Every Con Has Its Pros

Gary Ross

Sandra Bullock
Cate Blanchett
Anne Hathaway
Helena Bonham Carter
Mindy Kaling
Sarah Paulson

The film opens by introducing us to Debbie Ocean [Bullock], the younger sister of notorious conman Danny Ocean (lead character in the 2001 remake Ocean’s Eleven). Having spent five years in prison, she has finally been released and is ready to pull off an extremely ambitious jewellery heist but she figures it will only require a seven person team and a starting capital of $20,000. Debbie recruits long-time partner Lou [Blanchett] to help run the mechanics of the scam, including conscripting individuals with a very particular set of skills. It is then revealed that Ocean’s plan went from a bank heist to multiple bank heists before settling on something extremely challenging: convincing Cartier to release a one hundred and fifty million dollar diamond necklace to be worn by actress Daphne Kluger [Hathaway] at the star-studded New York Met gala.. then steal it.

One of the first things that stands out about this release is the visual separation from the first trilogy. Soderbergh’s films were very slick but very of their time, with deep saturation and high contrast throughout – as much of the early 2000s tended to be with the rise of digital filmmaking. Ocean’s 8 moves away from this and pays simple homage to heist films of the 60s and 70s with tracking pans and zooms that have long fallen out of fashion. This helps not only forge a new identity for this release but also offers a pleasingly simple associative aesthetic. This is accentuated by Daniel Pemberton’s score which bleeds contemporary elements with the bouncing jazzy rhythms of features like The Thomas Crown Affair and The Pink Panther.

While the cast from the first gelled really well and were a formidable ensemble of the time, I would posit that the group gathered here are superior, owing to the fact they are fewer in number, meaning less small-bit tertiary characters to juggle and there isn’t a single weak component among the group. Now, that will be contested but I genuinely feel that everyone’s strengths are largely capitalised on and the streamlining of the assembled team means more of a connection for the audience and less time is taken establishing the characters abilities and skills. The group can be easily broken down into two separate tiers: the veteran actors and the younger wave. On the one hand we have Sandra Bullock being smooth, confident and in control and while that works, I feel her exceptional comic timing is often neglected (but that’s hardly something that needs to be present in every release), there’s also Cate Blanchett who seems to be having more fun than should be allowed, getting away with it devilishly well, Sarah Paulson as the somewhat cautious “I’m out of this life” character that appears in all these releases but proves she is more than capable and Helena Bonham Carter who should be irritating but comes off as a genuinely endearing part of the group. On the other end of the scale we have Awkwafina bringing a youthful energy and cynicism, complimented by a similar dismissive attitude from Rihanna’s character, Mindy Kaling gives a confident performance highlighting her character’s knowledge and expertise and while Anne Hathaway’s performance is initially hyper to the point of cliché, it pivots nicely and rounds out rather well by the film’s close. There are a few subtle legacy cameos that genuinely play out nicely but the less than subtle celebrity cameos ranged from interesting to painfully obvious and, for lack of a better word, cloying.

For a lot of audience members and critics, a sticking point will be the story – entirely centring on its simplicity. For some this will be a neat, slick jaunt that focuses as much on the characters as it does the sleight of hand, while others will find it too simplistic and devoid of complexity. Personally, I am of the former and while I will happily acknowledge the film somewhat suffers from being a touch straightforward and not exactly doing anything new, it is a simple proof of concept, greatly executed with solid twists and decent bread-crumbing while being conscious of new grounded technology. The only problem is that Ocean’s 8 is lacking an element of crescendo and suspense; Bullock’s character feels so in charge and we trust her so implicitly, that at no point is there much in the way of peril or concern that the plan will not be a roaring success. This may sound like a minor point but for me, it’s the film’s biggest flaw. Having said that, any supposed criticisms present here could quite easily be placed at the feet of 2001’s Ocean’s 11, so it could be said that this is merely par for the course and a hazard of sticking to the original formula so succinctly.

Overall, Ocean’s 8 is a smart, funny, entertaining release and, if one can suspend expectations of intricacy and innovation, it embodies everything this kind of blockbuster should be.

Release Date:
22nd June 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
**paragraph full of spoilers**
A heavy amount of the third act rides on an insurance investigator, played by James Corden, dismissing the truth for results; and I take issue with that. After the necklace is revealed to be missing, John Frazier, an independent investigator is assigned to the case and seems aware of the Ocean family’s criminal history, having direct dealings with them in the past. As the film is winding down, we are left wondering if and how they will get away with the fencing of the diamonds. Regrettably, Corden’s part of the story wraps things up a little too quickly and conveniently, with the character himself stating that he doesn’t care about who is responsible, as long as he can get the necklace back. In a film that is genuinely pleasing, this is a particular convenient bugbear that resolves itself far too neatly and jeopardises the suspension of disbelief.

Notable Characters:
As stated earlier, I was truly impressed by the entire ensemble and believe the chemistry between them worked favourably. Having said that, Cate Blanchett really stood out as this film’s forerunner; slick, cool, in charge, playful, stunning wardrobe, she is the embodiment of everything these films aspire to and more. But in truth, is anyone surprised by that?

Highlighted Quote:
“A him gets noticed, a her gets ignored and for once I want to be ignored”

In A Few Words:
“A simple competent heist film that entertains effortlessly and easily proves itself the best Oceans sequel”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #215

[17 June 2018]

Winning Team:
Benedictus Cunninglingus
Genre – An actor’s tongue knows no limits

Runners Up:
Jeremy Irons… His Pants
Genre – Jeremy Irons plays an ancient Japanese vocal coach who teaches Keira Knightley to speak proper via a series of menial household chores
Je N’Ais Pas Un Quiz Nom
Genre – Lingual art-house

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Lone Wolf And Cub films are based on which manga series?
2. In Liar Liar, what is Jim Carrey’s character incapable of doing, thanks to his son’s birthday wish?
3. What is the title of the sequel to Finding Nemo?
4. How many Godfather films have been released to date?
5. Who directed Invictus, Mystic River and The Outlaw Josey Wales?
6. Who played the lead role in Father Of The Bride?
7. Jack Nicholson played the role of Jack Torrence in which horror adaptation?
8. Unbreakable was released in which year?
9. What is the name of Sean Connery’s character in Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade?
10. In which film does Jon Voight play a male prostitute, living with a con man played by Dustin Hoffman?

ROUND II: Filming [British Actors Doing Non-British Accents Special]
1. [Alan Rickman] What is the name of Alan Rickman’s character in Die Hard? Colonel Stuart? Simon Gruber? Hans Gruber?
2. [Benedict Cumberbatch] Which Avenger cameos in the mid-credits sequence at the end of Doctor Strange? Steve Rogers? Thor Odinson? Bruce Banner?
3. [Idris Elba] What is the subtitle to the 2013 biopic, Mandela? Long Walk To Freedom? No Easy Walk To Freedom? Dare Not Linger?
4. [Daniel Day Lewis] Which of the following did not appear in Lincoln? Adam Driver? Andrew Garfield? Joseph Gordon-Levitt?
5. [David Oyelowo] Who directed The Last King Of Scotland? Kevin Macdonald? Neil Marshall? Tony Gilroy?
6. [Daniel Kaluuya] What is Chris’ profession in Get Out? Architect? Waiter? Photographer?
7. [Anthony Hopkins] The Silence Of The Lambs was released in which year? 1990? 1991? 1992?
8. [John Boyega] What is the name of the salt-covered planet with an abandoned rebel base in Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Crait? Dathomir? Jakku?
9. [Kate Winslet] Which director did not act as producer on Stephen Daldry’s The Reader? Anthony Minghella? Sydney Pollack? Neil Jordan?
10. [Daniel Craig] The lead character in the 1998 comic Road To Perdition was drawn with the likeness of Tom Hanks, who was coincidentally cast in the lead role in the 2002 film of the same name. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which film featured Toni Collette, Bryan Cranston, Greg Kinnear and Steve Carell?
2. The 1948 classic Bicycle Thieves is set in which country?
3. The following quote is from which film, “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, you are more than what you have become”?
4. What did Wes Anderson direct in between Rushmore and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou?
5. The Pursuit Of Happyness is set in which decade?
6. Viggo Mortensen appeared in which John Hillcoat adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel?
7. Which universal classic horror film did James Whale direct in 1931?
8. Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal played the co-leads in which 2013 film?
9. Who directed The Tree Of Life?
10. Which child actress/singer appeared in Tim Burton’s 2003 film Big Fish credited under her birth name of Destiny?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What is the title of the Sofia Coppola film about an actor suffering an existential crisis starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning? Nowhere? Everywhere? Somewhere?
2. Which Pixar film doesn’t feature the Pizza Planet delivery truck? Monsters Inc? Finding Nemo? The Incredibles?
3. Which of the following did not star Audrey Hepburn? Send Me No Flowers? Sabrina? Paris When It Sizzles?
4. Who played the lead role in To Kill A Mockingbird? Gregory Peck? Rock Hudson? Cary Grant?
5. The following quote is from which film, “Let me understand. They’d put up all the money, I’d do all the work. But what, if you don’t mind my asking, would you do”? The Wolf Of Wall Street? The Big Lebowski? Schindler’s List?
6. Starred Up predominantly takes place in what kind of building? Factory? Shopping mall? Prison?
7. What was the title of Yasujiro’s Ozu’s final film, released in 1962? An Autumn Afternoon? Good Morning? Tokyo Twilight?
8. 1994’s Legends Of The Fall, starring Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt was originally going to be a starring vehicle for which two actors? Tom Skerritt and Johnny Depp? Sam Elliott and Ben Affleck? Sean Connery and Tom Cruise?
9. Which of the following songs was not covered in the 2015 film Pan? Smells Like Teen Spirit? London Calling? Blitzkrieg Bop?
10. To maintain an authentic performance in Life Is Beautiful, Roberto Benigni insisted that the young Giorgio Cantarini would not be told by the cast or crew that the events taking place weren’t real. True or False?

Screenshots: From Dusk Til Dawn / Frida / Puss In Boots / Across The Universe
Poster: Desperado
Actor: Salma Hayek


The Park Is Gone

JA Bayona

Bryce Dallas Howard
Chris Pratt
Rafe Spall
Isabella Sermon

The story opens three years after the events in Jurassic World, the park is wild and largely reclaimed by nature but opportunists and poachers continue to scavenge from the site in the hopes of getting a jump-start on the bio-technology. Claire Dearing [Howard] is now running a protection group, hoping to save the dinosaurs on the island from a second extinction event as the dormant volcano on Isla Nublar has become active. John Lockwood (portrayed by James Cromwell), the former partner of John Hammond, has put his subordinate Eli Mills [Spall] in charge of a rescue operation to preserve as many species as they can. As the dinosaurs are all chipped, they require Claire’s handprint login to track them, more than that, they have their eye on the only surviving velociraptor and Claire enlists Owen Grady [Pratt] to help but their relationship is strained and Mills’ motives aren’t all that they appear.

Before I go any further, I would like to highlight a quote from The Lost World: Jurassic Park: “Don’t worry, I’m not making the same mistakes again” “No, you’re making all new ones.” This, to me, embodies the core problem with everything that followed Jurassic Park; I genuinely don’t believe any of the four sequels have come close to the original and no matter how often they try and rework the formula, the positive elements crumble under the weight of colossally disappointing or flat-out terrible ones. A lot of the issues here can be attributed to most contemporary blockbusters which prioritise moments over logic and narrative reasoning; usually for marketing purposes. But this leaves us with pleasing developments that work rather well amongst the connective dross that loosely strings them together. Things like the image used in the above poster, the actual moment in the film is remarkably stupid and everything surrounding it defies logic; from Owen meeting up with Claire and Franklin (played as a walking cliché by Justice Smith) despite the size of the island, to discovering the gyrosphere, to the fact that said gyrosphere is avoided by a stampede despite the surrounding environment being demolished, then we have a dinosaur circling the orb trying to eat Owen but then the T-Rex appears to kill the other carnivore only to then run away! It’s all nauseating nonsense reminiscent of that painful dinosaur stampede in Peter Jackson’s King Kong. What does any of this do other than provide a heightened tickbox set-piece? It certainly doesn’t generate suspense as the threat feels phony – and while I always fall back on the James Bond argument (the conceit that it’s not if Bond will get out of peril, it’s how), the lack of coherent progression disconnects the audience from a sense of earned urgency.

On top of that, we have to put up with so many stupid decisions from both the human and dinosaur contingent. People being arrogant and dumb I can understand. A trained hunter who steps into a cage after an animal passes out, assuming it’s completely tranq’d is entering more into a territory of such disbelief that the usual suspension isn’t sufficient. But it still gets a pass because I can maintain that humans can be clouded by their own motivational drives. What I can’t understand is a film that breaks the logic or rules that it establishes. If a science fiction or fantasy film introduces a status quo fact, it cannot then simply ignore it for plot convenience; in this case I am talking about animal inconsistency and the extreme overuse of dino ex machina. Throughout these films we have been told about the patterns of these animals, that they move in herds, that alpha specimens can have influences over others, that they are communicating and breeding, that they are capable of extraordinary acts, etc. And yet whenever we witness these creatures loosed, they conform to stupid human logic. The indoraptor, a refined hybrid that should constitute as a spoiler but it’s in every trailer, is whatever the scene needs it to be at that time: a silent apex predator that can smell prey from a mile away before relentlessly tracking and pursuing it or a moronic beast that is extraordinarily clumsy and can be outrun by a child. It’s lazy writing and has given rise to the “a dinosaur will run in and save the day” cliché which is posing as homage to the closing scene from the first film. This trope has been exploited so much that any time the situation looks dire, I fully expect a T-Rex to silently enter from screen left and bite the problem. Stuck in a lift? No way out and a fire has started in the control panel? *Chomp* T-Rex eats the problem. The two people a character has been crushing on are meeting for the first time and the semi-cute-meet “how do we all know each other” puts him/her in an awkward positon? *Roar* T-Rex creates a distraction and the lead gets to avoid confronting this problem until later in the third act.

What is interesting is that if you scratch away the blockbustery studio mandated components, you are left with a very simple, minimalised story presenting a basic question about the consequences of the advancement of technology – which is very indicative of Michael Crichton’s work. But as stated, this factor is so buried under the mountainous action quota that it becomes a fleeting, scantly revisited set of interesting thought experiments: the ecological philosophy behind saving animals that we manufactured, the concept of government involvement on a private island, the moral culpability and responsibility of those involved, the grey-area difference between exploiting animals for experiments and war over captivity and entertainment, the lengths of meddling with death and resurrection but I’ll expand on all of that later. The truth is, these kinds of issues are usually better left as open-ended conversation starters, like The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror because following something like this to its conclusion will change the face of the established world so much that it will alter the relatability of the grounded world around it. In other words, if you introduce a fantastical element and state that it has been normalised for decades, you cannot say the world will completely mirror our own and while that’s a great launchpad for stories it can quickly deviate to the absurd; for an example, see Independence Day: Resurgence.

Another element that strongly links this feature with the original – and one that Jurassic World didn’t use as well – is the welcome return of extensive animatronic puppetry. It feels like we are finally getting back to a point where computer generated imagery and practical effects can work in harmony, complimenting each other, rather than in direct competition and the film succeeds greatly because of it. There are also fascinating behind the scenes practical technics, such as an outdoor rollercoaster track which was built for the gyrosphere descent over a cliff-edge, generating a genuine reaction of both fear and gravity on the body. But as much as I love the ingenuity and creativity of this kind of filmmaking, it’s brutalised and all but lost in fast-paced editing and a frankly absurd sequence devoid of consequence. And that’s why I’ve rated this film the way I have; so many technical aspects are working exceptionally well, the cinematography is great, Michael Giacchino’s score gives us enough new material to evolve the familiar themes, the practical and digital effects are genuinely impressive, make-up, costumes, set design, all of them are performing at peak levels but the story fails them every single time. If I was rating on story alone, this film would be a travesty but the amount of work that has gone into its execution is truly praiseworthy.

The prospect of a zoo-like environment failing is a terrifying and relatable prospect and one which illustrates man’s arrogance when it comes to controlling environments. Zoos, circuses, theme parks, things we create for our amusement at the expense of something wild is a playground for What If fiction and while this film follows the same lines it is somehow less rewarding and stretches into fantasy territory. As stated earlier, I believe this is a problem with the nature of Michael Crichton’s work and why the only sequels and follow-ups he produced were at the pressure and behest of others rather than from a creative desire to further a story. And yet it’s not impossible, the “where do you go from here” is not out of our reach and to prove that, one need only look to the Planet Of The Apes prequels. The major difference there is that the story gave us a very emotionally relatable core along with ground-breaking motion capture techniques, to the degree that we were vested in the non-human story more than the one we would traditionally empathise with. But Jurassic Park isn’t those films, it’s always billed as a monster movie and as much as they push this “Blue is the chosen one” storyline, it’s not sticking because through both the performance and circumstance, I simply don’t buy the connection.

At the end of the day, Fallen Kingdom is another instalment in a long line of mediocre continuations that brings very little to the series but the way this one ends gives me the impression that we will get something very new next time – whether that will be positive or not, remains to be seen.

Release Date:
8th June 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
**extreme spoilers throughout this whole section**
The film closes pretty much back where it started, with the moral quandary of do these creatures deserve a chance to live again or have the repeated incidents highlighted that this is simply a bad idea which needs to be stopped at all costs. Having spent the majority of the film weighing the options, Claire makes the decision to not save the dinosaurs and in a rather traumatic gas chamber sequence, we have a Toy Story 3 fake-out, leading audiences to believe that they may witness something surprisingly adult in this relatively light action fare. And in that moment, the doors open and the dinosaurs are unleashed on California. With a town in running distance, several species of herbivore and carnivore are let loose on a completely unprepared environment and populace. As the camera pans, we reveal Lockwood’s granddaughter Maisie [Sermon] has activated the door, explaining that these animals deserve the chance to live. And my face immediately contorted into some twisted mesh of disgust and outrage and my internal monologue screamed, “What the fuck!? You made the wrong choice kid! Who.. who the fuck put the child in charge!?” If you’re reading this, I’ll assume you know the movie’s big twist, that Lockwood’s granddaughter is in fact a clone of Lockwood’s deceased daughter, which understandably caused a rift between Hammond and Lockwood. This is a development that I have such contention with. On the one hand, it’s a fascinating and natural evolution of where this technology could and would progress to but on the other it steps away from the simplicity of “park goes offline, animals get out” but doesn’t give it enough time to really develop into anything rewarding enough. Maisie’s justification for her action is to compare the dinosaur’s right to exist with that of her own; again, another HUGE moral quandary that this film has done so little to explore. But it’s all irrelevant, Maisie pressing the button is symbolic of a franchise that has never really worked outside of the first and should be left to die but the kids have voted and regardless of consequence, they have demanded more.

Notable Characters:
There isn’t one human character I have liked in these last two Jurassic Park films. Say what you will about The Lost World and Jurassic Park III at least they had Goldblum or Neill entertaining us with their expertise and cantankerous observations. What do we get? Owen fucking Grady. Pratt’s character continues to be the worst in the entire Jurassic Park franchise – yeah, I’m including Paul Bowman and Amanda Kirby in that. A lot of larger than life personalities have made their mark on this series and sometimes their absurdity can elevate the film. But Grady is a mess, he is consistently selfish yet superheroic in his actions, not to mention the fact he’s practically immortal. Without meaning to sound ridiculous, he is a representation of how America sees itself, a lone hero fighting against the odds for a little peace and quiet; you know, a real conservative wet-dream. But at no point does the character or the film really acknowledge that this charming yet outdated cowboy archetype is the villain. Owen trains the raptors but refuses to accept responsibility that his work could/would be imitated by others, his interactions with other humans devolves to that of a thuggish child and his plot-armour driven “I don’t know what I’m doing but this will work out” attitude puts everyone at risk but never fails so nothing is learned. And this isn’t the case of another Peter Quill because that individual experienced genuine arrested development and culture shock through displacement, this is an ex-military individual who works with animals but displays the tendencies of someone who simply doesn’t live in the real world. And when you have a film that is filled with genetically resurrected dinosaurs, you need lots of real world to make the Jurassic bit work.

Highlighted Quote:
“Change is like death, you don’t know what it looks like until you’re standing at the gates”

In A Few Words:
“As with every other Jurassic Park sequel, there are lots of interesting questions asked but all of them take a back-seat to some fairly uninspired action sequences”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #214

[03 June 2018]

Winning Team:
Dial V For Vagina
Genre – Hitchcockian thriller starring Vin Diesel, Val Kilmer and Vanessa Redgrave abusing touch tone phones

Runners Up:
V For Vertical Vertigo Valerian Root Limit
Genre – James Stewart cures insomnia with valerian root from Everest
Victorious Vengeance Of A Veritable Variety Of Vicious Virgin Vixens On A Vacation In Vancouver
Genre – Documentary
Tommy Quizzo
Genre – “It’s our first time, please be our friends”
Just Ronin (From Dinosaurs)
Genre – Japanese lapsed Samurai/prehistoric action mash-up
Dr Strangeglover
Genre – Haberdashery comedy

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the title of the feature-length Simpsons movie?
2. Who directed Saving Private Ryan?
3. Who plays the role of Doc Brown in Back To The Future?
4. The second Die Hard is set in what kind of building?
5. How many emotions are working the controls in Riley’s head in Inside Out?
6. What is the subtitle of the sequel to Speed?
7. Which Star Wars film first featured the character Darth Maul?
8. What is the name of Will Smith’s character in Men In Black?
9. What was the name of the film adaptation of the TV series Firefly, directed by Joss Whedon?
10. Which actor has played the roles of Reggie Kray, Max Rockatansky and Bane?

ROUND II: Filming [Films Beginning With V Special]
1. V For Vendetta is set in which city? New York? Paris? London?
2. Which of the following characters does Van Helsing not fight in the 2004 action film Van Helsing? Mr Hyde? The Wolf Man? The Mummy?
3. Which of the following films is a remake? Vanilla Sky? Valentine’s Day? Vacancy?
4. A Very Long Engagement is set during which military conflict? US Civil War? World War I? World War II?
5. Varsity Blues, the high school football comedy drama starring James Van Der Beek, Paul Walker and Jon Voight, was released in which year? 1993? 1996? 1999?
6. Which of the following does not appear in M Night Shyamalan’s The Village? Jesse Eisenberg? Brendan Gleeson? James McAvoy?
7. What is John Ferguson’s (played by Jimmy Stewart) nickname in Vertigo? Scottie? Randy? Alfie?
8. Who directed Vera Drake? Ken Loach? Anthony Minghella? Mike Leigh?
9. What was the poster tagline for the 1960 film Village Of The Damned? Beware the stare that will paralyse the will of the world? Run, hide, you cannot escape the might and power of these cursed children? Dare you visit?
10. Luc Besson wrote a six hundred page book on the two hundred different alien races created for Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets and asked actors to read it so they would know who or what they were interacting with. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Name all the crew members of the Jupiter II in Lost In Space (one point per correct answer)
2. How many Species films have been cinematically released to date?
TWO (Species III and The Awakening were made-for-TV)
3. The following quote is from which film, “I have a microphone and you don’t so you will listen to ever damn word I have to say”?
4. What was the title of the 2006 remake of The Poseidon Adventure?
5. How many casinos are being simultaneously robbed in Ocean’s 11?
6. Who played the lead roles in 1998’s Practical Magic? (one point per correct answer)
7. What is the name of Liam Neeson’s gang in Gangs Of New York?
8. Who voiced the role of Ozone, a sphynx cat in The Secret Life Of Pets?
9. Who appeared in The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers, The Aviator and How To Train Your Dragon 2?
10. Gravity was released in which year?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following films was not entirely shot on 70mm film? Hamlet (1996)? The Master (2012)? Dunkirk (2017)?
DUNKIRK (which was shot on 65mm large film stock)
2. Which Planet Of The Apes prequels features the repairing of a hydroelectric dam? Rise Of The POTA? Dawn Of The POTA? War For The POTA?
3. Platoon was released in which year? 1981? 1986? 1990?
4. The following quote is from which film, “Now you listen to me; we all have a destiny. Things don’t just happen, it’s all part of a plan”? High Plains Drifter? Forrest Gump? Selma?
5. In Muppets Treasure Island, the role of Benjamin Gunn is portrayed by which Muppet? Fozzie Bear? Sam Eagle? Miss Piggy?
6. Which of the following accolades was not presented to Les Miserables? Golden Globe for Best Picture – Musical or Comedy? American Film Institute Top 10 Films Of The Year? Academy Award for Best Picture?
7. Which of the main cast on Bram Stoker’s Dracula doesn’t play multiple roles? Richard E Grant? Anthony Hopkins? Winona Ryder?
8. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Mischief. Mayhem. Soap”? Mean Machine? Fight Club? Flushed Away?
9. What is the title of the Carry On film parodying westerns? Carry On Cowboy? Carry On Partner? Carry On Ma’am?
10. Dustin Hoffman, Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Dalton starred in a film about Agatha Christie’s missing days. True or False?

Screenshots: You’ve Got Mail / Stuart Little / Dallas Buyers Club / War For The Planet Of The Apes
Poster: Sahara
Actor: Steve Zahn


A Star Wars Story

Ron Howard

Alden Ehrenreich
Donald Glover
Joonas Suotamo
Emilia Clarke
Woody Harrelson
Paul Bettany

Set years before the events of Star Wars, we are introduced to a young impoverished Han [Ehrenreich], making his way on the Imperial controlled planet Corellia with his girlfriend and accomplice, Qi’ra [Clarke]. Han manages to escape but Qi’ra is trapped and as she is dragged away, Han vows to return and save her. To avoid being caught, Han takes on the new surname of Solo and enlists with the Empire. Years later, caught up in a siege on an alien world, Solo meets a group of thieves, led by the charming but dastardly Tobias Beckett [Harrelson], and bargains his way on to their latest heist with the help of a newly-liberated slave, Chewbacca [Suotamo].

Before we crack on with this review, we need to cover a bit of history. In addition to the central saga of Star Wars films, Disney announced they were going to be releasing anthology stories that explored established characters and introduced all new characters, planets and factions. Thus far, we have had Rogue One which was a big success but recently it has been revealed how much of a nightmare the production was – which came across through the plot-holes, heavy reshoots and trailers littered with footage that never appeared in the film. But Solo goes back further as George Lucas was working on the idea for this film before he sold the Star Wars property to Disney; which makes a lot of sense considering Lucas’ obsession with connecting a vast universe to a handful of individuals. Directors Lord and Miller were put in charge of the project but heavily argued they were making an improv-heavy straight comedy, leading to them being effectively fired six months into the shoot. This resulted in Ron Howard being brought in to reshoot a good 70% of the film with an established cast and script. You may be asking the relevance of all this but it is important because for everything that went wrong behind the scenes on this film, it’s a genuine testament to everyone involved that a) the movie was completed and b) it came out as decently as it did. Problems and conflicts of this nature cause ruptures that bleed into the film itself and doom it to failure before it’s even released, add a mixed-bag tone and the hand of Lucas (who, may have birthed this universe but is the culprit of some of its most hideous mistakes) and it could quite easily be an utter travesty but what they have salvaged here is extremely agreeable.

Unlike something along the lines of Blade Runner 2049, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull or even The Force Awakens, Solo has the frankly impossible task of replicating through recasting; less a handoff and more a comparative piece which rarely sits well with audiences and their myriad preconceptions. To my mind, the most recent example of a successfully duplicated property counterpart is actually Star Trek and for the most part Solo performs admirably. Admittedly, of the new cast members, the highest levels of scrutiny will be reserved for Ehrenreich and Glover. Although it didn’t come over brilliantly in the marketing material, Ehrenreich conveys the necessary confidence and swagger that Harrison Ford brings to almost every role but the iconic sardonic cynicism (verging on bored apathy) is absent. I can understand the logic for this, as a bitter older man is hardly born bitter, but there was a fear that this would fail to generate the familiarity audiences have with the character. Thankfully, Ehrenreich performs commendably and with enough charm to bring a new side to the character – in the same way that Ewan McGregor did in the prequels. Purists will never be satisfied but for an impossible task, he’s come out in a strong place. Then we have Donald Glover as Lando, the role famously performed by Billy Dee Williams. Glover is not only the obvious casting choice, he is the reason I wanted to see this film. The man does such a wonderful job of bringing the smooth, charismatic and self-assured pirate to life and my only complaint is that his role was so small. I may not have cared for a Solo spin-off (because how much story is left to tell?) but a Lando film charting the story of pirate to captain of industry to military general, starring Glover? I would be first in line.

**quite a few spoilers toward the end of this paragraph**
For all the positives, this film is far from devoid of faults. Any feature picked up midway by a new creative will cause an immediate clash of directing styles and is going to feel a little jumbled no matter the talent involved. Subsequently, there is a lot of fallout that never gets properly resolved, from small things like the excessive use of conversational transitions (where a conversation starts in one place and is finished in the next scene in an entirely new location) to a subplot about droid rights which is interesting but is also weirdly – and somewhat dismissively – executed. The most apparent example of this unsettling air of unevenness is in the supporting characterisation; specifically Dryden Vos and Enfys Nest. While I would highlight both as really solid performances and interesting characters, their existence feels like the product of adjustment and course correction. Firstly we have Paul Bettany, who plays the gangster villain Vos well, but his threat level degrades quickly to the point of irrelevance. It has been mentioned that the original actor was intended to be brought to life as a motion-capture alien-humanoid but scheduling conflicts led to the entire part being rewritten and Bettany being brought on board. For an example of what I mean, Vos is described as a formidable force who will hunt you to the end of the universe for crossing him but not only is he outfoxed by a simple deception, his supposedly vast army is merely a dozen easily tricked subordinates. Speaking of which, both Beckett and Vos have an adversary in the form of marauders led by the heavily armoured Enfys Nest. Now, I know the Enfys Nest identity reveal was supposed to be “but you’re just a kid” but because of Star Wars lore and the importance placed on bloody parents and siblings, I was expecting something bigger and more connected; that this is Phasma’s mother or something stupid. Admittedly the disconnected nature of Jyn Erso in Rogue One should have taught audiences not to expect these threads of association but Star Wars fans can’t help but draw patterns and links where there are none. And while I could have left that as it was, as the seeds of something yet to come, the film then dismisses that entire mindset with the BIG reveal (the one that was pushed throughout with coy mentions of “you know who I work for” and “there are more dangerous people in this galaxy than Dryden Vos” etc) which couldn’t be more connected to the expanded universe and will be such a huge talking point for fans.

While several creative changes may have shifted during production, one that would have been past the point of no return is the production design. The amount of work, effort and money that goes in to getting things like costume and casting sorted is a very difficult train to derail but in fairness, the level of detail and design that has gone into the world building/expansion is extremely positive and praiseworthy. Nothing on this film feels rushed or cheap, every frame is flowing with intrigue and oddities – as all Star Wars films should. On top of that, everything is shot beautifully and Bradford Young has done a wondrous job created a dark, murky side of space largely unseen in the main saga. And, as with the casting, John Powell has the extremely unenviable task of making his mark on the Star Wars brand and what we are given with the musical score is perfectly fitting, the John Williams recycling is to be expected but the Marauders theme was particularly pleasing.

I said in my review for The Last Jedi that these indulgence pieces are for anyone who wants to savour nostalgia over progress (not an attack, just an observation) and would a story about Han Solo’s younger years appease, assuage or entertain them? In truth, I don’t know the answer. I feel there are probably too many unanswered questions, a wall of irritating sequel secrets and future developments have been erected but who knows how, when or if they will be addressed and the overall narrative could be described as predictable, formulaic and straight-forward with a tick-box of character components based on peripheral props and throwaway lines three 40 year old films. And yet it works. There are things that mainstream audiences may find uninteresting or convoluted (in terms of delving into the expanded universe) and there will be contradictions, alterations and inclusions that will irk hardcore Star Wars fans. To my mind, this film achieves the insurmountable by taking an extremely well-known character and producing a fun space pirating romp in spite of all the production dramas but the problem with all prequels is that they remove the veil of mystery and quantify the sum parts, leaving us with answers that can feel unfulfilling, like an explorer completing a map and realising there is no more unknown left to discover.

Release Date:
25th May 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
One of the main exciting set-pieces chocked with visual flare and high-stakes adventure is the Kessel Run; a maelstrom of space storms surrounding several resource-rich planets. Navigation of this particular sector of space is extremely difficult due to the multiple hyperspace jumps that need to be precisely co-ordinated, or face obliteration at the mercy of the unknown. On paper this is great science fiction stuff paired with classic high-seas adventure writing. And yet, the reason I am highlighting it, is the obsession of making things fit. Almost every single aspect of the expanded universe stems from a small handful of lines uttered in the original films and one of those is Han’s claim to Luke Skywalker that the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs.” When it was pointed out years later that this is in fact erroneous, fans made it work, concocting a workaround which define the Kessel Run as an example of Han’s expertise as a pilot, rather than his speed. Admittedly, it strengthens the character but also causes the bite of the original statement to feel a touch lacklustre.. and all because George Lucas didn’t understand a parsec measures distance not time. The knock on effect of such a simple screenwriting action in the late 1970s is truly astonishing.

Notable Characters:
In a strange way, the only returning member of the principal cast is Suotamo as Chewbacca – as he worked with his counterpart Peter Mayhew on the most recent Star Wars films. Not only does he perform admirably on his own in this outing, we experience more of a connection between Han and Chewie than han and Qi’ra; something I should be miffed about but ultimately works because that’s the relationship we know and wanted to see more of.

Highlighted Quote:
“You just lost the canon.. and I really hurt my thumbs”

In A Few Words:
“A rather impressive feat considering the production difficulties and while it is fairly tame and vanilla, it adds enough to the Star Wars universe to warrant its own existence”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #213

[20 May 2018]

Winning Team:
The Frozen Thing That Came In From The Cold
Genre – A lonely alien seeks warm hugs from a friendly snowman

Runners Up:
Winters Boner… With Sexy Results
Genre – J-Law has to row to the middle of a frozen lake to saw off her dead father’s penis in order to prove he is in fact dead
Chilly Willy Bang Bang
Genre – Arnold Schwarzenegger revisits his role as Mr Freeze in this drama where his cock has frozen and the only to thaw it out is to fly around in a magic car shouting ice-based puns until laughter unfreezes it.. or something
Let’s Kick Some Ice
Genre – Pun-based action comedy
Cold Finger
Genre – Spy comedy

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of the U-boat that Lt Andrew Tyler commandeers in U-571?
2. How many National Treasure films (starring Nicolas Cage) have been released to date?
3. What is Thor’s weapon of choice in the MCU films?
4. Rey, Kylo Ren and Han Solo are characters in which film?
5. What is the name of the future leader of the resistance in the Terminator franchise?
6. What was the title of Daniel Craig’s first James Bond film?
7. Which film followed Jurassic Park III in the Jurassic Park franchise?
8. Who played the title role in Laurence Of Arabia?
9. What is the name of Bill and Ted’s band in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure?
10. Who directed Rear Window?

ROUND II: Filming [Freezing Cold Special]
***9000th Question Asked!!***:
1. Manny, Sid and Diego are the main characters in which animated franchise? Shrek? The Smurfs? Ice Age?
2. What is the title of the Liam Neeson film about oil workers suffering a plane crash and hunted by wolves? The Night? The Hunt? The Grey?
3. The Day After Tomorrow was released in which year? 2002? 2004? 2006?
4. What is the name of Frances McDormand’s character in Fargo? Molly Solverson? Marge Gunderson? Peggy Blumquist?
5. Which of the following did not appear in Alive? Christian Slater? Ethan Hawke? John Malkovich?
6. Who directed Doctor Zhivago? Richard Attenborough? David Lean? Robert Wise?
7. The following quote is from which film, “I’m the kind of man who likes to know who’s buying their drinks”? Groundhog Day? Mystery, Alaska? The Shining?
8. Which Charlie Chaplin film predominantly takes place in a cabin during a blizzard? Limelight? The Gold Rush? The Circus?
9. Who directed Dersu Uzala, a 1975 film about Russian wilderness explorer Vladimir Arsenyev? Alfred Hitchcock? Ingmar Bergman? Akira Kurosawa?
10. In China, Disney’s Frozen is called Mo Syut Kei Yun, which translates from Cantonese to Enchanted Snow Tales. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which film featured Demi Moore, Keifer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Kevin Pollack and Jack Nicholson?
2. Which Disney animated feature was released in 1997?
3. What is the number printed on Herbie’s bonnet in The Love Bug?
4. Jim Carrey played the role of Stanley Ipkiss in which film?
5. 13 Going On 30, starring Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo was released in which year?
6. Which Mission: Impossible film features a scene that takes place in the Kremlin?
7. What is the name of Wade Wilson’s girlfriend in Deadpool?
8. Who worked as producer on E.T., Arachnophobia, Jurassic Park and Rogue One?
9. What did Christopher Nolan direct in 2000?
10. Who appeared in Chaplin, Nixon, Contact, John Carpenter’s Vampires and Scary Movie 2?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Complete the lyrics for this Jungle Book song, “By the ranks or single file, over every jungle mile, oh we stomp and crush through the underbrush…” Of this there can be no denial? In a military style? Using our cunning and guile?
2. What was the title of James Gunn’s directorial debut? Slimmer? Super? Slither?
3. Henry Hill, Karen Hill, James Conway and Tommy DeVito are the lead characters in which film? Scarface? Once Upon A Time In America? Goodfellas?
4. Which of the following films did not feature Robert Downey Jnr? Weird Science? Richard III? Ant-Man?
5. Who directed The Three Amigos? Harold Ramis? John Landis? Mel Brooks?
6. Which of the following has never played a king? Colin Farrell? Steve Coogan? John Goodman?
STEVE COOGAN (Colin Farrell – Alexander The Great / John Goodman – King Ralph)
7. What is the name of Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun? Nick Bradshaw? Pete Mitchell? Sam Wells?
8. The following quote is from which film, “Most of the miseries of the world were caused by wars and when they were over, no one ever knew what they were about”? The Hurt Locker? Spartacus? Gone With The Wind?
9. Which instalment of The Godfather trilogy made the most at the box office? The Godfather? The Godfather Part II? The Godfather Part III?
THE GODFATHER (The Godfather $245mil / The Godfather Part II $193mil / The Godfather Part III $136mil)
10. In Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, there was a scene which depicted Johnny Depp’s character shaving William H Macy’s head. However it was not in the final film because the footage was lost in transit and there wasn’t adequate time for Macy’s hair to grow back for a reshoot. True or False?

Screenshots: Cape Fear / Hulk / Tropic Thunder / Noah
Poster: 48 Hrs
Actor: Nick Nolte


From The Studio That Killed Wolverine

David Leitch

Ryan Reynolds
Josh Brolin
Julian Dennison
Zazie Beetz
Morena Baccarin

Following the events of Deadpool, Wade Wilson [Reynolds] has taken several high profile international contracts, executing various elements of the criminal underworld. One particular druglord locks himself in a panic room and, having escaped his fate, pays a visit to Wade’s home. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just jump ahead with the story. Finally convinced to join the X-Men, Deadpool’s first mission involves an out-of-control young mutant named Russell [Dennison], who is threatening to burn down the orphanage he resides in and everyone in charge of it. We later learn that Cable [Brolin], a powerful mutant from the future, has travelled back in time in an attempt to kill Russell before he can become a force for evil in the coming years. In order to stop this from happening, Deadpool must unite a team of unlikely heroes, including Domino [Beetz], a woman whose superpower is being incredibly lucky.

Throughout this review, several highlighted points will feel like they are circling the same all-encompassing flaw within this film: repetition. As odd as this may sound, considering it was a commercial and critical success, Shrek 2 suffered in the same way when it embodied the very thing it was lampooning. The trouble is that something created as a means to poke fun at a huge franchise or genre pieces will eventually perpetrate the same weaknesses it initially spurned in other releases; like an independent coffee shop growing to become a successful chain – the product is the same but you can’t take the moral ground of being different when you eventually operate in the same manner. Now, I will openly admit, this is a bit of an exaggeration for Deadpool 2. It is, for all intents and purposes, a very fun, enjoyable and well-crafted film but there are simply far too many call-backs and when it does something new or bold, it works beautifully but when it lazily plays it safe, the whole thing falls flat. The degree and frequency to which audiences will tolerate or even notice this, will vary.

Stepping away from the negative for a second, Deadpool 2 manages to do something quite impressive by providing genuine emotional heft among the sea of sophomoric jokes. The majority of this stems from the new characters and the performances given and by grounding the story to something personal and contained, rather than escalating to tackle some global threat. Characters like Russell and Cable are extremely well suited to be paired with someone like Deadpool. On the one hand, you have a foul-mouthed, hot-headed child looking for both revenge and somewhere to belong. While one wouldn’t immediately assign the moniker of mentor to a character like Deadpool, Russell’s presence and influence certainly has a somewhat maturing effect on the lead and the role seems almost custom-built for Dennison after his performance in Hunt For The Wilderpeople. Cable is also a classic pairing for Wade, as he was in the comics, due to his sneering, no-nonsense veneer and complete deadpan straightness to Deadpool’s hyperactive eccentricity. With Brolin so recently performing exceptionally as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, Cable feels a little basic and undemanding but equally, this character in this particular capacity is meant to be much more straightforward and simplistic. As for the other new cast, I will come back to them later.

Despite greatly enjoying the new additions to the cast, the film doesn’t really know what to do with its established characters. Sure, they all make an appearance and have a few solid moments but they are mostly shifted to the side-line. Frankly, with an ensemble sequel, this is to be somewhat expected and I wouldn’t have drawn such significant attention to it, if it weren’t for Vanessa. In my synopsis, I side-stepped a rather large development: Vanessa is killed before the opening credits. I am horribly conflicted by this because on one hand, I appreciate that there was little else to do with her character arc and their relationship presents an issue for the story in its current state (see every superhero’s significant other.. ever), I will also acknowledge the emotional and motivational push that it generates for Wade. However, we have a phrase for that and it is “woman in the fridge.” Every effort seems to be made to make Vanessa’s death both meaningful and justifiable and Baccarin continues to perform commendably but for a film that calls out other films for these kinds of developments, it’s a sloppy move and one that I can irritatingly understand but did not enjoy.

Much like the first film, Deadpool 2 is a really impressive technical achievement with so much being achieved with arguably limited resources (compared to other blockbusters). In truth, I could take a jab at the CGI being ropey at times but for the most part it is handled decently, so we’ll overlook that. Leitch’s direction is perfectly fine and the choice to keep the story grounded and gritty serves both the character and this spin-off series very well but it never elevates or presents us with anything truly standout. Finally we have the sound design, which works extremely well but is marred by Tyler Bates’ extremely temperate score. I’ve noticed that Bates turns up and either produces something memorable and impressive or completely forgettable and compared to Junkie XL’s Michael Jackson inspired tones, this offering doesn’t feel as noteworthy. Having said that, the facetious choral music used during the third act fight scene outside the orphanage was extremely amusing and lambasted the genre’s musical tropes brilliantly.

Much like the nitpicking of MCU features, it’s easy to forget that this film shouldn’t exist and what we’re seeing is really down to a handful of dogged individuals fighting for a subversive property they truly believe in. As such, I hold this feature to high standards, things that could be overlooked or dismissed are magnified because they have already proven themselves capable of producing something better. If I’m not making my hyperbolic point clearly, a half-decent DCEU film feels like a spectacular victory whereas a Marvel film that stumbles even a little, feels like a potentially devastating **. Neither is true and yet we are often left with this impression thanks to what came before. This whole thing rides on the shoulders and charisma of Ryan Reynolds and that man continues to carry this whole thing magnificently and yet a parallel can be drawn bet ween the film itself and the Deadpool rap remix during the end credits: it’s effectively the same thing and Deadpool fans will love it regardless but for those of us who want this sub-genre of self-aware critical scolding to continue elevating and challenging the industry standards, it’s playing it a little too safe, holding a few too many punches and indulging in a few too many hypocritical tropes. I still appreciate everything this film does, I just wanted it to be better.

Release Date:
18th May 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
During the last wave of trailers, we were told that the team X-Force would be a major factor, with several recognisable cast names. Pretty much everything surrounding X-Force was wonderful. From the interview process, to the inclusion of regular-guy Peter but most importantly the fact that all bar Domino and Deadpool are killed off because of Deadpool’s incompetence and arrogance. It’s a brilliant move and the exact kind of thing one would expect and hope for from this release. I genuinely didn’t care for killing off Vanessa but introducing a handful of powerful mutants and taking them out a few minutes later was brilliant. Annoyingly, one of the better jokes was completely ruined. One of the recruits is an invisible individual named Vanisher. For a while you’re not sure if he’s real or not but then there’s a parachute flying by itself and we realise he is indeed part of the team. As he dies we get a glimpse of who the character is and he audience are both shocked and elated that it’s none other than Brad Pitt. At least, that would be the case if it weren’t for the terrible CGI, silent reaction and quick edit away from it, leaving audiences both confused and not entirely sure if they saw some random guy or indeed Brad Pitt. I’m all for blink and you’ll miss it cameos (Alan Tudyk has one, as do the rest of the young X-Men cast) but if you can’t savour the inclusion then you have to wonder what was the point?

Notable Characters:
**more spoilers**
Zazie Beetz is marvellous as Domino, her powers are a wonderful partnering for Deadpool, as the various lucky developments leave her as invincible as Wilson himself. Able to hold her own with the merc with a mouth and a genuine on-screen force to be reckoned with, I would love to see her return in a more pronounced capacity; which I can easily see future films doing. I was also impressed with the arguable main villain. While in prison, Russell befriends the “biggest guy in the icebox” and we are left wondering which character it will be. When it is eventually revealed that the character in question is in fact Juggernaut, I was very pleased; giving audiences a better iteration than the laughable Vinnie Jones in X-Men: The Last Stand.

Highlighted Quote:
“Listen to the pain, it’s both history teacher and fortune teller”

In A Few Words:
“I feel this will be a divisive release but for the most part it will please fans of both the first film and the source material”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #212

[06 May 2018]

Winning Team:
X-Men: The Last Stand-Up
Genre – Lovely Hugh Jackman stabs Brett Ratner before he can tell any more obnoxious sexist jokes

Runners Up:
What Andy Kaufman Did On Father’s Day
Genre – Andy visits his father and learns the value of banana skins
The Last Stand Up
Genre – Action comedy
Truth Or Dare (To Win This Quiz)
Genre – Horror(bly bad at quizzes)
Bring Me The Head Of Michael Macintyre
Genre – Both a gritty drama and an actual request
Dumb, Dumber & Even Dumber
Genre – Comedy horror
The Punvengers: Comedy War
Genre – The world’s greatest stand-up comedians fight to end bad puns and sarcasm, the lowest form of wit and source of all evil

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Saying what word three times conjures Michael Keaton’s character in Beetlejuice?
2. What is the title of the sequel to Now You See Me?
3. The animated feature, Anastasia, is set in which country?
4. What colour is Alice’s dress in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland?
5. Heath Ledger played William Thatcher in which medieval action film?
6. Who played the respective lead roles in The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and Planet Of The Apes?
7. Which animal stalks Black Lake in 1999’s Lake Placid?
8. Guy Ritchie directed Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill in which adaptation of a 1960s TV show?
9. Name the two lead actors in 2013’s R.I.P.D. (one point per correct answer)
10. How many Cloverfield films have been released to date?

ROUND II: Filming [Films With Stand Up Comedians Special]
1. [Jerry Seinfeld] What was the name of the animated film starring and written by Jerry Seinfeld? Antz? A Bug’s Life? Bee Movie?
2. [Richard Pryor] Which Superman film features the villain Ross Webster? Superman III? Superman IV: The Quest For Peace? Superman Returns?
3. [Rodney Dangerfield] Who directed Caddyshack? Ivan Reitman? Harold Ramis? James L Brooks?
4. [Whoopi Goldberg] Ghost was released in which year? 1988? 1990? 1992?
5. [Eddie Izzard] Which of the following actors did not appear in Valkyrie? Joseph Fiennes? Bill Nighy? Kenneth Branagh?
6. [Steve Martin] Steve Martin’s first lead feature role was in which film? The Jerk? The Man With Two Brains? Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid?
7. [George Carlin] How many films feature in the Cars cinematic franchise? 5? 6? 7?
FIVE (Cars / Cars 2 / Cars 3 / Planes / Planes: Fire And Rescue)
8. [Robin Williams] The following quote is from which film, “Listen, I’d love to chat but I gotta climb a drainpipe right now”? Mrs Doubtfire? Flubber? Hook?
9. [Eddie Murphy] In Coming To America, Eddie Murphy plays Akeem, the crown prince of which fictional African nation? Nibia? Zamunda? Nambutu?
ZAMUNDA (Nibia – Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls / Nambutu – Casino Royale)
10. [Lee Evans] In The Fifth Element, the voice of Finger, Korben Dallas’ old army buddy, was voiced by Vin Diesel. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which film starred Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Kyle Chandler, Chris Pratt and James Gandolfini?
2. Who directed the 1986 film, She’s Gotta Have It?
3. My Big Fat Greek Wedding was released in which year?
4. The following quote is from which film, “This house is clean”?
5. Which country (federal constitutional monarchy) is Chuck flying to when the plane goes down in Cast Away?
6. Name the two lead actors in 1973’s The Sting (one point per correct answer)
7. In which film do Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell and George MacKay play brothers?
8. What did Christian Bale appear in in between A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Shaft?
9. What is the title of the pseudo-sequel to Knocked Up?
10. Who played the lead role in David Fincher’s The Game?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Who played the antagonist, Pascal Edward Sauvage in Johnny English? Dominic West? John Malkovich? Jean Reno?
2. Which Fast And Furious film features a heist scene with a giant vault being dragged through the streets of Rio de Janeiro? 2 Fast 2 Furious? Fast Five? Furious 7?
3. What did Tony Scott direct in between Spy Game and Domino? Man On Fire? Deja Vu? Out Of Time?
4. Which of the following did not appear in 2014 comedy Say When (or Laggies) starring Keira Knightly? Chloe Grace Moretz? Sam Rockwell? Cillian Murphy?
5. What is the name of Damien’s nanny in The Omen? Miss Frye? Mrs Baylock? Mrs Drake?
6. The following quote is from which film, “You’re nothing, you’re nobody, you’re a stupid dream. Well all dreams come to an end”? Vanilla Sky? Mulholland Drive? Total Recall?
7. Which studio produced/distributed Jaws? 20th Century Fox? Universal? Paramount?
8. The Angry Birds Movie was made on a budget of $73 million dollars. How much did it make at the box office? $75mil? 350mil? $700mil?
$350mil ($352.3 million)
9. A Fistful Of Dollars was released in which year? 1960? 1964? 1968?
10. The scenes set in Denmark, in Out Of Africa, were filmed in Norfolk. True or False?

Screenshots: War For The Planet Of The Apes / Anger Management / No Country For Old Men / The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Poster: Natural Born Killers
Actor: Woody Harrelson


Anthony Russo
Joe Russo

Chris Evans
Robert Downey Jr
Chris Hemsworth
Josh Brolin

After several cameos and teaser appearances, Thanos [Brolin] has finally enacted his grand plan to unite the mighty, universe altering, infinity stones, attach them to his gauntlet and restore balance to the universe by wiping out half of its populace. As the stones have been housed in various locations throughout the established Marvel plane, his dark quest means he will have to go through the Guardians Of The Galaxy, the Avengers and all their allies along the way. At its heart, this movie is actually comprised of a handful of simple set pieces and immense character jostling but the weight behind the legacy of the back catalogue of films is present and elevates the whole. And this is something that a lot of imitators have never been able to replicate: momentum. Like a train hurtling at increasing speeds, the longer it’s on its track, the more power and built up energy it accumulates, giving it more of an overwhelming appearance. Sticking with that analogy for a second, a train thundering through a station at high speeds is pretty impressive but one that doesn’t slow down and flies past with tonnes of haulage, rattling the nearby structures is a fearsome spectacle. And that’s very much what this feature is, more spectacle and experience than conventional narrative; which is both the best and worst aspect of its existence.

As with every review I pen, this will be more of a post-viewing analysis than a spoiler free tease; this is to ensure that I can justify, in detail, where a film succeeds or fails. Naturally, this film has been heavily marketed to ensure its secrets are kept but this review will cover a lot of content, so if you haven’t already seen this movie, for God’s sake stop reading. With that cautionary statement out of the way, I can say that this is a spectacularly bold release. As the film ended and the audience sat waiting for the single post-credit sequence, we watched the names plainly displayed on screen like an in memoriam segment. And once that final snippet was served up, everyone slowly filed out of the cinema in shock, reeling from the film’s funereal close. Again, no matter how good or bad the film was, the climax was extraordinarily bold.

Speaking of merits and faults, let’s get the biggest defects out of the way. Marvel has always had an issue with their scores and aside from a few standout pieces and themes, the majority has been disappointing, lacklustre or forgettable. Having created the Avengers theme – one of the more distinctly memorable and pleasing – Alan Silvestri returns but despite the vast library of character-related themes to play with, we have ended up with an acceptable score that regrettably lacks a lot of presence. Naturally it’s perfectly serviceable but after a while retreats from the fore to simply become big background brass and string elements that do little to spur on the emotional resonance. Another huge point of contention is the CGI. For the most part, it’s spectacular and thoroughly enjoyable but there were a few shots of snarling alien beasts, Thanos in his armour and floating heads on CGI bodies that didn’t work as well as they could and if these cracks are showing on the day of release, they will definitely age horribly. And that’s about it, the rest of the film follows some truly astoundingly competent direction and I fear that amidst all the forums of possible future developments and the specific fates of certain characters, not enough credit will be awarded to several background factors that have been working perfectly throughout these films; things like set design, costume, hair and make-up, cinematography, editing, all working harmoniously in the shadows.

Looking over the marketing for this release, a great deal of this film’s grand appeal was recreating and escalating something that was first successfully done in Avengers – crossover. Obviously I’m not stating this is the first franchise crossover but it is the payoff after literally a decade of world-building. Despite a few stumbles and course corrections, Marvel has never really fallen flat on its face and at this stage, no one else is coming close to the kind of industry spearheading that they are pioneering. Subsequently, it feels like they are trying to burn the engine out and simply run as hard and as fast as they can to see where the audience’s limit is but in doing so have created something that probably cannot be replicated. And I would posit this returning loyalty and desperation for “what comes next” is largely thanks to the characters themselves. Marvel has such an arsenal of characters and each of them have been portrayed in a way that will suit different audience demographics, meaning a crossover as intense as this will draw in every Marvel fan. And yet this film, in spite of the giant game of superhero bingo, doesn’t have a great deal of contained arcs. I say contained specifically because while certain character arcs are practically non-existent, their actions and stories in the previous standalone instalments serve as foundation for the conclusions presented here. To give an example, take Bruce Banner [Mark Ruffalo]. For too many boring legal and rights reasons, we won’t be getting a Hulk film any time soon and as such Marvel only has Banner’s appearances in other features to further his story. Interestingly, his actions in Thor Ragnarok and this film feel like the first two parts of a three act journey which will conclude in the next release. This is also visually interesting for viewers, as we don’t just see the Hulk smashing things (although there’s a fair amount of that at the start) and puts Banner in a position to take part in a fight in a unique and pleasing way. There is also the surprise appearance by the spectre of Johann “Red Skull” Schmidt, which I thoroughly enjoyed as part of a legacy closure, some seven years in the making but it generated so many questions that I doubt would have satisfying conclusions. Could this set up a return of the character? It’s unknown at this point and I think his presence was more a cameo for shock value purposes rather than a launching pad for something bigger or more detailed. And then we have Peter Dinklage as Eitri, the Dwarf King and master of a galactic weapons forge. Much like Red Skull, the role is a very small incidental one but something about it felt extraordinarily off. It’s very hard to quantify primarily because it’s such a weird performance. I totally get the casting but of all the ridiculous things these films have thrown at me, this one took me out of the film entirely and I stepped into the shoes of someone who doesn’t care about this franchise at all, muttering to myself, “this is stupid.” But I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel is somehow aware of this because every time you get too close to realising it’s all nonsense, they undercut with humour and you’re back and under their mighty spell once more.

As stated previously, this film is more spectacle than story but it still manages to come out surprisingly well balanced. I have no doubt that because of the tone there will be several comparisons to things like The Empire Strikes Back but in truth, I feel the more accurate comparison would be The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, specifically, the third instalment. So much ground work has been laid and finally every character is brought together for one mighty, fatigue-inducing battle.. and yet somehow it works magnificently as a pairing of beloved characters and monumental developments. Throughout, there is a very clear impression of desperation, that this is the last battle which has genuine stakes and it is very rare for a film – even one bisected like this – to follow through with the implications. After all, the film was advertised on the threat that Thanos could wipe out half of the universe’s populace with the snap of his fingers, to not see such an act would rob the audience of something momentous but the fact they followed through was still surprising; but then, that’s what happened in the comics. Before I get onto the bulk of my thoughts about the film’s ending, I need to address something that has come up a lot recently: the concept of the half film. Several adaptations of hefty novels have, for creative or fiscal reasons, chosen to split the story into two separate features. This partition often ruins the natural flow and we end up with one entire feature of setup and one of pay-off but neither having that necessary balance. With these Marvel films emulating the on-going serial aspect of the source material, the never-ending story aspect kind of works in its favour and while this movie is most certainly a part one, the presence of a cliff-hanger does not make something half a movie. I will openly admit that there is no real story, just a series of bombastic events, yet Infinity War still retains its three act structure. In truth, if you shift the perspective and make Thanos the lead character, then the film has a complete arc and happy finale because of the victory attained.

As much as the ending is a temporary state, it is still a powerful one. To take a franchise of familiar faces and extremely well-known actors and almost dismissively remove them from existence is something that takes an exceptional amount of confidence and bravado. Up until this point, death in the MCU has never been felt thanks to reversals, resurrections, lack of development/connection (looking at you Quicksilver) and plot armour so to deal such a devastating blow, I wouldn’t be surprised if many audience members will feel simply unprepared. And I’m all too familiar with comic lore, I know that the bulk of the post-click deaths will be reversed but it genuinely doesn’t matter if these things are unwritten because, much like The Last Jedi, they are real in this moment and what is presented as real for the characters is presented as real for us. Now we will have another year of theories, speculation and discussion which is, at its heart, word of mouth marketing, generating twelve months of hype and expectation that ensure ticket sales and interest long before the elusive title of this follow-up are even released. Ultimately, these films were made for the internet age, they know people trawl through trailers, combing for details so they purposefully subvert the promotional material to both retain their secrets and sell you on the concept rather than the content. Things like Thor’s bloody eye in the Ragnarok trailer, the Hulk running with the group in the main pre-trailer title card charge, Spider-Man in the background of the Star Lord/Iron Man planning rather than Doctor Strange, just little amendments that either stem from reshoots or an active attempt to keep things secret. But if I was pressed, I would say I genuinely appreciate these tactics. With both the Star Wars and Marvel universes, Disney have taken to revealing so precious little, knowing that the rabid and obsessive fanbase will do all the marketing for them with minimal prompting. The only things they need to confirm are a handful of characters (mostly in new outfits), a tantalising tone, a title and a release date. That’s it. I mean, I went into this film with no idea how it would turn out and I left it with no idea what is coming next and that is so very, very exciting.

Release Date:
27th April 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
In the absence of much of a story, this is a film of moments. Among the countless quips and cool fight sequences there is seemingly something for everyone. Even at two and a half hours, screen time is so limited but a marvellous job has been done giving almost everyone both something to do and awarding them with a standout moment. Rather than pinpointing one, I would say it is a great exercise in highlighting the sort of Marvel fan/critic you are. With so much going on, the thing that stands out to you would more than likely dictate the kind of character and values you support or the kind of film you wanted to see. Admittedly, that is an incredibly broad statement but one that I believe fits.

Notable Characters:
Thanos. How could it be anyone else? After six years of setup and escalating promotion, which amounted to doing very little, we finally get an insight into the man pulling all the strings. I was genuinely anxious, fearful of a crushing anti-climax but Thanos is such a detailed and layered character, full of conflict and motivational drive that you can’t help but be taken in by it all. More than that, the performance is so painfully brilliant that at times, you are taken in by his twisted logic. This is truly the best kind of bad guy, the one who feels he is right in his actions and starts to coerce you into thinking the same thing. From a screenwriting angle, through Brolin’s performance and the extremely impressive visual effects work, he is a collaborative triumph. Thanos is a being addressing a very real problem with the worst possible solution; truly both a story and creation to represent our socio-political times.

Highlighted Quote:
“I’m not looking for forgiveness and I’m way past asking for permission”

In A Few Words:
“A triumphant release marred only by the smallest of complaints but Marvel are pushing further out into unchartered waters yet somehow thriving”

Total Score:



Meari To Majo No Hana [メアリと魔女の花]

Hiromasa Yonebayashi

Hana Sugisaki
Ryunosuke Kamiki
Yuki Amami
Fumiyo Kohinata

Set in the English countryside, young Mary Smith [Sugisaki] has moved in with her great Aunt Charlotte. Bored by her simple surroundings, Mary finds herself wondering the woods, having followed a pair of cats named Tib and Gib. Deep in the forest she comes across a small blue flower. Back at home she learns that the flower is called “fly by night” and is very rare; she also learns that the two cats belong to a precocious young boy in the village named Peter [Kamiki]. Unbeknownst to Mary, the picking of the flower generates a dense mist and again, she follows the cat into the woods, finding an old broomstick covered in vines. When the bud of the flower bursts in her hand, she absorbs the fluid and is imbued with magical powers and immediately transported to the fantastical Endor College, overseen by Headmistress Madam Mumblechook [Amami] and the outlandish Doctor Dee [Kohinata]. But with the college’s number one rule being “trespassers will be transformed” will she be discovered and suffer the consequences?

Separate from the merits of the film itself, Mary And The Witch’s Flower’s biggest point of note will be the fact it is the first film in Studio Ponoc’s future catalogue. With Ponoc being an offshoot of Studio Ghibli, avoiding any comparison between the two studios is nigh on impossible. I have no doubt that over the coming years Ponoc will forge its own identity but everything from the stylistic design and the music to the animators and chosen story, feels like a Ghibli release; and with so many veteran Ghibli creatives working on this release, the presence of this very recognisable aesthetic is hardly surprising. Having said that, this feature feels similar to Tales From Earthsea, Arrietty and When Marnie Was There in that it’s a very high quality feature but doesn’t feel as good as Ghibli’s upper tier releases. Yet I remain hopeful that standing will improve as soon as they release an original property rather than an adaptation.

Like all hand-drawn animation, in this age of cheap, plasticy computer generated imagery, there is a distinct nostalgia-infused beauty to the visuals. Admittedly, cinema magnifies flaws and quite a few scenes were presented with some rushed or elementary animation but even at its weakest moments, the craft involved feels imbued with more care and attention to detail than most mainstream releases. As with something like Porco Rosso or The Wind Rises, there is a dreamlike quality to the setting, a mixture of reality and expectation. Which isn’t exactly surprising given that producer Yoshiaki Nishimura stated the artists visited rural England for research but were encouraged to draw from what they remembered rather than direct references like photos, that way they would capture the personality and impression of the place. Adding to this dreamlike quality is the fantastic score, by Takatsugu Muramatsu, with its plinky elements and impressive use of a dulcimer to give an otherworldly ambience. Equally, the sound design is wonderful and immersive, creating atmospheric realm of magic and intrigue.

Before I get on to discussing the performances, I should highlight that I will be expressly referring to the original language recording. Having only sampled the dub version, it sounds over-boiled and grating, so I can only imagine it had a detrimental impact. In terms of delivery, personality and character, there isn’t a single weak component present; each main character is eccentric enough to be recognisable without slipping into over-the-top absurdity. And yet, in its simplicity, there is a slight hollowness to Mary and her adventure. Specifically that she doesn’t seem to have changed much at all; so much so that the final shot of the film could quite easily have been dubbed with a triumphant, “I learned.. NOTHING! Yay!” It’s not that Mary is a bad character, she merely lacks fleshing out in terms of consequence and proactivity. In fact, I would go further and say the films lacks dimensionality all over but I think that may be more the fault of the source material than this particular interpretation. On top of that, it would be easy enough to draw a comparison between Mary And The Witch’s Flower and something like Alice In Wonderland – a similarly dreamlike fantasy that doesn’t explore the lasting fallout of its bizarre adventure.

Aside from the main character, the supports hint at an interesting universe but only scratch the surface. In the most obvious example, Endor College is really only gleaned but additionally, there are so many random subplots that are alluded to but go nowhere. The film opens on a pending funeral for the town’s mayor. There doesn’t seem to be any significance or connection to the story and other than a line or two of dialogue and someone dressed in black, it bears no relevance to the story. We also have a lot of fog surrounding Peter’s mother. He seems highly motivated to return home to take care of her, even saying he would want magical powers and to grow older in order to take care of her but, again, no explanation as to why. There’s also the functionality of the school during and after the oversight of Doctor Dee and Madam Mumblechook, we see there are other teachers but anything peripheral to Mary’s actions are non-existent, to the degree that if I was to discover the other pupils at the school were an illusion, it would be entirely plausible.

While it may not be the most engaging or praiseworthy example of an animated adventure, it succeeds where other huge family targeted blockbusters fail. We are given a passionate female lead, the story never talks down to children, there are zero burp or fart jokes that feel the need to crop up for a cheap laugh and the narrative is clear and easy to follow. All in all, Mary And The Witch’s Flower is a perfectly commendable release but like a lot of things released in early 2018, with the talent involved, they were capable of much more.

Release Date:
4th May 2018

The Scene To Look Out For:
In one scene, we experience a semblance of humanising for the villains and suddenly the antagonist themes fell into doubt. As the story progresses, we learn that the flower that Mary discovered was stolen from the college decades ago and both Doctor Dee and Madam Mumblechook have been experimenting on animals. Obviously this is typical bad guy stuff and we immediately want to see them bested. But when it comes to experimenting on humans, we learn that their end goal is to further magical studies and gift everyone with magical powers. Suddenly their motives are seemingly quite noble, trying to establish a state of equality. I appreciate the methods are questionable but it’s a curious turn. Equally, in other fictional representations, magic is usually depicted as a natural source of power and one in harmony with nature. While there are elements of that present here, there seems to be a distinct presence of balance and the idea that the expansion (or abuse) of magic being in direct violation with nature – a theme usually reserved for the advancement of technology and industry over rustic living.

Notable Characters:
The first faculty member that Mary encounters is an anthropomorphic fox named Flanagan (voiced by Jiro Sato) who used to teach broomstick flying but is currently in charge of the grounds. Flanagan is as one dimensional as a lot of the story and other characters but remains a comic relief and welcome personality all the same; even if he was a bit of an oblivious, constantly occurring ex machina.

Highlighted Quote:
“You never know what kids are up to”

In A Few Words:
“A delightfully presented if simplistic fantasy story”

Total Score: