The Happytime Murders ****

The Happytime Murders is a somewhat weird movie.

Putting Muppet style characters into real life Los Angeles and making them portray recognisable character types, familiar in so many previous genres.

However, be warned that one type of film this is not.  This is not a film for children!!!

Imagine a ‘Blaxploitation’ movie from the ‘70s, add a police procedural with a comedy buddy story and you have this film.

Such a mix with human actors alone would be strange, but with puppets basically taking the underclass character roles works rather well.

The script is tightly written, full of humour and pathos.  The human actors play their parts straight down the line.  The puppets, created by the Henson studios, have realistic bodies and can be seen walking, running and engaging in other activities in a totally realistic way.

The humour ranges from laugh out loud to schoolchild sniggering and comes in large amounts.

All this together makes for a very enjoyable adult, guilty pleasure type experience.

Although I enjoyed this film, I know it wont be for every taste, I give it 4 stars out of five.

 

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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.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout ****

First I must apologise for the break in my blog posts during the last few weeks.

In the battle between the incredible weather and the dominance of tedious franchise movies, my garden won.

That being said, my first trip back is to another franchise film, Mission Impossible Fallout.

Fans of this franchise or just of Tom Cruise will not be disappointed.

The first scene echoes the original TV series beautifully, for those old enough to remember.

This sets off the usual series of chases, mass slaughter of bystanders and villains and double or triple crossing conspiracies.

No complex plot twists to be found in the style of Le Carré.

Just continuous, adrenaline pumping, action and mindless violence. It made me smile and wince several times, but left without really caring about the story or characters.

It does push the courage of Mr Cruise who, while filming in London, broke his ankle.  This scene is still used in the film and it is amazing he could still run, if only for a couple of steps.

This is a well-crafted film of this type in all respects except for originality.

For that reason I can only give it 4 out of five stars.

Deadpool 2 ***

The foul-mouthed, super-sarcastic, hero returns in Deadpool 2.

We are given more of the same knowing banter with the audience and ultra violent, consequence free action that seemed so fresh the first time around.

Being unencumbered by not having to tell an origin story, it is straight into the mayhem that has become routine in most of this genre of movie.

This is lightened by the wit and wisdom of the moral free hero.

It is still frequently funny with plenty of ‘did he just say that’ moments to make the film enjoyable but not to the level of the original film.

Sadly the originality of the character now turns predicable and, at times, very strained.

It you enjoyed the first outing, you will probably enjoy this, but not for the first time viewer I am sorry to say.

Down to just 3 stars out of five.

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.

Tomb 1

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

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.