Noooooooooooooooo! That pretty sums up what my inner child was screaming as I watched the latest (and hopefully last) of the Michael Bay-era Transformers movies. Whilst the first film was average without being a complete wreck, they’ve gotten worse, and The Last Knight is simply an exercise in going through the motions. Here, I’ll sum up the story (which co-incidentally will sum up the stories of the previous films). In ancient times it turns out there were Transformers who did some stuff and got written into legend. In modern times some important event/artefact resurfaces and the Autobots fight the Decepticons for it. Also, the Autobots are being hunted by mean human agencies. Rinse and repeat.

Throw in some rubbish jokes and you have yourself a Transformers film. It was so distinctly ‘meh’ that I didn’t even give it my full attention – indeed, I couldn’t give it my full attention – it wasn’t good enough to manage to do that. These movies have none of the spirit of the cartoon series that I knew and loved, way back in my youth. They have taken the heart of the Transformers show and ripped it out, then stamped on it with steel-capped boots. The Last Knight is no exception to this rule and I can only hope it will mark the end of this particular series, though given that the flashy explosions and crass humour is a box office winner, I suspect we’ll have more of these crappy films to endure at some stage.

What makes these films even worse is the disorientated action sequences that often just become blurred jumbles, and The Last Knight suffers from this in spades. As always the Decepticons are virtually in indistinguishable from each other and only Megatron has a personality.

I can’t give this film any more than 3/10.

I know what you’re thinking. Why is a grown meerkat going to see Captain Underpants? Well, the answer, dear reader, is that seven year-old daughters want to see it, and mummy and daddy couldn’t take her to see Dunkirk, so we ended up seeing Captain Underpants instead.

I confess to fearing the worst from this movie. The trailers did nothing to impress me, but then, I’m not the target audience. Looking at it through the perspective of 8-12 year-olds who enjoy jokes about ‘Uranus’ ‘poopypants’ and various other toilet-related puns, it can be argued this was in fact quite an enjoyable film. It certainly kept my daughter amused!

The film revolves about the friendship of two characters whose names I have already forgotten, who create comics around their character of Captain Underpants, and when their friendship is threatened by a maniacal headteacher, they somehow hypnotise him and transform him into the titular character. Cue various preposterous scenarios. As I said, it’s aimed at a specific age group, and yet manages to be surreal enough in places to get chuckles out of adults too. It managed to be better than expected, but I wish I’d seen Dunkirk!

7/10

RickOConnell

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Ok, time for a slightly different take on my movie reviews – comparing a classic, to a remake – or is that a classic remake to a modern-day remake? Or a modern-day classic remake of a classic vs a modern-day remake of a modern-day remake?!

I don’t know. It’s confusing, but Tom Cruise’s latest stunt-filled mayhem is a remake of a remake, with Brendan Fraser’s The Mummy being a remake of the 1932 The Mummy.

Still with me? Good, because thre’ll be a quiz later, and I will need help with the questions, let alone the answers – and just to be even more confusing, there was another filmed called The Mummy released in 1959, though it’s the 1932 film upon which Brendan Fraser’s film is based, and in turn, Tom Cruise’s film is based on Fraser’s film. My comparison is between the Fraser and Cruise editions – so, let’s weigh up!

Firstly, Fraser’s character of Rick O’Connell is a much warmer, friendlier guy than Cruise’s Nick Morton. Part of that lies in the writing, part of it is from Fraser’s natural charm. He and Rachel Weisz have a good chemistry from the word go, and Arnold Vosloo brings a strong presence as the titular Mummy. The 1999 edition harks back to the classic adventure/monster film genre, capturing the spirit of the era, and doesn’t take itself too seriously either. In contrast, Nick Morton (Cruise’s character) is not some roguish figure of charm, but a colder figure, a less likable man, from the start. Sofia Boutella is creepy as the Mummy, there’s no denying that, but not particularly memorable, Annabelle Wallis is Jenny Hasley, an archeologist whose character exists solely to move the story on, and Russell Crowe shows up as an apparently important character, and keystone for the wider universe Universal Studios are trying to build, but he is not exactly amazing in this either.

Even the CGI, whilst better (as it should be, some 18 years on), isn’t as good as it should be. It’s not a huge leap forward from 1999.

In short, for a fun movie that lets you forget your life for a couple of hours, I’d always choose 1999’s The Mummy over the new one!

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The DCEU is a bad place. After the early struggles, a saviour is needed to rescue it. Can Wonder Woman be that hero?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. Wonder Woman is easily the best of the DCEU films to date, and provides some much-needed warmth to an otherwise set of cold characters.

It would be wrong of me to turn Gal Gadot (who plays the titular character) into an object, but can I just say, she is beautiful, and radiates a mixture of innocence and passion that is difficult to pull off. The journey of Diana (Wonder Woman is obviously not her real name!) from curious and headstrong child to who she becomes by the film’s end, is one of the most compelling origin stories yet done by a comic book adaption, and much of this is due to the strength of Gadot’s acting. At no point, even when facing the horrors of World War I head on, is Diana vulnerable, even though she is understandably baffled by social rules that make no sense to her.

At first, Diana is naïve, believing she can stop the war single-handedly (and end all wars) by slaying a god. However, she hurls herself into this task without fear, facing her enemies in the name of justice. Even as she gradually comes to realise that this ideal is too lofty, she remains true to herself – she fights for what is right, not for revenge or out of hatred.

There’s a reasonable supporting cast, though the only two characters we see much of are Diana, and Chris Pine’s character, Steve Trevor (an American assigned to British Intelligence). Trevor is trying to open Diana’s mind to the realities of the world, whilst at the same time admiring and drawn to Diana’s innocence and spirit.

There’s been a distinct lack of women superheroes on the big screen, and Wonder Woman is an important step in correcting that. This movie shows that a powerful female lead works, and works well, and that a woman can direct a blockbuster. It’s much better than the previous DCEU efforts, though it’s not quite at the level the best MCU films have to offer. It is heartfelt, funny, and tinged with emotion. The only area where it falls down is with the villains. Danny Huston is German General Ludendorff, who is somewhat one-dimensional, and Elena Anaya doesn’t get enough screen time as Dr Maru (aka Dr Poison). There is a nice twist toward the end, involving David Thewlis’ character, but the villain curse has once again struck a comic book film. Despite this, it’s still an excellent movie. 8/10.

We’re kicking off a lot of film reviews with something of a modern cult classic, that has spawned a lot of memes, and speaks to animal lovers everywhere – John Wick. Starring Keanu Reeves as the titular character, it follows the story of a retired assassin of such skill and reverence that he became known as the Boogeyman. An overly simplistic analysis of the plot would be: John Wick’s dog dies, and he goes on a rampage. It’s not that simple, but a stupid-ass punk killing the post-humous gift of a dog proves to be the catalyst for numerous sequences that show off how lethal and ruthless John is. The film is very slick, with a surprisingly good plot, and you can’t help but get the feeling that no one is going to stand in John’s way – he is just too good, and too motivated, to be stopped.

Keanu has come under fire for not being a particular great actor, but his performance here is pretty good. He needs to convey a stoic and determined hitman and he does – perfectly. It might be a little unkind to say this, but I am having trouble remembering the supporting cast, as Keanu’s performance is overpowering.

There’s a sequel – but whilst it’s pretty good, it’s not as good as the original. I’d actually recommend this film quite highly, if you wish to switch off your brain and enjoy some action!

8/10

I don’t tend to be fond of giving films 10 out of 10. I have this… mental block, I guess, around the idea. Can a film really be so good as to get a perfect score?

With Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, the answer is an emphatic yes. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and I think I’ll run out of superlatives for it long before I finish this review. I won’t go into too much detail of the plot, but suffice to say, the story manages to be reasonably interesting, with some nice little nuances, whilst the film is jam-packed with visual treats, a lot of humour, and a surprising degree of emotion, particularly toward the end.

For all the outward signs of an epic space-faring advventure, Guardians 2 manages to feel quite intimate compared to the first film. It feels like the film takes place over a small radius. Central to the film is the theme of family, with various characters facing feelings of abandonment, sibling rivalry, and loss. Woven in are some great jokes (the trash panda reference is particularly funny), and some very amusing visual gags. The villian is probably one of the most interesting seen in the MCU to date, and Guardians 2 manages to tell a stand-alone story that isn’t influenced by the impending Infinity Wars films – as with the first film, the Guardians are who they are, without compromising for anyone else.

Every character has moments to shine – Quill, despite having spent most of his life in space, is still in many ways quite wide-eyed and, ahem, innocent, in some respects. Gamora is still seeking to put her past to rest, starting with her relationship with Nebula. Rocket is still looking to belong somewhere. Drax still harbours pain from his own past. Groot… well, Groot is just adorable.

Would I take children to see this film? That depends on the child. My own daughter would probably find some elements of it overwhelming and frightening, as Guardians 2 does move a touch more in that direction than the first film. The jokes are pushing the edges of what’s appropriate for younger children to hear. There is plenty of fantasy violence. It’s fair to say the 12A certificate is well-earned.

As a final thought, Guardians 2 continues to show us the length and breadth of the variety in the MCU. From the somewhat serious Civil War, to this, and all the steps inbetween, Marvel have crafted various films with completely different characteristics, and yet you can see how they all fit together, more or less seamlessly. You want to see morre of these characters, and you want them to succeed.

Like I said, this film gets 10/10. It is, quite simply, brilliant.

Light vs dark. Good vs evil. The Resistance vs the First Order. We have our first glimpse at Star Wars Episode VIII: The last Jedi, and as with the trailers for The Force Awakens, nothing is given away. The Last Jedi appears to pick up straight where The Force Awakens left off (something already hinted at), with Luke teaching Rey about the Force. As Luke speaks, we are given brief snippets of symbolic imagery – references to the Light Side invoke images of Leia, whilst Kylo Ren’s broken helmet is met with whispers about the Dark Side. Luke suggests something about moving away from concepts of Light and Dark, and we’re also treated to images of Poe and BB8 on a ship that’s under attack, a number of pod-racer type constructs racing across a barren surface, and lots more.

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It looks like we might get a space battle featuring Republic/Resistance ships, and we appear to get another vision of the destruction Ren and his knights brought to Luke’s Jedi academy. There’s a brief clip of Finn in some of medical or stasis pod, and a brief glance of Ren, pointing his saber menacingly at someone, which follows hot on the heels of Rey running whilst wielding her saber.

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The trailer ends with Luke telling Rey he knows the truth – that the Jedi need to end. Quite what is meant by this is unclear, but then, that was the point – this is a teaser trailer, that plays its cards close to its chest. We will get another trailer closer to the time, but until then, this is an intriguing look into what’s coming.

Mortality. Legacy. Two words which come to mind when thinking of Logan. This is the most raw, passionate take on the character, exposing his vulnerability and his pain as well as making him – and through him the audience – confront his past. Logan is Wolverine but he is also Logan – a man who has lived a long life, and a life full of struggle – here, he is tired, he is weakening, and he wishes to drown his sorrows at the bottom of a bottle. His last link to the world of optimistic heroes is Charles Xavier, by this point (in the year 2026) 90 years old and suffering from seizures that amplify his telepathic powers and have harmful – even lethal – effects on the people around him. Charles retains the essence of who he is – a man who wants to help people. Logan retains the essence of who he is – a man who wants to reject what the world wants of him, is outwardly surly, and bitter, yet deep down, retains a powerful sense of doing the right thing.

Charles is Logan’s conscience, and the two of them are moved to help a young girl called Laura, when she ends up involved in their lives through chance (or is it fate?). Laura is (to paraphrase Charles) very much like Logan, in more ways than one, and though part of Logan wants nothing more than to reject the image of himself and the time that represents, he cannot help but move forward, urged by Charles and by his own sense of honour to help this little girl.

I won’t divulge the main plot details, but both Logan and Charles are old, and facing sickness and death. They have both seen much death and their responsbilities weigh heavily on their minds. This film is about finding the means to move foward, even when they feel their strength is deserting them.

Hugh Jackman gives a powerful performance as a hurting, tired Logan, and Patrick Stewart reminds us all of his prowess as an aged Charles. Films of this nature tend to get overlooked for awards, especially major awards like the Oscars, but surely the performances of Jackman and Stewart are worth considering, for they are strong, brave performances, in a film that shows (like Deadpool before it) that 15-rated comic book movies can and do work.

9/10

It feels like we’ve been waiting for this film for a long time. The first trailer for Sing dropped late in 2015, and yet here in the UK, only saw release in early 2017. It’s quite unusual for such a long wait with a family film like this, but nonetheless, Sing is finally here – and it’s pretty good.

The setting is a city populated by various animals, and one of them, Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) runs a theatre which is going through hard times. To address he organises a singing competition, there’s an error on the flyers regarding prize money, and each contestant has a few issues of their own to work out. Cue chaos.

One thing that surprised me are the strong singing voices of several members of the cast. Scarlett Johansson and Reese Witherspoon both have excellent voices, and so does Seth MacFarlane. Tori Kelly was rejected by American Idol, yet her own voice here is very powerful, and she is, in my humble view, the strongest singer in the film.

Overall, without giving too much away, this film has a strong feel-good factor. The message for kids is to follow your dreams, and to not give up, and that’s a good message. There are some lovely touches and the animation is very slick. 8/10.

A rather strange, complicated and intriguing tale this, but one I’m not sure I’m going to watch again. Arrival is a first contact tale, starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker, and it offers up an interesting new look at the nature of time.

Adams is Louise Banks, an expert in languages, and she is called in to try and help first contact with aliens when twelve ships land at various locations around the earth. Adams is by far and away the star of the show, with the other characters feeling quite incidental, and the story revolves around the strange language (and mode of thinking) of the aliens, that triggers new thought processes in Banks, in turn letting her understand the aliens and to predict things, as in one sense she’s already lived them.

The result is a film that does have a measure of poignancy, but I dare say the jumping about around time is quite confusing, and makes the film feel a little disjointed. There’s certainly a lot of interest here – in how an alien species might not think in a way we are remotely familiar with, and how strange life might be to us from that perspective. Adams is a powerful performer and this is very much clear from this movie. However, I can’t say I’d go out of my way to watch the film again. It’s not bad, but a little too jumbled for me. 7/10