The Name. The History. The Feud.

Steven Caple Jr

Michael B Jordan
Tessa Thompson
Sylvester Stallone
Florian Munteanu
Dolph Lundgren

Starting at the top, Creed II opens with Adonis Creed [Jordan] winning his heavyweight championship match to truly earn his place as his father’s successor. He proposes to his girlfriend Bianca Taylor [Thompson] but Is reluctant to move to Los Angeles and leave Philadelphia and trainer, Rocky Balboa [Stallone], behind. Having achieved the pinnacle of boxing, Creed learns of a young Russian boxer who challenges him to a fight, this man is Viktor Drago [Munteanu] who is being trained by his father Ivan Drago [Lundgren], the man who killed Apollo Creed in the ring. Against advice and better judgement, Adonis lashes out at his friends and family and, charged with emotion, accepts the grudge match.

Creed II picks up the franchise’s thematic baton, addressing the concepts of legacies, fatherhood and meritocracy while continuing to explore how our past experiences shape who we become as adults. But this shouldn’t come as any surprise as this release largely follows the established Rocky/boxing film formula to the degree that within the first twenty minutes, it’s very easy to map out how the film will unfold – but more on that later. What’s interesting is that the screenplay leans into the canon of the story, knowing full-well what it is and injects a seriousness to the now-campy 80s melodrama. But as with the six Rocky films of the past (more specifically the first four sequels) with every passing instalment, this franchise is tempting fate. Overall, Creed II says a lot and gives us a nice rounding out of these newly introduced characters but the more they stick around, the more regurgitation and re-treading of the same ground we are subjected to and the veneer quickly wears off. In other words, I kinda hope this is the last Rocky/Creed film but I doubt it will be.

As with Creed this film is carried by the magnificent, compelling performances. From an artistic level we always analyse Jordan’s ability to emote and give us a very real and powerful performance; and rightly so. The scene alone wherein Adonis is watching his new-born daughter’s test results and manages to convey so much without dialogue, separated from his fiancée by a viewing window, it’s spectacular acting. But not enough is said about how convincing the fights look and the training and the sheer physicality of Jordan’s performance. The choreography is amazing, the physical drain on the man is palpable and the toll of this life is more than evident in every scene. Arguably, any actor can bulk up and scream at a wall while throwing punches, few can make you believe someone is truly in this life. Equally, Tessa Thompson proves once again that she is one of the most important rising stars of the last five years, bringing so much class and heart to every role she takes on, outshining the restrictions of the character and cementing herself as a formidable presence.

Another interesting inclusion is the inevitable Drago storyline; considering how Apollo Creed was killed in the ring, a confrontation between a Creed and a Drago was inescapable. I was, however, pleasantly surprised that the Dragos are significantly more nuanced, rather than simply offered up as sneering foreign bad guys. Here we have two men who are just as layered and compelling as Creed and Balboa, with their own trials, tribulations, points to prove and obstacles to overcome; even if it does follow a lot of the beats from Iron Man 2. As mentioned earlier, the film leans into the silliness of the 80s and flips the expectations. When Ivan Drago was introduced in Rocky IV, he didn’t really have much of a character or personality, he was just the Russian opponent whose coaching was largely reliant on cutting edge technology. Here, he is a man rejected by his country, living in exile, weighing heavily on his son, offering us a look into a potential life that Adonis could have potentially endured.

Setting aside all the noteworthy components, there are two key factors that knock this film down and relegate it to acceptable status. The first is Caple Jr’s direction. Before we go any further, I should point out that Caple Jr does a commendable job with what he is given. There are plenty of examples of really impressive and inventive camera work and performance coaching that deserves credit. The problem is, he’s following Ryan Coogler and even with everything firing as planned, it lacks that distinct flare and skill that makes Coogler such a standout force. While I could let this slide and the film would be a solid 4/5, not enough can be said about the predictability of this film absolutely killing all possible tension and reward. I mentioned earlier that within the first twenty minutes you can tell how the film is going to unfold and it utterly cripples what this film could be. I will admit that this is true of most sports movies, especially sequels, but there is so little new ground explored (other than adding a semblance of depth to the “villain”) that Creed II fails to inspire as much emotional momentum and pay-off as its predecessor.

Picking up where Creed left off, this is a very solid edition to the franchise and deserves its place along with the other Rocky sequels as praiseworthy sports drama but unless they can produce a story that is so fresh and innovative, this might be the last time we need to visit this generation-spanning tale.

Release Date:
30th November 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are plenty of little vignettes and moments that really stick with you in this film. Not all of them are especially revolutionary but they stay with you all the same. One montage that I particularly enjoyed is Bianca heading out and leaving Adonis in charge of their daughter. It’s admittedly fairly cliché but Adonis scrambling around, desperately trying to get his daughter to stop crying is very endearing (most notably when he’s on the phone to his mother) and as a kid growing up with his own abandonment issues surrounding his father, it’s a nice character building point.

Notable Characters:
While the Dragos are given personality, there’s still an underdeveloped side that is played up as important without enough evidence to justify it. In other words, not enough was done with Brigitte Nielsen’s cameo. So, Nielsen has a brief returning role as Ivan’s former wife and Viktor’s mother. At the start of the film it’s clear she is no longer in their life but it’s never expressly stated what happened. Then we learn that she simply abandoned them to stay in Russia while Ivan and Viktor lived in Ukraine. What we feel is building to an emotional confrontation is little more than two scenes, wherein Nielsen turns up, smirks then exits. It still has an impact on the agency of the characters but she’s not a person; it’s just a little weird. On the opposite end of the spectrum, bringing Milo Ventimiglia back to tie this movie into Rocky Balboa was both a nice touch and decent bookend to Rocky’s story. Although saying this is Stallone’s final appearance as Rocky Balboa is always a 50/50 coin toss.

Highlighted Quote:
“Are you here to prove something to other people or prove something to yourself?”

In A Few Words:
“There is nothing in this film that we haven’t seen before in a Rocky sequel but its execution is pleasing enough to earn its place as a solid continuation of the saga”

Total Score:



A New Dragon Tattoo Story

Fede Alvarez

Claire Foy
Sverrir Gudnason
Sylvia Hoeks
LaKeith Stanfield
Stephen Merchant

Several years after the events of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, hacker Lisbeth Salander [Foy] is hired by programmer Frans Balder [Merchant] to steal a program named Firefall, which has the ability to access all global nuclear codes and is currently possessed by the NSA. This hack prompts Agent Edwin Needham [Stanfield] to track the invasion and unofficially make his way to Sweden to retrieve it. Once Salander has the program, she is targeted by a group of mercenaries led by her estranged sister, Camilla Salander [Hoeks] and must again team up with journalist Mikael Blomkvist [Gudnason] to stop such a powerful weapon falling into a crime syndicate’s hands.

The Girl In The Spider’s Web is one of those unfortunate releases that has two extremely successful predecessors that were adapted from very simplistic source material. That isn’t a slight against the books, more an observation that the plotting and character designs are outwardly simplistic while being delivered in an extremely impressive manner. In lesser hands, we end up with a trite script, horrible editing, questionable direction and an overall watered down experience that lacks nuance, complexity and tension, saved largely by a reasonable central performance and solid cinematography. If this movie were released as a made for TV/streaming feature or bold pilot to a series, I would likely sing higher praises but as a feature length film it simply lacks all the requisite weight and presence one expects from a release of this potential scope and scale.

Despite being a soft reboot/sequel, this movie is pretty reliant on a fair amount of knowledge of the first. Granted, the story at no point demands you understand the details of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but to appreciate the motivations between Blomkvist and Salander, it certainly helps. When The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was first released, everyone sold it on the obtuse nature of Salander, its alleged central character. Her quirks and eccentricities were a mystery to be unravelled. When I watched the Swedish adaptation of the book, I was surprised to learn that the story is actually a thriller about a journalist and a family of Nazis, with Salander merely an interesting supporting role. While Salander remains elusive and unquantified, she retains her mystery but like all misguided franchise-prolonging ventures, a spotlight focus is placed on an interesting supporting character and the result is a distinct genre shift and an ultimately hollow release.

At the helm of the misguided decisions is the casting of Claire Foy. Most critics will agree that Foy performs commendably and she shines despite the terrible script and I would completely agree with that, however, as hard as she is trying, she comes off oddly too emotive and the calculating, reptilian nature of the character is lost. In other words, this otherworldly socially-inept individual is humanised and made relatable, whereas both Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara’s versions were unpredictable and hard to read. Then we have the villainous role of Lisbeth’s sister Camilla. While I appreciate that the theatricality of Lisbeth’s persona is amped up, her unscrupulous opposite feels a little too cartoonish, veering into campy James Bond villain territory, inheriting with it the mixed message about whether Camilla wants Lisbeth dead or not before you realise that the motivation of the character plays second fiddle to the movie’s need to provide unusual visuals and setups.

As stated, the script is both predictable and bland with laughable developments and turns of coincidence that allow the plot to forward itself. Clichéd situations are presented with lazy and tired direction, peppered with bizarre quips and dialogues that make the whole film a very bizarre experience. One that really stood out to me was the claim that a device that can cause nuclear armageddon would be safer in Scandinavian hands, as Sweden never went to war. Which.. is just.. laughably inaccurate. We are also treated to a fight in a bathroom as gas is being pumped through piping in the walls but as the cast are all dressed in black with gas masks kitted-out with red lights, it’s frankly impossible to follow and feels more like an indecipherable conflict from a Transformers movie. And then we have the hideously hackneyed ending wherein Blomkvist puts his name on his latest article, like it’s his Primary School homework, before pressing backspace and slowly deleting the whole thing. It’s a moronic setup that I’ve seen in a handful of films (Daredevil ends in the exact same way) that I understand as a visual but as I doubt any writer has ever done that in practice, it’s a weird thing for a writer to put into a script.

Very early on it became apparent that The Girl In The Spider’s Web (which, now I think about it, is a bit of a misnomer as she’s never really caught in any web, she just does a job that someone else is also interested in) shares several traits with The Bourne Legacy. Both are adaptations of a deceased author’s work with vastly superior available alternatives. Admittedly both prove arguably serviceable but the story is so weak that it leaves the experience ultimately forgettable.

Release Date:
25th November 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
Despite the abundance of unimpressive, shaky-cam, rapidly edited action sequences, the scene wherein Salander breaks Agent Needham out of Swedish security in Stockholm airport is handled rather decently. A level of skill and restraint are shown and we get a glimpse of what this film could have been before it sinks back into its mire of mediocrity.

Notable Characters:
It’s very difficult to comment on the supporting cast as they are, effectively, pretty useless. But the most unusual is Camila who, as I mentioned earlier, has a combination of bad Bond villain motivation and a backstory that, while heavily linked to the lead, never explains why their paths have yet to cross despite living in the same country, operating under their given names.

Highlighted Quote:
“The past can be like a black hole. You get too close and it will pull you in. You disappear”

In A Few Words:
“A weak attempt at a franchise relaunch that will likely fade into obscurity extremely quickly”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #226

[18 November 2018]

Winning Team:
Wankers Of The Lost Cock
Genre – A penetrative journey into deep throat

Runners Up:
Mark Rylance Of The Lambs
Genre – Mark Rylance goes to visit Hannibal Lecter as part of his investigation into a missing trilby hat
Winners Of The Quiz
Genre – Optimistic family film
Fantastic Of The Beasts: Crimes Of The Grindelwald
Genre – Fantasy of the fiction
Winners Of The Quiz
Genre – A film about aspirations and failure
Street Shiter II
Genre – Dramatic come-back sequel
Planet Of The Vapes
Genre – Charlton Heston lands on a planet where everybody uses e-cigarettes and all he wants is a cigar

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the title of the Muppet movie released in 1979?
2. Including the upcoming Bumblebee film, how many Transformers films have been released to date?
3. The following quote is from which film, “Look at me. Look at me. I am the captain now”?
4. Who played the lead role in superhero film Hancock?
5. Jurassic World was released in which year?
6. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “A world inside the computer where man has never been. Never before now”?
7. A digital version of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin was created for which Star Wars film?
8. How many children does John McClane have in Die Hard?
9. Emmet Brickowski, Wyldstyle, Lord Business and Batman are characters from which film?
10. What was the title of Timothy Dalton’s first James Bond film?

ROUND II: Filming [Titles With “of the” Special]
1. What is the title of the first Indiana Jones film? Temple Of Doom? The Last Crusade? Raiders Of The Lost Ark?
2. What is the name of Bradley Cooper’s character in Guardians Of The Galaxy? Drax? Rocket? Groot?
3. Who played the title role in 2004’s The Phantom Of The Opera? Heath Ledger? Matthew McConaughey? Gerard Butler?
4. Clash Of The Titans was released in which year? 1975? 1981? 1990? [bonus point for identifying the release year of the remake]
1981 [2010]
5. Although the third (and last) of the Walden Media Narnia adaptations, Voyage Of The Dawn Treader is which volume of the chronological order? Second? Fifth? Seventh?
6. Which of the following quotes from Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi is correct? Now witness the firepower of this fully operational and charged space station? Now witness the power of this fully operational battle station? Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station?
7. How many astronauts are in deep hibernation at the start of Planet Of The Apes? Two? Four? Six?
8. What is the title of the film Orson Welles film that started shooting in 1970 but was only released this year? Confessions Of The Artist? The Event Of The Year? The Other Side Of The Wind?
9. Which of the following statements about Studio Ghibli’s The Tale Of Princess Kaguya is true? It is the most expensive Japanese movie to date? The director died and the film was completed by his son? It does not contain the colour blue?
10. The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies only made $500 million at the box office, which was half of the second instalment. True or False?
FALSE (it made $950 million, as did Desolation Of Smaug)

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What is the title of spin off to Forgetting Sarah Marshall?
2. Steven Soderbergh’s biographic about Che Guevara, starring Benicio Del Toro, was released in how many parts?
3. Who directed Fruitvale Station, Creed and Black Panther?
4. How long has Fester been missing at the start of The Addams Family?
5. What is the title of the documentary directed by Banksy?
6. What is the name of the fictional city in Disney’s Aladdin? [bonus point for correct spelling]
7. The following quote is from which film, “America is an irradiated wasteland. Within it lies a city. Outside the boundary walls, a desert”?
8. Which Avenger does Scott fight while breaking into an Avengers warehouse in Ant-Man?
9. Planet Ice was the working title for which 1997 blockbuster?
10. Which two actors played the respective lead roles in Withnail And I? (one point per correct answer)

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. At the start of It Follows, Jay is going out with Hugh who she contracts the curse from. What is Hugh’s actual name? Jeff? Greg? Alec?
2. What did Ruben Fleischer direct in between Zombieland and Gangster Squad? Adventureland? 30 Minutes Or Less? Now You See Me?
3. Place Beyond The Pines was released in which year? 2008? 2012? 2015?
4. The following quote is from which film, “You just pissed on a gypsy in the middle of nowhere. Hardly the hottest ticket in town, darling”? Ordinary Decent Criminals? Snatch? Bronson?
5. Peter Fonda, Ben Foster, Alan Tudyk, Russell Crowe and Christian Bale all starred in which film? State Of Play? The Insider? 3:10 to Yuma?
3:10 TO YUMA
6. What is the name of the town in The Boxtrolls? Spoonington? Oakmere? Cheesebridge?
7. Which of the following did not appear in 12 Years A Slave? Paul Giamatti? Clive Owen? Benedict Cumberbatch?
8. Which character acts as the narrator for The Big Short? Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling)? Mark Baum (Steve Carell)? Charlie Geller (John Magaro)?
9. The majority of Valkyrie takes place in which year? 1938? 1941? 1944?
10. Because Birdman was repeatedly rehearsed and shot in sequence, editing was very short, taking only two weeks. True or False?

Screenshots: Waterworld / High Fidelity / King Kong / Goosebumps
Poster: Bio-Dome
Actor: Jack Black


The Fate Of One. The Future Of All.

David Yates

Eddie Redmayne
Katherine Waterston
Dan Fogler
Alison Sudol
Ezra Miller
Jude Law
Johnny Depp

Shortly after the events of Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, we are shown the prison break of notorious criminal and radical wizard Gellert Grindelwald [Depp]. We are then reintroduced to Newt Scamander [Redmayne] who has been told by the Ministry Of Magic that he can no longer travel internationally after the events in New York. Newt is then contacted by Albus Dumbledore [Law] who tells him that Grindelwald is in Paris. At the same time, Newt is reunited with his muggle friend Jacob Kowalski [Fogler] and his girlfriend Queenie [Sudol]. With their relationship illegal in the United States, they have plans to elope but Jacob is fearful of the consequences, causing a rift between the two. Queenie then rushes off to spend time with her sister, Tina [Waterston], who is investigating the location of Credence [Miller] who survived his attack at the end of the last movie. And so the principal cast all gravitate toward Paris.

In order to discuss this movie in depth, I need to cover a few spoilery reveals, so to start with, let’s talk about the technical accomplishments. As with the first (and indeed all the Harry Potter films) the production design and aesthetic are still marvellous. From the costuming to the locations and sets, there is a truly beautiful level of detail and majesty that makes up these spectacularly levelled visual feasts. Granted, the French magical world could have used further development outside of “it’s like everything you’ve already seen but with an accent and cats.” But for every magnificently crafted physical creation there is a layer of CGI slapped all over it to ruin everything. Five years ago it became apparent that blockbusters are too reliant on computer generated imagery and a shift started to bring a harmonious balance between practical and digital effects. Crimes Of Grindelwald has the unfortunate distinction of badly pairing the two with erratic camera movements and direction ensuring that we literally can’t tell what the fuck is going on. A great comparison I could give would be the prequel to The Thing, irritatingly titled The Thing. The original is one of the best uses of amazing and horrifying practical effects in cinema history and while several members of the prequel team wanted to create something in a similar vein, it was laced with CGI that did not compliment the practical element and left a very mediocre final result. This film is almost so aware of this fact that the camera moves around and cuts so jarringly that it takes a little too long to adjust to what you’re seeing – and woe betide anyone watching this in 3D.

Performance-wise there are essentially two tiers, the well acted and the obsolete. That may sound incredibly harsh but for a cast of this scale it is an unfortunate by-product. The first Fantastic Beasts film offered a chance to get away from the central canon with new characters who can stand on their own. And while they achieved that for a time, the nature of the prequel (and how they have been handled to date) is that they inevitably come back to the familiar the longer they go on. Law is perfectly serviceable in the role of Dumbledore but isn’t exactly given much to work with, Redmayne returns to the role of Newt pleasantly but the other veterans felt wasted with contradictions and developments that force them apart solely for the purpose of getting them to the next set-piece. One of the biggest frustrations is the villainous elements in the form of Credence, who is still effectively a puppet and Grindelwald himself, who was sinister and calculating as Colin Farrell but is devolved into an incredibly weak and confusing adversary; throughout the first film Credence was a misdirect before being revealed as important and now we have prophecies, schedules and agendas that must be observed to fulfil his destiny – all of which feels like an antithetical pivot for the sake of dragging out events.

This movie has gaping plotting issues. The coincidences are infuriating, there is practically zero tension throughout and by the end of the movie nothing feels accomplished. On top of that we have character shifts that feel like a betrayal to what has already been established and allegiances and pointless character deaths that are robbed of significance because we haven’t gotten to know the characters yet. As the film progresses, it becomes too bogged down in its own spiralling mystery that it leaves the whole film feeling a little less magical, only really reminding us that this takes place within the Potter universe thanks to the Hogwarts flashbacks. This may sound like a slight contradiction, saying that I wanted these characters and locations to stand on their own but by trying to make a more adult story it has forgotten to instil in the audience a sense of wonder at this world. By focusing on bureaucrats rather than children, the world of magic is left mundane and bland. Then we have Grindelwald’s big speech, his rallying cry to his fellow wizards, justifying coming out of the shadows to avert World War 2. Now, this is very tricky ground because when you pair a very real travesty with a fictional setting, you are immediately on this ice. The first film mentioned the First World War but in a way that impleid it affected all communities. That’s fine, that works. This film features a vision of WWII that includes concentration camps. On the one hand the weight of significance is vitally important and with the nature of the story, having a specific sect of society being targeted for genocide feels like an appropriate link but as a plot point in a mediocre film, it just felt uncomfortable. On the other, it’s worth noting that the first Fantastic Beasts had a great deal of political reflection regarding acceptance and neglect leading to radicalisation, while this movie addresses enigmatic figures manipulating embittered feelings leading to acceptance of unacceptable ideals; which is a message films with a big budget have a responsibility to take, as art. But none of that really matters (which is arguably part of the problem) because these movies have now set up a formula which mimics big TV shows like Game Of Thrones or The Walking Dead wherein we get 80% filler which gives way to a huge exposition dump followed by a last minute cliff-hanger reveal that will hopefully keep the audience hungry for more when it all it actually does is breed a sense of familiarity for another huge franchise.

Which brings us to Star Wars. The aforementioned grand plans and significance of Credence’s character elevates him from monster-of-the-week bad guy to franchise shifting key player and all of it feels like it comes out of nowhere. But this is now standard fare for prequel releases. There is an underlying acknowledgement that the prequel story is not the interesting one (if it were, it would have been told in the first place). While we can draw lots of comparisons with the cinematic handling of The Hobbit and the diminishing rate of return with every mounting instalment, that one is somewhat different as the source material was released before The Lord Of The Rings but with Star Wars it was painfully obvious that none of its contents were important, everything was an attempt to revise plot holes and water down the mythology by solidifying it with evidence; like having a treasured memory spoiled by watching a video of that moment played back and realising it wasn’t exactly how you had been remembering it all along. We have already seen the rise and fall of Voldemort and Harry Potter, why do we care about Grindelwald’s attempts to start a war that either never happened or was quickly superseded by an even greater threat. The actions of Henry VII were very important for the nation of Britain but Henry VIII had the greater impact for the mainstream. The first film had its issues but it was serviceable. The best thing about it was the world building but this film suffered by neglecting that and committing the seemingly inevitable prequel sin of name dropping left-and-right in the hope it will assuage fans but often ends up confusing or angering them while alienating those without an encyclopaedic knowledge of the franchise. It also tends to mean that this vast, expansive universe is populated with “specials,” i.e. those families of note and importance that influence everything. Meaning progenitors and bloodlines are the most important things and characters can’t simply be introduced without being Draco Malfoy’s great uncle or Hagrid’s third cousin, it both limits and confines the possibilities and stifles the gene pool. I would have like Fantastic Beasts to be an exploratory step away from the British wizarding world but instead, it’s found its way straight back to Hogwarts and the various revelations feel largely like revisions, taking huge logic leaps to justify a twist that nobody really needed.

Ultimately, this movie is a disappointment. For those who liked Fantastic Beasts, this feels like a cold, flabby addition, for those who didn’t like the first, this will be just as unpalatable and for Harry Potter fans, it may raise some interesting questions about the canon but will never be anything more than a bridge to those talking points that few will have the overwhelming desire to revisit outside of completionism.

Release Date:
16th November 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:

Random comment to make but I actually enjoyed Nagini’s introduction scene. Not because of the acting (although it was fine), not for visual effects (also fine) an not for the headache it gave fans to learn that Voldemort’s loyal servant and horcrux is an Asian lady (which isn’t really fine) but for the music. James Newton Howard’s score works well enough and I like that the title music has been kept as that is one of the best motifs outside of the regular Harry Potter fanfare but the Nagini theme was genuinely enjoyable and one which elevated a very dry scene.

Notable Characters:
**Spoilers mentioned within**
In my review for Fantastic Beasts, I mentioned one of the highlights being the character of Jacob Kowalski and his relationship with mind-reader, Queenie Goldstein. While I was grateful this film brought them back, they robbed a lot of the positivity that came with them due to circumstance – and no matter how they sell the idea of Queenie joining Grindelwald, it was a cheap and stupid development that made no sense a) coming from a mind reader and b) based on her actions in the first film. And don’t tell me it was because it would keep them together because that’s nonsense.

Highlighted Quote:
“There are no strange creatures, just blinkered people”

In A Few Words:
“A barren cinematic spectacle that tries to justify its runtime and contents with some uninspired last minute revelations”

Total Score:



Oh Joy

Scott Mosier
Yarrow Cheney

Benedict Cumberbatch
Cameron Seely
Rashida Jones

Christmas is fast approaching in the town of Whoville and the populous are making ready for the festive celebrations. There is, however, a self-exiled individual named The Grinch [Cumberbatch] who lives in a perpetual state of moodiness in Mount Crumpet with his faithful dog, Max. The Grinch despises everything to do with Christmas but must descend into the town when he learns that his cupboards are bare. Angered and upset by his experience, the Grinch decides the only way to allay his frustrations is to remove Christmas entirely and thus he sets in motion a plan to steal Christmas in one night. Simultaneously, one young girl, Cindy LouWho [Seely] is desperate to tell Santa Claus her wish face-to-face, so starts a plan to ensnare Santa on Christmas night.

So, to start this review, we need to talk about Ron Howard. In 2000, Howard extended the 26 minute 1966 original cartoon adaptation to a 105 minute live action release starring Jim Carrey and it was.. fine. I personally enjoyed it for the production design, the costume and make-up work and the fleshing out of the Grinch and Cindy characters, giving the whole thing a surprising amount of heart and charm. What I didn’t appreciate, however, is how vital this kind of lead would be as this 2018 adaptation is twenty minutes shorter and somehow lacks the creative depth and wonder of an 18 year old film as well as the simple moralistic efficiency of a 52 year old cartoon. No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible not to draw comparisons and subsequently this film feels like a cheap imitation that confirms the irrelevance of its own existence. Having said that, the general absence of toilet humour was a genuinely welcome and fresh surprise.

With a lot of these animated releases there is an overriding reliance on star power to sell the feature, leading to a weird medley of mismatched actors in small or supporting roles. The Grinch is a bit of an oddity in that it doesn’t have this. In the central role we have Benedict Cumberbatch, who I initially thought was a terrible casting choice but in all fairness, he does a perfectly commendable job; putting on a distinct voice that holds throughout, he brings the character to life pleasingly but the script and lack of character interaction (outside of one-way conversations with his dog) absolutely fails him. And this feels like it could have been avoided as the townsfolk know about the Grinch, one particular character, Bricklebaum (voiced by Kenan Thompson), interacts with him regularly enough to consider him his best friend. But despite all this, the supporting roles are pretty much non-existent. The bulk of the time away from the Grinch’s narrative is spent with Cindy LouWho and her Whovian friends. Much like Cumberbatch, I could see them being obnoxiously written and painfully delivered but everyone involved provides completely serviceable performances but in truth that could be because they weren’t really on screen long enough to really outstay their welcome. The unusual thing is Cindy’s motivation. This version is given a bit more of an active, adventurous outlook and the drive for her arc is sweet enough (sacrificing her Christmas presents to wish her mother happiness) but it’s also a bit flat owing to the fact that Cindy’s mother is simply depicted as busy and the Grinch eventually sympathising with her selflessness loses a bit of the magic. I mean, it shouldn’t, the intention is noble enough, it has just been done better in a different version. But I imagine Illumination are hoping that audiences won’t have seen said version.

Putting comparisons to previous iterations and character traits aside, it’s genuinely difficult not to be cynical with a film like this. While there isn’t much in the way of actual character work, there are plenty of characters present, especially the inclusion of an overweight reindeer named Fred. I hate Fred. I would have saved this throwaway comment for my “highlighted character” section below but it spiralled too quickly, so needed to be included in the bulk of the review. Fred is introduced with a joke that receives only two call-backs but as it wasn’t especially funny, it felt like two too many. So after a screaming goat (that’s the joke by the way) scares away all the reindeer, the Grinch is left with little choice but to rope an extremely obese, dopey-looking reindeer into his service. Now, I can’t fault the film for this inclusion too much, I know it’s to pad the runtime out and release a broader range of appealing toys but that’s kind of synonymous with animated kids films, so I’m hardly surprised. What did surprise me is how little it’s actually utilised. Shortly after being introduced, it is revealed that Fred the fat reindeer has a fucking family and then fucks off before being used as a last minute ex machina. On top of that, the character performs the same role as Max and any attempt to do anything with him, from a rival for Max or a part of the Christmas heist, is ultimately abandoned. Then we have the lack of written content in the form of chase/runner sequences, of which I counted no less than five. I’m all for an exciting, fast-paced visual sequences but when you are employing frantic tracking chases through any location which adds nothing to the story, it quickly becomes apparent that it is little more than lazy filler. Need to pad out a solid five minutes for a character to get from A to B? We’ve got the answer. No real dialogue, heavy emphasis on slapstick and schadenfreude, just fling some money at the animation studio and tell them to go wild. But these runner sequences did genuinely highlight something I wanted to shine a positive light on. During the film, I noted that the score is big and rather Danny Elfman-esque before getting to the end credits and learning that it was in fact Elfman. Suddenly a work of mimicry to be praised devolved into a phoned-in weak offering. It could be fair to say this is a double standard based on preconceptions and prejudices but like most things when it comes to reviews, it is more an appraisal of the moment and what came before; specifically that Elfman’s work on A Nightmare Before Christmas is frankly iconic and this feels like a thoroughly watered down variant.

In truth, The Grinch is a passable adaptation of a short children’s book from the 1950s and is animated, acted and directed with enough competence to justify the release. The problem is, it offers nothing new. Why does the Grinch hate Christmas? He’s just lonely and grew up in an orphanage. Why is Cindy LouWho nice to the Grinch? Because she’s a good person. There’s honestly nothing wrong with these answers but like repeated adaptations of Peter Pan, Sherlock Holmes or Robin Hood, sometimes you need to explain what you’re bringing to the table and the only thing I can see here is “we can sell a bunch of toys.”

Release Date:
9th November 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
As stated, this film has very few named supporting roles. One that stood out for me was Kenan Thompson’s Bricklebaum. I will openly admit, I can’t actually justify why I enjoyed this character. He loves Christmas and genuinely seems to like the Grinch but he’s also a bit of a naïve simpleton. But none of that really matters because I really like Kenan Thompson and his jolly delivery was a gratifying treat.

Notable Characters:
I have two scenes to highlight; one in the film and one not. Starting with the latter, this feature opens with a short about a pair of Minions and acts as a follow-up to Despicable Me 3. It’s a soulless commercial bait-and-switch and is solely there for the associative nature like a hype-man or introduction from a bigger artist. It doesn’t help that the short itself was incredibly dull. Secondly, at the beginning of the film proper, which shows the Grinch wondering around the town, sneering at the Christmas celebrations. It all seems fairly grouchy until he is hunted and pursued by a gang of carol singers in a surprisingly traumatising and vindictive sequence that generates sympathy for the Grinch’s plight – but that’s probably because, deep down, everyone hates carol singers.

Highlighted Quote:
“Have you ever seen a picture of Santa with a flashlight?”

In A Few Words:
“For all its good intentions, The Grinch lacks any real creativity in its execution, giving us a fairly flat rerun”

Total Score:




Vijay Krishna Acharya

Aamir Khan
Amitabh Bachchan
Fatmia Sana Shaikh
Katrina Kaif
Lloyd Owen

Years after her family were killed by British officer, John Clive [Owen], Princess Zafira Baig [Shaikh] and her loyal general Khudabaksh [Bachchan] roam the high seas, striking at British operations in the hope of one day liberating their country and restoring native rule. Playing both sides is the roguish Firangi Mallah [Khan] who sells out Indian thugs to the British for reward in the hope of one day emigrating to Great Britain. Firangi is charged with delivering Azaad (Khudabaksh’s alias) to Clive in exchange for a handsome reward but despite his cowardice and treachery, Firangi is conflicted by both the cause and Zafira.

I respect Bollywood runtimes. Too many features are cut down to appease contemporary audiences but with all the slow motion and musical numbers, three hours feels like a standard given. Having said that, the intermissions helps no end and I always walk away from these movies feeling the western trend of splitting one long film split into two parts could take note from this format. But I digress. Unlike most Bollywood films, this feels like a real hybrid of both traditional Indian cinema and big budget American films but by inheriting the overall flaws and tropes of both, the outcome is probably not what anyone involved was hoping for and for the most expensive Bollywood film produced to date, there isn’t a great deal to show for it.

One of the main appeals of this release is the opportunity to watch Khan and Bachchan as co-leads for the first time and this highlights one of the movie’s truly shining qualities: the wealth of charm and charisma in the central performances which are strong enough to hold the whole thing together. Khan is delightfully cheeky and clowns wonderfully, giving a performance that commands a great deal of presence but is far from the best performances of his younger years. The exact same can be said for Bachchan who never breaks from his angry-man persona and grumps his way through the film without ever really being challenged as a performer – except for dancing but I’ll come back to that later. But as positive as the male roles are, the female roles leave a great deal to be desired and in truth, Thugs Of Hindostan has chosen the wrong character to make its lead. From the promotional material, one would be forgiven for believing this was a high-seas romp about two male pirates at odds with each other but it should be the story of a princess reclaiming her kingdom. Subsequently, Fatima Sana Shaikh’s role is completely diminished and her conflict with Lloyd Owens character would feel more personal (as is attempted) but in trying to replicate the Pirates Of The Caribbean format, they have committed the same error of making the joker the lead. Suraiyya Jaan (played by Katrina Kaif) is even more underdeveloped as a character. I think Kaif had about three scenes and the last one at the end of the film, wherein she stows away with Firangi to partner up with him – is incredibly dumb and out of place. On the other hand, we have the villainous Lloyd Owen whose sneering hits all the beats one would expect but his goals, motives and hierarchy are never explored; he’s just a dick because he’s a dick. But it’s always masochistically amusing to watch an international period film that serves as a reminder that, to a great deal of the world, British people are oppressors and the source of a great deal of misery. And Owen admittedly delivers the requisite level of condescending arrogant bastardry that audiences need from a bad guy.

If I’m being perfectly honest, this movie is a lot of fun at times and is easily better than the last 2 Pirates Of The Caribbean outings. All the practical scope and scale give a sense of old Hollywood spectacle to the world building and dance sequences, highlighting something that is lost in CGI-dependant releases. Equally, the production design is genuinely fantastic, with an exceptional amount of detail and craft going into the costumes and sets – but in truth, like many blockbusters, the contents will appeal to the untrained eye but with so many vastly superior South Asian films, this initially fun and well-constructed release is far from representative of the quality of its peers. Nowhere is this more apparent than the script, direction and editing; all of which do not have the weight to back up the sizeable budget. A lot of this stems from the simplicity of the story and the fact that so many obstacles are overlooked or side-stepped with minimal effort. Case in point, the thugs are continually accepting of Firangi despite his open treachery, there is a complete lack of suspense or surprise and the whole story unfolds in a painfully obvious and predictable manner. Paired with lazy sound effects – every single shot of Khudabaksh’s eagle has to be accompanied by the exact same copy-and-paste sound effect, executed as if under legal obligation and the general musical themes and motifs are a little unforgettable and repetitive.

When compared to two of the highest grossing films in India, Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, Thugs Of Hindostan lacks the stakes, emotional core, glitz and flare of those fantasy epics. What’s more, it is severely lacking in any form of subtlety or restraint, offering a self-aware irreverent romp that ultimately feels like a wasted opportunity.

Release Date:
8th November 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
As stated, this film should have made Zafira’s story the central focus and with so many other Bollywood films with powerful female roles, this feels like a completely avoidable issue that could have been addressed in the scripting phase; especially because Fatima Sana Shaikh feels largely wasted but when she is given something to do, shines.

Notable Characters:
As an example of everything this film is and could have been, the song/dance sequence in the middle of the film tells the story of the Thugs celebrating in their hideout with a big boozy bash. At times, it’s a feast for the eyes with some great musical moments and impressive dancing. At other times it feels surprisingly uninventive and limited in its execution and direction with Bachchan’s singing unparalleled but his dancing leaving so much to be desired – and I’m not blaming an old man for not being as quick on his feet, I’m blaming the director for making me notice.

Highlighted Quote:
“This wound will heal in a few days but don’t allow the wound inside you to ever heal”

In A Few Words:
“An entertaining and serviceable enough outing but hardly worthy of the calibre of the sum of its parts”

Total Score:



Left With Nothing. Capable Of Anything.

Steve McQueen

Viola Davis
Elizabeth Debicki
Michelle Rodriguez
Cynthia Erivo

After a heist goes wrong, four criminals are cornered by the police and killed. It later transpires that the man they were robbing was gangster-turned-political-candidate Jamal Manning (played by Brian Tyree Henry). While trying to keep himself semi-distanced from his criminal background, he expects the robber’s widows to repay the debt of two million dollars. Desperate and fearing for her life, Veronica Rawlins [Davis] comes into possession of her late husband’s journal and unites the crew’s partners to pull off his next planned job which would clear the debt and give them enough money to buy them a new life.

On the surface, Widows is a fairly disposable heist film. In truth, on paper, it could quite easily be a Saturday evening mini-series on TV or a straight to DVD feature. The difference here comes down to the brilliant writing, razor-sharp performances and the jaw-dropping direction. It may not sound like much but one of the reasons Christopher Nolan is a great director is that he plays to his strengths and creates films that seem a lot smarter than they are while delivering a digestible story that seduces the audience through flattery. McQueen’s films to date are not that, each feature is prime independent cinema but either the subject matter or the presentation ostracises many. With Widows, McQueen boils down all these creative components and delivers them to an unsuspecting audience who don’t even realise they are watching something that is so incredibly layered. This is where you go from a great director like Nolan to a truly phenomenal one like David Fincher and McQueen has proved himself more than capable of drawing such a comparison. From the amazing long-running tracking one-shots to the subtle directorial nods like the multiple uses of reflections, so many beautiful directorial and cinematographic flourishes have been utilised, injecting elements of high art into a straightforward action crime thriller for the mainstream to comfortably process. Essentially, surreptitiously elevating the audience without them realising. As a little aside, I was rather surprised that Hans Zimmer composed the score. In retrospect it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise as Zimmer also scored 12 Years A Slave and his contemporary signature is all over the music but the score itself is actually quite a restrained and subdued turn for a man we now associate with big, bombastic musical presence. Instead, we have a great and thoroughly tense score that pairs itself magnificently with the pacing.

The entire first act is utilised to really ground this world. With elements of a criminal underworld and corrupt political officials, the stage is set to both highlight how distant these women are from their husband’s work and establish how unpleasant said men are. Granted, this could have been terribly mishandled, really beating audiences about the head with it but this simple glimpse tells us everything we need to know: these men have created a problem and now those who are associated, whether complicit or unaware, are paying the price. But the truth is, the more you tug on these threads and look for character patterns, the sheer complexity of the writing comes to the fore. This is a film about generational differences, legacies, separation from mistakes of the past, betrayal, loyalty, background, commonalities and the nature of alliances. But on the surface, this is a celebration of endurance and willpower; forced through circumstance to take action and refusing to be pigeon-holed, written off or walked over, the performances reflect the same unfair verdict delivered to women from different ethnicities and walks of life. In a strange way, it’s worth drawing a comparison with something like Ocean’s 8 which, although I still enjoy, feels like a sterile assembly, whereas this heist drama offers real people in an all-too relatable compromised situation – and it’s only at that point that you realise that nothing about this film is relatable, we simply want these criminals to succeed because the initial onus of responsibility wasn’t on them and that feeling of bailing out guilty culprits, for better or worse, really resonates with a modern audience.

**spoilers discussed within this paragraph**
As much as this movie is a fantastic thriller, it isn’t without its flaws. Most notably, some of the characters and threads trail off a little but the nature of the semi open-ended conclusion is one that means a lot of these questions do not necessarily require answer. For some this will be satisfactory, for others it will feel unresolved, leaving them without closure. On top of that, some of the events are incredibly predictable. While the details themselves are never clearly laid out for the audience, the way the opening heist is shot blatantly sets up a third act return from one or all of the male criminals. That being said, the finer details were nice to watch unfold and subsequently, you almost don’t care that the signposting felt so overt.

Taking something familiar and reworking it against the expected trend is worthy of commendation. More than that, this film is set up with so many memorable interactions and vignettes that it takes on an insidious quality, working its way into your mind, leaving you pondering the events long after its release.

Release Date:
9th November 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
Without meaning to spoil too much, the title is a touch misleading. As seen in the marketing, one of the crew’s widows is not involved in the preparations for the heist. There are reasons I won’t go into, as they are spoilery, but it was unfortunate because the role in question was played by Carrie Coon, who I rate exceptionally highly and was very disappointed that her arc never really went anywhere and was one of the aforementioned loose threads that could have had a better conclusion.

Notable Characters:
There are a great many scenes that play out like tense character building exercises. Some of these don’t necessarily give us any further detail or insight into the events of the story itself but the kind of person a specific character is; from their temperament to the lengths they will go to in order to achieve their goals. One such example is Daniel Kaluuya’s character, Manning’s brother, punishing the guys who let Harry Rawlins get away with the money. In one way, it doesn’t really move the story along at all, the entire sequence offers little to no plot points or narrative boosters, it merely to serves how ruthless Jatemme is and the whole thing is shot and performed superbly.

Highlighted Quote:
“Ignorance is the new excellence”

In A Few Words:
“A film with a point to prove and does so outstandingly with zero substandard elements”

Total Score:



This Story Is Mostly True

David Lowery

Robert Redford
Sissy Spacek
Casey Affleck

Forrest Tucker [Redford] is an elderly bank robber who utilises manners and courtesy to calmly elicit bank managers to empty their registers. His charm and cool-headedness is a breath of fresh air and his age affords him an anonymity that allows him to slip in and out, virtually undetected. So much so that Detective Hunt [Affleck] is in line at one of the very banks that is robbed by Tucker. So begins the story of tracking Tucker’s various hits over the years in an effort to uncover the thief’s identity and apprehend him.

From the opening shots, it is very apparent that a great deal of influences and homages to heist films of the 70s and 80s are at play. Evocatively shot in the perfect locations, this movie looks and feels like something discovered rather than something produced, as if some long lost reel of footage has been processed and revealed this feature. To say the cinematography is nostalgic is putting it lightly but it is genuinely a masterclass in reproduction; extracting the best of the decade while incorporating contemporary cuts and angles to produce something altogether thoroughly pleasing. On top of that the hair, makeup and costume design are all fantastic and really bring the period to life in a way that many “in our lifetime” period films seem to fail at.

The majority of praise for this movie will come down to the central performance. Without malicious intent or defined backstory, Tucker is a folktale-esque creation; a real-life criminal but one draped in enough whimsy to elevate him to that of a cheeky good ol’ boy unlike, say, Michael Mann’s portrayal of John Dillinger in Public Enemies which was injected with a dour level of seriousness throughout. This isn’t just attached to Redford’s character, however, every performance has a simple innocence to it and a powerful level of shared charm and charisma to create this impossible time and place in history. In truth, it feels like everyone connected to Tucker is in some way sleepwalking through their life until he enters it and perks them up. Nowhere is this more present than Detective Hunt, who starts the film tired and miserable at the prospect of turning forty but by the time the film closes, is a rejuvenated man, his energy reborn anew. Sissy Spacek is also magnificent as Jewel, who enters Forrest’s life by chance but proves herself an independent, capable individual who relishes Tucker’s company but has no qualms lightly taking him to task over his chosen profession. And this smooth chemistry is really what sells the whole film. Tucker is a rascal, Jewel is a lady and Hunt is a good man but they all seem to respect one another. And it’s that attitude that will both enthral a certain generation and really ostracise another. Of course I’m not saying there isn’t a place for this type of story but in a time where we are addressing issues of inequality in the execution of justice, this rapscallious jaunt feels antiquated and horribly rose-tinted. Sure, certain audience members will love the wily “still got it” attitude of Tucker as he politely asks for money to be emptied from registers and effortlessly escapes custody but others will see it as a slap in the face when those of other ethnicities would be gunned down for less. This is why films like Hell Or High Water cut a more accurate feel of how bank robberies in Texas would go – even if the events depicted here are true.

But putting that aside for a moment, the film has a few issues that stem from its effortless style. The first being just that: everything feels effortless. The stakes are low, the tension is entirely absent and the pacing is horrifically sluggish; for an hour and a half film, the runtime feels like an extra hour has been squeezed in there somewhere. Another comparison is the incredibly tense, fast paced, hyper-cut American Animals which allows the audience to empathise with and pity the central criminals but never cheer them on. Everything about this film is the opposite, it knows what it’s trying to say and the more you listen, the more you seem to realise it has nothing to do with robbing banks and more to do with an actor’s swan song. But the film is far from offensive and in truth, never gets to the stage where it becomes boring, it just dodders along, doing its thing and for a lot of people, this steady-paced treatment will be a welcome sight.

Release Date:
7th December 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are a host of prominent faces in very small supporting roles from Keith Carradine’s two minute background role, John David Washington’s practically non-existent role and Elisabeth Moss’ single short scene. They are all perfectly serviceable and there’s nothing unusual about their character’s screen time but the actors in their shoes feel somewhat wasted and underutilised. Even Danny Glover and Tom Waits, who are Tucker’s partners are given so little to do that their (arguably more interesting) stories never really get resolved, simply left open to interpretation.

Notable Characters:
While out shopping one day, Jewel tries on a bangle and while the cashier assists another customer, Tucker takes his friend by the arm and leads her out of the store. In the thrill of the moment, Jewel laughs and is momentarily thrilled at the prospect of theft before rolling her eyes at Tucker, grabbing his elbow and dragging him back to the store. She plays on her age, offering an apology saying she left without realising it was still on and then forces Tucker to pay for the item. The whole thing is very light hearted but the perfect example of how a trite setup can be made entertaining and rather delightful by two seasoned pros.

Highlighted Quote:
“I know what I’m doing and what I’m capable of. And these days, those are two different things”

In A Few Words:
“Like its central character, this film’s calm collected manner will take you by surprise but fails to walk away with a huge score”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #225

[04 November 2018]

Winning Team:
A Super Mario All-Stars Is Born
Genre – The video-game/musical adaptation that Bob Hoskins should have starred in

Runners Up:
Super Smashed Bros
Genre – After a heavy night of experimenting with various mushrooms, Mario and Luigi wake up the next morning and can’t remember anything nor can they find toad and Princess Peach is being held to ransom as Bowser has a video of their messy escapades
Flat Pac-Man
Genre – Film about Pac-Man with additional loot box marketing
Bohemian Fapsody
Genre – Hippies explore their bodies and the music of Queen
Street Shiter
Genre – Action

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito play twins in which 1988 film?
2. John Carter, The Space Between Us, Total Recall and Red Planet are all about which planet?
3. Benedict Cumberbatch plays which superhero in the MCU?
4. What is the name of the 1964 musical in which Julie Andrews plays a nanny?
5. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi played which fictional brothers?
6. The following quote is from which film, “I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh”?
7. Who directed The Prestige?
8. Who played the respective title roles in 2000’s Charlie’s Angels? (one point per correct answer)
9. William S Preston and Theodore Logan are the lead characters in which franchise?
10. Which actor was nicknamed The Duke?

ROUND II: Filming [Video Game Adaptations Special]
1. What was the title of the first cinematic video game adaptation? Super Mario Sunshine? Super Mario World? Super Mario Bros?
2. Who played the title role in Max Payne? Bryan Cranston? Mark Wahlberg? Keanu Reeves?
3. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was released in which year? 1999? 2001? 2003? [bonus point for Tomb Raider’s release year]
2001 [2018]
4. Which of the following survival horror games did not get a cinematically released sequel? Resident Evil? Alone In The Dark? Silent Hill?
5. The following quote is from which mid-90s film, “Something wrong, Colonel? You came here prepared to fight a madman and instead you found a God”? Street Fighter? Mortal Kombat? Double Dragon?
6. What was the subtitle of Prince Of Persia? Shadow And Flame? The Two Thrones? The Sands Of Time?
7. What is the name of the assassin played by Timothy Olyphant in Hitman? Agent 21? Agent 47? Agent 99?
8. How many video game adaptations have featured The Rock? 1? 2? 3?
TWO (Doom, Rampage)
9. Which historical explorer does Aguilar give the Apple of Eden to, for safe-keeping, in Assassin’s Creed? Ferdinand Magellan? Christopher Columbus? Hernan Cortes?
10. To date, Warcraft is the most financially successful video game adaption. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What is the name of Harrison Ford’s character in The Fugitive?
2. Al Pacino won his only Oscar for which film?
3. Dougray Scott played the lead villain in which Mission: Impossible film?
4. When released as a single film (rather than in two parts), what was the subtitle of Kill Bill?
5. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “You can erase someone from your mind. Getting them out of your heart is another story”?
6. What is Luke’s X-Wing callsign in the Star Wars: A New Hope?
7. Spinners is the name given to the flying cars in which film?
8. At its time of release, Titanic had a record budget. What was it?
9. Which actor appeared in Lawrence Of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and Cromwell?
10. The following quote is from which film, “When the place was built in 1907, there was very little interest in winter sports. And this site was chosen for its seclusion and scenic beauty”

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Whose directorial debut was Delicatessen? Jean -Pierre Jeunet? Lenny Abrahamson? Guillermo Del Toro?
2. Jim, Judy and Plato are the lead characters in which film? The Perks Of Being A Wallflower? Say Anything? Rebel Without A Cause?
3. In (500) Days Of Summer Tom and Summer go to watch a film and it is revealed that he has always misinterpreted the ending. What is the film? Lost In Translation? The Graduate? Casablanca?
4. In 2006 Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet lost out to which actor for the best leading actress Oscar? Charlize Theron? Helen Mirren? Sandra Bullock?
5. Christopher Walken’s character in Batman Returns is named after the actor Max Schreck, who starred in which silent film? Metropolis? Nosferatu? Battleship Potemkin?
6. Which Disney animated film was released in 1964? The Rescuers? Alice In Wonderland? The Sword In The Stone?
7. Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Chris Pine and Ben Affleck have all portrayed which character? Father Christmas? Jack Ryan? Mark Anthony?
8. How many films have Denzel Washington and Spike Lee worked together on? 2? 4? 6?
9. Which of the following actors is not Canadian? Sam Rockwell? Michael J Fox? Ryan Gosling?
10. Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron starred in a 1999 film about an alien who possess an astronaut. True or False?
TRUE (The Astronaut’s Wife)

Screenshots: Sphere / Chicago / Ice Age: The Meltdown / 22 Jump Street
Poster: Stranger Than Fiction
Actor: Queen Latifah


Let The Mystery Unfold

Lasse Hallstrom
Joe Johnston

Mackenzie Foy
Jayden Fowora-Knight
Kiera Knightley
Morgan Freeman

On Christmas Eve, Clara Stahlbaum (a name certain actors take great issue proncouncing), played by Mackenzie Foy, attends a party with her father and two siblings. Disobeying her father’s instruction to stay and mingle, she sneaks away and meets with the host, Drosselmeyer [Freeman], who is also her godfather. They discuss a silver egg created by Drosselmeyer and left to Clara by her late mother and how it must be opened with a special key. Clara follows a thread to her Christmas present and enters a magical Narnia-esque realm, only to have her gift, the key she desires, stolen by a mouse. From here, Clara learns from a nutcracker [] that she is in fact a princess and heir to the four realms.

Throughout cinematic history there have been behind-the-scenes dramas and fall-outs that oust certain prominent creatives and every now and then they are very publicly displayed with the crediting of an extra director or writer. While that may not be the exact case with Disney’s big-budget The Nutcracker And The Four Realms, a month’s worth of reshoots under the care of a different director is never a good sign and tends to create an uneven, sometimes soulless production.

Despite not being an adaptation of a previous Disney release (for which Disney should be commended) it is overtly desperate to be Alice In Wonderland; from the structure to the characters, elements of Tim Burton’s quasi-sequel are present but whereas Alice was intentionally aloof and ditzy, with her head in the clouds, Clara is established as an extremely well-informed woman of science but never investigates the logic of the fantastic she is introduced to; in earnest, I genuinely can’t recall a moment where Clara questions her circumstances and surroundings as anything but true. This lack of agency, paired with a painfully simplistic and formulaic story (with an extremely obvious twist) makes the whole thing very panto – for anyone unaware, a panto or pantomime is an annual theatrical Christmas show for children in Britain that is notorious for its double entendres, cheap gags, bright colours and terrible acting.

Speaking of the acting, we have to talk about the appalling writing and uninspired performances. As a story, the Nutcracker is incredibly straightforward and marches along without any real hindrance, following a beat-by-beat formula, peppered with a medley of one-liners pinched from superior releases and truly bizarre lines like “Nutcrackers are very loyal”? What does that mean? What are you backing that up with? And yet I have to offer a semblance of leniency to the lead performances as they are young actors and it can feel incredibly spiteful and unfair to review them harshly. Admittedly, they do what they can but at no point was I captivated by either Foy or Fowora-Knight. But the same cannot be said for the rest of the actors who were completely squandered. From small supporting roles to key parts, a host of exceptionally talented individuals were given either little-to-nothing to do or tragically elementary and predictable responsibilities.

When analysing the technical aspects of this film, my review effectively splits down the centre. On one side, a gaudy, cheap-looking mess, on the other a resplendent celebration. Let’s deal with the latter first. The reason this movie isn’t a complete write-off is a combination of two factors. First we have the score benefitting from the ballet origins but regrettably this only serves to highlight how mediocre James Newton Howard’s original work is by comparison; and this is coming from a more than capable composer. Secondly, we have the stellar production design and costume work. The sets and outfits are truly magnificent and show an attention to detail that this film both needed and displays well. A mixture of turn of the 20th century military pomp with fantasy whimsy, it is an altogether thoroughly pleasing treat. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the digital elements. The film itself opens with a completely lifeless impossible camera movement, flying through the Christmas festooned streets of “jolly old Victorian London,” regurgitating memories of 2009’s A Christmas Carol This unfortunately never really improves as are treated to a CGI mouse-man, CGI clowns bowling over CGI tin soldiers on a CGI backdrop that looks as plasticy and fake as a poorly rendered video game.

In truth, this is a wholly forgettable affair that says and does nearly nothing of interest, despite the insane amount of money that has been sunk into it. it is a sad sorry addition in a long line of heartless, vacuous big blockbuster releases but it could have been so much more. From the very first teaser, I was moderately intrigued, solely because this wasn’t the run-of-the-mill live-action remake of a Disney animated feature, it was something new. More than that, it has so much to draw on from the source material but instead we end up with a horrible disappointment and the first Christmas release of the year turns out to be one that seemingly forgets it’s a Christmas film.

Release Date:
2nd November 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
The Stahlbaum family is made up of five members, one of whom is deceased. But in all honesty, Clara might as well have been an only child or sole survivor as her siblings are afforded zero importance. Her older sister Louise is a young lady trying to keep the household running (and that’s me being generous with that description) and Fritz, an excitable precocious child who acts out but never enough to actually merit talking about. And yet neither of them were considered of enough importance to warrant inclusion in Marie’s fantasy world – the origin and location of which are never actually explained or referenced! The film, is full of these incoherencies that simply hurry the story along to the next unimportant set piece before reaching the hideously trite conclusion that “the answer was inside you all along.”

Notable Characters:
The exposition of the state of the four realms is depicted to Clara through the medium of ballet. This entire sequence is a real celebration of the craft and is genuinely enjoyable but for a film based on a ballet and one that could have served as a gateway to a different type of theatre experience for young viewers, there simply isn’t nearly enough dancing, which is an absolutely shocking wasted opportunity.

Highlighted Quote:
“When you miss someone, you remember them”

In A Few Words:
“A brightly painted but ultimately gaudy hollow tin soldier of a film”

Total Score: