Film Reviews

Thursday, September 10, 2020 - 16:41 by Kingy1701

When 2020 began the slate of film releases was looking impressive. As well as the usual franchise entries (Fast and Furious, DC, Marvel), there were also a few returning favourites (Bill and Ted, Halloween) but the one that had me most excited was an original concept by Christopher Nolan. Beyond the title ‘Tenet’, very little was known of the film other then that it might or might not involve time travel. It wasn’t much to go on, but then Nolan has made a career of high concept thrillers and is one of the few directors whose name alone can attract a crowd to the multiplexes.

Of course, the landscape of cinema changed drastically earlier this year and what was once a highly anticipated film amid a crowded schedule would now be leading the charge in relaunching the entire industry. With more and more releases forgoing the big screen in favour of a digital launch, Nolan was adamant that Tenet would buck the trend. As a result, Tenet is one of the first blockbusters in years to have a staggered release, taking its UK bow before a gradual roll out to other territories. The financial ramifications are yet to be seen but it’s a safe bet that the film will not rake in as much money as it would have done pre-COVID. 

Putting aside whether Tenet will re-ignite the cinema industry or even if it will make any money, the big question is of course, is it any good?

In short, the answer is yes.

Nolan has been vocal over the years about his love for the Bond films and indeed elements of them have crept into his earlier work. Between the Q-like Lucius Fox in the Dark Knight Trilogy and the assault on a snowy fortress in Inception, it has sometimes felt like Nolan was auditioning to direct a 007 movie and in Tenet he does just that. For about half the running time at least. John David Washington plays a character known only as ‘The Protagonist’ who starts the film as a CIA agent before being recruited into a far more secret organisation whose goal seems to be to save the whole world. In order to do so he travels to numerous exotic locations and contends with henchmen, heists and deadly secrets. Tenet has been accused of being difficult to follow in its later stages but the truth is, that it is these early parts that require the most mental gymnastics. As with many a Bond film it is sometimes difficult to keep track of who our hero is trying to meet with and how that impacts the larger plot. Thankfully what is clear is what he is trying to do in any given scene, meaning that you can sit back and enjoy the action, which is nothing less than spectacular. Washington is a strong screen presence who has the right mix of coolness and brutality while retaining an everyman quality. The latter really helping as the film moves into more obvious Sci-Fi territory. The Protagonist learning about the rules of the world at the same time as the audience means that we are rarely alienated and can share in his confusion and curiosity. We are introduced early on to the concept that some objects (most frequently bullets) in this world can move backwards through time but it isn’t until the second half of the film that the timey wimey elements take centre stage. To talk about how and why this happens would ruin the fun but suffice to say it leads to action sequences unlike any other you will have seen.

Supporting Washington are Robert Pattinson, whose British character acts as something of a sidekick dropping in and out of the film as the plot requires, and Elizabeth Debicki who provides the Protagonist with a link to the villain of the piece. Debicki does a good job with what she is given providing something of an emotional anchor to the story but sadly doesn’t have an enormous amount to do. Pattinson fares better bringing a youthful charm to a role that takes on greater significance as the film progresses. Taking on the bad guy role is Kenneth Brannagh who seems to be having a whale of a time channelling Bond villains into a sinister Russian Oligarch. He is menacing in an underplayed way, but his intermittent explosive outbursts leave you in no doubt that he is dangerous and a suitable nemesis for the Protagonist.

Despite excellent acting all round, the main stars of the film are the concept and the effects which work hand in hand to create a uniquely Nolan spectacle. There is a surprising amount of practical effects work which adds much needed realism to scenes that might otherwise have seemed cartoonish. A car chase for example, despite the time altering gimmicks is far more realistic than anything seen in the Fast and Furious franchise. It is perhaps a sad indictment of modern cinema that simply seeing real cars on a real road somehow feels fresh again. Likewise, the film’s final set piece is gobsmacking both in terms its scale and its visual realisation. It may be chaotic and at times confusing but, as always Nolan is painting on a broad canvas, even more so if you can catch the film in its native IMAX. Matching the visuals is the sound, which is suitably bombastic. A little too much so at times. While the ever-present ticking added to the tension of Dunkirk, here the intense bass often makes the dialogue hard to hear. This can be a major problem when characters are explaining what is going on. Missing a stray line of dialogue may leave you struggling too keep up for a few minutes. It’s one thing to be lost if you are given all the information, but quite another to be expected to follow the plot when crucial exposition is at times, inaudible. It’s not a deal breaker but does sometimes mean that you might have to concentrate intensely when you’d like to be sitting back and enjoying the action.

Over the last 20 years, Christopher Nolan has assembled a near perfect filmography which creates almost insurmountable expectations for each new movie. Thankfully Tenet, while not his greatest work, is none the less excellent.


Monday, March 19, 2018 - 23:45 by Spindles

It's been a long time coming. We've been talking about this film for several years now, and the book for even longer. We even went as far as to compile the Ready Player One Film Challenge which we attempted and failed not once, but twice. So, it's fair to say that we've been anticipating this one for quite some time. The book is a love letter to the 1980s and everything about being a nerd. Games, films, books, TV shows. All the things that I, and countless others, have immersed myself in over the last thirtysomething years.

Going into the film, I was nervous. Having seen the trailer and the posters, there were a few things that didn't sit quite right with what I knew of the source material, yet I wanted to remain open minded. 

The opening scenes do a good job of setting up the world as it exists in 2045 and giving us our first glimpses of the OASIS. It's a rich, vibrant virtual world that looks amazing and the initial flyover contains more nods to existing franchises than most movies do in their entire runtimes. The scene is set that, five years previously, the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday, died and left a message that he had hidden an easter egg somewhere within the OASIS. The first person to find three keys and then, the egg itself, wil win sole ownership of the OASIS and millions of dollars. Now, five years later, interest in the egg hunt has waned for all but the most hardened Gunters (Egg Hunters: YAY!!!) and the IOI (Evil MegaCorp: Booo!!!).

What follows is a series of challenges and puzzles that the core group must overcome and solve while, along the way, making friendships and enemies both within the OASIS and the real world of the Stacks. If that sounds a little oversimplified, it's because it really is. The movie jumps from plot point to plot point at breakneck speed, with set pieces that resemble  moments from the novel being re-purposed and used in a slightly different context to push the narrative along. Where I was anticipating the majority of the film to take place in the OASIS, I was surprised that there were a lot more Real World shenanigans happening and, despite all that, I still came away with the feeling that we didn't really get to know half of the characters as well as we could have.

Like the source material, the references, homages and cameos are non-stop and feel, at times, a little overwhelming. The culture shock of seeing avatars of Hello Kitty wandering around in the same shots as Robocop and Marvin The Martian are definitely jarring and contribute to the slightly chaotic feel of the film.

The action does seem to get a little stuck in the middle act and there are far too many moments where the plot suddenly turns on a realisation by one of the characters that comes literally out of thin air. Also, despite the fact that the OASIS covers the entire world, it seems a little too convenient that all the main characters turn out to live within a few miles of each other and can turn up to lend a hand in real life at a moment's notice.

Performance wise, everyone puts on a good show, with notable performances from Ben Mendelsohn as Sorento and T.J. Miller as I-Rok. Tye Sheridan gives an earnest performance as Wade/Parzival and Olivia Cooke is excellent as Art3mis.

The film as a whole looks and sounds great, even if the score is a little too classic for my tastes. I think that is my overall issue with the film though. It feels like a classic Spielberg movie: A group of kids, thrown together, trying to overcome overwhelming odds, facing danger at every turn. But, in a lot of ways, that's not what I wanted to see from this movie. I wanted to see something fresh that had allusions back to the media of the 80's, rather than an 80's style movie with a shiny wrapper and more pop culture nods than you can shake a stick at. I feel like I wanted to see what Edgar Wright would have made of the film, with a soundtrack compiled by Trent Reznor or something along those lines. Plus, I think it strayed away from the idea in the book that the Gunters embedded themselves utterly in the 80's lifestlye and that was what would ultimately lead Parzival and friends towards their goal. Instead the decision was made to opt for quick exposition to further the plot.

If this all sounds a bit too much like the rantings of a butthurt fanboy, I will own that. I am. I think this film barely scratched the surface of what should have been a joyous celebration of pop culture and nerdity and instead delivered a half-decent, shiny adventure flick. I'll just go back to listening to the audiobook for the nth time and let the dulcet tones of Wil Wheaton lull me to sleep before I try the film challenge again. For the rest of you... By all means go and see it, but then take the time to read the book... You won't regret it.

Monday, October 30, 2017 - 12:31 by BenCTurnbull

Building up to the next instalment of the MCU, I couldn’t help but have a few worries. Yes, Marvel make great movies but, also yes, they have a few reoccurring troubles which I wasn’t sure if this film would avoid or not. Rather than posting the concerns, I thought I’d review the film considering them. I’ve linked to the full details of those concerns in an appendix/footnotes style. A few very minor spoilers ahead but let’s get on with it.

Worry 1: the plot with be fragment and/or chaotic (1)

We are introduced to a Ragnarok storyline with a thoroughly well embedded Planet Hulk subplot. The two are weaved together nicely and Hulk’s story does not feel gratuitous in the slightest. The story itself gives us some idea of what Thor and Banner have been up to for 2 years as well as the status quo of Asgard in general. The pacing is fast but this does not put off the viewer at all. Through the introduction of Hela, we are granted an expanded glimpse into the history of the Asgardians and the nine realms. The story takes us between hell dimensions, Asgard, Midgard, and Sakaar and all are with sensible purpose within the immediate and grand story. There are wonderful cameos from Dr Strange, demonstrating swiftly his rise as a sorcerer, as well as surprising cameos from actors across the film (not to mention a rather brilliant Stan Lee one). Overall, most concerns regarding plot were addressed and I am thoroughly happy with what I was presented.

The main weakness of the plot came associated with the villain and the familiar use of 'drones of the bad guy'. Avengers Assemble, Age of Ultron, and The Dark World have all employed this and whilst that isn’t the majority of MCU films it is a little too easy. I just think of personal showdowns including Winter Soldier, Civil War, Homecoming, and the left-field Dr Strange for excellent and memorable fights. It’s not even that it was ill-fitting of the character and it did bring some wonderful action shots, but I would like to have seen something different.

Worry 2: the characters would be flat or repetitive (2)

On almost all accounts we are introduced to well-rounded characters and returners are given some decent development. We meet Thor who is now more self-assured, smarter, and a lot funnier than he was before. He receives quite the character blow via the means of his hammer and spends the film learning how to grow further and develop without his favourite toy. We meet Loki still up to his self-centred games but across the film transitions to allegiance with his people. This was a great development to see as finally we may have some semblance of redemption for the Lord of Mischief. Hulk is superb. Banner has been gone for two years and in that time the big guy has learned control and basic language. We see in the portrayal of his character some of his struggles over the missing time and that’s wonderful. We also get a glimpse at the Banner-Hulk psychological tension and whilst that would have been nice to expand upon this wasn’t a Hulk movie.

Our newest entries Skurge and Valkyrie were also a delight. The former is established very quickly as having been on the scene a while and goes through an arc of henchman status, albeit it with some concern for his decisions. He isn’t given a huge amount of time but there’s still enough to latch onto the character. Valkyrie is very well done, and I hope that she isn’t a one-film wonder. Through her conflicts with Thor we get backstory very organically and it lets you feel sympathy for her through some ill-actions. Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Ruffalo, Urban, and Thompson are all superb in their roles which is a testament to not only them but the writing and direction. There are a few secondary characters I won’t spend much time on (just look out for the Grandmaster and Korg) but my main concerns were alleviated, until…Hela.

Hela wasn’t bad, far from it, and she wasn’t portrayed in a simple plot-driving way like some of Marvel’s weakest villains. She came with backstory and motive and at times you could feel for her. She was also sublimely portrayed I should add by Cate Blanchet. She fell a little short in that she had no part that wasn’t leading to the final show down. It would have been nice to experience other aspects of her character, such as where she’s been and her experiences etc. I assume this came down to with an already complicated film trying to expand on her story more would have established too many narratives.

Worry 3: ceremonial/superficial plot points (3)

It was a massive reveal in the trailer that Mjolnir would be destroyed, and my biggest concern was that they would just rebuild it and thus undo that character shattering moment. Marvel have a few cases of making a high impact decision only to override it later for plot reasons. I am very much hoping that we don’t see the rebuild of the hammer and that Thor learns to be without it. There are also lasting implications of Ragnarok for Asgard but also following on from Thor’s vision of Infinity War. At this point I can’t attest to much as very little direct seeding was done in this regard. We can only look forward to future films to see if they gloss over some of the significant points of this movie to make future ones easier to make. I sincerely hope not as one of the most of amazing things in these films is seeing characters genuinely develop and then when they combine you get clashes of ideologies and the such. To see the impact of Raganrok brushed under the carpet for its key players to just go back to how they were I Infinity War would be an utter shame.

Overall, Ragnarok is an absolute treat and is so utterly hilarious (I was holding my mouth to quieten myself in the cinema!) that it’s basically an action-comedy. It does this, though, with grace enough to not detract from the important plot and character points needed from such a huge storyline. Waititi has brought us a wonderful development of the Thor character and stories in an altogether funnier, slightly camp, and almost self-aware way. The influence of his prior work is clear but not gratuitous. It’s another example of the brilliance which comes when Marvel takes risks (a la James Gunn and Guardians). I’m holding out for the longevity of the film though and hence the rating. 8/10 is a solid “great” and with a more detailed villain with fewer drones I’d have pushed for a 9. Upon second watching, the film may fall flatter if you know the jokes are coming but if that’s not the case then with the villain problems fixed I think we’d have been looking at a near perfect score.

1.      This film is attempting to run storylines of Ragnarok, Planet Hulk, and an Infinity War prelude, all whilst coming in with the shortest run time to date of any MCU film. This strikes hard at the attempts of Ultron and how they fell short of keeping a solid story together. I can’t help but worry that we’ll be left with a film serving to wrap up and seed by means of The Grandmaster and Hela rather than the epic buddy road trip of Asgardian-destruction to conclude Thor’s individual journey that we deserve.

2.      Marvel is notorious for their underdeveloped villains who serve as nothing more than to drive the events of the heroes. Whilst I don’t agree with the full weight of criticism they receive (they have been some absolutely great ones), I do concur that even in Guardians 1 which is arguably the best MCU film to date the villain is nothing more than a story-driver. Hela is the goddess of death, possibly tying-in to Thanos and the infinity stories, has Asgardian backstory, and is serving as the one who overturns Asgard. Thus, she cannot fall short as a villain in this all too important movie. Reducing her to a story-driver would be nothing other than a waste of amazing potential. Thor and Loki are well rounded and utilised characters so far so there’s little worry about them in this coming film. What would be nice is to not see Loki flip-flop so much and have a true redemption arc. I worry that Loki’s role would be used to flip the pace and direction of the film in a way like the use of Magneto in the recent X-Men films. Regarding the Hulk, the fact that he’s been without the other guy for two years gives up some interesting development as it is. I worry that they will gloss over this and just have us at a point of Banner and the Hulk being one with each other. One of the most interesting aspects of this character is the inner turmoil Bruce goes through coming to terms with the Hulk and how eventually embrace both parts of himself grants him control. I think we need to see some of that journey for Bruce as it continues the struggles and guilt he felt through the events of Ultron.

3.      Taking away Mjolnir is one thing but as with superhero deaths they could simply bring it back for plot reasons, right? This is a genuine worry of mine that in this film or the next Thor will magically be back in possession of his favourite toy and this is the last thing they should ever do. The loss of Mjolnir amounts to symbolic castration of the Thor character. Upon becoming worthy, he was granted enhanced power and the strength to wield the hammer (and all the flying and weather powers which come with it). It comes as a power but also a crutch of his as he acts with very little gusto without it. Its offhand destruction is such a demonstration of losing that power and it forces Thor to relearn how to stand without his crutch. Stripped of Mjolnir, he must re-learn how to stand for himself in other ways, be it combat or other weapons. That clip from the trailer not only shows the strength of Hela and that she means business but also signifies a drastic turn in the development of Thor. Returning the hammer to him in this film or Infinity War (the latter of which is plot-positive due to casting) would completely undo any of that impact for both the grand-plot or Thor’s character development. That’s not to say that he should be without weapons, but that there should be a demonstration of him acquiring and mastering another weapon to aid him in the grand fight.

Sunday, October 29, 2017 - 14:24 by BenCTurnbull

This film caught my eye upon first viewing the trailer. Having enjoyed biopics/semi-biographical films such as Creation (Charles Darwin), Finding Neverland (J M Barrie), and Black Mass (Whitey Bulger), the idea of a human story behind one of the most beloved childhood stories seemed a sure bet. What I experienced did not let down and whilst it was not perfect it was a warming, enjoyable, and emotionally engaging story.

We meet A. A. Milne post-world war one, despondent with the way people are acting as if nothing happened and sure of humanity repeating their mistakes. Through the struggles of family and the world, we experience the journeys of both Milne and his son Christopher which ultimately leads to the creation of the Winnie the Pooh stories. The principle characters are wonderful, engaging, and convincing from the start. From the troubled but good intentioned Alan Milne (Domhnall Gleeson, About Time), through the detestable Daphne de Selincourte (Margot Robbie, Suicide Squad), to the passionate and lost Christopher Robin (Alex Lawther) and his caring nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald, Trainspotting). Performances from Robbie and Lawther demonstrate good range in comparison to prior roles and impressive abilities considering their age respectively. There is also a good use of music, or the lack thereof, to allow the focus to be placed on the dialog when necessary. Overall, the film does a really good job of making you care for Alan and Christopher in what is essentially a story about maturing through difficulty for them both.

It suffered, however, in one main way: pacing/editing. The story arches across Christopher’s life from before birth to young adulthood and includes some rather abrupt transitions. It was as if good parts were written and stuck together to make a story as quickly as possible. This made it slightly difficult to engage with the final rendition of Christopher as we had not spent time seeing his development nor with the newer, older actor. Additionally, there were times when Olive had significant development with little to no warning.

Overall, it fell somewhere between good and great. Whether you love Winnie the Pooh or simply enjoy human stories you should watch this film for both its performances and story. I won’t be rushing to see it again, but I am more than pleased that I made the effort to watch it at the cinema. 7.5/10

Film Reviews, Biopic
Tuesday, August 22, 2017 - 19:59 by BenCTurnbull

Set in the world of Godzilla (2014) but way earlier during the cold war, an unmapped island is discovered and a team set up to investigate it. Before long, they are accosted by giant gorilla and settle in to discover that the island is full of gigantic versions of animals, a peaceful human tribe, and ruled by Kong himself. Now…I wasn’t excited by this film (nor interested at all) as I’ve never been a fan of monster movies and the first in this universe quite frankly sucked (Broderik’s Godzilla is perhaps the exception). But a raving review from a trusted friend, a reasonable trailer, and a cast consisting of half of the Marvel universe persuaded me to give it a go. I was not only not disappointed but actually impressed with what followed, for reasons I’ll outline below.

Overall, the film was good at balancing the serious storytelling with humour whilst never actually descending into a comedy. It carried tones humans overstepping their boundaries into things which they don’t understand as well as trying to control them; the balance between respect and control. It has some of the feeling of Jurassic Park 3 (a positive, coming from me) and contained obvious but not cartoony CGI.

The plot is rather simple, a survival/rescue mission, whilst focusses surprisingly on characters rather than action which is refreshing. That being said, the action-heavy scenes were also intended to be there to create tension which I feel it didn’t pull off (with one exception). The major losses are of underdeveloped characters which we haven’t connected with which leaves it a little anticlimactic. There are, however, some particularly touching moments too. The show down is more engaging than its cousin in Godzilla since the film establishes involvement and care for at least one of the two involved. Until in Godzilla where it’s essentially a monster fight in our backyard (a la Man of Steel). The characters are humanised with depth and intrigue, at least the primary ones but the human antagonist is more just there to drive the tension (which we’ve already established isn’t pulled off as well as it could have been). A nice positive, though, is that the British one isn’t the bad guy for once!

I enjoyed this far more than I expected and it has rescued my potential interest in the coming monster universe. Here’s hoping Godzilla 2 isn’t a let-down.

King Kong, Movie Reviews, Godzilla
Saturday, June 3, 2017 - 13:34 by BenCTurnbull

Despite a promising trailer, and the excitement which followed, I still approached Wonder Woman with tepid caution. Following on from the fragmented blandness of Man of Steel, the ‘two films badly cut into one’ of Dawn of Justice, and an altogether fun but with poor plot choice and horrific CGI Suicide Squad, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I half thought that we’d be treated to an awfully Snyderised rendition of Captain America and be left with no hope for DC’s movie universe. I could not have been more wrong in my suspicions for what I experienced was nothing short of one of the best superhero movies in the last few years (and those of you that know me know how much I love Logan and Civil War).

Its plot is absolutely on point. The entire film, though set in the past, is integrated well into the modern running following on from Batman Versus Superman. The story quickly goes through Diana’s upbringing and uses nice tools to tell the audience about who her people are. From then, we are treated to less of an origin story and more of a journey of self-discovery as she stands for her principles against all else, becoming a little less naïve to the world. Whilst it did not attempt the multitude of stories and film seeding of others, it did manage to integrate multiple sub-plots in a coherent and relevant way which was great.

With respect to characters, the leads were all full of depth and intrigue. Each experience a journey and development which is not only enjoyable but also inspires genuine empathy for the characters. Gal Gadot was exceptional in every way from the physicality of the role through her oddness in the modern world all the way to how she deals with the minutia of her personal conflicts and lessons. Additionally, despite my hesitation, Chris Pine is excellent in the role and brings something different to what we’ve seen him do before. The supporting characters could have been more well-rounded, in particular the more villainous ones, but they were appealing nonetheless.

Warner Brothers appear to have reined in Zack Snyder a tad as the effects were largely very well executed (a Snyder-lite approach, I would say). Whilst the film maintains the visually wonderful DC aesthetic which has been established in previous movies, the action scenes are made more intimate with a focus on the fighting choreography itself rather than what you can do with a zooming camera. There were a few bits with poor GCI, such as incredibly obvious green screens, but in general the effects were fantastic, believable, and leagues ahead of those used in the suicide squad finale.

Overall, it was an amazing film which I greatly look forward to re-watching. The Blu-ray is pre-ordered and the funko pop is on its way! Bring on Justice League!


Film Reviews
Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - 09:41 by BenCTurnbull

Walking in to the theatre I was filled with both excitement an apprehension. As a child of the (American) Power Rangers revolution I was unsure what they could have done to update this cheesy mixture of spandex-laden teenagers doing an unnecessary quantity of backflips. Turns out they can remove both the spandex as well as the backflips in place of awesome space suits and actual fighting. I was pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be a genuinely good film with some great updates to bring it in line with modern superheroes (the trailer, let’s be honest, is a better Fantastic Four film than any of the “Fantastic” 3 which have happened). It also provided more substance than the original by creating backstory amongst not only the characters but also in relation to true events on earth. Overall, a lot of fun, a refreshingly enjoyable film (even in absence of prior knowledge of the Power Rangers), and a fair few face-palm-worthy moments of blatant reference to the original TV series.

We find ourselves on earth following a trio of high school kids who wound up in detention together. One thing leads to another and the trio end up at the town mine where they meet our 2 remaining protagonists. They then unearth coloured trinkets and find themselves awoke in bed with no memory of how they got there but with alarming new strength and reflexes. They return to the site where they learn of the Power Rangers and their enemy Rita, go on an epic few training sessions, and eventually lead to them unifying in strength and battling the antagonist. They added some excellent backstory to explain who the Power Rangers were and how their new mentor, Zordon, became the way he is, as well as how the villain ties in to their story. They managed to flesh out what used to be nothing but a villain of the week style cheese fest into a well thought out and simple story about saving the earth.

One of the best aspects of this film was its characters. The five principle characters are diverse and interesting from the honourable leader, through the quirky outcast, to the socially troubled tech kid. Each brings a strength and dimension to the team which it would be lacking without. Our mentor, Zordon, is equally as fallible as he is commanding and the backstory plays into this well. He has a temper and is largely stubborn but can be reasoned with and is thus more than the big face in the tube who gave orders in the original show. His assistant, Alpha-5, is as sassy and enjoyable as he ever was and has been given a CGI, almost Star Wars-like, upgrade. And finally, our villain, Rita Repulsa whilst not the most complicated of antagonists is enjoyable and compelling and Elizabeth Banks’ performance is probably the second best in the film.

Overall, a wonderful surprise to see a childhood favourite updated so well and I would happily see the (inevitable) sequel they have set up #spoilers

Power Rangers, Film Reviews
Saturday, March 18, 2017 - 10:20 by BenCTurnbull

Well…what can I say about this movie. As short of words I am now I was equally gobsmacked at the start of the credits (and some 30minutes later). The film starts in a not-to-distant future, where mutants have all but died out, with Logan and Xavier on their last legs. Logan’s healing abilities have slowed right down and Xavier is suffering from some sort of dementia combined with seizures. Unexpected events as well as the fate of their kind send them on their last journey together and this was quite simply spectacular for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it provided the perfect ending to a journey which we have been following for some 17 years now. The mentoring-turn-brotherhood relationship of Logan and Xavier has taken them to their very limits. They have now reached a point in that journey where the need for each other continues to develop until their last moments and it was not only very fitting but also incredibly warming to see.

Secondly, whilst it wasn’t really a typical superhero movie, it was just a good story about people going through an exceptionally tough period in their lives. I say this as a lover of superheroes and their films but ultimately some of the best and most gripping stories are those of people. The things we can understand and relate to (albeit in fantastical form) tend to hit home harder and provide for a gripping adventure and this is something Logan does incredibly well.

Lastly, whilst being brave enough to utilise an R-rating it did so in the least gratuitous way possible. Logan as a character is supposed to be violent and bloody and “gritty” and they show this whole-heartedly throughout the film. The physical and visual violence is brutally done but really gets across the struggles which he is going through. The themes explored are daring and, at times, a little disturbing which is good because too many comic book-inspired films keep things happy. Logan dares to break this trend by creating genuinely dark and sad moments which leave you both shocked and blown away. My only gripe (in the whole film) was the opening scenes make it clear with the excessive use of language that they are utilising the R-rating. This, however, soon passes and the film in general is excellent.

I’ve written this as my first ever film review and that alone should give you an idea of how impressed I was. I hesitated at giving a 10/10 after a single viewing but would say nothing short of 9/10 would be appropriate and, since this film was as good as could be expected, a 10 seemed fitting. Logan will almost certainly be the best comic book (but perhaps not superhero) movie of the year and deserves recognition in all aspects of its production. It was the perfect way for Jackman and Stewart to sign off on these beloved characters and give way for the new waves of mutant stories.

X-Men, Wolverine, Film Reviews
Monday, June 20, 2016 - 11:00 by David

If you were to sit in the restaurant equivalent of the Hollywood script industry it would probably go like this.

You are shown to your generic NY diner style booth by a generic waiter and offered a menu that has been through a thousand hands before yours. 

‘Can I interest you in the specials today?’ 

‘Not today’ 

‘Can I get you anything to drink’

‘Yes, I’d like a standard diet cola please.’

‘Coming right up’

A few minutes later the drink arrives in a plastic cup with a lid that has a slot for interchangeable figures on it. Today, a plastic rabbit.

‘Are you ready to order?’

‘Could I get a Minions short to start please?’

‘And for your main?’

‘Yes, could I get a Lost Animal Tries To Get Home please?’

‘Of course…any sides?’

‘No Thanks’

Off scuttles the waiter to the kitchen where a catering college graduate, absent mindedly rooting around one nostril with a wet finger and dreaming of one day owning his own place, opens the cold store to take out a chilled Minions short and throws it into a pan for a low simmer.

Once thawed out, it is plated up and brought to the table. To be honest you weren’t expecting to have a starter, but since you are in the restaurant and it’s there...

Back in the kitchen. The graduate has removed the blockage and is flexing his nose in a self-satisfied way. Ok, what's for main? A quick scan of the order, nothing unusual, grab a few things from pre-prepared tubs of ingredients and prepare a lazy,unimaginative, standard meal like the other few dozen he’ll make today…

For the diner, the starter was ok. 

A few minutes of chewing over the Minions, blundering and farting around an old person's home garden trying to earn enough to buy a banana smoothy maker. Nothing special, it filled a hole while waiting for the main course, leaving a bit on the side of the plate for politeness sake. You’ve had this taste before, it was fresh and zingy before, now it is over-familiar, and sooner or later you’ll want to stop ordering this any more.

The waiter takes the plate away, you take a slurp of watery cola as the plastic bunny looks listlessly, pitifully, at you…

And now for the main.

If you’d wanted a gourmet meal, then today you are in the wrong place. There’s nothing wrong with this of course, it is adequate, and for those of less sophisticated taste, or children as they should be called, this should be a more interesting fayre.

To be fair it is well presented, all the ingredients look edible on first glance, but…

It’s all so samey, all a bit bland,and a little too cold. 

Where to start…

You hover your fork over the plate and decide to go for the obvious choice. You plunge into a large slice of plot…

Popping it into your mouth, you get a taste of loyal dog who adores his mistress, he’s friends with a group of various animals that are all comfortably familiar but lack any real distinction, add in a dash of interloper that causes strife, and leads to an adventure out in the big bad world. 

Another mouthful is unfortunately gristly and tough, a chase scene that ultimately leads to dog and interloper in the animal control van on the way to the dog-pound…

You finish that mouthful, that was a chore, too much work to enjoy. Let's try something else. 


Enough dog for a while, let's try some rabbit. It didn’t look very appetising, you’re not a fan of rabbit usually, but, surprisingly it isn’t too bad, there is also a hint of spice, that is improving the general perception of the meal. 

Hmm, I’ll save some of that for later. 

On to the vegetables.

Overcooked, mushy, indistinct in the mouth, these are the ‘friends of the protagonist’, a variety of forgettable cats, dogs, birds and others, off to rescue our hero, and like flaccid, tasteless, insipid greens, you can leave most of it on the plate and not suffer.

Well, this isn’t an inspiring meal is it?

You glance over to the other tables. The kids are gleefully shovelling the same meal into their mouths. They seem to be enjoying it. And as is normal they’ve got it all over their faces and down their fronts. At this speed, there’s a good chance of you seeing this meal again…

Ok, well, it’s here, I'm not leaving it so what's next.

What's this?

Our lazy chef seems to have contaminated the meal with something that someone else ordered. There’s something hiding under the veg…A nice surprise, a few morsels of a much finer repast, a little spiced meat. Sausage to be precise, in a musical sauce. The sausage is a welcome taste, the sauce though...actually there may be enough musical sauce to lift the rest of the meal. Yes, that will work. Not enough to make this a fully satiating experience, but it takes the edge off the bland at least.

What else do we have on the plate? 

Well, there’s that. 

A purée of some sort? 

Obviously this is the sophisticated element, the part that is supposed to counterpoint the bland, the soul of the food, the heart-string pulling, emotional kick. If you were eating at Chateau du Pixar, or at a Disney a La Carte, then this would be piquant, it would leave you with a lingering, burning but satisfying aftertaste, that you would be reminded of every time you ate a decent meal. Here though, the purée is watery, out of place, it’s on the wrong plate, you can put it on everything else but don't bother, it’ll just remind you of what you’re missing.

So you plod on, mouthful after mouthful, chase, escape,chase, escape...and so on.

Suddenly the main is over. The plate is nothing left but a few scraps.

The waiter offers you the dessert menu, you pass.


‘What’s on it?’ 

‘Well, we’re out of anything interesting I’m afraid, we have some sterilised lesson about friendship and out of date messages about getting along?’

‘I’ll pass...can I get the bill please?’

You sit, quietly digesting, already forgetting what you’ve just consumed, you realise that you could have got something better somewhere else. After all there are thousands of meals like this, the ‘Lost Animal Tries To Get Home’  can be found on a menu almost anywhere, this was straight up middle-of-the-road fayre.

The bill arrives, money changes hands, you leave a standard tip. 

You walk away, the specials board catches your eye. There are some decent looking things on there that you could have had.

Maybe you will have one of those next time.

Movie Reviews, Secret Life of Pets
Friday, May 20, 2016 - 14:00 by Bren

First off, any concerns that the X-Men reboot trilogy would end with a repeat of the disaster that was X3:The Last Stand have been put to bed. Apocalypse is nowhere near that bad, on the contrary in parts it's actually pretty enjoyable; it's also not the end of this run of X-Men films.

Apocalypse, the world's first mutant, reappears on the scene thousands of years after an attack on his followers leaves him buried and forgotten.  He recruits four acolytes and then sets about his master plan to reset the Earth for only the strongest of mutants.  Rivalries, egos and fears all need to be put aside in order to defeat him.  It's a no-brainer popcorn movie at its finest.

As enjoyable as it maybe it does have a few flaws and, like ripping off a plaster, I'll get those out of the way first because there's actually a bit here to be hopeful for,  as far as the future of the franchise is concerned. So, in no particular order... the special effects are dodgy in places (sadly the places where you need them to be good, like the big action sequences), Psylocke and Quicksilver are not as well developed as characters as they could be and Jubilee doesn't add anything, Quicksilver only seems to be in there for another epic slo-mo scene, and, the big one, Apocalypse himself, who is played out a little too b-movie camp in places.  That in itself is not unforgivable, it's a comic book movie after all, but the generic feel of his monologues doesn't help separate this from any number of straight to video b-movies.  He deserved more as a villain.

On the plus side..the new additions to the team are all pretty damn cool. Most noteworthy though is Sophie Turner's performance as Jean Grey.  She brings an edge of vulnerability to a character unsure of the extent of their powers, and scared that they're not able to control them; whilst dealing with the isolation that comes with knowing that even amongst her own she is feared.   If you're a Jean Grey fan you can probably tell where this is likely leading.

Fassbender, as always, is phenomenal, and more layers are added to the Magneto character as he tries to do things Charles' way; living a quiet life out of the public sight until a series of events brings him back into the fray.

For a big summer blockbuster/action flick it's actually the smaller moments that this film does well, it's the character interaction and development (with the exception of the two mentioned earlier) which is really good.  The growing friendship between mutual outsiders Jean Grey and Cyclops is handled well, nothing is being rushed there; Jean and Logan even have a brief moment.  The passing of the torch from the "First Class" X-Men to the new breed at the end of the film is nicely done.  Magneto's fall from redemption and struggle to return is emotional. Hell, even how Professor X loses gains his signature bald look adds a detail that may well be called back to.  

The fact that they can tell good personal stories, and that the new additions to the cast already seem to have a grip on their characters, is all very promising stuff.  Even more so once you've seen the end credit scene and had time to think about where they may be heading story wise.  (Note: There is only one end credit scene, and it's right at the very end of the all the credits.  It's also a pretty niche reference.  Have fun working it out :) )

I have my theories on where they're going next, and I do hope they move away from the "single villain-world domination" plots and towards more of the outsider struggle allegory that the X-Men are ideally set up to tackle (more so than B vs S).  If this film is anything to go by, then it's certainly doable with this cast.  The future is looking bright.


Follow me on Twitter at and let me know what you thought.

X-Men, Comics, Marvel

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