Movies – T2 Trainspotting Review (or ‘Exposing One Of The Great Pop-Culture Hypocrisies’)

February 7, 2017

Some people are as fanatical about Trainspotting as others are about the likes of Star Wars, Doctor Who, WWE, Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. Some more-so.

Indeed, I’ve never come across so much excitement and fervour among people in general society over the release of a film as this one, and when I went to see it, the sort of whooping enthusiasm in the cinema during the showing of T2 was unlike anything I’ve witnessed before.

People laughed hysterically at early lines of dialogue that were not worthy of a titter, and would shout and cheer when characters first made their appearances on-screen.t2-trainspotting-uk-poster

It was baffling, and to me it represented one of the great hypocrisies of pop-culture among people in my age range.

What it showed me was that in the eyes of the sort of people who would criticise you for being interested in more ‘geeky’ things, it’s perfectly alright to be fanatical about a film if it’s about something ‘cool’ like – in their minds – drugs.

That’s just…pathetic. But it is what it is, and that’s why these people should be largely ignored.

Anyway, my thinly veiled passive aggression aside, I’m happy to judge this on its own merits. I’ve only seen the first Trainspotting once and barely have any memory of it, such was the impact it had on young Stuart, but I didn’t dislike it, so why not give the new one a go?

And I enjoyed it, but I wonder how much of that was down to certain crutches that held it up?

For example, shallow as it is, if it’s got a guy with a broad Scottish accent calling people cunts, then it’ll definitely raise a chuckle, and so thanks to Robert Carlyle I laughed a lot.

And as a Scot and more to the point as a Scottish football fan, the scene in the Rangers pub was probably the funniest and cleverest set piece I’ve seen in any film in ages. How funny that will be to people less aware of the utterly pointless sectarian divide that poisons certain areas in Scotland I couldn’t tell you, but it was funny to me.

Beyond that though? I dunno; it seemed like a bit of a by-the-numbers sequel with an uninspiring overall plot and a limp resolution.

It’s not fair to say that without certain elements it wouldn’t be good though, because those elements were there and so it was good.

So I’d recommend seeing it, but at the same time, don’t quite understand why people are so enthusiastic about it.

I await some snarky replies.


Movies: Rogue One Review (or ‘A Proper Prequel To A New Hope’)

December 16, 2016

From the off I feel I should warn you; this Rogue One review contains spoilers. It has to. So if you haven’t seen it yet, close down this page and come back again when you have.

Ok?

Has everyone who needs to go gone?

Good, I’ll begin.

I knew very little of Rogue One going into it. While I knew it was about members of the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans for the Death Star, for some reason I had it in my head that it would take place a few years star-wars-rogue-one-posterbefore the events of A New Hope.

But I was wrong.

And that’s the masterstroke of Rogue One.

It takes place right before it, finally culminating in a scene that actually leads in to the opening scene of the first Star Wars movie.

And in doing so, it has repercussions.

The first is that every heroic character created for this movie dies. They had to, otherwise you could ask why they weren’t in any of the original movies, and I thought it made for a refreshing change to what we’ve come to expect from Hollywood.

We now live in a world where the sequel is king. Nothing of any real consequences happens to the heroes in movies now because they are obviously being protected for a raft of inevitable follow-ups. But here, every character was expendable. They were one-and-done creations that had no use beyond this movie.

So they are all killed off and as a result, Rogue One became more believable and dramatic.

I should point out as well that I was pretty saddened by that despite loving that they ended up dead, because there were some great characters in there, from the Sheldon Cooper-esque K-2SO droid to the fantastic Oriental double act. These were some of the best and most well-rounded characters we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe, but like I say, they had to die.

Anyway, the other main repercussion that stemmed from setting Rogue One right before A New Hope is that certain characters needed to be a part of it.

Obviously Darth Vader was easy enough to bring back, even though he sounded very old thanks to James Earl Jones’s declining voice, but you’d assume that Grand Moff Tarkin might be a little tougher to replace seeing as Peter Cushing is long since dead.

And yet you’d be wrong. I was genuinely shocked to see that for all intents and purposes, Peter Cushing is in this movie. Technical wizardry – a use of CGI that is actually head turning in these days of over-reliance on computer imagery – means that they were able to have another actor play the part and then super-impose Cushing’s head onto him.

It was a bit freaky, but it added so much authenticity to the movie.

You can keep your constant ‘New York gets destroyed’ use of CGI, Hollywood, this is the proper way to use it!

Speaking of CGI, while I’m sure that it was employed all the way through Rogue One, what I liked about this movie was that it seemed like it didn’t rely too heavily on it. Maybe I’m wrong, but a lot of the sets, scenery and worlds it visited looked like they were brought to life with old-fashioned costume and set design. To me that makes a difference; it makes the Star Wars universe seem more complete than the cold and clinical CGI wankfests you see in the likes of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and the Marvel movies.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Rogue One had an interesting and engrossing plot and a sharp and at times funny script. That’s the most important thing isn’t it?

Even though it lasts for 2hrs14m, it didn’t feel like it dragged at any point.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the inevitable battle scene towards the end went on for a bit, but as I say above, the fact that it had repercussions softened that blow a little bit for me.

So, to sum up, maybe I’m biased because I love Star Wars, and maybe it’s that I’m still on an initial high from seeing it at the cinema, but for me, Rogue One is the best movie of the year.

I won’t bother saying that you should see it, because if you’ve read this far then you must have already.

So do you agree or have I been too generous?


Movies: Allied Review

December 16, 2016

For some reason, Allied hasn’t done well with reviewers.

It’s been described as ‘plodding’ and ‘passionless’ by some and generally gets below average scores.alliedposter

That surprises me, because I thought it was great.

Reminiscent of the sort of a Hitchcock directed James Stewart movie, I found it to be dramatic, engrossing and pretty straight forward.

Maybe that’s the problem some have with it? Maybe it’s that it’s a return to a simpler form of storytelling that doesn’t jump around in a non-linear fashion with flashbacks and flashforwards galore?

Or maybe it’s the acting? I can’t say that Brad Pitt or Marion Cotillard blew me away with their performances, but I certainly didn’t think they were worth being negative about.

All I know is that as a story, this was one of the best movies I’ve seen all year and I’d recommend it highly.

I guess it’s just a matter of which critic you listen to?


Movies: Sully Review

December 12, 2016

In 2016, the notion of going to see a film because of the actor or actress starring in it seems like a thing of the past. I don’t know if that’s down to the lead actors now being less important in the overall scheme of things or whether they are simply less talented than the stars of Hollywood’s past, but that’s how I see it.

The sole exception to that for me is Tom Hanks.sully

With very few exceptions, movies starring Tom Hanks tend to be good, and they are always well acted.

So when I saw a poster for his newest movie – Sully – about the pilot who landed a passenger jet on the Hudson River, I knew it would be worth seeing.

And it was.

Sully is an engrossing retelling of the events of January 15th 2009 and does a good job both of detailing the actual events of the splash landing and the aftermath and enquiries into it. The latter point is important because in itself, the story of how the plane came to land on the Hudson isn’t worthy of a movie. It’s worthy of being revisited as a visual spectacle, but not of being a movie in its own right.

The main draw here is the character of Chelsea “Sully” Sullenburger and how he dealt with the situation and its aftermath.

And to come full circle, what makes that main draw work is that Tom Hanks is – as usual – excellent.

This is a movie you should definitely seek out.


TV – Pretty Little Liars Review

November 28, 2016

Today’s the day I finally get my life back.

Why? Because since September 9th, I’ve been on an epic viewing marathon of Pretty Little Liars on Netflix and I’ve finally finished it.pll-poster

That’s 150 episodes in under 12 weeks, and in that time almost every other TV show I watch has had to take a back seat.

Of course, that I’ve watched this show has raised a few eyebrows from friends, including comments like “Is there some kind of sexual reason for this?” and “I didn’t know you were a teenage girl”, but I’ve always enjoyed the sort of over-the-top teen dramas like The OC, One Tree Hill and Revenge and I thought this would be no different.

So now that I’m finished – or I should say up to date with the series as there are still ten final episodes left to air in the spring of 2017 – was it worth watching?

I’d say yes.

Pretty Little Liars – a teen mystery show about cyber-bullying – is often frustrating and usually ludicrous but it is enjoyable. The characters are typically over the top, they make incredibly daft decisions – basically we could have saved ourselves 150 episodes if they just went to the police or confided in their parents – and they are almost all played by actors much older than the age they are supposed to be. Oh, and they are of course hugely talented whilst at school and amazingly successful after it, but that’s par for the course in shows like these.

As for the story? It’s six and a half seasons of bait and switch over who the mysterious ‘A’ is. You’d have thought that it should have been revealed sooner, but I guess if a show is successful then they have to keep the mystery going. That meant that almost the entire show takes place over the course of a few months in the girls’ final year of high school, and led to a situation where one fellow pupil looked like he was played by a forty year old man by season six.

Once the identity of ‘A’ was finally revealed – and inevitably disappointed me because it made no sense – I think it ran out of steam completely. The subsequent twenty episodes set in the future with a new enemy for the girls to face were just a slog to get through. Up until that point though, I was hooked. That’s from binge watching though; had I been a viewer week by week and five years in was no closer to finding out who ‘A’ was, I’d probably have stopped watching.

Should you watch it? Well if you enjoy mystery shows or the likes of One Tree Hill, then you’ll enjoy this too.

Just prepare for your very existence to be questioned for doing so.


Movies: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Review (or ‘Oh, I Can’t Be Bothered…’)

November 28, 2016

Part of me can’t be bothered writing a review of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

It’s not that it’s a bad film – bad films are easy to write about – it’s just that it’s yet another movie from the cookie cutter mould of modern Hollywood blockbusters.fantastic-beasts-sequel-03aug16

With a by-the-numbers plot, an over-abundance of CGI in lieu of good direction and cinematic flair, New York city getting destroyed again and acting that is simply ok (or in the case of Eddie Redmayne, copied directly from Matt Smith’s interpretation of The Doctor), I just found it utterly unremarkable.

The only unique selling point is that it’s set in 1920s New York rather than modern day.

People will love it – I know someone who’s going for the second time to see it today – but I just found it as bland as bland can be, and therefore I can’t muster up anything worthwhile to say about it.

It’ll be nice to walk through the set when it inevitably comes to Universal Studios though…


Movies – A Street Cat Named Bob Review (or ‘If You Find Yourself Homeless, Get A Cute Animal Immediately’)

November 8, 2016

If you’re going to take one thing away from A Street Cat Named Bob, it’s that if ever you find yourself unfortunate enough to be a homeless drug addict, then get a cat, because it’ll turn your life around.

And yes, you could argue that’s an overly simplistic point of view to take having watched this movie – based on a best-selling book – about the real life struggles of homeless drug addict James Bowen, but it is true tobob a large extent.

Before he took in Bob the Cat, James was just like any other homeless drug-addict busker; it was the cat that got his singing noticed and gave him the lift up to get himself out of the hole he was in. It also allowed him to thrive as a Big Issue seller to the detriment of his rivals because people wanted to buy it from the guy with the cat sat on his shoulder.  If he didn’t have the cat, would he have been as successful a busker and Big Issue seller as he was? No. Sure, he might have managed to get back on his feet without Bob, but not to the point of having a best-selling book, a movie and an appearance on The One Show.

So get a cat, preferably a cute one who will happily sit on your shoulders and not move. And if not a cat, any crowd pleasing animal will do. A monkey with a fez and a set of cymbols might go down a treat, or a parrot who sings the songs with you. But don’t get a snake; those guys get a bad press even though they are simply trying to get by.

Oh, did you want to know if the movie was any good?

Well yes, it was. It’s basically a heart-warming and at times funny British drama that doesn’t get boring. If I had one criticism of it, it was that apart from a couple of minor setbacks that were immediately resolved, James faces no real adversity in the movie, and while that might have been true to his life from the point we pick his story up at, it made the whole thing seem a bit one-note.

But having said that, I enjoyed it.