Monday Movies ~ 11th Jan 2021

We had a break from wars this week and decided to go with action movies.

Although I’d read lukewarm reviews of the action movie Ava (2020) it had some good names attached to it, and we were up for some silliness, so decided to give it a go. It seems that all actresses have to now be an action hero at some point in their careers, Charlize Theron, Alicia Vikander, Noomi Rapace, Scarlett Johanson et al doing it for the girls, and now Jessica Chastain enters the genre as Ava. Unfortunately the lukewarm reviews hit the mark, and in spite of big names, Colin Farrell, John Malkovich, the story is hackneyed and the script clichéd.

I won’t do spoilers but the plot is nothing we haven’t seen before, a black ops operative (Chastain) has a dodgy past of drugs and alcoholism after being in the Special Forces, and the head honcho of the black ops she works for (Farrell) organises to have her killed off. The movie is about how they try, and how she foils them. In fairness, Chastain holds you to the movie, that girl can act, and she does well with the kick-assery too. Farrell and Malkovich look like they’re having fun anyway so all is not lost. There’s a family side issue involving Ava’s ex-boyfriend Michael (played by the oddly named Common) who is now dating and impregnating her sister Judy (Jess Weixler). Ava’s mother is played by Geena Davis, herself a kick~ass assassin in the far better ‘Long Kiss Goodnight’. The movie was written by Matthew Newton, who I think might have watched too many Jason Bourn movies, and directed by Tate Taylor who at least managed to make everything look good.

Fraggle Rating: Left a lot to be desired, but it was OK.

Our second movie this week was Phil’s choice from the Netflix catalogue, and he went for A Message from The King (2016) a revenge action thriller starring Chadwick Boseman. Directed by Fabrice du Welz from a screenplay by Stephen Cornwell and Oliver Butcher.

Again no spoilers but the basic plot is that Boseman playing Jacob King, travels to Los Angeles after receiving a cryptic phone message from his sister Bianca, who lives there, asking for help as she’s in trouble. When he gets there he can’t find her, and in trying to do so infiltrates a seedy cabal of underground and elite members.

Boseman is intense here, moody, mean when necessary, and employs a bicycle chain to good effect when dealing with the hoodlums he comes across. Teresa Palmer plays Kelly a care worn single mother who lives in the next cheap-motel room to King, working in a supermarket and turning tricks at the motel to make ends meet, and brings pathos and strength to what could have been a clichéd character but is elevated by Palmer’s ministrations. Luke Evans plays Paul Wentworth a well heeled dentist, with the right amount of smarminess and superiority and Alfred Molina takes the part of Mike Preston, a gay movie producer with a penchant for young boys, but that did seem a bit of a cariacture.

There’s a fair amount of violence and a bit of gore, they’re not going for a John Wicks feel here. The story does become a bit befuddled and required a few pauses for us to discuss what was going on. The relationship that develops between Kelly and King is the only bright spark in an otherwise dark, seedy yet stylish neo-noir movie. And it is beautifully filmed, Monica Lenczewska in charge of the cinematography with Beatrice Sisul editing, as a photographer I thought the colour grading was quite stunning.

Fraggle Rating: Norra Lorra Laffs.

Monday Movies ~ 12/Oct/2020

Only one this week as we still haven’t got through all of the 4 HR LONG!! epic grim war movie Phil decided to do on Thursday night, so a review of that at some point will turn up. Edit- it’s in the post now 🙂

My Saturday night movie however was actually a little bit grim, but not epic by any stretch. Midnight Special (2016) is a science fiction movie written and directed by Jeff Nichols with a stellar cast. Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton and Sam Shepard.

The plot (spoiler free ~ more or less 🙂 ) is regarding the kidnapping of an 8 year old boy, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) by his Dad- Roy Tomlin (Shannon) who have both been living as residents of one of those cult type thingy’s Americans like to have (Waco, Jonestown etc). The cult is called The Ranch and is headed by Pastor Calvin Meyer (Shepard) who ‘adopted’ Alton. The Pastor sends two of his followers to retrieve the lad. The FBI are also on the case and arrive at The Ranch as somehow the Pastor’s sermons have included secret information only the Govt would know. The Ranch has also upped it’s purchasing of weaponry over the past 6 months and the FBI want to know why. Paul Sevier (Driver) of the N.S.A turns up and starts to put the pieces together of what’s going on.

Roy is travelling with an old friend Lucas (Edgerton) and they are on the way with Alton to his mother Sally (Dunst).

That’ll do for spoilers. Well, this was a strange one. Firstly the acting was really good, especially Dunst and Shannon. Driver was a bit lacklustre I have to say. The cinematography and music were well done, and it moved along at a good pace. There are some special FX which are nicely done too, though nothing we haven’t seen before really. It wasn’t until after the movie ended when Phil said, well that was good, but what was the point? And he had me there. Then we kept finding questions about the plot that we didn’t get answers to in the movie, and wondered if we’d missed something, but I don’t think we did. So it was good for acting and visuals, but left a fair bit to be desired regarding a satisfactory outcome.

Fraggle Rating : Not bad.

Well we got through the 4 hr movie last night, which for some weird reason was not a 4 hour movie at all, but the same 2 hr movie twice over, the difference being the first version was in black and white, and the second version in colour.

The Captain or Der Hauptman (2017) is a historical drama set 2 weeks prior to the end of WW2. It’s directed by Robert Schwentkr and tells the story of Willi Herold, a teenage German paratrooper running away from the military police who are after him for desertion. Except this is not just a ‘story’, as Herold was a real person and the things he did really happened. Herold (Max Hubacher) escapes the military police, and comes across an abandoned German car, in which he finds a suitcase and uniform of a German Captain which he puts on and then impersonates. He comes across various deserter/stragglers who he takes command of, and then travels through Germany pretending to be on a secret mission from Hitler, to assess the morale of troops behind the front line. He names his men Kampfgruppe Herold and writes on their papers that they are seconded to him. The two main characters in this band are Freytag (Milan Peschel), an aging rifleman who is a kind, nice guy and becomes Herold’s driver, and  Kipinski (Frederick Lau), a sadistic drunk. They get to a camp full of German deserters waiting for execution, where Herold and his gang take over, executing prisoners (with Kipinski being the main executioner) and where bit by bit Herold loses any humanity he once had and becomes increasingly tyranical.

When the camp is (spectacularly) blown up by British bombers, Herold and his surviving group move into a village, where they loot from the population and set up a command post in an hotel after executing the mayor for treason as he has put up a ‘Welcome’ flag in the anticipation of the allies arriving. After a night of debauchery during which Herold executes Kipinski. The German military police turn up and arrest them all.

We then move to Herold’s trial, where he asserts that all he did was for the defense of the German people and to encourage them to not give up but to keep fighting. The guys judging him decide to send him to the front as a punishment, but Herold jumps out of a window and escapes. We then see him walking through a forest full of skeletons, and we are informed that Herold and his men were actually sentenced to death after the war. The real Herold, also  known as “the Executioner of Emsland,” was executed at 14 November 1946 in Wolfenbuttal prison.

Of course it’s impossible to ‘enjoy’ such a movie as this, but Wow, it was so well done. The cinematography was amazing, Florian Ballhouse the chief cinematographer. The acting equally so, especially Hubacher, who develops his character with such a gentle panache. The director builds his movie with subtle bricks, although the murders of the prisoners are shown, the graphic nature of them are not in-your-face blood and gore, a lot is left to the imagination. The uniforms and vehicles and weapons are all authentic (according to Phil 🙂 ) and the bombing of the camp though brief is stunning and realistic.

We compared some of the most impressive B&W scenes to the same scenes in colour, and we both agreed the B&W versions had much more depth and impact so if watching this I strongly recommend the B&W version. Anyone with an interest in WW2 history and films about it, should see this movie.

Fraggle Rating : Bloody Brilliant.

Both movies we found on Amazon Prime.

Monday Movies~ 31~08~2020 late entry!

Couldn’t include this with the scheduled post, as we didn’t finish the movie until late last night, having watched it over two nights due to Phil’s shifts.

My Saturday night choice, is also a retro cult classic.

The Fifth Element (1997) is a science fiction movie, written and directed by Luc Besson. Starring Bruce Willis as cab driver Korben Dallas, Milla Jojovitch as Leeloo, Gary Oldman as Zorg, and Ian Holm as Father Cornelius.

The plot goes like this..

Back in 1914 aliens called the Mondoshawans come to earth to remove a weapon held in a temple in Egypt, that is capable of extinguishing a great Big Evil which comes about every 5000 years. They have to remove the weapon, which consistes of 4 elemental stones and a 5th element in a sarcophagus, as war is about to happen and it’s not safe. In doing so they cause the death of a scientist who is trying to decipher the wall markings in the temple, and his trusty assistant, Professor Pacoli (John Bluthal) and Billy (Luke Perry). The Mondo’s promise the priest who attends the temple that they will return the weapon before the next visitation of the Big Evil.

We move forward to 2263 and the Big Evil is on it’s way. The Mono’s are also on the way to return the weapon, but get ambushed by a bunch of Mangalores, ugly sons of guns on the pay of Zorg, (Gary Oldman doing a cracking job of over-the-top villany, ~ this is not a serious movie 🙂 ) who is enthralled to the Big Evil. They are destroyed and the only thing remaining is a severed hand covered in metal armour, which is taken to New York and given to the military’s science department, headed by Mactilburgh, (Christopher Fairbank – a long way from Newcastle & Auf Weidersehen Pet!). They stick the hand in a biotech coffiny type thing and 2 minutes later hey presto! a humanoid woman is reconstituted, with minimal clothing, and this is Leeloo. She escapes and in the chase sequence that follows, jumps off a high building and lands on and in Korben’s flying taxicab.

Dallas delivers her to Father Cornelius, after a few flying car chases along the way, and Cornelius and his assistant David (Charlie Creed-Mills) recognise her as the Fifth element. She tells Cornelius the stones were not on the ship with her, and at the same time the Mono’s inform Earths Govt, led by President Lindberg (Tommy Lister Jr.) what’s going on. Zorg gets mad that his Mangalores haven’t got the stones, and kills off a few of them in a hissy fit.

It turns out the stones have been entrusted to diva Plavalaguna (Maïwenn Le Besco) a very blue alien opera singer, about to do a concert on planet Fhloston, and it’s arranged for Korben to win a luxury holiday there to meet up and retrieve the stones, with Ruby Rhod (Chris Tucker) being an ostentatious flamboyent talk-show host who ends up dragged into the quest to save the world.

That’s it for spoilers, but needless to say everyone and his dog are after the stones, including Leeloo and Zorg, and the world does get saved. 🙂

This is a romp and a hoot of a movie, and we already had an old copy of the DVD. Recently it’s been released on a remastered 4K ultra HD Bluray, with Dolby atmos sound, which we are geared up for, so I had to have it. It is quite astonishing visually, and the soundtrack the best we have heard in Atmos. But it’s a treat in any format, Bruce Willis does his hero thing with sardonic aplomb, Jojovitch exudes steely vulnerability with pathos, and their love story is part of our journey with them. Gary Oldman is bonkersly evil, Chris Tucker does annoying in the funniest way possible. Ian Holm and Creed-Mills are worthy sidekicks.

Fun facts: Luc Besson was married to Maïwenn Le Besco at the beginning of the production and left her for Jojovich whomst later became his next Missis. (That didn’t last either, surprise).

It was mostly filmed in Pinewood studios, with the Royal Opera House for the concert scenes and Mauritania standing in for the Egypt scenes.

The special effects were created with scale models, live action and digital imagery, not just CGI. Apartment blocks and skyscrapers were constructed in 1/24th scale, so were 20 feet high in some cases, and took a team of 80 people to build them all.

Jean-Paul Gaultier designed all the 900 costumes for the extras in the Fhloston scenes and checked them all each morning. His designs were said to challenge sexuality and gender norms.

A divisive movie, it won awards at the Oscars, the BAFTA’s and Cannes amongst others, but also in the same categories for the Golden Raspberry and Stinker awards. The critics were equally polarised. Todd McCarthy of Variety: “A largely misfired European attempt to make an American-style sci-fi spectacular, The Fifth Element consists of a hodgepodge of elements that don’t comfortably coalesce”.

Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun Times: gave the film 3 stars out of 4, calling it “One of the great goofy movies”, and concluding, “I would not have missed seeing this film, and I recommend it for its richness of imagery. though he thought it a bit long.

We absolutely loved it, I could hear Phil laughing out loud which doesn’t happen often in movies I choose, and it kept us enthralled from beginning to end. Wonderful world building, committed acting (you could tell the cast had a blast) great explosions and daft gunfights and the remastering is the best we’ve seen and heard. I can’t find a reason not to give it

Monday Movies 20/07/2020

Phil had run out of movies to choose this week, so had a look on Netflix and decided to do Killer Elite starring Jason Statham, Robert De Nero and Clive Owen. You’da thought that would be a good romp wouldn’t you, but dear reader in the first 10 minutes we decided it was abysmal and stopped watching.

So we turned back to the menu and instead Phil chose A History of Violence (2005) directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt. Viggo plays Tom Stall who runs a diner in Milbrook Indiana. He has a great marriage with Edie (Bello) and 2 kids, Jack (Ashton Holmes) and Sarah (Heidi Heyes). One night a couple of mobsters try to rob the diner, and just as one of them is about to ‘do’ the waitress, Tom kills them as if he’s born to it. He becomes a local hero, and his face is plastered all over the news.

Of course he’s a good killer as really Tom is Joey Cusack, a professional hitman from Philadelphia who gave up that life to have a normal one instead. Unfortunately the mob see him on the news, and Ed Harris as Carl Fogarty turns up at the diner with some henchmen to bring Joey back to Philadelphia. Tom/Joey had had dealings with Carl in the past ending up with Carl losing an eye. Tom just keeps on denying that he’s Joey so Carl stalks the family over the next few days to try and get him to go to Philadelphia with him. Intimidation and kidnapping are not beyond him. That’s it for spoilers, as it’s worth watching without knowing the plot.

Cronenberg does a good job ratcheting up the tension while also showing us how the situation is affecting Tom’s relationships with his wife and son, as they find out the truth. Viggo Mortenson of course is a great actor, and he plays Tom understated but with everything showing in the eyes. Bello is the perfect foil as his wife, sexy and sassy but fierce and loyal, even under the duress she goes through. The kids do a good job, especially Ashton Holmes as Jack, who is going through teenage bullying at school. Ed Harris, well he’s good at being menacing and William Hurt’s part as Joey’s brother Ritchie, now in charge of the Philly mob is short but spot on. All in all A History of Violence has more character development than actual violence, and we thought it a great movie, as did all the critics.

My choice for Saturday night was the latest Netflix offering, The Old Guard (2020) directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. It’s based on a comic book and the screenplay was written by it’s author, Greg Rucka, and the main star is Charlize Theron.

The movie is about 5 immortal people, who have amazing healing capacity, so if they are injured or killed, they heal rapidly or pop back into life. They are centuries old, and Charlize plays the groups boss, Andromache of Scythia known as (“Andy”) and is the oldest amongst them. The others are chaps, two who met during the crusades and became lovers, Joe / Yusuf Al-Kaysani, a Muslim warrior played by Marwam Kenzari, and Nicky / Niccolò di Genova, a former Crusader played by Luca Marinelli. Matthias Schoenaerts plays Booker / Sebastian Le Livre, once a French soldier who fought under Napoleon.

The 5th member is a brand new immortal, a marine soldier, Nile Freeman, who has her neck cut open and comes back to life much to the distaste of her fellow marines, played by KiKi Layne. Chiwetel Ejiofor is James Copley, a former CIA agent who hires them for a job and has investigated their lives and the consequences of helping out the people they have saved in the past. Of course there is a baddy who wants to capture them and experiment on them, that’s nothing new but what is really? The baddy is played by Harry Melling in the now formulaic tradition of American movies always having an Englishman for the bad guy! That’s it as no spoilers!

This movie is like Highlander meets John Wick on steroids, and is full on action. Theron is definitely making a living being an action star these days and she is really, really good at it. This is Blythewood’s first action movie, usually making character driven ones and that really helps as she makes sure the characters have back stories and pathos, and are not just gung-ho warriors. With the Nile character we see her go through hell trying to come to terms with what is happening to her, Layne makes you feel it. The fight scenes are amazing, so well choreographed and filmed hand held so you are in the thick of it with the action. We enjoyed it, and as there are 3 installments in the comic books, I imagine we’ll be seeing the sequels when/if they happen!

The critics have mostly given it a thumbs up, my fave by Kate Erbland of IndieWire gave the film a “B+” and said: “Steeped in hand-to-hand action… but with enough ballistic firepower to kit out a small civil war, every action sequence is more than awe-inspiring; they’re necessary to the film itself. Superhero battles that are eye popping and narratively motivated? Oh, yeah

Monday Movies ~ 29/06/2020

We are still in Vietnam for Phils Thursday retro movie this week, and with the epic Apocalypse Now (1979) which somehow I’d not seen before. Directed, produced and co-written by Francis Ford Coppola. So many class actors in this movie, Martin Sheen taking the lead role, but with Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Denis Hopper, Laurence Fishburn (very young!) and Harrison Ford.

Sheen plays Captain Benjamin L. Willard a Special Forces assassin tasked with sailing up a river to somewhere in Cambodia to locate and assassinate a rogue Colonel, Walter E Kurtz (Brando) who’s gone bonkers waging a successful guerilla war against both the Viet Cong and the South Vietnamese army. He has made a community of indigenous mountain people who see him as a demi-god, He’s gone off the army grid and those in charge want him terminated. Willard accepts the mission and sets off on a U.S Navy river boat captained by Chief Petty Officer Philips (Albert Hall) and crewed by Lance.B.Johnson (Sam Bottoms) a professional surfer, Tyrone Miller ‘Mr.Clean’ (Fishburn) and Engineman Jay Hicks, ‘Chef’.

Along the way they meet up with a helicopter-borne air assault unit commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, (Duvall) to discuss safe passage. Kilgore is not really interested in helping Willard until he finds out about Lance’s surfing abilities as he is an avid surfer himself. He agrees to escort them through the Viet Cong held mouth of the River Nung, and organizes a spectacular dawn raid, in the hopes of surfing with Lance when it’s over. Lots of helicopter action and M60 machine guns and a napalm strike. Duvall’s ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’ and ‘Charlie don’t surf’ became iconic quotes from the movie.

The journey takes up a good bit of the movie and many other things happen along the way. There is conflict between Willard and Philips as to who is in charge, they get to a command post where no-one is in charge and receive dispatches i.e. mail for the crew and a dossier on Kurtz for Willard, who studies it along the way. Whilst reading the mail Lance pops some LSD, sends up a flare and Mr.Clean is killed in the ensuing attack by an unseen enemy. They come across another command post where a helicopter with playboy bunny girls arrive to entertain the troops but have to beat a hasty retreat as the troops get out of control, then our chaps come across their helicopter further along and manage to get a good seeing-to with the bunnies.

Eventually they reach Kurtz’s outpost where Willard is captured and tortured, and Lance goes native. This is when Marlon Brando does his thing and I’ve spoiled enough of the plot so this bit I’ll leave for you to find out. It is dark though!

It really is a dark masterpiece of a movie, and the acting in it is superb. Martin Sheen, was top choice for Willard only after Steve McQueen, Al Pacino, Clint Eastwood and some other heavy hitters turned it down (didn’t want to leave America for the time it would take to make the movie 🙄 ) Actually Harvey Keitel played Willard at the initial shooting, but Coppola wasn’t happy with his portrayal and Keitel left. Sheen was up next and he gave himself to the role completely, and he narrates some of the movie, (actually he doesn’t, it is Joe Estevez, Sheen’s brother who does the voice overs but was uncredited, incidentally Martin’s son Charlie is an extra somewhere in it but I didn’t spot him. Estevez also plays Willard in some scenes when Sheen had to take 6 weeks off after having a heart attack in the middle of it! Coppola later admitted that he can no longer tell which scenes are Joe and which are Martin.

I did enjoy this, it was different to the usual war films, focusing on the dark side that happens to soldiers in the war. Shot in the Phillipines, the scenery was stunning and Coppola and his cinematographer Vittorio Storaro made the most of it. Coppola’s Dad Carmine was a composer of note and did the soundtrack for the movie which added greatly to the atmosphere, and Coppola’s use of lighting, especially in the scenes with Brando and Sheen was masterful. Brando was acclaimed for his powerful performance, but for me the movie is all Sheen. (And his bro 🙂 )

Fave critic report -Roger Ebert of the Los Angeles Times : “Apocalypse Now achieves greatness not by analyzing our ‘experience in Vietnam’, but by re-creating, in characters and images, something of that experience”

Factoid -The film is credited with having created the Philippines surfing culture based around the town of  Baler where the helicopter attack and surfing sequences were filmed.

And so to the Saturday Night movie. After 3 sorties into Vietnam I thought we’d have a fun movie. On researching for my Sunday blog post on the Universe blog, I came across Conan The Barbarian. I had seen the Arnie Schwarzenegger versions back in the eighties and was delighted to find a 2011 reboot, not related to the two 80’s movies. This one was directed by Marcus Nispel and starred Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Rose McGowan, Stephen Lang and Ron Perlman. I’m not going to do the plot, well OK I will,

  1. warrior child’s father is killed by evil man and evil daughter who want to put a magic mask back together that child’s father has (badly) hidden a piece of.
  2. child grows up to be Conan, a great swordsman and have a 6 pack and never wear a shirt.
  3. Conan goes on a mission to track down evil guy with a view to killing him and kills a lot of people along the way.
  4. Conan comes across beautiful girl who’s blood can resurrect the dead sorceress wife of evil man via the mask, and rescues, loses and rescues her again.


Its ridiculous rubbish and even Jason’s six-pack cannot save it. Save yourselves people. You’re welcome!

Nil points.

Monday Movies ~ 15th June 2020

Our first offering this week was Phil’s choice. Due to his work shifts we couldn’t do the Thursday movie so I gave over my Saturday slot, and he chose a movie he’s seen advertised on Netflix starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Advertised as a ‘buddy cop crime thriller’, Phil thought it would be a good fun light relief kind of movie. Righteous Kill (2008) directed by Jon Avnet who I’d not heard of, (and now I know why). Given two great actors and a generic twisty plot, Avnet manages to make a car crash of a movie.

Pacino and De Niro are always good to watch, but the novelty of that soon wears off. I’d guessed the ‘twist’ in the plot in the first 20 minutes, but what was going on and when was all over the place, poor continuity and flow and the ending is really naff too. I won’t do spoilers incase anyone is daft enough to want to see this. It has some good actors in it, Carla Gugino as De Niro’s love interest, Brian Dennehy as the two cops boss, and 50 cents as a nightclub owner/drug dealer, I can only assume they all did it for the money. My favourite critic review for this ~  “The entire movie is one big build-up to a twist that, while not exactly cheating, plays an awfully cheap trick. To get there, writer Russel Gewirtz and director John Avnet sacrifice mystery, suspense, sensible editing and everything else one expects to find in a police thriller just to keep the audience off-guard. It’s not worth it, and the first real pairing of De Niro and Pacino is utterly wasted”. – Ken Fox of TV Guide

Anyways Phil apologised 🤣 and we’ll never speak of it again.

So Phil’s at work today, and it’s Sunday which is ironing day so I picked a movie to watch whilst doing it. I’d wanted to see Tom Hardy in ‘Locke’ (2013) for a while but Phil didn’t seem overly bothered (one man in a car doesn’t sound exciting really!) and at 1 hour 24 mins long, it’s a great fit for a pile of ironing!

The film is written and directed by Stephen Knight, (who I have heard of! 🙂 ) and takes place in a BMW X5, driven by Hardy from Birmingham to London. Hardy is the only person on screen for the whole movie. He plays Ivan Locke, a construction supervisor for a company who are building a huge building, with a concrete pour due at 5am. At the same time, a lady, Bethan, with whom Locke had a one night stand with seven months before has gone into premature labour, and in spite of his responsibilities at home and work, he decides to drive to London to be with her for the birth, as his own father abandoned him as a child.

He has 36 phone calls during the journey, with his boss Gareth (Ben Daniels) (who comes up as ‘Bastard’ on his screen when he rings 🙂 ), with his backup colleague, cider drinking Donal (Andrew Scott) his distressed wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) sons Eddie and Sean (Tom Holland & Bill Milner) and the highly strung Bethan (Olivia Coleman). During the course of the journey he loses his job, his marriage, and his home, and has to coach Donal regarding the concrete pour in between. I’ll leave it there so as not to do the spoiler thing.

Tom Hardy is far removed from his gangster/action man/bad guy roles, here he is a man who’s life is going tits up and he’s trying to juggle all the pieces and hold it all together and he does it so well, it’s a wonderful, nuanced performance, and it was easy to forget Hardy and feel for Ivan. I was in tears at one point.

The movie only took 8 nights to shoot, the car being pulled down the M6 & M1 on a low flatbed trailer,with the phone calls being done in real time, the road and car noise included, and the other actors calling in from a conference room that served as the multiple “locations” of the various characters.

I can’t find a single bad review of this movie, and my favourite one is “There are films to see on huge screens, but this is one that almost cries out for a small cinema, surrounded by total blackness. It’s a daring experiment brilliantly executed, with Tom Hardy giving one of the best performances of his career”.– Ollie Richards from Empire magazine.

Monday Movies ~ 8th June 2020

Phil received the Bluray of 1917 this week, so that was his choice for Thursday night. I already did a review of it when we saw it at the pictures, so nothing much to add. I will say though that I enjoyed it much more from the comfort of my sofa, with a glass of wine, and Phil was happy pausing here and there to take in all the details. It also has a great ‘features’ section where they show you the painstaking work of building the set, and how they had to invent new ways to film things, really interesting.

And that’s it for this week, as Phil’s shifts have prevented us from watching any other movies. Back next week with more though!

Monday Movies ~ 2nd June 2020

Three to do this week so I will try and be succinct.

First up is another Jack Ryan tale, Shadow Recruit (2014) starring the incredibly blue eyed Chris Pine as Ryan, directed by Kenneth Branagh and he also stars as the baddie, Viktor Cherevin. This movie kind of precedes our previous one starring Ben Affleck, as in this one we see how Ryan becomes a marine, the injury and subsequent long recovery he has afterward, and his recruitment into the CIA. Kiera Knightly plays the med. student helping him to walk again, and Kevin Costner is Harper, the guy who recruits Ryan. The plot jumps 10 years and is one of financial skullduggery by the Russians, who are about to collapse America’s financial system after blowing up Wall Street. As always I checked out the critics reviews, it got a mixed bag but this one by Kyle Smith of The New York Post most resonated with how I felt about it. “Despite the occasional hard-to-believe moment, the reboot of the 1990s franchise is soundly structured, smart and fast, with a plausible central scenario, several gripping moments and well-wrought dialogue. If it isn’t quite as gritty or intelligent as the Jason Bourne movies, it is close enough“. We did enjoy it a lot, it’s sleek and well paced, and the acting is convincing.

Phil’s Thursday retro movie is Flesh and Bone (1993) starring Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan, and this was just marvelous to watch. Written and directed by Steve Kloves ( he also did The Fabulous Baker Boys and all but one of the Harry Potter movies). It’s quite a dark movie, and I’m leaving spoilers out completely, seriously go into it fresh if you haven’t seen it. Quaid and Ryan work together beautifully, the whole movie hinges on their performances and they are well supported by James Caan with a debut by a young Gwyneth Paltrow. The scenery of the Texas plains is put to good use by Kloves. It’s a a riveting film about the way the sins of the fathers are visited upon the next generation, and refuses to capitulate to any glib summations about human nature.

Our final film was my choice for Saturday after I’d read a review for an Amazon Prime movie which sounded right up my street. The Vast of Night (2019) is a science fiction story, but no aliens/superheroes running around, at least not in person, and not even scary! Andrew Patterson makes his debut as a director and films the movie as if it were a TV episode of something like The Twilight Zone. The plot is not complicated, or really original. Set in the 1950’s and revolves around two characters, a 16 year old switchboard operator, Fay, played by Sierra McCormick, and a radio D.J, Everet played by Jake Horowitz. One night Fay hears a strange sound coming through the radio and her switchboard, she interrupts Everit’s show to play him the sound, he puts it out on air to see if anyone will phone in to say what it is, and from there the pair investigate the sound. Stopping there for no-spoiling-the-plot purposes.

This was filmed so differently from what you usually see, and the cinematography by M.I. Littin-Menz is quite amazing. There are bits where it seems like you are watching the TV episode, a mile-long, low one shot take, even a blank screen in a couple of places so you have to concentrate on the voice that is speaking. The 50’s fashions and cars are always good to see in a movie, and the cinematic toning of these scenes is lovely. The two main characters carry the movie, Fay is plucky and eager, Everet is all faux cool and swagger, and they are just great together.

I enjoyed immensley how this was put together, and the fact that I didn’t recognise any of the actors made them more believable. Phil was more underwhelmed, I think he expected more crash bang wallop or spectacle (which my movies usually provide!!) but I had seen the trailer so wasn’t that surprised at it’s intimacy.

Mixed views from the critics, though 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it won a shed load of awards at film festivals.

If you have Amazon Prime, this is definitely worth watching, and at 1hr 30 mins, won’t eat up your night!

May 11th ~ Monday Movies

Phil’s choice on Thursday was The English Patient, but his old DVD of it didn’t work properly on our bluray player, so that’s postponed until next week. Instead he had a look on Netflix and for want of anything better chose Triple Frontier (2019) which we had seen before and Phil thought was good, whilst I couldn’t remember any of it. Starring Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunman, Garrett Hedlund and Pedro Pascale. They play a group of USA Delta Force Army veterans who unite to do a heist job of a South American drug lord’s hideaway, where all his money is stored. Things don’t go as planned, but neither is the way in which the story plays out predictable. There are plenty of ‘heist’ movies out there, but this one is a cut above due to the acting and characters involved. It is well directed by J.C.Chandor who juggles action with the building of characters and back stories, and the excellent cinematography by Romano Vasyanov. Good reviews from the critics too.

My choice for the Saturday fun movie was Venom (2018), another movie which both of us had seen and didn’t remember much about. It’s a Marvel Movie, but not part of the MCU/Avengers series, so stands alone until the sequel arrives. Venom is not a superhero either.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer the movie has Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed as a CEO of a corporation looking for habitable planets, finding a comet inhabited by symbiotic life forms and bringing 4 of them back to earth. The rocket ship crashes, and one of the symbiotes escapes whilst the others are transported back the the corporation headquarters laboratories. The symbiotes can’t live in our atmosphere and have to merge with a human to survive. Reporter Eddy Brock (Tom Hardy) has lost his job, appartment and fiance after having dealings with Carlton Drake, and breaks into the labs with the help of a Doctor who works there and is distressed that Drake is using homeless/destitute humans to merge with the symbiotes, most of whom are dying in the process. Eddy recognises one of the homeless victims and when he tries to release her ends up with the symbiot, Venom, inside him. This is where the movie gets to be fun as the interaction between Eddy and Venom starts up. No spoilers as always so we’ll leave the plot right there. Firstly this movie was panned by the critics, but that’s par for the course on anything to do with comic book movies, and secondly I never read comic books so can’t comment on how it differs or what other people thought of that. Apparently Venom is part of the Spiderman series, but none of that was mentioned in the movie which I think upset some fans. Jeez guys, it’s just a story!! Phil and I enjoyed it a lot, and Phil isn’t one for these kind of movies generally. Tom Hardy is great in most anything he does and that seemed to me to be the case here, he carries this movie all the way to the box office. He also does the voice for the Venom part of him which surprised me as it sounds like the guy who plays Megatron in Transformers, but no it’s all Tom and some frequency modulation! Riz Ahmed as Carlton Drake is not a caricature villain, more an Elon Musk kinda guy, and Michelle Williams as Eddy’s ex-fiancée gives a nuanced performance and is easy on the eye. I am looking forward to the sequel, when Woody Harrelson will be the next bad guy to join the party.

May 4th ~ Monday Movies

Nope, didn’t do Star Wars 😀

Both our movies this week have stellar casts, so we’ll start with Phil’s Retro Thursday movie which stars John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Sam Shepherd, Halle Berry, and Don Cheadle, and was directed by Dominic Sena. Swordfish (2001) is a crime thriller, and we were rewinding to see the opening sequence again within 5 minutes of the start! An explosion in slow-motion with the camera sweeping around so you get to see people, cars and bits of building flying in great detail. For all that this isn’t really a shoot’em up action movie, and there is very little blood and guts in it. The plot revolves around Jackman’s character, Stanley Jobson, a paroled computer/cyber hacker who isn’t allowed to use the internet, and also has a restraining order put on him by his wife, preventing him from seeing his little girl. The fabulously named Andrea Donna De Matteo plays the wife, Melissa with seedy relish as she is an alcoholic part-time porn star. Halle Berry as Ginger Knowles recruits Stanley to work for Gabriel Shear (Travolta) and produce a computer virus, ‘hydra’, to hack into a government slush fund and steal $9 1/2 billion out of which Jackman will be paid $10 million which will sort his problems out and enable him to afford a lawyer to help get his daughter back. Don Cheadle is an FBI agent who is on to Stanley but uses him to get to Gabriel, who turns out to be an operative for Senator Reisman, (Shepherd) who oversees Black Cell, a clandestine organisation set up by J.Edgar Hoover to eliminate terrorists who threaten the USA. As always, no spoilers so I’ll leave it there. Well, we enjoyed it, even after 20 years the explosion scenes were well done, and the plot had a few twists in it but was easy to follow. The actors were not stretched here, but Jackman and Berry were nice to look at, apparently Berry got a $500,000 sweetener on top of her $2 million salary for getting her tits oot for the lads in a completely gratuitous scene, a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do I suppose. Travolta deservedly won a Golden Raspberry award for worst actor 🤣 but it didn’t matter. The critics panned it, but it still did well at the box office. Best bits- the opening explosion, and the TVR car chase.

My Saturday Night Fun movie was Run All Night (2015), on Netflix now, which I wouldn’t have chosen if I hadn’t read Keith’s review of it. Again the cast held promise, Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, and Joel Kinnaman are the main stars and it was directed by Jaume Collet-Sera, who is making a habit of directing Neeson in action movies. And Run All Night is definitely a full on action movie. Taking place in New York over one night, the plot revolves around Neeson’s character Jimmy Conlon having to save his son Mike (Kinnaman) from being killed by the mob headed up by Shawn Maguire (Harris). You could be forgiven now for thinking ‘oh no another ‘Taken” ‘ but you’d be wrong, as Jimmy is a down and out ex-mob assassin, who once worked for Maguire, and his nickname ‘The Gravedigger’ indicates his success in that sphere. Mike has disowned him after a turbulent childhood and became a chauffeur and retired professional boxer who mentors at-risk kids at the local gym. Maguire’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is an upstart entrepreneur in the underworld and murders an Albanian drug dealer and his bodyguards, whomst Mike had taken to Danny’s place. Mike witnesses Danny killing one of the henchmen who had escaped and was on his way back to Mike’s limo. Unfortunately Danny knows Mike saw him, and in spite of his Dad’s instructions to the contrary, goes off to get rid of Mike. That’s the stoppage point for spoilers. For all that it is an action movie, the director intersperses the action with emotional scenes between Jimmy and Mike, and both Neeson and Kinnaman do these really well, so that you care about the outcome for both of them. Because Maguire and Jimmy have a long history together, there is a lot involved in their relationship as well and that too is addressed, Ed Harris spot on as the steely eyed vengeful Maguire. Vincent D’Onofrio plays a non-corrupt cop (there are a few corrupt ones working for Maguire) who wants to put Jimmy behind bars from the homicides he’s got away with. So, much more to this than the ‘action’ genre it’s labelled with. The soundtrack is cool, and Collett-Sera directs his stars between action and acting with a smooth touch.

April 27th ~ Monday Movies

This week Phil swapped Keanu Reeves out and instead we got… Nicholas Cage 🤣. Neither of us are Cage fans, my has he made some howlers, (National Treasure springs to mind) but he is the star of the film of one of our favourite books, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernier (who in spite of sounding French, is actually a British chap). It is a lovely movie, I’ve seen it in the past and thought it so back then, now I’m more discerning I can pick a few holes in it. A 2001 movie, directed by John Madden, it is set in Cepahalonia, in 1943. An Italian garrison arrives on the island which surrenders, and Captain Corelli is in charge of a battery of men who have never fired a shot in the war as yet. He is a happy chappy, and plays the mandolin (Cage learned to play it for the part and have to say he was really good at it), and loves singing. He trains his soldiers to sing in harmony too. He ends up being billeted in the home of Dr. Yiannis (John Hurt) and his educated but stroppy daughter Pelagia (Penelope Cruz) whomst he falls in love with, though she is betrothed to a guy called Mandras, a bit of a numpty played by an unrecognisable Christian Bale. Mandras goes off to join the resistance and eventually she warms to the Cap’n, and they get it together. The soldiers briefly become part of village life singing and dancing with the natives, but it doesn’t last long. The Italian government surrender to the allies, and happily expect to be going home. However the Germans (their first allies) insist on disarming them. They arange with the Greek resistance to fight the Germans, but instead they are all massacred, with the exception of Corelli who is protected by his pal falling on top of him. Mandras finds him and takes him to the Doctor and Pelagia, where they patch him up, using the strings of the mandolin to fuse the ribs together, and get him on a boat to escape the Island. Then to add insult to injury there’s an earthquake on the Island that destroys most of the village, but eventually life goes on, and there’s a happy ending for Pelagia. The story is fine, though it took many liberties with history, and with the book which had more tragedy in it than the movie portrays, and in spite of having an Italian Dad, our Nick’s Italian accent was all over the place. Still the cinematography is gorgeous (John Toll) and the music lovely. It didn’t do well with the critics, but for all it’s faults it was good to see it again and I enjoyed it.

My choice on Saturday was a new movie I was awaiting on Netflix, Extraction (2020) directed by Sam Harvey, from a story written and produced by the Russo Brothers ( who produce, direct etc the Marvel Universe movies). Starring Chris Hemsworth as Tyler Rake a black market mercenary and former Australian SAS guy. He is a troubled guy having lost his son to leukaemia, and having had his missis leave him due to him not being there for her and his son at the end. He is hired to rescue a young boy who is the son of an Indian drug lord, and has been kidnapped by a Bangladeshi drug lord. That’s the whole plot really, it is one action scene after another, as he rescues the lad early on in the movie and then has to try and escape with him whilst everyone and his dog is chasing them. The boy Ovi, is played by Rudharaksh Jaiswal and his acting is spot on, he is scared, and brave and compassionate and that comes through really well. There’s also a baddy who is really a goody played by Randeep Hooda who has his fair share of action. Chris Hemsworth brings out the hurt inside his character really well, and is obviously excellent at the derring-do stunts he has to perform. The filming of said stunts is quite amazing, there’s a scene of a car chase that is shot from inside the car and it is a real rewind and see again moment. The fights are well choreographed, like John Wick movies on steroids. Not for the faint hearted if you are not a fan of hand to hand combat and a fair amount of explosions and carnage, but if you are, this is at the top of it’s game. Mixed reviews by the critics, who praise Hemsworth for his performance but moaned about the story and excessive violence. Duh, I’ve read that about Rambo movies, John Wicks movies et al, blah de blah, it’s not meant to be taken so seriously!! I didn’t think it any worse than other action movies, and a whole heap better than most, and we really enjoyed it.

April 13th ~ Movie Monday

Phil’s choice for the Thursday movie had us revisiting WW2, and is also another ‘train’ movie, kind of. When he was 11 he saw this movie at the cinema, so it has a special place in his heart. Von Ryan’s Express (1965) starred Frank Sinatra in the titular role, was directed by Mark Robson, and co-starred Trevor Howard as Major Eric Fincham, a stalwart of cinema for a long time, and Sergio Fantonni as Captain Vittorio Oriani.

The plot is not based on a true story but on a novel by David Westheimer, though a fair bit of it was changed.

Colonel Ryan is a downed airplane pilot who crash lands in Italy and is taken to an Italian POW camp. There he finds out prisoner Major Fincham is obsessed with escaping, and has requisitioned medicine, clothing and food to be stored near where a tunnel is being dug, thereby depriving the camp of much needed stuff to survive on. Von Ryan, being of a higher rank than the Major points out the allies are on the way, the war is nearly ended and there’s no need to escape now, and has the requisitioned stuff returned to camp. He then informs the camp CEO Major Basilio Battaglia where the tunnels are much to the British soldiers and the Major’s annoyance, but in order to get better treatment and clothing for the prisoners. Battaglia doesn’t comply so Ryan orders all the prisoners to strip off and burn their clothes, so they do and Battaglia has Ryan thrown into the sweatbox, which is a bit like the Cooler in The Great Escape. Soon after, the Italians surrender, and all the guards run away. Ryan has Battaglia put in the sweatbox to stop Fincham doing a war trial and executing him, and the prisoners, with the help of the dashing and sympathetic Captain Oriani escape across the Italian countryside. They rest in some ruins and Oriani goes off to try and contact the allies, but in the morning has not returned when the Germans recapture the prisoners. Fincham thinks Oriani betrayed them. The prisoners are put on a train bound for Germany, where they discover Oriani in a carriage, badly beaten up. They also see Battaglia is now with the Germans, causing Fincham to accuse Ryan of helping the Germans and Fincham dubs him Von Ryan.

The rest revolves about how they take over the train, deal with a following troop train full of German soldiers, and the troubles they go through. I know it’s an old movie but I won’t spoil the ending. Strangely for an American movie the ending in the book is happier than in the movie, it’s usually the other way round.

Phil loved seeing it again, and I really enjoyed it. Like a lot of the old cclassics, The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen et al, it has a ‘Boy’s Own’ feel to it, plucky Tommies, derring-do G.I.Joes, and dastardly Huns, but great fun. For all that it was beautifully filmed on location across Europe, and real planes and trains were used for the majority of the movie with an occasional model if something needed blowing up. The actors did a great job, even Frank, no grandstanding and everyone doing their bit well. The score was by Jerry Goldsmith and a bit in your face here and there, but otherwise fine. It did well at the box office and well with the critics.

Saturday night and I hadn’t realised the movie I’d originally chosen on Amazon Prime was a rental or buy, so had to do a quick rethink. I came across Braven (2018), which I hadn’t heard of and hadn’t read anything about, but it looked like an action movie and Jason Momoa was in it (last seen by me as Aquaman in Justice League) so my expectations were of a flash bang wallop romp kinda movie. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and this was an unexpected nice surprise. Directed by Lin Oeding, Momoa produced the movie with Brian Mendoza who also did the cinematography. And what glorious cinematography it was, the movie is set in Newfoundland, and the opening scenes are just gorgeous. The film is given the ‘action thriller’ tag, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The basic plot is not new, a family have to fight for their survival against bad men, and that’s all I’ll say as I don’t want to do spoilers. However what I can say is while Momoa plays head of the family, his Dad who lives with them, played brilliantly by Stephen Lang, had an accident prior to the time of the movie, leaving with him brain damage gradually worsening, and their relationship is really well done. Momoa’s wife is played well by Jill Wagner and his young daughter played by Sasha Rossof, (good little actress). The scenery is just stunning all the way through, and the music score is excellent, haunting and beautiful in places, then gee’d up for the action bits. Justin Small and Ohad Benchetret are to thank for that.

We really liked this movie, there is great characterisations and acting, a fair bit of action and it’s glorious to look at. Mr.Momoa has certainly much more depth to him than being a beefcake superhero and that was a good surprise.