Woody Harrelson

Solo – A Star Wars Story (2018)

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Contains no plot spoilers

Long time readers of this blog, if there are such things, will know that I rarely go to the cinema these days. The only films that can tempt me back to the multiplex tend to be the latest instalments in the Star Trek, James Bond and Star Wars franchises and then mainly for sentimental reasons – not having missed a new theatrical release in any of the three series since the late 1970s.

I was starting to think that Solo – A Star Wars Story was about to he the one that finally got away. A busy period of work meant I didn’t have time to get to the cinema for several weeks after it came out (and is also the reason for the lack of new posts here, for which I can only apologise), and its growing reputation as a commercial flop for Disney meant that it was already being ushered out of the local Odeon in favour of evermore superheroes and dinosaurs.

This week was probably my final chance to see Solo on the big screen – and to be honest, I was sort of non-plused about the whole idea anyway and not even sure if I wanted to make the trip. But I did, and I’m glad I did, because I can report with no little relief that I enjoyed the film. Read the rest of this entry »

Triple 9 (2016) [Blu-ray]

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Triple 9 is a pretty conventional action heist thriller, elevated by an impressive cast and some really stylishly directed sequences, but which at the same time for all its strengths is unlikely to trouble anyone’s list of top ten favourite films of the year.

triple9-1The story centres on a group of ex-military and disgraced former and serving cops who begin by staging a successful bank robbery in Georgia, Atlanta. Afterwards they are double-crossed by their Russian Mafia paymasters and forced to carry out a second, far more difficult raid on a Federal storage facility. To pull this off they need a decoy event that will draw the city’s entire police force to the other side of town, and the only thing that will work is a ‘triple 9’ – the police call sign for the murder of a cop. Read the rest of this entry »

True Detective S1 (2014)

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Contains some details that you might prefer not to know before watching the series, although we’ve tried to avoid overt spoilers as best we can.

There was no doubting what the TV event of the year was early in 2014: hardened critics and general audiences alike couldn’t stop talking about HBO’s new miniseries True Detective, and it’s one of the very few times that I’ve been so incredibly frustrated not to have the right TV provider to allow me to join in and watch the show as it aired. You can be assured that when the first season was released on DVD and Blu-ray earlier this month, I was right there on the first day with my hand out and my wallet open.

There is an aspect to this which is best summed up by “manage your expectations” because I had let mine run wild in the intervening months. When I finally got to watch the much-vaunted show, it couldn’t live up to the inflated opinion I’d formed of it in the meantime: the show is undoubtedly very strong and has moments of genuine brilliance, but it’s not the second coming of the TV drama messiah that the word of mouth had built it up to be. It’s a four- rather than five-star series in other words; which is still pretty darn good of course.

The first thing to understand about True Detective is that it’s not really a show about cops and killers, but is instead an intimate character study centring on Rustin Cohle and Martin Harte, two very different men who just happen to be partners working for the Louisiana state police. Almost everything else in the show is simply in support of this incredibly nuanced and deep analysis of the two personalities and their relationship both on and off the job, and as long as series creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto keeps the focus on these two then the show actually does come very close indeed to delivering on the hype. Read the rest of this entry »

Now You See Me (2013) [Blu-ray]

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This summer, one of the big blockbuster films that had been expected to do impressive business was Will Smith’s After Earth; when that rather emphatically died a death at the box office, it left a hole in the cinemagoers’ calendar that allowed a rather different film to pop up from under the radar and replace it, attracting an audience and ultimately doing the sort of business that has Hollywood executives asking “What the hell just happened, and how do we copy it?”

The film in question was the heist/con movie Now You See Me, which while far from being any sort of low-budget art-house flick was also not expected to be one of the bigger films of the year; a solid midfield performer, if you like. A lot of people (critics especially) were rather sniffy about it, but it pulled in the audience because it was just a likeable, fun flick with few expectations pre-heaped on it. Being quite a fan of heist/con movies (Ocean’s 11 is one of my favourite films) I was keen to see this one to see if it would deliver or disappoint; the fact that the con is mixed with magic and illusion was undoubtedly a double lure for me. (Full disclosure: my uncle is a professional magician working in the US, which makes me very susceptible to falling under the spell of a magic performance.)

While I’m certainly not going to make any claims for this film being a great piece of cinema or anything other than a glitzy piece of shiny nonsense, the fact is that I liked it. Okay, loved it. And not just a little – I had a smile plastered on my face for almost the entire two-hour running time. I can’t remember the last time that I watched a film that I simply enjoyed for the pure pleasure and fun of it nearly as much as I did this one. Possibly not since the aforementioned Ocean’s 11, in fact. Read the rest of this entry »