jboothmillard

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Reviews

Firestarter
(2022)

Firestarter
It was only a year before that I had seen the original 1984 Drew Barrymore version, I had a feeling that it would be remade one day, and I was pleasantly surprised to see the trailer for it, based on the book by Stephen King, from Blumhouse Productions (Insidious, Get Out, Halloween, The Invisible Man). Basically, when they were younger, Andrew "Andy" McGee (Zac Efron) and Victoria "Vicky" Tomlinson (Sydney Lemmon, Jack's granddaughter) were paid to be part of a clinical trial. They were injected with an experimental chemical drug known as Lot-6, most other subjects of the experiment died, but they survived. The experiment resulted in them both gaining supernatural powers, Andy gains telepathy, the ability to hear and control thoughts, and Vicky gains telekinesis, the ability to move objects with her mind. Following the experiment, they began a relationship and got married, and they had a child together, a girl named Charlene, or "Charlie". As a baby however, Andy is panicked when Charlie spontaneously sets the room on fire, she has the power of pyrokinesis, the ability to control heat and fire. In the present day, Charlie (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) tells her parents that she has been repressing something that she refers to a "the bad thing". She finds her powers becoming more unstable as she struggles to contain and control her abilities. Charlie unintentionally causes an explosion in the school bathroom when angered by bullying. Andy meanwhile makes a living as life coach, using his mental powers, "the push" to brainwash and influence clients, under the guise of hypnosis, including helping someone to stop smoking, although using his power causes his eyes to bleed from the strain. Meanwhile, in a secret facility, Captain Jane Hollister (Gloria Reuben) is the leader of the facility known as DSI who have been monitoring unusual thermal activity following Charlie's outburst. Hollister visits Dr. Joseph Wanless (Kurtwood Smith), creator of Lot-6 and the resulting superhumans, who insists that Charlie must be terminated before her powers go out of control. Captain Hollister enlists fellow superhuman and bounty hunter John Rainbird (Michael Greyeyes) to help with this task. Rainbird visits the McGee home, confronting Vicky who attempts to fight him off using her repressed telekinetic powers. Rainbird overpowers and kills Vicky, and when Charlie and Andy return, he holds Charlie at knifepoint. Charlie's powers overwhelm her, and she inadvertently create a burst of flames throughout the house. Andy and Charlie escape in their truck while Rainbird is left badly burned. They stop on the journey for supplies, and Charlie unintentionally burns a cat who scratches her, and is forced to kill it to put it out of its misery, and Andy makes her promise never to intentionally harm anybody. On the road, Andy and Charlie hitchhike and are picked up by Irv Manders (John Beasley), who is influenced by Andy to take them to Boston. They stop at Irv's house, where Charlie accidentally stumbles upon his paralysed wife Esmerelda (Sheila Boyd). Irv is angry when he catches her, but he calms himself and explains that he occasionally overreacts. During the night, Irv watches a news report of the incident at the McGee home, in which Andy has been framed for murder. Irv and Andy get into a confrontation before Andy explains that he is just trying to protect his daughter. Charlie uses her own power of telepathy to communicate with Irv, telling him that his wife 'Essi' forgives him for the accident that left her paralysed. Soon enough police cars arrive, having been called by Irv after seeing the news report, but Irv has a change of heart and tries to help Andy and Charlie to get away. Rainbird appears from a distance in the bushes and kills the policemen and Irv with a rifle. But Andy and Charlie are picked up by black trucks before he can assassinate them. Andy uses his ability one last time to trick Rainbird so Charlie can escape running into a forest. Charlie remains in the woods to hone her power to create fire. She eventually reaches a town and controls the minds of three boys to provide her with a bicycle and clothes. She thinks she is hearing a telepathic message from her father from his cell at DSI, so she follows its direction. Charlie finds DSI and takes an agent's pass to access all areas. The agent pleads for her spare his life and tells her he does not have a gun. She initially remembers her promise to her father, but the agent tries to kill her, pulling out a gun, so she burns him to death. Charlie goes down a staircase to the restricted area in which her father is being kept. She finds her father's glass-fronted cell, where Captain Hollister is waiting for her with him. Captain Hollister tells her not to try and burn her, or her father will be killed as well. Andy did not send a telepathic message to her, Rainbird tricked her. With no other way out, Andy tells Charlie to burn the whole place down, including him, but she refuses. He apologises to his daughter and mentally pushes her to burn the entire place down, starting with Hollister and himself. Charlie is forced to set them both on fire, and mentally unlocks all the security doors to spread the flames through the facility. Rainbird is released when his holding cell is unlocked while many of the guards and scientists are killed in the ensuing inferno. Men in fireproof suits enter the facility and successfully capture Charlie who fails to kill them. The men are about to subdue her when Rainbird shoots them from behind. He surrenders to Charlie and kneels for her judgement. Charlie starts to kill him but sees herself in the mirror and she realises that he is under the thumb of DSI, like her, she shows him mercy, before finally setting the rest of the building ablaze. Charlie is seen walking onto a beach with Rainbird following behind. Knowing that she is now alone, Charlie allows Rainbird to pick her up, and they walk off together. Also starring Tina Jung as Ms. Gardner, Jamillah Ross as Officer Pierce, Danny Waugh as Sheriff Perry, Lanette Ware as Principal Lewis, Vas Saranga as Agent Jules, Claire Armstrong as Agent Gail, and Zion Forrest Lee as Agent. Eforn is reasonable as the concerned father, Armstrong does alright as the gifted girl with fiery abilities, Reuben does well as the villain trying to control the situation, Greyeyes is not playing the right kind of character, and Smith and Beasley could have been on much longer. It sticks to roughly the same plot as the original film and source material, but the changes are not all good; Hollister being a woman is fine, but Rainbird becoming an antihero is a mistake; the special effects and explosive moments work relatively well, but it is pretty much on the same level as the original, not a completely terrible science-fiction thriller. Okay!

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
(2022)

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
The first Doctor Strange movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was fantastic, and his appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home was terrific, so I was excited for the next instalment, directed by Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man, Drag Me to Hell). Basically, in an alternative universe, teenager America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) from the Utopian Parallel and a version of Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) are being chased by a demon in the space between universes while searching for the Book of Vishanti. Strange is killed and Chavez accidentally creates a portal that transports herself and Strange's corpse to Earth-616 (the Avengers universe wiped out by Thanos). In this universe, its version of Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) rescues Chavez from a large one-eyed tentacled demon, a Gargantos, with help from Wong (Benedict Wong), the Sorcerer Supreme. Chavez explains that the beings are hunting her because she has the power to travel through the Multiverse. But Chavez does know how to control her power and has lived with the guilt of accidentally transporting her parents to another universe as a child, she hopes they are alive and will find them one day. Strange has been having a "nightmare" every night for some time, but Chavez takes Strange and Wong to the corpse of Defender Strange to prove that the "nightmare" is actually a glance of his counterparts across the Multiverse. Looking at Defender Strange's corpse, Strange discovers runes of witchcraft, like there were on the tentacled monster. So, he visits Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) at her farm to ask her about what she knows about the Multiverse. But slowly it is revealed that she is responsible for the attacks, she has become the Scarlet Witch after acquiring the Darkhold, aka the Book of Spells, or the Book of the Damned. Overcome with grief of losing Vision, she created a universe for herself called Westfield (as seen in WandaVision, going through decades of sitcoms), during which she created twin boys, Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne). She wants to use Chavez's powers to travel the Multiverse and reunite with her children. When Strange refuses to surrender Chavez, Maximoff attacks Kamar-Taj, the main headquarters of the Masters of the Mystic Arts and kills many sorcerers. Chavez accidentally transports herself and Strange through numerous universes, until they reach Earth-838. Meanwhile, Maximoff uses the Darkhold to "dream-walk" and takes control of this universe's counterpart of sacrifices herself to destroy the Darkhold and break the dream-walk. Herself, to live a suburban life with her children. A surviving sorceress, Sara (Sheila Atim), sacrifices herself to destroy the Darkhold and break the dream-walk. Enraged, Maximoff forces Wong to take her to the forbidden ancient temple of Mount Wundagore to re-establish the dream-walk. While searching for help, Strange and Chavez are apprehended by Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Earth-838's Sorcerer Supreme, and brought before the Illuminati, an organisation group of heroes with superpowers. The group, many alternate versions of those Strange knows, consists of Mordo, Peggy Carter aka Captain Carter (Hayley Atwell), Blackagar Boltagon aka Black Bolt (Anson Mount), Maria Rambeau aka Captain Marvel (Lashana Lynch), Reed Richards aka Mister Fantastic (John Krasinski) of the Fantastic Four, and Charles Xavier aka Professor X (Patrick Stewart) of the X-Men. They explain that using their universe's Darkhold recklessly to try to defeat Thanos, Earth-838's Strange triggered a universe-destroying "incursion". After Thanos was defeated, the Illuminati executed their Strange to stop him from causing more harm. Mordo believes that Earth-616's Strange is similarly dangerous, but Maximoff arrives in her Earth-838 counterpart's body after re-establishing her dream-walk at Mount Wundagore before the Illuminati can pass judgment. She kills all of the Illuminati except Mordo, who Strange subdues before fleeing with Chavez. The Earth-838 counterpart of Strange's ex-fiancé Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), a scientist working with the Illuminati, helps them to escape. Strange, Chavez, and Palmer enter the space between universes to find the Book of Vishanti, which is the antithesis to the Darkhold. But Maximoff appears and destroys it, and then takes over Chavez's mind, using her powers to send the others to an incursion-destroyed universe. Strange meets the destroyed universe's Strange, following his corruption of the Darkhold, the two fight with this universe's Strange defeated. Strange uses the Darkhold to dream-walk into the corpse of deceased alternate Strange who was buried in Earth-616 and previously accompanied Chavez. With Wong's help, Strange saves Chavez from Maximoff as she tries to take Chavez's powers, and encourages Chavez to use her abilities. Chavez transports Maximoff to Earth-838, where Billy and Tommy are crying seeing their real mother suffering and recoiling in fear at her. Maximoff realises the error of her actions and uses her powers to destroy the temple, destroying all copies of the Darkhold throughout the multiverse and apparently killing herself in the process. Chavez returns Strange and Palmer to their respective universes. Sometime later, Kamar-Taj has been repaired, and the surviving sorcerers continue their training, with Chavez joining them. As a result of using the Darkhold and dream-walking into a corpse, Strange develops a third eye. During the credits, Strange meets a sorceress, Clea (Charlize Theron), who warns him that his actions have triggered an incursion that he must help fix, and he follows her into the Dark Dimension. Also starring Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Nic West, Bruce Campbell as Pizza Poppa, Adam Hugill as the voice of Rintrah, and Ross Marquand as the voice of Ultron. I should mention, it might have helped if I'd seen WandaVision before seeing this (I watched it after seeing the film, it's a good show), as its story was continued in the film, specifically where her sons came from (her children with Vision), but never mind. Cumberbatch gives a terrific performance as the mystical energy wielding hero, Olsen almost steals the show as the emotionally charged villain who longs to be reunited with a family that never truly existed, newcomer Gomez is well cast as the teenager with multiverse-hopping abilities, and supporting cast all do well also, including the guest star appearances. The story is a little overwhelmed at times by future plotline points, and obviously switching between the universes requires your close attention, but it is visually stunning, with spellbinding CGI special effects creating exciting fights and taking through the different worlds, and there moments of humour and horror added to the mix (obvious references to Evil Dead), a splendid superhero fantasy action adventure. Very good!

King Richard
(2021)

King Richard
I saw the trailer for this film last year, but I'm not going to pretend the events at the Oscars didn't influence me to watch it, after what the leading actor did, I had to know if he deserved to win his awards, from executive producers Venus and Serena Williams. Basically, in 1990s Compton, California, Richard Williams (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe winning Will Smith, also producing) lives with his wife Oracene 'Brandy' (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Aunjanue Ellis), his three stepdaughters, and his two teenage daughters, Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton). Richard wants Venus and Serena to become professional tennis players; he has prepared a plan for success since before they were born. Venus and Serena are trained daily by Richard and Brandy, while they also work as a security guard and a nurse, respectively. Richard works tirelessly to find the girls a professional coach, creating brochures and videotapes to advertise their skills, but with no success. One day, Richard takes the girls to see Paul Cohen (Ghost's Tony Goldwyn), who coaches John McEnroe (Christopher Wallinger) and Pete Sampras (Chase Del Rey), who are then in the middle of practicing. Despite his initial reservations, Paul agrees to watch the girls practice, and is impressed. However, the Williams family cannot afford professional coaching, and Paul refuses to coach both girls for free. Paul selects Venus to receive his coaching, while Serena continues to practice with Brandy. Paul encourages Venus to participate in juniors tournaments and quickly finds success. But Richard stresses to Venus and her sister that they should remain humble despite their success. At one of Venus's tournaments, Serena also signs up to play, unbeknownst to Richard. As both girls continue to succeed, the family are treated as outsiders among the predominantly white, upper-class competition. Richard meets with high-profile agents but pulls his daughters out of the junior circuit entirely, fearing that they will be taken advantage of. Paul warns him that his decision will destroy the girls' chances to turn professional, but Richard stands firm, firing Paul as coach. Richard meets with coach Rick Macci (Jon Bernthal) who has travelled from Florida to see the girls play. Impressed, he takes the girls on, and the family relocates to Florida to train at his facility. Richard surprises Rick by reiterating that the girls will not play juniors, instead training and attending school like normal little girls. Over the next three years, the media question Richard's strategy and Rick questions his desire for media exposure. Venus tells Rick that she wants to turn pro. Richard reluctantly agrees, but later changes his mind, worrying that she will suffer a similar fate to Rick's pupil Jennifer Capriati (Jessica Wacnik), who is allegedly suffering from exhaustion and was arrested for drug possession. Richard's decision strains his relationships with Venus, Brandy, and Rick. After an argument with Brandy, he reconciles with Venus, agreeing to let her play in the upcoming Bank of the West Classic in Oakland, California. Before the tournament, the family meet with an executive from Nike who offers them a major sponsorship deal worth $3 million. Rick urges them to accept the deal, but the family collectively agrees to decline, believing that when Venus starts playing, she will attract more lucrative offers. Venus initially struggles in her first professional match against Shaun Stafford (Kaitlyn Christian), but eventually triumphs. She is seen as a heavy underdog in her next match against higher ranked player Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (Marcela Zacarias). Venus takes the first set and leads in the second before Vicario takes an extended bathroom break, an apparent act of gamesmanship. Vicario recovers and wins the second set and the match. Richard and Brandy comfort a dejected Venus, telling her to be proud. As the Williams leaves the stadium, a large crowd of supporters await to cheer Venus on, and Rick tells Richard that several major shoe companies are anxious to meet with her. Richard also encourages Serena to become a champion herself. The epilogue details that nine months later, aged 15, Venus signed a contract with Reebok for $12 million. Venus went on to win Wimbledon five times and became the first African American woman to be ranked number one in the world during the Open Era. Serena became a professional two years later and became a 23-time Grand Slam champion and is considered by many to be the greatest female player in tennis history. Also starring Dylan McDermott as George MacArthur, Kevin Dunn as Vic Braden, and Judith Chapman as Nancy Reagan. Smith's victory winning Best Actor at the Oscars was unfortunately overshadowed by his actions; Chris Rock presenting an award made a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, about her bald head (she has hair loss due to alopecia), referencing G. I. Jane, Smith responded by stepping onstage and slapping Rock in the face, and returning to his seat, was heard shouting twice "Keep my wife's name out your F mouth!" Smith won the award twenty minutes after this incident and apologised to the Academy during his acceptance speech, and a day or two later to Rock himself, he resigned from the Academy, who have since banned him from future Oscar events for the next ten years. There are arguments on both sides, Rock shouldn't have made the (perhaps misjudged) joke whether he realised Jada's condition or not, but more than anything, violence cannot be acceptable. However, Smith absolutely deserved to win the award for playing an irrepressible real-life character whose stubborn and self-believing attitude was done with the best intentions, Bernthal is great support as the exasperated coach, Ellis is good as the mother, and the two young actresses playing the Williams sisters are terrific. It is fair to say that the film is much more focused on the father of the title than on Venus, or indeed Serena, despite the sisters themselves helping to produce the film, and I know or care nothing much for tennis, but it works well as a story of a man who will do whatever it takes to see his children succeed, a worthwhile sports drama. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Song for "Be Alive" by Beyoncé and Dixson (also nominated the Golden Globe), it was nominated the BAFTAs for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Casting, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama. Good!

G.I. Jane
(1997)

G.I. Jane
I'll be honest, it's only because of the (perhaps misjudged) joke Chris Rock made about Jada Pinkett-Smith (being bald, due to alopecia) at the 2022 Oscars (and the resulting slap by Will Smith) that I became more interested to see this movie, directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, The Martian, House of Gucci). Basically, in Washington D. C., Senator Lillian DeHaven (Anne Bancroft) from Texas chairs a Senate hearing. She criticises the US military not being gender-neutral, specifically the Navy's policies of women being allowed to serve in combat situations. Behind the scenes, a deal is struck: If a woman can have the same stamina and determination with men in a series of tests, the military will integrate women fully into all occupations of the Navy. Naval representatives are against her plan, but she uses her influence to get her way, and she selects topographical analyst Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil (Razzie winning Demi Moore). The female naval intelligence officer must survive a gruelling selection program in the SEALs, which has a 60% failure rate among candidates. The enigmatic Command Master Chief John James Urgayle (Viggo Mortensen) runs the training program that involves days of 20-hour aggressive tests of physical and mental strength, including pushing giant ship fenders up beach dunes, working through obstacle courses, and hauling landing rafts, all tasks designed to wear down recruits. Any candidate who wants to quit has the option to ring a large bell three times and leave the program. O'Neil demands to be held to the same standards as the male trainees, including being allowed to take up residence in their barracks. Her request is granted, and she reports to the base's barber shop, but with nobody there, she shaves off her long hair herself and joins the men in their barracks. As training continues, the Master Chief observes her helping other candidates. Eight weeks into the program, in Captiva, Florida, named "Hell Week", the Master Chief ties her to a chair with her hands behind her back, and tortures her with slapping and dunking her in ice cold water in front of the other crew members. O'Neil retaliates and manages to injure the Master Chief, despite her immobilized arms. In so doing, she acquires respect from him, as well as from the other trainees. Navy leaders were confident that a woman would drop out within a few weeks, but they are becoming concerned with O'Neil's continued progress. The media learn of O'Neil's progression in the military program, and she becomes a sensation known as "G. I. Jane." and "Joan of Arc". O'Neil becomes aware of the media frenzy surrounding her, including accusations that she is a lesbian, and is socialising with women. An investigation is launched, and she is told that she be consigned to a desk job, or if cleared, will need to repeat her training from the beginning. She decides to "ring out" and signal her voluntary withdrawal from the program rather than accept these consequences. It is later revealed that the photograph taken of O'Neil came from Senator DeHaven's office. O'Neil confronts DeHaven, who admits she never intended for her to succeed; she used O'Neil as a bargaining chip to prevent military base closures. O'Neil threatens to expose DeHaven, and blackmails her to have the charges voided and to be reinstated into the program. The final phase of training, an operational readiness exercise, is interrupted by an emergency in the Libyan desert. A reconnaissance satellite powered by weapons-grade plutonium has fallen, and the trainees, including O'Neil, are dispatched to support the Rangers in the situation, and to retrieve the plutonium. During the mission, O'Neil uses her experience as a topographical analyst to assist the team and displays a definitive ability in leadership and strategy when the Master Chief is injured and needs rescuing. Helicopter gunships deliver the final assault to the defenders, and the rescue mission is a success. Upon their return, all those who participated in the mission are accepted. Urgayle gives O'Neil his Navy Cross and a book of poetry as acknowledgment of her accomplishment and in gratitude for rescuing him. Also starring Jason Beghe as Royce, Scott Wilson as Captain Salem, Lucinda Jenney as Blondell, Morris Chestnut as McCool, Jim Caviezel as Slovnik, Daniel von Bargen as Theodore Hayes, John Michael Higgins as Chief of Staff, Kevin Gage as Instructor Pyro, David Warshofsky as Instructor Johns, and David Vadim as Cortez. Moore beefed up for the role and committed with the buzzcut hairdo, but she isn't all that convincing with her performance, Mortensen is okay as the program leader, and there is some alright support from Bancroft, Scott and Caviezel. There are indeed a lot of lingering shots of Moore flexing her muscles and numerous co-ordinated training scenes, these are really the only things worth watching, the rest is just a mish-mash of pointless military personnel chatting politics, and I don't see the full point of the story, apart from seeing if a woman can kick butt against men, a questionable choice for director Scott, a daft less than average action drama. Okay!

The Crucible
(1996)

The Crucible
I'd seen clips of this mid-90s movie a few times on an Empire magazine 1997 trailers VHS a few times, it looked good from the one or two cast members I recognised, and I knew that it was something to do with suspected witchcraft, written by Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman), based on his play, directed by Nicholas Hytner (The Madness of King George, The History Boys, The Lady in the Van). Basically, set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, early one morning, a group of young village girls meet in the woods. With a Barbadian slave named Tituba (Charlayne Woodard), they attempt to conjure love spells for certain men in their town. One of the girls, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder), kills a chicken and drinks its blood, wishing for Elizabeth Proctor (Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Joan Allen), the wife of landowner John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis), to die. Abigail's uncle, Reverend Samuel Parris (Bruce Davison), discovers them. As the girls run away, his daughter Betty (Rachael Bella) collapses unconscious. Later that night, John and Abigail are alone in a bedroom when Abigail begins to flirt with John. They have romantic feelings for each other, and shortly after have sex before going to bed. Parris questions Abigail about the events in the woods as Betty will not wake up. Ruth Putnam (Ashley Peldon), the daughter of Thomas (Jeffrey Jones) and Ann Putnam (Frances Conroy), was also dancing and has also fallen unconscious. Mrs. Putnam is especially as she previously had seven other children who died in childbirth. Farmer Giles Corey (Peter Vaughan) suspects that the children are just acting out, and John Proctor, with whom Abigail had an affair and whose wife she wants dead, also visit the Parris household. Abigail still loves Proctor, but Proctor has realised his mistake and left her. Believing Betty and Ruth have been possessed by a demon, the Putnams and Reverend Parris call Reverend John Hale (Rob Campbell) from nearby Beverly to examine Betty. To save herself and the other girls from punishment, Abigail accuses Tituba of witchcraft. After being whipped, Tituba confesses to seeing the devil and is saved from being hanged. Struck by their new power, the other girls start naming other women whom they "saw" with the devil. John tries to forget about the night he and Abigail had sex, and wants to be faithful to his wife, so he decides to get vengeance on her. Many of the "afflicted" girls accused of witchcraft are to face a court trial, with the stern Judge Thomas Danforth (BAFTA winning, and Golden Globe nominated Paul Scofield) overseeing proceedings. John wants his servant, Mary Warren (Karron Graves), one of the "afflicted" girls, to testify in court that the witchcraft was faked. Although frightened of Abigail, she eventually agrees. In the court, Francis Nurse (Tom McDermott) gives a list of names of people vouching for the accused, and the judge orders all are arrested and brought in for questioning. Giles Corey is arrested for refusing to identity who made a remark in an exchange between Ruth and Mr. Putnam. Meanwhile, Mary Warren insists she only thought she saw spirits, but the other girls make her recant. Elizabeth Proctor says she is pregnant and will be spared from death until the baby is born, but John insists on charging the girls with false witness. The other girls are called in and asked if they were lying about the witchcraft but cause a commotion, screaming that Mary Warren is bewitching them. To demonstrate Abigail's complicity, John confesses to his affair with her, claiming that she accused Elizabeth to get rid of her so that she could marry him. Abigail denies the accusation to protect her reputation, so Elizabeth is called in to verify it. However, unaware that John confessed and wanting to save his reputation, she lies. As Reverend Hale tries to persuade the court John is honest, the girls turn the court further against the Proctors by screaming that Mary Warren is attacking them as a yellow bird. Although John correctly believes that they were pretending, as he had previously accused, the girls create another commotion, running outside from the "bird" into a nearby lake. To save herself from being hanged, Mary Warren accuses John of witchcraft. When asked if he will return to God, John despairingly yells "I say God is dead!" and is arrested as a witch. On the day before John Proctor's hanging, Reverend Hale confronts Abigail at the now-abandoned homes of the victims whom she testified against. Abigail tries to convince the court that Reverend Hale's wife is also a witch, but this backfires and she is doubted as they consider a minister's wife to be pure. Eventually, the girls become outcasts and Abigail steals money from Reverend Parris to catch a ship to flee to Barbados. Abigail tries to ask John to go with her, telling him she never wished any of this on him, but she refuses and insults her, wishing her to go to Hell. On the eve of John's hanging, Parris fears that John's execution will cause riots in Salem directed at him, so allows John to meet with Elizabeth to see if she can make him "confess" to save his life. John agrees and writes the confession. The judges insist that he sign the confession and publicly admit his guilt and to convince others to confess. But, determined to keep his name pure for his sons, John angrily shouts "Leave me my name!", and tears up the confession. John, Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey recite the Lord's Prayer, but are all hanged before they can finish. Also starring Police Academy's George Gaynes as Judge Samuel Sewall, Mary Pat Gleason as Martha Corey, Robert Breuler as Judge Hathorne, John Griesemer as Ezekiel Cheever, Michael Gaston as Marshal Herrick, William Preston as George Jacobs, and Peter Maloney as Dr. Griggs. Ryder gives a memorable performance as the wicked, manipulative young girl and catalyst, Day-Lewis is alright as the man caught in the middle, and there is good support from Scofield and Allen. The Salem Witch Trials are a significant historical event, I will be honest that I did not fully connect with all the lawful material, but all the accusations and paranoia are compelling, the scenes of the girls screaming that they are seeing the Devil and stuff are electrifying, and the costumes and scenery detail are terrific, it is an interesting period drama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Arthur Miller, and it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay. Good!

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
(2022)

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
It has been a long while since I've seen the leading actor, here credited as Nicolas Kim Coppola (his real name), in a decent movie and not in something low budget or straight-to-DVD, I was immediately intrigued to see him in this, playing a fictionalised version of himself. Basically, Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage, or Nick Cage, is struggling with his career and has been passed over for several major film roles and is constantly pestered and tormented by his imaginary younger and more successful personality, "Nicky" (his infamous appearance and persona while promoting Wild at Heart on Wogan in 1990). His relationship with his ex-wife Olivia (Sharon Horgan) and teenage daughter Addy (Lily Mo Sheen, Michael's daughter) has also been difficult for years due to emotional neglect. Cage loses a key film role and causes humiliation and embarrassment whilst drunk at Addy's birthday party. Following this, Cage tells his agent Richard Fink (Neil Patrick Harris) he plans to retire from acting. However, he decides to accept his agent's vague offer of $1 million to travel to Majorca to be the guest of honour at the birthday party of billionaire playboy Javi Gutierrez (Pedro Pascal). Upon meeting Javi, Cage is initially annoyed by his neediness and insistence that they create an improvisational movie based on a script he wrote. But slowly he warms to Javi's determination, and the two of them bond over their surprisingly shared love of films, including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and, after Cage watches it for the first time, Paddington 2. Soon after, Cage is confronted by CIA agents Vivian (Tiffany Haddish) and Martin (Ike Barinholtz). They tell Cage that Javi is suspected of using his fortune for arms dealing and may be behind the kidnapping of Maria (Katrin Vankova), the daughter of an anti-crime politician running in an upcoming election. Despite his insistence of Javi's good character, he reluctantly agrees to help the CIA with their investigation. Cage's mission starts with him successfully rigging the cameras in Javi's compound. He later attends Javi's birthday party where he announces their working together on a new movie, this is an excuse to stay on the compound long enough to find Maria. After a misadventure involving LSD, Cage sneaks around the compound trying to find where Maria may be discovers that Javi is his super-fan, with a shrine room dedicated to all his movies, including a wax figure of his character Castor Troy from the film Face/Off, complete with identical golden guns. Cage finds it difficult to betray Javi, but Vivian convinces him to work a kidnapping scenario into their script so that he could potentially reveal where Maria is. Cage explains his new idea to Javi, who believes that Cage is creatively bankrupt, and possibly has issues he needs to work out. Javi brings Olivia and Addy to his villa from Los Angeles; they are frightened and angered over what is happening. Cage tries to make amends with them, but they reject him, accusing him of prioritising his film career over them. Javi privately meets with his cousin Lucas (Paco León), who is revealed to be the true arms dealer and Maria's kidnapper. Lucas warns him that Cage is working with the CIA and pressures him to kill Cage or be killed himself. Cage begins to rethink his friendship. Cage and Javi have a stand-off with each other, but neither can bring themselves to kill the other. Lucas sends his men after them both, and they race back to the house to discover that Addy has been kidnapped. Cage takes Javi, Olivia and Javi's assistant Gabriela (Alessandra Mastronardi) to the CIA safe house, but it has been compromised. Martin is dead, and Vivian sacrificed herself to kill Lucas's men before they can ambush the group. With Javi's help, Cage disguises himself as a reclusive criminal, with Olivia as his wife, to get close to Lucas. They manage to locate Addy and Maria but are caught out. However, Cage, Addy, Maria, and Olivia escape while Javi and Gabriela stay behind to distract Lucas. Cage, Addy, Olivia, and Maria race to the American embassy with Lucas still in pursuit. Upon arrival, Lucas holds Cage at gunpoint, but Addy throws him a knife which Cage uses to kill him. This moment transitions Cage and Javi's movie completed, presumably based on their adventure, receiving an ovation from the cinema audience. Cage is congratulated for his movie and congratulates Javi before going home with his family, now with a better relationship, to watch Paddington 2 together. Also starring Jacob Scipio as Carlos, Demi Moore as Movie Actress Olivia, Anna MacDonald as Movie Actress Addy, director David Gordon Green as himself, and Joanna Bobin as the Therapist. Cage sends himself up in style with knowing and intentionally preposterous high jinks and self-ridicule of his past, Pascal is equally daft, in a good way, as the suspected crime lord who wants to be Cage's best friend, and there is good support by Horgan and Haddish. Cage's movies referenced (visually or verbally) include Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, Wild at Heart, Guarding Tess, It Could Happen to You, Leaving Las Vegas, The Rock, Con Air, Face/Off, Gone in Sixty Seconds, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Adaptation, National Treasure, The Wicker Man, and The Croods 2: A New Age. The funniest moments come mostly from Cage mocking himself and his action man persona, with ridiculous but clever over-the-top moments (the wall sequence is a highlight), the Majorca locations look great, and the fast-paced sequences are surprisingly engaging, this certainly gives you hope that Cage can make better films than he has the last decade or so, a fun action comedy. Very good!

The Stud
(1978)

The Stud
I knew about this film because of its lead actress, I knew she took her clothes off and it contained a fair amount of other nudity and sex, and I knew about the sequel, The B****, despite its low ratings I gave it a chance, based on the book by Jackie Collins, Joan's sister. Basically, in London, Tony Blake (Oliver Tobias) (the "Stud" of the title) is an ordinary good-looking guy looking for work and living carefree and spending time with women when he feels like it. One night he goes to the popular nightclub The Hobo and meets club owner Fontaine Khaled (Dame Joan Collins). Fontaine is the wife of wealthy Arab businessman Benjamin Khaled (Walter Gotell) and spends her husband's money on her club and partying. She is attracted to Tony and hires him as her manager. One night, whilst in a private elevator, she starts kissing him and undressing, and they end up having sex there and then. After some time, it becomes apparent that Fontaine is a nymphomaniac, and Tony's job security is dependent on his satisfying her demands. Soon he loses interest in her, as she treats him like a plaything, but his attempts to escape her clutches seem fruitless. When he gets the chance, he turns his attention to her young stepdaughter Alexandra "Alex" (Emma Jacobs), but he finds himself back in Fontaine's grasp. Tony is invited by Fontaine's friend Leonard Grant (Mark Burns) to a private getaway in Paris, France. There in luxurious decadent surroundings, Tony is surrounded with naked nymphs ready to fulfil his every wish. Tony feels uncomfortable having to watch Fontaine engage in intercourse whilst swinging on a flowery swing above the swimming pool. Then Grant tries being intimate with him, this finally pushes Tony to snap. He angrily leaves the place, having reached the depths of corruption and Fontaine's depravity. But things only get worse when it turns out Alexandra used Tony to get back at Fontaine after she discovered a video tape of Fontaine and Tony having sex in the private elevator. Alexandra eventually shows her father this CCTV footage of his wife cheating on him, and he confronts her about the affair. In the end, Fontaine dumps Tony and is divorced by her husband for adultery. Also starring Sue Lloyd as Vanessa Grant, Natalie Ogle as Maddy, Felicity Buirski as Deborah, Doug Fisher as Sammy, Tony Allyn as Hal, GoldenEye's Constantin De Goguel as Lord Newton, and Chris Jagger (Mick's brother) as Rock Star. Collins has her moments when she is the diva, it was three years she became globally famous as Alexis Colby in Dynasty, and she is relatively alright being sultry and promiscuous, as for Tobias, as her toy boy, he is annoying being a wet blanket, and his performance is just unmemorable. The makers at the time proposed this as a British alternative to Saturday Night Fever, it certainly includes a fantastic soundtrack of 70s disco classics, including "Let's Go Disco" by The Real Thing, "Love Is the Drug" by Roxy Music, "Every One's a Winner" by Hot Chocolate, "I'm Not in Love" by 10cc, "Native New Yorker" by Odyssey, "Car Wash" by Rose Royce, "That's the Way (I Like It)" by KC & The Sunshine Band, and "Silver Lady" by David Soul. The biggest problem with this film is, it is so dated(!), the disco scenes are cringing (despite the great music) and don't add anything to the main plot, the sex scenes are not even worthy of a softcore porn film, the swimming pool sex swing sequence may be memorable, but it's equally silly, and any attempts at trying to put a story together are pointless, a terrible only just watchable drama. It was number 100 on The 100 Greatest Sexy Moments. Adequate!

Operation Mincemeat
(2021)

Operation Mincemeat
I watched the trailer for this war movie about maybe two months before its actual release, it looked like a fascinating fact-based story, and had a good cast of actors, so I was up for it, directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel). Basically, set in 1943 during World War II, British Intelligence are devising a deception operation to keep the plans for the Allied invasion of Sicily secret. Naval intelligence officer Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and RAF (Royal Air Force) Flight Lieutenant Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen) have developed an outlandish but intricate plan they are sure will fool the Germans (Nazis) and disguise the invasion. The plan is to dress a corpse as a British officer, give him a fictitious but convincing identity, with personal items, and authentic looking documentation detailing a plan to invade Greece and Sardinia. Admiral John Godfrey (Jason Isaacs) is initially unconvinced that this plan could work, and it will need approval from Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Simon Russell Beale). Slowly however, the plan gets underway, as Montagu and Cholmondeley create an identity and backstory for the fake officer. They give him the name "Captain (Acting Major) William Martin", a common and almost undetectable name. Secretary Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald) is fascinated by the plan, named Operation Mincemeat (because of the body). She offers her services into creating a credible identity for the dead man, including using a photograph of herself as the man's lover. The most important part of the operation is to find a dead man, specifically who has recently died from drowning, and eventually they find their man. A man named Glyndwr Michael (Lorne MacFadyen), a tramp who died from eating rat poison, is "recruited" for the operation. There is a point when the mission could be stopped when it even starts, when the dead man's sister, Doris Michael (Gabrielle Creevy) identifies his body, but they convince her that his part in their hoax could save many lives. There is also concern that Montagu's brother, Ivor (Mark Gatiss) may be working alongside the enemy, after British intelligence have been tracking his movements and observing his behaviour. Montagu and his team are also unable to photograph the corpse for identity purposes, until Jean introduces them to her American friend, Sergeant Roger Dearborn (Lorne MacFadyen), who is the spitting image of the dead man, and may help them with a new photograph. Slowly, Montagu and Jean find themselves becoming attracted to each other, despite him being married to Iris (Hattie Morahan) and having two children. The operation is coming together, with Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton) writing a love letter from the sham lover to the dead man, with an eye lash included in the envelope, and a black attaché case chained to his wrist containing the false papers from military authorities in London. Finally, "William Martin" is dressed in uniform, placed in an airtight canister, loaded aboard the submarine HMS Seraph, and dropped in the water near Spain. The decomposing corpse is discovered floating off the coast of Huelva, in southern Spain. British intelligence communicates with numerous phone calls claiming to have a lost an officer out at sea, knowing that the Germans are highly likely to be tapping and listening to their telephones. Germans becomes aware of the body washes ashore and use their spies to gain more information about the contents he was carrying. Montagu and the rest of the officers are anxious to find out if the Germans have indeed been fooled by their ruse. Eventually, William Martin is returned to Britain, and MoS (Ministry of Supply) expert Charles Fraser-Smith (James Fleet) investigates the fake letter. He confirms that there is evidence to suggest the wax seal was broken and repaired, indicating the letter was read. Sometime later, the British wait anxiously for a phone call indicating if German forces are moving and the situation with the Allies invading Sicily. Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn) is writing the events as the unfold for a future spy thriller (many aspects of the operation were the inspiration for James Bond). Eventually, the phone rings and it is confirmed that Sicily has been occupied, with very few casualties and little injured during. The deception and Operation Mincemeat are hailed as a success, and Montagu and Cholmondeley are commended for their service. William Martin was laid to rest in a cemetery of Nuestra Señora, in Huelva, Spain, and years later, after the revelation of the mission, his grave was marked with his real name, Glyndwr Michael, and his efforts in the war. Also starring Paul Ritter as Bentley Purchase, Nicholas Rowe as Captain David Ainsworth, Will Keen as Salvador Gomez-Beare, Alexander Beyer as Karl Kuhlenthal, Alex Jennings as John Masterman, Catastrophe's Mark Bonnar as Jock Horsfall, Poldark's Ruby Bentall as Connie Bukes, Nico Birnbaum as Colonel Alexis von Roenne, Markus von Lingen as Adolf Clauss, Rufus Wright as Lieutenant Bill Jewell, Caspar Jennings as Jeremy Montagu, and Dolly Gadsdon as Jennifer Montagu. Firth is good as the gentlemanly leader of the operation, with Macfadyen supporting him well, Macdonald is interesting, and Isaacs is fine. I was told a little about the real story, from the eyelash in the letter to the details of the homeless man chosen, the operation itself is engaging to see planned and unfolding, the characters interacting about the fictional life of their corpse is quirky but likeable, the tiny comedic moments add comic relief, and the period detail is splendid, it is a wonderfully written and performed stranger than fiction British story with gusto, a terrific war drama. Very good!

The Northman
(2022)

The Northman
I was most excited for this film when I saw the trailer, and I was glad when I found out it was getting positive reviews, and it was good to see writer and director Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse) expanding into a film with a bigger scale. Basically, in A. D. 895, on the island of Hrafnsey, King Aurvandill War-Raven (Ethan Hawke) has returned to his kingdom after his overseas conquests. He is happy to be reunited with his wife, Queen Gudrún (Nicole Kidman), and his son and heir, Prince Amleth (Oscar Novak). The father and son participate in a spiritual ceremony overseen by the jester, Heimir the Fool (Willem Dafoe). The next morning, masked warriors led by Aurvandill's brother, Fjölnir (Claes Bang), ambush the king. Amleth runs and hides and is shocked to witness his father murdered, beheaded, by his uncle. Amleth disguises himself and watches his village massacred, and he sees his taken away screaming by his uncle. He reaches the water and flees in a boat, swearing to avenge his father, save his mother and kill Fjölnir. Amleth is found by a band of Vikings and raised among them as a berserker. Years later, after an attack in the land of the Rus, Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård), encounters a Seeress (Björk) in the temple of Svetovit. The Seeress reminds him of his vow and predicts that Amleth will soon take revenge on Fjölnir. Amleth finds out that Fjölnir was overthrown by Harald of Norway and lives in exile in Iceland. Amleth manages to sneak aboard a slave ship heading to Iceland. Posing as a slave, he encounters a Slavic slave named Olga of the Birch Forest (Anya Taylor-Joy), who claims to be a sorceress. Arriving in Iceland, Amleth and the rest of the slaves are taken to Fjölnir's farm. It is revealed that Queen Gudrún is now Fjölnir's wife, and they had a son together, Gunnar (Elliott Rose). One night, Amleth flees the farm and encounters a He-Witch (Ingvar Sigurdsson) who conjures the spirit of the late Heimir, who was murdered by Fjölnir. Heimir's spirit tells Amleth about Night Blade, a magical sword that can only be drawn at night and its location. Amleth later obtains the sword fighting and defeating an undead spirit. A day later, Amleth is selected to compete in a game of knattleikr (an ancient ball game). The game turns violent and Amleth saves Gunnar, who runs to play, from the rival team's champion Thorfinnr Tooth-Gnasher (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson). As a reward, Fjölnir's eldest and adult son Thorir the Proud (Gustav Lindh) allows Amleth to claim Olga as his wife and makes him supervisor of other slaves. During the evening celebrations, Amleth and Olga make love, and they promise to work together to bring down Fjölnir and his men. Over the following nights, Amleth kills several of Fjölnir's men, and Olga puts psychedelic mushrooms in the men's food, allowing Amleth to enter Fjölnir's house. His mother, Gudrún, is shocked when he meets with her, she reveals she was originally taken into slavery. She reveals that she conceived Amleth after she was raped. She then cruelly reveals it was her order her Fjölnir to kill his father Aurvandill, and that she prefers Fjölnir and her new son Gunnar. Amleth is enraged and leaves, and during the night he kills Thorir in his sleep, taking his heart. Fjölnir is determined to find his son's murderer and threatens to kill Olga; Amleth reveals himself as responsible and trades Olga's life for Thorir's heart. Refusing to give back the heart, Amleth is restrained and severely beaten. But he is released from the chains by a flock of ravens, seemingly by either the spirit of the war-raven or Odin himself. Olga rescues Amleth from the farm and the two escape in a boat, and they plan to go to Amleth's relatives in Orkney. While departing, Amleth kisses a wound on Olga's throat, which triggers a vision. In the vision, as prophesied by the Seeress, Olga is pregnant with twins, one of whom will become the Maiden King (Lily Bird). Fearing that his children will never be safe while Fjölnir lives, against Olga's wishes, Amleth is determined to finally kill Fjölnir and jumps overboard. Back at the farm, Amleth frees the slaves and kills most of Fjölnir's men. While searching for Fjölnir, Amleth is attacked by Gudrún, and then by Gunnar. In the ensuing chaos, Amleth kills his mother in defence, and then he accidentally kills Gudrún, and is seriously injured. Fjölnir discovers the bodies and arranges a meeting with Amleth at the Gates of Hel, which is the volcano Hekla, to resolve the conflict via holmgang (a duel). At the volcano, Amleth and Fjölnir engage in a fierce swordfight. It ends when Fjölnir is decapitated, but Amleth is fatally wounded. In his dying moments, Amleth has a future vision of Olga embracing their twin children and begins to ascend to Valhalla (the hall of the slain), as he sheds his first tear since his father's murder. Also starring Kate Dickie as Halldóra the Pict, Ralph Ineson as Captain Volodymyr, Katie Pattinson as the Shield Maiden, and Rebecca Ineson (Ralph's daughter) as Halla the Maiden. Skarsgård is both sensitive and savage as the vengeful warrior prince, Kidman gives a splendidly complex as the mother, Taylor-Joy is interesting as the lover, Bang is suitable as the Brotherless villain, and there is terrific support from Hawke and Dafoe. The premise is familiar, a Scandinavian legend that was the direct inspiration for William Shakespeare's Hamlet; it really transports you into the mythological world of Icelandic/Norse legend and the Vikings. The supernatural folklore stuff is a little strange at times, but the striking imagery and extraordinary attention to period detail is exceptional, an engaging revenge story with extreme violence, a great cast, and superb spectacle, a fantastic epic historical action drama. Very good!

Pavarotti
(2019)

Pavarotti
If you were asked to name an opera singer, it is highly likely you would name the tenor who is the subject of this factual film, who I was most interested to find out more about, directed by Ron Howard (Splash, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Rush). Basically, this is the story of the life and career of Italian operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Pavarotti was born in Modena, Italy to a poor middle-class family; his father was a baker, and his mother was a housekeeper. As a teenager he became a member of a choir and aspired to become an accomplished singer. When he auditioned for his first major leading role in an opera, he gained praise for his ability to hit a high C with command and authority. He was cast and his notable leading role debut in 1963 in Covent Garden, which had him hit the high C several times. Pavarotti's reputation expanded and he became known as the "King of the High C's". He went on to launch a recording career and became noted in his live performances for holding a white handkerchief. Pavarotti was a good friend of fellow tenor José Carreras, who went to hospital for treatment of leukemia. Following his successful leukemia treatment, Carreras goes with Pavarotti to New York for a recovery period. There Pavarotti, Carreras, and fellow opera star Placido Domingo happen to be staying at the same hotel during the Metropolitan Opera season. On the eve of the World Cup Final, a promoter, knowing that they are all soccer fans, suggested them to arrange a concert where the three of them could perform in the same venue. The Three Tenors concert, with Zubin Mehta conducting, takes place in Rome in 1990 to a capacity audience. The Three Tenors are a breakthrough success, with their playful singing of "'O Sole Mio" becoming a stand-out hit. The three also improvise on the stage a version of "Nessun Dorma" by Puccini as a finale. They reunite for subsequent concerts at the next three World Cup finals and ultimately perform more than 30 concerts. The recorded version of the 1990 concert becomes the best-selling classical music album of all time, outselling established rock and pop stars in the Billboard charts. Pavarotti's stardom continued to rise as one of the outstanding tenors of the twentieth century. He performed many solo concerts rather than operas, becoming something of a pop star himself as his celebrity status outweighs his talent, including a performance with the rock band U2, and he made time for many charitable causes. The film also explores Pavarotti's weight gain, his demands of food when travelling, and his love for cooking. It also details his personal relationships with many girlfriends, his wife Adua and their children, and his affair that led to his divorce in 2000, and his marriage in 2003 to his former personal assistant Nicoletta Mantovani. He retired in 2006 and made his final performance at the Opening Ceremony of the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games in his home country of Italy. In 2007, he was admitted to hospital for treatment of pancreatic cancer, he died from complications of the cancer on September 6 in his hometown of Modena. The film ends with Pavarotti performing "Nessun Dorma", his most famous and globally recognised operatic song, in concert in 1987. With contributions from Bono, José Carreras, Placido Domingo, Angela Gheorghiu, Harvey Goldsmith, Vittorio Grigòlo, Andrea Griminelli, Nicoletta Mantovani (widow), Zubin Mehta, Cristina Pavarotti (daughter), Lorenza Pavarotti (daughter), Giuliana Pavarotti (daughter), Carol Vaness, and Adua Veroni (ex-wife). It is an interesting insight into the man behind the iconic voice and cheery demeanour, with great archive footage, articles, interviews, and photographs on and off stage edited together splendidly, and even if you do not know much about opera, you will appreciate the artistry, mainstream appeal, achievements and legend of Luciano Pavarotti, a most interesting and enjoyable biographical documentary. Very good!

Moneyball
(2011)

Moneyball
Not to be confused with the terrible gameshow with Ian Wright from last year, I had missed this film so many times in recent years when it had been on TV, but I eventually rented it and finally got watching it, directed by Bennett Miller (Capote, Foxcatcher). Basically, Billy Beane (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Brad Pitt, also producing), general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team is devastated by the team's loss to the New York Yankees in the 2001 American League Division Series. With the impending departure of three star players, Beane needs to assemble a competitive team for 2002 with Oakland's limited budget. During a scouting visit to the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets young Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Jonah Hill) who has radical ideas about evaluating players. Beane tests Brand's theory and is impressed with his method of assessing player value, using statistics and computer analysis; he hires Brand as his assistant general manager. Using Brand's method, Beane signs undervalued players such as Chad Bradford (Casey Bond), Jeremy Giambi (Nick Porrazzo), younger brother of Jason Giambi, and Scott Hatteberg (Chris Pratt) and trades for David Justice (Stephen Bishop). The Athletics' scouts are hostile toward the strategy, with head scout Grady Fuson (Ken Medlock) accusing Beane of destroying the team, and Beane fires him after this heated confrontation. Beane also faces opposition from Art Howe (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the Athletics' manager. Tensions are already high between them due to a contract dispute, Howe disregards Beane's and Brand's strategy and plays a more traditional line-up that he prefers. Early in the season, the Athletics are already ten games behind first, leading critics to dismiss the new method as a failure. Brand argues that it the statistics are not conclusive that the method does not work, and Beane convinces team owner Stephen Schott (Bobby Kotick) to stay the course. Beane trades Giambi to the Phillies for John Mabry to help on defence and the only traditional first baseman, Carlos Peña (Gerardo Celasco aka Adrian Bellani), to the Tigers. Howe is left with no choice but to play the team Beane and Brand have designed. Three weeks later, the Athletics gain momentum and are only four games behind first. Beane acquires relief pitcher Ricardo Rincón (Miguel Mendoza) from the Indians before the trade deadline, and on August 13, the team starts a winning streak. Beane is superstitious and chooses not to watch the games, but his daughter persuades him to attend the next game against the Kansas City Royals when the Athletics equal the American League record of 19 consecutive wins. Oakland is leading 11-0 when Beane arrives and is forced to watch the Royals even the score. But when Hatteberg hits a home run, the crowd are ecstatic to see the Athletics achieve a record-breaking 20th consecutive win. Beane tells Brand he will not be satisfied until they have changed baseball by winning the World Series using their system. The Athletics eventually win the 2002 American League West title but lose to the Minnesota Twins in the American League Division Series. Beane is contacted by John W. Henry (Arliss Howard), the owner of the Boston Red Sox, who realises that sabermetrics (empirical analysis) is the future of baseball. Beane is offered a $12.5 million salary to become the Red Sox general manager, which would make him the highest-paid general manager in professional sports history, but he turns it down. He returns to Oakland and discloses the offer to Brand, but he sees it ultimately is all a failure. Brand reassures him by showing a video of an obese batter who hits a home run but doesn't realise it at first and tells Beane that he did the same. Later, Beane is driving and listens to a CD made by his daughter, with a message for him, and she sings "The Show" by Lenka, changing the final lyrics to "you're such a loser, Dad, just enjoy the show." Also starring Robin Wright as Sharon, Reed Diamond as Mark Shapiro, Brent Jennings as Ron Washington, Tammy Blanchard as Elizabeth Hatteberg, Jack McGee as John Poloni, and Spike Jonze as Alán. I'm not going to pretend I know much about baseball, apart from hitting the ball with the bat a long distance and running around the whole pitch is a good thing. I guess it doesn't matter if you don't have much knowledge of the game, Pitt is charismatic enough, and Hill is good support as the number crunching deputy, it has a well-written script, and you pay attention to the progression of the team, so it's a fairly interesting drama based on a true story. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Adapted Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, it was nominated the BAFTA for Best Adapted Screenplay, and it was nominated the Golden Globes for Best Screenplay for Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian, and Best Motion Picture - Drama. Worth watching!

The Lost City
(2022)

The Lost City
I saw the trailer for this film, featuring the highly catchy song "Cake by the Ocean" by DNCE, about eight times before it was released, it looked like good fun, so I was hoping the film itself was going to deliver. Basically, Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) is a reclusive middle-aged author who writes romance-adventure books featuring the fictional hero Dash McMahon, who is portrayed by cover model Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum). Her publisher Beth Hatten (Da'Vine Joy Randolph) insists that she must embark on a book tour with Alan to promote her latest work. It starts disastrously as Loretta has a habit of being too factual, and the crowds are more interested in Alan's popular Dash persona. Following this, Loretta is taken by some men in a limousine, which Alan witnesses. She is taken to eccentric billionaire Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe) who realises that her books have elements of actual historic research that she did with her deceased archaeologist husband. Fairfax has a piece of an ancient map, and he has found a lost city on a remote island in the Atlantic. He wants Loretta to decipher the symbols of the map as he convinced that it details the location of the "Crown of Fire", a priceless treasure, but Loretta refuses to help him. Fairfax fears that the site on the island will soon be destroyed by an active volcano, so he chloroforms Loretta and takes her to the island. Alan recruits former Navy SEAL turned CIA operative Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt) to help him find Loretta, and they use technology to track her. Fairfax shows Loretta the lost city site before tying her to a chair, whilst Jack and Alan locate the island. Jack, with no assistance from Alan, enters Fairfax's compound, defeats numerous henchmen, and finds Loretta. He and Alan take Loretta tied to the chair in a wheelbarrow and escape the compound before it is blown up, but Jack is shot in the head before they can leave. Alan manages to get Loretta into Jack's car and they drive away, but they are forced to escape into the jungle. They spend a full day trekking through forests, entering the leech-infested rivers, and climb hills and cliffs, with the henchmen following them. Loretta is convinced they can find the treasure themselves, and Alan reluctantly agrees, and eventually they reach a village before nightfall. During the evening, Loretta hears a folk song from a local, and deduces that the crown is hidden in a sinkhole in the jungle. Meanwhile, Beth has become adamant on finding Loretta herself, and recruits eccentric cargo plane pilot Oscar (Oscar Nuñez) to help her. Before Loretta and Alan can leave, Fairfax kidnaps Loretta again and Alan chases the vehicle to save her. The pair are then forced to share the treasure's location with Fairfax. They travel by boat and reach the location, hidden in the depths of a cave, and discover the tomb. But it is not a monument for Kalaman's power and does not contain a treasure, it is a hiding place for the queen to grieve for her husband, and the "Crown of Fire" was made of red seashells gathered by her husband who is buried with her. The actual treasure of the legend wasn't a priceless jewel but the inseparable love between the king and queen. Fairfax is furious with no treasure and forces Loretta and Alan into the tomb as the volcano erupts. But one of the henchmen had a change of heart and left a crowbar for them to help them escape before abandoning Fairfax on the island. Fairfax is found by Beth, Oscar and the local coast guard, while Loretta and Alan escape the cave and swim to the surface before it is destroyed. Loretta warns Beth that Fairfax is the kidnapper, and he is apprehended before he can flee, and arrested for his crimes. Loretta's next book, based on their adventures, is a hit, and she and Alan share a kiss while on holiday. The couple are later together at a yoga class, and Jack, who survived, surprises them. Also starring Patti Harrison as Allison, Don't Breathe's Stephen Lang as Fantasy Villain, Héctor Aníbal as Rafi, Thomas Forbes-Johnson as Julian, Adam Nee (also directing) as Officer Sawyer, and Raymond Lee as Officer Gomez. Bullock is alright as the everywoman in a sparkly pink catsuit most of the time, Tatum is happy to mock his eye candy persona, Radcliffe has fun as the pantomime megalomaniac villain, Randolph gets good moments as the dedicated publisher, and Pitt in his short time is alright. The makers were obviously trying to recreate something like Romancing the Stone style, the two leads have good chemistry, you go along with the journey, and there are enough funny and exciting moments, but I must say, the overall result wasn't quite what I'd hoped for, the ending (with no treasure and the silly mid-credits sequence) was a bit disappointing, but overall, it's not a bad action-adventure comedy. Worth watching!

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
(2022)

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
The wizarding world of Harry Potter prequels have been good overall, Where to Find Them started things nicely, and Crimes of Grindelwald continued the story pretty well, this third film had some very noticeable changes, but I was always up for it, produced and written by creator J. K. Rowling, directed by David Yates (Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2; The Legend of Tarzan). Basically, set in 1932, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) helps a Qilin, a magical creature that can see into someone's soul and see the future, to give birth. The acolytes of Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen, replacing Johnny Depp, due to the negative publicity surrounding him and Amber Heard), led by Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller), attack and killer the Qilin mother and kidnap the baby. Grindelwald subsequently kills the creature to gain the ability to see into the future. But Grindelwald and his followers are unaware that the Qilun gave birth to twins, the second baby was saved by Newt. Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) is unable to fight against Grindelwald due to a blood pact spell cast years ago, so he recruits Newt, his brother Theseus (Callum Turner), Ilvermorny Charms professor Eulalie "Lally" Hicks (Jessica Williams), Senegalese-French wizard Yusuf Kama (William Nadylam) and American Muggle Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) to thwart Grindelwald's plan for world domination. Kama becomes a spy in Grindelwald's inner circle while the rest of the group travel to Berlin, Germany. There, the group witness Grindelwald being acquitted of all criminal charges by the ICW (International Confederation of Wizards) and subsequently running for the office of Supreme Mugwump. The ICW believes Grindelwald would gain more support if he was arrested, but he could lose support being beaten in a legitimate election. Theseus is arrested by the German Ministry of Magic, which has been undermined by Grindelwald's followers, who plan to assassinate Brazilian election candidate Vicência Santos (Maria Fernanda Cândido), one of Grindelwald's competitors. Newt and Lally are assigned by Dumbledore to rescue Theseus and foil the assassination. While Newt rescues his brother from the secret German wizarding prison, Lally and Jacob thwart the assassination attempt. But Jacob is subsequently framed for trying to kill Grindelwald, he meanwhile sees Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol) at the gathering, she has feelings for Jacob and has regrets of joining Grindelwald. Jacob and Lally barely escape the crowd, but the framing has given Grindelwald an incentive to turn all wizards against Muggles. Grindelwald sends Credence to assassinate Dumbledore, Credence is quickly defeated but spared by him. Dumbledore reveals to Credence that he is the illegitimate son of his younger brother, Aberforth Dumbledore (Richard Coyle), his real name is Aurelius; Credence starts to question his loyalty to Grindelwald. The wizarding world leaders gather in Bhutan, where the new Supreme Mugwump is to be elected by the ancient tradition of the Walk of the Qilin ceremony, where a Qilin will bow to the candidate with a pure heart. Grindelwald has reanimated the Qilin he killed, using necromancy, and manipulates the election with the reanimated creature bowing to him. He immediately declares war on the Muggle world and tortures Jacob for trying to assassinate him. However, Credence, Queenie and Newt expose him, when the real surviving Qilin is produced, and it subsequently bows to Dumbledore, as well as Santos. Enraged, Grindelwald tries to kill Credence, who is protected by Albus and Aberforth. The ensuing contact of the two spells causes the blood pact spell to break, and Dumbledore and Grindelwald attack each other. The battle reaches a point that neither can succeed, and Grindelwald eventually retreats. In the aftermath, a dying Credence is accepted by Aberforth and returns home. Jacob and Queenie marry in the Jacob's bakery in New York City, with most of the group and Queenie's sister Porpentina "Tina" Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) in attendance. Dumbledore watches the ceremony from across the street and briefly thanks Newt when he steps outside, before departing alone into the night. Also starring Victoria Yeates as Bunty Broadacre, Poppy Corby-Tuech as Vinda Rosier, Oliver Masucci as Anton Vogel, Dave Wong as Liu Tao, and Fiona Glascott as Minerva McGonagall. Redmayne gets giggles as the eccentric magizoologist, Fogler is again likeable as the good-natured Muggle, Mikkelsen as the replacement for Depp is a good choice as the villain, and Law gets some good moments. The film properly acknowledges that Dumbledore is a gay character with the love oath spell being key to it, but the story like previously is uneven and a little complicated at times, but the action and chase sequences work well, there is another welcome return to Hogwarts castle, and there are no complaints about the great magical special effects are great, all in all this is a fun enough fantasy adventure. Worth watching, in my opinion!

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
(2022)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2
The first movie, based on the popular Sega video game, had the initial backlash with the well-known lead blue character looking like a freak, but with some tweaking it turned into a big hit, and the ending of it paved the way easily for a sequel. Basically, Doctor Ivo Robotnik (Jim Carrey) is stuck on the mushroom planet and trying to use the power of the strand of hair from his nemesis, Sonic the Hedgehog (voiced by Ben Schwartz), to power a machine to take him back to Earth. Following a failed attempt, he inadvertently lures Knuckles the Echidna (Idris Elba), an anthropomorphic red echidna warrior with superhuman strength, to finding him. They collaborate, use a ring portal to return to Earth and to find Sonic. It has been several months since Robotnik was defeated, and Sonic has been adopted by his friend Sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and Tom's wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter). Sonic tries to help others with his super speed, becoming a vigilante to fight crime, but Tom wants him to be patient for the day his powers will be needed. Sonic gives Tom and Maddie a ring to transport them to Hawaii to celebrate the marriage of Maddie's sister Rachel (Natasha Rothwell). Sonic plans to have fun while home alone, but Robotnik returns, and he fight with Knuckles. The warrior echidna wants to honour the legacy of his extinct tribe and is seeking the legendary Master Emerald, an ancient relic that allows its possessor to bend reality to their will. Sonic is rescued by Miles "Tails" Prower (Sonic is rescued by Miles "Tails" Prower, a two-tailed fox who), a two-tailed fox who can fly like a helicopter. Tails came to warn Sonic about Knuckles, as he idolises him, and they team up to find the Emerald. Robotnik reunites with his obsessively loyal assistant Stone (Lee Majdoub) and offers to help Knuckles, but schemes to steal the emerald for himself. Sonic and Tails follow clues on a map from Sonic's deceased guardian Longclaw (Donna Jay Fulks) to Siberia, where they find a compass within an old temple. Robotnik and Knuckles track them and pursue Sonic and Tails down a snowy mountain. After causing an avalanche, Robotnik and Knuckles steal the compass. Sonic calls Tom for help when the avalanche is close to hitting them, and Tom saves him and Tails by using a ring to teleport them to the wedding. Rachel's fiancé Randall (Shemar Moore) and many of the wedding guests reveal themselves as undercover agents, with Commander Walters (Tom Butler) leading the Guardian Units of Nations (or G. U. N. For short), who have been working to capture Sonic. After Sonic, Tails and Tom have been taken into custody, Rachel is furious with Randall, believing their relationship has been a sham. Rachel works with Maddie to rescue Tom and his friends from the government officials. Meanwhile, Robotnik and Knuckles find an underwater temple and work together to pass the various booby traps to reach the Master Emerald. After being released, Sonic goes to the temple and fights Knuckles, but Robotnik betrays Knuckles, stealing the emerald and fleeing as the temple collapses. Sonic and Knuckles escape and agree to work together as Tails rescues them in a biplane. Robotnik absorbs the Master Emerald and gains unlimited power which he uses to build a giant robot resembling himself to attack Green Hills. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles work together to fight the robot. After the Master Emerald is reclaimed, knocked out of Robotnik's body, it is shattered, releasing the seven Chaos Emeralds. Sonic is rescued by Tom and Maddie, and he uses the Chaos Emeralds to transform into Super Sonic. He destroys the robot, with Robotnik falling from its platform, before dispersing the Emeralds and returning to normal. Knuckles restores the Master Emerald from the remaining shards and agrees to safeguard it with Sonic and Tails. The three resume an idyllic life with the Wachowskis. G. U. N.'s forces arrive at the scene where the Giant Eggman Robot was destroyed. Walters is informed that they have been unable to find Robotnik's body, but Stone is there disguised as a G. U. N. Soldier. Walters is then informed that when Robotnik was removed from their database, they found a file dating back to over fifty years ago. This file contains details and coordinates for "Project Shadow", and in a remote research facility, there is a capsule containing a black and red hedgehog. Also starring Adam Pally as Deputy Sheriff Wade Whipple and Melody Nosipho Niemann as Jojo. Once again, Carrey relishes being over-the-top as the maniacal mad scientist with the bald head and crazy huge ginger moustache, Marsden and Sumpter are fine, Rothwell gets funny moments as the easily agitated older sister, the lead character is likeable, and the additional new ally creatures adds to the fun. It's fair to say that this is a sequel that is much bigger in scale than the predecessor, with more exhilarating and explosive fights and chases, and even more spectacular visual effects, and it makes you laugh more as well, definitely one for all the family, an entertaining action-adventure comedy. Good!

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
(2017)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
I heard mixed things about this film, but being from director Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, Aladdin) that was no surprise for me, and then it went on to be a box office flop, so there we go, but I went on to watch it later. Basically, Camelot is surrounded by the armies of Mordred the warlock (Rob Knighton). During the attack, Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), the king of the Britons, infiltrates Mordred's lair and beheads him with the help of a unique sword, Excalibur, forged by Merlin (Kamil Lemieszewski), and Camelot is saved. Uther's brother Vortigern (Jude Law) yearns to possess the throne and orchestrates a coup, sacrificing his wife Elsa (Katie McGrath) to moat hags to become a Demon Knight. He kills Uther's wife Igraine (Poppy Delevingne, Cara's sister) and defeats Uther, but Uther's baby son Arthur (twins Zac and Oliver Barker) escapes in a boat. Arthur ends up in Londinium, he is raised by prostitutes, and he grows up (Yannik Baker, Hugh Robb, and Barney Walsh) trained in the art of fighting, becoming a tough and savvy crime boss on the street. As an adult however, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is haunted by nightmares of the night that his parents died without seeing who attacked them. Vortigern is a cruel ruler of Briton and dedicates resources to building a tower near the castle. When the water surrounding the castle recedes, a sword in a stone, Excalibur, is revealed, and all the men of the city are taken and brought forward one by one to try and remove it. The prostitutes help Arthur to evade being captured with other men but is eventually caught. The guard Trigger (David Beckham) oversees the men who attempt to pull Excalibur from the stone, and everyone is shocked when Arthur is successful, but he is overwhelmed by the power of the sword and passes out. Vortigern holds Arthur in captivity and explains to him about his ancestry and the sword's significance; he plans to have him executed. Meanwhile, a Mage (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) identifying herself as a follower of Merlin presents herself to Uther's former general, Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou). At Arthur's planned execution, the mage creates a diversion while Arthur is rescued by Bedivere's men. Arthur is taken to Bedivere's hideout, he initially refuses to help them, not believing that he is king. The mage persuades Bedivere to take Arthur to a realm called the "Darklands", there he learns that the Demon Knight is Vortigern and killed his mother. He also sees his father's sacrifice to save Arthur and entomb the sword in stone made of his own body. Arthur learns Vortigern became jealous of Uther's popularity and wanted the throne for himself, so he persuaded Mordred to attack Camelot, and he is building the tower to increase his own magical powers. Arthur and a group of rebels chip away at Vortigern's army and make plans to assassinate him. Vortigern avoids the assassination attempt, and a battle ensues. Arthur escapes with his friend's son Blue (Bleu Landau) but several of his men are killed and one is captured. A frustrated Arthur tries to throw the sword into a lake, but the Lady of the Lake (Jacqui Ainsley) returns it and shows him a vision of England's future under Vortigern's rule. Coming to terms with his responsibility, Arthur reunites with Bedivere, and they return to their hideout. The captured man is tortured and reveals their location, while the mage and Blue are captured, and all other rebels are killed. An emissary from Vortigern instructs Arthur to surrender. Bedivere brings the sword to Vortigern and states that Arthur is powerless without it. Arthur promises to surrender himself if Blue is released. Before riding to the castle, the mage injects him with special snake venom. When Arthur confronts Vortigern, a giant snake attacks the castle and Bedivere's rebels also attack. Arthur reclaims his sword and follows Vortigern into the tower. Vortigern sacrifices his daughter Princess Catia (Millie Brady) to become the Demon Knight. He and Arthur engage in a brutal fight, during which Arthur has a vision of his father passing the sword on to him before turning to stone. Arthur eventually gains the ability to wield Excalibur, overpowering and killing Vortigern. Arthur reclaims his rightful place on the throne, he knights his friends and begins construction on his Round Table. Also starring Aidan Gillen as Bill, Neil Maskell as Back Lack, Annabelle Wallis as Maggie, Freddie Fox as Rubio, Craig McGinlay as Percival, Tom Wu as George, Kingsley Ben-Adir as Wet Stick, Geoff Bell as Mischief John, The Syndicate's Lorraine Bruce as Syren, and Guy Ritchie as Inn Owner. Hunnam is okay in the title role, Law does alright as the villain, I remember Bana and Maskell doing fine, I don't recall Hounsou and Wallis doing very much and the cameo by Becks is odd and a little laughable. Most people will know the regular Arthurian story of Arthur, Merlin and the sword in the stone, while a couple of elements remain intact, Ritchie decided to turn the real story into a rather silly medieval, with knights going against mythic monsters, only some of the fight scenes and the special effects got my attention, otherwise I was almost bored by everything else, a daft only just worthwhile period fantasy action-adventure. Okay!

Morbius
(2022)

Morbius
There is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and there is the spin-off Spider-Man Universe, which stemmed from Venom, and that is the universe that this story exists in, to bring us perhaps one of the lesser known in the comic books, and I was willing to give it a chance, directed by Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Life). Basically, at a hospital in Greece, ten-year-old Michael Morbius (Charlie Shotwell) forms a close bond with his surrogate brother Lucien, whom he renames Milo (Joseph Esson). They both share a rare blood disease and desire to be free of their illness and to be "normal". Their adoptive father and hospital director Dr. Emil Nicholas (Jared Harris) arranges for Michael to attend medical school in New York while he focuses on caring for Milo. Twenty-five years later, Michael (Jared Leto) is awarded the Nobel Prize for his outstanding achievement in biochemistry, creating synthetic blood that saved many lives, but he publicly declines the award. Michael has recently returned from Costa Rica and has secretly captured dozens of vampire bats, which his colleague Martine Bancroft (Emerald City's Adria Arjona) discovers. Michael hopes to splice the genes of the bats with his own to develop a cure for his condition. He visits Milo (Matt Smith), still being cared for by Nicholas, and informs him of his planned illegal experiment. After receiving funding from Milo to outfit a private mercenary vessel in international waters with his equipment. After running tests on a lab rats, Michael and Martine are pleased by a successful solution being created, and Michael is ready for the human trial, on himself. Michael drinks the solution, but is instantly transformed into a monstrous vampire, knocking Martine unconscious, and killing all crew members aboard, and draining their blood. Michael regains his senses after his bloodlust subsides, but has no memory of his actions, and is horrified after watching the CCTV. He erases the CCTV footage of his experiment and what happened, calls the authorities to locate the vessel, and jumps overboard, leaving Martine unconscious. Michael returns to New York and is amazed by his newfound superhuman strength, speed, reflexes, and echolocation (hearing distant sounds), and his vampire bats are at one with him. He is able to walk in sunlight, but remains in his lab, maintaining his lust of blood with his synthetic blood until it gradually ceases to satisfy his needs and time to do so is decreasing. The vessel is located and investigating FBI agents Simon Stroud (Tyrese Gibson) and Alberto "Al" Rodriguez (Al Madrigal) deduce Michael's involvement in the deaths. Michael is questioned but released with no substantial evidence on suspicion of murder. Milo learns that Michael has found a cure but is furious when Michael refuses to give it to him, warning him of its danger. Martine awakens in hospital, but also does not give any real answers to the FBI questions. Michael visits Martine and is shocked to discover the body of a dead nurse. Believing to be responsible for her death, he tries to escape, but is cornered and arrested. Milo visits Michael in prison and offers to use his wealth to get him out. But Michael realises that Milo has taken the cure and killed the nurse. Michael manages to escape and finds Milo in a subway station, he is unrepentant, confessing his bloodlust-induced crime, he urges Michael to embrace his powers. Unwilling to hurt his brother, Michael flees. Michael meets Martine to explain everything, from the positives of the cure to the hideous crimes of Milo. Finding an underground criminal lair, Michael scares away a gang and acquires a new lab to develop an anticoagulant to stop and kill Milo. He also intends to use the solution on himself since he will become unable to resist his bloodlust. Stroud and Rodriguez find footage of one of Milo's attacks, they believe Michael, as a vampire, is spreading a curse and the story is released to the media to track him down. Nicholas sees the footage and recognises Milo carrying out the attack in the subway. Milo returns and Nicholas pleads with him to stop, Milo is angered he may prefer Michael, he responds by wounding him and calling Michael. Nicholas dies in Michael's arms while Milo goes on to attack Martine. Michael returns to Martine, but he is too late, she also dies in his arms, and he drinks her blood. Michael confronts Milo and, as vampires, they brutally fight in an abandoned underground construction. Milo overpowers Michael, until he summons an army of bats to restrain him, allowing him to inject the anticoagulant. Milo momentarily mourns his surrogate brother as he dies, then he flies away with his bats as the authorities surround the area. Michael mourns the loss of his loved ones and embraces his identity as a vampire. Michael is unaware that his vampiric powers have entered Martine's bloodstream, and she is revived with newly developed powers. Meanwhile, Adrian Toomes aka Vulture (Michael Keaton) when he finds himself transported by a spell (by Doctor Strange) from Peter Parker's universe into Michael's and is released from prison. He later approaches Michael and suggests that they join forces. Also starring Corey Johnson as Mr. Fox and Joanna Burnett as Nurse Kristen Sutton. Leto has followed his deserved Oscar win in Dallas Buyers Club with some disappointing performances, from a terrible punk Joker in Suicide Squad to a Razzie winning over-the-top Italian idiot in House of Gucci, thank goodness here he is tolerable and suitably moody, Arjona is beautiful and does well, but Smith gives a scene-stealing performance as the villain with a dry and dark sense of humour. It is a fairly predictable story of a biochemist trying to cure himself of a deathly disease and becoming something nasty in the process, the anti-hero plot is a bit disjointed at times, the friend turned enemy and horrors elements are reasonable, you want to see where it's going, and you cannot deny the special effects are fantastic, so it's worthwhile enough superhero vampire action. Okay!

The Big Fat Quiz of Everything
(2022)

The Big Fat Quiz of Everything
This edition of the show that plays out like a pub quiz was a special with questions about many famous facts from recorded history since the dawn of man, a surprisingly factual and as usual funny show to watch and have fun with. Hosted by Jimmy Carr, with celebrity panellists in three teams: (slightly distanced due to COVID-19) Roisin Conaty and Richard Ayoade (C&A), Joanne McNally and Rob Beckett (The Serious Television Intelligence Squad (STIs)), and Mawaan Rizwan and Rosie Jones (PC Gone Mad). This quiz focused on all sorts of factual information from people, science and technology, film and TV, music, places, history, and pot luck (general knowledge) to answer about. These questions are asked as they are, with video and sound clips, with pictures (including Say What You See), and by celebrity and mystery guests on screen or in the studio, so it really does feel like a proper quiz that you can take part in. Events from history that were questioned and joked about, and mentioned (or pictured) included: the Lunch atop a Skyscraper photograph, famous landmarks (London Eye, Taj Mahal, Empire State Building), King Kong, Marilyn Monroe, Lassie, Indiana Jones, Beyoncé, superheroes (Superman, Captain Marvel, Batman, Wonder Woman), Barack and Michelle Obama, Lewis Hamilton, Serena Williams, Madonna, the Spice Girls, Mahatma Gandhi, Arnold Schwarzenegger bodybuilding, acting and being governor, Kim Kardashian, Playboy founded by Hugh Hefner in 1953, a man speaking on behalf of Geri Halliwell leaving the Spice Girls, Time magazine Person of the Year (Mark Zuckerberg, Wallis Simpson and Adolf Hitler), pseudonyms for Sir Elton John (Sir Binky Poodle Clip, Sir Horace Pussy, and Judas Fart), statues of famous people (footballer Mo Salah, William Wallace, Alfred Hitchcock, Melania Trump and Colin Firth), Eric Cantona Kungfu kicks, Steve Jobs launches iPhone, Beatles play rooftop gig, Ask Jeeves launched in 1996, the Walkman invented in 1979, the first home computer invented in 1974, the six colours of the human eye (blue, brown, green, hazel, grey, and amber), the Eiffel Tower growing six inches in summer and contracts six inches in winter, suggested cures for the flu, Robert Cornelius taking the first selfie photo in 1839, the Mentos in Diet Coke experiment (the nucleation of carbon dioxide) on YouTube, The Flintstones, Big Brother, how Marvel superheroes Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk and Captain America got their powers (bitten by a radioactive spider, absorbed gamma rays radiation, and injected with super soldier serum), Sean Bean has died over 25 times onscreen (they show The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, GoldenEye, and The Field = pushed over a cliff by cows), the famous people Forrest Gump met in the film (Elvis Presley, Paul "Bear" Bryant, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Abbie Hoffman, Dick Cavett, John Lennon, Richard Nixon), Supernanny (Jo Frost) and her trademark "naughty step" parenting advice, the houses of Westeros in Game of Thrones (Arryn, Baratheon, Greyjoy, Lannister, Martell, Stark, Tagaryen, Tully, Tyrell), iconic TV characters (Columbo, Scott Robinson from Neighbours, Hercule Poirot), Go Compare, The Proms which started in 1895, the opera, Take That, New Kids on the Block, "What a Wonderful World" by Sam Cooke, Oasis protesting miming on Top of the Pops with Liam and Noel Gallager swapping places in "Roll with It", sound effects in songs (boing in "Re-Rewind (The Crowd Say Bo Selecta)" by Arful Dodger feat. Craig David, an elephant trumpeting in "Work It" by Missy Elliott, a cash register in "Paper Planes" by M. I. A.), a Bollywood film score sampled in "Toxic" by Britney Spears, Ringo Starr angrily announcing he would no longer be signing autographs after 2008, the names of male and female farm animals (pigs = boar/sow, geese = goose/gander, ducks = drake/hen, sheep = ram/ewe), things that can be seen from space (the Great Barrier Reef, the Pyramids of Giza), the Angel of the North statue near Gateshead, the fountain from Friends in Burbank, California, a local report about a petition to change a street name from "Bell End", Disney theme parks prohibiting people from pointing with one finger, saying the words "I don't know", and having the same name as another colleague, the Bermuda Triangle (having the wrecks of 50 ships, 20 planes, the gateway to the city of Atlantis, and a million horny eels), the Leaning Tower of Pisa, James Bond stunt doubles, Tutankhamun's tomb discovered in 1925, the first thing described as "the best thing since sliced bread" in 1952 being the television, Juliana the Great Dane awarded a Blue Cross medal for defusing a bomb by peeing on it, the Cottingley Fairies photos hoax, trepanning which involves perforating the head, a photograph of an emotional girl reacting to Elvis Presley, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, 50 Shades of Grey by E. L. James, Animal Farm by George Orwell, monkeys don't get jetlag, lobsters mate for life, the tin can invented in 1810 and the can opener invented in 1858, varieties of Lynx deodorant (Africa, Java, Voodoo, Apollo), the boomerang, five chillies from around the world ranked from mildest to hottest (in order: the Padron pepper, the jalapeno, the cayenne, the bird's eye, and the Scotch bonnet), the Beatie Boys creating the crimewave of stealing car badges (e.g. VW), Japan traditionally eating KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) on Christmas Day, and popstars (played by professional lookalikes in the studio) who spent the most weeks at Number One (in order: Diana Ross = 7 weeks, Stormzy = 10 weeks, Lady Gaga = 13 weeks, Sir Elton John = 24 weeks, and Ed Sheeran = 56 weeks). Other celebrity and special mystery guests in the show included the children of Mitchell Brook Primary School in Neasden who act out well known news stories, Charles Dance who reads online negative (and positive) reviews for books, Paralympian Hannah Cockroft, Caleb Cooper from Clarkson's Farm, Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac, Daniel Mays, Katie Piper, Paul Hollywood, Gemma Whelan (Game of Thrones), BMX Olympic silver medallist Kye White, and the mystery guests who were stunt doubles for Daniel Craig in James Bond films (Ben Cooke - Casino Royale, Bobby Hanton - Quantum of Solace, and Mark Higgins - Spectre). The jokes and the questions are what make this show so much fun, they chose the right celebrity panellists, and it also works as a funny way to find out and reflect on things you may or not know from history, a great comedy quiz show. Very good!

The Challenger
(2013)

The Challenger
It was sad to hear of the death of the star of Body Heat, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Children of a Lesser God, and in recent years some Marvel movies, this TV-made film was broadcast as a tribute to him, and the subject of it sounded interesting as well. Basically, on January 28, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with seven crew members aboard, including schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe who was trained for the mission. However, 73 seconds after take-off and during its flight, the spacecraft explodes in mid-air, all aboard are killed, and the shuttle disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean. Physics professor Dr. Richard Feynman (William Hurt) hears of the accident on the radio whilst driving home from a lecture. Several days later, Feynman is by a former student and asked to sit on the Presidential Commission to determine what caused the accident. He is initially unsure whether he should, as he strong views on politics and the government, but his wife Gweneth (Joanne Whalley) encourages him that he cannot pass up a puzzle like this. Feynman arrives in Washington and meets chairman William Rogers (Brian Dennehy), but quickly realises he wants to protect NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and may not be seeking the real truth of what caused the accident. Feynman is unaware that the commission will be in recess for five days before any official work begins. During this time, he visits various NASA production facilities to learn about the shuttle and things that could cause an explosion. He finds there are several NASA employees afraid to openly discuss known issues with the shuttle program out of fear. Being the maverick investigator, Feynman discovers many other known issues through research, and discovers that the loss of a shuttle was expected. Feynman's only ally on the commission is General Donald J. Kutyna (Bruce Greenwood), who tries to leak information to him, as he has a secret source within NASA who knows what really happened. Feynman gets closer to the truth, but is in shock discovering that he has cancer, and health dramatically changes. Realising how important the truth is, he returns to Washington to divulge the reason for the shuttle's failure. In a televised broadcast of the commission hearing, Feynman has concluded that the O rings were the culprit for the explosion. He demonstrates that due to the cold temperatures on the day of the launch, the O ring could not expand and caused the explosion, and NASA were unwilling to reschedule. Unable to hide from the truth, the findings are reported President Ronald Reagan, and Feynman cites that "reality must take precedence" and "nature cannot be fooled." It ends with a montage of several key members and what happened following the investigation. Also starring Pirates of the Caribbean's Kevin McNally as Mulloy, Eve Best as Sally Ride, Henry Goodman as Dr. Weiss, Meganne Young as Michelle Feynman, and Stephen Jennings as Neil Armstrong. The performances of Hurt, Dennehy and Greenwood are all fine, the pace is a bit up and down, but it is an interesting story of the aftermath of the Challenger Disaster, one of the most tragic and shocking disasters in history, not a bad historical drama. Worth watching!

The Phantom of the Open
(2021)

The Phantom of the Open
Some of the best films based on real people and events are "stranger than fiction", and this is a great example of that kind of story, and one getting positive reviews that I looked forward to, directed by Craig Roberts, star of Submarine. Based on the true story, set in the 1970s, Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance) is a middle-aged shipyard crane operator and optimistic dreamer from Barrow-in-Furness, married to Jean (Sally Hawkins), with her son from her previous marriage, Michael (Jake Davies) who Maurice adopts, and their own sons, identical twins James and Gene (Christian and Jonah Lees). Maurice is happy with his family life, but perhaps bored by his job and wants to achieve something. Meanwhile, the twins are competing in many local and further dance competitions, often for cash prizes, during the disco dancing craze of the time, and find themselves becoming successful. Then one night, whilst trying to work out how to turn the (recently purchased) television off, Maurice happens upon a broadcast of the 1974 Piccadilly World Match Play Championship. Soon after seeing this televised golf tournament, he is determined to enter the competition, and hopes to win the £10,000 prize. He contacts the broadcasters to enquire about how to enter the Open Championship and starts practising playing golf. He initially tries to become a member at a professional golf course and club, but is refused, so he sneaks in after closing hours to practise. He also practises in various other locations at work, on the beach and elsewhere, and borrows books from the library about golfing. When Maurice does receive the application form to compete in the next Open Championship, Jean helps him to fill it in. This includes detailing his handicap, which they interpret as his ailments, e.g. False teeth (it is actually his playing ability), and the claim that he is "professional". At the 1976 Open Championship, Maurice is accompanied by his twin sons as caddies, and has purchased a red hat and checkered vest for the occasion. The professional golfers and Keith Mackenzie (Rhys Ifans), secretary of the R&A (Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews), are curious about him. The professionals hit their balls under par with no problems, but Maurice becomes notorious with the crowd, the commentators and press coverage for his numerous attempts to hit the ball. Those watching on the course and at home are amused and fascinated by his lack of skills, his failure to hit the ball further than a few metres, and his jovial attitude and reactions to his progress. Michael is humiliated when his work colleagues see Maurice and his bad playing on the television, and there is concern it will ruin his reputation at work. In a matter of moments, the press is spreading the word about his high scoring, to which Mackenzie tries to force Maurice to leave and stop any further humiliation, but Maurice refuses. In the end, Maurice achieves a score of 121, the worst score recorded at the Open Championship. Although he is referred to as "the world's worst golfer", he accepts many opportunities to be paid by the media for interviews and television appearances. Maurice has ambitions to return to the Open Championship and try again, but he is refused and banned. However, he comes up with a plan to enter again under a different identity and disguises himself with a large fake moustache and sunglasses, posing as French "professional" player Gerald Hoppy. Soon enough though, Mackenzie and the other tournament runners recognise him and try to catch him, but he manages to escape. Maurice tries numerous times again to enter the Open Championship, and other major golf tournaments and competitions, all with the same results. Maurice is eventually given a lifetime ban but was undeterred by failure, supported by his wife and children, and became a folk hero, facing adversity and pursuing his dreams and shooting for the stars. The end credits show archive footage of the real Maurice Flitcroft in interviews and on television shows, which is interesting. Also starring Mark Lewis Jones as Cliff, Johann Myers as Willie, Simon Farnaby (also writing) as Laurent Lambert, Steve Oram as Gerald Hopkins, and Tim Steed as John Pegg. Rylance gives a charmingly earnest performance as the ambitious amateur golfer who always remained positive despite his lack of experience, Hawkins does well as his wife, and Ifans is fine during his time onscreen. It is a feel-good story of an underdog who defied the odds and captured the hearts of the nation, the disco dancing subplot does well also, it is funny at all the right moments, the leading character is one of the most loveable you can think of, and the period detail from costumes to the disco era, a truly British, fun, and enjoyable biographical sports comedy-drama. Very good!

Father Brown
(1954)

Father Brown
I'd seen clips of the Mark Williams teatime drama show Father Brown on TV, so I was interested to see this film (alternatively titled The Detective) featuring the popular character from the G. K. Chesterton books, directed by Robert Hamer (Dead of Night, Kind Hearts and Coronets). Basically, one night a priest, Father Ignatius Brown (Alec Guinness), is arrested for seemingly stealing from an open safe, he explains he is replacing the money for a parishioner and proving how easy it was to break into. He is released when The Bishop (Cecil Parker) confirms who he is, and his side career as an amateur detective. After being released, Father Brown meets the parishioner in question, Bert Parkinson (Sid James) who drives get-away cars, the priest convinces him to become a chauffeur and work for Lady Warren (Joan Greenwood). Sometime later, Father Brown is asked to go to Rome carrying a 1,200-year-old priceless crucifix; he is sure that his rival, established criminal Gustav Flambeau (Peter Finch), may try to steal the holy relic. He crosses the channel to France then catches a train, first stopping in Paris. He is accompanied by a priest he met on the ship, and they become aware that police inspectors are watching them, but they manage to evade them. The excursion goes to the catacombs. Father Brown realises that the priest with him is Flambeau in disguise, nevertheless, the criminal overpowers him and steals the cross, leaving Brown tied up. Flambeau changes disguise and manages to avoid the two police officers waiting at the entrance to the catacombs. Father Brown convinces his friend, Lady Warren, to auction an important gold chess as bate to lure Flambeau into stealing it. They expect him to appear in disguise at the auction. Flambeau does appear at the auction, but not as a bidder, but as a porter, and he steals the chess set as the bidding concludes. But Flambeau returns the set to Lady Warren to prove a point. Police arrive at the venue, but Flambeau and Brown questionably work together to sneak onto a milk van and create a diversion to escape together before the criminal gets away again. Brown starts researching Flambeau in the library. He is unfortunate to break his glasses, he cannot see anything without them, but he eventually gets a new pair from an optician. In his research, Brown finds a link Fleurency in the Burgundy region of France and travels there. He finds Flambeau at a wine festival, but the criminal again manages to slip away. The next day he finds the old chateau and is looking for "the duke" but is told he is not home. He slips into the inner courtyard disguised as an old woman. Entering the dilapidated chateau, he sees signs of habitation, and discovers a secret door in the back of the big kitchen fireplace. Flambeau asks him to enter and reveals a priceless art collection. He gives Brown the stolen cross. The police arrive and Flambeau flees through the window. The art collection is recovered by the police and displayed in the Louvre. Back in England, Father Brown gives a sermon, with Flambeau entering and sitting next to Lady Warren. Also starring Bernard Lee as Inspector Valentine, Gérard Oury as Inspector Dubois, Bride of Frankenstein's Ernest Thesiger as The Vicomte, Ernest Clark as the Bishop's Secretary, Austin Trevor as The Herald, John Horsley as Inspector Wilkins, Noel Howlett as Auctioneer, and The Man with the Golden Gun's Marne Maitland as Maharajah. Guinness is really likeable as the eccentric sermonising sleuth who sets traps for the crooks he wants to catch in the act, Finch is alright as the villain, Greenwood as the huskily seductive Lady is fine, and there is memorable support from Parker and Thesiger. I will be honest and say that I possibly didn't pay the fullest attention to the film when I was watching it, apparently the time period the story was supposed to be set was slightly changed, I wouldn't know. Anyway, what I did pay attention to was amusing and intriguing enough, the religious stuff is only slight, for me it was all about Guinness's charming performance, all in all, it is a reasonable comedy thriller. Good!

X
(2022)

X
I spotted this scary movie listed at a few of the cinemas, I was intrigued by the title, I became interested because of the leading actress from A Cure for Wellness, and the plot sounded interesting, so I went for it. Basically, set in 1979, Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) is a pornographic film actress embarking on a road trip through Texas with her producer boyfriend Wayne (The Ring's Martin Henderson), fellow porn stars Bobby-Lynne (Pitch Perfect's Brittany Snow) and Jackson Hole (Scott Mescudi aka Kid Cudi), director RJ (Owen Campbell) and RJ's girlfriend Lorraine (Jenna Ortega) to shoot an adult movie for the booming video market. Bobby-Lynne and Jackson start to become romantic, Lorraine is unimpressed with the content of the film, and RJ is wanting to make it seem like a serious piece of cinema. Wayne has arranged for the group to stay at the farm of elderly couple Howard (Stephen Ure) and Pearl (Mia Goth) who have a guesthouse. Howard is temperamental towards the group and carries a shotgun while Pearl is entranced by Maxine and silently stalks her. The group intends to shoot on location, without the couple's knowledge, with a farm related theme and storyline. Filming commences with Bobby-Lynne and Jackson having sex. Meanwhile, Maxine wanders up to the couple's house, she is invited inside by Pearl who offers a drink of lemonade, they have a conversation. Pearl laments her age, expresses jealousy for Maxine's youth, and makes a sexual advance towards her. Maxine returns to the group a little shaken by Pearl's behaviour but calms down. She films her sex scene with Jackson, she and the others are unaware that Pearl is watching from outside and is aroused. Following what she has seen, Pearl pleads with Howard for them to have sex, but he refuses, reminding her that he has a weak heart. Night falls and the film crew relax in their farmhouse. Lorraine is usually prudish, having assisted filming the performers have sex, and being intrigued and turned on, she wants to shed her reputation, but RJ is upset when she asks to be in the film. Wayne says that Lorraine can make her own decisions and allows her to take part if she wants to, and eventually RJ agrees to shoot a scene between Lorraine and Jackson. But RJ becomes so furious over her unfaithfulness that he intends to drive away while the others are asleep. He is shocked by Pearl, who suddenly appears and attempts to seduce him; he is repulsed and pushes her away, so she pulls out a knife and stabs him to death. Lorraine and Wayne notice RJ is missing and go looking for him. Wayne wanders into a barn after hearing noises, and gets a nail stuck in his foot, before being stabbed in the eye through a peephole, and with a pitchfork by Pearl. Lorraine approaches the couple's house and is invited in by Howard who claims Pearl is missing. He asks Lorraine to get a flashlight in the basement, she finds it, then screams in terror seeing the rotting corpse of a missing man and trying to flee she finds the basement door has been locked. Jackson gets out of bed and Howard arrives asking him to help him find his wife. Meanwhile, Pearl enters the guesthouse and climbs into Maxine's bed naked. While searching the woodland area, Jackson finds a pond with a car submerged in the mud, then Howard appears and shoots him dead, revealing himself to be complicit in Pearl's violent tendencies. Back at the house, Lorraine finds an axe and breaks her way through the door to reach the lock, only for Howard to attack her, breaking her finger and forcing her back down. Maxine wakes and screams finding Pearl lying naked next to her. Pearl walks out the house, with Bobby-Lynne witnessing and following her to the lake. Bobby-Lynne tries to take Pearl back to the farm, but Pearl angrily insults her. Bobby-Lynne scoffs at her before being pushed into the lake where she is eaten by an alligator. Maxine sees Pearl and Howard return to the guesthouse and hides under the bed. The elderly couple talk about the murders before having sex. Maxine manages to crawl out from under the bed and runs to the crew's van, finding RJ's dead body, and the keys missing. Maxine grabs a pistol from the van's glovebox and enters the farmhouse, finding and freeing Lorraine, who angrily blames Maxine for what has happened. Lorraine panics and runs out the front door, only to be fatally shot by Howard. The elderly couple intend to frame the crew as intruders on their property and start to move the bodies. Lorraine splutters before dying, startling Howard, and causing him to have a fatal heart attack. Maxine holds Pearl at gunpoint, who begs her to help her husband, she demands the keys to the truck. She attempts to shoot Pearl only to discover that the gun is unloaded. Pearl takes Howard's shotgun and attempts to shoot Maxine, but the force from the shotgun blasts her out of the house. Pearl lies helpless on the ground with a broken hip and begs Maxine for help. Maxine refuses and she shouts insults her, until Maxine runs her over with the truck, crushing Pearl's head. Maxine is the lone survivor and drives away from the farm. The next morning, the police have arrived at the house. An evangelical programme is seen frequently playing on Pearl and Howard's television, and on the programme, it is revealed that Maxine is the daughter of a conservative Christian preacher (Simon Prast). Sheriff Dentler (James Gaylyn) is informed that a film camera (RJ's) has been found, and the officers speculate about what it contains. Also starring Geoff Dolan as Deputy, Matthew J. Saville as Officer Mitchell, and Bryony Skillington as Store Clerk. Goth is becoming something a scary movie regular, she is terrific as the lead, but also unrecognisable and highly creepy as the horny old woman, Ure is equally nasty as her hubby helping her fulfil her sick fantasies, Snow is amusing as the ditsy promiscuous porn actress, and there is good support from Ortega, Kid Cudi and Campbell. It is a simple and familiar concept, a group of young adults wind up at the wrong place at the wrong place, with a pair of psychopathic pensioners, it is obviously influenced by and pays homage to classics like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Psycho and The Shining. The sexual stuff is very reminiscent and certainly looks like something out of the 70s, while the scares mostly come from how bizarre the old characters are and the grizzly gory deaths of course, I'm glad I the kind of film I was expecting, a worthwhile erotic slasher horror. Good!

Cyrano
(2021)

Cyrano
I had already seen the film adaptations of Cyrano de Bergerac, based on the play by Edmond Rostand, the 1950 version starring José Ferrer and the 1990 version starring Gerard Depardieu. The title character is normally a man with a long nose, in this new version based on the stage musical, he is a dwarf, but otherwise, the story remains the same, directed by Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Hanna, Darkest Hour). Basically, Roxanne (Haley Bennett) is a beautiful orphaned young woman and is accompanying the foppish Duke De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn), who is in love with her and determined to marry her, for a night at the theatre. Newly recruited soldier Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) sees Roxanne passing in the carriage and follows her to the theatre. Roxanne sees Christian whilst taking her seat and they are instantly infatuated with one another. As the play begins, there is a shout of objection directed at the lead actor Montfleury (Mark Benton) by gallant swordsman, poet, and Roxanne's childhood friend, Cyrano de Bergerac (Golden Globe nominated Peter Dinklage), who has dwarfism. The actor is chased off stage by Cyrano, and then a man calls him a freak for his condition; Cyrano duels with the man and unintentionally kills him. Cyrano has been desperately in love with Roxanne for years, she is unaware, but he has not spoken of his feelings, believing himself to be unworthy due to his stature, and fearing rejection. One day, Roxanne asks to meet Cyrano privately, she starts to tell that she has fallen in love with someone who does not know it yet, but Cyrano is quietly devastated when he realises that she is talking about Christian. She asks Cyrano to arrange a meeting between them, and suggests he writes her letters about his feelings for her. Cyrano meets Christian and discovers he is inarticulate and incapable of expressing his feelings. Not wanting to disappoint Roxanne, he writes countless letters expressing his own deep feelings of love for her, which Christian delivers as his own writing. When Christian and Roxanne finally meet in person, he is unable to match the power of Cyrano's words. Roxanne is upset when he inadvertently insults her, she says that she needs more than simple compliments and storms off. Later, Cyrano helps Christian make amends by appearing at her house, from a distance. Cyrano hides in the shadows and whispers to Christian what to say. It becomes difficult to communicate swiftly, so Cyrano speaks with his own voice, this confuses her, but she listens intently. Roxanne is impassioned and forgives Christian, who climbs up to her balcony and they embrace. Meanwhile, De Guiche arrives with a Priest (Richard McCabe), he is determined that he will either marry her or have his way with her. De Guiche is infuriated when he is informed that Roxanne and Christian have married. Therefore, he arranges for Christian and Cyrano to be sent, along with their unit, to fight in the war with Spain. Whilst on the battlefield, Cyrano sends Roxanne a letter from Christian every day; many other soldiers have letters for their loved ones as well. Cyrano does everything he can to ensure that Christian will be safe from harm. De Guiche eventually sends their unit on a suicide mission, and Cyrano reveals he has already written a final letter to Roxanne. Christian sees the letter is stained with tears and realises that he has been writing about his own feelings for Roxanne. Christian realises Cyrano is in love with and that the man she truly loves is him. Feeling despondent, Christian ventures out onto the battlefield to meet with the enemy's guns. Christian is killed, while Cyrano is severely wounded. Three years later, Cyrano has become poor, reclusive and his health has deteriorated from the wounds that never fully healed. Roxanne remains his close friend. Sending that he is close to death, Cyrano meets with Roxanne and asks for Christian's final letter. He recites it from memory, and Roxanne finally realises that Christian's letters were from him. Roxanne declares her love for Cyrano, and they kiss, before he peacefully passes away in Roxanne's arms. Also starring Bashir Salahuddin as Le Bret, Monica Dolan as Marie, Ruth Sheen as Mother Marthe, We Are Lady Parts' Anjana Vasan as Sister Claire, Glen Hansard as Guard #1, Sam Amidon as Guard #2, Scott Folan as Guard #3, and Peter Wight as Ragueneau. Bennett is luminous as the woman all the men are in love with, and Harrison Jr. Does well as the young soldier longing to be with her, but the film absolutely belongs to Dinklage, who gives a brilliantly sensitive performance as the raconteur and wordsmith who renders his shortness undesirable but captivates with his powerful gift for words. It is a simple love story to follow, the dance sequences are well-choreographed but often distracting and unnecessary, but the score by brother and sister Aaron and Bryce Dessner and the songs "Someone to Say", "Madly", "Every Letter", "I Need More", and "Whenever I Fall" are terrific, and the 19th century costumes and locations look impeccable, all together, it is a worthwhile musical romantic drama. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Costume Design, it was nominated the BAFTAs for Outstanding British Film of the Year, Best Costume Design, Best Make Up & Hair, and Best Production Design, and it was nominated the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. Good!

Spider-Man: No Way Home
(2021)

Spider-Man: No Way Home
The new Spider-Man of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, then he got his solo outings, Homecoming was great, and Far from Home was good, I was highly excited for this third instalment for the hero. Basically, Quentin Beck has framed Peter Parker (Tom Holland) for his murder and exposed his secret identity as Spider-Man. Parker, his girlfriend Michelle "MJ" Jones-Watson (Zendaya), his best friend Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon), and his aunt May (Marisa Tomei) are interrogated by the Department of Damage Control. The charges against Parker are dropped, with the help of lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), but now the whole world knows that Peter is Spider-Man. Peter and his friends are constantly approached and gazed at by press and everyone at school, and the negative publicity causes problems. Parker, MJ, and Ned are devastated when their applications for MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are rejected. Following this, Parker decides to visit the New York Sanctum and asks Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), to cast a spell and make the world forget that he is Spider-Man. Doctor Strange starts to cast the spell but is interrupted repeatedly by Parker wanting to alter it so his loved ones will retain their memories. The spell is corrupted, Strange is forced to contain it as it and destabilised and becomes potentially universe-ending and he makes Parker leave. Parker goes to the Alexander Hamilton Bridge and tries to convince the MIT Assistant Vice Chancellor (Paula Newsome). The bridge is suddenly attacked by Otto Octavius aka Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina). During their fight, Octavius rips Parker's nanotechnology from his Iron Spider suit which bonds with his mechanical tentacles, allowing Parker to disable them. Then Norman Osborn aka the Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) appears and attacks, before Strange teleports Parker back to the Sanctum. Octavius, or "Doc Ock", is locked in a cell, along with Dr. Curt Connors aka The Lizard (Rhys Ifans). Strange explains that before the corrupted spell was contained, it summoned people from other universes who know Spider-Man's identity. Strange instructs Parker, MJ, and Ned to find and capture the other people from the multiverse. They are successful in finding and capturing Max Dillon aka Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Flint Marko aka Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). Meanwhile, Osborn splits from his Green Goblin personality and reclaims control of himself and May comforts him before Parker retrieves him. Osborn, Octavius and Dillon discuss their battles with Spider-Man and realise they were pulled from their universes just before their deaths. Strange prepares to reverse the contained spell and send the villains back to their respective universes, but Parker argues that they could have a second chance and be saved from their fates if they are cured of their powers and insanity. Strange disagrees with Parker, so Parker steals the contained spell, and traps Strange in the Mirror Dimension. May takes the villains to the apartment of Harold "Happy" Hogan (Jon Favreau), May's boyfriend and head of security for Stark Industries. Using Stark technology, they cure Octavius, but Osborn's Goblin persona takes control and convinces the uncured villains to betray Parker. Dillon, Marko, and Connors escape, while the Goblin fatally injures May, Parker is too late to save her as she succumbs to her wounds. May tells Parker that "with great power, there must also come great responsibility", before dying in his arms. Ned finds Strange's sling ring and discovers its power to create portals, and he and MJ use it to try and find Peter. They instead open portals to universes with alternate versions of Peter Parker, who were also summoned by Strange's spell. To avoid confusion, Peter from the Goblin, Octavius, and Marko's universe is nicknamed "Peter-Two" (Tobey Maguire), and Peter from Connors and Dillon's universe is nicknamed "Peter-Three" (Andrew Garfield). The group eventually locate Peter from this universe, nicknaming him "Peter-One", but upset about the death of his aunt, he is ready to give up and send the villains home to die. The alternate Peters share stories of losing loved ones and encourage Peter-One to go on in May's honour, and they work together to develop cures for the villains. The group lure Dillon, Marko, and Connors to the Statue of Liberty. As a fight ensues between the Spider-Men and the villains, Peter-One and Peter-Two successfully cure Connors and Marko. They are later joined by Octavius who arrives and cures Dillon, while Ned inadvertently frees Strange from the Mirror Dimension with a portal. The Goblin appears and unleashes the contained spell, causing the barriers to break down between the other universes. Strange attempts to stop the devastation while an enraged Peter-One tries to kill the Goblin. Peter-Two stops him while Peter-Three helps Peter-One inject the Goblin with his cure, restoring Osborn's sanity. As the multiverse falls apart, Peter-One realises that the only way to prevent further catastrophe and restore existence is to erase himself from everyone's memory and requests that Strange do so. Peter is given a few moments to say his goodbyes, he promises MJ and Ned that he will find them again. The spell is cast, the two Peters and their villains are returned to their respective universes, including Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy), who unknowingly leaves behind a piece of the Venom symbiote. Two weeks later, with all memories of Parker's identity erased, he finds MJ and Ned in a coffee shop and intends to reintroduce himself but changes his mind. He later visits May's grave, where he has a conversation with Hogan, again without revealing himself, but is inspired to carry on. He later makes a new suit and resumes his reputation as a vigilante. Also starring J. K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson, Angourie Rice as Betty Brant, Hannibal Buress as Coach Wilson, Martin Starr as Mr. Harrington, J. B. Smoove as Mr. Dell, and Gary Weeks as Agent Foster. Holland is spirited, more vulnerable and likeable as before, Cumberbatch is reliable, Zendaya, Tomei and Batalon are good support as his loved ones, Molina, Dafoe, and the other well-known stars back as the villains is great, and of course Maguire and Garfield returning, and all three Spider-Men onscreen together was exciting. You completely forget that the film is almost two and a half hours long, the time is used wisely to tell a well-scripted story, with spectacular sequences of special effects magic, well-timed moments of humour and emotion, and surprise moments that will satisfy the fans, an inventive, exciting, and highly impressive superhero fantasy action adventure. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Very good!

The Power of the Dog
(2021)

The Power of the Dog
It has been a long time since I remember one film receiving so many Academy Award nominations, this one received 12 nominations, including two in the same category, obviously it was an Awards Season contender I had to see, from writer and Oscar and BAFTA winning, and Oscar and Golden Globe nominated director Jane Campion (The Piano, Holy Smoke, Top of the Lake). Basically, in 1925 Montana, Phil Burbank (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Benedict Cumberbatch) is the older ruthless beguiled wealthy owner of a cattle ranch along with his younger kind-hearted brother George (Oscar and BAFTA nominated Jesse Plemons). During a cattle drive, the brothers meet widow and inn owner Rose Gordon (Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Kirsten Dunst). George is charmed by Rose, but the volatile Phil dislikes her, believing she is only after George's money. He also dislikes her teenage son Peter (Golden Globe winning, and Oscar and BAFTA nominated Kodi Smit-McPhee), seeing him as weak and effeminate. George and Rose secretly marry, she moves into the Burbank ranch house, while Peter is sent to medical school. One evening, George organises a dinner party with his parents (Frances Conroy and Peter Carroll) and Governor Edward (Keith Carradine) and his wife (Alison Bruce), with Rose playing their new piano. Rose has been belittled by Phil's earlier sadistic behaviour towards her and is unable to play more than a few notes of the "Radetzky March". As time passes, Rose starts to drink alcohol heavily, she was previously opposed to any drinking. By the time Peter comes to stay at the ranch for the summer break, Rose has become an alcoholic. Phil and his men taunt Peter, and he secludes himself in his room. He brings home a rabbit he has caught, which delights Rose, but she later discovers that Peter has killed and dissected it. In a clearing, Phil masturbates with a scarf belonging to his late mentor, Bronco Henry. Peter finds and enters the clearing, finding a stash of magazines with Bronco Henry's name on them depicting nude men. He observes Phil bathing in a pond with the handkerchief around his neck; Phil notices him and chases him off. Phil eventually makes amends with Peter, offering to teach him to plait a lasso and how to ride a horse. Peter heads out on his own one day and finds a dead cow, cutting off pieces of its hide. While fixing a fence, Peter helps Phil when he injures his hand. Peter tells Phil about his alcoholic father, he found his body after he had hanged himself, and cut the corpse down by himself. He mentions that his father told him he was not kind enough, and Phil scoffs. As Rose's alcoholism gets worse, she is devastated to see Peter and Phil spending more time together. Rose learns about Phil's policy of burning the hides that he does not need for himself, and defiantly gives the hides to local Native American traders who are most thankful. She then passes out drunk, George tends to her, throwing out a bottle of bourbon that he finds. Phil is enraged when he finds out what happened to the hides, which he would have used to finish Peter's lasso. He attempts to lash out at Rose before being stopped by George. Peter calms Phil down by offering him the hide that he had cut from the dead cow, without mentioning that the animal was already deceased when he encountered it. Phil is touched by Peter's gesture and promises a much better relationship for them in the future. The pair spend the night in the barn finishing the rope and use a solution to soften the hide. As the two share a cigarette, Phil tells Peter how Bronco Henry saved his life one night by lying with him during freezing weather. Phil does not answer when Peter asks if they were naked. When Phil does not show up for breakfast the following morning, George finds him sick in bed, his wound now severely infected. A delirious Phil looks for Peter to give him the finished lasso, but George takes Phil to the doctor before the lasso can be handed over. George is later seen picking out a coffin for his deceased brother while his body is prepared for burial. The doctor (Stephen Lovatt) concludes that Phil most likely died of anthrax, which puzzles George, as Phil was always careful to avoid diseased cattle. Peter, who skipped Phil's funeral, opens a Book of Common Prayer to a passage on burial rites and then reads Psalm 22: "Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog." He puts his finished lasso under his bed with gloved hands. As Peter watches George and a now-sober Rose return home and embrace, he turns away and smiles. Also starring Thomasin McKenzie as Lola, Geneviève Lemon as Mrs Lewis, and Adam Beach as Edward Nappo. Cumberbatch plays against type and is terrific as the often cruel but vulnerable cowboy, Dunst is interesting as the boozing woman often picked on, Smit-McPhee is great as the teenage sensitive soul learning the ropes, and Plemons is likeable as the nicer brother trying to keep things in check. It works really well as a character study, there are moments of intensity and suspense to keep the pace going, the script is well-written with some interesting dialogue, and the period detail is great, all in all, it is a worthwhile Western psychological drama. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Adapted Screenplay for Jane Campion, Best Production Design, Best Sound, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score for Jonny Greenwood, it won the BAFTA for Best Film, and it was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Original Score, and it won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama, and it was nominated for Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score. Very good!

Don't Look Up
(2021)

Don't Look Up
I found out about this film mainly because of Awards Season coming up, I always make an effort to watch as many films nominated in numerous categories, and this all-star movie from Netflix was no exception, written, produced and directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Step Brothers, The Big Short, Vice). Basically, Michigan State University astronomy grad student Kate Dibiasky (Golden Globe nominated Jennifer Lawrence) is shocked to discover a previously unseen comet. Her professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated Leonardo DiCaprio), confirms that it is on course to collide with the Earth in about six months and is large enough to kill all life in the process. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) confirms the findings; Dibiasky and Mindy are accompanied by Planetary Defense Coordination Office head Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan) to present their findings to the White House. President of the United States Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her son and Jason, the Chief of Staff (Jonah Hill) show little to no emotion or interest in their discovery. Oglethorpe urges Dibiasky and Mindy to leak the news to the media. They arrange an interview on a morning talk show but hosts Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry) and Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) treat the topic frivolously. Dibiasky loses her composure and rants about the threat to humanity. Her reaction and face trends on social media, while Mindy receives public approval for his looks. Actual news about the comet's threat receives little public attention and the threat is denied by Dr. Jocelyn Calder (Hettienne Park), Orlean's Director with no background in astronomy. News of a sex scandal between Orlean and her Supreme Court nominee Sheriff Conlon (Erik Parillo) is revealed, so to shun this away, Orelan finally confirms the threat to Earth, and announces a project to strike and divert the comet using nuclear weapons. Shuttles are successfully launched to intercept the comet, but Orlean abruptly aborts the mission when Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), the billionaire CEO of (Bourne-Again Shell) BASH Cellular discovers that the comet contains rare-earth elements worth trillions of dollars. The White House agrees to commercially exploit the comet by fragmenting and recovering it from the ocean. Orlean side-lines Dibiasky and Oglethorpe while hiring Mindy as the National Science Advisor. Dibiasky tries to mobilise public opposition to the scheme but is threatened by Orlean's administration and gives up. Mindy becomes a prominent voice advocating for the comet's commercial opportunities and begins an affair with Evantee. World opinion is divided with people who believe the comet is a serious threat, people who denounce it and believe that mining a destroyed comet will create jobs, and people who deny that the comet even exists. When Dibiasky returns home to Illinois, her parents kick her out of the house after all the press attention and she begins a relationship with Yule (Timothée Chalamet), a young shoplifter she meets after taking a retail job. After Mindy's wife June (Heavenly Creatures' Melanie Lynskey) confronts him about his infidelity, she returns to Michigan without him. Mindy questions whether Isherwell's technology will be able to break up the comet, angering the billionaire. Becoming frustrated with the administration, Mindy returns to morning talk show and finally snaps and rants on live television. He criticises Orlean for downplaying the impending destruction and questioning humanity's indifference, which results in him being cut off from the administration. Mindy and Dibiasky reconcile, and then everyone looks up as the comet becomes visible from Earth. Mindy, Dibiasky, and Oglethorpe organise a protest campaign on social media, telling people to "Just Look Up", and call on countries around the world to consider interception, while Orlean starts an anti-campaign telling people "Don't Look Up". Orlean cuts Russia, India, and China out of the comet-mining deal. They launch an effort to deflect the comet only for their spacecraft to explode. BASH's attempt at breaking the comet apart also goes wrong, and everyone realises that humanity is doomed. Isherwell, Orlean, and many other rich figures board a sleeper spaceship designed to find an Earth-like planet, inadvertently leaving Jason behind. Mindy turns down Orlean's offer of two places aboard the ship, choosing to remain on Earth and have a final evening with his friends and family. As expected, the comet strikes off the coast of Chile, causing a worldwide disaster and triggering an extinction-level event. The shockwave strikes Mindy's house, killing everyone inside. The 2,000 rich people who were transported from Earth land and end their cryogenic sleep on a lush alien planet 22,740 years later. They exit the spacecraft naked and admire the habitable world, Orlean is suddenly killed by the bird-like Bronteroc, so Isherwell advises everyone not to pet the approaching creatures. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Jason emerges from the rubble and calls for his mother before trying to post his status on social media. Also starring Ron Perlman as Colonel Benedict Drask, Ariana Grande as Riley Bina, Kid Cudi aka Scott Mescudi as DJ Chello, Yesterday's Himesh Patel as Phillip, The Shield's Michael Chiklis as Dan Pawketty, Paul Guilfoyle as US Air Force Lieutenant General Stuart Themes, Tomer Sisley as Adul Grelio, Liev Schreiber as Bash Narrator, Sarah Silverman as Sarah Benterman, and Chris Evans as Devin Peters. Lawrence is the most relatable character as the only one who realises the seriousness and danger, DiCaprio is reasonable as the easily swayed scientist, Blanchett is interesting as the catty talk show host, Streep is okay as the President trying to dissuade everyone of the threat to Earth for profit, and Rylance is weird as the white-teethed tech billionaire. The script is obviously supposed to be funny, but does do at just about the right moments, the dialogue is witty in some instances, and the satirical material about the media and rejection and ignorance of expert advice is good enough, it plays out like a farcical Armageddon or Deep Impact, but it often feels predictable and dated, but it is an alright apocalyptic science-fiction black comedy. It was nominated the Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score for Nicholas Britell, and Best Original Screenplay for Adam McKay and David Sirota, it was nominated the BAFTAs for Best Film, Best Original Screenplay, and Original Score, and it was nominated the Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy, and Best Screenplay. Worth watching!

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