Saturday, 19 August 2017

T.V. REVIEW: THE DEFENDERS Season 1

4/5

New York's Finest.

8 Episodes. Starring: Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter, Finn Jones, Elodie Yung, Scott Glenn, Elden Henson, Deborah Ann Woll, Eka Darville, Rachael Taylor, Jessica Henwick, Simone Missick, Ramon Rodriguez, Wai Ching Ho, Rosario Dawson & Sigourney Weaver. Creators: Douglas Petrie & Marco Ramirez.

"Looks like I made it here just in time". Marvel Asia really has more of what we want. Take 'Thor: Ragnarok' for example. In Japan it will be called the cosmic colourful, 'Mighty Thor-Battle Royale'. How Tokyo neon electric is that? And if that wasn't enough for you they get Benedict Cumberbatch's Doctor Strange in their international trailer too. Proving everything is better in the Far East. Now how about the South Korean teaser for 'The Defenders' and all their before ensemble assemble Netflix sub-series? Not only does it have Marvel creator Stan Lee in the back of a town call riding around the streets of New York talking about human heroes with special abilities. It also features an atypical after trailer credits reveal that has all the comic-book die-hards talking. In a steps down the hallway scene never seen before in 'Daredevil' Season 2, we see series stealer Jon Bernthal's Frank Castle sporting a new crop and spray painted bulletproof vest walk to his very quote that started this piece. Yes, that's right The Punisher baby! So in a spoiler free, no alert is he here? A Defender? Besides Bruce Banner and Steven Strange like the comics aren't a thing here. Well we will tell you this. Don't hold your breath everytime you hear "someone's here", out of nowhere gunshots, or see a big vehicle come crashing in to save the day (it may have just been thrown). You might just be as disappointed as the fact that all those Stan Lee police photo Easter Eggs in the 'Daredevil', 'Jessica Jones', 'Luke Cage' and 'Iron Fist' series' don't translate into an actual real life cop cameo which would have been perfect. At least there is a post credit, 'John Wick' style, concrete sledge-hammer thumping trailer for the gun-totting vigilantes solo series this fall that will give you plenty of Punisher by the barrel-load. Until then you'll have to settle for the devils own, power man hero for hire, the private investigator alias and the immortal kid with the glowing knuckle duster.

Proving defence is the best offence, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the Iron Fist are back and together at last as New York City's street-level Avengers, 'The Defenders'. As Hells Kitchen is about to be woken up to a living nightmare in captivating use of red, green, yellow and purple city lights. Joining up to fight The Hand that has held and fed the intertwining threads of plot that have kept lawyer Matt Murdock and billionaire Danny Rand's storylines clasped together. And before this palmed villain gets out of hand believe me the five fingers are definitly about to say SLAP to the face. And you're going to love how this all comes together like a Murdock plan for this A-Star Avenging B-team. Even if Matt is the only member of this N.Y.C. vigilante alliance to actually suit up in his trademark horns...although we do get to Easter relish in some of those homemade bandana early days. Yep this is ran by those 'Daredevil' showrunners and to give them their due it really is better the two seasons you know. Charlie Cox again sees Daredevil's other-worldly vision crystally. Focussing on the two sides of his characters action and protection ethos whether court or street legal. Whilst private detective for hire Jessica Jones may be passing a different type of bar she still shows she has as much enhanced power and strength as anyone, as Krysten Ritter's Alias' second series has got next. And how about her former non-combustible flame. Mike Colter's Cage with unbreakable skin? Finally unlocked from Seagate prison and ready to have your head nodding everytime he and his into music comes into play. Well he's shaking Harlem again and the rest of the five boroughs as New York times grimiest fantastic four come together like the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Manhattan. And what about their Iron man too? The Fist that has provoked plenty of fury just like Black Widow's white-washed 'Ghost In The Shell'. Well some may say 'Game Of Thrones' star Finn Jones' Danny Rand is just some spoilt rich Karate Kid, but it's time to wax off all of that. Even if there are some in-jokes and jibes ("I tried to go it alone, but that didn't work") here that will leave the unpopular one all tied up. 'Iron Fist' was a cruelly criticized, actually compelling and underrated series that didn't run out of power like some of it's allies shows. And just like Jessica, Jones holds the key to this series in the palm of his Powerade hand.

And there's nothing quite like seeing these enhanced individuals team up to take down the big bad, even if they are without the man that did to this ABC run of shows what the vigilante Ghost Rider did to the already amazing 'Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.' Watching them elevator exit a foe to foe face off down the one-shot alternating corridors of set-pieces, or banter back and forth over a Royal Dragon restaurant after hours lock in (because even Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and The Incredible Hulk know putting a team together aint easy), as eagerly exciting as Hall H this time of year is for sure worth the wait. Serving up Hells Kitchen with satisfaction like the beautiful Broadway Metro Diner they use by the booth. But remember all these groups one shot solo acts came with their own guest spots. And this show features 'Daredevil's' favourite friends, Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll, 'Jessica Jones'' jacked-up, no longer character using Eka Darville and Racheal Taylor (not to forget a trinity Carrie Anne-Moss cameo in this Marvel matrix), a big act from 'Iron Fist's' Jessica Henwick and Ramon Rodriguez and the Misty Knight of the investigating Simone Missick from 'Luke Cage'. Not to mention the Sticks of veteran character actor, Scott Gleen, the great Madame Wai Ching Ho and of course the Rachael McAdams rivalling Night Nurse that stiches all these shows together Rosario Dawson. Proving this epic ensemble really is a sum of all its parts and the fear of its ultimate, Queenpin villain. As we are all in covenant that 'Alien' legend Sigourney Weaver who marches into this series in a Storm Trooper coat carries this show with her undying reputation and charisma. Believe it or not, we are all playing Ripley's game now. Even her Avatar the Dark Sky. No not a brainwashed Quake crossover of Chloe Bennett, but Elodie Young's resurrected back to life Elektra anti-hero. Here displaying the assassins creed of a Winter Soldier with samurai katana like strong and violent type. Just call this latest movie star 'The Hitmans Bodyguard' with Raphael weapons. All these characters make for quite a lot of conflict and carnage but a lot of it is New York noir dramatic in this compelling slow burner that culminates in a classic collaborative effort from all parties. And in learning from their unlucky for some 13 episode show stuttering stints previously (but lets face it you'd binge an ammo load artillery of Punisher solo hits wouldn't you?) these eight episodes work wonders on the same streaming sites these Marvels call 'Orange Is The New Black', 'House Of Cards', 'Narcos' and 'Stranger Things' their upside down neighbour. Save a somewhat stunted climax that makes the same mistake the powered up, one punch thrown too many 'Luke Cage' series did and a final few seconds of 'Daredevil's' definitive season 2 revealed, this suit up fits in Marvel's smartphone small screen run perfectly and aptly. Especially as these Netflix street fighting heroes may chill on a one and done, going their seperate ways and four seasons. Unless our wildest dreams and an 'Infinity War' calls. But to be Frank we won't get our hopes up. Until then the defence rests. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Further Filming: 'Daredevil', 'Iron Fist', 'Avengers Assemble'.

REVIEW: THE DARK TOWER

3/5

Towering Inferno.

95 Mins. Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Claudia Kim, Dennis Haysbert & Jackie Earle Haley. Director: Nikolaj Arcel.

"I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I aim with my eye."
Here comes the Man in Black. Not the galaxy defender and not fleeing across the desert but the man, Matthew McConaughey. Still on the McConaissance that the 'Amistad' and 'A Time To Kill' likes of 'The Lincoln Lawyer', 'Killer Joe', 'Mud', the 'True Detective' series, the 'Wolf Of Wall Street' classic chest thumping cameo and the Academy Award, 'Best Actor' Oscar winning 'Dallas Buyers Club' started and this 'Dark Tower' hopes to top. Shooting for the last and best, big blockbuster of a Summer of 'Mummy's', 'Alien's', 'Spider-Men', 'Wonder Women', 'Baby Drivers', 'War For The Planet Of The Apes' and second volumes of galaxy 'Guardians'. Sure McConaughey's recent films haven't topped his out of this universe, intergalatic 'Interstellar' numbers (see the glittering, but not so Academy striking 'Gold' and the overlooked 'Free State Of Jones', which we hope at least leads to a 'True Detective' season 3 reunion with new showrunner, 'Moonlight' Oscar winner Marhershala Ali), but only Christopher Nolan's 'Dunkirk' can do that right now. Still hoping to come at least close to this towering height in a tale as old as the time Stephen King was 19, Matt makes for a Man In Black even a neuralyzer won't let you forget. Smouldering with the devils own smoke and cloaked in a grim coloured suit, looking like what the reaper would wear if he was styled by G.Q. And with brimstone in his palm and hells fire in his eyes, the man that looks the parts signature southern drawl just makes this sinister sneer that much more definitive in the cadences of sound. Especially as he whispers 'Jessica Jones' David Tennant like "Simon Says'" commands to his victims like "hate", "stop breathing", or "kill...each other". Or as he taunts his gunman Roland "you crawling your way out the darkness"? Breathing pure evil as he warningly asks, "did you tell the kid whoever walks with you dies by my hand"?! Strolling through every set-piece and the Flatiron street crossings of New York City with the swag walk and talk of a man that controls everythings pace, the effortlessly cool McConaughey has barely looked better. Breaking into bad like a charcoal three-piece that perfectly fits. Matthew's Walter/Black is clearly the present danger.

"I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind." And The Gunslinger followed. And oh how this compellingly longing, lone wolf stalks his prey like the strong silent, slash violent type. Shooting from the hip at a wild west clip, Elba is engrossigly enigmatic in this King epic as Roland, your Gunslinger. Even minus the signature stetson in clever and inspired casting in this modern day age. Which alongside the Texan McConaughey would seem like a honoured, tribute role reversal to some, but to the directors here this billboard moment the world at social war sorely needs right now wasn't even given a second thought. Going back to the Man in Black, this is the six-shooter slinging man Elba's moment playing a magnificent Madiba in 'Mandela: Long Road To Freedom', the 'Beasts Of No Nation' Netlfix, Academy overlooked, 'Star Trek-Beyond' alien make-up villain and 'Pacific Rim', 'Independence Day' stirring speech maker promised. And in cancelling the Apocalypse again, you could call this, this one-man show pistol packing 'Lutheran's' Bond audition. Because shaken but stirred, after he walks through hell, an inspired Idris would be heaven sent as 007. The way he quick draw McGraws with two guns. Reloading the chambers like he was pouring Skittles in his palm. Spinning them like John Wayne and shooting them with the "hell he will", sniper like precision. This man has the eye, mind and heart of a real shooter. You can see almost see him in the scope of that iconic, Bond barrel beginning I.D. This Great Brit whose about to star in fall films with Academy actresses Kate Winslet ('The Mountains Between Us') and Jessica Chastain ('Mollys Game') will no longer be relegated to the Marvel backgrounds of being 'Thor's' gatekeeper whether he does a backwards Ryan Reynolds and becomes the 'Justice League's' Green Lantern or not. Especially if he continues building this 'Dark Tower' to the smaller screens of T.V. where he made his name in the groundbreaking HBO drama of HBO dramas 'The Wire' and the B.B.C. 'Sherlock' brilliant, legacy lasting 'Luther', complete with some without question fantasy 'Doctor Who' rumors. With Bond and Who the music making Driis could have sung playing both the best of British right now. But the multi-talented Idris Elba going from small to silver screen and back again as this Western wonder in a future fable has shown here what he has in every duel challenge showcase...the truest grit.

"I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
I kill with my heart." But will the Tower fall? Not if Elba or fellow British Broadcasting Cooperation alumni Tom Taylor can help it. The young actor from the looks and voice breaking sounds of it may seem to be going through puberty during the all over the place ageing, filming of this film but that's just life and all natural. The kid is more than alright and a star of the future set to shine. After all he already has 'The Shining'...yep that one Johnny. That's here in some book crossovers that delve deeper into King's library than some comic Easter Eggs even in this age of Marvel. Like hidden messages and meanings? Then follow this one white rabbit. We won't spoil the surprise, but look out for objects from 'The Shawshank Redemption', 'Misery', Pennywise's amusements and of course the founding film that made Jack Nicholson drive an axe and his face through a hotel room door amongst much more. Because this film has it all. From South Korean, Hollywood model actress of the future Claudia Kim (see the only 'Age Of Ultron' hero that wasn't an Avenger), to a underused but undeniably watchable 'Watchman' star in the form of the similarly shuddering 'Shutter Island's' Jackie Earle Haley. And it's clear to see even with the best joke in the film an influential Idris has not forgotten the face of his father. Who is the cameoing but emotionally captivating Dennis Haysbert. The '24' star who will continue the smartphone screen chapters of this story like a Kindle. But here lies the problem with 'Royal Affiar' and forthcoming Hitchcok 'Rebecca' reboot Nikolaj Arcel and Dan Brown 'Inferno' director Ron Howard's produced tower heist. Their well cast, good looking but slightly misfiring remake of King's tower. At times it feels like this film aims and shoots with its hand and kills with its gun. Sure like turning the groundbreaking graphics of a novel 'Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets' it was almost going to be a mountain too high to scale Stephen's visonary story he laid the foundations of in the last year of his teens. But in taking the seven books of King's version of 'Lord Of The Rings' that he termed his "magnum opus" and reducing it to one scatter-gun paced run through, romantic comedy long film of 'Hobbit' size proportions is dwarf stunting. Even Peter Jackson managed to milk a trilogy out of J.R.R. Tolkien's half-pint in comparison 'Hobbit' before bedtime story pamphlet. We need the television series and a red face for the Crimson King more than ever in this binge watch age like we Netflix want that new 'Punisher' show on demand right streaming now. But it's just a damn shame the twisted antagonist/protagonist love story between the 'True Detective' and the grit of D.C.I. 'Luther' won't turn the page. Because in one way or both we've probably seen the end of two big name, favourite actors Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba giving it all they've guns and hell blazing hot got here. But then again even fallen towers can be rebuilt, brick by brick. Look up and see for yourself. Has this film and could have been franchise forgotten the face of its author father? Or is meh merely alright, alright, alright? TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Further Watching: 'Lord Of The Rings', 'IT', 'The Shining'.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

REVIEW: THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD

3/5

In The Line Of Fury.

118 Mins. Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Richard E. Grant & Gary Oldman. Director: Patrick Hughes. 

All together now! Sing it with me! "AND I-EEE-I WILL ALWAYS LOVE BUDDY COP MOOVIEEES EEE-IES"! 'Lethal Weapon', '48 Hours', 'Bad Boys', 'Rush Hour'. 'Cagney and mother####### Lacey'! But hey Avengers how about the merc with the mouth and the leader in a saucy little leather number with the eye patch? Because here comes a team up assemble Marvel can only wish for if Fox ever lets their superstar superhero out the box. No we're not talking about the Green Lantern, but Deadpool and Nick Fury, Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D (the closest they've got prior to this being a helicarrier Easter Egg in the first Wade Wilson movie last year). Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson. Now that sounds like a perfect partnership with the dude with all the jokes and the other guy that's in every movie if I do so say myself mother######s! O.K. that's the last time I'll curse...I swear. Because no one quite gives that word it's exclamation like Sam...although his on-screen wife gives him a run for his swear jar money here. Like a Will Smith "Hell Nah", Denzel Washington "my man", or Owen Wilson "WAAOOW"! This mans expletive catchphrase has been as P.G.-13 bleeped (or King Kong stamped out) to rated R (hello Mr. Tarantino) present as he has in seeemingly every other movie out right now and as a matter of fact all the time. And it's been like that for damn (see...we're still at it) near, amazingly a quarter of a century now. And he's still going strong...even though we're sure he's been in his sixties for the last twenty so years. But he's still acting in anything he can and that's beside the point that the Hollywood movieworld is made up of about 95% Marvel movies right now (hey...he wasn't in 'Spider-Man'). Although you can play the six degrees of separation, superhero connection game here too like you can with most blockbusters. As here we even have Deadpool dating Elecktra in the form of Netflix and Marvel's 'Daredevil' and 'Defenders' star Elodie Yung. Now what would Matt Murdock say if he could see as the 'Dark Knight's Commissioner Gordon looks on with one of 'Logan's last villains? All these comic-book characters yet still in 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' it's hard to find many heroes.

That's just the assassins creed I'm afraid. No one the wrong side of 47 is going to love a Hitman...and they especially won't like the hired gun paid to protect the man that's financed to funeral people either. But as Ryan Reynolds almost spoofs his 'Safe House' with Denzel Washington it does make for one hell of an original, outstandingly funny comedy concept for a Friday film. Some critics are already calling this one a mid in-flight movie, hold your attention between sleep entertainer akin to James Patterson's airplane shop bibliotheque of 'Alex Cross' books. But that patronising assumption in a world where our iPad's and fingertips have all the entertainment and choice we could wish for at the swipe of a finger diminishes the engrossing and enjoyable entertainment we get from both book and films novel idea. And oh how fun this one is from director Patrick Hughes who knew how to make Sly Stallone's 'Expendables' not that for a third more thrilling go round (here's a cheat sheet for you, add one Antonio Banderas. A psycho villain played by who else but Mel Gibson? And Wesley Snipes making so on the nose it's amazing you haven't sneezed yet jokes about jail for tax evasion). The humour's on point here too. Implied or explicit for this buddy cop comedy genre bender that shows strangely that even with the formula intact you don't have to make a buddy cop piece about police. But the action too is amazing on a perfectly chereographed like brutal ballet, 'Bad Boys' level for a film that on the surface looks like a 'Cop Out'. What ya gonna do? These days big budget comedies with an action twist in the chamber know how to bring out the big guns. See a similarly lock stocked and laugh loaded 'Spy' parody starring Melissa McCarthy and a respective Bond and self sending up Jude Law and Jason Statham. This isn't British Intelligence however this is more like the Kingsmen's American Statesmen cousins minus the stetson and skipping rope. Even if they start their Europe lampoon off in Manchester. As this film visits all the continents cosmopolitan locations. London, Amsterdamn...Coventry?! Even after Liverpool's '51st State' if someone told you you'd be seeing Samuel L. Jackson taking out a bunch of hijacking, machine gunning villains in a West Midlands town in an overturned aflame car between a WH Smith and a Cafe Nero...well you know how the response would go. Only in Hollywood...or should we say...Coventry?!

Tinseltown or tiny one in cinematic comparison it's clear to see no matter the on-set location the ageless, 'Pulp Fiction' hitman, hit making legend is having the 'Point Break' Swayze of his life like someone ordered him a Royale with cheese with a tasty beverage to wash it down with. This love song to the 90's 'Hitman Bodyguard' film with plenty of 'Grosse Point Blank', 'Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang' (all we need now is Tony Stark) for your popcorn buck takes Sam Jackson back to his 'Long Kiss Goodnight' days with this smoking barrel Au Revoir. And the scattergun action sees more weapon disarmament, hand-to-hand combat than a 'Bourne' again 'Mission Impossible' with enough gun fights and dog eat dog punch ups to keep the fuse lit to the explosive ending that sees more fireballs than a Beyonce emoji spammed picture on Instagram. And if more car chases than 'Bullitt', more bullets than 'John Wick' and more wick than dynamite wasn't enough bang for you, then blow for blow this movie and its shakers trade as much back handed banter as they do clenched fist battles. What more can you expect from the born to play Deadpool who gave the Merc his mouth and even before all those superhero origins was a Dane Cook a minute gag and sarcasm machine bro? He and Jackson know how to bring the action and the 'roll over, 'beep', 'beep' laughing too. In a world of "LOL's" it's refreshing to laugh all the way down to your gut. The same gut you might threw up at the site of the blood in this dark comically, ultraviolent action that may be a Summer sleeper this blockbuster season once it wakes everyone up like it's day in court. Reynolds and Jackson's dynamic duo partner up to make one hell of a team. But like all good award speeches they couldn't get by without a little help from their friends. And this film has everyone on board. Even a hilarious coked up cameo from well to do boy grown distinguished, Richard E. Grant of all people. A coming of career Elodie Young is electric here. Whilst legend and 'The Professional' and 'Air Force One' bad guy Gary Oldman is back on the form of his younger years. As a matter of fact everyone brings their A game here. Especially a foul mouthed, prison tatted Salma Hayek who almost steals the show with her stay behind bars incarcerated wife who treats cell mates like she was the 'Blair Witch'. Scary?! More like scary good. With 'The Hitmans Bodyguard' Hughes has just taken care of his own hit flick, making a killing with the eagerly exciting, action-com eclectic. Now this 'Bodyguard', complete with hilarious spoofing poster may not have mother####### (sorry!) Kevin Costner and the late, great Whitney Houston, but man is it still a hit. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Further Watching: '2 Guns', 'Big Game', 'Deadpool'.

Monday, 14 August 2017

REVIEW: A GHOST STORY

4/5

Manchester By The Sheet.

92 Mins. Starring: Casey Affleck & Rooney Mara. Director: David Lowrey.

Aint them bodies sheets? Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara! Joined together forever by the heart of their foreheads. Even if they are cuffed and lead away from each other. That was the pivotal, iconic moment these love angels breathed fire into 'Petes Dragon' director David Lowrey's breakthrough independent picture, 'Aint Them Bodies Saints'. Now this big threes body of work reunites as we go beneath the sheets like we've just watched a horror film for the classic, 'A Ghost Story'. A spirited film about a house ghoul that sends more than a shiver down your spine. Because this 'Ghost', no Swayze pottery in the corner may not be scary...but boy is it haunting. Never mind how they got this ghost in the sheet. As two strategically cut eye holes in some morgue linen makes for a traditional Casper as old school as white sheet G-G-Ghost design time. But there's something more complex that goes into the curvature and creases here than merely draping this years Academy Award, 'Best Actor' Oscar winner Casey Affleck in some bedclothes or getting a bedpost stand in. Because this simple set-up covers you for a cleverly laid out, stunning story that transcends space and time and the existential universe like the roots laid out by the seed of Terrence Malick's terrific and majestic 'The Tree Of Life'. A film as divisive as it is definitive. And this too may turn as many heads to the door as it does critical wavering gaze, but it shouldn't. Because this what real and raw crafted dramatic cinema of the darkest depths of the human condition is truly all about. And this melancholic melody of meditative poetry, pulsing to the beautiful beat of Dark Rooms outstanding 'I Get Overwhelmed' is genuinely the most heartfelt, lyrical story that more than likely you'll ever see. Don't give up on this ghost.

Achingly somber but heartbreakingly beautiful, this poignant picture shows us that everything that haunts isn't always harrowing. And as 'Gone Baby Gone' and 'Interstellar' actor Casey Affleck dies on screen before our eyes (in character...not literally or by way of failure) this is no spoiler, but an alert of a higher power at work that is pure perfection. Universal's 'Dark Universe' of Johnny Depp's forthcoming 'The Invisible Man' should take note, it actually takes real skill to act covered up and out of sight. Even if the only thing you see before the eyes is two gaping, big black holes leading to the deep dark of nothing and everything, all at the same time. Affleck makes his case for some ace acting almost akin-at least cousin-to the white dot motion capturing of Caesar and Gollum himself, 'Planet Of The Apes' and 'Lord Of The Rings' franchise star Andy Serkis, who already should have a green screen Oscar already on his mantle. Now sure Casey doesn't deserve another Academy Award back-to-back for this one, but surely a nomination. As this nuanced performance of every emotion, from anger to anxiety is purely felt in all its sadness..even if it is something the eye can't see. As emotionally moving with bruised beauty as his 'Best Actor' winning 'Manchester By The Sea', but even more magical and definitively different in it's nature delivery and healing power. Even when Affleck is not attired in everyones go to last minute, Halloween night costume, he gets up to his A-game, repressed angst riddled, conflicted, as per acting. With his hagged hair and grizzled, razor-less beard look he was seen accepting all his awards with. Ben's brother, truly no longer referred to as little or just "another Affleck" now. Even if big bro is Batman. As in this captivating, Polaroid like slide show viewed feature film from A24 (just as compelling and as mesmerizing as the 'Moonlight' Best Picture), Casey shines a light on the life and times of a man by the sheet.

Affleck isn't all on his own when it comes to spirited actors performing like their life depended on it however. As Oscar nominated 'Best Supporting Actress' for 'Carol' Rooney Mara, who was last seen in the Academy Award considered 'Lion' and really showed different dimensions in sole lead performances like in Steven Soderbergh's 'Side Effects', further inks her real and raw reputation like she did with the punk studded peroxide power of 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo'. This 'Bodies' co-star has a famous sibling come first too, but 'Fantastic Four' and 'The Martian' Kate's sister has made her own way like all the NFL ownership family has. And now at the top of her game Rooney is a revolution in modern day subtle but sublime, simple acting sincerity. That's why she could stand next to best actress of our time Cate Blanchett and show that 'Supporting' had nothing to do with it, just like the best actor in sheet here. Mara moves you with her weary eyes that say a thousand words more than her or this actual ten minute worth of dialogue film does (most coming from a party poker player waxing lyrical about the meaning of more than life, but the very world and universe as we know it...not to mention Beethoven in a symphony of speech). Which is perfect for a picture of this slow burning nature and emotion nurture. That's why we can sit transfixed watching her eat a whole cherry pie on the kitchen floor because we know...no we understand what it means. Mourning is more than tears and Hollywood screened and scripted sadness. Sure this doesn't sound exciting...but death isn't and heartbreak and the loss of love and life is still and silent. Longing without loudness, lulling us into laments that are as privately felt as they are innerly screamed from the soul. This is truly what makes this tender touch of a story all about the matters of love, when most so-called heart-warming dramas can seem like calculated coldness in comparison. From early settlers to future foundations in a home where the heart always is and never leaves, this emotion picture has hidden 'Lost In Translation' moments yearned to be revealed in endings that will be scratched and itched and book club discussed like the conclusion of 'Arrival' for what they mean across life, space and time for the characters and for us in the wider, more metaphorical world. Like the 'Tree Of Life', Lowrey's legacy in this legendary body of work will still grow like the inspired interest and influenced intrigue, no matter who puts a sheet over it. Like flickering lamplight or crashing crockery this bump, for all sorts of different reasons will still keep you up at night. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'Aint Them Bodies Saints', 'Manchester By The Sea', 'The Tree Of Life'.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

REVIEW: ATOMIC BLONDE

4/5

Blondie

115 Mins. Starring: Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Sofia Boutella, Toby Jones & John Goodman. Director: David Leitch.

Sweet 80's dreams are made of these. Now who are critics to disagree? Just don't call 'Atomic Blonde', 'Jane Wick'. Because even though this hand-to-hand action blockbuster, combat cinematic experience comes from the same stunt director (David Leitch) who set Keanu Reeves off, this peroxide power is all Charlize Theron's own. We haven't seen bleached madness done this crazy since Eminem stood up as the real Slim Shady. Now this bombshell rips off her bald 'Mad Max' characters 'Winter Soldier' like metal arm and gets all 'Fast and Furiosa' in the Cold War before the wall falls. As after joining the 'Furious' ensemble for Vin Diesel's 'F-8' this blockbuster season, Theron carries her thorough Summer hot streak down the thunder road, alone in Berlin. Like last weeks 'Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets', this is also based on a graphic novel (one called 'The Coldest City') and Charlize follows in the super-heroic assassin kicking stiletto steps of Angelina Jolie, rubbing 'Salt' into her punch peppered villains and real life sexist bad guys wounds, heel to toe. But this lit, neon-noir spy thriller is no Jane or 'James Blonde' either. In the Princess Gal Gadot year of 'Wonder Woman' this is Queen like Diana should have been. And yes this queen, she is a killer too like Mercury. Dynamite with a laser beam. Guranteed to blow your mind and all that. Kicking ass like she did caught in 'The Crossfire' of an old Brandon Flowers video. Better send an arrangement to her victims. Charlize's Cockney London operative is cocky, kicks sass and doesn't pull a single punch. You can count the two teeth this Dior model lost if you don't believe me or she. Armed to the gums too with an 80's synth score that Marty McFly performing at his parents prom would declare "Aha" at. This slick spy flicks 'Back To The Future' boombox era soundtrack could even pop with the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2' Zunes and lock with 'Baby Driver's' iPod playlist. Busting tunes aswell as balls and bad guys, the genesis of this genre crushing actioneer is as euphoric as the Eurythmics.

Rendering everything else subatomic, Theron goes nuclear in this Regan-era slice of icy Cold War history and pop culture references like when Frankie told you to "relax" in a white and black caps t-shirt. And what a clash everything under the crumbling wall this is as Charlize answers the call from the boys in London. From the Blue Monday beginnings to the 'Under Pressure' climax of this film that looks as good as it sounds. And speaking of the legendary Queen and Ziggy Stardust collabo, just like the late, great Freddie Mercury and tragically now David Bowie there's nothing like the good ole days...or in this case nostalgia. And in tag-teaming with forthcoming 'Deadpool 2' Tim Miller replacing director Leitch on the stunt of his life they scratch that itch. And leave more than a bruise too as this is just like the gun-fu of their dear 'John', but in a deeper, realer shade or purple. No grey areas amongst this black and blue. Charlize Theron oozes more than sex appeal as she suits up in leather, f### the spandex. More than a Russian Black Widow, this lonely wife maker beats more men and sexist stereotypes as she gives a sense of classiness to all the sexiness. For every knee high boot there is a cold front long coat that eludes to attracting eyes more than it actually modern day soft-porn era reveals. If anyone claims the word "slut" then it won't be Charlize that will need to be shamed. Because she's a real woman of power. She's more than a sex symbol. The 'Monster', 'Snow White', 'Aeon Flux' and 'Hancock' star is a Hollywood icon with another hit franchise maker under her belt that makes her blonde wig as symbolic as the disgusie extension of superstar singer Sia. Searing with strength, soul, femininity and the pain she brings and takes as she fights the power, this may just be the biggest thing the big name has ever done. If not the best (save a solo 'Furiosa' movie and the success of the 'Fast' franchise') when it comes to going it all alone. This blonde bombshell is up and at them and is no kitten for those wanting to pur pussycat, or turn some slight nails pun into claws. Because this is more than all of that mess. It's not always all about sex and action heroes know no gender. Even those old timing 'Expendables' can see that behind their prescription lenses. And you don't have to cast Ronda Rousey in these type of films to find your ultimate fighting champion either. Because you've got one here breaking faces and not you know what. The only thing Theron nails here is the whole damn thing. So save your "damn girls" and "Yas Queens", because this 80's trend is more than 'goals'. It's a scored scorcher for the summer season in this August rush. The last haymaking blockbuster punch thrown. T.K.O.

Filthy James McAvoy is having the fur and fuzz fun of his life on the 'Split' multiple personality year of his career too. As Professor Xavier swaps a bald identity for a close shave buzz cut here, James has a ball as Percival. Welcomed to the punch this 'Wanted' star is a critical contact out in the cold and takes it back to the hot streak beginnings of a career that made this young man 'The Last King Of Scotland'. Just when you thought you had McAvoy all figured out he puts you in a trance again. And forget working for the crown and country, after her foot slicing 'Kingsman' secret service breakout, French femme fatale and former Madonna back-up dancer Sofia Boutella continues her Hollywood Vogue moment. After striking an extreme make-up pose in last years 'Star Trek-Beyond' sequel and this Summers Universal 'Dark Universe' starting, Tom Cruise 'Mummy' reboot as the mother of all bandaged monsters, Boutella bares all from the steam to the substance of a lesbian love affair that's deeper than what or who lusts after it. She's a killer Sofia. Scene stealing in a class cast that extends to a few good moments from C.I.A. man and 'Kong: Skull Island' expedition leader, legend John Goodman and 'Captain America' Hydra villain and 'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy', British Intelligence's own Toby Jones. Both worthy of being on the tape and in front of the glass for the record. Making their back and forth as rewind worthy as the fist and kick set-pieces that knock blow for blow. Now if you thought a rooftop apartment hose abseiling, fist and nozzle, knuckle duster punch up threw everything including the kitchen sink, freezer door and stove at your head, then just wait until you see the single take, ultimate lights, camera and action outstanding one shot ('True Detective', 'The Revenant' and 'London Has Fallen' beware) that spills from the blood for bone and guts exchange stairwell to the car clash chase streets of a road in rearview. This 80's top gun number in Berlin really takes your breath away. When you see scenes like this that have the moviemakings of moments you've never seen before on screens it's little wonder a former stunt choreographer got the directors chair for the second chapter of his career. Now 'John Wick' may kick your ass, but here blondes have more gun. 'Atomic Wick' anyone?! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'John Wick', 'Mad Max: Fury Road', 'Salt'.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

REVIEW: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

3/5

2017: A Space Oddity.

137 Mins. Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock & Rihanna. Director: Luc Besson.

Apex predator Dane DeHaan and Enchantress model Cara Delevingne partner up and take dual Alpha flight in 'The Fifth Element', French fantasy film director Luc Besson's 'Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets'...a nightmare for those old school cinema employees hanging those red letters up outside the multiplex. But take it all in, as this film that takes your breath away in more ways than one is an Image MAXimum's dream in three dimensions of the highest definition. Like 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' turned up to the highest volume, this Solar System is as vibrant as any universe anyone from 'Stars' that war or trek has ever thought up of. Like 'Jupiters' ascension, this 'City Of A Thousand Planets' visually is one in a million on an interstellar level. You haven't wanted to don those Roy Orbison glasses this much since 'Avatar' gave you more colour than the Blue Man Group on the Las Vegas strip. But alas is all this Sci-Fi style covering up an abuse of substance? The vivid visuals may leave you saying "Wow" more times than Owen Wilson in a 'Star Wars' supercut Youtube video where his signature catchphrase is used in place of the lightsaber sounds. Yet still this sweet story is a more saccharine product than the meaty subplots of it's real world implicating, metaphorical predecessors that would make the pages of Phillip K. Dicks future fables proud. Scene stunningly speaking, just like the pepper sprayed reviews for this years fellow formidable, futuristic flop based on cult property, 'Ghost In The Shell', you should take all the hate with a pinch of salt. Because this movie doesn't just look good too. It is good too. What more could you expect from the best of Besson who gave Scarlett Johannson 'Limitless', 'Lost In Translation' Tokyo like neon 'Ghost In The Shell' lights for 'Lucy'? To go along with his 'La Femme Nikita' and 'The Fifth Element' culture changing, cinematic classics 20 years ago. And of course 'The Professional'...or as it is know in these parts Jean Reno's 'Leon'. Luc has been doing the blockbuster bewildering impossible ever since he dropped a young, flame haired Milla Jovovich on top of a blonde Bruce Willis' floating cab two decades back. I mean this is a man who even made Chris Tucker even louder than he already is. Only the French. Seulement le Français.

Chronicling young Dane DeHaan's life and career has seen him do the impossible like fly and hit red cup beer pong after red cup beer pong like a high-school Steph Curry. Not to mention steal the show off both Hollywood heartthrob leading men Ryan Gosling AND Bradley Cooper (and this years 'Best Supporting Actor', Academy Award, Oscar winner Marhershala Ali) in his breakout indie hit 'The Place Beyond The Pines'. He's played both superhero and supervillain. Before Sony were aligning with Marvel to replace Andrew Garfield with Tom Holland for Spider-Man's 'Homecoming', he was Peter Parker's frenemy nemesis Harry Osborne as a ghastly Green Goblin so good, Sony were willing to let him lead his own villain film in the form of the 'Sinister Six' way before Venom or even the 'Suicide Squad' of D.C.'s bad romance marriage of Harley Quinn and Jared Leto's Joker. It's safe to say this kidult is no laughing manner though. As the man who once was the 'In Treatment' representation of a social commentary conflicted youth in angst is now a full grown father with a son of his own called Bowie. Named of course we're sure after the late, glam rock God whose "Ground Control to Major Tom", 'Space Oddity' opens this 2017 odyssey's space race and exploration time lapse from NASA to what in this film is classed as a handshake to now. And Ziggy Stardust would be proud of this city of a thousand planets and universe of seemingly a million worlds of awesome Jabba the Hutt and duck-billed platypuss looking alien lifeforms. Even if their craft looks a lot like a clam merged with the Millennium Falcon. As the kid who has even played James Dean is a rebel with a cause here that's more Chris Pratt in 'Passengers' than a Han Solo like galaxy guardian. The great Dane is having quite the year with this and 'A Cure For Wellness'. Surely the antidote for a 2016 without a 'Sinister Six'. Still much like Gore Verbinski's 'Shutter Island' like retreat for the physically impaired, this other outstanding opaque picture is layered more in looks than it is subtext. Yet DeHaan's charm again like the 'Cure' powers through and this film does well for it. Especially because all that cocksure charisma is hiding a conflicted shyness that's anxious to get out. Meaning the actor that's been in everything from 'Lincoln' to 'Lawless' will always give us a deeper character than the pages and lines of dialogue his scripts weigh. Even if it is clear here that the magazine opening Prada model needs even more help to make even this detailed dynamic of an otherworldly dimension look the part.

Enter Laureline. Or the model that's in every magazine and perfume and fashion company's rolodex, Cara Delevingne. If you don't know that name by now then you must have been living under a rock with a Monk. And don't let us get started on the name Kardashian. But Cara can do more than most models who are the product of every paparazi camera flashbulb. Delevingne is a dynamo talent that can act...and sing too. You all saw how she could in 'Paper Towns' and she even went crazy as the villain of villains in last years 'Suicide Squad' ensemble...even if she did look like a life-sized voodoo doll before she became what looked like an ancient Egyptian queen, slash psycho mermaid hybrid (yep that's done it...we're cursed now). Here she's got the moxie charm and combustible chemistry to match DeHaan quip for scruffy nerf-herder romantic proposal knock back, like this post-millennial generations Leia and Han. So much so that if we see a 'Thousand Planet' sequel it shall be hopefully named what this one should have been, just like the groundbreaking graphic novels by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières that they were based on, 'Valerian and Laureline'. Because Cara Delevingne does everything. Even providing the soundtrack with a song and style matching video ('I Feel Everything') like Rihanna did for 'Star Trek-Beyond' last year. And speaking of Rhi-Rhi she's here too in shape-shifting, chameleonic formidable form. The singing superstar looking and performing her best yet despite the body shaming hate from vile trolls in a scene stealing signature step into the Marmalade limelight straight out of the 'Moulin Rouge' playbook. This lady is electric and probably the best thing about this picture. As the 'Bates Motel' surprise whose about to take the casino with the ladies of 'Oceans Eight' hits the jackpot like she sunk your 'Battleship' all those years back in her dynamite debut. BOOM! She's not the only major musician playing here. As jazzy piano man Herbie Hancock gets behind the notes and lays a hand on the video console with considerable multi-talent we first really saw play all those generations back on one of Eddie Murphy's 'Harlem Nights'. He heads a crazy cast that even features an even crazier tune-in or miss out cameo from legend Rutger Hauer here. Not to mention a pimped up one from a peculiar but perfect Ethan Hawke. The 'Training Day' and 'Magnificent Seven' star leaving us shaking our head and smiling all the same, like the time he hologram message played Colin Farrell (or did Colin Farrell play him?) in the confusing but better directors cut of Arnie's 'Total Recall'. Itself a multi-layered inspired vision of cities of the future like this that looks like a new neon Tokyo were all the lightbulbs have just been changed. A commanding and calculated Clive Owen at the head nicks a nice casting direction of big names too in a film that's more than just it's academy of actors. But the voices that make up a humanoid race of C.G.I. creations that fit into this community like the real deal and look even more beautiful than the blue planet people of 'Avatar' living on a tropical paradise, desert island like planet. An eden that makes 'Wonder Woman's' home look woeful in comparison, before its attacked by more falling soldiers than Chris Pine's fighter pilot in the blockbuster of the Summers opening set-piece. As a matter of fact Luc Besson's whole eye-opening landscape looks like 'Lucy' in a sky of diamonds in this elemental feature that debuted in terrific trailer form with The Beatles beautiful 'Abbey Road' trip 'Because'. And it really is something with the ability to show us the world is more than round in this multiverse. Even if like the long awaited adaptation of Stephen King's gunslinging 'Dark Tower' it's said to be a dud, this galaxy on Orion's Belt still has pearls like the marbles of the 'Men In Black' franchise. Now let's remember these galaxy defenders too. No flashy thing...K?! TIM DAVID HARVEY.

See This If You Liked: 'The Fifth Element', 'Jupiter Ascending', 'Guardians Of The Galaxy'.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

MAHERSHALA ALI Feature-THE PEOPLES CHAMP

King Of The World.

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

Never leave anybody out...ever! Just about five years ago I was writing a review for a movie called 'The Place Beyond The Pines'. Easily both the best and most underrated movie of a landmark 2012 that saw an 'Avengers' assembling and the anniversary of 007 himself, James Bond to name just a few. 'Pines' was more than an indie darling that showed cinema lovers what real filmmaking was all about however. It was also a story that transcended the nature of doomed sweethearts motorcycle driven to a life of crime. It was all about the choices we make and how they birth new generations of consequences. As this wasn't just a movie that starred two of Hollywood's biggest heartthrobs, but one that gave life to a new generation of stars for Los Angeles' city of Hollywood. In a decade old ode that was as much father and son as it was man and woman. Not only did this film star not one, but two of the movie worlds leading, leading men in Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper (although they shared a mere but monumental moment of screen time), but it also featured two of the best, most sought after actresses in the industry with Eva Mendes (who began her relationship with Ryan whilst filming this film) and the in everything that year, Rose Byrne. Not to mention two next gen actors in 'War Machine's' Emory Cohen and the real star of this movie, 'Valerian's' Dane DeHaan and legends like 'Star Wars-Rogue One' enemey Ben Mendelsohn and the 'Goodfella' godfather of gangster flicks Ray Liotta. With this all in, all-star cast you could have been forgiven for forgetting someone in this Derek Cianfrance cinematic gem, but when this writer wrote his review there was one actor in this ensemble he forgot to wrote about who he should have never slept on. And now because of that ignorance I'll never write about a movie again without paying my due to all the major players involved with the picture. The man I forgot? You might know him. He goes by the name Marhershala Ali.

Ali is a K.O. acting knockout. Already one of the greatest, after only a few rounds and 'bouts. And in the main event this year, this time Marhershala Ali socked Ryan Gosling in the jaw. And all the blonde bomber from 'The Place Beyond' could do was laugh. Marhershala made moviemaking history as he became the first Muslim to win an Oscar for 'Best Supporting Actor' (as a matter of fact the first Muslim to even win any sort of acting award from The Academy) for his mesmerizing turn in the magnificent 'Moonlight'. And to think he won it off less screen time than it took Anthony Hopkins to win Best Actor for 'The Silence Of The Lambs'. Appearing in only the first act of this boys life and journey into manhood and sexuality told over three ages. But what an act it was. From teaching a young Chiron how to swim in the Atlantic Ocean of South Beach to how to wade with the social sharks of a schoolyard smelling young blood. From saving him from a crack house, to trying to take drugs out of his own one. Despite cruelly, in hypocritical contradiction also being the pusher who provides the contraband to the kids mother. Yep, that's the groundbreaking 'Moonlight' for you. 'La La Land' this 'Best Picture' is not. Now have you got the right envelope? Because this sent the hash-tagged 'Oscars So White' packing and rewrote the wonder of the history of cinema, signed, sealed and delivered. And although it wasn't just thanks to your new Ali-the big-three of the awesome, Alex R. Hibbert, the amazing Ashton Sanders and the terrific Trevante Rhodes all playing one should have split the 'Best Actor' Academy Award in three-Marhershala moved us compellingly with his moonstruck, pugilist performance of passion, pain, poetry and of course...black power. Like his Juan character said, "at some point, you gotta decide for yourself who you're going to be. Can't let nobody make that decision for you."

Moonlighting seems to be the man who began his career raising Brad Pitt in reverse in 'The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button', being food for aliens in 'Predators' and backing up Jennifer Lawrence in the 'Mockingjay' parts of 'The Hunger Games' trilogy plus one franchise forces game. As last year as well as his Oscar moment in the spotlight, Marhershala Ali had no chill. Starring in two hit streaming Netflix show series in addition to even more movies throwing out tackle to the Oscars. From a beautiful bit part reuniting with both 'Button's' Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae ('Moonlight') in the history and legacy equation, chalk board changing 'Hidden Figures' women behind the first men on the moon. To some Matthew McConaughey Academy bait in the slave revolting Civil War force of the 'Free State Of Jones'. And even with all that Ali looks to follow in the floating Texan footsteps of McConaughey's Rusty as he has just been confirmed to star in the third season of HBO's 'True Detective'. And you thought you were excited by the announcement of the new 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' series! Exactly at the right time, Ali is exactly the right actor this dark detective drama needs right about now. The one that McConaughey and Woody Harrelson began to rave, "best T.V. show ever" reviews, but faltered in it's slumping second season that still had inspired performances from Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch, a straight Vince Vaughn and most notably the ever great and underrated Irish actor, Colin Farrell. Taking this precient changing, beat cop genre back to station the only question that remains is who he will partner up with in his jurisdiction? Last season there was a 'Curious Case' of a Brad Pitt rumor, but how about a Rusty reunion with fellow 'Jones' co-star Matthew McConaughey. Either way the man whose about to continue his 2017 sting with the 'Roxanne, Roxanne' movie based on rapper Roxanne Shante is as dead cert for small screen success as he is big screen, Oscar gold. He's even starred in some duked out vivid visuals to accompany Jay-Z's new '4:44' album spinning on Tidal. You've already watched him on your phone for five seasons straight, sharing some of the White House lawn with Kevin Spacey's Trump era President in the fall favourite 'House Of Cards'. All whilst becoming one of the best villains in Marvel history in just a mere 'Moonlight' amount of episodes as 'Luke Cage' adversary Cottonmouth, trying to take power from the man in yellow tank. Looking to reign as the King of New York like standing in front of that crowned Biggie portrait in perfect, notorious symbolism. The greatest Ali since Muhammed seems to be laughing that trademark cackle all the way to the belt. As in less time then it took Muhammed Ali to deck Liston in a first round canvas, Marhershala Ali is becoming a Hollywood heavyweight. And no one...especially no no name writer will ever count him out again. Sorry! Rumble young Marhershala, rumble!