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Captain America: Civil War (DVD) 10/01/2017

A Marvellous bubble and squeak

Captain America: Civil War (DVD) With the vast majority of superhero movies, directors and producers have managed to skirt around the issues that stem from taking the page to the screen. There are irked fans, both comic book and movie based, but for the most part success reigns supreme and the industry is absolutely booming. The 2006-2007 epic graphic novel 'Civil War' was a resounding success. I can't begin to explain how excited I was as someone who has loved these from an early age to find the ultimate crossover storyline, and I remember thinking at the time that it would be nigh on impossible to replicate it on the big screen. Bringing together the biggest names in Marvel's dynasty to address the concept that Disney's The Incredibles focuses on, that of accountability and protection if something goes wrong, was something that would surely remain confined to the pages of the thick image-filled genre. And yet, having watched the film and with hindsight, it's clear that this has been on studio bosses' minds since the crossover story was published a decade ago. The various different phases that Marvel's films go through have been dependent on what the various studios do and don't have rights to, with Fox's grip on Spider-Man and other off-shoots not making things easy for the fans and proving to be a selfish act that frustrates the end goal consumer - not that the Spidey movies have been anything to shout about - and so the logistics always seemed to point us away from the huge combination of everything ...

Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death (DVD) 09/01/2017

The suffering sequel

Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death (DVD) Susan Hill's well-scripted tale, 'The Woman in Black', was a fine foray into a Harry Potter free world for Daniel Radcliffe. Not having read the book, I was unaware of a second story having been penned, until I saw the film was available to watch on amazon video recently. Having enjoyed the first film, I popped this on my list and finally got round to watching it. Eel Marsh is one of those desolate, fog-consumed places with a village or town nearby, with a long, winding track taking track across a dangerous marsh taking you to what appears to be an abandoned building. You know, the sort of place that you'd avoid like the plague if you'd ever seen a horror film. Set after the original film, Angel of Death features war-torn England and the need to evacuate a small group of children to the countryside. With strong hints at personal loss, we are treated to Phoebe Fox as school teacher Eve Parkins, taking a young boy, Edward, under her wing as he joins their group having just lost his parents in a bombing raid. Parkins, the school mistress Jean Hogg and the children travel to Eel Marsh and then the sinister events ensue. Those who have seen the first film will recognise the room at the end of the corridor with the rocking chair and toys that move without any visible force touching them. Those who haven't are likely to be suitably disturbed, although these days it takes a lot to disturb an experienced horror film enthusiast. If this is your first horror film, then you are likely ...

The Revenant (2015) (DVD) 08/08/2016

Inarritu cooks up a visual stunner for DiCaprio's Oscar

The Revenant (2015) (DVD) Some films are made with the big screen in mind, and these often divide opinion. I firmly believe it's possible to have stellar elements to a film without it being a particularly good film itself; similarly, there are a number of actors whose performances are excellent no matter the film. Bale, Washington, Ledger, Hardy...these are actors whose performances I find riveting, whether I can relate to them or not. I used to loathe watching DiCaprio on screen - I felt there was no difference from film to film - and the overreactions to Titanic only served for him to try too hard for the ensuing films he starred in. That he hadn't won an Oscar until now was no great surprise. Make no mistake about it, I do think he's a great actor, but variety was missing for me. Perhaps it's his voice, something which is somewhat lacking in his latest surefire hit, The Revenant, which sees him as a wronged frontiersman, left for dead by a crooked fellow trapper as they hunt elk for their pelts. The film's lengthy scenes with DiCaprio's character surviving in the wild and recovering from his injuries don't lend themselves to speech, so there is little or no talking for long periods of time. I hate to just discuss one actor, or the director, in any film, as what we end up with is a product of thousands of people's work. The Revenant is clearly a collective success, and is one of those films where, if watched in the right frame of mind, is riveting; but if it is watched when you are impatient and ...

Yankee Candle Christmas Past Meltwarmer & Wax Tarts Gift Set 28/07/2016

I'm a Yankee candle convert

Yankee Candle Christmas Past Meltwarmer & Wax Tarts Gift Set Just over a year ago, one of my oldest friends (not in age, but in years known!) started working for Yankee Candle, arguably the best known candle company in the world. Until recently, we haven't really considered the value of candles in the home, and I've certainly always scoffed at the prices that some of Yankees products come in at. It's something I've never given a second thought to. A Christmas tradition If we spend Christmas at home, one tradition that has always been a joy for me is meeting up for Boxing Day lunch with my school friends. This usually ranges from anywhere between 10 and 20 of us, depending on who's around and whether they bring family with them. Essentially, too many people to splash out on gifts, so we tend to offer each other's company as festive gesture... Everyone, that is, except my Yankee candle friend, who is always laden with something, however small or large, for nearly everyone. He really is particularly generous. This year's gift was this Yankee Candle set, and I'm pretty sure I managed to disguise my lack of enthusiasm by scrutinising the box and hurling thanks and handshakes and hugs at him, while my wife looked genuinely excited to be receiving such a gift. Not just a ceramic pot Along with the pot came a small number of candle tarts, so called because they're like the little jam tarts you make at home, complete with wavy edges and everything! Opening the box felt a little weird, as I just wasn't that fussed, but I know that my wife ...

Crimson Peak (DVD) 26/07/2016

Crimson Peaks too soon...

Crimson Peak (DVD) A couple of months ago, I read an article on Crimson Peak, and how it was set to be the latest gothic marvel to hit the big screen. Eagerly, I awaited its arrival on the small screen to watch it in the comfort of my own home, and got the chance this week. Was I disappointed? Kinda... In a nutshell, the film starts strong and finishes weakly, which came as a surprise to me, considering the calibre of the assembled cast and with acclaimed gothic guru Guillermo Del Toro in the director's chair. For the first half of the film, it was like watching one of the better episodes of the gloriously dark Penny Dreadful which has recently aired its last episode. The dark setting was matched by the broody and haunting musical accompaniment, and I sat watching in awe as the brief back story of the spirit of a girl's recently deceased mother visiting her one night in quite scary form to deliver a warning: beware of Crimson Peak; I sat watching in awe as, years later, that same girl, now grown up, is wooed by the commanding presence of Tom Hiddleston's gentlemanly Thomas Sharpe, literally sweeping her off her feet in a dazzling waltz, complete with 19th century elegance and decor; I sat watching in awe as the others characters all around bewitched me with how smoothly and seamlessly they slotted in with the undulating plot even in the early minutes; and I sat watching in awe as Jessica Chastain's dark and brooding Lucille Sharpe (sister of Thomas) made my spine tingle with what I can only ...

The Visit (DVD) 16/07/2016

POV style creepy film - only if you've got time and can't choose

The Visit (DVD) Teenage siblings Becca and Tyler are off to stay with their maternal grandparents, but there's a catch. Their mum hasn't seen or spoken to them in a long time - something to do with an incident way back when. Aside from being a bit strange that the mum would let her two kids go and stay with their estranged grandparents, the plot seems perfectly set for a horror film: sleepy country town, house a little on the outskirts, keep themselves to themselves, and...they MUST be in bed by 9.30pm - or else! As far as horror films go, this is pretty tame for the most part, with suspense being the order of the day. Everything seems nice and laid back, and with Becca and Tyler deciding to film their holiday with their vidcams, director M Night Shyamalan allows himself to be a little 'Blair Witch' with the presentation of the film. The POV style filming, particularly within the horror genre, has become something rather tedious of late, with directors thinking of it as a fast track to success since the 90s classic 'The Blair Witch Project' took us to a different place. As with many things, though, the appeal with that was more to do with the originality of the presentation than the plot, and when I watch it back now, it just doesn't have the same appeal. With 'The Visit', the moment you see that we're going to see a lot of the footage through the children's vidcams, you'd be forgiven if you deflate a little bit - it's top be expected, and I have to admit to being surprised that a ...

X-Men: Apocalypse (DVD) 03/06/2016

"Everybody knows that the third film is always the worst"

X-Men: Apocalypse (DVD) Deep breath... I love Marvel. I devoured comics as a kid and have genuinely enjoyed every Marvel film that has been made, as well as every show (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, MAOS, etc). That doesn't mean I don't get disappointed from time to time, but I still genuinely enjoy them. Yes, even Sam Raimi's Spiderman 3 was enjoyable... There comes a point where you things get a little too big to handle, and I honestly thought that Captain America: Civil War was going to be that point. However, the multitude of superheroes in one film actually worked with Anthony and Joe Russo at the helm. Instead, this summer's disappointment has, so far, come in the form of the third in the yesteryear trilogy from the other Marvel family (oh, for a crossover!): X-Men Apocalypse. Following on from the successful First Class and Days of Future Past films, this third installment continues to follow a timeline way before the Professor X and Magneto years we are accustomed to with thespians Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen lending their considerable gravitas to the cult phenomenon. Although these two figured somewhat in DOFP, it was only brief and served merely to signify their approval of their younger counterparts of James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender. In Apocalypse, we fast forward ten years on from the events of DOFP to a time where the world is threatened by something greater than anything it has experienced before. At the beginning of the film, we see an ancient Egyptian ritual being ...

A Fistful Of Dollars (DVD) 11/04/2016

"Aim for the heart, Ramon!"

A Fistful Of Dollars (DVD) A fistful of history Sergio Leone's 1964 classic A Fistful of Dollars gave way to a new genre of Western: the Spaghetti Western. So named as a reference to the nationality of the Italian director, this film was the first in a trilogy from Leone that featured The Man With No Name, played by an as then unknown Clint Eastwood. It paved the way not only for a string of beautifully crafted films from, with his and musical genius Ennio Morricone's stamps all over them, but also for a whole host of foreign filmmakers to engage with the genre of the Western. Stealing a story Whatever you make of the successful claims that Fistful is essentially a remake of the 1961 film Yojimbo, it is the sort of film that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Its premise is simple: Eastwood plays a drifter who arrives at a Mexican border town with two warring families fighting to dominate it: the sheriff, John Baxter, and the Rojo brothers. The stranger decides to play the two families off against each other, and thus ensues a string of events manipulated our drifter in clever fashion: he commits a small crime, blames it on one family, tells the other and then goes back and forth between the two, offering his sharp shooting services in exchange for financial reward. Aware of his plans is Silvanito, the town's innkeeper, with whom the stranger builds up a solid rapport. As the film progresses and both sides start to wonder what is going on, we find the stranger getting more deeply involved with the ...

'71 (Blu-ray) 08/04/2016

Grit and determination - on screen and in reality

'71 (Blu-ray) A couple of years ago, I was trawling through Sky Movies looking for something to watch, and I came across a film called 'Starred Up'. I hadn't heard of it before, and I wasn't in the mood for a mainstream US gung ho feel good unrealistic action film, and I liked the premise of tackling youth correctional facilities in the UK; I was in the mood for this sort of film. What struck me about it was the lead actor, a young man I'd heard nothing about called Jack O'Connell. I was very impressed by his natural ability to portray a character, something I hadn't seen a new actor on the scene do since Tom Hardy gave us a few powerhouse performances to remember him by. Having watched a couple of films tarring O'Connell since, it's safe to say that he's here to stay, and big things are no doubt in store for someone of his level-headedness. '71 was released the year after Starred Up, although I missed it at the cinema and it's only recently that I've managed to get my hands on a copy of it to watch. I settled down to give it a go, and soon realised that this was a film I'd need full focus for. '71 is set in Belfast in 1971 amid the conflict between the UK armed forces and the IRA. It has an underlying focus on the political nature of the UK sending forces across the stretch of water to fight in the city's streets, and of the violent nature of some of the bombings. The film depicts the conflict as one that affects the youth, with rarely an older character being focused on, and certainly ...

Terminator Genisys (DVD) 30/03/2016

He said he'll be back!

Terminator Genisys (DVD) I can't make my mind up: do I like Jai Courtney as an actor or not? He usually fills the bad boy role, and has carved out a good career as such up until now; with an up coming role in the long awaited DC Comics' Suicide Squad, this is cemented. Here, though in the 5th installment of the somewhat faltering Terminator series, he plays Kyle Reese, the hero of the first film and key figure in the timeline. The other big question for me was whether or not the makers of this film could revitalise a series that in many people's eyes has been faltering ever since the genius of Judgement Day over 20 years ago. The third film was instantly forgettable, and despite a stellar cast headed by the dominant Christian Bale, the head-spinning time switches and languid plot development of the most recent fourth have left people in dire need of an Arnie return to give it the reboot up the ass it's crying out for. With the Governator firmly on board, and Game of Thrones royalty Emilia Clarke filling in the Sarah Connor shoes, things seem to be looking up. The proof though, as they say, is in the pudding. Kicking off in the future, we see Courtney's Reese growing up under the tutelage of John Connor, leader of the resistance fighting against societal domination by robots that essentially want to make humans their slaves or wipe them out, destroying the world that we live in and creating a post-apocalyptic dystopia that none of us want. Then, at the moment when Reese is about to be flung back to ...

Whiplash (DVD) 30/03/2016

Getting 'Whiplash' in a 'Caravan'

Whiplash (DVD) What does it take to make it big? Behind every YouTube music sensation, is there a musical purist who has explored the full facets of musical education? No. What about applying to and getting a place in the very best school with the very best teachers in a discipline that you love - is that a purist's dream? Maybe... In Whiplash, one young budding percussionist has the opportunity to attend the very best musical school and be taught by a legendary orchestral genius with an ear to envy... if he proves to be worthy. Whiplash sees the meeting of an old school scene stealer and one of the hottest properties of the new generation of stars: J K Simmons and Miles Teller. Teller's budding drummer plays like a man possessed, but his attitude has to be perfect to be accepted by the exceptional ear of Simmons' elite teacher. What this film does is portray just how dedicated and accurate you have to be in order to achieve the very highest in any discipline, and it does so by being extreme and brutal with its fallouts. To be the very best, you often have to deal with the harshest conditions, and Simmons' maestro works his students doggedly. Some might say he is cruel, and they'd be right as he is pretty vicious with his students to the point where their hands are bleeding as much as their egos are bruised; this is all designed to show us just how downright horrible a character the man is, despite saying that all he wants is to better each and every one of them at the same time as ...

Mad Max Fury Road (Blu-ray) 05/03/2016

Taking it back to the outback

Mad Max Fury Road (Blu-ray) After what seems like an eternity in production, the fourth Mad Max film finally made it to the big screen. George Miller's post apocalyptic road movie stay true to the original style and makes sure that we are treated to high octane entertainment from the start. Original star Mel Gibson is replaced, for whatever reason, by one of the hottest properties in the film industry at the moment, Tom Hardy, whose silent yet deadly Max Rotachansky is spot on as the lead for this violent gem. I'm not sure of where this fits in with the timeline of the original trilogy, so I won't cast any aspersions. Indeed, if you haven't seen the originals or haven't even heard of them, it really doesn't make any difference. The film starts off by showing our hero being captured by the villain of the piece, the cruel tyrant Immortan Joe, a disfigured ageing fighter whose giant son and vicious shaven headed lunatics form his army. Max serves as a pure blooded transfusion vehicle for Joe's five wives, who have been chosen for him to further his bloodline. He also has control over the only greenery and water supply in what appears as the most vast wasteland imaginable. When one of his generals, Imperator Furiosa, tries to help the five wives escape under the guise of foraging for gasoline, Joe and his lunatic chase them, with one of them, Nux, taking Max with him as pure blood supply along the way. I don't quite get the point of taking Max along for blood supply, as things seem to happen very quickly. ...

The Theory of Everything (DVD) 28/02/2016

Against all odds

The Theory of Everything (DVD) Every time Oscars season comes around, I vow to watch the nominated films, including those featuring individual nominees. One such film is that featuring the winner of Best Actor, Eddie Redmayne, as Stephen Hawking in the film documenting a bulk of his life. The content if the film takes us from Hawking as a student to him as a celebrated professional about to lose complete physical capacity, essentially presenting the man we are familiar with today. What struck me most about this film was just how much work must have gone in to Redmayne's research. He has certainly tried to capture Hawking's mannerisms as accurately as possible, and this seems to have been as successful as anyone is likely to manage, right down to the mischievous twinkle in his eye that you catch every now and then when watching the Professor himself. Equally interesting is the subject content. Hawking is best know for his theory of relativity, which is no doubt why the film is so entitled. What I liked about it is that it doesn't just explore this one theory - it goes beyond this and looks at all aspects of Hawking's studies into the physical world and the contrasting theories of science and religion. In essence, this is as much a discovery of belief systems as it is a biography. What's more, the film takes a bold look at Hawking's personal life. I know that there is plenty of information available when it comes to finding out about the personal lives of most famous people, but this is generally ...

Fury (DVD) 27/02/2016

Educated officer vs experienced soldier

Fury (DVD) I find that war films tend to be much the same as each other. Every now and then a film does come along that provides something different, and Fury was touted as one of these films. In it, Brad Pitt leads a tank crew against targeted areas in WWII, and although the 'bigger picture' isn't discussed, that's fine - the focus is on the effects of the war on the individuals involved in it. My problem is that the film was rather forgettable for the most part. The individual characters are somewhat memorable, and some of the scenes are powerful, but I've yet to come across a wholly memorable war film of late, and this was my main disappointment with Fury: the sum of the parts, etc. In terms of chronology, the film follows a young officer who is placed as the ranking officer for Pitt's tank crew. They all follow the tank leader, which says a lot about educated officers versus experienced soldiers. The contrast is a subtle one, made early on and made very clear, and although it's not visited again, the fact that the film then follows the young officer as he 'becomes a man' through the experiences of war under Pitt's tutelage serves to highlight this divide. The individual scenes that stand out, other than the introduction of the characters, (which is swift and cleverly done) really only boil down to one area they find themselves in: a small German town. Here, the animalistic tendencies of men at war are exposed and explored, with some of the townsfolk's women being objectified and ...

Spectre (DVD) 20/02/2016

Of ubervillains and pussycats

Spectre (DVD) Since his first moment as Ian Fleming's ultimate detective creation, Daniel Craig's stint as James Bond has looked to bring the franchise into the modern era. Despite the occasional blip, the series has been very strong, with Skyfall presenting a story very personal to Bond and 'M'. Spectre takes it a step further, bringing the personal element even more to the fore, with one of the most convincing villains I can remember from a Bond film, and I've watched them all multiple times. The film starts with Bond pursuing a villain, buildings collapsing and helicopters flying stunts with people fighting in them. If Bond films are known for one thing, it's that they tend to follow the traditional structure of a pre-intro credit action scene before the opening title sequence that ends in Bond emerging from a small white circle on a black background with a famous song playing. This scene stretched the boundaries of reality for me, and I wasn't particularly enamoured with it. The realism of Craig's Bond is often compromised by the lack of realism displayed by some of the action sequences, and this is one of them. That aside, the rest of the film deserves virtually nothing but praise. Bond is following a mysterious message that leads him to Rome and the infiltration of a secret meeting. It is here that we first meet the immense presence of our main villain - Franz Oberhauser. Christoph Waltz's Oberhauser is soon revealed to be someone they thought long dead, and the events of all of ...
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