoyment of this was severely curtailed by the audience. Why on earth someone would think it was a suitable movie for a two year old I have no idea, but said two year old was then allowed to run up and down the aisle for the duration. Couple that with a fidgety family kicking my seat at frequent intervals and I may not have been in the most receptive of moods. Yes, I know you can expect children in the audience at a children's film during the school holidays, but is a certain level of good behaviour (from the parents) too much to ask? Am I just a grumpy old git?

Ok, back to the movie... Setting: the Lake District. Time period: 1930s/40s (unspecific, but the book was written in the 30s). The Walker children (the Swallows) are given permission to camp on an island in the middle of a lake. When they get there, they have to battle against a pair of local girls (the Amazons) for control of the island. There's no health and safety rubbish, just four kids in a boat squabbling like kids do until you want to bang their precious little heads together. The book character Titty has been coyly turned into Tatty for obvious reasons. There's a 39-Steps type spy drama grafted on to the original, but I'm not sure it rescues the film. Pity.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Petes DragonIt's that time of year again. Most of the new movies are kiddie films. Thankfully Pete's Dragon was better by miles than last week's offering: Suicide Squad. I didn't see the original cartoon version of Pete's Dragon, so no comparisons. This was live action with a CGI dragon featuring Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban and Wes Bentley in the adult roles and a very cute Oakes Fegley as Pete. You probably know the story. Small child is orphaned by a car accident wonders into the forest and is looked after by a dragon (whom the child names Elliott). Six years later the child is found and the dragon revealed (to a timber cutting crew) whereupon unsympathetic adult (Karl Urban) captures the dragon and sympathetic adults help Pete to release him.
Pete's Dragon 2
Robert Redford continues to be magnetic on screen despite wrinkles. Oakes Fegley, as Pete was supposed to be ten years old but looked about seven. (His bio doesn't give a definitive age, but he was approximately nine or ten at the time of filming. For a child of that age he has an impressive acting resumee already.

The dragon was a bit... lumpy and it had fur. Was that to make it less scary for kids or with a view to marketing plush toys?

Your kids might well enjoy it. The car crash at the beginning in which Pete was orphaned, was sensitively handled. No blood, no dead bodies and a quick move to 'six years later'.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Suicide SquadThe trailer looked quirkily amusing with plenty of action and a cast of interesting characters. How wrong can one trailer be? Yes there was a plot (as much as there is ever a plot in this type of movie) which involved a lot of action (expected) but the pacing was off. There was way too much character set-up, way too little chartacter development and everything was deadpan straight. The whole thing just felt like a joyless mishmash.

Honourable mentions go to Viola Davis as Amanda Waller; Jay Hernandez as Diablo, Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn for making the most of a lame duck. H and I got the Meerkat two-for-one ticket deal and I still felt as though we'd been robbed.

jacey: (blue eyes)
Jason BourneMore of the same from the Bourne franchise. It's ten years since Matt Damon's last appearance as Bourne. Now we're on a post-Snowden/post Wiki-Leaks era, and technology has given the CIA the ability to sit in a room in Virginia and track Bourne and his associates in real time through Athens, Rome, London and Las Vegas. In the ten years since we last saw him Bourne appears to have been making his living as a bareknuckle fighter. When an old colleague looks him up to offer information Bourne is drawn back into conflict with the Agency.

There's a lot of fast camera work as Bourne goes through several chase sequences (the last one being about three years too long) and the final fight with 'The Asset' is fast, blurry and confusing, but all in all it's an entertaining couple of hours.

Matt Damon's looking good for 45. Alicia Vikander succeeds in walking a line between symapothy and ruthlessness. Tommy Lee Jones is... Tommy Lee Jones (but that's OK).

The big question is: did it move Bourne's story forward? Considering a lot of this is about backstory Bourne (or David Webb as his real name was) and his father, then it's not a story with a lot of forward momentum, even though it has a lot of fast action.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Star Trek BeyondH and I have been so looking forward to this for months, and we were not disappointed. H thought it was possibly the best of the three ST reboots so far. maybe I wouldn't go that far, but I did enjoy it. The Enterprise is three years into her five year mission, with both Kirk and Spock starting to wonder if they need a new direction. When they stop over at Yorktown, a massive Federation city in space they get involved in answering a distress call that leads them into a nebula to rescue shipwreck survivors. It's a trap. Enterprise is attacked by a swarm of ships and the survivors end up on the planet Altamid where Krall has enslaved a variety of survivors (from the Enterprise and various other wrecks). The Enterprise crew is split up: Scotty is recued by a loner called Jaylah (who has escaped imprisonment by Krall and is repurposing a crashed federation ship); Spock and McCoy have adventures with emergency surgery; Sulu and Uhura are enslaved, and Kirk, Chekov and the somewhat devious Kalara end up together. It takes all of them to beat the forces ranged against them. Star Trek works best when the ensemble cast comes into full play as it does here.

There's lots to like, good action, fine effects, a more or less logical story and some character development. All the main actors turn in good performances, especially Simon Pegg who has some good snarky lines with Jaylah. (Pegg co-wrote the script, so perhaps not surprising that Scotty plays a pivotal role.) Sofia Boutella is great as Jaylah. Chris Pine's Kirk seems to be growing into his role as captain.

Sadly, during production, the film saw the passing of Leonard Nimoy (probably while the film was still in pre-production) and Anton Yelchin (just before the film opened). Nimoy's passing was acknowledged with the 'death' of original timeline Spock on New Vulcan (which affected new-timeline Spock). and both actors were acknowledged in the credits. The film is dedicated to the memory of both Leonard Nimoy (“In loving memory of Leonard Nimoy”) and Anton Yelchin (“For Anton”).
jacey: (blue eyes)
GhostbustersThis week has been busy at the cinema and because we know we'll be seeing Star Trek next week, we did two consecutive days at the movies this week with Tarzan and Ghistbusters (and we still haven't seen 'Now You See Me 2').

So... Ghostbusters.

A remake with plenty of nods in the direction of the original movie. This Ghostbusters has an all-female team with Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones sitting easily in the lead roles. (I don't always like Melissa McCarthy in movies, but I did here.) Two physicists, an engineer and a native New Yorker are pitted against creepy Rowan (Neil Casey) and a hoard of vengeful ghosts. There's a lot here that's familiar (proton packs and slime) and a lot of nods to the original movie including cameo appearances by all the major (surviving) stars.

It's good-hearted and downright funny in places with plenty of euwww-slime moments. In itself that's not enough to sustain the humour, but Chris Hemsworth, playing against type as the dumb beefcake receptionist (Clark Kent strippogram!) who can barely answer the phone adds charm. In fact he gives a very creditable performance.

Expect lots of pop-culture references as the ladies 'go for the ghoulies' and enjoy this movie for what it is - a summer popcorn flick. It's never going to replace the original and it certainly can't deliver any real surprises, but it was a fun way to spend Wednesday afternoon and - hey - the cinema has air conditioning! Sit through the credits, because there's an easter-egg right at the end.
jacey: (blue eyes)
X-men ApocalypseFor some reason I missed blogging this back in May, so in the interests of providing a full and complete record, here it is, now, except...errr... it's a couple of months since I saw it and...it hasn't left much of a lasting impression. So that says something for starters. What does stand out is an interesting personal story for Eric (Magneto) who is incogneto Magneto working in a factory in Poland. When his wife and daughter are killed it turns him to the dark side (oops wrong movie, but you know what I mean). Michael Fassbender is once again, top-notch as Magneto. We also get to see the transition of Xavier from hirsute to egg-head. I still can't quite get my head around James McAvoy as a young Patrick Stewart, but - hey - that's my problem, not his. It was nice to see Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones) kicking arse as a young Jean Grey and Evan Peters did a decent turn at Quicksilver.

Apocalypse is a god-like entity, not an event, BTW, and it takes all the X-Men working together to stop him. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but any more an that would be a spoiler. What the movie gains in action it generally loses in characterisation. This followed on from the other X-Men prequels but it falls into the more-of-the-same-but -different category. There was nothng earth-shatteringly new in here.
jacey: (blue eyes)
TarzanJohn Clayton (Alexander Skarsgard) is settled in England, married to Jane and seems to be well adjusted coinsidering he grew up wild in the jungle. Backstory in interspersed with the ongoing film plot which revolves around Belgian agent, Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz - everyone's favourite villain lately) luring Clayton back to Africa to the tribal chief who wants to kill him. Accompanied by American George Washington Williams (Samuel L Jackson), the Claytons soon discover a wicked plot to enslave the whole of the Congo for its diamonds and ivory.

Sadly Skarsgard is muscular but unremarkable, and Samuel L Jackson seems out of place as the token representitive of the American government, though Margot Robbie impresses prettily as Jane. There are some strange editing leaps. Journeys that are not only over in a flash, but are chopped out altogether leaving logic holes. This is more noticeable towards the end of the movie, as if they're trying to reduce screen time - though it didn't seem overly long even at 1 hr 50 mins. There are some action sequences athat are so impossible they are more reminicent of animation than live action.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Independence Day ResurgenceQuite by chance I saw the original Independence day on TV just a few days before going to see Resurgence at the cinema, so I had the original movie firmly fixed in my brain with it's starry ensemble cast. Very pleased to see most of that cast reprising their roles. i can only speculate that Will Smith didn't want to play himself twenty years on, but everyone else aged relkatively gracefully, especially Goldblum and Pullman.

For anyone who'd had their head in the sand the original Independence Day saw our heroes fighting off all powerful alens by blowing up the mother ship from the inside in a suicide mission that didn't kill off the heroes. Now, a generation down the line mankind had been scavenging and using alien tech in an effort to beat them at their own game next time. Of course, Resurgence is the story of Next Time. The aliens are back, and they've had twenty years to get ready, too.

This time our hotshot heroes are the next generation, sons of the original heroes: Liam Hemsworth (Gale in the Hunger Games and brother of Chris) acquits himself well as Jake Morrison, the young pilot who has a problem with authority and Jessie T Usher as Dylan Hiller, the golden boy of flight school, son of the character played by Will Smith in the original. Jeff Goldblum reprises David Levinson, the scientist who is now in charge of preparing for the next time and Judd Hirsch, once again the comic relief, is his aging father. Brent Spiner reprises Dr Okun (no it appears he wasn't killed in the original; he's been in a coma for 20 years).

There are absolutely no surprises. This is pure hokum, but it's entertaining hokum. Don't expect any Oscar nominations for this one.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Capt America Civil WarI read a review that called this movie: the single most complex, thematically and ideologically chewy movie Marvel have produced to date, and that's pretty much on the nose. Despite being a Captain America title this is really an Avengers movie featuring an ideological split between those Avengers who agree that the UN should have oversight and those who believe that the Avengers themselves are in the best position to decide when superhero action is required. Leading the opposing forces are Captain America and Iron Man, friends who find themselves on opposite sides.

When the team tries to take down a villain there are civilian deaths, collateral damage. On top of the massive death-toll in Age of Ultron - which Stark still feels responsible for (in that he created Ultron, albeit unwittingly) - Iron Man, seemingly against type, agrees to the Sokovia Accords, accepting oversight. Steve Rogers, seemingly against type, because as an ex military man you would expect him to accept the chain of command, refuses to sign. Possibly he would have done it anyway, but when his friend Bucky's life is on the line he barely hesitates.

Each one of them takes superheroes with them, for and against the accord. Black Widow, War Machine, Vision and (introducing) Spiderman are with Iron Man while Cap has not only Bucky, but Falcon, Hawkeye, Ant Man and the Scarlet Witch. The Black Panther (also newly introduced) is on his own side for much of the action.

The action sequences are suitably... err... active - though there is some annoying 'shaky-cam'. I'm glad I didn't see it in 3D. Where this film wins out is in its characterisation. It's not really a Captain America and Iron Man movie, it's a Steve Rogers and Tony Stark movie. Each is affected by the past, from their childhood to the recent movie adventures.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Jungle Book 2016My friend H and I agreed to disagree over this version of Jungle Book. I thought it seemed over-long, dragging in the middle section - H didn't. That apart, we both agreed that it's a visual treat. The CGI and live action is seamless. Once again a Brit voices the bad guy, with Idris Elba's version of Shere Khan bringing a chilling menace to the part. Neel Sethi is the only live actor, playing Mowgli very well, though I wasn't too sure about the American accent at first, though I quickly ceased to notice it.

One oddity is the use of music from the animated (classic) Jungle book, though not in quite the same format. Homage? Re-tread? I'm not sure, but I don't think it was necessary to reintroduce I wanna Be Like You and Bear Neccessities - it just served to highlight the fact that this was Jungle Book with all the cartoon humour removed. There's no reason why a darker, more narrative Jungle Book  isn't equally valid, of course, in which case why the songs?

SabuBut song choices apart, the climax of this was gripping and really well done.

It's a long time since I've seen the original Jungle Book Movie with Sabu (right) as Mowgli. I'd like to see it again for comparison's sake. All live action, of course in 1942.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Eddie the EagleI don't remember too much about Eddie Edwards, Eddie the Eagle, in the Calgary Winter Olympics of 1988 except that for a short time he was a phenomenon, loved for coming last, for just being there and competing, the only British ski-jumper in the Olympics. The film lived up to the trailer's promise. It's a piece with tremendously good heart. Taron Egerton plays the misfit Eddie joyously as he overcomes all obstacles just to compete. His life's ambition to be an olympian, finally realised with the (fictional) help of alcohol-fuelled former ski-jumper Peary, generously played by Hugh Jackman. This unlikely 'odd couple' succeed in coming last, but that's not the point. The point is that Eddie, despite all odds, competes because he's willing to take the knocks and get up every time he falls down. It's the underdog story that was a sensation (briefly). The Olympic committee later changed the rules to make sure that no independents of Eddie's like would ever again be able to compete in the Olympics. Sad that.
jacey: (blue eyes)
HuntsmanBoth a prequel and a sequel, this movie wraps itself around Snow White and the Huntsman, made better by the lack of Snow White, who is not on screen. It's a kind of grown up 'Frozen' with two sisters, each with different magical powers. Ravenna is the evil queen from Snow White, not quite as dead as we thought. Her sister, Freya, horribly betrayed by her lover, turns out to have ice magic. She runs off and sets up her own kingdom (queendom?) harvesting children and turning them into warriors to be her army.

And that's where Eric, the Huntsman, comes in. He's one of Freya's children - along with Sarah, fellow warrior, whom he eventually falls for. They are separated and, believeing her to be dead, he goes off, gets drunk and the whole of the Snow White movie happens. And then there's the aftermath when Ravenna and Freya meet and eventually clash - with Eric and four dwarves caught in the middle.

I'm trying not to give away too many spoilers. Chris Hemsworth is suitably rugged as The Huntsman. Charlize Theron reprises her role as Ranvenna. Sheridan Smith, Rob Brydon, Nick Frost and Alexandra Roach play the short-stature parts. Sheridan Smith and Rob Brydon are particularly good.

While it won't set the world on fire, it was an entertaining Wednesday afternoon, slightly better than its predecessor.
jacey: (blue eyes)
batman_vs_supermanWhat can I say? This movie has received auch a lot of hype coupled with abuse, that it's difficult to take it at face value. There was a lot wrong with it, but overall I wasn't bored and it worked on some levels. It wasn't as bad as I feared, but it was certainly not as good as I'd hoped. Unfortuantely it was a mishmas of a mashup.

Yes, it covered the making of Batman yet again as the Wayne parents were killed in an alley and young Master Bruce, traumatised by bats, was left in the care of Alfred, this time played by the delightful Jeremy Irons (bonus), who is hardly the typical butler. Ben Affleck makes a surprisingly decent Batman, though I still can't take to Henry Cavill as Superman, but then I'm of the Christopher Reeve generation and no one will ever better that.

Despite the fact that it's Batman versus Superman, there's only one actual fight and the rest is Lex Luthor playing the psychology game, making sure that the two of them are ready to fight each other. It all starts to improve when Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) turns up

There are one or two weird things going on. Clarke and Lois are obviously in a physical relationship, and she's well aware of his 'secret.' Re the imbalance between human physiology and the Kryptonian physiology, I'm not quite sure how Lois has survived nights of passion. Read Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex by Larry Niven for more speculation about Superman's sex life.

So if I've read this movie right, its the set-up for the Justice League movie
jacey: (blue eyes)
Hail CaesarIt's the 1950s. Hollywood superstar Baird Whitlock (George Clooney at his bewildered best) is kidnapped in the middle of filming a blockbuster movie about a Roman centurion who finds God. It's up to studio fixer Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) to find him while juggling smaller dramas happening on other movie sets at Capitol Pictures. Brolin is the heart of this movie but there are excellent performances from the aforementioned Clooney, and from Ralph Fiennes as camp director Laurence Laurentz. I'm not usually fond of Fiennes but he has a superbly light touch with comedy.  Alden Ehrenreich, playing contract singing-cowboy actor Hobie Doyle, whose normal repertoire consists of 'Howdy', is delightful when dropped into a movie part that's way beyond him. There are subplots involving Scarlett Johansson as an Esther Williams style swimming star, Tilda Swinton playing a set of rival gossip columnist twins, and Channing Tatum in an all-male song-and-dance set-piece that could be straight out of a Gene Kelly movie.

No slapstick, but lots of smiles. This is, after all, a Coen Brothers film which sends up Hollywood, the fifties, and itself at the same time. Highly recommended.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Zoolander2Don't, just don't. Go and see anything else.

I enjoyed Zoolander on some level. Sure it was corny and more than a bit bonkers, but it was basically good hearted. They should have left it at one. There were one or two laughs in this as Derek Zoolander dragged himself out of retirement and back into the limelight of the modelling world, but most of it was groanworthy, and not in a good way. It was full of gratuitous appearances by stars appearing as themselves. Only Sting had a part to play.

I'd tell you the plot but... life's too short. Though it does start with the murder of Justin Bieber. Make what you wish of that.

I'm really pleased we did Meerkat Movies and didn't pay full price for this.
jacey: (blue eyes)
DeadpoolWe've missed several weeks at the cinema. There's been little to attract us for almost a month, but this week we thought we'd give Deadpool a go.

Starting in the middle and covering the origin of Deadpool in flashback, this is a riot of action, quips, gore and bad language. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a former Special Forces operative with a twisted sense of humour who's been hiring out as a mercenary.He gets into a relationship (Morena Baccarin looking even younger than she did in Firefly) but his world comes crashing down when he's diagnosed with terminal cancer. To save his life he signs up to a programme to create super-soldiers, finding out too late that it involves being tortured by evil scientist Ajax (Ed Skrein). He's left disfigured, but invulnerable. Believing he can't go back to his girlfriend he hunts Ajax to get revenge. With help from mutant allies Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Deadpool uses his new skills to hunt down the man who nearly destroyed his life, but Ajax is hunting him, too.

Taken at face value this is tongue-in-cheek fun, taking time to laugh at itself, but it's neither deep nor meaningful. Worth a trip to the cinema on a wet Wednesday afternoon.
jacey: (blue eyes)
In_the_Heart_of_the_Sea_posterThe story of the account on which Melville based his classic story of Moby Dick. A man-against-nature movie with both the sea and a great white whale batting for nature while on the man team is Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Wishaw, Benjamin Walker and Tom Holland batting for the crew of the New England whaling ship the Essex. The story itself is bookended in 1850 by Melville (Wishaw) hunting down the last survivor of the Essex, sunk thirty years before in 1820, to get the true account. And get it he does, in all its gory detail.

The tale describes a voyage already fraught because the first mate, Owen Chase, (Hemsworth) has been passed over for captaincy of the Essex in favour of an inexperienced but well connected George Pollard (Walker). The two are at odds almost at once and this continues through months of finding no whales.

Eventually they head hundreds of miles out to sea in the pacific in search of fabled whaling grounds and that's where their troubles really start. The white whale is a tenacious enemy and this is the story of how they (some of them at any rate) survive.

It's beautifully filmed. The whaling sequences are truly awful, sparing no detail of his the creatures were hacked to pieces and boiled for their oil - a valuable commodity used to light streets and homes. Ron Howard directs and the pace is tense. It had me riveted. Apparently it received mixed reviews, but I'd recommend it.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Well, I guess the new Star Wars movie was the highlight of the year, much anticipated and very much enjoyed. Other that that there were some highlights and some stinkers. Sadly Pan was probably the worst of the stinkers, beautifully filmed, but an afternoon of my life I'd like to reclaim because I couldn't care about any of the characters. Hunger Games Mockingjay 2 suffered from being split into two movies. Perhaps, one day, someone enterprising with re-cut it into the one movie it needed to be. It wasn't a stinker, but it wasn't as good as it could have been. Of the teen dystopian movies I much preferred Insurgent. I've made sure I don't read the books first this time. (However not reading the books couldn't really rescue Maze Runner - Scorch Trials.) Easily forgettable movies included Fantastic Four, Age of Adaline, Spectre, Tomorrowland, Scorch Trials, Victor Frankenstein, Jupiter Ascending (which could have been so much better than it was!), Into the Woods and Cinderella. None of them was awful, but, a bit like eating a chocolate bar - OK at the time, but once the last bite disappears, the memory fades.

The Martian was fabulous, well deserving of all its rave reviews and I hope it gets a look in at the Oscars. It's certainly in my top two of the year. If you didn't see it at the cinema buy the DVD when it comes out.

Extremely enjoyable were Mission Impossible-Rogue Nation; Man from UNCLE, Jurassic World, Avengers-Age of Ultron, Kingsman, Chappie, Insurgent, Second Best Marigold Hotel, Night at the Museum 3 (Yes, really!), Absolutely Anything, and (suprisingly) Ant Man, which I was in two minds about seeing, but I'm really glad I did.

Birdman was fascinating, and I do think it deserved it's Oscar win, but it's not a movie I would want to watch twice.

The animations were all pretty good: Inside Out, Minions, Home and Big Hero 6 all delivered, though at times Inside Out was like watching an animated psychology textbook.

The live cinema broadcast of the National Theatre's Treasure Island probably shouldn't be included in this list because the experience was more like watching theatre than cinema even though it was experienced via the big screen. I enjoyed it very much and will certainly check out all the other live-performance broadcasts in the coming year.

Anyhow, here's what I saw in 2015:
jacey: (blue eyes)
Star Wars Force Awakens22nd December 2015

At last, the movie we've been waiting for all year. Both H and I managed to avoid pre-movie spoilers and so we saw it fresh. Verdict? Yes, good. I finally feel as though we've reclaimed Star Wars from the dreary prequels. Hard to review this without spoilers, though I guess most people who want to see it will have seen it by now (writing on 7th January), however I will avoid the major ones.

The new characters are pretty good, particularly Rey (Daisy Ridley), the main (female) hero who is strong. gutsy, clued up, and who takes what she's given and runs with it. Finn (john Boyega) is only half a pace behind as a reformed storm trooper who rejects his heritage and training and makes a run for it rather than slaughter innocents. I was a bit ambivalent about Kylo Ren when I saw this the first time round (yes, I've seen it twice already) but on second viewing it's obvious he's a flawed villan and his flaws are what make him dangerous.

The original heroes of Episodes 4, 5 and 6, Luke Leia and Han are all in there, suitably older but still perfectly cast. Leia is no longer a princess, but a general in the resistance and Carrie Fisher is going to bat for all older actresses. I think she pitches it perfectly. Harrison Ford's Han Solo still steals the show, I think, though he doesn't overwhelm it. Mark Hamil, Luke Skywalker is there, but largely being saved for Episode VIII, I think. This movie slices through decades of Star Wars novels and cuts adrift  the Luke/Han/Leia (and their children) storylines post Return of the Jedi, which was inevitable, really.

It's now thirty years on from the defeat of the Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi, and the good guys (the resistance) are now fighting the First Order, who seem to be the inheritors of the ld Empire, even if they don't quite see themselves in that light. Rae is a scavenger on a backward and back-woods desert planet who finds (or is found by) the little droid BB8 after Poe Dameron (hotshot pilot in the resistance) and Finn crash after escaping from the bad guys. There are hints that Rae has some kind of heritage that's hidden form her and you can read endless speculation about this online if you want to, but it's easier to take her at face value in this movie.

Essentially Episode VII, The Force Awakens, follows all the beats of Episode VI, A New Hope, but this isn't a box ticking exercise, it's a reclamation. Looking forward to Episode VIII and the standalone movie that we've been promised for December 2016.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Spectre16th December 2015

Another outing for James Bond which I avoided for several weeks because my cinebuddy, H, saw it with her husband and said the overall volume was WAY TOO LOUD and the whole thing wasn't as good as Skyfall. Eventually, however, it was a slack week for new movies, so we went to see it. (H for the second time.) Glad to say that at Wakefield the overall volume was not too loud, so it must have been a quirk of the cinema H saw it in (Sheffield), however she was right about it being not as good as Skyfall, which i think was the best bond movie in years, largely due to the onscreen chemistry between Bond and M, Daniel Craig and Judy Dench.

Dench's M is still running the show in this one, despite her shoes having been filled by Ralph Fiennes, having given Bond a lead to follow which leads him to someone from his childhood who has long had it in for him. Sadly that required a lot of suspension of disbelief to get past the plot holes and I didn't quite make it, but it delivered the usual Bondish action of chases (car and foot) and ingenious escapes. Q and M actually got some protagging to do, which was interesting. But the villain, supposedly a supervillain, was lacking in general onscreen menace.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Victor FrankensteinYou might think that the Frankenstein story has been mined out over the years, but this time the film industry has come up with Victor meets Igor, It's not quite a porequel because it does see the story through to the end, but much emphasis is put on Frankenstein rescuing the downtrodden hunchback, Igor, (Daniel Radcliffe) from a desperately bad life as a circus freak, hence Igor's devotion to Frankenstein despite his better judgement.

Radcliffe is a surprisingly effective Igor, particularly in the circus scenes. James McAvoy is the driven (and quite bonkers) Victor. The story does have a different take on the story and was well worth watching on a wet Wednesday afternoon on the Meerkat Movies two-for-one offer.
jacey: (blue eyes)
Mockingjay Pt 2I was only half looking forward to this. I enjoyed the first two films (and the first two books), but Mockingjay Part One suffered from being the movie of the first half of the final book in the trilogy, depicting the period where Katniss, suffering from PTSD, has no agency. Frankly her agency is limited for part of this movie, too, until she takes it back in the final moments in an act which is flagged up so heavily that it comes as no surprise,

There's no doubt that the acting is excellent (particularly Jennifer Lawrence, but also the supporting cast) and the cinematography/world-building well realised, but oh how I wish they'd not succumbed to splitting the last book. One movie would have been quite sufficient.
jacey: (blue eyes)
PanHow can something that is a visual delight be so boring? Pan has everything going for it - including Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, the villain - but manages to miss the mark by a mile. I'd read bad reviews. I should have believed them.

Okay, it's not all bad news. Levi Miller is an effective lead as Peter Pan and largely holds the movie together. Garrett Hedlund is an engaging Hook (who has not yet lost his hand and fallen out with Peter), though he plays it straight out of the Star Wars book with so many Han Solo momentds that you almost wonder which film you're watching. Rooney Mara is a very cute Tiger Lily and gets some pretty cool swashbuckling action scenes. Sadly Hugh Jackman plays Blackbeard as if he were in pantomime. Very occasionally there's an 'acting' moment, and you see a real person behind the character, but I suspect the director kept him firmly two-dimensional because this is certainly not his usual standard of acting. It has to be deliberate.

There's some good CGI with flying three-masted sailing ships, and one or two slightly tacky moments, but mostly the visuals are good, if a little 'Avatar' on occasions. I'm deeply relieved that we saw the 2D version, however.

What lets the whole thing down? Poor script and lacklustre direction/editing. It takes a long time to make its point and to get from event to event. On the whole, I spent the last half of the movie checking my watch because I'd seen enough by that time.

Do yourself a favour, go and see The Martian instead.

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