Wednesday, 14 February 2018


Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker and Andy Serkis. Written by Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. Directed by Ryan Coogler. Budget $200 million. Running time 134 minutes. Certificate 12a.

And lo did it come to pass that the mighty Marvel Cinematic Universe, in the year of our lord 2018, did release their 18th feature film unto an expectant world and the said world promptly lost its collective shit, with reviewers seemingly hailing it as the second coming, earning the film an approval rating on Rotten Tomato of 98% and 87% on Metacritic. Verily it was declared that this film was the answer to all the world’s woes! And it was decided that in the future it will be seen to have, not only, lead to the utter abolishment of racism, white power abuse, and black oppression but also to have leveled the playing field for equal rights between the sexes and to have cured cancer. Damn, there’s nothing this film can’t do!

Black Panther heralds the arrival of the first head-lining black superhero, if you ignore Blade and Steel and joins a very short list of black superheroes that includes War Machine, Falcon, for the Marvel Universe, Cyborg for the DC and of course not forgetting Meteor Man and Spawn.

This is by far Marvel’s most grown up, sensible and strongly political movie, eschewing the shits and giggles of some of its recent fair, like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 for a more measured and grown up adventure that attempts to deal with issues of race, colonialism, white oppression, sexism and racism, all the while remembering it’s a superhero movie so action, and lots of it, is a requisite requirement.

The story sees the crown prince of Wakanda T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) take up the mantle of Black Panther and assume the throne following the death of his father (as seen in (Captain America: Civil War). The world believes Wakanda to be another 3rd world African country, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Thanks to a huge, near limitless supply of a non-nuclear super mineral called Vibranium, buried deep beneath its land, Wakanda is a super technologically advanced nation who easily puts Tony Stark in the shade for advancements. A flying suit of armour? Pffff. The Wakanda’s have nano-tech, bullet proof, kinetic-energy absorbing, stealth armour that doesn’t even need to be put on! It just grows out of a necklace you wear around your neck. On top of that they’ve got these shoes that absorb all sound which they call ‘sneakers’. Anyway, the Wakandas hide their civilization inside a huge energy field and carry on regardless, oblivious to the world at large. However change is afoot and there are factions within the land who want to use their weapons and powers to free the oppressed black people of the world. Step forward Erik ‘Killmonger Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) a bitter and angry young man with a past that’s inextricably linked to T’Challa whom he challenges for the throne, leading to a battle royal between the two incredibly impressive young men. Killmonger wants to arm every oppressed black man in the world with vibranium powered superweapons and trigger a revolution that will see the tyranny of white rule eradicated for good, while T’Challa just wants to carry on quietly fixing things behind the scenes. And that’s the story in a nutshell, add to the mix there’s CIA agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) who’s trying to bring a one-armed South African black-market arms trader called Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) to justice following his theft of a supply of Vibranium from the British Museum. Oh and there’s an almighty civil war about to tear Wakanda in two.

Can poor old T’Challa save the day or will it all end in tears?
This is a powerfully charged political statement from director and co-writer Ryan Coogler who co-wrote and directed the impressive 7thRocky film, Creed also starring Michael B. Jordan, while his first film Fruitvale Station won the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award. And it’s impressive that Marvel is willing to let these films be created by driven and creative individuals rather than the committees that seem to ruin the DC output.

As well as flying the flag for black power, Black Panther is also spearheading female empowerment and this film features a hell of a lot of female characters who aren’t just there to coo and talk about Black Panther, although that said they do consist of his mum (Angela Bassett), his sister (Letitia Wright) - the Wakanda equivalent of Tony Stark, an ex girlfriend, Nakia (Lupita Nyongo) who’s also a Wakanda super spy and Okaye (Danai Gurira) leader of the all-female Wakanda and body guard detail.

This film manages to convey its message without crowing or becoming too preachy, it touches on familiar Superhero tropes like father/son dynamics and yet still finds time to feel a part of the bigger Marvel Universe without the need for ‘special guest stars’. It looks stunning, the way that African visual influences are used is excellent and it never feels pretentious, and the the armoured rhinos were a nice, if silly touch.

It’s not perfect, but then so few films are, it’s a film that doesn’t feel suited for a younger audience, my 14 year-old son, for example wasn’t blown away by it and gave it a grudging 7/10, he said the it felt as if 'everyone was invincible' and therefore there no real danger or jeopardy, and younger might find the whole thing a tad light on some two fisted action. And it certainly won’t please everyone, it's a tad preachy at times and the audience we saw this with seemed equally divided with a 1/3 of the cinema sweeping out the moment the credits rolled, missing out on the two post credit stings, while the other 2/3rds stayed to the bitter end and whooped with glee.

Similarly, the ubiquitous CGI smackdown glimpsed in the trailer doesn’t quite work, some of the animation is clunky, the final showdown punch up is filmed in the dark and has both characters wearing black costumes, plus the camera never stops moving rendering much of the fight unwatchable. Plus it is extremely poe-faced and whereas I don’t want every Marvel film to be a laugh riot, a touch of levity here and there would have given me a more enjoyable ride.

An impressive addition to the Marvel Canon and one that feels like a nice starter for Avengers Infinity War which is due out later this year. 8/10

Sunday, 11 February 2018


Starring Gerard Butler, Pablo Schreiber, O'Shear Jackson Jnr., Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson. Written and directed by Ghristina Gudegast. Budget $30 million. Running time 140 minutes. 15 certificate.

It's been 23 years since Michael Mann's superb Heat starring Robert Deniro and Al Pacino and therefore ripe for a not so subtle remake under a different name and lo we have Den of Thieves, a film that's Heat but without the stella cast, the superb music and the excellent direction, but with a healthy sprinkling of The Usual Suspects (also 23 years old!) just to, you know mix shit up a bit.

Den of Thieves sees a group of professional bank robbers lead by Pablo Schreiber going up against a gang of professional bank robber busters led by Gerard Butler as both sides clash over a plan to rob the Federal Reserve Bank. This follows the template of Heat very closely, and includes a running street gun battle, several meticulously planned mini heists and lots of scenes of both sets of Alpha Males bounding and doing their thang at home and at work. It also has a failing marriage. Both hard men, Pablo and Gerard, dance around each other getting closer and closer as the film gets closer and closer to its climax when at the very end, instead of a gun battle, both men declare their love for each other and give up their violent ways to live on an Alpaca farm in Peru. Nah, they just shot holes into each other until one of them dies, but not before they've had time to explain their warrior code to each other and there's a grudging respect for the code of each other. Blah blah blah.

It's far too long, it could easily have been a good twenty minutes shorter if the unnecessary sub plot about Butler's Alpha Male's marriage crumbling had been dropped, cause as good as he is in action role, he's stretched to breaking point trying to play a crap husband dealing with a divorce.

The action and robberies are exciting, but the Alpha male posturing gets old PDQ, and the attempts at domestic depth are clumsy and laughable. The third act Usual Suspects twist is a surprising touch and gives the film a little boost but by that point, we're all a bit exhausted by sheer testosterone that drips off the screen.


Wednesday, 31 January 2018


Starring Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Navid Negahban, Trevante Rhodes, Geoff Stults, William Fichtner, Rob Riggle, Elsa Pataky and Thad Luckinbill. Written by Ted Tally and Peter Craig. Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig. Running time 129 minutes long. Budget $35 million. Certificate 15.

The film follows the activities of the twelve man Task Force Dagger squad as they are dropped into Afghanistan to help rebel general Abdul Rashid Dostum of the Northern Alliance take out three Taliban strongholds and thereby destabilise the terrorist state’s stranglehold on the country following the September 11 attacks.

The strike force are lead by Captain Mitch Nelson (Chris Hemsworth), out on his first actual combat mission. He non-arrogantly declares that, not only will he bring his boys back alive, but he’ll do it in three weeks rather than the 2 years the army specialists say the mission will take. What follows is a relentless barrage of bullets, bombs, explosions and good old fashioned, undulated American patriotism as the insanely charismatic Hemsworth and his motley crew of warriors lead by the ever watchable and likeable Michael Shnnon, Michael Pena kill a seemingly never ending army of swarthy, turban headed Islamic terrorists in an almost non-stop orgy of violence.

Actually, that’s not strictly true, there are many moments when the action stops long enough for Hewsworth or Shannon or who ever to emote, stare off into the distance or make rye comments about their lives, or families left behind. But apart from that, it’s pretty much a bullet ballet of balletic brutality. Because of the terrain of Afghanistan, Nelson’s men are forced to ride horses and become legends in their own right, helping wise old war general Dostum take back his country and exact revenge on the leader of the Taliban for the slaughter of his family. Luckily the film shows us how evil the villain is by not only dressing him all in black, but giving him a true hawk-like nose but having him butcher a young mother in front of her three daughters because she taught them to read and do mathematics.

The action follows a similar path, Hemsworth and co rock up to a Taliban strong hold. Hemsy sneaks up to or shots his way close to the target so he can give the circling B52 bomber precise co-ordinates for a bomb run then runs back to his chums and wait to pick off the survivors. And as tactics go it’s pretty goddam effective, it’s amazing how little protection ordinary clothing offers when pounded by 1000 Ilbs of high explosive.

And that’s about that really. As films go, it’s rather long, but looks pretty, although you could easily shave 30 minutes off it and not effect it too much. It’s very violent (naturally!) and it doesn’t really offer us any insights into the minds or motives of the 12 soldiers other than they’re rightfully pissed at the 9/11 attacks. And here’s where the problems lie, because it is based on a real campaign and features real people, even if played by actors, you’re left unable to enjoy it for any mindless reasons because real people died, it somewhat taints the movie, particularly if you’d gone in wanting some mindless action.

The film ends with a caption and photo of the real squad and a quick catch up on what some of them are up to now and that’s it.

By no means a bad film, just one that feels extremely on message and seemingly designed by ‘Hollywood’ as a big thank you to the US military for the loan of so much of its equipment in so many big budget movies of recent years. 6/10


Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Doug Jones, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer. Written by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Running time 123 minutes long. Budget $19.5 million. Certificate 15.

From Guillermo del Toro, the creative genius behind Cronos, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, Hellboy 1 & 2, Blade 2, The Devil’s Backbone and also Mimic and Crimson Peak comes his latest, The Shape of Water. Set in the early days of the 1960s during the cold war between the USA and the USSR, The Shape of Water tells the touching story of a love affair between a quiet, mute janitor Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) who works at a top-secret government laboratory and a mysterious fish-man (Doug Jones) captured in the depths of South America by sour-faced and by-the-book, god-fearing, family-man Colonel Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) and brought back to the US for experimentation. The film follows Elisa as falls in love, then  plots to break her fishy boyfriend out of clink with the help of her best friend fellow janitor Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her next door neighbor, artist Giles (Richard Jenkins). Together with the help of an undercover soviet spy Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) they hatch an audacious plot to free the creature from the base and return him to the sea before Strickland can vivisect him, or the Russian's can kill him. 

This is a very straight forward, almost slight simple love story which, because it's a del Toro film can be touching and sweet one moment then savage and cruel the next. Despite the simplicity of the plot, the film still strikes at your heart and you find yourself rooting for our heroine and her strange bedfellow. In the lead role Sally Hawkins is a tour de force! Despite her character having no voice, Elisa still manages to make her character seem to shout louder than everyone else and she carries the whole film confidentially and brilliantly. That's not to take anything away from the rest of the cast who are all superb, from the ever reliable Jenkins, to the intensity of Shannon and the world weariness of Octavia, to the 21st Century Lon Chaney Jnr - Doug Jones who once again brings a real depth to another memorable screen monster.

I found this a satisfying and deeply moving movie, the art direction is staggering, the richness of the colour, del Toro’s camera, the make up the lighting all create a wonderfully rich and beautiful film and considering he made it for ‘only’ $19 million is genuinely staggering in itself. 

I was moved, captivated and thoroughly engrossed by this film. 9/10


Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood and Matthew Rhys. Written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Running time 116 minutes. Budget $50 million.

Starring Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sarah Paulson, Bob odenkirk, Tracy Letts, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys and David Cross. Written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Budget $50 million. Running time 116 minutes. Cert 12.

Thanks to the imminent arrival of the Oscars we, as loyal cinema goers, tend to get a lot of Oscar worthy movies compared to the rest of the year. Indeed film mags are crammed full of 4 and 5 star review movies and naturally The Post is one such movie. Directed by a true Hollywood legend, scored by another (John Williams) and starring not one but two members of Hollywood royalty this has Oscar written all over its stupid face. But is it any good?

The Post is a direct prequel to the insanely superb 1976 film All The President's Men, starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. The film follows two main characters, Meryl Streep's Katharine Graham and Tom Hank's Bob Bradless the newspaper's editor in chief as they struggle with not only floating the family newspaper on the stock market (that's Meryl's dilema) but also with the thorny problem of what to do with a vast leak of top secret government documents about the Vietnam War that show not only its utter futility but also that the American people have been lied to for the past 30 years! 

What follows is a masterclass in acting from two of Hollywood's greatest living actors who show off their skills in a sort of actor showcase. For me personally Tom Hanks just pips Meryl at the post, she's a tad too earnest and also falls back on her tried and trusted acting tricks, like tilting her head to one side, whilst smiling and whispering nearly all her lines, that's when she's not making that haughty little titter of hers. The thing is she's such a damn good actress that she can even hit the same mark again and again, even with a change of camera, there's one scene with a cut and she's looking off camera in both takes. Indeed, she's so skilled that you actually become aware of the fact she's acting and that somewhat spoils the illusion. Hanks on the other hand just blitzes his role and does it with real ease and skill. Of the two actors, Meryl is on the screen for longer and has a great deal more to do and she does do her job with real skill and craft, but for me there was just too much craft on show, while with Hanks, I'm just reminded with each passing film that he is this generations Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant rolled into one.

This was a meaty, satisfying film that made me want to rewatch All the President's Men.

This made for a good night out, only marred by the lack of car chases, gun fights and naked ladies, so thank goodness the film was as entertaining as it was.


Starring Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Giancario Esposito, Aidan Gillen, Walton Goggins, Ki Hong Lee, Barry Pepper, Jesus are you still reading this list? Will Poulter and Patricia Clarkson. Written by T.S. Nowlin, based on the book by James Dashner. Directed by Wes Ball.

Hooray, it’s time for The Death Cure the third part of the Maze Runner trilogy, the last remaining YF franchise at the cinema. Remember the YF genre? It was spawned by the success of The Hunger Games, there were loads of them! In case you’ve forgotten, this is the one set in a post apocalyptic world where kids are hunted down and killed to harvest their genes, or something to create a vaccine for a virus decimating the world. Rather than the one set in the post apocalyptic world where kids are hunted for fun, or the one where kids are segregated and hunted down if they’re different, or the one where…

Luckily it looks as if we’ve already reached the end of this particular cycle and can bid a fond farewell to the Maze Runner franchise which tried oh so hard to be The Hunger Games, and although it failed at least it can can rest assured it was a diabolically shit as Dullvergence series.

Anyway, this one has a very misleading title since there’s no maze, no running and no cure for death either. Although there are lots of battles, lots of pouting teenagers and lots of death as several of the long serving cast members bite the bullet, old friends are reunited and basically more of the same happens. Plus in this particular world it’s okay for teenagers to kill with guns and knives.

So, a group of kids (mid 20s) decide to break into the last city, which is walled, so they can do something important. The baddies have one of them and is torturing him to get the cure for death or something. So Dylan leads his chums on one last mission and along the way meet up with people and stuff happens. The ending is staggering in its stupidity. The kids, the survivors of the city’s experiments all escape onboard a ship that’s been salvaged. In it they all travel off to a desert island to live happily ever after.

The thing is, the only thing that went through my mind watching these millennials having a beach party, playing guitar and singing, was ‘they’re all going to die.’ Who the hell is going to do the farming, do the hunting, gather water, or just look after their medical issues? And don’t even get me started on toilet amenities.

While it was on, this was okay, the battle scenes inside the city were well shot and action was entertaining, but frankly by the end of it I had no real idea who was who, what was what, or why anyone was doing what they were doing.

If you’ve seen the last two, I suppose you might as well go and see this one just so you can say you’ve finished off the set. It’s certainly not the worst thing you’ll see all year. 



Starring Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGoven and Sam Neill. Written by Bryon Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Budget $30 million. Running time 105 minutes. Cert 15.

Typical, you stand at the bus stop, waiting for Liam Neeson to make an action film, and then, BANG! 10 years later nine turn up – er at the rate of one a year.

And so here we have his latest geri-action outing as The Commuter, the everyday story of an everyday insurance salesman and everyday family man and his everyday commute to and from work on the same train each and every bastard day. Filmed as a fly-on-the-wall documentary, this film, which unravels in real-time, took 20 years to film, as it recorded every minute of Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) journey to and from work, sitting in the same seat, reading a newspaper, doing a crossword, talking to the other regular passengers or just conducting middling domestic chores over his phone. Wow, talk about unexpected, I was expecting an action film. Turns out all that stuff seen in the trailer was all just a dream he has when he falls asleep one day on his way to work.

Meanwhile in the real world, or at least the world of the Commuter, we follow ex-cop Michael, who after 20 years of loyal service, gets made redundant from his insurance job and makes his way home on his last commute ever to tell his wife the bad news, which couldn’t have come at a worse time since his son’s just got a place to go to Harvard!

So, when he’s propositioned by a mysterious woman called Joanne (Vera Farmiga) who offers him a challenge in exchange for a shit-load of money he jumps at the chance. All she asks him to do is to wander through the train and identify the one passenger who shouldn’t be there. The catch is he has to do it before his stop! Then she gets off the train leaving Michael with an envelope full of money and no mobile phone! Michael’s day then goes from bad to even worse when his wife and child are kidnapped to incentivize him and one of his traveling buddies is killed as a warning not to contact the police, it turns out Joanne has left behind some of her own people to make sure he does his job, which it turns out is to identify a federal witness so that Joanne’s people can kill them! Luckily, our Michael, thanks to his previous job as a policeman, has a unique set of skills that makes him a nightmare for the people behind Joanne. And as the journey continues, Michael whittles down his list of suspects and uncovers a conspiracy that could bring down the city planning department and a group of corrupt cops! Luckily his best buddy Detective Murphy (Patrick Wilson) and police chief Captain David Hawthorne (Sam Neill) are there to offer assistance, or are they? Could one of them be batting for the other team and if so, which one…

The film rattles along a pace, giving us a sort of Non-Stop but on a train, which naturally gives us the added bonus of a train crash glimpsed in the trailer.
This is an entertaining enough action romp that Neeson can do in his sleep, it’s entertaining and exciting enough and the tension ratchets up nicely until the
the third act when the tempo completely changes and all the momentum is lost with the late arrival of a siege scenario as our band of plucky passengers unite to fight a common enemy. All that’s left is a tearful reunion with his kidnapped wife (a criminally wasted Elizabeth McGovern) and his son before a final showdown between Michael and Joanne, which if you’ve watched enough of these types of films you should easily be able to guess as to how it’ll play out.

Another silly Neeson Geri-action flick that doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, although it won’t be knocking the far superior 1976 Silver Streak starring Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor and Patrick McGoohan off the podium for best action film set on a train any time soon.

Catch it if you still can, although it might already have left the cinema concourse. 7/10