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Well, I guess we've had a good run...Sorry to see Ciao! go.

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since 11/07/2000


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (DVD) 13/11/2017

Groot Expectations

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Now known as saviours of the galaxy, Peter Quill and the crew of the Milano are hired by the powerful alien race known as the Sovereign to protect their precious batteries. But when their employers discover that Rocket Raccoon has stolen the items the team was meant to protect, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to retrieve them. While on the run, Peter discovers the truth about his parentage. I loved the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” film, so going to see this one was a no-brainer for me. But one of the great things about the first movie was that it came with no expectations or preconceptions attached. The same is not true for the sequel, which has an awful lot to live up to. James Gunn does what many directors do in this situation – he opts for the “bigger is better” approach. So there is a bigger cast, in a bigger universe, with bigger battles and bigger effects-heavy sequences. The worlds presented on screen could have been ripped from the front cover of a 1970s’ science fiction novel. Ego’s home planet in particular is a candy-coloured cavalcade of kitsch that I wanted to reach out and touch. The Sovereign’s whole design aesthetic seems to have been based on the gilded lifts of Trump Tower, while a seedier world, inhabited by lowlifes and robot prostitutes is a hodgepodge of hastily cobbled together castoffs and glowing neon. The quality of the effects varies greatly. While a digitally de-aged Kurt Russell is uncanny to behold and baby Groot and ...

Alien Covenant (DVD) 03/11/2017

In Space No-one Can Hear You Sigh

Alien Covenant (DVD) The crew of the colony ship “Covenant” is headed for a new life on the other side of the universe. But they are drawn off course by a radio broadcast that suggests human life might be closer than they think. They touch down on an uncharted planet, believing they have found a paradise, but soon discover this is a dark dangerous world. Its sole inhabitant is the synthetic David, the only survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition. Ridley Scott returns with a completely unnecessary sequel to the belated “Alien” prequel “Prometheus”. In visual terms, the film is very much of a piece with its most recent predecessor. The interior shots of the spacecraft are bathed in blue light and feature lots of hard angles and smooth surfaces. Meanwhile the exteriors are so desaturated that they are almost in black and white. This approach gives the movie a chilly aesthetic. In combination with a utilitarian design for the spaceship and costume design and some bleak locations, it sucks every iota of glamour out of interplanetary travel. The sets for the alien city are dark and forbidding and the whole shebang has a sinister air that would send any normal folk running for the escape pod. The creatures are disturbing, but perhaps look too similar to what we have come to expect from the franchise to truly terrify. In addition, there is an excess of CGI, which feels like it has been used in a slapdash manner. The storytelling is where the film falls apart. It suffers from many of the problems ...

Mindhorn (DVD) 22/09/2017

I Didn't Mind It

Mindhorn (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW In the 1980s, actor Richard Thorncroft had the world at his feet. He played the cybernetically-enhanced Detective Mindhorm whose bionic eye could literally see the truth. But after a drunken meltdown on “Wogan” his career imploded. Now, twenty-five years on, his ex-girlfriend is shacked up with his former stunt double, his sidekick is a star and he’s just been replaced by John Nettles in a compression sock advert. But when a killer contacts the Isle of Man police, he says he will only speak to Mindhorn, who he believes to be real and Richard sees it as another shot at the big time… Actor-turned-director Sean Foley makes his debut behind the camera with this likeable, if somewhat scattershot action movie parody. It is a project that has clearly been made on a budget and the visual style is nothing special. The film looks like it has been made for television rather than the big screen, which brings with it much lower expectations than a glossy-looking big-budget movie. But I can’t help thinking how much funnier the jokes about the Isle of Man location would be, if the production values were slicker and it was presented in more glamorous fashion. Instead it comes across as a parochial grey-skied backwater where the police are overworked and the buses are always late – sticking it firmly in the TV sitcom arena. In places, the director apes the style of the cop shows of the 1970s and 80s, with sudden zooms into Mindhorn’s bionic eye or a slow-motion entrance in ...

Plastic (DVD) 06/09/2017

The Clue's in the Title

Plastic (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Four university students make their money by engaging in low-level blackmail and credit card fraud. But when they unwittingly steal from a dangerous European gangster, they get in way over their heads. With only two weeks to come up with two million pounds, they plan a diamond heist to pay off their debts. Had I known before watching this film that director Julian Gilbey was responsible for the execrable “Rise of the Footsoldier”, I would probably have given it a miss. For a contemporary film, it seems like a cast-off from the Guy Ritchie cockney gangster caper sub-genre that ran out of steam a good fifteen years ago. It looks like all expense has been spared on the production. The flat lighting and lack of recognisable locations in the undoubtedly expensive locations of London and Miami make the production feel like a made-for-TV movie. Gilbey frequently falls into visual cliché. Every gunshot, car flip and glimpse of nipple is shot in orgiastic slow-motion, which suggests the director still has a teenage fascination with violence and breasts. The editing is strangely slack, so the whole film lacks the speed and pizazz required to make this kind of nonsense work. The cons too often rely on the kind of bad wigs, obviously stick-on beards and dodgy accents that would struggle to fool all but the dimmest of dimwits. But luckily for the characters, those are the only kind of people they every seem to meet. The clumsily-handled, action-heavy finale seems beyond ...

Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie (DVD) 23/08/2017


Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Mrs Brown’s fruit and veg stall comes under attack from unscrupulous property developers and their bully boys, not to mention the taxman. But she isn’t going to give up without a fight. Surprising as it may seem, I had never seen “Mrs Brown’s Boys” before watching this film, so I didn’t really have any expectations. All I knew was that the sitcom was very popular and that it featured a man in drag playing an old lady. I should probably have realised this wasn’t going to be the movie for me when I walked into the cinema and discovered that the vast majority of the audience were a good twenty to thirty years older than me. Like every film I have ever seen that has been adapted from a sitcom, the production suffers from a lack of scope. Although the main character makes a big deal of whipping down the backdrop and proclaiming “This is d’movie”, before revealing the front door opens onto a real street in Ireland, it always feels more like a feature-length TV special than a bona fide movie. It too often resorts to cheap sets and underpopulated locations to represent the bustling city of Dublin. Veteran sitcom director Ben Kellett’s style is perfunctory at best. A few touristy views of Ireland’s capital city are his only concessions to creating a bigger world for the characters to inhabit. Throughout, it feels as though we are simply watching a load of tired sitcom actors going through the motions and waiting for studio audience laughs that never come. Although ...

Suicide Squad (DVD) 22/07/2017

Suicide Squad is Brainless

Suicide Squad (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW US intelligence officer Amanda Waller is given the unenviable task of bringing together a group of the most dangerous super villains, arming them with the most powerful weapons at the government’s disposal and sending them off on a mission to defeat a seemingly unstoppable entity. But when the team of despicable individuals discover that they weren’t picked to succeed, are they more likely to die trying or decide it’s every man for himself? “Fury” director David Ayer’s name might be above the title of this weird entry into the superhero subgenre, but executive producer Zack Snyder’s grubby fingerprints are all over it. Like all of the other DC movies, this one is so visually dark that it’s often hard to see the characters and so frantically edited that you can barely tell, let alone understand what’s going on. The murky lighting and palette of muddy blues and greys is a far cry from the eye-poppingly colourful film the marketing materials promised. I suspect the ceaselessly choppy camerawork and the rapid editing is meant to give the narrative forward momentum and give the film a manic personality that matches its protagonists. But instead it swiftly becomes irritating and left me on the verge of headache for most of the running-time. In conjunction with the shoddy computer-generated effects and the heavy-handed symbolism (Look! The Joker laying on the floor surrounded by precisely arranged weapons while he laughs - he must be dangerous AND crazy!), it ...

The Lego Batman Movie (DVD) 08/07/2017

Finally, a FUN Batman Movie!

The Lego Batman Movie (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW When Gotham City is under attack from The Joker and his huge team of supervillains, Batman decides to take him on alone. But Joker has more tricks up his sleeve and if Batman wants to save the city from his hostile takeover, he might just have to drop the lone wolf thing and work with other people. He might even have to learn to lighten up, which is hard for a guy who only knows how to work in shades of black and sometimes very, very dark grey… “Robot Chicken” director Chris McKay makes the leap to the big screen with this Batman parody. He has crafted a meticulously detailed world. Almost every item, character and location is constructed from virtual Lego bricks and they are nearly indistinguishable from the real thing. The animators have painstakingly captured the precision of Lego’s moulding techniques and have recreated the scratches and scuffs the toys pick up. In addition, they have also recreated the reflective and semi-translucent qualities of the plastic. There are a few more special effects this time around, which include billowing clouds of smoke and mist, liquid water, lightning and more realistic explosions. But these tweaks work because they are in the style of previous Batman movies. The location choices are more limited than in “The Lego Movie”, as the narrative mainly takes place in a single world. This just means that there is continuity of design and style, without forsaking a sense of scope. The animators manage to make Wayne Manor and ...

Bleed For This (DVD) 30/06/2017

I Wouldn't Bleed For This

Bleed For This (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza is a small-town boxer from Rhode Island, who makes a name for himself after winning two world title fights. But after a car accident leaves him with a broken neck, it looks as though his career is over. Doctors tell him that another fight could kill him. However, the stubborn pugilist is determined to get back in the ring. He enlists the help of disgraced trainer Kevin Rooney and just a year after his accident and against doctors’ orders he begins to train for what could be his very last fight. Ben Younger (director of middling age-gap comedy “Prime”) returns with a boxing movie that seems very familiar. It feels as though he has absorbed ideas from almost every other boxing film ever made and has combined them to make an inspirational real-life tale feel flat and rote. Producer Martin Scorsese’s shadow looms large over the production, with the director aping his style but lacking the grace of Scorsese’s camerawork or the subtlety of his storytelling. Younger uses every boxing movie gambit. This includes the hand-held pans and the now ubiquitous lens flare, that is meant to give the film a sense of immediacy, but feels like a cliché due to overuse. He employs serious sans serif intertitles, pre-fight news reports, voiceover fight commentary and the obligatory woozy camerawork, slow-motion knock-outs and squealing feedback as the hero is floored by his opponent and rushed into hospital. There are also a lot of training ...

Assassin's Creed (DVD) 23/06/2017

A Pain in the Assassin

Assassin's Creed (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Criminal Callum Lynch is captured by a secret society, who want to use revolutionary technology to unlock his genetic memories. In doing so, Callum discovers he is descended from a member of a secret society known as the Assassins. He experiences the adventures of his 15th century ancestor Aguilar, who lived through the Spanish Inquisition. He amasses incredible skills and knowledge that will allow him to take on the powerful and oppressive Templar organisation in the present day. Before watching “Assassin’s Creed”, I’d never seen a good computer game adaptation on the big screen. After seeing this movie, nothing has changed. In contrast to many video game movies, the production is terribly earnest, features a big-name cast and has clearly had a great deal of money thrown at it. But in still manages to be absolutely dreadful in every respect. Australian director Justin Kurzel reunites with the two stars of his bloody interpretation of “Macbeth” and tries to imbue his latest project with the same bleak aesthetic. The present-day sequences play out in a sterile concrete bunker overlooking Madrid. It’s very much like a Bond villain’s secret base as designed by Apple, from the weirdly angled, spotlessly white concrete walls to the seemingly endless supply of uniformed guards. And for some reason never sufficiently explained (in in film where EVERYTHING is tediously over-explained) a robot arm boingles the hero up and down and somehow sends him back in time to ...

La La Land (2016) (DVD) 14/06/2017

I Didn't Go Ga Ga For La La Land

La La Land (2016) (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Mia is an aspiring actress working as a waitress in a film studio coffee shop, while Sebastian is a jazz musician scraping a living playing in bars and at cocktail parties. Circumstances keep bringing them together and they finally fall in love. But as success finds them, they are faced with decisions that threaten to pull them apart. I went into this film with high expectations. The trailer looked great. I loved director Damien Chazelle’s last Oscar-winning flick, “Whiplash”. I had read nothing but positive reviews and I love Emma Stone and could gaze at Ryan Gosling for hours (even if I’m unconvinced of his acting prowess). It starts well enough, with the promise of a production shot in CinemaScope (the format used for many musicals in the 1940s and 50s) and a colourful, energetic song-and-dance number set on an LA freeway, that introduces us to a city full of young wannabes. But this is just a chorus line of people we never see again and the film never quite scales the heights of the joyful ensemble number afterwards. That being said, the movie looks great. The director employs saturated primary colours at the beginning of the film that reflect the leads’ naivety and enthusiasm. But as the production progresses, the colours become more faded, as the characters become either more sophisticated or jaded, depending on your point of view. The cinematography is lush. LA is presented in a seemingly endless summer fading into Technicolor golden hours every ...

Moana (DVD) 05/06/2017

An Oceanic Adventure

Moana (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Moana has been raised to take over from her father as the chief of their island village. But she longs for adventure. When her home is threatened by a mysterious blight, she takes to the seas to find the once mighty demigod Maui, who can help her to save her people. Together they must brave the perils of the sea, encountering many mythical Polynesian beasts, in order to fulfil the quest of Moana’s ancestors. Disney continue their run of animated features with strong female leads, with this Oceanic adventure directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The animators have created a complete world, with highly detailed backgrounds. Moana’s island home of Motonui is glorious to look at. The verdant slopes of the volcanic isle are covered in lush vegetation, which is all beautifully rendered. There are a variety of tropical plants and trees, which move in the breeze and cluster together in a believable fashion. The land gives way to sheets of uneven stone and lava peppered with rock pools and blowholes and beautiful beaches with powdery, caramel-coloured beaches. The seas around the island are gorgeously and almost photo-realistically realised. You can see the effect of winds, tides and currents playing across the surface of the limpid blue water, which convincingly reflects any objects floating atop it and the sky. The animators incorporate traditional Oceanic designs wherever possible, whether in the architecture of the islanders’ village, the construction and ...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (DVD) 19/05/2017

Abolutely Flabulous

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Edina Monsoon’s PR business is in trouble and she is desperate for a new client to keep her in the manner to which she has become accustomed. So when she hears that supermodel Kate Moss is looking for representation, she is determined to snag her. But in her haste, she accidentally knocks Moss into the Thames. With her name now mud and the paparazzi on her tail, she and best friend Patsy Stone sneak off to the south of France until the furore dies down. I’ve never been a huge fan of “Absolutely Fabulous”, but I make a point of supporting the British film industry by watching as many British movies as I can. That being said, I always have reservations if I see the BBC’s logo come up when I go to the cinema. It usually means that the production has a limited budget and that it is eventually destined for numerous repeats on television. Consequently, the films tend to look cheap and lack a sense of scope. That is certainly true of this one, which may feature some glamorous locations and a whole raft of celebrity walk-ons, but always feels more like a made-for-TV special than a bona fide big-screen release. Director Mandie Fletcher comes from a sitcom-directing background and I wonder if that has affected her overall style. There’s something a bit slapdash about many of the scenes, as though she only had the time to do a couple of takes of each one and then had to pick the best from what was available. Maybe it took so long to get all of the celebrity ...

Penguins of Madagascar (DVD) 16/05/2017

P-p-pick Up a Madcap Madagascar Penguin

Penguins of Madagascar (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Daring action penguins Skipper, Rico, Kowalski and Private join forces with super-secret spy organisation The North Wind. Together they must battle the evil Doctor Octavius Brine, who threatens to destroy the world as we know it. I’m not a fan of the “Madagascar” films, seeing them more as a repository for irritating characters than a successful kids’ movie franchise. That being said, I have always been entertained by the antics of the gung-ho action penguins. Consequently, I went into this movie with very modest expectations. Director Eric Darnell has been with the franchise since the very first “Madagascar” film, but co-director Simon J Smith is a newcomer to the series, which may be why the production feels fresh, if not entirely new. Dreamworks Animation’s visual style may lack the fine detail of competitors such as Disney and Pixar, but it is distinctive, particularly where the “Madagascar” movies are concerned. the animators have created a colourful world populated by highly stylised characters. The players come in all different shapes and sizes, each with their own look and personality, but there are some commonalities between them. Their design owes more to geometry than nature. Curves and straight lines are exaggerated so some creatures have squared-off paws and angular faces, while others have almost spherical heads. Their faces are generally expressive, although they tend to have glassy eyes and spongy mouth movements, which limits their range ...

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (DVD) 19/04/2017

Fatman V The Man of Wood: Yawn of Justice

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW Fearing what might happen if Superman’s actions are allowed to run on unchecked, Batman takes on the Man of Steel. Meanwhile, the world has to decide what kind of hero it really needs. “Man of Steel” director Zack Snyder’s second stab at bringing the DC superhero universe to the screen is even more tedious than his first. In the wake of Christopher Nolan’s critically acclaimed “Dark Knight” trilogy, the decision to reboot the superhero franchise so soon seems like a cynical cash-in. What could Snyder have to say about Gotham’s Caped Crusader that hasn’t already been said? As it turns out, absolutely nothing… The director appears to have confused emotionally gritty with visually dark. The production design is sombre to the point of depressing, with a palette of sludgy greys and blues and grubby reds that help to suck the joy out of the act of viewing. The visuals are frequently so murky that it’s all but impossible to see what’s going on. However, that could be considered a mercy, considering the overall quality of the acting. There might be some amazing stunts and fight choreography in there, but it’s all obscured by the gloomy lighting. As a result, every big set piece is wasted and matters aren’t helped by frenetic editing, which makes it even more difficult to see what’s going on. Snyder tries to make up for this with an excess of arbitrary slow-motion shots and epic choral arrangements on the soundtrack. These are presumably meant to give the action a ...

The Choice (DVD) 16/03/2017

The Choicest Clichés

The Choice (DVD) FILM ONLY REVIEW When feisty medical student Gabby moves in next door to perennial ladies' man Travis it leads them into a relationship neither of them had expected. Travis has always shied away from serious relationships in case they cramp his laidback lifestyle, while Gabby is about to settle down with her long-term boyfriend. After a whirlwind courtship, Gabby and Travis marry and have a family. They make every decision together, until circumstances force one of them to make the most important choice of their life alone. Producer-turned-director Ross Katz’s third movie is a clichéd and undemanding romance that will find favour with those who like their films safe and predictable. I know that most romantic movies are pretty formulaic – that’s what makes them so comforting to watch. But I think adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ novels may be the only ones that conform to a rigid visual style. The films are generally set in picturesque small, waterside towns filled with quaint clapboard houses and populated by photogenic young white people and cuddly grandparent-types. It’s the kind of place where the pace of life is as slow as the drawling speech and no-one has a bad word to say about anybody. The inhabitants exist in a world seemingly suspended in late summer, where the time is always the golden hour before sunset, when the light gives everything and everyone a warm and comforting glow. When the sun finally sets, the nights are velvet dark and scattered with twinkling ...
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