Category: Film

Film review: The Right Stuff

This is the film version of Tom Wolfe’s brilliant book of the same title that I read a while back.  For a film that is now over 30 years old it looks remarkably good.

I really like how it is true in many ways to the book but also has it’s own personality. This is due, in part, to a brilliant (young!) cast and a sometimes morbid sense of humour. I think it does an even better job than the book of keeping the stories of the prospective astronauts (John Glenn et al) and the test pilots (Chuck Yeager) in parallel.

The film clocks in at over 3 hours but for me it flew by (…) and I enjoyed every minute.

• Spare Cycles:  Mini review: “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe

• The Guardian:  Tom Wolfe obituary

• The Guardian:  Sam Shepard obituary

• BBC Radio 4: The Infinite Monkey Cage (BBC Radio 4) – Astronaut Special

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Film: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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The best damn Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back.

• Spare Cycles: Film: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

• Spare Cycles: Film: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

• Spare Cycles: Happy Birthday to… The Empire Strikes Back

• Spare Cycles: Review: Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (Special Edition) soundtrack

 

 

Marvel Cinematic Universe: movie reviews Assembled

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I had a bit of a strange experience when on holiday in Spain earlier this year. In the town I was staying there was an advert for an open air screening of “Captain America”. Nice. It did not say which Captain America film, but a QR code took you to a YouTube trailer for The Winter Soldier (Captain America 2). I hadn’t seen it, so I went along.

In the end, I missed the first 30 minutes of the film, so I assumed it was The Winter Soldier.

When I got back to the UK, I watched The Winter Soldier, in English this time. It was not the film I saw in Spain. I then watched Civil War (Captain America 3) and it was awfully familiar.

I really enjoyed both films, so I decided to prolong my stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and watch a few more.

A few things to add:

1) I’m certainly no expert and I couldn’t explain all the intricacies of the plots.

2) Never stop watching before the end of the credits – there are twists and links to the next film(s) that you should not miss…

3) It’s best to watch these films in order. Where I have become confused, it is typically because something has happened in a previous film that I hadn’t seen.

4) There are still a number of films to see that have already come out…

– Thor: The Dark World (I’d prefer not to, but this should sit between Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
– Ant-Man
– Doctor Strange

… and several more still to be released.

So here we go, in the order that the films feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

Iron Man: here

Iron Man 2: here

Thor: Crap

Captain America: The First Avenger:

Pretty good, not as good as the following Captain America films. Benefits from a re-watch after seeing the two sequels.

Avengers Assemble: here

Iron Man 3: here

Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

Up there with Iron Man as the best of the films in the MCU, we discover that S.H.I.E.L.D has been infiltrated by the enemy and that Captain America’s best friend has been turned into a brainwashed killer. It’s effectively part 1 of a story that concludes with the third film in the series, Civil War.

Guardians of the Galaxy:

A move away from straight superhero fare, this is an enjoyable sci-fi flick. You find out more about the Infinity Stones – these have appeared in some of the earlier films too. I look forward to seeing the sequel.

Avengers: Age of Ultron:

This was a disappointment, especially as I had really enjoyed the first Avengers movie. The film looks like a video game, especially during the action at the beginning. The Hulk has to be included but there is little character there to develop and the idea of a romantic relationship building between Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) and Bruce Banner (Hulk) seems far-fetched, is unconvincing, lacks any spark and leaves me a bit queasy.

The idea of sowing discontent between the Avengers is a good idea and leads nicely into the events of Captain America: Civil War. It is also essential to see this before Civil War, as there are a couple of characters that appear here for the first time.

Captain America: Civil War:

This may as well be another Avengers ensemble movie given the huge cast that appear from elsewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Some of the characters that appear in this film appear for the first time in other films and if you haven’t seen them you will be somewhat lost. I had no idea who some of the characters were because I originally saw this straight after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Not having watched Avengers: Age of Ultron first meant that people such as Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch) and Vision featured heavily but were not introduced in any way.

Still, very good.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2:

Lots of fun but I got the impression that they needed to do a sequel pretty quickly and came up with this. This deals with the main character Peter Quill discovering who his dad is, only to find out that he is a) a god and b) an arsehole. It’s hard to see at this point how this integrates into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe – maybe the next Avengers film?

Spider-Man: Homecoming:

This was better than I was expecting and was a lot of fun.  Spider-Man first made an appearance in the MCU in Captain America: Civil War and here the adolescent Peter Parker gets some help from Tony Stark, in particular a new outfit that has some rather impressive features.  New York looks great.  You can’t go wrong with this – it’s light-hearted, has a decent enough plot and serves as a good introduction of Spider-man into the Marvel Universe.  I’m looking forward to seeing how they use him in the next Avengers film.

Film: Hamlet (BBC adaptation with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart)

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This is the first time that I’ve seen or read Hamlet and I only had the faintest idea of the plot. This film is a good way to experience it. I definitely find it easier watching Shakespeare than trying to read it and having now seen a few of his plays I am less intimidated by the language and can focus on the story more.

It is a great cast but I was surprised how much the role of Hamlet was played for what came across to me to a large degree as comic effect – well suited to David Tennant – when I was expecting a lot more tragedy. I suppose that is why Shakespeare’s plays can be interpreted in many different ways and I expect that I would need to study the play more to see what aspects of the character I’ve not picked up on.

My only other comment would be that this comes across very much as a filmed version of a play rather than a fully fledged film in it’s own right.

• Spare Cycles: Much Ado About Nothing (The Globe Theatre, London)

• Spare Cycles: King Lear: Live cinema broadcast from the Globe Theatre, London

Film review: Dunkirk (IMAX 2D)

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This film packs a powerful emotional punch.  Actually, it gets you in the gut.

If you get the chance you should see this in IMAX.  The big screen and massive sound give you the feeling that you are right up close to the action.  Each bullet sounds deadly and the aircraft engines vibrate you in your seat.  The story deserves to be told on this scale.

• The Guardian: Dunkirk review – Christopher Nolan’s apocalyptic war epic is his best film so far

Film: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

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When the last Star Wars film – The Force Awakens – was released I wrote this in my review:

It achieves its basic requirement: putting down firm foundations for the several more Star Wars films and spin offs that will be coming our way over the next few years.

I enjoyed the spectacle but I thought the plot was a re-run of previous films:

Don’t expect miracles from the plot – once things get going you do get a real sense of déja-vu.  This is the third time part of this story line has been used in the Star Wars films.  You’d think that the bad guys would have a bit more imagination by now.

Rogue One is the first of a number of spin-off movies, including one due next year that currently goes by the name of “the untitled Han Solo Star Wars movie”.

I’d heard this film was good, as in “it’s good for a spin off”, but I really enjoyed it.  It looks great, it keeps the action flowing and the music clearly takes its cues from the original scores but builds on them well.  It is definitely part of the Star Wars universe.

Most importantly it has a plot. The events of the film provide background to the original Star Wars film and effectively explain that film’s title “A New Hope”.  It’s great to get some new revelations.

If all the Star Wars spin-off “stories” are as good as this one then it bodes well for the future.

 

 

Film: The Revenant

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After being attacked by a bear, a man is left for dead.  He survives, driven by the desire for revenge.

Unflinchingly violent, achingly beautiful, this deserves to be seen on a big screen.