Six Feet Under

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My wife had been on at me for years to watch this series with her and I tended to respond in quite an unenthusiastic fashion. I thought it would be just a little bit too weird and melancholy. It came out when I was 17 and I saw glimpses of the series and I don’t think I was quite ready for it.

We had come to the end of Game of Thrones and we were lacking shows to watch. I suggested Six Feet Under much to Amy’s surprise. I have now watched every episode and my opinion is that this is one of the best shows I have ever seen. I warn you that it is not for the faint hearted and it tackles some tough and taboo subjects.

The show follows the Fisher family after the death of the father Nathaniel. He was head of the house in quite an old fashioned traditional sense. He ran the family funeral parlour from their large house, which was now left to his sons David and Nethaniel Jr. David had always been involved in the business working with his Dad. Nathaniel Jr ran away from the responsibility at home and never wanted to return. The death of his father left him little choice but to return although this was always a struggle.

As you can imagine, death holds a prominent part of the series. It covers grief, pain, anger, tradition and religion. Some deaths are gruesome where as others are peaceful. Their father is a constant presence in their life and a source of guidance. His death brings up many questions about him. How well did they actually know him?

There are a great deal of hard topics covered in the show. From the outset we have death which is the main focus. We see characters struggle with their own and others homosexuality, we see drug use, mental illness, sex, religion, racism, violence, cultural difference, physical illness, family break ups, incest, murder…. I could go on. I have to confess that I did at times get a bit down about it all. The acting is absolutely fantastic from all those involved. Never once do you see the actor, only ever the character they are playing. You feel their emotion and go along the rollercoaster ride. They all suffer at some point in their lives and struggle, but somehow they always stay together. Beyond the chaos there is a great deal of love.

The family consists of Mother who struggles with her own mental health issues. She struggles with the fact that she married so young and started a family without really experiencing things that young people do. It is clear that her relationship with her husband was not easy or loving. She is often on the cusp of breakdown and feels confused.

The oldest son is Nethaniel who is an idealist who likes to run away from reality. He never wanted to be part of the business although his father even in death had other ideas. The business is left to him and his brother which left him obligated to run the funeral business. He often picks the most destructive relationship, but finds solace in sex and love with others. His physical health plays a major role in the show.

The middle child is David who has always been part of the business in the hope to get acknowledgement from his father. He feels that he is often taken for granted, has to take on everyone’s burdens, move the business forward and hold everything together. He has his own troubles, particularly a secret which he has kept from his family. A secret that has challenged his faith, friendships and love life. He has always felt like the odd one out.

We finally have the youngest Claire who is often self destructive. She dabbles in drugs and alcohol despite only being a teenager. She was her Dads favourite and his death has left a major void. She struggles to develop a relationship with her mother. She also struggles to find the right man who can support her and doesn’t need her support. She is an artist and enjoys experiencing many different things. She tries to live her dream although her grief often takes away her focus.

There is a really strong supporting cast who have a major role. Their lives bring up a multitude of issues and often become tangled up with the Fisher family. There are are few happy and funny moments, but generally the issues are hard hitting and dark. This is one of the best series I have seen. The acting is brilliant and worthy of many awards. It us not a show for everyone, but there will be elements that nearly everyone can relate to.

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9/10

Captain America Civil War

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I didn’t fall asleep through this film, so it can’t have been that bad? Right? Again I know I’m going to be a minority in my view, but I found this film really boring. I loved the first two although I admit I’m not the biggest Marvel fan. There are just too many heroes out at the moment. Captain America has by far been the best of them with the best storyline, but it failed here for me.

In all honesty despite Captain America being in the title this is more about Civil War and the collection of heroes. We have Captain America, Iron Man, Ant Man, Falcon, Black Widow and even Spider-Man. It’s all a bit too much in one film if you ask me.

The story starts with a disaster caused by the super heroes. This is one of many they have caused in their aim to save the world and governments are questioning the use of super heroes. The UN want to take charge and want to use the gifts of these special people, but in a controlled manner and on their terms. They don’t want these heroes to go off when they like, fighting evil and leaving a trail of destruction behind them.

The civil part is that not all the heroes agree with this action. Tony Stark is head of the For party and Captain America is part of the Against. This leads to some long battles which take up most of the screen time. We also have the tale of the Winter Soldier who is part bad and part good. He is being used as a way to divide the group as well. He is being controlled by a man hell bent on revenge.

The story line for me is really weak and is dragged out over 2 hours and 27 minutes. I don’t mind watching fairly long films, but this really went slow for me. I felt every minute and I struggled beyond an hour really. For Marvel fans this will be a treat and in all honesty most people will like this. I heard a few raving about how much they liked it as they left the cinema. It just wasn’t to my taste.

The performances were good and the choreographed fight scenes were brilliant, full of imagination. This is also a great film for female superheroes as they play a major part in the story line. There are a few good jokes in there too, mainly shared between Iron Man and Ant Man. There will no doubt be a fourth film as Marvel churn out film after film.

I think many will enjoy this film, so don’t let me put you off. It is a blockbuster full of action and if you love action then you’ll love this.

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5/10

The Jungle Book

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This is basically the same as the animated version, but with CGI rather than drawings. There is very little deviation from the cartoon Disney. I haven’t read the book by Rudyard Kipling since I was a child and so I can’t remember the whole story, so it’s hard to compare book and gilm. I understand Favreau has tried to incorporate more of Rudyards story as well as a few songs from the cartoon version.

I really enjoyed this , but would I watch it over the cartoon version? Probably not! In saying that, the film really works. The CGI is brilliant and the scenery of India is beautiful. I think this is more for an older child rather than the young, but really this is a film for nearly everyone.

The cast is very strong and works well. We have Sir Ben Kingsley as the wise Baghira, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, Bill Murray as Baloo, Christopher Walken as King Louis and Scarlet Johansen as Car. The voices are perfect for their roles particularly Idris Elba who is terrifying as the dominant tiger Shere Kahn. Scarlet Johansson is very good as Car and it was great to have a female voice as the part. I didn’t even recognise Scarlet Johannson voice, which is testament to how well the part was being played. I did find Neel Sethi a tad annoying and wasn’t quite convinced by his performance. This was the only criticism I can mention.

King Louis is a great character and the creation of the Orangutang is amazing. This huge monster who wants fire swings around the abandoned city with menace. Car is pretty scary as she mesmerises the young boy with her eyes and slithering tongue. The characters are very strong and this makes this a must see of 2016.

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8/10

Eye in the sky

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If you could save 80 lives at the risk of killing one, would you do it?

If there was only the possibility of 80 dying, but the certainty of a young innocent child dying, would you do it?

This is the basic premise of this film involving government officials, the army and known terrorists. The targets are well known terrorists who have been sought after for 6 years. They are known extremists who do not care who they hurt. They are all in one building and capture is impossible. The only way to complete the mission is to use an air strike, which puts innocent civilians at risk. As the film continues the terrorist threat increases to a large extent.

Those who are the decision makers pass the responsibility from one to another all scared of making the wrong decision. I really hope this is not the way these things work because there is a distinct lack of conviction and courage. This is an extremely tense and tortuous film and somewhat frustrating. The technology used in tracking the terrorists is pretty impressive! It’s amazing where you can place cameras and how small they can be.

There is only so long that the scenario can be dragged out, which makes for a fairly short film. The performances from Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman are very strong. I’m just not sure how believable the story is? These people are paid to make life changing decisions, but somehow they can’t? There is a distinct lack of doing the right thing and more worry on how it will look? Those carrying out the action do not seem to be particularly well trained or mentally strong enough. It all comes down to the questions I started with, could you do it?

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6/10

Batman vs Superman

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Myself and my wife have been excited about this film for some time and we weren’t let down. The film starts with Bruce Wayne as a child and how those events led him to be Batman. Those who have seen Barman begins will have already seen this in greater detail. This part needed to be there, but it needed to be a quick glimpse, which it was. This was done very well and gave those who haven’t seen Batman a brief look and didn’t bore those who have already seen it.

This is a dark film where Bruce Wayne blames superman for the thousands killed by the Cryptonians  that came down to earth to take over. Bruce Wayne lost employees and saw many suffer, which gave him a taste for revenge.

Superman continues to do good work although the trust in him is not as strong as it once was. There are many that dislike him and want him dead. One of those is the psychotic Lex Luther who hatches a plan to destroy superman. Usually the character is very calm and calculated, but here we see the Joker in Lex Luther clothing. He is a real force of energy throughout the film, which is a pleasure to watch. Many have criticised this take on Lex Luther, but I enjoyed the performance.

Obviously this is a story built up to a fight between Batman and Superman. Barman surely doesn’t have a chance as he only has the strength of a mere human. He cannot fly, burn things with his eyes or move at great speed. This should be the quickest knockout in history. Obviously this would make a boring film, so Batman has to work out a way, using the technology at his disposal. There are a few surprises in this fight too.

Lois Lane is the Damsel in distress on more than one occasion. Superman’s love for her leads him to save her when she is in danger without thought of anything else. This is not a particularly strong part for Amy Adams to play and Lois is a real weakness in Superman’s armour.

Alfred is the words of Wisdom for Bruce Wayne and gets used to being ignored on almost every occasion. This is not a major role for Jeremy Irons and he doesn’t really get much opportunity to shine.

Overall this is an enjoyable film. It is almost like Batman has been invited to a Superman film as there are no cast members from the previous Batman films. There are some from the recent Man of Steel including Lois Lane, Perry and of course we have the villain from previous superman Lex Luther. I thought Ben Affleck performed well in a very different type of Batman. He is a man determined for revenge, so you see far fewer cocktail parties and more grit. The technology is similar although far more has been spent on special effects.

This is a straight up action film and very much like the other super hero films. You can’t compare this film to the Christopher Nolan films as they are very different and should be judged in their own right without comparison. I will be watching again and I’m sure the audience will enjoy even if the critics do not.

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7/10

High Rise

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The latest films have not been kind to us recently and that pattern continued with High Rise. High Rise was developed from the Novel by J G Ballard and is the story of a Doctor who moves into a high rise block in the 70’s. This block represents society and all that it is wrong with it. The poor live at the bottom and the rich at the top. There is an equal dislike for each other and a distinct feeling of inequality.

There is no real need to leave the high rise as everything is there. Many become isolated from the outside world as they shop, go to school, work, exercise all in one building. They party amongst their own class although these parties get out of hand. There is one man at the top who is the architect of the building and rules it. His idea however soon spirals out of control.

Things start to go wrong as the electric power cuts. This leads to panic as food is cleared off the shelves in the buildings supermarket. The people turn on each other and this leads to murder and rape. The building soon becomes a wreck and one man takes his own life. The people have become so wrapped up in their life inside the high rise that they forget about the outside world. Police and paramedics do not get a call as more and more people fall apart.

The Doctor is seen as the neutral one amongst the madness. He however gets lost in his own little world and accepts the behaviour of those around him. He is one of them despite only living their for 3 months.

This is an extremely strange film. I get what it is trying to do, but I felt it really didn’t work. The characters are so disgustingly horrible on every floor. Is this really representative of human society? The Doctor is devoid of any personality and the one man who questions high rise life is a complete brute and doesn’t have the vocabulary to challenge life there. He is completely without morality.

The performances are ok, but it is such a strange film that you wonder why such actors accepted the roles. The Abba soundtrack is interesting and tries to show the era in which this was set. The voice of Margaret Thatcher also tells you that you are living through the late 70’s. Was life this bad under her reign?

I was thoroughly disappointed in the film. I still want to read the book to discover the story behind the high rise.

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3/10

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Bone Tomahawk

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I went into this film with high expectations as all reviews were pretty good. I left the cinema feeling disappointed and sick to my stomach due to the gratuitous violence and Gore. This is a mix between a western and a horror. It’s like a strange mix between The hills have eyes and any film of the western genre.

This is a story of murder and kidnapping in the wild wild west. The guilty are not bandits wanting a random, or Indians protecting their land but Neanderthals living way off in the caves. Is this sounding rather ridiculous? If I add that these Neanderthals speak by sounding a horn noise through their throat, does it make it more sane? Or that they are cannibals?

The deputy Sheriff and the wife of a local have been taken while treating a criminal in the cells. The criminal has also been taken, but he is of little concern to anyone. A rescue mission has been set up including the Sheriff, the deputies replacement, the fastest shooter in the west and the kidnapped females husband. The husband has a broken leg and not in the best condition for the 3 day journey, but insists on going.

We see the long western landscape of sand and mountains. This is a hard journey and one they all struggle with. A local Indian man has told them where to go, but is in fear of these creatures, so won’t go himself. For about an hour they are just walking. The relations are not always friendly among the men, but they have a common cause. This is certainly not a journey without major risk.

We soon come across the monsters and this leads to some disgustingly gruesome scenes. I’m ok with gore, but this was too much for me. I think most of the audience were horrified judging by the gasps. This is just a weird mix of genres that doesn’t really work and leads for the most part a very boring film.

I know many will love this film, but I really didn’t see the point of it. The acting was fairly good from all the cast, but it was wasted on the subject. It would be good to see a really good modern day western. Unfortunately this is not it.

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4/10

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