Showing posts from 2019

Knives Out (2019) - Review

Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock seem to be the main influences behind Rian Johnson's "whodunnit" Knives Out, starring Daniel Craig as an eccentric private detective Benoit Blanc - Johnson's American version of Hercule Poirot. Complete with a southern accent, Craig investigates the death of acclaimed crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), narrowing down the suspects across his entire family of wealthy caricatures.

Rian Johnson shot to fame as the writer/director behind the controversial Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which was attacked on everything from its characterisation to its political subtext, the latter of which plays a key role in Knives Out as Johnson's screenplay tears into the wealthy upper-class of the United States with an expected savagery. The characters range from the Nazi/online troll grandson (Jaeden Martell) to the slightly unhinged, limping son as played by Michael Shannon (whose walking stick becomes particularly threatening i…

Gemini Man (2019) - Review

I'm not sure if there's a right way to begin a review of 'Gemini Man' - the latest Ang Lee-directed, Will Smith-starring sci-fi blockbuster out in cinemas. The most intriguing twist in the film has rather naturally been spoiled on every posted, trailer and plot synopsis for the film - that being that Will Smith is hunted down by an assassin who is in fact his younger self in clone form - and beyond that, there's not really too much to say. As much as this has been sold as an Ang Lee / Will Smith film, 'Gemini Man' doesn't really show-off the talents of either its director or its lead star, and ultimately feels like a paint-by-numbers action thriller with a surprising caliber of talent behind it.
'Gemini Man' sees Will Smith as a generic, retired assassin, who quickly realises that he might have uncovered some kind of secret, and thus works with generic love interest / action heroine / exposition-dumper Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Benedict Wong …

Joker (2019) - Review

To say that those who made 'Joker' had the best of intentions feels like a somewhat disingenuous statement given exactly who made this film. Its director Todd Phillips previously directed such classic comedies as 'The Hangover' trilogies and 'Due Date', and when people stopped laughing at his films, he decided to go for an Oscar and make a serious awards-bait comic book superhero spin-off film. His ambitions for awards glory led him to attain Joaquin Phoenix, renowned for his interests in art-house cinema and lack thereof in mainstream, as well as getting Martin Scorsese's name in the credits - no doubt as a means of silencing the claims that 'Joker' is trying to be like Scorsese's own filmography (see 'Taxi Driver', 'The King of Comedy', etc.). Phoenix wants to take the Oscar-worthy role of the Joker of course - Heath Ledger posthumously received a Best Supporting Actor award for his role as the clown prince of crime in 'Th…

Ad Astra (2019) - Review

Taken from the Latin phrase for "to the stars", 'Ad Astra' seeks to journey back into the deep unknown of space in an existential story that ultimately unravels itself to be much more down-to-Earth and human than one might expect. That's not to say that the film avoids its space setting, or the assortment of creative world/Solar System-building that comes with it, but that it avoids venturing too far into the more fantastical elements of science-fiction. 'Ad Astra' seems to be at one point referencing 'Gravity', and at others '2001: A Space Odyssey'. It's more of a thought-provoking science-fiction film that builds a very believable future into the background of its central human narrative.
Set in the near future, 'Ad Astra' follows Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) as he is sent into space to investigate mysterious "surges" emitting from a space station orbiting Neptune. SpaceComm - an organisation interested in exploring the p…

Doctor Who: Mindwarp - Review (BFI Screening)

With Doctor Who: The Collection - Season 23 releasing on Blu-ray on 7th October 2019, a special preview event for the boxset took place at the BFI Southbank on 14th September, including a screening of 'Doctor Who: Mindwarp', alongside a Q&A and signing. I was very lucky to attend, and was able to watch the extended edits of the four featured episodes, as well as some clips from some of the extras on the boxset, including 'The Doctor Who Cookbook Revisited', 'Behind the Sofa', an outtakes reel and two specially-made trailers for the Blu-ray.

'Mindwarp', for those who don't know, is the sort-of-nickname given to 'The Trial of a Time Lord' Parts Five through to Eight. 'The Trial of a Time Lord' itself was the umbrella title given to Doctor Who's twenty-third season, airing after an eighteen month hiatus (during which it was briefly cancelled by Michael Grade), which consisted of fourteen, twenty-five minute episodes. As with mo…

The Mandalorian - Trailer Reaction

Exclusive to the upcoming streaming service Disney+, 'The Mandalorian' is a Star Wars spin-off series created by Jon Favreau, set between the films 'Return of the Jedi' and 'The Force Awakens'. With over thirty years of story material to dig into, 'The Mandalorian' focuses on a Mandalorian, as played by Pedro Pascal, in his adventures across the galaxy.

There are a number of things that make me excited for this new series. Firstly, it's a live-action Star Wars show, and it's one that seems to be focusing on extending the universe further, as opposed to focusing on pre-established characters. It's building the mythology of bounty hunters like Boba Fett further with a new central character, new ensemble cast and new story. Unlike 'Rogue One' or 'Solo', 'The Mandalorian' isn't there to tie directly into 'A New Hope', but instead sets itself in the thirty years of Star Wars we haven't really seen before, …

Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood (2019) - Review

The ninth (apparently) film from Quentin Tarantino, 'Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood' is the legendary writer/director's tribute to late 60's Hollywood, from television to cinema, 160 minutes of call-backs, tributes and references, that also revolve around the murder of actress Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie here). Naturally, being a Quentin Tarantino film, the story doesn't play out quite as one would expect, and the potential criticisms with Tarantino turning a real-life tragedy into one of his films is certainly something the man himself tries to overcome with the finished film.

Set in 1969, 'Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood' follows ageing cowboy legend Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) struggling to propel himself back into stardom. Known for his turn as a classic cowboy in western series 'Bounty Law', Dalton has struggled to keep his career going beyond that, and with the help of his stuntman/driver Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), tries to figure…

Doctor in Distress? The Series 12 Conundrum

Its difficult to be a Doctor Who fan on the internet without coming across outcries from certain members of the fan base about how "terrible" Series 11 was. Aired from 7th October 2018 to 1st January 2019, Series 11 (or Season 37) featured not only the show's first female lead with Jodie Whittaker as the Thirteenth Doctor, but a larger and more diverse ensemble cast with Bradley Walsh as Graham, Tosin Cole as Ryan and Mandip Gill as Yaz. This, coupled with the series' emphasis on real-world issues - including episodes focused on Rosa Parks, the Indian partition, 17th Century witch trials, a mock-Amazon company and a Trump-esque billionaire - caused many people to call the series "overly-political", in spite of the obvious argument that this was nothing new. Whilst some journalists will publish articles on "PC Who", many fans took this idea further, moaning about "SJW Doctor Who"...whatever that means.

For the record, Doctor Who has alwa…

Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw (2019) - Review

With the sudden surge in popularity for the 'Fast and Furious' films in recent years, it's no surprise to see the franchise spin-off two of its most popular leads into a film. 'Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw' (alternatively titled 'Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw') stars Dwayne Johnson and Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw, with Vanessa Kirby playing Shaw's sister and Idris Elba playing a one-off villain.

The plot is rather confused and never fully established, starting off with Vanessa Kirby stealing a mysterious virus from a van, and somehow linking this all into Idris Elba as a cyborg mercenary working for a shadowy organisation (named sequel set-up). The CIA and MI6 have to work together to send in Hobbs and Shaw to find Shaw's sister and stop whatever Idris Elba is up to...which is never entirely clear. Elba's motivations are a bit odd at best, and there's something about the virus murdering everyone on the planet…

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 6 Review

'Inescapable' might just be the best episode so far in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s sixth season, centring entirely around Fitz and Simmons as they find themselves trapped inside a Chronicom mind prison, and have to face their fears together.

Whilst the meta aspects of 'Inescapable''s trippy, mind-bending dream sequences may seem obvious - Fitz is haunted by his potential for evil, Simmons is haunted by the fears and anxieties she'd locked away in her music box - they do serve to give the episode stakes. The characters' inner demons are given physical form to pursue them through the maze of their own shared dreams, which helps to keep up the pace when things seem to be getting a little too slow. Once everything is all resolved and FitzSimmons are back together as a unit though, so are their demons - in a rather humorous end to the episode.

It's probably worth mentioning that Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstringe are both fantastic throughout the …

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 5 Review

After the baffling tonal inconsistencies of 'Code Yellow', Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. attempts to get back on track with 'The Other Thing' - an episode that feels like it's simply there to set things up for later.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. abandoned its villain-of-the-week format a long time ago, but it still feels somewhat dissatisfying when episodes feel like smaller pieces in a larger puzzle. It's as though the show is being produced for a streaming audience, bingeing the entire season in one go, as opposed to working as week-to-week entertainment. It's also at this point that I really started to feel the length of this season - and we're only five episodes in. I had thought that a shorter, thirteen-episode season would benefit the show, and while it might in the long run, I don't think that the story has gone very far in five episodes.

May has been captured by Sarge and his accomplice (whose name escapes me, but she keeps mentioning butte…

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 4 Review

When did Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. become DC's Legends of Tomorrow?

'Code Yellow' starts off with Deke having reinvented himself in 2019 as the head of a tech/games company, with a girlfriend (played by Executive Producer Maurissa Trancheon) and a revolutionary new system called "The Framework". Sound familiar? Oh, and obviously the episode opens with a cheesy action sequence of Deke fighting some aliens in a corridor and then seducing Daisy in a fake-out dream/game sequence so obvious that for me at least, the episode started on the wrong foot.
With this and the previous episode, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be trying to embrace a more humorous approach, with a style of meta-humour similar to that of DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Deke's look towards the camera in the pre-titles sting was a bit too on-the-nose for me, especially given how grounded Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has tried to be for so long. If the show wants to head into a new direction,…

Doctor Who: Season 10 (1972-73) - Review

The Three Doctors. The terrible Drashigs. The final story with Roger Delgado's Master. The return of the dreaded Daleks. And the departure of beloved companion Jo Grant. Doctor Who's tenth season packs a lot into five serials and twenty-six episodes, and thanks to the new Blu-ray Collection, we can now revisit the stories remastered in HD.
The season opens with the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee), Jo Grant (Katy Manning) and their U.N.I.T family investigating a mysterious black hole that threatens the entire Universe. Realising the catastrophic threat it poses, the Time Lords send Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor and William Hartnell's First to help out, giving us 'The Three Doctors'. Or, more accurately, the Two-and-a-half Doctors, as Hartnell barely appears in the serial due to bad health. Troughton and Pertwee are a wonderful double-act, and the story's villain Omega is a great antagonist, but despite solid build-up, the story never goes anywhere. The produ…

Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) - Review

'Spider-Man: Far From Home' is the twenty-third film in the Marvel Studios Cinematic Universe, the concluding chapter in their third phase of films, the fifth film to feature Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man, and the second installment of this third live-action film iteration of the character. In short: 'Far From Home' is a sequel to 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' and a direct follow-up to 'Avengers: Endgame', meaning that if you are one of the (apparently few) people who didn't see 'Endgame' (and statistically speaking you probably did, as it made a colossal $2.7 billion worldwide), 'Far From Home' will spoil almost all of the major twists in that film - and so will this review, so be warned.

With Planet Earth saved after the Universe-shaking events of 'Avengers: Endgame', everyone is still trying to adjust to the five years that technically never were. Those "snapped" by Thanos are back living the lives they le…

Dracula Untold (2014) - Review

In an era of shared-universe mega-franchises, it's difficult not to distinguish the finished film 'Dracula Untold' from it's clear cynical, money-grabbing ambitions. Universal once had a success franchise with their Universal Monster movies, including 'Dracula', 'Frankenstein', 'Creature from the Black Lagoon' and more, and in a post-Marvel Studios era, they want to try again - properly this time. Everything is connected, and one day Dracula will team-up with the Wolf-Man and Frankenstein to fight the Mummy. But not today.

'Dracula Untold' was released in 2014, and was set to start what was later dubbed as the "Dark Universe". Despite making a fair $217 million against its $70 million budget, the franchise was rebooted in 2017 with 'The Mummy', a $190/345 million flop that turned in $407 million, but not any profit for the studio. Alas, neither started the Dark Universe that Universal had been hoping for, but both coul…

Doctor Who: Planet of the Daleks (1973) - Review

With Doctor Who: The Collection - Season 10 set to be released on Blu-ray next month, the BFI screened the newly-remastered edition of 'Planet of the Daleks' on Saturday, complete with restored picture quality, brand-new CGI effects work and 5.1 surround sound mix by Mark Ayres. Starring Jon Pertwee as the Third Doctor and Katy Manning as Jo Grant, this serial was part of Doctor Who's anniversary season, and saw the return of Dalek creator Terry Nation to pen all six episodes. This serial also acts as a direct follow-up to 'Frontier in Space', forming what was intended to be a twelve-episode epic, akin to Nation's own 'The Daleks' Master Plan' in 1965.

The story sees Jo Grant helping a wounded Doctor back to the TARDIS. They escape the Ogron Planet, and the TARDIS materialises on Spiridon - a jungle planet home to the invisible Spiridons. As Jo journeys through the jungle to find help, the Doctor encounters the Thals - inhabitants of the planet Ska…

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - Season 6, Episode 3 Review

'Fear and Loathing on the Planet of Kitson' is a rather bizarre episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., attempting a more bizarre and humorous installment without actually having the story to justify this. The tonal shifts throughout the episode border on the bizarre, and do serve the remove a lot of the tension. On the one hand, it's a story about Team Space SHIELD (Daisy, Simmons, Davis and the other one) desperately trying to find Fitz (and Enoch), coming so close and yet again losing him at the last possible second. A new threat emerges in the form of a hunter Chronicom, and the episode ends on a very dour note with a short epilogue showing Sarge's plan coming to fruition.

The issue here isn't so much with the story as much as the execution of said story. Initially the scenes of Enoch trying to blend in at an alien casino are fun, and a welcome relief of tension, but then Daisy, Simmons and Davis get high off some alien drug and the whole thing meanders about with …

Men in Black: International (2019) - Review

I'm not entirely sure how 'Men in Black: International' came to fruition. Originally it was supposedly a crossover with Sony Pictures' own '21 Jump Street' franchise - which is baffling in itself - and clearly there was some debate as whether to make a sequel or straight-up reboot. The angle that 'International' goes for is that of a spin-off to the Men in Black trilogy with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, focusing instead on new agents M and H, played by Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth respectively. Emma Thompson returns from 'Men in Black 3' as Agent O to bridge the gap between the series', but this film is very much focused on its new cast.

Tessa Thompson plays Molly, who after befriending an alien and witnessing a Men in Black encounter endeavours to find out exactly who MIB are, and how to work for them. Twenty years later, Molly finally encounters MIB again, and is recruited on a probationary basis by Agent O (Emma Thompson), and s…