Spider-Man: Far From Home
Toy Story 4
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Despite all the hype, pretty much your average comic book movie. 4/10
After the death of his father, Prince T'Challa ascends to the throne of the small African country of Wakanda. T'Challa is also Black Panther, superhero. Now not only must he govern his country but defeat a dangerous adversary.
An average comic book / superhero movie, which doesn't say much. Massively over-hyped and over-praised, largely because of the racial angle. What you have is ultimately nothing new: the usual action and CGI-centric storyline, the basic, wafer-thin plot, the token character development, i.e. just another Avengers-type movie.
This is not a revolutionary movie in terms of breaking stereotypes - if you're looking for that, watch In The Heat Of The Night (1967), or any one of several Sidney Poitier movies, instead.
Superb drama - powerful, profound and poignant. 9/10
Agu is a young boy in a war-torn African country. The war eventually reaches his town, resulting in his mother and younger siblings fleeing for the capital and his father and older brother being killed by government forces. Agu flees into the jungle where he meets a battalion of rebel soldiers, lead by their charismatic commander, known simply as Commandant. Agu joins the rebels, not realising the things he will see and be required to do.
Superb drama, written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (of True Detective fame) and produced by Netflix. Chillingly gritty and realistic, showing how easily an innocent boy can become a veteran soldier and merciless killer. Agu's transformation from bystander to combatant and the changes it causes in him is quite amazing to behold, as it is so gradual yet inevitable.
Good story, showing well the anarchy of war, and that there's often no good guys, just adversaries. Also shows the effect of war on its participants. The last few scenes show that even once the war stops, some are mentally still fighting. Emotional ending.
Idris Alba is the only known actor in the cast and puts in a solid performance as Commandant. However, Abraham Attah, only 13 or 14 at the time, steals the show as Agu. He is excellent in the role.
Solid supporting performances.
The best movie Netflix has made, to date.
Heaps of potential, largely wasted.
The lives of a group of skateboarding teens in the city of Visalia, California.
I had low expectations for this film. It is directed by Larry Clark, who specialises in gratuitous sex and nudity for shock value, and seems to creepily delight in making films about teenagers. However, the movie started very well with an incredibly powerful opening scene. Having grabbed my attention, Clark and writer Harmony Korine then proceeded to retain it with fairly engaging scene-setting.
So far, so good. Everything was set up for a good exposition of modern teen life with a profound ending.
However, Clark can't help himself and, as the movie progresses, he starts to throw in the gratuitous sex and nudity he is known for. It is all for shock value and here it is over the top. No wonder this film is so controversial.
The explicit scenes cheapen and divert what was shaping up to be a good drama. Instead of a well-thought-out and crafted examination of teen life we have extreme and weird plot developments, just for shock value.
It's not all bad though: some of the sub-plots (e.g. the Tate one) remain interesting and the ending is quite powerful and ties the movie together.
Overall: better than expected, but disappointing because it could have been great.
1973. J Paul Getty is the wealthiest man in the world. His grandson, John Paul Getty III, is kidnapped in Italy and his kidnappers demand a ransom of USD 17m. Getty refuses to pay, as giving in to their demands will encourage the kidnapping of his grandchildren. Despite his wealth, he is rather miserly. It is up to the boy's mother to try to find a way to get her son back.
Great drama, based on a true story. Very intriguing with many twists and turns in the story line. The primary focus is on what will happen to Getty jr but there's also this great standoff between his grandfather and his mother.
The miserliness of J Paul Getty I is laid on a bit thick, but apparently it's accurate! We do at least get the backstory of how he built his fortune, and his reasoning for being so thrifty, which does allow some engagement with his character.
On that note, Christopher Plummer is great as J Paul Getty. Plummer got a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance. At 88 he became the oldest nominee for an acting Oscar.
Great work too from Michelle Williams as the mother, Gail Harris/Getty. Commanding performance from her.
Out of place amongst such accomplished actors is Mark Wahlberg. He is fine for action roles, and Ridley Scott tries to turn him into an action man here, but his character here was more than a simple man of action, requiring some depth. That's not what he's good at, and it shows. He looks like an amateur when appearing with Michelle Williams.
Novel and interesting but lacks engagement.
Sergey, a deaf teenager, is starting his first day at a special school for the deaf. He soon discovers that most things at the school are run by The Tribe, an anarchic, criminal gang of students. He falls foul of The Tribe and is bullied and attacked by them. However, over time he joins them and works his way up their ranks.
A very original movie: no audible spoken words at all, hardly any sound at all, in fact. The idea being that you need to experience the world of a deaf person. All communication between the characters is done by sign language, and there's no sub-titles. Even if you understand sign language (and, unfortunately, I don't) you probably wouldn't be able to make out what they're saying - the signing isn't directed at the camera.
So you have to watch this essentially as a silent movie, using actions and body language to figure out what is going on. This, and the intriguing plot (initially) make this quite interesting.
However, it lacks engagement. The main character isn't particularly interesting or likeable, and the more you get into the movie, the less you like him.
Plus, the plot can seem quite random at times. Having to use sight cues to determine the narrative does have its drawbacks...
Overall, okay, but could have been better.
Poor, even by the low standards of the genre. 2/10
A man stops at a castle to get help for a woman he just discovered at a car crash. He is greeted at the door by someone who looks exactly like the woman.
Pretty poor, even by the low standards of 70s exploitation-horror. Random, farcical plot. Jumbled direction. Weak performances. Some laughable special effects (the giant spider...). Really has nothing going for it.
Has its moments but generally unengaging and dull. 4/10
Picking up where The Force Awakens left off, Rey meets Luke Skywalker and tries to convince him to help The Resistance. He is initially hesitant but eventually decides to train Rey in the way of The Force. However, Kylo Ren also wants to track down Skywalker, and uses Rey for that purpose. Meanwhile, The Resistance are locked in deadly battle with the First Order and, while they have some minor victories, it seems like a futile struggle.
I'm not generally a Star Wars fan but to my surprise I enjoyed Episode VII - The Force Awakens. It grabbed my attention from the word go and held it all the way through. A rollicking adventure with engaging characters. Moreover, the blending of the old characters and the new was very well done, with the feeling that the torch had been passed to the new generation.
Unfortunately, Episode VIII doesn't come close to the engagement, novelty and adventure of Episode VII. Its essentially one long action-drama, with little in the way of engagement or originality. The Rey-Kylo Ren relationship had potential but went nowhere new or interesting and was snuffed out pretty quickly. Them possibly working together held my attention but the intrigue was short-lived. The movie simply degenerated into action sequences after that.
On the upside, no need to waste my time on Episode IX (Or X, or XI, or...)...
Incredibly dull and pointless. 2/10
A group of friends head out for a holiday in the country. There they are kidnapped by a weird, psychopathic family.
This was never going to be Citizen Kane. However, it had potential as an entertaining B-grade thriller. Unfortunately, even with such low expectations, it is still very poor.
For a lightweight thriller it moves very slowly and is far from thrilling. There's no engagement - you don't really care about the main characters. Dumb, dull plot that seems to go around in circles.
Superb historic drama.
1934. Winston Churchill appears to be in his twilight years. While he is still a Member of Parliament and a member of the ruling Conservative Party he is not a member of the cabinet and has no power. However, this does not stop him from speaking his mind and making grandiloquent speeches in Parliament. When he learns of Germany's rearmament and Hitler's bigoted social policies he sets out, in Parliament, to warn his colleagues and Britain of the impending danger. The other MPs, used to his tirades, laugh him off. Britain, the spectre of WW1 ever-present, is determined to follow a pacifist course and has not the inclination nor the economic means to engage in an arms race with Germany. Politically, Churchill is isolated.
Superb historic drama - engaging, interesting and edifying. Captures well the lead-up to WW2 and how Britain, and the world, did not see it coming. The political intrigues are very interesting, especially Churchill's information-gathering via a foreign office source, Ralph Wigram. The Ralph Wigram story (a true one - I checked) is fascinating and quite emotional in itself.
Adding another layer to the movie is Churchill's home life. We see his domestic issues, the relationship with his wife, Clementine, and children. This makes for highly engaging watching as we don't just see Churchill the politician but also Churchill the person, the family man.
Fantastic performance by Albert Finney as Winston Churchill. He captures Churchill's traits perfectly, down to his voice. Vanessa Redgrave is great as Clementine Churchill. Some big names in the supporting cast, some of whom weren't famous at the time: Ronnie Barker, Jim Broadbent, Derek Jacobi, Tom Wilkinson, Linus Roache, Lena Headey and Tom Hiddleston (5 years before he made his cinematic debut).
Seven years after The Gathering Storm, a sequel was made, covering Churchill's WW2 years. This was Into The Storm, and starred Brendan Gleeson as Churchill and Janet McTeer as Clementine. Despite the discontinuity in actors, Into The Storm was equally superb and involved a brilliant performance from Brendan Gleeson. Seems like playing Churchill brings out the best in actors (thinking too of Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour)...
Intriguing and edifying.
1960. Israeli agents get a tip-off that Adolph Eichmann, the architect of Hitler's Final Solution, is living in Argentina. They assemble a team to extract him and bring him to Israel to stand trial as a mass murderer.
Interesting true story. Shows how the Mossad investigated the possibility that Eichmann was living in Argentina, how they positively identified him and the planning and execution of getting him to Israel. While you know the result, if you know history, it still makes for very intriguing watching. This is especially as there was a large amount of danger involved in the operation - there was a large element of Nazis and Nazi sympathisers living in Argentina and they had significant influence over the government.
The historic element makes this quite edifying viewing too.
Great work by Ben Kingsley as Eichmann. Oscar Isaac puts in a solid performance as Peter Malkin, senior Mossad agent.
Interesting documentary on rock music's unsung heroes.
A documentary on the nameless musicians behind the stars - the people in the touring and/or studio bands of major stars. Shows the highs and lows, the pros and cons, how some of them got where they are and their lives as hired guns.
An interesting documentary on rock music's unsung heroes. For every famous, successful artist there's dozens of musicians who played on studio albums or performed in the bands of the famous artist, with little to no recognition. This documentary does a good job of empathising with and highlighting the skills, trials and tribulations of the sideman.
Wasn't always that promising though: started off pretty dully, with a heap of (largely metal) musicians trying to out cheerlead each other. The first bit focuses mostly on how they got their big break and while there are some really interesting, even historic moments (e.g. the guitar solo on Steely Dan's 'Peg" and the drum fill on John Cougar Mellencamp's 'Jack and Diane'), involved it just seems pretty conventional. Moreover, you feel like you've seen this before - '20 Feet From Stardom' and 'Standing In The Shadows Of Motown' already covered the life and influence of backing musicians.
However, in the second half it gets really interesting and engaging. Now we see what touring life is like and how expendable these musicians are. It's quite sad how they are treated and how things turn out for some of them.
The latter half also shows why, despite the insecurity and treatment, these guys still do what they do - the love of music. This leaves the ultimate note a positive one.
Intriguing and entertaining.
A young woman, Julia, is kidnapped. She ends up in a high-tech house where a renowned scientist and CEO of an Artificial Intelligence company performs certain procedures with her brain. Julia soon discovers that all the internal functions of the house are run by an animated computer - Tau.
Decent sci-fi / AI drama. Quite intriguing - what's the meaning of the procedures, what will happen to her? Some good dramatic moments.
Hardly perfect - plot has a few holes, the AI theme doesn't go anywhere new and the ending is largely foreseeable. The relationship between Julia and Tau and its result are predictable.
Still, quite entertaining - there is never a dull moment and the time flies by.
Dull, pretentious nonsense.
At this point in my reviews I usually provide an objective summary of the initial plot, before launching into my view of the movie. That is impossible with this movie as there is no discernible plot.
Apparently the movie is about gods walking on earth and frolicking / toying with humans. That much is consistent with what I saw, but that provides the background to the plot, at best. Beyond that, there's nothing.
Quite random and nonsensical. One scene doesn't seem to follow from another. If each scene is a mini-story, they're pretty boring, pointless, inconclusive stories. Which would sum up the entire movie - boring, pointless and inconclusive.
Two friends set off into the country for a few days hunting. Then a tragic accident throws their plans into disarray.
Mostly dull. Had some potential as a psychological and moral drama but doesn't really explore these avenues too well or enough. Instead largely just plods along. While the main characters are reasonably likeable, initially, engagement is fairly limited. The slowness of the plot development limits the engagement factor.
The intensity and intrigue does ramp up towards the end though and there is a decent moral dilemma involved, so not a total waste.
A bit hammy but quite interesting and entertaining.
The Congo, 1961. Due to escalating tensions in the area, the UN sends in a company of Irish peacekeepers into the province of Katanga. They are to hold the town of Jadotville at all costs. The local warlord recruits 1,000 French mercenaries, ostensibly to protect the mines in the area. However, after the UN goes on the offensive, the mercenaries are unleashed on the Irish company. The odds are stacked against the Irish, and their UN bosses don't appreciate the precariousness of their situation.
Not immediately engaging, but gets better. The set up was quite weak, the character development token and some of the performances left a lot to be desired (so many bad fake Irish accents!). Moreover, it was not obvious whether the enemy were actually the bad guys - the warlord initially seemed to have a good case to defend the area.
However, it gets better as the movie goes on. It becomes clear that the warlord is even worse than he was initially portrayed and the bad guys really are the bad guys. The battle scenes are great and the suspense and engagement ramps up.
Overall, an interesting and entertaining depiction of one of history's lesser-known battles and conflicts.
Lightweight but entertaining
A honeymooning couple, Polly and Ray Cutler, check in at a holiday resort overlooking Niagara Falls. Their neighbours are George and Rose Loomis. He's much older than her and seems to be a bit unstable. She's stunningly beautiful and appears to be having an affair. Then George Loomis is found dead, drowned, and things start to get complicated.
A murder drama with Hitchcockian tones but not quite the intensity or plot development. Quite intriguing and entertaining, with a nail-biting final few scenes. However, the plot isn't always watertight and can feel contrived at times.
Probably the most memorable thing about the movie is Marilyn Monroe's performance as Rose Loomis. She is perfectly cast and absolutely sizzles as the femme fatale.
Good work too from Joseph Cotton as George Loomis and Jean Peters as Polly Cutler.
The location is a feature too, with director Henry Hathaway using every chance to show the grandeur and beauty of Niagara Falls. It is also a key factor in the final few scenes.
Intriguing second half let down by unengaging first half.
Charlotte Hollis is a semi-recluse, and widely believed to be insane. 37 years earlier her boyfriend, John, was brutally murdered. She was charged with his murder but her wealthy, influential father managed to have the case dismissed. She is still haunted by John, thinking she sees or hears him at times. With the state government about to demolish her house to build a road, and her resisting their attempts to get her to leave, her cousin Miriam visits for a few days. The idea is to help her leave but soon sinister, threatening events start occurring.
The second half of this movie was quite intriguing and followed a very interesting and unexpected twist. However, the problem is that the person you're meant to root for in that half was so annoying in the first half that supporting them is quite impossible. Furthermore, the person who appeared to be the 'good guy' in the first half was now the bad guy. The first half was pretty dull all round, mostly consisting of empty melodrama and annoying characters.
The lack of engagement in the first half truly let the second half down.