Movie Review – Fate Of The Furious, The

Director :   F Gary Gray
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuelle, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, Tego Calderon, Kristofer Hivju, Don Omar, Luke Evans.
Approx Running Time :   128 Minutes
Synopsis:  When a mysterious woman seduces Dom into the world of terrorism and a betrayal of those closest to him, the crew face trials that will test them as never before.

*****

As the modern pinnacle of “big dumb fun”, the Fast & Furious movies continue to be an absolute gold mine for Universal, who would never have imagined their little car-racing flick from 2001 would become one of the most successful and critically popular franchises not currently owned by Disney. If you can believe it, we’re staring down the stickshift of the eighth film in this series, a staggering achievement for a franchise not Harry Potter or James Bond, and while many sagas of such venerability might sag or suffer the effects of wear and tear, magically the Furious lads just keep reinventing themselves. Even the tragedy of Paul Walker’s passing couldn’t dent the positivity surrounding Furious 7, bringing in over a billion dollars globally to make it the most successful film in the saga: Fate Of The Furious, which sees almost all the previous cast return in their respective roles, attempts to top the nutball stunts of its predecessors (including that hugely fun car-safe-chase sequence from Fast 5, the “they’ve got a tank!” sequence in Fast 6, and the twin-towers-car-jump scene in Fast 7) and give audiences the adrenalised cinematic thrills they’ve paid their money to see.

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Movie Review – Faster, Pussycat! Kill Kill!

Director :  Russ Meyer
Year Of Release :  1965
Principal Cast :  Tura Satana, Haji, Lori Williams, Susan Bernard, Stuart Lancaster, Paul Trinka, Dennis Busch, Ray Barlow, Mickey Foxx, John Furlong.
Approx Running Time :  83 Minutes
Synopsis: Three go-go dancers holding a young girl hostage come across a crippled old man living with his two sons in the desert. After learning he’s hiding a sum of cash around, the women start scheming on him.

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Fast cars and even faster women: there’s few films like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, the seminal 60’s exploitation film directed by renowned titty-helmer Russ Meyer. Frankly, it’s an awful film, and for some reason has gained an inexplicable cult fame – perhaps deservedly so – but there’s a kitschy appeal about Meyer’s black-and-white direction and laughable script that works in a serendipitous B-movie way. It’s a film about angles: every second shot is designed to maximise the cleavage and sexuality of its trio of starlets, led by Tura Santana, who feel the need to wear skintight outfits through the Californian desert, so if you’re into big-breasted vixens and corny, laughable dialogue delivered in that rat-a-tat manner the sixties enjoyed, you’ll have a blast with this one.

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Movie Review – Get Out

Director :  Jordan Peele
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Bradley Whitford, Catherine Keener, Caleb Landry Jones, Lil Rel Howery, Betty Gabriel, Marcus Henderson, LaKeith Stanfield, Stephen Root, Erika Alexander.
Approx Running Time :   114 Minutes
Synopsis:   A young African-American man visits his Caucasian girlfriend’s mysterious family estate.

*******

Get Out is a film thick with menace, ghastly tension and an undercurrent of horrifying racial implication. It’s a film not for the faint of heart, nor is it a film you should avoid because it’s a “horror”, but rather it invokes horror elements as a tablecloth to its menu of social dissection (ha!) and front-page-news congruence. Tiptoeing around the more obvious racial elements Get Out displays in digging its hooks into you as you watch, the film, written by director Jordan Peele is both prescient to modern liberal saviour complexes and a genuinely creepy, skin-crawling exercise in deviant terror. Get Out contains thematic similarities to genre standards such as Psycho, Misery, The Stepford Wives, a touch of Saw and Strangers, yet it retains a scintillating visceral aesthetic all its own – Peele’s comedic work has never once elicited a strong reaction from me, but his efforts on Get Out have me extremely excited for what his future might entail.

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Movie Review – Beauty & The Beast (2017)

Director :  Bill Condon
Year Of Release :  2017
Principal Cast :  Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan Mcgregor, Ian McKellan, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack, Hattie Morahan, Adrian Schiller, Gerard Horan, Haydn Gwynne, Michael Jibson.
Approx Running Time :   129 Minutes
Synopsis:   An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.

******

The Disney live-action money train continues to roll, as the studio presents another of its adaptations of previously animated material – this time, it’s a remake of the 1991 Best Picture nominated film Beauty & The Beast, only now it stars Harry Potter actress Emma Watson as Belle, and Dan Stevens as the digitally augmented titular Beast. Directed by Twilight, Mr Holmes and DreamGirls helmer Bill Condon, and co-starring a star-studded supporting cast, Beauty & The Beast’s larger-than-life Hollywood production value is first class, a thoroughly entertaining musical film that will delight both long-time fans of the material and those new to it. All of Alan Menken’s tunes make a welcome return (now in Dolby Atmos sound, no less) and although following the animated version almost beat-for-beat, never feels simply rehashed or done as a cash-grab.

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Movie Review – Great Wall, The

Director :  Zhang Yimou
Year Of Release :   2016
Principal Cast :  Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Zhang Hanyu, Eddie Peng, Lu Han, Lin Gengxin, Chen Xuedong, Huang Xuan, Jing Tian.
Approx Running Time :   113 Minutes
Synopsis:  European mercenaries searching for black powder become embroiled in the defence of the Great Wall of China against a horde of monstrous creatures.

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When the first trailers for The Great Wall landed online, I, like many others, figured the film would be yet another White Saviour narrative a la The Last Samurai and Dances With Wolves. Matt Damon, one of the whitest white actors known to exist, starring in a Chinese-based film about Chinese mythology co-starring a battalion of Chinese acting talent, all directed by one of the industry’s most credentialed Chinese filmmakers, Zhang Yimou, looked for all the world like exactly the type of film popular culture rails against these days. Yimou, a filmmaker I’m relatively ignorant of aside from Hero and House Of Flying Daggers (both beautiful but emotionally weak films, in my opinion) brings the full box of tricks to this Hollywood-friendly action spectacle, yet despite the inclusion of Matt Damon’s bland-as-butter performance, The Great Wall remains largely ineffectual as a cinematic entertainment thanks to inept scripting and tonally inauspicious direction.

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Movie Review – Split

Director :   M Night Shyamalan
Year Of Release :   206
Principal Cast :  James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Brad William Henke, Sebastian Arcelus, Neal Huff, Kim Director.
Approx Running Time :  117 Minutes
Synopsis:  Three girls are kidnapped by a man with a diagnosed 23 distinct personalities. They must try to escape before the apparent emergence of a frightful new 24th.

*****

When Hollywood’s history is finally written, there’s a fair bet an entire chapter will be centred around the career of one M Night Shyamalan – one-time wunderkind director of The Sixth Sense, the transformative thriller that returned “twist” endings to the mainstream, eventual B-movie slop helmer of The Last Airbender, and current phoenix with critical the success of The Visit. For the longest time, Shyamalan appeared to have lost “it”, the inexplicable, intangible creative thing that drove his best films, and many feared the once great auteur would never regain the form that made him a fan favourite. Split, not to be confused with either of the other two 2016 films of the same name by Jamie Buckner and Debbie Kampmeir, absolutely returns Shyamalan to the top of the “must watch” heap; Split is terrifying and creepy and all kinds of bizarre, and if nothing else it proves that the director’s knock-out work in his heyday wasn’t a fluke.

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Movie Review – Ghost In The Shell (2017)

Director :  Rupert Sanders.
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Scarlett Johansson, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, Michael Carmen Pitt, Pilou Asbæk, Chin Han, Juliette Binoche, Peter Ferdinando, Kaori Momoi, Lazarus Ratuere.
Approx Running Time :   99 Minutes
Synopsis:  In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

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One of the aspects I love about hard science fiction is its dissection of the nature of what it means to be human. Either through robotics, cybernetics or some quasi-possible integration between humankind and machine, the subject of identity, or self, is a well travelled pathway for storytellers looking at futurism through a prism of concern. Ghost In The Shell, an anime franchise that’s become synonymous with the genre globally thanks primarily to its narrative encompassing such intellectual heights, has had a Hollywood re-imagining long in gestation, beset with controversy – although we’ll leave the “whitewashing” stuff for another time – and fractious with Western fans. While I’ve only ever seen the original film (which itself was based on a manga comic series), I’m familiar with it enough as an overarching thematic statement in popular culture to hazard a guess that this 2017 version, while spectacularly beautiful and certainly focusing its considerable energies in the right direction, will go down as an “admirable failure” despite director Rupert Sanders’ (Snow White & The Huntsman) best efforts.

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Movie Review – xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Director :  DJ Caruso
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Kris Wu, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCain, Toni Collette, Samuel L Jackson.
Approx Running Time :   116 Minutes
Synopsis:

******

 And so Vin Diesel’s search for a non-Furious franchise continues. Shoehorned into position as one of cinemas most indecipherable action stars, beefcake actor Vin Diesel’s famous decision to not appear in 2 Fast 2 Furious and take on the xXx character with director Rob Cohen, was (in hindsight) a misstep. Audiences didn’t exactly embrace Diesel’s heavily tattooed adrenaline junkie persona, at least not critically. Diesel, also heavily invested in his third franchise involving Riddick, has failed to crack the blockbuster realm outside of fast cars and insane physics, although it’s a fair bet that Return of Xander Cage, the third of the xXx films, is as close as he’s come yet. This, of course, disregards his work as the voice of sentient tree Groot in Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise. The original xXx film was by and large indistinguishable action junk, given heft by Rob Cohen’s concussive direction, and the less said about Diesel-free sequel State Of The Union the better. So can Return of Xander Cage deliver Diesel a viable non-Furious franchise to intersperse his career with?

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Movie Review – Colossal

Director :   Nacho Vigalondo
Year Of Release :   2017
Principal Cast :  Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson.
Approx Running Time :   110 Minutes
Synopsis:  Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in NY and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realisation that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon.

*******

This review does contain spoilers for Colossal. Do not read on if you wish to remain unspoiled!

Colossal isn’t the film you think it is. If you’ve caught any of the marketing for this flick, you’ll know it’s about Anne Hathaway inexplicably controlling a giant kaiju monster terrorising Seoul, in Korea, via some kind of telepathic link. Colossal is indeed that film, but it’s a whole drawer of something else entirely as well; Jason Sudeikis’ lead role ventures into territory I was actually surprised with, considering the initial tone of Colossal’s whimsy and black humour, and although I felt the juxtaposition of the creature’s antics and the dark nature of the central plot (no, the monster isn’t the central plot of Colossal) didn’t quite mix as well as I’d have liked to make this an enjoyable film in the true sense, there’s enough within Colossal’s wry narrative and winking-at-the-audience aesthetic to make it something of an underground cult classic.

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