Kong- Skull Island

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This is a massive monster movie where the monsters are the stars. I have seen Kong before in various adaptations and it hasnt really worked since the 1930’s version. This most recent film is pretty spectacular in the monster sense. There are monsters everywhere and they come in all shapes and sizes.

The story explains how the island of Kong is discovered. It is like the Bermuda triangle where people suddenly go missing. It is a land sheltered by a storm which can suck you in when it feels like it. This happens to two unfortunate pilots who come from different sides of WW2. They continue to fight until a large shadow is cast over them.

The film whizzes off to 1973 where crazy scientists claim that they have found an undiscovered island home to many monsters. An expedition is agreed with the support of the army who have just retreated from the Vietnam War. We also have a photographer and a  tracker who will help on the journey.

They manage to fight there way through the storm, but soon wish they hadn’t as they have reached the scariest place on earth. To state that Kong isn’t happy about them being there would be an understatement. He soon gets his hands on those small helicopters leading to a spectacular and imaginitive fight. The survivors now have to find their way out of this nightmare.

As I mentioned from the top, the monsters are the stars. The fight scenes have been created brillianty. The monsters are pretty scary and some scenes are pretty brutal. The human cast struggle throughout and are a complete side show. Tom Hiddleston as the hero is truly  awful and wooden. This was really miscast and he struggles in this action film. The same can be said for Brie Larson as her character has no real depth. John Goodman is good as the crazy scientist, but again it is not a great part.The star of the film is Jonh C Riley who plays the pilot left on the island from 1944. He struggles having been isolated for all these years and comes across as a little crazy. He has the best background story and some great lines. Samuel Jackson struggles too, but he does have some strength to his character. The slow motion camera scenes are just pure cheese and feel cringeworthy.

Unfortunately the makers of this film spent more time on the monsters than the humans. This makes for great peaks during the Kong scenes, but huge troughs for the humans. The monster scenes are definitely worth a watch and make a poor film into  one worth a watch.

6/10

A Cure For Wellness

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Well what can I say? What a weird film that had very little structure in it’s storyline and very hammy acting. I have enjoyed quite a few of Dehaans performances since Place Beyond the Pines and he is the best part of this film. The rest of the cast are just far too over the top to be credible. This is even before we learn the truth, which is painfully clear quite early on.

Dehaan plays Lockhart a coldblooded businessman who knows how to get results. He is pretty emotionless most likely because of traumatic events in his past. He is a young scrooge type guy who cares about no one. The board of the company task him to bring back a member called Pembrooke  from Switzerland to close a company merger. Unfortunately this member is suffering from ill health and is residing in a hospital in Switzerland for his treatment. 

It is clear when Lockhart arrives that this is not a normal hospital. It is a building from centuries ago linked with a Baron who was in an incestuous relationship with his sister. She was burnt at the stake for her sins and their legend lives long amongst the local community. His aim was to create a pure blood line, which wasn’t uncommon centuries ago. Did he succeed?

As you have probably guessed it isnt a straight forward task to get Pembrooke back to business. Firstly they wont let Lockhart see him due to their strict visiting hours. The plan to come back is scuppered when Lockhart is involved in a major car crash on the way back to his hotel. Fortunately he is not too far from a hospital and guess which one he ends up at? Now with a cast on his leg he is an impatient along with his friend Mr Pembrooke. It is clear that not all is what it seems, there is certainly something in the water. All the patients are blissfully happy as they receive their treatments, play sports and eat a banquet of food.

They are all under the marvelous care of the doctor played by Jason Isaacs. He puts on a german accent for the role as he plays a mad scientist trying to cure everyone. Such a lovely kind man! Most of the patients are old, but for one girl who has not seen beyond the hospital walls. She has been kept very childlike as the doctor treats what ever is wrong with her. She reveals to Lockhart that no one ever leaves the hospital.

Lockhart soon meets up with Pembrooke and plans to get him out, but Pembrooke soon disappears. Lockhart is soon under the water treatment aswell which involves a number of Eels swimming round him as he is submerged. A male nurse wstches as he lays in the water, but is distracted with a game of doctors and nurses involving another nurse. This almost leads to Lockharts demise.

Lockhurt is determined to find answers. We see many horrors along the way as treatment starts to resemble torture. We see blood, bodies, violence and monsters. This is not the tranquil place it first seemed as there is a disgusting underbelly to the hospital led by the mad scientist.

This is just a weird film which resembles a huge mess of a storyline. The performances from the supporting cast are fun, but over the top. The young girl strangely has an English accent, which makes no sense. The history of the hospital and the people in it just sounds ludicrous. You will need a cure for your ownwellness after watching for nearly two and a half hours. Definitely one to miss.


5/10

Hidden Figures

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This is the story of three amazing women who played a major role in Nasa’s space program. They helped the U.S win the race to the moon during the 1960’s and they did it with a great deal of adversity. This was a time when there were very few women working for NASA and yet somehow three black women were able to fight their way to becoming pivotal to the space mission.

If ever anyone wanted someone to look up to then look no further than Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Their intelligence and willpower helped them fight against the prejudices of women and black people. This film tells their story.

Katherine johnson is the focal point to the story. She was born with a major talent for Maths. From a young age she could solve complicated equations to the astonishment of her parents and teachers. Her talent got her a job at NASA working as a computer in a segregated sector of only black women. Segregation was a major part of their lives both in public and at work. There were black only bathrooms, workspaces and canteens. When Katherine was chosen to help with the space mission she was one of only a small number of women and the only black person. She still had to use the coloured toilets which were a great distance from where she worked. This lost her vital time and remember this was a space race so time was vital. Katherine even had a separate coffee pot to everyone else.

She fought for her rights and proved that her brain was superior to most of her co-workers. This gave her the right to be treated at least as an equal. This was the same as her two friends.Dorothy Vaughan was a supervisor and was in charge of the black sector of computers. This was in name only as she was not given the pay of a supervisor or given the role officially. She was alarmed that a new machine would replace her and her team. The machine known as an IBM was able to work out figures at rapid speed making humans redundant  Dorothy was determined that this wouldnt happen and chose to work with IBM rather than fight it. She learnt how to use the machine better than anyone else and encouraged her fellow workers to do the same. Her intelligence and hard work helped her stay at NASA.

The third hidden figure was Mary Jackson. She wanted to become an engineer. She was well qualified to do the job and was encouraged by the engineering team.NASA kept raising the bar so Jackson had to take schooling to reach the criteria. The problem was that she wasn’t allowed to attend the school due to her colour. She had to go through the courts to get her place in school.

This is a brilliant film which I believe should have got more notice. Taraji Henson should have been nominated for an Oscar for her depiction of Katherine. She was able to portray the strength of character with great skill. She handled the comedy perfectly and the distress of being treated so badly. The three characters are completely different and Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae made up a pefect team. They were able to show their different battles to get where they wanted, have fun with the role and project a powerful message of equality to the audience. The supporting cast of Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons played their roles perfectly, often making life hard for the three genius ladies. 

This film was a joy to watch and one of the most enjoyable films of the year. The three women deserve to be seen as important figures in the space program and for fighting for equality, not only as women, but black women as well.

8/10 

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

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In west Philadelphia born and raised…. If you watched any number of episodes from the series you will know the song. I am sad enough to know all the words. I used to watch this on BBC2 most days as a kid and recently revisited the series on Netflix and managed to do what I couldn’t do as a teenager, watch all six seasons. 

The story is about Will Smith getting into trouble in his home city of Philadelphia. “I got in one little fight and my Mom got scared” to help him get on the straight narrow his mum sends him to live with his aunt and uncle in Bel Air. They live a life of luxury in a huge house, with a butler to wait on them, lots of money, private schooling and ambition to get to the top. 

This is a series about a black American family. The show looks at many issues, one being how badly black people were and still are treated in America. The show looks at how the family have come from humble beginnings and worked hard to become rich and successful. It is less wholesome than the Cosby Show and it definitely tries to break away from the Traditional black family show.

Uncle Phil is the head of the family although Auntie Viv is the boss. Him and Will have a love hate relationship because Will gets himself and everyone else in trouble. Phil starts off as a lawyer and works his way up as a judge. His position is compromised on a regular basis by Will and we see many arguments  Beneath all that is a strong bond, respect, love and a lot of lessons learnt.

Viv the matriarch lays down the rules. Phil thinks he is in charge, but this is clearly not the case. She is the voice of reason when Phil blows his top. Her part in the show got smaller as the seasons went on, particularly when the character was recast. This was a real shame.

Phil and Viv have three children, two daughters and a son. Hillary the oldest is Ditsy, Vain, money obsessed, lazy, stylish, but does have a good heart. Carlton is a real geek and is the extreme opposite to Will in every way. He loves his prep school jumpers, Tom Jones, dreams of Princeton, has no luck with the ladies, dances with gusto and loves money. Ashley the youngest grows up over the years and we see her grow into a woman. We see the many problems that she faces as she grows into a teenager, including sex, boys, bullying and wanting to fit in. They are a very close knit family despite Will disrupting everything they do.

Geoffrey is the butler, but he is more than just the staff. He plays a major role in all their lives and is a confident for many of their issues without much support himself. He has a wild past which often turns up to bite him on the arse. He is a very well spoken englishmen in contrast to his American hosts.

I loved this program as a kid, but a lot of the sex stuff went well over my head back then. I was surprised at how much sex is talked about in the show. Will Smith is basically himself and is left to go wild with the part. This is particularly true when he meets the ladies. Will is obsessed with women, doesnt take anything seriously and has become lazy. I wonder how true the character was to the real Will Smith? He was already in the money when the show started and this kicked started his acting career.Despite the carnage there is a clear moral to each episode. 

Phil is my favourite character and he made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions  Carltons dance is a highlight of the show although it is clear the actor that plays him is a very talented dancer. The whole cast work perfectly together and it makes for a great show.

 

8/10

Hacksaw Ridge

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This is the true story of Desmond Doss a consciensious objector who enlisted during WW2. His faith did not permit him to bare arms and kill the enemy. He did want to help in a non combatitive role as a medic. He like many Americans was angry with the Japanese when they bombed Pearl Harbour and didn’t want to stand by and do nothing. His family life had been one of violence due to his alcohilic father who beat him, his brother and their mother. The alcoholism brought on by his experience in WW1 where he lost many friends. He did not support his sons going to war, but was helpless to do anything about it. He did not want his sons going through what he went through.

Desmond despite his fathers views joined up to become a medic. His views are not popular with the rest of the brigade and they sure make it tough for him. Eventually Desmonds views push the high ranking soldiers to start court martial proceedings. He does make it to war however and heads to Japan with the rest.

We see long and gory battle scenes on Hacksaw Ridge, which are not for the faint hearted. Mel Gibson as you can imagine doesnt hold back when trying to show the true horror of war. We see grown men who were once cocky and arrogant feel fear for maybe the first time. They are like children as they realise that war is worse than they could ever imagine. Desmond has to go head first into the barrage of gun fire with nothing to protect himself. He has to remain cool as he treats those who are in eccrusciating pain, fear and in in shock from what they have seen and felt.The cast all put in great performances and you can see why Andrew Garfield has been nominated for an Oscar. He is brilliant as Doss as he shows the mans strength against all odds, his anger, love and how he copes with war. Hugo Weaving as his angry father is superb and steals many of the scenes. This is a man ravaged by war at a time when PTSD was unheard of, with alcohol and violence his only coping mechanism. Vince Vaughan who plays Doss’ Sgt pulls away from his usual comedic roles. This is your typical sgts performance seen in many war/soldier films, such as Officer and a Gentlemen and Full Metal Jacket. The difference is that Vaughan is able to bring a soft side to the role as he fears for Doss’ physical and mental well being. The whole cast make this a very special film and a great tribute to the war hero depicted.

Mel Gibson has returned to the main stage and despite all the controversy over the years he has been welcomed back by Oscar. His direction really makes this film one that should be seriously considered in many Oscar categories, but sadly La La Land will dominate.

9/10

Manchester By The Sea

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This is not a happy film by any stretch of the imagination although there are some funny moments. Most of the fun comes from how quiet the main character is, Lee Chandle played by Casey Affleck. You can see from the start that he is a very damaged man and a very angry man. He once lived in Manchester by the sea, but is now a janitor in Boston. There are frequent flashbacks to happy times back home, building up to why Lee is now a shell of a man.Then his brother dies and he has been left as trustee to his brothers estate and guardian of his teenage nephew.

He doesn’t cope very well with looking after the young lad and tries to palm him off on whoever he can. The problem is not the boy, but the place in the title, a place that brings back terrible memories for Lee. Slowly as he deals with his brothers death and his new role as guardian we see the past involving his wife and children who are no longer part of his life. 

We see the young lad coping with his fathers death even though it was inevitable, it is of course hard. We see how he has grown up and how he has become a sportsman, ladies man, belongs to a band and enjoys being out on the sea. We see him put on a brave face and see him crack up. It is hard to talk it through as his uncle is completely numb to life. 

There are some laugh out loud lines to the film surprisingly. This is mainly between Lee and his nephew Pat. The light hearted relief is definitely needed due to the rather depressing subject.

Casey Affleck is perfect as Lee. It is not an easy part to play, a part where sometimes just a movement of the eyes is needed. I liked the way that everything continued on as normal to a degree after Joe’s passing. Life does carry on after death and people carry on their every day lives. There isn’t always a  constant explosion of emotion after death. Lucas Hedgrs plays patrick very well and you see how he struggles with not belonging, seeing his dead father and waiting for his burial. I hope he can continue in his career in this positive note and pick up great roles.

This is a great film which speeds past despite how long it is. The performances from the main cast are brilliant having to tackle difficult subjects.

9/10

La La Land

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When you look at Musicals that have won Oscars and compare them to La La Land then unfortunately the favourite for this years Oscars doesnt come close. If you compare it to Oliver, Gigi, West Side Story and The Sound of Music then you’ll see that La La Land is just a nice film. I wouldn’t even say that it is the best film in this years category. I could even go as far to say that it shouldn’t have been nominated. I am used to being in the minority view though.

I can say that I went into this film really excited, as I love film musical. I left not really knowing whether I enjoyed it or not? I think for the most part not, but the bits I liked, I really liked. I think the biggest draw is the fact that it is different and this type of film hasn’t been done for a long time. If this film had been created in the 50’s then it would have disappeared amongst the many others. Maybe I was expecting too much?

Anyway the story is simple, which is always a good thing. A girl is trying to break into Hollywood film, but keeps being rejected. She works in a coffee house during the day to make ends meet and is close to giving up. We have a Guy who plays Jazz piano and is sick of playing the same old things. He wants to open his own Jazz bar and spread his passion for Jazz. The two meet coincidentally on numerous occasions and start to encourage eachother to realise their dream and fall in love in the mean time. Not an original story by any stretch of the imagination.

There is dancing, song, drama and a mixture of decades including 50’s, 80’s and current which makes a bit of a confusing mixture. I loved the scenes at the end although I didnt like the ending particularly. There isn’t a great number of songs and the dancing although nice does not compare to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. There isn’t a great deal of energy either in the dance routines. I did love the song City of Stars. Emma Stone is great in her part and you can really feel her dispair that her career isn’t going her way. Ryan Gosling was good although his character was weak and the change in him didn’t really add up.

I love the nostalgia and the links to Rebel Without a Cause which is a truly great film. I loved the beautiful scenes and how they brought back the romance of films in the 50’s. The hand touching scene was full of electric although subtle at the same time, which was refreshing to see. Something that many films could take on rather than the numerous sex scenes and nudity we see in film now.

Overall I was underwhelmed, but I would like to see the film again although I am not sure why?. I’m sure this film will blow everyone away at the Oscars which will be a shame for the rest as I think there is a good mixture of films.

 

6/10