Midsommar movie review

midsommer poster.jpg
A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown’s fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
— imdb

Midsommer is the follow up feature film from writer/director Ari Astor who directed the chilling ‘Hereditory’ last year. Dani (Florence Pugh in a brilliant performance) is a troubled young women, trapped into a cycle of mental abuse by her sister with Bipolar who constantly threatens to end her life via e-mail and text message.

When she actually follows through with her latest threat, taking Dani’s parents along with her in a shocking scene, Dani’s world threatens to fall apart. Relying on an unsympathetic boyfriend Christian played astutely by Jack Reynor, who secretly really just wants to dump her but doesn’t have the heart to do so, to help put her back together. Dani invites herself onto a trip to Sweden that Christian didn’t tell her about to visit a remote village for a few weeks of relaxation and to take her mind off of her woes.

Shot in a very bright and distancing fashion, it Cooley contrasts the vibrant photography to create a quietly unsettling tone. Echoing movies like ‘The wicker man’ we are dropped into a remote cult whose practices are weird and distorted. For a while we are visitors casually witnessing a gradual deception take place. This slow pace could easily polarize viewers. I would say if you prefer your movie going experience to be constantly in your face then this movie isn’t for you. If, however you prefer a slow burn there are weirdly enjoyable moments to be had. The fact that there are genuine scenes of macabre laughter along the way helps a great deal.

Not scary in the slightest, ‘Midsommar’ prefers to play out in a vibrantly unsettling manner. Utilizing a bright summer colour palette of greens and yellows glossing over the darkness hidden within. Its a clever conceit which does hold your attention. I did however feel that most of the characters where disposable, reacting somewhat unrealistically when some of their fellow travel companions begin to disappear. The explanations given by the elder inhabitants are at best suspicious. But maybe that is the point of their characters: selfishness. Certainly I would agree when it comes to the character of Christian who is somewhat self centred and a little devious. The other disappointing aspect is the plot which follows a very predicable line. It left a little feeling of ‘its very pretty to look at but where are the surprises in the plot?’.

Near the end a scene involving a coerced sexual ritual is played for weirdness and laughter. It is a darkly comical scene that had the audience in my screening in fits of laughter. It could have so easily fallen apart but Jack Reynor plays it perfectly, his facial expressions comic gold. I must admit I wasn’t expecting the movie to have any humour in it but I’m happy to say it did.

In the end ‘Midsommar’ isn’t perfect but it is enjoyable. Not for everyone like his previous movie ‘Hereditory’. There are some unexplained details that might confuse some. Taken as a whole it was a little on the long side. If you find slow burn movies a slog then you wont find this movie any different. However, if you enjoy weird goings on with a touch of ‘The wicker man’ then you might enjoy this. I would, however, say don’t expect it to break the mold and necessarily add anything new to that movie trope.

***1/2 out of *****

William Goldman interview

An interesting old interview with William Goldman the screenwriter of ‘Misery, butch Casidy and the sundance kid etc etc about the state of Hollywood movies in the 90s. Worth a look.

Incidentaly his book that he wrote many years ago is also worth a read called ‘The adventures in screenwriting’. Quite funny and an interest dissertation on the hollywood machine from a screenwriters perspective.

Do you think Hollywood has gotten worse or better since then?

Avengers:endgame review

SPOILER ALERT: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

Where do I begin with Avengers:endgame? In a mind numbing(and ass numbing) whopping three hour run time Avengers fails as a thrilling finale (of sorts) to a 22 movie run. I have to admit I found myself more than a little bored with this instalment having enjoyed the previous outing a lot more than this. With stilted dialogue abound and dramatic scenes that aren't entirely earned it quickly becomes a chore to watch. There is a distinct feeling that ‘we’ve see this already before’ about the movie.

Not to say that it’s entirely bad, it’s not. There are some entertaining scenes and Robert Downey junior puts in a good performance since he is given a script that’s a little more weighty than anything in the franchise before. The effects for the most part are really good, although I’m still not entirely convinced about the backgrounds of some of the planets they have a very distinct ‘Green screen’ feel to them that is a little off putting and for a reported 200 million budget should be flawless. But I digress: the good if you are a Marvel fan then you will most probably like the fact that Thor has become an overweight mess who has taken on a look of ‘The dude’ from the big lebowski. Having failed to kill Thanos in the previous instalment of the franchise.

This will lead us neatly onto what is less good about the movie: The ‘one liners’ that fall like a brick in the ocean. Why was there ships parked around the statue of liberty five years after 50% of the population disappeared? Like there is a shortage of housing suddenly. No one about to moor these boats. Doesn’t really make sense and is there just to create a false atmosphere.

A lot of the plot since it doesn’t seem to make much sense arbitrarily setting up a strict time travel narrative and then simply discarding it when an action scene is called for. The returning of the ‘stones’ in said same time travel narrative. The fact that nothing essentially changes when they ‘bring everyone back’ they have knowledge which they wouldn’t have when five years have passed. When the ‘stones’ magically meld with Tony Stark’s suit so that he can use them. The fact that everyone turns up at the end to have a battle with Thanos on earth: How would they know being essentially dead for the past five years? Surely they would be brought back to the original place they died in?

The obligatory eye rolling ‘all female’ super hero moment that includes Pepper Potts as a hero - not that I don’t believe women should have their moment far from it, it just feels like pandering for political reasons rather than built from story it would have been perfectly fine if the women actually had anything to do in the rest of the movie but they don’t - it is a fleeting moment that is tacked on to the end in a last ditch effort for inclusion. Captain Marvel - what was the point of her character? To turn up and destroy Thano’s ship and then be beaten. While we’re on the subject of Thanos in the final battle without the stones he is nigh on invincible taking on all of the avengers and still coming out on top. Yet he was easily taken out at the start of the movie with only three avengers on hand. Again the contrivance to suit the narrative. There is no rules accept those that suit whatever scene comes next. And last but not least we have returning the lost soul stone which required a sacrifice to get in the first place surely that applies to return it? The list goes on and on..

It is the convenience of ‘fitting the narrative’ to suit the situation that is what hurts the movie and makes it less interesting and simply lazy screenwriting. These are all questionable plot holes that are glossed over in deference to an action scene or when something needs to happen.

I’m increasingly surprised (or maybe I shouldn’t) at the critical reviews of these movies. Last year we had Star Wars: The last Jedi which was an abomination of plot contrivances with more plot holes than the average block of Swiss cheese yet it received glowing reviews from most critics stating that the movie ‘subverted expectations’ like this was a good thing yet they glossed over the fact that these ‘subverted expectations’ we’re simply bad writing. They are seemingly afraid to be critical of the Behemoth that is Disney instead opting to review these movies with ‘rose tinted glasses’ glossing over their flaws. Yet these same critics hammer other movies for less egregious errors. It is this inconsistency that paints certain reviewers in a less than pleasing light. No-one is perfect but even the casual viewer has to admit that these movies are far from perfect.

With a reported box office of over two billion, nearly beating Avatar’s world record have the general movie going public succumbed to the fact that these big tent pole movies no longer need to make sense plot wise instead if they contain enough pretty images and explosions they will let anything slide? This is a worrying trend in movies that are making huge amounts in box office receipts. I see lost opportunities for the reported 200 million budget that could have made four 50 million dollar movies that try to tell a cohesive story. These type of movies are increasingly being squeezed out in favour of big tent pole movies. Which is a shame as there should be room for both.

At the end of it all the plot contains too many questions and no real answers instead opting for glossy explosions and a false sense of drama.

* 1/2 out of *****

'The silence' movie review

the silence poster.jpg
When the world is under attack from terrifying creatures who hunt their human prey by sound, 16-year old Ally Andrews (Kiernan Shipka), who lost her hearing at 13, and her family seek refuge in a remote haven.
— imdb

Recently netflix have been doing more and more original content. With varying degrees of success, some better than others but all, at least, with an emphasis on content that you wouldn’t see a major movie studio investing money, especially not in this climate of comic book movie overkill. Its a least refreshing to see a studio investing in other material that isn’t cartoony comic book superhero extravaganza. An adult orientated adventure where there could be genuine stakes and not a falseness primed on the possibility of a ‘reboot’ if they don’t hit the ‘right demographic’.

In truth, their brave decisions don’t always work out. And this is the case with ‘The Silence’. An intriguing premise that actually pre-dates the far superior ‘A quiet place’. Some have said that netflix have copied a format that worked when in reality they were working from a book by Tim Lebbon called ‘the silence’ Released in 2015. So it begs the question of who was copying who here. The setup almost identical even down to a girl who is deaf and a family in jeopardy from blind creatures that hunt by hearing alone.

Without trying to spoil anything I will say that there are some effective scenes namely one where a car is parked on a side road. But the main problem here seems to be the fact that Director John R. Leonetti hasn’t embraced the material. A potential for scares and tension that ‘ A quiet place’ mastered. It didn’t help that the creatures in ‘The silence’ where a type of hybrid bat that wasn’t set up in a frightening way. They seemed far too simple to kill. Setting aside the obvious plot holes or the fact that we didn’t really get to know the main protagonists aside from their limited family dynamic, the plot just didn’t really engage.

The start had potential and they could have gone in a number of different directions (I haven’t read the book so I can’t say whether this closely mirrors the plot of the source material) instead taking it down a tired path that held very little tension. With, at times, some very shoddy CGI creatures and potential setup that didn’t result in a satisfying conclusion we have a feature film that has potential but falls flat and lifeless.

The ending where they meet a group of religious fanatics, again had potential but how that concludes was just as unsatisfying and worst still irritating because it just.. well ends on a weird abrupt note. Three or so minutes later and we have an epilogue that feels rushed and out of place. Either they ran out of money or the screenwriter had sequel squarely in his mind. Either way potential ruined. There could have been hints of ‘The road’, a harsh climate where having a family is dangerous in itself.

But that isn’t the case we are instead delivered a type of B movie with quite large plot holes. Not that ‘A quiet place’ didn’t have plot holes either, it did. There was just enough ingenuity and tension to suspend your disbelief so you could get on board with the story. It also help immensely that you actually got to know the family in the movie. In this, the criminally under utilised Stanley Tucci is hand cuffed into a nothing role where he is given very little bar a few minor scenes to play with.

In the end ‘The Silence’ is a pale photocopy of ‘A quiet place’ where the original stands head and shoulders above it in execution. Which is a shame really as the story had potential.

** out of *****

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Creed 2 movie review

Under the tutelage of Rocky Balboa, heavyweight contender Adonis Creed faces off against Viktor Drago, son of Ivan Drago.
— imdb
creed 2 poster.jpg

Having grown up watching Rocky movies from a very young age I looked forward to the new incarnation of the series through the brash and often times obstinate Adonis Creed, son to the famous boxer Apollo Creed. Very much the product of his father, a son who wishes to be nothing like him yet echoes every move in a vicious circle, doomed to repeat the same mistakes of his father.

Under the wise tutelage of Rocky, Creed now champion will face off against an old adversary in the form of Victor Drago, a man mountain who is very much the carbon copy of his father Ivan Drago.

We open on a disgraced Ivan Drago, who has no country, respect or honour pushing his son to the limits of endurance in the hopes that he will regain their life back and the finery that this implies. When Victor beats an opponent quickly in an underground boxing match he falls into the watchful gaze of sleazy boxing promotor Buddy Marcelle played by Russell Hornsby. This sets Victor on a collision course with Adonis Creed for the title belt and revenge.

‘Creed 2’ follows a very similar path to ‘Creed’ once again it is about growing up in the shadow of a famous father and wanting to avenge his father’s death. Creed has seen really very little growth since the first movie, retreading old ground and his story arc suffers for it. Rocky as a character is pushed further into the background - he is now the wisened old boxer giving life lessons to his protege even though he refuses to listen.

To me the most interesting story line was Ivan Drago’s who has fallen on hard times as result of his loss to Rocky Balboa many years before. Once his name was synonymous with power and prestige but now he is outcast, dishevelled and bitter forcing his son to walk in his fathers footsteps to regain what was lost and in the process rebuild both their lives. It is a far more interesting dynamic and a story I was more interesting in seeing.

That’s not to say that Adonis’ story isn’t engaging, it is, I just felt it replayed the same hits again as the first movie. As a result the movie wasn’t quite strong enough in that area. The secondary players were given very little to work with this time, Bianca played by Tessa Thompson is somewhat relegated to a bit part player who only appears when a musical interlude is required.

Usually one of the best parts of a Rocky movie is the training montage set to a blistering soundtrack they make you root for the main character and engage in an emotional sense as he overcomes adversity to rise to the top. With Creed 2 the training montage felt a little flat and subdued. It wasn’t quite as engaging as previous montages before it.

When the boxing match plays out between Drago and Creed it is suitably bombastic, filmed nicely and echoes the previous Rocky movies for intensity. The ending is a passing of the torch, where Rocky will slink into the shadows allowing Creed to tell his own story anew. Detailing clearly where the franchise is heading. Sylvester Stallone announced he is no longer playing the Rocky Character going forward. Creed will be left to his own devices but the question is whether Adonis Creed is an interesting enough character to hold an entire movie together on his own.

Overall the movie is enjoyable despite repeating itself then again I guess you don’t go into a Rocky or Creed movie expecting any different do you?

***1/2 out of 5

'WIDOWS' MOVIE REVIEW

Widows poster - imdb

Widows poster - imdb

Set in contemporary Chicago, amidst a time of turmoil, four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities, take fate into their own hands, and conspire to forge a future on their own terms.
— imdb synopsis

I’ve been a fan of Steve Mc Queen’s movies since his debut feature film ‘Hunger’, a haunting vision of Irish republican hunger striker Bobby Sands. His movies are quietly powerful with assured, confident direction and emotional performances from his central leads.

With his latest movie ‘Widows’ we are drawn into the seedy world of Robbers and a political landscape that embraces this lifestyle secretly while openly admonishing it. We open onto a botched robbery where Harry Rawlings (Liam Neeson) a career criminal with over thirty successful years of armed robbery under his belt seemingly makes a mistake in the planning and all of the robbers are executed at the hands of a zealous swat team who decimate the group in a hail of bullets.

With a debt owed to a nefarious criminal Jamal Mannings (Brian Tyree Henry) - who also happens to be running against Jack Mulligan (Colin Farrell) for alderman of the 19th ward, four ‘Widows’ must conspire to forge a future on their own terms and take on a heist that will free themselves from debt and perhaps a new life free from crime.

Taken as a remake of sorts to the 1983 series by Lynda La Plant, there is a lot of story strands that have to be hit in a two hour movie. You would think that this would keep the story interesting and fresh but in reality I felt it dragged at times and we lost the central premise of four women attempting to carry off a robbery with no experience. The other scenes involving political machinations felt forced even though there are some great turns by Colin Farrell and his brow beating, overbearing father played by Robert Duval. Daniel Kaluuya’s performance felt a little off neither over the top evil or clever… just well a little generic. The same could be said for Liam Neeson’s character Harry Rawlings - we never really get to know any of them. They are stock one dimensional characters. In truth there is just too many characters to juggle and have any of them feel grounded.

The subplot of Viola Davis losing her son through a police shooting lost some of its power as it wasn’t really at the centre of the movie. It is the motivator for the plot of the movie which for obvious spoiler reasons I wont say anything more suffice to say that I felt it needed to be given more weight and not have it be a precursor to a ‘twist’ that didn’t necessarily work effectively enough.

In truth the plot by screenwriter Gillian Flynn felt muddled with too many characters vying for screen time that they lost their impact. The central premise for the movie involving the four women was less impactful and relegated to snippets where you lost their character. Truly the only real character was Veronica played by Viola Davis. Trying to touch on so many themes all at once made for a disjointed viewing. We have sleazy politics, sex work, Racism, loss, remorse, revenge, regret and hope all intertwined so that very little hits home and you lose a lot of the power in those themes even though they are very relevant in today’s society.

This is not to say the movie is bad its not. It has very assured direction and the performances are all very good. I felt perhaps that one less subplot would have made for a better viewing experience and given the central premise more weight.

Overall worth watching ***1/2 out of *****

Hereditery movie review

Hereditary movie poster - imdb

Hereditary movie poster - imdb

After the family matriarch passes away, a grieving family is haunted by tragic and disturbing occurrences, and begin to unravel dark secrets.
— imdb

**Warning there will be spoilers**

From the very first opening minute there is a creepy atmosphere to the psychological horror 'Hereditary'. We are introduced to Annie played with great conviction by Toni Collette who is just about to bury her mother. We get the distinct feeling that Annie didn't particularly see eye to eye with her and is struggling to grieve for her loss.

Through the course of this we get introduced to her slightly strained family. With her put upon husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and her estranged son Peter (Alex Wolff) and Strange daughter Charlie (The underutilised Milly Shapiro). The creepy conotations build slowly - this movie is definitely a slow burn so if you like your horror fast paced it might not be for you - where we witness Annie creating life like miniature dioramas replete with tiny people and furniture. A production design that is used again and again in both setting and cinematography. At times it appears the characters are living in a real life doll house and we are viewing them first hand. Its a clever and weird device.

The movie is quite atmospheric and tension slowly builds. At first you aren't sure where the movie is going, building up the supernatural elements slowly. Only when Charlie is horrifically decapitated by her brother Peter by accident - a scene that's brilliantly handled - does the movie show any real momentum. From here there is some terrific scenes with Annie as her downward spiral where it is heavily implied that she had a breakdown of some sort and has never quite recovered all of her mental capacity. In one shocking revelation she admits to her son Peter that she never wanted him as a child in fact she tried to abort him on numerous occasions but failed primarily because her overbearing mother wanted him and not her herself.

As tensions rise and the family unit deteriorates old secrets rise to the surface and home truths that are pushed from the surface come back to haunt you and that trust that was once there suddenly evaporates and you can never really get it back. To say any more would spoil the movie.

I would say that Hereditory is two thirds of a great movie with the final third the least satisfying. When you learn the 'truth' of why the supernatural occurrences are happening it deteriorates ever so slightly into parody. Not to say that its bad, its not it just didn't have the same level of tension and the final reveal is a little bit on the silly side which might raise a few titters more than shock.

But still there is much to be enjoyed about Hereditary if, of course, you enjoy slow burning psychological horror. From a purely performance stand point Toni Collette is terrific and gives a powerful performance. All in all I quite enjoyed 'Hereditary' while not perfect it is worth watching.

**** out of *****  

The Meg movie review

After escaping an attack by what he claims was a 70-foot shark, Jonas Taylor must confront his fears to save those trapped in a sunken submersible.
— imdb
the meg poster.jpg

Where do I being with the review for 'The Meg'? I think it might be appropriate to start with a quote from Jason Statham himself when he was interviewed about the project:

"The film changed a lot. The script was totally different. There was so many different ... sometimes you just go: How did it happen? How did it go from this to this to this to that? I guess if you have the control to keep it a certain way you would, but you don't. They have so many people deciding on what action stays and what scenes stay. How the characters ... In the end they want to put something at the beginning. The whole thing at the beginning where I *spoiler* do a rescue on a sub? That was not in the script that I read. That was all brand new stuff. Good or bad, I'm just letting you know"

I think in a way that quote sort of encapsulates what is wrong with the movie. I remember reading the book 'MEG' in the early 90s, it was a far fetched 'Jaws' knock off but also strangely captivating and filled with tension. Tension is the keyword here or the lack thereof in the movie. It seems that a committee has decided to make the movie a 12s friendly affair when it should have been R-rated and filled with gorey deaths. When nearly every death happens off screen it becomes very disappointing. After all we're coming to see a monster movie, a predator that is stalking innocent people to their deaths. Also if you like your movies to follow basic real world truths this isn't really for you. At one point they make a dive beyond 10,000 feet and not one person suffers from the bends or decompresses when they come to the surface - so in other words not realistic whatsoever.

Not that I'm saying its all bad, its not. There are some interesting scenes there its just a shame that the whole movie couldn't have been that way. Its fairly obvious that the movie went through a number of changes in edit. Scenes seem to be cobbled together at times and it makes for an unruly watch.

The conversation pieces between characters are quite badly handled highlighting the fact that there was no chemistry between the leads and/or poor acting on display or sometimes a combination of both.  Statham comes off quite badly at times especially in the opening scenes - Which is a shame as I think he could offer so much more than he is currently showing.

Then again that could be down to the script which falters, chugging out cliched conversations and jokes that don't really hit. Harrison Ford once said about Star Wars 'George, you can write this shit but I can't say it'. I'm paraphrasing here but you get the idea. It makes for some cringe worthy scenes. The movie is at its best when they are fleeing the prehistoric monster or trying to destroy it. Tension is what was called for and we didn't really get it.

There was plenty of scope for tension in the movie but it never really quite works which is a shame as I think it had potential. Given the fact that 'The Meg' has had a troubled production history - multiple directors and screenwriters for over 25 years have tried to bring it to screen - its little surprise that the final product isn't everything that it could have been. But that shouldn't excuse delivering something below par. With that much time to prepare and polish a script should we not have expected more?

** out of *****

Mission Impossible: Fallout review

mission impossible poster.jpg
Ethan Hunt and his IMF team, along with some familiar allies, race against time after a mission gone wrong.
— imdb

***SPOILERS AHEAD ***

Opening with a familiar setup that is now a firm part of the mission impossible structure, Ethan Hunt must try to rescue stolen plutonium from an arms dealer hell bent on selling it on to a militant splinter group which has parted ways with 'the syndicate'. The mission goes wrong and Ethan Hunt must try to recover the stolen plutonium, risking the lives of his IMF crew and his ex wife.

Filled with spectacular action from the word go it is a roller coaster ride of thrills and action. Darker in tone and cinematography than the previous instalments it relies on the central premise that Ethan Hunt would happily sacrifice the world to save a person close to him. With this firmly in place Filmmaker Christopher McQuarrie sets up obstacle after obstacle with this very purpose in mind.

Its a clever premise but ironically I found the writing to be the weakest part of the storytelling. At times the plot is sacrificed in pursuit of an action sequence. Then again why are we watching these movies if not for the action and the spectacle? When the action beats rise and are handled with such fervour the plot becomes secondary anyway so maybe its best not to complain too much. But I personally felt that there was something missing. With all the explosive bravura on display do we really care about any of the characters and is that even necessary anymore?

But I digress, having the longest run time of all of the mission movies I did feel it went on a little to long. No to say that it was boring. No it was never boring. It just lacked a little pizzazz when they slow down enough to have a conversation with each other. But this is a very minor complaint. All in all the setup is interesting enough to pull you along for the ride.

At first I found Henry Cavill's character August Walker a nice introduction, he is introduced as the 'tip of the spear' someone who will get the job done no matter the cost - but as the movie went on he became a less interesting character and ultimately villain. The finale where two helicopters hang precariously over a cliff edge does echo a movie like 'Cliffhanger' where the hero and villain battle inside as the helicopter slips further and further down to the rocky depths below. Then again you are always going to have comparisons to other movies and it is still an enjoyable action sequence nevertheless.

I will, however, urge you not to look at the trailer. I felt that it gives away the twist in the movie. But having said that the twist is pretty obvious from the get go so maybe that doesn't matter too much. The marketing is selling the movie based upon the action quota and very little about the plot as they clearly paint Henry Cavill as the villain in them. 

All in all Mission impossible: Fallout is an enjoyable movie best viewed in a cinema with the largest screen to fully appreciate the scale of the action.

**** out of **** 

Solo: A Star wars story movie review

Solo-A-Star-Wars-small.jpg
During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion.
— imdb

With a short turnaround now a mere 6 months between the last Star Wars movie we get Solo: A star wars story. Having mostly enjoyed Rogue one I thought at least the spin off stories would perhaps be an entertaining diversion albeit not particularly necessary. It was true for 'Rogue one' and the same sentiment applies to a certain degree with 'Solo' as well. It's an entertaining diversion which answers certain questions that fans may or may not have had.

The movie follows the young plucky 'Han Solo' from a young age right up to just before he makes contact with the rebellion. The movie flies at a cracking pace never leaving you time to think about anything. For the first 45 minutes I would say that the movie is actually quite good, bar a few scenes that came across a little flat and lifeless. To be fair considering the alleged mess that the movie was in before Ron Howard assumed Director duties, he has managed to create a cohesive story that holds together quite well. With a reported 70% reshoot we do, at least, seem to get what Ron Howard intended. And to be fair you couldn't really see where the issues might have been. 

This is not to say that Solo: A Star Wars story is perfect. It's not. There are a number of areas that I thought were a little flat. At times the dialogue exchanges lacked polish and crackle. It also lacked a little in action and jeopardy. The finale is a prime example of this: at no point did I feel any jeopardy for Solo. Which is a big problem with these stand alone 'Star Wars' stories we already essentially know the outcome. So the only interest that remains is how the character gets there. Which, depending upon your viewpoint, could either be interesting or two hours and fifteen minutes of boredom.

The early reports from set seemed to paint a very bad picture of Alden Ehrenreich who plays Han Solo. But for the most part I think he actually plays the part quite well and I buy him in the role. Despite positive reviews of Donald Glover who plays Lando Calrissian I felt at times he veered into a slight parody rather than authenticity. That's not to say his acting is bad, it's not. I feel its down to the change in tone of the character giving him a more campy edge that wasn't present before. I believe this is also what has certain Star Wars fans up in arms. After a bombardment of questions to writer Johnathan Kasdan over twitter he intimated that Lando is now pan sexual. There is clearly a hint that Lando holds more than friendship in mind with L3-37 (Played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge) indeed at one point L3-37 infers that they would be more if only she wasn't a robot.

It seems a strange turn for Star Wars. Indeed with The last Jedi movie there was sexual politics involving men and women with a slightly sexist viewpoint - to the detriment of story and quality - just to fulfil some type of agenda. Which is a strange stance that Kathleen Kennedy has taken considering she is in charge of a franchise which champions the theme of 'Hope'. Under her stewardship the star Wars story lines seemed to have deteriorated with a noticeable decline in quality of writing usually sacrificing story for a political viewpoint rather than creating quality entertainment. 

But I digress, back to Solo I think it's an entertaining diversion that has some interesting aspects. Setting aside some weaker parts it at least tells a cohesive story unlike the predessor The last Jedi. But when push comes to shove the ending is a little underwhelming with the movie coming to a close with a whimper rather than a roar. Paul Bettany's Drydon Vos falling foul of the cliched evil villain mantle by simply being underwhelming and under written.

*** out of *****

Avengers: Infinity war movie review

 

Avengers infinity war poster

The Avengers and their allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.
— imdb synopsis

**SPOILER ALERT - THERE WILL BE SPOILERS AHEAD**

Lets get this out of the way first. I wouldn't really be a fan of the marvel universe as a whole. I know I said it but lets get past that. Even though the movies are well produced they all fall neatly into line with the tagline 'seen it all before'. As a company line I often wondered how many movies Marvel could produce with minimal jeopardy for any heroes before they felt the need to reset the franchise.

With their tenth year of producing movies - sometimes two in a year - there is definitely a case of 'can we get this over with please' syndrome. It seems every time you look at a trailer its for a new superhero movie. In fact most of the tent pole movies every year seem to be either 'Marvel' or 'Star wars'. Don't get me wrong I love a good fantasy and SCI-FI movie. I would just prefer a little variety every now and then. At this juncture I feel they have reached their saturation point. Eighteen movies in and jet-lag has definitely hit.

But I digress - is Avengers: Infinity war any good? well, yes and no. Let me explain. I'll start with the no part first. Characters. There's far too many at this point all clamouring to get their little piece of the pie that there is literally no room for anyone. Most are relegated to throwaway lines that are essentially a regurgitation of the plot or stating the obvious jeopardy that lays ahead. Its especially noticeable in Mark Ruffalo's performance whose acting is the worst I've ever seen from him. I often thought it would be a better movie if we actually got to know any of them beyond their superficial personas. But who has time when there is a special effect explosion to get to.

And that's one of the biggest problems I had: I didn't really care about any of them. With the stakes so high in this movie it should be at a point where you feel something. But perhaps Marvel has pressed that reset button too often now that cynicism has begun to set in. In truth when the finale rolls around and most hero's are fizzled to the ether it was met with a stunted 'Oh'. There's always a catch and a way out. I don't think its going to be any different with this one. But for a momentary instant it does work and at least, even temporarily, there could be an interesting ending. But therein lies the ever present potential reset

For the most part the special effects where good with the notable exception of the exposition scenes on 'Titan' which had some really quite badly handled green screen removal. The action scenes on wikanda where quite generic, however. A mishmash of chaotic CGI and quick cuts with very little in the way ingenuity or for that matter tension. You only have to look at the recent movie ' A quiet place' which oozed tension to realise how how far apart they both are in terms of this. Its chalk and cheese. But really are we going to a Marvel movie for that or just the spectacle of things being blown up? I think we should expect both. Tension and spectacle. Sadly we don't get both.

TITAN.jpg

Now to the good. Josh Brolin as Thanos is quite compelling. I felt he was a quietly threatening presence, obviously mad and intent on carrying out an Armageddon plan to wipe out half of the universe to solve the galaxies ills. While not perfect its still a good turn. The guardians of the galaxy give a much needed burst of laughter. Their scenes are easily some of the best in the movie. The movie spins at a great pace never staying still for very long, sliding across the cosmos fulfilling various sub-plots.

And finally we come to the ending. For the first time in a Marvel movie someone dies. And it appears that some may not come back again (Except perhaps in a reboot/reset) which is somewhat refreshing and at least a decade coming. While it is an interesting ending there is an inbuilt get out clause that undermines this heavily. If Marvel uses it, which they may well do, it will erode what has come before it.

With all of the hype surrounding the movie is it justified? Well yes and no. The movie is at the very least a distracting 2 hours+ but also at the same time too long. Some characters have very little to do and are only there to see a familiar face. It suffers from Harry potteritis where the ending is split into two for convenience and the money making potential that that implies.

So should you watch it? Well if you are a die hard Marvel fan then you have probably already seen it if not then don't go in expecting anything different. Some flaws have been lessened and others created. Not perfect but not bad either. You'll already know what to expect: Big explosions and lots of colourful effects with a smattering of funny lines thrown in. It definitely doesn't break the mold in fact it only very slightly modifies it. And that modification is probably only temporary.

*** out of *****

 

 

 

Star Wars: the last Jedi review

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SYNOPSIS

Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.
— Imdb

Warning spoilers ahead:

As we open on Domhnall Gleason's General Hux sneary scowl dolling out lines like an evil villain from a Christmas panto play I couldn't help but think there was somehow a mistake - someone in the projectionist booth had keyed up a funny behind the scenes outtake instead of the actual feature film by accident Surely this couldn't be the actually movie, could it? I sank deeper into my seat and tried my best to focus on the positives but it continued to shock with its failed attempt at 'dropped telephone connection' humour between Rebelion hotshot pilot Poe Dameron and general Hux . To say that this exchange was more akin to a part of Space Balls: the movie than Star wars would be an understatement. Having glossed over some reviews they lead you to believe that this installment was closer in tone to the Empire strikes back while in reality it was more akin to an unintentional comedy than a space opera. I sat there and wondered where they watching the same movie as me.

This weird structure was to continue with humour that failed seemingly every time it was attempted. Gone was the laconic smart ass-ness of Han Solo being replaced by a slap stick humour that just wasn't funny. We have a scene involving Princess Leia that was quite simply silly - it would have been better served for her to simply die at that point at least it would have created some gravitas as it stands she comes across as some sort of super hero who cannot be killed.

Minor plot holes I can forgive but a blatantly poorly written plot I cannot. What ensues for most of the movie is a slow motion chase across space that makes literally no sense. The rag tag rebellion fleet is quickly running out of fuel and has only enough to make one more light jump but the only snag is that the 'First Order' can track them through the 'light jump' and remain on their tails. This begs the question: why didn't the first order simply surround them and obliterate their ships into tiny particles? In the original movies the star destroyers where incredibly fast moving. In this they are hulking beasts travelling at a snails pace while the rebellion ships have shields that can continuously repel bombardment for hours on end. The logic here is simply bad and just an excuse to create a subplot for Finn to go to attempt to rescue the ship. Which, by the way, is another major misstep. An OTT CGI mess where Horse creatures are seemingly more important than human children. Why would you free race horses and not the slave children? Yeah, exactly that doesn't make any sense either... anywhoo...  

The muddled plot continues when we visit Luke Skywalker and Rey. She wishes to try to bring Luke Skywalker back with her to balance the force and rebuild hope in the rebellion which is fine. I can even get on board with the fact that Luke is now a loner and doesn't want anything to do with the rebellion, having made drastic mistakes training the future Jedi knights. But the motivations of Rey and her temptation at the hands of the dark side of the force seem laboured and without character. It is just a matter of convenience to try to bring Rey and Kylo Ren back together again. Luke Skywalker as a character is now wasted and what was considered by many to be an iconic screen hero is reduced to a bumbling old man who has divorced himself from the force in favour of living a life as a hermit.

He was one of the most optimistic characters in Star Wars universe and in this movie his character is treated abysmally by a writer who seems to think more about fashionable concepts and ‘winging it’ than actually writing a good story-line. When we eventually clunk into the finale ragged and beaten by the poor choices we are treated to a scene that is supposed to illicit compassion and sadness where Luke has sacrificed himself to save the rebellion. But this sacrifice hasn’t been earned nor has the ‘sadness’. It plays as one more contrivance in a movie riddle by them. There was a lot of experienced reviewers saying that these type of scenes and the movie itself is a vehicle to ‘subvert expectations’ like this concept in its current incarnation is something the average cinema-goer should be wowed by but in reality this just reeks of incoherent storytelling. Add to the fact that very few of them seemed to pay attention to the obvious plot holes on display and you have very inconsistent reviewing especially when other movies of similar ilk get a hammering for the same flaws.

It just makes me wonder how a script like this could be read and not notice all of the plot holes in it. With so much money gambling on a movie as big as this do Disney simply just believe they will make a ton of money no matter what sort of Star Wars movie they cobble together? Ensemble movies are notoriously difficult to get right. The ability to hit the highs while maintaining the tone of the original is incredibly difficult. With the advent of more impressive special effects and the ability to blow up everything into a million impressive pieces we've forgotten the golden rule of cinema: Character. Impressive special effects will never gloss over the fact that a screenplay is poorly written. Motivation is key. Conflict is paramount and character is king.

In Star Wars we have forgotten that sense of wonder where the continuous battle of good versus evil hangs in the balance and love and faith are what holds the universe together, binds us in an ever increasing circle. In this movie we are treated to a collection of contrivances where spectacle has replaced poignancy and motivation and it is a lesser movie because of it.

When all is said and done the worst travesty of the movie is the simple fact that you don't actually care about anything or anyone in it. It's all flash and no substance. Poorly executing a screenplay with more plot holes than the average block of swiss cheese 'if we throw in enough lightsabre's perhaps they wont even notice'. A sleight of hand designed to rob you of your wares like a street magician who silently picks your pocket while earnestly looking into your eyes. 

The force is definitely not strong with this one. 

Rating *1/2 out of ***** 

 

Alien: Covenant review

Synopsis

The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
— imdb

As one of those people who grew up watching - and enjoying - the first two of the Alien movies (The third I really enjoyed visually with its grimy, grungy atmosphere but it lacked some aspects in story which where somewhat fixed by the release of the 'assembly cut' which made it a better iteration but still not perfect. The fourth movie lets just say it was very 'meh'.) I could appreciate the opening title sequence for what it was. A resetting of tone back to the traditional roots of the 'Alien' movies with its riff on Jerry Goldsmiths opening title score for 'Alien'.

However, after this brief interlude we appear back into 'Prometheus' territory with its sterile white backgrounds and talk of 'god' and 'creation' with a very appealing turn by Michael Fassbender as the android with aspirations of being a type of 'creationist' himself as he talks with his 'Father' played with intensity by Guy Pearce. It is the 'setting up' of David as a villain if we didn't already gleam that from the first movie 'Prometheus'.

I seem to be in a minority of those that quite enjoyed 'Prometheus' upon its release. While far from a perfect film it did, however, offer a visual feast for the eyes that carries on into 'Alien: Covenent'. Even though the story was lacking it did at least offer a somewhat different approach to the material.

We are firmly back in 'Alien' territory with bulkheads and long corridors, moody lighting and an ensemble cast of characters. It is these characters - mostly one dimensional - that join us on our journey to Origae-6 a habitable planet that has been ear marked for a settlement of colonists aboard the ship. A tragedy strikes aboard the ship and 'mother' is forced to wake the weary crew seven years before arriving to Origae-6. In a blink and you miss it cameo James Franco's character dies horribly in stasis setting forth the angst that Karen Waterston's character portrays for most of the running time.

The crew intercepts a transmission from another habitable planet which is closer to them so the newly appointed captain - played by Billy crudup, not relishing seven more years in stasis - sends a landing party to take surface samples and to survey it as an alternative colonising site for their mission.

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From here the atmosphere builds with a terrific looking setting as a back drop. The inevitable infection happens which sets in motion a tense sequence involving small alien hybrids that are menacing in their intensity and blood letting. The culmination of which sees the crew stranded from the mother ship with only the android 'David' for company who may have sinister intentions for them.

It is here that the movie will either lose momentum for you or have you intrigued. We spend a long time in cinematic terms visiting with 'David' as he proceeds to teach 'Walter' the new upgraded version of himself to play the flute - played admiringly with menace by Fassbender - who makes playing both roles seem effortless.

When the inevevitable set up happens and David's plan is revealed (Spoiled bizarrely by the teaser prologue released a week before the film opened) there is a race against time to abandon the planet and regroup with the mother ship.

The tension rises again when the full 'Alien' finally reveals itself and tries with all of its prowess and skill to thwart the escape. It is a skilled sequence that was somewhat sullied by showing a portion of it in the official trailer. I don't quite understand the necessity to do that. It seems to be a current trend in the marketing departments for big tent pole movies.

In essence Alien: Covenant is a hybrid movie not quite a full 'Alien' movie nor 'Prometheus'. It is a bastard child that tries to mesh the best of both movies and doesn't quite succeed. However, where it does succeed it does so quite well. In other areas you may feel slightly aggrieved as it plays as a 'best of' compilation from other 'Alien' movies without adding enough new things to the mix to make it truly great. For instants, I would say that the movie isn't scary. Gone are the long lingering build up of tension scenes. Instead there is fast cuts and quick kills purely for shock value. Ultimately, you need to build tension in order for these shock kills to really hit home. Without that its just some quick blood letting without context.

There seemed to be a few odd editing choices, ending scenes abruptly either for rating or time - the shower scene immediately springs to mind as one scene which does this - to the detriment of the movie for me. I will be interested to see if a directors cut of the movie improves on some of these scenes. 

There is hope for the franchise as the end coda does potentially set in motion an interesting story for the next installment. I am hopeful that Ridley Scott may build on this and hopefully try to create tension aswell as spectacle as I don't believe they are mutually exclusive.  

Ultimately like Prometheus before it Alien: Covenant is not perfect but it is very worthy of viewing on the big screen and does offer some interesting sequences. Good but had potential to be great.

Trailer below:

 

 

Suicide Squad movie review

 
 
A secret government agency recruits a group of imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency, which inevitably leads to chaos.
— Imdb synopsis

REVIEW

Initially, as I watched the trailer for Suicide Squad with it's vibrant graphics and edgy, dark tone, I thought that DC had finally taken a chance and decided to deliver a comic book movie that was, at least, a little different. If the marketing was to be believed you were being treated to a humorous dirty dozen movie where the bad guys take on even badder guys in a battle to save mankind.

In reality that's only partially correct. When the movie is set up we think its going to be like the dirty dozen as it follows a similar setup but with one vital difference. And this is crucial: the setup is very disjointed, showing a series of flashbacks which introduce characters, some interesting, others not so. While trying to set up the plot, such as it is, featuring a round table of big wigs discussing the 'Suicide Squad' and the 'plot'.

Admitedly, the first forty minutes had me interested and hoping when we finally get to the main thrust of the plot that it builds on the beginning. Sadly, that was not the case. The rest of the movie is incoherent, with disjointed poorly edited scenes that look like they have been twisted and turned inside out hoping to find a movie in the process.

I did read that the director was 'Locked out' of the edit by Warner Brothers which may or may not have contributed to the scenes being delivered so poorly. This movie is a pale shadow to the enjoyable 'Fury' movie the director did last. Roumers where floating around the internet that there was 30 million dollars worth of reshoots. Now wheter or not this was forced reshoots by the studio trying to salvage a very expensive summer blockbuster or a director trying desparately to fix holes remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it still remains somewhat of a mess. But was it an enjoyable mess at least?

 
 

Well yes and no. I quite enjoyed whenever the Joker appeared on screen. He added a much needed lift to proceedings and Jared Leto's performances was suitably menacing and intense. But the biggest problem was that he was hardly in the movie at all. He merely drifts in and out of the picture and when he isn't in it, the movie begins to travel in a downward spiral. Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn adds a quirky, comic touch to proceedings and outshines everyone else around her.

 
 

The segmented editing style meant that the characters ended up being uninteresting, trading one liners over character. The biggest loser of this was Jai Courtney as boomerang, given nothing to do except try to be an Australian who says stupid things and robs banks. Its a nothing role for him and you wouldn't have lost anything plot wise if he wasn't in the movie at all. They didn't even bother giving Slingshot a proper introduction scene as one of the squad because less than ten minutes later he gets his head blown off in a scene that plays comically rather than serious.

As an ensamble piece it doesn't quite work. Some of the Suicide squad characters are interesting, others are just there for filler and serve no purpose at all. Arguably, it would have been a better movie without so many characters there to fill screen time and to have their 'bit'. If they are not contributing to the plot or building tension or obstacles then they shouldn't really be there in the first place. But therein lies the problem with ensemble pieces. Trying to give the requisite amount of time to each character. This is where suicide squad fails biggest, becoming a choppily edited piece trying to fit every scene together, rushing to the next to the detriment of story and continuity.

 
 

Finally, we have the main villain of the piece Enchantress. It would be fair to say that her scenes where misjudged, playing silly, at times, and others unintentionally comical. As a driving force for getting the suicide squad together she fails to elicit real interest and is quite incoherent. We get snippets of her ranting about building a 'machine' but we really get to know nothing else. And as a result the ending fails. Whether this is down to editing choices or a poorly written script is anyone's guess. This just adds to a series of choices that unfortunately didn't work out.

The movie did have potential which is the biggest loss. I can see where they were headed with it but through whatever reason it just didn't come together and no amount of pretty graphics or special effects or clever marketing will gloss over that fact. (Having said that I can easily see a special edition of the movie being released that is much longer in run time which may or may not help filling in plot points.)

In the end we were left with a movie that wasn't finished and didn't quite work. 

** out of 5

GhostBusters 2016 review

GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 REVIEW

 
Ghostbusters 2016 teaser logo

Ghostbusters 2016 teaser logo

I ain’t afraid of no ghost
— Ray Parker Jr
‘Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.’  
— imdb
 

 

                                   

When I first read about the 'Reboot' to the 1980s movie 'Ghostbusters' I was more than a little apprehensive. To say that I'd had my fill of uninspired reboots would be an understatement.

When they released the first pictures for the main cast of the all female lead ghost busters, I at least thought maybe it might be funny. With the talent assembled here there was at least potential for comedy.

 
 

Then I watched the movie. Very few laughs were to be had. It felt more like 'throw as many jokes at the screen as possible and see what sticks' formula. And unfortunately not many did.

The movie follows a very similar set up of the original 'Ghostbusters', only deviating very slightly in story and set up. It should work. There should be moments of laugh out loud comedy but there isn't. There's a strain of comedy on display that, to me at least, isn't very funny. It seems the magic improvising potion got lost in translation resulting in a flat rendition of one liners that just don't really hit.

The actors themselves didn't seem to really know how to play with the characters and instead clutch at comedy straws that aren't really based upon character, instead wholly on props. A recurring 'joke' about wantons falls flat every time its used and its used a lot.

I'm not saying the original Ghostbusters movie was perfect, its not. But what it did get right was character. I engaged with them. I found them annoyingly like-able. And for the most part the comedy worked. 

So apart from the comedy was it an interesting movie to watch? Well, yes and no. I thought visually the hyper colourful images were very nice and the renders of the ghosts were nicely captured. At times, though, the actors seemed to be slightly confused in the CGI environment especially in the beginning of the movie at the haunted house.

Chris Hemsworth was probably the funniest actor in the movie, he plays an engagingly stupid receptionist called Kevin. You could tell he had fun with the role and the other actors bounced off him including Wiig who unashamedly undresses him with her eyes at every opportunity.

 
 

Kate Mc kinnon plays scientist Jillian Holtzman as an Egon lite character with a crazy edge. Her brand of humour didn't hit for me. Her one-liners falling flat and missing nearly every time. The expectation was clearly high as they cut to her character repeatedly for a one line zinger that doesn't quite work for the scene.

Which brings us nicely onto the movies Cameos featuring some of the original cast members. This and the constant call backs to the original movie were one of the movies biggest weaknesses. For me, they felt lazy, shoe horned into the movie without thought or conviction. Bill Murray sleep walks through his cameo seemingly uninterested in what's happening. And how he ends.. ahem spoiler alert is quite badly put together almost like the editor ran out of usable footage to complete the scene properly. One of a number of strange edit decisions in the movie. This admittedly, could be the result of scenes which were ad-libbed for comedy. 

When the finale rolls around, it becomes a CGI rampage with Ghouls and ghosts circulating downtown Manhattan. There is a big call back of sorts to the stay puff marsh mellow man from the original which did get a chuckle but ultimately the ending just came and went. It was a forgettable piece that wasn't really satisfying and deserved better. You could say that for most of the action scenes in the movie. They were nothing memorable and just ok. This seems to be the calling card of this movie and its lasting impression: nothing memorable.

1 and 1/2 * out of 5*

 

'Phage' book review

Disclaimer:The auther sent me his book to read in exchange for a review* I have tried to review the book without giving away plot spoilers as best I could. However if you like to know very little of the plot of books then stop reading*

Phage is a techno-thriller by author and microbiologist Dr Mark Tamplin. Phage tells the story of Doctor Sam Townsend a microbiologist who is caught in the midst of a conspiracy to frame him for criminal acts against the state and the impending release of a biological weapon engineered by a sociopathic USDA microbiologist called Owen designed to strike at the heart of the food chain releasing a deadly mutant bacterium engineered to kill the unsuspecting American public. Set in modern day, it poses an intriguing question: what if someone where to target our food source for a weaponised biological attack?

Indeed this question is what I found the most intriguing in Tamplin's book. It is the heart of the story and what drives the narrative. In a world ravaged by war and uncertainty the one constant, to a certain degree, is the fact that we can put uncontaminated food on our plates. However, if this did happen what would we do to protect ourselves? Or could we even stop it if this actually happened?

In the setup we are given a brief introduction to the protagonist of the story Dr Sam Townsend, a man living with a past who is focused on a world of microbes when the outer world - the world of his own existence - is microscopic like the microbes he spends so much time investigating. One of the problems I have with the story is the fact that we never really get to know Sam and at times I felt his dialogue exchanges with certain Characters were a little contrived and unrealistic. As the hero of the piece I felt we really needed to know him in order to root for him, otherwise we are following a somewhat slender character that we cannot totally engage with. Perhaps that was the authors intention that he be as cold as the microbes he investigates and is holding back some more detail for what, I understand, is a planned trilogy of books involving the same character. To me its important that im along with the character for the ride and not a passive viewer. I want to know something of him and 'intuit' the rest as we go along. Character is king and informs the plot in my view.

Some Other small niggles were some subplot turns that took me out of the main storyline mostly involving the FBI and the search for Sam and his students that didn't play out realistically for me and took away from the main drive of the plot. The students dialogue exchanges, at times, felt unrealistic and didn't quite serve the plot for me. It seemed like one less character in these situations would make for a tighter, more streamlined plot and reading experience overall.

The Antagonist, professor Owen Potter was much more complex character, more deeply drawn and I could tell that Tamplin enjoyed writing his pieces. For me he was the most interesting character in the book. He was somewhat unpredictable with sociopathic tendencies and a bitter self aggrandizing attitude which combined spells disaster for anyone who crosses his path. His delusions about his mother where very reminiscent of Norman Bates, their relationship seemingly on a similar plane. His plot to contaminate food was frightening with potentially catastrophic effects on a world scale.

I Really enjoyed the opening of the book and found the build up, contamination and subsequent clean up explaining the technical scientific aspects of a 'phage' intriguing. It is very crichtonesque. I felt it got the balance right without overwhelming the reader. *On a personal note, I would probably have wanted more technical information as the subject matter itself fascinates me.

Overall, it is a fast paced thriller with a very interesting plot. If you enjoy science-based technical thrillers then I think you might enjoy reading 'Phage'. Putting aside certain plot and dialogue niggles overall it was an enjoyable read and I thank Mark Tamplin for reaching out and asking me to read his book.

Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

Below are a link to buy his book on Amazon.  

https://www.amazon.com/Phage-Mark-Tamplin-ebook/dp/B015AUR1YM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1468344720&sr=1-1&keywords=phage

 

 

Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice Review

BvS logo

BvS logo

'Fearing that the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs.'

Synopsis: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) taken from Imdb.
— http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2975590/

A direct sequel of sorts to 'Man of steel', Zack Snyder is once again in the directors chair of this dark sober tale of fear, demi gods and angst.

In the current run of high profile comic book movies this venture from DC studios and Zack Snyder is a curious mix, often muddled, with both good and bad points.

It is a sober, dark and brooding affair where we once again witness the murder of Batman's Parents in a stylish opening introduction to his character. The titular role of Batman is given to Ben Affleck who plays the role in a very understated fashion. Hard boiled, brooding and angst ridden. One of the more interesting aspects of this incarnation of the character is the fact that he brands the perpetrators he brings to justice. It's strangely dark and nice touch but it is only very briefly touched on in the movie and never really spoken about. It had more potential to add layers to his character.

you can quite evidently see Christopher Nolans influence on the film. Some of the editing choices are clearly from the Nolan playbook. The skips in narration, slightly off kilter, abrupt style in the action sequences are undoubtedly Nolanesque. Its just a question wheter this hinders or helps the storyline.

I felt at times, it made the narrative a bit muddled, trying to add depth to the story that wasn't really there to begin with. If the story beats are broken down you can see the plot is really rather simple. Admittedly, I can see why you would want the epic approach given that its a tent pole summer blockbuster but at the same time I do wish that there was more substance. We never really crawl under the surface. So it feels very scant while attempting depth.

I liked Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne, given the limited material he had to play with he gave the tortured soul of Batman life for the most part. However, I wasn't a fan of the batman voice which to me came across a little silly and unconvincing. Henry Cavill is once again short changed as Superman, left looking stern with no sense of humanity, humility or humour, the type of stoic hallmarks of superman in the original Richard Donner movies and it was sorely lacking. The biggest surprise was the casting of Jessie Eisenberg as Lex Luthar which was wholly misjudged seemingly acting in an entirely different movie to everyone else. At times his acting style was cringe worthy eliciting a snigger rather than intrigue or interest.

But was the movie any good? That's a good question. To be honest I'm torn. I have to admit that usually I'm not the biggest fan of Zack Snyder's approach to super hero movies generally. They tend to be too over the top for me. Taking 'Man of steel' as a point of reference, I felt the ending was just forty minutes of buildings getting blown apart and needless destruction. It felt more like a video game than a movie. This approach very quickly became boring and I began looking at the clock to see how much time was left to run - something I never do during a movie. Sometimes less is more.

With BVS the premise seemed very silly because ultimately where could you go? An indestructible Alien facing a human with a bat suit fetish seemed like a non-starter for interest. At times it does feel exactly like that. There is quite a lot of build up for a showdown that lasts for maybe five minutes of screen time. And how it concludes is rather abrupt and unintentionally silly. Its the kind of moment where you do a double take.

its not all bad though as the movie had some potential which was squandered under the weight of trying 'to fit it all in' including the obligatory intro to the upcoming Justice league movie. As a result the movie just feels too focused on plot and not on Character. Which is, admittedly, a dichotomy as the plot itself is simplistic. It is filled to the brim with subplots and bit players that don't really add much to the movie. Visually it is quite nicely shot in a hazy sepia tone colour palette and the effects are colourful and overblown, as you'd expect from a Superhero movie. The action for the most part is well done especially involving Batman and hand to hand combat.

 

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Ultimately though the movie felt muddled plotwise and I found it hard to keep my attention for the entirety of its running time. 

** out of 5

 

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