Darkest Hour (2017)

I was going to open with a pun about how you shouldn’t confuse this film with the 2011 turkey about aliens invading Moscow via it’s electricity supply starring a young Judge Anderson.

But i’m not, nor am I going to have a running gag about this film in the review. In fact i’m not going to mention it again because Darkest Hour (2017) has seriously, seriously hacked me off.

Because I need someone to explain something to me.

How is it that a British story, starring a British cast, set entirely in London, directed by a Brit and funded by a British company ( Working Title Films Limited) is coming to Britain 3 MONTHS after being released in the rest of the world? 1 September in the colonies, 1 December in China, 2 December in France and 18 November in Poland!?!! Seriously? I mean I get that this is the film that’s probably going to get Gary Oldmans prosthetics (and probably the rest of him) an Oscar and it’s great to see Churchill portrayed as a man who happened to be right once after a career featuring some horrific blunders as opposed to the messianic figure he’s usually portrayed as being.

Because Churchill wasn’t a universally beloved light in the darkness, he was a controversial figure, a man who, despite winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 for “his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values” was at risk of a vote of no-confidence within days as he refused to entertain the idea of peace talks with Nazi Germany when fighting on looked like a futile choice.

And I love that this film is telling a mostly true story (aside from one scene set on a tube train which seriously grated on me is entirely fictional and completely unnecessary). As the WW2 generation passes, it’s important that we have films that tell the truth (or as close to it as we can manage.)

And this is a really well acted film, Oldman has deserved an Oscar for years and this performance deserves one in its own right as he chomps through £18,000 worth of cigars, (although at times I could have sworn he was swapped out for Bill Nighy) which was slightly disconcerting. But it didn’t take away from the fact that Oldman is equally at home laughing at a joke told by Lily James playing a…. an audience insert character (and someone for him to for him to be at first grumpy and then soppy with) as he is delivering some of Churchills most famous speeches.

Now, wisely the film opts to only show the early days of Churchills time as Prime Minister- establishing his government- winning the trust of his people and dealing with the situation at Dunkirk via the medium of  “mobilizing the English language and sending it into battle.”

Which is a good call as not only is this an overlooked aspect of Churchills time as Prime Minister but it also opens the door for further films to examine other critical times during the war: The Blitz for example.

More House of Cards 1940 than Saving Private Ryan, Darkest Hour is a very good, if slightly limited film about a very important time in history. And it’s defiantly more than your traditional Oscar bait film. And I won’t even mind when it inevitably turns up in history classes.

My Score- See It 



Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

If you hated that Star Wars film then I can never be your Scriptgremlin again! Whinged the Rebel Scum who until recently I had stopped ‘motivating’ with soap. Which I will start doing again as soon as possible.

And keep doing until the staff at Boots start asking questions again.

Anyway, I was looking forward to reviewing the film that came out this weekend. Not so much the bloated space wizard saga but The Prince Of Nothingwood a documentary about an Afghan film-maker who claims to have produced and directed more than one hundred movies (none of which is on IMDb!) and that he even was at work during the Taliban regime, when all recorded images, even photographs, were forbidden. Oh, and did I mention it currently has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes?

Sadly though, even in London! London! This film is nearly impossible to find, so I was left with no other option than to tangle with the bloated space wizard saga. Go me.

So, I think we can all agree that The Force Awakens was the greatest fan film ever made as it was basically a remake of A New Hope. And there’s very little argument to my opinion that Suicide Squad was basically a well meaning mis-fire that was at least trying something new. Sorry, I mean Rogue One. But it’s still a better Suicide Squad than Suicide Squad. 

Where was I?

Oh, right, The Last Jedi. The first original Star Wars film since Revenge of the Sith and the first watchable original Star Wars film since the original trilogy finished in 1983.

Well, I went into my screening at 10am on day of release (because i’m just that damn cool) and came out of it at 12.50! And that’s only because I had to skip on the credits. Seriously! 4 hours? I’ve had holidays were shorter than The Last Jedi! Good luck if your taking our under tens to see it. Just as an aisde, NO film has a right to be that long unless it’s going for Best Picture Oscar or rhymes with Lord of da Tings. 

And much like those films, this film could seriously do with about half an hour being shaved off of it. And about 99% of those minutes comes in the final 30 to 40 minutes. The is NO reason why the big end action scene could not have been placed at the beginning of the next film or simply scrapped entirely. It holds no memorable action, moments, character development and simply seems to exist to provide awesome visuals for the trailer.

Speaking of which, this film has some amazing visuals that are almost  amazing as those in Blade Runner 2049- which I think is the number of people that actually saw that modern masterpiece unlike the millions that will see this film in the next few weeks. And they will see a film that opens with arguably the greatest space battle of all time as a lone star-fighter goes up against something so huge, so vast, so massive that it succeeds in showing us what Rogue One was trying to do- show us the might of the empire and how truly outgunned and seemingly doomed to fail the Rebellion truly was. A theme that this film keeps hitting and hitting and hitting. And doing it so, so well. You truly do feel that there is no way out for the good guys this time.

At least you do at certain points- one subplot could have been removed completely and not affected the film in any way shape or form beyond allowing the film to focus on whats actually interesting- Rey attempting to get an incredibly unwilling Luke Skywalker to train her and a desperate rebel trying everything they can think of to escape a First Order fleet before they run out of fuel….

Wait, what?

Run out of fuel… In Space? Whilst going in a straight line!?!!? You do know that that’s impossible right? Newton’s First Law states that an object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force. Such as gravity, or friction, or a brick wall, none of which exists in deep !?!!? space. At least make it a leak in the ships air tanks or overheating reactors owing to being under so much fire or something. Yeash.

Like I say, the film looks amazing and John Williams as always sounds great. Hell, they even get fantastic performances out of the cast, although I would like to find the person who though Del Toro’s character should have a stutter and have a few… ‘quiet’ words with them. It’s a shame as his character does introduce something of  a moral grey area into the traditionally, morally black and white Star Wars universe and i’d love to see him return at some point.

I would also like to ask what person thought that Supreme leader Snoke should spend all of his time hanging around in what looks so much like a half dressed set you’d think that the budget had run out by that point in filming. And it’s a shame that it does look so cheap as it could so easily have looked so good and so many other scenes have little details that make the universe seem alive that this just seems like an oversight of some kind.

But, most of all I want to find the person who kept putting silly little Joss Wheedonesque little quips and one liners in the film as they seem really out of place and obvious in this universe (and pretty grating in others). The add nothing to film, kill tension really effectively and are a  becoming a Jai Courtney level blight on film.

On a happier note, Mark Hamill is to be commended  after allegedly telling  director Rian Johnson after reading the script for the film, “I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision.” It’s the best performance I’ve ever seen him give, even if he should really be disappointing his English teacher if he ever wants to be an effective Jedi teacher.

It’s a shame that Kylo Ren is still running around set like the emo that quality forgot and whilst he gets some really good writing this time I still don’t see what, if anything Adam Driver brings to this (or indeed any) role as, with better casting and some slightly better direction, there’s enough here for him to be a truly memorable and effective villain, instead of someone that I just wanted to tell to pull themselves together as he seemingly only has one ‘I just want a good cry’ face and… God I miss good villains. What happened to them?  Oh, right, it rhymes with Barvel.

Happily though, Ridley further marks herself as a major talent for the future and Boyega is good as Finn, but he’s more workmanlike than a major talent although he’s not awful in the role, I would liked to have seen him given more to do as his character does get some interesting character development.

All in all, it’s a solid entry into the Star Wars saga from Johnson who until now was best known for Looper back in 2012. But I think a more limited budget would have worked more as it would have made for a tighter, more engaging film. And, I am looking forward to his announced new Star Wars trilogy if his leash was given a little less slack. As this is a very good, very solid film that I think will be an infinitely better watch on the big screen (preferably IMAX 2d)  than on your plasma.

Cut the runtime, the one liners and a plot-line giving other characters both new and old time to breathe and grow, and this could have been a masterpiece.

As is?

My Score- See It 

Geostorm Review

In 2003, we were treated to The Core, arguably the last gasp of the once mighty disaster movie genre before it slunk off to SyFy to de-evolve into Lavalantula whereupon Volcanic eruptions in Los Angeles unleash a swarm of gigantic, lava-breathing tarantulas.

Sorry, I lost my train of thought as to why Lavalantula (and its equally awesome sequel 2 Lava 2 Lantula) somehow failed to win every Oscar going ad become the highest grossing films ever.

I was, I was… Oh, right!  The Core and the destruction of a once mighty if ery, very cheesy  genre. Basically, the destruction genre did exactly what it said on the tin. Some pesky event (usually a volcano or asteroid or swarm of something- mostly bad CGI.) Would threaten the world, lots of things would blow up, a load of extras would compete to see who could die in the most over the top way possible and then a load of cardboard one dimensional cut-outs would save the day with seconds to spare and then stare off into the distance as the orchestra swells and the audience starts to get to it’s feet.

Like I say, in recent years the genre has gone downhill as disaster films tend to be expensive and these days most of the films that tick all of the boxes come with a Lycra clad fashion disaster with absolutely no sense of their own innate ridiculousness.

Which brings me to Geostorm, an absolute blast from the past which I half expected to find had been stuck on a shelf for 20 years. But it hasn’t, it’s been stuck on a shelf since 2016 as it was  bumped for the vastly inferior  Batman V  Superman Dawn of Migraines.

And make no mistake, this is a very big, very very dumb film. Before going anywhere near the cinema place your brain in a nice secure environment preferably surrounded by classical music and reading war and peace with a nice glass of Brandy.

The plot’s been recycled from, of all things the absolutely terrible Avengers film from 1998. Basically, in a bid to stop global warming, all of the nations of the world built a massive net around the Earth that can do…. stuff to stop extreme weather from killing people. However, one day  the network of satellites designed to control the global climate start to attack Earth, and it’s a race against the clock to uncover the real threat before a worldwide Geostorm wipes out everything and everyone.

Naturally, only one person can save the day- the man who designed and built the system… Gerard Butler. Because when you need a scientist you ask central casting to end you Gerard Butler. But for him I guess this is a career highlight. Because for a man who once had the world at his feet following 300, Butler has squandered his talents and my time starring in almost unwatchable drokk.

Anyway, he has to go and shout the satellites back into behaving and then there’s inevitably a conspiracy with a villain on Earth who you’ll spot in five minutes and one in space who when they reveal themselves engender less a realization that the clues were in front of us the entire time than “Who the hell were you again?”

But, bear in mind this is a film with the line “You get the car, I’ll get the President” Before kidnapping said President and driving backward in a huge orange taxi, firing a gun whilst firing a handgun with inch perfect accuracy.

Subtle it isn’t.

But every time you start thinking about a plot hole or six there’s another city getting destroyed or something else explodes and you forget all about it. Imagine a film directed by a can of energy drink and your halfway there.

I loved it.

I loved every over the top moment, every ridiculous scene or set piece or fight scene.  I loved that it was just stupid and fun and full of cardboard characters and seemed to have no idea of irony, or plot or worldbuilding or sequel baiting. I loved that the only person who seemed to be acting was the girl playing Butlers daughter who seems far too good to be in this film. I loved the fact that this is the film after 15 million dollars was spent on re-shoots! What was it like before? I need to see what it was like before.

Most importantly though, this is the first film in ages that I could see myself popping on when my mates are around and we’ve had a few beers and you want something to laugh at. It’s the best example of it’s genre since Armageddon and one I would love to catch on Saturday evenings when it’s repeated endlessly on ITV2.

What a shame it’s going to bomb at the box office because there’s a lot here to love. Alas, this film is an explosion and bad science filled butterfly that’s just too beautiful for this world.  It’s also a butterfly I’ll probably forget exists in about 3 hours.

But that’s life.

My Score If Nothing Else- With a Few Beers Inside You 




The Death Of Stalin Review


It is a fact universally acknowledged that satire is best left to the adults, which is why the Britsh have always been the best at.

And of the finest satirist working at the moment is Armando Ianovhi creator of legendary shows like The Thick Of It and Veep. However, possibly feeling that satire set in the year 2017 is irrelevant following the election of Donald Trump and whatever the hell the Conservative Party conference was about Armando has turned his attention to 1953 and the death of Stalin, which leads to a power vacuum in the USSR and the frantic battle to replace him. But remember, in the great game you win or you die…

Now I’ve been looking forward to a really good film set in the USSR forever? Which is why I felt so let down by Child 44, a rather disappointing murder mystery, which exists seemingly to prove that even Tom Hardy (for once not covering his face) can make a dud. And, to be honest, a dark satire is really the only way to tackle what was going on in a land where even something as small as a joke could wind up with you recieving a knock on the door at 3am, before being stuffed into the back of a truck never to be seen again.

And this film doesn’t why away from that in the slightest. Pretty much every minnow we meet is either living in absolute terror of being shot for the slightest real or imagined slight or mistake, about to be shot for an imagined slight or mistake, or about to shoot someone for their own survival.

Hell, even the big fish know that the slightest wrong move could lead to their own knock on the door for a short trip to an unmarked grave.

And yet it is very, very, funny in all of it’s gleeful, glorious darkness. I laughed a lot at this film. More than at every other ‘comedy’ Hollywood has churned out this year.

And I’m not alone, In September 2017, a high-ranking Russian official with the culture ministry said the Russian authorities were considering a ban on the upcoming film, which, he alleged, could be part of a “western plot to destabilise Russia by causing rifts in society.” Other Russian Critics have lauded the film, claiming that the film is an “unfriendly act by the British intellectual class” and that it was very clear that the film was part of an “anti-Russian information war”. Because in the West, governments are regularly brought down by satire.

Hell, the pro-Kremlin newspaper Vzglyad recommended the film should not be screened in Russia, calling it “a nasty sendup by outsiders who know nothing of our history”. Pavel Pozhigailo, an adviser to Russia’s culture ministry, said the film was a “planned provocation” aimed at angering Communists in Russia and had the potential to “incite hatred”.

And here was me thinking the only entertainer that could collapse governments was David Hasselhoff.

Back to the disgusting piece of capitalist propaganda and we find an insanely talented cast including Steve Buscemi, Olga Kurylenko, Michael Palin, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Andrea Riseborough, Adrian McLoughlin, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, and Paul Whitehouse in the cast. Not one of whom even attempts a Russian accent, which I think is for the best. No-one needs to see a Python attempting a comedy accent, as the material is more than strong enough to stand on its own. Even if it is based off a French comic book.

The laughs come thick and fast, from the entire cast, with no weak links in the chain. And yet, despite all the.laughter, we can see the casual way that people are disposed of, almost as an afterthought if they are even deemed worthy of that. We see strong men manipulate the weak, smile at them and then stab them in the back.

The cast is fantastic, the plot solid and pretty much every like lands. I liked the way every character was introduced, even if none of them ever really develop and real backstory. I didn’t even want ten minutes shortened off the runtime for once. Perhaps a few less cahrechters would have been nice but if they were there in real life there’s nothing you can do.

I guess what I’m saying is….

My Score – See It Now

Now, if you’ll excuse me, a perfectly ordinary van has pulled up with a loudspeaker saying it has free pizza and wine for all film critics. There’s even a perfectly ordinary pizza man getting out to knock on my door.

How nice.

See you next time.


Kingsman: The Golden Circle Review

The first Kingsman film told the tale of how someone from a council estate became a tuxedo-wearing super spy and was written in response to Casino Royale in which someone who’s a bit rough around the edges turns into a tuxedo wearing super spy but it didn’t go into enough detail for Mark Miller who created the franchise to detail James Bond’s true origins.

It was a love letter/parody to old school James Bond, particularly the Roger Moore and Sean Connery and I seriously enjoyed it, even if it did spend too long on its training regime and not enough on actually developing it’s world, character’s, style or tone.

But hey, that’s what first instalments are meant to do, right?

First film sets up the world, and from then on the training wheels are off and we get to see what The Kingsman can really do.

And speaking as a James Bond super fan, I haven’t seen a decent Bond parody since…. Hell, the first Austin Powers movie back in 1997. So, I had a beer, grabbed my popcorn sat back and….

Seriously missed the training wheels.

Because, well, I get that if you’re going to make an over the top cartoon version of James Bond, I realise that there’s going to be loads of over the top violence but maybe you could have told the CGI department that not to make their work really obvious or given them more than £20 to work with?

Seriously, if you don’t have the money for CGI then don’t do it CGI. Look into doing it with practical effects or models or stop motion or hell, even puppets because very few things spoil a film like bad CGI.

But on to the plot and it’s actually pretty simple. The world is being held hostage by a drugs kingpin who want all drugs legalised and a complete pardon for everything they’ve done. Yeah, the plots a carbon copy of On Her Majesties Secret Service except this time there’s no scene or stunt or moment where our main characters are in danger of so much as getting their suits wrinkled. Not only can none of the bad guys shoot straight but the hero’s have gadgets that shred the laws of physics and logic and serve only to paper over some of the many, many plot holes in this film.

And speaking of the plot, I should probably mention that as a gruff old traditionalist I like it when dead characters stay dead unless I’m watching a zombie film. And especially when that characters death was a fairly pivotal moment in the first film ad one of its most striking and long lasting moments.

And if you are going to bring back Colin Firth, maybe don’t spoil it so heavily in the trailers? And thanks again for taking what little tension there is out of the overlong, over-edited, slow-motion fight scenes because even if a character does get more than their suit wrinkled they can be back on their feet in three scenes teleporting around the world like nothing had ever happened.

Yes, teleporting, either that or this film takes place over about three weeks. Look, if I keep going on about all the things that annoyed me I’ll be here all day, so here are just a few.

Magic Mike barely gets a cameo, some halfwit told Jeff Bridges to shave so that he looks really badly de-aged via CGI. The film has no idea how to treat it’s female character’s so it sticks them behind a desk or a cooking counter, the villain was miscast and exudes as much menace as my friends three year old niece when she’s in a huff, there’s a high speed chase in London when the roads would be clogged to hell and the films tone shifts from over the top action cartoon to moments of serious romance about as smoothly as when my better half and I fight over the remote.

Even more annoyingly, given the hugely talented cast that’s been assembled here, no-body seems to have anything to do. Bridges is basically M and didn’t need to be in the film as much as he was, Firth is given a somewhat interesting character arc but the film doesn’t do anything with it. Eggsy goes back to square one in terms of his character, but at least Mark Strong gets a musical number?

Even more annoyingly, there’s a moment at Glastonbury that seemingly exists only to generate headlines and think pieces which I won’t discuss any more than to say it shocks and exists for shocks fate and could have been done about 15 different ways that would have been funny and inventive rather than the method that was used in the film.

And, worst off all is that taken as a whole, this doesn’t feel like a James Bond send up, rather than a film version of James Bond Jr. where Jr. has to prove himself to his Uncle James that he’s worthy of the name.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is an overlong, tension free series of over-edited fight scenes followed by sometimes amusing dialogue when it’s not trying to suddenly try and give depth to it’s one dimensional cartoon character’s. The villain and her henchman are less interesting, menacing and memorable than those in the original film. I laughed, liked it slightly at the time but am finding it really hard to justify why I did so now.

Maybe this franchise should have just been a single film as the law of diminishing returns is a very harsh and uncompromising one. On the other hand, it did have a pulse, a pretty interesting if incredibly obvious message (and a distractingly optimistic message about US politics) but at the very least it easily provided the best use of Elton John in a film since The Lion King.

Deal with the tonal shifts, being in some more practical stunts, a bit of tension, give your insanely talented cast something to actually work with and this could have been as good as the first one.

But as is?

My Score- Skip It


Victoria  and Abdul review

Unlike, say Germany, the United Kingdom has never had to confront the utterly horrific abuses committed during the time of Empire. 

Primarily I think that this is because we can make films like Victoria and Abdul, which, bar the age difference, would make for a pretty good romantic comedy about a young servant and a lady of the upper crust falling in love in defiance of her families and societies expectations. As is, it’s the true story of how a young man from India became Queen Victoria’s teacher and close friend in the twilight of her reign.

And, at that it truly succeeds, showing off the British love of pomp and theatre and habit.of clutching our pearls at the first sign of change or disruption. And for the first half it succeeded in making me laugh and I was enjoying this glossy, made for my mum, piece of period fluff. But then you started noticing things and started getting a bit restless.

Abdul, played by Ali Fazal is pretty much the second coming. He’s always, polite, cheerful, knows exactly what to say and do and seems depressingly happy in being a servant to Queen Victoria, played by the only acceptable alternative to Dame Hellen Mirren- Dame Judi Dench. Who, is probably this in her sleep but is still putting on an amazing performance as a Queen who is apparently tolerant and ahead of her time and therefore despised for it.

Yeah, as a historically accurate  document this film is less than worthless. The British Raj, contrary to what this film would have you believe was not full of well meaning but bumbling idiots. 

But leaving aside the complete and total whitewashing of history, the fact that that the male lead is Indian Jesus and that Judi French is acting in her sleep but we are also asked to believe that she gave birth to Eddie Izzard who plays her son Bertie and comes as close as this film gets to a villain. But, he and everyone else plays the role of ‘permantly enraged Englishman’ and it all gets rather tiresome after a while.

This is a film that could definitely do with 20 minutes off of it’s runtime as it starts to overstate it’s welcome towards the end.

It is lovely to look at and nobody does anything wrong but a few teeth wouldn’t have gone amis. It has a few hints of resentment towards the English and what we actually did, but it’s just tame, sanitised and a slightly dull use of a very interesting and unique true story. 

My Score- If Nothing Else


Mother! Review

Mother is a gothic story in which a couples tranquil life is disturbed by a pair of unexpected guests who turn their lives upside down. Working on multiple levels and leaving each person with their own unique tale on what the film is supposed to mean.


Mother is a deeply pretentious mess which people have convinced themselves is deeply meaningful because writer director Darren Aronosky (who also directed Black Swan) never got around to giving any of his characters names

And I know that the criticverse has taken a monastic vow of silence about the actual plot of the film but I promise you, the less you know going in, the better your experience will be.

What I will say though is that towards the end of the third act, this film contains one of the most graphic, brutal and revolting scenes I’ve seen in a film. It feels like something that the film has been building towards but hasn’t quite earned. It’s pace was too sedate, it’s setting too small to earn it. Because for about 95% of the film, the camera is aimed squarely at Laurences face.

And normally I wouldn’t mind a film where Laurences face takes up most of the screen for all of the runtime as she attempts to do up a huge mansion, support her poet husband (who is suffering from severe writer’s block) and deal with people who allegedly mistook then for a b and b, never quite get around to introducing themselves and don’t seem to want to go anywhere.

That and the house seems to be invading her mind, Making her doubt her own sanity and us question what is and isn’t real…


Look, Laurence gives an amazing performance and she deserves the Oscar nomination she’s probably going to get for this and I get why there are no monologues or real backstories given to anyone but there is a difference to following someone in their story and just looking at their face for two hours 

And the takes are too short as well. A film like this needs long, sweeping takes, especially becuse the house (which we never leave) looks like one giant set. Instead, the camera cuts every few seconds and it quickly became annoying and distracting. 

It is effective in provoking reaction and several people were outside it discussing what it really meant. But several people walked out and I understood both reactions. This is a film that will feature on a lot of top and bottom ten lists at the end of the year.

With longer takes, a more intense third act that actually deserved it’s shocking finale this could have been the masterpiece it wants so badly to be.  As it is, it’s a flawed, pretentious work of art. 

My Score- See It