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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 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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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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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.


jacey: (Default)
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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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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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?

Catching Up

Aug. 2nd, 2017 06:48 pm
jacey: (Default)
Apologies in advance for bombarding you with upcoming movie logs and book logs. I have at least five movies to catch up with and seven or eight books. I've been so busy putting Nimbus to bed that I haven't caught up with my logs. Please bear with me. There will be a flurry and then it will be back to the usual steady rate.
jacey: (Default)
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.

jacey: (Default)
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.

Recommended.
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.



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