Posts Tagged ‘Film reviews’

Ocean’s 8

Posted: July 11, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by Gary Ross. Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, Awkwafina, Rihanna and Helena Bonham Carter.

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Eventually the team would get down to planning the heist, after they watch Magic Mike one more time…

When Debbie Ocean (Bullock playing George Clooney’s character’s sister) is released from prison she wastes no time in putting into action a plan to steal a $150 million dollar Cartier necklace, a plan she’s been working on for five years to a point where she believes she’s worked out all of the kinks.

She ropes in her former partner Lou (Blanchett) and together they begin assembling a team, including a fashion designer with money troubles (Bonham Carter) a fence (Paulson) a computer hacker (Rihanna) a pickpocket (Awkwafina) and a jeweller (Mindy Kaling). Also integral to the plan as an unwitting dupe is ditzy actress Daphne Kluger (Hathaway).

The plan should go off without a hitch, but the involvement of insurance investigator John Frazier (James Corden) could pose trouble, and Lou worries that Debbie might be using the heist to get revenge on the man responsible for her incarceration, namely shady art dealer Claude Becker (Richard Armitage).

Will the gang get away with it, or will Debbie wind up back behind bars, along with her new accomplices?

 

When Steven Soderbergh made a modern version of the 60’s Rat Pack film Ocean’s 11, it’s debatable whether anyone thought it would lead to multiple sequels, but here we are with the fourth film in the franchise, albeit one with a completely new cast. The idea of an all gal heist flick might have put some backs up (for some reason) but I had no issue with it, in fact given I was always a bit lukewarm towards Ocean’s 11 anyway (If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know Soderbergh films often leave me cold) I was quite looking forward to it, and whilst Ocean’s 8 is far from perfect it’s a heck of a fun ride while it lasts.

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She’s a mistress of disguise!

The film’s main strength is in its casting. Bullock is a good lead, able to convince as a dowdy convict and as a glamourous jewel thief, and her role in pulling the team together is well handled. She sparks well with Blanchett (who’s one of those actors rarely less than brilliant) and together they make for a good partnership.

Helena Bonham Carter seems to be having a blast as the kooky, Irish accented fashion designer—although with Bonham Carter in some roles you can’t help feeling she may just be playing herself—and having seen her in several seasons of America Horror Story I know Paulson’s always good value, and she is again here as the fence turned suburban housewife (albeit with a suspiciously large eBay presence). Everyone gets their moment to shine, and this extends to the least famous members of the crew in Kaling and Awkwafina. In particular I really enjoyed Awkwafina’s dry wit. Really the weak link is probably Rihanna, although maybe that’s just down to a role that essentially requires her to just type a lot and on occasion smoke a huge blunt.

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You jammy bugger, Armitage!

Of course, I’m not forgetting the 8th, and unaware, member of the team, and much like Bonham Carter Hathaway seems to be having a huge amount of fun hamming it up as airhead Kluger, and on occasion she pretty much steals the movie.

There are the token guys as well. Armitage is solidly sleazy as Becker, and whilst never the greatest actor in the world, Corden isn’t remotely as terrible in an underwritten role as some have suggested.

The direction is slick and the soundtrack oozes cool. The sets and clothes add to the sense of style and glamour, but if the film falls down it’s in the script, or rather the plot. It’s not that it makes no sense, and there are some nice twists, but everything seems a bit effortless. There are obstacles that spring up in the team’s way, but none of them are remotely insurmountable and each one is resolved with ease. In many respects the film reminded me of the original TV show of Mission Impossible, where most weeks the elaborate scheme would go off without a hitch. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just wish Debbie and co had had to fight a little harder for their win because there’s never any real sense of jeopardy.

You can argue it’s style over substance, but when a film is this much fun who cares, not everything has to be deep and meaningful, and I for one would relish seeing Ocean’s 8 become Ocean’s 9, so long as they keep the cool, keep the humour and keep the cast: they just need to up the drama a bit.

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Please take care on the subway, it’s crawling with criminals.

 

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Hereditary

Posted: June 17, 2018 in Film reviews, horror
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Directed by Ari Aster. Starring Toni Collette, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro and Gabriel Byrne.

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Just one big happy family.

At the funeral of her mother Ellen, Annie Graham (Collette) gives a eulogy detailing the difficult relationship she had with her mother due to Ellen’s secretive ways. She also mentions the loss of her father when she was a baby, and the fact that her brother committed suicide.

In the aftermath of the funeral, and unbeknownst to her husband Peter (Byrne), Annie visits a grief support group. She’s an artist specialising in miniature dioramas and an upcoming show has put her under added pressure, this stress isn’t helped by her uncommunicative daughter Charlie (Shapiro) and her slacker son Peter (Wolff).

As time passes and bizarre events begin to occur to the family, Annie becomes more and more convinced that the family is in some way cursed, and that a supernatural presence is stalking them, but are her fears genuine or is it a symptom of the mental illness that runs through the family?

 

Hereditary arrives on a wave of “Horror movie of the year/decade/century” level hype and expectation, and that’s always difficult to manage, but if you can get past the hysteria what lies behind it is an exceptionally well-crafted horror movie, albeit one that at times might be too well-crafted for its own good, but I’ll come onto that.

The first thing to say is that if your notion of a horror film is something like Insidious, a funfair ghost train of a film with a jump scare every five minutes, then Hereditary might disappoint. Which isn’t to say it doesn’t have frights, but this is a slow burn of a film that prioritises atmosphere over action for most of its running time, and what an atmosphere! In tune with films like Rosemary’s Baby, The Wicker Man, or more recently films like The Blair Witch Project and Get Out, Hereditary is a film that aims to unsettle. There’s a palpable sense of dread that hangs over the film like a mouldy sheet. Even before much in the way of the supernatural occurs this world feels off kilter, from the odd way Charlie acts, to Annie’s work creating miniaturist art (and kudos to the design team because these miniature sets are wonderful) that is at once intriguing but also disquieting.

Once bad things start happening it’s a downward spiral for the family, but you have to give Aster credit, because he doesn’t let the story follow the path you imagine, in fact there’s one moment early on that left me awestruck at its audacity. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a certain level of predictability at work here, but there has to be, the best twists are ones that arise out of logical actions, and the film is littered with little clues which will likely make a repeat viewing even more interesting.

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The cast are excellent. Few actors can do frazzled and on the edge of nervous breakdown as well as Collette, and this is her film. Annie is a character seemingly out of step with the world even before the supernatural intrudes on her life. You get the feeling she’s hovered on the edge of a breakdown for a while, yet Collette never quite lets the character tip over the edge. Byrne has less to get his teeth into, because he’s tasked with being the grounded member of the family, but he does it well and between them they convince as a couple who clearly love one another, yet are somehow distant strangers.

1238244As Peter, Wolff does a great job essaying a young man who goes from someone whose only concerns are weed and girls, to someone who has to deal with incredible tragedy and then the fact that his family may be being haunted by an evil force, and much as with Collette you really fear for him. Then there’s newcomer Shapiro as Charlie and what a performance. Charlie is, to put it mildly, an odd bird, but despite her inexperience Shapiro never overdoes things. She’s an unsettling presence in every scene, the sort of loner you imagine would be bullied, yet somehow isn’t because everyone is, if not afraid of her, then unnerved by her.

Rounding out the small cast is Ann Dowd (yes Aunt Lydia from The Handmaid’s Tale!) as another member of the grief support group.

Aster directs his own script, and whilst he has written and directed short films before, this is his feature debut and he does an excellent job, knowing when to close in on the family to emphasise the claustrophobia, but also willing to pull back to emphasise the isolation of the characters. He makes full use of the camera, from skewed angles to making wonderful use of shadow and reflection to highlight some very eerie moments, and he makes great use of the landscape, both the geographic and the more personal landscapes, focusing on every anguished line on Collette’s face as if her visage were itself were the surface of the moon. As with the best horror sometimes the worst parts of the film are the bits you don’t see, and Aster judiciously cuts away from several gorier elements that a lesser director would have focused on. Not that Hereditary isn’t gory, Aster just knows when to show and when to tell.

The one downside is that, with the tension wound so tight, and with the film walking such a razor’s edge between ludicrous and terrifying, occasionally the more melodramatic moments can teeter on the side of funny rather than frightening. For me it never quite fell into that trap, but I can see with the wrong kind of audience there may be more laughs than screams.

Assuredly directed, wonderful acted, this is an unsettling, yet utterly mesmerising film that will likely only get better with repeat viewings.

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Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo and Paul Bettany.

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Chewie had an awful feeling Han’s coat might have once been a relative.

On the planet Corellia Han (Ehrenreich) is part of a gang of youths forced into crime by an evil alien. He dreams of being a pilot however, and of escaping Corellia with his lover Qi’ra (Clarke) He manages to escape, but has to leave Qi’ra behind. Determined to make enough money that he can buy a ship and come back to rescue Qi’ra, Han enlists in the Imperial navy, imagining they’ll train him to be a pilot. Instead he winds up in the infantry where his path crosses that of a veteran criminal named Tobias Beckett (Harrelson), a somewhat disgruntled Wookie and a debonair gambler named Lando Calrissian who owns an incredibly fast ship…

In order to get vicious gangster Dryden Voss (Bettany) off their backs, Han and his newfound cohorts must pull off a daring robbery, and if successful Han might get enough money to buy his own ship, and finally be able to rescue Qi’ra from a life of crime, but in this Universe can things ever go to plan?

Do you remember that bit at the start of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where young Indy (played by River Phoenix) has his first adventure and every aspect of his adult personality is acquired in ten minutes (hat, whip, snakes, scar)? Well imagine that sequence stretched out for two hours and you have a pretty good idea what Solo: A Star Wars Story is like, and your enjoyment may, in many respects, depend on how you feel about this. Me, I found it interesting in places, dull in others, but for the most part downright painful. This is a film that’s so on the nose at times as to be wince inducing.

It falls into the trap of too many prequel/origin stories of feeling it has to explain every aspect of Han’s personality, even things that didn’t really need explaining (did you ever sit and ponder “I wonder why he’s called Han Solo?” No? Me neither!)

So be prepared for a list to be checked off. Meet Chewie, check. Meet Lando, check. Get iconic blaster, check. Get Falcon, check. Shoot first, check? And so on and so forth…

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Han and Chewie having way more fun than I was…

It could have worked, with a better script and, it has to be said, with a better Han. By all accounts they saw over 3000 people, which makes the decision to cast Ehrenreich all the stranger, because whilst he tries, he never comes anywhere near the natural cocky cool of Harrison Ford. Sure, this Han is younger, less sure of himself, more of a nice guy, but really the only link between the two men is the grin. There’s a difference between cocky and smug however, and the young man slips too often into the latter while Ford was effortlessly the former. It’s not that I think anyone is irreplaceable (Chris Pine proves this with his top draw Kirk performance), but I think they could have done better, perhaps with someone who looked less physically similar, but could play the role better. It’s also painfully obviously that Ehrenreich is a fair bit shorter than Ford.

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“Aren’t you a little short for a Han?”

I hope his height wasn’t the reason they cast the diminutive Emilia Clarke, just to make him look taller? Clarke is a strange one. As Daenerys on Game of Thrones she’s phenomenal, yet in other thing I’ve seen her in she’s struggled, and this is no exception. She never convinces as a young woman who’s had to do terrible things to survive. I didn’t detect much chemistry between her and Ehrenreich either.

Surrounding a weaker or inexperienced actor with better performers can work to a film’s advantage (take On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) but it can also backfire, which it does here really, because many of the supporting characters are, it pains me to say, way cooler than Han.

fpcztz5shdvxlzthxzhzAs Beckett Harrelson is effortlessly more interesting than Han, with his world-weary attitude and fancy blaster work, and more than once I wish I was watching a film centred on him and his partner Val (Thandie Newton, excellent in a minor role).

Donald Glover isn’t a perfect fit for Lando, and perhaps plays it a trifle too broad at times, but he makes up for any shortcomings with the kind of charisma I wish Ehrenreich had, and you really have to admire the man’s cape work.

Bettany is superb as the villain of the piece, and his performance is even better once you realise he was parachuted in at the last minute to replace the original actor who couldn’t commit to the reshoots. As Chewie Suotamo does a good job, and Waller-Bridge threatens to steal the film at times with her pithy one liners as droid L-3, but even this feel forced, and feels too much like they were trying to emulate K3 from Rogue One.

We’ll never know what Lord and Miller’s original version would have been like, maybe it would have been too comedic, maybe it would have been terrible, but I can’t help wondering if it wouldn’t have at least had more verve to it, because in the end part of Solo’s problem is that it plays it too safe. Howard does a solid, if uninspiring job directing, and it would be wrong to suggest some of the set pieces aren’t decent, and late on there’s some neat double and triple crosses but, to paraphrase Princess Leia, while Solo does have it’s moments, it doesn’t have nearly enough of them.

Not so much Solo as So-So.

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“Can I interest you in an honest game of chance?”

Deadpool 2

Posted: May 24, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by David Leitch. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin and Morena Baccarin.

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“What the hell are you looking at?”

It’s two years since Wade Wilson (Reynolds) became super(anti)hero Deadpool, and life is good, he’s an unstoppable force for, well if not good then not really bad, and he has a loving relationship with his girlfriend Vanessa (Baccarin).

Soon the rug is pulled out from under him though, and tragedy pushes him to attempt suicide, which is easier said that done when your super power is accelerated healing, and when the X-Man Colossus (voiced again by Stefan Kapičić) is determined to save not only Deadpool’s body, but also his soul.

Co-opted into the X-Men, Deadpool’s path soon crosses that of a young mutant named Russell, who also goes by the name Firefist (played by New Zealander Julian Dennison). Russell is an angry young man, but maybe Deadpool can steer him onto the straight and narrow, if future cyborg Cable (Brolin) doesn’t kill them both first!

 

Two years ago Deadpool came out of nowhere to reinvigorate the superhero world, proving that not only could an R rated superhero film succeed, but could also do it making snide digs at the genre and breaking the fourth wall in every other scene. Now Deadpool 2 arrives with far more fanfare, double the budget and a heck of a lot more expectation. So, the question is, can DP2 live up to the hype?

And the answer is, in my opinion, yes it can…pretty much. Deadpool 2 maybe quite doesn’t live up to the shock value of the first film, but it comes damn close.

Once again Ryan Reynolds proves this was the role he was born to play, the merc with the mouth (and a pretty potty mouth it is too!) and he fires off one liners as speedily as Josh Brolin’s Cable fires off bullets. It’s a delicate balancing act to make Deadpool such a dick, only a likeable and empathetic dick, and just as he did first time around Reynolds walks that tightrope with nary a stumble and demonstrates a heck of a lot of charisma, even when he’s behind a mask.

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Thanos for the memories!

As Cable Brolin isn’t really given much to stretch his acting chops, and whilst Cable is pretty much just designed to be the straight man to Deadpool’s idiot, it’s somewhat ironic that Brolin gets to display less range here than he did as Thanos, but credit where it’s due, Brolin really looks the part, and he certainly makes for an imposing antagonist.

Baccarin is a good actress, but she’s somewhat side-lined here, or is she? I’m trying not to give too much away, or am I See even within this review I can break the fourth wall!

I’ve still yet to see Hunt for the Wilderpeaople, but considering this is only his fifth film, Dennison never seems overawed by the company he’s keeping, and it’s a nice touch in a film that (Baccarin aside) does well on the inclusivity front, that he’s not only of Maori descent but also, as referenced by the dialogue, not your usual svelte super hero/villain is an added bonus.

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Plot wise they’ve tried to beef up the emotional core of the film, to give Deadpool more of a journey, and whilst it doesn’t always work as well as it could have, the film manages to never get too bogged down in mawkishness, and the central story around family pretty much works.

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With the bigger budget comes much more expansive action sequences. I know some people have baulked at this, but given the action was probably the bit of the first film I found the weakest, I’m happy to roll with it. Maybe there’s a bit too much, but on the whole the set pieces are good.

Deadpool’s snide and sweary comments are still the same, and if they feel a little more polished this time, well that’s perhaps only to be expected given the increase in expectation. Yes, it all feels a little bit more corporate and a little bit less rebellious, but the character isn’t neutered, he’s still foul mouthed and he’s still disrespectful towards just about everyone else in the Marvel (and especially the X-Men) universe.

Maybe it’s a little baggy in the middle, and maybe it doesn’t quite have the punk irreverence of the first film, but it was exciting, and more importantly funny as hell, so roll on Deadpool 3 I say! Oh, and please, please, please stay for the credits. There’s an extra scene that’s practically worth the price of admission alone. Ryan Reynolds, a man not afraid to take the piss out of himself!

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I came here to praise Deadpool, not to bury him!

 

 

Directed by: Mike Newell. Starring: Lily James, Michiel Huisman, Katherine Parkinson, Matthew Goode, Tom Courtenay and Penelope Wilton.

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“Down it! down it! Down it!”

It’s 1946 and the war is over. Juliet Ashton (James) is an author who’s found success writing amusing tales under the pseudonym of Izzy Bickerstaff, but she yearns to write something with more substance. When she’s contacted by a pig farmer on Guernsey named Dawsey Adams (Huisman) she thinks she’s found the story she’s been looking for. Adams found her name and address in a book he liberated from a bookstore after he and a group of friends were forced to invent a book club to cover up for the fact that they were out after curfew.

Ashton is intrigued by the story of the society, and how they kept their morale up under German occupation by reading, and she persuades her long-suffering agent, and friend, Sidney Starke (Goode) to let her take a trip to the Channel Islands, but before she can leave her American boyfriend Mark (Glen Powell) proposes, and Juliet accepts.

On the island Juliet finds that the members of the society are not all pleased to see her, in particular Amelia (Wilton). She also discovers that the founder of the society, Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay (is mysteriously absent, leaving her young daughter Kit living with Dawsey, who Kit calls daddy. Fascinated by the mystery Juliet remains on Guernsey and becomes fast friends with the society members, in particular Isola (Parkinson) and Dawsey, but can she learn the secret of what really happened to Elizabeth during the occupation?

 

Few films have a title that’s as much of a mouthful as this one, but the film does at least hang a lantern on this by having a character refer to it as a bit of a mouthful. If it seems a whimsical title then fair warning, it’s kinda a whimsical film, and whilst not unenjoyable, it’s never as good as it should be given the experience of its director, its subject matter, and the talent of its cast.

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Part of the problem is down to a script that’s so on the nose at times as to be painful. As an example there’s a scene early on where Juliet has a flashback to her bomb damaged flat. We see her clutching a photo of herself with an older couple, and then see her terrified that a paperweight might fall and be destroyed. You’d think the meaning of this would be obvious, but apparently not because Juliet then exclaims “Father’s paperweight” which is the sort of expositional dialogue real people just don’t utter. Again and again Juliet verbalises her thoughts in this way and I found it jarring.

I’m not really the target audience for this film of course, and though it’s predictable that isn’t always a bad thing in itself, but given the subject matter it’s a shame the film didn’t take a few more risks. The occupation of the channel islands was a harsh time for those who lived there, but whilst the film does veer towards these darker elements at times—collaboration, slave labour, starvation—such detours are short lived, as if the film makers didn’t want to distract from the quaintness of the film, and too often it feels like the occupation was just an excuse for some jolly japes.

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It isn’t all bad. It looks gorgeous (even though not filmed in Guernsey) and the period detail is spot on. And whilst the script may offer no surprises, it’s hard not to be charmed by the easy chemistry of the talented cast (four of whom were in Downton!). James’ jolly hockey sticks demeanour annoys on occasion but on the whole she’s a solid lead, and Game of Throne alumnus Huisman similarly does the best he can in a sub-Heathcliffe role. Wilton proves yet again (if proof were needed) what a fine actress she is, and Powell does his very best to imbue Mark with enough pathos that we feel more than a little sorry for him. Courtenay is very amusing, but the standout is Parkinson who gets some of the best lines, and made me laugh out loud more than once.

For a film this lightweight the two-hour runtime feels a trifle excessive, but damn if the cast aren’t so good that I almost didn’t mind.

Avengers: Infinity War

Posted: May 1, 2018 in Film reviews
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Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo.  Starring: almost anyone who’s been in a Marvel film in the last ten years! Including Robert Downey Jr, Chrises Hemsworth/Evans/Pratt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scarlett Johansson and Josh Brolin.

**Spoiler Alert**

I’m going to go out of my way not to spoil the film, but obviously I may give some things away, so if you really want to see the film with zero preconceptions or knowledge why not come back here after you see it!

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I just realised what’s wrong with this picture!

 

Thanos (Brolin) is an unstoppable alien supervillain intent on acquiring the six infinity stones that will make him omnipotent and allow him to fulfil his dream of killing half the galaxy’s population. He’s already acquired several and will stop at nothing to complete his task.

Fresh from a devastating encounter with Thanos, Thor (Hemsworth) teams up with the Guardians of the Galaxy to try and find a weapon that could stop Thanos, meanwhile on Earth Iron Man (Downey Jr) Dr Strange (Cumberbatch) Spider Man (Tom Holland) and Wong (Benedict Wong) face off against one of Thanos’ minions, intent of reliving Dr Strange of the infinity stone he wears.

Strange isn’t the only superhero in possession of a stone, because Vision (Paul Bettany) has one embedded in his skull and more of Thanos’ goons go after this one.

As all out war with Thanos’ army draws ever closer, the disparate groups of heroes must try and find a way to defeat Thanos, but even if they can thwart his plans, the battle will not be without its casualties…

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Tony and Dr Strange were focused on Thanos, but Peter Parker had spotted a fly…

It’s hard to get your head around the fact that this is a film ten years in the making. When Iron Man first surprised everyone in 2008 by being actually really good, I doubt even it’s most ardent fan would have believed that a decade later Downey Jr would still be playing Tony Stark, and would team up with a cast of thousands (hey factor in the extras and I bet it comes close) and practically every other Marvel superhero (there are a couple of exceptions) to battle Thanos.

But here we are, and as far as I’m concerned Marvel’s long game pays off, and then some! Infinity War is superb. I can imagine it will probably be confusing for those poor souls who haven’t seen much of the Marvel oeuvre, but for anyone invested in the Marvel universe, and these characters, Infinity War is pretty much everything we could have hoped for, and compared to Justice League…well let’s just not ok, because it’s a fight more unfair than Thanos taking on Ant Man (which you won’t see in this film) suffice to say that DC’s best hope is to invent time travel and start making their films way sooner.

Back to Infinity War. It’s hard to talk about the plot (and I guess some critics may say “what plot” but it’s there all the same.) without giving stuff away. Suffice to say that, whilst at times simplistic, everything hangs together pretty damn well for a film that has this many characters and this many plot threads to juggle. In fact it’s amazing that any film made under those auspices can be this coherent, let alone this good.

I did mention Infinity War is freakin’ amazing, right?

I know I said we needed to move away from it, but damn let’s look back at Justice League again, a film with only a handful of heroes, and a run time only thirty minutes shorter than Infinity War, yet one with a shaky narrative and a villain who couldn’t be more two dimensional if he were a sheet of A4. By contrast Infinity War has, what three or four plots going on at any given time, and maybe 25 main characters (don’t believe me, count em!) and still manages to give us a three-dimensional villain who probably got more character development on his own than Bats and co put together.

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Cool story bro(lin)

Because make no mistake, from a certain perspective this is Thanos’ film. He might be a homicidal lunatic, but he’s a homicidal lunatic with a backstory, a homicidal lunatic who has a logical (if insane) reason for wanting to wipe out half the galaxy’s population, and a homicidal lunatic you almost feel sorry for on occasion. There are plenty of films made each year whose protagonists aren’t as developed as this film’s antagonist is.

Of course this isn’t really Thanos’ film, it’s the Avengers’ film, and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s film, and those other guys who aren’t either but will probably end up joining one or the other if they don’t die’s film!

Sure some of the characters feel a little short changed (as a Black Widow fan there isn’t nearly enough Scarlett Johansson here) but to a greater or lesser degree everyone gets their moment in the sun, and some of the characters who get a larger role will surprise you. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is pretty integral, and Vision and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) get an emotional subplot. There’s a lot of Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and the fact that the tone lifts when the Guardians turn up is testament to how loveable that bunch of idiots are, and I don’t care what anyone says, for me Drax (Dave Bautista) is the funniest character in the Marvel Universe.

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You’re supposed to go inside the bus, Peter!

Downey Jr, Hemsworth and Evans are as solid as always (Hemsworth in particular is a joy to watch) and is it just me, or is Cumberbatch more fun as Strange as part of an ensemble than he was when he had a whole film to himself?) Tom Holland also continues to impress as Peter Parker, and when Karen Gillan shaved her head people expected Nebula to be a one off character, now here she is for her third outing and with quite a character arc over those films.

I can’t mention everyone, but everyone is great. Seriously, no one puts a foot wrong.

The effects are great and the battles truly epic. I saw it in 3d IMAX which was intense, but I’m looking forward to a second viewing in 2D, because I think some of the fights may look a little less frantic.

Let’s come back to the plot though, or more specifically the narrative choices the writers/producers/directors have made. Remember how in The Last Jedi Luke says “This isn’t going to go the way you expect” well he could have been talking about Infinity War, because whatever you expect going in, whoever you think will die, I guarantee you’ll be surprised. They’ve made some bold and downright astonishing choices at times here. I mean sure, comic books are always bringing people back from the dead, but I have a hunch that in this case some of the dead are going to remain that way.

No film is perfect, and with so many characters and threads going on some are left dangling, or aren’t given enough prominence, and sometimes it feels like you haven’t seen certain characters in ages, and yes it’s a film made for those of us invested in the universe…

But for me it was pretty much everything I could have wanted (apart from more Black Widow obviously) Exciting, hilarious, heart-breaking; I loved it from start to finish and I didn’t want it to end, and it’s going to be a long year waiting for Avengers 4!

Make mine Marvel, to infinity (war) and beyond!

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Ghost Stories

Posted: April 23, 2018 in Film reviews, horror
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Directed by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson. Starring Andy Nyman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther and Martin Freeman.

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Phillip Goodman (Nyman) is a professor who specialises in debunking fraudulent mediums and explaining the unexplainable. He wants to prevent people’s lives being ruined by superstition, and was inspired by a 1970s paranormal investigator named Charles Cameron, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances decades ago, and is now believed dead.

When Goodman is contacted by the very much still alive Cameron he’s thrilled, but when he visits the old man in a ramshackle caravan, he is dismayed to learn that Cameron now believes in the supernatural. He passes three cases he could never debunk to Goodman, challenging him to explain them.

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The first involves a night watchman (Whitehouse) who encountered something unearthly in a disused sanatorium, the second is a teenager (Lawther) whose life has been turned upside down after he drove into something inhuman in the woods. Finally there is a rich financier (Freeman) who was plagued by a poltergeist on the eve of the birth of his child.

Goodman can explain each incident, but is he merely deluding himself? Is the supernatural actually real, and if so will Goodman survive his own encounter with the paranormal?

 

For those of us of a certain age, there are fond memories of kind of portmanteau horror stories that used to be on BBC2 late on a Friday or Saturday night. Best known producer of such films was Amicus productions, who churned out multiple such films in the 1960s and 70s, films like Dr Terror’s House of Horrors, Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror. Such films usually followed a familiar pattern, a series of stories linked by a framing story that would invariably contain a twist in the tale. Of course even before Amicus got in on the act there’d been the 1945 Ealing classic Dead of Night. There have been American takes on this too; Creepshow for example, but for me it’s those old British chillers I have affection for, and so on a purely nostalgic basis I was excited to see Ghost Stories.

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Adapted by Nyman and Dyson from their own stage play I can’t call Ghost Stories an unqualified success, but even beyond a nostalgic yearning for those old-fashioned portmanteaus, there’s enough here to make this a scarily enjoyably film, just not a perfect one.

As with any anthology, in film or print, some stories work better than others, and the first two tales on offer represent the highlights of the film. Once you get past expecting him to go all Fast Show on you, Whitehouse is actually very good as the night-watchman all alone yet not really alone. There’s a palpable sense of unease as he makes his rounds through the dilapidated building, and the directors really ratchet up the tension here. They almost take it too far, there’s a limit to how long you can conceivably stay on the edge of your seat waiting for the scare you know is coming, but they stay just the right side of it.

The second story is almost as creepy, especially once you factor in Goodman’s visit to the teenager’s house which is genuinely unsettling. Anyone who’s seen the Black Mirror episode Shut Up and Dance will know how well Lawther can do on the edge-of-a-nervous-breakdown levels of terror, and Nyman and Dyson make good use of it here, it’s a wonderfully fragile performance from Lawther and the lonely forest makes an equally scary counterpoint to the deserted sanatorium.

Sadly it’s kind of downhill from this point. Freeman is very good but the third tale feels limp in comparison to the first two (though there is one really effective jump scare as Goodman and Freeman’s character walk the moors) and from here on the film enters its final act and reveals the twist, and this is where the film falls down, because the ending has a bit too much going on, it feels baggy and in some respects unearned. There are elements that are utterly predictable (seriously if you don’t see one particular twist coming a mile away you need to go to Spec Savers) and others that aren’t nearly predictable enough, although there is a lot of foreshadowing and it’s possible that I might appreciate the final act more upon second viewing.

At times genuinely terrifying, with great performances, assured direction and a palpable sense of old school dread, there’s a lot to like here, I just wish the second half of the film had lived up to the opening segments, but that’s anthologies for you.

Anyway, I must go, it’s time for me to tell my story to Peter Cushing and my other fellow travellers on this old steam train. As for Ghost Stories, it’s flawed but recommended.

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“Who are you calling a hobbit?”