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The King of Comedy is a great Scorsese film, which as you point out seems more relevant today perhaps than it was before, hence why it seems to have undergone a little bit of a critical re-evaluation.

I absolutely love the ending of the film, and was actually cheering on Pupkin's characters, it is a film, after all.

I am the Watcher in the Night
The King of Comedy is a great Scorsese film, which as you point out seems more relevant today perhaps than it was before, hence why it seems to have undergone a little bit of a critical re-evaluation.

I absolutely love the ending of the film, and was actually cheering on Pupkin's characters, it is a film, after all.
Yeah I liked Pupkin too, weird guy but he has a genuine naivety to him which is attractive...or maybe it's just the way De Niro played him back when, you know, Bob used to actually act in his movies.
"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
I'm going to do something a little different now, instead of reviewing a movie, I'm going to review The Wire, one of the most critically acclaimed TV shows of the decade, maybe even ever. I've come to the show late and have just finished watching the first 2 seasons, so I'm reviewing both seasons below:

The Wire

Season 1 & 2 Review

"Explosive, touching and hilarious"
- Watch Tower

Where to begin? This is a show packed full of great characters, even better dialogue, terrific story telling and a deeper, political message about segregation within the United States. It also features a fair few genre cliches, corrupt police officers and government officials, the alcoholic detective trying to piece together a broken family but the cliches are often balanced out by bold (at the time) decisions, such as having a lesbian police officer or excessive drug use and violence. In many ways, The Wire is the inspiration and the trend setter for all future, HBO, multi-faceted, adult and violent stories. I don't think it's too far fetched to think, that if The Wire had never been made, we may never have seen such shows as Treme or Game of Thrones.

The show initially centers around Det. Jimmy McNulty, played by a charming, swaggering Dominic West. There are a number of characters and actors who round off the cast but it isn't until we're introduced to Michael K. William's Omar that you truly see the shows potential. Omar is dangerous, violent but contains the sort of ethics that many Hollywood criminals seem to posses. He steals but he does so only from drug dealers...he kills but only in retaliation. Did I mention he is a homosexual? How many tough guys, on TV anyway, are portrayed like this? I can't pick any.

Season one tells the story of a certain Avon Barksdale (let down by a mediocre Wood Harris), one of the biggest and most powerful drug lords in Baltimore. The first half of the season shows a small group of detectives, all drafted in to sort out this problem called Barksdale, trying to get a foothold in the investigation, all the while side stepping political manouvering from the powers that be. Barksdale is invisible, no criminal records, no photos, he's a ghost in Baltimore and Det. McNulty and co. have no idea how to get to him. That is until Lester Freemon, played as a cool, calm, collected shadow in the dark by Clarke Peters, manages to find a lead.

This is where the series and it's creator David Simon excel, they put some of the coolest (hate to keep using that word) characters ever on screen. Each one swaggers and oozes ice, each one has a wicked sense of humour too. It's beautiful scripting, which really has to be seen to be fully appreciated. One particular highlight is from the opening scene of episode 1, where McNulty is having a conversation with with a man living in one of Baltimore's ghettos about another man who has just been killed:

McNulty: Let me understand. Every Friday night, you and your boys are shooting craps, right? And every Friday night, your pal Snot Boogie… he'd wait til there's cash on the ground and he'd grab it and run away? You let him do that?
Man On Stoop: We'd catch him and beat his ass but ain't nobody ever go past that.
McNulty: I gotta ask ya: If every time Snotboogie would grab the money and run away, why'd you even let him in the game?
Man On Stoop: What?
McNulty: If Snotboogie always stole the money, why'd you let him play?
Man On Stoop: Got to. This America, man.

Or how about D'Angelo Barksdale and cousin of Avon, speaking on capitalism:

D'Angelo: "Now you think Ronald McDonald gonna go down to the basement and say, "Hey Mr. Nugget - you the bomb. We sellin' chicken faster than you can tear the bone out. So I'm gonna write my clowney ass name on this fat-ass check for you." ****. Man, the ***** who invented them things? Still working in the basement for regular wage...Believe."

And this is just a little taster of what The Wire does best, dialogue so sharp your TV screens will need stitches. But not everything is said in jest, as Simon's said in several interviews, The Wire is a show about "how institutions have an effect on individuals, and how... whether you're a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge [or] lawyer, you are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution you've committed to." All dressed up in the guise of a cop drama.

Season 2 is easily the better of the two, it features many new characters with a large chunk of the story centering on the white, Polish/Greek/Israeli/Russian gangs and gangsters of the Baltimore docks. The tone couldn't be more different, with Barksdale and his second in command Stringer Bell, played by a certain Idris Alba in his first major role, taking a backseat. This is a risky move, akin to if Lost Season 2 had put the likes of Jack, Kate and Sawyer on the substitute's bench. It's risky but then again, The Wire can do it because it creates so many other relatable characters which are instantly likable, even the shady drug dealers and pimps.

I didn't mention Alba's turn in Season one mainly because he didn't have much to do but scowl, growl and be the general to Avon's president but here, without giving away too much, Idris Alba is in his element. He is vicious yet thoughtful, fearsome yet careful, violent but always calm. It's almost as if this role is an audition for his turn as Luther. But once again, the scenes that really stand out are the ones that contain McNulty and his drinking partner Bunk, or Omar, or the sharp back and forth between two "side" characters I've barely spoken about, Herc and Carver, the odd couple of the show and probably it's most endearing love story (kidding...kinda).

So, there you have it, so many interesting characters and stories that I can only fit in a handful. The show features a running theme of terrorism or it's supposed threat, of under financing within police departments that matter and incompetent leaders. This is a great show, not quite the best show ever, as some people call it, then again I've only seen 2 of the 5 seasons on offer but it is certainly an intriguing bit of television. In fact, it's a must watch for everyone of you who may have missed the show in it's original run.

Just another little gem to leave you with:

Daniels: [to Major Valchek] I'll tell you the truth Major. Everyone who saw the punch wrote on it. And they've all got Prez throwing the punch, no question. They've also got you addressing a subordinate officer as uh, what was it? A ****-bird?
Valchek: **** you. This is the Baltimore Police Department, not the Roland Park Ladies Tea.

Final Verdict (Seasons 1 & 2)

Good idea putting TV series in your thread, I may hijack that idea. I really like The Wire, but not as much as those who hold it uo as the pinnacle of television. Seasons 1&3 are by far my favorites. 2 left something to be desired for me, I was not a fan of the dock workers.

Great review Watch, Glad you like one of my Favourites The King of Comedy
Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.

I am the Watcher in the Night
Good idea putting TV series in your thread, I may hijack that idea. I really like The Wire, but not as much as those who hold it uo as the pinnacle of . Seasons 1&3 are by far my favorites. 2 left something to be desired for me, I was not a fan of the dock workers.
Damn it, I should have copyrighted this lol But I agree, not quite the pinnacle of television but I can see how it has affected tv over the last decade or so, truly impressive.

Great review Watch, Glad you like one of my Favourites The King of Comedy
It's one of Scorsese's best, keeps gettin better when ever I watch it.

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Dr Who: The Time of the Doctor

Dir. Jamie Payne

This has been a huge year for The Doctor, what with arrival of an all new companion, in shape of the lovely Jenna Coleman and then that massive event, the 50th anniversary special. Everything has moved at breakneck speed for the beebs biggest show and it's that breakneck speed that is the undoing of Matt Smith's final hour as the inimitable Dr Who. Let's start with the positives though.

Ever since the return to screens of one of sci-fis most beloved characters, we have seen the budget for each series grow and grow, which has of course led to better special effects, sets and scale of episodes. Here, in the Christmas special, no corner was cut, the opening scene, featuring a fleet of the galaxies most dangerous species arriving at a mysterious planet, looked fittingly spectacular; as did the giant cathedral type cruiser, home to a rather frisky nun.

As per usual, The Doctor arrives and gets himself mixed up in some funny business, who would've thought it eh? Add to that Clara trying to cook Christmas dinner and convince her parents that she has a boyfriend, all of this book ended by a hilarious scene where Clara calls up The Doctor. It's a great way to start off the show and something Moffat has been terrific at with his run, not to mention a Doctor Who alumni in Jamie Payne directing, it really is a blockbuster combination. However, it's the flash and pace that Moffat brings to his stories that often lead to the downfall of such episodes.

The 50th anniversary, in my opinion, the best episode of Moffat's run, benefited due to an extended run time but here, with only 60 minutes to play with and Moffat intent on adding easter egg after easter egg and story arc after story arc, it just gets a bit too much. As I've already mentioned, Moffat is the king when it comes to fast paced action story telling and riveting, funny and touching dialogue. Here he is in top form but once again, the final act falters, as has been the case with most episodes over the lat series. There has been a lack of two-parters, with Moffat's trademark, "every episode has to be like a blockbuster movie poster" or something along those lines.

This ideology has led to many plot points being resolves...well, wishy washy. Everything is just brushed aside for the big, jaw dropping moments and the final scene where Matt Smith says good bye. How is The Doctor able to regenerate one more time? Well the Time Lords did something through a crack in time and space. That's all we know. There is very little substance to what has been one of the biggest plot points in tv for decades. How will that make long time fans of the show feel? I just don't know.

All in all, this was Smith's episode, he brought his usual charm, charisma and quirky personality traits to the fore one more. It took a while for me to warm to Smith, after Tennants iconic turn but in his final moments, aboard the Tardis, with Clara and then the brief return of Amy Pond, Matt Smith was THE Doctor of our generation. And then it was over, with Peter Capaldi making a brief appearance and then roll credits. It was a heart warming send off in the usual Moffat fashion, you either love it, adore it or plain dislike it but you can never take your eyes off of it.


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Sherlock: Season 3
Episode 1

Spoiler Alert!

So Sherlock is back, having survived an impossible fall from the top of St Bartholomew Hospital. Dr Watson, Holmes' closest friend and ally, watched him die and it's been two years. He has moved on...or has he? The episode starts off with the usual Moffat speed and eccentricity. Cumberbatch reprises the role and instantly looks comfortable in it, having spent years on The Hobbit and Star Trek but there is no ring rust here.

The big question however, is, how did he survive that fall? There are several theories bandied about in the show, a little wink to all the conspiracies that were floating around the internet. Most of these are quite light hearted, especially the one featuring a kiss between Moriarty and Sherlock, who seem to have a whale of a time pranking Watson into believing he's died. But it's with this over abundance of humour that the show seems to nose dive in the opening 45 minutes.

I know the show has always had a wacky, very British sense of humour, which has always been a laugh but here it is far too slap stick. More Chucklevision than prime time British TV, especially the bit where Sherlock draws a small tache onto his face to disguise himself as a French waiter. Much like Moffat's Dr Who, this latest episode looked to be buried under cheeky one liners and flash. Luckily, in the last half hour of the show, the story picks up, the stakes are raised and the audience is finally engaged as more than just spectators in on a clever joke.

Season two was big for the series, increasing the stakes of the first series, adding a bigger budget and Sherlock's true nemesis. But it was also the point where the series seemed to descend into farce, for me anyway. The story featuring Irene Adler made Sherlock seem omnipotent, in all places at once, taking the human edge off of what has been, till then, a great adaptation. Crime was now fantasy. It was still a very good season, just not great and that is the case with Season 3, episode 1.


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So here I was, not having written a review for a very long time, when I watched Foxcatcher and boy, is it the type of movie I want to tell everyone about, so here goes:


Dir. Bennett Miller

I want to say something straight off the bat, this is NOT a feel good, uplifting story of sporting success and the American dream. Foxcatcher is a tragedy, filled with suspicion, paranoia, drugs and the darkest void of modern day sporting success...what to do when you reach the mountaintop?

Before I saw the movie, I didn't know anything about Mark or Dave Schultz, American brothers who would go on to win multiple world championships and Olympic gold in wrestling. I also had zero knowledge of one of America's wealthiest families, the du Ponts. It's one of the reasons why the story was so intriguing and at times shocking. The movie is bleak, grey with little joy or enjoyment, not because Miller lacks in certain aspects of a film maker but because it's supposed to be that way.

The entire story is buoyed by tremendous performances from just about everybody, the highlight being Steve Carrels du Pont, a man who drips melancholy. Channing Tatum, a man now knows as eye candy with comedic talent also pulls off his most mature performance to date. There's an understated edge to this man, an athlete on the edge of the abyss, looking to jump out from under his brothers shadow but never wanting to leave him behind. It takes a rare acting talent to pull it off so convincingly.

I will stop at this point and there is not much more I want to write. This is a movie you have to watch, experience, a darkly disturbing tale and one of the few truly mature highlights from a mediocre Hollywood year.


I am the Watcher in the Night
Ok, I haven't done this in a while but I've just started my Xmas holz and I think I finally have some time to scribble some of my opinions on the movies I've seen this year, so here goes!

The Revenant
Alejandro González Iñárritu

Since the release of the trailer a few months ago, I have been looking forward to this movie more than even Star Wars, how could I not? It features Di Caprio, Hardy, Gleeson and of course, the brilliant Inarritu, who made me a fan with 21 Grams and Birdman, although his other works, primarily Babel, felt too derivative, pretentious and boring. Yes, I used the "b" word. However, how could things go wrong with this much talent involved in 1 film?

Well, things did go wrong, yet it all started so promisingly. There was the glorious opening and the initial attack on the American camp by a group of natives. Beautifully shot, tracked through the forest with the usual Inarritu kineticism. It's a breath taking open, goring, violent, visceral and yet beautiful. In fact, the beauty of what's on screen here never gets boring. Sadly, what lies beneath the surface is bland and shallow.

This is a movie all about the beauty of what's on screen. Mesmerising landscapes, filmed in the US, Canada and a startling corner of Argentina. It's cold, crisp and clear, in terms of visuals, Inarritu's most confident picture..and he knows it too. He loves to scroll the camera across every inch of snow and each stark, deserted landscape. This isn't bad until it stretches the movie by 20 uninteresting, unneeded minutes. Inarritu indulges in himself, rather than imbuing his characters with any real personality.

That is not to say the performances are bad, as the actors in this movie give 101%. They look the part and they talk the part and the feel the part. Di Caprio is of course the stand out, playing the brutish, yet caring caricature of the real life Hugh Glass. His is the only 3 dimensional character, a man running from a past he doesn't want to know, towards he future he doesn't want to accomplish. It's savage performance, not Di Caprio's best work but certainly very, very good.

Hardy, Britain's best entry in Hollywood, by contrast, plays the most one dimensional villain of 2015. He is bad, from start to finish, at every turn, with every word and every stare. It's a wasted opportunity, as Hardy is never challenged in his role and it's obvious that the bad guy deserves everything coming to him. What is supposed to be a tale of humanity becomes a tale of caricatures, of human impersonators.

However, in the characters of Bridges and Captain Henry, Will Poulter and Domhnall Gleeson are giving great work and the two supporting actors turn in fine performances. Gleeson's Henry is probably the most sympathetic of characters who actually has to deal with a dark and inhumane dilemma. He struggles with this, his worries sketched across his features. Of all the work that Gleeson has done in recent years, this may be his best.

So, what do we have here? A beautiful movie with a one dimensional villain but terrific support work? That's not bad right? Honestly, it's a good movie, at times, elevated to very good but the middle, which struggles with pacing, random encounters and a mystical Indian fall flat, book ended by a brilliant opening half hour and an intense final chase.

Inarritu seemed to be on a gold mine here but he falters, too self obsessed and vain. It's the big screen version of a pop diva, more obsessed with the reflection in the mirror than the performance on stage. Beyond the cinematography and some very good performances, the movie lacks in the departments needed to make it a must watch, which is sad because I wanted it to be so much better.


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Dir. Denis Villeneuve

Hollywood's always had an infatuation with the bad guy, the renegade and the criminal. In terms of Sicario, that infatuation is out in the open for everyone to see. The movie is populated with bad men, from Brolin's casually violent turn as a CIA agent to del Toro's sinister Colombian hitman, this is a movie all about the renegade. However, in and among all the bad, there's good, the shining light which is the heart of this movie: Emily Blunt's Kate Macer, an FBI agent looking to put away the bad people.

In fact, this is Blunt's movie, through and through. Theron was excellent earlier in the year with Mad Max and Lawrence was once again a scene stealer as Catniss in the Hunger Games but Blunt surpasses all these actresses and her character surpasses all other female characters of 2015. If the role of women as characters evolved on TV with The Leftovers then on the big screen, Sicario furthers that evolution.

Outside of Blunt, there's a number of positives, from Villeneuve's assured turn behind the camera, to Johannsonn's foreboding score and Deakin's delicious cinematography. The set pieces, which are often the high point of any thriller raise Sicario above that other crime thriller (Black Mass). The violence is sudden and bloody and effectual, casting a shadow on the character's psyche and difficult to forget for the audiences.

There's not much more to say except a recommendation, go out and see this if you haven't already. Simply the best movie of the year.


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Inside Out
Dir. Pete Docter

Damn you Pixar, damn you to hell! Once again diminishing my street cred by almost making me cry. I hate it. Also, I love it, quite a lot. Inside Out is quite possibly one of the best animated movies post Up, beautifully written, wonderfully acted and as always, the animation is spot on. It starts off by creating an instant bond between Joy (one of the emotions) and Riley, the human in the story. The bond these two have translates to the audience and it makes us like them too.

As you'd expect, this is a movie filled with genuine emotion, heart and fun; one of the few true family experiences this year. Pixar always craft their creations with love and care and few films have been as lovingly created as Inside Out. From it's characters and story arcs to the animation and of course Bing Bong. But I won't give too much away, just go watch this!


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The Hateful Eight
Dir. Quentin Tarantino

Vulgar, violent, repetitive and at times boring, this drawn out western waits until the final act before it explodes into action but by that time, is anyone still watching and if so, how many still care? That's the biggest and most important problem I have with Tarantino's latest. It's slow, talkative and self indulgent, which would be fine, if it wasn't for that fact that investing all that time, almost 3 hours, comes to naught. The ending fails to satisfy or justify.

While I was watching this, I honestly felt like this wasn't Tarantino but an impersonator, maybe Robert Rodriguez? All the key ingredients were there, sharp dialogue, a host of weird characters and the blood but nothing ever seems to happen. None of the characters are likable, the performances are serviceable and the finale is easily forgotten.

As the film comes to an end, you wonder what it was all for...what was the point of all this? Yes the violence will shock and the blood drips from every crevice, that's Tarantino right? Not for me, Tarantino used to be about the story telling, the unique approach to editing and the masterful insights into our own selves.

Pulp Fiction played with our notion of linearity, Reservoir Dogs with our perception of right and wrong, heck even Inglorious Basterds had that distinct air about it. Then along came Django, Tarantino's most overly violent film but it served a purpose, a revenge story on the history of slavery itself. It was Tarantino's least inventive picture but at times i twas brilliant, largely thanks to DiCaprio, Waltz and Foxx. The magic is missing here.

That's not to say there aren't any positives, as the costume and set designs are marvelous and there's still that hint of cheeky humour. Toilet humour but funny none-the-less. The problem is, below that average exterior is a drab, uninspired personality. This feels like watching a fading great in the ring, he seems to have the tools but he can no longer pull the trigger.


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The Big Short

Brilliant. It's a word that is oft used but rarely warranted. The Big Short is brilliant. Every scene drips with a sense of knowing what it is and what it wants. Adam McKay, who cut his teeth working comedies with Will Ferrell hits an absolute home run, this is a mature movie but it's not heavy on the melodrama. Funny, heartfelt, slippery in its editing and loud in its moral outrage, this is our generation's Wall Street.

From the get go, 'Short moves along at an electric pace, chopping and cutting between characters, locales and actors. There's the weird and wonderful Michael Burry, played by an amusingly eccentric Christian Bale, followed by Jared Vennett, the voice over guy in this tale, played by an always reliable Ryan Gosling. Steve Carrell delivers yet another dramatic standout as the morally outraged Mark Baum, who doesn't want to take the money but will because, well because something happened to his brother.

However, the two truly eye opening performances are delivered by John Magaro and Finn Wittrock, playing young investors Geller and Shipley. There's an innocence to their characters, a wide eyed enthusiasm and the young adult zeal to do what's right. Sadly, no one is willing to listen. Much hinges on their interactions with each other and Brad Pitt's, Ben Rickert. It works. Where Baum is the heart, Vennett the mouthpiece and Burry the brains, these two are the soul. Maybe they represent America's dissolving sanity? I don't know, but they work wonderfully well together.

Every year, particularly at this time, there's talk of great movies and great actors. It's awards season and time for all the giants of Hollywood to pat each other on the back, count the money and ride off into the sunset. I feel Sicario is artistically the best movie of the year and that Mad Max is the perfect example of modern, popcorn fare but its here, in McKay's indictment of US economic policy and greed, that we have Hollywood's conscience laid bare. It's nice know it still has a conscience. The fact that it comes from the most unlikeliest of sources makes it even more special.

If great movies are measured by their cultural impact and societal relevance, then surely The Big Short has an argument.

If great movies are measured by their artistic panache, style, grace and writing, then The Big Short has an even bigger argument. McKay and Randolph's screenplay is always funny and poignant, which is an incredibly difficult trick to pull and Hank Corwin's editing fits the sharp, witty tone of the script perfectly.

In short, go watch this, you will not be disappointed.


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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Dir. Zack Snyder's so unforgiving in its length that at one stage, I contemplated a quick nap, making a souffle and maybe starting a family. All of that would take less time than actually seeing Batman v Superman come to some sort of logical end game. It doesn't. In reality, it never even attempts to.

Now, I know you must have seen a million reviews all saying the same thing and the reality is, they are all right. The film drags its feet from start to finish, with only a glimmer of hope in Afleck's Batman and some wonderfully choreographed action sequences. Other than that, especially Cavill's monochrome Superman and Gadot's flacid Wonder Woman, the movie is dull.

This is something I expected, having been familiarised with Snyder's work over a number of years. He is great at creating a spectacle and making inspiring trailers (we'll get onto that in a little bit) but when it comes to coherently directing his movies, he is lost. He has been lost since the brilliant Watchmen. BvS should have been so simple. Batman and Superman fight. That's it. Instead we get a weak attempt at something more grand and a convoluted introduction to the new DCU.

That final hurdle is one that may not be Snyder's fault. This is Warner Brother's attempt at creating the same financial success that Marvel/Disney are having with their own cinematic joy rides. It results in too many characters, too many plot lines (holes) and a script that seems to have been written by a hundred different people in a hundred different locations without any communication what-so-ever.

In and among all the doom and gloom, quite literally, there is some hope. As I mentioned before, Afleck is a tremendous Batman. Just the right amount of brooding intelligence and physical brutality. He needs to be fleshed out for sure but nothing that can't happen in a stand alone feature. The new Alfred, wonderfully played by Irons is great and a nice move away from the usual Alfred archetypes. There's a couple other characters that are intriguing but I don't want to go into too much detail.

In terms of the action and the eventual fight most people are buying tickets for, it's fun. Well made, as Snyder's action sequences always are and some of the imagery on offer does make you go "OH". However, it's too much flash and no substance.

Jeez, I forgot to mention Lex Luthor...actually no I didn't Eisenberg butchers the character.



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Triple 9
Dir. John Hillcoat

This movie has possibly the best cast of 2016 so far. There's Ejiofor, of 12 Years A Slave fame, there's the ever reliable (in this case underused) Winslet, the always charismatic Harrelson and then there's a whole host of "oh hey, I've seen them before", talented names like Norman Reedus, Casey Affleck and Anthony Mackie. I almost forgot Jessie Pinkman himself, Aaron Paul. So, how does a movie with this much talent, fail to deliver? The answer is pretty simple: I have no idea.

It all starts off with a slick bank robbery. In this post Heat world, every bank robbery is slick, shot with a brand of style which may never have existed without Michael Mann and it suits the opening perfectly. The first half hour is well made and well written but as each new character is introduced and each one is given a back story, the plot becomes too convoluted.

In fact, it's difficult to even understand what the Russian mafia is doing, why Ejiofor's Mike is involved beyond some vague, familial interest and what is being stolen. At one stage, the Russian mafia boss, played by Winslet, quips, "Soon we will own the secrets of kings"...what are these secrets? And how will she use them to free her husband? Was the line just put in because it sounded cool?

That's the problem, with the script and the cast: it seems to be have been put together because it looked or sounded good. This is a movie suffering from the modern, cinematic disease of style with very little substance. Triple 9 certainly isn't a bad movie and it's an entertaining enough way to spend a couple hours but it never truly amounts to anything more. This is most certainly not Heat or Inside Man.


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Captain America: Civil War
Dir. Russo Bros.

It's that time of the year again. Summer. Which obviously means a tonne of big budget, CGI heavy blockbusters. We have already had Batman v Superman, The Jungle Book and The Huntsman: Winter's War. As usual, it is a mixed bag, some are good, some are passable and some are average. So, what do you spend your hard earned cash on? The answer is simple and it's been the same way since the release of Iron Man in 2008. Spend your money on a Marvel production.

Now, that is not to say other movies are to be boycotted or left to rot but with Marvel/Disney's track record, it's a sure fire bet that you will be in for an entertaining time. That's just what Civil War is, an entertaining time. The Russos, once again at the helm and once again hitting it out the park, manage to thrill and contemplate at the same time. Unlike that other superhero blockbuster, you don't have to park common sense at the door. Bring it in with you, you will need it.

Much like it's predecessor, Civil War is a story of espionage, ideas of freedom, how said freedom should be protected and ultimately, who holds the keys to our political and military safety. In many ways, it is the Watchmen of our time. Now, a quick disclaimer, the core story is vastly different to its comic counterpart and character motivations have morphed. That's not a bad move, as the comic story was too convoluted and here, we have a self sustained tale.

With that out the way, Civil War moves along at a brisk pace and although there is a lot of musing around the issue of our heroes being registered, it never gets in the way of the action. As always, the Russos make it look slick. The CGI, so common now, is hardly ever intrusive and there is a lot of hand-to-hand combat, ala Jason Bourne.

Having said all that, Civil War never hits the heights that the truly great examples of this genre do, something its predecessor managed. Maybe it's because there are too many heroes (more on that in a bit) or maybe it's because this comes at the end of a long cycle of Iron Man, Captain America and Avengers films. It tries to tie up far too many loose ends and in doing so, cracks under the pressure.

That is not to say those loose ends are not worth tying up because they more certainly are. This is a story about wars casualties, about all those people we only ever see but never hear. In this age of great conflict, we have seen countless thousands of images derelict cities and decimated nations. What of those people? That's what Civil War wants to ask. The Avengers can not just blast around doing as they please, not always.

Now, onto those heroes...there certainly are quite a few. The usual suspects return but there are three absolute stand outs: Spiderman, Antman and Black Panther. Tom Holland's Spiderman carries the naive charm of Tobey McGuire's original and the physicality of the Amazing reboot. Fun, charming and with some of the best one liners this side of Bruce Willis, it's Spideys show anytime he is on screen.

The lesser known names of Antman and Black Panther really get a chance to shine too. Paul Rudd is funny and he manages to show off some new tricks. Chadiwck Boseman's Panther is an illusive character with a simple but fulfilling story arc. Strong and one minded, he manages to grow over the course of the film. An entire origin story within a single movie with close to 20 other superheroes. Now that's some feat.

Ultimately, Civil War sits as this year's best blockbuster and puts forward enough physicality to be considered an out and out, upper tier action movie. Go watch it.


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The Jungle Book
Dir. Jon Favreau

This, the latest in Hollywood's long line of book adaptations isn't really a book adaptation. It feels a lot more like the live action remake of the animated Disney classic, which itself was almost unrecognisable when compared to Kipling's seminal novel. Favreau and his team have definitely tried to use some of the elements from the novel but by and large, this is more cartoon than Kipling. That's not a bad thing.

From the very beginning, this looks every but the summer blockbuster that it is meant to be. The animation and CGI falls someway short of Life of Pi or Dawn of the Planet of the Apes but it does the job. What truly shines, is the voice cast. Idris Alba is perfect as Shere Khan and Bill Murray almost steals the show as Baloo. However, it is Johanson's Kaa which is the really a scene stealer. Her rhythmic, seductive toens are well suited to the Kaa we are used to seeing on film.

Ben Kingsley is his usual self. The old, wise master. In this case, it is the voice of Bagheera which benefits. Not groundbreaking but a safe choice can also be a good choice. Neel Sethi, as Mowgli is great. He exudes charm and childlike wonder. The role comes naturally to him and he flows through every scene with the ease and poise of a 10 year veteran.

With all the positives out the way, it is important to highlight the simple nature of this film. It carries none of the subtlety and nuance of the novel nor does it have the endless joy of the animated classic. This is a good family movie but it is entirely unnecessary. Did we really need a live action retelling of the cartoon? I don't think so.


I am the Watcher in the Night
Hardcore Henry
Dir. Ilya Naishuller

We have seen an action renaissance over the last decade, with The Dark Knight, Inception, The Raid (and it's masterful sequel), Taken and The Winter Soldier all coming at this age old genre with new ideas and from new directions. Hardcore Henry is the latest of the new age action flick and boy does it take you on a ride. The first person view point will be entirely familiar to a certain gaming generation and a lot of the set pieces and story beats are taken straight from any number of FPS games.

It's those action set pieces that really elevate 'Henry from simply good to potentially very good. Each shoot em up, car chase and brutal fist fight is inventive and unique. The expertise gone into filming and editing this is the stuff of technological wet dreams. Combining all these elements into a coherent whole, could have left an ugly mess of a movie but with the reassuring presence of Sharlto Copley in many of the scenes, we don't have to worry.

It's also interesting to see how novice director Naishuller handles everything. He is confident, brash and willing to push the bar, especially when it comes to blood and gore. First person throat slitting and eye popping definitely deserves a massive high five. Having said all that, there are some down sides. The constant camera shaking can be a bit disorienting at times and the characters are simple caricatures. Then again, who cares? We came for the blood and guts.


I am the Watcher in the Night
Dr Strange (2016)
Dir. Scott Derrickson

Going into the movie, as a fan of Dr Strange, from his various appearances in the marvelous Marvel cartoons of the 90s to his exceptional comic run during the same period, I was worried that the casting decisions would be distracting. In all honesty, they are. A little bit anyway. Tilda Swinton, reliable and eloquent as always isn't a man nor is she oriental. It's a bad, politically motivate decision. I'm surprised there hasn't been more of a backlash considering they clearly tried to make her look more south-east Asian. The Ancient One suffers because of it.

Mordo, cast now as a black man (at least they kept him as a man) is similarly underwhelming, although this time it's due to the excellent Ejiofor being misused. He is essentially a side kick. Anyone with a passing interest in the Dr Strange character and mythology will know the role Mordo plays in this world. The movie hints at bigger things to come but to introduce him in such underwhelming fashion is a definite no no.

Now that I have that off my chest, I have to make a concession. I didn't mind the politically motivated casting decisions once the action kicked in. Not since Bourne's evolution of hand-to-hand combat or Inception's mind boggling visuals has a movie managed to combine art with action. Strange's action sequences are a thrill. Swirling magic portals, transforming buildings and entire cities movie around like tetris pieces. I's unique. Imagine the inventiveness of the opening action sequence for Days of Future Pass and then spread across an entire movie which is just as, if not more inventive.

Another plus is Benedict Cumberbatch, who I have found to be insufferable of late. His last two seasons of Sherlock have essentially transformed the character into a super hero and the Star Trek sequel was essentially Sherlock in space but here he shines. In fact, he looks like he actually cares. Oh and he seems to be having a lot of fun. The subtle change from arrogant neurosurgeon to slightly less arrogant sorcerer is fun.

As has become a running joke in the MCU, the villain here is poor. In fact, Mads Mikkelsen is wasted because he isn't even the main villain. Not spoiling much here but he is nothing more than a glorified henchmen with a backstory that never gets truly fleshed out.Unlike Cumberbatch, Mikkelsen looks bored and honestly, just seems to be going through his Hannibal phase here. Oh and Rachel McAdams is the love interest but never does anything.

Did I mention just how beautiful this movie is? Honestly, in terms of story, characterisation and casting, this is probably the weakest Marvel movies since Iron Man 3 but it shines because of those exceptional action sequences. It's difficult to be truly visually inventive in modern Hollywood but Derrickson (he of no fame) crafts an intriguing and innovative piece of eye candy. Just for that, go watch it on the big screen.