*NEW* THOR: RAGNAROK REVIEW *NEW*

Just as ridiculous as the film title but bloody good fun all the same.

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk (CGI’d Mark Ruffalo), his former ally. Fighting for survival and racing against time, Thor must prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

When I first heard the director’s name (Taika Waititi), my first thoughts were: “What a strange name” and then I actually did some research and couldn’t believe my luck.

Count Viago from What We Do in the Shadows?! (A heavy recommendation if you haven’t seen it already). I should have known what to expect.

One mad rollercoaster ride of hilarity, neon, colour and 80s fusion, of course.

Marvel have really hit their stride (*cough* DC *cough*) and seem to have a winning formula.

To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with the first Avengers movie or Captain America (What?! Sorry) BUT I loved Kenneth Branagh’s introduction of Thor. The Shakespearean King Lear melodrama between the feuding brothers. Hiddleston, Hemsworth, Hopkins, Portman. Perfect.

Thor: The Dark World was a mixed bag. Failing to deliver the right balance of laughs and drama. I was intrigued to see what tone Thor’s third outing would take. The more comical route did have its flaws BUT I was too busy having fun.

And there were still some touching moments (as well as revelations) to be had between Thor and his father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins).

Even if it was a little sillier and the story line a tad predictable, Waititi and co made up for it with memorable characters, stellar turns, humour and heart.

It’s hard not to mention one actor, in particular when praising supporting characters. I’m sure you’ve seen the endless memes, gifs and tweets.

Jeff Goldblum.

You can’t help but smile at the guy. His larger than life bohemian approach fitted the role of the Grandmaster perfectly. My only grumble? He wasn’t in it enough.

Tessa Thompson was fantastic as the embittered Valkyrie. Disillusioned and drinking her sorrows out of a bottle. Her stubborn demeanour worked well off the confused Thor.

Cate Blanchett lapped up the role of Hela with aplomb. Despite being pushed into the background far too much; she still managed to make a stern adversary to the Viking god.

Karl Urban (An underrated actor) was hilarious as Skurge. Just wait until he introduces his accomplices Des and Troy. Brilliant.

I was getting a little fed up of Loki and Thor’s fractious fraternal relationship. But this latest foray forced the pair into an uneasy alliance and somebody must have heard me because there was even a gag in which Thor tells Loki that he’s waiting for the next betrayal. A running gag that delivered in buckets.

It helped that Hiddleston and Hemsworth worked well together yet again.

BUT the main duo I was interested in was . . .

Only kidding. Well, not entirely. Waititi even managed to give himself a little cameo as the bumbling bouldered bad ass that was Korg. He had me in stitches. Stealing every scene he featured in.

Anyway, the real duo that made it for me was Thor and Hulk. I loved the dynamic between them. I haven’t really rated Hulk’s multiple reincarnations (Sorry, Team Bana all day) and was unimpressed with Ruffalo. THAT WAS UNTIL Ragnarok.

He nailed Banner and brought a little character and humanity to the green giant.

The only problem with bringing new characters into the mix was that somebody had to take the hit. The absence of Portman and Dennings was missed and Idris Elba was reduced to measly filler sequences. Don’t get me wrong, he still bossed it BUT a waste of a character and an actor.

I will commend how all the silly little clips, that hardcore Marvel fans have endured begrudgingly through endless credits (thanking everyone from the make up assistant’s make up assistant to the chap who brings the coffee), have finally come into play. Most notably with a caped dimension bender (Probably not the best description).

This installment has certainly kept things fresh and fun and spiced things up for the upcoming projects.

Despite my nitpicking, I wasn’t bored. It was entertaining, if a little silly in places BUT had everything you could expect from a big superhero movie. Mad action, fantastic effects, great characters with the right injection of fun.

3.5/5

*How could I forget to commend the soundtack?! I will amend that error by leaving this classic track that welcomed our favourite Norse God to the mix. Enjoy!

 

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*NEW* BILL REVIEW *NEW*

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The Horrible Histories team hit the big screen at last! Shame, it didn’t live up to the hype.

What really happened during Shakespeare’s ‘Lost Years’? Hopeless lute player Bill Shakespeare (Matthew Baynton) leaves his home to follow his dream.

“A time of war and plague. BUT mainly war”. From the opening credits, I knew what I was in for. A silly adventure. Not a bad thing by any means. BUT it was always going to suffer tough comparisons to the award winning BBC TV show Horrible Histories. Which tragically it falls short of.

“People will remember the name Shakespeare . . . Twenty years from now”.

Matthew Baynton was great as Shakespeare. Bumbling and baffling away as he desperately tries to hone in his craft. Well, whatever craft he decides to be interested in at the time to avoid getting a job. Martha Howe-Douglas played the part of Shakespeare’s long suffering wife well as she endures another crazy whim as Bill seeks London for fame and fortune.

I couldn’t believe that Damian Lewis had a cameo as Sir Richard Hawkins. Professional thief and “royal pain in the bum hole”. The only problem was that his character didn’t really do anything and spent the rest of the movie in a cell. Shame. Helen McCrory may have looked the part as Queen Elizabeth I. Hideously caked in make up BUT she wasn’t really that memorable or funny for that matter.

The real stars was the Histories team yet again. Simon Farnaby used to annoy me in the series BUT I have to say he was fantastic as the neglected Earl of Crawley (Croydon!). Jim Howick was superb as Christopher Marlowe. His inability to deliver a “Your mum” joke was hilarious. Uttering a gag at all the wrong times and in the completely wrong context.

Ben Willbond was brilliant as King Phillip II of Spain. He camped it up a treat. He stole the scene every time. In one moment, the mad monarch was slaying oranges with his sword. A lady in waiting asks him the score. And with a bemused grin, he looks to the camera and simply says, “Juice”.

It was easygoing fun watching Bill get thrown out of his lute band Mortal Coil. His extreme lute solo was hilarious. His introduction to London was very Pythonesque. It was gritty and filthy with people being mugged, stabbed or gobbing on the streets. Delightful. The “Bring Out Your Dead” joke in full flair. The collector even tries to take one of Bill’s mates in an “emotional farewell” after being stabbed.

The bum jokes and endless slapstick gags delivered the odd chuckle BUT it soon got repetitive. Once you seen one peasant hit on the head with a stick, you seen it all. However, the pace did drop in places. For every good gag, there were several duds.

I loved the kid friendly Python vibe from the Earl of Croydon using his own servant as a human shield to evade mugging to King Phillip’s check-in at customs on the beaches of Dover. Cracking stuff.

The closing moments were very hit and miss. The series of unfortunate misunderstandings musical number was a bit of a dud. While the little Shakespeare references were spot on. “Tis the play that’s the thing. You know. Bling and ting”.

I can’t believe I’m saying this BUT it all got a little too silly for my liking. I know that this was a kids film BUT what I liked about Horrible Histories was the fact that it could amuse anyone. The gags, especially in the finale, were definitely aimed more at the little ‘uns.

Once Prince Philip had revealed himself with his fake mustache over his real tash for the umpteenth time, I could feel my eyes wondering to the little hands on the clock. Too patchy. Very much like their Sky puppet show Ponderland.

It was just a shame that the transition from 30 minute TV specials to 90 minute features may have been a bridge too far. BUT fans of the HH franchise and newbies will still enjoy this mad little movie. Maybe it was a case of too high an expectation for me.

3/5

JUPITER ASCENDING REVIEW

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The only place this film is ascending in is my Worst Films of 2015 list.

Messy Matrix effects + a moody Mila = one moaning movie goer.

I always felt the Wachowskis never could reach the bar they set with The Matrix. The sequels; Reloaded and Revolutions were superb in visual and action set pieces but pace and plot? Meh.

I admired their execution of Cloud Atlas even if it was a bit of a mess. The pace and the disjointed story lines didn’t deliver for me.

Now we have Jupiter Ascending. The thought of a Matrix reboot may not be so bad if the guys will stop doing films like this.

A little harsh. It certainly zipped along for its 127 minute length BUT the story made no sense and had more holes than a sponge. And the cast?! My God. They must have been paid a lot of wonga to take on these poorly written characters.

*WARNING* RANT MAY CONTAIN POSSIBLE SPOILERS*

So what’s it about? In a bright and colourful future, a young destitute caretaker (Mila Kunis) gets targeted by the ruthless son (Eddie Redmayne) of a powerful family who lives on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior (Channing Tatum) to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign.

What?!

From the corny opening, I could feel myself wincing. Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors) and James D’Arcy (Broadchurch) had enough chemistry to make it bearable as they fall in love. Inevitably leading to Jupiter’s conception.

It is only as the film concluded that I realised that the first 10-15 minutes were completely unnecessary and contributed nothing to the story. Only why Kunis’s character is called Jupiter.

D’Arcy’s father figure was prepared to risk his life with some ultra-violent burglars for a golden telescope. The relevance of said telescope in the film? A cryptic map to the universe? A weapon? No, just something really nice and shiny.

The whole ironic illegal “alien” and actual alien status surrounding Jupiter was a nice touch. We soon get a sense of her hum drum routine as a fed up maid. While in a galaxy far, far – No, Saturn. We have the intergalactic royal siblings (played by Douglas Booth, Eddie Redmayne and Tuppence Middleton) squabbling over their inheritance. Their inheritance being planets of the solar system. The most precious, of course, being Earth.

After his Oscar winning turn as Stephen Hawking in A Theory of Everything, I had high hopes for Mr. Redmayne. BUT boy, oh, boy. This is a step down. Razzie well and truly deserved. He must have been trying to do his best (well, worst) Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg impression from The Fifth Element.

Certainly got the haircut. His gravelly gangly master villain was something I expected to see in a pantomine. His volatile behaviour was laughable. At one point, he has a fit of rage that mimicked Delia Smith at that infamous Norwich game.

And she still delivered that with much more gusto. Granted she had way ti many martoonis. To make matters worse, he was virtually absent throughout the film, dispensing his Paul-esque alien henchmen to do his bidding or shrieking on a sofa.

The squabbling royal family had heavy Shakespearean undertones BUT it was hard to take it seriously with Booth and Tuppleton camping it up to the max. The whole solar system as their playground subplot seemed to dampen what could have been a darker affair.

There was a revelation halfway through the film that made things a little more interesting BUT there were still too many issues.

Channing Tatum did his best as the mystery genetically spliced bounty hunter. I’m sure ladies will be happy to see him roller blading in anti-gravity boots with his shirt off for nearly half the film.

There was little chemistry between him and Kunis BUT I got to admit I found Kunis quite weak in the leading role. I know it didn’t help with weak jokes and hammy dialogue. BUT she didn’t deliver any of them with conviction. Too laid back and flat for my liking. I mean her reaction when she is surrounded by bees was worse than Marky Mark talking to a plastic plant in The Happening.

BUT she did look stunning in a bin liner. No, seriously. She wears a dress that looks like a bin liner. Must have spent the budget on the lavish sets. Because it weren’t on the clothes or the writers.

The special effects were, to be expected, superb. The 3D was a little lacklustre for the ticket price. I’m surprised cinemas are still bothering with this silly little gimmick.

The chase sequences were intense. However, they seemed to go on far too long and there was too much going on that it was a little disorienting. And by the end, the animation was so cartoony that it killed off some of the action.

It may have looked good BUT the story was a mess. For every question I had, it was eventually explained but the answer was so ridiculous that I had even more questions. BUT by the end, I couldn’t care less.

I mean there were scenes in which the siblings were controlling ships from their bathing pools? Why? Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s big ears? What up with that? Sean Bean’s space cop and, for some reason, bee keeper mumbling some mumbo jumbo about the history of the universe.

Or should I say, Sean Bee-n (A-ha! I’ll get my coat). Why the bees? Some rubbish about bees detecting royalty. WHAT? The more Sharp explained, the more I switched off. It just got sillier and sillier that it killed the fun and made me a little numb. I was more surprised that Bean managed to survive his movie curse!

Even Tatum’s back story surrounding the origin of his albino werewolf alien hybrid just put me into a mini coma. It just felt that it had too many ideas meshed together with none of them really working.

The creatures that featured in the universe (Well, Jupiter. I think it was Jupiter? And Earth) were brilliantly constructed. An action packed crop chasing sequence that rivalled Signs silenced my nagging voice until a lame punch line involving crop circles was delivered.

The bureaucracy segment in which Kunis must register her “royalty entitlement” in an intergalactic DMV with a robot that could trump C-3P0 in a robo-camp off just didn’t fit with the tone of the film and went on far too long.

The only explanation I could find for it was the surprise cameo from the legendary Terry Gilliam. A sight for sore eyes. Wachowskis trying to do a Brazil reference? If so, don’t do it again.

I know these sort of things are done with a level of exaggeration BUT it helps to have characters you care about. That’s half the battle. The other stuff could be as stupid as you like BUT alas, it was not to be.

It was all rushed and resolved so cheesily and predictably. Hinting for another like all the endless teen sci-fi flicks. But hopefully no one will take the hint.

2/5

WILD REVIEW

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Did Reese Witherspoon’s performance drive me wild with praise or RAGE?

The director of Dallas Buyers Club returns with another Oscar contender but can lightning strike twice?

Right, enough questions.

Not bad at all.

I had mixed feelings about Reese Witherspoon. I mean, Legally Blonde? No, no, no.

That was until her Oscar winning turn in Walk The Line. A complete transformation. And she delivers yet again with another solid performance.

So what’s it all about? Wild is basically a chronicle of one woman’s 1,100-mile solo hike (Short and sweet. Hey, no spoilers here).

Jean-Marc Vallee takes on another biopic but this time it just doesn’t quite feel as polished off as Dallas Buyers Club.

Understandably, they are completely different films BUT I found DBC had a lot more story and depth. This is a certainly an engaging if slow burning journey of one woman trying to find herself BUT it just doesn’t quite reach the heights that you expect.

Yves Belanger returns to deliver a visual masterpiece. The cinematography really made use of the locations.  A beautiful backdrop full of life and colour in one shot, desolate and dreary the next.

Witherspoon has more than enough screen presence to keep the film going. Crucial when she’s the main character that we are following for the next two hours!

The film flicks back and forth through Cheryl Strayed’s past as she embarks on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Vallee and Hornby cleverly juxtapose the flashbacks with the past and present well. Revealing Strayed’s demons and darker moments as the journey becomes more strenuous. The challenge continuing to test her by the day.

The inner monologues from Strayed were a nice touch. Some of her one liners were quite funny; “Morning. Cold mush. Afternoon. Cold mush. Evening. Cold mush. I love cold mush.”

Her initial struggle was quite humourous for any amateur hiker (*Cough* Me* Cough*). Wrestling with her monster backpack, failing to set up her tent, buying the wrong gas canister for her cooker.

The pace worked for the majority of the film as Strayed dealt with the ever-changing temperatures; searing heat in the desert to the sub-zero temperatures of the snowfall that was never supposed to hit.

There were some interesting revelations. Some that did surprise me. Others you could suss. As Cheryl delved further into the wild, you couldn’t help but feel an air of unease and suspense. The wildlife creeping in the dark.

The paranoia of the unknown made for a funny incident involving a caterpillar and a sleeping bag. BUT it also made for a tense one. A pair of hunters make an unpleasant and unwelcome appearance.

I loved some of the metaphorical imagery. The fact Cheryl is literally standing in the middle of a crossroads as she debates hitching a ride all the way back home was hardly subtle but nicely done.

The CGI fox was a little irritating. I mean, it was a nice moment when it first appeared but when it kept popping up, it was irritating and the CGI seemed to get worse.

Strayed certainly meets a strange bunch of characters. The only problem is that they aren’t quite as memorable as you hope them to be.

I actually had to do a quick recap by looking at the cast list. A shame.

Thomas Sadoski (The Newsroom) was very good as Paul (Cheryl’s estranged partner). I thought Sadoksi and Witherspoon had great chemistry. It would have been nice to see more of their relationship. I mean the flashbacks zip through the life cycle of the relationship quite well but a little too quickly for my liking.

Laura Dern did a good performance as Strayed’s mum, Bobbi but Oscar worthy? I’m not so sure.

She certainly played the part well and I felt for her character in the small flashbacks she appeared in BUT then again let’s not forget that Dame Judi Dench won Best Supporting Actress for Shakespeare in Love and she was only in that for 8 minutes!

However, there was one scene in which Bobbi just breaks down after hiding behind her scatty, smiley mask for so long and Dern was outstanding. But I wanted more. There just wasn’t enough of that in the film for me.

The more I thought about the story line and the characters Strayed came across, it reminded me a little too much of Sean Penn’s brilliant travel biopic (coincidentally titled) Into the Wild. The beautiful landscapes, the flashbacks, a likeable lead (in Emile Hirsch).

I mean, even the whole “meeting different people who share their stories” spiel bared a striking resemblance (but with more memorable characters). If you were unlucky not to see this; first go see it and second, Wild may fare a bit better for you than it did for me.

BUT to those who have seen the Penn pic, you may find it hard not to make comparisons which Wild falls just a little bit short.

My main qualm about the film was that despite dipping in pace, it just ended so abruptly.

A quick quote and a summary of what happened next. That’s it?! We didn’t even get to see Strayed finish the trail properly.

I just felt after all that time, it would have been nice to have a few more minutes flashing through Strayed’s life after this spiritual journey to let it come full circle.

I won’t spoil anything but as Strayed explains her life in the closing speech, I couldn’t help but notice a massive continuity error with the time frame in which the events leading up and after her trail were supposed to have happened. It just didn’t add up.

It was a bum note on a well acted and highly watchable drama.

Witherspoon certainly does enough to warrant that Oscar nod but Best Actress? I don’t know.

But if you want a well acted spiritual journey flick to break up the hum drum heading our way, then invest.

3/5

*THROWBACK REVIEW* MR PEABODY AND SHERMAN

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Nothing to bark home about. (What? If you’re tutting at that, then this film is not for you. If you tutted but had a cheeky little grin, then this might be). Enough hi-jinks and 3D animation to keep the children wagging their tails but it’s hardly a rollicking family movie.

It’s not all bad and to be honest, it jumps straight into the action with Mr. Peabody (voiced brilliantly by Ty Burrell or Phil Dunphy from Modern Family BUT less annoying) making a brief introduction about his numerous achievements from birth, after being neglected for being unique (the usual spiel). His greatest challenge, however, was adopting seven year old Sherman.

We join the dynamic duo on a time travelling escapade, basking it up in the 18th Century French Revolution before its inevitable uprising. It zips along, the 3D is actually quite good with the swords and spears pointing out of the screen. The one liners are guilty pleasures, silly but funny pun gags.

One particular guilty chuckle was during a zany escape attempt from the guillotine that is as bonkers as the Sherlock fall. Mr Peabody delivers the punch line, “The best thing to do is be calm and keep your head”.

However, this is all thrown aside as Sherman attends his first day of school. And before you know it, he’s in a fight with a bully. Twist, the bully is a girl named Penny (voiced by Ariel Winters or interestingly Alex Dunphy from Modern Family). This leads to the gruesome child protection services officer Mrs Grunion (Mom’s Allison Janney), who bears some deep resentment towards dogs owning children. She threatens to take Sherman away.

In attempt to prevent the pair being torn apart (Aww. Yuck) Peabody invites Penny and her parents over for dinner. Penny and Sherman inevitably refuse to get along. That is until, against Peabody’s wishes, Sherman introduces her to the Way Back (time machine).

The pod looks exactly like the one from Free Birds. This film may not be great but it’s better than that turkey (What?). However, the jokes are few and far between. And the overall story is the same old guff. The time travel sequences end up visiting all the obvious famous figures, Shakespeare (check), Van Gogh (check), Da Vinci (check) – cue a highly predictable gag about the real reason behind Mona Lisa’s smile.

It seems like the movie ran out of gas by the hour mark and threw the lazy plot device of the time machine’s power being drained so they have to stop at random points of time. In all fairness, the 14th Century Florence skit with Stanley Tucci’s Da Vinci wasn’t too bad and his creepy child machine was very weird but funny. The ruse that Mona Lisa was all for tourist promotion wasn’t bad.

However, there is the usual cheesy father/son/dog/pup spats and brewing, if unnecessary, romance between Penny and Sherman. OTT slapstick and silly gags. However, after the hour, the film does find another gear and revs up to a mad timey wimey finale. The Troy sequence was hilarious with the testerone-pumped dimwits led by Agamemnon, voiced expertly by Patrick Warburton (Joe from Family Guy). The comparisons between their weird family upbringings was a surprise and one for the adults. “Don’t get me started on Oedipus. You do not want to go round there at Thanksgiving”.

The timey wimey stuff made it more interesting once they start breaking up the space time continuum and the past goes back to the present but it all got ridiculous with the inevitable cheesy, corny happy ending. Watchable, brilliant visuals, if predictable guff. Shame considering the talent; I mean come on, Mel Brooks, Dennis Haysbert, Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann! Enough for the little ones but the bigger kids will be fidgeting . . . towards the exit door.

2.5/5 for me