JUSTICE LEAGUE

You Can’t Save The World Alone

Director
Zack Snyder

Starring
Ben Affleck
Gal Gadot
Ezra Miller
Jason Momoa
Ray Fisher
Henry Cavill



Following the events of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Bruce Wayne (aka Batman played by Ben Affleck) has set out assembling super-powered individuals to combat an impending threat that he believes is on its way. At the same time we learn about Steppenwolf [Ciaran Hinds], an ancient alien general with an army of parademon soldiers, who has sensed the presence of the mother box (an intergalactic item split into three which has the power to overwrite the world’s design) and mounts an offensive to recover it. Steppenwolf’s arrival convinces Wonder Woman [Gadot] and Atlantean prince Aquaman [Momoa] to join the fight while the younger two heroes – Flash [Miller] and Cyborg [Fisher] – tag along for personal reasons of wanting to belong and saving his father respectively. Feeling their best efforts may not be enough, Batman believes they can use one of the devices to resurrect the deceased Superman [Cavill].

I wrote a very gushy love-letter of a review for 2012’s Avengers but I stand by that review and maintain that for all its flaws, what was achieved was a cinematic first; a stepping stone to be built upon and improved. I also penned a very hesitant and disappointed review for its sequel Avengers: Age Of Ultron, noting how the elements that didn’t work in the first film were magnified and a discordant feeling ran throughout. Justice League, for many reasons, feels like Age Of Ultron’s step-sibling, in that it gets a lot right with some solid performances and seems to have figured out where it’s going but is let down by a wealth of problems, nasty CGI, terrible music and identity baggage. But I’ll get back to that later.

For those who don’t know, this has always been a troubled release and it comes across in every single scene of this release. Tonally speaking we have Zack Snyder’s dark brooding take on the DC universe intercut with Joss Whedon’s light-hearted (and admittedly quite dated) jollity but unlike a project that has been scrapped and built from the ground up, this is a Frankenstein’s monster of a cobbling; patching together bits and pieces and presenting them as an unconvincingly intentional whole. If you can imagine cooking a roast chicken with all the trimmings but changing your mind mid-meal and making a pizza instead with the same ingredients, that’s what we’ve ended up with and it is very telling. Reshoots are fairly commonplace in big budget features but you’re not supposed to notice the differences. Sometimes it’s a shot or two, other times an additional scene but the stitching between the extra content should hopefully be largely seamless. Frustratingly, that’s less achievable when one of your leads has a moustache that he contractually cannot shave, so a CGI jaw and lips are generated and my God they work as clear signposts for the new material. Staying with the CGI for a second, this has been one of the most expensive films ever produced and the visual effects are frankly disgraceful. To the degree that the computer generated orcs from Lord Of The Rings look better than Steppenwolf and his battle scenes – and that technology is 16 years old! Steppenwolf invades Themyscira and Atlantis respectively and these assault scenes have some truly ugly visuals. The Amazons look, sound, move and feel nothing like the ones from Wonder Woman, Themyscira is presented as drab and lifeless and the fight between their army and the alien warmonger is laughably uninventive. But it’s a damn sight better than Atlantis, which dispatches a contingent of three or four people; subsequently the whole encounter lasts all of two minutes but holy hell those two minutes are a mess of murky figures, water particles, bubbles and indecipherable surroundings.

But let’s take a minute to discuss one of the key components of this release: the league members. First up is the weakest feature, Henry Cavill’s Superman. I stood up for Cavill in his first appearance believing it was possible that with the right script and director he could be taught how to be a good Superman. Unfortunately, with every passing release, he and his CGI jaw feel less and less appropriate. Everything about this film betrays the “show, don’t tell” mindset and steadily drums in that Superman is the best of us, that he makes the world a better place and is the glue that holds everything together; a fact which does not connect to the character we have seen in the previous films. In fact, if he was this Christopher Reeve-esque charmer his resurrected change of tone would have worked infinitely better. And while there are brief moments that prompt the slightest upturn from the corner of your mouth, they’re just as quickly replaced with a furrowed brow when you remember it doesn’t fit this actor or his performance; like seeing Tommy Lee Jones being warm and really friendly to kids – it doesn’t seem to work. And even if you make peace with Superman’s return and integration to the group, how would anyone go about explaining Clark returning from the dead? Superman I get but Kent? Next up is Batman. Affleck is still a great Batman and his scenes in Gotham are incredibly reminiscent of the popular Arkham video games. There’s also a great “Bat” moment when Batman exclaims “The world needs Superman” which is countered with, “What does Clark need? Maybe he’s at peace” to which Wayne responds, “He’ll get over it.” I could easily see that being a scene lifted from a Justice League cartoon with Kevin Conroy uttering those words. And yet the lack of franchise awareness means Bruce’s search for the league fails to align with the Luthor/Waller files already established. In one scene, wherein Wayne is trying to recruit Aquaman, he sees the three sections of the mother box scrawled on a wall but from the dialogue we are left with the impression that he simply doesn’t realise Arthur Curry is the Aquaman – which we know to be bullshit because Lex Luthor had video surveillance with Curry conveniently gurning for the camera. Equally, while Affleck continues to be one of the standout reasons to watch these films, he’s blatantly bored and desperate for a way out. Speaking of standout, Gal Gadot returns from (let’s be honest) the only successful DCEU film and stands out as the true leader of the group. As previously mentioned, everything that is said about Superman is displayed in Wonder Woman; there is no justifiable reason why she isn’t in charge or the most powerful individual.

Moving on to the new initiates, first up we have the Flash/Barry Allen played by Ezra Miller. He has already briefly appeared in BvS in a baffling cameo and Suicide Squad in another tiny cameo but this is his first extended on-screen performance. In truth, Miller is a great Flash and brings some much need lightness to the whole endeavour. Admittedly, sometimes it gets very sporadic and a little too chaotic (not to mention he comes off more like the third Flash, Wally West, than Barry Allen) but all-in-all the humour, levity, youthful exuberance, zeal and unprepared rookie-ness is a welcome distinct personality to the group. Having said that there were a few moments which were clear victims of late punch-up and added scenes that conflicted with what had already been shot. Silly things like Barry telling Bruce Wayne that saying “he’s fast” is an oversimplification but then explaining that he’s dubbed the thing that gives him his power the speed force – surely the greater oversimplification. Then there’s the nice moment when Barry freaks out before battle but this doesn’t alert the parademons who smell fear from seemingly miles away. Yet all of that melts away with simple moments like Barry’s panicked face as he runs around the recently resurrected Superman to catch him off guard, only to see the Kryptonian following him with his eyes at super-speed. I might go on record and say the film is worth watching for that bit alone. The other new young recruit is Cyborg/Victor Stone. Jettisoning classic team members, Cyborg is a contemporary addition who is an attempt to address both diversity and the changing world of technology and annoyingly this film fumbles with both. Fisher is criminally underused and despite his monotone style is extremely interesting but shelved constantly. So little is known about Cyborg that it was only after I watched the film that I learned his cybernetic body was constructed after a car crash (rather than the comic origin of a lab accident). I mean, this is a teenager who everyone thinks is dead and is infused with an alien technology, it should deal with coming of age drama, racial issues, identity crises, isolation, torment, self destruction, paranoia and overcoming fear but all we get is a strangely confident sounding young man who is dealing with his circumstances surprisingly well. Finally, we have Jason Momoa’s Aquaman. While I’m not a fan of Momoa as a person or all the “yee-haw, my man, alright” 80s pro-wrestler bullshit, there were a few moments that showed true promise. Aquaman became something of a joke for a while but the comics shifted and reminded readers of the kind of hero Aquaman could be – specifically an emotionally distant and complicated one. Snyder’s take on that was to cast Momoa and present a confident, abrasive, arrogant, self-centred jerk but strangely, that works. He may not be the Aquaman fans want but he’s a great reflection of our times. If we look at other superhero releases it’s hard to think of one that embodies Trump-voting Middle America so succinctly. In a way the Atlanteans, with their misguided isolationist motives and resentment but deep-seated decency (I’m sure it’s buried under there somewhere), presents something of a relatable scene, where good people are bitter and angry but too arrogant to realise their views are part of the problem. As such, Aquaman has the potential, with a really clever script and whip-smart director, to be a fascinating character study. But that’s very much wishful thinking. It is much more likely that we will get more of the same forceful bro-behaviour and misogynistic overtones with a weak plot about a throne that no one cares about – but it’s all speculation because, much like Cyborg, even with scant exposition I know so very little about this iteration of Aquaman. On the plus side we finally got a look at some Green Lanterns but this just adds further irritation as the Green Lantern Corps is a intergalactic police force, where were they during all this potentially world ending stuff?

At the start of this review I mentioned a link between this feature and Avengers: Age Of Ulton. With Whedon taking command of a wildly listing vessel, he’s defaulted to his last directing job and pulled several elements from there. This ranges from little things like feeling the need to follow one family throughout a chaotic battle that would be impossible for them to survive (it’s stupid when Michael Bay does it and it’s stupid here) to conversations in the batcave with the group bickering amongst themselves that feel eerily similar in content, setting and direction to those on the helicarrier in the first Avengers film. I find this rather hysterical as all of the mistakes made in this DCEU have been fallout of the steadfast and stubborn refusal to simply adopt the formula that Marvel proved to be both effective and profitable, only to end up with a feature indicative of one of the Disney-owned studio’s weaker efforts. What’s more, Whedon chose to ditch the established musical accompaniment and supposedly “give the fans what they want.” Personally, I really enjoyed Hans Zimmer’s triumphant soaring take on the Superman theme. I am very much a firm believer that exceptional music can elevate a mediocre performance or film and that score is a prime example; it had all the upbeat notes with an air of sullen modernity that inspired and chilled. On the other hand, his Wonder Woman guitar wailing theme seemed rather ridiculous and out of place but was salvaged in her standalone release and is referenced neatly here. Everything else is in the bin and Danny Elfman’s 80s Batman theme has been revived along with a few out-of-place notes from John Williams’ 1970s Superman theme. Everything else however is largely background and non-existent. Listening to the isolated soundtrack, nothing about it has any personality or presence. It borrows heavily from the melodies and movements we expect from a superhero piece but lacks the originality or uniqueness to stand out as anything memorable or meaningful. Admittedly, I doubt this is directly Elfman’s fault and think the work of hold music is to blame once again; leaching recognised themes from other films that the director effectively cuts the film to and presents it to the composer saying, “make it sound like this.”

But unlike Age Of Ultron, Justice League could have been so much worse. With all the chaos behind the scenes and a horrendously flimsy yet bizarrely convoluted premise, it’s amazing how much was actually salvaged. With all the issues of tone, direction, flow and sense to one side, the flaw that brings me the most grief is the soft-rebooty lack of continuity. Honestly, did no one making these movies watch the previous instalments? We go from Man Of Steel to Batman v Superman and the world and characters portrayed change but insist to the audience that what was presented in the first film was received by the on-screen population as counterintuitive to common sense. Then Batman v Superman gave way to Suicide Squad and the established rules and attitudes are abandoned and contradicted once more. Most recently we watched Wonder Woman take everything from the first three films and practically disregard it – a move which proved a major improvement – and now we’re at a film that physically can’t exist with these other established stories. As a small example, Steppenwolf sets up shop in some unnamed Russian location but when a huge bionic dome is erected and a red inferno conjured out of nothing, the world didn’t notice? I moaned about the absence of a Green Lantern member but no one thinks to send in the Suicide Squad or something (obviously I’m joking, those guys are useless)? But even in BvS, Doomsday was birthed and a nuke was launched within the hour!

If I was to travel back in time and explain to my former self that the “upcoming” Man Of Steel prompts a sea of chaos, panic and disaster to the extent that we have witnessed, I would have a hard time explaining my final statement that for all its failings, Justice League is ok. Not terrible, not good but ok. But with that minor positivity to one side I would like to illustrate all the problems with the DCEU with two prescient quotes from Jurassic Park. The first is, “I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had you patented it and packaged it and slapped on a plastic lunchbox and now you’re selling it, you want to sell it.” And while that poignantly rattles around your head, the second quote highlights why DC keep making these mistakes. I have no doubt that with every passing poorly reviewed, moderately financially acceptable, polarising release some executive says, “You’re right, you’re absolutely right…I can see that now. Now, the next time everything’s correctable…Next time it’ll be flawless. When we have control–” Rather than learning from their mistakes they plough on ahead, assuming a few random tweaks will rectify what has been done whereas every alteration adds more confusion. In the space of one year we experienced a shift from Batman v Superman being dubbed too dark and desperate to force a connected universe, to Justice League which crowbars a lighter tone but comes off flippant and without consequence and on top of that, DC/WB announce the films that follow won’t need to tie in to a larger universe. This destructive, poorly planned out, reactionary style of running a universe is frankly unsustainable but at least we are getting closer to something pleasing.


Release Date:
17th November 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
Interestingly, I rather liked the title sequence. Over the credits we are shown a despondent, bitterly divided world in desperate need of saving. A people lost and without hope. That, depressingly, is a very relatable sight for contemporary audiences. From the thug arrested for assaulting the livelihood of the head-scarf wearing shop owner and her child to the homeless man staring into the distance with a cardboard sign that simply states “I tried.” Presenting a dark world in desperate need of Superman is wonderful.. but it also feels completely at odds with what we know of the character. At no point have we seen Superman do a great deal of heroic feats or earn that mass influence over people, so as much as it works wonderfully, it does not really belong in this film.

Notable Characters:
There is a janitor working at STAR labs. His name is Howard apparently and he’s played by Anthony Wise. What’s so special about this man? Simple, he’s a fucking mystery. In a film flush with disconnected developments, scene tampering, dropped cast, deleted footage and constant adjustments, he is the most fascinating. A character who should just be a badly written extra is elevated to a point of fascination thanks to two very small issues. Howard is on first name terms with the head scientist, joking about the time he’s leaving off work and offering his condolences for the loss of his family. Nothing especially out of the ordinary there. At that moment, however, I noticed that for some reason, his ID badge has a completely different face on it, that of an older man with white hair and prominent facial hair. Very unusual but I just assumed it may be a future development, some infiltrator or criminal element, possibly an unintroduced agent of the main villain. And yet he isn’t. Later we cut back to the janitor, somehow still mopping THE EXACT SAME section of flooring and his ID badge now reflects his face. What does that mean!? Are we to believe that the role was recast and Anthony Wise was used? Or that they simply didn’t have the right prop on that day but needed to film regardless. It’s amazing! Seriously, the janitor’s changing ID badge is possibly the biggest mystery of this film; more so than what happened to the mother box, does BvS’ dream sequence mean anything, why were the Amazons imprisoned on their island and why neither ancient race gave a shit about the return of Steppenwolf combined. Who are you Howard? I see you. I’m keeping my eye on you.

Highlighted Quote:
“Children, I work with children”

In A Few Words:
“A bipolar feature that is constantly at war with itself but comes out pleasingly average – which DC/WB should count as a win”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #201

[05 November 2017]


Winning Team:
President Kimble And The Kingdom Of The Solo Replicant
Genre – A tale of isolated duplication

Runners Up:
Harrison Ford Fiesta …With Sexy Results
Jack Ryan has to save Harrison Ford after his leg gets trapped in the boot of a Fiesta. Ford plays both roles like Eddie Murphy. Eddie Murphy plays all other roles
2017: A Spacey Odyssey
Genre – Horror
Cool Blade Runnings – A Replicant Bob Sled Team
Genre – Comedy
Do Droids Dream Of Electric Dick?
Genre – C3PO dreams of Han Solo’s junk


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The A-Team is a remake of which TV series?
THE A-TEAM
2. Who was the first actor to portray the role of James Bond?
SEAN CONNERY
3. Who plays the lead role in the National Treasure films?
NICOLAS CAGE
4. What genre is Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight?
WESTERN
5. In which 2008 film does Will Smith play a belligerent superhero?
HANCOCK
6. What is Jumanji in the film of the same name?
A BOARD GAME
7. What instrument does Andrew Neiman play in Whiplash?
DRUMS
8. What is the name of the sequel to Bruce Almighty?
EVAN ALMIGHTY
9. In which film does Lindsay Lohan play Cady, a home-schooled girl who attends an American high school and befriends a group dubbed “the plastics”?
MEAN GIRLS
10. Men In Black was released in which year?
1997


ROUND II: Filming [Harrison Ford Special]
1. Which of the following Star Wars films does not feature Harrison Ford? The Empire Strikes Back? Return Of The Jedi? Rogue One?
ROGUE ONE
2. The Shanghai nightclub scene takes place in which Indiana Jones film? Raiders Of The Lost Ark? Temple Of Doom? The Last Crusade?
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM
3. Blade Runner is set in which year? 2017? 2019? 2021?
2019
4. Who plays the role of Claire Spencer in What Lies Beneath? Michelle Pfeiffer? Jennifer Connelly? Meryl Streep?
MICHELLE PFEIFFER
5. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “First contact. Last stand”? Force 10 From Navarone? Cowboys & Aliens? Ender’s Game?
COWBOYS & ALIENS
6. How many Oscars was The Fugitive nominated for? 1? 4? 7?
SEVEN (won one for best supporting actor)
7. What nationality does Brad Pitt portray in The Devil’s Own? German? Irish? Italian?
IRISH
8. Who directed K19: The Widowmaker? Kathyrn Bigelow? Sydney Pollack? Roger Mitchell?
KATHRYN BIGELOW
9. In which film does Harrison Ford play a chief of security for a bank who is terrorised by a businessman-turned-bank robber played by Paul Bettany? Paranoia? Crossing Over? Firewall?
FIREWALL
10. 1991’s Regarding Henry was written by JJ Abrams. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Josh Brolin, Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Shue appeared in which Paul Verhoeven film?
HOLLOW MAN
2. The following is the poster tagline from which Martin Scorsese film, “Some men dream the future. He built it”?
THE AVIATOR
3. Who directed the 2003 film Phone Booth?
JOEL SCHUMACHER
4. The following quote is from which 1978 film, “As of this moment they’re on double secret probation”?
ANIMAL HOUSE
5. What did the Coen brothers direct in between No Country For Old Men and A Serious Man?
BURN AFTER READING
6. What is the number of the house where Will and Spike live in Notting Hill?
280
7. What is Craig Schwartz’s hobby/craft in Being John Malkovich?
PUPPETEER
8. How many directors worked on Cloud Atlas?
THREE (Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, Tom Tykwer)
9. The following quote is from which film, “They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs and they’ll have made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. And what am I going to say? I killed the President of Paraguay with a fork, how have you been”?
GROSSE POINT BLANK
10. Despite being titled three kings, how many individuals go looking for the stolen Kuwaiti gold in Three Kings?
FOUR (George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze)


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Who directed the 2011 Shakespearean adaptation of Coriolanus starring Ralph Fiennes? John Madden? Richard Loncraine? Ralph Fiennes?
RALPH FIENNES
2. In Dear Frankie, Lizzie relocates to escape her abusive ex-husband but tells her deaf nine year old son, Frankie, that his father is a sailor. Eventually she hires a stranger to pretend to be Frankie’s dad. Who plays that role? Ewan McGregor? Andy Serkis? Gerard Butler?
GERARD BUTLER
3. Trollhunter (Trolljegeren) is shot and set in which country? Norway? Finland? Denmark?
NORWAY
4. What was the title of Darren Aronofsky’s first feature film? Below? Pi? Requiem For A Dream?
PI
5. In The Fisher King, Parry is haunted by visions of a knight outfitted in which colour? Red Knight? Black Knight? Green Knight?
RED KNIGHT
6. Including the upcoming The Shape Of Water, how many films has Guillermo Del Toro directed? 8? 10? 12?
TEN
7. What is the name of the 1992 film in which Russell Crowe plays an Australian neo-Nazi skinhead? Romper Stomper? Our Land? One Late Savo?
ROMPER STOMPER
8. Which of the following did not appear in Wall Street? Martin Sheen? Kiefer Sutherland? James Spader?
KIEFER SUTHERLAND
9. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “She gets kidnapped, he gets killed, but it all ends up okay”? Corpse Bride? Ever After? The Princess Bride?
THE PRINCESS BRIDE
10. At one point Oliver Stone was directing the adaptation of American Psycho with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role. True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Training Day / American Gangster / Glory / Remember The Titans
Poster: Fences
Actor: Denzel Washington


THE DEATH OF STALIN

The Fight For Leadership Begins

Director
Armando Iannucci

Starring
Steve Buscemi
Simon Russell Beale
Jeffrey Tambor
Jason Isaacs



1953, the Soviet Union is ruthlessly ruled by Joseph Stalin and his cronies. Anyone who falls out of favour or challenges the establishment is arrested, tortured and executed. For those at the top, there is an impression of luxury and frivolity but the truth of the matter is that the alliances are loose; no one is trusted and everyone operates under the constant fear of falling out of Stalin’s favour and appearing on a list that will seal their fate. Following a stroke, Stalin is left in a paralytic state while his closest officials run around to secure their own position. While the events closely mirror what we know about the genuine history of the event, this adaptation of the French graphic novel, La Mort De Staline, hilariously and crassly illustrates the scheming, conniving and treachery that was rife during the chaos.

In terms of absurdist caricatures negotiating deadly serious developments, a lot of Iannucci’s work feels reminiscent of Dr Strangelove; for that reason, I am a very big fan. I will openly admit this style of comedy is definitely not for everyone but with its mix of a historical setting, political underhandedness and foul-mouthed deliveries, it’s my absolute favourite type of comedic narrative. One of the film’s real achievements is establishing the tone of the comedy of fear. What is presented to us was a very real and horrifying existence that many had to endure, wherein family members turned on one another, few were trusted and seemingly no one was safe. To then take that level of paranoia and intense distrust and repurpose it into farce is simply wonderful. Nowhere is this better established than the opening sequence. To highlight Stalin’s vice-like grip on the nation, we witness a concerto played over the radio. The theatre director receives a phone call mid-performance from Stalin himself and told he wants a recording of the performance. Realising that the concert went out live and that no such recording exists, the director panics, detaining as many of the audience as possible before getting people off the streets and making everyone sit through the same piece again. While witnessing the absurdity of rearranging the concerto we are shown citizens being routinely and mercilessly rounded up for detention or execution.

What’s more, there is an (one would assume intentional) undercurrent reflection of modern politics. With everything that’s taken place in the shambolic government currently running this country (the UK) and similarly with others across the world, this tale of underhand dealings, betrayal and political mobilisation serves to satirise and ridicule what we are all currently at the mercy of, as both a highlight of the cyclical nature of vacuums of leadership and a warning from the past.

Aside from the keen writing and performances – which stand out as the backbone of this feature – The Death Of Stalin is also exceptionally well crafted. Unlike a lot of comedies, which thrive on brightly lit sets to ensure maximum control in case of improvised hilarity, this film is presented like a standard high-budget period drama. The locations are lavish and resplendent, the costumes are fitting for the period and reflect the character in question, all of the props feel period appropriate while being garnished with faux-Cyrillic Russian lettering and the cinematography that presents it all is rich, dynamic and beautiful. On top of that, the direction is masterfully handled and the editing is sharp and clean throughout.

But as stated, this film thrives because of the combination of the brilliant dialogue and uproarious performances. With a host of largely British acting talent, each character is simultaneously amusing and ridiculous. Buscemi is magnificent as the neurotic but politically savvy Khrushchev, Tambor plays the feeble and easily led Malenkov effortlessly, Michael Palin’s turn as the quixotic almost lackadaisical Molotov is greatly entertaining and all the lower-rung manipulators enter and exit with the weight of their station without over-emphasising their arrival or departure. As a few standouts, I particularly enjoyed Beale’s genuinely menacing portrayal of head of the NKVD Lavrentiy Beria; the level of historical detail on display is impressive without stifling the audience and his presence and manoeuvring are a joy to watch. In a very different performance, Jason Isaacs’ arrival is perfectly timed. Having spent so long with meticulous, cross-talking politicians, General Zhukov’s introduction and domination of events – with his no nonsense attitude and minimal tolerance for the machinations of politics – is a welcome change-up and serves as a nice reminder of the savagery and ruthlessness of senior military personnel who survived both the events of World War II and Stalin’s purges.

But as much as I adore this film, there is a glaring issue. Drawing from real events ensures a lack of closure and a void where a neat ending should exist, subsequently, much like In The Loop the film simply peters out rather than distinctly ending. Granted there are events which solidify a resolution but not enough to really deliver a satisfying conclusion for most audiences. As stated before, this ties into the other issue which is that this film is not for everyone. The comedy is particularly unique and in-line with a distinct style that doesn’t suit the bulk majority of cinemagoers but the fact this film doesn’t try to accommodate the mainstream pleases me. Rather than trying to spread itself thin in an attempt to be a tick-box exercise, The Death Of Stalin sets out to tell a story in its own fashion and doesn’t overly care for people getting lost in the process; for that, I highly commend it.


Release Date:
20th October 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
Several real-life parallels are utilised as comic developments which serve to highlight the ludicrousness of how Stalin ran the Soviet Union. Thus something which should be common sense is only revelatory at the worst possible moment. Case in point, Stalin didn’t trust doctors so had the most talented or knowledgeable ones tortured, exiled or killed. Subsequently, when he needed medical assistance, there were very few options to draw on. This, amusingly, comes as a bit of a shock to the Politburo who fumble wildly trying to assemble doctors who are either beyond their prime, inexperienced or inept.

Notable Characters:
Rather than highlight one performance, I think it would be better to note that this cast works as an impressive ensemble. With pleasing chemistry and noteworthy individual portrayals, each actor shines in their own right but works superbly with their co-stars. This is evident fairly early on in a specific wonderful diatribe on the mad and incompetent scramble for power. Once Stalin’s unconscious body is discovered, each member of the Politburo arrives and proffers their sympathies at the calamity that has happened but it’s evident their lament is almost entirely for show. Each one arrives wailing and beating their chests while looking around “the boss'” office for anything that can assist their ascension. The best way this is illustrated is a very simple running gag involving the puddle of urine that Stalin is lying in. Every character runs to cradle the fallen leader but the second their knees reach the piss soaking into the rug, they hesitate, pull away and reassess how to approach him. It’s such a simple touch but it shows how in tune each actor is with those they are sharing screen time with.

Highlighted Quote:
“You’re not old! You’re not even a person; you’re a testicle! You’re mostly hair!!”

In A Few Words:
“A brilliantly witty and savage takedown of both a rather manic event in history and the contemporary political theatre”

Total Score:

5/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #200

[08 October 2017]


Winning Team:
Harryviva
Genre – An Aviva rep finds the Hulk and an alien in Paris, Texas

Runners Up:
Garmonbozia Walk With Me
Genre – The fear and sadness of living in a trailer park and never truly understanding any works of David Lynch
The Best Little Whorehouse In Paris, Texas
Genre – A whorehouse western; Harry Dean Stanton finds comfort in the bosom of Miss Parton
Escape From Paris, Texas: Back To The Old Freezerinos
Genre – Sci-fi romance
Dawn Of The Alien Christ In The Heat Of The Night
Genre – Harry Dean Stanton’s greatest hits in one movie!
Do Harrys Dean Of Electric Stantons?
Genre – A tech-punk film noir following one man’s journey to find the true Stanton among the replicants
Mother! Of Avengers
Genre – Erotic drama


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of Diane Keaton’s character in Annie Hall?
ANNIE HALL
2. Who played the title role in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln?
DANIEL DAY LEWIS
3. How many uncles does Casper have in the film of the same name?
THREE
4. Who directed Good Night, And Good Luck?
GEORGE CLOONEY
5. What is Coyote Ugly in the film of the same name?
A BAR
6. Starsky & Hutch, starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson was released in which year?
2004
7. Who played the lead role in Oliver Stone’s Alexander?
COLIN FARRELL
8. In An American Tail, Fievel Mousekewitz emigrates to America from which country?
RUSSIA
9. What is the name of the film in which Adam Sandler plays Billy, a hotel industry heir who must gain a high school education in 24 weeks in order to earn his inheritance?
BILLY MADISON
10. Who directed 2006’s Marie Antoinette?
SOFIA COPPOLA


ROUND II: Filming [Harry Dean Stanton Special]
1. What is the name of the sole human survivor in Alien? Ripley? Gorman? Clemens?
RIPLEY
2. Who directed The Green Mile? Anthony Minghella? Mike Nichols? Frank Darabont?
FRANK DARABONT
3. Repo Man was released in which year? 1981? 1984? 1989?
1984
4. Who played the lead role in In The Heat Of The Night? Alan Arkin? George Segal? Sidney Poitier?
SIDNEY POITIER
5. Which member of the Avengers recruits Bruce Banner in the film of the same name? Natasha Romanoff? Clint Barton? Steve Rogers?
NATASHA ROMANOFF
6. Why does Dragline dub Luke “Cool Hand Luke” in the film of the same name? Playing a poker hand and winning with a bluff? Delivering a knockout blow in a boxing match? Fighting a rattlesnake barehanded?
PLAYING A POKER HAND AND WINNING WITH A BLUFF
7. Where does Andie work in Pretty In Pink? Record store? Dress shop? Burger diner?
RECORD STORE
8. The following quote is from which film, “These engines are the fastest in any tanks in the European Theatre of Operations, forwards or backwards. You see, we like to feel we can get out of trouble quicker than we got into it”? The Eagle Has Landed? Kelly’s Heroes? The Dirty Dozen?
KELLY’S HEROES
9. In The Last Temptation Of Christ, the voice of Satan is provided by Leo Marks. Rather than acting, Marks was predominantly known for his work in which cinematic field? Screenwriting? Cinematography? Stunt work?
SCREENWRITING (although he received his MBE for cryptography work during WWII)
10. Red Dawn was the first PG-13 rated cinematic release. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which four actors played the lead roles in 2000’s Space Cowboys, directed by Clint Eastwood? (one point per correct answer)
CLINT EASTWOOD / TOMMY LEE JONES / DONALD SUTHERLAND / JAMES GARNER
2. Who directed 2010’s Four Lions?
CHRIS MORRIS
3. What is the title of the sequel to GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra?
GI JOE: RETALLIATION
4. What is the name of Stanley Kowalski’s wife (played by Kim Hunter) in A Streetcar Named Desire?
STELLA KOWALSKI
5. What did John Carpenter direct in between Halloween and Escape From new York?
THE FOG
6. What is the name of the AI that replaces JARVIS in Tony Stark’s suit in Avengers: Age Of Ultron?
FRIDAY
7. Of the five personifications of Riley’s basic emotions, in Inside Out, what colour is Fear?
PURPLE
8. The Frighteners was released in which year?
1996
9. What is the name of the drug in Dredd?
SLO-MO
10. How does Madeline (played by Meryl Streep) initially die in Robert Zemeckis’ Death Becomes Her?
PUSHED/FALLS DOWN THE STAIRS AND BREAKS HER NECK


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What is the name of the lead character in The Devil Wears Prada? Andy? Bobbie? Chrissie?
ANDY/ANDREA
2. What is the name of the first track that Eazy-E performs on in Straight Outta Compton? Straight Outta Compton? LA Is The Place? Boyz-N-The-Hood?
BOYZ-N-THE-HOOD
3. Which of the following origami sculptures did not appear in Blade Runner? Unicorn? Chicken? Rose? [bonus point for naming Gaff’s other sculpture]
ROSE [Stick Man]
4. Who directed 1945’s Brief Encounter? Alfred Hitchcock? David Lean? Carol Reed?
DAVID LEAN
5. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, Michelle makes a hazmat suit out of what? Rain Mac? Shower Curtain? Tent?
SHOWER CURTAIN
6. 1976’s All The President’s Men focuses on the events surrounding which presidency? Abraham Lincoln? Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Richard Nixon?
RICHARD NIXON
7. The following quote is from which film, “I bet your parents taught you that you mean something, that you’re here for a reason. My parents taught me a different lesson … they taught me the world only makes sense if you force it to”? The Fox And The Hound? Natural Born Killers? Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice?
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
8. Which of the following has not played Richard III on film? Ian McKellen? Kenneth Branagh? Laurence Olivier?
KENNETH BRANAGH
9. David Lean’s The Bridge On The River Kwai was released in which year? 1952? 1954? 1957?
1957
10. Upon receiving the Golden Globe for Best Actor In A Drama for About Schmidt, Jack Nicholson said, “I’m a little surprised, I thought we had made a comedy.” True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Ghostbusters II / Driving Miss Daisy / Grosse Point Blank / Blues Brothers 2000
Poster: 1941
Actor: Dan Aykroyd


BLADE RUNNER 2049

30 Years Later

Director
Denis Villeneuve

Starring
Ryan Gosling
Ana De Armas
Sylvia Hoeks
Harrison Ford



Thirty years after the events in Blade Runner, the Earth has suffered a massive blackout and seemingly all digital data is erased. Lifting the world out of chaos is the Wallace company (Wallace being played by Jared Leto) who buyout the tarnished Tyrell replicant brand and start production anew, creating docile, obedient androids. This renaissance allows mankind to prosper once more and life continues with synthetic people immersed and integrated into everyday society. Older Nexus models, however, are still hunted down by a division of the LAPD called Blade Runners. The story follows one such cop, a replicant named K [Gosling] who, in uncovering a thirty year old skeleton, unearths a revelation that could upset the natural order.

Much like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 is visually breath-taking, an absolutely stunning and captivating feast for the senses that is designed to consume and overwhelm in its grandiosity and beautiful horror. Rife with plenty of noir nods, the story is methodically and masterfully paced, taking its time to unfold, allowing the actors, sets and developments to seemingly naturally speak for themselves rather than rushing to conclusions and reiterating developments with the zeal of flogging a dead horse. The whole thing is a truly hyper-stylistic dream, evocative of the works of Tarsem Singh. The majority of this lavishness comes down to the wonderful production design, which feels like a natural progression within the universe established by the original. Both high-tech and lo-fi this movie shows a world that we saw before which has moved on but retains its uniqueness and identity. The two most recent examples that I can think of are Star Wars: The Force Awakens and, oddly, Alien: Isolation. While a lot of sound work gives way to visuals, being the oft-neglected lesser sibling, this is far from the case here. Much like Villeneuve’s Sicario and Arrival the sound design is exceptionally powerful and the music is fittingly intense and tribal. But I’m not just praising it for being loud and ominous, it’s just as clever and wonderful in its subtlety; the use of Peter And The Wolf is particularly brilliant.

Blade Runner 2049 is very much carried on Gosling’s shoulders with a sea of interesting short supporting roles and is a sublime lesson in minimalist acting. As far as K’s case goes, the content is very straightforward but so much is offered with the slightest facial contortion. As for the aforementioned supporting roles, they are not only perfectly cast but perfectly managed. No one is over or underused; call-backs are rewarding but restrained and new characters serve a world-building purpose outside of just expositing. Ana De Armas is absolutely crushing as the innocent AI Joi, Robin Wright exudes control marvellously as the career cop who understands the benefits and necessities of replicants, Sylvia Hoeks’ Luv is a fascinating character who will no doubt be studied for years to come in her devotion and twisted emotional programming and the absurdity of Wallace plays perfectly into Leto’s hands, allowing him to be a weirdy-beardy while still having a grounded place as a megalomaniacal CEO. Having said all that I’m not entirely sure why Gaff became Colonel Sanders but I appreciated the cameo all the same. The most interesting addition is that, despite featuring so heavily in the trailer, Harrison Ford is merely a footnote, he features in all of four or five scenes and while he plays an integral role, the story doesn’t hinge on his presence to be a success. Which is a tricky thing to note as the narrative effectively does. I’ll expand on this conflict between logic and emotion later but the strange paradox between making something a necessity but not treating it as one is mind boggling.

Being a Blade Runner film, aside from hitting the right aesthetic notes, success is dependent upon thematic discussion points and Blade Runner 2049 is rife with complex issues that one could analyse for months. Picking up the mantle from the first film, shots of eyes and eye related devices are prevalent throughout but building on that, this film relishes in showing us the reverse, focusing on voyeuristically staring at the back of people’s heads. Whether in close up or tracking from a distance, the back of character’s heads seems to play equal importance to the focus on eyeballs. Another present theme is the inherent attitude to evolved slavery and racism; initially starting off by drawing an intense and impressive comparison between slavery and machines before showing us literal child slave labour highlighting the cyclical nature of abuse and how, even with an alternative, the vulnerable will always be exploited.

One of the other key themes which carries over from the original is the continuing discussion about the varying levels of AI and consciousness, the debate about what is real, what is experience and what does it mean to be alive? Reflecting our own times and technological progression, the film adds another layer to the argument in the form of Joi. Much in the way that replicants were created to assist mankind as an imitation, the machines (through Wallace’s company) then create a limited conscious entity, devoid of physical form. Taking an android being – in the form of K – and giving him an effectively less developed, innocent version of himself – Joi – to interact with and essentially teach, gives the narrative another clever opportunity to address the nature of existence and living; somewhat reminiscent of elements present in recent releases like Ex Machina and Her. On top of that they manage to do the “Whoopi kiss” from Ghost but it’s done so very well. I’m sure the technique is an extremely simple one but synching up performances like that is genuinely masterful from each level of the filmmaking process. Additionally, while holograms were present in the original, the inclusion of the Las Vegas holograms, performing on a loop for all eternity, illustrates the idea of immortality, the idea that like all legends you can be owned and preserved for all time; your form is merely a pattern which can be replicated and fitted to whatever the user desires. Again, very fitting considering how many actors are being de-aged and recreated with CGI in a fair amount of contemporary high-budget releases.

**Several spoiler-heavy plot points are addressed toward the end of the paragraph**
Despite everything, I should point out that this isn’t a perfect film; glorious sequel and beautiful storytelling but imperfect. Admittedly, my first gripe is a minimal one and it’s that the clues were well-presented so I figured out the ending early in the film. Secondly the narrative closure is negated for emotional closure. So coming back to what I said earlier – about the paradox between what is presented and what is required being somehow both present and absent – this movie ends perfectly yet there are so many unresolved issues; not too dissimilar to how Sicario closed. What happened to Wallace, does his story and quest for the next level of replicant just continue? Is there any fallout to the events that took place at the LAPD – again, which can be tracked back to Wallace? Who placed the incinerator memory in K? Was this an accident/intentional/a cry for help? Even if it was a case of merely drawing from personal experience and real life, why did Ana Stelline react in the way she did? Speaking of Ana, does she know what she is or of her significance? And then there’s Freysa’s replicant army, the disgruntled workforce poised to upset the balance and lead a revolution. What about them? As stated, the intensity of the emotional close gives us a satisfying conclusion to the extent that these other elements simply become inconsequential background static, irrelevant to the personal revelations. And while that’s all well and good it leaves an unpleasant lingering, like a tinnitus whine in the eardrum because as much as I can accept that we don’t need answers to appreciate what has unfolded at the end of this film, it leaves the door open for a lot of (potentially) very poorly handled sequels. But this remains to be seen.

Much like the original, Blade Runner 2049, with its slow narrative, bold visuals and complex themes, is not going to please everyone – but equally it doesn’t try to. Too many sequels forget what made the original good and try to cast a wider net to capture a bigger audience. Sticking to what works and furthering the natural evolution of the story should be the staple of any sequel but it’s a bit of a strange rarity. In doing so, this instalment is easily better than the original – largely as it didn’t need three attempts to get it right – but simultaneously while a sequel can improve upon a story no end, it cannot surpass what came before because it needs the original to exist; to use a technological comparison, any upgraded computer owes its existence to its progenitor. But to put all of that to one side for a second, striking a balance between mainstream developments and high art subtext, Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy companion which was more than worth the wait.


Release Date:
6th October 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoilers throughout**
The entire film shifts in effectively two looks and it highlights how absolutely every element of this film is firing on all cylinders. Wanting to discern if an implanted memory in his head is real or not, K visits Dr Ana Stelline, who has an ability to craft the best memories. Owing to a fragile immune system, she lives in a dome and creates histories and backstories based on fabrication, designed to evoke an emotional response linked to a moral core. K allows Ana to see the memory and she ascertains it is real, triggering a violent emotional response from K. It’s maybe a few minutes long but absolutely everything at work in this film, from the nature of perception, cages, prisoners, slaves, reality, falsehoods, life, death, consciousness and experience, is present in this scene. The acting is patient and deceptive in its significance, highlighting the wealth that can be conveyed with such subtlety. I also particularly liked that the construction of memories bears a lot of similarities to the construction of film – the device Dr Stelline uses even looks like a sort of telephoto lens.

Notable Characters:
Several sections of the film deal with the idea of experiencing existence on a physical level. One of the most overt ways this is done is a character holding up their hand and watching as the world simply happens to and around them; rain, snow , bees, all manner of tactile items to define what is real. While Blade Runner toyed with the idea of perceptions of the world, it never really explored the inception of those perceptions. Enter Joi. Joi is such a beautifully naïve and emotional character who experiences the world with childlike wonder and innocence; an innocence which K, who is either programmed to be as cynical as humanity or has simply adopted it over time, both enjoys and very possibly envies. This can get irritating but De Armas portrays the character so spectacularly that she is this delightful, impossible being that is both diverse and unique.

Highlighted Quote:
“The world is built on a wall, it separates mankind. Tell the world there’s no wall and you get chaos. Or a slaughter”

In A Few Words:
“Simple in its nature, intricate in its execution, this is a prime example of one of the greatest sequels of all time”

Total Score:

5/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #199

[24 September 2017]


Winning Team:
Spatula: Kitchen In The Sky
Genre – In a world of starving aeronauts, a flying kitchen holds salvation

Runners Up:
Studio Jubblies 2: Princess Mono-Nippy
Genre – Miyazaki directs a talented voice cast in a particularly chilly recording studio
When The Cat Returns With Sexy Results
Genre – Live action remake
Takeshi’s Moving Castle
Genre – Game show film
Bowels Moving Arsehole
Genre – An animation about a magical arsehole in the sky, propelled by the noxious gas from its bowels below


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Val Kilmer film, The Saint, is an adaptation of which Roger Moore TV series?
THE SAINT
2. How many grandchildren does John Hammond has (that we specifically see) in Jurassic Park?
TWO (Lex / Tim)
3. “Freeze in hell, Batman” and “This is why Superman works alone” were quotes from which film?
BATMAN AND ROBIN
4. What are the titles of the four Indiana Jones films? (one point per correct answer)
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK / TEMPLE OF DOOM / THE LAST CRUSADE / THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
5. Who appeared in 10 Things I Hate About You, A Knight’s Tale and The Dark Knight?
HEATH LEDGER
6. Maui, Heihei and Te Fiti are characters in which Disney film?
MOANA
7. Gondor, Hobbiton and Rohan are regions in which film franchise?
THE LORD OF THE RINGS
8. How many Star Trek films have been made to date?
THIRTEEN
9. What was the name of the Aerosmith song composed for Armageddon?
I DON’T WANT TO MISS A THING
10. Which two actors starred in the lead roles in Planes, Trains & Automobiles? (one point per correct answer)
STEVE MARTIN / JOHN CANDY


ROUND II: Filming [Studio Ghibli Special]
1. In Spirited Away, Chihiro and her family enter the spirit world and her parents are turned into what animals? Cats? Dragons? Pigs?
PIGS
2. Sophie is the lead character in which film? The Wind Rises? Arriety? Howl’s Moving Castle?
HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE
3. The majority of Ponyo (in the film of the same name) is what colour? Red? Blue? Yellow?
RED
4. What is the name of the cat in Whisper Of The Heart and The Cat Returns? Yuko Harada? Sugimura? Baron Humbert Von Gikkingen?
BARON HUMBERT VON GIKKINGEN
5. Which film did Ghibli release after Whisper Of The Heart and before My Neighbours The Yamadas? Pom Poko? Princess Mononoke? Only Yesterday?
PRINCESS MONONOKE
6. How many Ghibli films have been made by Hayao Miyazaki’s son, Goro? 2? 3? 4?
TWO (Tales From Earthsea / From Up On Poppy Hill)
7. Where does Sanuki and his wife find Kaguya in The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya? On a lily-pad? Behind a waterfall? In a bamboo shoot?
IN A BAMBOO SHOOT
8. The following quote is from which film, “If you wake up tomorrow and find a white cat, it’s me”? Castle In The Sky? Kiki’s Delivery Service? The Cat Returns?
KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (Jiji to Kiki regarding the amount of flower in the room)
9. What is the name of Gina’s hotel in Porco Rosso? Hotel Adriano? Hotel Bacalli? Hotel Ciprina?
HOTEL ADRIANO
10. In My Neighbour Totoro, Totoro’s name is based on a mispronunciation of troll. True or False?
TRUE (although it did not appear in the 1993 English language version, it was restored for the 2006 dub)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which Disney film was released in between Cinderella and Peter Pan?
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
2. The buried alive scene takes place in which volume of Kill Bill?
VOLUME TWO
3. What is the name of the hornbill, voiced by Rowan Atkinson, in The Lion King?
ZAZU
4. The following quote is from which film, “Now if there’s one thing you can be sure of, it’s that nothing is more powerful than a young boy’s wish. Except an apache helicopter. An apache helicopter has machine guns and missiles, it’s an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine”?
TED
5. What was the first colour film to win the Oscar for best picture?
GONE WITH THE WIND
6. In the 1997 animated film Anastasia, who voices the role of Rasputin?
CHRISTOPHER LLOYD
7. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “It’s a whole new West, July 99″?
WILD WILD WEST
8. What are the names of the two criminals in Home Alone? (one point per correct answer)
HARRY / MARV
9. What is Leon’s beverage of choice in the film of the same name?
MILK
10. What is the name of Ron Burgundy’s dog in Anchorman?
BAXTER


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What is the name of the lead samurai in Seven Samurai? Kanbe? Gorobe? Kikuchiyo?
KANBE
2. What are Proximo’s (played by Oliver Reed) last words in Gladiator? Freedom, Spaniard. Freedom? Eternal glory? Shadows and dust?
SHADOWS AND DUST
3. The clicking alien language in District 9 was achieved by rubbing what kind of food product? Pumpkin? Pineapple? A bag of Rice Krispies?
PUMPKIN
4. What is the name of Indiana Jones’ secretary? Irene? Janice? Katherine?
IRENE
5. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is set in which county? Denmark? Sweden? Norway?
SWEDEN
6. Which of the following actors did not appear in 40 Year Old Virgin? Jonah Hill? Paul Rudd? Michael Cera?
MICHAEL CERA
7. The Monty Python cast play several roles in The Holy Grail but which one portrayed the most at 12 characters? Michael Palin? Terry Jones? Eric Idle?
MICHAEL PALIN
8. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “They keep coming back in a bloodthirsty lust for human flesh”? Night Of The Living Dead? The Return Of The Living Dead? The Plague Of The Zombies?
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
9. In The Bourne Identity, the laser pointer in Jason’s hip takes him to a bank in which country? Switzerland? Germany? France?
SWITZERLAND
10. The line “I’ll be back” from The Terminator was actually scripted as “I’ll come back.” True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: American Beauty / LA Confidential / A Bug’s Life / Horrible Bosses 2
Poster: Glengarry Glen Ross
Actor: Kevin Spacey


KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Suited And Booted

Director
Matthew Vaughn

Starring
Taron Egerton
Julianne Moore
Colin Firth
Mark Strong
Pedro Pascal



A year after the events in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Eggsy is operating under his former mentor’s codename, Galahad and continues to covertly protect the realm. Before the film has even has a chance to fade out the film’s title, events kick off with the arrival of Charlie Hesketh – a former Kingsman initiate who failed to graduate – who survived the events of the first film and is out for revenge against Eggsy [Egerton] for a new superior: Poppy Adams [Moore], a drug baroness in self-imposed exile from her home land of the United States. Feeling the Kingsman are a direct threat to her operation, Poppy launches a surprise attack and wipes out the entire order and all of their hideouts. The only ones who survive are Strong and Merlin [Strong], who enact an old protocol which takes them to a mysterious agency in Kentucky.

Much like its predecessor, any criticisms one has about these films can easily be directed to any James Bond feature; from the sexism to the suspension of disbelief, if you let one slide but not the other, that seems a touch unreasonable. Having said that, this film really does let itself down all too frequently and what should have been another action-packed, tongue-in-cheek romp is left a bloated, uninspired pile of mediocrity. The acting tiers are separated rather clearly between those that have committed to the heightened absurdity of the story (people like Egerton, Pascal, Strong and to a certain extent Jeff Bridges) and those who are largely phoning it in (which would be Firth, Moore, Halle Berry, etc). Essentially, the more established they are, the less they seemed to give a shit. But it’s hard to blame them as the script this time round misses the mark by offering a lukewarm villain, a fairly tame world-threatening dilemma and a complete lack of suspense or pacing. From the introduction of underutilised characters to the deaths of returning ones (I was genuinely expecting Roxy to make a surprise appearance as the film went on but then I realised they just killed her off outright) the whole thing felt eerily reminiscent of GI Joe: Retaliation – I know I’ve received a lot of flak for my positive review of GI Joe: Rise Of Cobra in the past but the change in tone from silly toy box action to semi-serious vengeance arc was incredibly odd; at least Kingsman: The Golden Circle had the common sense not to kill off the main character.

Aside from the regular super-spy lampooning, there are a few elements that take this film far away from what made Kingsman: The Secret Service a tolerable success, rather than the colourful stupid mess that it advertised itself as. The first and strangest one is the return of Harry. Bringing back Colin Firth was a decent move and offered a genuine emotional device for Eggsy, they also managed to explain it away rather well thanks to the fantastical sci-fi tech their established universe could arguably have. No problem there. The weird element is that they address how such an extreme and violent cognitive experience could have a severe impact on the victim; specifically in this case, memory loss which then leads into PTSD. Adding that level of realism (if that’s the right word) should work for this film, grounding it in some semblance of reality and offering Firth an actual reason to come back and play the same character with a deeper spin. Regrettably, it never exactly clicks and ends up feeling like a drastic tonal shift which fails to achieve the desired effect. Then we have the Statesman. I’m a little torn when it comes to the American sister-operation as it feels extremely underused but to be fair this is a Kingsman sequel so the restraint is appreciated.

Speaking of restraint, we need to talk about Elton John. In her Cambodian lair, Poppy has turned an ancient ruin into her own slice of America and with it a theatre with one hostage performer: Elton John. As a throwaway gag, that in of itself works fine. What doesn’t is that this cameo massively overplays its hand and brings him back multiple times. More than that, Elton John is effectively a supporting character. I would go so far as to posit that he has more screen time than Halle Berry or Channing Tatum. Having said that, for one bright glorious moment, it works perfectly: one of Poppy’s robotic security dogs is about to attack Harry but Elton John’s grinning mug enters from screen right to the tune of Rocket Man. It really shouldn’t be funny but it really is. Everything around it is horse-piss but that one shot was great.

In spite of the wildly erratic acting standards (between phoning-it-in and trying pretty hard) and the paint-by-numbers story, this film is pretty serviceable on a technical level. There’s plenty of the same comic book action/physics/direction which gives the film a certain flare and style but admittedly, it might be a little excessive and the film becomes heavily reliant on it at times without ever replicating the Church scene from the first one. Which, let’s face it, is what everyone involved was hoping to recreate. The visual effects were decent enough but when they dipped into displeasing territory, they were incredibly noticeable and off-putting. Equally, the sound design was perfectly fitting and Henry Jackman’s score still stands out as praiseworthy, memorable and distinctive.

Like a lot of flat sequels, this feature feels like a missed opportunity, an exercise in repetition that failed to capture whatever spark that made the original special. If you’re a fan of the first, it may play off as a passable story but on its own merit, it’s hardly making waves.


Release Date:
22nd September 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are both a few scenes that stand out because they are one improvement away from being great, a few scenes that don’t exactly work and a few that are genuinely really entertaining. I’m not going to talk about any of them because the only talking point in this film is the fingering scene. In order to trace Charlie’s location, Eggsy has to place a tracker on Charlie’s girlfriend. Apparently the only way to get the device to activate is to make contact with a mucus membrane. Now, I appreciate this whole scenario is supposed to address the whole “I have to sleep with this woman for king and country” nonsense but it’s still pretty stupid. It’s hardly new, in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me a tracer is placed up Fat Bastard’s arse but there’s something about the way this is filmed which feels like it’s primary objective was to be as titillating and shocking as possible. Now, as an adult, I was far from shocked. I’ve seen all manner of films which present sexual encounters in many different ways but it’s so uncomfortably bad that it just feels cheap and unnecessary; which, in a film with cannibalism, excessive swearing and an anal callback by Elton John, is saying something.

Notable Characters:
Without saying too much, I liked Pascal’s character, Whiskey. The character motivation was commendable but I can’t highlight the performance as it never really paid off or delivered in a satisfying way. Subsequently I have to go with my regular choice Mark Strong. I really like Strong as an actor, I think he’s wonderful and very rarely disappoints. Funny, witty and great timing; all of which makes his “arc” even more frustrating.

Highlighted Quote:
“My momma always told me we get our manners from the British. Ain’t that a pity, y’all didn’t keep none for yourselves”

In A Few Words:
“A disappointing departure from a surprise success, which could easily be fixed in a further sequel but the question is, should it be?”

Total Score:

2/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #198

[10 September 2017]


Winning Team:
Tudyk Or Not Tudyk? That Is The (Sexy) Question
Genre – Joss Whedon’s second Shakespeare adaptation where Alan Tudyk plays Hamlet and Nathan Fillion plays the CGI skull of Yorick

Runners Up:
The Seeker Of Serenity, The Protector Of Italian Virginity, The Enforcer Of Our Lord God, The One, The Only, Sir Ulrich Von Lichtenstein.. The Team
Genre – Action fantasy comedy drama high-octane fun
Alan One-Tu-Three-Dyk
Genre – Pirate film
KY-SO
Genre – The sarcastic Star Wars robot is repurposed for lubrication duties (the “SO” stands for Sore Orifice)


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the title of the movie adaptation of The Simpsons?
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE
2. Marty McFly is the lead character in which franchise?
BACK TO THE FUTURE
3. How many Die Hard films have been made to date?
FIVE
4. What is the name of Kevin Spacey’s character in Superman Returns?
LEX LUTHOR
5. Delicatessen, A Bout De Soufflé and La Vie d’Adele are films from which country?
FRANCE
6. What colour are the elephants in Dumbo’s intoxicated dream sequence in Dumbo?
PINK
7. The following quote is from which film, “In space, no one can hear you scream”?
ALIEN
8. Who played the role of Trevor Slattery in Iron Man 3?
BEN KINGSLEY
9. The English Patient was released in which year?
1996
10. The Duke was a nickname for which classic Hollywood actor?
JOHN WAYNE


ROUND II: Filming [Alan Tudyk Special]
1. What is the name of the ship in Serenity? Firefly? Serenity? Mal’s Boat?
SERENITY
2. Who does Alan Tudyk play in Tucker & Dale Vs Evil? Tucker? Dale? Chad?
TUCKER
3. Ice Age was released in which year? 1999? 2002? 2006?
2002
4. Who directed I, Robot? Alex Proyas? Rob Cohen? Bret Ratner?
ALEX PROYAS
5. What is the name of the kingdom in Frozen? Frell? Corona? Arendelle?
ARENDELLE
6. Which of the following did not appear in Patch Adams? Phillip Seymour Hoffman? Dustin Hoffman? Alan Tudyk?
DUSTIN HOFFMAN
7. In Trumbo Michael Stuhlbarg portrays which famous actor? Humphrey Bogart? James Cagney? Edward G Robinson?
EDWARD G ROBINSON
8. The following quote is from which film, “Proverbs 13:3. He that keepeth his mouth, keepeth his life. He that opens his lips too wide shall bring on his own destruction. Tommy was weak. Tommy was stupid. Tommy is dead”? 3:10 To Yuma? Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter? Transformers: Dark Of The Moon?
3:10 TO YUMA
9. How many people/droids make up Jyn’s unit in Rogue One? 6? 7? 8?
SIX (Jyn, Cassian, Chirrut, Baze, Bodhi, K-2SO)
10. For the international release of Zootopia, the news anchor Moosebridge has several animal variants. True or False?
TRUE (Koala in Australia, Tanuki in Japan, Panda in China, Jaguar in Brazil, etc)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Michael York and Sean Connery appeared in which film?
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
2. The B52s performed under which name in The Flintstones?
BC52’S
3. Who played the respective lead roles in Cold Mountain? (one point per correct answer)
NICOLE KIDMAN / JUDE LAW
4. The following quote is from which film, “That’s all that’s left of the last dragon-slayer who tangled with me. If I were you, I’d quite while I was ahead”?
DRAGONHEART
5. In which film does John Travolta play Terl, an alien security chief stationed on a desolate Earth in the year 3000?
BATTLEFIELD EARTH
6. What is Jacob Tremblay’s character’s name in Room?
JACK
7. Who voices the roles of Tai Lung, Lord Shen and Kai, the respective villains in Kung Fu Panda, 2 and 3? (one point per correct answer)
IAN MCSHANE / GARY OLDMAN / JK SIMMONS
8. How does Elliot die in Ghost Dad?
CAR CRASH (announces he is Satan to a Satanist taxi driver, who then drives off a bridge and into a river)
9. O, Brother Where Art Thou? was released in which year?
2000
10. What are the names of the Ghostbusters in the 2016 remake? (one point per correct answer)
ABBY YATES / ERIN GILBERT / JILLIAN HOLTZMANN / PATTY TOLAN


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Who directed the 1960 film, Ocean’s 11? Charles Walters? Lewis Milestone? John Frankenheimer?
LEWIS MILESTONE
2. Which of the following is not part of Team America, in the film of the same name? Joe Smith? Gary Johnston? Hank Davids?
HANK DAVIDS
3. What did Ridley Scott direct in between Black Hawk Down and Kingdom Of Heaven? Matchstick Men? A Good Year? Hannibal?
MATCHSTICK MEN
4. Who played the lead role in the 1997 Frank Oz comedy, In & Out? Tom Hanks? Kenneth Branagh? Kevin Kline?
KEVIN KLINE
5. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll hurl”? Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure? Wayne’s World? California Man (Encino Man)?
WAYNE’S WORLD
6. Which actor appeared in Ghost Rider, Wild At Heart and The Family Man? Nicolas Cage? Sam Elliott? Henry Fonda?
NICOLAS CAGE
7. The following quote is from which noir film, “Office memorandum. Walter Neff to Barton Keyes, Claims Manager, Los Angeles, July 16, 1938″? The Big Sleep? Out Of The Past? Double Indemnity?
DOUBLE INDEMNITY
8. What is the title of the sequel to The Hustler? Jack Of All Trades? The Colour Of Money? What’s Yours Is Mine?
THE COLOUR OF MONEY
9. How many sequels were made to Shaft? 2? 3? 4?
TWO (Shaft’s Big Score, Shaft In Africa)
10. The Millennium Falcon appears in Spaceballs. True or False?
TRUE (parked outside the diner at the end of the film)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Happy Gilmore / Jack And Jill / Punch-Drunk Love / Pixels
Poster: Coneheads
Actor: Adam Sandler


Cinema City Film Quiz #197

[27 August 2017]


Winning Team:
Rouge One: A Sexy Star Wars Story… With Sexy Results
Genre – Ging-Erso is tasked with stealing the sexy plans to an intergalactic windmill

Runners Up:
Flaming Beauties
Genre – A red pride documentary
Red Bobs & Boom Sticks
Genre – Leelo from The Fifth Element and Ash from The Evil Dead team up to fight deadites in the bowels of futuristic New York City
The Hunt For Red-Croptober
Genre – One man’s hunt for the ultimate red cropped haircut during the month of October
Lost In Translation
Genre – Comedy


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of Tom Cruise’s character in Jerry Maguire?
JERRY MAGUIRE
2. Who played the lead role in Anchorman?
WILL FERRELL
3. Fantastic Beasts and where to find them is the prequel series to which franchise?
HARRY POTTER
4. What is the title of the most recent Star Trek film?
STAR TREK BEYOND
5. Trainspotting is predominantly set in which country?
SCOTLAND
6. What is the title of the sequel to Magic Mike?
MAGIC MIKE XXL
7. Leonardo DiCaprio won his first acting Oscar for his performance in which film?
THE REVENANT
8. Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy played the lead roles in which Paul Feig film?
THE HEAT
9. Which 1960 science fiction features a time traveller named George and his adventures with the Eloi and Morlocks?
THE TIME MACHINE
10. American Graffiti was released in which decade?
SEVENTIES


ROUND II: Filming [Red-Headed Actors Special]
1. [Karen Gillan] What is the name of Karen Gillan’s character in Guardians Of The Galaxy? Starlord? Nebula? Thanos?
NEBULA
2. [Alicia Witt] David Lynch directed an adaptation of which science fiction novel? War Of The Worlds? Dune? Ender’s Game?
DUNE
3. [Jeffrey Jones] Ichabod Crane is a constable working in which city before being dispatched to Sleepy Hollow in the film of the same name? New York? Boston? Chicago?
NEW YORK
4. [Simon Pegg] In the cornetto trilogy, which flavour does Shaun Of The Dead represent? Mint? Vanilla? Strawberry?
STRAWBERRY
5. [Eric Stoltz] The following quote is from which film, “I bet you could cut down on the hero factor in a place like this”? Reservoir Dogs? Jackie Brown? Pulp Fiction?
PULP FICTION
6. Which of the following films did not feature Bryce Dallas Howard? Pete’s Dragon? Terminator Salvation? The Tree Of Life?
THE TREE OF LIFE
7. [Jessica Chastain] Who wrote the screenplay for The Martian? Steven Zaillian? William Monahan? Drew Goddard?
DREW GODDARD
8. Chuck Norris appeared in which Bruce Lee feature? The Big Boss? Way Of The Dragon? Fist Of Fury?
WAY OF THE DRAGON
9. [David Wenham] The following is the poster tagline for which film, “This land will be civilised”? The Proposition? High Plains Drifter? Zulu Dawn?
THE PROPOSITION
10. [Julianne Moore] Throughout The Big Lebowski, the dude is seen consuming 31 White Russians. True or False?
FALSE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The following quote is from which James Bond film, “I know you’ll find this crushing 007 but I don’t sit at home every night praying for some international incident so I can run down here all dressed up to impress James Bond”?
GOLDENEYE
2. Who directed The Conversation?
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA
3. Based on the mountain range at the end of The Great Escape, in which country is the film set?
GERMANY (Fussen)
4. Margaret Hamilton played Miss Almira Gulch in which classic film?
THE WIZARD OF OZ (also The Wicked Witch Of The West)
5. Chronologically speaking, Resident Evil Retribution is which number in the release sequence?
FIFTH (of six)
6. What is the title of the sequel to Romancing The Stone?
THE JEWEL OF THE NILE
7. What is George Harkness’ alias in Suicide Squad?
CAPTAIN BOOMERANG
8. North By Northwest has a climactic finale atop which US monument?
MOUNT RUSHMORE
9. Who played the role of Dr Catheter in Gremlins 2: The New Batch?
CHRISTOPHER LEE
10. Michael Fassbender, David Wenham, Dominic West and Rodrigo Santoro appeared in which film?
300


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What name is given to the puzzle box in Hellraiser? The Cryptic Of Pain? The Cenobite Cube? The Lament Configuration?
THE LAMENT CONFIGURATION
2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Public Enemy and Yankee Doodle Dandy starred which actor? James Cagney? James Stewart? Clark Gable?
JAMES CAGNEY
3. Which of the following isn’t a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical? The King And I? South Pacific? Seven Brides For Seven Brothers?
SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS
4. Who directed the following films: Stardust Memories, The Purple Rose Of Cairo and Cassandra’s Dream? Woody Allen? Jim Jarmusch? John Cassavetes?
WOODY ALLEN
5. Mannequin was released in which year? 1980? 1984? 1987?
1987
6. What are the names of Steve Martin and Martin Short’s respective characters in The Prince Of Egypt? Bay & Ardeth? Hotep & Huy? Kask & Mumra?
HOTEP & HUY
7. The following quote is from which Eddie Murphy film, “I don’t give a damn who you are. This is America, Jack. Now you say one more word about Lisa and I’ll break my foot off in your royal ass”? The Nutty Professor? Coming To America? The Golden Child?
COMING TO AMERICA
8. Mary Lennox emigrates to Yorkshire from which country at the start of The Secret Garden? India? Australia? Egypt?
INDIA
9. Which actor served as producer on the 1997 science fiction film Gattaca? Joe Pesci? Danny DeVito? Mel Brooks?
DANNY DEVITO
10. The creative team behind The Goonies reunited two years later to release Monster Squad using the same formula but substituting adventure with horror. True or False?
FALSE (Monster Squad featured an entirely different cast and crew)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Rango / Now You See Me / The Great Gatsby / Rise Of The Guardians
Poster: Nocturnal Animals
Actor: Isla Fisher