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What I thought of… Man Up #movie #review

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This week I saw Man Up.

This is another movie that I’d been putting off watching, mainly because

a) sometimes Simon Pegg movies ain’t all that great (I think he set the bar quite high with Shaun of the Dead) and

b) the title was putting me off. It really is a terrible title.

But you know what, terrible title aside, it was great! Dialogue, plot, casting, direction… all good.

At least I thought so.

Which is why I was surprised to discover that The Guardian absolutely slated it, giving it a paltry one star, and even referring to Lake Bell’s British accent as merely ‘passable’. Passable!? Until I watched the extras I genuinely had no idea that she wasn’t a born and bread Londoner!

The general gist of the film is this: Nancy (played by Lake Bell) is 34, single, and a combination of slightly desperate mixed with really can’t be arsed with it all.

On the way to her parents 40th Wedding anniversary she finds herself standing underneath the clock on Waterloo Station when 40-something Jack (played by Simon Pegg) mistakes her for his blind date. Caught between that awkward moment of will you shut up and let me explain that I’m not your date and this is the closest I’ve got to a proper date in months, Nancy makes the bonkers decision not to set Jack straight… and so starts the best date of her life.

Now if that sounds far fetched perhaps I should come clean and point out that I have, on more than one occasion, arranged to meet blind dates on Waterloo station, and like Jack, I have approached women who I mistakenly thought might be the woman I was due to meet.

Anyway – as for the rest of the movie, well it’s true that the film does lose its way in a couple of places (basically when Rory Kinnear’s character rocks up – shame, I like Rory Kinnear), but as soon as we’re past that point the story manages to get itself back on track, and hurtles towards the slightly predictable, but still hugely enjoyable, conclusion.

Still not sure about the title though.

Anyway, what did you think?


This just in… 

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What I thought of…. Passengers #movie #review

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So I finally got to see Passengers.

I originally wanted to see this movie at the cinema because, from the trailer at least, it looked like my kind of flick combining two of my favourite subjects in fiction; science & technology, and romantic relationships.

But then the reviews started rolling in and every one I dared to glance at suggested that the film, whilst good, was also a disappointment – specifically ‘the ending’. And the last thing you want to feel as you walk out of the cinema is ‘disappointed’.

So I bumped Passengers to my ‘when it comes out on DVD’ list, and yesterday, finally, it made it to the the top. And can I just say… what film were those reviewers watching!??

Firstly, it’s not quite the lovey-dovey, explodey-wodey, romance-in-space slash adventure-popcorn-fest that I thought it would be. It’s quite a lot smarter than that. It starts funny, moves to heartwarming, but half way through the film I found myself nervously biting my nails and genuinely wondering if the so-called unsatisfactory ending was going to be a lot darker and more sinister than I would have liked. It’s a movie that doesn’t want to fit comfortably in one genre.

I won’t spoil it for you, but here’s the back-of-the-box blurb (or at least, how I would have written it) because the trailer, whilst good, is REALLY misleading: Jim Preston (played by Chris Pratt) is one of 5000 passengers on a 120 year one-way trip to Earth’s newest, and most distant, colony. But when the ship (on auto pilot) encounters unexpected problems, a computer malfunction results in Jim – and just Jim – being brought out of hyper sleep 90 years too early. After a year of going steadily out of his mind trying everything he can to either wake the crew, or figure out how to get back in his pod, he comes to the conclusion that there are only two remaining options: Jettison himself out of the airlock without a spacesuit, or wake someone to be his companion, thereby condemning someone else to a similar fate.

It’s brilliant: Cracking performances throughout, fabulous special effects, completely believable and most importantly of all… a fantastic plot. INCLUDING the ending, which in my mind was just perfect. Honestly, I don’t see how it could have been better.

But maybe you disagree. Post your thoughts in the comments below – including perhaps the ending you would have liked to have seen.


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What I thought of… King Kong (2005) #movie #review

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So apparently there’s another King Kong movie.

Well WHAT A RELIEF! I mean, there was I breaking into a cold sweat wondering if the powers that be had run out of movie ideas or if they were going to be forced to remake ‘Spider Man’ for the umpteenth time… oh wait.

Anyway, it was whilst I was having this very conversation with a friend of mine that I was reminded that the last King Kong movie, in 2005, was really rather good – a point which I was unable to dispute because somehow I never saw it. So, I punched up my LoveFilm app and rented it right away, (first person to mention NetFlix gets a slap) – and a week or so later I was watching Jack Black lark about with an oversized monkey. Here’s what I thought of the movie (warning: this review contains some spoilers):

It’s too darn long.

Jeepers it’s long. Honestly, there are times when I wondered whether it was EVER going to end, and I think part of the reason it feels so drawn out (although this isn’t just a feeling, it is 3hrs+) is because at times King Kong is nothing more than a dull monster flick.

A common problem with films of today, in my humble opinion, is that they spend too long on fight sequences, car chases and special effects. It’s as if filmmakers find themselves struggling to spend the zillion pound budget they’ve acquired, and so they shoe horn in another explosion, or a few more more car crashes, or something else to go whizz bang pow. But the thing is, we’ve seen it before – 1,000 times! In 3D! And in Dolby Stereo! Even back in 2005! That stuff isn’t impressive any more! Get on with the bloody story!

In Kong’s case, there are long drawn out sequences where Peter Jackson (director) actually seems to have forgotten all about Kong and Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) preferring instead to concentrate on the other characters and yet another run in with more dinosaurs or overgrown bugs. Which would be absolutely fine if this were Jurrassic Park, because that’s the point of Jurassic Park, but this is King Kong! The clue is in the title.

In fact, now that we’ve mentioned Jurassic Park, there were moments when I caught myself thinking WWSD (What Would Spielberg Do). There’s a scene for instance when Carl Denham (Jack Black) drops his camera and loses all the footage he’s been filming. It’s a pivotal point in the story, and it’s over in a heart beat. Whoops – dropped my camera – bugger. Now, were Spielberg in the directors chair that camera would have rolled down a hill, fallen through a crack in the ground formed by an earthquake, and after being tossed in the air by a passing dinosaur, it would end up hanging on a flimsy branch by its shoulder strap, inches from Carl’s finger tips. But he can’t quite reach, and he’s forced to crawl his way along the branch, on his belly, 150 feet above a river of flowing lava, and just as his fingers touch the strap… well you get the idea.

One thing Spielberg wouldn’t have done is forget about the relationship between Ann and Kong, which is the WHOLE POINT of the story. But somehow, despite the film being over THREE HOURS LONG, we barely scratch the surface of what is, in essence, a story of the world’s most unlikely romance.

Two other things bugged me; Jack Black seems wrong for the role. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still excellent, but somehow not villainous enough. And that’s my second beef. The villain doesn’t get his come uppance! So he loses his monster on the opening night of his show. Big deal! WWSD? He’d have had Carl standing on the sidewalk, looking up, when the hairy one eventually falls from the Empire State building, and… squish.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s the best over-sized gorilla love-story remake of our generation, and the new one will feel like a half-hearted rip-off. Have your say in the comments below…

(Trailers for the 2005 film, AND the new 2017 film below)

And now compare with this year’s offering…

What I thought of… Money Monster #movie #review

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You know when you add something to your Love Film list and then it arrives and you’re all like, ‘why did I order this?’, and the DVD kind of sits in your living room for days and days, sometimes weeks, until eventually you force yourself to give it ten minutes!? No? Just me then?

Anyway, that’s what happened with MONEY MONSTER. Despite having George Clooney in it, I had zero desire to watch the film and almost put it back in the post unwatched.

There were two things putting me off.

Firstly it has Julia Roberts in it. Now don’t get me wrong, Julia Roberts is a very accomplished actress. Every film I have ever seen her in was, I admit, good. Sometimes it was very good. But there’s something about the woman I find off putting. There’s a part of my psyche that says she’s a wrong-un, and this is despite having seen her in interview several times where I have been shocked to notice how nice she seems.

The second off putting thing about this film is the poster. What does this say to you? To me it says this is a film that’s gritty, hard hitting, devoid of humour, and probably difficult to get your head around – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because The Big Short is really hard to get your head around, but totally worth the effort, whereas this looks like it might be 90 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back.

How wrong I was.

It’s marvellous. Just marvellous. Directed by Jodie Foster (I wish I’d realised that whilst i was agonising over whether to watch it), it tells the story of what happens when a disgruntled amateur share dealer decides to storm onto the set of a popular money-markets TV show and wielding a pistol, and a vest lined with explosives, demands ‘justice’ for losing his life savings on the stock market due to the poor advice offered by the show’s host, Lee Gates (George Clooney). The NYPD hostage guy turns out to be completely incompetent, and it’s down to TV Producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) to direct the show of her career.

It’s gripping, funny, believeable, thought provoking, and above all hugely enjoyable. And as Jodie Foster says in the DVD extras, it’s the sort of film that has you talking long after the final credits roll.

Have you seen it? Feel free to let me know what you thought in the comments below.

What I thought of… Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them #movie #review

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FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

It’s been a while since I did a ‘what I thought of’ blog post, so yesterday – as part of a Boxing Day – I toddled off to the cinema to see JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Now, I probably ought to mention at this point that I’m not a huge fan of the Harry Potter films (though I read the first three books before they started making the movies). The films are okay. I mean, I’d happily watch two and three again anytime, the others… well they were a bit of a yawn fest. Especially the last one. IMHO. Sorry about that.

*This* on the other hand was an absolutely delight, and if it had been twice as long I’d have sat there as happy as a pig in muck.

Interestingly, as I left the cinema, I came to the conclusion that although it doesn’t seem like it at the beginning, the whole film is a little light on plot. Sure, there’s a big swirly thing tearing up New York, there are magical monsters running amok, there’s a small group of stern looking people who’ve just about had it up to here with the Witch/Wizarding community, and there’s a non–magical person caught up in the middle of it all… but… well… it’s not quite as involved as it may appear. There’s the odd *twist* but you can see them coming a mile off (and I speak as someone who was genuinely surprised by the ending of Sixth Sense when everybody else I know seemed to think that was obvious from the beginning). But it doesn’t really matter; the characters are lovely, the dialogue is tight, the effects are amazing, and the magical creatures are fabulous – it’s all good. I look forward to the next one.

But what did you think? Have your say in the comments below.

What I thought of… Tomorrowland #movie #review

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A few nights ago I unplugged from the world, sat down in front of the TV, and watched Tomorrowland.

It’s a hugely enjoyable kids film – full of jet-packs, flying cars, androids, steampunk gadgets… In many ways it has the feel of 80’s movies like Back To The Future, or Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but whilst those films are classic enjoyable nonsense, Tomorrowland has at its core a much more interesting premise.

Though it takes far too long to get there, Tomorrowland eventually asks the audience this intriguing question;

Do we live in despair and fear
because the world is a terrible place

…or is the world a terrible place
because we live in despair and fear?

There’s a moment in Tomorrowland where the villain, played by the excellent Hugh Laurie, says these sad words;

“In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it. And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. You dwell on this terrible future and you resign yourselves to it for one reason; because that future doesn’t ask anything of you today.”

As it happens these are ideas that I’ve been thinking about and playing with for a few months now in my ongoing pursuit of happiness. I’m yet to draw any solid conclusions – at least not ones that I’m ready to share – but I suspect that if I ever write a follow up to How To Do Everything And be Happy, well, there’s a good chance those thoughts will form the basis of the book.

In the meantime however I leave you with these wise words from Casey Newton, heroine of Tomorrowland, played by Britt Robertson.

There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope. The question is… which wolf wins?

The one you feed.

What I thought of… Photograph 51 #theatre #review

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Last night was fortunate enough to see Nicole Kidman in Anna Ziegler’s play Photograph 51 at the Noël Coward Theatre. And wow. Ninety minutes or so of theatrical magic as a cast of six tell the story of the structure of DNA was discovered – which I admit might sound a little dull side, were it not *also* the story of how of scientist Rosalind Franklin was cheated out of this ground breaking discovery by four overly ambitious male colleagues.

Or was she?

Well that’s for the audience to decide.

My only criticism – if I have one – was the ‘narration’, delivered throughout the performance by the male characters, as though they were discussing how they remembered past events. It was an interesting device but at times it seemed intrusive, as if there was just too much… but as I thought about it afterwards I wondered whether perhaps the cast who were just so strong, and so adept at non-verbal communication with their audience, that they’d managed to render some of the narration superfluous. If I’d been the director I think I’d have been tempted to cut a few lines… but maybe that’s not how big theatre works.

Anyway – if you get a chance to see it before it ends… grab it with both hands.