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Konosuba -God's blessing on this wonderful world!, 24 March 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After teenage boy Kazuma Sato dies he meets Aqua a blue-haired goddess who offers him a chance to continue living in another world; one where he would be an adventurer battling monsters. He is offered powerful weapons or abilities but instead he chooses to take Aqua with him.

In this world they must find and defeat the Demon King before Aqua can return to where she belongs. Their group gradually expands as they are joined by Megumin, an arch-wizard capable of using explosion magic; Darkness, a crusader who's attacks are less than accurate and seems to enjoy humiliating defeat amongst others… naturally this being anime all these members of Kazuma's party are female. Over the course of the series they get in a variety of scrapes and battle a range of monsters; all the time trying to earn enough to survive.

This is a fairly enjoyable series even if the central premise is like countless other series… ordinary teen ends up in a fantasy adventure type setting. This doesn't matter too much as it is mostly a comedy, that is not to say there isn't some good action as well. The characters are an entertaining bunch; each with their own amusing foibles. The animation is pretty good for the most part… although something seemed distinctively off with the character designs in the first episode of the second season; thankfully the problem didn't persist. Their protagonist's quest to slay the demon king appeared to be far from over at the end of season two; hopefully that means that we will be getting more of this entertaining show.

These comments are based on watching the first two seasons in Japanese with English subtitles.

Great action with the 'Next Generation' Crew, 24 March 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The 'Next Generation' crew are now aboard the new Enterprise and are surprised when they are ordered to patrol the Neutral Zone just as the Borg launch an attack on Federation space; Captain Picard realises it is because he still isn't fully trusted because he was once assimilated by the Borg. As the defensive of Earth is not going well Picard ignores orders and returns to Earth. Here he takes control and destroys the Borg cube… but not before it launches a sphere which heads to Earth's past; as the Enterprise follows they observe an assimilated planet. Following it further back they witness it firing on the planet. The sphere is destroyed but unbeknownst to the Enterprise the Borg crew, including a Borg Queen have beamed aboard the Enterprise.

It turns out the Borg returned to a very specific date; the day before Zefram Cochran piloted Earth's first warp ship and first contact with an alien species is due to be made. A group beams down to ensure his flight is able to go ahead as planned. Dr Crusher returns to the Enterprise with Lily, an injured colleague of Cochran. Soon there are anomalous readings and Picard returns to the ship. It soon becomes apparent that the Borg are on board. Contact with the away team is lost and those on board struggle to stop the Borg contacting other Borg vessels while those on the planet work to make sure the warp flight goes ahead as planned.

This is probably the best of the 'Star Trek' films; the story is really good and there is plenty of varied, exciting action. The Borg are one of the most fearsome of the Star Trek villains due to their unthinking, and almost unstoppable, drive to assimilate everybody they meet; the way they turn friends into Borg is particularly unpleasant. Some of the films best scenes involve the Borg Queen's attempts to assimilate Data; more by seduction than force. Having Lily beamed aboard the Enterprise gave a good excuse for some exposition that would be needed by anybody who hadn't seen the television series. The regular cast are on great form; I particularly enjoyed Brent Spiner's portrayal of Data after he is captured by the Borg. The guest cast is impressive too; James Cromwell brings some humour to the role of Cochran, Alice Krige is delightfully menacing as the Borg Queen and Alfre Woodard is good in the role of Lily; a scene where she tries to change the mind of the excellent Patrick Stewart's Captain Picard. Overall I'd definitely recommend this to fans of Star Trek TNG in particular and fans of action sci-fi in general… it will help if you've watched the series but probably isn't essential.

A relatively slow but still gripping spy story, 24 March 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In Hamburg the security forces, including a secret unit led by Günther Bachmann, suspect that respected Muslim philanthropist Dr Faisal Abdullah is actually channelling money to terrorist causes; the problem is they can't prove anything. Then Chechen refugee Issa Karpov arrives in Germany illegally; Günther's unit becomes aware of him and more importantly that he has links to terrorists in his homeland. Rather than arrest Issa straight away it is decided to see who he makes contact with. As Günther says, 'you use a minnow to catch a barracuda, you use a barracuda to catch a shark'… Issa is definitely considered to be the minnow that might just get Günther the leverage he will need to make Abdullah lead him to a 'shark'. To do this he focuses on Issa's lawyer as she is going to see a banker concerning a large quantity of money that his father, a man he disposed, left him. Günther isn't the only person interested in Issa and Abdullah; other German agencies and the US have them in their sights.

Anybody who has watched other adaptations of the works of John le Carré, or read his books, will know not to expect lots of 'James Bond' style action; this is a grittier, more believable, depiction of spycraft. There is a lot of 'waiting and watching', application of pressure and inter-agency politics before the story reaches its surprisingly downbeat conclusion. It could be argued that the film is slow paced but that suited the story and the slowness didn't prevent it from being tense. Philip Seymour Hoffman put is a great performance as Günther Bachmann; it is a tragedy that that this was to be one of his final roles before his untimely death. The rest of the cast impress too; each giving the low-key performances that suits characters who live in the shadows. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to people looking for a modern spy thriller but don't demand lots of action.

An enjoyable family comedy, 23 March 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Stanley Banks is looking forward to enjoying a little freedom a year after his daughter, Kay, has got married but that is short-lived when he learns that he is to become a grandfather. He is far from overwhelmed at the prospect but his wife and the other grandparents to be are overjoyed… to the extent that they start to take over from Kay; giving their ideas of what the baby should be named among other things. There are some hiccoughs before the baby, a boy, is born then Stanley is a little put out by the fact that the little one gets on with the rest of the family but cries the moment he sets eyes on him.

I was a little concerned that having not seen 'Father of the Bride' this might be a little hard to get into; thankfully it didn't matter at all. The story is fun with a decent number of laughs throughout. It isn't plot heavy; more a series of mostly amusing events that take place between the announcement that Kay is pregnant and the christening of the child. There is some drama although I doubt anybody will think things won't be resolved fairly quickly. Spencer Tracy does a fine job as Stanley Banks; this is very much his film as he is rarely off screen. He is ably supported by Joan Bennett as his wife Ellie and Elizabeth Taylor as Kay. Overall I'd recommend this to fans of older films who want a fun film which contains no offensive material.

A classic war film, 22 March 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In Japanese prisoner of war camp in Burma a camp a newly arrived group of British prisoners are told that they are to construct a bridge over the River Kwai. Their CO, Lt Col Nicholson, informs the camp commandant, Colonel Saito, that as per the Geneva Convention he and his officers will not work. Saito orders the officers placed in a punishment cell while Nicholson is put in an iron 'hot box'. While they are being punished the man work on the bridge but progress is very slow. There is also an escape attempt by American prisoner Commander Shears and two British prisoners; the latter are shot and killed and it looks as though Shears is dead too after being shot at and falling into the river. As the progress of the bridge falls further and further behind schedule Saito talks to Nicholson; the latter tells him that his men would do a better job if led by their own officers… soon he has effectively taken over the project; moving the bridge to a better location, coming up with a better design and the moral of the men is improving… but in the process is he guilty of helping the enemy.

Shears survives the fall into the river, and with the help of local villagers recovers and is eventually rescued and taken to a hospital in Ceylon. Here he is recruited, somewhat against his will, by Major Warden who is planning to lead a small group into the jungle to destroy the bridge.

This film is rightly considered a classic; its cast doing a great job telling an interesting story. Alec Guinness is on top form as Col Nicholson as he gradually changes from an officer who bravely stands up to his captors to somebody who could be considered to be aiding the enemy; his motives are the moral and wellbeing of his men but as completion of the bridge nears he is clearly proud of the work they have done. William Holden impresses as Shears, a character who provides some of the films few lighter moments. Jack Hawkins is also on good form as Major Warden.

This can be considered a film of two halves; the first concerning what is going on in the camp with Nicolson risking all to stand up to the Japanese and the second which largely follows the planning and execution of the raid against the bridge with occasional returns to the camp where we see Nicholson accidentally slipping into collaboration. There are of course some problems; most notably the character of Nicholson; it is unlikely that a senior British officer would have behaved the way he did… the officer he is loosely based on certainly didn't. This isn't an action packed film but it is certainly tense and never boring. What action there is, is impressive. Overall I'd definitely recommend this classic film… I'd also recommend reading a little about the actual events which inspired this work of fiction.

Ong-bak 2 (2008)
Ong Bak: The Beginning, 20 March 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Set in fifteenth century Thailand, this film opens with a man and a boy fleeing along a forest track on horseback; the boy gets off and escapes and the man is killed. The boy, Tien, isn't out of trouble though; he is captured by slavers then, after attacking a captor, he is forced to fight for his life… against a crocodile! He is saved by Chernang; the leader of a bandit group known as the 'Garuda Wing Cliff'. Tien is invited to join the group and trains to be a fighter.

In a series of flashbacks we learn about his past; he was the son of a local lord who had been trained to dance rather than fight, much to his chagrin. His family is then killed by power hungry lord leaving Tien the sole survivor. We then see that this happened just before the opening scene. Returning to the older Tien, he has finished his training and is now determined to get his revenge on those who killed his family.

I haven't seen the original 'Ong Bak' but from what I've read this has nothing to do with that apart from sharing a title and main star. The plot is fairly simple; it is clearly there to provide an excuse for lots of martial arts scenes… and these are pretty spectacular. Tony Jaa does a great job as Tien in these scenes; the action is impressively choreographed in a really physical way; yes he does defeat countless attackers but it does at least look as if the fighting takes a toll on him. There is surprisingly little dialogue; just enough to tell us what is happening although I suspect one could turn off the subtitles and still follow what is happening! The ending is a spectacular fight that finishes in a way that is clearly setting things up for a sequel. Overall I'd certainly recommend this to anybody wanting lots of great martial arts action without needing a deep plot.

"SS-GB" (2017)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A thriller set in an alternative London, 20 March 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is 1941 but not the 1941 that our history records; in this 1941 London is occupied by German forces as in this alternate history they were victorious in the Battle of Britain. Churchill is dead, the King is incarcerated in the Tower of London, there is a resistance but most Londoners appear to be just struggling to get on with their lives.

One such person is Police Inspector Douglas Archer; he works alongside the Germans investigating the ordinary crimes that inevitably continue to happen. When a man is found murdered he soon finds himself in a dangerous situation; the Germans are very keen to have the case solved as soon as possible. Archer is soon caught up in a power struggle between his boss Gruppenführer Fritz Kellerman and SS Standartenführer, Oskar Huth who comes from Berlin to take over the investigation… clearly this is no ordinary case. Before it is over Archer will uncover a plan that could ultimately help bring the Americans into the war and liberate Britain… will his loyalty be to his country or to his German masters?

When I saw this advertised I was a little unsure about the whole 'alternate history' idea but once I started watching I was soon gripped and thought the premise actually worked very well. There was a nice ambiguity about many characters; most notably Archer himself. At first it appears that he is just a collaborator working for the Germans but then it seems more likely that he is just investigating ordinary crimes that would need solving whoever was running the country… inevitably he is eventually shown to be a 'good guy' as he gets involved in a plot to get the King out of the country. The series features a decent number of twists as some real surprises. There is a decent amount of action but not too much… this is essentially a character led drama. Sam Riley Impresses as Archer and is ably supported by a cast that includes Rainer Bock as Kellerman; Lars Eidinger as Huth; James Cosmo, as Archer's sergeant Harry Woods and Kate Bosworth, who plays American reporter Barbara Barga. The series has a good 'wartime look' with the sight of damaged buildings, including Buckingham Palace and a general drabness. The series ended with plenty of issues unresolved so hopefully there will be another series telling us what happens next.

Brilliant but difficult to watch, 19 March 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Eva Khatchadourian was once a successful travel writer but now she lives in a tiny house; as she leaves we see the house and her car are daubed with red paint. Her neighbours ignore her and people she meets in the street abuse her both verbally and physically. It soon becomes apparent that her son, Kevin, has done something terrible. Through a series of flashbacks we see that he was always an awkward child… but only with her. Eva's husband, who we only see during these flashbacks, thinks Kevin is just 'being a boy'. There are suggestions that something is seriously wrong; the disappearance of a pet and an 'accident' which causes his sister to lose an eye but there is no proof that he was involved. The only time Kevin is seen to be nice to his mother is when he is ill as a child and she reads him the story of 'Robin Hood'; shortly afterwards his father buys him a toy bow and arrow; something that eventually leads to a proficiency in archery. Eventually we learn what Kevin has done and even though there were hints at what happened it is still disturbing.

Movies are often described as 'Feel Good'; this is anything but that. It is disturbing from start to finish as we gradually learn what happened as well as seeing Eva's current life. Kevin was a disturbing child even when we see him as a baby; always crying when he is with his mother. As he grows he gets worse; defiant towards his mother; even refusing to be toilet trained till she does something drastic. Tilda Swinton does a fantastic job as Eva; one can almost feel her character's exhaustion and despair. Ezra Miller is also great as Kevin, one of the most monstrous young characters I can think of. Jasper Newell and Rocky Duer also impress playing Kevin as a youngster and an infant respectively. John C. Reilly is good as Kevin's father; a character it is easy to dislike as he can't see the wrong in his son… of course he isn't horrible in front of him. Young Ashley Gerasimovich is impressive as Celia, Kevin's younger, and much nicer, sister. Given the nature of the 'Terrible Event' there is surprisingly little violence; that doesn't been it isn't disturbing though… I felt uncomfortable through most of the film. Overall I'd recommend this to older viewers just don't expect to feel good when the final credits roll.

Decent enough teenage fantasy/sci-fi, 19 March 2017
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When the planet Lorien was attacked by the Mogadorians nine children were sent to Earth, each protected by a guardian. It is only a matter of time before the Mogadorians track them down and when they do they must unite to defeat them. Each of the nine has a number and for some reason they can only be found in order; 'John Smith' is Number Four and Number Three has just been killed. The children look human but they have special powers which develop as they age and after John accidentally reveals his, his Guardian, Henri, decides it is time for them to move.

They head to Paradise, Ohio, where John enrols in the local high school; here he quickly gets on the wrong side of the school bullies when he defends their preferred victim, Sam, and is attracted to Sarah, the ex-girlfriend of the group's leader. This is the least of his worries though; the Mogadorians are closing him on him; when they catch up with him he will have to trust his new friends as he faces his attackers; luckily Number Six has also found him and will fight alongside him.

When I sat down to watch this I didn't know anything about it, I just thought it was a catchy title and the blurb on the DVD box suggested it might be worth a watch. While I wouldn't say it was a great film it was interesting enough. There was a decent sense of mystery about John and the other eight children sent to Earth; unfortunately some details were never properly explained; most notably why are they numbered and why can they only be found in order? The early part of the film where he is going to school serves to introduce the ordinary human characters and showcase John's growing skills but it isn't as good as the second half as the Mogadorians provide a real threat. This provides some fairly spectacular fights with some impressive CGI effects. The cast is decent enough even if many of their characters are a bit too cliché. The conclusion is a bit disappointing as it clearly isn't the end of the story… whether a sequel will ever be made is a mystery but it really needs one to wrap up the story. Overall I'd say this is a decent enough fantasy/sci-fi for teenage viewers; not a must see but a reasonable way of passing a couple of hours if you like the genre.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A fine conclusions to Christopher Nolan's 'Batman' trilogy, 18 March 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Eight years after the events portrayed in 'The Dark Knight' Gotham is a peaceful city but the Batman is still wanted for the killing of Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. Then one day cat burglar Selina Kyle breaks into Wayne mansion and as well as stealing his mother's pearls she takes a copy of Bruce's fingerprints. She gives these to an accomplice of masked criminal, Bane, an expelled member of the League of Shadows. Bane then launches an attack on the Stock Exchange where he uses Bruce's fingerprints to authorise the transfer of all of his wealth thus bankrupting him. He manages to find Bane but is defeated and left, severely injured in an apparently inescapable prison. It is only then that we learn Bane's ultimate plan; he seizes the core from a nuclear fusion reactor that Wayne Enterprises had developed and, after setting off explosives that cut Gotham off from the rest of the county, announces that he will detonate the device and kill everybody if anybody tries to leave. And so begins his reign of terror. The months pass and Bruce struggles back to health and manages to escape and return to Gotham; he is now up against the clock as it emerges that the bomb is unstable and will soon detonate whether triggered or not.

This film provides a fine conclusion to this trilogy. Bane is a suitable bad villain for this finale and his schemes were the most dastardly yet. He is definitely a human villain not a cartoonish super-villain. He has a good back story although, thanks to a late twist, some of what we are lead to believe isn't quite true. Then there is the fact that this is more a Bruce Wayne film than a Batman film; first he must overcome the death Rachel Dawes which kept him a recluse for eight years then after he finally becomes Batman again and is beaten by Bane he must heal physically and mentally before he can escape. We also have new characters Selina Kyle, an ambiguous thief who may ultimately prove to be a hero or a villain and policeman John Blake who rises from a young uniformed officer to help lead the fightback while Batman was not there. The cast does a fine job; notably returning cast members Christian Bale, Michael Caine and Gary Oldman. New cast members also impress; Tom Hardy is imposing as Bale; one can believe that he could beat Batman in a fight, Anne Hathaway is likable as Selina and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is good as Blake; the closest thing to an ordinary everyman of the film's main characters. There is plenty of spectacular action from an attention grabbing opening scene, through a series of chases and fights to an explosive conclusion. The end nicely wraps up the trilogy while still leaving things open for us to imagine what might happen next. Overall I'm sure fans of the series will enjoy this; I'd certainly recommend the first two films first though.


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