Film Review: Deadpool 2

The first Deadpool was a blast, a crude, rude romp of OTT violence, winks to camera and gags. Could they capture lightning in a bottle twice? I was hopeful, but apprehensive. Thankfully a few minutes in and the line “Hit it, Dolly!” settled my nerves. We were back and this was gonna be a whole lotta fun too.

Ryan Reynolds as the Merc with a Mouth is easily one of the best castings in comic book movie history (along with Patrick Stewart as Prof X, RDJ as Tony Stark and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian), and he’s on fine form here in a fast paced, foul mouthed adventure.

After a mistake leads to personal tragedy Deadpool finds himself at a low ebb and seeking redemption, leading him to join the X-Men as a trainee. On his first mission he deals with an angry teen mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) who wants vengeance on the people who run the centre he lives at and takes the name Fire Fist. After trying to talk him down Wade has to use force to subdue him but realizes Russell is being abused, prompting him to kill one of the staff, causing the anger of new teammates Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Stefan Kapicic and Briana Hildebrand, respectively). Russell and Wade are taken into custody, their powers negated, meaning that Wade is slowly dying from cancer which his healing factor was keeping at bay.

Wade brushes off Russell’s attempts to create a partnership and advises him to find other prisoners to protect him. However, when the prison is attacked, Wade defends him and fights the attacker, Cable (Josh Brolin). It transpires that Cable is from the future where Russell has become a mass murderer, including killing Cable’s family. Cable plans to kill Russell in order to stop these events.

Russell hears Wade say he doesn’t care and seeks out a dangerous inmate for an ally, while Wade realises saving Russell may be the purpose he needs. To achieve this he puts a team together to save the kid and stop Cable, dubbing the team X-Force.

Can Wade find purpose? Will he be able to stop Cable and can he set Russell on a different path? And is he really cut out to lead a superhero team?

I loved this movie, which had me crying with laughter in places and is relentlessly entertaining. The action is bloody and wince inducing in places, but much of it is played for laughs. Also the story of redemption, destiny and “being better” is handled well without being preachy.

The relationship between the characters is handled quite well, particularly the wise cracking Wade having to deal with the stoic Cable, played with deadpan badassery by Brolin, who does well with the part.

It’s not going to be for everyone given the crude nature of many of the gags, the gore and the tone, but for me it works. The new characters who are introduced are an interesting bunch and a poorly used character from the X-movies gets a second chance to impress.

There are a few gags that probably won’t age well, but most work fine and Reynolds is charismatic as the lead, and seems utterly at home here. Here’s hoping we get more adventures.

A blast.

Verdict: Manages to match the original and keeps the laughs and action flowing. It misdirects the audience nicely a few times and there are several nice touches. Reynolds impresses again. Bloody, crass and delightfully postmodern this is a great ride. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Advertisements

Film Review: Life of the Party

This was WoM’s pick as she’s a big fan of Melissa McCarthy, and I didn’t mind going as McCarthy has made some decent flicks, although the premise of a middle aged mother going back to university wasn’t that appealing.

Thankfully, the film is relentlessly funny and has a big heart. On the day that Deanna (McCarthy) drops off her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) at the start of her third year at university, her husband Dan (Matt Walsh) announces he wants a divorce and is in love with someone else.

Left reeling, especially as Dan plans to sell their house which is solely in his name, Deanna visits her parents where she decides to finish the degree Dan convinced her to drop out of when she got pregnant with Maddie. Maddie is happy with this decision but less so when she discovers it means her mother will be living on campus.

Back in school Deanna becomes friendly with some of Maddie’s sorority sisters and excels in class, increasing her confidence. Maddie’s initial misgivings abate as she starts seeing the positive effects and encourages her mother to go out and enjoy her life.

While the story of the daughter embracing and helping her mother have fun is a nice touch and avoids the conflict that seemed the easier route. But it does make for some rather odd scenes where the dialogue doesn’t feel like how a mother and daughter would talk, especially when things get a little raunchier, especially as Deanna is introduced as a rather quiet, old fashioned housewife.

This is a minor quibble in a film that gets a lot right, especially in terms of feelgood story. McCarthy is massively likeable as the cheerful, relentlessly optimistic Deanna and does a good job of looking after her new younger friends as they experience insecurity. The problem is that some of this bonding feels rushed and there’s a sense of subplots which have been dropped.

The ending as well falls flat, with no real sense of where Deanna is going next. It’s not the sort of movie that needs a sequel, so it’s disappointing that it doesn’t tell us how Deanna plans to use her new degree. Just

There are some big laughs and hilarious moments, mainly thanks to McCarthy but also in supporting roles like Maya Rudolph as her best friend. There’s also a nice twist halfway through which sets up one of the best scenes.

The poor ending and nagging sense of there being more depth on the cutting room floor. There’s a good thread of encouraging women to pursue their goals, stand up for themselves and not yield to insecurities, but it feels watered down. Maybe a secondary plot would have fleshed it out.

Verdict: Carried by McCarthy’s charm and comic skills this is a rather sweet comedy that delivers plenty of laughs. A shame it ends in such an unsatisfactory manner and the supporting players remain two dimensional and underdeveloped. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Hurricane Heist

Earlier this week I praised Rampage for being dumb fun that delivered on it’s ridiculous premise. This movie, however, doesn’t.

A heist during a hurricane? A trio of plucky heroes against a gang of thugs? This should be a fun action romp, but the whole thing falls apart. Firstly, the leads played by Maggie Grace and Toby Kebbell are painfully dull. The attempts at bonding fall flat and the third and potentially most interesting of the heroic trio, Ryan Kwanten’s drunk slacker ex-marine disappears for a long stretch.

It doesn’t help that the villains are lacklustre too. You kinda need a charismatic antagonist in a movie like this, but what we get here is a bit of a damp squib. The only interesting part is that one of the henchmen is played by Rhino from Gladiators. And his physicality goes underused.

Urgh. This film was way too dull given the potential of it’s premise. I suggest missing it completely and instead checking out Hard Rain, a massively underrated ’90s action movie which does much better with the “robbery during a storm” idea.

Verdict: Commits the cardinal sin for an action movie by being painfully dull. The leads lack charisma, it’s devoid of tension and the action feels flat. Avoid. 1/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Rampage

The Rock. A giant gorilla. I was in from that point.

WoM was less sure about it but taking advantage of our new Odeon Limitless memberships she agreed to take a chance on it. She wasn’t impressed, dismissing it as “stupid”. Me? Well, I love a big, dumb fun movie and this ticked all the boxes.

Dwayne Johnson plays Davis, a soldier turned primatoligist who works with George an albino gorilla he rescued from poachers. All is good until George is exposed to a gas contained in a pod which crashes into his enclosure. As a result he begins to grow ever larger and becomes more aggressive.

The gas is actually a weapon which genetically edits animals to turn them into weapons. The experiments were conducted aboard a space station but when a test subject gets loose the base is destroyed and the samples crash to earth. As well as George, a wolf and alligator are infected becoming vicious giants.

Davis is joined by Dr Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris), the scientist who worked on genetic editing but was disgusted by how it was corrupted and used for weapons by the Wyden siblings, Claire and Brett (Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy, respectively). The Wyden’s want samples and lure the beasties to Chicago.

Can Davis and Kate stop the creatures before the army blow away half of the Windy City? Can Davis get through to George and stop his, um, rampage? Can our heroes trust the swaggering but secretive government agent Harvey Russell (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)?

I really dug this film because it’s got no pretensions or anything, just accepts it’s ludicrous premise and runs with it. The action is overblown and over the top, with very little basis in reality.

Johnson’s charisma carries the film and his friendship with George is handled well and engaging enough that you care. Johnson is so easily likeable and charming that the audience is on board with him pretty much right off the bat.

The Rock with a new tag team partner

It’s to his credit then that Jeffrey Dean Morgan more than holds his own as the cocky cowboy like Agent Russell. Oozing charisma and keeping the audience guessing as to whether he’s a good guy or not. JDM is one of my long term faves and always a winner.

The rest of the cast do their jobs well enough, with a special nod to Akerman who resists hamming it up too much as the uberbitch Claire.

Of course, this isn’t a character piece, and a blockbuster. And in that role it achieves, there are a few laughs, some big action sequences and it’s wonderfully, witlessly entertaining in places.

Sure, it’s daft, but sometimes that’s just what you need.

Verdict: A loud, dumb action movie which does what it sets out to- entertain. The Rock is his usual charismatic self and the action is well done and engaging. Great fun. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War

In 2008 when Robert Downey Jr made his debut as Tony Stark in Iron Man, I don’t think anyone could predict just how successful the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. Several cracking movies later, the main event arrives, the arrival of Thanos (Josh Brolin) which unites all the various strands into one story.

The movie kicks off with Thanos having attacked the Asgardian refugees (see Thor: Ragnarok). Here he defeats Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). The Hulk is transported to Earth, while Thanos having got his hands on the Space Stone destroys the ship.

This leaves Thanos with two of the six infinity stones he needs to gain supreme powers. The other four are scattered throughout the universe- the Mind Stone and Time Stone are on Earth, the Mind being part of the Vision (Paul Bettany), the synthetic Avenger while sorcerer supreme Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) posses the Time Stone. The Reality Stone is in the possesion of the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) on the planet Knowhere. The final one, the Soul Stone is missing.

Thanos’ minions head out to retrieve the stones. Thor, cast adrift is found by the Guardians of the Galaxy, who agree to help stop Thanos. The team splits into two- Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively) join Thor to go and get a weapon powerful enough to kill Thanos. Meanwhile, Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) leads the others to Knowhere. Before they leave Gamora (Zoe Saldana) reveals she has important information and that Peter must kill her if Thanos is about to take her captive.

Meanwhile, on Earth the two individuals with the stones are attacked. Doctor Strange, having been warned by the Hulk contacts Iron Man, who tells him to run. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) joins the fight, but they are unable to stop Strange from being captured. Iron Man and Spider-Man stow away aboard the space ship and attempt to rescue the Doctor as they head for Thanos’ homeworld Titan.

The Vision is attacked while with Scarlet Witch (Emma Olsen), but they are helped by Captain America (Chris Evans) and his teammates Black Widow and Falcon (Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie). They defeat the attackers and after linking up with War Machine (Don Cheadle) and the Hulk they decide to remove the stone from Vision, as he may survive without it. For help they travel to Wakanda, kingdom of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).

Can they protect all the stones against a powerful foe and his army? Will they stop Thanos’ quest to restore balance to the universe by killing half of the population.

Thanos’ quest is of course utter madness, but it’s root is from a place of coldly logical thought and Brolin does well in the role, which has unexpected vulnerability and humanity. He’s still a fanatic, obsessed with his mission, but we do see he has real feelings and connections. He’s almost sympathetic at times while never stopping being the villain we want to see defeated.

With so many heroes in one film the film could have become muddled and rushed, but to the filmmakers’ credit the story unfolds at a decent pace and the idea to split up our heroes and having them fight on different fronts works very well. It adds a sense of scale and keeps the storylines separate, and allows different teams to form.

All the different characters have chances shine and the action sequences are impressive. There’s a real “event” feel to proceedings and the crossover works brilliantly.

Hugely entertaining and with high stakes this also packs an emotional punch. With such a formidable foe deaths are on the cards and I’ve been dodging spoilers, and will avoud them here.

There are a fair few bodies dropping in this movie and most land emotionally. Even after the first couple they don’t lose their edge and one of the last ones is the one that cut me deepest.

There’s a school of thought that dismisses the MCU as being too lighthearted, but for me the quips and gags have always been deliberate attempts by characters to mask fear or pain. It’s telling here that as the movie moves towards an Empire Strikes Back style of downbeat ending there is a stop to the jokes. In fact, dialogue stops all together as our heroes deal with the fallout.

After teases and hype Thanos finally hits the MCU and does so like a freight train. He delivers on all the threats and references, leaving our heroes reeling and damaged. And for the first time the villain is still standing at the end, and still a threat.

But you can’t keep a good hero or franchise down, and the post credits scene hints at a new player entering the fray. This isn’t the end for the MCU but does feel like a new chapter. And part of me dreads what comes next, especially as contracts run out.

For a young comic book fan the big universe shaking events were always a big deal (although partly because they were rarer then) and this movie manages to capture that excitement and scale, and gives most of the characters a chance to shine.

Marvel knocked this out of the park.

Verdict: A big blockbuster that actually feels big. All the planning plays off and with a legitimately threatening villain this has genuine peril. Amazinly it delivers on the hype and is a superhero epic. 9.5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: A Wrinkle in Time

I really wanted to enjoy this movie. Unfortunately, despite some cracking visuals this is a painfully dull and poorly written affair.

It’s been four years since Dr Alexander Murry (Chris Pine) vanished, leaving his family reeling. His thirteen year old daughter Meg (Storm Reid) has become directionless at school, isolated and angry. Her gifted younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) has befriended a strange trio women, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which (Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Oprah Winfrey, respectively). They reveal themselves to be cosmic beings who have come to help the Murry kids find their dad, who turned out to have been right about the idea of interstellar travel and has been cast into space.

They try tracking him down but it turns out he has been captured by the It, the evil force in the universe which corrupts life wherever it finds it. Can the Murrys, along with Meg’s classmate Calvin (Levi Miller), find him and rescue him? And can they resist the dark side?

What a load of cosmic twaddle. Not helped by weak child performances- Reid is bland, and oddly expressionless for long stretches, while Charles Wallace is the kind of brainy, precocious kid who is immensely slappable and unlike any kid you’ve ever met.

The visuals are impressive but the “love is the most powerful force in the universe” idea is cheesy beyond belief and there’s far too much talk for a kid’s movie. This would be fine if the action sequences were up to scratch but they’re uniformly limp and there’s never any real sense of peril.

The adult characters are one note too. The Mrs characters are an interesting idea, and visually striking, like one of Jack Kirby’s cosmic creations filtered through RuPaul’s Drag Race, but other than exposition, weak philosophy and a few lame gags, they add little.

Weak. I can’t imagine this winning many fans- too talky and slow for kids, too twee, cheesy and poorly executed for adults.

Avoid.

Verdict: Some of the visuals are good. That’s all the positives I can manage. 2/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Black Panther

Often the weight of expectation can seriously damage your enjoyment of a movie, and having watched the excitement and adoration for this film grow online when I finally got to see it this week it had a lot to live up to.

To it’s credit it is a solid movie, entertaining throughout and a worthy addition to the MCU. However, for me it seems like a second tier entry in the series and not quite as good as some of the hype had said.

The film deals with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning to his homeland of Wakanda to assume the throne following the death of his father (see Captain America: Civil War). He must deal with his own doubts about whether he is ready to rule.

He also pursues Ulysseus Klaue (Andy Serkis) an arms dealer who has stolen Wakanda’s most valuable resource, Vibranium, the metal which powers their advanced technology. Klaue also has a new ally in Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), a vicious and ruthless individual with a murky past and secret connections to the Wakandan royal family.

Can T’Challa adapt to his new role as king and maintain justice? Can Wakanda keep it’s advances secret and safe from the rest of the world?

The good for this movie is that it continues the entertaining, fun and action filled tone that the Marvel universe is built on. It also creates a whole new setting in Wakanda, a high tech utopia. To the credit of the filmmakers they have crafted a fictional society that feels real, with it’s own traditions, factions and history.

Some aspects of this are wonderfully done like the Dora Milaje, an all female elite guard who are shown as a brilliantly badass fighting force. Or the way each of Wakanda’s five tribes is different.

However, there was one aspect of Wakanda that struck a bum note with me. It seems massively selfish of the country to horde the technology it has, and while concerns over their weaponry are understandable, their withholding of medical advancements is hard to defend. This forms part of the plot of the film but at times the “Wakanda is best” rhetoric from some characters felt a little bit full of itself.

Similarly a point about how Wakanda had been spared oppression unlike much of Africa didn’t ring true. Yes, it had kept out foreign invaders, but T’Challa’s ancestors had taken over the five tribes because of the powers given to them by Vibranium.

These minor points aside the movie works well, although for once this is a comic book film that could have benefited from more villains, perhaps a henchman for Killmonger. It would have provided a second more viable threat for the finale.

That being said the finale is pretty good anyway, and the fight scenes throughout are very well done, particularly the larger scale battles. There’s also a belter of a car chase.

I enjoyed this movie and had great fun. I’ve long liked the character of T’Challa and Boseman does good work here, even if the love subplot was a little underwhelming. And there are some good new characters introduced, particularly M’Baku (Winston Duke) leader of one of Wakanda’s tribes and a swaggering, colourful character who exists on the fringe of Wakandan society. Similarly I also really liked Okoye, the Dora Milaje leader played by The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, who can kickass but hints at a softer, more humorous side.

A solid adventure and ticks a lot of boxes, but I think I went in expecting too much.

Verdict; 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Greatest Showman

Okay, right off the bat I need to be clear; I know this is a highly fictionalized version of PT Barnum’s life and that it whitewashes more controversial and problematic parts of the tale. However, this is a review of the film, not a comparison with facts. Therefore I stress my enjoyment of the movie is not an endorsment of the real life Barnum.

So, yeah, I enjoyed this film. I went in slightly apprehensive as for some reason I thought it was a Baz Luhrman movie, but it’s actually directed by Michael Gracey who has Luhrman’s abilities with choreography and big sequences, without his more overblown excesses.

Hugh Jackman excels as Barnum, a poor boy desperate to succeed and win the posh girl he loves. He makes Barnum a likeable character, a showy individual who blags his way through life.

He sets up a museum of curiosities in New York and quickly assembles a cast of unique individuals.

The film paints the freak show in an empowering light, with Barnum giving the performers a family and a home and treating them fairly. It’s a leap from the real story and it feels a little bit of a cop out, but the performers do well. Keala Settle playing the Bearded Lady is the focal point for this, a woman blessed with a great singing voice who gains confidence through her role in Barnum’s show.

The problems arise when Barnum becomes obsessed with respectability and showing up his dismissive inlaws. The chip on his shoulder is understandable, and it adds conflict. Caught up in his first highbrow success, the singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) he places himself in a financial danger and drives a wedge between himself and those close to him.

He ignores the show, treats the performers as though he is ashamed of them and his marriage to Charity, fantastically played by Michelle Williams, is shaken.

Williams is solid throughout, in a quieter, more fragile role who attempts to curb Barnum’s excesses and get him to appreciate his life, to let go of his deep rooted grievances and merely enjoy the happy life he has built. She serves as the balance to him and her singing is on point, it’s not a showy role compared to others but it is a solid performance.

Jackman carries the weight brilliantly, his Barnum a charming individual with relatable, understandable flaws. Even as he becomes selfish and foolish he keeps audiences onside and pulls back from utter scoundrel territory.

It helps that Jackman is phenomenal in the song and dance numbers, especially a strong opening number and several big duets with Williams.

The songs are fantastic throughout and the direction creates many outstanding set pieces. The strongest are Settle’s defiant “This Is Me” and a heartfelt duet between Zac Efron and Zendaya, “Rewrite the Stars” is lush, romantic and beautiful filmmaking.

The Efron and Zendaya subplot which sees his upper class man join as Barnum’s apprentice and fall for the trapeze artist is well played, if slightly rushed. It feels as though one or two scenes more might have fleshed out the romance more, but both performers do their jobs well.

It’s especially good to see Efron back to exuding his early charm and talents, having been in a few dumb comedies. He may be second fiddle to Jackman, but he showcases charisma which proves he could and should be one of the leading men of his generation.

In fact, the cast is universally good and the effect is a fantastic musical which charmed me. Big, daring and striking this mixes old school musicals with modern tech and effects.

The subject matter, despite the efforts to clean it up and give it an empowering spin, can’t eliminate the exploitation entirely and the appearance of circus animals was for me a jolt out of my disbelief. But taken as a musical and a work of fiction it succeeded in impressing and entertaining me.

Fun and well made, but probably won’t bear up to much scrutiny or factual analysis.

Verdict: An enjoyable and beautifully crafted musical, if one checks reality at the door and just goes with it. Jackman and Efron are standouts in a cast who are all on form. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Warning! There are a few spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the film you might not want to read on. If you do, well, it’s on your own head.

This is one of the trickiest reviews I’ve ever written. Normally when I come out of a movie I have strong feelings one way or another, but the latest in the Star Wars series left me somewhere in the middle. Perhaps it’s a movie that a second viewing will clear up for me, but that will have to wait, this is my initial reaction.

The action picks up pretty soon after the events of The Force Awakens. After decimating the Republic’s forces the First Order is in ascendancy, hunting down the resistance and wiping them out. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) leads an escape attempt during which pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) disobeys her orders, while he succeeds in destroying a major enemy ship, it comes at a heavy cost, with many ships lost.

They escape through hyperspace, but somehow are followed. Poe is demoted and Leia criticises his gung ho, glory hunting ways. Low on fuel the fleet is pursued by the First Order. New commanding officer Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) keeps the ships out of range but the enemy is still on their heels, and Holdo refuses to elaborate on her plan to Poe.

Meanwhile, Resistance fighter Rey (Daisy Ridley) has tracked down Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) so that she can train her in the force and that he will return with her to inspire the resistance. However, she finds that the former hero is incredibly reluctant, jaded and embittered. Can she win him round?

She also discovers that she has somehow formed a connection with her nemesis, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Skywalker’s nephew and a strong, dark Jedi. She senses reluctance and remorse and begins to wonder if she can lead him back to the light.

Back at the fleet, Rey’s friend, and former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) realises that Rey will return to the fleet and be killed. He decides to escape with the beacon Rey will home in on, however, he is stopped by Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), an idealistic rebel who’s sister died during Poe’s raid. She is disgusted by his cowardice, but then both work out how the First Order tracked them and how to escape. This does mean they need to get aboard and hack an enemy ship. In need of a codebreaker they work with Poe to slip away from the fleet and return with the man they need in the few short hours the fleet has before they run out of fuel and are sitting ducks. When they return the system will only be down for mere minutes, meaning the fleet must jump to hyperspace immediately.

Can Rey learn the ways of the Force? Will Luke change his mind and leave his self imposed exile? Are Finn and Rose going to be able to disable the tracker in time? And how will Poe ensure that the fleet is ready to make a tight escape?

Here’s the thing, this movie is very good fun and there are parts that work remarkably well, however, there are other parts that fall flat and it lacks that certain something to rank it with the truly great movies.

One thing that works is that the script is loaded with humour and there are some genuine laugh out loud moments, and some fast, clever dialogue. Similarly director Rian Johnson (Looper) handles the action side of things with aplomb and the space battles are magnificent and gripping. There’s also a multi character lightsabre battle which is pretty ace.

So, if I was amused and thrilled in places why am I not raving about this movie? Well, for starters, the film squanders its ticking clock aspect. Finn and Rose supposedly only have 12 hours but their story feels baggy in places and lacks the urgency and tension which should come easily. It also feels like they have to do quite a lot in that time, and the inclusion of a lazy coincidence is too easy.

That being said, at least it is carried by Boyega and Tran, who have easy chemistry and entertain as the duo. Boyega’s Finn is probably the standout hero of the new films, more fallible than Rey and less self assured than Poe, he’s a regular guy who fights his own fears and tries to do the right thing.

It would be easy to dismiss Rose as a cute, adorable character, and that is a facet, but beneath her cheeriness is a determination and dedication to the cause. I loved her interactions with Finn and how their relationship develops.

I’ve heard some people don’t like the character, but for me she was great.

What didn’t work for me was the Rey-Kylo Ren stuff? While the Luke Skywalker part works, and the jaded Jedi is a solid performance from Hamill, Rey is remarkably dull here.

The bond with Kylo Ren feels rushed and they grow very close very quickly. Also, she seems kinda dumb in her willingness to believe the latest version of a story she’s told- Luke tells her about Kylo, then Kylo contradicts, then Luke clarifies and each time she accepts this latest one as being completely true.

And she rushes off to help Kylo in a move which is clearly a mistake.

But the other aspect that meant it didn’t work for me is that Kylo Ren is a weak character. He mopes about like an emo teenager and when one character dismisses him saying “you’re no Vader. You’re just a child in a mask” it feels a bit too close to the truth. If he is conflicted it’s hard to tell from a lifeless performance by Driver and I don’t really care. He killed Han Solo, redemption isn’t on the table for me.

Later developments in this story feel rushed and as if the writer is taking shortcuts, and it’s only thanks to a final battle and the return of Luke Skywalker that salvage it from being a bit of a dud.

I should write about the third plot strand with Poe and Holdo, but this has flaws too. Clealry this is supposed to be a story of Poe learning that not everything can be solved by fighting and that he doesn’t always know best but it’s undermined by the fact that his irritation with Holdo is entirely understandable. When asked about her plan she is vague and it feels daft that his decision not to blindly follow orders on limited information is supposed to appear rash and foolish. Surely it shows good sense and free thinking?

Anyway, the whole film is a bit of a mess and a frustrating watch. The promise of a cracking movie was there but too much seemed rushed or underdeveloped. Perhaps the burden of fitting the story into 3 movies is what led to this movie. It feels like they tried to cram in too much.

It does provide a good exit for Hamill as Skywalker and he impresses. Similarly Carrie Fisher is great as Leia and it’s cool that we get a glimpse of how strong with the force she is. Her death was sad enough, but there now feels like there’s unfinished business and that Leia will be deprived the ending that was originally intended. Hopefully, however they can do her justice and the dedication screen hit me hard.

It feels that the first of the new films was a farewell to Han, this to Luke and one guesses the third would have been Leia’s film.

Apologies for the review, I know it doesn’t flow well, a side effect of it being written in several parts and me stilk trying to work out how I feel about it.

Verdict: A mixed bag and a frustrating experience, with the sense of missed opportunities and unrealised potential. Some of it works brilliantly, but there are far too many misses. Decent and fun, but underwhelming. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

The original Jumanji is a much loved film to kids who grew up in the ’90s. Starring the late, great Robin Williams it’s an anarchic adventure which sees the jungle come to suburbia through a cursed board game. Announcement of a reboot/sequel was met with much millenial anxiety, although for me as soon as Dwayne Johnson was announced my worries eased.

The update changes things up by having the board game get found by a teenager in the ’90s, who casts it aside with the dismissive comment “who plays board games?”. The game transforms to a video game and starts it’s mischief once more.

Twenty years later it is discovered by four high school students on detention. Neurotic nerd Spencer (Alex Wolff) is punished for having written essays for football player and former friend Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), who joins him in the punishment. Alongside them are Bethany (Madison Iseman), a shallow, image obsessed popular girl caught using her phone in class and Martha (Morgan Turner), who Spencer saw arguing against pointless physical education lessons and accidentally insulting her teacher.

The kids

Tasked with sorting old magazines they are distracted by the game and begin to play, choosing their characters. They are then sucked into the game where they become their avatars. 

Hulking jock Fridge finds himself as the diminutive side kick Franklin Finbar (Kevin Hart), having misread his nickname “Mouse” as “Moose”. Bethany is middle aged scientist Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Jack Black) and Martha is the scantily clad, kung fu dighting Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan). Spencer is transformed into the group’s leader, muscular adventure Smolder Bravestone (The Rock).

Spencer adjusts to his new body

They work out that to get home they must use their characters’ strengths and their own wits to return a gemstone to it’s statue to complete the game and free themselves from the curse. However they must deal with their issues with each other and overcome their flaws.

Can they do it? And can they do it without using up all three of their lives?

I really enjoyed this movie which manages to pack in a heap of action while mining plenty of humour from the body swap aspect. While all four leads are good, I have to single out Jack Black for special praise as he manages to percectly capture the disgusted teen girl within. A scene where he coaches Ruby Roundhouse in seduction is hilarious, and throughout he maintains the character perfectly. After a period of duds, this is Black back on form.

Kevin Hart also delivers plenty of laughs and his chemistry with Johnson is a driving force as the duo bicker and their characters deal with their role reversal. It’s a testament to Johnson’s skill that he manages to deliver the big action moments while also allowing the nerdy teen to show through. 

It’s a strong comedic performace which most action stars couldn’t handle, but he holds his own alongside Hart and Black.

The plot is daft but rattles along well and their are some nice touches like the inclusion of Nick Jonas’ character “Seaplane” McDonough, the fifth character. They realise he is the missing kid from the ’90s and this scene, where his slang alerts them is handled well, as is how they adopt him to the group.

The plot, of the teens realising their inner strengths and unknown depths, is standard fare but carried off with no shortage of charm and a sense of fun. The gentle flirtation between Spencer and Martha is pitched at the right level and the whole film left me with a big dumb grin on my face.

Verdict: Great performances across the board and a clever premise and spin on the original pays off with a massively entertaining adventure. Great fun. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.