Trial Of The Cineworld Card: After 2018 Was Such A Lousy Year At The Cinema, Is An Unlimited Card Worth It Anymore?

January 14, 2019

I’ve always had this belief that trips to the cinema cost me nothing, thanks to my Cineworld Unlimited card. I mean…they obviously cost me something but because the money has come out of my account through direct debit every month since October 2002, I’ve never really noticed it.

But when I sat down to consider what my top 5 movies of 2018 were, I realised three things.

  1. There was no stand out movie that I really enjoyed in 2018
  2. Probably the best ones I did see were on NetFlix
  3. I only used my unlimited card 14 times.

So not only did each trip to the cinema cost me an average of £15 – a regular ticket price is around £9 – I didn’t even see one movie that stood out as being worth the admission price.

What a waste of money.

It’s made me consider the value of keeping the card going.

The entertainment landscape has changed so much since I got the card in 2002, for a number of reasons including…

  1. The television industry has left Hollywood trailing in its wake, both in terms of the quality and freshness of what’s on offer and also the quality of acting and storytelling.
  2. Most movies are released to the home consumer far quicker than back then.
  3. Movies have become stuck in a rut of repeated franchises and re-imagined blockbusters
  4. The ability to watch a movie in the comfort of your own home with a big screen and high quality sound has improved massively
  5. The price of one trip to the cinema in Dundee – and in Dundee it’s a lot cheaper than London for example – is the same as the price of a NetFlix subscription for a month.

Then on top of that, there are other things to consider too, like the unavoidable fact of life that at the age of 36 I have less time available to do things like go to the cinema than I did at the age of 20, and the free time I do have is probably better spent doing other things more sociable.

Most of my mates stopped going to the cinema years ago for that very reason, while the friends and family members who do go now only go for special event movies like a new Star Wars. My dad considers that there are two tiers of movie; the sort you need to see now and the sort that you’d be happy to watch at home a few months later. I never used to agree with him, but I do now.

For me, 2016 was a renaissance year for the Cineworld card because I had just started going out with a girl who also had one, and it was an easy, cheap and obvious date.

But as we got to know each other more and found more shared interests and activities, the desire to spend as many dates at Cineworld watching movies that had no grabbing appeal diminished. Now in 2019 we live together and the prospect of us both going out to the cinema together when we’re either both too busy to do it or too tired to want to go out means that it’s diminished further.

So what’s the point? Why am I still paying for the card?

I really don’t know, so it’s definitely going on trial.

I’m only going to go to Cineworld for movies I genuinely want to see; the “I may as well since I’ve paid for it” mantra that cardholders often cite will no longer be a reason to go.

After each movie I do see, I’ll tally up how much it’s cost me and whether it was worth that money. If after six months I haven’t had value, then I’ll bin it.

And I have to say, it’s not looking good for it…

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The Rocky Movies Ranked.

December 23, 2018

My girlfriend Mhairi and I have been together for three years as of last Wednesday and this year we’ve bought a house together.

So I decided that I would take our relationship to the next level recently and made her do something that she has resisted doing for so long; make her do something that I’ve always been dead keen on but that she herself thought might be painful and not particularly enjoyable for her.

Obviously, I’m talking about making her watch the Rocky movies with me.

You knew that, didn’t you?

Anyway, having watched them all again over a period of a couple of weeks, I felt it was time to rank them for this blog.

My enjoyment of a Rocky movie comes down to a few key factors in no particular order…

  • Plot
  • Training Montages
  • Opponent/Other Characters
  • Music
  • How much screen time Adrian gets

I’m not too interested in how it’s filmed or how much inner truth the director gets out of the characters. Call me superficial, but I believe a Rocky movie is about the reason for the fight, time devoted to the build up to the fight, some drama in the fight itself, some good music throughout and as little of Adrian as possible.

There’s no question that Rocky’s awful shrew of a wife is the worst aspect of the franchise, thanks both to the character being so annoying and Talia Shire being such an awful actress.

I understand that she is an important part of Rocky himself, but I don’t care. Less Adrian = Better Movie.

Mhairi disagrees with we on Adrian by the way, as she thinks he helps balance the movies, but I’m resolute on the matter.

Anyway, on to the rankings and you’ll be shocked to read what comes last…

8th. Rocky V

Here’s a Rocky movie with no boxing match for Rocky, no training montages, no opponent and a lot of Adrian moaning. She also stops washing her hair to sell the point that she’s moved from a mansion to a reasonably sized house.

Obviously it was always going to finish last on this list.

But I had forgotten just how bad Rocky V was until I watched it again.

Dreadful acting from all concerned, far too much calling back to the first movie, too many major plot threads – none of which were interesting – that didn’t have enough time devoted to them, and it ended with a crappy fight outside a pub. Yay.

While it’s not inconceivable that Rocky could lose all his money, it is inconceivable that he would have no means of earning anything else. It’s also ridiculous that his son aged five years while Rocky was in Russia fighting Drago.

Although it wouldn’t take much to make Rocky V better, I think if they ignored the storyline with his son entirely and instead had Rocky goaded out of retirement by the Don King guy to fight Tommy Gunn even at the risk of his own health, then it definitely would have worked.

What we ended up with though was just dreadful

7th. Rocky III

Based on my ranking criteria you’re probably surprised this ranks so low down, but I just thought it was a bit of a chore to sit through.

It starts off well enough and has a good set-up, with Rocky taking his eye off the ball and being swayed by the glitz and glamour of his lifestyle. His defeat to Clubber also makes a lot of sense, with him being further distracted by Mickey’s heart attack.

But it’s the second half of Rocky III that lets it down.

Rocky loses his heart and trains poorly. Then after a pep talk he focuses again and trains well. Then he easily defeats Clubber.

Wow, great resolution.

There was no drama in the build-up to the fight and even less in the fight itself, so for me there just isn’t much to enjoy.

6th. Creed II

The same problems with Rocky III are displayed in Creed II.

Man loses fight convincingly, man trains, man wins fight.

Certainly the second Creed is told in a less shallow way than Rocky III, but other aspects let it down, such as the music and the direction of the fights.

It’s not a bad movie, and I enjoyed how unlike previous entries to the Rocky series it actually spends a bit of time dealing with the back-story of his opponent and making him a sympathetic character, but it doesn’t deserve to be any higher than 6th.

You can read more of my thoughts about Creed II in my full review, which can be found here.

5th. Rocky

Disagree if you want, but as its own standalone movie, I actually don’t think the first movie is all that great.

It definitely has a good premise and a charm to it, but too much time is invested in the permanently awful Talia Shire and most of the stuff people remember from it actually happens in Rocky II.

Surprisingly little time is actually given to the build-up to the fight, but I suppose it’s down to it being about Rocky the person and not Rocky the fighter.

As a stand-alone movie it does what it needs to and has an iconic soundtrack, but as part of an ongoing series – which I appreciate it probably wasn’t originally intended to be – it feels like it lacks a certain amount of what makes a Rocky movie a Rocky movie.

Or at least what I expect from a Rocky movie.

4th. Creed

Judged on its own merits, Creed is a good movie, but it’s definitely made better by being part of the Rocky cinematic universe.

Creed is the main character, but Rocky is the character people want to see the most.

As opposed to the sequel, the fights are actually very well-directed and the storyline is solid.

But the music is nowhere near any of the Rockys. The same applies for Creed II.

You can read my review of Creed from 2016 here.

3rd. Rocky II

Like I said above, most of the stuff that people say they remember from the original – not least Rocky winning the fight, but also him chasing the chicken and shouting “Yo Adrian, I did it” – actually happens in Rocky II.

Yes, there are parts of it that drag a little in the middle, but I actually found Rocky’s inability to make a life for himself outside of boxing to be more interesting than him taking Adrian ice skating.

Also, the build-up to the fight was much better, and Apollo Creed gets more screen time.

I think that if you put both movies together to make one long one – because Rocky II is a direct followup to the first one in terms of plot and characters – then people would say the second half of it was better than the first.

Definitely underrated by the majority.

2nd. Rocky Balboa

In terms of story and nothing else, I actually think Rocky Balboa is the best one.

It provides the best balance of all things that I personally enjoy about the movies, it doesn’t have Adrian in it  – and it benefits hugely from that – and it feels more polished.

It also gave closure to his character as an in-ring competitor; closure that was sorely missing from Rocky V.

What I liked about the fight at the end was that by having Dixon break his hand, it made it much more feasible for Rocky to mount the comeback he did, and while it would have been a little too corny for him to have actually won, by having him lose by split decision it allowed him to leave with his head held high.

The stuff with the woman and her son lets things down a little, but hey, even if it didn’t, it was never finishing on top of this list regardless.

One thing I clearly remember about seeing Rocky Balboa in the cinema back in 2006 was the cheer in the room when the training montage started.

Because as I said at the start, training montages are a huge part of what makes Rocky movies great.

And on that note…

1st. Rocky IV

Rocky IV is the ultimate Rocky movie, but more than that, it’s the ultimate montage movie of all time. 31% of the entire running time of the movie is spent in montage form, and apart from the time-wasting guff where he’s driving around thinking about Apollo – the ‘No Easy Way Out’ montage – they are all great.

You’ve got to admire the balls of the director to do a montage of Rocky training in the mountains and Drago training in the gym, then 75 seconds after it finishes, do another one where they both work even harder.

The two montages encapsulates everything about Rocky and in fact everything about any movie that has ever had a montage. Plus, you’ve got to respect the impressive fitness on display in them. This was no CGI fest; the two guys were genuinely fit as fiddles and an inspiration to any bloke looking to get fit. Just amazing.

It also has the greatest soundtrack of any movie, ever.

But it’s not just about that. While people criticise how shallow it apparently is, it has a good plot.

Apollo is killed in the ring by Drago and Rocky must go into the hostile territory of Russia to seek revenge and defeat him. Sure, he also seemingly ends the Cold War, but that just adds to the fun.

Drago is the best Rocky opponent too. He looks mean, he has some great, ice-cold lines of dialogue that people still quote to this day – “If he dies, he dies”, “You will lose” and “I must break you” are among his only lines of dialogue yet anyone who knows anything about Rocky is familiar with them – and he has the boo-hiss villainy of his wife and his steroid abuse.

Rocky IV also has the best final fight – where they hurt each other for real – ably assisted once again with a montage and some excellent background music.

I can’t speak highly enough about it.

If you don’t like it, I simply have to ask what’s wrong with you?

As always I’m keen to hear if you agree or disagree with me. Let me know.


Movies: Creed II Review

December 19, 2018

People who know me know that I like three things…

  • Doctor Who
  • Dundee United
  • Rocky IV

Ah yes, Rocky IV, the movie with the greatest soundtrack ever and a montage for every occasion. Sure, it doesn’t have much of a plot or indeed acting quality, but who cares when you’ve got lines like “I must break you” and scenes with Rocky and Drago working out to the sort of tunes that should be on every gym playlist. Wow, that sounded a lot more homoerotic than I anticipated…

As I sit here at my desk writing out this review there is a movie poster of Rocky IV directly behind my monitor. I just think it’s great.

So any movie that acts as a proper sequel to it is bound to be awesome, right?

Well 33 years later, we have one in the form of Creed II.

Yay!!

Movies – Creed II Review: What’s This One About?

Apollo Creed’s son fights the son of the man who killed his father in the ring, Ivan Drago.

And Rocky himself once again returns to train the young Adonis Creed

Thoughts

Creed II follows the basic plot you’ll find in any Rocky movie, so there’s not too much to dislike about it.

Basically our hero gets beaten up, he rallies and wins the return fight. Throughout the film we also see some highs and lows from his personal life.

That’s what you go in expecting, and that’s what you get.

Bosh!

And yet there was one significant element of Creed II that was a little bit different to any other Rocky movie…

I wanted Creed to lose.

I felt that they did such a good job of making Drago and his son into sympathetic characters that I would have rather seen the more humble Russian fighter – whose mother left him as a child and whose father was made a pariah in society for losing to Rocky and letting down his country – take the win over the cocky, brash American with the more comfortable life.

Was that the point? I’m not so sure, but I doubt it.

The other thing that I found a little bit odd was the direction of the boxing matches. Unlike any Rocky movie (or the first Creed), the fights were presented within this bubble where you couldn’t hear the crowd and it almost felt like they were boxing in a room empty of everyone except their trainers.

And two aspects of the plot that were also slightly odd were that Creed’s heavyweight title victory was shoehorned in to the start of the movie and his initial defeat to Drago did not result in him losing the title.

But hey ho.

Most of all though, considering the music is such a large part of what makes a Rocky movie so enjoyable, I found that to be poor.

In spite of all of that, it was still an enjoyable affair and one that I will no doubt revisit in the future.

Enjoyable, but not awesome.

Let’s just hope despite what the direction suggested, Rocky himself will return in any future offerings.


Movies: Bohemian Rhapsody Review

October 31, 2018

I suppose if I went to see a film about a subject that I was passionate about, and it turned out to be a pretty inaccurate retelling of events, then I might be a little bit disappointed.

On that note, for some enthusiasts, it looks like Bohemian Rhapsody – the story of Freddie Mercury and Queen – is a disappointment. It’s certainly a polarizing movie because I’ve seen some people call it a five-star classic and others give it only two stars.

Having googled some facts about it myself, I can see why they aren’t happy. For example, in the movie it suggests that Queen suffered a bad breakup long before Live Aid and in their first gig together for years, Mercury only managed to pull a performance out of the bag at the last-minute despite his diagnosis of HIV.

In reality, the band were touring through 1984 and 1985 all the way up to Live Aid, and then continued to make albums afterwards. Mercury was only diagnosed in 1987.

I mean…it’s a pretty big inaccuracy, and seemingly it’s not the only one.

So if I was to be critical about the movie from that perspective then I guess I would have to mark it down.

But the thing is, I didn’t know any of that before I saw Bohemian Rhapsody, and thus I took it at face value.

And I have to say, I loved it.

Apart from being an interesting story – fictional or not – its focus on the music made it a fun and energetic viewing experience, culminating in a quite extraordinary re-staging of their electric performance of Live Aid.

That alone was worth the admission fee.

Remi Malek put in a powerful performance as the band’s lead singer, but thankfully didn’t have to really sing the songs himself. I thought it was just Mercury dubbed over while he lip-synced but it turns out the songs were actually sung by a Mercury impersonator from YouTube. I would never have known. But it was very good.

Apart from all of that though, the thing that really stood out about this movie is that even though its running time is almost two and a half hours, I never even checked the time once. That’s almost unheard of.

And it’s perhaps the highest praise I could give it.

So unless you are the ultimate Queen purist or conversely absolutely detest their music, I’m fairly sure you will enjoy this.

It’s definitely up there as the best movie of the year for me.

 


Movies: First Man Review

October 19, 2018

There are two ways of looking at First Man, the Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling.

Either you could be impressed by the direction and shooting of the scenes in the rocket and in space, or you could be pretty bored by what is a movie devoid of much drama.

I was asked what the movie was about and the best I could come up with was “A man called Neil is asked by his employers to land on the moon, and he does”. Well, I could also have said “A man called Neil loses his daughter to illness, but manages to find closure by being the first man on the moon”.

All I knew about it was that it was a movie about Neil Armstrong becoming the first man to step on to the surface of the moon, but in my head I expected better.

Considering it’s such a huge historical event that – while I do believe it happened – mystifies me because of the level of technology available at the time, I hoped to learn from it.

I wanted it to get to the heart of how the moon landing was possible, and the bumps in the road along the way.

What I got was, by and large, an overly long 140 minute movie that just seemed to be about Armstrong’s emotional well-being. It looked good, but it was devoid of drama and really, it made the moon landing – which I dare say I’m not alone in thinking this is what it should have been about – secondary to a ‘human’ story of a man who lost his daughter.

It wasn’t a bad movie, but it’s certainly not the first one in recent years based on true events that has failed to excite me.

The difference is that this one should have.

 


Movies: The Meg Review (or “I Believe Literally Anyone Could Write Something Better”)

September 9, 2018

Sometimes you go to the cinema to watch a trashy film and are entertained. They don’t all have to be deep and full of inner truth and worthiness to be enjoyable after all.

I’ve reviewed loads of films like that over the years, the most recent one being Skyscraper.

Other times though you go to a trashy film and come away from it thinking “That was just absolute shite”.

The Meg was one such film.

I could put up with the bad acting and Jason Statham’s unbelievably terrible attempt at what I assume was an Australian accent if it had other things going for it, but it really didn’t.

Principally, it was just poorly paced and badly written.

Rather than building up to a single, exciting climax like just about every other film that has copied the Jaws formula over the years, the writers of The Meg decided to build up to three.

At first it’s a story about Jason Statham rescuing his ex-wife from a big shark at the bottom of the sea, then it’s about the shark coming to the surface, and then after it gets killed another, bigger shark also happens to have come up to the surface as well.

That might sound exciting written down (although it probably doesn’t) but in execution, it had two side effects. Firstly, it meant that after each climax, there was a 10-15 minute lull where nothing interesting or exciting happened and we were back to square one, and secondly it made me resent watching it any longer.

I ended up bored and impatient for it to end.

The problems with the writing didn’t just end there though. The dialogue was full of exposition and the sort of sentences people don’t actually say in real life, the plot was predictable and it just felt like one of the most lazy, thoughtless copies of Jaws there has ever been.

Really, it was just one of those crap movies you get on low-rent channels like Movies For Men, but with a bigger budget and a recognisable cast.

I have to admit I just sat there and thought that anyone else in attendance could have written something better with a little bit more originality. Writing The Meg clearly required zero talent.

Oh, and also, considering Statham’s character is meant to be a hard drinking island layabout, he sure has hell manages to keep himself in top physical condition. Great casting…

Literally the only entertaining part of the film was the way a fat kid a few rows in front almost jumped entirely out of his seat every time something apparently scary happened.

I guess I’ll always have the memory of that.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far and part of you still wants to watch The Meg, I’ll say it again one more time…

Don’t bother, it’s shite.


Movies: Skyscraper Review

July 15, 2018

There’s a lot about Skyscraper that is ridiculous.

Examples include

  • The cheesy dialogue.
  • The incredibly obvious villains who we’re not supposed to realise are villains.
  • Main character Will Sawyer’s continuous super-human physical fitness in spite of only having one leg and picking up numerous serious injuries on his arms and torso as events unfold.
  • The fact he has one leg for no other reason than so at one point he can rip off and throw it at a door to stop it from closing.
  • The bit where he doesn’t bother to save his daughter at the same time as the rest of his family just so that the film can be dragged out longer.
  • The way the villains tried to steal Will’s tablet at the harbour when they must have known they’d need his facial print to unlock it.
  • The hall of mirrors on the roof that appears to have no functioning purpose to the skyscraper other than setting up the confrontation at the end.
  • The way that the entire film is a set-up for a ‘did you turn it off and on again’ punchline.

I mean…if you really look deeply at it, Skyscraper doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

But I think to come away from it unhappy with its ridiculous elements is mean-spirited.

If you take it for what it is – a daft action movie that combined elements of The Towering Inferno and Die Hard – then it’s perfectly enjoyable. It’s my type of ‘popcorn’ movie.

And it’s an easy watch as well; you won’t get bored, and you’ll have a few laughs.

So this is one that I would recommend.