Doctor Sleep


Dir. Mike Flanagan

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Cliff Curtis, Kyliegh Curran,

This summer I was lucky enough to visit The Design Museum and see their wonderful exhibition on Stanley Kubrick. Amongst the items they had on display from the Kubrick archives was an original manuscript of Stephen King’s The Shining, complete with margin notes from Stanley Kubrick. It also had a quote from Kubrick explaining that he liked the novel because it went deeper into the psychological aspects of Jack Torrance, and wasn’t just about the supernatural. Kubrick’s film adaptation has gone on to be a horror masterpiece, whilst Stephen King has publicly voiced his outrage at the changes that Kubrick made whilst adapting his novel for the screen. So when director Mike Flanagan took on the task of adapting Doctor Sleep, Sutephen King’s sequel to The Shining, he had a tough job on his hands, pleasing both Stephen King and fans of Stanley Kubrick’s seminal masterpiece.

As you may have already guessed, I’m a big fan of Kubrick’s movies, but I’m also a huge Stephen King fan. I love The Shining, both book and film, even going as far as having Jack Torrance being the only Pop! Vinyl figure I own, and choosing blinds for the spare room based on the pattern being the same as The Overlooks carpet. I’d also read Doctor Sleep the moment it was released, and had thoroughly enjoyed it. The tone of the book Doctor Sleep is very different from The Shining. It’s here that Flanagan faces his biggest challenge, melding together the tone of Kubrick’s movie, with the tone of King’s sequel. It’s a feat that Flanagan achieves with ease. Following on directly from the incidents of The Shining, Doctor Sleep then jumps forwards to the modern day where Danny Torrance is now a grown man and recovering alcoholic, still haunted by the events at The Overlook Hotel. He has tried to hide his shine for years, but soon comes out of hiding when Abra, a young girl with a lot of shine, is targeted by a group known as The True Knot, vampires who feed off the steam of young children with The Shining.

As a pure adaptation of a novel, Doctor Sleep is fantastic. It’s largely faithful to the book, and brings out the best in everything I love about King’s writing. There’s a slight alteration in terms of the style of storytelling. This film is far more linear than King’s book, but for the first two thirds of the movie, this is beat for beat the book I read years ago. Flanagan is fast gaining a reputation for adapting horror novels, with The Haunting Of Hill House bringing the classic novel into the modern age, and now this film. It’s clear to see that he loves the source material that he is working from.

Flanagan also excels in bringing together a fantastic cast. Ewan McGregor is perfect casting for the older Danny Torrance. Bringing a desperation and melancholy to the role. Whilst the young Kyliegh Curran is amazing in a difficult role, one scene in particular where she channels Danny is a great showcase of her talents. Best of all though is Rebecca Ferguson, as Rose The Hat, named for the hat she wears. Rose is the leader of the True Knot, and Ferguson is completely captivating as the main villain of the piece. In fact, the True Knot are all genuinely terrifying.

From Occulus, to The Haunting Of Hill House, and now Doctor Sleep, Flanagan’s films have always dealt with the horror of death, and the question of what lies beyond. In this respect the ghosts of The Overlook are never truly scary in this film, they are there for our characters to come to terms with death. Flanagan’s films suggest that genuinely good people do not have to worry about what comes next. The True Knot on the other hand, are not good. They are most definitely bad, and because of this they fear death above all else. It’s this fear which drives them to torture and kill kids with The Shining for the steam they give off. They feed off of it like a pack of animals, and Flanagan does not shy away from the brutality of their crimes. In a stand-out sequence, they torture and kill a young baseball player, played by the incredibly talented Jacob Tremblay, and in this one sequence Flanagan makes you truly hate and despise the True Knot.

Their agency is the driving force of the movie, and is what sets the difference of tone. The Shining is a psychological horror, and Doctor Sleep is a vampire movie. It’s in the final act of the film that Flanagan manages to deftly merge these two tones into a cohesive one. Bringing everything to a satisfying conclusion which will please both fans of Kubrick’s film and Stephen Kings novel. If the film falters at all it’s in the slightly slow pacing, and the casting of lookalikes to play characters from The Shining. After seeing such fantastic CGI and de-aging techniques in recent films, it is slightly off putting to have an actress who kind of looks like Shelly Duvall.

As a Kubrick and King fan this film was everything I could have hoped it to be, and whilst it doesn’t quite deliver the scares of Kubrick’s classic, this is still expert storytelling which manages to tie together the style of two distinctive masters.



Dir. Todd Phillips

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy

Joker is a movie. Is it a good movie? Is it a great movie? I don’t know. Do I like it? No. No, I don’t like this movie, and it has taken me awhile to try and figure out why. I sat in the cinema, glued to the screen, and felt… empty?  The film looked like a film I would like, Joaquin Phoenix puts in one hell of a performance, it’s based on an IP that I am a fan of, and yet… empty. The answer to my plight is simple, I felt empty because the film is empty. I have no other way to describe it. I feel like it’s hard to be critical of the film, it’s well made, and in terms of craftsmanship it’s top notch, so you have to scratch deeper, go beyond the celluloid, see whats under the surface…
Nothing. There is nothing here. You’re left falling through darkness, a vast vacuum of nothingness. What is Todd Phillips trying to say with this movie? Nothing. Why does Joker do certain things? No reason. Is what we’re seeing real or a fantasy? It doesn’t matter. It’s empty. It’s an empty shell of a film that just happens to look good, and have a fantastic performance at its centre. It may seem harsh to judge a comic book movie this deeply, but this is not a comic book movie. Whether you agree with Martin Scorsese’s comments about Marvel movies not being cinema, and just being theme park rides doesn’t matter. What’s cinema and what’s not cinema is a debate for another day. I know personally, I have to look at Marvel movies with a different critical eye than I do other movies. I judge them on pure enjoyment, and don’t really mind if they reflect society, or tell me something about the human condition. I go into them with different expectations. Joker, though asks you to go in with different expectations, higher expectations. It’s not a comic book movie, there are no superheroes. There are references to the comics, but that’s it. There’s even debate raging over whether he actually is the character from the comics, or more of a proto-joker. Joker places itself next to cinematic greats such as Taxi Driver, King Of Comedy, and even Requiem For A Dream. It’s taken their style, but none of their substance.
The world of Joker is a cruel world. Gotham is designed to look like New York in the 70’s/80’s, invoking the films of Scorsese. Arthur Fleck, played by Phoenix, is an outsider. He lives in small dank flat with his ill mother. He has mental disabilities of his own. A head injury which has left him with a nervous tick, an annoying laugh whenever he is upset or nervous. The world just keeps beating him down. No one offers a helping hand, and after an attack on Arthur ends violently, Arthur finds that he is empowered by these acts of violence. I don’t want to spoil anymore for those who haven’t seen it, but what follows is a mixture of rich vs poor, mental illnesses, cuts to social departments, riots, bullying and murders. This all comes to culmination when Arthur is invited onto his favourite talk show, after he is mocked by the presenter, played by Robert De Niro, after one of Arthur’s stand up routines went viral. 
What does director Todd Phillips whats me to take away from this movie? I don’t know, and to be honest, judging by the interviews he has given around the movie, I don’t think he knows. He has undoubtedly put together a well made movie. The cinematography and set design are stunning, and the casting of Joaquin Phoenix is a masterstroke. This is one of the best performances I have ever seen on screen. The problem all lies in story. The story is not strong enough, there is not enough deeper meaning or subtext to it. Take the final speech as an example, it offers nothing, no profound statement, just a way to bludgeon the audience over the head with points which should be obvious to anyone who has just watched the last 2 hours. It could be that Phillips sees his Joker as the ultimate vision of insanity and anarchy, forged by a cruel society that doesn’t care about him, but to what end is never made clear.
The Joker works so well as a Batman villain as they are both two sides of the same coin. The problem here is we only get one side. It means that we are forced to try and feel sympathy, or at least pity for someone we don’t want to relate to. We see the film through his eyes, and through that viewpoint his actions are seen as almost heroic. In an almost Death Wish kind of way we are supposed to feel like his victims deserve what comes to them. I personally don’t think films should have to be responsible for the way that people react to them, but this film feels like its provocative for the sake of provocation. Like everything else on screen its just set dressing, all hiding the fact that the emperor is wearing no clothes. 

Terminator: Dark Fate


Terminator: Dark Fate

Dir. Tim Miller

Starring: Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Arnold Schwarzenegger

It’s funny, writing this blog used to be my escape. I worked in retail, and days off and evenings were spent going to the cinema, and mornings were for writing reviews in bed. It all paid off though, I got myself a new job, partly based on this very blog, and that job involves writing, and centres around movies. It’s the dream. Except, when you’ve spent all day writing it’s hard to build the motivation to come home and write. Even if I’m still going to the cinema. So this blog has sat stagnant for awhile. Quietly waiting for me to return to it, as I knew I inevitably would do. Just like futuristic killing machines I kept telling myself one thing “I’ll be back!” It may have taken longer than I had anticipated, but I’m jumping back on the saddle, with metaphorical pen in hand. Like an old western star, quick on the draw and ready to offer my thoughts and opinions on the latest the multiplex has to offer.

It’s fitting that my return to this blog should be for a franchise that has constantly been resurrected for the big screen over recent years. I love the terminator franchise. I saw the first two out of order. T2 was my introduction at a far too young age, but even then I knew there was something special about it. I’ve sat through The Sarah Connor Chronicles, witnessed the missed opportunity that was Salvation, and the less said about Rise of The Machines and Genisys the better, and thankfully Dark Fate goes the extra step of erasing all of these sequels from the timeline. For the first time it feels like we’re getting a worthy sequel. By going back to basics Tim Miller has remembered the one thing that those other sequels had forgotten. He’s remembered exactly what a Terminator movie is.

The film revolves around Dani Ramos, played with gusto by Natalia Reyes. A young girl in Mexico who suddenly finds her life threatened when a Terminator, sent back in time to kill her, shows up at her work. Lucky for her Mackenzie Davis’ Grace, has also been sent back in time. A human who has been augmented to be able to fight the terminators, Grace only has one mission, save Dani. They are soon joined by original Terminator target Sarah Connor, which sees Linda Hamilton return to her iconic role, as they go on the run front this cyborg killing machine.

I had a blast with this film. It’s honestly so much fun from start to finish. It shares the same DNA as James Cameron’s Terminator films, and whilst it doesn’t reinvent the wheel, the new additions to the lore are all well thought through and satisfying. The inherent problem with a sequel to T2 is that it makes that films themes redundant. T2 is all about free will vs fate, can you change your future or is it set in stone. Any sequel to this will inevitably answer that question because it will have Terminators in it, which means that Sarah Connor didn’t change the future, or she did but she only delayed it. So the big question for any Terminator sequel is how does it exist without ruining the ending to one of the best movies ever made?

Tim Miller and his team of writers, which includes a credit for James Cameron for story, manage to answer this question in a logical, but mostly satisfactory way. It’s not a perfect answer, but it’s the best answer we’ve had from the sequels. Miller also remembers that whilst the mythology of Terminator is vast, with future wars, nuclear catastrophes and future resistance leaders, at its core a terminator movie is simply a chase movie. By going back to this simple structure Miller is able to make a terminator movie that actually feels like a terminator movie. Some will complain that it’s just a retread of the first two movies, but this is what the franchise needed to save it after so many false starts.

The other vital ingredient for a good terminator movie, which has been missing since T2 is Linda Hamilton playing Sarah Connor, and boy, was it worth the wait. If Arnie is the heart of the terminator franchise, than Linda Hamilton is the soul, and her presence has been sorely missed. She enters this movie almost as if she’s never been away, and completely embodies her character. She’s the reason it’s so easy to forget the disappointment of the previous three films.

It’s hard not to compare this film to another recent reboot/sequel, and that’s the recent Halloween movie, where Jamie Lee Curtis returned to one of her iconic characters. That film almost acts as a blueprint for what Miller is doing here. The heroine of the first film coming back to a familiar story, but this time protecting and ushering in a new heroine for the franchise. Yes, the beats are familiar, but it’s how these veterans react to the newcomers which makes the film click, and in Dark Fate, the newcomers are at the top of their game.

James Cameron causes a bit of controversy the other year when he commented on Wonder Woman’s success, and claimed he had given cinema a truly strong female character in Sarah Connor. In Dark Fate however, we get three for the price of one. Natalia Reyes is note perfect as Dani Ramos, and fully sells her journey from family life to survivor. She’s likeable, strong willed, smart, and compassionate. Equally great is Mackenzie Davis as Grace. The augmented human sent back in time to save Dani. Davis does a fantastic job here, her physical presence matching Hamilton’s. Together these are three damaged but strong female characters who carry the film soundly between them. When Arnie finally shows up, it’s clear that he is here as a supporting actor, and he seems to relish the chance, having a great deal of fun whilst doing it.

The action in this movies is also excellent. We move from set piece to set piece at breakneck speed, but each one is memorable. If the film falls down in any aspect it’s that it’s slightly ugly to look at. I felt that Tim Miller has this problem with Deadpool too, he stretches budgets to get the maximum out of them, but that can come at the detriment to visual appeal. There is also a supposed twist in this movie, and I say “supposed” because it’s so obvious it doesn’t really register as a twist.

When we finally come to the conclusion of the film, there is no real setback up for another one. A smart move by Miller, who has seen other touted trilogies fail to get past the first movie, he has just focussed on making one good movie. It’s paid off, and I for one would like to see him back.



Director: James Wan

Starring: Jason Momoa, Nicole Kidman, Amber Heard, Willem Defoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Where to start with Aquaman. The character has been a bit of a joke in the comic community for years. Then Jason Momoa was cast and suddenly Aquaman was cool. Next, James Wan jumped off The Flash so he could realise his own world with Aquaman. Things were looking good for the fish talking hero. Then, Justice League happened. Jason Momoa came out unscathed from that train wreck, and even bagged some of the films best lines. The film didn’t highlight anything that made Aquaman different though, he seemed to have the same skillset as any other hero, and the scenes shot underwater were dreadful. When two sea dwelling characters have to create an air bubble to speak to each other, you know that this world hasn’t been fully thought through. Thankfully, Aquaman has been made as an almost soft reboot, and Wan has promised a new experience for cinema goers.

Aquaman, played by Jason Momoa, is Arthur Curry. The son of a lighthouse keeper and an Atlantean Queen. He is half human and half Atlantean, although he has distanced himself from the underwater world since he found out that upon learning of his existence the king of Atlantis sacrificed his mother to The Trench, a part of the ocean filled with monstrous sea creatures. He is forced to return though when Mera, played by Amber Heard calls him back to deal with his brother Orm, who plans to wage war on those who live on land.

My thoughts coming out of this film are generally positive. It completely erases any memory of Justice League, and it was great to see a film in the DCEU which felt completely stand alone. The cast all did a pretty great job, and Momoa lives up to top billing with a performance full of confidence and charisma. Patrick Wilson did feel slightly out of his depth as the main villain, but that may be due to the fact that as a villain his character is never really that interesting. James Wan obviously had a total blast with the world building, and some of it is fantastic, but there is a lot of it, sometimes too much.

Aquaman is best described as a real mixed bag. A pick’n’mix of a film. It wants and tries to do everything at once, and can become bogged down in the sheer amount of storytelling going on. There are so many worlds visit, creatures to see, plot points to tie up, and characters to introduce. It all becomes a bit too much. It should be applauded for its ambition, but maybe a more stream lined version of this film would have made for the more enjoyable experience. For me the film really finds its feet when our characters are on land. The scenes both in the desert and Sicily being two standout moments in the movie. These scenes recall classic adventure movies like Indiana Jones and Romancing The Stone, they also don’t rely as heavily on distracting CGI and the action scenes here feel more real and have more weight to them.

This might be the biggest problem with Aquaman: they still haven’t mastered the underwater world. When it works it looks fantastic. The scene where Arthur and Mera get attacked in The Trench is gorgeous to look at, combing dazzling visuals with some horrific imagery. It’s epic. Then there’s the scene where Curry fights Orm for the throne of Atlantis. It’s awful. None of it looks real, and it’s hard to invest in a fight between two cgi characters. The actors are obviously restricted by the wire work, and whilst there is no air bubbles for them to talk in this time, they’ve still made the decision to add a little reverb when they speak to give the impression of talking underwater, which is more than a little distracting.

The pick’n’mix nature of this film also refers to the tone, style and references on display. One scene is straight out of Black Panther, another from Iron Man, there’s a little bit of Jurassic Park here, a lot of Star Wars. Indeed when they first enter Atlantis it’s hard not to think of our first visit to Jar-Jar Binks’ home in The Phantom Menace. Some of them work, some of them don’t. There is also a sub-plot which involves another, more interesting villain. We get to travel to a lot of different worlds, there’s people riding sharks, octopus playing drums, there’s a lot going on. One things for sure, it’s a long film, but it’s way too interesting to be called boring.

The Aqua parts of Aquaman tend to be its weakest, but don’t let that put you off one of the most creative blockbusters this year. It is a little all over the place, but that comes from a filmmaker taking his first chance at a superhero blockbuster and wringing it for all its worth. There’s a lot here to be commended even if it’s not quite the home run that DC fans were hoping for.


Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald


Dir. David Yates

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Katherine Waterston, Johnny Depp, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Zoë Kravitz, Alison Sudol, and Claudia Kim

Harry Potter was my first literary love. It’s the book series that got me into reading. I adore the books, and they and will always hold a place in my heart. I am also a fan of the Harry Potter films, but as I grow older I have more problems with them. I’ve started to feel like there are more bad movies in the Harry Potter franchise than good ones. Critically, I feel I may be blinded by my love of the property. The first Fantastic Beasts movie was fine. It was a fun expansion of the universe, even if I did find Newt a little hard to connect to as a lead character. I was still excited for The Crimes Of Grindelwald though. The promise of exploring more of the wizard of world lore was enticing.

We start a couple of months after the events of Where To Find Them. Newt has published his book on the titular beasts, but is still banned from leaving the country by the ministry. Evil wizard Grindelwald has escaped custody, and a rumour has emerged that Credence has survived the events of the first movie. Albus Dumbledore asks Newt to go to Paris, where Credence is rumoured to be hiding, to protect the young boy. Grindelwald has more sinister plans for Credence, and heads to Paris in hopes to recruit him.

At this point, you’re either in with the wizarding world or your not. The film is steeped to the core in back story. Its what makes the film so hard to judge for me. As a potter fan, I love receiving all this new information about a world I’ve spent so much time in. As a film fan, it’s not that great of a film. It’s completely overstuffed, and the pacing is atrocious. There are some stand out sequences. The opening sequence where Grindelwald escapes during a prison transfer is one of the best action sequences ever mounted in the wizarding world. So is the final showdown, where Grindelwald delivers a rally to his supporters. It brings in real world stakes, whilst simultaneously reference our own history and the politics of the world today.

In both these sequences Johnny Depp is a standout. He’s casting was incredibly controversial, but he is in fine form here. Other new additions also make their presence felt. Jude Law is fantastic as a younger Dumbledore, whilst Zoë Kravitz is splendid as Leta Lestrange. If the new cast members stand out, it’s to the detriment of the returning cast. Katherine Waterston is completely wasted here, and a romantic sub plot feels so inconsequential. Dan Fogler is still one of the best parts of the series though, bring a great deal of comedy as muggle in the wizarding world. Alison Sudol was perhaps my favourite part of the first film, and she gets more to do here, but the choices made in her character development feel weirdly out of character, forced, and not at all earned. Eddie Redmyane is a much better leading man this round though, but here lies the series biggest problem.

Fantastic Beasts biggest problem is that it’s called Fantastic Beasts. When this was a stand alone movie about the adventures of Newt, that was fine. Now it’s been used as a back door into the Grindelwald story, it doesn’t quite work. It isn’t the right fit. Harry Potter worked because Harry was always integral to the plot. He was always uniquely tied in with the villain. Newt however is surplus to the plot. He has no attachment to Grindelwald. Even though he was the guy who put Grindelwald in prison, Grindelwald doesn’t even seem to care about getting revenge. If Newt seems forced into the story, the beasts he adores feel doubly so. You end up with two films that you’d quite like to see, one the adventures of Newt and his friends, the other the battle between Dumbledore and Grindelwald, but together they don’t quite gel.

There are plenty of Easter eggs for the hardcore here. Some subtle, owls delivering memos at the ministry of magic, others not so, Nicolas Flamel. They’re great to spot, but only end up bogging down an already over crowded film. You come away feeling like you would have loved to have read that as a book, but doesn’t hold together as a film. The middle is languid, and whilst it’s lovely to revisit Hogwarts, it doesn’t feel essential in what is to be a five film series. The film looks spectacular. I saw it IMAX 3D, and it was breathtaking. It might be the best visual film from director David Yates. Although, they now do so much with the magic, when you hear someone say Dumbledore is the greatest wizard of his generation, it feels slightly empty. There are no rules established in terms of who can do what. They’re lovely visuals, but they’ve started to lose some of the magic.

What we have here is a film that may sound great on paper, but in reality doesn’t work. It’s an overpacked mess, but there is so much here you are likely to enjoy at least some part of it. A more focused approach, and a better screenplay would have helped a lot. I came out wanting to talk about it, which is a good thing, but I feel my enjoyment came from being a fan of the property, not from having seen a great film.


Spoiler Territory

The big talking point in this film is without a doubt the reveal at the end. We find out that Credence is Dumbledore’s brother. Or is he. It’s a tricky one to unpack. Fans will point to the fact that there is an issue with the dates, as Albus Dumbledore’s mum died before Credence would have been born, and his dad would have been in Azkaban. Some think that Grindelwald is lying, but to me the Phoenix seemed to suggest he wasn’t. Credence knew nothing about the Phoenix appearing to Dumbledore’s in need, but we, the audience were told this earlier, so for Grindelwald to be lying is just a cheap trick on the audience, and would leave me feeling slightly cheated. There’s another theory which says that Dumbledore’s sister was an obscurus, and that when she died it latched itself onto another baby which was Credence. I like this theory more than any other.

I feel like the next film will be a quest to find the deathly hallows, and that JK Rowling is using the Dumbledore brothers as a thematic double of the brothers from the deathly hallows story. Credence represents the ultimate power, and so is the elder wand. Aberforth goes into a hiding of sorts, and also survives the longest, so he is the invisibility cloak, and Albus, racked with the guilt of his sisters death is the resurrection stone.

The Grinch


Dir. Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Pharrell Williams, Rashida Jones, Cameron Seely, Kenan Thompson, and Angela Lansbury

Christmas is almost here, and what is more Christmasy than The Grinch. Each generation seems to get their defining version of the green, Christmas hating grouch. For some it’s How The Grinch Stoke Christmas, the 1960’s cartoon. For others it’s Jim Carey in Ron Howard’s take on the Dr Seuss classic. For a brand new generation The Grinch will be 3D animated, and voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. I probably wouldn’t have had too much expectation for this movie, made by Illumination, the team behind Despicable Me, but then I heard that Scott Mosier was one of the directors. Scott is the producer behind most of Kevin Smiths early work, and someone who I had listened to pretty much weekly on Smodcast, the podcasts he co-hosts with Kevin Smith. Suddenly, I was interested.

The Grinch follows the same old story as the original book by Dr Seuss. The Grinch lives in a world inhabited by Whos. He lives with his dog Max in a mountain on the outskirts of Whoville. The Grinch is a green furred grump who hates everything and everyone, but most of all he hates Christmas. Unfortunately for him, the Whos love it, and have declared that this Christmas will be three times bigger. The Grinch soon sets off on a plan to steak Christmas from the Whos, including young Cindy Lou Who, who is hoping to meet Santa so she can get a special gift for her mum.

There are a couple of nice little touches in this movie, which I think work really well. The Grinch is no longer mean to everyone, he treats Max with a great deal of love. He tries to avoid his friendly neighbours, as they annoy him, rather than being actively rude to them. This portrayal, shows him as a lonely outsider, rather than an evil monster. It makes the message at the heart of the film easier to swallow too. The story of Cindy Lou Who is also a nice touch, and the film focuses primarily on these two characters and their separate quests which collide on Christmas Eve. It’s clever scripting, which allows the movie to breeze by at a quick pace, without getting tangled up in any sub plots.

The animation is splendid, and the world of Whoville is fantastically realised. It’s a real joy to behold, and can’t help but evoke the cinnamon scented feeling of Christmas. The opening sequence introduces us to the town in breathtaking fashion. It’s a great sequence, and I loved the little nod towards Mooby’s, a fictional fast food chain from the View-askewniverse. The Grinch looks great too. The redesign is a more cuddly , child friendly version. Gone are the yellow and red eyes, replaced by something a lot more puppy-dogish.

The voice cast is great. There’s clever casting with Benedict Cumberbatch as The Grinch. He voices the lead character flawlessly. The casting of Pharrell Williams as the Narrator is inspired, and he fits perfectly into the tone of the film. I thought the film was also very funny, in a slapstick sort of way. There’s a couple of tremendous sequences one involving reindeer, and one involving particularly loud snow which were real stand outs.

If there are problems with the film, it may be that the story is too slight. It’s a simple story, told simply, but if you already know it, this film doesn’t offer up anything new. It lacks the depth of Pixar, and as such doesn’t offer any real appeal to anyone over the age of 10. The edges have all been sanded down, and the film plays everything incredibly safe.

It’s not a classic, but if you’re looking to get into the Christmas spirit, this is one great way to do it. It’s not Illuminations best film, even though it does look fantastic, but it’s nowhere near the atrocity of Minions. It’s a well told adaptation of the story, but for anyone who has already seen any other version of The Grinch it may seem a little redundant.


Catch Up Reviews

2018, Uncategorized

I’ve missed a couple of months recently, and the truth is I’ve found it hard to find time to sit down and write reviews. There are a couple of reasons behind this. One of them is moving house. Apparently that’s quite stressful. The other one is my new job. The great thing is my new job allows me to do tons of writing, all film related, which is fantastic, and has for awhile obviously taken prominence. Not that I’ve stopped going to the cinema though, oh no. Now that I’m getting more of a balance back in my life I’m able to get  back to reviewing films. Yay! 

As I mentioned, I haven’t stopped going to the cinema. It felt like it would be a shame if my opinions on those films got lost to time, like tears in the rain. Yes, I do value my opinion that much. So I thought it would be a good idea to do a couple of mini reviews on the films I should have reviewed. Enjoy…

Ant-Man and The Wasp

Another enjoyable entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The problem was it couldn’t help but feel a bit light weight after Infinity War. Meant as a palette cleanse, it all felt a little too disposable. I loved Evangeline Lily as The Wasp, but felt here arc was a little wasted, so much more could have been done. Funny in places, the jokes did start to feel repetitive, and there were lapses within the inner logic of the movie. 


The Predator 

Shane Black didn’t reinvent the wheel with this one. What he did do though was deliver everything you would want from a movie about an alien game hunter. It’s not a great movie, it’s not that well made. The editing is all of the place, and it doesn’t make a huge heap of sense. It is incredibly fun though. There are some great characters, stellar jokes, and gratuitous violence. All in all, a good time at the movies. 


First Man

This is not a film about the achievements of man. It does not bask in the glory of space travel. It’s much more personal than that. It’s a story about a man who had to travel to the moon so that he could come back home. It’s a study on grief, and the different ways humans deal with it. What surprised me was just how moving this film was. It owes a huge amount of debt to The Right Stuff, an influence on Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, of which First Man shares a lot of DNA with. They would make a hell of a double bill together. 



Michael Myers is back. Again. Jamie Lee Curtis is back. Again. She’s dealing with PTSD after the events of the original movie, and he’s back trying to kill her. Again.  Yes, we’ve seen this before, but Halloween acts as a course correction for the series. Pretending that nothing past the first movie happened, this takes Halloween back to its roots. It’s brutal, scary, and fun. It’s not a perfect movie, but will reward fans of the series whilst serving as a great entry point for those new to the series. 


A Star Is Born

Filled with fantastic performances from Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, this remake of a remake is better than it had any right to be. It’s Coopers first film behind the camera, and he does a great job. The performance scenes are incredibly realistic, with the use of real venues and audiences paying off. The songs are great too, with Lady Gaga’s fantastic voice really selling the believability of the story. It’s poorly paced though, and could do with losing a good 30 minutes. I found it strange how little I was moved by the end of the film, which is a sure sign that something wasn’t quite working. 


Crazy Rich Asians 

I’m not a fan of romantic comedies. Generic. Boring. Fluff. I loved Crazy Rich Asians. It’s an incredibly well made comedy, with a likeable cast, and characters you can’t help but root for. This is all played against a spectacular backdrop, with an insight into a world and culture that was completely new to me. It’s charming, funny, and moving. I can’t recommend it highly enough. 


The Nun

I really like The Conjuring  movies. The movies focusing on The Warrens. The spin-offs so far have been a little underwhelming. The Nun is just the wrong side of boring.  It has one good jump scare which has been completely spoiled by the trailer. The lead actors a likeable enough, but there is such a whiff of unoriginality here. It’s all a bit The Exorcist, but without anything that makes that movie work. These films just end up so superficial, that they really aren’t about anything at all. I mean, you have a priest and a Nun in training and not once does anything here make them question their faith. It’s just characters going through the motion of the plot so they can get to the end of the film. 


The Meg

I wanted this to be so crazy bad I’m a way that makes the whole film ridiculous and fun. The film ends up being both bad and ridiculous,  but as if no one told the film makers that was the film they were making. Instead they try to make a serious movie which is part Jurassic Park, part Jaws. That’s not what people want from this movie. They want to see a giant fucking shark being punched in the face by Jason Statham. There was a point in the movie, probably the most serious, emotional conversation in the whole thing, and it was all I could do to not burst out laughing. It’s just awful. I was promised a movie where Jason Statham chases a giant shark across the high seas. It took an hour to set that up. It should have been a fun dumb movie. It ended up being dumb, boring, and bad. 



If Venom had come out in 2005 it would have been seen as the natural continuation of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man series. Lucky for us, we’ve had a decade of fantastic super-hero movies which have  really pushed the genre forward. It just seems like no one making Venom has seen any of those films. Tom Hardy is great, and the moments where Eddie Brock are bickering are great. The film excels when it unleashes it’s dark sense of humour. The action sequences are pretty well done too. It’s just a shame the film takes so long to get anywhere, and wastes its time with unnecessary sub plots which aren’t paid off. It’s by no means a bad film, and I left the cinema thinking I’d quite happily go and see a sequel, but there is plenty of work to be done. 



I loved this movie. It’s funny, suspenseful, emotional, and scary. Spike Lee sets his stall out early with Alec Baldwin playing a racist Doctor, creating a video about white supremacy. It’s clear the parallels Lee is trying to draw. The cast are all fantastic, in particular John David Washington in the lead role of Ron Stallworth. The film is both shocking and provocative, but also incredibly entertaining, but it does its job. When a racist cop is caught being misogynistic and racist on a wire tape, he is immediately fired, with someone declaring that the good old wire trick, it always works. You can’t help but think how the last guy got caught on tape didn’t get fired, he got elected president. 


Christopher Robin

A gentle, but affecting film. It starts off incredibly strong, and ends well, but the middle does drag an awful lot. I enjoyed the way the characters of Winnie The Pooh has been reimagined, and Ewan McGregor does a great job. It’s a film with its heart in the right place, it just has some serious pacing issues. It at times feels more like a nostalgia trip for grown ups rather than a children’s film, but it does include some quite childish moments, you can’t help but wonder who this film is actually meant for. There are moments in which the film clearly hints towards mental health, but then there are also sequences of Ewan McGregor playing with leaves in the woods. It’s all a bit disjointed. 


A Simple Favour

Pitched as Gone Girl with more laughs. This was supposed to be a more serious outing from comedy director Paul Feig. Sadly, this is very much a case of style over substance. It’s nowhere near intricately plotted enough. It’s reveals come across as damp squibs, and Anna Kendrick does her best to make the jokes land, but this film just isn’t clever enough. If it wasn’t for the starry cast, this would have been a TV movie, or a soap plot in the 90’s. As a mystery movie, it’s not interesting. As a thriller, it’s boring. It’s not funny enough to be called a comedy. It’s just all a bit bland. It needed to go deeper, to go darker to truly resonate. 


Well that’s it. I’m all up to date now, and hopefully should be back with more regular reviews. Please check out my latest review on The Nutcracker and The Four Realms

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston 

Starring: Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Matthew Macfayden, Richard E. Grant, Eugenio Derbez and Jayden Fowora-Knight

Based upon the book by Alexander Dumas, and the famous ballet. The Nutcracker and The Four Realms is Disney’s attempt  o launch a new family franchise. Arriving just in time for Christmas, and with a starry cast, it looked as if Disney could have another hit on their hands, but I’d hardly seen a trailer for the film going in, which is always a worrying sign. Then there’s the fact that there are two directors attached to this movie. Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston. It’s reported that Hallström was in charge of principal photography, and Joe Johnston only stepped in when re-shoots were needed and Hallström was unavailable, nothing too unusual in that, but when this has occurred before the over director would get an executive producer credit, similar to what happened with Joss Whedon on Justice League and Tony Gilroy on Rouge One. Johnston getting a directors credit suggests that the film changed a lot during those reshoots. 

The film is set on Victorian London, with an emphasis on clockwork machinery, which is just shy of steam-punk. Here we find Clara, played by Mackenzie Foy, who is grieving the death of her mother. Her mother left her a small metal egg, an egg which is locked but Clara does not possess the key for. When her father, Matthew Macfayden, takes her to her Godfathers Christmas Eve party, Clara finds herself wondering into a brand new world. The world of the four realms, she discovers her mother used to be Queen of these realms, but since she has gone Mother Ginger, Helen Mirren, has broken ranks and is seeking to destroy the realms, and only Clara can stop her. 

To say that the film is uneven, is an understatement. There has clearly been an attempt to salvage the movie, which makes you wonder how bad the film was before Johnston got involved. It has spells which work well, and Mackenzie Foy does well in the lead role. It’s easy for child leads to come across as precocious and annoying, but she never falls into that territory. The visual effect work is all over the place, but when it pops the design is fantastic, and there has been a fantastic job done by the costume department. It all starts off promising enough, with a glorious sweeping shot of London at Christmas time, complete with skaters on the Thames, but soon goes rapidly downhill. 

The dialogue is awful. I know this is a movie aimed at kids, but you still have to make an effort. It’s all so exposition heavy, that the maxim show don’t tell has clearly been thrown out the window. Character development is told to you, and any jokes land with a hefty thud. There is a sequence halfway through, which pretty much derails the whole movie. This is a sequence which involves actual ballet. It sums up all of the films flaws in about 10 minutes, even though it feels like 30. It robs the film of all of its forward momentum. Keira Knightley’s Sugar Plum Fairy says “time works different here.” She’s not wrong. In attempting to explain the plot to Clara, we get a ballet, with intermittent comments by Knightley to explain it, intercut with flashes of the different realms, and followed up by a scene in which Keira Knightley explains everything again. It’s dull, slow, and is really obviously the result of too many studio notes, and trying to fix something that clearly isn’t working. 

There’s a lack of originality on display as well. The film feels like it’s lifted straight from The Chronicles of Narnia, I even wonder if some of the plot was based around what sets Disney had left from that venture. Bold choices have been made in the film, which is commendable, but they just don’t work. Keira Knightley puts on an instantly annoyingly high pitched voice as Sugar Plum Fairy, which makes her sound like Moaning Myrtle from the Harry Potter films. She really goes for it, but doesn’t have the energy or charisma to pull it off.  Not to mention some weirdly eyebrow-raising interactions between the Clara’s bereaved dad, and his two daughters, especially after one puts on his dead wife’s favourite dress. I also feel like the title is very misleading. It should have been called The Nutcracker and The Two Sets We Could Afford. 

This is a festive children’s film which fails to soar. It’s unevenly made, and despite the odd moment of magic, never really sucks you into the adventure. You end up feeling slightly cold by the end. Disney made a film earlier this year which had a similar story, with similar themes. Watch A Wrinkle In Time instead. 


The Spy Who Dumped Me

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Susanna Fogel

Starring: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan, Hasan Minhaj, and Gillian Anderson.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is a spy caper with edge. Not afraid to lean into the more violent tropes of espionage movies, whilst also mining them for comedic gold. It doesn’t always hit its target, and it overstays its welcome by about twenty minutes, but once it gets into its flow, it has some fantastic belly-laughs, and a wicked feminist streak.

The film centres around Mila Kunis’ Audrey, a depressed thirty year old, who has just been dumped, by text, by her boyfriend Justin Theroux. She soon finds out that Theroux is actually an international spy, who has left her in possession of an item of great importance. So important, people will kill to get hold of it. This sets her and her best friend Morgan, played by Kate McKinnon off on a globe trotting trip in an effort to stay alive.

It’s a classic spy movie set up which leans into the tone of the Bourne and Mission Impossible franchise, the surprise here is how violent the film goes for a comedy. Necks are snapped, blood goes everywhere, and it riffs on torture/interrogation scenes. Justin Theroux excels as a super spy, and you have to wonder why he hasn’t taken on more parts like this. The action beats are surprisingly good too, with fantastic use of practical effects and stunts. Its testament to director Susanna Fogel, that this film would work as a solid action film if all the jokes were taking out.

Thankfully though, the jokes haven’t been taken out. The formula here is simple, take a generic action movie and drop Kate McKinnon into the middle of it. She squeezes every scene, every line, for comedic potential. Her blend of surreal, weird humour contrasting incredibly well against the darker more serious moments of the plot. She has great chemistry with Mila Kunis too, and together they create a relationship which is wholly believable. As the film goes on, the women become more empowered, and get to kick some ass themselves, but it’s great to see them empowering each other. They lift each other up constantly, and show true solidarity.

To sum up, The Spy Who Dumped Me was an unexpected joy. It was darker then I expected, and leant into the violent aspects of the genre way more. It was also funnier than I expected, with some real laugh out loud moments. The star turn here is Kate McKinnon who all but steals every scene of the film. There’s a great cameo by Gillian Anderson too, which again McKinnon milks for all that it’s worth. Stay for the end credits though, you won’t regret it.


Mission: Impossible – Fallout

2018, Uncategorized

Dir. Christopher McQuarrie

Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Vanessa Kirby, Angela Bassett, Alec Baldwin, and Sean Harris.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to try and watch Mission: Impossible – Fallout without your draw hitting the floor. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Mission films, I loved the first one when I was young, and even though it’s not as good, M:I 2 was one of he first films I owned on VHS. That film almost sank the franchise, until JJ Abrams reimagined it, and since then the franchise has gone from strength to strength, even if the press around Tom Cruise’s stunt work sometimes overshadows the actual movies. In a series first, Christopher McQuarrie returns to direct Fallout after adding his own flavour of old school espionage to Rouge Nation.

Fallout follows Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his rag tag team of IMF agents. After, sacrificing 3 balls of plutonium in order to save the lives of his team, Cruise is forced by CIA head Angela Bassett to team up with CIA thug Henry Cavill to go and retrieve it. Cavil is there to babysit Cruise, and to make sure the mission goes off without a hitch. This proves to be difficult as differing motivations come into play, and the ghosts of Ethan Hunt’s past come back to haunt him.

Sometimes a band will release a couple of albums that are good, but don’t quite work. Each album exploring different musical styles and approaches. Then they will create an album where all of these experimentations coalesce in a way that makes complete sense of what came before. Fallout is that album. It plays like a greatest hits of all that came before, whilst tying everything together in an engaging story. It’s the best Mission Impossible film to date. McQuarrie blends the tension of the first film, the emotional characterisation of the third, and the outrageous stunts of the fourth and fifth film together to create a more than satisfying whole. It’s an adrenaline rush that I haven’t experienced since Mad Max: Fury Road.

Usually with Mission Impossible films you have to talk about the showstopper. The stunt which is getting all the press. In Fallout there are at least four showstoppers. Action set pieces so well put together, you can’t believe what you’re seeing, and made all the more unbelievable by the fact that most of them are done in camera, not against a green screen. Each showstopper offers something different as well, they aren’t just variations on the same stunt. We get skydiving, bike chases, helicopter chases, and the usual M:I special effect of Tom Cruise running. They are all mind blowing. Tom Cruise’s commitment to getting the shot is outstanding, and you’d have to argue that he is now the greatest ever action star to have graced our screens. McQuarrie stages his set pieces against back drops of Paris, London, and mountain ranges to glorious effect. The film looks amazing, and is a complete joy to behold.

McQuarrie had talked about approaching this film in a different way to how he approached Rouge Nation, aware of the fact that each film before had a different director, and a different flavour, he wanted to continue that trend even though he was returning to direct. He succeeds here by blending the jaw-dropping action with the most character driven story to date. Fallout delves into the heart of who Ethan Hunt is, and by pairing him with Henry Cavill, described as the CIA’s hammer compared to Hunt as the scalpel, we see what makes Hunt tick, and that is his desire to save the world with as little civilian casualties as possible. Cruise and McQuarrie play with the idea that Hunt is haunted by every life he thinks he could have saved, and is prepared to sacrifice his own happiness and own life to save just one more person. It’s a great personal battle that plays out on an epic scope; it’s not coincidence that Hunt receives his mission this time in a copy of Homer’s Odyssey.

The best Mission: Impossible film so far, in a series which keeps going from strength to strength. The combination of Cruise and McQuarrie continues to be a potent one, and with great supporting turns from Henry Cavill and Rebecca Ferguson, this may just turn out to be the blockbuster of the summer. The action is spectacular and the story more than keeps up with it. For me this cements Cruises place as the greatest action star ever.