First Man *****

I have been waiting for this film since it was first announced because the subject, Neil Armstrong, was one of my boyhood heroes.  I booked for the first day, but an unforeseeable circumstance prevented my getting to see it.  On the second occasion, the gridlocked town centre delayed the bus service so much that I gave up and returned home.

Third time lucky then. Made it!

Was it worth the effort?

Heaving a great sigh of relief, I can report it most certainly was.

This film is a biography of Neil and his family from the birth of his first child to his return from the Moon.

The story is skilfully crafted and gives a good insight into the stress of family life when one member is involved in a dangerous occupation.

A lot of the focus is therefore on the lives of Neil’s wife, Janet, and their three children.  There is also focus on Neil’s second family, the cadre of astronauts on the Gemini and Apollo missions.

We see an interesting movement in Neil’s priorities between these families over time and the effects this has on the other people involved.

The training for the eventual Moon mission is created with stunning effects and skilful tension building.

I was quite familiar with his story, especially the major steps on his journey to the Moon, but the director still managed to raise my heartbeat and relief over and over again.

By the end of the film, I felt choked up, exhausted and exhilarated, all at the same time.

I think this film is fully deserving of the 5 stars I am giving it.

I hope you agree.

Advertisements

The Equalizer 2 *****

The Equalizer 2 is the first time Denzel Washington has ever made a sequel movie, having never received a script that held up the quality of the first incarnation.  This indicates to me that he had confidence that the script, director and production of this film would at least be as good, if not better that the first.

Was he right?

With a big sigh of relief, yes he was.

This is a brilliant thriller, with twists and turns, plots and intrigue, to satisfy this actor’s fan.  A bad or even poor Denzel Washington film is very hard to think of.  I failed while writing this review.

The opening scene is worthy of a Bond, not for the action (of which there is plenty) but for the surprise and cleverness.  This continues through the film to the very last scene.

I have often complained about the lack of originality in sequels but that is not a problem here.  We get a good understanding of the man, his history and his moral compass.  All this while restores good into the world for the weak and some measure of revenge for him-self.

I loved this film, physically excited and emotionally delighted throughout. The full 5 stars out of five and fingers crossed for another instalment from The Equalizer.

The Shape Of Water ****

The Shape of Water is an adult fairy tale, of monsters and lovers, sacrifice and hatred.

We are taken to the post WW2 anti-communist paranoid America, coloured with a dark palate, giving an impression of an old gothic horror.

Emotions are all ramped up to the maximum with no time for nuance or subtlety.

Thankfully the plot moves quickly as a result and the 2 hour 3 minute duration flies as quickly.

This film is probably the director Guillermo Del Toro’s best work (I haven’t seen them all so cannot be certain).

The performances by actors Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins and Doug Jones are all excellent.

I would particularly pick out Doug Jones who inhabits the central creature around which the story revolves. He brings the full range of emotions to his character without benefit of language, purely by his body language, which shines through his latex prosthetic body. (You may have seen him recently in Star Trek: Discovery, similarly cloaked in alien costume.)

As the story reached the ultimate and predictable conclusion, I felt this to have been a satisfying experience.

This will not be everybody’s cup of tea; indeed I resisted seeing it until after its Bafta success.

It is well worth 4 out of five stars.

The Post *****

The Post (The Washington Post) is a thriller set in the immediate pre-Watergate Washington of Richard Nixon.

The story is set in the newsroom of the Washington Post.

Driving the story is the relationship between the Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep characters.

Steven Spielberg expertly crafts tension into what could have been simply a tale of talking heads.

There are no adrenalin pumping murders, violence or heart pounding chases. What you do get is a very invigorating work out for your brain following the intricacies of the plot.

Indeed I would say it ranks alongside masterpieces such as The West Wing and All The Presidents Men.

I found this to be an intelligent political drama and thriller, which left me feeling very satisfied.

Strongly recommended with 5 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.

Murder on the Orient Express *****

Since 1974 there has been at least five major productions of Murder on the Orient Express, so how do the makers keep the latest incarnation fresh and appealing?

Well they have done a number of things, first and foremost, put a great director in the chair with a great actor in the lead. In this case both are the same person, Kenneth Branagh, who dominates this film with a far richer, multi faceted Poirot than any I have seen on screen, big or small. His Hercule Poirot is an eccentric, sentimental, razor sharp detective. He also gives time to generating an in-depth portrait of why Poirot is the self proclaimed ‘Great Detective’ By doing this, new audiences will have some understanding of Agatha Christies hero.

Orient photo 1The second step is to populate the Orient Express with a full cast of A-list actors. All deliver first class performances, including the younger stars who really impress next to their noble elders.

Third, you create an atmosphere of claustrophobia mystery and fear. This is achieved by making the sets so tight that, for several scenes, the only place to put the camera is in the ceiling.

Finally, you place the train in a totally realistic setting, both historically (by referencing actual events with just the names changed) and visually (with restrained by convincing use of CGI to convince you they are in the mountains).

I think we are guaranteed another outing for the ‘Great Detective’ fairly soon.

I left the cinema feeling very satisfied by a great story well told.

The full 5 out of five stars for Mr Branagh and company.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle *****

This is the second film of the Kingsman franchise, and on this form, not the last.

MV5BZjUyNGE4ZWItYzFmNy00NzRlLTgyNDQtM2Y5ZmI4YWM4Yzg1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_UY100_CR25,0,100,100_AL_

Yes it’s time to release our 14-year-old selves and suspend disbelief for 141 minutes in our busy lives.

The writers’, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughan, have created another rip-roaring, rooting-tooting extravaganza that keeps the viewer riveted to their seats. The fantastic soundtrack matches the action brilliantly, raising your pulse rate over and over again.

A great cast, obviously enjoying their chance to overact like crazy, do a fine job of representing their comic-book characters perfectly.

I would especially highlight the two animal actors, both puppy dogs, who are used to great emotional effect.

I doubt there will be any major prizes for this film but you will be awarded with a very enjoyable piece of entertainment.

The full 5 out of five stars for this piece of glorious hokum.