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Kilburnlad

Tomb Raider (2018)


Tomb Raider 2018

As a devotee of Indiana Jones, this sort of film will always hold an appeal for me. Add in Alicia Vikander as the resourceful heroine, and there wasn't any real doubt that I would go to see it. I'm not a gamer, so I am unschooled in the original premise of the video game, but I did see Angelina Jolie in the 2001 film, which for me seemed more like a video game than this latest incarnation.

Taking a leaf out of the Wonder Woman book, here we have the genesis of the story, as we see Lara as a rebellious young woman who refuses to sign papers to inherit her father's immense wealth while not knowing if he is indeed dead. Instead she just about gets by as a bike messenger in London. Until, that is, her father's business partner, Ana Miller, has to bail her from the police station after she collided with a police car. Taken to sign the papers to release her inheritance, she is given a Japanese puzzle bequeathed by her father, which she soon unravels - "things like this were always around the house !" This releases a key, which in turn, after solving a little riddle, gives her access to her father's secret den. There she finds a cam-corder, on which is a video left for her by her father. How the battery was still charged after seven years isn't explained. In the video her father exhorts her to destroy all his material relating to Himiko, a mythical Japanese queen said to hold the power over life and death. Lara, of course, completely ignores his request, and sets off for Japan after pawning a rare amulet that her father gave her.

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Black Panther


Black Panther

After the tranquility and true-to-life realism of the last couple of French films I've reviewed, a quantum leap into the world of the Black Panther. I've previously expressed my opinion regarding the saturation of the Marvel franchise, with the film studios appearing to offer up one film after another for what they obviously see as an inexhaustible appetite for this type of adventure. I fear, however, that we may be getting to the point where it's too much of a good thing. Peak Marvel!

Black Panther, however, does offer something different, in that the majority of the cast is Black, which is a refreshing milestone for a big-budget superhero film such as this. They snuck in Martin Freeman as a white CIA agent, but this was hardly to satisfy the need for a 'big' star, since there is plenty of talent and star quality on show from the rest of the cast. I didn't see Captain America: Civil War, so this was my first introduction to King T'Challa, or as the title says, the Black Panther. We're introduced to the reclusive African Nation of Wakanda, where an ancient meteor strike deposited huge quantities of vibranium, a mineral that has allowed the inhabitants to develop advanced technology and keep it and themselves largely hidden from the rest of the world. The vibranium affected the plant life, and one particular plant is used to bestow upon King T'Challa super powers, which he employs in the guise of the Black Panther.

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The Shape of Water


The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro has an eye for fantasy, as anybody who saw Pan's Labyrinth will testify. The Shape of Water is no less fantastic. Set in the 1960's, within an entirely believable secret research establishment, the scientists have captured a humanoid sea creature, regarded as a god in its native South America. But in the USA it is an asset, a scientific specimen that is horrendously maltreated by its capturer, Colonel Richard Strickland. He brandishes an electric cattle prod, which he employs to the point where the creature is rendered almost lifeless. He doesn't, however, have things all his own way, losing two fingers in one encounter, which doesn't improve his feelings towards his captive.

Despite the high security level at the establishment, there is a staff of female cleaners who access the restricted areas almost at will, presumably because the bosses don't regard them as a security risk. Among them is Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins), a mute orphan who was found by the river as a baby. Esposito in old Italian was a surname given to foundlings. Elisa lives in a flat next to Giles, a graphic designer, who is himself a bit of an odd fellow, but he and Elisa get on just fine. A sort of platonic friendship where each appreciates the other foibles, communication being by sign language. Elis'a morning routine opens the film, a bizarre sequence wherein she puts eggs in water, sets the timer, and then proceeds to take a bath while masturbating. It would seem that this is in fact her regular daily routine. Read More…

A Ghost Story


A Ghost Story

This film didn't make our Cineworld multiplex, so when the DVD appeared we decided to watch it, based on some very interesting positive reviews. It's number nine in the Guardian's top 50 films of 2017.

It is different, and I would suggest very different from any supernatural film that you may have seen. It's not horror, and to an extent it's not even spooky. And even though the ghost has a few malevolent moments, it's not really scary.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a young couple living in a bit of a shack of a home in Texas. She wants to move, and he doesn't. We only know him as C, and her as M, not that proper names are that important to the story. One night they are disturbed by the sound of somebody 'crashing' the keyboard of his piano. They cannot discover why this happened, and at this point you think it's the beginning of the ghost story. But it isn't, and all will be revealed much later.

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A Monster Calls


A Monster Calls

This film received very good reviews when it was released and I caught up with it this week on Amazon Prime. I can see why the critics and audiences liked it. It focusses on Conor, a young boy who is struggling to come to terms with his mother's illness while at the same time suffering significant bullying at school. He deals with things with a passive reserve that strikes you as remarkable, the young actor Lewis MacDougall giving a truly impressive performance.

Conor has a recurring dream, involving the church and the large yew tree within a cemetery that is visible from his house. The church collapses and the tree disappears into a yawning hole, and Conor is desperately trying to hold on to somebody on the edge of the opening. He always awakens at what becomes the symbolic time of 12:06.

As his mother's condition worsens he is visited by the Monster, an incarnation from the large tree with internal fires that shine through its eyes. Conor reacts with confusion rather than fear, which is remarkable in the circumstances.

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The Mummy


The Mummy

We saw The Mummy yesterday on its cinema release date, a rare occurrence for me. I had decided to see it based on the trailer and wasn't disappointed, although judging by the reviews a lot of people haven't felt as charitable. Tom Cruise is one of those actors that people either like or not, and many people may have judged the film on this basis. Personally, I find Cruise an extremely dedicated actor who puts everything into a role, to the extent of inhabiting the character and training himself to carry out whatever stunts are involved. In a recent interview on the Graham Norton Show he divulged that he has been training two years for something that we are hopefully going to see in a forthcoming Mission Impossible movie - if whatever it is comes off!

Back to The Mummy. This is an updated version of an idea that's been around since the 30s. However, this time instead of a clunking male mummy we have a lithe young woman, Princess Ahmanet, who was mummified and entombed alive after making a pact with the god Set, following which she murdered her family. Set gives her a special dagger with a ruby type jewel at the top of the handle, which will allow Ahmanet to transfer Set's spirit into the body of a human, but she was prevented from doing this when captured and entombed after her killing spree.

We now move forward to present day Iraq where we have Cruise, as Nick Morton, with his partner Chris Vail, chasing down a 'treasure' that he believes exists based on a map he stole from the attractive archaeologist Jenny Halsey after spending a night with her. Nick and Chris become pinned down by insurgents and look to be in serious trouble, but Chris has summoned a drone strike that sees off the insurgents and opens a large hole, in which we see an Egyptian statue that signifies the presence of a tomb. The treasure Nick was looking for? Jenny arrives and tears Nick off a strip for stealing the map before the three of them descend into the hole to investigate further.

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Colossal


Colossal

I’ve tagged this film as ‘fantasy’, but I’m not sure that’s altogether accurate. In fact I think it’s fair to say that it's unique. I was also going to say that you will either love it or hate it, but on reflection I doubt anybody will love it, although quite a few may hate it. And many will be intrigued by it. So what’s it all about?

It starts in Seoul, South Korea, with a little girl looking for her doll in a park, only to be confronted by a colossal monster. We cut from there, and move forward 25 years. Gloria, played by Anne Hathaway as a bit of a Suzi Quatro lookalike, drinks too much and has arrived back at her boyfriend Tim’s flat with her usual excuses and untruths. This time he’s had enough and tells her to leave. Her bags have already been packed.

She returns to her home town, where she moves in to her parent’s empty house. It’s unfurnished, and the first night she sleeps on the floor, waking up with a stiff neck. After buying a blow-up mattress, she’s carting it back home when a school friend Oscar passes by in his pickup. Thinking he recognises her he stops, and they renew their acquaintance. They drive to his bar, where they talk, and Gloria remarks on the fact that half the bar has been closed off. The better half in her view. Oscar obviously has a thing about Gloria, and he starts to supply things for her house. He also offers her a job as a waitress at the bar.

Permanent features at the bar are two of Oscar’s friends, Garth and Joel. Joel’s the good looking one and when Gloria makes a pass at him, Oscar’s demeanour changes. A warning sign of things to come.

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I remember seeing the trailer for the first instalment of Guardians of the Galaxy and concluding that it looked too daft to bother with. However, I watched it on TV a little while ago, and while my opinion of its daftness proved to be spot on, I found it extremely enjoyable. The humour and the background music carried it along and the fact that the plot lines and antics verged on the ridiculous hardly mattered.

And so to Vol.2. Well, it's a fairly seamless continuation from the first film. All the team are in place, although in place of Groot, the walking-talking tree whose self sacrifice saved the rest of the team in the first film, we have a Baby Groot who was planted as a sapling from an offshoot of the dying Groot. Now it has to be said that Baby Groot is adorable, getting into all sorts of trouble as any devil-may-care youngster might. Like Groot senior, his only vocabularly is "I am Groot". If you're not familiar with the Guardians, the rest of the team are almost as bizarre as Groot. Peter Quill, or Star-Lord as he likes to be known, is the leader. He's human of the Earthling type, although not entirely so, as we find out. Gamora is the green-skinned woman who's the sensible one. She has a sister, Nebula, who's not on the team. In fact Nebula wants to kill Gamora. Drax the Destroyer is all muscle but with a softer side. And finally Rocket, a genetically modified raccoon, who's a master of weapons and military tactics. I did say it may seem daft.

In this sequel the team is first seen protecting some valuable batteries in the service of, Ayesha, the High Priestess of the Sovereign people, a gold race that is genetically engineered to be both physically and mentally perfect. This involves a battle with an inter-dimensional monster and they are doing this to secure the release of Nebula, who was caught trying to steal the batteries. Task complete they leave, only to be pursued by the Sovereign's drones because, it transpires, Rocket has pocketed some of the batteries.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Today it was the latest Star Wars film. The Guardian reviewer says that this is a film made for the fans, and I tend to agree with him. It stitches together other parts of the genre in that we now have an insight into how the plans for the death star were obtained, and indeed more background into the Rebel Alliance.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The dynamic duo in this film are Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, the former being the daughter of scientist Galen Erso, who is regarded as a traitor for working for the Empire. Galen, however, is playing the long game, and while on the face of it he's assisting with the creation of the super weapon, he's at the same time incorporated a weakness, that we all know is exploited in the original Star Wars film. Jyn, played by Felicity Jones, who I wouldn't have put as an action hero but admit to being wrong, becomes a plucky and resourceful rebel after at first eschewing their cause. Her sidekick, Cassian, whose orders were to assassinate Jyn's father, soon falls victim to Jyn's charms, very much a re-run of the Leia - Han Solo relationship that started off frostily and, well we all know what happened.

The threat of the Death Star is not universally believed in the rebel camp and they refuse to take the risk of recovering the plans of the super weapon. In typical Star Wars fashion, Jyn and Cassian take matters into their own hands with some help from a small dedicated band that they've collected along the way. In an imperial ship that they previously acquired this little party make their way to the Imperial garrison on the planet Scarif, where the plans are kept, their only advantage being the element of surprise. The action that follows is classic Star Wars and, of course, when the chips seem to be down unexpected assistance arrives.

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Assassin's Creed

Yesterday's cinema film was Assassin's Creed. I'm not a video games player and wouldn't normally bother with a film based on the genre, but I read a review that suggested that after a succession of video game-to-movie turkeys, this one could break through the mediocrity. Well, I'm afraid it didn't do so for me. The promise was of real locations and stunts that weren't CGI enhanced in front of blue screens. That may well be true, but it still seemed like a video game to me. The story line was also a bit contrived, a sort of Matrix rip-off whereby the body stays put but the spirit, or whatever you like to call it, occupies another body, this time a body in 15th century Spain during the Inquisition.

Assassin's Creed

Michael Fassbender plays Callum Lynch, a murderer somehow rescued from his lethal injection to next appear at Abstergo Industries, a futuristic research facility where he is about to embark on his transportation to medieval Spain under the supervision of Sofia (Marion Coutillard), the daughter of the facilities director. Lynch is hooked up to the Animus. Inspired no doubt by The Matrix, it is attached to Lynch whereupon his brain and genetic code are synchronised with those of his forebear in the 15th century. We are then transported back to that time with Lynch's former self and there's some impressive action, albeit of the video game variety.

The objective is for Lynch to reveal where the Apple of Eden can be found, a mythical orb that contains the seeds of man's first disobedience, the possession of which will allow the Templars to eliminate personal free will and thus remove disobedience from society. A number of return visits to medieval Spain treat us to some spectacular parkour and martial arts, for me the high spots of the film.

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Alice Through the Looking Glass

We saw this film on the day of its release, after returning from holiday. I hadn't seen Tim Burton's 2010 film Alice in Wonderland, so I can't make comparisons, but it seems that the critics feel that the earlier film was far better. Perhaps not having seen the 'better' film allowed me more latitude but I didn't find this latest Alice film at all bad. I've never read the book, but understand that the film bears absolutely no similarity to it.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

The story revolves around time, personified quite brilliantly in my view by Sacha Baron Cohen. The Mad Hatter, played once again by Johnny Depp, is in terminal decline following the discovery of his first hat, which he made as a child for his father, and which he thought had perished along with his family at the hands of the Red Queen, Iracebeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter. The fact that the hat survived has convinced him that his family did not perish, but nobody will believe him, not even Alice. Alice, the White Queen and the creatures of Wonderland hatch a plot to help him.

The White Queen (Anne Hathaway) tells Alice that there is a way, but it is dangerous. She must go back in time to try to change the events that led to the Hatter's family's demise. In this quest she encounters Time, and steals his Chronosphere, a time machine that will allow her to try to alter past events, but which unfortunately is also needed to keep universal time, and thus everything dependant upon it ticking along hunky dory. Time, the embodiment that is, pursues her.

Alice soon finds that affecting past events is less easy than she may have thought, and in the end it is the Red Queen who, having stolen the Chronosphere, actually changes the past - with disastrous consequences.

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The Huntsman: Winter's War

I very rarely read reviews before going to see a film, instead relying on the trailer, which I accept can itself be misleading. If I had read reviews for todays film, The Huntsman: Winter's War, I might have not bothered to go. For example, Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian, normally a reliable critic, was taken to write:

"It is the follow-up that nobody much wanted to the film that nobody much liked, resulting in something even more visually elaborate and boring, and about which the number of tosses that can be reasonably given is lower than ever."

Meanwhile the critics at Rotten Tomatoes managed to muster 16% approval.

These reviews must influence people as bizarrely we were the only two people in the auditorium, although the rather nice weather may have also been an influence.

The Huntsman: Winter's War

So what did I think of the film? Well, it had three redeeming features, namely Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain, the last mentioned doing a good impression of Zena Warrior Princess. Three extremely attractive women and good actors to boot. And for the women, Chris Hemsworth, who I believe quickens a pulse or two.

The story is based around Snow White, although she doesn't appear, and draws also on Narnia, with Emily Blunt, as Freya, becoming the Snow Queen. Charlize Theron as the wicked Ravenna is, well, quite wicked, bringing out the evil side of her sister Freya, who up until then had been a nice person.

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

Yet another film from Amazon Prime, this time an adaptation of Jacques Tardi's comic book series. So it's certainly on the light side, you could even say silly, but it has a strong pedigree being a film by Luc Besson.

The cinematography seems almost to simulate a graphic strip, to the extent that when the film started I wasn't sure if it was real or animated, although this confusion didn't last long.

This film is pure comedy. The eponymous heroin is an author with a twin sister who suffered a serious injury during a tennis match, leaving her in bed on a drip with a hat pin though her head. I'm sure such an injury would be fatal but this is a fantasy, so stay with it.

Adèle, who should be in Peru researching her new book, is in fact in Egypt to recover the mummy of the doctor to the Pharos, whom she believes could help her sister. The small problem of the mummy being long since deceased is to be overcome with the help of a 'mad' scientist who has already resurrected a pterodactyl from its egg in a Paris museum; so a mummy should be easy.

Unfortunately the pterodactyl is causing mayhem, including the death of a politician and his mistress, so the scientist has been arrested and sentenced to death. Such problems are not insurmountable for Adèle, who embarks on a succession of hare-brain schemes to release the scientist, after her appeal to the French president fails, spectacularly! The president's dog is called Nelson, which rather amused me.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

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La Fée

Another French film, but one that I find extremely difficult to review. It's a combination of fantasy, love and slapstick comedy. The notes on the DVD refer to burlesque comedy and physical comedy. Do you get the gist?

La Fée - image 1

Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon, a couple in real life, play Dom and Fiona, having directed the film with Bruno Romey, who plays the visually challenged patron of the L'Amour Flou (Fuzzy Love) café.

Dom works in a hotel and one evening Fiona comes in and announces she's a fairy, and grants him three wishes. The first is for a scooter (he has a very unreliable bike) and the second is for petrol to keep it running. After Fiona carries out an interesting variation of the Heimlich manoeuvre on Dom, who gets the top of a tomato ketchup bottle stuck in his throat (you need to watch the film to see why), Dom falls asleep, and wakes up in the morning to find a scooter in the hotel foyer. Later Fiona gives him the key to a petrol storage tank in the nearby refinery. And so a romance is kindled.

La Fée - image 2

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Mad Max: Fury Road

I took my car in for service on Wednesday and while we were waiting for it, we went to see Mad Max: Fury Road.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Now I must admit that I didn't have great expectations. I've become a bit disenchanted with crash/bang movies that major on destruction of one sort or another.

I was, however, very pleasantly surprised. Yes, there is a lot of destruction, mainly of vehicles, but this film moves along at a pace that will certainly keep your attention. The story line isn't fantastic, just something to hang on what is basically a car chase movie. The effects are, however, quite amazing. From the depiction of the people in this futuristic view of a post-apocalypse world, to the phenomenal action sequences that sit somewhere between computer generated graphics and mind-blowing stunts. The effect is, however, one of believable reality. It really sets a standard.

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Maleficent

We went to see Maleficent yesterday. Angelina Jolie at her very best. It's an interesting twist on the story of Sleeping Beauty: the story from the viewpoint of Maleficent.

Now we all know that fairy stories and the like are all about the triumph of good over evil, so it was interesting how in this case the evil, Maleficent, was in fact shown to be the product of another person's evil deed and not intrinsically bad. As a treatise on morals and the whole question of good and evil I found this story far more compelling than the conventional tale of Sleeping Beauty.

We saw it in 3D, and I would credit it as being one of the few films that actually benefits from this medium. No silly effects, just a wonderland of imagination enhanced by the realism of being in three dimensions.

Well worth seeing. Jolie is stupendous.