The Watch Reviews

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Hi everyone, I know a lot of people here are writing reviews and I'm not sure if by adding my own opinions and reviews is a bit of an overkill but I kinda felt like putting my thoughts on a few movies to paper (or keyboard).

The Dark Knight Rises Dir. C. Nolan


Really enjoyed reading your review even though I might not agree with a lot of it, partiularly regarding Anne Hathaway...I really hated her in this movie.



I am the Watcher in the Night
Really enjoyed reading your review even though I might not agree with a lot of it, partiularly regarding Anne Hathaway...I really hated her in this movie.
that's probably because I have a soft spot for Hathaway
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"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn"

"I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle"



I am the Watcher in the Night
Rogue One - A Star Wars Story
Dir. Gareth Edwards



Another Christmas and another Star Wars movie. This will become a very familiar trend by the end of this trilogy. Having said that, last year was great for nostalgia and this year was just great. Rogue One is a big, brilliant, balls to the wall summer blockbuster...in winter and I haven o problem with that. Almost from the beginning and all the way to the fan service ending, I had a silly grin on my face. The script is smart, funny and somehow, poignant. This is a movie in and of itself more so than The force Awakens.

I know what you're all thinking, especially those of you who may have already seen it: it's similar to the Force Awakens and once again deals in nostalgia. In all honesty, I can't disagree with that assessment, Rogue One is Star Wars marketing 101 but there is enough originality here for it to stand out a lot more than the previous entry in Disney's Starverse.

The first thing you will notice is the genuine attempt by Edwards to place this in a genre other than simply sci-fi/fantasy. Rogue One is a war movie at heart. The rush against time and the muddy, visceral violence are more reminiscent of Three Kings or Saving Private Ryan than A New Hope. Those of us who have followed the Star Wars story will know what the final outcome is but it doesn't make it any less thrilling.

Outside of the genre push and witty script there is the third spoke in the successful wheel: the acting. I'll be honest, I was worried with yet another major franchise with a female lead. Of course, there's the political edge to it all but there is no denying that Felicity Jones, much like Daisy Ridley before her, is full of charm, charisma and can express that now infamous Star Wars innocence. As I said in my TFA review last year, there is a wonder and innocent in Rogue One which is lost to most modern "family" movies. Jones personifies that here.

Then there is what amounts to a cameo from both Mikkelson and Whitaker, yet the latter takes his scenes and steals them. Just brilliant to watch. After seeing him in such sub par movies as The Last Stand, it's good to see him looking interested in a role. Without spoiling too much, it's sad that Whitaker's role isn't expanded on. Maybe a solo movie of the lost years at some point? I'd buy two tickets to that.

The rest of the cast is good but I must mention Alan Tudyk (he of Firefly fame) as K-2SO. A droid somewhat similar to C-3PO in his negativity but with a lot more millennial snark and a bit of a violent streak. The expressive eyes, which work with simple movements up and down, left and right are a wonder and coupled with THE voice acting of 2016 by Tudyk create a character you not only like but also laugh along with. Somehow, he becomes just as an important emotional attachment as C-3PO and R2D2 in past movies. I'll take K-2 over BB8 any day.

So there you have it. A movie with a lot hinging on it working much like Captain America 2 to usher a franchise into a separate yet familiar genre. I am now looking forward to the next standalone movie more so than any of the sequels in this new trilogy. Good job Disney, you finally got it.

8/10





I am the Watcher in the Night
The Accountant
Dir. Gavin O'Connor



Everything about The Accountant feels like an understatement and that is its greatest strength and probably its greatest undoing. The movie starts off with a two flashbacks, one to a scene of violence which we learn more about throughout the story and the other to a time when the main character was but a child. An autistic child, watched on by his younger brother. This strand of the story is also built on by the script, with bits of the story revealing itself throughout the film. It's a tried and tested formula and it works well here, in the capable hands of O'Connor and Bill Dubuque the screen writer.

The problem, as I stated before, as the understatement of the finished product. Everything from the music to the action sequences are quiet, measured and calculated. It feeds into Ben Affleck's character perfectly but in an age where the action movie was rejuvenated by The Raid, it's hard to be invested in sequences that can, at times, come across as dull. Affleck as always is good. This isn't on par with his performances in Gone Girl, Argo or Hollywoodland but it's more than serviceable. In fact, the subdued nature of Affleck's work fits into his character perfectly...a character that is in all honesty, poorly defined.

Christian Wolff (an alias not a real name) is the autistic kid we see in the flashbacks. He has grown up to be a maths savant (yes, THAT Hollywood troupe yet again) who just so happens to have been trained by his father to fight and kill. It's extremely far-fetched but then again, this is an action thriller and that's to be expected. However, at no point is Wolff ever more compelling than his co-characters, played ably by Kendrick, Simmons, Bernthal and Robinson.

In fact, it's Affleck's co-stars who just have a lot more to work with. There's Simmons fear of failure and rise from nothing to something, there's the blackmailed yet determined Medinah (portrayed by Robinson) and there's Bernthal playing yet another physically intimidating character and playing it to perfection may I add. In and among such a cast there is Anna Kendrick, who portrays Dana Cummings, an analyst working at the company Wolff is investigating. She brings much needed heart and humanity to the film and for an actress I have always found annoying, she is full of charm and warmth here. Much needed warmth.

However, all thrillers live and die on the plot and although it' under cooked, The Accountant has a fine script. The twist can be seen a mile off and the mystery would be too easy for even Scooby-Doo but somehow, the pacing, the slow unfolding of the characters journeys and the suspense in a handful of the action sequences move this film along. That's a good thing. This isn't a thriller for the ages but if you're looking for a way to kill a couple of hours on a long weekend, this is the movie for you.

6.5/10




I am the Watcher in the Night
John Wick



What starts off as a promising action movie ends up being just too devoid of heart and soul. This could so easily have joined the run of action renaissance that has occurred this century, from The Bourne Identity to The Raid but whereas those movies could keep you invested in between the set pieces and make you care about the characters, 'Wick ends up killing its only worthwhile character within the first 20 minutes.

Don't get me wrong, from a purely visceral stand point, this is good stuff. The action is smooth and the hand to hand combat everything we've come to expect in the post Bourne world. From the moment John Wick puts on that black suit and Keanu Reeves dons his "one face for all" look, you know the proverbial just got real. In fact, Reeves has spent two decades doing action movies and is right at home here. His one liners and suitably physical work is a perfect fit.

The problem is action movies evolved into something more than action set piece - conversation bridge - next set piece a long time ago. With Rambo First Blood, The Terminator, Die Hard and finally piece de resistance, Terminator 2. John Wick tries to learn from those movies but fails. The script is weak, the peripheral characters barely resemble human beings and the execution amateurish. For some weird reason, the third act seems to be split in two and where the movie should of ended only serves as an interlude for a final, boring encounter. By that time, the average human brain has had enough of the monotonous action.

A great opportunity wasted. Can the sequel do better?

5/10




I am the Watcher in the Night
Arrival
Dir. Denis Villeneuve (2016)

Arrival is a movie with very big ideas and told with the help of a very good cast, it also helps that the man behind the camera is one of the best going. The problem arises, when half way through, the mind realises not much is happening beyond those big ideas. The central theme, that we all need to communicate with each other on a global scale and learn to work together is sweet, especially in light of recent events but that does not make for an engrossing film. Where Villeneuve's best work (Sicario and Prisoners) manage to combine big ideas with water tight scripts and great sequences, Arrival feels like a lonely step child. It so wants to belong but it never does.

That is not to say it's a bad movie. As far as thoughtful sci-fi in modern Hollywood goes, Arrival is decent, beautifully shot and exceptionally well acted. Amy Adams, probably the premier actress in American cinema combines with one of the most charming, and effortless actors in Jeremy Renner, with a supporting cast of Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg. The latter is wasted and barely seen but when he is around, he does his job well. Whitaker, almost as wasted here as in Rogue One, is still immensely watchable although his gruff, army type is not a unique character.

Ultimately, this is Adam's movie and she is in top form. beneath the obvious vulnerability and sadness lies a resolve and grit in her character and there are few actors, male or female, that would be able to display it, along with a healthy dose of genius. It's always difficult to make movie scientists relatable or even likable, but with the aid of Renner who himself does an impressive job, Adam's skill and charisma shines through.

It's a shame then, that in a movie that has so much importance, an awards worthy performance, a story with global impact and aliens, that so little ever happens. Oscar season is here and there will be awards but Arrival could and should have been so much more. The best movies are those that can paint their big ideas in a form that is both impactful and entertaining. That's cinema. Arrival lacks the entertainment element. It's a shame, considering just hot good Sicario was the year before.

6/10



I am the Watcher in the Night
Star Wars Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
Dir. Rian Johnson



This is a movie that can be reviewed in one of two ways; either as a loud, bombastic blockbuster suitable for the whole family, or from the perspective of a dedicated Star Wars fan. I am not the latter, although I have enjoyed previous entries in the series and hold The Empire Strikes Back as one of my favourite ever films. However, I can understand frustrations from some long time fans, as much of what they old dear...heck, even sacred, is wiped away and laughed off. This is not the best way to handle a rabid fan base. Then again, Disney understands Star Wars no longer needs that small group of hardcore supporters. The franchise is not a nerdy niche, it is vast, all consuming even. Every one will watch this now. It is a mass market product that can do away and even laugh at its nerdier, more mythical pass.

None of that means it is a bad movie and viewed as blockbuster fun for the whole family, it is possibly the best of the year. Deeper and more creative than Thor, nowhere near as dour and ugly as Justice League. The opening sequence may be one of the best ever in the series, a fine space battle which also helps set up the rest of the story and a new character. The visual effects are also some of the best on show, with a handful of practical effects combined with exceptional CGI, which never feels intrusive or inorganic. For the first time in a while, we get to see new creatures, vehicles and locations on screen, with the Porg's both cute and annoying but it's the Chrystal Critters that are most startling. Beautifully realised and surprisingly important to the plot.

The plot, sadly this is where the film seems to buckle under its own ambition and rams home too many political points. Some are well realised, in particular a beautifully constructed section on a casino based planet. Monte Carlo eat your heart out. It is Johnson's stab at dissecting capitalism and telling us why rampant materialism can be so divisive and abusive to society. Other sections are not so well handled, ideas thrown out there and then forgotten. The central plots with Rey and Finn suffer from a combination of convolution and nonsense. Finn is barely even a character here and it takes Boyega's charm to even make him watchable. Rey on the other hand has everything to do, whizzing across three different worlds, training, fighting, saving every one. Even Luke was not this busy across three films. The effect of this is that Rey loses any coherence as a character.

The new additions, namely Rose (Kelly Tran) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) are hit and miss. Rose starts off as a lowly mechanic style character, mourning the loss of her sister in the opening sequence and ends up being at the forefront of the rebellion, able to fly craft and do battle. How'd that happen? How long has passed for her to learn those skills? Oh and when did her "love" for Finn develop? When they were bickering or when she thought he was a deserter?

Holdo only fairs slightly better and that too because of the mystery surrounding her motives. It is a surprisingly well constructed sequence of events but one that ultimately makes Poe Dameron (clearly being groomed to be the most likeable member of the cast with a role as rebel leader) look a complete fool. How can a man like that ever lead? Then again, plots have not been the barometer of blockbuster success. Ultimately it is a movie that made me laugh and smile almost all the way throughout. There were genuine applause moments, from the destruction of the dreadnought to THAT death. Luke showing off his powers was also fun and an inkling of what the Jedi are capable of.

A word on Carrie Fisher then. She is sombre mood throughout and seems to have entirely lost her aristocratic accent. Are we watching Princess Leia or Carrie Fisher? Does it matter? Maybe not, as the movie is a sweet send off for the character, not from the franchise but from the forefront of the saga. The last of the original trilogy but now willing to pass her torch onto the next generation. Her scenes carry the most weight and her arc, although small, is the best of the group.

So all in all, if someone wants a good time at the cinema, which is visually arresting and inventive in its use of light and sound, then I'd say go for it. It is a fun time and well worth a well priced ticket. For die hard fans, if you haven't seen the movie yet, know that you are in for a kicking of your childhood. Nothing will be sacred.

7/10



I am the Watcher in the Night
Mr Holmes
Dir. Bill Condon

This is a movie with a soft, summer glow, drenching the country side and the script in a warmth rarely seen in many modern, family films. The aesthetic really is a triumph and it helps give Sherlock Holmes, so often portrayed these days as a cold, uncaring, sociopath. Now, that warmth is helped along by Ian MacKellen, who, in my opinion, delivers his best on screen performance in years. It really is a remarkable portrayal, not just of an incredible, fictional character but of life at an end. This is not just another Holmes mystery, it is the tale of life and death.

MacKellen is ably supported by an excellent Laura Linney, who does not have much to do but be a slightly overbearing mother, however, she pulls it off and comes away being quite likeable. The real standout of this small cast is Milo Parker, who plays 10-year-old Roger, the son of the house keep Linney portrays. So often, child actors are trapped trying to act like a child, but Milo plays it as naturally as possible. It is a performance that contrasts perfectly with MacKellen's and the centre piece of this story.

The mystery that is shown throughout the film. Holmes' last case, is not particularly interesting, or even engrossing. To be honest, it is quite simple and at times, flat. But that is not the point of this film; here we're meant to see the end of life and all the troubles, memories and heart break it can bring. A sweet, heartfelt little film.

7/10



I am the Watcher in the Night
The Disaster Artist
Dir. James Franco



When James Franco decided to make a movie about the most famous bad movie of them all, I expected something subversive, funny yet subtle, delving into the mind of Tommy Wiseau (the mind behind The Room), sadly The Disaster Artist is none of those things. Yet it is funny, at times it is even hilarious but then again, when you are replicating scenes, frame by frame, from The Room, with Franco's hilarious Tommy accent, how can it not be? The problem is, beyond replicating what many cinema-goers have already seen via YouTube and maybe even late night screenings, there is little substance here.

The movie opens with a meeting between Tommy (James Franco) and Greg (brother Dave), who quickly develop an unlikely friendship, seemingly based on how much Greg admires Tommy's balls for being bat **** crazy. That is it, that is all we really know about the two and why they remain friends. Towards the end of the movie, there is no reason for Greg to go back to Tommy, after having been treated like utter trash...but he does. A shrug and a smile later, they are friends again.

A supporting cast which included Alison Brie, Seth Rogen and a weird, nonsensical cameo from Bryan Cranston add little to the story. A little digging shows that Brie's character is entire fictitious, Cranston's part in the film is also made up (why is it included at all?) and while Rogen delivers a few funny quips and expressions, his character is relegated to the background.

Ultimately, much like The Room itself, this movie will make you laugh but leave you feeling cold. Seeing the end credits roll, you start to wonder why you wasted a 103 minutes of your life. I hate to be this negative about it, but apart from aping The Room and making fun of the subject matter, there isn't much here. I guess that is representative of James Franco himself. Funny, weird and intriguing but delve a little deeper and there is nothing beyond the odd stare.

A completely missed opportunity to dig deep into the life of one of cinema's most mysterious and engaging entities. Tommy Wiseau deserves a deeper introspective, maybe a documentary based on Greg Sestero's book would be better.

Oh, Hi 5/10 mediocre score...anyway, how's your sex life?



I am the Watcher in the Night
Avengers: Infinity War
Dir. Russo Brothers


Ten years ago, Disney's Marvel studios sat down and mapped out a plan for a shared, cinematic universe. It would be unprecedented in scale and a major risk. Spider-Man and the X-Men, Marvel's two biggest comic properties were in the hands of rivals, so they would have to build the box office success on lesser known heroes, Iron Man, Captain America and company. 2008 saw the release of The Incredible Hulk and then Iron Man, to varying degrees of success. Fast forward to 2018 and the MCU is a vast media entity, worth billions of dollars, coming off the back of one of their most successful movies and flooding the market with copycats.

And so, it is with this history and success behind it, that the first part of the Avenger's finale debuts and boy is it good. It is a popcorn blockbuster of gargantuan proportions, immaculately produced, wonderfully acted and carefully crafted. Marvel and every one involved, from the Russo brothers, the production team, the cast and crew could have dialled it in and still produced a massive hit but that is not what happens here. For all the bombast and brilliantly choreographed/animated action, there is genuine heart and a very human story...even if that human story features a big, purple/pink alien.

Thanos is that alien, a hulking piece of CGI, sincerely and subtly brought to life by Josh Brolin and the boffins behind the scenes. He is a CGI character to rival Gollum or Caesar. Most importantly, he is one of the best written villains in all cinema...yes I went there, not just comic book movies or this particular genre, I really do mean all cinema. The backstory is fleshed out but avoids being too overwhelming, his relationships, a key aspect of the story are brought to the fore and his motivations laid bare. He is a maniac, make no mistake about it, a mass murdering sociopath but like Darth Vader before him, he does so in a world of delusion, fuelled by hate and despair. the final hurdle he must jump to attain the power he has so longed for is a Greek tragedy in scale. Agamemnon eat your heart out. All this in what is supposed to be a brainless CGI fest.

The heroes sadly are not as well fleshed out, with Captain America being the biggest name to just...well to just be there. He is heroic, we all know that and that is all he does, heroic things. There is no character development or even a story arc. The same can be said for the rest of his crew (Black Widow, War Machine and co). Iron Man, Spider-Man and Dr Strange not only receive more screen time but a genuine plot and the conclusion of it feels heartfelt, if a bit cheesy at times. Ditto for the Guardians of the Galaxy, who are the funniest and most charming part of the entire feature.

A juggling act this impressive requires impressive planning and a meticulous attention to detail. Are we surprised that the Russos, with their success in the Captain America franchise, managed to pull it off? I am a little, they were good before, they are great here. The scenes are paced almost perfectly, Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Rings trilogy would be proud. The editing and story telling is so sublime that the 140 minute or so of run time whizzes by and at the end of it all, you are left breathless and wanting more. In an age of big budget, low grade blockbusters, that is all I want. Yet I do not want anyone to think Infinity War is the best of a bad bunch.

No, as a cinematic triumph it stands alongside Terminator 2, the aforementioned Ring trilogy and some of Spielberg's best work. This is a must watch and whatever score I give or you see floating around the internet is irrelevant.

9/10



I am the Watcher in the Night
Avengers: Engame
Dir. The Russo Bros



Avengers: Endgame is here; Marvel's billion dollar juggernaut reaches its conclusion, after twenty-one feature films and eleven years, to the sound of resounding applause and (for this particular fan) a little bit of disappointment. Why the long face? Good question and the answer is simple, Infinity War was a blockbuster masterpiece. It was to the 2010s what Jaws was to the 70s and Terminator 2 to the 90s, a benchmark feature which was both money and heart. Many knew that any sequel, no matter how good, would fail to reach the height of that predecessor but Endgame stumbles along, far smaller in scale than the Russo brothers classic and sadly, far less inventive. The action set pieces are at times bland and the comedy feels far too forced (Hulk and Thor, what happened to you guys?).

Having said all that, there is still a lot to like. The smaller scale means that the Avenger originals get a lot more screen time and the quieter moments feel far more significant. Iron Man and Captain America are the stars here because this is their story, a culmination of their heroism and sacrifice. We are reminded, time and time again, just how far these two have come, from uncomfortable allies to enemies and ultimately to ageing warriors. It is a fine arc and the best part of the film. Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. put in their best ever performances; they are the glue that holds the uneven plot together, because we care and for eleven years, they made us care.

I have made a conscious effort to keep the spoilers to a minimum but I will mention that there is time travel and as a fan of the MCU, it hits all the right marks...mostly. Going back to 2012 and the first invasion of New York, or to 2014 and Peter Quill's first appearance is fun and funny but this is also where the problems arise. In trying so hard for nostalgia, tying up a decade plus of loose ends and building a heartfelt core to the central action, the Russos misstep more than once. Plot hole after plot hole arises, rules of time travel that are set up by the film itself seem to be totally forgotten and a crucial aspect of the previous no longer feels as heartfelt. We cared so much for the loss of Gomorrah because we realised that Thanos finally had something to lose, a true sacrifice had to be made. Repeating something similar, with characters that do not have a relationship resonating the same way, leaves an empty hole in a sequence that was supposed to mean more. It did not.

That is the ultimate problem with the entire sequel, it fails in parts where Infinity War succeeded. The story beats where we are supposed to care feel forced and the action that should allow us to feel excitement are few and far between...yet, through it all, there are moments where the crowd cheer, laugh and applaud. The return of some key characters got the loudest cheers and showcased that there are plenty who care and have lived a significant portion of their lives with these movies. Marvel's send off is both fun and awkward, precise and clumsy, heartfelt and cold, yet it works because we longed for it to work. All we really wanted was to see our on screen heroes one last time. With that, Endgame succeeds. It may not be great but it does not need to be. It merely allows us to put to rest a significant portion of our lives.

8/10



I am the Watcher in the Night
El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie
Dir. Vince Gilligan

I wasn't quite sure how to start this review...I questioned what I thought, what I felt and ultimately, the conclusion I came to. It is never good to second guess your own opinion, why should you? It is YOUR opinion and yet, in the age of internet fires, voicing unpopular opinions can lead to the hangman's noose. Breaking Bad has its fans, I am one of them and it is from that perspective that I write what you are about to read - this movie should be titled, El Camino: A Bad Movie. There I said it....good God that is great have off my chest. Now that the genie is out of the bottle, let us begin.

The story here is simple, Jesse is on the run moments after the end of Breaking Bad and he has decided that Alaska is his destination (because a dead Mike Ehrmentrout told him...in a flashback...Alaska...yep).I have a lot of good will for Vince and his team, for the show and the prequel Better Call Saul which is full of energy, humour, fun pacing and a very good second season; so I sat down and allowed myself to be invested in Jesse Pinkman one more time, even though he deserves all the bad coming to him. From then on we are re-introduced to Skinny Pete (looking terribly aged) and Badger. They are willing to go above and beyond to help Pinkman, their reason explained with a single line which never sounds convincing enough.

After that point the plot drags and it is not a spoiler to say that Jesse is looking for money. That is it. He just needs money to go the route of Saul Goodman and disappear. Not every movie has to have a complex plot, I get that but here, Jesse does one thing...search people's homes for money. He spends about half an hour of actual film time in a single locations where almost nothing happens till the final five minutes. Could you imagine a Breaking Bad episode with such bad pacing? Then there is a scene with the always brilliant Robert Forster, reprising his too small role of d Galbraith. Yet again, the dialogue never seems to flow, instead it drips into an endless nothing, where the duo come to a deal they could have completed one hundred words earlier.

Do you see the problem? Vince Gilligan has fallen into the trap he did with Better Call Saul, self indulgence; Bob Odenkirk's charisma has been enough to lift that show, along with improving seasons, but Aaron Paul has never been that guy. Terrific as a supporting actor but not enough to fill the screen as the main man. This self indulgence from the once brilliant Gilligan is seemingly mixed with a brash arrogance he has never showcased before. Gone are the finer details, continuity and care of characters, replaced by fan service and a "meh, we can get away with this" attitude. There are an umber of rather pointless flashbacks, which include a murder, a CGI'd bald head for Walter White and the worst sin of all, the return of Jesse Plemons as Todd Alquist.

Don't get me wrong, Plemons is one of the best actors out there but right here, why was he included if there would be no effort to cover up the weight gain and obvious ageing? You can get away with it for Skinny Pete but Todd? The character was pivotal for the end of Breaking Bad and takes up a lot of screen time in the film, yet no effort has been made to alter him at all. This took me, and I am sure many watching it without the fan hat on, out of the movie. This is a character who clearly isn't from the same timeline at all. A prime Gilligan would never have pulled off such a trick. Is Todd even necessary to the story? The flashback scenes could have been shorter, or shot in such a way as to limit his view but there he stands, in all his glory. It is as if Gilligan is just shrugging his shoulders and mouthing the words, "I am too big to fail...bitch".

For me, this is what the movie feels like. One long pronunciation of "bitch". A straight bitch for the fans, not just of the show but also of film and good writing in general. An over long, over stretched TV movie, not up to the standards of what Netflix has been offering for years now. A sad end to a once great franchise. At least I hope it ends with this and we do not get a El Camino: Ice Road Truckers sequel.

4/10



I am the Watcher in the Night
The Irishman
Dir. Martin Scorsese (2019)

Imagine, as you watch this movie, that you have temporary amnesia, which lasts three hours and twenty minutes. In that time, forget the movie is directed by Scorsese, forget that it stars De Niro, Pacino and Pesci, forget all that baggage and assess what you see. A tired, cliched, oddly colourful spoof of a gangster movie; now, before you start sharpening your forks and lighting your torches, think back to the scenario I am proposing...can you deny what I have just said?

That is not to say that there are no positives, because there definitely are (how often does Scorsese make an out and out bad film?). Al Pacino, so long away from a big Hollywood production is in exceptional form. Yes it is his tired schtick of playing a "hot head" who shouts through his dialogue and chews the scenery but at least it is entertaining and at least he is trying. The script, penned by Steven Zaillian is quite humorous and there is chemistry enough between De Niro and Pacino that the interplay between their characters (Frank Sheeran and JImmy Hoffa) is playful, fun and emotional. It is surprising that De Niro usually on autopilot actually looks to be engaged here.

There are problems however and they seem to start right from the outset. The much talked about de-ageing technology used in numerous modern films is here and it is, in one word, terrible. Frank Sheeran in the 1950s should have been a man in his late 30s/early 40s but De Niro's de-aged version looks closer to 50 or more and his body is so stiff you can't help but laugh (a scene early on when Sheeran's hard man credentials are highlighted when he beats up a grocery store owner is pure comedy gold...unintentionally). Then there is Joe Pesci....oh Joe Pesci.

The one time king of supporting actors is out of retirement and he looks like a wrinkled green pea...de-aged or otherwise. Actually, once he is de-aged and pops up on screen like this for the first time, he looks ab it like something from Spielberg's Tintin movie. Maybe it is a 60 year old Tintin, I don't know and honestly, I don't care. It seems like Pesci also stopped caring. He ambled through scene after scene, the exact same expression on his face and only ever seems to come to life towards the end, when he really puts in an effort to play a stroke stricken version of his character. However, for 3 hours and 10 minutes before that, Russell Buffalino could have been played by anyone, Pesci is emotionless, faceless, charisma-less here and that is sad, because he was the original supporting actor.

I won't waste much more time or space on this, as it is pretty obvious what I think about this movie. Take away the Scorsese tag and all the critical nostalgia and we have something that looks and plays like a TV movie. Not utterly useless but certainly far from the masterpiece you have been told it is.

5/10



I am the Watcher in the Night
Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

WHAT. THE. ACTUAL. F***?

Let me repeat...WHAT THE ACTUAL F***? (Spoilers ahead!)

I have no idea where to start with this one. As I often say in Star Wars movie reviews, I am not an out and out Star Wars fan but they are usually good fun with breezy, blockbuster plots. The Empire Strikes Back is the high point of the series and a great, great film in its own right. The series is not so important to me either side of that stand out (stand alone?) moment but this all consuming, mega-bucks, likely one billion dollar monstrosity is a failure on every level. If anyone involved in the writing process had a plot, it was jettisoned long ago, if anyone in the producing process had a heart, it was stolen long ago.

Let's just write down some of the "WTF" moments in this pile of trash - why was Palpatine not sign posted anywhere in the near four hours of film preceding this? Why was almost every story arc from the previous film deleted, ignored or destroyed? Why was there no plot indicating Palpatine had children at any stage in the 8 films previous? What happened to the intense, self sacrificing love between Finn and Rose? The most we get this time is a pat on the shoulders. What exactly is the Emperor's plot in this one? To bring Kylo and Rey together so he can suck their...erm....Force energy? Or does he really want to turn Rey and live through her? Why in the hell of hells did he create an armada, each with planet destroying capabilities...even though The First Order largely runs everything and is essentially another empire?

I have to stop otherwise I will burn the mechanics in my keyboard.

At this stage, we have to talk about The Last Jedi, just a bit. Yes people complained that it did not hold any of the Star Wars lore as sacred (not entirely true) and that the character of Luke Skywalker should not be what it became, which is problematic because the best characters are the ones that change (I understand the change in this instance was poorly handled); yet through all that the movie took a direction, had a plot which led to a somewhat worthy conclusion and propelled the series in a genuinely new direction. Personally, I enjoyed the fact that Johnson and co wanted a movie which was not the usual fantasy of the "chosen one" but rather a story of how people, all of us, can choose to change our circumstances and rise up against our oppressors. A very socialist science fiction dream pertinent for our times. All of this was capitalised in Rey's parents being of no consequence yet she was still special, as was a random storm trooper and a small time engineer.

I could have gotten behind a plot of that nature, even if poorly executed but...and I have to mention it again...Rey being Palpatine's grandaughter makes no sense what so ever. Heck, which one of her parents was related to Palpatine? Who cares, because it is bloody obvious the script writers did not, it is obvious J.J. Abrams was self pleasuring while watching lens flare from The Force Awakens and Kennedy was jumping up and down in a feminine room about her feminist plot with all her strong, independent, female characters (Who almost always need saving by men, but meh, WHO CARES?).

This really is one of the most atrocious cash grabs in the history of entertainment. It plunges he depths of Fast and Furious, The Justice League and Batman v Superman, yet retains none of brief entertainment value they may offer.

I hate how negative this all is so I will end with the two positives - Daisy Ridley is beautiful, sensitive, vulnerable and strong in her nuanced performance as Rey Palpatine (WTF?), while the visual fidelity of this particular movie is probably ILM's highest career point. It really does look exceptional, CGI waves have never looked so powerful, planets have never looked so real and a combination of CGI and practical effects gives everything a gritty, worn look.

That is it and now, without further ado, let me unveil my latest rating system!

Unwatchable Garbage
Good for a rainy Sunday afternoon
Must-See


This movie is rated as: Unwatchable Garbage



I am the Watcher in the Night
Marriage Story
Dir. Noah Baumbach

Where to begin? As in marriage counselling I should be honest, meaning I should let you all know I normally dislike movies about actors, about Hollywood and about relationships. This however was so good I put aside my prejudices and dived right in...or rather was dragged in by the superb performances and funny script. That's right, a film about divorce is actually lighthearted (at times) and deeply conscious of the fact that humour is needed in these instances. Without it, the film could have been weighed down by its own plot and darkness.

First off, hats off to both Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansson for going all in. These two have excellent on-screen chemistry and seeing them ease in and out of the relationship, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes fighting, sometimes laughing will remind us all of that one great and terrible relationship in our lives. Their performances are so good, that Noah's naturalistic direction works perfectly and it feels like we're watching a documentary of an unraveling couple rather than just a movie dealing with such issues.

The film is also served by an able supporting cast, with Laura Dern and Alan Alda stealing the show. The latter in particular is world class here, putting scene stealing turn after scene stealing turn. Not because he is loud but because he is quiet, understated, funny and absent. All the while working towards being a wise old sage. Has been nominated for an Oscar? Who cares, the Oscars don't deserve him. Laura Dern is so polished in her role that you forget this is a woman playing a divorce lawyer and start wondering if it is a divorce lawyer playing a woman.

Did I mention Ray Liotta makes an appearance, maybe we could call it a cameo, whatever it is, it works just as well as all the other names mentioned. He is brash and ballsy, the characters we love from Liotta. All of this would be pointless without mentioning the young Azhy Robertson, a child with a bright future and a subtle turn. He is not so kiddy that it looked over rehearsed but it is clear he knows what he is doing from start to finish. Without a capable young hand, the whole movie could have fallen apart.

In this age of cartoonish relationships and reality TV gossip, it is nice to see a well represented love story without all the usual cheesy drivel.

It is just a shame that such a large focus falls on the show business aspect of the characters and the self indulgent, almost arrogant facets it brings.

All in all: Must-See



I am the Watcher in the Night
Tenet
Dir. Christopher Nolan (SPOILERS!)

How do I start this one? Well, maybe with words spoken after Inception a decade or more ago - "I didn't quite get that". For me however, Inception felt pretty straightforward and I understood the plot from start to finish, or rather, I followed the plot from start to finish and left feeling satisfied. With Tenet, I could not follow the plot and no, it's not because it is genius level scripting from super genius Christopher Nolan. it's because the sound mixing is so damn awful, it is quite literally, physically impossible to follow the plot. Form the music to the environmentals to the action and everything in between, you hear it all except the words being spoken by the actors. But we will get to all of that in a bit, let's just discuss the contents of the movie first.

This is a time travel flick, for all the talk of "inversion" that's all this is. It has the usual time travel quirks: can you change the past? Will changing the past affect the future? What happens when you meet your future or past self? What is there is a plot point in the past, which requires action in the future, for that plot point to have ever happened at all? Tick, tick, tick and tick. There is actually very little here that is unique, I would go so far as to say nothing is original in Nolan's script. The bad guy is Russian (the 1980s want their villain back), everyone looks good in a suit in well lit environments (Sam Mendes wants his Bond themes back) and...well, all of it was done better in Avengers: Endgame last year or in Back to the future 30 years ago. This is possibly Nolan's least interesting or thought provoking script.

At this point, I would like to state that this is an action movie, or rather, you would remind me of that. "This ain't a physics phD thesis Watch_Tower, you nerd!" I hear the die hard Nolanites scream. I get that, I really do, so let's discuss the action. Is it any good? Well....it's ok I guess. I was initially truly hyped to see what these inverted sequences, such as the car chase or the fist fights would look like and personally, honestly, they were decent but nothing quite as jaw dropping as the scene altering sequences of Inception (or the Inception inspired chase scenes in Dr Strange). That is the saddest part for me. All the visual flair and practical effects are hidden by fast cuts, so often, so over indulgent that you can easily lose track of who is on screen and who isn't, what is happening and what isn't. Cars roll backwards and pop back onto the road, cool but when it all seems to be happening at about 5 miles per hour, it just isn't exciting. The final battle scene looks more like a really rough paintballing session than a battle to save humanity with some of the smallest, more boring explosions captured for a major blockbuster ever.

This all sounds very very negative, and it is but there are some bright spots. John David Washington is once again very good, slick, calm, physical and just nuanced enough that you believe in him as a just protagonist. Robert Pattinson is ok but he gets to deliver some cheeky comments, injecting a bit of humour into an otherwise very serious script. The rest of the cast do a decent job but Kenneth Branagh as the big bad Russian is just wasted. From his cartoonish accent to his nonexistent motivations (cancer, bla bla, wants to destroy world so...erm...so everyone else can die with him, I guess?) is a huge miss. One of the finest actors on screen and he comes off worse than most Saturday morning TV show baddies.

This is where the problem with the sound mixing comes in yet again. Why does he want to destroy all of time and space (on Earth anyway)? Something to do with having cancer but if it was explained beyond that point, I didn't hear it. Why can't his wife kill him until something happens on the battlefield? No idea, I couldn't hear that too but in the end, it didn't matter anyway. Pattinson's character (I couldn't even hear his name) seems to have died in the final sequence, but his inverted version is alive and knows the main character for many, many years, meaning he is actually from the future, was this ever explained? I don't think so but I can't be sure, as I could barely hear any of his conversations. If it wasn't explained, as I strongly suspect it wasn't, then this is a definite plot hole due to poor writing and not just some timey-wimey.

It may sound weird, after all that I have mentioned to actually recommend the film. I do it for two reasons:
1. It is a good enough excuse to go and visit the cinema in these hard times.
2. This is a genuine, family friendly blockbuster, one of the few of its kind and I would rather it was supported than ignored. I also enjoyed the two central performers and appreciate the craft of the stunt men and engineers who put all the practical work together for this, resisting silly CGI temptation.

Verdict: Good for a rainy Sunday afternoon



I am the Watcher in the Night
Well, here it is at long last, The Snyder Cut....or Zack Snyder's Justice League as it is now known. There has been hug fanfare but I have stayed away from other reviews and most of the social media chatter, heck I haven't even viewed the forum threads on here. The reason is simple, I do not want to be influenced, good or bad. This review ill be in six parts, each part reviewed separately, and then I will provide thoughts on the movie overall.

So let us get started -

Zack Snyder's Justice League
Dir. Zack Snyder (Streaming HBO, Sky Cinema, Now TV)

Part 1
"Don't count on it Batman"

Part one essentially feels like a prologue to the story which is about to unfold. In the original film, or the Whedon cut as it will likely be known, it was the opening 15 minutes or so. Superman is dead and the forces of evil are now willing to descend upon Earth. It should be a simple enough set up but here Snyder introduces two things which are likely to play a big part in this film, and possibly test my patience: 1. Slow motion everywhere and 2. Extended sequences.

Snyder replays the death of Superman, the same ugly CGI mess it was the first time around, this time with added sound vibrations from Superman's dying screams. It is a sequence which lasts close to ten minutes, showcasing the awakening of the Mother Boxes (we all know what these are by now) and the question is, did we need to see a slow mo sequence of Superman's screams? No. Not at all. It adds nothing to the story that Whedon's dialogue in the original had not already done with a simple explanation.

The scenes which follow with Batman sorrowful of Superman's loss still make little sense. He barely knew him, and while Supe was alive, he was a hugely controversial figure and not the beacon of good imagined here. Longer does not equal better in all things.

A plus however, and something which will raise the score for part one is the Amazon sequence. Yes it is still stupid that the scene starts with a bunch of Amazon warriors standing and staring at the Mother Box. Is that their mission? To stand there for thousands of years, still as a statue? Anyway, Steppenwolfe arrives with his new look, which is pretty good but it serves little purpose. The battle which follows is longer than the Whedon version but ultimately has the same effect, the Mother Box is taken by Steppenwolfe and the fire signal must be lit.

There is no narrative purpose to this extension but it is bloody entertaining. For the first time across the DC movies I found myself rooting for the usually boring Amazonians, and the back and forth over the box is well shot and executed. The narrative suffers again because what exactly is their plan here? To sink the temple into the ocean? Steppenwolfe is supposed to be a fearsome, world destroying warrior but afraid of water? Anyway, much like a lot of Snyder's stuff it is visually appealing if nonsensical. The best part of the prologue.

7/10