The Woman Who Fell To Earth – Dr Who

The Woman Who Fell To Earth is the first episode of the 11th series (well, 37th if you want to be pedantic) of Dr Who.

It’s notable for a couple of reasons: The Doctor is now a woman (gasp!) and most of the original production cast have left and the the show is now being produced by Chris Chibnall who cut his Dr Who universe teeth on the excellent Torchwood.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

The story opens on an idyllic scene in the Peak District with Ryan trying to learn to ride a bike. So far so ordinary except Ryan is pretty much a grown man in serious need of training wheels thanks to his poor hand-eye co-ordination due to dyspraxia. In frustration Ryan launches the bike off the side of a hill and on going to find it comes across some strange glowing lights. Ryan of course touches the lights and causes what could only be described as an enormous papier mache gourd to appear. Ryan calls the police and a former schoolmate Yas arrives who thinks that Ryan is pulling her leg in an elaborate hoax.

Meanwhile Ryan’s Nan, Grace, and (not) Grandad, Graham, are heading home on a train when it suddenly comes to a halt. The power goes out and a strange tentacled creature starts moving along the train towards the helpless passengers. Unable to get off the train Grace is able to call Ryan before getting cut off and just as the tentacled beast is about to strike it’s disturbed by a body falling through the roof of the train carriage. Apparently unharmed from the fall The Doctor pops up and is able to ward off the creature and then admonish a recently arrived Ryan and Yas for not being much help.

Side note: If Ryan’s Nan has you doing the “Where have I seen her before?” dance then she was in over 100 episodes of Holby City!

This kicks off a meeting of (presumably) the new companions and The Doctor (who can’t remember she is called The Doctor at this stage) and what is surprising is how much the companions have to do in this episode. Usually The Doctor keeps the companions in the dark, revealing only what is necessary but this Doctor has them involved in every aspect of her plan – apart from the building of her new sonic screwdriver.

And before I go on, can we just discuss the new screwdriver please? Am I the only one who thinks it’s a bit phallic looking?

Dr Who Sonic Screwdriver

Photo Credit

Maybe I’m just looking at it differently because The Doctor is a woman, but when you consider the way that previous Doctor’s tools looked, they weren’t so… veiny and bulbous, they were more efficient and tool like!

Anyway, I digress!

I won’t go into the whole plot here as I don’t want to ruin it for you – you need to view it with an open mind but I will highlight a couple of points.

The way that the first episode is shot is very filmic and almost epic looking in a way – the first 5 minutes in the Peak District was almost like an advert for the National Park. There’s also more light – even in the darker scenes. I’m not sure if this a bit of clever mise-en-scène to highlight The Doctor’s lighter attitude when compared to Capaldi’s Doctor or if it’s just a stylistic choice by the director, we’ll have to see more episodes to see if it’s a theme.

The creature effects were also suitably sinister. Tim Shaw’s  (not really his name but that’s what The Doctor called him – I thought he said Dim Sum!) facial makeup would be the stuff of nightmares for a smaller child – easily reminiscent of the scares from the Cybermen and Daleks that had me hiding behind the sofa almost 40 years ago.

One of the big complaints from previous series was that the continuing story lines made it difficult to keep up if you missed an episode and also took away from some of the essence of the old Doctor Who. In this series we’ve been promised less serialisation and no recurring Aliens so it will be interesting to see what they come up with each week.

There was a lot of moaning online that they had made The Doctor a woman and this first episode went a long way to put people’s fears to rest. The first couple of episodes after a regeneration are always a bit hit-and-miss as The Doctor is still finding his (or her) feet and so you can’t get a true sense of what an actor is going to bring to the role. Whittaker has a sparkle in her eye and a sense of the incredulity and absurdity of it all that is quite refreshing and I hope it doesn’t diminish once The Doctor’s personality asserts itself.

The other main difference is that this is one of the first episodes of Doctor Who set outside of London. Most previous companions have come from our Nation’s capital so it’s a nice change to see another area of the country represented (Sheffield) and the addition of an Asian companion (and a female one with authority at that) in Yas’ character is great and I look forward to see what they do with her – and I do hope she’s not there to serve the screaming helpless female trope.

An interesting addition to the cast is Bradley Walsh. I’ve stayed away from all the previews and cast news so I could go into this new series fresh and without prejudice. A lot of people will think of Walsh as the irreverent compare of The Chase but he’s much more than a game show host having starred in Coronation Street and Law And Order: UK –  alongside former companion Freema Agyeman so I’m sure he was able to get loads of tips and inside knowledge!

Overall, the show is pretty slick but the introduction of the characters does feel a little rushed – we usually only have to deal with the Doctor and a single companion and here we have four (ish). The story is a pretty solid Doctor Who episode that ticks all of the boxes and bodes well for forthcoming episodes.

Need reminding of how we got our first female Doctor and how the T.A.R.D.I.S was lost?

 

And get your own (non-phallic) sonic screwdriver from Amazon or The Doctor Who Site!

Venom

Venom is the first film in Sony’s Marvel Universe – separate from the one inhabited by the other Sony owned Marvel property, Spider man.

Non-Marvel studio’s luck with bringing films to the big screen have been spotty at best (Fantastic Four (2015) anyone?) but Sony needs to kick start their own MCU in order to make use of the 900 characters they own the rights to.

Venom follows investigative reporter Eddie Brock (Hardy) who decides to look into the goings on at the Life Foundation after a tip off from a Doctor who works there. Brock’s had a run-in with Life’s CEO Carlton Drake (Ahmed) in the past and it cost him his career, fiancee and cat.

Drake – an Elon Musk-esq character – sent an exploratory mission into space and it brought back samples of an alien parasite. The shuttle crashes on its return to Earth and one of the parasites escapes but Drake is able to take the others to experiment with, hoping to create a human-hybrid that will be able to stand the rigors of space. Brock is infected with one of the parasites when he breaks into the lab and together Brock and the parasite that infected him (named Venom) decide to stop Drake’s plan.

And there you have it, that’s pretty much the entire film in a single paragraph.

The first 30 minutes of the film is spent setting up Brock’s character as a bit of a loser who has distanced himself from the world after he lost his relationship and I think a lot of cinemagoers will be disappointed with the slow build up and pacing of the story line. There’s a car and bike chase scene which, while good isn’t a patch on the one in Black Panther and the final fight scene between Venom and fellow symbiote riot is so dark that you can’t see what’s happening half the time. I’m sure the editors and the director will tell you this is intentional in order to add atmosphere and highlight the dark nature and inner turmoil of the characters I get the feeling it’s in order to hide some poor CGI work.

Don’t get me wrong, the CGI isn’t bad, it’s just not as tight as it could have been (think Henry Cavil’s upper lip in Dawn of Justice). This in no way lets the film down but in the 11 years since Venom appeared in Spider-Man 3 you would have expected some improvement.

The film isn’t bad, I had to rate it a 5 as it’s in no where near the same league as Black Panther or Infinity War which I rate at a 7, or Ant-Man which I rate a 6. Also, with it being a 15 rating you’d expect a more adult tone in the vein of Deadpool but instead you get some swearing and broken bones, both of which could have easily been cut to get the film down to a 12A and make it available to a wider audience.

If you’re a fan of Venom, or the MCU in general that I would certainly give Venom a look – although you won’t be missing out on anything from the original MCU story if you decide to give it a miss.

There are also two post credit scenes: the first after the main credit sequence which sets up a Venom sequel, and one right at the end which is basically a big advert for the forthcoming Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse cartoon movie so don’t feel like you have to hang around for that one.

Mile 22

Mile 22 is a film about espionage, sovereignty and double crossing. A few months ago I would have scoffed at the fact one nation could act the way the American “Overwatch” team do in another country but after the events in Salisbury, UK I guess anything is possible

The plot centres around James Silva (Mark Wahlberg) and his team of “off-the-books” operatives as they get try to get a rogue Indonesian Police Officer out of the country so he will give them information on how to locate  missing caesium that can be used to kill 60,000 people.

Considering these are supposed to be super-duper operatives they don’t half make a mess of things. The film opens in a leafy all-American suburb that is home to a Russian FSB cell who are obviously up to no good.

The Overwatch team is supposed to enter the house, identify the FSB agents, collect all the hard drives and get out of Dodge. Unfortunately it doesn’t go to plan and all the Russians are killed on orders from Bishop (played by John Malkovich).

Bishop runs Overwatch, a division that oversees Silva’s operations and provides support – from turning traffic lights green to providing a traffic route, Overwatch has you covered.

Sixteen months after the botched Russian operation we see Silva’s team put in charge of getting Policeman Li Noor to an airstrip 22 miles from the embassy (hence the title of the film) so he will divulge a code to access a hard drive containing the location of the missing caesium, if he doesn’t give them the code within 8 hours the disc will wipe itself.

The film is the fourth collaboration between Wahlberg and director Peter Berg and as I haven’t seen any of these I had no expectation of style or substance.

Wahlberg is good as Silva, a man with no real compassion but a lot of disdain for those in power, his fast-talking character did take a lot of getting used to though and I felt I missed out on a lot of what was going on as I couldn’t keep up with him sometimes. This wasn’t helped thanks to a very word-laden script from Lea Carpenter who was trying to be a bit too clever for her own good at times.

The stand out performance for me was by Lauren Cohan (of The Walking Dead Fame) as Alice, a woman torn between serving her country and seeing her daughter. Cohan’s performance showed a depth of character that wasn’t present in the other performances (especially Wahlbergs). It’s just a shame that they weakened her in the final third of the film.

The film is faced paced and zipped along. This is helped by great editing which worked really well in the fight scenes, I didn’t look at my watch until well over an hour into the film and was surprised how quickly the time had gone.

I have a couple of gripes though. Firstly it was obvious to me about half way through what was going on so the final “reveal” wasn’t a big shocker and this meant the end of the film fell rather flat which was a shame. The second is that the camera work is all over the place: I understand Berg wants to get you into the action but if you suffer from motion sickness you’ll really struggle with this film.

Overall, a decent film with a reasonable story line (despite the ending) but I can’t see it winning any awards.

Watch this film if your girlfriend has made you sit through a chick-flick bed you want to get your own back.

A Star Is Born

A Star Is Born is the tale of musician Jackson Maine (Bradley Cooper), an artist who’s seen better days, and Ally (Lady Gaga) a shy waitress who is in need of some self-belief (unless she’s singing in a drag bar then she’s a musical harlot).

Maine’s search for post-concert booze sees him rock up (rock, geddit?!) at a random bar just in time to catch Ally sing and he’s bowled over by her performance – well, I’m assuming he was wowed by her voice as he was so shit-faced I doubt he could have translated the song from French in order to understand the words. They spend the rest of the night together talking about music, punching cops – you know, a standard night with a total stranger – and a bond begins to form over a bag of frozen peas.

Ally confesses that she writes her own songs but won’t sing them as she’s been knocked back too many times, just before singing one of the songs she’s written. Despite the hypocrisy, this scene is really touching and it feels that the emotion of the scene was driven very much by Lady Gaga’s own experiences of the music industry – and there-in lies one of the main problems with the film: I felt as though we were watching a dramatisation of Gaga’s career from being a “serious” musician to moving into pop as that’s what sells.

It’s also unclear what Maine’s role is in all of this. I got the impression he was supposed to be some washed-up musician that takes Ally under his wing and gets jealous of her success but over the course of the film he’s touring and has songs on a juke box so he’s very much in the public eye still – and that’s another flaw in the film: Ally asks him why he’s jealous but I don’t think he is, he just wants her to avoid the mistakes he’s made and stay true to her music. The thing is she is kind of staying true to it, she knows the popular stuff sells and seems to be having fun doing it so what’s the harm? I was hoping to see her go full-blown diva which would have explained a lot of the tension between Jackson and Ally but that never really came across.

The script is very loosely written, it feels as though most of the film was improvised and that the only bits that were scripted were the concert scenes and that was purely because they filmed at real concerts so only had limited time. I’m not sure about the directing either – it’s not bad for a directorial debut (it’s Cooper’s first directing gig) but there’s just something missing that doesn’t allow the full emotions of the characters to come across and as a result I was left not really feeling for either of them.

Cooper plays a boozed up Maine very well, the scene that takes place at the Grammy Awards is certainly worthy of an Oscar nomination, and even though there is eventually some backstory about why he drinks and takes drugs it happens so late on in the film I don’t really care any more (and its just serves to set something up later rather than being proper exposition).

Lady Gaga is excellent as Ally, in fact I can’t think of anyone else who could have played the role (although apparently Beyonce was linked to the script at one point), and she will certainly be a strong contender for Best Actress at all the major awards.

I haven’t seen the 1970’s version of A Star Is Born (or the 1950’s or the 1930’s – yes this is like the 4th version) so I don’t have anything to directly compare this version to (although I did watch the trailer and was completely fascinated by Barbara Streisand’s perm) but I was left feeling a little flat – as was the rest of the audience at our preview screening. I’ve been to films where they’ve clapped at the end and cheered but never had I heard an entire audience audibly go “Oh…..” at the end of a film – until now.

I can see why people are raving about it –  I think that’s only because there’s not been another film of this type released (it feels like it’s all been Superheroes) but it’s a shame it couldn’t have gone that little step further to stop me feeling rather deflated at the end.

Fair warning: There’s alcohol and drug abuse, references to suicide, flashing lights and a flash of a naked Gaga so it’s certainly not suitable for everyone.

Watch this if you’d like something that’s not a superhero movie and want to punish your boyfriend for making you watch Ant-Man And The Wasp

To cheer you up after seeing this, check out Bab’s hair

Age Of The Dragons

Age Of The Dragons is a rip-off re-imagining of Moby Dick set in a weird alternative world when humans hunt dragons instead of whales for “vitriol” that powers their world.

The film starts with a young Ahab (yes, that is his name) out hunting with his sister. She wanders off and gets killed by a giant white dragon (yes, seriously) and Ahab is horribly disfigured (where do they get their script ideas from?).

Fast forward about 100 years (not that many really but it felt like it) and Ishmael (I kid you not) is introduced to us in the following manner:

Old bloke in the Inn: “I hear you’re called Ishmael”

Ishamel: “You may call me that”

Seriously.

All the script writers have done is to take a copy of Moby Dick and do a find & replace with ship to wagon and whale to dragon (that rhyme had more thought put into in than the Age of The Dragons script by the way).

Ishmael and his companion Queequeg (where do they get these names from?) are looking for work and join a rag-tag bunch of Dragon hunters as they cross the country to find as much vitriol as they can – and if they happen across a white dragon, well that’s a bonus!

There’s a fair bit of character backstory set up in the first half-an-hour. Mind you not a lot else happens so they have to fill it with something. This is were we learn about Ahab and his mad quest for the white dragon and how no-one in the crew believes him and they’re just in it for the money Yadda Yadda.

I’m assuming that the budget for this film all went on Danny Glover’s salary (yes, that Danny Glover) who stars as Ahab. Well, when I say “stars”, he decides to turn up after about forty minutes, chew some scenery and then growl a bit. For most of the film he’s wearing a mask and you can’t see his face so I doubt he even turned up and they just used a body double.

The film also stars Vinnie Jones – when he popped up I almost spat my coffee out! He has a monologue scene which he’s hoping to use for his Hamlet audition tape I think, but every time he’s on screen I can’t help wondering if he’s going to start crashing through walls Juggernaut style – sadly that doesn’t happen as it would have livened things up considerably.

There are two great things about this film – the lighting is fantastic. It’s atmospheric and really conveys the meaning of a scene (which is fortunate as most of the actors seem incapable of doing that). The other good thing is Sophia Pernas‘ performance as Ahab’s daughter Rachel – Age Of The Dragons is only her second film but she is a lot more believable that any of the other actors (perhaps being a newcomer she’s not as jaded as the rest of the cast and is actually excited to be working on something).

I can see why they made this film – I’m sure it sounded great in the pitch meeting (Moby Dick Meets Dragons)  – however it’s massively let down by a poor script and a mediocre cast which is a shame. Given the big-budget treatment and some star actors (sorry Danny Glover, you peaked at Lethal Weapon) it could have worked well, instead it was relegated to the bargain bin at the local blockbusters.

Watch this if you have a test on Moby Dick in the morning and haven’t bothered to read the book yet (just remember to replace dragon with whale when you write your answers).

 

Polar Storm

Yes, it’s another disaster movie review – you’d better get used to these are they are my go-to film type!

Comet Copernicus is passing close by to the Earth and residents have been warned that they will experience disruption to satellites and power grids as it interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field (side note: the comet would have to pass ridiculously close to  Earth for that to happen but we don’t care about that apparently).

Cut to super-star Astrophysicist Dr. James Mayfield who is in Alaska to study the comet’s interaction with the Earth and report back to an agency that isn’t NASA as I guess there are copyright issues using their name or something.

Anyway, Mayfield’s main concern at this moment is successfully taking some readings of the comet’s interaction with the magnetic field and get it sent to Not-NASA so he can smoke a Cuban cigar. No, I don’t get it either, I would save smoking one of those for something really important rather than just managing to hook your computer up to your mobile wi-fi up to send an email back to your office.

As the comet nears the planet, a piece breaks off and hits Alaska a mere 100 miles from Mayfield’s location – how’s that for a coincidence? Somehow Mayfield manages to escape the comet fragment’s impact blast with some seriously dodgy 4×4 driving but his assistant isn’t so lucky (note to self: don’t become a scientists assistant – you have as much chance of surviving a disaster as a Red Shirt does on an episode of Star Trek).

Why is it in films like this no one seems to be able to drive a car without swerving all over the road and getting stuck in something? It doesn’t add any dramatic tension, it just makes me wonder how people manage to pass their driving tests in the States… right, sorry, I digress…

Mayfield is able to send his readings back to his lab but when he tries to analyse the data later he finds that all his work on the comet has been classified. Mayfield visits a General (who turns out to be his father – how’s that for coincidence?) to find out why he can’t access his work and is told that he shouldn’t cause a mass public panic because everything is fine. Sticking two fingers up to his Father and ignoring a direct order from the President of the United States (played by Teal’c from Stargate SG-1!) Mayfield appears on local TV where apparently a sundial can be used to convince the entire world we’re all doomed.

While all this is going on there’s the usual family drama of a son hating his new step-mother, fawning over a friend from school and generally moping around (yawn).

It soon transpires that the tiny little town the Mayfield’s live in is the epicentre for one of many new mini-poles that are slowly causing the Earth’s poles to move and this causes localised electromagnetic storms – what a coincidence! These electromagnetic storms will kill you if you’re driving a car or holding a mobile phone but apparently you have to be zapped a tonne of times for your pacemaker to stop working – there’s nothing like plot consistency, is there?

Mayfield comes up with a plan to save the planet and stop the polar reversal with – yes, it’s an American film so you know what’s coming – a massive nuclear explosion!

Does he succeed? Will the submarine he finds himself on sink into an icy oblivion? Will his son ever stop acting like a sullen teenager? Do we even care? No, not really to be honest, but with film of this type you’re not supposed to.

It was surprising to see Jack Coleman in the role of Mayfield – after all he was excellently sinister in Heroes but I guess he took this as a break from his Heroes character.

The acting is quite good for a film of this type but it does suffer from a rather weak script. If you don’t care about science then you’ll find it quite an enjoyable hour-and-a-half but if, like me, you’re scientifically minded then you’ll probably throw your remote at the television on several occasions.

Watch this if you have a heavy cold and your brain won’t engage in high gear too much

2012: Doomsday

2012: Doomsday is the type of low-budget offering from production house The Asylum that I absolutely love! You know exactly what you’re getting with an Asylum film – a plot with a beginning, middle and end with minimal character development, some cheesy effects and questionable science – but hey! That’s not why you watch these films, you watch them because of the cheesy effects and questionable science!

2012: Doomsday follows 5 people who have a strange urge to visit a Mayan temple;  Susan, a disillusioned paramedic who has lost her faith in God; Sarah who’s the spiritual one; Dr Frank Richards (played by Dale Midkiff who’s the sort of actor that has you scratching your head and asking “What have I seen him in?“) who is an archaeologist and placed to figure out all of the clues; Sarah’s Dad, Lloyd (played by Cliff De Young who obviously needed to pay a couple of bills for him to be in this), who didn’t believe in his daughter’s spiritual nonsense then does a 180 quicker than a pirouetting ice skater; and And then there’s Wakanna who is the “Virgin Mary” of the piece and dumped into the plot to provide some quasi-religious symbolism.

The story is about how these characters are drawn to, and make their way to, a Mayan Pyramid in Mexico. There are adventures, deaths and accidents along the way the weirdest of which being the fact that Susan’s Grandmother disappears from their car after telling Susan she should perhaps believe in a higher power. Was she a messenger sent from God? Was she an Alien with an important message for the world? Who gives a shit? I mean Susan obviously doesn’t as she carries on like nothing’s happened and that disappearing Grandmothers are quite normal in her world.

Of course, we’re not supposed to look too deeply into these sorts of things – it’s not really that sort of film, but I did find all of the religious references and allegories a bit much – I mean a pregnant woman whose baby is apparently the saviour of the world? Come on!

This is one of those films that’s perfect to watch if you’re having a duvet day or have just had a few pints down the local pub – you don’t have to think about it too much and it doesn’t matter if you pass out for 20 minutes in the middle – but if you’re looking for a film in the vein of the big-budget 2012 then I’d give this one a miss!

Bounty Hunter

Set in the near future, Bounty Hunter is a film about… er…. Bounty Hunters that go out to fulfill contracts taken out on the greedy businessmen and women that caused the apocalypse.

Stylistically and thematically this film invokes thoughts of Mad Max (the first “proper” one, not the rubbish sequels or Tom Hardy weird-fest), Death Proof and Death Race 2000.

The orange-hued desert tones and its use of vehicles try hard to replicate the iconic Mad Max film but falls short of the mark. I think the problem is that everything is a bit too pristine – all the vehicles look like they’ve just been driven off the garage forecourt (even thought they’re from the 1970s) whereas Mad Max had a warn and lived in look: vehicles patched and cobbled together as only a future apocalypse could cause.

Reading the film’s description (view a great version here) you’d would think that this film was an ironic take on corporate greed, a way to hold the mirror up to our current society’s love of capitalism and where the people with the money call all the shots. Instead it’s all over the place with the Bounty Hunters being just as bad as the Apocalypse-causing business people leaving you unsure who you should be rooting for.

I’m not sure what I was hoping from this film – the Mad Max style cinematography and the hints of Death Proof sounded promising but the film is really let down by not knowing what it wants to be or where it sits.

Part road-movie, Grindhouse exploitation and Romance the film doesn’t fit easily in any category and it’s not helped by some bad editing and acting either. There are some supposedly comedy moments with throw-away casual one-liners that fall flat – I don’t know, perhaps I was just in a bad mood but I didn’t see the humour anywhere.

I feel that a bigger budget would have helped (the film was shot in just 18 days), there’s a touch a cheapness to the film that isn’t a kitsch feel that seems to work in Death Proof or Death Race 2000 so I don’t know how Bounty Hunter wasn’t able to capitalise on this.

One standout part of the film is the “Gypsy’s” face paint – meant to scare and invoke terror it’s really well done and is probably the best aspect of the production design – in fact apart from Gary Busey’s fee I think this is where most of the budget went – face paint isn’t cheap you know!

The cast is okay but there aren’t really any stand out performances. Christian Pitre is adequate an the vengeful “Mary Death” and Gary Busey has obviously just shown up for his paycheck (and, judging by his performance, a free mini bar). I think part of the problem is that while there is some back-story development you don’t really feel for any of the characters – you’re just moving from scene to scene to see who gets bumped off in a gory fashion next.

Final thoughts? It’s only an hour and a half but I wouldn’t waste your time. If you’re in the mood for a futuristic or gore filled road movie watch Mad Max or Death Proof or if you want a bit of nostalgia watch Death Race 2000 (the 1975 version rather than the Jason Statham 2008 version).

I really wanted to enjoy this film but it fell far short on all fronts – save your time and don’t bother – it won’t rev your engine at all.

A Simple Favor

I’m really struggling to decide what to make of this film! On the one hand it’s a story about friendships and their boundaries and on the other it’s a dark tale of deception and deceit.

I’m not going to go too deeply into the story as I don’t want to give the plot away – and well done to the editor of the trailer, it’s refreshing to go into a film without the entire thing already having been played out in the previews – but the basic premise is that Mommy vlogger Stephanie (Kendrick) meets Emily (Lively) as their children are at school together. They start to hang out and over Martini’s Stephanie talks about her life. One day Emily asks Stephanie to do her “A Simple Favor” – pick up her son after school and she then vanishes. Stephanie is then left to investigate Emily’s disappearance and there are lots of twists and turns as she delves deeper into Emily’s past.

The story is an interesting one: we all have dark secrets that we keep hidden, even if we look like we’re the sweetest person on the planet. We have friends, but how much so we really know about them? What boundaries should be pushed, and what should be left well alone?

Director Paul Feig is usually better known for bawdy comedies (Bridesmaids, Heat) and there is a hint of dark comedy in the film which adds to the story rather than detracting from it.

The style of the film is very reminiscent of early Hitchcock and there are nods to fifties film noir from the style of Emily’s home and outfits to the chic French inspired soundtrack.

I haven’t read the book but I guessed one of the main plot twists quite early on, this didn’t detract from my viewing though as there were plenty more twists to come.

I did really enjoy A Simple Favor. I think my difficulty in deciding what to make of the film comes from the fact that it’s not easily compartmentalised as one particular genre: it’s a thriller, romance, drama and buddy movie all in one. I think I would have preferred the film to be a little darker in place, but overall it’s a great movie and well worth a watch.

The Predator (2018)

If you’re looking for the suspense of the first Predator film, or the goriness of the second film then you’ll probably be a bit disappointed in this new take on the franchise in Shane Black’s directorial debut.

Don’t get me wrong, the film doesn’t deviate from the Predator story that we all know and love: Predator arrives and a bunch of people die horrible deaths but it does seem to suffer from not knowing where it wants to be – comedy horror or sci-fi horror.

With the introduction of a 12 year old boy as one of the main characters, I was wondering whether the studio was aiming for the youth market however with the level of gore in some scenes (decapitation by wire anyone?)  and the bad language from tourette’s suffering Baxley (played by Thomas Jane doing an exceptional job) it was never going to get a 12A certificate – in fact I’m surprised it’s only rated a 15, 10 years ago it would have been an 18 for sure.

The story centres around Quinn Mckenna, a sniper embedded in an unnamed South American country who witnesses a Predator crash land and take out his team. Mckenna realises no one will believe what he saw so he steals some of the Predator’s tech and – somehow avoiding all US customs inspections – mails it back to a P.O box in his hometown for “safe keeping”. Co-incidentally he’s not paid for his P.O box for a while so the Post Office dumps the package at his home for his 12 year old son to open.

Rory Mckenna – played by a fantastic Jacob Tremblay – has Aspergers (or Ass Burgers as his bullies call it) and because of his unique view of the world he’s able to operate and understand the Predator’s equipment which leads, obviously, to a collision course with the Predator.

All in all the film is reasonable – as long as you don’t go into it with your expectations set too high – and it seems to be geared towards introducing a new audience to the Predator in order to set up a sequel.

My main gripe? The Predator in this film wasn’t as cunning as we’ve seen them to be in past films, it was more of a “Hulk Smash” creature rather than something you could see as being a stealthy hunter. The introduction of a Predator “dog” and it’s fondness for fetch was a nice touch, as was a more comedic tone which added to the movie rather than detracted from it.

Overall, an enjoyable hour and 40-odd minutes but if you’re a die-hard “Get to the chopper!” fan then you may want to wait for the DVD or streaming release.

 

King Of Thieves

King Of Thieves is the telling of the true-life Hatton Garden Robbery which took place in April 2015 where a group of “over the hill” thieves made off with up to £200 million in cash, diamonds and other jewels in a clever raid on a vault in London’s Hatton Garden Jewellery district.

There’s an all-star cast in this film – Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Paul Whitehouse, Ray Winstone, Michael Gambon and Tom Courtney star as the “old time” criminals who are joined by young “Basil” (Charlie Cox) who enables them to get into the vault and disable the security.

The first two thirds of the film centres around putting the gang together and the heist itself, with the final third showing the aftermath of the robbery, the squabbling that ensues and the police investigation.

I was a bit surprised to see King Of Thieves come out, after all the well received

Hatton Garden Job

starring the ever-grumpy Larry Lamb was only released a year before in 2017 and covered the robbery in detail.

If you’ve seen The Hatton Garden Job then The King Of Thieves isn’t going to shed any new light on the subject, although I did find the way that the police pieced together the investigation interesting (note to self: when casing a joint don’t do it in your own vehicle – especially if it’s a flashy Mercedes!).

My main issue was that there were 3 women in the film but two of them (playing police officers) never even spoke a line and the wonderful Francesca Annis was only there as a way to keep Michael Caine’s character on the straight-and-narrow. The Hatton Garden Job had Joely Richardson tearing up the scenery as the evil Mafia connection and I think King Of Thieves could have done with a stronger female performance from one of the Police Officers.

If you’ve seen The Hatton Garden Job then I’d give King Of Thieves a miss, but if you haven’t then it’s worth a look if you have a spare hour and a half on a Sunday afternoon.

The Happytime Murders

For some reason I find puppets hilarious. I don’t know why, perhaps I had a problem at a Punch and Judy show as a kid. When I first saw the trailer for The Happytime Murders I was intrigued – I mean who doesn’t love a swearing muppet?

The Happytime Murders is set in an alternate world when humans and puppets co-exist (although the puppet’s aren’t seen as equals). The “Happytime” of the film’s title refers to the name of a popular TV show that’s about to enter syndication and make it’s cast a lot of money – until they start dropping dead that is!

Melissa McCarthy stars as Police detective Connie Edwards who has to reluctantly team up with her former police partner turned private detective Phil Phillips (voiced by Bill Barretta) to solve the murders.

There’s not much of a storyline, although there is an amusing twist at the end, and the plot is basically a series of linked sketches a la Sesame Street but with a lot more swearing.

McCarthy is phoning in her part a bit – but that’s not really surprising considering the lack of story and the fact she’s acting opposite felt, and I can’t say that there are many laugh-out-loud moments. There is however an extremely gross scene that puts the “Puppet Sex” scene from Team America: World Police to shame!

If this film happens to be on the TV you could give it a watch but I wouldn’t actively go out and watch it, I’d pick Team America instead.