Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

pitch perfect 3 poster

Three years after graduating from Barden University, the former Bellas – the all-female, champion acapella group – are finding the real world less than perfect. Realising how exciting the prospect of a reunion is, they get themselves on a USO tour to entertain US troops abroad (although we’re talking Spain, Italy, and France, for some reason – I’d expected, y’know, warzones?). And just because there HAS to be a competition (a bit of an in-joke in the movie), the headlining DJ Khaled will be picking his favourite from the tour performers to open for his own act.

But can the Bellas compete against actual bands with actual instruments? Will Aubrey ever get her dad to a performance? What about Fat Amy’s dad and his shady past (not to mention very dodgy accent!)?

The reviews for PP3 were less than glowing, but I love the original movie – it’s one of my go-to feel-good movies. The sequel was a bit missable, imo, and I found the new ‘Legacy’ character annoying (also an in-joke on screen here), so my own expectations for part 3 were pretty low.

Thankfully, I was proved wrong: this is a lot of daft fun! There’s a slightly different vibe going on as the group have grown up – okay, still 90% singing, but instead of romance and struggling to find jobs, we get a ‘success at college isn’t life success’ message – just before the stakes are turned up to involve kidnapping, armed combat, and explosions! 🙂

So yes, very silly, but I really enjoyed it. I think it’s better than the middle instalment, if not quite hitting the sheer joy of the original. There’s also a bit of a finality to the tone here, which adds an unexpected tiny dash of poignancy – or, it’s just out and out slapstick, take your pick! 🙂

Released: 20th December 2017
Viewed: 13th January 2018
Running time: 93 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 6.5/10

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The Greatest Showman (2017)

greatest showman poster

There’s nothing like a rousing, feel-good musical to kick off a year’s cinema – and this is absolutely that!

It’s perhaps a little odd, given the subject matter: the real PT Barnum was a lot less ‘nice’ than portrayed here. While that might kick up some controversy, I say: keep in mind that this is fiction, a story to entertain and uplift, and don’t take it as truth just because of the inspiration.

That said, the basic facts are all real enough, if much mixed up in timelines and intentions. ‘Inventor’ of showbusiness, Phineas Taylor Barnum, did indeed start a circus of ‘freaks’, and he did finance a tour for a singer he had never actually heard sing. The rest perhaps owes more to providing a fulfilling story than reality, but hey: this is showbusiness!

Hugh Jackman might be best known for playing Wolverine, but his heart clearly lies on the stage, belting his lungs out (see also: Les Miserables (2012) and Oklahoma! (1999)). He was made for this role, really, and I thought he shone in it. The rest of the cast also seems – thankfully! – picked for strong singing abilities: no Pierce Brosnan moments here 😉

Ah, the music! The bulk of the movie is spoken, with regular show song moments. The song used in the trailer, This is Me, has been stuck in my head for absolutely months. It’s a belter of a tune, and a perfect summing up of the core message: that those marginalised by society can and should stand up for themselves. While that was the standout track for me, several other songs were close and only a couple were a little unmemorable.

Overall, I absolutely loved this film. It absolutely shines with heart, and is possibly the best musical we’ve been treated to in years, avoiding the pitfalls of so many others: it’s more feel-good (if a little more predictable) than La La Land, better performed than Mamma Mia!, and the story works perfectly, unlike Into the Woods. So, finally – look out, here it comes! 🙂

Released: 26th December 2017
Viewed: 2nd January 2018
Running time: 105 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 9/10

2017: A year in movies

If my counting is correct, I saw 49 films (not including repeat viewings or events) at the cinema during 2017, getting good use out of that monthly pass! I’m usually generous with my ratings, but the average mark out of ten was only 6.5, dipping as low as 3 and never higher than 9. All in all, I’d have to suggest that this was not a classic year for cinema, with more that disappointed than wowed me. There were a few, though, so keep reading!

Top Turkeys

I’m going to start with the worst of the year and get it over with:

  • Geostorm: big, loud and very daft, definitely not a good movie!
  • Baywatch: not quite as big, but way more daft and borderline on being a bad movie!
  • Alien: Covenant: just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse than Prometheus, they managed it. Seriously, with everything it had going for it, how do you mess up this much?!
  • The Mummy: so much bad and so surprising given the presence of Tom Cruise and a huge budget. That Dark Universe series dies before it starts, alas!
  • 2017’s top turkey – Snatched: oh, how I hated this movie. Slivers of mildly amusing amid so, so much cringe-worthy awfulness! o_O

Bonus ‘meh’ awards to the likes of Unlocked (seriously, can’t even remember what this was about o_O), American Assassin (not awful, but…), and Pirates of the Caribbean whatever-number-we’re-up-to!

The Sea of Disappointment

I think my overarching feel about the year is one of disappointment: so many things that just weren’t as good as I’d hoped.

  • La La Land: yes it was good, but absolutely not the heart-warming musical I was expecting. Was more surprised by the turn in tone than everyone was by the Oscar mix-up, tbh!
  • The Dark Tower: I actually enjoyed this more than most, but given the richness of the beloved source material, it was a rather sorry attempt at a big screen adaptation. Still, it had Idris Elba, and Matthew Mahogany being deliciously evil.
  • Colossal: I suspect this was a marketing fail rather than the movie itself, but I’d been expecting fun and got something much darker.
  • Murder on the Orient Express: looked lovely, but somehow messed up the mystery’s tension levels.
  • Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets: well it looked *amazing* but sadly just about everything else was wrong with it. File next to Jupiter Ascending and John Carter, methinks!

The Superheroes

Is it just me, or does it finally feel like the comic book world-takeover is finally slowing down? I won’t say ‘to a halt’, not by any means, but somehow the year doesn’t seem to have been totally taken over. Mind, we still had Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Wonder Woman, Thor Ragnarok, Justice League, and Spider-Man Homecoming. Okay, what was my point again? The real surprise was DC managing to make one that was pretty darn good…!

Actually, I’d have to suggest that this might be the year where the studios perhaps – hopefully! – realised that they had to shake things up. Wonder Woman gave us a female lead for a change; Ragnarok threw out any attempt to follow its two predecessors and was the funniest superhero movie since Deadpool! Notice how successful these were, compared to the dull and predictable JL.

And the award goes to…

Now, usually I can’t pick a favourite movie of the year, but this year I might just have a clear winner! Honourable mentions to Guardians 2 (I just couldn’t have an entire superhero list!) and baby Groot, Blade Runner 2049 for not ruining the franchise, and Logan for absolutely tearing up the franchise and being possibly the best superhero movie ever – but, a bit on the dark side. So, I’m going to go with:

  • Wonder Woman: it’s getting more praise than it really deserves for a rather ordinary superhero plot, but by jove those Amazons were amazing! 🙂 The omg-why-did-it-take-this-long cultural impact of this movie really does make it more important than it should be, but hey: I’m all for inspiring some real-life wonder women!
  • T2: Trainspotting was one of the films of my youth, becoming part of Scotland’s culture, and I was not expecting the sequel to be so… this. Poignant? Entertaining? They messed up Edinburgh’s geography, but got the rest of it pretty much spot on.
  • Hidden Figures: it’s not perfect in terms of the politics, but it was really really good and despite knowing how all the space race stuff worked out I was still gripping my seat!
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi: I like Star Wars, but I’ve never been a super-fan. This installment, though, finally made me go ‘Oh!’ and perhaps just realise what everyone’s been so nutty about for all this time – which was ironic given the super-fans largely hated it o_O But hey: adora-porgs 🙂
  • Thor Ragnarok: look, it’s not the greatest movie ever made by a long shot, maybe not even the best of 2017, but the sheer joy of laughing my head off so unexpectedly makes this my favourite of the year!

I’m already working on the list of things to see in 2018, so here’s to an even better year of movie entertainment! What are you excited to see?

Bright (2017)

bright poster

Imagine if The Lord of the Rings wasn’t fantasy, but actual history. Fast forward hundreds of years to the present day, and perhaps the first orc has joined the LA police department. He’d be facing terrible racism, of course, not to mention a great deal of suspicion as to where his loyalties lie: with the law, or to the Clan. And of course, orcs sided with the Dark Lord all those centuries ago, so it’s not like you can trust any of them. Not like the elves – they’re the best of the best, beautiful and rich and of course running the show. Us humans? Just somewhere in the middle, trying to keep the pest fairies out of the bird feeders.

In this reality, the law must deal with fanatics who want to resurrect the Dark Lord, and generally keep an eye on problems with magic. And what could be more dangerous than a magic wand – a ‘nuclear bomb that grants wishes’? So when one of those turns up it’s not long before everyone – law, gangs, humans, elves and orcs – all want to get their hands on it.

Bright is an intriguing concept – high fantasy meets gritty police action – not particularly well executed overall, but actually turned out watchable enough. Will Smith is the big draw, of course, but he’s doing his bruised and damaged persona which is a lot less fun than his other character. Joel Edgerton is unrecognisable under the orc makeup, and to be honest the slow-witted character is just a bit too dim not to be a touch annoying, I felt. Elves get a bad rap, of course, but Noomi Rapace and Edgar Ramirez look great in their pointy ears.

Plot-wise, this is whip thin: everyone chasing and killing for that magic wand. The action pace tries to distract from that, and the special effects are pretty good, but without a character I actually liked (oy, the elf girl is annoyingly drippy!) there just wasn’t enough here to take ‘oddly intriguing’ into ‘liked’.

Of course, the big ‘thing’ about this movie is that it was released on Netflix, not in the cinema – smart move! Apparently it attracted an impressive 11 million curious viewers in its opening weekend, pretty much guaranteeing a sequel. And while I wasn’t exactly impressed with Bright, the fact that it will arrive on my TV without additional cost or effort means I’ll probably watch it – just, hope they can improve a bit on the plot and characters, tbh!

Released: 22nd December 2017
Viewed: 23rd December 2017
Running time: 117 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 5/10

The Last Jedi (2017)

Last Jedi poster

Phew – I can relax, no one can ‘get’ me with spoilers for the Biggest Movie Event of the Year (TM) now that I’ve seen it! I’ll provide none of my own, don’t worry.

I’ve always felt I was just the wrong age to be a huge Star Wars fan, and while I’m a huge (wannabe) geek I’ve always had that feeling that I’m just not into it enough to appreciate all the hype. I missed out on the original trilogy largely, I was less than enthused by the prequel trio, and while I rather enjoyed 2015’s The Force Awakens (aka episode 7) it felt more like a rehash of the original – yes, it was fun and I liked it but… it was missing something, some spark of originality or soul, perhaps?

I was a little surprised, then, when The Last Jedi side-swiped me into being the film that is finally making me geek out a LOT over this whole franchise! 🙂

Without mentioning specifics, this has a lot going for it: a more original storyline, lots of character development all ’round, cute critters in the form of porgs, some familiar faces, some new blood adding positively to the film. I laughed more than I expected – there are some genuinely funny moments, and it’s a huge boost to see a juggernaut like this not taking itself too seriously. And of course it looks spectacular, and is just chock-full of adventure and action and everything that makes Star Wars Star Wars!

It’s not perfect. I was a little puzzled by some of the plot threads, which were perhaps a little bit… pointless, dare I say? There were a few moments of “Why didn’t you just do that in the first place?!?!” and other slight logic flaws. The things that were maybe waiting for an explanation that either didn’t happen, or just were a bit underwhelming.

And then there are the visuals that make all of that just melt away. The eye candy is everywhere, from background details to fantastic wildlife: crystal foxes and the soon-to-be-ubiquitous porgs. The use of the colour red is particularly ‘wow’, from Supreme Leader Snoke’s throne room to the planet where the very ground seems to bleed.

I had thought going in that 2.5 hours was going to feel like a long movie, but it really didn’t. I was genuinely swept up in the fun of the adventure, and the sense that there is a lot more story still to come. Finally, I think, I might be starting to understand a bit about the huge appeal of this universe!

Released: 14th December 2017
Viewed: 16th December 2017
Running time: 152 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 8.5/10

Justice League (2017)

Justice League cover

Following on from events in Batman vs Superman, which itself requires you to have seen Man of Steel to make much sense, Justice League is DC’s attempt to ‘do an Avengers‘. I was left feeling a bit: poor old DC – always late to the party, and never quite hitting the mark.

In fairness, this is possibly the second best of the recent DC output (Wonder Woman, of course, taking the top spot!) – but, it’s hard not to add ‘not that that’s saying much’. MoS was far too downbeat, BvS was just a bit muddled, and Suicide Squad, while a lot of fun, was 90% intro with very little in the way of real story.

One of the main problems here is that half the cast are new characters – unlike Avengers, where we’d already had all of the solo movies and introductions out of the way. Origin movies are prone to being a bit ‘meh’, so having to deal with three ‘new’ characters here – Aquaman, The Flash, and Cyborg – does nothing great for the plot or the more established trio of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

I really liked Ezra Miller in the Flash role here. He’s got an endearing awkwardness that really adds to the humour of the piece. Cyborg was the opposite: he’s all dark and moody and not a character I knew anything about going in to help with finding him likeable. And as for Aquaman – aka Arthur Curry, seriously?! – well, unless you count the eye-candy of Jason Momoa taking his shirt off (zero complaints on that! 😉 ) then the character is just a bit pointless here. He does get one of the funniest lines, right enough, but still…

Then, of course, there’s the slight mismatch of two big directors having worked on this. I’m not as sure it’s as bad as some folk have suggested – the ‘everyone gets two intros’ wasn’t quite so obvious – but it can’t have helped.

On the plus side, there’s a lot more humour here that DC usually manages – I’m thinking that’d be the Joss Whedon influence – and those moments absolutely lift the movie from dull to at least a bit of fun. However, it’s nowhere near enough to make up for a very dull villain, rather meh plotline, and overall just nothing that packs enough of a punch.

I don’t regret seeing this – it’s not that awful – but in terms of hope for the DC Extended Universe, it just didn’t deliver anywhere near enough. Thank Asgardians there isn’t too long to wait for Infinity War! o_O

Released: 17th November 2017
Viewed: 6th December 2017
Running time: 120 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 6/10

A Bad Mom’s Christmas (2017)

Bad Moms 2 poster

Bad Moms was one of those daft comedies that ended up having a little more heart and substance than I’d expected, and actually ended up rather enjoying. I still knew that this holiday-set sequel wasn’t going to be a ‘good’ movie, but it was the daft fun I was looking for.

Amy (Mila Kunis) is doing well after the events of the first movie, with a hot boyfriend, good relationship with her kids, and best friends Kiki and Carla agreeing with her that Christmas is far too much pressure on moms and therefore should be taken at their own pace.

Which is fine, until the grandmothers arrive in town…

The plot is utterly daft, but there is a lot of joy in seeing Susan Sarandon as the drug-hazed rock chick, and Christine Baranski largely playing the same character she does so well. The humour swings between very fun and very cringeworthy, though, so your mileage will vary hugely depending on how far you find funny. The dry humping in front of the Christmas table was a bit off for me, and the whole sickly sweet stalkerish mom didn’t tickle any funny bones. And, as with the first movie, the constant need to swear got a bit dull – and I sound like a naval cadet half the time, so I’m no prude! Maybe if they’d just varied from the one word every few lines?

Overall, though, this was the Christmas movie I was willing to tolerate at the start of the festivities (although it was out a whole month too early, if you ask me!), and provided enough feel good moments to kick off the season. Not exactly likely to knock Die Hard off the best Christmas movie spot, though 😉

Released: 1st November 2017
Viewed: 30th November 2017
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 5/10