The Gentlemen (2019)

gentlemen poster

Having built up an empire as the marijuana king of Britain, American Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey), has decided it’s time to retire and sell on the business. But this being a Guy Ritchie movie, things are rarely so straightforward. A raid on one of the production facilities, a possible war with the local heroin manufacturers, and a bit of revenge from a tabloid editor he snubbed…

The last gives rise to the framing of this tale, as sleazy investigator Hugh Grant decides there’s more money to be made taking his research to the source for blackmail money, rather than a far smaller fee from the newspaper. Grant is playing against type wonderfully, as he tries to persuade Mickey’s right hand man (Charlie Hunnam), that he has all the ins and outs of the twisted story in place.

The tale weaves brilliantly between the story-telling, flashbacks, and side-stories, rarely letting up on the pace or entertainment levels. There’s plenty of action, bucket loads of laughs, and soooo much swearing! If you’ve seen Snatch or Lock, Stock... you pretty much know the kind of thing you’re getting into, but if anything I’d say this one is better.

The cast is spot on, and all seem to be thoroughly enjoying their parts. Shout out to Colin Farrell’s ‘Coach’, best role he’s had in years. The soundtrack sweeps you up in the mood. And the story twists and turns towards its purpose in a brilliantly non-linear fashion that is nothing short of gleeful.

It’s sweary and politically incorrect, and rude and has you rooting for one bunch of criminals over others. Brilliant ūüôā

Released: 1st January 2020
Viewed: 3rd January 2020
Running time: 113 minutes
Rated: 18

My rating: 9/10

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

rise of skywalker poster

Here we are. 42 years since¬†Star Wars¬†(aka Episode 4, A New Hope) hit the big screen and created a cultural phenomenon. Now we finally reach the ‘end’, of the so-called Skywalker saga, at any rate, with Episode 9.

It’s been a rocky path. Few people loved the prequel trilogy, and this final trilogy seemed to enrage the fans. Personally, I rather enjoyed my rewatch of episodes 7 and 8 this week, although I can see why they were disappointing if you were more invested in the universe than I’ve ever managed. And so I went into this fully expecting another slice of entertainment.

Aaand… even I, not a rabid fan, came away just a bit disappointed. Oh, it looks glorious. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is great as a strong, conflicted new Jedi. Kylo Ren has managed to become more interesting than the stroppy teen from Ep7. Poe (Oscar Isaac) gets to smoulder and flirt with everything and anything. And then there’s the cameos, the old familiar faces, some new faces, the pulling together of threads from 8 other movies, the quest to find the thing that’ll let them find the other thing, the psychological stuff, Finn’s sudden Force-ish awareness, battles, morals, sand, space, more sand, and the resurrection of an old enemy.

Phew o.O

Which is to say that it feels like they threw in everything bar the kitchen sink (although I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s in the background somewhere as some kind of easter egg) and managed to make rather a glorious mess.

Oh, it’s not awful. But I hoped for more. Instead it’s trying too hard on pretty much every level. There are fan nods and nostalgia things, some of which work more than others. There are also a raft of new characters and as many new planets as they could squeeze in, but there’s no time for half of it. And with so many threads to tie up, some aren’t really done justice – character development in particular goes out of the window, sometimes clashing with the previous movie(s).

I think my main complaint is that it all feels rather disjointed. Both in-movie, and in-series; I don’t think they’ve picked the right elements to focus on, or brought back things to make for the most satisfying story. And yet, the main stories, for the main characters, those are mostly dealt with. Perhaps it was just always going to be too much, tying together this universe. I highly doubt it’s the last we see of it, right enough.

Released: 19th December 2019
Viewed: 29th December 2019
Running time: 142 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 6/10 – not awful, not amazing, bonus mark for looking amazing

Knives Out (2019)

knives out poster

When multi-millionaire crime author, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), is found dead following his 85th birthday party, it seems as though every member of his family might have had reason to dispatch of the old man. The only problem is, he clearly committed suicide. Can famous detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig with a slightly iffy Southern drawl), sort through the clues to uncover the truth?

And perhaps more to the point, when we the audience are surprisingly shown the actual events relatively early in the movie, can the proceeding twists and turns keep the suspense going?!

From the moment I saw the trailer I wanted to see this movie, and I am so relieved it didn’t let me down. It’s dark and funny and twisty and stylish. The surprise early reveal allows for something that bit more complex and ‘clever’ than a straight whodunit, and I loved every tangled moment of it!

The whole cast seems to be having a blast, camping up their character’s worst qualities. Powerful business woman Jamie Lee Curtis and her emasculated husband, Don Johnson; wannabe spiritual guru Toni Collette; the bitter eldest, forever in dad’s shadow, played by Michael Shannon. And the various, spoiled grandkids, headed up by a deliciously dionysian Chris Evans in that sweater. And in the middle of it all, the enigmatic detective and the poor naive nurse, Marta (Ana de Armas), caught up in the middle of everything.

I thoroughly recommend this movie. It’s the right mix of camp and style – oh, that colour-palette (more subtle than a Cluedo board, but the game’s name check made me think it was a nod) – and clever story telling, all in a darkly humorous package.

Released: 27th November 2019
Viewed: 13th December 2019
Running time: 130 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 9/10

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019)

jumanji 2 poster

Never a huge fan of the original Jumanji (1995), I enjoyed the reboot of the series (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)) more than I expected. This sequel is more of the same, really, although not quite hitting the same highs for fun or laughs or novelty. Most of the jokes are based on the previous film, with not too much variation on the themes. Still, you know what you’re getting.

For some unfathomably daft reason, young Spencer decides to fix the video game smashed the end of the first (reboot) movie, and re-enters the world of Jumanji. When his friends discover this they feel obliged to go back in and save him. However, not all is working perfectly, so rather than getting to pick their own avatars this time, things get a little… mixed up. Oh, and grandpa (Danny Devito) and his one-time friend (Danny Glover) are along for the ride.

The humour of the ‘old fogies’ is perhaps pushed a bit too far – it’s a bit insulting, actually. Watching the actors play with the new characters, however, is a lot of fun, even if some of the impressions are laid on a bit thick.

This time, the adventure travels out of the jungle setting of the first, but tbh I wasn’t that impressed with the ‘oh look, more Jumanji world’ – it’s all a bit… yeah, yeah, whatever.

Still. Watched this on a day of some pretty dire news, and it did exactly what I was hoping: distracted me for a few hours with a lot of daft fun. Overall I think it’s all pretty forgettable, but enjoyable enough for a mental mini-break.

Released: 11th December 2019
Viewed: 13th December 2019
Running time: 123 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 6.5/10

21 Bridges (2019)

21 bridges poster

When a robbery goes wrong and several cops are left dead, who else would be called in but the cop that kills cop killers? Fresh from an Internal Affairs review board, Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is left in no doubt what is expected of him in this case. Given just a matter of hours to catch the killers, before those ’21 Bridges’ in and out of the island of Manhattan must be reopened, the race is on and tension levels are skyrocketing.

Meanwhile, the robbers are doubting the job they’ve just pulled, or the stumbling blocks to their escape. Davis, too, is questioning if things are¬†quite what they seem.

Mark Kermode described this as a “B-movie with an A-list cast”, and quite frankly I can’t top that. 21 Bridges is a pretty straightforward crime thriller, with even the ‘twist’ signposted practically from the beginning. And yet, it’s well made with an excellent cast, and manages to be perfectly watchable and indeed, quite enjoyable.

Still, there’s nothing too novel here. Production values aside, this could have been made at pretty much any point from the 1970s onward. Grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the action – brain not particularly required.

Released: 22nd November 2019
Viewed: 22nd November 2019
Running time: 99 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 6.5/10

The Aeronauts (2019)

aeronauts poster

In 1862, the idea of meteorology – the science of weather – was a laughable thing (as opposed to 2019, when it’s still largely laughable? Hmm). Scientist James Glaisher (Eddie Redmayne) is determined to prove otherwise, but to do so he needs the help of a hot air balloon pilot. In real life, this was Henry Coxwell, but the movie makers have decided to sex up the story (hah!) and so we have the fictional Amelia Rennes (Felicity Jones) instead.

The quest to ‘go higher than anyone before’ is portrayed, I believe, in real time – which I didn’t know at the time, but is interesting. Interspersed we have a lot of flashbacks, to Glaisher’s struggle to be taken seriously, Rennes’ tragic backstory, and the pair’s less than smooth path to their record breaking flight.

There is an interesting story here, however slight (two men float up for a couple hours – yes, scientifically important, but… hmm), but it isn’t really enough to make a whole movie out of, I think. So instead the filmmakers have crammed in fiction, and tried too hard to make drama out of very little – and as a result, rather missing the point. If they’d kept the focus, actually let the viewer ride along, it could have rivalled¬†Gravity,¬†perhaps?

Occasionally, the whole thing looks spectacular. The balloon adrift in a huge expanse of sky is ‘wow’. I liked the Victorian period details. I was very glad that we didn’t get some silly romance subplot. And… that’s about it, I’m afraid. I was quite frankly bored through most of it, with even the moments of high drama rather failing to lift the whole piece.

I don’t know what the point of this was, to be honest. A few pretty scenes, an impressive enough cast. But, just no, overall.

Released: 4th November 2019 (UK)
Viewed: 9th November 2019
Running time: 100 minutes
Rated: PG

My rating: 5/10

Ford v Ferrari (2019)

ford v ferrari poster

This is the story of two companies in bitter rivalry: the handcrafted, race-dominating Ferrari, against the mass-produced, reliable but deeply ‘unsexy’ Ford. There’s a personal rivalry, too, between Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II. But more than that it’s the tale of two other men: Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), the first American to win the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race, and volatile engineering genius, Ken Miles (Christian Bale).

Both men share an obsession with cars and racing. Shelby’s career is cut short by health problems, whereas Miles is struggling to turn his racing brilliance into a family-supporting income, mainly due to his temper and obstinacy. He’s almost always right, of course.

When Ford decides its future depends on winning races, the two stories explosively collide!

I thought this movie looked interesting from the trailers, and was thus pretty pleased when it turned out to be the chosen title for Cineworld’s most recent secret screening. And I was more than pleasantly surprised at just how¬†thoroughly I ended up enjoying it.

The biggest draw is the acting from the two leads. Damon does his usual laid-back, likeable everyman very well, with the added torment of no longer being able to do what he most loves. The character is perhaps played a little backseat to Bale’s (character’s) volatility, genius, and humorous mannerisms (“Giddy up” to a car??), but it’s the combination that makes the whole thing work. And the humour – did not expect to laugh so much

I don’t have a huge interest in racing, or cars, but the story is excellently put together. Objectively,¬†there are a lot of flaws and reasons this shouldn’t work, but as the story unfolds, I was just sucked in. By the halfway point, I was oohing like mad at the purr of the engine. The emotional manipulation is perhaps a bit too predictable, and yet it still works. The 2¬Ĺ hour running time flew past.

So yeah, recommended! It’s not just for racing fans, I knew nothing about Ken Miles or Le Mans going in (and quite frankly: what utter madness is driving for 24 hours?!), and while the story could be said to slip into cliche of true life biopics, it’s a gripping ride along the way.

Released: 15th November 2019
Viewed: 4th November 2019 (advanced screening)
Running time: 152 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 8/10