Hellboy (2019)

hellboy poster

When the Blood Queen, Nimue (Milla Jovovich), first tried to usher in an Age of Monsters, it was King Arthur (yes, that King Arthur, as the voice over tells us!) and Merlin who stopped her. Unable to end her unnatural life, they settle for dismembering her and sending the caskets of her pieces (arms, head, etc) to be buried at the four corners of the world.

Rescued as a spawnling at the end of World War II and raised by Professor Broom (Ian McShane), Hellboy (David Harbour) is about to have his ‘teenage’ angst moment, wondering why he helps the humans kill the ‘monsters’, when he himself is so obviously part of the latter group. And of course, a sorcerous little voices isn’t shy of pushing that thought into his head…

This is a reboot of the Hellboy series, following two films starring Ron Perlman in the titular role. He was so good, even if the movies were a bit mixed, it was a tricky prospect thinking of anyone else stepping into those boots. In fact, I’d say David Harbour (previously the sheriff in Stranger Things) is one of the best things about this adaptation, capturing the look, the snark, the entire attitude.

Alas, reviews were not promising going in to this – but it does help having low expectations. It’s not actually bad, just a bit overly-busy and slightly odd in tone. It is, however, very comic-book-esque, which fits rather well with the source. I think that sways how people find the whole thing.

Still, it was far from perfect. It loses points from me because it rehashes the story I’ve already seen. I was going to say the fantasy-leanings were a bit fresher, but no, we’ve had faeries and goblins and that kind of thing in both of the previous attempts. Ho-hum.

Harbour was good, but the rest of the cast did very little for me except hurt my ears with atrocious, plummy and fake English accents. Why?! Although of course it’s tough not to like Ian McShane being very himself. His voice-over at the beginning is a high point, detailing daft fantasy things with a lot of swearing and a very non-fantastically sensibility (“They were call the dark ages for a f-‘ing good reason”).

Ah yes, the swearing. This is a 15 and they do seem to be going to town on the blood splatter and cursing to try and make the most of it. There were a few points that did make me wonder just how awful you’d have to get for an 18 rating.

So… yeah, and no. It wasn’t awful, by any stretch. I was plenty entertained. But I couldn’t say it was a good movie, or even the best they could have made. Disappointing? A little. But no regrets on having seen it.

Released: 11th April 2019
Viewed: 14th April 2019
Running time: 120 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 6.5/10

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The Lego Movie 2 (2019)

lego movie 2 poster

Five years have passed since the events of the first Lego Movie. But, the arrival of the Duplons from the Sis-tar system (geddit?) have left the formerly awesome world a wreck. Instead of a neat orderly town, we’re into Apocalyse-ville, and what can only be Mad Max Fury Road minifigs, I reckon!

With ‘Armomageddon’ looming, can Emmet save Lucy and the others from the Queen of the Sis-tar system? Can Emmet ever be as cool as new friend, Rex Dangervest? Will everything ever be awesome again?!?!?!

For the first five or so minutes of this, I thought “Oh no, I have made a terrible mistake!” So a lot of my review has to be coloured by sheer relief that it got a fair bit better! 😉

There is actually a solid moral to this story, which I won’t spoil, but along the way the in-jokes aren’t half bad. I – and the two other adults in the screening, I reckon! – laughed out loud at a Radiohead joke. Showing our age 😉 Other swipes include the fact that Disney/Marvel wouldn’t get involved this time, so we’re missing a host of characters that cameo’d in the first. Many of the jokes are at Chris Pratt’s other roles. It’s even self aware enough to poke fun at the fact that Emmet was the ‘hero’ of the first movie, despite Wyldstyle doing all the actual heroics…!

I rather liked the songs here – a good part of the movie’s humour from the lyrics – although ironically “This song’s gonna get stuck inside your head” didn’t manage to oust the remix of Everything is Awesome – or, not awesome, now, which is quite frankly a bit more valid to life than I was expecting from a movie like this!

It’s not a must-see, in my view, but a better sequel to a daft yet cult movie than I was expecting – especially in those opening few minutes 😉

Released: 8th February 2019
Viewed: 23rd March 2019
Running time: 107 minutes
Rated: U

My rating: 7/10

Fisherman’s Friends (2019)

fishermans friends poster

Based on a true story, this movie tells of a group of Cornish fisherman who went on to achieve chart success – continuing to this day! – with an unlikely album of sea shanties. It’s got feel-good, heart-warming British comedy-drama written all over it, and I went in (mainly to avoid Five Feet Apart but also) fully expecting to have my cockles warmed, foot a-tapping, and feeling good.

Alas, things did not go according to plan. It’s not a bad movie, and it does have many elements of the above. But, contrary to the advertising this is not so much a movie about hard-working shanty-singing salt of the earth types (I’m using all these cliches on purpose, btw – it suits the movie to a t!). Instead, we get the rather less appealing story about the cynical record exec finding that Cornwall’s heart is better than London’s glamour, blah blah, so much blah, yawn blah.

The focus on the movie is so skewed, in my opinion, that it takes a ‘real’ story and instead trots out every cliche known to man. There isn’t a beat in the narrative that doesn’t follow the archetypal story: love won and lost, darkest moment before the dawn, ‘hero’s’ change of heart. All of which bored and annoyed me in equal measure. I didn’t particularly want the London knob head to get a redemption story or happy ending. I actually dislike Daniel Mays as an actor, so putting him ahead of the actual supposed subjects of the movie was just… everything that’s wrong with the UK’s London-centricity, in a movie that was meant to distract me from politics. Argh!!

tl;dr: not enough fishermen, too much London tosser. Two hours of gorgeous Cornish scenery and the shanties would have left me happier without the story.

Released: 15th March 2019
Viewed: 22nd March 2019
Running time: 112 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 5.5/10

Captain Marvel (2019)

captain marvel poster

It was highly appropriate that Captain Marvel was released on International Women’s Day, as one thing you can’t deny about this movie is that the girls are running the show. It’s high time that a female character got to headline a Marvel movie (previously only managing the co-lead of Ant-Man and the Wasp) – I mean, they had three attempts with Hulk getting rather dire solo outings already!! o_O

Anyway. Vers (pronounced ‘veers’) is a Kree warrior, a heroic species tasked with stopping the evil Skruls from taking over the universe. Vers (Brie Larson) is powerful, gifted with a photon blast ability from her hands, but still being schooled by her mentor, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), to overcome her emotions – love, hate, fear; none will serve in battle. But she’s tormented by the fact that she has no memory of her early life, of who she really is.

Events conspire to crash Vers through the roof of a Blockbuster video store on 1990s ‘C 53’ aka Earth. She’s still on a mission to track down the Skruls that landed with her, hindered by the fact that they are perfect shape-shifters. Oh, and a certain Agent Fury of SHIELD needs to be convinced that she’s one of the good guys…

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On the one hand, I do love Marvel and this fits in well with the upcoming ‘Endgame’ – tying everything together story-wise and the different strands of previous films (worlds of Avengers v. Guardians, for example), nods to the history of some characters we already know, certain naming choices, etc etc. I was amazed by how well the de-aging technology has progressed, with Samuel L Jackson looking like his younger self without any hint of that ‘wtf’ from back in Tron: Legacy (2010) for instance.

Brie Larson is pretty fantastic in the role, kicking ass and displaying grit and vulnerability that we’ve come to expect from the best of Marvel. However, the humour is… strained? I found her smart mouth less amusing – or convincing – than, say, Ant-Man’s version, and there was one scene where I just couldn’t tell if it was meant to be funny or if the stoney glare was just… well, funny. Mostly it felt like she was playing it straight then giving a dopey grin now and then. Was this a character choice? I just wasn’t sure.

Marvel’s sense of humour has always been a strength, but I’m not sure they got the balance right here. Fury’s softer side, cooing over a cat (Goose is a highlight of the film, btw!), does work nicely as a ‘before he got more cynical’ but does it sit with the ‘war makes good people do bad things’ message? Or the slightly heavy-handed ‘women aren’t treated well’, girl-power, stuff? The humour derived from the ‘period’ (ow, I feel old!) could have set a tone that it didn’t, as if it was an afterthought to ‘how do we make this fit in with 20 other movies’ – fair enough, but still… it all felt a bit ‘right ingredients, something worthwhile to say’, but not quite hitting enough high points using everything they had.

Captain Marvel is a mid-stack Marvel movie for me, alas. It was entertaining but it didn’t live up to the heights of Black Panther, Infinity Waror even Iron ManSo yeah, it’s fab to see a tough woman kicking ass, but I dunno. Maybe my expectations were too high. Still, I’m more than happy to see if a second viewing makes it work better for me – focusing on what works more than the beats that weren’t hit – as I’m jealous of everyone who’s come out raving about it.

Released: 8th March 2019
Viewed: 9th March 2019
Running time: 124 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 7.5/10

Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

alita poster

When Dr Ido Dyson (Christoph Waltz) finds a cyborg head/heart in the junkyard under the world’s last sky city, he applies his technical expertise to connect it to a new cyborg body. When then girl opens her eyes, she has no memory of who or what she is – time to go explore the world!

Iron City, where our tale is set, lies beneath the only remaining Sky City, a place where many dream of escaping from their working class poverty, servicing the elite above. Shady things go on under the banner of ‘earning’ a trip up; one supposedly sure-fire way is by winning the brutal MotorBall game.

Into this oft dark but always fantastic world, we get to view everything through Alita’s naive eyes. As she slowly begins to have flashbacks, often triggered by violent moments, she starts to realise that she is not what she seems. But, is she an enemy or an unlikely ally? Who are the real villains in this unequal world?

If that’s not the best description I’ve ever managed to write, I’m going to say that it’s not the easiest film to describe. I will heap praise on the visuals, and on the world building (although that comes from the manga, I presume). The CGI to bring an anime-esque, massive-eyed Alita to life is excellently done, if occasionally a bit disturbing.

The world building here is absolutely the best thing about the movie. Cyborg-ism has become commonplace, with really only the brain needing to remain human. Some go for limb replacement to help their jobs, other more shady types are walking around in brutal robot bodies. It’s perhaps more odd that there are as many ‘meat sacks’ as there are still left.

However, a problem lies in the fact that the story is a bit all over the place. Alita’s discovery and introduction to the world are handled well, but obviously not enough action – so we’ll throw in the brutal ball sports. And some vigilantism. And some cyber-kidnapping. And mysterious power structures. And. And. And.

Overall it felt a bit like the film makers loved this world, but didn’t quite know what story to focus on. As a result, nothing comes through strongly, making a bit of a surprisingly bland overall effect. Which is utterly a shame, as a smaller tale showing us just part of this world could have been far more impactful than the odd bursts of drama, action, and tension, that don’t wholly fit together or produce a coherent narrative.

Of course, actually having an ending might have helped the story immensely. As it is, we finally get a bit of momentum going far too near the end – and then it stops. I mean, the film just stops. Clearly they’re expecting a sequel, but I’m not entirely sure it’ll ever arrive.

Released: 6th February 2019
Viewed: 16th February 2019
Running time: 122 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 7/10 – 6 at most for the story, but bonus marks for the visuals.

The Kid Who Would Be King (2019)

kid who would be king poster

Alex Elliot, and his best friend Bedders, are prime targets for the school bullies, Lance and Kaye (yes, those names are subtle o_O). When Alex runs away from them one night and into a building site, it’s destiny that he’ll find a sword in a stone. Pulling it out, of course, sets off a whole chain of events involving shape-changing wizards, evil root-covered sorceresses, and undead knights wielding flaming weapons.

As re-imaginings of the Arthurian legends go, this one isn’t that bad. Britain is indeed in dire, leaderless times, so the whole myth works quite well. Alas, setting it in a school and using children for 99% of the cast wasn’t my favourite way to go – ymmv.

Movies starring kids largely have me asking that they *not* be too irritating, and most of the time this movie does at least hit that. But Alex’s earnestness turns whiny a few too many times for me, the obviousness of most of the set up is a bit too cheesy, and the lack of actual peril doesn’t add to the action levels.

The adult characters didn’t get nearly enough screen time, or non-scenery-chewing dialog, for my liking: I think Rebecca Ferguson is a fantastic actor, and Sir PatStew’s acting chops go without saying. Neither are best utilised here.

The one actor/character I really did like was the young Merlin. Gawky, ungainly, and so much fun, he nails the part perfectly. Again, he’s just not in it enough.

Plot-wise, as I said, it’s all very predictable, but then why would I have expected anything else?

Overall this is inoffensive family fun, and I realise I’m not the target audience. If you still need a movie to take the kids to over midterm, this one isn’t going to cause actual discomfort to the adult audience. In fact, most of my fellow viewers in the cinema seemed to be older, and the loudest laughs were from grown men. So. Hmm.

Released: 15th February 2019
Viewed: 15th February 2019
Running time: 120 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 6/10

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

How to Train Your Dragon 3 poster

The How to Train Your Dragon series has possibly my favourite animated character ever in Toothless the Dragon. His half-dog/cat type behaviour backed up by y’know, fire breathing, is just adorable. The humour in the rest of the set up, from Hiccup the very non-Viking-y brainiac chief’s son, the often dozy dragon riders with all their amusing foibles, not to mention an absolutely fab vocal cast, all make these films very worth watching, whatever your age.

With a third instalment, largely I tend to just hope it won’t tarnish the memory. I wasn’t expecting this to possibly be the best movie of the three!

One strength is how well the story continues with events, rather than just being A.N. Other adventure. We’ve seen Hiccup and Toothless meeting for the first time, we’ve followed the Vikings go from dragon-haters to dragon riders. And we’ve seen Hiccup grow up a little, not least as the mantle of chief is thrust upon him.

It makes sense, from the previous two stories, to open with Berk now a dragon haven but also drawing all the wrong kind of attention from those who still haven’t embraced the new human-dragon partnership model. And so the adventure here starts very logically, with Hiccup looking for a way to protect his new friends – even if that means chasing the impossible trying to find a mythical Hidden World.

I absolutely loved this film, even more than expected. I thought a bit of cute would suit a Friday night, but instead I was deeply moved at some parts, laughed out loud at others, and was overall impressed with the action. This is a fantastic animation, and a nigh-on perfect ending to the trilogy.

Toothless is still very much my favourite 🙂

Released: 1st February 2019
Viewed: 1st February 2019
Running time: 104 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 9/10