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Suicide Squad (2016)

A secret government agency recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency.

Well well, hasn’t the internet got itself into a tizzy over this? The early reviews came in a couple of days ago and much to the consternation of comic book nerds everywhere, the results were, well, less than satisfactory on the whole. Today was the official release date, so yours truly decided, despite not bothering with DC’s Batman Vs Superman, that he would go and have a bit of an eyeball at Margot’s fishnet buttocks, the subject of fascination for much of the angry Rotten Tomato hating mob.
To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have bothered at all if Margot Robbie and her heart-stopping bottom hadn’t featured so prominently. With the exception of her and everyone’s blockbuster favourite Will Smith, there was little draw, personally.
Like everyone else, I had seen the trailers and thought “ooh, now that looks cool!” I had avoided the reviews (like everybody does, including this one) and decided to use my own yardstick when it came to meting out critical cinematic justice. In short, I don’t trust anyone else’s opinion as much as my own (and neither should you). And what I thought might be a credible challenger to Nolan for storytelling with style turned out to be, let’s be honest now, something else entirely.
The idea itself isn’t new. Gather a group of bad people together to do a job that nobody else could manage with the promise of great reward. The job is so difficult, it soon becomes apparent that there may well be no coming back from it, hence the Suicide monicker. If you’re not thinking about Kevin Spacey hobbling away from a police station right about now, then what are you thinking?
But these usual suspects are so far removed from Keyser Söze that this is really where the similarity has to end. We are firmly entrenched in comic-book fantasy here. Practically devoid of tangible drama throughout, Suicide Squad lives up to the promise of high-intensity action and sometimes (albeit rarely) even the script manages to raise itself above average. These moments are few and far between and the slick trailers that assured us that this would be as classy as it was sassy proved to be found lacking. Sassy, yes. Classy? Not so much.
Ayer’s direction is not as elegant or sophisticated as anything Nolan has achieved in his career that has since gone Interstellar since his Dark Knight trilogy, and if you had to pick a Joker between Jared Leto here, and Heath Ledger’s altogether darker version, then there really is no contest. Maybe this is due to a lack of screentime for Leto, giving way to character arcs for Squad members that were superfluous from beginning to end and didn’t really warrant inclusion.
Robbie was the best thing about this effort, of which there can be little doubt and despite not coming within sniffing distance of Ledger’s performance, Leto still makes for a very watchable Joker. In truth, the rest of the cast are entirely interchangeable and the film suffers from its character’s demands to be fleshed out and rounded, which was pointless really, as when the trouble was taken to deliver a backstory, the audience could be forgiven for not being overly concerned about those characters that had the least to contribute, past or present.
In all, don’t believe the hype or the trailer. Expectations for this were abnormally high, so you could suggest that the only thing you could reasonably expect was varying degrees of disappointment. Like last weeks’ Star Trek outing, this is definitely worth the time you will take to see it, but don’t get your hopes up or imagine this will ever be the classic that you want it to be, because even with all that it does have going for it, it is what is missing that is the most noteworthy.

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Star Trek Beyond (2016)

The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

As
Yoda now famously once said, “judge me by my size, would you?” I was
reminded more than once (and within the first couple of minutes) of the late,
great Douglas Adams. In Hitchhikers Guide, he told at least a partial story of
an alien race that received a signal from earth and immediately set about
travelling to the unsuspecting planet to overthrow the human race and take it
for themselves. It wasn’t until they got here that they realised their somewhat
massive error of judgement.

Nevertheless,
lots of little enemies are still, when properly organised, something of a force
to be reckoned with, as evidenced here in the third JJ Abrams Star Trek
adventure, this time directed by (Steve does a Spock eyebrow) Fast
& Furious director Justin Lin.


Less the
third part of a trilogy and more a standalone project, the crew are all back
together on the Enterprise, at least for a while, before finding themselves
separated and shipwrecked on a planet on the very edge of known space. The
backstory is in place, so a potted history of the first two films of this
reboot is beneficial, if not entirely necessary.


Most
notably, Simon Pegg (Montgomery Scotty) takes up script-writing duties here and
depending on what you read, this was a monumental failure or an averagely
satisfying choice. There aren’t many corners where you’ll find critics shouting
about how great the writing was, however. Personally, I would lean towards the
latter and suggest that whilst it is far from awful, it rarely inspires. It is
not as funny as it might be and you do get the feeling that Pegg wanted
this to have the cool overtones of Guardians Of the Galaxy, with
whipsmart-crackling dialogue, Beastie Boys wailing over the battle scenes
notwithstanding. Oddly (says the bluff old cynic), Scotty ends up with a good
deal more screen time too. Again, whether you think that’s a good thing or not
depends on your particular brand of tea.


Karl
Urban is back too, still determined to sport his ridiculous American
accent as Bones, the often enflamed and frustrated Doctor, Chris Pine as
Kirk, Zoe Saldana as Uhura, John Cho as Sulu and Quinto as Spock. Sadly,
every time he was on screen, we were reminded of the premature end Anton
Yelchin, who for the last time plays Chekhov. Both he and Leonard Nimoy are
remembered in the credits at the end of the picture, which may well bring a
lump to your throat.


And
really it’s ‘as you were’. The plot is thin, the setup brief and the action
huge, vast and glorious. One thing we can’t argue about is just how fantastic
this picture is for the eyes. Watch it in 3D and you may well find it a little
dark in places (which has been mentioned elsewhere, and I can confirm that
this is indeed the case). Pine still has enough swagger to pull off
the maverick captain (just about), Quinto and Saldana still genuinely smoulder
in each other’s company and the rest of the crew are on point and do their
duties well enough so as not cause frustration to Trekkies everywhere.


Some
may gripe about the extended amount of sway and influence offered to Pegg
(let’s be honest, the boy has done very well for himself from his days on
‘Spaced’), as he seems to have failed to steer the script to either popcorn
tomfoolery or scientific plausibility, choosing, we assume, to remain somewhere
in the middle. Star Trek fans are geeks, let’s not deny it, but they do like
their bangs and whistles. Here, the science-fiction is overlooked mostly and
the plot suffers for it by the end.


The
$185 million budget clearly went on the pretty and not on the ‘thinky’, as the
story is flimsy and the script enough on the wrong side of irreverent to make
me believe its shortcomings were accidental and not by design. This is far
from a flop, you understand, but the hardcore Trekkies (of which I am most
certainly not one) may have more trouble swallowing it than previously.
It’s a rip-roaring spectacle in the Gene Roddenberry universe, with characters
inspired by the great man himself, but these latest versions, as polished and
politically correct as they are, remain pale imitations of their original
inspirations. New additions Idris Elba as Badguy #1 and Sofia Boutella as Unpredictable
and unusually adept alien academy rookie-to-be do add to the mix with decent
performances, but really, what this seems to lack above everything else, is
soul. A fact you’ll be reminded of if you sit through the credits.


Nonetheless,
this is worth the entry fee for pure, candied, hedonistic mayhem.



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Me Before You (2016)

A girl in a small town forms an unlikely bond with a recently-paralyzed man she’s taking care of.

Secretly (not so now), I’m quite the chick-flick fan. And if you were to pigeon-hole this, then this is as about as close as you’re going to get. This sometimes bittersweet tale about the growing romance between a paraplegic young man and his pretty care assistant doesn’t immediately sound enticing, particularly if you haven’t read the book from which this effort was borne, but give it an airing and you won’t be disappointed by any means. Pitched as one of the best movies of the year, it’s a lofty claim and time will still tell, but nonetheless, the praise is not without warrant.

Jojo Moyes adapts her own novel here, which is a blessed relief. Sometimes a writers’ creative vision can be lost in translation from paper to screen, but there is no such problem here. Moyes has a very good understanding of her own characters and this has clearly been passed onto the very formidable and capable cast charged with making us all suitably bleary-eyed.

Louisa (Clarke) finds herself out of a job at the local café and with her family relying on her to bring in at least some kind of income, she takes a trip to the local Jobcentre to see what’s on offer. When they check, they find a vacancy for a carer for Will (Claflin) a young man of the town’s well-to-do, castle-owing family who ended up in a wheelchair after being on the receiving end of a careless motorcyclist a couple of years earlier.

And here the clichés start to arrive. Initially, their relationship is difficult, strained, painful even, but Lou is a good soul that doesn’t admit defeat too easily and Clarke’s portrayal of an always positive, if somewhat eclectic, local girl is totally magnetic and she literally glows on screen, the perfect foil for an audience that feel not only for her plight in a difficult and demanding new career, but for the life that Will, though no fault of his own, has been forced to endure.

And just as predictably, their relationship grows and he warms to her unavoidable spirit and questionable fashion sense. This never feels rushed or forced which may have become an issue when reducing Moyes’ book into less than a couple of hours, but as I mentioned, with the responsibility of adapting her own story, this never really becomes an issue. There are some obvious questions about the story, being that this is the most famous family in town and the fact that Lou had never heard or know about the injury from which Will suffered is unlikely., but this is no more than nit-picking really.

The performances, particularly from Clarke, are excellent and completely watchable. Claflin too is, as usual, very easy to sit through, but it is Clarke here that truly shines and she breezes through this as if borne to play it. Dance and McTeer as Will’s parents are equally solid and impressive, despite a reduced presence.

There is as much sadness as there is joy here, however, and that is handled with subtlety and good grace, which may bring you tears, as it threatened to do to me. In all, this is indeed a fine example of quality storytelling and sublime casting. Direction may be on the careful side of ‘safe’, but nonetheless appropriate, and the script, though scattered with the odd cliché, still feels fresh, honest and sometimes even a little raw.

Highly recommended. One of the better films you’ll see this summer.

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The Purge: Election Year (2016)

Years after sparing the man who killed his son, former police sergeant Barnes has become head of security for Senator Charlie Roan, a Presidential candidate targeted for death on Purge night due to her vow to eliminate the Purge.

Okay, before we say anything else, does it strike anyone as odd that the Purge (in its purest, original, unique form) was originally a  government backed entrepreneurial scheme to allow the public to decimate itself for one day a year? Now it seems that this message has been lost, and we’re only three movies in. Watch the first five minutes of Election Year, the third in this quirky but yet still fascinating franchise, and you begin to realise that this is no longer about the people helping themselves by chopping up their neighbours after some long held deep-seated dislike of their bigger garden or nicer car. This is now an opportunity for those in power to directly affect both the public’s future and their own, by politically targeting victims and using The Purge as an excuse. Do we care, however?

Even when the first of these somewhat novel projects came to the fore, it was already asking some very important and challenging philosophical and societal questions, layered, admittedly, under the veil of crisp and polished torture and suspense. This has now progessed beyond equals doing unto each other what they can’t do for every other night of the year into something that was already heavily hinted at previously, the more obvious manipulation of the law, with convenient free political side-stepping. And interestingly, we appear to have come full circle, with the film-makers themselves now asking the same questions about society as all of the people watching the first film at the time. A neat trick, if delivered well, and the debate that is played out at the start of the film is testament to the fact that whilst this knows what it is, it is not beyond understanding that there is more to this than just blood-letting and terror.

Starring Elizabeth Mitchell (V, Lost) as the Washington Senator (would be President-elect, hence the title) everybody wants to kill on this night of the long knives, this third incarnation of the same story re-told with different faces, is just as polished and occasionally just as tense as the previous two in the series and follows much the same premise. Midnight on Purge Day gongs and off we go, following the next twelve hours of the lives of the people we have already been introduced to in the first twenty or so minutes, when everything was still bonkers-free. Here, we have a slightly different twist, focusing on the survival of one for the benefit of many.

And along with the pretty, sometimes garish. sometimes imaginative visuals, the shoddy-ish script is also back for another twirl. The acting itself is on point for what this is at base level. Giving it any more credibility than that would be doing it (and you) a dis-service. Limited, yes, even sometimes offensive, but certainly not lacking for the audience it is trying to attract.

Certainly a decent enough addition to the series, though fails to break any real new ground, despite the promising first few minutes where it starts to question itself and the morality of the annual Purge in general.

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Zootopia (2016)

In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

Damn these things are cute. Aaah, isn’t it just so bloody-well fluffy. A world where anyone can be anything. The kind of positive message all children can warm to and embrace like a familiar blanket and adults can sagely roll their eyes at, whilst wishing they were still young enough not to have to sit through this with the pint-sized demons they have inevitably spawned and paid for, because of either too much alcohol or too little common sense, or maybe even a combination thereof. I have suffered through this period and have come out the other side, a more jaded, sadistic and sceptical human being for the experience.

The only reason I sit here watching this today is for you, gentle reader, so you too might avoid an unnecessary and unpleasant one hundred minutes pretending like you’re paying attention, when in fact, you’re plotting an innovative and unsuspicious way of murdering your nearest and dearest, claiming the inheritance and insurance money and moving to the Bahamas with a perky young thing with legs up to there called Candy Straddle.

“It’s great to have dreams, just so long as you don’t believe in them too much.”
A sobering message from the parents of our female rabbit lead, Judy Hopps (yes, really) when she loudly exclaims her desire and ambition to become the first ever police officer that is also a rabbit. If you can’t imagine Tigger singing “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” in the background, even in the first few short minutes, then your heart isn’t really in it, I’d wager. There is altogether too much bouncing and effervescent spirit for my liking, I’ll admit it.
But Judy, with the indomitable spirit of a bus with Sandra Bullock driving it, goes ahead and achieves her dreams. She moves to the titular megacity of Zootopia to start her glittering career, with the intention of carving her future on her own with one parking ticket at a time, if need be.
Lucking into a missing persons case, she meets Nick, a wily (sorry) young, street-wise fox and mostly through coercion with a touch of blackmail, Judy manages to convince Nick that he needs to help her find the missing Mr Otterman, one of fourteen Zootopian inhabitants that the police are looking for. Hence, adventure!
And it’s here that the tone changes from the frivolous, throwaway Disney we have come to expect, replaced by a darker tale that despite its lush, furry exterior, contains a bit more menace than we might have anticipated. Whether the very young will appreciate this as much as an interminable feelgood frenzy is a question only the parents will know, but it is worth mentioning that there is more story here with unexpected weight.
The animation, as expected, is excellent with every ruffle of fur realised and the voice acting from both Ginnifer Goodwin (Judy) and Jason Bateman (Nick) are on point. The plot is twisty enough to entertain both young and old but never stretches so far as to confuse younger minds and the same can be said of the script, which may be a little too advanced for very young viewers, like some of the scenes.
In all, a pleasant surprise that made even this bluff old cynic smile from time to time. It’s not riotously funny. It’s not riotously anything, in fact, but nonetheless, this is a solid and well-delivered animated adventure.

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The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

Tarzan, having acclimated to life in London, is called back to his former home in the jungle to investigate the activities at a mining encampment.

Lost count of how many times you’ve seen the Tarzan story told on the big screen? Yeah, well me too. So it was going to take something pretty special here to make me feel any warmer and fuzzier than I did when Disney last had an (animated) stab at it.

And like The Jungle Book that most notably came before it in live-action form, it would be easy just to wave this off with a grunt, safe in the knowledge that avoiding it would likely mean your memories of vine swinging tomfoolery would remain untainted.

But no, with an intro that pays homage to The Lion King, we get a brief marker about Leopold of Belgium and his attempts to plunder The Congo in the late nineteenth century. Tenuous though it may be, Africa is calling the now grown up and repatriated Tarzan home once more and we get the impression that it isn’t for a hearty welcome.

Now personally, I don’t really get the Tarzan fascination. Okay, so the chap grows up in the wild, inexplicably not eaten by the many things that would like nothing more than a Tarzan sandwich, who avoids natural disaster, disease, potential starvation and even a lack of a decent pair of sneakers. A curio perhaps, but does that explain the enduring appeal? Am I being horribly shallow to suggest that, when all said and done, the girls (and some of the boys too) do like a bit of a wild man?

So not falling into this demographic, it’s safe to say that my attention, equally shallow I’ll admit, came in the form of Margot Robbie as Jane Clayton. I didn’t need the bells and whistles, I didn’t need special effects, or gorillas playing musical instruments with suspiciously decent timing and innovative approaches to design aesthetics. I just needed Margot Robbie on the screen for as much of the running time as possible. She didn’t even have to be in a bubble bath. I’m not greedy.

Initially reluctant to accept King Leopold’s invitation of a visit to his old stomping ground, Lord Greystoke soon acquiesces despite very sane and credible reasons not to; “it’s too hot” being a particular highlight. This is probably a good job, or this would have been an extremely short movie.
So with Jane (Robbie) and Dr Williams (Jackson) in tow, Tarzan (who now prefers to go by his entirely less feral name of ‘John’) heads back to Africa, assuming everything he is told is exactly what it seems. But we all already know differently. Then it is just a matter of time before the reveal, well, reveals itself to Tarzan too.

Naturally, as you would expect, there are some stunning vistas to soak up and the film does indeed look glorious quite often (even when Robbie isn’t featuring) with cgi good enough to adorn the recent Planet of the Apes franchise under the always firm direction of David Yates, who surprises as rarely as he disappoints us here.

We are afforded a rudimentary history lesson regards Tarzan’s origins (were it needed) and probably a touch too much exposition and the first thirty minutes feel laborious because of it, with regular jumps back to Tarzan’s childhood, narrated sometimes by Jane and sometimes in quiet moments of contemplation. Whether this is really required is up for debate, save for the very youngest viewers, that still may not have a clue about the story.

As with this years’ Jungle Book, a live-action re-telling of Tarzan feels more grounded, more mature and often devoid of warmth, not to mention carefree fun. I’m sure fun was never the intention, of course, but if not, then what? The biggest question remains as to why this exists at all? Suggestions that this is original due to the content of Tarzan’s later years may be well founded, but wasn’t the point of interest in the first place the childhood, raised by animals in a hostile environment? Do we really need a story about John Clayton’s sphere of influence when it comes to corporate negotiations and global trade agreements?

So in short, on the plus side it looks damned pretty and it has Margot Robbie in it. It also respectfully borrows liberally from the likes of Jurassic Park and The Lion King. Unfortunately, it is overlong and often tedious viewing and despite some decent performances, particularly from the always reliable Christoph Waltz, this is mostly a chore, literally interspersed with the odd shiny diamond.

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The Nice Guys (2016)

A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a porn star in 1970s Los Angeles.

If you didn’t already know it was the seventies, then ‘Papa Was a Rolling Stone’ should give it away, not to mention Shane Black’s opening credits. Before you’re half a minute in, you’re already thinking about Jackie Brown and Shaft, whether you want to or not.

It’s California, 1977, and the dark skyline we’re introduced to invites us to delve into what we can anticipate will be the nefarious under-dealings of what we can only hope will be the lives of some engaging and well-rounded individuals. Some good, some bad, but hopefully, all intriguing.
Black wastes no time in setting the scene, with a car hurtling down a hillside and through the unfortunate house that happens to be standing in its way and we’re immediately curious about why. There is a story wrapped up in a conundrum here, we tell ourselves, and just how it pans out may well be the hook on which The Nice Guys stands or falls.

As far as ‘cool’ goes, the likes of those mentioned above need not tremble for too long, as whilst these Nice Guys are certainly entertaining, Black has failed to really instill any kudos into something that really wants to be Boogie Nights, given half a chance. It is neither as well-written nor as funny and if not completely bereft of actual tension, then certainly in need of adrenalin in places. Like me, you might find yourself wondering just whether this is supposed to be funny or not, as it is often quite difficult to tell.

Grizzled muscle Jackson Healy (Crowe) and Investigator Holland March (Gosling) are forced to work together to unravel the mystery of a missing girl and a dead porn star (who died in the accident with the car and the house). As we would have hoped, their dealings put them in contact with some initially interesting, but unfortunately less  well-rounded characters, which goes some way to explaining the lack of engagement.

Crowe’s performance is unchallenging and the amount of effort he needs to expend to get from opening to closing credits is evident by the amount the audience will feel for him. Nonetheless, he passes muster. Gosling fares better, as the demands are greater and the arc of his character is a little more demanding. The acting really isn’t the issue. The plot, pacing and script need attention, as the whole affair is altogether too clichéd, obvious and linear.

To be fair and in its defence, the film does entertain sporadically throughout and a decent performance from Angourie Rice helps its cause, though never quite manages to save it. Not stylish enough to impress with the visuals or the swagger, it relies on everything else to back up its claims of authenticity, and what there is of it, doesn’t inspire enough to get quite onto the edge of your seat.
Over-rated by many, this is not the Gosling vehicle we would have rightly expected given previous form. For Crowe, however, this is just about on point for a more recent career that has few real highlights to speak of.

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Bad Neighbors 2 (2016)

When their new next-door neighbors turn out to be a sorority even more debaucherous than the fraternity previously living there, Mac and Kelly team with their former enemy, Teddy, to bring the girls down.

Now I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this, I must be honest. I do enjoy Seth Rogen most of the time and Rose Byrne is always a good bet in terms of watchability, but this battle of two generations once removed by the width of a garden fence is probably superfluous. Zac Efron is back too and here the established original cast is completed most notably by Chloe Grace Morentz as the new nemesis to the domestic house-selling bliss of the ‘old people’ who live next door.


If you’ve seen the first of these, then you already know the line this project is treading gingerly along. As usual, the writers push just far enough to almost offend everyone, as everyone is fair game here, though they never go quite far enough to repel anyone completely.

Mac (Rogen) and Kelly (Byrne) have survived the previous fraternity onslaught led by Efron and as we meet them again, they are in the process of selling their house. Thirty days of Escrow means that their buyers can come around at anytime to inspect the place, which would be fine, if not for the new Sorority that have decided to move in next door, led by Morentz, under the questionable guiding hand of Efron.

Ultimately, this is just more of the same as our first venture into the neighbours from hell, only this time, this blight on domestic bliss comes in a slightly shorter, if no less dangerous, package. The one-upmanship is still there, falling only slightly short of an eye for an eye and some the stunts pulled are actually funny. Granted, sometimes they are completely absurd, but they just about get away with it.

Just barely sneaking past the five laugh rule, audiences can be confident that they will have a good enough time not to feel cheated by the end. Rogen and Byrne are likeable and consistent enough, but as in the first, Efron is the real entertainment value, with a winning smile and the only real, considered character arc to speak of.

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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

After the re-emergence of the world’s first mutant, world-destroyer Apocalypse, the X-Men must unite to defeat his extinction level plan.

Alright, someone is going to have to help me out here. I don’t know what the hell is going on anymore. I have watched all of the X-Men movies, in no particular order I might add, so I am at a loss about the timeline, especially as they have moved back and forward at least once. I don’t know if I am unique in this regard, because I am far from a fan of the franchise.
I can’t be the only one who is wondering why Jennifer Lawrence is both dressed and not spiky blue for the majority of this experience? Ho-hum, there goes at least one reason for sitting through it. (that’s sexist, I understand, but if it wasn’t a draw, then she needs to keep her clothes on ALL the time)


Whatever, I’m forced to go with the flow as the X-Men current doesn’t appear to be abating anytime soon, so with the proverbial pinch of salt, I went into this for the bangs and whistles and little else. If I’m really honest, I just wanted to see the scene where Lawrence gets throttled, given all of the table-banging that’s been going on. Personally, I think the lingering lascivious shot of her getting out of the car at the beginning of the film should have been more likely to offend (two firm thumbs up, Mr Singer), if people truly are getting in a hissy fit about her portrayal. But hey-ho, nowt as queer as folk, eh?


So apparently it’s the eighties, McEvoy still isn’t bald, Wolverine is nowhere to be seen (at least to start with), though I’m not even sure he should have been at this stage, despite being alive during the war at some point. Sansa Stark is doing a rather flat impression of Famke Janssen. Scott is spending most of the first half of the film with his weedy eyes shut and the most engaging character ends up being the villain, the apparent first mutant from pre-biblical times, who has been trapped under some rocks in Cairo for the best part of five thousand years. Well, now he’s woken up, and boy, is he pissed.


Although now I think of it, I have never been reminded quite so much of Watchmen and The Mummy when watching X-Men as I was when viewing this. This might have been the locale (pyramids, innit) and/or the ridiculous outfits that most of the new female characters are introduced to us in. This didn’t cheapen the experience, however. It just made me slightly wistful for Rachel Weisz and highlighted the fact that this could have been a bit funnier than it ended up being.


In fact, the whole shebang was maybe just a fraction too serious for its own good. What with Magneto’s back-story in Poland after his childhood in Auschwitz (bags of laughs there, of course) and there is really no excuse as Marvel have demonstrated quite ably that they are more than capable of providing peril, adventure and comedy in easy to manage, bite-sized chunks.
Saying that, I couldn’t help but concede that I did actually enjoy this more than I was expecting. It lacks replay value for me personally, though the fanboys might argue. I’m not taken with, understand or really even have the patience to follow the timelines of each character, but if it keeps my eyes open and provides even the odd chuckle, then it has probably done its job.  It’s inarguably a little too long, with some pointless exposition, but this is pretty standard for X-Men, in a continual attempt to ramp up the tension before the regular climaxes that Singer certainly delivers.


Sophie Turner does get her chance to shine by the end and whilst this is no Avengers Assemble, it is riveting at times, with some fantastic moments that will have action fans drooling. Most often the kudos comes when Fassbender or McEvoy are on screen, which should come as no great surprise.
In all, one that X-Men fans will love, Marvel fans will like alot, and the rest of us can be gratefully surprised by. Grab your popcorn Professor, it’s chock full of blockbuster!

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The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Lorraine and Ed Warren travel to north London to help a single mother raising four children alone in a house plagued by a malicious spirit.

The Warrens are at it again. Finally, some might say, given the general good feeling their original outing received. I too really enjoyed the original, so here I sit on opening night, keen to see what James Wan and the assembled crew make of seventies London. Or Enfield, to be precise.
And if I’m honest, my heart sank a little after the pre-title Amityville escapades. “This is as close to hell as I ever want to get”, opines Lorraine (Farmiga) to her dutiful husband Ed (Wilson) and then we cut to a frenetic London Grammar school playground, as we’re blasted by The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ and a tourist editing frenzy of the sights and sounds of our murky inner city capital at the time that no-one outside of the film industry had even heard of Luke Skywalker.


However, it still takes a good hour before the notion of the Warren’s even going to Enfield to investigate crops up. In the intervening period, we have plenty of mucking about in the dark at night as the family on the receiving end of the Warren’s next job try and cope with a malevolent spirit by the name of Bill Wilkins, who appears to be intermittently inhabiting/possessing their youngest daughter, if the not overly convincing voice changes are anything to go by, at least.

Most akin to ‘When The Lights Go Out’, Wan’s attempt at seventies London seems to go only so far as pictures of Starsky & Hutch and Joanna Lumley adorning the bedroom walls plus the fashion faux pas and the bright red London buses. The acting in this first hour can only dream of being quite as good as that similar premise, albeit When The Lights Go Out was a good deal more provincial and Northern, which may be something our American cousins may have had trouble digesting.  This is a good deal less subtle and what it lacks in class, it makes up for in standard horror clichés.

By the time Ed and Lorraine do turn up, you’ll probably be already tiring of things that go bump in the night and the regular nocturnal interruption to the family sleep pattern. Mostly lacking an accompanying score of note, you might expect the relative slience, punctuated by bursts of audible chaos might be more than enough to keep you on the edge of your seat, but the moments of tension, when they come, are hampered, rather than heightened by it.

In all, a ropey and unconvincing first half, followed by an average second where Farmiga has more of a presence, which is no bad thing. The father of this family is notable by his absence, which is odd, given that he’s fathered twins with a woman around the corner. Personally, I’d be round like a shot. Parenting 101 anybody? Altogether though, this is uninspired stuff from Wan and he relies heavily on familiarity and leaves little room for invention. It does raise the odd chuckle, but maybe for the wrong reasons (Wilson does Elvis, for example). For horror purists, this is not as welcome as the original, despite Wan’s best intentions and our own positive anticipation.

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