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Monday: Late again,today, he'd be in trouble though he'd say he was sorry
 

 

This is a new addition to the website, I intend to put reviews of books, films, TV, Gigs, Albums and so on.  To start it off, I've put a few reviews of films from 2016

 

Not So Fantastic Beasts

30th December

 

This was awful.

 

One of my more perceptive students said he was looking forward to this film because he'd grown up with Harry Potter and expected this to be the adult incarnation that could carry him into his adult life.  He said he'd found it childish.

 

I thought there was a lt more wrong with it.

 

For starters, it always felt like a film, but the main problem was a lack of quality in the writing.

 

The complete lack of imagination was mind boggling.  He had a box that was bigger on the inside, for instance.  I'm sure I've heard that somewhere before.  There was little characterisation and the story was trivial and poorly paced.  It felt like the writers had started to write with no idea where the story was going, which might be workable for a series of novels with a cult following but isn't a way to work for a multi-million dollar movie franchise.

 

And it clearly is a francise.  The late appearance of Johnny Depp as Grinewald and the bit parts for some other big name actors suggest there's more to come.  I've just looked it up on the Information Super Carriageway, there's four sequels already in the works.

 

In fact, the whole thing felt like the pilot for a new TV series that I might have actually watched.  Having said that, I never really watched Sanctuary and that was better thought out than this.  And remember, this was a big budget movie and the start of a new series within the universe of an existing franchise and with that in mind, two words.

 

Epic Fail.

 

Rogue One

17th December

 

I enjoyed this film - after a fashion.

 

The problem is, it feels like a film.  The acting is great (particularly

 

Also, it's dark.  Not just darker in tone (I'm not going to tell you the ending) but very sparsely lit.  Star Wars is very bright future (past?) in many ways.  The rebels should not be doing bad things and if they are, we should be able to see them.

 

The film does give an valid reason for why the Death Star has a fatal flaw.  Like that.

 

The CGI Peter Cushing is great, but it is definitely a CGI and at times it looks a bit Polar Express.  The Carrie Fisher is better, but whoever is in the Darth Vader costume (Daniel Naprous apparently) is at best lacking in physical presence, at worst a bit camp.

 

This is not a Christmas Turkey by any means (a barnstorming end just about rescues it) and it's better than any of the Episodes 1, 2 and 3 (and possibly 6), but I never really got into it.

 

Arrival

13th December

 

I hadn't been to the cinema for a long time and I was sitting in the house finding it very difficult to do anything at all so I went to the cinema.  This was just starting.

 

I had expected a big budget alien invasion story (especially with a cast including Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams and Forest Whittaker), but what I got was a thoughtful first contact story.

 

There's been a few scientific SF films recently and I find my self comparing it to other movies.  It's not 2001, the aliens are too comprehensible and the science is generally trivial or missing.  Having said that, it's better than Gravity's coat of misunderstood science.  Although it deals with non-sequential time it's far better than Interstellar, it's secrets better hidden and character that seems to comfortably exists between the sequential and the non-sequential.  It's more satisfying than the Martian.

 

And at a time when we have Brexiteers and an American President riding a wave of xenophobia, this was a very refreshing change

 

Beyond

22nd July

 

I remember going to the London to see the first showing of ST-TMP.  On the way back I read a review in Heavy Metal magazine which summarised exactly what I thought about the film.  They said that it was enjoyable enough but that it wasn't quite Star Trek, but that it was like having old friends come to visit.  They'd changed and in the intervening time your relationship with them had changed but at the end of the day it was nice to see them again.  Wrath of Kahn was like meeting up with old friends and nothing has changed.

 

I saw Beyond as part of  an IMAX triple bill.  Star Trek has that old-friends-changed feel to it.  STID just isn't Trek at all.  It's a good  sci-fi film but the characters are wrong and the universe is wrong and the sentimentalities are wrong.  But Beyond feels like Star Trek.  The old friends have come to visit and although there's some changes, it's still them.  And that's just brill.

 

And I think it comes down to a number of things.

Kirk was simply the best commander in Starfleet.  Not immature, not cocky or arrogant, simply the best, seasoned and effective.  In this film he is.

The Spock-McCoy relationship is right (despite Spock laughing) with Urban and Quinto nailing it.

The Enterprise feels like part of something bigger.  The human race has evolved into something better.  There's hope.

There's humour, genuine humour.  "You gave her radioactive jewellery?" and "Your theory, as you put it, is horseshit! " both made me laugh out loud as did the role "Sabotage" plays.

Oh, and some of the effects are dazzling.

I loved this and will look forward to seeing it again.

 

Keanu

16th July

 

I first saw this film plugged n the comedy channel and was overcome by the cuteness of the cat.  I've been looking for the UK release and nearly missed it, so when I saw it was on I leapt into my car and went to see it.   I'd never heard of Key and Peele but they seemed amiable enough and they sold me on a feline-based parody of John Wick (while denying any connection).

 

The film is at its best when it's an amiable comedy.  When it tries to have some sort of urban cred it falls far short of the mark.  And it may be my liberal morals but constant repetition of the N-word makes me uncomfortable.

 

But the star has to be the kitten, he steals every scene he's in.  I have the picture of him as a Gangsta Pet as my desktop background.  The scene where he frees Key from the ropes is unbearably cute.  CGI augmented talking cats never really worked for me (I think it's something to do with the teeth) but not even that is enough to dent Keanu's cuteness.

 

And the film is worth seeing just because of that

 

X-Men Apocalypse

25th June

 

I needed to get out so I went to the cinema.

 

I've never been a big fan if the X-Men comics and the films my opinion of the films has suffered as a result.  Having said that, the first film was something of a revelation.  It was the first big budget effects laden super-hero movie.  It showed what could be done.  Although not part of the MCU, there would be no MCU without it.

 

The films all ahve that sort of second class feel.  X-Men 2 wasn't too bad and the Wolverine films were a bit, well, dull (having said that, this film really comes alive when Wolfie turns up).  First class was perfectly enjoyable and although a bit of a mess Days of Future Past kept me interested.  Apocalypse ws in the same vein.

 

It's become de rigueur to have great landmarks destroyed by your super villains and this is no different.  It also has the same problem as the rest of the MCU that you know the good guys are going to win.  Brian Singer once challenged a writer to write something he couldn't film for £1M a minute and it's pushing this boundary that has made the films have gone on they've become more and more spectacular, it is true that the only limitation of the human imagination.

 

But we may have met that limit.  Superhero films seem to offer nothing new, there's no new WOW!!! moments.  But this film rolled along nicely, was well paced and had coherent and consistent story, even if I couldn't work out why whats-his-name didn't say he was Magneto's sone and how many times can Magneto change his bloody mind?

 

Our Kind of Traitor

10th June

 

I remember reading this book.

 

Le Carre books fall into three categories, the trade craft (Smiley et al), the old hand broght back in (the Beebs Night Manager was excellent) or the innocent caught up in a nasty world (like this).

 

It was typical Le Carre. Great premise, fantastic first 100-150 pages the petered out with a bit of a miserable ending.   In some ways, the film is far better paced, the meeting with Dima is nicely random and and there's not too much emphasis on tennis.

 

The end of the film is different from the book, it a far tidier and much closer to a happy ending.  This lack of severity is a failing.  It might leave audiences happier but damages the drama.

 

The performances were generally good but the characters are far too nice.  There shuld have been some sort of conflict between the Teacher and his wife (they both go along with it too easy).  It's as if there's too much narrative to fit into a couple of hours so there's not time for characters.  And no-one seems to know what to do with Damian Lewis.  He's fine actor but was he right for this role.  And him as James Bond?  Probably not.

 

The British are particularly good at making drama out of John Le Carre, we instinctively understand the world he's created.  Tinker Tailor is still one of the gretaest pieces of television ever made and stands up to re-watching today and although this is well made and entertaining, it feels like Le Carre Light.

 


 

 

 
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