Tomb Raider

This is the re-launch of the Tomb Raider franchise with a new, fit for 21st century, Lara Croft.

Gone are the pneumatic charms of the video game Lara, or the superwoman Angelina Jolie.

We now have a hero in the mould of GoT’s Arya Stark or Star Wars Rey.

Alicia Vikander’s performance alone raises this from just another high adventure into the story of a real human being struggling with circumstances that would defeat most of us.

Unfortunately, she is surrounded by cardboard cut-out friends and villains who add nothing unique to the story.

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I enjoyed the early scenes, shot in and around London and Hong Kong, that were beautiful, exciting and totally believable. The later scenes descend in the now over familiar CGI scenery and perils. These could have been from any number of similar films and require a great effort of imagination to accept.

I am sure that this film will appeal to the less jaded cinema audiences, especially young women, who have traditionally been underserved in such dramas.

For that reason I have raised my assessment to give this film 4 out of five stars.

 

 

 

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Red Sparrow ***

Red Sparrow is a very contemporary play set against the rising threat of Russian expansionism. The cold war of old has been re-kindled but old spy craft is still a primary tool used against the West.

Enter Jennifer Lawrence as one of the nails used by the Russian hammer against, in this case, the Americans.

The story continues with great pace and gusto that gives the initial impression of being an exciting and gripping story. However, this is no Le Carré or Deighton story. There is no light and dark in the characters. The bad guys are all super-bad and the good guys could almost be wearing white hats.

The viewer is kept guessing about the true motivations of Miss Lawrence’s character till the end, but you can see within the early scenes who is going to lose the most.

Red Sparrow 2On top of this plot is laid a visual assault of violence, gore and sex that is unprecedented in my experience in the legitimate cinema. Many scenes were bordering on the pornographic both in violence and nudity.

This may be artistically justifiable, indeed the presence of several A-List actors would indicate they felt it was justified, but not for me.

This would have benefited from clearer story telling, deeper characterisation and less visual exploitation.

Just 3 out of five stars.

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ****

In some respects, reviewing this film seems like a waste of time because the whole franchise is Marmite. (For my non-UK readers, Marmite is a strong, yeast based spread which “You either love it or hate it” and nothing will change your views).

I freely admit to being a hard-core fan since I was in New York when the first film opened and saw it on Times Square just a week after it opened in 1977.

After seeing this tale from the series, I was left feeling conflicted. There is something missing from the spirit of the film, which I think I have identified.

What is present is an atmosphere of foreboding. Part of this is the realisation that Carrie Fisher will not be in any further films, but also that the story is losing itself in a circle of plot clichés.

So what is missing? Joy.

The simple, innocent joy, that in the eternal fight of good vs evil, knowing that good will always be triumphant.

Also, the pure joy of love and laughter.

Sadly my inner 14yr old child was not excited by this film, but my adult self was.  Tor this reason I give it 4 out of five stars.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle *****

Many of you will fondly remember the 1996 Jumanji film, starring Robin Williams and Kirsten Dunst. You can rest assured that the new chapter of Jumanji will not tarnish those memories but add another set of family memories.Jumanji 1

The story picks up on the Jumanji Box that contained the original board game and what happened to it since 1996.

The writers have come up with a believable fantasy that whisks you back to the game with tremendous passion, humour and originality.

The four adult actors, Jack Black, Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan, give fantastic portrayals of juveniles thrust into adulthood and coming of age.

Indeed, I would claim that these are probably the best performances they have ever given.

This is far and away the best family film of the season, if not the year.

I would go so far as to say, this beats the pants off Star Wars (and I am an avid Star Wars fan).

So for my best family film of 2017, the full 5 stars out of five.

Justice League **

Yet another superhero movie, Justice League, hit our cinema this weekend. It follows the standard format of the undefeatable villain of the week threatens the world only to be defeated by one or more heroes. There are all the CGI bangs and whistles to draw in the massive following these films attract and produce huge fortunes for the studios.

Sadly this is not one of the best by quite a margin.

There is too much squeezed into the story.

There are three new characters being introduced into the franchise.  They may be long established in comic book lore but they each get the ‘origin story’ treatment, which slows the narrative to a crawl for the first half of the film.

Having done this, these characters are relegated to supporting roles for the more famous and already successful heroes.

The climax of the film is a fairly standard mass destruction of property, with the villain finally but inevitably defeated.

If this genre of film is your thing then this is a definite 2nd choice compared to Thor: Ragnorok, which is still running in cinemas.

I give this a ‘must try harder’ 2 stars out of five.

The Legend of King Arthur ***** Presented by The Guildford Shakespeare Company (GSC)

This autumn sees the welcome return of the Spiegeltent, venue for GSC’s new production of The Legend of King Arthur.

This brand new play has been written by Caroline Devlinwho has given us a delightful, action packed, humorous and family friendly tale, just right for this time of year.

More than that, she has produced a script befitting the multitalented company, taking and using recognisably Shakespearean plot devises to great effect.

We have the Fool as narrator, babies separated at birth, family treachery, songs, and so forth.

For children, it is a great introduction to the wider world of live drama.

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The players are very few in number but, by incredible costume and lighting changes, plus our willing suspension logic, the stage is filled with a massive menage of characters.

A young girl changes to aged monk to soldier in moments and we applaud in delight.

The founders of GSC, Sarah Gobran and Matt Pinches, can be very proud of what they have achieved yet again.

I fully recommend this delightful play to anybody who can get to Guildford before it ends on 5th November.

Truly a 5 star production.

 

Blade Runner 2049 ****

You certainly get value for money from Blade Runner 2049, running at 2 hours 44 minutes.

Fortunately the director has filled that time to great advantage.  Weaving a complex and compelling tale, this story is set in same dystopian world of the original Blade Runner.

If you liked the original, this film answers many of the questions raised by the first.

Ryan Goslings performance is very good, encapsulating his character very well. It has to be said that the film only comes to life towards the latter part when Harrison Ford appears.

If you haven’t seen or did not like the original, I fear this would not impress you and probably leave you wondering why you bothered.

I would strongly recommend seeing the original first if you have not already done so or just to refresh your memory.

So this is a good, possibly great and definitely cult movie.

As a fan, it gets 4 stars out of five from me.