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Naked Attraction (2016– )
7/10
Naked Attraction
10 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
When the show first started on Channel 4, naturally there were mixed to negative reviews from some critics, and Ofcom received numerous complaints due to its content. But as time has passed, with no breach of broadcasting rules, having no sexual activity, and being shown after the watershed, it is recognised by many as harmless but raunchy entertainment. Basically, it is Blind Date with a twist. Hosted by Anna Richardson (Supersize vs Superskinny, The Sex Education Show), as the opening lines say, "We like to start where a good date ends... NAKED!" In each episode, a clothed person (two per episode) describes themselves and what they are looking for in a partner, and their reasons for wanting to choose a partner naked. The contestant is faced with six naked people hidden in coloured pods (green, pink, red, yellow, blue, and orange), and one by one they are revealed bit by bit. In round one, the doors of the pods are lifted to reveal the bottom half of the bodies (penises, vaginas, and everything else below), the person choosing says what they like and don't like, and they choose a person to be eliminated (for whatever reason). In the second round, the doors are lifted to reveal the middle parts of the bodies (breasts, nipples, and everything else besides), again the one choosing says what they like, and eliminate another. The third round sees the faces of the people in the pods (and they see the singleton for the first time themselves), and the person again chooses to let one go. In the fourth round, the person gets to listen to each remaining players voices, with a little description to a question or following an activity given to them, and one is eliminated following this. The fifth and final round sees the singleton choosing get naked themselves, walking back into the studio unclothed to hear what the two remaining contestants are liking about their body, and the singleton finally decides who they wish to go on a date with. Following all this, a few hours later the same day (sometimes the following day), the singleton and their chosen date are clothed and go on a date together to a restaurant or bar, and we see how they get on. Three or four weeks later, the contestants come back to the studio (although sometimes the person chosen by the singleton chooses not to return, for whatever reason) and talk about how the date went, if they have remained in contact, and if they will continue to see each other, romantically or otherwise. The show incorporates body positivity, with the daters being unfiltered, picking a partner based solely on natural beauty. It embraces people of all backgrounds, including singletons looking for love, looking to explore their sexuality and perhaps be with a different type than they have dated previously, those who have had difficult things in their personal life (this has included cancer, HIV, loved ones dying, etc), or simply those looking to have some fun (most likely sexually). The show has been open to people of all ages (young adults, middle-aged and elderly), cultures, ethnicities, sexualities and genders (straight/heterosexual and all in the LGBTQ community - gay, lesbian, bisexual/bicurious, polyamorous, pansexual, etc, and male, female, transgender/transexual, nonbinary, etc), and all body shapes and sizes (small, thin, average, athletic, muscular, curvy, large; natural and modified, hairy and waxed, shaved and hairy, tattooed and pierced, tanned and toned, and much more). Throughout the show, the contestants are given fun, silly and often over-the-top tasks to do based on a chooser's interests (there has been dancing, eating, drinking, food and drink on the body, sexy accents, drawing, boxing moves, and much more). There are also facts along the way, with animated factual information about all things sexual and biological, including what things people find attractive, and what things turn people on and why, e.g. Body parts, sex toys, fetishes, occupations, etc. There is hope that there will one day be a celebrity version of the show, they have had the transgender TV personality Lauren Harries take part in the show. Richardson is a terrific host who gets right in with contestants desires and comment, the contestants are often more than happy to talk about their experiences, preferences, procedures (boob jobs or whatever) and enjoyment of sex, and obviously you can expect a lot of naughty language as they talk about boobs, cocks, bums, kinkiness and so on. Let's be honest, the big reason many people will watch the show is for the full-frontal nudity, and there is nothing wrong with that. But also, it is nice to see the singletons hopefully finding love and having fun together. This is a fun show, unafraid to be offensive and upfront, you know exactly what to expect when you watch it, you might cringe or you might lap it up, either way it is an interesting and worthwhile dating gameshow. Very good!
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Mr. Brooks (2007)
5/10
Mr. Brooks
10 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I looked up this film after it was broadcast on TV, and I recognised the poster, and obviously the good names in the cast grabbed my interest, so I gave it a go. Basically, Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner, also producing) is a wealthy and respected businessman and has been named Portland's Man of the Year. But he hides a secret life as a serial murderer known as the "Thumbprint Killer" (leaving his victim's bloodied thumbprints on the lampshade in the room they are killed). For the last two years, he been attending AA meetings to control his "addiction". He is constantly being egged on by his alter ego called Marshall (William Hurt), and they often have conversations about his murderous compulsion. One night however, he gives into his urges, and kills a young couple having sex in their bedroom. As with his other victims, he leaves the bloody thumbprints, meticulously cleanses the crime scene, poses the bodies, and locks the doors before leaving. During this murder, Brooks also closed the curtains, which neighbours notice are usually always open. Brooks' daughter, Jane (Danielle Panabaker), has dropped out of college and arrives home early, she asks her father for a job at his company. The same day, a man calling himself "Mister Smith" (Dane Cook) turns up at Brooks' office. He lives in the apartment across from the murdered couple and has taken photos of Brooks at the crime scene. Smith blackmails Brooks to accompany him during a murder, Brooks reluctantly agrees to his demands. Brooks' wife, Emma (Marg Helgenberger), says that Jane left college because she is pregnant. Brooks warns Smith that killing can become addictive, and that they will plan a murder in advance, from choosing a victim to following them to find out more about them. Later, detectives visit the Brooks investigating a murder in Jane's former campus dorm. Brooks realises Jane has committed a murder and believes she is developing urges herself. After shunning the idea of letting her get caught to "save her", he instead flies to Palo Alto and, letting Marshall take over, commits a similar murder to provide Jane an alibi. Leading the investigation of the young couple's murder is Detective Tracy Atwood (Demi Moore). She interviews Smith and several other residents. Brooks learns that Atwood is going through a difficult divorce from her husband, Jesse Vialo (Jason Lewis). He decides that Vialo and his lawyer/lover, Sheila (Reiko Aylesworth), will be Smith's first "victims". At the scene of the Vialo murder, Smith wets his pants in panic, leaving his DNA to be discovered later. After leaving the scene, Smith pulls a gun on Brooks, which Brooks and Marshall anticipated might happen. Atwood meanwhile becomes obsessed with solving the crime, at one point she becomes a suspect herself, but she will not back down, and goes to extreme measures to catch the real killer. Following the latest murder, Brooks says he cannot stop killing and plans to commit suicide to spare his family shame. He takes Smith to a cemetery and wants Smith to shoot him and place his body in an open grave that will be filled the next day. Smith attempts to shoot Brooks, but Brooks had previously disabled Smith's gun in case he changed his mind about suicide. Brooks decides he wants to live to see his grandchild and instead kills Smith, hiding his body in the open grave. Brooks has destroyed the blackmail photos, Smith's urine is the DNA evidence found by police, so he will be assumed as the Thumbprint Killer, allowing Brooks to remain undetected and return to his normal life. Knowing he is in the clear, Brooks calls Detective Atwood, whom he has come to admire. He asks her why she became a police officer, and she says her father had wanted a son, so she wanted to prove herself. Brooks hangs up before the call is traced. Atwood realises the voice was the real Thumbprint Killer. That night, Brooks has a nightmare in which Jane murders him, suggesting he fears she will become like him. Also starring Ruben Santiago-Hudson as Detective Hawkins, Aisha Hinds as Nancy Hart, Lindsay Crouse as Captain Lister, and Matt Schulze as Thornton Meeks. Costner is both questionable and good casting as the rich man with an addiction to murder, Hurt is playful as the killer's other personality that only he can see, Moore is okay as the detective, and Cook is alright if a little annoying. It is one of those films that could have delivered much more than it did, it has ridiculous ideas and goes in a different direction than you would hope for, but you can suspend your disbelief enough to go with it, the kills are eye-catching anyway, perhaps silly but not a bad psychological thriller. Worth watching, at least once!
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Cruella (2021)
7/10
Cruella
10 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
One Hundred and One Dalmatians is a classic of the Disney animated movies, and the 1996 live-action remake starring Glenn Close (producing this movie) was reasonable entertainment. I was perhaps sceptical about seeing this prequel story, which serves as an origin story for the well-known villain, but I gave it a chance, directed by Craig Gillespie (Mr. Woodcock, Fright Night; I, Tonya). Basically, 5-year-old Estella Miller (Billie Gadsdon) is a creative child with an interest in fashion but has a cruel streak, leading her mother Catherine (Emily Beecham) to nickname her "Cruella". Due to Estella's rebellious nature, Catherine pulls her 12-year-old daughter (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) from school and plans to move to London. On the way there, Catherine stops at a party hosted by the wealthy Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) to ask for financial assistance. Estella sneaks into the party and is fascinated to see the elaborate dresses on display. Then she witnesses her mother being pushed off a cliff to her death by the Baroness' ferocious Dalmatians. Orphaned, Estella makes her way to London and befriends two street urchins named Jasper (Yesterday's Joel Fry) and Horace (Richard Jewell's Paul Walter Hauser). To go unnoticed, she dyes her black-and-white hair red. Ten years later, Estella (Emma Stone), Jasper and Horace are making ends meet alongside, while Estella hones her fashion skills by designing their disguises. For her birthday, Jasper and Horace get her a job as a cleaner at the Liberty department store. A drunken Estella remakes one of the displays in the store window, impressing a presentative of the Baroness is impressed and landing a job. The Baroness is a renowned but authoritarian haute couture designer, but Estella gains her confidence. Things change though when Estella notices the Baroness wearing a necklace that once belonged to Catherine. The Baroness claims the necklace was stolen by an employee, and Estella wants Jasper and Horace to steal it. Under the guise of Cruella, with her natural hair colour, she crashes the party, while Jasper and Horace steal the necklace. During their interaction, Estella sees the Baroness uses a whistle to command her Dalmatians, and she realises they were called to murder Catherine. Seeking revenge for her mother's death, Estella taunts the Baroness by appearing at her gatherings and upstaging her as Cruella in flamboyant outfits, designed with the help of a vintage clothing store owner named Artie (John McCrea). Her antics gain media attention, including publicity from her childhood friend Anita "Tattletale" Darling (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), a gossip columnist. Cruella's contemptuous and arrogant behaviour increasingly upsets Jasper and Horace, as well as the Baroness, who fires her lawyer Roger (Kayvan Novak) for failing to stop Cruella. Estella next kidnaps the Baroness' Dalmatians after one of them accidentally swallows her mother's necklace. Estella sabotages the Baroness' spring collection show and stages her own show in Regent's Park. Having deduced that Cruella is Estella, the Baroness has Jasper and Horace arrested and ties her up, leaving her for dead in a fire. Estella is rescued by the Baroness' valet John (Mark Strong), who reveals the necklace is a key to a box containing Estella's birth records. It is revealed that the Baroness is Estella's biological mother and ordered John to have the infant Estella killed so she could focus solely on her career. John instead gave the baby to Catherine, one of the Baroness' maids, who raised Estella in secret. Estella is angered by Catherine's deception but eventually makes peace with the truth to complete her vengeance, adopting the name Cruella for good. Cruella breaks Jasper and Horace out of jail, recruiting them and Artie for her final scheme. They sneak into the Baroness' charity gala, where Cruella, dressed as Estella, confronts her. The party guests are told that the Baroness wants them to gather outside, while Cruella reveals to the Baroness that she is her abandoned daughter. The Baroness pretends to show remorse for her actions and asks to hug her before pushing her over a cliff, unaware the guests are watching. Cruella survives the fall using a parachute built into her clothing and discards her Estella disguise before returning to witness the Baroness being arrested. Having adopted the last name de Vil, inspired by the stolen Panther De Ville car, Cruella inherits Hellman Hall, shortening the name to Hell Hall, as its rightful biological heir. Before the end, two Dalmatian puppies named Pongo and Perdita are delivered to Roger and Anita respectively. Now working as a songwriter, Roger begins composing the song "Cruella de Vil". Also starring Jamie Demetriou as Gerald and Tom Turner as The Baron. Stone is terrific as the anti-hero, turning from innocent fashionista to animated limelight stealing icon, and Thompson proves more than a match as the vicious aristocratic fashion guru who is the true villain. The film reminded of the TV show Ugly Betty, with its stylish, satirical and spiteful approach to the fashion industry, it has a snappy script, an interesting take on 70s punk-era Britain, it is a little dark at times, but it still amusing family entertainment at heart, I was pleasantly surprised, a fun crime comedy. Very good!
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4/10
Peter Rabbit 2
9 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
The first movie, based on the books and popular characters by Beatrix Potter, was a reasonable film, and it was a box office success, hence a sequel, from returning director Will Gluck (Easy A, Friends with Benefits, Annie). Basically, Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) and his love interest Bea (Rose Byrne) are married, with their friends and family, human and animal, in attendance. After honeymoon, Thomas helps Bea on her children's storybooks based on Peter Rabbit (James Corden) and his friends. Peter himself is dismayed that the stories have portrayed him as naughty. Bea is excited when she receives a letter from a publisher who wants to distribute her books. Thomas and Bea take Peter, Benjamin (Colin Moody), Flopsy (Margot Robbie), Mopsy (Elizabeth Debicki), and Cottontail (Aimee Horne) to meet the publisher, Nigel Basil-Jones (David Oyelowo). Basil-Jones has plans to change Peter's character altogether, making him a "bad seed", including a billboard for a potential movie making him a villain. Peter upset about this runs away and goes into town. There, he meets older rabbit Barnabas (Lennie James), who recognises Peter as the son of his old friend. The two rabbits are caught by animal catchers and taken to a pet pound. Bea starts to sign over the rights to her books to Nigel, but it becomes apparent that Nigel can turn simple concepts into something commercial for contemporary audiences. Peter and Barnabas are bought as caged pets for a little girl. Barnabas manages to free himself and Peter with the help of his crew: mouse Samuel Whiskers (Rupert Degas), creepy cat Tom Kitten (Damon Herriman), and his sister Mittens (Hayley Atwell). They all get away with the food raided from the fridge. Thomas and Bea then find Peter and bring him home while Barnabas returns to his hideout. The next day, Peter takes Benjamin and his sisters to join him in meeting the Barnabas crew. Barnabas recognises Peter's sisters and explains his big plan. He and his crew want to rob a big score of dried fruit from the farmers market. Meanwhile, Thomas and Bea meet with Nigel again, and Thomas starts to realise that Nigel's ideas are not in the best interests of Bea's work. Peter also recruits the rabbits' animal friends, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle (singer Sia), Jeremy Fisher (Domhnall Gleeson), Pigling Bland (Ewen Leslie), Felix D'eer (Christian Gazal), and Tommy Brock to help in their heist. After getting the dried fruits into their getaway truck, all the animals are captured by the pet pound people. Peter is dismayed when Barnabas reveals he was using him and his friends to keep the dried fruit for themselves. He looked for Peter in town after reading the book, he never knew Peter's father. Everyone blames Peter for their situation, and he feels utterly terrible. Peter enlists Thomas for his help in recovering his friends. They go to Bea while she is having a meeting with Nigel and others at the publishing company. Bea realises Nigel's intentions and pulls her stories from his company. Peter, Thomas, and Bea get into many outlandish adventures to help their friends, including a high-speed boat chase and skydiving with a parachute into a moving car. Peter and the other rabbits then return to Barnabas's hideout where they turn the tables by tying Barnabas and his crew to ropes so that they get pulled away when the nearby truck, owned by the Tailor of Gloucester. They are all then captured by the pet pound people. The rabbits then return all the dried fruit to their owners before returning home with Thomas and Bea. Peter decides he will be more willing to listen to the ones that love him. Also starring Rose Byrne as Jemima Puddle-Duck, Domhnall Gleeson as Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Sam Neill as Tommy Brock, and Tim Minchin as Busker K. Bushy, Esq. Corden is alright if a little annoying (which is joked about) as the long-eared hero, Byrne and Gleeson are fine as the human companions, Oyelowo is annoying, and the supporting cast of voice talents as the recognisable supporting characters are reasonable. Like the first film it is more style over substance, one or two in-jokes may have made me titter, and the special effects are nothing to complain about, but the plot with a heist, chases and other over-the-top events is ridiculous, a silly only just alright family part-animated adventure. Okay!
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My Generation (I) (2017)
7/10
My Generation
9 June 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I heard about this documentary on a chat show or news review article, I knew it was about a defining decade in the United Kingdom, and I was most interested to see what topics they would focus on. Presented and narrated by Sir Michael Caine, an icon of the decade himself, this film examines the 1960s, better known as the "Swinging Sixties", and the cultural revolution that occurred in Great Britain. The documentary details the significant changes in the worlds of class (including the Class sketch on The Frost Report with John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett), fashion, sport, and music, as well as discussions of drug taking, the future being shaped by young, and opinions of world conflict. There are clips and talks about British poshness, the contraceptive pill, miniskirts, the British Invasion (British talent going overseas, especially to "break/crack America"), the 1966 World Cup, the Vietnam War, rock music, and The Beatles aka Beatlemania. The key figures and sixties icons that contribute to the film, both in interviews and in the archive footage, are (in alphabetical order): fashion and portrait photographer David Bailey; The Who lead singer Roger Daltrey; singer, songwriter, and actress Marianne Faithfull (who had the hit single "As Tears Go By"); singer, songwriter, and musician Paul McCartney, who achieved worldwide fame as part of The Beatles; fashion designer and fashion icon Mary Quant, who became a figure of the Mod (modernists) subculture; and model Twiggy (Dame Lesley Lawson), who found worldwide fame, appearing on the cover on Vogue and other magazines, and many famous images and advertising campaigns. Caine details his own career along the way, and archive footage of him during the making of his films, in interviews and other captured footage is fitted to match the topic being discussed. Caine, who was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, discusses that when he went into acting, he was told to change, he intended to be "Michael White", but another Michael White was already performing in London. So, speaking to his agent in a phone booth in Leicester Square in 1954, he looked around for inspiration, and saw the Humphrey Bogart movie The Caine Mutiny was playing at the Odeon Cinema, and adopted the new name Michael Caine (he jokes One Hundred and One Dalmatians was playing elsewhere). There are also clips from Caine's most famous films in the decade, his debut in Zulu, The Ipcress File, Alfie, and The Italian Job. Featuring a terrific soundtrack of sixties hits, including" My Generation" by The Who, "Something in the Air" by Thunderclap Newman, "You Really Got Me" and "Waterloo Sunset" by The Kinks, "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by The Rolling Stones, "Gimme Some Lovin'" by Steve Winwood, "She's Not There" by The Zombies, "Strawberry Fields Forever" by The Beatles, and "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan. With contributions from singer and actress Joan Collins, Donovan, David Hockney, Lulu, and Sandie Shaw. Caine is a great voiceover with his sharp and witty commentary and fascinating anecdotes, the mix of black-and-white and coloured footage is edited perfectly for a distinctive narrative, there are many interesting things to find out, the soundtrack is of course splendid, and it really gives the sense of nostalgia, a most watchable documentary. Very good!
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5/10
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It
31 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
The Conjuring Universe has had reasonable results since 2013, with only one or two disappointing movies in the franchise, this was the eighth instalment and I was glad to be able to go to the reopened cinemas to see it, directed by Michael Chaves (The Curse of La Llorona). Basically, set in 1981, young David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard) is possessed by a demonic spirit that wants the boy's soul. A priest attempts to perform an exorcism, but it looks hopeless. Hoping to get the spirit out of the boy's body, family friend Arne Cheyenne Johnson (Ruairi O'Connor) commands the spirit to leave the child's body and take him instead. The spirit leaves David's body and enters Arne, before seemingly disappearing. Meanwhile, paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) continue to do what they are now famous for, while also trying to maintain a home life with daughter Judy (Sterling Jerins). Elsewhere, Arne suddenly finds the evil spirit has returned and takes over his body, and the next thing he knows he finds himself walking along a road, stopped by a police officer as he is covered in blood. Arne is arrested for the suspected murder of his landlord, but in court, for the first time in U. S. history, he claims demonic possession as a defence. The Warrens are called to take on his case and investigate to prove his innocence. They return to the places the spirit was known to possess and attack people. Along the way the Warrens also talk to people they meet about how they meet and married in their teens. There is a point when they meet with Kastner (The Lord of the Rings' John Noble) who may have had his own experiences with the demonic spirit himself. The Warrens do indeed have their own violent encounters with the demon. In the end, despite the Warrens backing up his defence in court, Arne is sent to prison, charged with manslaughter, though he only served five years of a 10-to-20-year sentence. Also starring Sarah Catherine Hook as Debbie Glatzel, Eugenie Bondurant as The Occultist, Shannon Kook as Drew Thomas, Ronnie Gene Blevins as Bruno Sauls, Keith Arthur Bolden as Sergeant Clay, Steve Coulter as Father Gordon, Vince Pisani as Father Newman, Mitchell Hoog as young Ed Warren, and Megan Ashley Brown as young Lorraine Warren. Farmiga and Wilson reprise their roles and most engaging as the (real-life) duo, the story was reasonable, some jump scares I expected, one or two I didn't, and there were good special effects for the evil things going bump in the night, it was an alright supernatural horror. Worth watching!
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4/10
Annabelle Comes Home
31 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
The creepy looking doll has appeared in a good number of films in the Conjuring Universe movies, even just little glimpses, and this was another spin-off prequel exploring what further nastiness it causes to characters that forced it to be locked in the glass box. Basically, set in 1972, paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) confiscate the Annabelle doll from nurses Debbie (Kenzie Caplan) and Camilla (Sade Katarina), who claim that the doll often caused violent things to happen. During the drive back home, the doll summons spirits to attack Ed, but he narrowly survives. Annabelle is locked in a sacred glass case with a label saying "WARNING! POSITIVELY DO NOT OPEN" in the couple's artifacts room. The room is blessed often (fortnightly I think) by Father Gordon (Steve Coulter) to ensure the evil is contained. Sometime later, the Warrens welcome Mary Ellen (Madison Iseman), who will be babysitting their daughter, Judy (Mckenna Grace), at the house while they travel overnight to investigate another case. At school, Judy sees the spirit of a priest (Gary-7) that starts following her. Mary Ellen's friend Daniela Rios (Katie Sarife) arrives uninvited at the Warrens' home. Daniela is secretly curious about speaking to the dead, as her father passed away a short time ago. Finding the hidden key to the artifacts room, she unlocks it and looks around at the objects, including unlocking the glass case that contains the Annabelle doll. Whilst in the room, she holds a photograph of her late father, and tries to contact any spirit in the room, hoping to channel her father. After leaving the room, and leaving Annabelle's case unlocked, Daniela has unknowingly released the demonic spirit of Annabelle "Bee" Mullins (Samara Lee), and other nasty spirits of the objects in the room. Mary Ellen's crush Bob Palmeri (Michael Cimino) arrives outside and serenades her but is later attacked by the Black Shuck, a werewolf demon, and hides. Mary Ellen is tormented by the Ferryman, while Judy is confronted by Annabelle in her bedroom. Daniela had left earlier but sneaks back to return the artifacts room's keys. She gets locked inside the room and tormented by various objects, such as a piano and an old television that shows near future events. She sees her father twisted into a malevolent spirit, and an image of herself bloodied and screaming on the television screen after answering a cursed telephone. The real Daniela almost answers the telephone but is interrupted by Judy and Mary Ellen. Judy explains that they must lock Annabelle in her case again so the other spirits will go away. Bob protects Judy from the Black Shuck as she retrieves Mary Ellen's asthma inhaler, while Daniela is attacked and possessed by the Bride (Natalia Safran). Eventually, Mary Ellen and Judy find the doll when the spirit of the priest returns, acting as Judy's guardian, guides them. They manage to retrieve the glass case's key after they are attacked by demonic hands from the Feeley Meeley board game, and a possessed Daniela. They struggle to secure the case as the demon of the doll physically attacks them. Daniela recovers when Judy plays Ed's recorded footage of the Bride's exorcism and helps put the doll back in the case. After the case is locked, the spirits return to their slumber and the ghostly disturbance ends, and Bob reunites with the trio. Ed and Lorraine return the next morning, and the girls tell them everything that happened. Daniela apologises to Lorraine, who gives her a comforting message from her father. Later, many friends gather to celebrate Judy's birthday party. Also starring Natalia Safran as the Bride and Douglas Tait as the Black Shuck. Farmiga and Wilson get their moments reprising their roles as the demonologists, but it is focused much more on the younger cast, who do a good job. The pace however is often way too slow, the attempted jump scares are on and off, the special effects do their job, and the eerie atmosphere is alright, but I wanted more to happen and to be more thrilled, a slightly boring but not terrible supernatural horror. Okay!
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5/10
The Curse of La Llorona
31 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I only later found out that this film was part of the Conjuring Universe, it is a spin-off with a small connection to the previous films, it is based on the Latin American folklore, I was certainly interested what it would be like. Basically, in 1673 Mexico, a family plays in a field, and the youngest son gives his mother a necklace, who says she will treasure it forever. The boy later goes walking and finds his mother violently drowning his brother in a stream. Horrified, he runs, but his mother catches him and drowns him too. 300 years later, in 1973, Los Angeles, caseworker Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini) investigates client Patricia Alvarez (Patricia Velásquez) whose children, Tomas (Aiden Lewandowski) and Carlos (Oliver Alexander), have been missing school. Arriving at Patricia's house, she finds the children locked behind a door. Patricia tries to attack her and is taken away by the police. Patricia's sons tell Anna to keep them in the room, so they are protected. Ignoring their warnings, she takes them to the child-services shelter. During the night, Tomas sleepwalks, and Carlos follows him until both boys see a woman in a white dress who attacks them. The boys are found drowned in a river, and Anna arrives at the scene, with her own children, Chris (Roman Christou) and Samantha "Sam" (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen), in the car while she investigates. Patricia is also at the scene screaming, she blames Anna for taking sons, and that she tried to stop the malevolent force of "La Llorona." Chris leaves the car out of curiosity and encounters La Llorona (The Weeping Woman), who seizes his wrist and leaves burns. She stalks him back to the car but leaves once Anna returns. The next day, La Llorona also grabs Sam and leaves identical burn marks. Anna interviews Patricia, who has an alibi for the time of her sons' deaths. Patricia reveals that in her hatred for Anna, she prayed to La Llorona to bring her own boys back and to take Anna's children. Soon after, Anna sees La Llorona when the spirit tries to drown Sam in the bath. The ghost leaves burn marks on Anna's arm. Anna goes to Father Perez (Tony Amendola) for help, the case reminds him of his previous experiences with a haunted porcelain doll (Annabelle). Perez suggests Anna meet with former priest Rafael Olvera (Breaking Bad's Raymond Cruz) to help them. Rafael arrives at Anna's house, setting up items for protection. In the night, La Llorona repeatedly attacks them and attempts to drown Anna and Sam in the swimming pool. During a struggle, Anna pulls off La Llorona's necklace. Patricia arrives with a gun and tries to give Anna's children to La Llorona. Sam and Chris flee, and Patricia comes to her senses and releases Anna, allowing her to help her children. Chris shows La Llorona her the necklace that her son had given her, she briefly assumes her human appearance, imagining Chris to be her real son. However, La Llorona sees herself in a mirror, reverts and proceeds to attack them. Anna stabs her through the chest with a cross made from a Fire Tree: trees that grew by the river where La Llorona drowned her children, destroying the spirit. Anna and her children thank Rafael for his help. When he leaves, Anna sees what looks like a puddle of tears beside the road. Also starring Sean Patrick Thomas as Detective Cooper. Cardellini as the single mother and Cruz as the experienced exorcist give reasonable performances, the special effects are alright, there are the obvious attempts at jump scares, but it is nervy and tense enough to maintain your interest, and it is a different story to the previous instalments, not a bad supernatural horror. Worth watching!
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The Nun (2018)
5/10
The Nun
31 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
The Conjuring Universe had two spin-odd prequels, featuring the creepy doll Annabelle, but the other thing that has become significant in the series is the demonic nun, first seen in The Conjuring 2, so this spin-off focuses on this. Basically, set in 1952, in Romania, at the Saint Cartha's monastery, two nuns entering a tunnel to retrieve an ancient Christian relic are attacked by an unseen evil force. The surviving nun, Sister Victoria (Charlotte Hope), flees from the attacker, a demon appearing as a nun, and hangs herself. Her body is discovered by Maurice "Frenchie" Theriault (Jonas Bloquet), a villager who transports supplies to the nuns. The Vatican learns of the incident and summons Father Burke (Demián Bichir) to Rome. They ask him to travel with Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga, Vera's sister), a novice nun, to investigate the situation. While Sister Irene is teaching children the relationship between religion and science in a school, when she is interrupted to accompany Father Burke to Romania. There they meet with Frenchie, who leads them to the abbey. They discover Victoria's body and take a key from her corpse. Then they encounter Mother Abbess (Gabrielle Downey) who informs them that the nuns observe a period of silence during the night and offers them a place to stay at the convent. Frenchie is returning to the village when he is attacked by a demon, but he escapes. Burke tells Irene about a boy named Daniel (August Maturo) he exorcised in the past; he is haunted by the memory of the boy's death who was fatally injured. Irene reveals that as a girl, she had visions causing the Church to take an interest in her. That night, Burke is rescued by Irene after being buried alive in the graveyard by the demonic entity. The next day, Irene and Burke return to the abbey, but only Irene can enter. She meets some of the other nuns and learns that they are praying constantly, swapping in shifts, to keep the evil entity at bay. Sister Oana (Ingrid Bisu) tells the story of the abbey's history. It was built in the Middle Ages as a castle by a Duke (Mark Steger) obsessed with the occult. The duke summoned the demon through a rift in the catacombs but was killed by Christian knights, who sealed the rift with a vial filled with the Blood of Christ. However, the bombings during World War II accidentally reopened the rift, unleashing the evil entity once again. Burke identifies the demon as Valak (Bonnie Aarons) and discovers the Abbess has been dead all along. Frenchie heads back to the abbey to help Irene and Burke. Irene is attacked by Valak and joins the nuns in desperate prayer to ward off the demon. But Irene discovers that none of the nuns she had seen and talked to were real, and that Victoria had been the last nun in the abbey and had sacrificed herself to stop Valak from possessing her body and unleashing evil. They theorise that Valak can only be stopped if they seal the rift with the blood of Christ contained in the reliquary. Irene then informs Burke that God has called her to make her solemn vows as a nun and asks Burke to elevate her to the status of a professed nun. After the trio unlocks the tunnel door with the key Victoria possessed, Irene is lured into a pentagram and possessed by Valak. Frenchie smears some of the blood of Christ on her face, casting out the demon. Burke is wounded by Daniel's ghost as Valak starts to drown Irene in a flooded chamber. Irene expels the blood of Christ in the demon's face, banishing it as the blood of Christ seals the rift. After Frenchie resuscitates Irene, he reveals his real name. Unbeknownst to the others, Maurice has been possessed by Valak, indicated by an inverted cross on his neck. Twenty years later at a university seminar, in Wakefield, Massachusetts, Carolyn Perron (Lili Taylor) watches Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) and the footage of their attempt to exorcise a possessed Maurice. Also starring Sandra Teles as Sister Ruth, Manuela Ciucur as Sister Christine, Ani Sava as Sister Jessica, Maria Obretin as Sister Abigail, Michael Smiley as Bishop Pasquale, and Joseph Bishara as the voice of the Demon. Bichir and Farmiga are fine, there was only a little bit of a story I could follow, the many appearances of the evil nun are certainly memorable, the jump scares don't always work, but the special effects are good, and the eerie atmosphere is reasonable, a slow but not terrible gothic supernatural horror. Worth watching!
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5/10
Annabelle: Creation
31 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
The first Annabelle movie, a spin-off in the Conjuring Universe, was disappointing, I didn't have my hopes high for this follow-up, or rather prequel which sees the origin of the doll, but I gave it a chance, directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out). Basically, dollmaker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) are devastated when their seven-year-old daughter Annabelle, nicknamed "Bee" (Samara Lee), is killed when she accidentally steps in front of a car. Twelve years later, in 1955, the Mullins open their home to provide shelter for Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and six girls left homeless after their orphanage is closed. The children are warned not to enter Bee's locked bedroom, but young orphan Janice (Talitha Eliana Bateman), disabled by polio, sneaks into the room after it is mysteriously unlocked. She finds a key for Bee's closet and opens it, where she finds an eerie porcelain doll. This unwittingly releases a powerful demon that begins to terrorise the girls. One night, the demon appears to Janice, taking Bee's form, saying it wants her soul. She tries to get away on a stairlift, but the demon hurls her violently down to the ground floor, injuring and confining her to a wheelchair. Janice's best friend Linda (Lulu Wilson) is tormented by the demon. Next, the demon poses as Sister Charlotte, wheels Janice into the old bar, and, appearing as Bee again, possesses her vomiting black bile into Janice's mouth. Linda notices Janice's behaviour changing and tells Samuel that Janice snuck into Bee's room and found the doll. Janice, now able to walk, transforms into the demon and brutally kills Samuel. Linda takes the doll and throws it into the well. A strange noise comes from the well and she is almost dragged into it, but Sister Charlotte saves her. Alarmed, Sister Charlotte talks to the disfigured Esther, who stays in her bedroom. Esther explains that following Bee's death, they prayed to an entity to let them see their daughter again. An unknown entity answered their prayer and, after seeing Bee's spirit, it convinced them to transfer its essence into one of Samuel's crafted dolls. It is only later they realise that they had attracted a demon looking for a human host. One night, Esther saw Bee's spirit transforming into the demon, which then gouged out her eye. Enlisting the help of priests to bless the house, they locked the doll in Bee's closet. Esther and Samuel opened their house as a shelter to repent for their actions, but Esther now regrets it as the demon has an opportunity to take a human host. The demon murders Esther and attacks Sister Charlotte. The orphans leave the house, but Linda is trapped and hides in Bee's room while the possessed Janice tries to kill her. Sister Charlotte locks Janice and the doll inside the closet. The next day, police arrive to search the house, only finding the doll, which is removed as evidence. Sister Charlotte, Linda, and the orphans are taken away by officers, while Janice escapes through a hole in the closet wall and heads to an orphanage in Santa Monica. Still possessed, she becomes reclusive and calls herself Annabelle. The Higgins family soon adopt Annabelle. Twelve years later, a grown-up Annabelle joins a Satanic cult and, along with her boyfriend, murders her adoptive parents, catching the attention of next-door neighbours the Forms, Mia (Annabelle Wallis) and John (Ward). Also starring Grace Fulton as Carol, Philippa Coulthard as Nancy, Tayler Buck as Kate, Lou Lou Safran as Tierney, Brad Greenquist as Victor Palmeri, Mark Bramhall as Father Massey, Joseph Bishara as Annabelle Demon, and Bonnie Aaron as Demon Nun. The cast are fine, with young Bateman standing out, the story is alright, it does rely on a lot of jump scares, a few that you can see coming, but the special effects, the many appearances of the evil doll, and a continued eerie atmosphere keep the pace up, a reasonable supernatural horror. Worth watching!
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8/10
Raya and the Last Dragon
31 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't know if I was interested in seeing this Disney movie, but then I remembered seeing the trailer for it months before the lockdown, it did look like it would be good fun. Basically, five centuries ago, the prosperous ancient land of Kumandra was ravaged by the Druun, evil spirits that attack and petrified the land's people and dragons. According to legend, the last dragon known as Sisu transferred her magic into a gem and banished the Druun, reviving Kumandra's people who were turned to stone, but the dragons were lost. A power struggle for the orb divided the people of Kumandra into tribes, based on their placement along a giant, dragon-shaped river: Fang, Heart, Spine, Talon, and Tail. 500 years later, Raya (Kelly Marie Tran), the daughter of Heart tribe leader Chief Benja (Lost's Daniel Dae Kim) has been training to become a guardian of the gem, and she is delighted when her father says she is ready. Chief Benja believes that the tribes of the former Kumandra can be united once again and decides to hold a feast for the leaders of all five tribes. During the feast, Raya befriends the daughter of Chief Virana (Sandra Oh) of the Fang tribe, young Namaari (Jona Xiao), who gives Raya a dragon pendant as a gift. Trusting her, Raya shows Namaari the location of the gem. But Namaari betrays Raya, revealing that she is trying to help Fang steal the gem. Benja and the other tribes are alerted of this and arrive at the scene and start fighting for possession of the gem. During the scuffle, the orb is shattered into pieces, which reawakens the Druun. Each tribe steals a piece of the orb and flee as the Druun return and ravage Heart and its people. Chief Benja is wounded, he knows that the weakness of the Druun is water; he gives Raya his piece of the orb and throws her into the river before he is petrified and turned to stone. Six years later, Raya has grown up into a young woman, and rides on the back of her best friend and steed Tuk Tuk (Alan Tudyk) (a mix of an armadillo and a pill bug). She has been trekking across the lands and wilderness of Kumandra to find Sisu, the last dragon, to help her recover the missing orb pieces. After reaching the final river on the map, she finds a shipwreck in Tail. Raya recites a spell to summon the dragon and is surprised when Sisu the dragon (Awkwafina) appears. But Sisu admits that she did not create the orb, but only used it on behalf of her siblings and can gain her siblings' powers when she touches its pieces. Meanwhile, a grownup and hostile Namaari (Gemma Chan) has been travelling across Kumandra with her tribesmen who are after Raya's stolen portrait of Sisu. Raya and Sisu manage to recover the second piece from a booby-trapped Tail temple and the corpse of its leader. This piece of the orb grants Sisu shapeshifting powers, and she is able to transform into a human. Raya and Namaari are momentarily reunited and antagonise each other before Raya and Sisu escape the temple. They escape on the boat of young restauranteur Boun (Izaac Wang), who lost his family to the Druun. Boun comes across friendly, but Raya does not fully trust him, and insists that Sisu stays in human form. The group arrives at Talon to find the third gem piece, during which Raya encounters "con baby" Noi (Thalia Tran) and her trio of monkey-like companions, the Ongis, who adopted her after the Druun petrified her mother. After a chase, Raya recruits Noi and the Ongis while Sisu encounters Talon's chieftess Dang Hu (Lucille Soong), who offers her to the Druun for the other orb pieces. Raya rescues Sisu and reclaims the third piece, giving Sisu the power to spew out fog which they use to escape. The group then arrives at Spine, where they meet fearsome warrior Tong (Benedict Wong), the village's sole survivor. Namaari arrives and Raya holds her off in a fight so the others can escape. Before Namaari can defeat her, Sisu turns back into a dragon and saves Raya. The companions, realising that Sisu is a dragon, agree to help Raya, and Tong hands over Spine's gem piece, giving Sisu the power to control rain. As the group get closer to Fang, Sisu suggests allying with Namaari rather than stealing the final piece. When Raya refuses, Sisu takes her back to the remains of the Heart. She shows her the remains of her siblings, Pangu, Jagan, Pranee, and Amba, turned to stone; she says that her siblings' trust in her was what really empowered her to save Kumandra. Raya relents and decides to give Namaari the dragon pendant as a peace offering. Raya and Sisu meet privately with Namaari, who is torn what to do; she wants to save Fang's reputation, but also wants to help to defeat the Druun. Seeing the pieces of the orb, she threatens to shoot them with a crossbow. Sisu tries to calm Namaari down but is fatally shot when Raya lashes her sword on Namaari's crossbow. With the last dragon dead, the water is subsequently drained from all surrounding lakes, seas and rivers, and Fang is overrun by the Druun. Raya and Namaari viciously fight while Raya's companions rescue the people of Fang using the remaining power of the gem pieces. Raya overpowers Namaari and prepares to kill her, but seeing that she is mourning her mother who has been turned to stone, and realising that Sisu's death is her fault due to her inability to trust others, she stops. Raya and Namaari try to aid the group instead. As the Druun surround Raya's group, Raya remembers how trust allowed Sisu to save the world before and urges the others to unite and reassemble the gem. One by one, the group piece together the orb before allowing themselves to be taken by the Druun and turned to stone. Finally, Raya hands over her piece of the almost completed orb to Namaari, to show her faith, and allows herself to be petrified. Namaari finishes assembling the gem before the Druun petrify her as well. The last remnant of power in the reassembled and everybody trusting each other causes a blast to vanquish the Druun, and everyone, including the dragons, are revived. The dragons revive Sisu while everyone reunites with their lost loved ones, including Raya and her father. The dragons and the tribes gather at Heart to celebrate and finally reunite as Kumandra. Also starring Lucille Soong as Dang Hu, Dichen Lachman as General Atitaya / Spine Warrior, and Patti Harrison as Tail Chief. Tran is impeccable as the voice of the title character, but Awkwafina often steals the show with her hilarious fast-talking and snappy personality. The animation is superb, the characters are wonderful, the story set in an ancient world with dragons and other strange creatures and many dazzling backdrops is smart and engaging, the mythical and martial arts genres blend together nicely, it is often exciting and funny, and the score by James Newton Howard is rousing, a magnificent computer-animated fantasy action adventure. Very good!
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6/10
Those Who Wish Me Dead
31 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I didn't see any trailers or images of this film before seeing, I just literally heard who the leading actress was and that it had something to do with a firefighter, so I looked forward to being surprised and hopefully entertained. Basically, Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie) is a smokejumper (a wildland firefighter) who is haunted by the tragic memory of failing to save three young campers and a fellow smokejumper who all got trapped and died in a forest fire a year ago. She is now posted in a fire lookout tower in Park County, Montana. Meanwhile, forensic accountant Owen Casserly (Jake Weber) sees on the news that his boss and his family have been killed in an apparent gas explosion. In fact, they were murdered by assassins the Blackwell brothers, Jack (Aidan Gillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult). Believing he is next to be targeted, Owen goes on the run with his son, Connor (Finn Little), to hide with his brother-in-law, Deputy Sheriff Ethan Sawyer (Jon Bernthal), also Hannah's ex-boyfriend. Driving to Ethan's cabin, Owen and Connor are ambushed by the Blackwells, who force them off the road and down a cliff. Owen is gravely injured, he gives Connor evidence against the Blackwells' employer, mob boss Arthur Phillip (Tyler Perry). He tells Connor to give it to someone he can trust, Connor escapes the crashed car before the assassins shoot his father dead. Ethan discovers Owen's car wreck. Meanwhile, Hannah is forced to abandon the watch tower during an electrical storm, she is lucky to escape before lightning strikes the power. The following day, she stumbles upon Connor while walking through the woods. Connor is reluctant to trust Hannah, but she convinces him to accompany her back to the tower to contact help. Arthur has heard the reports about Owen being killed, but nothing about the boy, he instructs the Blackwells to hunt Connor down and kill him. To distract the police from searching for them, the assassins use flares to ignite a forest fire. They go to Ethan's house believing Connor may have fled there. There they find and interrogate Ethan's pregnant wife, Allison (Medina Senghore), but she fights them off and escapes. Returning to the tower, Hannah finds the radio and all power has been disabled by the lightning strike. Connor feels he can trust Hannah and shows her the evidence he was given by his father, and she insists that must head to town on foot. The storm continues while they are crossing a field, during which Hannah survives but is injured being struck by lightning. They are forced to turn back seeing the increasing fire ahead blocking their path. Ethan returns home with the Sheriff (Boots Southerland) after having been alerted by Allison in a call that something is wrong. The Blackwells kill the Sheriff and force Ethan to guide them through the woods. The Blackwells and Ethan reach Hannah's tower. Ethan is forced into climbing up to it and searching while the Blackwells watch from a tree. Having returned to the tower, Hannah and Connor hide while Ethan attempts to make it appear empty. However, Patrick sees Ethan talking through his rifle telescope, and the assassins start shooting into the tower, injuring Ethan. Hannah and Connor manage to escape. The Blackwells try to follow them but are stopped when Allison, having tracked them down, starts shooting at them. Patrick and Jack split up, with Patrick going after Hannah and Connor. Jack stays and tries to kill Allison, but she kills him. Connor runs ahead while Hannah distracts Patrick, but seeing Patrick beating Hannah he runs back to help her. Patrick approaches Connor to kill him, but Hannah struggles with him, until he is severely injured. The blaze is quickly moving through the forest, so Patrick is left to burn to death in the approaching fire. Allison reunites with Ethan at the top of the tower, but they are trapped by the fire. They put on oxygen masks and hold each other as it surrounds them. Hannah and Connor jump into a river and watch from under the water as the fire engulfs the forest. The following morning, after the fire has burned out, the survivors are saved when Hannah's old smoke-jumping team arrives to rescue her and Connor. Meanwhile, Allison survived, but Ethan died from his earlier injuries. Later, Connor prepares to give his father's evidence to the media and Hannah promises to help him through his uncertain future. Also starring James Jordan as Ben and Tory Kittles as Ryan. Jolie gives an interesting performance as the somewhat flawed but reliable firefighter, Gillen and Hoult are impressive as the sinister killers, Little is a rising talent, and there is good support from Bernthal and Senghore. It is a very simplistic story, a father and son on the run, killers hunting them down and a woman drawn into helping the boy whilst also tackling fires, but you are drawn into it by its characters and its tense moments, a worthwhile action thriller. Good!
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5/10
Godzilla vs. Kong
23 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Godzilla (2014) was the start of the MonsterVerse series, followed by Kong: Skull Island, and then Godzilla: King of the Monsters hinted what was to come. This is not the first time legendary monsters Godzilla and King Kong have fought each other, there was King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962. Many were excited by this modern reboot, especially after the coronavirus pandemic delayed its release, directed by Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest, Blair Witch). Basically, five years since Godzilla defeated King Ghidorah, the Monarch corporation are monitoring Kong within a giant dome on Skull Island. Kong is visited by Jia (Kaylee Hottle), the last Iwi native and the adoptive daughter of Kong expert Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall), who is deaf and communicates with Kong via sign language. Apex Cybernetics employee Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry) is host of a Titan conspiracy theory podcast; he extracts data suggesting sinister activities at a Pensacola facility. However, Godzilla suddenly attacks the facility. Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), who listens Bernie's podcast, enlists her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison) to investigate Godzilla's sudden attacks. Apex CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir) recruits former Monarch scientist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård), also a theorist on Hollow Earth, to guide a search for a power source into the Hollow Earth, the home world of the Titans. Nathan is initially hesitant as his brother died in a strong reverse-gravitational effect during an expedition to the Hollow Earth. Walter reveals that Apex has developed HEAVs (Hollow Earth Aerial Vehicles), specialized crafts that can withstand the pressure exerted by the gravity field, and he agrees to join the mission. Nathan meets with Ilene and convinces her to ask Kong to guide them through the Hollow Earth via an outpost in Antarctica. Nathan, Ilene, and an Apex team led by Walter's daughter Maia (Eiza González) board a modified barge escorted by the U. S. Navy that carries Kong, who is sedated and restrained. Godzilla attacks the convoy and fights with Kong but leaves after the ships disable their power and trick him into thinking they are destroyed. To avoid alerting Godzilla, Kong is airlifted to the entrance to Hollow Earth, and Jia convinces him to enter the tunnel while the team follows him in the HEAVs. Madison and Josh find Bernie, who joins their investigation. Sneaking into the wrecked Apex base, they discover a secret underground facility, and are inadvertently locked into an underground monorail transport to Apex headquarters in Hong Kong. There they unwittingly stumble on a test of Mechagodzilla, a large robotic machine that can be telepathically controlled through the neural networks from the skull of a severed Ghidorah head. The mechanical monster is to be controlled by Ren Serizawa (Shun Oguri), the son of the late Ishiro Serizawa, but is limp due to its power supply's limitations. Walter intends to harness the Hollow Earth's energy to increase Mechagodzilla's power. Kong and the team enter Hollow Earth where they find an ecosystem like Skull Island. They discover his species' ancestral throne room, with remains of an ancient war with Godzilla's kind and a glowing axe made from another Godzilla's dorsal plates. As they identify the power source, the code is sent to the Hong Kong Apex base despite Ilene's protests. Attracted by Mechagodzilla's activation, Godzilla arrives in Hong Kong, and sensing Kong, he directly drills a shaft to the throne room with his atomic breath. In the ensuing mayhem, Maia and the Apex team attempt to escape but Kong crushes their HEAV. Kong, Ilene, Jia, and Nathan ascend to Hong Kong, where Godzilla and Kong battle, destroying many skyscrapers in the process. Godzilla is initially overpowered by Kong, but Godzilla emerges victorious. Kong loses consciousness after being defeated by Godzilla. Madison, Josh, and Bernie are caught by security and taken to Walter. Despite Ren's concerns over the power source's volatility, Walter orders him to activate Mechagodzilla. Suddenly, Ghidorah's consciousness possesses Mechagodzilla, who kills Walter, electrocutes Ren and the starts to attack Hong Kong. Godzilla and Mechagodzilla battle, but Godzilla is overwhelmed. Nathan revives Kong by destroying the HEAV, causing a large jolt of electricity to stun him, and Jia convinces him to help Godzilla. As Mechagodzilla overpowers both Titans, Josh short-circuits Mechagodzilla's controls with Bernie's flask of liquor. Godzilla supercharges Kong's axe with his atomic breath, allowing Kong to destroy Mechagodzilla. Madison, Bernie, and Josh reunite with Mark Russell (Kyle Chandler), while Godzilla and Kong acknowledge each other before the two go their separate ways. Sometime later, Monarch has established an observation post in the Hollow Earth, where Kong now rules. Also starring Lance Reddick as Guillermin, Hakeem Kae-Kazim as Admiral Wilcox, and Ronny Chieng as Jay Wayne. The acting performances are fine, and the story is reasonable, but let's be honest, it's all about the title fight. It delivers exactly what you would expect, two giants of cinema brought together in a clash of the titans, and many large buildings destroyed, things blowing up and chaos all around, with fantastic special effects, it is better than I expected, a satisfactory and entertaining enough science-fiction monster movie. Worth watching!
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Spiral (2021)
4/10
Spiral: From the Book of Saw
23 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I wasn't expecting there to be any more Saw movies after The Final Chapter (Saw VII, or Saw 3D, as it was known), but they managed to squeeze out Jigsaw three years ago, and then there came this eighth instalment, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Mother's Day, St. Agatha). Basically, at a Fourth of July parade, off-duty cop Detective Marv 'Boz' Boswick (Dan Petronijevic) chases a thief down a sewer drainage pipe. He is attacked from behind by a figure wearing a pig mask, and wakes to find himself suspended by his tongue in a trap above a subway tunnel. On a television screen plays a recorded message from someone wearing the pig mask with a distorted voice, telling him he has a choice: tear out his tongue that and live, or be hit and killed by the oncoming train. Boswick is unable to escape in time and is hit and killed by the train. The next day, police Captain Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols) assigns Detective Ezekiel "Zeke" Banks (Chris Rock, also producing) a new partner, idealistic rookie William Schenk (The Handmaid's Tale's Max Minghella). Banks and Schenk investigate Boswick's death, seeing the cirmstances of the officer's death, and a red spiral spray painted on the wall, Banks believes the crime to be inspired by now deceased Jigsaw Killer, aka John Kramer. Meanwhile, homicide Detective Fitch (Richard Zeppieri) is abducted and placed in a trap where he must rip his fingers off to avoid electrocution in a filling water basin; he also fails to escape and dies. Several years ago, Fitch ignored a backup call from Banks, resulting in him nearly getting killed. Some officers begin to suspect that Banks may be responsible, due to his history with Fitch. A box then arrives at the station, containing a pig puppet and a piece of Schenk's tattooed skin inside. A small vial inside the box directs the police to a butcher shop, which was previously a hobby shop that Banks and his father, retired chief Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson), would go to. Upon arriving, the team discovers a tape recorder and the skinned corpse of Schenk. Deciding to track down the killer himself, Marcus travels to a warehouse, where he is abducted. Shortly afterwards, Garza is kidnapped, and placed in a trap in the precinct's cold storage where she must sever her spinal cord on a blade to stop hot wax flowing from a pipe onto her face. She manages to successfully sever her spine but dies of her injuries, with Banks finding her body. Following a lead, Banks is captured and wakes up handcuffed to a pipe in the warehouse with a hacksaw nearby. He considers sawing off his arm but manages to escape using a loose bobby pin. He then discovers Pete Dunleavy (Patrick McManus), his former partner who was fired when Banks exposed a murder he committed, chained in place. A large glass-crushing machine has been modified to hurl shrapnel at Pete at high speed; a tape recorder explains that Banks can choose to either free him or leave him to die. Although Banks tries to save Pete, he dies from blood loss. Moving to another room, Banks then finds Schenk, who is alive having faked his own death by using the skinned corpse of the thief who lured Boswick into the tunnels; he has been the copycat killer all along. He explains that he is really Billy Emerson, the son of the person Pete murdered, who was shot because he had agreed to testify against a dirty cop. He also reveals that Marcus, during his time as chief, deliberately protected corrupt officers, including Garza, to "clean" the streets of crime more efficiently. Emerson presents him with a final test to prove himself as a potential ally. Marcus is restrained in the air and slowly being drained of blood. Emerson calls 911 and claims that he is a civilian being pursued by a shooter, resulting in the dispatcher sending a SWAT team to his location. He hands Banks a gun with a single bullet and offers him a choice, to either shoot a target that will save Marcus but allow Emerson to escape, or to kill Emerson and let his father bleed to death. Banks decides to shoot the target to save Marcus, causing his restraints to loosen and lowering him to the ground. He fights with Emerson, and the SWAT team arrives. The SWAT tram inadvertently trigger a tripwire, causing Marcus to be yanked up, and a gun becomes affixed to his arm. The restraints and the gun are pulled upward, the SWAT mistake Marcus for a shooter and kill him. Banks screams in anguish as Emerson escapes. Also starring Ali Johnson as Officer Jeannie Lewis, Zoie Palmer as Kara Boswick, Dylan Roberts as Sergeant Morgey, K. C. Collins as Detective Drury, Edie Inksetter as Detective Kraus, Thomas Mitchell as Detective O'Brien, Carvin Winans as Officer Paul, Leila Leigh as Officer Mark, and Josh Stolberg as Police Officer. Rock proves himself as more than a comedian with a reasonable serious performance as the lead cop, Minghella is alright, and Jackson is an odd but interesting choice as the lead character's dad. This sequel is from the perspective of the authorities trying to catch the killer, Tobin Bell is nowhere to be seen (apart from some photos) as the culprit is a copycat, but it doesn't quite work. The traps and deaths are just as gruesome as the previous "torture porn" entries, but the film suffers from a lack of inventive twists, no scares, no thrills, and a predictable script, a pretty disappointing and boring horror. Okay!
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Three Amigos! (1986)
5/10
Three Amigos!
23 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I remember seeing the image for this movie a few times when I was younger, and I knew I was going to watch it one day, so I'm glad it was broadcast on television, directed by John Landis (The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Burke and Hare). Basically, set in 1916, Lucky Day (Steve Martin), Dusty Bottoms (Chevy Chase), and Ned Nederlander (Martin Short) are silent movie stars from Los Angeles, California, who portray "The Three Amigos", a trio of gunfighters, on screen. Meanwhile, in Mexico, the village of Santo Poco is being threatened by the bandit "El Guapo" (Alfonso Arau) and his gang. Carmen (Patrice Martinez), daughter of the village leader, searches for someone who can come to the rescue of her townspeople. While visiting the village church, she watches a silent film featuring "The Three Amigos" who protect the vulnerable from villains. Believing them to be real heroes, Carmen sends a telegram asking them to come and stop El Guapo. When the three actors demand a salary increase, studio executive Harry Flugleman (Joe Mantegna) fires them. Shortly afterward, they receive Carmen's telegram, which was shortened for words due to expenses. They misinterpret it as an invitation to perform in character at a show for the people of Santo Poco. After breaking into the studio to retrieve their costumes, the Amigos head for Mexico. Stopping at a cantina near Santo Poco, they are mistaken for associates of a fast-shooting German pilot (Kai Wulff), who is also looking for El Guapo. The Amigos perform at the Cantina, singing "My Little Buttercup", and leave the locals confused. A relieved Carmen finds the Amigos and takes them to the village, where they are given a room in the best house in town and pampered. The next morning, three of El Guapo's men come to raid the village. The Amigos do a Hollywood-style stunt show that leaves the men bemused. The bandits ride off, making the villagers think that the Amigos have scared them away. While the village throws a party for the Amigos, the men tell El Guapo what happened, and he decides to return the next day to confront the Amigos. The next morning, El Guapo and his gang come to Santo Poco and call out the Amigos, but the Amigos think this is another show. After Lucky gets shot in the arm, the Amigos realise that they are real bandits and beg for mercy. El Guapo allows the Amigos to live, then his men loot the village and kidnap Carmen. The Amigos are humiliated and leave Santo Poco. Ned persuades Lucky and Dusty to save Carmen and defeat El Guapo, saying that they have nothing worth going back to in America and that they a chance to be real heroes. They spot a cargo plane and follow it; the plane is flown by the German, who has brought a shipment of rifles for El Guapo's gang. Preparations are underway for El Guapo's 40th birthday party, and he plans to make Carmen his bride. The Amigos try to sneak into the hideout, with mixed results: Lucky is captured and chained up in a dungeon, Dusty crashes through a window into Carmen's room, and Ned ends up stuck, suspended from a piñata. Lucky frees himself, but Dusty and Ned are taken hostage. The German challenges Ned to a shootout, having idolised his gun skills since childhood. Ned kills the German, and Lucky holds El Guapo at gunpoint long enough for Carmen and the Amigos to escape in the German's plane. Returning to Santo Poco with El Guapo's army in pursuit, the Amigos rally the villagers to stand up for themselves. The bandits arrive, only to find themselves suddenly being shot at by Amigos from all sides and falling into hidden trenches dug by the villagers. El Guapo's men either ride off or are shot, and he takes a fatal wound as well. As he lies dying, the villagers, all dressed as Amigos, step out to confront him. El Guapo congratulates them, then shoots Lucky in the foot and dies. The villagers offer to give the Amigos all the money they have, but the Amigos refuse and quote one of their own movies: "Our reward is that justice has been done." They then ride off into the sunset. Also starring Tony Plana as Jefe, Phil Hartman as Sam, Jon Lovitz as Morty, Philip Gordon as Rodrigo, and Randy Newman as the voice of the Singing Bush (also writing). Martin, Chase, and Short make have great chemistry as the trio of hapless actors who are unintentionally drawn into a showdown against a gang of villains, and the gentle digs at the western genre work well, it is just simple entertainment with some little chuckles along the way, a reasonable western comedy. Worth watching!
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5/10
Internal Affairs
23 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I missed this on television twice before, so I rented it on DVD, it was rated well by critics and I was told it was good, so I looked forward to it, directed by Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas, Timecode, Cold Creek Manor). Basically, one night, LAPD Sergeant Dennis Peck (Richard Gere) and Van Stretch (William Baldwin) are working a drug bust, when fellow officer Dorian Fletcher (Michael Beach) accidentally shoots an unarmed man who running towards him. Peck plants a knife on the body to get the distraught Fletcher off the hook. Raymond Avilla (Andy Garcia) joins the LAPD's Internal Affairs Division (IAD) and is assigned to investigate the drug bust with partner Amy Wallace (Scream 2's Laurie Metcalf). They learn that Stretch uses drugs, has been known to be racist, may be corrupt, and is abusive towards his wife Penny (Faye Grant). Avilla eventually begins to investigate Peck, who is seen as a role model in the department and socially, despite his lifestyle, including supporting three ex-wives and eight children. After an altercation with Peck, Fletcher agrees to help Avilla's investigation. It is revealed that Peck is not only corrupt, dealing in extortion, favours to cops and criminals alike and complicit dealings with pimps, but he also works as a hitman. On one occasion, businessman Steven Arrocas (John Kapelos) offers Peck $15,000 to kill his own parents and it gets angry when he demands a higher sum. Avilla pressures Stretch to provide evidence against Peck in return for immunity from prosecution. Avilla becomes so obsessed with the case that it causes friction between him and his wife Kathleen (Nancy Travis). Peck insinuates he will make advances on Kathleen. Stretch calls Penny and tells her that he will testify, unaware that Peck is having sex with her at that very moment. During a routine patrol in Huntington Park, Peck has staged a hit and Stretch in the chest. Stretch is revealed to be alive; Peck strangles him with a chokehold, appearing as if he is holding his dead friend as his partners arrive. Avilla and Wallace set up a sting to catch Demetrio (Marco Rodríguez), who witnessed the Huntington Park incident. But two SWAT units arrive on the scene after the sting is leaked, Fletcher and Demetrio are killed in the resulting shootout. As he dies in Avilla's arms, Demetrio identifies Peck as Stretch's killer. Avilla is antagonised by Peck, who reveals that he met with Kathleen in a public place, posing as an IAD investigator. This becomes a fight in the office when Peck boasts that he seduced and pleasured her. Avilla also has a violent public confrontation with Kathleen and goes on a drinking binge. The two make up the following morning when Kathleen convinces Avilla that no infidelity happened. The IAD net is tightening around Peck, with revelations of his finances, and Wallace correctly guessing Van's widow had an affair with Peck. Peck's wife gives Avilla and Wallace information about two recent murder victims. Meanwhile, Arrocas walks in on Peck having rough sex with his wife. Peck casually confirms that the contract killing of Arrocas' parents has been fulfilled and tries to goad Arrocas into killing his wife, but Arrocas shoots Peck in the foot instead. Avilla and Wallace show up shortly after, finding the dead bodies of the Arrocases. Peck ambushes and shoots Wallace, wounding her badly, and flees. Avilla rushes home to find Peck holding Kathleen hostage. As he is beaten and shot in the leg by Avilla, Peck proudly boasts his ability to manipulate and attributes his crimes to provide for his family. Unwilling to go to prison, Peck pulls a knife out of his boot and lunges at Avilla, who shoots him dead. Avilla tries to comfort his traumatised wife. Also starring Richard Bradford as Grieb, Katherine Borowitz as Tova Arrocas, Xander Berkeley as Rudy Mohr, John Capodice as Chief Healy, Heather Lauren Olson as Megan Peck, Annabella Sciorra as Heather Peck, Elijah Wood as Sean, and Mike Figgis as Hollander. Gere being a nasty character definitely did him favours getting away from his many pretty boy roles following An Officer and a Gentleman, and Garcia does well as the agent trying to catch him out. I will be honest and say that I was a bit in and out at times, but it got my attention at the right moments, from the corruption stuff to the moments of violence, overall, it is a gripping enough crime thriller. Worth watching!
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Neighbors (I) (2014)
5/10
Bad Neighbours
23 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I remember hearing about this movie, because of the two leading actors, and because it got a sequel, so it I knew it must have been popular, I was just hoping for a good laugh, directed by Nicholas Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek). Basically, Mac Radner (Seth Rogen) and his Australian wife Kelly (Rose Byrne) are settling down in a quiet neighbourhood with their new-born child, six-month-old baby daughter Stella (Elise and Zoey Vargas). The responsibilities of parenthood make it difficult for them to maintain their old lifestyle, they try to cling into being youthful and their sex life. They have become somewhat alienated from their friends Jimmy Blevins (Ike Barinholtz) and his ex-wife, Paula (Carla Gallo). Mac and Kelly are excited when they are getting new neighbours, unfortunately the new arrivals turn out to be the Delta Psi Beta fraternity. The fraternity's leaders, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron) and Pete Regazolli (Dave Franco) come across friendly when meeting Mac and Kelly, but their housewarming party becomes loud and wild. Teddy and Pete aspire to join Delta Psi's Hall of Fame by throwing a massive end-of-the-year party. The couple ask Teddy to keep the noise down, but he decides to invite them to join the party. The Radners are initially reluctant but remain convinced that they still have a modicum of cool left in them and are happy to partake in heavy drinking and drugtaking. Teddy agrees to manage the noise for further parties, but has Mac and Kelly promise to always call him instead of the police. The following night, when another party next door keeps Stella awake, Mac is unable to reach Teddy. Kelly convinces Mac to call the police anonymously, but Officer Watkins (Hannibal Buress) identifies them to Teddy. Betrayed, Teddy leads Delta Psi in dumping their garbage on the Radners' lawn, this is known as hazing. Mac and Kelly complain to Dean Carol Gladstone (Lisa Kudrow), but the school has a "three strikes" policy before it will intervene; Delta Psi's first strike was burning down their old house. The couple try to force the fraternity to move by damaging their house, but this is unsuccessful. Mac and Kelly decide to join another party, pretending to allow themselves a night of fun. There, Kelly manipulates Pete and Teddy's girlfriend Brooke Shy (Halston Sage) into having sex, with Mac getting Teddy to catch them in the act. Teddy and Pete fight, and a passing professor is injured by a barbecue grill that rolls outside. This gives Delta Psi their second strike and places them on probation, effectively ending their party plans. Mac and Kelly ask Jimmy, who is jealous that Paula is sleeping with Delta Psi member Scoonie (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), to help them shut down the fraternity. To acquire evidence of Delta Psi's recent hazing, they ask fraternity pledge Assjuice (Craig Roberts) to talk to Teddy and record him threatening retaliation. But Teddy shows Assjuice kindness, who cannot go through with the plan and openly admits Mac and Kelly trying to sabotage the fraternity. Teddy feeling vengeful pranks the Radners, by taking out the airbags from the car, and placing them under chairs and sofas to rapidly deflate, causing Mac to fly into the air or hit the ceiling. Mac and Kelly create a counterfeit letter from Gladstone lifting Delta Psi's probation. The fraternity prepares for their end-of-the-year party, which Mac, Kelly, and Jimmy widely publicise to ensure it will be out of control. Once the party is in full swing, they notify the police, but Teddy realises what the Radners have done, and stops the party just as Officer Watkins arrives. Jimmy throws himself from the balcony to distract Teddy, severely breaking his leg, which allows Kelly to sneak into Teddy's bedroom. While Mac fights Teddy off, Kelly cannot open the breaker box to restart the party. Instead, she lights one of the fireworks in the room and shoots it at the officer's patrol car. Paula convinces Scoonie to turn on the power, reigniting the party, and she reunites with Jimmy. Teddy takes the blame for the party, convincing Pete to flee with the others, and is arrested. The fraternity receives its third and final strike and is shut down. Four months later, Mac runs into Teddy, who is working as a shirtless greeter at clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch. They greet each other warmly and Teddy reveals he is attending night classes to complete his degree. Mac takes off his shirt and jokingly acts as a greeter with Teddy. While Mac and Kelly are taking pictures of Stella, Jimmy and Paul call and invite them to an event, they decide to accept their roles as parents and politely decline. Also starring Brian Huskey as Bill Wazowkowski, Jerrod Carmichael as Garf, Andy Samberg as Toga #1 and Steve Carell as TV News. Rogen, Byrne and Efron give equally funny and likeable performances, there are the obvious over-the-top slapstick and small gross-out moments, but the best moments are between the actors parring between each other, a fun comedy. Worth watching!
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The Outsiders (1983)
5/10
The Outsiders
13 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I had heard about this film a few times in the past, I knew it was famous for launching the careers of its up-and-coming stars, I was hoping it would be something good as well, directed by Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Bram Stoker's Dracula). Basically, set in the mid-1960s, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, greasers are tough, low-income working-class teens. They include Ponyboy Curtis (E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial's C. Thomas Howell) and his two older brothers, Darrel, aka Darry (Patrick Swayze), and Sodapop, aka Soda (Rob Lowe), as well as Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio), Dallas "Dally" Winston (Matt Dillon), Keith "Two-Bit" Matthews (Emilio Estevez), and Steve Randle (Tom Cruise). Their rivals are the Socs (pronounced "SO-shiz", short for Socials), wealthier kids from the other side of town. The Curtis brothers live in the family home, with eldest Darry taking a parental role because their parents died in an accident, while their friends come and go as they please. One night, following a trip to the drive-in movie theatre, Pony and Johnny are ambushed by Bob Sheldon (Leif Garrett), Randy Anderson (Darren Dalton), and another three drunken Socs members. The boys are attacked, with Johnny beaten up and Ponyboy almost drowned in a fountain. Ponyboy blacks out, and when he wakes up, he finds Johnny traumatised holding a blood-stained switchblade having killed Bob, whose lifeless body is nearby, while the others have fled. Following advice from Dally, Ponyboy and Johnny hide on a cargo train headed towards Windrixville and hide out in an abandoned church. They change their appearances, both cutting their hair, while Ponyboy bleaches his hair. Johnny feels guilty for killing Bob, even though it was in self-defence and cries after talking about the incident. To pass time, the boys play poker and Ponyboy reads Gone with the Wind. After a few days, Dally arrives with news that Sherri "Cherry" Valance (Diane Lane) has offered to support the boys in court, and that he told the police that Johnny and Pony were in Texas. He gives Ponyboy a note from Sodapop, asking to come home and that Darry is sorry. While the three eat lunch at Dairy Queen, Johnny says that they must turn themselves in, but Dally disagrees. When the boys return to the church, they find the building on fire. But worse is that children are trapped inside. The Greasers rescue the kids from the burning church; Ponyboy is not really hurt, but Johnny and Dally are injured. Dally's injuries are not serious, but Johnny suffers a broken back and severe burns. Ponyboy reunites with his brothers and they all hug tightly. The boys are praised for their heroism, but Johnny is charged with manslaughter for killing Bob, while Ponyboy may be sent to a boys' home. Bob's death sparks the Socs to demand a "rumble". On the day of the rumble, Randy wants to talk to Ponyboy. Having read about their heroics in the newspaper, he admits he did not expect him to be heroic and says he will have no part in the rumble. Later, Ponyboy and Two-Bit visit Johnny in the hospital room, Johnny admits that he previously felt suicidal but wants to live. Ponyboy and Two-Bit then visit Dally in his hospital room, he says that they must win the rumble for Johnny. Cherry visits Ponyboy to talk about court, and she tells him that she doesn't want to visit Johnny because he killed Bob. Ponyboy thinks that Cherry is betraying them and doesn't know how bad the Socs are and leaves. Later that night, the Greasers meet up with the gang led by Tim Shepard (Glenn Withrow) for the rumble. The Greasers and Socs exchange a few words, and then Dally arrives just before the fight begins, which the Greasers ultimately win. After the rumble, Dally drives an injured Ponyboy to the hospital to visit Johnny. They tell Johnny about the Greasers' victory in the rumble, but Johnny is unimpressed and dies after telling Ponyboy to "stay gold", referring to the Robert Frost poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay". Unable to bear Johnny's death, Dally leaves the hospital and robs a grocery store, but he is shot and wounded by the owner as he flees. Pursued by the police, Dally is eventually surrounded in a park and, feeling suicidal, provokes them to shoot him dead. Everyone goes to court for Bob's murder and the judge pleads Ponyboy not guilty. After court, Cherry sees Ponyboy at school and ignores him. During an argument between Darry and Ponyboy, Sodapop flees as they follow him. They stop as Sodapop confesses that they can't live like that anymore and that they must start to understand each other to get along which they all agree on then go home. Ponyboy is eventually cleared of wrongdoing in Bob's death and allowed to stay with his brothers. Reading Johnny's copy of Gone with the Wind, Ponyboy finds a letter from Johnny saying that saving the children was worth sacrificing his own life. The story ends with Ponyboy writing a school report about his recent experiences. Also starring Michelle Meyrink as Marcia, Tom Waits as Buck Merrill and Sofia Coppola as Little Girl. While Swayze, Lowe, Dillon, Estevez, and Cruise are the stars that went to bigger success, it is Howell and Macchio that are the main protagonists, the others only have small scenes. Having made the big movie that was Apocalypse Now, Coppola made this much smaller film, the 1960s recreation is done relatively well, the dialogue is perhaps daft and there are predictable moments, but there is enough material and obviously the recognisable young stars to keep you watching, not a bad coming-of-age crime drama. Worth watching!
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Road House (1989)
5/10
Road House
13 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I'd heard about this movie because of the lead actor; it is one of his most talked about films, alongside Dirty Dancing and Ghost, so I was hoping it would be another one I can agree to be recommended, directed by Rowdy Herrington (Striking Distance). Basically, James Dalton (Patrick Swayze) is a professional "cooler" (doorman) working in New York City who enticed to working for Frank Tilghman (Kevin Tighe) at his club, the Double Deuce, in Jasper, Missouri. Frank has plans to invest substantial money into the club to enhance its image, and he needs a first-rate cooler to maintain stability. Arriving in Jasper, Dalton goes to a local farm owned by Emmett (Sunshine Parker) where he pays to rent a room. Frank hands control of all bar operations and hiring to Dalton, who attracts the attention with his quiet demeanour, which contrasts with the rough regulars and rowdy locals. Dalton teaches the staff that they must remain calm and "be nice" to the customers, and only get tough when necessary. Dalton is soon introduced to local business magnate Brad Wesley (Ben Gazzara), who effectively controls the town. Over time, the nightclub continues to have violent incidents, with Dalton dismissing many unruly employees, some of whom have connections with Wesley. After one particularly violent night where Dalton is forced to physically remove Wesley's henchmen, he suffers a knife wound. He forms a friendship with Dr. Elizabeth "Doc" Clay (Kelly Lynch) at the hospital, which soon develops into a romance. Wesley summons Dalton to his home in a seemingly innocent attempt to make peace, but ultimately reveals his true intentions. Wesley wants Dalton to work for him, and reveals that he knows about Dalton's mysterious past, when he killed a man in Memphis, Tennessee. When Dalton declines, Wesley begins attacking his friends, and interferes with alcohol deliveries to the Double Deuce. Dalton's mentor, aging but legendary cooler Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott), arrives in town following a previous phone call from Dalton and helps him defend a liquor shipment from Wesley's thugs. That evening, local auto parts store owner Red Webster (Red West) is targeted when his establishment is destroyed by a fire after he refuses to give in to Wesley's persistent extortion demands. Dalton, not wanting to make things worse, allows Wesley and his men to enter the club that night. However, Wesley deploys violent ex-con and skilled martial artist Jimmy (Marshall R. Teague), to start a brawl with the Double Deuce bouncers. After a brief conflict with Wade and Dalton, Wesley calls an end to the fight and leaves the club. The next day, Wesley sends one of his thugs to demolish the car dealership of Pete Stroudenmire (Jon Paul Jones) with a monster truck in front of the citizens after he also refuses Wesley's demands. That night, Doc visits Dalton and they make love, after which she tries to convince him to leave town. However, their conversation is interrupted by an explosion at Emmett's house next door. Dalton rescues Emmett from the fire before his house is destroyed. He sees Jimmy fleeing the scene and manages to intercept him. After a vicious fight, Jimmy points a gun at Dalton, but Dalton kills him by ripping out his throat with his bare hand. Doc is horrified by Dalton's brutality and leaves in disgust. The next morning, Dalton receives a threatening phone call from Wesley, who vows to have either Wade or Doc killed by the flip of a coin. After Wesley hangs up leaving the outcome unknown, Wade staggers into the Double Deuce after being badly beaten. Dalton races to the hospital alone to find Doc, who may be in danger, but she refuses to leave with him, repulsed by his increasingly violent nature. Upon returning to the Double Deuce, Dalton finds Wade sprawled out on the bar with a knife stuck in his chest. Enraged, Dalton pulls the knife out and storms out of the bar, determined to settle things with Wesley once and for all. Dalton drives recklessly to Wesley's estate, Wesley's henchmen shoot at the car, but when it crashes, they discover it is empty, and the knife used to kill Wade stuck in the accelerator. Using the distraction, Dalton sneaks onto the estate and eliminates Wesley's henchmen, before confronting Wesley himself. They fight and Dalton gains the upper hand, but he decides not to finish Wesley, he released him and walks away. Wesley seizes the opportunity and reaches for a gun, but is shot to death by Red, Emmett, Pete, and Frank. The men stash the weapons away before the sheriff arrives, and with a surviving henchman, corroborate each other's innocence. Later, Dalton's friend Cody (Jeff Healey) and his band perform at the Double Deuce, while Dalton and Doc enjoy each other's company in a swimming hole. Also starring Julie Michaels as Denise, Keith David as Ernie Bass, and Kathleen Wilhoite as Carrie. Swayze with his mullet is reasonably engaging as the straight-faced softly spoken bouncer, Elliott as his old buddy and mentor, and Gazzara as the gangster villain are good. It is a simple enough story, a renowned tough guy is brought to a bar full of hoodlums to make a more friendly place to go, it has a dumb script full of predictable dialogue, but its numerous fight sequences and violent moments get your attention, overall, it is a silly but at the same time almost entertaining action thriller. Worth watching!
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5/10
The Happy Prince
13 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I saw Rupert Everett talking about this film during his Life Stories interview with Piers Morgan, it is his debut as writer and director, I was looking forward to it. Basically, set in 1897, Oscar Wilde (Rupert Everett) has just been released from prison after serving his sentence for gross indecency (homosexuality was illegal at the time). Separated from his wife and children, he arrives in Dieppe, where old friends Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) and Robert "Robbie" Ross (Edwin Thomas) are waiting for him. Wilde assumes the alias of Sebastian Melmoth and tries to rebuild his life. He also wants to make peace with his wife Constance Lloyd (Emily Watson) and writes to her. He is recognised and taunted by some young Englishmen who pursue him into a church. He violently defends himself and receives a severe warning from the police. Oscar reunites with his old lover Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas (Merlin's Colin Morgan), which angers Robbie, whose secret love for him has never been reciprocated. Oscar and Bosie flee together to Naples, where they live for some time in a house in Posillipo. Soon Lady Douglas, Bosie's mother, stops her son his allowance, saying she will resume payments, and give a £200 payoff to Oscar, if the two lovers separate. Despite Oscar's anger, they give in and separate. Shortly afterwards Constance, who had forbidden Oscar any contact with Bosie, dies from complications following surgery, and Oscar is denied any contact with their two children. Now incapable of writing, Oscar goes to Paris, where he lives off his wits and the charity of his old supporters. He is reunited Reggie and Robbie and shortly after finds Bosie, whose has received a large inheritance following the recent death of his father, but Bosie angrily refuses to help him. Meanwhile, Oscar begins to show strange symptoms, including coughing blood, he assumes it is mussel poisoning, but then suspects that it may be syphilis. Oscar shares his misery with two begging brothers he meets, he also tells his fairy tale The Happy Prince, which he always told his children. Oscar's illness gets worse, and he receives a painful surgical operation to treat an abscess (his right ear drum was ruptured in a fall, leading to a collection of pus, swelling and inflammation to cause bacteria) in his ear. His uncertain physical state causes post-operative infections. With his last strength Oscar asks for an extreme Catholic anointing, only to die surrounded by the few friends he has remaining. Oscar passes away from meningitis. At Oscar's funeral, Robbie complains to Bosie that he was a hypocrite, because he mourns the death of the man who had always loved him and whom he had abandoned without showing any gratitude. Bosie says that his words are dictated by jealousy, and that only he will be remembered alongside Oscar Wilde, while Robbie will be forgotten. The epilogue says that Bosie died alone and penniless in 1945, while Robbie died in 1918 and was buried with Oscar. In 2017, Oscar was pardoned together with other people convicted of homosexual offences. Also starring Tom Wilkinson as Father Dunne, Anna Chancellor as Mrs. Arbuthnot, Julian Wadham as Mr. Arbuthnot, Béatrice Dalle as Café Manager, John Standing as Dr. Tucker, and Ronald Pickup as Judge. Everett plays the central role as the fallen playwright, gay martyr and self-destructive cynic, and his writing and direction is reasonably good. It is an interesting portrait of a Victorian icon in his final years, it has flashbacks seeing Wilde's previous glittering success, the subject of horrifying homophobic prejudice is strong, it is obviously a story leading to tragedy, but there are moments of humour to soften it a little, it is a reasonably entertaining biographical drama. Worth watching!
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6/10
Les Misérables
13 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
Not to be confused with the musical, the title is a reference to the original Victor Hugo book, written in Montfermeil, where most of the story is set. I found out about this French film first when it was reviewed by Mark Kermode on the BBC News, and secondly it became part of Awards Season, so I was interested to see what it had to offer. Basically, it opens in Paris during the celebrations of the victory of the French team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Soon after, police officer Stéphane Ruiz (Damien Bonnard) has moved from Paris to join the anti-crime brigade, he is assigned to work with squad leader Chris (Alexis Manenti) and brigadier Gwada (Djebril Zonga) on duty in the nearby city of Montfermeil. Chris is often aggressive and abuses his power on teenagers, with Gwada contented with it, Stéphane feels uneasy but cannot bring himself to interfere. Meanwhile, juvenile delinquent Issa (Issa Perica) steals a lion cub named Johnny from a circus, causing its owner Zorro (Raymond Lopez) to go to a man known as "the Mayor" (Steve Tientcheu) and threaten to return with firearms if Johnny is not returned. Chris and his squadron are tasked with finding and retrieving the cub. One of Issa's friends takes a picture of Issa with the cub and posts it on Instagram, leading Chris to find out that Issa is the culprit. They chase, capture and handcuff him, but he claims that the cub had run away. Issa's friends then attack the three officers, throwing things at them. When Issa tries to flee, Gwada, who accidentally teargassed himself during the chase, shoots him in the face with a flash-ball. Issa's friends scatter, but the squadron realise that they have been filmed by a drone, which escapes. While Stéphane wants to take a wounded Issa to a hospital, Chris and Gwada refuse, and instead they take him with them in their search for the owner of the drone. The trio leave Issa in the care a local neighbourhood contact of Chris and use the contact's information to find Buzz (Al-Hassan Ly), the teenager the drone belongs to, forcing him to flee before he can upload the video. Buzz takes the drone's memory card and escapes the squadron, taking shelter with restaurant owner Salah (Almamy Kanouté), who is key member of the local Islamic community. Both the squadron and the Mayor, having found out, arrive at Salah's restaurant. After a tense confrontation during which Chris tries to illegally arrest Buzz, Ruiz convinces Salah to give him the memory card, claiming that Issa's shooting was just accidental. After recovering Issa and the cub, which was spotted near them, the squadron takes the two to the circus. Although Issa is made to apologise, Zorro drags him inside a cage with a fully grown lion, scaring Issa into wetting himself. Stéphane almost shoots the lion, until Issa is eventually let go. Deciding that Issa has learned his lesson, Chris drops him off and warns him not to tell anyone what happened, and, if asked about his injury, to say that he slipped and fell. In the evening, the characters return to their seemingly normal lives, some with visible signs of distress and doubt. Issa, who had been told by his father not to return because of his behaviour, sits traumatised alone on a ruined couch. Later that night, Ruiz meets Gwada in a bar and tells him that he knows that a flash-ball cannot be fired by accident, and that Gwada had therefore intentionally shot Issa. Gwada blames being overwhelmed by stress, and Stéphane, while unconvinced, leaves Gwada with telling him to "do what you gotta do". The next day, the squadron, while on patrol, get attacked by a small group led by Issa. They chase them, falling into Issa's trap and ending up assaulted by a much larger group of teenagers, leaving them trapped from all sides in a stairwell and fighting for their lives. Chris is wounded, and the backup car gets immediately destroyed by the teenagers, forcing the backup policemen to flee. They also attack the Mayor's office and end up clubbing him and throwing him down a set of stairs. Stéphane begs for help, pounding on the nearest door, which happens to be Buzz's apartment, but Buzz locks the door. Issa lights an improvised alcohol bomb and prepares to finish the squadron off, leading Stéphane to point his gun at him and warn him not to. The screen fades to black as both Issa and Stéphane try to decide what to do next, and a quote from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables appears: "Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators." Also starring Nizar Ben Fatma as La Pince (The Clamp) and Jeanne Balibar as The Commissioner. I see the critics comparing it to films like Do the Right Thing and Training Day, the themes of bigotry, poverty and indifference are very prominent, there are some memorable moments that get your attention, especially the unjustified violent, and unorthodox and unlawful police activity, it is an interesting drama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best International Feature Film, it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language. Good!
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Another Round (2020)
8/10
Another Round
5 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
This Danish film (also titled Druk, which means "binge drinking") is one I found out about from Awards Season, the leading actor was a big draw for me, but it did also sound like an interesting story, from Oscar, BAFTA, and Golden Globe nominated director Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt, Far from the Madding Crowd). Basically, teachers Martin (BAFTA nominated Mads Mikkelsen), Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen), Peter (Lars Ranthe) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang) are colleagues and friends at a high school in Copenhagen. All four struggle with unmotivated students and feel that their lives have become boring and uneventful. At a dinner celebrating Nikolaj's 40th birthday, the group discuss a theory by psychiatrist Finn Skårderud, that having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 makes you more creative and relaxed. While the group dismisses the theory, Martin, who is depressed due to his marriage failing, is inspired and starts to drink at work. The rest of the group eventually decides to join him, noting their experiences as an experiment to test Skårderud's theory. They agree to a set of rules: their BAC should never be below 0.05 and that they should not drink after 8:00pm. Within a short period of time, Martin, Tommy, Peter and Nikolaj find both their work and private lives more enjoyable. Martin particularly is delighted that he is finally managing to reconnect with his wife and children. The group find this positivity a reason to agree to take the experiment further, and the four increase the daily BAC limit to 0.10. Continuing to find their lives improved, the group decides to attempt binge drinking to observe how their bodies and minds respond. They all have a fun night, but after coming home drunk, both Martin and Nikolaj are confronted by their families. Martin's family express their worries that he is becoming an alcoholic, saying that he has been noticeably drunk for weeks. Martin and his wife Anika (Marie Bonnevie) have a heated argument, during which she admits to infidelity, and Martin leaves her. The group soon experience the negative consequences of the experiment and abandon it. Months later, all the members of the group have stopped drinking during the day except for Tommy, who has become an alcoholic. On day at work whilst drunk, Tommy boards his boat with his dog, he sails out on the ocean and dies in an accident. Following Tommy's funeral, the three remaining friends go out to dinner and are reluctant to drink the alcohol which is served. While dining, Martin receives a message from his wife who tells him that she is willing to give their marriage another chance. Martin, Peter and Nikolaj join the recently graduated students in celebrating and allow themselves to drink again while the partying takes place at the harbour. Martin, a former jazz ballet dancer, had for some time been urged by colleagues and refused to dance. In high spirits and influenced by the alcohol, Martin dances with the students and guests. His dance becomes increasingly energetic and joyous, and it ends as he leaps into the water, on a freeze frame of him in mid-air. Also starring Susse Wold as Rektor. Mikkelsen and his three co-stars give convincing performances as the drunken chums who find a new lease of life, their lessons whilst tipsy in the classroom and in the outdoors are fun to watch, with clever camerawork to capture the controlled inebriation and emotional moments, and it has both amusing and dramatic scenes that keep things moving nicely, a great comedy-drama. It won the Oscar for Best International Feature Film, it won the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language, and Best Original Screenplay, and it Golden Globe was Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language. Very good!
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Bacurau (2019)
6/10
Bacurau
5 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I recorded this Portuguese language film from television, I read more about it before watching it, it was described as something like a "multi-genre allegory", I didn't know what to expect, but I was prepared to give it a chance. Basically, in the near future, the people of Bacurau, a settlement in Serra Verde, in western Pernambuco, witness a series of unusual events, including telephone signals going down, the settlement unexplainably disappearing from online maps, flying saucer-shaped drones chasing travellers and a couple of motor bikers from Rio de Janeiro passing by. These strange occurrences happen following the death of Carmelita (Lia de Itamaracá), a matriarch of the village, The villagers and other relatives, including her granddaughter Teresa (Bárbara Colen), have gathered for her funeral. During this time, there is a dispute over water rights from the local river, with water being dammed upstream in a collusion of which the mayor Tony Junior (Thardelly Lima) is a part. He visits Bacurau in his re-election campaign and is clearly hated by the people of the village. Meanwhile, the villagers are forced to have water delivered by truck from elsewhere. Another strange incident occurs when the truck is shot at, resulting in multiple leaks. When dozens of horses appear in town, two men go to investigate the nearby farm from where they presumably escaped and find the whole family murdered. As the two men leave the property, they are executed by the motor bikers. This couple rendezvous with a group of foreigners led by Michael (Udo Kier) and are apprehended for killing the two men. After receiving unheard instructions through earpieces, the foreigners execute the motor bikers and argue over who did the killing. As the death toll rises and a nine-year-old boy is slaughtered in cold blood, Pacote (Thomas Aquino) deduces the town will be attacked and the people prepare to defend themselves. When the foreigners arrive, the locals kill them, except for Michael, who is captured. Following the battle, Tony Junior (Thardelly Lima) comes to Bacurau and Michael calls his name; Tony denies knowing him. The mayor is sent away half-naked and tied up to a donkey. It ends with Michael being buried alive in an underground cell while shouting that "this is only the beginning". Also starring Silvero Pereira as Lunga, Rubens Santos as Erivaldo, Wilson Rabelo as Plinio, Carlos Francisco as Damiano, and Sônia Braga as Domingas. The film is part spaghetti western, horror, thriller, action, science-fiction and political, I can agree with at least half of those genres being included. I'm not going to pretend I understood anything going on, apart from the main plot that weird things are happening in a small, secluded Brazilian town with mysterious characters, but there were enough moments, some brutal and bloody, that caught my attention, and it was oddness that kept me watching, so it is a watchable drama (that's the simple genre to define it as). Good!
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10/10
Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
5 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
The Force Awakens was a brilliant comeback for the successful space franchise, peaking as the third highest-grossing movie in the world, and good for Disney who paid millions to acquire it; naturally hopes were high that the second instalment in the return series would be as good, directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper, Knives Out). Basically, following the battle of Starkiller Base, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, in her last film) is leading the Resistance forces in evacuating their base when the First Order fleet arrives. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) goes against orders and leads a costly counterattack that destroys a First Order dreadnought. The remaining Resistance escapes into hyperspace, but the First Order uses a device to track them, and attacks again. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) cannot bring himself to fire at the lead Resistance ship after sensing his mother Leia is on board, but his wingmen destroy the bridge, killing most of the Resistance's leaders. Leia is dragged into space but survives by using the Force. While Leia recovers, Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) takes over command of the Resistance. Running low on fuel, the remaining fleet is pursued by the First Order. Meanwhile, former storm trooper Finn (John Boyega) wakes up from his coma, and he asks for Rey (Daisy Ridley). Rey has just arrived on the planet Ahch-To with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and R2-D2 (Jimmy Vee) on the Millenium Falcon to find Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Luke doesn't want to see her or know who she is and why she has sought him out. After initially saying that the Jedi should end, he hears what happened to Han Solo, and is encouraged by R2-D2. Luke has a change of heart and agrees to give Rey three lessons in the ways of the Force. Rey and Kylo begin communicating through the Force, which puzzles them both. Kylo tells Rey that Luke feared his power. Luke confesses that he thought about killing Kylo, sensing that Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) was corrupting him. This prompted Kylo to destroy Luke's new Jedi Order, and caused him to disappear and self-exile himself. Convinced that Kylo can be redeemed, Rey leaves Ahch-To. Luke prepares to burn the Jedi library but hesitates when the spirit of master Yoda (Frank Oz) appears. Yoda uses the Force to summon a bolt of lightning to destroy the library and encourages Luke to learn from his failure. Meanwhile, Poe entrusts Finn, mechanic Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), and BB-8 with a secret mission to disable the First Order's tracking device. Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o) directs them to the casino town of Canto Bight, where they meet the hacker DJ (Benicio Del Toro). The local security pursues them, but they escape Canto Bight with the help of stable hand children and racing animals they set free. Finn, Rose, and DJ infiltrate Snoke's flagship but are captured by Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). Kylo brings Rey to Snoke, who reveals that he connected their minds to discover Luke's whereabouts. Holdo plans to evacuate the remaining Resistance members using small transport vessels. But Poe believes her plan is cowardly and futile and leads a mutiny. Leia recovers but also wishes to proceed with the evacuation and stuns Poe with a blaster. Holdo remains aboard the ship as a decoy to mislead Snoke's fleet as the others flee to an abandoned base on Crait. DJ buys his freedom by revealing the Resistance's plan to General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and the First Order fleet fire at the evacuation transports, with many being destroyed. Kylo is ordered to kill Rey, but instead kills Snoke and defeats his Praetorian Guard with her help. Rey hopes that Kylo has abandoned the Dark Side, but he instead asks her to rule the galaxy with him. She refuses and they battle for control of Luke's lightsabre, with the weapon being broken. Holdo sacrifices herself by slicing through Snoke's flagship at lightspeed, crippling the First Order fleet. Rey escapes the destruction while Kylo declares himself Supreme Leader. BB-8 frees Finn and Rose who fight Phasma, she is defeated and falls to her death, and the pair join the survivors on Crait. When the First Order arrives, Poe, Finn, and Rose attack with obsolete speeders. Rey and Chewbacca draw TIE fighters away in the Millennium Falcon, while Rose stops Finn from sacrificing himself. The First Order penetrates the Resistance fortress using a siege cannon. The Resistance and First Order are surprised when Luke suddenly appears on the battlefield, allowing the surviving Resistance to escape. Kylo orders the First Order's forces to fire on Luke, but they fail to harm him. Kylo and Luke engages in a lightsabre duel, but when he manages to strike Luke, Kylo realises that Luke is not physically present, but projecting his image through the Force. Rey helps the remaining Resistance escape on the Falcon. Luke has exhausted his power and dies peacefully on Ahch-To, becoming one with the Force. Rey and Leia sense his death, and Leia tells Rey that the Resistance can rise again. At Canto Bight, the stable hands recount the story of Luke Skywalker, and one of the children is seen moving a broom with the Force and gazing into space. Also starring Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Billie Lourd as Lieutenant Connix, Veronica Ngo as Paige Tico, Justin Theroux as Master Codebreaker, Adrian Edmondson as Captain Peavey, Mark Lewis Jones as Captain Canady, Chewing Gum's Michaela Coel as Resistance Monitor, Ralph Ineson as Senior First Order Officer, Shauna Macdonald as Temporary Command Center Resistance Pilot, Andy Nyman as Jail Guard, Lily Cole as Party Girl Lovey, Warwick Davis as Wodibin, the voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Slowen Lo, Gareth Edwards as Resistance Trench Soldier, and Edgar Wright as Resistance Trooper. The late great Fisher and Hamill remain as likeable as they were in the originals, Ridley and Boyega continue to delight with their breakout roles, Isaac is given a bit more to do, Driver gets more depth as the villain, and there is a terrific supporting cast, including recognisable talents like Dern, Gleeson, and Edmondson. I'm happy that this direct sequel continued to meet and fulfil my expectations, the story is well written and played out, the chase, fight and battle sequences are highly exciting, and the special effects are amazing, another triumph and I cannot wait for the conclusion in this new trilogy, a splendid science-fiction fantasy action adventure. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score for John Williams, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing, and it was nominated the BAFTAs for Best Sound, and Best Special Visual Effects. Star Wars was number 24 on The 100 Greatest Pop Culture Icons. Outstanding!
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Soul (2020)
8/10
Soul
5 May 2021
Warning: Spoilers
I did manage to watch computer-animated Disney/Pixar movie Onward before the cinemas closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this movie was delayed. Many people would have signed up to the Disney+ on-demand service to watch this and other cancelled films, but I chose to wait until it was released on DVD, directed by Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up, Inside Out) and Kemp Powers (One Night in Miami). Basically, Joe Gardner (Jamie Foxx) is a passionate jazz pianist and music teacher living in New York City who dreams of playing jazz professionally. His mother Libba (Phylicia Rashad), who works as a seamstress, insists that he should be teaching full time, fearing for his financial security. One day, talking to former student turned professional drummer Lamont "Curley" Baker Curly (Questlove), Joe learns of a spot as pianist in the band of jazz legend Dorothea Williams (Angela Bassett). He auditions at a music club for Dorothea, who is impressed with Joe's piano playing, and hires him to perform for that night's show. Joe leaves excitedly and so distracted that he narrowly avoids being killed by various fatal hazards, including falling objects and traffic. Finally, after ending a phone call, he falls down a manhole. Joe finds himself as a soul heading into the "Great Beyond". Unwilling to die before his big break, he tries to escape but ends up in the "Great Before", where unborn souls prepare for life on Earth. The counsellors, all named Jerry (Alice Braga, Richard Ayoade, Wes Studi, Fortune Feimster and Zenobia Shroff), explain that each soul has a badge which grants passage to Earth once all personality traits have been filled. Mistaken for a mentor, Joe is assigned to train a cynical soul named 22 (Tina Fey), who has always lived in the Great Before and wants to avoid Earth. 22 takes Joe to a place where he can see key moments in his life, and there they discover he is in a coma in hospital. Seeing his situation and his passion for music, which she claims not to care for, 22 agrees to let him help find her "spark" to complete her badge and then give it to him so that he can return home. 22 is taken to the various activity places to try and find what she is passionate about, with no success. So, they visit, "the zone", a place that souls can enter when their passions create a euphoric trance, but which can also become a trap for obsessed lost souls. They meet Moonwind (Graham Norton), the captain of a galleon carrying hippie mystics, who help Joe locate his body on Earth. Joe is too eager to get back into his body before Moonwind can explain anything, and he takes 22 with him. This results in the souls of Joe and 22 entering different bodies; 22 has entered Joe's body, and Joe has ended up in the body of a therapy cat. 22 talks with Joe's voice, while Joe cannot be understood as a cat. After leaving the hospital, 22 and Joe seek Moonwind on Earth, who works as a sign twirler, he agrees to meet them later at the jazz club to restore Joe to his own body. Meanwhile, 22 finds herself fascinated by the world around her, discovering the senses of smell and taste for pizza, washing and dressing, and a real interest in music. Joe is happy watching her experience the small moments in life, while also communicating with his friends and family. In Joe's body, 22 has poignant conversations with student Connie (Cora Champommier) who is considering quitting the school before performing a trombone solo and changing her mind, and barber Dez (Donnell Rawlings) who fixes Joe's hair and talks about originally wanting to become a veterinarian. After 22 rips Joe's pants while bending down, the duo goes to see Libba to have it fixed. 22 repeats Joe's words whispered to her and makes his mother finally understand and accept his passion for music, and she offers Joe his late father's blue suit for his upcoming gig. Meanwhile, back in the Great Beyond, obsessive accountant Terry (Rachel House) who tallies souls discovers that Joe is missing, and heads to Earth in order to send him back and restore the count. As the day ends, Joe and 22 rendezvous with Moonwind, but 22 has an epiphany and decides she must find her purpose on Earth and wants to stay in Joe's body. As she flees with Joe tailing behind, Terry catches up and brings both back to the Great Before. There, 22 realises her badge is filled out, Joe insists that it was because of his traits, and that she did not truly find her "spark". 22 angrily tosses the badge at him and disappears into the zone. A Jerry tells Joe that a spark is not a soul's purpose in life, but only an indication that it is ready to live. Refusing to believe this statement, Joe uses 22's badge to return to Earth. In his own body, Joe performs at the gig and the show is a success, but he is not completely satisfied. He realises, despite fulfilling a dream, his life has not significantly changed. He looks at objects collected by 22 while in his body, and recalls the moments they enjoyed together, he realises that these moments are what created the "spark". By playing piano, he enters the zone with the intent to return her badge but discovers that she has become a lost soul. He chases her down and reminds her of the time she spent on Earth, making her realise that her passion to live is the "spark", and she is restored to normal. Joe returns the badge and escorts 22 out of the Great Before for her journey to Earth. As Joe prepares to enter the Great Beyond, a Jerry stops him and offers another chance at life in gratitude for finally inspiring 22 to live. The obsessive Jerry is tricked by another to believe that he has completed his count of souls so that Joe can be ignored. Joe returns to his body on Earth and starts the next day committed to enjoying his entire life. Also starring Sakina Jaffrey as Doctor, June Squibb as Gerel, Jeannie Tirado as Principal Arroyo, and Ulka Simone Mohanty as Mother Teresa. Foxx as the enthusiastic musician and Fey as the sulky unborn soul who has no enthusiasm for anything are great voice casting. As long as you can concentrate the existential story is interesting, it has good humour, it has emotional moments, the music is magnificent, and the animation is brilliantly colourful and imaginative, overall, a most watchable animated fantasy comedy-drama. It won the Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film, Best Original Score for Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Jon Batiste, and it was nominated for Best Sound, it won the BAFTAs for Best Animated Feature Film, and Best Original Score, and it was nominated for Best Sound, and it won the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture - Animated, and Best Original Score. Very good!
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