Film Reviews by DS

Welcome to DS's film reviews page. DS has written 48 reviews and rated 44 films.

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The Kindergarten Teacher

Not the Kindergarten film with Arnie in it.

(Edit) 05/11/2019

There is a mantra I live by, if Maggie Gyllenhaal is in something watch it. Even a baked-bean advert. You'll see a great performance even if the product is not good.

Kindergarten Teacher is a very interesting film, it can literally be seen as a 'slow burner' as we are treated to Lisa's life both work and family and there is little that is remarkable about it with all the actors giving fantastic naturalist performances. So, if you are looking for intriguing action or drama from the get-go you really need to have a modicum of patience.

Eventually Lisa crosses paths with Jimmy a strange five-year-old in her class, wonderfully played by Parker Sevak as good as a young child can play a role, and here we start into a rabbit hole that Lisa should have avoided but due to her life just could not.

Your view as to what type of film Kindergarten Teacher really depends on the viewer, obviously this is true to an extent of any film, but in general you know a film is a horror, comedy or war film usually. But Kindergarten Teacher can sit comfortably in several camps. It is definitely a psychological drama, is it a horror-drama? Only you can decide and for me it shows tremendously skilled writing, directing and acting that leaves you questioning as the final scene closes. What did you just watch? How do you feel about it? That final line, for me Lisa was correct, her actions not so much but she was correct. That's all I can say because if you do watch this film and like it any more will ruin it.

For me there a lot of horror and thriller films that fall far short of the potential scares that this film produces with great subtlety and with all the scenery left unchewed and intact. A typical understated Gyllenhaal performance seems to have permeated throughout the film and it is all the better for it - although I am being disingenuous director Sara Colangelo clearly believes less is more - it looks as if she is correct.

After watching I found out this is a remake of a 2014 film of the same name, it would be interesting to see if this is the better film.

Kindergarten Teacher is a film that will make you feel uneasy the longer it goes on and will make you think about what you have just witnessed long after the final credits have ended. This film will 'get to you' I recommend giving it a go.

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Avengers: Endgame

Childish

(Edit) 10/10/2019

This is not going to be a long review because this is a Marvel film and therefore to start of with it includes all of the Marvel Universe tropes that we have seen in the previous, goodness-knows-how-many other Marvel movies, and there would be too many spoilers for people who still have not seen the film.

I will go on a limb that Marvel aficionados will love the film and see it as a fitting denouement to the ‘series’. That’s okay with me and understand it.

I have to say I am not a Marvel Universe fan and in general I find the brightly coloured, explosive action and none-too-subtle emotions on display to be overwrought, overlong and tedious. Usually when the scriptwriters and directors inject some levity and do not take it too seriously the films are more enjoyable, so Guardians of Galaxy and Spider-Man are easier watches for me but po-faced and duck-faced frowning by Scarlett Johansson are not my bag man.

The time theme in this film is full of big ‘buts’ so that the viewer cannot say ‘Hang on if they did X why can’t they do Y’ but they feel exactly that. The only reason you cannot do this is because it ruins the story of the film, to hell with logic. That grates with me straight away.

The acting is the usual fare, those that seem not to take the film seriously are better, Chris Hemsworth being the star here, Paul Rudd is great but I wish would could have had more of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. The ladies are front and centre, including one cringe-inducing scene which although I applaud the sentiment the execution was frankly childish and in particular Karen Gillian is strong and fun throughout, she could have pointed out some space-time anomalies seeing as she knew all about that stuff in her old job. I liked all of the female leads with the exception of Scarlett Johansson who seems to be ‘acting’ all the time and does not convince me in the slightest.

With so many Avengers many favourite characters are side-lined and we get to focus on the irritating Tony Stark who seemingly is superior, rude and snarky but has loads of friends, alongside the ridiculous Brulk or is it Hanner? After all he is a redundant character if he can only pop up when he gets really angry, and Antman and some others I cannot remember and do not really care about.

I had to watch the film in two bites as other people live in my house and forcing them to watch/listen to three hours of Avengers is hardly fair and we had other stuff to do. To be honest it did not drag too much but as usual with these movies the final confusing CGI fest that is the BIG BATTLE is confusing and for all those superior intelligences and superheroes lacks any tactics, they line up and run at each other like brainless idiots. Luckily only nobodies die and each character gets a chance for a little pause in the massive battle for a set scene.

Then Captain Marvel turns up and everyone else can sit down and take a cup of tea as she is indestructible and able to basically do anything. Luckily, she had to shoot off early in the film otherwise we would have had a ten-minute movie. I do like her hairstyle though, it was cool.

This film would not have been so bad if it was written for kids but so many adults watch and love it and yet cannot see how childish some of the action, stories and set pieces are.

The final scenes, I will not say what it is as that is mean and spoils the story, are so contrived and tacky I thought it was a promotional shot for the Avengers film series. It was horrible and if I’m not mistaken horrible CGI, I’m sure they were not all there.

Well I do not like to say it but just as fantasy film without all the baggage Avengers: Endgame is watchable, once, I’ll never watch it again, as an expensive film, with an all-star cast it really is not that good.

Still the cash-cow goes on no matter what happens in the films.

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Fighting with My Family

Pulls no punches, or does it?

(Edit) 05/10/2019

Stephen Marchant longtime collaborator with one Mr. Ricky Gervais has also carved a nice niche for himself in solo projects on TV and film. Here he tries his hand at feature-film directing and writing and it has to be said he appears to have learned a great deal from his years in the business and applied it.

He has crafted a film, that on paper would only appeal to dedicated fans to pro-wrestling, but skilfully and artfully made it a film about something else whilst not losing the focus on the wrestling. With a great cast, I even enjoyed the much maligned Vince Vaughn who for some reason has become a bit of hate-figure recently, he is ably assisted in this funny and entertaining story of love, family, pursuing your dreams and redemption.

No doubt Mr. Merchant was helped no end by the quite fantastic Florence Pugh and Jack Lowden who are wholly believable as brother and sister. Throw into the mix Nick Frost playing a part of a real person who was seemingly made for him to play and Leana Headly throwing off her Cersei mantel with some ease as the determined family lynch-pin Julia and frankly, even with a poor script and story, you would still get something watchable. With a great script and mostly true story you are onto a winner. Fighting With My Family is undoubtedly a winner.

Bringing in all of this under two hours and you have a fun, interesting and entertaining film. Throw in ‘The Rock’ with his charisma and worldwide recognition and you are going to the championship belt with some ease.

If the film lags or loses momentum anywhere it is that part where you can almost see the fingerprints of the WWE. Throughout the film it is made clear the Saraya/Paige and her family run scripted wrestling events, yes I know people get genuinely hurt in these and they are difficult and athletic but they are scripted and staged, once we get into the world of the WWE, the apex of the families dreams, there is the implication that the bouts are spontaneous. This is nonsense, there has been a court case where it has to be admitted, it does not harm the product and it is still as fun. It’s a shame this part could not be as adult as the rest of the film.

Fighting With My Family is good old underdog fights their way to the top, learns a lot about their family and life in the process and wins against all odds story and as an added bonus it is 90% a true story.

In all honesty just over 90 minutes with Saraya and her family is as pleasant a way to spend some spare time you have.

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After Hours

Not the after hours I was used to as a young man!

(Edit) 31/08/2019

Made in 1985 Scorsese’s lesser-known black comedy seen through the lens of 2019 is a strange little movie. Increasingly it reminded me of a wacky BBC comedy of errors, including the usual well-known faces, Teri Garr, William Heard, Catherine O’Hara all turn up like some Terry and June episode. Although the story is undoubtedly dark and adult unfortunately the escalating farcical nature of what happens is the type of story that has always annoyed the heck out of me – when the old 1970s British sitcoms did it, when Frasier did it, it annoyed me, characters doing stupid things that lead onto even more stupid events when all anyone ever has to do is talk to each other – I would say it’s an age thing but it’s not, it annoyed me as a teenager.

Having said that the acting is quirky and fun with the highly underrated Griffin Dunne supplying an almost pitch-perfect nervous, fraught ‘little man’ up to his neck in circumstances he cannot understand in a world he does not live in, even though to be honest it was not a sympathetic or likable character, hopefully this was purposeful. Along the way we get to see ‘quirky’ characters who populate Soho ‘after hours’. Rosanna Arquette and and almost unrecoganisable Linda Fiorentino share a flat in what seems to start off as an off-kilter love story but veers into weirdland and there the film and story stays.

Therein is the problem with the film, it starts off comedic almost romantic and then careers off the road into a dark territory where we see people having sex ala a ‘Rear Window’ device and then an out and out cold-blooded murder, there’s suicide the list is wackily endless. But I didn’t find it wacky and the longer it went on the more I felt that I just wanted Paul to get home.

You can certainly see in some shots and framing Scorsese honing his skills for his future output but in someways this is also a problem for me as the film seems a practice, a students work if you will, before the director got better.

After Hours is not bad but it seems a film not made for my tastes, it was something I was happy to watch, was very 80s in the style and cinematography but not anything I would watch again unless it was on a channel I was flicking through late at night. I did not laugh much for a comedy, black or not.

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BumbleBee

This Bumblebee stung me - but not in a good way.

(Edit) 25/08/2019

I had heard good things about Bumblebee with more than a few critics and viewers saying this was a film that gets the Transformers franchise back on track with something resembling characters and a decent story.

Well for start Michael Bay is not directing it and Hailee Steinfeld is the main actor so that has to be an improvement on paper before the film is even watched?

Unfortunately for me the film was basic Transformers-fare. When we had quieter moments with Hailee Steinfeld featuring we had a teen-angst plot that felt shoe-horned in and fairly generic and when we had John Cena and Transformers we had explody-shouty-headachey action where I could not figure out who was fighting, winning or even why to some extent. Cena seemed like he was written into the story after the final script had been signed off and other than 'hey it's John Cena' I saw no purpose for him being in the story. He's big and he shouts a lot - I thought the eighties were thirty years ago?

The film is set in the 80s so there is a big Stranger Things bookmark tagged on there and I got a distinct ET vibe with the 'mysterious alien amongst us that only I know about' part of the story. In all honesty despite the crashing, exploding and transforming I found great passages of the film boring. Alongside the cinematography being dark and murky meaning I was confused. I was confused by the giant robots often forgetting which was which but it is at this point that I fully realise that Bumblebee was not for me, not intended for me and never will be.

Another strange point for me was the overall tone of the film, it starts of robots lambasting each other, then battling on Earth, one lot is good, the other lot are bad, okay all fairly simple and appealing to kids, then at least two characters are turned into liquid goop, the die presumably a horrible death but on we go, it's okay. Nah, I'm no prude or ultra-conservative but something did not sit right with me when this happened. Perhaps it was my overall mood whilst watching that coloured this opinion? Maybe so.

Overall it is competently made film with what I expect is the requisite amount of action and humour to keep youngsters and nostalgists going but as for adding something new to the franchise, I have to say not really.

Too young to watch afternoon Doctors and too old to watch Transformers films, exploding, round-housing robots do not a happy old fella make.

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Split

You'd be bananas not to give Split a chance...

(Edit) 03/08/2019

Split is an intriguing film that has all the ingredients of a film that should not work. Hit and miss director M.Night Shyamalan who seems stuck, at least in the public's mind, as the 'twist ending guy' to such a point that it seems to needlessly dominate every film he makes. A hokey story of twenty-four personalities which for me is problematic as it has never been a proven disorder but nevertheless this is only M. Night Shyamalan film and not a serious documentary so perhaps I should calm down a bit. Top this with the film needing to have a very strong actor to hold it all together you can see how the whole shebang could have been, shall we say, problematic.

Despite this Spilt is a good enough film to keep most viewers watching. Front and centre you have a personal acting favourite of my James McAvoy not acting with his lovely Scottish accent, of which no part of it is whining, but certainly acting convincingly a number of different personalities and with his performance he is the glue that holds it all together. That's not to say the other actors, in particular the young ladies, Anya Taylor-Joy, Hayley Lu Richardson and Jessica, do not hold their own against the impressive Scot but the character Kevin Crumb is the axel on which everything else revolves.

In fact, Split starts out an interesting premise on the split-personality theme and whether any one person or even personality within the victim himself, can overcome the huge mental problems that Kevin has - not entirely based in fact but a very interesting concept that was playing out well.

Shylaman's problem is taking the story off in an unexpected direction, almost a giant twist as it were, and from that point the film is served its divorce papers by reality. This in my opinion is the weakness. That and with this 'twist' as it were, we get a rapid darkening in the events and a big tonal shift which for me ruined the mood of the film and sent it to a place I did not think it deserved.

Split was an okay film, I probably would not watch it again, but neither have I instantly forgotten it. James McAvoy proves that his casting was correct because in what could have been a very showy role that actors love playing he keeps it all on the right side of sensible and you never get the sense he loving every acting part of it 'darling' - it just seems like Kevin has these distinct personalities to me which is as a big a compliment as I can pay the actor.

The young girls who are kidnapped are more problematic for me with Casey Cooke's character played by Anya Taylor-Joy seemingly being the only one worthy of anything other than a passing interest, the talented and attractive Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula both end up screaming and whining in between not escaping from situations that are patently escape-easy.

It is a real shame and nothing that reflects the times we live in now.

Split is fine, I have never been on the bandwagon of constantly knocking Shylaman's films but in this case I was mostly disappointed the longer the film went on. I can't explain why it spoils the story for those that have not seen the film but I did not like the way it ends it could have been an entirely different film about an entirely different thing. Having said this I can see why others would like this film.

In general you will have a good night watching this but it ain't no Sixth Sense that is for sure.

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Stan and Ollie

Great film - do not take it too literally though

(Edit) 12/07/2019

Let’s get one thing clear about Stan and Ollie and beautiful as it is as a love story between two long-time friends who stick together even in the thin times, it is to all intents and purposes more or less a work of fiction. Big alterations have been made to the circumstances of the two great comedians because if you did not there would be no real dramatic story. So, it is understandable and not a criticism because Stan and Ollie is a great, emotional, hug of a film, strongly acted and written from start to finish.

To qualify this without wishing to try to be clever or mean Stan and Ollie were actually hugely popular on this tour and performed in top venues as part of a variety bill and not on their own and they had been doing these tours since 1942. I just found this interesting to see what was changed to give the story more dramatic imputes.

The film is a huge love-letter (how many times do I use this expression in my reviews) to the two men and the era it is set it. It is helped able along by the two actor portraying some of the most viewed comedians on the planet, with Coogan once again proving what a fine actor he is as he gets to grips with the screen presence of Stan Laurel and more importantly the off-screen persona, he is more than match by the sublime John C. Reilly playing the sweet-natured ‘Babe’ Hardy.

If the audience is not spoiled enough, we get Shirley Henderson (always perfect) and Nina Arianda playing the power behind the respective thrones as the seemingly icy double-act of the wives. Both give us as many snorts and laughs as the two male leads just from a different angle. The chemistry is perfect between all four.

Wedged in between the foursome we have the perfect foil, Rufus Jones, pitched sublimely between true fan and untrustworthy agent as the man who books Laurel and Hardy into the venues and then has to suggest ideas to the old men how they might get more fans into the venues with some extra unpaid work. In truth the story, setting and acting are sublime and make and sad, beautiful film, that is still uplifting despite, like life itself, it’s up and downs.

Personally I could have seen more the 1937 Laurel and Hardy that we glimpsed at the top of the tale, I loved the short cameo of James Finlayson a regular foil of the duo but it is entirely understandable that there is no real dramatic pull in a story of two men being very popular and successful.

Stan and Ollie is a great, commendably short film, that tells a true platonic love story between two great comedians from the golden age of movies and comedy and it leaves you warm, glowing, feel at the end and perhaps a tear in your eye.

You can’t help feeling it is a movie that is needed in the current climate.

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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Oh no, not another film where I don't have to think...

(Edit) 02/07/2019

Dinosaurs in the 21st century are rare, also finding a film that I genuinely dislike so much that it makes me angry is equally as rare. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is just a film. I felt like I’d lost some IQ points after the final credits had rolled up.

Let’s break it down though.

The acting, everyone in this is not on their game. Bryce Dallas Howard, who I admit am I biased against, is bland and unconvincing, Chris Pratt, so much a great screen presence, has clearly sent a clone of himself, there’s no chemistry between our leads, no charisma from a very charismatic actor and the action sequences do not suit him and border on funny.

Rafe Spall is a fine actor and has proved he can turn his hand to any type of role. In Fallen World his role is Scooby Doo baddy, it is as subtle and poorly written as that. He is rich and wants to be wealthier so obviously he is evil, and he has to do it illegally. To be fair to Mr. Spall the house he bought from this role was definitely worth it.

Toby Jones is one of my favourite actors, like Rafe Spall he is a fine British thespian who can make at the minimum a reasonable fist of any role thrown at him in any drama and turn out great performance regardless of the material. Here he is a Bargain Hunt auctioneer but selling dinosaurs to stereotype snarling, comic-book bad guys. Why oh why is he wearing Dick Emery’s vicar’s teeth?

None of the last two paragraphs makes me happy, both Spall and Jones have given me every impression of being down-to-earth honest and friendly types so slagging off a film they are in and question their motivations for making it does not sit well with me. It would be interesting to see what they say about this film after some distance is put between them and it – at least they will never be in any sequels.

The supporting, grand-children, younger people, roles are filled by two relative unknowns Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith are neither relatable, funny or have any real purpose in the story. It is noticeable that they disappear for a long part of the film only to return at the end. It feels as if both were thrown in at the deep end and were not ready for this type of film or role. That only leaves Isabella Sermon to scream, run up and down corridors and spy on the adults plotting like something out of the Famous Five.

But despite all of the above the biggest annoyance for me is the terrible, awful, story. I am fully aware of the ‘it’s entertaining defence’ and this works if the film is made for eight-year-olds but presumably the story, and definitely the source-novel and original film, were also aimed at the older viewer too?

I’m insulted by this film. Insulted by it.

Firstly the whole driving point – dinosaurs as weapons for despots? Just buy tanks and planes as everyone does, they can be bought legally and would surely be easier to maintain and that driving force for science-fiction/fantasy story is so old that the grey whiskers it has have grey whiskers. Getting all gooey eyed over $10m for ankylosaurus, which as an herbivore would probably not be that aggressive but $10 that buys you a good League One footballer in this day and age.

The story eats itself with all these logical dead ends. Even within the world of the movie and implausibility of the situation, with all disbelief suspended, this still stretched credibility until it breaks. Not only that it further insults fans of the original by rehashing so many set-ups and stunts from the first movie that you can predict everything coming. Stealth Tyrannosaur anyone? Velociraptor that is more intelligent than most of the humans? Great White Hunter who is nasty and gets his from a big old dinosaur? A cardboard cut-out baddie who avoids everything that happens and seems to have got away but…. doesn’t? Check the tick list, they are all there and these are not plot spoilers because you’ve seen these scenes at least twice before in dinosaur-related mayhem films.

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The Rider

Beautiful and sad.

(Edit) 16/06/2019

Director Chloe Zhao making the film over a short time period on a tight budget uses amateurs and non-actors throughout the film with Brady Jandreau and his family playing celluloid versions of themselves right down to the brain injury the real Brady suffered being part of this film’s narrative.

The story is slight, should a rodeo rider, who lives to ride horses, return to the rodeo after suffering an injury so serious he could die if he does? How will his future shape out when the only thing he wanted to do was be a rodeo rider and train horses? That's it.

What Zhao has created the is slow languid mood piece here with beautiful lingering shots of the vast, spacious Badlands of Dakota being a character in itself.

With the actors being non-professionals there is now demonstrative histrionics that might be associated with this type of story, even the conflict scenes play out gently, flaring up and dying down very quickly. Some people will love this, others will find it boring. For me, it reminded me more of the long, torpid, films of the 1970s that I used to like, character studies with the story playing out slowly and leisurely in front of you and a final lingering shot pay-off. That's what you get here.

The questions it asks are myriad it will be each individual’s viewpoint on what they are. The death of the way of the life of the cowboy in the USA, is he just a rodeo entertainer and nothing else? If you have only one goal in your life how does affect you and everyone around you when your circumstances change beyond your control? Could it be about the indomitable human spirit to never give up, to keep going or is it really foolishness? The end of the American Dream? Who knows? But underneath it all there is the tough, never-say-die, spirit that we non-Americans believe is at the heart of the USA for all of its faults and quirks. You can't help but admire these jeans and horses people living in a vast desolate place that have seen their way of life erode over the generates with seemingly no help or support from anywhere else.

It is a beautiful vision of a film with some of the most evocative and genuinely sad scenes I've seen for some time.

Needless to say, the cinematography is beautiful and spectacular the acting heart-breaking, natural and almost documentary style in the delivery, and it shows me a world I have no real knowledge of prior to watching the film.

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The Old Man and the Gun

An old man likes The Old Man and the Gun

(Edit) 12/06/2019

Full disclosure - I've got a dog in this fight. I'm an old man, and old gimmer, my fully beard is white, mostly I'm soft and podgy and I am just plain slow nowadays. The Old Man and the Gun is beautiful crime story for me, and people like me. It's how I'd rob a bank.

Robert Redford now craggier and maybe not as easy on the eye as he used to be is still a fine screen presence and team him up with veterans who know their game, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover and Tom Waits, and throw in a young buck at the top of his, Casey Affleck, and no matter how slow-burning the story is or how unbelievable, even though it is mainly a true story, and you are going to get more good than bad.

Detractors will say the story is slow, there is 'no action' and there's a lot of sitting around and talking, well I would have to say that's the point. This is older people and specifically an older man who does not believe in violence but patience and charm to get his way. It is a slow easy conversation with a cup of coffee of a film. Sunday afternoon easiness made as a story and sometimes we are all better for watching such a story. It cannot always be evil murderers, exploding helicopters and two hours of shoot-outs.

The whole film has a relaxing feel to it and this comes through in Redford's easy charm and portrayal of Tucker. His chemistry and playful sparring with Spacek, the core to the story, is believable and enjoyable, likewise his love and friendship with partners in crime, Waits and Glover, who shine in lesser supporting roles feels authentic. Not as easy to do as many a film has proved.

Affleck as the man looking for a spark in his career John Hunt gets obsessed with the robbers gives a great 'everyman' display and his loving family life is truthful and not realistic, little touches like this make The Old Man and his Gun a slow-burning success. With the running time and barely over 90 minutes the time flew by.

With enjoyable and likeable characters on the screen for nearly all of the running time Robert Redford has certainly chosen a great film to go out on, if indeed this is his swansong, maybe not a spectacular and certainly divisive one would imagine, slow languid films are not everyone's cup of tea, but it cannot be denied at 80 years of age he is still an engaging film presence.

The locations are on the nose mid-west America and generally seem to be period-correct, although I'm no expert on 80s USA, the story and cinematography are straight forward and uncomplex, but this is the strength of the film.

An uncomplicated, mainly true, grey-bank-robber story, if you want a nice relaxing gentle time, I would recommend The Old Man and the Gun, in fact, I just recommend it anyway.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Believe or not I liked having more super-heroes in this film.

(Edit) 11/06/2019

Hoorah, a one-off Marvel super-hero story that does not mesh into other stories or heroes and is entirely stand alone. What a breath of fresh air. How do you make a Marvel super-hero story and particularly a popular hero, Spider Man, who has had so many incarnations I think I might be up for the role soon, fresh? The makers of this movie, and there's a roster's worth of names, came up with an idea, whilst not original, certainly boosted the old tropes and made fun, in a loving way, of the whole Marvel Universe whilst creating an interesting and to point super-hero story.

What's more we're in a world of animation here and yet an old gimmer like me felt more connected to Miles, his parents and the jaded Peter B. Parker with his fat gut and pizza guzzling ways. How can animation hold my interest and make me genuinely laugh more than skilled on-screen actors and action?

The main protagonist Miles is the glue that holds the story together, more like a kid in a difficult situation than any host of live-action stories on the same tack. More believable, more fun, and more downright relatable. Aside from the animation and voice acting, it must be the writing, the feel for how a young lad might possibly react in these out-of-the-world and in-the-real-world situations.

The set up before the real story begins is engaging and enjoyable and drags you into Miles and his parents situation and once we get to the larger-than-life King Pin, voiced by Liev Shreiber believe it or not, and the funny but no irritating Peter Parker and the Peter B. Parker this show is on the road. Every character is well-fleshed and makes sense in their own ways without their own world and it was a blast from beginning to the very funny end.

The artwork and animation are superb and cleverly harks back to the comic-book origins and seamlessly mixes different styles to great effect.

Certainly, this movie came along at the right time for me, not a comic-book fan or particular big fan of Marvel, its strength was it dragged me in, and I enjoyed the characters and story. Maybe this alienated it from real fans of these films, but I cannot see it. If you like comic-books how could you not like this film? The voice acting is perfectly suited to each character, believable and fun, and not annoying as I can find these types.

So, there you go, a Marvel movie about a superhero, with fighting and explosions, that I enjoyed. I recommend Spider Man: Into Multi-Verse it is how comic-book films should be made.

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First Man

First Man, eventually with a few problems just before it happened…

(Edit) 04/06/2019

There are a lot of negative reviews of First Man, but you will not find one here.

Taking a story that nearly everyone in the world knows but in fact few really do and then drilling down through the bombast and jingoism that infests these type of stories to bring us into a very personal and small account of a huge event is a breath of fresh Hollywood air and dare I say a stroke of genius. Then strip away as much dramatic artifice as you can, play most character and scenes in an understated and realistic way as you possibly can, and you've got me from the first scenes.

The principal characters are Neil Armstrong and his wife Janet with both playing pivotal roles in the emotional drive of the film, Ryan Gosling is the driven and controlled Armstrong, I seem to recall there was some criticism of the way he played the role, but the truth of the matter, pilots are trained in that way, you can't have panicking, arm-waving histrionics in that profession, take note Ron Howard, and Claire Foy playing his wife Janet is the softer emotional core of the film. How the rest of us normal humans would feel. That's not to say Gosling's Armstrong is a robot and one early scene shows his deep emotions but also says to the audience, this is in private.

Keeping it personal we are surrounded by a supporting cast of characters that were in Armstrong's life at that time, we get to see snatches of their personalities, their lives and what shaped them but only a small amount. Basically, mirroring real life - you don't know the intricate details of a work friends’ life. The once again emphasises the personal world view we are getting.

Then in a further stroke of cinematic genius we get to see the Gemini 8 launch as if you were taking part in it, what you would see were you Armstrong. Like I said personal.

All the acting is top notch in the film with even the dramatic effect scenes certainly having the brakes put on. Gosling is restrained to the point somnambulance at times but that is the point, Armstrong was this way, certainly in his professional and public life and it would make sense that a great deal of emotional outlet has to come from his partner in all this his wife Janet played by the sublime Claire Foy. In truth, women are not served well in this film with Foy the only major female character throughout which is unfortunate but perhaps also a sign of the period in which the film was set and of course we are seeing this primarily through the eyes of the Armstrong family.

The look of the 1960s seems tight and correct, but I was seven when the film's story ended so I am probably not the best person to comment, but to me it looked good. Being a true story but a dramatic film there are liberties with the truth and certainly if you go digging you can find many bends, stretches, and obfuscation in my mind though the spirit of the Armstrongs, the spirit of the time, the feel of it, or to go back to The Castle as Dennis said 'The vibe of it'.

This is where First Man gets it right, the very vibe of the times. Spot on. The pace, the look, the emotion, fits the story and the actors correctly. Sure, if you looking for screaming, exploding helicopters, flaming rockets at a breakneck speed you are going to be disappointed and without trying to preach not all films have to be like this, some can flow languidly like a wide peaceful river that makes it way slowly to a raging, beautiful waterfall.

I'd say give it a go, adjust your expectations if you love action, sit back and marvel at the millions of people did way back in the sixties, rightly or wrongly, to send humanity into space.

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Black Panther

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

(Edit) 26/05/2019

I have to say I approach this movie from not being a Marvel fan of any sort and not really caring about the extended universe, the storylines or the original comics. Some of this behemoth of a franchise I enjoyed others I did not. Thinking back I clearly preferred standalone stories that focus on a few characters and I care less about the massive three hours trials and tribulations of everyone that was ever created in the comics.

So as a ‘virtue signalling soy boy’ apparently, this film should have blown my socks off, well parts of it did, parts of it did not. I think in all honestly once the credits had ended, and of course I had to watch to the end because of the various little scenes you know are going to pop-up, I was left maybe unsatisfied. Entertained but unsatisfied.

The overall story is appealing, about Africans, in Africa, hidden away from the colonisation and exploitation by Europe and becoming advanced beyond the rest of the world but keeping themselves deliberately isolated. So there’s a message there and a lot of wishful thinking but hey how many times have the USA won the World War Two on their own and the Vietnam War? So there is absolutely no quibble here and nor should there be.

The usual Marvel problems pop up flat cardboard characters and a simplistic storyline that goes on too long. Giving a big window to an African-centric story is interesting in itself and kept my attention whereas if it were a standard white American hero story my interest would have waned having seen it so many times before. It did annoy me that this African nation, hidden away, developed a massive, technological, advanced society that looked a bit like the USA including the shopping and wandering about in the streets smiling and buying things…hmmm not exactly imagination gone wild in those scenes.

We have been here before though, many, many times. This is any old story, really old, the king dies, long live king, someone evil claims the thone deposing the king, the king wins back with allies. Nothing new.

The huge problems with my opinion of Marvel movies were still here. A long extended hero versus villain fight that I disengaged from after about a minute and a massive over CGIed battle where it looked like no one was really getting hurt because….well because it looks like CGI.

The acting varies but the good outways the mediocre and no one was so jarring it took me out of the film some of the dialogue is a bit hokey and cornball and pacing varies in part with some expository linking scenes skipping along and others just plodding along to the point where you could be forgiven for looking at your watch. The look and design of the film in Wankada is sumptuous and clearly some thought has gone into how an African nation left to itself would develop and look, although being isolated from the world, as I have said before, would they really go for shiny skyscrapers and the capitalistic wandering around rows of shops buying things model? There could have been other ways to go here.

Unfortunately, I have the sinking feeling that yet again this is another Marvel film I watched from start to end, would not watch again and I will mostly forget. Shame really the ball has been fumbled here

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Anna and the Apocalypse

Zombies again? Dancing and singing not so much…

(Edit) 26/05/2019

Little Haven, Christmas, a zombie virus is slowly sweeping the country and those that don’t prepare and fight back will end up zombies themselves. Only singing and dancing can save the day..sort of.

This is the best zombie-song-and-dance film I’ve ever seen. Okay, it’s the only zombie song-and-dance film that I’ve seen but it is still not a bad movie.

With a small-town setting, so all of the action is localised and personal, no wider world building here apart from some quick radio updates, and mainly in and around a school this film perfectly allows the cast to be young, full of energy and verve. This is clearly what you need for the song and dance routines and I have to say as no big fan of hoofing and jazz-hands, it works.

This type of film must rely on it’s cast and in this case, the delightful Ella Hunt and Malcolm Cumming absolutely smash the chemistry test as they interact on screen and rather pleasantly are just friends in the story, no romance. Ably supported by the wacky Sarah Swire as Steph North and other ‘friends’ from school the film sets out is stall early and you either quickly buy into it or it will leave you cold. For me it worked. I laughed and enjoyed the song and dance numbers that were full of energy and fun. The young cast are helped along by long-time British stalwarts Mark Benton and Paul Kaye who also give their pipes a working out over the course of the story, Benton I did not know about by I have seen former Dennis Pennis Kaye taking centre stage in the muscial production of Matilda at the RSC a few years ago.

The zombie side of the story is the what the makers hoped would be the catch and I understand this and applaud it as a brave move, I’m guessing the famous episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer would have been an early influence, where horror and song and dance could surely not mix but do.

The zombie plot, in all honesty, is slight and to my mind seems incidental, its not, and also what actually bogs down the movie as it goes on – people die, which some see as good point and others might not as it takes away from the comedy but the more the zombie plot plays out the more it holds back the film like a big undead anchor. The film starts to slow down at the midway and before the nihilistic open end, it had started to outlive its welcome. I just about held in there to end but may attention wandered.

The location’s in Scotland give the film an authentic real feel for UK viewers in particular and is another plus point for this odd film. The acting and performing from everyone is top notch and fun and overall this is a great interesting film to be added to the zombie pantheon.

Yet the nagging feeling I get overall is that this would have made a better hour-long special movie on say Channel 4 than a full-length feature film.

Overall its a winner though and it’ll be interesting to see what director John McPhail and writers Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry come up with next. I’ll be looking out for it for sure.

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Avengers: Infinity War

Infinity means the stones, doesn't it?

(Edit) 27/05/2019

As I have noted before many times on my Blog I am not a Marvel Comic Book or film fan. I’m not invested in the stories or characters and I do not look forward to the latest instalment of the franchises whatever they may be. I will watch the films and I will not dislike them for the sake of disliking them and being contra-cool.

I do have to say that explosions, leaping and punching for an hour of running time bores me rigid but this film, story and franchise clearly is not aimed at me.

Infinity War is the penultimate film in this huge rambling series. The final instalment coming up, it’s on my list, is Avengers: End Game. Which knowing this, even when Infinity War was first released into the cinema means that no matter what happens in this film you just know it’s not the ‘end’ and also the next film, no matter what happens there, is also not the end. There is a lot of money to make producing these films, superhero style piles of money. No film company is going to put a stop to this regardless what does or does not happen to the characters.

So for me there are problems, so many characters to fit in, even for a few minutes that it felt like appeasement to fans at times, the story rambling all over the place, with things that happened seemingly plotted to make the running time longer. Logic in the storyline goes out the window early on and then flies to the trees and stays there. It would be churlish to point out all the points that make little to no sense but once you give a single character the power to alter time, reality and all points in between you had better make your story is watertight otherwise it sinks in a sea of gooey contradictions really quickly. Avengers: Infinity War does this.

Having said this the film for most of the running time is entertaining and my attention did not wonder too much. The big battle scene in Wakanda, like the last one in Black Panther, lacked tension or thrills and bored me as it seemed to be interminable, the same with the big fight with Thanos, who was so powerful and able to control most of what was going on that it was easy to ask how was there ever fight in the first place? But I fully understand big flashy, non-stop noisy fighting scenes are what makes a Marvel world and it works for youngsters whose eyes and brains perhaps are tuned better than mine to this. I honestly find it boring if goes on beyond the actual endurance of real people.

Like all Marvel films the running time is too long, at least half an hour of bagginess and what on the surface seems exciting depth in character and motivation proves on proper examination to be slight and at times a bit silly. As an example Thanos’ motivation seems initially ‘wow I could see why he might do that’ then in the cold light of day it becomes ‘wait a minute…’ and this is the overall pervading feeling I had. Of course I’m aware I was watching a complete fantasy and just escapism but also the Marvel Comics have always been defended as more ‘adult than you think’ and covering ‘modern hard-hitting topics’. Well they skim the surface but they are just comic-book stories no matter what anyone might like them to be.

The acting throughout is good albeit with some people getting two minutes of screen time and at least Samuel L Jackson gets the best line in the whole film that made me laugh. The visual and special effects are better than usual with a feel of heft and reality to most heavy-laden scenes, which cannot always be said of a Marvel Universe film but any sense of peril or real danger, even at the very end of the film was just missing for me. These characters are expensive commodities and are laying some very big golden eggs. Everyone one of them will return in some form or another.

Usual Marvel fare, well produced, explosion infested and definitely slanted to fans but for me the same, it was okay, but I will not be going out of my way to watch it again.

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