Sunday, 23 July 2017


Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Gillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy. Music by Hans Zimmer, Written, produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. Budget £150 million. Running time 106 minutes.

Told from three different perspectives, the land (port of Mole, where unnamed private, Fionn Whitehead fights to survive), the sea (Mark Rylance pilots his small boat to Dunkirk) and the air, (where RAF pilot Tom Hardy fights and flies for his life) this is a superbly directed and intense film made even more so by Hans Zimmer's sound track that utilises a ticking clock to add extra pressure.

Watching Whitehead's repeated attempts to get off the beach becomes almost unbearable, as does each of the three story arcs that finally collide with dramatic effect in a nail-biting finale.

Nolan directs with real aplomb and his staging of the action is fantastic, as is his ability to ratchet up the tension. However this is a strange, almost alien film. The streets of Dunkirk are utterly empty, naturally apart from the 300,000 stranded Tommies standing on the beaches, obediently queuing to be rescued. The cast apart from a few token female nurses is 100% male and most jarring there are no German soldiers to be seen and indeed for most of the film they are only referred to as 'the enemy', we never see the face of a single German solider, nor do we see a British soldier actually do any fighting. It's also a war film that is oddly devoid of blood or violence, nor gruesome battlefield gore, rest assured this is no Saving Private Ryan. And yet despite all of that, the impending sense of death pervades every frame of this film, the sense of guilt of the survivors, the uncomfortable awkwardness of the living towards the corpses of comrades that wash in with the tide, I've never seen a film that so makes you so fear for the living. Ultimately the film does feel a little too clean, everything spic and span, everything art-directed to perfection and everything too 'otherworldly' despite its slavish devotion to period detail.

I've read that this film has been critised for not having a plot or a story, but I beg to differ, just because a film doesn't have an 'arc' for its characters to follow doesn't mean it doesn't have a story. For me, just watching our groups of characters trying to survive and get off the goddam beach was more than story enough.

I breathed a sigh of relief when this was over, I was moved and involved, the 107 minutes flew by and I was left emotionally shaken.



Starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Haweke, Herbie Handcock, Kris Wu and Rutger Hauer. Written and Directed by Luc Besson. Budget £197 million. Running time 137 minutes long.

It literally breaks my heart to write these words, indeed the ambulance is on its way as I type them, but this isn't the triumph I was praying for, although what it is is the most beautiful, inventive and spectacular looking science fiction film I've seen since... 5th Element. In fact, in terms of visual mastery and inventiveness this is nothing less than utterly extraordinary. And if I was scoring the film purely on creativity and its look I would have no qualms of scoring it 10/10.

Unfortunately it's like looking at the world's most fantastic supercar and lifting the lid to discover it's just a shell, that there's nothing going on under the hood. It's like a huge stick of candy floss and a box of toffee coated popcorn after the dazzling, tantalizing burst of all that sugary goodness there's nothing to fill you up.

The plot sees Valerian (Dane DeHann) and the object of his, rather creepy, love obsession Laureline (Cara Delevingne) stumble from one plot point to the next by taking turns to be captured and rescued by the other, while Valerian grooms Laureline into letting him shag her. Then it's off to the City of a Thousand Worlds in search of the big plot reveal that somehow links into the beautiful opening scene, a very angry general (Clive Owen) a cute, long-snouted pearl-shitting alien matter convertor and an insane menagerie of assorted alien lifeforms who are all after something or other, oh and Rihanna as Bubble the shape-changing cabaret singer. And at the center of all that is a tale that is nothing. The main plot device is the repetitive rescuing of each of the main characters, in turn. Besson has obviously spent all his time on the visuals and nothing on the plot, characters, script or serious lack of one or all of those parts.

Sadly there's also the lack of not one iota of chemistry between the two leads. That said, Cara Delevinge is unbelievably beautiful and both the camera and Besson clearly love her as her face dominates the screen for large portions of the film. She's an interesting actresses and once she gets past eye rolling and sneering as her default acting setting she has real potential. DeHann is way too slight and weedy to carry the lead role.

But, regardless this is still a delightful movie, it deserves to be seen up on the big screen, just not in 3D, the opening 20 minutes are genuinely wonderful as we watch the birth of the City of a Thousand Worlds, and a day-in-the-life of a strange alien race whose fate subsequently powers the plot of the whole film. And if the film had managed to sustain this early promise, I would be weeping tears of joy and proclaiming this the second coming. But it didn't and I'm not. I just wish Luc had worked with a script writer who could have knocked some sense, or story into the proceedings, because ultimately this does become somewhat tiresome.

I love the comics, which this film is based on, I love Cara Delevingne and I think Luc Besson is a visionary but alas this was was the perfect example of style over substance.

Story: 3/10
Visuals: 10/10
Average Score: 6/10
Cara Deleingne +1
Final score 7/10


Starring Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Steve Coogan, Jenny Slate, Dana Gaier and Julie Andrews. Written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio. Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. Budget $80 million, running time 90 minutes long.

Gru (Steve Carell) and Lucy (Kristen Wiig) are sacked from the Anti-Villain League for failing to capture Balthazar Bratt (Trey Parker), a former 1980s child actor who's grown up to become a super-villain after he steals a big diamond for his own nefarious purposes, well actually for the third act and final showdown macguffin. Added to that double-dose of adult-life doo-doo comes the surprising news that Gru isn't the only child he was led to believe he was, indeed he has an identical twin brother called Dru (also Steve Carell) who was brought up by his father. We learn that both parents took one of the twins and raised them oblivious to the other. Then the Minions, apart from three, quit cos Gru has turned good and promptly get arrested and thrown into jail. Meanwhile, Balthazar is off on a mission of destruction with the big diamond (see told you) and something even bigger! Lucy (utterly wasted in this film) goes shopping and tries to bond with the three girls. Oh, and talking of them, the youngest daughter wants a real-life, honest-to-goodness unicorn, before the status-quo is returned to normal in time for the next instalment. Blimey, talk about 'never rains but it pours.'

There's a serious amount of plot and story to cram into, DM3's relatively brief, running time of 90 minutes, indeed there's too much because ultimately the film suffers from it. You never truly get a chance to engage with the film or one of the many different plot points before another takes over and that sadly lessens the impact of the film. It starts off wonderfully and very funny and the bits between Gru and Dru are delightful and very funny, as are the bits with the unicorn hunt, and the bits with the Minions, and the bits with Bratt building up to his big third-act macguffin thingie, and... and well with every thing, but sadly it's as a whole that the film comes apart. There's too much of everything and not enough time to do any of it any justice. Plus there's a real sense that when the first 70 minutes of the film was first screened someone pointed out the film makers had lost the plot and so the third act gets shoe-horned into proceedings. Plus since that showdown is extremely reminiscent of the exact same Macguffin in the Minnions Movie it feels neither fresh, or that funny. Just loud and flashy.

The bottom line is this, cos I'm waffling and this damn review has taken me over a week to write and if I wait any longer it'll be the first review I've written that'll come out after the release of the film.

The animation is superb, the inventiveness is a delight  and it looks wonderful thanks to the French studio what made it. And It's very funny movie in parts, Carell and indeed Carell are both very funny as Gru and Dru, as is Trey Parker. But it's a case of the unlearned lesson of 'less is more'. Yes, you'll have a good time but the 3rd act is just too generic and obvious and it weakens what has gone on before.

Gru and now Dru are great characters, as are Lucy, the daughters and the Minions. They deserve better, or atleast something less formulaic next time please. Plus bring back Balthazar, he's awesome!


Saturday, 15 July 2017


Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Michael Adamthwaite, Amiah Miller and Steve Zahn. Written by Mark Bomback and Matt Reeves. Directed by Matt Reeves. Budget $150 million. Running time 140 minutes. Cert 12A.

Another simply superb summer blockbuster brings the new 're-imagined' Planet of the Apes trilogy to a meaty, satisfying and dramatic ending. Featuring another exceptional performance from Andy Serkis and what is simply the most staggeringly impressive, natural-looking special effects you've ever seen. Seriously, if you thought the ape effects were good in the first two films, Rise and Dawn, then you ain't seen nothing yet! You will marvel at all realistic these apes look.

The story takes place five or so years after the previous film where we learn that Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his ever-growing family of intelligent apes are being hunted to extinct by a group of soldiers called the Alpha-Omega from 'up North' who are on the revenge trail following the events of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. All Caesar wants to do is live away from humans in peace and quiet, but sadly the humans lead by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) have other ideas. Following a brutal night-time assault on the secret base of the Apes, Caesar heads out for brutal, bloody revenge with Maurice, Luca and Rocket along for the ride and some company. It isn't long before our band of bare-back riding apes have adopted a mute young girl who they name Nova (Amiah Miller) and a self-speaking-taught ape (Steve Zahn) there mainly to offer light comedy moments to an otherwise relentlessly sombre and serious movie. The ever-growing band of Ape warriors finally track down The Colonel to his mountain lair, although not in the way that Caesar intended and we discover the War of the title is more than just a conflict between humans and apes...

I have to say that when the first of this trilogy first came out in 2011 I wasn't expecting it to be any good, the memories and mental scarring of the horrific Tim Burton abomination starring Marky, Mark Walhberg from 2001 still seemed too fresh and yet that 2011 film proved to be a stunning re-invention that totally kick started this staggering franchise. I was blown away by Serkis as Caesar and over the three films, I've thoroughly enjoyed watching his character, mature and age, it's not often you get to see that across three films. Similarly how delightful to know that in 6 months time I'll be able to sit down and watch all three films back-to-back and enjoy a solid 8 hours of drama.

This film does an amazing job of also subtly referencing the original 1968 classic original Planet of the Apes movie starring Charlton Heston with several brilliant nods.

With a solid cast, a tight script and some excellent action this provided a deeply satisfying and powerful conclusion to the trilogy. Hats off to Matt Reeves for delivering such a superb film and to Andy Serkis who brings such a powerful and believable performance.