Monday, 14 August 2017

Batman and Harley Quinn - Review

Insert obligatory "Holy (something something) Batman" reference here.

When plant loving duo Poison Ivy (Paget Brewster) and Floronic Man aka Jason Woodrue (Kevin Michael Richardson) plot to take revenge on humanity for ruining the planet Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) have only one chance of stopping them. Unfortunately that chance is in the form of the one and only Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch).

What could possibly go wrong?

Short answer a heck of a lot but in a very entertaining way.

The latest DC animated movie directed by Sam Liu and written by Bruce Timm and James Krieg will be a true treat and delight for fans of the classic Batman animated series from way back when. Once again the Dark Knight is voiced by Conroy and the animation style is very much in keeping with the original show. Fans of the other great series The Brave and The Bold should also get a kick out of the brilliantly played irreverence for the characters and the lore. There is even a fart gag. Yet it all works.

Tonally it pushes the limits of the 12A certificate with blood, violence and some lewd yet hilarious antics. Warning to parents when viewing this film you may need to explain some of the jokes and situations to your little'uns as the credits roll especially as you'll likely be laughing the loudest at most of Harley Quinn's antics.

Rauch is great as the former Harleen Quinzel, finding humour from practically every line while also giving her a sympathetic side and always ensuring her actions are unpredictable to everyone caught in her whirlwind of crazy.

Supporting characters even get a chance to give a LOL or two, yes - even Batman himself.

At an hour(ish) long the pacing is pretty tight and things move along at a fair rate of knots although a drawn out foot-chase seems to look a little too much like padding but has a witty pay off so it is sorta kinda worth the wait.

A pit-stop for the dynamic duo plus one at a watering hole for criminal sidekicks is practically worth the price of admission alone and filled with in-jokes and references for every Bat-fan to eat up.

The animated yarn doesn't take itself too seriously, yes there is a world ending McGuffin but it always remains secondary to keep focus on the characters and how they interact with each other.

Something the live action DC flicks really need to learn, Wonder Woman aside obviously.

Why Paul Dini and Bruce Timm the great minds behind some of the best movies featuring DC's finest have never been drafted to work on the DCEU is still one of the biggest mysteries to this so-called comic book fanboy. Although I should just be thankful that Timm and co are still able to produce wonderful romps complete with lewd behaviour and kick ass action like Batman and Harley Quinn.

In conclusion, crammed with wit and rude crude behaviour and significantly shorter than Batman Vs Supes, Batman and Harley Quinn make for a damn fun dynamic duo..

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Ryde - Review

Your psychopathic chauffeur is about one minute away.

When Jasmine (Jessica Serfaty) and her boyfriend Marcus (Ronnie Alvarez) head out for a night out in LA they use a new app based car service called Ryde. Little do they realise that Paul (David Wachs), the seemingly mild mannered man behind the wheel of their cheap cab is in fact a cold blooded murderer.

Ryde takes the idea of Uber and gives it a killer twist, directed by Brian Frank Visciglia it is a slickly shot, neon lit, modern day chiller.

Initially the film has all the hallmarks of a run of the mill small budget horror complete with awkward direction and over-lit interiors.

However much of that appears to be intended to misdirect the viewer as following the first death which genuinely took me by surprise Ryde steps things up a gear or three to become a bloody effective flick.

Rather than follow the plight of Jasmine and her douchebag other half much of the film is spent in the company of Paul and his twisted, murderous mind as he drives through the city streets seeking out his next victim and avoiding getting caught.

By riding along with Paul the audience almost becomes complicit in his actions that are either very clearly signposted (if you're a horrible passenger you're going to die a horrible death) or shift brutally from sex to violence.

Paul is an angry, unsympathetic and little information is given towards his blood thirsty rampage.

Yet there are gentler more human moments that sit very awkwardly with witnessing Paul's death dealing.

It just felt wrong to be spending so much time in the company of this murderous bastard.

Ryde feels like it is trying to do something a little different with the very well worn killer on the loose genre and for its meagre budget it makes the most of it with decent production values and a watchable cast.

This is not going to be a film for everyone, it is nasty, lacks subtlety, occasionally over the top in the bloodletting, it treats most of its female cast as victims and the male cast are predominately arseholes or nutjobs which ticks the standard killer on the loose genre tropes.

In conclusion, a lean, mean and slick killer of a thriller, Ryde is available to watch on Digital Download from the 21st of August and can be downloaded here.

Friday, 11 August 2017

A Mermaid's Tale - Review

All together now, "Under the sea, under the sea......".

Plucky young Ryan (Caitlin Carmichael) and her loving father Matt (Jerry O'Connell) still dealing with the loss of their mother/wife head back to the fishing town where Matt was born to look after her grandfather Art (Barry Bostwick).

The town has seen better times with a lack of fish to catch, could something magical in the water be responsible?

It doesn't take long for the mystery to be uncovered as while wandering along the sea front one day Ryan happens upon someone caught up in a net, a mermaid called Coral (Sydney Scotia).

Ryan and Coral strike up a friendship and introduce each other to their very different worlds. But as they spend quality time together going shopping or visiting the wonders underwater Art is determined to uncover why there aren't any fish left and he suspects mermaids are to blame.

While A Mermaid's Tale may not a film aimed at a bloke in his late thirties, it is still a charming story about young girls being young girls trying to figure out their place in life while still finding time for fun.

Directed by Dustin Rikert it is a bright and breezy modern fairy tale, the stakes are never to high to make one feel anything other than a happy ending is on the cards with only a couple of minor plot based speedbumps before the end credits.

Being a film that centres around swimming in the wet stuff it is a shame some of the underwater visual effects are a bit iffy at times. The musical score is a smidge over powering in places. Although these elements are unlikely to affect the enjoyment of A Mermaid's Tale intended audience who should be won over by the films charm.

In conclusion, a light, bright, pleasant little fantasy family flick A Mermaid’s Tale is available to watch on Digital Download from the 14th of August.

Monday, 7 August 2017

The Sense of an Ending - DVD Review

The ghosts of our past haunt us always.

Even with a grandchild on the way, an awkward relationship with his ex-wife and semi-retired running a tiny camera shop Tony Webster (Jim Broadbent) lives a quiet, uncomplicated life.

However when he receives word that an item has been left to him in the will of the recently deceased mother of his university girlfriend Veronica (Charlotte Rampling).

It opens up old wounds and previously forgotten recollections. Tony delves deep into his past attempting to understand how events he was caught up in went in the direction they ended up in. But will this search for the truth cause more pain and more problems for Tony?

The Sense of an Ending is a curious little film, with a cast that in addition to the always reliable Broadbent and Rampling it includes Emily Mortimer, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Freya Mavor and Billy Howle. A powerful string of performances are to be expected and in that respect the film doesn't let viewers down.

Yet for all the secrets, lies and half truths everything feels very understated and uninvolving. I wanted to like this film more and there is a real chance that in subsequent viewings I'll catch something I missed.

Emotions are repressed to such a point that at times it is difficult to work out why Tony is so obsessed with an ex from way back when, even if she did grow up to be Charlotte Rampling. It is thanks to Broadbent's brilliance that some of Tony's occasionally questionable actions in the present.

Ritesh Batra's direction is assured and the way the events of the past and the present occasionally blend as Tony's recollections become more dominant in his mind is nicely done.

The concept of looking back at our own history to figure, the ripple affect of ones actions and ponder what we would tell our 21 year old selves is fascinating and it will likely cause viewers to think how they would act.

The DVD includes interviews with the cast and crew.

In conclusion, a well made, brilliantly acted tale of the consequences of foolish youth that I really wanted to like more The Sense of an Ending is out on DVD now.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets - Review

Besson is back baby!!

Major Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Sergeant Laureline (Cara Delevingne) a pair of tough and ridiculously good looking special ops tasked with obtaining a rare item by their superiors that leads to a weird and wonderfully convoluted tale that involves war, romance, brain squids, cute pearl pooping critters and so much more.

Way back when I wrote a review for Luc Besson's Lucy. It was one of the few reviews that I received feedback about, the biggest comment was that even after reading my random ramblings it was unclear whether I actually liked the film.

It was a fair comment as I really didn't know the answer....and I still don't.

In the case of his latest flick Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets I do actually know exactly how I feel about it....and part of me feels bad to admit it....but...

I bloody loved it.

Which surprised even me as I had seen the negative responses to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and to be clear most of these comments and views are valid. The film is all over the place, it's daft, it's beautiful, it's bold, it's bright but I loved pretty much every glorious over the top frame....even in pointless pointy pointy vision.

It revels in the pulpy science fiction of its source material that has already been mined by the likes of Lucas for years. There are similarities to other classic sci-fi fantasy films but that its to be expected, see also John Carter.

Yet thanks to Besson there isn't a sign of a trade federation or senate meeting.

Did I mention cute pearl pooping critters? This feels like Besson being in control of everything put on screen. You can feel the passion emanating from the screen, if you thought The Fifth Element was everything he could offer in this genre you ain't seen nothing....nothing I tells ya.

This is the sort of yarn that has a character say "shoot" before cutting to someone else shooting a gun. This isn't meant to be high-brow chin stroking fodder, this is meant to be fun and for 98% of the running time it really is a fun rollercoaster ride of a romp.

To pick holes in it feels almost cruel and harsh, that being said if there is a weakness it is sadly with DeHaan, he isn't quite as charming as the script would like us to think. More New Hope era Luke Skywalker than Empire era Han Solo. It is a minor quibble as he is a great actor and gives his all throughout all the CGI heavy madness. Meanwhile Delevingne kicks literal and proverbial a$$ throughout.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is likely to be one of those divisive films of the year that people will either love to hate or feel guilty for liking. No guilt here though. The film put a smile on my fugly mug throughout and I'd happily go see it again and again.

In conclusion, switch off that noisy brain for two and a bit hours and sit back to enjoy some French fuelled pulpy science fantasy turned up to eleven.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Fun Mom Dinner - Review

What happens when you're "mom'd" out?

New to town Emily (Katie Aselton) is invited to a fun mom dinner by tough but caring Melanie (Bridget Everett) and Instagram obsessed divorcee Jaime (Molly Shannon). Emily opens up the invite to include her High School friend Kate (Toni Collette) who isn't much of a fan of socialising with other mothers and is very reluctant to start any time soon.

Opting to widen her social circle Emily tricks Kate into going to dinner with the other mothers.

However a night of venting about motherhood and fine dining is cut short before you can say "no smoking pot in the toilet" and the night takes a turn for the wild.

Meanwhile Kate and Emily's husbands; Andrew (Rob Huebel) and Tom (Adam Scott) are left to "babysit" the kids in their own, slightly inept way.

Fun Mom Dinner on the surface appears to be yet another female take on The Hangover type of so-called comedy but thankfully this is much closer to the likes of Bridesmaids, i.e it actually has rude and crude laughs within it.

They are not bad moms, they're just moms that feel underappreciated, tired of being pushed out of their own bed, stepping through Lego minefields or getting a mouthful of poop in the morning.

The four hard working mothers are able to forget their lives at home for a couple of hours on a school night, expect plenty of lewd behaviour, swears and female bonding. 

Directed by Alethea Jones and written by Julie Rudd the film looks at a set of characters that have grown up on 80's pop culture and how the lives promised by the likes of Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful didn't quite turn out the way they planned.

It is a nicely observed lady led comedy filled with smile inducing 80's nostalgia and just a hint of drama. There is a frankness and honesty to much of the conversations between the ladies. Even the men get an opportunity to philosophise about life, the universe and sleeping while you poop. 

Yes there is an element of silliness but it never gets too extreme and the main four ladies and their antics are great to watch whether they're belting out a rendition of 99 Red Balloons, making references to Jaws or chit chatting with a local drug dealer who looks a heck of a lot like Paul Rudd.

In conclusion, slightly daft but always enjoyable Fun Mom Dinner is available on digital download from the 7th of August and can be downloaded here:

Monday, 24 July 2017

The Other Side of Hope - DVD Review

The Other Side of Humour?

Escaping war-torn Syria where he has endured immense loss Khaled (Sherwan Haji) arrives at the port of Helsinki seeking asylum.

Caught up in the administrative nightmare he escapes the detention centre and eventually he meets Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen).

Having left his wife and very recently bought a restaurant complete with a trio of quirky staff members Wikström tries to help Khaled with his new life in Finland. As Khaled searches for his sister, Wikström attempts breath new life and flavours including sushi to his failing restaurant

I'll be honest The Other Side of Hope (aka Toivon tuolla puolen) is the first time I've experienced a film by Aki Kaurismäki. As an introduction to his work I can't say whether it is better or worse than his previous films however based on this one alone I realise I need to see more.

The off-kilter film is a beautifully crafted modern tale that looks at the current plight of those affected by the war in Syria while blending it with a straight faced style of humour that may baffle on occasion but should delight much more frequently.

It deals with huge, heavy issues including prejudice, racism, bureaucracy and so much more all the while it is wrapped up in a odd slightly surreal landscape.

Silliness and sadness find there way in practically every scene and the performances from everyone involved is perfect. In addition the music that weaves its magic throughout the film is certainly going to get toes tapping.

The DVD includes music videos and a trailer for the film.

In conclusion, much like salted herring with wasabi The Other Side of Hope may be somewhat of an acquired taste but those willing to get lost in the tragicomedy will be very much rewarded.