Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) – Review

A Kaiju-stuffed calamity. 

Continue reading Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) – Review

John Wick 3: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019) – Review

‘Guns… a lot of guns.’

Keanu Reeve’s connection to the neo-western genre now goes beyond the prefix. In the latest Wickian outing, director Chad Stahelski and writer Derek Kolstad put a spectacular bounty on the boogeyman’s head, switching out the Wild West for neon-scorched cityscapes and adding a breathless amount of kung/gun/dog-fu.

A single droplet of blood cues the cheesy opening credits. We’re back in the world of John Wick (Reeves); immediately following the events of Chapter 2, Continental hotel manager Winston (Ian McShane) allows the hitman one hour to escape before a $14 million contract for his life is lit.

Every single killer in New York City wants a slice of that bounty; but it’ll be no easy catch. This is “John fucking Wick”, “the last thing many men see before they die”, therefore, “the odds are about even”. As the rain pours like a Vietnam monsoon, John is hunted like a dog – though we all know that action equals a deadly consequence in this franchise.

Old faces return: Lance Reddick’s low-toned, refined Charon; Laurence Fishburne on amazingly loose form as Bowery King (he belongs in Westeros with lines like “I am the throne, baby!”). But, as the lore of this canine-avenging series expands and vastly deepens, many more emerge from the shadows: Asia Kate Dillon as The Adjudicator, representing the High Table’s reticles focused on Winston after his friendly allowance to John after breaking sacred rules; Halle Berry as Sofia, a former partner of John’s with a toe-curling knack for letting her pair of gorgeous dogs ravage her enemies genitals (it happens a lot). Not to mention the actual Anjelica Houston and Mark Dacascos as a delightfully twisted baddie.

Coins, markers, High Tables; Stahelski and Kolstad have rapidly moved from their emotive beginnings to expansive, hammy lore, constantly revealing new areas of the assassin-sphere. Your allegiances can be deciphered on the primitive question; which film did you prefer? The answer will likely indicate how you take Chapter 3, by far the most outrageous, exaggerated entry of the trilogy.

This time round though, the leaps and bounds the whacky mythos takes doesn’t always equal an exciting story. The runtime, a reasonable 131 minutes, can sag in bullet-less intervals, often woven with opaque dialogue about bonds, worths and penance. But, when the action comes back, the film kicks into a much higher gear.

The choreography here is close to The Raid 2-levels of blood-soaked quality; inventive, grim but rarely gratuitous. There’s horses, kitanas, uber-shotguns; all and more used in the act of killing, and it’s glorious. From a fight with the franchise equivalent of Jaws (Bond villain, not the shark), to a jaw-dropping move with a book, to the most impressive use of dogs in any motion picture that’s ever existed; this is premium action cinema. Stahelski is a genius in this arena, but all due credit to Dan Laustsen, the cinematographer that evokes blinding electricity from acutely framed, cross-discipline chaos.

“Art is pain” one character quips; I bet Reeves agrees. The people’s action star is known for loving the stunt-work, but this performance is one of immense physical aptitude. Stahelski said in an interview that when John looks to be struggling in the movie, panting and grunting, that’s because Reeves is. You believe it, you’re there for every punch, stab and shot he faces, every body-slam he dishes out; but with that reliable charisma he’s perfected in his renaissance, he’s also an immensely likeable hero.

There are other quibbles; Tyler Bates and Joel J. Richard’s score is a bit uninspiring; it has momentum, but not the raw acceleration of say, Junkie XL’s work on Mad Max: Fury Road. There’s also the fact that these assassins kill people in broad daylight a lot, even in train stations, and nobody seems to notice. But, with such a remarkable plethora of sequences some directors could only dream of producing, this is an exhilarating, ooh-inducing watch (shout-out to all the good dogs again).

First he avenged a dog, now he fights alongside them. John Wick’s third chapter is an over-the-top feast of brutal, giddy, masterful violence.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Cameron Frew – @FrewFilm

High Life (2019) – Review

Bewildering, penetrative sci-fi.

Endless blackness, an infinite stretch of both everything and nothing, mesmerizing but (literally) suffocating in its incomprehensible scale; the existential terror of High Life’s surrounding twinkly cosmos looms like an unconquerable inevitability. But famed arthouse director Claire Denis, making her English-language movie debut, imbues her unlikely sci-fi effort with more than fear of the unknown.

Floating far, far away from Earth, a crew of Death Row inmates is sent on a near-suicide mission to extract energy from a whopping black hole. But the ship’s doctor, Dibs (Juliette Binoche), has other ideas; battling her own demons, she wants to harvest the men’s semen and impregnate the women. But Monte (Robert Pattinson) isn’t game to make a deposit to the wank-bank.

Although, the film opens, presumably, after this gestation operation, with Monte looking after an adorable little baby; screaming for her dad as he works on the outside of the craft (the physics of Denis’ void are unique; bodies float over opening titles but a spanner drops like a pebble). The first half-hour is entrancing; dazzling cinematography from Yorick Le Saux and Tomasz Naumiuk evokes the lucid neon of HAL’s brain and the lingering malevolence of the Overlook Hotel’s haunted corridors (smoke pervades hallways like blood from the elevator).

© – A24

There are shades of other wonderful features here: a glorious green garden is reminiscent of the environmental isolation of Silent Running; the team’s objective is similar to Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, although tonally disparate. But as the narrative opens up to the other inmates, Denis’ opaque trip turns extraordinarily carnal.

“It’s called a taboo,” Monte says at one point – High Life certainly falls into that challenging category. Taking us back to others onboard (a terrific ensemble, including Mia Goth and André Benjamin), we’re transferred into a sensually charged prison, where bloodlust is normal and the risk of rape (both male and female) is prevalent. While its mood is similar to that of Under the Skin and thematically in the same ballpark as Children of Men, it’s a mind-bending, unique experience – quite possibly the horniest space expedition to hit cinemas.

The composition of every frame is impeccable (the way Denis commands dread from a gaze is chilling), and the pace is calculated; stretches of ominous inactivity are punctuated with violent vignettes. For the cast, it’s not exactly breezy fare, but they manage to shine; Pattinson puts in an engrossingly fractured performance, navigating his way through with a natural gravity (particularly as the film heads towards its conclusion). Binoche makes the bigger impression though, terrifying throughout and stopping the show with a barnstorming, intensely visceral, almost-occult solo sex scene inside the facility’s “fuck box” (with a heart-thumping score from Tindersticks’ Stuart Staples), akin spiritually to 2018’s Suspiria – indeed, “it’s a whole other rabbit hole”.

But like Guadagnino’s remake, High Life can be an easier film to admire than enjoy. The script allows itself to lean on exposition instead of letting mystique take the wheel; but at the other end of the spectrum, its frequent ambiguity doesn’t always inspire cohesion. Worst of all, towards the end there’s an abhorrent scene with dogs that is so overtly horrific, so difficult to stomach, it made me upset to the point of being physically ill.

But in a complex tapestry of ideas, Denis’ direction is quite remarkable. The content is troubling, and by the time the credits roll, you’ll likely be craving a cold shower. The filmmaker purposely tests your patience, drags you through the depths of morality; but it’s undoubtedly indelible. Plus, there’s a triumphant snippet of ‘Flower of Scotland’ that granted me merciful elation before the nausea took control.

Human nature and Mother Nature come to blows with uncomfortable consequences in this disturbing, mystifying sci-fi odyssey.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Cameron Frew – @FrewFilm

Avengers: Endgame (2019) – Review

If each month of every year had a gravestone, April 2019 would have “Part of the journey is the end” etched on it. The final season of Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame – the two biggest events of all time in their respective mediums. Hype can be both friend and foe in the tumultuous build-up (particularly when spawns of Satan leak footage), but the directing Russo brothers have proved themselves to be dab hands in this particular pop culture arena. And, with this masterful, galvanizing conclusion to more than 10 years of movies, they’ve provided fans with the rarest thing of all; a true end.

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) sets the scene: “Thanos did exactly what he said he was gonna do, he wiped out 50% of all living creatures.” The film picks up after the catastrophic events of its finger-snapping predecessor, and survivors’ guilt is rife. Team members have turned to self-help groups, others to exacting vengeful violence on those who made it out alive who perhaps don’t deserve to be, and a few are trying to push on through the grief and preserve that oh-so-cherished “suit of armour around the world”. The fact is, they now know what it’s like to lose, to feel so desperately that they’re right, but to fail nonetheless.

Appropriately, the first act of Endgame is indeed a somber affair, right from the ultra-downbeat, perfectly pitched opening scene; a painting of post-trauma life for our very human heroes, with hurt dripping off the canvas as they strive and struggle to do something with the world that’s left. It’s no spoiler to say that Tony (Robert Downey Jr) and Nebula (Karen Gillan, who’s “only a tiny bit sadistic”) are stranded in space from the off, following their final boss stint on Titan. But, as Steve Rogers says: “Some people move on, but not us.” Through an absolute fluke, there’s a small chance to do something; and that’s when the madness really begins.

It’s a long film, 181 minutes to be exact. But it feels much, much shorter; similarly to Infinity War (but entirely different in tone), there’s a brilliant momentum through the acutely paced vignettes of the story, allowing for deep-cutting character work and 10 years of plot threads to finally tie together (Tony and Steve’s precarious relationship is a highlight). If the first third burns, the second dazzles. Like a victory lap of the MCU’s triumphs, the directors and writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, orchestrate angst, wonder and poignancy in all the right moments, their love for these icons shining through every reunion and callback. Only a few moments stumble; a certain character’s alcoholic arc loses its charm, the comedy is occasionally clunky, one moment of intended welly is hampered by a scrappy structure and a shot reminiscent of Black Widow, Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Scarlet Witch’s (Elizabeth Olsen) team-up in Infinity War is cool but contrived.

Thanos was the twisted protagonist of the last outing, but here he peeps in and out, delivering signature grandiose, purring dialogue in calculated doses with lingering dread (“I am inevitable,” he says, smugly). It’s the best showcase of the cast’s acting talents so far. Some members, naturally, aren’t afforded as much of the spotlight but still do well with what they have (Gillan’s underrated Nebula, Bradley Cooper’s Rocket, Don Cheadle’s Rhodey and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel). The stars are undoubtedly Evans and Downey Jr: the former offering a broken, transformative performance that changes the character forever; the latter at his most touching and contemplative. Sarcastic and snarly but earnest, recalibrated like a fresh Iron Man suit.

It’s not all agony – the third act of this movie is a pure-hearted, unbelievable, fist-pumping extravaganza of stupendously geeky delights. The Russo’s weaponise nostalgia and fan-service and wield it like Thanos does his Infinity Gauntlet, delivering a feast of cathartic pay-offs you are absolutely not prepared for. The effects work here is vastly impressive, building upon coherent choreography and cinematography (brilliantly versatile work by Trent Opaloch, from awesomely giddy shots to honed-in intimacy) as Return of the King syndrome looms. Fights have a barnstorming, nervous energy, like the ruthless pressure of every encounter in 2014’s Winter Soldier. This is peak blockbuster: extraordinary entertainment that is as concerned with dropping your jaw as breaking your heart. With Alan Silvestri’s melancholic, rousing score in the mix to stir the anguish and pump the blood, by the time those credits roll, you’ll be booking your tickets for round two, three, four and so on. Is it the best MCU movie? Perhaps. The most ambitious? Certainly. A deserving champion to knock a certain trip to Pandora off its podium.

A spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime epic. Avengers, dismissed.

Rating: ★★★★★

Cameron Frew – @FrewFilm

Rank You For The Movies: The Infinity Saga

There was an idea…

Humans have an intrinsic fascination for ranking their favourite things. The sense of order and comprehension it brings to our opinions, and the fun of compiling a list, has resulted in a constant stream of top 10s online. Rank You For The Movies is a new feature (inspired by Empire’s fan-favourite The Ranking) which brings together the views of myself, Ross Miller (@rosstmiller), Madeleine Lloyd-Jones (@madelexne) and Lucy Buglass (@LGTHBlog). We essentially discuss a film-related topic and produce a top 10 list at the end – and you can see our conversation unfolding below. 

Cameron: If anyone has Thor: The Dark World in their top 10, we can tussle cause that’s straight-up lunacy.

Ross: Mate, it’s comfortably touching the bottom floor. Apart from the final battle, which is pretty creative, it’s most definitely one of if not the weakest of the lot. I think it has mainly to do with the villain and his whole plot – no disrespect to the great Christopher Eccleston but just very bland.

Cameron: It’s the only MCU movie I actively dislike; the dullest colour palette, boring and just completely unengaging. The recent rewatch was a sore one.

Ross: I wouldn’t go far as to say I dislike it – the affection for the characters carries it but I can see why. I thought the first Thor was damn good.

Cameron: It has one of my favourite quotes though: “Your birthright… was to die!” Great stuff.

Ross: Nice. Reminds me of the kind of one-liner in Avengers: Age of Ultron: “Well, I WAS born yesterday.”

Cameron: Right, the thing with the first Thor. I dig that it’s like Shakespeare and Marvel married together, but the filmmaking is ugly. Dutch angles for days.

Ross: Oh really? I kind of really like that! Branagh brings a grandness to it. And I thought it handled the extremely difficult job of introducing what is a ludicrous character for what started out as “real world” tech hero stuff.

Madeleine: I really agree that it’s low-tier filmmaking. It’s really messy and unsatisfying.

Cameron: He did establish a believable world (even though Asgard, in that first movie, isn’t as gorgeous as one would expect), but it just feels a bit cheap to me. Flourishes that do not agree with me at all; I feel the MCU has pushed all that stuff out and has much slicker cinematography overall.

Ross: I get that. You either go with that kind of flourish stuff or it turns you off. I agree the MCU has definitely gelled more as it went on – some may argue that it’s become homogenized but I think it works if you look at as telling an overarching saga.

Cameron: Strong directorial voice, for sure. Just not a particularly pleasing film to watch, for me anyway.

Madeleine: I agree with that Ross for sure. The first two Thor’s were just establishing in a chill way.

Ross: What do we think of Thor: Ragnarok then? Talk about artistic directorial style and flourish!

Cameron: Ragnarok is the tits.

Madeleine: Ragnarok is brilliant.

Cameron: Very smooth, super cool, truly hilarious and quite unique from the other movies while still fitting in. I like it a lot.

Ross: It’s just such a shot of pure, eye-popping joy – Waititi was such a great choice for make that movie. The way he marries his idiosyncratic style of humour with the Marvel world, embracing the ridiculous and surreal at every turn, made for a refreshing watch.

Cameron: A proper jolt of lightning. That’s the wonderful thing though, about the MCU. It’s a franchise that’s brought me consistent giddiness.

Madeleine: It’s so rare that a franchise film can nail another tone whilst keeping in tune with the other films.

Ross: For sure. You feel like you’re getting a consistency as a fan loyally watching all the films while trying something a bit different. Of course they’re not all like that but for every Dark World there’s a Ragnarok and I’ll take it!

Cameron: I’ve seen people saying that the first Avengers hasn’t aged well but I don’t get that at all? The costumes are maybe a bit schlocky but it looks amazing, visually still a total spectacle and screenplay wise, a pure delight.

Madeleine: Oh my god no way has it aged poorly! It’s still incredible. Still gives me such a sense of excitement.

Ross: I have to admit it’s been a good while since I properly sat down and watched the first Avengers properly but it’s terrific. That moment, THE moment, of the camera spinning around them all finally in a group is spine-tingling. They’d laid the groundwork properly, walked before they ran, which made that moment mean a lot for fans.

Cameron: The confidence that Whedon had is on a par with Waititi; a guy who knew exactly what made comic book movies work and gave the fans more than a handful of moments of euphoria (let’s not discuss Age of Ultron though).

Ross: Ah, not an Ultron fan? I find it very underrated. That whole Sokovia battle is aces.

Madeleine: I need to rewatch Ultron. I was disappointed when I watched it, but I think it had so much to live up to. I think Whedon was given too much to cram in after the success of the first.

Ross: That’s the thing, expectation really did it in. But if you rewatch it’s got its own thing going on. There’s a bleakness to it in how it deals with technology and our responsibility of letting it get out of hand therein

Madeleine: That’s interesting. It was released so soon after the first, which I almost always think is risky. Got the impression it was bashed together pretty quickly to make easy money for the studios.

Cameron: To quote the great Kermode, here’s the thing. It has a lot of the same brilliance that made Avengers Assemble work. Orgasmic shots of the team fighting, nice touches of darkness. But, without James Spader’s extraordinary villain (seriously, top three easily), the thing crumbles like an overbaked pastry. Allegedly the original cut ran around three hours, and you can tell – there’s SO much in it, lots of little plot threads and ideas that aren’t really chewed into enough. Plus, the last battle is fun and all, but it doesn’t hook me in the same way. If it weren’t for Captain America: Civil War, it wouldn’t have anywhere near as much impact today. It did bring us Scarlet Witch though, and Vision.

Ross: I get that; it definitely chucks in more ideas than it really handles. But I appreciate the ambition of it. It also has one of the franchise’s best gags; when they’re all trying to lift the hammer and Thor’s nearly full on shites his pants when Cap is able to move it just a little.

Cameron: Thoughts on the Captain America films?

Ross: Oh boy here we go… I’m not a great fan of The First Avenger.

Madeleine: I think the Cap films are the most consistent films of them all. You’re not?

Ross: I mean, I still like it, but I just didn’t love the whole WWII setting of it. And I know this is part of the point but the old-fashionedness (to make up a word) felt weird to me. It would easily be lower tier to me. But it’s still an enjoyable time, it lays the groundwork nicely for Cap as a good-hearted hero

Madeleine: I think it’s one of the best examples of the setting. I think it was the film to really ground the MCU.

Cameron: I just don’t think Cap as a character would work without seeing him in his original world. To get behind his whole honour and outlook, the wartime is absolutely necessary (not fully convinced he had to put the ship in the water, though).

Ross: I realise I’m in the extreme minority with it, most love it. It’s one of those I’ve seen the least, even though that still means seeing it three times!

Cameron: Winter Soldier is outstanding; proper conspiracy spy thriller (love how Robert Redford plays the exact kind of villain that Bob Woodward would want to expose) with all the superhero trimmings.

Ross: That whole sequence on the ship, that shot of him running as he bounces the shield, is stunning.

Madeleine: They really are the most interesting films, the Captain America‘s. The most political parallels; most real life shit and I think best character work.

Ross: For sure. Just look at how they deal with it all in Civil War which is my favourite of the whole MCU.

Cameron: The direction is actually a lot more confident in that movie than in some action scenes in Civil War. But overall, that’s the MVP. I fucking love Civil War.

Madeleine: Civil War really shook me.

Cameron: The emotional stakes in that film are just so, real? As Maddy said, the real world parallels are interesting. Who knew that politics could actually do some good?

Ross: To me the franchise works best when it deals head on with character work and matches that with pure, unadulterated superhero spectacle. Rarely is that better handled than in Civil War. I love how it comes down to this fundamental disagreement; should superheroes be politically policed?

Madeleine: I love how it asks the question instead of having a take on it.

Ross: I lost my tiny mind during that airport fight scene; when they all ran towards one another, with Spidey brought into the fold, and each having to choose sides. Shooketh to the core.

Cameron: I know it’s good to discuss the serious subject matter it manages to weave… but that AIRPORT SEQUENCE. While Civil War isn’t my top MCU movie, that’s the best moment in the franchise. Spidey, Giant Man, aw MAN it’s insane.

Ross: When you find out that it was Bucky who killed Tony’s parents – man alive.

Cameron: Guardians, thoughts?

Ross: I love both Guardians films! The first more than the second but I enjoyed Vol. 2 a lot.

Madeleine: Guardians 1: yes. Guardians 2: messy start, perfect ending.

Cameron: I really enjoyed Vol. 2 recently. Kurt Russell is a legend.

Ross: I get what you mean, though. It takes a bit to establish the father storyline.

Cameron: Soundtrack for the first is better overall I think, too. I prefer the first but they’re both great movies. Character wise, powerful as well.

Ross: There’s this weird dislike for it in certain circles that I don’t understand. Quill’s heritage storyline works even better when you feed it into what comes later, his sense of loss compounding.

Madeleine: I think there was too much forced “look we’re the funny film hahaha!!!” In the first half that I just wasn’t impressed by, but from the Kurt Russell reveal onwards was ace. Like really, really ace. I cried all of my foundation off too.

Ross: Yondu! *ugly cries*

Cameron: Aw god that death hurts. More than I could have ever expected.

Ross: “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” Legit all I could think about during the first 20 minutes of Mary Poppins Returns.

Cameron: Iron Man movies; go.

Ross: First one great, second one not so much, looooove the third one. That’s my “I’ll die on this hill” defending MCU movie.

Madeleine: The Iron Man films rest entirely on RDJ’s performance – the plots are pretty… forgettable?

Ross: He is definitely the lifeblood of them.

Cameron: First one is one of my favourites. Actually like the villain but the whole thing is an insanely likeable origin story, it relies on the beauty of RDJ but Favreau’s direction is seriously awesome. Second is still an impressive looking movie, solid fight sequences but weaker in other areas.

Ross: That “cool guys don’t look at explosions” moment where he walks away made the 10-year-old me want to leap up and down in my cinema seat. Rourke just doesn’t seem to care at all, and how very dare they waste Sam Rockwell like that. I bloody love the third film, though. It’s basically about superhero PTSD. RDJ is giving a seriously good performance in that film.

Madeleine: I do appreciate the new depth they went to, and what they did with Pepper!

Cameron: Really enjoy a lot of the third movie, some of the set-pieces are genuinely staggering (Air Force One, what a belter). But I don’t really like that reveal that much, and Guy Pearce does a Brad Pitt impression for a lot of the movie. PTSD angle is its huge saving grace, major props.

Ross: I can’t express how much I love what they did with the Mandarin reveal. It’s genius in my opinion. I don’t come at it from a fan of the comics, so I didn’t have that built-in expectation of what that character should be, but for me it worked as this fantastic commentary on what a villain means in our own world. It was expected it was this hooded middle-eastern bogeyman when that was all propaganda artifice for the villain actually being the rich westerner in the slick suit.

Madeleine: Again, another example of Marvel not being ignorant to real world issues.

Cameron: It’s time my friends… let’s talk Infinity War.

Madeleine: It juggled all those characters miles better than I ever thought it would.

Ross: It really could have flubbed that aspect but the Russo’s nailed it. That is a lot of characters, a lot of clashing personalities and styles all colliding but it’s quite remarkable how well it works.

Madeleine: It felt very authentically structured, which i think is such an underrated but vital quality in a film.

Ross: Very true. Clean, slick, digestible storytelling that allows the character drama and the spectacle to flourish.

Cameron: I guess I kind of like it…

Madeleine: You kind of like it?

Ross: I think he means he adores it Maddy.

Madeleine: I just want him to unleash his full obsessive essay Ross.

Cameron: It is fucking spectacular. I really do adore that movie, I basically worship what the Russo’s managed to pull off. A Herculean feat, this gargantuan number of superstars and plot threads under the final boss villain and it all just moves as one exhilarating piece. It’s the fastest way to spend 2 hours 40 minutes. Feels like 90. I cannot get enough.

Madeleine: There it is.

Ross: How rare is it you get a cultural event like that pulled off with such confidence, with such bravura and handle on all the aspects. Not only that but send your audience away gobsmacked.

Madeleine: Genuinely the most impressive piece of franchise cinema.

Cameron: Please tell me you guys like that ending? I will maintain that the snap is not only genius, but extremely necessary thematically.

Ross: Of course! How could you not? It hurts so gooooood.

Cameron: Spider-Man’s death is genuinely one of the most emotionally distressing things I’ve endured in a cinema.

Madeleine: I was a tiny bit like… okay but those characters that just ‘died’ have sequels coming out soon so… but the bit that made it heart-wrenching was the survivors reactions. Okoye’s!

Ross: It proved there was stakes. I don’t buy this “well they’re just going to undo it so how does it matter?” bullshit. Of course we know they’re not going to permanently kill of Spidey or Black Panther (one of whom they just introduced, the other featured in a $1.2 billion cultural touchstone) but it matters in context, for the characters, the for the world it’s set up, for the remaining Avengers to have something to fight for.

Madeleine: It introduces the idea that these characters are actually defeat-able.

Ross: Three things make that film work as well as it does. The pacing, the emotional gut punch and Brolin’s performance as Thanos.

Cameron: We had to see THE BIG BAD use his BIG POWERS. Otherwise he’s just another run-of-the-mill antagonist. I would have been seriously pissed if they just finished him off. I want to see the original heroes hurting. This should be the fight of their lives, and as such, the most engrossing comeback of the entire series. That’s why it works.

Ross: That character could have been so very silly. But Brolin imbues him with such presence and menace, that “I’m right” arrogance, you really feel he’s a threat.

Madeleine: That character could have been so very silly. But Brolin imbues him with such presence and menace, that “I’m right” arrogance, you really feel he’s a threat.

Cameron: And you know what? His motives are almost, agreeable?

Madeleine: That’s what makes him so scary, even though he is big and purple his motives are very human.

Ross: Well I mean GENOCIDE, Cameron, but I see what you’re saying.

Cameron: Perfectly balanced, as all things should be…

Madeleine: It’s not “I want power”, “I want to rule the world” it’s “someone’s got to do something about this”. It’s like a biblical type purge.

Ross: He wants power but as a means to an end, not for the sake of it.

Madeleine: What I really admire about the MCU is how with it’s success, it’s always stayed authentic. The more and more power it gets behind it worldwide from audiences, the more intricate and brilliant the story making gets. Everything is so thought out, connected and executed with a clear purpose – nothing is a cash grab.

Ross: That’s what sets it apart from the likes of the DCEU.

*We were about to finish up then quickly realised we forgot Black Panther*

Madeleine: Black Panther is cool!

Ross: *Laughs* oh yeah, Black Panther! That little movie.

Madeleine: Quick summary: monumentally important, culturally brilliant, brilliant performances, great music, great fun. Maybe a little predictable at the end but great script so it’s all good.

Cameron: We can all agree that Black Panther is excellent, yes? Brilliant villain, immersive world. Some shaky effects but generally terrific.

Ross: Yeah Black Panther is damn good; the sense of style, something different. Convincingly portrays this hidden kingdom, unseen by choice by the rest of the world. Top music, too. Not surprised it won the Oscar.

Madeleine: It’s the most real world in the MCU. Even from Civil War I bought it as a nation.

Ross: And the only MCU film to introduce a gesture that’s culturally recognisable now.

Cameron: Right we’re definitely in the Endgame now, let’s vote.

10. Spider-Man: Homecoming

© – Marvel

9. Black Panther

© – Marvel

8. Iron Man 3

© – Marvel

7. Iron Man

© – Marvel

6. Thor: Ragnarok

© – Marvel

5. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

© – Marvel

4. Guardians of the Galaxy

© – Marvel

3. Avengers Assemble

© – Marvel

2. Avengers: Infinity War

© – Marvel

1. Captain America: Civil War

© – Marvel

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Rank You For The Movies (and good luck for Avengers: Endgame…)

Hellboy (2019) – Review

A lousy, grotesque reboot. 

Not too long ago, The Kid Who Would Be King hit cinemas; a rollicking throwback to the Amblin adventures of old, full of whimsy and juvenile charm. If that Arthurian tale was Jekyll, Hellboy is its Hyde; a nasty, volatile reboot with an ugly penchant for f-bombs, violence and complete nonsense.

We open with a frenzied voice-over, painting a vivid but rapid history of the film’s villain; Nimue, the Blood Queen (Milla Jovovich) – try not to yawn – who wants to kickstart armageddon to give birth to “a new Eden”. While she assembles a dismembered plan with the help of a crass hog-fairy (Stephen Graham), watching the odd episode of Love Island in the process (I’m not kidding), Hellboy (David Harbour) is placed on a collision course with the foe while discovering his lineage, with the assistance of psychic-of-sorts Alice (Sasha Lane), scar-faced soldier Ben (Daniel Dae Kim) and boss man/father Trevor (Ian McShane).

The film has a startling immediacy; in that, you feel Guillermo del Toro’s absence from the get-go. Once a gothic fairytale hybrid (fuelled by a love affair of monsters), now unsophisticated guff, the real horror in Neil Marshall’s hard-edged, maladroit effort is how off-putting it all is. The violence is extreme to the point of tedium; intestines are spilled, faces are ripped straight off skulls, bodies are ripped apart Bone Tomahawk-style. It’s almost comically disgusting, sparking bemusement rather than white knuckles (from a modest $50 million, less expensive films are definitely laughing).

© – Lionsgate

Then there’s Andrew Cosby’s screenplay. Glimpses of potential are present (a horrific trip to another dimension stands out in its own twisted grimness) but brief amidst the stream of misplaced bad language and unforgivable logical inconsistencies. (We’re supposed to believe, for example, that Nimue’s body parts haven’t decomposed after multiple centuries.) There’s shoe-horned commentary on society and rudimentary attempts at humour that range from barely laughable to entirely ineffective (“Some dads get their kids lego’s” Hellboy says after being gifted a gun), all woven into an insipid, overly familiar story.

Harbour had big shoes to fill; a shame, really, that the film is such a disaster. He has the makings of a fit Big Red – the figure, attitude, scowl and odd bit of badassery. But not only is he not a match for the effortless transformation of Perlman, Harbour’s performance feels more formed by the layers of make-up, rather than aided by it. Other cast members don’t fare well either; McShane is picking up a pay cheque, and Thomas Haden Church shows up in a flashback as a bizarre, hilariously wooden Nazi assassin – he even says “Guten Tag” with a customary gunshot upon arrival.

It doesn’t add up. There’s solid talent involved; on music you have Benjamin Wallfisch, but his composition barely chirps through, and when it does, it’s often in aid of a gigantic tonal shift. Lorenzo Senatore’s cinematography is suffocated by an overwhelming use of CGI and red-fisted editing. And at the centre, Marshall’s directorial voice, felt in The Descent and the criminally underrated Dog Soldiers, does not come through the pungent smell of shit. The Kid Who Would Be King was tailor-made for 11-year-olds – Hellboy, in all its excessive blood and expletives, will probably be enjoyed by the same crowd for the wrong reasons.

There’s a parallel universe where Del Toro made Hellboy 3 – you can find me there.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

Cameron Frew – @FrewFilm

Rank You For The Movies: Steven Spielberg Movies

Humans have an intrinsic fascination for ranking their favourite things. The sense of order and comprehension it brings to our opinions, and the fun of compiling a list, has resulted in a constant stream of top 10s online. Rank You For The Movies is a new feature (inspired by Empire’s fan-favourite The Ranking) which brings together the views of myself, Ross Miller (@rosstmiller), Madeleine Lloyd-Jones (@madelexne) and Lucy Buglass (@LGTHBlog). We essentially discuss a film-related topic and produce a top 10 list at the end – and you can see our conversation unfolding below. 

© – USA Today

Cameron: I’m just going to put it out there – Temple of Doom is the best Indiana Jones movie.

Ross: Straight in there with the big guns! I have to stick with Raiders of the Lost Ark myself. They’re all great, though. All three of them.

Cameron: *laughs* Yes, all three of them. I love Raiders so much, Temple of Doom edges it for me though. So completely bonkers, extremely violent considering it’s a PG and legitimately, pretty scary! The bugs, the sacrifices… yikes.

Ross: I do love Temple of Doom, though. As you say, bonkers for what is supposed to be a family friendly adventure flick.

Lucy: I prefer Raiders too!

Cameron: The whole sequence where they eat weird and wonderful things, brains and whatnot, has stuck with me since childhood.

Ross: It’s scarring!

Lucy: It’s intense for a PG, that’s for sure.

Ross: But it’s hard to beat that opening sequence of Raiders for me; the statue, the whip, the boulder. So iconic and still thrilling.

Lucy: Even if you haven’t seen the film, you know that theme. Just so good.

Ross: Let’s jump ahead to more recent Spielberg stuff; I absolutely love Catch Me If You Can.

Cameron: Yes, yes, yes! Catch Me If You Can is genuinely sublime; the star power in that movie is off the chain. DiCaprio, Hanks, Walken; unreal.

Ross: I might actually say that’s it’s my favourite of all his work. Not best, per se, but it’s the one I enjoy most just to throw on and still enjoy the heck out of it compared to something like Saving Private Ryan or Munich which, while great, are pretty harrowing to watch on the regular.

Lucy: Oh man, yes! Perfect combination, Hanks especially can do no wrong in my eyes.

Ross: It’s one of Leo’s best performances; the way he manages to convince you he’s older than he is, right before your eyes, even though you know he’s just a kid is an extraordinary feat.

Cameron: An underrated John Williams theme also, and the quirky animation too. It’s really not a conventional Spielberg movie at all, even in terms of the editing – much more zippy.

Ross: The opening titles are exquisite; Saul Bass eat your heart out.

Cameron: Spielberg is a gold dust merchant. Even his missteps have upsides. 1941 is easily his worst movie but there’s still an element of spectacle.

Ross: What’s another of his films you’re a big fan of?

Cameron: Okay so if we’re still talking modern Spielberg, I unashamedly adore The Terminal.

Ross: I like The Terminal! Gets looked down on but it’s really charming.

Lucy: A.I. Artificial Intelligence is probably my all time favourite, I love it more every time I watch. Best film of 2001 for me, probably.

Ross: A.I. is sublime. And it’s only gotten better with age.

Lucy: Haley Joel Osment is amazing, probably one of my favourite child performances. I’ve always loved the concept of A.I. and robots anyway, so that story really stood out to me. Just feels so well done and genuinely tugs at my heartstrings.

Ross: He’s so good in that role. I love the scene where she “activates” him, the change in his eyes. It’s got that unmistakable Spielberg sentiment that really gets to me; did you know it was originally supposed to be a Kubrick project and, after he died, Spielberg worked from his notes and sketches? Although I imagine Kubrick’s version would be much less sentimental. 

Lucy: That’s one project I’m glad Kubrick didn’t touch!

Cameron: A Spielberg classic that I actually don’t really like: Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I think the craft behind it is staggering, special effects are absolutely unreal especially for the time, and that closing sequence is cinematic magic in a bottle. But everything before it? I find it to be a bit of a slog.

Ross: It definitely does that a slower pace than a lot of his other stuff.

*At this point, Madeleine entered the conversation.*

Madeleine: Hi, sorry I’m here! Close Encounters is stunning. Even though visually it maybe looks outdated, it doesn’t feel outdated? Does that make sense?

Ross: Yeah I get what you mean, Maddy. By the very nature of VFX, there’s always going to be a level of outdatedness.

Cameron: Right Maddy, favourite Indy film; go!

Madeleine: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.


Madeleine: I joke! It’s Raiders for me.

Cameron: God dammit, I’m alone in my Temple of Doom.

Ross: What do we feel about his other two early-mid 2000s sci-fi: Minority Report and War of the Worlds?

Cameron: Minority Report is great but nowhere near top 10. War of the Worlds on the other hand is a modern masterpiece; it has set-pieces scarier than most horror movies. The whole post-9/11 angle of it makes the terror so much more effective (until that damn ending).

Madeleine: I haven’t actually seen Minority Report! It’s like the one film I’ve missed. I think I agree there about War of the Worlds.

Cameron: And like March of the Penguins, any film which Morgan Freeman narrates is automatically fantastic.

Madeleine: Morgan Freeman could narrate the terms and conditions of something and I’d be in heaven.

Ross: I’m the opposite, Cameron! I like but don’t love War of the Worlds. With the exception of the first attack scene and the basement bit with the roaming spy alien. Whereas Minority Report I adore.

Cameron: But it has so much Tom Cruise running! Isn’t that why we all go to the cinema?

Ross: No, we go to the cinema for a tasty debrief, obviously.

Cameron: Ross.

Madeleine: Fun fact: Ben Stiller based his Night at the Museum run on Tom Cruise.

Ross: I am a big Philip K. Dick fan anyway and I really thought Spielberg nailed the concept. I love time travel stories, too, and the way it plays around with that idea of the morality of “is someone guilty if they technically haven’t committed the crime yet?”.

Cameron: It’s interesting cause they basically use the same idea in Captain America: The Winter Soldier but tailor it Hydra.

Lucy: I haven’t seen Minority Report either… I am terrible.

Ross: We won’t say anymore, don’t wanna spoil it for you two.

Cameron: Right, E.T. – what’s the craic?

Ross: Just will say that I think it’s one of his most visually stunning films.

Lucy: I adore E.T. so much!

Madeleine: On the first week of secondary school they made us watch E.T. in English – I think to get rid of our attitudes when we all knew we’d seen each other cry?

Ross: But, but, but. It wouldn’t crack my top 10 of his if I’m being honest. It’s heartwarming and fun but has a big dollop of nostalgia covering it, I just think he’s made more interesting films on a number of levels.

Cameron: I listen to the E.T. score literally every day while walking my dog and let’s just say, I have some pretty emotional walks.

Ross: Do we think the film has maybe the most iconic shot in cinema history, with the bike and the moon?

Lucy: Yes definitely Ross!

Cameron: Guys… what about Jurassic Park?

Madeleine: Yes! Dinosaur time!

Cameron: Not in my top 3… it’s close, I won’t lie.

Madeleine: I don’t get you Cameron.

Lucy: I mean, there are so many Spielbergs to choose from so I’ll let you off.

Ross: I still remember when I first saw that moment when we first see those dinos. There was absolutely nothing in the world like it. It’s like Spielberg created a feeling that didn’t exist before in that moment.

Madeleine: Spielberg is pretty excellent at adapting books I recently read Jurassic Park and it was so good. Spielberg translated it perfectly to the screen. I’ve just started reading Ready Player One too.

Cameron: Oh… the book of Ready Player One is so much better. I liked the movie, but the book is so in-depth and as a result, more engaging than the who’s who of the movie.

Madeleine: I think the thing with Spielberg is that he created so many totally new things on the big screen that now we’ve seen it, and in that sense maybe he’s lost that awe-inspiring-ness with more recent films?

Ross: I think the closest he’s gotten recently was with RPO and The Shining sequence. Pure brilliance.

Cameron: Was anyone big on The Post? I remember seeing it being showered with praise and being completely dumbfounded – like it’s good, but “one of the best films of all time”? Not a chance.

Lucy: Nah not really, it was fine but didn’t blow me away.

Cameron: There’s three biggies we haven’t really talked about. First up: Schindler’s List.

Ross: It is a truly magnificent piece of filmmaking. Wonderfully staged, gorgeously cinematography and music and exquisitely acted.

Madeleine: Magnificent is really the word for it. Magnificent if harrowing.

Ross: The moment that really gets to me, conveying the absolute inhuman, callous cruelty is Ralph Fiennes’ character getting up from bed, going out on the balcony and just casually snipers that poor woman before stretching and going back into his room.

Cameron: It hit me really hard, the level of respect but purity in showcasing the horrors of the holocaust while still managing to retain a sense of triumph is a testament to Spielberg’s storytelling talents.

Madeleine: It walks the line of truthfulness and respect so well.

Lucy: I think I’ve only watched it once, because it disturbed me so much. Not easy at all.

Cameron: Swiftly on… Jaws.

Madeleine: Genius.

Cameron: Suspense has a sound, and it goes “duh rum”.

Ross: I mean, how many films can you say scared an entire generation from going into water?

Madeleine: And generations to come – I remember the first summer after seeing it I could see a suspicious shaped rock in the water and refused to go in. I was scared out of the water after watching that. Like, I was scared Jaws was going to get me in my bed.

Cameron: It’s hard to say any film is perfect, but it’s pretty damn close. It’s the OG summer blockbuster.

Lucy: Jaws is genuine horror, like, that suspense is magnificent. Still scares me now.

Cameron: I suppose, there’s only one we still need to speak about… just a little film called Saving Private Ryan.

Ross: It doesn’t get much better than that opening sequence.

Cameron: Tied with Inglorious Basterds for the best opening sequence of all time.

Madeleine: It is pretty fucking spectacular.

Ross: It’s about as close as most of us will get to actually being in warfare.

Cameron: Similarly to Schindler’s List, the way Spielberg (really gruesomely) captures the horror of Omaha Beach walks a very fine line between visceral, necessary gore and gratuitousness. But it’s spot on, not a single shot out of place. Arms, legs, intestines all over the place. War is hell after all.

Madeleine: The scene in Hacksaw Ridge where they first go over the top really reminded me of that.

Ross: You really feel like you’re one of those soldiers. He makes the brilliant decision of not showing you the German soldiers, just shots of the gun turrets firing down indiscriminately on the US soldiers.

Cameron: Shall we vote?

10. War of the Worlds

© – Paramount Pictures

Cameron: A criminally underrated entry in the director’s filmography, War of the Worlds not only packs a terrifying, exhilarating punch, but it has some of the very best scenes of Tom Cruise running. The klaxon of those tripods thrums like a death sentence.

9. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

© – Columbia Pictures

Madeleine: This film should not have worked – it’s years ahead of successful alien films and the effects that came with them, but it does work. The focus on the humans’ fixation on it is enough to tie you to the basic practical, albeit effective effects – and that MUSIC.

8. A.I. Artificial Intelligence

© – DreamWorks Pictures

Lucy: I’ve always regarded A.I. Artificial Intelligence as my favourite Spielberg film (so far anyway!). Haley Joel Osment is fantastic in the lead role, embodying the frustrations of A.I. trying to comprehend human emotions. It tackles some serious issues and asks big moral questions about how we should use modern technology. Although the effects look pretty dated today, it’s a great piece of escapism that I can revisit again and again.

7. Schindler’s List

© – Universal Pictures

Ross: It’s the film that made the industry take Spielberg the populist Hollywood director seriously as he took on a subject close to his heart and Jewish heritage. The result was something truly harrowing and disturbing, epic yet intimate, deeply respectful yet forthright as it depicted the atrocities of the Holocaust. Something about the starkly beautiful black and white cinematography both sends us back in time and makes the horrors of the time and place feel all the more real; it makes you feel like you’ve seen the face of evil. Never an easy watch, of course, but a vital and unforgettably powerful one.

6. Raiders of the Lost Ark

© – Paramount Pictures

Lucy: Who could forget the classic Raiders of the Lost Ark, and our first look at Indiana Jones? Arguably Harrison Ford’s finest performance, it’s got everything you need in a family action film. Not to mention, there’s the iconic boulder scene that has been parodied many times, yet somehow never gets old. Highly recommended!

5. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial 

The Spy Who Shagged Me
© – Universal Pictures

Madeleine: This is a film that appeals to everyone: all ages, backgrounds and generations. It’s simultaneously nostalgic yet timeless, from the opening forest scene to that simple “ouch” at the end which is almost guaranteed to destroy you. It has destroyed me many times.

4. Catch Me If You Can

© – DreamWorks Pictures

Ross: In my eyes this is Spielberg’s most breezily enjoyable film. The caper takes us on a whirlwind journey through the life of real life con man Frank William Abagnale Jr., punching above his weight and beyond his years. Telling the “true story of a real fake” going back and forth in timelines, Spielberg manages a perfectly tightrope tonal walk between the light-hearted fun and genuine pathos, with a terrific central performance by Leonardo DiCaprio who manages transformations to convince even us as the audience that he is who he claims to be.

3. Saving Private Ryan

© – Paramount Pictures

Cameron: As the bullets torpedo the water, dust the sand and rupture god-knows how many organs, Spielberg places you in the unescapable hell of warfare in the opening minutes. When you finally let your senses recalibrate, there’s a brilliant masterpiece to enjoy.

2. Jurassic Park

© – Universal Pictures

Madeleine: Watching this film today is still just as effective as watching it in it’s 1993 release. The special effects are brilliant, and the use of practical models is still (I think) second to none. It’s just iconic performances, scenes and music. With DINOSAURS.

1. Jaws

© – Universal Pictures

Ross: Scaring an entire generation (or two!) from wanting to even go near the water, everything about this film earns its lofty status; the famous two-note driven score by John Williams, the well-drawn characters, the performances by Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw and the overall sense of fear and tension born out of the happy accident approach of not showing us the shark for most of the movie. An iconic classic for all those reasons and many more that, for our money, sits it atop the Spielberg tree.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next Rank You For The Movies!