Captain Marvel

As someone who has been quite a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since it first hit our screens back in 2008 with Iron Man (and has read a fair few comics in my time too), the one question I had was “When are we going to see a female lead?”

Sure, the X-Men had given us the powerful Jane Grey (Famke Janssen) and fiesty Storm (Halle Berry) and the “reboots” put female characters front and centre but these were very much ensemble movies with (as usual) the men taking centre stage.

When the Avengers first assembled back in 2012 there was hope of a Black Widow movie but as the franchise moved on this seemed less and less likely – especially after the release of the Jennifer Lawrence lead Red Sparrow in 2018. Even D.C got in on the act before Marvel with their wonderfully received “Wonder Woman” released in 2017.

While Kevin Feige would probably argue that a female-led movie was always on the cards for the MCU, I can’t help think that the success of Wonder Woman helped pave the way for (or move forward) the production of Captain Marvel.

So, was the wait worth it?

Captain Marvel stars Brie Larson as “Veers”, a Kree soldier with anger management issues who is sent to rescue a spy. The mission turns out to be a trap and leads Veers down a path of deception, self-doubt and self-discovery.

Veers ends up on Earth in the mid-1990s which leads to some great moments for audience members of a certain age – the appearance of Blockbuster and Radio Shack brought a nostalgic tear to my eye and I think I showed my age when I laughed as Veers Googled searched the internet using Alta Vista, there’s also a great moment featuring a Windows 95 PC loading a CD ROM – kids today don’t know the agony!

Anyway, nostalgia to one side, the story is pretty good and moves quickly. It’s one of the shorter films in the MCU at just over 2 hours so they had to cram a lot into the runtime but it’s handled well and you don’t feel as though there are many things that are left out. Being short it also passed the watch test – I didn’t look at my watch once during the course of the movie!

That being said, it would have been nice to have seen more of the relationship between Carol Danvers (as she was before she became Veers/Marvel) and Dr. Lawson (played by a sorely underused Annette Bening). It’s obvious from the beginning of the film what an important role this character had in Danvers’ life and how she viewed her role in the Air Force and beyond. I think an extra 30 minutes of run time (bringing it to the length of a “standard” Marvel movie) would have allowed this relationship to have been developed more fully, along with Dr Lawson’s important back-story.

The majority of the film is set on Earth with Veers/Danvers/Marvel (I think she has a few identity issues) teaming up with a young Nick Fury to stop a supposed Skrull invasion of the planet, which comes with a few twists – not only because the Skrulls are able to shapeshift into anything they see – “Can you become a filing cabinet?” “Why would I want to do that?”.

There’s plenty of humour – most of which comes from Nick Fury’s interaction with Goose the Cat (I wonder if the name is an homage to Goose in Top Gun), and in fact Goose steals most of the scenes he’s in and certainly made me look at my two cats with a sideward glance when I got home!

Jude Law gives a pretty average performance as Yon-Rogg – and there are reasons for this that I can’t divulge without giving out a big spoiler. It would have been nice for him to turn it up a notch in the final third of the film, instead I was left feeling like I was watching a young Albus Dumbledore in a Space Suit rather than one from Savile Row but it’s a passable performance (even if it lacks the necessary “oomph”).

The effects are pretty good although I think the majority of the budget went on de-aging Samuel L. Jackson and as a result a couple of the scenes of a glowing Captain Marvel in space are slightly ropy to say the least. This is only on the screen for a few seconds though so can be forgiven (and I hope not repeated in Avengers: Endgame).

Captain Marvel In Space

So, do I recommend the film – I certainly do! While the couple of plot “twists” were obvious to me almost from the start of the film I found it very enjoyable couple of hours and it’s not often I wish a film could have been longer.

Was it as good as Wonder Woman? Not quite. Given Wonder Woman’s 30 minute extra run time I felt it was able to explore that character a bit more than Captain Marvel, that being said Captain Marvel is still a great film and it’s wonderful to finally have a strong female role model in the MCU – Sorry Black Widow and Scarlet Witch, your background role antics just don’t cut it any more.

Aquaman

I’m going to try and make this review as fair as possible considering that the film was pretty much ruined for me. I booked in to the super-duper 2DX screen at my local cinema (of you’re not familiar it offers a 270-degree screen experience) which I thought would be fabulous with all the underwater scenes in Aquaman. Well, the technology is new and it decided to break down meaning that we watched the first 15 minutes of the film 3 times while they tried and failed to get the projector system up and running.

Because of the interruption, it took me a while to get back into the film and I was constantly keeping an eye on the time as I had another film booked later in the evening and it was looking increasingly like both films would clash due to the delay and I’d either have to leave early or get in late (both of which I hate to do).

Anyway, I concentrated the best I could and this is as unbiased as I can do!

The film starts with Tom Curry (Temuera Morrison) finding a woman washed up on the rocks at the bottom of his lighthouse. It turns out that the mysterious female is a Queen of Atlantis who has fled to avoid an arranged marriage. The unlikely pair fall in love and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) gives birth to a son who the name Arthur after a hurricane that’s raging out in the ocean.

While Arthur is still young, guards from Atlantis track down Atlanna and try to take her back. She fiercely fights them off (girls got some moves!) but realises that in order to keep Tom and their son safe she needs to leave but leaves her advisor Vulko to train Arthur in how to fight and what it means to be an Atlantean.

Fast forward a few years and Arthur (Jason Momoa) is now a big burly bloke that likes to have a few beers in a bar with his Dad and rescue submariners from pirates. It’s this confrontation that brings Arthur face-to-face with David Kane who will later become the Black Manta (no, I hadn’t heard of this D.C villain either) and vow revenge on Aquaman after his Father is killed in the submarine raid.

As well as Black Manta as a baddie in this film, we’re also introduced to sleazy Orm who wants to rule the underwater realm by uniting the sea clans using some rather suspect tactics. Plot twist: Orm is Arthur’s half-brother! Way to add a conflict plot point – that’s two boxes ticked!

Orm decides that he needs to get Arthur out of the way for his plan to succeed and launches a tidal wave to take him out, fortunately Princess Mera (Amber Heard) is on-hand to help save Arthur and his Dad so Arthur agrees to help thwart Orm’s plans. I’m not sure if the effects were good in this bit or not as the scenes were so dark that you couldn’t really see what was happening. This seems to be a bit of a recurring theme with films at the moment, if a scene is either difficult or the budget doesn’t quite stretch they make it take place at night so they can get away with shoddy CGI (more on that later).

The rest of the film is set in the underwater realm which is film in a cool and yet odd way. The floating hair is clever but the movement of the character’s bodies is a little off which I found somewhat disconcerting. There are also bubbles. A lot of bubbles. When there are any action sequences they roll out the bubbles so you can’t see a lot of what’s happening.

Part of the problem with this film is that it’s not quite sure what it should be. At one point Arthur turns into an Indiana Jones style character when he and Mera head off to find a lost spear, in other parts he’s almost a sulky teenager that wants nothing to do with his underwater heritage and in others he’s Aquaman, scourge of the underwater pirates.

I also think that having two villians in Orm and Black Manta is a bit much – one would have sufficed but they need to set up a sequel so they bung in an unnecessary character.

It’s not a bad film – it’s certainly 20,000 leagues (get it?) ahead of Batman vs Superman and The Justice League but it’s nowhere near Wonder Woman (despite what the box office figures might say).

Jason Momoa is good as Curry but his performance reminded me a lot of his character Ronon Dex in Stargate: Atlantis (ooooh…. Maybe he was Aquaman undercover and not an alien after all!), Patrick Wilson chews the scenery as King Orm but is perfectly suited to the role, Willem Defoe usually plays a bad guy so I was distracted quite a bit wondering when he’s turn nasty and Dolph Lungren is… well, Dolph Lungren.

I rated this film a 7 which is probably slightly higher than it deserves but I can’t give half-marks on my tracking app and didn’t want to mark it down unfairly.

Watch this film if you want to get away with watching a superhero film and your girlfriend is up for a chic flick.

Bumblebee

Bumblebee is an origin movie, but with a slight twist. Unlike most superhero origin films where they go right back to the very beginning of our hero’s story this one starts slap-bang in the middle of the war of Cybertron. The Decepticons appear to have the upper hand and Optimus Prime is sending the Autobots out into the galaxy where they can meet up later – all except for B-127 who is sent to Earth to prepare a forward base for the Autobots to regroup and find safety.

Unfortunately for B-127, his arrival on Earth immediately pits him against the U.S Military and a Decepticon who has followed him. During a battle with both forces, the Transformer barely escapes with his life and we are left unsure of his fate.

We then cut to our heroine, Charlie Watson (a girl by the way!), a typical teenager on the cusp of adulthood who hates to get up in the morning, put any deodorant on (apparently) and is a big fan of The Smiths (there’s no accounting for taste I suppose). Welcome to 1987, when we were allowed to ride mopeds with no helmets on but it was okay to wear headphones so we couldn’t hear any traffic, music came on tape and Judd Nelson was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Charlie is gifted a beat-up old VW Beetle as a birthday present from her Uncle Hank who waves her on her way with a smile while his friend comments what a death trap the car is. “I know,” he says, “but look at her, she’s happy!”

The great thing about setting this film so far in the past (Goodness that makes me feel old now!) is that there are fun cultural references that us “grown-ups” will get as well as letting the kids of today know how lucky they have it (they don’t have to listen to The Smiths for a start). It also means it’s not going to be stepping too much on the toes of the Transformer movies that came before it (or should that be after it?).

If this film had been made in 1987 then Charlie would have been a boy, the “love interest” would have been a hot blonde and not a geeky black guy with a cool Afro and the army probably would have saved the day. If that were the case then there would be really no point in making this movie as we had all of that with Shia Lebeouf and his Transformers movies. Thankfully though, with a female writer at the helm  (Christina Hodson who has written the Harley Quinn movie which I’m now really looking forward to thanks to her writing talent) the characters are handled exceptionally well and are rounded unlike the usual two-dimensional affairs films of this genre seem to offer us – even the Decepticons have some personality traits that are quite amusing.

Staying with amusement, this film has buckets of laughs – I can’t remember a recent film where I laughed pretty much from start-to-finish and the whole audience was chuckling away throughout, especially as Charlie tries to teach the newly named Bumblebee about music (he feels the same way about The Smiths as I do) and his obsession with The Breakfast Club is hilarious. That being said, make sure you take a couple of tissues with you as there are some truly touching moments where Charlie tries to deal with past losses and Bumblebee tries to comfort her without being able to speak.

I won’t spoil the plot too much but needless to say that the Decepticons are up to no good (“They literally call themselves ‘Decepticons’. That doesn’t set off any red flags?” asks Agent Burns in a humorously self-aware moment) and there are plenty of fight scenes. The good thing about this movie is that you can actually see the fights and what’s going on whereas I felt in past films it was all a bit hidden – that may be because there aren’t that many CGI characters in this film so the budget may have stretched to allow this.

I have to say that I think this is probably my favourite Transformer movie to date – although I think I’ll go back and watch the original 1984 transformers TV series and 1986 Movie as I’m not convinced they got the evacuation of Cybertron quite right!

Watch this film if your feeling a bit nostalgic and want to relive the 1980s (minus the bad hair) or teach the youth of today what a Walkman and decent music was.

Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse

Okay, so let’s be clear here: the Spider-Man universe is a bit of a mess as well as our “traditional friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man” there’s Spider-Cat, Spider-Monkey and even a zombie version – wow!

While Sony has always taken their ownership of Spider-Man quite seriously in the past, Marvel has a more light-hearted take on their property which comes across in this version and thankfully Sony are happy to go along with the ride.

The film starts with us meeting Miles Morales (Shameik Moore), a typical teenager who isn’t happy with going to a school for gifted children and would prefer to go spray graffiti with his Uncle than do his homework. It’s on one of these graffiti trips that Miles is bitten by a strange looking spider and his transition into becoming Spider-Man begins.

Of course, there can be only one Spider-Man and during a battle with Wilson Fisk Peter Parker’s Spider-Man is killed while Miles looks on helplessly, unsure of his new powers and certainly not in control of them.

All is not what it seems however, Parker’s death was caused when Fisk switched on his Super Collider which caused a rift in space-time and spider-characters from alternative universes are pulled in to Miles’ world and it’s up to him to help get them back home and defeat Fisk’s plans.

The fantastic thing about this film is the way it handles all of the different Spider-Characters it introduces, they all have an irreverent look at their origin stories including “that” strut

(They don’t talk about it apparently)

While we don’t see Spider-Cat or a zombie Spider-Man we do have Peter B. Parker – a washed up version of Spider-Man, Spider-Man Noir who is black & white and likes to punch Nazis, Spider-Woman who is a young Gwen Stacy, Peni Parker who’s a Japanese anime character and fights in a robot inhabited by her radioactive spider friend and…. wait for it…. Spider-Ham, a cartoon pig (they must have been on drugs when they came up with that one)!

All of the Spider-Folks join forces while Miles comes to terms with his new abilities and as he helps them to overcome their origin issues, they help him become a hero.

This animated film is brought to the screen by the team behind the Lego movie and they certainly bring the same sense of humor and fun to their take on the complicated world of Spider-Man.

The animation is great – I saw this in 3D and while I’m usually not a big fan of 3D films (a lot of them are a waste of time) this really worked well and I’d highly recommend seeing this in 3D if you can as it really adds to the way that the movie is presented on screen.

There are some wonderful little nods to the way that the comics are laid out, from Miles’ thoughts being shown on screen to a couple of Bams! and Aaaaaaahs! There’s also a cameo from Stan Lee which was very moving.

The soundtrack is also fantastic, it matches the tone of the film brilliantly and isn’t too over-powering or distracting which can be a problem with animated films.

You need to make sure you stay to the end of the credits as there’s a little Spidey song you need to hear plus two extra Spider-Men make an appearance in a rather amusing pastiche of the original 1967 cartoon. It’s a shame a cartoon Spider-Man couldn’t show up in the 1977 version of the TV show that I grew up watching (repeats of course!)

It’s nice to see a franchise that can embrace the silliness of some of their on and off screen attempts to reach all audiences and I would have given this film 10 out of 10 but I docked a point for them not using Spider-Ham enough (although Spider-Noir trying to learn colours was amusing).

Watch this film if you’re looking for something that’s really funny and need an alternative to all of the Christmas stuff that’s out at the moment – you don’t even need to know anything about the Spider-Man universe as it’s all explained for you!

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.

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.

The Meg

Before I start this review I have to hold my hand up and say I love movies like this – in fact, the cheesier the better!

The Meg is based on the book of the same name by Steve Altern but the film’s storyline differs greatly from the book (I do recommend the book, it’s a quick and easy read – perfect for the beach!).

The basic plot line is that a research submarine enters a “hidden” section of the Marianas Trench, it has an accident which leads Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham) to head up a rescue mission. When they’re returning to the surface they unwittingly allow a Megalodon (think Jaws on steroids) to escape and wreak havoc on the unsuspecting local population.

If you’re expecting slow tension building with jump-inducing scares as you’d find in Jaws then you’ll be disappointed. The Meg is a fast-paced action movie which, surprisingly, spends welcome time on character development but doesn’t have the leg-floating shocks of Jaws.

It’s a decent film with an interesting twist half-way through and I’m glad I saw in on the big screen so I could get the full scale of the Megalodons size, however for a shark film you don’t see as much of the creature as I would have liked.

It’s definitely worth a watch – and try to see it on a big screen if you can.

Ant-Man And The Wasp

Ant-Man And The Wasp takes place after the events in Captain America Civil War. Scott Lang is under house arrest for his part in the action in Germany (he was 65 feet tall so it’s not like he can pretend he wasn’t there) and only has a short while to go before he’s allowed out and about.

You don’t really need to have seen the first Ant-Man film in order to understand what’s going on – the plot’s relatively simple and self-explanatory: Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) are planning to rescue Hope’s mother from the quantum realm when a Ghostly attacker steals some important equipment that they need to complete the task.

Scott Lang gets involved after having a dream about Hope’s mother from which they deduce (in quite a big leap) that she imprinted something in Scott’s memory when he visited the quantum realm.

The scheduling of this film seems a bit strange considering Infinity War was released so recently and Ant-Man And The Wasp doesn’t reference it’s events until the post credits scene. Still, it was an enjoyable film but if you haven’t seen it yet you don’t have to panic about any Earth-shattering Infinity War revelations you might have missed out on.

It was nice to have another strong female hero added to the Marvel Universe in Lilly’s “Wasp” character (and she can certainly kick butt!) and the “Ghost” character (played by Hannah John-Kamen) was good, if a little underused.

This is probably one of the weakest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it was still an enjoyable couple of hours – I’d certainly recommend it if you’re a Marvel fan or if you have a teenage daughter who needs to see that there are female heros out there too.

The Spy Who Dumped Me

The Spy Who Dumped me centres around Audrey (Mila Kunis) and her madcap friend Morgan (Kate Mckinnon). Audrey’s recently been dumped by her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) who, unbeknown to her, is a spy and has left an important item in her flat for safe-keeping.

Drew makes a surprise return to Audrey’s flat which kicks off an amusing set of events that sees her and Morgan travelling to Europe to fulfill Drew’s mission.

I wasn’t expecting a lot from this film – I had a feeling that all of the best bits had been shown in the trailer and the rest of the film would just be filler around these scenes – how wrong I was!

Kunis shows great comic timing as the downtrodden Audrey who slowly realises that she doesn’t need a man and can cope on her own and Mckinnon is hilarious as the weirdly wacky Morgan.

For a comedy, the film is quite violent so should be avoided by those with a sensitive disposition but the action sequences are well handled and provide laughs in all the right places.

I highly recommend this film – it’s worth the price of admission just to see the trapeze fight scene!