Thursday, 2 March 2017

Logan

Snikt snikt no more.

Given that the previous two solo flicks featuring everyones favourite X-Men were rubbish and not terrible the hopes and expectations for Hugh Jackman's final turn as Wolverine should by all rights be gosh darn low. However director James Mangold's second crack at the character is a far more different take.

For one, this isn't a comic book movie.

Okay, technically it is a comic book movie, but it isn't one with all the obligatory overblown set pieces and filled with far too many characters that we've all come to love/hate and always expect.

Logan is a stripped down tale that focuses on an older, world weary Wolverine aka James "Logan" Howlett is left to care for a 90 year old Professor X (Patrick Stewart) suffering from a significantly more harmful version of Alzheimers. Logan attempts to keep a low profile on the Mexican border. But our adamantium infused hero is introduced to Laura (Dafne Keen) a young girl with her own set of anger and metallic claw issues. It quickly turns out that Laura is a highly valued individual by a bunch of heavily armed soldiers led by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).

Logan is forced to be a hero just one more time.

Playing more like a western Logan is a lone gunslinger in a world without heroes the film is a dark, sweary and very bloody affair. Yet unlike the equally hard-R rated Deadpool the tone is sombre and one of finality. This is presumably the final time we'll see Jackman and Stewart in these roles. Which is an obvious shame as they're both brilliant. The bigger surprise is how wonderful Dafne Keen is, definitely a young talent that is worth keeping an eye on.

It isn't a perfect film by any stretch but it thankfully ignores much of the convoluted back story of the previous X-Men movies and gives fans a stripped down road movie with added murder/death/kills and some genuine thrills and spills.

In conclusion, after 17 years of a mixed bag of flicks Logan is a fine swansong to good ole Wolverine.

Viceroy’s House

You know what they say about who writes history…

As Lord Mountbatten and his wife and daughter arrive at the titular Viceroy’s House it is to be the last viceroy in India as Britain's rule over the country is about to come to an end. Mountbatten is tasked with ensuring the change in power is a smooth and painless one.

Anyone who knows their history will be aware that it is anything but that.

With Britain still seeking to maintain some form of control over proceedings the country is divided by three separate religions it becomes evident that in order to make the process quicker two separate countries are to be created. Dividing friends, colleagues and lovers.

In director and co-writer Gurinder Chadha hands the story is told mainly from two perspectives, that of the Mountbatten family and their desire to help the people of India in every way they can and that of two star crossed lovers. Jeet (Manish Dayal) is a Hindu and Aalia (Huma Qureshi) is a Muslim.

But as the entire country is forced to a 80/20 split, a microcosm is seen within the walls of the Viceroy's House where the staff are divided the same way and even the set of encyclopedias are separated between the two countries.

The film looks gorgeous and the performances are strong throughout. It is always a joy to see Gillian Anderson on the big screen and she is a perfect match for Hugh Bonneville's stiff upper lipped man in charge.

If there is a fault with the film it's in its length and desire to see things from all viewpoints in a fair but balanced way. As a result every single element feels rushed. Characters aren’t given room to breathe and so certain plot points feel somewhat contrived and briskly run through.

In conclusion, as the film reminds viewers a million people died during this period of time and as far as fitting tributes to them go, it’s pretty nicely done but could do with a smidge more depth.

Monday, 20 February 2017

I, Daniel Blake

A genuine must see film you truly must see.

Dave Johns stars as Daniel Blake, a man recently struck by a heart attack who is reluctantly forced to apply for financial support from the government while he is signed off from his work. It is while waiting at a job centre he meets single mum Katie (Hayley Squires) who has just moved up north and is also struggling to support her two young children.

Daniel and Katie become friends as they struggle against the tangled web of a system that seems to actively make their lives harder when it should be doing the exact opposite.

The complexities of the current UK Welfare System and the madness of sanctions, "digital by default" and zero hour contracts is brought to all its horror and inhumanity care of director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty. In their film they battle against the stereotypes of the working class using a blend of comedy and drama to get across their message of how negative and destructive the current climate of individualism is.

Never ones to shy away from relevance and political statements with scalpel like sharpness and accuracy their film is both damning of a messed up system and beautiful in the realisation of characters you can truly believe in.

Played to utter gut wrenching perfection by Johns and Squires, the plight of Daniel and Katie is palpable and it would take a heart of stone to not be moved during the films running time. By blending actors in scenes with real people in actual locations there is an authenticity to every part of I, Daniel Blake.

The DVD includes deleted scenes, an informative making of documentary and an audio commentary from Loach and Laverty where they discuss the making of the film and discuss some of the reactions to it by politicians.

If you didn't get the chance to see this powerful drama when it was out in cinemas this is your chance to see what all the fuss was about for one of the finest British films of recent years from one of the finest British directors.

In conclusion, believe the hype, fuss and positive word of mouth. I, Daniel Blake really is that good and is out on DVD from the 27th of February.

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Lego Batman Movie - Review

And where is The Batman? Is he at home building some bricks.

If you need anyone to explain to you what either Batman or Lego is then I can only presume you've spent a fair few decades locked away from the rest of the world.

Spinning directly off from unsurprisingly The Lego Movie, director Chris McKay brings us our favourite Dark Knight voiced by Will Arnett back to his home of Gotham City. The mini-fig Caped Crusader is a loner, intent on fighting crime without anybody getting in the way or more importantly getting hurt. But Bats is soon introduced to a new police commissioner Rosario Dawson's Barbara Gordon and a new adopted son Michael Cera's Dick Grayson.

She wants to clean up crime with Batman's assistance and he just wants to be part of a family.

Throw in his trusted butler Alfred (Ralph Fiennes) and the worlds greatest detective has more than enough to deal with. Unfortunately The Joker (Zach Galifianakis) feeling somewhat shunned by his so-called greatest foe who apparently likes to "fight around" has come up with a devious plot to bring Gotham City to its knees...and no this plot doesn't involve two boats, a parade filled with Prince music or the need for Bat-Shark Repellent.

If you loved The Lego Movie there is a near guarantee the same feelings will be felt for The Lego Batman Movie. Although be prepared for an opening 20 minutes that are relentless in their pace and bombardment on the eyes and ears. So much eye and ear candy is put into the film every frame has something for fans of all ages to enjoy.

It has all the wit, wisdom and occasional totes emosh feels. McKay and company also manages to cram in as many reference to all the other incarnations of DC's comic book hero.

Even though not all of them land, the jokes come so thick and fast it is likely a third or fourth viewing will be required.

Fans of the Lego Dimension videogames will likely get a kick of seeing other franchises being thrown into the mix, much like The Lego Movie the logic of the world is that of a childs imagination so presumably anything goes, including appearances by big bads from Harry Potter, The Matrix and Lord of the Rings... The levels of intertextuality could make ones head spin right off.

In conclusion, not quick as awesome as The Lego Movie, but still a brilliantly constructed funny flick for all the family, The best Batman movie of the year? Probably.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Delicious - DVD Review

Love, death and a smidge of incest.

Delicious, the new 4-part drama written by Dan Sefton, stars Dawn French as Gina Benelli, the former wife of a successful chef Leo Vincent (Iain Glen) who has now married to Sam Vincent played by Emelia Fox.

Set in the gorgeous setting of Cornwall the show looks at the complications between two women, each with their own child fathered by Leo and their fractured relationships. While there is a slight whiff of familiarity about the show and the opening episode isn't the strongest ways to kick off the series there is something highly watchable about the post-watershed drama.

It is the two leads, French and Fox (sounds like a really bad detective show from the late 70s) are worth the price of admission alone. Their characters aren't one dimensional walking talking cliches. They have depth and complications. They feel real.

Which is more than can be said for the sub-plot involving Gina's daughter Teresa Benelli (Tanya Reynolds) and Sam's son Michael Vincent (Ruairi O'Connor). A romance of sorts forms between them and it has all the weight and believability of an old Brookside plot-line.

The narration by the velvet toned Glen also makes Delicious appear like a British Desperate Housewives which just adds to the soapy nature of things.

The other problem is four episodes just don't feel enough to get to know the complexities of the characters and when some potential problems do starts to become apparent for both Gina and Sam the resolutions come practically out of nowhere or care of Leo's mother, Mimi Vincent (Sheila Hancock).

By the close of episode four however I wanted to see these characters again, there was something about them and hopefully a second series is in the works.

In conclusion, with a slightly shakey start Delicious is still a nice portion of drama and is out on DVD now.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

T2 Trainspotting

Insert obligatory Choose Life related ramble here.

The problem with nostalgia, as we all know, is that it is never as good as it used to be. Twenty years (twenty??) have passed since former heroin addict Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) stole a bag full of cash from his friends and fled his bonnie wee home of Scotland.

Yet something happens that forces Renton back to Edinburgh.

Returning home he faces up to screwing over his best friends Simon aka Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and how even a kind gesture to Spud (Ewen Bremner) had consequences.

But the nineties we soooooooo long ago, is it even possible to be on par with one of the best Brit flicks let alone be any good on its own merits?

Not only reuniting the cast of the original, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge return breathing new life into the characters created by Irvine Welsh. T2 Trainspotting finds itself feeding on the spirit of the original while also bemoaning our constant need to look back at the past with the proverbial rose tinted specs. Which in itself is a bold statement for Boyle and Hodge but for the most part it works.

Rather than establish a story or caper for these beloved characters to get involved with, the film focuses on the characters themselves and what the last two decades has made them into.

Seen mostly through Renton's eyes, his journey back to Edinburgh brings up flashes of his childhood and rebellious youth punctuated with bursts of very familiar songs.

The power of memory is always an interesting element to look at within film, here much like real life music and it's ability to elicit emotion and reflection. Lucky for the sequel that the original movie has a soundtracks that is ingrained into our collective psyche.

Be it running down the streets as Lust for Life bounces along or the pulse quickening chorus shouting of Underworld's Born Slippy. Boyle knows we know the songs and the feelings that come with them so he is more than happy to give us a short trip down memory lane every now and then.

The important thing however is in that twenty year gap, the world, the country, the city, the people have all changed. Not all necessarily for the better and this is reflected in Renton, Simon, Spud and Begbie interaction with the modern world. Some cling onto the past because without that they would have nothing. A bleak future may be ahead of them so opting to live in the now with all the drinks and drugs available seems like the easier more fun option.

Where the film works best is in how these four characters interact with not only each other but those around them. Lost loves, lost families and lost opportunities. All the more powerful when viewers of the film find themselves looking back twenty years and pondering "where the f**k did the time go?"

For all it's trips to way back when and whatnot the sequel has some lovely visual elements, hardly a surprise since Boyle has grown as a film maker so much since his so-called difficult second feature. Combined with a script that along with wonderful wit contains moments of utter razor sharp relevance. It is likely that much like Trainspotting, T2 Trainspotting will be seen as a time capsule of a decade lost in a digital swamp of self obsession, uncertainty but with some really rather good music.

In conclusion, choose looking back at a classic film, with some great actors in the form of a brand new brilliantly crafted drama, choose T2 Trainspotting.

Friday, 20 January 2017

100 Streets - DVD Review

Intersecting lives can be ever so dramatic.

100 Streets weaves three stories of people within the hustle and bustle of The Big Smoke. Emily (Gemma Arterton) is a mother of two and wife of philandering former rugby player Max (Idris Elba), Kingsley (Franz Drameh) is a young gang member who yearns to escape and taxi driver George (Charlie Creed-Miles) is trying to start a family with his wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing).

Directed by Jim O'Hanlon and written by Leon Butler 100 Streets has an element of Oscar winner Crash about it. Taking a trio of tales of people from various walks of life it attempts to shine a light on how easily lives can intersect and affect one another.

The problem is that even with a top notch cast that includes Ken Stott only the story that centres around Drameh's conflicted character carries much weight. Meanwhile it is hard to feel much sympathy for Elba's self destructive former sportsman or Creed-Miles' driver caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Certain dramatic beats feel forced at best, contrived at worst and aside from a few brutal moments of violence the plot lacks any impact or relevance. O'Hanlon gives a few nice directorial flourishes to proceedings and London is made to look suitably cinematic, it is just a shame the film rarely rises above "just okay".

In conclusion, great cast, average drama, 100 Streets is out on DVD from the 23rd of January.