Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Dead In A Week (Or Your Money Back) (15)

It's easy to forget, but every now and then this great nation of ours — when it isn't busy throwing itself off the cliff of reason and logic — can produce some fine, fine films.

Sure, we all know Richard Curtis knows his way around a script and a camera, but below him there are some fine pieces of film making going on.

Not that you ever get to hear about them, mind.

Take, for example, the oddly titled Dead In A Week (Or Your Money Back).

No trailers (we may have mentioned this here), and a description on the Odeon's app claiming it's a "drama" (it so isn't), but as it was this or Depp hamming it up in pre-Potter world, off we trotted.

And in a mere 90 minutes we had more fun and laughs than has been the case in the cinema for some time (and we say this knowing we've seen some very good films lately).

Turns out, all you need is a good cast and a good script. The rest takes care of itself.

In the case of Dead, the cast features young up-and-comers Christopher Eccleston and Tom Wilkinson, alongside rising stars Aneurin Barnard (off of Dunkirk) and Freya Mavor.

The story is a simple one. Aspiring author William (Barnard) has realised he can't even succeed at suicide and so out-sources the whole messy business to hitman Leslie (Wilkinson).

Unfortunately, no soon is the contract signed William finds a beautiful women who wants to publish his book (Mavor).

This causes Leslie some major problems, not least of which being his impending retirement if he doesn't hit his quota. And his boss Harvey (Eccleston) is not a forgiving man.

What follows is a sweet, dark comedy about staying alive while the grim reaper haunts your every step.

Which, we'll freely admit, doesn't sound like much.

And yet, thanks to the wonderfully crisp, sharp script from writer/director Tom Edmunds, the exquisite chemistry between Barnard and Mavor, the underplayed electricity between Wilkinson and Eccleston, what you have here is one of the best films you'll see this year.

Everything is played with a straight bat (no Pegg-esque over-egging of puddings here), the comic lines arrive with perfect timing ("they didn't even see the piano falling), and there's a central romance that British cinema just does better than anyone else.

There are also some quite delightful moments where you can't quite tell where Edmunds is taking us.

But possibly the best thing about Dead In A Week is the fact there is absolutely no flab on this film.

Coming in at a nudge over 90 minutes, there isn't a single line or scene you'd want cut to chivvy things along — and it's been sometime since that was the case.

Even with recent faves like Widows or Bohemian Rhapsody you knew a shorter running time wouldn't have hurt the final cut — but not here.

Everything is here for a reason, every line is needed, every look and glance plays its part, and you are left with a film that is simply a joy to watch.

Of course there will be those who tell you suicide is no laughing matter, but in the right hands anything can be the subject of comedy.

And Edmunds is very clearly those hands.

We can't remember the last time we laughed consistently throughout a movie — often struggling to keep an eye on the screen thanks to being doubled-up with laughter.

But Dead In A Week keeps you laughing and smiling from beginning to end.

We imagine it'll be a bugger to find, but this film will reward your efforts with the kind of warm glow only a film about death can give you. 

The Girl In The Spider's Web (15)

We have talked on this blog on more than one occasion about film trailers — sometimes they get our hopes up (Widows) and sometimes we miss them completely (Dead In A Week).

Sometimes, however, you get to see the extended version which is essentially the whole film in three minutes, key plot spoilers n all.

Which brings us to The Girl In The Spider's Web.

Hollywood has already failed spectacularly with their remake of the original Swedish version of the modern classic The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo — so spectacularly they didn't even bother with books two and three.

How fitting, then, that they should have another go with the appalling fourth book in the trilogy, one not actually written by Stieg Larsson but instead created posthumously from his notes.

Were once we had gritty, tense, violent film versions — ones which brought Noomi Rapace to our attention as Lisbeth Salandar and gave us Michael Nyqvist as the perfect Mikael Blomkvist — we were left with Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig in a film that was just dull.

Now, we have Claire Foy's interpretation of the hacker of both men and computers.

And to be fair, she does a bang-up job.

While Rapace was the perfect person for the role, Foy does bring a damaged fragility and steely determination to the Swedish heroine, and to these ears at least the accent is up to the job.

Blomkvist, however, is another matter.

With Nyqvist we had exactly the shlubby, unhandsome womaniser we had fallen in love with in the books.

Now though, we get Sverrir Gudnason. A man too young and too good looking to play the part.

His complicated relationship with co-magazine conspirator Erika Berger (played here by the equally too-young Vicky Krieps) is all too believable.

Of course they'd be at it! Who wouldn't sleep with this man?

This is not the journalist of the books....

But such issues are minor niggles when looked upon as part of the whole, because the problems start with that trailer.

Both the extended version and the normal version contain a MASSIVE spoiler, one so huge you spend most of the film not only knowing who is going to turn up but you're second guessing as to when.

And this blows the whole thing out of the water, and robs us of what is supposed to be the big twist and reveal about halfway through.

Because once you know who Lisbeth is up against, you're not with her on the adventure, looking for clues, feeling the drama and tension build, you're just chewing your nails fully aware of what is to come.

There are also other problems, and all of them are in the writing if not the source material.

It is assumed, rightly or wrongly, from the off that we know who Lisbeth is — but if we do, then we know who Blomkvist is. And yet he gets random bits of expositional dialogue to fill in gaps that don't exist.

There are other clunky bits too, where those hard of thinking get basic plot points explained to them.

As for the story itself, Spider's Web is in essence an attempt to show us how a female Bond would play out.

Lisbeth has her gadgets (never explained), her bike (hello Ducati), her stolen car (good afternoon Lamborghini) and there are more chases and explosions than you can shake a taser at.

All of which would be fine if the story hadn't been ruined weeks ago when we sat down to watch something else...

Even forgetting all that, Spider's Web is not a great film.

Along with the issues already raised, the other major plot development has more holes in than the roof of Lisbeth's hideout, and the pace of the first three quarters of the film is just pedestrian.

On the plus side, the whole thing looks fantastic — and the inclusion of Yellow Bird (who did the original films) on the production side means this film has far more in common with its Swedish predecessors than would first appear to be the case.

The casting of Stephen Merchant may not seem to be the obvious choice but he's more than up to the job and is a surprisingly believable character.

The final quarter, however, is where the film comes alive.

Yes we've had Lisbeth running around an old building before, but this one works too and the use of flashbacks helps to increase the tension and we actually found our attention being held.

Yes, there's more Bond stuff going on. But this time round you're happy to go with it as fists and bullets fly with gay abandon.

While I hated the book, I was genuinely excited to see a new instalment because of my love for the original characters.

But even without the massive spoilers (did we mention this before?) this film lacks the true excitement, grit, sleaze and drama the original trilogy was known for.

Thankfully, though, this is unlikely to dent Foy's growing reputation as one of the finest actresses around today.

Widows (15)

Occasionally, just occasionally, we manage to get off our arse and actually get to see the film we've been looking forward to for ages.

Yes, sure, it's taken forever to actually sit at a keyboard and tell you about it, but one step at a time, eh?

At least we managed to see Widows on the big screen!

And we'd been excited about this one since the trailer — which seems to have been around for AGES.

I mean, what's not to like here?

Viola Davis? Good.

Steve McQueen? Good.

Liam Neeson?

Look, two out of three's not bad.

Especially when this is a re-make of an 80s drama and Gillian Flynn is involved. (Yeah, I know, everyone loved Gone Girl but us. I get it.)

We won't deny, there was a certain amount of apprehension going in to this. There was no way it could deliver on the tight, dark, adrenaline rush of the trailer...

For the two of you at the back who have missed what this film is about, a heist goes wrong, men die, women get left to pick up the pieces, women do heist.

In just a smidge over two hours.

Boom, bang, in, out, done.

And it's as slick and fast as you want it to be.

The women — Davis,  Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and the amazing Cynthia Erivo — own every scene they are in, gelling quickly and working well together.

There are comic touches, high drama, deep emotion, and without missing a beat each and every one of them delivers.

And McQueen is clearly at the top of his game.

Yes, there's a political message to this, the state of inner cities and people's economic situations feature prominently, but this isn't a 'message' film.

The signals are there if you want, or you can just sit back and enjoy the hell out of a fantastic heist movie.

The camera work, too, is at times breathtaking.

There is a scene with two characters in a car, which travels from the rough part of town to the nice bit, and while I know there's a certain amount of geeking out on our part it was simply beautiful.

And that's what is so great about this film.

You get swept up in the story, in the drama and tension, in the action and the twists and turns — it simply grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go.

And you know how firm the grip is when there are things that should niggle but you let them go because you're enjoying everything so much.

Things like how Erivo's Belle comes to be a part of the whole thing. How two-dimensional Colin Farrell is. How utterly Neeson Liam is.

But such things matter not a jot when the whole thing has four amazing women delivering top notch performances — with Daniel Kaluuya a hair's breadth behind them, delivering a performance of pure sinister evil.

This film has Oscars written all over it — screenplay, direction, cinematography and a nomination each for the four women.

But it's more than just an awards vehicle. Widows is an edge-of-the-seat thriller the likes of which many try to make but fall so, so short.

And it's further proof that all you need to make a good film is a strong story and a talented cast.

(Oh, and cars blowing up once or twice...)

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Bohemian Rhapsody (12A)

The rock biopic is, we find, a funny ol' bugger of a genre.

With some bands, it doesn't even need to be done well because the fans will go see it anyway — and yet, to be done well it should really tell us things we didn't already know.

Ray, for example, and Get On Up shone a light into the darker corners of the lives of Ray Charles and James Brown respectively, elevating already good films and giving the audience something extra.

Which makes a biopic of Queen a tricky thing to tackle.

Already a production wracked with rumour, counter rumour, casting changes and director issues, it tells the story of a band and lead singer that's been covered many, many times since Freddie Mercury's passing.

Freddie's lifestyle, health, sexuality, ego — they are all the stuff of both fact and legend.

And if you're a true fan you already know that Smile became Queen (we only knew because we were at school with two huge devotees of the band), and things were never the same again. For anyone.

So how do you bring something new to this? How do you tell a tale already told?


...this is Queen... you make the whole thing massively overblown and ludicrous and with a tongue so firmly planted in a cheek it's almost bursting through.

That's how.

It helps, obviously, that your soundtrack is going to feature some of the finest songs ever committed to vinyl .

I mean, how can you go wrong when you are blasting Somebody To Love and Killer Queen at the audience?

Of course, as with all films, casting is key and in Rami Malek (yes, him from the Night At The Museum films) the producers found a guy who could not only live in Freddie's skin but bring the old dear to life in fantastic, glorious style.

Fittingly, he steals the whole show to the point you almost forget there are other members of the band.

As for the story itself, you have to remember this is a film and not a documentary because if you know your Queen history you'll find yourself tutting occasionally.

The fact this is a project brought to life by the two remaining active members of the band (Brian May and Roger Taylor if you've missed the memos) should allow you care slightly less about the liberties taken.

Should. But might not.

References to "but we haven't played together in ages" irk if you remember there was an album and tour the year before, and "from now on, all songs will be written by Queen, we'll share everything equally" sounds warm and fuzzy as long as you don't look at the writing credits for A Kind Of Magic.

Then there's the small matter of Freddie's partying and sexuality, one of which is kind of brushed to one side while the other is treated with kid gloves.

But such things are really just nitpicking.

While Freddie was often the story, Queen were still a band and they made their name on the road, and the live concert scenes really do bring a lump to the throat and make you want to be standing rather than sitting.

Of course, the whole thing is building to the Live Aid show that has long been credited with landing the band in the stadiums they were to play for the rest of their days with Mr M.

Bookending the film, and having watched the whole thing on the day, we were genuinely caught out with how emotional the closing 20 minutes of the film were.

And because we know now what we didn't know then, the show takes on an extra weight that, by the time the credits roll, has lifted you onto cloud nine and left you there.

We make no apologies for the sniffing and eye-dabbing that was going on over on our side of the screening.

Perhaps the most fitting thing about this film is how it starts slowly, builds gradually, and by the time the band hit their stride you're hooked and loving it.

Did we need Mike Myers in there? No. Did we need that joke about that song? No.

But when you find yourself hoovering up the band's back catalogue and the film's soundtrack in the days that follow, you know they got something right.

It's a far from from perfect film, but it grabs you by the heart strings and doesn't let go, and you feel like Freddie has popped back for one final encore.

Now, excuse me, my remastered copy of A Kind Of Magic has just turned up...

Bad Times At The El Royale (15)

Every now and then, and it seems to be happening less and less sadly, a trailer will come along that will actually just tease the film.

Now, granted, it's been well documented in these parts that trailers are not something we always catch — so maybe it happens all the time.

But we doubt it.

And certainly not as well as this.

Literally left with  no clue as to what was going on, but it looked slick, stylish and had a cast good enough to fill four other films.

And given the extended trailer for The Girl In The Spider's Web is basically the whole film, this was both exciting and intriguing.

A film being sold on the strength of its cast, that looks dark and nasty?

This should be good....

And written by a guy who wrote for Alias, Buffy, Angel, Lost, Daredevil? Directed by the guy who was behind the camera for Cabin In The Woods? And they're the same bloke?

Oh come to Papa....

And for once, expectations were not only met but exceeded.

This is a nasty, gritty, darkly comic, bloody, sleazy, trashy piece of joyous brilliance.

And the cast (Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, John Hamm, Chris Hemsworth) are clearly having the time of their lives.

The story — essentially strangers meet at a hotel and stuff then happens — is king here, though. A twisty-turny narrative that flicks between the past and present with consumate ease.

Horror film tropes are used well, which comes as no surprise given writer/director Drew Goddard's previous work, and when the punches come they hit hard.

Part of the reason they hit so hard, of course, is that you care about the characters.

The priest, the singer, the travelling salesman and the jaded, mysterious, woman are all so well drawn, so much detail is provided in a small space, that you feel you know them from the off.

Then there's the pacing of the film.

Now, normally, a film that barely changes gear is not a thing to be applauded — but here? Here, it really works.

It allows the tension to build slowly, and even better allows the jumps and shocks to come out of nowhere.

This is a film that has you gripped before you even notice.

The other masterstroke is an event. Yes, think that's the safest word to use.

A thing.

A thing happens.

And when it does, you know all bets are off — and almost effortlessly the tension goes up a notch.

Sure the film isn't perfect, and Hemsworth is actually too OTT and almost ridiculous as his character, but by the time he arrives you're so far down the tunnel you can forgive this mis-step.

Especially as the ending is the very ending you would want.

Bad Times is a gritty little beast that gets under your skin and makes you feel warm and dirty. In a good way. Probably.

It also brings Cynthia Erivo to the big screen for the first time, and in doing so does the whole world a massive favour.

This is one hotel that deserves to be revisited on a regular basis.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Venom (15)

And so the Marvel universe continues to expand, this tile with a little help from Sony as super-villan and part-time Thunderbolt Venom hits the big screen.

In giant 3D Imaxery to boot, if that's your thing.

Although to be honest I don't think it would improve anything.

To say I was looking forward to this film would be misleading, but I wasn't NOT looking forward to it. I love the character in Thunderbolts and it might be OK.

I mean, it can't be Hulk bad, can it?

Thankfully, no.

But you could not watch it and have about the same experience we did.

The story, such as it is, centres on Eddie Brock, a maverick journalist never afraid to ask the tough questions even when explicitly asked not to by the man who employs him.

He is chasing science guru and man who wants to emigrate to space, Carlton Drake — a man who can end Eddie's job in a heartbeat.

He's also planning to wed lawyer and cat-loving girlfriend Anne Weying, just as long as he doesn't do anything stupid like steal classified information while she sleeps and throw it in Carlton's face.

Oh whoops....

From here we have Things that happen for Reasons, one thing leads to another, and before we can say hungry Eddie is Venom and the fun really begins.

And the CGI team really earn their burgers.

In essence, the plot matters not a jot — which is probably just as well — as the whole point of the early part of the movie is to get to the Venom bit and then have a lot of running about and fighty-fights.

And in these bits, the film delivers.

You get a lot of bang for your overly-inflated buck, and I would imagine one scene in particular comes into its own in 3D. even more so on an Imax screen.

But therein lies the real problem with this film.

You see, when you watch Avengers, or Guardians, or even a Spidey flick, the plot is the basis on which everything is built.

Yes, there's a lot of CGI wossinames flying about, but the characters have a clear narrative within which they are working.

But in Venom...

For a start, Eddie's about as believable a journalist as Amy Adams is in the Superman films.

And as for his relationship with Anne, there are more convincing couples in the late night films Channel 5 used to specialise in.

And this is all a problem in the writing.

The lead cast of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed are about as good as any working today, and yet their characters are so badly drawn you really struggle to engage with them.

Which actually makes Venom the best character in the film.

That said, this film is not without its moments.

The audience in our screening laughed out loud a whole once, and the moment with the dog is great — but those are slim pickings for a big-budget super hero film in a world already owned by Marvel.

And when the final end-credit sequence is literally a trailer for a cartoon that's coming out at Christmas, you realise the producers of Venom have really missed the point of, well, everything.

There are worse super hero films out there, largely because no one seems willing to stop Zack Snyder from damaging DC's legacy, but when that's one of the better things about this film...

My hope is that we are heading towards Thunderbolts The Movie.

My other hope is that the other films, should they surface, are better than this.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

A Star Is Born (15)

"Remind me again why we are going to see A Star Is Born..."

"Because you usually choose and I want to see this."

Well, you can't argue with that. And to be fair, the trailer actually looked good. And the stars were a laugh on the Graham Norton Show. It's bound to be fine.

Part way through the film, I was genuinely thinking I'd buy the soundtrack.

By the end I never wanted to be reminded of this film again.

To be honest, I'm only writing this because I have to.

Although I'm still struggling to get a handle on what about it has made me so angry.

The fact this is the fourth version of this film is a part of it — this one being more a remake of the 1954 Judy Garland version than the 1976 Barbara Streisand classic.

I mean, yes, sure, we're begrudgingly getting used to stories being re-told, but a fourth time? Really? Was there nothing else in the in tray?

And it's not the performances, either.

Lady Gaga as the young Ally, stumbled upon by a drunk Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper, who also stepped behind the camera to direct this version) in a New York drag club, is both captivating and believable.

I mean, sure, they're kind of telling her story here, and it could have been called A Gaga Is Born without changing the essential plot — but she still had to act, and she does it damn well.

And Cooper's easy on the eye. Not great at playing a drunk (his eyes still sparkle), but one hell of a singing voice on him which makes the concert footage a lot more believable.

And the supporting cast — not forgetting dog Charlie — are all up to the job and bring depth to the story....


And it's not the songs. Both Maine's country-rock tracks (penned by Willie Nelson's son Lukas) and Ally's poppier noodlings (Lukas worked with Gaga on these) have great hooks and are played with conviction.

And again, the live footage is good.



Look, let me stress the positives again.

Two fine leads, Gaga is great (I've already backed for for an Oscar nomination) and the live music stuff really captures the vibe and atmosphere of the two different genres.

And Cooper has an eye for a shot. He makes this film look good.

But he's no storyteller. And here in lies the first of the problems.

As good as the music is, the film as a whole feels like a few videos with a loose narrative holding them together.

There are issues with some of the scenes (at least two should have been cut as they have no actual place in the film) and the final quarter should have been thrown into a bin and set on fire.

If you know any of the previous films you'll know what happens, but if you don't I won't spoil it for you here.

Suffice to say Cooper needed a far defter hand, a far lighter touch, than the one he went with.

It's unnecessary and it's where the anger started.

The I got to thinking more about the film, A Star Is Born.

Not, as it should be called, Man Makes It All About Him.

Now, I don't know if I'm being particularly sensitive on this subject given world events — and granted my viewing companion said she didn't really notice ("but then I guess I'm kind of used to that by now") — but it feels less a film about Ally rising to fame and more a film about how this makes Jackson feel.

And, yes, while that may mirror the modern world, and yes there are elements of that in the previous versions, it would have been nice here at the arse end of 2018 if we could have tweaked that a smidge.

As I said, this could be an over-sensitive moment, but it felt more like a showcase for toxic masculinity.

And we get enough of that here in the real world.

And given we were both discussing what light and frothy TV nonsense we could wash our minds with to get rid of the bad taste this film left behind, I suspect I won't be alone in thinking this.

As remakes go, this one doesn't need to exist and doesn't do anything the other three don't already do.

The songs are good, Gaga is good, but it's a mess of a movie with no clear sense of what the focus should be.

Dog's cute though.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Incredibles 2 (PG)

We have often wondered if you really need to see a Pixar film on the big screen.

Some films, sure, you really need the size to take in the full scope of what is being created in front of you.

But for an animation to make an impression on the big screen, it really needs to be thinking big. It needs to own every inch of that screen.

Sadly, Incredibles 2 — the sequel no one had been asking for — is just a cartoon on a giant screen.

It's not a big film.

Part of the problem is the film struggles to get going. Picking up the action right at the end of the first film is a great idea, but you're asking people to remember what happened 14 years ago.

We've seen the odd film since then. And slept.

So you're playing catch-up from the off, and as with Bond films, the opening scenes feature a bad guy you'll not see again.

Only, we've seen him before. He is, technically, an established character.

So effectively you're finishing off the first Incredibles film AND watching the new one at the same time.

Which, from a certain perspective, makes this the longest Pixar film ever....

But that's not the main problem with this film. Far from it.


This film, unlike it's predecessor, is just not fun.

The essential plot is fine — a scheme to bring Supers back, make them legal again, this time with Elastagirl front and centre.

Meanwhile Jack-Jack is discovering what powers he has, making life difficult for stay-at-home-dad Mr Incredible.

But this is also where part of the problems lie.

There is no focus in this film. In the first, they were a family together. This time around, they're doing their own things.

We have Her over There, Doing Things, we have Him over Here doing Other Things, we have teenage angst, a hyper kid (again) and a baby.

Is this a film about women taking the lead? A film to show that women can do all the stuff men do?

Or is this a film that tells children that if the woman goes to work the man is left at home feeling unwanted and struggling to cope?

We genuinely don't know, as both messages are loud and clear, but then it seems Pixar don't know either.

Which is where the lack of fun comes in.

This film has, roughly, three good jokes.

Well, we say that, but straight after the film ended we could only remember two of them. And right now can only remember one.

But we definitely laughed three times.

Sadly, we also looked at our watch inside the first hour (40 minutes in to be precise).

This is a Pixar film, right? For the first 40 minutes to feel like 90 is nothing short of a crime.

We're not saying they can't tackle serious issues (see the start of Up! and the opening hour of Wall-E), but these films have a track record of grabbing you and keeping your attention.

Ratatouille was 'only' a film about a rat who can cook, but what a great film. You could feel the warmth just washing off the screen like a fine broth.

Incredibles 2 feels the exact opposite of that.

It's a puzzled, confused mess of a movie. There's a good idea at the core, but it feels like too many people wanted their opinions felt.

If you are going to do a sequel so far down the line people have had time to get married AND divorced, you'd better be damn sure you're coming up with a stone cold classic.

Because what you don't want is people taking their children along because they loved the original and leaving disappointed.

You'll lose two generation of fans inside an hour....

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

BlacKkKlansman (15)

As we may have mentioned around these parts before, in this day and age it's nigh impossible to go and see a film without knowing much about it.

But not totally impossible.

Take Blackkklaansman for example. Based on a true story apparently. Might be a comedy I think. Might be a violent drama. One way to find out.....

Well, turns out, it's kind of all those things.

But it's so much more.

As we're sure the rest of you already know, the film is based on the memoir of the same title by Ron Stallworth (played wonderfully by John David Washington), a young black rookie Colorado cop who wants to work undercover.

He gets his chance quicker than would seem feasible, which leads him to decide to infiltrate the KKK.

No mean feat for a black dude.

Not being a complete idiot he enlists the help of his new colleagues Flip (Adam Driver further enhancing his reputation) and Jimmy (Michael Buscemi).

Which is when the fun begins.

Now, sure, a black guy enlisting a Jewish guy to infiltrate a bunch of nationalist nutjobs sounds like a hoot, but there is so much drama and tension (some of it bitingly funny) that you need the laughs.

And you really do need the laughs.

Because, at the heart of this film is one simple, strong message.

What Ron Stallworth was trying to unseat and bring down in the early '70s is not just still here but is the strongest and most invasive it has ever been.

It's easy to be a white guy in this world. Surround yourself with white friends and you won't even think anything is untoward.

Black folks feeling set upon? Oppressed? Under siege? Fearing for their lives on a daily basis? Well not in my leafy suburb...

...but they are. They were then, and they still are today.

And it's on us all to wake up, pay attention, listen, and do all we can to stamp it out.

It's no coincidence that phrases used by David Duke (go look him up, junior) are being used again now — and not in pubs, clubs or at fascist demos with tiki torches, but by the Racist In Chief in the White House.

It starts there, and it seeps down. Gets normalised. Those who think their precious lives are out of kilter because of others rather than their own choices or those in power are being emboldened and empowered.

They're dragging their knuckles from the fringes and into the mainstream.

And it has to be stopped.

Hopefully, films like BlacKkKlansman can help.

With its spot-on historical feel and vibe, with the clever use of threes all over the place to emphasise the number of Ks kicking about, with its depiction of people who think racist thoughts and language are right and normal — Klansman captures both when Stallworth and his fellow Americans went through, but also what black America is enduring today.

To be fair, this film doesn't take a sledgehammer approach to the subject matter. The message is there if you want to hear it, or you can just enjoy a damn fine film.

Right up until the final scenes.

Without wishing to give anything away (although we appreciate it's been all over the interwebs already), the final sequence took the wind right out of our sails and within minutes we were in tears.

Both of us.

Partly out of shock, partly out of anger, and partly at just how vile and hate-filled one small section of society has been allowed to become.

Humans are an amazing species at times, while at others we are far less than the animals we think we are so superior too.

Cats fight, but not because one cat hates how another cat looks. Same with sharks, dogs, bears.... See where we're going with this?

It would be great to live in a world where racism was a thing of the past. But until we reach that day, we need films like this to labour the point and make sure people are still listening and paying attention.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

The Meg (12A)

"Right, I'm going to be in town", announces one The Bas. "What films should we see?"

Well, we had been hoping...


So, that's how this happened....

To be honest, we really weren't bothered. Nor were we in the mood, being somewhat pooped and run down, meaning energy and enthusiasm were hard to come by.

But Mr The Bas was keen, and he lives miles away now so to stay on the sofa seemed a tad churlish, so we dragged ourselves to the designated multiplex, ambled to the ticket booth, and realised we'd probably missed the start but what the hey.

We were in the lobby, so might as well get it over with...

... And to be honest, we kind of guessed what the bit of back story was that we missed, but we were swept up by the sheer size and scope of the opening shots and scenes that none of that mattered.

The plot, and let's be kind here and call it that, is unsurprisingly simple — scientists do a thing, disturb stuff, need rescuing, then all hell breaks loose and a giant, mahoosive shark needs taking down.

Now the rescue is, naturally, not straight forward. The team are VERY DEEP. Someone has decide to rescue them alone. This does not go well, so now more people are VERY DEEP.

This requires the only man who can do this, but hasn't done it Since What Happened and is now to be found drinking beers all the live long day.

This is Jonas, then, played by the only man who could make this stuff work — Jason Statham.

We've had passable drama and tension up to this point.

Sure Rainn Wilson playing a billionaire science funder is a stretch, but in Bingbing Li, Ruby Rose, Jessica McNamee, Page Kennedy and Masi Oka (yup, the Heroes guy) there's a solid enough cast for what's to come.

And what's to come is The Stathe rescuing folks and then taking down The Meg.

Yes, this sounds daft, dumb, possibly stupid and overblown.

And The Meg is all of these things.

But it works.

Let's face it, you're not sitting here waiting for nuance and twisted sub plots. You're unlikely to be hoping for over-arching themes and messages (but you get a couple).

You're waiting for The Stathe to punch The Meg.

And in this department, the film more than delivers.

It helps no end that the film knows it's daft and over the top, and plays it straight while clearly having a blast.

The effects are pretty much OK, one ropey CGI bit aside, and while the dialogue is at times clunky as all hell it does the job and takes the story to where it needs to go.

Again, let's be clear here — this is not highbrow, nor is it trying to be.

But it is a hell of a lot of fun.

We jumped a couple of times, we were left grinning, we cared about Pippin, we laughed at the stupid bits, we grinned some more.

Basically, we had fun.

A lot of fun.

No, this film won't make you think. It won't make you ponder the deeper questions.

But you'll see The Stathe being dragged through the water by a winch while a giant shark chases him.

And you'll love this.

In amongst all the daftness, though, there is a very strong plus point about this movie.

There are a number of female characters.

They, along with their male colleagues, need rescuing at various times.

But at no point do they need to be running about in their underwear or standing about in a soaking wet T-shirt.

Instead they are strong, well drawn, central to everything and arguably more important than the men.

And that's one of the things that makes The Meg so great (a relative term, granted).

If you look at the recent Jurassic World films, or the knowingly ridiculous Sharknado franchise — The Meg is neither of these.

It has effects that work, a plot that knows where it starts and stops, rounded characters, and a mahoosive monster sharkie.

And it has all this without the blatant sexism that some directors favour so much.

As we said, this is not a deep meaningful film.

But in an empty screen we had a great two hours of entertainment.

And sometimes, that's all you want or need.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Ant-Man And The Wasp (12A)

We'll be honest, we've held back from rushing to see this for a couple of reasons — mainly for fear it wouldn't be as good as the first one, but also because the summer holidays arrived and nothing ruins a film like other people.

On the first point, we really shouldn't have worried.

On the second, waiting turned out not to solve the problem, as some kind soul decided to treat her young grandson to a morning trip to the cinema and then talked all the way through it.

People. They ruin everything.

And the less said about the git on his phone during large parts of the film the better.

So it's a measure of just how good Ant-Man And The Wasp is that neither arsehat managed to ruin it.

For devotees of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU to us in the know), this film follows on from the action in Civil War and Scott 'Ant-Man' Lang's involvement in the shenanigans.

Scott finds himself under house arrest and having to entertain his daughter with cardboard boxes.

But while two hours of a man playing forts and slides with his daughter might be fun, it's not a Marvel film so it's not long before Scott finds himself back alongside Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne.

As before, the interplay between Paul Rudd (Ant), Michael Douglas (Pym) and Evangeline Lilly (Hope/Wasp) is slick and heartfelt — this time with the added tension of Scott's actions alongside Captain America.

But this sequel isn't merely here to recreate all that we loved in the first one.

There are still jokes and gags, but these have been dialled down so as to not distract from the more serious, grown-up, emotional tone.

Our three heroes are on a mission to go back into the Quantum Realm in a bid to find Wasp's mum, who it seems is still alive in there somewhere.

But the plans are hampered by a new 'baddie', Ghost (played wonderfully by Hannah John-Kamen), who wants to access the Realm herself just to stay alive.

And it's here that the more grown-up Ant-Man movie comes into it's own.

In Ghost we have a baddie who is nuanced, greying the lines between what's good and bad, who has understandable reasons for her actions.

In short, you care about her as much as you care for Team Ant/Wasp.

It's a step away from the norm, and it's more than welcome.

Wasp comes into her own here too. The film is arguably more hers than Ant-Man's, as it's her mum they're after.

As well as being a seriously strong, bottom-kicking female hero, Lilly's character is given welcome depth and it just lifts the film another notch.

It should be stressed, though, that none of this takes away from the fun of the movie.

Scott's security team are still around making with the funnies, and there's another bad guy knocking about for chase scenes n wot not.

But these are mere decorations on an already strong tree.

This is a film with real heart, real weight and heft, and yet it is also a whole bunch of fun.

And all without a massive, big-budget set piece showdown battle.

It's a measure of how on top of their game Marvel are at the moment that they can tweak a winning formula and still produce great films.

And all while tying everything into the wider MCU.

Just you wait til you see the end-credit scene....

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The Spy Who Dumped Me (15)

You know, sometimes, all you want is to kick back, relax, not have to think too much and laugh your socks off at a really good comedy.

Well, with The Spy Who Dumped Me, you're luck is in. At least one of those things will definitely happen.

For both to be achieved, arriving at the cinema without your socks will give you a head start...

First, let's deal with the plot. Because of all the things wrong with this film, amazingly that isn't one of them.

Right, if you're sitting comfortably...

Mila Kunis' ex-boyfriend turns out to be a spy, who's dying wish is that she takes a thing to Austria. Naturally her bestie Kate McKinnon has to go too, because reasons. From here we chase our way across Europe, insult at least three nationalities, career wildly between feminism and toilet humour and people get shot.

At some points, you will laugh. But it's unlikely that Kunis and McKinnon will be involved.

Ooh, no, I tell a lie, there's one scene. But that's in the trailer.

Still made us laugh, granted. But that was it.

If one were to use The Good Doctor's Six Laugh Test (hello to Jason Isaacs), TSWDM falls short by at least one.

Which is not great for a comedy.

But hey, let's not dwell on the negatives.

Well, not yet.

Let's look at the plus points of this action spy thriller comedy espionage drama heist caper.

There's a car chase through the streets of Vienna that is brilliantly filmed and really captures the speed and physicality of the escapade.

And bodies are flying everywhere.

This bit is FUN.


And the chuckles and single laugh are at funny moments. Granted the bar is low (and the less said about the Hitler joke the better), but hey a laugh is a laugh and here they are like showers in the desert.

You make the most of them.

But then we have all the other stuff.

For a start, let's look at the cast.

The main two I'm fans of, and yet together it's a problem. Kunis does deadpan, McKinnon is a gurning, goofing clown.

This film did not need a clown.

Then we have Gillian Anderson (her mouth barely moves), Sam Heughan (if he stops moving you fail to notice him) and Hasan Minhaj, who has taken the brave step of leaping from the safety of The Daily Show into this movie.

No one catches him.

Then we have the villains.

Take a moment, and write down everyone you think would make a fantastic Russian villain. When you're done, add everyone who would do an OK job.

Done that?

Now list all those who you'd choose if the first groups were all suddenly killed in a freak accident.


Now list all those who, if the the first three groups were sucked into a vacuum, you'd pick if your life depended on finishing the film.

The guy they chose will not feature on that final list.

Can't name him, because it's a TWIST, but — and I say this as a fan of his — playing a Russian villain is really not his strength.

Hell, it's not even his weakness. That would be an upgrade.

Then there's the editing.

Look, I know this is a story not a documentary, I know this is fantastical and not based in anything any of us would class as a reality. But believability is still key to telling a tale.

And a man with his left arm in a sling who is then seen steering a car with his left arm before later performing a handbrake turn (a two-handed task in any language) is a problem.

Because if you haven't noticed that error in the editing process, what else have you missed?

(The answer lies in the teeth brushing scene).

Then there's the tone of thing.

Essentially, The Spy Who Dumped Me has been created by people who have never seen a spy movie but did watch the Naked Gun films but thought they were documentaries.

We have quips, slapstick, thrills, violence that needs the film to have a darker tone to carry it off, attempts at clever dialogue, toilet humour...

...but none of it sticks around long enough to become the main theme of the piece.

Which means your mind is prone to wander at stages, because the drama isn't dramatic enough and the comedy theme of the moment isn't funny enough to sustain your attention.

At one stage we started coming up with a list of things we would rather be doing: algebra, knitting, sawing our toes off one at a time...

This list made us laugh more than anything the film could throw at us.

I don't like slagging films off (although, given recent outings caring enough to be annoyed is most welcome), but at the same time I'm not going to applaud a sub-standard effort just because I agree with the ideals behind it.

Two female leads? Great. Two female leads running, shooting and hitting stuff? Brilliant. Two female leads doing all that and being hilariously funny? I'd pay good money to see that.

Instead we get a mishmash of ideas barely strung together, played out with misjudged sense of it's ability to entertain.

Monday, 20 August 2018

The Marvellous Marvel Marathon

Ooh, we thought, do you know what would be a really, really cool thing to do this summer?

No, we said, what would be a cool thing to do?

Well, we said, first off let's stop talking to ourselves in this really creepy way because people will think we've finally gone nuts.

Then, when we've done that, let's watch all of the Marvel films that have come out in order.

This, we agreed with ourselves before stopping this nonsense, was a cracking idea.

And what made it even better was finding a list that put the films in the correct MCU timeline order.

Now, it should be noted that this is an updated list. The one we found didn't list the TV shows as well, but that gives us something to do next summer when we won't have a World Cup getting in the way of important film geekery goodness...

But that's for another year. For now, we're just doing the movies. Starting with...

Captain America

First, obvs, because he was the first Avenger and all this kicked off with that little spat with Germany that the Americans like to take credit for. The film is every bit as much fun as we remembered, light, frothy, but with cracking action scenes and Haley Atwell as the brilliant Agent Carter. Chris Evans nailed this part from the off, and Red Skull is every bit as bonkers evil as the books made him. 8/10.

Iron Man

Do you realise this film came out 10 years ago? Seems like only yesterday. Or at least a few weeks ago. But then, for us, that'll be because we've only just rewatched it. And it stands up to the test of time. Robert Downey Jnr nailed this role from the get-go, and while the final act was a tad tedious at the time, watching it again it's actually a lot better than we remember. Helps that Jeff Bridges is clearly having a blast. There are loads of cool extras on this one too. 8/10.

The Incredible Hulk

It helps a lot, watching the films in this order, because you've had a couple of crackers before this turkey crash lands and ruins the whole vibe. The first time we tried to watch it we barely made it half way through, the second attempt a couple of years later wasn't any more successful, so this third bash was tough. Now, granted, it's not actually as bad as we remembered, the problems with this film don't improve over time. For a start, Ed Norton is no Banner. Secondly, Liv Tyler's Betty Ross is supposed to be Banner's all time love, and yet there's so little chemistry on screen they should have scrapped the story line all together. Tim Roth and William Hurt are both good value as the bad guys, but the whole thing is leaden, one-paced and dull as all hell. And to make matters worse, Joss Whedon came along and showed us all how Hulk should be done, rendering this film entirely moot. 3/10.

Iron Man 2

It's at this point you realise we're actually quite lucky that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU to those in the know) survived these two releases. While not Incredible Hulk bad, this is not the film it could have been. Casting Mickey Rourke as Whiplash was a fine idea, but whoever agreed to set an entire action sequence in Monaco was an idiot. At the time we thought the whole film was a bust, but going back over it now we realise that two thirds of this movie are really good, and Sam Rockwell is great as Hammer (and no one noticed that Don Cheadle was now Rodey, honest). It's the car racing crap that throws this film out of whack. It slows things down, it's a tonal shift in the wrong direction and there were going to be a million better ways to get Whiplash from A (frozen wastes of Russia) to B (where he needed to be for the story) without using this ridiculous device. The extras on the DVD make for interesting viewing too, as no one mentions the lack of Terence Howard and Rourke (a major star again at this point) is conspicuous by his absence. 5/10.


By now the Marvel machine is really starting to pick up the pace, so it came as quite a shock to hear that Lord Kenneth Of Brannagh was directing the Asgardian's debut outing. But when you sit down and watch it, it all makes sense. There's the Norse flavours, the Shakespearian overtones and some fine comic touches, and in the middle of it all Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are playing roles seemingly made just for them. This is as good now as it was then, and while it may be mildly batshit in places... have you read the books? 7/10.

The Avengers

And so we get to the first milestone event in the MCU, and in many ways in the wider cinematic world, as Marvel attempts to create a movie with an ensemble cast so laden with heavyweight stars it should never have been able to take off. And yet take off it did, breaking box office records as it went and giving is The Hulk we'd always dreamed of. And what made it so popular? Basically, the fact it has absolutely everything. The pacing is right, the action is right, the CGI is so good it just blends in with everything else and the laughs still make us guffaw every time we watch it. This is a film with real heart, real passion and a total understanding of what it was trying to achieve. At the time it was pretty much a 10/10 film, but this year that bar got raised... 9/10.

Iron Man 3

So how does Marvel set about following up on it's first major showpiece event? Why, by giving us a Christmas film of course. And not just any Christmas film, oh no, this is one of the all-time classics, up there with The Muppets. It's also the first time Marvel have woven the fabric of previous films into following ones, in this case with Tony Stark suffering PTSD following the destruction of New York and him flying all the way up there in to space n stuff. But this isn't a harsh, stark (no pun intended), downbeat movie. Oh no. Stark befriends a small boy, giving us some great humour to offset all the bad stuff happening, and in The Mandarin one of the best villains they have ever created (and possibly one of Sir Ben Kingsley's finest roles). we also find out The Mandarin is a Liverpool fan. Which is nice. 9/10.

Thor: The Dark World

As the MCU gears itself up for the next big event, it's time to pop back to Asgard and see how things are going there. Last time was fun, wasn't it? So this time should be a hoot too... Or not. Sitting in the cinema, we remember enjoying bits of this movie but essentially being a bit bored. And so we can't say we were looking forward to repeating the experience. But d'ya know what, folks? It's actually really good. Yes, sure, the dark elves story line is nuts and the team didn't really do their research of the London Underground, but small gripes aside this is a tasty little tale. It's dark, it's tragic, it's really funny in places and a lot shorter than it felt on the big screen. This may get watched again willingly.... (You may have noticed that references to the DVD/BluRay extras seem to have all but disappeared — that'll be because Marvel stopped putting any effort in. Seriously, it's got to the stage where you get one or two seven-minute featurettes and a trailer or two if you're lucky. Which is hard enough to swallow, but when you have to put in a second disc for the sake of 15 minutes of "entertainment" you really do wonder why they bothered). 7/10.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

How is it even remotely possible to forget just how good this film is? I mean, we knew it was good, but holy mother even on the umpteenth rewatch we found ourselves holding our breath for most of the film. And this is the one that feels like the game changer. Not yer standard super hero flick, this one (helped in no small part by the casting of that up-and-coming youngster Robert Redford — keep an eye out, he's gonna be a star one day, trust us) is a full-on political thriller. Yes, stuff blows up, yes a man has some kind of jet pack/wings combo, but both of those are really secondary to the plot as Fury is taken out and Cap and Black Widow have to go on the run. This is the film that raised the bar the first time (before the buggers raised it again this year) and it remains a modern classic. Oh, and extras? Yes, glad you asked. One deleted scene and two minutes on Cap's notebook. Nice one Marvel. Really pushed the boat out there. 10/10.

Guardians Of The Galaxy

Now this is where Marvel really started to have fun. Jokes come flying at you thick and fast, the music is a character all of its own and in Rocket and Groot two of our now favourite characters are introduced (and it's a measure of a quality of the film that the audience had so much of an emotional connection with CGI creations). The story rips along at a great pace and the action scenes are also up to scratch. Originally planned as throw-away summer stop-gap, as was the case with Ant-Man down the line, Guardians became a massive hit and embedded the five heroes in the MCU. This was the point where you realise the Marvel juggernaut was really picking up speed. The Blu-Ray extras are OK too, if you can get past the really annoying early-Nintendo stylings of the 'making of' feature, but the gag reel just adds further weight to the argument against their inclusion. Actors goofing around and having fun? Wow, not seen that before... 8/10

Guardians Of The Galaxy 2

Yeah, sorry, got distracted by stuff. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes, straight on to the sequel — which actually works surprisingly well. What's also interesting is how GOTG2 actually improves over time. It's more mature, more grown-up, the jokes still work but this time it's the themes and story that carry everything along. It also feels shorter and more compact, which is odd but good. It keeps you away from the main MCU for a little bit longer, watching the films in this order, but that's not necessarily a bad thing either. Especially when you know what epics are on the horizon. The extras are OK too, kinda — the 'making of' featurettes are fun, but the gag reels need to stop. Now. 9/10

Avengers: Age Of Ultron 

In tackling the second of the Avengers films, we had cause to look at IMDB. In doing so, one of the choice reviews was listed on the film's page — bearing the headline No One Was More Disappointed In This Film Than Me. Now, two things here: 1) It's not a contest, and 2) NO ONE CARES. A review isn't your chance to tell the world how important you are and how easily hurt your delicate feelings are. You are supposed to be critically analysing the movie, not blubbing into your keyboard. That said, Ultron is not great. The CGI in both the opening and closing scenes is ropey as all hell and the whole film feels like a a collection of set-pieces strung together with a vague plot. Underneath that, however, there's a half-decent film struggling to be heard. If, as we just have, you watch this off the back of Guardians 2, you'll also notice the thematic link (friendship and family) which helps bolster things no end. It'll never be the Avengers film you reach for out of choice, but it's not as bad as we remember.... 6/10


Another one of Marvel's surprise hits, Ant-Man is still one of our favourites — not because of the high drama or the the complex plot, but because it's genuinely funny and has so much heart it's almost smushy. As origin stories go, this one has everything you could want — Marvel history, character history, cameos, romance, a cute kid and a fight on a toy train. Paul Rudd shocked many, us included, when he pulled this off, and the supporting cast only helped to elevate proceedings. It's almost a crime that the DVD extras are simply a trailer for Ultron (which, in this running order, is utterly pointless). I get that they want to sell the higher-price blu-rays, but would a cheeky featurette or two have killed them? No. But hey...
Right, onwards! 9/10

Captain America: Civil War

One of the films I was most looking forward to, given my love for the books, and at the time one of my favourite films I think (I'm old, my memory is like a.... you know..... wortsit....). But watching it again as part of this mega-run of Marvel goodness, the big issue with the film really leaps to the fore. They were aiming for the same tone as Winter Soldier, and for the most part they nailed that — until they turn this into a mini-Avengers film. The big fight is just too much fun in the context of the darker storyline being told, and great as it was to see Spider-Man at the time, in a post-Homecoming world his appearance feels forced. There's something of a 'designed-by-committee' vibe to the lighter moments too, as if someone saw the Ant-Man figures and started yelling 'WE NEED GAGS'. The extras are OK, if you like a bunch of stars goofing around showing you mow much you like each other, but overall this falls a tad short of the stratospherically high bar Marvel has set by this stage. 7/10

Dr Strange

It's still a bit too Inception for its own good, but Dr Strange is a great introduction for the character and Cumberbatch looks like he was born to play the part. It's a tad too long, sure, but the first third is still one of the finest sections of any Marvel film and the car crash STILL has us holding our breath. The lighter moments are excellent too, and McAdams is superb. The extras are also worth a watch, especially when you find out how much work BC put into learning all the wire work. 8/10

Spider-Man: Homecoming

At the time, wee saw no reason for this film existing. A re-boot, albeit back under the Marvel banner, when Andrew Garfield had barely got his feet under the Spidey-table seemed at smidge OTT. But hey, Tom seemed to do the job nicely in Civil War so it might be OK... And the over-lap between the two films is good, well handled doesn't feel shoe-horned. Plus Michale Keaton is seriously brilliant. As for Spidey himself, Tom captures all the teen angst of a 14-year-old boy wrestling with fancying the cool girl while also being left on the sidelines after beating up Captain America.  We'd also forgotten just how much fun this film is. As for the extras, they are actually worth the money. You get to see how much work Tom put in, how much mo-cap and wire work he did to help bring the character to life, and his quips (essential to the character) flow freely and naturally. There's also a really cool 'study' mode, where you can watch the film with little blocks popping up with snippets of cool info about the comic history or the scene (and you'll be amazed with how much you missed). 8/10

Thor Ragnarok

Sure, we all talk fondly about how much fun the third Thor film was. Heads are nodded sagely when the topic comes up. It's the best Thor film yet, people agree. It is a lot of fun. But what you forget is how much FUN it is. Jeff Goldblum is off the charts ridiculous, the chemistry between Hemsworth and Ruffalo is at an all-time high, the whole Dr Strange sequence is hilarious, Cate Blanchett steals every scene she's in by just oozing sexy evilness, Tessa Thompson is brilliant as Valkyrie — hell, even the director puts in a cracking comic turn as Korg. There's not a bad performance in this film. Then there's the actual story. Director Taika Waititi strikes the right balance between the OTT fight scenes and the drama at the heart of the tale, tugging at heart strings while having us grin like idiots. As for the extras, Marvel seems to be stuck in a rut here. Either no one's been looking back at the mini-features or someone believes people actually enjoy a range of five-minute snapshots where everyone tells you that, really, THIS is the most fun they ever had on a film EVER. Honest. We're not saying go all Peter Jackson with this shit, but some actual thought and effort wouldn't go amiss. 9/10

Black Panther

We actually got some flack for being delighted that this film was up for an Oscar or two (it won three, so up yours internet idiot), but let's be clear about something — this film isn't good because it's our first black superhero with their name on the door, this film isn't good because of all the strong female characters. No. It's good. It just happens to have all those things going for it as well. To be fair, we'd forgotten just how much fun it was, and it's a total gas. It's funny. The action scenes are slick. It puts African culture right at the heart of the film. And it manages to be gripping and exciting despite Andy Serkis stinking out the place with an appalling South African accent. And it has battle rhinos. Battle rhinos. Every film needs a scene with battle rhinos. Oh, the extras? Yeah, Marvel are still trotting out all the same crap with no thought as to quality. But we're used to that by now, right? 9/10

Avengers: Infinity War

As part two looms large on the horizon, the fact it's taken this long to get to the bottom of the pile is both a source of embarrassment and a measure of just how damn busy we've been. Also turns out we'd forgotten just how good this film is. I mean yeah, sure, we knew it was good. We've seen it a few times now, but after unwrapping the disc (oh look, we also have the 3D version too — what an utter waste of resources...) and popping it in the machine, we settled down to have what was essentially meant to be a refresher. But we didn't move for the next two-plus hours. Gripped from the opening scenes. This film still packs an emotional punch. Even though you know what's coming, you still find yourself edging forwards on the sofa, occasionally forgetting to breathe. And the closing sequences are still frickin' AAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH. I won't bore you with the extras. You know what you're getting by now. 10/10

Ant-Man And The Wasp

And so, the day before Endgame changes our lives forever (even if it isn't actually the end of Phase 3), we finally reach the end of the Marathon. And, like all good meals, we finish with something sweet and fluffy — something you don't need and wouldn't miss, but enjoy nonetheless. Because while Ant-Man And The Wasp isn't near the top of Marvel's recent output (look at what's up there, how could it be?), that doesn't make it a bad film. And as we said at the time, it was actually the perfect film to follow Infinity War. After how that ended, you needed something light to lift the old mood — and this film does that perfectly. Zipping along at a fine pace, it has all the gags and action sequences you want without being too deep or serious. That's not to say it doesn't have depth, there's plenty of that, but it deals with heavy subjects (major science, family, grief, loss) in a light enough way to not weigh you down. And it also sets things up for Endgame a smidge.... The extras? Oh why bother asking. Same format, same wry smiles during the gag reel, a warm sigh as Stan Lee gets his own (his one line took a LOT of takes it seems), but you're still left feeling these are nothing more than an after thought — which given the amount of work that goes into one of these films is a real shame. 6/10

So, Endgame then....

Mission Impossible: Fallout (12A)

And so, finally, as the list fo films we had to catch up on is scrunched up and thrown to the cat to play with, we come to this.

The latest, and maybe possibly perhaps the final, Mission Impossible film.

And the sixth in the franchise.


The bloody sixth one.

How has it got this far?????

I mean the last one was a laugh, sure. And even great fun. But how does a man who must now be at least 127 keep going?

Well, yes, there's that. But let's not go there, eh? We can't afford the legal bills.

But hey, Mission Impossible films are a tad daft and all about the runny chasey stuff so let's not over-think this one, eh?

Yes, sure, we've been on a bad run of late, and there's a very real chance we'll be made to watch The Meg so the future's not what you'd call bright...

...but this is a safe pair of paws, surely.

Cruise saves world by jumping off a ledge and landing on a butterfly, helped by a lively and engaging supporting cast?

What's not to like here?

Well, for a start, the sodding running time.

Clocking in at almost two-and-a-half hours, you'll find yourself checking your watch more regularly than a bomb disposal expert the longer the film drags on.

And it does drag.

There is actually a clear cut-off point at around the 90-minute mark. Or even 110 if you fancy it.

But the final act is just a slog.

It's supposed to be the tense, dramatic climax, but by the time people are rushing to helicopters and having catch-up chats over dangerous wiring you're going to find yourself hoping the dog hasn't pee'd on the sofa.

Thankfully she hadn't.

Which was a bigger highlight than anything this film had to offer.

The story is as complicated as you would hope — plutonium is in the wrong hands because of Reasons and Cruise And The Gang have to get it back via several cities, a blonde femme fatale and an infiltrated agency.

There's tragedy, there's suspicion, there's one thrilling bike chase, there are those helicopters (don't ask where the third one came from), there's comic misunderstandings as Cruise races across rooftops — basically everything we've come to expect from a MI film.

Only it's a bit dull.

It drags.

It seriously lacks sparkle.

Simon Pegg and Rebecca Ferguson look a little unsure of themselves, as if someone has asked them to do things not in keeping with the characters they've played for ages, while Ving Rhames seems to be almost watching what's going on rather than being wrapped up in it all.

Then there's Henry Carvill.

Already not a fan of his wooden screen presence, that was previously attributed to the fact the Superman films are just terrible.

And while they are, turns out he's not a lot better.

Whatever you think of Cruise, on screen he knows what he's doing and knows how to make the most of what he does, so appearing opposite him you've got to bring your A game.

Sadly, it seems Carvill did.

You could airbrush him out of every scene and aside from the hole in the plot and the missing dialogue you'd actually improve the film.

And the more we think about it, it's Carvill that is the problem with this movie.

Look, it's a dumb-ass OTT spy action caper. It's not Bond, it's not Bourne, it has far more in common with The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (no, not the film) and wears it's sixties TV heritage like a badge of honour.

You only have to see the opening credits to know that.

But as such, you need to be OTT yourself. Not panto levels, sure, but you need to believe in the madness, embrace the stupidity, wedge the jester's hat hard on your head and dive in.

What you really, really shouldn't do is be so laid back as to be creating a vacuum every time you're on screen.

If for no other reason than it sucks the joy out of everyone else.

And that's what, at heart, is wrong with this film. No one seems to be having fun.

Even Pegg's usually delightful ineptitude seems a tad stretched.

If this is to be the last, then Cruise should be proud of helming a franchise that has brought a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people (even the Metallica song wasn't terrible).

But maybe this was a mission too far.

If we'd said goodbye last time the memories would be a whole lot fonder.

Deadpool 2 (15)

And so we crawl, muttering and mumbling, to Deadpool 2 — a film we genuinely had no interest in seeing, but nowt else was on so what d'ya do?

It's not because we didn't enjoy the first one, it was fine, but another two hours of meta jokes and fratboy humour was really not what we were after.

Which, it turns out, was a good thing, because that's not what we got.

Sure, yes, the fourth wall is left in tatters early doors and the in-jokes keep the uber geeks feeling smug and happy, but all that is wrapped up in an actual story.

A proper one. That kind of makes sense.

Seems that while poking fun at Logan for copying them, the Deadpool team learnt a trick or two.

It helps that they have dialled down Mr Pools endless quipping, which actually allows the film to breath a bit more and to not feel so relentless.

It also help that there is a lot less T. J. Miller.

Honestly never met a situation that his geeky comic shtick  remotely improves.

Adding current comic book bad guy legend Josh Brolin (as Cable) also helps, as it allows Ryan Reynolds to up his game.

Which he does surprisingly well.

I mean, I know we were all surprised that the star of many a bad rom-com, he who leans in posters like a legend, showed he had genuine comic talent, but now we are reminded he can act as well.

Will the shocks never end?

We're not saying this is a classic, by the way, but it actually grows from the seeds planted in the fast one without actually just repeating the formula.

Which is nice.

And it made us feel something (in this case, happy) upon leaving the cinema so it's automatically better than Ocean's 8.

Granted there's not a lot else to say about it — looks good, zips along, has jokes, has good performances, has good action scenes. Everything is where you would want it.

Is it memorable? Not massively.

Will missing it change your life? Not in any major way.

But watching it will make you smile, make you laugh, make you care a little bit and if you can't enjoy the skydiving sequence you're dead inside.

Look, this summer has been something a bust — the major blockbusters have, for the most part, been tedious as all hell.

So if something comes along that brings a smile to your face and puts a bit of a spring in your step, then just embrace it.

The world's a pretty crappy place right now, so some frivolous fun should be welcomed like a large glass of gin.