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Long Way Up (2020)
Long Way Up
Long Way Round in 2004 was fantastic, and Long Way Down in 2007 was equally good, it had been twelve years since the actors and crew had travelling together, this third series was filmed in 2019 and became a big hit on Apple TV+ during lockdown in 2020. Basically, actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman reconnected following a nasty accident Boorman suffered in early 2019 and talked about another journey around the world riding on motorbikes. They plan a journey that would take them 13,000 miles from Argentina to Los Angeles, USA, travelling northwards through South and Central America and the United States. The biggest difference with this series was that Ewan and Charley would be riding on prototype electric motorbikes manufactured by Harley-Davidson, and the crew would be travelling in prototype electric vehicles built by Rivian especially for the journey. The crew joining them are director/producers David Alexanian and Russ Malkin, and cameramen Claudio von Planta and James Simak. The crew would link up with them at borders and help with logistics, equipment and supplies, but otherwise, they were on their own, with handheld and helmet cameras, and relying on electric charging points, some supplied by the supporting companies, some from local places. Although there are parts they could not travel, including a long boat journey, and buying a school bus to get through Mexico to avoid the dangerous drug cartels. Ewan and Charley travel through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, and California, USA. They stay mainly in hotels, but occasionally were given places to stay from natives of the countries and camped where possible. During the journey they meet many interesting people, see the famous sites, experience the culture, and eat food, and they visit UNICEF projects (Ewan is an ambassador). They go through many towns, villages, and cities, and through various types of scenery, including forests, mountains, rivers, mountains, and deserts, through hot, cold, wet, and windy weathers. There are many challenges along the way, including dangerous territories, hostile environments, tough terrain, and occasional accidents, but team try to remain optimistic, and there are some surprises along the way, including an appearance by Ewan's partner (to be wife) actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead (he met her during Fargo, and divorced wife Eve Mavrakis) at the end. The eleven-part series is full of struggles, success, and exploration, the sights make for wonderful viewing, and you really get the sense of adventure from the two best friends. It has the catchy title song by Kelly Jones, lead singer of the Stereophonics, Ewan and Charley and the members of the crew are great characters, this is perfect for anybody who likes a road trip, motorbikes and seeing the world, a fantastic travel documentary. Very good!
The Black Phone (2021)
The Black Phone
I saw the poster several times and eventually the trailer, I recognised the lead actor as the villain, and I was intrigued by what I read about the concept, I was excited to see it, based on the book by Joe Hill (Horns), from Blumhouse Productions (Paranormal Activity, Insidious, The Purge, Get Out), directed by Scott Derrickson (Hellraiser: Inferno, Sinister, Doctor Strange). Basically, set in 1978, in the suburbs of Denver, a serial child abductor nicknamed "The Grabber" is prowling the streets, with many children reported missing with posters of them around town. Teenager Finney (Mason Thames) lives in the area with his little sister Gwen (Madeleine McGraw) and their alcoholic and abusive widowed father Terrence (Jeremy Davies). At school, Finney is frequently bullied, but classmate Robin (Miguel Cazarez Mora) becomes his friend, helps to fend the bullies off and encourages him to stand up for himself. One of Finney's friends, Bruce (Tristan Pravong), is abducted by The Grabber. Gwen often has premonitions in her dreams, a psychic ability her mother also shared before her suicide. After dreaming of Bruce's kidnapping, and knowing details that have never been released publicly, Detective Wright (E. Roger Mitchell) and Detective Miller (Troy Rudeseal) question her. But fearing that her father will beat her, who has warned her not tell others about or believe her dreams or be punished, she does not give them answers. Finney, Gwen, and other children in the school become more fearful when Robin is abducted by The Grabber. Days later while walking home, Finney encounters a man claiming to be a magician filling his van, and he is abducted. He wakes up in a small, soundproofed basement and is terrified by the mask-wearing Grabber (Ethan Hawke). In the basement is a mattress, a toilet in the corner, a barred window too high to reach, and a disconnected black phone on the wall. The Grabber says the phone does not work, but during his incarceration Finney hears the phone ringing a few times. Eventually, he answers the ringing phone and speaks to Bruce, who is dead, he is unable to remember his own name or what he did when he was alive. He tells Finney about a floor tile he can remove to dig a tunnel and escape. The police search for Finney is unsuccessful. The Grabber brings Finney some food and leaves the door to the basement unlocked. Finney prepares to make his way out but is stopped by a phone call from a boy named Billy (Jacob Moran). He explains this is a game that The Grabber plays, he is waiting upstairs for Finney and will attack him if he leaves the basement. Billy instructs him to use a cord he found in the basement and attempts to escape out the window. But Finney ends up breaking the bars on the window, preventing him from climbing back up. Gwen dreams of Billy being abducted and sees glimpses of where he may be located, she tells her father about what is happening, but he refuses to listen. Wright and Miller go the house of an eccentric man called Max (James Ransone) living with his brother who is also interested in tracking down The Grabber. It is revealed Finney is being held in Max's basement, without his knowledge, and The Grabber is his brother. He has a disturbing encounter with The Grabber, who claims he would have let him go if he did not lie about his identity, his face is in the newspapers. Finney speaks to another one of the Grabber's victims, Griffin (Banks Repeta), on the phone. Griffin helps Finney to find the combination to a bicycle lock on the door and informs him The Grabber has fallen asleep upstairs. Finney sneaks upstairs and unlocks the door with the combination he found on the wall of his cell, but The Grabber's dog alerts him to Finney's escape. Finney runs down the street but is caught, threatened at knifepoint by The Grabber to keep quiet, and taken back to the basement. Disheartened by his failed escape attempt, Finney answers the phone to hear another victim, a punk called Vance (Brady Hepner) whom Finney used to be scared of. Vance tells Finney if he breaks through a hole in the wall next to the toilet, he might be able to escape via the connecting storage room through the freezer on the other side of the wall. Finney chips a hole in the wall with a toilet cover and enters the back of the freezer but cannot open it as the door is chained shut. As Finney suffers a breakdown, the phone rings one more time with Robin at the end of the line. He comforts Finney and encourages him to finally stand up and fight for himself. He instructs Finney to remove the phone receiver and pack it with dirt from the hole he dug and use it as a weapon. Gwen dreams of Vance's abduction and discovers the property of The Grabber. She identifies the house she saw in her dream and contacts Wright and Miller. Max looks at his map of the Grabber's movements and realises that the children have been taken to the basement beneath him. He rushes to the basement and is about to free Finney, but his brother kills him. The police rush to the house Gwen found but find it abandoned. In the basement, they find the buried bodies of The Grabber's victims. The Grabber attacks Finney with an axe, but Finney manages to defeat him using all the things he did in the room previously. He trips the Grabber with the cord, he causes him to fall into the hole he dug, the Grabber breaks and traps his ankle in the window bars placed at the bottom. The ghosts taunt The Grabber over the phone before Finney strangles him, breaking his neck with the phone cord and killing him. Finney distracts the guard dog with meat from the freezer and escapes the house opening the combination of the bicycle lock. Finney exits the house across the street from the second house with the graves of the dead children. He reunites with Gwen and the police rush to the property. The siblings comfort each other, and their father arrives who apologises for his abusive treatment. Back at school, Finney is now treated with respect, and he confidently sits next to his crush in crash. Also starring Rebecca Clarke as Donna, J. Gaven Wilde as Moose, Spencer Fitzgerald as Buzz, Parrish Stikeleather as Mister Hopkins, and Sheila M. O'Rear as Principal Keller. Newcomer Thames is terrific as the kidnapped terrified young man, McGraw is equally great as his sister with a psychic ability, and Hawke with his interchanging devil mask (smiling, sulking or blank) is suitably sinister as the psychopathic serial murderer. The story of a child kidnapping is given an interesting twist, the ghosts of former victims contacting the boy from beyond the grave through a disconnected phone helping him to get away is clever, I admit the sister dreaming stuff had its iffy moments, and the psycho character could have been on more often, but overall, it is a tense and engaging supernatural horror. Very good!
There have been a few movies about Elvis, including Kurt Russell, David Keith and Michael Shannon playing the cultural figure, I had mixed feelings about what this latest biopic movie would be like, but I could not ignore it, directed by Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby). Basically, in 1997, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks, the former manager of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler), is on his deathbed and looking back on his time discovering and making the future King of Rock and Roll. Young Elvis Presley (Chaydon Jay) had a poverty-ridden childhood with his father Vernon (Richard Roxburgh) and mother Gladys (Helen Thomson). He finds salvation in music, although his fascination with the African American music of Memphis' Beale Street is ridiculed by his peers. Parker is working at a carnival as a "huckster", playing upon the gullible nature of his audience. In 1955, Parker is managing country singer Hank Snow (David Wenham). He hears Elvis and his song "That's All Right" on the radio, and then he sees him performing onstage, and is impressed with his talent. Parker eventually meets and persuades Elvis to let him be his manager, and so begins a stratospheric ascent. At his first sold out concert, Elvis is initially nervous and hears chants from the audience, but then he gains confidence and starts gyrating his hips whilst singing, causing girls in the audience to scream. Elvis releases numerous hit songs that storm the charts, and the press dub him "Elvis the Pelvis for his onstage thrusting. But the young entertainer also causes controversy, with many parents fearing his music is corrupting their children. Racist politicians also attack him for his association with black musicians, including B. B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Little Richard (Alton Mason). After a violent incident at a concert, Elvis is threatened with time in prison. Elvis ignores the negativity and continues with his exuberant performances and went on also to star in big screen movies. It is implied also that Parker persuades the government to draft Elvis into the US Army as a way of avoiding any further legal entanglements. During his time in the service, he is saddened by the death of his mother from alcoholism. While stationed in Germany, Elvis meets and falls in love with Priscilla Beaulieu (Olivia DeJonge). When he is discharged, he resumes his career doing concert tours and films while Parker's control of his life becomes even stronger. During the 1960s, Elvis is heartbroken by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. And Robert Kennedy. He wishes to become more politically outspoken in his music, but Parker merely wants him to sing frivolous tunes that will be best sellers. Elvis is refused a world tour and Parker forces him into a long contract residency, to entertain at a Las Vegas hotel. Elvis is given a television Christmas special, during which Parker insists that he should sing a Christmas song, but he uses the opportunity to perform his greatest hits. Elvis later discovers that Parker denied him a world tour due to him being an illegal Dutch immigrant with no passport. Elvis tries to fire him, only to be sued by Parker for a huge amount that will leave him broke and destitute. There is a vicious argument, and Elvis must admit that he has no choice but to maintain Parker as his manager, although they grow apart and rarely see each other afterwards. Meanwhile, Elvis and Priscilla's marriage breaks down due to his addiction to prescription drugs, she takes their daughter Lisa Marie, which only causes his drug addiction to escalate. By the 1970s, Elvis has gained weight, and after twenty years Parker is no longer his manager, but he is still performing, and he has been suggested for the lead role alongside Barbra Streisand in the remake of A Star Is Born. He and Priscilla have arrangements for shared custody of their daughter, they have a meaningful conversation in the car. He says to Priscilla that no one will remember him after he is gone, but she assures him that is not true. It all ends in tragedy when Elvis dies from a heart attack on August 16, 1977, at the age of 42, while Parker dies old and alone. It ends with one of Elvis's final shows, with him bloated and pale, singing "Unchained Melody". Also starring Kodi Smit-McPhee as Jimmie Rodgers Snow, Xavier Samuel as Scotty Moore, Luke Bracey as Jerry Schilling, Dacre Montgomery as Steve Binder, Yola as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Kate Mulvany as Marion Keisker, Anthony LaPaglia as Bernard Lansky, and Shonka Dukureh as Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. Featuring the Elvis songs "Hound Dog", "Suspicious Minds", "If I Can Dream", "Trouble", "Heartbreak Hotel", "Blue Suede Shoes", "Jailhouse Rock" and "In the Ghetto". Hanks dons a fat suit and is charming but faintly sinister as the infamous Colonel, and DeJonge gets some terrific moments as Priscilla, but relative newcomer Butler is superb as the King, with his look and his moves. It is admittedly over-the-top at times, with its fast-paced editing and cinematography, which you would expect from director Luhrmann, I found the moments of modern rap and R&B music confusing, and the Colonel stealing a huge chunk of Elvis's profits could have been explored a bit more. But you get most of Elvis's greatest hits along the way, there are great recreations of key moments in his career, the scenes between Elvis and Priscilla are suitably emotional, and scenes between Hanks and Butler are memorable as well, and you cannot deny it is visually dazzling, all in all it is a worthwhile biographical musical drama. Good!
Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)
Pacific Rim: Uprising
The original film directed by Gullermo del Toro was okay, it must have made a good amount of money for there to be a sequel, I kept missing it on television, and I knew I was going to watch eventually. Basically, in a futuristic world, it has been teen years since the Battle of the Breach, and the interdimensional portal created by the Precursors was closed, stopping the marauding Kaiju. Former Jaeger pilot Jake Pentecost (John Boyega, also producing), son of Stacker Pentecost, makes a living by stealing and selling Jaeger parts on the black market in Santa Monica, California. One day, he finds the secret workshop of fifteen-year-old Jaeger enthusiast Amara Namani (The Craft: Legacy's Cailee Spaeny), he has part of a disabled Jaeger's power core. Jake and Amara are apprehended by the PPDC (Pan-Pacific Defense Corps) after Amara's originally made small, single-pilot Jaeger Scrapper and law enforcement Jaeger November Ajax have a fight. Jake's adoptive sister and PPDC Secretary General Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) persuades him to return to PPDC as an instructor to avoid prison, with Amara as his recruit. Arriving at the China Shatterdome, Jake starts training Jaeger program cadets with his estranged former co-pilot Nathan "Nate" Lambert (Scott Eastwood, Clint's son). Nate and Mako explain that the Jaeger program is threatened by the Shao Corporation's new drone program which could mass-produce Jaeger drones developed by Shao Liwen (Tian Jing) and Dr. Newton 'Newt' Geiszler (Charlie Day). Mako is due to make a final assessment for the approval of the drones at a PPDC council meeting in Sydney, but is killed by a rogue Jaeger, Obsidian Fury, during an altercation with the latter and Gipsy Avenger, Jake, and Nate's Jaeger, before she can. Mako's death prompts the PPDC council to authorise and deploy the drones immediately. Obsidian escapes into the ocean before backup Jaegers can apprehend it. Moments before her death, Mako had transmitted the location of a defunct Jaeger production facility in Siberia. Jake and Nate travel there in Gipsy Avenger, but Obsidian Fury destroys the complex and engages them in battle. Upon destroying its reactor, they find that Obsidian Fury was not controlled by humans, but by a Kaiju's secondary brain that is discovered to have been grown on Earth. The drones reach their respective locations, but their piloting operations are hijacked by cloned Kaiju brains. The Kaiju-Jaeger hybrids simultaneously attack all Pacific Rim Shatterdomes, inflicting heavy casualties and incapacitating almost all Jaegers. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and Newt try to disable the drones, but Newt is revealed to be behind the attack when he commands the Kaiju-Jaeger hybrids to open multiple breaches across the Pacific Rim. Newt's mind has been taken over by the Precursors, and he created Obsidian Fury and orchestrated Mako's assassination to ensure the Precursors' plan would proceed. But Shao is able to destroy the drones, closing the breaches, three Kaiju, Hakuja, Shrikethorn, and Raijin had already emerged and reached Tokyo. The team realises that the Precursors' intention is to activate the Ring of Fire by detonating Mount Fuji with the Kaijus' blood, spreading toxic gas into the atmosphere to wipe out all life on Earth and terraforming the planet for Precursor colonisation. The cadets are mobilised while Gottlieb and Shao repair the PPDC's four salvageable Jaegers. Gottlieb develops Kaiju-blood-powered rockets, which launch the team to Tokyo. Although the Jaegers, including Gipsy Avenger, initially repel the three Kaiju, Newt merges them into a "Mega-Kaiju" using robotic parasites from one of Shao's factories. Three of the four Jaegers are destroyed, critically damaged, or rendered inoperable, leaving Gipsy Avenger as the only one remaining. Nate is injured, so Jake and Amara pilot it against the Mega-Kaiju, with Shao remote piloting Scrapper and aiding them by locating a rocket and welding it to Gipsy, sending the Jaeger, with Scrapper holding on, into the atmosphere and free-falling back to Earth, colliding into the Mega-Kaiju, and killing it. Jake and Amara survive by transferring to Scrapper. Furious at the Mega-Kaiju's death, Newt initiates his secondary plan, but is knocked out and captured by Nate, and peace is restored. Newt says that humanity's victory is meaningless because the Precursors will keep sending attacks, but Jake says humanity will soon be the ones attacking the Precursors. Also starring Adria Arjona as Jules Reyes, Jin Zhang as Marshal Quan, Karan Brar as Cadet Suresh, Wesley Wong as Cadet Jinhai, Ivanna Sakhno as Cadet Viktoria, Mackenyu as Cadet Ryoichi, Lily Ji as Cadet Meilin, Shyrley Rodriguez as Cadet Renata, Rahart Adams as Cadet Tahima, and Levi Meaden as Cadet Ilya. Boyega does well as the lead hero, Spaeny is likeable, Eastwood is fine, and Day is a bit too much pantomime villain. The concept is just about simple enough, giant creatures from another world and mind-controlled robots doing battle, the special effects are again visually impressive to bring monster and machinery to life, but the dialogue is again predictable, and the pace is uneven, it is just another below average science-fiction action adventure. Okay!
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
This was independent film was added into the latest edition of the book 1001 Movies See Before You Die, I seem to remember film critic Mark Kermode talking about it, after looking into it more I was certainly interested to see it. Basically, in Pennsylvania, seventeen-year-old Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanigan) suspects she is pregnant and goes to a crisis pregnancy centre. At the centre, she is given a drug store test confirming that she is pregnant. She is told that she 10 weeks along and is given leaflets about adoption and is shown an anti-abortion video. After returning home, she decides to pierce her own nose, using a heated needle and tissue, and fits a piece of silver. Autumn intends to get an abortion, as she is not ready to be a mother, but she learns that she cannot get an abortion in Pennsylvania without parental consent. In desperation, she tries a self-inflicted miscarriage by swallowing pills and punching herself in the stomach, but these methods are futile, she ends up with bruises on her stomach. She and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) work in the same grocery store together, and with her pregnancy she experiences sickness. After confiding in her cousin about her unwanted baby, Autumn searches the internet for places she can legally get an abortion without parental consent. Skylar steals cash from the supermarket till and agrees to come with her as they buy bus tickets to New York City. On the bus they meet teenager Jasper (Théodore Pellerin) who is attracted to Skylar, but she tries to ignore his flirtations. At the Planned Parenthood clinic in Brooklyn, Autumn is given a new sonogram and told that she is actually 18 weeks pregnant; the crisis pregnancy centre lied to her about how far along she was. The social worker (Sipiwe Moyo) says that they can only perform procedures up to 12 weeks but confirms that she can get all the care she needs tomorrow at a secondary facility in Manhattan. Autumn and Skylar spend time that night riding the subway and play games at an arcade. The following morning at the second clinic, Autumn learns that a second-trimester abortion is a two-day procedure. She realises that paying for the abortion will use up the rest of her and Skylar's funds. Before any procedure can go ahead, Autumn has a conversation with a counsellor (Kelly Chapman), to confirm that it can performed safely and that the decision to terminate the pregnancy is her own. The counsellor then asks her a series of questions about her relationships and sexual partners as they can affect her health, and she wants to make sure Autumn is safe. These questions are really personal, and she just has to answer "Never, Rarely, Sometimes, or Always". As she answers the questions, Autumn is tearful admitting to perhaps being physically and sexually abused, and the counsellor gives her a number to call if she ever wants to talk about it later. Skylar realises the two have no way of going home as their money will run out. Autumn refuses to let Skylar call either of their mothers. Jasper returns and takes them out bowling and karaoke singing. At the end of the night, Skylar asks Jasper if he can give them some money to get home on the bus, and he agrees. Skylar and Jasper leave to find a cash machine, and Autumn later finds them kissing. Realising Skylar is only going along with it for his money, Autumn discreetly holds Skylar's hand to comfort her. The next morning, Autumn goes to her appointment, meeting again with the counsellor who wants to make a follow-up appointment somewhere closer to home to check up on her. Autumn is taken through, with the counsellor by her side, and she is put to sleep while the abortion procedure is carried out. Autumn and Skylar go to a restaurant, Skylar asks her questions about the procedure, but Autumn is vague. It ends with the two boarding the bus heading back to Pennsylvania. Also starring Ryan Eggold as Ted, Sharon Van Etten as Mother, and Kim Rios Lin as Anesthesiologist. Newcomer Flanigan gives an impressive performance as the desperate teenager and Ryder is pretty good as her supportive cousin, writer and director Eliza Hittman goes for a realistic, subtle, and compassionate approach rather than melodrama, abortion is a controversial subject, especially in many states of America, but it is treated sensitively, and it is believable, a terrific drama. Very good!
Toy Story was the first full length computer-animated movie, and launched the Disney/Pixar brand, the makers eventually released its star, Buzz Lightyear, as a real-life toy which flew off the shelves, and there was a cartoon TV series. Many fans of the franchise must have been excited to get a spin-off movie, serving as an origins story for the character, I heard mixed reviews for it, but the trailer looked good to me, so I was always going to see it. Basically, on the habitable planet of T'Kani Prime, Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Chris Evans) of Star Command, and his commanding officer and best friend, Alisha Hawthorne (Uzo Aduba), are exploring. They are also joined by new recruit Featheringhamstan (Bill Hader). But they discover hostile lifeforms and forced to retreat to their exploration vessel. The crew are forced to evacuate after Buzz damages the vessel during their retreat, and repairs must be made before their journey can continue. One year later, a colony has been constructed on the planet whilst repairs are made. Buzz volunteers to be test pilot for a ship containing the hyperspace fuel. Buzz carries out a four-minute test flight but is unable to reach the full speed requirement. But he also finds that he has travelled four years into the future on T'Kani Prime, because of time dilation. Buzz is given a robotic feline companion Sox (Peter Sohn), who encourages him to continue his mission testing the hyperspace fuel. With every test, four more years pass on T'Kani Prime, with Buzz continually unable to reach the speed required. Eventually, he has travelled 62 years into the future. During this time, the colony develops, Alisha and her wife Kiko have a son before Alisha dies of old age. Buzz is amazed to find during the years that Sox has found a solution to the fuel's composition, allowing it to obtain speeds faster than light. Buzz goes against the orders of his new commanding officer, Commander Burnside (Isiah Whitlock Jr), using the new fuel composition for a successful hyperspace test. Buzz lands and discovers 22 years have passed, during which T'Kani Prime has been invaded by robots known as Zyclops led by the mysterious enemy Emperor Zurg. Buzz meets up with members of the colony's defence forces, including Alisha's now-adult granddaughter Izzy Hawthorne (Keke Palmer), fresh, naïve recruit Mo Morrison (Taika Waititi), and elderly paroled convict Darby Steel (Dale Soules). Buzz is initially reluctant to work with them, but slowly warms to them. Together, they plan to attack Zurg's ship and destroy the invading force. Following an encounter, Buzz abducted by Zurg, bringing him aboard his ship and revealing himself to be an older warped, nihilistic version of Buzz (James Brolin) from an alternate timeline in which he escaped from Burnside's forces after the successful hyperspace test. Aided by the effects of time dilation, he travelled to the far future, encountering a technologically advanced and abandoned vessel. He became Zurg creating a mecha suit and has travelled to this version of the
present to obtain more hyperspace fuel from Buzz to travel further back in time and prevent the exploration vessel from ever landing on T'Kani Prime. However, Buzz refuses because of the possibility of a temporal paradox that would wipe out the current timeline and everyone from it. Meanwhile, Izzy, Mo, Darby, and Sox board Zurg's ship to rescue Buzz. After a chaotic assault on the ship, Buzz and his comrades destroy the ship and escape. But Zurg has survived his ship's destruction and attacks Buzz, obtaining the hyperspace fuel. As Zurg prepares to destroy him, Buzz shoots the fuel, causing it to explode and incapacitate Zurg. With the fuel gone, Buzz wishes to stay on T'Kani Prime. Upon landing, Burnside arrests Buzz, but relents, allowing Buzz to revive the Space Ranger Corps. Buzz selects Izzy, Mo, Darby, and Sox to form the core team, surprising Burnside. Buzz and his team are then sent on a new mission to parts unknown. In a post-credits scene, Zurg is revealed to have survived the explosion. Also starring Keira Hairston as young Izzy, Napoleon Dynamite's Efren Ramirez as Airman Diaz, and a cameo from British astronaut Tim Peake as a mission control worker. Evans is suited to replace original actor Tim Allen, giving the character warmth and boyish charm, and the other voice actors are good as well. The film opens with text explaining that this was the film Andy saw to make him want a Buzz Lightyear action figure, but I will be honest and say that this wasn't the origins story I was expecting, I thought it was going to be something completely different. The magic of Toy Story was the toys coming to life, the characters, and how toys shape childhood, this film does not have any real emotional engagement, it is style over substance with a story full of action, machines and creatures, Sox the cat does get some good moments of humour, and obviously it is designed brilliantly with colourful visuals, I just wish it had more depth, it an entertaining enough science-fiction adventure. Worth watching!
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins
Before I went to see the Disney/Pixar Toy Story computer-animated spin-off movie Lightyear at the cinema, I decided to watch this straight-to-video traditional animated spin-off, which served as the pilot for the TV series that followed, directed by Tad Stones (The Return of Jafar, Aladdin and the King of Thieves). Basically, it opens with Woody (Jim Hanks, Tom's brother), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and the toys of Andy's bedroom about to watch the VHS copy of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command. In the film, Buzz Lightyear and his partner Warp Darkmatter (Diedrich Bader) are searching for three missing L. G. M. (Little Green Men) (all voiced by Patrick Warburton), a race of aliens working for Star Command's Universe Protection Unit as scientists. They discover the lost L. G. M. In a hidden lab belonging to the evil Emperor Zurg (Wayne Knight). Buzz and Warp break in and rescue the L. G. M., but Zurg triggers the self-destruct system, and Warp is trapped, forcing Buzz to leave before the explosion occurs, apparently killing Warp. Following Warp's death, Buzz refuses to work with a new partner, but Commander Nebula (Adam Carolla) gives him a new recruit. Princess Mira Nova (Nicole Sullivan) from Tangea is skilled in combat, but Buzz is still reluctant to partner with her. Buzz later prevents large but well-meaning alien janitor Booster Munchapper (Stephen Furst) from being fired. In Zurg's fortress, new henchman Agent Z (Diedrich Bader) arrives with a multi-weapon robotic arm. Zurg plots to steal the Uni-Mind, a huge orb on the L. G. M. Home world responsible for the telepathic link between them. The L. G. M. Build a robot soldier called XR (Larry Miller), offering him as a partner for Buzz who can be repaired if damaged, but he can only function imitating Buzz. After receiving a telepathic message from the L. G. M. About Zurg's attack, Buzz and XR travel to their planet. Agent Z confronts them and destroys XR while Zurg steals the Uni-Mind. Unable to think clearly, the L. G. M. Rebuild XR, but he functions with a mind of his own. Commander Nebula decides to launch a full-scale assault on Planet Z, but Mira argues that the prototype Alpha-One should be used. Zurg corrupts the Uni-Mind into a "Mega-Ray" to bend everyone to Zurg's will. Mira steals the Alpha-One prototype spacecraft to fight Zurg, while Buzz, who also considered stealing the craft, follows Mira in another craft, unaware Booster and XR are stowaways. Buzz catches up to Mira and brings her back to base, along with Booster and XR who are discovered. Zurg's Mega-Ray is fired onto several planets in quick succession, brainwashing occupants into his slaves, before turning the weapon on Star Command. Buzz, Mira, Booster, and XR return to base, finding all the staf, including Nebula, have been corrupted by Zurg. Buzz and the others escape in the Alpha-One just before a bomb planted on Buzz's ship is detonated. The cruiser is destroyed but Zurg presumes that Buzz is dead. Booster accidentally causes the ship to crash-land on Planet Z. There, Buzz insists on completing the mission alone and orders the others to leave. Buzz fights Agent Z, but ends up captured and taken to Zurg. Agent Z reveals himself to be Warp, who faked his death, and has been working secretly for Zurg for years as a double agent. Buzz is allowed to make a "final log entry", a coded distress call to Mira, Booster and XR. Zurg plans to use the Mega-Ray on Buzz, but XR and Booster get to him in time to rescue him. Booster and Mira manage to destroy Warp's mechanical arm, but Zurg escapes after fighting Buzz, before the allies can arrest him. Booster and XR arrest Warp and skydive from Zurg's exploding tower. Mira uses her ability of "ghosting" to push Buzz into the core of the Uni-Mind to restore, freeing all people on the various planets from slavery, while Zurg's fate is unknown. The unity of the L. G. M. Is restored and Warp is taken to prison for treason. Buzz finally admits that he cannot work alone, and recruits XR, Mira and Booster into his team, "Team Lightyear". Also starring Kevin Michael Richardson as Space Ranger, Frank Welker as Grubs / Self Destruct / Ranger #1 / Rhizomian Man / Cadet Flarn, Andrew Stanton as Hamm, R. Lee Ermey as Sarge, Wallace Shawn as Rex, Joe Ranft as Wheezy, and Jeff Pidgeon as the Aliens. Allen (who was replaced by Patrick Warburton for the TV series) is well cast as the lead hero, the supporting cast, particularly Knight who has fun as the villain, are fine. The rushed looking hand-drawn animation is nowhere near as good as the computer-animated films the character was in, the story is predictable and dull, and the attempts of humour are hardly worthwhile, it is just the kind of nonsense you'd expect from a home video release, a silly animated science-fiction adventure. Adequate!
When Films Go Horribly Wrong (2022)
When Films Go Horribly Wrong
When I read about this documentary programme advertised, I recognised a couple of the things mentioned that would be included, and I had my guesses of what else may be included, so I was really looking forward to watching. Basically, the show was a three-hour collection of clips, focusing on the mostly negative films released in cinemas, and televised and online film-related things, including cinema/online trailers, filmmaker and star promotions and press interviews, film screenings, and much more. These include negative reviews and box office bombs, accidents behind-the-scenes, awkward interviews, controversy and banning of films, incidents in the news overshadowing the film, bad CGI, and much more, in Britain and/or around the world.
Hollywood actors going wrong included: Tom Cruise filming a stunt for Mission: Impossible - Fallout in London, jumping onto the side of a building he broke two bones in his ankle, shooting was delayed for months; and Bruce Willis drunk on The One Show promoting A Good Day to Die Hard, slurring about its confusing title, he apparently had jetlag, the film bombed. More A-list stars mishaps included: Robert Downey Jr. Starred in family film Dolittle, he did a terrible Welsh accent, and there was an added scene with a dragon farting and having its stomach emptied, the movie made a financial loss; and Mark Ruffalo and Don Cheadle were on Good Morning America promoting Avengers: Infinity War, Ruffalo spoiled the plot (nine months before its release) by saying that "everybody dies", Cheadle squirmed and Ruffalo was embarrassed, this spread all over social media. Negativity surrounding films included: the Cats movie, based on the long-running Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, gained excitement, including for its director and cast, but the trailer was met with criticism from fans for its disturbing special effects with human looking cats, the film itself was a commercial and critical failure; and the Nina Simone biopic Nina was met with backlash/outrage following the casting of mixed-race actress Zoe Saldana, makeup made her skin darker and her nose wider, the story included an untrue relationship between Nina and Clifton Henderson, Nina Simone's daughter was unhappy, the film did not do well, and Saldana admitted she should not have accepted the role. Superhero movies going wrong included: DC Comics' Justice League director Zack Snyder had to dropout due to a family bereavement, it was completed by director Joss Whedon who did many reshoots, Henry Cavill shot additional scenes, but CGI to airbrush his moustache grown for Mission: Impossible - Fallout made his lips look strange, the film was a failure, and original director Snyder later made a director's cut; and a late-night first screening of Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises at midnight in Aurora, Colorado at the Century 16 cinema was a tragic disaster, a man fired a smoke grenade, assault rifle, shotgun, and pistol at staff and customers, he was arrested without resistance, twelve people were killed, director Christopher Nolan sent messages of sympathy, premieres were cancelled, Christian Bale visited the victims, and the killer was sentenced to twelve life sentences. Films with problems during production included: stuntman Rocky Taylor jumping from a burning building during the making of Death Wish 3, director Michael Winner shouted for him to jump, but he was disorientated by the flames and missed the crash mat, he hit the ground, broke several bones, and had to go to hospital, Taylor sued and settled out of court, and the film was a failure; and Myra Breckinridge was a controversial book but a worldwide bestseller, about a man who has a sex change and poses as his own widow to claim an inheritance, the film was made by director Michael Sarne, Raquel Welch was cast as the lead, it also stars previously retired actress Maw West and John Huston, there was a feud between West and Welch, filming was slow due to Sarne's pace of direction, and the final scene has a man restrained and raped with clips of Shirley Temple and Loretta Young shown, the film was critically despised and a commercial failure. Other movie mistakes included: the original trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog featuring a freakish human-like Sonic, with smaller eyes and joints on his limbs, fans of the video game were outraged, director Jeff Fowler promised to redesign Sonic, which cost $5 million; and cult movie Roar made by filmmaker Noel Marshall, starring Marshall's real family - Tippi Hedren and daughter Melanie Griffiths, the family raised lions from cubs themselves, they got 150 big cats - lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, cheetahs, all untrained, the filming had over 70 injuries (dozens of bites), including Tippi's leg crushed by an elephant, and Melanie clawed in the face and getting reconstructive surgery, and a flood wiped out the set costing $3 million and delay for months, the film took 11 years to complete and was a box office flop, and Tippi and Noel divorced. Box office blunders included: Monty Python's Life of Brian was faced with controversy about its perceived blasphemy, it was banned in many countries, Mary Whitehouse was against it, the Python cast got death threats, Palin and Cleese went on Friday Night, Saturday Morning to defend the film, with Bishop of Southwark and Malcolm Muggeridge, the discussion became a slagging match, years later it is recognised as a comedy classic; and Sir Ridley Scott made the film All the Money in the World, about the kidnapping of John Paul Getty III and his grandfather refusing to pay a ransom, a trailer for the completed film was released with Kevin Spacey playing John Paul Getty, but the scandal of Spacey's allegations of sexual assaults plagued the film, it was in danger of being shelved, Scott chose (before a studio mentioned anything) to reshoot with a new actor within 8 days, Christopher Plummer (originally considered) filmed 22 scenes, it cost $10 million, there was controversy of Mark Wahlberg taking a higher salary than Michelle William for the same amount of time, but Wahlberg gave the money to charity, and the film was a success, receiving acclaim and award nominations. More movie errors included: A Clockwork Orange caused controversy for its numerous scenes of graphic violence, including a brutal assault whilst the lead character sings "Singin' in the Rain", it was a hit movie, but press reports linked the film to acts of violence, director Stanley Kubrick and his family received threats and he chose to withdraw the film (it was not banned), stating it would never be shown in his lifetime, he died in 1999 and it was made available, it is recognised as a cult masterpiece; and Raise the Titanic, based on the best-selling book, was made into a film by TV producer Lord Lew Grade, the budget doubled during pre-production, the non-sensical plot was about the shipwreck containing a precious mineral onboard that can stop missile attacks, the large miniature replica of the Titanic cost $6 million to build and a water tank to fit it into cost $3 million, there were 50 takes of the raising scene, there was a glitzy premiere for the film, but it was a flop and a critical failure. Further film faults included: Tommy Lee Jones doing a press junket for Men in Black 3, but he was rude to the young interviewer Kevin McCarthy, giving one-word answers to his questions, and he gave no real answer in his longer responses; and The Last Temptation of Christ, based on the book by Nikos Kazantzakis, was directed by religious (Catholic) Martin Scorsese, starring Willem Dafoe and Harvey Keitel, with a soundtrack by Peter Gabriel, but the film received backlash by religious figures, the scene that caused most controversy was Jesus and Mary Magdalene having sex, Christians in the US protested in the streets, American evangelist Bill Bright offered Universal $10 million to destroy the negative of the film, it was banned in countries, and Mother Theresa campaigned against it, Scorsese received death threats (from Christians) and there was a terrorist attack with a cinema in Paris, France screening it set on fire, the film faltered at the box office. The last film fails included: Troma Entertainment make low-budget independent horror films, e.g. The Toxic Avenger, Nuke 'Em High, the studio has a cult following, they showed a trailer for their feature Beware: Children at Play at the Cannes Film Festival, a trashy gory film with cannibal zombie children killing people, with adults and children being slaughtered, most of the audience left the cinema before the main screening after being disgusted and were hostile to the filmmaker; and stuntman Paul Mantz was killed during the making of The Flight of the Phoenix, he constructed the plane used in the film, but during a filmed stunt the plane flew too low, caught on the sand, and Mantz was crushed to death, he was not wearing a crash helmet.
I had my guesses what movies and related moments would be included, the bad ones, and TV moments that are funny, unfunny and awkward, I always enjoy the nostalgia seeing these things again, and it was good to learn about those I did not know, and the serious stuff as well, overall, it was an interesting and watchable documentary.
Narrated by Sean Pertwee, with contributions from Vas Blackwood, Antony Costa, Jake Curran, Adam Deacon, Eve Ferret, Cristo Foufas (DJ), Steve Furst, presenter Simon Harkness, Tamer Hassan, Rufus Hound, Eddie Kadi, Lloyd Kaufman (Troma co-founder), Patsy Kensit, James King, EastEnders' Jonny Labey, Valerie Leon, comedian Ria Lina, John Marshall (Noel's son), actor and presenter Jodie McCallum, The Spy Who Loved Me's Caroline Munro, Derren Nesbitt, Helen O'Hara (film critic), Crissy Rock, Michael Sarne, Madeline Smith, Jonathan Sothcott (film producer), presenter Hayley Sparkes, Craig Stevens, Terry Stone (actor and producer), Rocky Taylor, John Thomson, and Shaun Williamson. Very good!
I mistakenly thought I had finished all titles from all previous editions of the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die back when we stuck at home during lockdown in 2020. However, after double-checking my reviews and the checklist, it turns out I missed this Albanian/Italian film, so I got on with it when I got the opportunity. Basically, set in Albania after the fall of communism, a pair of racketeers arrive from Italy, young man Gino (Enrico Lo Verso) originally from Sicily and the older Fiore (Michele Placido). They create a start-up scam shoe factory, with the intention to use the fake company to embezzle investors. With the help of an Albanian middleman, they decide to look for a figurehead "chairman", someone who will do what they say with no questions. Spiro Tozaj (Carmelo Di Mazzarelli) is a political prisoner who deserted to be with his family but has lost track of time and events of the world. He is unsure of his age and was imprisoned for many years. Gino and Fiore recruit him believing he is a man with no relatives, thinking he will be the perfect candidate for business, giving hope to local Albanians. Through numerous circumstances, the old man ends up in the middle of the Albanian outback, with Gino going after him to bring him back. It is later revealed that Spiro's real name is Michele Tallaricoof, a Sicilian. Gino tries many times to stay close to the old man, who continually tries to use local public transport to find his own way, with no idea where he is going. There are distressing incidents along the way, including Gino having the tyres stolen from his car, and Michele tortured by children when he is almost asphyxiated with smoke. Slowly, Gino and Michele agree to stand by each other. They communicate more through their travels, by car and by train. Gino gets to know more about Michele and his struggles through poverty. Michele becomes wiser, giving words of wisdom to Gino and the other younger characters he meets along the way. Trouble comes Gino's way when the business falls apart and he ends up in a jail himself. Corruption eventually leads Gino losing his freedom and departing on a cargo ship, along with hundreds of other refugees and travellers, bound for America. In the end, the two men, both Catholics, are brought back together, Gino and Michele realise they need each other the most. Also starring Piro Milkani as Selimi, and Elida Janushi as Selimi's Cousin. I will be honest and say that obviously I didn't fully understand all the political elements of the story, I was just caught up by the road movie style adventure between the young man and the older former prisoner. It is a good insight into how a country caught in turmoil can cause personal problems and change people, the Albanian locations are fascinating to see, and the two lead characters are engaging through their various exploits, an interesting drama. Worth watching!
47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)
47 Meters Down: Uncaged
The original 47 Meters Down became a surprise low-budget hit, so a sequel was almost inevitable, I had missed it on television a few times in recent years, so I watched it eventually, written and directed by Johannes Roberts (F, Storage 24, 47 Meters Down). Basically, teenager Mia (Sophie Nélisse) has moved to a new school, along with her stepsister Sasha (Corinne Foxx). On her first day, Mia is pushed into a swimming pool by student Catherine (Brec Bassinger), while Sasha stands back and just watches. Mia's father Grant (John Corbett) learns about the incident, family friend Jennifer (Nia Long) comforts her about the bullying. Grant plans a boat ride in the Dominican Republic for the sisters to bond during, during which they will see great white sharks. Grant gives Mia a tooth of a great white shark he found and recounts when Mia used to scuba dive with him. On the day of the boat ride, Mia is shocked to see that Catherine and her friends there. Sasha's friends Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Rose Stallone, Sylvester's daughter) arrive and persuade Mia and Sasha to join them to go scuba diving to a secret place. They drive to the secret location and have a fun time together at the lagoon. Alexa reveals that the lagoon has an entrance to a submerged Mayan city. Grant and his two assistants, Carl (Khylin Rhambo) and Alexa's boyfriend Ben (Davi Santos), are working to prepare for a visit from a group of archaeologists the following week. Nicole persuades the girls to put on scuba gear and explore the city. Passing the various underwater caves and tunnels, they eventually reach an ancient sacrificial chamber. Nicole is startled by a cavefish and accidentally knocks over a stone column, causing a chain reaction of collapses. The girls become separated by the silt until Mia and Alexa find Ben, who is suddenly devoured by a great white shark. The girls find each other and are chased by a shark into a tunnel, and it causes the lagoon's entrance to be blocked by a rockfall. Trying to find a way out, using a guideline left by Ben, they encounter another shark forcing them to swim deeper into the city until they reach an air pocket. Mia hears music in the water and leaves the others behind to investigate and find help. Further away, Carl is playing the music and working, he ends up attacked and killed by a shark. Mia eventually finds his body, while Grant saves her, and they reunite with the other girls. They realise the shark is blind, having evolved within the caves, and use the sounds of a distress beacon to distract it and escape the cave. The group surfaces at a clearing where a pulley system ascender is set in place. However, two sharks appear, Nicole panics and tries to climb up the rope as Alexa is going up, causing them and the rope to fall back into the water. Nicole is ripped apart and devoured by the two sharks. Grant explains that the only way out is to swim down even deeper to find another exit, taking them out in the ocean. Grant is killed by a shark moments later. Mia, Sasha, and Alexa swim into the caves, but are caught in a strong current that catches Sasha and separates her from the others. Alexa makes it to the other entrance but is attacked by one of the sharks, and Mia is dragged into the current. Alexa takes off her air tank to escape the shark but eventually drowns. Mia reunites with Sasha, and they swim into a newly discovered cave. They find a crevice at the end of the cave leading to the surface. As a appears and shark attacks, the girls climb up the narrow crevice, getting caught in the tight space. They are forced to abandon their now empty oxygen tanks, sucking in tiny amounts of air bubbles on the rocks, until they manage to swim upwards. Reaching the surface, they spot a tour boat and start swimming towards it until they realise shark bait is being thrown into the water to attract them. Mia and Sasha get the tourists' attention as they are attacked by the sharks. Mia makes it onto the boat, but Sasha is grabbed by a shark. Mia jumps back into the water and shoots the shark with a flare gun, freeing Sasha who reaches the boat. Mia is dragged into the water by another shark, but she escapes, stabbing the shark's eye with the tooth that Grant gave her. Mia swims to the boat and reunites with Sasha, Catherine is shocked to see Mia, and it ends as boat staff tend to their wounds. As with the previous film the actresses are all in skimpy clad bathers, and as before there is nothing new to be seen, people trapped underwater, not in a cage as before, with low air supply and surrounded by hungry predators, but the feeling of claustrophobia and tension keeps you engaged enough, a predictable but alright survival horror. Worth watching!
The Vast of Night (2019)
The Vast of Night
Every year, new titles are added to the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I usually manage to watch a good number of them and only miss a couple, and this was one of the titles that went to streaming as opposed to the cinema. Basically, set in the 1950s, in Cayuga, New Mexico, teenage disc jockey Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) and his friend, teenage switchboard operator Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick), test out her new tape recorder. They walk together during the night with the recorder, before she goes to her job on the switchboard, and before he starts his night shift at the WOTW radio station. Fay listens to Everett's show, which is interrupted by a mysterious audio signal. There is rumour about a strange wind-like phenomenon from the sky, and Fay hears the same signal over the phone line during switchboard and trying to call her friends. Fay calls Everett, who asks his listeners for information about the signal, which he broadcasts on the air. A man named Billy (Bruce Davis) calls the radio station, and Everett broadcasts him live. Billy explains that he served in the military and was flown to a highly secretive location in the desert. He was warned that telling anyone about the classified project would "endanger America", and an enormous unknown object was housed in a large underground bunker he and other personnel built. He recalls hearing the same unexplained signal on the plane whilst flying away from the facility. Billy developed a lung condition that he believes was caused by his time in the desert and learned of other instances of the military burying similar cargo in secret locations, where the same signal was heard. He explains that the sound appears to be a communication signal. Billy's call is briefly disconnected, but he calls back and reveals that he and the other personnel chosen for these projects were all black or Mexican, to ensure they would not be believed by the public. A friend of his managed to record the signal and sent copies to Billy and others who worked on the projects. Fay realises that his tapes were given to the local library. Billy is disconnected, and Everett and Fay go the library, find the recording of the signal, and broadcast it, until power at the radio station is shut down. They race to the switchboard office, where Fay receives numerous reports of "something in the sky". They meet Gerald (Mark Banik) and Bertsie (Cheyenne Barton), who have been driving chasing an unidentified flying object. An elderly woman named Mabel Balance (Gail Cronauer) calls and offers to provide more information about the signal. Everett and Fay visit Mabel at her home, where they find her reciting a message in an unknown language. With Everett recording their conversation, Mabel claims that the phenomena seen across town are alien spaceships, and that the message is being used to hypnotise and abduct humans. She believes the aliens will target isolated people while most of the town is at the basketball game and suspects the aliens are responsible for elements of human conflict, from alcoholism to war. Mabel claims her son was abducted by aliens years ago and asks to be taken to the alien ship to reunite with him. Unconvinced, Everett leaves with Fay, and they are picked up by Gerald and Bertsie. Everett plays his recording of Mabel speaking the alien message; it sends Gerald and Bertsie into a trance, nearly causing them to crash. After the eerie incident, Everett and Fay panic and flee into the woods. Making their way into the woods, they find many trees and branches have been burned, and see an opening overhead as though a large object has crashed through. Everett cautiously acknowledges the aliens are real and may be lurking nearby, which sends him and Fay running until they reach a clearing. The two stop to catch their breath, but they see the truth when they lay eyes on a flying saucer hovering ahead of them. They watch in awe as the spacecraft rejoins a massive mothership in the sky. Elsewhere a crowd leaves a basketball game, but Everett and Fay are nowhere to be seen. Only their footprints and the tape recorder have been left behind. I could tell it was a film with a tiny budget, including a cast of performers I did not recognise, but it has a well-crafted script, including two memorable monologue scenes (walking with the recorder and Billy on the phone with Everett), and the period detail is terrific, it is an eerie and engaging science-fiction mystery. Good!
Jurassic World Dominion (2022)
Jurassic World: Dominion
Jurassic World was a great reboot of the franchise ignited by Jurassic Park, the second film, Forbidden Kingdom, was alright, I heard negative things about the third in the trilogy, but I was prepared to see it and judge it for myself. Basically, four years after the volcanic eruption on Isla Nublar and the breakout of the dinosaurs at the Lockwood Estate incident who are freely roaming across the earth. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), former operations manager of Jurassic World, is still working for the Dinosaur Protection Group. She and former Jurassic World ethologist Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) are in a relationship and living in the Sierra Nevada mountains in a remote cabin, secretly raising teenage Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), Benjamin Lockwood's cloned granddaughter. One day, Blue, the Velociraptor that Owen trained, unexpectedly arrives at the cabin with an asexually reproduced offspring which Maisie names Beta. Biosyn Genetics, a rival company of InGen, is conducting research on dinosaurs genes, hoping for medical and agricultural breakthroughs to global issues. Biosyn wants to study Maisie's DNA for their research, Owen and Claire warn her not to go out. But Maisie is frustrated with living in seclusion, and has been sneaking away, and is soon spotted and kidnapped, along with Beta, by Biosyn operatives. Elsewhere, evolved giant locusts have appeared in huge swarms and are threatening the global food supply. Paleobotanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) is suspicious that Biosyn created the locusts, observing that crops grown by the company have been left uneaten. Believing the locust's DNA dates to the Cretaceous period, Ellie approaches former partner and paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), who agrees to help investigate Biosyn. With assistance from CIA contacts, Claire and Owen track Maisie and Beta to Malta. There, dinosaurs are on the black market, and when the market is raided by authorities, dinosaurs are unintentionally released, causing havoc. Claire and Owen find out from a Biosyn employee that Maisie and Beta are being transported to Biosyn's secluded headquarters in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy. Former Air Force and cargo pilot Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) wants to help Owen and Claire and offers to fly them to facility. Meanwhile, Alan and Ellie have been invited to Biosyn by their friend, chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), now working with them, and they are introduced to Biosyn CEO Lewis Dodgson (Campbell Scott) (previously seen with Dennis Nedry in Jurassic Park). Ian is secretly working to uncover Dodgson's illegal activities, with communications director Ramsay Cole (Mamoudou Athie) aiding him. Lead geneticist Dr. Henry Wu (B. D. Wong), the scientist behind the dinosaur cloning programs at Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, genetically engineered the locusts and crops with Biosyn seed to dominate the agricultural market. Wu meets Maisie and explains that she is not a clone, she is in fact the asexually conceived daughter of Charlotte Lockwood (Isabella Sermon and Elva Trill). Charlotte died from a genetic disorder, but she had altered Maisie's DNA to make her immune. Wu believes that Maisie's and Beta's DNA are key to creating a pathogen to halt the locust outbreak. Approaching Biosyn, Kayla's cargo plane is attacked by a group of Quetzalcoatlus. Claire ejects while Owen and Kayla survive a crash landing. After encountering a Therizinosaurus and a Pyroraptor, the three regroup. Inside Biosyn, Ian gives Ellie an access card, she and Alan access a restricted lab where they steal a locust sample and find Maisie. Discovering the locust lab was breached, Dodgson destroys all evidence of the experiment by igniting the lab, inadvertently starting a fire that spreads to Biosyn's outer dinosaur valley. He also fires Ian for exposing his operation. After Alan, Ellie, and Maisie find Ian, they meet up with Owen, Claire, and Kayla. Meanwhile, Dodgson tries to escape with dinosaur embryos, but the power fails, he is trapped and subsequently killed by three Dilophosaurus. Electronic implants summon the dinosaurs to the Biosyn headquarters to protect them from the fire, while Owen rescues Beta. A Giganotosaurus terrorises the group until the Therizinosaurus and the Tyrannosaurus Rex kill it. The group escapes in a helicopter, taking Wu with them. Once back on the mainland, Wu successfully neutralises the locusts by releasing one carrying a pathogen he discovered. After joining Ian and Ramsay in testifying against Biosyn, Ellie and Alan rekindle their relationship. Owen, Claire, and Maisie return home and reunite Beta and Blue. Around the world, dinosaurs adapt to co-existing with modern animals while Biosyn Valley is declared a dinosaur sanctuary by the United Nations. Also starring Omar Sy as Barry Sembène, Justice Smith as Franklin Webb, Daniella Pineda as Dr. Zia Rodriguez, Scott Haze as Rainn Delacourt, and Dichen Lachman as Soyona Santos. It is good to bring together Dern, Neill and Goldblum from the Jurassic Park trilogy, and Pratt and Dallas Howard from the Jurassic World trilogy, all give performances as good as you'd expect, but as before, the dinosaurs more often steal the show. What made the original Jurassic Park great was the sense of wonder with fantastic CGI bringing dinosaurs to life, the first Jurassic World did recapture some of the magic, but as with the second instalment of this trilogy, the story and writing is hardly prioritised. The plot is almost non-sensical, the globe-trotting element is slightly pointless, and although some of the chases and thrills do get your attention, it feels predictable and obviously style over substance, but it's not a terrible science-fiction action. Okay!
Ordinary Love (2019)
Film critic Mark Kermode gave a positive review for this film, I was certainly interested to see the lead actor get away from the flurry of action movies we are used to seeing him in over recent years, and obviously the story sounded compelling. Basically, Joan Thompson (Lesley Manville) and her husband Tom (Liam Neeson) have been married for many years. They have a loving relationship with shared tenderness and humour, and an ordinary routine. They have a tidy house, including pet fish that Tom owns but Joan does not care for. They often go on long walks through town, and always turn back after reaching a newly planted sapling. One evening while showering, Joan finds a lump on her breast which she asks Tom to feel. She and Tom go to the hospital so that doctors can carry out tests to determine what it is. Following their hospital visit, Joan questions what Tom will do if the lump is cancerous, he reassures her and says to wait for the results. Returning to hospital, Joan and Tom are devastated when she is diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor arranges for surgery to remove the mass and surrounding lymph nodes. On the day of Joan's surgery, Tom visits the grave of their daughter, Debbie, on his own. Talking out loud to his daughter, he confesses that he fears being left alone without his wife. Joan's surgery goes well, and the doctors successfully remove all physical signs of cancer. They refer Joan to an oncologist to start chemotherapy. Joan and Tom have a disagreement about the nature of being "cancer-free." Tom returns home and finds his fish dead; he flushes it down the toilet and has a cry. While waiting for her chemotherapy appointment, Joan recognises Debbie's primary school teacher, Peter (David Wilmot), waiting in the lobby. They have a conversation, with Peter revealing he has terminal cancer. Joan is called in and she undergoes her first treatment of chemotherapy. The following day, she vomits heavily. Soon after, Joan finds hair is falling out in clumps. Tom cuts her hair short and then shaves her head with a razor. Joan forgets which medication she is supposed to take on what day, leading to a nasty argument with Tom about how the cancer is destroying their marriage. Joan starts wearing a wig and meets again with Peter in a café where they discuss their mortality. Feeling hot and silly, Joan takes her wig off. Meanwhile, Tom has a talk with a man smoking (Lalor Roddy) on a bench outside the chemotherapy clinic. He has terminal cancer himself and he reassures Tom that the doctors can help Joan. Joan and Tom decide to have a romantic evening at a hotel before Joan's mastectomy. After enjoying a fancy dinner, they have sex. Tom promises Joan, he will still love her even if she does not have breasts. Joan undergoes the mastectomy and further chemotherapy sessions. Tom waits outside but does not find the smoking man on the bench again. While Peter visits Joan, Tom meets Peter's husband Steve (Amit Shah) in the hospital cafeteria. They discuss their shared experiences around love and loss. Sometime later, Joan has undergone reconstructive surgery for her breasts using abdominal muscle tissue. She and Tom attend Peter's funeral, where Steve delivers a eulogy. After successfully completing her cancer treatment, Joan and Tom go to the supermarket to buy food and gifts for Christmas. It ends with Tom and Joan on their usual walking exercise and pass the sapling which is fully grown. Also starring Esh Alladi as GP, Melanie Clark Pullen as Doctor, and Geraldine McAlinden as Surgeon. Manville gives a superb performance as the wife suffering the deadly disease, and Neeson goes against type and proves terrific as the worried husband. It is a very simple sensitive story, all the ups and downs of a middle-aged married couple going through cancer diagnosis and treatment, it feels authentic and is respectful and compassionate, a most worthwhile romantic drama. Good!
I thought maybe the film was a dark twisted take on the phrase "all men are created equal", I was instantly intrigued by the trailer with all the men being played by the same actor, and I heard some positive feedback, so I was looking forward to it, written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina). Basically, Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley) is a widow who suffered the death of her husband following an apparent suicide. She decides to take a holiday alone to the small village of Cotson. Flashbacks reveal that Harper was intending to divorce her husband James (Paapa Essiedu), fed up with his emotional abuse and manipulation. James threatened her with his suicide, but she continually rejected him, and he strikes her, cementing their marriage breakdown. Harper locks James out of the flat before she sees him from the upstairs balcony and he is killed, being impaled on a fence, presumably after jumping. Arriving at the holiday house she is renting in the English countryside, Harper meets its owner Geoffrey (Rory Kinnear), an eccentric but nice enough man. Later, she decides to go for a country walk, and after passing through the woods she stumbles upon an old, unused railway tunnel. She can see the light at the end, steps inside and avoids puddles of water, and is amused singing single notes and hearing the echo. But then she is startled to see a figure at the end of the tunnel which sees her and starts running towards her. Leaving the tunnel, Harper climbs up the hill and reaches an open field. Calming down, she takes a picture of an abandoned farm building on her phone, only to realise that she inadvertently captures a naked man (Rory Kinnear) standing there, and she walks away in shock. Later, Harper has a phone camera conversation with her friend Riley (Gayle Rankin) and shows her around the house. After ending the call, she is terrified when the naked man is standing in the garden, having followed her. She calls the police, and the man is arrested. Police Officer Frieda (Sarah Twomey) assures her that, while he has done this before, he is harmless, and the other police officer (Rory Kinnear) stares quietly at her. Afterwards, Harper visits a church where she encounters a young boy (Rory Kinnear) who wants to play Hide and Seek, he insults her when she refuses. She then meets the vicar (Rory Kinnear) who initially comforts her when she mentions James's death. But then he insinuates that she is to blame for his death and asks how she provoked him and if she let him apologise; disgusted she insults him and leaves. Harper goes to the town pub on Geoffrey's advice. There are a few customers there and the landlord, all are men (Rory Kinnear), and Geoffrey is there with the policeman. Harper is informed by the policeman her that the naked man was released as there was legal reason to keep him detained, but she insists he has been stalking her since the encounter in the forest. Harper calls Riley and says that she is considering leaving the cottage, but Riley insists she would be wasting a good getaway and agrees to come to see her by the morning. But as she tries to send Riley the address, the phone and internet service are repeatedly interrupted. She sees the policeman in the garden, she asks him what he wants, with no response, until the light flickers and he disappears. Suddenly, the apples all start to drop from the apple tree, and she is chased into the house by one of the men from the pub. Harper defends herself with a knife before a window breaks in the kitchen. Geoffrey arrives and finds that the window was broken by a crow flying into it, the bird is badly injured, and he euthanises it by breaking its neck. As Geoffrey goes into the garden to scare away any potential intruders, he is replaced with the naked man, who chases her again. When he tries to reach her through the mail slot, Harper stabs him through the arm. He manages to pull his arm free, the stuck knife ripping his arm in two, an injury that James had following his fall. Moments later, both the boy and the vicar appear in the house, each of them identically injured, with their arms ripped in two. The vicar attempts to rape Harper, but she stabs him in the stomach and leaves the house. While trying to drive away, Harper runs over Geoffrey. In a rage he throws Harper out of her car and drives away, circles back around, and chases Harper down before crashing the car into a stone wall in front of the house. The naked man returns, wearing a mask, his ankle severely broken, which also matches James after his death. From a distance, Harper watches as the naked man's stomach grows and he lies on his back, a vagina suddenly appears between his legs, and he gives birth to the young boy. Harper slowly steps backwards as the bloodied young boy crawls towards her. Looking up at her, he gets on his knees and starts screaming in pain, as his stomach grows, and again a vagina appears between his legs, giving birth to the priest. Harper turns away, seemingly unflinching, and walks back into the house, with the naked bloodied priest crawling and following her through the open door. On his knees, the priest's stomach grows, and a vagina appears on his back, giving birth to Geoffrey. She continues to step backwards, showing little to no reaction, then turning to find an axe by the fireplace. Feet come out of Geoffrey's mouth, as he gives birth to another man, but Harper does see the full birth as he falls outside. She is slightly shocked to see a naked and bloodied James limp into the room and sitting on the sofa. She asks what he wants, and he replies, "your love". In the end, Riley, revealed to be pregnant, arrives at the house and finds the trail of blood and Harper sitting on the garden steps, she smiles at her approaching. Buckley is interesting as the grieving woman caught in a strange "haunting" situation, and Kinnear in the multiple roles as the village's residents is suitably creepy. The film is obviously about grief and blaming oneself for tragedy, from what critics and reviewers are saying, the film is presumably the dead husband cursing his wife before he kills himself, but she never verbally acknowledges or addresses that all the men look the same, she is almost oblivious to it. The first two thirds of the film are just strange and eerie, but the third act is obviously where it goes over-the-top and crazy, like a David Cronenberg body horror, with the various "births" being highly disturbing. I'll be completely honest, I don't know if I liked the film or not, but I can't deny it is a memorable horror. Okay!
To Sir, with Love (1967)
To Sir, with Love
This film was broadcast on television a month or two after the sad passing of its leading star, it was not one I had heard of before that, but it was mentioned a good amount in his obituary, I was looking forward to seeing why it was popular. Basically, Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier), an immigrant to Britain from British Guiana, has been searching for a job for 18 months and longs to get an engineering position. In the meantime, he accepts a job as an interim teacher at North Quay Secondary School in the East End of London, a primarily white neighbourhood, despite having no teaching experience. Thackeray is a replacement for the deceased former teacher of Class 12, and Headmaster Florian (Edward Burnham) explains that the pupils have been rejected from other schools. The pupils are openly disruptive with acts of vandalism to distasteful pranks; they are led by Bert Denham (Christian Roberts) and Pamela Dare (Judy Geeson). In the first few days, Thackeray stays calm, and resists being baited whilst trying to teach them the planned lessons. Fellow teacher Theo Weston (Geoffrey Bayldon) is cynical and contemptuous of the class, new hire Gillian Blanchard (Suzy Kendall) is admittedly afraid of them, and Deputy Head Evans (Faith Brook) and Clinty Clintridge (Keeping Up Appearances' Patricia Routledge) warn that while they may be good kids they come from rough homes. The turning point comes when Thackeray discovers something being burned in the classroom stove, a girl's sanitary towel, and he loses his temper. He orders the boys out of the classroom, then reprimands all the girls, either for being responsible or passively observing what he says is "slutty behaviour". Thackeray is angry with himself for allowing his pupils to incense him and retreats to the staff room. Changing his approach, he returns to the classroom, informing the students that they will no longer study from textbooks. Until the end of term, when they leave school, he will treat them as adults and expects them to behave as such. He declares that they will address him as 'Sir' or 'Mr. Thackeray'; the girls will be addressed as 'Miss' and boys by their surnames. He tells them that each lesson he will allow them to discuss any adult issue and subject they suggest, e.g. Marriage, sex, children. Thackeray gradually wins over the class, except for Denham who continually baits him, while Pamela develops a strong crush on him. The students are especially excited when he suggests have a class outing to the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. The trip is seen through a montage of photographs (while the song "To Sir with Love" by Lulu plays). Back at school, a potentially violent situation occurs between Potter (Christopher Chittell) and the gym teacher, Mr. Bell (Dervis Ward), which Thackeray tries to defuse. He loses some support demanding that Potter apologise directly to Bell, even if he believes Bell was wrong. The group later refuses to invite Thackeray to the class dance. When the white mother of mixed-race student Seales (Anthony Villaroel) dies, a collection is made for the class to buy a wreath, but they refuse to accept Thackeray's donation. The students fear neighbourhood gossip for visiting a "coloured" person's house so decline to deliver the wreath in person to Seales' house. The headmaster tells Thackeray that the "adult approach" has failed, and future outings are cancelled. Meanwhile, Thackeray receives a job offer he wanted in the engineering position. Mrs. Dare, Pamela's mother (Ann Bell) asks for Thackeray to talk to her daughter about her behaviour at home, but Pamela is annoyed, believing he is infatuated with him. Thackeray takes the boys' gym classes until the headmaster can find a replacement. During a gym class, Denham challenges Thackeray to a boxing match, during which he hits Thackeray's face several times, but the fight abruptly ends when Thackeray delivers a single punch to the pit of Denham's stomach. Thackeray compliments Denham's ability and suggests he teaches younger pupils boxing next year. Denham, finally impressed by Thackeray, expresses his admiration for him to his classmates. Thackeray regains their respect and is invited to the class dance. Later, when Thackeray attends the funeral of Seales' mother, he is touched to find that his lectures on personal choice and responsibility have had an effect and the entire class has attended. At the dance, Pamela persuades Thackeray to dance with her. Afterward, the class give Thackeray "a little present to remember us by". Thackeray is moved and retires to his classroom. He is interrupted by a couple of younger rowdy pupils who rush into the classroom. They scold Thackeray and laugh at his gift, a silver tankard and card inscribed "To Sir, with love" signed by the entire class. They threaten that they will be in his class next year. After they leave, Thackeray stands up and tears up the engineering job offer, deciding to remain a teacher and takes a flower from the vase on his desk to put in his lapel. Also starring Suzy Kendall as Gillian Blanchard, introducing singer Lulu as Barbara 'Babs' Pegg, Faith Brook as Grace Evans, Fiona Duncan as Euphemia Phillips, Adrienne Posta as Moira Joseph, Rita Webb as Mrs. Joseph, and Fred Griffiths as Mr. Clark. Poitier gives a magnificent performance as the teacher who tries to motivate his unruly pupils to become responsible adults, Geeson is good as the pupil with a crush on him, and young Lulu makes an impression putting on a cockney accent, with her ginger bob hairdo, and obviously singing the title song. It is a simple story of a teacher working to win the respect of his troublesome students, I can see what critics mean about it being a little naïve, but Poitier makes it appealing, and it was a box office hit, it is an interesting drama. Worth watching!
The Queen's Corgi (2019)
The Queen's Corgi
Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II reached her milestone Platinum Jubilee, 70 years on the throne, becoming the longest-reigning British monarch, the longest-serving female head of state and the oldest living British monarch (aged 96) on 2 June 2022. Celebrations took place all over Great Britain, with concerts and processions on television, street parties, Union Jack flags all over the place, and no surprise, there were some films on television connected to royalty, e.g. Elizabeth, The Queen, The King's Speech, and I decided to watch this computer-animated movie that was shown. Basically, in Buckingham Palace, Rex (Jack Whitehall) is the favourite corgi, aka the Top Dog, of Her Majesty the Queen (Julie Walters). He lives a life of luxury, with the other three corgis, Nelson (Colin McFarlane), Margaret (Debra Stephenson), and Charlie (Matt Lucas), as his companions. President Donald Trump (Jon Culshaw) and his wife Melania (Debra Stephenson) are visiting the palace and have brought their own dog Mitzy (Sarah Hadland), the Queen suggests one of her dogs will become their dog's mate. Rex as Top Dog is chosen and introduced to Mitzy, he is not pleased at the prospect of becoming mates with Mitzi. After Rex tries to get away from her multiple times, Mitzi eventually chases him into the dining hall where he accidentally bites the president. The Queen is angered and he is sent to his room feeling ashamed. Charlie consoles Rex, but has a secret agenda, he is jealous of Rex's position and wants it for himself. Charlie lures Rex outside the palace with the false promise that the Pope in the Vatican is looking for dogs. It is a cold night, Rex follows Charlie to a park, where he is pushed into the river. Charlie watches him break through the ice, presumes he has drowned, and takes Rex's collar. But Rex is saved by a man who takes him to a dog shelter. Rex initially alienates the other dogs in the shelter, including Jack (Iain McKee) and Bernard (Jon Culshaw, sounding like Gyles Brandreth), with his well-mannered demeanour. But after some time, he forms friendships with the other dogs, and convinces them of his status as the Queen's Top Dog. Fellow inmate Wanda (Sheridan Smith) is initially wary of him, he falls in love with her, and she also develops feelings for him. Bad-tempered former fighting dog Tyson (Ray Winstone), who also has feelings for Wanda, runs the kennel and hates him. Rex eventually convinces the other dogs to join forces against Tyson and together they manage to defeat him. Meanwhile, the Queen is upset, thinking that Rex has been killed by foxes, and Charlie uses the opportunity to get closer to her, to become the new Top Dog, and she plans an official appointing ceremony for him. Rex, with Wanda and his new friends escape the kennel and return to the palace. But the guards do not recognise him and throw him out of the palace. Rex finds a way to sneak inside the palace, and his friends manage to stop the anointing before it can be completed. Charlie manages to trap Rex and Wanda in a room, starts a fire and they become trapped. With help from Rex, Wanda manages to escape the fire and rallies her friends in time to save Rex from the burning rubble. The Queen, alerted by the ruckus, is overjoyed when she finds Rex alive and well. She intends to return the honour of being the Top Dog to him. However, Rex refuses as he values his love for Wanda more than his position of Top Dog. Thus, he leaves the position to Charlie, he is initially gloating, but is panicked when he realises, he will be forced to marry Mitzi and move to America. Rex, Wanda, the Queen and all the dogs watch as Charlie is driven away, and they all live happily in the palace. Also starring Tom Courtenay as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Nina Wadia as Patmore, and Goodness Gracious Me's Kulvinder Ghir as Sanjay. Whitehall, Smith, Walters, and most of the other voices are fine, the animation is simple but colourful, and Rex is cute. The problem is that the story is predictable and uninteresting, probably even for the younger audience this is aimed at, and it is unfunny when it tries to be so, it is just a dull animated comedy. Adequate!
The Great Wall (2016)
The Great Wall
I think I remember hearing about this film when it was in cinemas, mainly because of the leading actor, I could have guessed it was a box office bomb, based on low ratings, but I had missed it on television many times and was getting annoyed I hadn't watched it, directed by Zhang Yimou (Hero, House of Flying Daggers). Basically, in ancient China, during the reign of the Song dynasty's Renzong Emperor, European mercenaries have travelled in search for the secret to gunpowder. A few miles north of the Great Wall of China, which took over 2,300 years to build, the mercenaries are attacked by a monster. William Garin (Matt Damon) from Ireland and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) from Spain are the only two survivors. The monster is killed, and its arm is severed, they take the arm with them. Upon reaching the Wall, they are taken prisoner by soldiers of the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Hanyu Zhang) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau). The Nameless Order exists to combat alien monsters called Tao Tie, which arrived from a meteorite and attack once every sixty years. While examining the severed monster arm, the Order's commanders are surprised that the monsters have arrived one week early to attack. Soon, a horde of Tao Tie climb the Wall and attack, with many casualties before the monster queen calls for retreat. During the battle, Garin and Tovar are freed by Ballard (Willem Dafoe), another European came searching for gunpowder twenty-five years ago, he was detained and is a now an English and Latin teacher. Garin and Tovar have great skills in battle and save the life of young warrior Peng Yong (Han Lu) from two monsters that are slain, earning them the Order's respect. The three Europeans secretly plan to steal gunpowder and flee during the next monster attack. That night, two Tao Tie reach the top of the Wall. General Shao is killed, with Commander Lin becoming the new leader of the Nameless Order. Around this time, a messenger from the capital arrives with an ancient scroll which reveals that the monsters are repelled by magnets. Wang believes the stone Garin carries enabled him to slay the Tao Tie, and he suggests they capture a creature alive to test this theory. Ballard protests this and Tovar is angered that they are not attempting to escape but agrees to help. During the next attack, the number of Tao Tie is large enough to cause Lin to resort to using arrows, equipped with black powder which had been kept secret until now. They capture a living Tao Tie and prove the theory. However, the Imperials the monster and takes it to the capital to present to the Emperor (Karry Wang). A tunnel is discovered at the base of the Wall, and previous attacks were a distraction for the Tao Tie to break through. While Lin investigates, Tovar and Ballard steal a supply of black powder and escape, knocking Garin unconscious for trying to stop them. Garin is arrested and imprisoned by the Nameless Order. Elsewhere, Ballard betrays and abandons Tovar, but bandits capture him, and after igniting the powder accidentally kill Ballard and themselves. At the capital, the captive Tao Tie is presented to the Emperor and his entourage, but it wakes up and reveals its position to the queen, who signals the Tao Tie to attack. The Order rushes to the capital, setting Garin free and using hot air balloons. Wang tells him to warn the outside world, but Garin boards the last balloon with Peng and Wang. They arrive just in time to save Lin from being devoured. They land in the Emperor's palace, where Wang proposes killing the queen to defeat the monsters. A horde of creatures approach the group, with Peng sacrificing himself to save the others. Lin and Garin climb a tower so that Garin can detonate the explosives with an arrow. Wang sacrifices himself to buy them time to reach the upper floors of the tower. Two of Garin's arrows are deflected by the Tao Tie queen's bodyguards, but Garin throws the magnet into the horde, creating a gap in the shields, allowing Lin's spear to get through. The queen is killed, and the rest of the horde is paralysed. With the threat eliminated, Garin is allowed to return home and chooses to take the recaptured Tovar with him instead of a reward of black powder, which annoys Tovar. Also starring Eddie Peng as Commander Wu. Damon does feel a little out of place as the lead mercenary, and Dafoe could have done more as the slightly crazed character, instead of a straightforward Middle Ages story set at the Great of China, it goes into a daft battle to fend off an army of demonic, dragon-like creatures, and the CGI special effects is not all that convincing, there may be some mildly exciting fighting sequences, but otherwise it was a predictable fantasy action adventure. Okay!
Top Gun: Maverick (2022)
Top Gun: Maverick
The original movie was a huge hit in its day, and a sequel had apparently been on the cards for several years, but it was held up by the tragic suicide of original director Tony Scott, and later by the COVID-19 pandemic, so I was hoping this highly anticipated follow-up would be worth the wait, directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy, Oblivion). Basically, over thirty years since the previous events, Captain Pete "Maverick" Mitchell (Tom Cruise, also producing) has avoided promotion and continues serving and flying as a U. S. Navy test pilot. Rear Admiral Chester "Hammer" Cain (Ed Harris) is threatening to shut down the hypersonic "Darkstar" scramjet program to fund other drone programs. Maverick decides to take the Darkstar prototype and reach its Mach 10 speed objective before Cain shows up. Cain arrives just as Maverick takes off, and he watches as he does the objective. But Maverick cannot help himself and decides to push further into high-hypersonic speed, resulting in the destruction of the prototype. Maverick survives the crash and is threatened to be grounded by Cain for his recklessness. But instead, he is sent to NAS (Naval Air Station) North Island, back to Naval Fighter Weapons School, better known as TOPGUN, to be an instructor, under the orders of Maverick's friend and former rival, Admiral Tom "Iceman" Kazansky (Val Kilmer), the commander of the U. S. Pacific Fleet. Maverick is ordered to train a group of elite pilots assembled by Vice Admiral Beau "Cyclone" Simpson (Jon Hamm) and Rear Admiral Solomon "Warlock" Bates (Charles Parnell). The pilots will be trained to fly Super Hornet for an urgent mission: to bomb a uranium plant in an unnamed rogue state that is considered a threat to the United States by The Pentagon. The plant is located deep in a mountain pit at the end of a canyon and is defended by numerous air missile defence systems and a base filled with fifth-generation fighters. Maverick plans an attack with two pairs of Super Hornets, which will fly through a canyon and destroy the plant, while also exceeding the Hornet's limits. Maverick is initially rebuffed by the pilots, particularly by the self-confident Lieutenant Jake "Hangman" Seresin (Glen Powell) and by Lieutenant Bradley "Rooster" Bradshaw (Whiplash's Miles Teller), the son of Maverick's late best friend of co-pilot Nick "Goose" Bradshaw. As the pilots train for the mission, friction develops between Hangman and Rooster, who resents Hangman's cavalier attitude towards his wingmen, while Hangman criticises Rooster being cautious. As the pilots observe Maverick's skill, they reassess and begin to respect him. Meanwhile, Maverick reunites with former love interest Penny Benjamin (Jennifer Connelly), who reveals that Rooster's now-dead mother Carole made him promise to keep her son from flying. It turns out that Maverick blocked Rooster's application to the Naval Academy, setting back his career for a few years, hence why he had a disdain for him. Maverick later meets with Iceman, who has throat cancer and communicates by typing on his computer. He reassures Maverick about teaching the pilots and says he needs to let go of any guilt he has for Goose's death. Iceman loses his battle with cancer and passes away days later, with Maverick and the pilots attend his funeral. With Iceman gone, Cyclone removes Maverick as mission trainer. He takes over the training of the mission, setting new parameters with a less risky route to the uranium plant but would mean more chance of being spotted on approach. However, Maverick makes an unauthorised flight of the simulated course with the original parameters he planned, with a demonstration of the targeted bombing, and proves that it can be done. Cyclone is convinced, and reluctantly appoints Maverick as strike leader. Maverick chooses the mission pilots and is paired with Lieutenant Natasha "Phoenix" Trace (Monica Barbaro) and her WSO (Weapon Systems Officer) Lieutenant Robert "Bob" Floyd (Lewis Pullman, Bill's son), while Rooster is paired with Lieutenant Reuben "Payback" Fitch (Jay Ellis) and his WSO Lieutenant Mickey "Fanboy" Garcia (Danny Ramirez). Hangman and the remaining pilots are put on standby. The team launches from the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt while the cruiser USS Leyte Gulf fires Tomahawk cruise missiles to destroy the air base near the plant. The team reaches the plant and following the planned route and successfully destroy it. But the team are attacked by surface-to-air missiles and a pair of patrolling Su-57 fighters. When Rooster runs into trouble, Maverick sacrifices his jet to protect him and ejects. Maverick is believed to be killed in action, so the remaining aircraft return to the carrier. Against orders, Rooster turns back to rescue Maverick from an Mi-24 helicopter gunship. He is shot down by another surface-to-air missile and ejects nearby. The two reunite and head towards the destroyed airbase hoping to find an aircraft that has survived the bombing. They find and steal an old F-14 Tomcat and head back to the carrier. Maverick and Rooster shoot down two intercepting Su-57s, but a third arrives as they run out of weapons and countermeasures. The third Su-57 is shot down by Hangman arrives from standby, and the planes return to the carrier, with everyone praising them, and Maverick and Rooster reconcile. Sometime after the mission, Maverick and Rooster work together on a P-51 Mustang at a hangar near the test facility where Maverick was previously stationed. Penny arrives with her teenage daughter Amelia (Lyliana Wray), and Maverick takes her for a ride in the aircraft. Rooster walks to a photo board and acknowledges a photo of their mission's success, alongside a photo of his late father and a younger Maverick. Also starring Greg Tarzan Davis as Lieutenant Javy "Coyote" Machado, Jean Louisa Kelly as Sarah Kazansky, Iceman's wife, Bashir Salahuddin as Chief Warrant Officer 4 Bernie "Hondo" Coleman, Manny Jacinto as Lieutenant Billy "Fritz" Avalone, Jake Picking as Lieutenant Brigham "Harvard" Lennox, Raymond Lee as Lieutenant Logan "Yale" Lee, and Kara Wang as Lieutenant Callie "Halo" Bassett. Cruise still looks good and remains likeable as the rebellious pilot turned trainer, Teller is cast well as Goose's grown-up son who wants to go all the way, Connelly is alright as the new girlfriend (Kelly McGillis was apparently not approached to return), the other supporting pilot characters are all cast well, and despite his poor health it is good to see Kilmer back. The original is perhaps a little dated and cheesy at times, the only faults I could find with this follow-up was the romantic element being less interesting and the silly return of the highly gay topless beach volleyball scene. This sequel is much more sophisticated, with a much concrete story, the mid-air dogfights and high-speed flying sequences are highly exciting, with many genuine cockpit shots, and the soundtrack included the return of composer Harold Faltermeyer, joined by Hans Zimmer and Lady Gaga, the return of "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins, and new song "Hold My Hand" by Lady Gaga, I think it is better than the original, a thrilling action drama. Very good!
Death Takes a Holiday (1934)
Death Takes a Holiday
I didn't realise when I watched it years ago that the Brad Pitt movie Meet Joe Black was a remake, so I decided to watch this, the original black-and-white film it was loosely based on. Basically, Death / The Grim Reaper has questioned for years why people fear him and wants the opportunity to mingle among mortals and find an answer. Death (Fredric March) reveals himself to Duke Lambert (Guy Standing), a wealthy man who owns a villa, and explains his intentions. He wants the Duke to act as his host whilst he takes a holiday and temporary residence in the villa. The Duke is expecting a foreign prince to be visiting, so Death says that he will take on his form so he can meet other guests that will be visiting. Soon enough, Death appears as Prince Sirki (Fredric March) and announces her will be staying for three days. The Prince is most interested to experience high society, from fine dining to learning to dance, and much more. Several of the women are attracted to the mysterious Prince, but shy away from him when they sense his true nature. But Grazia (Evelyn Venable), the beautiful young woman who the Duke thought was to marry his son, is fascinated by him. There is a point when the Prince reveals his true identity to a guest, Princess Maria (Kathleen Howard), who is terrified, but other houseguests assume she is hysterical. There are points when the Duke questions if he should reveal the Prince's true identity, but fears for his own life. With Death being on holiday, over the next two days, the residents read news about numerous reported accidents and disasters, bit with no casualties and many remarkable death-defying survivals. Alda - La Contessa di Parma (Katharine Alexander), who is attracted to the Prince, is flirtacious and attempts to seduce him, but he gently lets her down, fearing how she will react if she truly knew who he was. Grazia does already have a lover, Corrado (Kent Taylor), the Duke's son, but she has fallen for the Prince and, although others are suspicious of his presence, she longs to be with him. It becomes clear that Grazia may already know the Prince's true identity; he has fallen in love with her, but is torn between taking the soul of a mortal and his own happiness. Eventually, the truth is revealed, the Duke and his houseguests makes pleas, and Death finally decides to let Grazia live and returns to his true self, a black shadow. As he prepares to leave, Grazia chooses to go with him, telling him that she knew all along who he really was. Death then proclaims that love is greater than illusion and is as strong as death. He puts his arm around Grazia, and they both disappear in a flash of light. Also starring Gail Patrick as Rhoda Fenton, Helen Westley as Stephanie, It's a Wonderful Life's Henry Travers as Baron Cesarea, G. P. Huntley as Eric Bagley, and Otto Hoffman as Fedele the Butler. March gives an interesting performance as the stranger with an accent with a secret identity, and there is good support from Venable and Standing. Being based on an Italian play, this is a very wordy affair, the house party scenes with suits and frocks look good, there is a little in the script about the fear of death and how love conquers all, cheesy and old-fashioned at times, but a reasonable classic romantic fantasy drama. Worth watching!
The Ugly Truth (2009)
The Ugly Truth
I think I remembered this film mainly for the leading actor, I know it didn't have the best reviews, but I had it recorded on VHS, and I didn't to waste a recording that I'd left a long time before watching, directed by Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde, Monster-in-Law, Killers). Basically, in Sacramento, California, Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is a producer for the morning TV show which is struggling with its ratings, and her boss Stuart (Nick Searcy) threatens cancellation if they do not improve. Abby is good at her job but has less success when it comes to dating, she is a believer of true love, but she is a control freak who scares men off. Following a disastrous date with Jim (Kevin Connolly), who she met on a dating website, she returns home. She happens on a local television show with a segment called The Ugly Truth, hosted by crass and chauvinistic Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler). Appalled by his objectifying and crude comments, and in particular his disbelief in true love, Abby calls the show on-air hotline to speak to Mike directly, and they argue. The next day, Abby is outraged to see Mike has been hired to become a new host for the morning show to improve the poor ratings. The two initially have a rocky relationship, with Abby disgusted with Mike's behaviour and vulgar opinions towards women while Mike is irritated by her naivety and controlling nature. Then she meets her new next-door neighbour, handsome and charming orthopaedic surgeon Colin Anderson (Eric Winter), but she finds it difficult to approach him for a date. Mike convinces her that by following his advice she will improve her chances with Colin; they make a deal that if his theory on relationships proves successful for her, she will work peacefully with him, but he agrees he will leave the show if he fails to help her. Mike as a new host succeeds in increasing ratings for the morning show, and he helps married co-anchors Georgia (Cheryl Hines) and Larry (John Michael Higgins) grow closer again. Abby is sceptical with Mike's instructions and pointers of what to wear, do and say during a date with Colin but she follows them and does find his tips working. Mike is invited to appear on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and is offered a job at another network. Abby is forced to cancel a romantic weekend getaway with Colin, during which they were most likely to sleep together. She flies to Los Angeles to persuade Mike to stay with her show. They drink and dance and Mike talks about staying in Sacramento to be near his sister and nephew. In the hotel elevator, they have a moment alone together and slowly come closer, until they share a passionate kiss, but they go to their separate rooms. Abby is confused about her feelings for Mike, and the situation is only made more awkward by a surprise visit from Colin. Mike is also trying to deal with his intense feelings for Abby and decides to go to her room. But he is distressed to have Colin answer the door, he makes an excuse of why he called and quickly leaves. Abby is upset and as Colin tries to seduce her, she realises he only likes the woman she has been pretending to be. Colin talks about not liking controlling women, and Abby snaps and confesses she has not been herself the entire time they have been dating, she is exactly the type of woman he detests, and she breaks up with him. Returning to the studio, Abby is devastated to find out Mike has quit and taken a job with a rival TV station. Then the two end up doing a broadcast at the same hot air balloon festival. Mike cannot help but intruding Abby's broadcast with his imitator replacement and she cannot help but ranting about how weak men can be. Going out of script, the balloon takes off while they argue, unknowingly on camera. Abby says she broke up with Colin, and Mike admits he loves her. Eventually they both calm down and share a true love kiss. It ends with Mike and Abby in bed together after having sex. When Mike asks if she was faking it, Abby responds with, "You'll never know." Also starring Bree Turner as Joy, Nate Corddry as Josh, Yvette Nicole Brown as Dori, Bonnie Somerville as Elizabeth, Craig Ferguson as himself, and Vicki Lewis as Saleswoman. Heigl is beautiful and does alright, Butler as the unfiltered perverted bloke is almost likeable, I thought their chemistry wasn't too bad, it is a mildly predictable battle of the sexes turning into a love story, but I did find myself giggling a little bit and wanting to see where the lead characters would end up, it's not a bad romantic comedy. Okay!
I think I remember Mark Kermode reviewing the Russian film, I know it got positive reviews and recognition during Awards Season, so I was looking forward to watching it, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev (Leviathan). Basically, in 2012 Moscow, twelve-year-old boy Alyosha (Matvey Novikov) is among the many children leaving school. He takes a walk along a wooded area by the river on the outskirts of town. On his way he picked up a piece of police tape from the ground, he throws this strip of tape into a tree above the river. His parents, Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin), are divorcing and are trying to sell their apartment. Both parents have new relationships: Boris with the younger Masha (Marina Vasileva) who is pregnant with his child, and Zhenya with the older and wealthier Anton (Andris Keiss), who has an adult daughter. Alyosha overhears an argument between his parents but neither of them claims to want him and are considering placing him in an orphanage. Alyosha goes to bed in tears having heard this fight. The following morning Alyoasha does not finish his breakfast and is last seen leaving the apartment down the stairs. Zhenya spends a night with Anton, and returning home realises she has not seen her son since the day before. Zhenya calls Boris at walk to tell her that their son is missing, but he has little to no interest and says there is nothing to worry about. However, Zhenya calls the police, who believe Alyosha has run away and will return home within a day or two. When Alyosha does not return, a group of volunteers specialising in the rescuing missing people takes over the case and begins searching for the boy. The only relative Alyosha may have been in contact with is Zhenya's estranged mother (Natalya Potapova), who lives several hours away. Boris and Zhenya spend the journey to Zhenya's mother continuing to argue. But visiting her, she has not seen him, and they have no clues as to Alyosha's whereabouts. On the return journey home, Zhenya and Boris argue again. Zhenya says her marriage to Boris while pregnant was a mistake and she should have had an abortion. Boris is enraged when she also says she pities Masha, and stops the car, forcing her out on a rural roadway. The police continue the search for Alyosha, covering an increasingly wide area of the town and its surrounding area. The police question Alyosha's friend, Kuznetsov (Artyom Zhigulin), about a hideout that he may be located. The police search an abandoned building that the boy eventually reveals, but it turns out to be fruitless. Then Zhenya and Boris are brought to a morgue to view the remains of an unidentified child matching Alyosha's description. Both parents deny the disfigured child's body is their son's, though the experience proves traumatic, and they break down in tears. After some time has passed, Boris and Zhenya's apartment has been sold, and Alyosha's old room has been dismantled. On the streets, missing-person posters of Alyosha have faded. In 2015, Boris now lives with Masha and their baby son, but he treats her coldly, while Zhenya has moved in with Anton. Three years after his disappearance, the strip of tape he threw into the tree next to the river on the wooded path is all that remains of his existence. The performances of Spivak and Rozin as the self-absorbed parents give terrific performances, and young Novikov is his brief time onscreen, it is a joyless story of loss, bitterness and a futile search, the gloomy mood is maintained by marvellous production design, cinematography and editing, a somewhat depressing but fascinating drama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language. Very good!
Downton Abbey: A New Era (2022)
Downton Abbey: A New Era
The TV show was a huge hit around the world, earning numerous awards and millions of viewers, and the first film featuring the same cast was likeable enough, this was a sequel that was certain to be slightly bigger, from creator and writer Julian Fellowes, directed by Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn, Goodbye Christopher Robin). Basically, set in 1928, Tom Branson (Allen Leech), the widowed son-in-law of Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), marries Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton), the secret illegitimate daughter of Lady Maud Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton) and sole heir to the Bagshaw estate. After the wedding, Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith), tells the family that many years ago she had a relationship with the Marquis de Montmirail, who has recently passed away, and has left her a villa in the south of France. Violet intends to leave the villa to her great-granddaughter, Sybbie (Fifi Hart), Tom's young daughter with the late Lady Sybil Crawley. Meanwhile, film production company British Lion Films wants to use Downton Abbey as a set for a silent film called The Gambler. Robert and retired butler Mr Charles Carson (Jim Carter) disapprove, but Robert's eldest daughter and estate manager, Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery), wants to use the fee offered to pay for repairs to Downton's leaking roof. The household staff are excited to have the film's stars Myrna Dalgleish (Laura Haddock) and Guy Dexter (Dominic West) staying at Downton. The new Marquis de Montmirail (Jonathan Zaccaï) invites the family to come to France and stay at the villa. The ailing Violet is unable to travel, but Tom and Lucy, Lady Bagshaw, Robert and his wife Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), and their daughter Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and her husband Herbert "Bertie" Pelham, the Marquess of Hexham (Harry Hadden-Paton) accept the invitation. Lady Mary stays behind at Downton to oversee the filming. The family are welcomed to the villa by Bertie, and his mother, Madame Montmirail (Nathalie Baye), who wants to contest Violet Crawley's ownership. The marquis stuns Robert by implying that his birth, nine months after the Dowager Countess visited in 1864, could mean they are half-brothers. Later, Cora tells Robert she may be fatally ill, causing him to break down at the prospect of losing his mother, his Crawley name, and his wife all together. At Downton, director Jack Barber (Hugh Dancy) is devastated that the studio has cancelled production of The Gambler, being a silent a film, and "talkies" are profiting. Lady Mary suggests dubbing the scenes they have already filmed with dialogue. Dexter's voice is suitable for the picture, but Dalgleish's regional accent is inappropriate for her upper-class character. Barber persuades Lady Mary to dub Dalgleish's voice, causing Dalgleish distress that her career, with sound pictures taking over, will be ruined and she threatens to quit. Downton servants Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Daisy Parker (Sophie McShera) eventually convince her to finish the film. Former Downton footman Mr Joseph Molesley (Kevin Doyle), who can lipread, reconstructs the dialogue using the previously filmed scenes and writes new scenes. The family returns to Downton while filming continues. Barber flirts with Lady Mary throughout the filming but despite the long passing of her husband Henry, she rebuffs him. Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), Downton's butler who is secretly gay, is made an offer by Dexter to manage his Hollywood house and be a travelling companion which he accepts. Cora is diagnosed with pernicious anaemia by Dr Clarkson (David Robb) who assures her and Robert that the condition is treatable. Cora helps Myrna Dalgleish develop an American accent, potentially saving her career. Lady Edith, constrained by her role as a marchioness, intends to resume working at the magazine she owns. The troubled filming is only worsened when the unpaid extras walk out. To ensure the completion of the film, the Downton staff agree to replace them. Barber offers Mr Molesley a lucrative deal as a screenwriter. Unaware that a microphone is switched on for all to hear, Mr Molesley takes he opportunity to propose to Miss Phyllis Baxter (Raquel Cassidy), and all applaud after she accepts. As the film crew prepare to leave, Violet assures Robert that the previous Lord Grantham was his father and nothing happened with Montmirail, though he pursued her. Violet's health deteriorates, and her loved ones surround her bed, she says her goodbyes and eventually dies. Mary asks Carson to train footman Andy Parker (Michael Fox) as Downton's new butler. Months later, Tom and Lucy return to Downton with their new-born baby and a portrait of the late Dowager Countess hangs in the main hall. Also starring Samantha Bond as Lady Rosamund Painswick, Paul Copley as Albert Mason, Brendan Coyle as Mr John Bates, Sue Johnston as Miss Gladys Denker, Phyllis Logan as Mrs Elsie Hughes, Alex Macqueen as Mr Stubbins, Lesley Nicol as Mrs Beryl Patmore, Douglas Reith as Richard "Dickie" Grey, Lord Merton, and Penelope Wilton as Isobel Grey, Lady Merton. All the recurring actors we recognise from the show are great, with Smith stealing most scenes with her signature waspish put-downs, and new cast members West, Haddock and Dancy are also terrific. This sequel is made up of two plots, one exploring the French Riviera, and the second and more interesting being at the estate house with a silent film crew changing to sound. It does exactly what it says on the tin, a nice simple and charming story of life upstairs and downstairs in the old days, with humour and tears to satisfy fans, I much preferred this to the predecessor, a likeable period drama. Good!
City of Tiny Lights (2016)
City of Tiny Lights
I don't think I had seen the leading actress in anything outside of television since her breakthrough in Doctor Who, I was also attracted to this film by the lead actor, and I was a British film with the criminal underworld, directed by Pete Travis (Vantage Point, Dredd). Basically, in London, Tommy Akhtar (Riz Ahmed) is the son of Asian immigrants and works as a private eye. He is visited by black prostitute Melody Chase aka Laura (Cush Jumbo) who asks for his help finding her fellow Russian prostitute roommate Natasha (Aouxe). Tommy manages to sneak his way into a hotel room where Natasha was last seen with a client but finds the dead body Pakistani businessman Usman Rana (Dean Phillips). Tommy takes the dead man's mobile phone as evidence and calls the police anonymously from a payphone to report the murder. He has young weed dealer Avid Elbaz (Mohammad Amiri) crack the phone's PIN. Two of the last calls made from the phone were to Hafiz "Lovely" Ansari (James Krishna Floyd), a childhood friend of Tommy's, to discuss an investment. Tommy visits Lovely who asks him to investigate the murder as it is scaring away other investors. While investigating, Tommy has also been back in touch with Shelley aka Emma (Billie Piper), a childhood friend who has become a prostitute herself, and he experiences flashbacks of their bad childhood experiences together. Tommy learns from a contact in the police that the crime scene had been cleaned by the time the police arrived as the hotel room. The SIM card in the phone is decrypted and found to contain a spreadsheet documenting large donations to the Islamic Youth League. Tommy visits the organisation, and its leader indicates that Usman's death was the will of Allah as punishment for the false idols and lustful desires of Western society. After leaving, Tommy is approached by American federal agent DS Cal Donnely (Danny Webb) who tells him that he knows that Tommy was at the hotel and that he called in the anonymous tip and warns Tommy to stay away from the investigation. Tommy speaks with Tunde (Jake Fairbrother), who was working at the club the night Natasha was last seen and learns that Melody was with one of her regular clients there the night of the murder. After leaving, he is assaulted by two strangers who shout that the case is closed before fleeing. Tommy begins sending Avid to the Islamic Youth League to gather information. Tommy is abducted in a black van and taken to speak with the federal agent, who shows him a video of Usman calling for jihad and takes him to a crime scene to show him the freshly discovered body of Natasha. Tommy returns to Melody and confronts her. She says that she is being followed and confesses that her regular the night of the murder was Hafiz. As they leave, there is a stranger in the elevator that shoots at them. They escape and hide at the house of Tommy's father Farzad (Roshan Seth), where Tommy looks at the spreadsheet and discovers large profits being made from property acquisitions at low prices. The next day Mullah Al-Dabaran (Alexander Siddig), the leader of the Islamic Youth League, is arrested. His followers protest in demonstrations demanding his release, where Hafiz attempts to calm them. Tommy warns Hafiz that the people from the night of the murder are being killed. When Avid is attacked by American federal agents and put into a coma, Avid's mother blames Tommy for getting him involved. Tommy returns home, where he finds Hafiz and another man holding Melody at gunpoint. Hafiz confesses to using drug dealers to bring property prices down then allowing the Islamic Youth League to run off the drug dealers to enable him to buy the properties at a low price. Tommy's father returns and shoots the gunman, but Tommy convinces him to kill Hafiz, who is arrested. In the end, Tommy returns home for Christmas dinner with his father, Melody, Emma and Avid. Also starring Vincent Regan as Tall Man / Schaeffer, Ram John Holder as Trinidad Pete, Hannah Rae as Young Shelley / Emma, Antonio Aakeel as Young Lovely, and Reiss Kershi as Young Tommy. Ahmed gives a solid performance as the snoop, Piper could have been on longer as the old flame but is fine, Jumbo is terrific as the lady of the night caught in the middle, and Seth is likeable as the lead character's traditional Asian father. This is essentially a British version of the mean streets style movie, in London rather than Los Angeles or elsewhere in America, with gangsters and drug dealers, I will admit I didn't pay the fullest attention to everything, but it got my attention when it needed to, overall, it was a reasonable crime drama. Worth watching!
It was only a year before that I had seen the original 1984 Drew Barrymore version, I had a feeling that it would be remade one day, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the trailer for it, based on the book by Stephen King, from Blumhouse Productions (Insidious, Get Out, Halloween, The Invisible Man). Basically, when they were younger, Andrew "Andy" McGee (Zac Efron) and Victoria "Vicky" Tomlinson (Sydney Lemmon, Jack's granddaughter) were paid to be part of a clinical trial. They were injected with an experimental chemical drug known as Lot-6, most other subjects of the experiment died, but they survived. The experiment resulted in them both gaining supernatural powers, Andy gains telepathy, the ability to hear and control thoughts, and Vicky gains telekinesis, the ability to move objects with her mind. Following the experiment, they began a relationship and got married, and they had a child together, a girl named Charlene, or "Charlie". As a baby however, Andy is panicked when Charlie spontaneously sets the room on fire, she has the power of pyrokinesis, the ability to control heat and fire. In the present day, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) tells her parents that she has been repressing something that she refers to a "the bad thing". She finds her powers becoming more unstable as she struggles to contain and control her abilities. Charlie unintentionally causes an explosion in the school bathroom when angered by bullying. Andy meanwhile makes a living as life coach, using his mental powers, "the push" to brainwash and influence clients, under the guise of hypnosis, including helping someone to stop smoking, although using his power causes his eyes to bleed from the strain. Meanwhile, in a secret facility, Captain Jane Hollister (Gloria Reuben) is the leader of the facility known as DSI who have been monitoring unusual thermal activity following Charlie's outburst. Hollister visits Dr. Joseph Wanless (Kurtwood Smith), creator of Lot-6 and the resulting superhumans, who insists that Charlie must be terminated before her powers go out of control. Captain Hollister enlists fellow superhuman and bounty hunter John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) to help with this task. Rainbird visits the McGee home, confronting Vicky who attempts to fight him off using her repressed telekinetic powers. Rainbird overpowers and kills Vicky, and when Charlie and Andy return, he holds Charlie at knifepoint. Charlie's powers overwhelm her, and she inadvertently create a burst of flames throughout the house. Andy and Charlie escape in their truck while Rainbird is left badly burned. They stop on the journey for supplies, and Charlie unintentionally burns a cat who scratches her, and is forced to kill it to put it out of its misery, and Andy makes her promise never to intentionally harm anybody. On the road, Andy and Charlie hitchhike and are picked up by Irv Manders (John Beasley), who is influenced by Andy to take them to Boston. They stop at Irv's house, where Charlie accidentally stumbles upon his paralysed wife Esmerelda (Sheila Boyd). Irv is angry when he catches her, but he calms himself and explains that he occasionally overreacts. During the night, Irv watches a news report of the incident at the McGee home, in which Andy has been framed for murder. Irv and Andy get into a confrontation before Andy explains that he is just trying to protect his daughter. Charlie uses her own power of telepathy to communicate with Irv, telling him that his wife 'Essi' forgives him for the accident that left her paralysed. Soon enough police cars arrive, having been called by Irv after seeing the news report, but Irv has a change of heart and tries to help Andy and Charlie to get away. Rainbird appears from a distance in the bushes and kills the policemen and Irv with a rifle. But Andy and Charlie are picked up by black trucks before he can assassinate them. Andy uses his ability one last time to trick Rainbird so Charlie can escape running into a forest. Charlie remains in the woods to hone her power to create fire. She eventually reaches a town and controls the minds of three boys to provide her with a bicycle and clothes. She thinks she is hearing a telepathic message from her father from his cell at DSI, so she follows its direction. Charlie finds DSI and takes an agent's pass to access all areas. The agent pleads for her spare his life and tells her he does not have a gun. She initially remembers her promise to her father, but the agent tries to kill her, pulling out a gun, so she burns him to death. Charlie goes down a staircase to the restricted area in which her father is being kept. She finds her father's glass-fronted cell, where Captain Hollister is waiting for her with him. Captain Hollister tells her not to try and burn her, or her father will be killed as well. Andy did not send a telepathic message to her, Rainbird tricked her. With no other way out, Andy tells Charlie to burn the whole place down, including him, but she refuses. He apologises to his daughter and mentally pushes her to burn the entire place down, starting with Hollister and himself. Charlie is forced to set them both on fire, and mentally unlocks all the security doors to spread the flames through the facility. Rainbird is released when his holding cell is unlocked while many of the guards and scientists are killed in the ensuing inferno. Men in fireproof suits enter the facility and successfully capture Charlie who fails to kill them. The men are about to subdue her when Rainbird shoots them from behind. He surrenders to Charlie and kneels for her judgement. Charlie starts to kill him but sees herself in the mirror and she realises that he is under the thumb of DSI, like her, she shows him mercy, before finally setting the rest of the building ablaze. Charlie is seen walking onto a beach with Rainbird following behind. Knowing that she is now alone, Charlie allows Rainbird to pick her up, and they walk off together. Also starring Tina Jung as Ms. Gardner, Jamillah Ross as Officer Pierce, Danny Waugh as Sheriff Perry, Lanette Ware as Principal Lewis, Vas Saranga as Agent Jules, Claire Armstrong as Agent Gail, and Zion Forrest Lee as Agent. Eforn is reasonable as the concerned father, Armstrong does alright as the gifted girl with fiery abilities, Reuben does well as the villain trying to control the situation, Greyeyes is not playing the right kind of character, and Smith and Beasley could have been on much longer. It sticks to roughly the same plot as the original film and source material, but the changes are not all good; Hollister being a woman is fine, but Rainbird becoming an antihero is a mistake; the special effects and explosive moments work relatively well, but it is pretty much on the same level as the original, not a completely terrible science-fiction thriller. Okay!
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The first Doctor Strange movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was fantastic, and his appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home was terrific, so I was excited for the next instalment, directed by Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man, Drag Me to Hell). Basically, in an alternative universe, teenager America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) from the Utopian Parallel and a version of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) are being chased by a demon in the space between universes while searching for the Book of Vishanti. Strange is killed and Chavez accidentally creates a portal that transports herself and Strange's corpse to Earth-616 (the Avengers universe wiped out by Thanos). In this universe, its version of Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) rescues Chavez from a large one-eyed tentacled demon, a Gargantos, with help from Wong (Benedict Wong), the Sorcerer Supreme. Chavez explains that the beings are hunting her because she has the power to travel through the Multiverse. But Chavez does know how to control her power and has lived with the guilt of accidentally transporting her parents to another universe as a child, she hopes they are alive and will find them one day. Strange has been having a "nightmare" every night for some time, but Chavez takes Strange and Wong to the corpse of Defender Strange to prove that the "nightmare" is actually a glance of his counterparts across the Multiverse. Looking at Defender Strange's corpse, Strange discovers runes of witchcraft, like there were on the tentacled monster. So, he visits Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) at her farm to ask her about what she knows about the Multiverse. But slowly it is revealed that she is responsible for the attacks, she has become the Scarlet Witch after acquiring the Darkhold, aka the Book of Spells, or the Book of the Damned. Overcome with grief of losing Vision, she created a universe for herself called Westfield (as seen in WandaVision, going through decades of sitcoms), during which she created twin boys, Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne). She wants to use Chavez's powers to travel the Multiverse and reunite with her children. When Strange refuses to surrender Chavez, Maximoff attacks Kamar-Taj, the main headquarters of the Masters of the Mystic Arts and kills many sorcerers. Chavez accidentally transports herself and Strange through numerous universes, until they reach Earth-838. Meanwhile, Maximoff uses the Darkhold to "dream-walk" and takes control of this universe's counterpart of sacrifices herself to destroy the Darkhold and break the dream-walk. Herself, to live a suburban life with her children. A surviving sorceress, Sara (Sheila Atim), sacrifices herself to destroy the Darkhold and break the dream-walk. Enraged, Maximoff forces Wong to take her to the forbidden ancient temple of Mount Wundagore to re-establish the dream-walk. While searching for help, Strange and Chavez are apprehended by Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Earth-838's Sorcerer Supreme, and brought before the Illuminati, an organisation group of heroes with superpowers. The group, many alternate versions of those Strange knows, consists of Mordo, Peggy Carter aka Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Blackagar Boltagon aka Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Maria Rambeau aka Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch), Reed Richards aka Mister Fantastic (John Krasinski) of the Fantastic Four, and Charles Xavier aka Professor X (Patrick Stewart) of the X-Men. They explain that using their universe's Darkhold recklessly to try to defeat Thanos, Earth-838's Strange triggered a universe-destroying "incursion". After Thanos was defeated, the Illuminati executed their Strange to stop him from causing more harm. Mordo believes that Earth-616's Strange is similarly dangerous, but Maximoff arrives in her Earth-838 counterpart's body after re-establishing her dream-walk at Mount Wundagore before the Illuminati can pass judgment. She kills all of the Illuminati except Mordo, who Strange subdues before fleeing with Chavez. The Earth-838 counterpart of Strange's ex-fiancé Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), a scientist working with the Illuminati, helps them to escape. Strange, Chavez, and Palmer enter the space between universes to find the Book of Vishanti, which is the antithesis to the Darkhold. But Maximoff appears and destroys it, and then takes over Chavez's mind, using her powers to send the others to an incursion-destroyed universe. Strange meets the destroyed universe's Strange, following his corruption of the Darkhold, the two fight with this universe's Strange defeated. Strange uses the Darkhold to dream-walk into the corpse of deceased alternate Strange who was buried in Earth-616 and previously accompanied Chavez. With Wong's help, Strange saves Chavez from Maximoff as she tries to take Chavez's powers, and encourages Chavez to use her abilities. Chavez transports Maximoff to Earth-838, where Billy and Tommy are crying seeing their real mother suffering and recoiling in fear at her. Maximoff realises the error of her actions and uses her powers to destroy the temple, destroying all copies of the Darkhold throughout the multiverse and apparently killing herself in the process. Chavez returns Strange and Palmer to their respective universes. Sometime later, Kamar-Taj has been repaired, and the surviving sorcerers continue their training, with Chavez joining them. As a result of using the Darkhold and dream-walking into a corpse, Strange develops a third eye. During the credits, Strange meets a sorceress, Clea (Charlize Theron), who warns him that his actions have triggered an incursion that he must help fix, and he follows her into the Dark Dimension. Also starring Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Nic West, Bruce Campbell as Pizza Poppa, Adam Hugill as the voice of Rintrah, and Ross Marquand as the voice of Ultron. I should mention, it might have helped if I'd seen WandaVision before seeing this (I watched it after seeing the film, it's a good show), as its story was continued in the film, specifically where her sons came from (her children with Vision), but never mind. Cumberbatch gives a terrific performance as the mystical energy wielding hero, Olsen almost steals the show as the emotionally charged villain who longs to be reunited with a family that never truly existed, newcomer Gomez is well cast as the teenager with multiverse-hopping abilities, and supporting cast all do well also, including the guest star appearances. The story is a little overwhelmed at times by future plotline points, and obviously switching between the universes requires your close attention, but it is visually stunning, with spellbinding CGI special effects creating exciting fights and taking through the different worlds, and there moments of humour and horror added to the mix (obvious references to Evil Dead), a splendid superhero fantasy action adventure. Very good!