Pinocchio (2022) – Review

Cert – Recommended ages 9+, Run-time – 1 hour 52 minutes, Director – Robert Zemeckis

With the guidance of his cricket conscience (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a brought-to-life wooden puppet (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) attempts to live a brave, truthful and unselfish live in order to become a real boy.

As we initially meet the Geppetto (Tom Hanks) of Disney’s live-action Pinocchio remake we see a figure much different to that of the somewhat excitable and jumpy cartoon version. He’s hard at work in his dimly-lit woodwork shop muttering a form of recitation as it’s revealed he’s working on a puppet. The air is that of a tired and weary old man. Despite the company of his cat, goldfish and wall plastered with clocks he’s unwilling to sell he’s lonely.

His character marks a difference to the more frantic dual-narration of a past and present Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), rushing through the streets of the local town trying to find shelter as the rain begins to pour. He’s undeniably an energetic figure with his rushed speech and general pacing bordering on encouraging audience participation. There’s a generally cartoonish nature to the CG character which boosts an overall lighter tone within the film. It’s one which avoids the darkness that a story like Pinocchio can, and in some versions has, hold. As the narrative pans out an Geppetto wishes upon a star that his wooden creation will become a wooden boy and the Blue Fairy (a very brief but rather enjoyable Cynthia Erivo – who herself appears to be having a nice time in her near-cameo role) brings the puppet to life the tone begins to enter that of pantomime.

There’s certainly not anything wrong with this as a whole, and there are certain element which play into a theatrical nature. Keegan-Michael Key as Honest John makes the most of his various choruses – the only real songs that don’t quite feel out of place in the mixture of cartoon and fantasy which the world of the film is made up of – and his ‘actor’s life’ strand certainly proves a highlight. He leads his segment well before we move on to the next chapter against the backdrop of a new stage – from the dark of the woods to the CG cartoon sequence of Pleasure Island. You can clearly see the segments throughout and the way in which they divide the film up, each a new test for Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth).

As things travel along the familiar course of the Pinocchio story it becomes clear that this is perhaps aimed more at a younger audience than anyone else. There generally seems to be enough to keep other lightly amused for the nearly 2-hour run-time, but overall the pantomime-y feel caters more to a crowd perhaps less familiar with the story than anyone else – further shown in a line of fourth-wall-breaking dialogue from Jiminy Cricket where he claims he’s “dropped into H-E-double hockey sticks”. It comes across in the various performances, including Hanks whose Geppetto appears to change from scene to scene, the weary figure we first meet a distant one as the actor simply comes across as miscast. Collectively the tone provides reason as to why this may have been dropped onto Disney+ instead of given a cinematic release – there’s still plenty of cinematic shots dotted throughout with that Robert Zemeckis flair (co-written by the director and Chris Weitz.

While there are a couple of bumps and missteps along the way the main thing that prevents Pinocchio from properly finding its stride is the heaping of lightness in which much of the film is coated in. It’s not entirely a bad thing, and it’s still watchable, but as it steps into the theatrical it starts to lose some engagement every now and then from those more familiar with the story, or simply older viewers in general. It’s fine for what it does, watchable amongst the sugariness, but doesn’t quite seem to find its stride.

Disney and Robert Zemeckis’ reimagining of Pinocchio certainly leans towards the lighter side of things, eventually slipping into the realms of theatricality and pantomime. Perhaps better for younger viewers it’s fairly watchable but certainly weighted in sugariness.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Three Thousand Years Of Longing – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 48 minutes, Director – George Miller

An isolated woman (Tilda Swinton) is reluctant to use the three wishes given to her by a Djinn (Idris Elba) as she tries to deconstruct his past through her own knowledge of historical tales.

By the time we reach what’s presumed to be the second half of Three Thousand Years Of Longing the film’s somehow over in about twenty minutes. This is largely down to the fact that the film’s 108 minute run-time flies by as you’re engrossed in the various stories that are told by Idris Elba’s Djinn about his life and the various bottles that he’s been trapped in, all whilst attempting to move from one life to the next by simply granting three wishes.

His life has been spent observing humans and helping a handful of figures achieve their hearts desires, although not always to their benefit or his own. It’s a pattern that isolated literary scholar Alithea (Tilda Swinton) notices as she tries to pick apart his stories when accidentally opening the Djinn’s bottle whilst cleaning it – after a chance purchase in a small Istanbul shop. She’s looking for reasons not to trust the mystical figure before her, trying to prove that he’s a trickster, and that she doesn’t need anything. Yet, she finds fascination within the stories against ancient settings and civilisations that she’s being told.

As the film depicts the two characters conversing in a hotel room it sees them discussing tales and stories, the ways in which they work and how reality and differ and reflect. We see the stories brought to life via flashbacks – making up much of the run-time – the style and look of which feel as if they’ve been directly taken from a fable and put on the big screen. Stylistically and visually there’s plenty to engage in and it simply helps to enhance the idea of the stories that are being told whilst always remembering that there are two people progressing them through their conversation and recounts. As details progress and the workings and wants of the Djinn are explored Alithea’s claim of “I find feeling through stories” begins to quietly echo in her actions.

The film is largely concerned with the Djinn’s story and longing for escape and freedom. Yet, there’s a point where it switches to begin to look at Alithea. It’s here that it feels like the second half is coming into play. The tone appears to slightly change as the driving force is somewhat switched and the story plays out from a different perspective, it feels as if we’re going to see the progression of Alithea’s story. Whereas what we get is the progression of the former’s tale just from another perspective, although with development for both characters. Perhaps on a re-watch with this understanding the change in tone may not be as noticeable. Certainly there isn’t quite a dip, but a slight difference comes about thanks to the new perspective – even if it is Alithea telling the narrative through a voiceover appearing every now and then throughout the film.

However, even amongst this the feeling of a tale being unfurled is still very much present. It’s an idea that the film comes back round to as its central point and style and uses to hold your engagement. The stories and the way in which their detailed by Alithea picking them apart with her knowledge of ancient tales are the most engrossing parts of the film. Enhanced by the ways in which they work and develop to grow your interest thanks to the way rules are written into the story of the Djinn and there’s plenty to be wrapped up in without things being bogged down in detail. They simply come across as part of the nature of the story, further pushing the style that they present themselves with. All contributing to your overall interest and engagement which simply allows for things to flash by with ease.

Rushing by with great ease Three Thousand Years Of Longing engages you with the details of its stories, enhanced by the conversations and questions of Swinton and Elba’s central characters it simply wraps you up within its fable-like nature and doesn’t let go.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fall – Review

Release Date – 2nd September 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 47 minutes, Director – Scott Mann

When the ladder of the broadcast tower they’ve been climbing falls, two friends (Grace Caroline Currey, Virginia Gardner) find themselves stuck on a small platform 2000ft up in the middle of nowhere.

“You freakin’ genius” Hunter (Virginia Gardner) says to her friend Becky (Grace Caroline Currey) as another idea of how to potentially get down from the 2000ft high platform they’re trapped on springs to mind. It’s a statement which leads the viewer to once again think ‘no, you fools!’, but it’s the stupid ideas of the two central (and for a large portion of time only) characters which move Fall along.

The film follows the pair as they’re stranded on a small platform on top of an out-of-use television tower in the middle of the desert six hours away from where they live. Their attempt to climb the tower, where the ladder has fallen away shortly after reaching the top, marks the one year anniversary of the passing of Becky’s husband Dan (Mason Gooding), who died after falling during a mountain climbing trip that the three were on. In that year Becky has isolated herself from the world and those around her, especially her now-distant father (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and only really visiting a nearby bar. In an attempt to get her best friend to confront her fears Hunter turns up to take her on another climbing expedition, something nice and easy.

This is at least to what she herself has been doing in the past year as her danger-based YouTube channel has grown. She acknowledges that her online persona is “a d!ck”, however there are certain moments – particularly in the first half of the film – where her actions outside of filming strike the same feeling. Largely when willing – feeling more like pressuring – Becky to keep climbing when she’s clearly very scared and still coping with her grief amongst many other things. As they struggle past aerials and slightly loose ladders this feeling plays into the thoughts of knowing that this is going to go wrong, otherwise there wouldn’t really be much of a film here.

There’s certainly a slight sense of atmosphere to help get across the height that the pair are at. It comes across in the sound of the wind rushing past them, and the occasional creak of the tower. Such points are much more effective than the less subtle sequence of close-ups and noises which shout that something is going to go wrong, piling on emphasis of the danger that’s being experienced. All this after being told multiple times just how high the structure is – the fourth highest in the US, apparently – even some of the visuals feel as if they’re telling rather than showing. Yet, there’s no denying the effect that certain moments have. There are still elements of tension on display, gasps and potential yelps as new ideas are come up with as to how to potentially get back to the safety of the ground without being attacked by circling vultures or simply falling.

Despite the various flaws and issues that are on display, including a slight subplot/ set of developments involving Becky’s husband which never quite achieves the emotional beats or developments it may want due to not quite being present enough, there’s something about the film that still manages to be watchable. You could easily pick it apart and notice the faults, but it still manages to provoke a response from the audience during certain moments and works as a general piece of entertainment. It manages to avoid major repetition and while certain narrative strokes might not quite lift off or properly click there’s still enough to keep you engaged in the film and interested in seeing what the characters do to survive (even if you do think some of the ideas are quite stupid).

Overall, the film may have plenty of noticeable flaws and issues which you could easily point out, but you’re kept in place thanks to the more subtle details and developments to the point where things are still watchable and manage to get a reaction from the audience. There’s still tension present; inducing occasional gasps and height-induced fear along the way – especially when dangling off the edge of the platform with no gear, or simply relying on some rope for safety. During such moments the film plays to its strengths, feeling less forced and focusing more on the in-the-moment threat and peril rather than the ‘maybe’ or ‘just wait’.

For everything you could point out about it Fall manages to somehow stay on its own platform for most of the run-time, although sometimes hanging off and threatening to slip. You could pick it apart, but for what it provides there’s an effective set of tense sequences here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Beast – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 33 minutes, Director – Baltasar Kormákur

After getting stuck on a South African safari, a father (Idris Elba) must protect his two daughters (Leah Jeffries, Iyana Halley) from a powerful lion separated from its pride.

“If you go out there, it’s you vs him, and that is not a fight you are designed to win” Dr Nate Samuels (Idris Elba) is told by old friend and gamekeeper Martin Battles (Sharlto Copley). The two, alongside Nate’s teenage daughters Norah (Leah Jeffries) and Meredith (Iyana Halley) have been exploring the South African plains on a safari – the girls exploring the homeland of their recently-passed mother. It’s made to seem that the experience may be hoped for to bring the family closer together, with the relationship between Nate and Norah being particularly distant and occasionally tense. Well, what better bonding exercise is there than facing a savage predatory lion separated from its pride?

Beast’s opening scene follows a group of poachers shooting all but one member of a pride. Instead of being scared away, however, the lion appears determined to protect its own land, attacking and killing anyone who dares get in its way – including residents of a peaceful village nearby. After a quick escape from the creature the van the central four figures have been travelling in crashes and breaks down, leaving them stranded in the almost endless plains with night drawing in.

If you’ve seen the trailer you kind of know what you’re going to get from Beast, and it certainly provides that. There’s a decent amount of well-sustained action and threat placed throughout without things becoming too repetitive, as could so easily happen in a narrative such as this. Director Baltasar Kormákur plays around with a number of tracking shots to push the real-time feel of a number of events, putting you both more in line with the characters and also hiding the lion amongst the grass and wildlife for extended periods of time.

While some idea presented may work slightly better than others, particularly a sequence involving an interaction with poachers, there’s a generally good flow to the film overall, again thanks to the feeling of a lack of repetition. Perhaps the attempts at more emotional grabs may present more recognisable conventions, alongside not being the most successful element amongst everything else that the film presents, but as a whole the action works well enough to provide engaging tension, and one or two occasional jumps, to not lose the viewer. Even when we reach the heights of Idris Elba: Lion Puncher – there’s somewhat little close-up action with the lion as a whole over the course of the largely well-fitting 93 minute run-time – things still manage to lean more towards the side of entertainment from the action rather than the potentially ridiculous (unlike in The Meg – a rather different film admittedly – which walked both lines as it became Jason Statham: Shark Puncher, if not from the concept alone).

But, in the case of Beast, there’s central tension lined throughout the film. Yes, it arrives in short bursts, but the fact that it still manages to arrive is testament to the film and the way that its narrative pans out and the scenarios the characters find themselves in, especially when largely confined to one small patch of land. There’s enough to be caught up in throughout the film to warrant viewing. It travels along its course and through its run-time rather well, keeping you engaged in the fight for survival thanks to the different elements it throws in at each stage as the lion retreats and comes back seemingly stronger – there is one particular moment where you think ‘it shouldn’t have survived that’. The infrequency of such points, and the general consistency of the pacing, helps hold things up and stops them from circling back and feeling over-familiar to the point of being dull. Perhaps the best way to describe it is indeed: Idris Elba punches an (albeit CGI) lion.

Filling its run-time rather well thanks to avoiding repetition there’s enough within Beast to keep things engaging. Short bursts spring up every now and then as things are kept moving along, you generally know what you’re going to get and the film provides that rather well within its various sequences.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Invitation – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 44 minutes, Director – Jessica M. Thompson

After discovering distant family in England, New Yorker Evie (Nathalie Emmanuel) is invited to a wedding in a lavish mansion where it seems that more than just the family are staying.

There’s something intriguing about the traditional-leaning gothic nature of The Invitation. We see a young woman (Virág Bárány) running through dark, stone-like mansion halls fleeing from an unseen force. As her seeming attempts to escape become more frantic she eventually takes her own life in the house, bringing an end to the darkness and tension of the opening sequence.

Once we’re introduced to Nathalie Emmanuel’s young-New Yorker Evie thoughts certainly circle of ‘she’s next, but for what’ as she finds herself entering the very same mansion for a family wedding. While largely unaware of most of those around her, having only recently met a wealthy English cousin (Hugh Skinner) through a DNA-ancestry website; wanting to connect with a family after the passing of her mother, she certainly seems to be welcomed in with open arms. Tensions may slightly arise with the formally commanding butler (Sean Pertwee), but the opposite can be said for lord of the manor Walter (Thomas Doherty) who Evie gradually begins to fall in with in the short build up to the wedding.

For what is all largely build up to the third act the film remains fairly watchable as we see Emmanuel’s character interact with the various attendees of the wedding, including conflicting maids of honour Lucy (Alana Boden) and Viktoria (Stephanie Corneliussen). It’s these two figures who take her for what becomes a heated spa day, largely down to a series of questions and successive confrontations from Viktoria to new-face Evie. As the scene plays out there’s heavy emphasis on the various sounds of the treatments taking place. The scraping, scratching and filing of nails creates a tense atmosphere, lingering on the knowledge that something bad is bound to happen at some point in this process, drawing out for maximum response.

It’s perhaps the most successful horror sequence in the film, juxtaposing with the more conventional ‘there’s a creature lurking in the shadows’ element which appears every now and then. Pair that up with your standard ‘don’t go in the library, it’s been refurbished’ and the idea of maids going missing and being attacked – including when cleaning, you guessed it, the library and the film does sometimes feel drawn down and restricted by its conventions. The gothic tone doesn’t quite have as much room to breathe and therefore rarely comes through as it did in the opening scene. Yet, where the horror truly comes through is in the final half hour as the third act plays out and the big reveal arrives.

It’s a big reveal that may prove somewhat divisive. While for some it may raise the film and prove as an interesting direction for others it may break things and cause a slump to the proceedings. That is up until the point where after the scene containing the core reveal the film simply appears to give up. Ticking off all possible conventions and travelling down a line of predictable nonsense. With the more dramatic elements being the focus in the first two thirds there was at least a watchable nature throughout, with even some chuckles to be had in interactions – largely via video call and text – with Evie’s best friend Grace (Courtney Taylor). However, with horror the core focus, ramping everything up as if making up for lost time that wasn’t completely lost, things rapidly become bland and disengaging.

To some extent it feels like you’re watching a completely different film, perhaps part of the reason why things begin to get frustrating towards the end. The half hour plays out as a winding sequence of events each which just become more and more trying. There are attempts to pull you back, they begin to slightly work as they focus on Evie and her responses to the world and forces around her. However, predictability soon slips back in as the film resumes its course and over-abundance of horror aesthetics, focusing on those rather than playing for a proper horror effect. The film generally uninvites you from the proceedings as what was once a fairly watchable, gothic-tinted two-thirds descends into a predictable streak of horror aesthetics.

While the few horror elements in the first two thirds of The Invitation may be somewhat hit-or-miss, working best when leaning away from convention and more into the dark gothic, it’s substantially better than the predictable nonsense of the final half hour. Relying on aesthetics over anything else it loses all substance and engagement.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Bodies Bodies Bodies – Review

Release Date – 9th September 2022, Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 34 minutes, Director – Halina Reijn

A simple murder-mystery game between friends attending a party during a hurricane leads to an actual series of murders.

There’s something of a knowing wink from writer Sarah DeLappe and director Halina Reijn as its announced by one member of Bodies Bodies Bodies’ central group of friends that “every time we play this game it gets ugly”. It certainly turns out to be the case this time around as a simple mid-party murder-mystery game devolves into a series of real murders with the friends – and some of their respective partners, not all of whom were known to be turning up – find themselves frantically running around an expansive house trying to find out who the killer is amongst their tears, arguments and near-fallings out.

Primarily we follow Maria Bakalova’s Bee, meeting her girlfriend Sophie’s (Amandla Stenberg) friends for the first time at a party taking place during a hurricane. It’s established early on that there are already various tensions and fractured relationships within this group – it’s very easy to get the gist of who they are quite early on. There’s no denying the ‘Gen Z’ target market, who the film should hopefully work for rather well; broadened out successfully by the satirical edges that are on display. There are plenty of quick quips and one-liners planted into the various conversations and arguments that take place over recently discovered dead bodies. Such moments are smartly constructed within the screenplay, as is the course of the film as a whole. Providing a natural feel which simply helps to bring you in to the film that bit more and be more entertained by it.

As things pan out and the group are trapped in the dark, the hurricane taking out all the power, the levels of horror begin to rise. It matches the elements of dark comedy, lightly playing out in the background and growing overtime as the level of panic the central figures are experiencing increases. The two tones blend together to simply push each other and strengthen the film as it goes along. The 94 minute run-time generally passes quickly and it’s largely thanks to the pure entertainment factor of the film, pushed by a highly enjoyable cast who understand the tones and satire on display – including the likes of Rachel Sennott, Pete Davidson (both of whom create a number of chuckles along the way), Myha’la Herrold, Chase Sui Wonders and Lee Pace. The small cast work well together and there’s an energy from them – partly produced by what seems like them enjoying making this film – which echoes throughout the fun and slight thrills of the deadly game of Bodies Bodies Bodies that they play out.

Once we get to the big finale, a truly great extended confrontational scene, there’s a cocktail of points to be experienced. We see references to, and taking of, drugs and alcohol throughout, leading to a number of serious points to be raised, particularly in these final moments. It’s testament to the film that amongst the satire which has come beforehand, and indeed the laughs which are also present during this same scene, that it can play with the same tone but play the moment completely straight when it needs to. Making interesting points, particularly for its target demographic, and forming a very modern film in the vein of Ingrid Goes West. One which understands who its representing and seemingly primarily being made for whilst managing to spread out to other groups thanks to the satire which is also on display.

When you mix in the dark humour, light horror and the consistent murder-mystery plot – which certainly has you playing along and double guessing on a number of occasions – there’s a highly enjoyable time to be had within Bodies Bodies Bodies. The energetic efforts of the cast and crew all pay off to create an original, sharp, entertaining ride. Not forgetting its serious elements, it keeps you in place throughout staying true to a promise made near the start of the film that the characters indeed are “not as nihilistic as they seem on the internet”.

Smart, funny and not forgetting its elements of horror and mystery there’s a strong blend in Bodies Bodies Bodies which helps to formulate a very Gen Z product. Branching out with its sharp satire it doesn’t forget its serious points about its energetic ensemble.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Orphan: First Kill – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 38 minutes, Director – William Brent Bell

The story of how ‘Esther’ (Isabelle Fuhrman) escaped from an Estonian psychological hospital and ended up committing killing sprees in America.

The twist of 2009’s Orphan almost seems enough alone to have provided reason for the horror having become a much referred to modern classic. It’s this twist which new prequel Orphan: First Kill plays with throughout most of its run-time as we’re aware of the true state of psych-hospital escapee Lena (a returning Isabelle Fuhrman) as she escapes from Estonia and manages to travel to America under the guise of missing child Esther.

Much like the first film there’s a fair deal of the dramatic lining the run-time of this prequel, allowing the horror to linger in the background in shades of darkness. While initially planning on running away from the wealthy family who welcome her ‘back’ into their home she decides to stay after starting to form a connection with artist father Allen (Rossif Sutherland). However, the longer she stays the more tensions arise between her, mother Tricia (Julia Stiles) and son Gunnar (Matthew Finlan); this especially occurring when a trusted family child psychologist (Samantha Walkes) seems to notice inconsistencies in Esther after returning from being missing for so many years, and being found in Russia of all places.

The film rattles along its course fairly well, not really being disturbed by anything and generally makes for good viewing, although nothing overly challenging. It certainly plays with certain elements to build up from the original film – which this justifies being a sequel to rather well – although does occasionally risk being something of the same thing. Where things truly turn around is past the halfway point, just as we begin to enter the third act, and a real twist comes in, truly picking things up and creating a new stride for the narrative. It forms an intriguing blend that plays with not quite new elements, but certainly changes key and forms something slightly different and more engaging. You stop noticing some of the initial issues – there’s some clear camera trickery to hide the fact that the mid-20s Fuhrman is no longer a child which you stop to notice as you become more engaged in the film, although during some close-up fight scenes you can’t quite tell who’s who due to Esther’s height being taken into account.

Things play out more as a reverse-mystery piecing themselves together with a handful of dark revelations and intentions, particularly regarding the prying eyes of local detective Donnan (Hiro Kanagawa) – who has been working on the disappearance case of the real Esther since she first went missing – playing against each other in close proximity. While different to what comes beforehand in the film there still feels a sense of tonal consistency meaning you don’t need to re-engage with the film at all. There’s simply a new layer of interest formed which keeps you in place throughout the remainder of the run-time – even if the final few minutes do feel rushed, especially in comparison to what we’ve seen in the build-up of the rest of the narrative.

But, what comes beforehand – and indeed runs throughout Orphan: First Kill – is a prequel which justifies itself as just that. Working as a darkly dramatic mystery winding in the elements of horror every now and then to work into Esther’s murderous actions and intentions. The film plays with our knowledge of what she’s like without building up masses of tension or presumptions of how things are going to turn out. It’s interesting viewing that’s held up by its third act developments and twists which work in favour of the narrative and the characters within it. Holding interest and engagement throughout and simply increasing that overtime thanks to the developments made.

While starting off as a likable horror prequel Orphan: First Kill gradually develops its elements of dark drama, playing with both its narrative and characters for greater interest and engagement from the audience.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fisherman’s Friends: One And All – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 52 minutes, Directors – Meg Leonard, Nick Moorcroft

As the success of their debut album and national tour settles in, and a new member being welcomed in, the shanty-singing Fisherman’s Friends find tensions rising within their group and personal lives.

2019’s Fisherman’s Friends was very much a conventional silver-cinema-leaning feature which likely used a “feel good” pull quote in large letters on the poster. It certainly wasn’t for everyone, myself included to some extent, but it clearly worked for a large enough audience to become a hit and warrant a, rather unexpected, sequel. We almost pick up where we left off with the sea shanty-singing group enjoying the success of their top-ten charting debut album and a national tour. However, on returning to the quiet life of Port Isaac, Cornwall tensions begin to rise. Not just within the group, but also in their personal lives.

Primarily we follow leader Jim (James Purefoy) still grieving the loss of his father (David Hayman appearing in visions and flashbacks) and turning to drink to cope. His habits create a distance with the rest of the group, especially in the wake of his tensions with new member Morgan (Richard Harrington) – a Welshman whose own profession goes against Jim’s working-the-water ways. Public outbursts begin to make their way into the tabloids, causing the record label to consider dropping the group due to their bad images – which it seems not even media training can properly tackle, caused by Dave John’s Leadville, who appears to get a bit more to do this time around, after a misunderstanding with a journalist. Even the youngest member of the group, Rowan (Sam Swainsbury) is having difficulties with wife Becky (Libby Walker) after receiving unwanted, and revealing, texts from a hen party member from the recent tour.

Throw in Imelda May as 90s star Aubrey Flynn, falling in with Jim whilst looking for a quiet life in Cornwall away from the cameras and tabloid pressure and you’ve assembled a rather familiar set of elements, characters and narrative devices. Even being “based on a true story” you can generally recognise the film and tell where it’s going to go with its various elements. It slightly matches the gags which run throughout the film and don’t overly manage to muster up a chuckle, some simply don’t quite click in the context of the film being set in 2011, the closest is to a briefly seen – to the point where it’s likely an unintentional gag – acronym for the Port Isaac Shuttle Service.

Yet, there’s no denying that there’s still a watchable nature to the film. Yes, it might knock itself down every now and then by slipping into its more conventional roots. Certainly it manages to stir something during the various musical performances which pop up now and then – even if some are tinted with a layer of cheese and sentimentalism, with a dash of ‘come to Cornwall!’ scenery. The familiarity may still be present, and you can feel it, but there’s something about the film which generally carries itself through and allows it to work and avoid becoming frustrating. Perhaps it’s the feeling that it’s not trying to be anything brilliant and instead is just trying to make something that’ll please the audience for the time that it’s on – which it generally appeared to do and will likely continue to do so. It’s this overall style and feeling of good-intentions which helps to carry things through and keep you interested in the film as it pans along through the rises and falls of its central characters – and indeed the film itself.

While the laughs might not quite come through there’s something about the general style of Fisherman’s Friends: One And All which allows for you to watch without feeling frustrated by the occasional dips into convention. It’s good-natured feeling comes through and kind of works.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero – Review

Cert – 12, Run-time – 1 hour 40 minutes, Director – Tetsuro Kodama

When the Red Ribbon Army shows signs of creating a new artificial superpowered weapon, alien Piccolo (Toshio Furukawa) assembles a team to stop them from attempting to destroy the world again.

It should be said before properly diving into this film that I’m a complete outsider to the Dragon Ball franchise and universe. Going into this film I was aware of its existence, but outside of that knew almost nothing. However, unlike last year’s Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train – which I considered to be one of the best films of the year having gone in knowing nothing, not even that it acted as the bridge between the first and second series of the hit anime Demon Slayer – perhaps some prior knowledge, and investment in the original anime and manga would help to bring out more within this particular adaptation – of course, a different kettle of fish entirely from Demon Slayer.

Telling its own isolated story there’s enough to engage with and follow within Dragon Ball as we see alien Piccolo (Toshio Furukawa) assemble a team of skilled fighters – each with their own special powers and abilities – to take down the Red Ribbon Army, who are creating their own overpowered artificial being in the hope of taking over, and potentially destroying, the world. The weapon is being created by Dr. Hedo (Miyu Irino) – a short figure with a worrying Oreo addiction – who organisation head Magenta (Volcano Ota) has recruited shortly after the doctor, with a fascination of just what he can make with the right funding, is released from prison.

Much of this is delved into within the early set-up, after a brief prologue and general conversational explanations and ideas of who characters are, what they’re doing, etc. These may crop up every now and then, but luckily the film doesn’t feel bogged down in catch-up for outside viewers. With so many characters – there’s a brief scene or two tangent to a separate group training on a different planet, leading to a point which could likely be explained in a line of dialogue or two instead of a couple of scenes – the film still manages to get through its narrative with a fair level of ease. Some of this may come down to the fact that the plot is fairly stripped back and down-to-basics – both a blessing and a curse for various reasons, while it, again, works for outsiders it does sometimes feel a bit thin.

It’s perhaps why some of the action and fight sequences feel slightly drawn out – particularly the final fight filled with screaming and flashes of various coloured lights. That being said as a whole the film fits its 100 minute run-time rather well, going by rather quickly and certainly not feeling as long as it is. Despite the occasional issues which pop up now and then there’s generally an enjoyable time to be had with plenty of amusement thrown in here and there to keep things moving along and the audience engaged. Yes, it might lack tension on some occasions due to certain elements, such as the final boss, not quite being built up very much, but there’s still enough throughout that works and keeps you engaged to make for worthwhile viewing.

Perhaps this will work better for those more invested and engaged in the Dragon Ball franchise as a whole, knowing the lore and workings of various elements and characters. However, for those who are coming to this fresh, or knowing fairly little, there’s enough enough given to bring you in without the film being bogged down by context and backstory. There’s a good time to be had within this and the various fantastical elements and powers that it has on display throughout its well-flowing run-time.

While the more basic nature of the plot is both a blessing and a curse there’s enough within Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero to engage franchise outsiders. While some stylistic elements and tangents may work better for already-existing fans what’s provided overall is enjoyable, if occasionally wobbly, viewing.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Nope – Review

Cert – 15, Run-time – 2 hours 10 minutes, Director – Jordan Peele

After believing they’ve sighted an alien spaceship siblings Emerald (Keke Palmer) and OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) become fixated with trying to capture recorded proof.

The third act of Jordan Peele’s Nope may just be one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen in a long time. It seems fitting for a film all about our obsession with spectacle. It’s a tense hybrid of action and horror as everything has built up to this point. A barrelling sequence which continues to expand and grip you within the unpredictable course which it takes. One thing naturally moving on from the last before moving to the next in what feels like an effortless flow, culminating in a grand spectacle piece of filmmaking that fits right in with the major summer blockbusters.

To some extent it’s just what siblings Emerald (an Oscar-worthy Keke Palmer) and OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) have been looking for in trying to catch recorded proof that there is an alien spaceship lurking in the clouds above their ranch – where they raise horses for use in films, surrounded by the “smell of horse sh!t and fresh air” . However, it’s a task which is much easier said than done as the job becomes more and more dangerous with various attacks from the ship on the pair and their home ranch. Yet, they power through with funds currently tight – OJ has been selling horses, which he hopes to eventually get back, to local wild-west-themed amusement park owner, and former child actor, ‘Jupe’ (Steven Yeun) – and the hope of raising potential thousands of dollars with real footage of an alien encounter., and perhaps the chance of an interview with Oprah.

As they buy new cameras and attempt to find ways of capturing footage, with the help of tech store worker Angel (Brandon Perea), the stakes continuously raise alongside the tension. Initially Peele’s subtlety brings early anxiety as you’re already worried with little having been shown at these early stages. But, as things progress and Peele utilises both night and day – scenes of clear horror set at night manage to avoid feeling like they hold the cliché of being set in the dark/ at night – the fear factor grows allowing for more tension to be brought into the mix, alongside some genuine scares and terror in one particularly loud and claustrophobic extended moment. All while never forgetting the occasional mild chuckle here and there, pushing a more natural feel to events and the characters.

There’s clear attention to detail throughout. Not just when it comes to the spectacle and interactions with the UFO but in the quieter moments of build-up too. Strong efforts have been put into the look – the cinematography throughout is excellent – sound and general design of the piece. Bringing you into the dusty plains early on and keeping you in place for the fast-paced ride (the film certainly feels nowhere near it’s 130 minute run-time). Peele doesn’t create mystery around the giant craft, we know it’s there as much as the characters do, yet there’s a sinister mysticism to his direction here – the strongest of his three films so far. When you add in the strong leading cast, particularly the excellent Palmer and Kaluuya – both of whom are on top form – there’s an ease of engagement with the film as you’re kept in place throughout and simply allowed to take part in the fear, action, thrills and growing spectacle. All culminating in a stunning third act which finely blends a selection of the genres on display throughout the film and will surely be one of the greatest sequences and efforts put on the big screen all year.

Jordan Peele brings his best directorial game so far for the brilliantly crafted growing spectacle of Nope. Finely blending growing action and fear it builds up for an excellent third act which commands the screen as much as the fantastic performances of Palmer and Kaluuya.

Rating: 4 out of 5.