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Arrival (2016/II)
5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Um, 28 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

What do you get if you cross The Fountain with Independence Day? I hooted with laughter at both of those films at the time, but after seeing Arrival they suddenly appear stately and meaningful. And at least I didn't haven't to squint in the dimness of it all. The over-use of TV news and gasp TV news seen on laptops to tell the story in here grated with me, it always looks like a lazy script when they fall back on that old fashioned and hackneyed trick. Now add incredibly old fashioned and hackneyed art-house "music" comprising random burps farts and groans to this mix.

The plot appears as dim and grey as the film: 12 gargantuan alien stone peanuts float down on Earth causing consternation among all the ants in God's garden, turn into gargantuan mushroom caps and after the phoning to a Chinese general of his wife's dying words start gargantuanly fizzing away in mid-air - apparently job done. Er.

I'll try again. Expert linguist Amy Adams put in a good performance as usual, but what to make of her deathly serious demeanour for the entire film is the big question. She didn't even smile at Jeremy Renner playing a brainy physicist press-ganged into playing a spare tool. We're told that successful communication with the aliens could take years to accomplish and we can also guess there's years of boredom ahead, when Adams segues into a higher state of consciousness and finds out in seconds they want to help us now as they want something from humanity way in the future. Er.

As bonkers as The Fountain and as gungho as ID. The use of flashback memories brimming over with loss and longing to a heart tugging string quartet is the big similarity to the Fountain though, and it works fine again. If you're looking for lightheartedness you won't find it here, or a meaningful examination of the political motives of alien and Man either. Just another arty excuse to explore the overwhelming emotions we all have and can froth to, as we've all lost someone or something in our lives. Including these 116 linear minutes I knew I'd never get back before the film had even started.

Passengers (2016/I)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Get a life, 27 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As a sharp and slick work of fantasy fiction this film entertained me. It reminded me of 2001, Silent Running, Mission To Mars and even The Shining, but with its own gravitational spin. It covered 90 years in less than 2 hours and successfully kept me from looking at the clock.

One of the 5000 hibernating passengers (has suspended animation been put into cold storage?) on an interstellar starship is inadvertently woken up on the journey with 90 years left to go to arrival – if you couldn't re-hibernate what would you do? Would you calmly walk about a gargantuan ship populated with a handful of robots drinking and playing with your yo-yo for the rest of your life or try to get someone to talk to? Love the place you're in or Love the one you're with. With this moral dilemma eating his vitals Chris Pratt is suitably chiselled and wooden as usual, however Jennifer Lawrence steals the show with her intensely believable performance as usual. On believability - whether someone could survive being so close to a nuclear reactor as was Pratt, protected only by an oven door is a moot point and a bit of a comedy moment too, but I thought the well thought of Gravity was similarly daft and not so weighty as this either. For the bar room scenes with Arthur The Android a bit of Al Bowlly crooning in the echoey background wouldn't have been amiss, but thankfully science fiction films and mankind have gone far beyond Joan Baez warbling end credits even if the message is similar.

Whether the film is guilty of Sexism or not it's certainly guilty of Corn, and nothing wrong with that at all. Excellent hokum, superb cgi cartoonery, and a central performance well worth watching.

Blood Will Out, 29 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A Cup Of Kindness was the last Ben Travers Aldwych Theatre play filmed with the original team of Tom Walls, Ralph Lynn & Robertson Hare, the play was good enough to run for 291 performances from 1929. Although a pleasant time passer the trouble is his other efforts all had better lines and more farcical situations; maybe simply the setting of everyone's travails in a "middle class" instead of upper class environment made a huge difference.

Suburban neighbours the Tutt's and the Rambottom's are absurdly snobbish and/or reverse-snobbish and/or plain argumentative, but their respective offspring are in love with each other. Lynn gets involved in some dodgy enterprise which for a time makes it look like curtains for his romance with Dorothy Hyson but of course in accordance with most of the best films ever made a happy ending is guaranteed. That is my only problem with it – the cup of kindness overflowed so suddenly and swiftly with Auld Lang Syne sung by the cast to the camera I wondered if the climax of the original play had been as rushed too. The film lasted a mere 75 minutes, I could have happily sat through another 75; most people probably wouldn't last 75 seconds though. To me there were enough double-entendres, witticisms and nonsenses to make it all worthwhile, none of which could be successfully conveyed in print. Graham Moffat appeared briefly as a choirboy, the IMDb list this as his earliest film; Claude Hulbert played his usual part – therefore with Lynn making a brace of silly asses in here. Favourite bits: the group assembled for the wedding photo and the chaotic break up; Sly Veronica Rose telling departing bride Hyson (and us) she'd packed nothing in her suitcase because that's what she's need. Nice old farce, I assume the BBC's 1970 version was binned and lost decades ago so thanks go to Walls and Travers for committing it to film and preserving it.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Superman vs Godzilla, 22 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I promised myself after watching Man Of Steel (all being well) to steel myself and see just one more Dark Crap film and this was it, the 3 hour Dawn Of Justice Ultimate Edition. Is there a Coherent Edition out there too? I wasn't disappointed – as I expected I didn't enjoy it; I'll probably stick with light-hearted Marvel from now on for this kind of entertainment, because ultimately Time's running out.

Batman has a lifelong violent grudge against Superman for being responsible for his parents' deaths and machinates to kill him for the first 150 minutes. Then, upon the utterance of a single word by Superman to the grunted astonishment of Batman all sins are forgiven for the final half hour and they become allies in attempting to defeat Evil. Unbelievable, they're living in a fantasy world if they expect us to swallow that! Then, the film nosedived from being mildly incoherent and boring into intensely incoherent and laughable. I thought the tinny music for the relentless multi-coloured patterns on the screen which were supposed to represent a cgi conflagration suited the Godzilla/Hobbit monster perfectly though – no doubt Warners owed any Asian backers something. There seemed to be more newspapers and TV news telling the "story" than usual – but do kids nowadays remember those antiquated types of news outlets? The film started and ended with gloomy grimy graveyards with much grunting and griping; there has to be an overarching moral there somewhere. And don't expect any light-bulb moments in here! Carnage is wreaked and Death would be stalking the Land for weeks afterwards but none of the twerps protecting the planet cared a fig about that. Affleck was fascinating with his ridiculous grunting, Cavill was a thoughtless sulky yob, Gadot should have been with someone else, I felt sorry for Amy Adams in yet another hopeless film.

I grew up with the nonsensical 1960's Batman, but unfortunately these particular superheroes have been allowed to grow up superselfish and superfluous.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
A fictional fantasy easy to swallow, 8 January 2017

I always check a page of previous comments, mainly to verify I'm on the right webpage but also to verify I watched the same movie and possibly to purr at shared opinions. This time I was very surprised at the vehemence of the angry dislike and scorn of most commenters to the latest Marvel offering, because as a non-purist it was basically what I expected: fantastic in the expected sense, not great as expected but I quite enjoyed it, as I'd hoped.

There's a rift in the lute betwixt Iron Man and Captain America and a spat develops when the Avengers are told by a mere 117 governments they must be officially registered to be allowed to continue saving the Earth. Iron Man and his motley crew side with the UN, the latter with his team side with Good. For a commercial work of fantasy it works. If all the Avengers had appeared in a scene singing and dancing in top hats and suspenders I would have accepted it in the same way we have to accept scenes like Bucky stopping and mounting a motorbike going by at speed one-handed and riding it away, or America mega-leaping from a building to the edge of another and continue running with no damage. Thumping whilst flying is routine and as for stopping a helicopter in mid-flight with your bare hands, well that kind of thing happens every day! I do have a minor problem with the chances of a traffic camera being nicely on hand in 1991 to record Stark's parents' brutal murders, the videotape surviving, and being suddenly available to the understandably outraged Tony 25 years later - in front of the murderer. But not much. You can appreciate that an appearance by Hulk would've made for a rather one-sided battle, but I admit I'm puzzled why Thor was excluded. The plot and acting is suitably unbelievable, the many action scenes are so superbly cartoon as to make Jason Bourne look a doddering old fool. My only worry is that it can't be long before the MCU, like the books, disappears up its own fiendishly incoherent plot vortex. Expect no ending, for there no ending in this world.

This franchise is financed by hard headed business people expecting only a profit but made by creative people who appreciate what they're doing as well. And in the main it'll be watched by people already looking forward to the next satisfactory Marvel time-filler… probably including the real D. Trump too I expect.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Jason Corn, 1 January 2017

Have the Bourne films overly influenced D. Trump? He and V. Putin must have the boxset. After this instalment I again wonder who the good guys in the world are supposed to be and feel that everyone is out to destroy someone or thing, including the drivers behind this project to flog an apparently dead horse.

A thin tale of bullies and cyber bullies with lashings of chases and fights, conflating all kinds of fact and fiction. Chunky Bourne again played by Damon is drawn out of the shadows by director Greengrass, sorry, a sudden reawakened longing to establish the reason for his existence now and previous, and a recollection of his fathers' death finally established by a jpg. If corny music had been added and the violence reduced the film's premise would've been on a par with a soapy storyline from Neighbours or Dallas. Treadstone has surely been well trodden by now? The nice people at the CIA in the US show how damn clever they are by deleting those files he was looking at in Berlin by linking up to a non-smartphone. The millions of destructive dumb nutters in the world can breathe easy with US security busy chasing its tail as portrayed here. The UK DVD warns of "moderate violence" but neglects to warn of "excessive brutality". While the product placement won't influence me to go out and get another Dell laptop, oh no! The acting was generally believable, especially so with Vikander but craggy Jones' character was the King of Bland. The obligatory chase sequences are eye popping as usual, and those in Las Vegas now make those in Diamonds Are Forever look more akin to a stroll in the park. Although the final fight made me unintentionally laugh as the style has so quickly become so mimicked and clichéd.

I enjoyed it overall as pure escapism sprinkled with forgivable plot holes – as I expected it was nowhere near as good as instalment #1 and still as engrossing (and grossing) as ever; but not as I expected, borderline corny. After all the destruction, to be constructive: It kept a lot of people in thought and in work for a while making it and a lot more people in pleasure watching it. As repeatedly adjured during the film, Copy that!

Maytime (1937)
Will You Remember : Unforgettable, 30 May 2016

This is one of my all time favourite sentimental melodramas – seen again tonight after a 20 year gap it's holding up well. It helps that it's always been soft-focus other-worldly to me like most of the Macdonald-Eddy films - probably was in 1937 to most people.

Mysterious old lady Jeannette Macdonald tells old story to young woman setting out in life, with or without her beau. In flashback we learn her tragic history, she had been moulded into a successful opera singer by John Svengali Barrymore in love with her but she fell in love with dashing opera singer Nelson Eddy instead. Some fine singing and lavish production values along the way - especially singing for Louis Napolean and the Maytime scenes - to the logical climax and wishful-thinking ending. A lot of people today may consider savage the depiction of monkeys on chains, smoking, and the immutable law that a woman's existence is mainly for her submission to the whims of her man. Me, I duly note how times have changed and get on with enjoying the film for what it is: One of MGM's most wondrous and enduring musicals. Watch it and weep - and not just for what movies have lost over the decades.

It also helps having a wondrous tune with thoughtful words in, even excellent if hummed whilst having a bath. Will You Remember (Sweetheart) especially as reprised was perfectly built up to – if after over two hours you aren't moved by the torrent of beautiful corn you're made of stronger stuff than me!

1 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
For the kids, 22 May 2016

Back in 1977 I enjoyed the original Star Wars, all six passable follow-ups since have only left me wondering why I bothered with them. This time, for the last time.

The preliminary rolling script tells you in advance all you need to know: it's straight-faced and interminable - by the second paragraph I was glazing over. It's an updated cgi copy of the original, only right down to the corny plot and hackneyed characterisations as well. Although the threadbare Nazi comparison looms larger in this. If you've seen the original and aren't a kid or are childish you've no need to see this – the franchise will survive and thrive without us, and vv. Film companies have long written over 50's out of their plans – although Hans Solo was humorously shown up with Routine Early Onset in here. And just for the record for the kids: don't bother watching the originals either in case you choke with laughter on your cocaine - What you have with this film is something that will live on in your memories and imaginations.

It's a well-made time-passer, but I got so little out of this film that it's made up my mind to watch any more instalments only by pure chance, during post-Christmas dinner subsidence. Let's see, that'll be The Empire Awakens And Strikes Back followed by The Returned Jedi Awakens won't it?

The Busy Doing Nothing Film, 25 April 2016

This was a pleasant Bing Crosby vehicle, sitting in a comfort range somewhere between Abbott & Costello Meet Captain Kidd and The Court Jester. It was a favourite family film in ye olden days of mine; to which there's no going back.

A young American blacksmith in 1912 relates his story – that he was whisked mysteriously back in time to King Arthur's Court in Camelot, England in 528, where he instantly proved a hit with the denizens and fell in love with one of them, the Good Lady Rhonda Fleming. Great Hollywood liberties were taken with Mark Twain's text of course, intentional and unintentional anachronisms abound. Especially with the flat van Heusen & Burke score – pleasant enough ballads but the only one turned timeless was Busy Doing Nothing. To me, 50% of the reason to watch the whole film now is just for that song, a wonderful 3 minutes I only wish was longer. The irony was never lost on me that Crosby, Cedric Hardwicke and William Bendix were joyously celebrating their freedom on the road whilst simultaneously looking out to verify the kingdom's human suffering and despair! Later on, another irony was that apparently the first American manufactured product on British soil was a gun… Plenty of familiar faces in here to watch out for: Alan Napier as the executioner heads the list, Merlin, sorry, Murvyn Vye as a rather slapstick wizard, Richard Webb playing Sir Nelson Eddy, Joseph Vitale having stopped giggling from his previous film's laughing gas, Henry Wilcoxon never looking more like a brick toilet block, etc. Director Tay Garnett seldom put a foot of film wrong in the '30s and '40s.

I have a few problems with it – the technicolor has washed away on a few prints which can be annoying at times, the sound was never great, the acting variable and the plot veered from inspired to winceable corn, and the ending was too Zen to laugh at – but still, a pleasant entertaining film for all that. Hopefully I'll be able to revisit it again sometime soon.

Spectre (2015/I)
1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Batmanesque, 27 March 2016

I would rather watch silly escapist entertainment films like this any day over films which disappear up their own arthole in the pursuit of grim meaning. Because of that I'm sure this was the best "British" film of the year even though I haven't seen any other; I'm also sure nearly everything produced nowadays has to be sadistic and/or perverted to have any money spent on it at all. The colour in this is so subdued most of the time for the sake of modern realism it may have looked more realistic to have pressed the monochrome button. Whether it would look more believable is another matter though!

James Bond is on the chase after baddies variously in places like Mexico, Rome, Tunisia, Austria, and London of course with all of its splendid under-publicised tourist attractions. He gets some, and a few women along the way as usual with many slick nail-biting obligatory chases and fights. What more needs to be reported and what more could anyone want of Bond? Daniel Craig as 007 and Sam Mendes as director have helped make a huge improvement in the Legend that Sean Connery left us; those poor quality extended Saint episodes in previous decades that were passed off as Bond are getting more risible with every new episode. Favourite bits: the delicate artiness with Monica Belucci; the sinister meeting of the baddies in the ridiculous banqueting hall; the romance with Lea Seydoux and then the violence on the empty train – I can't believe they'll throw big Dave Bautista away just like that.

If there was product placement it was very subtle - but I personally wouldn't know a Rolex from a Reebok. The whole plot and almost every character in it is nonsensical and Batmanesque with its cliffhangers, resolutions, cars and gadgets but the actual climax bordered on ludicrous and was rushed (among other things there was no fanfare for Q), however there was a lot to savour in the overall mammoth running time. And I admit it - I preferred it to Skyfall.

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