Category Archives: General

Review: The Dark Tower (2017)

Stars: Matthew McConaugheyIdris ElbaTom TaylorDennis HaysbertJackie Earle Haley.

Director: Nikolaj Arcel

The plot:

Set in the current time but across different dimensions, The Dark Tower tells the story of young Jake (Tom Taylor) who has dreams of another world and a Dark Tower that preserves the worlds it overlooks.  Unfortunately he also sees “The Man in Black” (Matthew McConaugheywho seeks to destroy the tower and wreak havoc upon those worlds it protects.  More fortunately for Jake is that he sees “The Gunslinger” (Idris Elba), protector of the tower and a man seeking revenge upon the man in black for the death of his Father.  In the real world Jake isn’t taken too seriously, so much so that he is about to be taken away to a psychiatric facility to try to help with his delusions but Jake has other ideas.  He escapes to the other world and his adventure begins.


The cast:

There’s a good mix in terms of the cast. Idris Elba stands firm as the gunslinger as he battles with his demons and the unrelenting determination to avenge his Father’s death.  Initially a quite cold character, particularly towards Jake but this warms as time moves on and a more paternal persona emerges. Tom Taylor is likeable enough as the vision ridden Jake and I think the measure of any younger actor is that if they don’t grate on you they’re doing well and he didn’t grate on me.  There a very slimy and evil turn from the well chiselled Matthew McConaughey as the man in black.  He plays that role that every talented actor once to do at least once, the crazed and devilish bad guy and he was obviously enjoying his work here.  Possibly not a role he will be hugely remembered for against titles on his already impressive CV.  Vikings’ Katheryn Winnick makes a welcome if brief appearance as Jake’s mother and there’s an understated role for Jackie Earl Haley too.

The Verge

The film:

I think the tone of the film was lightened a little to ensure a 12 certificate in the UK and whilst the film did carry some dark overtones I feel the film suffered because of the need to reach a wider audience.  That said, the film is too bad.  Taken from Stephen King work it’s a fairly good crack at a “good versus evil” tale and offers misunderstood and troubled characters the film wants to tell you about.  It’s a little bit thin on the running time though and doesn’t really explore the characters in any great depth but there may be more with come in the stories to that will follow.  There’s some bright and panoramic views on show and a cracking stand-off between the Gunslinger and The Man in Black during the climax but then there’s a little bit of a cheesy science fiction ending that follows which is a bit frustrating.  The kind of ending you’d expect in a time travel episode of Family Guy.  The Dark Tower isn’t great by any means but it’s a decent bit of Sunday afternoon sci-fi to pass ninety minutes.  I’d hoped for a more grandiose spectacle but it wasn’t disappointing.

The verdict: 3.5/5 Stars – Not quite towering above the rest

The Dark Tower on IMDb

The Dark Tower Official Website


Review: Atomic Blonde (2017)

Stars: Charlize TheronJames McAvoyEddie MarsanJohn GoodmanToby JonesSofia Boutella.

Director: David Leitch

The plot:

Set in 1989, around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is sent to Berlin to investigate the murder of a fellow MI6 operative and to recover a list of double agents that has fallen into the wrong hands.  Given the contact name of David Percival (James McAvoy), Broughton is warned to trust nobody as she sets about her mission.  Thrown into the mix is “Spyglass” (Eddie Marsan), who brought the list to MI6 in return for a safe defection and titular blonde has her work cut out to complete her mission and stay alive.

The cast:

One of the few things that can be described as good in this movie is Charlize Theron she does her very best to hold the movie together but even that can’t save this movie from the disappointment that it is.   James McAvoy is just plain irritating throughout; he seems to consistently offer the same performance he does in a movie of this kind.  It’s a far cry from his excellent performance in last year’s Split.  It’s almost like Ewan McGregor turned the role down and he seems to be the go to guy in that event.  Toby Jones and John Goodman lend some assured supervisory performances and there is a nice appearance from Sofia Boutella as a French agent and love interest for Theron.


The movie:

I really don’t know what this movie was trying to do.  Was it a nostalgia trip? Perhaps; the soundtrack would certainly suggest so and it is an excellent set of tracks to make up the movie’s theme but if you have to talk about the soundtrack more than the film itself then there’s a problem with the film.  I wouldn’t even say that it was a pleasant hark back to the cold war movies of the era when this movie is set despite it even lifting the plot directly from the first Mission Impossible film, there’s always a list isn’t there?  I noted in the opening credits that this was based on a graphic novel.  It was not something I had heard of but my blanket reasoning of not being able to compare movie to comic book that stands for Marvel movies for example applies here too.  The main problem is that Atomic Blonde was built up to be a big action hit for Charlize Theron and it just failed to raise its game.  It was tedious for long periods and the action sequences were really stretched apart.  They were violent when they did happen but by then I’d kind of lost interest.  As for the way the story unfolds it becomes a very contrived and frustrating tale that you just want to switch off.  The film also carries an underlying feeling that it was much cleverer than it was when it really was not even achieving a bog standard level within this genre.

The verdict: 2/5 Stars – Promised a lot. Delivered little. Very contrived.

Atomic Blonde on IMDb

Atomic Blonde Official Website

Review: Dunkirk (2017)

Stars: Tom HardyKenneth BranaghCillian Murphy

Director: Christopher Nolan

The plot:

I’m not sure I should really need to explain the premise to this story but in brief this is Christopher Nolan’s telling of one of the most significant events of the second world war.  Allied forces have been forced back and are surrounded upon the beach.  This film tells the story of how the combined efforts of the Royal Air Force and civilian boats managed to bring home as many of the trapped soldiers home as they could.


The cast:

It’s an interesting one to talk about the cast.  I’ve listed Tom HardyKenneth Branagh and Cillian Murphy but in reality they are only small parts in a grand tale of heroics and bravery.  Perhaps I’m under valuing Hardy’s input but only to try to not take away too much from the rest of the cast.  Hardy and Murphy are well established in Nolan’s movies and, alongside Kenneth Branagh, they bring the big names to the movie to apply some familiarity to the cast list.  The support, not that they’re really just the support, is of an impressive standard and should be recognised equally in terms of Nolan’s direction.  The fear and sense of desperation shines through in a truly perilous fashion as these young men face their impending deaths or imprisonment whilst at the same time the bravery and valour shown by the rescuing forces goes a long way to showing how much the human spirit can achieve when used as a force for good.

Screen Rant

The film:

Dunkirk is excellent.  It’s a dark and harrowing tale from one of the darkest periods in European history.  Unlike Saving Private Ryan, for example, it does not resort to extremely graphic scenes to get its message across.  Nolan, instead, prefers to emphasise the very real element of peril and hopelessness of what confronts these soldiers.  This is matched by the optimism and dedication shown by saviours both airborne and sea-faring.   In particular the score presents a pounding back drop to the early events within the movie and moves into a more Vangelis-like moments of euphoria as scenes move towards the climax.  Nolan usually likes to make his films to run for a serious amount of time but here we’re at quite a shorter running time but it’s just about a perfect amount of time to tell the story he was trying to tell.  Visually it’s stunning, in particular the ariel photography is incredible.  Personally, it wasn’t quite up to the standard of a couple of war movies I hold in such high esteem, those being Full Metal Jacket and Platoon but those films are from a very different war and are completely different kinds of war films.  It’s definitely a film worth seeing, however, and it’s certainly a better choice than a lot of the mindless dirge to hit cinemas this summer.  You will still be able to hear the sound of those diving planes for some time to come after you’ve left the cinema.

The Verdict: 3.5/5 Stars – Well worth your time and money.

Dunkirk on IMDb

Dunkirk Official Website

Review: War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

Stars: Andy SerkisWoody HarrelsonSteve ZahnKarin KonovalAmiah Miller.

Director: Matt Reeves

The plot:

After an attack on their hideout amongst the woods, Caesar (Andy Serkis)offers a ruthless military Colonel a way to bring peace amongst humans and apes.  He returns, unharmed, the soldiers who survived the successful defence by the apes but rather than accept the offer, The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) attacks again and Caesar and his kind suffer terrible losses.  Caesar begins to feel the hate Koba felt towards the humans and orders the remaining apes to make for the desert whilst he seeks out The Colonel in a bid to end the war.  Caesar tries to carry out his mission alone but is joined by his closest allies and they pick up a human stray along their path to find the military base and The Colonel.

20th Century Fox

The cast:

What can you say about Andy Serkis?  He’s cornered this kind of role and the amount of work he must have to put in to these roles must be incredibly arduous.  The same goes for all the actors in Ape roles.  This must be one of the most and physically draining ways to play a part and they should be applauded for it.  Caesar still dominates the screen and only shares it when Woody Harrelson marks his arrival during a firefight.  Woody is the only one who gets close to the sort of presence Serkis’ Caesar has on-screen.  This was an ideal role for him and his manic portrayal of the determined Colonel serves the film exceptionally well.


The film:

This is certainly THE blockbuster of the season so far, for me, and I don’t see that changing as the summer goes on.  Even from the trailers you could tell that this was going to be something a bit special.  It’s certainly not your brain-dead blockbuster akin to a Transformer movie and it certainly doesn’t give off that smug aroma that many of the Marvel movies give.  It’s a well thought out, often poignant, often sad and very gritty movie.  For a large period of the film it’s almost a road movie as Caesar and his companions traverse difficult conditions to reach the military base.  Ultimately it’s about who would claim the planet for themselves and it’s a very tense journey to reach the conclusion.  Usually for me the effects are secondary to the film itself and that fact remains but this films is so good that to say that the effects match it stride for stride is the highest praise I can give.  It feels authentic throughout.

20th Century Fox

As I arrived early I plumped for the 3D showing.  I can’t really say whether that added anything to the movie but it rarely does.  What I will say is that the film itself was so immersive that anything the 3D brought to the film was not really a very striking effect.  This is very much the best film in this particular series of Apes movies and credit should go to the director for making this film work so well from start to finish.  If there’s anything to criticize it’s simply the running time of one hundred and forty minutes.  The film went slightly off pace in the middle period and probably about twenty minutes of film could have been kept for the DVD extras making it the perfect two hours but that’s a very small issue.

The Verdict: 4/5 Stars – Only the finest monkey business.

War for the Planet of the Apes on IMDb

Planet of the Apes Official Website

Live: New Order @ Old Granada Studios 15 July 2017 (NO, 12k, Lg, 17 Mif)

What an immense show from New Order last night at the old Granada Studios in Manchester as part of the Manchester International Festival.  It was also the final night and what a triumph the residency has been.  Full credit must also go to Royal Northern College of Music students on synths and Liam Gillick for they all contributed to a marvellous spectacle.

There were tracks not played live since the 80s and other less accessible tunes, each one a classic, not one of them a hit.

Think what you like about Hooky but back on home turf NO still have it in spades.
Truly amazing show. I even smiled, but that may have just been wind.  Tony Wilson, certainly, would have smiled.

I have a full video of “Plastic” which I will post when I have it in a format Word Press likes.

Full Set list:

  1. Elegia
  2. Who’s Joe?
  3. Dream Attack
  4. Disorder
    (Joy Division cover)
  5. Ultraviolence
  6. Behind Closed Doors
  7. All Day Long
  8. Shellshock
  9. Guilt Is a Useless Emotion
  10. Sub-Culture
  11.  Bizarre Love Triangle
  12. Vanishing Point
  13. Plastic


  14. Heart and Soul
    (Joy Division cover)
  15. Decades
    (Joy Division cover)
  16. Your Silent Face

Meet the Thirteenth Doctor – Spoilers (Obviously)

The new Doctor who has been announced by the BBC.  If you’d rather wait until Christmas to find out; good luck with that.

Here’s how it was released to the public:

Here’s my thoughts:

It’s very brave of Jodie Whittaker to take the role in the face of what I’ve seen so far to be vile and not very twentieth century attitudes let alone twenty first. She’s damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t. Doctor Who has suffered from incredibly bad writing, for the most part, since Steven Moffat took over. Capaldi’s reign was plagued by it, not least because of the Clara debacle. If it’s terrible Whittaker will be blamed whether she’s a good or bad Doctor when it’s really all down to what she’s given to work with. Writers; it’s time to step up and give the Doctor a chance.

Times, change. The Doctor changes. She has a vagina but she’s not Sue Perkins so, you know, deal with it.

I like what I’ve seen of Jodie, most notably Broadchurch as the Mother of a murdered son, which also continues the strong links between Doctor Who and Broadchurch.

Welcome to you, number thirteen.

Review: Baby Driver (2017)

Stars: Ansel ElgortJon BernthalJon HammEiza GonzálezLily JamesKevin SpaceyJamie Foxx.

Director: Edgar Wright

The plot:

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is coerced into a number of bank jobs as the lightning fast getaway driver by Doc (Kevin Spacey). That is, until his debt is repaid in full.  (This debt is never fully explained)  Of course, being even with Doc by no mean says you’re out for good and you do not say no to Doc.  So Baby’s dreams of hitting the road with Debora (Lily James) have to go on hold as he teams up with Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González) and Bats (Jamie Foxx.) for that ‘one last job’ and then he can take off.

The cast:

This a well cast movie and you’d expect nothing less from Edgar Wright.  I was unfamiliar with Ansel Elgort but felt he was excellent as Baby.  He showed a good sense of vulnerability behind unmatched skills behind the wheel.  An easy to like character who develops into quite the determined individual as the stakes are raised. Jon Hamm was, again, very enjoyable as one half of the more empathetic pair towards Baby. He shows a nice brotherly warmth towards the hot-shot driver despite Bats’ constant taunting.  The interesting thing with Hamm’s character, much like Baby’s, is how he changes when tensions rise and blood is spilled.  Essentially Buddy is just out to fund the next nose bag with his better half Darling (Eiza González) who also shows an affection towards Baby but also towards big guns and having a great time with them!  


Jamie Foxx‘s character is the loose cannon in our mix.  He taunts Baby that one day he will have blood on his hands, not least because Bats doesn’t shy away from getting blood on his own hands.  Doc’s (Kevin Spacey) relationship with Baby is a little more complicated.  Spacey exudes his normal charm and wit throughout but always keeps you wondering about his loyalties.  Lily James appears as Debora and I wasn’t sure what to make of her.  At times she seemed a little flaky but she looked the part and her feelings for our anti-hero were clear so it’s all good.  Oh and Jon Bernthal appeared as well  but only very briefly and not in any kind of pivotal way.

Digital Trends

The film:

It’s a cracking movie.  It’s loud and exciting, sharp and clever.  As already indicated, the cast is very well-chosen and there’s an excellent chemistry between all the players and you get the feeling they enjoyed making the film as much as I enjoyed watching it.  As a big fan of car chase movies there was some excellent stunts and sequences included here.  I’d have liked to have known more about the debt Baby owed Doc as it wasn’t really explained but that’s only a minor complaint.  I saw one review call it the ‘coolest movie of the year’ and it’s certainly in that kind of mould, something a bit like the Scott Pilgrim movie, perhaps.  The soundtrack, naturally, is an eclectic dream.  The film is literally flooded with outstanding tracks from The Damned to The Commodores and this music really supports the film impeccably.  If you don’t get to the cinema much, this is a film worth making the effort for.  Original and different and never dull this will be up there in my movies of the year.

The verdict:

4/5 Stars: This is your killer movie.

Baby Driver on IMDb

Baby Driver Official Website